Be one with the Monkey

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.

Monkey King Uproar in Heaven

NL 29 Monkey King Havoc in Heaven The Brilliant Beast Blog

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.

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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!
  • Watch Monkey King: Havoc in Heaven (English Subtitled) It’s free with Amazon Prime!
  • 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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Vitamin B12 and Methyl Folate

Brilliant Friends,

I dug deeper into the hair color recovery phenom. Turns out there is more research behind vitamin B12 affecting my hair color. But it also involves Methyl Folate, which I’ve been using as well! Also, links to the two supplements I use below.

The functional info:

Vitamin B12 activates Methyl Folate to make Methionine. Methionine is an essential amino acid. You use methionine for:

  • Blood cell formation
  • White blood cell formation, for your immune system
  • Hair melanocyte preservation, which keeps hair color. Lack of methionine leads to oxidation and malfunction of the color-producing melanocytes. So there it is!
  • Vitamin B12 is also needed for the brain and nervous system. Methyl Folate is needed for RNA and DNA building.

Your body does not make Vitamin B12 nor Methyl Folate. You must get them from food. Supplementation is good because it’s hard to get enough of these micronutrients from food.

Important: a lack of one leads to a lack of the other. It’s a chain reaction. If you supplement with one, take the other as well.

Vitamin B12


B12 is found in eggs, meat, fish, nuts. From Wikipedia:

“Vitamin B12 is found in most animal derived foods, including fish and shellfish, meat (especially liver), poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products. However, the binding capacity of egg yolks and egg whites is markedly diminished after heat treatment.”

Let me add some adjectives to that list: Grass fed or pastured meats, wild fish, and eggs soft boiled or over easy. Keeping the yolks moist or runny preserves the fat and nutrients!


B12 supplement as Methylcobalamin or Cyanocobalamin. From Wikipedia:

“Cyanocobalamin is converted to its active forms, first hydroxocobalamin and then methylcobalamin andadenosylcobalamin in the liver.”

“The metabolic fate and biological distribution of methylcobalamin are expected to be similar to that of other sources of vitamin B12 in the diet.”

“No cyanide is released with methylcobalamin, although the amount of cyanide (2% of the weight, or 20micrograms cyanide in a 1 mg cyanocobalamin tab) is far less than ingested in many natural foods. Although the safety of cyanocobalamin has long been proven, the safety of the other types is also well established.”

I use:

Jarrow Formulas Methylcobalamin (Methyl B12), 5000mcg, 60 Lozenge

But I will soon use:

BulkSupplements Pure Vitamin B12 1% (Cyanocobalamin) Powder (100 grams)

I’ll explain the switch in a moment.


5000mcg every morning.

Methyl Folate


Methyl Folate is found in green leafy vegetables, butter and seafood. Go for real food. From Wikipedia:

“Folate naturally occurs in a wide variety of foods, including vegetables (particularly dark green leafy vegetables), fruits and fruit juices, nuts, beans, peas, dairy products, poultry and meat, eggs, seafood, grains, and some beers. Avocado, spinach, liver, yeast, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts are among the foods with the highest levels of folate.”


Use Methyl Folate supplement, not folic acid. Manufactured foods like bread and cereal have the synthetic, inactive form, folic acid. You can see it on food labels, but is not effectively converted by your body. From Wikipedia:

“Folic acid is synthetically produced, and used in fortified foods and supplements on the theory that it is converted into folate. However, folic acid is a synthetic oxidized form, not significantly found in fresh natural foods. To be used it must be converted to tetrahydrofolate (tetrahydrofolic acid) by dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR). Increasing evidence suggests that this process may be slow in humans”

I use:

Jarrow Formulas Methyl Folate 5-MTHF Nutritional Supplement, 400 Mcg, 60 Count


800mcg or two pills every morning.

Other stuff to know

B12 sublingual lozenge:

Easier if you tuck it in after taking the other vitamins. Tastes fruity, which I had to get used to with chocolate butter coffee. With work in the morning, I had to take my vits and drink coffee on the drive. You might want to somehow separate the two. I now drink my coffee first, then take the vits after. This is good because some are fat soluble!

B12 Supplement switch:

I was looking into why I get a sore feeling in my stomach after taking supplements. It’s like a dull, sour tummy. I found that stearic acid or magnesium stearate from vegetable sources can cause this. It’s used commonly in pills as a lubricant for powder, to stick together better. The culprit, I believe, is the larger Jarrow milk thistle pill that contains vegetable stearates. Omitting only this, I noticed a direct absence of the sore feeling.

The supplements listed above also have this ingredient. They’re both made by Jarrow. I’m switching to B12 made by BulkSupplements because they just have it in pure powder form. No other ingredients. Going to try, even though my symptom is gone and I’ve still been using the above pills for the past one week.

Sometimes what works is good enough, and there are times when I want to up the quality. I never paid attention to this particular symptom until recently, so it’s time for me to try something else. I’ll keep you updated!

To powerful living!


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Review of the dirty science:

[Bracketed inserts] and Bolding of text mine.

1. Senile hair graying: H2O2-mediated oxidative stress affects human hair color by blunting methionine sulfoxide repair.

FASEB J. 2009 Jul;23(7):2065-75. doi: 10.1096/fj.08-125435. Epub 2009 Feb 23.

Wood JM1, Decker H, Hartmann H, Chavan B, Rokos H, Spencer JD, Hasse S, Thornton MJ, Shalbaf M, Paus R,Schallreuter KU.

Senile graying of human hair has been the subject of intense research since ancient times. Reactive oxygen species have been implicated in hair follicle melanocyte apoptosis and DNA damage. Here we show for the first time by FT-Raman spectroscopy in vivo that human gray/white scalp hair shafts accumulate hydrogen peroxide (H(2)O(2)) in millimolar concentrations. Moreover, we demonstrate almost absent catalase and methionine sulfoxide reductase A and B protein expression via immunofluorescence and Western blot in association with a functional loss of methionine sulfoxide (Met-S=O) repair in the entire gray hair follicle. Accordingly, Met-S=O formation of Met residues, including Met 374 in the active site of tyrosinase, the key enzyme in melanogenesis, limits enzyme functionality, as evidenced by FT-Raman spectroscopy, computer simulation, and enzyme kinetics, which leads to gradual loss of hair color. Notably, under in vitro conditions, Met oxidation can be prevented by L-methionine. In summary, our data feed the long-voiced, but insufficiently proven, concept of H(2)O(2)-induced oxidative damage in the entire human hair follicle, inclusive of the hair shaft, as a key element in senile hair graying, which does not exclusively affect follicle melanocytes. This new insight could open new strategies for intervention and reversal of the hair graying process.

2. Cobalamin dependent methionine synthesis and methyl-folate-trap in human vitamin B12 deficiency.

Br J Haematol. 1977 Jun;36(2):189-98.

Sauer H, Wilmanns W.


The activity of methionine synthetase (MS) is important for the rapid growth of human haematopoietic cells [blood cell components] and cultured lymphoblastoid cells [form of lymphocytes that become B cells and T cells]. The MS reaction is the only known metabolic step in which both vitamin B12 and folate are essential in a single enzyme reaction. In vitamin B12 deficiency the MS activity in bone marrow cells is significantly lower than that in normal bone marrow. Free tetrahydrofolic acid (H4PteGlu) is normally liberated from its metabolically inactive storage form, 5-methyl-H4PteGlu (CH3H4PteGlu), in the cobalamin-dependent MS reaction. Thus, in vitamin B12 deficiency H4PteGlu is not available in sufficient concentration to maintain the de novo synthesis of thymidylate and purines, and accords with the methyl-folate-trap hypothesis. After treatment with amethopterin (Methotrexate), the incorporation of 3H-deoxyuridine into cellular DNA is reduced. In proliferating normal cells this effect of methotrexate can be prevented (and the cells rescued) with CH3-H4PteGlu or with CHO-H4PteGlu (5-formyl-H4PteGlu; Leucovorin). On the other hand, in vitamin B12 deficient bone marrow cells this so-called rescue-effect could only be achieved with CHO-H4PteGlu and not with CH3-H4PteGlu. These observations also support the hypothesis of the methyl-folate-trap in vitamin B12 deficiency. Decreased MS activity in vitamin B12 deficiency seems to be the essential metabolic fault, which is responsible for secondary alterations of folate metabolims. Thus, measurement of MS activity may allow direct functional assessment of vitamin B12 deficiency, at least with regard to DNA metabolism.

3. Wikipedia on Methyl Folate

4. Wikipedia on Vitamin B12

5. Vitamin B12-folate interrelationships.

Annu Rev Nutr. 1985;5:115-41.

Shane B, Stokstad EL.


The studies discussed in this review support the view that biochemical and clinical symptoms common to both folate and vitamin B12 deficiency are due to the induction of a functional folate deficiency, which in turn is induced by cobalamin deprivation. The interrelationship between these two vitamins is best explained by the methyl trap hypothesis stating that vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to lowered levels of methionine synthetase, which results in a functional folate deficiency by trapping an increased proportion of folate as the 5-methyl derivative. In addition, as 5-methyl-H4PteGlu is a poor substrate for folylpolyglutamate synthetase, there is a decreased synthesis of folylpolyglutamates and consequently a decreased retention of folates by tissues. The real folate deficiency that ensues because of decreased tissue folate levels is probably as important physiologically as the functional deficiency caused by the methyl trap. The sparing effect of methionine can be explained by adenosylmethionine inhibition of methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, which would prevent the buildup of 5-methyl-H4PteGlun. A deficiency in vitamin B12 would not, in itself, be sufficient to cause a disturbance in folate metabolism. The deficiency would have to result in lowered methyltransferase levels before any such disturbance would be manifest.


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Gray goes black

Brilliant Friends,

As dusk settled on my twenties, darkness spread across the top of my head. Literally. Gray and white strands gave way to luscious onyx. My wife and I were mystified, but we rejoiced.

I’ve had gray hairs speckling my head since eighth grade. I was fighting to find meaning in the midst of family tension, the pressure to get A’s, and depression. My teenage follicles perished in the struggle.

I begrudgingly sported the salt and pepper ‘do through high school and college. But then, like Lazarus and The Arrow, my follicles were resurrected.

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We pondered over the exact root of the change (wink). It wasn’t because there was a lack of possibilities, but rather a plethora. The preceeding months happened to have been a sort of wellness expedition. I was experimenting with butter coffee and feasting on fats. I convinced my then girlfriend to do away with wheat products and sweep sugar aside. I delved into meditation. Progression strength training replaced “workouts”.

It was a renaissance, to be sure. I was stronger, brighter, and apparently richer in color than ever. The need to explain the little details became immaterial. For years since, I considered my repigmentation a fortuitous boon from the Universe. It was a small bit of reward for all the good I was doing for myself. I mean, who cared? It was just cool to have fully black hair again.

Like many wonders of the actual Renaissance, though, the world had already seen the magical recoloring of graying heads. Three years after my epic makeover, I ran into an enlightening article. Research had already demonstrated that premature hair graying was one symptom of vitamin B-12 deficiency. It was listed as a bullet point among other maladies like anemia. It made so much sense! I had been regularly taking methylcobalamin (B-12) supplements in the interim.

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This was it. I had B-12 on a pedestal as the holy hair supplement.

My belief was stoked by a number of other bullet-pointed articles and blogs that hailed vitamin B-12 as the cure for early hair discoloration. But when I started looking for the research, there was only one hit in Pubmed that made a reference to this phenomenon. I refer to a 1986 experiment on a man with gray hair, in which he was given a Vitamin B-12 injection that restored his natural color. He had been suffering from anemia caused by B-12 deficiency.

Awesome. I scoured Pubmed for more cases like this. Something substantial.

And found none.

The only other relevant study I could find involved teens in southern India. Prematurely graying hair correlated with low levels of vitamin D, serum calcium, and serum ferritin – but not vitamin B-12. This got me flustered. The articles claiming the connection refer to “studies” or “research” or “proof”. Even other Pubmed articles on the matter mention this “evidence”.

I finally came to a conclusion. They’re probably all pointing, whether or not they know it, to that one case in 1986. So it was a single gray head.

But really, I’m okay with that. Make me case number two. Whether or not a sole vitamin got me back in black, what does it matter? Intermittent gifts from the Universe make for a delightful adventure toward the spring of wellness. So onward I trek with you.

To powerful living,



Continue reading “Gray goes black”

Butter Coffee Tweaks

Brilliant Friends,

The Bulletproof Executive, Dave Asprey, recommends that men eat eight to ten tablespoons, and women six to eight tablespoons, of fat per day. Or, about 50% of calories from fat.

That seems like a lot.

It probably sounds psycho to most people. But not to us, who know how important fat is for cell membrane construction and function, hormone production and balance, and energy and focus.

Between my morning coffee and dinner, I eat about seven to eight tablespoons of butter, plus other fats from meat, coconut oil, etc. to satiety. That looks like around nine tablespoons for me. So, Asprey may have a good number.

But it’s not like I went from a “normal diet” to nine tbsp of fat in a day, or even a week, or even months. Over the course of the first year that I started to drink butter coffee, I gradually went from two tablespoons to four to six. I just went by feel.

How hungry, how tired, how sore was I from the previous day? How did it make me feel to blend in more or less butter in my coffee? Was I going to have a long day, an emotionally difficult or demanding schedule, or a big training session?

Butter coffee has been the start of my nutrition and daily ritual almost every single day for the past four years. Getting good fat, lots of it, changed my life in every critical aspect I can imagine. My mood, my focus, my strength have all fundamentally changed because of it. Eating this way is something that I’ll perpetuate for the rest of my life.

I don’t say this to brag. And I’m not saying you should be eating nine tablespoons of fat tomorrow. I do want you to know it was a journey of trial and error before I got it just right, to my liking and to the best performance enhancement for me. If you get it down in one try, more awesome.

Either way, getting that much good fat through each day is hard enough. Butter coffee is one of those incredible life hacks that can get you there. It’s also a hard one to make a regular part of life. Understandably so.

Portability, Butteriness

It’s hard to make it to go. The coffee cools, the butter congeals, and you end up with a lava lamp by the time you get to work.

Three things.

First, make it quick. Once your water’s hot enough, brew the coffee immediately and promptly blend everything, then pour it into the thermos as soon as the coffee is blended. No delays, screw on the tops, keep the heat.

Second, blend it for a full twenty seconds. That means if the second hand on the clock is at 12, you blend until it’s at 4. This breaks the fats down better and the coffee stays in tact longer.

Third, get a good thermos. I use Thermos. Also Zojirushi.

Butter based on feel

You don’t have to stick with a specific amount. Two tablespoons for two cups of coffee is a good starting point. After a while, your body adjusts to digesting fat and can probably handle more of it. Try more to get it creamier, if you dare.

Caveat: there is a limit to how much butter a certain amount of coffee will hold. A couple of days ago I plopped eight tablespoons into a liter of coffee. The fat started to stick to the sides of my mug. Not a bad thing, though. I just drank it faster!

Really, you can add more if needed. When you feel drained from the training session the day before, a mighty dose of fat can revamp your energy and aid in the recovery process.

Brew by the clock

Get the coffee acidity just right by playing around with how long you’re allowing your beans to steep, and how hot the water is. I don’t settle for overdone coffee. It upsets my stomach and makes me weak. Find the sweetest setting for the coffee that tastes right and feels awesome. I set the kitchen timer to three minutes for my French Press, so I don’t forget it in the midst of measuring out my powders like a mad scientist.

Increase MCT oil by increments

Now here’s where you want to be more delicate. Make adjustments incrementally. I mean a half or quarter teaspoon at a time. Other than inspiring you to excrete immediately if you have too much, MCT’s in excess can get you in a sort of brain overdrive. When I skipped from one teaspoon to one tablespoon, I got the runs and felt slightly dizzy for a couple hours.

With that being said, it is amazing fuel for your brain and the rest of your body. Sugar is not the only fuel source for your brain! C-8 and C-10 fatty acids (MCT’s) get converted into ketones and work like jet fuel. It’s the same metabolic process as when you are in fasting, when your body starts to use it’s fat reserve as energy.

You can also tinker with the type of MCT. There are C-8 isolated oils out there, which are most easily used by the brain. I’ve been using this form for a couple of years now and it is quite intense, and much more direct than regular MCT (C-8 and C-10 combined). I take just under a tablespoon of C-8 oil and I feel great.

Find your sweet spot!

I love talking with friends about how to make butter coffee better. It’s one of my favorite topics. So if there’s anything you’re wondering about for making butter coffee, just let me know. I’m more than willing to help you figure it out.

To powerful living,



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Ankle Torque

Here we go Brilliant Friends,

If you’ve loosened up your ankles and calves, it’s time to engage them during the squat.

Initiate torque

I use starting stance imagery to set myself in position. Butt flexed, I rotate my femurs outward. This builds torque in the hips and it spirals down my legs. Remember, torque is rotational force.

This torque now acts upon my knees through my femurs. It transfers down to my shins, which rotate against my ankles. My legs are feeling nice and tight in standing position.

Normally, I would let my feet turn out from this rotational force. But not anymore. My feet are planted.

Anchor down

Keeping my feet pointed forward, I hold the tightness in my ankles and it stabilizes my stance. I’m using the torque from my legs to exert outward rotational force on the floor with my feet.

It feels like my feet are gripping the ground. I use the mental cue, “spreading the floor” to activate this system.

If my feet were pointing outward, my femurs would already be rotated out and there would be no torque. I wouldn’t be able to exert the same amount of tension in my ankles. So the key is to keep my feet pointed forward.

Complete the circuit

Since the ground isn’t going to turn, the torque from my feet goes back up through my ankles, knees, and hips. It feels as if my hips and legs are screwing my feet into to the ground, and my feet are screwing my femurs into my hips.

So the force I’m exerting from into the ground is actually being pushed back up from the ground. It’s a complete circuit of torque.


Initiating the downward movement from starting position is a bit counterintuitive with all this torque business. But the trick is to keep “spreading the floor” with my feet and pull out on my knees.

I can then start to sit back with my hips. I’m pulling myself down with rock solid stability. Hitting parallel is no problem when everything’s nice and tight through the feet and ankles.

The key is to make sure my feet do not turn out to the sides. In fact, I started training barefoot for this reason. My shoes would often slide on the gym floor during the descent, letting my feet spin out to the sides. Torque would bleed out, leaving me unstable.

By the time I came up out of the hole, my feet would be spread nearly parallel to the bar. So I now train shoeless.

Rise out of the hole

Pushing back up is as simple as maintaining torque in the ankles, knees pulling out, butt pushing forward. I keep my torso tight, and my feet locked on the ground, supplying the torque that ties it all together.

It’s like opening the pickle jar. When your hand slides, you lose torque. As long as my feet are tight on the ground, facing forward, I can utilize that force to crank myself down and back up in rock solid stability.

Even a tiny bit of improved ankle flexibility gives you so much more torque on the squat, deadlift, and daily life.

Do, then do again.

To powerful living,


Meditation Helps Me Sleep

Meditating helps me sleep better.

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.

When I’m really distracted and lose focus on my breathing, I count my breaths on my fingers. I like to go up to thirty, a number I got from the Wim Hoff method in a Tim Ferriss podcast.

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.

To powerful living,


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Ankles, We’ve Met Before

Brilliant Friends,

My journey to ankle mobility continues.

To recap, I made a mistake when I started progression strength training: I was pointing my toes way out on the squat. It was the only way I could get low enough in the bottom position without bending my low back., my powerlifting bible, instructed me to point the toes out for stability. Fitness magazines and books like Starting Strength said the same. It seemed to make sense. With toes pointed about thirty degrees out to the side, there’s more balance, right? But for some reason, I still felt shaky on heavy squats. It was in the moments just before descent, and just out of the hole, that I couldn’t find true leverage.

I was balancing on my feet, and I didn’t know how to anchor myself. Until I learned that ankles matter.

Structural Stability

Dr. Kelly Starrett explains in Becoming a Supple Leopard that feet pointed forward best aligns the knee with the shin and femur. It also allows utilization of torque through the ankles.

Google toddlers squatting and you’ll see their feet are straight forward while their bottoms touch their heels. Toddlers haven’t had mobility training. But they also haven’t gone through decades of feet and ankle distortion from shoes with elevated heels, and they haven’t picked up the grown-up habit of duck-footed walking.

It’s not easy for most of us to keep our toes forward while squatting to depth, so we assume we shouldn’t. For many of us, either our thighs get in the way or we start falling backwards. Try it yourself.

Two obvious solutions would be either to spread the feet further apart or widen the angle of our feet. Like a lot of assumptions, though, this one isn’t necessarily right. Think about a pickle jar.

You start to open a brand new jar of pickles, but the lid’s too tight, and your hand starts sliding. You lose steam, so you reposition your hand to try again. Naturally you would position your hand clockwise, to get ready to turn the lid counterclockwise.

To make sure you get it open this time, you grab a rubber dish glove. You grip the lid tight with the glove and give it your all. There’s a bit of strain and then a satisfying POP! Delicious zestiness releases.

The outward rotational force on the lid, exerted by your hand, we call torque. The rubber glove prevented sliding, which preserved torque. How does that relate to the squat?

With your feet pointed forward on the squat, you can exert outward turning force on the ground. As long as your feet don’t actually turn outward, torque is generated and transferred via your ankles through the rest of your body.

Sounds great. So why is this not intuitive?

Because we’re missing ankle flexibility.

It takes practice

Try this. Start by gently getting into the bottom position of the squat, toes pointed forward. Don’t let them slide out to the sides! You’ll notice a point where it’s not possible to go down any further with feet forward. Either they have to turn, or you’ll fall backward.

Use a fitness band if needed, following Kelly Starrett’s exercise. Or just hang onto a table leg in front of you for stability, as you ease past that point.

Get as low as possible in the bottom position of the squat, feet pointed forward. Just sit there for a while. It gets uncomfortable. Keep pulling out on the knees, butt turning femurs outward. It’s not as important to keep your back straight while you practice without weight.

Then slowly stand up out of it, flexing your butt to actively push your hips forward, knees pulling out, feet gripping the floor and staying straight. You can keep your hold on the table leg while you do this.

It helps to be barefoot on a firm surface. Try wood, cement, or, best of all, grass. Slow and steady does it.

You can use this exercise until you obtain ideal ankle mobility. Be mindful of your foot position as you walk, stand up, and bend or squat to pick things up.

It’s probably best to practice a bit before using this foot position with weights. We’ll get there.

To powerful living.



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Earthing, Rain or Shine

Ground yourself.

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”.

NL 21 Marcus Aurelius The Brilliant Beast Blog.JPG

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!

To powerful living!


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Continue reading “Earthing, Rain or Shine”

Travel in Wellness and Spontaneity

You don’t have to iron out every detail of a trip to have a fun, safe time. Leaving room for spontaneity can let in some amazing experiences that you just can’t plan.

If you’ve ever traveled with me, you know I’m pretty obsessive about daily nutrition and mobility. If you have that same need for taking vitamins and doing your stretches like I do, then you know it’s tricky to plan longer trips. But being able to appreciate the small things during travel is a big part of why we do it.

A few wonderful things that deeply touched my wife and I during our last trip: free bus rides, belly laughs with strangers, spot-on food suggestions in unfamiliar neighborhoods, and a look into the real, raw character of locals.

A couple of weeks ago, we trekked through the crisp winter of the Pacific Northwest with packs secured to our backs. The steamy puffs of our breaths led the way, the air crisp and the streets shiny from rain. We came upon many friendly, robust people in the cozy shops along the drizzly streets of Seattle.

We made friendly conversation with shop owners along the bustling Pike Place Market, bus and Uber drivers, and baristas and waiters who diligently tended to coffee shops and cafes. The perpetual overcast sky made it extra lovely to step inside of stores and public transit. It also seemed to have weathered and made wise the residents of this town.

We rolled through the snowy redwood forests along the coast up to Vancouver by train, and found another town that was used to the cold, but very different from Seattle in character. English in numerous foreign accents mixed with equal amounts of musical French tones.

A bright young British waiter in Gas Town shared a list of places to see on New Year’s Eve; the brusque Downtown poutine restaurant owner with braided beard proudly served up excellent smothered fries; and the humble staff of a unique Aboriginal hotel welcomed us to a place full of First Nations art: bold, colorful, and spiritual.

I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend the holidays. As with any great trip, though, we had a few, let’s say rough, days. I barfed my soul out (twice) from food poisoning. While I was sick in bed, the fire alarm went off in our hotel and we had to evacuate.

As soon as I was recovering, my wife had mild hypothermia after a short hike in the below-zero climate; on our way back we missed the bus and delayed our return to our hotel.

To top it all off, a hefty earthquake in Vancouver gave us a bit of a shake. Being Californians, we sort of let our attention drift past it and continued to watch Netflix in our room.

It wasn’t any one of these things that was particularly difficult. It was all of them combined over eleven days of travel.

In the face of these difficulties, though, we had a blast and made it back alive and well. Unlike me, wife does not like to set out on a trip without ample planning and a set itinerary. We used a foundation of tools and habits to navigate unfamiliar territory and unexpected circumstances.

We made many decisions – how to get somewhere, where to eat, and what to do next – on the fly using these tools. But the tools were only as useful as we were ready to benefit from them. We made use of habits to prime ourselves for spontaneity.


Have a Daily Routine

I know, I just said we were being spontaneous. But having intention and a general flow in mind for each day  allowed us to choose the end points as they appeared in front of us. We still avoided planning it all out ahead of time.

  • Mornings:
    • As much as I could, I journaled in the morning. I used the Five Minute Journal and my own notebook for solidifying thoughts. It helped to reflect upon the amazing, the stressful, and the mundane things that happened each day and to write them down in my own words.
    • Breakfast and/or Butter Coffee. We found the nearest, best coffee shop or cafe. I got a cup of coffee whenever I could to add to my thermos, which I prepared with grass fed butter inside.
    • First point of exploration. We didn’t restrict ourselves to a fully scheduled day, but having one place or activity to start served as a guideline.
  • Midday: We left this time of day open to continue something great from the morning or find something else to do before dinner. For example, a tour guide that took us below the streets of Seattle suggested getting food in the International District. This brought us to a hot, tasty meal in a dumpling house where I got my veggie fix for the day.
  • Evenings: The sun set around 4:30 p.m., so it was important that we started to think about where we were going to get dinner earlier. This allowed us to figure out how to get back later, or end up within walking distance of our resting place by the time it was dark.

Remain limber

Hips, knees, feet, back, shoulders, you name it. Traveling on foot is physical! Pick a simple set of movements and bring minimal equipment to do them. Body weight exercises require the least packing, of course.

  • I used one Iron Woody Fitness band in the evenings for strength, when we didn’t have an extremely tough transit the next day.
    • How I did deadlifts and rows: step on the middle of the band and, bent over with a solid torso, pull up on the ends. Grab closer to the feet, keep arms straight, and use hips to push up for deadlifts; grab closer to ends of band, remain in bent position, and pull up with arms for rows.
    • For resistance pushups: wrap the band behind upper back and hook the ends in hands. Get in pushup position, trapping the band ends on the floor. It takes a bit of adjusting on the ground to get in the right position. A bit uncomfortable, but a good exercise if you maintain a solid torso and keep your hips from bending.
  • I did hip mobility in the mornings before getting fully dressed.
  • Calf stretches and squats were perfect for waiting to cross intersections. Always happy to give locals fodder for conversation!
  • Overhead arm stretches on the bus and train, using the rail overhead.


Nutrition on the Go

It’s difficult to eat well on the road with limited resources, so draw a bottom line below which you will not drop. I packed some stuff and found the rest on the go.

  • Good fat is non-negotiable for me. It’s my best fuel and wellness weapon. This is usually something that’s hard to pack and carry, so finding fresh sources of good fat is key.
    • Butter coffee. I get unsalted grass fed butter at specialty grocers if available. To prep for the day, I slice a chunk into my Thermos in the morning, and add a cup of the best possible coffee once I find it. Shake and magic. Best butter so far: Kiwi Pure, New Zealand brand from Whole Foods in Vancouver. Bam!
    • Egg yolk – the unparalleled healthy fat fix outside of grass fed butter. When there’s no Whole Foods, cafes that serve eggs are key. I get my yolks minimally cooked, like soft boiled, poached or sunny side up.
  • Green leafy veggies. Best bet is Chinese restaurants. Bok choy, on choy, you choy. Delicious life savers.
  • Micronutrients. I bagged my supplements in day and night portions. Eleven days’ worth fit into a small plastic tupperware. Each morning I pack a day baggie with me to take with butter coffee or breakfast. For this trip we brought an extra suitcase, so we usually had a room to return to each night. This allowed us to keep things there while we walked around the city.
    • Mornings: Vitamins D, K2, B12, Methyl Folate.
    • Night: Mg (Natural Calm powder in water), Vitamin C, and Kelp.
    • Other essentials:
      • Extra Vitamin C. One of the cheapest and most effective supplements. I pack almost a full snack baggie full and take a little throughout the day if I have the sniffles.
      • Activated charcoal for food poisoning and after eating wheat, beer, wine, or fried foods.

Last Minute Navigation

So how do we do things last minute? Here are some of the apps we used:

  • Yelp and Foursquare (better for international) for single source coffee, the nearest bank, and the tastiest croissant.
  • Google maps for public transit.
  • Hotel Tonight app for last minute hotel deals. Genious tool found by my genious wife.

Books we read for quick background info on places:

  • Lonely Planet Seattle. Gives both objective and opinionated reviews and tips.
  • Frommer’s Seattle Day by Day and Frommer’s Vancouver and Whistler Day by Day. Great culture insights to both places.
  • Fodor’s Vancouver & Victoria. Great guide to neighborhoods for pedestrians.
  • All of these books had the maps in good shape from the library, so we made good use of these as well. Nothing like a good paper map to see the bigger picture! I know, I can be old school.

So, use habits and tools to allow yourself to make decisions as you go and to travel in wellness. The important thing is to be open to the spontaneous interactions with people and get yourself immersed in the moments that happen. Prepare and then explore!

What have you used to find your way around unfamiliar towns? Are there specific habits you’ve utilized on longer trips? I’m planning on more travel in the near future, so any insights will be appreciated!

To powerful living!



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Lynn Valley Suspension Bridge Steve Back BrilliantBeastBlog.jpeg
The beautiful Lynn Canyon suspension bridge in North Vancouver


The Five Minute Journal: A Happier You in 5 Minutes a Day

How to Make Butter Coffee

Iron Woody Fitness bands

My go-to Kelly Starrett hip mobility exercise



Hotel Tonight app

Lonely Planet Seattle (Travel Guide)

Frommer’s Seattle day by day

Frommer’s Vancouver and Whistler Day by Day (Frommer’s Day by Day – Pocket)

Fodor’s Vancouver & Victoria: with Whistler, Vancouver Island & the Okanagan Valley (Full-color Travel Guide)

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Note: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

I will only link to tools that I have used, found meaningful, and that I believe could benefit my brilliant readers.

The Thing About Weights

Weight training is excellent, once you have an established baseline of mobility.
Add weight to a perfect squat, and you will have a stronger perfect squat.
The thing about weight is that when you add it to imperfect mechanics, you get stronger imperfect mechanics. Your soft tissues build up around improper alignment of joints. This leads to problems.
Adding more horsepower to a car with misaligned wheels might compensate for a while, but eventually the you have to fix the alignment.
Sometimes that involves forsaking the engine for a bit.
Try this for some realignment. One of my favorite mobility exercises on the hips.
To powerful living,