Fight the Good Fight?

victoryWe live in a culture obsessed with conquering…defeating the enemy…rising victoriously to the top of the heap.

I love the invigoration of a motivational message, song, experience, or movie…but life is so much more than that. A life lived fully isn’t one focused only on the masculine virtues. There is value in the quieter, unassuming aspects and in the supporting roles – those who make up the heap on which the “victor” stands. Without them, there would be nothing for a true leader (or an egomaniac) to rise above. The precarity of that position is part of the natural balance.

There are moments to conquer and there are moments to acquiesce and there are moments to wait and there are moments to move. Life is an amalgamation of those moments; your awareness of timing determines how you handle any given one, and the collection of moments determines what the sum of your life will reflect.

Timing is largely based on luck and self awareness. Since luck is that x-factor that’s beyond our control, we can truly only work on self awareness. Unfortunately, it’s also the single most empowering part of our existence that most of us ignore as much as possible.

We are culturally conditioned to eschew the muck – to sweep it under the rug – as if acknowledging what society has told us are the unacceptable parts of us would be more than our fragile sense of self could face or endure. And furthering the problem, we often don’t allow others what we don’t allow ourselves. That is a dangerous trap of sublimated, projected ego. We are taught we have to focus on the rallying, the battle cry, to survive. Keep your chin up! Forge ahead! Don’t look back!

But there is a lack of balance if that’s all we hear, and a denial of the carnage left in the wake of our assaults on the world. The truth is that fight-based living is fear-based living.

We’re stronger and more complex than that single-dimensional perspective. Strength is also defined as surrender – surrendering to what’s right in a given moment even if it means letting go, walking away, or putting another’s needs ahead of our own and giving our egos the backseat for a while. Maybe the timing is right in this moment to open our eyes to the reality that we can welcome and handle life’s ebbs and flows as they come.

Since it’s unlikely the majority of us will invest the money, time, and humility in therapy (actual talk-therapy, not prescription-happy “doctors”), we’ll have to do our best off the couch. Try these at home:

- First thing first, spend time alone – as in, absolutely by yourself with no other living creature to project upon (not even your pet fish). No tv, radio, computer, phone, or other distraction or interaction. If sitting still is too much then clean your house, do the dishes, get out a puzzle, knit, tinker in the garage, or whatever else you can do without having to actually focus what you’re doing. Notice the patterns of thoughts and feelings running through you. Try to step outside of them and see them as symptoms of your life but not as defining who you are. Pay attention to whose voices you really hear.

- Start using your less-dominant side of your body (ie, put your pants on with the other leg first), take a different route to work or run errands, change the order of your day just a little, stand with your weight shifted to the other foot. Wake up the side of your brain you habitually use less, and watch your general awareness in life increase as a result.

- Read the labels of everything you eat. If you can’t pronounce the ingredients, google them and figure out what you’re feeding yourself and your family. Check out this site: Try not to get defensive when you learn some of your favorite things are pure crap and are contributing to poor health. Be mature enough to realize that you are responsible for how you eat and the consequences are real.

- Stand in front of the mirror naked in daylight. Be accepting, be loving, be kind. Imagine you are looking at and talking to your child instead of yourself – or yourself as a child – and bestow the same amount of compassion to yourself that you would for them. Realize that there cannot ever be approval from anyone else that will ever be stronger than your own. This is an advanced level of self acceptance; take your time.

- Notice how you dress yourself. Does what you wear reflect your inner self? Why or why not? Do you always wear the same colors but wish you wore others? Do you dress to express yourself or do you dress to hide yourself? Notice how often you criticize other people for their choices of self expression; there may be a freedom they allow themselves that, in your own way, you wish you allowed yourself.

- When interacting with others, practice listening. This means being quiet, letting others talk first and longer, and not always getting in your two cents. You will realize very little coming from other people is about you, if anything they say or do is at all. You will also realize how much of what you say is motivated by the fear of not being heard, understood, or accepted. And hopefully, you will realize the only person who can truly hear, know, and accept you the most is yourself. This exercise will also let you see more clearly who in your life is genuinely present for you and loving towards you.

- When was the last time you allowed something to be wholly, completely, totally, unconditionally your fault? No “buts”. Could you say it out loud? Could you accept that responsibility without becoming the martyr or hating yourself or someone else? If you can’t think of the last time you were wrong, it was probably a lot more recently than you think. Imagine a river in Egypt…

Energy is meant to flow through us. We are sieves. If you spend your life focused on victory, conquering, and winning you are still going to die and not be able to take any of your spoils with you. You may have, in fact, damaged your essence and accumulated some very challenging karma.

Fight the good fight when the moment is right, for there are absolutely times you should be all in. But first, learn how to read a moment and know yourself. And when the time for waiving your white flag is upon you, learn the victory of surrender, for it will bring you into your whole self, closer to those around you, and more fully into your life – even if you have to buck some social norms or step off your throne to do it.

You never know when gracefully letting a door close today will be what turns you around to face the right one that opens tomorrow.



This article is a great summary of balancing your yin and yang:

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