What is the meaning of life?

OKdownload once again just a quick recap on the last post. We went through twelve techniques to increase our base level of happiness… all scientifically proven in a field of study which has exploded in the last decade. Using the analogy of our fulfilment being a balloon and the air that fills that balloon being our most profound positive states such as Love, Gratitude, Inspiration, Hope, Peace, Joy etc. Each technique provides a source of air to increase our base level of overall happiness, well-being and fulfilment.

Back up to speed? Ok great.

The scientific research has provided great new insight as well as validation for wisdom which has been preached throughout the ages where previously only anecdotal evidence could be cited.

There of course still remains much wisdom which science is yet to reach and may never do so. That doesn’t necessarily reduce its value to fable. Science would look foolish if it attempted to quantify man’s state of being when exuding unconditional love. Does the infancy and incapability of science alter that truth? Granted though without science, it does challenge the sceptical mind if the receiver has no personal experience on which the wisdom can be vetted.

Today we are going to venture beyond the realms of science in many respects.

It’s about to get deep.

If we think of life as an ocean, to fully explore all its wonder and better understand its unbounded brilliance, we can’t simply paddle on the surface…

So here we go.

Straight into the big question. What is the meaning of life?

To a flower, what is the meaning of life? To an eagle? A butterfly? The meaning of their lives is the same as it is of ours; and of all things. To exist in harmony with all that is. To exude our true nature so as to be an interdependent part of the whole; the divine universal order.

Everything on this planet and beyond works in perfect harmony. The trees, the oceans, the animals. Everything…except us, except man.

Ekhart Tolle says “Watch any plant or animal and let it teach you acceptance of what is, surrender to the Now. Let it teach you Being. Let it teach you integrity — which means to be one, to be yourself, to be real. Let it teach you how to live and how to die, and how not to make living and dying into a problem.”

While animals have brains and cognitive processing ability it is not that which guides them through their lives, it is their connection to nature, their innate connection to the divine, to all that is. Just as it is with the tree, the rose, or the butterfly, they all effortlessly exist in perfect harmony.

Yet man is different. The ultimate contradiction. What makes him strong, also makes him weak. What gives him freedom, so to enslaves him.

Our unique ability to reason, our superior cognition, that which separates us from all other life is what becomes our greatest barrier to harmony. Finding our way back to harmonic flow, in tune with nature’s way; that is the meaning of life.

Nature’s challenge for us as cognitive reasoning beings, is to find our way back. When we experience glimpses of expression from our true self, our soul, our spirit, which manifest into emotional utopias like love, Joy, Awe, they act as our internal guidance system showing us the way…the more we feel these states of bliss, the deeper we feel them, the closer we are. And so Nature communicates to us through it’s ineffable and infinite brilliance.

Science has reaffirmed the shortsighted benefits of happiness, however left from the equation is nature’s motive for such benefits. The extensive research into happiness has taught us many things, however to the most profound truths science can not reach. The desired emotional states were merely nature’s way of guiding us towards a state of harmony… These states are the uninhibited breaths of our soul, no longer choking on the toxic thoughts of the ego. They show us the way home as if through the beauty of an angel to which we cannot see but feel.

If man seeks happiness for his singular internal pleasure alone, he acts solely in his self-interest; to the greater whole, nature’s universal order, he largely remains oblivious; but nevertheless he is guided.

The philosophies of ancient Greece held highly this same ideal. Stoicism and Cynicism professed that it was virtuous to display a will that was in tune with Nature. They also believed that living that virtuous life was sufficient for happiness and fulfilment.

Further back still to ancient China around 600BC. Laozi who founded the philosophy of Taoism and who is credited with producing the timeless script of the Tao Te Ching also conveyed similar principles. Taoism’s key premise is to live in harmony with the Tao, the Tao is difficult to translate but considered to be ‘all that is’, ‘’the way’, ‘the source from which things came as well as the force behind them’, ‘the universal flow’.

I convey these words as my truth; not as a regurgitation of ancient philosophy or religion. Each man holds within himself his truth and eternal wisdom. He may learn from another where to look and may recognise much when it is found; but he need not inherit or assume the thoughts of another as his own.

On numerous pillars has my own truth been built. Often my own experience has been followed by the discovery of like wisdom. Other times words when read resonate with my very soul. All the time clarity progressively bestows itself. My nature, as is yours, is absolute.

Emerson wrote, “No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature. Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to that or this; the only right is what is after my constitution; the only wrong what is against it.”

So if we are to find our rightful place in the universal flow, a place of harmony; how is it to be achieved?

I believe we must live with a specific practical ideal which can be embodied by any man in any situation. I refer to this way of life as a state of ‘flow’. When living with flow man finds harmony with all things and all things are drawn to man.

To ‘flow’ we move next…

Happiness – 12 Steps to get your happy on

42528712954ddebef15fe09.93531036OK here we go…

Here’s a quick recap on yesterday’s post. What we really want in life isn’t the ‘things’ but rather it’s the emotional states of happiness and fulfillment we believe will result from having those ‘things’. Therefore it’s happiness or fulfilment if you prefer that’s argued with the support of science to be life’s big prize.

So here’s how we can start moving in the right direction…

Heard of rose tinted glasses? They’re kind of like beer goggles but used when you’re sober. Well that’s how happy people look at the world. They look at the world through the lens of Happy tinted glasses. People who are always miserable look at the world through Shit coloured glasses.

You can put two people in the same situation and the happy person will build a perspective of it, and interpret it, and then react to it, in a way that supports their fundamental paradigm of the world. Look for yellow cars and you see them everywhere right? Or choose to look for black cars and you’ll see them everywhere too.

Within your default personality how do you see the world? Through rose tinted glasses or through shit covered glasses? Ultimately it’s not the situations you are faced with in your life that will determine the quality of it, it’s how you frame them and choose to interpret and respond to them, that will. What you focus on is what you will experience and ultimately feel.

I’m sure you know some people who are inherent moaners, ask them how their day was and they will always find something to complain or moan about, doesn’t matter how many great things happened, they’ll find the shit. And then their are the people who find empowering meaning is legitimately challenging circumstances. We all have bad days but what glasses are you wearing most of the time?

So if you are currently walking around with shit smeared all over your glasses, we need to do something about getting you some rose lenses.

Change the way you see the world and your world changes.

Ok, so allow me to introduce Sonja Lyubomirsky, she’s a prominent researcher in the field of happiness and written a couple of great books. I’ll reference her top 12 habits for increasing your happiness here from her book “The How of Happiness” as they provide a good initial spread and have been scientifically proven.

Before we kick into those, if it wasn’t enough to want to be happier because it just feels great, here are some extra proven benefits enjoyed by happy people.

A myriad of studies have found that happy people earn more (we’ll come back to this later when we revisit the bling), have more satisfying and longer lasting marriages, more friends, better social support and relationships, more energy, better health, increased immunity, less stress and live longer… just winning all round really.

More happiness, more mojo.

Ok so here we go…

Number 1.
Be grateful.
It helps if you write it down and the more regularly the better. We all have so much to be grateful for and sometimes we are pre-programed to always be looking to the future and what we don’t yet have and forget to look around us and give thanks for that which we do. Change it up and you will scientifically be less likely to be depressed, anxious, lonely, envious and neurotic – bonus!

Number 2.
Cultivating Optimism.
Ask yourself more empowering questions? What’s something good that can come from this? How have I been made stronger from this situation? How can this help me in the future? Avoid letting yourself fall into the victim framework.

Number 3.
Avoid Overthinking Things and Social Comparison.
If you get into a negative loop of contemplation, interrupt it and go for a walk or for a run, play with the cat. Change things up so it doesn’t get a hold. As for social comparison I love a quote from the ever-wise ‘Anonymous’ – “There is no nobility in being superior to your fellow man – true nobility is being superior to your former self.”

Number 4.
Practising Acts of Kindness.
I’m sure we all know how good this can make us feel. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, little things can generate just as much goodness.

Number 5.
Nurturing Social Relationships.
Be good to your partner, your family, and your friends. Remind them that you care.

Number 6.
Develop Strategies for Coping.
Find some techniques that work for you that you can turn to in times of hardship or trauma.

Number 7.
Learning to Forgive.
Write all the lingering feelings you have left on paper so you have an outlet and then release them along with that person. Forgiveness is about freeing yourself. It brings a great quote to mind from one of my favourite people Buddha – “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

Number 8.
Increasing Flow Experiences.
Do more of what you love to do, find that place where you lose yourself in the moment.

Number 9.
Savouring Life’s Joys.
We all know the saying “Slow down and smell the roses” – well slow down and smell the roses. Take your time a little, look at the sunset a little longer, enjoy the smile of your child. Speaking of children, revisit the wonder of the world as they see it. George Elliot warned “ The golden moments in life rush past us and we see nothing but sand; the angels come to visit us, and we only know them when they are gone.”

Number 10.
Committing to your goals.
Set meaningful goals and simply begin the journey towards them, little consistent daily efforts. Progress is powerful.

Number 11.
Strengthen your spiritual connections.
People often confuse religion with spirituality. You don’t have to subscribe to a religion to develop your spirituality. This is a big one in my opinion. Meditation can be a great place to start.

Number 12.
Take care of your Body.
Move, meditate, keep the blood flowing. We all know the benefits of some consistent exercise.

Now it will take a little effort to reform the way you see things but it’s about consistency.

Think of your Happiness, well-being and overall fulfillment like a balloon, each of these techniques is a source of air inflating that balloon… Think of the air as representing the positive powerful states enriching your soul in any given moment – Emotions like Love, Pride, Peace, Hope, Joy, Gratitude, Awe, Inspiration. The fuller the balloon the more fulfilled you are.

Focus on the strategies that you enjoy. You don’t have to do everything everyday. You’ll get just as much air from doing a few techniques consistently as you will from doing all just now and then.

Now here’s the kicker… I thought that was the whole story but then I uncovered in my own life experience as well as the literature what I feel is the ultimate source of air. I believe it trumps all others and if you live with this then your balloon of fulfillment will always be full.

Call it lucky number 13.

If you embrace this all powerful ingredient in your life, success in every sense will chase you, yes that means the bling too. There will be no need for you to chase it. It’s how I found early financial wealth and when I lost this special ingredient so went with it everything that was truly valuable in my life. But I have found it again and am excited to share it with you…

We’re building momentum here so stay with me… this will change your life forever if you let it…

How to be amongst the truly wealthiest people in the world

Happiness-beach-textSo what do you want? What drives us? What’s it all for?

It’s been put forward by the great scholars of our time in positive psychology that the ultimate currency of life is ‘happiness’.

What does it mean to be happy?

The term ‘happiness’ in this context isn’t the two dimensional word you might think of to simply describe a child given a lollipop. The broader definition would include this type of emotional state but also goes much deeper. While the harvard scholars use a broad definition of ‘happiness’ I personally find ‘fulfillment’ a term easier to digest. I’ll use the terms interchangeably in this post and consider their meaning to include all positive emotions and states like Love, Pride, Peace, Hope, Joy, Gratitude, Awe, Inspiration etc.

So what about the bling right? You might be thinking that these new age hippies need to get with the program. Show me the money! Well 15 years of scientific research in the field of ‘positive psychology’ has shown what many who have acquired some bling apparently already knew –  the bling has no zing.

Anecdotally I think we all had a suspicion that this was the case. Didn’t we? If material wealth was the big prize and the key to fulfillment, then why are so many wealthy people suffering from depression? Some commit suicide, many are just unhappy. Not all by any stretch but quite possibly proportionately the same amount as those with average incomes. What about those families who live in impoverished communities around the world? We see documentaries and hear personal accounts of how happy they are. When we really step out of our conditioned beliefs and look at it, there doesn’t appear to be any correlation between people’s material wealth and their fundamental level of happiness and fulfillment.

Still think it’s all about the Benjamin’s?

Well back to the research then. It showed that each of us has our unique well being or happiness baseline. Some days we’re happier and are above that baseline experiencing positive emotions like love or pride or joy and some days we’re sad or frustrated and we’re operating below that emotional baseline… in either case a short time will pass and we’ll return to our inherent equilibrium.

Taking our baselines into account, you might find interesting the research conducted by Psychologist Philip Brickman and his team. They studied baseline happiness and well-being in people who won the lottery. They found that within as little as a single month some winners returned to their baseline level of happiness. If they were unhappy before winning sooner or not so much later that would be unhappy again. It also works the other way around. They found that accident victims who became paraplegic were returning to their baseline level of well being and happiness within as little as a year.

Truth is society sold us down the river with respect to its picture of success. You need to be rich, beautiful, preferably famous and have the latest gadgets. As a result many of us live our lives with true happiness as this elusive conditional prize. ‘One day when I have this then I’ll be happy.’ ‘One day when I get that promotion, then I’ll be happy.’ ‘One day when I’m famous, then I’ll be happy.’

So for many of us we’re heading in the totally wrong direction and could live our whole lives with our potential happiness and fulfillment attached to an outcome that may or may not ever eventuate. Fuck that.

So here’s the basic premise for why happiness and fulfillment trump C-notes and everything else as the ultimate currency in life.

Essentially it’s argued that what we really want is the emotions and states that will eventuate from having those things.

The researchers apply the big ‘Why’ test.

I want lots of money. Why? So I can travel. Why? So I can see the world. Why? Because it’ll make me happy and gives me a sense of awe.

I want to build schools in Africa. Why? So I have a sense of contribution. Why? Because I like helping people. Why? It makes me feel grateful, content and at peace.

Get the idea? Ok cool.

So the great news is, we can do a bunch of things to increase our baselines of happiness, wellbeing and overall fulfillment. So they need not be a conditional reward for some potential event in the future.

We can live with more Love, Pride, Peace, Hope, Joy, Gratitude, Awe, Inspiration right now. So in terms of what Harvard Professor Tal Ben-Shahar calls the ultimate currency of life, you can be amongst the truly wealthiest people in the world, in no time at all.

Want to know how?…Stay tuned.

 

Why our School system sucks…

current-education-systemIsn’t it weird that we spend 10-12 years educating our children on reading, writing, math and a few peripheral subjects but totally omit what I would argue is the most important aspect of a well rounded education system? The subject of how to thrive and succeed at life. The subject of how to find fulfilment and live in a positive state of mind and live on purpose with an intent to live out one’s potential.

There exists so much established wisdom on how to win at the game of life. The more I try and expose myself to it the more I find it hard to fathom that it isn’t collated and summarised into a subject to be studied in our schools. The ancient wisdoms of the Tao Te Ching, or Confucius and Marcus Aurelius, or the classics of ‘Think and Grow Rich’ in itself aggregating 25 years of research into america’s most successful people.

Maybe the dozens of books on positive psychology that have in the last decade solidified a massive body of scientific research proving just what actions you can take today that will lead you to living a happier life. How about the classic ‘How to win friends and influence people’ as a crash course in effective social interaction. Knowledge on goal setting, and visualisation, the power of gratitude, the connection to self through spirituality and meditation. If you think this is up to the parents to teach well that doesn’t work when parents were never given this knowledge either.

This wisdom has always been there, and now in the age of the internet it has never been more accessible. As it currently stands only those who seek it out or have access to an informed mentor are benefiting from it’s unquestionable fruits.

To what level could our society benefit if our children were emerging from school based education empowered with this type of knowledge? The knowledge to win at life. To be fulfilled and successful, whatever that means to them. Embodying this wisdom benefits the individual but the benefits go wider than that. All those who interact with that individual also benefit by association. The individual would likely make contributions on a wide scale so society wins as a result too.

The more people we can inject into adult society with a well rounded knowledge of optimal living the better for everyone. I would envisage we could begin to foster an upward positive cycle that over the course of a generation could change a nation forever. Crime could be slashed, our economy could potentially move into hyper-drive as the level of entrepreneurs explodes and industry benefits from creativity and innovation like never  before. Those who prefer to be employed will likely be more productive and find more meaning in their work leading to fuller happier lives and yet more benefit for all those part of their home dynamic.

Fantasies of grandeur? Unrealistic? There is no doubt many will think so. I would encourage those unconvinced to seek out this wisdom, experience the benefits in their own life and then I hope they too will join me in seeing these possibilities.

We have lived through great times of progressive change in the last few hundred years, the end of slavery and segregation, woman securing their right to vote, gay couples given their right to marriage and no-doubt many more. The tides of change always favour liberation. They favour those who have had less being permitted the same opportunities as those who have had more.

I believe that we are entering a new age of liberation. It’s time we gave everyone especially our children the tools and opportunity to live their lives to their fullest extent, to know early on that there is a calling uniquely for them, that life need not be a mere existence. This crusade will not be for a persecuted minority. This liberation could be the one to set us all free.

100 Days

nzdrunk3

They say it takes 21 days to form a new habit. I googled it, apparently not. It seems things aren’t always that simple. Well anyway I decided to make my own rule. I chose 100 days. It seemed like a nice round number. 100 sober days.

There use to be an alcohol awareness campaign that had the tag line ‘It’s not what we’re drinking, it’s how we’re drinking’. I can relate, I was drinking to oblivion. I was experiencing significant blackouts when I went out drinking. If you haven’t experienced blackout’s then you may find them hard to believe. Often times people can have selective memories the day after drinking or can experience ‘grey-outs’. Grey-outs are when you have forgotten but when someone reminds you of an event, the memory restores and you get that ‘oh my god I remember that’ moment. A blackout is essentially when the short term memories don’t convert to long term memories, the memories are gone, they are not stored anywhere so no matter what someone tells you, you won’t remember. It is an incredibly shit feeling waking up in the morning and not knowing how you got there and having no recollection of the final 2 or 3 or even 4 hours of the night. When you are obliterated like that you have lost all cognition, you are on automatic pilot. Bad decisions are imminent.

So I agree with the campaign slogan, “how we’re drinking” is definitely an issue, I also think though that “why we’re drinking” can be equally an issue. Are you drinking to celebrate a special occasion? Are you drinking to enjoy a social gathering? Or are you drinking to escape the challenges that you are faced with in life? Intoxication was giving me a temporary reprieve from the challenges of everyday life. For a short time any anxiety, stress or fear could be forced to the back of my mind and replaced with fun, laughter and freedom. That was of course until the morning after. There I was again, back in the real world, challenges and emotional bourdons intact. Now though I was hungover and emotionally drained with even less mental capacity to deal with them. The anxiety, stress and fear would then compound as my state of mind was weak. I needed to escape again. Rinse and repeat. Down we go. Emotional oblivion. Pass the Prozac.

I socialised with many people who would have partied at a similar level and frequency to me and maybe it’s not an issue for them, it’s not for me to judge others nor do I have any willingness to do so. I think ultimately no matter what it is, drink, drugs, gambling or anything else the line of moderation can be a blurry one. If your behaviour is outside of what society deems to be reasonable then you may likely be assessed as having a problem. If however you are below societies behavioural radar the measure of acceptable moderation is going to come down to your own self assessment. What is too much? What price am I paying? It really comes down to you and the questions you ask of yourself.

The moment that really got me in the end was when I started focusing on the man I wanted to become and what I wanted to achieve. When I thought of who that person was I knew that if I continued the way I was going I couldn’t become that man. I wasn’t going to achieve what I believed I could. That was my litmus test.
So I finally stopped running and started fighting, literally.

I would like to be able to have a social drink again and maintain a level of moderation. I know that if I do it has to pass my criteria, it cannot negatively influence or slow my journey forward. What I have learnt within myself is that sometimes abstinence is easier than moderation. Drinking again does freak me out because I currently enjoy the safety of abstinence, moderation is a beast I have yet to conquer and she is a fiery one.

There is a lot at stake. My boys deserve the best of me. My family and friends deserve the best of me. My colleagues deserve the best of me. I deserve the best of me.

Day 101…

Go with the #Flow

flowHave you ever been in one of those moods when you can do no wrong?

You. Are. Unstoppable.

I call it the state of Flow. This is where I want to live.

I’ve felt like this before but it’s the exception to the rule rather than the rule. It makes me wonder what life would be like if you could condition yourself to operate in that state of Flow on a daily basis. Sure we’ll all have bad days now and then but I’d like to shoot for this state the vast majority of the time.
Can you change the way you think and feel on a consistent basis? Of course you can. Well I believe you can. But like anything it will take a strategy, commitment and dedication otherwise our state of mind will revert to the default. The default is one of reaction to the stimuli and circumstances around us based on the way we’ve been programmed to view ourselves and the world. If I grew up in an environment that made me believe the world was out to get me, that I was stupid, that I would be taken advantage of at every turn, that people are sharks and not to be trusted, or that money is the root of all evil, then that would naturally play a part in forming my view of myself and the world. Everyone who has had a significant influence on our lives has played a part in forming our personality, what we believe, what we value, and ultimately how we see things.
Many of the things I have been made to believe or views I’ve held of the world and myself won’t serve me productively in living a full, rich, empowered life. If I want to change a life time of programming it’s not going to be a five minute process.

If you had the opportunity to reprogram your view of yourself and the world how would you do it? How would you want to see yourself and those around you? What would make up your state of ultimate Flow?

Would it include beliefs like…

  • I am incredibly confident and there is no problem I can’t solve with a smile?
  • I am compassionate and understanding of the challenges others face in their lives?
  • I believe in myself and what I am capable of?
  • If determined enough I can achieve anything?
  • I will give to others even when they take from me?
  • I will love others even when they display hate towards me?
  • I will be courageous in the life I lead and not fear failure?
  • I believe if given a chance people are inherently good?
  • I will not judge others as I understand they may have lived a very different life to me?

The way I see it, we didn’t ask for the values and beliefs we have and we may no longer want to have some of them. I figure I’d rather proactively program my own state of mind exactly how I want it. By doing so I want to try and build a state of mind that enables a reality where Flow is the norm, Flow is the default.

There is no reality other than that which we choose to experience.

Have you ever had a night out at a party and had a great time and been with someone who has had the worst time ever? You were at the same party! You loved the relaxed atmosphere, they hated the scruffy dress code. You loved the music, they thought the music was too loud. You loved the dancing, they thought the dance floor was too crowded. We are living the same circumstance but having a very different quality of experience. A big part of how we feel about a given event or day is going to be what we choose to focus on and which beliefs we choose to reinforce, those forced upon us, or those we choose to create for ourselves.
So I have created a new action to accompany the other tools I’ve adopted in my personal journey to reprogram my own state of mind. It’s a tool to help keep my focus on that which empowers me, a tool to hopefully take me ever closer to a sustained state of Flow.
Each time something good seems to go my way, or the world seems to bend in my favour, or one of my new beliefs is reinforced, I write it down in my journal. I write ‘#Flow’ and then write what happened. It’s a way to keep my eye on the prize, a way to remember the good, a way to… just go with the Flow.

Are you feeding your mind shit?

omaskThe plane is shaking, adrenaline is spiking…people start screaming! Your children to whom you love more than anything in the world sit either side of you. You would gladly choose death so that they could draw a single additional breath. The oxygen masks drop from the overhead compartment, what do you do? You must put yours on first.

Remember what it was like when we were kids? There was so much wonder, so much excitement. Boys ran around as superheroes and girls as princesses. Possibilities were endless. Our minds were like sponges, we absorbed an unbelievable amount of information, we learned at an incredible rate. We laughed often and lived in a state of empowered curiosity absent of fear.
The movies we watched as kids were full of emotional purity and moral fortitude. They taught us not to give up and that the underdog would triumph and that good would win over evil.

What happened when we grew up? What happened to that state of mind?
Did life somehow suck all of that out of our soul. Where did fear, judgement and hate come from? We weren’t born with these.

Society as we know it happened. The pain, fear, failure, judgement, intolerances and disappointments of past generations were passed down to us as a new way to see the world, replacing the childhood beliefs we had of wonder, promise, joy and curiosity.

We lowered our standards. We sold out our childhood selves.
We are bombarded with everything that is wrong with the world on a daily basis. Misery, horror and disgust, that’s what rates in the media. We are accepting a skewed microscopic sample of the world as our reality. It’s easy to digest these bits of information as accurate portrayals because it’s spoon feed no preparation required. No need to spend time and effort forming our own view of the world when there is one pre packaged in easy bite sized chunks ready for consumption.

The movies we watched as children have been replaced with medical dramas of misery and loss, law and order programs showcasing the most derelict behaviour humans can contrive.
Is it any wonder that we live in a world being more and more consumed by depression and mental illness? I have been there and it is a terrible feeling. I would describe it as the feeling of drowning in your own life. It is the point at which you feel you can no longer climb out of the psychological hole you have found yourself in. Your mind is clogged with shit. You have lost sight of all you have and are focused on all that is wrong. You have become the victim of your own thoughts, paralysed by your own internal turmoil and darkness.

It is not easy to fight out of but it is certainly doable. The critical aspect of recovery and maintained recovery in my opinion is the preservation of an empowered state of mind. This is the state of mind that society does not support or encourage. I needed to clear my mind of all the shit it had accumulated, rid my mind of those thoughts and beliefs that dis-empowered me and instead rebuild my mind with new beliefs to once again live in harmony with my inner child. I now stand guard at the entrance of my mind and defend it at all costs. There is no greater asset to me than the preservation of an empowered state of mind.

There is no doubt that unbelievable atrocities are happening in the world, there is horror, there is murder, there is poverty. Those stories that are covered in the media are but a drop in the bucket. I have deep compassion for those in the world who struggle in any capacity. I have a strong desire to help people in a way that my skills will allow. In order to do that I cannot feed my mind a diet of sorrow and helplessness. This is the diet our media and our society in general would have me endure.
I believe that we have to look at what our circle of influence is. What can we do to make the world better? What actions can we take? As Ghandi so rightfully said, we must be the change we want to see. We need to avoid the learned helplessness that can transpire when continuously feeding our minds with the misery and pain of those we cannot help. But rather empower ourselves with actions we can take to support and assist those we can.
To protect my state of mind I choose to see the world on my terms. I choose to see the good, the great, and the wonder. I am aware of the darkness but I choose not to focus on it or emotionally live there. I know I must choose a degree of ignorance. I choose it not to ignore the struggle or plight of my fellow man, but rather to enable me a state of mind that empowers me to act.
I have to put on my oxygen mask first.

Becoming a Fighter

fight-card I’ve always had a huge amount of respect for people who fought in the ring. Putting yourself out there, body on the line. There was a purity to the respect they earned by doing it. It didn’t matter how much money you had, what your parents did for a living or where you worked, when you were in the ring it was solely about the character you displayed. Watching someone in the ring shows you a lot about them, their commitment and dedication, their heart, courage and desire for victory.

Fighters displayed values and qualities that I held in high regard. Courage, respect, discipline, humility, commitment, passion. Outside of the ring I saw how they treated people as well as how they dealt with victory and defeat.

It was something I always wanted to do. I could see the respect fighters earned from people and I wanted to feel what it was like to experience that. I wanted to feel those character traits, not just believe I processed them but force there revealing.

I had trained on and off in different locations as we moved around the world but life had always interrupted.

At Christmas time I decided it really was now or never. I began training at ETK North Shore. As time progressed I was reminded repeatedly why I wanted to do this, I really enjoyed being around people who have these qualities.

Greg Nesbit is the head trainer, a tireless warrior for the sport of Muay Thai, dedicating his life to his gym and developing his students. He has created a real family culture amongst his students and it is a credit to him. I began training one on one with Jamie Eades one of Greg’s top fighters and now holder of two New Zealand titles. Jamie is a young determined fighter and I see him achieving great things in his fight career. I remember watching his fight against Rod Powdrill in Perth and thinking this guy is one tough determined fighter battling away to a well deserved win on foreign soil. Jamie’s brother Chris also trains at the gym. The first time I saw Chris fight he was fighting a Chinese fighter who had 50 wins and 2 losses, I think Chris at the time had 3 wins and 3 losses. He was 21 years old and took a real beating in the first round, his opponent started to tire and he drew the second round. Then to everyone’s surprise he hung in there and won the final round forcing the fight to a 4th round. His opponent was exhausted and Chris through pure heart delivered a killer knee knocking he opponent out in the 4th and winning the fight. What a sight, I hardly knew him and I was on my feet screaming encouragement for what was every personal quality he was displaying in that moment.  Josh Heta, another hugely successful fighter from the gym is someone else I’ve been privileged to meet. The consummate gentleman, such a tough fighter in the ring, yet the humble polite family man outside the ring always the first to help you out with some guidance. He perspires what I consider to be ‘mana’. Amy Vaughan, the gyms female star in the ring wouldn’t look out of place on a cat walk yet instead is fighting it out with the best of them, what an inspiration. I recently started training one on one with Nonsai a Thai world champion with over 300 fights, a new member of the gym and what a genuine guy. So many more great people I have met and have learnt from, a real privilege it has been to train with them. I have also been really inspired by the founder of the ETK Gym Jason Suttie albeit we have never met. I have followed his facebook for some time and he is a pillar of all that I have described. Being six time world champion will earn you a lot of respect but I feel now he draws even more respect for who he has become as a father as he and his partner bring up there little son Phoenix who suffers from a condition which effects his ability to speak and walk. I absolutely believe they will succeed in their journey to overcome it.

When I first started training at ETK north it was about me, it was about achieving an ambition I had held for a long time. I wanted to experience what it was like to be a fighter. As I progressed with my training it started to change, it wasn’t just about me anymore. When I fought I would be representing ETK North Shore, I would be fighting alongside my training comrades. I felt a real responsibility to not let any of them down with a performance that didn’t resonate with the qualities I had seen in them.

I had been training to fight on September 27th and with work commitments in Queenstown I was struggling to train as much as I would like but squeezing it in where ever I could. A few days ago late on Thursday night Greg text me and offered me a fight on Sunday. It was a couple of days notice and if I wanted the fight I’d need to weigh in on Saturday afternoon at 76.5kg. That left Friday and half of Saturday to drop 5.5kg’s. There were so many legitimate reasons to say no. Not enough recent training, one sparring session in last month, not enough time to cut weight, not enough lead up. None of which would have spoken in the voice of character I wanted to have. There was only one answer I could give if I wanted to feel I had earned my place. “Yeah bro, let’s go.”

I called the sauna home and cut the weight and weighed in at exactly 76.5kg. I did my best to rehydrate after the weigh in but after a terrible night’s sleep on the Saturday night I awoke in a bad way. I was consuming myself with self doubt. Would I disappoint those who had trained me? Would I get a hiding in front of all those people to whom I respected? How would I tell people that I had failed? At that stage I had lost the fight mentally before I even  got in the ring. My legs were like jelly, I didn’t know if it was because of the weight loss and poor recovery or just nerves, maybe it was a bit of both. The only thing that I knew for sure was that there was no way I could not turn up and fight after saying I would.

I took my boys for a walk and we walked up and down the street as I tried to get the muscles in my legs to feel like they were alive again. It didn’t seem to help.

Linda my ex-wife picked up my boys at lunchtime on Sunday-fight day, I was a mess of tangled anxiety. When she left she asked me why I do this to myself, why on top of everything else I do these things that put me in these states? She probably asked more rhetorically as I think she knew why. Anyway she hugged me and said “you’ll do great, I believe in you”. In that moment, I felt the self belief poor back into me, it was like night and day, I now felt confident I could do it.

I was the second fight, the first fighter to represent our Gym. I felt really proud to wear the ETK North fighters robe as I walked to the ring. I wasn’t really pumped up or itching for a fight, I don’t know what I was but I was there, where I said I would be and that felt good.

The first thing I noticed when climbing in the ring were the drops of blood scattered around from the previous fight, again I remained in this limbo state carrying seemingly no emotion.

I didn’t look at my opponent just organised myself in my corner with Greg and Nonsai. When we were called to the centre of the ring it was the first time I had seen who I was fighting. An Asian guy maybe in his early or mid twenties. He was my height and as we faced each other he wanted to look at me tough but I saw through that, I could see his nervousness.

It was a strange feeling getting in the ring and standing in front of someone who wanted to take your head off. It’s just you and him. When the bell sounded I was still in this surreal state of nothingness but as my opponent advanced and started to attack me with menacing intent I knew it was real, it was time to fight. So for me it wasn’t listening to my favourite song or revving myself up, it turned out my beast mode just needed provocation. I switched into a zoned out focused state and went to war. I forgot about how much energy I had or didn’t have, I forgot about many of the techniques I had practiced, I just fought based on what techniques rose to the surface at the time on instinct. My fight strategy only had two things predetermined. I wanted to immediately establish myself as the go forward fighter and secondly hurt him first and break his spirit. I was fortunate enough to do both and dominate the fight finishing with a convincing win. I was proud of myself. Proud to have pleased those who had trained me and proud to stand alongside my fellow fighters and have them congratulate me with a look of respect in their eyes reserved for those that have put themselves on the line and battled inside that ring. To walk past some world champion ETK fighters and Jason Suttie and have them say “great fight’ was a rewarding moment.

After the fight for a time I just sat up in the prep area and reflected. Greg walked past and asked me what was up, he thought I had zoned out. I had. I was in a place of such pride being amongst great people. I felt really proud that I had earned their respect, I had earned my place alongside them by entering the fire. I was one of them now. A Fighter.Untitled-2Untitled-10Untitled-24Untitled-36

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Lessons of a Playground

3478123517_39da217544_zI love taking my kids to the playground. At the playground the rest of the world is irrelevant. The playground is a vortex of positive human behaviour, a place where evil cannot reside. Joy is the currency of time. Adults become citizens of impeccable moral character, all desiring to teach their next generation solid characteristics of fairness, generosity, courtesy, caring and respect.

“No Jonny, let this little boy go first”,
“Go to the back of the line Paul, you must wait your turn”,
“Be careful of the little girl Jesse”,
“Let her play with the ball if you’re not using it” –
Adults seem to bond easier in this environment of common interest, we all have our best on display, I’m sure we feel better about ourselves and what we are contributing to the world. We effortlessly embrace a little small-talk while soaking in the righteousness.We can find ourselves pushing the merry-go-round not only for our own kids but for whoever decides to jump on just because it’s a nice thing to do and there is a sense that being the cause of a child’s laughter somehow replenishes your soul, counteracting what the outside world can on occasion siphon. Kids interact with each other in a way we seem incapable of – immune to the stereotypes and racial prejudices’ that infect the outside world.

Adults have a pass to act silly again, no-one to impress in the playground but their children. Dad chases the soccer ball and rolls one foot over the top while flicking his other foot behind him kicking the ball in a way he hopes shows off the skills he still has as opposed to the ones he used to have. Mum butters the bread and prepares the picnic as she watches on satisfied that life is as it should be. She’s a little over protective but only because she fears anything interfering with the perfection that is her children.

Dad climbs the spider wall with his 3 year old son just because he can. Mum runs alongside her little girl on the flying fox catching hands at the ready. She’s exhausted by the tyres, she didn’t anticipate it going that fast. Dad wants a go but knows he’ll either break it or be dragged along the dirt.

A sense of peace is in the air. We forget about the bills we’re not sure how to pay, we forget about the hardships in life. In this time, in these moments, we understand what it is to be grateful, to contribute, to let go of conformity, to embrace the purity of love and the appreciation of it. This is how life was meant to be. This is our playground.

What Waitangi Day Means to Me.

TeRataWhile having a quiet beer at the pub and visually surveying the patrons, my 360 degree scan was interrupted as my eyes passed a nearby table of four lads sharing some banter and a few beers. The interruption came by way of one of them catching my scanning glance and acknowledging it with a casual “Hey bro”.
Not one to show disrespect to a genuine show of decency I made my way over to their table and joined the conversation. Laughs began to dominate the table and it seemed a foreign thought to think we had only met a matter of minutes before. Those minutes began to grow into hours and I happily welcomed them into my home as new friends as the laughs and enjoyment of each other’s company continued…
It then became time to make our way to their homes where they would show hospitality matching mine and invite me into their lives and introduce me to their wives and children as if a long lost cousin…
Sitting around the table in the garage – which nicely doubled as a man cave – guitar in hand the sing-alongs reigned. A purity of comradeship existed that is difficult to articulate…
A moment arrived when it dawned on me that it was Waitangi Day. It led to an observation that hadn’t been acknowledged nor discussed prior because there was no need whatsoever for it to be. The fact that it was Waitangi Day seemed to make it appropriate that we acknowledge that here we were three Maori brothers by blood, a surrogate Samoan brother and myself. Kiwi Brothers in Arms.