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How to find the way

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Being sick is one of the circumstances in which the higher functions of my mind start to go dormant. I often feel like I can’t write about anything other than being sick, or some peripherally related topic.

My whole human experience sinks to the low end of something — some kind of spectrum. As it does, I get duller and less compassionate. My mind turns inward, becomes self-absorbed. My self-consciousness grows and my consciousness of others shrinks. Mental chatter increases and takes more of my attention.

Even when I’m in the throes of its dysfunctional lower end, I am quite aware that I’m always somewhere on this spectrum, and that I have been on farther-flung parts of it (in both directions) in the past, and I’m sure I will be in the future.

I don’t know what to call this spectrum, but I do know I want to be closer to the other end of it as much as possible, which I know from experience is more likely to happen under certain circumstantial conditions: not being sick, being on top of my responsibilities, eating mostly whole foods, and taking my time whenever I drink tea or walk across parking lots or do anything else, to name a few.

There’s a problem with the words “higher”and “lower” though. They imply that one direction is definitively superior to the other, the way gold medals are superior to bronze medals. I want to avoid that, for reasons explained below, even though I obviously think one end is vastly preferable. So maybe “north and south” are slightly less-misleading words to label the two directions on this spectrum. They have nothing to do with geography, at all. I just need some poles in order to talk about it.

I know I’m being vague here. There’s a reason for that. Traditionally when people talk about subjective inner states they wade into semi-spiritual territory, where explanations start to sound hokey and assertions become unprovable, because there can be no second observer of what’s happening inside you. In an attempt to describe your current condition you might hear yourself saying something like, “Wow my energy is in disarray today,” to which your hippie friends may nod knowingly and your science-head friends may roll their eyes. 

The problem is that once you model something conceptually — that is, give it a vocabulary and relate it in terms of a concrete analogy — we all lose track of that something and end up talking only about the analogy. So inner states have always been problematic to talk about, especially between people of different religions or worldviews. It’s historically been done with vague concepts and cryptic stories.

This stifles the whole conversation on this particular topic, even though the inner states of human beings really is the most important and relevant topic in the world, because these states are exactly what quality of life is made of, and quality of life the only thing every single person on this planet cares about.

We can’t ever have a proper scientific look at our inner states, because science requires corroboration — multiple angles and observers — and nobody else can get a direct peek into what your first-person experience looks and feels like. Psychology is supposed to be the study of the mind, but it’s really mostly behavior that is studied, from which conclusions are drawn about the mind. As we all know, the human mind is an utterly different thing when looked at from the inside, and you only ever get to see one of them.

Therefore understanding the workings of your inner experience is always going to be a personal hobby, if you make a hobby of it at all, and a certain inability to explain what you find is always going to be a part of that.

So I’ll try. This spectrum — I never really explained what it was — doesn’t quite equate with mood, or with happiness even. It has more to do with how reactive you are, how self-absorbed your view, how much you are in your own way, in any given moment.

This is how movement along the spectrum manifests itself, in my experience.

As you move south:

  • You become more self-conscious, more easily embarrassed, and more concerned with how you are perceived by others.
  • Thoughts have an increasingly strong influence on mood. You can slip into a bad mood just by having a thought about something negative, even something that happened years ago.
  • You feel more inclined to take thoughts at face value. For example, if you have a thought that a problem of yours is unsolvable, you’re more likely to believe it and stop seeking solutions.
  • Increasingly, you regard everything that happens in terms of how it affects your own interests, which means external events become more distressing and you become more anxious about controlling them.
  • You become less inclined to see others as equals. You tend to regard them as either better than you or worse than you.
  • You become more likely to wish for solutions to your problems, and less likely to believe you are capable of solving them yourself. You feel like a small part of a big world.
  • You become more reactive. If you are very far this way down the spectrum, you may even react violently.
  • An increasing proportion of your attention is taken by your thoughts, which leaves less attention for sense perceptions.
  • Cravings for gratification and comfort increase in frequency and intensity, and appear to be the only possibilities for fulfillment. You grow increasingly less likely to feel peace or joy in ordinary moments.

As you move north:

  • Personal criticisms seem less relevant to you and you’re less likely to react to them emotionally.
  • It becomes easier and more appealing to relinquish control over external events, particularly over what other people do.
  • You naturally put a greater proportion of your attention on the physical world around you, which leaves less attention for following your internal dialogue. Inner dialogue becomes less persistent.
  • Ordinary details of the physical world become more beautiful, and feel like they somehow make more sense, and you feel less inclined to tell others this. Private experiences of beauty make up a greater proportion of your day.
  • You evaluate external events more in terms of their overall good in the world — how much joy they bring or suffering they relieve — than in terms of your own interests.
  • You come closer to being able to accept undesirable events in real-time. You lose interest in talking about how the situation ought to be.
  • Other human beings (and, farther north, animals) appear more individualized. They seem more delicate, interesting, and worthy of care and attention. Walking among them begins to feel more like walking in a china shop.
  • Self-consciousness fades. You feel an increased willingness to let things be. Farther north, you cease experiencing yourself as an opaque object moving in the world and instead feel like a transparent subject through which the world moves. You may feel like you are watching the world without being there at all.


I don’t know if there’s a specific quality the spectrum reflects. It’s not important. The best barometer for your current position on the spectrum is probably how much peace and ease you feel during in-between moments. By in-between moments I mean moments in which you’re not getting what you want and not getting what you don’t want, which is most moments.

We move north and south along the spectrum throughout our lives. A swing can happen within a day, especially as a reaction to the arrival of exceptionally desirable or undesirable circumstances: major setbacks, major insights, major gains or major losses. You may be in one place one day and quite another a few days later.

It tends to shift in wide arcs though, like the tension in a storyline does. You may spend an arc of a year or two quite farther north than normal for you, if you’re doing something that serves your deepest values, or something that requires exceptional levels of attention or effort from you. You might have an arc in the other direction corresponding with a rough period, like a divorce or an illness.

But generally, if you have a persistent interest in personal growth, you’ll find yourself gradually moving northward over the years.

You move north by doing the things that seem to result, for you, in the “northward” qualities above. You only get a firsthand look at your own inner states, so it’s necessarily a solo practice. Spiritual golf.

For me, what has helped most has been practicing mindfulness informally, reading, simplifying my life in terms of possessions and commitments, confronting long-running fears, and writing.

You find your own best practices by trying things. If you never try anything new you never find them.

“Follow your bliss” is how Joseph Campbell put it. He always knew what he was talking about, but I have trouble with the word bliss because it’s been hijacked by Duncan Hines and other gratification-peddlers. Someone’s “bliss” may be heroin, after all. But if you get a good sense of where north is from the list above, then a personal practice of self-education can’t help but move you gradually northward.

I suppose it’s possible some people have done well at the south end, mastering the arts of controlling others, avoiding risk, finding constant gratification, and justifying their reactions. But I don’t know how happy they really are and it’s probably the harder road.

So head north. But keep in mind that the intention to move north is entirely different from pursuing the desire to reach the North Pole. At a glance, spiritual practices seem to focus on figures that have reached the Pole, so to speak — Jesus and Buddha come to mind — as well as the possibility of doing it yourself. But I think the North Pole was always meant to be a lot less important than simply heading north, and even just knowing which way it is. After all, most of the actionable passages in those doctrines describe the smaller habits that gradually move you farther north: being kind to your neighbor and washing your bowl.


Photo by David Cain

Hayley March 24, 2013 at 10:47 pm

This is fascinating.. To read (hear) you put it so perfectly what I have always assumed people from every genre of life have tried to say, myself included. The only thing I would add is that sometimes when you’ve come to the realization that you’re headed north and that the north is where you want to be going, looking back it may seem like portions of the southward spirals were necessary to get you northbound. I personally, can’t live with regret over where heading south took me because I don’t actually believe that I would be this far north had it not been for those low moments. This may be one of my most favorite posts of yours to date because I couldn’t agree more with what you’ve written. But I wouldn’t be reading Raptitude at all if I had just avoided southbound altogether.

David March 25, 2013 at 5:01 pm

For sure. Everything that went wrong had to go wrong for me to be where I am now. That’s always true as far as I can tell.

Vilx- March 26, 2013 at 1:12 pm

♫ Every mistake I’ve ever made
Has been rehashed and then replayed
As I got lost along the way… ♫

Terri Lynn March 29, 2013 at 7:16 pm

Agreed. There can’t be a north without a south. Great post David.

ChadfromMN March 24, 2013 at 10:52 pm

Hello, David,

I just wanted to take a quick moment to express my gratitude for your writings. You provide excellent food for thought and have inspired me several times over.


Dan March 25, 2013 at 12:19 pm

I agree with Chad – thanks for providing the food for thought – to “chew” on.

David March 25, 2013 at 5:01 pm

Thanks Chad.

LL March 25, 2013 at 3:43 am

Excellent! The subject of levels of conscious awareness is one of my favorite topics but I find limits to how well I do that for so many reasons that you so eloquently described. Really. Well. Written.

Ningus March 25, 2013 at 3:43 am

Very insightful, thank you. Your writings have resonated my thoughts a lot and for me I don’t have time and I can’t express these thoughts very well nor as well as you! I have down times and up times too but the down times are mostly related to people’s “unspiritual”, “cruelty”. For insults and verbal abuses I don’t get my emotion deep in them much. For up times, coffee can do it for me, hahahaaaa (I know that’s really bad to depend on the drugs (coffee and tea), and also the ways I look at things around all the time and the ways my inner strength react to the actions of others.

I should find time and “thinking space” to write more for my blogs like you. Thanks again!

Greg March 25, 2013 at 3:57 am

Hey David
I’m a new reader of your blog (came across u 2 days ago). Delicious writing.
These qualities describe inner attention and response to the world so well.
I’m 50 next year and I find a recent surge towards north. Like the pearl of great price, being awake and conscious and alive is worth selling everything for.

David March 25, 2013 at 5:03 pm

>These qualities describe inner attention and response to the world so well.

That’s really all I’m concerned about on this blog. What to do with what goes on inside.

DiscoveredJoys March 25, 2013 at 6:12 am

A most excellent post and one I think merits inclusion in your ‘Essential Raptitude’ list.

It has bothered me for some time that we don’t have straightforward words to describe the ‘spectrum’ you describe. Imports from other cultures (like attachment/non-attachment, the Tao) offer clues but inevitably carry their own baggage too. Perhaps I look too hard for the right word – when words are only analogies too. Perhaps the Western analytical way of thought is unhelpful, possibly even distracting.

I’m going to have to think more about this. Thank you.

David March 25, 2013 at 5:04 pm

That was the idea: to keep it baggage-free, although I don’t think I totally succeeded.

Emenbensma March 25, 2013 at 6:23 am

Thank you for today’s teaching. I just returned from a meditation workshop and your insights are right on target. I want to learn how to make my life more meaningful, and your observations resonate at a deep level.

Maia March 25, 2013 at 6:31 am

Great analogy David, North and South, two opposites that we cannot pass judgment on, both neutral in essence but one is more desirable than the other.
It is so hard to describe the levels you move in within you without sounding like a new age hippy, but I think you’ve managed wonderfully :-)
I’ve also recently discovered levels of conciousness and my intention is to move further North through them, but often you fall back down South and then you’re up again as you say. As well as you I find that eating vegetarian food and healthy foods and avoiding dairy helps in getting more Northwards, then there’s mediation where the quiet periods in my mind bring me uup North the most, as well as reading inspiring enlightened texts.
Good look in moving further and further Northwards to us all.

David March 25, 2013 at 5:07 pm

As soon as you said “down South” I realized that I didn’t quite avoid all political connotations. At first I thought about East and West but someone pointed out that it could imply the differences between Eastern and Western thinking, and that’s totally not what I’m going for here.

Tony@WeOnlyDoThisOnce March 25, 2013 at 6:52 am

I think North and South is a wonderful way to explain this.

The state in which our minds are ready to open up and try new things, as you say, is paramount to inner peace. The coolest part of your writing is that I’ll need to read it many more times to draw more out.

So happy I came across this!

David March 25, 2013 at 5:08 pm

Glad you found me Tony. I think we can thank Mr MM.

Patricia March 25, 2013 at 9:02 am

Thanks David, This is superb! Your writing shows us that this is a universal experience, and you’re ability to put it into words so perfectly is amazing. When you’re in the southern realm of experience it’s hard to see the northern, even though you remember being there, so you know that experiencing life from that angle is possible. When you’re physically ill, i.e. a bad cold, etc., I think it’s best to just relax and minimize interactions until it passes. But when the southern way of being seems to just show up on a psychological level, one way to help yourself move north is to sit quietly and use your imagination to “remember” the last time you were north…but the important part is to remember how you felt…”remember the feelings”…only your feelings seem to be able to move you back toward north. Rational thought seems to become useless, because you’re not really rational in the south. I think re-experiencing the positive feelings changes your body chemistry, because it generates the release of different hormones that help lift your mind northward. Life is chemistry.

David March 25, 2013 at 5:09 pm

Sounds like good advice.

Francesca March 25, 2013 at 9:41 am

great writing as usual. Your message came across loud and clear to me as I, as your other readers already commented, can relate to what you talk about.
The photo is right on, I really enjoy looking at it as it symbolizes all you describe in the essay. I love your work.

A clarification. You write:
“You your own best practices by trying things. If you never try anything new you never find them.”
Is there a typo somewhere in the first sentence? Not trying to be picky here, I just really want to understand what you mean.
Thank you, have a wonderful day.

David March 25, 2013 at 5:12 pm

Whoops, typo! Thanks. Should be “You find your own best practices…”

Dragline March 25, 2013 at 10:29 am

This is a good example of embodied metaphor — north/south is classically also up/down. People who study these things are beginning to conclude that these are not just “metaphors” but actually the way humans think and there is something ingrained about them.

See http://neurocogproject.com/sites/default/files/santana__deveg_frontiers_11%20(2)_0.pdf

The research is most startling in that the effect works both ways — i.e., mood and performance of cognitive tasks can be positively or negatively affected by physical movement that is upward or downward. Some weird, wild, wacky stuff!

David March 25, 2013 at 5:13 pm

*strokes beard*

Gustavo March 25, 2013 at 10:57 am

Certainly, looking inside of ourselves is never going to be a matter of the scientific method because of the organized skepticism strictly required; that’s why Socrates believed that the only way to live a “examined life” was by talking with others.

Your suggestions for “moving north” are great and I am sure they work; but they leave out what Socrates thought was critical; confronting your ideas by interacting.

David March 25, 2013 at 5:18 pm

It is essentially impossible to articulate an inner state to another person. All you can do is use familiar words to describe it, and the other person may be able to associate with a familiar private state of their own. But neither of you get to know if you’re describing quite the same thing. Still, it’s helpful to talk to people to see if they do relate in some way, and that’s what this post is doing.

catharine craig March 25, 2013 at 11:11 am

Very cool. I love the last part especially. Where is North? Maybe knowing the difference between the poles is the first step in heading that way. The small stuff counts.

Kenneth March 25, 2013 at 11:26 am

David, you keep tap dancing around all that is around you that contains a wealth of knowledge and wisdom regarding our inner states. You are too afraid that “your science-head friends may roll their eyes”. Let them, you of all people shouldn’t be afraid of what other people think! Seth, Abraham-Hicks, the Secret etc. should not be utterly discarded as too far “out there”.

From Abraham-Hicks, here is your North South emotional scale – where are you on this scale today?

Here below the Emotional Guidance Scale from the book “Ask and It is Given” by Abraham-Hicks.

1.Joy/Knowledge/Empowered/Freedom/ Love/Appreciation

2. Passion

3. Enthusiasm/Eagerness/Happiness

4. Positive Expectation/Belief

5. Optimism

6. Hopefulness

7. Contentment

8. Boredom

9. Pessimism

10. Frustration/Irritation/Impatience

11. Overwhelment

12. Disappointment

13. Doubt

14. Worry

15. Blame

16. Discouragement

17. Anger

18. Revenge

19. Hatred/Rage

20. Jealousy

21. Insecurity/Guilt/Unworthiness

22.Fear/Grief/Depression/ Despair/Powerlessness

David March 25, 2013 at 5:24 pm

The whole point is that it is important to talk about this in ways that everyone can relate to, whether they are a science-worshiping rationalist or an new-agey hippie. If you use a vocabulary that’s distinct to one group, everyone else tunes out.

I wanted to avoid using numbers and levels and systems of any kind, for reasons I talked about in the post. Abraham-Hicks is the epicenter of the channeling/LoA crowd, and so once you use their concepts or cite their names, a vast proportion of the population is done listening.

Trish Scott March 25, 2013 at 12:21 pm

This is so awesome in it’s clarity David! Beyond that though, I went to you’re post Die On Purpose, which I had never seen before and that is F***ing Brilliant!

I died a quite some time ago and encourage my Wellness Coaching clients to do the same. I’ll be bookmarking these two posts to pass on as needed.


David March 25, 2013 at 5:25 pm

Die on Purpose was a really early favorite of mine. I would like to readdress that concept in a new post sometime soon, it’s just so powerful.

Avi March 25, 2013 at 1:09 pm

“I suppose it’s possible some people have done well at the south end, mastering the arts of controlling others, avoiding risk, finding constant gratification, and justifying their reactions. But I don’t know how happy they really are and it’s probably the harder road”.
It sure makes for compelling crime dramas though! ;)

David March 25, 2013 at 5:27 pm

The Sopranos is almost a perfect study on people who go full-bore the other way.

Aditya March 25, 2013 at 1:26 pm

Great article, David!. I have couple of points.

1) I know many people who dwell in the south spectrum and are living a good life (at least from my perspective). I feel being oblivious of the north spectrum helps them to live a good life. Ultimately its all about your belief system. I would like to call it as wearing glasses of a particular type. If you wear green glasses, everything appears green to you. Dont you think ?

2)Before last year, I never bothered to look into ‘quality of my life’. I believe I lived a good life. Since, I began looking into my inner experiences, I realized I was on the south side of spectrum all throughout. This realization made me really uneasy as I could observe my day-to-day life. The uneasiness/suffering was too much that one fine day I decided I will let go of everything and found myself in the north spectrum consistently since then. Nowadays, I try to be on this side. I would sum it up as observation led me to ‘unpeace’. Quite a contradiction, ain’t it ? This is related to my first point.


David March 25, 2013 at 5:30 pm

1) Yes. None of us know what we’re missing, unless we experienced it in the past, or we can extrapolate based on what we have experienced.

2) I can totally relate, and this is to me one of the most amazing facts of life — that everyone values quality of life above all yet relatively few people make a habit of thinking about the best ways of creating it.

Shawn Ryan March 25, 2013 at 3:21 pm

I love how you summed it up at the end and brought into focus again that it is not necessarily about reaching the “North Pole”… Yet about the journey on your way north. This exemplifies that spectrum of that north side as you like to describe it as we are to be constantly striving to improve the way we view the world and how we react to it.
Nice post!

David March 25, 2013 at 5:35 pm

If you visit reddit’s “Zen” subreddit, you’ll find a lot of examples of people who are more concerned with getting straight to the north pole than with building lives that allow them to live increasingly northward.

Justin March 25, 2013 at 3:33 pm

I have noticed this same spectrum. What I find fascinating is that no matter how far south I go, I can almost always recognize where I am on the spectrum. It seems like it would be easy to drop negativity when you watch it arise and recognize it for what it is, but it is almost never that easy.

I hesitate to even mention this, as it basically is just the risky conceptualization you spoke of, but I usually think of the spectrum you mentioned in terms of contraction vs expansion of self, as in The Lazy Man’s Guide to Enlightenment.

Kathy @ SMART Living 365 March 25, 2013 at 5:58 pm

Thanks for another thought-provoking article David….I agree that it is difficult to explain the differences of awareness, but what I believe you are talking about is consciousness. There are actually lots of studies being done that explores levels of consciousness from #1 the rock to the #2 plants #3 animals, #4 humans and then beyond…while it remains to be seen which of them is better, humans alone are aware that we are aware (or at least some of us are!) I thought your explanation of higher and lower states was an interesting metaphor with lots of food for thought…I like reading your blog because it always sparks my other thoughts for my own blog posts! Keep up the interesting ideas…

Pam March 25, 2013 at 6:12 pm

I find it interesting that it’s sometimes more difficult to recall the north times, as the feelings and ideas associated with that area are much more subtle than in the south. In my experience, north is more awareness of breathing and the enjoyment (actually, delight) in this. Whereas, south is more about thinking and specific ideas/thoughts that trick you into believing they can be grasped upon. So, I find that it’s often easier to recall all the periods of ‘grasping’ thoughts, and forget the subtle feelings and ideas of north. Which isn’t really helpful when you’re south! Love your blog. :)

Daniel March 25, 2013 at 6:53 pm

I enjoyed this article David

It Calls Me Onanon March 25, 2013 at 11:23 pm

This post was delicious to me. Absolutely delicious! Om nom nom nom nom. That’s me mouthing the soft pulpy tissue of your brain.

“The problem is that once you model something conceptually — that is, give it a vocabulary and relate it in terms of a concrete analogy — we all lose track of that something.”

I see this too! It’s because that “something” doesn’t exist. If you study and learn the subtle intricacies of the mechanism that takes place when the phenomenon of “wind” occurs, hearing someone conclude that it’s the breath of Boreas is an obvious over-simplification forged in ignorance and you have justification to call that person out on it. It’s called thinking ideologically (of ideas and not proof) and that way of thinking almost always gets it wrong and as time passes it fades into the annals of history.

“The inner states of human beings really is the most important and relevant topic in the world.”

”We can’t ever have a proper scientific look at our inner states, because science requires corroboration — multiple angles and observers — and nobody else can get a direct peek into what your first-person experience looks and feels like.”

Mood is a biological/chemical phenomenon happening inside of us that acts as a self defense. The fact that this is considered an “inner state” and not some primitive and dismissible evolutionary trait as well as it being the most important and relevant topic only means that society babysits ignorance to what’s actually occurring and it’s the same ignorance-babysitting that has been excused throughout history. It sucks that we can’t just say it outright without people feeling offended but society just sucks. Que sera.

“Psychology is supposed to be the study of the mind, but it’s really mostly behavior that is studied, from which conclusions are drawn about the mind. As we all know, the human mind is an utterly different thing when looked at from the inside, and you only ever get to see one of them.”

It’s soft science, that’s why. Not useful for actually moving forward with physical solutions and I suspect it will pass as just another primitive method that early humanity used to establish the precedence of a “human condition.” It’ll be scoffed at in the far future if we progress that far, which we might not because we’re already taking a bat to any truthful study of the way people function with all of the self-gratification/justification being sold for consumerists. “Be an ideologue – YOU matter! Be an individual with Dove® products.”

“How reactive you are, how self-absorbed your view, how much you are in your own way, in any given moment.”
“Thoughts have an increasingly strong influence on mood.”

Ignorance of the world/processes around you necessitates you to project out into it with your feelings and anything you’ve acquired to make sense of it.

Very selfish.

The middle ages was so damned shitty because everyone was cut off from knowledge and the intellectual “boom” only happened (the enlightenment) after a plague decided to wipe out everybody’s butt-buddies who agreed that the “current ways are the best ways and burn anyone who disagrees.”

I think the biggest realization is that when you try to enlighten people to this, they self-rationalize, self-justify, alienate, cut-out and just sit there and do nothing and so you just have to find your own peace in your knowledge and have nasty, nasty, almost whorish sex with anyone who can point it out too. This frustrates and makes artists out of scientists.

Taku March 26, 2013 at 1:26 am

This is really interesting because although I knew that we had to find/choose a way to follow at every moment, I had never thought that I could avoid struggles just set my mind towards North.
Speaking of being happy, as you mentioned in the end, I think that the best way is to be kind to everyone you treats; they feel more likely inclined to help others just as they are thus help either in the same or different way, and so on. It’s actually cliche, but cliche is existed for some reasons! it works. When I get down, I always read your article and those which inspire me a lot.
From Japan

CB March 26, 2013 at 10:58 am

I’ve been in the southern realm of things for a couple years now – employment issues coupled with a bad break-up will do that to a person – but just recently I’ve really started heading back in a northern direction. I like the idea that our lives are a journey across a spectrum instead of the destination itself. I think so many people try to live their lives as a destination and end up unfulfilled and unhappy; I should know, I lived that way for awhile. Lots of food for thought here.
Thank you for the post and your wonderful blog!

Larry Elford March 26, 2013 at 11:50 am

David, many thanks for this writing and your others. There is so much value on what you write. I recently discovered a good video explanation from a neuro-expert at the Calgary Brain Institute and it contains some commonalities to things mentioned in your article. A bit chemical-biological in its approach but fascinating to see him explain some of the “why’s” for things you also included in your article. It was an eye opener for me and I know you will enjoy it as you continue on your journey northward. http://www.albertafamilywellness.org/resources/video/good-bad-damaging-chronic-stress-allostatic-load

Larry Elford March 26, 2013 at 12:18 pm

the video above gets good and interesting at about 22 minutes and gets better at eye opening for hobbyist’s of the mind as you go along

Chris March 26, 2013 at 1:13 pm


I find if I’m headed south that’s because something in my life (relationships, diet, not being true to myself, etc) is out of whack due to old habits dying hard. The challenge for me is to realize it, acknowledge it, and keep turning back around, all the while knowing it will be hard, but oh so worth it.

…to heading NORTH!

Melvin Harper March 26, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Great writing. How about psychic energy spectrum?

Becky March 27, 2013 at 1:44 am

This article is so perfect for me. Trying to find my way is something I have been thinking about a lot lately, and has led me to search out ways to improve myself. One thing you said really grabbed me, “You find your own best practices by trying things. If you never try anything new you never find them.” This is exactly what I have been trying to do- get over my fears of trying new things. There is a great book out by Margie Warrell titled, “Stop Playing Safe: Rethink Risk. Unlock the Power of Courage. Achieve Outstanding Success,” that has so incredibly helpful in helping me overcome my fear of failure. It goes way out of my comfort zone, but I find what she says to be so true, so I am definitely trying her methods. Thanks again for your post too- I found what you had to say to also be extremely inspiring.


Sean March 27, 2013 at 5:10 am

Awesome!! This reminds me of the Enneagram as described by Don Riso and Russ Hudson, which I see as basically another attempt at explaining our minds in a nonpartisan way (though the personality type idea can of course turn people away), and which I’ve found rather helpful in understanding my own mind. In particular, this post seems to match well their “Levels of Development.” It’s great to have these ideas explained in another way, and in a much simpler way at that! Thanks!

Alexander.M March 27, 2013 at 2:24 pm

Thanks David, for this thought-provoking article.
All your insights carry enough spark to ignite a bush fire
in my mind, a quality i rarely find on any other side i read.

What really hocked me was the fact that when i was a lot younger I always
kept to myself and indulging me in this idea that “hyper-self-awareness”
or talking to my self almost constantly was nothing inherently bad it was just part of my character, my true self. Instantly I could see my way of living reflected on the scale staying way “down South”.
It was just unimaginable as a teenager for me that other people would feel the same need to stay within the boundaries of your own mind. I felt proud.
I felt special, at the same time unaware of the possibility to live more freely
and unburdened.Those old habits only dissolve so slowly…
but I am working on it.

So for you I wish only the best of luck for all your endeavors… even when they may most likely never come to a definitive end.

Niko March 28, 2013 at 12:10 am

I feel like I’m pretty southward… Yet I feel like its best for me. I feel like it’s Me vs. The World.

Steve Pavlinas’ article titled “Art of Attraction” REALLY change my perspective on life and I feel it’s aided in me becoming more southward. Link: http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2006/08/the-law-of-attraction/ I mean, what if what Steve wrote, is true?

What if you’re all just a part of my imagination? Dave (Raptitude), Steve, the responses from people that I skimmed through, etc. etc.

Now you may/may not reply, which I’m not sure how my imagination will will place the verdict on that decision quite yet, but I’m interested if theres anything you have to say about it. (If you haven’t read Steve’s article, go ahead. I rotate daily between you & Steve’s site for personal development)

Chris March 28, 2013 at 11:57 am

Thanks for this link Niko. It really spoke to what I was wrestling with this morning.

Rob J March 28, 2013 at 3:14 am

We can find the way… but are we willing to take on the challenges it presents? The way to happiness is not always a “yellow brick road”. Thanks for the article David. Plenty there for me to ponder.

Jacky March 28, 2013 at 11:26 pm

Thanks David. It’s awesome article. I hard to find a good way until i read your article. Its good food to my thought.

David Ashton March 29, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Nice one – it really rings true. We don’t really have an objective guide telling us when we are heading south. Our gut feelings may generally be pretty good – often when something feels uncomfortable, it turns out to be the right thing to do … except for when we have a (correct) gut feeling that we are about to make a big mistake. Going ahead despite our fear is called courage. We have other words for going ahead against our better judgment.

Lisa March 30, 2013 at 8:56 am

Smiles and Tears. Thanks, David.

Jessi Tidwell March 31, 2013 at 2:24 am

Fantastic post, David. <3 Always a pleasure

janice Feyen March 31, 2013 at 7:02 pm

Love this David…I am living closer to the North now most of the time – it’s such a good way of putting it!!! It’s taken most of my life to get here but it’s worth the trek :-). And every time I feel like I am heading south I get stuck into preparing to go North again :-) just takes a bit of daily practice and I can see the sun again! I always live reading you blog – very insightful, challenging and real. x

Joe April 1, 2013 at 6:02 am

I have reread this post already before getting to this point. It addresses something I have been pondering this morning. Our first thoughts and experiences occurred before we had a basis of judgement or any vocabulary to express them. There can be no analogy for the new born child to express how it is or who it is. The analogy struggles within the limits of intellect and vocabulary to describe the experiential basis of judgement. I realise that this is just scratching the surface of understanding self

marian April 1, 2013 at 9:38 pm

I just finished re-reading A Room with a View, and being in a Southern state sounds a bit like what Mr. Emerson describes as being “muddled.” Your conception is more developed–in fact, it gives me some interesting new perspectives on that book. But more to the point–and as always–it gives me interesting new perspectives on my life. Thank you for that.

Sharron April 7, 2013 at 10:59 am

David, I love this post. It is a wonderfully written reminder that life, health and consciousness all occur on a continuum. There is no clear border between north and south, just many points on the continuum. Understanding this has helped me not to constantly judge every occurence, experience,day, person etc in my life as good or bad.

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Laura February 28, 2014 at 11:49 am

David, you have such an amazing way with words. I read them and I say yes!, I totally get what he’s saying and have thought of it many times, but could never have articulated it so well. And, you have such insights….love your writing. I got walloped by an illness back in October and have been moving North ever so slowly since then. Just before seeing your post in my email, I was lamenting the fact that the medication I’m on zaps my energy and motivation. I feel like life is in slow motion and passing me by some days. It’s temporary – as everything is of course, but I couldn’t help but wish for my old level of equilibrium “north” back again. One thing I’ve found that has helped is an app called “super better”. When I play it, I head farther north. You get points for taking certain actions like drinking a glass of water, or meditating for five minutes. Perhaps if you have other readers that are working though something, and they like games, they could try the app. It’s $5 well spent.

Thank you again for your writing.

Duška Woods February 28, 2014 at 1:51 pm

Hi David, this is the first time I am commenting on your blog. I am in full agreement with your view of ones journey to self actualization, a process that never ends, but goes on leaving the forest behind and leading us to ever clearer views and vistas. It’s rather interesting that you use north/south guide to describe ones personal journey to ‘knowing thyself’. I have been heading North for as long as I know myself…it’s like I had no choice. From the time I was a little girl sitting on tree looking at the sky and wondering…something I loved to do as a child…about the world that was around me, the sky, how deep it was, Universe, and how come it has no end etc. My quest never ended, instead it took me from my native Yugoslavia to Rome, Naples, Toronto and Philadelphia. All along I kept learning about cultures, social movements, people, what makes them do thing that they do etc., until finally the road naturally lead me to Buddhism. Reading, learning in retreats and on my own lead me to Alan Watts and that truly was like coming home for me. Alan Watts more than anybody else understood and lectured on ‘inner wholeness in the age of anxiety and what it really means to live a life of purpose’. Let’s see where am I going with this? ah yes, your blogs are a natural segue to my constant movement to the North to which there is no end, just a bold and daring road that gets clearer and more inviting as we continue to travel it. David, I salute you and thank you for your willingness to share yourself with us making us feel part of a human tribe on a quest and all gazing in the same direction. I would like to finish with the following, I hope it’s relevant:
The man of Tao Remains unknown Perfect virtue Produces nothing No self is true self And the greatest man Is Nobody Chuang Tzu

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