Reading

Run Free: The Paradox of Cultivating True Freedom

Run free.

I've been thinking about freedom & liberation a lot lately.

It's a dense & complex subject. In yogic philosophy it is referred to as Moksha, or freedom from ignorance.

Freedom is one of my highest personal values. In all its infinite forms. Freedom to choose the people we spend our time & energy with. Freedom to choose our work -- what we put our physical, mental, emotional & spiritual energy into. Freedom to express ourselves with power & authenticity.

Ultimately, what I want & choose daily is freedom to live a life that has heart & meaning.

But how can we have this freedom & liberation if we do not know ourselves?

Self-knowledge is the key to liberation. Without it we are lost to ourselves and lost to the world.

And in both cases we are left useless. Useless to ourselves because we are chained to a life that doesn't reflect our true inner desires & values. And in turn we are useless to others because if we cannot serve & lead our Self then how can we ever do that with lasting impact for others?

The answer is we cannot.

Nonetheless, self-knowledge is an ever unfolding lifelong process. It is not something you achieve and then you never have to work on it again. It is an integral part of our daily quest.

And here is the kicker:

If we truly want to cultivate self-knowledge & self-actualization. If we truly want to be free. Then we must create & hold ourselves to empowering boundaries & restraints. This is the paradox of true freedom.

 

It seems so paradoxical that we must have boundaries & restraints to achieve true freedom & liberation. But that is the lay of life. It is constantly brimming with paradox.

We must choose physical activity & emotional development over sloth & hatred. Laziness & unchecked darker emotions are easy. Choosing & cultivating physical & emotional fitness requires restraint from the easy path & boundaries that call forth our highest selves.

How easy is it to lash back in anger when someone says or does something that doesn't sit well with us?

How much easier is it so sit on the couch and watch some TV versus getting out of the house to take a hike, hit the gym or even take a walk around the neighborhood?

Furthermore, it takes powerful boundaries to choose health-affirming substances to put into our bodies & minds in a world that is constantly programming & encouraging us through all media channels to poison ourselves with information, food, alcohol & drugs.

Over-consuming is not freedom when you are left with a body that is too heavy & lacking energy, a mind that is screaming in anxiety, a fearful heart & a dwindling spirit.

We must actively pursue self-study, meditation & prayer. For these to occur we must create containers in which they can flourish. This takes vigilant effort in a world addicted to information & convenience.

It requires a powerful stand to turn within when we live in a world that is constantly pulling for our outward focus. Yet we must do it if we are to grow our mental & spiritual capacity.

Powerful boundaries & restraints that are consciously & proactively built into our life to foster ever deepening self-knowledge will set us free.

Self-dominion is the true path to freedom, liberation & self-actualization.

As we find our Self. We find our place in the world. As we serve our Self. We serve the world & its people.

And that is freedom running at full speed.


Some of my current constraints, restraints & boundaries that empower my true freedom:

  • Food Journaling: I log my food every day for everything I consume and have been doing so since September of 2013. How it empowers my freedom:

    • It encourages me to be mindful of what and how much I am eating while still allowing me to enjoy all foods (including ice cream, cookies, pizza, etc.)

    • This practice has lead me to be in the best shape of my life year-round. Being able to take my shirt off and feel good in body is one of the most liberating feelings.

    • This constraint frees me from using food like a drug (which I did for most of my life) and it keeps me from abusing my body with over-consumption.

    • Feel free to add me as a friend on MyFitnessPal if you want to see what I eat (my food diary is public).

  • Meditation: I have been meditating every day and have been since April of 2015 without missing single a day. How it empowers my freedom:

    • Meditation has been used throughout all time and all civilizations to cultivate self-knowledge. It is one of the tried & true paths to Self liberation. More on meditation here.

    • My meditation practice is the foundation & platform upon which I build my entire life. Each day of meditation makes the foundation a little wider and a little deeper.  You can't build a skyscraper that reaches the stars without an incredibly strong foundation. In truth, you can't even build a solid & reliable 1-story house without a foundation.

  • Sobriety: I have been sober from marijuana & other harder drugs since February of 2013 and sober from alcohol since September of 2014. How it empowers my freedom:

    • For over a decade I was a slave to alcohol. My entire life revolved around the consumption of it. This led to even deeper enslavement to marijuana, adderrall & worse for over 5-years. During my addiction I thought I was free, but in truth I was chained to a life that required substances for me to be even be remotely happy or excited about life.

    • It took me a few years to remember how to have fun without drugs & alcohol but I finally woke up! And I feel like a kid again! As a child everything was magical and I had so much fun living life with a sense of wonder and I didn't need any drugs to get into that blissful state. I've rediscovered that super-power and I'm literally constantly high on life! This is ultimate freedom to me!

    • Vibing with my sobriety & high on life existence...? Here's a live video I filmed recently about it!

  • Physical Training: I am predominantly a bodybuilder & yogi but I also walk, hike, bike, rollerblade & trampoline weekly along with other forms of movement (swimming, frisbee, fitness classes, massage, etc.). How this empowers my freedom:

    • This is self-knowledge at the primal level. Knowing your body is knowing your Self. This daily practice removes ignorance & encourages connection to Self.

    • Training my body trains my mind, emotions and even my spirit. Being fit in all major life areas is a high form of liberation.

  • Reading/Listening: Every day I read & listen to empowering knowledge. How this empowers my freedom:

    • You are what you consume. If you consume empowering material you become empowered. If you consume garbage your life becomes garbage.

    • This practice is one of my major keys that keeps me constantly healing, growing & transforming.

  • Creating/Sharing In Service: Everyday I try to create something that will empower another life. Whether it's a blog post, a video, Facebook update, Instagram or creating an experience in-person with someone I always try to live from the guiding question: "Is what I am doing empowering & of service to others?" How this empowers my freedom:

    • Being of service in a way that I am authentically & personally passionate about is easily one of the best ways to get high on life for me. Each time I do it I am filled with an incredible energy & sense of satisfaction that I cannot seem to get any other way.

Alchemical Opportunity For The Reader:

What are the constraints, restraints & boundaries that you can proactively create & cultivate in your life now to truly give you the life of freedom you desire & deserve?

Leave me a comment below, send me an email or tweet me with your answer!

In alchemy & service,

Justin David Carl 🌒


END NOTES:

  1. Originally this was an Instagram post that ended up being too long so I only posted part of it. It was inspired by one of my amazing yoga teachers, Hana Raftery, after receiving her class/teaching focused on Moksha on Independence Day (July 4th).
  2. Photos by Noelle Johnson.

 

    Books That Radically Transformed My Life

    Reading is one of the things that brings me the most joy in life.

    Reading also happens to be one of the most transformational growth-inducing activities I do daily.

    I've been thinking about putting together a list of books that have radically transformed my life for the better for a long time.

    I finally realized that I may as well start because I will never be done. And I can always come back & update this as I see fit.

    Special note: This is a living-resource that I will continuously curate so don't feel the need to go through all of these as fast as possible. Just pick one book that catches your mind's-eye, take your time with it and come back here for the next one when you're ready!

    So, without further ado, here are...

    Books That Have Radically Alchemized (Transformed) My Life:

    Creativity

    The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path To Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron

    Julia Cameron is one of my biggest mentors. This book was groundbreaking & truly life-changing. It unleashed me as an artist, creative & writer. It taught me to fall in love with journaling--one of the most empowering transformational tools I have in my repertoire. It also linked creativity as a pathway for spiritual communion. This paradigm radically alchemized my life in infinite ways.

    The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? by Seth Goden

    Seth Goden is a brilliant writer & thinker. This book unbound me from own creative suppression. It gave me permission to create & share and naturally allow an audience to form around my creative work.

    Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing & Life by Anne Lamott

    Anne Lamott is one of my favorite writers. This book makes me laugh, cry, reel with delight, soar in intellectual & emotional brilliance & so much more. Her writing makes me desperately want to write. Inspiring and great life advice even if one has no interest in writing.

    Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey

    Mason Currey showed me that art & creativity and the work that goes into producing it comes in all shapes, forms, sizes, colors, shades & walks-of-life. There is no one right way. There is a way that works for you. Our job is to find & harness our unique ways that empower our personal creative process.

    Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things No One Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon

    This book gave me permission to "steal" the work of others, combine it with other works in all fields & topics, and alchemize it all together to make it my own. Short. Fun. Powerful. Read this.

    Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon

    Austin Kleon taught me that it is not only okay but actually an integral part of the creative process to show your work even as your are developing it (aka before it's "done"). He empowered me to stop hiding my vulnerability & instead use it as a strength & pathway forward.


    Human Potential, Personal Development & Money

    Awaken The Giant Within by Anthony Robbins

    First read this as a teenager. Radically transformed my life for the better. Went from loaner & playground bully to powerful social force for achievement as well as leader in all areas of life (school, sports, family, etc). It truly unlocked my potential. Aided me getting to Stanford University & beyond. Re-reading again in my 30s and diligently studying & applying. Having same effect it did when I was teenager.

    Unlimited Power by Tony Robbins

    Same case as above with Awaken The Giant Within.

    The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons In Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey

    Foundational. We are our habits. Everyone should read. Also recommend the teenager version written by the author's son.

    Willpower by Roy F. Baumeister & John Tierney

    This book gave me an obsession with habits. Game-changer. Amazing parenting advice as well. 

    Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin

    One of my favorite books on habits & optimal conscious habit-design for your unique temperament. 

    Think & Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

    Probably one of the most timeless & popular success books ever written. There is a reason it's on so many incredibly successful people's must-read book-lists.

    The Master-Key To Riches by Napoleon Hill

    This is a lesser known gem by Napoleon Hill. Short & straightforward, yet you could study it daily for the rest of your life.

    The Peaceful Warrior: A Book That Changes Lives by Dan Millman

    Dan Millman and this book made me realize & finally "see" the woman of my dreams. For this I will be forever deeply grateful. It also happens to be a life-changing book in many other ways.

    The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere & Join The New Rich by Tim Ferriss

    I read this when it first came out in 2007. I instantly thought to myself "Finally! I understand who I want to become!" My vision was similar to Tim Ferriss with the human potential & positive transformation leadership, but with my own alchemical fashion-forward spiritual-hipster twist! Ten years later I am finally living that vision. Forever my deepest gratitude to you, Tim Ferriss for helping me understand, see & live my own personal vision.

    Psycho-Cybernetics Maxwell Waltz

    Read this at a super young age (thanks Dad!). Awesome book about harnessing your subconscious & building self-esteem.

    The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene

    Incredibly dense book. I don't agree with everything in it (in the sense of actually using the power to my advantage), but I can see how some people operate from some of these more questionable power-paradigms. That said, I strongly believe that having knowledge & awareness around power-dynamics is paramount to creating & protecting the life you do want to live.

    Creating Money: Attracting Abundance by Sanaya Roman & Duane Packer

    This book finally gave me the spiritual-connection to money that I had been seeking for so long.

    How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

    Classic. Another book that is on many super-performers must-read lists. No matter what field of business you are in this will be of the utmost service to your life-journey.

    Mindset: The New Psychology Of Success by Carol S. Dweck

    For a "recovering-perfectionist" like myself this book was life-transforming. I recommend this book to all students (those in formal schooling like high-school & college as well a life-students) and anyone who has kids or ever wants to have kids. This book teaches you how to learn & grow. It teaches you how to cultivate a learning/growth-mindset in your children. Powerful stuff.

    Grit: The Power of Passion & Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

    This book gifted me with one of my core-values: grit (defined as passion & perseverance). A great companion to Mindset (above).

    The Obstacle Is The Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials Into Triumph by Ryan Holiday

    Ryan Holiday taught me to "follow the process, not the prize." This led me to fall in love with the journey of writing, blogging, business-building, etc. It is also an essential book to pick-up & re-read whenever one is feeling blocked by an obstacle.

    A Guide To The Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine

    A practical guide to the life philosophy of Stoicism and how to apply it in our modern world. The amount of joy I've experienced on a regular basis after reading this book & incorporating the lessons within it has been nothing short of AMAZING! If you read nothing else, just read the part about Negative Visualization. It will change your life for the better!

    The Fire Starter Sessions: A Soulful + Practical Guide To Creating Success On Your Own Terms by Danielle LaPorte

    This book really helped me get clear on what success really deeply means to me personally (versus being lost to yourself by defining success on other people’s/society’s terms). Great book that leads one to greater Self-Knowledge which is crucial to living a life worth living for!


    Healing, Intuition & Spiritual

    You Can Heal Your Life by Louise L. Hay

    If I could only give others one book for the rest of my life this would probably be it. It taught me to truly love myself. Get the gift addition (I swear the artistic & colorful pictures empower the healing process).

    Prayers to the great creator by Julia cameron

    This is a book of prayers & declarations for a meaningful life. My Spirit is stirred just about every time I pick up this book & read from it aloud or in my head.

    The Four-Fold Way: Walking The Paths Of The Warrior, Teacher, Healer & Visionary by Angeles Arrien

    Life-changing tools & easy-to-read guidebook on harnessing & building within these four archetypes (warrior, teacher, healer & visionary). I grew up with this book thanks to my Mom. It holds a special place in my heart.

    The Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga's Ethical Practice by Deborah Adele

    Incredibly applicable way to live the philosophy of Yoga in modern-life. Super easy & fun read too.

    Voyager Tarot: Way of The Great Oracle by James Wanless (plus Voyager Tarot Deck)

    I've been practicing Tarot since 2009 to cultivate my own intuition & build deep self-knowledge. This is my favorite Tarot Deck & its in-depth companion guide.

    The Tarot Handbook: Practical Applications of Ancient Visual Symbols by Angeles Arrien (plus Thoth Tarot Deck)

    This is my favorite book on Tarot which is based on Aleister Crowley's Thoth Deck, my other favorite Tarot deck.

    Animal Spirit Guides: An Easy-to-Use Handbook For Identifying & Understanding Your Power Animals & Animal Spirit Helpers by Steven D. Farmer Ph.D.

    Spiritual Hipster incarnate. Yes I am! I traverse this magical world with my pack of Power Animals by my side. My family & friends call me "Dragon" and there is very deep meaning behind this. Want to discover your own power animal and/or develop your own totem animal pack? Read this book.

    The Book Of Stones: Who They Are & What They Teach by Robert Simmons & Naisha Ashian

    A key part of being a Spiritual Hipster is working with gemstones. I've studied this book in-depth for years and know I will constantly go back to it for the rest of my life. Check it out if you've ever felt the energetic call of the enigmatic crystal-allies.

    Women Food & God: An Unexpected Path To Almost Anything by Geneen Roth

    For much of my life I abused food like a drug. As a result I had an incredibly damaging relationship with both food & my body. This book was an integral part of the healing process. It was written for women, but if you have any food-issues this book will hit-home.

    Awakening Spirits: A Native American Path To Inner Peace, Healing & Spiritual Growth by Tom Brown, Jr.

    This book inspired me to go on a Vision Quest -- one of the most powerful transformational experiences I've ever undergone. The experience of the quest still continues to unfold its awesome power in my life every day. It also includes the teaching of a very powerful & easy-to-do meditation.


    Fiction, Fantasy & Sci-Fi

    The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan

    My favorite Fantasy series of all time. Bar none.

    The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini

    My favorite Dragon-themed fantasy series. Dragon is my main power animal so this series holds a special place in my heart. There are also Elves. Another magical soft-spot of mine.

    The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss

    Probably my second favorite fantasy series. It's not finished yet (only two books so far).

    Redwall by Brian Jacques

    This was the fantasy book that started my lifelong love-affair with fantasy (my favorite form of pleasure reading). I still vividly remember reading this during a childhood multi-day river-rafting/camping trip.

    The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

    This book taught me to trust the journey and process even when what I am currently doing in life doesn't seem to be leading me where I am supposed to go. It is, it's just in disguise patiently waiting for me to understand, become aware & embrace the journey.

    Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

    My favorite Sci-Fi book and the book that caused me to fall in love with Sci-Fi. Ender's Shadow is just as good. I like most whichever I've most recently read.

    Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

    I made fun of my mom & younger brother for about a year for reading "children's books" (how I ignorantly categorized the Harry Potter books). Then I finally began one and I was hooked. Read the first 3-4 books in about a week. That's how good it was. It also happens to be one of the few fiction series I've read in entirety more than once.


    And that's it!  For now... 🤓 📚 🙌🏼

    Do you have any books that radically changed your life that are not on this list? If so, please share! Leave me a comment (scroll all the way down), email me, or send me a tweet with your suggestion! 🙏🏼

    I am always on the lookout for Life-Alchemizing books and I would love to add your favorite to this list after falling in love with it myself!

    In alchemy & service,

    Justin David Carl 🌒