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Jul 3 6 min read

The Dark Art of Questioning Everything


Or, why simplicity is bliss.

. . .

I think about white women who do yoga a lot. I dont mean this in a
fetish sense: I mean this very quizzically.

I went to a yoga studio one time. There were about 30 of us there


about 28 of whom were women. We were all white. I havent been
back it didnt take.

This isnt a think-piece about the cultural blindness that comes when an
ancient Eastern spiritual art gets recontextualized and reappropriated
as a fashionable fitness craze. No, thats been done before, and its been
done better. But I would like to discuss what people get out of it.

From two separate academic surveys in 2013 and 2014:


More than 90 percent of people come to yoga for flexibility, stress relief,
health, and physical fitness. But, for most people, their primary reason for
doing yoga will change. Two-thirds of yoga students and 85 percent of
yoga teachers have a change of heart regarding why they do yoga
most often changing to spirituality or self-actualization, a sense of fulfill-
ing their potential. Yoga oers self-reflection, the practice of kindness and
self-compassion, and continued growth and self-awareness.

Its interesting to see this laid out in so few words, in a Western con-
text, and juxtapose the practice of yoga with its roots. The modern mys-
tics appear to be finding the same sort of peace, flexibility,
enlightenment, purity and spiritual growth as was intendedin spite
of largely whitewashing and westernizing the practice from its origins. I
am going to use this as a framework to talk about how people can get
more out of life, despite a bunch of other peopleahem, people like
melooking at them and wondering why theyre doing it all wrong.

. . .

I remember the day I hit the eject button on my life. April 1, 2001.
See, up until that day, I didnt do a fair amount of questioning. I
knew who I was. I knew what I wanted. I believed in the Catholic fa-
ther, son and holy spirit. I adhered to the Ten Commandments. I knew I
would attend Syracuse University. I wanted to be a sportscaster. I had
the idyllic high school sweetheart girlfriend who I would marry after
college. I woke up most mornings and ran, lifted weights in the after-
noon, studied in the evening, snuck shots of Cuervo in at night. I
pledged a fraternity. I bought Abercrombie shirts. I had a puka-shell
necklace, an Anna Kournikova poster and frosted tips. I listened to both
Creed AND Dave Matthews Band. I didnt know it at the time, but I was
a total (to borrow from the lexicon of that time) poserI was doing
what I thought I *should* be doing, and I was doing it pretty well for a
while.

I started noticing cracks in my psyche early in 2001. I started openly


questioning my faith in god, my career path, my relationships, right
from wrong, sex vs love, sobriety vs edginess, conservative vs liberal,
whether or not Nickelback was really the next great legendary rock
band. I started getting very anxious around people, I stopped going to
class, I started smoking weed, I started pushing my limits around what
I could get away with. I never asked myself why my behavior changed
then. I just started questioning everything. The day, April 1, 2001, was
the day I decided to leave the path I was onmy career, my school, my
girlfriend, my morals, my religion, Nickelbackand, as is customary
among single white men who never really mature past adolescence,
and have watched their former friends and classmates settle down and
make families, I became a wandering bullshit artist of enlightenment
and alternative thinking. I got laid a lot. I got drunk even more often.
And I asked myself, all the time, Why are you like this? I have my an-
swers. I dont necessarily like them. And thats another post for another
day.

. . .

I m one of those people who openly wonders, What else is


there? Or, Is this all that there is? And I know from talking to
you that a lot of you probably do, too. (I know from the sudden uptick in
readership on the ol blog that this is more common around the world than
I thought. Hashtag humblebrag.) The answers to these questions, ulti-
mately, are as varied as the people who ask them, even if they should
be simple yes or no. People are complex. So are questions. And so I
spent time trying to find the answers to them.

Inot all that long agoonce had everything I wanted. And I was
happy, but I still couldnt silence the the inner voice asking Is this all
that there is? To get to the heart of that, I spent the entire past year
looking inward, becoming more insular, more quizzical, more intro-
spective. (And a LOT more narcissistic, as if I needed more of THAT.) I
wrote a lot. I thought a lot. And I lost a lot. I found no answers. Only
anxiety that, if I couldnt be satisfied now, with what felt like every-
thing (after spending a healthy amount of time with next to nothing),
then I suppose Id be doomed to live a life spent aimlessly wandering
from place to place, person to person, thing to thing, looking for the
else, or the all. If youve seen me in the past year, and seen the way
I have visibly deteriorated, you know beyond a shadow of a doubt I
didnt find that else or all. I always had somewhere else to go, or
somewhere else to visit in the recesses of my own brain. It led me into a
lengthy all-consuming darkness, where it truly became impossible to
find anything.

If I could oer any adviceand, this is hard-earned more from pushing


myself to the limits of my sanity and health than from runaway success
it is this: Just keep showing up. Dont drop o the face of the Earth
or wander the ends of it looking for the what else, you likely wont
find it.

The truly great peoplethe ones who are happy and fulfilled and full
of lifejust go where theyre invited. They look outward. They see
needs and fill them. They see people and laugh with them. They see
problems and solve them. They show up. And they do it every damn
day, only briefly considering their options, but knowing that NOT show-
ing up isnt going to be one of them.

If you stay in the same room, the same doors will open. If you walk
through those doors into new rooms, new doors will open. This is how
you get someplace. By walking through the doors that are open to you,
and scanning the room for other interesting open doors, instead of re-
lentlessly searching to keys for the ones that are locked. This may
sound like its path of least resistance, but if youve ever heard anyone
say In the time it took you to look for the remote control you couldve
gotten up and changed the channel you realize thats not true. Show
up. Go places. Dont let the lack of an itinerary scare you into staying
home. Sure, you may not do what you expect, or get what you came
for, or catch your big break, but youll get the more out of life. Some-
times, even the basic, whitewashed version of yoga is enough to get the
full benefits of the real, deeper thing. You can still question things, but
if you begin skipping out on life to question it, you have already begun
to die.

And so the answer to Is this all that there is? Is a simple yes. This is it.
You can either make the best of it, or go out and search for something
that cant be found, something that only exists just outside of the realm
of your reach, somewhere in the darkness, somewhere you probably
dont want to be. The ones who havent left you will meet you back
here in the light. And theyll be willing to open doors again for you, if
youre willing to walk through them.

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