Lessons From Books: The Wisdom Of Insecurity

The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety is a book by Alan Watts, which tackles psychological security. This topic is even more important than ever before with how quickly our world is changing and evolving. This can cause an increase in anxiety as we find ourselves to be insecure. Watts argues that this is just the reality of life. It is not in finding security, but in acceptance, where we might find salvation from anxiety and insecurity.

Lessons:

Two Kinds of Anxiety

On the one hand, there is the anxiety that one may be missing something, so that the mind flits nervously and greedily from one pleasure to another, without finding rest and satisfaction in any. On the other, the frustration of having always to pursue a future good in a tomorrow which never comes, and in a world where everything must disintegrate, gives men an attitude of “What’s the use anyhow?”

Both these anxieties cheapen the present experience. We are constantly jumping from one pleasure to the next, trying to fill our pleasure quota, hence not appreciating each individual pleasure or we are ignoring the goodness in the present because we think our future will bring us even greater pleasure. This comparison with the future boon then makes it impossible for the present worthwhile.

Both these anxieties leave us unsatisfied.

We crave distraction—a panorama of sights, sounds, thrills, and titillations into which as much as possible must be crowded in the shortest possible time. 

The Dichotomy of Pain & Pleasure

If we are to have intense pleasures, we must also be liable to intense pains. The pleasure we love, and the pain we hate, but it seems impossible to have the former without the latter. Indeed, it looks as if the two must in some way alternate, for continuous pleasure is a stimulus that must either pall or be increased. And the increase will either harden the sense buds with its friction, or turn into pain. A consistent diet of rich food either destroys the appetite or makes one sick. 

If then we are to be fully human and fully alive and aware, we must suffer for our pleasures. Without such willingness, there can be no growth in the intensity of consciousness.

Pain and pleasure are related to one another. In order to have the highest sense of pleasure, we have to be open to the highest sense of pain. For example, often the highest form of pleasure comes after something we have poured our heart and soul into achieving. However, the pain related to the failure of such a venture is also extreme. But, if we have suffered enough disappointments and failures in life, then we lower our hopes and goals and with it, we lower our potential pleasure and pain feedback. However, this is then dimming the experience of life. In order to fully and vividly experience life, we have to accept the possibility of the highest form of pain, so its equal pleasure is also available to us. 

Why It’s Hard To Be Happy

The real problem does not come from any momentary sensitivity to pain, but from our marvellous powers of memory and foresight—in short from our consciousness of time. For the animal to be happy it is enough that this moment be enjoyable. But man is hardly satisfied with this at all. He is much more concerned to have enjoyable memories and expectations—especially the latter. 

Again, it is our sense of past and future that can make it difficult to be happy. Our past disappointments and failures haunt us and follow our present actions. Once more, our present goals suffer because of the memory of pain attached to us. Likewise, our sense of the future makes us always look forward to the next thing. The next goal. The next moment of pleasure or happiness makes it difficult to be happy in the present. 

This, then, is the human problem: there is a price to be paid for every increase in consciousness. We cannot be more sensitive to pleasure without being more sensitive to pain. By remembering the past we can plan for the future. But the ability to plan for pleasure is offset by the “ability” to dread pain and to fear the unknown. Furthermore, the growth of an acute sense of the past and the future gives us a correspondingly dim sense of the present. 

What to do then? Often, to make progress in life, we have to sacrifice pleasures in the present moment for some future gain. However, it is the quality of the pleasure we sacrifice and the type of pleasure we hope to gain which matters most. Cheap pleasures like immediate satisfaction can cause one to fall into the previously mentioned trap of seeking one pleasure after the next. So, sacrificing cheap pleasures in order to satisfy a larger pleasure makes sense. But again, to chase a larger pleasure also means to open yourself up to a larger pain. Future happiness can be trap. A constant run where the goal line keeps moving with each stride you take.

To pursue it (the future) is to pursue a constantly retreating phantom, and the faster you share it, the faster it runs ahead. This is why all the affairs of civilization are rushed, why hardly anyone enjoys what he has, and is forever seeking more and more. Happiness, then, will consist, not of solid and substantial realities, but of such abstract and superficial things as promises, hopes, and assurances. 

Awareness is one way to appreciate the present moment and, with it, happiness. 

Working rightly, the brain is the highest form of “instinctual wisdom.” Thus it should work like the homing instinct of pigeons and the formation of the foetus in the womb—without verbalizing the process or knowing “how” it does it. The self-conscious brain, like the self-conscious heart, is a disorder, and manifests itself in the actor feeling of separation between “I” and my experience. The brain can only assume its proper behaviour when consciousness is doing what it is desired for: not writhing and whirling to get out of present experience, but being effortlessly aware of it. 

Listen To The Body

[…] we have been taught to neglect, despise, and violate our bodies, and to put all faith in our brains. Indeed, the special disease of civilized man might be described as a block or schism between his brain (specially, the cortex) and the rest of his body […] we have allowed brain thinking to develop and dominate your lives out of all proportion to “instinctual wisdom,” which we are allowing to slump into atrophy. As a consequence, we are at war within ourselves—the brain desiring things which the body does not want, and the body desiring things which the brain does not allow; the brain giving directions which the body will not follow, and the body giving impulses which the brain cannot understand. 

Our body often craves simple and necessary pleasures. The body wishes to move, to feel, to exercise its senses. It is made to explore and experience life. But our brain can fill our mind with more wants and needs than necessary. It can make us lazy when our body desires to exercise. It can make us gorge on food when our body has already had enough. It can make us overlook the simple, everyday pleasures of life when our body simply wishes to take in the sunlight, or feel the wind as we go for a pleasant walk. 

Human desire tends to be insatiable. We are so anxious for pleasure that we can never get enough of it. We stimulate our sense organs until they become insensitive, so that if pleasure is to continue they must have stronger and stronger stimulants. In self dense the body gets ill from the strain, but the brains wants to go on and on.

Because we are always looking for greater pleasure, the smaller, mere regular pleasure goes unnoticed. The instinct to live in the present is ignored. 

But to be used rightly it (brain) must be put in its place, for the brain is made for man, not man for his brain. In other words, the function of the brain is to serve the present and the real, not to send man chasing wildly after the phantom of the future. 

Awareness Without Judgement

To be aware of life, of experience as it is at this moment, without any judgement or ideas about it. In other words, You have to see and feel what you’re experiencing as it is, and not as it is named. This very simple “opening of the yes” brings about the most extraordinary transformation of understanding and living, and shows that many of our most baffling problems are pure illusions.

Instead of seeking something, what we might actually need is to let go and be aware of what is happening to us and around us. And do it in a way where we don’t bring our past judgements and baggage with us. 

The truth is revealed by removing things that stand in its light, an art not unlike sculpture, in which the artist creates, not by building, but by hacking away. 

This is what it means to be present in the moment. To allow the experience of the now to wash over you without trying to dissect it, analyze it, or make sense of it. 

To understand music, you must listen to it. But so long as you are thinking, “I am listening to this music,” you are not listening. To understand joy or fear, you must be wholly and undivided aware of it. So long as you are calling it names and saying, “I am happy,” or “I am afraid,” you’re not being aware of it. Fear, pain, sorrow, and boredom must remain problems if we do not understand them, but understanding requires a single and undivided mind. This, surely, is the meaning of that strange saying, “If thine eye be single, they whole body shall be full of light.” 

Art of Living

The art of living in this “predicament” is neither careless drifting on the one hand nor fearful clinging to the past and the known on the other. It consists in being completely sensitive to each moment, in regarding it as utterly new and unique, in having the mind open and wholly receptive. 

The art of living also requires an acceptance of change. Everything, including us, is in a state of flux. By accepting this, you aren’t married to one single idea about life or about yourself. You allow yourself to be flexible and adapt as the world, and yourself, change. 

Struggle as we may, “fixing” will never make sense out of change. The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance. 

Often, the beauty of life is in the fact that everything is dying. That the present moment will soon become the past. This phase in life will soon be over. This pleasure you are feeling will soon end. When you know everything is changing and hence, dying, you come to appreciate the momentarily understanding that you gain. 

The truth is rather that the images, though beautiful in themselves, come to life in the act of vanishing. 

Silence

We must repeat: memory, thought, language, and logic are essential to human life. They are one half of sanity. But a person, a society which is only half sane is insane. To look at life without words is not to lose the ability to form words—to think, remember, and plan. To be silent is not to lose your tongue. On the contrary, it is only thought silence that one can discover something new to talk about. One who talked incessantly, without stopping to look and listen, would repeat himself ad nauseam.

Lessons From Books: Letters To A Young Poet

Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke is a collection of ten letters that encompass Rilke’s thoughts on how a poet should feel, love, and seek the truth. Rilke was a renowned poet and novelist known for his lyrical style of prose. These letters further cover how Rilke felt about life, how he viewed hardship and struggle, joy and happiness, and the importance of positive thinking and solitude.

Lessons:

Creating Helpful Thoughts

And your doubts can become a good quality if you school them. They must grow to be knowledgeable, they must learn to be critical. As soon as they begin to spoil something for you ask them why a thing is ugly, demand hard evidence, test them, and you will perhaps find them at a loss and short of an answer, or perhaps mutinous. But do not give in, request arguments, and act with this kind of attentiveness and consistency every single time, and the day will come when instead of being demolishers they will be among your best workers – perhaps the canniest of all those at work on the building of your life.

Thoughts can be debilitating. They can riddle your mind with doubts and stop you from taking action. They can change a happy, positive situation into a negative one. They can suck away the joy of life by constantly pointing out how things can go wrong, what you should have done, and how you’re wrong about everything. Worse of all, you are stuck with your thoughts. Thoughts accompany you from birth until death. 

Therefore, what Rilke suggests is poignant and important. 

You don’t want to be in a constant battle with your thoughts for the rest of your life. Ideally, you want your thoughts to be aligned with your beliefs and wants and to act in a way that they empower you. Rilke suggests critical thinking in order to gain this benefit. When a negative thought arises, or a thought filled with doubt, guilt, or shame, pick at it, poke holes in its logic, make it work, and justify its position. Don’t simply accept that thought as the truth. In some ways, you have to wrestle with your thoughts and eventually submit them to your will, so they become loyal. 

Love Your Fate

I might be able to say about your tendency towards self-doubt or your inability to reconcile your inner and outer life, or about anything else that assails you – it all comes down to what I have said before: the same desire that you might find enough patience in you to endure, and simplicity enough to have faith; that you might gain more and more trust in what is hard and in your own loneliness among other people. And otherwise let life take its course. Believe me: life is right, whatever happens.

Each life is unique. Each individual has their own challenges in life, which they must either overcome, adapt, or accept. The acceptance of one’s hardships is vital. Instead of viewing bad luck or struggle in a negative light, it can help to see the pleasure in it, to find love in that hardship through the realization that this makes your life different. This makes your life solely your own.

Solutions and adaptation often come after acceptance. If you’re in denial of something, it is unlikely you will be in the correct mindset to improve your current condition. But, once you accept your fate and perhaps even love it, then you’re ready for the next step.

Reflect On Your Sadness

The only sorrows which are harmful and bad are those one takes among people in order to drown them out. Like diseases which are treated superficially and inexpertly, they only abate, and after a short pause break out again with more terrible force, and accumulate inside and are life, unlived, rejected, lost life – from which we can die. If it were possible for us to see further than our knowledge reaches, and a little beyond the outworks of our intuitions, perhaps we should then bear our sadnesses with greater assurance than our joys. For they are the moments when something new enters into us, something unknown to us; our feelings, shy and inhibited, fall silent, everything in us withdraws, a stillness settles on us, and at the centre of it is the new presence that nobody yet knows, making no sound.

When you ignore and disregard your sorrow, it often festers inside you and shows up later in life to cause more harm than it would have done if it was acknowledged on time. Sadness can be viewed as an important event in your life. Joy passes quickly. It arises and disappears as the joyful moment passes. It is as if human beings aren’t meant to live in joyful moments. While sadness sticks around. Years later, that sad moment feels as heavy as it did when it first happened. The reason for this is that sadness changes an individual. Sadness alters how you think, how you act, who you trust, your likes and dislikes, and much more. So, it’s important when a sad event occurs to seek solitude so you can reflect on the coming changes and see what kind of individual you are morphing into. 

What is new in us, the thing that has supervened, has entered into our heart, penetrated to its innermost chamber and not lingered even there – it is already in our blood. And we never quite know what it was. One might easily suppose that nothing had happened, but we have altered the way a house alters when a guest enters it. We cannot say who has come, perhaps we shall never know, but there are many indications that it is the future that enters into us like this, in order to be transformed within us, long before it actually occurs. And that is why it is so important to be solitary and attentive when one is sad: because the apparently uneventful and static moment when our future comes upon us is so much closer to life than that other noisy and accidental point when it happens to us as if from the outside.

Embrace Hardship and Difficulty

People have tended (with the help of conventions) to resolve everything in the direction of easiness, of the light, and on the lightest side of the light; but it is clear that we must hold to the heavy, the difficult. All living things do this, everything in nature grows and defends itself according to its kind and is a distinct creature from out of its own resources, strives to be so at any cost and in the face of all resistance. We know little, but that we must hold fast to what is difficult is a certainty that will never forsake us. It is good to be alone, for solitude is difficult; that something is difficult should be one more reason to do it.

This is a simple matter of human nature. We like pleasure and dislike pain. This concept then becomes that we like what makes us comfortable and dislike what makes us uncomfortable. However, comfort and pleasure result in minimal growth. Humans need a reason, hardship, or difficulty to fight against in order to grow as an individual. 

But difficult things are what we were set to do, almost everything serious is difficult, and everything is serious.

So, the avoidance of pain and struggle causes us to plateau and even regress. Once the mindset shifts to the acceptance of becoming a better version of yourself, then hardship and difficulty become allies in this venture of self-improvement.

And if we only organize our life according to the principle which teaches us always to hold to what is difficult, then what now still appears most foreign will become our most intimate and most reliable experience. How can we forget those ancient myths found at the beginnings of all peoples? The myths about the dragons who at the last moment turn into princesses? Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses, only waiting for the day when they will see us handsome and brave? Perhaps everything terrifying is deep down a helpless thing that needs our help.

Importance Of Solitude

Think, dear Mr Kappus, of the world that you carry within you, and call this thinking whatever you like. Whether it is memory of your own childhood or longing for your own future – just be attentive towards what rises up inside you, and place it above everything that you notice round about. What goes on in your innermost being is worth all your love, this is what you must work on however you can and not waste too much time and too much energy on clarifying your attitude to other people.

As we grow older, it becomes more difficult to hear the voice inside of us. The busyness of everyday life doesn’t allow for moments of peace. In doing so, we lose touch with what we truly want and need. We follow the herd, a mass of nameless faces all headed one way, and believe that they must be going the right way and doing the right things. But because you don’t truly know yourself, you can easily end up living a life that you did not want. 

The first step in understanding your own wants and needs is to hear your own voice. This, according to Rilke, comes through the necessity of solitude. To sit alone with your thoughts, meditate, and go on long walks by yourself. These activities connect you with your inner voice. They help you shovel away all the random mess in your head and help you rediscover that child-like voice inside whose needs and wants you’ve been ignoring. 

Take pleasure in your growth, in which no one can accompany you, and be kind-hearted towards those you leave behind, and be assured and gentle with them and do not plague them with your doubts or frighten them with your confidence or your joyfulness, which they cannot understand. Look for some kind of simple and loyal way of being together with them which does not necessarily have to alter however much you may change; love in them a form of life different from your own and show understanding for the older ones who fear precisely the solitude in which you trust. Avoid providing material for the drama which always spans between parents and their children; it saps much of the children’s strength and consumes that parental love which works and warms even when it does not comprehend. Ask no advice of them and reckon with no understanding; but believe in a love which is stored up for you like an inheritance, and trust that in this love there is a strength and a benediction out of whose sphere you do not need to issue even if your journey is a long one.

Find The Beauty Around You

No, there is not more beauty here than elsewhere, and all these objects which generation after generation have continued to admire, which inexpert hands have mended and restored, they mean nothing, are nothing and have no heart and no value; but there is a great deal of beauty here, because there is beauty everywhere. Infinitely lively waters go over the old aqueducts into the city and on the many squares dance over bowls of white stone and fill broad capacious basins and murmur all day and raise their murmur into the night, which is vast and starry and soft with winds. And there are gardens here, unforgettable avenues and flights of steps, steps conceived by Michelangelo, steps built to resemble cascades of flowing water – giving birth to step after broad step like wave after wave as they descend the incline. With the help of such impressions you regain your composure, win your way back out of the demands of the talking and chattering multitude (how voluble it is!), and you slowly learn to recognize the very few things in which something everlasting can be felt, something you can love, something solitary in which you can take part in silence.

The real beauty for Rilke was in the everyday things, not some specific statue or monument deemed beautiful by others that you’ll have to travel hundreds of miles and pay thousands of dollars to see. Often these sights are pleasurable at the moment but the further you get away from that moment, the less you remember and the less beautiful they seem until you find yourself flipping through old pictures and see yourself beside a monument or painting and remember, yes you had been there once upon a time. Such beauty is not real. 

What is real is the appreciation of life around you at this very moment. To consciously look for beauty in the everyday life because it’s these moments, the breakfasts, lunch, and dinners, the drives to work, the drives back, moments spent with family and friends, going to local restaurants, and parks and so on. It’s these moments that make up your life and if you wish to live a life filled with beauty and wonder, it is in these moments one needs to find it and appreciate it. 

If you have this love for what is slight, and quite unassumingly, as a servant, seek to win the confidence of what seems poor – then everything will grow easier, more unified and somehow more conciliatory, not perhaps in the intellect, which, amazed, remains a step behind, but in your deepest consciousness, watchfulness and knowledge.

How To Live Like An Artist

Only love can grasp them and hold them and do them justice – With regard to any such disquisition, review or introduction, trust yourself and your instincts; even if you go wrong in your judgement, the natural growth of your inner life will gradually, over time, lead you to other insights. Allow your verdicts their own quiet untroubled development which like all progress must come from deep within and cannot be forced or accelerated. Everything must be carried to term before it is born. To let every impression and the germ of every feeling come to completion inside, in the dark, in the unsayable, the unconscious, in what is unattainable to one’s own intellect, and to wait with deep humility and patience for the hour when a new clarity is delivered: that alone is to live as an artist, in the understanding and in one’s creative work.

Being an artist requires you to trust your own judgement and intuition. To give light to your own thoughts and opinions and allow those thoughts to carry on until they are completed. This will result in many failures and few successes, but each failure and success comes with further insight into who you are, what you need, and what you believe in. The more insight you gain about yourself, the better your expression of art becomes. As art is often self-expression.

On Being A Writer

“You ask whether your verses are good. You ask me that. You have asked others, before. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you worry when certain editors turn your efforts down. Now (since you have allowed me to offer you advice) let me ask you to give up all that. You are looking to the outside, and that above all you should not be doing now. Nobody can advise you and help you, nobody. There is only one way. Go into yourself. Examine the reason that bids you to write; check whether it reaches its roots into the deepest region of your heart, admit to yourself whether you would die if it should be denied you to write. This above all: ask yourself in your night’s quietest hour: must I write? Dig down into yourself for a deep answer. And if it should be affirmative, if it is given to you to respond to this serious question with a loud and simple ‘I must’, then construct your life according to this necessity; your life right into its most inconsequential and slightest hour must become a sign and witness of this urge. Then approach nature. Then try, like the first human being, to say what you see and experience and love and lose. Don’t write love poems; avoid at first those forms which are too familiar and habitual: they are the hardest, for you need great maturity and strength to produce something of your own in a domain where good and sometimes brilliant examples have been handed down to us in abundance. For this reason, flee general subjects and take refuge in those offered by your own day-to-day life; depict your sadnesses and desires, passing thoughts and faith in some kind of beauty – depict all this with intense, quiet, humble sincerity and make use of whatever you find about you to express yourself, the images from your dreams and the things in your memory. If your everyday life seems to lack material, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to summon up its riches, for there is no lack for him who creates and no poor, trivial place. And even if you were in a prison whose walls did not let any of the sounds of the world outside reach your senses – would you not have your childhood still, this marvellous, lavish source, this treasure-house of memories? Turn your attention towards that. Attempt to raise the sunken sensations of this distant past; your self will become the stronger for it, your loneliness will open up and become a twilit dwelling in which the noise other people make is only heard far off. And if from this turn inwards, from this submersion in your own world, there come verses, then it will not occur to you to ask anyone whether they are good verses.”

Stoic Lessons: Anticipate Negativity 

Say to yourself first thing in the morning: today I shall meet people who are meddling, ungrateful, aggressive, treacherous, malicious, unsocial. All this has afflicted them through their ignorance of true good and evil. But I have seen that the nature of good is what is right, and nature of evil what is wrong; and I have reflected that the nature of the nature of the offender himself is akin to my own — not a kinship of blood or seed, but a sharing in the same mind, the same fragility of divinity. Therefore I cannot be harmed by any of them, as none if infect me with their wrong. Nor can I be angry with my kinsman or hate them. We were born for cooperation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of upper and lower teeth. So to work in opposition to one another is against nature; and anger or rejection is opposition. (Marcus Aurelius)

By meditating on what potentially might happen during the day you can take the emotional element out of the occurrence. Because you anticipated it happening, it is easier to detach from the situation and not respond with your initial reaction. Instead, you get to respond with the meditated attitude which Marcus Aurelius suggests should not have any venom or hate in it.

Just as you may plan for potential problems with some project or goal you are working on, it is a good idea to plan the kind of day you want to have and then pinpoint problems that may arise so you can either avoid them completely or have a better mindset to navigate them.  

The meditation exercise should include the kinship aspect. We might be born under different circumstances and environments, but certain emotions and feelings are universal. If you take a moment to empathize with the supposed offender, you can see where they are coming from because you can place yourself in their shoes and know that you might have the same reaction as them. Once you humanize someone, it is much easier to forgive them or look past their shortcomings.

Keep the actual hate or anger for what opposes nature. Don’t waste it on pettiness or reactive emotions. Save it for the wicked and the truly disgraceful aspects of life and human nature. You want to keep the right emotions for the right situations.

Lastly, the point of cooperation. It is Marcus Aurelius’ belief that we are put on this planet to work together. Cooperation is part of nature and if you go against nature you are doing something evil. So, then it becomes an exercise of virtue and goodness navigating people that might not mesh with you right away. It is a mindset shift. Instead of hating, you are actively looking for ways to cooperate, to find a common ground, and build relationships because that is what nature intended. 

Lessons From Books: The Prophet

A hero’s journey has three parts. The journey starts with the call to action, where the hero leaves his known world and ventures into the unknown. The second phase is the adventure itself, which is full of trials and tribulations that result in inner growth and often with external reward. Last, the return home, the hero returns and shares his insight, new found knowledge, and his boon with his people. In The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, we find the central figure, Almustafa, The Chosen and The Beloved, about to start the last step of the hero’s journey and return to his isle of his birth. Before he departs, he shares the insight he has gained living in the city of Orphalese over the past twelve years. 

On Love

And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him.

You don’t possess love but rather you follow it. When you give yourself up to love, you get both the highs and the lows. The highs of feeling loved, of loving someone, of carrying love within, but because you are so committed and vulnerable if that love leaves you or it diminishes over time, you feel heartache and sorrow which leaves you wounded. But you can’t have one without the other. You can’t truly feel love if you’re shielding yourself from the possible wound that may come with it. In a way, you know you’re in love if you’re willing to take on the potential pain that may come.

For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. 

Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.

Love requires a letting go. It requires trust. It requires obedience, so even when you’re hurt by it, next time you encounter it, you follow it anyway because life is more vivid if you experience it with love.

If you want love’s light, then you need to accept its shadow as well.

But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure,

Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor,

Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.

And ultimately, you have to love for the sake of love itself. To live with that feeling inside of you. It’s a choice that you must make.

Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;

For love is sufficient unto love.

On Marriage

The point of marriage is to nurture each other to become the best versions of yourselves. It is not to take from the other to fill some hole inside of you and vice versa. When you come together, you don’t become one, but rather, you stand apart, as individuals, who help the other share the burden of life and with it, help with the maturation of the individual. 

Love one another, but make not a bond of love:

Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.

Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.

Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.

Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,

Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.

For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.

And stand together yet not too near together:

For the pillars of the temple stand apart,

And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.

To be married means to become two capable individuals. Not two people who need each other to become capable. Each has to create a solid foundation for themselves. Two people can share one foundation. In a marriage, you help the other in strengthening their foundation, but don’t take from the other to strengthen your own. 

On Children

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

Your children don’t belong to you. They belong to life. Your duty is to raise them for life. They are individuals, separate from you. With their own identity, likes and dislikes, passions and beliefs which may contradict with you but that is okay because they have to be themselves and not a version of you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.”

Nurture the individual, don’t try to mold them. You are to provide your child with stability and allow him/her to leave that stability behind and go seek, find and create their own stability. Don’t burden your child with your own hopes and dreams, rather let them find their own and then guide them towards fulfilling them.

On Giving

You often say, “I would give, but only to the deserving.”
The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture.


Who are you to judge who earns your giving? You take from nature, nature doesn’t judge you. You are truly selfless if you can separate your judgement from your giving.

On Working

For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons, and to step out of life’s procession, that marches in majesty and proud submission towards the infinite.

Life is about working. It is about moving, changing, progressing, acting. Everything on this planet is in motion and working. It is natural to work. All animals work. So dreaming about retirement, to be idle and passive is to go against nature. At the same time, you’re not obligated to work every day but you must have something to work towards. 

And in keeping yourself with labour you are in truth loving life,
And to love life through labour is to be intimate with life’s inmost secret.

To work is the dream. Hopefully, that attitude can apply to your career, but if not, then towards your hobbies and interests, towards your family life, your community, and society. Working always to build something better.

What It Means To Work With Love

And what is it to work with love?
It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart, even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.
It is to build a house with affection, even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house.
It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy, even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit.
It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit,
And to know that all the blessed dead are standing about you and watching.”

On Joy and Sorrow

Joy and sorrow go hand in hand. The more you open yourself up to one, the more you open yourself up to the other.

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

The duality of life. Often if you want to experience the highest joy, you have to open yourself up to the highest sorrow. Chasing your dream will bring you great pleasure, but failing to achieve it will leave you full of disappointment and pain. Being in love will feel better than anything, but losing love will cause sorrow unimaginable.

On Crime and Punishment

Oftentimes have I heard you speak of one who commits a wrong as though he were not one of you, but a stranger unto you and an intruder upon your world.
But I say that even as the holy and the righteous cannot rise beyond the highest which is in each one of you,
So the wicked and the weak cannot fall lower than the lowest which is in you also.

Each individual is capable of the highest virtue and lowest vice. If another man does something heinous, understand that you could have done that too. You are not special. In different circumstances and environments, you would have been that individual who commits evil. You are not above evil. Observe and learn from your fellow man. 

So the wrong-doer cannot do wrong without the hidden will of you all.

Don’t just condemn the bad action. See why it took place. You are not trying to justify the bad but rather, seeing how it could have been avoided. 

And that the corner-stone of the temple is not higher than the lowest stone in its foundation.

On Pain

Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.

Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.

Pain is associated with understanding. You feel pain when you think you understand something, but it turns out you are wrong. Although that causes pain, through it you gain a new understanding. So, pain isn’t something that should be avoided at all costs. It is a part of your progression. It is painful to have your ideas, viewpoints, relationships, dreams, habits, and beliefs challenged and even proven wrong. But through this pain, you make new ideas, viewpoints, relationships, dreams, habits, and beliefs which stand on sturdier foundations.

And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.

View pain like this and you know it shall pass. As the season’s turn, your pain will change. But also remember, joy follows this pattern too. So on joyful occasions, understand that it will pass and pains downpour will come. So, while you are in the moment, enjoy it. Both things are part of life and both things will not last. 

Much of your pain is self-chosen.

Only things you care about cause you pain. So, be careful about the things you care about. Ask yourself, are you willing to experience pain on its behalf? 

On Self Knowledge

Say not, “I have found the truth,” but rather, “I have found a truth.”

Much of life is about finding your way of life. The truth that works for you. Not universal truth, but a truth to satisfy your soul, your being. Your methods of living will not satisfy other people. Other people’s methods will not satisfy you. The sooner you understand that, the better. Otherwise, you may spend a lot of your precious time living someone else’s truth or trying to convince others to live your truth. 

On Friendship 

And let your best be for your friend.

If he must know the ebb of your tide, let him know its flood also.

For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill?

Seek him always with hours to live.

For it is his to fill your need, but not your emptiness.

And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures.

For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.

On Good And Evil 

You are good when you are one with yourself.

Don’t lie to yourself.

You are good when you strive to give of yourself.

Help others.

You are good when you are fully awake in your speech,

Don’t lie to others.

You are good when you walk to your goal firmly and with bold steps.

Have an aim.


You are good in countless ways, and you are not evil when you are not good,

You are only loitering and sluggard.

Good can also become evil through desperation. This is an important reminder. You never know what you are capable of until you are pushed to your limits. People are rarely evil from birth. It is often circumstances and their environment that cause them to do evil. Don’t just judge people who have done bad things, but try to see why they did it so you can know what you might be capable of doing and how to stop yourself from getting to that point. 

Of the good in you I can speak, but not of the evil.
For what is evil but good tortured by its own hunger and thirst?
Verily when good is hungry it seeks food even in dark caves, and when it thirsts it drinks even of dead waters.

Self Perspective 

You have been told that, even like a chain, you are as weak as your weakest link.

This is but half the truth. You are also as strong as your strongest link.

To measure you by your smallest deed is to reckon the power of ocean by the frailty of its foam.

To judge you by your failures is to cast blame upon the seasons for their inconstancy.

Don’t harp on the negative, on the failures, or disappointments. Those things easily stand out and focusing on them too much can cause you to develop a negative self-image. The weak links of your actions can make you think you are weak too. Life is full of weak moments but it is also full of strong ones as well. Remember, you have achieved things, no matter how minute they may seem, but anything that required effort, hard work, discipline to achieve is something to be proud of. Cookie Jar. Those achievements are the strong links and focusing on them lets you know you are strong as well and that you can achieve other things that require strength. 

Lessons From Books: Walden

Henry David Thoreau famously encapsulated two years of his life in a book called Walden. The name derives from Walden Pond near which Thoreau lived in a cabin for those two years as he practiced his minimalist philosophy. And as one would assume, the book focuses on Thoreau’s observations on his philosophy, and additionally, the importance of nature, and the uniqueness of the present moment and everyday life. But there is also a significant attempt by Thoreau to not only find his individuality but to embolden it, strengthen it, and become an individual. It is this notion of individuality that is the focus of this post.

Lessons:

Importance Of Self Reflection

I should not talk so much about myself if there was anybody else whom I knew as well.

In Walden, Thoreau is constantly dissecting his beliefs and ideas, exploring his likes and interest, and most importantly, questioning himself. The reason for this is that you will never know anyone as well as you’ll know yourself. Thoreau understood this idea and wished to understand himself completely, hence why he ventured into the woods and live alone with his thoughts.

We can question other people’s motives and beliefs, discuss their actions, and speculate on their behaviours but mostly the conversation hovers on the surface because we haven’t experienced what the other person has, we don’t know the thoughts they were having when they acted; we don’t know the thoughts they have when they’re alone; we don’t know what their beliefs systems are. But you can know these things about yourself.

Self-reflection should be a vital part of your day-to-day. Journaling is one way to explore yourself. Question yourself. Write down your thoughts and see what you’re really thinking. Do the same with your opinions and beliefs and study them. Where did they come from? Who influenced them? Why do you believe in the thing that you do? What caused you to act in a manner that results in shame and guilt afterward? Why do certain things make you angry? What makes you happy? What gives you the feeling of fulfillment? Why aren’t you doing more of that? What’s precious about life? How can I make each day more vivid?

Thoreau kept a journal with him the entire time he was at Walden. The journal is full of his daily observation of himself and of his environment and life. This journal was a tool to build his own character, to find his individuality, to reinforce who he wanted to be.

You would do a disservice to yourself if you are not dissecting and exploring your own being because there is only person you can ever come close to knowing fully, and that is yourself.

Solitude is another way to achieve this goal.

I had withdrawn so far within the great ocean of solitude, into which rivers of society empty, that for the most part, so far as my needs were concerned, only the finest sediment was deposited around me. Beside, there were wafted to me a evidence of unexplored and uncultivated continents on the other side.

We constantly distract ourselves with societal needs and influences. Especially in our current age where from the morning alarm bell to the time you go to bed, there is this need to go online and scroll through social media, surf the web anytime you find yourself alone, or have some free time. You can turn these moments into an exploration of your own needs and exert your own influence. Sit alone with your thoughts, be mindful of what is happening inside your heads, reflect upon your past actions and future intentions. Have solitude from the outside world.

Cultivate solitude so you can cultivate yourself. My belief is that the better you understand yourself, the better you understand your fellow man because we are all the same. So through solitude, you gain universal understanding and become closer with other people, and not just yourself.  

Influence Your Thoughts, Don’t Let Your Thoughts Influence You

What a man thinks of himself, that it is which determines, or rather indicates his fate.

The stories we tell ourselves can either put limitations on us or liberate us. If we are constantly talking down to ourselves, pointing out the things that we cannot do or aren’t good at, it becomes this self-fulfilling prophecy where we act out in ways that will eventually lead to failure. Then we look at them as examples to affirm our negative thought process. If you don’t monitor your thoughts and allow all the negative ones to roam free, then they can cause you to self-sabotage.

Be careful what thoughts you repeat and reinforce. One way to apply your own influence is through self-affirmation practice. The famous writer, Scott Adams, would write the following sentence upwards of fifteen times a day: “I Scott Adams will become a syndicated cartoonist.” This positive affirmation would then have a trickle-down effect where Adams took actions to affirm this sentence. Affirmations can work for your career goals, as Adams suggests, but they can also work on your character traits and behaviours.

Another way to influence your thoughts is through mindfulness or detachment, where you view your thoughts from a third-person perspective and discard the ones that you wouldn’t want your friends or family members to have. 

A single gentle rain makes the grass many shades greener. So our prospects brighten on the influx of better thoughts.

Find Your Own Beat

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.

Thoreau left behind society in large and spent two years alone in a cabin because that is the beat he heard. The intuition he felt he needed to follow. Many people would consider this to be a form of madness, but for Thoreau, the daily grind of life in the city was madness, so he followed his own path. In doing so, he emboldened his individualism.

There are a lot of unknowns in life, so it makes sense why people follow their companions down whatever road they are going. It is the safer decision. But by doing so, you can miss out on the opportunity to explore what makes you feel alive. What makes life feel special to you. These types of sensations are more vivid when you decide to listen to your own beat, your own needs, and follow them regardless of the direction your peers took.

Have An Imbalance Between Comfort and Discomfort

Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.

Most luxuries and comforts help ease life and bring immediate pleasure. The desire for luxuries and comfort often comes from our focus on external pleasure. Our concern with appearances, reputation, and competition with others. But if you shift that focus from the external to the internal, and concentrate on what will help you grow, then luxury items take a backseat to real challenges like facing your fears. The individual grows through the discomfort, as Thoreau demonstrated by venturing away from daily comforts. It is in the struggle when we see who we are and decide whether we like that person.

Need to achieve an imbalance where there is more discomfort than comfort. Or at the very least, have pockets of time dedicated to making your life more uncomfortable. Exercising is a good way to practice this. We can view it as an hour of discomfort where you chose exercises and workouts that challenge your weaknesses and test your mind. Through these tests, we can elevate our person.

Yet men have come to such a pass that they frequently starve, not for want of necessaries, but for want of luxuries.

This imbalance of priorities and overabundance of pleasure can distract you from the real aim which is to grow as an individual.

Need an Aim in Life

In the long run men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, though they should fail immediately, they had better aim at something high.

Reminder to set lofty goals and high personal standards. People often aim for low goals because that comes with lesser pain when we fail. The higher the aim, the higher the disappointment, but equally, the higher the fulfillment. So, not only is it important to have aims, but have to make sure the aims are high so you give yourself an opportunity to experience life to its fullest. Even the pain of failing to achieve your aim is a blessing, for feelings are so vivid, so life-affirming to the individual.

Have Faith

That if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.