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Why TLC Was Wrong About Chasing Waterfalls

Multnomah Falls

Hi, my name is Stevie… And I’m a waterfall chaser.

I also don’t stick to the rivers and the lakes that I’m used to.

Now you might be all like “But TLC said ‘DON’T go chasing waterfalls!'”

Yes, they did. I love that song (90’s music has a special place it my heart), but I disagree with the message of the chorus…

“Don’t go chasing waterfalls
Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to”

I remember when it first hit me. My thought process went something like this… “Wait, so they’re telling me to stay in my comfort zone and never take risks? Fuck that.”

I get the meaning behind the verses; avoid the destructive aspects of life like violence, drugs, addiction and precarious sex. That makes sense, obviously. But the chorus is the antithesis of what I believe to be good advice.

If all you do is stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to, you’ll be a slave to your comfort zones and live a life of lukewarm mediocrity. Nope, not for me. I’d rather explore.

Hiking Oregon

Comfort Zones Are Worse Than Death

Always sticking to what you’re used to is not living, it’s just barely existing. When you stay in your comfort zones, you basically live the same day over and over again for 75 years and call it a life.

There is no learning in that; no exploration, adventure, mystery, fun, fulfillment, excitement or growth. Comfort zones stifle growth. Life without growth is just dying slowly.

Build a habit of stepping out of your comfort zones. You can even start with tiny steps, such as turning your shower cold for the last 30 seconds. With a cold shower there is no risk, a ton of health benefits and you build the muscle of leaving your comfort zone.

Show me someone who continuously leaves their comfort zones, and chances are they’re someone who finds courage, success, fulfillment, passion, excitement, personal growth and what it really means to live.

At the end of your life, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do as opposed to the things you did do. Build some momentum in the direction of new experiences and continuous growth.

Waterfall Oregon

Act In Spite of Fear

We all feel fear, especially when stepping into the unknown (exploring rivers and lakes we’re not used to). What separates the hero from the coward is taking action in the face of fear. Everyone feels fear, but the hero chooses to be courageous despite the fear.

“Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor – the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.”
– Brene Brown

Being courageous doesn’t mean being stupid or impulsive. It means not letting fear determine your decisions and taking calculated risks.

How do you build courage? Again, start with small steps. You don’t have to go climb a volcano and slay a dragon right off the bat.

Waterfall Thailand

Courage Momentum

One of the keys to truly living is building what I call “courage momentum.”

Here’s how you begin to build courage momentum. Notice things in life that make you slightly uncomfortable and take action when you feel that resistance.

Cold showers, like I mentioned before, are a great way to practice this. Another way is to say “hi” to people in public, even when you feel awkward. You can also try a new food or a new recipe. You can take a weekend trip to somewhere you’ve never been. There are so many courageous micro-decisions that you can make each day.

If you practice small acts of courage daily, you will build unyielding courage before you know it. This is what I call “courage momentum.”

Lake Titicaca

Follow Your Heart

The two main motivating forces are love and fear. Choose love over fear in every situation.

Fear is constriction and limitation. Love is expansion and growth. Fear is the essence of your ego. Love is the essence of your higher self.

Notice when your ego tries to run the show. Be aware when it attempts to manipulate your decisions based upon fear. Simple awareness robs the ego of its power and gives you the choice.

Don’t chase the desires of your ego. Don’t run from home out of fear. That’s how you end up like the sad stories TLC warned us about. Explore because you truly want to explore, and follow your heart.

Trust your intuition and make decisions out of love. Be courageous, not limited by fear.

Explore, learn and grow. Just remember to follow your heart, choosing love over fear, and you will discover beautiful new lands.

So here’s my perspective on the situation…

DO GO CHASING WATERFALLS.

Much love.

– Stevie Wander

PS – Every picture in this post was taken by me, while chasing waterfalls.

The 5 Best Self Improvement Podcasts

podcasts

I’ve always wished to sit in on insightful conversations; to be a fly on the wall during brilliant exchanges between interesting people.

Now I can, whenever and wherever I want. This is the allure of podcasts.

21% of Americans now listen to podcasts. To put this in perspective, that’s the same percentage as Americans who use Twitter. Podcasts are becoming ubiquitous, and for good reason. They are changing the way we experience both entertainment and learning.

The Audio Advantage

I prefer audio to other mediums for the simple fact that you can listen anywhere. It allows you to be a time management ninja and learn while going about your day. You can listen to podcasts while driving, walking outside, cooking, stretching, cleaning, performing monotonous tasks at work or just sitting in the dark while resting your eyes (which I personally love doing). Audio is so much more versatile than something you have to watch. Plus, we all spend too much time looking at screens, so it can provide a much needed break from that.

Authenticity

Podcasts are usually raw and authentic. I really love and appreciate the authenticity of podcasts. They’re generally unscripted and not edited much. So whether it’s a conversation, interview or a one-person rant, podcasts feel much more genuine and real than radio shows or any traditional media. Many people can no longer tolerate the plastic fakeness of overly scripted, heavily edited and excruciatingly politically correct interviews and/or conversations.

Choose Your Own Adventure

With podcasts you choose what you listen to, when you listen to it, when to stop, when to resume…etc. Gone are the days of being relegated to what’s on tv or what’s on the radio. Interactivity, freedom, authenticity and the democratization of information are highly valued in today’s culture.

Want to learn about health? Listen to a health podcast. Want to laugh? Listen to a comedian’s podcast. Want to hear an interview with a celebrity that’s unscripted and more like a conversation? There’s a podcast for that.

There is a podcast for every possible niche you can think of. The choice is yours.

The Perfect Blend

The authenticity factor of podcasts allows the podcaster to be him or herself while conveying the information they wish to convey. That’s why, more than anything else I’ve found, podcasts have the unique ability to create an experience of learning, mixed with entertainment, all while feeling like you’re there listening in on an interesting conversation.

I also love the funny quirks and unique sense of humor that people have. When these genuine qualities and “imperfections” shine through, it allows the listener to relate to whoever’s speaking on a deeper level.

The 5 Best Self Improvement Podcasts

1. The Tim Ferriss Show

Tim Ferriss is an author, entrepreneur and human guinea pig. His podcast focuses on dissecting all forms of greatness. In Tim’s own words, “Each episode, I deconstruct world-class performers from eclectic areas (investing, sports, business, art, etc.) to extract the tactics, tools, and routines you can use. This includes favorite books, morning routines, exercise habits, time-management tricks, and much more.”

2. The Model Health Show

This is the best podcast on health that I’ve come across. The host, Shawn Stevenson, has the uncanny ability to break down and eloquently explain complex health concepts. Each show often focuses on one specific aspect of health, making it highly informative and actionable. Shawn is well-read, with an amicable personality and a holistic, big picture perspective. The Model Health Show really is the model of health shows.

3. ReWild Yourself Podcast

The ReWild Yourself Podcast, hosted by Daniel Vitalis, is incredibly interesting and packed with useful information. If you want to maximize your entire being and embrace your primalness (instead of ignoring or repressing it), you should definitely check out the ReWild Yourself podcast. Here’s the short description of it…

“I’m Daniel Vitalis, and I’ll be your guide through the world of human zoology and lifestyle design. We’ll explore the strategies that ancient apes need to thrive in a modern world, awakening our instincts, and freeing our bodies –– and minds –– from the degenerative effects of human domestication.”

4. Aubrey Marcus Podcast

Aubrey Marcus is the CEO of Onnit and a master of “total human optimization.” He’s fascinating to listen to and shares valuable wisdom on a wide variety of topic. Anyone interested in practical spirituality and using consciousness to optimize and enjoy life will find tremendous value in Aubrey Marcus’ podcast.

5. The Joe Rogan Experience

Joe Rogan is a comedian and UFC commentator. His podcasts are long, hilarious and interesting conversations about everything imaginable. Joe Rogan literally explores every subject under the sun. His comedic wit makes the podcasts laugh out loud funny while discussing often mindblowing ideas with interesting people.

Though The Joe Rogan Experience isn’t directly self-improvement related, it exposes you to a multitude of topics that will undoubtedly catalyze self-improvement.


I highly recommend you check out these podcasts and see if they resonate with you.

Keep laughing and learning.

Much love.

– Stevie P!


Resources: Apps to listen to podcasts on your smartphone

  • Stitcher (this is what I personally use)
  • Podcasts
  • Overcast
  • How to Overcome Perfectionism

    kid painting

    Perfectionism is a trap.

    Though it may seem like perfectionism has your best interest in mind, it plays out much differently in the unfoldment of life.

    Perfectionism can be stifling. Though the drive for perfection can sometimes push you towards your goals, it most often creates delusional expectations, paralyzing procrastination and harsh self-criticism (as well as external criticism).

    We all know (on some level) that perfection doesn’t exist in this reality, so there is an inherent chasm of doubt whenever we chase perfection. The chasm of doubt and subtle anxieties of cognitive dissonance put us on the operating system of fear, where fear becomes the dominant motivating force. This is how perfectionism can make us hyper-critical (to both ourselves and others) as well as prevent us from even starting things (because of the fear that it won’t be perfect).

    Nature is imperfect, yet the imperfection of nature is what makes it beautiful, unique and ever-changing. Perfection is stagnation. Perfection is static. Perfection is permanence, which defies the very nature of our impermanent Universe. The only constant is change (in this reality at least), so you might as well embrace the paradoxical perfection of ever-changing imperfection. Imperfection is a gift, as it allows for uniqueness and the potential for perpetual improvement. Forgo the pursuit of perfection, accept where you are in each moment and strive for continual improvement.

    Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It means that you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.
    ~ Gerard Way

     
    Overcoming Perfectionism Through Belief Transmutation

    One way to overcome perfectionism is to replace limiting beliefs with new, more empowering beliefs. This is the alchemical art of transmutation.

    Examples of limiting beliefs regarding perfection:

  • I have to be perfect in order to be worthy.
  • Everything has to be perfect for me to be happy.
  • Everything has to be perfect for (insert any hope or dream you want to come to fruition).
  • I’m afraid of doing this because it might not turn out perfectly.
  • I want to achieve perfection now.
  • Substitute those old, limiting beliefs for new, more empowering beliefs.

    Examples of more empowering beliefs:

  • Perfection doesn’t exist in this reality, but I achieve excellence.
  • I’m continuously improving and fueled by self-love.
  • I accept where I am in each moment, while always moving forward.
  • Imperfection allows for uniqueness and continuous improvement. I embrace my uniqueness and I’m endlessly evolving.
  • I always try my best and leave the rest up to the Universe/The Process of Life/God.
  • I’ll start now. I can always change, refine and improve things later because nothing is permanent.
  • I embrace the journey and find joy in continuous improvement.
  • Listen closely to your self-talk regarding perfection. Be particularly aware of your self-talk when the urge to procrastinate arises. What beliefs are you holding? What are more empowering beliefs to replace them with? A belief is simply a pattern of thoughts. Change your thoughts and you will change your beliefs.

    Overcoming Perfectionism Through Action

    If I waited for perfection… I would never write a word.
    ~ Margaret Atwood

     
    Perfectionism has a component of fear to it, particularly the fear of not being perfect. And since nothing in this reality is perfect, the perfectionist often chooses inaction over the possibility of trying and not achieving perfection. This creates an incapacitating state of constant procrastination, which is an insidious byproduct of perfectionism. Building a habit of taking consistent action deprograms the perfectionist mindset.

    The unachievable expectations of perfectionism can be paralyzing, preventing you from even starting things. But taking action overcomes the rigid inertia of perfectionism and starts a snowball effect of empowering momentum. By flexing your action muscles, you break through the chains of perfectionism like the incredible hulk ripping through a shirt (except you probably won’t be angry).

    When you build a habit of consistent action-taking, procrastination becomes a distant memory. You’ll learn to find fulfillment in the process. Perfectionism will be re-programmed into the mindset of embracing the journey of life.

    A strategy often discussed in entrepreneurial circles is that of releasing something, or taking action, before you’re fully ready. This idea is not about releasing an unfinished or half-assed product/service, but in accepting imperfection and building the habit of taking action. Remember, nothing is permanent and you can always tweak things later.

    Do not wait: the time will never be ‘just right’. Start where you stand, and work whatever tools you may have at your command and better tools will be found as you go along.
    ~ Napoleon Hill

     
    In the book The Motivation Manifesto, Brendon Burchard discusses defeating your personal demons. One of these demons is called “Defiance,” whose sole purpose is to delay your actions. How do you defeat this demon? You defeat Defiance by transforming delay with action. Decisive action, in the face of fear “sets off an internal tidal wave of power that subjugates our meeker impulses,” according to Burchard.

    I’ve also touched on the topic of overcoming doubt, defiance and delay in the article 8 Ways to Transmute Self-Doubt into Faith.”

    The practical how-to aspect of action is simple. Take small actions consistently, preferably every day. Break big tasks or big goals into bite-sized chunks. Create a system to bring you in the direction of a goal and stick to the system. Taking small actions on a daily basis allows you to avoid being overwhelmed and strengthens your action muscles to the point where procrastination doesn’t stand a chance.

    How I Overcame Perfectionism

    Though I still have perfectionist tendencies from time-to-time, it no longer has me in its clutches. Changing my perfectionist beliefs and taking consistent action were invaluable solutions for me.

    My journey progressed based on those two strategies. Firstly, I realized (conceptually, at least) that perfectionism is not attainable in this reality. After some time I was able to accept, feel and deeply understand that truth. Viewing life as a video game greatly aided this understanding as well. From that point, I was able to transmute my perfectionist beliefs into more empowering beliefs (meditation and mindfulness helped with being able to notice limiting beliefs I was holding onto).

    Action was the ingredient that completed the recipe. The most predominate action-based habits I built were publishing blog posts and recording videos. Since I started Feelin’ Good, Feelin’ Great in September 2012, I’ve written a blog post every single week (with a few exceptions). Creating that commitment to action played a pivotal role in breaking out of the paralysis of perfectionism. If I had waited for myself to write the perfect blog post, I would’ve never released anything. It was in choosing to just put myself out there that catalyzed the process of becoming an exponentially better writer. By committing to continual action, I’ve practiced writing far more than I would have if I was stuck in the paralysis of perfectionism.

    More recently, on top of the weekly blog post habit, I’ve been releasing one video every day (on YouTube and Facebook). I record the videos in one take, and they’re unscripted except for jotting down a few bullet points beforehand. Executing the videos in such an impromptu fashion has improved my speaking ability, spontaneity, self-confidence, memory and mental clarity by leaps and bounds. Additionally, recording a video every day has “greased the groove” of my action-taking ability and has allowed the bright light of unconditional self-love to scatter away the shadowy phantoms of perfectionism.

    Dear Human: You’ve Got It All Wrong

    Dear Human. You’ve got it all wrong. You didn’t come here to master unconditional love. This is where you came from and where you’ll return. You came here to learn personal love. Universal love. Messy love. Sweaty Love. Crazy love. Broken love. Whole love. Infused with divinity. Lived through the grace of stumbling. Demonstrated through the beauty of… messing up. Often. You didn’t come here to be perfect, you already are. You came here to be gorgeously human. Flawed and fabulous. And rising again into remembering. But unconditional love? Stop telling that story. Love in truth doesn’t need any adjectives. It doesn’t require modifiers. It doesn’t require the condition of perfection. It only asks you to show up. And do your best. That you stay present and feel fully. That you shine and fly and laugh and cry and hurt and heal and fall and get back up and play and work and live and die as YOU. It’s enough. It’s Plenty.
    ~ Courtney A. Walsh

     
    Embrace imperfection, and accept where you are, while enjoying the journey. Live, learn and grow.

    You are worthy, no matter what.

    You are love.

    – Stevie P!

     

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    What Are You Being Distracted From?

    I highly encourage you to do this awareness test before reading the rest of the article, as it will give you direct, applicable experience regarding the central theme of this article.

    That video is a microcosm of what’s occurring on a collective level.

    Distractions small and large, personally and collectively, all work this way. When your focus gets fixated on something, you filter out things that would otherwise be obvious.

    It’s the old “Hey look at my right hand!” while the hidden left hand is covertly performing the magic trick.

    The petri dish of culture (see what I did there?) we find ourselves in is a grand illusion, or a grand delusion, whose very existence depends on concealing itself behind endless distractions.

    Weapons of Mass Distraction

    The mainstream media is nothing but fear-porn and heated debates over minutiae designed to program and paralyze our psyches. Television is called “programming” for a reason.

    Celebrity gossip is constantly thrown in our faces, like it’s of utmost importance to our lives. This further keeps people’s focus away from what really matters and exhausts energy on utter stupidity.

    Sports, instead of being played by adults, have turned into a form of idol worship. Grown men wear the names of other grown men on their backs (jerseys) in a silly externalization of personal power. And most sports fanatics have more passion about other people throwing balls around than they do about their family or their own purpose in life.

    Politicians discuss asinine topics instead of what really matters. If they would address the fundamental aspects of society, then real change would take place. But they don’t. A couple essential topics that need to be addressed are energy (which is the foundation of shelter, food, transportation and all human necessities) and the monetary system as a whole (which is fiat currency based on debt and funnels wealth into the hands of a few). But having a serious discussion about clean, free energy, for example, would render any control system obsolete, so that topic is vehemently ignored and suppressed.

    Standard education has children memorizing and regurgitating useless facts instead of learning knowledge of self, critical thinking or applicable life skills. John D Rockefeller, who created the general education board for the US in 1902, summed it up when he said “I don’t want a nation of thinkers, I want a nation of workers.” For those who are willing to take an objective look, it’s not the education system, but the indoctrination system, driven by weapons of mass instruction.

    Even though we all have access to more information in our pockets than the president of the United States had 30 years ago, most use their smartphones just to take selfies and proclaim to the world every time they step out of their house. Without a foundation of self-mastery, instead of using a smartphone as a tool, you become a slave to the tool.

    The Essential Questions

    How come very few people even consider the essential questions of life?

    Who are we? Where do we come from? What is humanity’s story? What is the nature of reality? How do we interact with reality? Where do our ideas come from?

    Why don’t we investigate these fundamental questions first? Wouldn’t it make sense to start there? Isn’t it important to understand the nature of the game you’re playing?

    Why aren’t children taught any form of self-mastery? Wouldn’t mindfulness meditation (being able to objectively observe your thoughts and emotions) be useful? Of course it would. That is the foundation upon which any conscious change can be made. Wouldn’t something like yoga, getting in tune with your body, be useful? Wouldn’t breathing practices be useful to learn? I mean, deep breathing can extinguish the flames of anxiety in a matter of seconds. But nope, those things are completely ignored by traditional education.

    Why aren’t the most useful skills of being human taught? Survival skills, growing food…etc. Why isn’t personal finance taught? Why do so few people even know what money really is?

    Here’s why none of the most important questions never get addressed; because we’re being distracted in every moment. Between education (indoctrination), television, the media, misuse of technology and most adults being dizzyingly busy, the average person doesn’t have the time or energy left to explore the most fundamental questions.

    I call this situation “the squeeze.” Resources are limited and economies are manipulated to put more pressure on families, so both parents now have to work to financially sustain the family. This creates a time squeeze in which people are too busy to explore the essential questions of life or even think for themselves. Combine this with omnipresent distractions (aka bread and circuses) and no one ever stops to question the situation in which humanity has found itself.

    The term bread and circuses was coined by Roman satirist Juvenal, and it’s defined as “Something, as extravagant entertainment, offered as an expedient means of pacifying discontent or diverting attention from a source of grievance.” Does that sound familiar? The bread and circuses of today (education, media, celebrity gossip, politics, smartphone misuse…etc.) are pacifying your discontent with how blatantly dysfunctional our societal paradigms are. And what grievance is it diverting your attention from? Well, the grievance of knowing in your heart of hearts that there are far better ways of doing things, far more harmonious ways of living and far more that humanity is capable of achieving.

    It’s all about distracting people from what really matters. A population can be easily controlled if all they focus on is external, asinine things. The distractions are so intense because once the curtain is pulled back, the powers that (wanna)be are exposed and their house of cards collapses. It’s exactly like what happens in The Wizard of Oz, the seemingly ominous authority figure, once exposed, is nothing but a fearful little man. His power was solely based upon creating fear through deception, and was usurped upon exposure. Once you shine light on cockroaches, they scatter. All it takes is a bit of light to illuminate a whole room. Cast the distractions aside and shine your light.

    wizard of oz behind the curtain

    photo credit: The Wizard of Oz

    What Can You Do?

    Stop distracting yourself – Turn off the tv, stop watching the news and stop giving your energy to the fabricated illusion.

    Focus on yourself – Focusing on yourself isn’t selfish. To be able to serve you must first be fit to serve. You can only give what you’re able to give, so it pays exponentially to make yourself more able. Get in tune with yourself. Go within, meditate, observe your thoughts and emotions, do the inner work, rid yourself of limiting beliefs, let go of trauma you’re holding onto, continuously improve yourself and find/create your purpose. Maximize yourself and you will be of far greater benefit and help to others. If you know your own power, you’re not going to give it away to forces who don’t have your best interest in mind.

    Investigate the nature of reality for yourself – Ask yourself the big questions posed above. Be curious, open-minded and entertain any idea without clinging to it. View the world as an idea playground. Do your own research, find a healthy amount of unique data points and form your own conclusions.

    Don’t indoctrinate your children – Standard education, particularly in the US, is a massive consciousness-suppressant. And it was designed that way. As epitomized by the Rockefeller quote above, was designed to create obedient workers, not creative, free-thinking individuals. Everyone is a genius in their own unique way, it just takes years of mandatory education to bury it. Find a progressive, alternative school or homeschool your children (but make sure you’re a part of some community if you do this, as socialization is obviously important too).

    Create your own culture – Read my article on this, “Stop Consuming Culture and Create Your Own.”

    One love.

    – Stevie P!

     

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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.

    overweight

    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.

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    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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    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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    Why Learning is like Jet Fuel for Happiness

    Teahupoo1

    I found myself wading into the alluring blue-green Caribbean Sea, with my right hand on a surfboard and my eyes fixated on an immense wave approaching. I’ll admit, it was a bit intimidating: an ominous undulation, already taller than me, quickly rising out of the infinity of liquid power. But the fear within, which had risen along with the wave itself, was immediately transmuted into childlike excitement as I snapped into action, spinning the surfboard around and hopping on, belly first.

    Exuding exuberance, I glanced over my right shoulder to see the wave swiftly advancing toward me. My warrior ethos kicked in and I paddled with powerful, staunch strokes, building just enough momentum right as the wave tasted my heels. The wall of water surged upon me, thrusting me into a realm of slowed time and total focus. The board was no longer a lifeless object, but a kindred spirit, conspiring to maximize my moment. It was a beautiful communion between beings, conceived through coalescence and driven by synergy.

    With a blast of pizzazz, I popped up onto my feet, landing in the classic surfer stance (totally, dude). What a feeling! The inner child within me was jumping for joy as I cruised towards the shore with a beaming smile on my face.

    That was the conclusion of my very first surfing lesson. It was a true climax of bliss, fueled by the magical phenomenon of… LEARNING.

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    Learning is an integral element of the human experience.

    We came into this life to learn and grow. And without learning, no growth is possible.

    All inhibitors of learning and growth (stagnation, monotony, boredom, fear, comfort zones…etc) drain the joy out of life and deaden the spirit. On the other hand, learning, growth, progress and perpetual new experiences infuse life with a euphoric vivacity. This feeling of elation is a tell-tale sign that you’re in alignment with your inner truth.

    “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch

    Life’s tendency is toward progression. Life is defined by growth. If you’re not growing, you’re dying.

    Learning is a precursor to growth and an undeniable catalyst of happiness.

    The act of learning doesn’t have to be strictly intellectual either. If it’s something physical, like surfing, your mind and body work together in the learning process. This weaves threads of cooperative harmony through all levels of being.

    It is undeniable that learning is crucial to the human experience. Learn to love learning and your life has no choice but to change for the better.

    Think about how good improvement feels. Think about how good personal evolution feels. That feeling is the child of learning and growth.

    Be Willing, Eager and Open to Learning

    Willingness to learn is as equally important as the learning process itself. If you’re open and eager enough, you will learn anything you wish to.

    Three Manifestations of Willingness that Will Greatly Accelerate Your Life Learning Process

    1. Embrace curiosity – Einstein put it perfectly when he said, ““I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.”
    2. Listen – Listen to what other people have to say, instead of talking all of the time. Listen intently, listen with curiosity and listen with an open mind.
    3. Ask questions – Question everything and entertain any idea.

    Be willing, eager and open to learning and the doors of understanding will eagerly open to you.

    There are, of course, ways to refine and streamline the learning process as well.

    An effective model for rapid learning is Tim Ferriss’ D.S.S.S. strategy from his book The Four Hour Chef. The acronym D.S.S.S. stands for Deconstruct, Selection, Sequencing, and Stakes.

    Deconstruct
    “What are the minimum learnable units, the LEGO blocks, I should be starting with?

    Selection
    “Which 20% of the blocks should I focus on for 80% or more of the outcome I want?

    Sequencing
    “In what order should I learn the blocks?”

    Stakes
    “How do I set up stakes to create real consequences and guarantee I follow the program?”

    Read more about Tim Ferriss’ D.S.S.S. strategy here.

    Another Useful Tip for Learning

    The human attention span is not very long, so learning in short stints (30-60 minutes at a time, with short breaks in between) is a great way to leverage this. The percentage of information you’re able to retain drops in the middle of any learning session. This is why most people only remember the beginning and end of a long, study marathon. So instead of trudging through things for hours, engaging in short sessions with breaks allows you to function at maximum capacity and actually get more done. Plus, it just feels better (which is a subtle hint itself).

    This is why many schools found it more effective to have 50-minute classes, because after that point, kids stop paying attention.

    I personally thrive off of getting things done in 20-30 minute chunks, followed by breaks. This is a great strategy for learning, writing and really accomplishing anything.

    Tim Ferriss (again) beautifully charts this phenomenon in The Four Hour Chef:

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    Why Surfing is the Perfect Medium for Learning

    Surfing is both physical and mental – Surfing simultaneously engages the body and mind, and is healthy for both. You use both simultaneously, which creates harmony between the two. Plus, it’s a form of exercise (which, as everyone knows, has a ton of benefits itself).

    Nature therapy – You’re outside and connected with nature while you’re learning. You get your feet in the sand (grounding/Earthing), the sun on your face (Vitamin D), the breeze in your hair and you’re in the water (which comes with benefits too). It’s a beautiful, healthy combination of learning and the four earthly elements.

    Surfing engages the warrior ethos in a healthy manner – It’s a positive outlet for your warrior spirit. Surfing is both a physical battle and a cooperation between you and the ocean. For those like myself who have a deep connection with the warrior archetype, positive expressions of it are necessary for your well-being. For too long, the warrior ethos of humanity has been relegated to war and other forms of senseless violence. Learning to surf is also learning to bring out your warrior ethos in a healthy way.

    As you can tell, I love learning. And learning how to surf was a tremendous experience for me.

    Keep learning. Keep growing. Find happiness along the journey of continuous expansion.

    Much love.

    – Stevie P!

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    16 Things You Need to Know About Ayahuasca

    Aya

    Master Shaman Alberto whistling an icaro into my cup of ayahuasca

    Ayahuasca… You’ve probably heard the word recently.

    The spirit vine, as it’s called, has been used traditionally by Amazonian shamans for (at least) thousands of years. Ayahuasca is typically consumed as a brew that has entheogenic properties and contains DMT (Dimethyltryptamine aka the spirit molecule). Now, with a global awakening in progress, Ayahuasca’s profound spiritual effects are now attracting more and more westerners. Although it may seem like it’s the latest trendy beverage in the consciousness niche of the internet, Ayahuasca is in another realm (literally) compared to your health food store kombucha.

    I very recently went on an Ayahuasca retreat and I already feel that it has fundamentally changed my life for the better. Much of this inner shift has come in ways which were previously unfathomable to me, which further adds to the alluring aura of the spirit vine.

    If you’re skeptical, do not dismiss Ayahuasca as a “drug” offhand. It is the complete antithesis of an escape and has been consistently shown to break drug addictions. Many plants provided by Mother Nature harbor potent healing properties and Ayahuasca is a prime example of this.

    Here are 16 things you need to know about Ayahuasca. This isn’t a copy/pasted list of generic facts and you won’t find this type of information on Wikipedia. This article is a synthesis of some of my firsthand experience (so far). And funnily enough, you can apply most of this list to life in general, making it practical and pragmatic for everyone (even if you have no interest in doing Ayahuasca).

    1. The stronger Ayahuasca calls you, the more ready you are for it.
    Every single person who I’ve talked to that has communed with Ayahuasca has said that it was calling them in some way, shape or form. This is a sign that you’re ready for the medicine and it happened with me as well. For the last 2 years, the word “Ayahuasca” kept popping up everywhere for me (articles, books, people mentioning it…etc.). It eventually got to the point where I had to heed the call.

    2. Ayahuasca is different for everyone.
    Like everything in life, Ayahuasca is unique to each person. And that’s the beauty of it. Some people get a lot of visuals and some get more feelings; some have difficult experiences and some have joyous experiences beyond their wildest dreams. Ayahuasca provides a dynamic experience that gives you exactly what you need, which is the next point.

    3. Ayahuasca will give you exactly what you need.
    Along with being unique to each individual, Ayahuasca gives everyone exactly what they need. If you have a major limiting belief regarding money, Ayahuasca will address it. If you’re too ego-driven, Ayahuasca will put your ego in its place. A great example of “getting exactly what you need” was the experience of my roommate at the retreat. He was skeptical of Ayahuasca in the beginning and a bit frustrated because he didn’t experience much during the first three ceremonies. But the fourth ceremony turned out to be an epic journey for him. He said that he went “to the singularity and back,” saw “everything” and now believes in God (not the religious God, but the “God energy” which is the everythingness/nothingness/source that everything comes out of). He even told people that he went from a rigid atheist to openly spiritual in less than 24 hours, which is exactly what he needed.

    4. You must relax into Ayahuasca to maximize the experience.
    Waiting for Ayahuasca to kick in (after drinking it) is a lesson in and of itself. You won’t get deep into the medicine if you’re resistant, fearful and tense. You need to let go and surrender to it, which is excruciatingly difficult for the control-craving, egoic mind. Surrender is often thought of as negative in Western culture, but it’s not. It’s an act of trusting and letting go of all fear. When you take a train, do you try to stop it, turn it, or constantly look out the window to make sure it’s moving correctly? No, you trust that it’s taking you to your destination. In this context, Ayahuasca can be thought of as a train to unconditional love.

    5. You have to meet Ayahuasca halfway.
    Like I just described, you have to relax into the medicine for it to fully work. Ayahuasca will be most effective when you help out from your side. Also, after the ceremonies, it’s up to you to carry the momentum into your daily life. Although Ayahuasca does a lot of work behind the scenes, it’s also your responsibility to integrate your experiences, break out of patterns that were limiting you and continue evolving into the best version of yourself.

    Think of it like getting a boost to climb over a wall. You may get some help in the form of a boost, but it’s ultimately up to you to grab the wall and climb over.

    6. Ayahuasca should be treated as sacred.
    It’s not a recreational drug. It’s not an escape from reality (quite the opposite in fact). Ayahuasca is a sacred plant that is most effective when used ceremonially. It also does not mix well with a lot of other substances, which is why you should only consume it with people who know what they’re doing.

    7. Ayahuasca will be one of the most unique experiences of your life.
    An Ayahuasca journey is so different, indescribably different, from the physical reality you’re accustomed to. Space and time become irrelevant slipstreams as you explore the most fantastic realms of existence. Words only point in the general direction of the experience, so I’ll just leave it at that.

    8. The terror equals the ecstasy.
    One thing that Ayahuasca has become infamous for is the terrifying experiences it can deliver. Sure, it might be scary at times, but every new realm we enter can be scary before we learn how to navigate them. Think about the first time you went into a gym. I remember being terrified, not knowing how anything worked and thinking everyone was watching me. But as I learned how to navigate the gym realm, the fear faded away.

    Another dimension of this is that in order for a tree to grow tall, it must first have deep roots. The same applies to us; we must all go into our roots, our darkness, in order to grow towards the light. It’s all a balance. If you want to get metaphysical, we only experience this balance of both sides because we live in duality right now.

    And lastly, there’s really nothing to fear, as everything you experience is a part of you (which is the next point). Also, remember that “Infinite love is the only truth, everything else is illusion.”

    9. It’s all within you.
    Everything you experience on Ayahuasca is something within you. Every scary thing you experience is a part of your psyche. Every battle is you against you, so there is nothing to fear. Fear is actually what creates the disharmony. An Ayahuasca journey is a matter of unraveling the disharmony within.

    Life in general is similar, with everything in external reality being a reflection of internal reality. Change the inner, and the external changes as a direct result. Ayahuasca is just a direct, intense means of changing the internal.

    10. Ayahuasca will show you things you’ve hidden deep within.
    Things that you’ve kept hidden from yourself will be brought to the surface and released. You may not even consciously know it until they come up and are healed. So many people have become experts at deceiving themselves and Ayahuasca uncovers the deceit before your very eyes (or before your third eye haha).

    11. All of your preconceived notions will be shattered.
    Your sense of possibility will be wide open after an Ayahuasca journey. All of your fundamental assumptions will be tested and all of your limiting beliefs will be dropped. Yes, it’s that mind-blowing.

    12. You will become a better person.
    Ayahuasca releases what doesn’t serve you and aligns you with the harmonious energy of love, opening you up to continuous growth and evolution. I can already feel that I’m a significantly improved person now, less than a week after my Ayahuasca retreat.

    13. It takes weeks and months for the physical body and physical reality to fully catch up to the energetic changes made.
    Ayahuasca does most of its work in the energetic realms and the energetic reality is the template from which the physical manifests. However, the physical (being physical) is much more slow and rigid than the non-physical. As a result, changes which are immediate energetically take a while to physically come to fruition. This is why many people experience the most profound changes in their daily physical life during the weeks and months after taking Ayahuasca.

    14. Ayahuasca is not the be-all and end-all of personal growth and healing.
    Ayahuasca is just another modality for self-improvement. There’s no need to get lost in it. It’s tremendously effective and does a lot of work in a short period of time, but it’s not the only way. There are an infinite amount of ways to reach any goal.

    15. Ayahuasca tastes nasty.
    I just want to throw this out there; Ayahuasca tastes like a combination of tobacco juice and stale espresso, with the consistency and texture of sludge. But don’t let this minor detail deter you from one of the most profound experiences of your life. You can get it down.

    16. Choose a safe, reputable place to consume Ayahuasca.
    Ayahuasca opens you up energetically and can make physical reality seem far, far away. Because of this, you’re much more open on every level, for better or worse. So choose to be open for the better. Don’t put yourself in a vulnerable state around people who don’t have your best interest in mind.

    If Ayahuasca is calling you, I would highly recommend you to do it with Blue Morpho (the organization that I did my retreat with). They provide the best environment possible and their staff is among the kindest, most helpful people I’ve ever met.

    Note that this is not a comprehensive list. Ayahuasca is so dynamic and so profound that fully describing every detail of it would be next to impossible. I just had to stop somewhere before this post turned into its own book.

    Love and medicine.

    – Stevie P!

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    Crouching Tiger, Hidden Judgment

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    I have a confession to make…

    Up until very recently, I would judge people… A lot.

    Just when I thought I was “spiritually evolved” and free from my ego, it would sneak in through the back door and whisper things about other people like “They’re so closed-minded. How can they not see that? I’m better.”

    Judgment is an egocentric, energy-sapping distraction that inhibits everyone’s freedom.

    I’ve been shining a light on this within myself and have almost put a stop to the judgment entirely by practicing a simple process of awareness and letting go.

    Now whenever I have the inclination to judge people, I remind myself:

    1. I’m only judging other people because it’s an outward manifestation of self-judgment.

    2. Whatever I’m bothered by is a reflection of something within me that I need to address.

    3. It’s none of my business what anyone else does. Everyone is a sovereign being on their own journey. Thinking there is a right/best way to live is an insult to uniqueness and laughably ignorant.

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    The Solutions (How to Let Go of Judgment like 1,2,3)

    1. Find the root of self-judgment by answering these questions: How am I judging myself? Why am I judging myself in the first place?

    Directly address these questions and change the underlying belief. Here’s my personal example:

    I have long judged myself with the belief pattern “I’m not good enough yet. I can do better.” I can be very hard on myself and I put pressure on myself to constantly excel at everything. A lot of this self-judgment stems from my childhood experiences (like most ingrained beliefs). After a soccer game, for example, my dad would say things like “It’s good that you scored a goal, but you could have scored another one.” Or if I got a 90% on a test at school: “It’s good that you got a 90% on the test, but you got that easy question wrong.” I eventually took these on as self-criticisms and have kept tremendous pressure on myself for most of my life. Nothing was ever good enough. This self-judgment can manifest in many ways if I’m caught in my ego, mostly in the form of being hyper-sensitive to criticism or comparing myself to others (feeling either superior or inferior based on whatever qualities are being compared).

    The Release (Awareness + New Belief)
    Since I’ve become aware of the root belief, I’m able to “catch” the judgment and it now disappears on the spot (it’s coming up less and less frequently too).

    I’ve also been using an affirmation to release this self-critical belief pattern. I say this to myself every day, and the self-criticism is loosening its grip on me: I love myself AS I AM RIGHT NOW.

    This all applies to the fear of being judged as well. Fear of judgment from others only exists because you’re judging yourself first. Find the root of the self-judgment, release it and allow yourself to be.

    2. Find the internal cause of external judgment by asking: What within me is this circumstance triggering?

    I see a lot of people I know getting engaged and married. And this triggers judgment within me. I view it as people blindly following what society tells us to do, giving up their freedom and binding themselves with (fear-based) oaths and legalities instead of being together out of pure love.

    Note: This is my opinion. I’m not saying I’m right (or that you should think the same way I do). I’m merely using the subject of marriage as an example of a trigger for me.

    Engagement and marriage trigger three things within me. The first is my desire for maximum freedom. Whenever I interpret something as a “loss of freedom,” I get triggered. The irony of this is that by being judgmental, I become a slave to my ego. Ha!

    The second aspect is that it’s a way for my ego to feel superior. My ego would say things like “I’m too smart to fall into those societal traps which aren’t working out for most people. Don’t they know that marriage started as a political tool to create alliances? Or that engagement rings are a scam created by De Beers? Well, I do.” The ego will use any fuel it can get to prop itself up.

    And the third thing it triggers is the fact that I’ve never had a long-term intimate relationship (yet). This is because I’ve held opposing beliefs of a lifelong relationship being “less free,” while simultaneously desiring a life partner.

    The Release (Awareness + New Belief)
    I’m in the process of reconciling those seemingly opposing beliefs regarding relationships. I now firmly believe that I can have a life partner without giving up any freedom. It just won’t be exactly according to the (obviously failing) rigid script of western society.

    And you know what? This subtle shift in my underlying beliefs is already working. I’m not triggered as much anymore and I’m attracting amazing people into my life.

    3. Allow, allow, allow.

    Allow everyone else to just be. There is no one-size-fits-all way of living. The world already has too many people telling others what to do. We’re all here, as unique aspects of Source, to spur its continuous evolution through new viewpoints and diverse experiences. Allowing is in harmony with that, control is not.

    I know that I can’t control anyone (nor would I really want to, to be honest). The only thing I can do is INSPIRE people based on what I’m doing with myself!

    So, like with everything else in this physical reality, the only way out is in. Do the inner work and the external takes care of itself.

    Let’s all put our gavels down and frolic in freedom.

    Much love.

    – Stevie P!

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