You get what you get and don’t get upset.
My young granddaughter was singing these words today on the way to school. “You get what you get and don’t get upset” “Where did you hear those words”? l asked her. Apparently it was the latest jingle her friends were singing. I discovered later that it came from a book ‘Pinkaliousious’ by Victoria and Elizabeth Kann. A story about a girl who eats too many pink cupcakes and turns pink. Obviously, referring to her greediness and I would assume, the feeling of sickness she would have experienced after. It occured to me, that this was the opposite to my parents favourite warning. “If you don’t eat everything on your plate, you can go to bed hungry” although, it wouldn’t have been pink cupcakes that I was being bribed to eat.
It might have been something to do with the school sports carnival she was going to later. Maybe all the young kids who thought they weren’t going to win anything, had adopted the words as some type of mantra. That’s hardly likely of course, as losing is almost a taboo word now. I was visiting a friend of mine who has two daughters, I was admiring all the trophies they had won at school in his display cabinet. I remarked “bloody hell mate, your girls must have been super stars” “It would seem that way” he remarked. “ The truth is, they get a trophy for just turning up nowadays”
You get what you get.
I’m not suggesting that we should go back to the so called, ‘good old days’. But I’m not sure, that allowing kids not to lose, is a good idea either. Talking to my granddaughter confirmed, that young kids still want to win, but they can also accept losing. After all, it’s the adults who decide that their kids need to be protected from disappointment. “Spare the rod and spoil the child” a proverb taken from the bible, seems harsh by today’s standards. If taken literally, it could be used as justification for punishing children unnecessarily. They were “tougher” in those days of course, so consequently, there were fewer sensitive “new age” guys around.
I don’t believe the physical punishment that often happened, was ever justified. But knowing, that it could happen, enforced a mental toughness that seems to be missing now. I can remember my mother, telling me to “wait till your father gets home, he can deal with you” which was common, among many mothers in those days. Now that really was something to look forward to, especially if it happened in the morning and you had to wait all day for the inevitable punishment. “You get what you get” It was a good idea to get upset as well, as any act of defiance didn’t go down very well.
You get what you get at school.
Punishment at school was given quite liberally. There wasn’t much political correctness happening. I often imagined meeting those teachers in a dark alleyway, but those feelings are long gone now. How could l forget the teacher, who stood on a chair and jumped down with the cane in his hand to get more traction. Or a size nine plimsoll, on our wet backside, after getting out of the shower, at the end of a gym session. Being naked, certainly added to the vulnerability we all felt. Were these teachers sadistic? I’m not sure, probably it was seen as normal practice, in the toughening up process. It remained unspoken, as going home and saying anything only ensured more punishment. “You must have deserved it, so here’s some more to go with it”
Thankfully my grandchildren have been “spared the rod” but it goes without saying, that this isn’t the case in many countries around the world. I can’t remember either of my parents ever turning up to one of my sports days. In fact, it wasn’t encouraged, so I’m not sure, if it was a good or a bad idea. Although l believe it was easier to accept losing, when parents expectations and hopes weren’t on display. It’s great that parents do get more involved with their children now. But they can’t all win, if your child has a great voice in the shower, it doesn’t mean that their a certainty to win a talent show. Encourage, but don’t bring your own expectations into play. Then it will be a lot easier for them “to get what they get and not get upset”
On the upper floor of a city building, l am gazing quietly out of the window at the daily activities happening below me. The vastness of the view feels wonderful, as if I’m seeing everything for the first time. Tears begin to form, as the truth of being able to live within this personal moment start to overwhelm me. Over the last few days, my emotions have been very close to the surface. Any thought, or encounter, with anything that I value personally, has brought me to tears. I am surrounded by people who are looking after my welfare, they are doing everything they can to make me comfortable. It’s not that I’m ungrateful for the care and patience they show me, but my usual patience seems to have disappeared, as I try to deal with these raw emotions.
I have never felt this alone or vulnerable before, this is my personal encounter that no one can share. A TV programme the other day, sent five moderately famous people onto the streets of Melbourne, to live as homeless people for ten days. They went with nothing, which meant, they had to quickly become street wise. They all seemed genuinely sympathetic to the plight of the homeless people they interacted with. Plenty of tears were shed by all of them, but after ten days, they would of course, return to their normal existence. I’m not saying that it wasn’t carried out with the best of intentions. But they couldn’t have possibly experienced the true feelings, of someone’s personal life, that has possibly exsisted for years.
Beginning my personal encounter.
I’m sure you remember the time, when someone tried to tell you how they felt, while going through a personal crisis. Like me, you probably nodded your head and said the usual words, “I know how you feel” without really having a clue how they felt. I have an older friend, who has had heart problems for a number of years. Up until a few days ago I said those very words often, “I know how you feel” now, I really do have a proper understanding of how he feels. This wasn’t supposed to happen to me. I’m pretty fit, look after myself and don’t smoke, I have the occasional drink and have what I would consider, to be a healthy diet.
I have said a number of times though, that as fit as I feel, something can hit me from left field, that can sit me on my arse. Well it did exactly that, the pain in my chest was without question, the worst pain I have ever felt. Very shallow breathing was the best I could manage, but luckily, good enough to get me to the hospital. Straight into the emergency ward, I was hooked up to various machines and given pain killers. As the pain started to subside, I felt like an imposter. All these machines and I only have a bad case of indigestion, what a relief. Then the words came, “your blood tests confirm, your having a heart attack.”
Personal encounter with the unknown
There is very little, if any awareness of what’s going on within our body. It’s a complex system, that has millions of processes happening at any given moment. The lungs absorb the oxygen, the blood leaves the lungs and is carried to our heart. The heart then pumps it throughout our body, to provide the cells in our tissues and organs. As the cells use the oxygen, carbon dioxide is produced and absorbed into the blood. The kidneys and liver are doing their job as well and if your like me, you probably don’t even know where they are located, let alone what they do. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. These processes are happening constantly, but we are unaware of it.
Once, during the early stages of meditation, I was following one particular practice, amongst many others, of counting my breath in and out. After a short while, I became acutely aware of my breathing. As if I came off auto pilot for a short while and had to take the controls in my own hands. It almost took me to a crash landing, as in became out and out became in. “Don’t worry about your heart, it will last you as long as you live” (W. C. Fields) Obviously the person that put this quote up on one of the notice boards in the hospital corridor, had a sense of humour. There is no doubt, helping people to have a glimmer of humour within a very stressful situation, is very beneficial.
Personal heart encounter.
Well it looks like a fennel root to me, something l would buy at the local supermarket. I suppose romance, flower arrangements, balloons and the people I have seen holding their fingers up in the shape of a so called heart, require it to be more user friendly. Follow your heart, lead with your heart, have a heart, to name a few, adds to the central role it plays. My heart is certainly playing a central role, looking at it on the large screen, to the side of the operating table. Seeing the wire pass up through my groin towards my heart and being able to watch it, feels surreal. The plastic bin that’s filling up with bloody cloths and the blood hanging next to my shoulder ready for a blood transfusion, make everything very emotional.
What were those complications again? A blood clot could break off and cause a stroke. I could need bypass surgery and if things turn bad, ‘death.’ The bloody clock on the wall said the procedure took 55 minutes, but to me, it felt like hours.
An encounter with reality again.
When I returned to the ward, my fellow inmate put everything into perspective. “How you going mate, how many did you have then?” “one I answered” “bloody hell, I’ve had twelve stents over the last few years. Sometimes I need a pull through to clean the tubes out. I still have a beer and a smoke though, can’t stop living can yer” This reminded me of the neighbours dog ‘Skamp’ many years ago in England, he used to spend his whole life chasing cars, running in and out trying to grab their tyres. He ended up old and grey and couldn’t run anymore. Our other neighbours dog managed to get out once and got knocked over by a car, there must be an irony there somewhere. When l get out of here, I’m going to have a few beers, smoke a joint and relax.
Malcolm leaves a legacy.
When I first met Malcolm, I was about fourteen years old and he would of been about sixteen, the precise details escape me now, as this took place over fifty years ago. The impression he left on me though, is as powerful now as it was back then. I remember that he was not very well co-ordinated and when we played soccer, he was just as likely to kick us, as he was to kick the ball. I can’t remember how he came to be in our neighbourhood gang, as he lived on the other side of town. His father rode a vintage motor bike, which turned out to be significant.
Malcolm was different to anyone I had ever met at the time, I was drawn to him, because he stood apart from us, he had an air of quiet confidence which I didn’t have. When the gang passed around the quart bottle of cider he refused to drink. He just smiled, as if he knew something that we didn’t and quite possibly he did. Everyone laughed, including me, but I may as well have been laughing at myself, because I realised, I didn’t want to drink either. Malcolm was economical with words, he spoke quietly and thoughtfully as if he wanted to make every word count. He was the outsider and I felt that way too, I wasn’t particularly brave, but I had a compulsion to push everything to the limit. The best way to get me to do something, was to tell me not to do it.
The differences we both felt as individuals, drew us together, he had two contrasting sides to his character and I identified with them both. Like me, he was willing to go to extremes, but unlike me, he either didn’t see any danger or if he did, he was comfortable with it. This was juxtaposed with gentleness, a love of nature and infinite patience. We would spend hours looking for a particular wild flower he had read about, but it wasn’t to pick them, or dig them out, as I was inclined to do.
I remember looking for a Lapwings nest with him, they were notoriously hard to find, they hardly built a nest site, often just in a small hollow in the earth. We spent hours and hours looking in a field that we had seen them flying over. Eventually, more by luck than judgment we found a nest with eggs, which neither of us had ever seen before. Great, at last a Lapwings egg for my collection. I can’t remember now exactly how he explained it to me, but it was something like, “Let’s just take the memory away with us, we don’t need anything else” I don’t know how he convinced me to do as he asked, but l did. I would have preferred to put an egg in my collection and boast to who ever I could, about my find.
Malcolm gets a Motorbike
Malcolm turned up one day on a motorbike, this was typical of him. I would have announced to everyone, that I was getting a motor bike. I would have given them a countdown to the very moment it actually happened. It wasn’t a very powerful machine, but it allowed us to go farther afield than our pushbikes. It didn’t change our friendship, I thought it might, as I would have wanted to join a motor bike gang. In fact, on the bike, I became part of him, because he taught me to be his shadow. I was always to be directly behind him and anticipate everything he did as the bike pulled around the corners.
The things we enjoyed doing together were the same, but the intensity changed. The rooks nested high up in the trees and their nests could often be seen from miles around. Any thought of taking an egg was gone, we were just there to look. The strangeness of our surroundings and the distance from home confirmed that we were going to climb the trees, so we did. I was thinking, if I fall, I won’t be going home on the bike and if he falls, what the hell am l going to do. As it turned out, we were both thinking the same thing.
High up in the canopy of the tree, the branches moved erratically with our weight and the strength of the wind didn’t help. We weren’t on the same branch though, as there were dozens of nests all around us. We both laughed uncontrollably when we got back on the ground. A promise was made, that we would climb again soon, but we both knew we never would.
Malcolm’s parents house.
I only went to Malcolm’s home once and I don’t think he ever came to mine. There wasn’t a reason to be inside in those days, as there was very little technology to keep us there. Nature was preserved everywhere in his house, dried flowers from the fields and hedgerows mounted in picture frames. Examples of taxidermy were everywhere, which both he and his father had done. A large Barn owl, looked down from one of the display cases. “All the animals have died of natural causes” he explained. “What do you think?” he asked, I said, “everything is fantastic, but somehow, I don’t think my parents will like the idea of having them in our house.” This seemed to please him, as we both laughed.
I learned later, that he had never taken anyone to his parents house before. I asked him if he wanted to see my house, but luckily he didn’t. I’m sure he would have been disappointed, it would have been boring, after living in the menagerie that surrounded him. By now school was in the past for me as well and like Malcolm, I was working, but we still went into the countryside together as much as we could. We still enjoyed nature, but there was a realisation, that it wasn’t enough now. Our new found responsibility of growing up, was starting to tarnish the simple pleasures that it provided.
Malcolm’s big red motorbike.
We started to hang around the local coffee shops and pubs for the first time, pretending to have a good time, laughing at jokes that weren’t funny and buying drinks that neither of us wanted. Plans were starting to formulate in my head about traveling overseas as soon as l could. Malcolm had other ideas, he asked me to meet him on the weekend, at the usual place.
This time he turned up on the biggest red motorbike, l had ever seen. I can still see it now, a Norton 750 Atlas, a British bike that I’m sure would have met with his fathers approval. The British part, but possibly, not the size and power. The kick start pedal needed the pressure of full body weight downwards to have any chance of starting it. He threw me a crash helmet, “let’s go.” I was going to mention that we had never worn crash helmets before, but this time, it felt appropriate that we did. The very first corner we went around, he leaned the bike over farther than he ever had before, the kick start pedal hit the road with a shower of sparks. We came to an upright position before we should have and were lucky to stay on, that’s the only part l remember distinctly.
Malcolm’s plans for the future
“I know you plan to travel overseas eventually, but I could never leave this place, everything l need is here. l can’t imagine living anywhere else” That’s how l would have liked to have felt, but I resented, what I imagined, was an ordinary future ahead of me. My plan was to be an adventurer, but the thought scared me even more than Malcom’s bike. I told him how uncomfortable I felt for him, but l didn’t mention how I felt. Already, I had made up my mind that I wouldn’t get on the bike again. But this wasn’t something I wanted to say to him, as I knew it would hurt his feelings.
I never had to tell him, because on the following weekend, he crashed the bike and was killed. I cried my heart out for the first time ever, over the loss of a close friend. He was mature beyond his young years, a deep thinker, who was in my opinion, a genuinely good person. I think of him often, I am grateful to have known him and grateful that I have had the opportunity to grow old and experience many of the things that he was unable to experience. As I grow older, I notice his influence in my actions and my thoughts. How could It have taken me this long to think the way he did back then? I think he felt as calm then, as I am now, that’s why I realize, he was such a special person.
Meeting our future self and being happy or unhappy with what we find.
We all have a tendency to become stuck in the past, which potentially doesn’t help our future self. There is nothing wrong with thinking about the past, analyzing our mistakes and trying our hardest to learn from them. As long as these past experiences, don’t prevent us from growing into our potential future self. It’s obvious, that we would not want to be a lesser person than we are now. Would there be any point in striving for anything, if we thought that might be the case? We can create a “virtual embodiment” now, which enables us to experience the person who we desire ourselves to be in the future. It’s creating a push pull effect, we push ourselves now and in doing that, we also have a pull effect from the future self, we imagine and desire to be.
The flip side of meeting our future self, can be a picture of us sitting in a nursing home, reflecting on the opportunities we didn’t take. Living with the regret of a life only partially lived, being angry and disappointed with the outcome. Which ever way we imagine our future to be, we have to use that vision to fuel our current desire to either be, or not to be that person.
Taking a realistic look at our future self.
Taking a realistic look at our future, can be painful and it’s not something we generally like to do. No one wants to see a future for themselves that isn’t at least as bright, or brighter than it currently is. The goal isn’t to imagine an apocalyptic scenario, although that could happen with bad choices. But to envision what will happen to us, if we continue with our current choices. Almost always, we are going to find, that if we think realistically, we won’t like some aspects of ourselves. The question is, why do we make decisions that our future selves so often regret? I think we are grooming ourselves to become the person we want to be. But through each step of change and experience, our pre-conceived idea of who we want to be, also changes. In fact, the only change that is constant, is change itself.
Our modern world has also become a lot more certain over time, we almost take it for granted, that living to an old age is a birth right. In the pre-agricultural era, when foraging and hunting was all we knew, the future was far from certain, with hardly a thought of reaching old age. The scarcity and uncertainty then, would have led to a short term view of the future. Eating, drinking and indulging in the moment, with no regard to long term health, or personal growth would have been normal. That thought process is still with us but there are even more opportunities available to us now, making it easier, to live a soft unfulfilled life, consuming and indulging more than we need to. Fast food, watching TV instead of going to the gym, spending money rather than saving it, to name a few.
Helping our future self
Our future self would be grateful if we saved for our retirement, looked after our health, bringing long term benefits, we will appreciate in the future. Our aim should be to seek a balance, but not to the point, where we only think about the future. We could end up comfortable but sad, lacking memories of our spontaneous self. I’m sixty six now, so I am already meeting a version of my complete future self, but I have come to realise, that change is the only constant thing we have.
Whether I want change or not, it’s inevitable I can’t stop it, even if I wanted too. I have found investing in activities that cause some discomfort in the short term, can act as a springboard to higher phycological growth. I walk every day very early in the morning, but lately, the cold winter mornings, have been a real struggle. When I hike, I like to take everything I need on my back and camp every night, usually solo. This has improved my patience and organisation skills, also my capacity to spend long periods of time on my own. These small inconveniences, have allowed me to obtain more resolve and a better capacity to tackle larger problems that will always arise. I believe, that I’m trying as much as I can to help my future self, whilst enjoying more contentment than I’ve ever felt before.
What happens when we change direction slightly?
A few Sunday’s back it was Mother’s day here in Australia. My morning walk around the local streets and park was much the same as any other day. It’s my routine, it’s convenient and comfortable. A circular walk lasting one hour and thirty five minutes, give or take a few seconds. I never change my route, my walks are always in an anticlockwise direction. I’m on an invisible railway track. I think back to the time when as a kid, l believed the train driver had to steer the train down the track and how much concentration that must take. I haven’t been concentrating at all I’ve been sleep walking on my track.
Not today though, I remembered the house at the start of my walk with the flower van parked outside. I walk past there everyday and l have noticed the lady filling her van with flowers. Will she be selling flowers from her van ouside her house being as it’s Mothers day. I am nearing the end of my walk, so I will have to change direction and find a short cut back to the only source I know of, that may sell flowers, this early in the morning. I start doubling back on my usual route, even this brings a different perspective as l see things from a different angle. Soon I am in completely new surroundings passing the time of day with other early morning walkers that I haven’t seen before.
A change of direction brings new possibilities.
The lady was selling flowers from the front of her house. Coming from a different direction it seemed odd, not as I remembered it from the start of my walk. The lady recognised me, “I see you walking by every day, it’s nice to talk to you” While I was chatting to her, a thought came to me of something l read once. A train driver was on the same route for many years, his train passed through a village where a lady would wave to him every day from her house and he would wave back. The train driver looked forward to this every day, imagining the woman to be warm and friendly. He even felt an emotional connection after all this time. As he was now retired he decided to walk to the house and finally talk to the lady in person.
The house seemed different to him now, he wasn’t sure that this was a good idea anymore. To late, he introduced himself, “I’m the train driver who you waved to every morning” “I wasn’t waving at you I was waving at the train.” This seemed sad to me, not that this lady waved at me every day. I wouldn’t have noticed anyway, sleep walking on my invisible track. Even the thought I had about the train driver came about because of a change in my direction.
According to google most of us move around in a very limited area, often visiting the same places again and again. I expect you go about your daily life more or less as I do, clamped to an imaginary length of rail track. It’s unrealistic and passive to expect a different experience or to meet someone different, who shares not only your interests and sensibilities, whilst moving within your exact daily routine.
If change seems to much then just stretch your borders a little more.
Go to places you have never been and order food you have never ordered. Also stand in lines you have never stood in before. A directional change can also happen by looking at long held beliefs. “I can’t do that, or l never eat that.” Things that we have not examined for ages, having held them as limiting assumptions for long periods of time, sometimes years. Also things that we have never tried that we automatically assume, are beyond our capacity. I have never snow skied, jumped out of a plane or painted a picture. Sung a song in public, or played a musical instrument. It wouldn’t cost me very much to try, a bruised ego maybe, if l discovered l wasn’t any good. But if I enjoyed the experience it would be worth the change.
I discovered hiking and camping in nature only about three years ago. This simple change of direction has led me down a path that has changed my whole perspective on life. It’s also altered the thoughts that l considered were important to me. The change we may be seeking, must ultimately come from within us. It’s how we interact with the changes we do make, that make the difference. I understand now, when l first read that “some people travel the world and see nothing. While other people never travel and see everything” Observation, curiosity and a slight change of direction is a good place to start. “Blessed are the curious for they shall have adventures” (Lovell Drachman.)
The boiling frog is a fable describing a frog being slowly boiled alive.
Finding the man inside who you may of never met before.
It is not the critic who counts. Not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena. Whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood. Who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again. Because their is no effort without error and shortcoming, but who does actually strive to do the deed. Who knows the great enthusiasum, the great devotion. Who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat. (Theodore Roosevelt)
Solo hiking over longer distances involves being self sufficient. It involves being confident that you can handle any circumstance that may happen to you or fellow hikers that you may meet. Solo hiking is completely different, there’s nobody to ask “What do you think, what direction do you think we should go now?” You ask yourself the question and you need to take the time to contemplate the answers. There is definitely a need for careful planning, which means there’s a better chance of success. But the best plans can unravel very quickly on the trail, when you are reliant on your mental and physical health to achieve your goals. I met the man inside me whom I had never met before on my latest hike and he was more confident than I thought.
The Credit belongs to the man in the arena.
Credit always belongs to the person who tries their hardest in any situation. I try my hardest, but I am not obsessed with outcomes anymore, my mental ability plays a greater role as a grey hiker. As a younger hiker, it was only a question of turning up on the trail, with hardly a thought that anything could possibly go wrong. It’s not that I can’t achieve exactly the same outcomes now, but it generally takes more time, effort and preparation. I’m a purist on the trail, in the sense that I like to carry everything I need on my back. Which makes for a heavier pack and an obsession with the weight of every piece of equipment.
Nearly every effort I made in the beginning contained error and shortcomings. It begs the question, how do you become proficient at hiking long distances, or anything else for that matter. The simple answer is, to hike as much as you can, in as many diverse environments and weather conditions that you can find. That doesn’t mean to say you have to like every type of weather or environment. You could be a warm weather person, or a cold weather person, but it never hurts to experience both, as you can experience sub-zero temperatures in the desert too. I have experienced the disappointment of not finishing a hike that I hoped to complete. But I gave it my all and failed while daring greatly and even though it was disappointing, my mental fortitude remained intact.
Don’t be a cold and timid sole.
Be open and honest in every situation you find yourself in. There is so much to learn from every hiker you encounter, because the most insignificant insight can be the one that saves the day. Don’t be timid, it’s often the things you fear the most that turn out fine and vice versa. On my first solo hike I was very apprehensive that I might be lonely and it filled most of my thoughts. But it turned out I was very comfortable with my own company. I thought very little about the hiking components, traversing steep and slippery gradients and the more difficult part in descending them. In a group situation, it never entered my consciousness, but alone it was more significant. Going down a steep gradient with a heavy pack on, one slip and the momentum of the weight on my back could cause me to land very awkwardly.
I was aware of this situation all the time, but my hiking poles and intense concentration prevented any mishaps. As I said, this situation never entered my thoughts, but it certainly should have instead, loneliness was my primary concern before I started to hike solo. I don’t think you can ever know, when you first start hiking what part will be the most problematical. So it’s best to strive valiantly and take everything as it comes. Don’t worry about everything, worry about nothing until it actually happens. The brown snake that was at the water tank, when I needed water. My guard was down, dressed in shorts and open sandals at the end of the day, it passed quickly between my feet before I had time to react. I learned a valuable lesson, luckily I have the chance to implement it in the future.
A boy is walking with his grandfather along the beach after a bad storm. As their walking, the boy comments about the thousands of star fish that have washed up on the shore. He asks, “where do these starfish live?” His grandfather says, “in the ocean of course.” The boy thinks about this and says to his grandfather. “What’s going to happen to them then?” His grandfather says, “don’t worry about it, this often happens after a storm. It’s just the cycle of nature, that’s all, there’s nothing we can do about it.” The boy thinks about this and says, “why can’t we help them, why can’t we put them back in the ocean?”.
This is altruism at work in young children. Children see a problem, or someone not doing well and their natural wiring for connection kicks in, it hasn’t been jaded yet. At this point the boy starts picking up the starfish and throwing them back into the ocean. “I’m going to help them granddad.” His grandfather gets upset and says to him “it’s just how it is, it’s something you will learn as you get older. It’s not going to make any difference, and as I said, it’s just how it is” With tears in his eyes, he picks up one of the starfish and looks at his grandfather and says, “It will make a big difference to this one” as he throws it back in the water.
That’s the problem with our perceptions. As we get older, it can seem overwhelming to change things we think are beyond our capacity to change, but any small action can have a huge ripple effect. Seemingly insurmountable things have been changed by small actions at the right time and attempted in a sincere way. We all have the power to make a difference, and if our intentions are right and we are in congruence with our actions, beautiful things can happen. I was thinking about this story the other day, when I took my young granddaughter to the local park.
There’s a small adventure playground, with various pieces of equipment for the children to play on, it was the school holidays, so the playground was packed. I noticed straight away how the kids took turns with everything, they were on the swings, but were aware of the other kids who were waiting. I understand it can be boring playing with kids and I’m not denying this, but it’s only a short time out of my day, so I’m going to enjoy the experience. There is a large roundabout in the middle, which was empty until my granddaughter got on. My job was to grab the various handles and pull it around to make it go faster, I quickly learned why it was empty.
The kids came from every direction, someone was making it go fast. There must have been about eight kids now all jumping up and down on the roundabout yelling “faster, faster.” I noticed all the young mums and dads looking at me, I’m sure they were wondering, how long can the old man last before we have to call an ambulance? My reprieve didn’t come from them though, one of the young boys jumped off and started pushing with me. He must have been about 8 years old. I watched the other kid’s reaction, a couple of the kids around his age joined him while the younger kids stayed on. My granddaughter got off and pushed it for a while and she is only 5 years old.
It was amazing to see the co-operation between these kids, as small as they were, they just made it happen, so it seems for young children, the desire starts with a thought, but never ends with it. Their untainted faith, combined with action, always equals results that are commensurate to them.
I remembered the story recently of the over three hundred people who came to the rescue of a humpback whale after it lay stranded on a beach in Brazil. It weighed between 10 to 15 tons, people worked around the clock with shovels and JCB diggers to form a channel so that the sea water could wash the whale back out. People were left crying and shouting for joy as the mammal was released back into the Ocean. As adults even our tainted faith can work, a thought can turn into a desire to do the seemingly impossible. “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one” (Mother Teresa)
Walk the talk.
It’s a another year over and another one has arrived for us. The holidays are over and it’s time to start putting some meat on the bones of 2018. First up, thank you so much for your subscriptions to the blog. I have had a lot of trouble with spam content, which frankly, I don’t understand and as I’m not unique, I have learnt not to take it personally. I’m one of millions that these things are happening to. Anyway, I have sorted through my lists and cleared out all the dead wood. I hope this leaves me with genuine people who want to interact with the Grey hiker community.
It’s going to be a busier year for me I hope, I have a few things planned already. March 18th I plan to do the Cape to Cape hike here in Western Australia, it’s on the south coast of the state between the lighthouses on Cape leeuwin and Cape Naturaliste. Around 84 miles that should take me about 6 days and if my mathematics are correct will be around 14 miles a day walking. Good weather being my companion, I hope that this will be doable for the Grey hiker. Although I will be carrying a full pack, as I’m camping and cooking this time.
Then on the 6th of April I will be in Melbourne Victoria, to hike the southern coast, this time from Apollo bay to the Twelve apostles, a rock formation in the southern ocean. This will be around 5 days and 63 miles to cover which will average out to be around 12.5 miles a day, again, very doable. Carrying a full pack again and the weather will be more problematic this time, as it will be in the autumn. I’m walking every morning and doing some other strength building exercises. It’s the first time for a long while that I have carried a full pack, I’m sure it will make for more interesting and intense walking.
I have been thinking about that Henry ford quote. “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t-your right”. So the Grey hiker is going to do these hikes, I think I can and therefore I can. Good physical health supports good mental health, the reverse is also true. Poor mental health can contribute to an increased risk of developing physical illnesses. Hypertension, cardiovascular disease and obesity to name just a few. Apart from all the usual suspects that effect physical and mental health, my own personal one is setting goals that are realistic and achievable. When younger, my mantra was, “Just go for it and power through.” But now I’m older and possibly, wiser, I know a major setback could have devastating consequences going forward.
It’s possible to walk your way through a lot of small physical problems. But you have to know they are small and not something that may turn nasty. In my case it was hernias, it started with one, but ended with three. After my surgery, I was off my feet for eight months, so as I said previously, possibly more sensible going forward. “Above all do not lose your desire to walk every day. I walk myself into a state of well being and walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts and I know of no thought so burdensome that one can not walk away from it” (Soren Kierkegaard)
I believe there are thousands of tired, anxious, and over civilized people, who would receive a tonic for their health and well being, by going into nature. Spending time alone in the wilderness, is the ultimate cure for so many of our mental health problems. Hiking the trail all day and eating in the fresh air is a feeling that’s hard to describe. Crawling into a sleeping bag at the end of a day on the trail has to be the best feeling available, better than any feeling we could ever get in a five star hotel? Depending on the depth of the feeling one requires.
Whether it’s good or bad it’s still our responsibility.
When we are children our parents are responsible for us. But their responsibilities cease, after we reach adulthood and we become responsible for ourselves. This means not only for the good parts, which are easy to take responsibility for. But also taking responsibility for the parts we may feel are not our fault, or beyond our capacity to deal with. Taking ownership of every event and circumstance in our past and current life is of paramount importance. Life is short enough without wasting months or years in situations that could have been resolved earlier. Taking ownership though, is not the same as taking blame, ownership means taking and having control over our lives. Even if those choices were made unconsciously, and didn’t yield the exact results that were hoped for.
It’s easy to look back on life and blame other people for the situations we find ourselves in. But, we can’t go back and change our upbringing, so it’s time to stop blaming our school teachers and parents for our hang ups. If we want to make changes, we have to take ownership. We have to accept that no one is coming to rescue us and make our lives better. We have to be an active participant in our growth and do our own “dirty work”. Once we take responsibility for our life and work out what we want, it’s time to make the changes. This comes about by thinking and acting with intention, breaking away from our old story and old patterns that have kept us stuck for so long.
The right attitude in taking responsibility.
We have all run across people who radiate an inner light. These people can be found in all walks of life, and seem to be “good people” . They listen well and make you feel valued, you often see them looking after other people, and as they do, their manner is infused with gratitude. They are not thinking about the wonderful work they are doing, in fact they are not thinking about themselves at all. When I meet such a person it brightens my whole day. But it occurs to me, that even though I’ve achieved a decent level of responsibility and caring. I have not achieved that generosity of spirit, or that depth of character. A few years ago I realized, that if I wanted to achieve this, I would have to commit to moral adventures that can form this type of character.
In order to become a capable adult, we have to take and accept responsibility for everything we do and are. It’s no good criticizing other people for what we have or haven’t done. If we want something in life, it’s up to us to reach out for it. Excuses, are rationalizations we make to ourselves about people, events and circumstances. We invent these excuses to defend our behavior, to neglect taking a particular kind of action, or simply as a means of neglecting our responsibility. Excuses are in essence, a means of placing blame for our own internal problems on convenient external conditions, we may find ourselves in.
When we lack control, it’s very difficult to find the motivation to work harder, so our performance suffers. This chain reaction pretty much ensures failure, not just now, but into the future as well. Ancient Romans understood the concept of personal responsibility. After a Roman arch was completed, the engineer who was responsible, had to stand underneath it, when the scaffolding was removed. While you might not get crushed by a giant arch of responsibility, you still have a personal responsibility for the actions you take. If you don’t take steps to get what you want, other people will take these steps for you, which means, this isn’t always going to be in your best interests.
You owe it to yourself and to those around you to take control of your life, otherwise life gets difficult for everyone. Don’t let your struggles define who you are, you are more than your struggles, the future is up to you.
Feel the fear.
Fear in social situations can contribute to physical reactions, we may shake, blush, speak less clearly or sweat, fearing this will be obvious to others, compounding the problem. Or we may have less visible symptoms such as a racing pulse, shortness of breath, nausea and dizziness. Other reactions include a fear of looking foolish, or boring, and putting pressure on ourselves to be liked by everyone. These stresses can also increase our sensitivity to perceived criticism, inhibiting our ability to cope. Most people who have social anxiety problems know that this is irrational and doesn’t make sense. Knowing something though, is not the same thing as feeling it in the moment and using this feeling constructively. For these people, thoughts and feelings of anxiety persist and usually show no signs of going away.
Fear also causes us to notice and remember negative events, which reinforces the sense that the world is a scary place. We can work to change that by deliberately noticing the positive things in our life. The joy we feel when we see someone we love, the pleasure of a sunny day, the beauty in nature, the fun of an outing, the humor in a situation. We have to slowly place ourselves in the situations we fear. The first thing to do, is to remove avoidance from the equation and let yourself feel the fear. This way you will learn to survive without safety measures and avoidance tactics. When we suffer from social anxiety, it’s crucial to take gradual steps towards healing. Putting ourselves into the situations we fear, can be counter productive, unless we introduce careful thought and planning.
Fear in social situations.
A good starting point for us, is to make a list of our most feared social situations, from the lowest, upwards, based on our anxiety levels. Then we start with the least feared situation and expose ourselves to it, until we have successfully faced the fear. It’s a mistake to move on to the next level too quickly, we have to practice and feel confident before we can proceed. Social interactions of course, are between people so truly hearing and listening to another person, has got to be the biggest act of kindness there is. Not only will they love the fact that we find them so intriguing and interesting, but as we focus on them, we will be distracted away from ourselves and our own anxious thoughts and feelings.
Keep in mind that social fear is in our head. If we could look past the fear, we would find there is nothing on the other side. In fact there is very little in the western world that we do need to fear in our everyday lives. The “fight or flight” tribal fears are gone now, we are not going to be bitten on the arse by a saber tooth tiger anymore, but our brain is still geared up to protect us in the same way. Of course this is still very useful in certain situations. In social settings though, where most of our fears are now centered, it is of little help and more of a hindrance. If I go into the city and do a stand up comedy routine on the street. I will be completely useless, but there is nothing to fear physically.
Practice feeling fear.
We go to our nearest coffee outlet, preferably when it’s busy, and order a coffee and a muffin. When they ask us for the money, we are going to say, “I would like a 10% discount please”. This of course is going against normal social protocol, as we don’t live for the most part in a bartering economy. The first reaction we are going to get, is amazement and disbelieve that we have asked this question at all. Who asks for a discount on an amount of $7.95, we are not going to offer any explanation, just ask for the discount. Watch the reactions you get, feel the fear but don’t explain yourself. Our request will most likely move up the chain of command, and that’s fine we just wait patiently.
Eventually we will most likely be told it’s company policy, we don’t give discounts or a variation of this. Then we just smile sit down and enjoy our coffee and muffin. The more we do this the less we will care about the glances we receive and the imagined gossip that we think is happening. Now the venue is a popular restaurant in the evening, where plenty of people are socializing. We’re not asking for a discount this time, the only stipulation is we book a table for one. We just turn up sit down and enjoy a bottle of wine and relax. We’re there for one hour, so there is no point in rushing the meal, we can’t reach for our phone either, or a book, as we left them in the car. As we look around us, we make eye contact with people and smile, that’s all we have to do.
Fear nearly under control.
These two social situations, are ones I have used but there are many more of course. My social fears now seem to be under control. On the sliding scale of anxiety that I mentioned previously, the social skill of talking impromptu in front of an audience, is still something I’m not comfortable with, and possibly never will be. In a social situation though, it’s the closest I’m ever going to get to that sabre tooth tiger.
There has always been a cult of celebrity but now there is also a cult “of possibility”.
The cult of celebrity is not new, but it is increasing in its scope and effect. At one time, people would simply gawk at the famous, and possibly dress like them. Now, many take their moral and political opinions from them. Fame confers authority, and the principal way of acquiring great fame is via the entertainment industry. Entertainers are the gods of our age, with de facto powers to influence our opinions. Why is it that our minds enjoy and often crave engaging with this? Is it a form of escapism, are celebrities helpful role models, or do they create an inferiority complex for all of us touched by their influence. Are those entrusted with this accolade different, or better than those existing without it? Will there ever be a “possibility” we will wake up from this intoxication and see that there’re simply human.
Fame, is accessible to anyone and those who want it, are fixated by those who are already in possession of it. Within the social media platforms, is another professional and sometimes raw phenomenon, of the “cult of possibility” Where ordinary motivated people in the media, connect with thousands of others who may not be quite so motivated. In doing this, they present themselves to the world, as authentic to the things they are doing. The difference between them and “celebrity proper” is we can imagine ourselves, being capable of attempting everything they do. This is the “cult of possibility”, where sometimes, with a small amount of effort financially, we can attempt exactly the same thing.
The “cult of possibility” gives us a more personal connection.
One of my favorite shows on television is Grand designs, a show that is based in England and sometimes in Europe, it follows and interacts with people who are building their Grand design to live in. The show is about design, but the ratings for each episode are very different. When people have an abundance of money to throw at a project, it doesn’t resonate as well with the public, as a couple who struggle building a home with their own hands, while maxing out their credit cards in the process. One of the publics favorite episodes, also the presenters, was the “Woodsman” who built his home from the trees in the forest he tended by hand, with some of his friends to help him. It showed how he struggled to create a home, and the surrounding gardens of natural beauty.
He was a smart hard working man, who resonated well with the camera. But it wasn’t the lack of money that prevented him achieving his goal. So we were are able to see the “possibility” that we may be able to achieve exactly the same thing. Also the older couple who met later in life and purchased an absolute wreck of a chateau in France, when most people would be putting their feet up, took on the challenge of their lives. If they can do it with so little money and mostly using sweat equity, there’s no reason why we can’t do this, or the “possibility” that we can. The average person loves to dream, but the dream is always more pleasant when there is a “possibility” that one day, it will come true.
The “cult of possibility” is alive and well.
Life for many people has lost it’s sense of optimism for the future. We are wondering what’s going on, we feel uncertain as we look for inspiration where ever we can find it. Nothing has changed though, there is no quick fix or miracle cure. The Alternative lifestyle movement is as popular as it has ever been. Selling possessions and downsizing is not about money, the usual excuse we use. Now it’s the social conditioning we have to contend with, the what if’s and possible maybe’s, that we have to get past. There are a proliferation of channels on U-TUBE where “normal” people are attempting to live an alternative life. Traveling in buses, vans and RV’S some of these people, have thousands of subscribers on their lists.
The two favorites that appeal to my slow pace of life, are based on the canals in England. “Cruising the cut” and “Journey with Jono” both very well produced, great sound and picture quality. The narrow boats travel at walking pace, something I’m used to. The surrounding countryside and the hypnotic sound of the engine almost send me to sleep. I certainly know I’m relaxed anyway. These men aren’t rich, they sold their homes to follow a different lifestyle. This allows us the “possibility” that we may do this, but possibly never will. This resonates with us, we bond with them because we see ourselves doing these things through their eyes. This resonates with me, because they are “nice guys” someone you would love as your next door neighbor. They appeal to a very wide audience both young and older.
The “possibility” of owning a narrow boat.
Both of these channels have thousands of subscribers. Jono is on his narrow boat with his dog Molly, as everyone seems fascinated with dogs, Molly has a cult following of her own. My realization that this was a “cult of possibility” came when l looked at the comments left by the subscribers. They were from all around the world, watching this narrow boat on the canals in England. Many of them voicing the “possibility” that one day they would do this for themselves. Jono and David aren’t showing us a dream, but showing us a possibility. There’s a twist to their story though, for their shows to last longer and with more personal disclosures. They are being forced by their audience to expand their horizons.
They have to look for different features to keep up with demand. This is time consuming for them and I’m sure, a fine line that they are walking, between the life they want for themselves and the life that is being demanded from them. So even though they are ordinary men presenting a simple life story on a narrow boat. They are being forced by the “culture of possibility” to put more effort into living a different story than they would possibly have thought of in the beginning. Inadvertently, this could be a good thing for them, as they expand their stories to satisfy their audience and hopefully themselves.
Will part of us always be a “hunter gatherer” at heart ?
No matter how sophisticated we think we are in our comfortable western society, there will always be an element of the “hunter gatherer” within us. A certain few still have the desire to hunt and kill animals. But for the majority of us, these tendencies are concealed in a less noticeable way. Myself and many others experience this feeling when we are exposed to nature for a period of time. The first opportunity I had to really experience this, was when I was around seventeen years old. I went to Canada with a friend of mine where we met up with his older brother, we took a camping trip through the national parks and countryside between Toronto and Montreal. This was in the late sixties and even though it was a popular pastime, it wasn’t quite as sanitized as it is today.
Sitting around the “camp fire” in the shadows listening to the wild life all around us. The wind blowing through the trees, the clear night sky and in those days the proximity of bears, foraging for food, gave me a “primitive” feeling. This felt very different to what I had been used to living close to London. It didn’t feel strange or even different though, it felt “right” as if this was how it was meant to be. Today, the first major problem most people will have, is disconnecting from social media. Dare I suggest leaving all the electronic gadgets at home, this includes the satellite navigation system. Even in the late sixties, where life was relatively simple, we were closer to our “hunter gatherer” roots than we are now in 2017.
Are we getting farther and farther away from our “hunter gatherer” past?
Is this the fundamental underlying problem that we have, without even realizing that we have a problem. Food sharing and cooperation are central to “hunter gatherer” societies. “Hunter gatherers” exist in multi-level social structures, to help regulate cooperative systems. Furthermore, these social structures regulate rules, friendship, kinship ties and the spread of social norms. Central to this, is an extended family environment where everyone looks out for each other. We see this as primitive now, because we think we have evolved into a society that has all the answers. At an intellectual level we may have a lot of the answers, but unfortunately we also have a lot of unanswered questions to think about.
Community is an essential part of life in these “primitive” societies, we have almost stopped “hunter gathering” for our food supply now. We eat more and more processed food now, as it’s convenience helps us cope with our hectic lifestyles. At the same time that I was in Canada on my trip through the forests. My mother was walking to town everyday with her shopping basket. Purchasing fresh food from the “fish mongers” the “butchers” and other individual outlets. I can remember “Tesco” being no bigger than my local newsagent is today. Community was organic, it just existed, by virtue of people walking everywhere. Loneliness the disease of the 21st century, had hardly been “invented” at this stage. A lot of the ailments that loneliness would bring, hadn’t as yet, started to develop.
A “Hunter gatherer” problem manifesting as something else.
There is always an internal battle going on in each of us in two conflicting parts, one is our center of rationality and high minded logic. But unfortunately these feelings are trapped inside a biological animal, who mostly cares about survival, which is linked to our tribal past. The farther we move away from this tribal past, the worse this problem seems to be. But we can design our lives like a “hunter” traveling light, and in doing this, we can set up our lives in such a way, that we can be quite comfy with very little money. The “Hunter Gatherer” is not possessed by his possessions. The modern worker unfortunately, is often one pay check away from the street. With more attention paid to our basic needs, instead of our wants, we can have long stretches where the “hunting” is not so good, but we can still survive.
Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction, ends up being the biggest step ever taken that’s Kaizen.
“Kaizen” is a Japanese philosophy, while not having an absolute definition in English, it’s meaning is, continuous improvement, making small adjustments as we go forward. Kaizen, doesn’t represent the new exercise machine standing in the corner gathering dust and now being used as something to hang our clothes on. The new years resolution we made that was broken in the first few days. Business ventures that somehow never get off the ground, because the reality doesn’t fit the dream. Signing up for night classes full of enthusiasm, but after a few weeks of cold weather, missing classes to stay home in the warm. Obviously, there are people who take on these challenges and make it through to their goal. But more often than not, it’s easier to give up, move on and try something else that gives us more excitement, for a while.
Kaizen unnoticed steps
As we keep giving up on our grand dreams, we will be forced to ask ourselves some harsh questions. Why am I such a loser? How could I be so stupid? What’s wrong with me? So not only have we not stayed the distance with our dreams, now we are using our energy to emphasize our inadequacies as well. This is where kaizen comes in, it allows us to bypass the lofty goals that are often doomed to failure. Allowing us to concentrate on moving forward with easier and often unnoticed steps.
The trouble is the “Flight or fight” part of our brain which is critical to register an imminent threat, has in most cases, become a liability. Any new challenge or opportunity, still tends to trigger degrees of fear, but most of the time it’s not a legitimate fear. Although, this still prevents access to the thinking part of our brain which becomes restricted and often shuts down.
Kaizen trying to trick the “flight or fight” mode
Kaizen is making minor adjustments, that are often so small they become almost unnoticeable. The part of our brain that becomes overwhelmed with change leading to fear, is tricked into staying asleep. These little steps of kaizen, are a stealthy solution to the large steps we often set for ourselves, but fail to achieve. Small actions take very little time or money, are very agreeable to many of us who haven’t built supplies of willpower. By outfoxing fear and negative responses, our brain is allowed to build up permanent optimism. This approach may seem strange to us, as it goes against most definitions of personal progress.
As individuals, we are prompted to “Think big. Believe big. Act big and the results will be big”. The results may be big for some people, but not for the majority. Kaizen isn’t about thinking big, it’s about thinking small positive thoughts to eventually get big results. Our attempts to be better usually end in failure, because life-changing goals overwhelm us into inaction, instead of inspiring us into action. Unrealistic goals make it insanely difficult to make any progress, so we become stressed over what is supposed to help us take action. A big audacious goal looks scary to our brain, and when our brain encounters “scary” it goes into “freeze” mode. If we constantly overstretch ourselves, we lose the required energy we need to take the necessary action to get better.
Kaizen in action
We decide to get up an hour early, the first day is fine, but the next day we feel tired and quickly abandon the idea. The kaizen method would be, to get up three minutes early the first day, and increase it to six minutes the day after. Adding three minutes each day until after 20 days we are getting up an hour earlier. Small incremental steps, that our body doesn’t even notice over the longer term.
We like the idea of meditating for half an hour every day. But a half hour meditation isn’t easy, so attempting a half hour block, won’t last for the majority of people. The kaizen way would be to meditate for just 30 seconds the first day, and keep adding 30 seconds each day. In 60 days we are meditating for half an hour, making it easier to maintain over a longer period.
Kaizen as a system
If we have never exercised before, deciding to go to the gym for a hour each day is going to be extremely hard and most likely will end in failure. As we watch television we decide to take the first tiny step. On the first evening, we get up off the couch during an ad break and do a fast walk on the spot until it’s over. And the next night two ads and so on until we reach one hour. It takes a while to get there, but once there, we are more likely to keep going as we have gained the momentum now.
While Kaizen was originally developed to help businesses improve and thrive, it’s just as applicable to our personal lives. If we want to achieve our goal every time, we need to create a system that works. Instead of dreaming about the ultimate goal, design a great process. This way makes us a winner, we can enjoy the present moment and most likely, improve at the same time.
Death it’s only natural
Are you feeling courageous? Then take some time out to think about your death and take note of what comes up. Invite the anxiety and the disquiet, feel the supposedly solid ground of your world tremble slightly. Approach the topic with compassion, and remind yourself, that it’s a natural part of life we’re all going to experience. Is there any benefit in thinking about our death, I believe there is. A more meaningful, mindful life and less chance that our story will be included in the next edition of the “Top five regrets of the Dying” by Bronnie Ware. There are so many clichés surrounding death, that now it’s become disconnected from any significant meaning. Unless you are directly involved with or close to the process itself. “You only have one life” “Life isn’t a dress rehearsal” Why worry when you could be dead tomorrow”
It’s only when we are told that we only have a short time to live, that we become aware of how fragile life is. This got me thinking, is it possible to live our life within our self imposed comfort and only face the fear of death when we absolutely have to? While still trying to keep the status-quo in place, and not rock our boat in anyway. But it’s almost impossible to always keep ourselves in a safe place. When change comes, as it inevitably will, we will then be ill equiped to deal with it. In life, there is no turning back and there are no guarantees either. Isn’t it better to realize this, to embrace the fear of death and then use this, to live a really meaningful life.
Use death to live life.
We all have the capacity to live our life to it’s fullest potential. This is not to be confused with everything having to be an adventure, and taking unnecessary risks. We know in ourselves what makes us feel good, this provides us with the feeling of inner contentment. It can be cooking, painting, spending time with family or renovating houses, as long as we don’t get stuck in a rut. We all have our issues, problems and frustrations in our lives, this is all part of being human. But being aware of our death, is one solution to cultivate an intense awareness of the fragility of life. This has helped me to see the big picture, and not get bogged down in the pettiness of many situations.
Everything in life is constantly coming together and then falling apart. There is beauty in the moment, the seasons change, the flowers bloom and then they die. There is an impermanence to everything around us and we are a part of that. The vacation that was so fantastic, is over all too quickly, so we feel sad. The party we went to that was so much fun, that we didn’t want to end. And conversely, the crap party that we wanted to end. We are constantly confronting these types of endings, but while we are waiting for the next beginning to arrive, we are often missing the “Now”.
Death and mindfulness.
The fact that we are going to die, doesn’t create a meaningful life, it’s the wisdom of “knowing” that captures our attention. Then we are more likely to ask ourselves what’s important, and how do we embrace it. Habit of course, has a strong momentum that can carry us through until we die. So the question arises, what habits do we want to cultivate that will cause us to engage more with life Instead of procrastination, worry, and always wondering if we are making the right decisions. We constantly build defences against our vunerability, and death is the ultimate vunerability for us. But when we allow our life to be vunerable, we become more open and allow the world to impress itself on our consciousness.
What ever we have done in our life, is who we are when we die, so everything counts. We dont have to wait for death to find peace though, we can find peace in the wisdom of thinking about death while alive. Allowing these thoughts to guide us in making decisions, that may have seemed outside of our capacity before. Worries that once seemed relevant, are now put into perspective. Every bad day, seems pretty damn good when compared to having no more days at all. When we truly accept our death, we can hold on to that feeling in the same way we think about our grocery list or our plans for the weekend. We start to see what’s worth our time, and never worth our tears.
Introversion isn’t a fatal flaw.
Introversion is often misrepresented in popular culture, because it’s confused with shyness and social anxiety. We get the message that something is wrong with us and we need to fix it, it’s seen as a character fault, bordering on mental illness. This can shame introverts into pretending to be someone they’re not, that they have a problem which doesn’t really exist, a self fulfilling prophesy almost. Introverted characters in the media, are often portrayed as having abrasive personalities and a lack of social skills. These negative qualities could be true of an introvert, or an extrovert. Another important point is that introversion and extroversion are on a spectrum, a balance between either.
As introverts, we are waiting and waiting, for people to initiate a conversation, but often they don’t. The critical thing to learn is, to give ourselves permission to share, without being invited. In certain social situations men seem to be at a distinct disadvantage. We don’t do small talk very well, we tend to want to get in and under everything and resolve problems. While polite chit chat, staying awake, and listening would serve us better. But there’s also an age thing happening now, a distinct feeling that I’ve heard it all before. Above the polite chat, I can almost hear myself say. “Who fucking cares” but it’s not a party trick that will get me another invitation, which isn’t a bad thing, I just need to be a bit more selective.
Introversion can be powerful.
Don’t underestimate me because I’m quiet. I know more than I say, think more than I speak, and observe more than you know. (Michaela Chung) When I was a lot younger those words, “Your quiet” “Is everything alright” “Are you not feeling well” meant the end of the night for me. It put me under the “spotlight,” which was the last place I wanted to be. It was something I was never going to recover from, it would have me looking for an exit door. Also the “look” didn’t help, “you think your better than everyone else, anti-social and only interested in yourself.” None of this was anyone’s fault, it may or may not have been happening, but it was how I perceived it at the time.
I don’t feel like that anymore, I’m never going to be the life and soul of the party, and that’s fine, I can live with it. I now find that I’m smiling on the inside. I’m not sure why, but maybe I’m observing more than you know now, as the above quote says.
Never assume that the person you are dealing with is weaker or less important than you are. Some people are slow to take offense, which may make you misjudge the thickness of their skin, and fail to worry about insulting them. But should you offend their honor and their pride, they will overwhelm you with a violence that seems sudden and extreme given their slowness to anger. If you want to turn people down, it is best to do so politely and respectfully, even if you feel their request is impudent or their offer ridiculous.” (Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power)
Introversion in being self contained.
I have been self contained for as long as I can remember. My parents did the best they could, with the resources and knowledge available to them. Jobs were plentiful and education wasn’t a priority. They were passing on what they hadn’t learned themselves, it all seemed perfectly normal. As I was growing up, school reports meant absolutely nothing to them. If they weren’t worried, I certainly wasn’t. It was much later that resentfulness crept in as I realized, the opportunities an education could have given me. I certainly wasn’t unique of course, I was just a symptom of the times we were living in. My father forced me into a job that I had no interest in, his philosophy was, it’s not a proper job unless you sweat, which became part of my resentment.
I loved both of them, but I got it into my head that they didn’t care, how could they, if they showed no interest in me. This Started me on the pathway I think, of my becoming more introverted, I decided, that if they were not going to show any interest in me, then I wouldn’t in them. I kept all my personal achievements to myself, I was completely self contained. This has left me with a legacy, that I now find it hard to share anything I have achieved. I’m never quite good enough, there is always something more to achieve. But I also have a feeling of strength, for within my introversion, there is real power in going about my business, quietly and carefully. Listening more than I speak and taking action, after careful consideration. I may not be remembered for the spoken word, but the few words I have written down, may be useful.
“If ignorance is bliss, there should be more happy people” (Victor Cousin)
Haven’t we all at some stage in our life, wanted to experience complete ignorance to what’s going on around us, and be able to live life on our own terms. A number of years ago, I was working with a man on a building site in Perth, he lived in Golden Bay, which is an outlying suburb near the beach. A fiery debate was going on in the lunch shed. We were trying to sort out the worlds problems in our half hour break. Looking for back up, I turned to this man, whom I had never spoken to before. “What do you think, this can’t be right, surely there must be another way of looking at this problem”? “Frankly I don’t give a shit about anyone’s problems, only my own”
“It’s better than listening to you lot, going on about something that you can’t fix anyway” He had our attention now, maybe he had discovered a magic formula that we were unaware of. “Look don’t get me wrong, I know it sounds like ignorance, but it’s a conscious decision I have made. I really have no idea what you are talking about. I live on my own over the road from the ocean, I love fishing, hence the book I’m reading now. After I get home from work, I take my small boat out, usually I catch a feed of fish and I barbeque that, with herbs from my garden. I listen to some music if I feel like it, and tinker around in my shed. There always seems to be something to keep me busy, I don’t have a radio or television and I don’t read newspapers anymore”
Ignorance….”Living is easy with eyes closed” (John Lennon)
As it turned out, he had been through a bitter divorce and had lost custody of his children in the process. For him, ignorance was the answer, so knowledge outside of his world, was useless to him. He wasn’t a recluse though, as he was still operating within mainstream society every day. I had to admire him for that, but at the same time, I knew that he was in the minority, and probably, that was a good thing. Being able to say you don’t know, is better than being armed with a small amount of knowledge. Then using that knowledge in an authoritative way to create your own version of the truth, this is ignorance.
Now we have so many half truths, floating around in the chatter of the media. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to know what is truth anymore, and if there is such a thing in the first place. I think we are all aware that our knowledge base is compromised, and has to be for society to function. The academic view, which I’m inclined to agree with, is that every decision we make should be a knowledge gathering exercise. Comparing and contrasting every piece of information we find, then making a decision that hopefully, is the right one. In the real world of course, this doesn’t work, as we would never get anything done. We would be constantly surrounded, with what if’s and possible maybe’s.
Ignorance….Between a rock and a hard place.
Knowledge can be paralyzing, the more we know, the harder it is to take decisive action. Nothing is as clear as it first appears, as we start seeing shades of grey everywhere. As individuals we may believe that knowledge is fixed, and there is only one way, to approach a problem or an opportunity. In doing this we adhere to dogmas, that are often outdated. We may take a flexible approach and believe, that different opinions are justified. Being willing to consider alternative perspectives, but still holding on to our desired position. We can also assess all views as equal. But still believe, that one position is clearly justified based on statutory, ethical or humanistic considerations.
My own use of the knowledge available, has often been selective to my own point of view. A tunnel vision mode, on a particular subject, taking only the knowledge that justifies my position. While rejecting the rest quickly or completely ignoring it, losing any remnants of common sense in the process. Wanting whatever it is, and somehow, I’m going to get it, no matter what the costs are. The jury is still out on the success or failure of that position. If I can write these things down now, I know that I have gained enough knowledge to realize, that it’s been a problem in the past.
Ignorance is many things.
“Frankly I don’t give a shit” was my work colleagues stance, when questioned. I can see now that my tunnel vision could be considered another version of that, but it’s been helpful in many ways. I did two years of night school to gain an entrance to part time university. At the beginning of the semester, the classes at night school would start with around forty five students, but by the end, only three, or less remained. I left school at fifteen years old, so I had to relearn the basic concepts again. My tunnel vision has at times though, been detrimental to myself and the people close to me.
If there is knowledge available, we shouldn’t reject it, in fact, it’s our obligation to realize our full potential. In doing this we may be able to help move the world forward, in the best way possible. Ignorance isn’t bliss after all, it causes far more problems than it solves. I have tried to Straighten him out, but there’s only so much you can do for a person who thinks Auschwitz is a brand of beer. ( David Sedaris)
It’s easier to judge a book by it’s cover.
It’s not right to judge someone or something merely by appearance. Just because the cover of a book is beautiful, it doesn’t mean that the content inside will be. An ordinary looking book though, may contain invaluable information, but we won’t know this, unless we read the entire book. To get to know someone properly, we have to do the same thing, often we don’t and I believe our lives are less meaningful because of it. This is partly because, we live in a world of many books and we don’t want to waste time reading crap. We put people and things into categories, as it’s a useful tool to make sense of our surroundings. This also reveals cognitive biases in the way we look at the world, this is not in tune with reality.
We make inferences all the time, as we compare and evaluate ourselves against the current social mores. I have often done this myself, even though I know at an intellectual level, I could be completely wrong. Couple this with compassion fatigue, as we become overwhelmed with social problems all around us. This leads to a mindset that creates a dangerous situation, which causes many problems in society.
It’s easy to judge people?
I’m on a rehabilitation program again, after the hernia repairs. I’m starting to walk around the local neighborhood, not too far from home in case I need rescuing. It’s the first time I have really walked around the local streets, I’m usually driving by on my way to the park, or further afield. So how do I amuse myself, that’s the question, this is Australia, so walking around the suburbs isn’t the national pastime, not with glorious beaches and beautiful parks everywhere. “Have you run out of petrol, is that why your walking, or have you broken down, do you need a lift?” “No! but thanks for asking,” your judgement was wrong this time, but I can see why you would think that.
How to judge your neighbors?
This is an older neighborhood built in the 70’s, a mixture of different styles. I’m going to make some value judgements, that house with the very formal garden, with well kept lawns and edges. Not sure of the peoples age who live there, they like gardening though, probably retired, and very fastidious. That one over there is very stark, concrete driveway and brick paving everywhere, hardly any lawn or garden. This one’s a bit tougher to guess, they don’t like gardening though, but it’s still very neat. The garage door is up, a caravan, motorbike, surfboards, a younger family live there, and they enjoy their leisure activities. Hence no time for gardening.
Look at the state of that house over there, long grass everywhere. I don’t think that boats been anywhere for years, its almost grown into the landscape. They don’t have any time for gardening either, but for different reasons than the young family over the road. Mind you, they could be renting, people renting don’t look after their houses properly, do they?
Driving home in the early hours of the morning after a social event. I went past the local take away food outlet, some of them are open 24hours. Those kids playing around in the carpark, they can’t be any older than my grandson. And I know, he’s tucked up in bed over in Melbourne, as he should be, at twelve years old. So what the hell are the parents of these kids up to, letting them roam the streets at this time of the night, surely it can’t be very safe for them. Their parents don’t care about them, that’s plainly obvious, in my judgement.
I mentioned this to my youngest son who turns 41 soon. “What’s happening to the younger generation nowadays running around the streets at all hours. We never let you do that, we were responsible parents, not like the parents of the kids I saw.” “Well I know the area your talking about, do you remember when you used to drop me off at my mates house. And then ring his parents to check how we were. We were fine, we used to climb out of the bedroom window when his parents were asleep and meet up with all our other mates, down the very area your talking about”.
The curious thing is, I don’t consider that I do judge a book by it’s cover, but in the day to day, I seem to be making judgements continuously. According to my understanding, fast judgements have helped us in the past. As we needed to assess risks very fast, in order to survive, so we evaluate all new things in the same manner now. I read somewhere, that we have two voices in our head, the judgmental and the empathetic. We simply allow these two “voices” to co-exist. Slowly, we will be able to experience both, our mind’s tendency to judge quickly and our mind’s ability to think more deeply
I often think more deeply, when I give myself the time and space to make a judgement properly. I’m making a judgement now that so many people are doing it tough in this world. Therefore I’m not helping by judging situations, that I know very little about. When we judge people in the moment, we often judge them harshly, “why can’t they do things according to our standards.” The undeniable truth is, we are all a heartbeat away from illness, tragedy and any number of events, that can change our lives instantly. So it’s best to keep it in mind, not to judge a book by it’s cover. Because, there but for the grace of God, go I.
What is resilience?
Resilience, is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, also relationship problems, serious health, workplace and financial issues. Being resilient doesn’t mean we never experience distress though, emotional pain and sadness are common in people who have suffered major adversity or trauma in their lives. In fact the road to resilience is likely to involve considerable distress.
Resilience, is not a trait that people either have or don’t have, it involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that can be developed in anyone.
Can we escape needing to build resilience ?
Resilience does not automatically change us, it’s how we respond that counts. It’s our response to adversity that determines whether it will help, or hurt us. Sadly, more often than not, suffering destroys people because of their bad responses. It’s not a question of “why me” it’s more a question of “why not me.” Everyone experiences some type of adversity in their lives, so trying to wrap ourselves in cotton wool, or remaining in our comfort zone, clearly doesn’t work. We would need to live a reclusive life, or be extremely lucky, not to face serious adversity at least once, if not, many times in the course of our life.
So it’s a good thing to try and build our resilience, then when we need it for what ever reason, it’s available. You might say, “what’s the point in building resilience…. nothing is going to happen, and if it ever does, I’ll get through it somehow.” My answer is “good luck with that,” it’s far better to develop a strong mental attitude, than it is to take the chance, that we may be resilient enough to “bounce back” adequately afterwards. Life is short enough, without unnecessarily being caught in a loop of mental anguish, which could possibly have been lessened, with more attention paid to resilience beforehand.
Benefits of resilience.
Resilience gives us better coping skills, helping us deal with our negative thoughts and emotions. This makes it less likely for us to continuously focus on setbacks, that we can’t change. It’s not that we suffer any less, it’s how we deal with it and learn from it. It’s as if we need to have a near death experience, to make us realize what’s important to us. Our judgement is no longer clouded with “what if’s.” How many times have you said? “If I get out of this situation, I will never complain again”.
We may complain again, but the next time something happens, it get’s that much easier to deal with. We look back to what we have been through before and realize, we got through that, so we can get through this. That’s resilience in action. Priorities change, what we stressed about once, doesn’t seem to matter anymore. I used to worry about money once and countless petty things, but now, none of those things mean anything to me. I have come through a serious car accident, three major accidents working in the heavy construction industry, I have plural plaque on my lungs from asbestos exposure. Also my wife and I lost our baby son with heart problems. I’m not suggesting I’m special though, I also realize I have been very lucky, compared to so many other people. I guess that is part of being resilient.
Obviously, we are not going to rejoice in our misfortune, but use each incident to develop “mental toughness” There is no benefit in exposing ourselves to needless situations that can hurt us but, it’s not good to pull back from anything that may build our resilience either. There is nowhere to hide in this world and if we try to, we are bound to suffer more in the present and the future.
“My scars remind me that I did indeed survive my deepest wounds. That in itself is an accomplishment. And they bring to mind something else, too. They remind me that the damage life has inflicted on me has, in many places, left me stronger and more resilient. What hurt me in the past has actually made me better equipped to face the present.” ( Steve Goodier)
Learning the lessons first.
Lessons are often learned by the mistakes we make, with this comes the understanding, that we’re not perfect. We come to the realization that perfection doesn’t really exist, but only the intention, of doing the best we can. Who wants to be perfect anyway? “Me” I hear you say, but then of course, perfection leaves no room for improvement does it. With every mistake we make, we discover more and more about ourselves, who we are, our limits, and our capabilities for what we can and can’t do.
This helps us to be more compassionate and tolerant with ourselves and others. This can only come from attempting things ourselves, not theorizing about the actions we may possibly take in the future. The balance is between the lessons we learn from our own experiences, and learning from the mistakes of others, so that we don’t make the same mistakes ourselves.
There is nothing wrong with having a library full of self help books and watching U-tube documentaries. Many great authors and film makers have plenty of wisdom to pass on. While planning strategizing and learning are good, they don’t produce results, only action can do that. If we are only going to theorize and never take any action, all we are doing, is having mental masturbation with ourselves.
We can’t learn to swim by reading books about swimming, we need to jump in, get wet and make mistakes… and now we are getting somewhere. Our self-esteem and confidence will only come from actions taken. Obviously this is not to be confused with jumping in feet first, with no planning at all and just expecting things to work.
Converting lessons learned into action.
A small part of my own journey has been on this web site, it hasn’t been easy, I don’t come from an academic background and I’m no computer wiz either. It’s been terribly frustrating at times, and at one point, I had the distinct feeling my brain was frying. Time and again I crashed the whole site and had to start over, but in the end I stopped thinking, launched the site and learned by my mistakes. And there were plenty of them and still are, but I took action and that’s what’s important. As long as we do the best we possibly can, then there is nothing more we can ask of ourselves.
I could have paid someone to do the whole process, but what lessons would I have learnt then? As long as we take appropriate action, we can’t help but grow into a better version of ourselves. There is nothing wrong with faking it till we make it in certain circumstances. If this is what helps us to start taking the action that otherwise, would not have happened. My experience has been to approach any situation with total honesty, if I don’t know, then I’m going to say I don’t know. Without taking this to the extreme, you will learn a lot more by playing dumb and listening carefully, than you ever will pretending you know. You might learn something from another persons perspective, that you can later use to develop your own.
Taking action with the lessons learned.
It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result. (Mahatma Gandhi)
Action is proof to ourselves that we’re willing to do what ever it takes. A lot of the self-defeating parts of ourselves fall away when we prove through action that we are willing to keep going. God helps those who help themselves. The harder I work the luckier I become. These statements reflect an ideal that as individuals, we are better off to take action and except responsibility for ourselves. Not only do we benefit from this, but there is a knock on effect for society as well.
Inaction is harder to see in the short term.
When we take action, the costs are usually immediate and obvious. The rejection we might face, the failure we might have to accept, all of these things are painful and we are very aware of them. We can measure these costs easily in the present, but it’s very difficult to measure the costs of inaction. They’re undeniably real though, once they have had time to compound. Our life often becomes smaller, with less joy as we start to live with and through other peoples actions, resulting in bitterness and depression as we get older. It’s never to late to take action, it just seems that way to us sometimes. In the Day-to-day, it doesn’t appear to be a problem, but year after year it becomes painfully obvious that, as we look back over our life, we know there were times, when we should have taken more action.
There is plenty of evidence that walking is good for us.
Supporting evidence overwhelmingly confirms that walking is good for us in almost every way possible. Research shows getting up and walking around for two minutes out of every hour can increase our lifespan by 33 percent, slash our risk of heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, and more. One study found that walking for two miles a day, can cut our chances of hospitalization from heart disease by about half. Another study found that a daily walk for at least an hour, reduced the risk of having a stroke in men over the age of 60, and it doesn’t matter how brisk the pace is. While a three-hour long walk each day slashes the risk by two-thirds.
Walking also triggers our body to release natural pain-killing endorphins, so the more steps we take during the day, the better our mood tends to be. It’s even known to improve sleep, support our joint health, improve circulation, and reduce the incidence of disability in those over 65. One of the most common mental benefits of walking, is stress relief. It also increases concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that can moderate the brain’s response to stress. Regardless of our age, or fitness level, it’s never too late to start walking and enjoy the physical and mental health benefits.
Walking a long way.
With all this overwhelming evidence, it seems natural to assume, if we hike a greater distance we must get more benefits. Most of us who embark on a long hike, do so, seeking change, with the hope that we can walk ourselves into a new body or a new state of mind. The therapeutic benefits of long distance hiking are well documented. There is historical evidence, of men in military units experiencing these therapeutic benefits on the lengthy walk home, after fighting a campaign abroad. On this journey, soldiers would slowly process and come to terms with the experiences they had lived through. Unlike today with modern transportation, where military personnel can be back home in a matter of days.
Various organizations, started by the men who suffered these experiences, have appeared. Sean Gobin hiked all 2,185 miles of the Appalachian Trail in America, after returning home from deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Sean founded “Warrior Expeditions” that supports combat veterans transitioning from their military service by participating in long distance hiking expeditions. A few return year after year, the trail becoming the center of gravity around which their lives center.
Depression after walking a long way.
Taking an extended hike for months at a time, necessitates being able to find the time and commitment, so it’s not a decision taken lightly. It also demands that you get to know pain intimately on a daily basis, and to be able to push through it. The complexity of life also changes, because for an extended period of time, we truly live in the present. This presents problems as the hike draws to an end, a realization that what has become “normal” is about to change. It also takes the body a few days to realize that we have stopped hiking, and this grace period seems to last for a few days. It is as if, after these few days without hiking, the body’s control center says, “finally this death march is over, now I can begin doing all of the repairs I’ve been putting off for months”.
For many through hikers, after months of living in a world where you’ve had a lot of control over every detail of your life, you’re again thrust into a world of decisions and conflict. It seems as if, people who live in the “real world” and haven’t experienced what you have, just don’t get how different the world can be. On a through hike, life is simple, but back here in the real world, things are complicated. The desire to give up all the advances of society to go back to a “better world” is strong. You may be hit with a sense of “powerlessness with an absence of hope”
When you stop walking there is no community anymore.
One of my favorite parts of through hiking is the community. A place where people from all walks of live come together, irrespective of their socioeconomic class or background. On a through hike, we share self-imposed struggles that bring us closer together. Real society, for all of its comforts, is often lacking any sense of community. At first, being home is great after your long adventure. No more foot, leg or back pain, a temperature controlled home with real comfort, with a family who wants to hear about your hike and see photos. But after a while they’re over it and you’re over it and your through hike is still all you can think about. Your homesick for a place that doesn’t have a roof, again.
When you don’t like yourself for who you are, what’s the point of being liked for who you’re not.
Seeking our authentic self, is a quest for truth, as we begin to acquire the art of freer thinking, it makes it easier to drop the social mask we wear, and begin to reveal who we truly are. In society, hypocrisy is everywhere, we constantly present a false image, just to feel accepted. This causes emotional turbulence, as we never quite manage to accept ourselves as we really are, but with effort and discipline we can eventually stop desiring acceptance. Then we can begin to express ourselves without having to ask permission from others. We can learn to take control of our life, as the more disengaged from social acceptance we become, the more freedom we find. Making it easier to turn our backs to the crowd, as our way of thinking slowly stops being influenced by it. We begin to operate out of consciousness and not from suppression.
“Authenticity is not something we have or don’t have. It is a practice, a conscious choice of how we want to live. Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” (Brene Brown)
Discovering our authentic self.
Often, it’s not our authentic self we are looking at in the present moment, it’s a version of our past self. As we become an adult in society, we’re pretty much self sufficient, it’s easier to accept the default position. It requires no additional education, no additional development of skills, or any attempt to push through our comfort zone. We except the default status-quo position, which most people are only too happy to embrace, we are constantly changing, though not aware of these changes. Every minute, hour, day and year we’re shifting, growing, thriving, declining and getting older.
Furthermore, thousands upon thousands of actions, are functioning inside our body at any given moment, and we are completely unaware of them. At a deep level, we begin to realize there’s no such thing as constant “SELF” at all. “No man ever steps into the same river twice for it is not the same river and he is not the same man (Heraclitus) It’s similar to hiking in the mountains, we can’t resist looking back to appreciate the view, and to marvel at just how far we have traveled. If we could return to the same place again, it may look the same, but time has changed, places have changed, along with the people. We encounter new things, read books, take courses and travel to new places, everything is always in a state of flux.
Our authentic self is a goal that’s not often realized.
Trying to be our authentic self, is a process, we have to push ourselves to grow every day. If we were our “authentic self” right now, we would be completely confident, assertive, disciplined and internally grounded in our values. With zero fears and no negative thoughts of any kind, as healthy as we can possibly be, open and completely comfortable with our sexuality. It doesn’t mean being overweight without a medical reason, doing drugs or any other chemical dependence. Hence the body we are meant to have, if we live to our optimum state of being. As we progress, we realize there are many behaviours that we need to change, becoming more open minded, and willing to consider any idea or point of view. Always taking the high road rather than the low road in whatever we’re doing. This also applies to every relationship and interaction around us.
In every way we try to become the master of our life. Within society, we often have the impression that we’re free, in reality we’re a puppet, that is being manipulated by external forces. Trying to be authentic at a shallow level means, trying to “be ourselves” that “self” hopefully, is to be the best, we can possibly be. Part of my definition of authenticity, is trying to squeeze the most out of life. I have, and will make many mistakes in an effort to turn dreams into reality. Ultimately I may fail, but I will know, that I tried to the best of my ability. You may ask as I once did, “what’s the point to any of this” why don’t I just get drunk, except things as they are, enjoy myself and forget the whole concept of self-actualization.
Is being authentic a luxury that’s just too hard to follow.
Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs was proposed in a paper, a theory of Human motivation in 1943. It’s depicted as a pyramid from base level needs, to top level needs. It has 5 levels, which are, Physiological needs, Safety, love/belonging, esteem and at the top of the pyramid self-actualization. There is actually one level above this, “self-transcendence” but that’s beyond my scope at the moment. I paraphrase Maslow here, but these are my believes also. Self actualization is actually not a luxury, but a requirement of our psyche. once we get the basics in our life down, we’re not going to just sit there. What’s going to happen, is our mind is going to slowly start to rot and our soul is going to rot from the inside out because we know that we’re destined for something much greater.
(Steve Jobs, Apple co-founder) Almost everything all external expectations all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure. These things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. There is no reason not to follow your heart. While talking about death, this quote also defines what we should be seeking in life, when we are trying to be our authentic self.
Taking calculated risks sharpens our confidence and wellbeing as we identify ourselves as being stronger. When it comes to taking risks, there’s something to be said for trusting our gut, but too often we confuse gut instinct with fear. We assume, that discomfort means our gut is telling us not to proceed. So rather than step outside our comfort zone, we avoid the risks that can propel us forward. We assume if something feels scary, then it must be really risky, but that’s not an accurate way to measure risk.
Our level of fear, usually has nothing to do with the actual level of risk we face. Most people fear public speaking, being embarrassed, or being laughed at, but none of these instances are risky. We sign up for a get rich quick scheme using our hard earned cash, but we often don’t see this as a risk. On the other hand, we don’t think twice about getting into a car, yet car crashes kill people every day.
Mentally strong people don’t fear taking calculated risks. We know taking the right risks, can be the difference between living an ordinary life and living an extraordinary life. Everyone has a risk muscle, we keep it in shape by trying new things. If we don’t, it atrophies and we’re no longer able to take risks. How many of the wonderful things that happened to me, did I actually have anything to do with? Not very many it seems.
Luckily, some of the best things that happen in our lives, are not governed by our influence at all, they just happen. Most of the time, it would be far better, to get out of our own way and not interfere at all. We can choose to take risks and not wait until we become ill and feel our life force diminishing. We will always have regrets, it’s the regret stage we go through, in which we visit the life we wish we had lived.
Risks with our heart.
It’s a pity that being who we truly are requires so much courage, but it does. Being who we are, whoever that is, sometimes cannot even be articulated at first, not even to ourselves. All we know is there is a yearning within that is not being fulfilled by the life we are currently living. The mind knows no answers. The heart knows no questions. It is the heart that guides us to joy, not the mind. Having the courage to follow it, is where true happiness lies. As the heart grows, life brings more joy and peace our way. A happy life wants us as much as we want it. (paraphrased from a book by Bronnie Ware. The top five regrets of the dying)
What if risks.
Why do we live a life, that is often based on a fear of what if’s? What if I can’t take the consequences? What if I’m too frightened, what if I end up alone, what if this costs me too much money. Well what if ? We have to ask ourselves, how many of our greatest fears ever actually happened. There is no safe path to take, we have to take risks going forwards, whether we want to or not. We can’t allow ourselves to look backwards for guidance, because there is nothing of us back there. The reason we are where we are now, is because that part of our life is over. We can’t look “back” to the past when we are trying to “chart” the new. We risk seeing an image of ourselves, that doesn’t exist anymore, we are not that person now.
20 years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. (Mark Twain)
I think the heart does carry us to joy and not our thinking process, if we are willing to follow it. Often, there is an excitement felt deep inside, similar to the feeling we get when listening to music, that we enjoy. Living within this and similar feelings, often makes taking risks easier. The answer, isn’t always dramatic risk taking that drives us forward, often it’s baby steps to where we want to go. While being aware of the direction in which our heart, is trying to guide us.
Grey hiker hernias.
I mentioned a few blogs back, that I needed to have surgery on a couple of inguinal hernias. It’s forty eight hours after the event, and now I’m home feeling bruised and battered. Never one to do anything by half measures, there were three that needed repairing not the original two, as seen on the scan. I have learned a few things again, that I think may be worth passing on. Laparoscopic surgery, is marvelous for sure, but you get the impression that it’s so scientific, that it’s tantamount to having a tooth out. Bullshit, ask my nuts, which are twice the size, and looking very colorful, mainly black and blue, with a tinge of mauve. When you cough or sneeze hold on to everything. Yeh right, two hernias on one side, one on the other, a wound at the navel and one a bit lower.
They never mentioned peeing barb wire for a while either and the big daddy of all, taking a number two as they say in polite speak. Making it sound like, if a child can poo, then so can you, poetry in the motion. Don’t strain though, or everything could come undone, being constipated from the anesthetic doesn’t help of course. I’m not going into all the gory details, but I can report it went well. It felt like I had won the lottery, I hadn’t of course but I’m sure that’s how it would feel. Fingers crossed, if all goes well, in around six weeks I should be back on the trail. No gung-ho this time though, if I want to keep on hiking, I’m going to have to learn not to push things to the limit anymore.
Lessons learned ?
Lessons to learn, I’m 65 years old and I’m still trying to learn new things every day. The question was asked by the surgeon, how I managed to get three hernias. I fudged the answer a bit, not wanting to appear a reckless old person with no common sense. Building our house a few years ago on my own, trying to save money, lifting things that even two people would of struggled with. Using a large jack hammer to drill into the rock to secure the poles of the house, a lesson learned, not to be so bloody stupid again.
Going into the hospital system here as a public patient took some time, and after being misdiagnosed twice, it was about eight months before I finally had surgery. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, I’m grateful to the interesting people I met on the way, most of them did the best they possibly could.
The sign in the waiting area at the hospital, didn’t instill me with a great deal of confidence. It’s your responsibility to ask questions. Is that the right medication your giving me, and by the way, is it also the correct dose? Are you sure you know what your doing with that knife so close to my nuts? My young surgeon arrived with his backpack on, he asked me why I looked so apprehensive. “I haven’t lost anyone on a Wednesday for ages, so cheer up” Different, but still very talented, what would “I” know anyway? The paperwork as well, pages of it, yes, I do know that I might not wake up in this world again. I’m very aware that many things can go wrong but I’m not sure I want to know them all, it’s covering their backs, but it’s making my sphincter muscle quiver.
I have mentioned a few times now, about being grateful for what we have. It might be an age thing, I’m not sure, but I can say, it makes a tremendous difference to my state of well being. Sharing a room at the hospital and listening to people’s stories, is sobering, to say the least. A thought came to me, we are all different, but exactly the same in certain situations. When we have common feelings of fear and anxiousness, we seem to be able to just tell it how it is, open up, with no fluff involved. Gratitude is the sweetest thing in a seeker’s life-in all human life. If there is gratitude in your heart, then there will be tremendous sweetness in your eyes. (Sri Chinmoy)
The guy in the next bed, with a shoulder reconstruction and the lady over the way with the hip replacement, and me with my hernias. Being older, was no coincidence I guess, our bodies breaking down after years of hard work. Smiles of quiet understanding, as we were sharing the realization of our vulnerability together. I was grateful again, as I realized that my hiking had prevented me from having to take any medications, to sustain my health. A caveat here, young people work very hard as well. My youngest son often reminds me “the old man has never had it so good” I had better mention that just in case.
More lessons learned.
I did some reading as well of course. Choose yourself (James Altucher) I get where he’s coming from and agree with a lot of the things he says. He makes the point. This is a new phase in history where art, science, business and spirit will join together both externally and internally. New ideas are more important than people, and everyone will have to choose happiness for themselves. It sounds a bit like a mental spring cleaning. At a thought level, think about the people you enjoy being with, read the books that make you happy. And go to events that make you laugh or fall in love. And try to deal with people who will love you back, and who want you to win, as much as they do.
Thinking about all these new ideas we are all going to need in the future. He suggests that every day, we write down at least ten ideas, and to also develop a taste for things outside of our comfort zone. Now this next idea, isn’t his, and I’m not sure if it’s mine either. New ideas are found when two old ideas strike together and the splinters spin off into a new idea. I’m curious to know where that leaves us, if we don’t have any idea to start with. Well that’s taken my mind off a couple of things for a while. I may have a sleep and see if I can dream up a few more ideas, note book at the ready. That’s another idea in his book, or was it my idea, I can’t remember now.
Grit….what is it?
Bravery, pluck, mettle, backbone, spirit, strength of character, strength of will, moral fiber, steel, nerve, gameness, valor, fortitude, toughness, hardiness, resolve, determination, resolution, stamina, doggedness, tenacity. The list goes on, grit also means perseverance, endurance and passion, for a long term goal. In other words, gritty people believe, everything will be alright in the end and if it’s not alright, it’s not the end. People with grit, deal with the trials of life and problems, as challenges and potential defeat, as a call to action. In some instances, grit can be seen in another way, as it also takes grit to withdraw or give up. When situations are blatantly not working or detrimental to our health.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena. Whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood. Who strived valiantly, who errs, who comes again and again. Because there is no effort without error and shortcoming, but who does actually strive to do the deeds. Who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause. Who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly. ( Teddy Roosevelt)
So how do we get grit? Firstly we have to believe in the goal we are working towards. Our values and passions have to be aligned, with what, we’re trying to achieve. If these things are in place, grit comes naturally, it’s grit that gets us up in the morning, determined to go for that run. Even if it is freezing cold and we would much rather be in bed. Make sure that grit doesn’t trip you up though, if we run that extra mile and bugger our knee up, that’s not grit, that’s stupidity. The one thing that can not be taken from a man (or woman) is the power to determine his attitude in any given situation. (Victor Frankl) We all possess the power of choice, and the perspective from which we view things in our life.
We can look through lenses of pessimism or optimism, hopefulness or despair, gratitude or grievance, possibility or resignation, goals or obstacles, it’s really, our choice. Many of us do our best, to try to minimize and even eliminate risks in our live. The cultivation of grit, sometimes, requires the willingness to engage in practices that may be outside our comfort zone. Conscious and responsible risk taking, is an essential aspect of this process. Living on the edge is an acquired taste, and if done skillfully, can mean the difference between success and failure.
Grit, is consistency in doing better today, than yesterday. If something is frustrating, our natural tendency is, to give up. But we have to do things over and over again for them to feel natural, and grit is what keeps pushing us forward. Grit, can be learned, it’s a matter of facing fears, following through, keeping the vision in sight and never giving up. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint. (Doctor Angela Duckworth in her Ted talk)
(Invictus by W. E. Henley) Out of the night that covers me. Black as the Pit from pole to pole. I thank whatever gods may be. For my unconquerable soul. In the fell clutch of circumstance. I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeonings of chance.My head is bloody, but unbowed. Beyond this place of wrath and tears looms but the horror of the shade, And yet the menace of the years Finds, and shall find me, unafraid. It matters not how strait the gate. How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.
A pathway is something we can walk along or a route which we can take. This is the physical description of a pathway as we understand it, most of the time though, it’s thought of in a metaphysical sense. It’s a particular course of action on the way to achieving something. Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. ( Ralph Waldo Emerson) I never know if the path I’m walking on is the “right” one and I often find myself at a crossroads of indecision. At times, I want to retrace my steps to the “safe” well trodden path. Fearing the new path may ultimately lead me somewhere I don’t want to go.
But the path I least want to travel, is the well trodden one, because I’ve walked that path a hundred times before. I know each twist and turn, every pothole and obstacle that may trip me. There are no surprises on this path, it’s boring and predictable. The more I get to know myself, the more I realize, boring and predictable are two things I never want to be. And here’s the other thing, how can I know if the path I’m taking, is somewhere I want to go, when I can’t be sure of what’s at the end, until I get there.
In life of course, there are only ever two options on the pathway, the known and the unknown. If we take the known path, we have to accept that we may never feel the thrill of the extraordinary, or the adrenaline rush we get when we take a risk and it pays off. Equally, we may never feel the crushing disappointment of a failed risk. If we take the unknown path, we must accept that risks are part of life. They may not always pay off, but at least we will never look back and wonder, what if ?
As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth. So a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives. ( Henry David Thoreau)
Walking on a known pathway is existentially soothing. The best way to understand this, is to go off the path every once in awhile. Go on a hike for two or three days where you won’t walk on a pathway, but walk in a more chaotic landscape. Going off this path can be fearful, because we don’t have the self-assurance we’re used to, which metaphorically mirrors our own often, chaotic mental landscape. But we need to break away from the weeds of life, and look for the roses on another pathway.
Pathway less traveled.
Have the courage to take risks. Go where there are no guarantees. Get out of your comfort zone even if it means being uncomfortable. The road less traveled is sometimes fraught with barricades bumps and uncharted terrain. But it is on that road where your character is truly tested And have the courage to accept that you’re not perfect nothing is and no one is and that’s OK. (Katie Couric)
The pathway less traveled, is invariably a difficult choice, because it usually involves giving more of ourselves into the world. Also it can be a challenging pathway. But it’s full of rewards that can provide happiness and fulfillment. There are many decisions to be made in life, from all of them we can learn to develop a strong character. We are constantly being asked to choose between the pathways. If we can say in our heart, we have a tough decision to make, we can almost guarantee, we’re being asked to choose which path to take.
For me the most important aspect of personal development, is realizing the value in being on the pathway less traveled. Being open to the exciting experiences traveling this pathway might provide and finding out who I am in the process. Of course things won’t always work for me, I will invariably have failures, but if I’m happy and fulfilled how do I define success? I’ve always sort of felt a little bit like I was on the road less traveled. So if I come across a story about a person who broke the rules, or did things differently and succeeded, that’s really inspiring to me (Laura Bell Bundy)…….It’s also inspiring to this grey hiker as well.
Seeking the author of our own narrative.
Narrative psychology is a perspective within psychology concerned with the storied nature of human conduct. How we deal with experience by observing stories and listening to the stories of others. The stories and the meanings of these stories rather than logical argument. This is how people construct stories to deal with their experiences. Discontentment, is unfortunately, the default story in our consumption driven society. Even though the majority of us are aware of this, the emotional drivers that keep us in this narrative, are extremely powerful. If we interpret the events of our life within this narrative, we will never see ourselves as good enough. This makes it harder for us when we need a more logical perspective within this narrative.
Life is a progression from one event to the next, no matter how trivial those events might be. In any twenty four hour period we can move from heartbreak, to great joy and back again. Even that should be a comfort to us, as we realize that negative feelings can change very quickly. The truth is, very few of us have been taught how to create sustainable happiness, inner prosperity, or problem solving mechanisms. What’s also true, is that the skills to avoid this trap are learnable.
Learning to be the author of our own narrative.
Telling our story, helps us to make sense of our lives. As we begin to examine what’s happened to, and through us. Why it happened and how it happened. This often leads to having more confidence and a better understanding of self. We seek meaning in our life through multiple personal narratives, such as parenthood, love, family, friendship and leisure. It’s within each of these personal narratives that stories are formed. It’s these stories that advertently, or inadvertently change our behavior. Our inner stories can become cycles of rumination, where we can’t look at our own narrative objectively. We are always interpreting and trying to make sense of the world around us, weaving it into our own personal story.
The general rule in a story is, that often people don’t want to change, it takes something to make it happen. Comfort and order is our default position, even if we secretly want something better. Ambition can create fear, but it can also create a better narrative, as we move towards trying to achieve our goals, as a result, life no longer feels so meaningless. Suddenly, there’s a risk in our story and a question inside us, will we make it or not? Now we have a different reason to get out of bed in the morning, we have a new narrative to live for.
Our personal narrative.
Each of us is a constantly unfolding story, a character in a novel that no one else has the ability to write. How we interpret that story is extremely important, if we don’t want to end up feeling lonely, unworthy, unloved and with poor health. Obviously, we want to create a positive self narrative, with internalized good values. Having a goal is one way forward, it can change aspects of our story and rub against less positive stories. But trying to change our internal story, is possibly more important. Allowing ourselves to realize, all the positive aspects within our personal narrative, also having gratitude for the many good things we have. Which often takes a less emotional and more logical mental stance, not a “yeah I know” but more an “Ah ha, I get it” moment.
Without discomfort or an incident, we find it hard to leave our comfort zone and enter into a different story. We need to lose our job, or be forced to make a radical change of some sort. Buy a wedding ring, sell a house, have a child, or be the hero in our own Hollywood movie for a while. If a story doesn’t have negative turns, it’s not an interesting story. We don’t give up when we encounter a setback, because we know, that every good story has both positive and negative turns. If we can’t see that life is truly remarkable and exciting, we can become unwilling victims, rather than grateful participants. The trick is, to become aware that life is precious and exciting. Our lenses may need a little more polishing, as we move into this narrative.
Please leave your comments below I would love hear what you think.
Can we successfully endow nature with a legal personality, or is this another framework to create another absurd fiction. There is a well established legal and regulatory framework for protecting natural resources, benefiting the appointed guardians and armies of wealthy lawyers. The strength of this framework is, that it creates a balance between the interests of both people and the environment. While measures are already in place to protect the environment, nature needs all the protection it can get. Our consumer orientated structure of economic growth at all costs, is hardly helping. The current outlook for policies to look after nature doesn’t look very promising. Can another “out there” proposal of Legal Personality help nature more?
(A legal definition of legal personality first) The legal personality means to be capable of having legal rights and duties within a certain legal system. Such as to enter into contracts, sue, and be sued. Legal personality is a pre-requisite to legal capacity. It’s the ability of any legal person to amend rights and obligations. Legal persons are of two kinds: natural persons – people – and judicial persons – groups of people, such as corporations, which are treated by law as if they were persons. While people acquire legal personhood when they are born. Judicial persons do so when they are incorporated in accordance with law. ( Definition and translation)
A tree or a river with a legal personality.
A river has been granted the same legal rights as a person in New Zealand. Parliament has now recognized the Whanganui River on the North Island, as a living entity. Long revered by New Zealand’s Maori people, the river’s interests will now be represented by two people, one member from the Maori tribes, known as iwi, and one from the Crown, this recognition allows it to be represented in court if need arises. This was in March this year and only two weeks later, the Indian state of Uttarakhand gave the Ganges river and it’s main tributary, the Yamuna river, the status of living human entities, with legal personalities. Henceforth, polluting or damaging these rivers, will be the legal equivalent to harming a person.
One week after declaring the rivers Ganges and Yamuna as legal persons. The rivers, streams, rivulets, lakes, meadows and jungles in other areas were also named as legal persons. The friends of the earth Australia, are saying that granting legal personality to the great barrier reef will have little effect on the way the reef is run. The great barrier reef authority, will still oversee everyday activities on the reef. While tourists will continue to enjoy the beauty of the reef. The main difference would be, that the trustees would have the power to enforce the reef’s rights, if these were not respected by government. The courts findings in the Indian case, noted, that past generations handed the earth to us in it’s pristine glory and we are morally bound to hand over the same earth, to future generations.
Natural resources with legal personality.
I know the initial inclination of some people is to say it’s pretty strange to give a natural resource a legal personality. But it’s no stranger than family trusts, companies or incorporated societies. (That’s the words of New Zealand’s treaty negotiations minister Chris Finlayson.) This recognition gives the river the same rights, as individuals in court proceedings. We recognize companies as persons, so we make contracts with them. Now we recognize a river as a person, so we don’t have to fight about who owns it. With sweeping implications for our modern system of laws, that give corporations more rights than people and nature, having very limited rights.
Our human existence depends on the health and well being of our living earth. And the existence of corporations depends on the wealth and well-being of human society. In our “hunter gatherer past” living in balance with nature was easier, and our dependence was self evident. Now we have reached and exceeded the limits of the earths capacity. Should the fact of our dependence, once again be self evident. The recognition of the river in New Zealand and a few others at this stage, represent a neat compromise in removing the fraught questions of ownership, from the picture. Instead focusing on the legal personality of the river and how best to manage it. I’m sure many other groups will be looking at this decision very closely.
Objections to legal personality.
If other legal personality cases were successful, could it result in nature competing with humans for access to resources, water, grazing, air and forestry. Shifting our relationship and undermining some human intentions to look after nature. What are the rivers liabilities to a person who’s land has been flooded? Could health and safety prosecute the river if I fell in and got sick, or it may be said the river wasn’t employing anyone to be there in the first instance? After all the river has a legal personality now, not just a natural one. Significant as the New Zealand action is, it represents a first step on the ladder. But lets hope it represents the first step of rethinking and restructuring our current systems of law regarding nature.
The anomalies created by giving a river the rights and liabilities of a living person could help. Or is this policy of legal personality logically flawed? offering little benefit to nature, risks harming people and is wide open to abuse by lawyers and vested green interest groups. Finally does it matter at all who benefits, as long as nature wins in the end.
Wanted apply within.
You once told me you wanted to find yourself in the world and I told you to first apply within, to discover the world within you. You once told me you wanted to save the world from all its wars and I told you to first save yourself from the world, and all the wars you put yourself through. (Suzy Kassem)
We’ve all heard the collective maxims on success. Follow your passion, nice guys finish last, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know and a winner never quits, plus others. The words are said that often now, that we accept them as truth. A lot of the information is part of a stale agenda, that’s often not helpful to our individual interests. It’s also becoming increasingly hard to discover, our truths outside of these hackneyed phrases. What is the most useful advise for us? as we become comfortable with the lightness of the feel good mainstream media. Which often blocks us from discovering our true selves as we reach out for the seemingly, simple solution. Apply within, is the best solution, attempting to drill down through into our authenticity.
There is also our lazy filter, that comes between us and some of the nuance knowledge that is available to us. Trying to discover material and resources that benefit our own peculiarities is not easy. It takes work and dedication. Often it’s found in a different place, it could be a dusty corner, or buried in an academic tome. Nuggets of information that we can apply within. Also, we have to trust our long term understanding of who we are and how we have developed over the years. Many of our qualities and beliefs have stayed the same, with no significant change from when we were young. We know our strengths and also our weaknesses. By playing to our strengths, there is a chance our weaknesses will blend together with our strengths and come along for the ride.
Once we apply within we become more selective in taking guidance from outside sources, that try to tell us what we should do. Being more selective, assists us in finding what we’re truly capable of. We have to accept the flaws, mistakes and weaknesses that have made us unique. Even when we get good results, our inner dialogue will pull us down, if we constantly look for flaws within ourselves. As the role of the subconscious mind is to maintain the image that we have created. We must praise ourselves as we keep moving forward. Not in a bullshit way, but using small victories as stepping stones over our perceived failures.
Turning up the volume on our inner voice, is a good place to start when trying to follow our true self. The voice, that most of the time is drowned out in the constant chatter of noise, both internally and externally. Our mind is usually running at a hundred miles an hour. While we often carry tension in our bodies as well. It becomes obvious that we need to quieten our minds, to benefit from our intuition. Meditation can work, depending on the consistency that’s developed over a period of time. All of the methods of meditation, apps on our phones, guided meditation, celestial sounds, mantras, music and breathing. Require us to test them out and see which combination is the best for us.
Apply in solitude.
Hiking in solitude is my preferred choice, especially solitude over a longer period of time. Which works for each individual in different ways. For me, it usually takes two to three days before I start to feel a difference in my thoughts. I’m not an empty vessel waiting for my intuitional thoughts to present themselves, filling me with the joy of discovery. Yet there is a marked difference in how I feel, when immersed in the solitude of nature. Hiking is a form of walking meditation. Particularly when the track is flat and I’m not looking down at my feet to often. If I’m fit, well fed, watered and comfortable inside my boots, there’s a better chance I will forget my bodily needs and allow my thoughts to blend with nature.
Nature presents the big picture to us and we become a part of that for a period of time. My thoughts have certain feelings attached to them, as they come bubbling up. Solitude in nature is the best chance I have of connecting to pure intuition within my thoughts. False intuitions defend themselves with justifications when questioned. True intuitions are silent when questioned and have a soft magnetic pull to them. That’s something I got from a dusty corner somewhere.
Food for thoughts.
“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease at death” Albert Einstein.
We have an intellectual need to stimulate our brain, therefore we need to consume intellectual food for thoughts. Feasting on proven sources of good food, reading, writing, music, art, conversing, asking questions and using selective social media. These activities stimulate the brain, because they are creative in nature. What we take in, will ultimately determine who and what we are. The challenge we all face, is deciding what we will allow, to enter our mind? Since we want to take advantage of our ability to learn and develop in a positive and constructive way. It is imperative, that we keep as much “garbage” out as we possibly can. While trying to customize our intellectual food and discover what best nourishes our mind.
Strategic thinking, becomes a benefit of the intellectual food we feed ourselves, as we lay the foundations that help our highest values become automatic. As individuals, we can attempt to be fully alive, current and vitally engaged with life, making us interesting to be with. While providing stimulating conversation and insightful observations, which help to grow our personal relationships. I can feel this truth when I put effort into creative projects, feeding my long term goals and making me stronger, healthier and happier. Most importantly, not letting my desires, fester in my mind with thoughts of, what if and if only. ” Whoever prefers the material comfort of life over intellectual wealth is like the owner of a palace moving into the servants quarters and leaves the sumptuous rooms empty.” Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach.
Negative food for thoughts.
Separating the good from the bad can be problematical. There are many interesting movies, documentaries and books but there are also perverse and mentally destructive one’s as well. There are helpful and interesting internet sites and also one’s that feature pornography and other illicit content. Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease at death, although, it often doesn’t. My desire for low level content is less desirable now, not in a puritanical way, it just feels alien to my long term goals. As I absorb more and more interesting and enlightening things from different sources. Through our school and college years, whether we want to or not, we have to learn. Less so after that, the chart of life often has a steady decline, marked downwards until death.
More food for thoughts.
Continuing to learn, can help us stay young, by increasing cognitive activity and slowing the decline in brain function. It’s a matter of expanding our minds in anticipation of new and exciting opportunities ahead. We can be fully connected, current, engaged and interesting to be around. While having something vital to contribute to life and relationships. If we are constantly looking for what’s wrong with our life, we are guaranteed to see it more often. By regularly seeking out things we find funny, curious or interesting, we start to notice life becoming more amazing and amusing every day. Appreciation of humor, also correlates with other emotional strengths, increasing feelings of well being and optimism. With the right intellectual food, we can build a mental muscle that is more in tune to the humor of our day.
Other food for thoughts.
My father used to read the newspaper from front to back, everyday. Yet he wasn’t a prolific reader of books, but was always knowledgeable when conversing. The newspaper carried articles from politics, the arts, sport, human interest and many more genres. I remember my friend once commenting “your dad don’t half know a lot, why is he so smart”? An old school atlas of mine was a constant companion to him, it was full of notes and newspaper cuttings. All the exotic sounding place names were underlined, “Ulan Bator, Addis Ababa” and many others. I was constantly drilled in naming the capital cities of the world, I didn’t excel in many things at school, but geography was one of the subjects I did excel in.
In 1966, Leslie Thomas wrote a book entitled the “Virgin soldiers” which was made into a movie in 1969. This was his main claim to fame. He also wrote other fine books, one being “Some lovely islands.” In this book, he mentions, that as a child, he enjoyed looking at maps and wondering about the exotic sounding place names. Also how those names might reflect on the people who were living there. Not so strange then, someone else was also feeling the same way.”Times” atlas of the world is my choice now, a legacy I got from my father. I’m still looking at the exotic place names and wondering, intellectual food for thought, refers to the quality of the food we are consuming. If I keep feeding my brain with excellent material, will I become Intellectual?
Time spent in the hourglass
Unlike most other methods of measuring time, the hourglass represents the present time between the past and the future. This has made it an enduring symbol of time itself.
The hourglass, sometimes with the addition of metaphorical wings, is often depicted as a symbol that human existence is fleeting, and that the “sands of time” will run out for every life. It was used on pirate flags, to strike fear in the hearts of the pirates victims. In England, hourglasses were sometimes placed in coffins, and they have graced gravestones for centuries.
“Sands of time” also represent my personal journey through the hourglass. The bulb shape at the top, is my childhood and the earlier years of my life. The narrow middle, is my working life, raising kids, buying a house, all the striving parts. The bulb at the bottom, is where I am at the moment, after completing most of the journey. The two bulbs have many things in common, there expanded for a reason. They represent the parts of life where freedom without fear mostly exist. The younger “childlike self” and at the bottom of the hourglass an older more “eccentric” self . Around the narrow middle, is the most problematic part, where most of the problems reside.
Top of the hourglass.
Bumps, bruises and broken bones were an integral part of childhood. Out of the house first thing in the morning, with the only rule “be home before the street lights come on.” Experimentation, exploration and innovation, the freedom to discover and freedom to make mistakes, without fear of failure. A self sufficient world, where the only boundaries were the street lights. Physical boundaries are generally more restricted now, but technology allows freedom, if it’s used in the right way. The fear of failure is often taken away as modern parents in general, are far more conscientious than previous generations. Fathers are far more hands on, than fathers once were. Mothers, even though they spend more time working, tend to nurture children more.
Parents are more concerned about their children, because the sense of community is not as strong as it once was. They make conscious decisions, to protect their children because of concerns that the public realm has become more hostile. “When I look back at the freedom of childhood, which in a way is infinite, and all the joy and happiness, now lost. I sometimes think that childhood is where the real meaning of life is located, and that we as adults are it’s servants-that that’s our purpose” (Karl Ove Knausgaard). Parents have always wanted their children to succeed in life, with different value judgements, but trying to arrive at the same objective. “Values” are learned in a different way now, one example is, that children earn money for doing chores that once had to be done for free.
Middle of the hourglass.
Go to work, send your kids to school, follow fashion, walk on the pavement, watch TV, save for old age, obey the law. Repeat after me. Modern electronic gadgets, the internet, and other 21st-century trends, have conditioned people not to think for themselves. Everything is at the push of a button, meaning that less brainpower is needed to accomplish tasks. Electronic media is all pervasive and does most of the thinking. The childhood mistakes that used to be made are sins now, because everyone is terrified of failing.
Watching directors cuts of friends on face book and imagining it’s real, but in reality, life is unedited. Money status and power is an important tool of social media. Attempting to make people discontented and unhappy, with the only cure being, consumption.
As children we learned to overcome the fear of mistakes, as it was essential to learning. We tried to walk, fell over a hundred times, hurt ourselves, but at no point did we ever say, walking is not for me and give up. In the middle part of life, we seem to reach a point where we’re afraid to fail. “I’m such a loser” we tell ourselves, as mistakes make us feel unworthy, so avoiding failure at all costs. If younger people are doing OK and older people say there isn’t anything to be afraid of, what’s going on in the middle?
Peoples fears of aging reach a fever pitch in midlife, which is evident by the most popular punchline “midlife crises.” The problem is compounded by a comparison driven society, where we postpone happiness till the future. While not being aware, that what we are waiting for, may be something we ultimately, don’t want.
Bottom of the hourglass.
Nobody cares too much down at the bottom of the hourglass, we’re just an afterthought. “First they ignore you then they laugh at you then you win” Gandhi. Those physical boundaries are back again, only this time, in our bodies, but we can stay out after the “street lights come on though. ” Feelings of Superiority and Inferiority where I was always comparing myself to others, is gone now. I’m getting used to a feeling of interiority where I don’t need to compare myself with anyone else, with no fear of failure and a renewed sense of self sufficiency. I’m 65 now, the problem with that chronological number is, it doesn’t fit my internal age, I still feel young on the inside, with thoughts that hopefully don’t let me down.
I should mention death, after all that’s the reality of being down the bottom of the hourglass. I thought I may be terrified but it turns out I’m not. There’s probably a good reason for that, obviously, not something unique to me. Childlike now eccentric, freedom to explore, now freedom to contemplate. I have been adventurous and willing to take risks and had a measure of freedom in my working life. I think it helps me be adaptable, and an independent thinker. Which in turn, makes me aware of all the possibilities available to me. When I get really bored, I like to drive to the local supermarket, find a great parking spot, then sit in my car and count how many people ask me if I’m going to leave soon. Freedom.
Sobremesa “over the table”
Sobremesa is deeply rooted in Spanish-Latin American culture. The word literally means “over the table” it has no precise English translation, probably because there is no cultural equivalent. It’s leisurely time after having finished eating, but before getting up from the table. Time spent in conversation, digesting, relaxing and enjoying. Not rushing, or reserved for weekends, even weekday and business meals, have sobremesa time. After a meal in Spain, you won’t get a check until you ask for it. It would be considered rude to rush your meal, or in any way discourage, “over the table” conversation.
Sharing a meal with good friends is profoundly satisfying. Eating together is one of the oldest and most fundamental unifying human experiences. It can simultaneously connect our physical, emotional and relational needs. Often not planned, it just happens and that’s worth hanging on to, as an authentic custom. If the table is still full of wine, beer and good coffee, what better way to share our reminiscing and anecdotes. What a great idea to carry forward to our homes as well. An opportunity to talk about what’s going on in our lives, share opinions and receive that much needed human contact. Eating slowly and happily, with good conversation afterwards, improves our digestion. “A family that eats together stays together”
Sobremesa “on the trail”.
“Over the table” moments are harder to find on the trail, only because we seldom, find the “table.” The fellowship of hiking companions, easily makes up for the less formal setting. Inhaling air containing essential wood oils given off by plants. The sound of birds, cool air, green leaves, trees, wild plants and grasses coupled with a tiredness that only hard physical effort can bring. Creates a cocktail of understanding, that nature is working magic and in this place right now nothing else matters. There is a distinct feeling, that this is how life should be, an inheritance of our “hunter gather” past. Fire becomes a focal point, but often the “jet boils” come out to cook the food quickly, nothing fancy, food gobbled down, well earned after the days hike.
If nature allows all the elements to manifest, we become part of a profoundly moving experience. Sitting together in the shadows of the fire, with a belly full of good food. Tired but with just enough energy to drink coffee and enjoy “sobremesa”. Silence is everywhere the only sounds are the breeze moving through the leaves and the crackle of embers in the fire. The aroma of the coffee, blended with the subtle smells of nature, makes the conversation easy and relaxed, together, but also alone with our thoughts in the shadows. “Over the table” conversation seems to require an alertness, a connection of eyes with those around us. Silence turns to awkwardness, as we feel compelled to fill in the “gaps”
The “gaps” in the shadows are periods of contemplation, the grounding effect of nature, almost compels us to look deeper into ourselves. Minutes go by without a sound ” Man you know what, I’ve been thinking, being here in this place, having this conversation. Explain to me why I feel so alive?
Arriving in a seaside town in England, on a bank holiday weekend, the weather was perfect. That should make it memorable anyway, it was memorable, but for slightly different reasons. An Indian restaurant, it must be popular, there were lots of people looking at the menu on the window. That’s a good sign, some of them are Indian, “lets eat.” “Excuse me this is a queue” It suddenly hit me, that the same thing was happening at all the restaurants. We took our place in the queue, moving slowly along the glass frontage, the diners inside had that smug almost sneering look, they had something that we wanted. Around twenty minutes and we were in the door, “table for two” that’s us, there were three sets of diners in front, but two was the perfect combination this time.
It should have dawned on me, a queue outside and it took us twenty minutes to get in here and it’s still packed. The waiters were a cross between shepherds and prison guards. We were herded to our table with the menu, then the waiter stood guard, waiting for a decision. Not one either, three, entrée, main and desert, I thought about drinks but the thought was as far as I got. Good service, less than five minutes and the entrée, was there. Another ten minutes and the main meal was over. It was time to take a stand on the desert, but the waiter had obviously seen this before. He used a selling ploy of implied consent, before we had finished eating, the bill was placed on the table. Between him and the other potential diners waiting, what chance did we have of a sobremesa moment.
Sobremesa has traveled beyond Spanish-Latin American culture, it’s entrenched in most cultures, something we demand. The lowliest chef now, is an aspiring rock star, an artist of food. This makes us want to linger, as we compare the presentation and flavors, a flow through into another conversation. I have had many fine Indian meals in England since that time, with many “over the table” conversations. Do I know what good Indian food tastes like? (I have two Indian daughter in laws). Sobremesa “on the trail” has it all, inhaling the air, aromas of nature and silence, a relaxed state that’s hard to find anywhere else. A special place for real conversation, good food too, even if I do say so myself. Invite everyone for a nice meal…..and the first one to leave pays.
Waiting for a green light.
I just have to wait long enough, the timing always sucks, it’s never quite how it should be. The green lights will never all be green. While the universe doesn’t conspire against us, it doesn’t go out of it’s way to line up the green lights either. While waiting to quit our job, waiting to travel, waiting for love, waiting for permission, waiting for Godot maybe, who never arrives. Conditions are never perfect,”someday” is a terminal disease that will take our dreams to the grave with us. You’d think we’re never going to die, the way we cower, second guess and fret over every little action. Imagining everything is of paramount importance because we might upset some delicate balance that doesn’t exist anyway.
We’re not as fragile or as weak as we’ve fooled ourselves into thinking. The control of modern society keeps us safe and secure, but often with negative benefits. Keeping us in the soft, protected center and away from the sharp edges, but a lot of the uplifting things in life are located on those edges. The problem is, we need to experience the edges beyond our imposed comfort zone. Fear doesn’t need to stop us, we can go willingly, step by step. If we need to pull back we can, whatever level of discomfort we reach, we can reach it deliberately. Meet it head on, on our own terms, then we can own it, making our world much bigger in all directions.
Create green lights.
We wait in anticipation for the green light, that gives us permission to go. If the light doesn’t turn green for us, does that mean we can’t move, we’re stuck. When we arrive at a big intersection in life and the traffic lights aren’t working, what then? We can’t just sit there waiting for a green light to happen, as difficult as it is,we have to get across the intersection. There is no turning back either as the traffic on all sides is building up. We have to create our own green light, with cooperation and anticipation,we carefully move through the busy intersection. For a short while we’re forced to embrace the edges, we’re not quite as fragile as we thought.
“An optimist is a person who sees a green light everywhere, while a pessimist sees only the red stop light…..the truly wise person is colorblind”. Albert Schweitzer. To experience more of the uplifting things in life we sometimes have to stop on the green light and go on the red light. Ignoring the well defined streets of the culture we happen to be born and live in. Life isn’t designed to be lived through a filter of fake joy, fake excitement, or a hollow sense of victory. Victory over the everyday, keeps us contented. Although the real joy and excitement of our own expansion, is often closer to the edges.
Red or green lights.
Being colorblind could be part of an illusion that we can opt out of the human condition. Once we get it all figured out, everything will be fantastic. Everyday we can have moments of grace and moments of struggle. Moments of illumination and moments of darkness, moments of love and moments of isolation. We’re all in this together, it’s figuring out a way to piece together our lives and devote more time to the bigger questions. There isn’t a destination we are ever going to arrive at, where it’s awesome all the time. Living more on the edges is only a notion, we don’t have to be in that place all the time. It’s really about choosing, rather than reacting, to what and who matters in our life. While practicing cultivating these things, then we can develop our decisions and actions that ultimately, make us feel most alive.
That dog next door is howling again and I’m sitting in my yard enjoying the winter sun listening to him. Now I understand how the dog feels, pacing up and down behind the fence. I’m waiting to go into hospital to get a hernia repaired, but that’s another story, long boring and frustrating. Another month to go and I’m there, unless I get bumped off the list by a more deserving patient. Can there be one? I can’t hike or do much at the moment. I have been thinking about something that deserves a bit more attention, more than the dog and I are getting at the moment anyway. Neither of us are in the spotlight at the moment.
“The world will little note nor long remember what we say here” Abraham Lincoln. This plays into what psychologists call the “spotlight effect” everybody must be caring about what I’m doing. But the fact is nobody gives a crap about what I do. The world doesn’t revolve around me. The anonymity of my tininess is extremely comforting when I feel as if everything I do, matters. We all have an innate self-awareness of our faults, mistakes and slip-ups.
In truth, other people don’t notice them nearly as much as we assume. Because there’re too busy noticing and greatly exaggerating their own flaws. What we believe to be true, regarding our public appearance is often not the case. Most of the time, people are not that interested in our appearance or performance. Each of us are the center of our own universe because we are so focused on our own behavior. It’s difficult to arrive at an accurate assessment of how much or how little our behavior is noticed by others.
Our own spotlight.
My dads brother came to Australia to live in Brisbane in the early fifties. He had been in Australia for thirteen years, when a family crisis caused him to return to the local town he was born and grew up in, until he left for Australia. According to my father, he was expecting to be welcomed back with open arms. The center of attention, telling tales of his years away and how much he had achieved. They were walking past the home of a former good friend, who happened to be working in his front garden. My uncle put his arms around this mans shoulders and gave him a hug.
My father told me the man was confused, he didn’t understand what the hug was all about. Then it became obvious, as he said “I thought I hadn’t seen you for a while, have you been working out of town” Why exactly are we so caught up in our own spotlight? We are anchored in a world of our own experiences, so we have trouble realizing, that people are absorbed in their own lives and so, are too busy to pay attention to ours.
Glare of the spotlight.
When you feel your in the full glare of the “spotlight” try not to listen to your internal cues of anxiety, sweaty palms, elevated heart rate and a feeling of doom and dread. Imaging how noticeable you are to others and they’ll therefore judge you even more harshly. It’s normal to have moments of self doubt, but thanks to the “spotlight effect”, our blunders often feel more severe than they are in reality. Although it might seem counter-intuitive, it helps to be more outspoken, rather than timid. It’s really a stage performance, doubling everything from facial expressions to gestures and reactions.
The effect is one of confidence and owning your actions, rather than self-consciously communicating, with small meek gestures and actions. I’ve been aware of this for a while now and have made the effort to live a bit louder, a bit freer and say. “Who cares.”
Please leave your backpacks at the front door, that’s a sign at the entrance to the only supermarket in town. The backpackers have arrived to pick the apples.
Not the normal sign you would expect to see. Backpackers please leave your backpacks at the front door. We reserve the right to search customers bags, that’s the language of the city supermarkets. Donnybrook has many town icons bearing the apple. The Apple Fun Park , the largest free-entry playground in Australia, opened in Easter 2008 in time for the Donnybrook Apple Festival. The Donnybrook Apple Festival is held annually during Easter. The citizens of Donnybrook gather at Egan Park to celebrate the apple. The festival includes agricultural displays, sideshow alley, the crowning of the Apple Queen and a parade. During the street parade the Catholic Church of Donnybrook blesses the holy apple, assuring a good harvest in the year to come.
I have moved to the city now, I have been here a couple of weeks. Shopping at the local supermarket prompted me to think of the backpackers in Donnybrook. How many backpackers hostels there were in a small town, five that I can remember. Also how much these young people’s spending, helped swell the local businesses bank accounts. I never thought of it at the time but I hiked every morning with my small backpack, starting off in the forest and often ending up going to the local supermarket. The sign on the front door didn’t apply to me, it never even crossed my mind that it did. I wasn’t young of course, desperate to steal food!
The majority of backpackers spend most of their time interacting with other backpackers, and any interactions with locals are seen as “secondary importance.” That’s a criticism often voiced, but most of these backpackers come from Asia with poor English language skills. Living in dormitory style blocks isolated from the locals, of course they will interact with each other more. I know they were often confused with this strange country town ritual of leaving backpacks outside on the pavement. They can’t go into the supermarket without someone looking after their backpack, because someone might steal it.
An extensive inquiry by the employment regulator found widespread exploitation of backpackers working in regional areas. The two year investigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman, surveyed more than 4000 foreigners with 417 visas working in regional areas, has revealed alarming results, particularly for the agriculture industry, which rely on the backpacker workforce to fill critical labor shortages. The word “backpacker” has come to symbolize an itinerant person, who alternates between working and wandering. Also, anyone who doesn’t settle in one place for any length of time and is usually foreign. There taking our jobs is another backpacker criticism. Maybe these are jobs, we no longer want to do.
No luck, Australia: Irish backpackers heading elsewhere. The number of Irish backpackers in Australia has dropped by more than half in three years. Startling tourism operators and farmers who rely on working holidaymakers in busy periods. Danny Keenan and Jonny Jamieson are in no rush to return to Ireland. But while cooking up lunch in a St Kilda hostel, the two friends have found themselves among a dwindling number of Irish backpackers who were willing to make the long trip to Australia
“When I was a teen, every second week there was an Australia-leaving party. It has slowed down now you get maybe one every two months.” Danny Keenan said, many of his friends back home are now considering other options, such as a working holiday in Canada, with its proximity to the US, a shorter flight from Ireland and football-friendly time zone. This is part of a story in the Sydney morning herald January 2016.
I have worked in the construction industry with a number of “Irish backpackers” they never seem to have a backpack though. Their here for a perceived better life, with more opportunity, many of them settle here. I’m a hiker and I carry a backpack. I don’t do any of the perceived things that would define me as a “backpacker”. When I set off on the track with the intention to hike to a certain place with my backpack, the only label attached is Gregory Baltoro. Its packed carefully with everything well researched for weight and functionality. I live in a house surrounded with furniture and commitments, to me my “backpack” represents a different life that’s there when I want it. I only have to commit to staying fit and healthy.
Rehearsing the fear of death would be the “worst case-scenario,” but we can’t inoculate ourselves from death and any planned rehearsing would require risks. Contemplating our own death to stay motivated helps. Having a sense of how short our lives are and being conscious of how little time we have left. There is no reason to believe we will be given a second chance, at least not on this earth. So it’s important to put all the petty things in life that we worry about into perspective. I’m not advocating we walk around thinking about our own demise all the time. But use fear rehearsing benefits as a motivational tool to reflect on the things that often scare us the most.
Fear rehearsing, can be regularly micro-dosing ourselves with the “worst-case scenario” as an inoculation. It’s planned exposure to the “bad” realizing the bad isn’t so bad, we can make it less so with repeated exposure. One of the life skills that is good to practice, is learning how little we actually need to live on. Not just in a survival mode, but in a contented mode. This gives us the confidence to take a risk, because you ask the question, “what’s the worst that can happen.” Well the worst that can happen is, that we end up with a backpack, sleeping bag, and eat porridge every day. Not cold porridge either as we have our “jet boil” to heat it up.
Fear rehearsing practices.
Remember it’s not just about survival, it’s about getting by with less. Allowing this to help us conquer the fear of our comfortable life being disrupted and having to live a simpler life by necessity. “Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare. With coarse and rough dress, saying to yourself the while. Is this the condition that I feared?“ Seneca. What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do. It’s a fear of unknown outcomes and uncomfortable conversations we may have with ourselves. Some periodic fear rehearsing we might do to simulate and inoculate ourselves from losing all our money.
This could be a period of 3 to 14 days or longer. 1 Sleeping in our sleeping bag (yes you can use your lightweight sleeping mat) this can be on the floor anywhere, but not in your bedroom. Also sleeping outside in your tent if your backyards big enough ( a hiking tent is only small ) 2 Wearing one pair of jeans and cheap tee-shirts, for the duration. 3 Eating only very basic food, porridge as I mentioned before, rice and beans. 4 All cooking on the portable camp stove. 5 Drinking only water and cheap instant coffee or tea ( remember clean drinking water is a luxury) 6 Fasting for a day and only drinking water. 7 This is the toughest part, no internet, only at libraries.
Fear rehearsing benefits.
Oddly, we are likely to feel happier after we experiment with these concepts. It takes a monthly or quarterly reminder of how independent our well being can be, when we distance ourselves from the outcome of money. There is freedom to be gained from practicing a frugal lifestyle, even for a short while. It sharpens our senses as we realize how much less we can live on, also more grateful for the things we do have. It’s working backwards from our greatest fear, realizing the chances of that happening are most of the time, unrealistic. When we grasp the idea that even if our worst fear did materialize we would be still be alright. Then it’s easier to rank and push through our lesser fears.
Life can be tough and struggling with money is a large part of that, it’s all about perspective and the situation we each find ourselves in. It’s pretty easy to live on what is just enough, but that’s not what life is about. It’s equally important to measure the atrocious cost of inaction, if you don’t pursue the things that excite you now. How will you feel 5 or 10 years from now if your living with disappointment and regret in not doing the things, fear held you back from. Your inaction could be the greatest risk of all.
Childhood Vows how subtle ways of thinking effect us later in life.
Questioning childhood assumptions is a good place to start. I’m not talking about social and cultural conditioning, which effects all of us. These social and cultural beliefs can be and often are very limiting for us. There was also nuance thinking, unique to me, caused by subtle childhood vows I made. Innocent as they were, they became part of how I saw the world and the people around me. Attitudes were cemented throughout my childhood and teenage years, these moments were like forks in a road. They could have been catastrophic things or traumas, that may have been easier to understand. But these situations I have been thinking about were not significant at the time, but subtly put me onto a certain road for a period of years.
It’s these minor forks in the road, these were the choices I wasn’t aware of making, these choices are the ones that I have taken for granted as part of who I am. I realize now, that some of the forks in the road have caused me to have certain values and principles that I uphold, or have moved away from. This has made me think of the cost I may have paid, or am paying in my life in the present moment.
I’m realistic, I’m not blaming myself or others, the pitfalls in the road are minor setbacks. I’m trying to be more flexible going forward. Often we are so sure of our beliefs, that we defend them and have arguments over them. We are so sure of the correct way to live life, that we look down on others who live and think differently. Liking the people who support our beliefs and disliking the one’s who don’t. We seek and defend the “truth” because we think such a thing really exists.
“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.” Marcus Aurelius. There are thousands of remarks and situations we may encounter through our early years. Not every remark in life causes us to make a vow it’s only a decision to be a certain way. Having an attitude towards a certain situation, or no attitude at all. Or a vow is never made because the impression is not strong enough.
These could be some childhood vows that may solidify later. A young boy prepares a speech to give to his class, he’s really excited and his parents realize how important it is to their child. He stands up in front of the class and in his excitement forgets the words he wants to say. The teacher remarks “that wasn’t very good, did you memorize what you were going to say as I asked you to. I’m sure the others will have done what I told them, and not forget their words.” The boy makes a vow to never speak in front of people again, because he feels humiliated. He doesn’t tell anyone, but for the rest of his life, he can never summon up the courage to ever express himself properly around people. Obviously this leads to all sorts of problems.
A young girl is walking down the street with her mother. There is a homeless person begging for money on the sidewalk. The mother tells her daughter that the person is a bum, worthless and no good to anybody. If you don’t work really hard in school and make me happy by being a good girl. You will end up just like that and disappoint your father and me. The young girl makes a vow, I will work extra hard in everything I do. I don’t want to end up like that homeless person or disappoint my parents. She goes on to have a good career, but has little empathy for others, which causes problems in her marriage later on. This vow could have taken the girl in another direction, depending on her perspective. She could have resented her mother for the same remark.
More Childhood vows.
A boy is chastised at school for being untidy and having a messy desk. He makes a vow to be good and never be messy again, always wanting things to be tidy in his life. He ends up avoiding any type of confrontation and maintains order in everything he does. His own children are messy and he finds this extremely hard to deal with, leading to other problems.
A girl is at the outdoor market with her mother. A man is eating a take away, chewing with his mouth open. The mother makes a disparaging remark, “that man is a pig, do you see the way he chews his food, he is no better than an animal.” The girl makes a vow to never be like that, but in doing so, makes constant judgements of others manners. Becoming very dogmatic in her attitudes towards people. She carries this into her relationships, with obvious problems.
My Childhood vows.
I can remember a couple of forks in my road that I believe, had a profound effect on me. My father was reading the local paper, he came across an article about a man who had worked at the same company all his life. He made a remark that he felt sorry for the man, how could he waste his whole life in one place. Never experiencing the world and everything it had to offer. What good was a watch and a retirement party, when he had given up so much. As a result I realized years later, that I made a vow to never be like that man, I would travel and have different jobs and experience as many things as I possibly could.
I have been in the work force for 50 years and have never been in a job for longer than four years. Due to my apprenticeship where I had no other option, but I managed to take time out to travel even then. I married and had two sons, we moved around a lot, working in different places. I look back on that vow today and realize what a profound effect it had on my life. Not only that but other peoples lives as well. Lots of positives though, both my sons are very confident men now, I’m sure that going to different schools, may of helped their confidence. They have both said “thanks, we know what we don’t want, we want to settle and provide a stable life for our own children.” In a counter intuitive way it has all worked out.
We lived in a quiet street in a very conservative town in England, everybody knew each others business and made judgements accordingly. Our next door neighbor who lived on his own for a number of years. Suddenly went to prison for child molestation offences, it was the talk of the street. No smoke without fire of course, but no one knew the full story, unless you believed all the gossip. Evidently something happened, because he returned home a few months later. No one would speak to him and tried to pretend he didn’t exist. My father surprised me with his reaction, much to my mothers distain.
I heard him say “I don’t care what anybody says, he’s a good neighbor and he’s still more than welcome in this house. I’m not going to judge him. While he’s lonely and ostracized and I’m not prepared to stand by and let this situation continue.” They were good friends from that time on and for many years, they had a cup of tea and a chat every afternoon until my father passed away. The vow I made then, not to judge others and help out when I can. Has stayed with me from those teenage years until this day. Those two vows I made, worked out well in the end. Since there were other moments, but as I said before, not every remark makes us take a childhood vow, it comes down to our attitude at the time.
“All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger (it’s impossible), but calculating risk and acting decisively. Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth. Develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer.” Niccolo Machiavelli.
In life it’s only natural to experience setbacks and problems. Self discipline is the tool we require to solve life’s problems. Without self discipline, we can solve nothing. With only some self discipline, we can solve problems. With total self discipline, we can solve practically all problems. Self discipline is the means by which we concentrate our mind on what we want from life. At the same time keeping our mind from attracting what we don’t want through fear and worry.
Winston Churchill once said, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without the loss of enthusiasm” The trick to doing bold things is changing the way we respond to failure, it’s disassociating ourselves from it. Our failure in any given area doesn’t make us a failure. It’s reframing our thoughts in a different way. I am not a failure, but I failed at doing this, boldness comes as we turn failure into strength with self discipline.
Take a bold step.
Some people get angry when they fail, others, unwilling to except responsibility, look for scapegoats. Still others ignore their negative results and continue with negative actions. “There’s really only one solution to gridlock on the failure freeway and that’s to wake up and find the exit. John C Maxwell. In a world of instant gratification it gets harder to play the long game, as we look for quick fixes to solve our problems. The problem is we get comfortable with what we were doing, and the new habit we need to be better, is less comfortable. We’re clinging to the comfortable, it’s so easy to be enticed by a stable salary, a routine and a comfortable life, but at what expense? You can only make progress if you take a bold step. Overcoming the fear of failing is the first step to success.
“Try and fail, but don’t fail to try” John Quincy Adams.
Take action if you make mistakes realize your fear of failure isn’t based on logic but on experience. That experience eventually brings competence and as a result you make fewer mistakes. You have to act your way into feeling positive, not wait for positive emotions to carry you forward. “Fake it till you make it” I’m a firm believer that this can work, everyone does it to a certain extent and there is nothing wrong with that. The mind can be tricked, you can balance your life on a small hack. In the meantime, you will learn what you need to and turn that pretend confidence into the real deal. All it takes is a little nerve.
Doing bold things.
Doing bold things, comes in more when you have to do a particular task and there’s nowhere to hide your “fake it till you make it.” I can remember one particular boss I had in the construction industry, when I was a lot younger than I am now. You started in the morning and had until lunch time to prove your ability. “Here’s the blue print build that” lunch time came around, it was a very simple process. “Good on you mate, go grab your lunch” or “pick up your tools and fuck off”. Could he do that today I’m not sure? Did it help me to do bold things in the future? when you need money there is no choice, it’s doing bold things with necessity in mind.
Without the concept of fear there would be no need for boldness or courage. With boldness we choose to be bigger than our current self and step towards the future. We bring the new into the present, knowing that fear will show up, but we must commit to action anyway. Courage allows us to handle the waves of fear as they arrive, because we have made a commitment to do bold things.
The act of quitting.
There will always be people who dare to live on the margins of society, who are not dependent on social acceptance or social routine, preferring a more free-floating existence. With these thoughts in mind, quitting, is not giving up but moving on. Changing direction is not a complaint, but a positive choice, not a stop in one’s journey, but a step in a better direction. Quitting is never seen as the end of something, but as a vital step in beginning something new and possibly more pleasurable. A winner never quits and a quitter never wins. This is a very popular quote in motivational books and seminars, but it can be taken to an unhealthy level, getting yourself stuck in something you are completely unsuitable for.
I’m not suggesting you become a serial quitter. Although there has to be a point where keeping on keeping on can only cause damage to your health and long term happiness. The upside of quitting is looking at the sunk cost and the opportunity cost. Sunk cost is about the past, it’s the time and sweat equity you’ve put into a job. Or a long term project, which makes quitting harder. Opportunity cost is about the future, it means every hour you spend on one thing, is an opportunity lost in spending that hour on something else. Something that could well make your life better. If only you weren’t so worried about the sunk cost, if only you could quit.
Turning points often come up in our lives and there is nothing wrong with that, it can also be seen as a sign of growth. Quitting something that has been in place for a long period of time requires a test of character. Many people are able to create more personal freedom with the act of “constructive quitting’. Negotiating with their employers for special sabbaticals and long term leaves of absence. Even leaving your job in a permanent manner need not be a negative act, especially in a period where work is likely to be defined by job specialization and the fragmentation of tasks. Working a particular job with the intention of quitting is more often becoming an act of common sense, in an age of portable skills and diversified employment options.
All around the world people are quitting traditional employment and making their own way. Often turning their passion into profit while creating a more meaningful life. There’s no rehabilitation program for quitting and becoming addicted to freedom. So good luck turning back to follow someone else’s set of rules again. Freedom is possible, freedom isn’t something to be envisioned in a vaguely distant future, the future is now.
Skills and ideas.
Skills and ideas are the new currency, not certificates and titles, it’s the question of trusting yourself again. The strength that you need to quit your job, is the strength you will need, to find new opportunities. These opportunities will fulfill you more than you thought possible, there are more ways to “have a purpose” than ever before. It’s not whether you choose to change. Things are changing and it’s only a matter of how we are going to deal with them. Any get rich quick scheme is like drinking or gambling it can ruin your life. You won’t make any progress towards your goal until you give it up. There are two sides to negotiate after quitting, one is working diligently towards success in your new venture. The other is having your commitments under control before you start, preparation is the key.
Get excited about survival, learn to live on less and enjoy the process. Take that attitude into building something that other people will value enough to pay for. Your not just creating a job for yourself your working towards a more sustainable future.
Never confuse the size of your pay check with the size of your talent. Marlon Brando
The lie of lack.
The lie of lack tries to convince us we are not enough. Also we don’t have enough and can’t do enough to be seen, heard and known. The lie of lack prompts us to believe we are missing out. It also doesn’t want us fulfilled in peace and contentment, it wants us to want more. In doing this, we question that we are not where we should be or will never get to where we want to be. In comparing ourselves to others, it’s easy to see where we don’t measure up. Whenever we feel the need to provide ourselves with something, it can be an indicator we are working from a position of lack. When we lack peace, we grab something, it could be drugs, alcohol, gambling , shopping, smoking or over eating. This can cause us to confront our sense of lack and where we need improvement.
We also value scan by comparing ourselves to friends, family and others, if only we had what they have, we will be happy. We fail to understand that the individuals we envy, have the same problems of being content and happy that we have. Comparison robs us of joy and satisfaction in our own lives, dispersing our time and energy in the wrong way. Instead of focusing our energy and allowing it to help us to become stronger.
Most comparing comes from low self esteem, not owning our own life and uniqueness. Giving in to blind mass conformity gets us into the lie of lack. When we conceive ourselves to lack what someone else has, it feels like we are permanently obstructed from ever being happy. Until we get what they have or the position in life they have realized. Yet it’s far more difficult sometimes to see where we have grown and improved. The most satisfying thing in life is to be ourselves and to live into that and accept it fully. As we become older we start to realize that the eccentricities that once worried us when we were younger, no longer matter. Now we can be fully open and wear our eccentricities for all to see. Not only that, but love ourselves for them, uncovering our true self in the process.
Self worth doesn’t exist, nobody is worth more than anyone else, who determines what’s worth what? The whole “worth” thing, is just a label we attach to things, that in themselves, have no worth at all, but we treat them like they do. Every object that we put a value amount on, is created by us, it’s only real because we give in to the consensus of a value amount being placed on it. There is a competition happening and we are being constantly encouraged to join in and compete. But it’s a losing position, as there will always be individuals who are better and more adept than we are. The answer is to stop competing, focus on being a creator and ground yourself in your own values. The mature adult is a creator in life not a competitor.
Our own uniqueness.
We are too complex to compare, we aren’t comparing the same things, as individuals we are totally unique. To compare two individuals is like trying to compare apples and oranges. Each of us has a different life history, a different personality, family background and the resources we had available to us as we grew up. We also grew up in different countries, different neighborhoods and with different governments. These differences mean we are not all capable of the same things, as we come from very complex origins. We also allocate our time and energy differently, focusing on the things that we deem important to us at the time. While concentrating more on one particular subject, we become stronger in that, but weaker in another.
The lie of lack is just that, it’s impossible to compare what we can’t see. You can’t see all the facets of anyone’s life and how they focus their energy and the resources they have to work with. It’s a totally unfair comparison that doesn’t allow for individuals being unique and very different. Take ownership of your life, make it a do it yourself project with your own sense of purpose.
Being “normal” is overrated.
Life is short, we have limited time and energy, there is no sense wasting that time and energy being normal. The human herd is basically very average, most people don’t behave in an intelligent manner or lead a satisfying life. So we have no reason to live this type of life. The most satisfying thing is to be yourself, to live it and except it fully. When we are young and attending school and college, we spend a lot of our time and energy trying desperately to fit in and be normal. The things that once worried us we don’t care about anymore, this can be a very liberating experience.
We can even play into that and make our uniqueness part of our authentic personality. Your unique and seen that way and counter intuitively this can make you more attractive than you otherwise would be if you were conforming to the “normal.” In each of us is an authentic self that deserves to be revealed, this takes time and effort but the results are well worth it.
Make your bed, how small disciplines make a difference.
My mother never instilled the habit of make your bed, in me. I believe it could have helped me more in my early years to develop discipline and commitment. While this small action could have created a flow on effect, I can’t know that for sure. My mother never nagged me about making my bed, I think she just gave up. The bed only got messed up, so there was no point, I didn’t feel like making it anyway. I could have come up with a thousand excuses not to make it, if pressed hard enough.
The reasoning behind make your bed correctly first thing in the morning, is the act of creating a good ritual. You find other intrinsically good habits naturally follow. If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a sense of pride if you make it correctly and encourage you to do other tasks correctly. Making your bed correctly will reinforce, that the little things in life done well, do matter. If you can’t do the little things right, doing the big things right will be harder.
Bed making in the Military.
The military drills its recruits over and over again in the skills of bed making, the men have to do it right, with no excuses and it has to be done quickly. This action develops the soldiers discipline and attention to the smallest detail. The discipline of bed making can seem ridiculous in the context of what these soldiers are being asked to do, but bed making has been proven to help with discipline. If done right, the bed has “hospital” corners, the covers pulled tight and the pillow centered just under the headboard.
This symbol of a well made bed, is a scene familiar to fans of war movies. The Drill Sargent paces up and down the barracks, inspecting the soldiers beds. Tension fills the air, as the men break out in a sweat. He takes a quarter from his pocket and bounces it on the bed. If it’s not tight enough and doesn’t bounce correctly, it’s give me fifty push ups and remake the bed. We recognize this as setting the standards for the individuals future actions, these actions will require attention to detail in possible life and death situations.
Hospital bed making is a discipline that nurses perform as a fundamental part of their training. Only this time the comfort of patients is paramount. In the past the fiery matron did her rounds on the wards. Nurses had to remake the beds if they weren’t made to a certain standard. The patients were the focus, in the various bed making styles that the nurses performed. As in the military, the detail in bed making was seen as a discipline, to excellence in all areas. While the discipline of bed making is no longer the responsibility of the matron. This responsibility for bed making still exists.
The discipline of bed making is used in a counter intuitive way, even though the bed is made to an excellent standard, it’s not seen that way by the instructor. Which makes it hard to understand as everything required has been done. The lesson being taught is, even if you do everything right in life, there are no guarantees that it will be judged that way. Life can be unfair at times. Therefore, having to push through these situations when they arise, is a lesson well learned.
You’ve made your bed.
“You’ve made your bed, now lie in it” implies, that you’ve made your bed poorly, or made bad life choices, so making it uncomfortable to lie in and now you have no choice. This mindset is normalized and is often never questioned. Decisions that met your needs and desires are often out-grown. You may have tapped into a creative or different way of thinking that wasn’t available in the past, also love and respect can be a part of that. Leaving the “bed” and trying out different beds as we need to, is a healthy and productive way to live life.
Making your bed to an excellent standard, is a great start to the day and can lead to developing discipline in life. Small things done well, can lead to bigger things done better. Because comfort in bed is vital for a good nights sleep, to have the covers pulled so tight that we feel like a cheese slice between two pieces of bread is uncomfortable. Our desire is to feel snug, comfortable and protected, in the bed we choose to lie in.
Eudaimonia is a Greek word often translated as happiness, Aristotle thought that true happiness was found by leading a virtuous life and doing what was worth doing. He argued that realising human potential was the ultimate goal, existing in every individual only awaiting the proper conditions to be released and expressed. He saw these conditions as working hard, cultivating virtues and excelling at tasks that nature and circumstance brought to you. Happiness is an emotion, whereas eudaimonia is a comprehensive state of being. Happiness is created and lost in a moment, but eudaimonia takes effort to build and has staying power.
Eudaimonia doesn’t come from pleasure but hopefully leads towards it. Eudaimonic acts are generally harder to practice in the moment, benefits arrive later. They exact a cost in effort and discipline, but enhance long term excellence. Eudaimonic desires are about giving to the world and in doing that becoming a better more virtuous individual.
Eudaimonic acts must largely be cultivated intentionally going against our natural inclinations. Carving out a new mindset where our desires are lined up with eudaimonic acts most of the time. Looking for a shift of emphasis, rather than complete abstinence. What matters is that we start where we are and move in the right direction, this can be applied immediately. For each action taken throughout the day, ask yourself if your moving towards eudaimonia or towards hedonistic acts. Wants and desires naturally shift as we go through life and it’s important to except these tendencies.
Our desire for food keeps us from starving its the desire for food after we have eaten enough that causes us problems. The same applies to money when we have very little there is a need to want more. But when we have enough and keep pursuing more this can cause problems. As I’m getting older my wants are naturally less, but with entrenched habits being harder to deal with, intention is being alive to the reality I have and not denying it.
Working with unadulterated focus, to develop body, mind and spirit to their fullest potential can reap many rewards. Especially when undertaken in ones youth, it can act as a foundation that sets the rest of life on the right course. Even if we are older we can and should find ways to periodically escape from the noise and distractions of the world to find solitude and “sharpen our saw.” Whether it’s a morning hike, an evening meditation, or a solo camping trip. These solitary acts clear the mind, rejuvenate the body and leave us better prepared for life’s challenges. This helps to develop a moral compass, guided by the virtues of courage, fairness, consistency, selflessness and respect. A personal code of honor that keeps the mind pure and sharp.
“I wish to preach not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life. The life of toil and effort, of labor and strife. To preach that highest form of success which comes, not to the man who desires mere easy peace, but to the man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil, and who out of these wins the splendid ultimate triumph” Theodore Roosevelt
How do we find a worthwhile struggle, in a culture that doesn’t seem to have much to push against? Deciding to work hard and exercise is relatively easy to do. It could be finding the less obvious challenges. Trying to solve a problem that may not have an answer. Building something that nobody cares about yet. Or saying out loud what you believe in when your not on the side of the majority. Or doing something for no other reason than you want to, because you have trust in yourself that it’s a good idea. In our strongest moments we assume we can resist what others couldn’t, if we can get past the BS we are often fed there will be more of a chance.
A frugal heart.
We stayed silent by the brazier until far into the night. I once again felt how simple and frugal is the thing called happiness. A glass of wine, a roast of chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea. Nothing else. And all that is required, to feel that here and now is happiness, is a simple, frugal heart” Zorba the Greek. When we cultivate a frugal heart we can enjoy life no matter what the conditions. We know that money might enhance the number of our potential pleasures, but we can also be content with the possibilities we have for enjoyment now. This emboldens us to live more fully and to enjoy living in the present.
A frugal heart frees us to make decisions based on creating the life we want to live, instead of optimizing money at every turn. Many people dedicate their lives to something they couldn’t care less about, because it’s the most profitable path. If we have a frugal heart, we are less likely to go into debt as we don’t need wealth to live the good life. Without the burden of debt, we’re able to make decisions more freely. A frugal heart makes it easier to act honorably and to live a flourishing life. The desire for money weakens and values change as a result.
“Simple pleasures are always the last refuge of the complex” Oscar Wilde. It becomes harder to enjoy the simple pleasures that life has to offer in a complex and stressful world. We often tell ourselves we have no time. Clicking on social media often happens because of boredom, this subtly creates more complexity and obligations of comparison. We have and create so many obligations, ruminating on the past and worrying about the future. The needy heart enslaves us where as a frugal heart can set us free. The less we expect from others the better our relationships. The simpler the food we eat, the better our health. The less passion we expect from life the more tranquility we’ll have. It’s not to aim for less, but to learn to appreciate less.
“Two different models, two different pictures, are held out to us, according to which we may fashion our own character and behavior the one more gaudy and glittering in its coloring. The other more correct and more exquisitely beautiful in its outline. The one forcing itself upon the notice of every wandering eye. The other, attracting the attention of scarce anybody but the most studious and careful observer. Adam smith.
It’s socially dangerous to enjoy what others consider ordinary. Shunning desire for the extraordinary life we are supposed to “dream” of, in favor of embracing the ordinary life that we normally have. It’s really about having respect for are own personal experience, as we live our everyday life. “Everyday life has been vilified as the worthless residue left behind….the coffee grounds that must be thrown out when the stimulating potion has been brewed. If the everyday is everything that is ignored by official forms of knowledge and authority, this very invisibility gives it the potential for strangeness, freedom and even subversion. Henry lefebvre. Perhaps the bravest thing any of us can do , is to be willing in the ways that truly matter, to be ordinary and embrace the concept of the frugal heart.
Grateful for being.
God, if you just let me get through this crisis in my life I will be so grateful, I will try my hardest to be a good person and never complain about trivial things ever again. “Why me” though, what did I do wrong? God must think, now that’s a question only you can answer. Ok then “Why not me” I’ve noticed bad things don’t just happen to bad people. Good or bad is a value judgement, but when I look at friends and family, it’s obvious some people have more than their share of tragedy. They don’t go looking for it either, it just arrives again and possibly again. There’s no rules involved, it’s completely random, getting through one tragedy doesn’t absolve you from another.
Are tragedies and bad luck character building, maybe that’s the answer. We don’t know what we have, until we don’t have it anymore, then we are grateful for a short while. “Be thankful for what you have. Your life, no matter how bad you think it is, is someone else’s fairytale” Wale Ayeni. Being grateful is almost a cliché now, it’s common sense and most of us give being grateful some thought, but often not for very long. Grateful for getting out of a difficult situation or averting a bad moment in our lives. But not grateful for just being and hanging on to that feeling for an extended period of time.
Grateful for health.
Well we’re all grateful for that aren’t we? When it comes to our health and wellbeing, we’re told to count our blessings. Self help books swear by the process and increasingly so does science. Ask anyone about life’s pleasures. It’s often the quality of social relationships and the purposefulness of activities which derive the most satisfaction. Put simply, gratitude is a state of being thankful or a readiness to show appreciation for and returning kindness. This can be from helping people and when you focus on the positive aspects of your own life. I have commented on this before, as I continue to focus on all the wonderful aspects and people I am surrounded by, my outlook on life has improved.
Hiking in nature has been my passion for a while now, and something I have been grateful for. Living in an area that permits me to escape into solitude on a regular basis. The last few weeks have changed those feelings as it became painful to walk. I struggled on of cause, never one to admit defeat easily or own up to a problem. Men go to the doctor less often than women anyway. As long as we’re working and feeling productive that seems to be enough. Two hernias in my groin was the diagnosis “but” why does there have to be a “but” when you don’t want one? There is also a suspicious area that was highlighted by the scan on the pancreas as well.
Grateful for social media?
Steve Jobs, Patrick Swayze and Michael Landon all come up on social media sites. Thanks google for calming me down and bringing everything into perspective. I had a diagnosis a few years ago of plural plaque on my lungs from exposure to asbestos fibers. This wasn’t the very serious mesothelioma, but it can turn into it at any time. This involves yearly check ups to monitor the situation. Every year it’s the same, I ask and answer the same questions. If it’s all right again this time I will be really grateful and never complain about trivial things again. It has made me more grateful, but with each passing each year I gain more confidence. This confidence seems to take away some of the gratitude I had in the early stages.
Pancreatic cancer the silent killer, by the time you discover or have the symptoms it’s to late. Web Doctor could be wrong this time. I had plenty of restless nights wondering how things would turn out. I convinced myself that if somehow I managed to last a bit longer, I would do one more hike somewhere peaceful and be really grateful to be able to do that. “But” I would be even more grateful if I only needed my hernias fixed up. Well I went to the doctor yesterday for the final results of a follow up scan. I’m a freak of nature apparently. Born with an unusual configuration of the pancreas, the unusual configuration mirrored a tumor but was in fact, normal. Of course I’m grateful really grateful this time and I have a really strong feeling that I will never forget, how grateful.
Oxygen improves thinking.
Walking does more than work the area below your neck, it has many cognitive benefits as well. Blood pressure and blood flow increase in the body and the brain. More blood means more energy and oxygen, which makes the brain perform better. Especially relevant to grey hikers are recent studies that indicate exercising can actually reverse shrinkage in parts of the brain. Consequently this leads to a memory boost in older adults. Our “hunter gatherer” ancestors were probably fleeing a predator or chasing their next meal. Extra blood flow to the brain helped them react quickly to any impending threat, or to kill prey that was critical to their survival. Opposite to us who spend the majority of our time sitting down, or doing very little sustained exercise.
How can I get more oxygen to my brain? We all know our bodies need attention in order to grow and be healthy. This means we need a good diet and exercise, but what about our brain? What does it need to be able to grow, to heal and to learn in the best way it can? Walk for an immediate dose of oxygen for your brain, a low intensity activity like walking effectively oxygenates your brain. Without expending oxygen on other parts of the body. The key is to breathe from your abdomen in a relaxed way. Breathe through your nose and not your mouth under normal conditions. Forced walking or running may be good for you too. But it causes your muscles to absorb much more of the oxygen in your system and that can hinder your thinking process.
The prime goal is to normalize breathing and body oxygenation. Normal breathing is invisible and inaudible also light and relaxed. We take a tiny or small inhalation and immediately relax for a longer exhalation then take a small inhalation again. Normal breathing provides the body with superior oxygenation, so the brain is getting it’s fair share. Creative thinking tests on subjects while seated and while walking found the walkers thought more creatively. Walking of course offers infinite chances for engagement with the outside world. If you see a beautiful flower and decide to stop and smell it, you can. Or if you see a side track hidden behind the trees. It’s time to explore with curiosity, it’s all about engagement, relaxation and bringing more presence to the moment.
Normal breathing coupled with backward walking interestingly makes your heart rate rise higher than it does walking forwards at the same pace. Which suggests that you get greater cardiovascular benefits in a shorter period of time. There appears to be benefits for our brain too. Walking backwards obviously sharpens your thinking skills and enhances cognitive control. Backward walking is a physical activity also quite passive. It’s also a movement that requires brain activity that may help you stay mentally sharp. Your senses are put into overdrive as you move in an unfamiliar way, oxygen levels are stimulated in the brain as a result. I can’t see it catching on, but it could open up some interesting possibilities. Try these more formal ideas for creative thinking.
Oxygen for creative thinking.
1 Walk away from your desk, in doing this you walk away from your phone, fax and e-mail. Don’t take them with you.
2 Use a digital handheld recorder. The recorder not only captures your ideas, but also the level of energy and passion behind them.
3 Prepare before you go. Decide beforehand the topic or project your going to work on. This helps you stay focused.
4 Don’t combine your creative thinking walk with other errands, that will distract you.
5 Vary your trails, the stimulation of different scenery can only enhance your creative thinking process.
6 Pick a pace that works best for your creative process. For some of us it’s walking slowly and methodically thinking things through. For others it’s a fast pace that helps more.
7 Try to stay away from high traffic areas, street noise and distractions take away from the thinking process.
8 If you have a dog or dogs then you get to walk twice a day. You can’t get caught up in their digging or interaction with other dogs.
9 Dress appropriately and comfortably.
10 My personal favorite, walking in the rain, this is where my creative juices really start to flow.
There are many other methods that can be used to stimulate the creative thinking process, hopefully some of these ideas may possibly work for you.
These are the good old days.
Everything sucks some of the time, everything we do has a cost, spending time on one thing is an opportunity lost to another. The question becomes, what struggle or sacrifice are we willing to tolerate? What determines our passion to stick with something we care about? It has to be our ability to handle the bad patches and ride out the inevitable bad days. Great things are, by their nature, unique and unconventional, to achieve them, we must go against the herd mentality and do what scares us.
We can’t “think” are way into our life’s passion, we have to “do” our way in, take a mental note from Nike and just do it. To find your passion you must see that your mission is bigger than yourself, it’s knowing that you were put on this earth for a reason, if you don’t know your why yet, it’s time to fight for it, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how Friedrich Nietzsche”
Follow your passion?
A lot of career and life advise is built around the platitude of “follow your dreams” “follow your heart” but if we wait for our passion, we will always be waiting, it will be pure chance if it ever happens. We have to put strategies in place to enhance the possibility of finding our passion. Trying many things for the first time with curiosity and discovery. We may have to go down blind alleys, but that’s something we need to do. We have to allow ourselves to see things differently. Gratitude can help, realizing we already have far more than most people could ever dream of. Freedom, a safe environment, clean drinking water and many other things that we take for granted. From the perspective of most of the worlds population, we already have a head start in finding passion.
The notion that we can just find a passion and follow it, is a very destructive idea, very few people have any idea what their passion is or how to fulfil it. Find your passion not only by “doing” but by working hard doing something which can then, become your passion. Never giving up on your dreams may keep you from finding your passion, because your looking in the wrong direction. We have become obsessed with the idea that the only way to find happiness is to follow your passion. Passion is about authenticity, it’s partly discovered and partly created. You cant expect to have a good working life until your actually good at something.
Inside each and everyone of us is at least, one authentic thing. Something we are born with, that is ours alone, that doesn’t need to be taught or learned, it only needs to be remembered. Think back on your life and try to remember the things that came naturally to you. It doesn’t matter how quirky they are, a clue could be lurking there. Take a look at your book collection, magazines and CD’s, these are the things your gravitating towards. Look at the things your already spending your time, money and energy on, are there recurring things happening?
In the mundane.
You can bring this touch into everything you do, no matter what the task, do it with as much enthusiasm and energy as you possibly can. Focusing on every task, washing the dishes, cleaning your teeth or the task at hand in your workplace. You may not need a complete overhaul, if you can’t change what your doing, you can always change how your doing it. We only have two choices, stop doing it, or change our mindset and try to enjoy it. Any other choice will only bring unhappiness.
Taking action on your passion often involves little or no cash outlay, it can be a hobby that fires you up, or a cause that you feel strongly about. It can be brought to the mundane, bringing motivation to an otherwise ordinary task. These definitions of passion seem plain ordinary, aren’t passions supposed to be artistic, or inspirational, aren’t they supposed to wow !!! everyone.
Old age my personal unwish list.
1. No matter how much I shake my penis after I pee it’s never enough.
2. Not too many compliments. A guy needs a compliment from time to time.
3. My wife expects me to kill all the bugs, I’m scared of spiders too.
4. I’m polite with everyone, but I really don’t give a fuck anymore and that’s not written on my tee-shirt either.
5 My mind signs contracts my body can’t keep.
6 Testicles require readjusting at times, this can be anywhere any time.
7 Getting up twice a night for a pee and tripping over the cat because I forgot to put my glasses on.
8 Asking someone to repeat what they said for the third time, then taking a guess and looking like an idiot because I got it wrong.
9 Going to the shed three times because I keep forgetting what I went for.
10 Hiding down the supermarket aisle, because I keep forgetting that persons name, who remembers mine.
11 My kids are looking middle aged.
12 Meeting friends I once played strip poker with, now we’re comparing the medications we take.
13 Are my ears getting bigger?
14 The next car I buy will probably be the last.
15 I can remember what I was doing when President Kennedy was assassinated.
16 I had better slow down, the traffic light is green.
17 I drove the car down to the fish and chip shop, brought a paper as well, walked home reading the paper and left the fish and chips and the car behind.
18 I found the car keys in the oven.
19 I found the car keys in the fridge.
20 It’s my wife’s fault, she keeps hiding things.
Old age is a privilege.
How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were? How can we ever regret growing older when it’s a privilege denied to so many. We all hope to live through to old age, but then complain when it arrives. If you have been mean or petty, old age will exaggerate these vices, but if you have been generous and gracious, old age will expand these virtues. You reap what you sow either way. If you live your life with generosity and graciousness then you will enjoy satisfying memories of your decency.
Age also brings gratitude and the knowledge that with every passing year we’re privileged, then being grateful becomes a daily ritual. Enhancing our lives in so many ways, it can feed our spirits with delicious things like learning, creating and serving others. There’s another phenomena that many people around my age experience, I get nods and smiles from others with similar thoughts to mine. We are in fact invisible, honored, respected, even loved, but not worth listening to anymore, we’ve had our turn, now its time for us to move aside.”That’s the third time you’ve said this” who said my memories bad?
Watching your emotions and making decisions.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and understand your emotions, in yourself and others. It’s also your ability to use this to manage your behavior and relationships. We have to learn to observe our emotions as they are part of our decision making process. Trying to make rational decisions without being emotional is the best way, but rationality is determined by emotions, if your being rational, your emotions still play a part in the thought process. In fact it’s impossible to make decisions without emotions attached to them. Therefore it means being intelligent with those emotions.
Being emotional, has negative connotations in the decision making process. Emotions are seen as weak and childlike, making them counter intuitive in the decision making process. If we were able to compare two people who earn the same money and the same family background and are in fact identical in everyway, their emotional intelligence would decide their ultimate success. Emotional intelligence is being able to moderate yourself, control your impulses, regulate your mood and keep stress in place. These qualities often don’t arrive as part of a high IQ. They are in fact part of a higher emotional intelligence.
Knowing your emotions
Pinpoint your emotions and how they are effecting you. Try to see beyond your perceptions and identify the truth in your own situation. How you feel, not how other people expect you to feel. Also not how your manipulated into feeling, you have to monitor your feelings as they come. Ultimately, each of us are responsible for our emotions. There may be people who we can legitimately blame. But it’s still up to us to learn to manage and not suppress our emotions. As emotions generate everything we do in life, it’s important to identify them and talk about how we feel. Don’t get stuck in behavior loops and be unconscious to the part emotions play in your life. Extraverts or confidence people are no better at emotional intelligence than introverts, who can have high EQ as well, it’s not synonymous with either polarity.
Emotional intelligence is highly developable.
It’s one thing to know your emotions and label them, but it’s another to manage and discipline yourself to control them. To have the ability to read emotions in other people and to understand how they feel is empathy. It’s also the ability to manage your intimate relationships and how well you communicate with other people. Obviously we can be strong in some emotions and weak in others, the object, is to take 100% responsibility for all of our emotions.
Although the middle ground, would be a fantastic achievement for the majority of us. IQ is easier to learn than EQ, people with high IQ’s tend to live in their heads more. They find emotions harder to deal with, it’s hard to know where each of us fits into this framework. Possibly nowhere, because our emotions are constantly coming and going. The intelligence quotient test, measures short term memory, analytical thinking, mathematical ability and spatial recognition, but not your capacity to learn. The Emotional quotient test, measures an individuals ability to identify, evaluate, control and express emotions. IQ tests can’t measure your capacity to learn. Which means we all have the capacity to learn and to control our emotions.
Depression, anger and fear > Chartering a course to > Peace, acceptance and wholeness
As I’m getting older I understand the phrase “elderly curmudgeon” It’s a late symptom of the terminal disease called life.
Humanity is of little or no interest to a curmudgeon, what he most desires from others is that they leave him alone. He’s not trying to offend people, he just sees no point in pleasing them either. It doesn’t matter if people don’t understand you, they ought to, but if they don’t it’s their fault. There young and foolish, so there’s no point in talking about their ideas, until they grow up. We’re crusty, ill tempered and USUALLY old men, so ladies, I have to include you in this as well.
We need to combat the symptom just as aggressively as we do a knee degeneration. If we want to live a long and happy life, into our “grey hiking” years. As older hikers we do face special challenges, our youth can’t naturally protect us anymore. We can’t just show up with a pearly white smile and expect that to be enough.
Sixty isn’t the new forty
This is another narcissistic mindset so often associated with us curmudgeons. We think we’re ageless with a free pass to the fountain of youth. If we work out at all, most of us aren’t focused on climbing over boulders, powering up hills, or recovering from falls. In particular controlling the down hill on uneven ground where knee problems, and tendonitis love to live. Like most baby boomers I have an accumulation of injuries as well as many of the standard age related problems.
These are offset with experience, motivation and a healthy case of attitude. I’ve turned 65 on the trail and still have a competitive mindset. I want to do everything I can to be fit and ready, and be able to hike on. If I throw in the towel, I need to know that I left it out on the trail and there was nothing more that I could have done.
Many times in our life we see our dreams shattered and our desires frustrated, but we have to continue to dream. The”good fight” is the one we fight because our heart asks it of us. When we are young and our dreams first explode we are very courageous, but we haven’t learned how to fight for them properly. With age, we’ve learned how to fight, but sometimes we lose the courage to do combat for our dreams. We turn within and start doing battle with ourselves and in doing so become our own worst enemy. Killing our dreams because we become afraid to fight the “good fight” on the external battlefields.
Grey hiker reality check
I’m proud of being part curmudgeon there is still strength in my legs and a spring in my step. As I make my way beside a meandering stream, I still have an endless enthusiasm in my heart for all things outdoors and wild. Most of all I’m a realist, hiking can=pain, unless we ground our dreams in our external reality.
“I don’t mind huffing and puffing for hours, I just want to be out there for the fun of it” Lee “easy one” Barry. “That hike was pure joy, with the focus no longer on whether or not we could finish. Just enjoy how much fun it was to spend months in the wilderness” Ray Jardine “I’m not on vacation, I’m not here for the weekend, this is where I live” said George “Billy goat” Woodward. Who spends six months of every year hiking the “pacific crest trail” in his late seventies. As Emma “Grandma” Gatewood said to Ray Jardine after becoming the first woman to complete a through hike of the Appalachian trail at 67 years of age. “Most people are pantywaists” a very appropriate feminine comment.
The younger generation have good ideas.
The younger generation nowadays are setting examples that us curmudgeons find hard to follow. Some negative incidents hamper lots of good intention. We can learn a lot about being creative and thinking out of the box and being innovative with our thinking. They are an arrogant lot and yes arrogance is required nowadays. They give no consideration to what others might think and in this post truth era, they do what “they” think is right. Belief in ourselves, is the best thing we can learn from the younger generation. As society is failing to value and harness older peoples skills, knowledge and experience.
Older people are seen as a “drain” in a society infatuated by the cult of youth. While this division remains, there will always be words for symptoms that don’t need to exist. On the trail, there is a “bringing together”of young and old in a mutual shared experience. My knee degeneration has improved, with less pack weight and the use of hiking poles for difficult down hill sections. I now wish I had listened to some of the younger hikers earlier in the game. As they do have good ideas, but as a curmudgeon I could never admit to that.
Crabs In a bucket, “If I can’t have it, neither can you”.
The crab in a bucket theory, refers to the behavior of crabs, when placed inside a bucket. While a single crab can escape if several are in the bucket, none will escape. As one crab claws it’s way to the top, the others pull it back down. The other crabs will kill the one trying to get out, if it continues to pull itself to the edge of the bucket, while not staying down with the other crabs. This is a true phenomenon. The crab mentality is a metaphor for the human response to self improvement in others. So often when people see others advancing, they subconsciously or consciously reach out to hold them back.
Also with negative talk, gossiping and biting at each other, and not achieving anything in life. While never trying to get out of the bucket. Members of the group, will attempt to negate and diminish any member, who achieves success beyond the excepted normality of the group. Hence they will use envy, spite, conspiracy or competitiveness and other methods.
Do you have the crab mentality ?
Do you have the crab mentality or are you surrounded by others with this mentality? There are so many reasons we don’t want to lose people in our lives. Since we don’t want to be lonely, be excluded, feel disappointed, or upset people. Therefore we are in fact being people pleasers. We have to be willing to lose people in our lives who are not supporting us, or who have the crab mentality. They want to drag us back down, kicking us in the “guts” passively or aggressively. While talking to us in a way that makes us feel unworthy, we end up selling ourselves short. While missing out on the dreams we may have been capable of achieving.
1. Request support.
When I go after my dreams, I would love you to be supportive of my efforts, it’s not going to be easy for me to attempt these new things. Because it’s important to me that I have your backing in this endeavor. With your help, I would like us both, to benefit from any positive feelings we can share together.
2 Set boundaries.
Don’t allow yourself to get caught in a trap. We may not be ready to let go of this person, but if their unwilling to support us, or help us to realize our dreams. We have to advise them it’s not going to be as comfortable spending time with them.
3 Cut back your time with these people.
Reduce your time with these people, spend more time with people who believe in an “abundance” mindset not a “crab” mentality. Most of all spend more time with people who want everyone around them to win in their endeavors. “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with” Jim Roan
The crab mentality has to go. If people are saying negative things, or have a bad attitude, running off at the mouth about what’s not possible. Or are, opposed to taking action and showing others what is possible, then you don’t want to spend time with these individuals. You can continue to love them from a distance, but not allow your energy to be pulled down, with this negative crab mentality. It’s time to be true to yourself and eliminate the crabs from your life, our calling belongs to us and us alone. If we continue to hide behind beliefs we were raised with, people pleasing to make others feel comfortable, we’re never going to grow into the person we’re meant to be. More importantly, we’re never going to do the work we’re here to do.
Don’t be afraid of losing people, be more afraid of losing yourself.
The boy who had made his own jackknife from the ore which he had dug and smelted, or the boy who had received a Rodgers penknife from his father ? Who would be the most likely to cut his fingers? Thoreau
“TO BE OF USE” a poem by Marge Piercy
Craftsmanship “The people I love the best, jump into work headfirst without dallying in the shallows and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight. They seem to become natives of that element, the black sleek heads of seals, bouncing like half-submerged balls. I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart, who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience, who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward, who do what has to be done, again and again.
I want to be with people who submerge in the task, who go into the fields to harvest and work in a row and pass the bags along, who are not parlor generals and field deserters, but move in a common rhythm when the food must come in or the fire be put out. The work of the world is common as mud, botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust, but the thing worth doing well done has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident. Greek amphora’s for wine or oil, Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums but you know they were made to be used. The pitcher cries for water to carry and a person for work that is real”.
When people imagine the craftsman, they have a romantic image of an industrious independent man in his workshop. Usually with a beard, probably with a leather apron, rolled up sleeves, a salt of the earth type of guy. A skilled tradesman, secure in the knowledge of his hand and the strength of his character, pursuing a simple, quiet life in idyllic surroundings. Craftsmanship can be seen as an opportunity to be self employed, self expressive, self sufficient and self actualized.
You’re engaging your physical capabilities, your imagination, your ability for cognitive problem solving and engaging your creativity. Throughout human history, to be a blacksmith or a creator of wooden objects wasn’t glamorous. But that didn’t matter, the specifics of the work were irrelevant. The materials being used weren’t noble but the shaping of them could be. This is caring about what you do, commitment to quality and deeply understanding one’s materials. These are the elements of craftsmanship in general.
Craftsmanship allows a practical way of experiencing the phenomenon of “flow” where you disappear into your work. Any sense of “self” disappears as you concentrate on the task at hand. The work at hand should take you to your edge, working on that edge and just beyond. Where your not overwhelmed, neither are you remaining in an imposed comfort zone within the work. There is often a suspension of time involved, what seemed like minutes, becomes hours. This turns out to be an immensely pleasurable and wonderful feeling.
I’ve been a carpenter for most of my adult life, I have experienced “flow” many times. I would explain it as, “waking up from a day dream” but there is something tangible to show for that day dream. Now amongst other things, I write words, which isn’t natural for me. But the act of putting words together and suggesting new ideas can take me off into something quite seductive. The words could be nonsense, or be interpreted another way.
When I’m working with wood and chisels, there isn’t a question about whether a chisel is sharp. There is also, never a question of whether a joint between two pieces of wood is tight. When I make a piece of furniture, the functionality will be decided by the user. My ideas, suppositions and efforts are checked by the “real” and that can be a very healthy feeling. The item exists in the physical world to be enjoyed and shared with others. Unlike “words” which disappear off the computer screen into the archives and I’m left wondering, if it was nonsense after all.
How our climate controlled comfort is killing us.
Modern Technology has provided us with an inordinate amount of comfort. With the turn of a dial our homes are set at a perpetually comfortable temperature, has this made us physically and mentally weaker.? What if our bodies need discomfort to truly thrive and flourish. Those thoughts were passing through my mind today as I was shopping in the local supermarket. Wearing shorts a tee-shirt and open shoes, I went down the dairy and frozen food section. Maybe it didn’t help that someone had already driven their shopping trolley into my heel, my patience and reasoning skills were already fraught.
I kept searching for my elusive product, it seemed to take ages, but sure enough there it was. Shivering, I was glad to get into the warmer zones around the bakery section. I turned around and in my haste stubbed my toe on the shopping trolley. There was a young boy beside me wearing a pair of shorts, with no tee-shirt or shoes. Obviously, being young, he didn’t feel the cold. Next time I walk down the freezer section, I will be wearing my puffer jacket, trousers and hiking shoes.
The young boy didn’t make any impression at that moment. But later I thought, something seems to happen as we age, do we feel the cold more or is something else happening. Are we becoming weaker and sicker. In our evolutionary past we experienced wild temperature changes, in some parts of the world, the temperature swing between night and day can be over fifty degrees. Our ancestors explored the world in fur skins and sailing boats and with very basic equipment. They had to rely on human biology to resist the elements and all the variations.
Now we live in a cocoon of technological comfort. Our bodies don’t have to meet any of the conditions that our ancestors had to experience. We almost live in a perpetual summer with temperatures controlled at the flick of a switch. We live in antiseptic environments where we have killed the harmful and good bacteria. Weakening our immune systems, this leads to diseases of the 21st century, obesity, diabetes osteoporosis and many others. This period of comfort is very short on the relative time line of civilization. Our bodies have had to adapt very quickly, more so, than at any other period of our evolution.
It’s not that we need to be “hunter gatherers” and forage for our food. But we are designed to be more than “bystanders” of our lives. The comfort crutch locks out engaged participation and locks in an impediment to an extraordinary life. What our brains and bodies really want isn’t comfort, it’s engagement in novelty, challenges and learning. When was the last time you ventured beyond the familiar face of habituation.? Not on a luxury vacation where everything is taken care of except your brain and your wallet. Rather something that challenges you to plan and figure things out for yourself.
“Neglect of intense learning leads plasticity systems to waste away” says Norman Doidge in “The brain that changes itself” Michael Merzenich, a pioneer of plasticity research, adds “that going beyond the familiar is essential to brain health. “Keeping the brain new” is being willing to leave your comfort zone. Not becoming so attached to the idea of how you currently are, that you ignore a blatant truth. The world is vast, the probability that you have already found all your favorite things in life is very small. You can be one hesitant step away from meeting a new best friend. Also discovering a favorite dish, or a bigger purpose in your life.
Getting out of comfort.
I was contemplating this question, can there be a way to fast track out of my comfort zone. Without spending money or taxing myself too much physically. Or altering my brain chemistry without drugs. Still creating my own fear though and allow this to push me through my comfort zone. Also in the comfort of my own home. It came to me, listening to a pod cast on one of my morning hikes. So simple but so difficult, no mess no preparation a rapid fire way to get out of my comfort zone.
Tomorrow, I’ll go to the bathroom and set the alarm for five minutes. Before I activate it, strip off and get into the shower. Start to run the water how I usually like it, warm and comfortable. Then activate the alarm, turn the shower to completely cold and scream in discomfort for five minutes. It’s the closest I will ever get to jumping out of a plane without a parachute apparently. Repeating this for 30 days was part of the message. It seems like it could be an incredible experience. I wish I could tell you how it felt, but my logical mind wants to gather a bit more information. So I’ve decided to hang out in the freezer section of the supermarket for an extended period next week. Also I won’t be wearing my hiking gear either.
Decide how badly you want it, everything has a price, decide if your willing to pay the price.
Aline your actions with your goals. People say they want to lose weight, but their unwilling to change the foods they eat. Some people want to gain weight, but they don’t want to lift weights or make sure they are eating enough. Also they want to run a marathon, but they don’t want to train. Most people want glory without the hard work. Decide how badly you want it, figure out what the cost will be to achieve it and then if you still want it, commit to it. But if you don’t want it, that’s fine “BUT” stop pretending that you do. If you want it bad enough, work like hell to make it happen. Everything has a price, decide if you want to pay that price. Then if your willing to pay the price, be at peace with your decision.
Stop waiting for someone to give you what you want.
All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger but calculating risk and acting decisively. Make mistakes of ambition not mistakes of laziness. Develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer. If your worried about death and your own demise, don’t, it’s coming whether you like it or not. You will either arrive at the end of your life, satisfied with the things you have achieved. Or you will arrive broken and beaten, but whichever way you choose, have no doubt that you will arrive.
Never be embarrassed to admit mistakes
Just because you’re embarrassed to admit that you’re still living with the consequences of bad decisions. Some of them made 5, 10, or 20 years ago, this shouldn’t stop you from making decisions now. If you let pride stop you, you will hate life 5,10, or 20 years from now for the same reasons. This transformation is painful, but your not falling apart, you’re falling into something different, with a new capacity for growth as a person.
Big and scary
The mind makes all future tasks big and scary, so we procrastinate, even the little things, when we imagine doing them in the future, get distorted and take on frightening proportions. Objects in the mirror of the future appear larger than they really are. Because the imagination, when it ventures into the future, always imagines the worst case scenario. No wonder we procrastinate, thinking and imagining the worst case scenarios, scare us into putting everything off.
Pay the price
Perfectionism can be a trigger for procrastination, you can delay doing a task simply because you find that the conditions are not perfect. Ultimately, in order to achieve any goal, you will have to believe that you have the strength and self discipline to do whatever you set your mind to. You can easily become a self help junkie, you can have a whole library of books that give you intellectual knowledge. But unless you take decisive action on that knowledge, it remains a hobby of reading and collecting books. The only true security in life comes from knowing that every single day you are improving yourself in some way. I don’t worry about maintaining my quality of life, because everyday I work on improving it. Strive to learn and add value.
Wonder is a feeling of amazement and admiration, caused by something beautiful, remarkable, or unfamiliar.
Wonder is sometimes said to be a childish emotion, one that we may grow out of. Unfortunately, as many of us grow older we stop wondering. Stop questioning and stop attempting to look at things in new or untraditional ways. We’re inclined to accept what others tell us and we must except, to be excepted ourselves. My hikes in nature have helped me realize how many things we believe, need to be examined, or viewed differently than the”one”way, or as the truth.
We needed to master our environment enough, to exceed the basic necessities of survival before we could make much use of this feeling. It’s a tricky emotion, it’s not easily triggered in a studied environment. It requires that you catch someone unexpectedly and surpass their ability to understand. Unlike anger, guilt and laughter that are far easier to understand and measure. Wonder is a passive emotion when we confront something vivid, large or beautiful, there is momentary contemplation. A perplexed curiosity that doesn’t lead to immediate physical action.
It’s not essential.
It’s not essential for survival, which could mean that the emotion didn’t evolve as a direct result of a survival mechanism. Emerging with other softer emotions as needed. It tends to make us feel physically smaller when we are in awe of something. Cathedrals with high vaulted ceilings and vast stained glass windows. Intricately decorated surfaces all engage our senses in ways that are bewildering and transcendent.
But there is no greater feeling than being in the ultimate cathedral of “nature.” Staring up at a clear night sky looking at tiny specks of twinkling light. Distances from earth cannot be measured as we normally would, because the numbers are too large. The stars I’m looking at, don’t exist as they appear to my naked eye, all I’m seeing is an illusion. Now that’s wonder on a cosmic level, no real truth and mostly inspired guesswork.
Wonder has found a home in nature, there were the classic seven wonders of the world. The great pyramid of Giza, the hanging gardens of Babylon and the statue of Zeus at Olympia. As well as the temple of Artemis at Ephesus and the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus. Finally the Colossus of Rhodes and The lighthouse of Alexandria. Apart from a new seven, there are the ten, the twenty and the wonder of wonders. What’s on your Bucket list? Adventure, travel, volunteerism, crazy fun, connecting with nature.? One thousand plus wonderful ideas to do before you die. I have no doubt that many of these ideas will evoke wonder in the people that visit them. Wonder often requires that you catch someone unexpectedly or surpass their ability to understand. When I hike through the forests around my home town, I often have to take the same trails over and over.
This seems to dampen my sense of wonder because of familiarity. The sunlight came through the trees in a certain way this morning reflecting onto a lone Kangaroo, that seemed to be enjoying the warmth of the early morning sun. Usually they hop quickly away before my track takes me too close. Only this time a combination of factors happened, a lack of concentration on the kangaroos part, or familiarity with my hikes. This allowed me to feel wonder, as I also realized that this moment may never happen again. It’s these unexpected experiences that create wonder, if we are constantly shown images that may evoke wonder, are we taking the wonder out of wonder ?
There is an adventure gap between our purchases and the activities they may be able to perform. These products allow us to feel like we are living an adventurous life. While remaining comfortable and safe.
The new Toyota Highlander blurb highlights some of these anomalies. While already assuming that we can be driving in the highlands of Scotland. Now we don’t just sit around we go out and discover nature, the new aggressive front grill, says you have an attitude, for adventure. It does go on to mention 5 ports to charge up your mobile devices, enhancing convenience, but still suggesting that they are mobile like their users. The “highlander” branding connotation, struck me as quite odd when I was in Scotland at the start of the West Highland Way hike.
The small town of Milngavie is the gateway to the Highlands for hikers. Walking across the Tesco car park, I could not believe how many four wheel drive vehicles there were. I’m used to that living in a small country town in Australia. Here a woman in a normal car, was trying to reverse out of a car space between two of these high sided monsters. I acted as a car park attendant and guided her out into the flow of other monsters.
An advertisement in Australia came to mind, it felt strange there, but here it felt ridiculous. The”highlander”driving in nature, to the top of a beautiful hill, the vegetation being flattened. As the “highlander” carries it’s passengers into a comfortable adventure. Multiply that outwards and we quickly have an ecological disaster to deal with. The edginess of the advertisement implied, that you are getting away from it all, on your own adventure. Yet not explaining that you would be surrounded by other adventurers. Like the four wheel drive park at Tesco’s.
As the economic market seeks consumption, it’s looking to the edges to involve the”wild”of nature. To tame it with comfort, for economic advantage. Hybrid branding is everywhere, as we become separated from simple adventure, we naturally crave more. The branding can be all that’s needed, leaving only a word association to the freedom of nature. Utility vehicles once carried the tools and equipment of working men in a functional way.
Now their being branded to apply to a younger man. Certain utility vehicles are becoming edgy, suggesting one use but supporting another. A sports car look with striking metallic colors, canopies enclose the back, but lower to the ground. Nature can’t be left out in this branding of a free spirit, Breeze and thunder are two names that feature on the livery, but I’m sure there are others.
The high costs.
The relatively high purchase cost of all these recreational vehicles compared to most normal vehicles. Suggests, that many individuals are taking out loans, to fund this sense of freedom. Get away from it all, but make sure you work hard enough to service the loan. For a while I noticed a small sprig of colored flowers as a decal on small sedan cars. This was intended towards the feminine market, but I haven’t seen these around for awhile. To win the hearts of women, they needed to create an emotional response, which I’m not sure a car can do.
Four wheel drive vehicles can evoke a feeling of safety for women and their children. Surrounded by various heavy duty components and also being higher above the road. “Highlander” has a different feature with women in mind, a microphone system that makes talking to passengers in the back seats easier. Telling the kids to pipe down and behave is a breeze, but neglects to say if they’ll listen.
There is an adventure gap in our clothing as well, the things that we own were designed for more dangerous activities, than they actually perform. A Patagonia puffer jacket, designed to withstand freezing temperatures on the side of a mountain, is traversing the freezer section in the local supermarket. Hiking boots designed for the Himalayas are scaling the terrain of the local farmers market. There is an anomaly as well, as the outdoor equipment stores adopt clever disguises. The local outdoor shop is selling socks that picture hikers on the lower slopes of Everest. There pretending to sell adventure equipment, but they are actually selling boring stuff like normal clothing.
“Don’t buy this jacket” Patagonia to give away all retail revenues on black Friday”
While not the biggest supplier of outdoor equipment. Patagonia made a grand gesture when it gave away 10 million in Black Friday sales. The American Presidents lack of support to the global warming debate supposedly caused this action. Registered in California as a benefit corporation donating 1% of annual gross revenues. So far it’s given around 74 million through this initiative. It’s still a small player in the American market and with only a tiny slice of the 4 billion a year European market.
The black Friday gesture was a move to eschew capitalist values on Americas busiest shopping day. Despite telling customers not to buy its jacket, Patagonia’s sales on black Friday actually increased. The companies grand gesture didn’t include discounted items, but drew thousands of first time customers. Thoughtful consumption, the idea is that enlightened consumers don’t buy what companies do, they buy the reasons why companies do what they do. Intelligent consumers, or another branding trick?
An Old Cherokee Tale of Two Wolves
One evening an old Cherokee Indian told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, ‘My son, the battle is between two ‘wolves’ inside usis Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: ‘Which wolf wins?” The old Cherokee simply replied the “one you feed”.
Hopefully the grandfather is able to teach the grandson, how to “feed the good wolf.” While changing his focus to positive thoughts, which is extremely difficult, because we’ve never been taught how to. It’s so easy to fall into a pattern of negative thoughts and hard to start thinking positively. As the bad thoughts will always be there in our minds. It’s hard to change from positive to negative when you have been thinking negatively for a long period of time. Negative thinking is normal, we all have these thoughts. Therefore if this way of thinking becomes incessant, it can lead to depression, self destructive behavior and addictions. Further more as a result it can derail us from what we want most in life. At an absolute minimum, negative thinking saps our energy, erodes our self confidence and put us into a bad mood.
Even though we may be in a certain mind set, thoughts are completely random, we never know which thought is coming next. So a good practice is to be aware of negative thoughts that arise, and try to detach from those thoughts and watch as an observer. Watch your thoughts, they become words. Your words, become actions, your actions, become habits. Watch your habits, they become character. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.
The perplexity of our thoughts and the way in which we try to handle them. Have been and will be written about and studied as long as thoughts exist. Stress is the root of many of our negative thoughts. Survival stress is the phase of “fight or flight” this is seen as a common response to danger in all people and animals. When we are afraid that we may be physically hurt, the body naturally responds with a burst of energy. So that we are better able to survive a dangerous situation.
This was a basic survival skill when we were in the “hunter gatherer” phase of human development. It would be hard to estimate how often this basic survival skill was used in any individual lifetime. The “fight or flight” response is used inappropriately in modern society. Often we worry about things that we can do nothing about, or worrying for no reason at all. Environmental stress is another response to things around us. Noise, crowding and pressure from work or family, often result in fatigue. Which over a long period of time, causes a hard toll on the body.
Fight or flight.
Stress was meant for “fight or flight” not for constant use, it burns down our immune systems and uses most of our energy. In this mental state we have little chance of “feeding the good wolf.” We can’t go backwards, the pace of life will only get faster. We will need to adapt quickly to a variety of situations. The onus on us, is to try and calm the mind and to detox stress as much as we can. There are various activities that can be used. Meditation which can be taken to various levels or as simple as the “head space” app on our phone. Gratitude can work it’s own magic, by serving as an antidote to negative thoughts. When you look for things to be grateful for, they are never far away.
Hiking in nature, has psychological benefits that are well documented. Improving creative reasoning through immersion in the “wild” calming the mind and allowing us to “feed the good wolf” with positive thoughts. The lion and the tiger may be more powerful, however the wolf does not perform in the circus. (unknown) The “wildness” of nature may be the best place to “feed the good wolf” moving us away from performing in the circus.
Most people understand hope as wishful thinking, as in I hope something will happen. The biblical definition of hope is confident expectation.
We often say I hope it will rain today, I hope my car will start, I dream my children will grow up with good morals. Has the confident expectation gone now.? Since we can’t believe anyone anymore, what’s gone wrong, why are we feeling this way.? What happened to a hand shake that signified trust in the completion of a promise.? It was never perfect but the feeling was there that it could be. Are we hooked on hope instead of being eager for evidence. Information is knowledge and knowledge is power to make decisions. Helping to keep dreams under control.
I want to have a fantastic time on my next hike, that’s my hope. If I don’t use the knowledge I have, to plan and prepare myself physically. Also evaluating all my equipment and making sure it compliments what I’m trying to achieve. Then I will be living in a fantasy that everything will work out, by a magical force known as luck. It’s the belief that something is possible, and that is enough. It’s not based on reliable data that results in trust, that the enterprise will work. It can lead to despair as we become more confused in an ever changing world.
I find myself hoping that I will be able to work things out. Due to moving from a product based, to a service based society. Technology is moving us from a static to a liquid ever moving paradigm. While I feel like a perpetual “newbie” always trying to understand another add on. Due to an already confusing technological market place. I’m hoping that when I unpack my next item out of the box, installation will just happen and not expect input from me to solve any problems that may happen. Problems are not confined to technology, hope can quickly lead to failure in many areas. While we are being encouraged to become solo entrepreneurs, many of us are finding the transition difficult to deal with. Due to competition, businesses have never been easier to start, but failure rates are high.
We’re not just hiking, we’re scrambling into business. Be your authentic self, live the dream, follow your passion, that’s all you need to succeed. I hope it works, I hope it makes money, with very little research and development, then hope is all we are often left with. Grounding in essential business practice, as in anything else we attempt to do, takes away or lessens the need for hope.
Hope, is an emotion that isn’t found in our facial expressions. Happiness, sadness, fear, anger, exhaustion, focus, surprise, shame and confusion, can all be readily identified. It’s part of a smaller group of emotions that are often overlooked. So they are harder to study, so they are not often written about. If it could be seen more as confident expectation, we may be able to recognize that hope, while being a tremendously uplifting emotion, when needed in difficult moments. Can be damaging if we just dream that things will be alright without the discipline and commitment.
Hard to find.
Hope is harder to find as a member of the grey community, being bombarded with change is very unsettling. Due to values and assumptions being constantly questioned. We often look back to a past that was slower and less unpredictable. Younger people growing up and individuals working and living in this state of constant change, are also looking to the future and finding it harder to find. As the pace and financial constraints become tougher. Hope is harder to find in a fast changing world but far from impossible, looking in different places through a different lense may help.
A Forest Monks program is offered by the rewilding university based in Wisconsin USA. Also intensive training in ancestral skills, mental and emotional strength, primal fitness and much more. Furthermore a less practical version that entails, joining an online community of monks who explore the connection with nature and self. Rewilding, is the latest craze in the health and fitness world, its all about living a feral lifestyle. Also this lifestyle may bring you back into sync with nature. Probably making you healthier and happier than you ever thought possible.
There is a promise to rewild your taste buds and access your nourish sense. As a result the body uses it’s own natural ability to know what is good to eat for health. Not relying on prescription drugs to solve chronic health issues, wild food, herbal and mushroom based medicines are often used. Criminals are locked up to rehabilitate them back into society. It’s only after we become domesticated, that we are more capable of unnatural acts. Most of all these show up as prejudices violence, greed and selfishness that seem to characterize modern society.
The truth is, rewilding is more about inner change than outer change, but this can present a problem. As we move further into an urban, technological future, we move further away from the natural forces that shape our minds. How do we get back in touch with them? The human rewilding model suggests that with an increasing awareness of nature, we start to remember where we came from. We forge a connection with our inner essential being. Our experience of nature is being changed by technology as we experience nature second hand through a variety of screens. Wild walk apps are starting to appear on our phones. With articles that advise on how to do it with regard to walking in nature.
What you need.
What you need for a thirty minute walk heading into the wilderness. Wear hiking boots, trails can be uneven, watch out for your weak ankles, carry water, a first aid kit, find your adventurous spirit, with endless products to buy. Another piece of sound advise, but for a thirty minute hike! Since how far are we going into the wilderness? Another sign of social correctness gone to far, trying to wrap us in a warm fluffy blanket.
Back to nature.
Rewilding, can have many forms, we can’t all go back to nature as many of us feel the need to, it’s not practical, luckily for nature. The rewilding experience that’s on offer at various locations, can help us to see things through a slightly different wilding lens. Many wild animals make the transition to establish their homes in our civilized environment. Hence they still retain their wildness, foraging for food and shelter, but their footprint is not as heavy, or as pervasive as ours. Most of the time in our busy lives we never encounter them. Unless we consciously observe them on rare occasions. Can we be in nature and not be noticed? As each generation passes, we move farther away from our wild beginnings. Rewilding and many other disciplines recognize, that emersion of any kind in nature, can only help the human spirit.
“Wild” into nature.
“Rewilding Australia” aims to improve the trajectory for Australian wildlife, and increase ecosystem resilience to future threats. Part of this rewilding is introducing native species back into the wild. Most countries around the world are attempting similar programs. In addition, nature has to be preserved for itself and for the benefit of future generations. Rewilding humans or introducing wild animals back into nature can only be a good thing, together it might make a profound difference.
Is the soft blanket attempt the right solution? making it more inviting for everybody. The less serious should be encouraged to walk around the park. While still walking for half an hour but carry less equipment. Consequently they won’t roll their ankle on uneven ground, or need to carry a first aid kit. Propaganda is often used with great effect, propaganda needs to be used now to try and keep the wild in nature. “Keep out” rewilding in progress.
Routines are tasks, chores or duties done regularly, often mechanically performed. Therefore, as most of us are creatures of habit, we develop routines which can be detrimental. So which habits are good for us? How many of them cause difficulties in our lives and the relationships with the people around us? It can difficult for older people to change routines, that have become embedded, over time. While being comfortable and set in our ways is familiar to us, we avoid fear and fearful situations. Therefore when we find comfort, there is little incentive to change.
Effort to change.
While small habits are easier to change, entrenched habits require effort. As a result it can take up to 20 years or more to develop a bad habit, therefore it can take a significant amount of time to unlearn. My own personal experience is, embedded routines and habits can be changed relatively quickly. Also this depends on how much attention we are willing to invest in changing them.
Getting my body in shape, was foundational, hiking started the transformation. I needed to walk as part of a rehabilitation program, starting with walking five days a week. Although this routine was random, as long as I walked for 1 to 2 hours everyday. Since passion follows engagement my health and fitness started to improve. In addition being professional, in contrast to being amateur, changing a detrimental routine or habit with a professional approach.
Research has to happen to get a broad perspective and to understand the nuances of the problem, to be resolved. Multi level changes didn’t seem to work, concentrating on one change first, mastering that change and using it as a stepping stone to the next routine change, seemed to work better for me. Various studies show that changing a routine, takes between 30 to 60 days of immersion in that new routine. That’s an arbitrary time frame and could be completely wrong, depending on the person. The magnitude of the new routine and the commitment to change are reflected in our personalities.
Game theory is one way of studying how an individual or group makes a strategic choice. The outcome is the result of a particular set of choices, pay off is the benefit associated with particular outcomes. Fitness and health are the foundations they become the game as new strategies are put in place. My walk had to have a designated time slot, 6am start, five days a week, increasing to seven. In the initial stages, the alarm clock was on the other side of the room, forcing me to get out of bed. Hiking shoes and socks were ready to go and clothes near at hand. My phone charged, loaded with I pod talks relating to performance and growth, water bottle ready, cap on and out the door.
Have I chosen the right talk to listen to this morning? that’s the only question. It’s early morning quiet and peaceful, walking around the cemetery, my thoughts turn to people who are no longer part of my life. This routine has been going on for a few years now, longer hikes and travel have been the only interruptions.
A conscious routine of staying in shape and listening to inspirational talks, meditation and other disciplines, worked for me. This has been the catalyst to change routines that were detrimental to me. Most bad routines and habits start in our head and have to be changed there. Gratitude for everything I have in my life, and the opportunity to hike in nature everyday, has helped me see things differently. Leading to new routines that have become the building blocks to change.
We are living in a world where change is inevitable, so we realize that we are living in uncertain times. So all challenges help us to grow, when we grasp this, everything can be looked at as just temporary. Unfortunately we become overwhelmed with problems, finding it hard to believe they are temporary. So we need to realize that with time, most things that seem overwhelming will get better. Furthermore negative habits and routines start in our minds, so our mind is where they need to be changed. Therefore tackling the mind body connection, is the first step in changing routines that no longer serve us.
Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excesses in favor of focusing on what’s important. Allowing yourself to find happiness, fulfilment, and freedom in more simple pleasures. The minimalists to their 4 million fans, try to help people live more meaningful lives with less. Helping by engaging in their website, books, podcast and documentary film minimalism. Using intentionality, a clarity of purpose and the removal of everything that distracts us from these ideals. Modern culture has bought into the lie that the good life is found in accumulating things. More is better as we have inadvertently subscribed to the idea that happiness can be purchased at a department store. Minimalism, is freedom from the passion to possess, freedom from modern mania and freedom from duplicity
A counter culture, about the internal and not the external. Minimalism is helping people find freedom in their heart and soul, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. Is this the gospel of minimalism, consumerist self sacrifice, as people who have it all, now seem to prefer having not much at all. Minimalism was popularized in the 1960’s as an insult, in an essay for an art magazine. Describing a group of artists whose work was characterized by “minimal art content” that is lack of art, now stylishly austere it seems, is minimalist.
On the trail.
Long distance backpacking is synonymous with minimalism, an escape from mental and physical clutter. When you step onto the trail with only what is on your back, you tend to gain insight as to what is really important in life. Minimalism takes place again as you gain experience through hiking, using gear to hike, not hike to use gear. The simple act of hiking can only be enjoyed, when your not worrying about how heavy the gear is on your back. Days don’t end in exhaustion and you are able to enjoy the simple pleasures in life. Like watching the sunset and listening to the wind in the trees when you stop to rest for the night.
Decreasing pack weight, when trying to lose ounces becomes expensive. You need everything you have, so the only option is to look for lighter items as replacements. These can be expensive, as lighter items are usually more high tech. The minimalistic experience, is in the nature of the trail as well, every place you see you will likely never see again. Every person you meet, will never share this space again, there are no comparisons to each other, there is no time or inclination to judge or consider.
Questions to answer.
The premise, is that minimalism brings freedom and joy, if we only attain the right things. Forsaking everything else, to be free from the constraints of our desires. Has the concept of minimalism been high jacked again, as it was from the art world of the sixties. Is minimalism an arrogance, providing another all encompassing answer, while not encouraging individuals to ask their own deeper questions. Maybe it’s a hangover from pre-recession excess, Mac-mansions, S.U.V’s and cocktail parties, medicine we had to swallow anyway. Minimalism just makes the medicine easier to swallow as we feel better with less. Some of the almost in touch rich are joining in, asking their own questions. How much can we own and still be minimalistic, have I got rid of the wrong things?
Technology is creating a minimalist genre that I must admit does have appeal. Carrying a small bag of clothes, and a small backpack containing a lap top, I-pad and a smart phone. Not owning a home or a car, staying in Airbnb’s and traveling the world having experiences, intelligent labor with no physical labor. Physical stresses on the body from twisting and turning on a difficult trail, seem to concentrate the chemicals that effect the brain in the body. This reduces the need to concentrate on mental processes, helping to clarify our thinking abilities. If I can somehow get that pack weight down and accommodate some minimalist technology, then the next town I go through on the trail, can be my office for a few hours. I’m asking my own question, am I an authentic minimalist now?
This Lamborghini is focused on aerodynamics and stability, a racing prototype, yet fully certified for road use. A limited addition automobile, it accelerates from 0-100 km/h in 2.9 seconds and has a top speed of 355 km/h. We can never hope to attain that speed, but in many ways the human body has many common elements. The car and the human body convert energy in the form of petrol, and fuel to allow both to perform at optimum levels.
Fuel and petrol are turned into energy and extracted as waste through the human digestive tract and the car exhaust system. The Lamborghini requires special maintenance and servicing to look after to protect a substantial investment. Bodywork is buffed to keep the car shiny and pleasing to the eye, top of the range fuels are used to keep the engine in excellent condition. The proud owners car is admired and photographed by an adoring public.
It can be contrasted with the human machine, but it doesn’t come close to the most complex machine in the known universe. The human brain itself makes the most advanced computer, a toy by comparison. We have an integrated system, that can’t be fully understood or compared to a Lamborghini on a serious scientific level. We only have one body, yet many of us don’t respect or have any conception of the awesomeness of that body.
Why don’t we treat our body with the same respect we are willing to bestow on a luxury car? We treat our body like a rental car, revving it and filling up with cheap and nasty fuels. Checking under the hood, hardly ever happens but we still expect high performance every day. Our mind garden can also be full of weeds and negative thoughts implanted by friends and family and the latest gossip on social media. Or are some of us treating our mind like a luxury car, the garden weeded, tended and fed positive thoughts.
Perhaps the reason is cost and the need to maintain that investment. In contrast our bodies are free and perhaps as a result, we take them for granted. Is cost the only consideration, or is it laziness when we choose fast food, which is highly processed and contains large amounts of carbohydrates, added sugar, unhealthy fats, and salt. When fast food, frequently replaces nutritious food in our diet, it can lead to a variety of health problems. In general we are getting, obese and less healthy, big corporations with large marketing budgets are out to get us. Optimal health is not being considered as they sell us well packaged food and drink with little nutritional value.
Intrinsically, we know what is good fuel for our body. We hardly need to ask a health question when comparing a tub of ice cream with fresh fruit. Other comparisons may be more difficult as we work towards better health. Lets not forget where we came from. For thousands of years, we have evolved eating and drinking directly from nature. We didn’t just come from nature we are nature. Everything we do becomes us, there is nothing more important than what we eat, drink and think about.
The rare Lamborghini Verona has been recalled, auto magazine reported in March 2016. Fuel system faults could lead to fires, “particular maneuvers” could cause vapors to come in contact with hot gasses. Whether it’s cars or health, the best repair is the one you never make. The majority of men easily remember their first car, but do not remember when they last went to the doctor for a check up. Whether its a Lamborghini or a hire car we don’t own, there is one key difference, you can buy, rent or lease another car.
Human doing or human being
Human beings, are the poorest clumsiest excuse of all the creatures that inhabit the earth. He has to be coddled and housed and swathed and bandaged and upholstered to be able to live at all, he is a rickety sort of thing , anyway you take him, a regular British Museum of infirmities and inferiorities.” Mark Twain.”
These infirmities and inferiorities frequently cause suffering in older people. Insufficiently dealing with these issues can result in crises and psychological disorders. Integrating these issues of aging into the understanding of life can contribute to personal maturity. Precious time is lost following goals deemed worthy by society, instead of pursuing our own authentic desires.
All these goals, are insuring the smooth functioning of society and not enriching life as a unique human being. This doesn’t make us worthless, it just makes this aspect of western culture worthless. We can’t allow ourselves to be overtaken by a domestication process. Existential thoughts can lead people to question their existence, resulting in unsettled responses to these questions. Existential thoughts are not just confined to older people, they can happen at any age, even in young children.
The domestication process, begins with parents and teachers, it’s not their fault, they only teach, what they have learned. Forces all around us, family, friends, and the media also conspire to keep us domesticated. Unnatural behaviors often develop in wild animals when they are domesticated. So these behaviors in us can also be striking, as we become distanced from our natural environment. Often we demonstrate the consequences of domestication, as we question the meaning of our existence. While we are haunted with feelings that our culture is verging on insanity or blindness.
It seems that no-one understands us, are we are still being manipulated to be a doer rather than just being. If you seek to understand the whole universe, you will understand nothing at all. While if you seek to understand yourself, you will understand the whole universe. The domestication process has separated us from our true human nature. So we believe that mind and nature operate independently of each other. The premise of what interests my organization or society is the only consideration.
Theodore Roszak, a professor of history who had already coined the term counterculture. Who went on to Publish a manifesto in which he strongly criticized modern psychology, for neglecting the primal bond between man and nature. He argued that “All that lies beyond the citified psyche has seemed of no human relevance or perhaps too frightening to think about.” Society contrasts a growing unease with our state of nature, Nature deficit disorder, eco-anxiety and eco-paralysis are part of this unease. We as humans are hard wired to interact with nature. Eco-therapy conducts psychological sessions outdoors, as patients perspectives often change with restorative benefits. Nature provides a live and wild environment not under control, this often leads to a revelatory experience.
Mark Twain was right, we are a regular British museum of infirmities and inferiorities. Therefore we are often happy and sad, crying and laughing at the same time, with too many choices for our wellbeing. Hiking in nature helps me to recognize these feelings, it’s not the only way, but it works for me. The majority of our human existence has been, within nature as Hunter gatherers. Whether we believe in creation or evolution it doesn’t matter, this wild state of human nature can’t be denied. While we can’t all go back to living in caves, as there’s not enough caves to cater for everyone. Rather that’s not to say, that many of us wouldn’t like to have the experience again.
Rubbish and erosion.
While hiking on the local tracks I have become aware of the erosion that is taking place as more people use the tracks for recreational use. Rubbish and vandalism is another problem. An old mattress dumped and boxes of old clothes, obviously didn’t drop out of some one’s pocket by mistake, it was a conscious act. I’m sure there will be lots of reasons to justify this behavior, as there usually is nowadays. Empty fast food boxes and discarded beer cans say the same thing, it’s easy to pick up, or is it just laziness. I know the tracks are not there just for my benefit, they are there to be shared. The erosion from trail bikes can only make matters worse. Erosion can’t be put in a bin or taken down to the local landfill
Close to the road.
The tracks are relatively close to roadways, so they become an easy target for abuse. A closeness to the public, who will not be using the tracks for there intended purpose. If your there to enjoy nature and an experience out of the everyday. Then you will not want to bring a sense of the everyday into nature. Is there a naïve mindset taking place that see’s nature as a benevolent parent. Nature is harsh and inhospitable at times, it can also be inviting as well. Is a form of escapism the thing we are really looking for. Or is it a sign that someone is less in love with nature, than out of love with society.
Green science can be learned by hikers to protect nature, hiking etiquette is quite obvious in straight forward ways. “Take you litter home” “keep on the pathway” bury human waste at least 200 feet from water sources or campsites. The not so obvious, take your used toilet paper with you, at the other end of the scale, but just as valuable. Clothing without natural earth colors, can be seen from miles away. This can contribute to a crowded feeling on the trail.
Encouragement to not litter.
The Hong Kong government has taken the bold step of removing litter bins from certain hiking trails on a trial basis. This sounds a bit backward, but over filled bins where rubbish was blowing everywhere and foraging animals was adding to a serious problem. Posters at the entrances urge hikers to take their crap home with them. Nature ambassadors, along with park rangers try to enforce the trail laws. Variations of this concept are going on in many other places around the world. These hiking trails are referred to as “country parks” that can attract up to 11 million visitors a year. This is a huge volume by any standards.
The West Highland Way.
The “West Highland Way” in Scotland, while not attracting millions of visitors every year, is still a very popular hike. The trail is crowded at certain peak seasonal periods, which creates its own issues. The trail is 95 miles, therefore it’s not a “park” and can’t be policed in the same way. Most of the organized groups have leaders that understand nature etiquette. Individual hikers maybe not so much, but there were no signs of serious littering. The erosion of the track in certain areas is particularly bad especially when traversing the edge of Loch Lomond. Though not very far from civilization, it’s extremely inaccessible and problematic to repair or to regenerate in a successful way.
Closing the trail for repairs or regeneration, would take away the ambition and self glory of completing a very iconic hike. A badge on one of my bags says “I walked the West Highland Way,” that’s the problem, I’m part of that problem. Not wanting to go home and say that I nearly completed the trail but not quite, it just wouldn’t sound right. Unfolding that concept, is a work in progress for an older newbie who still has things to learn.
Vanity, ambition and self glory are creating problems on the slopes of Everest, the worlds highest mountain. These concepts are driving individuals seeking publicity, a very dangerous combination in a potential “death zone.” Death on the lower slopes and on the slope to the summit have not gone up, but haven’t come down either. Not withstanding the earth quake that claimed so many lives in 2015.
Clean up’s have collected tons of rubbish, empty oxygen bottles, lost and abandoned gear also remain scattered on the peak. Lack of a solid waste management system, has for decades seen expedition members emptying their bowels wherever they could. Human feces has accumulated in the snow, with streams of excrement periodically regurgitated by the glaciers on the mountain. Most disturbing, are the corpses which can’t be safely removed. Some corpses have been there for years and have become part of the landscape.
The rubbish at the top of the world is caused by humans and has roots in the culture of ambition and self glory. Client climbers are part of a high altitude business, capitalizing on dreams of triumph among a relatively inexperienced, but wealthy elite. Client climbers breath bottled oxygen for much of the climb, it’s been said that without artificial means, many hikers and climbers, wouldn’t stand a chance of making it to the summit. Purists say that using bottled oxygen is lowering the height of the mountain. Tighter regulations in a relatively poor country could lead to a sharp decrease in the number of hikers trekking the Everest region, striking a huge blow to the local economy. Imposing more stringent controls is understandable but have been pushed to one side.
Local hikes may be the answer.
From local tracks that have problems with rubbish and erosion on a small scale. To countries that have vast amounts of hikers needing to contain huge amounts of rubbish and erosion. Issues can only be solved out of nature within the public realm, money is part of the problem and part of the answer. Attaining a sensory experience within nature, in a natural environment, will be progressively harder to find. Going back to the local tracks around your area, could the answer. I would encourage you not to tell everyone about your plans, you may need signs and extra bins, or a smart strategy to take care of your once quiet track
The tent, sleeping bag and backpack, are the major items carried by a through hiker. There are various arguments to consider, with balance for each individual, being the most important. Ray Jardine the rock climber popularized ultralight backpacking in a 1992 Hikers handbook later retitled Beyond backpacking, the foundation for what was to follow. Grandma Gatewood, was aged 67, when she became the first woman to hike the entire 2050 miles of the Appalachian Trail alone in 1955. A mother of 11 and grandmother of 23, she survived more than 30 years of marriage to a brutal man who beat her repeatedly.
It’s been said, that the media coverage of her hike, led to the restoration of the trail, inspiring a new generation of hikers. The reporters thought they were talking to a widow, as that’s how she described herself. They didn’t know the awful truth, so couldn’t describe, what we now know, as domestic violence. This begs the question, was she walking towards something, or walking away? She carried a blanket and a plastic shower curtain to protect herself from the elements. She had no sleeping bag or tent, but relied on the hospitality of strangers and her own resourcefulness.
Circumstances dictate most things in our lives, most people today, would not choose to set off on a hike with extremely little preparation. In 2017 we have a plethora of choice, with designers making better tents and equipment giving consumers a greater choice. Modern tents, began to take shape around the 1960’s, pegs were introduced to stake the tent down, and new lightweight metal poles began replacing wooden frames. The 1970’s, saw a boom in interest in backpacking which has led to a linear progress towards the equipment we can choose today. This hike and seeker has his own way of organizing things, weight is important, but I’m not obsessional about it.
My tent of choice.
My tent of choice is the Wilderness equipment space 1 person lightweight tent with an inner tent for warmer weather, or just the fly as shelter, or combined. By inverting the walking poles to become part of the framework, weighs 1.53 kilos and has stood up to many high winds. This tent, already has lots of memories, setting it up in the garden numerous times, more than I would care to mention, with much laughter ensuing. I read somewhere you can never get your tent up and down fast enough in a strong wind or rain, the laughter was worth it. The tent, felt safe, snug and almost womb like, this may be pushing the boundaries, but that’s how it felt. My wife said that it looked like I was sleeping in a coffin, so who knows.
As more people began to enjoy the benefits of hiking in nature, tent makers saw the need for season and activity specific tents. Generally as weight decreases, the skill to use a shelter safely increases. There are many alternatives for weather protection, single layer hybrids, hammocks, poncho-tarps or a bivouac sack configuration. A lightweight enclosed tent, works for me on many levels. The space 1 is a four season tent so its very adaptable to what ever season you find yourself in. The inner layer for warm weather, the outer layer, for wet weather protection. I have always combined the two, because it suited the conditions at the time.
I have a thermarest neoair ultralight hiking mattress. A bag can be attached to the inflation toggle, to inflate and be used as a carry bag. I have used this as a laundry bag when camping out for longer periods. To top off my sleeping arrangements, I have a Mont Prolite 300 sleeping bag, this is down filled, another personal choice. The use of down as an insulation material, is lighter by volume, than currently available synthetic fibers. The argument between down and synthetic goes on. Moisture causes loft loss in down, my choice is down, it’s lighter and condenses better for packing away. If getting it damp is a problem, then don’t.
It neatly teams up with the thermarest mattress as it has no down on the bottom and Velcro straps that pass around the thermarest, to hold it in place. I have my backpack outside the inner tent but protected by the outer fly sheet, which becomes my organized storage area. Easily reached by unzipping the inner tent door without having to leave my sleeping bag on a cold night.
Looking at this from my own perspective, I have a sense of the “tool box” effect, I can’t remember the countless hours that went into researching all my equipment, it could be a male thing, to have an organized tool box. Grandma Gatewood, set off with nothing, by todays standards, I can’t imagine many hikers wanting to put themselves in that position now. We can still have less, but better quality and embrace the absolute minimum like Grandma, but have our credit card in our pocket just in case.
Models and balance.
Modelling, is the representation of a real world object or system in a mathematical framework. It can be used to make inferences about potential future outcomes. Models that represent the human condition, can’t capture the individual within the model, for obvious reasons. I think we realize that we need a sense of order in our lives. We can’t be completely random, or things as we know them, could not function properly. Somewhere between order and randomness, there has to be a balance point for each individual.
As individuals, its part of our mission, to find that balance. If we are pulled towards either spectrum by forces within or outside ourselves. We have to work on ourselves to reach the balance that is right for us. There is a tendency to seek order and comfort by default, we often live in that zone. But in doing that, we are missing out on a chance to experience what it may be like to find a new balance at a higher level.
Looking for balance.
Hiking in nature for me, has been the catalyst to reaching a new balance point. It has allowed me to think differently about many things that I took for granted as being the truth for me. Even as I started hiking, there was a perception of how things should feel. From all the articles I had read and thought about. The experience was similar, but different, because I brought my own unique experiences to nature. So that ultimately determined how I felt.
Being in nature has helped me to be gentler with myself and not to force anything to happen. I am finding my way towards a new balance that works better for me. Two of the greatest human emotions we strive for, love and happiness, can’t be forced. They often come slowly and have different feelings attached to them. What may work for one individual could be completely different for another.
I have used plenty of different personal development material in my quest to become a better version of myself. An inner core of values, that are built in a linear fashion, over time. A different model that often talks about the negative and trying to move towards the positive. There still has to be a balance point. You can’t fool yourself that if you work hard enough, everything will automatically move towards positive. There will always be a negative that we have to deal with. Affirmations may work for some individuals, but for me, it feels like sticking a band aid over something. It feels like I’m trying to bullshit myself at a sub-conscious level.
It has been suggested that neutral affirmations may work better, for a person with a more negative mind set. Every day in every way I’m getting better and better replaced with I’ve had better days, but I’ve had worse, today, I’m ok. I’m beautiful, happy and love myself, replaced with I’m working on accepting me as I am. If your character leans towards positive then you can top yourself up with I’m beautiful, happy and love myself. There is a very good chance you may believe it over a period of time, it’s still about finding a balance point that works for each individual.
A compelling argument, can take us into a certain way of thinking, but there is always a counter argument that can be just as colourful and compelling. Presented in the right way, what felt so obvious no longer is. There is an overall big picture effect in nature, it transcends any sense of our ideas of order. It’s the order that was in place before we started to try and impose our own ideas of order to it. If humans were taken out of the nature model altogether, there would be another adjustment balance.
Hiking in nature especially over an extended period of time. With our cell phone turned off, no I-pad and not looking for internet coverage. Can often help us return to a place where our mind can relax and let go of reactionary responses. The constant distractions and stimulations of modern life, can be a threat to creativity and other cognitive benefits. Without becoming a hermit and living in complete solitude. Or allowing ourselves to be pulled towards reactionary responses and negativity. There has to be a balance for each of us, and that balance, I believe, is our mission to find.
Hike and seeker.
Hike and seeker, is a site for linking ideas and thoughts while on the trail. I hope to provide a platform that while not age specific, will possibly link a more mature agenda to the content. I should add that just because it leans towards a more mature hiker. It doesn’t mean that we mature hikers can’t be told to “get our heads out of the sand” and look at things in a different way. My only fixed point is, I’m nearer to the end of my life than the beginning.
I have been seeking ‘something’ for as long as I can remember. It started in my teenage years, and has been my constant companion ever since. A knee injury a couple of years ago, changed my life in so many ways. I had over a year to reflect on my feelings as life became a very long weekend for me. My recovery process started with a rehabilitation program so that I could walk properly again. Part of the program was physiotherapy, starting with walking short distances, then building to longer walks over time. The rehabilitation program included visits with a phycologist as my mental health was not progressing as well as my physical health. There were lots of “why me” moments that those close to me were having to deal with as well.
The seeking part of my life was becoming more exposed now. As I grappled with thoughts of retirement and how that might work financially. Hide and Seek is a game we have all played at some stage of our lives. It seemed to be a metaphor for how I viewed my life. Hide, was something I had always been doing. Hiding my feelings, emotions, abilities and how I truly wanted to interact with the world around me. I was wrestling with all these feelings, trying to seek a way forward to firmer ground. A lack of confidence was locking my emotions in, and without these being released, the seeking was becoming harder to achieve. I started walking around the park. Then on rougher and more undulating ground, to test my knee. This is where my journey really begins.
I started to become aware of a gradual change in my thoughts, as I walked in the forest and tracks around my home town. Looking for solitude, with my hikes getting longer, seeking that solitude. Everything started taking on a new meaning, with one thing leading to the next. Which started me thinking about my physical health apart from my knee. I wondered what a hiker might wear, what to eat for energy, how much water should I drink.? Could I extend these hikes with a tent.?
The terminology behind what you would imagine is a simple concept, started to mean more. Layering your clothing, goose down or duck down, hiking boots or shoes. The list of new words were endless at this stage, as I was being drawn into this new world of possibilities. Of course, as with any leisure pursuit that regular people can attempt, business possibilities were endless and accordingly, confusion started to be a part of that.
People have been putting one foot in front of the other for as long as anyone can remember. Then the benefit was simply to get to a destination, with hardly a conscious awareness of the activity of walking, as a form of exercise. In our multi-layered and complex world, where we are bombarded with choice. Nothing has fundamentally changed we still walk, but it’s different now. Our thoughts have also become more complex. But once we’re on the trail, for an extended period of time, it changes again. The mental baggage we carry, seems to fall away and again we are just putting one foot in front of the other.
The thoughts we do have seem to be more in the moment. This has become part of being a hike and seeker enjoying this feeling. Now that I have become aware of these changes in myself. I plan to extend my hiking onto tougher trails, with more solitude and with more time to think. My first venture was in April 2016, when I went to Scotland to hike ‘The West Highland Way’ camping out each night. My next hike this year, will be the ‘Cape to Cape’ close to my home town here in Western Australia.
I don’t think that age should have any effect on our abilities or our dreams. We do need to take better care of our health. Not that we can’t perform as well as younger hikers, it just takes a bit more effort to arrive at the same destination. As I go into my retirement years, I hope to prove all these things to myself. I’m working hard to keep myself fit and healthy. Exercising, and trying to eat the right foods. I’m passionate about an activity for the first time in my life, I have arrived late on the trail, but not too late. “Better late than never” springs to mind.
If you are starting your hiking experience late in life, I would love to hear your story. How you got started and what, if anything you are seeking. I’m making an observation, that most hikers are predominately younger. Younger than me anyway, but I don’t believe this is a reason to not be a Hike and Seeker.
From sack to pack.
The John Muir trail is 211 miles long in the Sierra Nevada Mountains running from Yosemite to Mount Witney. The John Muir way is 134 miles across Scotland’s heartland, running between Helensburgh in the west through to Dunbar on the east coast. I mention these two trails because I want to start my story with John Muir. I’m sure you may know them, but if not, they are yours to discover. He was born in Scotland in 1838 and died in 1914. In America at the time he would have been influenced like all of us by what was going on around him. As he saw things starting to change, he was quoted as saying “Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea into a sack and jump over the back fence.”
Its that simple of course, or is it.? John Muir didn’t have ultra light on his mind. Maybe he was already expressing sentiments of the hiking scene. Suggesting that there was a basic way or a more complicated way already starting to happen. The next quote “I rolled up some bread and tea in a pair of blankets with some sugar and a tin cup and set off.” This suggests that he needed a bit more comfort, with sugar and a pair of blankets. Or was it a through hike this time.? It’s easier to carry a backpack than a sack over your shoulder. What about those telescopic walking poles John, how would they have worked.?
Has the commercialization of the outdoor and in particular the hiking genre become too much now.? Has it taken away a sense of adventure in trying to make it accessible to more and more people.” In doing that, made it more elitist as it is now connected to exotic locations all over the world, that are easily accessible now. Hiking has become side tracked by all the high tech gadgets and equipment that money can buy. While how much of this vast choice do we need, when we only have fundamental needs on the trail. Of course I am not immune from these temptations either.
My generation were influenced by parents who grew up through a time of rationing during and after the second world war. This had a profound influence on the way I view things. Also it wasn’t a throw away world, the things you did have were treasured and looked after. Hence the thought was to buy quality if affordable, juxtaposing that with a cheaper throw away culture now. I think buying cheap can and has to work for many people because of financial constraints. When your on the trail and camping out it’s the same deal. This time though, cheap hiking boots, tent, sleeping bag or backpack can lead to discomfort and pain. While ultimately effecting the experience of joy that you could have.
Try to research the basic equipment that you need and buy the best you can. You can get away with cheap gadgets and gismos until you find what suits you. Or if you need them at all. But don’t compromise on your hiking boots and socks. If everything else falls down around your ears, at least you can hike home in comfort. The clothing you wear is no different, research it, try it on and test it. Remember your hiking and possibly camping, so you don’t need a wardrobe on board. It’s ok to be grungy, you don’t need to change your clothes everyday, although fresh underwear always feels good.
John Muir only took the basics with him, a sack with a few essential items inside it to have an enjoyable experience on the trail. There are luxuries that each of us enjoy and within reason, I think we should accommodate those particular luxuries. If you like to listen to pod casts on your phone as I do, make sure you have enough downloaded to keep you going. If you enjoy a cup of tea or a brew of coffee then allow for that. Have your stove to heat the water, onboard and ready to go.
Those quiet moments on the trail when you stop for a while to take in the atmosphere or enjoy the vista around you. Will feel more poignant if you can indulge in your favorite drink or snack and perhaps with some quiet background music coming through on your ear buds. How you take the view or the atmosphere into your consciousness, seems to be more vivid, when you recall those memories later. Ultimately, the trail lasts for a given amount of time and feeling very alive and in a flow state sometimes passes very quickly. While the memories, as we know, linger on.
It would seem obvious that hiking in the fresh air and in a quiet environment would be beneficial to our health and well being. I think this would be hard to dispute. While I don’t think there needs to be a scientific answer to everything. Yet I do think being aware of how we are feeling in the moment, can be very helpful in a therapeutic way. Being able to recognize what a good feeling actually feels like, is different from an affirmation of ‘this is how I’m going to feel.’ Its very much like happiness, we are always striving to be happy, but happiness comes when we least expect it.
Often it happens when we are immersed in something outside ourselves, which has been my own experience. While it can’t be denied that happiness can be found inside ourselves. I think our minds are becoming overloaded with data, due to our very busy lives and constant exposure to social media.
Our brains are having to filter much more information and adding to the problem is, the shallowness of this information. This mainly comes to us in bite size pieces now. Looking at something more substantial requires our brain to reason and contemplate more. Yet in the mainstream media anything substantial is becoming harder to find. I was reading a book recently and on a page at the end of the first chapter were these words. “Congratulations, you are one of a select few who have made it to the end of the first chapter, please enjoy the rest of the book.” Then I wondered if it might of been better to issue the challenge on the front page. “This book has substantial content, are you up to the challenge?”
Hiking in nature.
Research shows that even brief interactions with nature can soothe our minds. Also it’s similar to immersing our minds in something more complex and at some point, reaching a state of flow. Nature has its own unique qualities. The benefits of hiking in nature are, decreased anxiety, brooding and negative emotions. Also decreasing ruminations, the habit of thinking over and over about causes and consequences of negative experiences. “Shirin yoku” a term that means” taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing,” was developed in Japan in the 1980’s. Consequently becoming a corner stone of preventative health care and healing in Japanese medicine.
Various studies have concluded that inhaling air containing essential wood oils given off by plants. Also the sound of birds, cool air, green leaves, trees, wild plants and grasses. Finally coupling this with the atmosphere of the forest, all leading to a very calming affect.
I have had all of these experiences myself. My sense of calmness comes from open countryside, green fields and country lanes, with very few trees. I think this links to memories of childhood and earlier experiences of that beauty. Other people may see it in a similar way, or for the scenery in its own right. If I had lived around the forests of Canada, my bias may of been different. My experience is, that often every aspect of nature can happen on the one trail, forests, fields, mountains, rivers and the list goes on. When a part of the trail starts to meander through your particular idea of beauty and calmness. You can feel yourself smiling and drinking in the feelings. Nature provides a live and dynamic environment, which can lead to a sensory experience. This could be similar to putting your feet in an icy mountain stream.
Hiking in solitude.
Hiking in solitude, can create a different perspective from our everyday life. The longer you spend in solitude the more your perspective starts to change. A new way of seeing things begins to happen as our relationship with nature becomes more intimate. I think you come into an alternate grounding with the world around you. Losing any sense of hierarchy, or rights of possession. They no longer seem relevant to your experience. You only realize these feelings when you return to your everyday surroundings. For a while many things may seem odd or strange, because you have lost those formal boundaries for a while.
These higher level feelings of connection with nature take time and can’t be rushed. They come slowly, as the pressing thoughts you began with start to dissolve. While a high level of fitness helps, not in the experience itself, but in allowing you to forget about your body. Your more able to take your fitness as a given, which allows you to concentrate on inner feelings. As if you were in some way, separate from any bodily constraints. This can be seen as a form of walking meditation. How long you need to be in nature to achieve this, is a personal thing. Since it will depend on many variables.
Time in nature and what can be achieved is a personal thing, while our time constrained lives allow only brief encounters with nature, this can be all that’s needed to make a difference to our perceptions. Hence this can be in a forest. Walking along the beach. Visiting a local park or at a micro level buying a pot plant that will soften and enhance your personal space. Hiking, in my experience, can be a source of therapy and the benefits for me have been easy to feel. I would encourage you to find out for yourself, if the benefits I have found from hiking, will apply to you.
Hiker for ever.
The Australian pension age requirements are 65 years of age or older. From 1 July 2017, the qualifying age for the age pension will increase by 6 months every 2 years reaching 67 by the 1 July 2023, I’m sure this will increase in the future. Regardless of any argument, either way we are perceived to be living longer than when the pension was first introduced in Australia. In 1909, it was originally 60 for women and 65 for men, living longer is being acknowledged in the pension debate now. Giving us every chance to imagine we could be a hiker for ever.
I have been thinking, we are living longer and that is official, so shouldn’t we be trying to enjoy those extra years. If our investments and income are high enough, then of course we can pursue the high road and do it in style. Am I using this argument that I’m making to ease my pain as I’m unable to finance my life going forward in style and comfort.? I acknowledge that these thoughts did cross my mind as they are reflected by the people that surround me.
I am sure you have experienced the “WHY ” factor. Why are you doing this, why do you want to camp out at your age and why do you want to hike that distance, can’t you act your age and be sensible. If you are lucky enough to have not encountered any of these’ WHYS ‘ then you can consider yourself very lucky.
When you’re hiking the trail and ascending that steep pathway your lungs burning and your heart racing. Or descending a pathway with loose ground under you feet, just remember to keep it to yourself. Only share it with your fellow hikers who understand and except that’s the way it is. The grey hiker never go’s home at the end of the hike and admits to anybody they were ever in that position. Rather slip quietly away and get yourself checked out. So if anyone asks, just say you went to get some Viagra to harden up for your next hike.
Of course age does have a way of showing up whether we like it or not. Hands up anybody past sixty who has not suffered from back problems. Hence it makes getting in and out of your small tent more problematical. Sleeping on the high tech mattress never feels quite so high tech in the morning.
I remember thinking about and experiencing these things and others on my hike in Scotland on the West Highland Way. I admit to wondering how the hell you take a leak when you are hiking with a group, including a number of ladies as well. Like everything else it somehow works when it needs to. Dropping to the back of the group and stepping off the path is easy if your a man. Of course, harder for the ladies for obvious reasons. Since they require more of a pit stop but the pace just slowed until they caught up. Hiking etiquette at work.
Hiking for fitness.
The benefits from hiking are tremendous in a physical and mental sense. Age does not need to become a factor at all with some simple precautions. First of all if your over fifty, overweight, out of shape, then get yourself checked out. If you need to be a work in progress, be that. Take on the task of getting your body and your mind into shape. Since there really are no short cuts to this process, if you want it bad enough, you will get there. Don’t put a goal up on the board that is unrealistic to what you can achieve.
You intrinsically know where your edge is in your fitness, just go to or a bit beyond that edge each time. Just out of your comfort zone, but not too far. Therefore with incremental steps, if your disciplined, you will show quite rapid progress. If you go too fast too quickly, you will need more luck on your side to prevent injuries.
While all this boring fitness stuff is going on, of course you will still be hiking, it obviously will become part of your program. This was part of my routine coming back from a knee injury. I can testify that it works and I will explain how it worked for me in another article. I went from moderately fit to walking twenty miles in one stretch on my first real hike. Of course all you seasoned hikers are scoffing at that. My experience was to go just beyond my comfort zone, at that particular part of my journey that was my edge.
Hiking is a personal achievement it should be fun and not torture, hard work at times, but rewarding as well. Hike and seek and enjoy the experience but, you will need to be fit enough to forget about your body. Rather your able to spend time in your head, filtering the things you see and building your own story.