For the last two years, I have been drawn a lot more to Eastern philosophy—Zen, Buddhism, and Hindu culture. It all started with various books and lectures by Ram Dass, Alan Watts, and Ragu Markus. Truthfully I found my way to more of this via the unlikely source Duncan Trussel.  The further I have dove into these ideas the more I love this perspective, and for whatever reason, it has resonated with me.

The overarching takeaways have been on suffering, being present, and reflections on where we stand in the way of ourselves.

The first thing that hit me is the idea that all suffering stems from attachment—attachment to our past identity, our past trauma, and our past idea of who we are supposed to be. These past versions of us can pop up and continually take control of the present, driving feelings and sensations of fear and doubt that we even have the ability to change. Holy shit, did that hit home.

From 2014-2019, my life took an oddly chaotic turn. From the awakening that occurred around the death of my father in April 2014 to the ultimate death of my own identity in 2017, having to retire from competing due to injury. Not some catastrophic accident, but simply an elective surgery to repair a deteriorating knee. Long story short, instead of my plan of rehabbing and focusing my energy there so I could return to my sport and win a third world championship, the plan got set on fire pretty quickly. Instead of one ACL replacement and a year of rehab, the universe had different plans for me. Nine surgeries later and a total knee replacement at 36, everything in my life had been altered. In that time, I found myself depressed, lost, and extremely bitter. This was all due to the attachment to what was. This idea I had laid out—the plan. I had to figure out along the way how to bury that version of me to uncover who I really needed to become.

While I was so deep in that hole, I couldn’t begin to understand what was happening other than I was locked down and on full defense in my life. Until I made peace with that chapter of my life, I was doomed to constantly view what was lacking in my life and focus only on the problems I had. In that, I was too blind to see how incredible things were in my life. Solid career, good marriage to an amazing woman, and a beautiful home I designed. In that attachment to what was, I got lost and fucked it all up. I killed a career, a marriage, and ran from my problems with distraction after distraction.

The other attachment that was keeping me in pain was the attachment to this future life I was supposed to be building. The relationship, house, family, and career that others would see from the outside and clearly know how great I was doing. It was a show. I was living attached to an old ghost of a reality that didn’t connect with me any longer. That stability of life that I was used to seeing in my family, friends, and peers at that time was built for more external validation than it was for myself. That attachment to being seen as “successful” by the standard metrics of income, home, vacations, and materialistic bullshit wasn’t what I was called to any longer. That attachment to the 13-year relationship, house, vehicles, pool, etc., kept me suffering. I was living inauthentically to what my soul needed.

It was my father’s early death that rang that bell inside me that I haven’t been able to quiet since. It isn’t the fear of death but the acceptance of it. I don’t know how many days I have left to pursue my dreams, but every day I wake up, I know it’s one less of a finite number of days I have. This is that fire I feel every day now. Learning to distance myself from those attachments to listen to what I needed internally changed everything for me.

This attachment to something is now front and center, and I pay attention to it. Where am I in my way? Where am I letting things, people, and society pull me off my path? Why have I become more comfortable living for someone else instead of pushing myself toward the things that set my soul on fire?

What are the things that light up my soul the most?

Adventures in new places. Places that literally alter my perspective of this reality. Times where I am so immersed I lose the noise trying to let the past or future steal the beauty of now. It’s when I am in that new state I feel completely present.

Physical challenges of any variety have always brought me to the present moment. The moments from competing that still hit home are those times when I knew. THIS IS THE MOMENT. It’s that walking around before a final throw at the world championships I needed to win. That is ultimate focus. Ultimate trust in myself to perform at my best when it counts. These are moments I feel like the best version of myself, showing up in full fuck yes for the instant at hand.

Intimate connections bring me to that place of present. Don’t confuse intimate with sexual; they are not the same, however, they can overlap. One is not required for the other. It’s in those times of intimate conversation where we are fully present, honest, and connected that I long for.

It’s in the present we are free to be. In the present, we are free of anxiety or depression; those feelings are attached to the future or past. It’s being in flow with the universe. I’m sure you’re familiar with flow state. If not, check out works by Steven Kotler.

I’m not trying to cut all attachment. I’m not pursuing these Eastern ideas with the desperation of needing to live at a monastery and sell all my worldly possessions. I want the awareness of when they are holding me back and starting to own the choices I make. I refer to this as giving them a vote on the direction I go. If something is getting a vote on the direction of my life and it’s pulling me out of alignment from pursuing my life, it has to go.

About a year ago, I shaved my full face for the first time in six years. I started growing a beard when I got injured. This grand idea of going into the wilderness like Rocky preparing for Drago. I’d return stronger and more ready for battle than before. I’d shave that beard off and return to reclaim the athletic glory I was attached to. Well, as you know, that return never came, and the beard stayed. It was a safety blanket I used for various reasons. The most important is I no longer looked like the version of me I used to be. I started to notice that I flinched at the idea of shaving. There was part of my character or avatar that was having a beard. It was getting too much of a vote. I’m not letting fear or what was choose the facial hair style I live with. I don’t want to hide any longer. I want to be free to be who I want to become.

Building awareness around attachment will help you become more present. What are the times that you felt the most present in your life?

How can you dissect that experience to see what brings you to that place?

Through more and more study of Eastern philosophy, I discovered meditation, manifestation, and mantras to help me return back to the present and regain the proper perspective I want. These practices help me keep my compass pointed where I want to go.

July 08, 2024