Eudaimonic Striving

My plan to leave the Service Industry.

Okay, life stuff…

I recently picked up my six month sobriety chip at the secular based 12 step meeting I go to this past April. It feels nice. I will say though, that recovery is the business of habit change… and it takes work,  but every cell in my being shouts through a megaphone, “IT’S WORTH IT!”

Listening to audio excerpts from the Enchiridion in the morning help tremendously with my morning meditation. A kind of bold centering of my moral purpose to live the good life, while I can. Today could be the day  you know, that we all get hit by a bus. Negatively visualize that for a second. 😉

After completing six months at a Recovery House I voluntarily put myself in, I moved into a much less structured sober living Oxford House for just that little bit of structure to lean on… just in case my Ruling Faculty got hacked by my  Unconscious Mind and lost the battle. This is the stuff of early recovery. 🙂 In all honesty though, there is a healthy comfortable system of accountability that works out well. The longer I stay sober though, I believe in more than one model of addiction, and that they exist simultaneously at certain degrees depending on specific factors at play at any given moment. For me, it’s a choice, after I have detoxed off said poison (VICE). During a flare up, which now, at 31, has become increasingly less frequent, (attributed to simply growing up) the choice has already been made, and it’s automatic plummeting (disease model) until the despair grows strong enough.

With more than six months though, I have been using Stoicism daily across the board to aid in my affairs, and have come to some conclusions about my life and the directions I want to take…thinking a lot about meaning and eudaimonia and what it means for me. It is a strong preferred indifferent to launch myself out of the Service Industry.

Here’s what I’ve been doing recently to get my bearings oiled and ready for the eudaimonic slip and slide: (… hold up, that doesn’t work. Hmm.. for the eudaimonic drag race. You get the point…)

I’ve taken two extra days off work during the week to explore my options and better manage my time in relation to said eudaimonic spring board. I’m a slave to the service industry during the weekends, so it’s good to have the extra time to map out my future, day, steps…

I’ve been volunteering creatively with some notable academic rock stars (Massimo Pigliucci and Gregory Lopez) to help out with this years first Stoicon in the US. Check out Massimo Pigliucci’s blog How to be a Stoic for more details. And go HERE to register for the actual event!

I’m studying Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics as part of a six week online course offered by the awesome, YOUTUBE famous and super prolific Dr. Gregory B. Sadler, founder of REASON IO

GOALS

I need to finish my undergrad before I get hit by a bus or grow much older. Second, I “have to” transition to a more meaningful career than the Service Industry. So, this blog, over time, fate permitting, will serve as an example and progress report of how an individual uses Stoic principles to grow and live a meaningful life. And if it stops working, or if I get hit by a bus, then obviously the blogs will stop. 😉

This passage from the Enchiridion sums up my recent resolve to live a more meaningful, Stoic life:

“How long will you wait before you demand the best of yourself, and trust reason to determine what is best? You have been introduced to the essential doctrines, and claim to understand them. So what kind of teacher are you waiting for that you delay putting these principles into practice until he comes? You’re a grown man already, not a child any more. If you remain careless and lazy, making excuse after excuse, fixing one day after another when you will finally take yourself in hand, your lack of progress will go unnoticed, and in the end you will have lived and died unenlightened. Finally decide that you are an adult who is going to devote the rest of your life to making progress. Abide by what seems best as if it were an inviolable law. When faced with anything painful or pleasurable, anything bringing glory or disrepute, realize that the crisis is now, that the Olympics have started, and waiting is no longer an option; that the chance for progress, to keep or lose, turns on the events of a single day. That’s how Socrates got to be the person he was, by depending on reason to meet his every challenge. You’re not yet Socrates, but you can still live as if you want to be him.” -Epictetus’ Enchiridion, 51

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Doffing the Overalls: a Preferred Indifferent

Okay, so… THE SERVICE INDUSTRY IS CRAZY! The particular restaurant I work at poses daily challenges to my Stoic resolve. There is a level of cattiness among revolving cliques there that is detestable. Gangster rap and desensitized idle chatter violently churn the airwaves in the kitchen. On a given shift I will hear co-workers complain with passion about petty things, especially in regard to other co-workers. I’ve tried to admonish some by stressing that the trivialities they’re undergoing won’t matter, say, in 300 years, and encourage them to sustain that greater perspective when things seemingly go awry. I think some of them get that I’m trying to help, and share with me the serenity that comes from taking a few deep breaths in this chaotic business, but often times, in response to my attempted admonishment or simply my serving style, I’m labeled “weird.” Yes… I know I’m weird. I’ve known that since elementary school. I like it. It’s who I am. Now, lets get the job done and respectfully co-exist! Sigh 😉

I put in my two weeks notice around a week ago after I found another day time restaurant job. I told one of the managers I was being made to feel uncomfortable working with one particular employee and that I wasn’t making enough money during the week, though would “prefer” to still work on the weekends. She honored my requests, which I am grateful for – the money is definitely worth the craziness, on the weekends.

Without forgetting my bedrock, I can’t stress enough how reading and re-reading the later Stoic’s have helped me successfully navigate this restaurant terrain without going back to the bottle. When I wake up, I do a little bit of mindful meditation and stretching, then I say to myself:

“…The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. They are like this because they cannot tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own – not of the same blood or birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him. We were born to work together like feet, hands and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are obstructions.” (Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations 2.1)

Marcus-Aurelius

This type of mapping out my day is incredibly realistic and also, when practiced (alongside other mindfulness techniques and Stoic principles), generates an accompanying pause, calm, clarity, peace and tranquility when “life happens” in dis-preffered ways.

So, it was out of preference that I found another job. I started working at one of the restaurants within the farmers market in Raleigh. They specialize in southern cooking and are ALWAYS busy. My reasoning was that I would maximize my income by working there during the week and keep my weekends at the other job. I had to wake up at 5am tuesday morning to do all my morning rituals, including a HEALTHY BREAKFAST, in order to make it there by 7am, my clock in time for training for the next three days. The first day of training wasn’t so bad. I was given my uniform: a pair of overalls, to be worn over a black shirt. I got to see another dimension of how people tend to behave in this business. Nevertheless, it was busy and I wasn’t strongly deterred by any facet of the restaurant in particular.

The second day of training was a bit different from the first. Upon awakening that morning at 5am, however, I witnessed a battle going on “upstairs.” Anywho, I didn’t listen to that voice in my head that was persuading me to sleep in and avoid the duties of being a citizen of the world. No, instead, I got up and pushed through and thought about LIVING…. while living. Donning my overalls (new work uniform), I hopped on my bike and pedaled to work. Once at work I busied myself with learning their systems and helping out the lady I was training under. I witnessed the manager on duty bark with, what I thought was an unnecessary and exaggerated tone, at three other servers about organizing the coffee station. I saw them all bicker among themselves about her when she walked away. The manager went to the host stand and proceeded to talk about the incompetence of these three servers with the host. My eyes were starting to open to see more of what was going on here. There were strong redneck undertones beneath the facade of this southern charm.

At any rate, while training under this older lady, I got a since of the clientele this particular restaurant attracted. A rather large man and his demanding son came in and I was assigned to them. They were nice, I suppose, but kept demanding more biscuits and butter, biscuits and butter, BISCUITS AND BUTTER. And one time the overweight son looked at me with this condescending gaze as he motioned for me to refill his ever diminishing cup of sweet tea. He didn’t ask me with his words because his mouth was stuffed with biscuits and butter. I must try hard not to slip into a complaining air myself here, but deep inside myself, I began to feel disgusted. Was I to accept my station in life as a redneck server person? Hell no. This was increasingly growing into a dis-preferred indifferent. Moments later, my trainer asked me to shadow her as she took an order for an agricultural business party of eight people. I’m watching them laugh and talk about the difference between city ham and country ham, and how the country ham is too salty, but then one of them says, “yea, but it’s sooo good,” then all of them laugh in this contrived, unreal, kind of spooky fashion, reminding me of the old judgmental southern baptist ladies I used to serve at my first serving job when I was 17. Slightly creeped out, I look up and away from the table at my surroundings, and I see everything, the restaurant, the people, from a distance. I noticed I was experiencing mild anxiety, although I knew it wasn’t bad necessarily. I just knew… I didn’t want to work there. In that moment, there was a pause – a deep clear insight into the importance of choosing to be true to oneself. The space-time there would never be worth the money for me.

I went to the bathroom and called a good friend who knows me really well, and said that I was wearing overalls, training here at this crazy job. Her reply was, “What?! What are you doing? Get out of there!” Hahaha, that was all I needed. She knew as well as I did that I was of the artsy fartsy type and simply did not fit in that kind of work environment. I guess I was doing it for the money… but the money, no longer had priority over my well being. I called my brother who encouraged me to give it the benefit of the doubt for a month first, but I told him that I’ve been getting to know myself for a long time now, and with a sober mind, I KNOW I don’t want to work here. He gave me his favor.

Now, all I had to do was quit. How was I going to do that? Well… Stay calm, don’t show your bottom, and be respectful. (Things I have to remind myself to do from time to time.)

I left the bathroom and went to the managers office and knocked on the door. Mind you, I had a clear resolve of what needed to be done, though sometimes the order in which my logic is executed in speech gets scrambled. (Sort of like a nervous verbal dislexia). My only concern was I knew I was about to leave there, but didn’t bring a change of clothes. After knocking, the manager on duty told me to come in. I went in, sat down, and said, “Ms. Jane Doe, I’m not wearing any pants underneath my overalls.” Her eyes got big. “… and I just had a moment of clarity…” (referring to my dining room experience and confirmation from phoning my friend and brother.) I paused for one second. Her eyes grew wider and she sat back stiffining in her chair. “…from which I realized I’m not going to be a good fit here at this restaurant. And before I waste anymore of your time here, I am choosing to bow out now.” Her body and face began to relax back into a comfortable posture. “I don’t care about the money, I just don’t want to bike home in my boxer shorts and t-shirt.” She said, with a comfortable acceptance, to just bring them in when I could, in the following days and that she appreciated me being upfront and honest now, opposed to waiting til they had worked me into their schedule. So whew, that was that!

I calmly handled “quitting,” and walked out the door. Damn, the air was fresh. I hopped on my bike and started singing, as I was speeding down the hill away from that establishment. Like Voltaire, I am a proponent of toleration, because people have a choice and “right” to pursue biscuits and butter as much as they want as long as it doesn’t interfere with my pursuit of inner peace. 😉 So, paying great homage to the Stoics here, I will say that I achieved a freedom in leaving that place, reflecting on what’s really valuable: my time and well being. ‘Twas a preferred indifferent. ‘Twas a merry bike ride home indeed!

 

-Christopher Edwards

 

 

 

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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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Depression, Duty, and Triumph!

Applying Stoic Principles in the Service Industry.

Friday morning I did not want to get out of bed. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I was down for some reason. Trying to actively grow as a person, I’ve found that I experience anxiety from the ensuing cognitive dissonance of challenging the nature of my beliefs, judgements, habits, etc. Upon awakening, I guess I felt as if I lacked the life steam to go toe to toe with my own psychology, putting forth the effort to analyze thoughts and motives. Going to work would be the easy part, so I thought. But still I was hitting the snooze button.

A Stoic wouldn’t snooze through life.

“At break of day, when you are reluctant to get up, have this  thought ready to mind: “I am getting up for a man’s work. Do I still then resent it, if I am going out to do what I was born for the purpose for which I was brought into the world? Or was I created to wrap myself in blankets and keep warm?’ ‘But this is more pleasant.’ Were you then born for pleasure – all for feeling, not for action? Can you not see plants, birds, ants, spiders, bees all doing their own work, each helping in their own way to order the world? And then you do not want to do the work of a human being – you do not hurry to the demands of your own nature…. “ (Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations 5.1)

So I took heed to the suggestion of the ancients, and got out of bed! One thing I like to do at the end of my shower is turn the settings to EXTREME COLD, (does your shower have this setting? It should) for about 10 seconds and negatively visualize  all the bad things that could potentially happen to me during the course of the day, AND remind myself to face them all appropriately with acceptance and a good moral disposition.

Once at work, I felt better. I had begun to understand, just from living life, that FEELINGS should never be the CAPTAIN of a persons ship, if standards were ever to be upheld. Yay for DUTY!

There is this new Server I’ve been working with the past few days. He likes to speak Wal-mart. I must remember Epictetus here, as I recount the events from Friday at the restaurant, and refrain from gossip and speaking ill of my fellows. At any rate, this new Server was asked by management to close the shift and delegate side work tasks to other employees, me included. He “axed” me to do this and that, called me weird, and had a mean and contrived tone as he barked orders.

Initially, I reflexively, from that primitive part of my brain it seemed,  began to curse this man and stand in defiance to his recently appointed monarch stance of Service-Hood-Ghettodom, but paused, like now, thinking I probably shouldn’t have said ‘ghettodom’,  and realized the factors at play here and their part/relation to the bigger picture. Reminding myself of Epictetus and the Stoics, I thought, “That man has a fundamental makeup that is outside of my control. Ha! Am I too well put together?  Who am I to judge? Just because I have a liking for philosophy doesn’t mean I can wave an air of superiority all over the place. He is a part of my Service Team, which is the role I now find myself in as a human being. I must maintain MY PROFESSIONALISM and DUTY and see the components of each social interaction here at work, and strive alongside my fellow Servers to make for a pleasant restaurant.”Seeing it from this perspective helped me greatly.

“Doing something? I do it with reference to the benefit of mankind. Something happening to me? I accept it in reference to the gods and the universal source from which all things spring interrelated.” (Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations 8.23)

Throughout the shift, I looked for opportunities to excel in my duties and performance. As a consequence my tips averaged between 20 and 50 percent. That’s great! I had to watch out for over elation though. I was tempted to boast to my fellow Servers, but quickly checked myself and my motives, asking myself, “Is that what Seneca would do?” Would he boast about material gain. Does obtaining and possessing wealth reflect good character? “Hell to the nizoe,” Seneca replied. Seneca doesn’t speak Walmart by the way.

Riding my bike home in the afternoon sun, speeding down the hills of autumn carpeted sidewalks, I came to, as if out of a trance. I wasn’t under the weight of the depression from earlier that morning. It was pleasant. I paused. If I were to have ruminated in bed through a few more snoozes, I would have only perpetuated that feeling, I’m sure, but because of adhering to my duty as a CITIZEN OF THE WORLD I was able to enjoy the peace thereafter, on my gleeful bike ride home – so much so, that I wrote a little Stoic song on my acoustic guitar once arriving home. *Shall upload a few of these gems in the near future – STAY TUNED!*

Last night at work, Saturday, I only had one instance that challenged me to consciously exercise Stoic principles. I was serving a table of two guests who began to bicker, somewhat loudly, from which one guest left the restaurant. I immediately went to the table and asked if I could box up the food and return with the check. She agreed and apologized about having to cut things short. I returned with the boxed food and the check and she sat quietly finishing her drink. So at this point, I’m doing other things, waiting for her pay. The kitchen called for Servers to run food. I went to the kitchen to fulfill my duties and came back to find that the lady had gone and there was no payment left on the table. SHE DONE DINED AND DASHED Y’ALL! Whoa!

I immediately ran outside looking to uphold vigilante justice, but she was nowhere to be seen. JUSTICE is one of the four cardinal virtues of the Stoics’, mind you. I brought this to my manager’s attention. They were rightfully peeved. At this point, I had three other tables needing my attention and couldn’t let this hamper my flow. All the while, however, I started to fret that my managers might think that I took the money and just claimed that the lady left without paying. That thought started to give me anxiety. I’m glad I was AWARE of that, because, as soon as I saw that I was suffering at the hand of my own thoughts, I paused, took a breath, and realized where I stood in relation to THINGS NOT IN MY CONTROL. That’s huge, and I can’t stress it enough. By getting in the practice of clearly identifying your part in relation to EXTERNALS you begin to find this sort of spacious freedom to inhabit. Tranquil stuff, especially since I had to keep serving other tables.

“It is not events that disturb people, it is their judgements concerning them. Death, for example, is nothing frightening, otherwise it would have frightened Socrates. But the judgement that death is frightening – now, that is something to be afraid of. So when we are frustrated, angry or unhappy, never hold anyone except ourselves – that is, our judgements – accountable. An ignorant person is inclined to blame others for his own misfortune. To blame oneself is proof of progress. but the wise man never has to blame another or himself.” (Epictetus’ Enchiridion, 5)

After this blew over, and I was all caught up on my tables, I noticed that none of the management staff were on the floor. I went back to the office and found them huddled around the office computer, which was playing back the security camera footage of this whole dine-and-dash incident. Talk about a VIEW FROM ABOVE! It was a trip, seeing me race around doing what I do as a Server, smiling A LOT, with my bald spot gleaming, and energetically fulfilling my duties. I had a moment there. Anywho, the important thing was that the security footage showed that the lady never left any kind of payment and waited for me to go back to the kitchen before dashing. Whew! How silly did my thinking seem at that point. The thing is, and call me paranoid, IF in this privately owned restaurant, one of the managers disliked me personally, and wanted to fire me, saying that I pocketed the payment, how would I react? That would be a bigger test for Stoic implementation. Thankfully, it didn’t happen that way.

Salud! *raises coffee mug* 😉

 

Marcus-Aurelius

 

 

 

 

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

voltaire.jpeg

“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)

punkrock

 

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

comics

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)

meditation