A Point of True

The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the subjective truth.

Tag: Mental Health

Dilated Reflections

In an altered state, people do different things. Some dance, some speak, some paint, and some ruminate. I write. Our mind is a web of synapses that trigger at random. These ‘murmurings’ could be signals from the subconscious, fears and dreams surfacing, or just plain misfires. Working out exactly what these are can take a combination of belief and awareness. The mind has funny ways. Here’s what mine did. 

Patterned Wallpaper

Photo by Armando Castillejos on Unsplash

Being head fucked constantly is a matter of perspective. It’s odd how the only way to overcome fear is through clarity and the only route to clarity is experience and to experience something you need to overcome fear so it’s not that odd really. The mind has funny ways, it can tire you out but only if you let it. And I’m starting to see the importance of a balance, of acknowledging enough to act on it without getting drawn into a self-indulgent whirlpool of thoughts. There is a clear demarcation between impulse and action. It is the prerogative or the disposition of the anxious to act on impulse. In fact, anxiety itself could be the fear of impulse, the fear of instantly acting on a whim.

Being in love with something and facing the absolute fear of losing it are equally powerful emotional sides of the same experience. The choice of which side to nurture is in your control and you’re best advised to pick the former. Everyone has choices. It’s the option you pick that ends up forming the tapestry of your life. And much like a tapestry or anything of beauty, flaws must exist with perfection, for perfection is made immortal by the presence of flaws, not their absence. While I’m constantly stressed out by ‘what if ‘and ‘what now’, the realization of what should now have been obvious is not lost on me. The ‘fear of being myself’ is tiring, perhaps borne out of the sense of frequent loss, perceived loss. The flipside, however, is the gratitude for the chance to experience the things you fear losing, things you were grateful to have. That gratitude and desire to experience can be liberating. It can be distressing too but that’s where an understanding of the self can play its part.

The navigation of every nook and cranny of your brain is not a goal and it is barely a notion. You can develop mastery over your approach and the choices you make, but never over all the chaos itself. Thinking from a place of ego is fraught with distress, an acute sense of self need not be sacrificed if you forsake pride. The very foundation of pride, after all, is narrative. And no narrative is realized without consumption. It must be told to subsist, reinforce itself through conversations, actualize itself through the devotion of its followers.

Self-deprecation, aggrandization, indulgence, or motivation are not that different. Each of these narratives can be real only if you let it be. You have to decide which one dominates. The author does not control the story, it’s in the perception of the story that his wiles transcend their existence as ‘tools of the trade’. Everyone has their own journey and it is important to recognize that. ‘Winning’ cannot be based on the notion of bettering someone else’s journey, it isn’t winning by virtue of being an imitation, a rendition, temporarily powerful or weak, of what already exists.

Learning new things, encountering fresh perspectives, and discovering the ways of being are integral parts of human life. There’s just so much to experience, But, where’s the rationale? Where do you stop? What is your anchor? My anchor is the belief that, left to your own devices, our state of mind is calm, aware, generous, and affectionate. Perhaps those are things that I am, perhaps they are things I wish to be. These musings are not the subject of this dialogue. The discomfort is.

A negative or positive mindset is firstly a matter of perception and secondly of disposition. Do you focus on the macro or the micro? In Auschwitz, for instance, efficiency would evoke very different connotations to what it does today. You have a choice to make. A decision about where you would like to be, and once that decision is made, a filter to work with. A lot of the distress you feel is the contrast between what you are like and what you (think you) should be like. That gap, that perceived difference, is what we find upsetting. What I am starting to see is that it’s not the consistency of circumstance that’s the goal, it’s the consistency of approach. People have different mindsets, different points of view. The comfort needs to be found in yourself.

It is funny how the fear is rarely of dying, but of living – living to the fullest, to the levels deep enough to hurt but light enough to waken. The fear isn’t of losing control, it’s of the reluctance to acknowledge control. It is in this surrender of your agency that primal systems get distressed. Our imagination is a personal landscape and requires tending to. It must be nurtured, acknowledged, and replenished. Sometimes, I feel like I don’t get enough of that, the stimulation of that level of debate. But small breaks change that. I like how experiences are accentuated by virtue of being punctuated.

It is important to stop thinking of life in terms of destinations, the purpose is what defines the journey. I feel odd sometimes, feel like this knowledge is commonplace or like everyone already knows all this, but that is a construct. Enlightenment or awareness, as we must call it, is a subject for the observed and not the observer. The notion of the ‘other’ might give us impressions but never insight. Much against my remonstrations, I have an insatiable thirst for philosophical inquiry. The reluctance to acknowledge this thirst is an antagonizer. For some reason, and perhaps this happens over time, we start, or I’ve started to fit into a template. It’s this need to stereotype, which is such a basic cog of human perception, that can act as both empowerer and crippler. The way to transcend this subversion is to acknowledge the vastness both within and without. We are but designed to ache for it, the experience.

Being able to articulate an imagination is all we have to offer for a larger consciousness. You cannot fully marvel at art without realizing how it feels to create art. Each of us sees things differently to the other, adding texture to this experience either by way of art i.e. the creation of something new or the addition of something to what already exists i.e perspective. The first realization is to acknowledge that what we’re observing is the manifestation of the internal environment. Assuming that being aware of your own space, your values, and what you think will make a difference is indulgent, so it’s an appreciation of what’s to come, of what you are creating constantly – that acceptance of specificity, neutrality and everything else in between – of embracing the desire of joint discovery that truly satiates the soul.

What are you made of?

It’s Wednesday. You’ve finished two days at your job. Conversations, work and the general humdrum rhythm of everyday life keep you occupied. Occasionally in moments of involuntary isolation, on a commute, in the washroom or within the first few minutes of reaching home, a thought crosses your mind.

Concrete landscape

Beyond building blocks and space

‘What am I doing with my life?’

 What you are doing at this point is reviewing the quality of your narrative, wondering if this would really make for a great story. If you have ever used a search engine, you know that the answer you want is almost entirely dependent on the question you ask. That, dear reader, is the point of this piece.

There must be more to this.

 What do I mean by ‘more’? How much ‘more’ and of what? What is ‘this’ anyway?

Our constant search for meaning can be frustrating, but it is what has kept this species moving along, this inherent drive to discover, create and exceed. To sate this need, we use relationships, science, religion work and anything else that might ease our need for understanding. We swap behaviours (“my resolution is…”), appearances (“a complete makeover sounds great!”), and schools of thought (“I used to be an atheist, but now I’m agnostic”).

Preoccupation and to some extent philosophical enquiry, however, are just ways to navigate the mire. And before you can traverse a journey, it may be important to ask what you’re working with. Perhaps the more pertinent question to ask is ‘what am I made of?’

 Flesh and bones or heart and soul, what exactly am I made of?

 Our sentience, power of agency and imagination differentiate us from other beings. You are not a self-fulfilling prophecy or a narrative seeking to reach a fruitful end. You are a person. A unique entity, made unique by conditioning, practice, memories, and imagination. Your senses are constantly at work analyzing your physical environment and your social context to create a picture of the world as you see it, your ‘reality’. Yes, physical limitations can change the way you explore aspects of your life, as can financial, social and emotional constraints, but that only adds to the uniqueness.

‘Nothing is impossible’, they said.

The social web has reduced fifteen minutes of fame to a microsecond spent on a small screen flying beneath an unsuspecting thumb, a phenomenon that hasn’t just warped our perception of success but magnified our capacity for comparison. This also instills in us some interesting conundrums. A moderately accurate understanding of ability is combined with a burning need to transcend our context.

If you’re still with me, pay close attention. Validation does not determine your relevance. Ambition does. A desire to understand yourself does. The intrinsic curiosity for life does. Know that not having an answer still means that you asked the question. Meaning isn’t linear, it’s the process of discovery. Being constantly connected has meant that our minds are in overdrive, having us fret over falling behind in a race we never signed up for, that we aren’t even running. There’s no need to run. Think about where you are just now, sat at home unwinding, traveling to meet a friend or taking a break at work. Take a moment and remember the last joke you told or heard or the last story that made you think. And now, take a deep breath, and ask yourself, ‘what am I made of?’

Leave an answer in the comments. I’d love to have a chat.

Fighting with inspiration

Insights. Audience insights. Stereotypes backed by retrofitted research.

“Heck, I don’t want to be a number, I’m a person.”

Man in jacket stargazing; looking for inspiration

Inspiration. Is it out there?

Guess what? You’re both. And when you combine the infinite (perceived) complexity and emotional spectrum of being a person with the drudgery of being a number, like capitalism seeks to do with resources (sometimes known as people), you end up with a very different beast. Enter the creative foot soldier. This is the ‘intrapreneur’ who thinks innovatively, raising the bar each day, engaging people ‘internal’ and ‘external’ alike, all with a smile.

Bosses, workloads, unemployment, marriage, singledom, weight, the future, the past, what you want to eat for dinner and not having any dinner to eat, each of these is an equally valid, prevalent, and qualified stressor. If any of these bother you, read on. If they don’t, please send me a recent photograph of you so I can build an altar to worship at.

Now that we’ve set context, let’s get to the point. Drudgery is a non-negotiable. It’s as intrinsic to the human condition as death and taxes. This can be quite difficult to tackle, especially for sentient beings with a cerebral cortex capable of fueling a rather fertile imagination.

‘Sometimes, I want to just give up, but I can’t. And that’s just difficult.’

Is there really a way out of the rat race? Will we ever find our purpose? Too frustrated with your current situation and too scared to try anything else – the Stockholm syndrome that binds you to your monotony. It can seem like the grass on the other side is just disappointment waiting to be trod on. Go online and you stumble upon thousands of stories of those who ‘made it’. Endless and seemingly scientific pontification about grit and luck peddling a story built in hindsight to a crowd hungry for meaning.

‘How will I ever get through this? Is this all there is?’

 I have an answer or at least I think I do. Inspiration. The problem, in my view, is in trying to stay ‘motivated’. Motivation, you see, is a stimulus, a precursor to an action, maybe a catalyst if ability and willingness are assumed. It can easily be suppressed by exhaustion, ridicule masquerading as jest (a rather common show of ‘affection’ in modern ‘friendships’) and a sudden change of plans or goals. Inspiration, however, is a process, one that creates an environment. It is a state of mind that with enough practice you can will yourself into, something a sportsperson might call ‘being in the zone’. This is a space where sentences seemingly string themselves together, people react favorably, your life starts to seem more productive and you start to seem, well, the limitations of language strike again, happy.

Inspiration (noun) – the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative
Motivation (noun) – A reason or reasons for acting or behaving in a certain way

The best part about inspiration is that it isn’t an end goal as much as it is a conduit to constant improvement. The order of greatness or inspiration isn’t a chicken-and-egg problem. An inspired mind does great things. Greatness doesn’t bring inspiration, but is accentuated by inspiration.

So how does any of this work? Simple. It is focus and repetition that make up the mastery of any practice, and inspiration is no different.

I’m not expecting you to waltz from depression into creative mania. Start small and start easy. You are not defined by what has happened to you but by what you’ll do with it. Look to begin your day with being thankful for what you have. If you don’t think you have much, thank yourself for your sanity. Thank yourself for the fact that you can read what’s been written here and derive meaning from a set of symbols on a screen. It’s not an ability you should take lightly.

Let the emptiness and pointlessness of what you’re feeling hit you like a truck, life’s best experienced that way. When you’re going to sleep and the noise within pushes you to open your eyes, don’t. For another five minutes, let it overwhelm you, feel every inch of your body and soul ache with the random chaos you’ve grown weary of. And then, use that base to build something. Wake up knowing that you will isolate your state of mind, your inspired state of mind, from your circumstances, because you really can’t control the latter.

The qualities you need to realise your vision for a successful life – attention, inspiration, strength and endurance – are finite. These also grow through practice, the benefits compounding over each of day of effort, a wall built brick by brick. Lay a brick down.

To you who wanted to say something in that meeting today but didn’t

To you who actually quite likes your job, but won’t say so for fear of standing out

To you who doesn’t like starting sentences with ‘here’s my idea’ or ‘I’m good at’

To you who wakes up wondering ‘really? Is this it?’

Keep fighting. Stay inspired.

It really is the truest statement of anarchy against an increasingly dystopian world narrative.

The unbearable virtue of cleaning

The uncluttered comes to a head

The uncluttered comes to a head

The mind has a funny way of racing at the quietest of times. It’s almost some sort of thermodynamic balance between the internal and the external. It is in these moments that I’ve told myself to focus on a hobby, something that you do for the sake of doing something and perhaps, in some cases, even to the point of mastery.

Food is one area I’d found solace in – both cooking and eating. Creating food can be quite a rewarding experience, especially for the pedantic. For years, the solace of creating an elaborate meal helped immerse the mind. The absence of a kitchen in my current digs has put paid to that option.

There we are then. Under the sheets wanting to make more of ‘quality leisure’, especially now having read about the benefits of focused recreation. ‘It rehabilitates the mind’ (excellent!), ‘invigorates the soul’ (serious?), and ‘supercharges creativity’ (where do I sign up?).

The desire to do everything and the motivation to do nothing can, however, throw up a fair few obstacles. If you’ve ever been there, you’ll associate with the glorious daydreams of success and the catatonic stupor even the thought of getting yourself some water could induce. And then, looking around, you come to a point. Not quite a halt, but not quite a path you associate with continuity or discovery.

That’s when it happened. ‘Why don’t you clean?’ (this is internal dialogue, please be rest assured that there are more poignant moments, it’s in my best interest to believe that). But cleaning? Surely there’s a better alternative. Cleaning is ephemeral, repetitive, time-consuming and requires focus to do well, hardly the sort of vision for your afternoon that drives the mind to sensorial overload. ‘Isn’t that exactly what you need?’ (see, I told you we could be poignant).

I stick on a podcast (This American Life, great soundtrack for catatonic stupor) and begin to clean. First, the bin bags that reveal the oddness of every object you’ve interacted with during the week, a repository of the residue your life is leaving behind. Bin bags all done, I move to the dreaded Level 2 – clothes. ‘Should I fold this like the laundry does or just go with the sideways fold?’ Mildly disturbed that this discourse is even taking place, I proceed to just take a call and grab life by the proverbial danglers. One folding style for the shirts and the casual, more home-baked approach for the bottoms. Eclectic!

Halfway through I start to feel more productive. It helps that the room looks a lot less cluttered and, over time, I’ve realized that this always has a knock-on effect on the mind. I was speaking to a friend a couple of weeks ago. This was the kind of friend who would categorize Sisyphean conundrums as ‘chat’. Discussing the monotony that comes with adult life in the capitalist world, he proceeded to reference the Gita. “Sometimes you just do things for the virtue of doing them. Not everything will have an end.”

That’s what cleaning means to me. Simple, transitory, immersive and rewarding. Our minds are still in the process of being understood – biochemical, intuitive, emotional and rational in equal measure. There’s little we can do but do something.  Do something for the virtue of doing it, the unbearable virtue of conscious monotony. Something for the virtue of having life in your veins and a soul thriving on the possibility of an intriguing construct.

So, get out from under the sheets, go fold a shirt, straighten out some books, and do it without an end in sight.

I’d say more, but those clothes aren’t going to sort themselves.

P.S. For those of you who can’t contain your curiosity, I chose to go with the laundry-style fold. 

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