The Journey In A Single Step

When I desire to accomplish, be, do, or have something, I’ve found it important to remember that wherever I am right now is where I am. It’s the only place from which you can begin. If you haven’t written a page, played a chord, felt fit and healthy, then that is where you are. I know that I’ve been caught up at different times about where other people are in relation to my goals. How much farther away am I, how much harder does it seem, could I ever be as fit/skilled/effective/talented?

But unless I’m being mentored by these people, their position is of no concern. If you want to write a book, you must fill the pages. If you want to cultivate your body a certain way, you have to eat the food and do the pushups (or run the miles, make downward the dog, etc.)

As goes the old proverb: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

It seems like a cliche, I know. But in contemplation it becomes incredibly profound.

At the turn of 2012, I paddled up snow covered river banks with two friends, to camp at the base of Burke mountain. The tattered remains of the salmon run littered the stream. Scales were scraped on the shallow creek bed as the last few spent their final breaths trying desperately to follow the once flowing path. Their tails slapped the rocky shore.

One morning, we geared up and began the hike up through the falls. Much of the trail was covered with snow. Every other step would be a stumble or backslide, at times incredibly frustrating. When you set out to accomplish something or reach a destination, and you invest a considerable amount of effort in doing so, the achievement is all the more sweet. When we finally reached a main bridge over the pinnacle of the falls, I was taken with a sense of power and gratitude. We looked on in silence and absorbed each ray, pebble and splash of the scene. No pictures needed be.

In one section of the trail on the way down, while paying close attention to my footing, that old cliche came across my thoughts. I reflected on how that destination, the experience of that scene, could not have happened without each and every step that occurred before it. The paddles up the shore, the trudges through snowy trail. Each step that I took on the path implied the destination. Each single step that I took up the trail, as mundane and unimportant as it seemed, was absolutely necessary.

And it was no short hike. We started after breakfast and returned in darkness. If I had looked at how many steps I had to take on the whole journey, it’s quite possible I would have never even started. Sometimes we look at our desires and only see the distance between them and where we are right now, which can appear to be an infinite chasm. Defeated, we surrender any attempts to climb. If the acorn knew how long it would be to become the oak tree, it would say “fuck this!” Instead, it grows, one step at a time. And the oak tree would not be if it were not once an acorn. Each implies the other.

How often is anything worth achieving obtained in a single leap? Instead we move toward it one step at a time. As Pacino said in Any Given Sunday, life is a game of inches.

I share this because I know we each have desires in life. We want to get somewhere, build something, become someone. If any of that is to become a reality, we need only to focus on the next single step, and know that in it is the journey itself.

When the business you want to run, the trip you want to take, that thing that you really want for yourself, seems impossible, just think of the acorn.


Revolution and Neuroplasticity

Long ago, an image came to my mind which I found very intriguing. It is well known now that the brain’s physical makeup is changed in the act of learning or making new associations. The neural networks actually re-wire themselves to form new synaptic connections.

neuroThese old links, or neural pathways, can be attributed to creature patterns and habitual behaviour. An adage in neuroscience is “neurons that fire together, wire together.” It’s also an explanation for the reason why stopping an old behaviour, like emotional eating, is particularly difficult. Theres a deep rut down which energy wants to travel.

“There was a young man who said ‘Damn,
For it certainly seems that I am,
A creature that moves in determinate grooves.
I’m not even a bus, I’m a tram.'”

In developing and changing oneself, training and repetition are required to persevere and form new neural pathways. It takes six weeks to fully reconstitute old links, or, rather, form a new habit, and still only three to make some serious progress. By repeating behaviours or thoughts over and over again they become a new standard.

I see this same image applying at a collective level. Take for a moment the idea that, at another level of magnitude, each person is a cell in a higher organism, connected by the developing etheric nervous system that is the internet. At a municipal and even global level, there are common beliefs, behaviours and thoughts that people exhibit. With repetition of new ideas/beliefs, as I touched on in my last post, the old associations and habits of the collective mind are reconstituted to form new ones, represented by a change in belief or behaviour – recycling, diet, same sex marriage, racial/gender equality, scientific discoveries, social norms, etc.

Picture each new thought or voice shouted into the organism as a potential neural pathway. For example, people started advocating for labelling on products containing genetically modified ingredients, began a movement and achieved some results. It’s what petitions are based on – generating enough energy behind an idea or initiative to make a change.

The more of us that speak and act on desired change, both intellectually and societally, the greater number of times these new neural pathways fire in the collective brain, and the greater chance for change to manifest.

Continuing on the theme of fighting cultural “ruts”, being bold, doing your thing and connecting with others who have like views. That is all!

Martyrs, Paradigms and Personal Revolution

A post of spontaneous inspiration. Earlier today, I came across the story of Giordano Bruno; an Italian priest, philosopher, poet, astronomer, mathematician – a true renaissance man. He was martyred on this day, 1600 CE, in Rome. Tortured for eight years before being burnt at the stake. Burned a-fucking-live. All because he was a proponent of the emerging heliocentric model of the solar system, and the notion that intelligent life may exist in the myriad others just like ours.

Stories of martyrdom may be grim, but I find most of them incredibly inspirational. The people in question so resolutely believed in something which opposed the prevailing world view that they would not relinquish their position in face of extensive, agonizing oppression. That boldness, strength and courage of mind is astounding. Without such people as Bruno, Copernicus, MLK, etc, paradigms would not change, and humanity would not evolve. These figures pressed against both the elites and paradigm in power, and even staked their own life on the validity of their truth.

The identity of individuals and organizations (religions and governments included) rely on any given current zeitgeist for their identity. If that is strongly established and accepted, they then stand to profit either financially or socially, and therefore they have great interest in protecting that paradigm to see that it does not change, so they can continue sprinkling gold and cocaine on their corn flakes.

Most people don’t even like change in general. It disturbs their patterns, the status quo, their identity. Things are changing therefore so must I, and I don’t want to change because change = the unknown and that means I might be fucked.

The oil and automotive industry is arguably the largest on the planet. The notion of changing how we source our energy, or shifting public opinions on fossil fuels, creates instability and potential irrelevance, which they cannot afford. Hence the game of whack-a-mole with free energy initiatives and bullshit pro-pipeline/fracking propaganda.

If people powerfully took a collective look at the GMO issue, Monsanto would no longer be able to rape and pillage the agricultural industry in broad daylight. They’ve created a treadmill from which modern farmers cannot escape: selling them crap seed, which requires their proprietary chemical concoctions for propagation and pest control, which brings them various diseases and cancers, destroys their soil, but it yields a cheap grocery bill for the public! Oh, and more cancer..

There was a time in history where speaking of something so integrated in our current paradigm – such as the fact that Earth orbits around the sun – was declared heresy, and, like Bruno, you would literally be tortured and killed for it. It reminds me that, because the human scope of perception is so incomplete, our beliefs and understanding of the Universe will forever be in flux. There are always alternative views. All of them always incomplete. And there will always be a need for boldness and opposition. Without that challenge we would never progress. Because these people spoke up, new ideas and eventually a revolution could gain traction.

In the microcosm: How do I compromise my truth in the face of others and society at large? How and why am I not my authentic self in the presence of others? What are the costs? If I don’t act and express boldly from a place of authenticity, how could I ever achieve my goals, become the person I want to be, align with the right people, or make the impact I want to make?

Each day we run the risk of living a life of compromise; of quiet desperation. A life determined by culture and circumstance, not purpose. Quite simply, if you have sovereignly selected a destination, you must follow your own course. In our environment there are squalls, currents and sometimes hurricanes that will alter trajectory. These can take shape in a person, a self-limiting belief, or an act of nature. People don’t want you to change. YOU don’t even want you to change. Remember your destination and cultivate the resolve, flexibility, boldness and courage that trails are blazed with.

It doesn’t have to be overthrowing a government. It could simply be changing an eating habit or going for a short run every day. You are going to resist your own change. But with persistence and repetition, in time, you will find yourself standing in the middle of a different life.

Just felt like fleshing out a simple reminder to myself to speak and act from what I feel to be true, instead of keeping my speech and actions quiet in the face of those that see the world differently. Things won’t change if I don’t. Thanks for reading!

Being Infinite: A Catch 22

This life, be it your only one, or one of many (up to you) – is a human experience. With that comes certain inherent limitations. While there are no limits to our experience in the mind, there are definite limits to our experience with the body, which cannot be transcended; barring of course astral out-of-body experiences (OBE’s) or chemically altered states of experience.

A swelling movement in the last several years is turning more people on to the concept of the ego – the axial locus in the mind that believes it’s thoughts are real; that it’s separate from the outside world, and freely shares about how you look in the mirror.

As copies of books like “The Power of Now” continue to be passed around from friend to friend, the number of people contemplating the infinite space between their thoughts ever increases. The awareness of this truth, that the thinker, the “I”, is not real, nor is its elaborate life story, can lead not only to empowerment and serenity, but also depression and anguish.

ImageHere someone has discovered that they can free themselves from inner thought and opinion, that what they thought they were isn’t real. They’ve discovered that they aren’t John Doe, but actually the whole totality of cosmic energy. Yet here they are standing in the middle of the same life they were living before, which requires that same ego, the thinker, to continue functioning.

If I just sit here and “be the space of awareness”, I’ll promptly get evicted from my apartment and starve to death. One must continue to exchange time and energy for money, pay the rent, keep friends and family, and use language tactfully if they ever hope to get laid.

Most people who have contemplated the true, infinite nature of their being will know the instability of their sanity. Trying to put a foot in each canoe, as it were, creates a kind of split personality disorder. Personally, I’ve found it incredibly difficult to psychologically manage the role of both non-dual Universe and ordinary citizen.

There’s the rub, the dilemma especially in urban civilization. If you want to do and have the things you like to have and do, you have to keep pretending that you are “You”. There is no place for a person in the city if they choose not to play the game of citizen. Society does not value or reward retreat. In Vancouver, the closest equivalent of living in a mountain cave in the Himalayas is pitching a cardboard box in a Gastown alley.

And what’s the point, really? Actually doing shit is way more fulfilling than a life of cave meditation.

If you’ve come so far on the “path”, as they say, what you then must come to accept, or otherwise go completely mad, is that once your mask – the ego – has been found out, it will never be completely discarded. You will still carry on until death with body and the details on your birth certificate.

When you haven’t fully accepted being human, life kind of feels like living next door to a massive party and you’re not allowed in. There’s something fantastic going on, just outside of your comprehension, and you’re never quite satisfied about it. You can’t fully get on with life.

You must embrace it – the pain, the joy, the detours and details. Thrive in it. Explore it’s absolute potential while you can. Strive to be more awesome. Make your little world something worth being a part of. Illuminate the shadows and unobserved parts of the accumulated personality. Make healthier choices. Challenge yourself.

The trick to this whole game, I think, is to still have desires, to set goals, to grow and become something you enjoy being – in short, living your life – while, as often as you can, remembering the space between the real, infinite You, and thought. Soon enough that thoughtless awareness could begin to pervade all the activities of your day, not just in meditation or yoga practice. You will more easily be able to let go of anger, judgment, self-deprecation, and generally any thoughts born out of the illusion of separation.

It’s possible to “pretend” to be the trappings of your skeleton, without forgetting that you’re much, much more.

Now go on, get lost!

J. Krishnamurti…

J. Krishnamurti on the mind —

“What is true can only be found from moment to moment, it is not a continuity, but the mind which wants to discover it, being itself the product of time, can only function in the field of time; therefore it is incapable of finding what is true.

To know the mind, the mind must know itself, for there is no ‘I’ apart from the mind … When you know the whole process of it, how it reasons, its desires, motives, ambitions, pursuits, its envy, greed and fear; then the mind can go beyond itself, and when it does there is the discovery of something totally new. That quality of newness gives an extraordinary passion, a tremendous enthusiasm which brings about a deep inward revolution: and it is this inward revolution which alone can transform the world, not any political or economic system.”

I Don’t Know What “Love” Is.

Words are symbols used to point to phenomena, objects or experiences occurring in space and time. “Love”, like many others, has been washed out; robbed of the weight of its heartthrob. Some regard it as a feeling in your bones; some maintain that it’s a quality of relationship and commitment, while some use it to qualify their attachment to processed sugar, Big Macs or Ryan Gosling’s beard. I don’t know what “love” is, but I think I’m pulling on a line.

I might be attached. Hell, I’m definitely attached. When she steps out of the shower, when the warmth of her deep sigh licks my neck, when we lock eyes in silence, when she laughs hysterically, eats, belches: I feel my chest become the opposite pole of her magnet.

But like a river, there is depth to attraction that goes beyond the ripples of our surfaces.

It’s how we’ve learned to be with one another. Her openness is palpable. And I meet it with strength and acceptance enough so that she may fall completely open, to the point where there is nothing impeding the connection of our circuitry. To sit in this space you must release all fear. Look at your mind and resistance with genuine curiosity. Tell her the things your ego says you shouldn’t: what you’re afraid to say; what you don’t want her to see; that you doubt; that you fear committing; that you’ve thought about having children with her.

It means nothing, yet everything.

Withhold will only end up creating distance. I seek depth, truth, so I choose to give myself completely.

I respect her because she takes responsibility for her mind. She can look at what she brings to the present from the past, what she sees in me that she sees in herself. I can do the same. I try to be less stubborn. She knows that seeing the anger, fear or fault in the world around her is her own choice, so she chooses beauty and power instead (more often than not.)

I appreciate her because she sees in me what I can’t. With gentle, penetrating intellect, she reflects back to me my strengths and weaknesses (wisely, strengths more often than weaknesses.) In her patient grace, I’ve erred, forgave and grown immensely. There is no part of me that I can’t show her. I feel truly free.

Know that some days it won’t always be this way. You may be repelled by the very same quirk that usually draws you in. Sometimes you will choose to find anger in her words and distance in her heart. You may feel guilty for witnessing thoughts that she is not enough. But is it really her, or is it you?

Mind and emotion are waves with crests and troughs; as surely as they will swell so they must fall. Joy and depression; love and fear; safety and insecurity – there could not be one without the other. Your wisdom lies in remembering, during times of tribulation, that you are the ocean and not the wave, not one emotion but the possibility of a great multiplicity.

You are the creator. What you put onto others is ultimately within yourself.

You can trump entropy. Move together; dream and grow together. Inspire one another to go deeper, and deeper, and deeper. Resolve to discover your fullest potential. Never cease from exploration.

And maybe you won’t win. Maybe one day you will grow apart and, despite all your poetic optimism, you will be proven a fool. But ask yourself: “Do I want to live like I’ve already lost, or strive for the greatest victory?” If a sprinter believed they couldn’t win the race, why bother running?

It’s the thrill of the chase. It’s beautiful for very fact that it’s fleeting, in your decision or death. But I cherish that it is, now.

I’m still not sure what “love” is, but when I press my forehead against hers, I’ll say it anyways.