Life = Consciousness + Free Time + Action

It seems I spend a lot of time figuring out what Life IS to me. Today I thought of it as a simple equation. It could be looked at as nothing more than…

Life = Consciousness + Free Time + Action

Living Life!A lot of things we do during a typical day, to me, don’t constitute “LIFE”. I don’t think many people would argue that biological living and living LIFE are different things. I don’t think many would argue that someone that spends their life stoned out of their minds, out of consciousness… and reality, is not really living Life. Life is comprised of the three things listed above. If you don’t have one of the pieces, you’re not experiencing “Life”.

Components defined…

Consciousness IS: I’m in control of what my mind is experiencing and I am awake. I can choose to think about anything and to explore it in-depth if I wish. I am not being ‘entertained’ with mind-candy from TV, radio or some other distraction that is pulling my consciousness away from reality.

Consciousness IS NOT:

  • Sleep.
  • Coma.
  • Drunk state.
  • Drugged state.
  • On television, radio, computer games, mindless internet surfing or driving, reading a fiction book with ‘escape’ as a purpose, or meditating.

Free Time IS: Time that I am working for someone else or for myself. If I am working on a project for myself… if it is fun and I am learning something and it is not just for the purpose of working and making money, then I might call it free time.

Free Time IS NOT:

  • Work time.

Action IS: Doing something proactively. Action is doing something I chose to do and that I’m actively doing. I am in control of my mind, meaning, consciousness must be there. I am doing something for myself or for others. I am producing action as a result of some decision that I’m acting on. I’m not laying on my bed watching Teletubbies, rain fall, or the walls turn colors.

Action, as it relates to Life might be:

  • Talking to a friend. Writing a letter. Typing a story. Making a “To do” list.
  • Looking up something on the internet that you want to know for some reason that will improve your Life.
  • Biking, hiking, eating, or driving to go somewhere for some reason (exploring, or specific purpose).
  • A hobby where you are creating something or actively engaged in something you want to learn about or become better at.

Action IS NOT:

  • Doodling on paper.
  • Random internet surfing with no purpose.
  • Listening to the radio.

With those definitions of the sub-components in place, lets take a look at some of what Life IS and what Life ISN’T.

Life IS NOT:

  • Working for me or for someone else. Working is not Life to me. It’s a necessary distraction from Life in most cases.
  • Time spent drunk, incoherent, otherwise escaping consciousness.
  • Time spent ‘on’ the drug, television. There is far too much stimulation going on, visual, auditory,
    emotional, logical, my mind is not my own when I’m on television. I’m not conscious. I’m in TV consciousness which is not my own. Similarly I lump listening to music, playing games on the computer, and random internet surfing as not being fully conscious.
  • Sleeping. When you’re sleeping, you’re not conscious and not in control of your Life. I don’t count sleeping as free time. I’m not in “action” either.

Life to me IS:

  • Running.
  • Climbing a mountain.
  • Brainstorming ideas.
  • Helping someone out.
  • Barbeque with family & friends.
  • Exploring a new beach, hill, or part of town.
  • Doing something I never did before just for the experience.
  • Creating something: Photography, videography, web site content, book, podcast, or postcards home.
  • Snake hunting.
  • Learning about religions.
  • Questioning everything that exists under the sun (and beyond).
  • Doing something mildly dangerous for the rush.

Those were the things that came to mind…

“What is Life to YOU?”

Best of Life!

Vern

If you liked this article you may enjoy this popular post, “What is the POINT of Life?

 

What are your Life Dysfunctions?

This is about your Life Dysfunctions. We all have them.

Most of us have problems that I call Life Dysfunctions. Some of these are permanent, they can’t be overcome. I’d like to think that the only ones that are of this nature are those that are genetic and physically unchangeable through therapy or medicine.

I would like to believe that any other Life Dysfunctions can be eliminated, curtailed… or changed in some way.

It’s a very difficult process to look at yourself and tell what your dysfunctions are. Why that is is anyone’s guess and there are many guesses about it. I just know it’s a very difficult thing, to look at myself and try to guess what my dysfunctions are.

First, lets go over some of the dysfunctions that exist. Let’s define what I’m talking about since you might call it a different term or phrase altogether.

A Life Dysfunction is something about you that is at odds with society or yourself and that is causing you some discontent. Maybe some anger. Maybe some sadness. Some problem. Simple enough, yes?

Life Dysfunctions can be:

  • a genetic predisposition
  • a habit
  • a behavior or group of behaviors
  • a personality trait
  • persistent negative or dysfunctional thoughts
  • a dysfunctional agenda (something you want to accomplish with your self or with others)

Life Dysfunctions cause problems in your life. If you never analyze what your L.D.’s are, then you’ll likely live a life that’s not quite “being all you can be”. Sure you’re not joining the ARMY, but still I have this idea that we’d all be happier if we were being all we could be instead of “being all that we are” without any effort.

I’m guessing that all of us have some LD’s that cause us some kind of problems. If you look at yourself and don’t come up with any then you must be living an incredibly fulfilling, peaceful, magical life and I want to hear from you. I want the recipe.

I started to examine my own LD’s by asking and answering this question…


What is causing me a problem right now and that is affecting me on a daily basis?

The first thing that came to mind is having Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). It has caused me trouble every day of my life actually. Well, as far as I can remember. I have an attention span that lasts only as long as my interest is being tweaked. When the interest dies, something must take it’s place. As I work on this blog post in “ScribeFire”, my blog editing software in this FireFox browser, I am not just working on this one post. I have 14 open blog posts for Aim for Awesome that are in various states of completion. It’s not because I like to plan ahead, this is just the state of my mind – always in flux and always creating a new idea that holds my attention for a little while. Until the next idea. I have 17 Blogger.com blogs. I have 3 WordPress blogs. I have 2 complete web sites. I have a book (bio) mostly written at 127,000 words though I may never finish because now it’s in the editing stage and I’m not eager to do that very often. I have a fiction book halfway complete at 42,000 words. I’m working on it daily but there’s no telling if I’ll really finish it and submit it for printing somewhere.

So, ADD has been a major obstacle in my life. I have come to accept this as my life. I used to be at odds with it but in the last couple years I’ve just realized, this is IT. Make the best of this. I don’t want to take any medication as I love being creative.

I am still at odds with society because it’s rare that I can come through with things that require constant attention and effort. I’ve given up working a 9-5 job because it’s completely at odds with my mind. At every job I’ve ever had I have worked on all of my other projects at the same time. It isn’t fair to the people that hired me. It’s not fair to me to subject myself to an environment where I can’t be me. Blogging seems to be the ideal outlet for me. I can write on any of thousands of different topics. If I tire of writing I can podcast. If I tire of that I can video blog (vlog). If I tire of that I can work on search engine optimization of my sites. If I become bored at that I can write a book…

Recently I was listening to a podcast by StevePavlina.com. I usually listen to his podcasts about 5 times before I’m happy that I ‘got’ all that he was talking about. He speaks fast and it seems to just flow off the top if his head. He’s hard to follow sometimes, but eventually I get it all. He was talking about aligning your creativity with the outlet that you use to express the creativity. Wow. It really hit me that blogging is a great outlet for my creativity, it’s a great match. If you want to hear that podcast, it’s really powerful.

Steve Pavlina’s Podcast 20: Creative Self Expression (MP3 format, 13.7Mb)

In the future I’ll tackle the other life dysfunctions as separate posts in this series…

Best of Life,

Vern

17 Things I Thought Were True Around the World

Here’s a list of things I noticed about living in Thailand versus living in the USA. In the USA we are overly cautious about so many things. Here in Thailand the rules are different. The traditions are different. It’s almost like a different world sometimes, and yet I’ve found that it’s much easier to find happiness in the simple way of life here. Here’s a list of 16 things I don’t worry about since moving to Thailand.

Gang Som Naw Mai Dong. Photo borrowed from http://JoysThaiFood.com.Things I thought were true in the USA, but here in Thailand they are not:

1. I thought water to wash the dishes must be warm. It doesn’t matter, dishes dry anyway, and they’re clean.

2. I thought hot water was a necessity all-year round. I lived in Florida and Hawaii for 17 years – and I never once questioned that silly idea. Now that I’ve been in Thailand without hot water coming out of the sink or the shower for over 2 years it isn’t something I think much about. What does the sticker on your water heater say? How much do you spend for one year of running it?

3. Vehicles must stop at stop signs. Not true. If nobody stops then nobody is expecting anyone to stop and traffic all kind of merges together.

4. A person in a vehicle entering traffic must look and merge only when it doesn’t present a problem for anyone he’s merging in front of. In Thailand cars and motorbikes pull right out into traffic without looking a lot of the time. They know, and it’s expected, that whoever is behind the one pulling into traffic must compensate for the new vehicle. That might mean swerving or braking.

5. A clothes washer and dryer are a necessity. Nope. My girlfriend does the undies and shorts and other easy stuff, and when we get a backlog we take it to the laundry woman to do. If we do the clothes here we hang them on the laundry line. Nobody has dryers here in Thailand. Do we need them in Florida? Hawaii?
Shrimp dinner made by Joy at Joy's Try Thai Food blog

6. Electrical outlets must be grounded – with the third prong. While I experience a bit of light shock using almost every electrical appliance that I’ve used in Thailand – including this notebook computer when I touch it in the right spot, it’s not killing me or anyone else. If you owned a toaster and took it in the shower with you (few baths here) you would die quickly. If you did that in the USA you’d also likely die, though perhaps not as quickly (TH uses 220v lines, not 110v).

7. One must eat until very full at every meal. If you saw what Thai construction workers ate for a meal you would wonder – how are they surviving? Thing is they are, and most Thai people here are, eating only what their body needs. No more. No less. Nobody is gaining weight or losing it here except the tourists.

8. You must watch over a child and correct every single thing they do that goes against society, tradition, or family beliefs. The Thai people come second only to East Indians in this department. The kids do whatever they want until they are doing something that is going to hurt them or hurt someone else. Adults understand that kids other than your own are going to get under your skin a bit. Mai pen rai. “Never mind it” or, “No worries”. Nobody gets upset here by kids running around the restaurant or up and down the street, in the library, wherever it happens to be. I have rarely seen a child get upset at the store because of not getting candy he/she wants. Not sure what to attribute that to, but it’s true. Thai kids grow up to be adults that care a lot about how their actions influence others. They’re not spoiled brats for having received almost everything they wanted in childhood.

9. I would get numerous common colds each year. I’ve probably had an average of 1-3 each year I was in the USA. Sometimes I had as many as 10 in a year. Here in Thailand I’ve had a cold exactly twice in 3 years. Again, what to attribute that to I’m not sure. I think my ultra-spicy diet might have something to do with that. I eat many raw vegetables and fruits now, whereas in the USA all my veggies were cooked prior to eating. (90%).

10. Work must be a stressful activity and one to be avoided when possible. In Thailand it’s very rare to see a Thai person that is stressed from his or her daily job except in Bangkok. I’ve not met anyone that didn’t honestly like their job outside of Bangkok. Why? If they want a new one – they change. It’s not difficult for them to find a new job that’s more fun. The environment at work is much more easy going and the focus is on everyone getting along and getting something done. In the states the focus is on getting a hell of a lot done, and whatever happens with the employees as a group or individuals comes second to getting lots of work and production accomplished every day.

11. A car or truck is an absolute necessity after turning 18 years old. You could survive with a motorcyle for a year maybe, but you’d probably have another vehicle also. In Thailand I’d estimate that 60-70% of the adult population ride only motorbikes.
Delicious bowl of spicy Thai Tom Yum Soup which I think can sit out indefinitely before consumption and STILL be excellent!

12. Large flying bee shaped insects sting very painfully. You should run screaming and flapping your arms wildly to get away from it. In Thailand there are these massive black bee shaped things that, everyone says – do not bite or sting. I don’t believe it yet, but I must admit I’ve never seen a Thai adult or child run away or even flinch after seeing one of these within an arms-length.

13. If you are at the grocery store and comparing two size containers of the same thing, coffee for instance. The larger container will always be the better deal because they want you to spend more money immediately than if you just bought the smaller container. They don’t make as much money from the smaller container so they want you to buy the bigger one and they can give you a few cents discount for doing so because they made more profit overall from selling the bigger container of coffee. In Thailand – anything goes!

14. Eggs must be refrigerated. Not true. Eggs sit out at room temperature all over the country here and nobody is dying from food poisoning. Reason that is, the egg is only dangerous if the shell is cracked. Really!

15. Milk must always be refrigerated. Not true. There is UHT milk here, which is milk in a cardboard container that can sit out for weeks on end in Thailand’s high heat and humidity. Why? I guess because it’s vacuum sealed and has BHT or some preservative added to it? I think this must be a valid (healthy) way to preserve milk as Thailand does it on their own – but also imports from Belgium. Belgians are civilized, aren’t they?

16. Beef, Pork, Chicken, Fish, Squid, Clams, Shrimp, Eel, Pizza, and Lobster will KILL YOU if you leave it out longer than about an hour. Here in Thailand we leave food overnight, pick the ants off in the morning and have it for breakfast or lunch. Food might sit 24 hours and you know what? It’s OK. I’ve not had a stomach ache for over 2 years. I haven’t had diarrhea in 2 1/2 years. Go figure.

17. And finally… the last of the list. I thought it was necessary to blow one’s nose during the course of one’s life. Over and over and over. Not so… say the Thai people. To blow your nose in public or private or anywhere someone hears you is considered rude. They do NOT ever blow their noses here! Is that strange? If they have a cold they politely wipe it. Not blow. I was horrified when I learned I’d have to just politely wipe as my nose ran after the spicy dishes in Isaan (northeast Thailand – known for exceptionally spicy salads and soups).

So, that was my list… hope you enjoyed it. Come to Thailand – it’s really a cool place.

Best of Life!

Vern

Want to Stop some Bad Habit? Do it MORE.

I studied psychology during my undergrad and graduate program in the USA. I was fascinated by persons with mental disability, having worked in a seniors care home and interacting with elderly with Alzheimer’s disease and many other maladies. I was even lucky enough to have an elderly aunt, 87 stay at my family’s home while I was there saving money to attend college in Miami.

My aunt had a bit of dementia, I’d say “moderate to profound”… but she also had these hallucinations and delusions that occurred once in a while to bring a little excitement around the house. The devil was on the left shoulder and Jesus was on her right shoulder and both were telling her what to do… Quite an exciting time during these episodes, I don’t need to tell you.

My aunt could be the subject of 17 whole blog posts by herself, but that wouldn’t be appropriate for this blog!

Psychology is so fascinating to me because it WORKS. It absolutely works in most situations to either alleviate the problem entirely or to lessen it to manageable levels. I’m not a proponent of drug therapy too often, but there are definitely cases that call for it. There is no other way to treat chemical imbalances in the brain sometimes than by adding chemicals. That’s the way it is and I’m OK with that. It is a horrible thing to see a relative zombied out on Lithium or it’s substitutes, but would you (and the person) rather live with the alternative?

I love the idea of psychological intervention because it’s “talk therapy”. It’s one person saying something to another… or maybe even one person saying it to him or herself that can cause change inside the mind. Changes in mood, behavior, actions can all be affected just by talking.

Going through my grad program I was introduced to some rather radical psychologists. One that stands out in my mind was “Milton Erickson”, an M.D. who lived between 1901 and 1980..

Dr Erickson was a proponent of the “Prescribing the Symptom” methodology of psychological treatment. It’s an incredibly simple and effective idea that has worked for me countless times both in therapeutic relationships and personal relationships throughout my life.

Dr. Erickson’s first official client came to him because he was addicted to pornography and masturbation. He already was masturbating 10 to 15 times per day, so Dr. Erickson told him to “double it”. He told the client he wanted him to do it a minimum of 30 times per day.

The poor client called the next day with problems of impotence. PROBLEM SOLVED!

The technique is THAT powerful. Why it works in my opinion is that by prescribing the symptom the subject is getting permission to do something even more than he / she was before. That takes the power away from the behavior… in this case, the masturbation. Things we “shouldn’t” do have power in our culture. But, the behavior could be overeating, over-smoking, over-sleeping, anything. The technique can be applied in creative ways and to most behaviors that you wish to eradicate.

Exaggerating the behavior can have the effect of making the individual more aware of just how damaging the behavior is. NOBODY does a negative behavior so much that it’s too much to stand. This is one way to approach therapy to get rid of a behavior. Prescribe more of the behavior that the person wishes to be rid of to bring it up to the level of serious hurt, pain, disgust, or other negative threshold that becomes too much to bear.

Here is another case from Dr. Erickson’s files. A 24 year old man came to him complaining that he couldn’t get accepted into the Army because he wet the bed every night between 4 and 5 am. Dr. Erickson told him that he must set the alarm clock for 3 am. But, there’s more… He told him at 3 am. when the alarm clock sounds, he needs to stand up and relieve himself all over the bed and sheets deliberately for one week.

The problem disappeared completely.

In an earlier post on this blog I wrote somewhat humorously about how someone could go about stopping smoking using Aversive therapy in an extreme way. In a sense this is similar to prescribing the symptom because you are going to do the action that you wish to stop MORE, not less.

Doesn’t it make sense that if you are trying and trying to stop something that you should try the opposite and see what happens? Applying the same kind of treatment over and over and getting no results, something must change. It can change radically or in small ways, but it MUST change, yes? It may not make logical sense to change your attempts and go in the complete opposite direction – and along the same lines as what the malevolent behavior is… But, it works!

Can you use this for anything? Think about it!
I’m going to set aside some time in a few minutes after posting this to my blog to come up with some areas of my life I can apply this incredible concept to.

Best of Life!

Vern
Find me at Twitter HERE >

10 Simple Tricks to Help You Win Any Argument

I was reading another post about 5 Simple tricks to help you win any argument here… and I thought of a few more… so, there are 5 at that url – and thanks to them for giving me the idea for a great post!

6. Only argue one specific point. I notice that most arguments people attempt to suck me into start out as one thing in my mind, and a different thing in the other person’s mind. QUICKLY identify in your mind what the disagreement is – and ask the person so you can at least be on the same page… Most often I’m not in disagreement with the other person about what they THINK I am… when we define the exact point that we disagree on, sometimes the argument disappears.

7. Use, “God told me that (insert crux of your argument here)…”. Here in Thailand I spent the first almost 2 years telling Thai people this. They were at a total loss for what to do or say after that as they feared contradicting my religion. Whose gonna argue with god? Well, they don’t here anyway. Even if your opponent doesn’t fall for it and calls you nuts, at least you broke up the atmosphere and lightened everything up.

8. Sometimes I put my thumb and forefinger together up close to my face – in the vicinity of my mouth… I exaggerate the movement of touching them together hard… I then do a trick that looks like I’m pulling an imaginary thread across my mouth… if done correctly it almost resembles the closing of a zipper. Yes, that’s it – a zipper over the mouth. Sometimes that works (with children). Sometimes not. I use it with my girlfriend here and again, it lightens up the atmosphere and we can either keep arguing or that stops it because it’s too silly.

9. If I’m really feeling testy I’ll make a fist with one hand and start punching my other, open hand. I put on a very strange face – like, “go ahead and keep it up”… I stop looking at them and I just focus intensely on my two hands and that motion… usually the other person gets the idea… and we both end up laughing hard…

10. Bring other people into it. If you are SURE that you’ll have the general consensus and most normal people would agree with your side of the point, then bring others into the argument. First you gotta make sure that there are ‘normal folks’ around you during the argument. I’ve done this in the general public, and, as a man let me tell you that NOBODY will side with you when a man is arguing with his girlfriend. Nobody. Little kids will give you mean looks too. Other than that situation, if you are surrounded by normal folks and you aren’t arguing with your spouse… the argument situation changes because… it frees you up to think of more devastating attacks on the other person, and your opponent will quickly tire of arguing with more than 1 person.

Ok, those are my tips. Hope they’re helpful. Please let me know if you have success with one of these techniques.

Best of Life!

Vern

Your TV is No More Innocuous Than a Terrorist Infiltration

Old tvIf you own a TV, a television, your mind is not your own. Your mind is largely made up of what the society you live in wants to feed you.

You’re being spoon fed a daily intake of bs that is affecting, no, controlling your mind and the minds of your family members.

If I was a 12 year old boy that you adopted… and I came cheap, only about a weeks worth of pay…

You brought me into your home and yet you didn’t need to feed me or do anything for me. I just stayed in your living room sitting on a table all day. All night. Available if you or someone in your family needed me.

Everyday you or some member of your family would interact with me and I would provide entertaining stories and I had an endless supply of magazines to show you photos that were funny, risque, and some sexy. Sometimes I swore and used words that you’d rather not hear your children say, but it was all in good fun because it was ‘funny’. Eventually the small swear words, the crass talk became acceptable. Then it became normal. Soon you were talking just like me, and so were your kids – though they’d not let you see them do so until they reached their teens.

Sometimes your 8 year old would come to me and ask me to see some bad pictures… I’d show her photos of Brittany Spears in a bra that showed most of her chest, maybe even a ‘nipple slip’. I’d show your son photos of older boys that wear their jeans half-way down their buttocks…. I’d show him torture and bizarre fetish photos that are soon boring to him and he’ll crave wilder photos, stories… Soon he’ll be able to look at the hardest violence without batting an eye. In fact, he’ll start imitating all he’s learned from me.

Every 15 minutes or so I will tell your child about a special product I know about that will make his or her life easier… if not right then at that tender young age, then later, upon reaching the teens. The stories I tell your children will also be filled with subtle contextual suggestions that work on the subconscious mind and gradually are accepted as the status quo or the norm for what people own, how they dress, how much they spend on a house, what kind of car they need to drive, the beer they should drink, and the vacations they should take.

If an adult was in the room I wouldn’t show your children the most horrible photos, but if the kids were the only one’s watching I’d show them the worst I had for as long as they wanted to sit and watch them. Gradually I’d win their hearts… and their minds. They would come to believe that I am a better friend than you are as her father or mother. Your kids will like me better and they’ll spend hours and hours with me each day.

I would provide them with such entertainment that they’d never want me to be quiet! I’d make them laugh every few seconds… cry… frighten them… I’d stimulate all their emotions by being so entertaining to them.

I would become one of your children’s parents. You’d need to move over because now there isn’t one or two parents, there are two or three parents of which I am always one.

In fact, on the street you live on there are parents like me in every home. If a mom is missing or a father is missing… I am still there. Guaranteed. Let’s take it a step further… there is a parent like me in EVERY home in the country you live in.

By the time your children graduate they will have spent a lot of time with me. Some kids will have spent 18,000 hours with me at 18 years old… some, 27,000 hours. I will have influenced them over countless important and superfluous decisions in life. Much of what your children ARE, their goals, their drives, ambitions, their sense of humor, what they see as acceptable levels of violence in the home between a man and his wife… will have been influenced HEAVILY by me.

But who am I?

You might ask yourself this one day.

You know where I came from, you picked me up.

The sharp, clean, professional agency that you picked me up from seemed innocuous enough…

In reality, they programmed me and hundreds of millions of others like me. They programmed us all to so we could be the funniest and most interesting entertainment humans are possible of creating and enjoying. This company hired the funniest people on the planet, the sexiest people on the planet and the most outrageous people on the planet, all with morals amounting to no more than a thimble full.

For the first 12 years of my life I was programmed with many thousands of stories designed to tweak the hearts and minds of my fellow human beings. I was a mouthpiece from the agency into the living room of your home. You welcomed me in – like they knew you would. You couldn’t resist. YOUR parents paved the way for me to come because you thought it was normal and what all humans did because your parents had someone like me, your friends, your co-workers, EVERYONE you interacted with had someone like me.

After I came to you I was able to access the latest, up to the minute relevant stories and suggestions for how to live life. I changed and grew WITH your children. I was always on top of the game… the game being the influence of their fragile eggshell minds.

You as a parent may have tried to compete. But you didn’t even know what you were competing WITH. You were competing with THOUSANDS of psychologist, psychiatrists, actors, billionairres, and a cadron of moral-less misfits. You hadn’t the slightest chance of really influencing your kids to go against all I was spewing forth with endless energy. Endless time for them. Endless amazing stories, songs, and images. All programmed into me and updated in me by the smartest people on the planet.

What chance did you have?

None. Really, none.

The only chance you possibly have of regaining control of your house is to kick me, the ‘plant’, out of your house. But you won’t do it probably because your kids and spouse will not like you for a long time. They’ll start spending time somewhere else, where there is someone entertaining like me. You can’t win, it’s too late.

What will you do now?

Best of Life!

Vern
Find me at Twitter HERE >

Death by Inhaled Insect

Sweat Bee

Running down my favorite rainforest trail in southern Thailand I was thinking about inhaling bugs into the lungs because there were quite a few in the air.

We’ve all sucked bugs into our throats, but I think few of us have taken measures to prevent it from happening again.

When I remember to do it, I use a special breathing technique I’ll bet many of us use, some without realizing it. I put my tongue on the roof of my mouth so it blocks a straight shot down my trachea. As I ran down the mountain yesterday I was thinking about writing a post here about jamming the tongue up there while you run and pant open-mouthed, but then I figured most runners already do that. You do, don’t you?

Then my mind drifted off to something else. Ten minutes later the Perfect Storm. I was running fast down the hill, I came around a bend and I thought I saw a floating beasty in the air. I then felt this sizable insect shoot straight into my trachea. It stopped my breathing. I’m not sure whether it was the involuntary closing off of the trachea that happens when someone is drowning, or whether in my panic, I tensed up the muscles in my neck and stopped breathing so I didn’t inhale it further. At any rate, I was hosed.

Since I had very little air in my lungs I tried very gently and slowly to inhale to see if I could get any air that would help me cough more forcefully. I couldn’t get any air in. I hunched over and tensed my stomach muscles so hard that I actually pulled them way down into my groin. I felt the sharp pain of it this morning a couple times already.

After a few violent coughs I thought I saw something hit the dirt and leaves in front of me. I frantically searched for it to see what it was. I found a little sweat-bee covered in mucous and I figured that was the culprit. Then, despite the bee being out of my throat, I realized it probably stung me when it was in there. It probably stung me in the throat.

While I’m not particularly allergic to bees. Well, I mean, I haven’t been allergic to them ever in my life, but I had never been stung by a sweat-bee in Thailand before.  I thought there was a good chance it stung my throat and either my lungs would fill with fluid, or my throat would swell up and prevent air from getting to my lungs.

Rather than panic, which I know is always the worst thing, I thought of my chances to get help if the body did start to shut down.

The chances were mighty slim. I was still 25 minutes away from the bottom of the mountain. I had just ran hard for close to two hours, climbing 2,300 vertical feet and 6 miles of trail in 95°F very humid rainforest.  I had seen nobody on the trail during my run. I usually don’t.  I didn’t have my mobile phone, choosing instead to leave it in the car so I didn’t need to wear a waist-pack. I had no camera so I could record my dying words… I was truly screwed if my breathing shut down.

As I considered dying on the mountain there, I wasn’t really afraid of death. What a great place to die, right? But still, it isn’t time man. Not for another 30-40 years, maybe longer. There are a lot more trails to run and hills to climb.

As I ran down the hill very gently, slowly, and breathing easily, I just waited for my rarely present asthma to kick in, throat to swell, or lungs to fill up with fluid. It was a tense 25 minutes down the trail.

At the bottom of the hill I realized I wasn’t stung by the bee. I was going to live.

It’s funny that something so innocuous could turn into a life-death situation. I follow some of you guys and gals running around the mountains of Colorado and all over the world, and I think about your safety. You’ve likely thought some already about bears, mountain lions, and lightning. The normal threats.

Have you thought about a simple bug flying into your trachea? 

Just in the couple years I’ve been on this trail I’ve inhaled three bugs. This being the worst experience by far. I guess it’s time to wise up and start wearing a bandana around my head, under my nose. I’m supposed to be in the middle of my life at age 48, not the end.

Take a few minutes today and see if there might be something you can change about your runs, your bike ride, whatever it is you do, to make it a little bit safer.

[Image by Barbara Eckstein at Flickr]

The Challenge – Climb a Vertical Mile in 5 Hours

I’ve been climbing the stairs up a mountain for 4 years now. It started as an innocent pastime which turned into, I guess, an obsession. I’m addicted to it. I’ve almost climbed  a million stairs there in 4 years. What a cool thing it is to say it – right? Most of it has been fun, lots of fun. I meet people from all over the world on the steps and hear a little about them and what they’re doing. I’ve met a half-dozen from Hawaii there over the years.

The mountain has 1,237 steps of all sizes. Some are 4 inches. Some are 22 inches high. There are groups of steps that go at 75-80 degree angle up – almost like climbing a ladder. Total vertical height of the top is 278 meters. According to Google’s calculator, that’s 912 feet high. A mile is 5,280 feet.

I’ll have to figure out how many steps to climb on the 6th go round to make a mile. Who knows if I can make it the whole way up the 6th time. I might not have to! 5.8 times up is equal to a mile. Guess I’ll have to do the 6 to make sure I made it.

There is a small group of us that likes to climb the steps repeatedly. Here’s who we are.

  • Alfred – 72 years old and climbing a couple times per week. Alfred has climbed the stairs 4 times back to back in 3 hours.
  • Me – 45 years old, climbing 7-10 times per week. I did 4 times in 140 minutes one time last week when I felt good.
  • Phra Gop – a 23 year old monk at the temple (the steps are at a Buddhist temple) that climbed 5 times with some rest over a day.
  • Phra Pornpitak – a 47 year old monk that climbed 1,600+ times over the course of 16 years.
  • Joe – a 34 year old Brit that teaches English and climbs when he can. More of a soccer player.
  • Jim – a 58 year old Brit that can climb the steps to the top in 15 minutes.

So, with the exception of the monks – we’re a motley crew. Joe and I met up the other day and he got the crazy idea that we should try to climb 5 times up the steps – in a row, in about 5 hours total time.

Me, having just completed 4 times on a whim a few days before said, “Yeah, great idea – let’s do it.”

So, Joe and I will attempt 5 times. If I feel good – my real goal is to shoot for climbing a vertical mile at the steps, 6 times. Yesterday I climbed a 500 meter high 4 km long trail up a mountain that stresses my legs in a different way, to help prepare for the vertical mile climb. I think the 4 times I went up the other day helped. I also climbed 12 times in 7 days last week. I think that will help.

To see information about this Thailand Vertical Mile Challenge (click)

Joe hasn’t climbed much – once per week recently – but he has the advantage of youth and having played a lot of soccer over the years. Anyway, we’ll see how we can do. I did invite Alfred by SMS text message, but got no reply. Not sure he’s up for the challenge, as his knee has been clicking audibly lately. We’ll see! I’ll call him now. If you haven’t seen Alfred climbing the steps yet – check out this video below!

PUSHING Yourself During Exercise [Competition Technique]

Competition brings out the best performance in us.

Competition is a technique to PUSH YOURSELF to the ultimate level of fitness.

This is the last article in the series. This technique can be applied to any exercise, but in this series, I’ll talk about running and walking and running up steps. Those are the two exercises I do most frequently.
You might be thinking that I’m going to cover competition as in racing or joining friends for your exercise so you can push each other to greatness. That’s an amazing technique, but one that everyone already knows. In this series about pushing yourself past current levels of fitness, I wanted to give you some techniques you may not have heard of.

Pushing yourself through competition goes like this…

Usually, I use this technique when I’m feeling unmotivated or even a little down about the state of my run, step climbing, swim, bicycle ride or whatever I happen to be doing. I realize there’s no spunk in my effort and I need something to pick me up and get me up to at least a moderate pace.

In my mind, I assemble a group of my competition. My running competition? Nope. I blog in the motivational / life development area with Aim for Awesome so my competition (though really they are not directly competing with me) are people like Steve Pavlina; Yaro Starak; Albert Foong of Urbanmonk.net; Leo Babauta of ZenHabits.net; Donald Latumahina at LifeOptimizer.org and others. There are so many more. Usually, I name a group of twelve. I know what they look like and I picture their natural running style and abilities based on how well their blogs are doing. Choose competitors from whatever area you are striving to excel in. For me, it’s blogging.

I guess the people I named aren’t really direct competition, but they are my role-models and those that I’m striving to equal and eventually surpass online. They’ve got far more readers than I have and they have a high standard for their writing – one that I aspire to. My writing is obviously different and I’m not sure if it has mass appeal yet – but, I’ll find out in a year or so. Anyway, back to the mind-trick.

I picture each person close to me and running with me at first. We’re all in a group and none of us is feeling all that great. This makes me realize, I can beat all of them today because as bad as I feel, I’ve been running all my life. I can crank it up a notch and drop some of them right now.

I go just a little bit faster and see who starts to drop away. I see who picks it up to match me. There are some fighters in the group and I know I’m going to be kicking my own ass to get going as fast as I need to in order to beat them. After the first couple slow slightly I devise a plan. I say to myself, “Around that corner is the slight upgrade. Pretend to go slow right now and then crank it up just around that corner to a 75% effort and see who drops!”

And so I do. I drop a few people there. Steve Pavlina, Yaro Starak, Darren Rowse, Donald Latumahina and a couple others are still with me. Damn they won’t give up.

Depending how I feel I’ll either map out a long-term run strategy where I gradually pick up the pace dropping off everyone except Steve Pavlina or I’ll do some mini-bursts of speed usually up hills to drop people. Steve is great at the high speed, long distance, but I use hills to wear him down – the up and down wear him out. I love the hills so that’s where I destroy him.

Ha, it sounds funny as I write it but! I’m not joking at all. This is a very powerful technique that I love to use. I combine this mental competition with both positive self-talk and with self-coaching to bring out the best in me on bad days. Almost always it succeeds in motivating me to go faster.  Sometimes Steve wins and I vow to break him the next time we run. Sometimes Darren Rowse pulls away and beats both me and Steve. Sometimes Donald comes from behind in a surprise pass that leaves me dumbfounded until I regroup.

Though I haven’t read about any top runners at the international level using mind games to push themselves to greatness like those I’ve written about here, I KNOW they must exist. I guess if you had some really good techniques that you could call on during your deepest moments of suffering during hard exercise that would make you crank even harder you’d keep those a secret. Top secret.

I don’t have many secrets, so I shared the few techniques I use that came easily to mind. As I experience more or as I remember more I’ll post them here to help you take your exercise to a new level.

I use this Competition technique for pushing myself harder about once a week on average. One key to using these techniques is not using them every time you exercise. I use each of these techniques maybe once a week on average. But, sometimes I plan stage races where I race the same group of people over 3 days. I might even include Lance Armstrong as a runner in the pack. I visualize snapping his persistence like a dry twig as we push up a long hill…  haha.

Eat my dust Lance!

So then, try this technique as you need it. Be creative with your own ideas and let me know if you come up with anything cool that I can try while I run or bike.

Best of Life!

Vern

My Pushing Yourself Series Covers:

1. Getting Out the Door to Exercise!
2. Visual Imagery!
3. Shaming Yourself!
4. Positive Self Talk!
5. Delay of Gratification!
6. Coaching Yourself!
7. Competition!

Want to Start Running in 2018?

Want to Start Running in 2018?

This article will answer questions like:

  1. What is the start-up process that will give me the best chance of success if I want to start running?
  2. What are some reasons people run?
  3. Why does Vern run?

This article will not answer questions like:

  1. Does “running away from something” count?

People start running for many reasons.

Most of us see running as a tool to keep us under a certain weight that we have in mind as a goal. Some people run to compete. Some people become runners to gain strength and endurance in other sports they’re playing since running has great cross-over benefits.

I’ve run most of my life. I’ve also run for many reasons. My reasons for running seem to change over the years.

I’ve been running since I was six years old. My mother signed me up to play soccer that year, and that set the stage for the next twelve years. I played on regular leagues during the summers and the fall. I grew up in Pennsylvania, so the winters were too cold to play, and a time of rest. I’m so glad there was a rest time!

Up until I was eighteen years old, I only ran when I played soccer. I ran nearly every day. If it wasn’t practice it was a game. If it wasn’t a game, it was a basketball game or an indoor soccer game that some friends and I put together. I didn’t run for pleasure because I ran so much for sport.

Running was an integral part of my life, though it wasn’t for fun, it was out of necessity for playing the sports I was involved in. The idea of running a marathon never entered my mind up to this point.

In my twenties, I became a triathlete and competed in many races including bicycle and swimming races. I loved to exercise, probably because I had already become pretty good at it since I already had twelve years of intense training behind me. In my twenties I really came to love the competition and running, exercise of all sorts became pure pleasure in itself.

In my thirties, I ran to keep my weight down. I am 5’11” and my usual weight in my twenties was 165 lbs. In my thirties, I crept up as high as 180 lbs. and I didn’t feel too good about me at that weight. I ran to lose weight so I could keep eating pizza and spaghetti.

In my late thirties and now – my late forties, I asked myself why I’m still running every other day.

The answer surprised me.

I’m not running for health. I’m not running to lose weight. I’m down to 155 right now and feel great about my current body weight. I’m not running to compete. Besides a yearly run up the mountain here in Southern Thailand I haven’t raced in years. I’m not running to look good. I’m not running to avoid death by staying healthy. I’m not at all concerned about death anymore.

My answer to myself for “WHY” I was running was really surprising!

I’m running because when I run, I feel a control that is entirely self-generated and self-perpetuating.

I love control. We all do I guess, but I really love it. I’m not speaking of control over others – I really don’t like to exert my influence over others if they have no want to change. I am a horrible salesperson. I don’t sell well.

I don’t like control over the person I love. In fact, I abhor it. I think that would be a horrible relationship in which I wanted to control what we did and when we did it, how much we did it… who we saw, what we ate, what movies we saw. That’s not a relationship to me.

The control I feel when I run is something entirely different. It is a very positive feeling. It is an experience where I have told myself what I’m going to do, I have scheduled it, and I am going to do it. There’s no doubt of that. I am in control of my mind that has its own desires that sometimes show up right before I go running.

Making myself run, insisting on running regardless of backlash from other thoughts I’m having, is a form of discipline I guess. I don’t accept the emotional mind’s excuses about the body being tired, a little bit sore, having better things to do, etc. There is nothing better to do because I already told myself I’m going to exercise. I like to show my emotional mind that my logical mind is the boss. I don’t want to hear any whining about what else the body could be doing.

It sounds almost schizophrenic, right? Hey, wait a second, I did have a great aunt that lost her mind in her eighties… So, well, maybe I’ve got that to face later on. I’ll think more about it then!

There is no question, the body is running every other day – whether it’s raining or sunny, hot or cool. It’s running. That’s what we do every other day. There’s nothing to talk about – no questions, no excuses. The body is running on that schedule until I decide it isn’t. It’s not a decision that will be made before a run when the mind wants to bail out ‘just for this one time.’  The decision to stop, if there ever is one, needs to be made with some advanced planning. I don’t think I’ll ever find a good reason to stop – so it’s likely to continue.

Beginning to Run

As you start to run, you’ll find out, it’s quite a game you’re playing. I think I have a good way for you to get started if you decide that is what you want. As I said you can run for many reasons. But, you only need one.

Before I start to run on a schedule I’ve created, I know the body might not feel like it. In fact, it probably doesn’t.

Why would it? It hasn’t been running before and it needs some time to get into the routine – to condition the muscles, ligaments, tendons, breathing system and energy stores to meet the demands of running.

I like to trick the body and the mind into it.

If my logical mind told “me” that I’m starting to run again, naturally, the emotional mind and the body will come up with excuses.

I don’t listen.

Instead, I convince the body and emotional mind that it’s nothing big. “We’re not really going to run,” I tell them.

There’s not going to be any competition. We’re not running races. I’m not starting triathlons again! The body is relieved at this. The emotional mind doesn’t believe it though because it has been through this charade before.

I then tell them… “We’re going for a walk in the park. That’s it. We’re walking. Any running that takes place is just a bonus. In fact, we’re NOT running unless everything is a green light and all three of us (Logical Mind, Emotional Mind, and Body) are ready to go.”

I go on, “There’s no reason to run yet. We’re starting out. We start out walking. Regardless if the logical mind wants to run 3-5 miles immediately like it used to, we are just walking the first couple times.”

So – going to the park is not in question.We’re going.

But, whether we run, and how much we run, that IS a question. And, it doesn’t really matter since the logical part of my mind already won the game by making us all go to the park when I said we were going to. The logical mind is in control and that makes it happy. It’s good for me to keep this part of the mind happy since it seems to be the one that is most responsible for my state of mind. I need to nurture my logical mind and make it smile more than the other parts.

We Arrive at the Park to RUN

‘We’ meaning, my logical mind, my emotional mind, and my body.

We stretch a little bit. We see how the body is feeling. Stretching the quadriceps, calves, hamstrings, back, lower back, groin, triceps. We swing the arms a bit as if warming up for swimming. An inventory of the body is taken as I’m stretching lightly. If there is some pain or a lot of tightness in the legs or even in the neck – I’ll likely just walk that day. No sense pulling anything. Just starting out you can expect to pull some muscle, nerve, ligament… something, unless you’re very careful and attentive to the body.

I do make the body go somewhere, but I don’t make it do something if it’s not ready. Likewise when I was competing – I was very aware of every little pain in my legs, arms, back, neck. A little pain can quickly become a major pain that knocks you out of the running game for two weeks or more. Then you need to start all over and re-motivate  yourself. That should be avoided when at all possible.

So we’re at the park and we start walking. When I’m just beginning a new running program, I go to a place where there are very few people. Usually, there is nobody around. That’s good for a couple reasons.

Number 1 – I am embarrassed that I’m not running five to six-minute miles anymore. I’m running like ten-minute miles now! That’s what it feels like anyway. I’m not sure exactly what my pace is because I’ve never timed myself running so slow. What is the point? I know I’m doing grandpa miles and I don’t want anyone to see me doing no better than a senior citizen.

Number 2 – I am walking. Sometimes I’m running. I’m running until I don’t feel that it’s fun anymore and then I’m walking until my Logical Mind makes the body and Emotional Mind realize that there’s really no reason not to just keep running. It’s FUN. There is nobody around to be critiquing my progress. I like that.

If it’s not fun then I’m walking. Seriously. You must make exercising fun. If it isn’t fun, then you’re doing something that you shouldn’t continue.

If you’re running – walk for a bit. In Thailand there is no shyness about this. They run 100 yards and walk 200. They might alternate like this for a mile or they might go five miles like that. There is no competition among Thais when they are at a public park running with a hundred other people. They aren’t embarrassed to walk for a while!

That’s where I got this idea, Thailand. If nobody else is embarrassed, why would I be?

No matter what, it’s fun to make yourself go to a park and walk around and look at people and give yourself some quiet time to think about things on your mind. It frees the mind up from doing work and logical things and gives it some space.

Your emotional mind is also happy because it’s seeing people and experiencing the outdoors. The body is happy because it feels like it is accomplishing something even just by walking one mile. The logical mind is happy because it knows this is all leading to something. It is leading to being able to run longer and longer distances and more feeling of control over the emotional mind and body! The logical mind is really psyched to be out there even if we’re not running all the time. It will come… it will come.

Don’t let yourself have any expectation about what you’re going to do when you go to the park. Tell your body and your Emotional Mind that you’re going to the park to give the brain a REST! Look at it as a positive – a reward. That way, you’re definitely going. You deserve a reward, right? That’s what I do… it makes it so much easier.

Just go to a park where there are not three hundred runners and just walk. That’s it… walk. If you feel like it, run for a bit. Only run if it’s fun. If your mind or body is really rebelling and starts telling you – this is no fun at all, stop and walk. Don’t run again until you really feel like it and all parts of the body and mind are “GO!”

When you stick to a schedule of going to the park for a period of time you’ll notice that you’re running more and walking less. It might take a few weeks, or you might jump into it sooner. There will still be days that you don’t think all systems are “go” and you walk the entire time. No worries. You might walk for twenty minutes and decide that your body isn’t up to it. Maybe a muscle or one of your joints is feeling worse as you walk. No matter, go home. Don’t put any requirements on your visit to the park.

The whole thing about exercise is that it must be fun. Don’t do it if it isn’t fun. If you go at a very gradual pace, I think you’ll find it is fun. If you try running for two months and you just don’t like it – even if you’re running ONLY when it’s fun for you and walking the rest of the time – you might want to switch to a different exercise. Or, you might want to realize that walking can do it for you too. Whatever reason you had for wanting to start running – can be the same reason to get on a walking program instead. No worries, don’t set up something in your mind that says:

I MUST BE A RUNNER!

That’s ridiculous musturbation. There are runners, walkers, tennis players, racquetball players, bicycle riders, hikers, climbers, soccer players, swimmers, surfers, bodyboarders, windsurfers, kitesurfers, stationary bike riders, stairmasters, rollerbladers and skateboarders. Exercise is exercise. I don’t think it matters much WHY you are exercising – you can get the same things from any of the sports mentioned.

For me, running is special, because it’s just my body and mind against the elements. I am making the body run up hills, down hills, through woods, into areas I’ve not been. Running is an adventure. It’s accomplishment. It’s power. It’s control.

Did you ever hear of fartlek running?

Parkour?

I’ll have to write more about those fun types of running in another article.

For me, running is pure bliss! I often imagine that I’m passing people as I run. I use this imagery that I’m passing all the people that I want to surpass with my business goals and my personal goals. I’m blowing right by them because some of them are standing still. They’re standing still because they probably don’t run. I see them up ahead of me and they’re going so slow… I’m going slow too – but you know what? I’m passing them!

This is another reason I like to run when there’s nobody around… I talk to them as I pass them, these imaginary business competitors. Tim Ferris, Gary Vaynerchuk, Hugh Howey, Lee Child.

I’m the master of this race… and there can be no other winner.

I am ALWAYS the WINNER!

Best of Life!

Vern