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Divergent Thinking

Tom Barnett opens some doors to divergent thinking.

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It’s said that all children are born with divergent thinking. Within 5 years of the schooling system, it’s all but gone. If you ask an adult how many ways they can close a door, they might say, “you can do it hard, soft or medium…so three.” A better thinker might say, “you could close it with your hand or foot, or you could bump it with your hip or your butt…so four.” A better thinker again, might say, “I can think of at least ten different ways. Half of those involve closing it from the outside (pushing), and the other half from the inside (pulling).”

How would a divergent thinker respond? They wouldn’t jump to conclusions, as if a door is a door. They’d think for themselves, and ask questions. “How big is the door? What is it made of? How heavy is it? Does it have a handle? What kind of handle? Is the door suspended from hinges or does it slide? If it slides, does it slide horizontally or vertically? Is it automated or manually operated?”

Guarding your mind is an important part of life. It is the difference between heaven and hell, a prison cell or a life of freedom. Before deciding what it right and wrong, it’s good to make a habit of exploring a topic in a divergent way.

More than anything, it’s good to think for yourself, especially when it comes the trillion dollar industry known as Wellness.

Lifestyle

The Reasons For Seasons

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There are many reasons why we have seasons in this realm, and most of those reasons are never thought about by the vast majority of the population. Depending on your geographical location, seasons are typically associated with a complaint. It’s too hot during summer, too cold during winter, too rainy in autumn and spring. Folks tend to always have some sort of grief with the weather, and society has morphed holidays into a way of getting through these seasons. We look forward to the “holiday season” of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. We jam pack as many holidays into the course of a few months as we can to give ourselves something to look forward to in those wet, cold, dreary times. And in doing so I would argue that we’ve all but lost the true reasoning behind the changing seasons.

To start this, we need to view things (as best as we can) from God’s perspective, and his intentions for us. If His intentions were for us to always be fed, have no hardships in life, have superficial relationships with family/friends, and simply have fun all the days of our lives, then we would live in perpetual summer. The sunlight would beat down all day every day, producing monstrous crops year round. We wouldn’t have to worry about the cold. We wouldn’t have to plan ahead. We wouldn’t need to form communities with the sole intention of surviving.

But God’s intention for us in this life is not that. His intention is for us to grow. Growth requires dark times, both literally and metaphorically, as much as it requires what we associate with good times. A plant will die if it just has sunlight and gets no water. It will die if it doesn’t get the proper nutrition. It will die if it gets eaten by bugs. So to will we wither away if we don’t have a proper balance of perspectives, reflection, appreciation, nutrition, emotional experiences, etc. A plant will grow better with companion planting. Corn grows well with beans and squash. They provide what the other is lacking. We too require community to really thrive, and the seasons are the ultimate factor in the creation of these communities.

Spring: Springtime is a wondrous time to experience. You can feel the life energy in the air as the trees start sprouting leaves again, the birds start singing, the flowers start to bloom, and you see all of the newly born critters running about. The persistent cadence of short rains and bright sunlight tells everything that it’s time to wake from winter’s slumber and start to grow. This too happens within us. Every year at this time we all experience that kick of energy. We all start to plan our gardens, plan what we’d like to accomplish in our lives for the year, what projects we’d like to complete, and where we’d like to be when winter rolls around again. We look at our bodies, full of baked goods and potatoes and think “yeah, it’s time to start working out again”. We have a primal urge to better ourselves. This is what spring is for.

Summer: Summer is typically viewed as the time to have fun. There’s truth to this, but it’s also a continuation of spring in terms of growth. In spring we plan, and in summer we build and maintain. Our crops need constant tending. Our bodies need constant hydration and nutrition. And although it seems easier to get things done in summer, anyone with any level of perception knows that although energy levels are high, you can quickly burn out with the constant heat and endless light. Again, we require balance. Towards the end of summer we all look forward to autumn, because we know it will bring rest. But until that day comes, summer is when we work hard. And we should be working hard to ensure we have enough food and supplies for the cold months. As spring was to planning, so is summer.

Autumn: After 6+ months of heat, sunlight, growth, work, fun, excitement, and joy, autumn brings with it a much needed respite. We are not made to crush nonstop 100% of the time, and autumn forces us to slow down and rest. The waning hours of sunlight change our circadian clock and our bodies start producing melatonin earlier in the evening, making us tired at 6pm rather than 10pm. We no longer have an abundance of those high sugar fruits that are ripe off the tree (or we shouldn’t in a natural world), and we move towards meats and root vegetables which are stored more easily. This changes our digestive habits. It changes the flora in our digestive tract, which changes our mood. As we consume more calorie and nutritionally dense foods, our digestion slows, and we begin to slow. The almost manic energy that spring and summer bring fades into a calmness, a sleepiness, and a desire to curl up by a fire and read yourself to sleep under a blanket. Bears hibernate, as do we in a way. Autumn is designed to slow us down so we don’t burn ourselves out, to reflect on what we’d like to do differently next year, to appreciate all of the blessings we have, and most importantly to begin resting our bodies.

Winter: The most trying season of them all, winter brings with it bone chilling cold, a minimal diet (or so it would be in a natural world), little light, no growth, and many hardships. Winter is still, and it is still for a reason. Everything on this earth needs a period of deep rest. Every animal rests during winter. Most plants go entirely dormant. Some animals sleep for months. Some bugs literally get frozen into a state of suspended animation until springtime when they thaw and their hearts start beating again. This is all by God’s great design. We all know physical rest is needed. If you don’t sleep for a couple of days you begin to hallucinate and your body begins shutting down. Nobody will argue the importance of a good night’s sleep. But we also require emotional rest, mental rest, and spiritual rest. We need time to quietly reflect on not just the past year, but also on life itself. We need to reflect on our relationships, on our communities, on our jobs, on our life path, and on the trajectory we would like to see in our individual lives. God has given us a time to do this, and it is winter. It’s almost forceful, in that most things we enjoy are stripped away for months, leaving us with only our primal desires. We want warmth, dryness, and food. And in that state of primal survival, we reflect. As we grow our physical strength in spring and summer, we should be growing our emotional and spiritual strength during winter. When all is lost, and we are cold and wet and hungry, we should be looking to God. We should be looking to our communities. We should be looking to our families, who are often overlooked during the excitement of all the chores and projects the other seasons bring. Winter is often seen as a bad thing solely because of the weather, but if you tap into what is actually happening during these months it is beauty beyond compare. We are resting. We are sleeping more. We are reflecting. We are seeking God. Our bodies, minds, hearts, and souls are healing. Most people literally purge toxins in the form of illness. Again, this is perceived as a bad thing, but it is our body making us stronger and cleaner. Winter brings endless blessings.

Many people view life by the year. They judge themselves on what happened during the course of a giant block of time. But there are seasons within that year. And if we overlook them, and do not pay them their property dues and work with them rather than against them, we can be sure to come up short each year in regard to our self-imposed expectations. If you don’t rest during winter, you won’t have the energy to crush during summer. If you don’t crush during summer and prepare, then you won’t make it through winter.

These natural rhythms have been thrown off with the adoption of cross-country and worldwide shipping, artificial lighting, climate controlled buildings and cars, etc. In a natural world we should not be able to get into our heated vehicle, drive to a grocery store, buy a papaya, go home, and eat it in a fully lit room at midnight in the dead of winter. It is entirely unnatural. And as a result, we feel like we’re living unnatural lives. And it’s because we are. We are not honoring the seasons, the reasons they exist, and we are working against them. This is, in my opinion, directly fighting God’s plans, intentions, and reasoning.

To shift from an unnatural/artificial existence into one more in line with what we’re intended to experience, one can simply make small changes. Those changes will have a massive affect on your health in all areas of life. Instead of having every light on in the house all night after the sun sets in winter, have a small lamp on. Let your body start the production of melatonin. When you get tired, go to bed. Don’t stay up until 2am working. Eat hearty meals that are packed with nutrition and meat during winter, rather than exotic fruits. Let your body replenish itself with what it needs, rather than what tastes good. During summer, don’t sleep in until noon. We’re meant to wake when the sun rises. Don’t pull your curtains shut before bed to block out that morning light. Let it wake you. During autumn, allow yourself to slow down a bit. Things can wait. If you’re pushing through this season as if it’s still summer, you will most definitely crash. One way or another you will get that rest. It’s just a matter of if it’s in a calm manner, or in a state of deathly illness. The choice is always yours.

Honor the reason for the seasons, which is God’s great design, and your life will undoubtedly improve. You don’t need high energy at all times. On the contrary, we are meant to store energy for times of need. We then use that energy, and it needs to be replenished. Replenish yourselves during the times we’re meant to. Live a natural life, and you will not only strengthen yourself but will also bring so much more to your communities. Embrace the hot, the cold, the joy, and the melancholic stillness as blessings, because that’s exactly what they are. 

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Your Stress Is Vital For Longevity, Now Hone It

The significance of being present.

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Raise your hand if you’re dealing with stress? I know I am. It’s inevitable. But let’s take a moment to realize that the majority of the stresses that many of us encounter come from nothing more than a deadline, a thought, an idea, or a concept that lingers in our mind like a friend who just can’t leave the party, even after you’ve said a dozen times, “Wow, it’s getting late.” When we overcome these psychological stresses, more often than not we tend to think, “Well, that wasn’t so bad”, and then build a sense of resilience from that stress. However, what happens when you take an individual who tackles the majority of their stress psychologically, and you put them under physical stress? Short answer: chronic and acute injuries.

Over the past ten years, I have worked as a personal trainer, mentoring over 500 clients. I’ve trained people from age 10, all the way to 84 years old. I’ve trained very wealthy people, as well as those who are not financially stable. I’ve trained healthy individuals, as well as those with a laundry list of physical, psychological and spiritual setbacks. My point is that I’ve observed and experienced the spectrum.

The clients that resolve their stress predominantly in the mind are what I call “heady clients”; and when they come to me with their goals and a “Let’s crush!” attitude, it becomes immediately evident how distant that mindset resonates with their body and spirit. Holding their breath till their face turns red, hands vehemently flailing, cursing to themselves… and me, facial expressions that mimic someone being tortured to death, grunts and squeals that seem superfluous, counting out loud, disregarding any cadence that resembles a ticking clock. I could
write a book on all the different reactions. When I ask them, “Where did you feel the tension (stress)?”, most of them either respond not knowing, or somewhere in which they hold prior tension and/or prior injury. This is why “no pain, no gain” and, “rub some dirt on it” is detrimental to those who lack the mind, body, spirit connection under stress. What also doesn’t help is the deception of weight-loss programs, and the new “fad diet” that celebrities and social media personalities push on the everyday man and woman. If you followed P90X, Insanity, or the 300 workout, you’re in this category too. In a nutshell, the outcome of these interactions becomes simple and back to the basics. Reconnect the mind, body, and spirit (breath)– The present moment.

Before I go into the HOW we can hone physical stress, I want to explain WHY we need physical stress for longevity. Let me break it down like this. We all have a central nervous system (CNS) and peripheral nervous system (PNS). A part of the PNS is the autonomic nervous system (ANS), which “involuntarily” (We’ll come back to this shortly) regulates bodily functions (heart rate, respiratory rate, sexual arousal, digestion, pupillary response, etc.) This is also where we hear people discuss “Fight, flight, freeze, or relax”, based on an individual’s response to internal or external stress. This can be broken down into two categories. One being the sympathetic nervous system (SNS)– i.e You running out to save your animal that’s being attacked by a predator; and the second one being the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS)– i.e watching a beautiful sunset or a sunrise with your family. So, any stress, or what I call stimulus, that excites the body will then send a signal to either the SNS or the PSNS. Now, as much as these responses seem “involuntary”, we in fact have more control over them and the outcomes we desire; and when we have control over our response to stresses, we are then able to guide our body’s systems to a more homeostatic condition under a greater amount of stress, as well as a quicker recovery: Resiliency. To sum this up, resiliency comes from one’s ability to handle stress (before, during, and after), which in turn generates longevity.

Now let’s discuss HOW we can hone this physical stress. Knowing that stimulus excites the SNS or PSNS, I start by having clients lay on their back, asking them to just breathe for two minutes, and to put their attention to that breath the whole time. This gives clients permission to reconnect with their heartbeat, the present moment. Like any other activity, the more times you do it, the stronger those neurological connections become and the easier it is to find yourself back to that place. From there, I put them through some yoga-like patterns in order to move and breathe out any lingering tension. We immediately follow with some sort of isometric (holding) move, i.e a plank, lunge, hanging from a pull up bar, holding heavy kettlebells, standing on one leg, etc. This is to create an influx of internal/external stress, and allow them to breathe through that tension for as long as possible. This increases their SNS response (fight, flight, or freeze). However, when they control their breathing and allow their attention to stay on a specific point, a specific muscle, or specifically their breath, the rate of their SNS response drastically decreases allowing them to handle their reaction to the stress for a longer period of time. We go for as long as they possibly can and when they are done, we emphasize coming out of the stress with a calm, collected breath to the best of their ability. This is in order to allow the PSNS to kick in immediately, reaching a relaxed state swiftly. After another round or two, we are ready to tackle the rest of their workout. No matter how many reps, how much weight, how many sets we then do, this setup, I have observed, allows them to push their limits while staying in control and ultimately reaching their unknown potentials.

I ask you to try it yourself. Pick an exercise you already do and are comfortable with. Then pick a spot of focus (breath, muscle, point of contact). Move into the exercise where you begin to feel tension in the designated spot, and hold it. Pay attention to how quickly your stress response kicks in. How do you respond to it? Do you begin to panic? Are you able to keep your focus on your designated spot? Initially, your time under that tension is irrelevant. You will resort back to a “heady” approach, asking yourself “How much time has passed? Am I done? I think it’s been 20 seconds?” Then pay attention to how you come out of it. Do you collapse? Do you pant heavily? Do you curse? Or do you calmly lay, sit, or stand, emphasizing your awareness of that increased heart beat, trying to calm yourself with your breath? If that’s too much for some of you, try laying down and just focus on your breathing. Listen to your heartbeat. Allow yourself to make a game out of it by seeing the least amount of breaths you can take in one minute without forcing it. I’m not asking you to meditate–Which has its place in your well being, no question about it. Rather, I’m asking you to be comfortable and aware of Self for a change.

I always tell clients that they have an untapped potential that has brought them to this moment in time, and that wants to thrive. It’s the voice in our head that sets aside our insecurities, and tells us, “I can do it.” All we have to do is listen and trust it. We can only ever hear this voice when we allow ourselves to be fully connected to the present moment, mind, body, spirit. So, whenever you are under any form of stress, just remember you always have a present waiting for you. The question is whether or not you are willing to accept it.

Written by,

Present Awareness Bear

Patrick Daly

Honolulu, Hawaii
Instagram: p.a.t__life

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Wellness

I’ve Tried Everything!

When people have been stuck on an issue for some time they can come to an obvious conclusion…

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When people have been stuck on an issue for some time they can come to an obvious conclusion – that they’ve tried everything.  No doubt they’ve tried a lot, but there can be a fine line between resting on a sob story and being diligently open to answers.  I’ve come across a lot of people who have struggled with health for many years and are now closed off to anything new, because they’ve ‘tried everything.’  Sometimes, those things they’ve ‘tried’ they didn’t do right.  Perhaps their unconscious hampered them, because it loves the hard luck story. Sure we can be dismayed if we put forth an honest effort or intention and we come up with nothing, but it’s important to remain true to our dream or goal.

  • People run stories in their minds.  Some stories are about hard luck.
  • Part of the human condition is to pass blame.  If we had nothing standing in our way, we’d have to take full responsibility for ourselves.  
  • There is an old saying (well, it’s from Star Wars): “Do or do not, there is no try.”
  • Sometimes we don’t actually want to heal or succeed, we want it to look like we did everything possible, but fell short.  
  • No one ever solved a problem by focusing on the problem.  They focused on the solution. Without a guiding star, an overarching dream that compels us, we will never move forward.  If we spend our time focusing on and obsessing over our problems, ‘trying everything,’ we will continue to ‘try everything.’

The following premise applies to everything in life:

Be dedicated to the process, but unattached to the outcome.

How do we achieve this?

  • Acknowledge where we are.
  • Observe it, with no emotional attachment.
  • Determine our overarching dream.
  • Figure out what’s wrong.
  • Make a plan of action.
  • Forget about what’s wrong.
  • Dedicate to the process, forget about the outcome.
  • Work diligently and joyfully toward the dream, with the intention of serving a higher purpose, not ourselves.

The old expression ‘journey over destination,’ rings especially true.  The point of life isn’t to ‘have’ everything we ‘want,’ but what we learn, and how we grow.  If we lie to ourselves (‘try everything’) we will be fraught with frustration, anger, sadness, despair.  If we are honest in our thoughts, motives and actions, we will always be fulfilled, no matter the circumstances.  We usually end up with what we wanted anyway, because we gave up wanting.

When we want something, we can affirm our lack of it, and push it away from us.

People make ‘getting better’ (from a health condition), losing weight, making more money or finding a partner their raison d’etre.  They focus only on having what they want, with no reason to have it.  Want more money?  Great!  Why? What are you going to put into the world, in order to have that in return?   What are you going to do with that once you have it?  If you don’t know, you probably won’t have it.  You’ll ‘try everything’ in order to get there, but never get there.  Want to lose weight, cure a parasite or yeast infection or recover from chronic fatigue?  Great!  Why?  What are you going to do with that health once you have it?  If you don’t know, you won’t have it.  What are you going to put into the world in order to receive it?  Nothing?  You don’t have the energy to output?  The world owes you something?  Well then, enjoy ‘trying everything.’

Something I learned from Paul Chek is the importance of establishing a dream.  If you don’t know what your dream is, think of your nightmare or worst case scenario, and go in the opposite direction of that.  A tip: all ancient texts speak of giving to give, not giving to get.  The action is the same, but the intention, and result (karma), are night and day.

Tom.

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