Sage vs. Sage, “FIGHT!”

Why smelling burnt sage is a dispreferred indifferent.

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How do we arrive at Sagehood when there’s a lot of hood, but no Sage?  Hrmmm…ahem.  Learn from Socrates, duh. “Cash me ousside So-Crats, how bow dah?” (Google “cash me ousside, how bow dah,” for context.)

Speaking of Sage, I’ll segway now to a righteous declaration of contempt for the herb:  the stuff people burn to ward off evil spirits or negative energy. Actually, the impressive herb has been used throughout history for several medicinal and culinary purposes. It’s the burning of it that gets me, for clarifications sake. My personal opinion regarding the burning of the herb is that people like to engage in ritualistic/symbolic behaviors that signify a meaningful/personal intention for their lives. Perhaps by smelling the lingering scent or having a memory that they walked through a space burning the stuff, reinforces a healthier ATTITUDE in them, one that correlates with maximizing positivity in their lives. For the most part, we can manage ourselves; other people, not so much. The crank stinks when lit and I’m skeptical of the belief and practice, but keep in mind, this is coming from someone who would choose patchouli- mint soap over Dial or Axe body wash any day.

Funny story: I had a housemate in Asheville around 2013 who would walk around the house burning sage. One morning the scent traveled between the small line space between the hardwood floor and my door, up to my nose. I heard a deep roar of discontent within the belly of my spirit animal: a scorpion with a cobra snake head and batwings. “Cash me ousside SAGE!”  I went outside, and asked ole boy kindly if he would stop burning it outside of my room, that it was irritating my asthma. He said it was no problem, that he was trying to clear the house of any negative energy. FACEPALM! OBJECTIVE REALITY/SUBJECTIVE PROJECTED REALITY. Reminds me of the psychological effects of attitude and prayer. My belief affects my behavior, and my behavior can influence, like a stone,  the pond through a ripple. But if it’s raining hard, the ripple won’t be seen.  Sigh, TOLERANCE. Anywho, after we came to a civil agreement, I added as he was walking away, “Oh, Eddie… my demons are really upset right now!” He smiled a big silent surprised smile as his head inched back and up with widening eyes. Gosh, it was great! I love my life inspite of my asthma

Burning sage, astrology, country music, blind faith, intolerance, violence: these are all things that irk me. Some things should be tolerated, others not: sage, yes; violent acts of injustice motivated by greed – well, I’ll let you think about that while a soft rain of moral philosophy drizzles over your head.

Feel free to defend your belief in the practice and share any stories/comments surrounding the herb or comment about anything at all.

 

New Years Eve Blues.

Did the Ancients enjoy coffee?

On New Years eve, I went back to the house where I stay and celebrated vicariously with the rest of the world via social media. An underwhelming, slightly depressing, “whew,” it was on my end. Nevertheless, I didn’t irritate my “allergy” with superficial socializing and booze – I stayed home, alone, and got plenty of zZz’s.

Seneca, in his letters, stresses how vices become contagious in crowds. He also says it’s more of a challenge to be “a part of” without sharing in the base behaviors of the mob. This whole, being dutifully engaged in our society (in accordance with nature), for the Stoics, is a big balancing act.

The next day at work was a joke. Most, if not all of the employees were hungover beyond recognition…  …no it wasn’t that bad, but it was pretty bad. The zOmBiEaPoCaLyPsE was happening at my place of work! It was quite funny, actually, because I felt in perfect spirits, in comparison; darting to and from tables with a chipper air fueled by sobriety and my second cup of coffee. A part of KNOWING THYSELF for me, is knowing that I function better as a member of society when I don’t feast on the brains of vice. In the past, doing so tended to snow ball me into a super vice ridden Yeti – salivating and ready to scream, with cold heart pains heavy from cuts of dull machetes. Ha! – That was fun and unnecessary. Anywho! In that state, unlike the others (my co-workers), I wouldn’t have made it to work at all. So, I was grateful to be sober, albeit I felt “lonely” the night before.

At work, that day, I was a gladiator.

An important thing for me to realize as I practice Stoicism as a PHILOSOPHY FOR LIVING is to watch where I put my value. If I value my peace of mind, my good conscience, my zest for life, then I have to learn from the past where those very things were greatly diminished by mistakenly valuing externals: money, attention, fame, reputation, pleasure, etc.

Christopher

Songs About Philosophy

Overcoming Holiday Anxiety and Flourishing at Work.

Well, it’s been a few days since the 25th whence I traveled home to spend a couple days with family. All in all, the visit was pleasant. There was however, some anxiety after settling in initially. I didn’t know what to make of it: nervous energy, restlessness, and a little shortness of breath. Why was I feeling this way? Alone, in my room, I tried to calmly deconstruct the impressions (as suggested by the Stoics) and came up with a couple things. There was still some tension I was hanging onto in regards to my past with my parents AND I was struggling with really accepting them.

Getting to the cause of the anxiety doesn’t always dissipate the anxiety. I had to do something! I went outside on the deck and sat down with my back straight, relaxed, and engaged in some mindful breathing. After regaining sound composure I summed up what had happened to me. Through calm rational deconstruction and cognitive distancing, I was able to see where my judgements got me into trouble AND what I needed to work on: compassion and acceptance.

“Try, therefore, in the first place, not to be bewildered by appearances. For if you once gain time and respite, you will more easily command yourself.” (Epictetus’ Enchiridion 20)

“So the person who knows what is good is also the person who knows how to love.” (Epictetus’ Discourses, Bk II 22.3)

Engaging in this years Stoic week, put on by the folks from STOICISM TODAY (Exeter), helped me tremendously in practicing Stoic principles like mindfulness and examining my impressions. (Follow the link above where you can find Wednesday’s Mindfulness Exercise from the Stoic Week 2015 Handbook.)

Also, taking part in Dr. Greg Sadler’s online course on Epictetus’ Discourses, offered by The Global Center for Academic Studies earlier this November through December helped enrich my living practice of Stoic principles as well. Here’s a link to a video of his, pertaining to anxiety: Philosophy Core Concepts: Epictetus on Anxiety (Agonia).

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Now for something, not so “close to home.” Lately I haven’t been experiencing as much agitation or frustration at work in the Service Industry. I wonder why? Oh, that’s right, practicing Stoicism actually WORKS! It doesn’t even have to be your philosophy of life in order to work. I mean, don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of occasions in the past week or so to lose my cool and assent to the bait of trivial impressions; but, through the teachings of friends like Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, and my newest road dog Epictetus, I’ve been able to slow down and assess each situation more clearly with a calm, accepting rationale. There’s freedom in this stuff! And as a consequence of me not fueling catty fires, my co-workers are being more friendly. I was prepared, as Epictetus says, ‘to be laughed at,’ for my philosophical pursuits. They still laugh at me and my adhd mannerisms, but it’s not a ridiculing laugh. And even if it was, my road dog would tell me, “It is nothing to you.”

Lately I’ve been engaging and networking with more people in the philosophical world online. Through one particular ongoing conversation, I’ve been nudged to really take on a non-stagnating life of meaning and productivity in which I take steps to cultivate my talents, actualize my potential, and pursue a different career. Now, it’s easy for one, especially in early recovery, to doubt oneself, to grow complacent, ruminate in the excrement of past regrets, etc… but there is this Stoic mantra that I can’t get out of my head, that’s reverberating like some catchy pop tune, “Perfection of character is this: to live each day as if it were your last, without frenzy, without apathy, without pretence.” (Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, 7.69) That has been helping me stay focused on the task at hand. I must remember that my attempts at actualizing these goals are conditional. I control my thinking, goals, attitudes, and actions BUT do not control the outcomes. So while I may have the preferred indifferent of leaving the Service Industry to write philosophical rock’n’roll songs for therapeutic use, I am ready to accept being thwarted by difficult events along the way. RESILIENCE!

Lastly, I’ll leave you all with some weird sounding videos I made over the past week. I’ve started a fun little musical project where I attempt to make SONG out of the passages of Epictetus’ Enchiridion. Coming from years of mixing with art and music people, I’m thinking the philosophical message herein may appeal to these audiences, (helping them with real life issues as Stoicism has helped me) where other means haven’t. Glad to be standing on the shoulders of giants!

~Christopher Edwards

 

Challenging Automatic Judgments.

Rain, rain, rain! Yesterday and today, it rained here in eastern NC. I’ve always enjoyed the rain: trancy headspaces, long introspective walks, grey atmospheres. Sighhh…  ***DNNNN DNNNN DNNNN!!!!*** ALARM! Whoa!  Just as I was typing that last little part, my phone buzzed a warning: FLASH FLOOD WARNING THIS AREA TIL 8:00pm EST. So, even though I’m a devout pluviophile, I should use CAUTION when leaving the house tonight. The wind is picking up too. I’m negatively visualizing an inverted umbrella in my future.

Now speaking of using caution, Epictetus says we should use it in regards to our MORAL PURPOSE. That piece of divinity within us; our RULING FACULTY. We can be confident as we go about our lives concerning externals, but must take a moment to really exercise caution in our thinking about impressions and before making choices.

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“We have often said, and shown, that the use of impressions represents for us the essence of good and evil, and that good and evil have to do with the will alone. And if that is true, then nothing is impractical in the philosophers’ advice to ‘Be confident in everything outside the will, and cautious in everything under the will’s control.'” (Epictetus’ Discourses, Bk II.I 4-5)

Yesterday day at work, around an hour after opening the restaurant, I walked out front to greet passerbyers, with hopes of reeling them in. I also enjoy hearing the sounds of a busy city street and people watching. When someone chooses our restaurant, I’ll open and hold the door for them and often serve them, IF it’s my turn in rotation – something I don’t have control over.

Now, as I’m standing outside of the restaurant (’twas a slow shift mind you) I looked to the left, and saw coming down the sidewalk at a distance, a very large man. He would be classified medically as obese, I’d wager. As I turned my head back to the view in front of me, something funny happened. I went META! I caught myself thinking, automatically, “Yuck, that’s disgusting.” The unconscious unraveling process of me catching that impression/judgement, was met by the small amount of free will I do have. I consciously combated the negative thought toward the mans weight with, “He’s a person too. He may eat a lot, but he’s like me, just with a different addiction.” There was something liberating about consciously stepping in and analyzing the validity and HEALTH of my speedy (often automatic) judgements and thought processes, then saying, “NO! I’m not going to think like that.”

As the man approached, I greeted him, nodding my head, and mentioned the warm weather in December. He replied, “Yes, it is odd…” then said something about breaking for lunch while there was a lull in the rain. The gentleman did not have an accent, was very articulate, (enunciating well) and had a warm air about him.

I’m glad I caught this, but for the love of Zeno, how can I resist the pull from such unconscious clutter? What comprises the 98% of my unconsciousness? Can I recalibrate these automatic tendencies by mindfully practicing Stoic principles on a daily basis? What does neuroscience have to say about habit change and free will? Heavy questions. Epictetus says:

“What aid can we find to combat habit? The opposed habit.”(Discourses Bk I 27.4)

“Every habit and faculty is formed or strengthened by the corresponding act – walking makes you walk better, running makes you a better runner. If you want to be literate, read, if you want to be a painter, paint. Go a month without reading, occupied by something else, and you’ll see what the result is. And if you’re laid up a mere ten days, when you get up and try to walk any distance you’ll find your legs barely able to support you. So if you like doing something, do it regularly; if you don’t like doing something, make a habit of doing something different.” (Discourses Bk II 18.1-4)

Booyah! Epictetus with the SCOOOORE! The crowd goes wild! ***The Stoics are doing the wave across the Colosseum!!!*** I know, I know, Epictetus didn’t lecture there. 😉

I hear it often said in 12 step groups: “It’s easier to stay sober, than it is to get sober.” Same idea can be applied to combating negative thought patterns. PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE, and in my case, practicing MINDFULNESS and SCRUTINY of judgements that follow initial impressions. Along the same lines, If the aforementioned  gentleman wanted to go on a diet, exercise and lose 150 pounds, I imagine it would probably be one of the most difficult things at first, but once hAbItUaTeD, seem routine to him.

In closing, I would like to think there are many others that engage in quick judgments based on cues then quickly go about whatever it was they were doing without giving them a second thought. What kinds of fires are we fueling when we do that? Some things ARE NOT what they seem, while others are – obviously the man was overweight, BUT he shouldn’t have been dismissed so incompassionately.

There’s plenty more to talk about and unpack related to this topic, but am going to call it a night. I’ll have to wait til tomorrow to dive into this new comic book I biked to get in the rain: The Extraordinary X-Men #4. Mr.Sinister is holding Nightcrawler hostage for who knows why and the Storm and Iceman are trying to locate them to save him. There’s something about them trying to close a hell portal, etc etc… So lets encourage and admonish those we can, but most importantly start with ourselves!

~Christopher

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Mindfully Alive

A ramble on the state of things in my world and how I am attempting to thrive therein, with adhd pen in hand 😉

Copy of bloodbrothers

“Erase the print of imagination. Stop the puppet-strings of impulse. Define the present moment of time. Recognize what happens to you or to another. Analyse and divide the event into the causal and the material. Think of your final hour. Leave the wrong done by another where it started.” (Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations 7.28)

Last night I was taking a walk around my neighborhood reflecting on where I am in life today. After a relapse in September of this past year, and moving from Asheville to Raleigh, I can say assuredly, that I am no longer immersed in blind vices, and that my disposition is toward the greater good. So what’s all that about? Well, I stuck myself in a halfway house for structure, temporarily, so I could force myself to work, adhere to a few rules, save money, and rebuild quickly what I pissed away that last month in Asheville. That’s where my focus is now, growing, learning, drawing on the things that have always worked, and taking a look at what doesn’t work, in regards to maintaining my self respect, integrity, and in becoming my “ideal” – a good person, fulfilling his potential!

What has been incredibly helpful, outside of finding a couple of smart good people to confide in and dialogue with, is having a routine “practice” in the morning and at night – like a morning and evening meditation. This practice was prescribed by the ancients. Now, mind you… 12 steppers, new agers, christian authors, self help gurus, monks, business leaders, corporate executives, and rednecks (maybe over generalizing here 😉 ) most likely have some kind of morning/evening ritual to collect themselves in connection with their place in LIFE. It’s a good thing!  Be it a cigarette and cup of coffee staring out the window while skimming the news paper just being, in between stories, or be it “praying” for ones own happiness as well as their loved ones. Maybe it’s reading some recent self help literature, or walking the dog down that same quiet street every night before bed. It could be sitting still for 2o minutes relaxing while focusing on one’s breath. Whatever it is, it’s a form self maintenance. What do you think?

I’m in no place to say which practices work better, and I don’t know, and doubt if such a thing could be measured, because of the complex nature of values and world views scattered about a broad range of individuals. I have noticed, however, and can say from experience that a routine daily ritual associated with self growth helps me “deal” better with life, when I hear the white girls say, “I can’t even.”

So why can’t they even, anyway? Why do people complain? Why can’t people, as Seneca says, bring their mind to bear the hardships of life? I won’t go into everything that relates to these questions, for it is a lot to unpack. But what I will mention are the ways some types of social conditioning influences bullshit preconceptions in people. Flip on the tube dummy! Now, turn it off, go find a book and a trail somewhere and get to know yourself 😉 The second is a lack of mindfulness. (I pair mindfulness with CRITICAL THINKING here.) That objective look in the mirror at your psychological make up, which people fail to do, partially out of fear. The fear of difficulties one will encounter in attempts to surmount the emotional pains and truths of being alive RELATIONALLY to the BULLSHIT.  Sadly too, people lazily just go with the flow of the habits they’re already accustomed to, co-existing with that socially conditioned world view which perpetuates more momentous bullshit, without questioning the VALIDITY of the excrement on the plate. Don’t eat the stinky stupid!

“I spy veggies from my high fructose soaked high chair.” ~ Anonymous Infant

So gee whiz! What can one do? Maybe cultivating a radical sense of (non passive) acceptance of a largely fucked up world where political corruption, greed, and control influence the masses, while on the other hand, having an appreciation for whatever moral conditioning, ethical education, be it taught or learned, that has helped you navigate successfully through the poop so far. I’ll throw out a few things that have helped me navigate through not only the reality of life as it is, in its physical, amoral nature, but also through the socially immoral parasitic landscape of human reality.

Philosophy

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“The nature of what is!!!! The awe of being alive!!!! Questioning the meaning of your existence in relation to everything you  can and can’t possibly ever fathom. What is the right thing to do? What does it mean to be a good person? Should you be a good person? “The pertinent questions every adolescent asks remain as important in ancient times as today. The philosophy of STOICISM  helps me live out a meaningful life, one that I choose for myself, as I practice the principles therein. I can safely say, philosophy, in particular Stoicism, helped save my life.

PUNK ROCK

(music in general)

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There is a cathartic magic and medium in and through music which I can’t express. I continue to listen and create music daily. It has been an avenue for social change (as has art in general) to varying degrees. Music is therapeutic. It’s entertaining. It can be the path through which some troubled kid sorts out their resentment toward an abusive family. It can enhance lovemaking, put you in a trance, play with your emotions, and balance the feng shui of your mental life. Rock on Wayne!

Comic Books

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Marvel Comic book titles shaped my imagination growing up. A very pleasant distraction and artistic way to see the world and play with normal every day situations in your head. Identifying with characters, their stories, and striving with them in your own life. I often, depending on the situation, model myself after a super hero or comic character so to conquer some life obstacle, big or small. 😉

You could probably lump all of these into the arts, with the exception of the science and psychology found in philosophy. They’re all integrated anyway, in how they’ve helped shape my life. I will mention a few more things in closing that have added to the effectiveness of my survival kit.

  • Therapy: Be it talking with smart friends, or engaging with a support group somewhere.
  • Exercise: Riding my bike, long contemplative walks, jogging, sex, tai chi, mindful breathing, etc.
  • Staying curious: Always staying observant and asking questions. Reading what’s out there so to understand your world.
  • Meditation: Sitting meditation. Paying attention to your breath. Walking meditation. Learning to pause and calmly do the next right thing, or not so calmly depending on the nature of the situation. (Sometimes, you have to say “HELL NO, I WON’T GO!” My buddy David tells me, citing big findings in neuroscience, that whatever freedom/free will/volition we, as evolved biological organisms with brains have, lies in the ability to VETO what we become consciously aware of – SAYING NO to things! That’s huge for me, especially in recovery!)

All in all, during my walk last night, as a result of regular mindfulness and Stoic practice, I felt fully alive… As if I had a clear understanding of who I was, where I was, the sensations around me, the direction I wanted to go in, and the resources I have within and without to endure life’s struggles and to thrive while persisting in my goals to pay it forward.

~Christopher

“Nothing is so conducive to greatness of mind as the ability to subject each element of our experience in life to methodical and truthful examination, always at the same time using this scrutiny as a means to reflect on the nature of the universe, the contribution any given action or event makes to that nature, the value this has for the whole, and the value it has for man – and man is an inhabitant of the highest City, of which all other cities are mere households.” (Marcus Aurelius’ Mediations, Book 3, 11.2)

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