Remember Who You Are

Being in the rut that I’ve been in has led me to forget a number of things and to discount a number of things. While this feeling of stagnation has clearly had its triggers and root causes that I can see clearly, in those times I have forgotten the core things that make me me – the me of the now, not before.

“Concentrate on the subject or act in question, on principle or meaning. You deserve what you’re going through. You would rather become good tomorrow than be good today.” – Meditations, 8.22

Or perhaps, we should turn to a modern philosopher, Jagger, with his words arranged by the incomparable Violet Orlandi:

Make sure to subscribe for more of her work and check her Spotify, linked at the end of this post.

In the moments of a grey fuzziness, ask that question: who are you? Set yourself that task. Break down each part. Who am I? I’ve been wallowing trying to find those answers since Saturday, and tonight, I got to bed early around 8pm. Now, its nearly 11 and I’m wide awake writing as a necessity to my own peace of mind. In my head there is a new sense of clarity and when I reflect on this I have no idea this sudden burst of energy comes from or injection of, in the words of Jagger, getting what I need.

Who am I?

I’m the armchair stoic – quite literally as of this moment, in an armchair -, sat in my kimono with a coffee and a wry smile. A Taoist of sorts in the school of Shangqing, my faith in Universe affirmed with a generous splash of Jedi philosophy. The observer of my own vastness, and observer rather than follower of existence – not disconnected or above from society yet positioned rather nicely in my own headspace rather than within another. Happiness is my destination, and it’s something that I work on myself, never being a thing tangible for longer than fleeting moments. I have no scars on my body – save a few minor cat scratches – the tissue cerebral only, each mark a lesson and imprint on my DNA. I have a fashion sense of a vaguely forgotten timelord and one of those energies that people seem to need to rely on, rather inexplicably. I have my flaws and marks, a confusing relationship with my own gender and a hyper-attention to detail battling with a desire to see the bigger picture. Yin and yang, working overtime in their conflict as I work to find a balance if I’ve not already found it without realizing.

Who are you?

Remove your trappings and purple dyes and look at yourself, honestly. Be generous yet be true because often is the case where we find ourselves being our own worst critic, using judgements that are not truly our own to assess ourselves. This judgement, creating more stress and anxiety for whose benefit?

“Look within: do not allow the special quality or worth of any things to pass you by.” – Meditations, 6.3

So here I am, oddly energized at 23:20, with a level of strange catharsis coursing through me like it was some trapped animal escaping from captivity back into the wild. I recommend it, in the words of Jeremy Jahns, it’s a good time with no alcohol required.

Step into your own existence, mine looking vaguely like a less artistic Dean McCoppin from Iron Giant if not exactly – my beard is better. What does yours look like? Remember who you are in those moments; those moments where sleep is the only enjoyable activity of the day and it calls at all waking moments. If you need help, seek it. Find what works for you whether that be medications or therapies or meditations to help you along your way, your journey is your own and you will strike a deal between the internal and external remedies. Of course, anything harmful masquerading as a remedy is just another layer to the crushing weight of blankets forcing you and trapping you into an existence of sleepy stagnation where this waking world is nothing more than a meaningless, headachy dreamscape.

We’ve all been there have we not? I know I have and I still have friends who can attest to the 6 months or so of my life which to me is just a blur of poor decision making – not mistakes, as of course there is no such thing.

With that being said, with there being no mistakes, where’s the harm in digging deep? Digging deep within to find an honest mirror of the self and see all the good you are and who you are at your core with purpose and diligence. The only thing preventing any of us is fear of the unknown and fear of what we might see and fear that we have not grown in philosophy as much as we have in years.

“Only thing we have to fear is fear itself” – Franklin D. Roosevelt, Inaugural Address, 1933

Z3N0

P.S. As promised, a link to Violet Orlandi’s Spotify:

Definition of Insanity

I was talking through my recent post with a friend who took my stance on relationships as cynical and in itself, self-harming. I disagreed with my friend, because, after all: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. The opposite of the stoic rational mind is the irrational repetition of a harmful action.

With this in mind, I thought I’d draw up a list for myself – and others – of things that are in this sense, the definition of insanity. We can see them, exposed for their parts and simply say enough. It’s as simple as:

“If it is not right, don’t do it: if it is not true, don’t say it” – Meditations 12.17

  • Drinking red wine and not expecting a hangover. I mean, come on. Every time I think it’s a good idea and then for some reason I’m surprised when it’s not. Simply: avoid merlot.

  • Sleeping with someone because it seems like a good idea at the time and expecting things to have no particular consequence. Yet, of course, every time waking up with the sudden fear of a million STD’s and a sense that this will lead to some unexpected circumstance (which it often does). It’s almost as if there’s this sudden detachment of body and mind between two people only to realize and try to rationalize that mistake after. Sometimes it works out ok, sometimes it doesn’t yet it’s never not led to that sudden fear and dread of consequence. Sex always has consequences. While are neither good nor bad in the stoic sense: a product of vice is still a product of vice.

  • Staying up late and expecting to be bright eyed and bushy tailed in the morning. I did it today. Insanity. I know. Took me a sugar free Red Bull and three coffees to make it through work. What else is there to expect? If you don’t get enough sleep you’ll be tired and the consequences of that have no blame but to the self.

  • Falling for someone unavailable and expecting a happy ending (in the conventional sense, I’m speaking). What does it do apart from prove that I – we – are capable of hurting our own feelings? I don’t have an answer for that question yet it seems to be a lesson that needs to be taught repeatedly.

  • Expecting people not to act in a shameful or ignorant way. I’ll not my use my words here, but the Emperors: “Whenever you are offended at someone’s lack of shame, you should immediately ask yourself: ‘So is it possible for there to be no shameless people in the world? It is not possible.” – Meditations 9.42. Expecting the impossible to be possible is not a rational thought.

  • Expecting independent growth from another without being a positive catalyst. We can only control ourselves, we cannot telepathically try to encourage others not to make daft decisions or expect them to stop being how they are because we would prefer it. When you desire an action to happen, take the action, with virtuousness and kindness. I can’t magically will people to relate to their environment or others in a more productive way despite some strange repetitive expectation.

  • Expecting to lose weight and save money yet buy a £3 meal deal everyday on high fat content foods along with sugary mochas whenever chance I get. Everyday I expect myself to act differently, to show some restraint yet I make no active change. Everyday I get a caffeine headache and feel bloated yet expect not to. Is it the expectation or the action that I’m most perplexed by? I have no answers to that.

There’s perhaps more juxtapositions and hypocrisies of the soul I could list for myself. We could be here until the stars go out picking at every weird irrational act of my own character and the human condition. What can you pick out for yourself? What can we both break free from? What can we calmly reflect upon, notice and accept as a part of ourselves to keep in balance with our nature?

“The external things whose pursuit or avoidance troubles you do not force themselves on you, but in a way you yourself go out to them. However that may be, keep your judgement of them calm and they too will stay still – then you will not be seen wither to pursue or avoid.” – Meditations 11.11

Discard the irrational, return to the rational in balance, walking the middle path.

Z3N0

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.

Z3N0

Puppy Training

I got angry last night – properly angry – for the first time in a long time. It was over Star Wars of all things. How ridiculous is that? If anything, after the fact I was more angry with myself for being angry than the cause. It came very fast and hit me before I could circumvent the feeling with rational thought. It surged like pain from the fingertip to brain and I could track its progress like a child watching the lightening after thunder. It was almost comical for the soul to watch my mind do things. The timelord watching their TARDIS break down for literally no reason – a nice analogy I’ve made before, I’ll link it at the bottom.

There’s no other person let down by my state, just me. It feel like I’m looking at a sad puppy who just shat on the carpet. I am both the observer and the puppy. The only way for me to move on from here is clean up the shit and move on and try to train the puppy better to not do it again. Not try – do. Of course, Marcus Aurelius has some words for us, I’m going to write them out here not just for the sake of sharing them but for my own sake for reflection. Philosophy – stoic philosophy – is my Scooby-Snax to train the puppy.

“Enough of this miserable way of life, enough of grumbling and aping! Why are you troubled? What is new in this? What is it that drives you mad? The cause? Then face it. Or rather the material? Then face it. Apart from cause and material there is nothing. But you should know, late though it is, see your relation to the gods also: make yourself simpler, and better. Three years is as good as a hundred in this quest.” Meditations 9.37

If I strip things back, lets remove the TARDIS imagery: we have a figure in a garden; a walled garden in the centre of an endless forest. The walls are hundreds of metres high and tens of metres thick made of a deep jade stone that circle this impenetrable Valhalla. I’m sipping tea in this garden, basking in the sun, paying no mind to storm clouds, I’ve an umbrella. What does your simple space look like, when we strip things back? It’s funny, some may even call that convoluted. Let’s remove all imagery – nothing but endless vastness of consciousness and an observer who witnesses this vastness.

“Who observes this vastness?” – Mooji

“Above all, no agonies, no tensions. Be your own master, and look at things as a man, as a human being, as a citizen, as a moral creature. And here are two of the most immediately useful thoughts you will dip into. First that things cannot touch the mind: they are external and inert; anxieties can only come from your internal judgement. Second, that all these things you see will change almost as you look at them, and then they will be no more. Constantly bring to mind all that you yourself have already seen changed. The universe is change: life is judgement.”Meditations 4.3.4

And to that end, without needing to add anymore words of my own:

“Remove the judgement, and you have removed the thought ‘I am hurt’: remove the thought ‘I am hurt’, and the hurt itself is removed.”Meditations 4.7

Is there much more to say? I have to take ownership of my own feelings, my own unnecessary feelings that I failed to control. I have to move on, knowing the only person who is let down is me. I am grateful that those around me were supportive and allowed me to remove myself from the environment to recharge and reflect. Personally, I think it was a rather successful reflection with the conclusion: I lost my shit over immaterial, indifferent things – actions of strangers.

I’d like to confirm, this incident has nothing to do with Gina Carano as every Star Wars seems to be these days, I disagree with her politics but I’m sure she’s a perfectly reasonable individual. In fact, as stupid as it sounds, this anger arose from the specifics of medicine in the Star Wars lore.

Go ahead, laugh. It’s okay, I’m laughing too.

Z3N0

Here is the link to my previous post, mentioned. Also, for those who want to look further about Mooji, here is the link to his Youtube channel which I recommend for excellent meditation practice:

https://www.youtube.com/user/Moojiji

https://z3n0.com/2021/03/17/bigger-on-the-inside/

Equalizer

Even after my little outburst on Friday, I’ve found a great equalizer and the rebalancing of my social environment. It was almost as if the great push I experienced was pushing me in a direction that led to a greater understanding of myself, the people around me and even strangers who I have become friends with. Maybe it’s not the most amazing of revelations but when it’s tangibly happening around you, it’s nice to see. Even in the most minor way possible – it’s a sense of calm through my own perspective. It’s a feeling of support from the universe that we can all experience in one way or another. This strange equalizer, crafted a situation where my own abstinence of certain habits were broken and I indulged in the company of it. Yet days before I was set on a life of pure ascetism which leads me to take notice of the will of the Tao nudging me back to balance: of both indulgence and absolution.

“He who tiptoes cannot stand; he who strides cannot walk.” Tao Te Ching, Chapter 24

In a sense is the Universe (God, Yahweh, Tao) ultimately an actor for benevolent balance? In all beings balance means different things but ultimately one who is balanced is a still lake and at peace. I was talking to a Muslim friend some time ago who told me that Islam is the way of the middle path – this of course sounds familiar to me. In both Abrahamic ideologies and the ever more ancient Asian teachings such as Buddhism and Taoism and Jainism (I’m excluding Hinduism here as I’m not educated enough to comment) balance seems to be the goal. Balance in oneself is to be in tune with The Way and a state of living nirvana.

Was it a coincidence that in his philosophies, Zeno of Citium – my moniker namesake -, founded a school of such balance? Neither overly indulgent like the Epicureans or wholly ascetic like the Cynics: a duty to the natural order of things and others and balance within the self. Perhaps I’m oversimplifying: a very real possibility.

“The Whole is either a god – then all is well: or if purposeless – some sort of random arrangement of atoms or molecules – you should not be without purpose yourself.” Meditations 9.28

The purpose I find myself working for is balance. To welcome the great equalizers and be grateful for them. While not everyone will find purpose in being a still lake in the perception of chaos, it still stands to reason that everyone should be grateful for the equalizers and opportunities all the same. I think perception plays a big part in being able to observe the things that create equality of forces in our environment. Even in the most rationalist sense, our bodies seek balance in the form of homeostasis as a biological imperative.

“Calm acceptance of what comes from a cause outside of yourself, and justice in all activity of your own causation.” Meditations 9.31

Lady Justice’s scales have to be balanced, don’t they? Balance the needs of the body, balance the needs of the mind, balance the needs of the soul: you will find the Way, the middle path, whatever that may be.

Basically: have a balanced diet of life. Too much cake or too little cake does no one any good.

Z3N0