I was knee deep in a rant that Sam, in true “coach like” fashion, seemed determined to finish. Although patient, I was beginning to wonder when he’d get back to training because I failed to see where he was going with all this.
But he kept going… “In the simple and uncluttered minds of children we can see truth and purpose. They know what they want and don’t let calculations of the odds sway their determination. Their mind is undivided and their eyes see only possibility.
When we look in their faces we are unsettled by their single mindedness. A child will stamp its feet and stand its ground. As an adult, you try and figure out how to appease the situation. The child doesn’t care. But adults think too much. Trapped in a jail of their own minds and afraid of what they feel and think. – or something like that. I can loan you a copy of Emerson’s self-reliance if you’d like. It’s eloquently put.”
I understood what he meant. “Being selfish is hard. It’s awkward to act on instinct without bowing or considering others in order to get what I need. But I guess I act nice and do things I don’t want to because I need to be in someone’s good books and keep my job.”
“Think of it this way,” said Sam, “Are you being unselfish when you act that way or simply deceitful, lying and conniving?”
That shook me by the shoulders. I often thought of myself as a straightforward, honest and kind person. Not someone who played games, but the truth of the matter was, I lied all day long.
“That’s what I thought,” said Sam driving the point home. “You’d be surprised how much bull crap you put up with and spit out, simply because you’re not self-reliant and feel powerless.”
Sam pulled a piece of baked potato out of his pocket taking a bite before continuing. “See the truth. Never worry about consequences, about others interests. Call things as you see them based on your instinct. Most people are too lazy or scared to do what it takes to be what they really are. It’s a surreal feeling to be pure, independent, and irresponsible as you look out as those caught in the web of the world of lies. It can be a little lonely too.”
Sam held out a piece of the potato to me.
“No thanks,” I said scrunching up my nose. “Loneliness looks like the option for me. I don’t think I have much of a choice anymore. I carry the shattered pieces of my soul in my body and mind. They ache. I go home after a workday with slivers that fester overnight. They cripple me as I get ready for work in anticipation of more self-denial in the face of more arsenic-laced human interaction.”
Sam raised an eyebrow nodding his head. “Yeah, you’re feeling it to be sure. In my opinion, self-reliance is the first battle worth fighting before you turn any attention and power outward to start looking at what others are doing wrong.”
I was there on a beautiful trail in the woods, yet, I was getting angry thinking about people at work. My shoulders hunched and hands tightened as I blurted out, “I feel like I’ve got my stuff together when I’m by myself but I lose it around other people. That vibrating inner iron string weakens, to the point of being drowned out when I get to work or get out in the day to day grind.”
“That’s because -” Sam paused, “Society doesn’t want your honesty and you’re eager to be a good boy. Society is a flock of sheep where everyone agrees to take out the edge, zest, culture and freedom and exchange it for emotional and physical security. They want you to predictably conform – and a self-reliant soul looks like a frothy mouthed wolf to them. The weak either hate a lion or huddle under it’s protection. Society doesn’t want you to speak in truth and realities, but pleasantries and customs.”
“Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string,” I said thumping my chest with my fist. I understood that I wasn’t insane and that in fact, I did not need another medication to numb the anger of living a lie.
Sam jumped up and then dropped into a Cossack squat to either side. The confused look on my face must have spoke volumes.
“Not normal behavior right?” Sam asked. “What’s normal? What’s good or bad? Nothing is good or bad. It depends on who’s doing the viewing. A rabbit being torn apart disagrees with the wolf that’s simply having lunch.”
The image made me wince, but I had stepped on spiders before simple because I hated them.
“Well,” I said, “I guess only the strong and smart survive the longest but we all die in the end anyway.”
“Exactly. To a point our laws ease the vulgar edge of life and make it comfortable. There is a point where it also causes the scent of our crushed souls to waft of the jackboots of authority. Be yourself everyone else is already taken is a hard quote to abide in if you’re scared of going to jail for it.”
My chest felt heavy yet mentally I felt lighter. “I can die now or in eighty years. I still die. In a way, this idea makes it easier to blow off confrontation without a care. Nothing will matter given a certain number of years. I only care about what’s important to me now – because that’s what gets me in the zone.”
That’s when Sam closed in for the kill. “So what’s important to you now?”
Without hesitating I blurted, “To do a handstand, pistol squat and run 2 miles in under 14 minutes.” That surprised me. I always thought that a million dollars or owning a fancy car was what was most important to me. But really, all I wanted was to enjoy the freedom of my fully working body.
“There you go,” Sam said. “Let’s start with those as soon as we back down there.” He pointed ahead to signal how close to the cabin we were. “When everyone speaks in watered down niceties, a truth speaking individual will stand out. You get the dearest supporters and most vehement enemies. But it’s ok to hate things. Not everyone agrees on what good and bad is. You must stand for what you want to do with your time, and you will anger some,” Sam said, “But you only anger them because they are supporting their own cause, which is their right also.
“Can I document and share everything you share with me if I give you the credit?” I asked.
“No credit required. Part of trusting yourself is knowing that your life is for itself and the world’s opinion doesn’t matter. Make life lean, and focus on only the things that are important to you. I’m keen to show you what I know.”
Something inside didn’t sit right for me. “Not giving you credit could be construed as selfish no?” I asked
Sam frowned slightly but only for a moment. “Why is selfish bad?”
I thought for a second but nothing came. Sam waited. Then after a moment, we just stared at each other until I spoke up.
“The only people that have a problem with me being selfish are those that aren’t getting what they want from me.”
“Ray, everything you need comes from within. Everything without comes from some sort of servitude. I know that for myself it makes no difference whether I do or refrain from those actions that everyone agrees are good. The approval of others means nothing to me.
It is a harder path to walk for you though, because out there,” he said waving towards Calgary, “You will always find those who think they know what you should be doing better than you.”
He looked a little reflective because it seemed like he was talking about himself now. “Living in line with the world is easy. So is living in solitude to the beat of your own drum. But to be able to live in society while maintaining your independence is most admirable.”
I stopped walking and I don’t know if I wanted to issue my own jab but I said, “You live by yourself in a cabin in the woods.”
“I never said I practiced what I preach,” said Sam letting out a laugh not taking it personally at all. “I can’t handle town life. That would take someone stronger. I decided on an easier game with easier rewards,” he said before spreading his arms like an eagle at the edge of the trail.
“You can fight, conform or run Ray. If you maintain things that no longer mean anything to you, then force is taken from the life you truly want. If you fight its the same thing. You’re so busy trying to change the world that you become them who are trying to change you. Just be yourself and the world will know who you are and what you stand for. Not that it really matters.”
I nodded. “I hate that feeling I get in my gut when I force a smile in company where I don’t give a crap about the conversation and just want to walk away. But I feel compelled to stay while my body revolts and twists in every cell as the anger grows.”
Sam pointed at me. “See? You know truth. Being calm is a superpower. You need a strong spirit to simply excuse yourself from life suckers and to bear trouble calmly, to disdain meanness and pettiness as if it didn’t matter at all to you. That’s true power because eventually you realize that wanting what the worlds wants you to want is ignorance. You don’t know what’s behind the curtain of public image. The pain, the anxiety, the medicated self-loathing. You come to the conclusion that copying others will kill your spirit because someone is already there doing it better than you – And that the only good that will come your way is when you do the thing you get lost in. The thing you’re best at. Only you can just do you, the way you do.
You are already it, and being your authentic self happens in the absence of trying to be a people pleaser or being swayed by public consent. Again though, watch those quotes. They are sayings of other people following their own truths. It may be that you feel called to be a shoe shiner that smiles fake smiles all day.”
We were out of the thickness of the woods now. The path opened up with only the odd tree and the full view of the mountain lake sparkled with promises of trout below and loons above.
Sam spoke staring off into the woods. “There’s no prize at the end and nothing stays forever or remains. Even the universe will collapse some day. Everything is right now.”
Then he turned to face me.
“This is why you must trust yourself. Not because there is something to attain. But because you will only be close to happy when you’re doing the things that interest you. Your ego is only satisfied when it is pursuing the things that make it stronger or ensure it’s survival. Trust yourself to be who you are now and trust yourself to do the things you want, that’s enough. You have no control now or in the future. You can’t even tip the odds. Just do you. Now. Get lost in living not studying life.”
The four steps of the cabin porch creaked under our weight.
“Ah!” shouted Sam pointing, “There it is!”
He plucked a bundle of drying sage from the string that tied it to the crooked porch railing.
I was puzzled. “The herb you were looking for on the walk was right here all along?”
“Of course,” Sam said burying his face in the herb to take in the strong odor. “Hear this Ray. As you get older, being yourself gets easier. This is because your hormones calm down so you’re not doing as many things to try and attract a mate. You’re doing less things to appeal to someone else for sex. You’re also more financially stable so you do less things to please someone else to pay you for work. You care less what the general public thinks about your car, your daily attire, the music you listen to.”
I stood there on the porch and looked around. “Everything out there seems to be one big, giant distraction. Here I feel like all my pieces are coming back to me.”
“You’re welcome here any time Ray. I’m glad you finally came out to see me.”
I looked at the ground thinking. Sam waited.
“Sam, I was wondering if we could go over those tips about learning a handstand. I saw you doing one when I pulled in. I think I really want to get back to the me I remember.”
“You know Ray, that’s exactly why I came out here and set up the gym in the barn – I don’t want to get caught up in the latest fads that require me to buy something, which needs more money, which requires more servitude. As all these masters drop away, I realized the things I needed to feel whole – have been there all the time,” he said pointing to everything and then pulling his hands back to his heart.
Sam continued, “Some strong people walk a different path from the start, but they are rare and that’s ok. Sometimes you need to do a little searching to encounter some challenges so the discovery seems more like a treasure – like something that’s been dangling on the front porch the whole time.”
He held up the sage and smiled.
“I’m not just going to give you some handstand tips buddy, I’m going to teach you how to do that and any other training you want me to share with you. I enjoy the like-minded company. First things first is to get a list of the things you want to accomplish with that wreck of a frame of yours and then let’s see what I can do to help you get back to your former glory with the handstand taking priority since you can do it any place and any time. That’s one less thing to keep you from progressing.”
And with that, the walk that started at the cabin, ended at the cabin. Nothing had changed and yet everything had changed. I grabbed my journal from the Blazer and jogged back to the porch with a limp.
“What’s going on there?” Sam asked pointing to my leg.
“I don’t even know,” I said shaking my head. “I tried to go for a jog and got a calf cramp!”
We both started laughing.
“Have a seat,” said Sam still smiling. “We have a long road ahead of us and it starts right now.”
P.S. If you are reading this, please drop a comment in the section below to let me know. Otherwise, I’ll just keep these writings as a journal for myself.