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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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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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.

 

 

Purpose (or not?)

What’s my purpose?

Why am I here?

I guess everyone has the same fears of not living up to their potential, at least sometimes. But maybe purpose isn’t something we need to find. Maybe purpose finds you.

I’ve spent an unhealthy amount of time fretting over my perceived lack of purpose in life, so much time that I think the meter is full, so to speak.

I’ve decided to stop worrying about it. Of course, if I could just decide not to worry life would be a walk in the park. But I can’t, and it’s certainly not. Life is hard. Magnificent, but hard all the same.

A purpose isn’t really anything. It’s very abstract, and physically intangible. Emotionally, though, purpose is very salient. We want to feel like we’re heading in the right direction in life, like we’re doing the right thing.

I submit to you remedy to this constant yearning for knowing what to do:

Accept that you don’t know what to do, and just do what you enjoy.

It’s not easy, but it’s simple.

But I don’t even know what I enjoy doing! Is watching Friends a life path?

To which I answer,”no, you idiot, of course not”. Be sensible.

We all have multiple interests, some of them have little or no value, inherently, while other interests have great potential for making a living and feeling good about yourself.

I guess I should articulate this thought a little more precisely: To enjoy something is one thing. I may enjoy eating cake, or watching netflix. And that’s fine, really. But feeling fulfilled is a different story.

You can feel enjoyment for something without feeling fulfilled by it, like I enjoyed the last birthday party I went to and pigged out on cake, but it didn’t leave me feeling like I’d done something important, valuable, or relevant.

You can also feel fulfillment from doing something that you don’t really enjoy, like intense exercise, drinking a green smoothie, or hanging up laundry. You know it’s important, and that’s why you do it.

Then there’s the third category, the one we should focus on for the purposes of this post.

There are activities that you enjoy (everyone’s different), that also leave you feeling fulfilled!

For myself, there are a few things that fit this profile. Writing is one of them. So is drawing. Another is building or making stuff. Meditation, nutrition, studying subjects pertaining to my other interests. There’s loads of things, really.

Now what?

Well, pick one, preferably the one you feel most exciting, and stick to it. Get better at it. Become as skilled as you can become. I believe well-directed, intelligent work leads to increased fulfillment and motivation.

Fulfillment and motivation lead to mastery. And mastery opens unimaginable doors in life. Finally, all those open doors will reveal your purpose.

Obviously, I hope, some sensibility is required. Building castles out of playing cards may be fulfilling and enjoyable, and in some cases you may be able to make a living from it if you play your cards just right (pun actually not intended).

But I would tuck it away into the dusty folder of “monetization highly unlikely”. It’s really your call though, because unlikely doesn’t mean impossible.

You see, I believe that purpose is less a question of fate, and more a question of free will. To some degree, we decide on which purpose suits us best. And thank god, right?

It would be pretty ****ed if all you wanted to do was be a conceptual artist but fate had decided that your purpose was to be a corporate accountant.

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The fear of wasting your life

Fear is a dirty word. It’s never easy to truly own up to it. I regularly have bouts of fear. Many times, like right now, it’s a fear of inadequacy. A fear that I’m wasting my time, wasting my life.

Sometimes there’s a trigger, like reading about what other people are doing, but sometimes it seems to pop up out of nowhere.

I know I’m not alone in feeling this way. In some sense, FOMO or fear of missing out is a manifestation of this, but I feel like there’s more to it. FOMO is more of a belief that everybody else must be having more fun, doing more meaningful things etcetera.

The fear I’m describing is more all-encompassing and profound, not directed at moment-to-moment pleasure and experience, but rather lifetime achievement and fulfillment.

Here’s approximately what’s going on in my head right now: Man, I’ve spent so much time developing drawing skills and studying art, and now I’ve decided to learn woodworking?

Maybe I should think about this some more, because that’s years of my life basically gone down the drain in pursuit of something that I’m just going to throw away? I’m twenty-six now, in a few year’s I’ll be old, so I better get my **** together. I’m too old to start pursuing new interests anyway.

Twenty-six years old is too old? For what? To learn new things? And what exactly am I throwing away? The ability to draw and make art, or the experience of learning it?

Experience is what it is, nothing can take it away from you. The same with knowledge.

Life is a system of paths, and sometimes, for whatever reason, we decide on a new path. It may take us to a better place, or maybe even a worse place, but the freedom to choose a different path later on is still relevant.

Writing this stuff down really takes the edge off. It makes it easier to see the flaws in my reasoning. And besides, an anxious mind is unreasonable anyway.

However, it’s very tricky to be aware of these sorts of anxious thoughts as they’re happening. It’s easier to look back on them and shake your head and chuckle.

I’ve been working hard on understanding anxiety, what causes it, how to fix it. How to soften the blow when it hits you head-on.

Anxiety is fear. Fear is universal. I think the purpose of being, if there is one, is the overcoming of fear in it’s infinite guises.

The more we learn to see fear for what it is, the more we understand where we stand, and what we are. Fear is the shadow. Light is important, but without the shadow there would be no outlines, no tonal differences, everything would be white. Everything would be blindingly invisible.

We need to incorporate the darkness, and see it for what it is: an irreducible part of being. There’s darkness within all of us, and facing it head on is the best thing we can do for our mental health.

There’s no way to remove fear, except through death, be it partial or complete. Courage is the answer, feeling the fear, facing it without retreating from it.

Much love.

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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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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.

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.

The peak

Have you ever heard of peak experiences?

I just climbed the mountain Tungufjall in Öxarfjörður, Iceland. It’s not very high, at roughly 500 meters, but the view from the top is amazing.

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Anybody who’s climbed a mountain knows that hiking is always an adventure. There are highs and lows, successes and defeats.

Reaching the top of a mountain is a literal peak experience. After hiking for hours, reaching the chilly winds and spectacular views are an incredible reward.

After a few minutes of gazing over the magnificent landscape, I started to feel cold. I started to feel hungry. I felt like heading back down into the warmth of home.

It’s funny that it took all that work to spend a few minutes on a cold, rocky precipice, only to head straight back down.

I think that’s what happens in the metaphorical sense of peak experiences as well. It’s all a matter of perspective.

We reach great heights after tons of work, whether it be playing a concert after months of practice, or publishing a book after writing every day for a year. Or maybe finishing a marathon after training in rain, wind and snow.

And it makes us feel amazing, but that feeling is usually very fleeting.

The thing is, we can only appreciate the peak experience if we spend time in the valley first. If we were constantly in a flux of good emotions, that would become baseline for us, and we would probably start grasping for something more.

In this world, everything waves. Like waves in the ocean, they build up and crash down, only to repeat endlessly. What goes up must come down, and then it goes up again.

So then what’s the point of seeking these experiences, only to come (sometimes crashing!) back down?

I would say the point is the expanded awareness of the way of the world. A new perspective. Just as seeing the earth from 500 meters above puts our lives into perspective, showing us how small we really are, seeing our lives from the lens of a peak experience also shows us something.

It may be difficult to figure out what that something is, and therein lies the real work.

Much love.

Overcoming resistance

Inner resistance is a weird thing. You feel as though you know what it is you want to do or where you want to go, but somehow some other part of you seems to disagree.

Since I came home from Santiago de Compostela, I’ve been experiencing inner resistance to all kinds of things, but especially with regards to restarting my routine of meditation and journaling.

It hasn’t managed to stop me completely, but I’ve definitely been half-assing it.

So I’ve been pondering the challenge of working through this resistance, how to actually do what you know you want to do.

I’ve found the biggest challenge for me personally has been getting started. Like actually sitting down for a formal meditation session.

As soon as I manage to sit my ass down on the cushion, mental muscle memory kicks in and the meditation goes smoothly.

It’s as if I overestimate the willpower required to sit for an hour. It takes willpower to actually sit down, but staying put does not.

I believe that a change of perspective is required. Instead of, in my case, trying to get myself to do a 60 minute meditation session, I should try to get myself to sit down on my cushion and get comfortable. Break the resistance down into smaller parts.

Then as soon as I’m sitting comfortably, the next 55 minutes become a whole lot easier.

What is inner resistance, though? It’s as if there’s a part of you that actively tries to sabotage you, tries to convince you that you can’t or shouldn’t do something. Sound familiar? It should.

I believe that inner resistance is actually a subtle form of self-judgment.

I wrote about ways to deal with the inner judge in another post, but resistance is a bit more tricky.

It’s definitely a form of sabotage. We all know the feeling when we manage to break through this resistance, like when we exercise when we don’t feel like it, go to a party or make dinner.

The judge tries to convince us that it’s a waste of time, it’s easier to just watch tv, play a video game or order fast food, but in these instances we often see through it.

However, the more aware of this process we become, the more we see that the resistance goes way beyond these more obvious manifestations.

We feel resistance to all kinds of things. Any activity that the inner judge deems to be unstimulating (even though they may actually be very stimulating, like reading or journaling), pointless (even though they may be very useful, like exercise or cooking) or out of our league (even though they may be intensely satisfying, like playing music or making art), this is where we meet resistance.

This is a manifestation broken self-esteem, which is itself a consequence of constant inner judgment and criticism. We feel like we’re not adequate, not good enough to do these things, that we don’t deserve the benefits these activities may bring.

The first and most important step to overcoming resistance is to become aware of it. As soon as you become conscious of the resistance, and of the subtle judgments that are at the essence of resistance, removing it becomes possible.

This takes practice and patience. We need to give ourselves time, plenty of time. And we also need to be aware of self-criticism that may arise when we recognize resistance after the fact.

We have to understand that every single time we recognize the judge for what it is, is a step in the right direction. Even if we realize it a week later, or a year later.

When you become aware of your own resistance to something that you know you want to do, break the challenge down.

Instead of going out for a run and then doing an hour of exercise and stretching, the challenge becomes to put on your running clothes and shoes and stepping outside. A five year old could do that.

Instead of writing 10 pages in your journal, just go get your journal, your pen, and set it up on the table in front of you.

Instead of doing an hour of concentration meditation, just sit the fuck down.

The rest will sort itself out.

Much love.