Imagine that you’re walking along a stone pathway. With each step your weight displaces and shifts tiny bits of grey and pearly white stone underfoot. Your gait creates a steady, repetitive, soothing noise, not unlike the sound of shifting and cracking marbles in an all leather pouch.
It doesn’t take long for the outside world to fade out. You smile a slight smile. You start to breath deeply through your nose into the very deepest parts of your belly. You slowly begin to get a sense that you are indeed something much greater than your day to day commitments. You are separate, a witness to your desires, your thoughts, your worry, your dreams, everything.
You are just “I” for now, which is all there really is anyhow.
You can’t help but notice a bold green filling up your peripheral vision. The greenest of greens, building and building all the way up to the tree line ahead. The top of the hill is noticed, but it’s not your target. You get there exactly when you should, based on that constant rhythm, the shift, the crack of each step. You are carried forward all on your own, just as you are breathing.
On that hill is a lake, perfectly blue and crystal clear. Despite that clarity, you peer forward and see no bottom. No stones, no mud, only depth. Darkness. The unknown. But this is nothing to fear.
You approach the water line and dip your toes. Cold, very cold, but that just takes some getting used to. You step forward, step, step, splash. The chilled water feels like pins and needles as it climbs up the calf, to the thigh, your hips, your chest. Your heart flutters and goes fully electrified as your head dips under.
The sinking requires no effort. You don’t resist, you just slip further and further into the deepest part of your lake. With every inch of the descent you notice that the water is growing warmer and warmer, brighter and brighter. Your presence is lighting up these depths. Your focus is intense, peaking, it’s emitting an intense energy that fills and simmers in this place.
There is no noise, no pain, only solitude. Perfect quiet. Peace. Clarity of thought. Your unique genius is easy to spot here. It screams out. It thrills your soul. It…splashes over you like a thousand little cold slaps.
“Fuck! That’s cold!!!”
That’s the only word left to use in moments of invigorating or stressful surprise. The wave felt like a thousand gallons of ice tea splashing over my neck and shoulders. In a flash, I was ripped from my conjured pond and dropped right back into the reality all around. There we were, a group of fifteen-some-odd new friends locked arm in arm in the cold surf just off the coast of Huntington Beach.
My leg’s quivered and stiffened quickly under the weight of my body, the result of the brief but surprisingly tough Warrior Yoga and SEALFIT WOD that we completed on the beach only minutes before. “What an easy day, gentlemen. Here we are under this beautiful sun. Enjoy it!”
Mark was our anchor out in the water, the wise warrior and former navy seal who couldn’t have looked any more at ease during the entirety of our training session. Immediately after meeting him I could recognize the energy that he was emitting, his smile, the confidence. I only thought of what I stood to learn from the man. He’s also masterful at leading meditation sessions and visualization drills, which probably has something to do with the sheer amount of positivity and force that he packs behind each and every world. “Be a witness,” he reminded us. “To your discomfort…the sounds…your thoughts. You are in your pond. Nothing can get to you down here.”
After a few minutes, the water all around seemed perfectly warm and still. I could no longer tell that I was locked arm and arm with anyone. I was just at my bottom, cozy and secure, fully present, glowing with an energy that was feeling more and more distinct and radiant.
This visualization lasted maybe fifteen to twenty minutes, but it was an amazing experience. It’s hard to say, but I don’t recall ever feeling so clear headed, so optimistic, so worryless, hopeful and capable. In a word, divine. “Nothing can get to me here. I am a witness. We really are powerful.”
We communicated with super wide smiles and tiny chunks of sentences as we made our way back up to the waterline. “Wow. Intense, right? I know, dude. Incredible.” Everyone took a seat on the firm wet sand in the typical lotus style, or at least the closest that the quiver would allow. I sat adjacent to the group, facing the stunning pacific ocean, hunched over just a bit to for a better view of the shimmering sand below. My heightened awareness of the present moment and acute surroundings made it the most important thing. The most illustrative thing. The angle of the noon sun was just so, it caused certain grains of sand to shimmer like bright little stars, all in front and left to right as far as my peripheral vision would allow. Bright, bright little diamonds.
The first thing to cross my mind was the Neil Degrasse Tyson quote, “There are more stars in the universe than grains of sand on any beach, more stars than seconds have passed since Earth formed, more stars than words and sounds ever uttered by all the humans who ever lived.” All at once I felt free of the expectation and weight that can so often cripple my creativity, my spirit, my joy. In a world where things can be so complex, and mind-blowing, and virtually limitless, the was a vivid reminder of scale, and that’s it’s always best to not take yourself too seriously. “Let go for good, Chris. There is nothing to fear. There is no limit. Let it be.”
The occasional strong wave would wash all the way up and over my feet and into my lap. By that time, I was witnessing everything for what it was. A distinct sensation, cold ocean water spilling over into my lap. Coarse wet sand under my ass. The perfect southern Californian sun pouring down all over me. A sound, Mark Divine giving the culminating guided mediation.
“Imagine what you could become in one year’s time. Your business, the quality of your relationships, the love and appreciation of your family, the energy and effect you are able to pour out, the life that you have multiplied ten-fold. What about five years? …Twenty years? Imagine it.
Push the limits of what you think is possible. See yourself as powerfully aware, wise. Accept that there are no limitations. Imagine the change that you could initiate, and the true wealth that you could accumulate. See how your colleagues lookup to you, and value you. See how your family anchors itself to you, and how you are able to provide, protect and inspire them.
Fold all of the time tightly together and visualize yourself shoving that raw, intense energy right into the center of your heart. Feel the heat from it. Let it radiate out. Accept the absolute truth that the future you’ve imagined is now so. It is possible. It is to be. Fight for your lift and altitude. Keep being a witness.”
I cried, I must admit. The moment was too freeing, too reassuring, too intense. It was one of the most profound moments of my life, because this was the moment that I first believed that anything was actually possible. No shit. My soul was all stirred up, my heart ran over, my mind hummed with new possibilities. “There are no limits.”
All moments pass, even the divine ones. We stood, we stretched, we grabbed all of our shit and made our way back up the beach to the street where we parked. Walking, walking, I was reminded of a story from the previous day. I was chatting with my buddy AJ Roberts over dinner about life, relationships, change, his accent even. Of note, AJ was one of the strongest men in the world for a time. He’s also one of the few human beings that I know who has undergone the same kind of change as me. His accent is mostly faded out now due to travel and the heavy SoCal influence, but you can still tell he’s British. I asked him if that accent still pops up from time to time.
“It just depends. When I’m home, I can just slip right back into it no problem. You feel the tone, the rest just happens. It’s a geography thing, you know. Your accent and affect are just the result of the people you’re hanging around with. It changes with location. It shifts the way you see this world. When I’m home in England the old voice returns. But when I’m here I talk differently. I think differently. My expectations are expanded. I’m brand new.”
I made up my mind by the time we had crossed back over the Pacific Coast Highway. There would be no turning back now. The path ahead looks more and more clear. To get to the highest levels of awareness and possibility, I would need to keep changing, forever, always. There would be no end, no easy time. My accent would change, no doubt, but that only makes sense. As of today I’m speaking an entirely new language.
Uh oh! This happened.
You should just stop what you’re doing and watch this right now. Trust me.
We went so hard on this episode. We go deep into everything, folks.
- Finding passion
- The crazyness that is existence and life
- Buddhism, Christianity, and everything in between
- What is trainging and self-improvement, reall?
It’s epid. Listen, listen now!
Going to the airport is such a Ground Hog Day experience. Consider it, the same exact situation is presented to you over and again, a fact that begins to drill into you once you’ve been on the road a while.
Here, in this hyper-regulated and procedural space, you know exactly what to expect.
First thing’s first, you will probably be stressed over time. Either you are super late for your early morning Orlando flight to the national deli meat association annual convention, or you are all punctual and shit. You’ve put a lot of work into planning your travel’s before hand, which is smart. Get the stress out ahead of schedule while you still have the time for drinking on the cheap in your own living room. It’s so expensive to get toasted in the airport. So yes, be a planner.
We planned this round, we arrived right on time, we breezed straight through the ticketing counter and the 1984 style body scanning interrogation zone. Actually, it was far better than I had expected. I popped off my shoes and slid my laptop out of its enclosure with magic fingers. My pockets empty, my attitude chill for the most part, I pranced up to the yellow line and right inside the full body scanner. I must say, I had never felt so safe and protected (*Caugh).
On the other side of my scan I paused with a smile on my face because, shit, I am a gentlemen. Why not? Also, if nothing else, I know that a grin only improves my chances of getting out of this shit-hole without incident, so I kept up the projection. The very tall, very serious TSA agent was still there to flag me down, however. “Sir, I’m going to have to pat down your belly. Is that OK?”
I thought that was quite odd, but with nothing to hide I had no objection. “Sure, whatever you need to do, dude. I abide.”
He swept down each side of my perfectly sculpted and toned abdominal musculature (*Cough times two), then one pass straight down the middle of my torso for good measure. At once he seemed to be experienced and pretty damn professional. He also didn’t seem to absolutely despise his gig, which was refreshing.
I couldn’t help but suppose and let my raddled imagination loose. “This guy probably used to show off pigs or something at the local state fair. I feel a bit violated, but properly assessed.”
In the end I guess my stomach was so rock hard and impervious to x-ray that, surely, it must have been an explosive containing steel structure…Until the the full body strokes proved otherwise. I’d say, at best, my gut is a beer containing padded keg. I am the faithful stuffed bear who just keeps up the grin.
This time around was a stark improvement over the day before, where we waited in the ticketing counter line for over an hour, only to be told in the end, “Ah, sorry, Sir. You know, there’s just nothing else going out today. Look’s like you can get to Salt Lake around 6:30 pm tomorrow. Is that OK? …Yeah, sorry.”
This is part of the ground hog test, I guess. In this environment, where the very last thing to expect is a good time, will you once again lose your shit and throw a fit that things didn’t go exactly as you’d planned? The universe is watching. Don’t blow up. “Hey, I booked a goddamn flight, alright! Everything was all planned out, perfectly I might add, I was right on time until I got to your counter. And what, you’re telling me to just go home now? This is the worst day of my current carnation period, and I might add, you have absolutely crushed my pre-flight high. Fuck me, this sucks. Thanks anyway, Miss, I guess. How do you live doing this shit job, anyhow?”
At least this is what my inflamed and chaffed inner chimp would love to shout. It’s also what that poor lady behind the counter was expecting of me, as every other mouth-breather before had let loose in some way. “Hey, what do you mean ‘nothing’?” There’s only so much of that shit anyone can take.
The state is disgruntled. Unmindful. Hurried. Frazzled and stressed out. In such situations it’s easy to miss the chance to smile and breath deeply. There’s no need to hurry, yes, there’s a Starbucks in the terminal ahead. Of course there is. This kind of thing is bound to happen, so I figure the best strategy is to just assume it’s part of the plan, or at least it’s just the next level of the test. Smiling should come easy in that light.
It’s worth pointing out that it’s taken many years to accept this point of view. From my teenage years all the way up until the present moment I’ve been trying out all of the alternatives. I forced my own plan through a time or two, I’e stressed over the future like mad, I’ve regretted segments of my past intensely. I’ve deferred love and my personal freedom until some future date, out of fear, in exchange for money.
Of course the alternatives were all wrong. Imagine that you’re caught right out in the middle of a rapidly flowing river. You are scared and clutching a rock with white knuckles. You are holding on tight to prevent your own destruction, to not crash into the rocks, to not get sucked under.
When the flow seems to slow down you reach out towards the edge, towards the banks, towards stability and safety, but all you get is this powerful resistance. You’re moving against the water now. The further you reach out the more intensely you will be resisted, until you lose your grip all together and get dragged off someplace you never wanted to go.
It seems wise, but it’s just not so. It has taken time and countless rounds of ground hogging for me to finally grasp that this life, my little river, is not to be resisted. Instead the proper procedure is as follows – Turn away from the resistance. Point towards the flow. Spot those rocks ahead, not out of fear, but as a way to simply pass them by. Take a few deep breaths. Let go of your rock. Let the river take you wherever the hell it wants.
Let you inflamed inner chimp go all zen for once. Also, make sure to have a few plastic tumblers of Dewar’s and ginger ale. It really does help.
This week on Barbell Shrugged we are joined once again by the one and only Kendrick Farris, two-time Olympian for USA Weightlifting, tattoo aficionado, part-time comedian and all around amazing dude. You’re going to really enjoy it.
I love my coffee, but there’s something really fantastic about a proper tea ceremony. It’s something very different, an opportunity to slow down for a little longer and go all Zen and shit, for lack of a better phrase.
To do it right is to be present, which is the power of ritual to begin with I think.
The homie CTP has this ritual down already. The record player behind us helps dial down time by pouring out ambient tunes by this extraordinary, experimental Japanese metal band called Boris. Discovering music so new and so different is a delight that powerfully enhances the experience. I fucking love it.
We settled on the ground around the small black coffee table. I’d like to tell you that my posture was perfectly straight, and that my legs were crossed into something sort of kinda like the lotus position. But that’s not so. In all honesty, I just take whatever position seems most comfortable, which is a tougher and tougher thing to find with time.
On the table top we had all of the essential elements. A very nice, very Asian cast iron tea pot holds water just off the boil. The cups, the tea whisk, the pungent Matcha tea itself. The incense was optional I guess, but I love the stuff. In my view smell is an incredibly powerful, stirring sense, so why not stoke it with penetrating smoke. It can only add to the enhancement.
The first step was to sift a small amount of the bright green powder into a large cup. Form there a paste is made by pouring in a bit of the hot water, then whisking all around in capital N’s and W’s until you get something smooth and free of little lumps. From there you add a bit more water and whisk hard once again, creating this hot and frothy tea that can then be immediately slurped down.
Yes, I hear you really should slurp. If the act has anything in common with eating noodles, then slurping is simply the best way to show your appreciation for the effort that went into the preparation. Slurp, almost always.
I took the cup into my hands, raised it up to my face and drew in a deep-breath through my nose. With my lungs comfortably full, I exhaled, then slurped down the potent fluid. You might guess the flavor, actually. Matcha is said to contain approximately three times more antioxidants than the traditional sort of green tea you might have shoved into the far back corner of your pantry right now. It’s also as bitter and as “mean green” as any gnashed juice preparation that you might pay an arm and fucking leg for over at your local Whole Foods Market.
All in all, you can’t help but feel healthier by the end. The mind expects a therapeutic effect from the green tea, so there very likely is one. Belief and expectation are powerful, and that’s only accentuated by the ritual itself, the ambient music, the overall impression that, yes, going just a little bit Zen over tea is a damn good thing to do, indeed.
I laid flat on my back, content, calm, as open-minded as I can possibly be. Over the music we plaid a slightly louder lecture by the great Alan Watts. This guy was a philosopher, lecturer, author, and rose to fame in the 60’s and 70’s as possibly one of the first great popularizers of Eastern religion and thought. Maybe the first grey white guru, whatever. We love the guy because he had an incredible knack for talking endlessly, hour after hour, absolutely blowing your fucking mind with sharp insight into existence, ethics, meaning and everything in between.
For the most part I followed Alan’s advice, I meditated properly. Not in any contrived or prescribed way. I needed no guru methodology of chanting. The only point really was to just be. The whole idea was to first recognize each sound in the room as only a noise, external auditory stimulus to be acknowledged without response. The thoughts are no different. The aim is to just let them happen, only with heightened awareness. “There it is, that thought over there.” Just as you acknowledge the sound, you learn to acknowledge the thoughts without response. Breath happens. Thoughts, sensations, they all happen all on their own.
For the most part the lecture was chill, but one particular part poked a hole straight through my little meditation bubble, compelling me to whip out my iPhone and takedown a note pronto. Alan, with his enlightened British affect, was commenting on the topic of Karma. I know, I know, that’s hardly anything new. It’s a word everyone has heard a thousand times, but I had never heard it defined so. From the top, “When Buddhists talk about Karma, they mean action, and when something happens to you, be it good or bad, they say it is your karma. That means quite simply, ‘It is your doing’.”
I can’t quite pin down the emotion. It might have been a relief that all the effort and risk and good intentions might actually pay off. That energy might be coming back to you. But there was also judgment, not from without but from within. I felt instantly that most of my struggles have had little to do with misfortune, bad timing, or lack of skill. They’ve actually got everything to do with my stubborn self. It’s my doing, which is fair.
So this is why we take the time. We slowdown. We sit quietly. We let the answers come to us for a change. And today, the answer is this – You have nothing but the present moment and the very next decision of whether or not to act.You could do nothing, and of course, you would get nothing. Further, you might decide to do something shallow, expected, unimaginative, contrived, half-hearted, boring, or whatever, but you shouldn’t be surprised with what you get in return.
It’s Zen, it’s karma, it’s action for reaction, yes, like in physics if we want to go the scientific route. Forget the rules, If your fate is your doing, then for fuck sake, at least do what you want. With any luck you’ll become just what you want to be.