5 Reasons Why Your Body Is The Portal To Spiritual Growth

body spiritual growth

Answer this question truthfully…

Are you ignoring your body?

In our society, the vast majority of people live exclusively in their head (yes, even workout junkies). And a small percentage falls into the trap of what I call spiritual escapism, living in the clouds. Both are delusional.

The key – to unlocking our potential and living a fulfilling life – is THE BODY.

The body is not something to be ignored. It’s not something to be neglected. It’s not something to be demonized. And it’s definitely not something to be viewed as an impediment to spiritual growth. In fact, the exact opposite is the case.

The body is the portal to spiritual growth.

“Transformation is through the body, not away from it.” – Eckhart Tolle (The Power of Now)

The most spiritual, transformational thing you can do is to be FULLY PRESENT. I’ll repeat that again. The most spiritual, transformational thing you can do is to be fully present.

Everyone is looking to escape the negative aspects of reality, including you and I. If you’re denying this, that’s part of your escapist self-deceit. And people try to escape in different ways; drug/alcohol abuse, television, work, social media, addiction to spiritual practices, externalizing power to authority figures instead of looking within…etc. Basically, most people will do anything to distract themselves from… well… themselves, and their raw emotions.

But no forms of escapism work… They just mask a problem and let it fester in the shadows. That’s when things get really ugly, and we see it reflected on the macro level in the world.

Here’s the hard truth: The only way out is through.

The best way to solve any problem, or realize that the problem doesn’t really exist, is to face it head on. Yes, this reality can be extremely challenging. But it only gets worse if you try to ignore or avoid it.

However, everything gets transmuted once you dive fully into reality, into the present moment. And that is done through the body.

With myself and many others, I’ve noticed that physical health is what tends to first open people up to who they really are. It’s the “first domino” that catalyzes spiritual growth, self-awareness, empowerment and all that “good” stuff.

After realizing this, I started looking into why this is the case. And here’s what I found…

5 Reasons Why Your Body Is The Portal To Spiritual Growth

body spiritual growth

1. Health

With a healthy body, everything else falls into place.

You can think more clearly and creatively. You also become a better conduit for ideas and intuition. Everything regarding cognitive function and perception becomes heightened when you’re healthy.

Another byproduct of health is being vibrant and full of energy. When someone is healthy, you can see that sparkle of life in their eyes. When someone is really unhealthy, they have that vacant look. This is a huge indicator, because you can literally see that some people are embodying their divinity.

Health is also the practice of self-love and self-care, which obviously has spiritual implications. It’s taking care of your temple and allowing the presence of the divine (or whatever you want to call it) to come through.

So what are the basics of health? It’s really simple when you boil it down. Eat real (natural) food and move your body. If you do that, you’re at least 80% there.

2. Getting Out of Your Head

Being in your body gets you out of your head. And that’s a big deal in today’s society.

Most people are trapped in their head and slaves to their mind/ego. The mind makes a beautiful servant but a terrible master. And the mind is a risk calculator, meaning if you’re trapped in it, you’re going to be calculating risks 24/7.

Our minds are hardwired to detect threats, because that’s what has kept us alive for millions of years. But we no longer have to deal with saber tooth tigers, so 99.9% of fears are purely psychological/abstract and not based in real danger at all.

But, in general, we let this risk calculator run the show. This is why the vast majority of people live in a state of perpetual fear.

Most people spend their whole lives thinking about the past or future and COMPLETELY MISSING THE PRESENT MOMENT. Actually acknowledging, feeling and experiencing your body changes this.

3. Presence

Being more in your body helps you to be present.

You get out of your head, and in the present moment. This point is so important that entire books are written on it (The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, Be Here Now by Ram Dass, You Are Here by Thich Nhat Hanh…etc.)

When performing a difficult exercise for example, it’s hard (and even dangerous) to be thinking about the past or future. This is why exercising can help you cultivate a practice of presence.

On the other side of the spectrum, many types of meditation involve body awareness and body scanning. This fosters a state of presence.

There’s also mindful eating. The practice of mindful eating means simply being completely present while eating.

First of all, you’re aware of what you put into your body. Most people mindlessly shove food down their gullet, then wonder why their health/performance is sub-par. And another aspect of mindful eating is being fully present and undistracted when eating. This means fully experiencing the taste, smell, texture of food and noticing how it feels when being digested. Practicing this not only allows you to enjoy food more, but hones the ability to feel what is beneficial or detrimental to your body.

And when you’r body is healthy, the clarity and clearheadedness that naturally arise make it far easier to be present (as well as the absence of pain/discomfort).

4. Being In Tune

I hinted at this while discussing mindful eating. Being healthy helps you get more in tune with your body.

And it’s not only with eating. It helps you get in tune with intuition, feelings and emotions. Again, good health allows for all kinds of clarity and the healthy flow of energy. Plus, there are the benefits of getting out of your head and being present.

All of this results in being very in tune with the subtleties of life. There’s nothing woo-woo about it. When you’re healthy, your awareness is heightened.

5. Holistic Expansion

True expansion, true authenticity and true health, is holistic.

You cannot ignore an aspect of self and think it won’t have side effects. We see the neglect of the body in many religions, which obviously doesn’t work out well (where guilt, shame and all kinds of perversions run rampant).

On the other hand, we see the neglect of the emotional and spiritual aspects of self in modern western society, and it doesn’t take a genius to see all major “systems” need to change.

We need to embrace all aspects of ourselves. And love it all.

The more grounded you are, the more connected you are to everything. Being fully embodied is a way of embracing wholeness.

I mean, there’s a reason why “spirit” (or whatever your term is for God/Source) is choosing to express itself physically, right? If not, we wouldn’t be here. Even if it were some big cosmic joke, we’re here now, in human form. So start with being present and fully conscious in this experience.

It also doesn’t stop at the body. The body is an aspect of self, not your entire self. It’s a portal to your true self, not the totality of your true self. Again, embrace all aspects of self.

Becoming Spirit Embodied

So how do we get more into our body?

It’s very simple; engaging in daily practices that benefit the body. Here are some ideas:

  • Getting out in nature
  • Hiking
  • Going to the beach (where you get all four elements at once – sun, air, earth, water)
  • Putting your bare feet on the Earth (aka grounding/earthing)
  • Any form of exercise
  • Yoga
  • Any form of martial arts
  • Eating healthy (and mindfully)
  • Taking a walk outside
  • Simply being present
  • Fully experiencing your senses
  • Meditating on how each part of your body feels
  • Breathing exercises
  • Cold water exposure (cold showers)
  • Swimming
  • Conscious sex
  • Dancing
  • Singing

Love your body. Cultivate health. Embrace all aspects of self.

Much love.

– Stevie P!

28 Benefits of Floatation Therapy

floatation tank

Floatation tanks (aka float tanks, isolation tanks or sensory deprivation tanks) are lightless, mostly soundproof tanks filled with Epsom salt and water at skin temperature, which makes you float on the surface of the water.

In this setting, you experience little to no external stimuli and are able to relax your body far more than otherwise possible. These conditions provide the space for an incredibly unique experience of stress relief, tension release, self-awareness and journeys into peaceful nothingness.

I’ve personally been floating for the last two months and have experienced its many benefits. Floatation therapy has the tension release qualities of a massage, the stress relief qualities of drinking a glass of wine in a jacuzzi, the state of self-awareness comparable to psychotherapy and the trauma/fear release potential of ayahuasca. Floating also makes it relatively easy for anyone to dip into the infinitely blissful void described by experienced meditators and yogis. Essentially, floatation therapy provides the space necessary for self-healing on all levels of being.

28 Benefits of Floatation Therapy

  1. Promotes total calm and peaceful relaxation
  2. Eliminates fatigue and jet lag
  3. Improves sleep
  4. Alleviates stress (mental and physical)
  5. Reduces or eliminates depression, anxiety and fear
  6. Facilitates freedom from habits, phobias and addictions
  7. Facilitates an acute awareness of thought patterns
  8. Stimulates left/right brain synchronization
  9. Shifts brain waves from beta to lower frequency alpha, theta and even delta
  10. Creates mental clarity, alertness and mindfulness
  11. Increases creativity
  12. Enhances problem solving ability
  13. Heightens visualization ability
  14. Deepens meditation (you’re able to go into much deeper meditation than when you’re sitting on the floor)
  15. Expands awareness
  16. Enhances all senses
  17. Enhances hypnotherapy and self-hypnosis
  18. Decreases the production of cortisol, ACTH, lactic acid and adrenaline
  19. Reduces pre-menstrual tension
  20. Reduces post-natal depression
  21. Increases production of endorphins
  22. Speeds up rehabilitation, recovery and healing
  23. Relieves pain (arthritis, migraines, injuries…etc.)
  24. Boosts immune function
  25. Improves circulation
  26. Reduces blood pressure
  27. Improves athletic performance
  28. Makes you feel amazing afterward 🙂

Fun Facts About Floating

  • The first floatation tank (or isolation tank) was developed by the neuroscientist John C. Lily in 1954. He used it as a form of psychotherapy, often in combination with LSD (when it was still legal).
  • Carl Lewis used in-tank visualization techniques to prepare himself for his gold medal long jump at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
  • John Lennon reportedly used a flotation tank in 1979 in an attempt to kick his heroin habit.
  • Two-time NBA MVP, Steph Curry reportedly floats every 2 weeks.

Try out floating for yourself. Experience peace like you never have before. Experience your true self.

Much love.

– Stevie P!

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.

fake mustache

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

Being the Greatest Version of Yourself

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

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

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

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

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

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

One love.

– Stevie P!

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Do You Even Feel, Bro?

feelBRO

Here’s your life…

Think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think.

All you do is think.

You’re so caught up in your head that you’ve forgotten how to FEEL.

“Remember, concentrate on the moment. Feel, don’t think. Trust your instincts.” – Qui-Gon Jinn (Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace)

Feeling is understanding. Feeling is both your inner guidance system and the means by which life becomes fully, deeply and totally experienced.

Pause for a second and allow your awareness to drop from your mind and into your body.

How do you feel? (This isn’t some ambiguous, hippie question to have you hold hands and sing kumbaya. It’s both practical and unfathomably important.)

Ask yourself these follow-up questions right now:

What sensations are going on in my body?

What emotions am I feeling?

What feelings or emotions are accompanying my thoughts?

Establish a habit of asking yourself these questions, every day, in different situations and build your “feeling awareness.”

Can You Feel Me?

Fully inhabiting my emotional state was always difficult for me to do. I was so conditioned to always use my mind, to be consumed in thoughts and to (over)think things through instead of feeling things out (especially as a man being born in the US). Western people, and particularly western men, are so dominated by the mind that feelings and intuition are suppressed to the point that many of us aren’t even aware of them.

I would always understand things conceptually, but I never realized that most of the time, I wasn’t really FEELING the truth of the matter. To reiterate the point from before, feeling is true understanding. There’s an indescribable feeling you get when you deeply know something to be true.

Gratitude is a great example of something I’m finally learning to feel. I always thought that being grateful was merely thinking about gratitude (all in my head). But I rarely actually FELT gratitude. Now, when I’m grateful, I not only think it (in my head) but I feel it like waves washing over me (usually in my chest/heart center). And sometimes the feeling is so intense that I feel like I AM GRATITUDE. It’s a different world than just thinking about gratitude. It’s magnificently real.

Why is Feeling Even Important?

I’m a man (in this lifetime at least), so I’ve often wondered about the usefulness of feeling. Something like “I thought that feeling was some overly-emotional, feminine, drama-queen shit. How would feeling benefit me anyway?” And you might be thinking something similar, especially if you’re the product of western (mind-dominant) culture. I’m not saying to be a drama queen or a slave to your emotions, but just to simply be aware of your feelings. Here’s why:

Feeling is your inner guidance system – Your feelings and emotions are your compass, your inner guidance system. It is through the awareness of feelings that you tune into your intuition. This taps into the wisdom of the heart, which perceives from a much more expansive perspective than the mind. As you know, the mind can be deceptive. It’s so easy to trick yourself with the mind, or let self-doubt restrain you from your full potential. Go into your feelings and access the wisdom of the heart. It’s the only guidance you’ll ever need.

Feeling allows you to fully experience life – What is a sunset without the feeling of peaceful bliss associated with it? What is sex if you’re in your head, not feeling the ecstasy flowing through your being? What is hitting the game winning shot if you don’t feel it? The shot is taken through instinct, not by thinking about it, and followed by a feeling of tremendous celebration. Life is an experience, and experiences are to be fully felt, not merely thought about.

Feeling supercharges your manifestation abilities – Most people are familiar with the law of attraction. What you focus on is what you bring into your life. Your thoughts help create your experienced reality. But, here’s the thing, thoughts are only powerful attractors when combined with passionate emotion. It’s the emotion that makes your focus a strong magnetic pull.

This was something I never fully grasped until very recently. I would merely think thoughts, or write them down, thinking that I was attracting the object of my thoughts. And guess what? My manifestations have always been slow going. In contrast, many women I’ve been around are very powerful manifestors. Why is this? Because every thought of theirs is blended with powerful and passionate emotion.

This is why visualization is so powerful. Visualization is imagining something you desire like it’s already happening. You feel it and all of the emotions that come along with it. Successful athletes have famously applied the power of visualization to excel at their sport. It’s a secret weapon of elite athletes and it works astonishingly well.

Here’s an action item (if you want to improve your feeling, visualization and manifestation abilities):
Take 10-15 minutes each day and visualize yourself living the life you desire. Feel it like it’s already happening. Go through all the facets of life; your body, your relationships, your career, your life experiences…etc. Visualize and FEEL it, and you will be a powerful magnet for whatever you focus on.

More Ways to Hone the Power of Feeling

Cultivate body awareness – Practice bringing your awareness into your body. When you have a thought, go into your body and feel the feeling associated with it. When you feel an emotion, notice the corresponding feeling in your body.

Yoga – Yoga is meditative movement, bringing you out of your head and into your body. The practice of yoga is one of the best ways to cultivate bodily awareness. You will naturally be able to intuitively feel things out more. In addition, many yogic poses are heart-opening, opening you up to the world of feelings/emotions (and positive ones at that).

Do anything to get out of your head – Meditate, express yourself creatively, write in a journal, exercise, walk outside, go for a hike, watch the sunset…etc. Anything that helps you to get out of your head will allow you to become more aware of your emotional state.

Drop into your heart-space – Practice bringing your awareness out of your head and into your heart-space (the heart chakra in the center of your chest). Allow your consciousness to reside there. I’ve been doing this a lot recently and it’s been profound. I’m more intuitive and a deep feeling of love pervades my being when I drop into my heart-space. For phenomenal resources regarding this topic, check out the HeartMath Institute.

The mind is a phenomenal servant, but a terrible master. Let your heart be your guide, but don’t forget to take your mind along for the ride.

So I’ll leave you with one question: Do you even feel, bro?


 

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7 Easy Ways to Ground Yourself

feet

Spring is in the air.

With the influx of warm, gorgeous weather, it’s natural to be really giddy. It’s easy to get engulfed by the fair weather frenzy and feel utterly ungrounded.

In addition to the shift of seasons, there was a full moon and a powerful solar flare this week as well; both of which are known for their mysterious and peculiar influences on human consciousness.

Side note: Without going off on a big tangent, just know that we’re essentially blind to the spectrum of forces that are affecting us. What we perceive and measure is based upon the observation of three-dimensional reality with our five (quite limited) senses. We process an infinitesimally small sliver of “reality” through these human mind-body computers. Everything is fundamentally an interaction of energy, frequency and vibration (ourselves included). But it really comes down to this… Be aware of your state of being and act out of that place of awareness. That’s what this article is all about.

Now back to the topic at hand…

Being grounded is one of those terms that is tossed around a lot in so-called “spiritual” circles. And everyone has a slightly different definition for it. To me, being grounded means having full-body awareness (not being too “in your head” or “woo woo” or “floating in the clouds”) and being connected with nature.

If you’re still a little unsure of what I’m talking about, here are some signs of being ungrounded:
You feel spacey or even a little dizzy.
You find it hard to finish tasks.
You can’t concentrate.
You find it hard to make yourself understood.
You find it hard to understand others.
You get distracted or your mind wanders.
You lose track of time.
(source)

Everyone has experienced at least some of those symptoms from time-to-time. Here’s what to do about it…

“I tell them there’s no problem, only solutions.” – John Lennon

The Solution (7 Easy Ways to Ground Yourself)

1. Spend some time barefoot on the Earth – Even if you can’t get out in nature, just walking barefoot on a patch of grass will do the trick. It sounds so simple, but it’s incredibly effective and feels amazing. Watch the documentary Grounded for an in depth look at this.

2. Deep breathing – When isn’t this a solution?

3. Working out (resistance training) – Leg workouts are especially grounding. This “grounds” you both into your body and the Earth.

4. Turn off the technology – Too much tech will throw your hormones out of whack, make you dazed, robotic and too “in your head.” Take periodic breaks from technology and connect with your inner self and mother nature.

5. Eat grounding food – Anything with roots and anything that resonates with the root chakra is grounding. These include root vegetables, animal proteins (preferably grass-fed and organic) and red-colored foods. Minerals help with grounding as well (so don’t shy away from sprinkling some Himalayan pink salt on everythang). Also, make sure you’re eating enough food, as caloric restriction is ungrounding.

6. Watch the sunrise or sunset – The awe, the wonder, the captivating beauty. Something about the times of dawn and dusk are simply magical. And watching the sunrise or sunset will sync you up with the natural cycles of the Earth.

7. Go hiking – Getting out in nature is the absolute best thing you can do to ground yourself. Do not underestimate how powerful this is for your overall well-being.

My Personal Experience

Earlier this week, I found myself unable to concentrate or focus on anything. I noticed it on Monday, but on Tuesday there was no getting around it. I had the attention span of a goldfish. I couldn’t sit still. I couldn’t concentrate on the simplest of tasks at work. And the act of writing seemed as insurmountable as catching Mewtwo with a regular pokeball. It was frustrating, to say the least.

However, I’ve recently come to the realization that it’s useless to resist the flow of life and try to swim upstream. I’ve learned that everything works out when I sail with the currents of life, not against them.

When you can’t change the direction of the wind — adjust your sails” – H. Jackson Brown

So I decided to lean into the natural cycles and embrace my need for groundedness, as opposed to forcing myself to focus on digits on a computer screen.

What I did to reverse feeling ungrounded within 24 hours of noticing it:
1. I gave up on trying to accomplish anything. I acknowledged my state of being without resisting it.
2. I worked out (heavy deadlifts have quite the grounding effect).
3. I went on a sunset hike in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with good company (see the picture below).
4. After the hike, I ate… A lot. (Hooray for Carb Backloading)

Then before I knew it, I found myself more productive at work and effortlessly writing this post. No rigid forcefulness required.

Grow powerful wings to fly. But also grow powerful talons for when you need to perch upon the Earth.

Be as liberated and limitless as a mythical dragon, yet as deeply rooted as a mighty tree.

Stay free. Stay balanced. Stay rooted.

Keep feelin’ good, feelin’ great.

– Stevie P!

Sunset me

 

It’s All Research, Therefore I Cannot Fail

This is a guest post by Alton Eckel.

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My mother taught me one of the greatest lessons in life: it’s all research. It was a lesson that I took with me into my first Ironman race last summer. When I felt exhausted, or my body ached, I re-evaluated my current state and redirected myself to a more constructive frame of mind. What could I do differently next time? What had I done properly that day? How had my training prepared me for the day’s elements? I can confidently say that I have never “failed” due to this outlook. When something has been unsuccessful in training or racing (or anything in life for that matter), I simply consider it a disproven hypothesis.

I am an adolescent when it comes to the world of endurance racing and triathlons; I still have a sense of immortality and innocence to me. I have not heard of an obscure race that I would not try or a distance that I did not believe was achievable. My ambition has carried me to many daunting start lines and my tenacity has pushed me across the same number of finish lines. That’s correct: in more than one hundred races ranging from 5k’s to full Ironman triathlons I have never shown a DNF (Did Not Finish) next to my name.

I did not run during high school. As a matter of fact, a telephone pole length was a distance event during my teenage years. I was an All American cheerleader who had avoided her bike since middle school. Then, one day, a middle aged, slightly overweight man asked me to join him for a two mile run. He tore up the pavement and left my ego at the door. This shifted my perspective. I became lit up at the idea of improving my run. Not to mention getting out of the gym and stationary machines. Within five months of my first official run I did my first half marathon. My sense of accomplishment fueled my interest in continuing with the sport. And in less than a year I ran my first marathon.

I also bought a bike and entered a sprint triathlon around the same point in time. This was where I faced my greatest challenge, since swimming has always been a struggle for me. I used a noodle on the swim. It may as well have been an inner tube. Out of two thousand women, I was 9th from last on the swim. Then I kissed my bike, made my way through the crowded streets and ended up finishing in the middle of the field. I learned a great deal during that race about my self and my ability. I was not invincible. I needed to practice swimming. I needed to train with more brick sessions. I needed to alter my nutrition.

The following year, I returned to the same sprint triathlon determined to test out my new skills. I had done my research. I had taken swim lessons. I had done weekly bricks. I had tested my nutrition through trial and error. The hard work paid off. I finished that race first in my age group and nineteenth overall. I discovered how a challenging experience could be used as research toward a more positive one in the future. Now I’m always excited for my next race, as it’s an opportunity to test my hypotheses once again.

While recently juggling triathlon training and attending college full-time for my Master’s in Psychology, I have realized that the two are closely intertwined. The cognitive aspect of training and racing is an exercise in mental toughness and inner dialogue. I have self reflected over and over again and discovered the therapy that endurance racing offers.

This also elicited the question of why I’m able to use my inner dialogue to push forward, while some athletes are paralyzed by self-defeating thoughts and fear. I am not the bionic woman; my legs feel like lead bricks at mile 18 of the run during an Ironman, my back aches from a 40 lb pack after my seventh summit of the day in the White Mountains, and my vision becomes impaired at mile 90 of a hot century ride. Yet, somehow, I push through this feeling while others surrender to of the pain, turn back, or give up.

What separates us? I propose that it’s my inner dialogue, which is motivational and empowering. I have a drill sergeant within my own mind. When I grow tired or ache all over, my internal self says, “Suck it up, this is nothing!” My exhaustion and desire to slow down is overcome by my excitement and drive, while other athletes’ exhaustion and desire to slow down are exacerbated by feelings of disempowerment and defeat. The same thought creates a different inner dialogue for different athletes. The perception of our thoughts produces different behaviors and subsequent outcomes. As it turns out, endurance athletes are in a continuous process of engaging in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with themselves.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is therapeutic intervention in which thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are intertwined. The way we choose to react to a triggering event is dependent on our interpretation and thoughts surrounding it. Following our thought is an emotional response, which in turn affects our behavior. Therefore, our thoughts and emotions control our actions… even when training and racing.

CBT

How can we use CBT to improve performances and interpret failures in a motivating way? First, pay attention to what your inner dialogue is saying to you. To use running as an example: The next hard tempo run that you go out for listen to your thoughts and physical responses. Do you give up on the fast pace a half mile prior to your anticipated distance? If so, then what were you thinking when you chose to slow down? Was your body tense and in a state of fear?

Understanding what happens within our body and thoughts just before we decide (yes, it’s a decision) to give up or slow down helps us to change future outcomes and improve performances. If we have self defeating thoughts such as, “I cannot meet my goal, I’m too tired” then working on a more productive thought pattern such as, “I’ve felt this tired before, time to dig deep and work toward closing in on that goal” can improve our performance and boost our confidence.

Pay attention to your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in training and racing. Challenge yourself to improve your inner dialogue and find the lesson learned in unmet goals. Work toward using difficult days as motivation. As my mom states, it’s all research. None of us have failed, just disproven hypotheses.

“Do not dedicate your life to your sport, but rather, dedicate your sport to your life.”
-Dan Millman

“There is no failure, only feedback.”
-Mark Allen

About Alton:
Alton is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor specializing in cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness. She’s also a trail runner, triathlete, wolf mama and part-time superhero.

Follow Alton on Instagram: @trailbright

Alton

You are the Captain of Your Vessel

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As humans, we tend to learn best through metaphor. That’s why the most profound spiritual texts are gloriously allegorical.

To leverage this effect, I came up with an illuminating metaphor for the mind, body and spirit:

Life is a voyage and you are the captain of your vessel.

Life is the journey, the expedition, the adventure. It’s truly a tremendous experience.

“Reality” is the scene upon which your voyage takes place. It is the ocean, the weather, the wind…etc.

Your body is the ship, or vessel. Your mental and emotional states are the sails of the ship. And you (the ‘I am’ presence) are the captain of the ship.

Let me elaborate a bit…

Life is like a “choose your own adventure” game as well. You select your ship and set out on your own unique voyage.

Reality, the ocean, is the stage upon which life is set. Can we control the weather, the wind or the scenery? Perhaps. Maybe reality is participatory and co-created by all of us, like a highly advanced, completely customizable online multiplayer video game. But until we know that for sure, this quote provides potent advice…

“When you can’t change the direction of the wind — adjust your sails” – H. Jackson Brown

Sail towards your purpose. Sail towards your passions. Sail towards your essence. And realize that it’s not about the destination, but about the journey itself. The deep sense of fulfillment you’re looking for is found by fully embracing the bliss that lies within every moment of the experience.

Harmonizing all aspects of self will maximize your journey. Neglecting any element of yourself will inevitably result in a less-than-enjoyable voyage.

If you neglect your physical body, your vessel, you’ll become a shipwreck prematurely. A damaged ship will gradually sink, no matter how nice the weather or how competent the captain is. And before it sinks, it will move slowly and require constant maintenance, leaving little time for enjoyment.

If you neglect your sails, you’ll always be at the mercy of the weather. You will be a victim of circumstance. The winds will have their way with you. You will have trouble avoiding turbulent weather. No matter how adept your captain is or how strong your ship is, it won’t last long being battered by constant storms.

If you neglect your spiritual self, the captain, then you essentially become a vessel without a pilot. You will be aimless, with no awareness to experience the beauty of the journey. The absence of the captain makes the voyage meaningless.

To harmonize the totality of self, you don’t have to be perfect. You don’t need to be the perfect captain, or have the perfect boat or have the perfect sails. But you cannot neglect any of them if you wish to make the most of your voyage.

A harmonious self would consist of a fun-loving, skillful captain, sailing a strong vessel. The sails would be well-kept and adjusted to each unique circumstance. You will be able to enjoy the good weather, and when storms come, persevere and become stronger as a result.

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How to Maximize Your Voyage: 2 Actionable Items for Each Aspect of Self that You Can Implement Today

Regarding Your Body (The Ship):

1. Just Eat Real Food – The 80/20 of healthy eating is as simple as eating real food. If it has a commercial or a mascot, it’s probably not good for you. Like Jack LaLanne said, “If man made it, don’t eat it.”

For a simple diet that will help cultivate health and strength, I highly recommend Jason Ferruggia’s Renegade Diet (click here to get it).

2. Move – Move your body daily. Walk as much as possible, practice yoga, lift weights, hike a mountain…etc. Our bodies are built to move. So much dysfunction comes from too much sitting and stagnation. Even gentle movement (like walking or light stretching) allows for lymphatic circulation, blood circulation, chi circulation, effective digestion and normalized hormones; all of which are absolutely crucial for good health.

Regarding Your Mind/Emotional State (The Sails):

1. Don’t complain for a day – Complaining is utterly useless. It’s passive and negative. Either let things go, or take action to change them, and continue flowing through life with a sense of empowerment. Challenge yourself to not complain and your life will never be the same.

2. Be present – Be here now. The present moment is all that ever exists. Only refer to the past or future when they’re completely relevant to the now. Presence is where inner peace is found and creates space for awareness. From that awareness, you are in the position to change anything in your life.

“All negativity is caused by an accumulation of psychological time and denial of the present. Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry – all forms of fear – are caused by too much future, and
not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms
of nonforgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.” – Eckhart Tolle

Further reading: There Are No Problems in the Present Moment

Regarding Your Spirit (The Captain):

1. Meditate daily – If you’re new to meditation, set a timer for 2 minutes and do absolutely nothing. You can sit or lay down, whatever is more comfortable. Simply observe your thoughts while breathing deeply. Meditation, like presence, begets awareness. Meditation allows you to use the mind as a tool without getting overwhelmed by it. Make it a daily habit.

2. Show gratitude – Every day, write down at least three things that you’re grateful for. Show gratitude for everything in your life. This will not only make you happier, but also open the door to all forms of abundance. The feeling of gratitude is so fulfilling and it aligns your spirit with the other aspects of yourself, uniting the wholeness of your being in joyful harmony.

Remember, you are the captain of your vessel.

Enjoy the voyage.

– Stevie P
 

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Why I Don’t Get Sick (And You Shouldn’t Either)

It’s the middle of winter, for those of us in the northern hemisphere.

And most people are all like…

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The cold can actually be invigorating if you’re well equipped. But many have a hard time even accepting chilly weather (let alone enjoying it.)

Why? Because this time of year also goes hand in hand with people getting sick. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Too many people are simply not willing to take responsibility for their own well-being.

People blame the weather for not feeling well. They blame the cold. They blame their genetics. They blame their co-workers. They do everything imaginable to avoid taking responsibility for their own health. That’s willingly giving your power away, in exchange for a life of perpetual victimhood and ill-health. Well, fuck that, let’s take our power back. You don’t have to fall victim to “cold season,” “flu season,” or any season that doesn’t consist of you exploding with awesomeness.

I personally haven’t been sick in years. I’m not a superhero (not yet at least). I wasn’t born with superior anti-sickness genetics. What keeps me feelin’ good, feelin’ great is the habits I’ve included in my lifestyle. I refuse to let my well-being be a slave to external factors, and that’s one of the most empowering things you can do.

So here’s a list some things I’ve included in my lifestyle that help keep me from getting sick:

 

1. Drink water – Actually, drink A LOT of water. Always. Water is kiiinda crucial for survival, you know. And if you’re dehydrated, a lot of things go wrong. This one is obvious, but always needs repeating. Staying hydrated is mandatory for any state of good health. I chug a glass of water (with some apple cider vinegar) first thing every morning. And I always drink tons of water throughout the day.

Note: Tap water (in the US) contains flouride, and plastic bottled waters contain BPA’s. Both are bad news for the body (That’s beyond the scope of this article, but feel free to do your own research if you’re interested). So some good alternatives are filters that remove flouride (I use this), glass bottled waters, or natural spring water that you bottle yourself.

+Check out this interview for an in-depth look at water, hydration, and health.

2. Cold showers – Cold showers come with tons of benefits, one being increased immune function. I start my showers with warm/hot water, and I switch to cold water halfway. It’s a lot easier to do this than just jumping in a cold shower. You can start by just turning the water cold for the last 30 seconds of your shower. As you start to love it (you will), you’ll naturally add more and more time under cold water. Cold showers wake you up LIKE WHOA too. It’s my secret weapon to starting the day off right.

+Read more about the benefits of cold showers here.

3. Apple cider vinegar – The benefits of apple cider vinegar are endless. And most of the benefits involve both preventing and curing sickness. I put it in water. I put it in tea. I add it to salads. When in doubt, bust the ACV out.

+8 Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar
+15 Reasons to Use Apple Cider Vinegar Every Day

4. Vitamin D – Vitamin D is critical for the immune system. Supplementing with Vitamin D is probably the single most important thing you can do to stay healthy during the winter. I take 5,000 IU every morning, and I get a lot more from cod liver oil as well.

+Why Vitamin D is Better than ANY Vaccine and Improves Your Immune System by 3-5 Times

5. Coconut oil – Coconut oil is my panacea. It’s antibacterial and anti-microbial, making it perfect for keeping sickness at bay. I cook with coconut oil, put it in coffee, and include it in a lot of recipes. I also do something called oil pulling every morning. I just swish coconut oil around in my mouth and pull it between my teeth for a few minutes. Oil pulling is so effective because it rids the mouth of bacteria. The mouth tends to harbor a lot of bacteria, which can be taxing on the immune system, so this frees the body up to more easily optimize itself.

+Coconut Oil & the Immune System
+10 Facts About Coconut Oil
+Why You Should Start Oil Pulling Today

6. Greens powder – Aka nutritional insurance. Most greens powders are packed with vitamins, minerals, and condensed superfoods that will undoubtedly strengthen immunity (among many other benefits), keeping you healthy and energized. What I do is drink a glass of greens powder mixed with water every day, while in a fasted state, right before my first meal to ensure maximum nutrient absorption.

+This is my favorite greens powder.

7. Maintaining good gut health – Many people just don’t realize how important gut health is. At least 80% of the immune system is directly related to gut health. A lot of health experts say that everything starts with the gut, and that couldn’t be more on point.

Here’s what I do (and don’t do) to maintain optimal gut health:

Do’s: Eat fermented foods (like sauerkraut), supplement with probiotics and/or digestive enzymes, and eat real food (sorry pop-tarts).
Don’t’s: Avoid processed foods as much as possible. Processed food compromises gut health and creates all kinds of bodily dysfunction. Limit processed foods, and you’ll allow you’re immune system to optimize. Avoid antibiotics unless you really, really need it. Antibiotics kill healthy gut flora, leaving you with sub-par gut health and a compromised immune system (I elaborate on this below).

+80 Percent of Your Immune System is Located in Your Digestive Tract

8. GO (Garlic and Onions) – Both garlic and onions are well-known for staving off many forms of ill health. And for good reason. They work like a charm. I eat garlic and onions with every meal. And recently, my sister’s boyfriend shook off a cold within hours by eating a few cloves of garlic. The GO combo works, plus it’ll keep vampires away.

+Garlic, The Immune System Booster
+Are Onions Good for Your Immune System?

9. Herbs and spices on everything – All herbs and spices are immensely beneficial to health. The more you use, the more optimized you’ll be. Some immune boosting herbs and spices I use every day are turmeric, oregano, ginger, black pepper and parsley. As my motto goes, “Turmeric… I put that on errthang.”

+The Benefits of Turmeric
+Spicing Up Your Immune System
+6 Health Benefits of Parsley

10. Short-term intermittent fasting (daily) – Short-term fasting allows the body to repair cells (a process called autophagy) instead of constantly devoting energy to digestion. I don’t eat anything until lunch time, so I usually spend 15-16 hours a day without food . I’ll have coconut oil in my coffee (at 10-11am) most days though. Because a fun fact is that you can get all of the benefits of fasting by just ingesting pure fat, hence the coconut oil coffee as “breakfast.” (Read more about that here.)

+Natural Cures: Fasting
+Leangains (tons of great info on intermittent fasting)

11. Alcohol-hacking – Alcohol causes dehydration and depletes your vitamin stores (among a bunch of other negative effects depending on the amount). That’s why it’s crucial to be especially on point with keeping your immune system strong while indulging in the spirit. A night out drinking can easily turn into a bad hangover with a lingering cold. The protocol linked below will help you to avoid that fate and stay feelin good, feelin great.

+The Bulletproof Exec: Alcohol Without the Hangover

When gettin’ my drank on, I always apply the Vitamin C/NAC part of the protocol (Step 2). And the morning after, I do a short fast and drink TONS of water until I start feeling hungry again (which is usually in the early afternoon). This makes me feel 1,000 times better than when I would wake up and shove food in my face. Just some food (or lack thereof) for thought.

12. Limiting consumption of grains – The consumption of grains (and really anything with gluten in it) is linked with all kinds of bodily dysfunction. Too many to list them all. But regarding getting sick, grains cause digestive problems (remember the importance of gut health?) as well as autoimmune reactions (like allergies). One thing I’ve noticed is that ever since I started avoiding grains on a regular basis, I don’t get seasonal allergies. I’m like MC Hammer to allergies these days, they can’t touch me.

+The Awful Truth About Eating Grains

PS – Don’t be fooled by the “whole wheat is healthy” propaganda. It’s not healthy. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. And, in general, grains today are far different from the grains of ancient times. I highly recommend reading the book “Wheat Belly” for an extensive look into the health effects of grains.

13. Avoiding over-the-counter meds (and antibiotics unless completely necessary) – Don’t take meds unless you really need to. They only cover-up symptoms and suppress the immune system. Antibiotics destroy gut flora, including the good kind (There’s that gut health connection again). So if you have sub-optimal gut health, you’re setting yourself up for disaster in the form of perpetual sickness. This is why if you do have to take antibiotics, it’s crucial to supplement with probiotics to restore healthy gut flora. And have you noticed that everyone who regularly takes over-the-counter meds are the ones who are always sick? Hmm.

And here’s a crucial point to understand:

“There is a common perception that if you’re coughing, sneezing or have a low-grade fever, you must take a medication to get rid of it. In reality, coughing and sneezing are tools your body uses to get rid of viruses and irritants, and fever also helps to kill bacteria and viruses.”Anti-Fever Drugs May Prolong Flu

+The high price of antibiotic use: can our guts ever fully recover?

14. Avoiding flu shots – Don’t believe the hype. They’re repeatedly proven to be ineffective, potentially dangerous, and they’re just unnecessary. There are so many far better approaches to staying healthy; with no appointments, no needles, no heavy metals and no side effects.

+Flu Vaccine And Its Side Effects

15. Let the immune system work its magic – Go outside, breath the fresh air, get dirty. Exposing yourself to germs on a regular basis keeps your immune system functioning as it should. Sanitizing everything leaves the immune system dormant, so it can’t handle it when there’s a real threat. This is especially important for kids in developing a well-functioning immune system, in my opinion.

And on the other side of the spectrum, if your immune system is perpetually overwhelmed, it obviously won’t be able to work as it should either. If you’re assaulting your body with foreign toxins from pop-tarts (sorry again pop-tarts), stressing about your job 24/7, and not sleeping enough, your body will have a lot of trouble fighting off anything.

Another point is that if your gut health (again!) is messed up, your body starts exhibiting extreme reactions…

Abnormalities in your immune system—such as allergies and autoimmune diseases—are a common outcome of GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome), as about 85 percent of your immune system is located in your gut. When your gut flora is abnormal, your gut lining begins to deteriorate, since it is actively maintained by your gut flora. The beneficial bacteria in your gut make sure the cells that line your entire digestive tract are healthy, well-fed, and protected from chemical or microbial attacks. But as your gut lining deteriorates, the junctions between the cells open up, causing your gut to become porous, or “leaky.” According to Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, who discovered GAPS:

“It becomes like a sieve, and foods don’t get the chance to be digested properly before they are absorbed. They’re absorbed in this maldigested or partially broken down form. When the immune system and the bloodstream finds them and looks at them, it doesn’t recognize them as food. It says, ‘You’re not food. I don’t recognize you,’ and it reacts to them. It creates immune complexes, which attack these partially digested proteins. As a result, we’ll get all sorts of symptoms in your body.”
+When Food Turns Deadly

16. Adequate sleep – Sleep is the ultimate recovery mechanism. It’s crucial for everything health-related, especially staying immune to sickness.

+Sleep and Immune Function
+New links between sleep deprivation, immune system discovered
+How Sleeping Can Affect Your Immune System

17. Don’t stress – Everyone knows how bad continuous stress is on the body. It also suppresses the immune system. Learn to let go. Make lifestyle changes to release constant stress. Some of the best stress relievers are yoga, meditation, deep breathing, laughing, smiling, exercise, walking, and most importantly having FUN!

Pretty much every article on here addresses this issue too, so check out the archives 🙂

+Stress Weakens The Immune System

18. Self-brainwashing for vibrant health – One of the reasons I don’t get sick is because I tell myself I don’t get sick. Successful people brainwash themselves for success; unsuccessful people brainwash themselves for victimhood. You see this all the time, the people who are always sick always talk about how they’re sick. They personally identify with being sick. So their thoughts, emotions, and actions become a breeding ground for sickness. Like David Icke said, “A victim mentality creates a victim reality.”

“Thoughts give rise to neuropeptides and chemical reactions which produce physiological results…in the mind-body connection every change in the mental-emotional state causes a change in body physiology and…energy manifesting into physical matter. Feelings are chemical. They can kill or cure.” -Candace Pert, PhD

“What controls the composition of your blood, and therefore the fate of your cells? …signals from the environment…interpreted by the mind… The brain releases chemistry into the blood that controls cell behavior and genetic activity. If you change your belief and perception, you can change the chemistry of your blood and create your own biology.” -Bruce Lipton, PhD

You are what you think.

+The Placebo Effect: Transforming Biology With Belief
+Does Consciousness Create Reality? The Double Slit Experiment
+Scientific Proof That Thoughts & Intentions Have The Power To Alter The Physical World Around Us
+Emoto’s Water Experiment: The Power of Thoughts

2 fantastic books, if you’re interested in how thoughts and emotions manifest in the physicality:

+You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay
+The Biology of Belief by Bruce Lipton

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So there you have it.

Implement some of these, and your immunity will be stronger than Mariusz Pudzianowski after taking too much pre-workout.

Implement all of these, and you’ll use your would-be-sick days from work to fly around the world with a cape on.

(But really though, you’ll never get sick and feel great 24/7.)

Stop being a sickly little victim.

Hop back into the driver’s seat of your well-being, and head straight to awesomeland.

Stay feelin’ good, feelin’ great.

-Stevie P!

What I’ve Learned From Intermittent Fasting

Let me preface this Post by discussing my Life as a little Corn Flake, back in the day. I was a kid who, in General, Mills around and anxiously Chex the pantry for a big-ass breakfast within minutes of waking up in the morning. A kid who Kix away a finished box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch only to tear into a new one. A kid who Smacks his jaws together, excitedly Gorilla Munch-ing away at the Cocoa, Krispy goodness. I was literally Cap’n Crunch at the breakfast table.

^See what I did there?

I loved cereal. And I loved breakfast in general.

I would get nauseously hungry if I didn’t eat within an hour of waking. I would get more and more irritable as each morning minute passed. There was zero cognitive function until food went down my gullet. I literally thought I would die if I didn’t eat breakfast. I was completely dependent on breakfast, and a slave to hunger.

Remember those old Honeycomb commercials? “Me want Honeycomb!!!” That about sums it up.

This dependency even continued into early adulthood, even though I made better breakfast choices. Usually some sort of omelette or anything else involving eggs.

But I was never really aware of any of this until I started experimenting with intermittent fasting. I tried out Leangains in January 2012 and haven’t had breakfast since. Leangains is a 16/8 style of intermittent fasting. And like most people, I made my eating window during the afternoon and evening. Usually starting between 12-2pm and ending between 8-10pm. So this meant skipping breakfast. And you know what? It sucked for like 3 days. I remember thinking about hunger and eating became all-consuming during those days. I would literally count down to the time I could eat. But by day 4, I felt awesome. Even better than before. Even better than I thought was possible beforehand. I’ve gotten in the best shape of my life by far (both physically and mentally) while practicing various forms of intermittent fasting. And I haven’t looked back since.

So here’s the lessons I’ve learned from intermittent fasting over the last 18 months or so:

I have more energy when fasted. I’ve noticed that my energy levels are through the roof when I’m in a fasted state. You might think it would be the opposite, but everyone reports similar experiences. The body uses a lot of energy to digest food, so it makes sense that you would have more energy available when you’re not digesting food.

I’m more focused and alert when fasted. I have laser-like focus. I get less distracted. My concentration is on point. This goes hand-in-hand with the energy levels.

I’ve learned to align my habits with the human body’s circadian rhythm. This piggybacks on the last 2 points. Having my fasting period during sleep and throughout the morning leverages both the advantages of fasting and the body’s circadian clock. Check out the diagram below:

Circadian Rhythm

Notice that high alertness is around 10:00am. If you get a big insulin spike/crash from a bowl of sugary cereal, a bagel (or any of the typical American breakfasts), you’ll disrupt this and have the energy levels of a tranquilized sloth. This research/experimentation has also expanded my awareness of the cyclical nature of both the human body as well as everything else in our Universe. Very interesting stuff.

I get more done in the morning. The result of everything I just described above. I get so much done in the morning and feel so on point. I feel like I can get in the zone more easily when I’m in a fasted state.

No more mindless snacking. Going 16 hours a day without food and only eating 2 meals a day has created awareness regarding everything I eat. When I eat my meals, I make them count. So because of this, I have no need to mindlessly munch on foods throughout the day. I just have no interest in it anymore. I don’t snack, I just eat satisfying meals. Because of this, I get way less temptations and stay in line with my health and fitness goals. And it makes me more productive too. See my post on mindless snacking here.

A little hunger won’t kill me. You can go a few hours without starving to death. I broke out of the paradigm of needing to eat every few hours. I don’t snack throughout the day (see above) and I can easily control my hunger. Hunger is usually fleeting anyway, after a few minutes it disappears. Malcolm X even discussed how once you can control hunger, everything else is a walk in the park. Plus most people confuse hunger with thirst, and are chronically dehydrated. Which leads me to my next point.

I drink more water. When I’m not eating for a certain amount of time, I naturally drink more water. It keeps me alert, satisfied, and adds to the detoxing effects of fasting. Water is a higher priority for survival than food, but most people’s consumption habits are the other way around. For some great information on water and health, read THIS.

Fasting is a God-send after a night of drinking. After a night out these days, I’ll usually wake up and drink a gallon of water within a few hours, then eventually eat whenever I feel like it. This makes me feel infinitely better compared to when I would wake up, hungover and full of toxins, only to immediately eat cereal (or whatever other breakfast food). Fasting combined with lots of water is the perfect detox after a wild night.

I get more ravenous once I start eating, not while fasting. I don’t have much interest in food until I actually start eating. Fasting allows me to focus on other things. This is part of the reason why I don’t snack, too. Eating a little bit is a tease for me now. It just makes me hungry for more. We all have the remnants of that instinctual, animal-driven feeding habit. When you get a taste, it sparks a feeding frenzy. And intermittent fasting allows you to have big enough meals to satisfy this instinct. Think about it, when was the last time you had one cookie? Or just one handful of almonds? If you can do that, you have the willpower of a saint. But the truth is, most people don’t, myself definitely included. Which leads to the next point…

Intermittent fasting is a natural eating pattern. As stated above, it plays into both our instincts and our circadian rhythm. Also, do you think ancient people snacked all day? It was a cycle of hunting/foraging and eating after food was found. And do you think our ancient ancestors woke up to a feast right in front of them every morning? Nope. If your world turned upside-down because of what I’ve said about breakfast so far, check this out for more info.

I appreciate food more. And I have a better relationship with food. This goes along with what I said about mindless snacking before. Going 16 hours a day without food, and usually only eating 2 meals a day, makes me appreciate food when I do eat. I no longer eat with distractions. I don’t eat at my desk at work. I don’t eat in front of the TV (plus not having one helps with that haha). I don’t eat in front of my computer. I don’t eat while driving, walking…etc. I fully enjoy my meals either by myself or in the company of friends/family. And now, every meal becomes an experience. My taste buds have gone from black and white to HD. This might be the best thing that I’ve gotten out of intermittent fasting; I truly appreciate food now.

I have an inclination towards big meals instead of snacks. This can be a double-edged sword. Big meals equal more free time, less time thinking about food (unless I’m planning on making something awesome), being more satisfied, and more control over everything I eat. But the drawback of this is bottomless pit syndrome. It took me awhile to learn when to stop eating during a big dinner, but I eventually learned. Still though, I can eat a lot in one sitting these days. But doesn’t every animal do this? And if you can maintain control and use this to your benefit, then do it. I feel like this could be a big factor in whether people stick to intermittent fasting or not. If you like smaller meals, or if you can’t eat enough in 2-3 meals a day to function, then intermittent fasting probably won’t work for you. But if you like to eat until you’re satisfied (which I believe most people do), then intermittent fasting is a dream come true.

I eat less snack foods. Because I just stick to meals and don’t snack, I don’t eat “snack foods.” Most snack foods generally suck. Chips, crackers, popcorn, candy…etc are all health/physique wreckers and about as satisfying as a veggie burger to a tiger. So I never really find myself munching on snack foods, which easily keeps me in line with my health and fitness goals.

Increased body awareness. Controlling hunger, getting in tuned to when you’re satisfied, differentiating between hunger and thirst, going periods without eating…etc. Everything related to fasting creates more self-awareness for me. Body awareness is crucial. This is the only one we have, so I’m continuously getting to know mine better.

I take advantage of the benefits of doing things fasted. There’s a lot of things that have tremendous benefits when done fasted. HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) cardio has so many benefits when performed fasted, especially with fat loss. Walking fasted burns more fat and clears the mind. Read about the benefits of fasted resistance training here. The body absorbs many vitamins and nutrients more efficiently in a fasted state (that’s why I drink a greens powder mix before eating every day). Coffee has increased thermogenic (and thus fat loss) effects when fasted. Drinking water on an empty stomach is detoxifying, especially with squeezed lemon, lime, or apple cider vinegar. There’s a whole host of things that produce unique benefits in a fasted state. And I encourage you to further research anything above that sparks your interest.

Makes traveling easier. I usually fast most of the time when I’m traveling. I usually travel in the morning or early afternoon whenever I go places, so it makes it easier. Instead of stopping at McDonald’s because “I need to eat something,” I just drink water and maybe some coffee. This allows me to easily bypass all of the garbage they call food in rest areas and airports. Combine this with the “getting shit done” benefit of fasting and travelling becomes productive. I get a lot accomplished when I travel these days. Reading, writing, brainstorming…etc.

It cuts time off of my morning routine. I can sleep later because I don’t eat breakfast. So it takes me less time to get ready and do anything when I wake up. There’s few pleasures in life better than getting an extra 30 minutes of sleep in the morning, right?

Freedom. I’ve gained more freedom through intermittent fasting. I no longer feel like I’m a slave to food or hunger. I always ate every few hours because I wasn’t mindful when eating, and I thought I had to eat all the time. Awareness has created a broader perspective for me. Not only in the dietary realm, but in life in general. And because I realized I don’t have to eat constantly and a little hunger won’t kill me, I feel more empowered. I’m more in control of my thoughts and actions, instead of blindly following conventional logic.

Growth through self-experimentation. Trying different forms of intermittent fasting has helped me step out of my comfort zones (ex/ control hunger), break monotonous patterns (by experimenting with different eating patterns), do things that most people will never do (eat one meal a day for a month, fast for 36 hours..etc.), building discipline when working towards a goal, acquiring knowledge and experience in health, fitness, and my body. All of this adds to my life experience and builds skills that apply to other aspects of my life.

Cui bono? (Who stands to benefit?) This is a great phrase that I now use/ask myself when figuring anything out. Researching/applying intermittent fasting has made me ponder why there aren’t more studies on it and why virtually no “big names” openly advocate it. And the reason is because there is no financial incentive in fasting. Since fasting is merely the act of abstaining from food, an act of not-doing, no one makes money when people fast. This is bad news for all of the cereal companies saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Bad news for all the companies selling 100 calorie snack packs for people who mindlessly snack all day. Bad news for supplement companies selling protein bars/shakes to people who think their muscles will wither away if they go 2 hours without food. I’ve learned to see through the bullshit and form my own conclusions. And I think that’s an invaluable skill to have.

I now question assumed facts. Everyone repeats the same things over and over. “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” “You need to eat (every few hours).” (Read this article for fasting myths debunked). And repetition, when done enough, creates a perceived truth that people just assume is correct. This applies to every aspect of life (look at how much everything is repeated on the news). I now question everything, especially assumed truths. This has given me freedom that I never thought possible. I no longer place blocks, limits, or preconceived notions on the world around me. I’m no longer in a box. I’m no longer rigid. I’m able to be like water. I’m able to evaluate the available information and draw my own conclusions.

Bruce Lee Absorb

My intermittent fasting timeline:

June- July 2011- Joel Marion and John Romaniello’s 25 day “Xtreme Fat Loss” diet.
Consisted of 5 (I think) 36-hour fasts. I kinda just threw myself into fasting when I tried this diet. Because I had 0 previous experience with fasting, going 36(ish) hours was tough. It was an entire day without food, including 2 nights of sleep (before and after). I’ll admit, I drank a lot of coffee and tea, chewed a lot of gum, and even had a 0 calorie vitamin water on almost all of these days (chemical-fest 2011!). But I think that just jumping into these relatively long fasts made everything else a little easier to get through.

December 2011- Played around with a couple 24 hour fasts. (See “Eat Stop Eat” by Brad Pilon)
I think I did 2 24-hour fasts according to Brad Pilon’s book. This was more of a mental thing than anything. I fasted from dinner one night to dinner the next night. Getting through breakfast time was tough, but once those hanger pangs passed it was smooth sailing.

January-October 2012- Leangains (When I first consistently fasted)
I fell in love with 16/8 fasting. Skipped breakfast, had a bigger lunch and dinner. It worked well for me both physically and mentally. I started adding aspects of  Jason Ferruggia’s Renegade Diet into this as well (by making lunch smaller and carb-free and dinner bigger with carbs, if I worked out beforehand)

October-November 2012- Warrior Diet
I wanted to push things even further. I read the Warrior Diet by Ori Hofmekler and applied it immediately. I had one main meal a day (and sometimes an apple or carrots in the afternoon as a light snack). I felt so good and so focused all day. It was awesome. But it somewhat compromised my strength and body composition. This could’ve been from not eating enough during my main meal, but I felt like I was eating too much in one sitting to begin with. I really had to work on stopping eating once I got started. So I decided to go back to 2 meals per day again.

November 2012-December 2013- Renegade Diet
Went back to what I was doing before I tried the Warrior diet. This time I followed the Renegade Diet more closely.

January-Present- Carb Backloading
Started experimenting with Carb Backloading variations. See my post on it here. My routine with CBL was similar to what I was doing with the Renegade Diet. The only differences were less fiber and more high glycemic foods on days I chose to “backload.” I do a lot of tweaking with this protocol, and it’s really flexible. The self-experimentation continues…

So basically, I haven’t eaten breakfast in 18 months. And I’m feelin good, feelin great about it.

Links to what I mentioned above:

Renegade Diet

Eat Stop Eat

Leangains

Warrior Diet

Carb Backloading

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People with similar intermittent fasting experiences:

http://www.paulmihalescu.com/awesomefasting/

http://jamesclear.com/intermittent-fasting-lessons-learned
 

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What You’re Completely Overlooking During Your Workout

So I was in the gym in my apartment building the other day. I warmed up on the yoga mat, then made my way to the dumbbells. But before I even picked up a weight, I noticed this guy… Painfully skinny, shrugging spastically jerking dumbbells with reckless abandon. Dropping the weights (like it’s hawwwt) and panting like housecat on crack, he picked up some lighter weights. Wise choice, I though to myself. But nah, he took two steps back and started swinging them up to his shoulders as fast as his little arms could move. An his head was turning from side to side the whole set. After this, he “rested” with some intense pacing around the gym like he forgot his keys or something. At this point I was done observing. I couldn’t watch anymore. I had to get in the zone and begin my workout. And luckily, Mr. Fant-spastic’s blind intensity reminded me of the most important factor when working out…

…Awareness.

mark your calendars

a·ware·ness [uh-wair-nis] – noun – the state or condition of being aware; having knowledge; consciousness.

Awareness of what you’re doing right now. The present moment. Awareness of the movement you’re performing. The correct form. Your breathe. Your body’s positioning. Your grip. Where you’re looking. Just being conscious of what your body’s doing.

Awareness (during workouts) creates focus and strengthens the mind-body connection (or as it applies to working out, the mind-muscle connection).

Focus on the task at hand. Focus on the muscles that need to be activated to execute the movement. Focus on producing tension.

The mind-muscle connection aligns the mind and body towards the same goal. It is shifting your awareness and focus to the muscles required to perform a movement. It’s basically living vicariously through your muscles.

Most people’s minds and bodies are doing completely different things while they’re working out. Their bodies are performing a movement, but their minds are elsewhere. They’re thinking about how they look in the mirror, what the person next to them thinks of them, what they’re going to have for dinner, the next exercise, whether Charmeleon evolves into Charizard at level 32 or 36 (it’s 36 btw), blah blah blah. Caught in an endless loop of mind chatter. They ruminate over everything but neglect the only true reality; the task at hand (the now).

They have no directed focus. Their attention is drawn to everything outside of themselves. Instead of focusing on the environment we have control over, they focus on the external. Their mind is elsewhere, and it’s obvious. Obvious in their frantic aura, unfocused eyes, and the structural integrity of their body. Don’t be one of these people.

If we can’t be aware of our own bodies and minds, then what can we really be aware of?

If we can’t focus on the movement of our bodies, then what can we really focus on?

If we can’t give full attention to the only thing we have complete control over, then what can we really give our full attention to?

You can just tell when someone is in the zone. They’re unconcerned with what’s going on around them. Completely focused. In a meditative dance with their body. Their awareness is where it needs to be in order to produce the desired results. And more often than not, their mental and physical states will reflect this.

When we harness awareness of the body and mind, it becomes a hinge. A hinge we can leverage to create success in every other aspect of life.

Awareness applies to anything and everything.

Now here’s the purely physical aspect of it all. That guy I saw in the gym doesn’t look how he wants to look. This was practically radiating out of him. He wants to be muscular. He wants to feel powerful. But he’s skinny, not muscular, and not even particularly lean. And that’s not me judging, it’s just an assessment of how it is.

Everyone deserves a body they can be proud of. A body they can be comfortable in. A body that enhances their experiences.

So where to start?

Workout Awareness 101:

Tell yourself that this workout will be some “alone time.” How you view your workouts is the most important factor in determining how aware you’ll be. Just you, your body, your mind, and whatever you have to do to get from point A to point B. You didn’t come to show off. You didn’t come to make friends. You didn’t come to impress anyone. You came to build a stronger version of yourself.

Learn correct form (and perfect it with practice). This should be obvious. But at least educate yourself a little bit on how to do something before you hurt yourself flailing around like a rabid monkey.

Visualize the exercise. Visualize the action, then actualize the vision. Throughout the day, and right before you perform an exercise, visualize yourself executing it perfectly. Visualization creates a desired outcome in your mind, and acts as practice for you to successfully make it a reality. It sets you up for success. All successful people do this. And you should too.

Touch/poke the muscles you need to activate. Seriously, this works. Touch the muscles you want to activate before your set, and you’ll have an easier time establishing the mind-muscle connection. I literally couldn’t activate my lats while doing pullups until I started doing this.

Focus on the muscles you’re going to use. Nothing else. No distractions or mental roaming.

Use a slower tempo than normal (you can increase the tempo once you get better at it) and squeeze the working muscles as hard as you can.

Breath deep. As Elliott Hulse says, “Breath into your balls.” The importance of breathing cannot be stressed enough. Deep breathing stills the mind and creates awareness. This is why deep breathing has played a big part of Eastern philosophy. Breathing also allows you to maximize the force your body produces (that’s next).

Inhale during the eccentric part. Exhale during the concentric part. Think of inhaling as drawing force into your body, and think of exhaling as exerting force out of your body. So  during a pushup, you would inhale as you’re going down (visualize bringing energy into the body) and exhale as you push yourself up (visualize that energy exploding out).

Make everything count. You will only have this moment once. Half-concentrating is doing yourself a great injustice. It’s conditioning both your mind and body to be weak and complacent. Take advantage of the now, because that’s all we ever have.

Potential side-effects of awareness as it applies to working out:

Laser-like focus and mind-muscle connection (see above).

Presence. This is what a lot of spiritual teachings stress. The present is all that exists. The past and future only exist in the mind. Being present puts you at ease and makes life more fulfilling. And like anything, you become better and better at being present with practice.

Meditation. Working out becomes a meditative practice. So you kill two birds with one stone. You get all the physical, mental, and spiritual benefits while being  _________________.

Body awareness. Posture, alignment, bodily tension, how you move, coordination, less risk of injury…etc.

Increased muscle activation and tension produced. You activate more muscle fibers and contract them harder. This means more strength, improved athletic performance, and more muscle growth.

Stronger mind-body relationship. Aligns the mind and body towards the same goals. You become more conscious of your body, and more in tuned with it. You’ll recognize things like how your body reacts to certain foods, situations where you tense up, your posture at work…etc.

Concentration. Working out with awareness is practice for concentration. We live in a world of multi-tasking and 24/7 distraction. Anything which allows you to completely focus will greatly hone your concentration ability.

Consistently hone your workout awareness and you’ll have the focus of a Tibetan monk with the strength of an Abdominal Swoleman.

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Some more good stuff:

Check out this great article entitled “The Zen of the Barbell.”

And here’s the ol’ Hodgetwins on mind-muscle connection.