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When do you Eat?

Humans have such an interesting relationship with food.  Compared to other creatures, we’ve gone way beyond our fundamental needs for intake, and moved into developing foods that actually can’t even be considered food.  In addition to that, and because of the ease and accessibility with which we’ve come to obtain and store our foods, we have drastically changed ‘when’ we choose to eat.

We might start consuming a minute after waking.  We may even take food into our bed at night.  This has created a unique, and some would say unhealthy relationship between food and humans.  It takes us away from our fundamental and biological need for sustenance, and moves into other areas in which we eat out of boredom, to fix a negative feeling, or because we ‘think’ we’re hungry.  It’s also simply led us to lead less healthy lives.

A really effective way to gain perspective on our relationship with food, is to compare oneself with a human of the past that would practice a hunter/gatherer type of lifestyle.  It’s the original and pure archetype that we’ve evolved from.  We have of course, become much more efficient, much more secure, and we’ve improved in so many ways.  That can’t be overstated.  And there are technological developments around food that have created immense growth and improved health for humans.  In fact, there are many shortcuts (hacks), supplements, and other methods that people can employ to maintain a healthy diet.  But the practices of the past have a lot to offer too…and shouldn’t be forgotten.

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‘Who’ you eat with is as important as ‘when’ you eat

Let’s consider how a hunter-gatherer might have lived thousands of years ago.  They would wake up with the sun in the morning… without a full pantry and refrigerator.  And before they discovered effective methods for storing food (salts, cooling), it was very difficult to save food day to day.  That meant going out each day and foraging for edible plants.  It meant fishing, or hunting down an animal.  And hopefully, by the afternoon, it meant returning to the village with a meal for the family or community.  This means that for the most part, these people weren’t eating a morning meal of breakfast, and that they sometimes wouldn’t eat a thing until the afternoon or evening.

Growing up in today’s society…you might hear the phrase, ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’…and of course, that argument can be made.  However, learning from our primal roots and ancestors, we can gain a very healthy, alternative lifestyle with an approach that I’d agree with, and instead suggests that ‘breakfast is the meal that should be skipped…most days.’

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By skipping breakfast (and you’ve probably noticed how the word is made up of ‘break’ and ‘fast’) we can prolong our ‘fasting’ (or not eating) period, and therefore restrict the time during which we are eating and consequently digesting.  This is referred to as Time Restricted Eating.  Instead of eating at say 8am, you can wait until noon.  Another way to shorten this eating window is to stop eating earlier in the evening.  Instead of packing in a bunch of food right before bed, maybe around 10pm, you can stop eating for the day…say at 8pm.  Therefore, you’d be utilizing an 8 hour eating window (12 noon until 8pm), and a 16 hour fasting period (8pm until noon the next day).  This is in contrast to a typical eating window of 8am until 10pm, which is a 14 hour eating window paired with a 10 hour fasting period.

…’breakfast is the meal that should be skipped…most days.’

 

Why Though?

That’s a difference of 6 hours of intermittent fasting every day.  Well…why does that matter?  And why would anyone want to shorten their eating window, and practice Time Restricted Eating?

Research has proved that eating within a shorter period of time each day simply leads to living longer.  That’s lifespan. The literature reveals that chronic diseases and metabolic degradation (the waning ability of our cells to process energy efficiently as we age) can be prolonged by this intriguing adjustment of when we eat.  It should be noted that most of the research has been done on mice and worms.  Take that as you will.

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Potato chips are vegetables…right?

Lifespan is and should be important to most of us, as we typically want to be here as long as possible.  However, I believe a more attractive goal, and one that we probably all want more than lifespan…is Healthspan.  This is the length of time that we’ll live a ‘healthy’ lifestyle, and one without chronic disease.  It’s safe to say that we wouldn’t want to live a long long time if that time is filled with disease, ailments, bed ridden days, and other challenges.  Maybe it beats the alternatives?  It’s hard to say.

It’s safe to say though, that we all want to be healthy…for as long as possible.  Time Restricted Eating (TRE) also helps there.  It’s been proven to assist in weight loss, in discouraging the risk of diabetes, and in a general reduction in one’s glycemic response to meals.  This response is an effective measure of metabolic health…and is a reflection of overall health.  TRE has also been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce insulin levels, and reduce oxidative stress in those who practice.  Oxidative stress takes place when too many free radical molecules are roaming the body.  It leads to a host of negative health issues for individuals.  We can help rid ourselves of them with antioxidants, but when the levels are too high, we suffer.

Shortening the eating window has also proven to increase aerobic abilities, as well as increase lean muscle mass while burning fat.  Our bodies mostly use carbohydrates or glucose to burn for energy.  When those stores are depleted, we begin to use fat for energy.  If we lengthen our fasting period, we lengthen the time that we burn fat.  Interesting.

 

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Just like light and dark, eating or fasting are unavoidably intertwined with the circadian rhythms in the body.  Disrupting our bodies internal clocks through untimely light exposure and/or eating at unregulated times can contribute to all kinds of health issues, from obesity to cancer to you guessed it…trouble with sleep.

By shortening the eating window, and practicing consistency within when we eat, we can closely align our lifestyle with our own circadian system, actually supporting our biological need to sleep, rest, recover, repair.

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When we awake, we can usually kick-start our bodies effectively with light, or a little water.  A healthy salt or electrolytes (calcium, magnesium, potassium) in your water can help here if necessary.  The body has gone without water for about 8 hours while sleeping.  If we did that to ourselves during the waking hours, we’d certain start feeling signs of dehydration.  Surprisingly, most of us consume coffee upon waking.  Coffee is a diuretic though, and can lead to more dehydration.  It’s actually pretty counterproductive to a healthy start to the day.  Coffee does however come with some health benefits, but if you’re drinking coffee for health, consuming it directly upon waking is not the most effective method.  And sure…caffeine will definitely assist you in the waking process.  However, after we’ve hydrated in the morning , the sunlight does very well sending sufficient signals to our bodies…that it’s go time!  Living in a place without much sun, or during seasons with less sun exposure will of course call for more substantial support from other methods.

I’ve written more on waking, morning routines, and what I find effective here and here.

Where most of us could use more help though, is at night when most of us eat very late into the evening…almost right up to bedtime.  This practice is certainly deleterious to our health, and doesn’t align at all with our internal clocks, which naturally want to shut down and not begin the long process of digesting newly introduced foods.  On top of that, our body processes the same food differently, at different times throughout the day.  It’s worth noting here that in general, we have a more sensitive glycemic index as the day goes on, causing more fluctuations in blood sugar levels later in the day.

 

My Fasting Experience 

My first time trying this was this year (2019), from April 1 to July 13.  I was going on vacation on July 14, so I figured it was a good deadline to give myself.   I then gave it another go from July 22 to October 12.  I also practiced 2 ‘prolonged fasts’ this year…both for about 36 hours.  I’ll touch more on those in another piece.  I do want to incorporate 3 or 4 of those prolonged fasts each year moving forward.  During my intermittent fasting though, I practiced the 12 noon to 8pm eating window, and the 8pm to noon fasting window.  For the most part, I did this 7 days a week.  However, sometimes I would skip it during one of the weekend days.  In my research, I found that even doing this 3 or 4 days a week…or even practicing every other day…still delivers health benefits.  Interestingly enough though, fasting somewhat follows the ‘if some is good, more is better’ adage.  Obviously, safety and contacting a medical professional is important prior to practicing but…the shorter the eating windows, and the longer the intermittent or prolonged fasts…the more compounded the positive results become.

Anecdotally,  TRE creates more sustained and consistent levels of energy for me throughout the day.  This could have something to do with using fat as energy as opposed to carbohydrates, and I’ll be researching that more in the future.  But it’s also a byproduct of a healthier glycemic index as noted above.  I don’t feel as much of a spike in energy soon after eating, and I certainly don’t feel that drowsy crash that I used to feel after eating lunch.  I still do consume caffeine in the form of a cup or two of coffee a day, and can notice a manipulation of energy with that.  But generally, I feel a more stable sense of readiness and vitality throughout a given day.

I’d also say that I’ve experienced more mental clarity, alertness, and focus during fasted states (prolonged or intermittent).  Upon waking in the morning after my prolonged fasts, I’ve felt a ‘lightness’ or refreshed feeling.  Many writers and creators have found success ‘creating’ things while in that state.  This may be related to the research literature that shows that fasting encourages the neuroplasticity within your brain, maintaining effective and efficient neural networks… resulting in better memory retention, better ability to learn new things, and better recovery from trauma or injury.  Having ‘elastic brain’ also helps to prevent diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.   Wow!

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Break your fast…with fuel!

I should comment on the unexpected benefit that I’ve found with fasting.  My relationship with food, and my mindset surrounding food has drastically changed.  I’ve noticed that with many good practices (food or other), there are these side-dish benefits if you will, that maybe weren’t the goal or focus…but are helpful nonetheless.  As people started using the phrase ‘hangry’, I totally identified with it.  This was before trying any fasting at all.  I felt that I needed to be full to feel right, and that if I didn’t have food often, I’d quickly start to feel poorly, physically and mentally.  That was just mental weakness though. I can comfortably say that after the smaller, consistent practice of shortening my daily eating window, as well as practicing two prolonged fasts (one for 36 hours and the next for 38), I’ve been forced to reset and reevaluate my definition of hungry, and reconfigure what it means for me to ‘need’ food.  Listen, I still LOVE food.  I still have a sweet tooth.  I still crave scallops and risotto, good bread and red wine.  In fact, this fasting process has helped me appreciate foods and flavors more, recognizing their true value and benefit…maybe as fuel, maybe as escape…maybe even as entertainment.  It’s all worth our consideration, and I believe that at least a healthy awareness is very beneficial to all of us, especially as we move into shaping when and what the next generation is eating.

So What Should I Do Now?

I often try things before knowing how they’ll affect me.  I enjoy the process of doing before thinking.  One area in which I’d like to improve though, is after experimenting, experiencing, and researching…coming up with some short, practical and functional ideas that ‘sum up’ what I’ve learned.  Here is some advice I’d give to myself.  I hope it helps you in some way:

  • Shorten the window in which I eat each day…as often as possible.  Start with maybe a 10 hour eating window, and move to an 8 or 6 hour window.  Remember…health benefits compound with shorter and shorter windows
  • 3 or 4 prolonged fasts a year.  At least 24 hours.  Try for a 72 hour fast after experienced
  • Consider not having coffee until later.  In actuality, even black coffee does break a fast, as the body needs to metabolize the caffeine.  And, it’s a diuretic.  If needed while fasting though, black only!
  • Experiment and document more.  Share and learn with others who are doing the same. Seek out leaders on this topic, and engage in conversations to learn
  • Move on to the next…learning more about Ketosis, using fat for energy, and also…my own genetic pre-disposition for metabolism with things like genetic history and blood testing

 

Thank you for reading, and please let me know your experiences with fasting, or your relationship with food!

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3 Morning Routines to Create a Beast in 2019

Real simple…perform these morning routines as often as possible, and you’ll enter your day feeling like a beast…like nothing can hold you back…nothing can stop you.   You’ll emerge out of your cave, feeling more ready to crush what the world has to offer you. And you’ll find that these routines transfer to discipline and vitality in other times of your day as well.  

Let’s get to it…
1.  Breathe

The first thing you should do immediately upon waking, is to take a deep, cleansing breath.  Use it to send a signal to the rest of your body that it’s time to start moving again. Also use it as a moment to practice gratitude.  You can choose to focus on a particular person in your life, being thankful for them or wishing them the best of days. Or, you can simply focus on the incredible opportunity afforded to you in being able to wake up and confront another day.  Gently crack a smile while you take this deliberate breath. All of this42595127_286774261932928_1903441034865640779_n together provides a subtle, yet powerful and positive start to your day. Some folks roll over and groan thinking, ‘oh crap…another day’. Don’t let that be your beginning.  

At some point in your morning, you need to perform some sort of mindfulness or meditation practice.  This is a great ‘clean up’ of the mind in a sense. It helps to store away the stirring and swarming thoughts from yesterday…into the correct files and folders.  It also allows you to connect with your deeper purpose for the day. Just sit and breathe. No phone, no laptop yet. Just you and the breath. I like to start with some deep belly breathing, focusing my mind on good oxygen coming in, and the used-up air going out. After that, I like to seep into letting the body breathe only as much as it needs. This is a quieter and calmer breath, but you’re still able to focus on it. You can sometimes hear and/or feel the heart here as well.  Just pay attention to body and the breath. When external thoughts come in…notice them, and gently guide them away.  You’ll get better at that with time. Don’t get frustrated early on with this part. It takes a lot of practice.

Breathe upon Waking.  

2.  Drink  

Before I actually get into my meditation practice, I down a good sized glass of water. Immediately after waking, your body is dehydrated. It’s gone somewhere around 8 hours without fluids.  Don’t go straight to the coffee (which is a diuretic, and can dehydrate you even more)….you can get to that after the water.  I actually take my coffee while I sit for meditation. This may not work for some people, as the caffeine may cause more stimulation, making it harder to only focus on that breath.  It doesn’t have that effect for me, so I combine the approximately 15 minutes of sitting with a nice warm cup. It’s really something to look forward to. If you need more ‘me time’…this is it.  

The Elixir of Life –

I have this liquid concoction that I make in the morning.  It’s fierce and invigorating. I call it the Elixir of life.  Here are the ingredients:

  • the juice from half of an organic lemon
  • a tablespoon of honey (preferably from your zip code)
  • a couple dashes of cinnamon

Stir all of this together in a tumbler glass and shoot it down in one gulp.  This elixir is bitter, and sweet, and spicy all in one.  It’s so good…and it has many health benefits to boot.  I usually take this soon after I’m done meditating.  It has that ‘Let’s go!’ feel to it, so the timing has to be just right.  

Cold Exposure –

After you actually drink some liquids, you need to soak in some liquids…or at least get sprayed with some in the shower.  It makes sense to speak about this here, but it should come after the 3rd routine in which you’ll move and sweat.  Nobody likes a stinky beast.

If you have the opportunity to soak in an ice bath or a pool of very cold water…do that. However, if you just did a hard workout, and you still want to achieve the hormetic response from that, most literature says to wait at least an hour after that exercise before hitting the cold.  

Another option, and this one doesn’t mitigate that stress response that you want from exercise (at least not enough to out-way the benefits) is to simply take a cold shower.  Not just a little cold. Icy! Get under that cold water for at least a couple minutes. Or, what I like to do is the hot to cold contrast shower. After you’re done with the shampoo,22352016_1920270868236875_9130452755868024832_n conditioner, and soap with some warm water, go as cold as possible and stay there for 20 seconds.  Then, go to hot water for 10 seconds. Go back and forth like this 10 times. That’s 5 minutes…and you’ll walk out of there feeling like an absolute beast. Between the Elixir of Life and this, you’ve now already had 2 invigorating experiences. And boy is that good for the soul.

On top of the that, the hot to cold movement gets the blood vessels opening and closing. Therefore, this shower exercise has awesome benefits for your metabolism, your cardiovascular health, and it’s great if you’re trying to burn fat.  

While you’re practicing the cold exposure, make sure to get the entire body cold…don’t forget the head.  You can supposedly protect the functionality of your brain, and the blood-brain barrier with this practice.  Get some.
3.  Move

Early morning exercise has many health benefits, including keeping you in that fat-burning state as well as giving your spirit a boost simply from the accomplishment. Whether you do some gentle yoga, take a walk in the sun (which is great in the morning for help with your circadian rhythm), swing some kettle-bells, or get to the gym for an early morning power-lifting session, you’ll be on your way to creating your beast of choice.  

If you are going to do that late afternoon hard workout, make sure to still do some sort of that lighter movement in the morning.  When that is the case for me, I grab the foam roller after meditation and go right to the living room floor. I do some rolling, which helps with recovery from yesterday’s workout.  And while I’m there on the floor, I’ll do my static stretching…mostly on the legs and back (my needy spots).   These two practices totally shape how I feel for the day, and set me up nicely for a workout later on.  If you instead choose to do that hard workout early in the morning, it will give you even more of that sense of accomplishment, and will lead you effectively into the rest of your day.  Maybe then grab that roller and do some static stretching before bed in that case.  

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To wrap up…a lot of this comes down to routine and consistency.  Try these practices that I’ve written about here (Breathe, Drink, Move), but also work to identify what works best in creating the beast that is within you.  But like my friend Brian says…if you want to be a beast, you have to do things that beasts do.  So, what are you waiting for?

emailsig

December 31 – Food

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The best way that I’ve found for myself to think of food…is to simply call it ‘fuel’ instead. Food is fuel for the organism that your body is.  And there is good fuel for functionality…and there is bad.  The good fuel is nutrient dense, and usually has multiple functions.  Bad fuel contains empty calories. It has no benefit to the biology of the body. It usually does actual harm to the body. It’s a can of soda and Cheetos.

We have become extraordinarily sophisticated in our ability to continue developing new varieties of food.  We’ve actually gone too far, and have created many unnecessary foods. This will continue to happen as our technology allows.  I find it intriguing for instance, the wide variety of ways that we’ve developed and brought to market cows milk. This isn’t a moral or ethical argument for animals, even though I feel that is important at times too.  You could make the same argument for the soybean. This is a consideration and questioning of the reasons behind such vast amounts of varieties. There are milks with all types, flavors, and fat contents. There are yogurts with the same.  We also make ice creams with cow milk. And then there are cheeses. So many cheeses. Oh…and butter. I’m sure I’m forgetting some other forms. Must we continue pushing until all manifestations have been attempted? It seems that humans have this determination to technologically explore (maybe exploit) all things to their end.  Are we doing that with our own species as well? I hope not.

One way to get the most out of our food and fuel is to get away from the food as ‘filler’ approach, and to get more familiar with a mindful savoring of what we eat.  Individuals who see their meal as a task, and as something in the way of what they’re doing, will tend to plow through food…and eat anything to fill them up quickly.  It’s a bonus for them if it’s fatty and sugary…as that will satisfy the somewhat ‘shallow’ taste buds, and create that feeling of full quickly.  

There is a more deliberate approach to food, that is a never-ending search for subtleties and nuance in flavor, texture, balance, complexity, etc.  This actually connects to the cow’s milk thinking…it’s a continual exploration. But there are more effective avenues to explore this pursuit.

If we take wine or coffee or tea for example, we can enter into a world of options for discovery.  By starting with awareness and then moving to identification, and possibly documentation, we can find interesting subtleties within the wide variety of flavors.  There is even a wide variety of salts now, and this is the area that I’m most interested in at this moment. Anyway, instead of sticking with the same coffee, let’s say…try as many varieties as you can.  Identify the different flavors. Pay attention. Even before that, pay close attention to the smells while it brews. Before that, take a whiff of the bag of beans immediately upon opening. Recently, while my coffee was brewing, I picked up a fruity smell of mango or melon.  I was surprised, as I never would have guessed I’d pick that up from coffee. And it was a cheap coffee at that! Once you eventually pour yourself a cup, you can smell that.  Then, you can sip slow and savor, noticing first the up front taste (those taste buds are near the tip of the tongue), the middle flavor close to when you’re swallowing (middle of the tongue taste buds), and then the duration and quality of the finish (picked up by the taste buds on the back of the tongue).  You can even notice different texture qualities, dryness, complexities, and balance of flavors. There’s so much to offer.

Practicing this allows to you encounter more often, the finer things in life.  And what’s so great is that it transfers to other foods and drink, and even to other phenomenon within our lives.  Through paying close attention to all of the nuance surrounding what we eat, we practice identifying the full breadth of experience.  We learn what we like…and what we don’t like. That’s learning about the self. We learn pairings…and what goes with what. That’s interconnectivity.  Food has much more to offer than we typically allow.

Notice the nuance…spot the subtleties.

If you’re interested in developing your palate, I highly recommend choosing a particular variety of food or drink (coffee, tea, wine, beer, breads, cheese, etc.)…and tasting as many varieties as possible.  What really helps with identification, is some sort of document that you can record information on. I made one of these for wine, and it’s been great. You can score your food, as well as identify labels within those different categories such as flavor, texture, finish, etc.  This is for folks who really want to nerd out. It gives that extra boost to your awareness and knowledge within the particular food. And…you have a record to look back to, being able to find which cheese scored a 100 for you and which scored a 47. It’s easy to know which one to bring to the next dinner at your friend’s house. 

Bon appetit.  

emailsig 

December 30 – Regret

There is no such thing as ‘no regrets’.  There isn’t a life lived ‘without regret’.  Of course, we want to live with as little regret as possible, but to say ‘I don’t have any regrets’, is also saying, ‘I made no mistakes along the way and I wouldn’t change anything.’  Really? Deep down is that really true? I’ve heard multiple people say that they’re happy who they are now and where they are now. And that if they change something in their past, they’d be a different person today.  But that is a hypothetical argument that to me, shows an unwillingness of awareness, acceptance, and acknowledgement. By admitting to the fact that you did make a mistake that maybe you’re not proud of…and that you would have done that differently knowing what you know now…really allows you to learn and grow from your past.  It provides an opportunity of reflection, and then closure. And by the way, that mindful reflection isn’t going to instantly change who you are right now. It’s not going to make you an unattractive individual.  Actually, self awareness, ownership, and growth is seen as beautiful…and it leads to a wondrous transformation. You actually will be somewhat different after this acceptance, considering the new and truer path you’ll be forging.  

This isn’t an easy process by the way.  It’s the more difficult decision to execute.  That’s partly why I believe it’s the right way.  Typically, the easy way…the ‘sweep it under the rug’, lazy, everything I did was fine, and I don’t regret even when I affected others negatively stance…is easier.  And that is wrong.  Reflecting on what we’re not so proud of in the past means opening up the closet and dealing with those damn demons again.  Who the hell wants to do that? It’s ugly, somewhat belittling, and can even be tragic and depressing.

The small regrets are usually no big deal.  For me, one of them is…’I wish my friend and I didn’t break that guys barn windows with rocks when we were young.’  The windows are still boarded up to this day. I’m 38…and drive by the barn often…ugh. Well, I guess it’s fitting that I have to often see one of my regrets!   

The bigger regrets though, have larger and meaner demons connected to them though. It’s worth me stating that before letting these out of the closet, you may want to contact a professional.  If you’re unsure about whether you should or not…than you should. Therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrist have been trained accordingly.  They are so valuable in helping you reflect…helping you open that closet door carefully, and then crush those demons down to manageable little monsters.  Some of them may be too big to crush, depending on your past. But the process will at least provide you with some closure, and the ability to function most effectively after doing so.  Now…this also gets a little away from regretting what you have done yourself, and perhaps into circumstances that you were put into by others.  To me, regret has to do with a choice that you yourself made…something you did. A rough childhood, or resources not available to you, or basic fulfillment of needs for instance is something others would have to regret…not you.  It’s still something you’d have to work through of course, but not something regrettable for you.  It’s a different feeling.  Either way, this dealing with the demons of the past is highly effective.  

Yesterday, I did some great things.  But yesterday, I also made some mistakes.  I even knowingly made the wrong decision at times yesterday.  Regardless of how big or small those were…and how influential they actually may be…they are still items that I can look back on as regrettable.  I’m not going to dwell on them today.  I’m not going to let it bring me down today.  Instead, I’ll quickly acknowledge them, learn from them, and try to be better today.  With some practice, I can better myself. I can mitigate the regret. I can improve today, and tomorrow.  I can use regret an inspirational and motivational trigger. It doesn’t have to be negative. It’s part of a growth mindset, knowing that I can make less mistakes in the future.  I can develop. I can make progress. I can change. I am malleable. I am…becoming gold.

emailsig

December 29 – Be a Beast…but Keep your Sword Sheathed

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Be prepared for war…but don’t ever start one.  Always be ready to deal with chaos and stress…but don’t be the source of it.  Life can be very challenging at times. Often we find ourselves in adverse circumstances.  They happen every day, ranging from small to large. And we actually need them to thrive. Even at a cellular level, we know that small amounts of stress is what encourages our bodies to grow.  However, it’s very easy to become inundated with all of the multiple sources of that chaos. Individuals commonly find themselves overwhelmed by the ceaseless onslaught of suffering in their lives.   

Ailments, injuries, sickness…bills, taxes, insurance…car problems, property repairs, computer viruses…betrayal, stand ups, let downs…rejection, inadequacy, death…the list goes on and on and on.  

Ask yourself…are you completely prepared (mentally and physically) to confront all of that?  Are you going to be able to crush one or 2 of those…rest for a bit…and then take on more? Have you considered what would be the most effective mindset for handling those issues?  Do you think about the physical body, and how a strong and healthy structure is what will help to withstand that chaotic assault?

The answer for most of us is ‘yes’.  Unless you’re succumbing to the pressure…unless you’re falling apart, breaking down, and not finding a way to put yourself back together…then you are prepared.  You are crushing all of what life is throwing at you. You have built a beast. The human spirit is extraordinary and fascinating. It’s beautiful and powerful beyond belief.  We’re not omnipotent…but almost. There are so many stories speaking to the amazing human condition, in which an individual goes through excruciating pain and loss but then somehow climbs back in the face of that.  And it reveals how we can even stay positive through all of this adversity…we can still remain remarkably optimistic, and still make astounding progress. It’s not like we’re all constantly thinking about the bad things that are present in our lives…or that could be lurking around the corner.  That constant focus on the negative wouldn’t be an enjoyable life. Most of us are focused on all of the beautiful aspects of life, and the wondrous abilities afforded to us. But it becomes very evident real fast if we’re not prepared for life’s challenges.

When I was a young teenager, one of my friends and his father would order boxing matches on pay-per-view.  We’d often gather there really late on a Saturday night in hopes of a really good contest. Mike Tyson was one of the boxers who we frequently watched.  He was the epitome of a beast. The ferocity and intensity with which he fought was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. You could see that there was a deeper significance to his fighting.  He was battling some real demons in the ring as well…and you would not want to be on the receiving end of his blows. I have this particular image in my mind though…it was before a fight, in the training room.  Tyson was sitting so very calmly in a sweat suit. He had his hood up on his head….and it darkened his face so that his eyes were like a monster, hiding in the dark. His opponent was warming up, breaking a sweat already, throwing jabs in another locker room…typical pre-fight activity.  But Tyson was doing what predators and beasts do…waiting for their prey to be exposed. I remember noticing that he was totally covered…I couldn’t see any of his muscles yet. But I had this sense of what was contained within that sweat suit. It was an unstoppable rage. It was the product of chaos, and stress, and work, and preparation.  It was anyone whoever picked on him or beat him up for his high-pitched voice, or for being small. And it was patiently waiting to be released when the bell rang. His opponent might as well have not came out. It didn’t matter who it was. Tyson’s opponent didn’t have a chance in that ring. It was over in the locker room.

Mike Tyson was one of the best when it came to ‘being a beast’.  Unfortunately, he didn’t know how to ‘keep his sword sheathed’. It would have been fine if all the fighting he did was inside of the boxing ring.  But he had multiple altercations in many other areas of his life…allegedly brought on by his own behavior.  That was not admirable. That made him the opposite of a good model. It was easy to see that his qualities and character could take care of anything…but also that when they went unharnessed, how bad things could go.  

Train the body well.  Train it hard. Train it so that underneath your sweat suit…you have a contained beast, ready to take on the harsh realities of nature.  Prepare it so that you’re capable within your environment. Consider the possible threats in your environment (cold, hot, sickness, other people, etc.), and build your body to handle them.  Exercise your body so that it laughs at all of the physical adversity thrown at it…it asks for more.

Train the mind.  Educate yourself.  Arm yourself with the knowledge necessary to contend with harsh realities.  Learn from others. Grab advice from others who are living well…who have found the right paths.  Become incredibly self-aware. Lean on your strengths…and develop some of your weaknesses. Detach yourself from situations, and reflect on them, asking what went well…what didn’t?  Pay attention to your behaviors, and adapt when necessary. Practice ownership and autonomy as much as possible. Value the hell out of what others have to offer…and certainly take the help when needed (there will be times when you are weak, and down…don’t be too proud to grasp at a hand to pull you up)…but train yourself emotionally to take everything on yourself.  Ultimate responsibility…ultimate freedom. Get to a place where you can handle it all…regardless. Nothing can stop you. You have your limits, yes…and you love and value those around you. But you aren’t ‘needy’. You got it.

Keep your sword sheathed though.  You’re not out starting intellectual battles with others to prove how much you learned.  Debating to discover truths is valuable.  Don’t devalue the group across the aisle though, because of what you’ve come to accept as your beliefs. You need that other group to strengthen the areas that you aren’t a part of…to balance out the equation…to build this incredible society that you’re thriving in.  Don’t let your rage come out physically. Don’t start arguments and confrontations, knowing that you’ve prepared your body for that. That is insecurity. Avoid physical altercations at all costs. Avoid negativity. When you must…defend yourself. But then, put the sword away.  Go back to your cave, and get back to doing what beasts do.

emailsig

December 28 – Discipline

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The ability to do what’s difficult…to do what you’re supposed to to…even while no one is looking…is an element that can set some individuals significantly apart from others.  Discipline is doing just that.  It’s sacrificing the current moment, in order to make things better in the future.  Discipline sounds rigid and routine.  It sounds like something someone does who is very ‘by-the-books’, and structured more than necessary.  We might think that the individual who is self-disciplined is that guy who can’t enjoy the moment, or the one who never stops to smell the roses.  He is overly focused on his routine, and therefore isn’t allowed to enjoy all that life has to offer. That is not true.  The individual that is disciplined, ironically affords himself more ability to enjoy life.  He actually creates time to smell the roses, by his uncanny ability to effectively plan and work on different aspects of his life.  

As former Navy Seal and podcaster Jocko Willink likes to say, ‘Discipline equals Freedom’.  He actually titled a book with this phrase, and I highly recommend it. His message is helpful.  It encourages folks to become ultra discipline surrounding what needs to be done (house work, relationships, health, etc.)…and by doing this, you free up and allow for time and space to do what it is you want to do.  It’s much more plausible that you can be spontaneous, and that you can follow your passions and desires, if your house is in fine order, if you’re body is as healthy as it can be, and if your bills are paid on time.  You don’t simply deserve a fruitful life on your own terms.  That takes work and discipline to achieve.  You must earn a life of that sophistication.  

Jocko’s Instagram page is worth following.  An interesting picture that he seems to post almost every morning, is one of his military style digital watch.  He takes a picture of his watch when he wakes up, and posts it in order to show what time he’s getting out of bed.  It’s very representative of his discipline equals freedom philosophy.  He’s getting up every day usually around 430am.  Sometimes he’s up before 4am. Often, another picture will be posted a little later on of some gym equipment that he just finished using.  He has a home gym, and he frequently gets a hard workout in immediately upon waking up. This is obviously what works for him. It doesn’t mean that we all need to do a hard workout first thing in the morning.  It is worth a reminder though…of that feeling when you’ve crushed a workout before most other people have even crawled out of bed. Sometimes, you’ve worked out, showered, paid a couple of bills, and had your breakfast…and it’s only 6:30.  This makes you feel like a beast! And like you’ll be able to crush anything in the upcoming day. There’s nothing that you won’t be able to handle. This perspective is created by discipline. Imagine what this person feels like after a year of doing this 6 days a week.  Imagine how they feel after 5 years. Consistent discipline does that. It affords an incredible ability to thrive in other aspects of life.

If you’re complaining about anything you don’t have…or a lifestyle that you want…try implementing more discipline into your life.  Try making a radical change. Don’t simply expect that an easy, small change will drastically affect your lifestyle.  Create and write down a challenging plan. Find out what motivates you to stick to that plan. And then develop some thorough and extensive disciplinary practices.  That’s when you’ll see incredible change. That’s when you’ll create a beast. And that’s when you’ll discover the ultimate freedom to play, to spend time how you choose to, or to build something worthy that you truly cherish.

emailsig  

December 27 – Comfort

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The technological advances and the sophistication and skill-set of humans, has allowed us to build communities that are very comfortable.  Of course, we strive for comfort.  We aim for a life filled with soft furniture, warm healthy food, and a shelter with plenty of space.  It seems actually, that a life full of comfort is a life of success. Being the most protected from any threats and natural elements is a situation that most of us have a desire for.  

However, stress and discomfort is actually what encourages us to grow the most.  Placing ourselves on the edge of comfort is how we learn most effectively…about ourselves, and our place in the world.  Musculoskeletal growth comes after break down of the fibers has occurred. That break down is due to work, stress, pressure, and discomfort.  In a similar manner, a life full of purpose and fulfillment is one that’s full of responsibility, connection to others, persistent effort…not one that’s mostly made up of enjoying the comforts allowed to us.  So have we gone too far?  Are we too comfortable?

We could say that modern society in the West has led the way in creating all too comfortable environments.  The further away from agricultural or hunter/gatherer type of lifestyles we get, the more comfortable we are.  The more we allow technology to do more of the work for us, the more comfort we find in our lives. It is extraordinary how disconnected and disengaged most of us are for instance, with how our food gets to us, and where it comes from.  We sit in our comfortable vehicle, tell another person what we want…and then drive up to the window. After about 60 seconds, we are presented with a clean package of different foods, and perhaps a toy…all from different parts of the world.  These foods were researched, planned, grown, fed, harvested, slaughtered, cleaned, packaged, delivered. And our comfortable position allows us to pay around $5 for a meal and presentation like this. That is awesome in a way. It provides us with the ability to be efficient, and to put our energy elsewhere, considering we don’t have to worry about all of that work for our meal.  It comes at a cost too though.

When we become too comfortable…too removed from the source of our existence…further and further away from nature…we distance ourselves more from the natural animals that we are.  Our physical bodies are designed to move…to stand more often. Our minds are designed to seek out and find…to aim at a goal and pursue it. Without progress and some confrontation with the ‘natural world’ (and that phrase needs to be defined), we go against our own natural evolution.  

‘Well,’ you might be thinking, ‘maybe we’re evolving into something that needs pursuit and discomfort less and less.  Maybe that’s what we’re destined to become.’ We certainly are doing that. With generations of folks living in more and more ‘comfort’, we’re definitely modifying our genes, and developing more into a being that is more suited for an agreeable environment.  I would argue that this weakens our species over time. It’s making us soft. A cynical perspective might be that as we rely more and more on technology…as we create more and more sophisticated technology, and bring AI, and machine learning, and robots into the fold…that we’re creating our own demise in the process.  At the end of that road, we either aren’t necessary, or only necessary for a power source. I don’t even like to think about that type of situation.

Instead, I like to hold a more optimistic outlook on our future.  I believe that we will continue to keep a balance of comfort and chaos.  I recognize that even as soft as we’ve become within our societies, we are smart beyond belief…we are incredibly tough in the face of the most tragic of adversity…and we understand that we still need that balance.  We know that rest and respite are necessary…but are much more deserved and even more enjoyable when we deserve it…when we’ve worked and confronted and progressed.  The ‘sitting down’ has a much deeper meaning after taking multiple deliberate steps.  

Look to achieve a minimum amount of comfort that will allow you to function effectively. That’s not deprivation.  Awareness is key here.  After that minimum is defined and discovered, continue to apply pressure, stress, chaos…at maximal levels of allowance. Again, self awareness. When we walk that line…on the edge of comfort…it’s a constant battle of getting a little uncomfortable…and then finding that situation acceptable.  We consistently move the bar, and allow ourselves more stress…more growth. It’s at the place between chaos and order. It’s the yin within the yang. It’s the path.

Get some.

emailsig