Being The Outsider

I’ve recently picked up a new game to play with friends, Conan Exiles it’s called and effectively it’s Minecraft with an emphasis on gratuitous violence and slaughter. You may have heard of it, it’s the game that allows you to fine tune your character’s endowment – I know, I’m a learned and sophisticated man (!). Yet this feeling hit me, a feeling so familiar when I spend time with others. It’s the feeling of being the outsider and not quite fitting in as the rest; being the spare part left on the shelf, only used for the sake of using it; the idiot little brother of the team of equals like the glorified side kick. I became frustrated at the game and frustrated at myself for feeling that way, with an unshakeable feeling of inadequacy and rejection.

It’s my personal nemesis: insecurity. It’s the cause of mistrust between me and my friends because I don’t trust them and in turn they don’t trust me. I’ve spoken before to no end about the need for trust and how vital it is to be a member of the Whole and wider human city yet I’ve not been able to take my own advice for one reason or another. I’m much better at giving advice than accepting, even if it’s my own. It’s an alienation of the self and in turn of others who feel hurt by the questioning of loyalty and little tests and fishing expeditions. It’s not perhaps as destructive as it once was in my life where I would actively commit acts to prove things right to myself. It’s funny, I can look back now and see it and recognize it in so many others that I’ve seen it in since. I can’t judge them for my own sins nor any other, I suppose as in the end it’s all self harm to the soul.

I meditated on it – something I do when I can’t find clarity in the moment, and something I recommend for everyone else. I found comfort in my own disquiet, seeing myself float through the endless expanse of universe alone, an island to myself. I held out my hand, not to reject the experience of it being held but accepting that it wouldn’t be. Then I heard a voice that was not my own and felt a tugging on my physical body. It was calling to me, to remind me that I wasn’t alone and despite by attempts to sweep it away to bask in my own solitude, it was stubborn and wouldn’t leave.

Not even an hour later, I messaged my friend who watched my grow increasingly isolated in myself for something to write about since Sundays can be quite slow for a spark. They suggested this very topic. That from my own perspective that I was a spare part but I was appreciated and was missed when I quit for the day. It made me smile, for a stoic I quit in a rage but then as a stoic reflected on the why and Universe provided me my friend’s insight. I’m grateful to them and fate, and I’m grateful to fate for the friendship.

Sometimes, we are outsiders in life. As stoics, as philosophers in our own right even people who simple wish to experience meta cognition, we separate ourselves to see the bigger picture. We need to to be able to observe the truth of things within ourselves and others and form a healthy and natural poise. Yet, something I need to manage is to not allow that separation to alienate me from the people I care about the most, my fellow human beings beyond that and my environment beyond that, et cetera.

Fellow outsiders, something to take notice of:

Batman can’t exist without his friends. Not without: Alfred, the first Robin, the second Robin, the third Robin, the fourth Robin, Catwoman, Oracle, Batgirl, Spoiler, Nightwing, Batwoman, Batwing, The Signal, Lucius Fox, James Gordon, even the Justice League.

And that’s Batman.

“‘I shall show you,’ said Hecato, ‘a love philtre compounded without drug or herb or witch’s spell. It is this: if you wish to be loved, love.” – Letters from a Stoic IX

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The Snap

Yesterday I had a nap – not really a nap, more like lying on my back staring into space not exactly thinking about anything – to let my day melt. Throughout my work, I pick up stowaway energy, become fixed on minutia, and allowed the immaterial to stick like gum on a shoe to my conscious. I felt myself in conflict with my own calm. It was a strange panic to be in a form of fuzziness, a fuzziness I didn’t realize that had existed before.

It creeps up on you, this heavy clammy feeling. It’s like unwashed sweat after a run that sticks to you and you only really notice it when you pause and think.

A friend messaged me to tell me they were worried about me, that I seemed different and aggravated. I had no idea what he was talking about. I do now and it took me to follow his advice to see. The advice: meet a buddy, have some drinks and unwind. I didn’t do the first due to COVID but the latter I did. Strangely, in that moment after my beer and moment to unwind there was a snap.

It was a snap in my own mind. I woke up, my head was clear suddenly. It was like hitting the refresh button on a crashed webpage without even realizing it was crashed. It opened up my mind to the power of peace. Peace within, taking a moment to meditate on the reality of things, despite not sensing anything wrong.

Maintenance perhaps? We all need a moment to check in with ourselves like an spiritual and philosophical MOT. That’s what it is, isn’t it? An awakening of the true mind, a true self in to see reality for what it is. And in this reality, I was fuzzy, focussed on the wrong things, experiencing a rather passive expression of anger and irritation without even realizing it.

I need to share this video, of Mooji’s thoughts on the subject, of the realisation of observation, observing this strangeness of the self.

Please subscribe and like this video to support his channel

Sometimes, a little pause, a little moment to see the self enables you to see others and the Whole as it truly is not what we perceive it to be behind a haze.

“I have withdrawn from affairs as well as from society, and from my own affairs in particular: I am acting on behalf of later generations.” – Letters from a Stoic VIII

Act on behalf of the future, the future of you and the future of the Whole. Take a breath in this moment, find your centre even if you never thought you’d needed to find it before. You will find a strange new peace, a shower of light washing away the fuzz stuck to your skin; a lightness of the mind and soul as you embrace the world with wider, clearer eyes.

It’s an instant snap when you find it. As if Thanos clicked his fingers to allow you to see and embrace your power as a human being and expression of Universe rather than turn to dust (then reappear five years later following the valiant sacrifice of Iron Man, of course).

Growing Roots

I was in a conversation today about feeling uprooted and disconnected from one’s kin and lost like driftwood. I can empathise with the feeling, finding a place to grow my roots seems to be a recurring theme. Yet is it as complex as we think it is? In the spiritual sense, it’s very easy to grow roots and ground ourselves to the Earth and the Whole.

Very simply, breathe and follow the breath until it is your only focus.

Close your eyes and close your mind to it’s own noise.

Keep your bare feet in contact with the floor beneath you and imagine roots sprouting from them and pushing down and down and down.

Reach the centre of the planet and wrap your roots around the core.

Isn’t that all we need to feel connected when the self evident truth of that we are, is not enough? We are all stardust of the same stock, after all. But it takes time to accept that and clarity to see it. Even in the genealogical sense, we can’t escape our roots as much as we try so why try? You can’t change the place of your birth after the fact so why examine the how’s and why’s of unmovable facts.

In the end, perhaps the feeling of drifting and restlessness is born from the heights to which we grow. When we scrape the sky, the earth below feels insignificant and we forget that we need it to exist. We cannot live without the dirt, that unavoidable stuff that binds us all together in nature. Can we fight our nature? No.

Roots are a part of us as they are a part of any plant on this planet. We need space to grow them out, time to do so, fertile ground and a will to do it. But that’s easier said than done isn’t it in shifting sands?

How do we find this perspective, this downward view to search for grounding? Of course, my favourite Roman emperor has the answer as usual.

“Rational beings collectively have the same relation as the various limbs of an organic unity – they were created for a single cooperative purpose. The notion of this will strike you more forcefully if you keep saying to yourself: ‘I am a limb of the composite body of rational beings.’ If though by the change of one letter from ‘l’ to ‘r’ [melos to meros], you call yourself simple a part rather than a limb, you do not yet love your fellow men from your heart: doing good does not yet delight you as an end in itself; you are still doing it as a mere duty, not yet as a kindness to yourself.” – Meditations 7.13

As limbs are a part of the body, so are trees a part of the forest; as the tendons are the roots to these limbs. What connects you to others and the world around you is not a state of mind but a constant fact for you to remind yourself of. A constant love for you to remind yourself of.

A constant fact for me to remind myself of. A constant love for me to remind myself of.

No Bad Decisions

There are no bad decisions, there I said it.

That may seem easy to say and reductive in the long view of a heinous and hateful history that all humans share and that we all either suffer from or have privilege from. Yet in the end, on the personal level, the lessons we take from the mistakes we make are the ones that teach us the best. With that logic, if all mistakes are lessons and all lessons are inherently in service of growth, there are no true mistakes.

If we trust in Universe, The Way, God, then we trust that all things happen for a reason. Even if we trust in none of those things, trust in the self and the nature of things. By doing that, we feel no ill will towards ourselves or others. It’s a stoic philosophy, not spiritual or intangible, it just is the way. When we reach this conclusion, even in the face of great pain and loss, everything becomes lighter and warmer.

“With each object of experience consider its origin, its constituents, what it is changing into, what it will be when changed – and that no harm will come to it.” – Meditations 11.17

See through the hurt and ask yourself, what have you learned? What have you learned about yourself and what have you learned about the object that leaves its mark on you? What mark is this, even? Scars are lessons, even the unseen ones and a reminder that we heal and move on. A friend said to me on Thursday, “grow and go“.

So what in the grand scheme of history, am I saying that the atrocities of the past and present are inherently good? No, those things are unjust and manifestations of wanton vice. What did we learn from them? Aside from learning about better ways to kill each other, what did we learn? Too many lessons for me to count here, but we grow as a people, united as kin. On the macro and micro, we grow. Even in the darkest of nights, there is dawn on the horizon and that will never change, not until the Sun swallows the Earth and by then, perhaps we would have transcended to the stars to a new form of being.

“You should meditate often on the connection of all things in the universe and their relationship to each other. In a way all things are interwoven and therefore have a family feeling for each other: one thing follows another in due order through the tension of movement, the common spirit inspiring them, and the unity of all being.” – Meditations 6.38

Another way of thinking about it is this: locked yourself out of the house? Call the locksmith. If it ever happens again, you will know who to trust to get the job done. Miss an opportunity to ask out the person you are in love with? You have learned never put anything off again, never procrastinate. Like me, have you eaten something without checking the ingredients for allergens? You will suffer sure, but you will not be so careless again and you will handle it better next time at least.

Love all of your decisions. Amor fati.

Love all of their decisions as opportunities to be better, to learn to be better and not be like your enemy. Amor fati.

Love circumstance, you will learn to find strength in yourself and what you have. Amor fati.

“A stone thrown in the air: nothing bad for it on the way down or good for it on the way up.” – Meditations 9.17

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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.

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.

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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.

Empathy Sponge

Something I live with and only recently came to terms with, as in acceptance (thank you, stoicism), is that I am an empath. I’m not sure what that means scientifically, the Myers-Briggs Type Index isn’t particularly helpful as I flit from INTP to INFP to INFJ depending on the test and that’s the extent of my psychological knowledge. Although, I have seen lots of crime shows and read a book on neurology but that hasn’t seemed to be of any help. The spiritual discourse, is much more accessible to me: taking on other’s energy and having to clear it off and having stowaway emotions and the like.

Example A:

I was at work and a member of the team began to share some things about their lives and started crying. Everyone had lots of things to say and I didn’t – I was busy. When the moment passed and she was okay, someone said: “Z, such a typical man, can’t deal with emotions.”

I left the room shortly after and stood in the toilet having to deep breath and fight back tears that I knew weren’t mine.

Example B:

I have a highly controlled and very closely monitored libido, primarily for stoic reasons. Power over the self is the ultimate power – the only power I have – and due to Lockdown, things have been quiet on that front. Yet I’ve recently connected with someone who I admire for being so free with their sexuality and accepting of it rather than control it or lock it down. Suffice to say, the closer we have become as friends and as connected we have become, it has had an affect on me. A testament to the connection perhaps as we’ve never met in person.

Example C:

My hobby of a night is to play Star Wars: The Old Republic and have an active role in a roleplay guild – like Dungeons and Dragons but in space. It’s almost like method acting as while not nearly to the same extent as they do for my character, things bug me ‘ooc’ or out-of-character. It shouldn’t, I know this: it’s fictional puppetry yet the personalities seem to have an effect. When the group is calm, having fun through the characters so am I. Yet when they are not, I feel myself agitated.

While the energy of most people washes past, when I make connections with individuals, it seems I catch stowaways. For a stoic, this is a challenge and perhaps entirely contradictory to the entire philosophy. Yet, I disagree. I think it’s a spiritual or psychological thing I just happen to have that I can adapt to or be drown in it. Maybe I’m alone in my experience as an empath: these emotions hit me, I don’t know what to do with them and they hang on like a heavy backpack. Sometimes, of course the burden isn’t too bad like in the case of my sexually liberated friend – not bad at all.

Yet it takes a toll on me, physically. After a day at work where I may encounter hundreds of people all with their own energies, emotions and ailments, I am mentally drained to a point where I struggle to keep my eyes open. Some days at work, I may not even do anything physically demanding, spending most of it sitting, yet I feel like I’ve ran a marathon.

I deal with it because I have to. I manage it and protect myself through meditation to empty my mind and aura. I choose my friends more carefully based on the baggage I end up having to carry which is not an indictment of them at all. Perhaps it is sometimes. A person who is deeply angry at the world with no intention of changing just from the energy that they present is worth avoiding where possible. In another sense, it’s been helpful when I can understand another person better and do what I can for them in my capacity acting in a virtuous way. Of course I can get the wrong vibes. Sometimes they cross wires with my own feelings and others’ feelings but navigating that is part of the process of not just an empath but a stoic – even just as a human being.

Meditation is the key to being a healthy, functional empath. There was a time where I would absorb all the energies around me and become so tired and dismissive of everyone that I just told them to fuck off because I’d rather be alone. It makes things more intense, this ability that I’m still only the cusp of empowering. It makes every relationship feel richer and intimacy the more intimate. Yet the price is then, disappointment or a betrayal of the self when this becomes or is unhealthy. As a child I was always called sensitive yet I never appreciated it for two reasons. For one Batman was my icon and secondly, it felt untrue. I was being sold a simplistic lie that never sat well. I am a stoic but I’m also an empath; a rocky road to be sure, but my only road.

So, I put it out there, fellow empaths: how have you managed? I’d love to hear from you; let’s help each other. Or not, of course, if you don’t want to. As individuals and as rational beings: we got this.

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