Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Agile Lifestyle

The Agile Lifestyle

Dave Wardman

One of the things I remember observing and contemplating most as a child, was: 'why do all these adults around me do jobs they obviously disdain/dislike/hate then tell me that I am going to do the same, and that it's "good", "the way it is" and "a part of growing up"..'. It always seemed, although normal in the sense of normative distribution, a highly unnatural state to be forced into.

I expended a lot of energy dreading the prospect of what out of the standard white-collar professions (that my high-schooling programmed me to think as being the only options post-graduation) would be, not really the most interesting, but the least boring and one that would allow the most free time to do things I actually enjoyed.

Many of my peers had, or are having, similar contemplations.  The (hot) topic of non-linear life style design has generated a fair amount of intriguing discourse on the few chosen platforms for social media engagement that I frequent.

A while ago on there was this thread at the Stretch Therapy Forums. Even more recently in a response to THIS on the Physical Alchemy facebook page.   Many of the most interesting, open-minded and forward-thinking people I know have commented with their favoured methods for which one can perform The Great Escape (a.k.a escaping 'The Matrix' of 'working a job you hate to buy shit you don't need (and pay off your mortgage/debt)' - to have time free for the things they enjoy and that actually make up their life in a meaningful way).

Post high school I slid into university, mainly as a way of postponing the decision of 'what career I was going to devote my life to'*.  It was there, not in any of my classes, but in the university Dojo that I had a minor satori into this perceived dilemma.

My martial arts teacher C. (and first teacher in a wider sense) was a living example of someone who had not done things the standard way and thrived.  One of the many great lessons I received from him was this very thing - hope!

I had, as a child, always hypothesized that there must be a to evade the dreaded 'inevitable fate' (as I viewed it then) of a job you hated**.  And now I was presently multiple times a week with the truth that you could do something different, and in fact by doing something different you transformed yourself in the process.  This had a deep affect upon me.

Now I knew it was possible to do things another way, I made a resolve to never enter into the white-collar path (I did do a small stint in this type of job. 3 months made it totally clear that this was not for me).. Still, I had seen it was possible, but what type of path does Dave take to this end - doubts persisted.  I took 6 years to finish my 3 year degree.  Just nearing the end of this period, I began to study with another of my teachers (K).

Meeting K. only strengthened my resolve deeper. Here were the two coolest and most interesting humans I had met at that stage of my life, and both had gone all over the place in terms of work, study and life-experience (I recognized this, too; I had a poverty of life experience at that stage.  Having the auspicious fortune of being able to study so closely with these two teachers really broke me out of my shell).

Both of K. and C. epitomize the 'Expert Generalist' and are both intellectually brilliant, are very well read, have a large practical skill-set, had working Sitting Practices, studied in teacher-student apprenticeship style learning relationships and have high level body awareness.  I started to triangulate in on a pattern I could model, not follow exactly as my path differs from theirs, but modelling the commonalities between them. I put it to you, find prototypes; and beg them to let you be their students if need be! 

So, skip ahead 7 or 8 years of my spiritual journey to now, and I find myself precisely where I wanted to be looking forward from that time period.  Kinda cool, huh?

At any rate, a lot of the stuff being talked about in the wider agile lifestyle picture is not-applicable to me.  The highly popular ethos of the 4-hr workweek (which I read twice, and like sections of very much) is not really what I am after.  I love what I do and will continue, deepen and expand it (at a sustainable rate) as long as I can.  I feel like a man on a perennial secret mission. This is a good feeling. 

Agile lifestyle for me means I can do immersion style study with great teachers to improve my specific skill-set so I can improve the Physical Alchemy methods effectiveness.  Sitting in a hammock, sipping pina coladas with nothing to do is not for me  (I used to idolize having endless spare time, this changed for me during the last 7 years when I realized what that was). 

Agile lifestyle means I can spend a high amount of quality time with my wife and daughter. Extra time to practice and do hard training. Time in nature. More tribe time (time with friends and peers). Time for more Solitude and Silence. Time to practice and tinker with my craft.  All the things that are actually my Life.

One of the reasons I use agile is that there are many different configurations to this - pina colada sipping included!  I have met people who work part-time to fund their hobbies (a.k.a their Life); people who work full-time then have 'mini-retirements' to do immersion style study; people who use their jobs as sadhana; people working whilst studying the thing they actually want to do at night.  The commonality is a certain spark seeing a 'glitch in the matrix' of standard lifestyle patterning. 

Agile (for me) is about maximizing the activities of deepest meaning to you within your current resource base (resource base at all levels - mental, temporal, financial, etc) and within the constraints you have (debt, family and other duties). It is about reducing or eliminating the unnecessary, wherever possible - and sometimes that's not possible.   

I also use agile, in the sense of 'traveling light', as for me and others I know well -there is a definite material de-cluttering that accompanies the conceptual de-cluttering necessary to jump paradigms.

This may be spartan for the nomadic bachelor who is 'walking the Earth like Caine in Kung Fu', or simplification and reduction in non-useful objects for a family with 5 children.

For me, I like a modified version the ethos of 'Zen-nanny' Marie Kondo (LINK)  - give away any items that are not useful, beautiful and that do not 'spark joy'.

Recently, I have seen a visible shift in a number of areas that I feel is reflective of the larger pattern behind agile living.  One of the cool things is what is happening with housing (tiny houses, yurts), architecture (bio-mimicry in design and new materials), food (permaculture) and energy (solar and other 'off the grid' set-ups) production.

Agile structures such as yurts and tiny housing concepts are really taking off and this really makes a lot of sense.  Having been in a yurt before, I must say the ambiance of a round (or at least octagonal) room is very appealing to me - as are some of the tree house-like tiny houses!

Communal living of different types also makes sense for many situations, and looked upon through the eyes of history it is actually a much more natural configuration for humans to live in than the odd nuclear family in a massive suburban house that was the "norm" for the city I grew up in.

For my mind, all this is part of a wider re-patterning of the cultural-body underway at the moment, that bubbles up visibly in seemingly unrelated areas.  Two of the books in my recommended reading list, Coming to Our Senses and The Continuum Concept when combined, show a nice linking of the phenomena of tiny houses and yurts (and so on) with the silent epidemic of dis-embodiment (lack of body awareness and embodied presence).  I won't spoil the surprise - to the library!

One last thing to contemplate, that Kit and I discussed a while back.  In Japan the hara (moving or 'doing' centre) is increased by movement training (often martial arts, and by Sitting Practice too).  We were discussing the possible correlation of the hara you get from improving your physical body with the necessary drive and persistence needed to 'escape the matrix'.. i.e it's not a matter of intellect (or intellect alone); I know many intelligent people without the will to follow it through.

Tune in to the Physical Alchemy Facebook group and Stretch Therapy Community Forum for more developments,  watch out for Part 2 of this article coming soon..! 


Thank you to my teachers C. and K. for their inspirational and guidance in all things, and especially in showing me the way to break free.

Thank you to all who participated in the Physical Alchemy Facebook group discussion in the comments of 'Tiny House' article.  I am blessed to have you all communicating with me, it is quite an honour to be able to link with you via that interface.  What an interesting time to be alive!

*As an interesting aside, during high school I was afflicted with near crippling indecision.  Martial arts training whilst at university totally cured this for me, and I wonder how many other kids would be far better suited doing a martial art as an actual class at school instead of double maths or something else arbitrary like that?  I remember nothing of most of my subjects in highschool, but I will remember forever and carry forth the transformation from the martial arts training - that was true education

** possibly amplified by programming from shows like The Simpsons, where the humour involves characters in jobs they hate, but doesn't show how to escape this.


  1. Re: Hara training.

    Hi Dave,

    FYI, in the system of Rudolf Steiner ( Anthroposophy ), the lower energetic centers of the body are explicitly connected to vitality and Will, both in sense of human willpower and the ability to affect divine change in the physical realm.

  2. Interesting. I find your story very similar to my own in a lot of ways.

    And reading this article has helped clarify some concepts that I've been having trouble putting words to.

    In terms of being free of the matrix (or working free from it) my own focus was initially on basic principles that could be applied to any situation to make the doing easier. But then later my focus changed to that of trying to understand "consciousness" in a way that is useful in every day life.


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