Thursday, March 06, 2014

My Personal War

It's taken me a long time to force myself to actually sit down to write this here post. I had all sorts of excuses and thoughts of self-loathing that lead me to this eventual place. I'm writing, that's one of the things that I love to do so why do I avoid and fear it so? For that answer I turned to a book that has long sat on my bookshelf unopened: 'The War of Art' by Steven Pressfield. I've been feeling sorry for myself and trying desperately to avoid life for the last weeks and I hated it. As much as I found it hard to shake these feelings I also wanted out but I had no idea where to turn. One evening last week I found myself feeling terrible, being lazy and hating it and I whined out loud to some, to me unnamed entity, that may or may not exist, that I needed help, I wanted out of this rut I had found myself in. Without knowing why within the next few days I had picked up the aforementioned book and began to read it and low and behold it had the answers!
When I first moved to Toronto I had this romantic notion that my life would suddenly be exactly what I had always wished and hoped for, but sadly this dream has not been realized yet; even though it has already been 3 bloody months! So I found myself back in to my normal self-induced drama-fest inside my head and I couldn't understand what I was doing wrong. According to Pressfield and his book I was letting 'Resistance' (to borrow his term) to get the best of me. Resistance in the book is described as the force that keeps us stuck in the comfortable and stuck fearful of pursuing our true desires and anything that could lead to betterment of ourselves. In the simplest terms Resistance prefers immediate gratification (in any form) and tries to destroy our resolve when committing ourselves to something that would require delayed gratification. It feels good to personify this force that has plagued me my entire life whenever I set out to accomplish anything worthwhile. It is in essence self-sabotage, which is something that I unfortunately know all too well. Any time I've tried to pursue a healthy or creative endeavor Resistance rears it's ugly head and most of the time I let it win.

I am not special or unique in my battle with Resistance, however some people are better or worse at battling and defeating this mighty foe. I wonder if this is something that is engrained in some of us: that some are naturally better at winning the Resistance battle than others or is it a learned abiltiy that can be taught and practiced and improved upon? I know that current research into the notion of Willpower has demonstrated that willpower is like a muscle that improves with use, atrophies with disuse and can tire with overexertion. In that sense I believe the notions of willpower and Resistance are closely related. As much as this book revealed some universal truths that have been dancing around the peripheries of my psyche for a long time, it's not necessarily new or ground-breaking ideas. The cure for Resistance according to Pressfield is to simply 'do the work'. Sounds simple, however it's not necessarily easy. It's a daily struggle in which an artist, entrepreneur, someone endeavouring to be healthy, etc. must be constantly vigilant. Pressfield does offer advice in setting yourself a schedule, but his advice can be summed up as quit your whining and get to work. A writer is not a writer unless they write, a painter is not a paint unless they paint and in my case an actor in not an actor unless she acts. Pressfield also highlights the difference between being an amateur that dabbles and a committed professional that takes their endeavour as serious, life-alternating business.

I attended a meditation workshop with a friend this week and I had an experience during the guided meditation that lead to an important truth being revealed to me. This truth being that I lack focus, one of my major problems that has plagued my adult life is the 'shiny-object syndrome' so named by me, just now. (other may call it ADD/ADHD, but I believe it to be more of a symptom of a larger modern western civiliation disease). The instructor explained post-meditation that meditation's ultimate goal is to focus our minds on one single object/idea, in this case our breath, while fighting the minds natural tendency to wonder. It felt like the first time I actually understood what meditation is all about and that was a wonderful feeling to finally know what my problem was and to have a concrete, doable solution. In discussing the meditation afterwards with my friend who also attended, she highlighted something that was revealed to her in her own meditation that I could also relate to. While our instructor spoke she explained that true happiness comes from within, from a mind at peace, which is the ultimate goal of meditation, and that we often seek happiness in external sources that eventually prove to be unsatifying so we move onto the next thing. My friend said that that sounded very familiar in her life and I agreed. We both experience that need for constant change in our lives in order to feel satified and at this point in our lives we are feeling a bit anxious because things are so steady and change is not necessary. I think we both walked away from the session realizing that we should embrace our current circumstances and seek to change our internal worlds instead of the external.

In conclusion, I've started a few things this week and recommitted myself to the many endeavours I have set my sights on this year. I now feel like I have a more realistic viewpoint of my situation. I know it won't always be easy and I'll have to wake up everyday with the resolve to better myself and create something  wonderful. In this vain I know the hard work with be rewarding and will lead to real happiness. It has to be better than the unhappiness that my continual instant gratification affords. What about you: what are some tricks, tips or techniques you use to keep yourself motivated and on track when working on a long-term project? As always, here's to your uncommonly healthy and wealthy life. Ciao!

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