How to Live a Good Life

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I wanted to intro into this show by talking about a little challenge that I’m doing – the ’30 day no make up challenge’. But I’ve never actually explained why I am doing it…so here we go! It’s getting easier and easier for everyone and myself included to care and place a high importance on things that are meaningless. For us to put on a happy face and only share the highlight reel of our lives and for us to not be real with ourselves or others.

It’s important that you first love and accept yourself first and foremost so that you are able to have real and meaningful connections with your world and the naturally beautiful people in it. So it’s just a little reminder that beauty and value isn’t merely a filter or something that you can paint on and wear around all day.

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With that being said…let’s talk about today’s topic:

What does it mean to live a ‘good life’?

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We’ve all felt the subtle undercurrents of the media messages and advertising suggesting that once we have a certain body fat composition, have a certain fitness level, achieve clear skin, climb the corporate ladder, and get all the right clothes we’ll FINALLY achieve lasting happiness.

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This just isn’t the case at all. Sure often these achievements of success can be the PRODUCT of a healthy mind with a positive and productive filter, but our happiness is almost completely dependent on our mind and not our circumstances.

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Studies have shown that people who are in a severe car wreck and lost the use of their limbs only have a temporary decrease in happiness for 1-3 months, after which they are right back to their ‘basal’ (or baseline) happiness level.

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On the other side of the coin, we’re all familiar with many of the public breakdowns and shocking suicides of famous athletes, celebrities and musicians who seem to have it all: perfect body composition, flawless skin and good looks, all the toys that money can buy and unmatched success and prestige in their fields.

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So if wealth, health, fame, fortune and prestige aren’t the source of lasting happiness, and not even severe loss has a lasting effect on our happiness… Then what is it that affects our feelings of deep and lasting happiness?

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The mind.

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The mind is a filter through which all of our experiences can be used for good or can be used to create sadness, jealousy, anxiety and depression. Everything we see, every person we interact with and all of our daily happenings are filtered through the mind. From this filter that we create and continue to create through our thought patters that we internalize into beliefs, we see and evaluate the world and create our ‘self.’ And the way we interpret this directly leads to the emotions that are produced – are you excited about competing at a partner CrossFit competition? Or are you nervous that you will embarrass yourself and your partner and feel ‘unfit’ to be at the event?

Where does your brain go from there? Observe it. What sort of internal dialogue do you let go on in the background of your mind?

Is it a positive filter like…’I’ve never done an event like this but I’m excited to give it my best shot and to learn some new movements in the process’

Or is it a negative filter that sounds more like this: ‘people like me just don’t do CrossFit. Gosh I’m so stupid. Why did I sign up for this? I’m going to embarrass myself and let my teammates down’

This is something that you CAN change in yourself. Many religions have their version of this: prayer, meditation, and certain new age practices. However, the universal term for this is ‘Mindfulness Training’ and it’s well studied and available to all religious backgrounds and beliefs as thus is claims none.

According to Mindfulness expert Sam Harris, ‘There is nothing spooky or irrational about mindfulness, and the literature on its psychological benefits is now substantial. Mindfulness is simply a state of clear, nonjudgmental, and nondiscursive attention to the contents of consciousness, whether pleasant or unpleasant. Developing this quality of mind has been shown to reduce pain, anxiety, and depression; improve cognitive function; and even produce changes in gray matter density in regions of the brain related to learning and memory, emotional regulation, and self-awareness.’

‘At its core it’s learning how to stay in the moment and thus able to observe your thoughts and emotional reactions as they emerge. The training then teaches you how to acknowledge the positive without holding onto it with the anxiety that it could someday leave, and learning how to let go of anger and anxiety as they arise in your consciousness and pertain to past events or possible future events.’

Now I’m about to recount the explanation of what mindfulness and meditation is and how to do it as written by Sam Harris since I am currently no expert in this field and have only started my personal practice.

“…Programs in “mindfulness-based stress reduction” (MBSR), pioneered by Jon Kabat-Zinn, have brought this practice into hospitals and other clinical settings. Even the Department of Defense has begun experimenting with meditation in this form.”

“The practice of mindfulness is extraordinarily simple to describe, but it is in no sense easy. True mastery probably requires special talent and a lifetime of practice. Thus, the simple instructions given below are analogous to instructions on how to walk a tightrope—which, I assume, go something like this:

  • Find a horizontal cable that can support your weight.
  • Stand on one end.
  • Step forward by placing one foot directly in front of the other.
  • Repeat.
  • Don’t fall.

Clearly, steps 3-5 entail a little practice. Happily, the benefits of training in meditation arrive long before mastery ever does. And falling, from the point of view of vipassana, occurs ceaselessly, every moment that one becomes lost in thought. The problem is not thoughts themselves but the state of thinking without knowing that one is thinking.”

As every meditator soon discovers, such distraction is the normal condition of our minds: Most of us fall from the wire every second, toppling headlong—whether gliding happily in reverie, or plunging into fear, anger, self-hatred and other negative states of mind. Meditation is a technique for breaking this spell, if only for a few moments. The goal is to awaken from our trance of discursive thinking—and from the habit of ceaselessly grasping at the pleasant and recoiling from the unpleasant—so that we can enjoy a mind that is undisturbed by worry, merely open like the sky, and effortlessly aware of the flow of experience in the present.

The book I’m reading right now is a researched based book called ‘Waking Up’ by Sam Harris which is why I chose his writings for this solocast. As I read through this and as myself and Madison practice several different methods of mindfulness training, I’ll be reporting back with our thoughts on them and suggesting the most helpful strategies and protocols in our own experience.

Also I’ve linked to Sam Harris’s two free guided meditations that he provides. His favorite chosen form of mindfulness and meditation practice is vipassana.

I’ve just listened to this before making this podcast and wanted to encourage y’all that it’s not about being ‘good at this’ and in fact if you’re ‘bad at this’ like me then it just means that this will have even greater impacts on your mind, concentration, and happiness. This guided meditation was still peppered with thoughts of ‘being bad at meditating’ and how ‘I can’t do this’ and then all the wandering thoughts about all the other ‘productive’ things I could be doing. But like any good CrossFit athlete…I will continue working on and focusing on my weakness which is undoubtably mindfulness!

The greatest amplification of any meaningful change that you need to make whether it’s diet, fitness, work ethic etc… the greatest hack to making this happen quicker is to learn how to be fully present, aware and focused while moving towards these goals. So whatever your next step is, it’ll be easier as you start training your brain to be here, focused and fully present and engaged.

So let me bring this full circle, ‘what does it mean to live a good life’ – it’s actually all in the quality of your life at this present moment. It’s about being your real and authentic self in every moment whatever the expression of that takes on in that very moment. Once you do that, then you can be yourself, love yourself and be able to connect to and love the other people around you fully. This practice works on the health of your mind, your focus, your concentration and slowly teaches you how to be present in your life.

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And I’ll be tackling my own mindfulness practice and slowly applying this into my everyday moments. This will not be the topic of future podcasts but it will be included within them. So as you work on going deeper within your own mind and knowing yourself fully, this will change the quality of your friendships and relationships with others.

Cheers to your health and happiness!  Feel free to comment with any of your own personal experience with any of these mindfulness based strategies’ along with any of the self chatter that went on during your meditations.

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/making-sense-with-sam-harris/id733163012?i=1000169482420

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/making-sense-with-sam-harris/id733163012?i=1000169482419

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