What I’ve Been Chewing

I know it’s been too long since I’ve written to you.

I’ve been traveling and figuring things out lately, and haven’t sat down to write in a while. There’s lots I want to share with you. Here are several things I’ve been pondering, developing, and talking about with people around me. Most of them you’ve seen from my blog before, but wellness is never a one-time deal for me. Being healthy is about practice, trying, developing, and building layers.

These items mostly came out of traveling and being “on the road”, meaning no gym, no permanent home, limited resources for training and cooking. I hope you find this useful, whether or not you’re traveling. After all, I started a lot of these things while working in a corporate office and living in Los Angeles. So it’s all transferable. Here they are.

Gentleness

There’s a book I love called The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving Kindness, by Pema Chodron. It’s about the wisdom in accepting your circumstances, loving yourself, and not rebelling against who you are. The book is written by a Buddhist teacher, mostly for people seeking the philosophy and technique behind Zen meditation. I read this in college, and the book has carried over to all other aspects of my life. Including physical training.

One of the biggest downfalls of the fitness industry is that consumers are not encouraged to take things slow, to work on themselves gently, and to train for the long game. Trainers, coaches, supplement companies, and magazines are full of the notion that the body has to be broken to become better. It’s your body. You don’t have to break it, or suffer, to become stronger. That’s not how things work.

In the short run, you might get big muscles, snaky veins, and a six pack. I understand the need to have these things. It’s been pounded into our psyches by mass media, and it’s part of our primordial urge to be fit. But what about the long run? Will you be well, functional, pain free, and freely moving years, decades down the road? Do you care?

There is a way to be strong and to remain strong for the long game. And that way involves gentleness. It requires you to learn about your body in every possible way as you develop your wellness. Be gentle with your eating. Be gentle with your body, your moving, your training. Be gentle with your mind. This comes into play when you realize that you are not going to get some specific result immediately. Eating a salad today won’t make you skinny, lean, and virile tomorrow. And it doesn’t help to eliminate fats, proteins, and carbs from your diet. See how going rough leads you into a downward spiral?

Step back, make gentle pushes, observe results. Test yourself, but don’t break yourself. The object of the game is to grow, to learn, to be healthy, happy, and capable.

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Barefoot training

Feet have a structure and function that work only when they are unhindered. You have the ability to redevelop your foot structure, the right stance, the right walk, and the right movement patterns. It starts with taking off your shoes. Go barefoot at home, around the hood, and wherever you can in the outdoors. It’s just one of those things that gets easier the more you do it. So start tiny.

We will see many products hit the “barefoot” market. Shoes, sandals, socks, sports equipment, and hopefully even transportation that lets us be close to barefoot all day long. I think this is progress. However, these products do not make you barefoot. Simply using your bare feet is different. Barefoot cannot be replicated. A “barefoot running shoe” is not barefoot. It is a shoe.

Train barefoot. Do strength training without shoes or socks. You can do them all if you start from zero, go gently, and progress responsibly. I have done deadlifts, squats, kettlebell, and body weight exercises barefoot. Orthopedic insoles did not help me. I had prescription plastic insoles for most of my adolescent years, into college. The pain of walking, running, and standing in shoes went away like magic. But guess what the price was? My feet got flatter and weaker, more prone to strains, and less and less able to hold me up the way they are supposed to.

Then I started following Kelly Starrett, and shed the insole supports. I wore flat shoes instead. Then I wore huaraches. But nothing beat walking barefoot outside, running barefoot on the grass and sand, and lifting barefoot at the gym. These activities, over three years, rebuilt the shape and mechanism of my feet. I now have arches.

So this is where I would link you to a product that I used, but I can’t because there is no product. You just simply need to take off your shoes and socks. However, there is technique that you need to use for proper development. Just like with all other parts of your body, such as your knees, your back, and your shoulders, for example, feet have a correct position and movement pattern. Place your weight on the parts that are meant to hold weight: the sole, the outer blade, the balls of your feet, and the toes. You’ll see that your arch, or insole if you don’t yet have an arch, doesn’t have to touch the ground. You’ll feel that springiness in your step. Walking, running, jumping. Try them all barefoot.

Figure it out and rebuild yourself from the ground up. If you need coaching, I can help.

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Fat first

From five years of self experimentation, drinking butter coffee almost every morning, traveling and eating for optimal energy, and talking with others experimenting with eating more fat, I continue to find that “fat first” works. This means eating fat for the first meal of the day, whether that be in the morning or afternoon or night. It means eating fat before eating other foods during any meal, or at least at the same time. Try grass fed butter melted into rice. And “fat first” means making sure to eat good fats, from good sources. Why?

Because fat is filling, fat is the building block of cell membranes and your nervous system and your brain, and fat gives you energy. Eating good fat from healthy animals ensures that you get the nutrition your body and brain needs before you fill up on other things like starch. Eating fat first means you get satisfaction and feel fuller from it. It helps guide me in my meals, because as long as I eat good fats I know how much of other stuff to eat. I feel more balanced in my urge to eat rice, veggies, and meat when I am eating good fats. Don’t think I don’t eat carbs. I eat lots of carbs, because I need it for my body composition, level of training, and daily activity. But my eating is moderated by the fat I’m eating. I guess I can say that fat is my primary source of satiety and energy, and my starting point for measuring hunger and portions.

Here’s an example of how fat is my nutrition measuring tool: if I feel the munchies, cravings, or urge to eat dessert at night, despite having eaten dinner, I’ll rewind through the day to see how much fat I’ve eaten. Most times, I’ll realize I forgot to mix butter into my rice, or didn’t have my usual butter coffee, or didn’t get the chance to eat any good quality fat that day. If I can, I slap a slab of grass fed cow butter onto some sweet potato and have at it. Fat first.

Kids and perfect form

I am fascinated by kids who are allowed to develop physically without the restraints of bulky sneakers, cribs, seats, and overprotection. My friend lets his son walk, run, roam, climb, and play more than most parents I’ve seen. He also lets him do this barefoot, even outside. When shoes are necessary, they are soft, flat on the bottom, and flexible enough for the feet to do their natural job. The result is incredible.

My friend’s son is a dense-bodied mover, and he is able to hold his core rigid when he’s lifted off the ground, flipped overhead, and swung back down. He holds perfect spine alignment as he deadlifts a suitcase off the floor. This beloved mini-athlete sometimes gets into a yogic child pose, stretches out on his belly, and lifts his arms and legs off the floor in a reverse plank. It’s all play to him. And he’s barely a year and a half old.

I laugh and marvel at his feats of mobility and strength. At the same time, I feel excited about what this little kid represents. He shows me it’s possible to have a perfect squat as natural and easy as yawning. He proves to me that movements like the deadlift and positions like straight feet and straight spine in the squat are natural. It gives me an example to follow. Since the kid hasn’t been molded into cushy shoes, and since he hasn’t been confined to classroom chairs, his movements are intact. He pushes his limits all the time in the weight of the bins he lifts, the suitcases he pushes, and the stairs he climbs.

Doing these things is challenging in themselves, but doing them with minimal risk of injury and optimal strength is natural only because limitations are not yet put on our little friend. So what if you’re starting today, having already gone through the body-morphing gauntlet of “civilization”? You’re not alone. Modern life’s walls came up, boxed you into the appropriate shapes, and contracted your physical and spiritual expressions into the norms of the day.

It’s not about being a kid, or about glorifying childhood or youthfulness. No. Just look at the human form in its beginning stages, and you can find movement and position as it was meant to be. You can train your malleable body to obtain the strength, movement, and positions of human expression. The full squat, the unhindered overhead arms, the use of joint torque, and spine alignment are all obtainable with training and practice. Possessing natural physical expression and the strength to maintain it will free your mind and soul to build toward your greatest goals.

Live powerfully,

Steve

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Marsing

People are going to live on Mars. Elon Musk gave this talk recently about living abroad. It inspired me to think about life on Mars. I can see that humans will find a way to travel to and live in other parts of the galaxy. To see space as a real frontier makes Earth appear as just one of many possible homes.

I believe all elements of the universe are connected. Everything, everywhere, follows the same laws of nature. Attraction, orbit, and energy pervade throughout. We just look at it differently depending on the context. What’s the difference between a thrown ball landing on the ground and the 12 or so planets orbiting the sun? Nothing. Both situations follow the same rules, and they in fact are part of the same system. So naturally, I think it may be possible to live on Mars if it is possible for us to live on Earth.

Obviously, there are a lot of problems to address. The temperature, the gases, the chemical makeup of the planet, the length of the days and years, and the distance from Earth. But I liken the venture to a familiar one that many people can attest to: living in the wild. If you ask the average person whether they would be able to survive in the wild if they were forced to, most would say yes with varying qualifications. The idea is that no, they haven’t done it before, but they are pretty sure they can.

The problems with living on Mars are numerous, and I think there are many problems with living on Earth we haven’t yet solved. There are still diseases that evade our medical treatments. Autoimmune conditions are still being investigated. Cures and recoveries are sparse and not fairly discussed in the medical community. Solutions to much of what we suffer as a species are band-aids rather than the stitches that are needed. And so people work to discover more.

One of my main concerns about my life on Earth is my connection to the ground energy of this planet.

“Earthing” is known as making skin contact with the bare ground on Earth. In the context of our own planet, the EMF and the charge that is produced in Earth is well known. This energy that surges through us as we ground ourselves is measurable and the benefits to the human body has been documented. Free and mobile electrons from Earth’s surface provide antioxidant action that reduces inflammation.

Regular contact with this energy is necessary for a thriving life. It’s something people and animals and plants have been connected to since “the beginning”. Recently, things have changed for humans, our pets, our plants, and zoo animals. Isolation from the earth’s surface leaves a living being with unnecessary, low levels of inflammation. This is dangerous for people prone to autoimmune disease, and limiting for everyone else. The solution, of course, is to be barefooted on bare earth regularly. Earthing.

“Marsing”, or earthing on Mars, is a concept that popped in my mind as I thought about the general mission to populate Mars. What is not known is the effect of “Marsing”. What happens when a person makes skin contact with bare ground on Mars? Provided the outside temperature permits, is there a surface energy capable of maintaining antioxidant needs for humans and other earthlings? And when the temperature is unbearable for a person to be barefooted, whether too cold or too hot, is there a possibility of “Marsing” through grounding pads plugged into an energy source? Is the composition of Mars soil healthy, harmless, or poisonous to a human?

It’s encouraging to see the progress of SpaceX and other organizations to make people interplanetary. There are already many astronauts who have lived extensively in space, away from the surface of the Earth. Even chimps! So it is possible to measure the effect of isolation from grounding in space and on other planets like Mars. It just hasn’t been done yet.

How does Mars compare to Earth in this respect? Earth’s surface has a charge of -1 nC per square meter. According to this Drexel University physics course calculation, the surface charge of Mars is -2.21 nC per square meter. This would put the Mars charge at more than double Earth. It is on the order of a nano-Coulomb, which is tiny, and would seem to be harmless upon skin contact. This will need to be tested.

The system of earthing seems to be an electrical one. But like all other natural things that are broken down to specific parts to isolate the benefits, the result may not be the same. Let’s say this charge on Mars, in the long term, is not healthy for humans.

A generator could produce a similar charge, in theory, as that found on the Earth’s surface. It wouldn’t need to be much. People could hook themselves up to grounding mats, like the one I use daily, to access an artificial ground charge from a generator. It seems doable. But is it the same as touching bare ground?

There are clearly benefits to using earthing mats for recovery from inflammation. In this study I highlighted previously, subjects attached to grounding pads were found to recover faster from pain and tissue damage.

Human life on Mars will need a lot of technological aide. There’s lots of talk about terraforming, heating, and accessing water on the Red Planet. But what about the electromagnetic field?

Thinking through the hurdles of Mars life is a good practice for thinking about Earth life. I think the problems of Mars life point directly back to life on Earth today. Do we breathe clean enough air? Is our energy source really endless? Can we sustain civilization with solar power? What is the impact of isolation from the planet’s surface energy?

There are many parallels in wellness issues on Earth to those we’ll face on a strange planet. Perhaps thinking in the context of Mars life can help us improve Earth life.

Go out and touch the ground we so freely have. And forward this to anyone you know who is working on preparations for a life on Mars.

Live powerfully,

Steve


Image Credit: By Moyan Brenn from Anzio, Italy (Mars) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/32/Mars_%2813026811355%29.jpg Edits: cropped to 600 pixel width and removed name.

Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever?

Universal Mat Kit

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Summer’s Dusk, Dogs, and the Travel Bug

August has passed the seasonal baton to September. Nights are cooler in California. A northwestern wind continues to breeze through Silicon Valley. The air feels a bit drier in my nose.

The trees have been brushed with a layer of crimson. Just lightly over the tops, the paintbrush of fall is sweeping over our green trees.

In the afternoon, the sun is out and it’s beautiful. It makes everything it touches amazing. It glows and flows into everything else. The dark spots on the dogs’ coats absorbs its energy as we go around the neighborhood. When I rub them down later I feel the radiating heat from their furry backs.

The days are still too hot for our canine companions to do much other than pant. The last couple of weeks have been a battle with fleas for them. I’m learning the necessity of routine and rigor in keeping pests away. We’re just coming to the tail end of the fight, excuse the pun.

We’re going to be in California for the next few weeks, at least. The next leg of travel will most likely be through the rest of southeast Asia that we haven’t been able to visit. We don’t know when that will be yet. I’m grateful to my mom for letting us stay with her during this time.

For now, it’s time for rest, meditation, and exercise. It helped to have some strength built up for the traveling we just did, and I want to continue this cycle of building and then losing through using. Naturally, without regular gym access I’m going to lose the full capacity of my strength. But it’s nice to start from a place of a bit of surplus strength and muscle.

We can plan more vigorous trips at the beginning, and head for more developed and less taxing places later. Seems natural enough to me.

The one hack I’d like to keep developing is retaining strength and mobility through travel. Honing in on a reliable and effective diet when away from home is essential. But there’s also supplementation that helps, and I want to figure out better ways to pack and sustain our supply. If you have tips from experience I’d love to hear from you.

Outside of gym training, I think it’s the perfect time of the year to hike. It’s cool enough in the morning for the exertion, but not so cold as to require long pants. We just may go the next chance we get.

Live powerfully,

Steve

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See the dogs on Snapchat!

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Thermos 24 oz. Three Year Review

Brilliant Friends,

This is a three year review of something I really enjoy. I bought this Thermos in 2013.

I have never used it for cold drinks. Only hot. I make coffee blended with butter, MCT oil, and an assortment of powders. This is primarily the drink I keep in it. Other than that, hot coffee.

I wash by hand with a dish soap and vinegar mix, no problem with paint. However, for about six months I used a dishwashing machine with a cheap packet detergent that caused the paint on the bottle to peel. It would come off on my hand as I used it, in little flecks. The product use instructions say not to use cleaner with bleach in it. I think this was my problem. I used a clorox or bleach type dishwasher soap, and when I did the paint was peeling.

The bottle still keeps drinks hot and insulates just as well as the first day I bought it. I sometimes make coffee, pour into bottle and seal, and find it piping hot four hours later.

Damages: The metal part of the body has two deformations. First on the rim. You can see from the photo that it is flattened a bit where I dropped it once while cleaning. The lid still screws on fine and does not leak since the rubber gasket fits lower in the mouth. Second on the outer, upper edge near the front. Not sure when that happened, see below.

The rubber parts are still in tact and functional. The top sealant piece has absolutely no problems. The small, spring-action hinge comes out from its hook every once in a while. I would estimate about once every two months. It’s a simple fix. I place a fingertip on either side of the loose part of the ring, and press into the edge of the cap where the rectilinear hook is located. The ring fits back into place and stays. The cap, with it’s one-hand flip function, still works perfectly. Maybe a fraction of a second slower than brand new. The simple, occasional fix is well worth the longevity of this bottle. Even without the rubber ring secured, I can still open and close fine if it happens in the car and I can’t use both hands to fix it in the moment.

The brand logo has completely worn off. This happened within the last year, and I’m not sure why. Looks kinda cool.

General usage: For two and a half years, I took this to work daily on my commutes. Fits into my Civic cup holder, it’s quite tall but great for easy grabbing. After I quit, I took it with me on a backpacking trip through southeast Asia for three months. I kept it in the top or side of my 48L Osprey pack, both on ground and in flights. I checked my bag in every time, using an airport transporter bag also by Osprey. The damage to the body may have come from these episodes, but I doubt it.

Specific usage: I first used the Thermos in the car while driving. I would pop the lid with one hand and drink while steering with the other. It is pretty heavy, maybe three pounds when full, so I didn’t drink on turns or in complicated traffic. Drink responsibly, right? About two years later, I used it primarily in the office and at home with a mug on the side. So I unscrewed the cap, poured into a mug, and drank from the mug. Meaning I haven’t used the cap for the full three years, just so you know.

Size: It’s a great size for the amount it holds. Fully three cups of coffee. Magnificent.

Handling: It can be quite thick and heavy for a one-handed grip. More like holding a football than a cup. Again, I would guess it weighs about three pounds when full. Get used to the balance, though, and even the daintiest user can be ready to rock and roll.

Style: It’s a sleek, black cylinder. Batman could be carrying this around Gotham without missing a beat. I can’t complain. The only thing I would caution about is in airports and high tension places, like Los Angeles freeways, and especially when you travel overseas. It can look like a weapon, no joke. Be careful when you bust it out to suddenly take a swig, that you aren’t doing it in front of an officer or in a threatening way. I can see how this could lead to alarm. However, I have not had any real issues. Just one funny look from a driver in Los Angeles one time when I lifted it up for a drink.

If you are looking for a lighter alternative, I would suggest the Zojirushi 12 oz. bottle. I also traveled with that, for my wife. Lighter, much easier to hold, just as functional and durable. Keep an eye out for that review.

Thanks for reading and leave a comment if you want to add.

Live powerfully,

Steve

Thermos Stainless King 24 Ounce Drink Bottle, Midnight Blue

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Ever A Traveler

I’m on a bus back to the Bay Area. We’re somewhere on Interstate 5 between the 46 and 41 junctions. To the west the blue mountains separating us from San Luis Obispo sleepily lay. Between us and the mountains stretch acres of dry, golden flats. Methodically straight rows of corn and fruit trees come and go at intervals.

The bus is a double decker, laid out spaciously and set with large, vista-friendly windows. Still, the seats are a bit short, and it gets to feel crowded after a few hours. I must be spoiled after a month back in the states. In Thailand we would have been rejoicing that there was A.C. and a bathroom, no less.

I was worried that after coming back from our travels my wife and I would return to the same old life. That being back with family, friends, and the people of our environment would quickly bring us back to the same lifestyle.

But I’m surprised to find today, on this bus, how happy we were to be going somewhere again. I didn’t except it. We were straight up gleeful as we put our bags away, found seats, and buckled up.

Once a traveler, always a traveler.

There’s something about having removed ourselves from familiar society at length. We suspected that life was different elsewhere. When we found it to be true, we saw that we could live differently. Not just in the fact that we weren’t working, though that was a big part of it, but also that we could get along with different infrastructures, languages, cultures, and geographical locations.

We weren’t tied to any one place in the way we thought we were. Or at least me. My wife had grown up on the other side of the world, then moved to the states later as an adult. She’s also traveled far more than I have. In a sense, this stage of her life might simply be a return to the familiar.

It’s almost like having a crutch removed. Actually it’s more like having a third leg torn off, and discovering that it’s possible and quite more advantageous to move around with just two. There’s a sensation of a great skin having been peeled away, like a shedding snake. Yes, it’s a bit traumatic. To be honest, there is pain in leaving a home and a lifestyle.

We sold, donated, stored, or dumped everything we owned in the blink of a month. It had taken years of hard work to buy most of it, and a lot of thought and heart went into the style and feel of our cozy apartment. It was our love nest, not for a baby, but for the time we grew into steady, working professionals together.

Our home was our safe haven. It was where we cooked and enjoyed our dinner, where we slept, where we brought friends for hilarious games and vulnerable conversations. It was as much a part of us as our organs, like an extension of our hearts. We expanded like vines on a tree into our apartment, becoming yet again better versions of ourselves in a new stage of life.

To let go of our home was to have an organ removed. It bled, it hurt. We cried, we yelled. We desperately struggled to rid ourselves of everything even as our hearts told us to keep it. We were tired beyond tired.

And we were scared. But fear was the one thing we were prepared to handle. It was the battle we had committed ourselves to fight in order to move to this next stage of life. Fear, I knew.

It was the one thing keeping us from what we wanted to explore. What if? What next? How? The unknown haunts anyone daring to step outside of her life as she knows it.

Committing to travel meant accepting fear and deciding to look on the other side. It’s always a decision, at the end of each day.

So we accept consequences, act with decency and accept grace as it comes. But we never lose what we learned. And that is that we are ready and willing to face fear to see the other side.

Live powerfully,

Steve

The Brilliant Beast Blog Daily

Why Your Back Is Hunched

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Do this quick test: stand with feet pointing forward, at shoulder width or less, and get down in a full squat. All the way down, until your knees can’t bend anymore.

Have someone take a side angle photo of you or be next to a full length mirror. Is your back pretty straight? Or is it hunched over your knees? What about your head? Is it in line with your spine, or bent forward or backward?

Make sure your feet are planted from heel to blade to toes. Use your feet’s grip on the ground to support yourself, and try to straighten out your torso. You want your shoulders back and head in line with your spine. Possible? Or not even a bit?

Okay. If you had a lot of trouble lifting up your torso, you probably have stiff chest, shoulder, and bicep muscles. I get this after bench press sessions, lots of sitting, and lots of walking with a heavy pack when traveling. In all these scenarios, I’m straining forward or in a position that gets the front muscles short and tight.

The result is forward hunching. My favorite remedy is shoulder dislocations. Do three sets of ten of these, and feel the crazy tightness loosen up. It will open up your squat, but it will also help with long hours sitting at work and in traffic, standing taller, and easing upper back and neck aches.

When you think of squatting, the upper body doesn’t seem to be involved. But the mobility of your torso actually affects your ability to squat.

It’s not always necessary that you are in the full squat with a straight spine. Lifting something heavy is a different story, but when you’re just getting into a squat, you can have a rounded back without harm to yourself.

The extent to which your back is straight or curved is, though, an indicator of your mobility. If your back is very hunched, it could mean that the tissues of your abdomen, ribs, chest, and shoulders are tight.

If the front of your body is tight, it’s going to pull you forward and make it hard to straighten up. Work on your normal sitting and standing positions. If you’re slouching, get yourself upright. Open up the chest and shoulders, and stretch out your biceps. And squat every day to test yourself.

It’s a constant work in progress for me. The more I’m able to keep my torso aligned, the better time I have living each day free of aches, kinks, and pain.

Live powerfully,

Steve

The Brilliant Beast Blog Daily

Rollin’ Through The Five

I got up early today.

At five thirty I was blending my coffee. It was dark outside with the first layer of light painted on the sky. As I threw out the trash I saw the lights on in the neighbor’s open windows across the street. The asphalt still had a bit of yesterday’s heat under my bare feet. Not a sound in our neighborhood.

Within an hour we were packed up and heading for the freeway with our friend. It’s to L.A. we go. Four months before, to the day, we had set out from San Francisco for Jakarta. The start of our travels. We had come from L.A. in a desperate rush after getting our apartment packed and cleared. Today’s pace is relaxed.

The first leg of the journey, where the 152 winds inland from it’s junction with the 101, is the most beautiful. The early morning sun, that bright, silver sun, makes the valley grasses shimmer and the San Luis Reservoir glow. The hills rise and fall along the road like waves of a green ocean, black cattle riding them like sea gulls.

Maple brown horses thoughtfully chew grass by their fences. They have the same complacent expression as a human sipping coffee, staring out of a window. I wonder if they feel as warm and content as they look. If so, we have that in common this morning.

As much as these horses look right at home in those fields, I have to remind myself that they’re standing out in cold weather. There are no chairs, no comfy porch, or cushy couch for them to use. There’s just grass and dirt. It’s foggy and there’s probably insects flying all around them. I saw one horse, just one, with a purple blanket covering its back.

I wondered if I could also be comfortable in such a setting. Could I be content with just what was necessary and beautiful around me? With the ones I love close by, could I continuously live my days with only the bare necessities.

Seeing those gentle creatures reminds me of mornings at the park. I would make some coffee and bring it with me to sit on the grass and meditate. Sometimes I would breathe deep and sink into the very depths of my soul. At other times I simply listened to the birds sing, ascending into a hypnosis from the rhythmic chirps. There’s a way that the breeze runs through just so, and makes the leaves rustle, that lulls me into a trance.

I love the way bees float. They clumsily drift toward the flowers, gripping on to the bright yellow center where the nectar awaits. They pull themselves forward and dunk their heads deep into the well of life, oblivious to the pollen that sticks to their legs and the fact that they propel the cycle of life.

Nature is such that the universe thrives on countless agents acting in their own self interest, playing minuscule parts in an immeasurable orchestra that sounds the music of life.

There is so much to appreciate at the most rudimentary of parks. I wouldn’t want to live in a park, or even out in the nicest field. But there is something to learn from sitting outside for a while, doing nothing and observing everything. Perhaps, as people, this is one of our universal self interests. And from plunging into these moments, we might unknowingly pick up pollen that spurs life elsewhere.

Looking forward to a nap and some good times in Los Angeles.

Live powerfully,

Steve

The Brilliant Beast Blog Daily

How To End Fridays On Time

You work an office job and want to get out at a reasonable time on Friday. Start right now. Four o’clock is your cut off time.

Today is your chance to end this week strong. End with the beginning in mind. How you finish Friday is how you finish this week. The end of today determines your outlook on Monday morning. Think about that. But more importantly, let’s try it.

During my corporate stint, Friday was the perfect day to start thinking about Monday. As I finished things up each week, how I left the office made a difference. If I had my head held high, proud of the week, excited for the next, then Monday morning was fresh. I would be back the next week feeling positive about things. My energy and mood were better. I was more willing to get started.

If I left on Friday with my tail between my legs, allowing myself to feel like a failure, Monday morning would be slosh. As a matter of fact, the whole weekend would suck too. And since a lot of days ended like this, a lot of days began the same way. No matter how much work I did, and how well I did it, things would come up that I would allow to ruin my day.

So found resources in leaders like Tim Ferriss and Dave Stachoviak. I started to put a ton of energy into making those last hours of the last day a positive time. It did the charm. Leaving on a fresh note brought me in the next week on a fresh note. Toward the end of my short career, I was coming to work pretty pumped each day. But I had to engineer that.

Tasks

Choose a definite end time to wrap things up. If I wanted to be out the door by six, I had to stop taking on new tasks by four. Interviews, meetings, data collection, those things seemed benign and even exciting when thrown at me last minute. But then I would find myself at the end of it, hours past when I wanted to leave, tired, and feeling like I had been abused. That was my fault.

If you report to someone, check with them a few hours before you’re going to leave. Let them know you’re figuring out what needs to be finished for the week, that you’ve taken care of most of it, and you want to know if there’s anything last minute. Perfect. Now your boss has a final chance to throw anything at you. With plenty of time for you to finish and leave on time.

For everything that’s in your control, figure out what you want to finish and what you’re going to pick up next week. You need to determine the end for yourself.

Meetings

Meetings come in all shapes and sizes. Even random drop ins by people took up my time and pushed other things back. So it was important for me to let people know that I could not meet with them after a certain cut off point. I would let my boss know what I was doing and then either:

  • Request that the interrupter find and implement a solution
  • Say I was busy and ask for another appointment
  • Deal with emergencies if I could in a short amount of time
  • Keep my door closed
  • or Ask for an email summary for non emergencies

The key is to stop intruders at the door. Do not invite them in with friendly greetings or hesitations. Keep them at the door and you have a much higher chance of preventing prolonged, unnecessary talks or task assignments. I’m talking about your boss, too. Keep it delicate and polite, but assertive, and even your boss will learn to respect your boundaries.

Emails

At my cutoff point for the day, I completely ignored emails. You will think that’s not possible. Believe me, it is possible. And you won’t get fired. If someone has something so urgent that you will get fired over it, or they will, and they don’t get an immediate response, then they will call you. Or show up at your door. I did this for over a year and ended up with far fewer email crises, better face-to-face interactions, and fewer needless interactions.

Phone Calls

Where I worked, a phone call was usually more urgent than an email. I also engineered that situation to be so. At my cutoff point for the day, I did pick up phone calls. And my immediate greeting was curt:

“Hello?”

“Hi, Steve, it’s so and so. How are you?”

“I’m actually in the middle of something, what can I help you with?”

“Oh, then never mind, it can wait.”

“If you send me an email, I can respond Monday.”

“Oh, I need something today. Can you help me with so and so?”

(Non-urgent or can be delegated) “You know what, I’m pretty tied up right now. Can we ask so and so to help with that?”

More often than not, the person would wait to bring it up again the next week. In short time, I got fewer and fewer last minute requests. Either people stopped because they no longer saw me as the jackpot of last minute work, or they learned themselves to not have last minute work to do on Friday.

Every once in a long while, there really was an emergency. And I did have to stay later than expected to take care of it. But these instances became further and fewer between when I stuck to these principles.

Engineer the workweek you want to have. End Friday with a bang. Start Monday with a bang. And enjoy the weekends between.

Live powerfully,

Steve

P.S., it’s the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. Get out there and enjoy the outdoors this weekend!

The Brilliant Beast Blog Daily

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,

Steve

Studies on Meditation and Emotion Regulation and Mindfulness

 

Deep Sleep Dashes Sickness

I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.

It had been five days since returning from a three month trip. We were living in a time zone 16 hours ahead of California. I was jet lagged with a runny nose, sore throat, sinus pressure, cough, and body aches. Vitamin C megadosing, sun bathing, and earthing were only scratching the surface. I just wasn’t getting enough sleep.

I don’t know why I didn’t think about it sooner, but yesterday it occurred to me that I should wear ear plugs to bed. Normal neighborhood and house noises, however subtle, were waking me up earlier than I wanted. So I plugged up and covered my eyes from light. I also kept a small fan on to keep the temperature down. The summer heat was adding to this sleep deprivation.

With these simple little hacks, it was cool, dark, and quiet at night.

And damn, but I slept like a log. I woke up like a dragon from it’s thousand year slumber. I swept the blanket aside like it was piles of gold being hurled aside by the dragon’s monstrous, scaly tail. I breathed deep, loving the air as much as the reptilian beast would after such an abysmal sensory absence. Seeing the sunlight filtering through the window, I was the dragon emerging from his cave. I flexed and stretched my fresh limbs, feeling blood surge through my tissues.

The achiness was gone. My nose was no longer runny. The sinus pressure was minimized. There was just the slightest sense of head cold left. I was coughing up green phlegm, which is a good sign for me. Still rusty, but I’m on the downhill side of recovery now.

As I stretched out in the sun, I felt better and better. Sleep, I thought again as I have many times in the past, is such an effective tool for human wellness. A UPenn study showed that flies who slept more recovered and survived longer than their brethren who didn’t sleep as much. Sleep triggered the gene pathway NFkB in flies.

NFkB regulates immune response, in addition to DNA transcription and cell survival. Other studies showed that problems with this gene activation were linked to cancer, inflammation and autoimmune disease, and uncontrolled infection.

Sleep, then, as the trigger for this gene expression, has a lot to do with recovery from illness.

Once again, I can attest to this. One night of good sleep dashed away the effects of jet lag, body aches, and misery. I’m betting that one more night will do away with the rest of this pesky cold. Of course, I’m going to keep up the vitamin C dosage, sun time, and everything else.

One hint to getting good sleep if you just can’t: try staying up instead of napping. A bit of sleep deprivation can help with prolonging sleep later and increasing stimulation of NFkB, as the fly researchers found.

Live powerfully,

Steve

The Brilliant Beast Blog Daily