The last two years my brown hair is turning grey rapidly and the first real wrinkles in my face are appearing. Not strange considering I’m over forty, but accepting these physical first signs of old age are hard. Especially when people around me start suggesting ‘natural’ hair dying. Luckily nobody mentioned botox yet, although in the area where I live botox and lip injections are more common than ageing naturally. Next to that I’m raising two teenage girls now, who are growing more independent each year. The process of liberation of me as their parent has kicked in and my ego isn’t getting the reward anymore as it was used to. My ego is suffering as well in the field of work accomplishments. Don’t get me wrong, I still like doing my work, but it is defining me less as a person. However my mind (ego) loves playing games with me on this topic of growing older as it wants to hold on to something familiar or instantly clings to something new. I’m definitely on a turning point in life; midlife.
Occasionally I get philosophical about life. What’s the purpose of it all and more often I’m wondering if there actually is a purpose at all? What if life just is…..
Life is the condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death. Life and death are the same; there is no life without death as there is no black without white and no light without darkness. Or as Johan Cruijff would have said: ‘Every disadvantage has its advantage’. And although we like to consider the human kind different than other animals, life is the same to all of us.
Every life form is a microcosm (a world in miniature) and is part of an ecological system. That ecological system however is a small world in itself and again part of a bigger ecological system. So there you go from a human cell, to an organ, to the human body. In these ecological systems everything is connected and related to each other. There is no winner without a looser, no sound without silence, no solid without space. However most of the time we tend not to perceive our world or life for that matter as such.
What if we are like bacteria in the gut. They break down and digest foods for their host on daily basis AND they are part of a bigger system; the human body. The question is if they are able to perceive that idea of bigger human body and their place in it. Of course not, we would react, because bacteria don’t have brains. But what if we are like bacteria; if our earth is just ‘the gut’ of a bigger system. Although we have a brain we are not able to conceive ourselves as such. Maybe we can’t because our ego will not allow us to be as ‘insignificant’ as bacteria. But what if we are, what if our human contribution in this bigger system is: turn oxygen into carbon dioxide.
When we are born our first act is taking a breath, oxygen in and carbon dioxide out. And when we pass away our last act is a final breath. We all know as long as we are breathing we are alive. So what if that’s all to it. We exist because our part in this ecological system is only to transform oxygen into carbon dioxide.
“The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.”
My initial post (Mind Games: leave the wrong story) was all about quitting to believe all the stories my mind is telling me. But easier said than done. So two weeks ago I had lunch with my colleagues and they were discussing AirBnB. Or more the fact that their landlords did not allow them to go on AirBnB. I was just listening, not really participating until one of my colleagues, Lisette, asked me directly why I wasn’t on AirBnB yet. And I was like, ‘ uh, are you talking to me?’ and my first and honest reply was ‘I never thought about it’.
And that is actually true. I know AirBnB or Über for that manner exists, but I consider it for youth or ‘other people’. Just don’t see myself doing something with it. Might consider renting a home via AirBnB occasionally, but allowing strangers into my own home; big NO. So, than Lisette persisted and said, you really have to try it, you can earn big bugs with it. And my defensive reply was: ‘Well, I have cats and I don’t want to bring them back and forth’. My colleague was looking at me and just replied calmly ‘if you mention, you have cats, people who love cats will react and they even will take care of them so you don’t have to visit your home twice a day to feed them (for new readers: every other week I live with my daughters in my own home. When they go to their father for a week (co-parenting thing) I move in with my partner and my house is empty). So it actually is a good idea, and I could feel some curiosity popping up, but still BIG doubts.
Fossil or curiosity, fossil or curiosity, fossil or..?
At the end of the day on my way home, sitting in my car I was reflecting on our conversation. I realised I placed myself out of an entire new economy, because I considered myself a fossil, so of course it didn’t come to mind. Fossils or dinosaurs for that matter just don’t participate actively in new economies. And I immediately knew this was one of the stories I want to leave, but the fear and doubts hadn’t vanished yet. So at dinner I dropped the idea of Lisette to put my house on AirBnB and Matthias applauded the suggestion. At that moment my childish curiosity exploded and the moneymaker in me awakened. I was going to put my home on AirBnB.
Last year I got overwhelmed by the feeling, that although it seems like I get more knowledgeable (with my university degree, watching all the news, following social media etc). I actually go astray from my natural state of being. I became aware of a feeling of disconnection with nature. And that’s when it hit me: I was born a conscious human but had changed into an automaton. Because yes, I know a lot about economics, business administration, political -, social -, and legal systems, but what do I actually know? These are all subjects we have invented ourselves as mankind. Furthermore it is all virtual reality, not real at all. It has become our day-to-day life and thus we believe it is real. We give it names like education, economics, countries, but actually it is non-existent. Hard to believe maybe, but it is. It is as virtual as all the games or social media my kids engage in these days….I’m no better than my kids, actually I’m even worse, because I teach them that my life is ‘real’. And in fact I’m just an automaton, going through life unconnected, unappreciated, numbed. (Check out this confrontational video: ‘the lie we live‘).
Disconnection with nature
When I walk in nature I don’t recognize which type of bird is singing its tune. And I cannot determine herbs or plants, let alone know its healing and caring abilities, what can and cannot be eaten. I calm myself with the idea I still do know what a broccoli, a zucchini or egg-plant looks like. But I must confess I don’t always know if it comes from under the ground, grows on trees or bushes. I recognize vegetables like parsnip (Dutch: pastinaak) in stores, but I have no clue how to prepare it in a dish. And lately I read articles that children these days don’t distinct a broccoli from a cauliflower anymore. And I have to admit with all these convenience products in our stores and our homes, that is not strange at all. As we are getting more and more disconnected with nature, that is exactly what we pass onto our children. We can laugh at them and blame them for being dumb, ignorant or self-centered. But they are just a reflection in the mirror from ourselves. So, is this the path I want to walk?
A lot can be said about the mind. In fact we people consider ourselves superior because of our mind and the fact that we are able to think. But is this really true? Are we acting in line with our true nature? Our ability to think did bring us science, technology, medicine and much more and created the world we are living in as we speak. However, there is a part of me that feels we are getting astray. We focus on details (calling it specialism) but tend to forget everything is related, connected to each other. In the end everything is one and the same.
Silence the mind
Feeling this unity is only possible once we silence our mind and reach our natural state of being. Eckhart Tolle describes this unity as intelligence and has a great quote on this topic.
On a daily basis I can find myself in a situation feeling overwhelmed by it or at least an emotion is triggered in one way. I call it the daily vortexes of life (in Dutch: draaikolken van het leven). Vortexes of life can be:
- A friend who is canceling a dinner-meeting; in some occasions I can feel rejected instantly
- My daughter who ends up in tears. Sometimes I don’t even kno why, she is crying, but it for sure will panic me and I want to comfort her immediately. Most likely I want to comfort myself via her; as her pain became mine in a split second
- Somebody at work who shows no interest in a result we have achieved, will get me frustrated because I feel unseen
- Instant panic attack with an incoming call of my mother. And sometimes even finding myself not answering her call at all, because I assume and fear that I have to repair a phone, computer or any other device in her home
- The daily news can get me worried, frightened and/or even insecure. Although almost all topics are out of my circle of influence
- Driving my car and getting very annoyed by the slow driver in front of me
- While doing some grocery shopping (especially in the case of feeling hungry and being stressed out already) feeling pure anger once I notice the long queues in front of the check out’s.
- And getting even more upset once I notice 3 check out’s are still unopened, although there is sufficient staffing (at least in my opinion)
- Accusing my daughters falsely of replacing my keys in case I have to rush to a dental appointment and not being able to find my keys
- Getting real quiet, but raging internally with anger once I feel criticized (mind: the feeling itself is enough)
In general I work as a manager or program/project manager on interim basis (if you are really interested check my bio at LinkedIn?). But right now I’m without a project or job, so at home these days. Although I really enjoy my free time right now, being able to work on my square foot garden project, write these blogs, spent time with family and cooking a lot. I too have to pay the bills and must find a new project and/or job no matter how enjoyable it is to be ‘jobless’ especially in spring season. The biggest advantage however of my temporary all-day-freedom is the ability to run almost every morning. It is exercise and meditation at the same time and so this morning during my run it dawned on me. Just out of the blue an insight popped into my head: ‘I’m taking my life too seriously’. Oops! … I did it again.
In one of my previous blogs I mentioned that in my opinion food determines your personal health and how you feel on a daily basis. And the same applies to exercise or sports. So why did it take me years, or to be more accurate, decades to actually start exercising?
Swan with elephant legs
The female body can be described in many ways and there are even some pre-described body shapes; like straight, apple, pear. These descriptions try to refrain of judgement whatsoever. But my mind is not judge-free at all. I have many judgements and thoughts about my body, my appearance, my looks throughout the day. And one specific frame about myself was of ‘the Swan with elephant legs’. I don’t think that needs any additional words. At that time I was very happy with my face and upper-body and despised everything below the belt.
Last year my husband (although we don’t have the legal status, it is the best way to describe the nature of our relationship) came across Bulletproof Coffee. And thus in contact with, Dave Asprey (founder of Bulletproof and author of the bestseller ‘The Bulletproof Diet’) and his many biohacks. Immediately we both were fascinated by his approach and especially the joy he expressed in his podcasts doing some of the weirdest hacks. Biohacking was a complete new phenomena to us.
So, what it is biohacking?
Biohacking is about changing both your external and internal environment so you have more (full) control of your biology. Allowing you to upgrade your body, mind, and life. Or by quoting Dave:
The art of using technology to change the environment both inside and outside of your body to take control and make it do what you want.
Just some examples of biohacks, to get a better understanding:
- Cold therapy (the Wim Hof Method for example, as mentioned in an earlier blog, or cryotherapie)
- Drink coffee with butter (Bulletproof coffee) as morning routine
- Taking supplements (like ketoprime or MCT-oil to increase brainpower)
The curious, geeky and playful child in me had awakened and wanted to be part of the fun. After my 10-days-100%-sugar-free challenge and 30-days-no-cheese-at-all challenge I was ready for the next step :-)!
Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend an Advanced Wim Hof method-workshop hosted by Kasper van der Meulen. Kasper is Head Teacher of Wim Hof Academy and a science-geek, a great storyteller, a biohacker, a human performance expert, an author, funny and much more. But to do him justice you better check out his bio-video.
As a geeky girl myself I eagerly absorbed all scientific based information Kasper shared in the workshop. And I shall share some highlights in this blogpost.
Brain dictates behavior
One of the topics in the workshop was the triune-brain. This model, developed by Dr Paul MacLean in 60’s/70’s, divides the brain into three evolutionary components: the brain stem (in Dutch: hersenstam), or the “reptilian brain”; the limbic system, or “the mammalian brain”; and the neocortex, or the “the human brain.” In other words, there are certain interconnected parts of the brain that are responsible for different behaviors. While growing up you are more or less programming your brains about (in)effective behavior (stimuli A leads to response B and vice versa). And luckily in some ‘dangerous’ situations one part of the brain always precedes over the other. You will act (reptilian brain) before you start thinking (human brain). Now we are a bit more aware how our brain behaves, we can actually direct it for our personal health benefit.
Wim Hof Method
And that’s what the Wim Hof method is all about (Wim Hof is probably more familiar as the Iceman). With the use of breathing techniques and cold you will be able to influence both your physiological and mental state. Kasper mentioned a correlation between our mental state and different breathing techniques (fast, deep, yawn, hyperventilating, mouth, nose, ) AND the other way around. That last part I find interesting because it means that you can consider your breathing technique as remote control of your mental and physiological state. This is not completely new, because that’s what meditation and mindfulness also is about. However while meditation focuses on stillness, with WHM you can activate yourself as well. If you suddenly start breathing faster, your brain thinks you’re in danger and shall use the extra oxygen to create energy and releases neurotransmitters (like adrenaline, dopamine, serotonin etc).