Meditations

It would be for me, what Tyler Cowen would call a “a quake book,” shaking everything I thought I knew about the world (however little that actually was). I would also become what Stephen Marche has referred to as a “centireader,” reading Marcus Aurelius well over 100 times across multiple editions and copies.

~ Ryan Holiday, from https://ryanholiday.net/100-things-learned-10-years-100-reads-marcus-aureliuss-meditations/

There is an insane amount of anecdotes, (his memories of his experience upon, or around, reading some part of the book,) tangential knowledge, take-aways, lessons learned, nuances of translations, … You can skim Holiday’s post and learn a lot about Aurelius’s Meditations. You can read more carefully and it will tip you over into deciding to read it yourself. If you’ve already read it once, (or thrice even,) you can read Holiday’s post and find a number of new avenues of exploration within Aurelius’s Meditations.

I did the latter. It took me three separate sittings with his article until I was all the way through. I bought one new book, re-read several pieces from Meditations on-the-spot to see what I thought [based on what I did to my book,] and what I thought [staring at it in that new moment.] But mostly I thought: “It’s impressive that he was able to write so many thoughts and recount so many inspirations and connections, from one book.” What would it be like to spend enought time with a book . . .

At which point I was reminded of my study of, Parkour & Art du Deplacement by V Thibault.

And then I realized it’s been over a year since I added a part to that series… (pause here) And I’m back after fetching the book from the book shelf and moving it to my small pile of books that lie directly on my desk. Actually, I think I’ll snap photos of all the pages and turn it into a daily reader/study like I did with The Daily Stoic.

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§25 – Fun days

(Part 37 of 37 in series, Study inspired by Pakour & Art du Déplacement by V. Thibault)

Chapter 25, starts with, “You are feeling crappy.” Why, yes. Yes I am.

I know how to train hard. I know how to play and have fun. I have complete freedom in what I do with my days. Complete. There is not a single responsibility I have which I have not freely chosen to take on; freely chosen in both the sense that I was under no obligation to choose it, and that I felt it was a worthwhile responsibilit to take on. Sometimes I train, sometimes I play. This shit? I’ve got this shit figured out.

Problem: If I’m having fun, afterwards I feel guilty because the things I’m responsible for are not getting done. Always. Every time. It’s a disease of the mind that undercuts everthing I ever manage to accomplish. There’s no point telling me that this thinking/guilt is wrong; I am well aware. There’s no point trying to help me get things done. (It’s not possible to finish everything.) There’s no point telling me to relax/unwind/have-fun. (That’s the space where the problem rears it’s ugly head.)

The only solution— scratch that. The only progress I’ve made is to give up on things. (For example, years ago I gave up on reading science-fiction. I gave away stacks of books and I only look back occassionally to doublecheck that I don’t miss it.) I just keep hacking and slashing and saying “no” to as many things as I can.

I’m hoping some day to be able to enjoy life, without the guilt.

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§24 – Recovery Days

(Part 36 of 37 in series, Study inspired by Pakour & Art du Déplacement by V. Thibault)

In certain circles it is said, “what was once your workout will become your warmup.” In my journey of rediscovering activity and play, there was a long period—20 years now, perhaps—where I was able to focus primarily on growth, forward motion, and transformative change. This made for a very long period where my workouts did gradually became my warmups. Certainly I’ve always had rest days; nearly 10 years ago, when I started parkour, it was all I could manage just to recover over the course of the entire week before heading back to the next hard training session. Rest and recovery were always in the mix, simply because I began my journey of transformative work in my 30s.

I’ve found it increasingly challenging to remember the importance of recovery now that I’m no longer shoving the needle of progress ahead day by day. Truth be told, I’m squarely on the mid-life plateau and it is time to take life more freely. Sure, the days of working every day for seven years on the house, climbing mountains, jumping on stuff, and doing things which cause police officers to say, “…and you sir, how old are you? You should know better!” are not over. (As far as I can tell.) But these are also, certainly, the days where spending a couple hours, every day, sitting still reading and writing is truly blissful.

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§23 – Learning a new language

(Part 35 of 37 in series, Study inspired by Pakour & Art du Déplacement by V. Thibault)

Chapter 23 is one of the longest in the book… it’s all of 2 pages, overflowing to begin a third. In it, Thibault presents the stages of learning and mastery of parkour/ADD via a metaphor about learning a new language.

Meanwhile, the local parkour community where I train, not nearly as often as I should, continues to grow and change. Long story omitted. These days, I find myself dropping in for an adults, beginners class once a week. A class, as it were, of the A-B-C’s, basic grammar and some short, simple words.

I’m old enough, and wise enough, to know that I can empty my tea cup, go to just about anything and find something useful to take away. And so I find myself faced with one of those kindergarten pencils and those sheets of paper with the widely spaced lines—they don’t want you to miss getting in between the lines and start crying. It’s the perfect opportunity to review so many lessons. To tinker with nuance, to fiddle with symmetry, to doodle without consequence.

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§22 – The forty-eight other guys

(Part 34 of 37 in series, Study inspired by Pakour & Art du Déplacement by V. Thibault)

Understanding community has always been a challenge for me. The first key understanding was that “community” is just an abstract concept; A community does not exist in the world as a concrete thing I can point to, touch or clearly delineate. Instead, when asked to explain community, I list things which I feel identify a community: its persistence, members’ unifying or common interests, having a focus in a specific physical or online space, etc. But when I really start digging in, it’s all simply interpersonal connections, behavior, communication, expected norms, shared identity, etc.. If that’s true, then functional interpersonal communication is necessary for the creation and continued existence of a healthy community.

My question these days is: What is sufficient for the creation and continued existence of a community?

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§21 – It’s all about love

(Part 33 of 37 in series, Study inspired by Pakour & Art du Déplacement by V. Thibault)

For me, what defines a human being is the combination of our intellect, our self-awareness, and our mortality. Developing the first two, and in particular becoming comfortable with the third takes a lot of time. It’s clear to me that there are seasons to our human lives. The best description I’ve heard is that of four seasons: roots, fire, water and air, corresponding to beginning, actively carving one’s path, learning acceptance and understanding, and finally wisdom. (This is obviously a variation of the four, classical elements.)

Frequently over the past year I’ve found myself thinking about the transition from the season of water to the season of air. What would the season of air feel like if I experienced glimpses of it from the season of water?

I believe I have an answer: Understanding self-love.

To come to grips with one’s own mortality requires a deep apprehension of the temporary state of our existence, and I now believe understanding self-love is the doorway to the age of air.

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§20 – Three words

(Part 32 of 37 in series, Study inspired by Pakour & Art du Déplacement by V. Thibault)

The idea of selecting three words is an amazing tool. A few years back, Yann Hnautra spent significant time traveling in the United States teaching, but also trying to get a sense of what Art du Déplacement meant there, to those people practicing. Off to the side, at most of the events, someone (who was not Yann) took little cell phone videos where people were asked a series of questions. The idea was that he would be able to watch the videos to get a different viewpoint than he would when running events and training with people; Little moments of private candor as it were.

I was standing, being recorded, when I was introduced to this question. Something like, “how would you describe your practice in three words?” Honestly, I have no idea what I said—sometimes I think I should ask Yann to find my video, but I’m terrified to hear what I said even just those few years ago.

When I started the Movers Mindset podcast I wanted a way to give each episode a specific ending which would be recognizable to the listener, but which would give the guest a framework to wrap up what they had said in their own way. Many podcasts have a rapid-fire section of questions they go to at the end. But I felt that would completely change the pacing; Whatever the pace of the interview was by the end, shifting to a preset, rapid-fire pace would be a jarring change. At some point it occurred to me to ask them for three words to describe their practice.

As the podcast grew, and the guests’ backgrounds began to vary widely, the question proved to be even more powerful than I was at first aware. Ask someone who self-identifies as doing Parkour, FreeRunning or Art du Déplacement for “three words to describe your practice” and exactly what you expect to happen happens. But I soon learned that the word “practice” is itself a powerful tool. Ask someone who self-identifies first as operating a school, as a mother, or as a community leader, and the power of the question is multiplied by their having to select words and unpack “practice.”

In case you’re wondering, I do have three words these days, and of course they are Vincent’s…

force | dignite | partage

They are in French to remind me of the global scale, (of the practice, of people in general, all of it.) I have a wrist band with these words on it. It’s black and the words are black so they are difficult to notice; It’s a reminder for me, not a blaring advertisement.

Two final points: The other side of my wrist band reads, “maximum effort.” My favorite answer given by a podcast guest is, “break all the rules.”

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§19 – One word

(Part 31 of 37 in series, Study inspired by Pakour & Art du Déplacement by V. Thibault)

What is it, in this sport or project, that moves me, motivates me, nourishes me—and helps me thrive and shine?

~ Vincent Thibault

What facilitates my flourishing? Today, I’m going to say it’s space.

Not physical space—although there’s a nice metaphor here about having things planted too closely in a garden and how that affects the plants’ flourishing. No, not physical space; I’ve plenty of that.

Perhaps not even mental space—I’m certainly buffeted about by the myriad winds of demands and responsibilities. But with very few exceptions, I’ve created all of those zephyrs. No, although I have left myself no mental space, I am able usually to create it on demand.

Most likely it’s emotional space. The idea that we need room to soak in the emotional experiences that go along with the reality of things, events, and people, and to do that with no specific “why” in mind.

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§18 – Start where you are

(Part 30 of 37 in series, Study inspired by Pakour & Art du Déplacement by V. Thibault)

The magic of confirmation bias is that everything I encounter seems to apply to the current situation. I incessantly, and to a fault, seek meaning. Not “what is the meaning of life” meaning, but explanations and reasons and plans and systems… all as a means to manipulating the universe around me.

Chapter 18 is the heaviest so far in the book. (I’ve read it many times now of course.) Whereas the previous chapters select a single idea that one readily finds within parkour/ADD, and unpacks it, this chapter points out that there is a large body of work and a vast shared human experience outside of parkour/ADD. Taking some hints from that outside space and bringing them back into one’s parkour/ADD practice, and into one’s life in general, can only benefit those of us on the path.

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§17 – Be that guy

(Part 29 of 37 in series, Study inspired by Pakour & Art du Déplacement by V. Thibault)

After too many readings to remember, I’m still at a loss to summarize my thoughts. The difficulty is that this is an area of my life with which I currently struggle daily.

There is a basic challenge-level to reality: There is a stone in my shoe. It’s time to mow the lawn. This bill should be paid. I’m great at handling huge numbers of these basic sorts of challenges. Unfortunately, the positive thinking of chapter 17 doesn’t give me a handle on solutions to basic challenges. …and I am completely swamped with these sorts of basic challenges.

Don’t conflate basic with easy. All of the easy, basic challenges I have under control; They are already done, or are managed by reliable systems. What I’m left with are the remainders—a pile of difficult, basic challenges. Things for which positive thinking still gives me no purchase.

I don’t have much of a grasp on this chapter. But then, that’s why I’m studying this book and using its chapters as jumping-off points for my thoughts.

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