Nietzsche, Fight Club, and Growth Through Creative Destruction

God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?— Nietzsche, Die fröhliche Wissenschaft, Section 125, tr. Walter Kaufmann

It is only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.” – Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

…this one is probably going to be a bit heavy. I apologize in advance for that. What I have personally found through my own experiences is that the concept of “self-improvement” often ignores the most powerful cognitive tool that exists within the alchemical formula. “Solve et coagula” or rather “dissolve and coagulate.” The first step then is dissolve.

Chuck Palahniuk’s book “Fight Club” tells this tale magnificently for adaptation into modern American culture. It is in my own understanding about a man who is looking for higher meaning. Now, that takes him to some incredibly destructive places, and I’m not suggesting that the narrator’s goals and ours should be the same. The narrator is effectively going mad due to the inability to sleep throughout the story, so to idolize him is rather absurd. That being said, to figure out why it is that he feels his life is so meaningless, his madness creates an illusion that begins his own process of dissolving.

To refer back to the opening quote from Nietzsche, “Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?” This part of the quote is essential to understand how the author meant it to be understood. The opening of the quote is so often misused, as what I’d call “Edgy” young people spout, “God is dead!” This has nothing to do with an atheistic call to arms, but rather was an observation about the state of German culture at the time of writing. Hegel touched on this topic in detail as well, and looking back into the 17th century we see discourses on “Gott ist tot” from Lutheran theories of atonement and in “Ein Trauriger Grabgesang” (“A mournful dirge”) by Johann von Rist.

Let’s create a hypothetical to work from. Assuming that you were God, the creator of everything in the universe, what would you do with your own time after you made it? I would assume that I would probably try out all of the things I had created, the depth of hedonism, first. Lots of time left, though, and boredom would for sure set in. I personally believe that my next step would be to have great adventures. Still, if I know that I am in total control of all things, what would make it exciting? The only way for me to feel a sense of adventure would be if I first forgot that I was the author, and thus I would need to submerge myself into the actors.

This is pretty close to a Hindu worldview. I like it. Let’s continue:

So, upon making it to a part in the play where you found your actor to be miserable and unhappy, depressed and anxious, what would be the solution? Well, the very modern absurdist Jim Carrey says, “Depression is your avatar telling you it’s tired of being the character you are trying to play.” From that position in thought, it seems simple enough to decide that what you’re suffering from is not only a disease, but also a need to change totally. To -become- someone different.

This is where we land firmly back into Fight Club. The narrator’s schism of consciousness has decided that to end his own depression to stop being him and literally become Tyler Durden. The only potential solution that he finds is to become someone else entirely. So, beyond the fighting, the exploration of pain and aggression, he does something that will actually change things:

He blows up all of his own possessions that he himself has worked so hard for.

This is in the story “essential” simply because the narrator does not yet realize that he is the one doing it, and so in order to force himself to change, it is essential to take away the things that create for him a comfortable life. On the other hand, the alchemist knows that he must dissolve the things he or she doesn’t want first. The alchemist doesn’t require an explosion, but a steady fire to promote change.

In order to change our minds to be what we want, we must be willing to put in the work to remove all of the things that we don’t want. It is for us essential to begin our process with creative destruction.

An Experiment in Asceticism

For a period of time when I was exploring certain historical traditions, I tried different types of fasting. I found that I would often have really good days, and then there were some that felt as though it was all stupid and I was being dumb. These were also some of the biggest turning points in my own life, though, and in retrospect were well worth doing.

There is one thing I’ve never tried, though, pure Christian Asceticism. I have found myself fascinated previous with many more notable Christian authors, and I often have moments where I am like, “Dude, that Jesus fellow nailed this particular situation.” I was thinking just the other day about one attempt I made at helping someone who had admitted to struggling with regular life while wanting to follow a more shamanic path. I got super frustrated when she was talking about “helping people grow spiritually” while refusing to leave an abusive partner. This isn’t a sermon, but I will admit that upon reflecting on my own motives, it was a story that Jesus told that struck me as pretty accurate about me. This isn’t a sermon, so let’s move on.

Most notable ascetics come primarily from Catholicism. Your author is not Catholic, probably more likely to be considered a Heretic or Gnostic. (Even though such a thing as “Gnosticism” is pretty inaccurate historically as it is a modern scholarly term for a variety of interpretations, and it covers philosophies that are too diverse to really be included under the same umbrella term.) I have been looking at some of the writings of the Desert Fathers and the progression of more ascetic practice to try to better understand “why” it all started.

For those unfamiliar with the term, “Ascetic” itself as a word has the interesting origin of being from the Greek ἄσκησις áskesis which means quite literally “to train/polish.” Consider, though, the metaphorical uses of athletics in early Christian literature such as Paul’s use in 1 Corinthians 9:24. I do not know of any serious scholars who would suggest that he is saying τρέχετε (run) as in “Yo homies, lace up your Nikes and get to pounding the track!” It’s (as much of the way that I read all work from Judaeo-Christian literature), an allegory.

There are many branches of ascetic practice, and I don’t know that I could adequately summarize the entire history of the practice. The Dead Sea Scrolls revealed ascetic practices of the ancient Jewish sect of Essenes who took vows of abstinence to prepare for a holy war. An emphasis on an ascetic religious life was evident in both early Christian writings (Philokalia) and practices (Hesychasm). It doesn’t take a huge logical jump to understand how a belief system that is based so deeply on Judaism where we see references to asceticism in the נזיר (separated people, nazerites) and who’s most prominent figures seem to all embrace this way of giving away the physical for the spiritual, would be saturated by people who promoted such practices. There’s also no shortage of asceticism in fakirs, munis, sannyasis, bhikkus, stoics, and yogis. I could potentially write an entire book on the multicultural facets of ascetics.

Are these thoughts scientific, though? Well, if we look at the common practice of fasting, the answer is “It seems likely.” In modern American culture, where we seem to be experiencing an increase in “more than enough,” it is perhaps well worth exploring ideas that have been around in many cultures and seem to have their highest ideas in the highest ideas of the culture itself.

As such, I personally will be taking on periodic fasting, limiting fatty meats and oils, and along with a more rigorous asana practice. I cannot personally see any real backing for self-flagellation or some of the more violent practices, so we’ll start off small with “training” rather than “killing” in mind.

Special thanks to ThinkingFaith for their articles that helped me to better understand how some of my own concepts about Christian ascetics were perhaps mistaken.

Does Aggressive Art Create Aggression?

…or “What poisons one plant may feed another,” but that seemed a bit too metaphorical for a title.

First, I apologize for my lapse in writing. I’ve been really, really deep into my own life and path recently, and I forget to come up for air some times. These times tend to lead to interesting bits of my own personal growth and understanding, but are terrible for my desire to share what I pick up on.

So, let’s get directly into it. What started this train of thought was that I was sharing how I was touched by a piece of music, deeply. Specifically “Jinjer: Pisces“, and how touching I found what seemed to me to be an exceptionally personal song. Worth noting, I played in a technical metal band when I was younger, so her growls didn’t really have the “shock and awe” that I see many people have upon listening to them. On the other hand, my wife hates it. I am deeply moved and find solace in it, and my significant other only says, “This disturbs me.”

That got me to wondering what the cause is for such a difference in reactions. I could say that it was as simple as that I liked metal for as long as I can remember, and that my wife simply doesn’t have the same degree of exposure, but that’s not quite deep enough. I always felt drawn to more extreme music, often with polyrhythmic instrumentation and aggressive vocals. It may be much deeper than it appears at first glance.

Since we’re discussing my wife, she is a firm believer in what she refers to as “biological memory.” To explain this concept, it’s that the experience of all of your ancestors is stored in your own genes, at least in some sense. Genetics itself is a factor in depression, but it’s not the only factor. I’d like to offer a different option, which uses genetics from her point of view that could potentially be a case:

A certain set of genetics may be more adapted to current conditions than another. It’s not that “the genes make you depressed” but rather, “the genes that make you prefer a life different than your own are creating a sense of unease which leads to depression.” Subtle difference, but a possibility (certainly not studied in enough detail for me to really say for sure that it’s correct/incorrect.)

To touch back to the music, I find that growls in music are a way to express many types of emotion. Perhaps indignant sadness in the status quo, perhaps anger at things outside of the control of the musicians. In a podcast at ‘Beth Roars’, she touched on the fact that in some cases, metal music may in fact calm some people down. What seems in the studies cited to make the most difference is “if a person likes this music or not.” The question though is “why do we like it?” The suggested answers don’t quite delve far enough in to help us.

This is an incredibly complex subject. In the response that “We’re looking for music that helps to express ourselves” leaves out the very important question, “Who is the us that we’re looking to express?” Is this person made from our environment when we were younger? If so, then the music that we listen to would have shaped the forms of the music we enjoy? I would imagine that in many anecdotal cases, we can all recall a parent or guardian or teacher asking, “How can you enjoy this?”

So, back to the possibility of genetics going far deeper, we can go back to my wife and I. While she is primarily of Celtic origin, I come primarily from a Germanic heritage. Very close cultures in many ways, but one of the things that we see in their own folk musics are certain differences. I would love to explore the depth of what was historically galdr, and how that term is used or reformed by neopagan groups today. The root of the word itself, though in many Germanic cultures is akin to “yell/scream.” (galdor, gillen, að gala)

Most folk music from Celtic roots is melodic and clear. As we see types of music grow into new genres, these folk songs influence subtle aspects of the newer branches. It’s worth noting that many, many of the more “growly” types of singing seem to come from Scandinavia and Germanic regions. This begs the question of how much of our “tribal programming” would identify sounds that originated in other cultures as potentially threatening while finding sounds from our own as comforting?

This is of course not for certain at all. It does make an abstract type of sense, though. While looking at these things from a tribal perspective, we also run into far more serious questions like, “Is racism an outcropping by simply identifying anyone who had spent enough time in another environment to seem foreign to us as threatening?” If that’s the case, then with the spread of genetic lines, we may consciously be able to say, “This person’s family was closer/farther from the equator for more/less time than mine.” We may also pick friends and partners based on similar emotional responses that aren’t even based on our own experiences, but a biological response to feeling that they are our “tribe” and will support us to be who we already feel we are.

…abstract stuff to consider, for sure. As I said, though, we simply do not have enough data to make some of these logical jumps for sure. I just really like music that makes me feel deep emotion, and that type of music may change from one person to the next. Perhaps the real point of growth is to find a type of music that you don’t like and then find someone who does like it, and figure out WHY it resonates so strongly with them. I feel that is how we learn perspectives outside of our own, and doing so helps to remove some of those blocks in our own ways of thinking.

“Hacks” are Not the Way

My daughter is a surrealist artist. I often sit and admire how good she is at capturing emotional states in faces, and making something that has never existed seem believable. Though, I recall in her early years that she was frustrated over hands. She struggled to make them look like she wished, so she had me pick her up a sketchpad and she drew hands, watched videos about anatomy, drew more hands, watched videos of hands and how to place them in perspective, and drew so-very-many hands.

She does it easily now. The hands look like hands, but if those need to be altered for the sake of the work, then it approaches the “uncanny valley” quickly. You know that they’re supposed to be hands, but they’re wrong. It is intentionally used for effect because she understands how to draw hands well enough to make you feel that they’re wrong.

I kept lots of her early art when she moved out, and from time to time, I review the pages and pages of learning going on. The amount of work that has been put in bewilders me.

I will say that I this leads to the point of today, there’s often tons and tons of work to meet with success at anything. Ours has slowly become a “hack” culture, and one of the things that made me think of my daughter is that one of the things we share back and forth are “hack videos” that are so absurd as to cause us to laugh. Using a 3D pen to create a basket to put flower buds in? Why would you not just use a random container that already existed rather than spending hours making one that in the end was pretty shabby?

Leading into our own practices, there is often a very real desire to focus on minutia. The same psychology of being specific about our morning supplements and then drinking a 6-pack of beer nightly is there when we work on any process of self-improvement as well. Don’t even start on “overnight miracle” workouts and such. Snake-oil, practically all of it.

So, as we approach neidan (內丹術), we likely should be careful to understand that the process will take both time and effort, lots and lots of it.

Create for yourself a morning ritual. I personally do a variation on the 8-pieces of brocade (八段錦) and a few minutes of Taoist meditation. This is possibly my habit alone, but there’s a thing that’s important. Make it simple enough that you can stick to it. It takes repeated effort to achieve, and if it’s too complicated or long, we cannot find the time to make it happen regularly enough. If you are making a custard, you will not be happy with the results of stirring one batch 300 times only to make the next batch with no stirring at all. Being consistent is more important than how much effort is put in sporadically.

There are no real hacks to leaning an art.

Impressions

I’m not a coward, I’ve just never been tested. I’d like to think that if I was I would pass
Look at the tested, and think “There but for the grace go I.” I might be a coward, I’m afraid of what I might find out.
” – The Mighty Mighty Bosstones

I realize, quite often, that I am not the best communicator. I struggle with a rather off mix of education and just good judgement. I find myself regularly becoming tied up on simple words, breaking them apart by roots, finding extra depth to their meanings. It comes from being quite studied in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Bokmål, and Mandarin. I realize that what I am seeing, though, does not mean much of anything to those who haven’t been studying language.

….so, let’s abandon doing this for a minute and let me say what I mean in the simplest way I know how.

I was not tested for a long time. I had been through a divorce, had children who were born very premature, and this ended with me spending what was about 1.5 years living between my car, in waiting rooms in the NICU, and working the whole time to be able to keep up with medical bills. Had it not been for a few nice people who helped me and my ex-wife get a hotel room during in-between stages (we had decided to stay with the babies until they could come home too), it might have been more of a struggle. I didn’t struggle with this, not at the time. Each day was set by necessity. My ex turned to narcotics afterwards, and while totally understandable as the whole experience was quite traumatic for her, it ended up starting a chain of events that led to our divorce.

I hadn’t been tested yet.

This brings me to explaining the “test” and how it is useful. In alchemy, we often use one of 4 types of fire to explore deeper levels of how something is. In life, this works much the same on our own being. We don’t actually know ourselves until we’re put through situations that challenge our very ideas about who we are. What I’ve found is that “who we are” is an almost entirely mutable structure. It’s not set, ever. This is not a purely mechanical procedure, either. It comes from all present situations, what we were born with, and our workings on it.

A bit of a story, and then I’ll get to the point. When I was at Dr. Yang’s, studying taichi, I made a friend who I jokingly call “Shaolin Bob.” Primarily, because it’s fun to say. He, on the other hand, is a fantastic human being. He did in fact study at one of the Shaolin schools, and is highly knowledgeable in long-fist. When I asked him “What motivated you to study in China, and then find yourself here as well?” He answered very profoundly.

“I had reached a spot in my own training where I considered opening up a school, but then I thought ‘What gives me the right to teach anyone?’ I am still trying to answer that.”

Since then, Shaolin Bob has gone on to open a nonprofit to help stop human trafficking in Nepal. His schools are probably not at all what he was expecting to open, but there we go. He learned something, I assume.

Back to “testing.” Everyone has plans of some sort. They may not be clearly defined goals, but we generally have some sort of expectations about how the day will go. When this doesn’t happen as we plan, we tend to shut down. Until we are surprised, though, we don’t really learn anything. If we weren’t surprised, we’d already know it. By regularly allowing yourself to be surprised, you can learn a lot, and what you may learn if the test is life itself is that we know almost nothing about who we are because there’s not a static structure. “Be yourself” has no real meaning, because that is not a stationary target. You can change, and you will.

The purpose, then, of putting a substance to the fire is to explore it. This we can do in our own growth. Challenge yourself, and you’ll quickly find out exactly how wrong you probably were about you. I laugh a little inside about how some people are like, “You just have to make yourself do it.” We are so bad at this, in general. I don’t listen to myself very well, and often act almost spiteful towards the inner voice telling me what to do. I am a bad captain and a worse crew-mate. I set goals that I don’t really know if I want and then don’t listen to myself about how to get there, because I’m not sure if I trust my judgement.

The laughter at this situation may be the point. I know that I am alchemist and elixir. I am the thing that can set up the situations to change me. You are the thing that changes you, purifies your essence. You are the guide and the trip itself. If your work, though, isn’t tested..you cannot be surprised. If you aren’t surprised, you’re not really learning anything.

It’s scary, anxiety fuel, and lets us know exactly our own limits quickly. There seems to be a pattern that hits many adults around the age of 40 where they are getting just good enough at changing their own world that perhaps they didn’t set clear goals to begin with and that they’re causing changes they don’t even like. Call it a midlife crisis if you want, but I (due to my own patterns) prefer, “…and upon hearing that, the student was enlightened.” It has to happen like this, and in the face of it all, truth emerges. Some men will go from being “good fathers” to having extramarital affairs and buying sports cars. This is likely because they simply were playing at life like it was an avatar, and that they simply were tired of pretending to not be interested in those things. At the same time, though, some people do so much more. I have a very close friend who’s struggled with drug addiction, and the other day he came to me to help get materials to build a center to assist people struggling with their own addictions get their feet under them.

See, and here’s the point. He wasn’t the picture of solidness. He has been in the flow long enough to know where things can turn upside down for someone. He has actually been tested, and found himself coming up short. Drugs were stronger than his judgement for a time. He also figured out a way to be rid of them, and that…that’s significantly different than what our previous “good husband and father” may have done in his life. It also produces very different results.

Don’t mistake me, I’m certainly not saying that the drugs themselves are beneficial, but it’s the struggle against something that we cannot immediately defeat where we actually begin to grow. Life itself is all about growth. Plants grow from seed, humans from infants, and our inner nature from our thoughts. What you think becomes you. You are the author and the main character.

…make it a good story.

Not Yet

A modern student came to a Zen Master. He had questions, but primarily wished to know what -Zen- was all about. He one day asked the master to explain what zen was.

The master instructed him that the secret of zen wasn’t just for anyone, so he would have to prove his sincerity in wishing to learn by working for the master. He began by having the student clean the gutters.

After the gutters were clean, he came back to the master who replied, “Not yet. Tomorrow, I need you to sweep the sidewalks.”

The student did just that, but upon approaching the master, he was once again told “Not yet” and continued his list of chores. Soon enough, the student found that he was working a practically full time job simply doing manual labor around the master’s home. He kept this up for months, really wanting to know, but one day hearing “Not yet,” was more than he could stand.

He came to the master, furious. “I have asked again and again, ‘what is zen about’ and time and time again you have denied me an answer.” The master simply nodded. “I need to know, and you are not sharing with me, despite my working my hands to the bone. What is zen?”

The master said solemnly, “Not yet.”

The student, exasperated said, “Fine, I am done here. If I wanted to work menial jobs for no pay endlessly, I could do that anywhere.”

The master smiled and said, “That is zen.”

The Internal Elixir

Before we really deep dive into what will be a modernization of Taoist practices, I feel it is essential to touch on the basics of what makes it specific to the style. I won’t go into detail about how “wuji” divides from a primordial chaos into yin and yang. Sifu, Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming has a few lectures available and I’ll credit much of what I have practiced to be based upon his own learning. Still, I am a very different practitioner.

First of all, I am not Asian. I am the offspring of what could readily be called “scallywags” who settled in the USA at a time where they proved beneficial to the overarching goal of being free of rule under the crown. I can’t say that it’s something I’m really “proud” of, but we are who we are. I do not know how far genetics reach into shaping exactly who we become, but I can say that I have come to a place of appreciating that my own path (“Tao” (道)…a word that has significant multiple uses) is not as simple as one might hope. Dr. Yang referred to me as “Hillbilly” and I will gladly accept that definition, perhaps from a place of humor. None of this is important, excluding that I want each reader to understand that you are -you- and there’s nothing better that you could be. We’re all explorers here.

The principle of the internal elixir (nei dan, 內丹術) is that of working on the inner self. This relates to the western principles of alchemical mercury (the “spirit/pneuma” πνεῦμα). The breath itself is life, and that life needs to be explored. All things are breath. Trees breathe, we breathe, animals breathe. It’s the rhythm of the universe, and by understanding how these simple mechanisms work, we find ever deepening layers of life itself.

So, when we come to explore Taoist methods, the breath takes on a change. It is a very complex subject, but to simplify it to the bare essentials: when you breathe in, draw the abdomen inwards. As you breathe out, allow the stomach to relax. In: tighten. Out; relax. From the classic (The Great Taoist Song of the Spirit’s Origin”), “The originals are transported peacefully so that you can become real; if you depend on the externals only, you will miss the goal.”

As we do this, we should focus on the dan tien. It’s a spot inside ourselves that is located slightly below the naval, a few inches back.

Note the 1 yang (solid line), 5 yin (broken line) point. That’s the target of our focus. By drawing it in when we breathe in, and allowing it relax as we breathe out, we begin to “blow the bellows.”

This is so important. When one practices yin yoga, it should be in the mind as a point of focus. Yin yoga is based upon Taoist principles, and without these principles, it would be difficult to really comprehend how much is actually happening within the body.

Essentially, we are priming the body to allow it room for exploration. This incredible simple technique will drop us ever farther into our own practices. It allows us to begin to feel the simple meridian channels of our nerves. Is this ch’i? How does it help us to improve ourselves?

…only practice and effort in the direction of knowledge will answer us.

Upcoming Projects

Good day.

I have been a bit occupied with a project to not simply write about some of the concepts presented here, but to provide tools that I personally find useful to those of us who might benefit from them.

I have a daily qigong practice, and often practice kundalini yoga. While I appreciate the guidance of an instructor, when something becomes a daily practice, it’s far less vital to have a voice explaining the same concepts over and over. I find great value in being able to really explore the inner workings of the body and mind, and as such, being able to keep time in kriyas that require holds for time is the main reason to have an external instruction.

As such, I’m working on creating ambient music that changes tonal structure when it is time for the position to change, artwork of the postures, etc. My hope is to be able to place these into a video to be able to share openly.

There’s so very much I’d like to share from my own practices, as I tend only to stick to what I find helps. Discussions on the creation of spagyric elixirs, essential oil distillation, and how to incorporate those into an ayurvedic system might all prove informative or educational.

…so, please be patient with me through this process. I personally am of the opinion that there will be much value in the results. Perhaps not. There’s no way to be sure until we complete it.

~Ven

The Argument for Belief in the Unknown

The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.” Søren Kierkegaard

Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.” Also Søren Kierkegaard

This topic is probably a really good reason that my last couple articles have been lacking in depth. I’m rather intimidated to even attempt to cover my thoughts on this subject, because it’s so very complex. I guess I’ll start by summarizing my own stance, so that we will be working from a place of vulnerable open-mindedness.

1.) I personally believe that there’s a divine creative presence in the universe. 2.) I have no idea what it is. 3.) I do not see the point in either arguing about it with people who see differently than I do or trying to use theology to explain my own views. 4.) If I am proven to be wrong, then it’s MY understanding that changes.

While I may express some degree of support for understand reality itself as subjective, I also still look both directions before I cross the street. Feel free to read that a couple of times, because it establishes a nice balance to understand both individual and consensus reality. The discussion on good, bad, etc. can delve into the theology of it all and use ethics to try to pinpoint how to best work on the subjective, but for some things, it’s very difficult to support a world that is entirely subjective.

I can discuss how thinking might lead to changing someone’s reality, but at the same time, sinkholes sometimes just open up without anyone really needing to have thought about them. It’s the actions of physics over time. Denial at this level makes little difference.

So, the sheer mathematical improbability of something like, “Consciousness of Life Itself” creates a few issues for someone working from a place of assuming that the world is 100% mechanical, and to then ask “If there is a creative force in the universe, then who made it?” is rather absurd in and of itself. Better yet, to say that someone is foolish for having a religion is ALSO scientifically inaccurate. For the sake of our own growth, let’s consider that a lack of belief is about as bad for the health as smoking. Or, that going to church (which your author does not do) decreases your mortality rate.

The logical problem here, is that if someone doesn’t have a faith, knowing that having one helps their health is practically useless. You might as well start telling people that changing their natural hair color is good for them as. Although, both can potentially be modified through a combination of sciences…but, then does it have the same effect on the stress response?

Let’s assume that someone was looking for not just a spiritual discipline, but belief itself. Which ones should they go for? The hilarious answer is “whichever one you believe that has the most effective coping strategies.” I tried very hard to find anything leading me to any certain belief system being better for you than another, and I have yet to see a significant difference in any of them that come from a contemplative tradition. Also, belief in the effectiveness of health care and not being opposed to seeking it…but that -should- go without saying.

In the end, I offer no real answers. I would like to offer that to keep alive the mystery of the universe is essential, no matter how you do it. We know so very little, and with discoveries such as the electromagnetic spectrum, when we do learn new things it often comes in such huge waves that we are faced with the fact that what we “know” may be far less of “reality” than we were even aware of. I expect this to prove to be the case again and again, but it’s vital that we continue to be honest in our questions and transparent about the answers.

Science describes the least of things. The least of what something is. Religion, magic… bows to the endless in everything, the mystery.” – Steve Oram as ‘J. Solomon’, A Dark Song

Cognitive Work via Seneca

There are more things, Lucilius, that frighten us than injure us, and we suffer more in imagination than in reality.” – Seneca

When it comes to transforming challenges in life to the fertilizer for growth, the Stoics are one of the finest groups of people to learn from. It is within reason to say that they’re one of the best examples of framing hardship not only as “not bad” but literally necessary to growth. Essentially, in order to grow, we need the challenges to give us enough resistance to prove ourselves as the heroes of our own stories.

Seneca (the Younger) is a powerhouse of not just philosophy to read and feel good about, but very practical life advice that is applicable to our everyday lives. It’s also well worth mentioning, this is not the story of some guy who’s writing from the comforts of a cushy life. He was exiled from Rome, later being brought back to become the tutor of Nero (yes, THAT Nero).

Where we see significant overlap in CBT and Stoicism is where we decide to act upon our feelings, or not, as it serves us best. While easy to simply say “I can’t help it, I felt like ______,” this is not really helpful in most cases. Certainly when we’re talking about anxity or depression, our feelings are working directly against what we most likely ‘want.’

What we do, then is see how these things can overlap. CBT -may- explore the root causes and methods to circumvent our troublesome thinking and behavior, Stoicism embraces that without us eventually running into issues, we probably aren’t improving ourselves at all. Then, we must decide if we really do wish to improve ourselves. If we do, then we must decide if our thoughts are helpful or not. What motivates us to want something different gives us a destination, and according to Seneca, that destination is vital.

If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.