Saturday, 22 February 2014

Why do we feel awkward? Are we all really good actors?

'I don't know how to act in these situations'

An interesting sentiment I heard recently... Are we so uncomfortable with exposing our true selves to people? Are we so caught up with how people see us that we have a mask for every situation? I believe so and it may be the cause of dreaded 'awkwardness'. 

I draw attention to this question because of the unconscious way this problem is worded 'I don't know how to ACT in this situation'. When we find ourselves in situations we are unfamiliar with, we have no idea what persona to portray, we have little or no experience in this situation and so we don't know how to show ourselves to others in a way that is resourceful to us.

This feels awkward and uncomfortable because we are left with nothing but who we actually are, the face beneath the many masks. And going about our business without a mask of some description to protect ourselves is something we do so little that it feels very uncomfortable, we feel naked and exposed and so we often freeze up.

Because we are so used to shrouding them in our everyday lives so that people look at us how we want them to look at us, when the time comes to remove the mask or when we don't have one; we struggle to find words that do our real emotions justice. I have experienced this is in that I can talk for ever about the menial things of life but when I find myself alone with some people, my usually talkative brain almost shuts off and refuses to come up with interesting things to say. And isn't it also strange that we feel a need to fill the silence?

Many of us know this as awkwardness.
As long as there is a difference between the way we behave with one set of people and the way we are with others, there will always be awkwardness somewhere in our lives. The best method to avoid it? Be the same weirdo in every situation regardless of the consequences.
'Hakuna Matata - no worries' - Lion King

Sunday, 16 February 2014


What is fear? And what is courage? Are there different types of fear? Does everybody have the capacity for courage?

Competing for the first time? Boxing? Kickboxing? Muay Thai? MMA? Can you feel the gut wrenching fear eating you up inside? 
I know you can and those who have competed more than once know that (sorry to disappoint) it will NEVER go away, no matter how many times you compete.

The technical definition of fear refers to emotions of anxiety and stress regarding an imminent threat; characterised by a sympathetic nervous system response (increased heart rate, breathing rate and rapid thought processes). When under direct threat this is the well known fight or flight response to danger. But we are going to discuss the anxiety fighters feel in anticipation of their bout.

The first step in dealing with fear is to realise that it is not synonymous with the weak or cowardly... In what way is it courageous to do something that doesn't scare you in the slightest? The answer is that it is not. And courage can only be exercised if there is fear; the two go hand in hand.

After this realisation there comes a choice; do we evade the fear, so that it cannot harm us? Or do we expose ourselves to it, and place ourselves at its mercy, so to speak. You see, many of us flirt with facing our fears, and dance with our fears and generally get through life trying to think, as a snooker or pool player might, numerous steps into the future. We try to perceive how events might unfold should we take a particular course of action. This perception was vital to us when we were struggling to survive on the African grasslands during our species' infancy, but now we have less need for forward thinking and more need for simply forward 'doing'. Trying to imagine how our choices may bring us further from or closer to our fears is both futile and unhelpful.

It is unhelpful because it robs us of the present moment. Which is the only time we have to act. And if we spend our moment, our present thinking about fear then fear is 'winning' for want of a better word. It is immobilizing us and stopping us from acting.
It is futile because there is no possible way to calculate every possibility and weigh up the pros and cons of each.

It might be said that the fear fighters experience is more of a phobia; which means an irrational fear. Because what exactly is it that we get scared of? Humiliation? Well not for me because I know the people that matter in life will never think less of me for being beaten.
The fear of pain, or injury perhaps then? Well again for me Ive suffered more damage sparring heavy with big dudes than I've ever taken during a proper bout.
Maybe we get scared of actually losing itself then, but why specifically? We cant put our fingers on it can we? Hence the definition of irrational fear, we have nothing to be frightened of.

But this is not the point, I know. The fact is we DO get scared, maybe anxious is a better choice of word. And how to deal with these emotions is the real reason youre reading.
Id like to regurgitate an idea I got from Alan Watts who in better words than I have, told the storey of a man who asked a zen master 'Its hot, its hot and how do I escape the fire?'. To which the master replies 'go to the bottom of the furnace'
'but how to escape the flames?' the man presses, wondering what the master means. 'Go to the heart of the furnace and the flames can do you no worse'

I cant remember the exact quote so I apologise for that but the basic idea is that by exposing ourselves to our worst fears we become free from them. I have yet to loose (touch wood!) but some say that it is important for new fighters to suffer a loss early on, that they may be free from the paralysing fear of defeat. Because when the worst case scenario occurs there is nothing left but the choice to give up there and then or carry on with the sport and exercise a determination to improve. This is understandable and maybe Id be a better fighter today if I had lost terribly in my first bout. 

So lets try some fearful forward thinking for a moment shall we? Its your first fight and everyone who matters to you is going to watch, you feel their expectations weighing you down as you step in the ring or cage. Why cant you seem to move very fast, and why does your opponent look so fast and strong? The bell goes and your training goes out the window, you are knocked out in the first round and wake up surrounded by friends and family.
Your best friend comes and says, bloody hell man my nanna could have lasted longer and you all have a good laugh. Did the world end? Did you die? Did you suffer agonising pain? Are you injured beyond recovery? Did your family disown you? Did your friends disown you?

The only person let down by a poor performance is you. And you have the power to improve, so no sweat. Get back to training, and be better. And don't make any excuses. The most important sentiment is 'enter the ring with no excuses because then you know if you come up short it was because the dude was simply better, and that's okay'. 
So, irrational fear of defeat! Train hard, challenge yourself, be better than you were yesterday, give your all 24/7 and by the time you get to round one, youre in the zone doing your thing, there's no time for fear; only doing what we love.

People often ask why I smile so much when Im competing, and its because I love what I do, if you're not loving it then why are you there? It just so happens that I have an irrational fear to face everytime, which is a bit of an annoyance. But hey; if I wasn't shit scared, I wouldn't be very brave now would I.

'There is no underlying meaning to this thing, the universe. It isn't really going anywhere or doing anything, it just expresses itself and explores itself by way of all the things that are going on. There is no meaning, just as a piece of music has no meaning other than itself, if it was going somewhere, the best songs would be fastest ones' - Alan Watts

Friday, 14 February 2014

Hard Science vs Spiritual Bullshit?

Going to take things a little bit deep today with my attitude when I hear or read people arguing about whether science disproves religion or vice versa. My ideas on this subject are not complete and I expect them to evolve as I get older and learn more about the world.
Throughout history there has been, and there continues to be a struggle of those who find their truth in scientific fact against those who put their faith in the inexplicable. But which side is correct?

I would start by drawing attention to the idea that scientists and those who put stock in the physical and chemical laws we have uncovered need to have as much faith as people who choose for themselves a more spiritual reality. They have to be okay with not knowing all of the answers. From the beginning of the universe to its end, all of the biggest questions in science started as pure mysteries. The truths we know well today like gravity, electromagnetism and the production of ATP in our bodies' cells would have once been inconceivable, sounding ridiculous to the closed mind. Hopefully this information has removed the stereotypes of scientists being narrow minded boring and unwilling to see another perspective. As seeing another perspective is their only way of progression.

Now let's address an issue that has plagued humans for centuries; science and spirituality.
I'd like to introduce the idea that these two are deeply connected. Two sides of the same coin, if you will, or different ways of seeing the universe.

The world we live in won't change, regardless of how we choose to think about it right?
Wrong. Quite simply we become, and our world becomes what we think about. This means that if you choose to see wonder, magic and adventure these things will become a larger part of your perceived world. There are as many different worlds as there are people. If you choose to think about mediocrity and predictability, then your thoughts will manifest in the shape of your reality.

How are science and spirituality linked?
We are familiar with the term prayer. This is the act of consciously willing something to take shape in our reality. It can take the form of a conversation with god, or Allah or the universal consciousness. To those of us who are not identified with a religion it is known as positive thought.

It has been common knowledge in science  for quite a while that our thoughts have a frequency, a very specific frequency, like a signature of sorts.  This has been demonstrated in many different ways in many different studies which i do not care to list.
This is an interesting fact but not really life changing.

What makes this fact important is a recent discovery that DNA responds to frequency in ways that seem fantastical or even implausible, yet studies and experiments have ascertained   beyond reason that DNA can be altered by directing different frequencies at it.
This essentially means that we can change our very being with the power of our minds. Frequencies and vibrations also interact with one another, sometimes changing each other. IE, we can change our surroundings just by choosing to think about them positively. Others will react positively to your frequency and carry the love into their lives, resulting in a butterfly effect of goodness.

I am not blind to how funny, ridiculous, hysterical or even delirious this sounds, yet  we are becoming increasingly aware of the connection between what religions have been fundamentally saying for thousands of years and the nature of our world and human physiology/biology (science)
 The two are intertwined and can be interchanged in many applications.

For example, why is it that when we commit our very being to achieving a goal we are rewarded?  When we give everything we have and crawl through pain and suffering to realise an ideal why we are rewarded so richly? This could be a physical/athletic goal, a relationship, getting a job, taking exams.
The reason could be that because you were spiritually immersed in your goal and the actions you needed to take; the work you had to do was such that there was no other option but success. Basically you became, for a brief time the embodiment of someone who succeeds in that particular field. The work you did was done on meditation, you were not thinking, just doing things that would move you towards your goal without weighing up the cost. And god or the universe or Allah smiled at your work. Karma was in your favour and you were rewarded with the realisation of your goal...

Very deep right?
Issac newton succinctly says 'every action has an equal and opposite reaction' what you put into life, you get out. As we sow, so shall we reap. The metaphors and age old sayings go on and on, the world religions, at their most basic concepts, and science both describe the same phenomena.

So next time youre bashing the Muslims and christians and sikhs with 'big bang' this 'string theory' that and 'evolution' the other, remember that we may never know all the answers. So nobody's way of seeing the world may ever be 100% how the world actually is. Be okay with that.

I'm not writing this to try and say which parts of the many world religions are right and wrong, I only wish to direct your attention at how fundamentally, they are not only reflections and interpretations of each other, but of science as well.

Be grateful for your moment to wonder about why we are here, where we came from and where we are going, if we will ever conquer outer space, if there's life out there.

 And find it awesome that you are as old as time itself!

"The human mind is like the rich soils of our earth, whatever seed you plant will grow; be it a deadly poisonous plant or nourishing crop. The mind, like the earth is indifferent to what seeds we allow to be planted, all shall grow" - unknown