Notes on the Work – Life Balance

Sometimes it feels like life really is a selection of onions, where you’re learning the same lessons over and over again for each lesson-onion while you gain that little smudge of wisdom from peeling back each failure-layer.

Recently I failed at the work-life balance onion. I worked and worked and worked, becoming more and more sick and unfulfilled, until something had to change. So I peeled back a layer and started afresh with that little bit of extra wisdom, which I’m sure will last me for another short time before I go out of balance again and need to learn another lesson.

It’s complicated, life is.

Anyway, this post was inspired by an article on Philip Bloom’s blog. In it, Philip talks about the ‘elusive work/life balance’, and how several things including the death of a close friend prompted him to reevaluate how much time he currently spends working:

I let my work get in the way of the important things in life…I am guilty as hell now he has gone

Philip Bloom is a great man, a true authority in the camera world and someone who has found their calling and pursues it with passion and depth. And I’m someone who places a great amount of importance on your calling in life. So it moved me to hear how he wants to do less work. It validated my intuition to stop working so much, and allowed me to follow that instinct instead of keeping my head to the grindstone because I might not ‘fulfill my purpose’ or ‘miss out on the satisfaction that comes from following one’s passion’.

Since this realisation I’ve spent more time with family and friends and reading fiction and doing all the things that’d normally make me feel guilty for ‘not doing something useful/important with my time’. And it’s been simply marvellous.

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Tip-Top Advice in a Forgotten Huffington Post Article

Joseph Campbell popularised the phrase “follow your bliss” and we see its ‘thousand faces’ in the many sayings we hear today – “follow your passion” “do what you love” “find your purpose”.

Now thats all fine and dandy but, for most, following this advice proves difficult when it comes to it. Now of course a nuts-and-bolts detailed instruction manual to following your bliss may never appear – and perhaps shouldn’t – but now and then it’s reinvigorating to hear some practical ways of applying this wisdom.

And with that, I leave you in the capable hands of Neil Gibb at the Huffington Post:

1. Get with a group of people you have an affinity with – the flipside of which is: stop working with assholes

2. Make sure you up to something

3. Work on becoming really good at something

And he leaves us with my personal favourite line of the article:

The novelist William Gibson said: “Before you diagnose yourself with depression first make sure you are not surrounded by assholes.”

Take a look around at your life: are you working really hard at journalling etc. to try and discover your passion yet flanked on all sides by an uninspiring environment and miserable friends?

A flower can’t flourish in a shopping mall, and neither can a man follow his bliss when lazing about at his parents house with the same depressed high school friends. My thoughts anyway.

Source

Seriousness and Frivolity

“The cleverest of all, in my opinion, is the man who calls himself a fool at least once a month.” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

We adults are so awfully serious.

Where did we learn it? We certainly weren’t serious when we were toddlers or mischievous teenagers. Where did it come from? Why?

What follows is my exploration into seriousness and its causes and effects.

What does it mean to take thing seriously?

According to www.Dictionary.com:

1. of, showing, or characterized by deep thought.

2. of grave or somber disposition, character, or manner: a serious occasion; a serious man.

Doesn’t really help does it. Well, I’m sure you know what it means already.

When did we first start taking things seriously?

I don’t know. And a rather rapid Google search returns nothing so I guess no one else does either.

My guess is that we took some things seriously because of the threat of extinction, i.e. “Don’t do that, you might hurt yourself!” or “Stop messing around or I’ll leave you here and I won’t come back.”

I remember once when I was playing in my mother’s bedroom and I accidentally jumped on her knee. I looked up at her with a gleeful grin, expecting her to smile and laugh along with me, and instead met the black gaze and angry bark of a terrifying, wounded giant.

From then on I wouldn’t be surprised if I learnt to take life seriously when I’m around her.

What do we take seriously?

We take our jobs, our relationships, our futures, our pasts, our possessions and ourselves seriously. Not all at the same time of course, and sometimes we forget about our shiny new shoes and jump in a puddle.

Does it serve us?

There seems to be a multitude of quotes by great people instructing us not to take life too seriously. It would be easy to say “well Dostoyevsky said it so come on people, lighten up!”, but I think more analysis is needed. We need to take our seriousness very seriously.

Seriousness serves us by allowing us to explore a subject, feeling, object or a way of life in depthWith depth comes meaning. And so seriousness can help us develop meaning in our lives.

Seriousness doesn’t serve us when we over-indulge in it, or take the wrong things seriously.

When we over-indulge in seriousness, we forget what it means to be light and free and dancing in the chaos of life. We can become heavy and slow and dulled and boring.

When we take the wrong things seriously, we can miss out on life altogether. We can concentrate on the highs of career achievement while ignoring our inner child’s pleas for fun and adventure.

“Man suffers only because he takes seriously what the Gods made for fun.” – Alan Watts

There’s one thing that seems to speak for itself: those that choose not to take things so seriously all the time seem to just enjoy life more!

Action Steps

  • Speak gibberish all day.
  • Go and get shit-faced instead of reading that next self-development book
  • Twirl, twist, jump and gyrate your body around like a 4 year old in a soft-play area
  • Take the sacred things seriously and take yourself lightly
Further reading:
Refine The Mind: 9 Thinkers on Not Taking Existence too Seriously

Lack of Living

Today I’d like to explore the lack of living that I, and probably many of you, have experienced. We may get things done, we may even have a job we love, a strong relationship with a healthy partner, good friends and family, yet we may feel a lack of vitality.

Co-dependence

This lack of living is strongly related to your level of independence from your family and society. Though we may become conscious of many ways that we are co-dependent, there seems to always be more, hidden in the unconscious. Only by growing in awareness, giving utterance to our most highest desires and seeking the feedback of others can we unlock and loosen these subconscious dependencies on other people.

I’ll let Joseph Campbell take it from here:

Campbell talks of Babbitt, specifically the last line:

I’ve never done a thing I wanted to in all my life

This may sound extreme, but it begs the question: how much of your decisions are influenced by other people? If they are at all influenced, even the slightest amount, then whatever you do, it will not be what you WANT to do.

Other people will always try and influence us. We may choose to take into consideration people’s opinions, chew on them, and then make our decision – but without the chewing, we are merely robots. Mechanical talking heads, repeating the desires of others.

Pain – our truest friend

Pain, physical or emotional, shows us the path to our liberation. But it’s so easy to reject the pain, to turn away, to distract ourselves with shiny gadgets and over-achievement and love and sex.

I can’t remember who said it, but someone once said something along the lines of:

When it comes to emotions, human beings are the most creative creatures on the planet. We’ll come up with almost anything to distract ourselves from an uncomfortable emotion

Why pain?

Pain originates from the soul. It tells us when we’re hurt and need rest. It tells us when we’re trespassing against our soul’s wishes. It tells us when we should have paid attention to what’s in front of us instead of the cute girl beside us through lampposts and traffic signs and cliff edges.

But the pain is too much

You are an infinite being in source. Your soul is formless and will remain after your body has dissolved into the earth from whence it sprouted.

Enough talking, let’s dance for a moment

 

The pain is still too much

And who’s responsibility is it to remedy that? Answer it truthfully.

If you answered yourself, you’re right.

If you answered someone else, you’re still right.

The truth, as always is somewhere in between. One thing I know is that you’ll probably have to take the first step. If you’re stuck in the same pattern, you’ll have to be the one to break out of it.

As Einstein wisely said:

Problems cannot be solved at the same level of consciousness that created them

You may still have hope. Hope that “one day things will be different”. Forget that shit. You’ll be waiting your whole life, like the character in Babbitt:

I’ve never done a thing I wanted to in all my life

Action step

Take the step. Call someone. Talk about how you feel. Already doing that and it hasn’t worked? Try something new. Reveal something even more intimate. Go to a men’s group. Start a men’s group. Still feeling stuck? Take a different approach. Organise a social outing. Quit your job. Wake up at 5am. Fast for a day. Go to the woods and refuse to return until the answer comes to you.

Life is dynamic, it isn’t a single question-and-answer. Dance with it.

I wish you luck.

 

Emotional Pain and the Modern Male Crisis

My story

I started this blog because of something the poet and author of Iron John, Robert Bly, once said:

The best way to learn something is to teach it.

I have spent most of my adult life with a feeling of emptiness and inner discontent. I have and still go through periods of intense depression, anxiety and despair. That’s not to say I have not had my happy moments, but I think if I were to be honest with myself, even in the happiness I’ve felt, there’s always been something missing. Something…off.

I have now come to a period of my life which REQUIRES radical change. For a while the pain and suffering in my life has been steadily increasing, and it’s now reaching breaking point. I believe I have hit the bottom of the barrel, and I’m either going to sack it off and hang myself OR learn how to integrate this thing.

I am someone who doesn’t have patience for inauthenticity. If something is not my calling, I won’t pretend that it is just to please other people or society. And I think this emotional pain is an indicator that I’m not living true to my highest self, that I’m not following my calling. Some people may just learn to live with the pain, bury it under distractions, and trudge on, day after day, until some tragedy wakes them up to the preciousness of life and forces them to change. As I said, I don’t have the patience for that.

What has all of this to do with the modern male crisis? And what IS the modern male crisis?

The modern male crisis is the pain of being a man in today’s society.

The pain and grief among men today is greater than ever before. Perhaps you’ve felt it. Perhaps you are moved to tears by a Disney movie. When you first started drinking you’d become wildly emotional over small things. When you broke up with your ex you cried for days.

Well, that’s me anyway.

Robert Bly believes that the industrial revolution is probably the root cause of all this pain. Because of the industrial revolution, fathers were separated from their sons. It used to be that the sons would work alongside the fathers at their place of work. And Bly believes that the sons gained something intangible, yet vital, from this interaction with their fathers. They learned how to be men.

If we do not know how to navigate life with strength, humour, love and purpose, i.e. to be a man, life’s challenges can overwhelm us

And here’s where we come full circle. Sometimes, I’m so very near to becoming totally overwhelmed by the dilemma of life, that I can almost touch the next world. This frightens me, as I feel that I still have plenty to give to this world, and I don’t want to depart prematurely.

I have had depression, anxiety, insomnia, despair, grief, derealisation, suicidal thoughts and all manner of physical and emotional pain. Undergoing all of these experiences has given me gifts that I want to share with the world. I have accumulated resources that help me live as a man, with an open heart, fully and authentically. I hope to aid you in living your life as fully and as authentically as possible.

Action step

If you are struggling from any kind of emotional pain, there are always actions you can take that can help you alleviate and understand the pain.

It’s difficult, but it’s one of the most effective ways I know of alleviating suffering. Expressing emotions is still seen as a weakness or a flaw by some. It actually takes tremendous strength and courage, and we should learn to celebrate the act of sharing emotions.

Here are some links to videos that have helped me during tough times. They were all chosen especially for their soulfulness and richness – you will only find deep things in these; things that have been crafted from a life well-lived, or from a place of courageous honesty: