At one point in my life I was joyfully exercising 8-10 hours a day (surfing, weightlifting, mountain biking and yoga). I had two amazing and beautiful school-age daughters, a successful business, a big house, fancy cars and a healthy income. Although I was living the American dream and incredibly fit, I was still feeling stressed and overwhelmed. I was unhappy, disgruntled, and longing for something different. I felt like I was in the wrong place, doing the wrong thing and that there was something else out there. I was a mid-life crisis waiting to happen. The only consistent and constant joy in my life was spending time with my daughters.
And then in the spring of 2005 I spent a week with Paul and Suzee Grilley at a meditation retreat. Seven months later, the business I built over 27 years was sold, I had unloaded the vast majority of my possessions, ended a 20 year marriage, became a yoga instructor, spent an intense month of yoga and bodywork training in Costa Rica with Glenn Black, and started a four year alternative medicine program at the Barbara Brennan School of Healing.
During those seven months, most of the big things just fell into place. A pervasive effortlessness lightened every day and every decision, but the waves of content and discontent continued. I would become overwhelmed with the potential of the changes that were happening. The waves got bigger, the undertow stronger and treading water got more difficult. The next four years were tumultuous. I was an ecstatic mess.
My investigation into my garrulous but garbled existence continued after I graduated from the healing arts program. In my search I read dozens of self-improvement books and saw chiropractors, acupuncturists, therapists and healers of every flavor, with results but without lasting relief.
It seemed there had to be a wellspring of stress, a volcano spewing dysfunction that reappeared or erupted in me shortly after every successful teaching, treatment or program. My symptoms always returned. And then one day the angels sang as they thwacked me in the head.
“Jeff,” the angels said, “What if everything you believe is wrong?”
And then they laughed and continued laughing… for a really long time. That was what I had been waiting for, the “SIGN!” Switches flipped in my head, my internal Rubik’s Cube spun into place. I felt my center of gravity shift downward out of my head into the pit of my belly… I felt pertinence thick as cheddar.
I started to examine every belief I had. I looked at my “truths,” which I discovered were mostly other people’s opinions that I had co-opted and accepted as fact. When I deconstructed these truths, I found fiction, dogma and hyperbole.
• What I came to realize was my truths weren’t factual--they were familiar.
The idea of “familiar as truth” led me to asking why I wanted familiarity. How did “typical” serve me? And if it didn’t serve me, why did I keep doing it. As I looked at my truths, I also looked at social truths. I deconstructed collective beliefs and found them to be non-factual. I discovered most truths primarily served to reconfirm my comfort zones.
Here is an example… If you believe that stress exists, you probably accept that you should do things to relieve stress: exercise, medication, meditation, alcohol, food, sex or therapy. So, in effect, stress is draining you of energy and then you are expending more energy trying to relieve it, creating a double deficit.
• What if stress didn’t exist until you created it?
What if you are using stress like a thermostat or energy regulator? What if you create stress and then do something else to relieve it?
• What if the primary benefit of stress was to maintain and sustain a habitual range?
What if you could learn to devalue your “stressors” and eliminate that holding of energy, the resistance, which breeds stress? And most importantly, what if all of the energy you are expending worrying about stress, being stressed and relieving stress could be spent on other things, things that bring you happiness, fulfillment and success?
So, the next question became why would I choose to be stressed? What benefit did I gain from being stressed or from the many other non-optimal decisions I made? How did it serve me to be angry, sad, fat, tense, lazy or spacey? How did the less than stellar components of my personality play into this? How did I benefit from being sarcastic, irreverent, judgmental, domineering, dismissive, manipulative, untruthful and unkind? I realized all of these things required energy expenditures and if I was burning energy I was less energized afterwards.
• Dysfunctions are depleting.
My dysfunctions and personality shortfalls were ways I diminished my vitality. Somehow, I judged myself over-vitalized and decided I needed to be less.
• I made non-optimal choices because optimal began to feel perilously uncomfortable.
I am designed to absorb energy, to take in my environment. I interact by absorbing the stimuli present. I am an infinite sponge and if I don’t squeeze, I will continue to absorb. I have the innate ability to take in more than I expend which increases my vital reserves.
• As I take in my environment, it becomes a part of me. I get bigger.
At some point bigger began to feel untenable. My mind had fashioned an image of who I am, fictional boundaries of my capability and capacity. When I would approach this imagined threshold, my mind would start looking for ways to re-conform to its pre-existing limits or habitual ranges. I strive for the familiar because I had experienced it as “safe.” Familiar is habitual. Habitual is comfortable. Comfortable is survivable. I had a 100% survival rate from the past.
I realized I have tension, injury, disease, suffering and dysfunction because AS I reach an intolerable level of vitality, I looked to regain my comfort zone. I came to believe a good portion of my personality deficits also served to deflate me back to what was habitual and familiar.
I took this awareness and began looking for confirmation in my environment and in others. I used the idea of excess vitality as a filter to see the world through. I came to realize the biological imperative of homeostasis has been appropriated by our mental and emotional systems. Then, I spent four years designing this program. I trust you will find it paradigm shifting and welcome your feedback.
• A significant portion of our personality is tasked with limiting our potential, reducing our options and restricting our growth. See how and get started by pushing the GO button.
The Road Here...