Thoughts on my hobbies: parkour and theater

This is less of a lesson and more of a brain vomit for myself. I need to get these ideas out on paper. Hopefully you’ll be able to find some gems in here.

The first hobby I’ll discuss is parkour. I did parkour for three years, but sadly I have to stop this year because I’m too busy with school.

The main challenge with parkour isn’t the physical or technical aspect of it (at least for me). It was the mental part of it. One classic example is a two-foot jump: if you have a two-foot jump on flat ground, it’s no problem, but then take that exact same distance and put it as story or two up, and suddenly it’s not the same jump anymore!

There are really two main ways to combat this fear, which comes up a lot:

One way is to get physically charged up and then attack it with everything you’ve got.

Another, more subtle, but not unrelated way is to wait for a tiny window of opportunity where your fear melts away, and you feel capable of doing it. It’s a tiny interval, maybe half a second, but that’s when the jump MUST be taken.

The thing that DOES NOT work for combatting fear is rationalizing it away. You can tell yourself “I can do this, I’ve done harder stuff before…” but the fear will still be there. Talk is cheap. The best way in that situation is to just relax, and wait for the opening.

Another lesson related to fear is that once you’ve started a move, COMMIT to it. My worst falls were always when I bailed halfway through.

The second main lesson I’ve learned is that concentration is critical. Some situations like balancing on a bar are so precarious that one second of inattention can be enough to make you lose your balance. And this is definitely a developable skill through concentration on the breath for example.

My other hobby is theater. Musical theater and also straight theater. Most of this stuff applies more to straight theater and less to musical theater.

I’ve never heard of personal development people talk about theater, nor of the two being put in relation with one another. So I’ll share my thoughts on the subject.

I think that theater and personal development are intimately linked.

Because what do you do in PD? You develop then transcend your ego, who you think you are, your character.

What theater allows you to do is break out of these roles you play and lose yourself in another story. It’s quite cathartic to play someone else, to forget who you are for a while. It feels like play!

Theater is living truthfully in imaginary circumstances. And isn’t that what we do in “real life?”

At a deep level, acting allows you to see that who you think you are is ultimately bullshit. You can be whoever you want to be! I think that playing a bunch of characters allows you to feel more comfortable in your own skin.

One superficial benefit of theater is that you develop a lot of confidence in yourself and the ability to present yourself to others, because performing on stage takes a lot of guts if you’re not used to it. Also, if you play a confident character, it will force you to act confident, and you seeing that possibility for yourself will translate to more confidence offstage. And finally, it’s a safe place to try new stuff.

But it doesn’t stop there! Another amazing thing that theater has done for multiple people in my current group of close friends is it has allowed them to break out of their shells. I had one friend who was introverted to the point of just saying hello and that was it for the rest of the day. Now, after some time doing theater, he is way past that! I’ve had so many fascinating conversations with him. I’m not quite sure how that works at a psychological level, I just know it does, if you’re willing to give it a try.

Another point is about being vulnerable. If you can be true and vulnerable on stage, I think that sets you up really well for interacting with others in real life. And your communication skills, presentation skills, and comedic timing will all go through the roof!

And talk about being quick on your feet! You never know what’s gonna happen on stage, every night is different. I’ve had the experience of having a prop (in this case, a plastic flower) break in my hand during a performance as I was giving it to the girl. Luckily, I was playing Gaston, and the girl was Belle, so I just gave her the headless flower stem. It worked even better than having the flower whole! Rolling with the seeming punches is part of the game. And if you do improv, you get REALLY good at this.

Not only that, but every time you say the lines is going to be different depending on the night, your mood, or the moods of everyone else around you. It’s not so much an analytical process that you’re aware of, but after a while you get a sense of “this is how I say this line most truthfully right now.”

And at some point, when you’re really on fire, you just disappear into the scene. It doesn’t feel like an actor playing a character, you forget yourself totally and it feels like you’re truly in that situation, and the lines and actions just flow. I’ve had this happen a few times for a few seconds in the scene, and it was a superb feeling! I guess you could call it a flow state, but it felt more magical than that. Again, really subtle and not something you get right away.

On stage, one also needs a lot of awareness, and especially self-awareness. You need to know what you’re body’s doing, what you’re feeling, what you’re partner’s saying, how your line are coming out of your mouth, and what effect they’re having on the audience. You need to process a lot of stuff at once, again not consciously formed in your mind, but you must be able to pick up the subtleties of scene. You also develop mindfulness over your emotions. You might think that the lines and the actions are the only things that matter on stage, but the emotions, or where the lines and actions are coming from, are paramount.

All these things I believe can be translated into personal development: the self-awareness, the flowing with the situation, the transformation it can have on your character, or just having fun. 😉  Some of the best times of my life have been during theater, both onstage, and off.

Hopefully you found this post useful. I urge you to try both or one of these hobbies out, you won’t regret it. And if you found this helpful, please share! We need this theater-personal development idea to spread.

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Freedom From the Known, Krisnamurti

I hope you can tell I’m starting to dig spiritual books 😉

I place Krishnamurti in the same genre as Osho: both are Enlightened spiritual masters who present their material in provocative ways. Which is probably why these books are very popular among not-so-spiritual people.

Both authors deal with big societal problems in their books, saying how it’s a lack of consciousness that is the root of the world going to hell, and that the only way to fix it is for each individual to raise their consciousness.

Anyway, these parallels aside, let’s get into the meat of the book.

Krishnamurti is “trying to understand violence, not as an idea, as a fact which exists in the human being.”

He lays out how most people are violent, which, OK, are pretty obvious if you’ve looked into it: violence in jealousy, in greed, in relationships, and so on.

What I liked what how he even says labelling yourself as a Hindu or a Muslim is being violent. How? “Because you are separating yourself from the rest of mankind.” Any judgement, nationality, tradition breeds this kind of violence because it separates you from the world.

He lays out the state of humankind pretty blatantly: “We are afraid of the known and afraid of the unknown.”

In order to remedy the world, Krishnamurti, recommend knowing ourselves and becoming aware of all the stupid stuff we do in our lives.

How to do this? Simply look. Look at the processes, outer and inner, and come to the realization that they are one.

But, wait! Something I find very intriguing about Krishnamurti and Osho is that they both vehemently reject teachings and religions. In this book, Krishnamurti talks at length about why you cannot depend on ANY teacher to show you how to do this work, even the wisest old sage in the mountain you could possibly imagine. Why? Because outward authority cannot bring inward order. You need to know yourself for yourself.

Speaking of authority, he also makes a point about inward authority. Effectively, all the beliefs, dogmas, judgements, condemnations, justifications, ideas, and principles you hold will get in the way of clear seeing. To reject authority, outer and inner, will render your mind “always fresh, always innocent, full of vigor and passion.” In this clear state can we truly see.

The author makes a point about rebels, people that vilify tradition. In order to transcend society, we can’t reject it, because again what is it doing? Separating us from reality. So rejecting the world is not the answer, despite what many people wishing for a better world think.

I love what he has to say about this process: it’s an understanding, not an intellectual learning about this stuff. The difference is that understanding is always in the present, learned knowledge is the past. And coming from the past modifies how you see the present.

We also need a great deal of humility on this journey. We must start by accepting that we don’t know squat about ourselves.

The last point I’ll make about this book is that Krishnamurti’s point on the mind being conditioned.

The mind is a conditioned machine. It picks up ideas, beliefs, and never lets them go.

Have you noticed how robotic you are in life? Running the same patterns, most of them picked up from culture. Even the ones rejecting culture are just conditioned reactions against culture.

The point is to put less faith in the mind because the mind is of the past. What is past is past.

Awareness is now. It is looking as something in the present without any biases, beliefs, judgements, or pre-disposed emotional reactions.

Only with this tool, awareness, can we truly live from a place of wisdom, authenticity, and love.

So that’s all I’ll say about the content of this book. Just note that, like most spiritual books, it’s pretty abstract, but surprisingly practical at the same time if you let these ideas into your life. It doesn’t lay out the techniques, but just states that awareness is the only technique you need.

After all, what else do you have? 😉

The Verdict:

Pretty good book on spirituality. Provides a good basis for the work to follow.

Favorite quote:

“To understand yourself is the beginning of wisdom.”

Osho: The Book of Understanding

I’ve heard many great things about Osho. This is the first book I’ve read by him, and I found it full of surprises.

You could qualify this book as spiritual. I certainly looked at it from that point of view, because Eastern spirituality has become a great interest of mine. But you certainly don’t have to look at it through the lens of spirituality. I think what Osho has to say is pertinent to anyone in the personal development community.

There was one main thing that I wasn’t expecting. In this book, Osho talks a lot about the union of the East and the West, of consciousness and technology, of science and religion (he calls it “Zorba the Buddha”). Which I think is exactly what this world needs. The surprising part was the very extensive rant on religions as we know them: Christianity, Islam…

I wasn’t expecting such firm and critical views on religion from and Enlightened person. Probably my own projection, but I must say it took a while to get used to.

For that reason, it felt like this book was meant for deeply religious people. And I’m sure they could get a lot out of it. But, just for fun, I tried to replace the rant on religion for science, which is far overblown in our society. Osho talks about the difference between knowledge and beliefs. He has this great quote, “Doubt until the very end, until you know and feel and experience.” This goes for science as well as religion: don’t rely on beliefs: go with what is true for you. “If you think you know, you will never know,” because belief hinders investigation.

One concept that I absolutely loved from this book was trying to be ordinary.

Yes, that’s right. Try to be ordinary.

Doesn’t that feel good? Like a great burden has been lifted from your shoulders?

Don’t try to be extraordinary, that’s what everyone is doing. The ego likes to think it’s special, and because of this it creates suffering in your life. “Become ordinary and you will become extraordinary.” You will feel so complete, humble, simple, and free. Yet another piece of great counter-intuitive advice.

Another part I liked was the chapter on “response-ability” as opposed to reactions. Responsibility, if you break up the word, means the ability to respond in the moment, and is derived from present experience, as opposed to reactions, which are based on past experiences.

Like all spiritual teachers, Osho is big on living in the moment. Live as awareness, act like a mirror to the world, to your mind. You’ll see that the grass starts to grow on its own: the doer stops, but the doing continues. That is authentic living.

And now for the most exciting part of the book: sex. Yes, he talks about sex, and actually has some pretty interesting things to say about it. Sexual energy to him is the basis for all divine energy, and apparently you can achieve a meditative state which having an orgasm, and that will translate to growth (which I have yet to try). I don’t think he’s the first to propose this idea. His advice is to accept sex as a natural part of life, and to move with it, only with more consciousness.

Osho also talks about relationships. This part was kind of a big comfort to me while reading it, because that’s an area of life I’m far from mastering. He says that we have been conditioned to be afraid of the opposite sex, but there is nothing to be afraid of. When you think about it, it kind of makes sense: men are taught to fear rejection, women are taught to be wary of men.

But he comes back with this, which I’ll copy straight from the book: “they are just like you, just as much in need of love as you are, hankering just as much to join hands with you as you.”

It was very comforting to read that. 🙂

The last idea I liked from the book was his breaking down of the word “understanding.” It really is genius: when you meditate, everything “stands under” your awareness. Understanding happens on a different plane than the problem, than the intellect.

Which brings me to the core of Osho’s advice: meditation.

He says that meditation simply makes you aware that you are not your mind. Watch your thoughts, watch your mind, and that will make you realize that you aren’t them.

Keep in mind while meditating to:

  • drop repressions of any kind
  • don’t focus on a “God”
  • don’t think of it as something you do for 20 minutes a day, do it as a part of your being: make it natural, something you do as part of your waking life. Of course, make it a habit, do a set practice every day, but don’t think of it as such

I know that everyone will take something different from Osho, and that different people read him, from spiritual gurus to pick-up artists. It just depends on where you’re at. It probably makes more sense if you’re familiar with concepts like Enlightenment, but he has some very practical and easy mindsets to adopt that will work for anyone.

The Verdict:

Definitely good ideas in the book, which can be interpreted in different ways. Very interested to read more from Osho.

Favorite quote:

“If you express your being in your truest form, you will be rewarded immediately – not tomorrow but today, here and now.”