The Truth

The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off

Joe Klaas

In light of the ongoing pandemic, it’s hard to differentiate between what’s fact and what’s fiction. There are a lot of view points flying around out there with no shortage of passionate supporters. However, just because someone is willing to stake their life on something doesn’t make it true.

It is in these times that Satya becomes so important. This yama is about restraining from presenting distorted truths in our speech, thoughts, and actions. It is about presenting the unchangeable pure essence of reality to ourselves and others.

How do we go about discovering the truth? Through experts, observation, and patience. Some facts are quick to digest and others are so fibrous that it takes some time. For example, the area of a square is s2, where s is the length of a side. Do you have the same mercurial confidence that the area of a circle is πr2, where r is the radius of the circle? I certainly don’t, and that’s why I rely on the attestation of experts.

“But,” you protest, “there are no experts for my emotions!” Perhaps – but you are capable of becoming that expert through observation and self-awareness. Until then, the truth will be stretched by our emotions. Don’t the following sound familiar to you?

  • “He didn’t text me because he’s mad at me.”
  • “I’m less attractive now because I have wrinkles.”
  • “She smiled at me so she must want my number.”

Reality often proves us wrong time and time again. He simply forgot his phone at home. Your smile lines make you even more attractive. And, she’s just a happy person. All it takes is some additional observation while you suppress your primal judgement. Yet, sometimes a part of us refuses to believe these explanations. There is no way my gut instincts are wrong! And that’s where patience comes in.

If the truth truly is unchanging, then consistency can be a strong indicator of the truth. And, those things that continuously waver are falsehoods. After all, isn’t spotting inconsistencies the easiest way to find a liar?

Introspection

“Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle.”

Lewis Carroll

Who are we exactly? What differentiates one human from another? Clearly, we all have different physical and mental attributes – but which one differs most dramatically? I don’t think I’d be going out on a limb to say that it is our minds. Sure we have identical twins, but are there such things as identical minds?

Physically, we’re very easy to compare. You simply just use your eyes. And if you want to compare yourself to others, you throw a mirror into the mix. From there, it’s easy to deduce what sets you apart. We’ve all compiled a list of things that we love and hate about our physical appearance. And, we’re acutely aware of what things can and cannot be changed. We’ve also accepted that wisdom comes with wrinkles. Well, at least most of us have. Is there a similar way to compare our minds and other hidden attributes?

There is. It’s through Svadhyaya, yet another niyama. This yogic philosophy is all about the inquiry into the self by exercising introspection. This is the figurative mirror that allows us to understand who we are. We’re probably the only life forms on this planet that have this ability. Others can barely pass the mirror test so what are the chances that they can even do self-reflection?

And, just like looking in a mirror, introspection is something that we should practice daily in different situations and environments. Because at different times and in different lights, we will look different. This isn’t a competition and making it so is dangerous. Have faith that who you are is uniquely beautiful and what you see of other people is only the part that has been unveiled. How rare it is to see someone truly naked!

What can we hope to gain by studying ourselves? We can understand who we are better and begin to make improvements so that ultimately we can be the cause of our lives rather than just the effect.

Routine Happiness

“Routine: a regular course of procedure”

the Merriam Webster Dictionary

If I were to list out all of my daily routines, I’d probably find out that I’m a boring creature. It’d be a fairly mundane list along the lines of:

  • wake up
  • brush my teeth
  • get dressed (sometimes)
  • practice yoga
  • surf the web
  • eat
  • go for a long walk
  • eat
  • shower
  • sleep

Week two of the 52 Lists for Happiness is about circling all the routines that bring me joy and crossing out the ones that don’t. I have a lot of difficulty doing that. On some days, eating feel amazing and on other days it feels gluttonous and over-indulgent. Should I just circle and cross out everything?

Or maybe… I should dig deeper. Are routines in life good or bad? I can see both sides. It’s great to have predictability, stability, and something to look forward to. However, it’s also fun to combat staleness and introduce spontaneity and randomness. “Variety is the spice of life” they say. But, what’s the ideal balance? What makes something more joyful than another? Why is it all so dependent on our environment and mood? Is it possible to take time and enjoy whatever happens in our lives?

I’ve found the beginning of an answer in my yoga practice. There’s a Niyama that I’ve been deeply fascinated with called Santosha. This Sanskrit word embodies the yoga philosophy of contentment. It encourages you towards a life where you accept your circumstances and have a joyful and satisfied mind regardless of your environment. Irrespective of any routines.

Before you raise your pitchforks, please recognize that I’m not advocating for you to resign yourself to the life you’re currently living. You may be in an abusive relationship or unsatisfactory job and it’s unhealthy to will your mind into a happier albeit distorted reality. Get a good grasp on the things you want to change and walk towards that change. But, don’t be afraid to carry a smile for all the great moments that do show up.

The fundamental way I do this is to live in the present and to be present in whatever I do. This means I don’t dwell on my past successes or failures nor do I worry about future ones. It also means that when I’m doing an activity, I’m fully engaged and giving it my best whether it be washing dishes, driving, or having dinner with friends. I’m not thinking about how nice it will be to finish, arrive at my destination, or to go home and sleep. I’m also not compulsively checking my phone. This anticipation of the future causes a lot of anxiety in the present.

I’m not telling you to eschew planning though. You should still plan for the future. However, that’s an act which is done in the present. You set aside some intentional and deliberate time to “create your future”™ to prevent it from overriding your daily thoughts.

Living in the present should be your ultimate expression of happiness. This seems paradoxical, doesn’t it? If you’re supposed to be perfectly happy as you are, why do anything to improve your situation? If you do improve your situation, shouldn’t you be even happier? But if that’s the case, when do you stop climbing the infinite mountain of happiness or scaling the glacier of goals? When you’re the richest person in the world? The smartest? The most attractive? The most successful?

Think of life more as sailing in the ocean. You don’t need to go anywhere. It’s perfectly fine to enjoy the soothing motion of the ocean waves. Permissible to enjoy the wind, sun, water, and briny air. And, if you get bored, you have the choice to sail towards whatever catches your eye, in whatever direction you please. Let your curiosity drive you. It all reminds me of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “life is a journey, not a destination.”

My Life Soundtrack

Another week, another foray into The 52 Lists Project. This time, I’m supposed to talk about the soundtrack of my life. I don’t know many songs off the top of my head so I’m just going to make up some song titles to describe my past year.

This past year went by fast, so there aren’t that many songs to this album. Each one spans roughly two months:

  1. Let’s Hangout
  2. Soul Searching
  3. Mayday
  4. Con-ection
  5. Panning for Gold
  6. Goodbye Forever

Albums and soundtracks are funny things. I don’t think I’ve ever listened to one where I enjoyed every single song. In 2019, I would have liked to skip tracks 3 and 6. Definitely crappy songs. Even though I didn’t like them, I still appreciated them. Those particular songs really helped balance out the year’s album and helped me learn more about gratitude and the beauty of life.

What songs would your album of 2019 have? I’d love to hear about them.

The Next Chapter

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”

Goerge Bernard Shaw

I often wonder if I’ll ever find a group of people who have the same set of core beliefs, values, and thoughts that I do. My very own tribe. People that I can share all my thoughts with and in the end, be met with a smile, a nod, and a simple affirmation like “I understand.”

I also worry that if I’m lucky enough to find these unicorns, would they accept me as one of their own? Or would I have to pass some elaborate, tortuous hazing process first? Oh the anxiety!

I’m probably not alone in this endeavor. Maybe when you spend hours scrolling or posting on social media, you’re just looking for that spark. You’re looking for that connection and place in the universe that calls your name, and only yours. And it’s hard to find. This problem gets worse as we move towards a more liberated, diverse and uncensored world. All of a sudden, we realize that nobody is similar to us. Then we lambaste ourselves for wasting our precious time looking for this intimacy.

Frankly, it probably is a waste. I’m tired of searching. We should instead be deeply spending our time tempering and shaping ourselves into the someone we’d like to be. The someone we would be thrilled to meet and spend all our time with. If we can cultivate intimacy with ourselves and actively make our mark in this universe, we’re bound to attract the people we want to us.

What Makes Me Happy

“To forget oneself is to be happy.”

Robert Louis Stevenson

Another week, another list. This time, I’m supposed to come up with a list of things that make me happy. Honestly, this could be a never-ending list. Here’s a sampling:

  • Unearthing a cookie dough nugget with my spoon in a pint of ice cream
  • Stepping into a hot shower
  • Nodding off during an especially boring activity and drooling on myself

These are undoubtedly the simple joys in my life. But I also realize that other people give me a lot of joy and happiness. This includes seeing people:

  • getting married
  • enjoying food
  • achieving their goals

There are things in life to marvel at and to be happy about that require virtually no effort on our part. All we have to do is stop and smell the roses.

Favorite Characters

“Knowledge will give you power, but character respect.”

Bruce Lee

The second list in The 52 Lists Project is listing out all the characters in books, shows, and movies that I like. At this moment, I’m having trouble with this task. And I think I know why.

In my youth, I never paid much attention to people. The things they talked about didn’t interest me. All the people I met were more or less the same. They were boring -especially the adults. They only wanted to know about me but didn’t share much about themselves.

I found my escape in books. Things were infinitely more exciting there. I could tag along in any whimsical world an author could dream up. However, I now realize that my nonchalance towards people translated over to my reading style. I always thought that adventures happened to people. But now I know this to be backwards. Adventures happen because of the people.

Talk about the amount of ingenuity authors need to have to put themselves in others shoes, and then write about it! The author I still think very fondly of is Roald Dahl. My favorite books of his:

  • James and the Giant Peach
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • The BFG
  • The Witches
  • Matilda

These books all starred kids. What adventures did these kids create? Well, they were all good kids in shitty situations. However, they didn’t accept that. They fought and prevailed in making their lives better. I think we could all learn a little from them and start pushing for change. Maybe then we’ll find ourselves in adventures worth talking about!

2020

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

Søren Kierkegaard

One of my favorite movies in my youth was “Back to the Future.” It had crazy scientists, action, and love – exactly what every juvenile craves. The only thing I never liked about the movie was the title. I was always under the impression you had to travel forward into the future and looking back was always about the past.

If you’re struggling with the same paradox, fear not. The internet has the answer. It’s because Marty spends the majority of the movies in the 1950s, trying to return to his time period of the 1980s. Therefore, he wants to get “Back to the Future.”

But, maybe there’s more profound meaning to be had. What if we’re meant to live life with our backs to the future? That is, we figuratively walk backwards into each new day. Think about it. And, before you lampoon me for this dumb dad joke, hear me out.

It’s easy to live life looking forwards. We set our sights on what looks attractive and make our way there. We make goals and resolutions. Some get achieved and others get earmarked for the next year. Most of us carry on in this matter repeatedly without much success. Are some of us just doomed to fail while others primed to succeed?

Unlikely. The true cause is probably under utilization of our complex brains. We need to learn from our past mistakes and that of others in order for us to live a wonderful future. And, that can only be done by looking backwards.

“Blasphemy!” you might argue. “How can one live if they’re constantly thinking about the past?” And I would say, how can you live if you haven’t tended to the past? If there’s still monsters and ghosts chasing you? If there’s doors you haven’t closed and locked, and messes you haven’t cleaned? You can run, but the past will relentlessly chase you and inevitably catch you.

Besides, the future is unpredictable anyway. So, given that, I’m spending my New Year’s reflecting on what I need to leave in the past. Which doors I should close and which I should keep open. Because, if there’s one year we need to prepare for with hindsight in mind, it’s definitely 2020.

Balance

“To light a candle is to cast a shadow…”

Ursula K. Le Guin

Today was the first time in my life that I stepped foot into a 24 Hour Fitness for a yoga class. It was an 8:30 am class. This was also my first time taking a yoga class with my mom. The entire experience was bizarre. Here’s what happened.

I entered the room at around 8:25 am. The previous session, a meditation class taught by the same instructor, was still in progress. I found a nice spot near the rear of the room and rolled out my mat and put my Yogitoes Yoga Mat Towel on top of it. It was at that point that I looked around the room.

In the middle of the room was a foldable camping chair with what looked to be an inflatable sleeping pad rolled out in front of it. A woman with a white cotton fishing hat was seated on it, chanting. Was this a camp retreat or a yoga practice?! This was highly unusual and my brain just couldn’t process it. Minutes later, a young man entered the room, set up shop to my right, and began karate chopping and kung fu kicking his way to enlightenment. Mind you, this was not what the teacher was instructing.

It was at that moment the 8:30 am class started. The teacher led us through some chanting and then a very spastic flow of tabletop, to downward facing dog, to upward facing dog, to child’s pose. After a few repetitions of this, we flipped onto our backs and did 1-minute of bicycle kicks. Then, over onto our stomachs for 1-minute of free-style kicking. The rest of the class involved continuously shishkabobing back and forth between stomach and back while doing “breath of fire” breathing. Then, we concluded with chanting. Karate kid was still doing his own thing.

Frankly, this class had none of the elements I love about yoga. The teacher didn’t set any intention for the practice, the students were all doing their own thing, and the transitions from one asana to another were abrupt. It was one of the worst yoga classes I’ve ever taken.

But did I truly hate it? No. Because in experiencing this class, I realized how blessed I am. I am grateful for my current practice and the studios that I attend. I’ve always been trying to find balance between effort and ease. And here I realized that a fulfilling life requires delicate balance between good and bad.

When we experience something negative, we disproportionately overemphasize its importance in our life. The stories we tell and gravitate towards are always that way. Love? You can bet there’s heartbreak. If it’s about friendship, there’s backstabbing involved. Work? Definitely those people that didn’t deserve to be promoted. Its as if we only lived for pain and suffering.

But what we often forget is that these experiences are necessary and that they help highlight the positives. You know what I’m talking about. The “you can’t have good without evil” mumbo jumbo. Each bad experience we have makes future experiences that much better.

I don’t know about you, but I’m firmly resolved to enjoy myself on this rollercoaster of life. You know the feeling. The anticipation, anxiety, and dread as you climb up towards the peak. Then the release, pleasure, and happiness as you plunge towards the bottom. It should be exactly like that. Never thinking about the previous plunge or climb – only the current one.

Remember, the lows are for us to really experience the highs – not the other way around.

Goals and Dreams

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”

Walt Disney

This year, two of my friends got me similar books. One of them got me The 52 Lists Project: A Year of Weekly Journaling Inspiration and the other one got me 52 Lists for Happiness: Weekly Journaling Inspiration for Positivity, Balance, and Joy. It’s ironic. But, I guess it’s a sign that I should start journaling.

I’ll kick off with Week 1 of the 52 Lists Project: goals and dreams for this coming year. They are as follows:

  • Finish yoga teacher training
  • Do a handstand
  • Make 5 new friends
  • Start my own business
  • Be in the best mental and physical shape of my life
  • Write my thoughts down in this blog
  • Find love

I’m making good progress on all of my goals. That last one though — that’s a dream. I have a dream to find love. But that’s the funny thing about life – we aren’t guaranteed anything. I can probably find somebody to love, but may never be able to find someone to love me back.

They usually say that goals can help you achieve your dreams. And, I can certainly see how that’s possible. If I work on myself, it’s inevitable that I’ll end up loving myself more. And, then hopefully, that’ll attract other people to love me. 🙂

Create your website at WordPress.com
Get started