Keeping a journal, seeking the truth

What is it about keeping a journal that makes it so beneficial?

I write or record a journal entry just about every single day. I’ve done it for years. In fact, as a habit it’s become self-perpetuating. I’m not sure I could stop even if I wanted to.

A journal is a lot of things, yet in the end, if you’re doing it right, it can be summarized in one word: truth.

You see, honesty is integral to the process of journaling.

I remember writing my first few journal entries. I was embarrassed. I was sloppy. I didn’t know how to communicate. Not to other people, certainly not to myself.

I would write superficial nothings, as if I were being watched by a room full of people. I wrote as if I were writing on MSN messenger (remember that?). I would even pop in a few smileys, just to make sure of not stepping on my own toes.

For some reason, though, I stuck to it. I kept writing. At first just whenever I remembered to. Soon enough, it became a habit. Now, self communication is integral to my sense of self.

When I think back to the time before I started keeping a journal, it’s hard to believe that I used to be so blocked, so inarticulate, so lost in triviality.

You can’t really love other people until you truly love yourself, and the same is true of communication. If you can’t articulate ideas, feelings, events, or ambitions to yourself, you can be sure that you can’t communicate them to others. As within, so without.

The act of keeping a daily journal is a practice. It’s a practice in communication with self. It’s a practice in finding the core of concepts, ideas, emotions and difficulties. It’s a practice of articulation.

I’ve filled hundreds of pages of soul-searching. Some of them contain inane navel-gazing, but more and more they seem to contain profound insights into what it means to be me. I keep a few full journals in a drawer at home. Others I’ve lost. One I burnt on a beach in South America.

To others, they may seem overly dramatic, even contentious. Maybe they seem pointless. But to me they have immeasurable value and vast meaning. Even if I hardly ever look through old journals, the mere fact that I wrote them, the hours of work behind them, the deep, surgical search for fulfilment, day after day, fill me with a sense of awe.

Truth is the key word when it comes to keeping a journal. You may be able to lie to others, but you always know when you’re lying to yourself. And it hurts all the more.

If you start a journal today, and just write, and you keep it up for a few weeks or months, you will realize how much you’ve been lying to yourself, and you will seek to find truth.

Truth heals. Truth is purely subjective. What you sense to be true is what’s important here.

By no means have I arrived at the end of the path of journaling. In fact, I think I’m just getting started. But it’s a fulfilling path, I can tell you that much. When you realize truth, your relationship to past, present and future changes. The more you manifest truth in your life, the better life will be.

Good luck on your journey.

Much love.

 

Self help or self acceptance?

I’ve become very wary of self help books and articles, especially of the quick-fix variety. In fact, I’ve started to see them as more of a nuisance than a helpful resource, even damaging. The thing with self help, I feel, is that the main premise of the genre is lack or inadequacy.

Obviously, self improvement is generally an admirable endeavor.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t aim to be the best person you have the potential to be. What I am saying is that the vast majority of self help material is primarily devised, not to make you a better person, but to make somebody else a lot of money.

Some of the best-selling self help works are aimed at improving social skills, for example.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with working on social skills per se, but the fact is that not everyone is of a gregarious disposition. Not everyone gets energized by going to a party or partaking in large group activities.

Peoples’ temperaments range between the extremes of introversion and extroversion, and neither quality is better than the other.

However, extroversion has been pedestalized by western society in the last hundred years, especially through American culture. In contrast, the ideal of the brooding philosopher or wise hermit has sort of died off.

Good social skills are invaluable. They are a magnificent tool to improve life and make it in the world, but I think they are highly overrated, at the expense of voluntary solitude.

Solitude is beautiful, and the potential for personal growth through being alone is definitely on par with the potential for growth through enrapturing, profound conversation.

An entire industry has risen around the myth that if you’re not extroverted, there must be something wrong with you and maybe you can fix it by buying this book/program/dvd-series!

That’s really the root of my dissatisfaction with the self help industry, the fact that at the end of the day, it’s all about selling more stuff. And I know there are some gems out there, but most of it is chaff.

In my own life, I’ve started shying away from this kind of material. The way forward for me has been to reconcile the paradox of self improvement versus self acceptance.

How can you be motivated to improve yourself if you already believe you’re good enough? And how can you accept yourself when you work from the assumption that you’re not good enough as you are?

This is a tough question, and it’s taken me a long time to figure out what can be done.

If you can’t accept yourself as you are right this moment, you can be sure of depression and anxiety. And if you narcissistically decide that you’re already perfect, you stagnate or you may even have a negative influence on those around you and ultimately make your situation worse.

As in so many things in life, a balance needs to be struck. A bargain of sorts. Self acceptance to the degree that self love is possible, without falling into narcissism.

You see, accepting yourself as you are is not the same as thinking you’re perfect. That’s narcissism, and that’s not a good path to take.

Accepting yourself means accepting your flaws and weaknesses, as well as your strengths. Ironically, true self improvement can only begin after accepting the flaws you seek to improve.

Even though both concepts are valuable, the fact is that self acceptance is the base or pillar on which self improvement necessarily rests.

Once I realized this, I instantly started to feel better about myself, because I started focusing on knowing myself, in order that I could finally come to accept myself.

In closing, my last beef with traditional self help is this: You should decide what needs improvement! Not everyone wants to or even needs to improve in the same way. Stop giving other people, companies or institutions permission to tell you what’s wrong.

Through introspection and contemplation, you can figure out what you really need. It may surprise you.

What’s helped me most of all are two things: Keeping a journal, and meditating. Maybe “helped” isn’t really sufficient. Transformed is better, more accurate. These habits, over many years, have transformed me to the point that I hardly recognize myself, and my perceptions of the world around me are totally different.

True investigation of the relationship between self and other is a rabbit hole so deep that you will never find your way back out. It’s the ultimate adventure. I hope to see you down there.

As always, much love.

The way you do anything is the way you do everything

As far as work goes, I’ve been pretty happy with my lot these last few years.

This is the eighth summer I’ve worked as a ranger in a national park in the north of Iceland, doing all kinds of maintenance work along with nature interpretation and education.

I’m privileged enough to get paid for spending part of my day every day in silent solitude, surrounded by magnificent nature.

However, like most people, there are things about my job that I’m not too thrilled about. Telling people off for breaking the strict rules of the park is one of those things.

Cleaning filthy, and I mean filthy (at least sometimes) dry toilets is another.

Most tourists are just regular people looking to experience something new, but every now and then you meet some real dick-heads. Dealing with those peeps is definitely on my list of things I dislike at work.

In years gone by, I would rush these chores off as quickly as I could, usually not paying much attention to the quality of my actions, and the consequences.

I would make sure the bathrooms at least looked clean, but I would cut corners wherever I could. I would make sure people ended up following the rules, without making sure that we parted on terms of mutual respect.

I’ve learned that the way I do anything is the way I do anything. If I do a shitty job cleaning toilets (poop-pun intended), I can be sure I will be more likely to lazily brush off something that is actually important to me.

If I deal with people brusquely when all that’s needed is a gentle reminder and a kind smile, I can be sure that the relationships I truly cherish will suffer for it.

Integrity is the name of the game.

If I’m going to do something, it deserves my full attention and devotion. No matter how unimportant it is to me, relatively speaking.

It’s a form of meta-practice. Practicing excellence in everything we do seems to be a pretty good way to go.

Much love.

Preparing for a rainy day

Summer is coming to a close, as is this chapter of my weird life.

The last few months have been kind to me, relatively speaking. I’ve enjoyed better health than I’ve had for years, physically, and my mind has stabilized in accordance to that.

I’ve been diligently preparing for the next disaster, so to speak, since I know that the disease I’ve been dealing with tends to come in flares.

I’m sorry to say that the last few weeks have been hard on me. My health has been deteriorating once more, though I hope this flare will be calmer than the ones before it.

The illness has been taking its toll on me physically, mostly, but my mindset is starting to catch up.

I said that I’d been preparing for this next flare, and that’s no joke.

I’ve been working on developing healthful habits in all areas of life, from diet and exercise to meditation and journaling.

Going out for a run every day, developing mindfulness in every day life, eating healthy (though honestly, I haven’t been fully devoted to my diet in the last few weeks), and developing a vision for the future.

Expecting the worst, I was working on building a pillar of virtue to lean against when life gets rough again. The time has come to put it to the test.

Or I may just be overly dramatic. I hope that this is the worst of it, and that my health starts getting better from here. It’s certainly possible.

But my hopes have been shattered multiple times in the past, and besides, being prepared for a rainy day is always sensible.

This post is mostly just an update on what’s going on with me, why I haven’t been posting too much in the last months.

In about a week I’m moving across the country and starting school once more, in carpentry. So things will be quite hectic for me in days and weeks to come.

In no way am I quitting this website though. When things have settled, health-wise and otherwise, I’ll come back stronger than ever, with better content than the world has ever seen! Or somewhere along those lines anyway.

Until then, much love.

The root of pornography addiction – Part 3

This post is part of a series. Check out part 1 and part 2.

I’ve been writing about anxiety a lot recently.

The reason is that I’ve realized how titanic the role of anxiety has been in my developing addiction to pornography.

In the last few posts on pornography addiction I’ve been going into the causes and consequences of dealing with anxiety with porn, but today I want to talk about what makes pornography such a perfect (temporary) anxiety medication.

The easiest way to get rid of anxiety (temporarily) is to forget it. That’s why so many of us develop addictions to all kinds of stimulating substances and activities.

I believe that some form of anxiety lies at the root of most addiction.

Certainly there is a physiological reason as well, such as dopamine desensitization and chemical dependency, but those seem to arise after the fact.

Anxiety also has different facets and levels of intensity, as may seem obvious when we think about all the different circumstances that allow anxiety to arise, from going to a party to finding yourself in a war-zone.

In order to forget our feelings of anxiety we look for substances or activities that are so stimulating or engrossing that nothing else can catch our attention.

People have used all kinds of things that fit this bill, for thousands of years. Alcohol is arguably the most obvious of addictions in the collective consciousness, but there are all kinds of other ways to forget, as you probably already know.

Cannabis, gambling, tobacco, opiates and cocaine are all prime candidates, but all of these along with alcohol tend to form very obvious consequences that are easily recognized and usually heavily stigmatized by the people around us.

Alcoholics, for example, develop a notorious body odor and the changes in behavior make others feel very uncomfortable. Smokers tend to smell like the ashtrays they seek wherever they go, and crack addicts become highly neurotic and paranoid. All of these side-effects are highly repelling to most people, and there will be dire social repercussions.

That’s why most of us, especially when our anxiety is more mild than extreme, seek more socially acceptable ways of forgetting. Sugary food and drinks, television and video games, coffee, sex and pornography are all more or less socially acceptable and they all more or less allow us to forget uncomfortable feelings of anxiety.

So why do I say pornography is especially sinister? The reason is simple, really, when you give yourself a bit of time to think about it.

In the last few years, with the advent of ubiquitous high-speed internet and smart phones in every persons front pocket, seeking out pornography has become easier than ever before. This ease of access, along with the fact that porn plays on our most primal, powerful urge to reproduce, is what makes pornography addiction inevitable in people with anxiety.

It’s even easier to binge on porn than to binge on sugar or television or video games, because it’s a solitary act, and leaves no traces (when you use incognito mode, at least).

This is a major problem for society, due to reprogramming of youth, especially of young men, to become unable to get aroused except by pixels on a screen. Real boobs and butts won’t do it anymore.

I say this is a societal problem because, as I’ve experienced in my own life, inability to become aroused by real people leads directly to depression, and stokes the fires of anxiety that you sought to extinguish with porn in the first place. Depression leads to unemployment, social isolation, all kinds of other physiological ailments, and at the extreme, suicide.

However, the main problem lies with the individual. Society is made up of individuals. In fact, society only exists as a collective of individuals. You and I are society.

This means, I believe, that individual responsibility is the key to a healthy society. How can people take responsibility for something they don’t understand?

That’s why we need to direct our energy, on an individual basis, toward understanding our anxiety, where it comes from, what we do on a quotidian basis to relieve it, and what the consequences are or will be. We can’t depend on a broken society to save a broken individual. The individual needs to learn to save him or herself.

Meditation is an immensely powerful tool for self-change. It’s not a quick fix, in fact it’s quite the opposite. Meditation should be looked at as a life-long activity. Throughout the years, meditation has been my anchor in a life that’s been rocking violently back and forth on the tidal waves of coincidence and chance.

Writing a journal has also been invaluable to me, as a tool for thought-organization and introspection.

The bottom line is this: Forgetting anxiety is a temporary solution, with dire long term consequences. Instead of seeking unconsciousness, seeking ways to move our attention away from our most difficult feelings, we need to seek ever more conscious living.

Becoming fully conscious of our anxiety as it is happening is the key to truly overcoming it.

I’ve written several articles on the power of meditation and journaling, which have been the keystones of my life for many years now, and the benefits are still compounding exponentially.

I wish you all the best in your journey of expanding consciousness.

Much love.