I was incredibly inspired by a recent conversation between Aubrey Marcus and his spiritual guest, Porangui on the AMP Podcast (episode #314). During the exchange, Aubrey shares about the deep shame that he harbours around the self-realization that he hasn’t yet learned to love himself fully, despite all the personal work and growth he has undergone.
In response, Porangui offers Aubrey an antidote to his (and in turn, all of our) inner critic’s negative, nagging and self-deprecating commentary. He advises Aubrey that whenever that critical voice comes up and starts speaking, you simply need to stand up straight, look it directly in the eyes and say, So what?
So what I don’t yet love myself completely, so what I fell off the path for a moment, so what I overcooked the pork chops, so what I got angry when I said I wouldn’t, so what I mixed up the drum beat, so what I’m always a work in progress. So-fucking-what.
This simple but powerful act of direct confrontation towards your inner judge not only reduces its seemingly unshakeable self-defeating strength, it also allows you to stand tall in your power. It helps you recognize that what you think is some irreparable mistake, or some end of the world happenstance, or some truth that will always be, is really just a small bump in the road on the journey of life and learning and love.
Porangui offers that in every moment, you have the power to shake off any perspectives you’ve been holding onto, reframe the situation and get back on the proverbial horse. Acknowledging the power I had given to my inner judge for all these years, I deeply resonated with the So what? antidote and promptly applied it to my life. Immediately, I felt it’s profound effects.
It’s power had me reflecting on the oh-so-many times I could have used this proclamation to steer clear of needless, self-inflicted suffering. In fact, had I held the power of So what? just a few months earlier, it would have saved me from days of sulking in a cesspool of self-pity as spring came into full bloom.
Mat and I were three days into a multi-week bikepacking trip on Vancouver Island when everything changed. We had spent months in anticipation of this amazing two-wheeled adventure that would have us traversing a remote, inland back roads route from the southernmost tip of the island to the far north.
Our plan was to careen along deserted dirt roads and quiet gravel grinds, exploring deep valley bottoms and high-up hinterlands while swimming in far-off freshwater lakes that dotted our path. I envisioned camping under the stars in the sanctuary of our tent, listening to waves lap along the shorelines while birds sang in the distant hills.
We’d decided to book-end the bike tour with two multi-day backpacking trips to add to the fun. Our first trek was along the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail in the south, the second along the North Coast Trail at the end. It was ambitious, but we knew we had it in us.
Aside from the excitement for the journey itself, I was thrilled that the story idea I had pitched to Bikepacking.com about our bike/backpacking trajectory had landed in the right lap and they were open to the idea of publishing my work once the trip was done. I was downright giddy.
But as we turned onto the Mainline FSR just 44 kilometres outside of Port Alberni, British Columbia, the madness took hold. In perfect harmony with our backroads excursion there was a sudden spike in the price of raw lumber, causing a massive surge in logging activity on the very forest service roads we were planning to ride.
We spent the next three hours of that day getting covered in a layer of dry, dusty silt kicked up by what felt like hundreds of loaded logging trucks rumbling by on the road. Every ten minutes saw us stationed up on the shoulder with our faces buried in our shirts while the long lingering cloud of brown smoke hovered in the air.
Not only was it terribly unsafe for us to be on such busy backroads during this unforeseen uptake but it was extremely unhealthy to be breathing in all this nasty particulate, too. Not to mention, it was all far less enjoyable than my aforementioned expectations. We knew that the remainder of our journey would be buzzing with the busyness of big machines.
“Maybe we should take the highway,” Mat offered after we finished up a couple of Hazy IPAs and a delicious bowl of Bombay butter chicken at Dog Mountain Brewing in Port Alberni. My heart sank. “But I want to take the bikepacking route,” I whined back like a child, knowing full well it wasn’t the way.
“Do you really want to go through that experience again?” Mat prodded further, pointing to the dust encrusted in every pore of my skin. I didn’t, but my stubborn self, full of those nagging expectations, preconceived notions and ungrateful ego also didn’t want to accept the alternative solution of ‘just taking to the highway’.
“But I pitched an article to Bikepacking.com about a backroads route, not a highway route!” My hurt inner child exclaimed. Mat gave me the sort of look that made me rethink what I just said. “Is that really a good reason to put ourselves in danger?” he retorted. I knew he was right.
Had I harnessed the power of So what? at that moment, I might have been able to immediately reframe my FOMO and lean into being excited about the beauty, brilliance and adventure that was possible in our new path. I could have shaken off my expectations, got back in the saddle and moved forward with a smile. I could have looked at it as an opportunity to adapt, be creative and come up with a new story idea about being flexible, embracing the unknown and going with the flow.
“But I just know that the other route was going to be more adventurous, more scenic and more serene!” Now I was just torturing myself. SO WHAT! It was also going to be busy, dangerous and rife with black boogers. This was my chance to look at the re-route as an opportunity to practice loving whatever life brought my way and being grateful for simply being alive. But I didn’t.
Instead, I wallowed in whiney-town for two days, creating a sullen soup of cortisol-rich internal chemistry and missing out on all kinds of beauty, fun and spontaneous interactions. When I woke up on the fifth day of our re-routed bike travels to brilliant streams of sunlight casting through the limbs of tall stands of spruce, I couldn’t bear to be miserable anymore. The sheer beauty of nature’s magic was bathing me in it’s light, beckoning me to come out of the darkness. So too, was Mat.
“You know, you can choose to continue to be upset about the situation, or you can choose to see the beauty in what is,” Mat said. “You can choose to be grateful for this moment, for our bikes, for this voyage, for all the amazing gear we have. For the simple truth that we are alive and we get to be here.” Choose. He reminded me. We get to choose.
As I sat by the oceanside watching the sun’s sparkling light dance off the waves of the wide open waters, I was reminded of the symbiotic co-creationship that we are in with the world. I remembered (with a little prodding) that every single moment is an opportunity to feel love, to experience joy, to bask in life’s beauty and be grateful for all that is. And in every single moment that I don’t, that’s my choice too.
We all have, and maybe all that we truly have, is the agency to choose how we want to feel about life. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we are in continual co-creation of our reality, either building our heaven or amassing our hell. In that moment, I chose to build my heaven. I rose from my seaside seat and smiled at the light of the day, the joy of being and my love for adventure. I packed up my gear, hopped in the saddle and we pedalled off into the day.
Alas, these moments of challenge are often my greatest teachers. I was able to rise above my stick in the mud mentality and remember why it’s of no good use to set expectations in the first place, but instead, just have faith that things will happen as they will and I have the capacity to see the best in all of it. I was finally allowing myself to enjoy life again, a little bit wiser for the wear.
Months later, I reflect back on all the life lessons that this bikepacking inner battle brought me with the understanding that I could have approached the situation with more grace, more ease, more faith and more acceptance. I could have done everything differently, but I could also “could have” myself to death.
And in the anointing awareness of the aforementioned antidote, I simply have to laugh out loud, stand up straight, look that internal naysayer right in the eyeballs and say, “So fucking what!”