You’ve Changed

The other day I received a phone call from an old friend. It was great to hear from him, since it’s often tough to stay in touch with beloved companions from the past. The conversation started out with recollecting some of the crazy times we used to have while drunk or drugged. I steer clear of those kind of conversations these days, as I’m in a completely different place, but I will absolutely have a few laughs over my ghosts of bad decisions past once in a while.

Then I tried to bring the conversation back to the present, by bringing up my daughter, my holistic nutrition business, my clean lifestyle, my continuing education, and my clean eating cleanse that I’ve been working on so diligently. He was as quiet as a church mouse the entire time I was talking. So quiet that a few times I thought he’d hung up; I would ask “Are you there?” and he would respond, “Yeah, just listening.” At the chance that I might be talking too much (it happens; all these things excite me and I could fill hours talking about them) I asked what he was up to, and what was new and good in his life. To that question, his response was “Man, you’ve changed, I should get going” and the conversation ended.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that conversation over the last couple of days. Honestly, it’s been eating at me a bit. First, I contemplated whether I’m a fraud. Second, I wondered if I should bring up the good things, the things I’m proud of in my life, in order to avoid dampening someone’s spirit, if they’re not in the same place as I am. Third, I asked myself whether I’m really happier now than I was back then.

It’s funny how one conversation can shake your foundation, mentally and spiritually, and create self-doubt and confusion. I know I’m not alone in feeling this way.

After contemplating the entire exchange, I’ve come to some conclusions:

– My life is no longer about fitting in

– It took a very long time to get here, but I am now 100% focused on   personal growth

– I’m taking risks to live the life I’ve always dreamed of

– I’m devoting my life to help others

– I’m devoting my life to be the best dad and partner that I can possibly be

– I want to be an example and no longer a curse

– The past has made me who I am, but it does not define who I am

When the time comes, I look forward to talking to my dear friend again, and I hope with all of my heart that he’s found some kind of happiness in his life.

 

 

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The Pros and Cons of Caffeine

Is the best part of waking up caffeine in your cup? It has been for millions of people, since the first evidence of coffee drinking was documented in the Sufi shrines in 15th-century Yemen.

I remember trying coffee for the first time at age twelve. It was a cup of Maxwell House, early morning on a weekend, with my dad. My family never messed around with milk or sugar, because they thought it would ruin the taste. Today, I never add anything to my cup of joe. My parents’ house still tends to smell like a coffee shop, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Coffee has always been an important component of family conversations, get-togethers, anytime and anywhere. As in many families, it’s our drink of choice.

Coffee is always a “hot” topic. Yesterday, a family member asked me if I heard the new news that “They said coffee is good for you”, to which my predictable answer was “Who is they?” My smart-ass comment went over as well as could be expected (not well), and I then mentioned that nothing is good for everyone. There are always pros and cons, and things to consider for individual situations and conditions.

Read through this list of pros and cons of caffeine consumption and think about what’s best for you. Every body is different. Listen to yours and let it lead you to better decisions about your health.

PROS

Alertness
Even in very low doses, caffeine has been proven to stimulate mental alertness and performance.

Concentration
Studies have suggested that caffeine can help you perform many different cognitive tasks.

Performance
Studies have suggested that caffeine can help athletes exercise longer. Caffeine has an affect on the utilization of glycogen, the main fuel for muscles, while exercising, which can result in better stamina.

The effects of medicine
By constricting blood vessels, caffeine helps the body absorb medications more quickly (this is why it is added to many over-the-counter and prescription medications).

Diabetes and other disease prevention
It has been theorized that caffeine can help prevent diabetes by stimulating muscles, which in turn, burns fat and sugar in a more efficient manner. Caffeine also keeps the molecules in dopamine active, which can help prevent diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

CONS

Stress
Caffeine creates a stimulant effect which stays in the body for many hours, even after the noticeable effects have worn off, which can amplify stress levels. Increased stress hormones can heighten the perception of stress.

Blood Sugar
People with Type 2 Diabetes should be aware that caffeine can impair insulin’s purpose, which can cause a rise in blood sugar levels. Drinking more than two cups per day can increase this effect.

Nutrition
Caffeine can inhibit the absorption of vital nutrients, and can cause the rapid loss of calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium and trace minerals through urination.

Adrenal Exhaustion
Caffeine binds to adenosine receptors in the brain, which can cause an increased stimulation of the adrenal glands. This can lead to inflammation and fatigue.

Aging
Caffeine causes declines in production of melatonin, DHEA and other hormones. Caffeine also dehydrates the body, which contributes to the aging of the skin and kidneys. It also inhibits the liver’s ability to detoxify foreign toxins.

I suggest reducing your intake of caffeine for a few weeks. See whether it results in improvements in sleep patterns, mood, or noticeable overall health. As with other stimulants, caffeine is addictive; personally, I believe one should be cautious with any addictive stimulants while trying to lead a clean and healthy lifestyle.

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The Near Death Experience Club

I think I have a sophisticated radar for pre-acknowledging important life moments. Perhaps I’m just becoming overly-emotional as I age? Whatever the reason, I’m hyper-aware of the life around me, recognizing good instead of allowing myself to be consumed by negativity, and living in the moment. I’ve worked very hard to develop my radar.

This all may be possible because I belong to the Near Death Experiences Club, which definitely doesn’t have a line of eager, prospective members. Quite honestly, I would rather not be a member, but much like Spiderman, who, due to an unfortunate run-in with a radioactive arachnid, became a superhero, I suppose good can come of it. I’m part of a group of damaged superheroes who should use our “powers” in a positive way.

The N.D.E.C. has no formal code of conduct, no set of rules to live by, but I have made my own. They help me every second of every day. Inspired by my dad, an inspirational man who always has had an impressive array of tools ready for anything, I’ve also created a garage full of “tools” I can use when needed.

The 3 most important tools are Nutrition, Meditation and Gratitude. Millions of others practice these on a daily basis as well, but for someone like myself they must be mindfully integrated throughout the day. There are many other tools that I use to get through life in a much happier manner than years past. The nimbus clouds hang around every corner and their downpour have the capability of washing away my peaceful parade at any second.

It took me years to realize that my code can also help others. If you told me ten years ago that I would, one day, be using my experiences and knowledge to help others live better lives, I would have called you insane. Now, I continually search for ways to be of service to those who may be standing under a cloud.

 

“If a man going down into a river, swollen and swiftly flowing, is carried away by the current — how can he help others across?” – Buddha

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Surviving the Slaughter

Although I haven’t eaten any form of animal flesh (besides fish, and eggs), in eighteen years, I’m only now able to call my diet what it is: a philosophical aversion to the mass slaughter and brutal death of millions of animals every year on factory farms. I have no problem with other people eating meat; in fact, I think that if I could get over my Buddhist-leaning temperament towards eating animals, I could enjoy it, and very likely feel a bit better in my overall health. Alas, though, the heart rules the mind, which rules these types of decisions.

I have many vegan and vegetarian friends, and I fully respect their decisions regarding their chosen diets. I believe that a proper vegan diet can be healthy, but only if you’re committed to taking supplements (such as B12, DHA, and creatine). I look forward to working with vegans and vegetarians through my Integrative Health practice, because I get it. Eating meat and/or animal products is disturbing to many, for a variety of very valid reasons.

Most of us have seen footage of the mistreatment of animals on factory farms, and of their brutal and often inhumane deaths. It becomes easy to side with the vegans proclaiming “See! I told you so!”, but from a nutrition standpoint, I believe there is still a need for animal products in a healthy diet. If you are a meat eater, please educate yourself on where your meat comes from. The way the animals are treated, what they are fed, and their quality of life before slaughter impacts the final product, nutritionally and ethically. I strongly suggest buying organic, grass-fed, sustainable, and hormone- and antibiotic-free meat and animal products. Is it more expensive? Sometimes, yes, but I’d like to share a quote from In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. by Michael Pollan:

While it is true that many people
simply can’t afford to pay more for food,
either in money or time or both,
many more of us can.
After all, just in the last decade
or two we’ve somehow found the time
in the day to spend several hours on the internet and the money
in the budget not only to pay for broadband service,
but to cover a second phone bill
and a new monthly bill for television,
formerly free. For the majority of Americans, spending more
for better food is less a
matter of ability than priority

My hyper-awareness of violence, which presents itself in one way through my aversion to meat-eating, stems from my life-altering childhood accident. It’s hard for me to imagine harming a living thing on purpose. I know too well the fragility of life and what the pain just before death feels like.

Luckily, I survived the slaughter. And I live a healthy, mostly plant-based life.

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Things I Want my Daughter to Know

We’re having a heatwave in Los Angeles. It’s too hot for my daughter to nap in the bedroom, so she’s sleeping on a makeshift “bed” she prepared for herself on the living room floor, in front of the air conditioner. I wonder what she’s dreaming about. Clearly, something innocent; sixteen months is far too young to be infiltrated by the happenings of this rough-and-tumble planet we live on.

A few questions crossed my mind as I watched over her: What things do I want her to know, if I were to leave this world tomorrow? What things do I want her to hold true, in unwavering fashion?

1. You are beautiful

2. You have made Daddy the happiest man on earth

3. No matter how difficult life becomes, you can depend on Mommy and Daddy

4. If you feel pressured into anything, question its worth

5. Being wrong is okay

6. There’s nothing wrong with love

7. You can do absolutely anything that you set your mind to

8. Hard work is important

9. Taking time to smell the flowers is equally important

10. Growing your own food will make you a better person

11. Judging others is poisonous

12. Helping others will help you

13. Being kind to others will reap great rewards

14. Being sincere is admirable

15. Smile if you feel like it

16. Cry if you feel like it

17. Knowledge really is power

18. Don’t eat the yellow snow

19. Music is healing, if you really listen

20. Daddy has made mistakes in his life

21. You are what you eat

22. No one has the right to tell you what you can and cannot do with your body

23. Love is all that matters

24. There is peace in solitude

25. If it’s too good to be true, it usually is

26. This is the most beautiful song ever written

27. Having a pet will make you a happier person and add years to your life

28. You should surround yourself with art

29. Always search out people who make you feel good about yourself; the others will only drag you down

30. All things in moderation

31. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness

32. Material possessions mean nothing

33. Holding on to resentments will eat you from the inside out

34. If you’re wrong, apologize

35. If you’re right, don’t gloat

36. Don’t live in fear

37. Live the life you dream about

38. Laugh as much as possible

39. Keep a journal and write down your thoughts

40. Never be scared to try new things; they will never be as big a deal as your mind makes them

41. You can learn things from all religions

42. Do your own research if you doubt an answer

43. Question authority

44. Ego is your enemy

45. It’s perfectly fine to be silly

46. You are perfect in every way

47. There is no such thing as perfection

48. Treat nature as you would a baby: with gentle kindness

49. Travel as much as you can

50. Always make vegetables your main course

51. Take long walks

52. Make sure you visit the Grand Canyon, it will change your life

53. Learn the difference between your and you’re and too and to and two

54. Make every moment a learning experience and wisdom will come sooner

55. It’s okay to have seconds

56. Don’t make life a competition

57. Always have one quality joke at your disposal

58. Food is medicine and can prevent disease and illness

59. Don’t compare yourself to others

60. Jealousy will waste years of your life

61. Art is everywhere

62. Family comes first

 

Meditation is Medication

The sun rises over a hill as I’m standing in my Grandmas backyard in Lacey Springs, Alabama. With it comes instant humidity. The strawberry I’m eating might very well be the sweetest thing I’ve ever tasted. The scent of my Grandmas house mixes with summer and strawberries. I’m at peace. I forgot how much this place meant to me. I forgot how much it helped cast my spiritual metal.

I’m brought back to reality by the sound of church bells in the distance.

This is where I “went” in a recent meditation.
It’s hard to put into words what daily meditation does for me. Be it 5 or 45 minutes, it continues to bring peace and balance to my life.

I’ve been meditating in one shape or form since I was a young child. I intuitively knew that breathing and finding my center would get me through a tough time. It seems to have come very naturally, I’m very lucky for this.
I remember being still, breathing, and allowing my mind to take over for a bit. This exercise would calm me enough to bring my heart down for sedation to undergo a massive hip and leg surgery.

There are thousands of fantastic articles that you can find on the web about meditation. I’m simply passing along some tips that work for me and help keep me balanced in this hectic life.
Meditation is good for everyone.

1. Make it a habit
Try to set aside time daily for meditation. I prefer early morning with no distractions and right before bed. Start with 5 minutes and increase from there when possible

2. Try breathing techniques
Breathing can relax the mind, muscles and slow your heart rate.
I use the 4, 7, 8 method by Dr. Weil, and it works great for me. I use it before meditation and throughout the day. Beware that breathing techniques can be “heavy” to some people when they first start practicing

3. Find your focal point
Years ago, upon my first “successful” meditation, I envisioned a perfect egg falling through space. It would tumble, spin, and then eventually straighten out and gain speed, or float, I’ve never figured that out. Find your focus, and see it between your eyes. Allow it to strip away chatter of the material world that fills your mind to the brim

4. Don’t worry
Don’t take meditation lightly. It is a life changing event that can conjure up thoughts or memories that are not always pleasant. Do not fear those happenings, it’s completely natural. Allow yourself to work through them during your meditation

5. Get interested
Buy a book or two. Take a class. Watch videos. It’s a whole new world that you are embarking on, get excited about it and learn as many techniques and ideas that you can. Like with anything else, knowledge is power

6. Take a walk
If you’re not yet into sitting or lying down to meditate, take a nice walk alone. While doing so, concentrate on your feet. Notice how each foot lands on the ground, one after the other. A slow to medium pace is best. You’ll start to become distracted, just stay focused on your feet. This is teaching you how to bring your attention back in focus. Not only will this help you with meditation, it will help you to deal with stress

7. Gratitude
Before even getting out of bed. Before starting the relentless cycle of stressful thoughts that seem to begin the second you wake up, take a deep breath with eyes closed and think of someone you love or greatly appreciate. Bring their face into focus and thank them for being a part of your life, for standing by your side, for just being them, etc.
This mindful practice of gratitude will not only start your day on a lovely note, it can also be used throughout the day while you are at the grocery store, eating lunch or caught in rush hour traffic

8. It’s good for you
Realize that your choice to meditate is great for your health as meditation helps to lower blood pressure, improve blood circulation, lower heart rate, help with anxiety, lower blood cortisol level, add to your feelings of well-being, lower stress, give you deeper relaxation

9. Healthy Lifestyle
A healthy lifestyle is greatly beneficial to your meditation. Eating healthily, exercising and getting proper sleep can help you get to new levels of concentration in your meditating. It’s also best not to drink alcohol, smoke or drink caffeine before meditation

10. Keep trying
Meditation is not something you learn like riding a bike. It might take you several tries before you even feel comfortable with the idea of meditation. Just keep trying. It will happen for you and can become a blessing in your life and to those around you

The thing about meditation is: You become more and more you.
David Lynch

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No Detours

It’s a devastatingly gorgeous night in Los Angeles.
I just drove down the 101 with the windows open and my heart the same. The wind only added another instrument to the music being played at an obscene volume. My focus was on everything and nothing at all. I realized that this freedom was new. Perhaps realizing freedom for the first time in my life.

I hurriedly got out of the house earlier to see my friend’s comedy act. He’s been at it a while and I with school, a young daughter, a new business, and sleep being of great importance – have a tough time making it out to catch shows.
He was outstanding and I salute anyone who can get on a stage and give it their all. He’s chasing the dream, but he’s really already living it. I told him this and he agreed. We agree on many things.

Hanging in a club or bar is something I rarely do anymore. It’s an odd feeling being that bars were my second home for so many years. I felt most comfortable sitting with drink in hand, poor posture, and an attitude that I applied like war paint. Making plans and formulating revolutionary and brilliant ideas that would be forgotten by morning. Looking back, I was just filling silence with vacant words. All that mattered was the liquid.

I sat tonight with water bottle in hand. I sat with no attitude. I sat with a beginners mind that listened to and enjoyed the evening thoroughly like my 16 month old daughter enjoys new experiences, like seeing a butterfly take flight or hearing the theme song to Winnie the Pooh for the first time in her fresh life. I sat with peace, confidence and complete appreciation of my clean lifestyle.

At the bar sat my old self. He will always be a passenger on this trip, if I like it or not. He wanted me to buy him drinks. He wanted me to take a detour. He wanted me to think about anything but my daughter, fiancé, family, my health. I refused. He sulked and then disappeared into thin air. He only asks once these days as he knows what my answer will be.

And the funniest thing happened on my drive home with windows open and music serenading the heavens; Nobody cut me off in traffic… because I just eased up and let them in.

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