Vitality and Ecstasy
Vitality is the life energy that courses through us, enlivening our bodies and propelling our minds in new directions. Each of us has been given this precious gift of vitality, which is at our disposal for a matter of a few years but does not really belong to us. What we do with the gift of vitality makes all the difference. Mostly, we tend to squander it, not knowing how to relax our minds and bodies fully. We hold tension in our bodies unnecessarily, leading to pain and strain. And we expend mental effort on so many things that we know don't matter (beautifully captured in this video by Prince Ea).
What would happen if we gathered up all the vitality that we were investing unproductively and gathered it back into ourselves? I have found that this simple yet powerful gesture can bring me into a condition of ecstasy, which is the intense joy and delight arising from a state of exaltation. The word itself comes from the Greek ec, meaning "out," and stasis, or "standing." Ecstasy is the experience of self-transcendence when we step outside the normal boundaries of our perceived self and are drawn into something much deeper and more expansive--our true essential nature. This inherent self is vast, eternal, and interconnected to all things. Ironically, by gathering up the little bits of vitality that we were squandering, we come into contact with a limitless source of radiance within ourselves. From this deeper vantage point, we can transmit and direct vast streams of love and joy out into the world. Don't believe me? Then try it for yourself. See what happens when you break your link to the things that deplete your physical and mental energy. If you don't know how to go about doing this, one simple place to start is with a few minutes of Repose every day. That will get you started in an exciting and revitalizing new direction!
Less Effort, More Power
This week, I came across a book written in 1891, entitled Power Through Repose, which bears a striking resemblance to the Amazon Best Seller, Repose: The Potent Pause that I co-authored with Jhan Kold. The premise of the 19th-Century book can be summarized in one line: "Every day less effort, every day more power." The author, Annie Payson Call, makes two important recommendations: 1) Apply your mental and physical effort precisely so that none of it is wasted; and 2) The right kind of rest at the right times of day can enhance your power.
Related to the first recommendation, I discovered this beautiful video featuring a powerful teaching from Alan Watts. It serves as a reminder of who we really are at the very core of our being, and it puts into perspective all of the struggles, stresses and strains of our lives, which we tend to take so very seriously and expend great amounts of effort to confront. The idea of lila, or divine play, brings ease into the minds of those who grasp it. This is the central idea in my book, The Way of Play. There is no reason to expend effort unnecessarily on worries or concern that are illusory and that ultimately don't matter.
The second recommendation involves resting mind and body completely. This is why Jhan and I developed Repose in the first place. We understood that when any of us surrender completely to life--even for a few moments-- with an attitude of total mental and physical receptivity, we tap into a boundless power within ourselves. This isn't simply the power to move molecules in the world; it's the energy of bliss that brings us to our true center, where we can emanate into the world as the creative, joyful, healthy, balanced and loving entities that we really are. In this simple act of Repose, we come face-to-face with the very essence of our Vitality.
Arsenic Levels in Rice
Today, we found out about a Consumer Reports study (see video below) showing dangerously high levels of arsenic in rice grown in the U.S. It seems that the problem is limited to rice grown in the Southeastern states. Brown rice from those places is much higher in arsenic than white rice, which has had the hull removed. Basmati and other varieties of rice grown in California, India, and Pakistan do not pose the same risk. Also, other grains like quinoa, millet, and amaranth do not appear to be affected.
After learning of Consumer Reports' findings on arsenic levels in rice, I contacted Lundberg Farms, one of the leading producers of organic rice products. Their response is below. If you buy their packaged rice in 1-, 2-, or 12-lb bags, you will not be exposed to any of the potentially tainted rice from Southern farms. However, their processed rice products may contain some of the questionable rice. I would recommend staying away from those products, as well as their wild rice and their 25-lb bags of Basmati, Jasmine, and long grain rice. Some stores, like Whole Foods and Sprouts, carry Lundberg rice in their bulk foods section. I will find out tomorrow what risk is associated with those products and I will update my blog when I hear back. In the meantime, you can read the Lundberg Farms response to my email here:
"Thank you for your interest in our products. The majority of the rice used in our products comes from California. All of the rice in our 1 pound, 2 pound and 12 pound packaged rice, with the exception of wild rice, comes from California. In addition, our rice bowls, 25 pound bags labeled as “California rice”, roasted brown rice couscous, risotto, and rice cakes contain exclusively California rice.
"Occasionally, when the available rice supply in California is not sufficient to meet the demand, we work with our rice grower and processor partners located in the Southern United States. This generally happens when we have challenging growing conditions that reduce yields in the field, or when demand grows substantially faster than we anticipate. Currently, the products we sell that may utilize rice from other US rice growing regions are: 25 pound bags of American Basmati (white and brown), 25 pound bags of American Jasmine (white and brown), and 25 pound bags of Long Grain (white and brown), rice syrup, rice chips, and rice pasta. Additionally, much of our wild rice comes from growers in Minnesota.
"We do test our rice for arsenic and are sharing the results on our website. I will provide two links that will answer your questions:
· http://www.lundberg.com/info/arsenic-in-food/ this link takes you to our arsenic in food section
· http://www.lundberg.com/info/arsenic-in-food/ this link takes you directly to our arsenic testing results page
"Please feel free to contact us if you have additional questions after reviewing the information we share."
This month, I am starting up a monthly email newsletter called "Vitality!" The theme of vitality allows me to integrate three areas of interest that are very close to my heart: health and healing; psychological well-being; and spirituality. This newsletter will be a revival of one that I started two years ago. If you signed up for my previous newsletter, there is no need to do so again because you are already on the subscriber list (and, of course, you can drop out any time). If you are not but would like to be (or if you're unsure about your status), then please scroll down to the "Get Vitality! Newsletter" box below, type in your email address, and then click on "Subscribe."
The newsletter is free, it is only available in electronic format, and it will be sent to your email address on the 18th of each month. I have all kinds of goodies planned for this month's newsletter, including a giveaway that is just in time for the upcoming holiday season.
You will read a great deal about inflammation on my blog. The reason is that runaway inflammation has become one of the biggest health concerns in modern times. Numerous chronic diseases are linked to inflammation, including coronary heart disease, cancer, diabetes, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and Alzheimer's disease.
We know that proper diet and stress-reduction techniques such as Repose can reduce inflammation. But what about exercise? The findings on exercise seem to be mixed. The bottom line is that inflammation in the body goes up immediately after a workout (not surprising) but the long-term effects of a workout program are generally anti-inflammatory. The one exception is over-training. Doing long sustained workouts daily, as you might if you were training for a marathon or other endurance event, can result in chronic inflammation.
One of the most effective workout strategies, in terms of inflammation, is high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Research has shown that the greatest anti-inflammatory response is associated with short burst of energy expenditure followed by a recovery period. This makes sense, really. Your body seeks homeostasis. Brief, intense periods of exertion cause momentary spikes in inflammation, as the muscles get strained and stored glycogen gets burned. These changes set off a chain of events that help offset the momentary increase in inflammation.
As the exertion continues for long durations, though, muscle tissue gets damaged, which causes your body to trigger a major inflammatory response. Inflammation is just a mechanism for the body to heal itself. Blood rushes to the damaged area, sending white blood cells to remove injured or dead cells, as well as oxygen and nutrients to fuel these cells. For reasons that I will continue to touch upon in future blogs, the conditions of modern life seem to be keeping the body in a constant state of inflammation, which is problematic. It's the epitome of "too much of a good thing."
To increase and maintain vitality, we need to bring the body's inflammatory response into balance. We can do a number of things to achieve this balance; one good place to start is by changing our workout habits. With respect to inflammation, HIIT appears to be preferable to long, sustained workouts or to no workout at all. An added benefit of HIIT is that an effective workout doesn't need to last more than a few minutes. You can improve the efficiency of your workouts and gain all the inflammatory benefits in a half-hour or less!
The Age of Repose is Here
November 6, 2014. Please note the date. That is when Repose first entered public awareness. On it launch date, Repose: The Potent Pause became an Amazon Best Seller. We are already hearing from people who have discovered the benefits of Repose. One day in the near future, Repose will be an important part of daily life for millions of people. And we couldn't be more delighted!
My new book, Repose: The Potent Pause, co-authored with Jhan Kold, is officially an Amazon #1 Best Seller in two categories, including Kindle Short Reads (65-100 pages). The book is available as a free download through this Saturday (Nov 8). Please take advantage of this opportunity and feel free to share our link with friends.
Do you know about the work of James Balog? He is a photographer who has documented beyond a shadow of a doubt that glaciers are receding as a result of climate change. Anyone who cites examples of glaciers that are growing as evidence that the atmosphere is not warming is actually not telling the whole story. A fifty-year study, started in 1958, of the Yukon Territory's 1400 glaciers showed that 300 disappeared entirely, 1096 shrank, and 4 got bigger. Does that leave any doubt about climate change?
I want to hear from you! Please share your questions and comments. And sign up for my newsletter, where I will pass along the insights, ideas, and inspiration that come my way.