A Day in the Patient Life of Tyler

,philosophy, A Day in the Life Of, Running and mental health, Running in Circles
2016 was a year of me confronting what I want which ultimately brought me to the realization that I don’t really know what that is. And so with 2017 arriving I’m accepting that fact as gracefully as I know how, so I can take the next steps towards greater awareness, scraping off the layers of denying my own heart its true desires and begin exploring the world of risk-taking.
I’ve always wanted to rush life’s processes, anxious for change, but I always am expecting to be able to do it from the safety and comfort of my own conservatism. Committing to the unknown has always been a real issue for me, suspending me in what feels like a regressive time-wasting well with slippery moss-dampened high walls. I learned quickly in this deep well how to master self-deception, believing the walls can never be climbed, that I’ll just have to wait in the shuddering darkness for some savior to come rescue me in the forgotten forest. All of this, of course, I have done onto myself.
And so as the years go by, even as I live in the perceptive paradise of Hawai’i,  I have picked up the handy tool of doubting myself through the highly infectious inner spinning spools of the mind, twisting and weaving together threads of domesticated abstract thoughts, only mere reflections of who I am, into a too-tightly knit canvas, smothering the true me.  This blanket of deception- how I see myself, how my mind weaved together a construct of who I am – is now the wholly dominate way in which I have come to know myself. It’s hard to breath under that blanket. It’s hard to find any source of warmth in that well. It’s cold and lonely and I can only hear the echoes of my voice reverberating the doubts I shout so that my doubts in this illusionary well start shouting at themselves. Doubts shouting out doubts. Doubts doubting doubts.
Hawai’i in some ways has become a symbolic plane-field to contain my virtual self, and study it with keen awareness. Nothing really to report, certainly nothing worthy of being published. My life continues on what seems like a meaningless thread of nonsense. It brings me down a lot. I’m afraid I’ve learned to not trust most things, most people, weary of their true unconscious intentions, their unmet needs. But most of all, I have learned not to even trust myself. I’m not sure I have the strength to climb the walls towards the light. I’m not sure I have the the ability to relax so that the grip of my mind’s threads stops weaving its constricting tapestry around my squirming body.
I hunger for truth. I desire change. I pray for progress. I live in angst.
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On New Years Eve, I ventured out to the far reaching coast of Kalapana in Puna to stay with a fellow runner friend, Tyler. He’s 29, been on the island for 6 years and seems relatively grounded (relative to me that is). So I finally took him up on his invitation to dine and dash, in a literal sense. We went out for a 9 mile run on the Red Road, climbed his neighbors coconut tree to harvest the fruits as a favor, and settled into his abode as the sun set, shining its last colors above the jungle canopy.
Tyler bought a piece of land a few years back, and with the help of friend they built a 16×24 un-zoned house with lovely loft, complete with water catchment, a propane shower and composting toilet. Befriended his sweet elderly  neighbor with the mature coconuts, he borrows her electricity and modest wifi. We made a delicious abundance of vegan food all locally sourced (except for the rice). Because it was a special occasion, Tyler whipped out his valued juicer and creamed the old coconuts we harvested from the Tree, mixing it with a delectable tahini, lemon, curry spice, and soy sauce as dressing for the cooked Bananas, Uala Potatoes and Green Beans. On the ground of his kitchen lay a series of banana bunches on newspaper, all in what looked like a sequential order, from freshest to ripest. Tyler  was just going through his life’s routine, and I refreshingly observed the ins and outs of his low-impact, simple yet methodical Puna lifestyle.

The Humble Abode

The next day we awoke to the new year, and amongst our breakfast we indulged in a digestive conversation about things to come. Tyler does not comment much on his introspective life, instead spending most of his cognitive abilities outwardly. His way of life is extremely systematic. He has only what he needs, and nothing more. He is efficient with his movements and his work. It is a delight to witness, and at times I found myself even humored by it as it creates a concentrative lightness in the atmosphere. I felt so far removed from my own internal burdens that being in his world with all of its intensive intentions somehow made me feel happy and giddy. As I laughed aloud a couple times, I hoped that Tyler did not take any offense. It was too tempting to express my jubilance as he performed calculating squats for optimal leverage while juicing the coconut, or his precise arm-wailing technique while entering his house through the screen door to prevent any greedy mosquitos from joining our New Years party. The beautiful part was that all his movements, his actions, were evolutionary-based. They were all created as solutions to problems. They were creative and effective. And if they weren’t effective, they died, and new methods were born. It is his way of life.

But in this morning-lit conversation, Tyler shared some wonderful insight that struck me like a big brass bell, still resonating through my trembling cells. “I feel there is a change coming soon for me. I’m not sure what it is, or when it will happen. There is a time for rest, and a time for action. The past six years I’ve not really had any motivation to pursue anything, so I didn’t force anything. I just lived day by day, exploring what I enjoyed, and throughout it all I’ve always been waiting with patience for when the time comes to move along. And I think it is soon.”

I looked up from my oats as he spoke. Just an hour before while Tyler was still asleep, my mind was active and buzzing, trying to figure out my life for me. I was looking at Job openings, I was looking at Graduate programs. I was considering this and pondering that. My mind is earnest, it is loyal and well-intentioned, but now, as Tyler finished speaking, I wondered just how much my mind was really acting in the best interest of the rest of me. For a split second I saw that the well wasn’t real. That the blanket was made of nothing. Here stood Tyler, a man who I can say without a doubt is a gifted and talented man, just living a self-proclaimed idle life in the back jungles of Puna, and he’s okay with that. Content with his life as it is, in the now.

I was inspired. Not by his life per se, but his attitude towards his life. His full trust and faith in himself. That what he’s doing now matters, and everything will fall into place as the tides change, as the seasons cycle, as the stars align.
I don’t know how many more cycles I have on this Island. I never really know. But I dream of living here forever. I dream of starting a family, having land, having purpose, having a close and loving everlasting community, where someday I’ll be a grandfather to the whole town. But I also still doubt too much that I’ll ever achieve that. I’m afraid I’ll be alone for the rest of my life. I’m afraid we all will be. That the world will end in loneliness.
Or revive itself in togetherness.
That day, as I collected my belongings and said my farewells to Tyler, I drove back along the windy roads to Hilo and started to reimagine myself as I once was, as I always have been: a man of faith exploring that which makes the heart grow fonder.
Here’s to 2017. A new year. Another year. Another chance to wash away the past and be alert to the callings of things to come. All we can do is prepare every day in every moment and act when it is time to act. If we miss the last bus, well then we’ll take the next train…
…as in the words of Julian Casablancas:
I say the right things but act the wrong way
I like it right here but I cannot stay
I watch the TV; forget what I’m told
Well, I am too young, and they are too old
Oh, man, can’t you see I’m nervous, so please
Pretend to be nice, so I can be mean
I miss the last bus, we take the next train
I try but you see, it’s hard to explain
,philosophy, Ecopsychology Project, Mythology

Wednesday’s Training PT II: Always have a Plan B

,philosophy, Running in Circles

**PT II (a continuation of Wednesdays Training PT I: The Socratic Method)**

My phone rings. I look over. Its my father calling.  I was expecting this call. I knew what was coming. A compassionate concern for my well being. Some fatherly advice. Advice I didn’t want to hear, but I needed to. That kind of advice in the back of your mind you keep quiet and ignore until someone says it out loud. I pick up the phone.

“So how’re you doing?”

“well I’m good. Just uh, hanging in there, you know.”

“yeah. So I’m concerned about your financial situation.” oof. Straight to the point. He’s here to talk problem solving. His speciality. My disability.

“Yeah me too,” I say, “It’s kind of the source of all my stress.”

“I bet. So do you have a plan B, you know, if things don’t work out?” I’m not happy with where this is going. I know what he’s hinting at, but I don’t want to admit it, and I don’t want to hear what he’s about to offer. But it’s got to be said.

“No plan B, I’ve just been hoping I get a job before I run out of money. Sort of racing against the clock at this point…”

“Well I think you should have a plan B, and to me the most practical plan is to come back here, to Seattle.”

There. It’s said. Those words. Come Back home. I’m not sure my father knows what those words symbolize to me. Maybe he does. But the tears start to come. There’s a long awkward silence over the phone. I finally say something, “I can’t afford to do that.”

“Well I’ll help with that of course. We’ll get you back. Look, its just a plan B, but you need to have a plan B. You gotta think about what you’re doing out there, if it’s worth it, if it’s really working out for you, and if not, then you need to figure out what to do. I’m sorry if that’s hard to hear” Another long pause. Now I’m upset. I have a terrible insecurity that my family thinks I’m just dicking around in Hawaii turning into a beatnik.

Some words come stumbling out of my mouth meekly, “Yea no its okay those are thoughts I’ve been having myself. I question what it is I’m doing out here all the time. It’s just…” I try hard to hold back the tears, suppress the emotional release, but some still gets through, “…I guess that means back to the nest.”

“It does, but there’s plenty to do around here. Just remember that it is still your choice. I’m just offering you a realistic alternative.”

I had been denying a plan B because I new what it meant for me. It meant failure. Failure to launch. Failure to be anything on my own. It meant returning to home, where I was just a kid dependent on my parents. I was feeling so ashamed and humiliated having this conversation with my father over the phone. But the worst was yet to come.

“Are you getting enough to eat? Are you staying healthy?” I guess my father is pretty concerned, but I had been alluding to my less-than-ideal situation, and to my pride that might be preventing me from making smart rationale choices in life. But I reassure him.

“Yeah I’m getting by. I’m filling myself up. Been running and paddling and biking lots. I know I gotta eat, and I know I need money for that. I’m pretty much living off of the  money I made selling my bike. But that money is gonna run out real soon.”

He asks if I have friends on the island. I tell him I have a supportive community and am staying active in the community. I tell him I’ve had a number of job interviews, some I’m hopeful about. More reassurance that I have an invested life here in Hawaii. And then  the question comes.

“Do I need to loan you money?” There it is. The question I’ve been too prideful to ask myself. And now I’m too prideful to even say yes, yes I do need to loan money otherwise I’ll be foraging on mac nuts and plucking taro out of the ground. I need the money, there’s no doubt about that. But I don’t want help. I don’t want my father to have to swoop in again and rescue me. Pride I’ll tell ya. It’s gonna me kill me if I don’t kill it off first.

I give in. I tell him I could use the money, but that I really don’t want it. I say this through tears he cannot see. I say it with surrender in my heart, with my head hung low. But I know I am blessed, to even have this as a choice. And I love my father and am blessed he is willing to help me, willing to see me succeed.

We finish off our phone conversation in a casual manner. We talk little details about my whole family’s planned visit in April. My father says he’ll transfer enough money to help me get by until then when I should make a decision about staying in Hawaii or returning with them after the trip. I give out a sigh, a release, after having a hard but very much needed conversation.

As soon as I hang up, I get another call from a stranger inquiring about my guitar I posted an ad for online. He wants to check it out and possibly buy it. We set a time and place for tomorrow, and my pride begins to creep back in, maybe I don’t need my father’s money. Maybe I can still do this on my own…

My thoughts start to wander back to my conversation with Taapai, but now my mind is wandering with thoughts of my father, with thoughts of returning home, with thoughts of selling my guitar just to prove I don’t need help, with thoughts of my family visiting in a month.

I wander through the states of emotions I felt while talking to my father, wondering how I might have desired those feelings of shame and humiliation and how my father helped me feel them and overcome or maybe fulfill them by safely expressing my shame to him, and to myself.

I wandered back to the idea of emotional desires and what it all meant for myself after feeling such intense emotions right after feeling that dull depression – my psyche ebbing and flowing through emotional states like a wave. Is this what life is about? Embracing whatever emotions are being requested by my body or soul or whatever is the source of my being? God? Is this what Buddha means by participating in the joyful sorrow of life? Am I on the path of spiritual guidance? Is this the way to enlightenment? To the Tree of Life?

My mind starts to wander far, and my body soon joins in.

Time for a run.

Wednesday’s Training PT I: The Socratic Method

,philosophy, Running in Circles

I know what happens to me when I stop running. I know all too well. Depression. I don’t feel like doing anything. The thought of doing anything even slightly causes anxiety. But when I’m running, the threatening harsh world is smoothed over and doesn’t seem so scary anymore. It becomes inviting. I feel up to life’s challenges. Exhilarated even.

But what happens when running becomes an obstacle? Just a fix, a state of being I become addicted to. Abused. 

I’m making myself a cup of coffee made from yesterday’s steeped grounds. It doesn’t have that same aromatic full-body kick to it, but it’ll do. I just ate a bowlful of millet I spiced up with a left over pack of pepper flakes from Dominos, and fry up my last egg. It fills me up, but I know I’ll be hungry again within the hour.  The sun is heating up the day, but I can see a weather front moving in. It’ll be nice to get some rain.

Gusts of wind are blowing erratically. The tarp of my outdoor kitchen is dancing wildly with each blow . Tiny droplets appear on the screen of my computer then disappear as the wind returns the moisture to the air. It’s a beautiful day. Moody. Nice smooth, filtered light making all the green colors pop out vibrantly.

I’m tired. My legs feel heavy from the past two weeks of running. My arms and sides and butt are sore and stiff from paddling and biking. I’ve been going hard with my body, trying to stay fit and in shape for the marathon. It’s under two weeks away. Finally time to taper and recover the muscles. I can’t rest too much, it wouldn’t be good, but I can sense my body desiring to crumple up and take a break from it all. I’ve been going hard on all levels. Not just with my training either.

I’m staying positive. I’m staying focused. I’m building confidence and averaging a job interview a week. My Hilo Ohana has been so supportive. “You can do this!” they say. “You’d be perfect at that job” they remark. Just yesterday I got called in for an interview after only applying the day before. Encouraging. My phone rang while I was walking up to my tent. I almost didn’t answer, too tired to want to talk. But I knew I couldn’t afford not to. 1 hour later I was sitting at the cafe 5 miles away rattling out answers about my personality and skill traits like I had become oh-so used to doing the past 6 months.

6 months. In a few days The summer team for Kure Atoll conservancy will be embarking on their 6 month journey to the atoll, the very same journey I embarked on a year ago, that I returned from 6 months ago. It’s been 6 months. 182 days. Still no job. In some ways I’m actually impressed with myself. I’ve been able to get away with living without a paying wage. That takes finesse I tell yeah, if you don’t have much money to begin with.  But it also depresses me. I’m someone who needs to be doing something. I need production in my life. I need to be acheiving. And when I turn around and see that since I’ve returned from the far reaches of the Northwest Hawaiian islands, I see a young man who has not been motivated to work. But I’m too tired for the emotional baggage that comes along with that. Depression is a real downer. A real addiction I tell ya.

So instead I choose to rest my weary bones on this Wednesday, and sink into a reflection I’ve been meaning to return to:

I was sitting with my roommate Taapai. It was dark and chilly out. We just finished our shared meal of Poi and and sautéed greens in coconut milk.  As we often do, we were sharing the same physical space but very much involved in our own thoughts; each in our own meditative worlds. Sometimes a bridge is formed between our meditations when one of us feels inspired to share. I spoke up.

“I’ve been feeling depressed.”
“oh yea?”

“Yea. It’s weird though, it feels like I’m coming out of it, like a spell was broken.”
“what broke the spell?”
“I don’t know, it’s hard to say really. Maybe I got fed up feeling that way… I started writing again. And that felt good. I think it was because I was creating something. It felt good to be creating… the depression, I wasn’t doing anything, and I didn’t want to do anything.”

“Depression. It’s an addiction.”

His statement caught me off guard. I had to pause and process it, but I couldn’t grasp the concept behind it. “How do you mean?” I asked.

“Look at it this way,” He leans in. He’s got my attention, “emotions are different states of being. When you are feeling an emotion, your body or psyche is desiring a certain state of being. Otherwise, that emotion wouldn’t exist, right? At first glance, you would think that being sad is not something anyone wants to be. But then why does that emotion exist?”

“Oh I see. you’re saying that all the emotional states exist for a reason: to fulfill a certain state of being. Being sad is as necessary of a state of being as being happy. Our psyche desires certain emotions to fulfill a state of being that is necessary in that place and time in our lives.” I’m a quick conceptual learner.

“Yes. you got it. But what happens when we feel an emotion that won’t go away? Like depression. It’s chronic. You feel depressed. You go to bed feeling depressed, you wake up and you’re still depressed. This is when your psyche becomes addicted to that emotion. It’s craving something, trying to fulfill something. It’s stuck in a self-fulfilling pattern.”

“hmm I don’t quite understand what you mean.”

“I mean when you say you were depressed, you’re psyche was addicted to being sad. It was keeping you in that same state, with no end in sight.”

“But it did end.”

“Yeah eventually. But why did it end?”

“I got tired of feeling that way.”

“okay you got tired of feeling that way, but did feeling sick and tired of being depressed make it go away on it’s own?”

“no.. I had to do something.”

“Exactly. You only became aware that you were depressed. That awareness alone did not change your state of emotional desire. You had to  force yourself to break out of it, right?”

“Yeah I guess so, in a way. In the only way I felt I could, and that was to write about the depression.”

“Right. So somehow while your psyche was still in that state of depression, addicted to it like someone is addicted alcohol, you saw yourself in a different light, and you wanted to get there, but you had to somehow break this immediate feeling you were stuck in… and you did this by – what did you say – writing about it?”

“Yeah I got out my computer and started typing away about how pathetic my situation was, and when I was creating those words I was then immersed in the activity of creating a story, and I looked back on my words and saw how that actually sounded good, and next thing I knew I was in this state of being satisfied by what I had just created. It was like I had dislodged the depressive emotion and replaced it with something else. All of a sudden I was no longer desiring to be sad and depressed, I was desiring to feel good from creating something of quality.”

“Yup. you got it. You see, our emotions are as much of a desire as the substance in our lives we consume to feel a certain way. You can become addicted to feeling bad just as much as you can become addicted to feeling good. You can become addicted to being alone or become addicted to being among people. Neither is right or wrong. It’s just a state of being in which you are desiring.

“In this world, this life, our entire existence is made up of desires. And society judges which desires are deemed good and which ones evil. Religion loves to decide this for us. But in truth, it is the very act of desiring that causes all conflicts. People desire control, people desire clean air, people desire happiness, people desire sex, people desire war, people desire peace, people desire to love, people desire solitude and on and on… we come together and we share our desires with each other, we find those that share the same interests with us, but those interests are just desires. We relate with our desires and if there is enough of us who relate, those desires become a collective desire,a social movement in which all who participate in that movement are fulfilled by its cause. But one desire always conflicts with another, by definition. If we desire to be happy, than we cannot be sad. But sad exists for a time and a place in our lives.”

“yeah I suppose you’re right… I don’t really want to believe that though. I want to believe that there is always some unifying truth, like on a spiritual level, that drives our motives transcendent of desire. Desire just seems so primal to me.”

“Well there is a unifying truth of course, but it exists outside the plane of our physical reality. That’s what spirituality is… it’s that very unifying force that directs us as physical beings towards righteousness. But we often confuse the morals and ethics taught to us from an external source with the divinity that speaks through us; the internal source.”

“So what are you saying, that a heroin addict’s desire for a dangerous drug should keep on desiring heroin? That they are actually going through with a spiritual fulfillment?”

“No you misunderstand what I’m trying to say. But I can see how you came to that conclusion. What I am saying is that all desires – whether it is that person’s addiction to heroin, or whether it is that other person’s addiction to feeling sad – all those desires are dictated by the very root source of our physical existence: emotions. That in fact, our whole physical selves is directed by our emotions; what we feel in turn motivates how we act, or do not act. This is the very essence of being alive in our plane of reality. Acting bodies of life influencing one another. Every thing else is secondary to those emotions. But emotions are secondary to the collective spirit we all share, what people might call God. It is when we align our emotional state with that of God then we are not acting out of our personal selfish desires, but out of a deeper soulful place. You may still feel sorrow or overwhelming joy either way but those emotional states are no longer full-filling themselves, they are full-filling something else. something greater than yourself.”

“Ok wait, your saying that if I go out and call people to encourage them to vote for say – Bernie Sanders, I’m really just doing that for my own selfish needs?”

“Yes, in a way.”

“But I don’t agree with that. I believe it would be selfish if I just worried about my own vote, or didn’t vote at all.”

“Well yes those would be selfish too.”

“But by trying to get more people involved and voting for Bernie Sanders, and sacrificing my own personal agenda because I believe in this movement in our country, isn’t that a noble cause? Isn’t that fulfilling something greater than my own emotional needs or desires?”

“It is a noble cause because you and the people you surround yourself with believe that. It only seems like a selfless act because you are participating in a collective movement. But like I said before, if enough of the same personal desires come together in mass, then it becomes a collective desire: the desire for a political revolution, the desire for free education, for universal health care, for tax  revenue to be distributed equally among the american people through social services; whatever it may be that all of you stand in solidarity for.”

“But how can that be an addiction? I believe in these things because I see a lot of people suffering unnecessarily, and their suffering because of other peoples desire for power and money and control. This whole political movement if anything is a movement away from desires.”

“So is it a spiritual revolution then?”

“I don’t know. maybe. I don’t think people see it that way. Most people think spirituality should be separate from politics or government.”

“Then what’s guiding the politics of a people?”

“Well the people are! Moral principles, economic policies, cultural expectations.”

“Let me ask you something. Where did you get your morals? How do you decide between right and wrong?”

Like many of the stimulating conversations between me in Taapai, this one was evolving fast, like a young tree flowering for the first time in its life. I wasn’t expecting such a philosophical discussion, but I was so very intrigued by all of this, more infatuated with the engagement our conversation was creating than actually taking a stand point on any single argument. We were arguing in a sense, but we weren’t arguing to prove a point, or maybe we were, but we were doing so more to arrive at some point that lay ahead of us. The conversation had a life of its own, and we were the breath, the air or substance giving it life.

I thought about his abrupt question –  about where do my morals come from- and was beginning to understand what he was saying this whole time. I thought about my last blog post about being raised atheist but still indoctrinated with christian values;  how we are all just raised to think and act in a way that is best suited for our environment – whether those years of development were influenced by our parents, or someone else, or some events. Don’t leave your hand over the fire, it will burn you. I learned that. But I also learned not to fear fire because of it. I learned to admire it, worship, see it as symbolic as a giver and taker of life. A source of warmth and safety and protection. A source of danger and death. A symbol of origin. A symbol of creation. Like our Sun. The giver of life. Were these lessons in life shaping my morals? I somehow sensed through these lessons that I was a single being participating in a greater act of life on this planet in this universe, and I was learning this as I exposed myself more and more to Nature and it’s complex diversity of organized and cooperating life.

But what of my moral compass? How do I distinguish between good and evil? How do I as a conscious self-acting agent make decisions for myself to better my life? And is that any different than how we do that as a Society? I meditated on the question in silence after Taapai asked it. It was the first gap in our conversation since it started. A welcomed one. I needed time to reflect on all that was said.

to be continued…. Wednesday’s Training PT II: Always Have a Plan B