“Do shit that’s difficult. It’s very important to struggle.”
The other night, after drinking Valerian tea, I had my first ever Joe Rogan dream. I’d never thought often of Joe Rogan in my waking life—I’d never even heard a full episode of his podcast. Nonetheless, I respected Joe Rogan and marveled at his diverse achievements. It was surprising to see him in my dream, driving a vehicle in which I was the passenger. It was also surprising that seated in the back were two other podcasters I listen to regularly, Ben Greenfield and Aubrey Marcus, the latter of whom I know is good friends with Joe Rogan.
In the dream, Joe Rogan was a mentor for me. We were not quite friends, but it felt that we were growing closer with each exchange. It felt like kindred spirits communicating. Joe Rogan drove me and Aubrey Marcus and Ben Greenfield through a desert landscape with lots of hills and mesas. I felt I was in the company of powerful men initiating me into something beyond myself. Gratitude suddenly filled my heart, and I wished to express it to all of them. I turned to Ben Greenfield, and I said,
“Hey Ben. Thanks for introducing me to bowhunting on your podcast. I’ve started shooting and am super excited it’s now a part of my life.”
Ben Greenfield, whose black hair was shimmering with gel, looked at me, scoffed, and shook his head. I thought, ‘Man. Ben Greenfield is a real jerk. He doesn’t even support my burgeoning desire to bowhunt!’
I turned then to Aubrey Marcus. Aubrey Marcus appeared to have skin of many colors. He was basically rolling around on the cushion and smiling with ecstasy like all the pleasure of the universe was erupting throughout him. I said,
“Hey Aubrey. Thanks for being so open about your polyamorous relationship with your fiancé, and thanks for teaching people about plant medicines. You are an inspiring guy, and I sense little ego in you.”
Aubrey directed his smile at me, feeling all the pleasure only Aubrey Marcus seems to feel. I thought, Aubrey Marcus is cooler than Ben Greenfield.
At some point, all four of us made fun of Dave Asprey.
All the while, Joe Rogan drove us with intent and focus. We had no fear we were going astray. At some undefined point, the vehicle Joe Rogan drove transformed into a school bus. Ben Greenfield and Aubrey Marcus were no longer there.
Joe Rogan started teaching me how to focus. He instructed me to block out the haters and naysayers, the worries about what other people are saying. These are things I cannot control, and they have nothing to do with my path. “It’s about finding what you want to do,” Joe Rogan said, “and it’s about making that happen, one small step at a time.” He dropped me off in a field full of people.
Everything after becomes fuzzy—encounters with my close childhood friend Will, many celebratory games, and Joe Rogan abruptly returning to hang with me once again. In the final vision of the dream, I ran alone up a sand dune at dusk. Over the edge, I glimpsed a small reptilian creature standing still, indicating the strange unknown awaiting.
When I awoke, I recalled my dream vividly. I thought it funny, and I thought it odd, as Joe Rogan had meant little more to my life than he probably means to most people: that old host of Fear Factor who happens to be a badass MMA fighter and stand-up comic and megaphone-promoter of psychotropic exploration. I’d heard his name recently when Aubrey Marcus interviewed Jordan Harbinger, host of The Art of Charm, and Harbinger referred to Rogan as a sort of peak of the podcasting world. So I thought, ‘This dream felt like some kind of vision. I’m going to take it as a sign to download the most recent episode of The Joe Rogan Experience and see what I learn.’
Turned out the most recent episode, posted just the day before, was all about bowhunting.
‘Wild!’ I thought. ‘I’d only heard about bowhunting from that meanie Ben Greenfield! But I’ve been telling people it’s the activity I most want to get into out here in Colorado. That’s why I’ve been to the archery range three times! Synchronicity, man!’
Turns out Joe Rogan is super into bowhunting, too. His guest was Cameron Hanes, a “bowhunting athlete” with whom Joe Rogan had just (like, right before recording) traveled to Utah to hunt for elk in a region to which they continually referred as “indescribable.” For the entire first hour and a half, they talked about bowhunting with unbelievable enthusiasm and respect. It was one of the best podcast listening experiences I have had.
Joe Rogan and Cameron addressed how physically challenging bowhunting is—coming from Joe Rogan that means a lot, cause Joe Rogan is a very strong man. They talked about the ethics of bowhunting, how it puts us in touch with our ancestors and brings one as close as possible to the meat one eats. Cameron said if he wanted just to kill an animal, he would use a gun, cause that’s much easier. It’s not about making an animal suffer or getting the trophy for the wall. It’s about that deep connection with nature, both internal and external, and the patience it requires to navigate the wilderness and hit the perfect shot while a massive antlered elk is barking its horrid cry. It’s about the challenge, it’s about the discipline, and it’s about the humility.
And it’s this message of challenge and discipline that my Joe Rogan dream came to deliver me. Joe Rogan kept saying, “It’s incredibly difficult,” and he’s been bowhunting for over four years. Cameron said the difficulty is so great he does not recommend people start bowhunting in the first place. Both these guys know how to shoot bows accurately, and they know how to treat the meat. Nearly all the meat Cameron’s family eats is from his hunts. He has been bowhunting for almost his entire life. It has taken him and Joe Rogan a long time to reach their level of success.
I have been to the archery range three times.
To make matters worse, these guys are having this hard of a time using compound bows. My bow is a recurve bow, the type of bow I want to hunt with, cause that’s what Link uses in The Legend of Zelda and what Legolas uses in Lord of the Rings, and those characters are my primary archery inspirations. Hunting with a recurve bow is significantly more difficult than hunting with a compound bow.
Get the desires in check, this Joe Rogan experience taught me. You’re not at bowhunting level. You’ve got a long way to go before you get to bowhunting level. Right now, it’s learning how to shoot an exact point over and over so you can take down an animal with a single shot, rather than cause it needless suffering. Then, in that moment, you open yourself to a spiritual connection with the animal.
In response, I went to Rocky Mountain Archery for the fourth time, armed with my Sage Samick Recurve Bow w/ 45lb draw weight and my four carbon arrows. Joe Rogan and Cameron spoke about shooting elk at forty-five yards away, making it seem like a manageable distance. It turns out that the targets I’d been shooting at the range—targets I was finally starting to hit last time, as I excitedly documented on Instagram—were a measly ten yards away. The range’s far targets are twenty yards, and every time I’ve been bold enough to attempt a shot at them, my arrows have struck not inches but feet from the intended target, sometimes embarrassingly hitting the metal far above them that clanged and echoed through the range for all the compound-bow dead shots to hear.
Today, all of the ten-yard targets were taken. The only option was a twenty yarder.
After talking myself out of leaving, I set up my target, lined up against the far wall, and started firing. None of my shots were coming close. It took several rounds before I even hit the paper. My focus was off. My shots were flying wayward directions. I thought of that scene in Fellowship of the Ring when, in the Mines of Moria, Legolas shoots an arrow straight as a bullet several hundred yards so strike the direct center of an orc’s ugly eyes. I realized this is complete fantasy. This is not possible with a recurve bow. ‘I’m a fool for thinking I can do this,’ I thought. ‘There’s no way I’ll learn to aim from this distance.’
Then I recalled a lesson I had learned at this very range the week before. The lesson came from a Chinese man with a ponytail, a sage of sorts, who spoke to me when I shot an arrow straight into the back of another arrow. He congratulated me, as if I had accomplished something rare. He went on to instruct me that instead of shooting at the big paper targets, which have distracting colors and layers, I should shoot at a small, deflated balloon. Doing so hones the accuracy to a fine point, which I could then transfer to other points at will. It took many failures, but at the end of my session, I hit the balloon from ten yards away.
But twenty yards away? It was too far. The arrow’s trajectory was far less precise. I would look like a fool on this crowded Sunday!
I recalled the Joe Rogan dream. Focus not on how others are seeing you. I thought of the another thing he said. Do shit that’s difficult. It’s very important to struggle.
So I hung the deflated balloon the sage had given me and started targeting it. It looked like a tiny blip of orange in the distance. For several rounds I was way off. All over the place. Finding no flow. I was thinking too much. I kept telling myself to adjust my arm, stand up straighter, twist my elbow, breathe with more focus. On one shot my string collided with my forearm. This hurt really bad. I cursed beneath my breath and crouched over the arm in pain, watching a welt rapidly form. The next few rounds, I was even further off, for I felt fear of the string hitting me again. I considered calling it quits. But I kept shooting.
At some point, I started to calm down. I started focusing on what I knew helped: breathe in on the drawback, exhale on the release. The arrows struck closer to the balloon. One in four was landing within six inches. But then ole ego would reenter the scene, saying, ‘Yeah. You got this. It’s easy. You rock.’ Then my aim would go awry again.
I thought to Joe Rogan and Cameron’s discussing the powerfully primal nature of bowhunting. I wanted to lose my sense of self. Softly, a mantra formed in my mind:
Human and bow… no ego… Human and bow and target…
Target and bow… no ego… Human and bow and target…
I repeated the mantra in rhythm with my breath, and I saw myself not as this guy ‘Sean’ with whom I have built so many associations, but rather as a stranger. In a flow state outside the ego I witnessed my body holding this beautiful bow. I felt powerful and natural as I drew back the string. I felt as if I had done it countless times before. The arrows were inching closer to my target. Then, one struck the orange balloon. It struck so hard the balloon receded back into the foam.
My mind delighted. I hit it! That was a perfect shot!
The mantra reminded, Target and bow… no ego…
Somewhere deep within my mind, Joe Rogan started teaching me again. “It’s not about gloating,” my mind’s version of Joe Rogan told me. “It’s not about pictures you can post on Instagram. It’s not even about celebrating this one perfect shot. It’s about learning how to replicate it. It’s about honing in on that point with more accuracy and consistency each round. It’s about finding the humility and discipline to do so. Then, you move on to the next level.”
This flow state continued for a few more rounds. Each shot was striking within six inches. I could see where the arrow was going to travel. But the more I became aware of the flow state, the more the ego reentered my mind, bringing in chatter and distraction and pressure. Gradually, my aim began to drift away.
And for this moment, that felt perfectly fine.
Each time I go to the archery range, I learn something about myself and my limits. It is always a humbling experience. I am grateful that my Joe Rogan dream and the podcast to which it led me challenged me to struggle and grow. I realize now that Ben Greenfield scoffing in the back had nothing to do with his being an jerk (I bet he’s a really nice guy). Rather, he was showing me in his Ben Greenfield way that bowhunting is still in the distance for me, that I have many steps yet to walk, and for now, it’s about opening to that Aubrey Marcus flow-state pleasure through immersing myself in the act of archery itself. It’s about tuning out the chatter of the doubts and the fears, the ego and the expectations. It’s about honing in on that specific point in space, developing the discipline and concentration to hit it over and over again. Only then will I be able to respect an animal enough to take it down with one perfect shot.
“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”