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Stoic Wellness

Mindfulness is Truthfulness

Broccoli

Just recently I have subjected my past-time activities to the scrutiny that a reasonable man might impose on them. When thinking of the things I enjoy in my spare time I decided to categorized them into 2 main factions: Productive–as they promote either intellectual, physical, or spiritual improvement–or counter productive, which denotes the contrary. My hobbies included but are not completely limited to: fitness, academia, reading, surfing social media, watching movies or TV, and lest I forget… napping. 

Surfacing from the depths of this analyzation began to grow an interesting concept which helped me determine whether a particular activity was beneficial or not. The idea first came to me when I placed movie-watching under my timeful-mindful microscope. After critically reviewing all possible justifications for allowing myself to watch whatever I wanted, this is what I determined: Movie watching could fall into either category depending on the content of the movie. What I mean by this is that if the movie is thought provoking, enriching the knowledge of my culture, or encouraging me to think creatively, then it is productive. If the movie was out weighed by its counterpart (pure entertainment) then it is counter productive. 

This simple realization gave way to yet another interesting idea.

Though art and entertainment are usually held in the same regard, I find them to be of the same nature but entirely different in their causalities. Think of it like this: Cheetos are a type of food, and so is broccoli. Cheetos may taste delicious but are not good for me, and Broccoli is good for me regardless of its taste. In this example Art is my broccoli and entertainment the Cheetos. 

Art is the subtextual narrative that our culture portrays to its future generations. True art is always thought provoking, enriching, and inspires creativity. On the opposing side, submersing one’s self into entertainment that fails to meet these criteria is an act to escape reality, thus doing nothing positive for ones self. Arguing the contrary would be to say: eating junk food makes me feel better, so I can focus on being healthier….

There is nothing wrong with being thoroughly entertained– assuming its appropriation and content is valuable to its constituent, of which, that value is reasonably defined by one’s purpose. Here you find an argument to entertain even the most stoic of its consumers. 

So when it comes to choosing how I shall fill my spare time, the answer is easy… 
I choose broccoli. 

Andrew T. Ramirez 

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A Reason to Understand 


There are facts of life that are true, independent from one’s experience. This knowledge is called a priori in nature. 

2+2= 4

Math is an excellent example of this. There is neither a place, time, nor scenario in which this is not true. There is also knowledge that is considered empirical in nature. This type of knowledge is derived from your five senses, subject to variance, and thus not universally true– just true to you. The current weather outside is an example of empirical knowledge. One determines the weather by utilizing their senses, thus rendering it empirical.  

This distinction, while seemingly insignificant, is in fact the foundation of pure reason. The fun in this begins where the fun in this ends– so to speak. 

Let’s take science for instance: is the understanding of mass and its relationship with gravity considered a priori (universal fact) or empirical? The answer is empirical. Science utilizes experiments which require observation for their discretion. This fact, proves them empirical and not universally factual, but rather relatively contrived. 

To take a step deeper into this ice cold cognitive theory of knowledge: (Shout out to Immanuel Kant) Is the study/knowledge of the different types of knowledge considered empirical, or a priori? If one understands that observation alone justifies information as being empirical, and that cognition is absent of characteristics subject to human senses or observation, then which is it? 

Kant states the answer as: synthetic a priori knowledge. Rather than subject you to his rabbit hole of a definition, I’ll just subject you to mine. 

Studying knowledge itself has the purpose of extending the knowledge of the subject under scrutiny, therefore requires acute observation of observable knowledge and its self defining counterparts. The idea is intrinsic to itself in that a priori knowledge makes up pure truths, empirical knowledge manifests cognitively, and the study of both is useful in examining any such idea. 

Why would Kant or myself wish to share this? 

Because if you ever truly want to learn something, the only way to honestly do so is to learn about what type of knowledge it is you’re seeking, then maybe…. just maybe you can learn everything there is to know about it. 

Andrew T. Ramirez

Biased Perception

awareness

 

What if I told you that the world around you and the knowledge you have of it is not consistent with the world I know, or the world as it really is? This very simple idea—when nourished—has the cognitive capability to sprout fruits of mindful-nature. These thoughts, when prepared, consumed, and fully digested, may relieve the pang that comes with the hunger of human spirituality.

 

My life exists in my mind as I have perceived it. My knowledge of the world, which I see through a window different from any other, is confined to the five senses I possess and their acutely unique variances. You see the world through a different window, from a different house, in a different place entirely.

 

The window metaphor still doesn’t do this idea justice. It is too easy for one to perceive this metaphor superficially; as one person’s life experiences are different than any other’s life experiences. Well yes, but let’s delve deeper than that, into ideas veiled by the mask of our own perceived reality.

 

When a pen is placed on a desk in front of you, and you look at the pen, your mind knows how far away, what color, and how accessible the pen is to you. These known characteristics of the pen are a manifestation and collaboration of past experiences. This knowledge, allocated from collective data, is a cognitive response to your presence in the physical world around you.

 

Why is this important to understand?

 

Because every data point you have input into your consciousness has a uniquely biased perception, and most importantly, the data was available to you for processing. The interesting part of this paradox is as follows: the data that makes up your unique version of the universe is limited to what your physical senses can perceive, process, and conceptualize. Any other characteristic of the actual universe—that can not be quantified by those senses—are seemingly nonexistent.

 

Biased perception outlines more than the inconsistencies between personal views of the world, it elevates the actual reality of the universe to a new height of unknowing. Because these unknowable characteristics exist, and are in fact beyond human detection, then the only option to learn more of their existence is to turn focus inward. Mindfulness is the study of the tools used for perception; the same tools used to plant, nourish, and harvest the idea in the first place.

 

Andrew T. Ramirez

 

Time

img_5409As most like minded thinkers and physicists would agree, time is relative. Relativity by definition is having the absence of standards. Meaning that the perception of time is relative to who or what is quantifying it.

I would like to avoid stumbling through already brought to light interdimensional metaphors and examples of space-time. So rather than reiterating Einsteins theory of General Relativity, I think my time would be best used by explaining what time means to me biologically and it’s effects on my sentient existence.

Because I am a human animal living on earth and not zipping through the universe experiencing time in its vast differences through the galaxies, I will share what it means to me here and now. I perceive time not by minutes or hours, days or weeks. Cellular decay is how I think of time. In the broadest view my brain can muster, I determine the concept by apoptosis alone.

As a multicellular organism our cells die. Plain and simple. And through this phenomenon the concept of time holds weight and meaning. All living animals know there is an end, whether it be a human consciously knowing he or she will die, or an animal’s instinctual fear of death. It is real and it controls our lives. In a perfect disease or trauma free life, cells will decay and die in my body. (Actually they have already begun to do so. This process even starts in the womb.) Understanding this has a gripping effect on my conscious. The past almost becomes irrelevant, the future equally as arbitrary.

Do not feel insignificant though.

The present is where life occurs and the present is how we as people leave our mark on the universal calendar. Apoptosis says we are leaving this world and have only so much time in it, but a lifetime on earth is more than enough time to have a positive effect on people you share it with. In the present we find the opportunity to help one another. Every day is a chance to become a better person whether it be by increasing ones fitness, helping others, sharing learned information, taking steps in your spiritual journey, being conscience of your carbon footprint, or just making better decisions.

At first glance and through unfocused lenses it may be seemingly abysmal, but with a broader approach the concept of time reveals its self as fleeting opportunity. This is the driving force of human existence.

I just heard my microwave go off. Times up! I have to go!

Andrew T. Ramirez

A Worldly Juxtoposition

The relationship between humans and our environment might be a juxtaposition of the largest scale naturally conceivable. Living on a planet that is natural in its manifestation, with universal laws derived from absolute truth, we as its inhabitants have lived trying to defy or deny these basic principles– which ironically precipitated our own creation.

By eating food that’s not real, inhaling air that’s not clean, and believing in ideas that are not factual, we are the ironic equivalent of ourselves. We have successfully used the exact same tangibles–which originally contributed to our development as a dominant species–to manipulate, create, and befoul the world we live in.

But don’t get too discouraged.

On the other hand, maybe those same efforts applied to manipulating everything around us can be directed inwards, aimed towards human consciousness. If we as a species can create on a scale grand enough to change the environment, then who’s to say we can’t achieve a global revolution of mindfulness. History proves that when ideas are powerful enough–positive or negative– they leave an impression on the world.

I don’t want my existence to juxtapose the environment I live in. I’d rather be mindful of the relationship, in order to learn, progress, and be well.

-Andrew T. Ramirez

Inside Out

“Happiness is your nature. It is not wrong to desire it. What is wrong is to seek it outside when it is inside.”- Sri Raman Maharshi

Happiness is just a word. A word that describes a feeling or mood that is far from constant or steady. When are you most happy? When your bank account is bountiful? When you have completed or achieved something of value? How about when loved ones have been particularly nice towards you?

To me, all these moments swell and retreat like the end of every wave, rolling in and out on a gradually tapered beachfront: The waves your current feelings, the ocean your experiences, and the physical effects of their existence your psychological ecosystem. Instead of lying helpless on the beach and waiting for things to drift in to our existence and make us happy, maybe we should stop depending on the fruitfulness of the sea’s blessings. Conversely we can find consistency within our own mind by not looking out at the vastness of the ocean for happiness, but finding our well-being from within. This non-tidal contentment can be precipitated from understanding the cerulean complexities of ones self.

Different from your physiology, which is a product of external forces like genealogy, nutrition, and exercise, your mental health is self-regulated and can be dependent from external experiences. By examining each case, and finding lesson or value from every experience— positive or negative— you can derive some sort of worth from it intellectually, physically, or spiritually.

Like the sea, life can be cold, harsh, and unrelenting. You can remain beached and at the mercy of what it has to offer, enduring its highs and lows, or you can explore its presence, utilizing the lessons that drift in and out of your life to learn more about yourself. Look inside and find your happiness. Then everyday may be your tropical vacation.

-Andrew T. Ramirez

The Behavioral Recognition Paradox

human

 

When it comes to the subject of behavior, there are two types of people: those who are only capable of recognizing, analyzing, and adjusting their behavior retrospectively, and those who can mid-circumstantially identify the origins and subsequent causalities of said behavior. Of the two, the latter is probably what most would strive towards. Having the ability to recognize and adjust your mood–in theory–would mean having complete control over your mental health. Who wouldn’t want that, right?

 

Here is the catch– if one recognizes their behavior as unsatisfactory, then they must genuinely attempt to make an adjustment aimed toward acceptable standards. If not, then that person has indirectly made the decision to ignore logic, and consequently accepted delusion. Show me the person who claims they have never let their emotions control their behavior, and I will re-read you this essay. The behavioral recognition paradox begs the question: Is it better to be aware of your shortcomings, knowing that some of them will produce delusional behaviors, or would it be best to remain incognizant?

 

Ignorance is bliss, knowledge is power, and mindfulness their interface.

 

Andrew T. Ramirez

Teachers

As a coach I have the responsibility and opportunity to share learned information on a daily basis. I’ve spend countless hours explaining movement principles, and introducing/explaining fitness routines. People learn from me at the gym, but teaching isn’t confined to just one topic, one room, or through one form of communication. I am a teacher, and so are you.

 

You are a sensible, physical, audible, spiritual presence living in a world surrounded by perceptive people. These people, knowingly or not,  consume the information you express with your words, gestures, actions, thoughts,  and much more. Our brains are wired to associate trends. By recognizing patterns, we have the ability to adapt to our environment and culture. This unique ability ensures our reproductive aptitude, and thus our survival as a species. Derived from this ability, learned behaviors are passed down from generation to generation. A family is a unique dynamic of teachers and students. That family belongs to a city or town made up of other families. States and countries defined by these cities. The culture you have grown up in is just a living expression of past and current teachers, molded by knowledge, and sanded with time.

 

When you think about the day you’ve had thus far, what information have you taught the world? Students of your teaching are not just people; a fallacy most don’t take into consideration. Not only is your existence sharing information with fellow sentient beings, you are leaving an impression on the world. Like a hand print on fresh paved side walk, your existence, even after you are gone will remain. You have breathed oxygen, exhaled carbon dioxide, dined on fauna and flora, and will be consumed by them equally in the end. The world has changed, by whatever degree, because of you and your teachings. Your actions are just an expression of your life. Your life a lesson for everyone and anything around you.

 

Being a coach, I have a desire to learn, so I can share to the best of my ability. As a person I believe in doing the same. Living to learn, learning to live, teaching to teachers.

 

Andrew T. Ramirez

 

Value

Ironically enough, I learned to love learning outside of school. I’ll admit that my early twenties were governed by youthful vigor, and all of its indulgences. I am thankful for those years even today. But sometime soon after, a transition began. Whether it was natural maturation, or a manifestation of culture, the quality of my thoughts and motivation began to fold over like a quilt. It began with one corner and then the other; a slow and smooth paradigm shift. Finally, my quilt had been completely flipped, and new pattern revealed.

Of these life-altering ideas, the one that I have reconcile with most often is finding value in anyone, and everything around me. It began with simple observations and their subsequent inquiries. Before long I noticed this mindset taking hold in everything I did. The whole world was a series of experiences I couldn’t learn enough about.
A dancer’s pirouette became a poetic expression of control. I could see the years of practice through the fluidity of movement. Each aspect of the pirouette was precise, calculated, and executed with surgical precision. I have no dance experience, no understanding of what it is even supposed to look like, but I understood what was happening and I found value in the dancer’s movements.

Likewise I saw value in other things that I had previously not. Scientific reasoning took hold of my thoughts, along with religion and its cultural implications, and finally love and its interpretations. An author’s diction held more weight, an artist’s medium became more expressive. Listening to music was like meeting a new friend. And meeting a new person as exciting as opening a book.

Undoubtedly, perspective is the root on which value grows.
Taking the time to think about why someone is the way they are, or how something exists in the form it does will only inspire more questions about the world. Seeking value has brought excitement to everyday experiences. I’m thankful for everyone and everything.
The value they have shown me has helped my quilt become more comfortable with age; warming my mind, body, and spirit.

-Andrew T. Ramirez

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