My Snow Leopard Guardian Angel

– Everyone Needs a Friend Like Mine –

as a matter of fact

Everyone needs a friend like my Snow Leopard Guardian Angel — a bright light, a beacon, a North Star, a teacher, a wise counselor, a polished mirror to see your own reflection.

The more people and relationships I encounter, the more I realize how rare and precious a friend you are. With no time or space to waste, you push outward on every wall of my being. Your words and actions never idle or sit stagnant. The gift of your friendship has been — and continues to be — one continuous stream of adventure and growth, a continuous exploration of the Space of Possibilityand its biggest questions: questions of truth, of life and love, of consciousness, of It — whatever It ineffably is.

Thank you for the hundreds of miles walked and thousands of words shared along the Wasatch Range. I am reminded of you every time I look up to the snow-capped mountains from down here in the valley. It brings my heart there, to our backyard, to the majesty of the cliffs, to the smell of the pine and wet dirt, to the wind murmuring through the aspens. This is where we grew up. This is where we carved out from within ourselves the depths of divinity and filled it with clarity, gratitude, peace, wonder, and adventure.

Thank you, my friend, with all my heart, for such a rich and expansive journey. I am filled with grace to have so much of my being wrought from your hammer and molded with your clay.

know thyself

Two Individuals | Two Paths

It was in my early twenties that my path — though it will forever be my own — would thereafter become entwined with my Snow Leopard Guardian Angel. He had been a casual friend of mine since grade school. But it was only after we had gone on an alcohol-infused Mexican cruise with mutual friends that we really connected.

Nope, it wasn’t the booze that brought us close. It was a life-size chess board. After I beat him the first time (he was shocked), we discovered that each had played competitively and then spent the rest of the cruise playing chess in the library. (Turns out he has the edge on me in chess…a slight edge 😉

After that trip we continued to play chess but the overlap of our interests expanded quickly — we dove into religion, philosophy, the physical sciences, language and rhetoric, psychedelics, meditation, and more. But though our interests largely overlapped, our own impulses had us traveling entirely different paths.

This was great because we got to share different perspectives of each field. He may have entered the field from the South, while I entered it from the North. And because of this, our understanding or map of these fields had more color and detail. They were fuller, more enriched, and provided more depth.

So, what were each of our paths? Well, for me, I had ventured down several scant side-trails. I explored the world’s continents, its people and cultures, its religions and wisdom traditions. I poured myself over philosophy, physics, and biology. I entangled myself in law, public policy, and the social sciences. I stood in awe at the wondrous landscapes of mind seen through the windows of meditation and psychedelics.

But my main trail, my passion, has been epistemology, or the study of the theory of knowledge — what knowledge is, how it’s created, and how it grows — from its roots in ancient Ionia all the way to its buds of present day, which culminate in in the work of the humble philosophical giant Karl Popper.

“I may be wrong and you may be right, and by an effort, we may get nearer to the truth.” — Karl Popper

My Snow Leopard, on the other hand, is extremely focused and sharp. He chases depth over breadth (even though the breadth of his knowledge is still remarkably wide, perhaps because of his chosen subject matter). So, he has one trail — the trail to Self-knowledge. And it is deep. He’s hiked thousands of miles along this trail. He knows it like the back of his hand, and can guide you with keen precision to your Self.

Aristotle and plato

There’s no wonder why our relationship is so deep. It’s because my Snow Leopard has the depth to give. We continue to bring value to the other. We don’t ‘kill’ time with each other. We push each other’s growth. We enlarge, expand, and enrich the other. Our friendship is — and I believe that all true friendships should be — both a giving and a receiving, a gift and a blessing.

Let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit.” — Khalil Gibran, The Prophet

To have such a meaningful friendship takes hard work. It requires you to develop yourself, to pursue your own interests, your own truth, rather than being swallowed by the masses, by the sea of irresponsibility and conformity. It requires that you stop turning yourself off, by passively watching Netflix or playing video games or being swallowed by the news. It means taking an interest in yourself so that you may give yourself more fully to those around you.

“In a truly loving relationship, which I have experienced, rather than drawing the one I love to me, I give myself to him. Not merely do I prefer to do him good than to have him do good to me. I would even prefer that he do good to himself than he do good to me. It’s when he does good to himself that he does most good to me. If his absence is either pleasant or useful to him, then it delights me far more than his presence.” — Montaigne

bucket theory of mind

A Few Lessons From My Friend & Teacher

I’ve been fortunate to have some incredible teachers in my life. But to be blessed with my Snow Leopard, for him to have put so much thought, care, and attention into me, into my growth and development, fills me endlessly with grace and gratitude.

Not only does he have so much of his own unique wisdom to share with me, as well as wisdom taken from his own path to Self-knowledge. But, even with the wisdom we both have studied, my Snow Leopard has an unusual capacity to grasp deeply these lessons and to update them so I can more readily apply them to my own life.

Among the many, here are five simple, practical, compacted, but powerful lessons my Snow Leopard has built into me that I think you’ll find useful in your everyday life:

1. Be Yourself

My Snow Leopard is first and foremost an individual. Yes, that’s part of his nature. But he also works extremely hard for this to be so. It’s easy to be shaped by the same cultural cookie-cutter as everyone else.

To be truly your own being takes work. It takes honesty and courage. You have to turn your ears not outward but inward to your own heart, to your own soul. You must follow the call from within.

When you do, though, like my Snow Leopard, you can offer up so much in your being to be studied, valued, and loved, because it is unique. People can’t find it anywhere else. You bring something new to the world. You don’t merely offer up the same clichés, the same thoughts, the same rites and rituals as everyone else. You offer your true self — love unencumbered.

“The best part about me is I’m not you, I’m me.” — Eminem

2. Fuck ’em J

One of the biggest obstacles to being yourself is the human desire for esteem. We all worry about what others think of us. We worry about whether we fit in, whether we say the right things, have the right opinions, etc. So, rather than act from our own impulses, we are pushed by the automaticity of the masses.

To curb this deep human desire to ‘fit in’, then, I hear my Snow Leopard in my head telling me, “Fuck ’em J.” (Some of my friends call me J). Anytime I feel this inclination to please others despite what my heart is telling me, I repeat his words, which I’ve turned into a little mantra for myself: “Fuck ’em J.” I mean, not really. I love humans. But, yeah, “Fuck ’em J.” This sets me straight and leaves me smiling every time.

3. Stop Comparing

We humans, especially those of us who grew up in a Western culture, love to compare. We compare foods — “This coffee isn’t as good as that one.” We compare people —“Lupita Nyong’o is prettier than Zoë Kravitz.” We compare ourselves, our talents, our gifts, our weaknesses, to others. The comparing mind is ceaseless. And for what? What value does it bring you?

Why not just say what you like or value about someone or something? Let it speak for itself. I get that contrast can be useful to help describe things. But stop with the comparing. Let people and things stand on their own. Tell me about it— whatever it is — rather than compare it to someone or something else. “This coffee is deliciously full in taste.” “Lupita Nyong has an enchantingly beautiful smile.” “Debbie has such a strong imagination. That’s something I’d like to improve in myself.”

4. Don’t Forget Your Own Involvement

It is so easy for us humans to blame others, to deny, ignore, or to be utterly blind to our own involvement. It’s always the other person’s fault. “She’s the one who brought forward all this anger and hatred. It’s her who is causing all this drama. I’m innocent.” Our egos are masters of self-deception.

Next time there is any kind of conflict in your life, let it be feedback to remind you of your own involvement. Let the conflict be a mirror which shines back your own reflection. How did I get here? Why is this person mad? What could I have done differently? Be honest. I guarantee you could have handled the situation better. You’re human. We create only mistakes, never perfections. So, forgive yourself. Apologize if necessary. And move on.

5. The 3-Strike Rule

This last one is super straightforward, kind of funny, but also a crucial social skill. No one — and I mean no one — likes to be around a whiner. We hate when others whine. Yet, even though we all know how annoying it is, we still for some reason whine. If you have a problem, fix it. And if it can’t be fixed, here’s my Snow Leopard’s rule:

Tell me your belly hurts, and that’s cool. You’re just letting me know your belly hurts. Tell me your belly hurts a second time, and, okay, you’re telling me your belly really hurts. Tell me a third time, and now you’re just whining. Stop.

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