Adventures in raw veganism

Raw vegan lasagna is, I think, my favorite raw vegan meal

Raw vegan lasagna is, I think, my favorite raw vegan meal

I was supposed to post this one earlier. It has been almost a month since I have started to eat “normal” food again. Eight weeks ago I started a 4 week raw vegan experiment. This was a suggestion of some friends who do the yoga teacher training session with me. So, I did it because I wanted to see how it was and also because some people told me it would be impossible. At first I thought it was a diet but it was more like a detox. Anyway, I like to think of it as “an experiment” because I don’t really believe everything that is not raw vegan is toxic. I believe in moderation and I think it works, at least for me.

The rules

They were pretty simple:

  • only raw fruits and vegetables (with the exceptions of 30% of cooked or warm vegetables for supper if needed)
  • no processed food
  • no cereals
  • no alcohol
  • no coffee, no tea, no sugar, no milk, no honey…

It was a little more complicated than that and there was food proportions to respect for each meal but I did not respect it. I tried to make it “easy” and it was already good enough like that.

The cheats and the fails

Ok… I can’t really say I have succeeded since I have cheated a couple times. Nothing big but I just want to be honest.

  • I ate one bowl of granola during the first week. I actually did not pay to much attention to the cereal part of the deal and ended up eating some. 
  • I drank 2-3 glasses of wine at the end of the third week with friends in a restaurant
  • I ate two spoons of rice in a raw vegan restaurant… They are supposed to have no cereal on their menu but apparently they had some during winter because, well… because it’s winter.

I think that’s it. So it’s not too bad. I just feel bad about the wine. I could have controlled myself on this one.

If you don’t eat meat and cereals you get all weak

That’s how I have been raised. Actually, for along time I thought vegetables were just giving you more fibers to digest easily. I didn’t think they were actually giving you nutrients. Nobody really told me. So the big surprise was that I was not so hungry during the detox. I never had this sensation of having a full stomach either though. But my energy level was pretty much “normal”. The thing is I had to eat more often to keep my energy constant. After a while I was more satisfied to have energy than having a full stomach. This shift in my energy perception is the real goal of the diet according to me.

Also you spend less energy digesting when you just eat vegetables and fruits. This helps too: you don’t get as much energy but you don’t consume as much. I found myself being really “light”. This was particularly a good time for yoga practice.

I thought I would miss caffeine but it was actually easy to live without it. I was a big coffee drinker but I’m better at it now. Sometime I like to get caffeinated but most of the time I’m happy with tea. So it was not too bad to just drink decaffeinated herbal tea.

It’s funny how many people thought it was not technically possible to this detox. A couple people were even concerned for my health. So I think that what I believed before is still what most people believe. I don’t know why we are not more educated about food actually, but this is another debate.

Grocery shopping, cooking and going out

This was actually the part that took a lot of time and energy! First you think you can just eat salads, sprouts and fruits but it gets annoying pretty quick. So I’ve tried to add a little variety. My wife gave me a raw vegan recipe book which helped a lot. But it required to spend a lot of time shopping. The good thing is I discovered a lot of new ingredients I never heard of before. Also you can’t buy something and expect it to last more than a couple of days so you have to shop again.

My regimen had much more nuts than usual and these are quite expensive. Overall the whole thing is more expensive. I did a little calculation and it seems that I’ve spent around 25% more in groceries during the detox.

Preparing food took much more time too. Since I wanted it to be original, it was not unusual to spend more than one hour getting a meal together. Most of the time it was fun because I spent more time in the kitchen with my wife working on our little experiments.

Now the  real pain was to go out. There is only one good raw vegan place that I know of in Montreal (Crudessence). Otherwise you can still order salads in other places but usually you have to remove things. It’s hard to find a salad in a “normal” restaurant without having them throwing chicken or bacon in it. And also you pay for the full salad even if you don’t have all the ingredients inside. I tried a couple vegetarian restaurants and I found them to be a complete rip-off (15$ for a lettuce-cucumber-avocado salad on a small plate for example). It’s probably because vegetarian also means hipster (at least in Montreal). So if you find a vegetarian place you also pay for the hype.

Back to “normal”

I think my body got accustomed to this diet pretty fast. But I honestly wanted a good glass of beer more than anything else. I’m not a big drinker but I like beer and wine with moderation. And when my diet was finished the first thingI had was a beer .

During the first days after the diet, cereals felt really heavy so eating just a little was enough. That’s where you realize how much energy you spend eating cereals.

The thing is I felt weaker after the diet than during the diet. Actually I lost this sensation of being “light”. I also hurt my back pretty bad one week after the end of the diet (and that’s why it took me so long to write this, simply because I couldn’t stay in front of computer for more than 15 minutes straight, I feel better now, thank you). My osteopath tells me it’s not just a back problem but that my digestive system was the origin of the problem. So I believe my body was in shock when I went back to “normal”.

If I had to do this experiment again (and I think I will one day), I would do it during the summer. Eating mostly cold food during winter is not that easy and I think it would be easier with warm weather. Also it’s easier if somebody does it with you. My wife played the game and ate the same food as I was for every meal we shared. She was a great help. I can’t really imagine myself eating salad if she had been eating pizza next to me…

But the whole thing didn’t make me want to turn vegan. I include much more fruits and vegetables in my meals but I like meat. I like cheese. And I like cereals. All with moderation.

If you have tried a similar diet/detox or if you have any question about this experiment, drop a line in the comment section. If you were/are vegan, I’m interested also in your opinion. Did you turn vegan for health reason, moral reason, hype…? I don’t know, I just need to understand it a little better…

Avoiding the news (and feeling good about it)

Ignore the newsI don’t know if you’ve read or watched the news these days? I know I haven’t… This is a little resolution for 2013 and I feel good about it. Actually I feel that the world is getting better when I don’t try to know what is going on.

Let me explain: from my point of view everything is fine. I don’t worry because taxes may perhaps go up, because “the economical crisis is not over”or because people are pro or against gay marriages. I hear what happens because some people talk about it but I try to not worry more about it if I can’t do anything about it. I’ve actually filled a journal every night before going to bed since October. One of the question I’ve answered everyday in the journal was: what made you angry today? Well, Listening to the news was always coming back. It made me angry, worried. And when I worry I don’t perform well in any activity. I don’t know about you but I don’t like feeling like that, so I’ve decided that it would be easy to just cut the news out of my life.

And since I feel more optimistic because I’m not getting influenced my negative news, I believe I also bring a little more optimism to the world. My impact may be minimal but I don’t care, it’s still a little something.

Now… it’s fucking difficult to avoid the news. Perhaps it’s because I’m living in the city. You don’t get that much exposure in the country. Here are what I’m trying to not pay attention to:

  • TV and radio: This is pretty easy, I just change the station if I start to hear the news. I don’t really listen to the radio and I don’t watch much TV and usually it’s just for video streaming or to watch a DVD.
  • Newspapers: I never buy newspapers (ha!). We have 2 free newspapers in Montreal. They are distributed at bus stations or in the metro. I don’t take them. The trick is to not peak at what others are reading in the subway. It’s kind of difficult when you have dozens of people around displaying the front page of the paper. So, I generally try to read something on my kindle app or I just close my eyes and listen to my ipod or, better, I meditate.
  • Magazines and blogs: well, this is the only thing I read. Actually the only magazine I read is Wired. In some ways, they talk about the news but it’s really different from the everyday news. Blogs are also some kind of news and the line between some blogs and news websites is really blurry. I try to focus on personal blogs or sites that may evoque global issues but don’t just talk what is on the front page of newspapers. I like to read articles about technology (because this is my field, I would look dumb as an app developer if I did not know what the new OS is bringing)
  • TV screens (everywhere): Montreal in known for its underground city. Well, it’s a little nightmare if you try to avoid the news. Basically the underground city is like big malls connected together by tunnels and metro stations. And the underground city is nice when it’s minus 40 outside  (and by the way… yes, minus 40 degrees Celsius is the same as minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit and it’s also called “Are you kidding me? I’m staying inside”). So when you walk in the underground city, you basically walk through food courts and there are TVs everywhere, because people can’t focus on eating. Even worse, in the metro, they have these screens telling you when the next train is coming and also displaying news in a loop. Just try to look the minutes on the top-right corner of the screen and not watch videos of war right under…
  • People: you can’t really avoid them. So when they talk about the news I try to talk about why I don’t watch the news to change the subject. But sometimes I just ask them because it’s this awkward moment in the conversation when you don’t know what to say. The advantage is that the news are filtered this way and you can know what is going in 2 minutes instead of spending hours following news flash. That’s how I know about gun debates in US, gay mariages in France, war in Mali and Lance Armstrong. I also see some news that friends share on facebook or twitter. This is tricky because I don’t know if it comes from a newspaper or a blog… So I have this rule: I consider that if somebody I know points me to the news, I’m allowed to read it. That’s how I read an article about how the trend of eating quinoa in the western world was actually bad for South America. This kind of article is not really what you usually hear in the news anyway. This is more like an little investigation like the ones you can find in magazines. Well, this one happened to be from the Guardian… I suppose, I’ll call that the “gray zone”.

The fun thing (well… I don’t know if it really fun or if I should be worried about it) is that it’s really strange to see people jump on the news like junkies on crack. Yu know like it’s really important for them. perhaps it’s really important for some people because they need to be aware of what is going on in the world. I imagine traders need it for example. But I don’t think the everyday guy really needs to know what happened 10000 miles from him.

And finally when you don’t read the news but still have some involuntary glimpses of news, you realize how much bullshit this all is. So I sound like an ignorant bastard when I say I didn’t really paid a lot attention to what happened in this school in Connecticut. Of course, what happened is awful…  It’s awful every time a kid dies but there are thousand of kids dying of hunger around the world everyday. And this is actually something we could change if we cared a little but apparently it’s more important to have endless debates about guns (which by the way make people more worried about violence and more inclined to buy guns to defend themselves). Also, I’m pretty sure there would not be so many massacres if we stopped talking about them… The news make it some kind of sick trend… I don’t really know who is to blame: guns or news about guns? That’s why I believe watching the news really doesn’t help the world getting better. It’s just a certain point of view anyway, a certain kind of knowledge. Who said it was the “right” knowledge?

So I’m asking you: Do you watch/read the news? Does it make you a better person?

 

Reprogramming your diet (an experiment)

These are becoming my favorite kind of food right now

These are becoming my favorite kind of food right now

Today I am starting a 4 week vegan diet experiment. And by experiment, I mean that I intend to experiment with new kind of foods, not that I will give up after 2 days if it’s hard. I know that it’s not that big of a deal for a lot of people (who are already following this diet) but for the rest of people who have always eaten “normal” food like everybody, it’s kind of a big deal.

Lately I had the feeling that was eating too much junk. Christmas is probably one cause, but in general I often end up eating processed food when fixing a salad would be as fast and generally better.Let’s make things clear: I’m omnivore. I eat pretty much all kind of food. I like almost everything (with the exception of andouillette, a french sausage that smells like poop… And I mean poop like when you are sick). I have never followed any diet. I’ve paid a little more attention to what I ate in the past two years but I never went crazy and stop completely to eat one kind of food. I also don’t intend to be a vegan for the rest of my life. That may happen, but right now, all I want is to experiment with the way I eat.

So what are the rules of this diet?

Well… it’s pretty simple. Eat only non processed fruits and vegetables. With the exceptions of organic almond milk, decaffeinated tea, spices and any dehydrated fruits or vegetable. I consider those as processed since they have been dehydrated. I have  document that a friend gave me with all the rules for this diet… And it says it’s good for beginners to have some cooked vegetables for supper. I will also allow myself to have some home made soups or to warm up vegetables since it’s Winter, it’s Canada and it’s fucking freezing. I don’t intend to overcook anything either, I just want something warm from time to time.

Also, no coffee, no tea, no alcohol, no candies, no chocolates, no bread, no Lucky Charms…

The goal here is not to suffer. I don’t want go through this diet and decide I will never do it again because it was to difficult. No, the main goal is to reprogram my diet. The whole idea came from some of my yoga teaching training partners. This is some kind of detox thing. And since one of the main aspect of yoga is the concept of non attachment, I think it’s a good idea to experiment with food, since, you know, you are made from the food you eat (e.g. there are some beef originated atoms in your brain). Also food has a great emotional impact. It’s more than just nutrients, it’s a way to satisfy our senses and to socialize (one quick french reference: one possible translation for “friend” is “copain” and that means “the person I share my bread with”… see what I mean?). All our great rituals (like family meetings, parties, religious related events…) involve food at some point. That’s why I think it’s interesting to be a little more detached from food and actually start to have an objective point of view on the way I am eating.

Problems that I may encounter

I already tried this diet for a couple of days in December just to know what I am getting into. I’ve also started to eat only fruits for breakfast for the past week. So I kind of have some feelings about it. Three things worry me a little:

1. Being hungry

When I experimented with it, I had this feeling of being hungry at some times of the day, generally during the afternoon. The thing is that my stomach is used to feel some weight when I eat. This is what happens when you eat a lot of cereals, sweets or meat. When you only eat fruits an vegetables, you don’t get this weight. That does not mean that you don’t get enough food, it’s just that it travels a little faster. I believe that my brain gets satisfaction from food because it feels this weight and not because it feels that my body is full of energy. Think of it this way: if you eat a burger and french fries, you feel satisfied but you also feel kind of tired and floppy. So the feeling in your stomach is not really related to the level of energy the food is bringing to you. I know this is kind of “duh… I know that” and yes everybody knows how they would feel after eating rich food but evidently we try to ignore it or we don’t consider food as a premium fuel for our bodies. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be so many fast foods around. So this is the whole point actually: I want to reprogram the way I feel satisfied by food. I’ve been raised thinking that rich food is something that gives you energy but in fact I never really felt it that way. So there is probably going to have some difficult times but I think in the end I will be more conscious of what is good for me.

2. Lacking energy

This is related to the previous point but I’m really afraid of being tired faster because I don’t have as much food. For some reason I have this feeling that meals including pastas, meat, rice gives me a more reserves. It’s probably not completely false. In fact I don’t know a lot on this subject. It seems that you can be raw vegan and still have a lot of energy (many of my yoga friends are and they seem all right). Also,  you can take a lot of energy just from breathing. Again that’s what yoga is about. I’ve never tried this for several days so I don’t have a clear idea of where I am going but I believe I have the tools to deal with this. I really want to work on my pranayama (which I could quickly describe as “energy management through breathing”, if you have no idea of what I am talking about) and I think this diet will probably push me to.

3. Social interactions

I mostly eat at home but sometime I eat outside with friends. A little more than a year ago I stopped alcohol for three months. And believe me, when you don’t drink alcohol you feel kind of stupid when you are having a crazy night out with your pals. I don’t know if it will be the same with food. I already planned to meet some clients and know some of these meeting will end in a restaurant. I have no idea if I can find a salad without bread, cheese, chicken that will satisfy my appetite in any restaurant. I don’t want want me a party pooper either so I guess I will find a way to adapt. There are a couple of good vegan restaurants in Montreal. I hope I will be able to incite my friends and/or clients to go there with me.

Finally this whole thing is supposed to be enjoyable. I don’t want to eat boring salads every day. No, I want to learn to make new kind of meals, I want to feel better and be generally more efficient. Also, I recently started to experiment with sprouting. It’s easy, it’s cheap and it gives you food full of excellent nutrients. I’m still no specialist in sprouting but just google it, you’ll find tons of references. Watch it, it’s addicting… Now every time I go to the grocery store I wonder what kind of new seeds or grains I could sprout. My kitchen is turning into a sprouting laboratory. So far my favorites are green lentils spouts. I could eat tons of them.

So there, I think , I’m accountable now, that’s exactly what I wanted. I may write again about this during the process… And I will definitely write about it when it’s over (or perhaps I will never stop… who knows?)

Did you do similar diets? If yes, please share your experience. I want to extend my knowledge on this subject and I’m sure other readers would be interested. Thanks!

If you think you are right, this post is for you (hint: you are wrong)

IMG_0635Ok, this post is probably a mistake…. Because it talks about beliefs, religions and spirituality and other stuff that people really think they are right about when they have no clue of what they are talking about. It’s not an anti-religion or anti-spirituality post. On the contrary, this post is for those who think they are right and can’t consider another point of view. To all you extremists and fanatics, this post is about opening up and accepting that we are wrong. And it’s something we don’t really like to admit, right? This post is also quite long, so you have been warned: will you be able to read until the end without checking your facebook account?

I say this is a mistake but it’s probably the best post I ever wrote or at least this is the post I’m the most satisfied with.

I start to question a lot of things. I just can’t believe we are stuck in a system that tends to makes us all really similar. That scares me. The more we do that, the more we end up not tolerating other cultures, other opinions. Even “open-minded” people start to seem really fanatics in some ways. That’s why I want to expose four reasons to question our assumptions… Just so that we are clear things up a little.

Reason 1: Most of our knowledge is wrong.

I was talking with a friend this morning. She is studying ecology from a classic point of view (like we are taught in “normal” schools) but also in relation with Inuit’s beliefs. She was telling me that our science doesn’t make any sense according to them. Because their science has different models than ours. So does that makes them right or wrong? I don’t know… They where in Canada way before it was named Canada, Also they didn’t end up throwing plastic and oil in the ocean. So it’s really hard to say that they are wrong and we, from this modern western culture, are right.

If you think about how science perceived the world a couple centuries ago, it seems awfully wrong. I mean we believed the Earth was flat and that we were at the center of the Universe. Then we started to understand about our place in the solar system (by the way, other civilizations found that one out several thousand years before western civilization). Fast forward… Einstein demonstrated the theory of relativity that pretty much said every previous physics theories were a big load of crap, so we started to think “ok… relativity, this is right, that explains the whole universe. We were so dumb before …”. Now several other guys demonstrated that actually Einstein was wrong. And you now what? These guys are probably wrong too…In a couple of centuries, people will look at our civilization and they will laugh at us.

Conclusion 1: There is no real truth. We just tend toward some convenient truth that fits what we are able to conceive. Since science is supposed to be the ultimate tool to separate right from wrong, we should theoretically put our faith in it. But we know that fundamentals are probably wrong. This is a sign that we can start questioning everything.

Reason 2: Most of the norms of our every day life are random

For example:

  • ties or bow-ties… They are weird, don’t you think? I mean, they look good but I don’t really know why… Why do we wear those and not  pink flowers around our necks instead?
  • Why do we clap our hands at the end of a show? We could sing “lalalalalalalalalala….” instead but we don’t.
  • Why do we eat 3 times a day and not 4 or just 2?
  • Why do we think eating insects is disgusting when eating chicken raised in a factory and fed with chemicals is totally ok for most of us?
  • Why are we more scared of terrorism than car accidents? Or at least why do we talk more about terrorism than safe driving habits in the news?
  • Why do we want to live for along time? (it seems that a lot of great influencers died quite young: Kurt Cobain, Steve Jobs, Jimi Hendrix…) Why aren’t we taught to take the fast lane?
  • Why is paper size 8,5×11 in. in North America and 21×29,7 cm in France and whatever in other countries. Why is not square or round?
  • Why are we still using Qwerty keyboards when we know there are way more efficient ways of typing?

I could go like that forever…  Just look around you and try to think of why stuff are made like that? Why are they better like that? And what is “better” actually?

Conclusion 2: Most of our world is made of stuff that we did not really conceived to be efficient or even understandable. They were just convenient and nobody tried to do something else, so we are stuck with what we have. Try to go to another country and see how their norms are not the same. And it’s not because they found a better way but simply because their random evolution ended up like that.

Reason 3: We have been formatted to fit in the world we live in.

I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing. On one hand I see that as alienating but on the other hand it’s good to have the tools to make the most of the society we are going to spend our lifetime in. But did we choose that or not?

Can we really decide what education we want to have? It seems that going to college is the ultimate goal. But it’s not so special since everybody can go with just a little effort. It’s actually becoming a product we can buy with a loan like every other stuff you don’t really need but you still want (I’m not better and I include myself in that “we”). The other day, I saw an ad for a college and the incentive was that they give free iPads to all their students. Everything is made so that you get there and get the knowledge “you should get” and a free ipad (don’t forget it, it’s really important, it’s a fucking ipad! It’s a good trade in exchange of learning something that is perhaps bullshit). When you think of it, the teachings proposed in college are really limited compared to all the different genres and cultures around. If you want to learn Iroquois traditional pottery or how to speak Bantu, going to college will not help you with that. So we don’t do it, because it’s not a “good” thing to learn if you want to fit the society. But perhaps, the world would find values in Iroquois traditional pottery that would make us understand the whole pattern of the universe in slightly different way.

Conclusion 3: Everything we have learned are just made to perpetuate a system that is scared of change. Oh, of course, we “evolve” but not that much. We stay between safe boundaries. I don’t think there is a big bad conspiracy behind all that. It’s rather our collective mind that tends to self protect.

Fact #4: We follow blindly some cults that we don’t really understand

Cults are not just religion. Think of how much faith you put in any brand, in your favorite TV program, your favorite singer or actor. Do you have doubts sometime? It seems that faith and beliefs are incompatible with doubts. (and again I am not just talking about religion, but yes, it includes religion). That scares the shit out of me. I can’t count how many people I describe as fanatics. Generally because they reject an idea and find a refuge in an other idea on the other side of the spectrum. Why do you put more interest in something rather than another?

I watched a TV program yesterday night.People were debating and their conclusion was that Christmas is too religious. They were rejecting any kind of religious beliefs (and why not? I mean, nobody forces nobody to believe in God or celebrate Christmas or whatever… it’s all fine if you don’t). They were saying that buying more stuff was basically the essence of Christmas time (ok, I don’t really agree with that but hey… if it makes you deeply happy and make a good impact on the world, go for it!). What made me tick is that they were really angry at people who still see some spiritual value in Christmas. What I find there is that these people have no idea of why they celebrate Christmas. They just follow a protocol that they don’t agree with. Why the fuck are they doing that? If Christmas having religious origins makes you really uneasy, don’t celebrate it and continue to enjoy your life… You have all my respect for thinking for yourself. But please don’t insult people who believe in something you don’t understand.

I take this Christmas example, but it can be applied to all the people who have no idea about what Islam faith is and criticize it. Or even all the people who put a little Buddha as a decoration in their living-room and think that makes them zen like Buddhists. There is so much ignorance around religions that put their faith in values they don’t understand. Think of all these Apple fans, Star Wars fans, Metallica fans, NFL fans… I mean the die hard ones. Don’t you think their practices are really close to religious practice?

I have serious doubts about my religious and spiritual beliefs and I think it is healthy. I define myself as a Christian but it’s something that is not static. It evolves, I try to understand why I believe in something higher than us. I understand why I celebrate Christmas but I am not blindly agreeing with everything Christianity says. And when I don’t agree I try to observe why it makes me react like that. I respect people who don’t share my beliefs. I’m actually happy that people think differently. It would be seriously boring if everybody agreed all the time. And I think we all have our place.

Conclusion #4: Question your beliefs. Why do you believe in something and not in something else? How would you react if a church was using the same marketing techniques as Apple or Nike? The answer is not so easy…

 It’s time to pop some neuron connections and reprogram our brains

I start to really losing trust in anything I have learned. Even new things. I question everything. Because anything  can potentially turn into a big load of crap.

I talked with a friend about yoga the other day. He was not comfortable with the spiritual aspect of it. Honestly I was not either until I realized I was confronted with ideas that made me uncomfortable. When you read some yoga books, they talk about masters who are able to be in several places at the same time, die and come back to life or who can change consistency of matter. At first, you think ” What a load of bullshit…”. I think it’s wrong to react like that. Why not take that and say “Why not?…”. Who can prove it is not possible? We are not even sure of our laws of physics so how can we reject other ideas like that?

That’s how we should react when we are confronted to something new. Understand, acknowledge and put this in the complex equations of your beliefs. That’s what it really means to be open minded. It’s about breaking the chains of your beliefs and be able to compare them as objectively as possible with something else.

Try to do something that you don’t believe in. At least, try to understand why you don’t believe in it or why you are not interested. Everything happens for a reason so it’s good to question things that you think should not happen but still do. Like wars, or corruption or killers or nuclear weapons… How the world would be if those things didn’t exist? Better or worse? For example, I read somewhere that Hitler was close to be diagnose by Freud when he was a kid, but it didn’t happen for some random reason. What if it happened and Freud “cured” him and World War II never happened? The world would probably be very different. USA wouldn’t be as powerful as they are. Israel would probably not exist as it is now. Japan? I don’t know… Perhaps everything would be more peaceful. Perhaps some other fanatics would have started something even worse than World War II. I just want to make it clear nothing is black or white. And even if we are supposed to be advanced, we are still far from understanding why we are here, why some stuff happen and what are the consequences of what we do.

This post a call to respect and acceptance of others. What seems crazy today may be the scientific reality tomorrow. Our senses just give us a little glimpse of what the world is. Why can’t we just accept that and let go of we have learned and start to really experience life with our own references?

That’s why we must disobey, be weird, doubt and question everything (even this whole post).

Because when we stop questioning things and respecting other points of views, our minds get enclosed in little prisons.

Inside fear

This one of the posts you read 14825 times about facing your fears, except this one is different. Because fear is a big deal for me so I tried to understand more about it and I found that

actually there is something quite comfortable in fear.

Fear is like a headstand

First, let me talk about headstands. This is something I’m continually working on because I’m not naturally good with inversions. (By the way, I always feel like shit when I see new yoga students who are able to perform a headstand two weeks after discovering yoga, when I spent 2 years and my headstand is not quite perfect yet). So yeah, this thing about being upside down, it scares the hell out of me. I don’t like it. Sometime, I think about it and I’m like “why the fuck I am doing this?”. But I see the psychological and physiological effects it has on me so that’s why I want to continue.

When you are on your head, it’s hard to find a balance. But somewhere there is tiny area where everything falls into place. When you begin, you don’t even really feel this area, you just navigate around it. Sometime you feel it for just an instant but you have already passed it and you fall. But when you are able to stay in this zone something mag

ic happens and the headstand becomes not more difficult than staying on your feet (well… still a little more challenging though). And the more you go to this area, the easier it is to find and the bigger it gets (that’s what she said).

So, you see, fear is like the frigging headstand. When you enter fear everything seems difficult, you think you will fall every moment. But after a while you find this little zone where you can play inside your fear. And the more you get there, the more this zone grows with you.

Fear does not exist

What? Yes… This is actually what you realize when you are in the eye of the fear storm. You can start to explore from inside your fear and this is a totally different point of view than watching it form far away. Fear is just a projection of your mind into the real world. This is something you imagine will happen (perhaps) in the future. But you are living now and the future does not exist. And since fear resides in the future it does not exist either.

Going to the comfort zone inside fear is like going to the bathroom at 3am without turning any lights on (bonus points if you’ve watched The Shining the evening before that). You are being careful but lights or no lights, you know the path. Eventually you can do this without opening your eyes either. Because it’s not because it’s 3am and you watch the Shining that things are different. It’s just fear right… and when you walk to your bathroom you realize that Jack Nicholson is not in you hallway.

So just go inside your fear. Say yes to projects that you think are impossible for you. Try to take a little risk and observe what happens. Observation is the key when you are inside your fear. Because this will show you that your safe zone extends farther than you think and there is much more to explore than what you think.

If you liked this post, you will probably be interested in these ones:

Also my friend Chase, released his latest story Holden. I really like his style. And since you are cool people, I’m sure you will enjoy this story. You can get it on his website.

And finally… I have just opened a facebook page for this blog! You can like it to show your support and/or follow what is happening here.

Thank you! Have a great day!!

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You are lucky (and you have no excuse)

Life is hard, isn’t it? I mean, look at all the shit we have to take care about: washing dishes,  shopping for groceries, commuting in overpopulated buses, waking up early to get more stuff done, budgeting, shovelling snow, getting your credit card hacked… And all this is just surrounding the work we are doing. It’s hard, it’s tiring and worst: it never seems to end. So it’s quite easy to feel like life sucks. And actually I think life can really suck… but only if you decide that it can.

Being Grateful

I have been practicing gratitude lately (no it’s not because Thanksgiving is coming, but yes I publish this post during Thanksgiving week and I realize I will fall in this trend of grateful posts). Actually, it is part of my yoga teacher’s training. Everyday I answer a list of questions about what I did during the days and I observe how my life evolves (for those who are interested: it follows Yamas and Niyamas). One of the questions is “What are you grateful for today?” I think this is the question that resonates the most with me. Because I’m not perfect and I have this tendency, like many, to get frustrated by what life throws at me.

An exemple of ranting

“Of course the metro was stopped because some idiot tried to force a door open… And it made me late for a meeting. I ran, I was sweaty, I looked like shit. So it didn’t help looking serious in front of my client,etc…” I can rant like that for hours, but in the end it does not solve any problem. Actually it makes things worse. I’m sure you are also used to experiment frustrating events like this one, right?

What if instead I was just grateful because of the time I had to read more in the metro? What if I was just actually happy to have a meeting in the first place and be able to interact with people I respect. Oh yeah I was a little late, but whatever… Or maybe just laugh at how ridiculous my mind is when ranting. I mean, it was really not that bad, right?

You are lucky

It’s easy to take this world for granted. I’m not sure that we realize how lucky we are to just live on a planet that sustain life. Lately, I have been grateful to just be human. For all I know I could be a fly and eat shit, can you imagine that? How lucky you are that your soul was sent somehow into a human body… I’m even grateful to have this ability to experience pain, frustration and anger and all these complex emotions. And the more I’m grateful, the more good opportunities seem to come to me. Is it a consequence or a cause? I don’t really know… The world is too complex to really understand what is going on.

If you can read this. You are flipping lucky. Perhaps you are on the other side of the world, but we can communicate together, how cool is that? That means that you canconnect with the entire world. You can access knowledge, you can create a business. Go tell about internet to Leonardo Da Vinci, Einstein or Henry Ford. Imagine how they would have been grateful to have a tool like this one… You can actually change the world. It has never been so easy.

Really, there is no excuse for worries. No excuse for thinking of how life can be hard. There is no excuse to not live as a superhero. There is no excuse to complaints. We are lucky, its about time to act like it. And more, it’s actually our duty to make the most of it.

So I’m asking this question: What are you grateful for today?

Invest in yourself (or be doomed)

It might sound dumb but I’m really amazed at how much time we can put into distracting ourselves. I don’t mean that mindless distraction is always bad. I watch some TV everyday and I feel good about it. Modern Family is one of my favorite… It does not make more clever, but it’s nice. Now just one show, perhaps two is enough distraction. I don’t need to stay infront of the TV for 3 hours everyday either (except if it’s a really good movie – and it has to be really good, not average good). And TV is just one distraction, it’s the easy one that comes to mind but how much distraction do we have a twork? You know your colleague who want to show this lipsync youtube video. Or this one-hour phone call that was just about complaining that “life is hard”. We spend so much time distracting ourselves and yet nothing about investing in ourselves.

What is investing?

Think of yourself as a company. Let’s say you are a cool company like Samsung Apple (I talked about Apple with a friend and I know she’s going to read this – you know who you are, ha!). You are making phones and computers. It’s fun, and this is what you are supposed to do. Investing in yourself is all the things we never think about you. For example: accounting, cleaning your stores, shipping your products, etc… If you don’t do it you have a problem. For us humans, basic investment is eating, drinking, sleeping, brushing our teeth…

And like a company, if your shipping department is a mess, then a bad reputation starts. Back to humans, if you eat at Burger King every day it will keep you alive but you willalso start to look like  a mess. And you don’t want that, don’t you? No, you want to have an optimal health. You want to feel good about yourself. Well it means that you have to work on yourself and not just on doing what you usually do. That means, invest in your mojo.

You can’t escape yourself

I know it sounds silly but we don’t really think about it, right? You are stuck in yourself until you die. So if your body can’t run a mile and if your brain can’t process more than an episode of Wipe Out, you are doomed. Sorry… I’m a computer guy and I know what I am talking about. Two years ago, my body looked like the body of the average computer guy (i.e. really thin everywhere with some pounds around my belly). I did not feel good. I used to be good at running for miles but at that point going to the grocery store was tiring. I got back problems all the time caused by stupid stuff like an uncomfortable chair or because somebody pushed me in the metro (I still have back problems, by the way. Apparently it is something that runs in my family, I don’t really understand why. But now my body fixes itself  way faster if I hurt myself).  Doing yoga every day helped a lot and now I feel good and I look good (and I think any kind of physical activiy would have been good, I’m not here to praise yoga) (“but you should do yoga! it’s awesome” aaahh shut up!)
And yet how many people don’t exercise, don’t read or try to educate themselves because they don’t have time. If they die at 45 because they are in bad shape when a cancer strikes (sorry to be pessimistic, but it happens),they will feel sorry of “not having time” when they were 30. Maybe I’m getting old or it’s just that I don’t want my life to suck, but I have a lot of awesome stuff planned in my future and I don’t want my body to be a constraint.

Schedule your investment

I’ve started to set up schedules for what I have to do during the week (thanks to this post form Johnny B. Truant). And instead of just scheduling important things, I also put some time to take naps, meditate, read, listen to music, walk outside, etc… I’m a big fan of naps. This is one of my favorite way to recharge my batteries, relieve stress accumulated during the day and clear my thoughts. I also like to take a lot of time to get ready in the morning, it takes me more than an hour. And this involves meditating, making a fresh smoothie, stretching, reading, flossing… all the things that I thought I did not have time to do but make me feel like I’m really ready to start the day and not just barely awake.

Having a walk, going to a museum, etc… All these are also really good for your personal investment. Walking in a park in the middle of the day, watching squirrels, this also helps to boos your creativity better than a Red Bull. I’m serious. (and it’s free too).

Don’t feel guilty

You are working on making yourself better, there is absolutely no reason to feel that it’s wrong. When I started practicing yoga everyday, I had this feeling that I was not putting efforts in my other commitments. I did not work as much for example. And the first thing that came to mind was guiltiness. But actually, I was still putting some efforts in what I had to do, I was just faster. I  started to be more efficient in my work because I was more focused and less tired.

Similar thing: 5 years ago, I used to live right next to my work. So I had the habit of coming home for every lunch break to take a 10 minute nap. Sometime I even took some more time to have a shower. So of course, it’s not really seen as productive to take naps in the middle of your work day and people start to think you are lazy. But in the other hand, they started wondering when they saw I was kicking ass like Steve Jobs on steroids ( I realize I’m more of an Apple nerd than I thought I was). Case in point.

So the question is: do you really need all that time to “do what you have to do” or could you be more efficient if you were in top shape? (hint: second option. Did you understand this post or what?)

Now, go have a nap or a walk outside.

Who do you want to please?

We don’t really realize it but most of the things we do, we do them to please other people. Our friends, our parents, our family, our teachers, our government, our religions, our neighbours, our pets, our computers, our bankers, our TVs and even this Greenpeace guy who knocks at your door every 3 months and to whom you tell that you should think about it when you just want to say no… The thing is we cannot really please everybody or perhaps we can but I don’t think it’s the right thing to do. So if you want to please everybody, this post is not for you. I don’t think you are wrong or stupid, I’m really happy that you think for yourself and you have all my respect.

Now, if you are still here, I would like to start with something that people usually don’t agree with. It took me some time to accept it but it’s a good example of how we unconsciously try to please others. It’s about the way you dress. You might answer me: “Well, I dress the way I want to”. Perhaps it’s true, but perhaps you don’t even really know why you wear a tie to go to work, why you wear a funny t-shirt or why you spend so much time choosing your clothes. Do you really dress like you want or are you trying to pass a message? For example how do you choose your sneakers? Do you want them to be pretty, do you want them to help you perform, or perhaps you want them to be as neutral as possible so people don’t notice them. It’s important because sportswear is expensive but Nike doesn’t really make you run faster, Reebok doesn’t really make you jump higher and Lululemon doesn’t really make you better at yoga. Another thing that will convince (I hope) you a little more. Why do you dress the way you dress when you go outside but wear an old oversized t-shirt when you stay at home on Saturday morning? (and I’m not talking about all those people who blog in their underwear).

This thing of trying to appear as people want you to (or at least how you think they want you to) is the big issue here. Did it happen to you to go to some friend’s party thinking “I just do it because I don’t want him to be mad at me“. Come on… I know you did. Everybody did. When I was 18~19 all my friends were playing video games: Doom, Unreal tournament, Counter Strike and stuff like that. I never really liked this kind of games. Of course sometimes I like to play with some game for a week but that’s it. I’m not the kind of hardcore gamer who stays up all night eating pizzas to shoot other people online. There is nothing wrong about it (if you feel that you are really accomplishing something), it’s just not my thing. I tried it and in the end I was just not for me. But since I was and I am still a “computer guy” I often got invitations to these kind of parties. I learned how to say no. I lost some “friends”. But in the end I’m really okay with it. Same scenario happened with other kind of friends and activities. The thing is to be able to identify why you are doing something: because you really enjoy it , because you really want to share time with your friend or because you don’t want to disappoint people? Since I have lived in Canada I see my French friends only a couple of times per year (and often on skype) and everything is fine. Of course I have lost some of them but I even grew a better friendship with other ones because we don’t have a beer party or a poker night. We just get on skype and talk about stuff that matters.

The way we try to please people is often wrong. We assume somebody want something from us when actually most people want you to express yourself to your full potential and be a little weird.

In my previous job I had a manager position and I tried to please people who were working for me. I did everything to make them feel good about working with me. But really what I was trying to do was to secure my job position by having people liking me. In the end I was trying to please my friends and family and show them how I had “succeeded“. When I gave my resignation I naturally started to not care as much. I was more me and I was consciously working on being  just myself. I started wearing shorts and sneakers at work instead of my Gap khakis. I was just doing the work that really mattered and I was not trying to please anybody. Strangely my ex-coworkers told me that was the time that they felt the most at ease with me. And this was actually a pretty good time for the whole company too. All because I did not care as much to please people and just doing what mattered while being as authentic as I could.

It’s hard to find who you try to please and why you try to please them in any given situation. It’s so hard-coded in our behaviours that to get to it could be quite painful. And what I observe now is that everybody is the same. We are all trying to conform to what is expected from us. I don’t know who you are trying to please but I’m sure you know if you try to question yourself. Once you know why you are doing what you do, things become much more clearer.

Just be true.

Who are we?

Part of our homework for the yoga teaching course is to meditate. Every day.

The theme I have been meditating on is “Who am I?”. Simple question but perhaps the most difficult one too.

I always had a hard time introducing me myself, I feel like walking on a line between pretentiousness and boring normality… But what does come to mind when I try to define who I am and I’m the listener?

First, it’s usually what I do and what I am to others. I’m a application developer, a husband, a son, a nice guy, a good friend, etc… What I am not too… But this is just superficial. It’s perhaps a good idea to put this on a CV or on an about page but that is not really who I am. All these things are just definitions but we are made of actions more than of definitions.

Who am I when I meditate? How am I linked to the world? A bag of water pressured down a mat towards the ground?

What is me in now?

What am I doing today? Do I act? Do I observe?

Do I create new links with the world around me? And what are the qualities of these links? Emotional, practical, physical?

Am I insignificant? or do I have the power to change the world? Maybe both?

In fact, in this case, questions are better than answers. Words, thoughts, nothing can really define who we are. Our definitions surpass all that but we can feel it. We know who we are.

It’s almost like reaching the answer without being able to touch it.

I believe that is the point.

Did you ever try to honestly meditate about who you are?

 

The zombie outbreak state of mind

Let’s face it, if a zombie outbreak happens, most of us would be screwed. Would you survive?… Good thing, it’s very unlikely to happen, right?

Yesterday I took the metro after an appointment. When I got out at the station near my apartment, the escalators were out of service. There was a woman going up the stairs. She did not seem particularly in bad shape but she could not go up the stairs without taking a break, short of breath, every 10 steps. Imagine if a zombie was trying to bite her.

There are a lot of things like escalators that we are dependent on in this world now: the way we eat, the way we move, the way we work or the way we go up the stairs. In case of an outbreak, zombies would just be an itch. The real problem: no system would be there to take care of us. How would we survive that? Many questions come to mind:

  • Can I make a fire?
  • Where can I find water?
  • What am I going to eat?
  • Can I run fast enough?
  • And should I run or fight?
  • Oh my god, I’ll never know the end of Breaking Bad!

Most of these problems are taken of in our everyday life. We barely think of them. We get all this comfort without much effort because we were designed to be in this place with this work in this economy, right? But what if we were able to live without being supported by this system? Then we would not have to make concession to survive. What the system has to give us would just be a luxury.

For example, my credit card was hacked last week. Nothing big, I just got a call from the credit card company asking me if I was making expensive purchases all around the city. I said no. So they cancelled my card and they are going to send a new one. Meanwhile I don’t have a credit card, I never thought of how it would feel. I don’t even think of the benefits of having a credit card, it’s just usually there. So, this morning I wanted to get a coffee. I always pay with this card. So I did not get a coffee because I did not want to break a 20$ bill. I know this is the dumbest decision making process you have probably ever heard of but it shows how we (or at least I) take things for granted and magical when they are not. When the credit card system is not here to help me, I pay more attention to what I really need. How would I get coffee in case of a zombie outbreak? I probably would not get any… Could I live without coffee? I guess…

Could I leave without this system? I’m pretty sure I would be able to learn how to live in the middle of the woods if I had to. The get-something-to-eat part would be quit tough though. I believe I should start to learn how to grow my own vegetables and hunt right now. Otherwise I know I can run for a pretty long time, I don’t give up easily. I like to build stuff. And also I love camping and I practice meditation quite often so it would solve the getting-bored issue.

The big question is: what prevents us to live like that? And why are we so linked to this system?  I’m really not sure it’s the best choice in terms of survival. It’s obviously a good choice if you want to be distracted and entertained. But if we really consider evolving as a species, I’m pretty convinced that a little more autonomy would not hurt. Take my escalator example (I love to hate escalators, they are the perfect metaphor for why this world is going bad) : if there were no escalators, we would save more energy. Also we would get more exercise which would make us a little more healthy. And this also would reduce the costs of health care (yes, I know, I’m a genius). Obviously this system is not designed to make us better at surviving (perhaps it’s a big conspiracy, but I think not).

My answer is the zombie outbreak state of mind: Imagine the outbreak happened and you should live in a post-apocaliptic world. Just try to live without depending so much on the system. I’m going to receive my new credit card next week. I think I’m going to try to leave it in a drawer at home. Just to see if I can live without it for a little more. There a lot of things I can do to be a little attached to what the system offers. Cook more “real” food, spend less electricity, take shorter (and colder) showers, walk more, voluntarily ignore ads…  I’m trying to scan everything I do and experience everyday with the “system” that I could just ignore or be a little more frugal with… it’s crazy everything I could do to live like with more autonomy.

What would you start with?