Consumerism and finding direction.

I always had a hard time understanding what I wanted to do with this blog. And it’s because my interests are so divided that no “box” would have me.

How can I explain that I am highly critical of leftwing beliefs, every form of sociology, progressivism, etc, yet I am interested in environmentalism and liberalism?

How can I explain that I am critical of unemployment among women, religion, racial segregation, etc, yet I am focused on traditional and tribal communities?

I am too rude and blunt, too traditional, too forgiving, too irreligious, too deistic, too maternal, too workaholic, too offensive, too liberal, too capitalistic, too easygoing, too unapologetic to belong to anyone.

I want to write about cooking and foraging, babies and freelancing, budgeting and crafting, fitness and diet, relationships and philosophy, whatever strikes me as curious or fun or new.

I guess the one thing that ties every aspect of myself together is my hatred for consumerism and the structures around it. I genuinely despise them. I don’t necessarily hate all the humans involved, but I hate the actual sin. Advertising is offensive to the eye and mind. Minimalism is a lovely goal when it isn’t commercialized and impractical. Poverty can be entirely your own doing without you being responsible for the stupid decisions that caused or preserved it. And I really don’t care what people do in terms of faith, diet, community, surgery, or shopping, so long as it is increasing the wealth of the system or removing themselves from the system, rather than sucking it dry.

So everything I do, my budgeting and DIY, my advocacy for traditional relationships combined with working women, my refusal to accept systems and structures that exploit the workers and enable the dependent, my entire self, seems to be held together by that.

It would be nice to have a community of extreme-leaning centrist, anti-consumerist, realist, relaxed, unemotional people to share this with more closely. But for now I suppose I’ll just continue being offensive to everyone.

Advertisements

I’m going to be happy this month.

A lot of the things I write are critical, negative or generally pessimistic. I like to think that the majority of what I write is useful, but that doesn’t change the fact that a month never goes by without something with a negative tone popping up on the blog.

So my first two posts of the month were constructive and all the following posts, until December 31st, are going to be constructive, positive and happy.

Because this isn’t the time of year to be stressed, angry, sad or pessimistic.

Hope everyone has a beautiful December!

TTFN and Happy Hunting.

8 Ways To Find Beauty In Everything.

Sometimes it’s hard to see the world for what it is. Or for what it isn’t. Or basically to enjoy it for what it is, even if it isn’t perfect. It’s especially hard when you’re going through a rough patch or have depression in general. Existential misery, the feeling that everything is meaningless or the cloud to every silver lining will blind you to the positives and leave you feeling miserable. And when you’re in that sort of a place you can’t always feel better about it.

But there are some ways to lift yourself up when you’re down and to prevent yourself from being dragged down quite so harshly. Preventative medicine for the mind, or a supplement of happiness to tide you through, as it were.

1: Respect yourself.

It can be hard to do anything at all when you don’t respect yourself. To try and cultivate self-respect, remember to always make note and give thanks when you get things right, so that these become more memorable. Learn about your own flaws and work against them when they can be fixed and accept when they can’t. From time to time, try and think of yourself as a child or a pet. Would you treat a child or puppy with the amount of love, care and attention you treat yourself? Remember that you deserve to be happy, especially when it doesn’t cost anyone anything.

2: Respect others.

It is just as important to respect those around you. When you have no respect for yourself you will breed sadness, as you won’t be able to enjoy the fruits of your labour or the silver linings in life. But when you have no respect for others you will breed anger, as their flaws will routinely disappoint and offend you. Try and think about other people rationally. Look at their skills and flaws and ask yourself if your demands are reasonable. Remember that they may not be capable of what you expect of them, and that they have the free will to deal with their flaws or embrace them. You have no power over them.

3: Hone your senses.

Everything in life can be experienced through all the senses. We have the five main senses, of course, but we also have the surrounding senses, such as proprioception, time perception and intuition. Learn about all of them and from time to time use meditation to bring them all out. Try observing and painting every colour in a flower, or listening to every instrument in a piece of music. By working on your senses you can learn that some things may have an awful scent or colour, but a pleasant sound or atmosphere.

4: Indulge your senses.

Once you have spent some time observing every sense, try and indulge or even overwhelm them. Listen to genres of music you’ve never heard before. Look at psychedelic art. Try eating high concentrations of foods that are often diluted, like saccharine, or low concentrations of foods that are often strong, like coffee. Push yourself to identify more elements of life. Try and meditate to speed up or slow down your perception of time. Try and feel every part of your body without touching it with your hands. Indulge every sense you can isolate.

5: Look for beauty.

And when you’re experiencing everything at least a little bit and striving to experience everything fully, you want to find beauty wherever you look. Maybe a tall tree in your neighbour’s garden is blocking the light from your own. But you can plant shade-loving plants beneath it and enjoy the shelter it gives from rain and sun. Maybe your child plays loud music in the afternoons. But the music may have agreeable qualities that you hadn’t noticed. Maybe chocolate tastes too sweet for you. But the bitter, astringent or spiced tastes that cocoa has shouldn’t be neglected. The beauty is there, if only you look for it carefully.

6: Protect yourself.

That said, be sure to guard yourself against things that have more harm than beauty in them. If chocolate is genuinely too unpleasant for you, then ensure you don’t have to eat it by warning people and learning to politely turn it down. If a certain type of music gives you migraines, makes you feel ill at ease or is simply irritating, explain this to anyone who plays it around you. You can’t control the actions of others, but you can take small steps to remove unnecessary harm from your life.  And these steps are entirely your own responsibility.

7: Disregard unharmful flaws.

However, some flaws are merely mild annoyances that cause no real harm. If a certain type of music annoys you and your neighbour insists on playing it, then there is nothing you can do. It is causing you no real harm, so learn to ignore these things. Inconvenient, annoying or frustrating things happen all the time. The world doesn’t care that your father died in a train derailment, that incense gives you headaches or that you take longer to cross a certain section of a road than others would. Trains, incense and crossings won’t stop existing just because they bother you. If the thing you perceive as a flaw causes you no harm, then learn to ignore it whenever you can’t avoid it.

8: Be honest about positives and negatives.

There are good sides and bad sides to life. Whatever your outlook, things will happen that will make you sad, hurt, angry or frustrated. Regarding these things, the only outlook that helps is acceptance. Sometimes you will find something that has no value to you. So accept them for what they are. Death is death. Devastation is devastation. Disease is disease. They may hold no reward for you, but they’re not meant to. They have their own role to play in life which, however harmful it is to you, is benefiting something, somewhere. Trying to deny their existence or the harm they cause you will only make you less happy. All you can do is accept that they’re there, accept that they play a part in this world and keep on going. After all, the pigs you eat for breakfast and the microorganisms you kill with antibiotics would have a hard time seeing the good in you too!

And those are eight ways to see the beauty in everything. If you make an effort, you will find that everything has something beautiful about it, even if that beauty is completely useless to you.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

The 12 Steps are for Everyone.

Let’s start by addressing what the Twelve Steps are.

The Twelve Steps are a life guideline, designed to help those recovering from an addiction, trauma or something else that has overwhelmed them and taken control of their lives. They were originally created by Alcoholics Anonymous in an effort to provide some sort of structure to the recovery process, encouraging members to share their progress, discuss their efforts through the different stages and generally to stick it out.

They are as follows:

12s3

1:    We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
2:    Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3:    Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
4:    Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5:    Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6:    Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7:    Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8:    Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9:    Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10:  Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
11:   Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12:   Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Of course, everyone can read them as they wish to, as long as none of the interpretations directly contradict the main step. For example, it would be fine to say that making amends with someone would remind them of a very painful incident that they’re not ready to deal with yet, so you should wait and not make amends for now. However, to say that making amends would remind you of your errors and make you feel ashamed, so you should not make amends, is not a valid interpretation of step 9.

12s4

Here are my interpretations, in the context of addiction:

1: To accept that the addiction has taken over their life and interfered with it. It’s not a habit any more. They don’t have control over it. It rules their every decision and is stopping them from living as they want to or should.
Example: Someone who doesn’t go out with friends any more, as their desire to feed the habit is more intense and urgent than their desire to spend time with their friends.

2: To welcome the belief that, whilst their person has been overwhelmed by addiction, there is something that can help them. To welcome the belief that their powerlessness doesn’t mean there is no power that can help them.
Example: Someone deciding that, despite their repeated personal failures at quitting, God’s power and love could guide them through this attempt.

3: To give the power over. Now they have accepted their power is useless and that there is a power that can help them, they must actively give the reins to this power. They surrender control and welcome any changes the power wants to make.
Example: Someone giving the control of their body over to Nature and asking Her what she wants them to do, how she wants them to act. Ceasing to be a servant to their addiction and becoming a servant to the Higher Power.

4: Now they have accepted that they are not in control and allowed a HP to take control for them, they must practise introspection. Ask themselves what flaws of character, what moral dilemmas, what poor decisions led to this state.
Example: Someone writing a list of the problems that contribute to their addiction and tracking them back.
-I have always felt awkward in social situations. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t feel awkward around people.
-It helped me forget my depression. This depression started a few years into starting the habit.
-I felt better being around people. This started when I first began abusing the substance.
-I feel ashamed of what I do when under the influence. This makes me want to consume enough to excuse my behaviour. This started a few years ago.

5: Now that they accept what their problem is (step 1) and have found out why the problem took hold (step 4), they need to be honest about it. Actively telling themselves fulfills the same purpose as step 1, in that it helps them accept the nature of their problem. Telling their Higher Power is a form of confession and a sort of spiritual accountability; the idea of confessing is to accept that you did something wrong and that you will actively avoid doing it ever again; by confessing, they are asking the Higher Power to guide them and hold them accountable. Telling a trustworthy, loving person is a second layer of accountability as well as an emotional outlet. They will from now on help them stick to the path and hold them accountable when they themselves do not. They will also become someone to lean on in the sufferer’s times of need.
Example: Someone admits to themselves, The Lord and their partner that they have a problem and know where it comes from and why they haven’t defeated it before. They read their list out loud, addressing themselves, The Lord and their partner. They accept that these problems need to be challenged and ask The Lord and their partner to guide them and hold them accountable. The Lord offers spiritual counseling and the partner offers emotional counseling.

6: As in step 2, they accept that, whilst their flaws are a part of them they have never been able to challenge, there is something that is NOT entirely powerless and that can help them change these flaws of character.
Example: Someone asking themselves how Krishna could help them with their flaws of character, what He would suggest and how He may guide them to making the right decisions and taking the right direction.

7: As in step 3, now they have discovered and understood these flaws and accepted that a Higher Power could help them correct these problems, they must begin speaking to their Higher Power and asking it to help them with these flaws.
Example: Someone explaining their character flaws to their internal morality and asking this morality to guide them on their path to recovery and show them how these flaws could be removed.

8: Pretty self-explanatory. They must ask themselves how they have hurt others and make a list of those they have hurt, how they have hurt them and how they would be willing to make amends. Next, they must embrace the idea of making amends, no matter how personally shameful or painful it may be.
Example: Someone contacts a friend and asks about any people the friend remembers them hurting whilst they were intoxicated. They list the people, the harm caused and what they would be willing to do to help them. They then ask themselves whether there’s any way of making amends that would work better, and whether they shy away from it out of fear of personal repercussion.

9: Again, self-explanatory. They decide whether making amends would hurt or help the person relevant and, where it would help them, they make amends.
Example: Someone looking through the list and deciding who to make amends to based on whether the wronged party would benefit. If making amends would make them feel good, but hurt the wronged party, they must abstain. If it would make them feel ashamed, but help the wronged party, they make amends.

10: A return to step 4. Is there any other personal problem that could contribute to the addiction? Is there anything they can do to better themselves further?
Example: Having addressed their alcohol addiction, they now asks themselves about a gambling habit, a poor ability to maintain relationships or an uncontrolled aggressive streak. They wonder how they could improve these problems.

11: The Higher Power is now a permanent part of their life. It will guide and support them throughout all troubles, suffering and any potential relapses. They are forever protected and held accountable.
Example: Someone continuing to pray to the Gods, even when they have addressed every character flaw they are able to identify. The Gods offer support, accountability and guidance when they feel unsure of their own decisions or ability to decide.

12: Once they have healed themselves entirely, they spread the help and offer the guidance of the Twelve Steps to anyone who they believe needs it.
Example: Having recovered, someone now starts talking at AA meetings and helping others on the path. They embrace the philosophy and apply it as best they can to any recurring problems they see in their friends and family. They strive to remain helpful and courteous throughout.

So, that’s my interpretation. Of course, everyone sees them differently, usually in the way that helps them or suits them the most. But, regardless of interpretation, I’d like to repeat the last three steps:
10:  Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
11:   Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12:   Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

As you may have noticed, these don’t pertain to the original addiction. They are about continuing to use the steps to address your character, continuing your relationship with the Higher Power you have embraced and encouraging others to use the steps to help themselves.

12s1

Now, as I mentioned, the Twelve Steps originated to help recovering alcoholics. The next two largest groups to use them involve recovering drug abusers and friends and family of alcoholics (recovering or otherwise). However, as is implied by the last three steps, the use of this philosophy needn’t be restricted to just addicts and those around them. This is not a radical theory. Many followers of the Twelve Steps acknowledge that they embrace the philosophy in other aspects of their life and apply it to other situations. The last three steps themselves imply that, once the main problem is addressed, you needn’t abandon the philosophy. This means that the Twelve Steps aren’t just for addicts and their relatives: they’re for everyone. Allow me to rephrase the Twelve Steps, to illustrate what I mean.

They are as follows:

1:    We admitted we were powerless over a negative aspect of our lives—that these lives had become unmanageable.
2:    Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could guide us away from this negative aspect.
3:    Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of a Higher Power we can believe in and trust.
4:    Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5:    Admitted to the HP, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6:    Were entirely ready to have the HP remove all these defects of character.
7:    Humbly asked the HP to remove our shortcomings.
8:    Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9:    Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10:  Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
11:   Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with our HP, praying only for knowledge of the HP’s will for us and the power to carry that out.
12:   Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others in need of help and guidance, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Remove the references to alcoholism, and suddenly it applies to so many things. Imagine how the Twelve Steps could help someone in any of the following situations:

-A person suffering an intense phobia that limits their ability to function in real life.

-A person whose ability to work is limited by their lack of confidence.

-A person in an abusive relationship who is beginning to be aware of the fact.

-A person with poor control over their money who wants to save for education or a house.

-A person who has gradually retreated from society and sees no way to reintegrate.

-A person who is obese and has given-up on ever losing weight.

-A person with an addiction that is encroaching on their lives and identity.

-A person in a degrading relationship, seeking to revive the love.

-A person with an eating disorder who desperately wants to recover.

-A person who feels aimless and unmotivated, but doesn’t understand what to do.

Now, having told yourself how the Twelve Steps could help these people, ask yourself: what is the common variable? What is the problem they all suffer before, which, by correcting it, leads to the improvement they desire?

Introspection.

It seems a long-lost art in today’s world. The ability to look at yourself, see all your flaws laid bare, accept that there are problems in how you behave, how you see yourself, how you think, to ignite a desire to change these flaws, to become better. We have become too confident, too self-absorbed, too ignorant or too happy being special snowflakes to notice that we’re flawed. Most narcissists I know (you know who you are and, yes, myself included) are more capable of introspection than the average human I encounter nowadays. Sure, a narcissist may say “I am still far better than anyone else, but I could be more awesome if…”, but at least they acknowledge that there is room for improvement. The average person today will shy away from that. I don’t know or understand why. If you’re reading this and wondering whether there’s anything about yourself like that, telling yourself you’re perfect and there’s no room for improvement or offended at the suggestion that you may be one of these “average” people who can’t introspect, then ask yourself: what am I afraid of? To need improvement is natural. The deer with the biggest horns could grow bigger ones next year. The fastest cheetah could be faster. The tallest tree is still growing. Nothing is beyond improvement. And to improve is better than to deny the need for improvement. If you’re 80% of the way to being the world’s greatest chessmaster, then you do better by working on that 20% than you do by pretending 80% is the best there is, or the best you can do. Denial will never help us. Working on being awesome helps us.

The Twelve Steps are one of the most perfect patterns of introspection I have ever encountered. Sure, if you’re already capable of introspection it may be superfluous. But even someone who regularly introspects could use a little help once in a while. And if you’re new to it, the Twelve Steps will light the way.

Once you begin to introspect, your life will improve dramatically. You will find previously insurmountable mountains becoming molehills, feelings of shame and regret disappearing, life feeling so much lighter and brighter. Introspection allows you to see who you are, who you want to be and who you need to be. And improving yourself is far easier when you can see the start and finish lines.

And now, a quick reminder that not everything can or should be addressed with the Twelve Steps. Use your common sense to decide what is and isn’t an actual problem. Remember, not everything about you is imperfect.

12s2