The Ancestral Squat

Nearly three years ago I started to get a pretty regular bad back. Apparently these kind of things happen as we age (Whowouldathought). I really didn’t want to get a bad back, and knew I didn’t want to go to a gym to build core strength, nor really did I want to commit to rigorous home exercise, even  on the awesome rowing machine I have. I am that exercisephobic!

I wanted that muscular strength that holds your spine together correctly, preventing the kinds of problems that age brings to skeletons. So my challenge was, as it often is:

What is the optimal (least time/energy/cost/risk) way, for me, to increase a system variable (my torso/core strength and flexibility)?

I tried yoga (again) and kind of liked it, but I just cannot be doing with that location based commitment. Which is not skilful, but it is how I am and I know in the long run it wouldn’t work out. And it didn’t. One day I will have a robot yoga teacher in the garage and that will be fine. Until then, I needed a solution.

I came up with two things, and I still do them, and think I always will. One is to commit to fifty press-ups a day and the other is to sit lots and lots in an ancestral squat (as I am now).

Sitting in this way brings system-wide benefit. It has been described as the perfect posture and I can see why. My back certainly agrees.

But it is not just the skeletomuscular benefit. Squatting is good for digestion and blood flow and for doing things on the ground; it is functionally great. It is the ancestral way of sitting. Before that, with primates, it was the evolutionary optimal way of sitting, just as they all (?) still sit today.

One new realisation you will develop if you try sitting in an ancestral squat in public is that there is, I suspect, a colonial prejudice against the practice: the native squat, the Indian squat and, of course, “looking like you are taking a crap in the woods”. I largely refuse to kow-tow to such prejudice against this wonderful skill, tool and benefit.

Unless you have some known physical reason that makes it clear to you that you cannot squat, you will be able to squat, probably sooner rather than eventually. It took me, I think, about three days to be able to sit flat and comfortable. With others it can take a couple of weeks because the tendons need to be stretched. One suggestion here is to use a book or chopping board as a platform for your heels until you can go down into a full squat. I would be surprised if there was anyone, of any age, who couldn’t sit in a proper squat within a month of properly trying.

If you have decided to take the fight to your wellbeing then practicing and using the ancient squat is one of those rare things, like nasal breathing or checking one’s focus, that one can do pretty much anywhere with not even a time cost! As said, such gifts are super-rare.

Finally, on that thought, squatting isn’t the only beneficial way to sit. There is also kneeling and (half)lotus, these positions that allow us to keep our back straight, because that is exercising it, and that is creating strength and suppleness.

Whether at home in secret or out in public, The Ancestral Squat  is a really good tool in one’s wellbeing war preparations.

The Warrior Stance towards wellbeing

How should we approach our wellbeing?

What stance should we take?

Primarily, I think we have two options:

One

One is to not engage with the issue, which is to admit both defeat and to admit to accepting a wider and long-term negativity in our lives. That might seem a stark reduction, but when you strip it down, I think that is the outcome of not being bothered about our wellbeing. It becomes a wellbeing nihilism that somehow reasons out that “I won’t mind being Ill” and so on…

Two

The other stance is what has been called “The Warrior Stance”; which is to take a confrontational and stoic approach towards our own wellbeing. To choose to fight to take care of ourselves.

There might be other approaches but, in my opinion, the only choice that comes out of rationally reasoning about my own health and wellbeing and options is to take The Warrior Stance.

What is The Warrior Stance?

Essentially TWS is two modes of action aimed at optimising our being and wellbeing, The Smarts and The Skills needed for optimum health and energy and focus and enjoyment with minimum… fuss.

Smarts

The first mode, the smarts, is primarily about the understanding and acceptance of these five principles:

  1. Time is short and precious.
  2. Good experiences are precious.
  3. We cannot directly change much about the world.
  4. We can directly change much about ourselves and our experiences.
  5. It is unskillful to waste the precious.

In a sense, this mode is about convincing yourself that you should learn the skills and smarts to fight for your wellbeing based just on those five principles.

But…if this doesn’t convince you then you could consider the economic costs to you and yours of not looking after  yourself. Or consider the strain on loved ones, or the drain on the state,  that is the result of not looking after oneself. Finally, consider all the people who have lived, or live, without the opportunity that you have right now to strive to improve your wellness, is there not some kind of moral imperative not to miss the opportunity that most people with Google and Amazon have right now?

We should strive to improve our wellbeing. Is this not a no-brainer?

I think it is, I imagine any reasonable reader, who isn’t in self-destruct mode, would also come up with the same conclusion pretty quickly. Additionally, I think it is a no-brainer that we should try to enjoy this striving:)

Perhaps, in essence, this is the attitude of The Warrior Stance:

To fight and to enjoy the fight and to realise and train for the fact the fight will mostly be against ourselves #pringles.

Skills

The second mode of The Warrior Stance to wellbeing is about the understanding and practice of skills aimed at optimising our health, energy, mentality, outcomes… and so on. The things that make us honestly answer “Yes!” to the question, “Are you well?”.

These skills do not just stand in isolation, rather they are integrated and informed together and linked in with our growing understanding of what we learn and experience with our progress.

These skills should be practised efficiently: Not Wasting Time is, itself, a key skill.

There is so much information out there, and I will be writing shortly on how best to approach that. A guiding principle  to decide which areas to consider as the next thing I want to understand and, maybe practice, is to try to assess things in terms of their:

  • Cost (time/money/focus)
  • Risk (We should be prudent with risk, I think. Not reckless)
  • Benefit (potential and actual and enjoyment)

There are sup’s out there I would love to try but just cannot afford.

There are vitamins that have significant risk and others that are close to harmless. I won’t take the former.

Of key importance to this practice is the Smarts that: Some things for me will work out differently to some things for you.  This is not an off the wall statement but a fundamental biological outcome of the way we are genetically and lifestylewise. Understanding this illuminates so much of the confusion that can confront one once they start looking at health and wellbeing information online.

The Warrior Stance is, in part about navigating this for yourself, finding out what is good information and good practice for you. All Are Different.

Even so, perhaps, luckily, there are some things that seem to be absolute no-brainers for almost everyone on the planet. These are the things I focus on with my coaching and the things I think we would all benefit from optimising. Things like:

  • Getting Enough Sleep
  • Getting Enough Sunlight
  • Not Eating Always
  • Increasing Heart Rate
  • Being Well Hydrated

TWS Mindset

Linking together all of the wellbeing practices needs to be a foundation of mental Fortitude. East and west, old and new, Fortitude is considered one of the great virtues. Its practice is not always easy, as we know, but the benefits are huge and deep.

We all can be weak-willed, we all know how souring this can be.

In terms of optimising wellbeing, weak will will be one of our biggest adversaries. In this fight for our wellbeing, we are ultimately fighting ourselves.  If you are considering embracing TWS towards your wellbeing then I really urge that you face to yourself and acknowledge your weakness of will and, kinda, let it know that you are going to strive to eliminate it. This is good practice, I think.

I should say, absolutely, it is important that the stark, but relatively optimistic, reality of the wellbeing war ahead of you, inside of you,  needs to be tempered with lightheartedness about the fight. You need to be able to say “**** it” and let it go and embrace cake and crips and all of that.

Also, you need to remind yourself that, although your wellbeing is really, really important to you, so are your friends and family. I suggest we don’t let our inner, fun, wellbeing battles become the annoyances of others. I have been that guy and after a couple of fermented apple juices, I might be again!:P

Finally, it is not skilful warrior training to fret about wellbeing issues.

Be a Warrior, not a worrier. Woop Woop!

Thanks for reading! If you liked this please subscribe to my Wellbeing Philosophy Newsletter at: http://matripley.co.uk/newsletter/

The Benefits Of Skipping Breakfast

I am currently writing a talk to give about minimal efforts for optimum wellbeing. One of the key strategies I recommend is to skip breakfast. I would say that after getting good sleep, this is the biggest benefit approach with the lowest time/money/stress cost that one can take (other contenders for this, to me, currently, would be replacing missing minerals and balancing macros…).

Going from teatime to lunchtime without eating is a very natural, evolved state. It is a state in which the body changes how it does things. It is the very minimal start of the fasting state that brings such benefits, especially in our over-consuming world.

To personify the human body, it says to itself:

“OK, potential promlemmo, there might be low nutrient and low energy times ahead. I have evolved for this over hundreds of millions of years (some of these kind of “fasting systems” seem to exist in all vertebrate life, other, higher-order, ones are very mammalian). I need to perform better mentally and physically to solve this problem, and I need to start using my stored energy (fat) and nutrients (stored in fat and old cells) to facilitate this.”.

It is generally accepted that sixteen hours without energy is the minimal fast. If you last eat at seven PM and have nothing until lunch at one, that’s an eighteen hour fast, right there. Thus it begins…

It is easy to think that surely just the start of a fast cannot bring anything like the benefits of a more “complete” fast. This kind of thinking overlooks the fact that nature seems to optimise at the start (eg Pareto principle, square laws and evolutionary jumps) and so we should expect the benefit to be disproportionately significant at the start of the fasting process. Which I think it is: I belive you will get more fasting benefit from the first 16 hours than the last sixteen hours of any fast.

There is dispute and disclarity about the gradient of benefit from fasting. Is it best to have one five day fast once a year or one day fast once a month or a minimum fast every day? There is much to be debated there, for sure. Where there is little dispute is about the benefits of fasting in itself. All who know agree, they are many, and many are very potent.

I believe that these are the key benefits, the reasons why, by far, most adults should fast. Before I list and briefly discuss them let me say that these are what I consider to be root, systemic benefits. Together these will lead on to the many observed benefits, such as better cardiovascular efficiency, insulin sensitivity or concentration.

Fasting changes things at a systemic level:

Metabolism shifts down.

Hormones balance and readjust. Insulin drops. Grehlin and Leptin (Hunger hormones) responses begin to reset.

The immune system ramps up; because it no longer needs to be involved in digestion, via the lymphatic system. Especially true with movement.

The liver and kidneys and other organs have a chance for respite, to heal the damage of the oxidative stress, and the waste, of metabolism.

The microbiome tends towards a more stable balance.

Fasting changes things at a cellular level:

Autophagy ramps up dramatically (and more than by any other influence). Every cell checks itself and, if it is damaged, it eats itself, recycling its parts as new nutrients for new cells.

Stem-cell production, even in the elderly, increases naturally (especially when combined with exercise).

Mictochondrial efficiency is directly improved by fasting. The tiny, tiny engines of our lives become more efficient at energy production. They also become more efficient at fat utilisation.

Fasting increases neurogenesis, the process by which new brain cells and connections are created, boosting neuroplasticity and reducing cognitive decline. Until fairly recently it was not known that this occurred. Now it is known, and it is accelerated by fasting, more than by any other cofactor.

Fasting changes things at a personal level

I expect we all know this common behavioral pattern in the Western world:

“I am hungry, therefore, I must eat something”  #justcheckingthefridge

Even the shortest fast forces us to make a choice about this, and I believe, this is of tremendous benefit to mental Fortitude. You also quickly learn that often what you thought was hunger was craving, especially for carbs. You learn that hunger never stays around that long on a fast. It comes in waves and the peak is not lasting.

One thing about the mental aspect of fasting is that you have to be prepared for defeat and not let defeat stop you fasting. This is the practicing Resolve. Just last week I started the day thinking I would do a 24 hour fast. It was soon dropped down to no morning eating (NoAm/16 hour). By eleven I had eaten a glutinous amount of crisps. Salt And Vinegar. Human Fail. You get back on the horse, innit.

In this day and age of runaway consumption, we are bombarded with consumption cues (tanha) that we either chose to resist or we give in to. Practicing that resistance and resilience is a key aspect of stoic training, dharma practice and virtuous living, in general. Good skills backed by good smarts. That is what we want, I think.

Why would you not skip breakfast?

Skipping Breakfast, a sixteen hour fast, is demonstrably of immense benefit to you. If you believe that you need breakfast because you have been told so, that is a belief worth testing for yourself. Fast has huge benefits and sixteen hours is going to be the very begging of these processes. Processes that are increasing en mass, and system-wide. After a day or two they will be functioning at capacity for healing and system optimisation and this will continue for at least a few more days (3 days is my max). Of course,  there a clear benefit in taking the fast past sixteen hours, but this does not mean there won’t be huge benefits to regular breakfast skipping.

In my opinion, and this is not something I can back up as it is my own conclusion, but given that biological systems optimise in parreto/square-law/step-evolutionary ways, we should expect for the first sixteen hours of any fast to be more beneficial than the last sixteen hours. That seems reasonable and plausible.

Why would you not?

There are, in fact, only three reasons why skipping breakfast might be unwise. One is personal weakness due to conditioned (from self and others/media/etc) expectations, the next is a critical human weakness to mouth-pleasure and the third is a medical reason, though I cannot think of any that could really prevent skipping breakfast.

Bloat, Faff and Pantomime

I think that there are three common distortions that affect non emerged/evolved systems, such as public institutions, businesses and information systems.

  • Bloat – This is where the system expands in multiple inefficient ways which, in combination, produce a holistic inefficiency that is often both hidden and immense.
  • Faff – This is where the time cost of processing information is greater than the comparative benefit of the actual information.
  • Pantomime – This is where the system adopts behaviours that bring no benefit to the system other than to make other systems perceive the system as being beneficial.

So, there you have it: avoid, prevent and extinguish.

SayNoNay

 

One thing I have been practicing with myself for a few weeks is the practice of  not being a naysayer. A naysayer is not someone who says “no”, it is someone who says “no” without good thought.
Dialogs normally go like this:
Offspring: “Dad can I please borrow your…”
Me:(Interrupting): “No.”
That, right there, is me being a naysayer.
I am trying to change that by not saying “nay,” in accordance with the ancient practice of “Saynonay”. To practice Saynonay just keep in your mind not to say “nay” in any way unless it seems, after good thought, to be the right thing to say.
If you ask someone if they are playing Saynonay, and they say “no”, they are probably not practicing Saynonay.
In the weeks I have been doing it I do think it has a positive benefit on my life, and I would expect my kids – all four of whom now have metabolic syndrome and are in prison for gang related offences. I jest.
Interestingly, nobody knows the etymology of “Saynonay”. Some think it traces back to the Great First Language, others think it comes from the PreprotoPalli form “sa su ka” which means “talk outwardly sweetly”. I don’t think it matters, what is important about practicing Saynonay is simply not to say “nay” unless it really is OK to say nay.

NoAM Eating

Not eating in the morning.
I am a pretty big believer that there are fundamental differences between proper fasting and intermittent fasting, even when the proper fasting is but a mere day. It seems plausible, and I think the evidence suggests, that the magic happens with no consumption.
I often go two proper days, I have been three. Some people go for many days but just a few times or once a year. I don’t know what is wellbeing optimal, but my opinion is currently with the smaller, regular, fasts.
Anyhoo’s… this does not mean that I am at all against intermittent fasting.
Quite the contrary. One simple, and I think ancient, fasting routine is just to not eat in the morning. Break fast. Before the PM. I do it two or three times a week. It is very easy, and most of us will have done it without wanting or trying.
In these 16 hours, your body will change state.
Perhaps not into the full-on FAST state with autophagy and stem-cells,  that is the aim of informed fasting, but still, goodness will be happening, even if it is just giving your metabolic organs a bit of a rest from their normal 247mustprocessthis mode.
Some people will find that NoAM fasting is good for calorie reduction, if just because you are going to be missing a meal and eating less. This makes sense.
But this doesn’t work for me because, as happened today, after a NoAM Fasting, my car swerved into Tescos and I rinsed of five packets of Square crisps as I drove home.
The wrappers are in the glove compartment.

A friend just asked me: “What evidence is there that EMF damages our cells on a permanent level?”

You should do your own research on that if you are skeptical, and why not be sceptical?:)

But my understanding, which is not totally naieve, is that there are many mechanisms of disruption.

I am not going to use any research to answer your question here, and I am not one for details, but here goes, my attempt to pursued you, via answering it.

The first thing that you need to understand is that of all the millions or billions of variables that constitute our bodies: Oxygen, Water, salts, amino-acids… there is only one that is totally biologically ubiquitous. This is electricity: Within, and between, every living are electrochemical processes that operate on tiny, tiny voltages.

The second thing that you need to understand is that wirelessly connected devices gain their connection via electromagnetic energy.

The third thing you need to understand is that connected devices operate at energy levels thousands and thousands of times higher than, both the natural background EMF energy (As the earth was 200 years ago, or so) and the biological levels found in every living cell in our bodies.

You need to understand and accept these three things before proceeding really Alexs. They are just science fact, which you should be able to easily disprove or accept.

Once you agree with the three understandings above then you can start to extrapolate from those premises.

Does it seem plausible that connected devices could cause biological change?

I think it does, why would it not. There is nothing special about the electrical energies involved here, over and above say, an electrical motor.

Would such changes be unnatural?

I think clearly yes. Three hundred years ago no human had expected anything like the levels of even measly Bluetooth4. (This is one point I am not convinced about without further researching. #cosmicblasts etc).

Would such changes be disruptive?

I would imagine that if you were to be able to take a person with a magic wand just randomly change the nano-voltages in the electrical systems in their bodies then those changes would have a point at which they would become noticeably negative. This seems totally reasonable to me as an assumption. And it is a case analogous to EMF, except with EMF it is more point of  source dependent.

So where we are now, I think, without any science evidence, just thinking,  is an understanding that, because of the nature of connected devices and biological systems, it is plausible that there could be negative effects from connected devices.

I accept that, it seems very sensible to me as a conclusion. There is no WooWoo in what I have said and I challenge anyone to refute any of the above:)

The next stage in my answering your question is to look at evidence. Is there evidence that supports the above plausible hypothesis?

I think there is lots.

The newest (2016?), most-compelling, evidence is to do with their system which decides on whether or not to allow calcium into our cells. Every cell needs calcium. Any cell can be damaged by too much calcium. This system that governs the calcium flow is called a “Voltage Gated Calcium Channel” and it is shown to be heavily susceptible to disruption from non-natural EMF. The effects of this are emerging to be many, but one that seems accepted is that this calcium imbalance, caused by your phone etc, causes sever oxidative stress. This is the cell ageing…rusting… corroding that is the cause of most modern diseases (It’s the thing that antioxidants are touted to reduce.)

So there we go…

I hope that answers your question!

Vegan Oysters. Again.

I am a committed Vegan, but I am totally missing oysters.

Every day this mini-battle goes on in my head.

I am a Vegan for two prime reasons.

Reason One

I think, for reasons of woo woo, that the following is a supreme teaching:

“Do Not Eat Animals”.

Reason Two

Like most people, I do not want to be an increaser of negativity in the world. That is, I don’t want to choose to cultivate and propagate or in any sense be responsible for or supportive or endorsing negativity production in any way.

The “choice” aspect is important here, I think:

When I eat a salad, beings may have died to get that salad before me. A shrew in a field. Two badgers in a pile up on the M4. All is possible, even with kale.

But when I eat meat, I am necessarily choosing that an animal was imprisoned, tortured, exploited and slaughtered for me.

Vegans choose not to cause suffering in their choices, this does not mean that their choices will never cause suffering. #quornpocalypse

Once I accept this principle (Ahimsa and Sukka) it is just a no-brainer to me that if I eat cheese or chicken, then I am causing suffering. Often in massive ways that, as the end consumer, I see myself as ultimately responsible for. I pay the assassin via the teller or waiter or jolly vendor at the farmer’s market.

I have philosophised these kinds of points so much over the last few years, more than most, I would wager. Still my conclusions remain: it is water-tight, a no-brainer, a comestible cogito: We should not eat animals.

Of course I would eat meat in a survival situation.

Of course honey is not the same as ham.

Of course milk is worse than flesh, because it is flesh, plus more suffering. If B contains X and C contains B then C contains X.

I belive that if you want to be one of those people, like most people, one of the… “I-dont-wanna-be-cruels”, then, in no sense, can your meat eating be justified. You are being irrational, alongside your cruelty. (Please, please prove me wrong on this, for I would so love it not to be so true.)

The Mammalian end of the spectrum, and even the birds and the fish, those little fellas, I am close to done with them in my philosophical enumerations and ruminations, but Oysters, they are still in the mirky penumbra, somewhere between figs and accidental cod roe.

Of oysters I cannot say, “I should not eat that.”

I don’t currently eat them, and haven’t for many many months, but by gosh, they are almost on the tip of my tongue.

I cannot yet justify their exclusion for reasons a bit like, but not limited to, the following:

I cannot really make sense of an oyster experincing suffering, in much the same way that I cannot imagine yeast suffering. I could torture a goose, but an oyster? That does not yet make sense to me.

I don’t think it experiences anything. It has no brain, as such. It has a strewn out clumps of proto-neurons. It will respond to stimulus, but feel pain or in any sense be, in any point in anything that can be considered a mental space?

Is it a being?

When I think “Do Not Eat Animals” that last term expands out into something like “sentient beings”. “Sentience” means able to experience. “Being” means able to be. I don’t know really what either of those terms really mean. Nobody really does. Especially not the oysters. But I am sure a dog is sentient, as I know I am. Oysters, profoundly lack this sureness, to me, right now.

We think fish can feel pain, they respond as such, they can be anaesthetised, they have similar pain biologies to mammals. But these arguments and understands do not apply to oysters. Oysters may move away from toxic environments but that does not mean they experience the environment. Singled celled organisms can do the same, and vegans eat those. #youpeople!

There is another point, I will make this my last, which is that oysters are jam-packed with nutrients that vegans find very hard to get without chemical supplementation (Which is what I do).

Is that wise? The vegan definition on the society website centres around the term “practicable”. I like that definition, it gives room for reasonableness. I am forced, by reason, to ask, is it not practicable to eat oysters given that, being human, I need B12?

Is it really better that I get it from some industrial process in pill form?

I do not know the answers to these questions and so I just trundle along, not eating oysters, yada yada, “have another bit of cress, Mat”.

Thanks for reading!

Hard Cheese

First  one realises, just by thought, that they are a cause, enabler, endorser, supporter, antecedent (temporal or not) and well… a fan of the causing of  unacceptable suffering.

Then one realises that, ultimately, the reason that they cause this suffering is to satisfy their  own momentary mouth pleasure.

When these two simple realisations are acknowledged I belive it would be ignoble of me not to then ask myself,  “What should I do?”

If I consume meat, then am I an accomplice in the murder of a baby animal, just for fun?

What should I do?

It took me a while to get to answer this question. There were lapses and cognitive dissonances and a guilty goat curry that was “going to waste”.

But the answer came, a nobrainer it seems to me now, “I do not eat animals.”

And that is almost that, except that  it get’s worse than the worseness of meat and the obvious butchery/epiphany of that equation:

If I eat dairy, then I cause greater and wider suffering than the suffering I cause from just eating meat.

This is startling, when you let it settle.

The dairy industry is the meat industry.

But it is the meat industry with extra layers of humiliation and exploitation.

It has enforced breeding, unnatural confinement, torture, antibiotic recklessness and on and on…

Is it not is even more repugnant and brutal than the meat farming?

Cheese is literally addictive.

I miss it so much.

Caveat Emptor and Current Data

  1. The word data comes from the latin word “datum”.
    1. A datum is something, like a stick, or a number, which can be given from one to another.
  2. Data is the plural of datum.
  3. As An Example:
    1. Take the data 4029:
      1. I just gave you this data.
        1. You can copy that.
        2. Share it.
        3. You can alter it.
        4. Delete it.
        5. Split it.
        6. Hide it.
        7. You do this to the data: 9204
  4. Data has no context.
    1. It has no meaning.
    2. It is only when it has context that data then becomes something with meaning.
  5. In  3.1, 4029 might be:
    1. My childhood phone number.
    2. An encoding for a three letter word.
    3. Part of a coordinate to a sub-marine base in a spy-movie.
    4. The last four contiguous numbers of my driving licence.
    5. It could have no meaning to me and meaning to you.
      1. What that meaning is, is the information.
    6. It could be two of your winning lottery numbers.
    7. It could have meaning in that you and I might share an exceptional coincidental void of connections to this number.
  6. Data has less value than information.
  7. All information is data.
    1. All data is not information.
  8. Data exists when there is a change of state of a representing/recording medium.
  9. Questions:
    1. Is 4029 the same data as 111110111101?
      1. It is the same number.
        1. As is FBD.
    2. Could a change in the locks and junctions in  a canal system represent numbers?
      1. Is this identical to silicone logic gates?
    3. Imagine the following thought experiment :
      1. Consider:
        1. At time T1 You have a packet of data that can be divided up as: ABCD.
          1. It could be four bytes, or four yadabytes, it doesn’t matter.
        2. At T2 you split the packet into AB and CD.
        3. And then at T3 you join the packet back together again to make ABCD.
      2. The composite question is: Where, How and Why does the information ABCD exist between T1 and T2 and T3?
    4. Is truly random noise information?