“We find ourselves experiencing certain emotions more often than we do others, and our responses become patterned habits.”

During one of my last therapy sessions I got stuck on the idea of improvement and wanting to get better fast. This might just be me, and it might be one of the things that got me in my current position, but why is it that we yearn for success all the time, and do not allow failure to be a success as well? We, especially in our western culture, crave for success. Success is an achievement that we should all be ambitious enough for to succeed and get the praise that goes with it. Yet it is in times of sorrow, hardship, failure even that we really get to grow.

It did give me some food for thought. And of course I stumbled upon a book I got a few months ago. The Path by Michael Puett and Christine Gross-Loh. The synopsis: “We tend to believe that to change our lives we have to think big. But the great Chinese thinkers would say: don’t forget the small. We only begin to really change when we start with small changes in how we live.”

“Right…” You might think, like I did earlier, “that sounds awfully airy-fairy. Let’s skip that!” But really, let’s not I finally thought to myself. So here we are now, with a little review/take-away of the book. Tl;dr: this book really states nothing new. Heck, they are reviving the thoughts of the great Chinese thinkers of centuries ago. But what is interesting in this book though, is the lesson to becoming more aware of the little things we in our society usually unconsciously but sometimes consciously fall back to.

“We tend to fall into patterned, habitual responses. They may be the social conventions and customs we follow unthinkingly, like our greetings or the way we hold a door open for someone. They may be routines that we don’t even notice, such as the whine we slip into when we’re talking to a sibling on the phone, or a tendency to become quiet when distressed instead of expressing our needs clearly. But we do these things all the time. Some patterns are good, and some are less so. If we were always “true” to ourselves and behave accordingly, we would be stuck in old behaviours, never forgiving, and limiting our potential to transform. But we already know how to break to break these patterns. […] When we travel, breaking from our everyday routine can allow us to develop new sides of ourselves. And when we return, we feel the lingering effects of those changes. Why, then, don’t we do this all the time? Perhaps it is because deliberately constructing ritual moments in our “real” lives feels contrived.”

Each chapter draws lessons for modern life from a particular Chinese thinker or text. So we hear about Confucius on the usefulness of social ritual; Mencius and the impossibility of making plans; Zhuangzi on “trained spontaneity”; Xunzi on preferring artifice to nature; Laozi on soft power, and so forth. The writers pick interesting thoughts and notions from the great Chinese thinkers — a bit like “hey, here’s a little introduction on these great thinkers’ philosophy, oh and heyyy here’s a little connection to our thinking/enlightenment in the West”.

If you have some time or care to listen to Mr Puett rather than read my findings from the book, go watch this Ted Talk with Michael Puett where he talks about why it’s better to stop searching for your true self.

Through repetition, we slowly develop new ways of interacting and eventually construct a different and far better self.

Ok, something that came to my mind while reading this book is that failure can be, after all, a successful learning experience. Not that we should keep repeating our mistakes, our failures. But we should learn from them, be grateful for them, and get onto making probably far more interesting mistakes which might lead to far more interesting failures. Along the way we get the opportunity to grow, learn and create a better self and maybe even a better world around us. It should all be a conscious effort at first, but by creating and renewing good habits it could maybe, perhaps be doable.

I never told you I was going to tell you anything new, or that this book was. But this book does give us a newbie-friendly, interesting and inspiring introduction to Chinese philosophy. It was pretty interesting at had some good reminders. I’m not sure what I was hoping for in The Path, but the book slowly turned into a typical “how to be successful” kind of book with some references to Chinese philosophers. So as if this really was a review: I’d say this book gets 3 out of 5 stars. ★★★☆☆

Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.”

C.S. Lewis

Dear reader,

We’re back for another depressing, whingy monologue where I confess how I find it so increasingly hard to function in this mad world we live in. I am definitely going to regret posting this, which is why I will refrain from diving in too deeply. Ehr, you ready?

Here are two things I’m struggling with, as probably at least half of humanity: 1) I hate opening up and 2) I hate feeling vulnerable. — Fuck. You can’t believe how many times I’ve been tempted to say I’m sorry when I wrote this post. I simply can’t quite believe it, but it started to become quite tedious. I’ve finally come to the realisation that I am not really all that sorry for my own actions, but I am more sorry about the actions of others. Somehow I feel the absolute need to apologise to you on behalf of others for all the hurt and injustice you have had to go through. But doing so won’t make anything better. I have realised that I am actually frustrated and angry and I know I shouldn’t take it out on you. I have had almost a dozen of these kind of posts lined in my drafts, but nothing feels quite right to share here. It feels all very self-absorbed, but then again… I do have a blog.

Words seem very futile and somewhat insufficient. You see, I lately feel that I desperately want talk to people. But I can’t find the right words to describe what I want to say, what I really mean, what I feel. I wish I could say beautiful words but I somehow can’t. I wish I could feel connected deeper with other people. I wish I didn’t feel as much as I did. But I wish I somehow felt more than the heavy emptiness of my heart. You see, my heart is bursting… yet there’s nothing. All this nothingness is becoming unbearable. I begin to wonder if this is just one of those horrible things about being human?

Nothingness is really like the nothingness of space, which contains the whole universe. All the sun and the stars and mountains, and rivers, and good men and bad men, and the animals, and insects, and the whole bit. All are contained in the void. So out of this void comes everything and you’re it. What else could you be?

Alan Watts on The State of Nothing

I stumbled upon that lecture by Alan Watts years ago. It had been a bit of a mantra whenever things got too much to bear. Back then it used to comfort me. Right now however I am so utterly frustrated with all this nothingness. It feels futile and empty and silly even. It feels so, so wrong to feel this way.

My brain is in constant battle, everything feels ambiguous. I have realised that I am used to telling myself how to feel, act, react…cope and live really. It sounds a bit mental maybe but think I used to be able to see things in a bit of black and white, right and wrong kind of way. It was easier and softer for my brain. Yet, these days I am struggling to make sense of it all. It’s all a jumbled mess and I can’t seem to see straight. It’s like I have finally been given the chance to see life in colour, but I’m colour-blind — even though I’m quite sure this is not really how colour-blindness works, I just needed a good-enough metaphor to explain my feelings. But I fail horribly because WORDS! *insert jazz-hands*

I’m not sure what’s happening. Maybe my thinking is all wrong?

I wanted to share my sentiments in this blog, but also remain cool and collected. Because that’s what we humans do right? We’re so fucking cool as human beings aren’t we? We all act as if we’re fine, yet the whole world is on fire. It’s like I’ve gone through a rite of passage now that I have fully obtained this knowledge. Now I have to get onboard the ‘fine-train’ and find a place in the world. I feel like I don’t want to but that I should in order to “survive”. Is that wrong? Maybe all that’s left for me to do now is to find a way for my thoughts to become rewired again and think positive and healthy thoughts and then maybe, just maybe, I would be able to function properly again? Fucksake.

You must be ready to burn yourself in your own flame; how could you rise anew if you have not first become ashes?

Friedrich Nietzsche

Thank you for your time and consideration. And yes, I am sorry. I’m working on it.
Lots of love,

Please know that I am not looking for your sympathy. I just need to address this to myself, make myself accountable and learn to acknowledge it so that I can work on it and move on.