HIGH PERFORMANCE LIVING SOLUTIONS PART 5/5
MY THOUGHTS ON THINKING
Life is a balance between the forces of yin and yang. Yin is anabolic, whereby life force energy is nurtured, restored, and built up. Yang is catabolic, whereby life force energy is expended, transformed, and broken down. Paul Chek, my holistic coaching guru, says these two forces dictate your baseline health and must be managed by 4 doctors: Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet, Dr. Happiness, and Dr. Movement. These 4 doctors govern 6 foundation principles of a holistic healthy lifestyle: Sleeping, Nutrition, Hydration, Thinking, Breathing, and Movement.
The yin force is managed by Dr. Diet and Dr. Quiet who prescribe sleeping, nutrition, and hydration protocols.
The yang force is managed by Dr. Happiness and Dr. Movement who prescribe thinking, breathing, and movement protocols.
When I was first introduced to the foundation principles, I was curious to why thinking was a yang force. Does thinking take up energy and if so, as much energy as movement? We know that in order to grow stronger, we must stress our bodies through exercise. Does thinking require the same kind of stress but to the mind?
The act of thinking can be a gift, a tool, and a curse. As a gift, it can be used to imagine, explore, and philosophize without boundary. As a tool, it can be used to solve problems, innovate, and create without barrier. As a curse, it can inflict anxiety, cause conflict, and be misused without border.
Thinking is defined as the process of using one's mind to consider or reason about something. This blog is going to explore the tool of thinking. I will share how I sharpen it when it becomes dull, how I quiet it when it becomes loud and obnoxious, and how I take care of it when it becomes misused. I’m going to dive into 3 common struggles with thinking and share the strategies I’ve used to manage it as a curse, maintain it as a tool, and appreciate it as a gift.
STRUGGLE #1 - MONKEY MIND
My desire for data is insatiable. My appetite for ideas is gluttonous. My mind is animal-like in hunger and endurance, machine like in analysis and processing. I have so many questions. Questions with answers that are questionable. Questions that answer, and questions that pose as answers. It never ends.
I tend to overanalyze situations. I rarely underthink my options. I most often generate an overabundance of solutions. As a result, I end up losing sleep by dwelling on the past, overthinking my future directions, and grappling with my present opportunities.
This ‘monkey-mind’ is a buddhist term for an unsettled, restless, and indecisive mind. It happens to those that have a will like a horse, but an undecided heart of an ape; inconsistent and strong. In the case of monkey mind, the tool of thinking seems to be the problem itself.
As simple as it may sound, when we are faced with indecision or a restless mind, having no tool in hand may be the best solution. When I’m in my head all day long, the only way to get out of it is through my body. My monkey mind quiets when I move. Distractions dissipate. Confusion clears. Calmness flows. Solitude strengthens.
STRATEGY #1 - MUSHIN (NO-MINDEDNESS)
The Japanese call it ‘Mushin’, the state of no-mindedness, where a mind not fixed or occupied by thought or emotion is thus open to everything. Mushin is achieved when a person's mind is free from thoughts of anger, fear, or ego during combat or everyday life. There is an absence of discursive thought and judgment, so the person is totally free to act and react towards an opponent without hesitation and without disturbance from such thoughts.
To set up Mushin, I first recognize that thinking requires energy, and that energy comes in the form of yin and yang. These two forces must be balanced depending on how I desire to express and experience myself. To enable a state of mind ready for Mushin I check in with the following acknowledgments:
As much as I yang, I know to yin.
As much as I work-out, I know to work-in.
As much as I am awake, I know to sleep.
As much as I create, I know to absorb.
As much as I get out, I know to put in.
As much as I think, I know to be thoughtless.
When my monkey mind becomes uncontrollable, I resort to what I am best at controlling; physical activity. I acknowledge that I need to move my body in order to settle my mind. I hit the gym and work-out, hit the trails and run, or roll out my yoga mat and stretch. When I’ve finished exercising, my energy rebalances, my monkey mind calms, and I enter a state of Mushin. No-mindedness takes time, practice, and patience. It is a powerful strategy to combat a powerful struggle.
- Use Mushin to quiet the Monkey.
- Use the body to quiet mind.
- Use fitness to augment focus.
- Then use focus to augment fitness.
STRUGGLE #2 - MENTAL CONSTIPATION
I could write an entire blog on the quality and the quantity of the data we absorb daily. I could write another blog on the unlimited access to information we have via the internet. I could write about our relationship to screens as our medium for everything. But I think I’d rather write about constipation!
Just like we need to eat, digest, absorb, and eliminate our food for biological adaptation, we also need to do the same with our thoughts and feelings.
I find it extremely therapeutic to balance the processes of input and output. I see myself as an intermediary vessel that filters energy and life. In order to achieve what life has to offer, I must listen, adapt and evolve with my surrounding environment. Like a dance, I must be able to send and receive energy to my partner harmoniously in order to create something beautiful. When this ‘dance’ between the self and the environment is acknowledged and respected, opportunities to adapt more effectively and efficiently unveil themselves.
As beautiful as it is to INTAKE (learn new information, read mind expanding books, and consume delicious food), it is just the same if not more beautiful to RELEASE (be able to share ideas, express our learnings, and take wonderful poops!)
It’s almost impossible to concentrate on anything upstairs when you’re plugged downstairs! The release of the mental, emotional, physical can be seen as the highest priority on the hierarchy of needs. Imagine yourself as a glass full of water, in order to take in more of anything, something must come out. Hence why I believe that the inability to release is a priority problem to resolve, e.g., writer’s block, chronic injury, and physical and emotional constipation.
STRATEGY #2 - SAMANA VAYU
I came across this yogic term translated in English as “balancing air”. While I am still learning yogic philosophy and its many holistic principles, I take Samana Vayu as the overseeing force of the digestion of everything from food to thoughts. To adapt, evolve, and live well without dis-ease, I am learning that it must start with committing to daily practices that allow me to release. Below are a set of rituals I perform to honour the force of Samana Vayu, a tool of balance for the mind, body, and spirit.
BREATHING routines combined with flexibility and mobility exercises to release mental, emotional, and physical tightness.
To create balance of space for mindfulness, restorative movement, and stability.
Blog WRITING / Journaling to release pent up thoughts and shed ideas.
To create space for new ideas and playful imagination.
ENGAGE in deep conversations to vent and let go of harmful thoughts.
To create space for clarity and calmness
Perform various forms of artistic EXPRESSION to balance the biochemistry and spiritual unease/uncertainty.
To create space for self love, gratitude, and awareness.
Consume a sufficient amount of fluids and dietary fibre to aid in DETOXIFICATION and the release of waste product.
To create space for more effective nutrient absorption and energy production.
High intensity EXERCISE to stimulate catabolic metabolism and emotional stress/ tension release.
To create space for repair/regeneration and vitality/immunity improvement.
I look at this list of “best practices”, and can’t help but feel as though they may have lost their value and charm due to the high saturation of their preach. I could Google “Top 10 things to do in order to live a high performance lifestyle”, or “Top 5 activities to improve mental health”, and you’ll most likely find these solutions. We know what to do, we know when we have time to do them, and those times in the year when we feel most motivated to do them, but the true solution lies not in committing to these practices out of duty and obligation; “because they’re good for us”, or “because Julian said so”, but understanding that the “best” in “best practices” come from committing to them for their potential; their potential to make you the best version of yourself.
Committing to these practices are an investment in health because they create space and time. Time for happiness, time for joy, time for fun, time for love. They justify our innate necessity to grow and develop not just with the intention of adding years to our lives, but life to our years. They enable a life of optimal performance. They give us hope and justification to self-actualize. Time is precious and absolute. If you understand where I’m going, you understand that engineering health in your favour is your one option for optimizing the precious time you have on earth. So let’s make the most of it.
Unlearn to learn, decondition to recondition, let go to move on
Life is lived well with less weight
The digestive system pertains not only to the body
STRUGGLE #3 - PARADOX OF CHOICE
To be human is to be multi-talented.
To be human is to have a mosaic appreciation of different cultures, societies, and beliefs.
To be human is to consume a colourful array of foods, engage in multisensory experiences, and undertake multidisciplinary education, at random, with a variety of people, within a diversity of environments.
To be this kind of human is to also be an idealistic, affluent Westerner.
I understand that abundance is also a luxury. In relation to the rest of the world, it is the luck of the draw, how the cards have been dealt, and a privilege. Which makes the paradox much more pressing. My awareness of this imbalance motivates me to see abundance not as luxury, but as possibility.
We are experiencing a renaissance of the renaissance man. Known for their polymathic abilities, people like Leonardo da Vinci were ‘multi-potentialites’, generalists, jacks of all trades and masters of many. It was the boom of alchemy that enabled these men. People like Albert Einstein were enabled by the boom of physics. And now, it was the boom of technology that enabled Steve Jobs. The access to infinite information via the internet has empowered our evolution from specializing to generalizing. Many of us no longer play one instrument in the orchestra, instead the orchestra is our instrument of play. We are conductors, managers, and directors.
I no longer aim to become the best at one thing, I aim to be great at many things. But this desire for the many is a noble curse, a double standard, and comes with its paralyzing consequences. This confusing bombardment of opportunity leaves us stuck at many forks in the road, with many roads untravelled, many decisions unmade, and much time wasted. Modern abundance dilemmas such as FOMO (fear of missing out), and FOBO (fear of a better option), have been proven to be responsible for many of our anxieties and indecisions. It’s interesting to see that some option is better than none, but it does not follow that more options is not better than some.
STRATEGY #3 - FISHBOWL MENTALITY
What I’ve come to understand through Barry Schwatz’s Ted Talk on the paradox of choice is that boundaries are more liberating than limiting. Being a fish in a fishbowl is in fact not so confining but comforting, and thus confidence building. He says that “if you shatter a fishbowl so that everything is possible, you don’t have freedom, instead you have paralysis.” It seems as though technology has smashed the fishbowl for us and we are all paralyzed with choice. In order to solve for this paralysis, it is our responsibility to pair the realistic with the idealistic, and set the boundaries to our abundance.
Everyone needs to develop a fishbowl mentality. I’ve found I work best when I have structure, boundaries, and a framework. It enables confidence and creativity, it sets a realistic range in regards to expectations, and it empowers autonomy. I am able to prioritize, set realistic goals, and accomplish things with a sense of closure. When I have a framework and format to work within, my potential and polymathic tendencies are controlled and curated. I therefore grow and development in concert with the fishbowl, towards larger environments and more complex ecosystems. No longer is the abundance of choice paradoxical or paralyzing, it is actualizing and enlightening.
- Abundance is not luxury, it is possibility.
- Freedom is found within the framework.
- Framework provides focused freedom.
I end with a principle that inspires me every day to introspect, philosophize, and wonder:
Consciousness is the state of being aware of oneself and one’s surroundings. If we wish to control our thinking and focus our mental efforts, it is our responsibility to learn about our minds. Dandapani, a Hindu priest, speaker on self-development and an entrepreneur, speaks on solutions to the struggles of the mind in his Ted Talk called Unwavering Focus.
What I have learned from the 3 struggles of Monkey Mind, Mental Constipation, and the Paradox of Choice is the necessity to devote time, energy, and attention to quiet the mind, release it of its thoughts, and provide it structure.
It is due to my dedication to …
The study of philosophy.
The practice of mindfulness and flow state.
The application of positive psychology.
That have enabled me to cure the curses of thinking by using it as my favorite tool, and seeing it gratefully as a gift.
Thank you for reading.
#alwaysbecoming #justdoyou #appreciationasfuel #becauseyoureworthit #livewhatyoulove