“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality.”
– Vietnam War. Admiral James Stockdale
Do you want to know the one reason you’re not happy right now?
It’s because you’re hoping for something different.
It’s as simple as that.
By wishing for something different your perception of what reality should be crashes against what is. This friction is the source of all your suffering.
You cannot alter reality. Only your perception of it, your acceptance of it.
Reality is perfectly happy being the fucked up place it is because it can’t be anything else.
It was just as fucked before you were born as it will be the day after you die.
Stop hoping for something different.
Either Act Or Accept.
These are far better choices than hoping.
Do you want to know why you’re in the mess that you are?
It’s because you were sold a dummy by a society that has glorified hope.With the movies and TV shows you watch. The super hero who swoops in to save the day at the final hour. You cling to that, waiting for your knight in shining armour to save you.
It’s true to say hope can serve as temporary relief from your current pain, but that’s about all one can say.
How have those things worked out for you in the past?
What has hope really done for you?
It’s another form of avoidance, of distraction.
What happened to your hope when coronavirus fucked up all your plans last year? What happened to your hope when governments repeatedly failed you?
Is hope going to get us out of this mess?
You’re the super hero of your own reality. You control yourself, your thoughts and the way you look at the world.
Hope is an excuse not to do what you can.
Hope is an excuse to say these problems are beyond you, to say they are beyond all of us.
Hope is saying all will be ok when I die and go to heaven.
Hope is what led you to hopelessness when the world didn’t live up to your expectations.
And let me tell you, living in hopelessness is an equally terrible place because that isn’t based in reality either.
Act or Accept.
Those are your choices.
I’ll say one more thing before I wrap up.
Giving up hope isn’t about being overly pessimistic – it’s about coming back to reality and seeing it for what it is.
Hopelessness is being overly pessimistic.
If you have clothes on your back, food on the table and a roof over your head. If you can breathe…!
I’d say there is more right with you than not.
The best things in life haven’t changed because you lost your job or your wife left you.
Taking a shit or having a wank is just as wonderful with zero dollars in the bank as it is with billions (sorry, I meant feeling the cool breeze on your skin or listening to the birds chirping in the morning – yeah those things too).
Will this message inspire you in some way?
All I can do is my best to reinforce the narratives that help me and see if it helps others.
Maybe it will, maybe it won’t.
Either way, I’m not holding onto any hope.
(Thanks for reading ladies and gentlemen. I hope (ha) you enjoyed it. I’ll let you in on a little secret. Sometimes I take an extreme position on a topic simply to challenge myself (and you) to think differently, even if I don’t agree with the argument. Do I really think that hope is such a terrible emotion? No, of course not. Hope is a very important emotion designed to inspire action. But here is what I did take from this post – hope must be tied to action otherwise it’s dangerous. Hoping for things out of your control (as I learnt the hard way this past year) is truly awful for your mental health. Hope only for yourself, for the things that you can control. And then take action to make it so. For everything else you can’t control – I suggest you practise acceptance instead. With that said I’m curious what your thoughts are on the topic of hope? As always I welcome ALL comments and opinions. Wishing you well, AP2 🙏)
Hello lovely readers and welcome to my monthly newsletter! Included is a round up of what I’ve written about this past August. To begin with are some thoughts on what has been a difficult month for me personally. I hope that you can draw some inspiration from my words. Love to all X
To be honest with you I’ve been struggling recently.
My spirit has taken a hit after returning to a long-haul roster for first time since January. Having to spend my layovers confined to some very tired looking hotel rooms – including a week at an airport hotel – has been difficult for me.
The joy of getting lost in some of the world’s most exciting cities has always been one of my favourite pastimes. To get out of the hotel room always provided my mind with the outlet it needed to remain sane despite the loss of sleep.
Getting lost in the back streets of Roma, watching the sun set over the Mediterranean Sea from a beach in Tel Aviv, hiring a bike and riding across the golden gate bridge on a beautiful summers day in San Fransisco…
Need I remind myself of how extraordinarily privileged I am to have enjoyed all of these things as part of my job.
Yet, as I sit from my hotel room admiring the city scape over Sydney’s darling harbour, I can’t help but pine for the outdoors. It would be a perfect day to climb the harbour bridge or head down to bondi beach. The world is a forbidden fruit at the moment that makes me want it even more.
I feel I’ve done extremely well to make the most of this year but the truth is it’s beginning to catch up with me. I feel so sad as I sit and write these words. As wonderful an outlet as blogging has been, the human spirit struggles in isolation.
There’s something else that’s been bothering me since returning to work. Something that’s become much more apparent since returning from a long period of regular sleep. That is just how important it has been for my mental health. The body simply isn’t designed to miss a nights sleep, let alone 3 or 4 times a month as is so often the case.
When you start to do the maths it becomes a little scary.
3 to 4 nights of missed sleep per month is roughly equal to 1 year’s worth of sleep lost during the course of 10! A milestone I will reach very soon. At the age of 33, staring down the barrel of doing this for another 30, makes me want to pull the trigger now.
The warning signs are present – both physically and mentally. My body has started to tell me things my heart doesn’t want to hear. Winning the battle against depression and anxiety in my work is one thing, saving my longer term health is another. There is nothing more important than your health.
I already know I can only do this job for a handful more years. Still, I desperately don’t want the last of those years to be like this. I want to leave on my terms – knowing that it was because I chose to leave, not because my health forced me to. I want to leave simply because I know in my heart that it’s the right time to do so, with no regrets. Unfortunately this may well be out of my control. Whether it’s the coronavirus or my health that forces my hand, I have to be prepared to move on. To accept that some things are simply out of my control.
With all that said, today, I still have a job and it’s never been more important to remain grateful for that fact. To remember how my job helps the world keep ticking at a time when it’s all but ground to a halt. To remember that beyond all of this I still love to fly aeroplanes.
Some thoughts about freedom and responsibility. From the article:
“Freedom demands we choose our responsibilities. The same way that having a life demands we protect it. If you want freedom of choice then you have to choose to take responsibility for your life. If you don’t someone else will choose your responsibilities for you. The danger is they will use that for their own profit and power by forming a narrative you refused to take responsibility for forming yourself. In doing so they will shut your mind from your heart. The moment that happens you’ve lost your freedom.”
I had a lot of fun writing this one – dishing out some timeless advice about how to write a to-do list that doesn’t make you want to jump off a building. As I wrote:
“Why exactly does writing out our responsibilities on paper cause some us to run away from them faster than a teenage boy climaxes? After all we know this kind of behaviour doesn’t help us, yet we can’t help ourselves. Sometimes all we want is to tell life to go fuck itself and so we do, even if that means fucking ourselves in the process.“
A more heartfelt piece that explores that question, “Am I doing this because of love or fear?” As I wrote:
“I felt it was such an insightful way of asking yourself why or why not you should do something – whatever that may be – as you go about your day. The more I contemplated it over the following weeks, the more I realised how powerful it was as a guiding force in keeping the values I hold close to my heart, clear in my mind. After all, I believe all our feelings and actions are driven, on a basis level, by one of these two underlying emotions. This question is a great way of bringing to light, exactly which one of these two emotions is driving your actions at any particular moment.”
My weekly newsletter designed to rewrite the narrative that Mondays are the most depressing day of the week and to get you in the mood for the week ahead. Following a 4:3:2:1 approach, it contains 4 exceptional thoughts from me (ha), 3 admittedly better quotes from others, and 2 things I’ve been reading and/or listening to in the week that have helped me grow. It finishes with 1 something silly to designed to make you lovely readers smile. The link above was this weeks post. Below are from the rest of the month. Enjoy!
That’s everything from me for the wonderful month of August guys and gals. I’d like to finish by thanking all you lovely readers for taking the time to read my pokey little blog. Although it’s not been the best month of the year for me mentally – you have all helped tremendously. You really have given me strength to carry on.
For anyone else who is struggling may I add that it’s perfectly ok if you are. It’s very important to allow yourself to feel sad when you do. We must mourn the past if we are to live freely in the present. To do that you have to show up for your emotions. Ultimately that’s what I believe courage is, showing up for your emotions however they are, however difficult they may be.
If you want to drop me a line in the comments section please do. I welcome ALL thoughts and opinions on this blog. Please don’t be afraid to speak up. I’m a stupid man but I have a big heart. All I want is to help all of you as you have helped me. Together we are better.
It was late the other night that my wife told me about her sometimes feeling overwhelmed by the amount of things she sets herself to do – of always feeling pushed to do things – of feeling “the need” to do things – that she sometimes feels driven by an underlying sense of ‘not good enough.’
I paused to take in what she was saying, before climbing into bed next to her.
She’s certainly not alone, I thought. I knew those feelings well. I suspect those feelings are probably shared by the vast majority of young professionals driven by certain expectations of society, of their parents, of their conditioning to be the best version of themselves.
As I responded, in one of my rare moments of clarity, I remembered a question that I wrote down from a podcast I heard a few weeks ago. It’s something I’ve asked myself repeatedly since, as a way to guide my actions , especially when I’ve felt a strong resistance to them – like my perceived need to keep up with my own work.
The question was this:
“Am I making this decision because of love or fear?”
– Dr Vivek Murthy
I felt it was such an insightful way of asking yourself why or why not you should do something – whatever that may be – as you go about your day. The more I contemplated it over the following weeks, the more I realised how powerful it was as a guiding force in keeping the values I hold close to my heart, clear in my mind. After all, I believe all our feelings and actions are driven, on a basis level, by one of these two underlying emotions. This question is a great way of bringing to light, exactly which one of these two emotions is driving your actions at any particular moment.
Am I doing this because of love or fear?
As I climbed into bed I asked my wife what her motives are for doing (she’s a yoga teacher FYI) what she’s been doing? Is it because she believes strongly in the cause, to help others, or does she feel pushed to perform, to be better because of some perceived need to prove something to others or, indeed, herself? Is it from, on some level, a feeling of inadequacy, of not being good enough as she is right now?
I went on to explain something that dawned on me about why my own motivation towards work had stalled so many times in the past.
I never felt good enough. I was scared what others thought. I was scared that I would underperform and not be seen as good enough in the eyes of my coworkers. I was so scared of ‘being found out’ for who I thought I was. Of confirming a long help belief – a false one – that I wasn’t good enough. The same has been true of my writing.
Thinking back it’s no wonder my motivation died. It’s no wonder when I sat down to do the work I needed that it was such an enormous struggle. It felt like walking through quick sand as I ploughed ahead while fighting the stress, anxiety and sometimes, full blown depression, that had consumed my heart.
If only someone had shouted, “you are good enough you fool – you know this – you’re just doing it for the wrong reasons!!”
Alas, I know that wouldn’t have helped. True insight and understanding has to come from within and that takes time. It has taken years to grow in my heart. It still is.
LOVE AS MOTIVATION FOR WORK & LIFE
The last six months – since the world of aviation has been brought to its knees because of the coronavirus pandemic – have given me, like countless others, plenty of time to reflect.
With regards to work I have come to realise that framing my motivations, to be clear that they are coming from a genuine place of love, is what I need to do. Whipping myself into shape doesn’t work in the longer term. It’s too hard.
As I explained to my wife, when I sit down to prepare for work, for a flight or simulator check, whatever it may be, the question I have started asking is, am I preparing from a place of fear or love? And, if I am feeling fearful, what is it that I’m really afraid of? Why am I doing what I am? If it’s because I feel the need to prove something, then I know I’m coming from the wrong place.
Of course preparing so you don’t fuck up in such a way that the flight ends in catastrophe is one way to think about things. Ultimately that’s our goal – Safety absolutely, rightly, comes first. However there’s a big difference between preparing or working from a place of all consuming fear, versus love. Even if you still feel fearful, if you’re coming from a place of genuine love, that will give you strength to carry on. To stare down the eyes of the beast.
I relayed some of those loving motives, as they applied to me in my work, to my wife.
To honour and protect my fellow crew members whom I owe it to perform at my best as I know they are. To do my best for every single passenger we transport – to make sure they arrive at their destinations – that they make it home safely to their loved ones. To remember I am providing for my own family through this job – that gives us everything we need to live a happy, healthy and secure life. To remember I love myself – self preservation because I want to be alive – so I can be around for my family and friends. So my wife has a husband to love her. So my son has a father to lead him.
There’s something else at this moment in time too.
Although there isn’t a huge amount of flying to go around at the moment – I realised the small amount there is, is an opportunity to be part of something, to help in a way most others around the world can’t. To help bring the few people who need to travel for very urgent reasons. To help bring critical supplies, medical or otherwise, to areas of the world who desperately need it. To help the world keep turning to some degree at a time when it has all but ground to a halt! It’s a gift to be able to do something more than simply stay at home during this pandemic. I know millions of others would give a lot for the opportunity to do the same. It’s something to be extremely grateful for.
While these might seem like obvious motivations, I can tell you they are easily lost, or have been for me at least, in a profession so heavily driven by perfectionism – to prove your competency, and that you know everything there is to know. The pressure to prove yourself isn’t part of the the job I relish.
Yet, when I allowed myself to think in these terms, I found myself itching to get back into the righthand seat for the first time in a long time. To be a larger part of this fight against the coronavirus pandemic – even if that means I only get to fly a single sector. I want to help in any way I can. Through my wiring and my profession.
I now realise just how important it is to remind myself of my real motives when I feel anxious, especially when plagued by self-doubt, to help refocus the mind and bring me back to the present.
Am I doing this because of love or fear?
As I relayed these thoughts to my wife that night, it was interesting to hear that for the charity classes she had been organising, from which she earned not a penny, she had felt none of this resistance. She believed in the cause strongly, for a number of reasons including bringing people together from their homes at this difficult time globally. So they too could do something more than just sit at home – to contribute to charities in need, while showing love to themselves. A beautiful act of self-compassion extending outwards.
It’s obvious isn’t it? She had been acting from a place of love and the motivation for doing so was effortless.
Hello fine readers and welcome to my Motivational Mondays Post – a weekly newsletter that attempts to rewrite the narrative Mondays are the most depressing day of the week. (Or at least start it off in a slightly better fashion.)
Following a 4:3:2:1 approach, it contains 4 exceptional thoughts from me (ha), 3 admittedly better quotes from others, and 2 things I’ve been reading and/or listening to this week that have helped me grow.
As always I’ve finished with 1 something silly to hopefully make you all smile.
Love to all X
(To my lovely readers: If you have any suggestions, thoughts or ideas about today’s weekly post I’d love to hear from you in the comments at the bottom. Thank you all so much for reading.)
4 x Thoughts From Me:
What if the only thing that is wrong with you is that you think there is something wrong with you?
Sit down every night and pat yourself on the back for the things you did well and then examine the ways in which you could have done better. Bring both your sense of accomplishment and willingness to improve into your next day. You will go far by making this a daily habit.
We talk about the possibility of being alone in this universe as if the world we live in isn’t enough. I think we all need a better understanding of what enough actually is.
Intelligent self interest is about understanding we are all part of the same world. That to hurt another is to hurt yourself. I would go so far as to say how you treat others is how you treat yourself. Kindness to others extends inwards as well as out. The same is as true for anger or hatred. You give fuel to those feelings within by acting on them. Be sure to choose forgiveness over resentment, kindness over hate and love over fear.
3 x Quotes From Others:
“There are two core fears: losing what you have and not getting what you want. There is one solution: falling in love with where you are.” – Jeff Foster
“Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates: Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?” – Rumi
“I believe that we are here on this star in space to try to help one another. Right? And first we have to survive, and then we have to thrive. And to thrive, to express ourselves, alright, well, here’s the rub: we have to know ourselves. What do you love? And if you get close to what you love, who you are is revealed to you, and it expands.”
“It’s a thing that worries me sometimes whenever you talk about creativity, because it can have this kind of feel that it’s just nice, you know, or it’s warm or it’s something pleasant. It’s not. It’s vital.”
“What makes kids so beautifully creative, is that they don’t have any habits, and they don’t care if they’re any good or not, right? They’re not building a sandcastle going, “I think I’m going to be a really good sandcastle builder.” They just throw themselves at whatever project you put in front of them — dancing, doing a painting, building something: any opportunity they have, they try to use it to impress upon you their individuality. It’s so beautiful. “
“If you want to help your community, if you want to help your family, if you want to help your friends, you have to express yourself. And to express yourself, you have to know yourself. It’s actually super easy. You just have to follow your love. There is no path. There’s no path till you walk it, and you have to be willing to play the fool.“
Having spent the last 4 days confined to a hotel room it was a relief to arrive back in Hong Kong this morning.
Unfortunately, because of the recent spike in cases here, it’s now mandatory that all crew, as well as passengers, be tested for COVID on arrival.
As I waited in line a lady dressed in a bio hazard suit assembled my COVID testing kit. She explained to me that I needed to deposit my specimen in a small plastic cup over in one of booths set up behind her.
She’d omitted the word saliva…
I couldn’t help myself.
“That’s an awful lot of pressure,” I replied jokingly. “Do you have any magazines or anything that might help the process along?”
“Oh yes,” she replied clearly not registering, “you can watch a video that demonstrates how to do it on one of the big screen over there.”
“Hmmm, I’m not sure that will help,” I said as she handed me my testing kit.
She was clearly perplexed.
Probably a good thing she couldn’t see me smirking behind my face mask.
I walked to the booth in shame.
Till next week…
Have a Happy F***ing Monday Everybody!
P.S. Don’t forget to exercise your silly muscle this week!
Do you have a big problem with no idea how to proceed?
Like whether you should quit the job you hate?
Or perhaps you’ve lost your job and have no idea what the hell you should do next?
Maybe you’re simply having a bit of trouble processing difficult emotions?
Whatever it is, my fine readers, fear not – for I have something that can help you formulate the ultimate solution (no promises)!
Introducing the CLEAR model! An outstanding structured approach for decision making and problem solving in everyday life!!!
(Is it just me or did that sound like a 90’s television commercial?)
Let’s get into it.
The CLEAR model stands for:
C – Clarifywhat the problem is. L – Lookfor information and ideas. E – Evaluate options. A – Act on your decision. R – Review how it is working.
Simple yet elegant I think you’ll agree.
Wherever did you come up with such a brilliant formula?
A great question Bob, thank you for asking.
The answer is, I stole it of course!
As pilots we are taught it as a way to deal with problems we may encounter outside our normal day-to-day operations.
It achieves this by providing a series of defined steps that we can work through in order to (hopefully) achieve a safe outcome.
As the brain is a single channel processor that can only do one thing at a time (yes multi-tasking is a myth), this helps prevents it from being overloaded during periods of high stress and/or workload.
And I think we can all agree that it’s a time of high fucking stress Bob (if not workload)!
The problem with high levels of stress is it may overload your very simple single channel processor (I know it does mine), which can result in one or more of the following:
1 – Tunnel vision (or fixation) – focusing on one input to the exclusion of other vital data.
2 – Unconscious rejection of conflicting data.
3 – Slowing down of your decision making or, in the extreme, inability to make any decisions at all.
4- Impulsiveness – the desire to restore control makes you leap into action too early.
I think you’ll agree those aren’t very helpful responses Bob, especially for pilots.
But why exactly do you think a model designed for flight crew to problem solve on the flight deck of an aeroplane would be of any use to me in my normal day to day life?
Another great question Bob!
I asked myself the exact same one and let me tell you the answer I came up with:
But don’t just take my word for it Bob, let’s examine a working example completely unrelated to the realm of aviation.
Let’s examine how we might apply the CLEAR model to someone who is dealing with depression and/or anxiety – hardly the sort of problem flight crew look at solving on a aeroplane I think you’ll agree Bob!
THE CLEAR MODEL AS APPLIED TO DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY:
1 – CLARIFY
People who are depressed will often state I am depressed or I am anxious. However no one is depression, no one is anxiety. These are merely things one experiences.
One of the big problems so many people with mental health issues have is this kind of identification. They believe it is part of who they are. But this isn’t true.
Already we can see the importance of clarifying the problem.
A much more accurate thing to say would be, ‘I am currently experiencing feelings of depression or anxiety.’ This is a very significant shift in terminology that can help you to step back from your emotions.
If you want to go a step further by introducing some deep Buddhist wisdom (and I know you do bob) you might say in third person, ‘James is experiencing feelings of depression or anxiety.’ So as to introduce the idea (and reality) that you are not your ego. The I is not me. (Wow, my simple single processor is on fire!)
Anyway we could go on about how to properly clarify the problem but I don’t want to bore you Bob. At any rate, I think you’ll agree, we’re off to a winning start!
2 – LOOK
Observe. Simply be with whatever it is that is arising. Obviously this will work best if you can find somewhere quiet to sit without distraction. (Yes Bob, that means you’ll need to put away your phone.)
Once you have, be sure to take a few deep breaths and settle yourself. Maybe run through a quick body scan – place your hand on your heart if that helps – and then simply sit and observe.
Remember you’re not trying to achieve anything at this stage. You’re simply trying to observe what is going on from moment to moment. Run through your five senses if that helps. Use this time to gather information about what your emotions really feel like within the body.
If a thought arises, simply note it then come back to feeling your bodily sensations. Ultimately you want to go toward your negative emotions so you can observe them in fine detail.
Don’t resist them bob! Trust me.
This won’t be easy of course, especially if you’re new to the game of meditation but I promise you the long term benefits of having such a practise whenever faced with difficult emotions will pay off handsomely.
Anyway I’m sure you don’t need me to run through a meditation routine with you on here. You get the point Bob. Sit and look.
3 – EVALUTE
This is the part of the session where we introduce some curiosity. Maybe you can ask some questions such as,
What triggered my emotional state today?
What was it that caused my reaction?
What false belief or narrative are driving these feelings?
Moreover what emotions am I trying to avoid that I need to feel?
What are those feelings trying to tell me that I don’t understand?
After asking these question sit back and see what arises. I find this kind of exercise extremely useful for deriving insight whenever I have a reaction to something I don’t fully comprehend.
There are of course many different kinds of meditation practises you could apply to dealing with such emotional states but once again I don’t want to bore you Bob.
4 – ACT
Now this will depend on what responses you derived from part 3 of this exceptional CLEAR model and how bad you suffer from said emotional problems.
It goes without saying that the most obvious thing to do if suffering from any kind of depression or mental health issue is to seek professional help.
Are you a therapist bob? No?
Worth a shot.
Anyway the next best thing, if you can’t afford a therapist or don’t feel you’re ready to face your demons yet (I won’t judge – it took my simple single processor a long time to pluck up the courage and ask for the help it needed) is to talk to your loved ones.
You’re not burdening them by opening up. If they love you they’ll want to know. Trust me Bob. It burdens them more not knowing.
Aside from those very obvious actions the next thing you can do is practise self-compassion. Place your hand on your heart and tell yourself, it’s ok. I’m here for you. Let me feel you. Whatever kind language speaks or works for you.
It’s important to state that you don’t fight depression or anxiety (contrary to what so many toxic positivity blogs tell you). You’re meant to accept it.
As Carl Rogers once said,
“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”
5 – REVIEW
This brings us to the final part of this most astonishing CLEAR model. Review or reflect.
Some questions you might consider:
How did that work out?
What can I add to the practise next time that might help me?
Maybe I can add journalling as a way to write down what arises during such a practise?
Am I still suffering from the same issues and thought patterns that I have for years on end?
If that last one is true then maybe it’s time to concede that you really do need professional help. I strongly encourage all with such issues to do exactly that. At the end of the day all these tools are helpful at managing your mental health but if you have some deeper issues it’s imperative you seek the professional help you need. There is absolutely no shame in this. Remember it is never too late to get the help you need. Never.
That’s all from me today Bob.
I hope this helped.
(Once again fine readers thank you so much for hearing me out. Applying tools from my professional life to other areas such as mental health and vice versa had been of enormous benefit to me which I why I wanted to share this idea with you today. I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments section below. Maybe give it a go and apply it to a different problem then let me know how you get on? Otherwise if you know of any other problem solving type acronyms I’d love to hear them as well. I’m a sucker for a good acronym! As always I welcome ALL thoughts and opinions on this blog.)
Hello Fine Readers and welcome to my Happy Silly Mondays Newsletter!
In an attempt to rewrite the narrative that Mondays are the most depressing day, I’ve decided to compile a weekly newsletter for a happier, sillier start to the week!
Following the rule of 3, it contains 3 thoughts from me, 3 positive quotes from others and 3 things I’ve been reading, watching and/or listening to this week.
As a bonus I’ve finished with one something very silly that will hopefully make you smile.
Hope you enjoy.
3 x Thoughtful Quotes From Me:
Trees – they take what we don’t need and give us what we do. We should show them the same love and respect in return.
Make your journey about the journey itself. Not about getting somewhere.
Learning to look at everything through the eyes of your children is perhaps the greatest gift of parenthood. Everything is new and beautiful and amazing, because of course it is! We adults just forgot.
3 x Positive Quotes From Others:
The physician and writer, Oliver Sacks, on the value of gardens:
“As a writer, I find gardens essential to the creative process; as a physician, I take my patients to gardens whenever possible. All of us have had the experience of wandering through a lush garden or a timeless desert, walking by a river or an ocean, or climbing a mountain and finding ourselves simultaneously calmed and reinvigorated, engaged in mind, refreshed in body and spirit. The importance of these physiological states on individual and community health is fundamental and wide-ranging. In forty years of medical practice, I have found only two types of non-pharmaceutical “therapy” to be vitally important for patients with chronic neurological diseases: music and gardens.”
An excerpt from the poem “Youth” by Samuel Ullman, a Jewish poet:
“Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life. Youth means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity of the appetite, for adventure over the love of ease. This often exists in a man of sixty more than a boy of twenty. Nobody grows old merely by a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals.Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, fear, self-distrust bows the heart and turns the spirit back to dust. Whether sixty or sixteen, there is in every human being’s heart the lure of wonder, the unfailing child-like appetite of what’s next, and the joy of the game of living.”
Bill Watterson, the cartoonist and creator of Calvin and Hobbes, on the difference between ambition and happiness:
“…having an enviable career is one thing, and being a happy person is another. Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive. Ambition is only understood if it’s to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential-as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth. You’ll be told in a hundred ways, some subtle and some not, to keep climbing, and never be satisfied with where you are, who you are, and what you’re doing. There are a million ways to sell yourself out, and I guarantee you’ll hear about them. To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.”
3 x Positive Things I’ve Been Listening/Reading/Watching this week:
An insightful Ted Talk by Manoush Zomorodi on How boredom can lead to your most brilliant ideas:
One Quotes From The Transcript:
“The next time you go to check your phone, remember that if you don’t decide how you’re going to use the technology, the platforms will decide for you. And ask yourself: What am I really looking for? Because if it’s to check email, that’s fine — do it and be done. But if it’s to distract yourself from doing the hard work that comes with deeper thinking, take a break, stare out the window and know that by doing nothing you are actually being your most productive and creative self. It might feel weird and uncomfortable at first, but boredom truly can lead to brilliance.”
“Don’t ask yourself “What am I going to do to be a better man?” or “What kind of man do I want to be?” Invert those questions and ask “What am I NOT going to do to be a better man?” and “What kind of man do I NOT want to be?”
“Eliminating obvious downsides like bad habits and debt will provide a good life; eliminating good things so you can focus on the very best will lead to a truly flourishing life.“
Freakonimcs podcast on Reasons to be cheerful: Why we all have a built-in Negativity bias and why the Covid-19 crisis might be an opportune time to reverse this tendency.
One Great Rule Of Thumb I Took Away: It takes 4 good things to make up for 1 bad thing. (Something to think about when you’re mindlessly scrolling social media or news articles online)
1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:
I was relaying something to my wife the other day that I had been writing, and she said, “you’re turning into such a sage.”
I contemplated this before replying, “I’ve never thought of myself as a herb before?… how silly.”
I told her that she must be a rosemary and that our son, he must be a basil because that’s the silliest herb.
Happy Mondays everyone and thanks for reading! Hope this helped and be sure to exercise your silly muscle this week!
Hello fine readers and welcome to my monthly newsletter – a series of my thoughts and feelings from my journal.
Included is a round up of what I’ve been reading and writing, plus a collection of my favourite bits and pieces from around the web, and finally a collection of thoughts and ideas from yours truly. I hope you enjoy!
A piece to inspire action from isolation as inspired by the following Kitty O’Meara poem:
And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.
And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.
And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.
From Amazon: “Writing with great warmth and clarity, Tara Brach brings her teachings alive through personal stories and case histories, fresh interpretations of Buddhist tales, and guided meditations. Step by step, she leads us to trust our innate goodness, showing how we can develop the balance of clear-sightedness and compassion that is the essence of Radical Acceptance.”
It’s not only deeply moving and thought provoking, it’s a beautiful piece of art in its own right. I could pick any quote and it would be worth sharing, but I’ll leave you with just one that hit home for me on a personal level.
“What is the bravest thing you’ve ever said?” asked the boy…
“Help”, said the horse.
OTHER BITS AND PIECES FROM AROUND THE WEB:
Fear setting – who Tim Ferris described as the most valuable exercise he does every month – is an exercise in defining some of your fears about a difficult decision you are considering making, versus the longer term costs of doing nothing. I used it this month to consider what might happen if I lost my job and found it a very reassuring exercise.
ON COVID-19, DEALING WITH FEAR, PRACTISING COMPASSION AND BEING GRATEFUL:
Gratitude, with rare exception, gives you a more accurate interpretation of reality.
Do not try to change people, that’s the wrong approach. Instead try only to help people.
The inability to forgive each other and people’s unwillingness to admit they’re wrong go hand in hand.
The Chinese character for crisis translates as danger + opportunity. I think this is brilliant. Danger meaning a need to be careful and vigilant – a need to act. But as with any crisis there is also opportunity for growth and to learn – to profit from setback.
Make your mission about helping others, not validating the ego. Make your mission about inspiring hope, not criticising others for acting out of fear. After all, are we not all irrational when acting from fear? Have compassion for those who are scared and forgive those who acted rashly and misled the public based on limited, information. We are all fools in this together. Don’t attack. Be kind.
ON DEVELOPING THE MIND AND MINDFULLNESS:
As a rule: Clarity first. Action second.
The great thing about momentum: eventually is becomes easy.
It matters less what you choose to do, but that you give that thing your undivided attention.
Everybody’s mind is filled with bullshit. Wisdom comes from shifting through that bullshit and picking out what you know to be true in your heart.
The egos need for validation will never be satisfied! When you feed it, its appetite over time only grows. You have to let it go!
Your insecurities prevent you from showing your true self.
The desire for others to say something positive about me is a reflection of my own insecurities.
Your resistance to other people only serves to strengthen their position in your mind.
The mind is a tool – something to be used. If you fail to remain aware, the mind will take over and use you.
Learning to continuously question your beliefs, to unlearn everything you’ve been taught, to treat what you know with a very large amount of skepticism, is one of the most important skills one can cultivate.
ON PURSING YOUR DREAMS/DOING THE THINGS YOU LOVE:
Doing the things you love gives you the energy to the do the things you need but don’t.
Better to be happy in failure than unhappy in success.
Ask yourself whether you are making this decision because of fear or love. A perceived need for more money is often driven by a fear of losing out, a fear of not having, or losing the things you already have. Of course thats not always the case. If you’re doing it for your family, for a better education for your children, a better neighbourhood for them to grow up, for certain their security, then those decisions clearly stem from a place of love. However that’s often not the case. What I want to stress is to the need be clear of the reasons for choosing to pursue a certain career or path. If the decision is about finding purpose – follow your heart.
I think in our efforts to make something of our children, we often do a disservice to that which is already there. I don’t need to make him into anything. I simply need to encourage what is already there, for him to flourish and realise his full potential.
There is no need to force parenting, just be present and you’ll understand what you should do.
ON HONESTY, EXPECTATIONS & FORGIVENESS
Being honest with someone is important, but unless you do it compassionately you’re probably wasting your time. People aren’t willing to receive rocks if you hurl them – they’re either going to duck and hide, or throw them back.
The truth hurts because we are breaking down that persons reality – pointing something out they didn’t want to hear. That’s why it’s important to be kind, but to be kind while being courageous enough to tell them the truth.
People often expect an apology before they’re willing to forgive. Forgiveness should come first without any expectations. Ones apology will often be returned with far more sincerity if you do.
Now is the time to pause and slow down. To revaluate your priorities. To consider what is working and what hasn’t been.
Now is time to practise gratitude for everything you have, such a roof over your head, access to food and clean running water, for living in a remarkable age technologically speaking, that helps keep us entertained, informed and, crucially, connected to all those we love despite our physical isolation. If nothing else to be grateful for life itself, despite all its hardships and heartache.
Now is the time to practise compassion for each other and ourselves. To be kind. To send that energy inwards and from there, outwards to the wider universe of which we are all part.
Now is the time to heal. To use our shared pain as a gateway to shared compassion.
Now is the time to contemplate time. Time is an illusion isn’t it? A trap that makes us think we have to keep on-top of things. To always do things. To strive for some perfect version of ourselves. A compete fantasy. Look at our reality now. Completely turned on its head. No time but to sit. Nothing to do but look inward, if we dare.
I strongly encourage you to do so. Sit with those emotions. Let them surface. The fear, the anxiety, the depression. Accept them as they are. Allow them into your heart. If you do you might learn something that will fundamentally change you. Something that no amount of striving, or trying to get, will ever be able to take away from you. Genuine peace. Peace with yourself and with the world as it is, at this moment.
Now is the time to practise acceptance. Learning to accept – to be at peace with yourself, gives you the clarity of mind to know how you should act – from the heart. Acceptance isn’t resignation. Acceptance is life’s biggest lesson.
Now is the time to practise awareness. To observe quietly. Meditation isn’t an act of doing nothing. It’s an act of curiosity. It’s a profoundly beautiful act of self compassion. Of being aware. Awakened. It is perhaps the most underrated act one can undertake. The act of being. Of dropping our attachment to our thinking minds. Of letting go.
Now is the time to create. It’s often from constraint that creativity springs. Some of histories greatest minds understood and achieved true freedom in isolation. Others created some of their best work. Nelson Mandela and William Shakespeare readily spring to mind.
Now is the time to play. Now is the time to laugh. Now is the time to grieve. Now is the time to feel. To drop your guard. Now is the time to be vulnerable. To be vulnerable is to be courageous.
Now is the time to look those who you love in the eye and tell them so. Death is never far away. Death is life. Death is a continuation. Part of the journey. That journey continues. It continues in your children and your grandchildren. In all the people you have touched. In all things. Death is beautiful. Death is necessary. It gives way.
Now is the time to meet your shadows in the darkness and understand they were made from light.
Now, is the time. The time to be. If you do, you might just realise that what you‘ve been looking for, has been with you the entire time.
Hello and welcome to the first in a series of blog posts surrounding the topic of my favourite toilet books for moments of profound pooing.
How to gain enlightenment while taking a dump. #toiletbooks #profoundpooing (I’m hoping to start a trend).
I’ll get to the first book I recommend shortly and what it is, specifically, that makes it such a great book to have by your toilet at home. Plus some other hygiene related suggestions. (Very important at the moment of course #coronavirus.)
First though, there is a more serious point I’d like to make. One about designing your environment to help cultivate better habits. In this case, putting a book to read next to your toilet, instead of mindlessly scrolling on your phone (come on, I know you do), when you go for a number two.
“Environment design is powerful not only because it influences how we engage with the world but also because we rarely do it. Most people live in a world others have created for them. But you can alter the spaces where you live and work to increase your exposure to positive cues and reduce your exposure to negative ones.“
Some examples of environment design include:
– Placing a glass of water by your bed to drink first thing in the morning.
– Leaving your phone in a different room when you go to sleep so its neither the last thing you look at before sleeping, nor the first thing you look upon waking (FYI there’s this great invention I heard of in a different life called an alarm clock).
– Placing a fruit bowl on your living room table to encourage better eating habits. Similarly placing bottles of water around your house to keep you hydrated.
– And, if you want to promote better reading habits while also reducing harmful mindless smartphone scrolling – placing a book by the side of your toilet for when you sit down to do a poo.
So what kind of books should one be reading while taking a poo? And what is it that makes a book, a great toilet book in particular?
When picking a good toilet book to read, as and when nature calls, I think the topic of the book is less important than the type.
Novels tend not to work well because they are designed to be read over a matter of hours at a time. Unless you had Indian for dinner the night before, I don’t think any heavy duty book which requires a great deal of reading at any one time is best.
Instead I suggest books designed to be read in short occasional bursts.
Generally you want lightweight books, although, if you have the space in your bathroom, larger coffee table style books could work too.
It can be fictional or humorous, depending on what your preference is, but for me, I find that spiritual books help to keep my grounded, while I’m giving back to the earth (see what I did there).
Some other benefits & toilet book hygiene etiquette:
The great thing about toilet books, especially spiritual ones with many thought provoking quotes, is you can really sit on them (Ah the puns are endless). Read a quote, put the book down and then ponder the meaning of life.
You’ll also be surprised by how much reading you can get done as the weeks and months pass by. I only started this habit recently but have already finished several books.
An added bonus – its a great reminder to leave your phone outside the bathroom (or in your pocket) – so you’re not making the very unhygienic and unhealthy habit of scrolling and wiping.
Of course while it might see like obvious etiquette to put the book (or your phone down) before wiping – should one accidentally mistake the order of things, something which, incidentally, is much more likely to happen when scrolling on your phone, at the very least the toilet book stays in the toilet. Should you make such a mistake – unlike your phone – its not coming out of the bathroom with you.
So what have I been reading?
Well I’ve already finished a few, but to get started I want to recommend just one that resonated with me deeply. A beautifully illustrated book called ‘The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse” by Charlie Mackesy.
It’s not only deeply moving and thought provoking, it’s a beautiful piece of art in its own right. I could pick any quote from the book and it would be worth sharing, but I’ll leave you with just one, that hit home for me on a personal level.
“What is the bravest thing you’ve ever said?” asked the boy…
“Help”, said the horse.
(I intend to share more of my favourite toilet books with you going forward. Hopefully to inspire some you to do the same and have your own moment of profound pooing. Should you already be in the habit of doing so – and all the power to you – I’d love to hear of any suggestions for toilet books you might have in the comments section below. Thanks in advance and happy pooing.)
Hello fine readers and welcome to my Monthly review! Every day I ask myself the question – What did I learn? – and write some thoughts in response. The following is a collection of my favourites.
I should say most of these thoughts and/or ideas are heavily influenced by what I’ve been reading and the people I’ve been talking to. In some cases they are simply quotes by others. I hope you enjoy.
Setting your intention matters a great deal. An intention to be mindful in all that you do. ‘Unitasking’ is key. Concentrate on the one thing you are doing and give it your undivided attention! You will derive much more pleasure in life when acting like this.
Mindfulness is only one part of the puzzle. Compassion is the other. Being compassionate has to start with yourself. Forgiving yourself for feeling tired and disconnected – Recovery from depression and anxiety takes time. You’re doing really well. Look what you managed to achieve today. Be proud of yourself.
Scrolling is the new smoking. You need to significantly reduce it. Otherwise it leads to cognitive fatigue. Idea – should aim to have a phone free day every week and keep my phone in another room to the one I’m in while at home (That way I’ll be going to it for a very deliberate reason – not just to mindlessly scroll)!
A good nights sleep starts the minute you wake up. Starting your day is just as important as how you finish it. Don’t look at you phone until out of the bathroom – ie Don’t make it the first thing you look at in the morning! Use it only to log your weight and write in your journal before meditation. Otherwise leave it in the bedroom till you’ve finished exercising and had something to eat.
It matters that you care. It really matters. Pay attention. Small acts with great love everyday.
‘The essence of bravery is refusing to give up on anyone or anything’
Forgiveness in this world is really lacking. For me forgiving myself and also other people in this world I believe to be doing very bad things is something to pay more attention to. Every act I make has a positive ripple effect. No matter how small, if done with love and compassion, it will effect the world in a positive way. Keep going. Keep smiling. Remain hopeful. Love yourself and by extension the whole world and everything in it.
Forgiveness is a natural process. It does not matter if you are able to forgive someone or yourself yet, what matters is the intention to forgive that other person or yourself. That way the door is open for the process – however long – to take place.
Everything I need and want, I already have. The most important thing for me is to learn how to enjoy it.
“The path of awakening is simply a process of wakeful, profound relaxing. We see what is here right now and we let go into life exactly as it is” – Tara Brach
Reaching out to friends and family and checking in on them is so important. Especially now during this difficult time. It’s important to let them know we are here and also that we are safe. Family and friends are everything. We are nothing without each other.
I was wrong about the coronavirus. It’s not been an overreaction – people are dying and medical staff are stretched thin. We must all do our part to help protect the most vulnerable in society. COVID 19 is an opportunity to spend time at home with our family and practise mindfulness. It’s an opportunity to send love out to all our friends and family. To really connect from isolation. We live in an extraordinary time in which we are incredibly lucky to be able to do so. To know so much. To prepare and mobilise behind a common cause so quickly as a result. There is still so much to be grateful for.
Life is one big lesson in acceptance. Now is the perfect time to practise that. There is so much out of our control but what we can control has the ability to empower us.
If you see through yourself you will see through everyone. Then you will love them. – Anthony De Mello
What we react to is self generated and has nothing to do with the outside world. A negative feeling comes from YOU – nothing else. It’s all part of our conditioning – illusions created by our minds – from attachments that we have been conditioned to believe are important despite reality. By remaining truly aware and questioning the tricks of our conditioned mind with both compassion and curiosity, we can began to see the illusions for what they truly are and break down the false identities we all cling to. This will bring you back to life. To the here and now which is, of course, the only reality.
My emotions are a direct result of my thinking mind – nothing else. To stop negative emotions it’s me who has to change. Not the world. Not anyone else.
Think in terms of others. Helping your self is not selfish. It’s the opposite of selfish. Helping yourself helps others. Fixing your back means you’re no longer distracted by it – which means you can focus your attention on more important matters. Looking after your finances helps build security for your family.
Good parenting starts with being compassionate towards yourself!
Show up to your children’s emotions with compassion. It’s ok to feel sadness or anger. Ask them what it is that they need?
Life is a long beautiful melody. You have to let it play out. Don’t cling. There will be long low sad bits and high happy ecstatic peaks. Don’t cling to them. Don’t think those parts of the melody define you. If you replay one part of it over and over it’s no longer a melody. It’s ruined. Let it play out.
Taking to yourself in the third person is an awesome mindfulness hack.eg David is feeling stressed. David is thinking lots. David is looking at his phone. It helps to unidentify with your thoughts, feelings and emotions. You become the observer of your thoughts without falling into the trap of thinking you are your thoughts. It’s another reminder to wake up!
Everything is a process. All I have to do is observe. Observe with curiosity and compassion. Look at yourself with curiosity and compassion. Remain present and your natural wisdom will guide you. Have faith.
Everything is always now. It can’t be any other way. The past and the future come from the mind only. They are illusions that distract awareness of the present moment. Everything you need is available to you in the present. Stay there.
Showing up on the bad days matters more so than on the good days. Remember your’e saying something to yourself every time you show up about who you are and who you want to become. The same is true when you don’t.
Am I making this decision because of love or fear? – Dr Vivek Murthy – Such an insightful way of asking yourself why or why not you should do something.