Self-awareness is life-changing. It’s when something translates into everything. But what most people don’t tell us is that it demands a lot of our brain power. Self-awareness is not just about crossing legs on freshly-cut grass and meditating in a park during sunset. What it does come close to is waking up for sunrise and walking that extra mile to locate a better spot for the perfect adventure.
It’s all about putting in the effort with no ifs or ands or buts. Now you might say that this is the wisest, yet commonest thing you’ve repeatedly heard or read about. So, what’s the big deal about this article?
This, perhaps, is me breaking down the lesson in fragments and inspecting each fragment under a metaphorical microscope to see what intersects between wisdom and ambiguity. Wisdom and ambiguity are abstract concepts derived for the clarity and obscurity of life. Both are essential when nothing else is. Sometimes, we are not the outcome of our own wisdom. And in those times, we are the outcome of what we don’t know. That’s where everything lies. And that’s when we are able to gain control over some aspects of our own lives.
Now you might think that absolutely nothing is in our control. But conviction isn’t the tool of uncertainties. Imagine all your life’s uncertainties as your playground and conviction is what gets your hands and feet dirty. Such a courageous act exists beyond what’s out there already. And the hardest thing about this playground is that it needs to be constructed by you, from dust and rock. This is the only place where wisdom doesn’t break the silence.
What is said and done within those boundaries is simply causation within itself. It’s expressing and reflecting the workings of the mind as well as its unfathomable limitations. It’s where you push ahead – past the good and bad – and respond to deeper instincts. Wisdom ends when you draw a blank right up to the point of indulgence and obsession.
I strongly believe that self-awareness is not complete without stimulating the mind and body in myriad ways. But I also believe that with letting go one can possess a better and clearer understanding of life and throw light on the kind of choices one makes.
And yes, in most cases, keeping it complicated is a choice. Other times it’s just consequence.
I’m afraid of a kind of attachment that won’t ever be simple. And I don’t mean with romantic relationships exclusively. This can be translated to my work, friendship, personal life, family relationships, and more importantly, to myself. Clinging on to patterns that add fuel to the fire is the only skill I know. This is because I am an exposed crop of my past; and so am I an unsteady nine-to-fiver of this chaotic world. Aren’t we all some kind of nine-to-fivers? If not for work, then for our emotions. We don’t have to belong to a company to have to cluelessly follow a sort of routine that is often explained away in less than a second — in brief excuses and hesitation and subconscious condemning of a much larger entity. Be it religion, constitution, government, society, or flawed human nature itself.
Hence, we can’t keep things simple. It’s a thought process we’ve been tweaked and monitored into habituating. And in doing so, we’ve lost meaning from thought itself. Giving importance to thoughts has defeated our ability of thinking without us even realizing it. Where is the “why” of living, of doing, and of being? This can only come from stopping thoughts. Better, in silencing them for a while. This won’t be a switch like you would TV channels. This silencing of thought and being in the present moment has to be the evolution of logic, judgement, and perspective. And if you go far enough, it could become your only reason to become a better human than you were yesterday. To grow from your silence, your pain, your experiences, and shortcomings.
This is simple. It’s taking what you already know and directing it to what’s real and right here. Sometimes not giving importance to certain thoughts is one of the best decisions you can make. For yourself. For others. For everyone. This lacuna is from where you grow to become original and thoughtful. And on days you get caught up with too many things to do, this little trick will do wonders to how you feel while doing them. This is a kind of freedom you create for yourself so you when you’re in the middle of chaos and confusion, you start to feel more like yourself and not the opinions and projections of those around you.
As if happiness is a destination and “the secret” is the journey to it.
It’s a complicated feeling: happiness. And it’s hard to define it to myself or somebody else. If you haven’t felt it, it becomes sort of like a wavering dream you haven’t seen yet. But I often ask myself why my mind always aims to contract my understanding of happiness. Is it in freedom? Is it in traveling? Or is it in writing this article? Where is it? Seeking or aiming for happiness in moments when I most need it makes me skip a few steps. It’s all a thought process.
We’re always trying to skip ahead a few chapters to get to the good part. The part when feeling good feels good. The part when we don’t have to cut short on happiness just because the moment is over and it’s time to face reality again. The part when we don’t need or have to feel guilty about not wanting to feel the rest of it. And time is as it always does. It moves on just as effortlessly in the storm as it does in the calm. Just the perceptive and emotive sensation of it is unique for each of us. And that’s what matters.
So, coming up with the definition of happiness and its secret that we often want to know more about in self-help books and articles is a waste of time for me. It’s just a small part of what deception looks like. You can choose to remain cloaked in your delusions about achieving happiness as one does nirvana. But happiness is not real enough to feel as if you deserve it. Being grateful, at peace, and honest are much more important in life. It isn’t a singular feeling which is what your individual self makes up as varied facets of happiness.
With that in mind, I learned to respond to happiness by being the better version of myself in negativity and positivity. I learned to focus and re-focus what it takes to know myself even though its trajectory afflicts me with feelings of loneliness. But I will not fall prey to separating my personal experience — breaking it apart — and labeling it as happiness. This does not mean I’m giving up on the good things in life. It just means I’m refraining to bridge experience to emotion because I’m so struck by the logic and uncertainty of it.
When you learn without the help of another person, you’re not entitled to anything. You’re making your own mistakes and saving your own ass. This sort of dependency on another human being is toxic, I believe, when you want to take things slow. You need to adapt and review what you’re learning without the adamant judgement of others. And this is what makes you a deep thinker. It forms inside you a mind so complete and original. And you might not be as adept as the person sitting next to you when it comes down to conversing unabashedly. But the fact that you learned in solitude makes comparison seem narrow-minded and meaningless. It’s time we disregard what matches up to the standards of our culture. And regard what makes us unique, however unconventional to learn.
I never thought I’d be where I am today if it wasn’t for my chase. My chase to learning what solitude means to me and why does it mean to me what it does. My chase to struggling with relationships. My chase to my anxiety and feeling lonely. My chase to not getting out of my comfort zone like so many people I know have told me to. My mind is full of instances where I’ve gotten passionately obsessed with my chase. Whether it was good or bad — I never questioned its substance. Instead, I questioned the ordinariness of my life. My routine, habits, thinking, emotional stability, and the likes. This shift in thinking was the cause of many vulnerable and upsetting experiences since the day I was born. And some parts even before it. And now you see me trying to make sense, not of my past itself, but of my present as an outcome of my past.
The strength lies in acceptance. Of unravelling the past in relation to the present and in the becoming of the future. The strength you wake up to is not the same kind of strength you sleep with and dream. It’s strength that’s created with attention, realization, and acceptance right from when the clock strikes 00:00 to 00:00. Your ability to ask what, why, how, and when is your strength. Not the destruction of it. If you destroy anything, you do the you that’s the consequence of where you are just so you aren’t defined by the unfairness of it. Your strength is the sum of all the good and bad things that have happened to you and around you. And that strength isn’t inherent. It is bred; even agonized when you’re struggling with life’s meaning and fallacies. Out there, whatever you do or say is quantified in material terms to an extent that even you begin to materialize them. But that’s not growth. That’s a human paradox: to attach quantifiable sense and direction to something that the world thinks relevant and convenient. But to you, it’s a waste of effort because what comes in strength isn’t verifiable.
You can look at two pictures of the same object and still feel differently about one from the other. Sometimes the thing about strength is that it can feel so heavy and light, at the same time, you don’t want to let it go. And to this, the world says you’re being too selfish, too opinionated, or too set in your ways.
To this, you say —
“When the bad dreams finally catch up to me, my strength will not want to let them go. My strength will be my antidote to wake up the next day. And until that day starts, today is all I have to continue my chase. For what is today, is enough.”
It’s difficult to label this movie as something that provokes an easy laugh. Rather it is the kind of movie that forces you to have a peculiar or uncharacteristic reaction that’s completely unnecessary, to begin with. And this aspect is the whole and sole of why Margot At The Wedding caught me off guard.
Beside the point, I specifically chose to write about the illuminating reality of conversations that bind the idiosyncrasies of two people in a kind of relationship that defines nothing but eccentric consequences. The characters walk in zig-zag lines to not only observe but shackle the bond of beauty itself into something self-serving and conceited. In short, you’ll find yourself bound to misery in its fullest dimensions. That is precisely what a dysfunctional relationship ought to explore as a deeply exhaustive yet thoughtful concept. Perhaps becoming unaffected to a point where showing little to no concern in matters besides yourself is the greatest normalcy of life, as we know it.
The clever insanity and indifference portrayed is not shocking, but seems too real to be true. The kind of dispassion each character provokes in another through brutal honesty and constant justification humiliates the conventional families that are often plotted on-screen.
I loved the unorthodox display of unanswered affection and unresolvable temperaments of each character. At this point, I feel a part of me exists as all the characters in the movie, including Malcolm, Ingrid, Jim, and Pauline. Margot and Claude taking the leading positions in my frame of mind.
In whichever way the concept of “family” is portrayed in this movie, it certainly sticks, in my way of thinking, as the epitome of perceiving the out-of-the-ordinary as completely familiar and relatable. There’s more than just seeing, but feeling the characters unravel in front of your eyes in-between the socially awkward, yet seductive, language of storytelling. And that’s one of the expert functions of good films like Noah Baumbach’s Margot At The Wedding and The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected). Both exquisite tools of knowing how often people wish to be confronted by their harsh and unwavering realities, within their own limits, regardless of how much or how little they care for it.
The discovery that wanting to write is not the same as being perceptive of words.
You should know that I fumbled for a good 10 minutes finding the right words to suit the idea of this article. It’s certainly not easy to write when you’re struggling with stress and anxiety. Navigating the world of well-deciphered sentences alongside the scare of being labeled uninspired is challenging. But in hindsight, this fear bodes well with the objective of wanting to write and participating in the spectacle of poetic grammar that I’m so passionately fond of.
I must have written less than 50 articles, for myself, in my 21 years of living. Maybe 20 or 30. Even though I write more than my fair share as a freelance content writer, I never once understood the urge to keep on writing, for myself, daily. When the words came to me, I set out to either type my thoughts down on a blank document staring right through my fears or handwrite a scribbled and haphazard draft in a notebook. Saying it wasn’t easy for me to do this daily might sound like I’m defeating the entire purpose of wanting to write in the first place. However, it wasn’t simple. At the time, when I just started writing for myself, I was torn between my ability to write and my ability to think clearly.
How the grief and frustration in my life taught me to stop and take a breather, it also hampered with my crispness in translation and focus in execution. On most days, it interrupted my reflective state, while on some days I felt well-absorbed in my frame of mind to compose. The constant struggle emptied out all my thoughtful thoughts and weakened my sense of perceptiveness, not in understanding, but for the translation of thoughts on paper or in print.
To write, to read, and to create is necessary. All else is distraction.
In the midst of struggling with such deep feelings and emotions, I rarely composed articles that met my expectations. And when I did write such a piece, I sighed in relief and was well-pleased with my efforts in doing so. But that rush of positivity lasted for a short time bringing back the guilt of an unfinished goal. Until weeks later I decided to pen down another. This cycle kept persevering for months on end, and a result I failed to write even a single article in 2017. That was the epitome of me “letting go.” Which, to my surprise, wasn’t how I anticipated it would be.
Such regrets can destroy your self-esteem in ways you wouldn’t imagine. If not controlled, they culminate in inhibitions that eventually start showing face in every aspect of your life only because they’re weakening your ability to write anything. As much as I expected myself to defeat these inhibitions, the solution was to eventually outrun them. And so I’m trying. Instead of spending a long time on the things that I thought really mattered to me, I vow to spend time on things that could. It’s a tough road, but a necessary one. By disconnecting and destroying my past practices, I’m redefining what creation is and meant for.
One of Graham Greene’s quotes come to mind,
“Destruction is a form of creation.”
If you’ve seen Donnie Darko, it’s hard to miss the moment when Donnie says this in a classroom full of young cynics.
My hope may not be to live a better life, but to value self-reflection and to unblur the blurred subject of mind expansion so it’s possible for an ordinary person like me to choose to create something out of the ordinary. I do hope, however, to understand the tricks to outrun restraint and beat the hollowness that comes with feeling inadequate at the recognition of words that have the power to compose the greatest stories. And this is the beginning of the stories I can give you. It is my beginning.
“You are nothing until you decide, over and over, that you must begin again.”
Hope in a world without sensibility is much like a world lacking the ability to change attitudes toward people, things, and experiences.
Considering how human relationships evolve or limit or furnish what is known and what is not, hope is a dangerous word to believe in without giving it any conscious thought. So what if the balance of hope and sensibility becomes one of the most enduring ideas of living? And in moments of meditation, its breakthrough leads one within one’s own mind and not without.
How did we end up being so conflicted with hope and so intrepid with everything that defeats the purpose of it? It’s because we thought we’re born with sensibility and that it doesn’t require constant rehearsing. Journeying through childhood into adulthood is an emotional and physiological roller-coaster for everyone. One that offers no validation and forethought. The very fact that it leads us to inevitable phases of critical self-evaluation, which causes what most people refer to as a “frame of mind,” strikes me as a philosophy that is often side-stepped in the initial stages of the loss of hope without sensibility.
I do not mistake hope for anything else. Hope- without the sense of being present in the moment, with looking forward to pleasures so much you completely fail to enjoy the experience of it, and without the understanding of thought and the implementation of it – is, to me, the definition of its destruction. This is the main problem. With people and ideas and relationships with people, experiences, and things. Hoping has become as essential as breathing. What it is, has almost been forgotten for who we are and what we want to be. And here is its meaning- it’s nothing. It’s a void without the presence of fear. It’s not an escape. But it’s a routine. A routine to hope, regardless of what is available to you and what you have to (or want to) work for.
But since when did routine become unfavorable? Have we become so naive to think that routine isn’t a part of our “getting out of the comfort zone” fetish? That we constantly strive and desire and insist to reach. The fact that we do things to challenge routine is, in itself, a routine we’re so afraid of accepting. So hope is just like a routine that we have tried to and will continue to try to challenge, along with all our existing preconceived routines.
While this exists without sensibility. What is hope with it? While I do not know the definition of what it really is, I do know what the definition is deprived of. And that is obligation. Hope with sensibility is when I’m on my own. Essentially, I decide how I feel when I’m supposed to feel about something. That can be anything. Being hopeful about a new passion project, a new book, a new hobby, a vacation, or about writing itself. Hope comes in many forms, so many that it exists as an infinite loop which repeats itself in moments of solitude and the understanding of my existence and the brevity of it.
The difference between sensibility and the absence of it feeds my ability to have a vision. To remain perceptive of not just my own, but other people’s emotions, intelligence, wit, judgment, and presence. After all, aren’t I the only existing finality of my own sensations, insight, and discernment that I take so seriously- and that which keeps purposely growing every day through thought and action?
Leo Tolstoy wrote in his beautiful work War and Peace, “Everything depends on upbringing.”
A child’s personal identity, biologically and physiologically, unique and gentle – the years that create long and inevitable passages of perspective – are found and lost right from the start. It is a part of a metaphorical maze, that a child shouldn’t meander alone. The discipline of unraveling diverse and visceral cultures – that which also includes threads of languages and chronicle of events – is more important to be felt by a child rather than learned. This sparks imagination as much as it does temperament. But how soon is “the right time” to impact a child’s inner nature with stimulus resistive and nullifying, while also being realistic?
This question is deeply exemplified and astutely apparent in Black Mirror’s Arkangel, which is the second episode of the latest fourth season. The ability to blur out graphics that might elevate Sara’s cortisol levels, like in the episode it was the neighbor dog who barked incessantly whenever Sara walked past, sheds light on the general idea of parenting in this world. Anything that is considered, by the society, of course, a potential danger or stress-inducing experience to the community increases a sense of fear, anxiety, and mental and bodily distraction in children. A few examples pointed out in this episode were the suffering and finally death of a grandparent, porn, blood, or violence. Anything that stunts emotional growth, or at least is believed to, leads to the disorientation of the thing that constituted that kind of restrictive technology itself.
This begs you to answer a question – what you do the same for your child if you had the resources to? Such kind of restrictive worldliness has its own consequences. The upbringing based on exposing a child to only good things and avoiding and unwaveringly pushing away the bad stuff disrupts the wholeness of a child’s identity.
This reminds me of a powerful passage which extracts the importance of negativity and teaching the perspective of it in Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, “If you get the inside right, the outside will fall into place. Primary reality is within; secondary reality without.”
But just as negativity impacts a child’s emotional and mental cognitive capacity, the complex intricacies of the mind and the core human tendency are deeply impacted, and not in a positive way, without the very things that arouse negative feelings such as guilt, regret, tension, worry, and all forms of psychological distresses. In experiencing the present moment, as real and unrestricted as it may be, in either speech, thought, or observation builds a sense of present-moment awareness. This is significant, I strongly believe, in the acceptance and non-acceptance of what is. As it habitually alters a child’s inwardness toward all aspects of life, it also contributes to the child’s narrative which, unconsciously, constructs what makes each human unique.
Even though experiences, when analyzed, hold together a set of emotions in each of us, the reasoning, sense, and readiness are still left unhindered. The ease with which a child navigates the unmitigated realities of existing between choices and people is what matters. And the kind of environment parents, siblings, and relatives bring into existence for a young soul remains the serious and most important quest for parenthood.
In 1840, Edgar Allan Poe described the ‘mad energy’ of an ageing man who roved the streets of London from dusk till dawn. His excruciating despair could be temporarily relieved only by immersing himself in a tumultuous throng of city-dwellers. ‘He refuses to be alone,’ Poe wrote. He ‘is the type and the genius of deep crime … He is the man of the crowd.’
Like many poets and philosophers through the ages, Poe stressed the significance of solitude. It was ‘such a great misfortune’, he thought, to lose the capacity to be alone with oneself, to get caught up in the crowd, to surrender one’s singularity to mind-numbing conformity. Two decades later, the idea of solitude captured Ralph Waldo Emerson’s imagination in a slightly different way: quoting Pythagoras, he wrote: ‘In the morning, – solitude; … that nature may speak to the imagination, as she does never in company.’ Emerson encouraged the wisest teachers to press upon their pupils the importance of ‘periods and habits of solitude’, habits that made ‘serious and abstracted thought’ possible.
In the 20th century, the idea of solitude formed the centre of Hannah Arendt’s thought. A German-Jewish émigré who fled Nazism and found refuge in the United States, Arendt spent much of her life studying the relationship between the individual and the polis. For her, freedom was tethered to both the private sphere – the vita contemplativa – and the public, political sphere – the vita activa. She understood that freedom entailed more than the human capacity to act spontaneously and creatively in public. It also entailed the capacity to think and to judge in private, where solitude empowers the individual to contemplate her actions and develop her conscience, to escape the cacophony of the crowd – to finally hear herself think.
In 1961, The New Yorker commissioned Arendt to cover the trial of Adolf Eichmann, a Nazi SS officer who helped to orchestrate the Holocaust. How could anyone, she wanted to know, perpetrate such evil? Surely only a wicked sociopath could participate in the Shoah. But Arendt was surprised by Eichmann’s lack of imagination, his consummate conventionality. She argued that while Eichmann’s actions were evil, Eichmann himself – the person – ‘was quite ordinary, commonplace, and neither demonic nor monstrous. There was no sign in him of firm ideological convictions.’ She attributed his immorality – his capacity, even his eagerness, to commit crimes – to his ‘thoughtlessness’. It was his inability to stop and think that permitted Eichmann to participate in mass murder.
Just as Poe suspected that something sinister lurked deep within the man of the crowd, Arendt recognised that: ‘A person who does not know that silent intercourse (in which we examine what we say and what we do) will not mind contradicting himself, and this means he will never be either able or willing to account for what he says or does; nor will he mind committing any crime, since he can count on its being forgotten the next moment.’ Eichmann had shunned Socratic self-reflection. He had failed to return home to himself, to a state of solitude. He had discarded the vita contemplativa, and thus he had failed to embark upon the essential question-and-answering process that would have allowed him to examine the meaning of things, to distinguish between fact and fiction, truth and falsehood, good and evil.
‘It is better to suffer wrong than to do wrong,’ Arendt wrote, ‘because you can remain the friend of the sufferer; who would want to be the friend of and have to live together with a murderer? Not even another murderer.’ It is not that unthinking men are monsters, that the sad sleepwalkers of the world would sooner commit murder than face themselves in solitude. What Eichmann showed Arendt was that society could function freely and democratically only if it were made up of individuals engaged in the thinking activity – an activity that required solitude. Arendt believed that ‘living together with others begins with living together with oneself’.
But what if, we might ask, we become lonely in our solitude? Isn’t there some danger that we will become isolated individuals, cut off from the pleasures of friendship? Philosophers have long made a careful, and important, distinction between solitude and loneliness. In The Republic (c380 BCE), Plato proffered a parable in which Socrates celebrates the solitary philosopher. In the allegory of the cave, the philosopher escapes from the darkness of an underground den – and from the company of other humans – into the sunlight of contemplative thought. Alone but not lonely, the philosopher becomes attuned to her inner self and the world. In solitude, the soundless dialogue ‘which the soul holds with herself’ finally becomes audible.
Echoing Plato, Arendt observed: ‘Thinking, existentially speaking, is a solitary but not a lonely business; solitude is that human situation in which I keep myself company. Loneliness comes about … when I am one and without company’ but desire it and cannot find it. In solitude, Arendt never longed for companionship or craved camaraderie because she was never truly alone. Her inner self was a friend with whom she could carry on a conversation, that silent voice who posed the vital Socratic question: ‘What do you mean when you say …?’ The self, Arendt declared, ‘is the only one from whom you can never get away – except by ceasing to think.’
Arendt’s warning is well worth remembering in our own time. In our hyper-connected world, a world in which we can communicate constantly and instantly over the internet, we rarely remember to carve out spaces for solitary contemplation. We check our email hundreds of times per day; we shoot off thousands of text messages per month; we obsessively thumb through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, aching to connect at all hours with close and casual acquaintances alike. We search for friends of friends, ex-lovers, people we barely know, people we have no business knowing. We crave constant companionship.
But, Arendt reminds us, if we lose our capacity for solitude, our ability to be alone with ourselves, then we lose our very ability to think. We risk getting caught up in the crowd. We risk being ‘swept away’, as she put it, ‘by what everybody else does and believes in’ – no longer able, in the cage of thoughtless conformity, to distinguish ‘right from wrong, beautiful from ugly’. Solitude is not only a state of mind essential to the development of an individual’s consciousness – and conscience – but also a practice that prepares one for participation in social and political life. Before we can keep company with others, we must learn to keep company with ourselves.
This article was originally published by Jennifer Stitt at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.
Jennifer Stitt is a graduate student in the history of philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
I don’t always think out loud. But when the time’s right, I do.
One of the most titillating conversations about life involves talking about the things we do to stay active and healthy. Such conversations aren’t frequent, but they’re certainly a mind-opener beyond the stereotypical perspective.
Stating that fitness is nothing but an accomplishment to lose weight disappoints me to my very core. If you’ve ever been a part a similar conversation that lasted for not more than 15 minutes about the importance of staying physically fit and nothing else, then I feel sorry for you.
Who I don’t feel sorry for is the person who shares such an incomplete and self-defeating perspective about fitness. It’s clear why anybody would think the way many do.
Entering a gym is a matter of “necessity” because weight loss is at stake. It is also a matter of “gaining pride” because it’s rewarding, especially for men, to prove their masculinity with muscles. While the idea of a girl or a woman working out is beyond such standards.
Practicing yoga is a matter of “importance” because our culture does well to strike a chord with regards to dealing with stress and life problems. Yes, yoga does help you deal with emotions, but it isn’t a solution in itself. There are many layers to practicing yoga or any other form of exercise that stimulates flexibility and patience.
There’s a benchmark we’d all like to meet, in one way or another. For me, it was to be able to do a split or do a long-mile run. But it’s not anymore. These are no longer goals I’d love to reach, but rather stepping stones for the purpose of doing something. The idea that it’s my purpose to do something, whatever form of physical fitness it may be, might sound vague to you. But it’s what I use, daily, to get on that treadmill, head for my aerial fitness class, or do my inversions training.
The way to do something, is to do anything that requires you to get out of your comfort zone. This thought changed the way I perceived and pursued fitness in my life. I no longer had to incorporate a lifestyle that involved giving time to fitness, it instantly adapted to mine.
You don’t have to force a fitness schedule to reap its benefits. There is a strong case against feeling physically out-of-action and languid. All I did was metamorphose the ropes a bit and the effort I put in inevitably did me.
The psychology of running has been around for years now. And by giving it deeper thought, I’ve realized that it’s non-existent if it’s taken word for word. There is a certain kind of process or transition you go through when you start running. It doesn’t unwrap itself in the first week of training, or even the first month. Running feels different when you do it with the hopes of actually changing. And running feels different when you do it because you want to do it more often. I did it for the latter, but in moments- for the former. Even so, the effort to run reflected back to the way I converse with people and to myself when I’m alone.
When I started feeding my brains with the things that should have motivated me to work out, somehow they never satisfied me. I never obsessed over the details, the tips, or the easy ways to kick-start the “life-changing” process. I was being fed the same things millions of people are and that didn’t work. So I decided to sign up for something that might seem less ordinary, but effective. At least it was in my case.
The act of simply doing it. I didn’t wait to strike a chord with some fitness instructor or diet plan. That wasn’t my purpose. What was, and still is, is to do any form of physical exercise and keep at it. Imagine you’re reading about the same topic over and over again. Not that it’s not interesting to you or you’re getting bored of it, but there will come a point when you need to shift the scales a bit. Read about something else. Some new idea, research, or essay.
I just translated the way I read into what makes me physically active. This kind of behaviorism made up the rest of my life. The expression “know thyself” is confusing and, at the same time, terrifying. Because once you start on this journey, it’s not so much about changing the way you think, but discovering the ethos that exists inside you.
What I’m going to say next is ordinary, but it’s the hard truth- working out shouldn’t be your aim to be accepted and appreciated by others, it has to be your aim to accept yourself. So is working out a good decision or is it a decision that’s right for you, as a human?
When someone tells you to start working out because you start panting when you climb the stairs or when you eat a lot of junk food and are growing a belly- that’s bad advice. It’s normal to start working out because of those reasons, but it’s time to look above and beyond such a confined purpose.
What’s dangerous advice? It’s telling someone to understand the workings of their own mind. That’s when you see yourself as yourself when you work out and not how you want the world to look at you. There’s a slow shift of self-image, the kind that contradicts your effort along the way. And this contradiction cannot be predicted or explained, it’s only felt. That significant mental and physical effort you make for your physical set-up isn’t only physical. It leads to unexpected discoveries and revisions, even emotionally.
The best thing about working out is that you can make up your own purpose of doing so. It doesn’t have to be only one thing or one motive. We live stressful lives, all of us do, and having such options that force us to break that shell, step out, and reflect our choices is what we truly care about. Even if we are a little late at realizing it.
And running along with the fact that there’s a deeper problem (or gift?) to our lifestyle – and that is change – we set up these unrealistic objectives to beat them down and rise above. And that’s precisely what makes us bear a grudge against the idea of working out and living a healthy life.