Whatever is going on, going through your head, whoever is around you, breathe in.
Breathe out, follow the breath out of your mouth, ride it out from your lungs, as if you were surfing on it.
Touch it with your mind as it flows between your teeth, through your lips. Feel it leave you, every last moving air molecule, until it stops.
Breathe in again. And follow your breath out to the end.
Let the in breaths happen naturally, and pay closer attention to the out breaths.
When a thought appears in your mind, whether it’s emotional, analytical, pictoral, or vague, realize that you are thinking, and say “Thinking” to yourself. Let the thought go, it’s just a thought. Let it pass from your mind.
Keep the breathing, follow the out breath.
Acknowledge your current situation, your surroundings, the people around you, the sounds, the sensations in your body. Breathe it all in.
Then breathe it out, and follow your breath. Thinking.
This is a guide to true communication via digital messaging.
This guide encompasses any form of sending and receiving messages of true communication via a device, while not in the immediate presence of the audience. Email, texting, and posting to social media are examples. Phone and video calls are excluded, as they house immediate interactions.
Consider true communication versus conversation maintenance gaming when using digital messaging.
People attempting to act upon meaningful purpose through digital messaging must avoid falling into the common Second Millennial trap of continuous conversation maintenance gaming. I, as one who falls (less and less) into the gaming trap, write this guide for those who wish to exit or avoid it.
Digital messaging allows people to create an environment of gaming. Rather than having true communication, a game of responding to each incoming message may be played. The players are under the rule that statements or messages stimulate a dopamine release, and that the sender should receive a fair response.
Value of individual messages is unimportant. It’s more important that you respond right away, no matter what it is, because you’re afraid the other person would be offended by a lack of response. By neglect. You don’t want to seem like an ass.
It becomes an endless cycle – unless you end it.
You can secure use of digital messaging for true communication through disciplined methods.
Here is how.
Restrict words to communication. Ineffectuate your device from its gaming function. Repurpose it for communication – sending and receiving messages that matter, at the right times or not at all.
Do this by placing the device in Airplane, or applicable non-receiving, mode when you are focusing on something important. When you’ve finished, move on to the next important thing you want to do. Or take rest.
If or when you want to check your digital messages, simply switch the device reception back on. Choose what to read.
Then, when you, the aspiring master of your destiny, have read what is worthy of your attention, decide carefully if there is anything you want to respond tonow.
Author a precisely stated response. Consider answering any inquiry and illuminating any obscure statements that might be in the original message. Initiate further thought or action with your correspondent if you think it is necessary.
Engineer your message to exact the outcome which you desire. Consider the timing of the recipient’s response to your message; whether you want a response at all; whether you desire fact vs. opinion. With thoughtful words, all of these can be shaped to your wish.
If your presence was requested, and you decide that you will oblige, give clear and limited options of dates and times and places of your availability. If you are unsure of the value of the meeting, unapologetically ask for more information or kindly refuse.
If no favorable outcome could result from your response, turn the receiver back to off, and return to present waking life as you please.
Perhaps a desirable interaction will come your way another time. Now, you can continue with meaningful purpose to change the universe.
And remember: do this in love for yourself. It will allow you to love your people.
You are in Hyperloop, zipping toward Singapore at seven hundred miles per hour. The pod glows in the deep, salt water blue of the surrounding ocean. The creamy butter coffee you grabbed from the New York station radiates heat from the bamboo tray.
Including the ten-minute stop in Honolulu, it’s a 2.5 hour trip. Enough time to finish your coffee, maybe enough to read the next chapter of the book in your lap.
The thick, plush cushion is nice. You’re cross-legged on the tatami flooring of your selected section. There’s silver threading in the seat cushion cover. A thin wire connects it to the grounding port of the pod. Naturally you want to be making skin contact with the cushion, so you’ve placed your shoes in the cubby by the entrance. Earthing while commuting. It didn’t seem possible a year ago.
You take a quick break from your novel, noticing the three other passengers. The lady to your left is serenely enjoying the momentary view of a large school of fish weaving through the kelp forest a mile south. This passes out of sight of the large window as she assumes the next yoga pose. The other two in front of you, an elderly couple, are napping. A gentle snore rises from one of them.
You silently chuckle. The dozing pair probably won’t wake until the end of the trip. The clean, spacious pod is sound-proof. Not that much noise would penetrate the transparent vacuum tube through which you are flying. An illustrated book is tucked into the arm of the gentleman, probably for a grandchild awaiting them for a day of fun. The forecast promised a sunny afternoon.
Bright yellow and silver triggerfish meander over the coral reef in Honolulu station. The stop in the peaceful teal waters of Hawaii is uneventful, and after waiting for passengers to board the pod ahead, you watch the fish, reefs, and rocks blend and blur as you accelerate. The next stop is Singapore.
The next hour glides by quietly through the Pacific expanse, with the occasional blip of islands coming and going. Then all goes dark, save the inside of the pod. Light-sensors activate the ambience and a warm glow emanates from the top of the enclosure. The pods travel in complete darkness for a minute, then burst back into the blue. Indonesia.
There’s a slight sensation in your belly as the vessel makes a gentle rise up through the ocean depths. The surface of the water gets closer, the pod making to shatter the ocean ceiling. Bam. In a split instant, marine blue vanishes and crisp atmospheric cyan shines through the windows. You think to yourself that you’ll never get used to that. It will be thirty seconds over the Java Sea to Singapore.
It’s all ocean for a bit, then more green islands whizzing by. You look out the side window, at the jagged waves half a mile out, eerily frozen in motion as if carved out of blue granite. The pod is going so fast there’s no time for waves to oscillate. It’s like passing above the hide of a reptilian behemoth. Closer to the tube, it’s an indistinguishable smear of gray.
Something catches your eye through the front glass. The cityscape of Marina Bay materializes. At first it’s just surfboard-shaped roof of the Marina Bay Sands hotel. It’s visible against the sky, a tiny figure on the horizon. The skyline zooms toward you, little hairs on the globe’s skin rapidly growing, tally marks shooting up into large blocks. The pod begins to decrease velocity. Growing dots of windows appear on the buildings.
A yawn, a blink, and skyscrapers suddenly loom above.
Think About It
Hyperloop pods, the future of transportation, where people spend their mornings and evenings going to and from work.
Working 5 days a week: 8 hours a day + 2 hours of commute = 50 hours of sitting.
Add to that sitting at home.
Sitting is the New Smoking
What does sitting have to do with low back pain? The shape of the typical chair or seat forces ninety-degree angles in your ankles, knees, and hips. This is natural, right? Let’s question that assumption.
Hyperloop has the potential to ease low back pain for the world through careful seat design.
Possible solutions: seats low to the floor, allowing passengers to sit cross legged or in a squat position while securely strapped to the seat.
Seat bottoms could be made large enough to allow for passengers to fold up their legs on the seat. Try doing this in a bus or airplane. Unless you are small, it’s quite difficult.
Imagine every car, bus, plane, and restaurant with seats that allow you to sit with legs crossed. Imagine the reduced number of hours spent in a chair-sitting position per day, per week, month, year, lifetime.
Hyperloop can pivot the course of humanity and help build a new era of human well-being. Let’s see to it that traveling and back pain cease their synonymy.
Sometimes when you most need to sleep you least want to sleep.
But of course not sleeping enough leads to an even greater need for it. And a paradox is established.
The mind loops in a helpless feedback series. Why am I not feeling good? Why am I not doing the best I can do? I must do more. I must try harder. Performance gets worse. And so forth.
The deepest hole you can be in is when you don’t realize you’re in this feedback loop. Mindfulness and meditation enable you to see it clearer when it happens.
But the only thing to do really is to sleep. It’s a strange thing though, sleep. It’s timeout for the mind. And the mind doesn’t want timeout. No one wants to be taken out of the game. Away from the fun. From the possibility of something, happening…
But sometimes we need to override that thought cycle and take charge. It’s okay to shut down. It’s good to retire. Coming back will be even better. The harder core the rest, the more amazing the comeback. I promise.
Training on a regular basis is difficult. Always has been, still is, will be. It’s also overrated.
I used to think it was hard because of work. I don’t have a job anymore, and I’m still barely getting to the gym once a week. But I don’t know that I need to train more than that.
At approximately one training session per week, I am able to build strength. Nutrition plays a big role. Brazilian jiu jitsu lessons, on occasion, help with mobility and stamina. Still, I rarely train in any respect more than twice a week. To do this, I needed something more effective than exhausting maximal output sessions.
I found the Faleev Method. It’s an offbeat program using 5×5 powerlifting but limiting the output of effort. The idea is to do enough work but leave at least one rep in the tank every set. So when I can do a maximum of five solid reps, I stop at four. Starting weight for the program is one at which you can do at least two sets of five. Then, you keep going with that weight until you’re able to do five solid reps with another in the tank, five times.
It was arbitrary at first. How do I know if I can only do one more rep? It was a lot harder to figure out than I had expected. But after several tries, I found the point where going any further would be excessive exertion. It’s a weird concept, but it makes sense in application.
Over the long run I actually seem to be getting stronger. I haven’t tested this against my maximum yet, but I am pretty positive that it is working. I can tell that my movements are more solid.
I don’t leave the gym feeling completely exhausted either, which is awesome. That doesn’t mean the training doesn’t take its toll. I’ve been recovering from deadlifts and squats this week and I needed a lot more sleep than I expected. Thankfully I was able to get it.
The Faleev method is kind of funny. I’ve been at the same weights for a few months now. This has the effect of making me very “well-versed” in each exercise. It also makes me look a bit insane at the gym, because I never seem to do anything else. Just like with the 5×5 progression strength training philosophy that I first used, the magic is in the itty bitty details. The incremental improvements.
I’ve become ever more conscious of precise form and technique on every rep. I keep myself in the mindset of sober process instead of adrenaline. Meditation helps. The long term goal is to get to the next level of strength. The immediate focus is to make sure that every squat is done with precise form, balance, airtight torque, good speed, and preservation of myself. No going crazy just to tally an extra rep.
Paying attention to what’s working is hard when it takes time to see if it’s working. Staying sober and ironing out the details in the meantime is even tougher. It’s certainly not the norm. At the gym, everyone’s cranking out 300% today and getting nowhere tomorrow.
The purpose shapes the behavior, of course. The gym can be a venue for expression. A place for meditation in the repeated movements and breathing. A hub to socialize, bonds formed in the common struggles under the bar.
Pushing to the absolute limits reaps major endorphin release and a sense of accomplishment. It’s amazing. Doing so without form, though, and throwing technique to the winds stretches beyond the effective bounds of training.
Training is about preparation. It’s not about theater. It’s about learning.
And self-awareness. Aiming not for a number, but for a relative output. Getting better. Paying tons of attention to what’s going on. “How many can I do well this time?” instead of “I gotta hit five”. Calibrating each set to today’s strength, energy, and ability.
We can’t assume that we’re stronger than last time. We acknowledge all factors of life affecting us since. The rest comes down to recovery and responsible self care.
The best part is when it’s much easier to do the reps. To notice, rather than force. That is strength training. Capability over achievement.
As a kid, I was fascinated by the adventures of the Monkey King.
He was fierce, mischievous, and bold. He crouched on ledges of mountainsides and measured the plans of his enemies. The Monkey King wielded the powerful cudgel. With it he struck dark lords and scheming villains to their deaths. Bold lines of red and blue decorated his white face. Humor glinted from his dark eyes. His fearless smile never ceased. It shone through moments of compassion as well as justice.
You may be a Monkey by birth (in the lunar years of 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, and this year, 2016). Mythology presents the Monkey as smart, quick-witted, and irritable. The Monkey can be optimistic and adventurous, as well as stubborn and haughty.
Not everyone considered a Monkey by birth year is singularly defined by these Monkey tendencies. And many who are not born in the Monkey years do exude such personality traits. The point is that these things exist within all humans. We can learn from ourselves, recognize who we are and who we can be, and embrace our nature.
In the Year of the Monkey, the Fire Monkey to be precise, let’s hold dear the qualities of being ambitious, adventurous, and irritable. Yes, all tendencies should be seen with acceptance. There are many times we feel irritated with people, including ourselves. How we behave in the presence of this feeling is up to each of us.
We can build mindfulness of these instances of emotion through meditation and practice. By creating stronger actions for each time we feel, we are being responsible to ourselves and to our world. We are committing to be better and make our world more amazing.
When I feel adventurous, there’s a tendency for me to want to shrink back from it. If I talk with this stranger, what will my wife think? If I learn a new martial art, what if I get hurt? If I dance in public, what if I get embarrassed? By acknowledging that fear I can then grasp the adventure and bring the world with me to a new place.
Each of us comes to these moments. You can’t foresee them. You’ll suddenly step into the frame when it just pops into your hands. You can catch it and run, not knowing exactly what will come next. Or you fumble it because you’re scared of getting hit.
We all have experienced both. This year is a good time to explore that mischievous side. Have fun. Be bold. You may lose, you may get hurt, you could be really embarrassed. But so was the Monkey King.
Be one with the Monkey this year. Here’s how I’ve been monkeying around recently:
Start sharing with people who have a common passion with you. See if MailChimp is right for you.
Celebrate openness to discovery and the courage to try something new. Throwback to Curious George. New Valentine’s Day episode!
Practice moving on your hands and feet with the “gorilla walk“. I know, not a monkey, but let’s do ape.
To powerful living!
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Sometimes I have a lot on my mind, and can’t fall asleep. I’m tired, but I can’t get into that sleepy feeling. When I’m like this, I meditate.
I usually start by paying attention to my breathing. I don’t even sit up sometimes, just stay lying on my back, and focus on my breaths. In, out.
Sometimes I control my breaths, taking in as much air as possible through my nose, letting my chest open, and slowly hissing it out through my lips. Other times I just let myself breathe normally, and simply focus on the breath as it leaves me.
But yesterday I went to one hundred, because I was extra awake.
If there are a lot of thoughts swimming around in my head, I’ll start to say the word “Thinking” every time one of them fills my head. Then I’ll let the thought pass. Saying “Thinking”, either out loud or quietly or just in my mind, is a good way to label the thought as a thought. It lets me release the thought and whatever feelings are attached.
Sometimes meditation starts with a game of Tetris. Or reading some of my fiction novel. It’s like warm up exercises before getting into the breathing and thought processing.
The best warm up, and sometimes I don’t even need the breathing and counting when I do this, is journaling. Getting some important thoughts down on paper, reflecting on the day, and writing it out in pen.
It really helps to see things leave my head and stay somewhere else. It’s like therapy. When I’m feeling like I got nothing done, it’s good to see things on paper that I did.
I find that I’m better rested after sleep following meditation. I heard somewhere that when we have a lot on our mind, the first part of sleep is just used by the brain to process it all. So once that’s done, the brain starts to really rest, which doesn’t leave enough time for the resting part.
I couldn’t find the source of that, but here’s something of substance. It’s a study that showed mindfulness meditation significantly helped people with insomnia, fatigue, and depression by improving their measured sleep quality.
No matter how many times I’ve done the squat, I feel fear and hesitation as I step up to the loaded bar.
I used to try to pump myself up and shake it out of my head. Beast mode blinded me to the fear most of the time. But when I just didn’t feel psyched, I would get stuck in my fear of heavy weights.
I’ve found the most beneficial way to deal with fear is to acknowledge it.
“It is so. It cannot be otherwise.”
Dale Carnegie recalls this 15th century Flemish inscription on a cathedral wall in Amsterdam. In How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, he emphasizes the importance of acknowledging that which cannot be changed. This is especially difficult for those of us who refuse to accept anything short of success.
On a miserable night in December of 2012, I moped around my apartment entryway, gym bag in hand, not wanting to go outside. For an entire week I had been dreading the upcoming squat session. I had eventually dragged myself off the couch, pulled on my shorts, and laced my Chucks.
I was due for a 3×5 squat set at 340 lbs., the heaviest ever for me at that point. Just as I had celebrated my previous week’s session at 338 lbs., I lamented that I would have to lift even more the next time. I had never lifted more than 315 lbs. prior to this new progression powerlifting program, let alone doing three sets of five reps at 340 lbs.
After days of avoiding the gym, though, I had to go.
I couldn’t think straight as I drove through traffic. My throat tightened and my jaw clenched at the thought of being stapled under the weight. What would I do if I got stuck? What if my knees blew out? I was terrified. The thoughts kept crashing down on my mind in merciless waves.
I had a heavy heart as I parked in the lot and grabbed my duffel bag from the trunk. I checked in at the front counter and started to warm up.
The work weight sat on the ends of the bar, and I stood in the power rack in front of it.
“A good supply of resignation is of the first importance in providing for the journey of life.” – Arthur Schopenhauer
Three hundred forty pounds.
I closed my eyes. I could not change the weight in front of me. I had to try to lift it. I couldn’t go back to a previous training level to ease the situation. This is where I was in my journey of strength.
I resigned myself to the challenge. I steadied myself, accepted that I was scared.
I started to breathe in and out. On the in breath, I visualized the failure of my squat, the pain of being crushed under the bar, the embarrassment in front of everyone at the gym.
Felt the fear, let it fill me, and allowed the heavy feelings soak into my mind, soul, body.
Then I let go of my breath, released the fear. Let the darkness flow out of me. Breathed it in again, then breathed it out. The tension in my gut released a little.
Three hundred forty pounds. I accepted it. I invited the fear without being overcome by it. The opposite of beast mode.
Pema Chodron describes Tonglen in The Wisdom of No Escape. It’s the Zen practice I was using in front of the bar. I was “seeing pain, seeing pleasure, seeing everything with gentleness and accuracy, without judging it, without pushing it away, becoming more open to it.”
By balancing the fear with the lighter side of things, I got comfortable with it.
“…the mind when distracted absorbs nothing deeply…” – Seneca the Younger
My mind was not my own when lost in abstract fears. But I took it back as I breathed. Cut through the fog, saw the fear, saw clearly what was scary.
“… fear has to do with wanting to protect your heart.” – Pema Chodron
I realized that I didn’t have to do what I couldn’t do. The point was not to complete the set. The point was to become stronger and better for myself. I had been focused on the false requirement that every set and rep of the session had to be completed. That completing this session would prove to the world I was strong.
Thus I opened up my heart to growth. I breathed in the fear, burden, failure, the chance that the weight crush me or that I drop it. I let it all come.
And I breathed it out! I relaxed. I felt the ease and self control in my out breath. Created space for myself.
Fear can suffocate, stifle us into paralysis. And this is how we develop fearlessness and move again. Tonglen. Take in the fear, then let it go. Walk the line on the edge of danger. Look death in the eye.
The fear lost its power as I finally became sober in mind. I opened my eyes and grabbed the bar. Ducking under, I set my shoulders against the bar and prepared to lift it off the rack. I still felt the fear, but I knew what it was and moved ahead with calm and focus.
I didn’t finish all the reps that night, but I did most. On the next session a couple of days later, I completed the sets! And yes, it was on to the next weight. Growth!
Months earlier, I had breezed through the weight progressions. But then the fear became heavier than the weight, and it became essential that I familiarize myself with it.
This was growth. It was real training.
Marcus Aurelius writes in Meditations“… for he who has preferred to everything else his own intelligence and daimon and the worship of its excellence… will live without either pursuing or flying from death”.
I’m learning to focus not on the standards of the world, but on the development of my own excellence. The more I pay attention to my own self, the less I worry about comparing myself to everyone else. Consequently, I keep control of my own trajectory.
As Seneca puts it, “None of [the mind] lay fallow and neglected, none of it under another’s control…”
The sky emitted that pure atmospheric blue earlier this week that only comes after intense rain. The wholesome downpour in Los Angeles had finally subsided.
So naturally I joined the radiant sun and walked barefoot to the park. I made it a point to wear shorts and sandals to maximize my connection to the grass and the sunlight.
And sitting on the grass, I let flow the Earth’s energy to my body.
Between 1,000 to 2,000 thunderstorms raged elsewhere in the world at the same time as the one here in Los Angeles. Lightning struck the ground 5,000 times per minute around the globe, as it does all day, every day. These flashes transfer electrons from the sky to the ground.
I took full advantage of those electrons.
It’s called grounding, in physics terms. Buildings are grounded to minimize the buildup of static charge inside. This reduces risk of fires from sparks. When we ground ourselves outside, we call it Earthing. By making skin contact with the ground, I am taking the voltage difference between the Earth and me down to zero. I equalize my surface charge with that of the Earth.
Why am I not already at a neutral, zero surface charge? Because as I walk around, sit down, and go about my daily domesticated life, electrons rub off of me onto the non-conductive floors and objects I touch. Wood, carpet, and linoleum are barriers to electrical conductivity from the ground. So I don’t get the replenishing electron flow from the Earth.
Think about the last time you made skin contact with the Earth for at least ten minutes. Say, at the beach or the park? Was it more than a few hours ago? Days? Weeks? Months? Years??
You’ve probably done science experiments in grade school or middle school where you rubbed a glass rod with a furry cloth and it attracted hair and feathers. This happened because the glass lost electrons to the fabric rubbing it. This positively charged the rod, thus pulling other objects with electrons, like hair, feathers, or dust, to it.
We learned how to undo the stickiness of the glass rod. Replenish its supply of electrons to balance out the surface charge. Namely, touch it with your hand. The electrons from your body neutralized the rod’s charge.
After many months of rubbing off electrons, we humans build up and maintain a positive charge on our bodies.
Build up of positive charge on the body is related to inflammation. People with carpal tunnel syndrome, autoimmune diseases, poor circulation, chronic sinusitis, and intense joint pain, conditions stemming from chronic inflammation, found relief from grounding in multiple experiments. Even if you are not dealing with severe symptoms, grounding yourself regularly can lead to positive results.
We can neutralize ourselves simply by walking around barefoot outside and spending time on the grass, dirt, or sidewalks. Concrete happens to be a gentle conductor of electricity. Since most sidewalks are in contact with the Earth below it, you can ground yourself just by walking on it barefoot.
I like getting my feet dirty and feeling the immensely stimulating ground texture under my heels and toes. You might not share that excitement with me. And I realize this is an activity usually associated with hippies or the homeless.
But you don’t have to start by shopping around downtown barefoot. If anything, walking in and of itself brings great benefits for me as stress relief. Take a walk at the end of your day, and if you feel inclined, take off your shoes for a few pioneering steps and see what it’s like.
Or try Earth Runners sandals. They are a new take on old world Mexican sandals embedded with copper plugs that connect you to the ground through silver threading in the laces. Earthing without being barefoot.
I use an Earthing mat at home to ground myself when it’s pouring rain outside. For those of you in colder climates, this is a tremendous life hack.
Marcus Aurelius once advised, “Constantly regard the universe as one living being, having one substance and one soul”.
Consider that we humans came into existence covered by the electromagnetic shield of the Earth, and that maintaining that connection is key to good health. How wonderful that we can absorb the same energy as all other living beings around the globe!
Perhaps Earthing is not just about taking in charge from the ground. Maybe we are also giving our own energy to the world, to someone Earthing just on the other side of the planet.
Go, walk the earth. Let your foot grip the ground, as it was meant to, and welcome in the energy of the universe!