As 2014 draws to a close, I would like to reflect and offer gratitude for a remarkable year. This past year, my personal and professional life converged on the theme of Vitality, which links together my lifelong interest in health, consciousness, the environment, and social transformation. It all began on January 25, when Jhan Kold and I discovered Repose while lying in a park. Simply lying in this position for a few minutes relaxed and energized us in unique ways. Instantly, we recognized the potential health benefits of Repose, which were confirmed in a two-month study involving 50 volunteers. After 30 days, the Repose group showed dramatic benefits compared to the control group, including increases in overall happiness, optimism, resilience, self-image, and social functioning, as well as a reduction in stress levels and the number of days one's activity is restricted by physical health issues such as pain or illness.
Personally, Repose began to work its magic on me right away. In my first month of doing Repose three times a day, I lost five pounds and felt noticeably better. Chronic knee pain that I had experienced for three decades started to disappear. I had more energy and woke up every day with a sense of elation and excitement, like a kid on a Christmas morning. It made sense that the open and receptive physical state associated with Repose would be accompanied by an analogous mental state. From both a physical and a psychological standpoint, Repose seemed to be increasing my Vitality. Now, I wanted to know what else I could do to heighten this experience even more.
Teaching health psychology, I kept coming across the same realization over and over: Inflammation is making us sick. Virtually every major chronic health issue, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, obesity, and Alzheimer's disease have been linked to inflammation. Our bodies' defenses are working overtime to protect us from environmental toxins, unhealthy diets, and stress. This runaway inflammation is depleting our Vitality and causing unnecessary suffering. I made it my goal to look for ways to strip away inflammation from my body.
First, I changed my diet, taking out any food that I knew to be inflammatory. This included wheat, sugar, alcohol, caffeine, and artificial sweeteners. At the same time, I increased my intake of foods known to have an anti-inflammatory effect, such as leafy greens, flax, nuts, and berries. In less than three months, I lost over 25 pounds. More importantly, my body felt better than it had in years, with less pain throughout but especially in my joints.
Then, I changed the way I work out. Instead of doing long sustained periods of exertion, which increase inflammation, I opted for short, intense bursts followed by rest. I cut my workout time almost in half while making dramatic, visible gains in terms of agility, flexibility, and the development of lean muscle mass.
For me, one of the important discoveries for me this year has been: Let the body lead and the mind will follow. Physical Repose leads to mental Repose. If your body is receptive, vital, and balanced, your mind will eventually get there, too. We can trust the body to take us where we need to go. And my body loves Repose! Everything started with Repose, and all the insight I have shared here came while lying in this position. As we shared Repose with our circle of friends and family, we found that many of them took to it immediately. In the slide show below, you can our beloved friends lying in Repose on a Portland hillside, accompanied by his adorable son Ari.
We spent much of the summer writing our book, Repose: The Potent Pause, which made its official debut on November 4. The immediate response to the book was extraordinary. Over the next three days, it stayed atop the Amazon Best Sellers list in two categories, including Short Reads in Science and Math. We received endorsements from people we admire greatly, including the wonderful Ram Dass. Within days of the book's release, testimonials began pouring in about the dramatic positive impact of Repose. Thousands of people were beginning to experience the same extraordinary benefits that we discovered for ourselves several months earlier.
On a personal note, our dear friend Ellie Hall died this fall after an extended illness. As her health took away her ability to say more than a few whispered words, Ellie began to communicate directly through the love she radiated, and there is no question that her love spoke louder than words. In the way she lived and died, she was a role model and inspiration for the many people whose lives she touched. We walked in the All Souls Procession to honor her and in recognition of the simple fact that she continues to live in our hearts and in our lives.
A few weeks later, my beautiful great-niece, Amiyah Jean Miller, was born in Seattle--a perfect little teacher about the nature of Vitality. All of us alive at any moment are passing over a hot spot of vital life force. This Vitality is a precious gift that lasts such a short while. We cannot afford to squander it on the things that deplete us unnecessarily, the battles that do not need to be fought, or the issues and concerns that will hardly matter in a few months, let alone a few years.
December 2014 was one of the most eventful months I have ever known. I had a profound realization while watching an Alan Watts video with the bold title "This Video Could Wake Up the World." I was transported to a moment before time existed, a place beyond space, and could recall what it was like to exist as the very source of all Vitality--the singular consciousness that abides in all things. There is only one Consciousness, one great Being of which we are all a part. Realizing this connection is the single most important task of human existence. When we grasp who and what we are in the fullest way possible, feeling it in every cell of our bodies, we find the happiness that transcends all human suffering, the peace that transcends all struggle and conflict, the vitality that transcends death, the love that transcends all separation, and the joy that transcends all wounds. This is how a new era of peace, sustainability, and balance begins.
After this realization, I felt compelled to circulate this simple message to everyone I know: "Someone cares. You are not alone." The sense of isolation and alienation that most of us have felt at one time or another is not based on reality. It does not serve us and isn't needed. Our Vitality is heightened by knowing that we are part of something greater and feeling the love that is always available to us.
On December 7, I gave a presentation at Sacred Space Tucson entitled, "Vitality and Ecstasy." The basic idea of this talk is that when we gather up all of the Vitality that gets invested into the things that typically deplete our bodies and minds, we tap into the experience of ecstasy. What is ecstasy? It is the joy and elation that comes from self-transcendence--from knowing in our heart of hearts that we are much more than just a tiny little individual struggling to survive and from feeling our connection to something infinite and profound that connects us to all of creation in the most gratifying ways imaginable.
As we enter 2015, it is time to fully see and experience our interconnectedness. That is why I offer this simple intention to welcome in the New Year: "See me in you. See you in me. Be me in you. Be you in me." Wishing you a Happy, Healthy, and Vital New Year!