Category — The Meaning(lessness) of Life
I recently learned about The Daily Practice as suggested by James Altucher. I have linked to a few posts by James in recent times and if you haven’t read any of his posts yet, I think you’ll find yourself feeling uplifted and awakened by his point of view and outlook on how life can be lived.
In brief, The Daily Practice involves doing one thing each day from each of these four areas: Mental, Emotional, Physical and Spiritual. I have integrated this into my goal of achieving more self-discipline and achieving more balance in my life.
James says that the times in his life where he’s completed the Daily Practice each day have resulted in better luck. He says he has found himself to be more open, receptive to great ideas and focused on those things he finds most important in life.
It is this last one that appeals to me most as I often find myself feeling scattered, without focus and unsure of exactly were to aim my efforts. I tend to lose touch with my values and soak up too much influence from what’s going on around me rather than being clear on what I need and what’s best for me and my path.
James has a whole site dedicated to helping you log your goals in each of the four areas and suggestions for what goals in each area might look like.
For example, in the Mental area he suggests building your mental muscle by learning to develop your ideas and imagination. His simple method to achieve this involves writing lists of ideas, perhaps ten at a time, on all sorts of topics and in particular ideas that involve ways you can make money and contribute to the world. I have found this to be really fun and I’ve started to really understand what James means when he says ideas breed more ideas and tend to grow exponentially. On a recent trip away I found a cute notebook to carry around to write my ideas down as they occur to me, as they tend to do so more and more often.
In the Spiritual area I am working on building up my meditation practice each day. Reading inspirational writing is another great way to develop this area of your life. Sitting and just being, idly and without thinking of anything in particular, is another great means of adding a spiritual dimension to your day.
You might develop the Physical dimension by improving your diet and exercise, adding healthier options in small doses as the weeks go by. Each time you go to eat or drink the thought of physical attention and improvement will be foremost in your mind and you will inevitably make better choices for yourself simply through reflection.
The Emotional aspect is what I at first found more challenging to grasp as it seems difficult to find something tangible to focus on. By simply keeping the thought in my mind that I wanted to work on emotional aspects of myself it became more obvious through observing my thoughts on what I need to focus on. Reading James’ posts also helped with this a lot, especially as he writes often about his more fearful and angry thoughts that he works on daily to soften and heal.
I see in me, as you might see in you, constant thoughts of judgement against others, or suspicion, of fear, of anger and of hurt. Each day I become aware more often of these thoughts and am able to let them pass as just another thought, rather than focusing on them and giving them any more power or influence. I also find myself more disturbed by negativity and look for ways to add and allow more positivity in my life.
If any of this seems interesting or attractive to you, or maybe you are a little bit curious, then I suggest you read more about what James has to say and try out the Daily Practice for yourself. I’d love to hear what you think you might try or how it makes you feel. Perhaps try some days doing the Daily Practice and others not and notice how you feel. I have been doing that lately to measure how effective it really is, or whether it’s a temporary improvement only. So far I can see that when I don’t engage in the whole practice I feel a bit at sea, a bit lost and without clarity. The days that I do complete the whole practice I feel like I have made a small step in the right direction and that I am in control of shaping my life in a way that will delight and inspire me.
I hope you find something here that will be useful to you and will improve your life beyond what you could imagine.
July 14, 2012 No Comments
This past weekend I attended the Global Atheist Convention in Melbourne. It was a very significant experience for me and I am still collecting my thoughts about all I heard and experienced. This conference attracted many of the big names in Atheism including Richard Dawkins and A.C. Grayling. While I’ll likely compose a post about what I learned from each of the speakers later on, today I wanted to focus on something that the above two men were asked not at the conference, but on the Australian television program Q&A.
The Monday before the conference Q&A hosted a program with Richard Dawkins and Cardinal Pell asking a whole host of questions about religion and its place in society. At one point Richard Dawkins was asked by Cardinal Pell “Can science explain why we are here, rather than how we are here?” Cardinal Pell went on to say that it is science’s inability to answer the why that demonstrates why we need religion in our lives.
Richard Dawkins wasn’t going to let that one through! Instead he answered in true Dawkins style, that this sort of question isn’t even valid, necessary or worth asking. Dawkins intimated that this in fact was a silly question and science has more worthwhile questions to be answering.
I wasn’t entirely satisfied with this response. I have spent a great deal of my life wondering why and what for. It is only in recent years (which brought about the advent of this blog) that I have changed my perception on this question, realising that there is no inherent meaning to us being here, but rather an opportunity for each of us to find what makes our individual lives meaningful. What has naturally stemmed from this for me is that there is no longer a need for religion and that in fact religion focuses our attention in an entirely wrong direction (an after-life rather than this life). The more I realised that religion was not necessary, I also realised that all of it seemed totally ludicrous, and that the stories surrounding religion weren’t even very creative or very good stories.
As it turns out, the very next Monday, A.C. Grayling was on Q&A with some other panellists and he was asked by a member of the audience whether he agreed with Richard Dawkins’ position on asking the why questions. His response was like a breath of fresh air for me. This portion of the show went like this:
BEN PEAKE: My question is for AC Grayling. Last week on Q&A, Richard Dawkins said the question of “Why are we here?” is a silly question which doesn’t deserve consideration. Do you agree? If so, why do you believe that so many people find it important that that question has an answer?
AC GRAYLING: The problem with the question is that it is a question begging a question. If you think it is a valid question to ask, you have already made the assumption there is an answer external to what is the case about us, which is that as intelligent monkeys, we are essentially social animals, we live in communities with one another and we have a responsibility to think, to use the intelligence we have got and to make meaning, to make purpose in life. There isn’t an antecedent purpose which you can cite as the answer to that question “Why are we here?”. The fact is we are here, we have to get on with it, and make the best of it. And the way that we make the best of it is to make life meaningful. (Emphasis my own)
A.C. Grayling, a brilliant philosopher, was able to explain quite concisely, the problem we all seem to have with this question. We assume that there is an answer, because many of us want there to be an answer.
Let me explain it with this analogy, something that I have some experience with. Many people spend years talking to a psychologist, trying week in and week out to understand why one or both of their parents couldn’t love them. Sure, some weeks they complain about their partner, others their work colleagues or their problems with being close to their own children. In reality though, each week (just like each day) they carry around with them a question from their childhood – why did Dad leave, why was Mum always angry at me, why wasn’t I good enough, why was I not loved?
This question will never be answered, it can’t be answered because there is no answer. No matter how much someone might want to know the answer, none will come. The problem is with the question. Instead of wanting to know why, the time would be better spent implementing strategies to focus on the now and also might be better spent by understanding the reasons behind why one feels it is necessary to repeatedly ask this question of themselves over and over.
Accepting that we are complex enough to pose a question to which there is no objective answer is difficult. Furthermore, coming to terms with an answer that puts the responsibility of meaning on each of us individually is too burdensome for many of us. Relinquishing the comfort of religion when we realise that it no longer serves any purpose nor delivers any meaning is extremely confronting for many.
The meaning of life is not an absolute. This will take some time to come to grips with, but it is a worthwhile cause. Turn your focus instead to how you can make your own life personally meaningful and rejoice in the fact that this is how life really works. After all, do you really want some pre-determined purpose? Wouldn’t you prefer to choose what enlightens and enlivens you? I know I would and do.
April 19, 2012 1 Comment
I’m not much of a fan of New Year’s resolutions, or monthly goals or any goals for that matter. Too much planning and proclaiming doesn’t leave much room for flow and freedom, and for someone like me who is constantly thirsty for peace, freedom and insight, making a commitment to a goal is a significant turn-off.
Having said that, I think we all need some sort of over-arching purpose or goal to keep us in tune with our essential selves and what we truly want to achieve and experience.
A life without any purpose or focus is a life that stagnates. If each day goes by without you making the necessary choices to fulfil your potential, then very rapidly you will find yourself at the end of life wondering who you could have been and what you could have experienced and contributed. If you choose to delay making choices about your direction you will end up on a default path in life. Your attention will be bought by the advertising you consume and you will slowly become an archetype of the consumerist model.
All that is necessary is that you choose a theme for yourself for this year, 2012. This theme may not last the entire year, or perhaps it will extend into next year, but a theme is a useful place to start.
A theme is just an over-arching beacon to guide your focus throughout the year. It will ensure that you spend some of your time focussing on what is important to you and it will act as a personal motto, popping into your mind throughout the day, reminding you of who you are and what you want to achieve and experience.
I came across this idea from reading Tammy’s latest post on Rowdy Kittens where she explained what her theme was for 2011 and what her theme will be for 2012. In both instances Tammy has used a single word to define her theme and this struck me as a very powerful idea. This single word will serve as a mantra that you remind yourself of often. It will come to mind just when you were tempted to while away the hours in front of the TV or on the net. This word will gently coax you back, encouraging you to devote some of your time to what you hold most dear.
Here are a few suggestions of useful themes for 2012 to get you started on your brainstorming:
Health – this could mean eating better, exercising more, drinking more water, drinking less alcohol, meditating, breathing more deeply, stretching, sleeping
Unplug – this could mean watching less TV, spending less time on Facebook, or Twitter or Email, spending less time aimlessly wandering the net
Less – this could mean eating less, buying less, consuming less, doing less, working less, interacting less
Energise- this could mean eating better food, reading inspirational stories, watching motivational documentaries, engaging in energetic activities, meeting with upbeat friends
Learn- this could serve as a reminder to read more non-fiction, to educate yourself about healthier eating, to enrol in a new class, to take an online course, to learn a new form of exercise
Whatever you choose it will serve to remind you, in each moment, but especially during times of wasteful idleness, of the fact that you are always working towards being the best version of you and making the most of the time that you have. This word is your higher self calling your lower self to join in on gaining the best experiences and on creating the most personally meaningful life possible.
My theme for 2012 will be Create. Within this I will focus on: creating connections, creating and completing pieces of writing, creating ideas, creating my very best physique, creating a foundation for my financial future, creating more space and time. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and with this theme in my mind I will no doubt uncover many opportunities to create.
So how about it? Why not choose a theme for 2012 and see where this leads you and how it just might improve the quality of your life this year.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and especially what theme you have chosen for 2012.
January 1, 2012 4 Comments
I can’t trace back to an exact date when I started taking the red pill, but I know that I’ve been taking it in small doses all my life, and for the past sixteen years regularly. In case you’re not sure what I’m referring to, it is a reference taken from The Matrix trilogy, now used popularly to refer to waking up to reality and truth.
Once you begin truly thinking for yourself, examining the whys and the hows, and being slightly suspicious of the truth behind everything you hear and think you know, there is no going back to the innocence and ignorance that you may have enjoyed before. No matter how much you might wish to go back to a life where you accepted the status quo, you can’t go back.
After some time, you will find that you are on the outskirts of the status quo, watching everyone participating around you, while you wonder what might be left for you. You can’t participate with those who are seemingly content with the way things are because you don’t understand how they continue to fail to awaken and they don’t understand what’s wrong with you and why you just can’t be happy. This is where I find myself now.
So what are your options? What are mine? All of us who find ourselves here on the fringe, on the edge, have to find some way to live outside of the status quo as much as possible, while we find a way to build a life and a world of our own imagining.
Eventually, more and more people will leave the status quo and will come to join the rest of us. This is how the world will change. It won’t happen in the space of a few months, or even a few years. It won’t be a sudden change in the world. Rather, individuals have been changing their lives. Now these individuals have started to gather with people similar to them and small groups are forming. Small, yet growing, movements are leading by example, sharing their ideas and knowledge, often in blog form, and more individuals feel drawn to experiment for themselves, and find a way to live true to their essence on the outskirts of the status quo.
So I’ve kept you in suspense long enough haven’t I? How am I going to live outside the system that I can no longer tolerate?
I am going to retire early and simplify my life. By early I mean at the end of 2015, at 35 years of age.
What were you expecting? Something more dramatic? Something more magical? Or perhaps you’re wondering how?
I will probably write further posts to explain some of this in more detail, especially if there’s any interest. But here are the bare bones of what I intend and what I am doing so far:
For the first 9 years of my working life I have saved hard (and then my husband joined me) and we have a house that is paid for. Thus our largest expense, the mortgage, is no longer an obstacle.
I no longer see our house as a “starter home”. I refuse to buy into the notion that I need something bigger and newer in a nicer location. The energy (time spent at work plus denying myself mental and intellectual freedom) that would be required to “upgrade” our house and lifestyle, is not something that is worthwhile nor feasible for me.
I could technically stop going to work now and rely on my husband’s income. There is no way I’m going to do that though. My financial independence is essential to me. I could not be the feminist that I am and simultaneously rely on my husband for resources. This might not sit well with some of you, and it may offend others of you, and yet this is what I am. And so, I will spend the next four years, saving and simplifying, so that I may achieve my financial freedom.
I have been reading the book and blog by Jacob, over at Early Retirement Extreme, and so much of what he says resonates deeply with me. As a numbers person myself, I enjoy his analysis and the way he has crunched the numbers for himself. To that end I have begun creating a few spreadsheets which calculate daily expenditure, average expenditure and projected savings progress. I aim to save at least 80% of my income over the next four years.
As I save I will learn more about how to simplify my life and how to become more self-subsistent. Although I wouldn’t consider myself to be a big consumer, most people know I don’t even enjoy going shopping, there is more I can do to combat my consumerism. I am reading about how to eat more simply and am making progress with this. Grocery expenses are our largest expenditure. I intend to learn how to sew and to expand our vegetable garden.
I won’t be able to be completely self-subsistent and will thus be living somewhat inside the economic system of our world. I will focus on buying only those things that are a need, with the intention of buying quality items that last almost a lifetime, rather than succumbing to the need to upgrade constantly.
Once I have a high level of savings, I intend to live off the interest earned. I don’t intent to “play the stockmarket” or to become a financial wiz. Unfortunately none of that really interests me. At this stage I intend to earn interest from my savings (either from a term deposit or a high savings account) and live off that interest. At this stage my aim is to live comfortably and happily off around $12k – $15k a year. I realise that this wouldn’t be possible without living within the economic structure we have in place and until I come up with a better strategy, this doesn’t bother me too much.
What I have presented above is put in basic terms, but it really isn’t much more difficult than that. I have always said that if only there was a job where you could get paid to be an eternal student, learning whatever you want whenever you want, then that would be my dream job. Unfortunately there is no such occupation, and unless I find a patron soon, I will have to fund my own dream.
The only thing I’ve ever truly wanted is to be free. I’ve tried to convince myself from inside our world system that I am, but since taking the red pill I know I’m not. I can’t just get on with it and be happy with the way things are now that I know better. Having had this brief hiatus from “the real world” I now know how sweet it is and that this is the life for me.
To reach my potential and to find deep fulfilment I need time, space and flexibility. To achieve this I need to exit the world of work and to do this I need to exit the world of consumerism.
I’m not the first to do this, and I know I won’t be the last. I’m joining one of the small movements.
And what will I be doing from 2016 onwards? I don’t know yet. I envision that it entails more sustained writing and a deeper contribution to moving this world in a new direction. But it is too soon to start talking about that.
I may find that I don’t meet my target or that my calculations were optimistic. I may find a need to continue with part time work for either financial reasons or otherwise. This is all ok with me. I know that either way, 2016 will be the year of my true freedom.
What will you do now that you’ve taken the red pill?
I’d love to hear what you think about this or address any questions you might have.
December 20, 2011 5 Comments
There are too many aspects to life that we participate in because we think we have to and because we think it is what life is all about.
Every day that you go to work is a day that you participate in the overall system set up and maintained by society. The so-called economic system is not real. It’s not like the eco-system which existed (with a lot more health) before humans had even been imagined. Economics is not a science, and although a lot of maths and complicated formulas might be involved, it is something that people have created.
Humans exist independently of this economic system. That might be hard to absorb on your first reading. You might wonder how you could survive without money. You might think it’s impossible to extract yourself from the economic system in which you are so deeply entwined.
Lately I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and reading about how exactly I can become a non-participator. How can I extract myself as much as possible from the economic system, or from what most of us have to come to know as life?
I’m not talking about stopping work to live off social benefits. Sure, I wouldn’t be participating in work, but leaching off others in the system isn’t a viable option for me.
I also don’t mean I’ll become a lady of leisure, living off my husband’s income. I want to be financially independent from him.
I once watched a current affairs report about an Aboriginal man, in his fifties, living with his wife in the far north west of Australia. They lived out of their station wagon car and roamed this vast north west region throughout the year. The reporter asked them if they needed government funding to buy themselves a house in a community. The Aboriginal man told the reporter that he liked to live outside and sleep outside. He also said that he wanted to be able to move around and to go fishing sometimes. He said his car carried everything he needed. He didn’t say much but I understood him perfectly. He didn’t want to participate in the Australian way of life. His life and the life of his ancestors meant everything to him. I can imagine that he found our way of life to be completely bewildering. He wanted the freedom to live, the freedom to be.
Looking at how we all live from his perspective makes you think. For many Aboriginal communities I’m sure that the Australian way of life still feels extremely foreign. As they observe us choosing to stay put in one house, going to the same place everyday, pushing papers this way and that, pressing buttons here and there and coming home exhausted, they may wonder what on earth we are doing it all for. Why are we spending our weekends shopping and hoarding more items in our homes? Why aren’t we out there experiencing the world?
Anyone who knows me knows that there is no way I would choose to become a nomad, especially not spending my time in the harsh sun of the Australian outdoors. No, I’m not talking about anything that radical. It’s just that the interview with this man really made an impression on me. And it struck me that the perceived Indigenous issues that politicians are always going on about might just be as simple as the fact that for hundreds of years we have been trying to force a group of people to live by our system, when they are more than content with their own. The endless government spending and opportunities might be going to waste simply because our Indigenous Australians want nothing to do with our broken and ridiculous way of life.
Perhaps some of our Indigenous Australians see things more clearly than all those protestors protesting against the 1 percent. Here they are, essentially asking, through protest, that the system change itself to accommodate them. When the simplest and perhaps best solution is if they each extract themselves from the system as far as possible.
There have been ironic comments appearing about some of the labels these protestors have been wearing; designer brand caps, t-shirts and jeans. The 99 percent participate and fund the 1 percent and then complain about it. Clearly ridiculous.
Asking for change is an inefficient means of creating change. If you don’t like the structures in our world, change your own life. Once more people do the same and a critical mass is reached, then the structures will either collapse or change to accommodate the new world.
As they say, you can’t change other people, you can only change yourself and how you interact. This applies in every situation.
I personally despise the system that most of us live under. I see it as a more clever and subtle form of slavery. It’s clever because the slaves are invested in maintaining the system. We all want nice things, nice houses, instant access, an easy life, and so we keep working to make the money that buys these things. The trick is that just when we might think we are satisfied, something new appears that we feel we need, and off we go to work again. And of course we are each the cogs that keeps this machine running. We enslave ourselves for the better part of our lives. It is a genius system that doesn’t need many people keeping the slaves in check.
Most people aren’t aware that they live in this system. You might be pondering this new perspective now. You might also think I’m talking a load of rubbish. Of course that’s entirely up to you. But you’d have to be blind to not notice the cracks that are starting to appear. Do the slaves look happy to you? Do the increasing rates of depression, binge drinking and violence sound like the making of a healthy system? The problem is, like the 99 percenters, these are all symptoms of people trying to deal with the system by staying in the system. When really the answer is to step away from it entirely.
So what do you think? Are you intrigued? Do you want to know how I plan to move out of the system as much as I can?
I’ll let you think about these ideas for a few days and then I’ll write another post with my plans. If you are intrigued by what I have to say then perhaps you’ll think about trying it too. One by one, we might just change the system for ourselves.
December 12, 2011 2 Comments