by Todd Walker
We’re all chasing something: Success, sex, drugs, food, fame, God, happiness, coffee, contentment, justice, peace, war, survival, sugar, acceptance, health, fitness, our own tails, and [you fill-in-the-blank]. In our dizzily paced world of modern convenience and technology, it’s so easy to become addicted to chasing the dragon.
The phrase “chasing the dragon” refers to inhaling the vapor from heated morphine, heroin, oxycodone or opium that has been placed on a piece of foil. The ‘chasing’ occurs as the user gingerly keeps the liquid moving in order to keep it from coalescing into a single, unmanageable mass.
I first heard the term from Jackie Pullinger, author of Chasing the Dragon: One Woman’s Struggle Against the Darkness of Hong Kong’s Drug Dens, when she visited a homeless shelter I was living in 13 years ago. My life had become an unmanageable mass. I wasn’t addicted to opium or any other drug. But the story of her work with drug addicts made me realize that we are all chasing our own personal dragons. Keep just the right amount of fire on the tin foil to delicately keep the object of our addiction liquid and fluid. With time and practice we become very skilled at inhaling the vapor that feeds our dragon.
The dragon is never satisfied.
Success in a field isn’t bad. Quite the opposite. You wouldn’t want a doctor operating on you that is ho-hum. A buddy I teach with reminds me from time to time that we might find ourselves laying on the operating table one day and look up to see one our trouble maker student with scalpel in hand. There we are, naked and vulnerable, with a former student with a smirk on his or her face.
Climbing the ladder that society promotes as success seems like a great idea until it backfires. We sell our souls to reach the “top” – the top of what, though? We trade long-term consequences for short-term overindulgence.
Is there a way to “get ahead” without chasing personal dragon?
Yes. Stop running. It’s simple, not easy. Maybe these will help.
Strategies to stop the chase and simplify your life.
1.) Do the opposite. Quit running. My advise to students that are running in the hall from “someone” is: Stop running and the chase ends.
But that’s half the fun. Getting chased by a girl you’re crushing on. These youthful indulgences aren’t too serious at this point. As we enter the real world of real dragons, the stakes get higher. The consequences of chasing your personal dragon no longer affects just you, the ill effects are spread to those closest to you and beyond. It’s the pebble in the pond effect. The more mass in the pebble, the greater the energy in the wave – and the more potential harm.
2.) Shock your system. We aren’t meant to live in a constant state of sameness, comfort, and ease. Our primal ancestors passed on genes to us that expect, and even thrive on change. I’ve just started reading Mark Sisson’s latest book The Primal Connection. For those not familiar with his work in the primal/paleo lifestyle, more background is available here.
In The Primal Connection: Follow Your Genetic Blueprint to Health and Happiness, Mark puts together evidence that our genes actually evolved for simple living. We have to do our part to express these genes in order to trigger benefits from the traits for which our genes are coded.
“If you go through life in a steady state of homeostasis, you tend to atrophy” – Mark Sisson
A few teasers to help express your genes – from The Primal Connection:
- Laugh. This simple act turns your natural killer genes which are responsible for defending against infections and other nasties – plus lowering your blood sugar.
- The same effect is achieved from a walk in the forest or natural setting.
- Dig in the dirt without gloves to help release serotonin, a hormone responsible for helping with sleep, appetite, and brain function. Get smart – get dirty.
- Touch someone and reduce the stress hormone cortisol.
3.) Connect Locally. I checked my stats and interestingly enough found people in New Zealand and Nicaragua are visiting my site. I don’t know anyone in these countries and have never visited either. But they stopped by my tiny corner of the internet. We live in an age of global everything. I’m thankful for folks dropping by and visiting, but to have any chance of slaying our personal dragons, we’ve got to build relationships locally.
The screen you’re reading from acts as a curtain. We can escape and evade and become a legend in your own mind – like the wizard behind the curtain in Oz. Dragons thrive behind digital smoke screens. Honesty and accountability happens when I connect with real people locally.
Just as poly-ticks is local, our survivability and resilience is local. Many industrial towns have been left for dead as a result of globalization and shipping jobs to cheaper labor markets. Globalization works – for The Powers That Be. It’s likely, that if you’re reading this post, that you aren’t a part of TPTB. You’re like me. An individual trying to build a self-reliant, prepared, resilient lifestyle – without the interference of the Industrial Food Machine, Big Pharma, and statist human-farm owners.
Keep in mind that dragons come in many forms – dependence on their system may be the biggest, baddest dragon of all.
Budget time to connect with local dragon slayers or it’s not going to happen. Here are some local hangouts worth your time:
- Your neighborhood farmers market, CSA, or coop: Try here Locally Grown or search the net for local food producers
- An actual farm. Call ahead and set up a visit. I’ve never had a local farmer tell me to go take a hike – unless you count hiking his pasture of water buffalo.
- Local auctions. My daddy religiously visits the Friday night livestock and farm auction. He doesn’t always bring new chickens or goats home, but he rubs elbows with other like-minded dragon slayers.
- Homeschooling networks. A teacher friend of mine moved to a western mountain state over the summer. She visited me at school after our Christmas break. She was visibly glowing with excitement as she described her new teaching job at her homeschooling co-op. Feild trips every week, building snow shelters, and working with kids that were excited about learning – everything. She quit chasing her dragon in public schooling and found freedom. She said she can’t wait to go to work everyday now. Congrats girl! Congrats!
4.) Sleep on it. And try not to dream about your dragon – like that’s up to you. Proper sleep is taken for granted by those of us who actually get sleep. Getting enough sleep is a great stress reducer. This is the time our bodies regenerates and dumps toxins. Sleep in total darkness. Even the led light from your alarm clock should be covered. Too much TV and computer time effects the quality of sleep.
5.) Say NO! Repeat after me, “NO!” See how easy that is. Now tell that to the next person who wants to dump a monkey on your back that doesn’t belong to you. These folks aren’t necessarily crappy people. They just know that you’ll grudgingly (sometimes gladly) let their monkey ride for free. Before you know it you have what looks to be a zoo full of critters crawling all over you – and only a few belong to you.
Their world won’t end if you say no. If they insist and start to guilt trip you, it’s time to dump them with their monkey. A sure sign they are in the “crappy people” category. Simplify by deleting crappy people.
Around our home, we’re adopting a new meme:
Sherpa Simple - Living in a way that is economical, sustainable, individualized, self-sufficient, comfortable, practical, resilient, and in harmony with nature and neighbors. It’s all about helping each other as we chase the simple life.
Durable sent us pics of snow in his neck of the woods yesterday. DRG just informed me that we are going to chase some snow today. Our nearest snow is a couple of hours north. Nothing like some spontaneous snow chasing. Beats chasing dragons!