It is quite amazing how hard the subconscious works when it is made to understand that this life is not a rehearsal, there is no safety net and no assurance of any final closure. It is also quite appalling to realize how catatonic the imagination can become when we hedge our bets, opt for the safer direction at every fork in the path.” – John Burdett
“When you go out onto the stage, all the preparation has to be forced into your subconscious. For the moment of the performance, we all have to return to a new level of unconsciousness. All the reflection and all the doubts have to be laid aside before you start.” – Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
GIFT OF LAUGHTER:
The Laughing Pirate would very well comprehend the words by Rafael Sabatini, “He was born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.”
Most people are filled with doubt, inhibitions, and very much concerned with how they compare with others. Their smiles are shallow, their laughter controlled, and they worry about promotion, evaluation, and appearance. Our laughing pirate, if he saw a beautiful woman alone on the dance floor, one totally out of his class, would go out to dance, even if he couldn’t, and knew he would look like a fool. And he would smile as he did it.
Could you do that? Right now, could you go up onto a stage and give a short talk? Once more I am asking how comfortable are you in your own skin, but we are looking at it from a different angle. What we want to do is merge philosophy, psychology, and practice. The psychology we have pretty much covered.
You know from the last chapters about the two selves, the fast and slow from one author, and the Rider and the Elephant from another. And all the prior positions seem to suggest a different philosophy of life, and we have listed some practices. What if we could practice the same day, over and over?
The movie, Ground Hog Day is about a man caught in a time loop who must continually repeat the same day, but retains the memory of what passed before. For some, this would be utter hell, but our laughing pirate would rejoice in Ground Hog Day. This is a little like a game with no score, because no matter what it is, you will play it again. If you were caught in this time loop, you would lose all concern for the score, which would help your play, and you would improve to the point of being a master. Imagine what a powerful feeling it is not to care about the score or self-image. Imagine if you were playing tennis, and no one kept score. Consider if you didn’t, and he did? He is going ape-shit over the serve, arguing about if the ball was on the line or not, and you’re just laughing at him as his anxiety causes him to double fault again. I know nothing about golf, but I have to believe it is much the same.
CHOOSING THE RESPONSE:
Consider all of this in terms of “free will.” Normally your smiles and laughter are responses to a situation or other stimulus. You are not in control, but reacting. Most dialogues about “freewill,” are word games, even those by supposed neuroscientists. But this is the real deal. It is a break in the script that you throw in there. Life may present you with disaster, and you choose to smile, even laugh. That is “Free Will.”
And there are powerful reasons for this. Obviously it puts you in control, and lifts you above a Pavlovian dog. But much more, it puts you in a state of maximum performance. The worse the situation, the greater the threat, the greater the need for maximum performance. You can comprehend this by watching reactions around you.
Have you ever had a pet that had a paralyzed reaction to some stimuli? How about a coworker when it is time for evaluations? How about you when you get a letter from the IRS, or your wife tells you she wants a divorce? These are not life threatening, they just feel that way. But they could be. Someday you may be on the knife edge of death. This will be the time you need maximum performance, and you will summon it with your smile.
The Laughing Pirate Smile, the capitols are on purpose, is different. It is the stimulus, and not the response. It is a major exercise and power. If the Japanese Zen Masters have the koan, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” as an exercise, we with our mnemonic to have a more powerful one with our purposeful smile.
Our smile is not just a grimace, but the real thing. In an extreme situation, you have received your death warrant, and you feel your face relax into a smile that goes through out your entire body. I write these words at 4/6/20 3:56 AM , and it is a time of Corona virus 19, and the next two weeks are supposed to bring about a spike in deaths. The stock market has had a historic drop that has evaporated all our savings and dreams. This is when you need the attitude of the Laughing Pirate, and you summon it with your smile.
You can’t control the world, its events, and who or what will cross its stage next, but you can control your response. And that makes you unique. We will do this in the exercise section, but think about it now. Imagine that you are watching a movie, and an incredible ugly alien has just erupted out of someone’s stomach, the audience is frozen in horror, and you have a warm bone deep smile.
AND THEY SAY..
I want you to consider Laughing Pirate in terms of the quote from the book, With Winning in Mind by Lanny Bassham;
“You cannot control what it will take to win a competition. You cannot control what other competitors do and often you cannot even predict with accuracy what score will win a competition. But you can predict process. Process is what you can control and only what you can control. You can predict and control how many days a week you train. You can control the discipline of your efforts. You can control what you choose to think about and do. My advice is to only set goals on things that YOU can control. Keep your focus on you, not your competitors. Rehearse in your mind the process of executing a combination of mental feelings and technical moves that get results.”
Interesting that this modern sports-performance analyst has not only restated the three quotes from the beginning of the book, but also partially solved the problem.
Here are the quotes again:
The great philosopher emperor of Rome, Marcus Aurelius, said, “You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”
The legendary ronin-sword master, Miyamoto Musashi said, “There is nothing outside of yourself that can ever enable you to get better, stronger, richer, quicker, or smarter. Everything is within. Everything exists. Seek nothing outside of yourself.”
And the famous Holocaust survivor and psychologist Victor Frankl summarized his survival philosophy with the realization that,” Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
So, if all you can ever control is how you react, than how do your learn to control your reactions? Read the quote again and see how Bassham answers that question. And note those last few words, “executing a combination of mental feelings and technical moves.” This is very similar to executing our mnemonic. There is nothing to stop you from this practice of reciting the mnemonic and recalling the feelings and images that go with it. Now go ahead and smile.
IMAGE IS DOWNHILL RACER:
The image I chose for this Position was an Olympic grade downhill skier going down the hill full blast. This is not me, but I know the feeling, and I assure you there can be no thinking. If a word crosses your mind you will make what is called a “Rummage Sale turn,” when you and all your gear are strewn across the slope. And it will hurt.
Obviously the downhill racer has made many such turns, and a part of her knows what it feels like to crash and burn. In an Olympic run the pressure is on. You have devoted years of your life, working harder than anyone can imagine, for these few seconds of flying down the hill, batshit crazy. This is what I mean when I say, “controlled abandon.”
She can’t just put on her skis, go to the starting gate, and think to herself, “I’m going to really try hard this time.”
It takes years of practice, and while you are practicing so are all those others who are waiting to go down behind you, trying for a fraction of a second more speed. It can’t be just practice, or strength. It is the mind and attitude. And this Position is about attitude, and that is the Laughing Pirate. When you recite the mnemonic, and you come to, “Laughing Pirate,” you visualize the skier flying down the hill with controlled abandon, and you smile.
The Feeling of the Laughing Pirate is one of abandon, letting it happen, and not thinking. I recall jumping from stone to stone when crossing a river. I couldn’t plan it out, nor think of which stone was the best target, because I was already moving and had momentum. That was a beautiful feeling.
This will lead to maximum performance. It can save your life. And perhaps it already has. There are times when things happen so fast, that if you aren’t perfect it will be a disaster. A child is about to fall out a window, or your car breaks loose on the ice. A punch is coming out of nowhere for your head. And in each situation there was no thought, only action. But then you let that performance fade.
Every now and then you might mention when you did something incredible. But you wouldn’t make the jump to comprehending that you can do that all the time. That you can live your life that way. And perhaps you do, more than you realize. When you are rushed in traffic, and there is room, do you do things without thinking? How about when you are behind a large crowd and feel an urgent need to make it to the rest room? Do you then slide through the crowd like a tiger pursuing a single antelope? Can you identify and recall such times?
This is an important part of your training. First realize that you have, and can, act without subvocalization. Then begin to do it. As you begin to observe your inner genius in action, it will be easier for you to let go. If you play tennis or golf, there will be many opportunities for training. For the rest of you, we will have a reaction test on your computer.
All this is so you can realize at a deep level that subvocalization and action do not go together, thinking is the opposite of moving. You will notice that all the animals of the world who depend on perfect performance for survival do not talk to themselves. There can be no doubt that the talking part of your brain is a different circuit than the acting one. Anxiety and doubt do you no good, get rid of them and increase your level of performance by quantum without practice. If you have practiced for any event, most likely you noticed that your practice self did better than your real-time self. You can erase this difference, and wouldn’t that be huge?
This means that it does not fill you with anxiety if you are late. Would that be a major change for you? I myself hate being late, but I don’t get upset if I am. If I can’t control it, then I live with it, and I am not going to grip the wheel and switch lanes frantically in an impossible effort to make an appointment I am already late to. It is much more important to be a Laughing Pirate, than any appointment. This is a slight extension of your major value, that it is what you are, not what you have. And if you are a Laughing Pirate, often times it won’t matter if you are late.
It doesn’t matter how the clowns drive because you have the immovable mind.
Earlier we had a most difficult exercise wherein we attempt to have no internal dialogue for the length of one piece of music. This is creating the immovable mind of the martial artist, but so is smiling when the shit hits the fan. This all sounds easier than it is. It will always be a challenge to smile when you are getting reamed out. Such circumstances are when you are training for maximum performance. After a time, you will come to seek out such assholes just for the practice.
So Smile. Then make it happen. Go for it. Embrace the suck.