Men* of Brisbane ahoy! Do you sometimes wish you could talk about more than just bullshit all the time? Small talk and how’s the weather and that game of sportball you didn’t watch because you care about more than what is on the table in most of our normal social circles!?
If so, there is a men’s-circle event on 1 March and I’d like to invite you ~ and for you to invite other men you reckon would appreciate this.
For the last year or so I’ve been working with The Men’s Table to help form Brisbane’s first Table, and we are now getting to the point where we’re ready to launch a public event that will be held at the Plough Inn from 6.30 pm on March 1.
Tickets are about $30, and this includes a meal. There will be a brief introduction to what a Men’s Table actually is
(basically we meet once a month for a meal and a drink, and there’s a semi-structured sharing process where active-listening is requested, meaning no interruptions, and there is a no-fixing policy … it’s very much about just being herd … heard
And after the Entree if you’re interested in joining a Table, that can happen, if you’re not, then no worries. Just come and have a look and a meal and a chat.
I’m taking a Mental Health Day today because I started to notice my window of tolerance was narrowing – I was becoming easily irritable, easily triggered and generally just unhappy and stressed. A lot of shit’s been going down lately, and we can’t seem to get a break lately, so I decided to take one. I’m starting a small business, and part of the reason for doing this was so I could keep my own hours – what’s the sense of starting that and then doing 40 hours weeks because my conditioning says so!?
I have a vision for our culture where taking such Mental Health Days is normal and encouraged, more important than the days we are being productive at work. What’s the point of being productive if we’re fucking hating ourselves for it!? This is something like GNH instead of GDP but I don’t want to unpack that now.
A lot of sadness was near the surface for me yesterday and I figured something must be going on or coming through and I want to stop and be present for that.
Also, I need to fill my cup.
As I mentioned the other day, we are living with complex trauma and expecting ourselves to be “on” all the time is a bit silly – we need downtime, time to rejuvenate. By “we” I mean “Nikki and I” but also pretty much everyone in our whole culture, considering everyone is living complex trauma due to the nature of our society, which is pretty fucked up when you think about it, but that’s how it is and we need to see that in the face.
I can’t remember what triggered the sadness orginally, but I know it had something to do with Zane. I had it affirmed by a Blue Knot counsellor that as parents we are often triggered easily during the time our children are the age we were when we were traumatised.
I know it is this because of the emotions that came up when Zane came out while I was drafting this and said good morning, asked how my sleep was. I told him not good and he apologised, knowing that the sleeplessness was partly due to our concern around catching him smoking bongs in his room last night. I was doing the same thing at his age, and the subsequent heavy pot habit left me with a lot of unprocessed emotional pain. I told him (in not quite these words) I just want him to look after his brain, and it’s upsetting to watch him go down the path of self-harm but I have to trust that he’ll learn for himself.
He looked remorseful and/but said thank you, and it’s a weird thing because maybe his unexpected gratitude made me sad because trust is all I needed at his age (instead of the weird manipulative controlly things Mum used to say), or maybe it’s because she did say things like “I trust you” and going through this now as a parent is just too close to home.
I want him to avoid the future pain I know is on the path of self-medication he’s on.
But I’m not so naive that I believe I can actually prevent this for him – and when I really think about it, I wouldn’t want to deny him the opportunity to learn from his own karma.
But that’s not even the guts of it.
The guts of it is, I think, I’m sad because I don’t know which of the above I’m sad about, if any – I’m sad because I don’t remember those years of my life at all and that means I’ve lost something, a big part of myself and my history and that continuity of self we depend on for having a safe sense of being.
Something like that.
There’s a break in the narrative I use to understand and connect with my self.
Seems I repressed a lot of my adolescence – or I went somewhere else during that time because the pain was too much.
I still do this, living in my head because being present in the body is too … unsatisfactory? Too much dukkha, not enough skill for coping with the suffering of samsara, much less the readily accessible capacity to transmute that suffering into joy.
That sort of alchemy is still a possibility though, which is nice to remember.
Yes, that’s why I’ve taken this Mental Health Day: to remember and spend some time with the “base metals” we transmute into “gold” through doing the work of accepting reality as it is.
That might not make a lot of sense off the bat – or it might … it might make perfect sense to you. Either way, here’s a button if you’re curious about it and would like to connect around this idea:
Meanwhile yes, back to what the Blue Knot counsellor was saying: there is trauma in there and a shadow of course and the sadness is a healthy indication that this trauma is presenting itself to be seen, acknowledged, recognised, embraced, loved.
One of the few things I am confident about is that by not resisting these things that come up from our wounds, the wounds express themselves (in the sense a wound expresses puss) and in doing so, the wound self-heals.
Humans are self-correcting, like everything on Gaia. We just need to allow the process without interrupting it, without distracting ourselves, without self-medicating or working ourselves into the ground or whatever we do to avoid the pain.
If we resist what’s coming up, then we just push it back down into the unconscious where it continues to fester and it will inevitably come up again, only worse and more vague and difficult to understand because each time we push it down it becomes more and more muddled with that big amorphous painbody inside us, like a huge blob of secondhand bluetac we’ve accumulated from every house where we ever hung a poster.
We can learn to be non-resistant by embracing what I am choosing to refer to as ahimsa, which is the classic Sanskrit word for “non-violence”.
Our resistance to reality (including … especially … the reality of the pain that wells up from our unconscious on the daily) is a form of violence.
Metaphysical violence if you will. Psychological self-violence. Through the force of habituated will, we push away what we don’t like about reality.
We can train ourselves to not do this, and if you’d like to learn this with me, get in touch for a
Because that’s a huge part of what I’m doing at Heartwards as a trainer and coach in psychological fitness and integrative wellness: I am training myself in ahimsa, so that I suffer less and can help others to suffer less.
Thereby unleashing happy, healthy and empowered individuals who are resourced enough to do their good service in the world. Because resistance drains a lot of energy, and literally gets us nowhere.
Suffering = Reality x resistance
Happiness = Reality x acceptance
And I envision a culture where we are all able to do this. Where it is respected to take Mental Health Days so we can check in with where our resistance is at because, for example, Gross National Happiness is more valued than Gross Domestic Product in this new culture.
Because what’s the point of being productive all the time if we’re hating ourselves while we’re at it!?
I’ve done a few trades through LETS recently … LETS stands for Local Energy Trading System, and is a kind-of alternative-currency thing.
Which I dig. But it’s brought up a few ideas, and I’m seeking recommendations for alternatives to this alternative system, for reasons mentioned below.
As an aspect of the financial Pillar of Wellness, not being complicit in an exploitative capitalist system is important to me and my sense of well-being. It’s a question of ethics, of values and beliefs, and of living with integrity in alignment with those values and beliefs.
We cannot have wellness (especially psychological wellness) when our actions are frequently out of alignment with our values – we tend to fret and agonise, even at a sub-aware level, that we are not being the best human we can be, when we are behaving in ways that do not align with our values.
Think of supermarket- and eco-anxiety. Anyone who is a conscientious consumer will know what I’m talking about. Not having a choice but to buy things wrapped in plastic impacts our wellness, regardless of how minor that may seem at a superficial level.
At a less-superficial level, continuing to participate in an economic ideology that is inherently unsustainable and exploitative is a source of constant consternation for many of us.
And so we start to seek out alternatives, such as LETS.
Unfortunately, LETS has been clunky this time round, and these alternatives need to be as user-friendly as possible if they are going to win people over from the convenience of waving their phone around to buy shit.
The person I traded with (a veteran of LETS) was very helpful in helping me troubleshoot. Nikki and I did some gardening for a LETS exchange a while back, and that went smooth as a … whistle? And in the end I got the Units I was trading for this time, so it worked out in the end.
I’m just wondering if you’re familiar with such alternative currencies and whether you have any recommendations. For recommendations, I’m less interested in things like crypto than I am in barter-based currency systems, if that makes sense … systems that facilitate community barter, not necessarily direct-to-individual barter.
Do you think it’s weird that there is a cultural taboo around men sitting down to pee? Unless I’m at a public “prison” toilet (those with no seat and just a cold steel bowl), I find it far more relaxing. If you identify as a man and find it weird to sit down and pee, let us know in the comments.
Let’s start the new year with a very important conversation around the cultural taboos of urination!
Because if we can’t talk about taboos, we can’t talk about the #cultural Pillar of Wellness, and who doesn’t love wellness!?
A toilet was invented that would divert urine into a separate compartment, where it would be collected and turned into nitrogen-rich fertiliser. Half the world’s population won’t use it because it would require them to sit down and pee… 🙄
on accepting reality for long enough to learn adaptive coping mechanisms to replace maladaptive ones
because Possum inspires and motivates me to be a human animal capable of adapting to the urban environment that has displaced us from our natural habitat
I am disappointed with myself at the moment and doing my best to not berate myself over and over because I know that would be maladaptive.
I had a couple of drinks last night while making dinner and listening to Paul Kelly. So far so great, I was feeling good and not trying to drink my pain away as I learnt how to excel at for the last 30 years in our culture.
Actually I did have a persistent headache, but I wasn’t experiencing intense emotional pain. I felt I was coping pretty well with our stressors and was safe to have a wee tipple. I was treating the booze a bit like paracetamol, a kind of experiment. And I felt like getting a buzz on. It felt healthy, and it was, compared with how I’ve abused substances in the past, so I can say truthfully that overall I’m making progress with becoming less dependent on exogenous hedonic pleasure for that false and fleeting sense of well-being it brings.
This kind of thinking helps me to curb the self-flagellation.
Thing is, I’m supposed to be on a self-initiated three-month “sobriety binge”. I want to subject myself to coping with reality without external crutches like booze and weed and Minecraft and see what comes up, what I learn, how I manage. I’ve done these sobriety binges before and they’re great, like a detox, very illuminating.
What started as a few healthy drinks to get a buzz on and curb a headache turned into Nikki and I sharing a bottle of vodka. Still not such a great big deal in itself. We didn’t drink a bottle each, which is something. I feel confident we will not relapse so far that we are doing that again, once or twice a week.
We are making progress with becoming less dependent on exogenous hedonic pleasure for that false and fleeting sense of well-being it brings.
We didn’t get so intoxicated that our perceptions fucked out completely, causing us to do anything we deeply regretted, as we have done in the past. Of course I value the Buddhist precept recommending that we not intoxicate self or others, lest we become unskilful and cause harm. I also value the Middle Way, and am less likely these days to exploit the teaching of “moderation in moderation”, to justify excessive binges that result in immediate harm and then days and days of regret and shame.
So there is progress being made – I am becoming Possum, the great urban adaptor. I am proud of myself and of Nikki and I am immensely grateful that I share this journey with such a committed alchemist as my wife. We are learning that there are ways of transmuting suffering into joy and that idea is feeling less and less abstract and esoteric and inaccessible as we draw from the courage to actually implement the ideas and test them, apply them.
By turning toward suffering with the right coping skills, we are learning a lot about the nature of mind and reality and about the way these interact to form interpretations of either happiness or misery, and in that turning toward we are finding choice, the ability to choose our interpretation, to choose happiness in the midst of suffering. Just imagining that and feeling it’s possible brings a micro-moment of actual joy, an emotion that is rare for me at this stage but becoming slowly more frequent.
So far still good and actually this little story doesn’t have the plot twist that usually follows the “so far so good” trope.
What concerned me this morning was the underlying motives to drink that I was not quite aware of last night.
The motive was to get a buzz on and curb a headache, which really is not such a big deal. I’m not a crack addict or a criminal and I don’t fly into drunken rages and trash the place. I don’t beat my kid and then fuck off for days at a time to whack the pudding in the mistaken hope that this will make me feel better and then return home full of misplaced shame. I am a kind and gentle contemplative person who was raised in a materialistic culture and doing pretty well at getting off the hedonic treadmill by learning applied eudaemonics.
Sick! Kickin at goalposts I’ve set for myself and sometimes missing. But I was raised around AFL and as the joke runs, aussie-rules football is the only game where you get a point for missing!
Still, the motive was to make reality more pleasant than it was (by adding a ‘buzz’), and to avoid the pain of a headache instead of accepting that symptom as a message screaming, SLLLLOOOOOOOOOOW DOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWN.
I’m still learning how to stop and do nothing and relax and enjoy just being alive on a beautiful planet.
The plan was to do our home-coming decompression meditation, have a couple of bevvies making dinner while Nikki did some gaming, then crash out early to practise good sleep hygiene as the first foundation of mental and emotional fitness.
That’s my trip these days – I’m that kind of “fitness freak”. That’s why I feel disappointed. I let myself down. But I can accept that, and start where I am with beginner’s mind.
The plan was to be responsible and do self-care. Our life has been a comet of stress lately, and yesterday was no different except I felt I was keeping abreast of it, not getting blown away by its sheer force. We pulled into the driveway yesterday feeling we had got to a place in our incessant metaphysical nattering that we could stop and just be without trying to solve the problems of the collective unconscious with the power of conscious thought alone.
Because life happens while we’re busy making plans, Nikki got a call from a friend whose daughter and our friend has been admitted to the psych ward. The family is not coping well and we’re trying to position ourselves as advocates for the daughter to help them navigate the punitive public mental-health-emergency system. So Nikki spent an hour and a half on the phone, advocating on the daughter’s behalf, which is good, this is what we want to be doing, just maybe not at 5.30pm on Friday, mere moments after we had decided to stop and just be without trying to solve the problems of the collective unconscious with the power of conscious thought alone.
The phone call was not the problem. It just kind of threw us out. The problem (for want of a better word) is not even that a few drinks became 3 and then 5 and 6 until we finished the bottle.
We had a nice dinner, Nikki did some gaming while I did some study and we went to bed watching Dead Poets Society, because I thought it would be a nice easy-going drama that wouldn’t be too stimulating and would distract me just enough to drift off to sleep. I’ve been afraid of sleeplessness since a heinous mid-week bout of insomnia.
Somehow it was 1.30am before I was able to wrench myself away from what I had somehow forgotten is a profoundly inspiring (read: stimulating) film for me. This was progress for me – normally I would eat the whole proverbial bag of chips.
I even managed to sleep instead of bouncing off the walls of my mind all night, which is sometimes what happens when I drink enough to edit the unpleasant out of reality but not enough to wipe myself out.
The ‘problem’ is I employed a maladaptive coping mechanism to deal with stress I’m almost not aware of because it has become so normalised. The problem is I don’t know how to do nothing and just be for long enough to relax on a Friday evening.
It’s not a problem exactly because these skills can be learnt.
It’s not even a problem exactly that I woke up wide-eyed and pinging at 6.30am, still with the headache.
It’s just I’m disappointed because I thwarted the opportunity to get the rest I needed and now I’m back to square-one. I was wanting to bounce back from that heinous mid-week insomnia, and instead I did maligned adaptation.
Like the possum that fell into one of Nikki’s succulents on our back deck the other night, which picked itself up and scampered away when I stepped out to see WTF that noise had been. Possum inspires and motivates me to be a human animal capable of adapting to the urban environment that has displaced us from our natural habitat. Through healthy adaptation we are able to flourish – that is what eudaemonia is all about, human flourishing. It’s about getting off the pleasure train (the hedonic treadmill) so we can stop long enough to see where we are with clear and healthy eyes, without resistance, without trying to change reality to suit our desires.
I said to Nikki when I woke up that I find it vaguely distressing or depressing that in our culture we don’t know how to do nothing, how to just relax and stop and be still. We are either being productive or entertaining ourselves or distracting ourselves or running around doing errands. And then we need to use things outside ourselves to bring the nervous system back to relax mode. Things like booze, which don’t even actually do that anyway – hence the term maladaptive coping mechanism.
Nikki and I are not employed in the traditional sense and we still manage to pull 16-hour days 6 days a week because being alive and healthy is a full-time business.
And we’re needing to teach ourselves how to de-stress from that in ways that are healthy. But we are at least teaching ourselves these skills, and it is precisely these skills that I am hoping to share with others through the business I’m setting up around Kokoro 心 Heart:
mental, emotional and nervous-system regulation
through meditation and the art of skilfully doing nothing in motion
Today hopefully there will be nothing but a long swim and some cross-stitching. [We ended up visiting our friend in the psych ward, but today today – the day of posting, two days later – we are going for a long swim. I went to a day-long silent-meditation retreat yesterday and have managed to get 9 hours sleep last night!]
[Meanwhile yesterday:] I at least am successfully not berating myself, and remembering:
S = R x r
H = R x a
S = suffering
R = Reality
r = resistance
H = happiness
a = acceptance
Suffering = Reality x resistance
Happiness = Reality x acceptance
I am accepting that this self-inflicted tiredness is where I am at, and remembering that the world as it is (with me not sleeping well in it and everything) is perfectly imperfect.
A unique and deeply personal modality is forming around me through Zen training, Cultivating Emotional Balance and Somatic Experiencing.
I am learning to have an embodied mindful awareness throughout the day and it is helping me to notice those once-hidden underlying motives to avoid reality in one way or another.
Through making this unconscious conscious without freaking out, we gradually become awakened enough to accept reality and all its warts with equanimity and joy.
That’s what I believe anyway and I’m doing the experiment to see if it’s true.
During my “sobriety binge” I got tipsy and messed with my sleep – now I’m trying to respond to that with kindness so I don’t continue repeating this cycle of maladaptive coping mechanisms.
I wrote recently about a problem we’re having with a housemate, and it’s become clear now that we are living with an abuser. It sounds drastic when I put it on paper like that, but it’s true. We have been repeatedly abused by a person who is deeply unwell. I’m writing here to get my head around it, and to see what insight I can glean for Kokoro about psychospiritual wellbeing. I wrote in the other post about how situations like these are symptoms of culture that is psychospiritually unwell, and in this post I’d like to reflect on what I’ve learned about the dubious role of justice and control.
I may never understand This Person’s behaviour. This case is like a photographic negative, starting with someone who is profoundly unwell to see what we can learn about wellness. I’ve done lots of journalling and talking around this, and I’m still confused, so my apologies if the following is not always coherent.
We were going to have our first full day at home since the Incident, but we chose that day to ask if she had found a new place, whereupon she finally admitted that she had decided to not move out. We had been waiting patiently, not wanting to poke the hornet nest, but the idea of her staying three months until the end of the lease was not acceptable. I asserted a boundary: we cannot continue to live with her unless she apologises and starts being accountable for the way she treated us.
I am enjoying the term “overculture” at the moment, in the sense I enjoy gaining new insight into ways we can describe and de-participate from the mechanics of our oppression.
I value the opposing force of “counter-culture” but am wary of dichotomies like antagonist–protagonist, especially in the sense of individuals or even small communities opposing the amorphous and anonymous force of culture, the us/them approach where we get angry because They are fucking everything up with Their greed … who is They in our counter-cultural tirades?
There is conflict inherent in the dominant connotations of counter-culture.
So I’m playing with the idea of nooculture, after Teilhard de Chardin’s idea of the noosphere.