Let’s Get Heart Attack-Proof!

Big news in the world of plant-based eating today:

The Journal of Family Practice just published a hugely successful study that Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and his team recently completed. It confirms what I’ve been preaching about for over 20 years now.

Many of you may be familiar with Dr. Esselystyn. He’s one of the world’s foremost experts on the subject of healing and reversing heart disease primarily through a plant-based diet. He conducted a famous study more than two decades ago that proved the efficacy of this phenomenon via a nutrient-rich, low-fat vegan diet. This study would be the basis for his book, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.

Prevent-and-Reverse-Heart-DiseaseThis new study was considerably larger, but still with equally compelling results. The study followed 198 consecutive patients counseled in plant-based nutrition. These patients with established cardiovascular disease were interested in transitioning to plant-based nutrition as an adjunct to usual cardiovascular care.

Here were the participant’s parameters for this study –

The Core Diet (followed by “compliant” patients):

Whole grains, legumes, lentils, other vegetables, and fruit comprised the major portion of the diet. A multivitamin and vitamin B12 supplement were encouraged. As was the use of flax seed meal, which served as an additional source of omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids.

Foods Prohibited:

Initially the intervention avoided all added oils and processed foods that contain oils, fish, meat, fowl, dairy products, avocado, nuts, and excess salt. Patients were also asked to avoid sugary foods (sucrose, fructose, and drinks containing them, refined carbohydrates, fruit juices, syrups, and molasses). Subsequently, the study also excluded caffeine and fructose.

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Results

Here are the results and particulars of the study as reported by our friends at vegsource.com:

  • Out of the initial 198, 177 individuals were compliant with the diet (89%).
  • Of this compliant group, only one individual suffered a recurrent event of heart disease. That is an event rate of .6% – the lowest recurrence rate to date of any study of plant-based diets and heart disease.
  • 21 individuals of the original 198 in the research group did not adhere to Dr. Esselstyn’s diet program. They went back to the standard American diet. 13 of these nonadherent participants – or 62% – subsequently experienced adverse cardiac events. (It is worth nothing that the individuals who did not eat the plant-based diet were still under typical cardiology care and received standard medical interventions like pills and procedures. Yet 62% of them still succumbed to more adverse heart events.
  • 62% got worse with a standard diet and standard medical care, whereas only .6% of the people who followed Dr. Esselstyn’s diet had any further heart problems.

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Here’s the link to the actual study:

http://dresselstyn.com/JFP_06307_Article1.pdf

I hope every serious cardiologist around the globe will take a look at this. And perhaps more importantly, I hope all my friends over 50 will take a close look, as well. As we age, we just don’t have the same kind of resilience we once did to all of the various foods that damage our arteries. Plus, if you’ve been eating these kinds of foods all along, you’re going to have a much greater build-up of fat and plague in the ol’ arteries just from the accumulative years.

arteriesActual before-and-after x-rays of an artery healed from plant-based eating!

This shit is real, people…

So, can this style of eating really make you heart attack-proof? Hard to say 100%. But so far, it appears to offer us the greatest odds.

Interested in More Info?

If you haven’t seen it already, check out the documentary Forks Over Knives. It features the work of both Caldwell Esselstyn and T. Colin Campbell (author of The China Study), and shows a lot of compelling science that supports this concept.  (Scope on Netflix instant download and other places…)

Forks_over_Knives

POST NOTE: You’ll notice in Dr. Esselstyn’s “prohibited foods” recommendations above that he also includes nuts and avocados.  This is the only debatable aspect of the study in my mind.  Of course, I have YET to see a study that reversed heart disease that included any animal products.  But I have seen evidence that a similar diet-style that included some plant-based fats (nuts, seeds, etc.) could also work.  And this was from Dr. Joel Fuhrman.  See Fuhrman’s Huffington Post article here:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joel-fuhrman-md/heart-health-prevent-and-reverse_b_783565.html

I admire both of these guys, but they happen to differ in this one area.  Both promote plant-based diets, but Esselstyn is more hardcore about avoiding ALL forms of fat, even those naturally occurring in nuts and avocado.

My advice is this:

1. Enjoy moderate amounts of virtually ANY kind of whole food plant-based fat source, like nuts, seeds, avocado, etc.

2. Try to avoid adding ANY form of oil to anything.  (I know this is tough.)  This includes olive oil, which by the way, is NOT a heart-healthy food, even though it is often promoted as such.  Will you be able to do this?  Probably not until you have to.  Oil is everywhere. But at least be aware of it.

3. For omega 3s, I don’t think there’s much harm in having a small serving of flax oil a few times a week (added to your smoothie, for example).  But we simply don’t require very much omega 3 – especially when we have lower amounts of omega 6 in the diet (more on this later).  Still, if you can get it from flax seed or chia seed, all the better.

4. The more at-risk you are (total cholesterol over 150, etc.), the more strict you have to be with all of these recommendations!

Will be posting more specifics soon…

 

Stay tuned –

BR

  1. This is blog #18 in my 20-blogs-in-30-days series for June 2014.  (Yeah, I know it’s July 1 today. What can I tell ya?)
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Get Back! – Building the Back Half of the Body

It’s easy for all the muscles in your back and rear legs to be “out of sight, out of mind,” since these areas are not so easily visible in the mirror as we evaluate our training progress. However, our backs are most important to us, because virtually everything we do – sporting activity or otherwise – is anchored to the balance and alignment we create with this intricate network of muscles.  So quality back training will strengthen these muscles for better physical performance, and also provide superior conditioning as a preventative measure against injury or strain.

getbackmainAn original version of this excerpt, tweaked for Drum magazine

From traps, rear delts and lats, all the way down to lower back, glutes, hams and calves, serious back training is a complex endeavor.  But just to get things rolling, here are three simple, foundational movements you can do two to three times a week to condition your back, backside, and hamstrings (rear leg).

Lat Pulldowns: Great for total back development, with emphasis on the large outer muscles, or “lats.”

1pulldowns1. Grab the cable bar a little wider than shoulder-width as you’re sitting down, and secure your legs under the thigh pad.

2. With your back slightly arched and your head tilted back, pull the bar down toward the top of your chest to chin level. Focus on pulling with your back muscles, as opposed to your arms.

3. Slowly return the bar to starting position for one rep.

Work up to three sets of eight to fifteen reps.

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Machine Rows: Ideal for mid-back muscles and overall back strength and thickness.

2rows1. Take a seat with your torso against the chest pad, making sure that you can reach the handles.

2. While keeping your chest tight against the pad, pull the handles toward you as far as you comfortably can. Again, focus on pulling with your back muscles, as opposed to your arms.

3. Slowly return the bar to starting position for one rep.

Work up to three sets of eight to fifteen reps.

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Stiff-legged Dumbbell Deadlifts: Excellent for strengthening the lower back, backside and hamstrings. Go super light with these at first!

3dumbbelldeads1. Stand with a light dumbbell in each hand, palms facing the front of your thighs.

2. While keeping your back and legs straight throughout the movement, slowly bend down at the waist so that the dumbbells are heading toward your feet.

3. Once you reach the mid-shin area, slowly return to the starting position, focusing on pulling with your hamstrings and lower back.

Work up to three sets of eight to fifteen reps.

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Train hard,

BR

PS. This is blog #17 in my 20-blogs-in-30-days series for June 2014.  So close… but yet so far!

 

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Leonardo da Vinci and the Real Housewives of New Jersey

My North Hollywood practice space is basically a two-room lockout.  The first room is wall-to-wall with the 40 drums of my full solo kit.  Heaven, people.  The second room has a small collection of snare drums, a practice pad, sofa, and a full stereo system/satellite TV rig with TiVo, studio monitors and a rumbling sub.  This rig is mainly for the longer practice pad sessions when I’m working on the never-ending hand exercises, and I need some outside stimuli to distract me from the monotony of said never-ending exercises.

When I first had satellite piped in some years back, I was only watching cool shit on TV while practicing; documentaries, thought provoking films, PBS, etc.  But at some point, I started surfing through mainstream TV just to see what was going on in the world, and inevitably, I encountered a slew of these various reality TV programs.  I would generally only watch partial episodes, and I initially found myself in judgment of many of these shows.  “Are you fucking kidding me?  There is a TV show based around this?  What possible allure would this have to the public?” …and so forth.

Of course, reality TV, as a genre, encompasses many types of shows, and I don’t mean to lump them all into one category, per se.  I’m sure if you’re into certain subjects – like cooking, fashion, real estate, or entrepreneurship – there are shows that could give you a pretty decent behind-the-scenes education.  Still, so much of it seems to be about pointing a camera at everyday people while they do everyday shit.  Literally, everyday people: housewives, pawnshop owners, junk resellers, pregnant teens, brides-to-be, amateur musicians, even fucking insect exterminators!

Then there’s another faction of reality TV programming that seems to focus on folks whose lives are probably better left private.  Example: There’s a show about drug addicts who are tricked into thinking the cameras are there to document their addiction… only to learn that their entire family has arranged to ambush them into getting treatment through an intervention.  Hey, I recognize that interventions are probably the necessary “final straw” for many folks to get it together.  But to spend an hour watching someone destroy brain cells on liquor, crack or inhalants, only to discover (in some cases) that their rehab program didn’t stick?  Misery.

Another one is all about folks who store an ungodly amount of shit in their house and live amongst unimaginable clutter and filth.  Concerned family members are interviewed, along with the featured hoarder of each episode.  Okay, so something happened to this person along the way, they snapped a bit, and now they need some hands-on assistance.  Fine.  But is eavesdropping on these folks as they trudge their way through the roach-invested piles of garbage and knick-knacks around their home really entertainment?  Misery.

Still another series of shows is all about prisoners, profiled like celebrities, and shown going about their daily activities.  Seriously – we watch the tattooed fucking convict being led around in handcuffs, or taken out into “the yard” for a little recreation time, then ultimately involved in a skirmish of some sort.  Then we get the benefit of an exclusive interview with the tattooed fucking convict, as he eloquently expresses how he was wronged, once again, by a guard, or the system, or a fellow inmate.  Now, don’t get me wrong; I wish the tattooed fucking convict well, and I hope his rehabilitation time is ultimately successful.  But goddamn it!  Is this really a show?  Is this really the best use of 60 minutes of national airtime?  Misery.

My Perspective

From the standpoint of an artist/entertainer/creative person who values any kind of platform for their work, it can be difficult to see this amount of valuable airtime allotted for such viewing… which is why I was initially put off by the sheer volume of these kind of shows.  There I was, in the practice room, metronome clicking, shaking my head in both amusement and despair with these programs, as I blazed through an endless array of rudimental hand exercises like I’ve been doing for 40 years now.

How could this be?  What is the attraction?  Shouldn’t television be the place to engage the fantastic… to see and experience shit you can’t see and experience elsewhere?  Anyone can watch these pedestrian, reality TV kind of things play out in everyday life.  Why would we then want to sit on our collective asses and watch more of it play out on TV?  I did not understand it.

Well… once I got past my initial reaction, I’ve been able to occasionally observe these shows without judgment or emotional charge of any sort.  Why?  Because I finally came to terms with the practical function of reality TV: in general, it’s kind of like fast food for the brain.  It’s quick, easy, familiar, enjoyable, even addictive.  You don’t have to think much to watch.  It’s easily assimilated and entertaining enough.  It can also provide some much-needed escapism from the day’s toils.  I get it.

However…

I also wonder what happens to our brains from repeated exposure to this material.  If we liken a lot of this kind of viewing to junk food, I don’t think there’s much harm in enjoying some vegan ice cream, cookies or dark chocolate, in moderation, and in the context of an otherwise stellar nutritional regimen.  But what would happen if you only ate the treats and snacks… if there wasn’t a sound nutritional foundation in place to ensure that your body was well fed?  Your body would atrophy.  Same thing here, I’m afraid.  I would think if you’re only inundating your mind with this schlock – and there’s not much of substance finding its way in – it, too, will experience some degree of atrophy.

Simple formula: If we eat a bunch of junk, our body will falter.  If we watch a bunch of junk, our mind will falter.

Which brings us to…

da-Vinci-collageThe Leonardo Factor

Leonardo da Vinci remains one of the more interesting characters in our history for a number of reasons.  First, his work has left an immortal imprint.  It’s 500+ years later, and we’re still captivated by his work and fascinated with his genius.  Second, his radically diverse areas of expertise in both art and science represent human potential to a staggering extent, making him a great example of what’s possible when a human being develops mind, body and spirit to such a crazy degree.  In essence, he’s a reminder of what’s possible for us all… an ongoing wake-up call to hold our own potential to the light for some real evaluation.

So where does Leonardo da Vinci fit into the mix here?  Well, presuming we have an interest in the expansion, evolution and expression of our own “genius” life purpose, I sometimes wonder what all a brilliant mind like da Vinci’s was exposed to everyday, back in the day.  I’m sure he had his recreational downtime.  But what, in general, fed his mind, muse and imagination each day?

And if he suddenly reappeared today, what would he think about all of this kind of mainstream viewing?  Certainly, we all know there’s lots of quality stuff out there, as well.  But if Leonardo were to sit down and scope shows based solely on highest Neilson ratings, what would he think?  And what would happen to that infamous mind if he were forced to watch several hours a day of this shit… eyelids propped open ala “A Clockwork Orange”?  (Food for thought, so to speak.)

Fortunately, we’ll never have to find out.  Instead, we can enjoy his legacy and be inspired to hit our own potential, in our own way.  And in case your TiVo is a little too backed up to view anything else at the moment, here’s a quick little 4-minute tidbit on our boy that reminds us of what’s possible.

Let’s not forget.

Leonardo da Vinci: The man, the myth, the mystery

Peace,
BR

PS. This is blog #16 in my 20-blogs-in-30-days series for June 2014.  Gettin’ close…

PSS. Hope you enjoyed this lightly-revised encore post.  It’s an old fave and still rings true, I believe…

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A Conversation With the World’s Wisest Man (book excerpt)

silhouette
Here is an excerpt from my book, Zentauria: My Season in the Warrior Utopia.

Evening Hour With The X-Man: Session I –
The Art of the Moment
Day 9 – 1:30 AM (Guest Quarters)

Entry Preface: Master Exle (pronounced ex-ul) is one of Zentauria’s standout leaders and most beloved figures. He’s on the Council, has an office at Town Hall, and seems to be in the middle of anything really important going on. And since my being here is an unprecedented, experimental endeavor, Exle has been assigned to be my main advisor/confidante throughout my season. This is fine with me since I love hanging out with him. This guy emanates a sense of spiritual centeredness and wisdom I’ve never experienced to this extent. Yet he’s extremely warm, likable, even funny, so it’s easy to see why he is so well-respected around here.

Exle (aka “X” or “The X-Man,” as I often refer to him) has deep bloodlines to the island’s original Shaolin monks, and at least one person from every generation of his family has had a major leadership role in Zentauria. Exle is ninety-two and in phenomenal physical condition, reportedly never having missed a day of school or work in his life due to illness. With a salt-and-pepper crew-cut and black-framed glasses, he’s always dressed simply, in some kind of martial arts pants, a loose-fitting shirt, and sandals. Always. Even for important meetings, speaking engagements and local television. Pure monk, right? At the same time, he holds the highest degree black belt in a number of Kung Fu styles and has been one of Samson’s key teachers through the years. Plus, among other things, he is a revered painter, fluent in eighteen languages, a prolific author of more than 200 books, and a master musician who plays nine different instruments on a world-class level.

One of the coolest things about X is his actual physical presence. He moves purposefully and deliberately, with no wasted movements, and always with a striking sense of awareness about him. This is a hard thing to explain, but if I had to sum up his whole state of being in one word, it would be present. And when he walks into any room, you can actually feel the vibration lift. Yet there is not one speck of any sort of calculated or forced external pretentiousness. This is something profoundly internal. He is saintly.

Our get-togethers were informal. We met at his office in Town Hall every other Tuesday night at 8:00 PM (also known around here as the “Evening Hour”). His office is a large, rectangular space with the better part of three walls comprised of elegant mahogany bookcases, tightly lined with tons of old titles, like a library. A bubinga wood desk sits regally in the middle of that part of the room. The fourth wall is a meditation shrine with dozens of candles, a number of religious effigies, and several red velvet cushions. There is also a sitting area nearby, where two hot cups of jasmine tea wait for us on a small antique table between a couple of gold and purple 13th century thrones. (No shit… actual thrones from some English castle. A gift, apparently.)

X has a way of making you feel as if you can totally be yourself, without any sense of judgment from him. So I was as brutally authentic and honest as I could possibly be about anything we discussed. He would always look directly into my eyes, carefully considering every word I spoke, usually with that concerned father expression. Occasionally, when I would really go off, I think my take on things amused him. His gaze would lighten into the same look you might affix on an acrobatic monkey in the jungle. Sort of a “Look at that monkey go, swinging from limb to limb… fascinating how they do that, isn’t it?”

That said, I’ve come to learn that Exle had a surprising reverence for those living outside of Zentauria. He recognized that our plight was actually much harder because our support system, cultural directives, lifestyle principles, and available resources were a fraction of the Zentaurians in terms of living the self-actualized life. So I think a part of him was as intrigued by how I managed to do what I did, as I was to learn the same about him. It was always an intense, exhilarating, and transcendent hour.

____________________

Regarding our first session… I have figured out pretty fast that the Zentaurians are all about living in the present moment; the Eternal Now, if you will. So I really wanted to kick things off by exploring the finer points of the “moment” with the X-Man today. I’ve been a huge Thich Nhat Hanh fan through the years, and I’ve studied other philosophies that deal with the idea that it’s all about the present… all about finding the ecstasy in each moment. But I was curious to explore Exle’s take on the Art of the Moment and to also get a sense of how this related to our past and future.

* * * * * * * *

Me: I notice that any time I talk about life purpose around here as defined by results, outcomes, or achievement of goals, the conversation always seems to go back to this “present moment” thing.

Exle: That’s because the present is all we really have.

Me: Well… I understand that perspective in theory. However, we all have a quantifiable, documented past, and we are all creating a future that will be a quantifiable, documentable thing, as well, so long as we continue to breathe. Doesn’t this make them real?

Exle: Real to the extent you’ve lived it or will possibly live it, but largely irrelevant where the almighty present is concerned.

Me: Why largely irrelevant?

Exle: Because relevance is usually defined by the meaning we give something. But the meaning of our past and the experience of our future is being continually redefined by our moment-to-moment choices in the present.

Me: How so?

Exle: Consider this:

The past is only a series of events, evaluated through the filter of our present mindset, based on our current relationship with the future. These events were largely influenced by some combination of our thoughts, feelings, and actions prior to their unfolding. But in this eternal moment, the past no longer exists.

The future is only a series of anticipated events, the outcomes of which are being influenced largely by our thoughts, feelings, and actions of the present, which are often influenced by our memories of past events. But in this eternal moment, the future has yet to exist.

The present is this moment, right this very second, as we are conversing. The past has no relevance now, except for the meaning we choose to give it from one present moment to the next. The future has no relevance now, because it is not guaranteed, and it only holds the promise of more present moments like this one.

To the extent that we desire the rich memories of past moments or the electric anticipation of future moments, they can only be created in the present, anyway. So it always gets back to the truly eternal nature of this moment and our deliberate experience of thought, feeling, and action.

Me: This is deep, X. (Pause.) You said something about the past being irrelevant except for the meaning we choose to give it. But doesn’t the event itself provide its meaning to us?

Exle: No.

Me: Why not?

Exle: Because the filter of any present moment with which you evaluate the past event is ever-evolving, based on new information, deeper understandings, other developments, different perspectives, and so forth.

Me: Yeah, but aren’t some things in the past absolute?

Exle: Nothing is ever absolute.

Me: What about some of the major historical events of our past, particularly the atrocities?

Exle: Such as?

Me: Well, let’s say, slavery.

Exle: When and where?

Me: Let’s say, the American enslavement of Africans.

Exle: What are you saying is absolute about it?

Me: That it was a disgrace to humanity we ever did all that.

Exle: That’s a judgment you have about it, based on its fundamental violation of the One Truth—that we are all as one, connected through spirit—and to objectify, exploit, or subjugate another being is to act out of harmony with this Truth. But we were talking about assigning meaning to past events.

Me: Fair enough, but the meaning seems pretty clear. I mean, how many different meanings can you derive from something so atrocious?

Exle: Well, how about the fact that American slavery would inadvertently provide the impetus for you to engage in what’s been an important part of your artistic inspiration and expression?

Me: What the hell?

Exle: Trace the roots. Slavery spawned old slave hymnals, which spawned pure blues, which spawned rock and roll and R&B, which eventually spawned all of those first-generation hard rock acts that initially inspired you to play music.

Me: Oh, shit. True.

Exle: And speaking of dark past events, this is to say nothing of the many tortured souls through the centuries who, out of their agony, have brought us some of the most compelling music, art, and literature we’ve ever had the joy to experience, so—

Me: So don’t tell me we have to continue to suffer or perpetuate atrocities to create great art.

Exle: I’m not saying we have to, I’m only pointing out that we have. And this speaks to my original point that our evaluation of the past is ever-evolving.

Me: But are you actually justifying all of the suffering and atrocities of the past, so long as they have somehow benefited us in the present?

Exle: This isn’t about justifying anything. I am simply addressing the futility of regarding any past event in any absolute way. Because to regard any past atrocity as an across-the-board dark negative—be it an individual or collective act—is to disregard all of the light positive that invariably resulted in response to it. And that would be dismissive of one of the fundamental laws of this plane that we all agreed to partake in.

Me: Which is?

Exle: Polarity. We chose to engage this dimension knowing there would be up and down, hot and cold, happy and sad, black and white, rich and poor, privileged and exploited. And as both polarities continue to exist, the brightest light often emerges from the darkest room. In fact, for any magnificent thing in life to exist, we have to embrace the fact that its opposite polarity has to simultaneously exist, as well. Your greatness, your brilliance, your Light, your supreme expression of the God Force—whatever you wish to call it—will often be most profoundly expressed in the midst of mediocrity or even darkness. So once you really understand the concept of polarity, you tend not to waste much time trying to assign much meaning to anything that’s already happened.

Me: Because until the proverbial fat lady sings, we’ll never really know what the bottom-line meaning was, right?

Exle: Actually, the fat lady never sings, as you suggest, because whether you’re talking about the linear experience of time as we know it here on earth, or the boundless, eternal experience of time on the other side, there is never an ending. And even if the fat lady did sing and the universe suddenly evaporated into itself, we could all still derive different meanings from any past event, based on what level of consciousness we were holding in that final moment in time.

Me: Wow. Heavy duty, X. (Pause.) So what’s the meaning behind this conversation?

(Exle smiles.)

Me: Oh, I get it. There is no absolute meaning because my perception of this conversation—as I reflect on it from the filter of any future moments—could shift from one moment to the next, right?

Exle: Now you’ve got it.

Me: Well… it certainly is a liberating perspective on the one hand, but on the other, how would we live without having an opinion or some kind of evaluation about everything?

Exle: Very comfortably, thank you.

Me: But doesn’t the joy in life come from our being able to discern certain events as happy ones through our evaluation of them?

Exle: Sure… until you run into an event you discern as unhappy. And again, in this world of polarities, these are not great odds.

Me: So are we to somehow always strive to be joyfully indifferent?

Exle: Joyfully indifferent to outcome, yes. This is the way of non-attachment, of liberation from desire. Because, again, what’s the point of making an evaluation on something when the inherent meaning or cause-and-effect result can shift over time? But “indifferent” is not a word I would use to describe anything you might care to engage in the present, because everything is created out of the present; so we really want to be “present” for the present and experience all of its layers. To acknowledge the joy and beauty in each moment… this is the way of enlightenment.

Me: I think I follow. But does this mean we just sit around and be indifferent about everything since the meaning behind anything we might care to do could shift in the future?

Exle: No. I’m saying all the meaning behind something lies in the present moment.

Me: Okay… but how does all of this work in the real world as we engage polarities on a daily basis?

The Old Chinese Farmer

Exle: There’s a classic parable about an old Chinese farmer and his prized stallion. Perhaps you’re familiar with it?

Me: (Joking.) Possibly, but go ahead and tell me since my initial hearing of it was likely skewed by a filter of perception that was undoubtedly lesser evolved than my present filter is.

Exle: You’re a funny guy.

Me: I try to amuse. (Both of us laughing.)

Exle: It goes like this:

There once was an old Chinese farmer who was barely able to earn a living. His prized possession was a magnificent stallion, who he kept in a corral. He had always dreamed of obtaining another one so he could breed them and start a lucrative business. But with his limited resources, it didn’t appear this was ever going to happen.

One morning, as he was starting the day’s chores, he noticed that the stallion had escaped from the corral during the night and run away. The farmer’s neighbors gathered around and expressed their deepest condolences. “We can’t believe your prized stallion ran off,” they said. “This is terrible!”

And the farmer replied, “Maybe.”

Several mornings later, the farmer was heading out to feed the pigs, and he couldn’t believe what he saw in his corral. Not only had his original stallion returned, but he had brought back another dozen beautiful stallions with him. The neighbors came by to have a look and said, “What a lucky man you are. This is incredible!”

And the farmer replied, “Maybe.”

A week later, the farmer’s only son insisted on helping him tame one of the strongest male stallions, despite his repeated warnings. “Don’t worry, Dad, I can handle it.” Sure enough, the stallion threw the boy to the ground with such force that he broke nearly every bone in his right leg. Again, the neighbors gathered. “So I guess it wasn’t such a great thing that the stallion returned with all of those wild horses. This is horrible, what happened to your son!”

And the farmer replied, “Maybe.”

One month later, as the boy lay in his bed with his leg still in traction, the Chinese military rolled through town to impose a draft. In those days, being drafted meant a thirty- to forty-year obligation to the armed forces, so it wasn’t likely that one’s son would ever be seen again. Many of the neighbors were trying to hide their sons or dress them up as girls… anything to avoid the draft. But the military knew all the tricks, and one by one, many boys from the community were recruited for duty. When they came into the old farmer’s house, however, they saw the condition of the boy’s leg and figured it would take months for it to heal, rendering him useless to them for the draft. So they left the house and kept on looking.

Later, all the neighbors stopped by and said, “Good fortune continues to rain down on you! I guess it turned out for the best that these stallions came around and your son hurt his leg. This is great news!”

And the farmer replied, “Maybe.”

Me: Cool. Okay. To me, this parable represents a full-circle encapsulation of our experience here on earth:

We live as consciously as we can in the present moment and witness the various events that are ultimately born from it.

These various events of our lives have only the meaning we choose to assign to them, at the time that we choose to assign it, because…

Everything is in flux, constantly unfolding around us, based on the ever-changing shifts in energy going on, both individually and collectively, which means…

The meaning we assign to these various events is always subject to revision, based on the filter of our current, in-the-moment perceptions, which brings us back to…

We live as consciously as we can in the present moment.

Exle: Fine. Let this parable mean what it’s supposed to mean to you right now. Because in another moment, it might mean something else.

Me: Of course.

* * * * * * * *

 Post X-Session Reflection:

After our session, I thought for a moment about all the regret I’ve experienced… all the time I’ve squandered dwelling in the past, thinking “if only…” What a waste of time in the present. Because as I dwell on those regrets, it’s only poisoning my experience of the Now, which doesn’t help much for future events.

At the same time, I feel like it’s important to reflect on the past so we can learn, and look forward to the future so we have something compelling to work toward. But I believe the Art of the Moment lies in our ability to address the past and future from the eternal perspective of the present, via two things: mindful reflection and mindful projection.

Mindful reflection is where we approach the reflection of a past event as an event unto itself. In other words, our actual reflecting on it becomes something we’re doing in the present. So, to do it as mindfully as possible means we have to be aware of any thoughts, feelings, and actions that may arise during our reflection time of this past event, and to make sure they remain in alignment with our highest experience of the present. In this way, the reflection becomes a constructive part of the Now, a reinforcement of where we are or where we want to be in the present.

Mindful projection is where we visualize an event from the future and, from the perspective of the present, make sure that any accompanying thoughts, feelings, or actions are in alignment with what we want to create. Likewise, this projection becomes a constructive part of the Now, a reinforcement of all we’re wanting to create in both the present and future.

All of this Art of the Moment stuff really resonates with me but, like everything else around here, requires diligent practice… quite literally from one moment to the next.

_____________________________

ZBook2

Man, I still love rereading these dialogues.  They continue to really resonate with me.  Hope you guys dig ’em, too…

Check out our official Zentauria page HERE for ordering info and more excerpts.

All for now –

BR

(top pic by Adam Jones)

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Caffeine: A Closer Look

I’ve always been one to discourage the use of caffeine and officially, in general, I still hold that position.  But that doesn’t mean that I don’t occasionally indulge and, under certain instances, and with great caution, allow for its use on occasion.  So let’s look at the good, bad and ugly of caffeine:

Offduty: Caffine Drinks(pic from “reaching utopia”)

Caffeine is prevalent in so many of our common indulgences like coffee, soda, energy drinks and chocolate. But it’s also a bona fide stimulant, not unlike cocaine, that affects the central nervous system. Accordingly, this addictive substance can play a role in many health maladies like heart palpitations, high blood pressure, constipation, diarrhea, ulcers, restlessness and sleeplessness. And to the extent that you “get by” on less sleep due to your caffeine intake, you then open yourself up to all of the potential issues associated with inadequate rest, like premature aging, among other things.

Caffeine is also a known diuretic, depletes your body of iron, potassium, calcium and trace minerals, causes a quantifiably acidic reaction in the blood, and can be heavily addictive.

On the other hand, when the chips are down and you need a boost, caffeine can be like a long lost friend, dropping by to liven up the party, just in time.  And so – presuming you’re in excellent health and have a pretty clean diet and lifestyle – I say a little caffeine can come in handy for those “emergency” situations.

For me, that’s meant things like enduring crazy travel, on very little sleep, and then finding myself a couple hours out from showtime, fried.  In some of those cases, boom – I’ll grab a hit.  Or maybe it’s midnight after a rough couple days and I have no choice but to saddle up to the desk for an all-nighter and get some writing done.  Boom – I’ll grab a hit.  Or maybe it’s been an insane few days of little sleep, but I have a chance to catch a workout, and it has to be a quality, intense one.  Again… boom – I’ll grab a hit.

In metaphorical terms, I think of caffeine like I think of anger.  Anger can be a healthy emotion on occasion because it can get your ass off the couch and out into the world fighting for something you believe in.  However, if you allow anger to be the central, motivating energy source that drives you, I believe it will soon overtake you, and the chemical releases associated with this powerful emotion will do more harm to your body and mind than good you can do for the world.  So engage in some anger on occasion, but upgrade to a more productive, sustainable emotion as soon as you can… once things have been set in motion.

Same with caffeine.

Caffeine is a great fire-starter or “desperate hours” sustainer, and if you can truly limit it to these special scenarios, I think it will be very difficult to find any quantifiable, long-term issues with the use of a little caffeine.

BUT – that’s if, and I mean IF, you can limit your overall use of it.  And here is where the problems come in.

The addictive nature of caffeine can create a vicious cycle in and of itself because, like many other kinds of stimulants, your body will typically develop an immunity to caffeine and you will often need increased amounts to get the same pick-me-up effect that you got with considerably less. This is why the serving sizes and/or frequency of caffeinated products tend to increase over time for most caffeine consumers.  Eventually, a hefty amount of, say, morning coffee, simply becomes the norm.  And while you might feel a light sense of alertness and elation, there is no big jolt like there use to be.  Why?  Because of this immunity factor.  So now, you need way more quantity to feel any real difference – or to sustain the effect for the desired length of time – and that’s when you get stuck in the cycle of addiction.

And make no mistake about it; it’s a serious fucking addiction. If you disagree, or if you want to test yourself, just drop everything from your life that has caffeine in it.

Welcome to hell.

So, to review:

♦ If you can live without caffeine, that’s best.

♦ If you want to utilize the buzz on special occasions, radically limit your use of it to 3 or 4 times a month, max – less if possible.

♦ If you are already consuming a shitload, try to find some substitute beverages to alternate with your caffeinated ones (herbal tea, Teecchino, decaf, etc.) and ease down to a nominal amount.  Or – try to go for a month without, then cautiously try to resume a way more occasional use.  (Easier said than done, for sure!)

Good Luck…

BR

PS. This is blog #14 in my 20-blogs-in-30-days series for June 2014.  Just got my laptop back from a motherboard issue.  The days are numbered.  Will I hit 20 by July 1?  We shall see…

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Let’s Find These Boys a Home!

boys1Crash and Junior

Meet Crash and Junior, two really special male cats who are in desperate need of a new forever home.  Friends, this case is a heart-breaker. After roughly a decade in a stable home, these two beautiful and friendly boys were suddenly dropped off at an LA shelter, and all of their beds, blankets, toys and belongings were thrown in a dumpster. It was one of the saddest, most nonsensical cases I’ve heard of in a while. Fortunately, my friend Karen stepped in and grabbed them before something bad happened, and she is now fostering them. BUT, the clock is ticking on this arrangement, and we need to get these boys into their new forever home – or at least another foster situation – ASAP!

I have personally spent some time with these two guys and, let me tell you, they are a couple of cool, loving characters who would make a beautiful addition to any family… whether you are a single guardian, a couple, or family of any size.

Crash is 11 and Junior is 9. They’ve lived together in the same home since Junior was brought in as a kitten and are a bonded pair, so we’re looking to keep them together. Both are neutered, micro-chipped, up to date on vaccines, and have tested negative for FeLV and FIV. They’ve always been indoor-only cats.

Meet the Fellas… In Their Own Words!

boys2
Junior

Just call me “Mr. Personality,” because I’m a social, fun-loving guy who loves people. I like to greet folks at the door, am very vocal, and will look you right in the eye when you talk to me. I love to play with stuffed mice, strings, ribbons and, well, I just love to play in general!

boys3My older brother Crash is cool, no doubt… but if you’re looking for the life of the party, look no further than yours truly: I know how to have fun!

boys4
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boys5
Crash

I know I might look mean, but I’m a lover, not a fighter. I’m very mellow and love to be near people. I like to rub up against strangers and get a belly rub whenever I can. And if you lay down next to me, I’ll usually cuddle up near your chest and neck. I also like to “make biscuits” and get brushed, but my favorite thing is my cardboard scratcher!

boys7I have a raspy meow and a deep, low purr. I love my little brother Junior, but I’m definitely the “cooler” of the two of us!

boys6
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boys8As you might imagine, it’s been a confusing few weeks for us. We’ve enjoyed staying with our Aunt Karen, but we are ready to settle into our new forever homes. We are friendly boys, not too picky about food, and are pretty low maintenance. If you give us a chance and adopt us into your home, we promise we’ll be good!

 ____________________

For more info, or for any questions, hit us up on email: info@bobbyrock.com. My assistant or I will get right back to you.

Thanks much!

BR

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What’s Your Story?

Everyone has a story to tell, and your life is one that’s unlike any other.  We often dismiss the magnitude of how original and unique our individual journeys are because when we compare them to others, they might seem uneventful or inconsequential.  They are not.

Your “story” and the particulars of your upbringing – family, friends, schooling, passions, activities, experiences, and all the good, bad and ugly that it has entailed – is the foundation of what makes you who you are.  That’s why anyone on a creative path can be influenced by many of the same resources, read the same books, and study with the same teachers, yet come across with something completely unique.  And even if you’re not on a creative path in the traditional sense, your particular “style of presentation” in whatever you do is no accident: it is the result of an endless number of factors from your story too complex to fully comprehend.

Where am I going with all of this?

I recently caught a TED presentation that Sting put together.  It’s centered around the back-story of his latest project, The Last Ship, which came about at an extremely pivotal time in his life.  The genesis of it was all about Sting revisiting and embracing a foundational part of his past that he had always wanted to distance himself from.

Really compelling stuff.  Makes you wonder what hidden gems might be lurking within the wreckage of our own pieces of history that we either seek to avoid, or have totally dismissed.

Here’s the vid.  Whether you’re a fan of his or not, I think you’ll dig his compelling and entertaining approach here.  Great shit.

Enjoy –

BR

PS. This is blog #12 in my 20-blogs-in-30-days series for June 2014.  Motherboard issues on my laptop loom as I travel this week.  Will we make it through?

 

 

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App Showcase: Evernote

Here’s a blog category that I wanted to revisit today. Two things, though;

1. This category isn’t only about iPhones anymore, so I don’t know how relevant the whole “Fellow iPhone Cult Members” category is these days. Most apps are applicable to many different smartphones and tablets.

2. This particular app – Evernote – is one of those rare, but cool, cross-platform apps that can co-exist on all of your devices, as well as your main computer. In fact, it’s really more of a program that you can sign into from virtually any device, so it’s more like a program that offers companion apps for smartphones and tablets.

So what’s the relevance here?

As we’ve had a few recent entries detailing things like journaling, the right-brain, left-brain creative process, and being more diligent about keeping track of things, it’s important to talk about tools that help us simplify this process.

Once upon a time, it would suffice to just use a single-source journal or notebook; either an old school paper one that you would write in, or some kind of journal program on the laptop. (And this can still work if you insist on going old school and/or are less comfortable with technology.)

But now, since most of us are carrying around various devices, I recommend a program/app combo situation so you can create and access your various notebooks, journals or virtually anything else (like research materials, articles, audio notes, shopping or packing lists, and on and on it goes) from any device, at any time.  This is where Evernote comes into play.

evernotelogoHere are some of the main advantages of Evernote:

♦ As you create or amend a note on one device – like your laptop – it will update on your other devices automatically (or with one click on the refresh button). This means you can seamlessly manage or access your various notes throughout the day, plus have your own built-in back-up system in case a device crashes.

♦ Imagine writing notes in a training journal on your computer at home, but then accessing the info on your smartphone, once you hit the gym.  Super convenient.

♦ Imagine doing some writing on your tablet in the afternoon, but then picking up where you left off on your laptop, once you get back home. You can essentially take your work anywhere.

♦ Imagine creating separate notebooks for key research, recipes, articles, or media like pics and vids, then having instant access to all of this stuff from any device. (Be sure and scope out the “web clipper” function.)

♦ You can use your audio recording functions in two different ways. First, if you want to capture a lot of info at once, you can create an audio note and assign it to its own notebook. Then later, you can transcribe it from your home computer, if necessary. Second, if you’re driving and unable to write, you can use your smartphone (at least the iPhones do this) to capture a note via the voice-recognition function. You speak, and the words appear in a note… then you can organize these notes in the appropriate notebooks. I started using this function all the time, once I figured out how futile it was to stockpile voice memos without staying on top of the transcription process!

There are limitless ways to use this program, but you can always start with one single journal or note-style application and take it from there.

Here’s a pretty cool blog-post I happened to find that details 30 different ways to use Evernote. Ladies, ignore the whole “Man’s Guide to Evernote” thing, or the “Art of Manliness” tone of the website. I have no fucking idea what this site is all about, but the article seemed cool.  You might want to check out some of the many comments at the end, as well.

http://www.artofmanliness.com/2014/02/12/one-app-to-rule-them-all-30-ways-to-use-evernote-to-improve-your-life/

Try this program out. It’s a game-changer.

If you decide to scope it, go here and sign up:

https://evernote.com/

It’s free!  (No need to go “premium.”)  It’s also very easy to get started…

Enjoy –

BR

 

  1. This is blog #11 in my 20-blogs-in-30-days series for June 2014.  Onward…
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Super Mind Power Via Both Sides of Your Brain – Part 2

In Super Mind Power Via Both Sides of Your Brain – Part 1, we talked about the two distinct aspects of the brain (left brain – more analytical, right brain – more creative) and how the development of both sides can benefit us greatly in all of our creative endeavors.  Here in part 2, let’s look at how we can actually use this stuff in the real life application of whole-brain thinking.

UntitledPutting The Whole-Brain Power Concept Into Practice
with Visions and Digits

For a quick jump-start into the whole-brain experience, there is one fundamental element for each attribute of the brain that will really get things moving in that area if you’re stuck, or if you’re just looking to jack up your overall mental mo-jo.  Here they are:

Digits – For the Left

Most of us think about the expansive, free-flowing right-brain when we think of a highly productive, creative output.  This part of the mind is steeped in the inspired, intuitive aspect of the process, and it’s generally the aspect of the brain we most associate with our creativity.  But even when the right-brain is fully firing and reasonably productive, we can still hit a wall and either not feel especially inspired with a project, or not be able to finish one.  When this happens, there’s an effective left-brain trick we can do to get us back into our whole-brain; add digits (numbers) to the process.

Example: if you’re working on a book…

♦ Create a deadline for when it has to be finished

♦ Challenge yourself with a certain daily quota of words or pages to complete each day

♦ Commit to working on the project for x-number of hours per day and record your progress with a stopwatch

♦ Solidify the structure of the piece by creating a detailed outline, and/or deciding on number of chapters, page count, or any other “numerical” element of the work

All of these ideas involve some kind of numbers, and this will automatically provide additional structure to the process and create some forward motion, guaranteed.  In fact, anytime I’ve made my most serious strides with practicing drums – or actually finished a manuscript of some sort – it was because there were some real numbers attached to the process.

But won’t this kind of regimentation destroy the creative side of the process?

No. Like most creatives, I used to think it would, but that turns out to be a myth. You would be stunned to know how many highly-creative folks implement scary amounts of left-brain process into their daily practice… especially writers.

Visions – For the Right

On the other side of the fence, there could be times when our work ethic is high and we’re on a diligent, regimented schedule of engaging our respective creative activity.  And yet, the work itself might feel uninspired, lacking vibrancy and spark. In these cases – since our left-brain is working well – it’s time to get back in touch with some inspiring visuals surrounding the process.

To use our original example of a book, you could visualize…

♦ What it might look like in its finished form (including size and dimension, cover art, and interior layout)

♦ How it will feel in your hands upon completion… what the ink will smell like as you rifle through that initial copy

♦ What it will be like to promote the work publicly though any of a number of different mediums, and how it will feel to have your story or concepts out there in the world

♦ How people might (favorably) react and personally benefit from the book

All of these things involve the creative, visual, right-side of the brain…the heart of your inspiration, which is where most creative things emanate to begin with.

So if you’re feeling stuck, or are just looking to improve your productivity, ask yourself the following two questions:

1) What are the compelling and inspired visions that I have for this thing (whatever it is you’re working on)?

2) What are all the different numbers in place to ensure that I have structure (and motivation) to finish this thing?

brightbrainOn a personal note, I have to bring in some digits if I ever want to make real progress, because I have a tendency to live in the timeless, creative cocoon of process and practice. I love it there… engaging the muse (or muses) as I want, when I want. But shit simply doesn’t get finished like this. So I have to force some digits into the equation, which is why I had to agree to a publishing date this summer for my newest book.

Even for this blog – which I haven’t exactly been the most consistent with through the years – I generally have a vision for many different things I could write about… except that I don’t always put my ass in the seat to actually write about them! So I recently came up with some left-brain digits to apply to the vision, and that’s how this current 20-blogs-in-30-days series came to be.

One More Secret Weapon

CLWIjournal(photo courtesy CLWI)

Last week, we talked about using specialized journals as a way of documenting progress in various areas of your life. A journal like this is perfect for this visions and digits approach, because you can document both your daily left-brain processes and your various right-brain visions about your project in the same place. In fact, I even go as far as to find a simple way to distinguish between a visions or digits journal entry. I might use a different color font for the visions stuff, or if it’s in a hand-written journal, I might draw a box around those vision-based “snapshots.” But no matter what you do or how you do it, journals are the ultimate way of keeping everything organized, inspired, and moving forward.

BR

PS. This is blog #10 in my 20-blogs-in-30-days series for June 2014.  Half-way home…

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Super Mind Power Via Both Sides of Your Brain – Part 1

In the early 70’s, we took a major step forward in understanding how the brain works.  Through extensive research, a Nobel Prize-winning neurologist named Roger Sperry confirmed that each of the two sides, or hemispheres, of the brain – known simply as the “left-brain” and the “right-brain” – serve a distinctly different function. (*See PS below for more recent observations about this.)

Understanding the Left and Right

Left-brain function has to do with tangible, structured things such as logic, words, numbers, analysis, lists, form, calculation, sequence and language.

Right-brain function is more abstract and creative-oriented, dealing with color, music, art, rhythm, imagination, daydreaming, space, emotion and dimension.

leftrightcolorTo reach our true intellectual and creative potential, we will want to develop and condition both sides of the brain… even if our primary expression is based primarily toward the left (as a scientist) or to the right (as an artist).

Obviously, we use some part of both sides in everything we do.  But it had commonly been assumed that creative or artistic people are almost exclusively right-brain types, while accountants and science people are almost exclusively left-brainers.  And yet, when it comes to really studying peak human performance and mental capacity, we find that some of our greatest geniuses have had impressive development on both sides of the brain.  Let’s look at two of them: Leonardo da Vinci and Albert Einstein.

leo4Da Vinci was a brilliant artist, perhaps best known for his classic paintings, “Mona Lisa” and “The Last Supper.” Einstein was one of our most renowned scientists, bringing to the world the Theory of Relativity and many other revelations.  So one might deduce that da Vinci was mainly right brain and Einstein mainly left.  Not so.

As it turns out, da Vinci famously exhibited incredible left-brain development.  He was an inventor and visionary with a staggering aptitude for math, science, astronomy, engineering, and many other disciplines.  Heavy left-brain.

einstein2At the same time, Einstein was much more right-brain than most people know.  He was a concert level violinist, he loved to paint, and one of his favorite “hobbies” was daydreaming.  In other words, heavy right-brain.

So what this tells us is that it’s the development of the whole brain – both the “left” and “right” sides – that leads us to our greatest capacity.  This happens for two primary reasons:

1) As we develop both attributes, we are stimulating more brain cells and expanding the brain’s overall working capacity.

2) In both creative and scientific endeavors, we actually engage a lot of mind-power from both “sides” of the brain.

Think about it.  Beyond the obvious right-brain aspects of, say, making music, it is also a very left-brain activity, as well. There are the issues of song structure and arrangement, scales, keys, time signatures, drum rudiments, effects processing, dexterity, midi technology, digital audio software, running sound through a complex network of microphones, wires and outboard gear, and a myriad of other left-brain elements.

Conversely, it is typically the creative, outside-the-box kind of right-brain thinking that partners with the methodical left-brain power of our scientific minds that brings about our greatest innovations. In fact, it was Einstein’s “riding on a sunbeam” daydream that was the impetus for his theory that the universe is curved and finite.

So for anyone wanting to increase their overall brain capacity and function, the hot ticket is in conditioning both sides of the brain.

Next time, we’ll cover some specifics on how to do exactly that…

BR

PS *More recently, there were some new revelations swirling around the neuro-science community that refuted some of the biological components of Sperry’s early work. This revised position took issue with the idea that these hemispheres were so compartmentalized. Fine. We’ll let the brainiacs slug it out. (In the meantime, for the sake of distinction, I still like to use the terms “right-brain” and “left-brain,” as they have become part of our vernacular.)  Nonetheless, the fact remains that, in broad strokes, we do utilize our brains in two distinct ways, regardless of the “geographical orientation” of what’s firing where.

PSS. This is blog #9 in my 20-blogs-in-30-days series for June 2014.  Thanks for reading…

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