Quick Guide: Meditation

I’ve spoken a lot about meditation and the wonders of meditation yet I’ve never actually spoken about how to meditate. Surprisingly, it takes more work than it looks, not thinking about anything. It’s our natural blank state yet it requires a lot of stripping back. I think of like scraping ugly paint of a wall to be able to redecorate: it’s a lot of effort, it can be tedious and it requires technique to make things easier.

  1. Find a place to meditate. It can be anywhere: sitting or lying down preferably. At first it would be easier to find a quiet place that you are comfortable in and a place where you won’t be disturbed for the length of the practice. Meditation and being at peace is a state of mind not a place so over time, the exterior will become less important than the interior. Noises like lawnmowers and fans and air conditioners fade away because when you are in that space, nothing matters.
  2. Close your eyes and let you internal gaze drift to the tip of your nose and relax your face and jaw. Make sure you can properly relax so that means going for a pee break before.
  3. All of your focus needs to be on your breath. Slow and intentional; travelling from your nose or mouth down your trachea and into your lungs and out again. Feel the texture of the air and temperature and sensation. The focus will clear your mind of all of the noise.

And that’s it. From five minutes to ten minutes to half an hour. My problem is that I tend to fall asleep because of how I meditate and that’s normally in bed. Comfort is a double edged sword when connecting to the universe. It took me a good three to six months to be able to meditate easily, there was a lot of ugly paint to scrape off.

I’ve found mantras help me to connect to that headspace and the universe around me. The first, being something rather silly but helpful: the Jedi Code.

There is no emotion, there is peace;

There is no ignorance, there is knowledge;

There is no passion, there is serenity;

There is no chaos, there is harmony;

There is no death there is the Force.

In my recital, “The Force” becomes “Universe” or “God” or “The Tao”.

I’m not going to tell you what to believe further than that past some grounding pop culture. Yet I would recommend if you are spiritual and you are looking for something further than clarity of the self – which is a noble goal and not to be dismissed – research you own path. It’s not my place to put you on it or set you on it because of how deeply personal each of our connections to Universe is. However, I will be linking some channels and videos that helped me below. If a thing feels right, usually, it’s because it is.

For those looking for a spiritual starting point.
For those looking just to let that shit go.

Z3N0

P.S. If you like those two videos and the content of the creators, please of course show your appreciation with likes and subscribes for more.

The Entertainment of Conflict

From Grey’s Anatomy to Batwoman to The Vampire Diaries most stories in the modern fiction landscape have the singular focal point of emotional conflict. With conflict there is no story. It’s almost as if there were so few solely dedicated Mr Tuvok stories in Star Trek: Voyager because the stoic Vulcan had no conflict and when he did, it required the influence of outside actors. Another good example from Star Trek is the case of Mr Data who’s best stories came from times that he activated his emotion-chip. Would we watch House MD if Dr Greg House shrugged off things? What would WandaVision be, if Wanda Maximoff viewed death in a stoic way? Kids love Anakin Skywalker and see him as the coolest Jedi despite being the antithesis of stoicism.

Stripping this back, taking this back 2000 years, to the gladiator pits of Ancient Rome, we see the nature of our love of conflict bare faced. Because that’s what is it is. We find entertainment in stories of people inflicting pain on each other. It’s almost a human desire to see it whether that’s in the Colosseum or in a deathmatch in Halo or in some trashy teen rom-com on Netflix. What’s the difference between inflicting physical pain and emotional pain? Both leave scars.

“The spectators insist that each on killing his man shall be thrown against another to be killed in his turn; and the eventual victor is reserved by them for some other form of butchery; the only exit for the contestants is death. Fire and steel keep the slaughter going.” – Letters from a Stoic VII.

Here, Seneca is speaking about the barbarism of the half-time shows at the Colosseum but doesn’t it sound familiar? We delude ourselves with sophistication but with each comic book, each novel, each TV show, each film franchise, each is just a protagonist going against and an antagonist over and over again. The only escape is death for both the spectator and the participant.

I was a habitual watcher of The Jeremy Kyle Show before that was cancelled. It was an emotional and at times literal gladiator match under the guise of conflict resolution broadcasted everyday. It was fantastic and I hated it because of how much I liked it. Of course, I never enjoyed the conflict and drama when it was thrust upon me, as is the way. We haven’t changed as human beings from the Romans to our post-modern reality televised Truman Show 21st Century existence.

I even know people who start fights because they’re bored to watch the chaos. I used to do it in secondary school for the shit and giggles. It’s wanton violence on the soul for what? A little butchery at lunchtime? Can we humans be truly entertained without an antagonist to conflict with?

There are six types of conflict in all fiction even in non-fiction: person versus person; person versus society; person versus nature; person versus technology; person versus self, and person versus supernatural.

All conflict in our lives can be boiled down to those six things. Why are so entertained by it? In Taoism, this conflict between yin and yang is life so does it stand to reason that life is conflict? Is our purpose in life is to stand as a rock in this conflict uninterested, apathetic? Is that even possible? We are both the conflict and the peace. We neither one thing nor the other, are we? And, in the end:

“Yesterday a sperm: tomorrow a mummy or ashes.” – Meditations 4.48.2

I don’t think I’m educated or experienced enough to decide. I’m certainly not far enough along the path to come to any rational conclusion on my own right now. Does it make me any less of a good man for indulging as a spectator in what I can only see to be human nature?

“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.” – Meditations 10.16

Only one thing that I can be certain of is that Anakin Skywalker is a terrible Jedi.

Z3N0

Family Friendly

I was looking into my AdSense last night and discovered that the system works similarly to how YouTube advertising works in the sense that language over the PG rating is unlikely to lead to monetization of content. While making money from this blog would be a nice bonus – and ads will be staying just in case -, I will not be changing up the content for that.

It would be a move without integrity, to neuter the catharsis and the journey for monetary gain. A disservice to myself to be dishonest and a disservice to the reader, you. As overly dramatic as it may be, I remember Meditations 6.2:

“If you are doing your proper duty let it not matter to you whether you are cold or warm, whether you are sleepy or well-slept, whether men speak badly or well of you, even whether you are on the point of death or doing something else: because even this, the act in which we die, is one of the acts of life, and so here suffices to ‘make the best move you can’. – Meditations 6.2

If I’m here, sharing my stoic and spiritual journey it is my duty to do so in the proper way. Like a duty of care and quality assurance that I’m not doing it half-assed or with self-imposed censorship to try to rake in that ad money. I will cover topics that may be triggering. This includes: death, abuse, addiction, illness, and many more. Why? Because how can I talk about life while missing out key components? It’s a fraud to think that I can speak about life without death. It’s like talking about the night sky and not mentioning stars.

And, if a few fucks, shits, wankers and bollocks’ slip in: I’m sorry that I’m not sorry. Sometimes no other words will do to describe some shit. Aside from being a stoic, I enjoy brevity and swearing in comedy which you can blame The Thick of It and Frankie Boyle for. I’ve not lied to myself or the reader through this medium. I don’t plan on it either so I’m not going to censor nor rephrase because it may earn me some money. It’s not a career, it’s a service to myself and a service to you.

“Lying, too is a sin against the same goddess: her name is Truth, and she is the original cause of all that is true.” – Meditations 9.1.2

I’m not even sure about the definition of family friendly as who knows what that means anymore. I know a few families who watched Game of Thrones together as a Saturday night ritual to replace the monotony of X-Factor and Saturday Night Takeaway. Compared to that, my half-baked musings on philosophy and the divine are pretty bloody tame.

Z3N0

P.S. I know this isn’t a proper post, but it is. There’s a lesson in there somewhere for me and someone else should you or they find it useful. That lesson: don’t sell out.

In the face of Ignorance

“I wish all of the people who are vaccinated to into a big auditorium and get COVID so I can just laugh at them all.” – X

You realize that would include A and B?” – Z

Don’t care.” – X

What do you do in the face of such ignorance? In this case, a level of spiralling resentment that a person would happily make throwaway comments, lauding over the potential deaths of family members. What does it prove? What good does half-baked, Facebook informed bullshit opinion do? Aside from sow resentment, of course. When it’s argued, when the rational point is put across to try to help reflection take place on such comments, the response is: “you need to learn I’m allowed an opinion.” Of course, X is allowed an opinion. Like everyone. It’s such a shame that those opinions, as half-baked and batshit as they are, calcify into facts.

What does our favourite Emperor say about ignorance and ignorant people or avoiding becoming bitterly hateful towards them? And yes, one day, I will find a new philosopher to quote.

“Try to persuade them, but act even if they are unpersuaded, whenever the principle of justice so directs. But if someone forcibly resists, change track to an unhurt acceptance, so using the obstacle to bring forth a different virtue. And remember that you set out on a conditional course – you were not aiming at the impossible. So what were you aiming at? An impulse qualified by condition. This you have achieved: what we proposed to ourselves has been accomplished.” – Meditations 6.50

What was the proposal here? That I confirm the diagnosis that my own words are futile? All I can due is accept that futility as easily as I accept death. Yet for some reason, accepting death is more comfortable than the words and actions of another individual. Why? Perhaps, because I know that death is an act of nature and it is in my nature to die. Angry vitriol and spite is against our nature; to wish disease on family – or even kin in the most general of terms – for the sake of argument is against our nature as human beings. It is just to be disgusted by things that are unnatural to the human condition or rather purposefully ignorant of the responsibility we have to each other. It’s a greed of material status quo and gluttony of sensation that leads creates such an unshakable fortress of delusion.

I am a hypocrite of course, as I’ve discussed to no end before. Remember the Bible passage, John 8:7 : “He who is without sin…”

“You have many faults and are no different from them.” – Meditations 11.18.4

What are my faults, right now? Off the top of my head I can think of one irrational vice against humanity. I have a hardwired level of sexism that is exacerbated by bad actors, media influence and experience culminating in trust issues and an irrational fear of commitment. Is it fair of me to judge as I harbour my own ignorance and irrational thought patterns? No, of course not. Because it stems from fear, all of it. All ignorance does. The fear to face this is a fear of evolution, a fear of evolution is a fear of change and so on and so on. On the positive, I can say that I’ve identified these issues within me and I’m working to eliminate my ignorance without fear of the now and without fear of the then.

“When you are high with indignation and perhaps losing patience, remember that human life is a mere fragment of time and shortly we are all in our graves.” – Meditations 11.18.6

That’s the truth isn’t it? For all of X’s bluster and my ever righteous soliloquys, it’s all pointless wasted energy. If I can’t show him the better way, the more rational way to be, I should move on because in the end: we’ll all be dead. It’s not morbid, if anything it’s quite calming. Zoom out of the experience and take a birds eye view of it all and see how meaningless the bluster is. It’s just hot air after all.

“The greater grief comes from the consequent anger and pain, rather than the original causes of our anger and pain.” – Meditations 11.18.8

So I bit my tongue and nodded and removed myself from the battlefield. What would be the point of causing myself more anger and pain when I know the outcome? The outcome: no movement of either philosophy or growth just sore feelings and a rough atmosphere. Yet I learn – we learn – for the future, for our own growth. When the time comes, I will be happy in myself and my own philosophy knowing that is not founded on the hatred of the things around me that I cannot control. I will work on my own vices and ignorance to become a better stoic, a better person, a better human being, irrespective of the ignorance of the other. It’s not about what X does or about what they do; it’s about what I do and about what we do.

Z3N0

A Mindful Moment

Mindfulness as a practice is a fundamentally stoic one yet particularly spiritual. Taking a step back and to be absorbed in the simplicity of existence removing the façade of the complex and the overdone is an underrated pleasure. It’s one of the few pleasures that can be called wholly virtuous. To be free of thought and noise in a single meditative, mindful moment is a practice in presence.

In the spiritual sense, I like to keep the catchphrase of my favorite Reiki master Sarah Louise Tilsley: “grow roots“. Stepping back within your own mind to use your third eye to picture roots shooting from your heels to the core of the Earth to tether you is something I practice nearly every day. I breathe in, picturing myself breathing up the nutrients and energies from the ground up and out. I focus on the the movement of breath on this journey, nothing else matters but the simplicity of the fundamental elements and my relationship with those elements. My blood is oxygenated, my mind is calm and my soul is at peace. Mindfulness and energy work is not difficult, your perception of what it takes to start makes it difficult. It’s a universal force for everything and everyone.

In the more rational sense, when it comes to mental health, being mindful puts everything into a relative placement. The skewed and chaotic priorities and immaterial issues of 2021 slip away for you to process in your own time, in your own way. Mindful moments exist when time rejects meditation. Yet, when we think about it, even time is a construct and immaterial: everything happens in it’s own time. You will make it to work exactly when you need to; a child will be born exactly when it needs to; a person dies exactly as they do regardless of the time. The planet keeps spinning.

Today I didn’t realize what I needed until I took a mindful moment and what I needed was just that: simplicity. The smell of a book and sensation of linen on my fingertips and an absence of thought was exactly what I needed. What can you feel? What can you see? What can you hear? What can you taste? Connect to it and feel it with no thought nor judgement. Be one with the universe around you and sink into it accepting of the endless hug it’s giving you. Close your eyes and breathe – it’s all you need.

To be morbid, when we meditate or be mindful we practice death. Yet is this morbid? Or is this beauty of reality. To be still is to be dead, to be dead is natural, to be alive is to be still and so on and so on. The opposite of life is not death as death is a part of life. Do not fear being without thought or judgement or the confines of space and time. Just breathe.

“Withdraw into yourself. It is the nature of the rational mind to be self-content with acting rightly and the calm it thereby enjoys.” – Meditations 7.28

As you grow roots outward, a journey inward is needed to discover your own. How can any of us find anything amongst the noise of our own thoughts? Personally, I’ve always got five or six tabs open in the web browser that is my conscience mind yet, in moments through mindfulness I can make a be bee-line through the chaos to the close button. How? A moment of mindfulness: the smell of a book, the touch of soft linen on my fingertips. Silence and stillness is an underrated pleasure of life, and learning to be silent and still is an underrated skill.

Z3N0

Learning to Forgive

Forgiveness as a topic has come up twice for me today. The first: an incident that requires forgiveness of myself and another; the second: another has asked for forgiveness from me. I had planned on binging Grey’s Anatomy and drinking tea but universe had other plans. I’m not begrudging of having to face the problem within myself, it’s high time in fact that I reflect. Once again, it needed some help from someone outside of me, because, as I keeping finding, the best of help comes from the most unexpected places.

“Apathy on the specific negative emotions, yes. Forgetfulness is harder, but acceptance would be better. It happened, it’s done, over with… so you can accept that it won’t develop, and fold it into a nice little oragami bird that you can then incinerate at high temperatures.” – X

Acceptance of another’s actions and moving on from them is forgiveness. We can accept things as they are, because they are just that. What if, again being the dangerous subject. What if things get worse? What if I can’t move on? What if I can’t forgive them? What if I can’t forgive myself for trusting them in the first place? Fuck what if. It’s a spiralling rabbit hole of shit that we should not even peer down or risk slipping on it’s slick edges and into the abyss. Forgiveness is the only way to keep your feet on the ground. Without forgiveness you spiral endlessly down the rabbit hole of panic and destruction with hatred of the self being the rock bottom. Why? Well where is there else to go? Forgiving another only reflects on the self in the end, for what do they care now? Why do you care? Why should you care?

“In the whole of things there is one harmony: and just as all material bodies combine to make the world one body, a harmonious whole, so all causes combine to make Destiny one harmonious cause. Even quite unsophisticated intuit what I mean. They say ‘Fate brought this on him.’ Now if ‘brought’, also ‘prescribed’. So let us accept these prescriptions just as we those of Asclepius – many of them too are harsh, but we welcome them in the hope of health.” – Meditations 5.8.2

Asclepius is the god of medicine and is it not the most appropriate that forgiveness is the greatest medication for our souls? Forgiveness of others but more importantly forgiveness of the self is a harder task. Yet, if you’ve been wronged by another, what is the need for self-forgiveness? There’s always that rumbling isn’t there? That what if you hadn’t crossed paths with the cause of your ills. That what if you hadn’t placed trust in that cause, given effort, energy and emotion. That’s the root isn’t it? We are our own worst critics first, after all.

And what of this situation where another has asked for my forgiveness? For a situation where I’ve also found myself – although in my case I was innocent of what I was accused of unlike this person. I do forgive, yet do I want this person back in my life? No. Is this true forgiveness you ask? I think so. I forgive and I accept the actions of the actor yet it still doesn’t mean I want to break bread with them.

“When someone does you wrong, you should consider immediately what judgement of good or evil led him to wrong you. When you see this, you will pity him, and not feel surprise or anger.” – Meditations 7.26

You will see those you forgive but you must also apply the lesson you learnt from thier transgressions. You can forgive but you don’t have to trust. If a person takes a dump in your bath you can forgive them and pity them after all, it’s not exactly the sign of a sound mind to shit in another’s bath. Yet, it would be unwise to invite them over again and direct them to your bathroom.

I forgave the person I needed to forgive – as a stoic, rather shamelessly with needing words from a friend. I forgave the person who asked for forgiveness; they’ll have my good will and best wishes but not the house keys or an invite back. Most importantly, I forgave myself. Like most of my blog posts, I’m finishing with an imperative: ask yourself who and what you need to forgive and if the first stop is at home. Acceptance starts in the mirror.

Z3N0

Red Wine, Ain’t that Fine

Today, I made a mistake. Today I took my daily citalopram half an hour before I downed two glasses of merlot. On a normal day, my motion sickness makes avoiding car rides a preferable option, yet today my stomach was playing catch-up and my head was in the Bermuda Triangle. I know, I know: “Z, you lightweight, weren’t you some hard drinking, bartending dickhead?” Yes, of course, perhaps still a dickhead. Now, after a four-hour nap, a hung over dickhead. What would Marcus Aurelius say? Or even Epictetus or Seneca. Being on medication and knowing full well that my biology disagrees with fast moving roller-skates of death, I should have known not to say yes.

“What can I get you? Beer, wine…?” – X

“Wine, please” – Z

“Red or white?” – X

This is where the mistake happened. I’ve not had red wine for nearly two and a half years and the last time ended with a hazy nap under a bay window in the city centre at 2 AM.

“Red, please.” – Z

Some habits need a final reminder to say goodbye to. I am grateful for my hangover because it tells me to avoid wine, full stop. Because ultimately, for time, you could have described me as an alcoholic, perhaps you still can based on how quickly I snapped X’s hand off when he offered me a large one. I get more chatty, “verbal diarrhoea“, Y would say. Is that worth the literal headache? No. Losing of inhibitions so readily: a vice. There’s no balance here. Smooth, casual drinking is different to knowingly getting myself drunk. But maybe there isn’t and I’m fooling myself. Cajoling myself into a false sense of sober security.

“He could throw in mud or dung: in no time the spring will break it down, wash it away, and take no colour from it. How then can you secure an everlasting spring and not a cistern? By keeping yourself at all times intent on freedom – and staying kind, simple and decent.” – Meditations 8.51

I drank every single day for about two years. I indulged in that vice and my soul was numb and I viewed the world through drunk eyes. I burnt out and hit rock bottom, I still have no idea how people liked Ozzy Osbourne managed to do it for so long. The party comes to an end sometime and people go home, achy and gurning. Time to grow up; time to say no when it’s offered.

Life through life the best way you can. The power to do so is in a man’s own soul, if he is indifferent to things indifferent. And he will be indifferent if he looks at these things both as a whole and analysed into their parts, and remembers that none of them imposes a judgement of itself or forces itself on us. The things themselves are inert: it is we who procreate judgements about them and, as it were, imprint them on our minds – but there is no need for imprinting at all, and any accidental print can immediately be erased. Remember too that our attention to these things can only last a little while, and then life will be at an end. And what anyway, is the difficulty then? If they are in accord with nature, welcome them and you will find them easy. If they are contrary to nature, look for what accords with your own nature and go straight for that, even if it brings you no glory. Anyone can be forgiven for seeking his own proper good.” – Meditations 11.16

Getting over that embarrassment of saying no out of some weird social anxiety is the first step. Today I took a backwards step, but I’ve got forward to go from here. Step forward, sober partner. Remove the judgement, as Marcus would say, hold against the perceived inertia. Save yourself the hangovers, grinding come downs and self-loathing. Right now, in this very moment I can tell you: it’s not worth it.

Z3N0

Suez Canal

So I was talking to X about the situation in the Suez Canal – something I only found out about through memes and second hand sources since deleting my news apps. A few lines from our conversation became stuck in my head:

“Did you hear that the investigation is going to take weeks and weeks?” – X

“Why, they know what happened?” – Z

“What do you mean?” – X

Someone fucked up and caused a traffic jam.” – Z

“Yeah but it cost them billions.” – X

“So rather than spending more to blame people, surely the more effective thing to do would be to improve the system so it doens’t happen again?” – Z

Suddenly, in a tiny conversation abut the Suez Canal, I trigged an entire debate within my own head about the flaws of the criminal justice system and how retribution is often prioritized over solution. Perhaps I’m being too out-there liberal for some to say that. Perhaps I am. Let’s think of another example: a murderer is sentenced to death to teach him a lesson. What is the murderer learning? Answer: fuck all, they’re dead. What to the people around them feel? Momentary elation and sense of fulfilled justice? Okay, but does this undo the original crime? Is that closure? To feel a sense of accomplishment as you stand (metaphorically) over the lifeless body of the person who did wrong with a triumphant grin. Or is it just self serving?

I’m not perfect, in an act of petty vengeance I once orchestrated that someone who wronged me lose their placement in student housing. It was shitty, self-serving and helped no one but myself for a brief moment of triumph. It was short lived of course, the person adapted and was fine apart from a few weeks of panic and stress. What lesson was learned? Aside from that I can be devious meddling bastard if I want to be, nothing came of it. No closure, no sense of getting even. Just a deep guttural unsettling feeling, knowing that I was capable of Machiavellianism even on that tiny scale.

Back to our analogy for the death row prisoner: what lesson does the witness or wronged learn? Other than learning that they can stomach to watch the death of another human being? How about the executioner? What good does it do them? You may say, “oh it’s their job they are used to it” but is becoming disconnected from other human beings and compartmentalizing and quantifying life something we should be proud of being used to? That’s not a virtuous skill to develop, surely.

In my own life I was recently let down by colleagues I thought were friends in a breach of trust. Do I harbour blame for them? No, it was the trust I gave them that was broken so surely I was in error for placing the trust in the first place. Yet even then, what good is that blame? What retribution can I extract on myself? My opinion of them of course changed, now designated as undesirables: things in my environment I would prefer not be there. Like a drawing of a dick on the wall in marker pen that I can’t get rid of. I don’t interact more than I have to and I go about my business and work without blame or worry with lessons learned to not trust them again. They took my silence rather personally but I have nothing to say, I moved on. I now bring a book into a work – Meditations in fact – to read and study. It’s been a much more enriching experience for my lunch breaks.

“There is no blame. If you can, put him right: if you can’t at the least put the matter itself right. If that too is impossible, what further purpose does blame serve? Nothing should be done without purpose.” – Meditations 8.17

I read an article that reads that the Egyptian port authorities are looking to fine the firm responsible over $1 billion yet the process is difficult as it’s a multinational, multi-layered animal they’re trying to hunt based in three different countries. Surely then, the solution would not to waste millions on court proceedings for a chance at reparations, but to refine protocol to prevent this ever happening again? It would be more cost effective in the long term to have more efficient and process less prone to errors. The money would be much better spent on bonuses for the tireless engineers who got the cargo ship moving again, incentivising hard work and creative problem solving. Yet, to quote Thanos the Mad Titan: “reality is often disappointing”.

Z3N0

Quick Quote Post: 3

Tonight being Good Friday, I thought I’d share some words about rebirth and rejuvenation without my usual waffle, exposition and/or bollocks. While I have my own issues on Easter and what it represents that I’ll be another post. Tonight, I thought I’d share some words from Lao Tze not Marcus Aurelius, today. I, like Jesus, am coming out of my cave (and yes, I’m doing just fine, thank you) fresh as a daisy wearing my Taoist Sunday best not my stoic toga. In these days of modern excesses of chocolate and eggs, I like to think about the middle path, the way.

“Do that which consists in taking no action; pursue that which is not meddlesome; savour that which had no flavour. Make the small big and the few many; do good to him who has done you an injury. Lay plans for the accomplishment of the difficult before it becomes difficult; make something big by starting with it when small. Difficult things in the world must needs have their beginnings in the easy; big things must have their beginnings in the small. Therefore it is because the sage never attempts to be great that he succeeds in becoming great. One who promises rashly rarely keeps good faith; one who is in the habit of considering things easy meets with frequent difficulties. Therefore even the sage treats some things as difficult. That is why in the end no difficulties can get the better of him.” Tao Che Ching Chapter 63

“In the pursuit of learning one knows more every day; in the pursuit of the way one does less every day. One does less and less until one does nothing at all, and when one does nothing at all there is nothing that is undone. It is always through not meddling that the empire is won. Should you meddle, then you are not equal to the task of winning the empire.” – Tao Che Ching Chapter 48

You’re wondering: “Z, what the fuck has that got to do with Easter?“.

Easter is a fraud: you should be experiencing and celebrating change and rebirth everyday. You should be experiencing change through learning and evolution of the self to the higher self. Be actively passive in your evolution, like the natural world around you. The Neanderthal did not evolve to the rational, free and critical thinking creature reading these words now, overnight. Life and change and learning is a constant celebration of you and the world that spins around you.

Eat all the chocolate eggs, pilgrim, it’s always Easter. The day is always good.

Not for Jesus at the time, obviously, but that sort of ruins my point, doesn’t it?

Z3N0

Stoic Advice For Pain

I am experiencing pain at the moment, physical that is. For the second time, I have a lump in the roof of my mouth that will need another biopsy and some home-kit blood tests required some serious stabbing with planchets. Laughable I know, I can deal with it. In this time of pandemic, I am grateful just for what I have. Yet a true application of stoicism took place today. While this is not so notable, it’s worth mentioning: while I was building myself up to jab my finger tips with this needle there was a moment of hesitation. The dreaded what if. I said to myself, like a stoic: “You are fearing pain rather than experiencing pain. Pain is inevitable, get on with it.

While you can call me chicken-shit for even needing to build up the nerve to do something that diabetics do on a daily basis – that would be fair – it’s a minor example of stoicism in action. It doesn’t need to be this grand monologue about ethics on biblical proportions. It’s the little things everyday that keep us moving along the path properly and with dignity. I am not harmed by feeling pain, in reality, neither are you. It’s a sensation of the body to tell you that the vehicle has been damaged in some way.

“Whenever you suffer pain, heave ready to hand the thought that pain is not a moral evil and does not harm your governing intelligence: pain can do no damage either to its rational or to its social nature. In most cases of pain you should be helped too by the saying of Epicurus: ‘Pain is neither unendurable nor unending, as long as you remember its limits and do not exaggerate it in your imagination.’ Remember too that many things we find disagreeable are the unrecognized analogues of pain – drowsiness, for example, oppressive heat, loss of appetite. So when you find yourself complaining of any of these, say to yourself, ‘You are giving in to pain.’Meditations 7.64

I’ll refer to Batman comics here. In the stories, Batman is often under attack and his Batmobile is damaged and it gives him an alert – our analogue for pain in this analogy. Sure, he’s often disgruntled but he works around this, he adapts and still manages to get on with what he needs to do. This, in this case, is often beating seven shades of shit out of someone with a mental illness.

Back to the real world, this lump in the roof of my mouth: either normal mucosa or perhaps a salivary or glandular issue, or perhaps a tumour. It hurts but so what? I’m not worried about the what if’s of it, and with a bit of Bonjela its soothed enough for me to not notice it for hours. I have taken steps to call my GP to arrange a consultation because that would be self-destructive laziness not to. It’s like knowing you have a sort of flat tire on your car and ignoring it – or Batmobile to carry on the analogy.

Fearing pain is like fearing change, fearing change is like fearing breath entering and leaving the body. Yet in those moments where we allow our unnational thoughts to obscure the truth we falter. Allow yourself to have these moments, it’s only natural, but also allow yourself to access the rational mind. Let these moments be just that: moments. Not long drawn out panics nor worries that lay heavier than the sensation of the planchet itself.

“If you remove the judgement of anything that seems painful, you yourself stand quite immune to pain. ‘What self?’ Reason. ‘But I am not just reason.’ Granted. So let your reason cause itself no pain, and if some other part of you is in trouble, it can form it’s own judgement for itself.” Meditations 8.40

There’s a phenomena I experienced as a child that many other may also have experienced. I was clumsy and fell over a lot and got in all sorts of scrapes. Yet there was this one occasion in Bordeaux on a camping holiday when I was in a quadbike crash. Long story short: it was on top of me. I wasn’t too bothered, I was confused more than anything, bemused even. Yet when others told me how dangerous it was and how bad it looked, I suddenly felt a wash of pain and wailed and complained. My own rational mind thought it was amusing yet something happened. Was it shock or was it one of those moments where the expectation of pain was worse? In any case I got back on and finished the fucking lap – finished last, of course.

The Buddhists hold a core belief that pain and suffering in some form or another is inescapable in the human condition. The Taoists believe that where there is pleasure, there will also be pain (at different times -unless you’re into that, no judgement here). Both are true. I get colds in the winter so naturally, it’s a dispreffered time of year yet I don’t panic when the leaves start to brown. Accept pain like you accept the days of the week transitioning into the next. Accept it and adapt whether that be in mind, body or spirit.