The heroic path to self-change


In principle life-altering change should be within our grasp at each passing moment, it only takes a decision. I’m sure if you gave it a little consideration you could make a decision right this second that would completely alter the trajectory of your life. And believe me, a decision to do nothing is still a decision. Recognising this to be true, why do so few people choose to exercise this ability in a meaningful sense and burst out of mediocrity? What are the shackles that keeps us trapped in the status quo?

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The answer lies neither in will power or motivation, these things are transitory, but in understanding that as human beings we always caught between two basic drives:

  1. The drive towards evolution, growth, newness and exploration

  2. The drive towards comfort, stability and routine

These drives don’t describe a particular type of person nor are they mutually exclusive. We all have them and they are both necessary to experience a degree of fulfilment and satisfaction. More commonly, however, they operate in the negative when one predominates to the exclusion of the other. To be fully active in the world we need to find a way for both drives to compliment each other in ways that serve our life goals.

On the surface it would seem that the drive for constant evolution offers the greatest rewards but on closer inspection it’s apparent without the second we would never be able to appreciate what we have attained. Imagine how unfulfilling it would be to be ceaselessly moving forward without pause for reflection. Moreover we would never have a point of initial stasis to move beyond. There’s no point breaking out of prison if you’re already free, so to speak.

The negative aspects of the drive towards comfort and routine is more recognisable and pervasive. We may feel it as boredom, dissatisfaction and a gnawing sense that something, anything needs to change. Left unchecked this can advance into depression, purposelessness and vitality hunger. This is the feeling that our lives are stuck on the equivalent of a permanent television re-run and we are not exactly happy with what’s on the screen. Surely it’s more productive to recognise that the fault lies not explicitly with any particular circumstance but in the denial of our drive towards evolution and new experiences.

Rather than lay blame at the feet of a relationship that’s gone sour, a meaningless job or a body that no longer expresses our physical ideal, there’s a more sophisticated way to reframe things.

The fact is the Universe wants to play with you! That clawing, restless sense of anxiety is your drive for evolution trying to find fulfilment, it is a clarion call to break out into new territory. Unless you find a way to lose yourself in constant distraction it will keep calling until you answer. In effect it’s the same impulse that calls all life to evolve speaking to you personally and asking you pursue greater things. It is a kindness not an insult. The question is, will you answer the call?

Mythographer Joseph Campbell describes this as The Hero’s Journey, not simply describing events frozen in mythic time but elucidating key aspects of what it means to be human. The rough elements of the journey always include a call to adventure, a separation from the safe and familiar, encounters with various characters, challenges and new experiences and finally a return home either in possession of treasure or personally transformed into something far grander. You’ll note that the call to action and the return home effectively addresses our two primary drives. In saying this it’s important to recognise that the return to the familiar incorporates establishing more fulfilling patterns into our lives. These patterns repeat over and over again throughout all world narratives from the labours of Hercules to The Matrix. Why? Campbell argues because they are hard-wired into the human experience.

If you are currently experiencing doubt, worry or anxiety about your current condition be it physical, emotional or financial, you are privileged. If you feel trapped by the safe and familiar you are being called by the same cosmic impulse that stirred humanity out of the primal ooze of pre-creation to evolve. You are being asked to participate more fully in the play of the world and with enough daring and imagination anything is possible. The only tragedy is not to answer and risk the greatest fear of all heroes - to have never left the safety of the village in the first place.

THE FIRST COUNTERINTUITIVE STEP INWARD

If you desire transformation in any area of your life I want to suggest something that might on the surface seem counterintuitive. Begin by devoting a small part of your day to silencing your mind in meditation. The reason I initially suggest this is because if you happen to live in a modern world (and if you reading this you are) I can guarantee you are being overwhelmed by a constant barrage of information, ideas, values and opinions that are not your own. The body you think you desire, the type of job you wish to do and so forth are more than likely the byproduct of media images, social idealisation and peer values than a true representation of what you want. You need a place where you can get some perspective.

Most peoples initial sense of unease and anxiety then rests not just on desiring self-change but being unaware of what that would even look like. Meditation, aside from offering numerous physical benefits, generates a vantage point from which to observe your personal goals more clearly. It makes no difference whether you call this sense of objectivity your soul, an essential self or just the brain seeking coherence. All that matters is that by doing certain things, certain results will follow. This isn’t just an exercise in self-honesty, you’ll find by persisting with meditation ideas and realisations will occur to you that may have been hidden from your day-to-day thinking.

So here’s the deal, the universe is calling you to out to play and if you’ve read this far it’s now screaming at you. If you seriously want to change and experience greater freedom your first steps should be in silence. To keep it simple and free of mystification, set aside at least 20 minutes every day to sit in silence. Sit with you back straight, gently close your eyes and bring your attention to rest on the air flowing in and out of your nostrils. Don’t attempt to control your breathing just observe the inflow and outflow of breath. Become aware of the brief pause between the exhalation and inhalation, it’s a small gap but just become aware of it. When attention wavers just gently, without judgement bring it back to the breath and attempt to enter into the stillness of that gap. If you think this exercise is too simple, well… it was good enough for the Buddha.

If you’re like most people almost immediately you’ll find a multitude of thoughts and sensations will clamour for your attention. Continue to bring your attention back to your breath and you’ll experience these things are not you, just things that can occupy your awareness. Intellectually knowing this is one thing, experiencing it is something quite different. Continuing with this simple meditation will offer you multiple benefits and experiences but the important thing for now is that it’s your first step on the path. Once you start walking you’ll find that the rest of the path starts to reveal itself but you must start walking.

If you need further guidance or would like information regarding my forthcoming course Meditation for Body Transformation contact me at: john@bodyalchemyfitness.com

Contact John Walsh   e: john@bodyalchemyfitness.com        

 

© 2015 John Walsh