In January, (article can be found HERE) our focus was on clearing out the physical space, tightening down a physical goal and a plan to attain it, and actively working on one of our negative traits. This month we will be continuing the process where we left off. First, a few notes regarding the “carryover” of our efforts from the prior month.
- The physical cleansing process we underwent should be ongoing. A general “decluttering” of our living space will be needful at various times, but what we should be looking at is prevention. Before we accumulate another item, let us first simply give it some thought. Is this needful, or will it improve our life in some way beyond filling a temporal desire? Are we buying just to buy, from impulse? Will this thing serve us, or will we serve it? How will it affect our space, our time, our mindset? Just being aware of these things before we add a new object into our controllable world will be beneficial for the rest of our lives.
“Igne Natura Renovatur Integra.”
- The physical programming of our strength and fitness routine must be kept in our attention and adhered to ritually. Most fail at maintaining healthy eating and fitness routines because they either lack basic discipline, or they attempt to make too many changes at one time. Don't overwhelm yourself with too many changes. If you are already finding it difficult to live up to the goal you set in January, ask yourself: is this a simple lack of discipline, or is it a feeling of drowning in too many lifestyle changes at once? Just like everything else, our movements must be deliberate, and contain steps toward our goal. Start simple. Eat basic, healthy food 3 or 4 times a day. Control portions by having a protein shake before your meal and ensuring you are drinking enough water. If you are trying to get bigger, eat a little more at each meal, or vice versa. For weight training, a basic template like 5/3/1 is just the thing to work intelligently but straightforward. Do 20 minutes of cardio each day after you lift.
- When ascertaining and focusing on our negative traits, we must use specificity. This requires self exploration. We will discuss this in more depth later in this article, but for now, just think, like they say in target practice: aim small, miss small. The more specific your view of the target you are trying to hit, the smaller your margin of error will be. Instead of saying “I lack discipline,” (I especially don't like to use this kind of talk, as it “sets” behavior in place, by reinforcing it verbally. I prefer something like “I require more discipline,” or “I am in the process of becoming more disciplined.” Words matter.) we should look directly at the problem. Where do you lack discipline? If the answer is “everywhere,” then again, start simple. Wake up 10 minutes earlier every day, or stop using your phone/the internet at a specific time. Before we can build a big fire, we have to start with little twigs. START SIMPLE.
For February, we are going to proceed in a logical direction from our clearing of physical space and will begin to clear mental space. As stated above, we are not looking to become “ascended masters” or some other nonsense overnight- we will use the same techniques that we used on our surroundings. We will move “room to room” and begin to identify and remove clutter.
Mentally, this is easier said than done. This task will require honest introspection, which in my experience can be a very rare thing in the human being. It will require a setting aside or taming of the ego in order to be able to look at ourselves with objectivity and a certain lack of defensiveness.
We will begin by meditating for only 5-10 minutes a day. However, we will perform this every day, without fail. Ideally, this will be done the same time each day, but with busy schedules, kids, work and so on, as long as it happens, it happens. It can be tempting to think that you need some kind of special hyperbaric chamber completely devoid of sound or distraction to perform any kind of meditation, but if this were the case, meditation's usefulness would be severely limited. My suggestion to those with loud households is to let the family or others in the home know you’ll be in the bedroom/office/garage/whatever for 5 or 10 minutes and would like to not be disturbed for that amount of time. A set of noise canceling headphones with some white noise goes a long way toward eliminating background annoyances as well. I use the shop in my basement where I work on my motorcycle, or I go outside to somewhere without people.
There have been thousands of books written on the topic by men and women much smarter than I am, and you are encouraged to check some out, but I’d say for starters, all we are looking to do with meditation is take a break from the constant flow of thoughts and anxieties and allow ourselves to be quiet, breathe deeply, and “reset.”
This month, that’s about as far as we will be looking to go. In the coming months, we will begin using techniques to “target” specific areas and “do work” on the internal landscape, but for now, we will just practice the discipline.
Next, we will use the same thought process we used to determine physical goals and programming to sort out our mental/study goals and begin to program a reading list for the year.
Begin to list out and decide what directions of study interest you and at what pace you could challenge yourself (while still enjoying and retaining knowledge) to accomplish these goals. Break your areas of study down into larger headers, like “Art,” “Music,” “History,” “Mythology,” “Language,” and so on, with sub columns beneath each one and time frames in which you will read them. This is completely up to the individual, but I recommend that “Language,” and “Mythology” make up two of your headers, as these will play into our future challenges. Shorter is often better, so for those who do not wish to be overwhelmed, simply plan a 12 week “block.” One could then read multiple books from multiple headers in that time span and make an educated list for the next 12 weeks. Be adventurous, and keep the horizons broad!
Thirdly, we will look at our “Heroic Blueprint,” where we have listed our positive traits, virtues and modes of being that we will look to emulate more and more as time goes on. Just like last month, we will select one, we will study it, we will attempt to grasp its meaning, and we will look for situations in which we can challenge ourselves to apply it more fully, directly experiencing its impact on our lives and beings.
The good trait list may have been something like “Loyalty, Discipline, Strength” and so on, but this month we want to begin an exercise in specificity. We will re-imagine our list and rework it, still keeping these broad headers, but we will begin to explore them in a less vague way. Our job this month is to choose a specific situation or scenario in which that trait is positive. For example, Discipline could be broken down into “a disciplined training routine,” or “disciplined waking up time to create temporal space at the beginning of the day to perform meditation.”
“Strength,” also, needs a tighter definition, because it has so many.
What we are looking to do is break traits down into pathways.
“Loyalty” is a good broad concept, but “be a better husband” is a tighter goal, and therefore, more valuable to our work. “Be a better husband” would then split into various sub-paths like “this month I will undergo a handgun training course in order to protect my family from potential threats,” or “I will choose this month to be a more positive presence in my home,” or any number of other, more personal goals. We will break down each big concept into its seed forms, and begin working steps. Everything is like everything else, so when building ourselves, we must use the 2.5 pound weight plates instead of having a vague concept of wanting to “get stronger.”
I look forward to hearing about your progress. This work we are undergoing together will become more and more challenging, and more and more rewarding as time goes on, ultimately leading us to a place reserved for only the true, and the rare.
'Long is the way and hard, that out of Hell leads up to light.'