On Going Through the Motions:

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.


entrevo-keypersonofinfluence-get-started-meditation
[ Source: http://www.keypersonofinfluence.com ] .
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.


Portrait Herm of
Socrates : One of My Favourite Examples of a Man Unconcerned With Social Fears or Pressures.

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.

Don’t go through the motions.

Live your life with conscious intention.

And you’ll be living a meaningful life again.

Be good to each other,

– MG.

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On The Things We Want:

Race cars, Barbies, video games, shoes, a new hockey stick, the list goes on. We were shamelessly invested in the fantasy of our birthday.

Another year has gone by, and another birthday arrives to remind me. It’s funny to think how much things have changed since we were children. The world used to stop for our birthday. We were kings and queens for twenty four hours every year. I remember my twin sister and I would start counting down the days as soon as October came around. It was always the most exciting part of the year.

Then, slowly, birthdays became less exciting. The countdowns started later, and the parties became less extravagant. Eventually, we stopped caring. Some of us have started to dread the day we turn another year older.

For me, birthdays have become routine. It always involves a little bit of cake, some close friends, some family, and too many vodka shots. Lately, birthdays have been followed by a day or two of recovery (in bed, with Netflix). For the most part I couldn’t tell you a single thing that has separated one birthday from another. Except for this year.


Something happened that has never happened before; not a single person has asked me what I wanted for my birthday. It was with this realisation that something strange dawned on me. This was the first time in my life I could have answered that question from the bottom of my heart.

Growing up, we used to love the question of what we wanted for our birthday. It gave us a chance to voice all of the superficial and material desires that raced through our little minds. Race cars, Barbies, video games, shoes, a new hockey stick, the list goes on. We were shamelessly invested in the fantasy of our birthday. We were convinced the day was so magical it might actually produce all of these things that we wanted.

But those weren’t the things we truly wanted, were they? Those wants were the result of targeted advertising aimed at the minds of tiny children and young adults. Those desires were what someone else convinced us we wanted and needed. Those wants came from being convinced we weren’t good enough the way we were. Those desires were someone else’s idea of happiness, a happiness of the material kind. Our birthday lists were so long because pursuing material happiness is endless. Material desires will always leave us searching, wanting, and needing more.


Just a couple of kids who have no idea what they actually want in life.
My two sisters and I: just a few kids who had no idea what they actually wanted in life.

Part of my journey to Australia was inspired by the growing resistance against the idea of waking up one day and being sixty years old. I was terrified I’d work for the weekends for my entire young adulthood, scrape by with the money I earned over fifty hour work weeks, and spend it buying things I didn’t love or need in order to pursue somebody else’s idea of happiness.


And that’s not to say I don’t like the idea of the picket fence, walking in the garden with the girl of my dreams, with miniature versions of ourselves running around (hopefully stressing us out less than I did my parents), with a family dog chasing them around the yard.

BUT maybe that picket fence isn’t in the suburbs. Maybe it’s at the end of a long dirt road that twists and bends, with a few large evergreens on either side. Maybe my nearest neighbour is half a day’s walk away. Maybe the food we’re eating is picked from our own garden. Maybe I’m running around all day with the kids and the dog, because I don’t have to put on a suit every day and leave my family before the sun rises and come home after the sun sets. Maybe my kitchen smells like the jasmine, basil, and mint growing in small pots in the sunlight pouring in from the window. Maybe my wife laughs at me when I buy her a necklace, not because its not from Tiffany’s, but because we both know she’ll never wear it. We both know we’ve never measured or demonstrated our love in this manner. Maybe we can lay in the grass together like children, after ours have gone to bed, and look up at the stars without a veil of light pollution obstructing our connection to the heavens. Maybe we’ll fall asleep under those stars because she feels so warm in my arms. Maybe my arm will fall asleep too, but maybe she looks too beautiful to disturb her when she’s sleeping.


This scene from Gladiator gets me every single time.
The picture perfect driveway: this scene from Gladiator gets me every single time.

Maybe I’ll find a way there. Maybe I’ll have my picket fence on a plot of land. Maybe I’ll be the boy of her dreams. Maybe I’ll be the loving father I know is inside of me. Maybe I won’t. Maybe it’s not in the cards for me. Either way, I know which journey I want to take. At least it’s not someone else’s version of happiness. At least it’s not someone else’s vision of the perfect life. At least it’s my own dream that I’m chasing. At least I’m being honest about who I am.


There are two tragedies in life. One is to lose your heart’s desire. The other is to gain it.” George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman.


So, even though no one has asked me, I’ll tell you what I want for my birthday:

I want you to strip away all the of the influence society has had on your mind. I want you to search deep inside of your heart. Dive into the very depths of your soul. Find that child inside of you that was never convinced of being anyone other than exactly who you are. I want you to ask yourself – ask that child – what it is that you actually want in life.

And then I want you to go and get it.

Be good to each other,

– MG.

On Money:

In the material world we live in, money is king.
And yet, there is nothing material about it.

It’s been said by many people in various ways that “money makes the world go round.” It goes without saying that it plays a large part in our lives. We see it everyday; we see it swap hands in the coffee shop, we throw it into piggy (or real) banks, and we spend most of our days working for it. We watch as experts trade it and predict its future value. We judge the value of material goods by how much money it costs; in the material world we live in, money is king.

And yet, there is nothing material about it.


So What Is It then?

Yes, money exists in the physical world; it has weight and density; we can feel it. At a point in the not-so-distant past, it was even made up of (materially) valuable resources. But the money we worship, as it is, is of no intrinsic value. It’s what that money becomes that gives it worth. Money is a shape-shifter; it is Mystique, The T-1000, Merlin, Professor Lupin; it can be anything.

The famous shape-shifting wizard, Merlin - as seen in Disney’s Sword in the Stone.
The famous shape-shifting wizard, Merlin – as seen in Disney’s Sword in the Stone.

It can be a night downtown, complete with bottle service and a booth to call your own. It can be a new book, the smell of fresh pages still intoxicating in their strength. It can be a water pump for a thirsty village in Africa. It can be a lady of the night, or a donation to the church. It can be tickets to the show, the game, or to get on the overnight train to visit an old friend. It can be a university education or a down payment on a house. Money, simply put, is a promise of the future.

And that is why it is such a terrifying thought to spend one’s life pursuing it.


There is nothing less material than money, since any coin whatsoever (let us say a coin worth twenty centavos) is, strictly speaking, a repertory of possible futures. Money is abstract, I repeated; money is the future tense.” – Jorge Luis Borges, Labyrinths.


I’m not so naive as to think money isn’t important. It serves its purpose, and can be put to use in some pretty amazing ways. I, like Epicurus, tend to believe money has a limited role to play in our happiness. It can give us the food and shelter we need to survive, or the education we require to follow our dreams. It can cover the cost of rent for your new yoga or art studio.

The Epicurean graph of Money vs Happiness, as found in Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Botton
The Epicurean graph of Money vs Happiness
, as found in Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Botton

But it will never make us truly happy.


Why it’s crazy

It seems almost ludicrous to think money will lead to our happiness. Spending one’s life chasing the accumulation of money, or the material items that money can transform into, is perpetually pursuing the future. There is no life, no experiences, no love, or laughter in the future. Those things are found in the present moment; they are found in the here and the now.

It’s been said that the minute we fulfil a fantasy we can not, and will not, want it any longer. This is because it is never the material desire that we want, it is the fantasizing about that desire that we seek. Think of the time you fantasized about being single, getting a puppy, or buying that new car. If I could just obtain “x”, you thought, I`ll be happy – only to find out that happiness doesn’t work that way. Even a small child desires the shiny red ball or those magically rattling car keys, until he or she obtains them. We may get a brief fulfilment out of finding a new (or multiple new) partner(s), playing with the new pup, or wheeling around in the new whip – but that novelty will always fade. It fades because these things only serve to plug a hole inside of ourselves, a void that can only be filled from within.


This is why money – and the pursuance of it – it such a foolish prospect.

If we spend our days accumulating money, we’re spending that which gives money value in the first place – our future. We’ll have many coins that can turn into many things, but with no time left to perform such powerful magic. Our future, much like the money we attain by wasting it, is not something we can bring with us after we pass from this life.

A fulfilled life isn’t measured by the number of fantasies you fulfil or the material objects you obtain. It’s measured by the experiences you have, the people you share it with, and (most importantly) being fully present in those moments. Spend your time in the future, or chasing it, and you’ll miss the collection of moments that fulfil us, the ones that pave our way to happiness.

Don’t spend your life in a constant chase of the next future fantasy. Chase the present moment. Live in it fully, love in it fully, and laugh it in fully. Your happiness is not a fantasy to be fulfilled. It is right in front of you this very moment.

Take it, its yours.

Be good to each other,

– MG.

On James Neal:

The truth isn’t always easy. In a society mainly concerned with comfort, we will often seek convenience over the truth.  Our love of the scapegoat is a perfect example of this. We’ve seen it many times in many realms; we’ve seen scapegoats in politics, in war, and in sports. We do it because its easy. It’s easy to find a singular, simple source of blame than it is to scratch beyond the superficial surface of an issue.

A Flashback:

I remember it was an unseasonably warm Australian afternoon in late June. I had just finished a four hour Corporate Law exam and was waiting in line for a double triple shot of espresso so I could stay awake for the rest of the day. Friends back home were taking part in the Canadian past time of watching the NHL draft and criticizing their favourite team’s picks as couch-ridden, unpaid general managers. I turned my phone on, and it blew up. 

James Neal had been traded to the Nashville Predators. I was shocked. Not because he’s a 40 goal scorer. Not because of his big body presence or his quick release that would make most players envious. Those things can theoretically be replaced. The reason the trade struck me as curious was that I couldn’t for the life of me propose a valid reason as to why it happened.

The (debatable) official reasons for the trade eventually surfaced. Over the next few months a number of additional articles emerged discussing the trade. There was an overwhelming theme that this trade was chemotherapy for the Penguins; that they had eradicated a cancer in removing James Neal. Articles claimed that this trade improved the character and the dressing room environment of the Penguins (without providing any real evidence). Usually, the writer hinted to whispers amongst pundits or equated on-ice discipline with who Neal is as a person and a professional. James Neal – the player and the person – deserved more than that.

The Player’s Player:

James Neal is, and always has been, a great team-mate. He’s loose in the dressing room. His on and off-ice chemistry with Geno was rivalled by few power duos in the league. He’s a professional in every sense of the word. Coaches and players past and present vouch for his relentless work ethic and dedication off the ice and during practice.  

Neal and I playing for Whitby Minor Bantam AAA for the 2001-02 season.
Neal and I playing for Whitby Minor Bantam AAA for the 2001-02 season.

I played for nearly ten years with James Neal. We put on the same jersey for close to 1000 games of hockey. For most of them, he was my captain. He’s a silent yet strong leader who leads the way by example. He’s more dedicated to his body and his craft than anyone I’ve ever met.

He is selfless and will do whatever is asked of him (just ask Craig Hartsburg, who took Neal to fill a third line checking role with Team Canada on its way to World Junior gold in 2007). He’ll hit hard, he’ll fight if he has to, and he’ll do whatever gives the team the best chance of winning. He wants to win more than anyone in that Nashville dressing room right now. Ingrained deep within him is a sense of integrity that will never allow these things to change. Nashville is extremely lucky to have him, and they know it. Simply put, he’s a player’s player.

James Neal winning the U21 World Juniors in 2007. [Source: Getty Images]
James Neal winning the U21 World Juniors in 2007.
[Source: Getty Images]
He’s shown himself to be a leader since his days in junior, and he’s already taken nicely to the assistant captain role in Nashville – showing that he can not only play on the defensive side of the puck, but also relate to and mentor young superstars who are learning the professional ropes.


It begs the obvious question: If he possessed such a cancerous character, why were at least 15 other teams in the market to acquire him? Why did Nashville commit to the remaining twenty million dollars on his contract, and give him the assistant captaincy?  It doesn’t exactly add up.

James Neal was painted as the villainous cancer in Pittsburgh because it was easier than addressing a massive lack of depth and toughness that the Penguins are suffering from.

Let’s Be Honest:

The trade was a bad one. It was a knee-jerk reaction by a new general manager who felt he needed to make a big splash to show fans that the perennial underachieving of the Penguins was not going to be tolerated. Neal was the biggest name that also doubled as a disposable commodity. Let’s face it, Crosby and Malkin weren’t going on the block. When you look at the trade, at both face value and in greater detail, it requires an additional layer to make it justifiable to fans and experts alike. The James-Neal-is-a-cancer myth served that purpose.

The Real Issue:

The Penguins maintained the core of superstars that won a cup, so why is post season under-performing becoming a theme in Pittsburgh? They lost the character that it takes to win in the play-offs.

Think of game seven against the Red Wings in ’09. Remove Max Talbot, his grit, and his two clutch goals from the Penguins line-up. Does Crosby lift the cup at the end of that game? Probably not. 

Max Talbot scoring what turned out to be the Stanley Cup winning goal in 2007. [Photo Source: USAToday.com]
Max Talbot scoring what turned out to be the Stanley Cup winning goal in 2009. [Photo Source: USAToday.com]
So how did the James Neal trade fix this culture of quitting when the games get tough? Of folding when adversity strikes? How did it help with character?

It didn’t. 

The Pens didn’t add anything in that department, and their play-off woes remained the same. You need sandpaper to win in the play-offs. Neal has that, and I’ve yet to see it in his replacement(s).

James Neal, The Person:

I understand the convenience behind the scapegoat. I understand its logical use in deflecting attention away from under-performing franchise players and in appeasing fan criticism. I understand that Neal was the perfect head to roll and this is a business. It would have been much tougher for Jim Rutherford to roll up his sleeves and go to work on the actual problems plaguing the Penguins. Yet something deep inside of me can never agree with how they turned James Neal into a scapegoat. They did it by attacking his character and his person.

There’s an entire human being the fans and media don’t see. They don’t see the guy who wakes up before sunrise to put long hours into training during his off-season. They don’t see his charity work, in both his home town and in Nashville. They don’t see the guy who takes care of his friends and family, all the people who love him for the man he’s become. 

James Neal supporting Smilezone Foundation at the abilities center in Whitby, Ontario. [Source: James Neal's Official Instagram]
James Neal supporting Smilezone Foundation at the abilities centre in Whitby, Ontario. [Source: James Neal’s Official Instagram]

We’re all entitled to an opinion. If you believe Neal’s departure was the start of a positive change in steel town, I respect that. I only ask that in your endless justification of the trade, do not stoop to taking shots at his character or his integrity.


It’s too easy to criticize a man when he’s out of favour, and to make him shoulder the blame for everybody else’s mistakes.” – Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace.


Big Picture:

These players are human beings just like you and I. It is in recognising them as such – through our human empathy – that we must find the strength to resist the urge to join in the whispers of defamation and gossip. The people we use as scapegoats, in politics or in sports, are certainly not perfect.

But they do their best. They make mistakes, but so do we. They love. They bleed. They sweat. They cry.

Treat them that way.

Be good to each other,

– MG.

On Pain:

What if pleasure and displeasure were so tied together that whoever wanted to have as much as possible of one must also have as much as possible of the other — that whoever wanted to learn to “jubilate up to the heavens” would also have to be prepared for “depression unto death”?” – Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science.

The buzzing of the planet is a daily reminder of our mind-bending advances in technology. Our satellites glimmer amongst the stars in the evening sky, a sky that plays host to thousands of soaring planes during the daylight hours. Our technological prowess has vastly increased the comfort of our daily lives. Like most things, however, our technology comes with a cost. Everything from iPhones to automobiles cost us money, which puts a price tag on the comfort and convenience they provide us. Comfort has thus become a thing of value. It has become important to us.

The importance placed on comfort by our society has inspired in us a ruthless seeking of it. We centre our lives around obtaining things that will aid us in avoiding discomfort, pain, and suffering. Yet I’m beginning to wonder if this spread of a certain Epicureanism throughout the western world has actually bettered our lives, or if it’s part of the reason we live such unfulfilled and relatively unhappy lives.

Flashback nearly two years ago, to my life of comfort. I was the Dionysus of an eastern Toronto suburb and my basement apartment man-cave served as my Olympus. I lived at home rent free, had no university debt, and was earning a full-time wage I could have saved to buy a house and a car with. I had nearly a dozen close friends close by, whom I had grown up with on the ice rinks and considered them more like brothers than friends. I had the best all-you-can-eat sushi joint just around the corner from my house. I had a gym buddy who was actually a ninja. I possessed the disposable income to do and purchase essentially whatever I pleased. I was a tree of comfort, and my roots were strong and deep. Life was painfully easy.

But I was unhappy. I was stagnant. I was unfulfilled.

An artist's rendition of my training partner. [Source: Hokusai Manga (1817) by Hokusai.]
An artist’s rendition of my gym buddy.
[Source: Hokusai Manga (1817) by Hokusai.]
Fast-forward to the present. I have long since left my job, friends, and family. I have vacated my Mount Olympus throne to travel across the Pacific ocean. I traded a life of comfort for the pursuance of something more. As of now, I’m uncomfortable, but I’m happy and feeling more fulfilled every day. I wouldn’t disillusion anyone and say anything about this has been easy, comfortable, or painless. Law school is a grind. Money is tight. I’m homesick. I miss my sisters, my mom and dad, my band of brothers/thieves/merry men. And I haven’t seen a single ninja since I landed here.

Yet is that pain and suffering not the price we pay for fulfilment, for happiness? Isn’t that our inherent agreement with the universe we are a part of? I look around myself and see that we naturally understand this contract.

I’ve seen “No Pain, No Gain” on gym singlets and “Pain is Temporary, Glory lasts Forever.” splattered on dressing room walls. I see all of us – the warriors of love – seeking out a significant other regardless of the pain relationships have caused us in the past, or the heartbreak we could be forced to endure in the future. We take the tests regardless of the chance of failure, or the immense effort required to study and learn. We play our various sports, knowing we’ll be bumped, bruised, and judged. We train our bodies to be strong through toil, trouble, and tears, even though they will eventually wither under the taxes of time. We paint, write, and dance, undeterred by the visions of the starving artist. We love our families and friends to the fullest, knowing the pain we’ll feel when they are inevitably taken from us. We do these things because we innately understand the nature of fulfilment.

What if pleasure and displeasure were so tied together that whoever wanted to have as much as possible of one must also have as much as possible of the other — that whoever wanted to learn to “jubilate up to the heavens” would also have to be prepared for “depression unto death”?” – Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science.

We know that the treasure of fulfilment is closely guarded by pain, suffering, and discomfort; the three heads of a hellhound protecting the gateway to happiness. We know that the most uncomfortable places are the classrooms where we learn and grow the most. We know that catching that perfect wave is worth the endless paddling, the hours of waiting, and the salt we get in our hair. We understand that the discomfort of rising in the early morning is the price of watching a stunning saffron sunrise. We know that trading the uninspiring view from base camp for the breathtaking scenery of the summit requires hours of treacherous hiking up the side of the mountain.

I think it’s entirely possible to live your whole life in comfort, confronted by minimal pain and suffering. I think this very moment there are many people who are dying in their retirement home beds who managed to accomplish this. I also believe that those same people would be willing to trade all of the days they lived in comfort for one chance to go back to their youth. They would go back and put themselves directly in the path of that same pain, suffering, and discomfort they have avoided all these years. For in doing so, they would also risk a life of happiness and fulfilment.

Don’t settle for comfort. Take the risk. Catch that perfect wave. Watch the sunrise. Fall in love. Climb that mountain.

…..I do miss that sushi joint though.

Be good to each other,

– MG.

On Romance:

In those days I wasn’t sure what ensued in her bed chambers afterwards, but I knew it represented the climax – no pun intended – of the romance.

The moon showed but a silver sliver of its full self. Laying in bed, I waited patiently for the Cheshire Cat to open his eyes and reveal himself in the night sky. He never did. Still, there was something in the way that celestial scimitar was standing triumphantly in the cloudless sky that inspired a deep feeling of romance inside of me as I remained caught in its gaze. Romance, I thought with a bit of a laugh. What is Romance?


Well, Google aptly defines romance as:

romance

rə(ʊ)ˈmans,ˈrəʊmans/

noun

1. a feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love.

I had a thirst for romance”

2. a quality or feeling of mystery, excitement, and remoteness from everyday life.

“the romance of the sea”


Growing up as one of the many young Romeos, all of us chasing the collective Juliet, I thought I conformed to a pretty standard notion of romance. It seemed pretty simple in those days. The boy bought (or stole from the neighbour’s garden) flowers, and then professed his love from beneath some sort of balcony. If he was a particularly adept romantic, he would do this by means of a sonnet.

The timing was important; it was best to perform the monologue under a full moon, but at sunset would also suffice. The woman was, for whatever reason, constantly awake, available to listen, and always waiting for young suitors to visit her at strange hours. At the end of the performance, the Juliet decided she was either:

(1) Not into the idea and sent the boy home, or;

(2) Was satisfied with the romantic gesture and let her hair down for the young man to climb up.


Sure, I might have gotten a few different love stories mixed up at that age, but I had the gist of it. In those days, I wasn’t sure what ensued in her bed chambers afterwards, but I knew it represented the climax – no pun intended – of the romance.

As I grew older I began to realize that my vision of what was romantic might not exactly capture the essence of romance. For one, my sisters began to give me an inkling that a truck load of chocolate might better serve a romance than any type of flowers – unless they were chocolate covered and edible. For two, I started to wonder what was in that “happily ever after” that always occurred after the curtains were drawn.

Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet (1884) by Frank Dicksee

We didn’t realize it then, but everything we watched or read during our youth emphasized the beginning of a love story as what should be considered romantic. Whether it was about new love birds or an old couple breaking apart before rekindling an old flame, the romance always lay in the chase; it was the pursuit that was romantic. It was always about that opening gambit and a few initial speed bumps before both prince and princess were ready for that royal wedding. Then the credits rolled.


Even now I think of the happy couple, rosy-cheeked in their romantic infancy, reciting the story of how they met for an audience of half-interested single people. It often runs along the same lines. Initially, the female wasn’t interested but the male romantically wooed her into changing her mind. We cover our hearts and say “aw” when we hear of the cheesy and “romantic” gestures that helped to sway the odds in this particular Romero’s favour.

There’s not much to say after the “how we met” stories concludes; they are in the middle of their happily ever after. The movie is usually over by now. Babies start coming, fights start happening, and a divorce will probably be the result. The spark has faded. The spark that, we’ve been taught, represents the romance. Of course if we see romance – and by an extension, love – in this way, we’re doomed to a never-ending cycle of needing the hunt. Like freezing Neanderthals in the winter, our lives will be spent focusing on chasing the spark, never enjoying the fire we’ve already set ablaze. Is that really what romance is?


I look around me and I see that isn’t true. I see romance everywhere I look. It floats on the breeze that swirls around the elderly couple walking hand in hand in the park. At the arrivals gate in the airport, it swims in the teary-eyes of two lovers locked in an embrace. When two people are separated by an ocean, romance twinkles in the stars they look upon while thinking about each other. It’s in coming home to that familiar face after a long day’s work. It’s in missing someone, even if you just dropped them off. It’s in the strange way you can be overwhelmed with frustration but still love that person with all of your heart.

Romance lives in forgiveness, and understanding, after arguments both big and small. It’s in the first handful of dirt a widower throws on his wife’s coffin. It’s found in the breast pocket of a dead soldier, in the recently dried ink of a letter home to his high school sweet heart. When we’re a shoulder to cry on, romance is that little wet patch of tears they leave on our sweater. When we’re the ones crying, romance is the familiar smell of perfume or cologne that we inhale as we bury our face in their clothes.

The sorrow of lovers parted before they met, laments over promises betrayed, long lonely nights spent sleepless until dawn, pining thoughts for some far place, a woman left sighing over past love in her tumbledown abode – it is these, surely, that embody the romance of love.” – Yoshida Kenkō, A Cup of Sake Beneath the Cherry Trees.

Not one of us will ever master love, or understand it. That is why everything about love is exciting and mysterious. As such, there is romance in all of it. We just need to move past our Hollywood conception of it and start enjoying the little things. Love isn’t perfect, and neither are we.

Our happiest and most exciting moments with our significant others will lay perilously close to the saddest and most dull ones. It’s all part of it, it’s up to us to appreciate each moment to the very last. There are little Romeos and Juliets in each of us. We are all romantics. We just need to embrace the romance that’s all around us.

Be good to each other,

– MG.

On Substance:

When I think of the word substance, I think of weight. I think of density. A bowling ball, a newborn baby, a dying sun. I think of what actually makes up the matter of someone or something, beyond the mask or façade on display.

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Disclaimer: I have no way of measuring the density of this artistic rendition of a star. But, to me, it looks dense.

We attach varied levels of importance to things tangible and intangible according to the meaning and value they have to our individual experience. Yet the word always carries the same meaning for all of us.

When we say something is of substance we are vouching that it possesses a depth beyond that which can be recognized on the surface, and that depth is essential to its meaning or existence. Substance is the existence of something beyond what we see and, more often than not, it is something of value.


Humans are the perfect example of what it means to have substance. We are much more than the surfaces we allow each other to see.

We are never skin deep. Each one of us is the result of the hundreds of thousands of intricate internal and external relationships and experiences. We appear to be made up of seamless and simple skin on the outside, yet internally we are a patchwork of a million personal pieces unique to ourselves.

It is this chaos inside of us, and not the calm surface, that makes us human. It is what separates us from one another; it is what differentiates us from the similar skin we’re all sharing.

Your internal substance is the part of you that isn’t easy to read or boring to learn about. The vivid and unique oils of your internal landscape are a personal portrait. Consistently being altered by the paintbrush of life, each stroke of colour adds to an already endless wonderland of adventure and intrigue.

Self-Portrait with a Straw Hat (1887) by Vincent van Gogh.
Self-Portrait with a Straw Hat (1887) by Vincent van Gogh.

So why then, are we so obsessed with hiding our complexity?


We meticulously maintain and groom our shallow surfaces. We carefully polish our vast array of smiles and we rehearse our jokes – for those are the weapons we’ll arm ourselves with during this weekend’s social campaign.

We place an unhealthy importance on the mastery of crafted emotions; our gasps of shock and fits of laughter must be believable and emphatic. We carefully iron out our faces after our trousers and we use the same mirror to apply our emotions in the same way we do our lipstick. We spray on our personality with our fragrances. We wear around our necks the persona we want others to see and then we hang Tiffany pendants and wooden crosses from them.

Our outward expressions, no longer useful tools in demonstrating the inward feelings we ignore, have become gadgets we use to accentuate our surface appearances. They serve the same purpose as our Marc by Marc Jacob clutch that matches our new Prada pumps or our Burberry tie that creates that must-have contrast with our Armani suit.


We’ve somehow began equating our surface with our substance. We’re only as beautiful as our most recent Facebook profile picture, the filter we choose for it, and how many likes it receives.

Our experiences are summed up in small collages and uploaded to Instagram, its value judged by how many people stamp their approval with little digital hearts.

We’re only as healthy as our body-fat percentage tells us we are, or the amount of gluten we avoid. Our spirituality is defined by the colour of our Lulu yoga mat.

We’ve forgotten that there is an entire world inside of us. It is a world full of experiences, memories, ideas, ambitions, and beliefs. It is a place that would take a lifetime for us to completely explore.


MEDITATION2
There is a magnificent kingdom inside all of us. When will you find yours?

Yet we’ve never cared to examine or maintain this inner kingdom. Our inner selves have become, like Dr. Frankenstein’s monster, crudely sewn and stitched together with ideas scavenged from the surface. Surface-deep ideas of what the superficial world insists makes us a whole person.

Instead of planting the seeds of wisdom, acceptance, confidence and self respect in our endless internal garden, we’ve left the weeds of ignorance, denial, doubt, and loathing to grow in their place until they strangle us.

The demons who feed off of these negative plants – such as fear, jealously, sadness, and paranoia – have grown strong and have multiplied. They prowl unchecked in the shadows of ourselves, and have become the tyrant kings of our domains while we have become strangers in the only place we can truly call our own.

Look well into thyself; there is a source of strength which will always spring up if thou wilt always look there.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations.

So maybe skip the hair /nails /tanning appointment or the gym today (unless its leg day – don’t skip that). Find a patch of grass and sit in silence. Watch your endless thoughts drift slowly by like the calming stream that they are. Trade in your typical Saturday night debauchery for something that inspires real growth. Instead, sit around a table with a few close friends – turn off your phones – and really connect with one another in real, human conversation.

Whatever you feel inclined to do, take some personal time and trim the rabid weeds strangling your soul. Plant the positive seeds of wisdom, acceptance, confidence and self respect that will grow into the beautiful garden you can be. Take back your kingdom, even if it’s inch by inch.

Do a little bit every day. Like Rome, you won’t be built in a day. In fact, you’ll never stop planting, cultivating, and exploring yourself. As a child of the stars, you are as limitless and as endless as the beautiful universe from which you came.

You are dense. You are full of substance. You are perfect.

Be good to each other,

~ MG.

Photos Courtesy of:

Cover Art: Storm At Sea (1820-1830) by J.M.W Turner
Star: zodiac-compatibility.tumblr.com
Meditating woman: odishasuntimes.com

On Motion:

It occurred to me that everything around me was in motion. A fleet of clouds sailed across an ocean of burning suns. Finely manicured blades of grass wiggled playfully like toes in the evening breeze. The flames of the camp fire danced a crimson cha-cha.

The voices of a few people close to me bounced around my ears. Their musical consonance provided a soothing background symphony as I lay in the grass looking up at the night sky. Despite being stranded somewhere in suburbia, the stars had managed to sear through the light pollution and were sparkling brightly in the heavens above me. The crackling of the fire was calming. I was still. I felt at peace.

In my perceived stillness it occurred to me that everything around me was in motion. A fleet of clouds sailed across an ocean of burning suns. Finely manicured blades of grass wiggled playfully like toes in the evening breeze. The flames of the camp fire danced a crimson cha-cha. The Aurai ran their kind hands softly through my hair and down my neck, inspiring goosebumps with every gentle gust they granted me. As still as I was, I couldn’t help but notice my chest expand and collapse with the huffing and puffing of my breathing bellows. I started to run with the idea.


Nothing about us, or the milky way we’re swirling in, is meant to be still. Motion is in our very genetic make-up. From head to toe we are wired with veins, interior aqueducts dispersing and directing the life force that flows down from our mountain heart. The large part of us that is made up of water yearns to ebb and flow with the tides, our distant cousins that crash upon the ocean cliffs. Our legs are powerful propellers designed to run, jump, and swim. Our feet are designed to absorb the impact of that motion, doubling as fins when we flap them underwater.

The music of our heart is a constant drumming, the unique resonating rhythm our body constantly dances to. Our breath is constantly flowing through us, winds that whisper new life into the deepest, darkest depths of us. Our minds are magnificent machines, master of our endless mental motions.

clarity
Everything I could see was in motion.

Nature is no different. Everything around us is revolving in a cycle of motion. The sun and the moon chase each other endlessly. Rivers restlessly flow into lakes that are never truly still and silent. Fields giggle with the gossips of grasshoppers. The swaying trees of the forest shelter the busy bees, beetles, and bugs. Even mountains move ever so slightly, their rocks forming slowly over hundreds of years.

Our nature consists in motion; complete rest is death.” Blaise Pascal, Pensées.

Then I take a look at our society. I reflect on the values and norms we’ve convinced ourselves are correct. I look at all of us, in a constant war with our desire to move, twist, and flow. I see us slouching over computers in blank cubicles that are as small as prison cells. Chained to our desks, our legs bounce with the defiant motion desperate to escape its confinement. I see us slave away in factories, separated from our constantly moving world around us by thick cement walls.

We flip through magazines as we sit for hours in airports before seeking solace in the rigidity of our neck pillows during long-haul flights. I see hyper-active children incapable of sitting still being sent to the principle’s office before doctors recommend a plethora of medications to cure them of their perpetually-moving disease. We’re stuck in libraries for hours sweating over the books we’ll be tested on for finals.

The gluttonous goblins of mindless media – such as Netflix, reality TV, Fox News, and Hollywood productions – share in the spoils of mental warfare as they gobble up entire years of our lives. Even meditation has been misconstrued as something that seeks to silence the mind, rather than allowing ourselves to slowly drift down our river of the thought, observing it without judgement.


The entire journey of life is a constant motion. We are meant to consistently learn, grow, and evolve. And we’re meant to do it together.

I’m tired of being chained to a library desk. I’m tired of seeing the people I love being confined to professional prisons. I’m tired of seeing my fellow humans drowning in socially constructed quicksand. I’m sick of sitting still. I want to use my arms and legs for the propulsion they were designed to provide me. I want to be cured of this sitting sickness. I want us all to remember the freedom and peace we feel when we keep ourselves in motion. I want us all to fly, together.

Be good to each other,

– MG.

On Reliance:

Our minds are lined with shelves overflowing with advice that we’ve accumulated over the years. Mental libraries, divided by subjects such as love, life, and happiness. Many of the tomes covering these various subjects are made up of simple but memorable sayings to help us along our path. 

Though I believe these expressions are beneficial in keeping the bigger picture in our minds, I find they often lack depth and substance. One such expression I hear used often, and have been guilty of using myself, is:

if you love something, set it free; if it comes back to you, its yours.”

When I paint a picture in my head of what this expression means to me, I picture a person opening a birdcage and letting a yellow canary fly out of a narrow apartment window, or a little boy letting his excited terrier off of the leash in a park. Eventually, both owners have their pets return dutifully back to them. I think this expression serves as a powerful microcosm of the dependent relationship dynamics which characterize many modern romances.

The problem with this expression, and the picture it paints, is it associates the notion of love with both ownership and reliance. I think both the notions of ownership and reliance are contrary to that of love, yet they’ve found a place in many of our intimate relationships.


The one you love is not a car. You didn’t buy him from a salesman. She does not come with ownership papers. In order to set something free you must first be the owner of it (or at least have it in your possession). You had to of restricted his or her freedom in the first place. It seems tragically contradictory to fall in love with something when it is wild and free – whether its a bird soaring in the sky or the beautiful stranger you met on the train – only to try and capture and cage it. We have allowed the complex toxins of private ownership to leak into the simple, pure, and unrestricted stream of love. Loving someone isn’t releasing them. Loving someone is never wanting to cage them in the first place.


Reliance, in my opinion, is a much more subtle and dangerous form of ownership. The canary doesn’t return to its cage out of love, it returns because its the only source of nourishment and drink that it has ever known. The canary has grown to love its chains. It no longer believes in itself. The canary is in a state of dependency and has learned to fear a life without the cage. It fears being apart from the owner it depends on for safety, warmth, food, and water. The decision to return to the owner is both self serving, and convenient. The relationship has, from the outset, fostered a sense of real necessity.

The Bird Cage (1910) by Frederick Carl Frieseke
The Bird Cage (1910) by Frederick Carl Frieseke

I see so many words which emerge during conflict in today’s relationships that expose the same sense of necessity. We have to stay together. We need to work things out. We can’t just give up. These words are followed by the revealing of the foundations of reliance the relationship has been built upon. “She is the only one who understands me.” “No one else will accept me like he does.” “We’ve been through it all together” “I can’t be happy without her.” “I’ll be alone without him.”

We pile up these imagined conclusions as though our world didn’t exist before this person came into our lives. We begin to perceive life with this person as essential to maintaining the things we value in our world. These things range from the relatively narrow in scope, such as a specific circle of friends, a shared living arrangement, custody of the children, or the new puppy, to those broader in scope, such as our ability to be happy, accepted, appreciated, or loved. We become the canary. Our reliance becomes our cage.


I think it’s important to note that not all reliance is bad. Being committed doesn’t mean being caged. Too many people confuse commitment with a lack of freedom. Being in a relationship doesn’t mean being reliant on someone else. I really do hope the people in my life that I love the most know they can rely on me. I hope they know they can come to me for any type of help – for advice (although I can’t promise it will be very good advice), when they are feeling blue, need a shoulder to cry on, a wing man for the night, a hug, the shirt off of my back, or all of the above.

I want my significant other to rely on me. I want her to be certain she can rely on me for unconditional love, acceptance, and support for the rest of her days.

But there is a major difference between being in a relationship where you can rely on one another, and one where one (or both) of you feel like you must rely on your significant other. 

In the former situation, a couple is adding additional wind under each others’ wings. In the latter scenario, one or both partners are chained to the other by shackles cast in iron reliance.

The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.” – Michel de Montaigne, The Complete Essays.

We must be the canary without the cage. Be responsible for your own happiness, acceptance, self-belief, growth, success, and well-being, because no one else can ever give you those things. Don’t create your own prison by accepting the delusion that someone can.

And, as much as you may want to, you can’t provide any of those things for another person, either. So don’t be the one caging another canary with promises to provide them with those things. 

Instead, accept that you are responsible for your own life, and others have the same obligation to themselves as you do. The sooner you do that, the sooner you’ll find another canary just as wild, free, and as perfect as you are.

There is nothing more powerful than a love that is born out of love. I can’t think of anything more pure or beautiful than two souls soaring together for no reason other than the mutual respect and endless love they share for one another. That is a flight that will last an eternity.

Be good to each other,

– MG.