"I just want to live on land surrounded by beautiful mature trees", I said to Allie.
"You're way more of a hippy than people think Jiro", he replied.
Yep... truth is I've always felt like a hippy and had a high regard for the hippy ideals of freedom and non-conformism.
As a middle-class kid at a grammar school, blazer on, studying Latin (why?) and playing rugby with the other boys, I felt like a outsider and couldn't wait to get the hell out of bland suburbia.
I was always intrigued by rebels and fringe movements. I didn't really know what being a hippy entailed apart from getting really stoned and having dreads, so I did the first bit a lot.
Dropping out of the system to do alternate and rebellious stuff felt like the only option.
So when my school mates were hired by law firms, consulting and banks after university, I moved to rural Japan to teach English/ entertain small children by being a funny foreigner, and learn about Zen.
But after 2 years of amazing experiences, when faced with the decision of becoming a monk or not (I mulled the possibility for approximately a week, finally deciding I could seek spiritual enlightenment in less frugal conditions, with more surf opportunities) I ejected myself to the other side of the polarity and joined the corporate world.
I did so for 3 solidly ego-centric and fear based reasons:
1. To try and make shit-loads of money
2. Make my Dad proud of me
3. Appear to be so "successful" that my friends would think I was the man
After 2 years of this, I was moderately wealthy, extremely fearful, worryingly fat, and utterly exhausted.
Wearing the mask of conformity, I had taken on many of the world views and anxieties expected of a person hustling hard in the finance system and trying to make as much money as possible.
I remember re-thinking the whole hippy thing. "Time-wasters". "Get a job". "I won't have the same regrets they will", as I dug into buffet breakfast with bankers at the Shangri-La.
It's amazing how ones ego adapts to the particular fears stimulated by the conditions one is immersed in. That I suppose is the truest sense of conditioning.
My book purchases changed. Out were books on the mind, nature and eastern philosophy. In were books on wealth accumulation, stock markets and property investing.
Whatever I feared and resisted (in this case, not having enough money and social status), became what I scorned others for not having.
I slid slightly to the right on the political spectrum.
To justify to myself the place in the world I had decided to take, my mind moulded to the forces around me.
Fortunately (or not), my inner leftwing revolutionary hippy was still just about alive. After a 2 year stint of corporate servitude, I quit in rebellion to spend a year travelling, doing little but surf, yoga, meditate, read Watts, McKenna, Krishnamurti, Lao Tsu, get high.
But on reflection, there was no great awakening.
Despite me revelling in the freedom of time and space, there was no breakthrough to higher levels of consciousness. I was acting out the pattern, bouncing between the 2 ends of our cultural spectrum, as lost and rudderless as ever between 2 polarities.
The choice I limited myself to:
1. Be a rat in the race
2. Say "fck you system… I'm a rebel without a cause so I'm gonna go surf and meditate all day".
My fear of selling out (hippy fears) just about outweighed my fears of being poor (middle-class/ corporate joe fears), so I pretended to live by lofty ideals and have a clear picture of how the world should be, when in fact it was my fears of being a sell-out that fuelled me...
I remember sitting in a hammock in Bali, fretting about my future: "how can I be a hippy/ rebel/ travelling bum, but still make enough money to buy nice stuff?"
Surely an inner dialogue representative of my generation.
Ideals versus Narcissism
In his book A Theory of Everything, philosopher Ken Wilber cites the example of Vietnam war protestors in the 1960s, who universally claimed they were acting based on moral eco-centric principles (i.e. "The war in Vietnam violates human rights and on that basis I refuse to fight in that war").
However tests revealed that only a tiny minority were actually acting from such a moral high ground.
The majority were expressing more ego-centric drives: "Nobody tells me what to do. Take your war and shove it."
This is why the extremes of being a hippy and being a rat in the rat race both get a bad rap in our culture. For the same reason.
It is the superficiality of high-ideal, self-righteousness, contrasting so starkly against the reality of self-serving narcissism.
We sense that those who look like independent humans bravely seeking freedom in their own way, might just be people running away from inner fears. Because we have all done it.
When I was in the corporate world, I adjusted my frame: "the hippy is a smelly, hypocrite, loser."
When I was expressing my inner hippy, I readjusted: "The corporate world is an evil place filled with sellouts, sheep and cowards."
This simplistic creating of arbitrary and fickle divisions allowed me to avoid stepping up to examine deeper fears, pains and limitations.
And so I have experienced polarity, tribalism and division fuelled by nothing but my own fears.
What about now? A decade has passed since that last burst of rebellion, which has been a period of understanding and integrating polarities. I now sense that all labels and divisions conceal truth and prevent growth.
Left vs right political dichotomy feels simplistic and really unhelpful. I see people picking a side based on the flavour of fears they inherit and develop… and then moulding their entire worldview to fit a unilateral political brand.
The hippy vs. corporate world stereotype and divide feels merely symbolic of whether one prioritises freedom or security.
Whatever I see out there must also be within me. What I fight or criticise, reveals my inner battle against my fears.
Polarisation feels like the force that limits us. But integration of all polarities feels like the power that liberates us.
A teacher of mine once said: "Jiro, you're a world-walker". I pictured a mythical and gigantic beast with each foot on a planet. But I get it. She could of just said "You're a bridge", but "world-walker" sounds way cooler.
My next chapter is about integrating from each side of every polarity, to bridge divides, and be so staunch and aware that I can hold within me the paradoxes of a conflicted and complex world.
And so Im off to L.A in a few days, to embark on a new chapter for me and Flowstate. It's the full turn of the wheel.
Flowstate has a new mission (and a new brand) coming soon:
To co-create a world where every business contributes to solving our greatest planetary challenges, by catalysing leadership and culture transformation in businesses.
So, I'm going back into the corporate world, as a world walker. To help businesses through a process of consciousness based culture transformation.
And while I'm there, I'm going to go full hippy/ mystic/ psychedelic journeying with a couple of rational, anti-woo woo entrepreneur clients. I can't wait to wooo the hell outa them. Scientifically of course.
hahaha :) Integration feels amazing.
Catch ya on the other side.