It’s Okay to Not Be Okay

Ever feel bad for feeling bad? A common trap for us “positeevers” is to feel guilty about not always believing the world to be sunshine and roses. We reason with ourselves that there is no practical point in being grumpy. Yet somehow, we still are.

What’s going on here? Expectations have been made of ourselves to always be cheerful, and when we come up short, disappointment, like that we have for a misbehaving child, sets in. The bar is always set high by one’s self, and positivity, like any other goal, is not fun to feel a failure at.

Have we really failed though? Is it our expectation to never feel bad? Furthermore, is putting guilt on ourselves a good penance for having slipped down a dark path?

There is another way. It’s often referred to as acceptance. Guilt is a resistance to a current, unwanted outcome of an action performed in the past.

Can’t change the past though, and arguably, not the present either. You can only accept where you’ve been and where you are, and then go on living.

Acknowledging your state of mind allows you to realize that that is all it is. Once you see the origin of your guilt as a simple resistance in your way of thinking, it tends to melt away. The argument dissolves when you stop fighting the way you feel.  When there is no opponent to your crummy attitude, the attitude is left to heal itself, as there is nothing else for it to do.

I encourage you to try this simple approach for yourself, and please remember to let us know how it works. Extreme honesty will be required, but I am confident you can find peace when you stop denying yourself the experience of unhappiness. Sit with your upset, look it in face and watch its reality melt away.

Thanks for reading.  Till next time,

Brett

Life

Life: the sum of all experience from an infinite number of perspectives.  One cannot escape what has formed him, only find contentment, peace and wonderment for the whole that he is.
This is love.

Some long time ago, science explains, single cell organisms made the choice to work together. Over a time span I find hard to grasp, they decided to stick together.  Life was somehow easier, more rewarding, safer.  Whatever the reason, the idea caught on and complex creatures made up of multiple tiny cells gave birth to a process of expansion and communal growth that flourishes to this very day.

Those first cells displayed something that surely is an innate fact of being:  the idea that together, we grow.

This is the essence of love.  Working together took acceptance, cooperation, compassion, all aspects of love. And while one might consider this early love a dry romance out of cold necessity, it is hard for this particular multi-celled organism to disregard the fiery affair that was born from what must have been a nervous first encounter. Life goes on now in much the same way, but has since grown, through the aspects of love, to have a freedom those first young conjugators could scarcely dream of.

No longer are we bound by the need for time to evolve us into the next level that love has to offer.  The choice is available now for us to embrace acceptance, cooperation, and compassion in a combined motivation to reach new heights in experience that we have yet to dream of.

Make no mistake though, this is a desire in all of us. A deep knowing persists in us that competition is trumped by cooperation, and that acceptance through compassion is the tool by which our growth, not as individuals, but as life itself continues.

-Brett

What’s a Healthy Diet?

As trainers we used to get this particular question all the time. Unfortunately  it’s one of those questions best answered with, “It depends.” The simple truth is that there isn’t one perfect diet for everyone because, being human, we all have different and often specific wants. Some want to bulk up, others desire to lean out, ripped or soft and subtle, and even combinations of them all. “Oh, if I could just have a bigger rump, toned tummy, sculpted legs, but not too much arms… don’t want to look all manly!”  Luckily most of us just want to be healthy, and on that note I would like to give you some pointers that we believe make sense.  

First the basics: Whole foods.  That was easy!  If its been broken down, ground up and chemically altered by cooking before being thrown in a plastic wrapper and stuffed in a box with its identical brothers and sisters to give you that quick fix out the door, fresh from your microwave kind of meal, then it’s not a whole food.  My advice, learn to cook!

On that note, eating should not be done in a rush if at all possible.  Religious or not, take time to worship that food and give thanks to the taste buds that tell you it’s good. Research has shown that gratitude while masticating is beneficial to your digestion.

Speaking of your stomach, build a relationship with yours beyond, “Are you full yet?”

“More please.”

“How bout now?”

“Almost.”

“And now?”

“Uughhh. I feel queazy.”

“Finally. Taught you a lesson!”

I watched an interesting Ted Talk once that described how the stomach has almost as much grey matter as the brain of cat. In short it thinks a lot and with a little honest self-reflection you can learn a lot from it. What this new communication looks like is a series of trials and errors, which like a child playing, will develop into an understanding of what truly satisfies you.

And like a child, I will now tell you to, “Be careful”. There are some preprogrammed habits of our nature that can play tricks on us. For instance, most of us will always love the smell of fatty foods. That’s right, to this day French fries still smell good to me. A friend explained to me once that the amount of time when fatty meats have been readily available has been so short in our recent history that the idea that we always want to stock up on them whenever they are around hasn’t left our instinctual make up. Simply put: Our body will tell us to eat as much as possible of that delectable deep fried goodness to get us through the winter of scarcity which happens to not exist anymore. Plus we have fancy things called jackets that can keep us warm now.

What’s not a new invention is the idea of grazing. The director of NCEP, the holistic health school where Marin and I received our personal training certifications, introduced us to the concept of eating smaller meals more often. Now I will tell you up front that this is an area of great controversy, but we have found it tremendously helpful for us and our clients who are trying to lose the pounds and keep them off. The idea is to keep the metabolism from going into “starvation mode”, something it supposedly does around every 3 hours. This theory takes us back again to a time when food wasn’t on the corner of every dusty hunting trail. The body tends to want to store food in the form of fat when it doesn’t expect to be fed for a while, much like hibernating bears. The theory goes that if you eat small every 2 to 3 hours you will keep your metabolism working, rather than shutting off.

To keep your immune system from shutting down on the other hand, you’ll want to stay away from sugar as much as possible, except for that which is found in fresh fruits and vegetables. Even still, you can overload on fruit which contains high levels of fructose, especially if you are juicing and removing all the fiber that would ordinarily help process the natural sugars. To understand more about sugar and its effects on the body I highly recommend this lecture by Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology.  Not exactly a block buster film, but extremely informative,  and motivational toward your goals. And lets face it, your going to need it when your going up against one of the strongest and most debilitating addictions known to modern man: Sugar.  Bottom line is that the average “westernized” individual eats enough sugar to seriously crippled their immune defenses and cause increased inflammation, leading to scores of other issues.

On the topic of habit forming, here are some new ones I’d like you to try if you are willing to be my guinea pigs. Don’t worry we have tested it hundreds of times 😉

Start making your morning meal more substantial and tapering down the size throughout the day. Again there are varying views on this. Our philosophy is to eat for your activity not in response to it. So if you are preparing for a long day at work or school give your body the energy it needs to perform rather than skipping breakfast, having a bar to get you through the afternoon before gorging yourself at dinner. Make any sense?  Nighttime snacks should be at least a couple hours before bedtime and hopefully be something raw that packs some of its own enzymes to help in the digestion. Same goes for waking. That old steel furnace needs to be lubricated and fired back up with something that will warm up that metabolism again. Try drinking 16-32 oz of water to help the body flush out all the toxins and dead cells it has been processing while you slept. Then hit it with a nice, sweet piece of whole fruit to wake it up. Wait a little bit, around a half hour, before your Big Bang breakfast (not gorging yourself just a hearty meal to prepare you for your active day).

While certain synergistic foods are good, we believe the KISS method goes down best when it comes to meals. Certain combos are more problematic than others.  For instance: meat and dairy, fruit and grain or meat for that matter, melon and citrus have nasty reputations for being mixed with anything, etc.  Again, how you approach this will come down to honesty about how things make you feel.

These are guidelines, pointers, clues… tid-bits of collected experience that We have found valuable.  As I said before though, our goals and desires are widely varied, as are our bodies.  Learn to communicate effectively with your own body and follow some basic principles that make sense to you.  Take what you can swallow from the piece of mind I’ve shared and see how it makes YOU feel, then let us know and ask any questions you might have. There’s not necessarily a right or wrong in this instance, just the building of a cooperative partnership that can lead you to the experience that we all seem to strive for!

-Brett
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Terrible Toddlers

Assuming you have raised your child with love, there is no reason why they would Want to upset you. I am making this statement today with the upmost emphasis because I for one, struggle at times not taking my child’s acting out personally. We, the grown ups, live in what we often perceive as a dog eat dog world. Whether or not that is partially true is another topic, but one thing is for sure, our children don’t have that perception yet. Not, at least, until well passed 5 or 6 years of age. They start off with needs, learn preferences and wants, and then develop a sense of their interaction and influence on the surrounding world. Needs are easily met with a little adjustment to our lives, and I am far too naive, with children too young to speak of developing self awareness in this modern environment.  I would like to comment for now on the often troublesome period involving wants.

Desire hits us smack in the face like the sweet smell of freshly baked bread. At a particular point we realize that we have options, choices, a plethora of outcomes awaiting us. Suddenly our simple needs of mom and dad’s affection and care have been flooded by an overwhelming sense of desire. Of course they seem to be in the same general category as our original needs and so they are treated as such. This is where the confusion sets in. As parents we do not recall that transition and hence aren’t very understanding of our child’s seemingly brattish behavior. We try to suppress their outbreaks, condemn their upset rather than validate it, and worst of all, we take their acting out personally, forgetting that they are dealing the best they can with the myriad of forces pulling at their psyche. The ludicrously funny thing is that if we stopped our futile attempts of deflecting their emotions and took a few minutes to grasp their perspective and recognize the underlying needs of affection and care that still exist, we would find ourselves well equipped to live harmoniously with our little ones as they attempt to find that self awareness in the world that often evades even us “grown ups”.

Rest assured my patience with this understanding is tested often, especially when my 25 month old wants to shake my 2 month old’s hand vigorously, something we have repeatedly explained not to do.  Using the dog as a bed, pulling out toilet paper, and screaming playfully at the top of her lungs while others try to sleep, my child clearly is trying to upset me right? Wrong. She wants something. More often than not, she’s looking for attention, someone to explore HER world with. And rightly so. At her age kids are primed for development, skill building, and social interaction. What I have to choose is whether to condemn her for making my life harder, or work with understanding to reach common ground on which we can mesh our lives peacefully. Luckily at this age they also gain an understanding of time and simple concepts, at least in my experience, that can aid you in arranging agreements. Please realize though that it is not for us to expect them to understand or like a given scenario, though they often will if you give them sincere validation of there perspectives. How else is a child to develop such skills except through our example?

On a final note, find patience for yourself. This is not an easy perceptual shift for us dogs fighting for the perceived scraps day in and day out. If you find yourself about to boil over, take a few minutes to inwardly explore what preconditioned judgements you are putting on your little bundles of joy. Once the blame is removed from your mind you will be able to address them in a manner that empowers their growth into conscious, loving beings.

Thank you for your perspectives on the matter, as I dearly love to hear other’s experiences,

Brett

Instant Peace through Gratitude

Life is a series of moments. None more or less significant than the rest. I would not be who I am today without each seemingly trivial cog in the wheel that rolls out the story of this life that I arrogantly call my own.

Looking back on the experiences I’ve had teaches me one very important truth:  Be grateful for where you are and you will never resent where you have been or fear where the wheel is taking you.  No strife, challenge, despair or loneliness has ever torn me down. Quite the contrary, they have built me one brick at a time. And while i have learned it is futile to choose in what order the bricks fall, I know in all certainty that gratitude is the mortar which holds the beautifully haphazard sculpture together.

Over time through gratitude, patience, and practice, I gained acceptance and trust in the artist, which has rewarded me in such times of diligence with that which we all seek… peace. Or at least that’s what our esteemed beauty pageant contestants always seem to think. 😉

– Brett
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Childbirth: The Only Thing Harder for a Dad Than Menopause!

The title is just a joke really.  As a young father, the only experience I have with menopause is the memory of my father’s thinning skin coinciding with my moms hot flashes and the Battle Royale over the thermostat that ensued for the next few years.  Childbirth on the other hand is fresh in my mind and I wanted to share some thoughts on it to the aspiring dads out there… You woman can just laugh at our meager strife 😉

Childbirth for me was one of the most helpless times of my life.  Here I am, “Grand Protector and Provider”, watching clueless of what to do while “the parasite” (fairly accurate terminology given the circumstances) burrows its way out of what I would affectionately call my wife’s tenders.  She is in pain.  The one thing I’m supposed to prevent. “Stupid! Stupid!”  Well this is kind of how I felt our first time. There is hope though, and it starts before labor.

Firstly I think it’s important to realize right this instant that your wife is made for this.  Moving forward with this perception, this steadfast belief, as I think it should be, you are ready to prepare your wife, and yourself, for birth. Your support and encouragement through this miraculous process of pregnancy will set the framework for your wife’s belief in her own ability.  A healthy relationship is crucial, and I beg you not to underestimate the level of intimacy you can maintain or even create while your wife is pregnant.  Yes there will be times when she is an utter pain in the butt, and others when she has pains in her butt… but if you can foster a loving, understanding relationship with her, you will witness the blooming of a rare flower versus the impending doom of perpetually dark skies over your once peaceful abode.

Educate yourself on childbirth options.  If you are anything like myself, a westernized boy from a small family of four, the whole concept of childbirth is a foreign idea.  Our main source of education on the subject comes from tv and movies, which let me just say are far from reality. Don’t count on having your baby in the back of a cab on the way to the hospital because a tidal wave suddenly fell from between your wife’s legs, soiling her pretty flower covered maternity dress she was wearing.  Be informed that c- section is quickly becoming the norm in this country and understand why, and what a major operation like that means to you, your wife, and particularly that precious package she’s carrying.  Look into birthing centers, talk to midwives or your doc about what standard procedures are and what c- section rates he or she is delivering. All I’m saying is study your options… There are more than you think.

Most importantly though, learn to be positive!  Birth is a magically natural thing.  Get it in your head that it doesn’t have to be a traumatic experience. My wife’s first sounded like bloody murder from outside the house I’m sure.  Yes we had both ours at home, we are THOSE people.  But her second was so peaceful you could of heard a mouse fart through all of it.  Don’t believe me? Both videos are on YouTube (Birth #1 & Birth #2) for the very purpose of showing how a little focus and positivity can make all the difference in the world.  It takes changing our ideas, even our language about birth.  Empowering our women to do what is natural and instilling the belief that it can be both safe and peaceful is the real ticket to ensuring that menopause stays on top as the last mysteriously scary event for us husbands.

Believe me gentleman your wife wants and needs you during this time, and your role as protector and provider requires learning some helpful information that seems lost to our modern society and fostering positivity about this incredible process that encompasses the true essence of life.

-Brett
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How Powerful is Thought?

All too often we give the past and our fears of the future too much power over our ability to live and experience life freely. We have all heard phrases such as, “Mind over matter” or “What you think about, you bring about”, but how much of that is really true?

When I first decided on a natural childbirth I was 100% sure I could easily do it and that I would come out stronger and more confident on the other side. But for those who have witnessed The Birth of Love (my first child), they would know that easy and confident are  two words that would not describe that labor and delivery.

My choice to share it on the Internet was to educate and inspire women; In fact I did just that… I educated young ladies about why not to engaged in sexual intercourse without foreseeing the consequences: Never mind raising a child, they didn’t even want to get to the giving birth part… And I inspired women to be sure they wanted to go to the hospital and get an epidural.

Big round of applause to me. Those were obviously not my goals.

I came out of my first birth physically traumatized with 7 painful stitches in the front and 2 months of bed rest. I remember thinking, “They said labor was hard, but no one told me about after labor!”

So what happened to all my confidence prior to the birth? Why did I not feel the strength I thought I would gain after a supposedly “beautiful” experience?
It all has to do with subconscious programming. Even though it made sense to bring my child into the world as intervention, drug-free as possible and how we’re naturally intended, as women, to do it… The ideas, images and thoughts on natural childbirth were scary in my subconscious mind! All I ever heard growing up was that childbirth was the most painful experience a woman would go through. And movies/TV shows proved this statement to be true, with images of women screaming their heads off on the hospital bed.

When I found out about our second pregnancy, I knew something had to change. I was not going to re-live the same experience again and I firmly believed it could be different. Once I decided on this perspective, everything seemed to fall into my lap including a birthing course called Hypnobabies, which focuses on teaching a medical grade self hypnosis technique, originally used for people who undergo surgery but are allergic to anesthetics. Self hypnosis, I found, was just meditation and self affirmation… a “reprogramming” of the subconscious mind and it’s beliefs.

I spent a several times a day learning to relax and affirming to myself that birth was easy, painless, and normal. I affirmed the idea that contractions felt calming and I deserve a quick, easy, painless childbirth.

I had no idea if these affirmations were working, all I knew was that I would do my best to trust it and well… the results were not what I expected. It was so much more than I ever thought possible. Unimaginably amazing:
Watch the Birth of Elovie

With this experience I can no longer deny the power behind our thoughts, beliefs and even subconscious programming; such as reading the news, watching tv or engaging in conversations with friends. I know my experience is something most people do not relate to, but I wanted to share it, along with the powerful images and experience of these videos because I believe anyone and everyone can make their entire life experience whatever they think or believe it could be.

So what are you programming your subconscious mind with on a daily basis? How would you change your thoughts and feelings about certain aspects of life if you could?

~Marin
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