Paleo: A Guide to Spiritual & Intellectual Growth
Paleo: A Guide to Spiritual & Intellectual Growth
It was a couple of years into my personal Paleo journey and I was beginning to learn that this lifestyle ain’t just about the food or what you choose to shovel into your mouth. It’s not just about bacon, and tearin’ it up at the gym, and it’s not just about bulletproof coffee (sorry Dave, I love you) and finding loopholes to make waffles again. And should we even label it anymore? Though I was an avid supporter of Paleo for years, I mainly practiced a modified version of SCD and alternated between that and a basic, simple plan of whole foods/gluten free. Practicing that never led me down any path towards total lifestyle change, simply a way to maintain my health at a steady & honestly; mediocre setting. It was simply about not getting sick. When I studied Paleo more seriously and began implementing it, I realized this isn’t just about food. There are many levels of mastery and food choice is just the bottom of the barrel, folks!
I’m gonna break it to you like this: Paleo is not, in fact, some weight loss diet or magical dietary design for specific food consumption that will suddenly make your life amazing simply because you’re allowed to eat bacon. It’s the first mile in a lifelong road trip. Unless you are, indeed, in this simply to lose a few pounds and go about your merry way… then please stop reading this and skip over to the recipes section. Those who enter this lifestyle and remain focused on what to eat, when to eat, what’s “allowed” and not “allowed” are the ones who can’t keep up and usually burn out within 6 months to a year. If that. And those who fall off the wagon and get back on the wagon repeatedly are doing themselves no more favors then if they’d just go buy some fat burners and call Jenny Craig (okay, maybe a few favors, but your brain is still a mess). The reason is because there are other levels of self-improvement that are left unexplored. No one suffers but you.
Paleo is a way of life. Not eating. LIFE. You not only begin to care about the quality of your food, but the quality of your thoughts, breaths, movements, relationships, sleep, rest, water, air, environment, actions. Everything. Quality begins to sit at the front of your brain, and now you’re searching for quality in everything. You – if you are doing this right- you will create this vast, open awareness within and around yourself. The question is: will you pay attention? Or keep looking at the scale?
The beginning of 2012 I had approached my 2nd round with adrenal burnout. I can assure the skeptics, this is a very real problem. And because I’d been through it before, I could sniff the warning signs pretty early on that time. Fortunately for me, I had better insight and patience to step up to this problem a second time around. I knew recovery wasn’t quick, but I desperately needed ways to steamroll this crap because I had a looming surgery on the horizon and it was causing me a lot of anxiety. So how was I supposed to call the plays here? I couldn’t avoid stress, it was happening. But stress was making me so sick I’d likely have to postpone the surgery and spend another 3 months stressing over it. It was time to get aggressive with this shit.
Preparing for My Own Intervention
So I laid out two lists: things I can control and things I cannot.
So many little things -that on an individual basis- don’t seem to carry a lot of weight, but when collected and added up with all the other minutiae, created a 2-ton elephant. And I’m not Fred Hatfield… so I can’t carry that, and neither can you. Example: the news. Why do you watch it? To be informed? But do you really need to hear about all the child abductions happening around the country? For so long, this one thing causing my parental rage to want to stick an icepick in every male crotch who so much as smiled at my child. “Yes… I know she’s cute. You f*cking PERVERT!” — uhhhh yep… that is how news infiltrates us. It changes our mental, and emotional thought processes. And we are not even aware of it until we turn it off.
Want to take a stab at your next level? Make a few lists.
LIST #1 Things I cannot control
LIST #2 Things I can control
LIST #3 Things I will start doing
LIST #4 Things I will stop doing
Go Basic first:
- List #1 could be things such as traffic, government, crime, taxes, weather, bills, job, relatives etc.
- List #2 you can say things like what I listen to, who I talk to, what I read, what I eat, when I go to bed, how I react to situations or feelings etc.
Now you roll up your sleeves:
- List #3 is where you think about (and write down) all of the things you can start doing now to improve the issues you wrote out on List #1. Can’t control your shitty job and how much you hate it, but you need a paycheck right so how can you address that? You can ‘start’ looking for other jobs in your area that interest you and sending resumes. You can ‘start’ enhancing your work environment by adding photos, music, plants, or putting earphones in mid-afternoon and listening to a meditation for 15 minutes. You can ‘start’ improving team relationships by designing or implementing a co-worker team-building event or meet-up. There are a lot of things we can’t control (or think we can’t control), but there are ways to improve those.
- List #4 you guessed it, applies to your 2nd list. What you can control. So what are you going to stop doing in order to eliminate and/or improve items on the 2nd list? ‘Stop’ reading hot topic blogs, forums or news stories that you’re already hyper-sensitive to. Stop engaging in gossip or perpetually setting yourself up to be the “go to guy” every time your friend needs to dump his/her negative life event stories on you every week because misery loves company! It’s like this: if you wake up every morning with a hangover, then instead of popping 4 advil, a smart person would think it’s time to stop drinking.
Below I have provided you all with my List #4. Things I stopped doing a long time ago. Go ahead, be nosey. Whether you are a jock, book-worm, Buddhist, Christian, Athiest, a bodybuilder or a housewife… you will benefit to understand how those lists were able to change the way I thought about life, how I felt emotionally, mentally, and physically, and how they improved my ability to focus, train and even enhance my intellect:
Without guilt, I felt more satisfaction. I replaced guilt for not making it to my daughter’s library reading on time with this satisfaction that she was given the opportunity to work through some emotions, which is healthy and she so needs it as much as her mother does. I also replaced that guilt with the thankfulness for an opportunity we received to talk about it and work through it like a team. Incase you feel lost here… my 7 year old is wise beyond her years. She is an old soul. And she often corrects me and kindly lets me know when I’m not being the Ace Mom I am capable of being…. such as showing up on time to library readings. My support and presence means a lot to her. And I mean A LOT. So I would often suffer so much guilt when my work interfered with her needs. I’d literally run red lights, and drive on sidewalks like a scene out of some Bourne movie if I knew I was going to be late for a lunch date with her at the school cafeteria, because in my head I’m just all “Shit! She’s expecting me, and won’t see me there, and she’ll feel disappointed and unimportant, I hate myself!” The guilt was agonizing and consumed my brain with visions of her sitting in the corner with her head down, a tiny tear sliding down her little cheek, with a blurred background of all the other kids and their moms high-fiving each other and giggling over how prompt and jonny-on-the-spot they are for school lunch. And in my vision, all the other moms also had on makeup and collared shirts. That was my brain’s way of sticking the knife in deeper. Well NO MORE of that. Times like those are teaching moments for me and my daughter, and I welcome those teaching moments with grace and appreciation because it actually brings us closer. I’m not going to coddle her. She needs disappointment in her life. And in return, I need forgiveness from my children because it allows me to stop focusing on perfection all the time. Guilt in other areas of my life have taken a back seat too. Does it creep up on me? Absolutely. I recently experienced a 5-week period of complete insanity and was feeling a bit of guilt ride on my ass because I had not checked in on friends in a while. I missed a funeral, two birthdays, and a marriage crisis. A part of me couldn’t help but notice the guilt. And feel bad. But I rolled with it. It was OKAY, right? Because my awareness allowed me this wonderful comfort: real friends won’t punish you for dealing with life. And in my case, I was right. And how about that guilt—we can all relate to—in the occasional indulgence? Ate pizza with friends, had too many drinks, helped yourself to an extra piece of “paleo brownies”. Oh it felt good…. and oooooooooooh now you feel like shit …and hate yourself. Because- GASP- you had a treat. How dare you! You low-life, undisciplined, pig! Bet you’re gonna get fat now. GUILT. Tell it to shut up.
I used to feel that way now and then. Usually if I was already feeling a bit insecure with body image, I’d apply this negative meaning to every snack or treat because for some reason at times, I didn’t “deserve” it. Which is another problem. Deserve? Since when does food = reward? So the guilt of having pizza with my kids vanished. It wasn’t as hard as you’d think! It’s simply about affirming your values before that guilt sneaks in. “I choose to eat healthy foods that nourish my body”… and it’s true. I do. And if you’re here, reading this article, then you likely do as well. So with that said, what’s a couple slices of pizza going to do? Kill you? Make you fat? Most likely not. So if you feel the guilt creep up… apply positivity to it: I have new carb sources being passed through my body, and I can use that to my advantage… hello- heavy sets on Monday? Sprints? A bleacher workout? HIIT? Hell yeah. The pizza was good, and you don’t have to hate yourself, AND you can put it to good use my friend! Energy, glycogen, and also… don’t call it “cheat”. Just say you’re adding “variety” in there. Variety is GOOD for you. Keeps your body guessing.
Without comparisons, I gave my body more respect and appreciation. That means that I stopped serving myself up a giant, heaping plate of “f*ck you”. My body has been through a lot and it has accomplished a lot. Since age 7 I’ve battled persistent and chronic illness that always put me a few steps behind my peers as a kid, and always in a race to catch up as an adult. I was heavily medicated with antibiotics, steroids, anti-inflammatories, pain medications and sleep aids for over 20 years, then discovered two autoimmune diseases, fought an uphill battle getting them under control, then I had 2 babies (that = growing a human being inside my abdominal cavity for 9mo each, followed by a traumatic birth/c-sections, followed by years of breastfeeding- which takes a lot of work in itself), broken bones, Swine flu, 2 more surgeries including a major upper jaw operation installing plates and screws into my face. And here I was comparing myself to OTHER PEOPLE? I found myself – literally – judging and hating my own physical being inside/out because I couldn’t do or perform A, B and C like Johnny-Robot could. If that isn’t the most disrespectful and ignorant way to negate the amazing come-backs I’ve been blessed with (and worked my ass off for), then I don’t know what is. How dare I feel angry and frustrated because I’m not squatting 165 or sprinting sub-4:00. After everything my body (mind and spirit!) has been through, comparing was probably the highest form of insult. Now? There is nothing on this planet that could instigate me into comparison. Nothing. I am so damn proud of what I’ve accomplished, and overcome. Another person’s journey has nothing to do with mine. And it certainly doesn’t dictate what I should be doing either. Perfectionism, in any form, is pointless stress that carries too much weight.
Without the news, I was more optimistic. And I hadn’t realized how much this impacted my overall mood until 10-12 months into it. I had eventually caught wind of some news on my facebook feed during the Newtown school shooting. And my first reaction was HOLY SHIT, how can this happen? How does that happen? Prior to that I recalled the gunman at the Colorado movie theater, which at that time was when I began shutting the news out completely. But instead of being numb and indifferent to this news, it shocked me to the core. Why? Because my system had not been that rattled over sensationalized reality in so long it seemed unrealistic. My second reaction was anger. Not at the gunman. Or his mother. Or his psychiatrist. Or the police. I was so damned mad at the media because of the way they played this tragedy out. Sticking microphones into the faces of 2nd graders trying to run into the arms of their panicked mothers merely moments of being released to safety. Immediately broadcasting the gunman’s full life history within 3 hours of the event, only filling in the blanks that had been reserved for demonizing him to the fullest, being sure to note his mental illness so the rest of the country can treating every other mentally ill person like a criminal. Angry! Being shut off from that for so long allowed me to see it, clearly, for what it really is. Sensationalism. Driven by viewer emotions. News and media and Hollywood…. it’s fake. It’s entertainment. And we soak it up in herds allowing ourselves to be blindfolded and conditioned to believe what others want us to believe, because as long as we follow that path- they get ratings. No more, y’all! Besides the obvious issues there, who needs to know how many people died today? What benefit do you get out of checking the news to see how many auto fatalities there were. And nowadays? People can comment on news articles like any other social media site (which, by the way, drives more visibility and ratings) and guess what happens when people begin having conversations underneath a news story about Trayvon Martin? Any guesses? That’s right… big, tough, brave biggots and racists just love to drive content below those articles and watch emotional people get riled up. For me, personally, it was just added stress simply SEEING with my own eyeballs how many ignorant racists still exist in this country. It would leave me feeling discouraged and depressed. And I would carry that around with me all day. So imagine that happening in one way or another EVERYDAY?! That’s a lot of low-level stress and baggage adding weight and being dragged around all the time. Then imagine if you didn’t see that, hear that, feel that, worry about that. Wow. So much more room for optimism, and what happens when you become more optimistic? You begin doing shit that actually matters and can CHANGE the world.
Without perfection, I found a teacher in chaos. I stopped requiring perfection from myself because the consistent let-down used up too much energy and drainage. Why did I need to feed myself so much stress over not reaching specific standards in everything? It could be my workouts, my nutrition, how clean my house was, whether or not I was a good enough mother or wife or daughter or friend. No matter what, I had to sit back and realize I’m doing the best I can with all I’ve got and if I don’t achieve some superficial standard I’ve solely created inside my thoughts, I’m still doing okay. Why? Because I’m doing all I CAN do! That means that anything I cannot do is simply just an irrational goal. Why set a goal or standard so high you cannot logistically reach it? And so if I feel like I’m being a shitty friend or wife and know there’s something I can do to improve my role, then I do it. But if I know there’s such a small capacity for me to go further or do more, I can’t and won’t be chained up by guilt. And this also went the opposite way. I stopped requiring (or having this need) for my family, friends, colleagues, children, husband to meet some standard of perfection shaped by what I’ve always thought was ideal. No one is perfect. I can’t hold my friends to some standard all the time because we all fail. We all end up hurting someone, and we all deserve forgiveness. This doesn’t mean you have to be a push-over and allow others to treat you like shit. It just means you have to stop setting those standards because people will demonstrate to you through words and actions what their capable standards are and how they set the bar… and you have the choice to accept that or not. Perfection is moot because it will always be hypothetical and concoctive. The only way to achieve perfection is to re-define the idea as what you’re capable of by all means. You haven’t mowed the lawn in 8 weeks? Okay, it looks like the Adams Family lives there but what were you doing other than mowing the lawn? Oh, these other 5, 031 things that are way more important like attending your kids’ soccer games, spending time with loved ones, taking a time-out to de-stress, working out, cooking healthy dinners, playing a board game with your kid, helping your neighbor move, taking your Mom to the doctor, attending to your list of 38 clients and trying to fit in showers between it all? Okay. PERFECT! You’re not a size 4 yet and you haven’t increased any weight on your squat in 2 months. And? Are you able to identify other things going on that are amazing? Like the fact that you went from a size 16 to an 8 in 9 months, and from squatting the bar to squatting 105? Or that 2 years ago you never would have imagined being strong at all? When you realized you had gone from a size 16 to a 12, did you look down and go “ugh… screw that… why am I not a 4 yet?”. And when you DO reach a size 4, then what? You gonna be mad because you can’t be a size 2? Or maybe you’ll get smaller and smaller, then what… you stop getting your periods, lose strength because you lack the energy storage to push harder, and your hair begins to fall out because you’re not absorbing enough Omegas and Bs? You will never be that perfect. There will always be something. If you’re doing all you can do given the resources you’ve got, then you are perfect.
This isn’t just about church women getting chatty over coffee and bagels. This is about the entertainment outlets, news, social media, blogs, groups, reality shows, sport casting, magazines, websites, forums and every stupid thing on TV. Without gossip , I felt (and FEEL) more secure…. why? Because I wasn’t out there wondering what others were saying about ME, because I wasn’t constantly reminded of how ugly people can be… which led me to not think about, and then not care about… what others thought. And that’s HUGE. Has anyone ever told you that you need to stop caring about what other people think? And you have to confess its just not possible? Simply reducing the gossip with or from so many sources can open doors in your life you had no idea were even related to this. Not being consistently reminded about the negative and nasty minds of others had allowed me to feel secure in my own skin. Even if that meant avoiding TMZ when it began playing on tv in the background, or switching out some ridiculous hollywood gossip magazine (which fuels more “ideas” for perfectionism as well) for a fitness magazine, must I read one. Listening to music instead of the news. Or opting for a helpful podcast instead of talk shows. Guys, this isn’t just a girl problem. This crap happens on Around the Horn, Pros vs Joes, NFL Live, and PIT. Stop acting like you’re immune to this because you have a penis. You’re not. People… the show “Footballers Wives” made it into the top 50 Sportscast Shows of all time. Will you just THINK ABOUT THAT? I have never seen it, but I saw a preview while google-fetching some ideas for this article. What the fuck? So we have Basketball Wives, Footballers Wives, and Ultimate Cheerleader… reaching high-level accolades in Sportscasting. I can promise you the majority of these votes were not cast by women. These are shows that literally plan, stage, execute and document the lowest-level human behaviors of gossip, materialism, selfishness, fake aesthetics, and inner-spirit lacking lifestyles. And it’s famous because WE crave it! We can’t get enough gossip and catty conversations full of drama in our own lives, so we turn on the tv, twitter, facebook, TMZ and buy oodles of magazines to fill the void. And I’m not criticizing [you] because if I were forced to be honest, I’d have to admit that was a huge part of my life for a very long time. But I had to wonder – and this started years ago – what it was about other peoples’ problems that got me so excited, and was that genuine excitement? Or something else disguised by excitement and entertainment? Yeah… sadly it revealed a pretty disgusting part of my character that I don’t care to revisit. And by tuning all of that out, you open up room and create such a vast space to bring positivity in, revealing a better quality part of yourself you can use to enhance your life and those around you. And the more you allow the positive in, the more optimistic and secure you will feel. You don’t need to know how ugly people can be and sit there and watch it with your judgmental and critical suggestions as if you are – somehow – in a better, higher spiritual and moral realm than the rest of them. You would be surprised. Try it for 4 weeks. Cut out simply 5 sources of this shit and tell me you felt no difference. And keep in mind, also, that all of these sources will continue to give us what we want, so the more you buy into the ugly, the more they will provide it, and if they can’t provide it, they will MAKE IT UP… and that, my friends, represents the quality of your news and information.
Without so many electronics (ipads, kindles, tvs, laptop, phone etc) I was able to grow awareness outside of my customized interweb/media/social rabbit hole (see last sentence above). Off course I still use email, Facebook, texting etc. But I eliminated everything else and reduced the others which allowed me to see outside of the box. You know the saying “You are what you watch. You are what you read. You are what you hear”. Being a collection of everything you choose to “favorite”, “like”, comment on, purchase, buy, search, read, listen to, watch, or “pin” creates a person: you. And it did to me. I had favorite shows, favorite blogs, podcasts, websites, publications etc. But when I eliminated the access to them, I was forced to search for information in other ways… and exposed to a whole other world of goodies that I had been missing for a long time. When you choose ONE genre in everything, you block yourself off from the rest of the world. You make the choice to like (and be) the genre of comfort. Whether it’s a brand of clothing, classification of books or authors, music, food, workouts, restaurants, cafes, speakers, tv channels, facebook friends, facebook groups, or category of podcasts, articles, writers, newscasters, and politicians (party). When you choose to follow only those things that comfort & qualify your ideas and perceptions, while soothing any fear, anxiety or doubt that may possibly rattle your brain into the process of thinking and questioning (which is uncomfortable. be honest) what you know, you will simply end up dumber, angrier, intolerant, tight and irrational. Kind of like your Great Grandma who still says shit like “… those colored folks” and blames homosexuality on the Devil. That’s because she never listened to, read, or searched for anything outside of what she knew and still “knows”. And Great Gramma probably didn’t have iphone, ipad, kindle, macbook, laptops, smart phones, and 500+ channels on tv so it’s even easier for us, now, to access and attach ourselves to MORE sources of the genres we choose. We all have favorites, genres, categories, topics, subjects, etc… of things we like. But when they subscribed to one thing 2-3 generations ago it meant choosing one radio station over all 4 of them. Now we can pick all our favorites, and be perpetually exposed to them repeatedly in thousands of electronically fast, quick, fingertip stroking, button pushing, website clicking avenues. But when you shut it all down and walk outside, and spend 2 weeks without any of that, you will unknowingly be exposed to other ideas, sounds, sights that actually DO ignite your senses in ways you didn’t know were there. And yes, that can bring about some very cool spiritual growth. Oh, and there’s all that hoopla about EMF stress on your body. So, although I cannot imagine a life without electronic advancements and the convenience they allow, limiting access will actually make you a more powerful thinker who has made room to absorb more information and investigate new ideas. This leads to a very powerful growth in spirituality, awareness, and intelligence that we all need right now.
When you dump all the negative minutiae (what you control) you create a larger space for positivity! You can actually think about, consider, study, question, absorb, highlight, and FEEL the positive. As any skeptic would look at this, the question is: what do you have to lose? So just do it and prove me wrong.
“You – if you are doing this right- you will create this vast, open awareness within and around yourself. The question is: will you pay attention? Or keep looking at the scale?” Sara Eye, CPT, CHN, HLC1