Untying Existential Knots
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February 22nd, 2022
It has been a month since I journalled here. I am called to journal publicly again, but there is hesitancy. The energy overall is more intense now. I have been journalling privately every day, burning palo santo before I do; this is a new ritual I’ve added to my journaling practice, my keystone wisdom practice. Smelling holy wood while taking a first morning sip of espresso makes a Stoic want to say “heaven yeah.”
I have been circling around an existential knot that has been with me for as long as I can remember. Untying it has led to so many delicious insights. The flood of insights was ridiculous really. It surprisingly turned out to be a pretty high-level existential knot for me, and while there is still hesitancy, I now feel more ready, more powerful, and angrier. It is a calm and controlled righteous anger, not the undisciplined self-righteous kind.
I guess I am hesitant because I am at the point in my self-awareness (or selfless-awareness) that the “why” of my public journaling feels more critical than the “what” of my public journaling. I never really cared about the “how,” as I just journal how ever the fuck I want to, or how ever the fuck the daemon wants me to.
Oh boy. Is this really going to be another journal entry about why I am journaling? I do not want that. It does seem like I have to do this every time I take a break from journaling in front of you though. Who is this “you” anyway? Why do I keep italicizing that word?
Let’s pause that question for now; a spiritual strip teaser (or spirit teaser) needs to have some secrets. And besides, any teaser worth their salt knows the mystery of what one’s spiritual skin looks like is way hotter than what one’s spiritual skin actually looks like.
Yeah, this mystery feels right. Who cares why I am journaling here. This particular bodymind no longer does. The hesitancy is now gone, and yeah, I am back. I might be journalling here more often, perhaps daily. If you do not want to see my name in your inbox on a daily basis, I invite you to unsubscribe to this newsletter. My preference is that I have a hundred regular readers (my “others”) rather than having thousands of spiritual tourists.
I also might make these journals private soon. I might make the whole experience of The Stoa private soon. This place is not a fucking YouTube channel after all. I feel pretty zero fucks about all the status trappings and all that bullshit that gets you hijacked in the spectacle. Being hyper self/selfless-aware affords awareness of what games are being played, by yourself and others. The only game I want to play these days is the long game.
Playing the long game for me is untying as many existential knots as I can untie. I am liking this “existential knot” phrase. It is always risky putting the word existential in front of anything, as it puts you on the knife’s edge of sounding either pretentious or cool. I will risk this one though, because I sense a new construct is needed to describe why I keep returning to private journaling, and why people keep seeking me out for philosophical coaching.
My philosophical coaching practice is popping these days. I am fully booked for the next two months, and people keep reaching out to book more sessions. I fucking love doing philosophical coaching! Like my journalling practice, my philosophical coaching practice is a part of my ecology of wisdom practices. Doing these for over a year now, I am seeing a throughline, and one of those throughlines is people being all existentially knotted up.
What is an existential knot? I am a slut for tight definitions, so I’ll pause for a moment to see if I can come up with a good one…
An existential knot is an issue that feels deeply personal, most saliently experienced in the felt-sense, accompanied by great difficulty in coherently describing what the issue is. The person’s mental models are extremely entangled, with thought loops that lead to difficult emotions. When trying to “solve” the issue they are met with disappointment and confusion. When trying to inquire into it on their own they are met with frustration and a sense of stuckness. The common reaction is to escape into some kind of cope. If the existential knot is left tied, an “existential crisis” awaits.
Okay, cool. This feels accurate. It is too wordy though. Let me see if I can come up with a more normie friendly definition …
Being deeply confused about something that feels deeply important without feeling like you can accurately articulate what the confusion or importance is.
Andrew Taggart calls this being “muddled,” and he argues that we are collectively in “The Great Muddle.” I think he is correct. And I also sense “practical philosophy” is what is needed to untie all the existential knots out there, so The Great Muddle can be addressed collectively. Basically we need to start being less foolish together so we can get a “wisdom commons” up and running.
New (or deeply old) practices are needed, other than the two that are popular in the market economy, coaching and psychotherapy, aka the two existential placeholders for “philosophy as a way of life.” The other approach people often take is some form of spiritual bypassing, often by adopting a spiritual path from cultures they were not raised into.
Those will not work with existential knots. We have to honour the confusion, with an embodied unknowingness, to examine our models and maps of reality, in ways that lead to clear and harmonized minds. It can be done. It needs to be done. I am so ready to get after some existential knots with you.
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