March 13, 2017

Constantly Warp Your Mind

I've been on a reading kick lately.  You may go through them yourself. The desire for information, for stories, for methods, comes in cycles.  

This idea of learning cycles is mirrored throughout our experience; we cycle through exercise regimens, diets, mental practices.  The ups and downs, the intense periods followed by times of laxity, are normal, at least for me.

Our culture tends to think of them as periods of "good" or "bad".  When you're working out really hard you become strong, which is good.  When you're lazy and have that bowl of ice cream you feel sicker, which is bad.

If you zoom out and take a much bigger picture, you'll see that these all create the contrast necessary to appreciate each part of the whole.

I've never used cocaine but I've always liked the saying, "It's like cocaine.  The highs are high, but the lows are low."  That's my goal for life, to have super high highs and lows down in the depths of Burton and Churchill's black dog nights.

Searching out those extremes of experience allows me to fully participate in the time I have on the planet.  If you've read this far, you're probably enough like me that you'll understand the drive to live in 2 separate channels.

I'm referring to channels here in the sense of paths carved through a substrate, not TV channels.

The two channels are the comfort and the uncomfort channels.  I think of them as side by side gutters, both of them full or slack at different times, and representing the full spectrum of life experiences.

Most people seem to be only trying to fill and live in their "comfort" channel, avoiding the "uncomfort" channel on almost every front.  The only exception for uncomfort for most people is in the gym.  I think that's why CrossFit, and hard workouts in general, hold so much appeal.

While most of us may not consciously acknowledge it, there is a physiological imperative to spend time in both zones.  Your brain and your body want you to know that you have the capacity to live in, to excel in, to thrive in both zones, comfort and uncomfort.

That idea of thriving in uncomfort fights against our general culture of always wanting to be warm, fuzzy, cozy, and safe.  You were designed to withstand extremes of temperature, to expend effort far beyond what is comfortable, to work with others in difficult circumstances, even to fight and later make up.  

One of the places that uncomfort is culturally accepted is in the gym.  You can struggle there and that effort is respected.  Still, that doesn't mean you should only reach for uncomfort in one place.

You can find both channels wherever you look, and it's worth it to cultivate the belief that both channels are acceptable to spend time in.  

As an example, depression is, in our culture, a sickness to be avoided, treated, and ultimately fixed.  The idea of depression as a sickness to be avoided is an inappropriate response to a completely normal state of experience.

Many of the greatest contributors to humanity suffered deep bouts of depression, from John Adams to Walt Whitman.  Should we try and fix or erase these contributions simply because depression doesn't feel good?  

Having suffered through my own bouts with depression, I don't think it's something that requires fixing.  It's something that, like extraordinary success, requires managing and an understanding of context.

Depression passes, leaving behind a stark contrast with which I can far more fully appreciate the ecstatic highs that come in to my life.

Extraordinary success passes, again leaving behind a stark contrast and a remembrance of just how good things can be.

Why turn away from those two extremes?  I hope to never turn away from an experience just because it's bad.  Having been through broken bones, car crashes, bankruptcy, broken hearts, loss of friends and family, failures, and long bouts of wading through the sick mess of my soul, I'm stronger for it.  All of those experience, when I look back on them, have made me stronger, more durable, more able to contribute.

They've given me the contrast to appreciate not just the super high points, of which I've had many, but also the experiences right in the middle or just above the line.  A dew covered flower on a spring morning, my dog snoring and dreaming dreams no dog dared to dream, the twists of poetry, the spin of a falling leaf.  

This is all a very long way of encouraging you, wherever you are, to dig deep into the experience you're in and extract the very most out of it.  

Get your head down and wallow, soak it up, become completely immersed in it.  It won't last, and all you'll have left is the memory of the effort you put forth to live fully in the moment.

My friends, to life!

A partial list of books I'm currently reading or recently finished that sparked this:

  • The Social Animal, by David Brooks
  • Meteorology for the Glider Pilot, by CE Wallington
  • The Stranger In The Woods, by Mike Finkel
  • Natural Born Heroes, by Chris McDougall
  • Lawrence In Arabia, by Scott Anderson
  • The Long Valley, by John Steinbeck
  • How to Fail At Almost Everything And Still Win Big, by Scott Adams
  • All The Shah's Men, by Stephen Kinzer

Liked this article on managing your experiences and depression?


Nik Hawks

Author

Nik Hawks helps run the show at Paleo Treats. Fascinated by humans in all their strange glory, Nik is harnessed in and pulling hard in pursuit of excellence with the rest of the PT Crew. Enjoy!


Too much reading...
How about dessert?

Too Much Reading...How About Dessert?

3 Comments

Ed Majian
Ed Majian

March 14, 2017

Thoughtful reflection here, bro, thanks!

Like you, I engage my way through life. In that regard, we’re “wired” similarly. So the highs and lows, for us, are first and foremost experiences to be analyzed, adventures to be had.

I wonder, though, if that’s the case for everyone. I wonder often if there are illnesses bad experiences my own human experience can’t quite comprehend, and if my experience or reaction to my lows can be at all helpful to others with “clinical depression.”

I also wonder if reaching such illnesses isn’t, in some way, due to not training the mind for too long, not developing resilience earlier on in life. In our over-diagnosed and over-medicated society, I suppose human potential is chronically missed. It’s a sad fact, and leaves so much taken for granted.

In any case, may this reflection reach all those in whom it finds a home.

Great piece. Peace, Ed.

Dorothy Ainsworth
Dorothy Ainsworth

March 13, 2017

The Social Animal is one of my favorite books. If it’s the same one I’m thinking about, it’s been around for a LONG time, but I have never met anyone who has read it (until you). Wise author about the nature of human nature—which governs us all, even if we fight it.

A line in one of the chapters in my book ( page 23) parallels what you say here in your great blog:
“Though not pleasant, progress was meaningful and fulfilling”…

Nature is the great equalizer, and there is no brilliant achievement without a sometimes painful and determined effort". Balance is nice, but drive and tunnel vision is necessary to get the job done. The thing about being goal-driven is it won’t leave you alone, so there’s nothing you can do about it, but charge ahead! The payoffs are in direct proportion to the efforts.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts,
Dorothy

Robert Fehse
Robert Fehse

March 13, 2017

Nice write up!
its for the lows that you recognize the highs!
I’m reading natural born heroes as well.

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