The following article is featured in Issue 1 of the EQM Magazine in the Coffee Table Therapy section. This is available to read through our website at www.evolvepeertrust.com/eqm-magazine.
Timber Hawkeye, best known as the author of Buddhist Boot Camp, took the time in October to have a conversation with the manager and founder of Evolve, Andre Jackson. Timber is a translator of ancient wisdom into a language that people today can not only understand but implement into their daily lives. It made for a very enlightening and thought-provoking conversation with Andre, and Evolve as an organization, sharing a lot of similar views to Timber. Although the conversation began with a focus on mindfulness in the pandemic, a range of other examples were used to express the beliefs and ideas that were discussed.
Timber spoke about some of his experiences working with a range of different people, giving a comparison between incarcerated men living behind bars 23 hours a day and women at a high-end yoga studio. The men living behind bars frequently express how grateful they are to be in prison because they feel so free to redefine who they are, to rewrite their narrative. Whereas the women living life with ‘freedom’ feel imprisoned, they feel stuck and unable to change.
Having this real-world example of opposite ends of the free-will spectrum within our modern society shows how freedom is all to do with state of mind. People that try to control that which is outside their control, not taking any time to take control of their minds and their thoughts, have more of a struggle with their sense of belonging and freedom. This issue really highlights that putting your happiness in someone or something else’s hands is the surest way to be sad. Permitting ourselves to take back charge of our happiness requires exploring ourselves internally; redirecting and unpacking unhealthy and unhelpful thoughts we have taken on board from our surroundings. This idea of taking charge of our happiness was expressed with different analogies by both speakers; Timber related unpacking some of these beliefs, philosophies, opinions, judgments, and prejudices that we’ve been given to cleaning out that junk drawer we all have in our homes. Andre related the same situation to pruning a tree, getting rid of the unnecessary and unhealthy parts to make room for new branches and leaves. Their analogies also relate to the poison arrow parable Timber explained, the lesson being that it is important to get rid of the arrow(poison), not question where it came from.
Bringing this back to the situation we are in now, the global pandemic has put us in an in-between area of the free-will spectrum. Having had a lot of the busyness in our lives stripped away, we are being given the opportunity to allow ourselves to relax and unwind, for maybe the first time in years. Both Timber and Andre expressed their thoughts on how the pandemic is an opportunity to pause and get back to our rest and digest state; an opportunity to really look at ourselves and ask those deep questions like who am I? Do I like myself? If not, what different choices can I make so I can really start loving myself? How can I be more aligned with my purpose and who I aspire to be? Who am I in relation to everything I am experiencing? Although it is important to ask these questions, it is also important to not allow these questions to become an excuse for our anxiety to take control.
This can be a really uncomfortable sensation or place to be in for people who don’t have a reference point of what relaxation or mindfulness looks like, or even for people who are used to relying on outside sources for a sense of validation or acceptance. This uncomfortable sensation often causes people to resist what they really need, not because they don’t want to be better but more so due to humans in general feeling a need for a sense of control and anticipation. This is very much like the uncomfortable feeling we get when we don’t identify with or are unaware of our depression even though we are undoubtedly in a state of depression. It’s very different once we identify with it and own it, however, we then face more discomfort when someone suggests there is a healing past that; we feel attacked, we feel like our identity is being taken away, like our existence is being threatened. If I don’t have that label I’ve identified with for so long, who am I? The key is accepting you are experiencing anxiety and depression and realizing although it’s something you are facing right now it is not who you are, you are much more than your depression and anxiety; however, if your diagnosis or label is all you look at then that is all you will see.
We have many opportunities throughout each day to define who we are, we need to not overlook these opportunities and learn to embrace them. A classic example used that expresses this is if you overeat today that doesn’t make you an overeater, it means today you were the type of person that overeats. Also, if you are able to identify what you are doing is an unhealthy or unhelpful behaviour then you are also the kind of person who is very conscious and mindful; maybe next time you face the feeling that caused your behaviour you will be able to evaluate how your actions will affect you before you even begin.
We all have a different healing path along our journey but something that relates to everyone is focusing on finding your balance. For you that may be a balance of nutrition, medication, and meditation; a balance of work, friends, and personal space; or maybe even a balance of information, opinions, and thoughts you take onboard. Before you go I want to remind you that you have a 100% success rate of making it through everything you have faced in your life up to this point, so you will make it through this as well; you will come out the other side different than before, but that is because you will have gained resilience and grown in your strength and character.