The “Other Half” Must Die

It is time for the term “other half” to die.

He or she will never be your other half.

Stop it. Now.

People are suffering from the illusion of what it means to be married or in a committed relationship. Our culture has laid it on thick for a long time. Every romantic movie, song, religion and family has an idea of what relationships should look like. It is almost impossible to question what’s real and what’s not when entire institutions have been created around relationships serving certain functions. There is one thing that all these different dogmas have in common, and that is that your partner is your “other half.”

They’re not.

We buy into because it sounds so appealing. Wow… someone who will take care of my needs, who will come for me when I call. And we do our absolute best to be that person to the other, stoically ignoring our own needs in order to serve the greater good. We suppress the resentment that comes from the feeling of a life half-lived because we know that we are doing the “responsible” thing. Soon, we start to serve a mostly utilitarian function to each other. Make food for them. Listen to them vent about their day. Fold their laundry. Suck it up for the good of the relationship.

This is not to say that we should eschew responsibility. Quite the opposite. Our primary responsibility is to ourselves, not to the other. Then, and only then, our we responsible enough to be in a committed partnership with someone in a healthy manner. Ironically, it is only through not seeing our partner as our other half and instead seeing ourselves as two completely autonomous individuals who choose to be together that we have any chance of functioning as a cohesive whole.

Initially, this realization can bring up fear for people. “Well, if they don’t need me to feel whole, then doesn’t that mean that they could go away at any time?” Yes, it does. But the alternative is to destroy the polarity in the relationship by feeling that you need (or are destined) to be together.

“Well, won’t they potentially cheat on me if they don’t feel like they need to be with me?” That’s certainly a possibility. But cheating or having an affair is usually the byproduct of relationships which lost their polarity long ago, not healthy ones where each person acknowledges and respects their partner’s independence. In the former, one person acts outside of integrity out of frustration that their partner no longer feels like a good other half; in the latter, they simply move on if and when the love is no longer present in the relationship.

Humans are social creatures, and, as such, we rely on others for our sense of security and purpose in the world. We need to be very cognizant of the implications that has on the quality of our relationships. Most people rely almost exclusively on their partner to fill a supportive role that really needs to be distributed among a much larger group of friends, acquaintances, mentors and coworkers. That means that we need to look closely at what type of support we actually require and seek out people who have the capacity and desire to fill those needs.

Our energetic systems are biological batteries, requiring daily recharge in order to maintain optimum function and clarity. Try as we might, we cannot use someone else’s battery to charge our own. We must find the source of our own vitality and tap into it each and every day.

Love cannot be found in another person. It never could be, and never will be. Those of us who are fortunate enough to know true love know that we can only create love for our own lives through gratitude and a sense of abundance and then share that love with another. When we feel that we are not getting the love we need, we need to look no further than the mirror to find the problem. Acknowledging this truth can be painful, but the pain is simply the byproduct of fear of our aloneness. That fear is an illusion, and needs to be conquered. We are never alone. We never will be.

Our “other half” is the part of ourselves we reclaim by conquering the fear.

2014 – Setting Yourself Up For Success.

Welcome to 2014, everyone!  On this first day of the new year, I have some thoughts to share about setting yourself up for success for 2014.  As I’ve read the latest posts on Facebook and talked with people in person, I can’t help but notice how frequently the tone for this New Year is exactly the same as New Years in the past.  Things like, “I am so glad 2013 is over.  Let’s hope 2014 is a WAY better year!” are pretty common.  Well, here’s the thing.  If that’s how you feel, then there is pretty much a 0% chance that 2014 will be any better than 2013 was.  In fact, it will likely be worse, because you are clearly in a pattern of feeling like life is something that happens to you, and that pattern is a self-fulfilling prophecy that creates a downward spiral.  There is absolutely zero difference in any given year from an objective standpoint.  This morning, you woke up and the sun rose in exactly the same fashion that it did yesterday and the day before.  The world outside of your mind has absolutely no idea that anything different has happened.  Wouldn’t it be great if something actually saw our posts on Facebook and said, “Oh wow… Yeah, I forgot all about so and so in 2013.  I’m gonna make sure 2014 is WAY better for them!”  Sorry, but it doesn’t happen like that, and it never will, not next year, and not the year after.

The good news is that actually means that the power to make 2014 a great year is in your own hands.  It starts by taking a good, solid look at everything you are already doing well.  Even if it doesn’t seem like a lot, you are likely doing a lot more things well than you think you are.  Take some time to do a personal inventory of things that you are proud of, challenges that you have overcome, etc.  If it feels best to write them down, do so.  And don’t stop with doing it once.  Remind yourself as frequently as possible what you are already doing well.  By doing this, you are creating fertile soil for your new intentions and goals in this new year.  If, in your mind, you come from a place of abundance, you will undoubtebly attract more abundance in your life.  Aligning yourself with a humble sense of pride and pleasure is powerful conditioning, and these “muscles” need to be worked often or they atrophy.

As humans, every single one of us has areas where we are functional and areas where we are not so functional.  Most of us try to avoid dealing with the areas where we are not so functional.  We react defensively when someone shows us our blind spots.  We avoid taking on certain jobs or tasks because they are something we don’t feel good at or because they drag us down.  This is something that everyone, to some degree or another, does.  But these areas of dysfunction are where the good stuff is.  If we stay within our comfort zones, life is not very rewarding, but if we willingly take on new challenges, we are constantly rewarded with new feelings of accomplishment.  And the more we make conscious choices to take on new challenges, the less we feel challenged by the outside world, because guess what?  There is no outside world.

Now this doesn’t mean that you should go and try to whip yourself into shape in ways that you never have before.  As I’m sure most of you know, new gym memberships are at their peak at the start of every new year, and within two or three weeks, only a small portion of the new members are still going.  This is because our tendency is to react to our dysfunctions rather than to respond to them.  A reaction is emotional and involves going overboard with our expectations of ourselves and coming from a place of “needing to change.”  Actions based in emotions always die out eventually.  A response, on the other hand, can be neutral and realistic.  You can give yourself a pat on the back for everything you’re doing well, excuse your dysfunctions and not allow yourself to feel guilty.  Then you can make a pragmatic goal to set yourself up for success.  Maybe you don’t need the gym membership.  Maybe you just need to take a 15-minute walk every morning.  Maybe you don’t need to take a vacation to the Bahamas with your family.  Maybe you just need to carve out a couple hours each week to focus your energy on your family.  Realistic, doable goals are the key to success.

Don’t worry about making 2014 better than any other year.  If you consistently remind yourself how much you’re already doing well and give yourself new, short-term, attainable goals on an ongoing basis, it will be.

Jaden and Willow Smith Drop Some Zen

“No one knows what the fuck was going on in that interview,” says Vice Magazine. “A game of bullshit tennis,” says the Guardian. “Zen gibberish,” says Vulture Magazine. The recent interview with Jaden and Willow Smith in T Magazine has been getting a lot of attention over the past couple of days. A brief look at the comments section indicates that readers are pretty much equally divided between admiration and utter disdain for the children of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith based on their unconventional responses to the questions recently posed to them.

Each of the aforementioned articles have disappointed me with their sloppy and superficial analysis of these two kids. Jaden and Willow are the easiest types of targets – privileged children of megastars. While some of their answers are unmistakably arrogant and even delusional (Jaden goes so far as to say their musical collaboration changed the world and made people more honest), focussing on that aspect of their characters detracts from the content of what they are sharing. There’s some really good stuff here that warrants a second reading.

Having practiced meditation regularly for the past twenty-three years has given me insight into the world that Jaden and Willow are pointing to. To understand their language, one has to first experience one’s self as the witness of thoughts, rather than as the thinker. This awareness is quite unusual, so it is no surprise that they are catching a lot of flack from people who think they’re just making up bullshit. To what degree Jaden and Willow actually live in this awareness only they can know, but they certainly know something about it, even if it’s mostly from the Osho and quantum physics books they’ve read. When Willow responds with the now famous line, “because living,” when they are discussing the relativity of time, she is actually saying something quite profound – that trying to construct a conceptual framework around the nature of time will always be a futile endeavor because it takes the person having the experience of time out of the experience itself.

When Jaden says, “That’s another thing: What’s your job? What’s your career? Nah, I am,” that can be interpreted as follows – being human is gloriously and infinitely bigger than words can describe, and by using language to create an image of what we do as an occupation, we have thoughts and judgments about ourselves and others which creates a fragmented notion of each other, distancing ourselves from seeing each other as whole and unique beings. Jaden’s musings on duality take a bit of a stretch when he starts talking about how the thought of an apple creates the thought of the opposite of an apple, but the core (no pun intended) of what he’s saying is true – thoughts of one thing tend to create an opposing thought – light and dark, good and bad, etc, which, ultimately, are measurements based on imagined criteria (i.e. where on the spectrum between “good” and “bad” does good become bad, and who is the awareness that determines that?)

They describe “prana,” the Sanskrit word for “life force” as the type of energy a baby has before they are conditioned by the world, and that the child’s prana diminishes as they grow older. Prana exists everywhere and can’t diminish, but a child will certainly develop physical, mental and emotional blocks with time which disrupt the natural flow of prana throughout their bodies.

There is not a whole lot else in this interview that is all that profound. Are these kids infatuated with themselves? Absolutely. But so are a lot of kids their age. All in all, they seem pretty well-balanced and bright. Can’t wait to hear them talk religion with Suri Cruise in a few years.

I’m Over Getting Older.

I’m over getting older.  I’m not just saying that.  I mean it quite literally.  I am over getting older.  At the age of thirty-eight, I have far more vitality than I did ten years ago.  In fact, I’m getting younger by the day.  Just yesterday, I danced and moved my body more vigorously than I ever have for several hours straight.  When it was over, I was flooded with energy, far more than the amount of energy I started with.  That never used to happen to me.  Of course, linear time continues to occur outside of my control, and each moment that passes is one moment closer to my physical death, but other than that, my aging process has reversed itself.  This is not genetics.  And it’s certainly not because I have an exceptional body.  If anything, as a paraplegic, not having the use of the lower half of my body puts me at a distinct disadvantage in terms of aging.  It is a result of my evolving attitude towards my aging.  I now understand that each and every passing moment creates an opportunity to either lose vitality or gain vitality.  It’s all a matter of choice.

My body will immediately respond to whatever I tell it, whether I’m aware of the communication or not.  When I feel myself starting to drag, I often find myself thinking, “I don’t have time to do anything about this,” or “there’s nothing I can do about my energy dragging,” without even realizing I’m thinking these thoughts.  But my body knows I’ve sent those messages to it, and it responds accordingly, with even less energy.  If you feel yourself getting older, I can guarantee you that you have the same thoughts, and you have them frequently.  My anti-aging process has involved gradually learning how to bring my awareness to how my mind and body are communicating.  I don’t always catch myself when I start dragging or spacing out, but I’m way better at doing so than I used to be.  Once I notice it, there is always something that needs to be done.  I check in with myself to see how aware of my breathing I am, whether I’m hungry, dehydrated, fixated on something, or if I need some sunshine, movement, etc.  There are a thousand ways I can increase my energy, but only one way I can decrease it, which is to do nothing at all.

I’m sure in the next decade or so, we’ll see sophisticated little gadgets that monitor our bodies and make text messages pop up on our iPhone 15s, telling us when we need to drink water, shake our hips, breathe more fully or take in some sunlight, and more people will start experiencing more vitality as a result.  But for now, all that information is inside you.  Once I hit thirty-eight, I decided I was good on this whole aging thing.  I’m taking it upon myself to get younger from now on.  I invite you to do the same.

Hell and Its Entrepreneurial Potential

Henry David Thoreau, were he alive today, would be holed up inside his little cabin at Walden Pond, pulling his wool blankets over his head in a desperate attempt to shut out the world.  Rather than writing one of the greatest books in the history of American literature, he instead would’ve used his quill pen to write “LEAVE ME ALONE” in large, capital letters and nailed the note to his door.  Meanwhile, on the other side of the continent, Walt Whitman, upon discovering Yosemite, would likely have walked off the edge of Half Dome were it 2014 rather than 1868.

The times in which we live are more dire than any 19th Century transcendentalist could ever have imagined.  Over the next 150 or so years, the world’s population growth would expand to approximately seven times the size it was during that era.  The distribution of wealth would become somewhat reasonable for a very short period of time a hundred or so years later, only to then become totally outrageous after that period was up.  Large corporations would go from being influential on politicians to creating their own political system.  And the natural environment, which these authors revered as the ultimate expression of creation itself, would be in deep shit.

For those of us who have experienced the serene and potent energy that is always present in the parts of the world that don’t get regularly trampled by humans, we can probably relate to their anxiety.  When I juxtapose the feeling I remember from canoeing on a pond in Maine growing up against the feeling I have when I sit in bumper-to-bumper freeway traffic in LA, sucking the fumes from a zillion tailpipes, I can’t help but wonder how we are going to get ourselves out of this mess.  But the fact remains that the world will go on, and despite the inevitable ecological disasters that will wipe some of us out, so will we.

It could be said that we, as a culture, are going through a kind of collective hell.  However, it is my experience that hell is largely in the eye of the beholder.  There is the challenge of adapting to an unknown world (living in LA, I wonder every day whether I will be hearing news that I have to immediately evacuate due to Fukushima), and there is what we choose to do with that challenge.  The real hell comes not from the situation itself, but our reaction to the situation.  When feelings come up that we have never had before, the natural reaction most of us have is to go into a fight or flight mode.  We either deny what we are feeling, or we fight the feeling.  It takes a lot of skill and practice to be able to let the feeling move through us without denying it or reacting to it.  The real hell is when we get paralyzed from our own feelings, whether it be from the state of the world, the state of our job, the state of our relationships or anything.  Anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue and a host of other symptoms can result from the inability to process feelings.  And when people around us have the same problems, it can easily become the new “normal.”

The task at hand is to learn how to surrender to previously unknown pressures.  Every time something is birthed in nature, it happens as the result of extreme pressure.  When you stuck your little head out of the birth canal as a newborn infant, it was only after experiencing an immense amount of pressure.  Human behavior seems to operate in a very similar fashion.  Learning to trust nature means learning to trust the evolution of humankind, because while it seems cut off from nature, it actually isn’t.  Nothing can be cut off from nature.  Is it frustrating?  Sure.  Is it depressing?  Certainly can be.  But it is still nature.  Real trust, the kind that comes with actual awareness and not just blind faith, is a skill that takes ongoing practice.

Now, here’s the good news.  As people develop the skills to be able to function effectively within the confines of this new pressure, they naturally begin to see opportunities which were previously unavailable.  The definition of an entrepreneur is “a person who organizes, operates and assumes the risk for a business venture.”  I would add to that definition that a smart entrepreneur is one who also sees a need that is not currently being met and seizes the opportunity to fill that void.  We are currently living in a time of manufactured necessity.  In other words, new products and services are being created every day which don’t actually make our lives any better at all.  Clever marketing might make us think we need some of this crap, but we don’t.  A perfect storm is happening – a swirling combination of ecological disasters, income inequality, social inequality and global information sharing that is creating exactly the type of pressure that is needed for a new awareness to emerge, and with it, new goods and services which are absolutely necessary and aligned with creating meaningful change.

Those who have not felt the intense pressure of the present moment, who are either oblivious to it or too numb to feel it, will be the followers in the future.  Those who have surrendered to the pressure, maintained their trust in humanity, and honestly wish to help others will be the new leaders.

Attitude is Everything – Examining a Cliché

Attitude is everything.  We’ve all heard it a thousand times.  In the midst of extraordinary challenges, I have found this phrase to be nauseating.  Over the years, some people (I kid you not) have said to me, “Everything happens for a reason.  Have you found the reason why you became a paraplegic?”  In the interest of appearing to be a mature adult, I have shrugged these comments off rather than responding the way any reasonable person would, such as, “If you get shot in a drive-by and paralyzed on your way home, can I stop by the hospital and ask you the same question?”

But it is true.  Attitude is indeed everything.  There is no escaping that fact.  It is both the art and the science of being a human being.  Look at any situation in your life, past or present.  Every single thing that has ever happened to you has been 100% dependent upon your perception of it.  And how you perceive something forms your attitude towards it.  That doesn’t mean that things don’t get created by outside circumstances and affect you.  But the moment something happens to you is the same moment that you begin shaping your attitude toward it.  Does that mean we should automatically adopt positive attitudes around challenging situations?  Absolutely not.  That is the essence of denial.  We owe it to ourselves to experience the full range of feelings that accompany any challenge.  Otherwise, we don’t actually grow.  We never become bigger than the challenge that way.  You can’t have a genuinely positive attitude about something when you are, in fact, just covering up your feelings.  I literally spent years of my life following my spinal cord injury putting a smile on my face and acting stoic, almost like nothing had really happened.  It was the best I could do at the time, but by adopting that attitude, I was denying myself the opportunity to feel everything there was for me to feel.  Deep in my unconscious mind, I was terrified of what had happened to me – terrified of what the future held.  But as I slowly learned to create a safe space for my awareness – genuine courage, as opposed to denial – I was able to feel more.  Once I actually felt what was there for me to feel, the feelings moved through rather efficiently.

Coincidentally, as I am writing this post, I just looked at my Yogi Tea bag, and written on it are the words, “An attitude of gratitude brings opportunities.”  I can’t argue with that.  But an attitude of gratitude is easier said than done for most of us.  Having a good attitude about the parts of one’s life that are not challenging is pretty easy.  But having a good attitude when we are struggling to deal with life’s challenges is a whole other thing.  If your house gets foreclosed on or your spouse leaves you or you develop a terminal illness, reading the words, “an attitude of gratitude brings opportunities” is likely to make you want to throw your tea cup through a window.  If they had a little more room on the tea bag, or if they were trying to be honest rather than trite, what they might’ve said is something like, “An attitude of gratitude brings opportunities, but in order to eventually adopt this type of attitude, you must first practice being at peace with whatever state your mind is already in.”

And yes, I do feel that my injury happened for a reason.  It happened because there was an opening in my life for a particular type of growth at that time and place.  But finding that reason has been a personal journey that has taken me years to discover, and the process of unearthing the reason will take the rest of my life.  That being said, I reserve the right to answer, “go screw yourself” to anyone who wants to know.  Because attitude is everything.

Don’t Drop Your Ego.

Don’t drop your ego.  Don’t even try.  This may seem like a strange thing for someone who teaches a practice called Zen Warrior Training to say.  Isn’t dropping the ego the whole idea of Zen?  Isn’t dropping the ego the only way to experience one’s “true nature?”  Well, yes and no.  The problem with this line of thinking is that the part of you that wants to drop your ego is your ego.  It’s kind of like if you spill a glass of water on the floor and you decide to try to mop it up by spilling more water on top of it.  It’s futile, and it will only add to the problem.  Living in Hollywood, I see an exaggerated form of this behavior all the time.  Go to any yoga class and you will see 50-100 narcissistic students desperately trying to drop their egos so they can be the coolest person in town.  They’ll look around the room and judge everyone else for behaving so ironically, but they’ll never see it in themselves, because they are so enlightened.  Your ego is who you are.  Without it, you have no identity.  You will have your ego throughout your entire life, no matter how much yoga, meditation or colonic irrigation you do.

So now what?  Learn how to use your ego as a tool.  The ego (or the “thinking mind,” if you’re having trouble wrapping your brain around the term) is like a wild, wandering animal that can and will take you along for a ride wherever it wishes to go.  You judge yourself and others all the time without even knowing why or that you’re even doing it.  You think about shit that has absolutely nothing to do with the direction you feel you’re going in.  Your mind is a circus of mediocre entertainment, like a TV with a zillion channels that are constantly being switched without your permission.  Consider for a moment the power that the mind has over you.  What if you were able to train that wild animal?  What if you could harness that power and use it to discover your infinite individual potential?  You can.  All it takes is discipline.  By discipline I don’t mean trying to learn something new or chastising yourself for “not getting it.”  Only the ego can do such things.  This type of discipline is essentially the opposite of what the accepted definition is.  This type of discipline involves learning how to not try.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not talking about becoming lazy or apathetic.  Within each and every one of us is an energy that we’ve always known.  We knew it before we were born and we’ll know it after we die.  This is the witness.  Some may call it the spirit or the soul.  No matter what kinds of beauty and bullshit has filtered through our brains throughout our lives, this part of us has stayed steady and constant the whole time.  It is literally where love resides.  It is connected to all things and all people, and it is the source of our infinite wisdom.  It cannot get hurt when we are injured, it cannot get upset when we are insulted and it cannot get hungry when we haven’t eaten.  It’s never looking for approval.  It is approval.

So let your ego be.  After all, it’s just doing its best.  It doesn’t know any better.  It will try clinging to anything and everything.  Learn to watch it like you would a child.  If it runs out into traffic to chase a ball, let it learn its lesson.  And keep returning to your witness, your spirit, your soul.  There is no better way to do this than by staying present with your breath.  Don’t try to breathe in any certain way, just feel the breath filtering in and out of your body.  The mind will train itself to behave when you are present with your breath in every moment.

Welcome to Zen Warrior Training

It is with a warm and welcoming heart that I welcome you to this website.  The mission of Zen Warrior Training is simple, yet profound – deprogramming our conditioned minds to be able to access the infinite wisdom and potential that is available to all of us.  We are far closer to a powerful and abundant relationship with ourselves and the world around us than we think we are.  In fact, it’s already right here, right now.  The “trick” is learning how to get out of our own way and open up to a broader perspective of who we are.  Within us all is a silent and powerful master leading us into an ever-deepening connection with ourselves.  Whatever limits we place on ourselves, we have done so for a reason.  But all too often, we forget to remove those limitations when they are no longer needed.  As we shed what we don’t need anymore, new growth can occur.  I’m not just using a nature analogy.  We ARE nature.

So what is needed in order to keep movement happening in our lives?  A steady heart and a deep conviction – nothing more, nothing less.  And as long as you are committed to growth, your heart will keep steadying and your conviction will keep deepening.  As a trainer in the art of the Zen Warrior, I am here to help to guide you along the path to self-realization.