Unlock your creativity

I think there is a plague that has been gripping our world, and has been doing so for some time. I’m talking about the rigid work system of the modern world. Since industrialization, the world has been led down a path that has led to jobs and an education system that stifle creativity and serve automation and industrialization. This system needs to stop.

In recent times the world has become a much more dynamic place and creativity has never been more relevant in solving today’s complex problems. Yet our education persists in focusing on standardization and standardized tests, punishing “wrong” answers, labeling creative children as unruly and so on. We even go to classes in 45 min blocks separated by bells, just like in an industrial factory.*

Of course the purpose of all of this “education” is to prepare us for the 40 hour work week; the daily grind that we endure instead of enjoy, and the conspicuous consumption that follows. What started out as the laudable goal of increasing material necessity (i.e. industrialization in an age where people literally starved to death) has morphed into a mind numbing monster that is placated and perpetuated by ever more consumption.

This is not the communist manifesto nor a call to arms (I’m still a staunch capitalists), but rather an admission of the way things are. We cannot change the system, but it is our responsibility to access what the system does not give us. We must unlock our creativity.

Now that I’ve been out of college for a few years I’ve begun to notice that my outlets for creative expression have diminished. As strange as it sounds, I miss the luxury to write papers as my daily job and to engage in erudite conversation as my social life. My work routine has gently and subtly made me into an automaton.

I am naturally a very creative person but since college I’ve dropped a lot of my creative pursuits like writing and music. So, in light of all that, I’ve decided to join a creative writing group on meetup and buy an electric keyboard on craig’s list. I’ve also found a local improv group I’m thinking about joining. I’ll keep you posted on my progress but I feel like I’m taking a step in the right direction. I cannot and will not allow the industrial paradigm dictate who I become. I also realize that there are many other outlets for creativity and I am excited by the possibilities!

*About a year ago there was an episode on NPR that discussed a fall in creativity in children. According to the episode, most children are quite creative but lack an outlet to expresses it in the rigid confines of institutionalized education (especially one that focuses on standardized tests). As this continues over time children become less creative until one begins to describe oneself as “not creative.”

http://www.npr.org/2012/06/22/155225161/how-do-schools-suffocate-creativity

 

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“Every day seems the same”

Recently I’ve made meditation a daily habit and wow, have I been surprised at the result! My mind is endlessly churning with thought. I mean there is always a soundtrack. Even when I think I’m not thinking I find myself smugly saying, “look at me, I’m not thinking.”

What really brought this constant stream of thought to my attention was this guided meditation. I highly suggest listening to this meditation and then observing your thoughts for the next hour or so. You’ll be amazed at how much commentary and spin is put on every second of the day.

One reoccurring thought I noticed was, “every day seems the same.” Then I realized it was a self-fulfilling prophecy! My mind had already determined what the day was going to be like so what actually happened in the day was only secondary. This also happens on a grander scale. Being in the military I know when certain events are going to happen and there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t reaffirm where I am in relation to those events.

It’s hard for me to take advantage of the fullness of life and the opportunities it presents when I’ve already determined the outcome. What’s even more exciting though is that as I meditate more and more, I’m able to ignore these thought patterns and really enjoy what’s happening right in front of me! This has manifested itself in everything from having a deep conversation with a server at subway to getting to know my neighbor better. If we keep following our daily script it’s no wonder things stay the same!

Beauty-Small-Waterfall

 

Who are we supposed to be?

Below I’ve copied the monthly newsletter for Zen Center San Diego. I think it’s an important read because it goes right along the lines of my last post. As an oldest child I’ve built up a lot of notions of who I should be and what it means for me to be “successful.” A lot of times these notions are impossible or not even what I really want or need, yet they become so much of my identity that I’d be lost without them. To live authentically I think you’ve got to throw all that out the window and just be who you want to be.

This also ties in well with a sermon I heard last Sunday that said to be a good person you have to realize that you have to ignore the whisperings at the end of the day saying “you’re not good enough” or “you didn’t do enough.” If you derive all your self worth and image from your job or anything earthly for that matter you are bound to be disappointed.

No One Special to Be

One of the main characteristics of a life of sleep is that we are totally identified with being a “Me.” Starting with our name, our history, our self-images and identities, we use each one of these things to solidify the sense that we are living in our little subjective sphere. We experience ourselves as “special”—not in the normal sense of being distinguished or exceptional, but in the sense that we feel unique and subtly significant. Interestingly,
our feeling of specialness is not just from having positive qualities; we can even use our suffering to make us feel unique and special. Yet not needing to be special, not needing to be any particular way, is what it means to be free—free to experience our natural being, our most authentic self.For example, we all have images of ourselves that we unconsciously carry with us throughout our waking hours. Our self-images are the conceptions or pictures of how we see ourselves. We can have the self-image of being nice, or competent, or deep; or we could have a negative self-image—seeing ourselves as weak, or stupid, or worthless. Usually we try to focus on our positive self-images, and we often try to shape our external life to portray ourselves in the most favorable way. We live out of the vanity of trying to look a particular way, mostly to gain the approval of those whose opinion is most important to us. Whether it’s our clothes, our hair, our body—our radar for approval is constantly running, mostly unconsciously. This is true even with the car we drive; whether it’s a Cadillac or a hybrid or a pick-up truck, when we sit behind the wheel, it defines who we are to ourselves and to others, and we are usually totally identified with that image.

Closely related to our self-images are our identities—how we define ourselves according to the roles we play, such as mother, businessman, meditator, athlete, and so on. The identities we assume don’t have to make sense. For example, even though I’ve been severely limited in my physical activities for over twenty years due to a chronic immune system condition, I still see myself as an athlete. Actually it doesn’t really matter if our identities make sense; what matters is how attached to them we are in our need to define ourselves.

Both our self-images and our identities become part and parcel of the stories we weave about ourselves. Almost always these stories are skewed versions of the truth concerning who we are—our history, our victimhood, why we’re angry, and on and on. We are caught in a story when we tell ourselves, “I’m worthless,” or “I’m depressed,” or “People should appreciate me.” We’re particularly caught when we say, “I’m this way because…,” and then assign blame to others such as our parents or to something that happened to us. We can also know we’re wrapped up in one of our many stories if we have the thought “I’m the kind of person who…,” or “I’m not the kind of person who….” For example, “I’m the kind of person who has to be alone.” Or, “I’m not the kind of person who can be disciplined.” The point is, most of our stories are self-deceptions, in that they are partially manufactured versions of the truth—truths we adopt in order to feel a particular way. But living out of stories prevents us from living more genuinely.

Perhaps the most pivotal story we tell ourselves is the deep-seated illusion that we are one single, permanent self. Yet simple observation would show us that we are really a collection of many “Me’s,” or personas. Which “Me” predominates depends on which self-image or identity we’re believing in, and also on what beliefs we’re holding to in the moment. A simple example is how the mood we’re in determines how we see things—if we’re in a good mood, other people may seem fine to us, whereas if our mood turns sour, the exact same people may seem to be irritating. Given that we have examples of similar situations every day, how can we continue to believe in the story of being a single, unchanging self? In fact, the whole notion that who we are is limited to the story of a single self is perhaps the main illusion that Zen practice addresses. This is why one of the deepest teachings is that there is no one special that we need to be. In other words, to be inwardly free means we don’t have to live out of our self-images and identities; we don’t have to feel a particular way; we don’t have to believe the stories we tell ourselves—the stories that dictate who we are and how we live.

In order to experience the freedom of living a more authentic life, it is absolutely necessary that we drop our stories and illusions. This is certainly not easy to do, and it helps to know what it actually looks like to live authentically. First and foremost, living authentically means living with honesty—being willing to look at our own illusions and self-deceptions; questioning our self-images and self-limiting identities; examining the stories we weave about ourselves, including our stories about our past and who we are. Many of our convictions, ideals, and “shoulds” are just
mental constructs, born out of our conditioning. Do we have the courage to see them for what they are? Can we experience the freedom of no longer using them as a prop?

We have to realize how our identities, convictions, and stories prop up our sense of purpose and importance in order to subtly make us feel special. We count on these props to give us a feeling of solidity and security. When we lose one of these props, such as when losing our job or having a relationship failure, we naturally experience anxiety: without our familiar supports we are left with just ourselves, which is a frightening prospect. This is why we try to fill our lives with busyness and doing, as well as with our many diversions and entertainments—to guarantee that we are never left alone with ourselves. We don’t want to feel that hole of emptiness.

But as we see through our illusions, identities, and stories, they decreasingly dictate how we feel and how we live. This is what it means, in part, to live authentically—no longer fooling ourselves with our illusions and self-deceptions. But in order to be free of them, we first have to see them with both clarity and precision. What this requires more than anything is being open to our life—being willing to face the things we’ve never wanted to face. This includes our fears—of rejection, unworthiness, and uncertainty. To be open, to be present, in turn allows us the possibility of no longer sleepwalking through life, just seeking comfort, security, and approval; and no longer living with the illusion that we have endless time.

Ezra Bayda, excerpted from The Authentic Life

Why do we do what we do?

In one of my posts on health I asked why people overeat, but I think this question can also be applied more broadly: why do we do the things that we do? We can get so easily caught up in the the daily hustle and bustle that we never think to ask why. However, ignoring the why behind our daily life is risky because what we seek and what we do defines us right down to our core. As the book of Matthew states,

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:21).

We must constantly ask ourselves what are our true motivations behind the job that we do, the company that we seek, even the words that we say. For those of you who are Indiana Jones fans it reminds me of the line, “Ask yourself why do you seek the Cup of Christ, is it for His glory or for yours?”

Kazim

For me personally, I am often strongly motivated by the need to be wealthy, powerful, prestigious, and well respected. I think my need to be rich is particularly pernicious and has quietly worked itself into my subconscious. Especially recently I have to make a conscious effort to correct a pattern of thought that tells me wealth will make me happy and fulfilled. This thought pattern is particularly surprising to me because little over a year ago I left a line of work that made lots more money but drove me almost to the brink of literal insanity. At the time I swore to never be motivated by money, but here I am falling into old patterns.

I think it is vitally important to separate what we think we will accomplish by our actions, and what we actually accomplish. Do we need wealth and power to feel good, or is it a guard against the insecurity of the world and our need for control?

Personally, I ask myself if my deep motivations are in line with God’s will or if a close study of my motivations demonstrate an inherent lack of trust in God’s providence. What if all of my striving and strategies are for not because the answer has always been sitting right in front of me: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 4:14)

More caution for CrossFit

To follow up other posts I’ve made on CrossFit, I found a very well articulated article on why not to do CrossFit. I think it’s an essential read to warn people about the dangers of going to a CrossFit gym where people don’t know what they’re doing. There are some really good boxes out there that emphasize form and have very knowledgeable instructors, but if this article sounds like your experience it’s time to leave your CrossFit gym.

http://www.dailydot.com/opinion/why-i-dont-do-crossfit/

Will we die younger than our parents?

Binge_Drinking_TU

 

One thing that’s been on my mind recently is my level of alcohol consumption and my health. Although I strive to live a healthy lifestyle, one of my biggest weaknesses is over indulging in alcohol. In college I definitely exceeded the recommend healthy guidance for drinks and in the years since graduating I’ve found it hard to kick old habits.

Perhaps the hardest part of only having a drink or two is that so many of my peers are also drinking. Although the military has a soft spot for drinking, I’ve heard from my non military friends that they see a lot of drinking too. Happy hour after work becomes ritualized as does going out on the weekend. Being social means drinking.

Now for some of you guys I know this sounds completely foreign but bear with me for a sec. I think that for the generation in their 20s a fast paced lifestyle has become endemic. Much has already been written about the need for “instant gratification” of my generation, but I think this doesn’t just mean attention span. I think a lot of people in their 20s and younger are drinking just as fast as they are mashing their Facebook refresh. Not to mention that pop culture idolizes drinking. Music, movies, tv shows, commercials, you name it. Unfortunately the mix is a recipe for health problems.

This article that just came out today has found that binge drinking is even more harmful than we thought. Having five or more drinks for a male (or four for a female) can cause bacteria to leak from the gut and cause increased levels of toxins in the bloodstream. Pretty nasty if you ask me. This is of course on top of all the well know side affects effects of drinking too much: high blood pressure, stroke, brain damage, liver disease etc.

The problem is that it can take years for these effects to start showing up which makes the negative feedback loop pretty ineffective for those who currently like to binge.

So my question is, are we going to live as long as our parents? Our environment today is already very toxic without the added alcohol, especially with the way people eat in the US. Is the drinking culture we have today more pernicious than our parents and are we ready to face the consequences?

Please let me know what you think in the comments below!

 

The Conversation That Has To Be Had About Crossfit

Interesting article. Echos my own thoughts in The CrossFit Review https://encyclopediatraganzica.wordpress.com/2013/12/22/the-crossfit-review/ that doing CrossFit will lead to injury. That’s not to say it’s so dangerous it shouldn’t be done altogether, just that there should be a certain level of buyer beware. Some CrossFit programming is just plain stupid.

Deadlift Dungeon

For years, the wider fitness industry has warned people of the dangers of Crossfit, and now an injury nobody would wish on anyone has occurred.

Kevin Ogar, a Crossfit trainer in Englewood, Colorado, was performing a 3 Rep Max Snatch when he lost control of the bar overhead.

He was unable to get out of way in time, resulting in the bar damaging his T11 and T12 vertebrae, and severing his spinal cord.

Kevin currently has no feeling below his waist.

Weightlifting is dangerous. Whether it is Power lifting, Bodybuilding or Olympic lifting is irrelevant. There have been life-changing injuries in all of these sports, as well as deaths.

Crossfit is no different. One trainer even publicly came out, stating that clients should expect to get injured… it’s Crossfit.

How does Crossfit differ from all other types of lifting?

Kevin was competing in a competition that consisted of nine…

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