Your Worst Enemy

“The worst enemy you can meet will always be yourself; you lie in wait for yourself in caverns and forests.

Lonely one, you are going the way to yourself! And your way goes past yourself, and past your seven devils! You will be a heretic to yourself and witch and soothsayer and fool and doubter and unholy one and villain. You must be ready to burn yourself in your own flame: how could you become new, if you had not first become ashes?”

Friedrich Nietzsche

We have such a unique and complex relationship with ourselves as human beings. We can simultaneously be our biggest advocate and our greatest enemy. The various sides of who we are are somehow able to exist within us at the same time. It is a power play between these contradictory parts of ourselves. Sometimes it may seem like that harsh, hateful bully is the only one left, demeaning us, discouraging us, telling us stories of failure and hardship. But even in our darkest hour, that advocate is still within us somewhere. All we’ve got to do is listen for her voice. We have to fight the narrative being sold to us by our inner enemy.

We have to realize that regardless of which voice is speaking to us, we are neither of these voices. We are the witness, the watcher, the observer of our thoughts. Imagine yourself as the viewer of a TV show, this drama called life. The character called us may only be able to see a limited version of the events taking place in the show. As the viewer, we have the advantage of a wider perspective. We can see that there is a bigger picture that can help us understand and accept whatever the character might be going through, even if it’s unpleasant. We can sometimes get caught up in what we wish would happen or what we hope for the character, but in the end we have to trust the writers and the producers of the show to make it all work out.

We have to step back from our hopes and desires and expectations for ourselves and our own lives in a similar way. We have as little control over what happens to us as we do to what happens to our favorite TV characters. All we can do is watch, and that’s enough. We have to surrender to the universe and trust that things are happening as they should be. It seems like a tough choice to make, but really it’s the only one available. Otherwise we will be grasping and clinging to a mere illusion of control and causing ourselves even more suffering trying to maintain that illusion.

I would perhaps go even farther than Nietzsche does, and say that we are our only real enemy. Think about it. Do you really think anyone else cares as much about our success or demise as we do? Does anyone else even have the ability to make us suffer or fail? Sure those we share this life with have an influence on us. They have an effect on our lives for sure. But at the end of the day, we get to make the final decision. Will these new challenges we find ourselves forever faced with be chisels that chip away at us until there is nothing left? Or will they be the building blocks, the brick and mortar we need to build ourselves up bigger and stronger than ever before? There really is no objective reality. There is only our subjective experience of it.

Nobody can hurt me without my permission.

Gandhi

I’m sure I would have always understood and accepted the first quote by Nietzsche. After all, I have plenty of experience being my own enemy. However, when I first heard this second quote by Gandhi, I didn’t quite know what to make of it. It stayed in my head for a long time though, rolling around, challenging my concept of the world and what it means to be a part of it. It’s really difficult for me to express what exactly helped me to change the scope of my perception on these types of subjects. I vividly remember how I used to take such expressions: Nobody can hurt me without my permission? That’s bullshit! You’re saying not only have I been the victim of something awful and unfair, but also that it’s my fault for the suffering it’s caused me? It didn’t take much for me to feel attacked and misunderstood. I refused to take any of the responsibility for the ways I found myself feeling.

My inner enemy had so thoroughly convinced me that I was nothing more than a victim in this life that no matter what the world offered me, that was going to be my role in the story. So of course when I heard Gandhi’s quote, I played the part of the victim once again. How can you blame me for the awful way I feel? I was looking for someone to blame and nothing more, instead of seeing these words of wisdom from the perspective I do now. Again, I’m not sure how I finally made the shift, but eventually I realized that this quote was extremely empowering. It’s not about blame, it’s about power. Who do you place your power with? Is it the people around you, the random events in your life? Or is that power yours to do with as you see fit?

The enemy within us tries to convince us that we have no power, we are helpless pieces of a fucked up puzzle. The advocate within us understands that we actually have all the power. It doesn’t sell us the delusion that we can control the world around us, but it does show us that we don’t need to. The only power we need is the power to choose for ourselves how we want to interact with and conceptualize the world. That is the greatest power of all, and we all have it. It’s not the toxic kind of power that can be bought and sold and used as a weapon against others. It is a power far more personal and pure, a silent power that no one else can see, but has limitless potential.

Don’t allow that enemy inside your head to convince you to play the victim in your own story. You can be the hero. You can play any part you want to play. This is your story and no one else’s. Even being our own greatest enemy can be positive or negative. How do you want to view it? Woe is me mentality says: I’ll never be able to have success or happiness because I’ll never escape myself, and I’m the one holding me back. That’s the enemy talking. Our advocate, forever full of loving kindness, says: If I’m the only thing standing in my way, then I am completely capable of overcoming that. I am the master of my own destiny.

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Breathe Into It

One of the first things you tend to learn when getting into yoga philosophy is that resistance to unpleasant feelings, situations, or emotions only leads to more intense, prolonged suffering. In fact, it could be said that all of the suffering we experience stems from our aversion to certain things. Life is about perspective primarily. So if we can teach ourselves to see everything through the eyes of loving kindness, there is no where for suffering to take root.

This principle of non-resistance can be seen in the mind, but also in the physical body. I have always been someone who detests the cold and avoids it at all costs. Unfortunately for me, I also happen to live in the northern part of the country where winters can be pretty intense. I read the other day that when you brace yourself against the cold and try to resist it, you are actually only making yourself feel colder! When we tense up our bodies, our blood vessels are constricted. Therefore less blood is able to flow to our extremities, making us colder. If we can breathe deeply and relax our bodies, we won’t be as uncomfortable with low temperatures.

This also works with other types of pain or discomfort. The breath is such a powerful thing, if we can only learn to utilize it. I often notice when I am in some type of physical pain whether it be a stomach ache, a sore throat, or just muscle cramps, I desperately try to avoid and disassociate from that area of my body. Sometimes as a kid I would even visualize boxing that body part off from the rest of me. Needless to say that type of response has never worked for me. Despite my best efforts I am unable to ignore my body’s painful cries.

The other night as I was struggling to fall asleep due to such a pain, I decided to try embracing that pain instead of attempting to push it away. I turned to focusing on my breath. I imagined sending the swirling, healing oxygen to that painful part of my body with every inhale. As I exhaled, I relaxed and accepted the unpleasant sensations. This didn’t make the pain go away, but after a few moments I felt much better. Today I am struggling with a very upset stomach from overeating yesterday. Stomach pain has always been one of the hardest problems for me to deal with ever since I was little. I’ve felt tense and uncomfortable all morning. Nothing I’ve tried seems to have helped. However, as I sit here writing this, I’ve been trying to also take slow, deep breaths down into my belly. I can definitely still feel some discomfort, but it’s much less pronounced than earlier.

Just like with most meditative practices, the hardest part is staying focused. Even after years of practicing yoga and meditation it can be hard for me to take deep breaths as I move through a normal day. In fact, a lot of the time I find that my breath is exceptionally shallow or that I’m holding it! It can definitely be frustrating when it feels like despite your best efforts you aren’t making much progress. The good thing is each breath is another opportunity to practice. Breathwork is something we are able to work on anywhere no matter who we’re with or what we’re doing. Not to mention it’s free! It can even be quite fun once you start to notice the connection your breath has on your body and mind.

I find it really helps me to attach an image or an emotion to my breath to help me concentrate. Recently I’ve started to imagine each sip of air as a delicious food, drink, or even a drug that I get to consume. I look forward to every inhale and exhale. I savor the way it feels as it moves through my body. Sometimes I’ll also picture all of the wonderful things my body will be able to do with so much fresh oxygen. I imagine it providing me with energy and happy feelings. I imagine my body using it to perform all of it’s vital functions: building new cells, cleansing toxins, healing me, etc. Just thinking about it makes me so grateful for this body I have been blessed with. It inspires me to breathe deeply as a gift to this body. Inhale – I love you, body. Exhale – thank you, body.

The next time you are feeling upset or you’re in pain, whatever it may be that you find yourself resisting, try to honor that feeling rather than running from it. Perhaps it will even turn out to be a gift. It is easy to go through life without growing or changing when things are going well. However, pain and discomfort are necessary signals that we can learn so much from. For instance, my stomach hurting this morning is a reminder to take better care of my body. It is my body asking me for love, kindness, and respect. Instead of being frustrated and upset with my body for not behaving the way I want it to, I am going to listen to it’s urgent request. I am going to use this unpleasant morning to push me to do better for myself today and from now on. It all begins with the breath.

So just breathe

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Moderation

When I first learned about yoga philosophy, I became convinced that by following the Yamas and the Niyamas, it would be possible to truly find peace and happiness in this life. The only trouble is, these principles, while simple and straightforward, are very difficult for me to adhere to. The Yamas and Niyamas are similar to the ten commandments, the eightfold path, or other religious guidelines. Like most others, they include principles like not stealing, not lying, not killing, etc. Every now and then I’ll be reminded how important it is for me to practice these ways of living.

One of the Yamas I always consider my favorite is ahimsa, which means “non-harming.” In the beginning I liked to imagine that I had been living in this way for years given that I am a vegan and don’t cause any harm or suffering in order to feed myself like most humans do. However, this was foolish of me. Instead of casting judgment on others, I should have been looking more deeply at my own life. While I may not contribute to the unimaginable suffering of farming and eating animals, I still cause plenty of harm to myself and those around me in other ways. In the end ahimsa could cover all of the other Yamas. After all why avoid lying and stealing? Well partially because they cause harm to others or even yourself.

For a few months I tried to practice Satya, non-lying. It really opened my eyes to how often I lie. I didn’t really think I lied very much at all before trying this. After all, I’m not one to make up tall tails or be untruthful about important issues. However, what I came to realize is that I lie almost without thinking every day in very small, seemingly insignificant ways. Maybe I’ll make up an excuse for why I was ten minutes late for work. Or tell a friend I’m busy rather than being honest about why I’d rather not hangout that evening. Just little “white lies” that I’m sure all of us tell from time to time, more out of convenience than malice.

Despite the importance of these two Yamas I won’t be focusing on them today or the other two I’ve yet to mention (asteya – non stealing & aparigraha – non attachment.) Today I wanted to focus on the fourth Yama, brahmacharya. A lot of people throughout history have interpreted this Yama to mean sexual abstinence. However, now it is often translated more broadly as moderation. The purpose of this Yama is to remind us that more isn’t always better.

I’ve been confronted with that simple truth a lot recently. I love coffee, yet when I get carried away and drink too much it makes me incredibly anxious rather than energized. I also love exercise. It it a wonderful stress reliever for me. However, I tend to overdo that as well which ends up causing stress instead of eliminating it. I’ve even begun to get carried away with how much kratom I use, adding more and more powder to every glass when it actually works just as well or even better when I use less.

Moderation has always been a very difficult concept for me. It always seems to be all or nothing, never a healthy balance. Perhaps I am just too careless to be bothered to pay attention to my body and listen for it’s cues telling me when enough is enough. My tendency to be rigid in my routines doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room for the natural fluctuations within me to be honored and addressed. That is one of the most difficult parts of this Yama for me. There is no one else that can tell me what moderation means to me. I have to discover the right balance for my own life. And in order to do that, I have to be open, curious, willing to experiment, and practice listening to my intuition. Brahmacharya requires looking inward. It requires me to be honest with myself, to trust myself, to respect my own needs and limits. Sometimes I’d even prefer to interpret it as abstinence. Not having sex is much more straight-forward and easy for me. (I’ve been doing it for years without trying!)

Moderation becomes a more and more complex concept the longer I think about it. I’ve spent so much of my life living in excess that I don’t even know where to start. I want to start regardless though. Someday I hope to be able to live my life in accordance with all of the Yamas and Niyamas. I have been blessed with this wisdom from ancient yogis passed down to me through countless generations. I am so grateful for their guidance. But now it’s up to me to apply this sacred knowledge to my own life in order to finally live in a way I can be proud of.

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Working with Resistance

Once again, my yoga class this morning has inspired my writing topic for the day. In my yoga teacher training we learned about something called PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation.) Essentially this is just using your muscles to resist or push against whatever stretch you are in for a few moments before relaxing the muscles, allowing you to sink and relax even deeper into the pose. It is similar to the idea of clenching different muscles before releasing them to relax more fully and release stress. It is a fascinating and useful technique to be sure.

One of the beautiful things about yoga is that we can take what we learn on the mat out into the rest of our lives. So what can we take with us from PNF? Well it draws our attention to the idea of working with resistance. A lot of the things we do in yoga class can be looked at as metaphors for how to live our lives with more ease. For the most part, people don’t like resistance. We don’t want to have our plans altered or interrupted. We don’t want disagreements or dissent. We just want everything to run smoothly in exactly the way that we want it to. We can even start to feel cheated or hopeless when things don’t go our way.

Using PNF in yoga not only allows our bodies to become more flexible and go deeper into difficult postures, it reminds us that we can use resistance in our everyday lives to our own advantage as well. We just have to be patient and use what life gives us rather than trying to reject it or avoid it. The other day at work my friends and I were discussing the idea of having bad memories changed or erased like in The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Although it is undoubtedly an interesting, tempting concept, none of us were convinced actually going through with such a procedure would be a good idea or something we would choose for ourselves. Thought experiments like this help us to reflect on the ways in which we can actually be grateful for all of the hardships we have experienced in our lives. In the moment, a lot of the things that happen to us seem unfair, unbearable even, but later on we come to realize that those same events have allowed us to become who we are today. Perhaps they made us stronger, wiser, more resilient, or even led us down a new path we wouldn’t have taken otherwise.

Looking back, it can be easy to see how some of my worst life experiences were worth the pain I went through. However, that doesn’t make it any easier to accept the difficulties I face in my present. I’m trying to remember that PNF perspective though. Even if at first it seems like I’m being held back or led away from where I want to be, it may actually be the opposite. I’m trying to stay strong in the face of adversity and trust that one day I will be grateful for even these painful times. I’m even trying to be grateful for them right now, even though I don’t yet know what they may lead to down the road. All I can do is keep moving forward and have faith that I’ll get to where I want to be one day, despite (or even because of) the struggles along the way.

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Moral Ambiguity

I have been reading Les Miserables for the last few days. I am incredibly shocked that I never knew it was a book as well as a play until now. I was really missing out. Anyway, I have just finished the chapters detailing Jean Valjean’s (Monsieur Madeleine’s) inner turmoil regarding the right thing to do in the case of his mistaken identity. It is truly a very interesting philosophical question. On the one hand, it seems clearly “right” to clear up the misunderstanding and spare this stranger a fate he does not deserve on your account. However, should Monsieur Madeleine give himself up as Jean Valjean, would not even more people be made to suffer as a result? After all he has practically created his own society. All within that society benefit from his presence and guidance. Not least of which, Fantine, who should surely die without ever seeing her child again if he goes to Arras and interfere with the trial.

This section of Les Miserables really highlights the complexities of morality. The “right” thing to do in life is quite often unclear. I can see why Monsieur Madeleine wrestled with this problem as he did. I still don’t really know what I believe the truly moral decision would be. If it were me (myself being nowhere as upright and honorable as Monsieur Madeleine) I would have allowed the trail to go on. I would have felt terribly guilty, but I would have also felt guilty if I would have decided to leave my community and poor Fantine in order to save a stranger whom by a terrible twist of fate was mistaken for me. In some ways, both decisions are moral. And in other ways both are selfish and unfair.

I am very interested to see how Monsieur’s decision to go to Arras works out in the end. Will his conscious be pacified? Or will he suffer with the consequences wrought on M- sur M- and Fantine? This painful reflection of life’s more difficult moral questions is undoubtably one of the reasons Les Miserables has earned it’s place among the great works of history.

One would hope that merely the resolve to be “good” would be enough. Yet we see that even that does not nullify all of problems laid before us. Sometimes there is no “right” answer. Sometimes no matter what decision you make, someone will be made to suffer because of it. Even the decision not to act can result in grave consequences as in this case.

What a complex, confusing, and often cruel world we live in. There is something truly incredible about seeing that so perfectly reflected in a novel. To be able to hold these heavy problems in your hands. To see the inner struggles of another and know that we are not alone in our own. To have such strong concern and sympathy produced for a fictional character. The written word is an awe-inspiring thing.

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Who Am I Really?

Years ago I stumbled upon the title of a book called The Untethered Soul. I don’t remember when I heard about it or why it interested me, but the other day as I was going through some of my old notes, I found it again. Even though I’m currently reading three different books, I decided to go ahead and look it up anyway. I’m so glad that I did.

This book wastes no time. It gets right down to the important questions. Who am I? I’m sure most of us are familiar with the quote by Walt Whitman, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes.” We all understand that feeling of have multiple sides of ourselves constantly fluctuating and shifting position and perspective. But which one of these various personalities is really us? Is it the first voice that makes a statement or the second voice that contradicts it?

Sometimes it’s nice to imagine that we are the culmination of the best of these voices. We are the voice that says loving, compassionate things. The voice that guides us to make “the right” decision. Yet the voice that says hateful, hurtful, ugly things, well that one isn’t us at all. For me however, I’ve felt the opposite for a lot of my life. I’ve felt that the negative voice is truly me, that the kinder voice is just a lie I tell myself, something I wish I was. It would be interesting to see how many other people identify with their internal voices in this way and how your perception of what voices are “really you” effects your life and relationships.

Regardless, The Untethered Soul, points out that we are missing something as we struggle to identify with one voice over the other. Who is listening to these voices? Who is it that is trying to decide which one is “really me”? That is us! We are the one who listens, the one who watches, the spectator, the witness, the awareness.

Even though I’ve heard this sentiment multiple times, the way it is explained and talked about in The Untethered Soul, has really reached me in a profound way. Even though it’s hard to even hold this idea in your head for very long before getting swept up in your internal monologue again, it is quite a relief to realize. I don’t have to feel so deeply attached to the things my mind is constantly babbling on about. I don’t have to get upset by what it says. I don’t have to feel guilty for a cruel thought, or self-righteous for a lofty one. I can just watch, an impartial, curious observer. These voices are not a reflection of who I am. I am something else entirely.

Keeping in mind that I had gained all of this from merely the first three chapters of the book, I am so excited to see what the rest of the pages contain. Even though I’ve just started reading, I can confidently say I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in these types of philosophical questions, or anyone looking for some respite from that pesky cacophony of voices.

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What is This Trying to Teach Me

In the most unlikely place, I was again confronted abruptly with the idea that perhaps our entire reality is being personally generated from within our own minds. Or I suppose, from within my own mind. As no one else would technically exist apart from me if this is in fact the case. I think the idea struck me so intensely just because of the way it seemed to come out of nowhere within an anime I was watching. I was completely caught off guard.

Even though it may seem like a waste of time to some to consider possibilities like this that can never really be proven, I can’t help but be captivated by the idea. As rational human beings we tend to only believe what our senses and our experiences tell us. We depend on our own perception of reality and believe that it must be accurate and all there is. But I know from my experiences with psychedelics that isn’t necessarily the case. There is so much more to this existence than we can even imagine.

In the end no one really understands existence. It is still a great mystery. Why are we here? What happens when we die? Where were we before we were born? All of these things will forever remain unanswered questions it seems. This is partially why the concept that I am creating this reality for myself is so fascinating to me. Not only does this explanation provide some comfort and sense of control, it also helps me find a sense of surrender.

If I am the one crafting this reality subconsciously, then every single moment, every single person, every single experience is significant. It is all here to teach me something. I can use it all to understand myself a little bit better. For some reason looking at life through this strange lens allows me to truly feel that connection between myself and everything that is. It makes sense of that oneness I’ve come to genuinely believe in. It makes me less afraid, more curious. What is it that each moment is trying to teach me?

Part of me has always felt that reality is mostly random. I never put much weight into “signs” or things that are “meant to be.” Even though I’ve had moments that felt that way, I’ve always convinced myself it was just a result of the human brain’s endless search for patterns and meaning. Now I’m not so sure. The older I get, the less I’m sure of anything. Despite all the times in the past when I was sure I knew it all, the world has continued to surprise me.

There is something exciting in the idea that every little detail of my day is filled with some hidden purpose and meaning. It helps me not feel so afraid. I am eager to analysis my every interaction. What is this moment trying to teach me? Why do I need to be feeling this right now? Why is this experience necessary? What am I trying to show myself?

The best part about looking at reality this way is that it seems beneficial even if you are entirely wrong in the end. It certainly can’t hurt to see the world as a part of yourself, to see yourself in others. It couldn’t hurt to try to learn something from everyone you meet, from everything that happens to you. It seems like a pretty good way to live your life to me. Who knows what it could lead to? I hope one day I find out.

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The Difference Between Complacency & Surrender

By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (1.33)

During my yoga teacher training, we spent a lot of time discussing yoga philosophy. I have come to believe that the study and practical application of the wisdom within ancient texts such as the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are perhaps even more important than the physical practice of asanas. I have no doubt that the adherence to these guiding principles would produce an idyllic life with the least amount of suffering. However, putting these teachings into practice is much easier said than done.

The sutra I quoted above is one that has been particularly challenging for me. I am fully on board right up until the words “disregard toward the wicked.” I feel a strong aversion to this idea in the pit of my stomach when I consider it. I am someone who has a strong sense of justice and can be quite inflexible in that regard.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

Edmund Burke

Multiple people have said to me, “you have the courage of your convictions.” This is something I’ve always taken pride in. It is hard for me not to speak out and take action against things that I view as wrong, even to my own detriment at times. I used to make myself sick, fighting with people about the moral obligation of veganism and exposing the insidious effects of religion on society. I could see that I wasn’t changing anyone’s mind. I was quite possibly just causing many to dig their heels in deeper. Yet I didn’t see any other option but to keep fighting. I felt each moment of silence was a moment of consent, of complacency.

I feel a well of indignation rise up within me whenever I am confronted with a situation or belief system I am morally opposed to. I have also been told by several people that I have a hard time “biting my tongue.” Something I am often embarrassed by.

Knowing this about me, you may better understand why I have agonized over accepting this particular sutra. What I’ve come to learn over the years is that there is a fine line between complacency and surrender. But there is still a difference. It is possible to accept something without agreeing with it, consenting to it, or supporting it. It is sometimes necessary to just allow, to surrender. Because there you will find peace. There you will find the clarity of mind to move forward in the most productive way. To stop shooting yourself in the foot with your outrage.

“Disregard toward the wicked” for me isn’t about simply ignoring the evils of our world. It’s about not letting that wickedness taint your heart. We mustn’t respond to these things with hardness and hatred. We must cultivate an indifference. An indifference that allows us to acknowledge all aspects of existence without judgement. In this way we can avoid inflicting unnecessary suffering upon ourselves and others. Creating more suffering does no one any good. It only serves to cloud your mind and heart. Ultimately hurting whatever cause you feel the need to fight for.

This doesn’t mean you have to surrender your ideals or your beliefs. It simply means surrendering to the fact that you can’t control this world. Accepting that. And carrying on. Returning your focus within, to the only place where you can make a true difference. In this way I have finally been able to find surrender without shame.

Ishmael

ISHMAEL An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit (Daniel Quinn) book | |  Modaville

A friend at work told me about a book called Ishmael by Daniel Quinn a while ago, and I’ve just gotten around to reading it finally. I honestly wish I had done it sooner. This has got to be one of the best things that I have read. It is comparable, in my opinion, with A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. I recommend them both highly.

Ishmael is the name of a gorilla. He is highly intelligent and is able to communicate with certain human beings. The majority of the 160 page book is a conversation, or perhaps a lesson would be a more accurate description, between Ishmael and a human he has taken on as his student.

This lesson is all about the idea of human exceptionalism and how it is quickly leading us to our own demise, along with the demise of the rest of the planet. While this book is technically a fictional story, I view it as almost a philosophy book. One that is written in a much more digestible and enjoying way than most. While the main points of the story are things I have believed for basically my entire life, there were still tons of fascinating perspectives and explanations of how things came to be the way they are now.

I won’t give any spoilers or go into too much detail about what is said in the book. However, if you’re at all curious, I encourage you to check it out. It is a very quick read, full of so many enthralling, profound ideas. I’ll leave a link to the free PDF I found of it online.

After finishing the book this morning, I am eager to read more from Daniel Quinn. Let me know if you’ve read this book or any of his other work. It isn’t often that I find a book so meaningful and important. I was so inspired and excited by it that I simply have to share it with as many people as I can. I hope that you’ll check it out and be moved to share it as well!

Contemplating Solipsism and Death

Yesterday I was exposed to the idea of solipsism. This is a philosophy that says only our own mind and subjective experience can be known. Everything outside of ourselves and our own consciousness cannot ever really be confirmed or verified as true and existing. Because of this concept, solipsism is unfalsifiable. It cannot be proven or disproven.

I have considered this perspective before but never knew it had a name. I can still remember my sister and I discussing this idea as young children. Teasing my mother, saying we couldn’t be sure she was real. She and I agreed that we believed in one another, but that everyone else’s existence was suspect. I never realized until now how intelligent we were at even such a young age.

I still find this idea quite fascinating and think about it often. I’ve heard some use this as an excuse to do whatever they please whether or not that causes harm to others. I never looked at it that way though. I think it falls in line with yogic philosophy in a way. We are all that exists, but everything that exists is us. We are one with the universe and all that is in it.

For some reason this topic makes me contemplate death as well. If we are all that exists, we can’t be sure that we will truly ever die. The world around us is made up of never-ending cycles in a lot of ways. Perhaps we are just the manifestation of yet another cycle. Perhaps life, existence will also continue on in a new cycle after death brings an ending to the current one. I find myself hoping that is the case quite often. I’m not really sure what difference it makes though. Both ceasing to exist and existing forever are frightening concepts.

Death wouldn’t seem much less terrifying to me even if reincarnation is correct. As far as I know, I wouldn’t retain any of my current memories in my next life. So in a sense it wouldn’t be me anymore. I suppose that’s the part I can never wrap my head around though. I guess the me I identify as isn’t my true essence ultimately. There is a me behind the me I know. The stillness behind my eyes that watches my thoughts as they come and go.

If that continues on forever and simply my ego dies with my physical body, I’m not sure if that is comforting or not. In the end I guess I’m just trying to find a way to overcome my fear of death. I’ve been thinking about death and dying a lot lately for some reason. I’d like to find a way to make peace with it. With my own death and the death of my loved ones. Both of which encroach further and further each day. Perhaps I’m just foolishly searching for a way to justify continuing to live in denial for a bit longer.