The Purpose of Dancing is to Dance

Brendan McDonnell

Hello. It’s me.

I’m back on the blog today to share some thoughts and a couple of SPLENDID PHOTOGRAPHS taken by my super talented cousin, Josh Wood (www.joshuakanephotography.com).

My last post was about where I’d been, returning to Australia and my plans moving forward. This post is about my transition back into Aussie life and how my plans are panning out.

Well, since returning to Australia with my pretty little Mediterranean lady I’ve realised that anxiety is a very real thing. In short, my return to the golden shores of Aus has been shit. I mean, seeing my family, meeting my new nephew and setting up a little gym with my lady (among other things) has been great – but I’ve been anxious as hell pretty much since the plane landed. It’s hindered my ability to enjoy what I have and what I’m doing, no matter how great it is.

I’d never really thought much about anxiety, what it means or considered myself to be living with it. But when you’re away for two years on somewhat of a whirlwind journey of #selfdiscovery and have spent the main part of that time building a blog to share how you’ve changed yourself – you think about what it’s going to be like when you return a lot. When you ‘get back’ and things don’t match the expectations you’ve created in your head it can be quite confronting. Old habits reappear, and for the most part it feels exactly the same as when you left. I guess this just reiterates that state of mind is everything and you can hop around to as many places as you want but location alone doesn’t change much!

As I wrote about in my last article, I wanted to convert my old family shed where I found my dad’s dead body after he died from suicide into a bit of a gym. I’ve now spent quite a bit of time doing so. It feels pretty excellent to see a vision you had on a bus in Northern Thailand come to fruition and almost simultaneously crush one of the biggest stigmas in your life. I’ve changed the place where my dad took his own life into a positive space that helps me achieve my goals – and from which I can help others. And, it’s working. It’s helping a few people already. My aim was to create a place where peeps can find support. Whether it’s simply through physical training or a mediocre tasting coffee and chat, I wanted to create a place of growth and positivity for anyone who may visit. And that’s what it is now –

“A place to drink coffee, kick people, find support and grow together”.

Brendan McDonnell

Obviously, I no longer feel distressed or emotional when I spend time in the shed but I’m sure that working in there over the past few months has been affecting me subconsciously – or something like that. Despite the subconscious things that were going on, I think a lot of my anxiety is self-made or has simply come from change. This took me a while to comprehend because of all the change I’ve experienced while I was away. But yeah, it still makes me anxious. And after all, I have returned to the place I was so set on leaving.

I reckon the self-made aspects of my anxiety (that I’m sure a lot of others go through and what I’m struggling mostly with now) stem from having too higher standards for myself and others, constantly analysing everything as well as always dwelling on and trying to fix faults instead of focusing on the positives. I have expectations of myself that I project onto others. I’ve come a long way from a rather obnoxious boy who verbally sprayed his expectations on others, but they are still there at times and affect me mentally.

The expectations I’ve created are causing suffering in my life now, so I’m working toward reconditioning myself and ‘ending’ that suffering. Constant analysis of EVERYTHING causes me to get wrapped up in thinking of ways to ‘maximise’ my future enjoyment and satisfaction potential that I make it impossible to experience the present joy at all. I feel like I’ve developed an ‘unhealthy’ level of ‘awareness’ or ‘self-consciousness’ (not in all aspects of life – I still unknowingly swear at inanimate objects every now and then).

I recently read ‘The Warrior Within’ about Bruce Lee’s philosophies – that I got from an op shop in Southern Thailand which explained a lot to me. Bruce is quoted as saying:

There is a breakdown when the experiencer resists the experience, thereby causing the whole pattern of our consciousness to turn on itself. In such conditions – such as when we worry or worry about worrying by saying to ourselves things as “I must relax!” or “I must not think that way!” – life can become an almost intolerable burden for many.

There is no experiencer to be ‘extracted from’, or who can ‘escape from’, experience. There is simply experiencing. Much like Alan Watts’ statement that “the purpose of dancing is to dance”, the purpose of life is to live – which is simply another way of stating that it is an ‘experiential’ process. The point to be drawn from all of this is that you should not get so caught up in analysing the world around you and searching for hidden cause-and-effect relationships that you end up standing apart from it for the purpose of analysis.

“People do not live conceptually or scientifically defined lives, for the essential quality of living life lies simply in the living.”

Bruce believed that if you were in the midst of a life experience such as enjoying yourself, you should accept it for what it is. Enjoy LIVING and experiencing the NOW, and don’t try to pause and analyse the situation by stepping out or away from the moment in order to see if you are getting the utmost out of it.

Martial artists are pretty cool hey.

Brendan McDonnell

Brendan McDonnell

Brendan McDonnell

I like to think that I have embraced that change is inevitable (unless you want to remain in your current state) and with it comes some pain that we must endure to progress. But, here’s the thing: yes, pain is necessary and pretty much inevitable but suffering is not. Suffering can be stopped. You just have to acknowledge and become aware of what you don’t want to feel like. This is the guts of this blog – with awareness of suffering it can be stopped.

I simply didn’t want to suffer in my head about my dad’s death anymore so I went away and spent a few years learning and changing my mind. And more recently I didn’t want to see the place where my dad took his life negatively, attached to some dirty stigma SO I’VE CHANGED IT! But only first by coming aware of it!

I don’t feel sad when I look up at the rafter from which my dad hung himself – I do muscle-ups off that MF that get my mind releasing endorphins and feeling good!

Brendan McDonnell

So, I’m working toward living my life the way I want to see others live theirs. Free from expectation. As a start I’m adding more structure to my life, I’m going back to where change started for me. I firmly believe that Muay Thai and physical training sparked it all for me. So you could say I’m #revertingtoachildlikestate. I’m going to go about changing myself physically again and working towards quite simply ‘living’.

I’ve converted the place where my dad died into a positive and I’m going to train like an MF and anyone who’s got the nuts to get up an hour before everyone else and not have that balfours finger bun is welcome to join me! I teach the Muay Thai and make the coffee, Steph makes the sandwiches. Hit us up on facebook!

 

Thanks for reading! Keep your eyes out for some good stuff  I’ll be sharing real soon.

 

Now have a look at these photos! (note: the hat was my dad’s, I found it recently – it says “Lost in Yonkers” – let me know if you know what it means haha) xoxoxo

 

Brendan McDonnell

Brendan McDonnell

Brendan McDonnell

Brendan McDonnell

Brendan McDonnell

Brendan McDonnell

Brendan McDonnell

Brendan McDonnell

Brendan McDonnell

Brendan McDonnell

Brendan McDonnell

Brendan McDonnell

Brendan McDonnell

Brendan McDonnell

Brendan McDonnell

Brendan McDonnell

Brendan McDonnell

Brendan McDonnell

8 Comments. Leave a comment

Comments

  1. Uncle Luke
    January 25, 2016

    Nice one Bren,
    Your right anxiety is a pain in the arse and finding the key to enjoy this moment instead of worrying about the next one is a good key to find.

    5 min read my arse
    Not for your semi bloody illiterate uncle. Ha

    Peace

  2. Teresa
    January 25, 2016

    Always an inspiration Brendan.
    Anxiety and panic attacks have been mounting in recent months so a different perspective is welcome. Keep up the good work. I have been spreading the word.
    Teresa xx

  3. Eileen Postans (nee McDonnell)
    January 25, 2016

    Well done Brendan, though we have never met it is a privilege to call you a relation, my dad was your granddads brother and my son is inflicted by the black dog I would really like you to meet him, he struggles everyday but is fighting it, he knows it will be with him always and thanks to people such as you and him, awareness of this terrible disease will become wide spread and not taboo, the more we talk about it the more people will be aware and maybe help those in need. Keep up your blogs you are truly an inspiration.

  4. Jo Hamblyn
    January 25, 2016

    Well written Brendan.. Every day I remind myself “what is my primary purpose?” Well, it’s to be present at that moment, to observe whatever I’m doing, however I’m feeling. It’s very hard to get lost in my anxiety/stress/fears etc, if I’m living in the moment. NOW, truly is the only place it’s ever possible to be.. Memories are somewhat distorted by the brain, projections of future outcomes are simply that, projections. Now, is it for me. So so so AWESOME to hear someone at your age speak with this insight. Whatever you do Brendan, I hope this blog will be a part of it because you will help a great deal of people.
    Take care man,
    Jo. 🙏🏼🙏🏼

  5. Jo Hamblyn
    January 25, 2016

    P.s. Beautiful photos 👍🏼✌🏼️

  6. Wayne Bradley
    January 25, 2016

    Well said and well done Brendan, your dad would be very proud of you !

    Helping others, also helps ourselves on life’s journey !

    Regards
    Wayne Bradley

    P.S. The resemblance to your dad, wow ?

  7. Landis Block
    April 13, 2016

    Hey Brendan,
    Landis here, from New York City. I’m a new bride-client of your cousin, Josh. After a coffee over Skype, he learned that I worked as a therapist in a mental health clinic, and I learned that his cousin was on a beautiful mission to spread mental health awareness in Australia… and also that I didn’t need to interview any other photographers. After poking around your site, videos, posts and reading your story, I am so grateful for this somewhat random, far-away connection, and your mission. The stigma of mental health and its seemingly intensified stigma for men transcends cultures and countries. I thank you for sharing your story and sharing with others how you’ve navigated through this stigma as well as your own grief. Inspiring is an understatement. Keep posting, keep growing, keep sharing – the world needs you. All the best from the other side of the planet,
    Landis

    • Brendan McDonnell
      April 14, 2016

      What a beautiful message! Far out :o

      Thanks so much for reaching out Landis. Doing my best!

      You definitely don’t need to interview any other photographers.. Josh is fucking awesome! (excuse my French haha).. He is someone who inspires me to continue doing the things I’m doing.

      Can’t wait to see your photos on his blog in the near future!
      Bren xo

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