By Samir | May 1, 2013
Part of what makes the process of undoing the ego so hard is that we are trained, in absolute terms, to always live with absolutes. Even the process of growth itself can be derailed because, during the transition (the awakening), we try to make it into a process with milestones and absolutes. The truth of the process is that its experiences, length, motivations are different for all.
A good example of this phenomenon is the experiences we seek. Many people go through the process and end up giving up a large part of their possessions in order to cleanse themselves of what “doesn’t matter”. While this is certainly a recurring theme and an excellent way to get rid of distractions, and the end point of living “wholly” is generally simpler than living as the extension of the ego, it does not necessarily follow that this is what everyone must do. In fact, if some people have been living simple lives, they might actually need drama, stuff, complication and what not in order to complete the whole of experience and gain clarity on what’s important and what isn’t.
Our minds want to make the association of “simple, whole” living with “simple materialism” but this isn’t the case for everyone. It’s a false absolute truth. Absolutes are useful for a developing mind, in order for it to place itself versus others in the physical realm. Without absolutes, there is no differentiation, and differentiation (or distinction) is necessary as an experience in order to know unity and oneness. Physical absolutes are key; but they are training wheels. Eventually, they must be discarded in order to intuit/know absolute principles from the non-physical world.
Does a man need to meditate to reach enlightenment? For many people with active minds, relaxed allowing is a critical step. At the same time, you always hear about people with an epiphany where it all came clear at once. There is no fixed path, no single way to play. In fact, the way it plays out is different for all of us - depending on our physical make-up, our past experiences, and our mind.
In truth, living without absolutes is a great outlook - you no longer expect things from life and are free to be pleasantly surprised. You no longer try to fit everything into pre-conceived notions (like “man” or “woman”), you just experience things as they happen. The idea of freeflowing along the river of life is a hard one, especially for left-brain types like me (an accountant) or STEM-tendency types like engineers. Artists are particularly good at it, since they learn early on that creation takes whatever form it will, and we are just vehicles for it (at the same time, some STEM-types can “get” it easily and some artists are too arrogant to let go of their ego during the creation process, so I don’t want be, uh, absolute, here).
It’s initially very scary to live without landmarks, guideposts and reference points. It’s a bit like casting a sail without really taking the measure of the wind. But in the end it’s very little risk at all because if we’ve never sailed into unknown waters, we can’t grow. And in unknown waters, there are no lighthouses to guide us.
By Samir | March 4, 2013
Eckhart Tolle writes that it is completely possible to experience “external” failure while having great success. What does he mean by this apparently contradictory statement? It means that, even though one fails to achieve “goals” or “objectives” in life, it does not mean one is a failure in terms of development.
“Failure” is a first and foremost a judgment from a limited perspective. Since life’s business isn’t about “your” goals, you will only achieve what is necessary for life to continue to relearn its nature through you. If this means success, you will “succeed”. If it means “failure”, you will fail. One of the neat things about this journey we are on is that there is no fixed recipe for how it goes; each one of us walks his own path.
Consider the example of a hockey player who fails at becoming a professional in the NHL; dejected, he retires and begins coaching minor league hockey, making a pittance compared to what he could have made as an NHL superstar. 10 or 15 years later, he wins a Stanley Cup as a coach, has made millions, is happier than he could have ever expected, and has literally no worries. Was his “failure” really that, or just another instance of life pointing him in another direction?
It’s important to realize that “failing” at these self-set goals is a critical process in life. Life being about experiences, there’s going to be some trial and error for everyone and with each error comes wisdom. Eckhart Tolle himself was on the verge of suicide before coming to awareness. It’s pretty clear that he considered his life as an academic and a philosopher a complete failure. Yet behind the scenes, a marvelous intelligence was working to push him to become a teacher. That it had to take everything away from him was part of the process. “Failure” was only a judgment his limited mind applied to the situation; an aware being looking on his journey from afar may have commented that he was in a trial and error phase and finding his path was inevitable.
A goal I often see people have is to “get married by X age”. People who fail to do so often consider themselves failure. Firstly, let’s think : Would it have been more pleasant to shoehorn oneself into a marriage of compromise in order to avoid being alone? Probably not. Secondly, marriage is not on everyone’s life track. If a woman fails to marry and bear children, and uses her free time and disposable income to aid the poor and find joy, has she failed?
What’s important when confronted with a failure is to not judge it. It’s only a “failure” as far as an objective, “mind level” goal is concerned. In fact, the best response to failure is acceptance. You may be compelled to try again, you may move on (like I said, there are no recipes here). But either way, you must accept and not sit in judgment, and, especially, self-loathing (unless of course, self-loathing is needed in your journey, but I digress). Try to look upon your failure as a transition point to clarity, knowing you now have some of your answers and possibly, one less experience to live.
Prematurely judging something as a “total failure” is like putting the cart before the horse. Remember that each failure is just an opportunity to do something else. I was recently given this lesson by life, having pretty much failed at most of my goals. Yes, I was down in the dumps about it, but in the end, I’ve come to realize that the result of this was a total liberation to do what I wanted. Freed from the pressure of “succeeding” now, because I was “failed”, I could do what I want without judging myself beyond the present moment.
- I injured myself badly before I could hit a powerlifting total of 1,200 pounds. In the intervening time off the gym, I’ve read more, found myself doing more Tai Chi and internal movement work, and have even increased the frequency of my “relaxed awareness”, thus growing spiritually.
- The injuries themselves taught me a lot about my limits. If I were to return to the iron, I’d be much smarter and wiser; more importantly, the lesson about “ego lifting” has been driven home so hard I doubt I’ll ever ego lift again.
- The injury was caused, in part, by a lack of mobility work in my training. If I were to return, I’d program conditioning, mobility and strength more rigorously.
So yes, it “sucks” for the moment to be out of the gym. But the wisdom it’s given me is priceless.
Having “failed” at career is another good topic. I’ll cover it in my next post.
By Samir | March 1, 2013
It’s very common for people coming into awareness and enlightenment, but not there yet, to feel jealous of others. The typical jealousies are
- People who have it “all”, i.e., famous, rich, good-looking, usually actors or athletes
- Enlightened masters like Eckhart Tolle
It’s easy to look at an actress like Jennifer Lawrence, who is young, beautiful, witty, blessed with sassiness and pizzazz and obviously successful, and be frustrated about one’s own place in life. Unfortunately, this is deluded thinking. Jennifer Lawrence is a product, of a media machine, and no one really knows how happy she is when she’s alone. It’s very possible she is just as lost as any other soul searching for enlightenment, and feels confused and overwhelmed by her “awesome” life.
In the same way the all of these gifts are a blessing, they are also a trapping. It can be quite difficult to walk away from all of these fleeting things to come to one’s true nature if this is needed. Very few men in history could; the Buddha was one of them and that’s why he is remembered to this very day.
For men, this might be easier to understand using athletics. Watching sports, it’s clear that there tons of guys who were given a phenomenal level of talent, but no corresponding passion. Yet they are athletes because nothing else affords them the same earnings potential; they are chasing money purely and they put up with the grind of the practices and the travel. Randy Moss is a great example. In many ways, these men are totally trapped by their talent.
Having no talent, no skill, no particular inclination is hard. At first. Without an obvious answer as to what to do with oneself, it can be difficult to find how to express oneself and what experiences to seek. But consider this to also be the ultimate freedom. You don’t have to be totally and inextricably immersed in some “career”, and thus, neither does your identity.
As a man I’ve often considered how cool it would be to be a famous athlete. But two things came to me which really helped me see through this delusion: firstly, any experience, given enough time becomes ordinary. Secondly, having such an easy avenue to assuage my own ego would be an absolute roadblock to awareness. If you’re on this journey and these posts mean anything to you, you’ve gone beyond the stage of needing an easy way out of asking yourself the hard questions.
Let others play at that level. You’ve moved on.
By Samir | February 13, 2013
The Buddha left all of his royal belongings behind and sat under a tree. Eckhart Tolle lived rough for two years in Vancouver. Jesus was willing to die for his message. These are all great stories and, each, in its way, allowed the glorification of the subject master. But the intent of each of these events, in life’s view, was not the actually to make these figures renowned, it was to give the message each one preached more weight.
Let’s face it, it’s way more impressive to know someone gave it all up and totally dedicated themselves to enlightenment. It gives the teacher a certain veritas, that a 9-to-5er claiming enlightenment could never attain. But this is strictly a mind-view of things, as in reality, there’s no real “one” path to enlightenment. It’s just as possible for a prince who eschews his heritage to find enlightenment as it is for a lawyer working 80 hours a week. All paths lead to the same place anyways, since there is nowhere else to go.
Of course, from a human perspective, bringing the entirety of one’s focus on enlightenment may accelerate the process of attaining the state of balance and inner peace. With nothing to cling to, no expectation, no responsibilities, no energy being drained, the entire human being’s force can be marshalled towards enlightenment. At the same time, it may be necessary for certain people to experience “regular life” - work, play, family, and the trappings brought on by each in order realize the design of life. In the end, this is indirect work towards enlightenment, as raising kids and having work responsibilities will definitely teach you about living for things beyond satiating your ego in the immediate future.
The idea that you “give everything up” is a quaint one, but it’s for glory. Nothing is actually given up, in fact. The Buddha may have given up on being a prince, but the truth is, it was never his destiny in the first place. So what did he give up exactly by giving up princehood? Nothing. Actually, all that happens as is that, as we evolve, we attract the reality that’s needed for us to continue evolving. If you are in a 9-to-5 cycle, don’t feel guilty about not being able to walk away from it all. If you were meant to do so, you would do it. You would overcome fear and nervousness and just do it. It’s quite possible, at this time, that you’re meant to be there. It might actually be your calling, or it might be something you need to experience in order to walk away from it later, kind of like knowing bondage so you can know freedom (because if you’re never bonded, you can’t understand what it’s like to not be free).
I personally know a few enlightened spirits with 9 to 5 jobs. One of them even works for the government, a soul-draining institution if ever there were one. This friend of mine recognizes that he has no special skills beyond what he’s doing, so he says to me “Sure, I’d quit, but what else would I do?”.
The truth of the human being is that the human needs to work. Even if you “gave it all up”, don’t kid yourself, you’d have to work. Either you’d panhandle, or you’d sweep the floor of the temple, or wash clothes at the ashram, and in your free time you would work towards awareness, but you would work. So what have you given up? In fact, all you’ve done is traded one form of work for another.
Seen from this perspective, the decision to “walk away from it all” isn’t really that big a deal. It’s merely a recognition that for your own evolution, you need to change environments. The current one is perhaps toxic, or it has finished giving you lessons. You recognize this by the fact that when it’s time, you won’t at all feel attached to the place you are.
And if you die on your death bed, regretting having never “walked away from it all” ? Well, that’s fine too. That’s the lesson you were meant to learn this time around.
By Samir | February 6, 2013
Well, I haven’t been writing because I blew out a knee and my back sucks. I’ve decided to can the meet prep until I can train like I want to. I don’t want to going to the gym and NOT squatting and deadlifting. So I’ve actually taken an entire month off anything remotely physical.
I am not sure when I’ll return. I’ve basically trained non-stop for 5 years so it may be time for an extended break. Several months if not more. My bicep, back, knee, and hips are all showing signs of being “ground down” into oblivion and I don’t want to be immobile at 50 for the choices I make in my 30s.
I have taken up Tai Chi again though. Very low impact. Feels like rehab for the knees and soul. So I guess my writings will have to focus on spiritual and intellectual pursuits for now.
By Samir | January 4, 2013
Thinking of doing a weekly post for my training. This daily post 4x a week is a bit of a grind. Or in typical Samir fashion, I’ll do both depending on the week.
Tuesday: Press day, worked up to about 125×6. Felt weak (due to not eating). Did lat and front raises and some chins. Then did curls for reps.
Wednesday: Wednesday is usually my Free day. I did Front Squats only to discover my back hates this movement but it felt amazing for my knees. I’m doing to try hack squats at the gym, because my quads got sore from 95×5x6 sets. Which is pathetic if you think about it, it really means I am a hip-oriented squatter. This would also explain why my Sumo deadlift is absolute balls compared to my conventional deadlift. My quads are definitely emerging as an area I need to train.
By Samir | December 30, 2012
Warm up with 45s and 25s
190 lb x 5 reps
220 lb x 5 reps
250 lb x 5 reps
Warm up with 45s and 25s
255 lb x 5 reps
285 lb x 5 reps
325 lb x 5 reps
5 reps x 3 reps x 3 sets
Trying to spare my biceps, they’re sore a lot lately.
By Samir | December 30, 2012
This workout happened at 4 PM with about 200 calories consumed that entire day due to busy-ness and what not.
Barbell Bench Press:
Warm up with 45s and 25s
155 lb x 5 reps
175 lb x 5 reps
195 lb x 5 reps
Barbell Incline Bench Press:
105 lb x 10 reps x 3 sets
40 lb x 10 reps x 3 sets
15 sec x 4
5 sec x 3 each side
By Samir | December 27, 2012
The Montreal area got hit with 22.5′ of snow overnight last night. I shoveled my neighbor and my spots for about an hour, along with helping a few other neighbors scrape ice off their cars. It wasn’t brutal, but it was difficult. My barbell training got me through it.
I thought nothing of it until I got on Facebook and saw an avalanche of complaints. People complaining about spending a whole 35 minutes shoveling or scraping ice. 35 WHOLE MINUTES.
Today’s snow wasn’t a reminder that life sucked; it was a reminder that we sucked. When did we forget the beauty inherent in carving out our niche, with our own hands, and in harmony with mother nature? Our bodies are kept young and strengthened by the work. But we’ve lost that link to nature; to the elements. We’ve become sedentary cubicle dwellers, unable to appreciate the beauty of labour or nature.
By Samir | December 26, 2012
I’ve lost 7 pounds since November 24, so my cut is progressing well. A little slow, but well. I’ve used the holiday to ponder my own lifting philosophy now that I’ve been through at least 4 different programs and done “fuckarounditis” as well, and I think I’ve kind of figured out what works best for me.
Basically, it seems
- The frequency I respond to best is to hit each muscle group twice a week. Once heavy for intensity, once light and for volume.
- My spine gets gingerly if I deadlift and squat too often; I attribute this to spending too much time squatting heavy loads in early 2012 as I tried to do StrongLifts with intermediate weights. This was a dumb idea and I’m paying for it today by having to only squat/deadlift once a week and sometimes even then, back off completely during deloads.
- I felt I ignored some of the details of my physique in 2012 on my quest to get stronger; namely I ate too much and I did not do finishing movements life abs, calf raises and so on.
- My body responds to and LOVES the 3-5 rep range, is OK with 6-8 and anything else feels like crap. That said, I will work in the 3-5 and the 10-20 ranges to be balanced in my training. I feel like 10s and 20s are good for volume, endurance, “mini cardio” and they really drill form.
- This ultimately leads me to realize that I want to be both strong and muscular. I want to have go and show, and I don’t mind compromising. I’ll never be the strongest guy, I’ll never be the biggest guy. That’s fine as long as I can be big and strong.
- I am not going to pussy out and just say “big and strong” are my goals. I also want to be fit. And I want measurable proof of all this. I am going to set definite goals. I want to be able to actually do these three things: A 1,200 total with a 300 bench, a 400 squat and a 500 deadlift. I want 18 inch arms and a 34 inch waist. I want to be able to run a mile in 7 minutes.
- I understand that my goals can’t be achieved concurrently. So I will hit my strength goal, then I’ll decide what to do: focus on running or muscular hyperptrophy.
With that said, here is what I planned for January 2013.
It makes sense to me for the following:
1. All the powerlifts are present and accounted for
2. Everything is hit 2-3x a week
3. Abs/Calves are not ignored
4. My heart (Cardio) is not ignored
5. Sufficient recovery for a natural lifter is provided by lifting 4x a week only, not 5 or 6 times like many bodybuilders. The 4th day is very light and totally optional.
6. I believe this is sufficient volume to burn fat (I’m cutting), and were I to be in a caloric surplus, to add muscle.