1. the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.
“Helen had one of her flashes of inspiration”
synonyms: creativity, inventiveness, innovation, innovativeness, ingenuity, imagination, imaginativeness, originality, individuality; More
2. a sudden brilliant or timely idea.
“then I had an inspiration”
It is said that while on the quest for the Holy Grail, King Arthur and the knights of his round table each entered the forest of adventure in different places.
They each chose the points in the forest that were the darkest, that scared them the most, and that didn’t have an old path already carved for them to follow.
They didn’t do this as a misplaced show of machismo, or as a competition of manliness. They didn’t do it to prove something to themselves, or to the other knights.
They did this because they inherently knew. They knew that even though they were on a quest in search of the same prize, and they were on that quest together, they still had to walk their own paths. They each had their own lessons to learn.
The same applies to us. We’re all searching for the same thing – our Holy Grail of the Soul – and we must all enter the dark forest of the psyche to find it. Some of us are going to take that journey together, some of us will take it alone, and some won’t take it at all. We each have our own path to walk. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be a true adventure of the soul.
As we relentlessly swing our machetes to carve a path through the forest, we’ll uncover fears and experience hardships. We’ll face death and demons, and we’ll gaze into the darkest parts of ourselves. But in the deepest and most terrifying part of that journey, we’ll find the treasure that we seek.
So choose that dark and scary place to start your quest, and I’ll meet you in the woods.
We’ve all heard it before. We’ve heard it from our friends, our parents, our siblings, and our teachers.
Don’t get TOO excited.”
It doesn’t even seem to matter what the scenario is;
Trying out for a team and you made the first cut? Don’t get too excited.
Applying for a job and got an interview? Don’t get too excited.
Had the most amazing day with the person you love? Don’t get too excited.
Finished the second year of a three year degree? Don’t get too excited.
Lost a couple pounds of body fat? Don’t get too excited.
The excitement police is ever vigilant. But my question is this: When, exactly, are we supposed to get excited? The “don’t get too excited” warning – in my opinion – has two negative suggestions that accompany it.
The first is the suggestion that something may yet go wrong. You could still be cut from the team, you could still be passed over for the job, your loved one could leave you, or you could still fail out of your degree. You might slip up and eat some cake, putting those pounds back on. “Don’t get too excited” suggests we shouldn’t be excited about these things because they can still be taken from us – as though there is anything in this life that is permanent.
The problem is, the “may yet go wrong” mentality never ends. Once you make the team, you can still be benched, released, or break your femur in a thousand places and never play again. Once you get that job, you can still be fired. Once you get married, or start a family, you can still lose that loved one to death, or divorce, or circumstance. Once you get that degree, you can still be jobless or considered under qualified. A lack of permanence is in no way related to your ability to enjoy and be excited about a moment.
If you’re waiting to celebrate something permanent, you’ll be waiting a very long time. Laying on your deathbed, many years from now, you’ll realize nothing can be truly grasped in this life. So, no matter how fleeting or small the moment, get excited about it. It is these tiny moments of success, progress, and joy that – when their tiny parts are finally collected and assembled – we look back on and remember the life we created for ourselves. You’ll never get a second chance to get excited along the way, so do it now and do it every chance you can.
The second suggestion that comes with the “don’t get too excited” warning is that you somehow haven’t finished yet. You’re not at your goal or your destination. It carries the dastardly assumption that there IS a destination in the first place. But what if, at the end of all of your days, you realize there never really was a destination. What if you looked back on all the little steps you made along the way, and realized life was about the journey? Would you wish you got excited about and celebrated the little moments a little more?
Thinking about life as the destination leads to false regrets. You’ll always focus on the places you didn’t reach rather than the joys and growth you were lucky enough to experience. You’ll see yourself as never have making it to the big leagues, rather than seeing all the friends and mentors you met along the way, and the positive experiences you shared with them. Even if you do eventually reach that destination, you’ll replace it with a new one.
I’m not saying having goals or dreams is a bad thing. I think we’re all born with dreams and we should all let that call of our soul guide us.
What I am saying is this life is inherently exciting. The good, the bad, and the ugly. The small moments and the grand ones. It’s all part of this journey we call life. The journey naturally excites us – so allow yourself to get excited about it.
Get TOO excited about it, even.
Be good to each other,
Featured photo courteousy of forums.marvelheroes.com
How many of us woke up this morning feeling lucky to be alive?
Have you ever really thought about it?
We homo sapiens are the only surviving species of human on this planet, and we started stomping around this place around 200 000 years ago. Our ancestors date back even further, to about 2 million years ago.
I’ve read somewhere that since the beginning of time, there has been billions of different species of living things on this planet. Most of them, over 99% to be less vague, no longer exist on this earth.
Given our planet’s capacity to completely destroy even the mightiest of species (see: dinosaurs), we’re pretty lucky to have just survived and thrived as long as we have. I mean, we’re still here and, other than a few bad apples, we’re doing some pretty awesome shit.
And that’s just our species as a whole. How lucky are YOU to be alive?
You were lucky enough to be born into a time when infant mortality in the west wasn’t a massive issue, but for most of the history of humanity it was. You’ve survived the potential for a freak accident that is everywhere around you, and somehow you’ve made it to where you are now. You even survived high school. You avoided or defeated fatal diseases. You were born into a time where there was no “great” war to go off to. Even those of you who have fought for your country , if you’re reading this you’ve been lucky enough to survive the many perils of war.
But your luck goes further back than that.
When your father did his duty to evolution, he mailed a little care package of between 40 million and 1.2 billion sperm cells towards two microscopic targets. That means your odds of getting here in the first place was over ten times worse than your odds are to win the lottery. You were the one in a billion (or if you’re a fraternal twin like I am, one of two in a billion) to hit the target(s). That’s pretty fucking awesome. Well done, you little swimmer you.
Your majestic mother, with a feminine power that can shake the earth, kept you safe and warm in her stomach for around nine months. Let me repeat that. SHE GREW YOU IN HER BELLY. I think it’s far too often lost on us how absolutely miraculous that is.
But what had to happen before your father’s parcel delivery (what can I say, I like the mailman reference and I’m sticking to it.), and before your mother carried you around?
Your mother and father had to be luckier than you did. Not only did they both have to be sufficiently blessed to survive to an age where reproduction was possible, but they had to be genetically attractive enough to find a mate, and biologically functional enough to engage in the act of reproduction. They did it a time slightly more dangerous for infant mortality, for safety standards, and for war.
They had to have parents with even better luck than them. Their parents were born around the time of a second world war, when modern medicine was just beginning to take flight, and when safety standards were none existent. As you go further and further down your family line, you were luckier and luckier that those ancestors survived and thrived long enough to produce your grandmother, or your great great grandfather. If any one of them down the line didn’t get so lucky, you wouldn’t be here.
And it’s a pretty long line you have to look down. Let’s say you go down (up?) the family tree only through the matriarchal side. Her mother, her mother’s mother, and so on. Let’s also say that the average age for having a child was twenty years old, though it was probably younger than that for most of human history. Following just the line of your mother, your grandmothers had to be extremely lucky in an unbroken chain of 100 000 consecutive mothers. Add in the exponential nature of equation when you start including the patriarchs, and their mothers, and the number becomes unfathomable.
That doesn’t even include the biological line that goes beyond the modern view of a human. Our species came from another, which came from another, all of which had to be extremely lucky on both sides of the family, all the way back to the first signs of life 3.8 billion years ago.
Not one of those billions of ancestors was unlucky enough to die of small pox, get sacrificed in honour of Huitzilopochtli, or be eaten by a hippopotamus before they found an equally lucky (and suitable) mate to make the next in line until, eventually, they reached you.
So how lucky are you to be alive? Pretty lucky.
Be good to each other,
Featured photo courtesy of daddyelk.com
Raptor photo courtesy of reddit.com
I see them. I see their glowing eyes nervously peeking over your shoulder as you pass me on the street. I look back, just for a moment, and give them a reassuring smile. My eyes tell them they can never die. It makes them curious. Usually my kind don’t notice their presence. They are intrigued, but they do not trust me. I look too much like one of them – like one of you. They quickly return their frail bodies to the safety of your cardigan.
I see them. Once as big as mountains, they have become a collection of pebbles that you squeeze into your pocket. Caged since infancy, they no longer remember what it means to be free. They have forgotten the summer. Knowing only the darkness of the winter you’ve banished them to, they do not dream of spring. They can hope only of hope.
I see them. I cannot hear them though, for they speak only in whispers. They mustn’t disturb you. They know they shouldn’t be out at this time. It’s against your rules. They should never be awake at the same time as you are. Now is the time for work not for their silly games. It’s time for grown up stuff. They’ve been told before: they have no place in the real world.
I see them. Yet you can barely remember what they look like. You’d have forgotten them completely if not for their little visits. They like to say hello. Even though you’ve given up on them, they remember you fondly and will stay with you always. They are everywhere. Under the burning of the sun, they drift on the breeze gently caressing your face. Sitting on the beach, they surf on the waves lapping at your feet. They are the dancing flames of passion in the deep and dark eyes of a lover.
I see them. You met them as a child. You used to lay in the grass and laugh with them. You were best friends. Sometimes you would spend all day together talking of days to come. You believed in one another.
One day, not so long ago, you were told you could no longer see each other. Your parents wouldn’t allow it. Your teachers forbade it. You could no longer be friends.
But I still see them. They are your dreams.
I see you, too.
You who has walked with giants. You who has braved the darkness. You who is born of the light.
I’ve seen the stardust in your bones and the sunlight in your eyes. Ancestors who protect you course through your veins. Your roots run deep into mother earth, and she holds you with care and love. The knowledge inside of you is as deep as the ocean, and your soul is as vast as its murky depths. You possess the strength of a God – you are one.
You have inside of you all that you need to chase your dreams.
How many of us can claim we haven’t felt the painful sting of true loss in our lives?
Of course, none of us can. Even the old monk who has nothing to lose has, at some point in time, lost a teacher or has left a family that meant the world to him.
In fact, most of us have recently lost someone (or something) dear to us. It could have been a grandparent, a cat, a job (that you loved), a sibling, or a significant other.
Obviously loss comes in varying degrees. We could have lost a great aunt that we happened to get along with well, or we could have lost the person we believed with all of our hearts that we would someday grow old with.
Most of you probably had a specific name or a face pop into your head as you were reading this. The memory of that person or thing instantly triggered a pain somewhere inside of us. The more intricately entwined with our soul that person or thing was (or is), the deeper and more astonishing that pain would have been.
We’ve all gone through it. The loss of someone unmeasurably important to us. The subsequent days in bed, looking out the window at a landscape that always seems to be dark and rainy. We sit in front of computer screens watching cartoons or scrolling Facebook. We do anything we can instead of facing that pain.
We desperately try to escape it, but we can’t. We buy our favourite foods only to realise we have no appetite. We organise a girls’ night only to realise we’re not really in the mood for company or the notion of changing out of our sweat pants. Some of us need to switch to stronger medicine. We binge drink or we get high. We seek out pleasures of the flesh.
Some of us chase a feeling – any feeling – other than pain. Some of us are happy just to numb ourselves. Some of us even like a bit of a blend, the numbing of our minds and souls but the good old stimulation of the physical senses. No matter our medicine, we close our hearts to the world.
But what happens to our heart when this happens? Where does it go?
Some say our pain is the risk we take, and a symptom of loving someone fully and completely. Others claim is it a symptom of loving foolishly, and with crippling dependence on that which we’ve lost.
I think of everything I’ve lost in my life and it’s easy to see where the pain comes from. I saw my grandmothers very infrequently, and my dependence on them was extremely limited. The pain of losing them, however, was great. I would say the same of the loss of my favourite dog growing up.
That is because the pain of our loss is directly related to how much love we put into a relationship, and how open and vulnerable we allow ourselves to be in order to receive the return of that love. It is in this understanding we can solace in dark times.
I’ve said it before, I know very little about this crazy world we’re caught spinning in. I know even less about that blinding force which we call love. In many ways, I’m hopeless when it comes to these things. But I look at the history of humanity and I see that humans inherently understand the beauty that can come with losing the people and things that we love.
I think of John Keats, of Dante Alighieri, Andy Warhol, and countless other poets, artists, and writers who used the power of loss in order to create something beautiful. Since the dawn of time, humanity has found ways to turn our losses into our gains. Destruction into construction. Pain into the inherent pleasure of creation. We’ve taken the holes left by loss and we’ve planted and nurtured seeds of beauty in them.
Life has many ways of taking those we love from us. Death, break-ups, situations of long distance or bad timing, and many other pressures of life. In this life, loss comes at us from all angles. We should expect for the agents of loss at every turn.
We cannot control who, or what, we lose. We cannot control when we lose them.
But we can always control how we react to it. As long as we consciously recognise and accept our grief, then it is in our power to limit and indulge in it as we see fit.
It seems funny that our natural response to losing something or someone is to sit still. To mourn. To hold our breath. To try and cease existing entirely. On the most simple of levels, mourning a loss is compounding our grief. We add loss to loss. We lose days and weeks. We lose our connection to the world around us, to the people who love us, and – most importantly – we lose the connection to ourselves.
If we’ve already lost someone special to us, why lose another moment, or experience, or chance to indulge in life?
Why not indulge in that pain as so many creative humans have before us? We can use that powerful energy and turn it into something that serves us rather than something that cripples us. Something that banishes us to the dark corners of the mind.
For mother time is a huntress who has never hunted a prey she could not track. She always catches her target. And she comes for us all.
This is why we need to keep moving forward, because time always moves on without us. We don’t have to get out of bed, but the world keeps spinning. We don’t have to pass the time, but the time will pass us by. Eventually our time will be up, and we will be taken away from those who cherish us.
So get out of bed, and put away the tub of Ben and Jerry’s. Turn your loss and your pain into something wonderful.
You can turn that loss of your dream job into that European vacation you fantasized about since you first saw photos of Rome. You can transform the death of your brother into a piece of literature that honours and immortalises him for all of time. You turn your loss of innocence into paintings which inspire emotions in people so powerful that it tells your story without using words. You can take getting dumped as a sign it’s time to start fresh and experience the thrill of living in a new city, or country.
Loss is a part of opening your heart to the amazing experiences of life. Unfortunately, it is unavoidable. The more fulfilling of a life we live, the more we’ll feel that familiar pain of loss. That pain is ours. We can run from it, or we can turn it into something that lifts the soul to the higher realms of creation. It takes courage, but I promise you have that courage inside of you.
Sometimes when I sit down and the words don’t come, it’s important that I force myself to just start writing. The only cure for writer’s block, curiously enough, seems to be actually writing.
Funny how that works.
I don’t worry about mistakes, or if things don’t quite make sense. I just sit down and write whatever comes to mind. It’s called free writing.
Before you know it, the words are flowing through you. You are no longer a writer, or the master of your own words. You’ve become, in many ways, a conduit. You’ve become a hollow conductor by which creativity and creation can direct its magic through.
You’re just a corpse carrying a soul, after all.
The more I think about it, the more I think that the mentality behind free writing is applicable to life. Not only is it applicable, its the essentialmindset behind having a fulfilled life.
How many of us have that vision of our greater self in our heads, and yet we sit around waiting for that perfect idea or plan to formulate before we take a leap of faith on ourselves?
The idea of the exact right timing, or the perfect storm of situational circumstance is just a form of resistance that we create in order to stay comfortable.
It’s the bubble we blow to keep ourselves safe. Safe but unfulfilled.
We would love to film the documentary that would change the world, we just need to find the right camera, or get the funding, or find the right time to get away from the office for long enough to do it.
We would love to start that new business venture, but we’re just not sure our idea is different or trendy enough to really catch on. We’re not sure if we’re ready for such a financial or personal commitment. We’re not sure if we have the expertise to make it work.
We would love to write the next New York Times best selling novel, but we’re not sure if we can find thetime between work, school, or the kids to sit down and write. We’re not sure if our storylines are all that new and exciting, or if we even have a storyline to start with. We’re not sure if we’re proficient enough in the rules of writing, or in the language itself.
We would love to get out of our line of work and try something new, but we’re just not sure if we’re tooold of a dog to learn new tricks. We’re not sure if we have the time and patience to go back to school, or take a training course in the evenings. We’re not sure about the money.
We would love to get married to that man of our dreams, but we’re just not sure if the timing is all that great. We would love to settle down with our fair Juliet, but how do we reallyknow if we’re ready to face the difficulty of a relationship?
And yet some of the best documentaries I’ve seen have been filmed on little hand-held camcorders, or used footage that was entirelyborrowed from other sources. But they just made it work, piece by piece, little by little.
Walt Disney couldn’t get a job as a newspaper cartoonist, but didn’t stop drawing. He drew and drew and drew. He made cartoons until the source of creation breathed life into them. He had no more entrepreneurial talent than you do, and yet look what his simple idea created.
Rockefeller wasn’t born a multimillionaire. He wasn’t handed a massive company or inheritance. But he knew he was born to sell. So he sold. He sold candy door to door and did odd jobs wherever he could.
Hemingway didn’t come from a long ling of writers. He didn’t attend a prestigious university and earn an English degree. But he wrote. He also drank a lot, sure, but he wrote. He wrote words and he wrote them often.
So, what made Michelangelo a painter? What made Steve Jobs an entrepreneur? What made Bo Jackson an athlete? What made Hemingway a writer? What made Julia Roberts (or was it Sandra Bullock?) in Pretty Woman a prostitute?
All of these people made money doing these things, but that wasn’t what made them who they were.
Michelangelo was a painter because he painted. He loved to paint and he did it with all of his waking moments.
Bo Jackson played. He went out every single day and he played. Half the time the sport didn’t even matter to him, he just played it.
Julia Roberts’ character was a hooker because she hooked (hookered?).
Hemingway was a writer because he wrote. He was also a drinker, because he loved to get pants-shitting drunk.
You get the point.
Do you think Steven Pressfield considered himself a writer only after writing The Legend of Bagger Vance?
Or was he a writer for the nearlytwodecades of writing he did before his first professional gig?
There’s never going to be that perfect moment to do something, or someone, you love.
You’re never going to be fully equipped to do it.
You’ll never be expert enough in your own mind.
But you will always have that little voice that calls you to do the thing that makes you who you are.
And by listening to that calling every single day, you’re already a writer, or a painter, or a hooker.
And you’ll find you’re pretty fucking awesome at it. So do it.
In meditation, there’s a few different reasons as to why the mantra is used.
Some sects of Buddhism or Hinduism believe that muttering certain words manifests change. The words plant a little seed in the plan of the universe which is then nurtured by our positive deeds, good intentions, and dedication to our practice.
Other sects believe that the mantra is a set of arbitrary words used to numb the mind.
This is because when we take any word, and say it over and over and over and over again, it loses all meaning.
When the word eventually fades into the realm of meaninglessness, we are essentially muttering nothing at all. We have short circuited our way to an empty mind. A quiet mind.
A mind content in its meaninglessness.
An integral element of turning a word or a mantra meaningless is that there must not and can not be anything behind the words. We have to say the words without putting any feeling behind it.
We may have originally known the intention of our mantra, and we may have started our chants with intense purpose and sincerity, but somewhere along the way we must lose that intent and meaning in order for words, and their meaning, to fade into oblivion.
This is exactly what happens in life when we go through the motions.
We get up every day and follow the same routine. Go to the same job, to perform the same functions, with the same faces surrounding us, who are also performing their own monotonous functions.
Too many of us call this life. Too many of us call this living.
Like the mantras that lose all meaning, along the way we’ve lost what’s behind our words and our actions.
We’re performing the action of living, without actually possessing the intent to live.
We’re just saying the words over and over and over again. Our actions are for the sake of action.
And in this way our lives become meaningless.
We confuse the action itself as being the crucial element of life, when in reality it is the intention behind our actions that matters the most.
Life isn’t about the vacation or the trip, it’s about why we’re going, what we’re getting from it, or what we’re running from.
It isn’t about the code we live by, it’s about why we’ve chosen that path. It’s about discovering the fears and the pressures that have convinced us to live life a certain way, and it’s about choosing – for your own reasons – to find a different code to follow.
It’s not about the corner office job, but why we get up and work there every day.
Once you lose the intention behind the action, it becomes meaningless.
One should therefore not rely on mere words, but everywhere search for the intention behind them.” Buddhist Scriptures.
And that goes for anything in life.
You can be a brilliant poet, painter, athlete, lover, worker, or mother, but if the intention behind it isn’t pure or has been forgotten, then your actions cease to have meaning.
Your actions become a mantra.
Your boss, your partner, your children, and your team mates will all begin to feel the insincerity behind those meaningless actions.
Life is never about the choices we make.
It’s about why we make those choices. It’s about those tiny moments of integrity, when we know we’ve made an unpopular choice but have stayed true to ourselves.
It’s about being fearless in the face of external pressures or socially constructed fears.
Life is the fire, intention is the oxygen that gives it strength and beauty.
So breathe some fresh air into your life.
Take some time to reflect on why you’re doing everything in your life. Look at everything you do today as a choice, and question the intention behind that choice.
That is where your power comes from.
You have the choice and the power to live life how you want to live it.
Don’t let any person or misplaced fear take that away from you.
I had finally arrived home, just ahead of the sunset. Exhausted, I dropped onto the couch with a sigh.
The rain sputtering on the window reminded me that I was sitting in wet clothes, but I was too tired to care.
Looking around the room, a book on a nearby shelf that was collecting dust caught my eye. I had bought it some time ago, on a whim of no real design, and it had sat there neglected ever since.
As we sometimes do, I flicked absent-mindedly through its pages; I landed on book number two. A certain paragraph seemed to stick out off of the page, a little further than the others.
I ran my fingers along the black lettering. It seemed to be bulging from the paper as though it was braille. I can still remember my eyes actually growing wider with a desperate gluttony as I began to hungrily devour the words presented before me:
Remember how long you have been putting this off, how many times you have been given a period of grace by the Gods and not used it. It is high time now for you to understand the universe of which you are a part, and the governor of that universe of whom you constitute an emanation: and that there is a limited circumscribed to your time – if you do not use it to clear away your clouds, it will be gone, and you will be gone, and the opportunity will not return.” Marcus Aurelius, Meditations.
I had always heard of people having a moment of clarity, which also happens to be my favourite Jay-Z song of all time, but I had never experienced one myself.
You always hear people say that when you’re truly in love, you’ll just “know” it. The same people say if you’re unsure if you’ve ever been in love, then you haven’t.
I believe the same distinguishing factors apply for a moment of clarity. Simple words, usually so easily manipulated in order to shape an idea in your head, suddenly fall short. Clarity is a poetry that is not written or spoken. It is felt with every fibre of your being.
I put down the book in complete disbelief after reading that simple paragraph. I was wordless and shapeless. That simple passage had an unbelievably powerful effect.
This is the point in the story when it ceases to resemble any sort of cliché Hollywood script.
As the protagonist, I didn’t go out that day and achieve greatness. I didn’t compose a masterpiece, save a drowning puppy, or help to end the suffering of one of the millions of children in need. I didn’t change the world, and I certainly wasn’t saving it. Put me in a spandex suit and I still wasn’t Superman.
I did, however, experience a moment of clarity that I will carry with me for the rest of my life; I saw things clearly and simply. Three things had suddenly become abundantly clear to me:
The first was that the universe is a system of infinitely complex and interrelated pieces. A clock with trillions of perfectly operating cogs and dials. As children of this universe, we are pieces of this puzzle. We are cogs and wheels in the clock of time and space. Each and every single one of us has a purpose. You and I have true meaning. We are each of us important.
The second was that our notion of time is an illusion. An illusion we’ve created. We’ve fabricated the idea of time as a quantity so we can count it and spend it and sell it and trade it the same way we do money and raw materials. Life is a single, uninterrupted and endless opportunity that we’ve for some reason separated into years, days, hours, minutes and seconds. When it comes to your true purpose, there is no fixed timeline or Monday deadline. It is never too late to pursue it. If we’ve wasted moments or decades, it does not change the opportunity that is our life. You can’t waste what doesn’t exist. Time doesn’t exist, but opportunity does as long as you draw breath.
The third, and most important, realization was that the universe had always been speaking to me, I just hadn’t been listening. It speaks to all of us.
The sun came up the morning you were born, and sunk that same evening. It’s done this every day of your life since.
Each sunrise does not represent the start of another day, a fragment of time the universe has no concept of. Each sunset does not represent another collection of wasted chances. The rising and setting sun is the universe’s constant reminder that nothing has changed while you slept. You fell asleep in a life of opportunity and you’ve woken up in its midst.
We need to stop thinking about the days that have passed. We need to stop thinking about the days that may or may not exist in our future. Think instead about how today, in this very moment, you can pursue your true calling. Today you can make a change, or make a difference. Today you can do anything.
I didn’t receive divine knowledge telling me my life’s purpose or how to pursue it that day. I was simply reminded of something I already knew. Something that, deep down, we all really know.
As miniature pieces of this wonderfully chaotic and perfect universe, we are perfectly designed for something. Every single one of us has a purpose.
We’re not too late or incapable. Those thoughts are just grey clouds in our sky as we’re chasing the sun – grey clouds that we’ve created.
So look up at the sun today. Close your eyes and let it warm your face. Let it remind you that you are basking in a perpetual moment of opportunity.
Think of the thing you’ve always wanted to do. Think of whatever it is that has always called to your soul. Then open your eyes and take that next step, big or small, in pursuing that purpose you were put on this earth for, whatever you feel it may be. You are strong enough. You are capable enough.
I’m not talking about the superficial sincerity you try to muster into your facial expression when you tell your friend their dodgy haircut looks great. It’s not in the tone you try to force into your voice when you tell your significant other they didn’t burn the (completely black) steak and that it tastes fine.
Growing up, we all picked our sides; cowboys or indians; ninjas or samurai; the (very talented) blue players or the (slower, less skillful) red players on a foosball table.
As much as I loved those genetically mutated turtles who ate pizza and ran rampant in the sewers, I was never really a ninja kid. Personally, there was something about the samurai class that I was always drawn toward. This affinity for the samurai travelled with me well into adulthood. There was a certain romanticism about them. They were, to me, the very definition of warrior poets.
I studied Bushido (the way of the warrior) which inevitably led me to stumble upon Yamamoto Tsunetomo’s work, Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai. I found that the more I read, the more disappointed I became. The teachings were often elitist, sexist, selfish, ruthless, and sometimes extremely barbaric.
I found myself able to forgive these massive flaws, however, when I put everything into the proper perspective. These men were not by nature the skilled killers they had become famous for. They were born the same as you and I.
These men could be our fathers, our brothers, our husbands, or our boyfriends. These men were capable of love, compassion, mercy, and generosity. I found it fascinating that they were able to completely transcend their humanity in becoming samurai. I felt myself drawn to the teachings that helped these men – who were people just like you and I – rise above the human restrictions they were born with.
Most of us have no desire to transform ourselves into heartless marauding mercenaries, myself included. That doesn’t mean there are no important lessons to take from Hagakure and the legendary code of the Samurai.
I think we’re all looking for a higher version of ourselves. We all have a deep seated desire to become someone that reaches beyond the limitations we’ve all convinced ourselves we have. Yamamoto’s teachings emphasised a single word that, until that point in my life, I had never placed much importance on.
There will be many giants for us to face in this life; we must face them like samurai; we must face them with sincerity.
In the Hagakure, the importance of sincerity is constantly stressed. It emphasises the absolute necessity of sincerity in not only self improvement but in all aspects of our lives.
I’m not talking about the superficial sincerity you try to muster into your facial expression when you tell your friend their dodgy haircut looks great. It’s not in the tone you try to force into your voice when you tell your significant other they didn’t burn the (completely black) steak and that it tastes fine.
I’m talking about true sincerity, the kind that can only flourish inside of you. You can put on a Leonardo DiCaprio-esque performance to the rest of the world, but you can’t fake true sincerity to yourself. There is no such thing as almost sincere, or partially sincere. Whether it’s an action you’re taking, a plan you’re making, or words you’re speaking, you either absolutely mean it with every last fibre of your being, or you don’t.
Sincerity does not only complete the self; it is the means by which all things are completed. As the self is completed, there is human-heartedness; as things are completed, there is wisdom. This is the virtue of one’s character, and the Way of joining the internal and external. Thus, when we use this, everything is correct.” – Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai.
It is an extremely simple and logical concept. Sincerity is the distinguishing factor between those who actually want something and those who only claim that they do. Many people wish to lose weight; those who take it upon themselves to research proper nutrition and exercise before implementing what they’ve learned into their everyday life exemplify sincerity. Those who take the option of a gluten free bun for their burger, before adding a large fry and a coke, are those who are demonstrating insincerity. Sincerity will quickly show you results and insincerity will leave you wondering why you’re not achieving your goals.
The samurai, for example, were so sincere about living an honourable life that they would actually disembowel themselves – a practice known as seppuku – rather than shame themselves in battle or die a dishonourable death. This practice is actually one of the things I found barbaric about the samurai, but there is certainly no denying the absolute sincerity by which they lived their lives and by which they honoured their code.
They were willing to sacrifice (literally) everything to obtain and maintain something as intangible and obscure as honour in their lives, while most of us couldn’t even give up chocolate for lent. Through sincerity they were able to completely transform their human selves into automatons of destruction. Sincerity was the power behind their ability to become the fearless, emotionless, masters of death that they were.
Sincerity is present in every aspect of life. In sports, sincerity lives in the child who gets excited for practice, who studies the game. Insincerity lives in the child who’s playing because his parents want it for him, or because it could translate into millions of dollars. Insincerity exemplifies itself in the workplace, in those who switch onto autopilot for forty-plus hours a week in a job they chose because there was a market demand or because it sounded prestigious. Sincerity emits from the ones who jump out of bed in the morning because they’ve chosen to do something they love, regardless of the money they make or the status it brings them.
The more we look for sincerity, the more apparent it becomes. The more we act with sincerity, the more we’ll develop a reciprocal relationship with it. When we act out of sincerity, sincerity acts back. It acts back in the form of noticeable improvements, lessons learned, successes, and (most importantly) failures. These failures tell us we’re on the right path, they tell us we’re going in a sincere direction.
When we speak with sincerity, sincerity responds. It responds in the form of advice from others, grapevine opportunities, offers of help, and real talks with those around us. When we love others with sincerity, with all of our soul, our lives become full of love that is – in turn – sincere.
Life becomes simple when you live it with sincerity. Be sincere with every one of your actions and words. Be sincere with those around you. Most importantly, be sincere with yourself.
And you’ll find the life you attract is sincere to you.