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!

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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The No Excuse Nomad Workout for Traveling

NENW

Do you lose any semblance of a workout routine when you’re traveling or on vacation/holiday?

We all do to some extent. It’s so easy to not “do squat” (see what I did there?) while living the nomad life.

But just because you’re traveling doesn’t mean you have to leave your good ole friends health and fitness at home.

No gym? No fancy equipment? No problem. You don’t need anything (besides your own body) to get a good workout in. Rage against the machine and make use of the vessel you’re inhabiting.

I’ve been traveling for over two months now and I’ve created an effective travel workout routine as a result. Each workout takes only four minutes and all you need is your own body. It can be done anywhere and requires very little space (you can even do it in a tiny hotel room). So there are no excuses.

It’s never lack of time; it’s a lack of priority that prevents you from doing something. If you really want something, you will make time for it.

With this workout routine, you literally have no excuses for not doing it, besides being a lazy lemur.

Note: Anyone can do this and benefit from it, no matter your fitness level, gender, age…etc. You can also substitute variations of any exercise if they’re too difficult for you. For example, if regular pushups are difficult for you, you can do pushups from your knees.

The No Excuse Nomad Workout
These workouts follow the tabata template, which is 20 seconds of an exercise, followed by 10 seconds of rest, and this is repeated 8 times. So the workout lasts for a grand total of four minutes.

During each 20 second set of an exercise, make sure to push yourself. Go hard, rest, repeat.

Aim to do one workout everyday (but don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day), rotating between the upper body and the lower body workouts to give your body sufficient recovery time. Here’s what a week might look like: Monday = Upper body, Tuesday = Lower body, Wednesday = Upper body, Thursday = Whoops I forgot to work out, Friday = Lower body…etc.

And here’s a demonstration of me (in all of my European-esque sexiness) doing the first workout on the beach in Goa, India:

Workout 1: Upper body
Exercises: Pushups and Towel Rows

20 seconds of pushups
10 seconds of rest
20 seconds of towel rows
10 seconds of rest
20 seconds of pushups
10 seconds of rest
20 seconds of towel rows
10 seconds of rest
20 seconds of pushups
10 seconds of rest
20 seconds of towel rows
10 seconds of rest
20 seconds of pushups
10 seconds of rest
20 seconds of towel rows
10 seconds of rest

Variety:
For variety, you can do pike pushups for shoulders for one or two sets, instead of regular pushups.

Want to do more?
If you’re still feeling energized, you can do some bent over raises and curls with whatever is around (ex/ books).

Workout 2: Lower Body and Abs
Exercises: Jump Squats and Leg Raises (see the links for examples)

20 seconds of jump squats
10 seconds of rest
20 seconds of leg raises
10 seconds of rest
20 seconds of jump squats
10 seconds of rest
20 seconds of leg raises
10 seconds of rest
20 seconds of jump squats
10 seconds of rest
20 seconds of leg raises
10 seconds of rest
20 seconds of jump squats
10 seconds of rest
20 seconds of leg raises
10 seconds of rest

Want to do more?
If you’re still feeling energized, you can do some lunges and calf raises

Pick a time of day that will work for you:
Are you traveling for work? Do it in the morning or after work. Are you vacationing for leisure? Workout whenever you feel like it. Wake up early, or workout during that afternoon lull…etc.

2 Mindset Switches That Will Greatly Help You

1. Priorities – Are you going to prioritize working out? Are you willing to devote four minutes a day? As you probably know, the benefits of exercise (particularly resistance training) are virtually endless. Find that motivation within. Because, really, there are no excuses for not doing such a quick and accessible workout.

2. Stop caring about what other people think – There are opportunities everywhere, especially in public places, if you’re open to them (the beach, a park, playground…etc.). If you’re on the beach all day, why not work out? The only thing preventing you is caring what other people think. There will be no public hanging for you after you work out in public, I promise. Just do it.

Step into the strongest version of yourself.

Enjoy the journey.

– Stevie P!
 

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An Open Letter to the Spiritualist

Medita

Yes
You are a spiritual being
Having a human experience

But don’t ignore the fact
That you are in a body
A wonderful one at that

Are you going to take it for granted?
Are you going to overlook the vessel you inhabit?
Are you going to neglect the flesh?

Make the most of it
While it lasts
Embrace the experience
Savor the voyage

Make an impact
Spread love
Embody consciousness

Be totally aware
Immersed in the world
Yet not of it
Wholeheartedly engage
In the wonders of corporeality
The sights
The sounds
The smells
The tastes
The touch
The pleasures and pains
The smirk-inducing, physical bliss

The Universe
Is experiencing itself
Through you
For the opportunity
To taste coffee
To flex a bicep
To have amazing sex
To do whatever it is
You’re doing right now

Cherish this video game
Become lucid in the dream
Before it’s over

For life is euphorically fleeting
Paradoxically serendipitous
And meant to be

 

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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The Artistry in Physique Building

What do we really have control of?

If you think about it, this can be summarized in just two words… OUR SELVES.

Our self (mind/body/spirit) is the only thing completely within the realm of our control. We can’t control other people. We can’t control the weather. We can’t control the Earth’s orbit. Most things are out of our control. But our minds and bodies are fully within our sphere of influence. And with recent findings regarding the science of epigenetics, we have more control than previously thought. Read about epigenetics HERE and HERE. It’s empowering stuff.

Many people worry about things they can’t control, while neglecting the only things they really can control. This is ass-backwards if you ask me.

You know the ol’ serenity prayer? “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” That’s the ticket right there.

We have control over our minds and bodies, so why not optimize them? And, well, really they’re one in the same. Our body is an extension of our mind, and our mind is an extension of our body.

So why wouldn’t you work on the only thing within your control? Seems like a no-brainer to me.

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It’s called a chiseled physique for a reason.

“While control may be impossible to maintain in all situations, there is one place that you will always be the master: the temple of your body.” -John Romaniello

Developing the physical body is crafting your own unique carapace around your consciousness.

It’s laying out the architecture, performing the construction work, and fine-tuning the interior design of the temple that houses the spirit.

Body is the temple

Improving your physicality creates a sanctuary of empowerment in a world filled with fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. This empowerment makes you well-equipped to handle whatever life throws at you. (or whatever you throw at life) <—seewhatididthere?

The phenomenon of bodybuilding is a direct result of this. It is taking full and complete responsibility for yourself. Every sliver of progress made is yours. Pushing the boundaries of physical potential makes bodybuilding fascinating. Building the body fulfills a deep, primal yearning in a society that has dulled our instincts. It’s complete mastery of the material self. It’s the ultimate form of empowerment in our tangible reality.

This is also the reason why physical improvement is the most popular form of self transformation these days. Countless people have changed their lives by changing their body. Enhancing your own unique physicality is improving the only thing you really have control over. It is ultimately taking your power back, and that’s why so many people are working on improving their bodies. It puts you in the driver’s seat of life.

The body is your vehicle for your road trip in this reality. So you should make sure it’s running optimally. And since you’re living in it (for now), you want it to be awesome right? An optimized vehicle is, of course, more conducive to an optimized trip. Just don’t turn it into an ego-trip 😉

Our bodies are the physical manifestation of our beings. So physique building is sculpting the physical aspect of yourself. We live in a 3-dimensional reality, so optimizing the 3-dimensional part of yourself should be a fundamental rite of passage. If we existed in a reality where we could “see” thoughts, we would sculpt our thoughts to “look” awesome. (The only way we can do that now is to express thoughts through the mediums of language or art.)

And speaking of art, our bodies are truly a work of art. A complex, beautiful system with endless subtleties. Each is unique. Each is personalized. It’s an artistic masterpiece that is 100% yours.

The beauty of imperfections:

Perfection doesn’t exist. The perfect body doesn’t exist. But this allows for two hidden benefits:
1. Continuous improvement. No matter what, you can always improve. There is always room to grow. Life is perpetual growth. And really, who likes to be stagnant?
2. Uniqueness. If everyone was “perfect” then we would all be the same. Imperfection results in infinite variety. It makes being an individual possible.

***Pokemon metaphor alert***

Improving yourself is like a Pokemon leveling up. As you level up, you increase your HP (Hit Points aka how much damage you can take). You learn new attacks. You accumulate new abilities and increase your overall strength. Maybe you were born an Onix, and you think you got the short end of the genetic stick. But really, there is no short end of the stick. Any Pokemon at level 80 is exponentially stronger than the “best” Pokemon at level 20. Remember that, and work on becoming the strongest version of yourself.

The Rock Onix

Congratulations, your Dwayne Johnson evolved into Onix!

Learn to let go of what you can’t change. And instead, focus energy on the things you can change. Maximize yourself, and you will be empowered. This will positively impact every aspect of life, and inspire others to empower themselves as well.

Think of your physical self as your video game character. And your higher self/spirit/soul is the one playing the video game. Level up while you’re here, and enjoy the experience!

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And another great metaphor for good measure

Stay feelin’ good, feelin’ great my friends.

-Stevie P!

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.

Why Body Transformation is the Most Popular Form of Personal Improvement

 

When someone wants to change their life for the better, what’s the first thing they usually do?

That’s right, Musclebob Buffpants.

They focus on transforming their body. (aka makin’ all kindzzz of gains)

Why is this?

Well, it boils down to two things, CONTROL and TANGIBILITY.

There are only two things that we have full control of, our mind and body.

Everything else consists of either things we may be able to influence to certain degrees, or things we have no control over. Realizing this allows you to let go of what you can’t control and focus on what you can.

You can’t control other people (although there’s some “powers that be” that believe otherwise). You can’t control the weather. You can’t control the score of the game you’re watching. Seriously, what’s the point of getting angry over a bad call by the ref during the Knicks game? You just lost a minute of your life in which you could’ve been happy. And did I mention you’ve been sitting on your ass eating chips for the last 2 hours? We need to take control of our lives.

The second aspect is tangibility. Unlike the mind and thoughts, the body is tangible. It is measurable. This is the reason why so many people strive to improve their physicality. You can literally see the results. You can’t measure positive thoughts. You can’t measure willpower. But you can clearly see and measure when you lose 50 lbs of fat. You can measure it when you deadlift 400 lbs.

Having such tangible, measurable progress is ridiculously empowering. It puts you in control of your life. It seeps its way into all aspects of life and creates a snowball effect of success.

You’ve mastered what you can control. You’re in the driver’s seat. You don’t fret about what is beyond your control. You do all that you can, and leave the rest up to the Universe, or God, or whatever you want to call it. Remember, “the universe tends to unfold as it should.”

Let’s evolve to become the best versions of our unique selves, and spread it. It’s contagious.

And, in conclusion, here’s a relevant Mr. T fact on a camper van…

There is no control key on Mr. T’s keyboard… Mr. T is always in control!

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9 Words, 90% of Your Health and Body Composition Goals

9 Words, 90% of Your Health and Body Composition Goals…

-Eat real, unprocessed foods
-Exercise according to your goals

Whoomp! There it is.

That’s it. That’s what it all comes down to. The basis for everything health and body composition related.

“Knowledge is a process of piling up facts; wisdom lies in their simplification.” -Martin Henry Fischer

Here’s a little elaboration celebration…

These days, people are plagued with “paralysis by analysis.” There is an overwhelming amount of information out there. And instead of sticking to the basics and working consistently, people sit there and debate what the best methods are (without actually doing anything). Keep it simple, take action, and be consistent. It’s really a lot less complicated than everyone makes it out to be.

What do I mean by real, unprocessed foods?

Fruits, vegetables, animals, fish, plant, seeds, nuts…etc. Foods that, you know, naturally occur on Earth. Have you ever seen a pop-tart tree?

A “Paleo template” should, ideally, be the foundation of everyone’s eating habits. Notice I use the words “template” and “foundation”, because the last thing we need is to impose any more rigid rules/systems on ourselves.

Another way to look at it is if a food only has one ingredient (which is THAT food), it’s probably good for you.

In the word of the late, great Jack Lalane, “If man made it, don’t eat it.”

And with that being said, I think the 80/20 principle works well with what you eat. If you eat real food 80% of the time, you’ll be alright. No need to be fanatical and deprive yourself of ice cream for all eternity. Where’s the fun in that?

Exercise:

This should be a combination of low-intensity exercise (think walking), and short, high-intensity exercise (sprinting, resistance training…etc). Not those, long, drawn out jogging sessions. Why? Because that’s what’s most effective, and it’s how we’re meant to move. We evolved to walk all day, and occasionally sprint or lift something heavy (including our bodies). Mark Scisson summarizes this beautifully in this article.

The Final 10%: (Tailored to your specific goal)
The methods will obviously vary depending on what someone is trying to achieve. For the final 10%, you need more specific and advanced methods tailored to your specific goal(s). The final 10% for a 60 year-old trying to get off cholesterol meds will vary greatly from a 20 year old wanting to pack on muscle.

This is where all of those *insert superlative* dietary and training techniques come into play. Carb cycling, intermittent fasting, progressive overload, 5×5 lifting…etc. These will all help you achieve that final 10%, assuming you choose one that aligns with your goals.

More food for thought:
If you want to do something like get really lean (<8% bodyfat), or pack on 50lbs of muscle, it’s slightly unnatural. And this means you will have to do slightly unnatural things to get there. Remember that. You still need have that foundation of eating real, unprocessed foods and exercising according to your goals (not jogging, don’t be a hamster). And that final 10% is up to you.