Food: Serious as a Heart Attack

At 9:15 PM on Tuesday April 2, 2007, just as the opening credits for that evening’s episode of Star Trek Enterprise started rolling, I had a massive heart attack and died. Three times in fact. I died on my living room floor, in the ambulance and once again in the ER. Long story full of heavy drama, cliff-hanger close calls, amazing technologies and personal transformations, but the upshot was that I spent 6 days in a cardiac ICU and generated well over a hundred grand in medical debt. The nurses later told me that only 4 percent survive the kind of heart attack I had.

Very. Close. Call. Yep.

Phew…

Coming out of that event I was seriously disabled. A 50-foot walk to the mailbox at the end of my driveway required a 45 minute nap afterwards. Nonetheless, in between naps I could go online and I did. My focus was, “What the hell happened?” I had no significant lifestyle risk factors, no family history of heart disease and had been a strict vegetarian for over 40 years, eating a diet that included no meat, fish, birds or eggs, or anything containing those as ingredients. I did eat dairy products, including milk, cheeses, yogurt and butter, but those were the only animal products I consumed and I had them in small amounts. I was 56 at the time of my heart attack, just 3 weeks before my 57th birthday.

How could I – a low-fat, high complex-carb vegetarian eating a plant-based diet as recommended by everyone from Michael Pollan to Michelle Obama – end up with a host of serious and chronic health issues and have one of them kill me dead? (Yes, obviously they brought me back, but that was entirely a function of good luck, modern medical technology and especially the clot-buster injection that went straight into my heart, and then later, the arterial stent. And obviously I was not dead-dead. Nobody comes back from that. I flat-lined. Or, as Miracle Max may have said, I was “…mostly dead.”)

I ate all the “right things,” exercised regularly, didn’t eat “the bad stuff” such as saturated fat, and yet I still got whacked. If I was this vulnerable to heart disease, then something was seriously wrong with how I was living my life, and the first suspect was my diet. That heart attack required that I re-examine all my closely held beliefs about nutrition, health and food. I began intensively researching this topic, and was eventually fortunate enough to find some really significant information and resources. More on that later.

First off let me remind you that I’m not a doctor and I’m not giving medical advice. I’m a survivor of a massive heart attack of a type that very few survive. The nurses and docs warned me that the damage to my heart and cardiovascular system was so severe that they gave me a survival prognosis of three months to maybe two years tops. As of this writing it’s been nearly ten years since. For me, understanding what happened and what to do about it was literally a matter of life and death. While I am no longer afraid of death at all, I am rather fond of my life and am not terribly anxious for it to end. My understanding of this issue was then and continues to be a top priority for me.

At the time of my heart attack I was shocked to discover that my total cholesterol was normal (179) according to conventional wisdom, but that I was prediabetic (A1C of 11.2 so BG maybe around 280 if I remember correctly), that I weighed about 215 (give or take), that I had IBS, high blood pressure, serious arthritis and a host of other underlying conditions. Nobody tells us that half of all fatal heart attacks occur in people with “normal” cholesterol, and they certainly do not advertise that 70 percent of diabetics die of heart disease. Clearly there are direct causative correlations between those two. And now there is even some early data saying that Alzheimer’s may be a form of Type 3 diabetes. We’ll see – more research necessary there.

However. It turns out that everything we’ve been told about fat and dietary health is backwards and comes from a profit-based collusion between government, big agriculture, the food processing industry and the big pharma companies. It’s not that they are in some massive conspiracy, just that everyone’s greed for profits has produced an interlocking set of belief systems that is extremely toxic and damaging to us all. It started with Ancel Keys and his faked research and deceptive cholesterol reports after World War II and the pattern went on from there. It’s called “the lipid hypothesis” and it’s one of the most heinous deceptions in modern medicine.

There is no causal relationship between cholesterol levels and heart disease. The lipid hypothesis is a health scare that has been completely invented, made up out of nothing and sold to the American public using every marketing and advertising technique available to Madison Avenue. If the dietary advice about low-fat diets really worked, why then are the rates for cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity still sky-rocketing?  I – as a lifelong low-saturated fat plant-eater vegetarian – should have been completely exempt from heart disease. Nope.

It took me two years of research before I discovered, worked out and fixed the culprits in my food supply. I experimented and played with my food and swapped things around until I developed real certainty about what was optimal. I stopped eating any grains or carbs, no sugars or sweeteners, and although altogether the conversion and transformation took about 3 years total, I eventually even quit eating plants at all. The result is that my daily intake of carbs is typically below 20 grams per day, and consistently less than 10 grams.

Turns out that there are two kinds of human metabolism – fat-driven ketosis, where we metabolize ketone bodies, and the sugar/carbohydrate-driven insulin-based metabolism. Ketosis and the fat-based diet is how we evolved, but as a fall-back for times when meat is scarce we can survive on carbs. It’s not optimal, and we suffer for it, but once we get back to a meat diet we can recover very quickly.

Fat doesn’t make you fat and it’s not fat that kills you. The culprit is sugar. And guess what? Every gram of carbohydrate you eat is nothing more than a gram of glorified sugar. Furthermore, obesity (with some rare exceptions) is a symptom of metabolic starvation. When we eat fat it becomes fuel and it burns clean. When we eat carbohydrates and sugars our body thinks we are in starvation and it converts much of that sugar to fat, storing it for later. The problem is that sugar does not burn clean – it requires insulin, and excessive insulin generates severe inflammation, glycation, insulin resistance and eventually hyperinsulinemia, which of course leads to the big 5 – obesity, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and many types of the sugar-derived cancers.

The reality is that nutrient-rich traditional fats have nourished healthy human population groups for hundreds of thousands (and quite likely, millions) of years. Humans are natural-born fat-seekers and fat-eaters. Remember, 50 to 60 percent of the total caloric value of human breast milk is from the saturated fat it contains, and that nutritional requirement does not go away when we wean.

Eat this:
Butter, whole raw milk and whole raw cheeses
Beef and lamb tallow
Lard
Chicken, goose and duck fat
bacon fat
Egg yolks
Marine oils (like cod liver oil)
all fatty meats

I find it interesting that medical researchers call this the “French Paradox” because the fatty ingredients above are what make French cuisine so amazingly delicious, yet as a people, the French have a significantly lower rate of heart disease and rates of death by heart attack when compared to Americans. The same high saturated fat ingredient list contributes to the healthier aspects of the Mediterranean diet, which produces health outcomes very similar to what happens in France. In Okinawa, where we find the longest-lived people on the planet, the primary fat is from pork and pork products, which contributes a significant percentage of their daily caloric intake. Saturated fats are so important to our health that if we don’t eat enough of them in our foods then our body will make them out of carbohydrates. This is also part of the reason that people eating a low-fat diet have such consistently high cholesterol levels. If we don’t eat sufficient cholesterol then our body has to make it, and our blood levels spike. We need that cholesterol for every single cell membrane in our body, as well as for all our neurotransmitters. Ever wonder why low-fat dieters are so susceptible to mood disorders?

I recommend reading the ingredients list on every food item we buy. If it contains any of the following 5 ingredients, don’t buy it and certainly don’t eat it:

Avoid these:
1)  enriched flour (usually white and heavily refined),
2)  white sugar,
3)  high-fructose corn syrup,
4)  partially hydrogenated vegetable oils of any kind,
5)  fully hydrogenated vegetable oils of any kind.

The following laboratory-developed and machine-processed fats listed can cause serious degenerative diseases:

Transfats
All hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils including hydrogenated lard
Soy, corn and safflower oils
Cottonseed oil
Canola oil
All plant fats heated to very high temperatures in processing and frying

When you add in high-fructose corn syrup to the mix, along with all the chemical additives, pesticides and whatever leaches from plastics into our foods, is it any wonder that our diet is killing us? I just read a recent study that high fructose corn syrup is the number one favorite nutrient preferred by cancer cells.

Heart disease, cancer, diabetes, thyroid problems, high blood pressure, arthritis, ADHD, autism, osteoporosis, dental caries and gum disease, obesity, allergies, many kinds of cancers, reproductive dysfunction and sterility – all these have significant contributing factors that arise in some degree from our diet, and the quality of the foods we eat and don’t eat.

For over 5 years I only ate fat and meat and drank only water. Period. 80 percent or more of my daily calories came from animal fats (butter, lard, pork fat, tallow and so on) and about 15 percent came from meat proteins. When I’m thirsty I drink water. That’s it. Although this time of year (August) when the wild blueberries are ripe on my land, I might have a handful on the way down to go canoeing on the river that is the western boundary of my place. I see no negative effects from this so far, but the quantities are small and the frequency is low.

My metabolism stays in nutritional ketosis. I’ve lost well over 50 pounds of belly fat and weigh in around 160 give or take a few pounds. My IBS vanished, and so did my GERD and arthritis. My blood pressure is 110 over 70. My A1c is between 4.2 and 4.4,  and regular blood testing shows my BG levels consistently run between 85 and 105, so I’m no longer prediabetic. Total cholesterol is about 170, my triglycerides are at 42 and even the plaque in my arteries has been diminishing. I’m in the best health I’ve been in since I was 20, in spite of the old damage to my heart muscle from the CVE in ’07. My cardiologist, when he found out I was eating a primal diet (some might call it paleo but I don’t because I go way beyond that), just went batshit crazy, jumping all over my case about how I should be on statins and eating very low-fat. I flat out refused the statins. Then I asked him, if all he said was true then how did he explain my blood chemistry results? He couldn’t. I eventually had to fire him because he refused to wake up to the fact that nearly everything he knew and advised about food, nutrition and my health was not only incorrect, but ass-backwards. If you need a doctor, find one who is paleo (or primal) friendly.

If you like to eat plants, then I highly recommend you follow the meal plan of my good friend Steve Cooksey, who is a classic example of an insulin-dependent T2 diabetic who no longer requires insulin or any other meds. (If you eat the way the ADA recommends you will stay sick, stay insulin-dependent and you will die a miserable death for no reason.)

http://www.diabetes-warrior.net/

If you don’t like eating plants and want to experience the most robust health possible for humans, then go full-on zero carb and follow my friend Esmée La Fleur’s elegant eating plan here:

https://zerocarbzen.com/

That is the simplest way of eating that humans can follow – eat meat, drink water. End of story.

For those of you who love the science and the details, I recommend Nora Gedgaudas – links to her videos and her book can be found here:

Primal Body, Primal Mind – Beyond the Paleo Diet

You should be aware that eating this way will generate a lot of push-back from people who have no idea what they are talking about – friends, family, poorly informed true believers such as vegans and dieticians and so on, even many doctors. They have not lived this experience and they are operating from conviction founded upon belief. Instead of listening to them, just trust your body. Do the work that growth requires, heal and live well.

It can take a while to adapt to zero carb and ketosis but once you do, you will be amazed at how quickly you will heal, how great your body feels and how effortless this way of life is.

For more background, I also highly recommend you read

“The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability”  by Lierre Keith

And:

The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet   by Nina Teicholz

© 2016
Carmine Leo

A Hard Rain Is Gonna Fall – Or Not

The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.”  — William Gibson

Global warming at it’s simplest is little more than the imbalance between the heat energy received from the sun and held within the system, versus the heat energy reflected back into space. If we lose too much we get cold. If we gain too much we get hot. Ultimately that warming or cooling changes the climate itself up and down in very precise natural cycles. But over the last two hundred years, and especially in the last 50, something has gone terribly wrong. There is way too much carbon in the atmosphere, and there is a serious imbalance in the planetary heat gain.  Excess energy (0.58 watts per square meter) is not being re-radiated back out into space at the same levels it has been in easily-tracked cycles for the last 4 million years. Zero point five eight watts doesn’t sound like much until you factor in the total surface of the earth and crunch the numbers. As someone recently posted, that heat gain imbalance is equivalent to exploding three Hiroshima-sized bombs into the oceans every second since 1961. That is enough extra heat to vaporize the entire water content of Sydney Harbor every 12 hours.

Earth’s Energy Budget Remained Out of Balance Despite Unusually Low Solar Activity (2012)
http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/news/20120130b/

There is a pretty simple way to think about this if you understand a bit of the background. For starters, a tree grows and as it does it sequesters carbon in its tissues, in the lignin and the cellulose, the sugars and starches in it’s sap, and etc.. If we humans come along and cut down that tree to burn for heat, then we are releasing the stored carbon from solar gain over a time period equal to that tree’s life span – so fifty, a hundred, maybe two hundred years. That’s not a lot of of carbon output in the greater scheme of things, at least not on any time scales that matter to climate.

The problem is two-fold and really started a couple hundred years ago when we discovered fossil fuels and began to dig them up out of the ground to burn. When we did that, we started releasing millions of years of sequestered carbon in a time scale that is literally overnight when compared to the geologic time scale during which all that carbon was put away.  Additionally, all that incredibly powerful and cheap energy gave us the option to apply it to our food supply, and of course as every biologist can tell you, when you increase the food supply you increase the population. Almost our entire food supply now is converted oil, and one consequence of that fact means that there are over 7 billion of us, all spewing out formerly-sequestered carbon from fossil fuels. Additionally we are taking over and converting to farms all those wildlands formerly sequestering carbon as old growth forest, grassland and prairie, peat bog, jungle and so on. As human fossil fuel consumption and carbon outgassing increases, the natural living systems that provide planetary climate resilience are decreasing – all as a result of human activities.

If you think about this in terms of an annual solar gain/carbon budget, then anytime we generate or consume energy within the domain of a year’s worth of solar gain (or even within 200 years as in the case of a big old maple) then we are not adding substantially to the carbon side of the equation. Cows, corn, trees, soybeans, termites and so on are all within the annual carbon/solar gain budget for the living systems of the planet. You can even see this principle in action if you look at a graph of carbon measurements over time. Carbon in the northern hemisphere goes up in the winter, and down in the summer. This happens because all summer long the trees and grasses and flowers are taking in carbon and turning it to body mass. In the winter everything sleeps, so the carbon builds up in the atmosphere. (I would include a graph from NOAA here but their web site is shut down because of those idiots in Congress.) That cycle is the planetary breath of life – in and out.

None of what we do would matter all that much if we were sticking to that annual in/out carbon/solar gain budget and if there were only a half a billion of us. But because we are so many and we are releasing hundreds of millions of years of stored carbon formerly sequestered in fossil fuels in only a couple centuries we have become significant agents of change in the large scale carbon cycles that generate climate and ultimately, the weather.  What we add that is outside the annual carbon/solar gain budget is all about outgassing the fossil fuels and disabling the global living systems of natural resilience.

The carbon balance in the atmosphere is and has been incredibly finely tuned over the last 4 million years with only the tiniest fraction of a CO2 shift causing global climate change as regular as a heartbeat. Remember, we are talking about a ridiculously powerful gas that alters the entire climate of the planet from ice age to an interglacial and back by simply shifting 100 parts per million up or down – from 180 ppm during a glaciation, to 280 ppm during an interglacial and back again. That is an absurdly tiny amount of gas that produces an 18 to 25 degree up or down global average temperature change in a highly stable cycle for millions of years, but that’s how it works and that’s what the global living system does. In our earth system, temperature, methane and CO2 are coupled, so whatever happens to one happens to all and it doesn’t matter which one goes up or down first – with a bit of a lag time, as soon as one moves the others follow – in a time scale measured in years or a few decades. Normally it begins with a shift in the Milankovich Cycles, but we have seen other triggers on many occasions. We have excellent physical evidence, observation and empirical data for how this happens.

Because of fossil fuels, we humans are adding about 4 gigatons of extra CO2 into the atmosphere per year for at least the last 25 years, and the rate of release is accelerating way above the normal annual cycles. The oceans and other natural processes have soaked up some part of that carbon already but not enough, and as a result of that extra carbon (over 400 ppm as measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory this past summer during the Northern hemisphere peak output) there is now a gross imbalance in the in/out exchange of energy (solar heating versus planetary re-radiation of that heat back into space.)  The planet is heating, both the atmosphere and the oceans themselves – most of the excess heat going into the oceans because the atmosphere holds only about 2 percent of that gain. Remember, as I mentioned above, temperatures, CO2 and methane are coupled in this living system, so whatever happens to one happens to all.

So, we are already at 120+ ppm above and beyond the concentration that normally creates a natural global warming into an interglacial period from a glacial epoch, and we haven’t even included methane which would push us up at least another 50 ppm. (not to mention increased water vapor held in the atmosphere from the extra warming, and nitrous oxide and a whole raft of other powerful greenhouse gases)

How do we know that it comes from human activity? Here’s the thing – we can fingerprint the isotopes of carbon. We have a very good data set about all the natural processes, how much carbon comes from volcanoes, from forests, from a tailpipe or a chimney, how much is captured by the oceans and so on. Plus we have very accurate data about atmospheric concentrations going back hundreds of thousands of years. Natural processes cannot explain the extra CO2 that we are seeing, and that rapid rise began at the same time as the industrial revolution. We know with a high degree of certainty what is normal for this planet when we look at the hard data in ice cores and sediments from glacial epochs during the last 4 million years. The current climate change direction is unprecedented. For the last 4 million years the pattern has been extremely stable – glacial – interglacial – glacial – interglacial, over and over and over again.

Now…

The global climate – as well as all the weather generated by that climate – is driven by a steep temperature gradient between the poles and the equator. When it is very cold at the poles and very hot at the equator, the dissipation of heat energy along that gradient compels the jet stream to act as a laminar flow, going around the poles at a very high rate of speed, keeping all that dense, dry, very cold air right over the poles. That also means that the weather systems progress around the planet in a fairly rapid and orderly pattern. Rain today, sun tomorrow and so on, all the highs and lows moving along in sequence like boxcars on a train track.

The poles heat first and fastest. When the energy gradient between the poles and the equator becomes shallow, such as is happening now because of all the extra CO2 and other GHGs (like water vapor) which are retaining heat in the atmosphere, then the jet stream loses energy and instead of acting as a laminar flow (separating very cold and dry air masses from very wet and warm air masses) it begins to meander, with peaks of warm tropical air extending way up into the Arctic where it should never go, and cold dry air slipping way down deep into the tropics where it should never go. Additionally, that loss of energy in the jet stream creates what are called blocking patterns, cut-off highs and lows that anchor in place and keep the weather systems stuck in place instead of progressing eastward in an orderly fashion, distributing their energy from place to place as they move in an easterly direction.

Dr. Jennifer Francis
Does Arctic Amplification Fuel Extreme Weather in Mid-Latitudes?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4spEuh8vswE

We have seen this pattern of over-the-top extreme storms and broken records again and again around the planet in the last 10 years, everywhere from Pakistan, Italy, Bangladesh, Thailand, the Philippines, Mexico, South America, as well as in dozens of places around North America – with Sandy of course, and with Colorado, the floods in Texas, Louisiana and Maryland simply being the most recent. The jet stream locks in place, and whatever is under it or on either side of it just gets hammered and hammered and hammered. It doesn’t matter if it’s a baking hot spell and drought that wipes out crops and generates massive megafires such as in Europe and Russia in 2003 and 2010 and recently in California and the Pacific Northwest, or as a freight train of low pressure systems that dump a year’s worth of rain in two days. The cause is the same – forced abrupt climate change due to human-caused global warming generated by our dumping too much CO2 into the atmosphere.

We have many factors at play in the climate system: the co-opting of enormous areas of wild landscapes and natural living systems for agriculture, massively increasing population, multiple positive feedbacks (forest fires, soot, ice loss, permafrost melting), the loss and redistribution of natural carbon sinks such as eHux, and consumption of fossil fuels at a scale never imagined. Human activity is destroying the natural capacity for carbon pump-down. On a healthy earth, carbon residence time in the atmosphere has been about a hundred years. Now it’s up to at least 800 years, so even if we stopped all carbon outputs tomorrow – totally ended it – we still face a thousand years of heating just from all the carbon we have up there now. As William Catton says in his book, “Overshoot” we have become Homo Colossus. A half billion humans would not do much to this planet. But 7 billion plus are changing the atmospheric chemistry and the oceanic chemistry to such a point that we are making the planet uninhabitable for ourselves and all the other species who are adapted to a temperate climate.

We are forcing a heating that has not been seen on this planet in 55 million years, not since the PETM. The reality is inescapable. The data doesn’t lie. The living systems and infrastructure developed by human beings will not be able to withstand the speed, intensity, duration and violence of the weather systems generated by the current level of global warming. Never in all of human evolution have we as a species had to contend with a hot state planet. And when the PETM hit all those millions of years ago the earth was already in a hot state. All the species then were well adapted to heat, both dry and humid. Remember, this was a time when there were crocodiles in North Dakota and date palms on Baffin Island. Even so, when the climate popped hot into the PETM we still lost over 70 percent of all species globally.

There is a direct causal link between human activity, CO2, climate change and the pattern of intense, chaotic, and extremely violent weather systems that have been and will continue to dismantle human infrastructure. Eventually those weather systems will destroy modern agriculture as we know it and that will pretty much be it for this current human civilization. Without food you don’t have population. Without population you can’t support our incredibly complex technology and that’s pretty much that. We have seen this pattern of environmental degradation preceding the collapse of every civilization that came before us. There is not a damn thing we can do about it. We bought it, we broke it and now it’s time to pay the piper.

Instead of cooling slowly until we hit the critical threshold (tipping point) where the climate flips cold and into the next glacial epoch, we are now in the early stages of an unnatural climate shift, going the wrong way, out-of-cycle, to a hot state climate that this planet hasn’t seen in 55 million years. All our contemporary species here now are cool-adapted for a temperate planet and very few will survive into the new hot-state environment. That most likely includes us humans. Just wait until the methane bombs kick in from the clathrates and the permafrost. We are in the initial stages of the climate flip right now. Within 50 years this entire planet will be well on the way into an entirely different climate state.

And if you still have doubts, consider this – as Peter Sinclair says in a video on his Climate Denial Crock of the Week series:   http://climatecrocks.com/

“Scientists at NASA collected, compiled and compared 29,500 data sets of natural rhythms – physical and biological markers such as migration of birds, blooming of flowers, migration and spawning of fish, dates of mountain snow-melt, peak flow of mountain-fed streams – 90 percent of the changes were in a direction “expected as a response to warming.”  The lesson here is that birds, rivers, lakes, fish and glaciers have no political agenda, but climate deniers and their wealthy sponsors do. And the very same people who told you that weapons of mass destruction were real are telling you that climate change is not. We will never know all the answers to the questions about climate, but what real scientists are telling us is that climate change is real, we are doing it, the consequences are dire, and we need to stop.”

the actual study:
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v453/n7193/abs/nature06937.html

That’s what we are facing now, and whether you agree with the cause or not, can we afford to ignore these changes?

Welcome to the Holocene Extinction Part 2.

Welcome to a brave new world…
—–
Here are several reference web sites for additional reading on the current state of climate science:

Best site on the web for explaining climate change science & rebutting global warming misinformation:
http://www.skepticalscience.com/

Alder Stone’s essay: Why large-scale, abrupt climate change (probably) cannot be stopped (& we must, thus, increase our adaptability)
http://alderstone3.com/?page_id=433

Spencer Weart’s complete hypertext history of how scientists came to (partly) understand what people are doing to cause climate change.
https://www.aip.org/history/climate/index.htm

National Academy of Sciences – Climate Change booklet (pdf)
http://www.nap.edu/catalog/18730/climate-change-evidence-and-causes

NOAA  Global Warming FAQ
http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/monitoring-references/faq/global-warming.php

© 2016
Carmine Leo

 

Who Are You?

Yes. I mean that.

Really.

Who are you?

Most people have no idea what to say when asked that question. In fact, most people have no idea even of what to think when asked that question. It’s a show-stopper.

And Byron Katie ( www.thework.com ) adds an additional layer of confusion and exponentially-explosive possibility when she asks that question in a marvelously expanded way, “Who are you without your story?”

You want to cause trouble, ask THAT question. It’s a sure-fire way to stir things up. Works every time.

One of the deepest and most troubling curses of the modern age – and I suspect with a few rare exceptions this has been true of humans for millennia, at least since that moment when we left our lives as foragers and took up agriculture – is this mis-identification of self (identity) as form or content. In other words, we believe we are our story: our thoughts, our feelings, our roles, our beliefs, our doctrine and dogma, our jobs, our cars, our relationships, our wounds, our bodies, our history and so on.

We have come to believe we are the construct – that survival-driven, painfully and carefully-built assemblage of identification-with. We have lost touch with the magnificent experience of being (in the moment and in the felt-sense experience of our bodies) and have come to believe we are the story about the doing and having of our day-to-day lives. The relentless machinery of our survival mind now identifies content as self and self as content, and our survival is dependent upon the persistence of our point of view. We are completely convinced that this is THE WAY IT IS! And sadly, that conviction leaves us utterly powerless.

Additionally, the machine mind (ego) believes that its content – our story – all those thoughts, interpretations, assumptions, beliefs, identities, and perspectives – are true and real, and that we MUST act on whatever feelings come up connected to those thoughts. Because the survival mind machinery cannot differentiate between our thoughts and feelings in the story – between what is real and what is in our heads – that toxic confusion of thoughts and feelings becomes hypnotic and compelling drivers of words and actions based in fear, disconnection and otherness. And all that is amplified because our limbic system cannot differentiate between a real threat and a perceived threat. Our biology cannot distinguish between a co-worker throwing a tantrum and a hungry bear.

This is a problem.

Every example of what we consider to be real evil in the human world (other than the presence and behavior of true psychopaths) is a result of this confusion of identity (self as content) and the resulting disconnection from being and presence (authentic self). As a result of the imprinting, constraints and distractions of the overculture, the machine mind, its thoughts, perceptions, assumptions, interpretations and conclusions are profoundly disordered. We have no access to the present moment, and the felt-sense of the feeling body is numbed. We are disconnected from the real world as it is and dwell almost entirely in the fictional world in our heads – our story.

This state of spiritual unconsciousness has truly disastrous consequences for all of planet earth, every being and every species, globally. As a species we humans are the planetary apex predator. We consume everything and we really need to own that about ourselves. We must either grow through this numb unconsciousness and disconnection from our being in the natural world or we will die off, taking nearly all of the planetary biome with us.

Well, all of that still leaves us with the primary question – who are you? Perhaps we now have a bit more clarity about what we are not, but how do we answer the question of who we are?

This reminds me of the zen lesson embodied inside one of the most famous koans of all time:

The zen master sat in stillness with the student for the entire morning. Then, without preamble he said, “The two hands, when brought together quickly will produce the sound of two hands clapping.” and he demonstrated this by clapping his two hands together loudly. Then he held out only one hand and posed the question, “What is the sound of the one hand clapping?”

Now, this is where it gets really tricky, because you see – there is only one true, correct answer to that zen riddle and it’s not possible to figure it out. You can’t think your way to it. You can’t use logic, reason, science, math, art, music, past experience or serendipity – nothing in our culture prepares us for that question. It is intended to actively confound the mind. You can only get there through genuine insight. The masters know this, and every time you respond with an answer from the mind, they know it. They can tell exactly where you are in your mind by hearing what you have to say in response to any of those hundreds of koans. It’s like the punchline of a great joke told by a cosmic comedian. Understanding is not the same as getting it. You know you got it when you are sitting there trying not to wet yourself because you are laughing so hard. When you get it, you get it and you know you got it. The direct experience of being is the same way. Understanding may come later and actually isn’t all that useful, but the moment of awakening is unique to itself. You just can’t fake authenticity.

The sound of the one hand is like that. So is the answer to the question, “Who are you?”

Now, I can tell you who I am, and while this comes directly from my experience, my telling you isn’t going to do you any good unless you can be in the direct experience of being for yourself – without the filters of the mind. Part of the challenge in this is that my speaking of being reduces into language something that words cannot contain. As Mikhail Naimy so famously said in “The Book of Mirdad” – “Words are, at best, honest lies.” Or spoken another way, “The finger pointing at the moon is not the moon.” The most I can hope for in my coaching work with clients is to point at the moon. The rest is up to the client. We get out what we put in.

So – things that make you go hmmm – here’s one:

Who I am is the witness – an aware, compassionate, presence of attention – an empty space in which experience occurs.

The trouble is, that’s just bullshit. Self is an illusion. If I can say it, that’s not it. Who I am is not any thing. As someone famous may have said – not this, not that. To be more precise, who I am is no thing. Nothing.

See? I just delivered my punchline and it’s useless to you. And I warned you it wouldn’t do you any good. All you have is a bunch of words describing something that happened to someone else. Perhaps if you are lucky, it’s a finger pointing at the moon. But that’s my experience and you’ve gotta get yours for yourself. Figuring it out and understanding it will not work here.

It’s kinda funny though. Hysterical in fact. That’s exactly the point. There’s nowhere to go, nothing to to do, and nothing to get.

You got it.

And as they say, when you really get it, the truth will set you free. It will also royally piss you off. And then you’ll giggle like a five-year-old who just heard the preacher fart.

Go ahead. Wet yourself laughing. It’ll be awesome.

© 2016
Carmine Leo

What’s Up With Boundaries?

07/22/16

If we grew up in a family or a society (such as this current overculture – industrial civilization and most of its ancestors) that does not have and/or does not accept, acknowledge and respect healthy boundaries then we have no models for what they are, how they work, or how we manage boundaries for ourselves or with others. Although we can feel the consequences, typically boundaries are invisible to us and those around us. As a side note, if we grew up in an abusive family then we are certain to have all kinds of trouble with boundaries. It can take years of inner work to repair that childhood damage.

This issue – boundary failure – is the dividing line between taker-societies driven by domination and power-over versus giver-societies living from consent and respect. First thing to know: if we have trouble with boundaries it’s not our fault. AND: as adults we are responsible for figuring out what boundaries are, how they work and what we need to do to function well. No one else can do this work for us.

Healthy boundaries work in several directions: First, they keep you from taking onto yourself that which does not belong to you – other people’s crap, their judgments and criticisms, their values and beliefs, their agenda for you, the troubles and problems that are rightfully theirs and so on.

Second, healthy boundaries keep you from surrendering to others that which does rightfully belong to you – your power, your autonomy, your own choices, your agenda for yourself, your integrity, your ability to walk your own path and learn your own lessons and etc.

There is a third piece around boundaries – and that is that healthy boundaries allow IN those things others wish to give us that we DO deserve – love, affection, the gifts of generosity and kindness and etc. Healthy boundaries support and encourage these kinds of reciprocal bonding exchanges that allow us to receive and accept what others want to give to us because they love us and wish us well.

Remember also that anger has a significant evolutionary role that has contributed to our survival as individuals and as a species. Anger lets us know when our boundaries are being violated in some way and it helps to keep us safe. There absolutely are times when the full expression of anger really is totally necessary, appropriate and effective. The trick is knowing which is which and then coming from choice and intention in expressing the right emotion to the right person to the right degree at the right time. Women especially get disconnected from their rightful and righteous appropriate anger by the varied oppressions of the overculture.

These emotional intelligence skills are deeply rooted in our biology, as we only have ancestors who could quickly read motive and intention and differentiate between friend and enemy. Those who could not do this well simply did not survive.

There is another source of anger that can be quite difficult, and that is managing our expectations of how we think our life should be turning out. When we believe that someone or something is in the way of what we need or what we want we then argue with reality – we say, “It shouldn’t be like this!” or the reverse, “It should be different!” In either case, I am reminded of the old saying, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” And of course as the brilliant Byron Katie says, “When I argue with reality, I lose—but only 100% of the time.” We only suffer when we believe our thoughts and argue with what is.

If we have not fully integrated our anger then it manifests as aggression. Once we do that inner work on emotional integration, then the emotional energy of anger becomes assertion, and assertion one of the primary gateways through which we create, have and hold healthy boundaries.

Usually, people who have not done that inner work themselves cannot distinguish between assertion and aggression in others, so they tend to see what they themselves hold. So if you are being assertive, they can misinterpret your strength as aggression and will often try to gaslight you into doubting yourself, either your perceptions or your actions.

Boundaries can be very difficult until our emotional body awakens and our attention and consciousness is fully present in the now. Only then do we begin to see the connections – the inner links between cause and effect – and our behavior, our choices, our decision-making and problem-solving become both accurate and wise.

© 2016
Carmine Leo