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A Message About Change

change

Oh, how things change…

Isn’t it amazing how quickly we adapt? What was once completely alien soon becomes common sense.

Change is the nature of our universe, and by extension, the nature of us.

To resist change, to try to control, goes against this. Those who are most fearful, most trapped in ego, try to control situations and people.

This is where things get disharmonious. When the ego clings to control, things go awry. And since change is inevitable, this causes change to manifest in perverted ways – in equal proportion to the amount of control being exhibited.

Surrender to the flow of change. The ego isn’t in control (even though it wishes it was). Revolutionary ideas come from the mysterious stillness within, far beyond the grip of the conscious mind. When they arise, these waves are best ridden, as they can’t be controlled.

Within this universal flow, change must be implemented consciously to maintain harmony. Resistance and unconsciousness creates disharmonious change. Yet even disharmonious change holds potent lessons. So there are no mistakes.

It’s a grand experiment. Eternal flux. The continuous manifestation of infinite possibility.

To cling to anything is like trying to catch the wind within a net. Let it flow through, inhale the experience and continue along your journey.

There’s no need to cling, control or resist. Go within. And at your very core, you too will find that you are the ever-changing changelessness. Nothing is lost. Nothing is found.

What Michelangelo Taught Us About Essentialism

Michelangelo

“Beauty is the purgation of superfluities.” – Michelangelo

This quote by Michelangelo epitomizes the idea of Essentialism. What the Renaissance man meant by that poetic phrase was this: beauty is the removal of the unnecessary.

All aspects of beauty, all aspects of a beautiful life, simply emerge when we let go of the useless excess. When fear is let go of, we’re left with happiness. When we transcend limiting beliefs, success greets us. When we remove our blocks, creative inspiration flows.

Michelangelo also said the following regarding his artwork…“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” This further shows how, in his genius, he used reductionism to create great art.

This “Michelangelo mindstate” applies to everything in life. Even if not literally with certain things, it applies metaphorically.

So let’s extrapolate a bit. How do you think Michelangelo would have approached modern life? If I were to guess, it would be very similar to the concept of Essentialism.

More Quotes About Essentialism

  • “To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, remove things every day.” – Lao Tzu
  • “It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.” – Bruce Lee
  • “Our life is frittered away by detail… simplify, simplify.” – Henry David Thoreau
  • “Simplicity involves unburdening your life, and living more lightly with fewer distractions that interfere with a high quality life, as defined uniquely by each individual.” – Linda Breen Pierce
  • “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” – Socrates
  • “Slow down and remember this: Most things make no difference. Being busy is a form of laziness—lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.” – Tim Ferriss
  • “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  • “Reduce the complexity of life by eliminating the needless wants of life, and the labors of life reduce themselves.” – Edwin Way Teale
  • “Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.” – Lin Yutang

Can you see the trend? Some of the wisest people to ever walk the Earth emphasized the importance of simplicity and essentialism. Whenever you see this kind of trend, know that it’s a concept well worth investigating.

Essentialism And the Art of Not Giving a Fuck

Yup, you read that right. That’s the title of my latest book.

And it was just released!

If you enjoyed this article, you would love the book even more. Essentialism And the Art of Not Giving a Fuck is a deep dive into the philosophy and practice of Essentialism. It also gives you a manual of how to directly apply the principles to uncover your inner peace, happiness and fulfillment.

Get your hands on the book here:
Essentialism And the Art of Not Giving a Fuck

Thank you and much love.

-Stevie P!
 

4

Zorba the Buddha: The New Human

zorba the buddha

We humans have this weird tendency to repress parts of ourselves…

Depending on what beliefs or identity labels we cling to, we judge and repress all that doesn’t fit in with our chosen facade.

Many people repress their spiritual self, or even their emotional self. Then you have the spiritual escapists who neglect their physical self. Those are some general categories, but we all do this in different ways and to different extents.

Any paradigm that ignores or neglects aspects of self is NOT a helpful model of reality. They create all sorts of insidious problems and stifle our true potential.

Why limit yourself when the whole is available?

This is where the concept of “Zorba the Buddha” comes into play…

Ever since I first heard the term Zorba the Buddha, it resonated deeply with me.

This term was coined by Osho, who encouraged people to embrace the godliness of Buddha, without neglecting the worldliness of Zorba the Greek.

Zorba is a character in the book Zorba the Greek who epitomizes the Earthly romantic. He travels, plays music, drinks wine, embraces sexuality…etc.

Here’s what Osho has to say about this concept:

“Zorba is the foundation and Buddha is the palace. Buddha is the peak, but the foundation stones are laid by Zorba. It will be foolish to choose to be a Buddha without having the foundation stones.

I am absolutely mathematical about it: Zorba should be there and the stronger a Zorba is there, the better a Buddha is possible. So I can become Buddha any moment, Zorba is absolutely needed as the basic energy out of which the Buddha is going to be carved. Zorba is the marble rock out of which the Buddha statue has to be carved. I choose the rock…and Buddha is easy. It is just a question of opening your eyes. I don’t bother about Buddha; I am worried about people who are not Zorbas. How will they become Buddhas? They don’t have the basic material out of which a Buddha is made.

And this poverty has been given to people by our religious leaders. They have been told not to be materialists. They have been told to be celibate. They have been told to live in poverty. They have been told that life is out of sin. All these things have destroyed their Zorbas. Otherwise, every man is a born Zorba the Greek.

And if everything goes according to me, every man will die as Zorba the Buddha. Between the Greek and the Buddha there is not much distance, but first you must be the Greek.”

zorba the buddha

The head-in-the-clouds escapist mentality of some New Age people never felt right to me. Neither did the materialist philosophy that is all too prevalent in our society today. I’ve always felt like it’s best to embrace both at once, embrace all aspects of self, and embrace Wholeness.

Neglect the spirit and you become cynical and lifeless. Neglect the body and you’re prone to delusional flightiness and insanity.

As the Zen saying goes, “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”

Spirituality is not about escapism. It’s about bringing the divine intensely into the physical reality and injecting it into each moment.

This schism comes from our dualistic mentality. We THINK the body and mind are separate. We THINK heaven and Earth are separate. Here’s the truth: There is no separation at all! Only the act of thinking itself causes the separation.

Love and Wholeness

Love is the unifying force. Love is connection between people. Love is connection with nature. Love is connection with everything. Love is the fabric of Oneness.

Fear is what severs that connection. So rejecting aspects of self is done out of some version of fear.

Be fully engaged in the present moment and let love be your North Star. With love as your guide, how could you go wrong?

Bases and Peaks

You can’t have the peak without the base of the mountain. Physicality is the base and spirituality is the peak. A base without a peak is incomplete, not fulfilling its potential. A peak without a base is a mirage, a delusion.

Materialism is like only placing lego blocks on the floor and never building upwards. Spiritual escapism is like trying to build a tower without a foundation.

Look at a pyramid. Most of the effort and materials go into the base. If a base is well-constructed, the capstone basically takes care of itself. The same goes for us. If we nurture and harmonize our mind/body, the spirit naturally comes through.

When you eat healthy, exercise, rest, laugh, meditate, dance, sing and spend time in nature, you naturally feel better! You feel more creative, more connected, more blissful and more inspired, right? That’s tapping into the Buddha within!

Catalysts Of Change

The core message of almost all spiritual and self-help books is PRESENCE, or being fully immersed in the moment.

Eckhart Tolle suggests that our primary spiritual purpose is to be fully engaged in the present moment. Thich Nhat Hanh recommends walking meditations, a practice that helps with truly EXPERIENCING LIFE.

See the common theme? The key is EMBODYING divinity here and now, not trying to escape it. Again…

“Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”

Sometimes I get the urge to live in the woods as a hermit. But I’ve come to realize that this is a complete disservice to both myself and the world at large.

If I were to isolate myself, I wouldn’t be able to inspire people or spread love through human connection. I would also be denying myself of physical experience. That’s a disservice.

If we want to change the world, we must do it from the inside out. First it starts within, and then within communities. This is why I love people who are bringing conscious practices to communities and places that need it the most (urban gardening, meditation in schools, yoga, alternative/clean energy…etc.).

Running off into the woods is not the solution. We must face our collective dysfunction head on, just as we must face our internal dysfunction head on. As above, so below.

Choosing to be either spiritual OR physical is an illusion! The yin is within the yang and the yang is within the yin. And all of it is within the circle, the whole. You don’t have to choose one or the other. They’re facets of the same whole. Accept your Wholeness.

“God changes his appearance every second. Blessed is the man who can recognize him in all his disguises.” ― Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek

Source, God, or whatever you want to call divinity – is All That Is. It’s everything, all possibility. Therefore, to neglect any aspect of self is to limit your own divinity.

Embrace Wholeness. Embody Love.

– Stevie P!

1

“I Made It” Moments (The Bittersweet Truth)

remote work

I just had an “I made it” moment.

Digitally, I was on a conference call. But physically, I was on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia, with my bare feet on the grass, the sun shining on my face, looking out at some of the most stunning landscapes I’d ever seen.

“I made it!” I thought to myself as I smiled at my “office” view.

“This is what I’ve been visualizing for the past 7 years… To be able to do this very thing I’m doing right now… Working remotely, having freedom of time and location, living life on my own terms and exploring beautiful places.”

Gratitude swept over me like a divine breeze. I basked in it, breathing in the incredibly fresh British Columbia air.

Then something unexpected happened…

As the euphoria faded, two bittersweet realizations hit me:
1. This isn’t the end. Although it feels like my dreams came true, there’s no feeling of closure here.
2. This feeling of having “arrived” is actually available in EVERY MOMENT, not just the ones we label as special.

You see, the moments when you’re able to live out your dreams are bittersweet. On one hand, it’s incredibly blissful. Yet on the other hand, it’s never perfect and it’s not an end.

My “I made it” moment actually manifested a bit differently than I expected when I first read The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. That’s the book that first opened me up to the idea that this lifestyle was even possible.

Here’s the truth. I worked a lot more than 4 hours this week. And no, I don’t earn a full-time living off of this blog or my own products. But I do have a remote job that allows me to do this. And I’m making a little more money every month with my own projects. So although I “made it,” it happened differently than I originally expected. And who knows; if I had rigidly clung to my expectations, and not flowed with the opportunities that presented themselves, this dream may not have come to fruition.

lifestyle travel

The only constant in life is change.

Nothing is static. This means that even when you achieve something, you can’t hold onto it, because it has already changed, you have already changed, and the circumstances have changed.

Every destination is really just a checkpoint along your journey. Every summit is a false summit, a checkpoint, showing you that there are always more peaks to climb.

There is no finish line. There is no destination. Life is a continuous journey!

Why do you think “successful” people are constantly looking to raise the bar? Why is everyone trying to chase their next preferred high? Because most people are caught in this endless, elusive game of future fulfillment.

Here’s a profound reframe: Every moment is an “I made it” moment. We just fail to see it in day to day life. But if you live mindfully and learn to enjoy the process, you will find that “you’ve arrived” in every moment.

“Where are you really headed? How is it really that much better than right here?” – Corey Sheikh

Of course purpose is important. Goals are important. But it’s not the achievement of goals that is rewarding. The reward is who you become in the process of working towards your goals or purpose.

Yet the ego constantly projects into the future, hoping for salvation there. This creates the trap of thinking happiness lies somewhere in the future, while continuously missing the present moment. It really is a trap. And here’s the thing; the present moment, not the future, holds all of the bliss, happiness and peace you’ve been searching for.

It’s been here and now all along.

Learn to love the process. Learn to love the journey. Learn to love the open-ended flux of the eternal now.

Realize that every moment is an “I made it” moment.

You’ve arrived. Or more accurately, you’re ARRIVING… Always.

Much love.

– Stevie P!

Essentialism: The Philosophy That Will Change Your Life

essentialism minimalism simplicity

“It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.” – Bruce Lee

The key to success, the key to peace of mind, the key to making your dreams come true ultimately boils down to one thing: focusing on the essential.

Simplicity, minimalism and the like may imply that blindly removing is the key. It’s not. Essentialism, however, is about finding what is essential for you and letting go of the unnecessary.

What is “essential” can be different for everyone. For some people, that may be their family, for others it may be music, for some people it may be travel. It all depends on what you want to prioritize in your life.

What are your priorities? What do you want to focus on? What is your purpose? What direction do you want to travel in? In order to make the most out of life, we must ask ourselves those questions and prioritize accordingly.

If you don’t have priorities or purpose, then you will fritter away your days in a muck of endless distractions, yet feeling empty inside. Without focus, the world around you has more than enough distractions to keep you preoccupied, passive, stagnant and depressingly mediocre.

Let go of the unessential and cut out distractions. If you want to write a book, watching tv for 2 hours a day won’t help. If you want to get in shape, prioritize your workouts and healthy meals. If you want to meditate, center your morning routine around it. If you want to be a better parent, spend more quality time with your kids by any means necessary. Find out what is essential to you and let go of the unessential.

This applies to everything in life, from business to relationships and everything in between. A company will be successful if it focuses on its core mission. A relationship will be harmonious if both people place love first. A person will transcend mediocrity when they focus on their purpose.

Make Essentialism an “essential” part of your life, and help bring your dreams to fruition.

Want to learn how to tap into the power of Essentialism? Check out my new book Essentialism And the Art of Not Giving a Fuck!

Much love.

– Stevie P!

PS – You see how short and sweet this article is? That’s Essentialism at work!

Momentum: The Most Underrated Phenomenon in Life

momentum

What direction are you building momentum in?

For better or worse, we’re beings of momentum. We’re all accumulating momentum in certain directions.

Are you deepening the groove of monotony? Working at a job you don’t love, coming home to watch tv and going to the same bars on the weekends to forget it all? That’s momentum.

Are you building momentum towards a purpose or a goal? That’s momentum too.

Our daily habits, whatever they may be, create momentum.

It’s a gift and a curse. Momentum is why it’s so hard to break out of comfort zones and overcome addictions. Yet momentum is also why people become massively successful and growth-oriented in all aspects of life.

Think about how hard it is for the person who comes home and watches tv every night to come home and NOT watch tv. Think about how hard it is for the workout junkie to take a week off from working out. Think about how easy it is for an avid hiker to hike a small hill. That’s all momentum!

For me right now, it’s harder NOT to write than it is to write. It’s true. I’m at the point where I can write 3,000 word blog posts in a few hours and books within a few weeks. I’ve built tremendous momentum with writing and synthesizing ideas. And I’m able to do this by leveraging a simple formula for mastering momentum…

hiking momentum

Mastering Momentum = Conscious Habits + Persistence

Conscious Habits

Be aware of your habits. Consciously choose to implement habits that build momentum in the direction you want to head in.

Most people fall into “negative” habits by default because they have no sense of purpose. If you have no sense of purpose, there are more than enough distractions to divert you (tv, social media, gossip…etc.).

Get clear on your purpose and what you truly want in life. Meditate on it. Build momentum towards that. With a sense of purpose, you become the conscious creator of what you want out of life.

“Our plans miscarry because they have no aim. When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.”
– Seneca

Persistence

After consciously creating habits or rituals, you must apply persistence. This means doing it on a daily basis and sticking to it, day in and day out.

Persistence is what separates successful people from the masses who dwell in mediocrity. A writer writes every day to complete a novel. An entrepreneur works hard for years to bring their idea to fruition. Without persistence, the writer would give up after one writing session and the entrepreneur would give up as soon as they encounter resistance.

Resistance is the force that forces growth. By working through resistance you build massive momentum in the direction you want.

Focus on systems over goals. Yes, write down goals, but instead of fixating on them, focus on implementing the daily routines that will get you there. Momentum comes from daily habits. Become process-oriented because that’s where your character is built.

Momentum is the byproduct of what you do day in and day out. You can create momentum in the direction you choose by consciously implementing habits and applying persistence.

We’re beings of momentum. Momentum can either accelerate your progress or keep you trapped in unwanted patterns.

What direction are you building momentum in?

If you don’t like your direction, you have the option to change starting right now. Wake up to your superpower of conscious choice. You can change direction and build momentum towards whatever your heart desires.

Much love.

– Stevie P!

1

Alan Watts on Music and Life

music life

Have you ever said this to yourself before?

“I’ll be happy when [this] happens.”

“I’ll be happy once I find the right girl/guy.”

“I’ll be fulfilled when ________.”

We’ve all done this. But here’s the thing: We’ve been programmed to do so.

We’re conditioned to think that salvation lies at the end of the rainbow. It’s a malicious deception that has us chasing that “something” our whole lives, yet never finding it. We believe that happiness awaits us tomorrow, but tomorrow never comes. So most people spend their whole lives waiting for their lives to start.

Even when we get what we wanted, we don’t fully appreciate it, because our minds have been conditioned to constantly search for happiness somewhere in the future.

Here’s the secret: What we’re searching for is hidden in plain sight, in the here and now. This isn’t some woo-woo metaphorical rhetoric. It’s true and applicable RIGHT NOW. There’s a reason why the core teachings of almost every spiritual or self-help book is presence and mindfulness. It’s something that is absolutely crucial to understand and PRACTICE.

Take just a few moments to be fully present. Tune into the present moment, experience all of your senses (come to your senses), hold gratitude for where you’re at right now, and you’ll realize that this is what you’ve been searching for all along.

That’s the paradox. The happiness we think happens somewhere in the future when this or that happens has actually been with us all along, in the present moment.

You don’t listen to music just to hear the last note. You don’t eat a meal just for the last bite. You don’t just read the last page of a novel. You don’t just watch the climax of a movie. The process – the ups, downs, challenges and triumphs – is what makes everything beautiful, worthwhile and fun. The same goes for life.

Alan Watts brilliantly explains this concept in a lecture called “Music and Life.” The way he expresses this concept will shift your entire paradigm on life. Here’s the transcript:

Alan Watts

In music one doesn’t make the end of a composition the point of the composition. If that were so the best conductors would be those who played fastest, and there would be composers who wrote only finales. People would go to concerts just to hear one crashing chord; because that’s the end!

But we don’t see that as something brought by our education into our every day conduct. We’ve got a system of schooling that gives a completely different impression. It’s all graded. And what we do is we put the child into the corridor of this grade system with a kind of “come on kitty kitty kitty”, and now you go to kindergarten. And that’s a great thing because when you finish that you get into first grade, and then come on; first grade leads to second grade and so on, and then you get out of grade school. Now you’re going to go to high school, and it’s revving up – the thing is coming. Then you’ve got to go to college, and by Jove then you get into graduate school and when you’re through with graduate school you go out and join the World!

And then you get into some racket where you’re selling insurance. And they’ve got that quota to make, and you’re gonna make that. And all the time that thing is coming. It’s coming, it’s coming! That great thing, the success you’re working for. Then when you wake up one day at about 40 years old you say “My God! I’ve arrived! I’m there”. And you don’t feel very different from what you’ve always felt.

And there’s a slight let down because you feel there’s a hoax. And there was a hoax. A dreadful hoax. They made you miss everything. We thought of life by analogy with a journey, with a pilgrimage which had a serious purpose at the end and the thing was to get to that end. Success or whatever it is, or maybe heaven after you’re dead.

But we missed the point the whole way along. It was a musical thing and we were supposed to sing or to dance while the music was being played.

Alan Watts – Music and Life

How Stories Shape Our Culture

story book

What stories shape your life?

Take a moment to think about that.

We all live based upon stories. Collective stories are the basis of culture and personal stories are the basis of how we view ourselves as individuals.

Stories are the underpinnings of human reality. Humanity is built upon stories. Stories shape our culture, our lives and the way we perceive the world.

It doesn’t matter if it’s true or false, if a story is believed, it becomes a blueprint of reality.

Cultural Stories

Every culture has stories that act as the very basis for how people live their lives.

In ancient times, mythology shaped the way people viewed reality, the world around them, society and themselves.

Any religious culture is dominated by the stories of that religion. People’s whole lives, down to the finest detail, are dictated by those stories.

Our modern western culture is based on a combination of science, religion and history (his-story). Science is constantly updated, disproving older theories, while failing to explain the “why” questions of our reality. Most organized religions are distortions of spiritual truths for purposes of control. And his-story is merely the story told by the winners of wars.

These cultural belief systems are attempts at explaining truth, at best. And at their worst, they’re attempts at control and manipulation. I’m not saying that all of these are false; I’m saying that regardless of being true or false, these stories shape our experience of reality and every aspect of how we live our lives.

Let’s take the scientific paradigm as an example. According to this story (again, I’m not saying it’s necessarily true or false):

  • We are our bodies, or more specifically our brains.
  • We live on Planet Earth, which revolves around the sun, in an incomprehensibly large universe.
  • This universe started with the Big Bang (the Big Bang THEORY).
  • On Earth, we evolved from apes, growing smarter and more and more sophisticated, until we’ve dominated nature and now live in the wonderful culmination of all of that evolution and “progress.”
  • You see, this is a STORY, or the background program that we run our lives by. And that’s not even getting into the stories of history, money, work, relationships, purpose, pleasure and everything else that makes up our belief systems. These things determine how we perceive and interact with reality.

    Where does this story get us? Well, take a look at the world around you. Check out the “news.” If it seems a little disharmonious (which anyone with eyes can see), we have to start reevaluating the stories we’re living by.

    grand central station

    Your Story

    What stories are you telling yourself? What is your identity based on? What labels do you identify with?

    In the midst of the trend of collective stories, we have the personal stories we tell ourselves. These are our individual stories that shape the way we view and interact with the world.

    Let’s use a man named Henry as an example, whose personal story might look like this:
    I’m Henry.
    I’m a white man.
    I’m an American.
    I’m a Christian.
    I’m not good at math (because my third grade teacher told me that and I’ve believed her ever since).
    I’m good at fixing things (because my dad said I was when I fixed his truck).
    I’m an introvert so I don’t have many friends.
    My favorite color is blue.
    My favorite food is steak.
    I’m a car mechanic, so I’m not good with computers.
    I’m a lower middle class guy.
    I go to work every day, then come home, drink a beer and turn on the tv to relax at night.
    I don’t have time to eat healthy or work out.
    I’m a fan of the Tennessee Titans.
    I wear boots and flannels because I’m manly.

    Ok, you get the point. This is all a STORY. Almost all of those things could be dropped and changed instantaneously. Our friend Henry could literally have a completely new life tomorrow, if he chose to.

    Programming and patterns are incredibly hard to break for us humans. But simple awareness of the stories we tell ourselves puts us in the position to consciously choose what our stories are.

    So what stories are you telling yourself? What identities are you carrying with you day in and day out? What patterns do you have? What are you building momentum towards?

    Gain some awareness of the stories you’re telling yourself. Only then can you choose to change your life for the better.

    individual

    Creating New Stories

    We can create new stories in each moment.

    It is a choice. But you have to first be aware to even know that you have a choice.

    We can tell new tales and shape reality in our own way.

    What do you want out of life? What is your purpose? What’s on your bucket list? Who do you want to be?

    Be open and willing to change.

    Find your vision and start working towards that. Only tell yourself stories which help to create that vision of yourself.

    The Power of Fiction

    The importance of stories is why I love fiction so much. Whether reading or writing, fiction helps to reshape our world.

    Truths which exist beyond the limits of our collective analytical mind are able to be conveyed through fiction, metaphor and myth. Paradigm-shifting truths are often expressed in this way. Just take a look at any sacred text or brilliant piece of poetry.

    Literary works can cut through and transcend cultural biases and blindness, giving the reader a taste of a completely “novel” reality (see what I did there?). It allows one to see outside of the box they’ve existed in their whole life, and presents the opportunity to step outside.

    This is why I read and write a lot of fiction. If we change the stories we tell, we change how our world is shaped.

    Want to get your hands on an example of a paradigm-shifting story?

    I just published a new book, Ralphie’s Account of Planet Earth.

    It’s a story written from the perspective of a dog, told in a journal-like format.

    And the twist is that dogs aren’t just dogs. They’re actually multi-dimensional superbeings checking out Earth and humanity.

    This story will stretch your mind, provide you with insights, entertain you, make you laugh and a lot more. It’s available for both paperback and Kindle.

    Get your paws on it here: Ralphie’s Account of Planet Earth

    Let’s reshape our world.

    – Stevie P

    Throwback Thursday: The Ego Shell and Emotional Armor

    muscular

    That’s me in July of 2011.

    I recently came across this picture again… And you know what? I never even realized how muscular I was then.

    Seriously, I didn’t. Body dysmorphia is an insidious delusion. Our minds play tricks on us more often than not.

    At that point in my life, I was dead set on achieving perfection in every aspect of life. I NEEDED to be the fittest, smartest, funniest, wisest and most creative person in the room, simultaneously; at all times. Now how about that for some constant pressure based on unreal expectations?

    If I could sum up my belief system, it would be this – Nothing was ever good enough.

    Of course, there are far worse problems to have. But this is an exposé of the more shadowy delusions so many of us face (or choose not to face).

    It’s not all bad though. This mentality greatly helped me in many, many ways. Due to this hyper-imbalance towards the warrior archetype, I’ve been able to learn, apply and do so much within a short span of 28 years. I’m grateful for that, though I recognize it no longer serves my highest good.

    I now know this phase needed to happen in order to get to where I am now and to give me massive momentum in the direction I’m going.

    With that nod of gratitude, I want to dissect for you the psyche behind the muscular frame you see in that picture…

    Layer 1: Emotional Armor

    I’m a sensitive person, a prototypical Cancer in that sense. Up until very recently, I would take any criticism like an arrow to the heart.

    When I started working out and seeing results, it was like discovering armor against criticism. Since I was wrapped in my ego and focused on the illusion of perfection (among other things), I created a need to protect myself emotionally. I feared criticism, so I devised ways to mitigate it.

    I felt like being muscular gave me armor against criticism. It was an ego shell. I thought that because I was “jacked”, people would be less inclined to criticize or make fun of me when I would act like my weird, authentic self.

    It worked, for the most part, and it did help me to get more comfortable with who I am as a unique individual. But I needed to address the root. Why was I afraid of criticism in the first place? The revelations I describe below helped me drop that fear.

    Now I no longer need emotional armor. I have nothing to defend, no false identity to parade to the world. Sure, I stay pretty fit. But the difference is, I don’t give a fuck now, whatsoever. I love myself no matter what (except sometimes when I forget to).

    Last year I actually took a few months off of working out. I just did a lot of yoga and walking. Why? Because I needed to go into my feminine side and allow myself to evolve, instead of forcing it or unknowingly closing myself off with a hyper-masculine, stubborn attitude.

    This more yin approach worked wonders and I was able to go through some incredible transformations. Then after a few months, I felt ready to ground back into my masculine side again. So I started working out again, but from a place of self-love, not to build emotional armor.

    Layer 2: Perfectionism

    Perfectionism was omnipresent for me throughout most of my life. I still even need to be mindful of perfectionist tendencies.

    Much of perfectionism is due to cultural conditioning. Our parents and teachers praised us only when we did something they labeled as good. The media perpetually force-feeds us with artificially projected images of perfection for every aspect of life.

    So many of us are slaves to our ego, which drags us along on the roller coaster of superiority and inferiority. No aspect of our society teaches us to embrace our uniqueness and accept ourselves as we are right now.

    Perfection doesn’t exist (in this reality at least). We’re all imperfect beings. And you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way. Imperfection allows for uniqueness and continuous improvement. That’s so beautiful, so… perfect. In a paradoxical way, we can find perfection in the imperfection of everything.

    For me, as I said before, nothing was ever good enough. I was critical of others, but even more critical of myself. My inner judge was a slave driver, constantly pushing me. I thought salvation was found in some future achievement or in becoming something more. My sense of self-worth was tied to the chaos of external circumstance.

    For a deeper dive into perfectionism, check out my article How to Overcome Perfectionism

    Layer 3: External Worthiness

    I used to believe that I could attain worthiness by achievement. Oh, how that resulted in unrelenting difficulty. Again, this is culturally perpetuated and many of us have this belief to some degree.

    I would not love myself as I was in any given moment. Instead, as I said before, the hope of salvation was somewhere in the future. But tomorrow never comes.

    Self-worth is a journey all of us face. We all must go within and remove the debris we’ve piled on top of our essence. That’s the key.

    The ironic thing for me is that my perfectionism made me want to improve every aspect of myself, even regarding self-love. Recently I got to a point where I felt clear and free. I still have certain hang-ups and delusions, yet I’m mindful of them and I accept my imperfections.

    I got so good at solving problems and shoring up weaknesses. But then I realized that this need to correct everything was the very thing blocking me from true self-love. So in essence, I raced down the highway of personal growth, only to find out that my biggest lesson was to enjoy the scenery.

    I’ve cultivated unconditional love within myself (most of the time). And because of that, I’m now able to love others unconditionally.

    Love… that’s what is underneath all of the layers.

    The biggest paradox of self-improvement is that we’ve had what we were looking for all along. We just couldn’t see it.

    Thank you for reading.

    – Stevie P!

    Back to Us (A Poem)

    class picture

    Life was simpler then
    The only device we carried around
    Was a game boy pocket
    Connect the cord
    Trading Pokemon under our desks
    Don’t let the teacher see

    Oh, we had tv, radio, computers and even portable technology
    But it was far from everywhere

    All we had to do was step outside
    For recess and, though we couldn’t physically leave, we were FREE
    Freer than we are today? Maybe

    Life wasn’t without stress though
    Shyness, nervousness, the fear of not being accepted by our peers

    Both the light and the dark sides of tribalism had a hold on us

    Sun shining
    Imaginations brimming over
    Fun and games
    Interspersed with sometimes singling out the weak or vulnerable
    I’ve been on both sides
    More teasing than vicious
    Yet still traumatizing for fragile souls

    Oh, where do we find solace?
    How can I blend the simple joys of childhood
    With the small bits of wisdom I’ve gathered since?

    There’s no going back
    Time spirals in cycles

    This time around
    On a new layer of the spiral
    I reach across the curve of events
    Grabbing those simple joys I’ve left behind
    For, paradoxically, that will allow me to let go

    Somewhere beneath the physicality
    Beneath the beliefs and hand-me-down identity
    There is a core of being
    An indescribable essence that permeates all

    Through looking back, we really look within