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A Friendly Reminder to Breathe


 

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The Fine Balance of Bodyweight and Happiness

Fitness Model

When your body, mind and spirit are in harmony, an intrinsic sense of well-being permeates the totality of your existence.

However, this harmony of self is a perpetual balancing act.

Neglect any layer of yourself and the others become compromised as well. Think of yourself as a bicycle. Your physical and mental health are the two tires and your spirit is the handle bars, or steering system. If you neglect one of the tires, your bike will undoubtedly be compromised. If you neglect your steering system, sure you might move quickly, but there’s no control of direction or any purpose to the movement.

The body, of course, gets the most attention, as it’s the most tangible and measurable aspect of self.

When it comes to the body, it’s a balance between accepting your unique physicality and not being complacent. For example, the obese person who claims to be fine the way they are is delusionally complacent. While the fitness model who thinks they’re out of shape is delusionally unaccepting of themself.

Ultimately, achieving mind-body-spirit harmony boils down to this: Whatever makes you genuinely happy and enables you to make the most out of life.

What Happiness Isn’t: The Fitness Fanatic

You’re not genuinely happy if you’re posting pictures of your ass on Instagram every day, fishing for compliments. That’s extreme attachment to the body and essentially pimping it out for external ego-validation.

You’re not genuinely happy if you have anxiety over “hitting your macros” every meal. That kind of obsession is a miserable existence. But to each their own; if someone wants to prioritize neurotic calorie-counting over peace of mind, that’s their choice.

I’m not saying that you can’t be a bodybuilder or a fitness model and be happy. You can. But it’s a balance. Also, especially when you’re doing something as your main source of income, you’re going to push beyond the point where it starts to intuitively feel not right for you.

I feel bad for all the Instagram fitness celebrities whose whole identity is wrapped up in the aesthetics of their body. I believe that everyone should optimize their body and health (because being obese isn’t the greatest version of yourself either), but to obsess over it is neurotic, egotistical and painfully vain.

In this phenomenal interview with former fitness model Madelyn Moon, she discusses that she always had a nagging feeling that her body was never good enough. She also candidly describes her state at the moment of all of the fitness pictures you’ll find of her online:

“In every one of those pictures you’re looking at the most anxious, depressed, bloated, gassy, miserable, angry person I’ve ever been.”

Is that your idea of a happy, fulfilling life?

What Happiness Isn’t: The Other Side of the Spectrum

You’re also not genuinely happy if you’re obese and your body isn’t functioning optimally.

The person who is obviously overweight and unhealthy and says “I like the way I am” is delusional. It’s the other side of the coin of delusion compared to the skinny person with body dysmorphia who sees themselves as fat. You certainly have to accept yourself wherever you are along your journey, but to use self-acceptance as an excuse for complacency is when things go downhill quickly. Essentially, self-love should act as the wind beneath your wings, carrying you along your journey of continuous improvement.

Are you able to perform normal human body functions? (Assuming you didn’t have some kind of accident that severely injured you.) Can you walk for long periods of time? Can you pick something up off of the ground without pain? Can you squat? Can you dance or jump for joy if you feel happy? Can you play with your children or grandchildren? If you can’t do these things without strain or pain, do you really think you’re making the most out of life?

While a society that projects images of sickly skinny, fake photo-shopped women creates a deep sense of inferiority in the average woman, the knee-jerk reaction to that dysfunctional propaganda (an overweight woman glamorizing eating a bag of chips like that’s “what’s really real”) is unhealthy, and a bad example, as well. Again, it’s all a balance.

Obese

What is “Overweight” Anyway?

All of these terms – fat, skinny, fit, overweight – are completely subjective! Remember that.

On top of subjectivity biases, classifications can be manipulative and deceptive. And they are heavily manipulated and manufactured because there are billions of dollars being made off of people feeling inferior (with women being subjected to this much more than men).

So don’t let a chart tell you what “normal” is. Don’t let the magazines tell you what an ideal body is. And certainly don’t judge it by weighing yourself either. Your weight is a combination of fat, muscle, bone, water, blood and everything else your body consists of; so it’s a poor measure of health or fitness.

A more accurate indicator is body fat percentage. Here’s a general guideline: for a male, everything (mind-body-spirit) will function optimally from about 8-18% body fat. For women, everything (mind-body-spirit) will function optimally from about 17-27% body fat. Remember, these are estimates (not rigid lines in the sand) of an optimal zone, where your body, mind and spirit are going to be most harmonious.

The ideal body fat percentage FOR YOU may be on the lower or higher end of the spectrum, depending on who you are, your age and what goals you have. Also, two people with the same body fat can look radically different based on how much muscle mass they have. So keep that in mind as well.

Here are two highly informative articles on body fat percentage:
Everything You Need to Know About Body Fat Percentage
Body Fat Pictures and Percentages

I would say that “overweight” is slightly different for everyone. One general indicator of this would be if your body fat is significantly higher than the percentages outlined above (18% for men and 27% for women). Another indicator would be when things start becoming compromised for you: hormonal health, cognitive function, mood, energy levels, sleep quality, ability to move, range of motion…etc. Note: Much of the same symptoms apply to being underweight as well.

The Fine Balance

Being relatively lean isn’t all about aesthetics either. Holding extra body fat comes with an exponential risk of various health conditions and most chronic diseases. Also, toxins are stored in fat cells, while muscle cells are cancer resistant, so keep that in mind as well.

It’s a balance…

Your hormones get out of whack when you’re too lean (extremely low body fat percentage) or you’re too skinny (lacking both fat and muscle). They also get out of whack when you’re overweight.

Your cognitive function gets compromised when you’re too lean or too skinny. It also gets compromised when you’re overweight.

Take an objective look at yourself, naked in the mirror. Can you do that? Do you like what you see?

Deep down, you know which side of the spectrum of delusion you’re on (if at all). Are you a woman who’s never skinny enough or a guy that’s never muscular enough? Stop using food/exercise to feed that compulsion and do some mental, emotional and spiritual work to love and accept yourself. Are you overweight but lying to yourself that you’re “average”? Shake yourself out of that delusion and do something to improve your health. Eat healthier and begin a simple exercise routine (nothing complicated) and you’ll find a sense of empowerment you’ve never felt before.

If you’re obsessed with diet, working out or how your body looks, chances are that you have some form of body dysmorphia and are viewing yourself through a skewed, overly-critical lens. And if you go out of your way to not think about diet or fitness, chances are that you’re more overweight than you’re letting yourself believe.

It is absolutely crucial to be able to view yourself without cognitive biases or egoic attachment.

Read this article for an in depth discussion on how to be more objective with yourself:
What are You Hiding From Yourself? 14 Ways to Discover Your Blind Spots

It’s also important to not be too critical and love yourself no matter what. If you’re obsessive about working out, you’re not loving yourself. If you’re eating fast food every day, you’re not loving yourself. That’s why I write so much about the inner work, because the ideal body is but a hollow shell without inner peace.

Most men will never look like Arnold Schwarzenegger and most women will never look like a Victoria’s Secret model, but everyone has an optimal version of themselves. And that optimal version is where the body, mind and spirit have a harmonious, seamless relationship.

So ask yourself: “Is this the optimal version of myself?”

There is a Goldilocks zone of leanness that harmonizes your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. You have to find your own balance, and that balance will be slightly different for each person.

You’ll never know your ideal balance if you stay in one box your entire life either. If you’ve been obsessed with fitness your whole life, ease up on your diet and workout routine and focus on other things (art, family, learning a new skill…etc.). Or if you’re on the other side of the spectrum and have been overweight and sedentary your whole life, try eating healthier and exercising a few times a week. You might find out that this lifestyle change might give you a level of happiness you never thought was possible beforehand.

Also, it’s important to be mindful of what you’re sacrificing. If you want to enjoy the taste of Twinkies every day, you’re going to sacrifice your physical and mental health (as well as any sliver of self-discipline). If you’re dieting down to 4% body fat for a bodybuilding contest, your mental/emotional health, hormonal state, relationships, and enjoyment of food will all take a backseat for the fulfillment of that goal.

Let’s look at primal attraction too. Relatively lean and curvy women are most attractive to men (not sickly skinny, not obese and not ripped with no curves). Athletic, relatively lean and muscular men are most attractive to women (not sickly skinny, not obese and not some colossal muscle ox). Sexual attraction has a lot to do with deep-rooted genetic components from our primal origins. A curvy woman would be more fertile and healthy. And an athletic man would be more able to provide and protect. Of course, we’re not relegated to rigid gender roles now but these factors still influence us on subsconscious levels.  They also serve as hints regarding the physical state that best facilitates mind-body-spirit harmony.

Social Media = A Highlight Reel

At this point, most people know that the models in magazines and tv ads are photo-shopped and in depleted states during the photo shoots. But another important point to keep in mind is that social media is the highlight reel of people’s lives.

People only post the highlights of their life. Everyone’s profile picture is the absolute best looking photo of themself that they can find. Comparing yourself to others on social media is a rigged game, as it’s not a realistic depiction of most people’s day-to-day reality.

And why are you comparing in the first place? That’s your ego dragging you into its fear-based self-deceptions.

We need to learn how to celebrate our uniqueness and our personal journey into becoming the greatest version of ourselves.

fake mustache

Don’t be deceived, my mustache isn’t as cool as it looks here ;)

Being the Greatest Version of Yourself

I feel my best when I’m in a state similar to how I am right now. I’m relatively lean, I workout 4-5 times per week (and enjoy it) and I eat healthy for the most part (but I don’t obsess over what I eat). There’s no compulsion around my behaviors, and though I keep my body fit and healthy, I’m not obsessively attached to it.

If I were to let myself really slip and pack on body fat, my self-discipline and cognitive function would be compromised (along with all of the other downstream effects of holding extra fat). And lugging around the additional weight would be useless baggage that I’d rather not hold onto.

Or, on the other hand, if I went on a strict diet, worked out for hours every day and tried to get really lean, I wouldn’t be happy either (I’ve tried it).

I also accept the uniqueness of my body (it’s been a long time coming though). I’m hairy, and even when I’m lean, I look more like a viking than a fitness model. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve come to truly love this 1988 edition Stephen Parato. I keep it optimized, and in return, it’s the perfect vehicle to bring me on this road trip called life.

At the end of the day, your body is a vessel, a one-of-a-kind, custom-made flesh vehicle driven by your consciousness. Keep your vehicle healthy and make the most out of your road trip.

Love your vessel, but always remember who you really are.

One love.

– Stevie P!

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Live Like Every Interaction is Your Last

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We’ve all heard the phrase “Live every day like it’s your last.”

But how many of us truly apply that?

***crickets chirp***

Yeah… Pretty much nobody.

It’s too easy to slip into the dull monotony of day-to-day life, coast through life on autopilot and lull ourselves to sleep inside the deceptive contentment of our comfort zones; only to wake up and find out we’ve missed the dance.

“Live every day like it’s your last” has lost its potency because so many people say it without actually embodying it. So a new phrase that I utilize is “Live like every interaction is your last.”

Serendipitously, I found myself applying that phrase during my travels. “Live like every interaction is your last” has become a perpetual piece of motivational self-talk as I maneuver through my days; and one that has made life infinitely more fulfilling as well.

Everything is an interaction, so whether it be with people, animals, places or circumstances, treat each and every interaction you have like it’s your last.

I was led to approach this “carpe diem” mentality from so many directions. Multiple paths, winding around the requiem of human reality, ended up seamlessly converging on this idea of wholeheartedly diving into each moment, because the next moment is not promised.

11 Key Components to “Living Like Every Interaction is Your Last”

1. Facing the Certainty of Death

The reality of life is that death is inevitable. Death can also come at any time. To not recognize this is ultimate denial. By being consciously aware that death is certain and tomorrow is not promised, you will cherish each moment and squeeze the last drop of divine nectar out of every sacred day you walk the Earth.

No matter what your belief system is – whether you believe in heaven, reincarnation, evolving into Mewtwo in another dimension or believe nothing exists after this life – your time within this physical body is finite. This completely unique life that you’re living right now has never happened before nor will it ever happen again. So be grateful and make the most of it!

View death, not as your enemy or something to be afraid of, but as an ally motivating you to make the most out of each fleeting moment.

“Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today.” ~ James Dean

2. Positive Programming

Condition yourself to live like every interaction is your last. Find an affirmation or mantra to repeat and help ground you into the bliss of the present moment.

During every personal interaction, I keep the mantra “Live like every interaction is your last” in the back of my head. It helps me to be more present, more compassionate, more loving, more forgiving, more grateful, more bold and more courageous.

We’re always programming ourselves whether we like it or not. Everything you tell yourself is a seed planted in the garden of your subconscious mind. Are you cultivating the kind of garden you want?

3. Letting Go of Judgment

Are you going to waste your time worrying about what other people think of you? Are you going to let the opinions of others determine what YOU DO with YOUR OWN LIFE? Are you going to throw away your own time by judging others? In the grand scheme of things, those petty judgments are ridiculously stupid, and an absolute waste of your precious time here on Earth.

I took a more in depth look at different forms of judgment in these articles:
No One Cares: Your Key to Freedom from Social Anxiety
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Judgment

4. Living Through Your Heart

Don’t let your ego run the show. Reside in your heart-space, that intuitive knowing from a deep place of peace.

Choose love as your motivating force in every situation, not fear.

And as cliche as this phrase is, ask yourself “What would Jesus do?” (or “What would Buddha do?” if you prefer that as the archetype of an ascended master). The point is, what would you do if you were operating from a place of unconditional love? Do that!

5. Practicing Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a pivotal theme here.

Holding onto any negativity is like holding onto a burning coal, thinking that it’s burning the other person. You’re only hurting yourself.

Forgiveness is more about not letting negative emotions fester within you than it is about the other person.

Cultivate mindfulness regarding holding onto grudges or dwelling on negative scenarios in the past. Simply being aware of it will take the wind out of the sails of any negativity you’re holding onto.

6. Recognizing the Stupidity of Negativity

In the grand scheme of things, complaining is useless, getting angry over little things is laughable (and if you really think about it, everything is a “little thing”), clutching onto resentment is idiotic…etc.

Are you going to waste your precious time on Earth mad at the guy who cut you off in traffic yesterday? Get over it and move on.

7. Honesty

Why lie? What’s the point? Think about how it would feel to leave behind nothing but a complex web of lives for those you supposedly care about.

Lying just complicates things anyway, while honesty (though more difficult at times) is much simpler.

Honesty also feels good, because it’s the language of the heart, and any pain felt on the receiving end of a genuinely honest statement (based in love) is pain on the ego’s behalf.

8. Embracing the Little Things

Living like every interaction is your last is not necessarily about going skydiving or throwing a party and inviting everyone you’ve ever met; it’s about cherishing the little things in life.

Savor your cup of coffee in the morning, feel the joy of taking a deep breath through your nose, go for a walk outside and cherish the moment, laugh for no reason, dance by yourself, hold the door open for a stranger and see their beaming smile, give someone a genuine compliment…etc.

Learn to love the little things and your life will be an awe-inspiring experience of perpetual vibrance.

9. Avoiding Regret

“Be bold and courageous. When you look back on your life, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the ones you did.” ~ H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

You’re the brave hero of your own movie, so act like it. And remember that (so called) mistakes make the best learning experiences. Sitting scared in your comfort zone is not living, but a slow death.

Take some risks, be unabashedly honest, talk to that hot girl or guy, write that book you have inside of you, quit your boring job and travel the world, tell your loved ones that you love them every time you say goodbye… Because you never know…

When you’re on your deathbed, are you going to look back and have regrets? Or smile and say “What a ride, baby!”?

10. Presence

The present moment is all that exists, and its fleeting, so cherish it.

The past and future only exist in our minds. And it’s in the mental projections into the past or future where we find our fear, worry, anxiety and all those negative emotions. Remember, there are no problems in the present moment.

The present moment is the ever-moving point of unending actualization which encases the physical dimension. It’s a ceaseless vortex of infinite love that goes wherever you go. You just have to surrender to it.

Feel, in the depths of your soul, the indescribable magic of each moment.

Meet each moment with joyful totality.

11. Your Legacy

What are you doing to make the world a better place? What are you creating? Are you living with purpose? What message are you conveying by the way you live your life?

What is your legacy?

Let the answer to that be a guiding force for the way you live your life on a moment-to-moment basis.

The Catalyst of Travel

Travel has a profound way of spurring this way of living like each moment could be your last. With all of the new (and sometimes scary) places, all of the perilous bus rides and the natural fear of flights, you become far more likely to constantly consider your own mortality.

From that perspective, a choice presents itself in every moment: “Will I make the most of this moment, or succumb to fear and complacency, letting it slip away forever?”

The choice is up to you. You have the option, in every moment, to make the most out of that fleeting moment and live like every interaction is your last.

One love.

– Stevie P!
 

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The Paradox of Changing Others


 

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What are You Hiding From Yourself? 14 Ways to Discover Your Blind Spots

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I thought I had it all figured out a few months ago…

My ego loved the (false) sense of elitism that came from the (small) amount of wisdom I had accumulated and the personal growth I had achieved.

This sense of egoic comfort allowed my blind spots to subtly suffocate my growth and choke out my compassion towards others. As Admiral Ackbar from Star Wars would say, “It’s a trap!”

Luckily, I realized that my ego had snuck in through the back door. Deep down I knew that, in the grand scheme of things, I had next to nothing figured out, so I decided to shake things up a bit. In a hopscotch of faith, I leapt into innumerable experiences that shattered any sense of “having life figured out” and launched me to unforeseen levels of self-discovery and growth.

These experiences included 5 months of (mostly solo) world travel through 10 countries, meeting hundreds of amazing people, journaling every single day of my travels, having cathartic experiences at the Osho center, attending a few yoga retreats and workshops, getting certified in kinesiology, learning Siddha healing, practicing many different meditation techniques, jumping into new relationships, communing with Ayahuasca in the Peruvian Amazon, struggling to communicate with my weak Spanish speaking skills, hiking Machu Picchu in pouring rain, learning how to surf, going to the Envision Festival alone and embarking on countless other adventures that catapulted me out of my comfort zone. All of this intensely illuminated so many of my blind spots, quantum-jumped my knowledge of self and spurred so much improvement that I still haven’t assimilated it all. And I’m still riding this momentum.

“We live on an island surrounded by a sea of ignorance. As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance.” ~ John Wheeler

The more you know
The more you realize you don’t know
And you don’t know
What it is that you don’t know
Until it’s known
But you do know
That you don’t know everything
So rest in the fact that there’s always more to know

We all have blind spots, forces that we’re completely unaware of that may be holding us back.

The human mind, though it’s an immensely powerful tool, is littered with self-deception and cognitive biases. It’s so easy to trick ourselves, and over time, deepen the groove of a skewed view of reality.

That’s why one of the most important things you can do is take an objective look at yourself and reveal your blind spots.

What if your comfort zones are actually false fortresses of security that are doing you far more harm than good? What if everything you’ve been basing your reality on was a lie? What if every aspect of your life is really based on false assumptions, feebly held together by other false assumptions to rationalize the former false assumptions?

We’ve all seen the extremes of self-denial and glaring personal blind spots… The religious zealot who ignores overwhelming evidence contrary to her rigid, literal interpretation of the bible and believes ridiculous things like the idea of Jesus riding dinosaurs. The corporate guy, whose identity is so wrapped up in materialism, that he goes to great lengths (buying fancy clothes, watches and cars, having beautiful girlfriends just to impress others, exorbitant vacations to show off…etc.) in order to fill that feeling of emptiness inside. The high school friend, who has hesitantly convinced himself that he’s happy still living in the same hometown, working the same job and going to the same bar every Friday night. These epitomic cases may seem sad and even pathetic to us, but we’re all guilty of self-denial to some extent.

In order to become the greatest version of yourself and make the most out of life, you need to be able to observe yourself from an objective perspective. You need to call yourself out on your own bullshit. Everything from your most fundamental beliefs, how you view reality, your sense of what is possible, your identity, your habits, your patterns, your limiting beliefs, your assumptions, your false confidence, your fears, your egoic desires, your intuition, your intrinsic motivations, your reactions to external stimuli, your view of others, your freedom (or lack thereof), how you move your body, your choice of music, your choice of entertainment, your sources of information, your biases, your community, your inhibitions, your different personalities among different people, your dietary habits, your addictions, your vulnerabilities, your childhood pain that you’re still carrying, your biggest fear for the future, your self-judgments , your comfort zones, the excuses you make to yourself, the labels you mindlessly slap on things, the little lies you tell yourself, the secrets you’re hiding in the depths of your psyche, the truths you’re afraid of being true, the reason why you were born…etc.

As you can see, there are a lot of potential blind spots out there (or in there). Here’s how to develop a perspective of increased self-awareness, put yourself in a position of continuous personal evolution and be genuinely YOU-nique.

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14 Ways to Discover Your Blind Spots

1. Meditation

Meditation cultivates a state in which you can objectively observe your thoughts and emotions. We often go through life completely consumed by our thoughts and emotions, not being able to witness them. This is why meditation is so crucial. With practice, you will create awareness regarding your emotions, thoughts, habits and patterns.

This state of awareness makes change possible. If you go through life oblivious to your patterns, because you’re too engrossed in them to know what’s going on, you’ll never be in a position to make a change. As the old proverb goes, “The fish would be the last to discover water because they’re immersed in it.” Meditation can take you out of the metaphorical water of your assumed reality and help you realize “Wow, I was really IN THERE this whole time?”

If you’re new to meditation, try starting out with my 21 Breath Salute. It’s so easy and takes less than 5 minutes to do.

2. Intimate Relationships

Intimate relationships are the most powerful tools for showing you your own weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

Your partner is like a mirror of your own internal state. Your fears, limiting beliefs, doubts, delusions and repressed emotions are reflected in intimate relationships.

One example of this is getting angry at your partner for forgetting something. Chances are that you get angry at yourself for forgetting things, and because this person is so close to you, you do to them whatever you do to yourself. So get to the bottom of why you get angry at yourself for something so asinine. Did your parents do it to you? Do you put pressure on yourself to never make mistakes? (And where does that belief come from?) Share this revelatory process with your partner as you go through it. You’re on the same team, right?

Here’s another example. If you have a fear of abandonment from, let’s say, your father leaving you as a child, you will find yourself desperately clinging to relationships, even when it’s obvious that it’s not to your benefit. But you have to have some degree of self-awareness to be able to see this play out in your life (as well as a self-aware partner who can help you to realize these things as they come up). Otherwise, you’ll just blindly repeat the cycle over and over again.

You need to open to love to be in a relationship. And when your heart is open, you’re also vulnerable. This is why past pain that you thought you had hidden resurfaces. This is why your ego takes many bruises and why certain words penetrate to the core of your fears.

When an intimate relationship is honest, open and transparent, you will see all of each other’s deepest blind spots. Then you have the choice to work through them, or ignore them, letting them forever influence your life from the shadows of your subconsciousness.

3. Close Family and Friends

Family and friends can be similar to intimate relationships, though less of a “mirror” because our focus isn’t on them like it is on an intimate partner. (Although it can be very strong if you have children, because your complete focus is often on them. This is why having children can teach you so much about yourself.)

With family and friends, honest relationships are paramount. Surround yourself with people that love you enough to call you out on your bullshit and wake you up from your self-delusions.

I’m not saying to obey everything that other people say, but pay attention to the words spoken from the heart of someone you care deeply for.

4. Plant Medicine

Plant medicines are some of the most powerful catalysts for self-realization and growth. Some examples of plant medicines are “magic” mushrooms, Ibogaine and Ayahuasca (which I’ve done myself and wrote about here).

Plant medicines will help you see where your blind spots are, reevaluate your life, examine your fundamental beliefs and aid you in breaking out of the patterns that don’t serve you. It’s like a crash course in self-improvement. Before you dismiss plant medicines as drugs, be aware that there’s a growing body of research regarding the healing effects of psychedelics on addiction, depression and mental disorders such as PTSD.

When used in clinical or ceremonial settings, these sacred plant medicines have profound healing properties.

5. Be Aware of Cognitive Biases

A cognitive bias is defined as “a systematic pattern of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment, whereby inferences about other people and situations may be drawn in an illogical fashion. Individuals create their own “subjective social reality” from their perception of the input.” (Wikipedia)

One prominent cognitive bias is called the backfire effect, which is when you reject evidence that contradicts your viewpoint or conclusion, even if you know that the evidence is true. How many times have you seen people do this? A lot, right? And I bet you’ve done it too. I know I have.

Another notable cognitive bias is the bandwagon effect. This is when the probability of one person adopting a belief increases based on the number of people who hold that belief. The bandwagon effect is a testament to how powerful groupthink or herd mentality can be. Don’t overlook the possibility that your most fundamental beliefs may be based on false premises and they’ve only been collectively accepted, not because they’re true, but because of phenomena like the bandwagon effect.

This article outlines 57 different cognitive biases that us humans can have. And there’s probably more too that we very well be unaware of.

Get familiar with the many variations of cognitive biases and ask yourself the tough questions: On which topics are my views biased? What cognitive biases do I have? Which ones am I most vulnerable to? In what kind of situations do they arise? What viewpoints am I vehemently or even irrationally defending? What am I desperately trying to justify? Maybe there are cognitive biases at play.

6. Build Ego Awareness

The ego is sneaky, cunning and a terrible master. If you become a slave to the ego and let it run your life, you will be engulfed in a world of endless fear, judgment, deception and self-sabotage.

Know when your ego is trying to run the show. Learn to differentiate between your egoic desires and the genuine desires of your heart.

Your ego will wrap its identity in labels (nationality, race, religion, gender…etc.) and constrict you in the process. It will have you stubbornly defending ideas that you’re not quite sure are true. It will have you clinging to comfort, blocking out any exposure to growth.

Read my article “What Does Your Ego Look Like?” for a deeper dive into the ego.

7. Investigate Your Resistances

Resistance is the ego at work. If you have great resistance towards something, look into it. It will often be your ego resisting something that is actually beneficial for you.

The classic examples of resistance are politics and religion. People are so emotionally attached to their ideologies (and there are so many cognitive biases involved) that even a mild counterpoint is met with hostility and defensiveness. If you notice this kind of resistance in you, see where it comes from. Are you afraid that what you cling to will be gone? Do you think you won’t have an identity if you step outside of the box of the political/religious ideology you follow? Are you merely following an ideology based on the fear of consequences if you don’t?

If you have extreme resistance towards something, it’s probably something you’re desperately trying to suppress and it’s driving you crazy in the process. Examine everything with an open mind and meet resistance with love.

8. Be a Beginner Again

Try something new where you have to start from square one. If you’re an intellectual, try learning how to surf. If you’re an athlete, try playing chess.

Taking on something completely new and foreign will shake you out of your comfort zones, make you vulnerable (in a good way), uncover weaknesses (or strengths that you never knew about), highlight any stubbornness you have, enable you to connect dots from seemingly unrelated areas and catalyze so much learning in a short period of time.

9. Get Out of the Echo Chamber

This is closely related to trying something new.

An echo chamber is “a situation in which information, ideas, or beliefs are amplified or reinforced by transmission and repetition inside an “enclosed” system, where different or competing views are censored, disallowed, or otherwise underrepresented.” (Wikipedia)

Sometimes, we get so caught up in our niche communities (especially online), that we don’t realize that it could be an echo chamber. The extreme version of this is something like Scientology, but I’ve seen various degrees of “echo-chamberism” from spiritual communities to scientific communities and everything in between. It’s cool to connect with like-minded people, but just make sure that you’re not illogically rejecting things to hold up false premises. Question everything and always exercise your critical thinking faculties.

If you’re a floaty spiritual person, switch it up and read some scientific literature. If you’re scientific-minded, read some spiritual stuff. If you’re a hip-hop head, listen to some classical music (the real OG’s). All of this will give you a completely different perspective on things, make you more well-rounded and spur so much new insight it will blow your mind.

10. Find a Group Setting that Facilitates Self-Discovery

Attend a retreat or a workshop. These kinds of events are designed to be learning experiences provide you with new perspectives in a concise package.

Every retreat and every workshop I’ve ever attended has revealed profound insights that were previously blind spots for me.

11. Put Yourself in Other People’s Shoes

See the world from someone else’s perspective. Visualize their perspective in detail. Think about their motivations, point of view, beliefs, fears and how their experiences have shaped who they are. Have empathy and compassion and truly understand their point of view.

This kind of empathetic visualization will greatly expand your perceptions give you a unique perspective on your own life.

Also, studying the behavior of others will create an awareness of those same behaviors within yourself (if you’re willing to look within).

12. Keep a Journal

Journaling is one of the best tools for self-reflection. Deep-seated revelations arise when your thoughts and emotions are externalized.

The process of writing itself also creates objectivity and newfound understanding. Journaling allows you to witness your state of being from a higher perspective. And reading about your past experiences will give you more clarity for the present (hindsight is 20/20).

13. Travel

Travel is the ultimate perspective-expander. You experience new cultures, new ideas and new ways of living. You also meet tons of interesting people, often travelers themselves, who grave great wisdom to share.

Traveling also forces you out of your comfort zone. After any stint of travel, you’ll be able to step back and look at yourself and the world around you with new eyes.

“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes

14. Read Books

Reading is one of the best ways to learn and grow as a person. Every book you read is a rung of your ladder of knowledge, helping you climb above the walls of your own ignorance.

Here’s a tip to spur even more self-discovery and growth: Once in a while, read something that is completely different than normal for you. I stubbornly only read nonfiction for a while, thinking I was being practical and learning a lot (which I was). But once I started reading fiction, I unexpectedly learned so much more, and in ways I never would have expected. My imagination bloomed like a flower in spring, my power of visualization strengthened, my vocabulary greatly expanded and my writing ability reached new heights. Also, because I read fiction before bed, I started falling asleep more easily. Imagination and visualization were blind spots for me, and I probably never would have thought about them if it weren’t for reading fiction.

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There you have it. Those are some excellent ways to illuminate the caverns of your psyche and bring awareness to your blind spots.

Don’t just read this and then fall back into the same patterns you know don’t serve your highest interest. Apply! Apply! Apply!

“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Life gets excruciatingly stale when you’re held down by the shadowy forces you refuse to face. Release the fear of what you’re afraid of discovering, because it’s all you and, in the grand scheme of things, it’s all love.

Uncover your blind spots, keep learning and keep growing.

Make the most out of your short time here on Earth.

One love.

– Stevie P!
 

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You Have to Be Aware of the Forces Holding You Down to Transcend Them


 

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Change Your Life in 21 Breaths

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How many times have you said that you wanted to start meditating but never followed through?

Or have you started a meditation routine, only to stop after a few days?

I’ve done both plenty of times.

Meditation is both the easiest habit to implement and the easiest habit to skip.

I always wanted to build a ritual of meditating as soon as I woke up every morning. But having a 15-20 minute meditation session hanging over my head, directly upon waking, was too daunting for me. Just the mere thought of it was too much for my lazy-half-asleep mind. So, like humans tend to do, I took the path of least resistance and skipped it most days.

Alas, before all hope was lost, I came up with a solution! (Does using “alas” make me sound sophisticated?)

In order to have a morning meditation practice that I could actually stick to, I developed the “21 Breath Salute.” And since the idea came to me, I’ve done it every single morning (#nodaysoff). It works for me because the idea of just taking 21 deep breaths isn’t intimidating at all. It’s easy to win that self-talk agreement (I know you do it too) when the task at hand seems easy. It plays out like, “Ok, I’m just gonna take 21 breaths and that’s it.”

You don’t have time to meditate? I bet you can spare 21 breaths at some point during your overly-dramatized busy day.

Don’t know how to meditate? Take 21 slow, deep breaths through your nose.

Stressed? Take 21 slow, deep breaths through your nose.

Feeling anxious or worried? Take 21 slow, deep breaths through your nose.

If you’re a human and you’re still alive, I’m going to take a wild guess and assume that you know how to breathe.

The 21 Breath Salute is not time consuming at all and incredibly simple to do. It’s a meditation so accessible that everyone from those with no previous meditation experience to veteran meditators can perform it and reap the benefits.

How to do the 21 Breath Salute

1. Sit somewhere comfortable, with your spine straight (I sit on the edge of my bed).

2. Close your eyes.

3. Inhale deeply through your nose (for about 5 seconds). Inhale into your belly and let your belly expand as you inhale. Allow your back to straighten and your head to rise towards the sky.

4. Pause for a second at the end of your inhale.

5. Exhale through your nose (for about 5 seconds). Gently push the air of your belly. Allow your spine to slightly round forward and your head to move slightly downward.

6. Pause for a second at the end of your exhale.

7. Repeat for 21 breaths.

8. After 21 breaths, place both of your hands over your heart and say “thank you” 3 times, feeling the gratitude in your heart as you say this.

9. Jump back into the world renewed and refreshed.

Here’s a video demonstration of it:

The Finer Points

  • To get the most out of this practice, do it before you do anything else in the morning. You’ll be in that magical state between sleep and waking, which is very conducive to mediation. I recommend sitting up so you don’t fall back asleep.
  • Breathing through your nose is important. It warms the air before entering the lungs and filters air much more than breathing through the mouth. According to ancient Chinese and Indian practices (who seem to get most things right), breathing through the nose enables you to effectively process chi or prana (life force energy). This is why breathing through the nose (and especially deep breathing) is so invigorating; it builds life force energy as opposed to sapping it like shallow mouth breathing does.
  • Don’t obsess over counting your breaths. If you lose count, just continue from the closest number you lost count at. It’s more about cultivating a state of stillness than breathing exactly 21 breaths.
  • Observe your thoughts, without attachment. You are the sky and your thoughts are just clouds passing by. Allow them to pass. Objectively watch them without attachment or judgment. This state of peaceful watchfulness is what meditation is all about.
  • 21 long, deep breaths will take about 3-5 minutes. You’ll get a feel for the ideal length of inhales and exhales for yourself as you do it. That’s why I say about 5 seconds. Some people’s breaths will be shorter and some will be longer. (Inhale for about 5 seconds + 1 second pause + exhale for about 5 seconds + 1 second pause = 12 seconds X 21 breaths = around 252 seconds total)

Often by the 8th or 9th breath, my mind is pretty clear, so it’s effective as well as being short.

The 21 breath salute will, at the very least, calm your mind, no matter who you are. And I get to a place of complete, peaceful stillness most times. It’s a beautiful thing to start the day with a clear, undistracted mind. What you do when you wake up sets the momentum for the rest of the day. So start from a place of joyful tranquility, centeredness and presence and witness your day transform.

Let’s do a little test to display the power of deep breathing…

Stop reading right now, close your eyes and take 3 long, deep breaths through your nose.

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Feel the difference?

And the more you do, the more powerful breath-work becomes.

Try out the 21 Breath Salute ASAP. It’s such a small commitment with tremendous benefits, so why not?

Breathe into bliss.

Much love.

– Stevie P

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How to Read the Energy of Crystals (in 6 Simple Steps)

Amethyst

Crystals…

You probably have images of psychics with them lined up like they’re Magic: The Gathering cards.

Crystals are ubiquitous in New Age circles. And you might have even heard your “conscious” friends tout the benefits of crystals like they work divine miracles.

Let me clear the air first… Crystals are not a miracle healing solution (well, nothing really is). They work in subtle ways. To use nutrition as a metaphor, they’re comparable to dietary supplements. Just as supplements are designed to literally supplement a healthy diet, crystals supplement overall well-being. Why are crystals a supplement? Well, because the most powerful determining factor of your health is what you do on a regular basis (your thought-patterns, beliefs, diet, exercise habits…etc.). So don’t expect to exist in unconditional love if the only change in your life was dangling a rose quartz around your neck (it’ll help though).

Crystals are Living Things

Crystals are unique in that they grow, much like living things do. And they grow in specific geometric patterns (sacred geometry) depending on the type. Also, like most lifeforms on Earth, crystals are carbon-based. Crystals, though different from most things we consider “alive”, are really a form of living beings, each embodying a unique spirit. Once you start feeling the unique resonance of crystals, you can confirm this for yourself.

“In crystal we have a pure evidence of the existence of a formative life principle, and although in spite of everything we cannot understand the life of crystals – it is still a living being.” ~ Nikola Tesla

Those aren’t the words of some quixotic hippie on an acid trip, but of a scientist far ahead of his time, who Albert Einstein even considered to be the smartest man alive.

How Crystals Work

Crystals emit specific energies (each one is different), which interact with our energy fields. Since crystals hold certain energy patterns, this can act like a tuning fork, syncing our energy body to the resonance of the crystal. Remember, the base state of reality is a quantum soup of energy/frequency/vibration, constantly blending and interacting.

“If you want to find the secrets of the Universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.” ~ Nikola Tesla

We have such a limited scientific understanding of crystals as well. For example, it’s being discovered that crystals have an incomprehensibly large capacity for data storage. So what other qualities might they possess that we’re not yet aware of (scientifically)?

If you’re skeptical about energy and nonphysical phenomena, check out:

The bottom line is that science is only beginning to investigate nonphysical phenomena. But with what has been studied so far, there is undoubtedly something to it.

Firsthand Experience > Reading an Article

I’m not asking you to believe anything. I encourage you to experience this stuff for yourself. If you relax and still your mind enough, you will be able to undeniably feel the energy of crystals. Though types of crystals all have similar properties, every single crystal is unique. They all have a personal vibe to them, just as people do.

I was honestly a bit skeptical of crystals when I first heard about them. I’ve had crystals because they intrigued me, but I never truly got to feel their energy until I started doing the following practice.

Note: You can feel the energy of a crystal before reading about its properties or benefits. Doing it without previous knowledge of the crystal will eliminate any form of the placebo effect.

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How to Read the Energy of Crystals

1. Take some deep breaths and bring yourself into a centered, meditative state.

2. Hold the crystal in the palm of your left hand (the left hand is the feminine, receptive hand).

3. Place your right hand over it.

4. Feel the energy of the crystal being received by your left hand.

5. Words, images, feelings or sensations will come to you. Allow them to flow without judgment from the mind.

6. Write down the qualities you felt the crystal exuding. Write down how you yourself felt as well.

Experience the unique feel of different crystals and you’ll find out for yourself that they all have personalities. You can experience, firsthand, that there’s more to crystal healing than wishful thinking.

This technique can be applied to many other things as well. I’ve recently been doing something similar with trees and even huge rocks and literally receiving messages from them (by just placing my hands on them and stilling my mind). A few years ago, if someone would’ve told me that a tree said something to them, I would’ve instantly deemed them crazy and proceeded to finish my beer. But personal experience (combined with critical analysis to make sure you’re not making things up) is a profound way of finding truth.

The above method is an effective means of obtaining firsthand experience regarding the qualities of different crystals and their unique benefits.

Don’t take my word for it though. Try it out for yourself.

Much love.

– Stevie P!

This thing is seriously magical 💓 #rosequartz #somuchlove #likewhoa #datfrequencytho

A photo posted by steviepthatsme (@steviepthatsme) on


 

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Why I’m Not Voting

Vote for Nobody

I don’t own a TV. I don’t watch the news. I don’t pay attention to any of the bread and circuses. I’m too busy improving myself and those around me.

But word on the street is that it’s getting close to election time here in ‘merica.

People ask me what I think about Donald Trump running for president or whatever other WWE-like political stage show is going on. This inevitably leads to me saying “I’m not going to vote.”

Now before you fall off of your high horse in astonishment, let me explain… I choose not to vote, not out of ignorance, nor out of apathy (actually quite the opposite), but out of noncompliance with a broken, fundamentally corrupt and laughably ineffective system.

If given the choice between stabbing myself with a knife or stabbing myself with a fork, I would choose neither (after questioning why I would even stab myself in the first place).

C’mon, do you really think the votes are counted fairly after fiascos like the blatantly manipulated “Florida recount” of 2000? There’s obviously foul play going on, and digitizing the voting process makes it even easier to rig the game. It’s not even a popular vote anyway. People’s votes (supposedly) go to selecting members of the Electoral College, who then elect the president. (Another safeguard to make sure that only “selected” candidates are voted in?)

“Presidents are selected, not elected.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Isn’t it ironic that most people feel like their opinion is negligible when it comes to most things? But in terms of voting (which is a blatantly rigged game), they fall for the fairy tale that their vote counts?

When I tell people I don’t vote, I get two predictable reactions…

Some people say “If you don’t exercise your right to vote, then you don’t have a right to criticize anything.” But I would contend that if we have the right to vote, shouldn’t we also have the right to NOT vote? Mandatory compliance for the entire population is the antithesis of freedom. This leads into the next one.

Other people say “If you don’t like it, then leave.” Well, America was founded on the principle that the people have the right to criticize the government, and the right to overthrow it if it becomes tyrannical. Then there’s that little freedom of speech thing that just so happens to be the first amendment. If you live in a country where you can’t criticize the government, you’re in a 1984-like nightmare. I’d rather not slide down that slippery slope.

“To criticize one’s country is to do it a service …. Criticism, in short, is more than a right; it is an act of patriotism – a higher form of patriotism, I believe, than the familiar rituals and national adulation.” – U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright

Insanity

The Two Main Reasons Why I’m Not Voting

1. The System is Broken

The entire political system in the US is basically a branch of the big banks. The vast majority of senators are lap dogs for big corporations (lobbying is just a fancy way of saying bribery). And the entire hierarchy is designed so that the most obedient to those interests rise to the top. Anyone who tries to bring about any real change from within it is either silenced into submission or converted into another spineless drone dancing the puppet master’s dance.

If you can’t see that there’s a massive conspiracy at hand, you’re in deep, deep denial. This is a call for you to wake up.

Here’s just the tip of the iceberg of deceit:

Regarding the rigging of the voting process itself:

Can you get any more dysfunctional and deceptive? Everything that’s projected at us is one big, theatrical lie. To even give such an institution legitimacy is an insult to our intrinsic nature as sovereign beings.

Don’t get caught up in “what’s wrong” though. Running around like a fearful, paranoid conspiracy theorist won’t help. You just need to be aware of the forces holding you back in order to transcend them.

We must focus on building a better system rather than trying to repair a hopelessly broken one.

If a glass breaks, do you waste your time trying to glue all of the pieces back together? Of course not. You get a new glass!

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Dan Millman

Is Elon Musk trying to change the auto-industry from the inside? Is he trying to take over Ford or Chevy? No, he’s creating better alternatives (through Tesla Motors) that are rendering the traditional technologies futile.

And really, all of the bullshit legislation and asinine topics of discussion are akin to switching chairs around on the Titanic. We need to change the fundamental paradigms which western society is based upon. We need a monetary system that does not funnel wealth into the hands of a few. We need energy that creates abundance as opposed to limitation. We need to embrace love, as opposed to being conditioned from cradle-to-grave with fear.

2. The Power of Noncompliance

“Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” – Sun Tzu

For some reason, most Americans have been conditioned to believe that peaceful noncompliance isn’t an effective driver of change. Quite the opposite is true. This false belief has been propagated because, when used properly, it’s an immensely effective force.

Peaceful resistance is the only way to create positive, lasting change. Noncompliance is the kryptonite of any control system.

No law, no system, no government can be implemented unless people COMPLY with it. Any manifestation of a control system cannot exist without our acquiescence.

“Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Society is overwhelmingly shaped by acts, not laws. People are inspired through the heart, not necessarily through documents and signatures. What law did Gandhi pass? What law did MLK pass? Did Rosa Parks go through a legislative process? Hell no. She practiced peaceful noncompliance by refusing to sit in the back of the bus. And it was a huge moral victory.

We can also look at the events that have shaped society in more negative ways. Look at 9/11. It was a false-flag attack engineered to instill fear within the population (along with being an excuse to occupy the Middle East). Ever since that tragic day, Americans have been literally programmed with fear.

We need to take action to spark positive change, along the lines of Gandhi and MLK.

In the phenomenal novel The Fifth Sacred Thing, a utopian(ish) society neutralizes the invasion of a dystopian society through noncompliance. The utopian society had built better alternatives in every aspect of living. When the armed invaders came, they were met with peaceful noncompliance. At first, some were killed for not obeying orders. But eventually, the invading army recognized that the place they had invaded provided a better life than they could have imagined back home. The strategy of peaceful resistance caused the hierarchy of the violent invaders to implode from within.

You can’t fight fire with fire. It must be put out with water. Noncompliance is that water.

What would happen if the majority of the population refused to vote? Not out of apathy, but out of noncompliance with a system that they don’t agree with. And letting it be known, emphatically, on top of that. (See the “call to action” at the bottom of this article to do just that.) Everyone would be forced to take a long, hard look and question even the most fundamental beliefs that the government is based upon. When noncompliance hits a tipping point, the established system of government would have no choice but to be uprooted and rebuilt from the ground up.

And don’t think you don’t matter in the grand scheme of things (yes, you reading this). You most certainly do play a part. Just as an ocean is a collection of individual drops, a nation is but a collection of individual people.

“No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.” – Voltaire

It’s about time we started an avalanche of positive change.

Change starts from within. There must first be internal change for there to be any real, lasting external change. That’s why Gandhi said, “Be the change we wish to see in the world,” not “Hope someone else will come along and change things for you.” (Which is the trap most Americans have fallen into.)

Be the change

Want Real Change?

  1. Wake up to the fact that everything being projected at us is one big, theatrical illusion.
  2. Do the inner work – Get to know yourself, meditate, journal, spend some alone time in nature…etc. Establish some self-awareness and recognize your patterns. Why do you think society keeps us distracted and focusing on utter nonsense 24/7? Because once we go within, the game is up.
  3. Clear your demons – From a place of awareness, you’ll be able to address the fears, traumas and limiting beliefs that are holding you back.
  4. Connect with love – Connect with the essence of love within you (it’s there), which is the underlying component of everything (aka God, Source, the Infinite…etc.). With this connection, love will be the main motivating force in your life, as opposed to fear.
  5. Practice small acts of kindness every day – Do not underestimate the power of small acts of kindness done consistently.
  6. Start expressing your gifts, whatever they may be – Some people are great architects, some are great engineers, some are great healers, some are great writers, some are great permaculturists…etc. Everyone has a unique gift to share with the world. We all have special talents that will become building blocks in creating a better world. You just have to do the inner work so it can express itself.
  7. Watch society change from the inside out – When we do the inner work, we will transform, then communities will inevitably transform and eventually the world as well. Change happens from the inside out, not the outside in (and especially not from the “top” down). What will this look like exactly? I don’t think we can even imagine the exact details of it from where we’re at right now. But as MLK famously stated, “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

We’ve been focusing all of our energy on external authority figures for so long that we can’t even fathom what the world would look like if we all stepped into our inherent power. And that is exactly what needs to happen for any real change to take place.

Stop focusing on what, deep down, you know to be illusory and embody the change.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson

We hold the key to change, and it lies within.

We shape society based on our daily actions, not by hoping someone else will come and save us.

And that’s why I’m not voting.

– Stevie P!

How Real Change Actually Takes Place

CALL TO ACTION

If you don’t want to vote, out of noncompliance (not apathy), you can do these two things to have your voice heard: (Imagine what would happen if thousands of people did this.)

1. Tweet this…
Tweet: I’m not voting, not out of apathy, but out of noncompliance with a fundamentally corrupt system. #novote #votefornobody #noncompliance

Let’s get those hashtags trending on Twitter.

2. Email the US Government, expressing that you’re not voting out of noncompliance.

Here’s a general script for the comment: (You can copy this or create your own, with your own name of course)

Dear US Government,

I’m not voting in the presidential election, not out of apathy, but out of noncompliance. I do not wish to give legitimacy to a fundamentally corrupt system.

Every president presented to us has been SELECTED by the shadowy and deceptive powers that (wanna)be. The interests of the people have taken a backseat to the interest of big banks, big corporations, big pharma, the military industrial complex, the oil companies…etc.

I also do not have faith in the voting system. It is a rigged game and there never really was a truly popular vote.

I’m grateful, however, that I at least have the right to express this. I wish to let it be known that I am not voting out of noncompliance.

Thank you for your consideration.

And whoever reads this, I wish you well.

– Stephen Parato

 

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