Expressing Emotions with Awareness

Feeling emotions and expressing emotions are two different things. Some of us get angry but don’t say anything about it. We just feel the anger. Others of us say something about it. Some of us do something about it.

My usual response to emotional situations is to hold back from expressing myself directly. This is a survival tactic I developed from being in a highly emotionally charged family and work environment.

There were so many people around me with emotional turmoil, it seemed harmful for me to blab about my own emotions.

This backfired, to say the least. I grew up with a lot of repressed feelings. I got through work situations with a “professional attitude” but had to let the feelings burn inside of me. In my mid-twenties I was a field of blackened tree stumps, a wasteland of a forest fire.

I learned from my mistakes, but it was too late for me to recover in the same environments in which I had died. The roots were charred, seeds were turned to dust. There was no springing of life where I was. So I left.

I traveled for four months to get out of the ashes of my life. I had cultivated enough positive mentality and nutritional practice to get myself healthy and moving again before I left. Travel freed me from the stagnant waters of anxiety and allowed me time and space to meditate, rediscover myself, and stretch out in a spiritual and physical sense.

I met new people, took part in new cultures, and grew in love. My wife and I, through the constant adventure of finding our way, expanded our hearts and built courage. We lived our dream of seeing, learning, sleeping, and waking in new worlds. And now even home is a new world.

Meditation was key to my awakening to my misery and grasping an optimistic view of myself. It helped me in several areas of life. Strength training, sleep, and fear were a few areas of growth through meditation. Recently, through meditation I reached a breakthrough in how I express emotions.

I noticed a difference in my awareness of emotions and expression after several days of meditation. My sessions were two times per day, 5-15 min each time. Nothing big.

However, when a recent emotional argument broke out between me and someone close, I noticed a difference inside. I expressed myself through my emotions, but I was fully aware of myself. I could hear myself talk, see what I was feeling, and feel what the other person was feeling. This was very unlike other times, where I would have gone blank in the head.

The awareness allowed me to process what was going on, during and after the argument. It also allowed me to start the forgiveness process. Since I was “there” while it was happening, I remembered how I felt, and why, and what triggered it all.

The reason this happened was that during meditation leading up to this day, I had been focusing on how I felt. As I breathed and came into a centered disposition, I let my feelings float up into my awareness. Whatever I felt, I let my mind rest on it. I breathed, identified the emotion, felt it plainly and deeply for what it was, and sometimes even visualized the root. Then I breathed again and let it go.

This built awareness of my emotions. It made me feel okay with what I was feeling. I used to get uncomfortable with the fact that I was emotional. It felt like a weakness. But this awareness practice was facing reality. I accepted myself as an emotional being.

I still felt upset after the argument, I still dealt with the residual emotions, and all of that. But I was in a place where I could build on the experience. Rather than wallowing in confusion, I learned about myself. I thought forward to the next time I would be in that sort of situation. And instead of feeling apprehensive, I felt excited. I wanted to grow!

I’m not saying I’m a saint and we should have a day for me because of this one incident. But I hit a definite pivot point in my emotional life. This is an area of discomfort for me. I’m not used to getting deep into my emotions, and evaluating them, let alone talking about them.

But I’ve been trying within that past few months to dig into this and grow. And I’m learning the importance of expressing versus simply feeling emotions. The key is awareness.

Live powerfully,


Studies on Meditation and Emotion Regulation and Mindfulness


Better Coffee

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What does it take to have a great cup of coffee on a regular basis?

For one, it’s about the beans. You need good, fresh beans for good, fresh coffee. They say that beans should be ground and brewed within several days of roasting. And that roasting should take place within a specific amount of time from harvest and processing. You don’t want coffee that’s made of old beans, and you don’t want beans that have been roasted far away from home. Unless you can afford the shipping costs for minimal delivery times.

It’s logical to think that anything we eat should be as fresh as possible to have the best quality. Wellness is maximized through food that is eaten close to the ground from which it sprung. And coffee grown, harvested, processed, roasted, ground, and brewed within a tiny area should be the best coffee.

Of course, not everyone would be able to have such coffee. We don’t all live in environments optimal for coffee plants. But we could be drinking coffee from places that are closer and sooner to us than they are now. So why don’t we? Because it’s not very available yet.

But that’s all changing very fast. The internet has eliminated barriers to the spread of information. It has brought information to almost everyone, everywhere. I traveled to Indonesia and Thailand recently and saw that even those who are still not connected to the web are only one or two conversations away from it. Generous people who have access to the web share critical information with those who don’t.

Seed to cup coffee shops are springing up around the world. In Chiang Mai, Graph Cafe exists to brew coffee from beans grown Doi Chang mountain, a famous coffee growing site that is divided up among several coffee shops and suppliers. Shop owners spread good cultivation practices to the farmers they work with to produce better coffee.

You can find better cold brew in Chiang Mai than in Los Angeles. Coffee shops in Bali could easily best the best in Los Angeles. After all, their beans grow within a few hours drive. Find the best roaster, the most skilled barista, and you still can’t beat locally grown beans. It doesn’t matter that you haven’t tried coffee in these places. What matters is that you know of it. The demand and the desire for better drives the rest.

So the seeds are sown. People everywhere will learn how to grow coffee. And if they live in coffee friendly climates, they can grow better coffee that can be shared with those who aren’t in such places. There may still be shipping and storing time, but it will be less than it is today. And even if we don’t live in ideal coffee growing environments, it can be done. Coffee is being grown in California.

The seed is getting ever closer to the cup. We will all be drinking coffee, and eating all kinds of food, that grew from ground within a mile and a week. If you have ever eaten a chunk of freshly grilled samgyupsal in a perilla leaf plucked a moment before from a garden ten feet away from you, you know what fresh means. And why it’s important that we are close to our food.

The value of coffee should be placed on the proximity and immediacy of the bean. Not on the shipping costs. It will make less and less sense to spend money on coffee from Sumatra when you’re drinking it in Los Angeles. Although we may not want to pay $60 a pound for Goleta coffee, we’ve seen time and again that demand can bring prices down. More and more we’ll assign quality to things that are fresh. Truly fresh, straight from the source, and meant for each and every person on earth.

Live powerfully,


The Brilliant Beast Blog Daily

Backpacking with grass fed butter in Southeast Asia

Coffee and grass fed butter have been my staple morning diet for the past four years. It continues to be my go to while I’m traveling through Southeast Asia. I plan to have it every day as much as I can. There’s no better way to stay lean, dense, and energetic than with healthy fat to start the day.

It’s much easier and nicer to have butter coffee at home: beans pulverized by a hefty burr grinder, stove top boiled water in my Hario kettle, and brewed over a ceramic pour over cup on a nice wide countertop. Butter coffee that’s blended at home in a high tech appliance like VitaMix can’t be beat. The drink is foamy, creamy, and just heavenly. The ingredients, like chocolate powder and vanilla bean, mesh better with the coffee and butter. It comes out like a dessert. But on the road, I don’t have such luxury.What I do have is a 24-oz. Thermos, a handheld coffee bean grinder, and a small pack of all my ingredients in ziplocked bags. I did allow myself the weighty luxury of my Hario dripper kettle, to store my powders and to have a vessel for hot water. And I just couldn’t let it go.

The trickiest things about butter coffee on the road are getting and keeping grass fed butter. In Southeast Asia a lot of quality butter comes from Australia and New Zealand. Anchor and Allowrie were two I’ve used so far. Small towns rarely have these available, so I’ve had to shop in the busier areas for it. It hasn’t been a great problem, except in Railay Beach where I missed my chance to get some in Ao Nang during an excursion. I was fortunate enough to have met a French chef at a nice hotel restaurant, who gave me a stick of precious unsalted French butter. I’m still living off of that, three days later. So grateful to that man.

That’s another thing; on top of finding grass fed butter, I need the unsalted product to make my coffee. Surprisingly, in Southeast Asia it’s pretty easy to find unsalted butter in most medium-sized grocery stores. Hero and Coco markets in Indonesia, and Makro in Thailand have been stocked when I went.

Keeping butter fresh and solid as a backpacker is the other fun problem. It’s regularly between 80 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit outside, even at night. So when I move from one locale to the next, it’s best not to have leftover butter. I time my butter shopping for the beginnings of my stay in one place, so that I can have access to a fridge while I have it. And if I have a bit left over on the day I leave, I dump it all into my Thermos with other ingredients, sans coffee. I can then pack, keeping the Thermos accessible, and find good coffee shop later to add to the Thermos. Shake and serve.

The more difficult scenario is having a lot of butter left on the day I need to get on a bus, plane, or boat for a long trip. It does happen, for various reasons. I have been bringing a small, rectangular tupperware lent to me by my mother-in-law to store butter while on the move. The day before, I freeze the remaining butter if possible. I wrap plastic over the original wrapping, put it in a ziplock, and then in the tupperware. It’s not good to have the fat in direct contact with plastic, so I keep the original wrap on it. Plastic will degrade when in contact with fat.

I keep the butter in my day pack, or a separate bag from my pack. It goes on board with me on flights. This hasn’t been an issue at all. Packing butter into a check in bag risks the bag being left out in the sun during cargo loading. Think popcorn butter. Big mistake if you don’t have a nice glass container without wrappings. While backpacking, it hasn’t been an option for me.

The first thing we always do upon check in at our next stay is unpack and throw the butter into the fridge. Most places I’ve stayed have had freezers, fortunately. One time in Bali we had the butter kept in the inn’s kitchen freezer. It worked without any issues for the four nights we were there. A good way to interact with the staff, too. A regular fridge will suffice as well. However, plan to finish the butter before leaving, as it’s risky to bring butter that’s not frozen on long rides in the tropical heat.

One last thing about butter coffee: remember the water. You can’t make coffee without water, and it’s not fun getting drinking water from the store first thing in the morning. In this region, tap is not the best option. Even when boiled, it’s a risk for health.

When all else fails, and you can’t find butter, and you can’t make coffee? Go without. Better to intermittent fast and eat a late lunch than to eat a heavy touristy breakfast. With that being said, I have trouble passing up eggs, bacon, and pastries every once in a while. I know the consequences and have to deal with them, though. To each their own.

Live powerfully,


Earthing on the road

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One great motivation for me while traveling is to find good places for me to take my shoes off and touch down with the ground. Poolsides are great, as they tend to have unfinished tiling or paving around them. Trails of dirt or concrete are wonderful because they often give magnificent views of the jungle and mountains. The best are beaches. Salt water with extra conductivity and sand to comfortably walk on barefoot, what more could I ask for?

I haven’t been near the beach as much as I wanted, but the few times we’ve been near or in the ocean have been nirvana. There’s nothing like soaking in the sun and the energy of the earth at a beach. My tensions release and I get down to a level of calm that I don’t often reach in the city environment. It’s easier to take full breaths, easier to feel my heart’s activity, and easier to be in touch with all that’s around me. That’s what earthing is about mostly, for me: to connect with the earth so that I can connect with all that is also in connection with it.

When I pass by someone on the beach who is also barefoot, there’s a connection with them. The same goes with animals; I am much more calm and connected with dogs when I pet them while I’m barefoot. If you’ve ever walked past dogs barefoot, you may have noticed that they feel differently about you. They are just calmer around me, bark less if at all, and look at me differently. As funny as this may be, I’ve felt it time and time again.

Back to the beach, walking past someone who has their shoes on is a different experience. That level of connection just isn’t there. We are on a different level of energy, not just in a cultural sense but I believe in a physiological and electromagnetic sense. I haven’t tried testing this with gauges. It sounds like a great project though, one that I will strive for one day.

So, if it’s not the beach most days, then what do I do? Well, if there’s a courtyard or a pool or a restaurant that I’m stopping by, I will cast away my sandals as soon as appropriate and get my feet on the ground. Most of the time at restaurants I can be sneaky and get away with this. Especially in Southeast Asia, where it’s hot and many people drop their sandals anyway while sitting.

It will get tricky in Thailand, where there is a taboo against the bottom of feet showing. I’ll have to figure out how I’m going to go around barefoot in public places. Shouldn’t be a big problem.

It’s funny, because if you have an electric vehicle, you charge when you bring it home to your garage. The battery gets that influx of current when you plug in the cord. For me, I get the charge more when I’m away from “home”. The moment I touch down on ground I feel the influx of current, a calming sensation, a feeling that I’ve reconnected with my battery.

Live powerfully,


The Brilliant Beast Blog Daily

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A changing perception of time

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Flying, diving, hiking, eating, eating, and more eating in Jakarta and Manado. What a whirlwind of experiences! After the flurry of fun with family, we moved on to Bali.

The vacuum of quiet was a bit overwhelming at first. We were really on our own. No family with us, foreign surroundings, and a stretch of time ahead to do with as we pleased. It was exciting, and it was what we wanted. But I felt a lot of weight on my shoulders. It was up to us now to determine what to do, and how long it should take. Strange how that can actually feel like pressure.

Aside from the initial stall, it was nice to just enjoy the day to day. It’s surprisingly hard to do, though. After eating breakfast and making coffee one morning, I didn’t know what was next. We had no activities planned, no meals to take care of, no one to meet. I felt a bit tired so I just sat in the cool air-conditioned bungalow. When I got bored of that I moved outside into the humid afternoon and sat there. I read from my book, I wrote in my journal, and sipped on my coffee. I allowed myself to get bored, and then to go beyond that. Every time I felt bored, though, I remembered the great tropical fauna and flora that surrounded us.

Trees reach up and out with leaves bigger than my body. When the rain pours over them, the collective pattering is both thunderous and soothing. The sun shines very bright in the morning, flinging straight up above the horizon. Chirps, coos, and cackles from an endless variety of birds fill the warm, breezy air from every possible angle and distance. Roosters crow from dawn until dusk. Geckos burp from the ceilings at night. Motorcycles hum past on the street. Children’s laughs and shouts have a charming hoarseness. It comes from growing up playing outdoors.

Long term travel is a huge playground to exercise a different perspective of time. I practiced taking my time back home. I exercised full immersion in things like walks to the park. The different textures of the sidewalk squares, new flowers on trees and bushes, bugs and birds and lizards that crossed my path or caught my eye. Everything, even in my own neighborhood, day after day, could be interesting and of the utmost importance for at least a moment. I created immortal moments by giving myself to these little things with no reservation. I tuned in to eternal moments by allowing everything to soak into me. It was great practice for this open-ended travel adventure.

No matter how long a traveler is in a place, there’s never a completion point. And on the other hand, there’s no point in thinking that one’s experience is ever incomplete. It simply is what it is. There’s no way and no reason to do it all, and what transpires, no matter how great or small, is the essence of life. Time slows when things are appreciated. And when time slows, life becomes more dense.

Yesterday we moved to a different inn because we couldn’t negotiate a more reasonable price with the owner. We wanted to stay longer since it was such a nice place, but we also wanted to try something new. So we said our goodbyes and moved on to a cheaper, but still very decent, abode. Had we been time starved, though, we might have panicked and either paid the higher price to stay or decided to leave Bali sooner than we really wanted. I don’t think we’re quite ready to hit the hostels.

Walking on a daily basis in Bali has been great. We’ll soon be ready to do some more exploring, but it’s been decompressing to just stay local for several days.

Live powerfully,


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Eating with our hands in Manado

Benjamin Franklin writes that three days is the most one should stay as a guest at someone’s house. Any longer and a guest will start to stink like rotting fish. More and more, this feels true. Visits that are short and sweet tend to leave fonder memories. Our stay with family in Manado felt a bit short, which is good.

We were in Manado for four days and three nights with family. It’s the slowly growing city at the northern tip of Sulawesi island, the hometown of my mother-in-law. We stayed at the Hotel Aston situated a few blocks from the shore. A generous uncle housed us in a suite with a view of Bunaken island across the water. Our cousin, a cheerful and worldly woman, showed us around town and filled us in on Manadonese culture. Another cousin, a good-natured and humorous man, set up a diving excursion for us on the coral reefs of Bunaken. He also provided us with amazing roast suckling pig at his restaurant.

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The first afternoon we spent at a fish restaurant. We arrived there directly from the airport. The place consisted of a gathering of straw roofed gazebos. It’s hard to find such restaurants in the U.S., devoid of the sounds of electrically run kitchens, phones, and utilities humming in the background. The seating areas, kitchen, and washing sinks were connected by paved paths amidst green patches of grass. Coconut and sugar palms rooted in and around the restaurant stretched into the gray sky. The air was quiet and heavy, and spoke of the impending afternoon rain.

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The kitchen stood alone under a separate straw roof. A coal grill made up most of the space there, as the menu consisted of tilapia and tuna, which were served either grilled or deep fried. A cook tended the grill while another prepared the fresh dips and sauces to go with the food.

We had coconut water out of a coconut, as is the custom here, hacked into a cup by a small machete. The juice was a bit acidic and not as sweet as that of the Thai or Phillippine fruit. It had it’s own refreshing quality without the excessive sugar.

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A waiter brought our orders on a great platter all at once. There were about ten of us together, so this was quite a feat of balance and strength. The tray was nearly as wide as the length of the waiter’s arms, and the man held it high near his head on one hand. He somehow managed to walk the path from the kitchen to where we sat, place the tray down on the table beside us, and serve each plate before all the guests.

We were very happy to have our dinner started. The tilapia was crispy, juicy, and spicy. I couldn’t help but sweat, pant, and blow snot as I burrowed into my dish. Even the eyes were tasty. The tilapia here is a delightfully fatty fish. When cooked hot and fast, it becomes very moist and tender. I started to eat with the fork and spoon, then dropped these in favor of my fingers. It’s the Manadonese way. There is something about holding, tearing, touching food as I eat it that connects me to it much deeper than by using metal utensils. It was intensely pleasurable to feel the grilled skin of the fish as I pulled it apart. It crackled and gave way to the juicy flesh underneath. Rice, too, is tastier when gathered together and brought to the mouth with fingers.

At first thought, eating with hands may seem savage or uncivilized. Whether that is true can be left up to discussion for those who believe they are civilized. Eating with hands forms a deeper appreciation for food. The texture and temperature of what we eat is magnified by using the fingers to pick it up. Our fingers are an addition to our eyes, nose, lips, tongue, and mouth in sensing our food. The experience of eating is made richer by touching food directly. Although I’ve tried this before, in the recent past and also as a child, in Manado I felt more comfortable doing so.

On a boat ride to the coral reefs, we had curried rice out of waxed paper packets for lunch. This too we ate with our hands. Standing on deck of the small boat, on the black blue waters before the great Bunaken island, and basking in the warm Indonesian sun, there was no better place to enjoy a meal with hands. I will write more about the diving later.

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Aside from dining on glorious foods, our time in Manado was divided amongst visiting old family friends, paying respect to ancestors at cemeteries, seeing the incredible physique of the land and water, and walking through the town streets.

I can’t do justice to all of it now. More on this later.

Live powerfully,