A tremendous breakthrough on the nature of boldness

A tremendous breakthrough on the nature of boldness

“It is better by noble boldness to run the risk of being subject to half the evils we anticipate than to remain in cowardly listlessness for fear of what might happen.” – Herodotus

I’m going to open up with a claim that might be difficult to accept, but you’re bolder than you believe yourself to be. How could I know this without ever having met you? It’s because boldness is in the nature of humanity. Timidity and insecurity are learned behaviors, while boldness comes naturally to all of us.

A History of Boldness

Taking a step back, take a look at how we naturally and psychologically conceptualize those who are bold. The Alexander The Greats and Genghis Khans of the world. Even those who have committed great crimes are looked up to with some respect when they were seen as bold.

Great tyrants, socialites and kings the world over are seen in a positive light even when an ability to take bold action was their key trait. We secretly envy the playboy millionaire or world famous fashionista who can pass through life effortlessly just by their powerful presence. Perhaps we may openly mock them or disregard them as shallow, but this lifestyle still has incredibly seductive elements to it.

Faux Boldness 

 Allow me to pause for a moment to talk of what might turn many off the concept of boldness. Those who are quick to anger, or always powerfully provide an opinion on something, are not bold, but merely imitating the quality via a defense mechanism. Instinctively, we know the power of boldness. A teacher who seems uncertain of their material isn’t trusted to know what they’re talking about, regardless of how well they may know the material.

To this extent those who come off as overly loud are not bold, but we can easily detect that there is something… off about them. We know subconsciously that this behavior does not deserve respect, but to be on our own defensive, because something else is going on here. This is what is triggered inside of us by those who are pretending to be bold, but are merely making a lot of noise.

Finding Your Boldness

Contemplate for a moment an example where you’ve seen someone be bold in a way that you respect and another in a way in which has repulsed you. Consider what the differences are in each instance. Now consider a time you yourself have taken bold action and felt strong and assertive in doing it. Consider another example, where your strength was merely hiding some insecurity, and you did not feel powerful in the bold action you took.

The simple truth of boldness is that you will act bold naturally when you are not acting out of defensiveness or insecurity. When you are determined to act, act with your full strength. If you fail, further determined action will overcome any obstacle. Timidity and insecurity will drown you in a swamp that will be more and more difficult to come out of.

“Any mistakes you commit through audacity are easily corrected with more audacity. Everyone admires the bold; no one honors the timid.” – Law 28 | 48 Laws of Power – Robert Greene

How To Be A Better Emperor

How To Be A Better Emperor

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”
Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Last week I introduced the idea of Emperor Meditation, an idea that’s based around creating a map of your psyche by comparing your body to a country, and your mind to the palace which rules it. It came from an inspiration which was a mix of studying Eastern traditions, as well as from the belief that if these processes were a little more fun, they may be engaged with by more people!

“If you are conscious at the same time that you observe, the line of your attention will resemble two arrows, one showing attention directed on the thing you observe and another on yourself.” – Ouspensky (20th c. Fourth Way teacher)

image88
When taking an audience with citizens like desire or anxiety, sense inside yourself just as much as you listen to what they say (as the arrow with two heads). This way you are not led astray by their words, and will not retreat and let one of them take the throne. [Feel fully the sensations as they come up, and do not fight against them.] Fully listen to the words of your countrymen, but do not judge or add extra meaning to it. This way you remain a compassionate ruler, and not one who fights against his people.

The issue is not to only allow certain citizens into your palace, as trying to toss them out will just make them return over and over, and with a vengeance, but to fully listen to them, and respond effectively. [Focus on the sensations created by an idea or emotion, but don’t add meaning to it. Watch how quickly it dissipates when the sensation is observed instead of avoided.]

An ancient said, “When people are in the midst of the disturbance, this is a good time to apply effort to keep independent.” Stay comprehensively alert in the immediate present, and suddenly an awakening will open up an experience in the midst of it all that is millions of times better than that of quiet sitting. – Huang Yuan-ch’i

Once you realize how simple it can be to keep the peace of your citizens and country, you may also begin to explore the glorious palace of your subconscious. There are so many doors! Behind some you will find beautiful new things you had no idea were there, and behind others, misfortune of the past you had shut away.

Behind the doors of misfortune are simply events from when you gave up your rule. Thankfully, with your new emperor powers of feeling sensations without judgement, you can deal with them with ease. Maybe you gave an embarrassingly bad presentation as a kid and everyone laughed at you, and then you were afraid to run meetings at work or speak to crowds. The embarrassment, the shame, merely citizens who were running your country at the time, who had no idea how to rule. Allow your adult emperor self to return to that time, and feel those sensations fully, without letting embarrassment and shame take control this time, and see how these sensations melt away as well.

As you’ve seen above, it’s possible to rule your palace without giving control up to reactive emotions and ideas. You may allow them an audience, listen to them, perhaps have a cup of tea with them, and then kindly inviting them to keep walking.

Huike said to Bodhidharma, “My mind is anxious. Please pacify it.” Bodhidharma replied, “Bring me your mind, and I will pacify it.” Huike said, “Having looked for my mind, I realize it cannot be grasped.” “There,” Bodhidharma replied, “I have pacified your mind.”

The real fun starts with the other doors of the palace. The ones which open to beauty you didn’t even know about. Take a second and think about things you would like to do that seemed too anxiety inducing before. Perhaps public speaking, comedy, going to more social events, asking out that cute girl/guy in class/at work. As emperor, these things become easier and easier, as you continuously return to being the master of your palace. You no longer allow your country to be ruled by every passing thought or idea. These are the citizens that will gladly bend a knee when the master returns. None of them want to rule your country anyways, they’ve clearly proven they have no idea how!

Emperor Meditation

Emperor Meditation

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you know for yourselves that these qualities, when adopted and carried out, lead to welfare and to happiness, then accept it and live up to it.”Buddha (Kalama Sutra)

Let’s take a quick look at the concept of meditation. Often times, it is thought to be about spending hours alone in a dark room, in silent contemplation, trying to shut away your thoughts. While this practice is helpful as a form of training, it is not really the goal of meditation.

“If you want to attain the Way by shutting the door and sitting quietly with a blank mind, that is like shutting the doors and shutters and hoping to see the sun. What “way” does that accomplish? It must be the way of dark rooms, I guess . Only when you mix with the ordinary people, integrating illumination, living in the cities and towns, are you activating great use of great potential. This is the real function of practicing and holding the Great Way.” – Liu Yiming, 1734-1821, Taoist master (Awakening the Tao)

Thankfully there is more to it then that! How silly would it be to spend hours in quiet contemplation, then re-enter the world, and return to your old habits. If you have a spiritual practice, and it has no real-world benefit, there is little point to it! This is why the real goal of meditation, is to always be sitting in meditation.

“Good friends, what does the term sitting meditation mean? When mind and thought are not aroused over any good or bad object or situations in the external world this is called sitting. When you see in the immutability of your own essential nature inwardly, this is called meditation.” – Huineng (6th Partriarch of Zen Buddhism, 7th c.)

And so, let us create a new pathway now, to introduce a new form of meditation. Based off the practices and imagery of several Eastern traditions, I call it Emperor Meditation.

Now imagine a large beautiful country, thousands of homes, large fields of green and trees, and at the center of it, a palace. This is a massive palace, it can be seen from far and wide across the country, it towers over the whole of the country. It hosts thousands of citizens. Soldiers, chefs and wait staff, cleaners, various noble families. It gets quite hectic inside!

This country is your body, with the palace being your mind which rules over it. The citizens are joy, desire, temptation, anxiety, fear, love, lust, and all the other emotions one can fathom.

It turns out that the emperor has vanished. No one knows where he could have gone. The country is in chaos. One by one, the occupants step up to rule the country, though only temporarily, as being the false rulers that they are, they cannot last long. Eventually the emperor returns, and the citizens step back in line. They take audience with the emperor when they want to propose something, but the emperor has absolute veto power while he sits on his throne.

When one is not aware, the swirling of thoughts and emotions inside of you will take control. The sensations in your body lead you to believe you are anxious of a situation, now anxiety sits in your throne. As anxiety rules, the sensations become worse, and the rule of anxiety grows more intense. Anxiety doesn’t know how to rule your country, therefore, the country is thrown into chaos during his reign. He’s quickly tossed out by the other citizens, but without the emperor to keep things in order, he’ll return in due time.

When one is aware, the thoughts and emotions can be observed. As the emperor sits on his throne, and observes the disturbances going on in his country, he can take control of the situation. He is able to observe the sensations, and notice them for a simple disturbance, he does not add new meaning to them, or throw himself into panic. As anxiety comes to take audience with the emperor, the emperor will hear him out, let him speak his peace, and then reject his proposal.

Alright, so now that you may have some idea of what I mean by emperor (or empress!) meditation, let’s take a quick look at two practical ways to incorporate it.

First, there is a benefit to taking 10 or 15 minutes a day, morning or night, or both, and practicing to know what it’s like to sit in your throne. To build knowledge in the sensations of your body, and be able to direct your thoughts in times of chaos. It’s only by the emperor being away that another citizen can take the throne. He cannot be usurped from his position, in this context, he is literally immortal and invincible. The only troubles arise when he is away, when awareness has vanished.

Second, the true meditation exists in the real world. The emperor must be there at all times to rule his country correctly. He cannot give up the throne even for a second, to those occupants of the palace who will do nothing other then plunge the country into chaos. Though, when he recognizes having given up control, he can return to his throne immediately, and return the country to peace and prosperity.

Meditation doesn’t need to be stuffy and serious, instead, take charge of your mind as an emperor would in his palace. There is no benefit to a meditation that is only performed while one is at home in a dark room! The words of the Buddha at the start of this post hint at the right way to rule your country, anything else is the gossip of your citizens, who you can’t trust to run your palace.

Tune in next week for a follow up article on “How To Be A Better Emperor”!

The effortless way to do (almost) anything

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”
Confucius

What if it was a lot easier to change something about yourself then you ever imagined? What if all the effort came from your perspective, and your imaginary fears? Are you tired of never getting better at something because you’re afraid to even start, because you’re no good at it?

It’s time to break the habit, starting with the habit of believing whatever it is, is so hard. If someone else is doing it, then it’s doable. Within reason, of course. Perhaps drop your NBA dreams if you’re 5 foot 2, but for the things where there isn’t a physical limitation, don’t put so much value on how hard it was for someone to accomplish it. You won’t do a good job from spending the whole time before the starting line.

So now that you realize that you’re creating imaginary difficulty, let’s look at how you overcome anything.

  1. Notice when you’re doing the thing you don’t want to do
  2. Do something different
  3. Repeat until you’re doing something you’d rather be doing

Phew, maybe it’s time to take a break.

Let’s take meeting a new stranger, for business or for love.

  1. Notice you’re creating all kinds of imaginary anxiety, as if people meeting isn’t a simple thing built into our DNA. Realize it’s actually no effort at all to say Hi to someone.
  2. Go and say Hi
  3. Say Hi to enough people, until the imaginary anxiety is seen for what it is, imaginary.

If you’ve been spending your whole life deciding things are difficult or out of reach, evaluate how much that’s helped you. See how different the process of overcoming the obstacle is, when you break it down and see it for what it really is, effortless.

Space: The King’s Frontier

“Only someone who is ready for everything, who doesn’t exclude any experience, even the most incomprehensible, will live the relationship with another person as something alive and will himself sound the depths of his own being.”
Rainer Maria Rilke

When I first moved to Montreal, I went into a rather small place that was conveniently located a stone throw away from work. It got cluttered quickly and having friends over was troublesome. Eventually I moved to a large place which seemed really empty when I simply moved my stuff from my old place to my new place. Suddenly I had all this space to do something with. From that space, I purchased items and arranged my place in a way that made it finally feel like a home. After having moved a  total of four times in a year and a half, I finally felt settled. Finally felt at home.

I’ve often heard a phrase in ‘self-development’ that stuck with me through the years, and that’s that this is a process of ‘undoing’ or ‘unlearning’ more then it is about ‘developing’ something. We learned how to judge others, and our selves. We learned how to feel like losers or screw-ups. Whether from family or the society around us, we can’t help but learn a lot of things that don’t benefit us as we grow up. Of course, our capacity for learning benefits us heavily as well. It’s the only way we could read and consume something like this blog, or know not to take candy from strangers.

Not everything that is learned is beneficial though, and that’s why unlearning is necessary. This is the practical tool towards living out The King’s Journey. The steps go something like this once you take something you’ve learned before:

  1. Question why it is you’re supposed to do whatever you’ve learned in the way that you’ve learned it.
  2. If it still makes sense to do things that way, and it benefits you, then keep it up, if it doesn’t, continue to step 4.
  3. Start to break down that idea. Who decided it should be that way? Is it still relevant today? Would you be able to live your life without it? How essential is it really?
  4. Once the idea is seen as simply an idea, and it starts to fade away, you now have space.
  5. In this space, you may freely choose to follow a new idea or concept, one that benefits you in the life you’ve chosen to create.

To give a quick example, imagine an idea like following in your family’s footsteps of being a musician, even though you’ve been drawn towards being a biologist.

  1. I’m supposed to be a musician because my parents paid a lot for my practice as a child, and it’s all they know. My brother and sister are both working towards being musicians as well, and they seem to love it, maybe there is something wrong with me.
  2. The idea doesn’t benefit me because it makes me feel guilty about my future and my past up until now and makes me feel like there is something wrong with me.
  3. My parents decided it, and I’ve never really talked to them about it, so I don’t even know how they would react. Not everyone who came from a family of musicians went on to be a musician themselves. Even though I’ve spent so much time on music already, I still have my whole life ahead of me, to continue doing it from now on just because I’ve always done it, is only going to lead to more suffering.
  4. I’ve just been assuming everything so far, and was so anxious I’d be doomed to an entire life of this. Either I’ll make my parents understand, or I’ll find a way to continue living my life the way I’ve decided. I can’t actively choose to be miserable my entire life just to please my parents.
  5. I’m going to use all my free time to study towards being a biologist while I work towards convincing my parents and showing them where my passions lie. Now that I’m not spending my days worrying about my future and what might be wrong with me, I can move forwards towards living the life I want to create.

Perhaps you don’t speak quite like that, but that would be a quick example of how you can go inside yourself to find how much truth there is to something you’ve chosen to believe this whole time. If a belief doesn’t benefit you, break it down, and create a new one.

As I said before, The King’s Journey is often avoided because it means you take full responsibility. It’s much easier to go with the flow, follow in the footsteps or advice of your parents, to let them take care of everything. It can be parents, other family, society, friends, or even Hollywood. Everything and everyone is trying to tell you how to live, and what to do. It may be harder to take responsibility and actively choose to create your life and the different aspects of it, but the rewards surpass anything you could imagine.

When you have space, you no longer have clutter, and you have the opportunity to create the life you want. All you need to do is find the borrowed ideas, and supplement them with your own. It may take months or years, but the journey is a blast too.

The Warrior Mindset: The Death of Timidity

“And the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.”
― Erica Jong

Do you know what it is you want? Are you fighting for what you want? Are you worthy of the gifts you seek? Do you act in the way that you do to get a pat on the back, or do you express yourself in the same way a musician pours their heart into playing a piece of music? I’ll stop with the questions for now, this isn’t an interview after all, but most of these questions are ones I ask myself frequently, and the answer “No” still comes up frequently.

 

The warrior is not a man or a woman, it’s not are not a young entrepreneur CEO billionaire or a stay at home parent with two kids and a partner to take care of. It’s a mindset that defines how you approach your life. It’s not defined by your gender, income, or life goals. It has everything to do with your approach to life.

 

Thankfully, you don’t need to be able to answer any of the questions from the start to be a warrior, it’s enough to be seeking the answers, and doing it with commitment. That is, by slowly pushing timidity to the wayside. Timidity is the greatest evil that I’ve become aware of over the past few years. The hopes and dreams of so many crushed because they didn’t believe in themselves or were afraid of the judgement of others.

 

“I really want to travel to this seemingly beautiful country, but my mom says I need to be responsible and save up for a house.”
“I’m starting to feel empty at my corporate job but I’m afraid how my friends will see me if I quit, they always say I’m so lucky and have it so good” 
“I may not like anything about my current relationship, but my parents and friends say we’re so good together, so I may as well continue it for another five years”. 

 

All is not lost, far from it. The mindset of the warrior is one you can start developing right now. Find the timidity in your daily life, and start to root it out. The warrior knows what they want, they fight for it, and they act purely out of their need to express their inner desires and provide their gifts to the world. A gift is not given with the expectation of praise or someone telling you what a great job you did. Next time you stopped yourself from doing something you really wanted to do, search for the source inside yourself. If you meditate, this is a good time to dig deeper too.

 

Hot Tip: One easy shift to determine the real impact of your current battle, consider yourself ten years from now, or even five years from now, maybe even one year from now. How will the you who chose to commit to your decision be after that much time has passed? If you disappointed your friends or parents with the choice you made, how much will they still care one year from now? If the answer is “a lot” or “I don’t think they would ever drop it”, you’re either completely wrong, or you need to choose between the risk of going for it anyways, or the risk of growing resentful and bitter because you chose to live your life by other people’s standards.  

 

It may be that you’re afraid to disappoint your friends, your family, that you’re afraid to be judged by society, yet your inspiration to that choices must come from somewhere. The multi-talent Grace Hopper says “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness then it is for permission”. These words embody the warrior mindset in a way better then I could ever hope to say it. Act anyways, if you need to ask for forgiveness after, do so, but never regret you took action in a way that you were inspired to do. You don’t need to justify yourself to anyone, as no one has has spent even one moment living your life.

A State Of Play: The Lost Art Of Childhood

“Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature.”
― Tom Robbins

Whether outrunning a speeding bullet as Superman, shooting the bad guys as a cowboy or merely parading down the street with arms out making jet plane noises, children spend a lot of time playing pretend. Of course this eventually becomes frowned upon as the child becomes older, as it becomes time to get serious, and go to school. School followed by more school, which is eventually followed by work, and eventually retirement.

 

Even by age 8 you may have some children telling you that playing pretend is for babies. A perfectly valid statement to make for someone who is growing up and seeking their own independence to some extent. Teachers and parents stop encouraging it as they direct their children down the more professional path.

 

One universally powerful lesson I learned, was that while the type of play may change, being able to be playful is universally beneficial, in all aspects of life. That isn’t to say you don’t take things seriously, this isn’t about entering the extreme of being a clown. A state of play works as a flow state. The actual playing is the meaningful part, not the result of it. Just as playing a game of soccer or listening to a musical piece, isn’t about the end result, but the activity of doing it.

 

Let’s cut away definitions and techniques, and just look at what playfulness implies. In a relationship, this means you won’t freak out if something unexpected happens, like losing a job, or getting injured. It shows you’re a person in good spirits who is stable and has inner strength. In a workplace, it demonstrates not letting stress get to you, or becoming reactive. It can even shift the power balance and provide you with the dominant frame in a business setting, letting you Pitch Anything.

 

But most importantly, it breaks the expected pattern of life. Whether you’re trying to ask out a cute girl or guy in a coffee shop or pitch a million dollar deal, the awareness of the situation in both settings makes it an uncomfortable atmosphere. It appears as if one person is trying to get something from the other. In a state of play, you are sharing in the experience. You are stepping outside the world as it exists, and enjoying a moment with the other person.

 

Hot Tip: Here’s a really easy way to channel a little playfulness. Simply consider, in any scenario, what’s everyone else doing, and how can I do it differently? You’ll automatically be breaking the pattern of expected behavior, and you can use the reactions you get as feedback. You’ll continually calibrate and grow as you naturally become better at determining how to approach situations. Next time you go to swipe your credit card at a coffee shop, do it in a karate chop motion, and see what happens. 

 

So at this point you may or may not be convinced over the power of play, but what does playfulness look like? If you mean to approach a potential partner, it may mean asking her to run away with you to Paris so you may get married under the moonlit Eiffel Tower, before pulling back and saying you may be getting ahead of yourself, and moving onto introductions. In a business pitch, it may be telling a story of a childhood experience of using the particular product, instead of throwing stats and numbers at potential investors.
 
Children know what they’re doing when they play cops and robbers, they aren’t at any point convinced they may kill someone by firing their finger at them. Awareness of a situation combined with playfulness is an incredibly powerful tool that can immediately shift how others interact with you. It spawns creativity and a general appreciation for the world when you spend more time in a state of play. Why not have a little more fun?

 

Bonus Tip: Not the playful type? Start by not labeling yourself that way. Next, simply observe what brings you some level of joy as you go through your day. Is it the matching hats of a young couple? The funky colors on an exotic bird? Is it the fact that your co-worker has an expensive espresso machine on his desk but you’ve never seen him use it? Awareness of what makes you smile will help build your playfulness muscle until it comes naturally.