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Alan Watts on Music and Life

music life

Have you ever said this to yourself before?

“I’ll be happy when [this] happens.”

“I’ll be happy once I find the right girl/guy.”

“I’ll be fulfilled when ________.”

We’ve all done this. But here’s the thing: We’ve been programmed to do so.

We’re conditioned to think that salvation lies at the end of the rainbow. It’s a malicious deception that has us chasing that “something” our whole lives, yet never finding it. We believe that happiness awaits us tomorrow, but tomorrow never comes. So most people spend their whole lives waiting for their lives to start.

Even when we get what we wanted, we don’t fully appreciate it, because our minds have been conditioned to constantly search for happiness somewhere in the future.

Here’s the secret: What we’re searching for is hidden in plain sight, in the here and now. This isn’t some woo-woo metaphorical rhetoric. It’s true and applicable RIGHT NOW. There’s a reason why the core teachings of almost every spiritual or self-help book is presence and mindfulness. It’s something that is absolutely crucial to understand and PRACTICE.

Take just a few moments to be fully present. Tune into the present moment, experience all of your senses (come to your senses), hold gratitude for where you’re at right now, and you’ll realize that this is what you’ve been searching for all along.

That’s the paradox. The happiness we think happens somewhere in the future when this or that happens has actually been with us all along, in the present moment.

You don’t listen to music just to hear the last note. You don’t eat a meal just for the last bite. You don’t just read the last page of a novel. You don’t just watch the climax of a movie. The process – the ups, downs, challenges and triumphs – is what makes everything beautiful, worthwhile and fun. The same goes for life.

Alan Watts brilliantly explains this concept in a lecture called “Music and Life.” The way he expresses this concept will shift your entire paradigm on life. Here’s the transcript:

Alan Watts

In music one doesn’t make the end of a composition the point of the composition. If that were so the best conductors would be those who played fastest, and there would be composers who wrote only finales. People would go to concerts just to hear one crashing chord; because that’s the end!

But we don’t see that as something brought by our education into our every day conduct. We’ve got a system of schooling that gives a completely different impression. It’s all graded. And what we do is we put the child into the corridor of this grade system with a kind of “come on kitty kitty kitty”, and now you go to kindergarten. And that’s a great thing because when you finish that you get into first grade, and then come on; first grade leads to second grade and so on, and then you get out of grade school. Now you’re going to go to high school, and it’s revving up – the thing is coming. Then you’ve got to go to college, and by Jove then you get into graduate school and when you’re through with graduate school you go out and join the World!

And then you get into some racket where you’re selling insurance. And they’ve got that quota to make, and you’re gonna make that. And all the time that thing is coming. It’s coming, it’s coming! That great thing, the success you’re working for. Then when you wake up one day at about 40 years old you say “My God! I’ve arrived! I’m there”. And you don’t feel very different from what you’ve always felt.

And there’s a slight let down because you feel there’s a hoax. And there was a hoax. A dreadful hoax. They made you miss everything. We thought of life by analogy with a journey, with a pilgrimage which had a serious purpose at the end and the thing was to get to that end. Success or whatever it is, or maybe heaven after you’re dead.

But we missed the point the whole way along. It was a musical thing and we were supposed to sing or to dance while the music was being played.

Alan Watts – Music and Life

 

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How Stories Shape Our Culture

story book

What stories shape your life?

Take a moment to think about that.

We all live based upon stories. Collective stories are the basis of culture and personal stories are the basis of how we view ourselves as individuals.

Stories are the underpinnings of human reality. Humanity is built upon stories. Stories shape our culture, our lives and the way we perceive the world.

It doesn’t matter if it’s true or false, if a story is believed, it becomes a blueprint of reality.

Cultural Stories

Every culture has stories that act as the very basis for how people live their lives.

In ancient times, mythology shaped the way people viewed reality, the world around them, society and themselves.

Any religious culture is dominated by the stories of that religion. People’s whole lives, down to the finest detail, are dictated by those stories.

Our modern western culture is based on a combination of science, religion and history (his-story). Science is constantly updated, disproving older theories, while failing to explain the “why” questions of our reality. Most organized religions are distortions of spiritual truths for purposes of control. And his-story is merely the story told by the winners of wars.

These cultural belief systems are attempts at explaining truth, at best. And at their worst, they’re attempts at control and manipulation. I’m not saying that all of these are false; I’m saying that regardless of being true or false, these stories shape our experience of reality and every aspect of how we live our lives.

Let’s take the scientific paradigm as an example. According to this story (again, I’m not saying it’s necessarily true or false):

  • We are our bodies, or more specifically our brains.
  • We live on Planet Earth, which revolves around the sun, in an incomprehensibly large universe.
  • This universe started with the Big Bang (the Big Bang THEORY).
  • On Earth, we evolved from apes, growing smarter and more and more sophisticated, until we’ve dominated nature and now live in the wonderful culmination of all of that evolution and “progress.”
  • You see, this is a STORY, or the background program that we run our lives by. And that’s not even getting into the stories of history, money, work, relationships, purpose, pleasure and everything else that makes up our belief systems. These things determine how we perceive and interact with reality.

    Where does this story get us? Well, take a look at the world around you. Check out the “news.” If it seems a little disharmonious (which anyone with eyes can see), we have to start reevaluating the stories we’re living by.

    grand central station

    Your Story

    What stories are you telling yourself? What is your identity based on? What labels do you identify with?

    In the midst of the trend of collective stories, we have the personal stories we tell ourselves. These are our individual stories that shape the way we view and interact with the world.

    Let’s use a man named Henry as an example, whose personal story might look like this:
    I’m Henry.
    I’m a white man.
    I’m an American.
    I’m a Christian.
    I’m not good at math (because my third grade teacher told me that and I’ve believed her ever since).
    I’m good at fixing things (because my dad said I was when I fixed his truck).
    I’m an introvert so I don’t have many friends.
    My favorite color is blue.
    My favorite food is steak.
    I’m a car mechanic, so I’m not good with computers.
    I’m a lower middle class guy.
    I go to work every day, then come home, drink a beer and turn on the tv to relax at night.
    I don’t have time to eat healthy or work out.
    I’m a fan of the Tennessee Titans.
    I wear boots and flannels because I’m manly.

    Ok, you get the point. This is all a STORY. Almost all of those things could be dropped and changed instantaneously. Our friend Henry could literally have a completely new life tomorrow, if he chose to.

    Programming and patterns are incredibly hard to break for us humans. But simple awareness of the stories we tell ourselves puts us in the position to consciously choose what our stories are.

    So what stories are you telling yourself? What identities are you carrying with you day in and day out? What patterns do you have? What are you building momentum towards?

    Gain some awareness of the stories you’re telling yourself. Only then can you choose to change your life for the better.

    individual

    Creating New Stories

    We can create new stories in each moment.

    It is a choice. But you have to first be aware to even know that you have a choice.

    We can tell new tales and shape reality in our own way.

    What do you want out of life? What is your purpose? What’s on your bucket list? Who do you want to be?

    Be open and willing to change.

    Find your vision and start working towards that. Only tell yourself stories which help to create that vision of yourself.

    The Power of Fiction

    The importance of stories is why I love fiction so much. Whether reading or writing, fiction helps to reshape our world.

    Truths which exist beyond the limits of our collective analytical mind are able to be conveyed through fiction, metaphor and myth. Paradigm-shifting truths are often expressed in this way. Just take a look at any sacred text or brilliant piece of poetry.

    Literary works can cut through and transcend cultural biases and blindness, giving the reader a taste of a completely “novel” reality (see what I did there?). It allows one to see outside of the box they’ve existed in their whole life, and presents the opportunity to step outside.

    This is why I read and write a lot of fiction. If we change the stories we tell, we change how our world is shaped.

    Want to get your hands on an example of a paradigm-shifting story?

    You can get a free copy of my new book, Ralphie’s Account of Planet Earth.

    It’s on Kindle Scout right now, which is a platform that allows readers to choose what gets published by Amazon. Basically, books that a lot of people nominate and show interest in get published. So I need your help to get Ralphie’s Account of Planet Earth out there. It only takes a minute of your time.

    Here’s what I need you to do:
    1. Go to this link: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/WNJWEXEM3HEZ
    2. Click “Nominate me”

    That’s it.

    And if the book gets selected for publishing, you get an early, free copy!

    Let’s reshape our world.

    – Stevie P
     

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    7 Ways to Deepen Your Meditation Practice

    Face it. We’re all neurotic and stressed out to some degree.

    That’s the culture we live in right now.

    Because of this, it’s incredibly difficult to just sit cross-legged and be “one with the Universe.”

    I don’t know about you, but it takes me at least a few minutes before I stop thinking about something a kid said to me back in middle school. That’s the human mind for ya.

    It’s not all chaos and craziness though. There are certain practices that make it easier to drop into deep meditation. I call them “meditation on-ramps.”

    These are things you can incorporate into your life that will allow you to go deeper when you actually sit down to meditate.

    7 Ways to Deepen Your Meditation Practice

    1. Breathing Exercises

    Any kind of breathing practices beautifully set the stage for meditation. Deep, conscious breathing causes your thoughts to settle and your body to relax, which allows for a peaceful, meditative state.

    In the yogic tradition, breathwork is called Pranayama. There are many, many breathing exercises to do and all are fun to experiment with.

    I personally do some deep breathing before every meditation session I do. I take about 7-10 long, deep breaths, then release into meditation. This helps clear my mind and relax my body.

    Try it right now: Take 3 deep breaths into your belly, let go of the stress you’re holding and feel the changes in your state of being.

    2. Nature

    This one is obvious, yet few people use nature as medication. A quiet, peaceful place in nature works wonders for stress and the chaotic assault of daily life.

    Spending some time in nature brings peace and balance to your being. If you take some time out in nature before or while you meditate, you will find that it greatly enhances meditation.

    3. Intentional Movement

    Consciously moving your body and releasing tension will definitely deepen your meditation practice. This includes yoga, stretching and walking outside.

    Engaging in intentional movement before meditating allows you to relax that much more deeply. There’s a reason why they do savasana at the end of yoga classes.

    4. Daily Practice

    We’re creatures of habit. This can be leveraged to our advantage, if done consciously.

    Meditating every day (especially the same time every day) helps you get “in the zone” more reliably. It builds meditation momentum, if you will. When you meditate every morning, your mind will be conditioned to let go during this time.

    5. Meditating in the Morning

    It’s really effective to meditate in the morning for several reasons:

  • The state between sleeping and waking is highly conducive to meditation
  • Your mind is clear first thing in the morning
  • Allows you to ease into your day
  • It gives you positive momentum to start your day
  • Makes you more peaceful, focused and mindful throughout the rest of the day
  • 6. Being Healthy In General

    Being healthy makes everything easier and more effective. Eat real food, walk outside, exercise, stretch, drink water, spend time in nature, watch less tv, consume less sugar, breath deeply, dance, express yourself, feel gratitude…etc. These are all simple practices, but they need to be practiced daily for optimal health.

    Your brain works better, your mood is more stable, you have less aches and pains, more energy and everything becomes optimized. Basically, when you’re unhealthy, you have more distractions in the way of your own inner peace.

    7. Prioritizing Your Well-Being

    If you make something a priority, you get it done by any means necessary. If you don’t make something a priority, you’ll find any excuse NOT to do it.

    Prioritize your well-being. Prioritize your peace of mind. Prioritize meditation. Once that intention is there, nothing will stop you.

    How to Actually Meditate Every Day

    Don’t know where to start?

    Meditation doesn’t have to be difficult or overwhelming. You don’t have to meditate for hours a day to start seeing the benefits of meditation in your life.

    There’s a ridiculously EASY way to meditate every day. And it’s literally easier than getting out of bed in the morning.

    You don’t have to be an om-chanting yogi or a kale-munching vegan to meditate. Meditation is for anyone, anywhere.

    Want to learn how to meditate every morning? (and do it effortlessly, without it seeming like another thing on your to-do list)

    Join the 7 Day Meditation Challenge. It’s the easiest way to start meditating. Even if you already meditate, it will help you stick to a daily routine as well as give you tips to deepen your practice.

    CLICK HERE TO START THE 7 DAY MEDITATION CHALLENGE

    Find bliss within and share it.

    One love.

    – Stevie P!

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    7 Surprising Benefits of Meditation

    meditation benefits

    Did you take your medication meditation today?

    Meditation is THE MOST important practice you can have, by a long shot.

    The benefits of meditation are mindblowing (I listed some of them in the Introduction to Meditation).

    Today, however, I want to share with you some of the more surprising benefits of meditation.

    Since meditation is the foundation of everything else, you will notice dramatic improvements in all aspects of your life when you engage in a consistent meditation practice.

    Some of these benefits will be completely unexpected, which is why I wanted to write this. Meditation really is the great enhancer of all aspects of life – both directly and indirectly.

    Let’s dive right into them…

    7 Surprising Benefits of Meditation

    1. Confidence

    Any inner work helps to cultivate GENUINE confidence. Meditation is one of the best ways of doing this.

    If you can face your internal fears, anxieties and looping thought patterns, the external world becomes much easier to navigate. A powerful, authentic confidence naturally emanates from someone who has mastered themselves.

    Through regular meditation, nervousness fades away and you become adept at working through fears of all kinds. Underneath all of it is love, and genuine confidence is a byproduct of self-love.

    2. Conversational Skills

    Building confidence naturally leads to better conversational skills. But that’s not all.

    Through meditation, you also become more present in conversations. This means that you’ll be a better listener as well.

    Meditation helps you get out of your head and fully into the present moment experience. And we all know how powerful conversations can be when we’re fully present and in that timeless flow state.

    3. Resilience

    Meditation results in physical, mental and emotional resilience. It creates a space of awareness between yourself and any type of pain.

    “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” – Viktor E. Frankl

    Meditation creates a subtle, yet powerful strength of character. You’re able to act in spite of fears and also let go of any fears you have.

    4. Being More Human

    When you practice meditation, you become more and more mindful, more and more in the moment, and more and more human. You gain heightened awareness of your body, mind, senses and the world around you.

    It’s the difference between truly experiencing a sunset as opposed to just looking and taking a picture, or truly tasting food instead of mindlessly chomping down while watching tv.

    Meditation allows you to more fully immerse yourself in the human experience.

    5. Sex

    Yes, meditation helps with sex too.

    Being completely in the moment, confident and moving intuitively is the perfect recipe for great sex. You’ll experience connection like never before.

    If two people already have a meditation practice, then sex itself also becomes a beautiful, mutual moving meditation.

    6. Patience

    “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” – Lao Tzu

    When you engage in a regular meditation practice, you become hyper-aware of when you’re stressed, rushed or feeling impatient.

    From this awareness, you give yourself the choice to slow down and ground yourself in the present moment. Most people are rushing to go nowhere fast. A meditator is in no rush, yet gets more done.

    Any “waiting” can become meditation, instead of neurotically focusing on the future. Travel becomes meditation, instead of driving yourself crazy by wishing you were at your destination already. Eating becomes a meditation, instead of always thinking about the next meal.

    Through meditation, you’re able to smell the roses while actually being more effective; which leads to the next benefit…

    7. Productivity

    Meditation cultivates an unparalleled ability to focus.

    On top of that, meditation…

  • Increases mental strength
  • Increases memory retention and recall
  • Enhances cognition skills and creative thinking
  • Enhances decision making and problem solving
  • Improves information processing
  • Improves visuospatial processing
  • Increases the ability to keep focus in spite of distractions
  • The combination of brain-boosting benefits and peace of mind make meditation the ultimate tool for stress-free productivity. And with increased mindfulness, you’ll learn how to prioritize what’s really important, instead of frittering away your time just for the sake of being busy.

    The Easiest Way to Meditate Every Day

    Meditation doesn’t have to be difficult or overwhelming. You don’t have to meditate for hours a day to start seeing the benefits of meditation in your life.

    There’s a ridiculously EASY way to meditate every day.

    It’s literally easier than getting out of bed in the morning.

    Everybody knows that meditation is beneficial. But very few people actually meditate regularly. What’s up with that?

    There are two reasons for this:
    1. It’s hard to find an easily implementable system
    2. Most people feel like they’re doing it wrong

    The idea of meditation can be intimidating for some people. But it doesn’t have to be. There’s no need to sit in the Himalayas or be some crystal-wielding guru. There’s no need to dedicate hours per day or wear silly clothes. Meditation is for everyone, everywhere.

    Want to learn how to meditate every morning? (and do it effortlessly, without it seeming like another thing on your to-do list)

    Join the 7 Day Meditation Challenge. It’s the easiest way to start meditating. Even if you already meditate, it will help you stick to a daily routine as well as give you tips to deepen your practice.

    CLICK HERE TO START THE 7 DAY MEDITATION CHALLENGE

    It’s way simpler than you think to reap the massive benefits of meditation.

    Much love.

    – Stevie P

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    Introduction to Meditation

    meditation

    A meditation practice is the most important habit you can have. Hands down.

    The reason why meditation is so essential is that it’s the foundation from which everything else in your life is built upon.

    If you care about your well-being, meditation should be as embedded in your daily routine as brushing your teeth, showering and getting dressed.

    This article is an introduction to meditation.

    What is Meditation?

    Let me first tell you what meditation is NOT…

    Meditation is not forceful concentration or any sort of mental effort. Meditation is more of a NON-DOING than a doing; more of a LETTING GO than holding on.

    Meditation is simply a state of awareness. It is peace and stillness, blended with profound alertness.

    Meditation is the practice of mindfulness. It is observing your thoughts without being engulfed in them. It is objectively witnessing the activity of your body and mind.

    This state can be reached in many ways; not just by sitting cross-legged under a tree.

    Meditation must be experienced to be truly understood. I can give you all of the poetic language you can read, but you won’t really know what it is until you start practicing it. That’s why I’m all about creating easy meditation routines.

    Who Is Meditation For?

    The short answer: EVERYONE

    If you’re a human being, it’s beneficial for you to meditate regularly.

    You don’t have to be some super-spiritual guru to meditate either. Anyone can do it, no matter who you are or what beliefs you have.

    In fact, meditation is the most common habit shared among successful people interviewed on Tim Ferriss’ podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show. Meditation is as useful and applicable to a corporate CEO in New York City as it is to a yogi in the Himalayas.

    The Benefits of Meditation

    meditation

    Meditation comes with a seemingly endless number of benefits. When you’re aware of just how helpful it is for your overall well-being, you’ll find it hard NOT to meditate.

    Physical Benefits of Meditation

  • Improves energy levels
  • Stress relief
  • Anti-aging
  • Increases immunity
  • Improves breathing
  • Reduces inflammatory disorders
  • Reduces asthma
  • Reduces premenstrual and menopausal syndrome
  • Helps prevent arthritis, fibromyalgia and even HIV
  • Mental Benefits of Meditation

  • Increases concentration
  • Increases memory retention and recall
  • Enhances cognitive skills
  • Enhances creative thinking
  • Enhances decision-making skills
  • Enhances problem-solving skills
  • Better information processing
  • Helps ignore distractions
  • Emotional Benefits of Meditation

  • Increases self-awareness
  • Increases happiness
  • Reduces depression
  • Reduces anxiety
  • Reduces worry
  • Less impulsive behavior
  • Enhances self-esteem and self-acceptance
  • Improves resilience against pain and adversity
  • Increases optimism
  • Helps prevent emotional eating and smoking
  • Helps develop positive social connections
  • Improves mood
  • Improves emotional intelligence
  • Those are just SOME of the benefits. There’s a lot more where that came from. But that’ll give you a good idea of just HOW POWERFUL MEDITATION IS.

    If you saw a commercial for something with all of those benefits, wouldn’t you buy it in a heartbeat? Well, meditation is free and always available to you! So why not do it? What’s your excuse?

    Consistency is Key

    meditation

    With meditation, it is VITALLY IMPORTANT to have a regular practice.

    Consistency is more important than finding the perfect technique. Shorter, consistent sessions are also more effective than doing long, infrequent sessions (or none at all).

    Meditation is a gradual process. Remember, it is non-doing, meaning you can’t force or expect anything. You will have sessions where you’re in tranquil stillness and you’ll have sessions where all you do is obsess over what someone said to you at work 3 months ago. It’s all a part of the process.

    Here’s How to Get Started

    Focus on a system of a short, simple, daily meditation.

    That’s key. Yet this is where most people get stuck. Sure, pretty much everyone knows that meditation is beneficial and many have dabbled in it. But few people actually meditate every day.

    This is exactly why I created the 7 DAY MEDITATION CHALLENGE.

    Through years of trial and error, I’ve come up with the easiest way to stick to a daily meditation practice. It’s literally easier than getting out of bed in the morning. Along with how simple and easy it is, I provide a lot of unique tips to help you get the most out of your meditation practice.

    What do you have to lose? Actually a lot: fears, anxiety, worry, self-delusions, ignorance, resentment, over-thinking, regret, overwhelm…etc. That’s what you have to lose.

    Meditation is by far the most important habit to implement.

    Inner peace awaits.

    – Stevie P!

    ACCESS THE 7 DAY MEDITATION CHALLENGE BY CLICKING THE IMAGE BELOW

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    Hero Worship and The Shadow Self

    hero batman shadow

    Are you afraid of your own shadow?

    I’m not talking about the silhouette of yours on the ground; I’m talking about the psychological shadow.

    In Jungian psychology, the shadow is the collection of aspects of yourself that you deem unwanted or undesirable and hide deep in the caverns of your subconscious mind.

    What we classify as unwanted or undesirable is largely determined by our cultural conditioning. The classic example is the business man whose true passion is art, yet he suppresses this gift because of what his parents and society labeled as favorable or unfavorable.

    This happens with all aspects of self we refuse to accept (which can happen consciously or subconsciously).

    While the shadow self is often thought of as the “bad” qualities that we refuse to acknowledge within ourselves, the most suppressed qualities are often the best ones. This is what I call the golden shadow.

    The Golden Shadow

    “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.”
    – Marianne Williamson

    Hero worship is an extension of the golden shadow. We suppress our inner greatness and subconsciously project our collective golden shadow onto heroes.

    Heroes of all kinds – superheroes, celebrities, athletes, gurus – are thought of as amazing and perfect, while we view ourselves as a lesser “poor little me.”

    We put all of our hopes and dreams not in ourselves, but in our favorite athlete, or the president, or a superhero we saw in a movie. All of the beauty we’ve refused to accept within ourselves is projected onto models and the “beautiful faces” we see on TV. This is all externally projecting our suppressed greatness because somewhere along the line we’ve deemed ourselves unworthy of embodying.

    Here’s the truth. We all have greatness within. Yours may not look like Michael Jordan’s (who supposedly isn’t the nicest human being by the way – a testament to the grand deception of celebrity worship). Your greatness may not look like mine either. But I can guarantee that you have some kind of unique greatness. It’s been there all along, you’ve just refused to acknowledge it.

    The Darker the Shadow, The Stronger the Super Powers

    Mythological figures like superheroes and omnipotent gods are the projection of a society that feels weak and helpless. This collective projection comes from a huge “elephant in the room” shadow that we refuse to acknowledge. Our hero myths are created to fill the yearning for the brilliant potential that we’re systematically denying ourselves.

    Can we fly and lift giant boulders? Who really knows? But super powers are more metaphorical. We’ve denied our inner gems so vehemently that we subconsciously create external, all-powerful saviors to fill that void and balance the scales.

    We’re so afraid to step into our own power that we project it outward instead of owning it.

    We cowardly choose work unfulfilling jobs, sit on the couch and watch TV instead of coming to grips with the immense power that lies within. You don’t have to be rich and famous to do this. It all simply comes down to your focus. What are you focusing on? What are you giving energy to?

    Accepting your power within could be as simple as having a clear purpose in life, choosing a career you truly love, meditating, being fully present, feeling gratitude, honoring compassion, creating art or anything else where your focus is on cultivating your own gifts instead of focusing on something external.

    Once we start doing this, who knows what possibilities will emerge? We know next nothing about the nature of reality, so the (assumed) laws we think we’re subject to might change and/or dissolve as we let go of self-imposed limitations. Anything is possible, but we’re so quick to stubbornly argue FOR our limitations. We live in prisons that are locked from the inside.

    The God Within

    As humans, we have a tendency to project our best qualities onto external Gods, creating an external savior complex.

    If you view those qualities as something out there, then they become a mere intellectual concept and you relegate yourself to “poor little me.” But if you view those qualities as archetypes WITHIN YOU, the whole game changes.

    When you view Buddha or Jesus Christ as men to be worshipped who are more special than you, you’re missing the whole point. Buddha and Christ are archetypal examples of the “higher” consciousness that exists within all of us. Yet because we’ve been so conditioned to cast our greatness to the shadows, most people cannot even fathom this concept and argue for their own diminutiveness.

    “The kingdom of God is not in the clouds, in some designated point of space; it is right behind the darkness that you perceive with closed eyes.”
    – Paramahansa Yogananda

    The Heroic Chasm

    I’m not saying to never admire anyone else or be an egocentric narcissist. Not at all. When you shine light on your shadow and cultivate love within, only then can you truly love others.

    It’s useful to learn from others, but the difference comes in whether or not you choose to embody those qualities you admire.

    “It’s cool to imitate, just grow into your own
    Don’t let the green grass across the picket fence
    Turn you into Mr. Smith without a purpose or a home
    Underneath he is a Jedi, on the surface he’s a Clone”

    – Jay Electronica

    You see, most people admire others, but think “I could never be like that” or something similar that implies inferiority. That’s self-sabotaging victim logic.

    A 5’3” man probably won’t become a professional basketball player, but he most certainly has the potential for greatness in other ways. Well that’s not entirely true either. Look at someone like Mugsy Bogues, who actually was a 5’3” professional basketball player. So it is possible, if you choose to believe in yourself. Sometimes we need to redefine what possible is. “Impossible” is an opinion; a mere imaginary fence created by self-defeating, “poor-me” victims.

    If you hear about a successful business person’s morning routine, do you think “I don’t have the discipline for that” and flip to the next channel to distract yourself? Or do you take notes and start applying it towards your own mission in life?

    We must bridge the heroic chasm. On one side, you have the idolized hero, and on the other the average person who refuses to acknowledge their own greatness. The chasm is bridged by learning from “heroes” then EMBODYING those qualities which the heroes represent. If those qualities are not examined, learned and embodied, you just become another passive, “poor little me” for the rest of your life.

    The successful athlete continuously embodies and applies the qualities of the people they look up to. The wise person continuously embodies and applies the wisdom of others. The enlightened person continuously embodies an applies the God-like qualities.

    How are you going to bridge the heroic gap? Or will you choose to deny your greatness and cowardly feed your shadow with hero worship?

    Life to too precious to fritter away by denying your own greatness.

    Learn from others then cultivate that greatness within. It’s there within all of us.

    Be your own superhero.

    – Stevie P!
     

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    Throwback Thursday: The Ego Shell and Emotional Armor

    muscular

    That’s me in July of 2011.

    I recently came across this picture again… And you know what? I never even realized how muscular I was then.

    Seriously, I didn’t. Body dysmorphia is an insidious delusion. Our minds play tricks on us more often than not.

    At that point in my life, I was dead set on achieving perfection in every aspect of life. I NEEDED to be the fittest, smartest, funniest, wisest and most creative person in the room, simultaneously; at all times. Now how about that for some constant pressure based on unreal expectations?

    If I could sum up my belief system, it would be this – Nothing was ever good enough.

    Of course, there are far worse problems to have. But this is an exposé of the more shadowy delusions so many of us face (or choose not to face).

    It’s not all bad though. This mentality greatly helped me in many, many ways. Due to this hyper-imbalance towards the warrior archetype, I’ve been able to learn, apply and do so much within a short span of 28 years. I’m grateful for that, though I recognize it no longer serves my highest good.

    I now know this phase needed to happen in order to get to where I am now and to give me massive momentum in the direction I’m going.

    With that nod of gratitude, I want to dissect for you the psyche behind the muscular frame you see in that picture…

    Layer 1: Emotional Armor

    I’m a sensitive person, a prototypical Cancer in that sense. Up until very recently, I would take any criticism like an arrow to the heart.

    When I started working out and seeing results, it was like discovering armor against criticism. Since I was wrapped in my ego and focused on the illusion of perfection (among other things), I created a need to protect myself emotionally. I feared criticism, so I devised ways to mitigate it.

    I felt like being muscular gave me armor against criticism. It was an ego shell. I thought that because I was “jacked”, people would be less inclined to criticize or make fun of me when I would act like my weird, authentic self.

    It worked, for the most part, and it did help me to get more comfortable with who I am as a unique individual. But I needed to address the root. Why was I afraid of criticism in the first place? The revelations I describe below helped me drop that fear.

    Now I no longer need emotional armor. I have nothing to defend, no false identity to parade to the world. Sure, I stay pretty fit. But the difference is, I don’t give a fuck now, whatsoever. I love myself no matter what (except sometimes when I forget to).

    Last year I actually took a few months off of working out. I just did a lot of yoga and walking. Why? Because I needed to go into my feminine side and allow myself to evolve, instead of forcing it or unknowingly closing myself off with a hyper-masculine, stubborn attitude.

    This more yin approach worked wonders and I was able to go through some incredible transformations. Then after a few months, I felt ready to ground back into my masculine side again. So I started working out again, but from a place of self-love, not to build emotional armor.

    Layer 2: Perfectionism

    Perfectionism was omnipresent for me throughout most of my life. I still even need to be mindful of perfectionist tendencies.

    Much of perfectionism is due to cultural conditioning. Our parents and teachers praised us only when we did something they labeled as good. The media perpetually force-feeds us with artificially projected images of perfection for every aspect of life.

    So many of us are slaves to our ego, which drags us along on the roller coaster of superiority and inferiority. No aspect of our society teaches us to embrace our uniqueness and accept ourselves as we are right now.

    Perfection doesn’t exist (in this reality at least). We’re all imperfect beings. And you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way. Imperfection allows for uniqueness and continuous improvement. That’s so beautiful, so… perfect. In a paradoxical way, we can find perfection in the imperfection of everything.

    For me, as I said before, nothing was ever good enough. I was critical of others, but even more critical of myself. My inner judge was a slave driver, constantly pushing me. I thought salvation was found in some future achievement or in becoming something more. My sense of self-worth was tied to the chaos of external circumstance.

    For a deeper dive into perfectionism, check out my article How to Overcome Perfectionism

    Layer 3: External Worthiness

    I used to believe that I could attain worthiness by achievement. Oh, how that resulted in unrelenting difficulty. Again, this is culturally perpetuated and many of us have this belief to some degree.

    I would not love myself as I was in any given moment. Instead, as I said before, the hope of salvation was somewhere in the future. But tomorrow never comes.

    Self-worth is a journey all of us face. We all must go within and remove the debris we’ve piled on top of our essence. That’s the key.

    The ironic thing for me is that my perfectionism made me want to improve every aspect of myself, even regarding self-love. Recently I got to a point where I felt clear and free. I still have certain hang-ups and delusions, yet I’m mindful of them and I accept my imperfections.

    I got so good at solving problems and shoring up weaknesses. But then I realized that this need to correct everything was the very thing blocking me from true self-love. So in essence, I raced down the highway of personal growth, only to find out that my biggest lesson was to enjoy the scenery.

    I’ve cultivated unconditional love within myself (most of the time). And because of that, I’m now able to love others unconditionally.

    Love… that’s what is underneath all of the layers.

    The biggest paradox of self-improvement is that we’ve had what we were looking for all along. We just couldn’t see it.

    Thank you for reading.

    – Stevie P!
     

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    Back to Us (A Poem)

    class picture

    Life was simpler then
    The only device we carried around
    Was a game boy pocket
    Connect the cord
    Trading Pokemon under our desks
    Don’t let the teacher see

    Oh, we had tv, radio, computers and even portable technology
    But it was far from everywhere

    All we had to do was step outside
    For recess and, though we couldn’t physically leave, we were FREE
    Freer than we are today? Maybe

    Life wasn’t without stress though
    Shyness, nervousness, the fear of not being accepted by our peers

    Both the light and the dark sides of tribalism had a hold on us

    Sun shining
    Imaginations brimming over
    Fun and games
    Interspersed with sometimes singling out the weak or vulnerable
    I’ve been on both sides
    More teasing than vicious
    Yet still traumatizing for fragile souls

    Oh, where do we find solace?
    How can I blend the simple joys of childhood
    With the small bits of wisdom I’ve gathered since?

    There’s no going back
    Time spirals in cycles

    This time around
    On a new layer of the spiral
    I reach across the curve of events
    Grabbing those simple joys I’ve left behind
    For, paradoxically, that will allow me to let go

    Somewhere beneath the physicality
    Beneath the beliefs and hand-me-down identity
    There is a core of being
    An indescribable essence that permeates all

    Through looking back, we really look within
     

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    15 Simple Ways to Improve Brain Function

    brain function

    The human brain is the most complex piece of hardware in the known universe.

    It’s an immensely powerful tool.

    The brain is also the device through which we decode and perceive reality. So to say that it’s important to optimize brain function is a severe understatement. I think we can all unanimously agree that it would be a good thing to improve brain function, right?

    Instead of rambling on with more poetic descriptions of the brain, let’s just get straight to the applicable information.

    15 Simple Ways to Improve Brain Function

    1. Regular Practice – The brain, like everything else, is like a muscle. To strengthen it, it must be exercised regularly. Learn something new every day. Test your memory regularly. The more practice, the stronger it gets.

    2. Variety – While regular practice is the foundation, it’s also important to switch things up. Do new things. Engage in unique experiences. This keeps you on your toes, highly adaptive, thinking spontaneously and builds the skill of learning how to learn.

    3. Limit Sugar – Reduce your sugar intake (and processed, refined foods in general). Sugar is highly addictive and keeps you in the wired-then-tired trap of what I call “the insulin roller coaster.”

    Limiting sugar will help you have healthy gut flora as well, which is intrinsically linked with brain health.

    The brain can run on sugar (glucose) or fat (ketones). In both my experience and that of many other people, the brain operates optimally on fats.

    4. Eat More Healthy Fats – Some of the best healthy fats are fish/krill oil, avocado, coconut oil, butter, olive oil…etc. Coconut oil, for example, appears to be an ideal brain food.

    Here’s a challenge: Instead of starting your day with a carb-heavy breakfast, start with a cup of coffee (or tea) with a teaspoon of coconut oil in it. I call this combination “steroids for your brain.” Yes, it works. Try it out and feel the effects.

    5. Intermittent Fasting – “Human and non-human animal studies have shown that IER (Intermittent Energy Restriction) increases synaptic plasticity (a biological marker of learning and memory), enhances performance on memory tests in the elderly, leads to the growth of new neurons, promotes recovery after stroke or traumatic brain injury, decreases risk for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and may improve quality of life and cognitive function for those already diagnosed with these diseases. IER has also been shown to play a preventative and therapeutic role in mood disorders like anxiety and depression.” (Stanford)

    Want to try fasting? The best introduction I’ve come across regarding intermittent fasting is Eat Stop Eat. It does a great job of explaining the benefits of fasting and gives you a stupid simple protocol that gets amazing results. I’m actually doing a variation of Eat Stop Eat right now.

    6. Brain Boosting Herbs – Brain boosting herbs include Gotu Kola (which I personally take every day), Brahmi, Ginseng and Ginkgo Biloba. There’s a lot more too. Do a little research and see which one is best for you.

    7. Learn a New Language – Learning a new language literally opens up a new world to us. When we expand our horizons, neuroplasticity kicks in and we form more neural connections.

    8. Sleep – Sleep is the ultimate recharge for our bodies and our brain is no exception to this. Everyone knows that their brain works better on 8 hours of sleep as opposed to 4. Prioritize sleep and reap the brain benefits.

    9. Focus – Limit distractions and cultivate focus. Being scatterbrained severely inhibits mental capabilities. Focus is the precursor to learning and problem-solving.

    Tip: When you need to focus, set a timer for a specific amount of time and only work on the task at hand for that block of time.

    10. A Morning Routine – Starting the day off on the right foot greatly helps with how our brains function. Having a peaceful, enjoyable morning routine gets us in a clear headspace, which allows us to operate with focus for the rest of the day.

    For more on morning routines, read my article The ‘Carpe Diem’ Morning Ritual

    11. ExerciseExercise improves memory and thinking skills. It also boosts mood and reduces stress and anxiety.

    12. Walking – “Walking at one’s own pace for 40 minutes three times a week can enhance the connectivity of important brain circuits and combat declines in brain function associated with aging and increase performance on cognitive tasks.” – (Live Science)

    Walking also helps with creativity and generating ideas, especially when done outside.

    13. Positive Thinking – Stress and anxiety kill brain function. Research has shown that positive thinking, particularly in the future tense, speeds up the creation of brain cells and dramatically reduces stress and anxiety.

    Also, when you’re in a state of fear, it activates the amygdala and shuts off higher brain function (like logic and reasoning). So positive thinking really does make us smarter.

    14. Reading – This one is so obvious. We learn by reading nonfiction and expand our imagination by reading fiction. And sometimes we learn by reading fiction and expand our imagination by reading nonfiction. Reading also improves vocabulary, memory, concentration and helps hone visualization abilities.

    15. Meditation – There are so many benefits to meditation, it’s ridiculous. A regular meditation practice reduces stress, improves memory, combats anxiety, improves concentration, helps kick addictions and increases productivity (along with a lot of other things).

    Meditation helps cultivate awareness of our thoughts and gives us the choice to indulge in positive thinking instead of energy-sapping, negative thinking.

    Meditation also has the absolutely crucial benefit of mindfulness. If you’re unaware of what’s going on in your brain, you’re unconscious and living in reaction-mode. This results in you being a slave to your brain, instead of the master of it. The brain is a powerful tool. It is in your best interest to learn how to use the tool without the tool using you. This is why meditation is so important.

    Learn more about meditation here: Introduction to Meditation

    Time to Apply

    Try incorporating some of these into your daily life. If you want to pick just one to start with, I’d strongly recommend meditation. Meditation is the habit that all other habits build off of, the skill which enhances every other skill and the practice that gets you in touch with the essence of existence.

    Want to start meditating? As soon as you wake up, hit the snooze button on your alarm clock and use that time for meditation. Sit upright, close your eyes, take some deep breaths into your belly and simply observe your thoughts without judgment. Do this every morning.

    With most of this list, it’s common sense that these things improve brain function. But knowing and applying are two different things. Most people don’t apply what they know on a daily basis. Take action and commit to a daily practice.

    Your brain is a miraculous tool. Treat it well and use it wisely.

    Much love.

    – Stevie P!

    Which of these do you apply on a daily basis? Did you learn anything new? Which ones do you want to start applying? Leave a comment below.
     

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    Gratitude: Your Secret Weapon

    Gratitude

    What if I told you that you have a secret weapon available to you at all times?

    This secret weapon is not physical, nor destructive. Its power actually extends far beyond the reach of physical constraints.

    It lifts the illusory veils we build, the many forms of fear that hinder our experience. You see, the fears we have in our modern western world are almost entirely psychological. We face almost no real danger. This means that the fears most people walk around with are overwhelmingly self-projected abstractions.

    If we were facing the invasions of orc hordes every day, we would need mighty swords to fight them off. The orc hordes we face, however, are the fear-based ruminations of our own mind. The ultimate weapon against the forces of fear is the sword of GRATITUDE.

    That’s not even a perfect metaphor because gratitude doesn’t involve fighting or resisting at all. Gratitude is so powerful because it’s essentially fighting by accepting. Let me explain…

    Gratitude naturally and effortlessly transmutes fear.

    Gratitude is like a laser beam that magically transforms insidious inner demons into Casper the Friendly Ghost.

    It’s a calm breeze that refreshes your inner landscape.

    Gratitude is the zenith of “positive” feelings. Actually, gratitude is beyond the duality of positive and negative. And it must be felt to be truly understood.

    Where There is Gratitude, There is No Fear

    Gratitude and fear cannot coexist. It’s just like how darkness is the absence of light. Once you shine the light of consciousness, the shadowy fears simply disappear.

    This goes for any form of fear too. Fear is the undercurrent of all so-called “negative” emotions. Anxiety, worry, jealously, resentment, regret, stress, guilt…etc. are all children of fear. For example, stress is putting pressure on yourself for fear of an unwanted outcome; and being judged, by yourself and/or others, as not good enough. Anxiety is the fear of some possibility in the future. Can you see the trend here?

    If you feel fear of any kind, shatter the illusion with gratitude. When you can feel gratitude, you’re letting go of fear. Don’t just think gratitude, FEEL gratitude, EMBODY gratitude.

    The Great Transmuter

    Gratitude is the master transmuter. Transmutation is the act of changing or the state of being changed into another form, which is exactly what gratitude does with what you would label as “negativity.”

    It’s all a matter of changing your perspective. Show gratitude for the so-called “negativity” in your life and it transforms. Failures become lessons, crises become opportunities and imperfections become beautiful symbols of uniqueness.

    Since gratitude and fear cannot coexist, all you have to do is be in a state of gratitude and all “negativity” dissipates.

    Gratitude won’t necessarily change a situation, but it will change how you view the situation. And when you change the way you look at things, surprisingly, the things you look at start to change.

    Remember, pain is inevitable but suffering is optional.

    The Magic is Right Here!

    Gratitude is all about accepting where you’re at, at any given moment. It’s about seeing the big picture and being able to show compassion towards everything, positive or negative.

    Through gratitude, you’re able to both accept situations and accept yourself as you are right now. Gratitude is a reminder that you are good enough, no matter what. Here’s something I’ve experienced over and over again: When you love and accept yourself in each moment, you’ll grow, effortlessly and continuously, without having to force it or put pressure on yourself.

    Gratitude is also rooted in presence. We only get lost in fear when we forget about the present moment and enter the obsessive thought-patterns of the past or future. There are no problems in the present moment. Show gratitude and bask in the blissful realm of the eternal now.

    Gratitude Practices

    There are so many ways to express gratitude. It really comes down to anything which allows you to truly FEEL gratitude. Here are some ideas…

  • Write down what you’re grateful for (a great resource that incorporates writing things you’re grateful for every day is The Five Minute Journal)
  • Give thanks every morning when you wake up
  • Express gratitude as many times as you can throughout each day
  • Practice Ho’oponopono
  • Say “I appreciate you” to someone you care about
  • Thank “negative” situations for the lessons they provide – For example; I know a lot of people who were living life at a frenetic pace, and the thing made them slow down and appreciate their lives was a car accident.
  • Even if you can’t think of anything to be grateful for, you’re alive! The chances of you being born are about one in 400 trillion! Now that’s something to be grateful for. If you’re not grateful for life, you’re just going out of your way to make yourself miserable.

    When in doubt, be grateful.

    Much love.

    – Stevie P!
     

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