The Attachment Trap

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“The root of all suffering is attachment.” – Buddha

Attachment is based in fear.

Think about it. You’re attached to your lover because you’re afraid they’ll leave. You’re attached to your job because you’re afraid of not making money. You’re attached to your identity because your ego is afraid to just BE. You’re attached to an idea because you’re afraid of being wrong or not knowing. You’re attached to everything you have because you’re afraid of what’s outside of your comfort zone. Can you see the trend?

So in many ways, attachment is “giving too many fucks.”

Now you might be saying, “Hold on! Are you telling me I shouldn’t care about anything?”

Nope. All I’m saying is to release attachments.

You can still love someone without being attached to them. In fact, true love has nothing to do with attachment. It is unconditional and freeing.

You can still do incredible work without being attached to it. I’m doing that while writing this. You can still make a positive impact on the world without being attached to the results. In fact, nonattachment increases the quality of everything you do.

The art of not giving a fuck is all about transcending fear and attachment. When you clear all of the bullshit you’ve accumulated throughout life, what are you left with? Peace, love, happiness and bliss.

And that’s what we’re all chasing – some combination of those feelings – right?

This was an excerpt from my book Essentialism and the Art of Not Giving a Fuck

Now… A Challenge to You

What are you attached to?

What ideas, beliefs, habits, addictions or patterns are you clinging to?

And here’s the key question: Which of those attachments do not benefit you?

Be honest with yourself.

Maybe it’s social media, your phone, sugar, coffee, alcohol, pornography, cigarettes, anger, complaining, watching the news, attention-seeking, victimhood…etc. Attachment comes in many forms.

Just saying “I can stop whenever I want,” is the telltale sign of self-deception.

Challenge yourself to drop all attachments for a short period of time. A week is great. But even a day would help.

Doing an attachment fast creates a pattern interrupt. It stops the momentum of any habit in its tracks and gives you much needed perspective.

From there you have the power of choice, instead of being a slave to your attachments.

Releasing attachments results in freedom. And only then can you be in a place of unconditional love.

Much love.

– Stevie P!

PS – For more on attachment, fear and letting go of things that don’t serve you, check out my book Essentialism and the Art of Not Giving a Fuck.

33 Ways To Instantly Change Your Energy

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Life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows…

We’re humans. We’re imperfect. And we grow through challenges.

While it’s important to acknowledge everything that comes up, you don’t have to unnecessarily wallow in it!

We all experience negative emotions, ranging from complete terror to sadness to just plain stagnation.

No matter what you’re going through, there are ways to change your energy. Of course, you must be aware in order to change it. Denial only makes the “problem” worse.

So first, be honest with yourself. How are you really feeling? Feel it deeply and become fully aware. From there, you now have the power to choose to shift it.

I get stuck in some kind of rut at least once per week. And when I do, I don’t deny it. I acknowledge it, notice where its stemming from and then transmute it.

And I’m able to transmute most things pretty easily because I have so many tools in my toolkit. Here are some of those tools…

 

33 Ways To Instantly Change Your Energy

  1. Deep breathing (into your belly)
  2. Alternate nostril breathing
  3. Shaking and vibrating your body
  4. Look up at the sky for 5 minutes
  5. Qigong
  6. Elliott Hulse’s Bio-energizer warmup
  7. Journaling
  8. Practice gratitude (3 things you’re grateful for)
  9. Dance
  10. Sing
  11. Chant (I like chanting “Om”)
  12. Put your bare feet in nature
  13. Walk outside
  14. Engage in some kind of art (writing, drawing, painting…etc.)
  15. Talk to someone who listens with compassion
  16. Rebounding on a mini trampoline
  17. A quick yoga session
  18. Take a cold shower
  19. Swimming
  20. Sauna
  21. Take an ice bath
  22. Meditate
  23. Visualization (visualizing your goals and sense of purpose)
  24. HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)
  25. Put your body in power positions (ex/ Smiling with your hands held high above your head)
  26. Stand on one leg for a couple minutes, then switch legs
  27. Laugh
  28. Cry
  29. Lay on the floor
  30. Do something spontaneous
  31. Pretend like you’re a kid again
  32. Put on your favorite song
  33. Speak in gibberish (make up your own language)

change your energy

Add these to your toolkit. And apply at least one of them whenever you’re feeling “off.”

With a bit of self-awareness, an idea of balance and the application of some of these techniques, you have the power to shift your energy.

I wish you well.

– Stevie P!

PS – For another great resource on shifting your energy, check out this article: An Active Meditation For People Who Don’t Meditate

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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This “Alien Meditation” Will Completely Refresh Your Perspective

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When was the last time you experienced complete awe? When was the last time you experienced that magical feeling of childlike wonder?

Most of us lose our sense of awe by adulthood and coast through daily life on monotonous auto-pilot. We slowly fade from being awe-inspired to being awe-tomatons.

Far too often, we go through life driven by routine and absorbed in incessant thoughts. This causes us to miss out on the effervescent magic of each experienced moment. Ask yourself this question: Am I mindful, or mind-full?

The magic comes back to us periodically though, when we do something completely new that tears down the walls of our comfort zones. It’s in these moments, where we surrender to the enigma of existence, that we feel vibrantly alive.

Word on the street is that Leonardo Da Vinci had a practice to spark this feeling of awe-inspired novelty. He would constantly search for something new in every familiar object. Da Vinci understood that viewing everything with such intense curiosity would be beneficial in many ways.

Take a moment to appreciate what it would feel like to experience everything with completely fresh eyes, like an alien who just beamed themselves to planet Earth.

“At every moment, you stand on alien ground,
presented ceaselessly the opportunity to become new with it.”
– Teal Swan

The Alien Meditation:

  • Step 1 – Close your eyes and take a deep breath.
  • Step 2 – Imagine that you’re an alien who just teleported to where you are.
  • Step 3 – See, perceive and experience the world around you as if for the first time.
  • Step 4 – Find something new about whatever you’re observing.
  • Step 5 – Bask in the awe, wonder and magic of it all.

Cherish the mystical miracle of life all around you. It’s always there, within the beauty of the present moment.

Much love.

– Stevie P!

For more about meditation, read my Introduction to Meditation.

How to Avoid Burnout

Burnout is a psychological term that refers to long-term exhaustion and diminished interest in work. (Wikipedia)

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Last week, I experienced true burnout for the first time in my life.

I’d be lying if I told you that I hadn’t felt it coming. And a lot of people in my life hinted that I was trying to do too much. I was going on about 4 months of every minute of my life being goal-oriented. That goal, was (and still is) earning a living online, to give myself freedom of time and location.

During that period, I abstained from a lot of activities in favor of “getting shit done.” I didn’t drink any alcohol, rarely went out, didn’t have sex and didn’t see a lot of my good friends. I wrote like a madman, dove into countless projects, read voraciously, worked out like I was Ronnie Coleman and did a lot of yoga and meditation in an attempt to offset my extreme output. And this was all while holding down a 9-5 job as well.

I put insane amounts of pressure on myself at all times, constantly forcing myself to get more done. I was my own slave driver. Of course I enjoy this work (it’s a major part of my life purpose), but literally everything I did was geared towards my goal(s) in some way.

The yoga and meditation I practiced became goal-oriented (which, in some sense, almost defeats their purpose). I was practicing yoga to counteract all of the sitting I was doing and help rest (so I could workout harder and produce more content). I was meditating with the goal of gaining a higher perspective and getting more creative inspiration.

I even viewed sleep as merely a means to recover my ability to produce more.

Every single thing I did was aligned with my vision, and that became problematic. I was pushing the envelope of extreme output.

As last week progressed, I began to feel more and more burned out. But this drove me to a profound realization… I wasn’t ever allowing myself to just BE. And that’s the root of what was gradually wearing me down.

My creativity was the first to go last week. I noticed that I was less creative than usual on Monday and Tuesday. That was followed by feelings of fatigue. Then, on Wednesday night, a headache came on. The headache stayed with me into Thursday. The feeling of utter burnout got to the point where I left work early, went home and napped.

Note: These were all glaring signs to me. I was so used to creating as ravenously as 2pac. Feeling tired is so foreign to me. I don’t even remember the last time I had a headache before this. And I can only nap when I really, really need it. So with that combination of symptoms, I knew something was wrong.

After napping, I decided to spend the rest of the day completely “goalless.” I did some stretching, mobility work and practiced any yoga poses that felt good. I took a long shower. I watched some fascinating YouTube videos that caught my eye. I ate a jar of sunflower seed butter (so good). It was revitalizing to allow myself to just BE; no pressure, no to-do list and no goals.

I wound down for the night by reading The Fifth Sacred Thing until I fell asleep.

Then on Friday morning, I woke up feelin good, feelin great again. I feel like a phoenix, arising from its own ashes.

The Lesson

You have to balance the yin with the yang. You need rest to support activity. You need to balance goal-oriented time with goalless time.

If you keep pushing with blatant disregard for everything else, you’ll end up in a gray-zone of constantly trudging forward at nowhere near your full capacity. And if you continue this pattern long-term, you’ll end up in a downward spiral of mental, physical, emotional and spiritual dysfunction.

When you rest enough to balance your activity level, you’re then able push harder and continuously evolve into the greatest version of yourself.

What are some symptoms of burnout?

  • Less productivity – Spending more time while actually getting less done.
  • Less creativity
  • Less motivation
  • Loss of mental sharpness
  • Brain fog
  • Fatigue
  • Self-doubt
  • Anxiousness
  • Poor decision-making
  • Not taking care of yourself – Falling into negative patterns or activities more often.
  • Life begins to lose its vibrancy

How do you avoid or alleviate burnout?

  • Grounding into the Earth (walk barefoot in nature or just on grass) – This syncs you up with
  • Mother Earth. Because burnout has to do with mental overuse, you need to ground yourself into your body and the Earth.
  • Get out in nature – This goes along with the previous tip. Getting out in nature is wholly revitalizing. Do something like hike a mountain or walk in the woods.
  • Sleep more – Get the rest you need.
  • Engage in “yin” activities regularly – These are rejuvenative activities for the body, mind and spirit. Examples include meditation, gentle yoga, tai chi, qi gong, reiki, massage, acupuncture…etc.
  • Reduce screen time – Turn off the technology and unplug for a bit. Keeping your eyes glued to digital screens tend to exacerbate feelings of burnout.
  • Go on vacation – Go somewhere relaxing for a few days (or longer, depending on how burnt out you are) where you don’t have to do anything.
  • Set aside some “goalless” time – This worked like a charm for me.
    How to spend goalless time:
    1. Do whatever you feel like. Seriously, spontaneously do whatever you want (as long as it’s not harmful to yourself or others, of course). This is one of the most freeing things you can do.
    2. Don’t put any pressure on yourself. There is nothing to accomplish, no goals and no to-do lists.
    3. Just allow yourself to BE. Be present and thoroughly enjoy whatever you’re doing.
  • And most importantly, HAVE FUN! Life is too short to be taken too seriously. Enjoy yourself, live authentically, laugh, dance, climb trees and high five strangers.

Stay feelin’ good, feelin’ great.

– Stevie P!

The Art of Random Mindblowing

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A favorite activity of mine recently is randomly blowing people’s minds. Whether through conversation or action, it’s exciting to shake things up a little bit and get people to re-evaluate… well… everything.

Being a CRS (Certified Reality Shatterer) makes life so much more fun. Mindblowing, directed at both yourself and others, shakes up the bland monotony and adds some much needed spice back into life.

It is merging of your lighthearted, childlike essence with the wisdom of life experience; making the world your playground.

How to be a CRS (Certified Reality Shatterer)

Being a CRS means having fun with this experience of life. It’s being random, spontaneous and lovingly unpredictable. It’s shattering societal norms and blowing people’s minds (including your own).

It is being randomly funny, while not forcing people into anything or being preachy. It’s being unshakably yourself. No inhibitions and no fucks given. Living your inherent, brilliant uniqueness.

Comedically sneaking in wisdom is always fun…

Something like giving Pokémon cards to random people at a bar (yes, I’ve done that). Or saying “Planet Earth” when someone asks you where you’re from (my apologies to any extraterrestrial readers out there). Or even just being surprisingly kind. Believe it or not, it blows people’s minds when you go out of your way to be kind.

Another good one is calling the body a vessel, which I find hilarious, yet it implies that we’re infinite beings temporarily inhabiting human bodies. (getting deep on ’em)

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” -Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

And, remember, it’s all about shattering realities from a place of love. The art of random mindblowing is completely deviating from social norms and conditioning without causing harm to yourself or others.

Why do this seemingly ridiculous stuff?

The art of random mindblowing is making people re-evaluate everything and think differently, helping to create a world of brilliantly unique individuals. It’s dropping bits of wisdom in an entertaining manner.

It’s about being yourself. It’s about being free. It’s expressing your magnificent uniqueness.

We all sacrifice our freedom based on fear of what others think or pressure to conform to “norms.” And that’s no fun. Life is infinitely more fun and fulfilling when you do your own thing.

Imagine achieving the same level of minblowingness of Inception or The Matrix with your own ideas and actions. And making it funny, like a thought-provoking stand-up comedy set. Now that’s living.

“The decision is, do you want to live or want to exist?” -Andre 3000

The art of random mindblowing in action:

“Today a young man on acid realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration, that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively, there is no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we are the imagination of ourselves. Here’s Tom with the Weather.” -Bill Hicks

+A couple weeks ago at a crowded bar, I struck up a conversation with a really drunk girl comparing getting to the bar to a game of chess. We both agreed that we wouldn’t want to be a pawn haha. (Sneaking in deep insights.)

+One time, my friend Marcus spontaneously started konging on the street, next to a woman sitting outside at a restaurant. She didn’t know how to react. In case you don’t know what konging is…

+My Dad always purposely says the wrong name of anyone with a nametag (waitresses…etc.) It always creates an entertaining exchange.

+Mindblowing also works with evidence that effectively overturns commonly accepted truisms. Like how distance running is far from ideal for fat loss. I’ve shared this article (well worth the read) with a lot of people, and half-sarcastically say “I don’t wanna get fat” whenever the topic of long-distance running comes up.

+Inspired by writing the post, I did some CRS’ing today… In the parking lot of a Chipotle I walked up to a guy, while kind of staring at the sky, and asked “Excuse me, what planet is this?” in a tone of genuine curiosity. He looked at me and with a confused look said “Earth?” (almost second-guessing himself). Then I said “Ok, thank you.” turned around and walked away. I’m pretty sure he’ll be marinating on that moment for the rest of his life.

I’ve been doing a lot of random mindblowing lately; and been around some people who embody being a CRS as well. I hear a lot of things like “Oh, I never thought of it that way…” or “You’re funny/interesting.” Which is cool. Plus it’s just so damn fun.

Mindblowing intros:

“You look like some friendly beings.” -Me to a group of two women

“Hey, I recognize that vessel…” -My friend Marcus to some guy he met once before

“Hey, nice vessel.”

“What’s your thoughts on the human condition, in one sentence?”

“It’s a beautiful hologram we live in, right?”

Mindblowing goodbyes:

“Have the best night of your life.” -My friend Chris (to at least 100 different people on the streets of NYC one weekend)

“May all the dreams and desires of your heart come true this year.”Jay Electronica ending an interview. (I’ve started saying this one too; such a great way to say goodbye haha.)

And to piggyback on that Jay Electronica quote, I changed my email signature at work to say “May all the dreams and desires of your heart come true.” Now how’s that for shattering realities?

I also enjoy leaving people I’ll never see again with the classic David Icke quote… “Remember, infinite love is the only truth, everything else is illusion.”

I incorporate all this in my textual adventures too, especially with women I’m pursuing who are unresponsive. That’s the opportune time to let go, leave them with something thought-provoking, blow their mind and spark that inner light within. Exhibit A:

Text

Now get out there and blow some minds. Have fun, be spontaneous, be yourself and enjoy life.

May all the dreams and desires of your heart come true.

-Stephen Parato, CRS

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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There Is No “Right” Way

You don’t have to constantly abide by someone else’s rules.

You don’t have to do everything the way they tell you.

There is no “right” way to do anything.

You really don’t HAVE to do anything.

Live life on your own terms.

There is no right way to do anything. There are an infinite number of ways to get any result.

Two areas in which I caught myself falling into preconceived “right ways” were Yoga and Meditation. I always felt like I HAD to do these things to achieve a clear mind and access greater awareness. And I would literally force myself to do them, because I thought it was what I needed to do.

But you know what I realized? I feel better doing my own thing.

I always felt like I had to “officially” do yoga to release bodily tension, become more flexible, and achieve greater piece of mind. I felt like I needed to sign up for a yoga class and wear spandex (or whatever it is you’re “supposed to do”). But then I realized… I don’t really want to do yoga. I just want the inherent benefits.

I like lifting, specifically bodyweight training. That’s my thing. But what I do to supplement that training is mobility work, bioenergetic exercises, and some stretching. All yoga-esque in nature. I incorporate it in the morning, as a warm-up for my workouts, and whenever I feel tense or stiff. And you know what? It works for me. I don’t need to “officially” do yoga to get similar effects.

The other practice is meditation. Like most people, it’s difficult for me to “traditionally” meditate; sitting cross-legged for extended periods of time. Sitting like that is uncomfortable for me. I’d rather lie down.

So what I do instead of regular meditation is two different things.

One is to lie down (on my back with my eyes closed) and simply focus on my breath for a minute or two. Focusing on the breath encourages deep breathing , allowing the body to naturally relax as the mind enters a state of non-thinking.

The other is to lie on my back, eyes closed, and move my awareness through each part of my body, from the tip of my toes to the top of my head. I feel the energy vibrating through my body and my body becomes deeply relaxed. Also, focusing the mind (awareness) ceases all incessant mental chatter, which is very calming.

I really enjoy doing these things (unlike “regular” meditation). They don’t take much time. They clear my head and leave me feeling rejuvenated afterwards; all without sitting cross-legged in the woods for hours.

So next time someone says you have to do something, you probably don’t.

Next time someone says their way is the only way, they’re lying like Pinocchio.

Don’t feel pressured to do something, or do something a certain way.

Don’t be afraid to trust your own intuition and do things your way.

There are infinite ways to reach the same end.

Be ya self!

-Stevie P

4

Carb Backloading Experimentation (Updated)

Happy new year everyone!

To kick off 2013, I’m conducting a self-experiment with Carb Backloading.

But first of all, what is Carb Backloading?

Well, it’s a diet. To sum it up, you skip breakfast (or push it back, if you wanna get technical) and eat protein and fat (Paleo-esque) during the day. Eat lighter throughout the day, with the majority of calories being eaten at night. And if you resistance train in the afternoon/evening, you slam down simple sugars and insulin spiking carbohydrates at night. On off-days, you continue the protein and fat theme at night. That’s Carb Backloading in a nutshell. Sounds almost too enjoyable, right? It’s geared towards people who lift weights and are looking for body recomposition (more muscle, less fat). And the diet’s creator is a physicist by the name of Kiefer, who literally cites thousands of studies that contribute to the idea behind the diet. For more info on Carb Backloading, check out Kiefer’s website HERE.

So I’m trying out Carb Backloading and documenting my progress for the first month.

My goals with Carb Backloading for January:

  • More ab definition
  • Lose the love handles
  • Lose at least 3 lbs of fat
  • Gain at least 3 lbs of muscle

Before (the starting point): 1/1/2013

Weight: 173 lbs

Before pic… (after a night out for New Years Eve, months of no sun, and heavy indulgence in holiday season food and drink.)

I don't usually take shirtless pictures in the mirror, but when I do it's for self-experimentation.

I don’t usually take shirtless pictures in the mirror, but when I do it’s to document self-experimentation.

“Your body is almost always within your control. This is rare in life, perhaps unique. Simply focusing on some measurable element of your physical nature can prevent you from becoming a ‘Dow Joneser’, someone whose self-worth is dependent on things largely outside of their control. Job not going well? Company having issues? Some idiot making life difficult? If you add ten laps to your swimming, or if you cut five seconds on your best mile time, it can still be a great week. Controlling your body puts you in life’s driver’s seat.” -Tim Ferriss (4 Hour Body)

Expect an update at the end of January with my exact protocol and results.

Happy 2013 everyone!

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UPDATE (1/31/2013)

It’s been a month of Carb Backloading, and I’ve loved every minute of it.

Oh, and I’m going on vacation to Honduras in 2 days, so this acted as a deadline of sorts. I’ll be there for 8 days, with a lot to share when I get back. But for now, here’s my results from the past month.

Weight– 180lbs…So I gained 7lbs while getting slightly leaner (see the evidence below).

The Photo Evidence: (Double the mirror picture fun this time!)

Round 2 (notice the duck shower curtain)

 

Up close and personal

So… I made some progress (and lost some body hair haha). I didn’t expect a grandiose transformation in one month, as I’ve been in pretty good shape for a while now. But I’m pleased nonetheless. I’m slightly leaner, but I look bigger, and feel more powerful. Lovin it.

My Protocol:

Prep phase (1/1-1/10)
Ultra low carb (<30 grams per day). No fruits, starches, wheat, bread, legumes, berries, grain…etc. Lots of (grass-fed) meat, (wild-caught) fish, and veggies; with some dairy and nuts thrown in there.

Carb Backloading (Starting 1/11)
Wake up routine:
Glass of lemon water and apple cider vinegar
Bio-Energizer warm up
Listen to a 30 minute Spanish lesson while walking, because I’m going to Honduras on Saturday. (I did this about 20 out of 30 days)
Cold shower

Coconut oil coffee at least 2 hours after waking (black coffee if <2 hours of waking)

Typical Lunch:
Canned fish in a spinach salad, with onions, salsa, olive oil, whatever spices I had, and a lot of sauerkraut for digestion.

Typical Dinner:

Non-training days:
Ultra low carb (ULC). See prep phase.

Training days:
Backload after every other workout! (every 4 days) Just PWO (Post-Workout) shake on non-backload workout day, then eat ULC as normal.

Typical backload:
2 bowls of Nature’s Path Envirokidz Cereal (usually Koala Krisp) with Almond milk
White Rice with 1 egg cooked with Liquid Aminos.
16oz Cottage cheese (with cereal, honey, and whatever else seemed tasty at the time)

Supplements I used:
PWO (Post-Workout) shake: 3g Leucine and 5g creatine, and 15-20g whey isolate.
Greens powder (in water, before my first meal of the day)
Fish oil (about 5,000mg per day, whenever I remembered to take it)
Vitamin D (5,000mg) every morning. (Because it’s winter and flu season. Look ma, no flu shot.)

See my article HERE on supplementation.

Workouts

Workout every other day, switching between workouts A, B, and C. (Ex/ Monday=A, Wednesday=B, Friday=C, Sunday=A…etc)

Workouts (a variation of German Volume Training):
A- Push
10 sets of 10 with 90 seconds of rest
1- Overhead press with 30lb dumbbells (I know, I know. That seems light. But try doing 10 sets of 10 with 90 seconds of rest in between, then get back to me. I managed 10 reps for about 4 sets each time. Never got less than 7 reps on a set though.)
2 sets
3A- Close-grip pushups
3B- Baby birds aka Rear delt fly
Medball 200 as finisher

B- Pull
10 sets of 8 with 90 seconds of rest
1- Neutral Grip Pullups (I managed 8 for about 3-4 sets each time. Never got less than 5 reps on a set though.)
2 sets
3A- Underhand cable row from lower point
3B- Face pull (high)
Grip training

C- Legs
5 sets of 5 with 90 seconds of rest
1- Pistol squat
2 sets
2- Reverse Lunge (holding 30lbs on each side)
3 sets
3A- Hanging leg raise
3B- Jump Squats

Other random routines:

100 calf raises everyday (did it about 25 out of 30 days. Not bad.)

Put an ice pack on my neck 20-30 minutes 4-5 nights per week (described in Tim Ferriss’ book “The 4-Hour Body”) for fat loss.

Starting the Day Off Right

How many of us enthusiastically jump out of bed in the morning, ready to attack our day?

…Yeah, me neither. It’s a tough transition from the comfort of your bed to the cold void of darkness beyond it, but it’s gotta happen at some point.

“If you’re bored with life – you don’t get up every morning with a burning desire to do things – you don’t have enough goals.” -Lou Holtz

It’s crucial to establish a morning routine to start fresh, clear the mind, and shake out the cobwebs in the body. We need to wake up and prepare both the mind and body for the upcoming day. I’ve been doing what is called a Bio-Energizer Warm Up (brainchild of Elliot Hulse) every morning for the last week. It’s the very first thing I do after getting out of bed, and it has me feeling like Superman sippin’ Starbucks before I even step in the shower.

This pretty much sums it up:

Before

After

 

Watch Elliot demonstrating the Bio-Energizer Warm Up below…

There’s an article for it too, which you can read HERE

What are the benefits of having a morning routine like this:

  • Releasing tension- I find that the tension in my body is directly correlated with the tension in my mind. When one is tense, more often than not, the other is tense as well. So this is a great way to remove tension from both the body and mind. And there’s a whole host of benefits to releasing tension, which could be an article in and of itself.
  • Preparing the body and mind for the day- Clear mind, energized body. When I do the Bio-Energizer Warm Up, I feel a positive vibrational energy afterwards. The last exercise (Ground Pound) has a lot to do with this, and it’s a great feeling.
  • You get more excited for the day (even if it’s just a regular day at the office)
  • Improves mobility
  • Enhances recovery from strenuous exercise
  • It’s a form of dynamic meditation
  • Helps you to get ready faster (I can be a slow-motion-take-15-minutes-to-put-on-a-sock-zombie in the morning, and this speeds me up)
  • Makes a cold shower slightly less traumatizing afterward

Try it out, and let me know how it works for you.