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The way you define something limits your ability to fully explore it. If you want to be fully free, you need to learn to challenge your definitions of things — especially negative ones.

When you can see something from a different angle, not only does it make you appreciate it more, but it can free you from all the negative emotions you’ve attached to it.

In this episode, I’m challenging you to think about how you define things that happen in your life to help you become free from depression, anxiety, addiction, and suffering.

Here Are The Show Highlights:

  • Is suffering good or bad? The answer might surprise you… (4:04)
  • How you can choose not to suffer even if your world is crashing and burning around you (4:48)
  • Why money, marriage, kids, and knowledge will leave you empty and depressed if you don’t have this… (5:53)
  • The true source of all the suffering in your life (11:49)
  • How something as simple as breathing makes profound differences in how you experience life (15:35)
  • Why personality tests trap you and stop you from reaching your potential (16:44)

If you want to radically change how much control you have over your emotions in as little as 20 days, you can go to https://thefreedomspecialist.com/feelbetternow and sign up for the Choose Your Own Emotion course.

If you or somebody you know is looking to drop the ‘F’ Bomb of freedom in your life and break free from addiction, depression, anxiety or anything that’s making you feel flat-out stuck, head over to www.liberateaman.com and book a call where we can look at your unique situation and give you the roadmap you’ve been missing.

Read Full Transcript

It's time to rip the cover off what really works to ditch addiction, depression, anger, anxiety, and all other kinds of human suffering. No, not sobriety. We're talking the F-word here: Freedom. We'll share, straight from the trenches, what we have learned from leaving our own addictions behind, and coaching hundreds of others to do the same—and since it's such a heavy topic, we might as well have a good time while we're at it. [00:27.9]

Bob: Many years ago as the Zen story goes, there was a Zen teacher. Now he had a series of students there in the monastery, all of whom had come to learn what Zen really was. Now if you don't know what Zen is, it comes from the word Zen comes from Chinese. The Chinese word is Chan and the Chinese word Chan came from a Sanskrit word Dhyana, which is also a part of yoga and it literally means meditation. Zen Buddhism is a form of Buddhism that focuses heavily on direct pointing to the true self, seeing into your own inner nature and finding total liberation and freedom as opposed to other strains of Buddhism that focused on memorizing sutras and doing types of those types of other things. Now, this particular brand of Buddhism came, but as legend has it to China through Bodhidharma who we've talked about on this podcast, if you haven't heard some of those stories, go back and listen. [01:30.8]

And it came through him and all the way into China and then into the Shaolin temple. From there, people began studying and it eventually, it made its way over into Japan. Now Japan, it became very much embedded in much of the culture and so several of the main arts that you would see in Japan, whether that's flower arranging or calligraphy or swordsmanship or archery, they, they are heavily imbued with this spirit of Zen, even if they're not Zen itself. And if you'd like a good primer on that, check out the book Zen in the art of archery by Eugen Herrigel, who was a German philosopher who couldn't come to terms with what Zen was. He was trying to figure it out and went over to Japan to try and figure it out and had an opportunity to study it. But they pointed him toward one of these other arts first so that he could really get a sense of it. It's a fascinating book to short read. Definitely one of my favorites, to really glimpse what it's like from a Western standpoint to try and understand what these people from a totally different culture talking about. [02:34.0]

So there's a Zen teacher there, he has a series of students and they're all looking for this thing called enlightenment. What is this thing called Enlightenment? You have to remember that Buddhism, it came from the Buddha and Buddha is not a name it’s Gautama Siddhartha, you know, so he, he was a Prince, a King, you know, depending on how the legends go. And I'm sure other people have many more details than I do. I haven't studied his life extensively. But 2,500 years ago, here he is, this Prince who on his birth, some astrologer said he's either going to become a really powerful priest or spiritual leader or he's going to become a great King. [03:14.3]

Well the King obviously wanted him to be a great King, so he was locked inside of his castle for all of his life. The King provided him with everything, everything that he could ever possibly have needed in to make sure that he didn't encounter anything on the outside world that would ever show a frailty or death or suffering or anything like that. So he had a great life and then one day he was in a carriage ride and he saw an old man and he was nonplussed. And of course the carriage rider was like no no this is what happens. And then he saw illness and again the carriage drivers like well, no, this happens like people get ill, there's nothing you can do about it. He saw death, he saw these things and it troubled him and he eventually left home and spent years searching through all kinds of things to try and find an answer to the end of human suffering. [04:00.4]

Now the way I point it in the way I approach helping people out is to graduate from suffering. Suffering is one way to live your life. It's not bad. You don't, nobody's going to fault you for suffering. It's just that if you don't like it, you might as well choose something different. And so we've all learned how to live life in a way that we suffer it, right? Things are happening on the outside that we don't always have control over. But what goes on within us, emotions are created by us. Thoughts that come from within us, our actions even to a certain extent come from completely within us. And the more control we have over that, even including voluntary, involuntary functions like your heartbeat. And I know people who have control over their heartbeat to smaller and greater extents. And so all of this is within us and if it's within our capacity and you, my friend had a chance to choose, would you choose to live pleasantly or would you choose to live unpleasantly? [04:54.4]

Would you choose suffering and every day feels like a pain in the rear or would you choose happiness? Now I get it, I get it. Maybe you don't know. Maybe you didn't grow up like most of us in a home where somebody actually knew how to choose that they didn't know it was a choice. If you had parents who freaked out when the neighbor did something or when somebody at church said something or when the bills weren't paid or whatever else and you saw modeled to you, Oh yeah, when something happens on the outside, then that means my innards have to match it, right. And so I get it right, maybe you didn't have all the skills at hand. Maybe nobody taught you how to become aware of your inner state and whatnot, and so you might want to learn those skills. Those are things that we teach at the freedom specialists. [05:35.8]

Those are things I had to figure out because I wasn't raised. It's not like my parents were bad people. They're just didn't have this information on hand. It wasn't passed to them by their parents. Their parents didn't have it. Whole generations of people focused on the outside experience of life as a way to control their inner experience. Does that make sense? If I want to be happy, well then I need money. If I want to be happy, well then I need a relationship. If I want to be happy, I need to have kids. If I need, if I want to be happy, I need to be married. If I, if I want to be happy, I need to have this many achievements on my resume. If I want to be happy, I need to study this thing. If I want to be happy, I need to be doing these activities. [06:10.0]

All of that is external and none of it has anything to do with happiness except that in our minds they got hooked up somehow because we grew up seeing that, Oh, when he does that, he got really happy and Oh, when that happened, they were happy. No one team loses the super bowl. Are they happy or unhappy? The reality is their happiness shouldn't affect anything. Neither should it affect the fans. They got to watch a game. Maybe it wasn't an exciting game. Maybe it wasn't an exciting game, but your happiness is totally within your, your control, if you learn how to do it. So here's Buddha who’s Gautama right, and he's, he doesn't want to be controlled by this. Obviously there's a fear that enters you when you recognize that your life is fragile and you're going to die someday and there's nothing you can do to escape it. [06:53.9]

Let me repeat that. Obviously there's a level of fear that shows up when you recognize that you're going to die someday because everybody's going to die and there's nothing you can do to avoid it. You and I both, we're going to die someday. And there's a level of fear and exacerbation that comes from that. Oh no, I didn't do the things I wanted to do. Oh no, but what about this? And we start to search for control. We start to want to have power. We start to want to have influence. We start to want to be in charge of things so that we can pretend that no, no, no. I know. I get it. Everybody's going to die. But I'm in control of this. And without acceptance is a scrambling fight. And there's a lot of people that spend their whole life fighting it. So I'm imagining the gout to my head. This happened to him. So he went on a long search and fasted like nobody's business. He did all kinds of things. And finally he figured it out. Man, we don't need to go into that story today. But he finally figured it out. [07:50.4]

And he figured out a way to live in this life in total acceptance of everything that's happening while still operating and doing what he's out to do without losing touch with his own happiness and his own joy. Okay. So all these students now who have heard about Zen, who've heard about Buddhism for thousands, for thousands of years, you know, they come and they're there at this monastery with this Zen Roshi, the Zen master, and they finished their lesson, right? He's trying to help them see through all of their thoughts about things, all the ideas they have about what's going to make them happy and what things really are so they can get down to the very bottom of seeing things as they really are and not as they appear to be. Including seeing to their own self as they really are and not what they think they are. [08:35.9]

So at the end of the lesson, they all file up and he has a stick in his hand and like there's one across the room from me right here, right? There's, he has a stick in his hand and he holds it up to the first student and he's like, what is this? First student says, it's a stick. Now in Zen, you have to understand they have these things called Koans, which are riddles that you're supposed to meditate on until a sudden flash of insight comes when that flash of insight comes and you respond with that flash of insight, then the teacher recognizes it. It's not that there's a right answer is that the teacher recognizes the clarity of perception that you have and then passes you on to the next riddle or to the next phase of your training, so he holds up the stick. What is this? It's a stick. All right, continue to meditate on this gone next student. He holds it up. The next student, obviously sly is like, well, it's a piece of wood. Okay, and continued to go meditate on it. [09:25.8]

The next student comes up, what is this? This once was a tree and is no longer, continue to go meditate on this. Student after student comes up one after another after another and each one gives their own answer, their own variations, trying harder and harder. You can imagine what it must be like to be at the back of the line, right? I don't know if this is how it actually went down or if this is just simply the way that the story kind of came down to me, but student after student goes up and the kids in the back obviously frustrated and whatnot until we finally get to one student who the master holds up the stick. [10:05.8]

He says, what is this? And the student grabs the stick and hits the master in the head with it. At which point the master looks up surprised and both of them smile. Now take a second and consider that. How is that an answer to the question of what it is and I want you to consider it long and hard, but I'll give you a place to start and that is this. Your idea of what something is, is not what it is or as the way they say in the Tao Te Ching, the road you're walking on is not the road you're talking about. Let's be clear, the road you're talking about is a real thing except that it's made of all kinds of stuff that the word road doesn't contain. The word road is all your ideas about it. And if you and I grew up in an environment where we both were dealing with the same thing, something blue, right? It's my favorite shirt, it's blue and I wear it all the time and we both grew up learning that that color is a color or a hue or some sort of shade of blue. [11:03.7]

Then we both calling it blue, except that what if my friends sees it as purple and I'm actually seeing it a little more on the on the green side of things. Now, neither of us would know except that we're both calling the same thing blue. So because we're both calling it blue, we just assume that whatever color I see with response to that shirt is blue and he sees whatever color he sees, his response to it is blue also. We never really see the other person's experience, nor is our word for it actually what we're experiencing. Does that make sense? Now this may be a little bit difficult to grasp, but get this all of the suffering that you have in your life. No I'm not talking about physical pain, right? [11:45.6]

But even physical pain is created a lot by this, but all of the suffering you have in your life as a result of the ideas in your head about what needs to happen in life and what life is, and if you could get past those ideas, it doesn't mean you can't make them up and enjoy what that experience is like to look at them that way. But if you can get past them and see through them to see things as they really are, even to see yourself as you really are and not all of the things that you think about yourself, all the negative ones or all the positive ones, all the ideas and the identities that you've got to protect and protect your good name and everything. If you could see past them, there's so much freedom to do whatever you want with it. [12:23.0]

If you or someone you know is looking to drop the F-bomb of “Freedom” in their life, whether that's from past trauma, depression, anxiety, addiction, or any other host of emotional and personal struggles, but they just don't know how or wants some help doing it. Head on over to thefreedomspecialist.com/feelbetternow and check out some of the things we've got in store for you or book a call so we can look at your unique situation and get you the help that you're looking for. [12:51.2]

So some time ago I was out in the in the redwoods doing some more martial arts training with one of my instructors and we had a break for at the end of the day and we were sitting there, it was camping. So we were out in just in the middle of the woods. We had a break in the middle of the day and we were sitting there chatting about it and he started talking about breathing and we got on this conversation and he says, okay, what's a breath? What is breathing? And so my friend and I, who were both sitting there, we started giving him an answer, man, it's just a mechanical exchange where your lungs pump in and out and air goes in and out of the body. He says, good. Cool. What's another definition? Well, another definition is, and this is already where there was panic starting in, in my friend who was a lot younger, but panics. So not panic, but like confusion, starting like, Whoa, I don't know. How else would you say it? So I answered them. I'm like, it's a cellular exchange of gases in every cell of your body where carbon dioxide and oxygen are exchanged. [13:40.8]

Breathing is a whole body experience; it's not just a mechanical one. He goes, cool, what's another definition? Now my friend is completely clueless. I jumped to the plate and I go, well, breathing is when the earth pushes air into you, by the way that it's holding you. You don't actually breathe yourself it's when air comes inside of you because you allow room for it. He says, good. What's another definition? Okay, now definition for I'm starting to like…Ahhhhhhhhh. And he says, look, most people don't have more than one. Usually very unconsidered or unrefined thought about what a thing is. They learn one definition and that's all they're going on their entire life. [14:39.8]

They can't see it from any different angles, nor do they know if that definition is actually going to help them. He said, if you and, but they think they know what it is. But if you took apart breathing for instance, or relaxation or freedom or anything else that you may be dealing with, including addiction or a number of other things, and you actually, now his in his case, he used breathing. If you actually define them 10 different ways and with each different way you tested it out to see what you see, that way of looking at that term or that idea was for you, then you then would really know something about breathing. [15:19.5]

Too many people think they understand something when they only have one definition of it. If you really want to understand something, you have to see it from every conceivable angle that you can and then level to test it out in your life to see if it's going to be something valuable to you or not. So we're not just looking for understanding breathing, we're also looking for understanding breathing as a means of experiencing life at a better level. Now, this concept of multiple definitions of things and multiple interpretations of things is something that I work with very, very heavily anyway, which is why I had multiple answers and I think I was able to give him four before I ran out of possibilities or before I stuttered long enough to where he didn't want to wait for me to come up with another one. Multiple interpretations is a really wonderful thing because it frees you from what you think is really going on. [16:08.8]

Now in your experiences in life, you define them a certain way. We call them assumptions or judgements or interpretations of what happened, but that is your definition of what went on. And if you can see it from another angle, it's weird when you can only see it one way, you're stuck. That's it. You're stuck. But when you can see it two ways, you have a choice, especially if both ways are equally plausible. When you can see it 400 ways, you have a choice and the feeling of stuckness goes away. Now, how do you define yourself? Do you think of yourself as a really intelligent person or do you say things like, I've just always had a hard time in groups or in crowds and I'm really shy in front of people. Is that your definition of yourself? Oh, that's just not the kind of person I am. [17:01.7]

Oh no, that's just my personality. Oh, this is my love language. Oh, I took this personality test and it says I'm an INFP. Oh, I took this other personality test and it tells me that I'm a three, three, nine, five. Oh, I took this other personality kind of test and it tells me I'm a, I'm a red yellow. Oh, I took this other love languages test and it tells me this is my love language. Oh, I took an astrology test and it tells me this is my charts. All of these things are definitions of you. Are they useful? Are they producing in you a better life? And are they even accurate? Because I'll tell you this about all those tests. They're right. Except when they're not, you're not always one way. You're a human being with all of the capacity to be everything, a human being can be at every moment and you just choose to fit into certain paradigms. [17:56.5]

So I'm going to give you a story of a recent experience to help you to help illustrate this on a sort of basic level. And some of the root issue work we do. I mean, it's not just like seeing different definitions you have to like make sure that they're value viable and stuff, but this is the start. So for years I used to love watching musicians play. I still do like when they're jamming out on their instruments, especially when I can be with, be around them when they're jamming, like live when they're singing, when they're making things up or when they're jamming along. And I used to be amazed at the people who were really inventive with how they use their instruments, like the piano guys and Steven Sharp Nelson. I remember watching Steven Sharp Nelson with his cello and he's like banging on it and beating on it and spinning it in different ways and rubbing different things along the strings that make different sounds that his amplifiers picking up. [18:43.8]

And then he's running loops off of it and things was so creative to me and I was like, wow, that's amazing. And then I'd see John Schmidt with a piano and they took the lid off for one performance and then they were like plucking the strings and running violin bow strings across some of the nodes and then rubbing crumpled paper on top of it that made a different crinkling noise and then beating, banging on it and making drum noises in different ways. And then also playing it and opening and closing the lid and muting the notes, all kinds of different ways of playing the piano that just blew my mind how great of it was. And and then the other day, not too long ago when we finally got a piano, we'd been saving up for a while. We finally got a piano that we could sit in the room. And I love piano because music has really saved my life in many ways. [19:28.9]

Sometimes it's hard to process things verbally, you know, all the experiences we have in life. Not all of them involve words. Sometimes it's just feelings or emotions or, or things that you just need to get out and express. And so musical instruments have been really powerful for me, especially the piano and the guitar and then certain singing bowls and stuff. I really, I really appreciate certain tones and stuff like that. So we get this piano and I sit down at it and for the first time I didn't see a piano. I saw white keys and black notes, black keys, and I saw the wood frame and the hinges on things. And I saw the open top and I saw the pedals. And for the first time I felt this incredible confidence go over me. That was like, Oh no wonder people can play the piano in all kinds of crazy ways. It's not a piano, it's just what is there in front of me. [20:26.6]

And I've used the word piano as a definition. I use the word piano as a way to understand it, but I didn't grasp that piano is just an idea in my head. What was in front of me was a whole bunch of possibilities and I could bang on things and make different sounds and noises and beat on the side of the piano and create all kinds of creative variations on songs. And I had this tremendous confidence like, Oh yeah, I can play this. This is the confidence that children have. They don't know what a piano is, so they go up to it and they bang on it and all kinds of ways and they have a jolly good time and they beat on things and they love it and they close and open the hinges and they open the top and they stick their ears in and they have a grand time exploring what's in front of them without defining it. [21:11.8]

And that my friends is the same thing that happened with the stick. That kid didn't even bother defining it. This is what is this? The kid looked at it, grabbed the stick, whack the teacher with it. They both probably learned something exceptionally incredible in that one instant, in that one instant, because it was nothing more than a piano. It was, I mean it was nothing more than a possibility there and the piano was nothing more than a possibility and I realized if someone wanted me to play the violin, Holy cow before it seems so daunting, I'd have to learn all these notes in hand patterns and do all these little drills and stuff and now I realize, Oh, it's just a certain instrument that yeah, if you use it certain ways it'll break. So it was probably not the most cost effective way to do it, but in other ways it makes sounds and when held certain ways, those sounds become rich and powerful and when held, otherwise it doesn't. [22:01.2]

But there's no requirement by that accumulation of material that it has to be played a certain way. It's just a possibility that can be used in any other, any way, shape or form. Now the same thing goes with the human body and the human mind. They are all grand possibilities. Who you are is a grand possibility. If I have a USB stick, I can use it for any number of things that I want. I can use it to stir my hot chocolate. Now there are ways to use it that don't offer that or that don't open up the same kind of benefits as other ways. A USB stick, if I use it just through my hot chocolate, that's not what it's designed for for sure, but it still can be effective and at the same time, unless I use it in the way it's designed, that's something we'll talk about it maybe at another episode, but unless I use it in the way way it's designed, then I don't get to open up everything that's contained inside of it and all the possible bits of information and understanding and possible experiences that can come from using it in the way that it's designed. [23:04.1]

Meaning by seeing it clearly for what it is and using it in a way that opens up fully to what it can be. Okay. The reason I'm today talking about definitions so much is because those things control your life and if you want real freedom to be able to do whatever you want with the raw material of circumstance, then you have to be able to challenge your definitions of things. And in future episodes I have plans to take down certain words and certain things going on and that may be a word or a concept or it may be a scripture or it may be a story that you've heard and just like we've been doing before now taking down concepts and opening up different variations of ways and angles, looking at it that are not conventional precisely because conventional wisdom is just one way of looking at things. [23:51.7]

And I'm not saying that it's the best, the worst way or the best way. Only that seeing it from another angle helps you appreciate the first angle better and it gives you a choice so you no longer have to be stuck. When your partner, your spouse comes into the room and they're angry. You don't have to automatically interpret that as I did something wrong. You can also see other possibilities for it and so on and so forth. So this week as you're going through your week, your homework this week, if you're, if you're apt to take homework from a guy like me, is every time you have a thought come in your head, particularly the ones that cause negativity, ask yourself, what's another way to define this or look at this situation and is it really what I think it is? And therein becomes the beginning of some real freedom of emotion and freedom of options and opportunities and a whole host of other things. [24:41.6]

And that's it for todays “Alive and Free Podcast.” If you enjoyed this show and want some more freedom bombs landing in your ear buds, subscribe right now at wherever you get your podcasts from. And, while you're at it, give us a rating and a review. It'll help us keep delivering great stuff to you. Plus, it's just nice to be nice. [25:00.4]

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