“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
—Viktor E. Frankl
Photo by Todd Cameron
When I first met Heather it started with chirps and chatter over our mutual interest of martial arts. We clicked like a binary code, as if we had known each other for decades. Heather and I sparked into conversation with “Yes!”, and “Of course!”. Smiles and exclamation marks flared out with hand gestures from simple understandings that have a common surprise when considered. Heather has the clear eyed spirit to uplift those around her, an honest playful smile, and a faint hint of an east coast accent. She is also a 911 emergency dispatcher here in Ottawa. A line of work that demands a certain fortification of understanding.
A few years ago I had the opportunity to sit in on some of the calls received by emergency dispatchers and it was an experience I haven’t forgotten. It was only an hour, but I was glad to be unplugged afterwards. The nerve-racking, heart-wrenching, sweat-inducing calls received, one after the other, were enough to make one drift into wide-eyed existentialism by the end of it. I could easily see how long term exposure to that kind of stress could increase the risk for depression, anxiety, and poor health.
Imagine for a moment walking towards your office and your heartbeat starts to increase from the triggers of familiarity. You try and shrug it off, but the signs of anxiety come narrowing into focus. You think about reaching out to a coworker or supervisor that day, but you're worried that the topic of your feelings will be awkward, belittled, or judged. Perhaps even looked at like a sickness— contagious if uttered. Your mouth starts to dry as vapid greetings to your colleagues restrict in your throat from an uneasiness and shortness of breath. On the way to your workstation your feet feel cold and your hands begin to tingle while you sit down to type. A deep breath in, and you’ve collected yourself into the callused calm that allows you to perform your work with incredible poise. You plug into phone calls perpetuated of people in dire need of help for the next 11 hours. To say that stress has a central theme among emergency dispatchers would be a truism, however, one that leaves out the metallic back of the mouth taste of the experience that I had, for just one hour.
“I can't do this, unless I find a way to deal with the stress."
When Heather casually told me what she did for work, I imagined that there weren’t many happy endings to her day. It must take great effort to cultivate the thoughts that create positive feelings championing these individuals to answer the call of us in need of help, day in and day out. Heather explains, that many people cope with stress by pretending it doesn't exist, or knowing and choosing to ignore it. Others, by stupefying themselves with alcohol, drugs, sex, eating, outward blame and anger, staying busy, or seeking adrenaline boosting activities. Some of these may look healthy on the surface, but if we aren't able to be still and sit with our pain it will demand we examine it at the least convenient of times.
Acknowledging and defining our stress, depression and anxiety takes a mammoth amount of courage and compassion for oneself; considerable patience in a fog of desperation. “To be able to change what you thought was beyond your control is incredibly self-empowering.” I scrambled to scribble her words while Heather spoke. Heather also notes that the process is difficult, and cultivating your positive inner dialogue takes practice, but it’s paramount in the search for equanimity.
Types of stress like, compassion stress, occupational stress, critical incident stress, cumulative stress, PTSD, as well as, the spectrum of depression and forms of anxiety need to be further addressed among our emergency first responders. I was hard pressed to find emergency dispatchers categorically in the same company as first responders, yet they deal with real time suffering and are a critical component to the outcome of emergency calls. After nearly a decade of working as an Ottawa emergency dispatcher, Heather has tussled with time finding ways of dealing with the cost of caring. During one of the many conversations about the deeper meanings of life, I asked Heather about her insights into stress, compassion, and ways of engaging her own mental health.
"I had to get better at being myself” She explained with a fidget of her fingers.
Sitting with close company talking about life’s trivialities while inside you're suffering from your own realities is individual in its circumstance, yet it is happening to an increasing number of people in our society. However, anxiety or depression could convince us that we are all alone, lost in our struggles— a prisoner to ourselves. Heather explains that when she acknowledged her depression she began to observe it like an outsider looking in. It wasn’t a mystery anymore, but a defined problem, and a solution became a beacon of hope.
“It takes a deliberate reflection into the best practices of helping someone. First, I had to learn how to connect without draining myself and to energize my body and mind each day in the ways that suited my lifestyle.” Practicing mindfulness is Heather's first step to conscious decision making. Considering how she feels and why, then becoming open to the possibility that she can change that feeling. Heather finds her peace of mind through yoga, meditation, talking to her friends, spending time with her cats, and her relentless pursuit of self-awareness.
Emergency dispatchers are the first point of contact with the public. They are assigned to decode through distress all necessary information before sending it to the appropriate emergency personnel. Little can we appreciate the level of on-point multitasking that the emergency dispatcher must undergo managing emotions, working under pressure, making rapid and effective decisions, and relaying the correct information for the most supportive outcome for all people involved. Relief for all levels of emergency responders should be understood, encouraged, and supported. It seems intuitive to foster the personal care for the people who serve as a lifeline for police, and public.
The statistics on mental health are fundamentally flawed since the nature of the affliction are most deceptive in its silence. The terminology that we have previously prescribed has only driven the voice further inward in reluctance to become one of the many labelled as sick. However, we have begun to recognize that stress, depression, and anxiety are more of a function of the normal human condition— mental health. “One of the biggest barriers to my own healing was that I couldn’t live openly, and couldn’t ask help from anyone” she recalls feeling.
Heather and first responders alike, experience a role that merits a closer look at what it means to manage our personal mental health. She has taught me how to be more self-monitoring, and compassionate to myself first, in the pursuit of helping others. Fostering a healthy work environment, as well as individual mental health should be at the forefront of our services. It should start with them.
I was taught recently that the answers aren’t in the branches, they're at the root. Life will undoubtedly give us, tragedies, emergencies, and hangups, yet there are those that will always be there to answer the call. The root of our services, our emergency dispatchers.
“I think what I love the most is being able to be there for someone in need of help.”
Photo by Todd Cameron
Stay tuned for the mini documentary filmed and edited by Rogers Television
"Passion, like discriminating taste, grows on its use. You more likely act yourself into feeling than feel yourself into action."
– Maria Popova
Follow your passion? That’s bad advice. At least, in part. Before you follow anything consider what may be pulling you towards it, or pushing you. Advertizing is telling us to do something. However, calls to fancy free action in the moment aren't necessarily the best foot forward for our future. Put down your Oak scented beard oil and your glamping paddle pillow along with your lackadaisical wanderlust for a moment. Instead, just sit in silence and think. The further we can see into our future, the more powerful we become. We're able to get a better look at what we’re lining up in the equation that we’re creating.
You're sitting in your office on your allotted 15 minute break surfing Craigslist, Best of Reddit, before falling upon Draw a Stickman. You think about how cool it would be, no, rewarding to see a stickman that you yourself created when you glance up and right, constructing imagery of your future self. Shit. The not too distant future looks pretty banal. You're in the same ergonomic swivel chair with the abused coffee break breath, but now with an inventory of stickman drawings, craving shitty carbs and wearing extravegantly coloured socks. You begin to fantasize about quitting your job during a sunny day when Renegades by the X- Ambassadors come on the radio. All those advertizments of people quitting their 9-5 jobs and becoming brew masters, travel photographers, or off-roading jeep drivers seems within reach. However, the reality is you've squandered so much free time (time outside of work, and breaks within it) getting the quick feel-goods, but have forgotten about the search for the meaning of it all. We have forgotten to talk to ourselves, to ask ourseleves questions. When we begin to ask oursleves the big questions, our self-satified mediocrity shakes apart and discovery echoes through the cracks a depth of ones own true heart. A voice of vocation is heard back. Stickman...sticks...wood...woodworking. Of course! You realize that you've actually loved woodworking since building that locker divider in Junior High. Authority figures during your youth scared choice and dreams into a pensionable career promising antidotes from suffering, but confining you to the hours of employment for a life sentance of 30+ years.
Oops, hey, 15 minutes are up desk jockey and work isn't paying you to realize the power of your passion. However, the next day instead of sitting around the office for lunch, engaging in breezy chitchat, you grab the carpenter's apron from your locker, run over to the Ottawa City Woodshop, and sign yourself up for a membership. Every lunch hour for the foreseeable future is now dedicated to creating products from reclaimed wood. Six months later with a disciplined schedule that snowballs an excited pursuit, you've found yourself with an inventory of products and a lifestyle career in healthy development. Your heart is fully committed even when your time is divided. Passion increases productivity in both careers because quality coheres itself to your character from a discovery of aptitude and an additional income stream.
Follow your passion? No. Bring it with you wherever you go. Never be pushed into passion, but driven to your own discoveries.
"The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are."
– Joseph Campbell
I was biking west bound along the Parkway past Parliament toward the sunset on the last Friday of July. I had the audiobook, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius playing in my headphones and a smile from ear to ear from the beauty laid out before me. Cruising along with the philosophical insights calmly theorized by a Roman Emperor almost two thousand years before my time, I couldn't help but feel humbled by the privileges fought for the future in a history we could hardly relate to. To my surprise, I came across dozens of intricately placed stone figures mysteriously gazing out from the cusp of the dark waters of the Ottawa River. When I pulled my bike in for a closer look, or rather, when I was pulled in, I couldn’t help but notice the nordic fairyland feeling drifting in as the sun slowly descended. The kid-curious suspicion in me questioned that these fantastical figures weren’t created, but perhaps just came about. Maybe even walked about.
There was a man moseying over to each individual, couple, and family, answering questions about the display of self-expression. When he made his way to me he slowly became shorter than I had perceived, which somehow made the experience more enchanting. He was white haired and weathered, with a spark of knowing in his eyes that held my attention. For a split second the thought of shaking him down for secrets and gold coins crossed my mind, but passed at the immediacy of the social proximity. The man smiled and simply said, “Hello”. I excitedly and promptly asked him if this was his handy work, with what I’m sure looked like a bug-eyed expression of whimsical wildness across my face. He explained effortlessly that it was his heart. His pursuit in life was that of truth. He worked in accordance with nature, and discovered an absolute amidst the relentless conviction of change that nature negotiates with time. “Nature is Truth”, he said. It took me back visibly in the choke of words for a second, before fumbling out a sensible sentence. I told him that the last words of the audiobook I was listening to before pausing at the spectacle, was of Marcus Aurelius saying the exact same thing. He looked at me with a surrender and said, “That’s beautiful”. We both acknowledged the oddity of the meaningful coincidence before he extended his gnarly stone crushed hand with the introduction, “I’m John”.
John Ceprano is a painter, photographer, and rock sculptor who has integrated himself into the heart of Ottawa tourism and into the imagination of those who encounter his creations. You can discover more about John here. I've found that when exploring more of my own community, I'm continuously surprised by the beautiful nature of the land, and it's people.
"Every man's life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another."
He was across the street from me when I slowed my pace to a stop. Something about the scene had caught hold of me. The man, perhaps in his early seventies, was sitting on a curb outside of a self-serve car wash lot, but not a car in sight. He sat under the warm glow of an orange lamp that buzzed with a frigid desperation, and I watched him through the steam of my breath against the cold.
He had on a dark winter peacoat, tuque, blue jeans, and big bulky black boots, yet no gloves. One hand held a cigarette just before his lips while the other arm hugged his knee. He sat slightly reclined as if in thought with no concern for time. I watched the smoke from his cigarette slowly spiral up, almost held in still by the cold winter air. What was he thinking of, or waiting for, I wondered.
I should have gone to speak with him, but I was frozen in my observation. The scene felt sad, but free with a poetic adornment about it. Not a give up, but rather a letting go. There was no observable tension in the scene despite the temperature.
His movements were as slow as the unhurried smoke. I stood mesmerized while imagining his tales of love, loss, and adventures over his years. That’s all I can do now. Just imagine. A moment lost is gone forever. Maybe that was his moment though, and my lesson.
A poem for Mt. Marcy
I triumphantly renounce you as Marcy, and name you anew
In this proclamation, Magic is the name I drew
But you drew first and struck my heart
Who would argue, but add from the start
To the ways in which we hear you in the night, and see you in the day
Triumphant not of my own, but in the respect you bestow upon our gaze
To the glory of Earth and the brilliant life it holds
To the rapture in my heart, I’ll give that love away a thousand fold
The challenge that beckons is worth the final view
But standing atop of you I finally knew
There is no finality to the quest driven man
Discovery is infinite to a mind that must expand
Maybe the spark was there from the start
Fueled by life, and driven by heart
Footsteps representing our meaning to move
Of growing, of changing, and continuing through
Even you, Magic, are moving but slow
Patience inherited, from wisdom unknown
But alas I fear I feast on feelings
Forewarned of our time forever fleeting
So I move from place to person naming it all the same
Awe struck by the thought that none of this can remain
So have your patience, but understand our restlessness
We have so much to see and time will get the best of us
There will be my time to rest, perhaps come the fall
Not of autumn, but the day my legs can no longer move at all
Then I will be a mountain, beautiful and big
By a life worth reflecting on
Knowing Magic exists.
Guest post: Jacob Reddick
Slicked with an oil glazed altruism and fuelled by a desperate desire for authenticity, the hipster strives for a uniqueness while moving like the Monarch Butterfly. The perfect example of when in doubt of self, flutter Lemming-like to a mindless social norm. Now don’t get me wrong, none of this is a “bad” thing on the surface. Until you’re sitting on the patio of your favourite Mexican restaurant in the hot humid summer sun, awkwardly navigating a nacho full of guacamole through the sweaty pine scented sadness of your loosening identity.
A strange transformation started to occur...
As their beards slowly, even creepily grew stretching out like swirly straws from squirrely shifty eyed millennial’s, they were able to mask their pain of empty pride with comical twirling mustaches, and economic downturn clothing made fashionable. The pretentiously perplexed political prowess of the hipster even exceeds the ability of their lazy lackluster statements, giving way to the psychopath armchair activist and same dank coverage of the confused expectations of beard oil. When does a subculture become a mental illness? My thought is that hipsters may contribute zero as a subculture to society in large, and my fear is that none of what they aim to showcase holds value or meaning, as it was thoughtlessly assimilated from other cultures and the historical significance. A mindless amalgamation of styles for the sake of something that evades our knowing. Or at least mine.
Imagine more men grew beards for the challenge of hiking a mountain in the dead of winter to honour ancestors who crashed through wave and cut through forest to provide for us the leisure time that we so easily waste away. Instead, we dainty ourselves with a freshness of manufactured innocence, and shamelessly act in a manner that contradicts with no conviction, our volatile self portrait. The ’not give a fuck’ motto, is a safeguard from vulnerability and as a result limits our capacity for understanding ourselves through another, and with another. We lost ourselves in the self satisfaction of every reflective surface. What about self reflection? Every decision we make formulates the depth of our lives. Give a fuck, but, like, for reals.
Perhaps, idealism has been bastardized into a consumerism ideology, whereby liberty lazying into leisure has confused the pursuit of happiness and narrowed it’s focus on social statements made of fabric. Liberty was to set us free, but instead has been quietly conforming us to the shackles that we so proudly wear as our sleeves. Superficiality is at its pinnacle in the ‘leisure class’, but how long will this continue to last? Much has been lost among the bright lights. The flicker in our eyes has been dimmed in contrast, and the noise that surrounds us only serves to deafen our dialogue.
My hope? Both men and women make functional, affordable, and fashionable strides to reflect the change we demand from ourselves, and the example we want to set for the future. Reason furthers to conviction, while fashion meets utility in the relationship of art, but with clear meaning. We are ready for change and we want substance.
Overwhelmed by spooky gewgaw,
Romance is not chocolate or roses. It's risk...
"Vulnerability is the essence of romance."
Best read to this song: Sinnerman
It was the middle of the night when my alarm went off at a low roar. My parents had been in bed for roughly an hour, and it was time to make my escape. Twelve years old, and trained in the tactical art of defiance. I had my all-black ninja attire (Nike jumpsuit) hanging in my closet, like I would imagine a young Batman would have. Quickly I tossed it on, took a deep breath to collect my wits, popped out the window screen, and perched on the rooftop. I surveyed the street for a moment for anyone rustling about. It was suburban quiet out at that time of night, especially during the weekdays. I lay on my stomach atop the shingles with my head hanging over the eavestrough. With both palms down in a supinated position, I GI Joe kung-fu-gripped the trough and in an acrobatic forward rotation, my legs came over top of me and I was now swinging for a split second before dropping off into the garden below. The tall bushes blocked my decent as my feet silently hit soil. Success, but no time for smiles. My journey had just begun and turning back was as risky as its departure.
The first major obstacle was overcome, but now came the gates and the gate keeper was our tiny Irish Terrier pup named Journey—of course. Since my room was at the front of the house and the shortest, stealthiest route starting from the backyard, I could overt any neighbour’s watchful eyes at the risk of a few more obstacles. A decision that took into account the lack of control of constantly suspicious suburbanites and a comfortable existence that secretly hoped for an incongruent occurrence of some kind. Certainly, ninja Jay running through the streets would be their ideal dilemma of synaptic satisfaction. However, with my environmentally endearing parents having turned off the outside lights before bed, I could easily glide the perimeter of the house with the culpability of the streetlights just trimming my toes.
As I approached the first gate my heartbeat, engineered out of necessity, had acclimatized itself for “sneak mode” stress. The lever of the gate was lightly lifted with a slow desperation. I could never decide whether my dad had deliberately kept it creaky as a natural deterrent. Slowly guiding the lever over the clasp, I had to be particularly quiet as my parent's window hung ominously over the gate. If the light turned on, I had to quickly make an ascent back to my room, and the night would be spoiled. As a rule, I would only make one attempt per night. The carefully considered rules of a hopeful romantic who had been grounded, scorned, and familiarized with punishments of the past. Second obstacle averted. I stepped each foot with a deliberate slowness that had to occur at intervals that wouldn’t be representative of the creatures my pup was instinctively set to slay. This phase seemed to take forever. My eyes scanned as my ears perked with vigilance at my pace. Easy Jay...I often coached myself in third person. The second gate was smooth, and I was now at the cusp of the tree line leading myself into the dark forest. Our house growing up backed onto a forest where I spent most of my freedom. I would climb, swing, and scout my way to inspiration, imagination, and the mysteries of a young explorer.
The next forty minutes would be open sprints and combat rolls. Unnecessary combat rolls, that seemed completely essential at the time, every time. The route to my crushes house had been familiarly mapped out over already years of surveying my quickly expanding territory of play as a kid. Ten kilometres later, hurdling through woods and weaving through streets, parks, paths, and construction sites, I finally made it to the window of my sweetheart. She knew I would be arriving around this time if everything went according to etch-a-sketch plan, and with a faint knock, I could hear her scramble to the window.
Once inside her room it was all whispered kisses, and an exchange of thoughtful love letters with the folded intricacies that my dexterity could never quite duplicate. We giggled in a hushed buzz that is forever fused to my memory. Ten minutes felt like hours, but just as quickly as I had arrived; I was off into the night again. The journey home always felt faster with an invigoration that washes its way into an exultant pace. Possibly a skip. I would definitely skip. And laugh like a mad-man, sometimes howling. Arrival home, the ascent to bed was a temporary buzz kill before face-planting bliss. Quietly climbing on the BBQ, hopping with tippy toes on the edge of the fence while grabbing hold of the eavestrough and lifting myself up onto the roof; I sword-stepped it back to my window across the shingles. The face plant left the impression of a smiley face, no doubt.
It was the risk and thoughtfulness that ultimately created deep meaning for both our young hearts. Eat chocolate everyday, smell, pick, or purchase flowers every chance you have, but when it comes to romance get creative and use your imagination.
Reckon the odds and boldly embrace the risk.
Enjoy a closing tune: Young Heart Run Free
"The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed."
- Carl Jung
Transitions, like strangers, can prove to be valuable teachers.
The other morning during my walk to work, I noted an elderly man across the street wobbling at a painful pace and what looked like a necessary attentiveness to each foot that fell. However, in the next moment he stepped off the cement sidewalk toward the dandelion-riddled grass. He plunged his bare feet out from his dusty loafers and glided along the dewy green grass with ease. It was like watching a boot take off a shoe. The tough complexion of his feet pulled more light in than they reflected, however, it didn’t seem to affect his flow. He began to pick up his pace to a frolic. What made it a frolic wasn’t just the pace through the dandelions, but the devilish smile that possessed his face as he moonwalked through the thick of it. He immediately looked far younger than first perceived. As you can imagine, this completely broke my random morning thoughts and sporadic observations, even more than the typical shiny object, or fluttering insect. I wasn’t set on speaking to him, but I decided to get a closer look at the man who had seemed to have lost his marbles. I crossed the street parallel to him, as to not spook the uncertainty that was already prevailing.
While the gap closed between us he stepped off the grass and continued on with his turtle trek. When he saw me, I was still smiling at what I had just witnessed. A smile closer to a smirk streaked across his face, and he gingerly said, “Hello young man.” “Hi”, I said, with an inquisitive tone that almost made it into a question. “What brings you into view this morning?”, he asked. “Well, distance I suppose”, I replied smugly. A clever rebuttal summoned by the coconut oil in my coffee and delivered by caffeine. “Is that all?”, he replied with a patient repose. “Well, no,” I said, with a stupid smile slowly elevating. “I saw you dancing in the dandelions, and came to curiosity at the sight.” “Ah yes, my daily longevity routine,” he said with obviousness. I laughed to his confidence and quick wit. “Is that all?”, I poised back. He straightened up and said, “Well, no.” We strolled slowly together in silence down the sidewalk.
We walked together as if we had a thousand times, exchanging chuckles and sideways glances. He read me like a book, but was wise enough as to not assert it as fact. As we strolled he joked with a nonchalant intelligence that reminded me of the Dalai Lama. I asked him how he came to be so positive, and he replied simply, "Practice, young man. We are innately creators. What do you think that limits us to?" My head hung low in consideration of his words. I was in the process of creating many things in my life out of uncomfortable transitions. However, I suppose life is one big uncomfortable transition. Happiness, as he was suggesting, was not exclusive from that creation. His presence was beginning to feel like synchronicity. A word coined by Carl Jung, but spoken of by many, if only in different terms. In her book, Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert explains Synchronicity as "quest physics". In his book A Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell describes it as, "A thousand unseen hands." Even a study conducted by the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Lab (PEAR Lab) poised that there is a small but statistically measurable link between human thought and patterns that occur in random data sets. Needless to say, my attention became transfixed to our encounter.
I explained with a verbiage salad to the calm reposed stranger, which by now became a meandering mentor; my losses, hopes and failures. He listened actively, and stopped in his tracks upon my pause. With a kind smile and foggy grey eyes that dulled his vision, but not his outlook, he said, “Young man never give up." As his words struck me, goosebumps scattered across my body like rippling water. I’m not sure if it was the definitive tone in his voice, or the timing of the message, but it had an impact. He noticed my eyes tense, struggling to keep a stoic disposition. A shield I've strengthened from weathering the storms of life. "At times you will be lonely. People will laugh at you, talk trash of you, and try to dissuade you, but you must continue on. No one knows you better than yourself. Patience is a virtue, but the time is upon you." His 78 years had made his heart strong with an emotional fortitude I can only hope to achieve one day. I had so many questions. We sauntered slowly for awhile before he patted me on the shoulder and said, "Life is an incredible gift, how are you going to receive it?"
After we parted ways, I had felt a transfer of tranquil vivaciousness all around me. His words echoed through my mind, oscillating into depths of wonder and pause. Just words, I thought. A simple conversation with a stranger. Stories shared, and bound into the equation of life. Transitions can be tough, but what we are to become, we can choose to create. Happiness is not exclusive from our divinity, it's essential to it.
The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.
- John Muir
Most of us can appreciate a leisure jaunt through the woods on a Sunday afternoon, but what about a run through the forest with a pack of your friends? Have you ever gathered up a couple of your gals and guys, and gone to run wild? Neither had I.
I found this to be quite a different feeling then the typical windy woodland walk. There were three of us, all moving in a quick and quiet pace as we glided through the forest with deliberation. None of us spoke, until the first one howled in a bubbled up excitement, forgetting for that moment what it meant to be human, or perhaps instead remembering. I'd like to imagine that all of our hearts were beating together as we ran. Running as a pack through the forest brought about many feelings. Confidence and excitement, are the first to come to mind. Confidence that the pack had your back. It was a feeling that became tangible, as from time to time we would individually break free from the trail to swing on a branch, or leap over a fallen tree, and excitement filled our every breath. We were alive, and we knew it. Better yet, was the feeling of expressing that together.
In his book, Walden, Henry David Thoreau poetically states, "We've settled down on earth, and forgotten heaven." I think we've never completely settled. Running through the forest as a pack was unsettling in its restlessness, but settling in its fundamental footsteps. Heaven was on earth, and we were in rapture of it. I'm not sure who started, but almost as if we were a flock of birds communicating in silence, we broke free from the trail, and continued our run even wilder now through the thick. We weren't just in a forest, we were in a community, and life was in ever inch of space.
Getting away from the poetic significance of running through the forest, was the physical fortitude it took to hurl yourself around. It's interesting to find just how unnatural linear movements are. People have fragile feet more then ever, and perhaps walking around constant flat surfaces wearing space-boots, could be contributing. The conditions of our environment shape our malleable form. It can cripple us, or as Katy Bowman put it, ''cast us''. To explore this further, Katy, in her podcast Katy Says, talks about her professional as well as, personal perspectives on natural human movements from the accolades of a biomechanist. Here's an quick blog post where she talks about the casts that are set upon us from our lifestyles and environment: http://bit.ly/1wUMK3z
Running through the forest was incredible for the feeling of exuberance, expressing your body, and delving into your mind. Exploring the dynamics of our bodies, opens windows into opportunities of thought. In the forest, our entire bodies were involved with our feelings, and we ran as if we were unstoppable. The cast is off.
For some info on movement, MobilityWOD is a valuable resource.
"The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you've got it made."
- Groucho Marx
“Why are there so many fake people?!?!?!”, a Facebook friend asked with flustered clustered punctuation. To my surprise, everyone responded as if drunk on positive psychology. So surely authentic in their affirmations. Although this was nice to observe on a certain level, there also lingered a neurosis of a sort.
Cocked ready the "real" people were to vilify the "fakers", in some sort of holy social media altruistic wagon ride, with every village idiot on board.
It’s like yelling at someone from car to car. It lacks the courage of any conviction.
Most people have complexities, anxieties, stresses, personality disorders, mental illness, etc. Not to mention the influence the media has to move our culture into uncomfortably suggested social norms. Compliance confusion, if you will. Oh, you will. Is it that surprising that people would try on different masks, or be uncomfortable with the one they wear? Or, maybe momentarily they suffer from an existential befuddlement while re-calibrating their own reality. Thus transitioning into anew. You wouldn’t curse at a caterpillar in a cocoon. Fake? Is there truly such a thing?
We're basically jabbering naked monkeys on a big pile of magnetic stardust, hovering on a sunbeam, in an ever expanding Universe of unimaginable size. No one’s got it figured out! That's the funniest, scariest, and even perhaps the most poetic part about living.
Too often we cast judgement on others in a higher way, or at least with certainty, that we know the correct way to live. A reactionary fed-up-ness at times, understandably. However, it was the cultish compliance in accordance with that question, that stirred defence of the “fakers” in me.
So then, what is real? Are all these “fake” naysayers on the right, and real path to self-fulfilment, or enlightenment? I’m not so sure, but maybe that’s the point. The only thing I can see as being real, is uncertainty itself. After all, self-actualization according to Maslow, is at the highest importance of our needs when the conditions of all others are filled. Perhaps then, only achievable through the lapse of time, and with the right conditions for interpretation. Like watering a growing garden. Give people time to breath, time to grow, and lay roots of character. If we could only help nurture the soil of souls, instead of first sowing the seeds of condemnation. What a beautifully diverse garden of life we could have that could fill us more than any secular economic social status, or FaceBook status, ever could.
Updates of reality need to be reassessed by conversations, however, sometimes in our daily frustrations we slip too easily into the practice of exclusion with our words. How soon we forget as our divisions grow they were all illusions of self. It’s ok to be uncertain about who you are. Try on masks, and don’t stop till one fits.
Pain is only temporary. It can be perpetuated with a lingering of self doubt, or extinguished with a flow of understanding.
The other day, I perched at a local coffee shop to do some work. I had to gear down my typical pace of high energy, to a slower jaunt because of an injury. I kept getting distracted in my discomfort, though. Having torn muscles in your abdominal can really throw you off balance. At first, my unpitying self-denial allowed me to stupidly train through the injury. When I could no longer continue at the intensity that I was used to, It quickly turned to self-pity. I wanted to feel my normal self again, but this pain was eating up my mental calories, and continued to commandeer my focus. F@$#!
When I was done cursing in my thoughts, I sat back, pushed away my laptop, and tried to relax. With a deep breath, my eyes clumsily scanned the room. I observed an elderly woman in a wheel chair, gazing out the coffee shop window. She wore the stereotypical elderly attire with a button-up wool sweater, and a blanket over her lap. She watched as a funeral procession passed by, her expression unchanged. Her strong pale blue eyes followed the procession to the last car. A calmness about her eased me into a trance-like-state, where I sat with her in the moment. A realization that with life, pain is a certainty. There are different kinds of pain, but they have a commonality. Our pain is telling us something. The credible danger vs. credible safety analytics from evolution, or the big test before the great beyond. Whether it’s a torn muscle, or facing your mortality, pain has a presence in our lives. The elephant in the corporeal room. Like the Police calling you; It’s never a good thing. Pain never calls just to say hi. Instead, a reminder of our fragile, and limited experience in this life. The most powerful way to combat pain, and its comrade fear, is to first understand them. The emotions produced by pain can prove to come with great clarity, if we can change our vantage point.
Pain sharpens our focus, and can bring with it teachings beyond our surface sufferings. Recognizing this allows you to sit with the pain, not dismiss it, but utilize it as a force of motivation, and understanding, not for self destruction. This is to say, keeping our mindset on appreciation, and gratitude as we meander through our affliction.
Pain ultimately shapes us. It can sculpt us into something beautiful, or carve us into something ugly. Understanding one’s behaviour can give us insight into one’s pain. This truth is the same reversed. Pay note of those around you. Each has seen, or felt pain not unlike yourself, although varying in intensity, and circumstance. We are all connected through our pain, and can be brought together by it. Love can blossom through pain, if you water it with careful consideration.
In his acclaimed book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl, gives his professional, and personal, first-hand account of the horrors of living in Nazi death camps. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wishes to further his, or her understanding of the difference between pain, and suffering. Frankl, eloquently states, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms - to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstances, to choose one’s own way”. Suffering, then, can be a choice. Therefore, pain, and its concomitant emotions do not possess the choice of how it will shape us. That is ours alone to make in the meaning we give to it.
Use your body, laugh, love and enjoy each day. Pain will come, but it most certainly will go.
“What is to give light must endure burning”.
- Viktor E. Frankl
Guest Post By Jacob Reddick- Halloween edition
You’ve met them before. Perhaps shaking their warm extended hand, squeamishly avoiding the cold-held gaze of the social predator. You felt elevated around their confidence in the fearlessness that is portrayed through the vector of their conviction. The psychopath is a calculating creature. A social vampire, knowing when they are being watched.
Psychopaths make small manipulations in their character to match another’s, best. Like a piece to a puzzle. The psycho can achieve this through charisma. It’s a genuine adaptive charm, contagious by its curiosity. They possess excitement to understand, and feel, but what is hidden in their charm is a cold vessel of extraction. Constantly gauging your re-activity, body language, and micro gestures in the coined; “cold readings”. They analyze one’s character to see if they can manipulate it into something more preferable in utility, or entertainment. Like their own unique addition to a painting, or piece of art. However, sometimes seeing beauty, and carving it into an uglier piece, is beauty, by virtue of art in itself. A creation out of corrosion.
What if you could portray the psychopaths social powers, but not possess their faults?
In his acclaimed book, The Wisdom of Psychopaths, Dr. Kevin Dutton explains how Psychos have shown to produce consistent theta brainwaves throughout the day. Theta brainwaves are conducive to drowsy, and meditative states. The ability to slow down the moment and decide, rather then to react. Calm like a bomb.
However, there are ways to combat their deliberate chaos. Psychopaths, like everyone else, are powerless to honesty. Observing the interaction in the moment with the attention it deserves gives us a chance to recognize, and interpret the behavior of another. Upon recognition of these traits we can then implement our own reaction, and plan of action for extraction. First, we must understand what the qualities are that attract us to these clever little monsters, in the first place.
The psychopath displays a social fearlessness that is helpful in making friends, and influencing people. They also display dominant body language, and possess charisma in a melody of humor, curiosity, and attentiveness. In social situations, the psychopath is most comfortable.
So, how can we navigate the unnerving social situations that we may find ourselves in?
Supplements, sound waves, and meditation.
Many people struggle with social anxiety. It can impair our progress by impeding the social chances that we take. Some supplements such as, Theanine, have been shown to reduce stress, and have recently become more popular in the social scene. Theanine is an amino acid analog, and naturally occurs in plants, and fungus species. The introduction of a natural stress reducing supplement, in conjunction with technology, may serve to help us gain some ground in an uncomfortable social situation.
Utilize sound-wave technology for getting in the zone.
MyNoise is my app of choice. I use MyNoise to help calibrate my mindset for the activity ahead. Sound-wave technology is just one other factor that can help ease us out of a twitchy mindset, and into the focused social lazer-beam of our psychopathic counterparts. With the aid of chewable cherry theanine, and theta sound-waves, we can help our state become more relaxed, while becoming more aware. Another powerful, yet awareness building exercise before we head out on the town, or into a business meeting, is meditation.
Meditation has been shown to reduce anxiety, while also increasing self-awareness. Meditation is underrated in our culture, but slowly growing in it's popularity. There are many forms of meditation, but what has worked best for me is the app, Headspace. Headspace is a guided meditation app that proclaims to make a difference in ten minutes for ten days of its use. After the application of Headspace into my daily routine, I'll never go back.
Implementing theanine, sound-waves, and meditation into our lives before the social shark tank, can help train us for encounters of the third kind. Acting not in an impulsive sense, but moreover in a calculated two-step dance move.
1 out of 100 people are considered to have psychopathic tendencies. Chances are, you run into these manipulative people more often then you think. Social economics is the song of the psychopath. Are you dancing?
P.S. If you want to see if you possess the characteristics of a psychopath, take the Psychopath Challenge.
There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar; I love not Man less, but nature more.
- Lord Byron
When was the last time you screamed at the top of your lungs? On the bus, car, dwelling, or out in the streets? Probably not recently. It's unfortunate that gyms don't have an offshoot soundproof room dedicated to screaming. Think about it. If you could walk into a room with a giant picture of a lion (or whatever), snarling, and beckoning for a reaction, would you scream at it? How good would it feel, either as a warm up, or a cool down. A pump up, or release. A war cry going into battle, or the shout of victory at the end.
Primal therapy, although sounding like "bro science", is an actual method utilized in trauma-based (and predictably), psychotherapy. It was created by Arthur Janov, and became popular for a brief time in the 1970's after his publication of, The Primal Scream. Others refer to it as scream therapy, and has been rumoured to be used by actors such as, Angelina Jolie, and advocated by musician/philosopher, John Lennon. After reading the book, I couldn't stop thinking about screaming. If I wasn't singing at the top of my lungs in the shower, then I was pretty much quiet all day. I hadn't screamed out loud in far too long, and screaming into a pillow, or the underwater scream therapy seemed too restrictive, and unnaturally ridiculous.
My search was for something that seemed more natural, and not forced. Instead, bubbling up from the cockles of my paleomammalian brain. I pondered this while sitting watching a thunderstorm from the safety of my balcony. The rain beat down so hard, I couldn't hear anything else, but its impact. A streak of lightening broke not too far from my apartment, and the thundering boom of the compression waves ripped through my eardrums, scaring the shit out of me. For an irrational moment, I wanted to yell back at it. Then the epiphany came flooding in. The next storm would be my time to yell back, and I plotted my revenge.
It was a hot stormy day. The kind of humid heat that could plaster you to a leather couch. I love it. The humidity brings out all the wonderful smells of the forest, and I was bound for it. What drew me to the forest on that stormy day was my plan of action with a deep down beating of a Jumanji drum, begging for attention, and tantalizing me with rebellious rapture. So, I jumped in the car with board shorts, a change of clothes, and a towel. I knew what I was supposed to do. I was going to run through the Gatineau forest half naked in the the thunderstorm.
When I pulled up to the empty parking lot at Luskville Falls the rain continued to beat down, and the thunder cracked loudly. Running through the up-hill trail, climbing higher up the falls, I couldn't help but feel like a wild man. Naked, and fragile to the elements, but defiant with an electric mindset; I bolted to the top of the falls. Perching on the edge of a boulder, I stared out into the angry open sky, the water rushing past me, the rain throwing down, muffling all other sounds with only the thunder breaking through. I stood up, and extended my arms wide, sucking in deep air, and let out a scream I had never heard from myself before (I say, myself, because I experienced a homeless guy do this on a bus, once). Not a nasally, high pitched shriek (like my homeless friend), but a deep, angry justice roar!
We are usually within ears reach of the public's scrutiny, and screaming at the top of our lungs is a faux pas, at best, and may present the wrong type of attention. The title of this therapy set the scene, and it felt pretty damn primal. Yelling into the storm, I felt elated, even more elevated, to a frequency of jubilant defiance. It seemed to brew up from the very fibre of my being. And there it was; somewhere between the thunder, and the roar; I found myself. Or part of myself. The thunder was in me.
Don't wait for moments to present themselves. Create them. It may release more of you then you knew.
"No matter how much faculty of idle seeing a man has, the step from knowing to doing is rarely taken."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ritual can aid us in our success. It brings order and focus to the forefront of our thoughts. Whether it's our morning coffee, sun salutations, or Captain Crunch, we all feel better when we start the day with a familiar helping hand. I've finally refined an optimal night time, as well as, morning ritual that creates the most efficient me throughout the day (insert karote chop). Not only understanding your sleep, but also your wake, can help influence your daily life in the commitment to a prosperous future. There are 3 steps to my nighttime ritual and 7 steps to my mornings.
Each night at approximately 10:30pm I begin step 1. Go to bed! I set a timer and read for 30 minutes without distraction. This helps me set my mind and body to a slower pace. During the 30 minute period, I also put my headphones in, and use technology to my advantage. Our brains emit different frequency and amplitude waves measured in hertz, at different times of the day, according to Brock University psychologist Robert Ogilvie (Ogilvie, 1993; Ogilvie & Harsh, 1994). During our sleep we produce different brain waves at each stage of the 5 stage sleep cycle. I found the perfect app to help me go from relaxed to lethargic.
I came across an app called MyNoise while looking into increasing my focus, and memory retention during studying, which I'll talk about in a later post. MyNoise and other apps like it, could be considered sound wave technology. Some people believe that sound wave technology can stimulate, or synchronize our brain waves to the hertz emitted to the frequency; within the five choices. So, step 2 is when I stick my headphones in, set the app to the frequency of first stage drowsy theta waves (4Hz) and gradually reduce the hertz to the typical slowest frequency, yet highest amplitude (delta waves) characterized by deep sleep (2Hz). Some other cool functions include different rainfall and white noises. By the time the timer beeps, I'm ready for some solid sleep. But before drifting off, I take my headphones out, place my phone on the corner of my bed and set up step 3, a sleep cycle alarm and analytic app appropriately called, SleepCycle.
The Sleepcycle app is what they call, an "intelligent alarm". Have you ever woke up and felt disorientated, groggy or confused? If you have, then you most likely awoke during a deep sleep stage when your body produces chemicals to keep you immobilized. Sleep Cycle analyzes your sleep movements using your phone's accelerometer and wakes you during your lightest sleep stage with a 30 minute window of your set time. Other functions of the app measure your sleep quality and even take your heart rate in the morning using the flash on your phone. This app has allowed me to analyze my sleep, and understand the differences in my sleep quality, depending on the activities of the prior evening. So, when the angelic predetermined melody of my alarm (it's Lil' Wayne) charms its way into my consciousness, I awake with a refreshed disposition. I have found that since introducing these 3 steps of nighttime ritual, I am fully awake and aware within 5 minutes after waking up.
I love waking up with the sun. Rise and shine has left its annoying nagger of youth, and blossomed into the literal meaning it was meant to have. My weekday morning ritual has 7 steps (or gears) and begins around 6 am. Step 1 of my morning ritual, is to chug a glass of water before putting on the kettle. Just to get the engine running. While the kettle is doing its thing, I lay my yoga mat down on my balcony, turn on a YouTube Sun Salutation yoga sequence and begin step 2, the 7 minute full body warm-up. This helps get my body into gear for the day ahead. When the sun has appropriately been saluted, I start the morning brew, step 3, coffee.
Coconut coffee has increased my morning energy output exponentially, straight through to the late afternoon, and is the third step in my morning ritual.
Here's the recipe: I grind a fresh high altitude bean ("bro science''), and let it steep in the french press for about 6 minutes. Whilst that magic is happening, I add to my mug a table spoon of coconut oil (MCT oil works too, but I like the tropical taste of coconut), a couple dashes of cinnamon, a raw egg yolk, a pinch of turmeric, and a spot of cream. After pouring the liquid motivation into the manna of the mug, I use my Bodum froth whip, A.K.A Harry Potter wand to emulsify the shit out of everything. Emulsifyium! This makes the most smooth and delicious, almost sacrilegious mug of Joe's I have ever had.
Why coconut oil? Not only is coconut oil helpful in the uptake of fat soluble vitamins, but this healthy saturated fat has antimicrobial, antibacterial, antifungal and antioxidant properties. That's not all. Coconut oil is an amazing source of medium chain triglycerides, which makes it easily bio-available for energy production. How? Simply put, It's sent directly to the liver for digestion, skipping the bile and pancreatic enzyme production process, making coconut oil a healthy choice even for those with diabetes, and gallbladder issues. In addition to these, coconut oil boosts energy, prevents obesity, reduces cavities, improves insulin secretion, protects the skin, and reduces wrinkles. So get it in and around you. I digress.
After the implementation of step 3 of the ritual , or "acceleration phase", I ramp up for step 4; a 5 Km bike, or run into work. This is my favorite part of the morning. Limbered up, and getting my sweat on before most people have wiped the crud out of their eyes. There is a sense of harmless egotistical satisfaction in that. The run, or bike was the toughest consistency of my ritual at first, but perhaps the most rewarding.
I sold my car two years ago for a few reasons. Environment, money, and health. What finally made me do it was the book, The Wealthy Barber. With work being so close and living accessibly downtown, the book reminded me that my biggest liability was my vehicle. It was a luxury to have and an ego boost to drive, but it had to go if I was going to get serious about making changes in my life. Since then, I don't miss it at all. No car payments, gas payments, parking payments, maintenance payments, or insurance payments. I truly felt like I had taken some control back. In addition to the money saved, I've also made one of the healthiest decisions in my life. 5 Km run/bike twice a day, is 50 Km a week. Need I say more? One more. Running past the gas station, seeing the faces of my fellow wage warriors watch, unimpressed as their phallic exchange of gas guzzling sucks the hard earned money from their pockets, is a position I will avoid going back to. A very sexually charged last sentence, I know. A testament to the romance for my ride, but the relationship was poison. It was an amicable breakup.
Step 5! Don't you know that the time has arrived! A couple of generations will understand that reference. Step 5 is the integration of yet another app. Instead of listening to traffic on my way into work, I decided it would be a great time to get in 30 minutes of French lessons from the podcast, CoffeeBreak French. Yes, it probably seems strange to people when I'm biking by yelling out French niceties, but I think they secretly like it. Quelle belle journee pour ne pas donner un baiser! Why not turn a training (possibly rainy) cycle into a learning experience. However, a good morning tune is a pretty sweet alternative. Like this one by Martin Garrix, Animals.
As soon as I get to the office (roughly 8 am) I peel off my clothes, lay a towel on the bench in the shower room, and put my headphones in, to once again utilize technology, for step 6: meditation. About 3 months ago I was asked by a close friend if I ever meditate. I wanted to say yes, but realistically I only did it once in awhile. Sitting cross legged pretending you're not in pain isn't the best way to reach Nirvana, however Zen-like in it's acute focus. She told me about this meditation app called Headspace. Headspace is a free app (at first) and guides you through a 10 minute meditation for 10 days. You can check out the creator Andy Puddicombe's explanation of meditation on TED Talk, and see if you'd like to give it a go. Since using the app every morning, I have come to appreciate the power of meditation. Meditation doesn't have to be uncomfortable, or long, to get some powerful results. This simple 10 minute addition to my mornings allows me to slow my spastic pace to a more focused energy. It also prepares me for the acceptance of step 7, The Viking Bubble bath.
The final stage of my morning ritual is the most exciting part by virtue of its inclination. The cold shower. Also known as the James Bond Shower, Scottish Shower or what I have dubbed, The Viking Bubble bath. After about 3 minutes of hot suds and nurturing warmth, comes the flip from hot, to freezing cold. The last two minutes is when the Viking Bubble Bath begins. You end up doing a cross between an Irish jig and the Harlem Shake, belting out the occasional, wooooowhooooo! If you have the right tunes playing in the background it makes for quite the experience for you, and the people within ear reach. My ancestors in Northern Scandinavia still to this day enjoy the ancient pastime called, "avantouinti", which is going from hot sauna, to a hole cut in the ice for a polar plunge. It's 'professionally' called hydrotherapy, or cold water therapy, however more commonly referred to as, crazy. The health benefits of the cold shower have longed been reported. Some of the health benefits include: improved circulation, helps relieve depression, healthy skin and hair, strengthen immune system, increased testosterone in men, and increases energy, and a sense of well-being. Conversely, if you have heart disease, high blood pressure, overheating or feverish, consult with a healthcare professional, first. The 2 minute cold shower as my last step in my daily ritual, drives the heat down into my core, and I leave feeling like a charged battery.
These are examples of my daily ritual, and create the most positive, energetic, and effective me throughout the day. Not everyone has the opportunity to follow these steps, or care to, given different circumstances, and time. I'd love to hear some rituals you do to make nighttime pleasant and daytime energetic. At the very least consider how you fall asleep at night, and how you wake up each morning.
"A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us."
The journey to Peru - Part 1
At the end of an incredibly long day I could hear the laughter and dancing of the locals in the late evening. Tiny huts were illuminated by fire glow and the flicker of dancing shadows. A reminder that even though there was great struggle, life was for the living. Peru taught me this without words.
Sometime in late April, 2008, Adam, a long-time friend, and I landed in Lima, Peru from Toronto. A conscious move that would allow us to travel slowly up to Bolivia, minimizing the effects of altitude sickness; what I've heard be described as a catabolic barf-a-thon that is very real.
However, it was the language barrier that we noticed first. I had learned enough Spanish to be polite. My first lunch out at a local dive would reinforce the fact that polite was pretty useless without words in between. I could say please and thank you, but couldn’t order a meal to save my life. However, I’ve always liked surprises, so pointing and saying thank you worked out about fifty percent of the time.
The second night in Lima, we stayed with Andrew, a friend who I had met in Las Vegas a year before - a solo trip that merits a post in the future. I had remebered him telling me he was thinking about departing to Peru to teach English. A quick email later and we were off to his humble apartment in downtown Lima. That night Andrew took us out for some great food and taught us some Spanish that would help Adam and I get by. Early in the morning we said our safe travels to Andrew, and hopped on a plane that departed for Cusco.
Cusco was the most tourist-rich of places we had been to in Peru. However, as we had expected, outside the tourism was poverty. Begging was something I never saw in Peru, unless there was something to purchase in their hands. Now that I think of it, the locals always had something in there hands. Whether it was baskets, bowls, dolls or drawings to be sold, homelessness was a luxury they couldn't afford. After a couple days of exploring the beautiful landscape and Incan caves, we jumped on a train for Aguas Calientes (Hot Water).
The little town that lay beneath Machu Picchu and the unforgiving, surrounding mountains is named, Aguas Calientes. It is a lush but dominating landscape. At about 2, 000 meters above sea level walking around felt fast. The next morning we were up at 4AM and gazing up from the base of Machu Picchu with rain coats and headlamps. We wanted to make it to the top by sunrise on foot, which was a steady incline for about an hour and a half. Adam had much better cardio at the time, so he dashed ahead, and we decided we would meet each other at the top.
The feeling was indescribable at the top of Machu Picchu. Adam was no where in sight, but it didn't seem to matter. I had an incredible calm come over me, as the silent, mysterious sunrise made its assent to keep me company.
When you're amongst such beauty and mystery, you become infused with it. It’s as if your surroundings have involved you in an amazing, and somewhat unexplainable harmony. Gazing outward only magnifies self-reflection. It’s incredible how that can happen. How beauty and awe can deconstruct the self, shattering what you thought you knew you. Reaching the depths of pure gratitude, that can only exist in the light. I recognized my attachments and shed my lingering, but relentless ego. I was small, but not discouragingly. Like a spark, the feeling brought hope to flame. My mind felt clearer for the first time in years.
After a thirteen- hour trek around Machu Picchu, and its bigger brother Huayna Picchu, we descended. That night as we ate dinner I looked out onto the street from the patio where we were sitting. A girl about four-years-old was across the street playing with an apple that seemed to be both her toy, and snack. She was facing the opposite direction of the street arrow sign above her, that read, “escape” - a sad irony I had to take note of.
That night we wandered out and could hear the sounds of dancing, singing and laughing. The locals had come together for a fiesta. Walking ahead we noticed we were the only two tourists around, but the looks from the locals were inviting nonetheless. The children ran up to us, their faces and gestures expressing curiosity in what we were about. They spoke in shy, but excited Spanish that was made even more inaudible by the music around us . A bonfire was lit on the stone streets illuminating the smiles on people's faces. The night filled with sounds of song, dance and laughter - a valuable reminder that even though there was great struggle, life was for the living.
Too be continued...
"Fast food is popular because it's convenient, it's cheap, and it tastes good. But the real cost of eating fast food never appears on the menu."
- Eric Schlosser
If you have little culinary skills or little time to sit around a cauldron all day with a thousand ingredients on the go, it's understandable. But before you decide to use your microwave or dip into that ravioli bunker food source, wait. There's a cheap, easy, impressively delicious, and powerfully nutritious alternative. The rabbit.
Leg of rabbit roasted with root vegetables in a mushroom and red wine broth. Easy, cheap, thoughtful. Sounds like smart economics to me. The rabbit is the most expensive part, but I found two legs for around ten bucks at the local market. Chaboom.
Beats (chopped bulky)
carrots (chopped bulky)
big yellow onion (sliced in big circles)
garlic (finely chopped)
and of course, Roger.
If working out is your habit, then you should try rabbit. Rabbit is high in protein and low in fat.
Cook as follows;
If you don't have a roasting pot/pan, just use a large flat frying pan that has a lid. But for God's sake don't forget to grab the handle with an oven mit. I use a cloth. Oven mits? Pleeease. Yet I have an apron...As follows:
Rinse rabbit legs then pat dry
preheat oven to cook at 350 degrees
Wash your damn hands!
Wash, chop and chuck your vegetables. Lay a layer...of onion about half inch thick, on an oily (hemp) frying pan. Not too oily, easy. Place your fresh whole rosemary twigs in a layer on top of the onion. Then chuck in your vegetables around the perimeter of the pan. Place your rabbit legs on the onion rosemary bedding (creepy expression) in the middle of the pan and chuck in the remainder of your vegetables. Not too many vegetables! No one ever came by for root vegetables as a main course - insert snarling hipsters and vegans alike. Then crack the pepper, crack crack the pepper, three pinches of salt, dash or two of cayanne (if you have it), three pinches of oregano and finely chopped garlic, all over. Now, before you put it in the oven pour over the hot mushroom bouillon, and splash in a little red wine. If you pour the broth, and wine like a frantic maniac like me, you'll notice you've rinsed the presentation of all those fantastical pinches, and dashes, away. Don't fret. Double down! Repeat the cracking, pinching and dashing process again. I said, Flava Flav!
Cover with a lid and put it in the oven for about and hour and a quarter. Every oven is different. At this point, it's in your hands. Not literally, put it back in the oven!
When it's done, serve it with a fishbowl of wine and present it as, Lapin aux légumes grillés dans un bouillon de champignon et sauce au vin rouge. Hopefully this everts any domesticated animal conversation. If not, pour more wine.
"If you have a positive attitude and constantly strive to give your best effort, eventually you will overcome your immediate problems and find you are ready for greater challenges."
~ Pat Riley
Training for something can materialize its applications in unsuspecting places in your life.
It might even save it.
Over the last two years, a tribe of us have been battling it out on the squash court. We all agree that squash is fucking awesome. A game of speed, agility and precision. In addition, the healthiest one. We find more and more champions stepping up every year. So much so, that we built our own amateur men's league. The ByTown Squash League. Thirty strong and counting. Our league is a little more rough around the edges, as we consider our matches, battles, and the court, the Pit. No ball down is our motto in the Pit. Diving for the ball was common, but more importantly was the recovery back to your feet. You had to anticipate the merciless return of your competitor. This fierce competition was something I hadn't felt since my days of martial arts. It was beginning to carve me into something sharp in both mind and body. I found from constant squash training and matches, my reaction time significantly improved. I didn't realize this cognitive ability was transferable to all other avenues of my life. Until...
(A light example)
It was Saturday night and I was arm locked, gazing into the eyes of a beautiful french girl I had met a week earlier. We were on a trajectory to my place for a glass of wine and canoodling, when I crashed into something. A fresh new curb. Not fresh in the soft sense, but rather new to the eye or to the unsuspecting, clearly. As my big toe exploded against the concrete, my leg was swept from under me given the velocity of my strut. The embrace of the sidewalk would be unforgiving. This was a kiss I was sure to land. However, to my surprise I caught myself before impact, face hovering inches away from a bloody mess. I had braced myself for the immanent and used the force of the impact to explode back to my feet as quickly as I had fallen. Not only impressing her, but surprising me.
Squash was the first thought to pass through my mind upon re-orbit. The constant practice of diving for the ball in squash, had paid off in an avenue of my life that both saved my grill, and boosted the self assurance of my own ability. It must have showed in my smile. I high fived the ego, acknowledged the power of training, and we were back on course. Training pays back with compound interest, and diversifies itself into your life. Pay into it.
Here's a little motivation for Monday: Focus
Thanks for stopping by and welcome to my new blog! This is just an introductory post so I’ll keep it short and sweet.
I was motivated to start a blog because I have learned a great deal from connecting with all kinds of people, from all kinds of places. The people in my life contribute more to my happiness, health and overall well being then I can ever try to express. Through these posts I hope to inspire people to reflect on the positive changes that are possible, and to touch the heart.