Darkness, Transformation, and Redemption.

The darkest moments of my life led to the most transformation. The darkness brings self-reflection, awareness, and focus.  This is only if we do not numb the pain with alcohol, drugs, and/or overeating. When a family member suddenly dies or a relationship ends, we can have moments of pure awareness and clarity on what led to this moment in time.

My first experience with this transformation was when I was honest with my ex-fiance about my infidelity. She left me the following day. At first, I numbed myself with distraction but when her parents moved all her stuff out of our studio I was forced to sit in a dark & empty apartment. My first reaction was to run away and move to a new place. Luckily I chose to stay in my empty studio. The following weeks I cried every night in sorrow. Pain, suffering, and anxiety filled each moment until one day I picked up a book called “Buddhist Bootcamp” by Timber Hawkeye. Suddenly I was meditated 1 hour a day, reading, writing, eating healthier, and working out every day. I quit smoking and significantly cut down on drinking alcohol. My days were now filled with joy instead of sorrow. This all took place from March-May 2015 in San Luis Obispo, CA. Since then I have fallen back into old habits, relearn lessons, and also had new transformations from suffering. I began a journey of self-love, peace, forgiveness, and acceptance; a journey I am currently still on (and always will be). There is no destination on this path, only the love of the journey itself.

The famous Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh says “No Mud, No Lotus”. The beautiful lotus flower grows in the darkest and muddiest environments; I truly believe humans are much the same as the beautiful lotus flower. The right environment for growth usual consists of awareness, compassion, and love while we are suffering. Once we learn how to suffer, we suffer much less. Suffering can actually be the most transformative process of life if we allow it to be.

Through the darkness, we can transform ourselves and become the light to see out of the darkness. We accept the darker side of ourselves (and the world) with compassion, understanding, and peace. In this practice, we feed the light while accepting the dark. This allows for peace instead of war. The key to transformation is to sit with ourselves through the pain instead of distraction or numbing the pain. The coldest winters of my life have always ended with a warm inviting spring. All is impermanent, even the darkest of times.

 

With Aloha,

Johnny Hoffman

The Creature of the Dark Forest.

One breath at a time

One step at a time

I ascend up a steep mountain

A forest so lush it blocks the sun

As I reach the summit

A sudden storm appears above

Rain & wind torment me to no end

I start to run as fast as I can

Anything to escape this dangerous storm

A dark creature appears from the darkest depths of the forest

What do you want? I shout

It doesn’t answer me

I begin to move towards the creature

Fear filling every ounce of my soul

The creature runs away as I chase it

I hear its painful screams echoing within the forest

I finally catch this creature

What…. I can’t believe what I’m seeing

The creature is the darkest part of me

He was banished to the depths of the darkest forests

Suppressed, ridiculed, & beaten the creature laid wounded on the ground

Sobbing uncontrollably

I extend my arm to him

Picking up the creature I was astonished by how frail & weak it had become from my neglect

Yet so powerful to cause such powerful storms

I carried the creature back to my home, letting him rest and repair from all of the abuse

Thank you, said the creature as it gained consciousness once more

Anytime, I replied.

I’m so sorry that I banished you to the dark forest

You are part of me & always will be

I promise to shed light into the darkest part of the forest

Tiger.

My idol once fell from the sky.

Bruised & broken,

His body burning as he descended into the atmosphere.

Landing in the deepest of rock bottoms.

My perception shattered of a once untouchable man.

Judgement by others filled the air so thickly you couldn’t see the sun above.

Darkness surrounding him as he sat with himself in the coldest of winter’s.

His mental health at an all time low.

Body deteriorating in front of our eyes.

He struggled.

He fell once more.

Almost all doubted his ability & strength.

But he still kept moving forward.

As years went by, his mentality changed.

Soon he was grateful to play the game he loved.

Years of hard work began to pay off.

Today, I watched my idol win once more.

Tears came to my eyes as I saw him hug his family & pump his fists into the sky.

The journey was well worth the struggle.

As a man who has fallen in dark times before.

I appreciate your journey to becoming a better man.

Thank you Tiger Woods.

Black Mirror.

I feel nauseous.

Anxious & depressed.

Fearful & full of doubt.

Violent & apathetic.

 

All day I stare into glowing screens.

Advertisements bombarding me at every moment.

One show is violent.

The next full of greed and anger.

Could this be the source of my discontent?

 

You are what you eat.

You are what you listen too.

You are what you watch on your glowing screens.

The Mind of An Addict.

Looking for a quick fix.

Pacifiers to numb me.

Numb me from my fears.

Numb me from my insecurities.

 

Cover the pain deep in my heart.

Patch my broken soul.

Give me that rush of dopamine.

 

Silence the endless stream of anxiety.

Shine your light into the darkness of my depression.

Even if it’s only for a moment.

Will you please end my suffering?

 

 

Gambling: Just One More Hit.

As a child, I would bet on anything. I once bet my friend $10 that it wouldn’t rain that day. I played Poker with my friends every week and would illegally play online Poker through PokerStars when I was 13 years old. I was so happy to turn 18 years old so I could go to the Indian Casino. I went to Vegas every 6 months from age 21-23.

I want to be vulnerable with my readers. I believe vulnerability is our biggest strength. Here is my open and honest story of my addiction to gambling.

I struggled with being addicted to gambling all throughout my early adulthood. From 18-24 years old I probably lost more than 10 thousand dollars on Blackjack, Poker, and online sports gambling.  My family and friends knew I liked to gamble but didn’t realize how far gone I was. I hid my gambling addiction very well from my family because how ashamed I was of it. I knew I was out of control but didn’t know how to be open and honest about my problems. I was a man, and men don’t talk about their pain and struggles. I felt angry, alone, and depressed with no one to turn to. I couldn’t play the victim card because this was all self-induced suffering. This made me feel worthless and even more ashamed of the man I had become.

At my worst, I was gambling 7 days a week. I would do anything to get my high and to escape my life. I would max out my debit card limit and get $500 more from a high-interest cash advance. I remember leaving the casino depressed, stressed, and on the verge of a mental breakdown. I would yell “FUCK” as loud as I could in my car until my voice would crack and tears would roll down my cheek. This would be the average self-dialog after a loss while driving home.

You’re pathetic. How could you lose again? You piece of shit! What the hell are you thinking?!? Fuck life and everything. You don’t deserve Alicia (fiance). You don’t deserve anything! You’re worthless! You can’t tell anyone about this. Think of a lie…….. (one hour later)……I get paid Friday, I’ll win it back!!! Yeah, Ill win it all back and stop playing. I’ll win 1K and not play for a while. 

I would repeat this cycle of anger, shame, and denial. Gambling wasn’t the deep issue though, it was the symptom of a larger problem. I only gambled because I felt alone and depressed about my own life. Gambling was a coping mechanism for depression and anxiety. I felt so alive at the blackjack table and all my worries would momentarily go away. I was always looking forward to going to Las Vegas every 6 months. Like any addiction, I was chasing that high of dopamine. Soon I was betting $200 a hand on blackjack. There was one night that is stuck in my memory and shows how far my addiction had come.

In early 2012 I was planning on buying my girlfriend an engagement ring. This was at the peak of my addiction. I thought it would be a good idea to go gambling with the $3,000 cash I had taken out to buy the ring. I go to my usual Casino and put $500 dollars on blackjack. I figure I could win some more money and buy a bigger ring, a delusional justification. I was gambling because I love my girlfriend… Our minds can justify any bad decision. Anyways, I lose the $500 quickly and start putting more and more money on the table. Suddenly I’m down from $3000 to a total of $100. It’s 1am already and I’m in a deep fog, I say fuck it and go all in and win. I kept doubling my bet and kept winning. After 3 more hours of gambling, I get all my $3000 and leave the casino at 4am. I drive to the Bay Area immediately and buy the engagement ring. Sounds like a scene in a casino movie right?

Two years go by and I graduate from college. I was so busy with work, college, and my fiance that I didn’t have time to gamble. I thought I was cured of my addiction and that I could start playing Draft Kings and Fan Duel. Both sites are legal online sports gambling that plays well for young men who like to play fantasy football. I graduated from Cal Poly and received $500 in graduation money from friends and family. I had so much free time now that I was done with college. I spent that time gambling on Draft Kings and becoming absolutely obsessed with trying to win money on NBA games. I was checking my phone at least 100 times a day, looking for those small dopamine rushes when my teams were playing well. After two months of online sports gambling, I had lost all my graduation money. I was deeply ashamed of myself and was contemplating suicide. I had been lying to my fiance already about my infidelity and my gambling addiction. I felt so alone and depressed that I couldn’t hold onto this pain anymore. I finally open up about my secret life to my fiance, family, and friends. I finally could heal myself of the deep emotional wounds that were festering inside my soul. Honesty and vulnerability are so powerful. Being vulnerable can help us connect with each other in a deep and profound human level instead of the vapid surface.

Being vulnerable is seen as being weak, but it’s actually our greatest strength.

With Aloha,

Johnny Hoffman

The One You Feed Podcast: Bringing Depression, Anxiety, and Human Suffering out of the Shadows.

Aloha!

Today’s blog post is dedicated to Eric Zimmer & Chris Forbes of the The One You Feed podcast.You can find them on Spotify and Apple Podcasts as well as their website http://www.oneyoufeed.net. The podcast is based on an old Cherokee parable listed below.

A grandfather is talking with his grandson and he says there are two wolves inside of us which are always at war with each other. 

One of them is a good wolf which represents things like kindness, bravery, and love. The other is a bad wolf, which represents things like greed, hatred, and fear.

The grandson stops and thinks about it for a second then he looks up at his grandfather and says, “Grandfather, which one wins?   

The grandfather quietly replies, the one you feed

I still remember getting goosebumps when I heard this parable for the first time. It normalized the human condition and made me feel more compassion for myself and others. It’s not about starving the bad wolf but taming it with love, compassion, and forgiveness.  Hating the part of you that feels hatred is unskillful and can lead to a very discontented and torn human life.

I stumbled upon the podcast about 18 months ago on Spotify and have been hooked ever since. I was searching for more content from my favorite author Timber Hawkeye when I found his interview on the The One You Feed on Spotify. I must have listened to that interview at least 25 times before I had the courage to check out any of the other episodes. I’m grateful that I took that step because I have learned and grown by having an open mind to new concepts from a wide range of perspectives. I feel as if part of each guest’s wisdom has been planted into my mind. The podcasts guest range from prolific authors, Zen Masters, Rabbis, Christian theologists, neuroscientists, and spiritual gurus. Here are my favorite episodes.

Timber Hawkeye: Episode 39

Adyashanti: Episode 166

Richard Rohr: Episode 168/169

Tara Brach: Episode 143

Rainn Wilson (Dwight Schrute): Episode 112

The creator and host Eric Zimmer does a fantastic job of mediating the conversation so we get the most high-quality interviews. Eric has also transformed into a spiritual teacher himself and has dedicated a huge part of his life to finding the truth of the human condition. I commend Eric for bringing depression, anxiety, and the basic human condition out of the shadows. Recognizing our problems is the first step to alleviating suffering and of living a more meaningful life. By listening to this podcast I have fed my good wolf of self-growth and compassion. It’s hard in a world full of distraction, numbing agents, and noise to take the first steps to a better life. It’s worth it though. I hope this blog post has helped you and maybe sparked an interest in listening to The One You Feed podcast. You can find it on Spotify and apple podcasts.

 

With Aloha,

Johnny Hoffman