Responsibility is power

You know, with great power comes great responsibility. That’s a great quote, but it has an underrepresented sibling:

With great responsibility comes great power.

I want to clarify a very important distinction: Responsibility is not the same as blame, or fault. Responsibility means so much more. The word itself contains the meaning, response-ability. The ability to respond. More than that, the competence to respond.

A drunk driver hits a loved one and kills them instantly. Devastating. It’s obvious who’s to blame, really. But who is responsible for the aftermath?

Who’s responsible for the ensuing depression, the sorrow, the empty spot your loved one used to occupy?

More often than not, people shirk responsibility. As if it’s something to be feared, something that weighs you down.

And in the common usage of the word, no wonder. It’s often used negatively. “Who is responsible for this?!” is thrown about in times of trouble. It’s often confused with fault. “Who’s fault is this?!” is often more appropriate. But even fault is relatively unrelated to responsibility.

Responsibility is voluntary, fault is not.

The drunk driver in the example above will always be at fault, whether he decides to take responsibility for what he’s done or not.

You may not be at fault for the bad things that life has thrown at you, but you can certainly choose to take responsibility for them. That means accepting things for what they are, forgiving whoever or whatever you perceive to be at fault (be aware though, perceptions can be deceiving), and taking action to make the situation better, in any way possible.

It means not waiting for someone else to help you, in fact it means not even wasting the mental energy on figuring out who you believe should make up for whatever happened to you.

If there is any way you can make it more likely that the person at fault will take responsibility, like calling them out on it, or actually talking to them, do it. But if there’s nothing you can do, let it slide. If amends are to be made, they will be made whether you brood on it or not.

I feel like this is a very key point. Sometimes, the best thing is for whoever caused a situation to take responsibility for it. It may be hard on them. Don’t take on somebody else’s responsibility unless you’re absolutely sure they’re adamant on not taking it.

However, when whoever is responsible shirks responsibility, you can decide to take it on yourself. This doesn’t mean that you start blaming yourself for what happened, but rather that you decide that you will do everything within your power to make it better.

This is no easy decision, but it can be incredibly impactful. Let me give you an example from my own life.

As I’ve alluded to in many posts, I have been very ill for the last two years. It was a major complication with a medication I had taken for a long timer, and at first I blamed doctors, pharmaceutical companies, hell, even society as a whole.

But two years is a long time.

I had time to see what all that brooding and blaming and hating was doing to me in the long run, and I didn’t like it.

I started to realize that if I ever wanted to get out of this mess, get my health back, and protect the people I loved from experiencing the same catastrophe, I would have to take responsibility for myself. For my own health, wealth, and happiness.

So that’s what I did, and here I am now.

My health is getting better every day, in fact every single aspect of my life has improved since the fateful decision to take on the great responsibility of being. That doesn’t mean that the decision itself allowed me to regain my health. It means that the decision to take responsibility finally allowed me to put in the work to find out what would.

Egg

That’s the thing, really. All responsibility does is open doors for solutions. If your shirk responsibility and blame somebody else, you’re essentially saying that somebody else should fix it. Worse yet, you’re saying somebody else is the only one who can fix it.

It’s all mental, as with so much else. We create our own reality by way of our thoughts. This truth is becoming clearer to me every single day.

That’s not to say that taking responsibility for yourself is easy. It’s not.

It will always be easier to find a scapegoat, somebody to blame. Whether it’s defensible or not. There’s always somebody else.

This is a matter of personal development. We can only change that which we take responsibility for. The power of personal responsibility can’t be overstated.

Let me tell you about another time responsibility changed my life.

I’ve been addicted to pornography for years. My name is Tolli, and I am a porn addict, as they say. One of the definitions of addiction is repeatedly trying to stop an activity, without success, despite destructive consequences. Well, ever since I discovered that you actually could become addicted to pornography, I’ve been trying to stop. That was five years ago.

A bit more than a month ago, I decided that I couldn’t go like this. I ended up installing accountability software on all my devices, which would monitor my online activities and send a message to my girlfriend if I searched for porn.

Suffice it to say, that decision stopped the addiction in its tracks.

So you may be wondering, how exactly does responsibility fit into this story?

Well, when we take on responsibility for a bad habit, it becomes painfully clear what action needs to be taken to remedy it. In this case, the action that needed to be taken was simple : Asking for help.

I installed the software, and then I asked my girlfriend to help me overcome my addiction. Sometimes, the action we need to take involves other people.

So what are the potential long-term outcomes of developing this mindset of responsibility? Let’s explore.

You will develop into somebody who is truly proud of him or herself, your achievements and relationships, because you know that they were truly responsible for their development.

The suffering that comes from the helplessness of blaming others for your problems will disappear. You no longer look to others and expect them to fix the sh*t you get yourself into. This means you’ll also be more careful not to muck things up, if at all possible.

When confronted with disaster, you will be the pillar, the shoulder to cry on. Instead of adding to the burden of grief, you will be able to be there for your family and friends when things go awry.

You will be the strong, stable, focused person you’ve always wanted to be. In part, this is because whatever happens, you know that you can deal with it, however difficult it may be. Life will give you catastrophe at some point. It’s bound to come. It’s just a part of the human experience.

When that time comes, you will be a rock. Your integrity won’t budge. Your mind won’t fill with hate and blame. Instead your mind will generate possible answers and solutions.

Can you imagine a life where you took full, complete responsibility for everything?

When you start do implement this mindset, you will see improvements everywhere. And not just by accident; you will be the reason for those improvements.

Your health will improve because you decide to take responsibility for your diet. Your environment will become more organized because you take responsibility for the mess all around you. Your relationships will improve because you take responsibility for saying what needs to be said.

The potential is truly limitless. This is how we can find true fulfillment. We may not always be happy, but happiness is overrated anyway.

Sometimes the action that needs to be taken to remedy your situation will take hard work. Sometimes blood, sometimes tears. It may not make you happy in the short term, but it will give you a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment that will stay with you for the rest of your life. Apart from fixing your problems, of course.

Let’s say you have a sh*tty diet. You take responsibility for it, and you start to eat clean, get rid of soda (poison water), and even start going for a run every day. Things seem to be improving, but suddenly you notice that your friends are starting to get weird. It’s like you’re shaming them for not taking responsibility for their bad diets by doing so for your own.

They start to gaslight you, make fun of you, call you a health freak (man, I hate that!). You know what needs to be done next.

You need to take responsibility for the fact that these people are even in your life in the first place. If you think about it, most of our friends are just friends by fluke. By chance. You didn’t choose them, mostly they’re just the people that stuck around, that happened to be in the same place as you.

Responsibility means ending those relationships that aren’t serving you anymore. Or maybe they never were.

It also means ending those inner thought patterns that no longer serve you. Many of us have experienced being ridiculed by the inner judge, depressive and anxious thought-cycles that seem designed to crush you.

Instead of going to a shrink and getting medication (which would be very irresponsible, to my mind, although I believe psychotherapy certainly has a place in all this), you decide to take responsibility for whatever’s going through your head at any given time.

That’s friggin’ hard to do!

This is where meditation becomes an invaluable tool. It’s really just a method of observing here, now. Instead of identifying with thoughts, as we usually do, you start to become aware of them as they come. With almost an outside view, a detached view of what is actually happening.

The more you sit down and just observe the thoughts going through your mind, the better you will understand what needs to change.

I try to meditate for an hour at a time, in the mornings and evenings, two hours daily. Sometimes this isn’t possible, but I try to make time for an hour of meditation at minimum. I’ve kept this up, on and off, for a few years, and the results would have been unimaginable to me before.

The main thing is to start where you are. I’m not suggesting that you start meditating two hours a day right now. You won’t be able to keep it up, and it would probably be detrimental to you in the long run. When I started, I literally did meditations lasting one or two minutes at a time. And that felt like a long time of sitting still to me!

That’s where I needed to start. It may be where you need to start.

In a world where nobody takes responsibility for themselves, you will be one in a million. You will become valued by everybody around you. People will trust you, and they will depend on you.

Every moment, you have a chance to change your life to the better. Don’t worry about missed opportunities, because every moment is an opportunity.

The future is now, as they say. What you decide now will create the future. The future is nothing but the result of our decisions in the present.

I’ve decided to go fully on board with this philosophy. The fact is, the way you do anything is the way you do everything. Meaning, do everything as well as you can, and you can do anything well. I look forward to keep discovering the benefits of this mindset for myself.

I’ll end with a particularly poignant quote:

You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end, each of us must work for his own improvement and, at the same time, share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful.

Marie Curie

Good luck on your journey.

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5 reasons to be grateful right now

I tend to worry a lot about the future, about being good enough, about not being where I want to be.

I find it incredibly important and soothing to just remind myself how much good is in my life.

That doesn’t mean life can’t improve, and it doesn’t mean that there aren’t issues that need resolving.

But it means that you can cut yourself some slack, and just enjoy the positive for a change. Here are five reasons to be grateful right now:

1. You are capable of reading this article!

You have eyes that work. You’re literate. You probably have a smartphone or a PC to read this on. ‘Nuff said.

There are plenty of people who are blind, have had no opportunity to educate themselves, and who don’t own a single thing apart from the clothes they wear.

Not to make you feel guilty, but that’s definitely a reason to feel grateful.

2. You have time to read this article!

You have enough free time to browse the internet, searching for fulfilling articles and videos (or just to pass the time).

You’re not breaking your back in a coal mine from dawn to dusk like the peeps of 150 years ago.

You would have been lucky to get 6 hours of sleep per night, and there was no concept of minimum wage, workers’ rights or even workplace security!

So take a moment to breathe a sigh of relief and head on to reason number three.

3. You’re not in danger of being attacked by a wild animal (hopefully)

There are a lot of problems in modern human society, but thankfully being mauled by a panther is not one of them. At least in the vast majority of cases.

One of the reasons for our perpetual state of stress and anxiety in life is our highly evolved biological system for evaluating danger and hopefully escaping it.

And a big part of that danger for our prehistoric ancestors were predators. Lions, tigers and bears. Maybe the odd dinosaur thrown in the mix.

So life may still be difficult, but at least we can not worry about being eaten alive.

4. You have access to the vast stores of information of the internet

You can learn about anything. There may be a lot of bad information, but with a little know-how, you can learn to separate the wheat from the chaff.

You can learn all there is to learn about engineering. Or medicine. Or psychology. You can study the history of philosophy, carpentry, plumbing, you name it.

University degrees are fine, but knowledge is power.

In all eras of human existence, up until the last twenty years or so, knowledge was incredibly limited, and as were the means of communicating it.

In the middle ages, if you wanted to learn to read, you had to either be one of the lucky 0.001% of people born into royalty, or you had to become a monk or nun.

And even then your reading would have been mostly limited to the bible and its derivatives (at least in Europe).

5. You are conscious

You have something, without which none of this would exist. You are a conscious being. You’re not a rock. You’re not empty space, or a rotting piece of wood.

You were fortunate enough to be born. You are a human being. Your potential for spiritual growth is limitless.

Whatever may be wrong in your life and in the world around you, know this: The fact that you’re here at all is the most valuable thing you will ever encounter.

There is so much to be achieved with consciousness. Infinite possibilities reside in the human incarnate.

It’s quite easy to forget this simple fact, to feign ignorance about it. But your value as a conscious being cannot be overstated.

Each of us live in our own reality. We play the main role of existence, each one of us. We have our ups and downs, and we have a purpose to fulfill.

This is a game. A long, complicated game.

We can certainly be grateful for the chance to play it at all.

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3 ways to supercharge your self-discipline (that may surprise you)

In recent years, I’ve managed to become very disciplined in my life.

If there’s something that needs doing, I rarely procrastinate any more.

I don’t call in sick due to laziness or lethargy, I don’t skip workouts, I don’t skip meditation sessions.

I still want to improve my discipline even more in the coming weeks, months, and years, but I’m pretty happy with my progress so far.

In fact, just yesterday I was comparing my way of thinking with today’s, and it’s just amazing.

And to be honest, I know exactly what made the most difference in building this habit of discipline.

Here are the three things, in reverse order of importance, that I’ve done to become more disciplined in the last few years:

1. Decide to do everything as well as you possibly can

When I started to strive for excellence in all aspects of my life, meaning not only the things I found important, but also menial, tedious, and boring things like doing the dishes, hanging up laundry, cleaning toilets, sweeping floors, clipping toenails, everything.

What this really implies is that you put your full attention on whatever it is you need to do right now.

Another name for this concept?

Mindfulness.

When I started to become mindful of even the least exciting activities in my life, and attempting to do them as well as I could, a funny thing happened:

I started getting better results with the things that were actually most enjoyable and most important in my life.

I wasn’t really expecting that to happen, to be honest, so as you can imagine I was pretty thrilled with the results. And I still am.

So apply yourself fully to whatever is at hand, even if it’s dirty work, even if you wish you were doing something else. Do it as well as you can and that discipline will seep into all aspects of your life.

2. Start a journal

This may not seem very related to developing stronger discipline, but in fact it’s one of the most effective methods I’ve discovered for doing just that.

What happens when you start a journal, at first, is nothing comes out.

You try to write, you may even sincerely want write, but you just don’t know what to write.

I know that’s what happened when I started keeping a journal.

There was a definite learning curve, to be sure, but once the journaling wheel starts rolling there’s no stopping it.

In my life, keeping a journal has become a self-perpetuating entity. What I mean by that is that it’s become so instrumental to keeping my life on track that stopping is no longer an option.

Quitting journaling would be paramount to quitting life at this point.

And we can’t have that.

So what should you write about?

Well, dig in there. Start by writing just what you’re thinking. Or what you think you’re thinking. Do that for a full page, even two.

Now you’ve gotten in the groove, start figuring out what’s weighing down on you.

Everyone, at all points in life, will have some problems or issues that need resolving, or aspects of themselves or their relationships that need improving. Without that, life would be just about meaningless.

But the thing is, if you don’t know what’s wrong, how can you possibly expect to know what needs to be done?

You see, in many cases, procrastination is simply a result of not knowing what needs to be done or why it should be done in the first place.

It’s been many years since I started keeping a journal, and I’ve kept many kinds. Voice recorders, digital journals, and plain old paper.

They all work, and each has its advantages.

Although it’s been a long time since I started, I still clearly remember many instances where I solved major life issues (or at least figured out what needed to be done, which is half the battle) just by writing about it enough.

Relationships that needed ending, bad habits that needed to be rooted out, thought patterns that needed optimizing or disintegration.

Journaling is the best way I’ve found for life optimization.

It’s like defragmenting your mind. Like alphabetizing the file cabinet of your brain.

It let’s you discover what’s important and what’s not, and what needs letting go, and what needs letting in.

So find 15 minutes every day to write down what’s going through your mind, and reap the benefits.

3. Daily meditation

I left meditation until last because it’s the habit that has most improved my discipline in the last five years.

If you only take one thing to heart from this article, let it be this: Meditation can open doors in your life, the existence of which you cannot conceive.

If you apply yourself to meditating every morning and every evening, all aspects of your life will become clearer.

The discipline required to sit down, even for as little as ten minutes, and follow your breath or your bodily sensations, is immense. Especially if you haven’t done it before.

But it becomes easier with time.

And you will find that discipline in all other areas will also become easier.

You see, meditation is, in part, an exercise in discipline.

Over time, as you meditate more, you’ll want to meditate even more.

And in my experience, the more you meditate (at least up until the 2 hours daily mark), the more your discipline will develop.

Meditation is sometimes uncomfortable or painful and often mind-numbingly boring, although the deeper you go, the more interesting it becomes.

My point is, the discipline you need to exercise to consistently sit down and subject yourself to pain and boredom is immense, but the results will speak for themself.

Start a habit of daily meditation today. Start with five minutes, and work yourself up from there.

It’s not rocket science, it’s actually very simple.

Just sit down and observe. Observe your thoughts, feelings, and sensations, without engaging or judging.

Or follow your breath. There are tons of great articles and guided meditations out there for free, so there’s no excuse not to start.

Believe me, it will be the best change you ever make in your life.

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You think you know what you need. You’re wrong.

A few years ago, I thought I knew what I wanted from life.

I thought I knew what was best for me.

In fact, every single year I laugh at how sure of myself I used to be.

Things change. Sometimes things happen the way you want them to, but mostly they happen in unimaginable ways.

Three years ago I saw myself living as a hippie backpacker, hopping from this hostel to that, meeting new girls in every port, counting pennies, working as little as possible.

Pleasure was my ultimate goal in life.

Respect was up there as well, but back then I didn’t know what respect meant.

I may not have had a plan for the future, but I sure as hell knew what I wanted here and now. I was sure of it.

Fast forward six months, and, as is the way of life, I got a devastating existential kick in the face.

I watched my expectations crumble around me through the tears in my eyes.

Lightning struck.

I found myself in an ever-tightening vice of a little-known, even-less-researched, nightmarish illness. It was related to medication I had been taking for a long time.

Better yet, it seemed that the illness would be chronic. At least two to five years, I found out.

The five stages of grief. I went through them all.

Denial

It couldn’t be that bad for me. Exceptional cases of this illness resolved themselves in two to six months. Surely I must be one of the lucky ones. I wasn’t even hoping, I was certain.

Anger

After half a year of crushing pain, sores, insomnia, isolation and nightmares, I started to get pretty pissed.

Why can’t anybody do something for me!? Why can’t this be fixed?

Bargaining

I started buying all kinds of supplements, I changed my diet again and again.

I ate only steamed vegetables and white rice for six weeks. No salt, no spices, no animal products, no sugar, no chocolate… No coffee or tea, nothing really.

Try it, and if you don’t get depressed I’ll send you a medal.

Depression

After trying everything I could possibly think of to end my suffering, to no avail, color faded from the world. Meaning was nowhere to be found. Why bother at all?

Suicidal thoughts became frequent, and even welcome, guests.

At this point I was still in school, barely scraping through, on a special deal with my teachers so I didn’t have to come in every day. Even so, I had no interest in what I was doing. I was totally burned out.

Acceptance

The point of acceptance only came at around the eighteen month mark. I was still hopeless, I thought there was no way I would regain my health and live a normal life again.

However, I started to accept my lot.

This was the hand I had been dealt in life. Better do what I can.

I quit school, and spent all my time researching what I could do to get better. In fact, I finally did find some remedies that seemed to work!

After a few months of giving myself the rest I needed, I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel. My symptoms got markedly better, the black smoke of depression started to lift.

I started to exercise a bit. I felt confident enough to leave the house once more.

It finally looked like I would be able to climb out of the pit the universe had pushed me into.

A few months after that, I felt well enough to walk the eight hundred kilometers from the Pyrenees in France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. I made a pilgrimage.

It marked a new chapter in my life. I finally felt like I was gaining some control over my fate once again.

I didn’t get what I wanted. Life didn’t give me what I thought I was entitled to. I got pure horror instead. I was given a reminder of my mortality.

And you know what?

I wouldn’t change a thing.

I never did get what I wanted, but by the grace of something higher than myself, I got what I needed.

Life is tricky. It’s not really what it seems. It’s an illusion of endless layers. We live and we learn. We learn through experience.

We’ve all been smacked in the face by life, and if you’re young enough or lucky enough to have dodged it, someone you love and cherished has been.

And anyway, life will get you too.

I may sound harsh, but it’s nothing to fear. It will be difficult, painful, and you will suffer. But, if you stay conscious, you will also grow.

And that’s why you’re here.

A habit of excellence

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

Will Durant

We all get lazy from time to time. I know I’m guilty of more than my fair share of laziness.

With that being said, I’ve been striving to stop myself from being lazy.

Well, maybe not completely, I still have bouts of being glued to the sofa, with no energy or incentive to do anything. But at least I’ve been striving to stop myself from being lazy when it counts.

Ironically, I’ve recently realized that every moment counts.

Every moment is important, as is everything we do. Everything.

I started to grasp the enormity of this idea this summer, while working as a ranger in a national park in the north-east of Iceland.

Now, the job of a ranger is interesting, fulfilling, and varied in many ways, but there are also plenty of chores. Plenty of work that needs to be done where you can’t help but thing “can’t someone else do it?”.

Bear in mind that an Icelandic ranger is a whole different creature from the stereotypical armed U.S. Park ranger with a hat.

In Iceland, rangers are certainly guarding and protecting natural reserves, but we also take care of all maintenance in the park, information centers, and campsites.

That means I’m mopping floors, picking up trash, working the cash register and scrubbing fecal matter off toilet seats that should have been replaced decades ago.

Nobody likes cleaning toilets. Well, maybe someone does, but it’s certainly not my favorite activity.

I’ve worked as a ranger for seven summers, and up until now, when it came to the grunt work of hauling trash and cleaning grime off bathroom walls, I would half-ass it.

I would do it poorly, as fast as I could, often leaving the situation just barely better that it was before.

I’m not really sure what changed this.

This summer, it just clicked. The idea that “the way you do anything is the way you do everything“.

I realized that half-assing anything meant half-assing life. And I couldn’t have that.

So I scrubbed like I’ve never scrubbed before. I left the toilet seats so clean that I could see my reflection in them. I picked up all trash I laid eyes on. The park was squeaky clean whenever I was around.

I didn’t stop there. I decided to practice excellence in all areas. When I had rude customers, I swallowed my pride and compromised with them. When people did stupid things, I still treated them with respect.

I came in on time, every single day.

I used to regularly get tired and lazy before, and just call in sick when I didn’t feel like working. Well, I didn’t take one sick day this summer.

I started building a habit of excellence.

I’ve kept it up after I started school. I come to class on time. I come in every day. I do everything I’m required to do, and I strive to do it well.

I’ve seen how deciding to be excellent at the chores I enjoy the least, I start doing better at the things I feel are most important.

I think excellence can become a habit. In fact I’m sure of it. We’re not born disciplined, we develop discipline. With every single act of disciplined excellence, we become more disciplined, and our lives become more excellent.

This is a call to all of you lazy bums out there (myself included) to get off your backside and do what needs to be done, and to do it well.

 

 

Settling down

Finally! I’m back in Reykjavik, I’ve started my woodworking course, my health is better than ever, and we just finished unpacking in our new (temporary) apartment.

It’s weird, I used to think I was such a free spirit, that I couldn’t handle staying in the same place for longer than a few months, that I was a citizen of the world. I’m starting to accept that I’m not. Not as much as I thought, at least.

I’ve traveled quite a lot, having moved a lot as a child and into adolescence, and then after high school I’ve taken long backpacking trips, short courses, volunteering posts and a cross-country hike, all around the world, for years. And it’s been cool, but man am I tired of being on the move all the time.

The sentiment of wanting to slow down, to stay in one place for once, is one that I’ve only now started to accept, even though it’s been brewing for quite some time. It didn’t fit my ideal persona of happy-go-lucky world traveler, I guess.

Settling has some pretty negative connotations in our culture, if you think about it. “Settling for” something or someone, for example, implies not fulfilling your true potential. “Settling down” implies that youth is gone, and with it any lingering sense of adventure, or even chance for adventure.

Bilbo Baggins was pretty settled when Gandalf came knocking on his door. He would have missed the greatest adventure of his life if it hadn’t been for the wizard’s refusal to do so.

I’ve started to think of settling down as more of a digging down, a developing of roots. And I think having no roots is just as bad as having roots so strong that you can’t even imagine moving out of your bubble.

I’m not quite ready to decide on buying a house or start a family, but I’m inching towards it. I’ve started thinking about ways I can improve my own future, and the futures of everyone I love and ever will love along with it.

Actually, part of the reason I started to study carpentry at 26 years old, is because I have a vision of building my own house, or renovating an old one, somewhere out in the country. I don’t know exactly where or exactly when, but that’s the direction I’ve taken.

I can build endlessly upon that dream. I want to become more self sufficient in life. I want to grow my own food, to repair my own stuff, to raise my own children. To manifest my own dream instead of somebody else’s.

Because that’s what we’re really doing, when we refuse to take responsibility for our own health, wealth, and happiness. We’re lining someone else’s pockets, building someone else’s house/castle/palace.

In order for the tree of your ambitions to grow, it needs strong roots. And that’s what I’m working on now.

Much love.

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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.

 

The paradigm shift

My attention is wandering.

In recent months I feel like I’m living life as a new person.

So many things that used to be central to my life and paradigm seem to have shifted to the periphery, while other matters that hardly interested me in the past are now all I can think of.

Serious illness does that to you. When you experience a midnight of the soul, what was once important loses all meaning. Existence seems hopeless. In a way, you die. I know I did.

But when dawn finally breaks, and you get ready to embrace a whole new day, you may find that you’ve been reborn.

That’s what I feel like now. Like a part of my personality was killed off and some different aspect of me has been allowed to bloom.

This aspect has other plans than I visualized a few years back. This aspect has a more practical, clear-cut approach to things. With an emphasis on educating myself in matters that are directly applicable to my life, like psychology and nutrition, as well as more hands-on subjects like carpentry, machinery and electronics, I feel like a new man.

For years, I imagined myself working as an artist of some kind, be it musician, painter or illustrator. I see now that I looked down on “worldly” subjects, I put myself on a pedestal, and I disdained anything practical. I saw aesthetics, art and beauty as the height of human aspiration. All else was peripheral.

If I could reach back in time, grab my 20 year old self’s shoulders and shake some sense into him, I probably would. But then again, I know it would have been futile.

I think I may have been experiencing some kind of major, if gradual, paradigm shift for the last year or so. Especially after I started to see the light after my illness, when I managed to rekindle my hope for the future.

It’s not that I’m leaving art in my wake, it’s that I’m shedding my pretensions. I finally see now that my plans for becoming an artist, for becoming the best of the best, for influencing thousands and inspiring thousands more were for purely selfish reasons.

If those plans had been fulfilled, I know I would have been deeply unhappy.

The life it would allow me to lead may be marvelous, full of interesting people and great ideas, but the very fact that I did it for the idea, for the way others would regard me, would ruin it.

The life I envision now is a simple one, but infinitely more fulfilling to me. A life filled with nature, spirituality, and self-sufficiency. A life free of pretense, but full of love.

This fall I’m starting a course on carpentry, and I hope to be able to learn heaps of practical stuff. I’ve always enjoyed working with my hands, so I know I’ll have fun, which is important to me.

I’ll keep you updated on my shifting paradigm.

Much love.

Remind me to forget who I am

The fog has (mostly) lifted. The brain fog that is. I feel a lot better now.

I’m working as a ranger in a national park in the north of Iceland this summer, and I just spent five nights taking care of a campsite in the highlands.

No internet, hardly any mobile coverage at all for that matter.

Just me, some books, a few tired hikers and my thoughts. Not to mention spectacular nature.

I’ve been thinking of getting rid of my smart phone and getting a more basic mobile. Old school with buttons and all.

I feel like I’ve gotten stuck in the web, with the cloud constantly calling for my attention.

That’s a problem, because my attention is incredibly valuable to me, and more often than not whatever’s waiting for me online isn’t very important.

Getting some time off, detoxing if you will, from constant stimulation is essential to seeing the problem for what it is.

It’s like this: a fish doesn’t know it’s in water until it somehow strands on dry land. And then it will probably die, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make.

When I’m saturated in all kinds of online stimulation, watching videos, reading articles, receiving messages, day in day out every day, I start to forget that there’s more to life. And then I start getting anxious.

It’s weird how we forget things that seem so unforgettable. Like in the past when I’ve experienced glimpses of true reality, enlightenment or awakening, and I think “wow, my life is forever changed!”, it’s only partly true.

It’s true in the sense that having experienced that, I’ll probably make some changes, re-adjust my priorities and so on, but then at some point I’ll forget why I made those changes in the first place.

Then later on I’ll remember again or experience something even more profound. It’s a sort of cycle of forgetting and remembering.

Instead of fighting this, I’ve been working on acceptance. Accepting that this cycle may just be exactly what’s needed for realization, actualization. Life is expansion and contraction, up and down, inside and out. That’s what everything does, and maybe it’s not a problem at all.

Contraction allows expansion, so let it be.

Much love.

Brain fog and the perfectionist

Brain fog. Dammit.

I’ve been feeling foggy for the last few weeks. I don’t exactly know what’s happening, but I feel like it may be a combination of a few different things.

I started my summer job in beautiful Ásbyrgi in north-east Iceland about a week ago.

As a park ranger, my work is pretty physically intense, with a lot of hiking, maintenance of the park and all kinds of physical labor.

I love being outside so much and working with my hands, but going from doing basic bodyweight exercises every day to the kind of intensive work I’m doing here has left me pretty physically depleted.

My first day of work was about a week ago, then the next day I flew south to Reykjavík to attend my grandmother’s funeral and then flew back north in the evening.

On top of that, I had been asked to play and sing The Beatles’ Let it be, as per my grandmother’s request.

Everything went well in the end, but it really managed to stress me out. Then straight back to work. Now I have a few days off, and I’m absolutely exhausted. Mentally and physically.

I have a pretty strong inclination to perfectionism, which causes me no end of consternation. That means that when I’m feeling off or out of energy, I usually beat myself up for being “lazy” or “unproductive”.

This is really something that I’ve been conscious of for a long time, and I do my best to be aware of it as it happens, but it still manages to catch me by surprise.

Make no mistake, perfectionism is not a virtue.

I would go so far as to call it poisonous. To someone who doesn’t feel the need to achieve perfection, it may seem like a good trait to have. After all, more energy is certainly spent on “perfecting” projects or whatever you may be doing.

However, what’s not obvious is the inner lambasting and criticism associated with perfectionism.

In fact, I believe perfectionism can’t exist without a strong inner critic. A voice inside, however subtle it may be, that just doesn’t leave you alone, that doesn’t allow you to actually finish anything. That doesn’t allow you to take a break because then you would be “wasting time”.

So that brings me to my predicament today. I’m fogged up in the brain. Misty-minded. Temporarily cognitive disability. All right, maybe not that bad, but still pretty unpleasant.

Unpleasant isn’t even the right word. Confusing is more apt.

20180618_115127
A visual representation of brain fog.

I think everyone knows brain fog to some extent. We feel it when we don’t get enough sleep, when we experience a crash after too much caffeine or sugar, or after watching too much mindless TV. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s no fun either.

Brain fog is certainly not compatible with perfectionism.

I’ve written about the inner critic, or inner judge, on a few occasions before, and I’ve made it no secret that I see nothing positive about it. Inner criticism is never constructive. It may seem like it is, but the negatives outweigh the positives.

Whatever you may accomplish thanks to incessant inner judging is shadowed by the stress and anxiety it produces.

What really helped me turn the tables on the inner judge is twofold. The simple awareness of the fact that judgment is occurring is the first step. Nothing can be done without awareness.

The second step is to remove permission for judgment. The way I do this is by finding the indignant, angry, even offended feeling within me and directing it to the judgment. I literally tell it (mentally) to get the hell out of my mind, you have no right to judge me, or even to just fuck off.

Do not try to argue with the judgment. That only confirms the judge’s permission to, well, judge you. And besides, you can’t win. After all, the inner judge is really another aspect of yourself.

Where attention goes, energy flows.

Much love.