Soul Topics

Build momentum (or lose definition of yourself)

A man twice my age once told me that once you hit a certain age, energy inevitably runs out. Reality snaps at you, and there goes the drive, motivation and physical capacities you once had. When that time comes, all you have got to sustain your life and keep it going the way you want comes down to this one thing: momentum.

For the young go-getters who believe that ‘the sky is the limit’, this sobering grain of insight re-introduces one back to Earth and the harsh grounds of our fundamental humanness. We are not so ‘special’. We have limits.

Age, to the zestful and spirited young, is something that seems irrelevant, almost foreign in character and impossible to fathom. To a person in the early twenties, middle-age seems like a distant land, very out of reach.

Nevertheless it is a beautiful concept, an important one that has much to offer. Age constitutes experience, insights and memories that form and become parts of the individual – these fragments add up, and through them, self-definition happens. Through these fragments, one builds upon them and gains momentum, further cementing one’s dominant characteristics into his/her consciousness.

This is why an alcoholic finds it extremely hard to quit alcohol; the memories, habitual patterns and experiences surrounding alcoholism over the years have become deeply ingrained in him. It has become who he is, his identity.

In contrast, a successful middle-age businessman could undergo a rough patch, but he has years of experience under his belt, years of doing things “right”. Much like activating muscle memory, what is called upon to get him out of trouble is his experience. The successful businessman has known of himself to be disciplined, shrewd, decisive and capable of overcoming adversity. He possesses an internal character that distinguishes himself from the rest who do not have “what it takes”.

Clearly, momentum is not derived from a vacuum. It is built upon experience, which is internalised in a person’s character.

Building Momentum: Gathering the best fragments of you

We do not become the best versions of ourselves by default. We need to take the right actions and establish momentum.

Unfortunately, the ill and conditioned patterns we have learnt and incorporated into our lives have become attached to us like a drug; they essentially become “us”.

To unlearn them is possible, but it requires an art of discipline – to dig up and remove these layers of dirt bucket by bucket. These are essentially the flaws in our character, we need a hard look in the mirror and a resolve that they shall die to be replaced by positive virtues.

A lot of people have tried to find themselves by trying all sorts of different things. Not many of those things are useful. Some are momentary, brief, and serve only to elevate the ego, or to make one feel good. Not many endeavours last. After all, people default back to square one.

These are the times that call for deep soul searching.

What are the best fragments of you? What do you know you are capable of?

And what matters most?

The saving grace is that beneath the layers of dirt we have filled in our psyche – our mind, body and spirit – there is something that is of innate value, that shines effortlessly. Fragments of the best version of ourselves buried down below that we need to uncover, rediscover, and gather, and through them establish momentum to redirect our lives.

 

 

Soul Topics

Three Principles on Navigating Chaos

We are human beings seeking.

Consciously or not, we have embarked on a search in a world that is just as lost as ourselves, seeking that which means something to us. All of our cultivated behaviours and identities indicate where we think the fruits lie. The challenge is obvious: navigating this chaotic world to get to our desired destination.

Yet, without essential guiding principles, we are easily overwhelmed with confusion; we are after all a lost species that need guidance. Even the overachiever subsequently winds up in a miserable state, questioning his identity in a mid life crisis. The ‘filial’ son, stuck in a mediocre career, realises the lifelessness in his soul having lived his parents’ aspirations. The woman who prided herself on her beauty realises that age has replaced her fragile identity with an isolated, worn out, hollow frame. The rich come to realise what it means to have everything and be poor.

What Chaos means (and the meaning of experiencing ‘good’ chaos)

In the circumstances above, chaos is experienced, but they take on an internal character. A person might experience painful emotions, self-defeating thoughts, confusion, mental distress, suffering.

A second definition of chaos would refer to clutter, hecticness and excess that could be simplified.

However, the necessity of the experience of chaos is validated by the third definition relevant to this discussion: chaos comes with the unknown and is beyond one’s control. Life is never organised neatly into boxes and fixity; the nature of existence is chaotic. Things shift, and they would shift for us, as long as we take greater amounts of action from a healthy inner space.

This is because – scientifically – we (like all matter) are made of energy, and like energy (frequencies) attracts like energy. Thus, taking massive amounts of action from a healthy inner space would facilitate this chaotic movement that attracts to us desirable events and outcomes (also manifested as the experience of synchronicity) – as long as our state of mind is clear, aligned and focused.

This experience of chaos is thus good and necessary, but this first follows from the conversation that speaks against a life of comfort but instead encourages a life of risk.

Three Principles

1. Availing oneself to Life (Source)

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*the first and most important principle

As humans, it is essential (and humbling) to recognise that our mortal selves are limited, at least currently at our stage of evolution. We are imperfect. We could not resolve our own problems without guidance, without wisdom from an external source, for there is knowledge we desperately need (to grow beyond our current selves) but have not yet embodied or cemented into our consciousness. There is a separation that needs to be bridged.

A tree could not grow bigger, sturdier, or expand its shade without first growing deep roots, developing a strong base. It would only thrive with the support of the Sun and the nourishing Earth.

Where do we turn? To recommend specific suggestions/strategies would impossibly generate an exhaustive list that would not be applicable to everyone’s subjectivities. The various methods that ‘work’ for different people work because they have enabled a bridge – i.e. connection – to the life-giving dimensions i.e. Source (that which generates life, from which all life is possible).

In other words, our job as imperfect humans – generally but accurately put – is to constantly avail ourselves (become a conducive vessel) to that which fuels us with life (i.e. happiness, health, peace, fulfilment etc). We don’t possess the answers all the time, but when we become a vessel for knowledge and wisdom, the solutions to our problems would inevitably come from that state of mind. We would be constantly renewed, and know how to act more appropriately in our subjective circumstances.

Beyond subjective methods, universally, I believe there are ways to form this connection. Meditation, along with the practice of silence, is key to being aware of our destructive thoughts and patterns that subconsciously run our lives, so that we might enhance our capacity to unidentify and break free from unresourceful thinking and action. Occasional solitude (from people, information sources, technology and social media) helps us to disengage from the overload of stimulation, so that we create space to come to know ourselves. Nature and fresh air clears our mind of human sources of impediment. Exercise not just generates health, but restores clarity and insight.

2. Engage in Battle: Navigating the Everyday (Fighting against Obstructions)

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Consistently forming this connection to life-giving Source essentially makes one more aware of personal fears, values, aspirations, goals and directions to take. The gap between one’s current self and one’s potential (the ideal self) is made apparent.

Equipped inwardly, the battlefield is then the everyday terrain, against outside forces that seek to distract. The key is being aware of what these forces are, and how to deal with them. Here, chaos refers to the mundane and excessive stimuli of the everyday, such as technology, social media, people, activities and responsibilities. Excessive information consumption (is addictive) and would only dull us into inaction. Tim Ferriss, in the Four Hour Work Week, talks about ruthless elimination of the unimportant. This is clutter that, unless consciously eliminated, threatens to constantly cloud one’s vision and actions.

Robert Greene, in his book The 33 Strategies of War, discusses how we, functioning as mere tacticians, are constantly bugged down by the mundane, and ‘locked into’ reactive modes:

Most of us in life are tacticians, not strategists. We become so enmeshed in the conflicts we face that we can think only of how to get what we want in the battle we are currently facing. To think strategically is difficult and unnatural…
To have the power that only strategy can bring, you must be able to elevate yourself above the battlefield, to focus on your long-term objectives, to craft an entire campaign, to get out of the reactive mode that so many battles in life lock you into.
Keeping your overall goals in mind, it becomes much easier to decide when to fight and when to walk away. That makes the tactical decisions of daily life much simpler and more rational.
Tactical people are heavy and stuck in the ground; strategists are light on their feet and can see far and wide.

The traps of the everyday are aplenty, lurking and inevitable. To fail to hold fast to personal principles would only mean being ruthlessly swept around by the confusing currents of Life.

Overconsumption: A Drugged Society

We are wired to be addicted to short-term highs and the superficial thrills of consuming something, be it caffeine, social media, the news or anything that might excite us. Yearning perpetually for that dopamine hit, we falter; comfort is too alluring to resist. We run towards pleasure, away from pain.

The downside is that we never get the important work done. What evades us is the acquaintance of a warrior consciousness that unforgivingly destructs trivia and impurities. Addicted to the highs of consumption, we fail to produce value to the world. Instead we become shallow, masturbatory, short-sighted and weak.

Focused Action

To produce value is to act, but not all actions are productive. Doing could be a route of escape, a false productivity that tricks us into assurance. With clear directions in an uncluttered mind first and foremost, ask:

Am I being productive or just active?
Am I inventing things to do to avoid the important?
– Tim Ferriss

Conditioning

The traps of the everyday are extremely subtle, comfortable and luring. After all, we are socially conditioned. The comfort provided by an institutionalised environment (e.g. schools or workplaces) makes certain goals more desirable/attainable than others, and could lure us away from what is actually important to us.

Moreover, individually, we function by our subjective addictive patterns of behaviour based on who we are currently, rather than at that ‘higher level’ which we aspire to be. How do we break free from our individually constraining paradigms?

3. Going into the unknown

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The unknown is the realm where chaos is to be celebrated, where one is subjected to situations beyond one’s control and comfort zone. Familiarity – the drug keeping one stuck in old conditioned patterns of living – is broken up. There is no security or safety. No room to stay addicted. One has to evolve or die, swim or sink. One learn what it means to experience coming alive.

Later [the Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky] would find himself getting depressed, as [his] vision was crowded out by the habits and routines of daily life. During these depressions, wanting to feel that closeness to reality again, he would go to the nearest casino and gamble away all his money. There reality would overwhelm him; comfort and routine would be gone, stale patterns broken. Having to rethink everything, he would get his creative energy back.

Dostoyevsky’s method was a little extreme, but sometimes you have to shake yourself up, break free from the hold of the past. This can take the form of reversing your course, doing the opposite of what you would normally do in any given situation, putting yourself in some unusual circumstance, or literally starting over. In those situations the mind has to deal with a new reality, and it snaps to life. The change may be alarming, but it is also refreshing – even exhilarating.

– Robert Greene, The 33 Strategies of War

The calculative mind has a tendency to cage us. Going into the unknown means that the calculative mind learn to let go of excessive rationalisation so that we could truly experience more of what life has to offer, which we otherwise would never allow ourselves to. Fear is embraced; one learns to thrive on fear.

Holding fast to our core principles through that the discipline of connecting to life-giving dimensions, we now celebrate the unknown and functioning in the realm of the chaotic. The unknown brings about opportunities we need – those that pose a strong enough challenge – so that we could grow beyond what we currently are, that would move us into the ideal territories that we desire to position ourselves.