Sieging the Fortress of Guilt

There are three kinds of people:

  1. Those who are lazy and have infrequent punctuations of activity that soon lapse,
  2. Those who are driven and have infrequent punctuations of inertia, usually through depression, sickness or injury caused by excessive action, and
  3. Those who are happy and partake of both activity and relaxation without guilt or self-loathing, as and when they feel like it

This last group is by far the smallest, incredibly rare in todays society.  This is because we are taught to feel guilty about our actions in some way from a young age.

We feel guilty about our action or inaction, and depending on our personality, react to that guilt with drive or laziness.

The goal is to destroy this guilt centre, and live life happily.

I’ve found three pillars that enable the destruction of this fucked-up guilt complex:

  1. Self-Appreciation
  2. Self Awareness
  3. Self-Driven Movement

Each one feeds the others, and they are all built up together.

Self Appreciation

Self appreciation requires that we cease judging ourselves.  We stop our guilt, and our self-loathing, and accept who we are in the moment. 

There is a difference between striving to become better so we can be more satisfied and happier, and being driven to not be so hopeless and weak.  In the first case you are already accepting of your current state and want to become better, in the latter you hate who you are and thus are trying to escape it. 

In the beginning most of us come from the latter state, and it’s why many of us start self-work in the first place.  We want to escape ourselves and our pain.  We want to become different.  It is only with time spent in self-appreciation that we finally see that pain and difficulty has made us who we truly are. And it is from this recognition that we can finally start to appreciate ourselves.

Self Awareness

Self awareness is important because it tells us both what we are feeling and what we are doing.  Am I feeling guilty?  Anxious?  Happy?  Ecstatic?  Why do I have this pain in my stomach?  Is it anxiety, or simply an upset tummy? 

We also become aware of what our body is doing in real time, and cease to be completely robotic: 

We find that we have a twitch in our right eyebrow when we are unhappy in a converstation. 

We find that a certain movement in our hips twinges our hip flexor because our abdomen is not engaged. 

We find that our thoughts turn sour when we have eaten certain foods or gone without exercise for a day or two. 

We are no longer slaves to our feelings, but are able to predict and  control them to some extent because we are more aware of what creates them.

Self-Driven Movement

Imagine almost any small child you know, and think of how mobile they are. Their whole bodies are moving, shaking, flicking, tapping. It can be annoying as an adult! They get taught to restrain themselves, to be quiet, to control their movements lest they break something or upset someone.

But movement is the nature of the body; it is the physical representation of the mind and spirit.

As adults we have controlled this movement. And that’s mostly ok! Control of our body is part of becoming an adult. What is problematic is that we no longer give ourselves the option of moving as and when we like. Our control is almost total, and that control is linked to feelings of guilt.

It’s remarkable how, even alone in the privacy of one’s own room, we control ourselves so strongly that we feel embarrassed to move, flail, thrutch and spasm. Noises are especially difficult to release, as children should be seen and not heard (at least 35 years ago that was the case), and this triggers big guilty feelings, and a feeling that we are doing something very wrong.

Some notes about self-driven movement:

Self-driven movement comes from within. 

There is no reason for it. It is not exercise.  It is not for fitness. 

My body is doing it “on its own”.

It twitches and spasms.  It shakes.  It moves all parts of my body in all manner of fashions, none of them pretty or cool in any way, all of them spastic and occasionally undulating.  But I’m not “doing” the movement. Instead I’m “allowing” my body to move, as it wants, when it wants.

What is surprising is how smart my body is.  It homes in on the parts that are tense.  It moves them and breaks them apart.  It keeps going past the point of mental pressure and continues until the muscles don’t need it any more.  Then it stops.

By allowing ourselves to do these things, to just release and let the body move, allows our character to push up against the fortress of our guilt. We start to siege it, and over time we reduce it to smoking ruins of rubble.

And we finally get the chance to experience joy.

COVID-19 – What the Hell am I Worried About?

I’ve been examining my mental state closely over the past six months.

First we had two months of the worst bushfires my area (and my country) had ever seen.  My semi-adrenalised state during that time never really normalised.  I was ready to stand and fight if need be, or run to the hills if it was all too much.  At one point there were three seperate and massive fires surrounding my village. The steady impact of the unknown, and the rise and fall of the intensity of the situation led to many sleepless nights.

Directly following the fires we had six weeks of torrential rain.  We received half our annual rainfall in two days at one point.  I’ve been building an earth house for several years now, and the rain washed away large swathes of earth render from the external walls.  I again lay awake at night in emergency mode, hoping like hell the water would not seep into the straw bales inside the render and rot them from the inside.  

And now we have the most interesting thing to happen to our culture and our species for eighty years, since the end of the Second World War.  A now-familiar anxiety sits uncomfortably in my stomach, noticeable when I am quiet.

What is most fascinating to me is WHY I feel this way. Why the hell am I anxious? It’s worth asking yourself the question.

For example, I am now sitting at my desk typing away, while the birds sing outside, my children sleep in bed, and my coffee cools in its cup.  The last three or four days have been completely normal for all intents and purposes.  We’ve done some shopping and found some shelves empty, and we haven’t interacted physically with any friends or colleagues, but besides that, it’s been pretty ordinary.

So why the anxiety?

I’m not concerned about catching COVID.  The statistics quite clearly show that I’m fit and healthy enough to not require medical intervention.  I believe my family is strong enough too.

I’m not concerned about giving it to any at-risk people in my community.  My parents-in-law are self-isolating, and so are many older people.  We are taking measures to protect those people by isolating ourselves as well.

I’m not concerned about the apocalypse.  I don’t believe it will get that bad that we are all fighting each other and the covid-zombies.

So where is this internal tummy-ache coming from?

After weeks of self-assessment I’ve realised: it’s the social unknown.  It’s trying to understand and normalise a local and global change to the way we operate. 

The goal of government is to keep things ordinary for it’s citizens so they can buy and sell and breed and sleep at night.  The government is unable to keep this outbreak ordinary.  And so we see social restlessness.  I wouldn’t call it upheaval.  There are no riots in the streets.  But things have changed, and we can’t see an end to it.

And that, in a nutshell, is the source.  No end in sight.  We do not understand the endgame, because we can’t see all the moving pieces.  It’s near impossible to strategise as an ordinary citizen as we have no visibility as to the aims and desires of our fellow nation states, and even our own government.

Humans don’t like wobbliness in our lives.  We strive for control.  We in the West have lived the last couple of decades in a highly controlled environment, and have begun to believe that this is the way life is. 

Sorry.  Wrong.  Life is highly dynamic, and we’re now seeing the cracks in our beautifully controlled snowglobe. 

One thing we can be absolutely sure of though: It will end. There can be no doubt. In some way, somehow, this will end, and the next chapter of our lives, of our species, of our planet, will begin.

Can my belly get used to the unknown?  Let’s give it a go.

Treasuring Discomfort – Transcending Childhood Boundaries: Part 1

Parents know all about limits and boundaries.  We make them because our children need them.  Children need to know where the edge of their behavioural world is.  They need to know what they can and cannot do for their own safety and for the tolerability of their behaviour for those around them.

Some parents define loose boundaries.  The child might be allowed to watch youtube endlessly from a young age,  eat whatever they want, and define their own bedtime.

Other children are watched closely by their carers, disciplined for tiny infringements, and have a small world defined for them by religious belief or plain bloody-mindedness.

Most kids are somewhere in the middle.  Regardless of the type or size of boundary, if the boundary is enforced, the child feels a sense of safety.  

Fast forward to adulthood and we are still living within these childhood limits.  We have deep, hard lines in our minds and souls that tell us where we can and cannot tread.

We know those boundaries easily.  As adults we spend most of our lives in our comfort zone, behaving in ways that make us feel comfortable and safe.  It’s when we do or say something that makes us uneasy, anxious or guilty that we know we are dallying close to the heavily guarded prison wall that is our boundary.

In my mid-twenties I was living with my girlfriend (now my wife) and I was a well-trained pet.  I didn’t leave our bed until she was awake and indicated it was ok.  I didn’t leave the house except to go to work, sometimes the gym.  I rarely saw my friends unless it was sanctioned by her.  She was not particularly overbearing or controlling, but I didn’t want to upset her. She never asked me to do those things, but by doing them I felt I could maintain a life of quiet security.

In the internal world of my childhood memories, an upset family member meant danger, insecurity.  My history told me that if my mum or dad were mad or sad or upset it meant potential physical harm to me, or emotional damage.  It leant a wobbliness to my world.  If anyone was upset around me I felt a deep background hum of guilt and anxiety.  And so, not because of my partner but because of myself, I continued to remain in this comfortable but limited place.

You might know someone like this.  I know many men, even in their middle age who are tied to their wives (and the reverse of course is true).  It’s easy to comment in this example that the wife is a bitch (and maybe they are) or overbearing (could be) or controlling (likely).  But consider the needs of the man.  He has strong boundaries that he still holds to feel safe.  Having someone tell him what to do and when to do it fulfils a deep need for him.  Even though his existence looks like a miserable excuse, he is living the caged life of his choice in a form of relative comfort.

Living a good life, a life of choices, dreams and happiness means crossing those boundaries.  That is a terrifying thought for those trapped in the example above.  It took me years of slow and disciplined progress to move past those invisible walls.  I had to play a long game, one that stretched my own sense of comfort around the uncomfortable, while ensuring that my new and unusual behaviours were expanding my wife’s boundaries.

My wife wasn’t the issue.  It was my own internal dialogue, which had the high-pitched voice of my upset parents.  Imagine having your parents screaming at you into your twenties and thirties to “do the right thing”!  So many of us have this without realising it.  Some of us have it all our lives, into our fifties, seventies, nineties!

Maybe you are living this life.  As we get older, we can fall into patterns of long term safety that are so habitual they are very difficult to remove.  Imagine the old (and not-so-old) couple who have the same routine each day.  The same greeting, the same breakfast, the same cup of tea, read the paper, lunch at the same time etc etc.  It looks boring.  It IS boring.  But it makes them feel safe.

Some people refuse to try new foods, try new clothes, go to new places on holiday.  Instead of judging them, ask yourself, why?  They may sound stubborn or obstinate, but what is the underlying reason for their fear?  Could it be that their boundaries are so terrifying they decided on a safe and pleasant psychological picnic table to sit at for life? 

In the next part, we’ll look at ways to gradually break down the limits of your life.

In Which The Ocean Provides Her Infinite Wisdom

I love the beach.

I can sit on the sand for hours if left alone.  I run my hands through the grains, feel the ocean break.  I watch the gulls and sea eagles drift by.  

Silence comes and goes in rhythm with the waves.  The silence in my mind sometimes matches it.  Thoughts swim by, in and then out of my field of view.  At other times they will stick around while I turn them over and over like a seashell in my hands, running my fingers on every curlicue and ridge upon it.

I jump in the cool ocean.  No matter the weather, save for a scary stormy sea, I’m in there in the morning.  Sometimes I stand only knee deep after a quick soak.  Sometimes I drift with the current in a clear turquoise sea, looking towards the headlands and the secrets they enclose, then seawards towards the rising sun.  I squint from the salt and brightness, feeling the soothing bath of the elements relaxing and yet somehow energising me.

I look towards the house where my family is staying.  We come here a couple of times a year in various seasons.  My family is asleep still, rocked by the sound of the crashing surf.

We live the mountains a couple of hours away, but the beach is where I feel refreshed and reawakened.  I bring problems to the ocean for solutions.  The ocean brings perspective.  In some primal amniotic way the ocean either integrates or flushes the problem, leaving it for the scavengers in the deep.

I want to buy a beach house.  I want to have a place to bring my family whenever I want.  I spend some time each day looking in the real estate windows, dreaming.  My wife and I sit at the table with the ocean outside, and discuss the potential for buying, re-mortgaging, borrowing, finding an investor, buying and renting through Airbnb.  We lounge on the deck with champagne and measure the costs, imagining how we can pay the rates, the electricity, the water.  We muddle in the sand and dream our little dream of being at the beach with our family and each other, warm in each other’s embrace, cuddles on the couch and adventures by the sea.  We imagine our boys catching puffer fish in the rock pools and fishing off the headland, cooking their prizes in butter and lemon, flour and salt. 

I wake up and head to the beach.  I feel the sand between my toes, grainy and cool.  I walk straight into the water and she welcomes me, swirling between my legs, drawing me gently in to her cool enclosure while I take long breaths in and out, feeling the joy of my aliveness.

I look towards our house, where we stay each year.  It’s a beautiful mansion to us.  Our friends own it and we stay here for free, a week at a time.  We pay no rates, no bills, no maintenance fees.  We spend no time checking Airbnb to see if anyone is staying this week, if we can afford the mortgage.  We have no stress over having two properties miles apart.

And in the oceans embrace, I finally see.

We have our perfect beach house.

We just don’t own it.

Abundance Beyond Catastrophe

Our world is awash with cries of catastrophe.

The fires are burning.

The climate is changing.

Society is crumbling.

Fingers are pointing.

People are fighting.

Emotions are ragged.

Terrorism, socialism, communism, capitalism, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, phobiaphobia…

The government, the politicians, the greens, the liberals, the nazis, the bogans, the white trash, the muslims, the rich, the middle class, the welfare class, women’s rights, men’s rights, the vaccinations, the pesticides, the suicides, nobody doing enough, everybody taking too much…

So many things to be fearful of, to run from or take a stand against, to wage war on, to hate others about, to feel disconnected with.

But,

I see something else. Behind the fear, behind the hate, behind the social media and television fog, behind all the things we are told to emote about… I see a world of abundance.

This time will be looked upon not only as the gateway to a different world, but as an incredible Neo-Renaissance of thinkers, artists, technologists and inventors.  And those people are you and me.

I see our incredible world, with technology doing so much for so many.

I see fascinating art, its architecture, paintings, drawings and sculpture, song, poetry and prose, from every culture and people on earth, enough to view and hear and feel something amazing every day for the rest of my life.

I see the amazing generosity of millions of people, those people who post on blogs, who give away their energy, time and ideas so that you can find answers.  And those people who volunteer so people can eat, sleep, talk and be, without fear.  And those people who raise their children as best they can, creating peers for your children and mine.

I see communities of like minded people everywhere, whether they are on their phones or face to face.

I see people realising the need for true connection as religion and churches everywhere die of starvation.

I see people opening their own hearts slowly but surely and seeing the light of  a beautiful, personal spirituality within.

I see more businesses and companies looking to make the world better.

I see philanthropists of all fiscal footings giving and giving and giving.

I see men talking and feeling.

I see women achieving and succeeding.

I see children, incredible children, everywhere I look.  Children who perform, who create, who question, who speak and laugh and sing out.  Children full of joy and sadness and anger and euphoria and all the rest of those gigantic and amazing Feels.  Children who love each other, love their families and are loved themselves.

We worry for what we have given our children.  

I say, necessity is the mother of invention.  

Instead of another generation of middle-class couch sitters and wine-sippers, we have inadvertently helped create a world of challenge.  The most exciting thing to happen to anyone in the last eighty years.  The ultimate challenge: do or die.  

I’ve seen the children, I know what they are capable of.  This coming generation will crush the problems of this coming world, I know it.  They are far smarter, more intelligent and wiser than we were at their age. They are aware.  They have strength.  They have power.

We will work with them until we pass, and they, 

they will be ready.