Born in the wrong era?

How many of you grew up feeling like you were born into the wrong era, the wrong culture, or even the wrong reality?

I used to want to escape into a fantasy world; or I’d imagine what life would be like if I’d lived in the Middle Ages. Sometimes I’d wish I had an ethnic or cultural background a little more interesting than the Anglo-Celtic “default” option in Australia.

The cynical side of me poured cold water on all of these: you only think other cultures are cool because they’re unfamiliar and exotic; you want to live in the past but you’d be a peasant, not a knight; you want to escape into fantasy but that’s all fantasy is – empty escapism.

Yeah, my cynical side is a bit of an arsehole.

And ultimately cynicism is for arseholes. There’s nothing creative or beautiful about shooting down people’s inspiration and dreams. It’s true that the grass can look greener on the other side, but it’s still grass, and why let that stop you exploring the other side if that’s where you want to go?

Maybe it’s just fear of disappointment masquerading as wisdom? “What if I go, and it’s not as good as I’d hoped?” Well at least you’ll have a story to tell. But I can guarantee cynicism won’t help you find what you’re looking for.

Making peace with your reality

But at the same time there is a bit of escapism here. I didn’t just want to be somewhere else, I really hated where I was and saw evidence of it everywhere.

I wanted excitement and adventure, not suburbs and mortgages. I wanted a suit of armour, not a business suit. I wanted to live in a fortress or a mysterious and magical old warren of interconnected buildings and passages, not a McMansion or 70s era unit by a main road. I wanted every day to feel full of meaning and excitement and satisfaction, not some monotonous grind of swapping time for money in a miserable office.

How can I put this delicately…it’s not that I should accept all these things I hate and just live a normal life filled with resentment. Instead, it’s actually possible to see that the way things are right now fulfils a lot of people. It isn’t perfect, but it’s better than it was in many ways. Toilets, for example. Modern toilets should inspire endless gratitude and appreciation in us all!

In fact there are so many things about the modern world to appreciate; they vastly outnumber the things to resent. And even if I don’t want to work 9-5 in an office, can’t I at least appreciate that some people do?

Do I really need to be surrounded by peasants for me to be a knight in armour? That’s metaphorical but also literal: there are people around the world who compete in jousting and melee combat with historically accurate weapons and armour, and they get to do it with modern conveniences.

If that doesn’t appeal to me then what does? Maybe that “different era” I longed for was really about a specific feeling I wanted? And maybe that feeling is not about the era or the culture or the clothes people wear or the buildings they live and work in? Maybe that feeling is something accessible right now and the fantasy of a different era was just one way of accessing it?

I can feel that feeling right now, but I don’t know what to call it. Maybe I’ll leave it there, maybe it doesn’t need to be defined or nailed down right this minute. Maybe I can leave it for you to find your own version of this feeling you always longed for, in the form of “another era”.

Letting go 07: inspiration only?

The Abraham-Hicks teaching is simply to feel better by focusing on things that feel better.

Sounds a bit too simple, but it makes sense and with practice you’ll wonder why you used to give so much attention to things that feel bad.

The teachings go a lot deeper, but keeping it simple benefits us.

Speaking of going deeper: I’m excited at the thought of mastering this practice, and I’m proud of the breakthroughs I had on the subject of dieting before I even got into the A-H teachings.

I want to have as much clarity around everyday life and focus as I did on that subject.

Focus

Yesterday’s post made real progress. Today I want to observe more closely how my focus changes moment by moment, and the feeling-result of those changes.

Recently I’ve been inspired by the thought of living in the city. I’ve been looking at beautiful apartments and townhouses and just appreciating how enjoyable it would be to live in one of them with my family.

This is clearly inspiration. It feels amazing, and I naturally relish all the little details that pop into my head. Images and feelings and ideas keep occurring to me, and they all feel like relief, eagerness, appreciation, but stronger than that: they feel gratifying.

I’m looking at pictures of luxury penthouses and feeling gratified that such places exist.

Inspiration

So that’s inspiration. It wells up within me, doesn’t take effort, feels intrinsically rewarding, and simply excites me.

That inspiration should be my standard and my aim. Not living in a penthouse, but allowing inspiration to flow all the time and never cut it off or quash it. If inspiration flows toward thoughts of luxury penthouses, go with it. Don’t judge, don’t criticise, don’t overthink it.

Learning to let inspiration in is the skill here. It’s not about taking action to make the inspired goal a reality. It’s not about critiquing the goal to find a more “realistic” version of it. It’s about the inspiration itself.

Inspiration is the experience of alignment. Like being in love, appreciation, joy; these positive emotions are a sign of alignment with God/inner being.

Misalignment

Knowing what inspiration feels like, we know how it feels when we quash inspiration. It feels bleak, heavy, slow, stressful, effortful, and frustrating.

Inspiration is quashed when we focus on thoughts that contradict it. Or perhaps a better way of saying it is that inspiration has its own path and flow, and we lose it when we step outside it and focus on uninspiring things.

I started writing this morning, and my son was a bit grumpy and reluctant to go to school. I didn’t want to yell or push or coerce him to hurry up, so we took our time and got to school quite late.

The whole time, I was conscious that there was no inspiration in the dynamic or the drama of getting him ready. In other words this activity wasn’t worthy of much attention from me. Inspiration was not flowing there.

I don’t have an answer to that situation right this minute, but I have an intention to let more inspiration into my life around this subject of morning routine; and I’m already appreciating that the situation didn’t go badly.

A new rule?

For my diet I devised a rule of only eating when I was genuinely hungry, which for me meant only when I felt I couldn’t keep going without some immediate sustenance.

Perhaps there’s a new rule brewing here, to only follow my inspiration?

From anxiety to eagerness

I had an interesting experience just now as I went for a nice midday walk with my wife:

It was the most relaxed and happy I’ve ever felt on a leisurely stroll, but after half an hour I started to feel unwell, a little like being car sick.

I didn’t know why, but asked for an easy explanation and immediately I knew what was going on.

Dampening the senses

In the past my anxiety levels were much higher, and walking without a purpose or destination would trigger lots of vigilant behaviour that made me tense and uncomfortable.

In an effort to combat the anxiety I would do various things to dampen my sensory acuity and block out or filter the stimulation flowing in.

But anxiety itself would also filter and channel my awareness in strange ways, heightening my attention to movement, sounds, and possible “threats” in a fight-or-flight way.

I won’t bother trying to detail all the little things that contributed to this tunnel vision or active filtering of my sensory experience. Suffice it to say that being more relaxed and appreciative as I walked had an impact on those processes and left me feeling disoriented and then sick.

Rediscovering eagerness

As usual the answer was to “feel better”. And what felt better in those circumstances was to allow myself to once more feel an eagerness, excitement, and active engagement with my environment.

My previous attitude was like putting on blinkers to relieve the stress and anxiety of too much going on. But now that I feel better I actually want to see what is going on, appreciate it, take it all in, and revel in the environment around me.

This change in attitude is the difference between fearfulness and anticipation, a shift from wanting to hide and be invisible to looking out with a sense of eagerness for what my universe has in store for me.

I think the nausea was a direct physiological response to subtle things I was doing to avoid looking at the world clearly. But since I create my reality, I know that looking for things to relish and look forward to will eclipse and outshine anything I would once have sought to avoid.

Melancholic learning styles

I’ve had a few people turn up here searching for problems that a melancholic might experience in learning.

I tried writing a reply, but the attempt to be thorough killed my motivation.

So there’s the first clue: motivation for a melancholic is vital.

I learn best when I have a single burning question to answer, an intuition to explore, or an idea to develop.

So I really get Confucius:

The Master said, “Ts’ze, you think, I suppose, that I am one who learns many things and keeps them in memory?”

Tsze-kung replied, “Yes,-but perhaps it is not so?”

“No,” was the answer; “I seek a unity all pervading.”

An alternative translation refers to a single thread that binds all of his knowledge together. That’s what melancholics need, I think, at least when we’re trying to learn.

A single thread

A few weeks ago after martial arts practice, I asked a friend about his learning process.

His explanation of how he learns was completely foreign to me.

He said that the martial art we learn is made up of lots of different components that need to be developed in parallel. When he focuses on any given component he can tell that out of ten repetitions, some will be better than others. That gives him a clear sense of how he needs to improve. He simply knows what direction to head in.

By contrast, I find it confusing to think of lots of different components that each needs strengthening. I prefer to think of these components coming together to form a coherent whole. And this means having a highly-developed theory of how the martial art works. I seek a unity, all pervading.

Likewise, the idea of simply recognising when one repetition is better than another is outside my experience. I don’t know what direction to head in unless I have a theoretical framework to guide the way.

Why do I need strong theoretical support for a physical activity?

Well, remember that the melancholic is characterised by being unexcitable, with enduring impressions. It’s hard to learn anything when you aren’t excited, and that’s why melancholics need a strong motivation in the form of a question, an idea, or a problem to solve.

Without these things, the pointlessness and tedium of study and practice becomes unbearable. It is so much harder to retain 100 pointless facts, than to solve an interesting problem, even though you might learn the same 100 facts along the way.

With physical activity the approach to learning is similar. Instead of pointless facts, we have an array of sensory data that makes no sense without a theoretical context (like a question or a problem) to help us shape and frame it.

Without a theoretical framework, all the information from my body streams in like a torrent, and I can’t tell what is relevant and what isn’t.

There are days at training where my whole theory has burst like a bubble against some countervailing revelation from my teacher. I try going through the motions, but it feels as though I have no idea what I’m doing.

After a while I remember the parts of the theory that haven’t been shattered. I slowly piece it back together and try to reconcile it with the new data. Eventually I’m back on track.

From an outsider’s point of view it would look like I’ve suddenly forgotten years of training in an instant.

So that’s one aspect of the melancholic learning style. It sounds pretty bad.

The positive side of it is that once you’ve mastered your theoretical grasp of the subject, you know it inside-out. You can take it places no one else may have even thought to take it. And you can quickly see the connections and the contrasts with other theories, systems, and ideas.

In other words, whatever you have learned becomes a part of the greater all-pervading unity.