Hero Training 101: The Equanimity Game

hero training the equanimity gamePrior to leaving the Big Smoke we spent some time ‘hanging out’ with our pal Brian Johnson.

Philosopher extraordinaire and the mastermind behind Optimize —an online portal that delivers more wisdom in less time— Brian is inspiration on steroids.

If you’re as lazy as I am, you’ll love Brian’s minimalist approach to getting better at life.

Hero Training 101

In his Hero Training 101 seminar —which is based on Joseph Campbell’s well known book The Hero’s Journey and features the fascinating documentary Finding Joe— Brian emphasizes the importance of getting really comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Agreeing to ‘house sit’ a permaculture farm was the start of our ‘getting comfortable with being uncomfortable’ journey and the ride has just been getting progressively bumpier and more fun as we go.

Ed: This is the fifth post in our Hero Training 101 series. These are the others:

The Equanimity Game

We learnt about the equanimity game from the same place we learn pretty much everything.

And no, I’m not talking about Google.

I’m talking about Brian Johnson.

Although, come to think of it, he’s like the Google of Philosophy.

Brian came up with the equanimity game after reading Meditations by the well-known Stoic philosopher, Marcus Aurelius, who said:

When force of circumstance upsets your equanimity, lose no time in recovering your self-control, and do not remain out of tune longer than you can help. Habitual recurrence to the harmony will increase your mastery of it.

That’s fine if you spill cold coffee in your lap and you’re wearing a pair of jeans that needed to go in the wash anyway. But what if something big happens that you’re entirely unequipped to deal with?

Well, either the student dissolves into a puddle of self pity and thrashes the ground in despair. Or, the student becomes the master who views the puddle as an opportunity for fun.

I was referring to two different puddles, in case you didn’t notice the mixed metaphor I slipped in there. 

Anyway, here’s how it worked out for us.

A Shitty Story, Literally (Sorry)

We recently spent four months in Oudtshoorn taking care of a couple of hounds whose human was visiting family overseas. What was supposed to be a chilled sabbatical quickly morphed into a rather challenging situation when said human added a special needs pound puppy to the mix just before she left.

We soon discovered that Max the mutt had a penchant for human poo. If he found it, he’d roll in it. This would have been bad enough if it only happened once, but he managed to do his ‘party trick’ on no less than five separate occasions.

The first time we completely freaked out. All we could think about was how to get him clean without getting ourselves covered in the mess. Plus, there was the matter of the smell. We eventually got him cleaned up, but I’m not going to lie, we were traumatized.

Yes, we’re a couple of princess city gals. But human poo, I’m just saying.

Later that evening we suddenly realized we’d totally blown the equanimity game.

We debriefed the incident over a bottle of Organic Shiraz and came to the (obvious) conclusion that anything other than a complete meltdown wasn’t feasible. I mean, ew. Right!?

We did however commit to doing better next time. (While at the same time fervently hoping there wouldn’t be a next time.)

Oh how wrong we were.

Max was nothing if not resourceful and even though we’d taken steps to avoid the area where he’d discovered his poop prize, it didn’t take him long to find a new pile of loot further along the walk.

There was another meltdown, obviously. But this time we at least remembered the equanimity game, even if nobody in our gang of two was up for playing.

Baby steps.

I’m not going to walk you through every single incident, but I will tell you this. By the time incident number five occurred we just took it in our stride.

“Oh look, Max is covered in shit again,” commented Sporty drily.

“I thought I smelled something,” I replied nonchalantly.

“Oh well, I’ll call the doggy parlour when we get home,” replied Sporty with a yawn.

Force of circumstance: Zero

Us: One


The Worst Birthday Ever

Little did we know, Max’s ongoing poop debacles were just training fodder for what was still to come. By ‘what was still to come’ I’m referring to my birthday, which was quite possibly the worst one I’ve had in a long time.

In the bigger scheme of things it wasn’t that big of a deal, but it was my fiftieth and I was kind of hoping to spend the day drinking wine, eating vegan pizza and watching a movie. Maybe more than one. With Sporty, obvs.

After all, you only get to celebrate your half century twice in a lifetime. And that’s only if you’re lucky or healthy or both.

Instead, we spent the day driving around looking for a place to stay.

You see, in our excitement to get back to Cape Town we’d failed to consider that the Cape Town Cycle Tour was taking place on our first weekend back.

Some of you may remember that Sporty and I took part in this iconic race in 2015.

The route may have been shorter that year, but we did it on foldys, so technically we rode the full race. #justsaying

Our predicament was entirely of our own making. I’m not sure if that made matters better or worse, but I will say this: We careened cruised through the Equanimity Game test with flying colours.

It probably wasn’t the most funnest of birthdays, but we’ll at least be able to look back on it as the time we nearly shacked up with a bunch of kite-surfer dudes in a ‘furnished beachfront house in Blouberg’.

And we’ll laugh and laugh, just like we do when we recall the naked man showering under our window when we were on honeymoon.

We’ll also remember that amazing photos on Gumtree don’t mean a damn thing. 

What can you take away from all of this?

Well, at any given moment life will either present you with a bunch of reasons to choose an online psychiatrist or an opportunity to flex your antifragile muscle. It just depends how you choose to look at things.

That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with seeking professional help, rather it’s about recognizing when helping yourself is the smarter option.