Thursday, September 29, 2011

Find A Place

(The inspiration for this post is Joseph Campbells The Power of Myth DVD - a series of interviews with Joseph Campbell that took place back in the late 1980's - which I highly recommend watching)

It's easy to lose track of yourself, you can end playing a role and if you play that role long enough it becomes who you are. But that part you play at work or in society may not be the real you, its something you developed over time.

In the chaotic melee of life you can lose who you are. Suddenly you've become your job, you've become the labels people put on you, but this wasn't how it was meant to be, this isn't you. It's time to re-connect with yourself, it's time to find a place.

"Most of our actions are economically or socially determined" - Joseph Campbell
If you work for 40 plus hours a week and then outside of that you have certain social and financial responsibilities you may not have time to be yourself. It's a persona you end up projecting for most of  your waking hours to allow you to make money and function in society.

That's why its important to find a place to be you. A sacred place, where its 'just you experiencing who you are'. Campbell suggests finding a place where you can seal yourself off for one hour a day, or once a week or whatever it takes, where you become a 'self contained entity' and have an inner life. It should be a place with no demands, no newspapers, no thoughts of who owes you and who you owe.

"A sacred space is any space that is set apart from the usual context of life" - Joseph Campbell
This space should have no connection with how you earn a living or your reputation. It's a place where you can find yourself again and again.

And what you do for an hour should be something you enjoy, maybe listening to music, maybe reading a book (non work related), maybe playing guitar badly, whatever it is. However, you may not have such a space available where you live, maybe you can't seal yourself off. This is where training, the gym and running come in.

If you work in a gym, then the gym where you work definitely isn't going to be your sacred space, because as soon as you turn up someones bound to say 'I know your not working but... my shoulder hurts, why isn't the sauna working etc etc'. The other problem with the gym as a space is that there are too many other people around. If you have your own gym space in a garage or basement or in your garden then this would be ideal. If your one hour training time is what you enjoy and gives you a chance to re-connect with yourself then this is your sacred space.

Henry Rollins states that he always weight trains alone

"I prefer to work out alone. It enables me to concentrate on the lessons
that the Iron has for me. Learning about what you're made of is always
time well spent, and I have found no better teacher. The Iron has taught me how to live." -Henry Rollins
 If you don't have a space to train at home then go to the park, or even better trail running. If you have no choice but to run in the city, then do this, at least it is sacred time. But if you can, try and head out into the wilderness, find the trail and run it or walk it. The therapeutic value of being in nature cannot be underestimated, 'the environment becomes a metaphor'.

In his famous quote about weight training Henry Rollins says

"The Iron never lies to you. You can walk outside and listen to all
kinds of talk, get told that you're a god or a total bastard. The Iron
will always kick you the real deal. The Iron is the great reference
point, the all-knowing perspective giver. Always there like a beacon in
the pitch black. I have found the Iron to be my greatest friend. It
never freaks out on me, never runs. Friends may come and go. But two
hundred pounds is always two hundred pounds."
The iron never lies to you. The gym tis a sacred place!

With a few modifications this quote can be applied to running as well. The trail never lies to you, its always there like a beacon calling you, even when you've lost your way and it seems so long ago that you were there and you know the first time you go back and and try and run it will be hard and it will kick your ass. Friends may come and go but 10 miles is 10 miles. The trail knows.

Find a place. The trail never lies to you. Brecon Beacons in rare blue sky moment

If you don't know what your sacred place should be, if its been so long since you've been yourself and you don't even know what you enjoy anymore then take the advice of Carl Jung and look back to when you were a kid, 'what were the games I enjoyed as a child'. If you enjoyed drawing or painting or writing or cycling or whatever, then do it, it doesn't matter, remember you are not doing this to prove to anyone else how good you are at it or for financial gain; you're doing it to reconnect with yourself.

If you don't enjoy it, if its not fun then quit

"Work begins when you don't like what you're doing" - Joseph Campbell
 Campbell suggests that you should be alone in your sacred space away from other people. Sometimes this is not always possible, but it is possible to get out of your usual surroundings, work space and home space. Coffee shops are perfect for this, you don't have to meet anyone there, just take time out for yourself, grab a coffee, take a book or magazine or just hang out and people watch. Plus you'll be getting all the health benefits of coffee - bonus! (unless of course, you work in a coffee shop, then don't do this).

So find that place and find that time, could be watching a dvd by yourself, could be going into your garden to do some kettlebell swings or driving to the nearest trail and running it.

Find a place. A sacred place.

"As an adult you must rediscover the moving power of your life. Tension, a lack of honesty, and a sense of unreality come from following the wrong force in your life."

 (All quotes are from Joseph Campbell unless stated otherwise)


Osbon DK (1991) Reflections on the Art of Living. A Jospeh Campbell Companion. New York. Harper Collins

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