If you could recommend to me three habits that were of the greatest benefit in your life during the past year, what would your answer be?
This would be mine; I’ll share with you not three, but ten habits that have helped me most during the past year. I hope to hear at least one of yours, but I can settle for a like 🙂
1. Seeking Inspiration
Why I Seek Inspiration
Standing on the balcony towards the rear-garden of my apartment, thick with trees and lush with many greens lit to life by the gentle rain. Hearing the sharper or more thudded patterns of each drop as it resonates within various surfaces, as in expanding time. In the silence, emotions arise, harmonious yet distinct, simultaneous yet individuated, of my memories, of the grasses, of the drops’ journeys, of more. Into the distance, my heart flows freely, with the waters; and with the waters, the distance answers.
Taking a walk in the morning across a thick park, with its dense variety of richly scented plants, soils, and fellow creatures, the swimming swans, the scurrying squirrels, the lodging dogs. Caressing the squirrels as they play, feeding the dogs as they cuddle, walking with the swans as they swim. Outwards, the senses stretch; with the heart, they flow forth. Like a sphere of emotion, its contents fluid, expanding, heightened.
Watching the waters of a large lake from a nearby island pixeled with Roman-like ruins. Feeling the chilly winds bring a taste of humidity, and the eyes drink in the orange-purple shade of the sun slowly ebbing upon the waves. Memories arise, bringing close what is distant, pulling in scents, textures, tastes, sounds, and sights of things known. Blending in with the moment’s emotion, and more, to shape vividly the presence of things known, and the imagination of things unknown.
Strolling through the outskirts of the city at night, touching the wild grasses, and enjoying the vividness of the cricket’s motions in the silence. There is the solid intimacy of moving with the Earth, the ethereal longing for the vastness of the starry sky above, and a fiery curiosity for the sea that flows within, and more. Reasoning sparks, threading the delicate balance of weighing the order of the known with the chaos of the unknown, and more. Sparks of curiosity grow into flames of inquisitiveness, weaving the threads of perception with the central theme of love, and the many chords of emotion that accompany it, and more.
Sometimes, ink flows, stringing the experience together. Sometimes, in metaphors to be grasped by those who share it, and sometimes, in meandering descriptions to guide softly those who seek it. Yet sometimes, not all the ink in the world can so much as hint of the experience; nor should it. Those who seek will find it; and that is why I seek.
How I Seek Inspiration
Now, let me be clear on this. I am not a mystic, a monk, or a saint. I just had some truly beautiful experiences while in specific states and situations, and I try to be poetic in sharing the surface of them with you. I also omitted some of them, well, many of them, including my rapture at running naked in torrential rain while thunder blows around me. 🙂
I do not set for myself a number of days to measure my habit; it feels foreign and invasive to do so. I know the energy it creates, the freshness it brings, the productivity it enables, and I would feel self-betrayed if I did not do what I know to be of such benefit to me.
I seek inspiration always, in every moment, and at every little opportunity; it is as natural to me as breathing.
However, there are also times of dedicated focus to being receptive to inspiration, which stretch for hours of a state of preparedness whose unique ingredients I have learned and refined with time. In order to allow a balance with my other habits, those times happen about once per week, but I strive to make time to have them more frequently.
I do not seek to be a better writer; I seek to live a better life to write with.
If I pay attention to my life, I always have something to think of, and as the concrete thoughts grow, I find interest in and apprehend abstract thoughts, and upon applying the thoughts in my life, a circuit of feedback is created that enables more complex thoughts to form, and within the constant extrapolations of that circuit, there is never a shortage of topics to write on (although the correct approach can indeed be difficult to find).
Living through writing can mean more than earning from writing.
I strive to write every day, and while I have no specific word count to externally-validate my habit by, I judge that I have written enough once I feel that my writing has enriched my life that day.
Why I Write
Writing my thoughts at length helps me to think with greater clarity, and the increase in focus also often increases the quantity of thoughts that I can retain and the duration through which I can retain them.
Writing my memories of the day helps me to better self-reflect upon my choices, track my progress and evaluate my approach towards my goals, and process my experience into wit and wisdom.
Writing of a topic of interest helps sharpen my mind, adding to the challenge of learning of a difficult topic that of choosing adequate words to communicate the topic with, and adequate logic to structure the words with.
Writing of heightened positivity born of my heart’s imagination, it is as an experience of enhanced positivity in itself, and provides self-therapy as well as enables the creation of beautiful emotions and thoughts that would not otherwise be possible for me to experience.
Writing of that which is positive in my life and mind, striving to help create a similar positivity in the lives and minds of others, it allows me to express in a small manner my love towards the world, and to feel an increased degree of usefulness in life.
How I Write
When I wake up to take my breakfast, besides my tea on the dining table, I open up my morning pages journal and take notes of my thoughts as they arise unassailed by the day’s challenges.
When I take a stroll through the park, occasionally resting on one of the rocks or on a bench, I take my pocket notebook with me and jot down any observations and thoughts that cross my mind.
When I sit down at the computer, in front of my dual-monitor setup, I log in to my blog and strive to share little bits of my life and thoughts with the world.
When my wife and I gather around our small creative table, plunging into our sitting pillows, we sketch out ideas for travel, business, art, our fields of interest and general life-strategy.
When I come up to my baroque writer’s desk, taking seat in my gothic king’s chair, I focus until I enter into a state of flow, enabling me to inhabit a world of my own creation, and I write my novels, stories, poems and essays.
Reading for an hour or two before bedtime, and reading quality books that took real effort to write, is one of my most beneficial habits.
How to read matters. Most people don’t know how to read. Many seem to think that scanning the words is all there is to do; but there is so much more as to render that a very poor approach.
Why I Read
It helps my mind learn from other writers in order to better be able to write.
It helps my mind calm down from the use of electronics in order to be able to sleep better.
It awakens my imagination and engages my thought in a relaxed, wandering pattern that is conducive to inventive ideas.
It is a beautiful experience that stirs a sense of adventure, of longing to do more, and helps me keep a fresh and enthusiastic attitude.
It is a source of information and new material for the mind to work with that it may not have come up with on its own.
It is a means of sharing in the lives of others, their joys and pains, and enables the self-creation of a fictive internal dialogue with the book’s author and its characters, allowing me to experience more kinship and admiration, empathy and compassion.
How I Read
There is the participation, of the mind, of the heart, and even of the body.
There is the attempt to reconstruct the thoughts and emotions of the characters, and simulate their state and history.
There is the attempt to feel, as vividly as memory and imagination allows, the scenario and descriptions, the flow of events and perceptions.
There is the attempt to make the story my own, unfolding as it is written, yet also being written anew as it unfolds.
And as a writer, there is also the attempt to understand the efforts, thoughts, and emotions that the other writer experienced while writing the book, to establish communication via an empathy of the mind.
There is the attempt to understand the many layers of meaning that lie behind each worded event, to retain them in memory simultaneously, and to compare them with one another as though filling and unfolding in a timeless sphere in order to understand the whole.
There is the attempt to extrapolate the many possible meanings of each word, sentence, paragraph, chapter – the patterns and the flow of the story and thought – and to assemble the extrapolations in order to construct new meanings in harmony with the whole, to become aware of and ponder divergent aspects and topics; to use the lecture as merely a starting point and inspiration for my own thoughts, adventures and writings.
4. Exercising Vigorously
Why I Exercise
I always have more energy, especially for intellectual pursuits, on the days that I exercise vigorously. Somewhat paradoxically, I feel least tired after a good workout.
It helps me fall asleep faster and sleep better at night, which further improves my energy throughout the day.
It gives me a sense of well-being and fun, of my body feeling loved and playful, which translates into my being more radiant of caring towards others as well.
It helps my mind form more creative associations, and think clearer and crisper, especially if it is a natural movement form of exercise, such as dancing or swimming.
It is said to strengthen the body against illness and aging, which would help extend my life and improve my chances of survival.
It helps me develop fitness and strength, which improves my ability to act and help others in many situations.
It is a chance to connect with people of similar interests in sport, which opens the way to forming new friendships.
How I Exercise
During the past few years, I have had brief periods of intense exercise. During those periods, I would train for six days a week, with a workout that looked like this:
- My “warm-up” consisted of an hour-long Insanity session.
- It would be followed by half an hour to an hour of full-body weight-training at the local gym.
- Then came about a quarter hour of cycling to the local pool.
- Afterward, I would be swimming for half an hour to an hour.
- Finally, I rode the bike back home for about a quarter hour.
Despite the intensity of my workouts, the long stretches of inactivity rendered them fruitless for long-term results. I learned that it’s not how hard you train; it’s the consistency with which you can sustain that training.
In order to sustain the training in the long-term, I’m looking for a form of exercise that is more fun and engaging – dance is a good option, MovNat another.
For now, I’m attempting to do a few sessions of push-ups, squats, and crunches every day, in increasing numbers each following day. I’m also considering taking a yoga class, and perhaps starting a Pilates training regimen. I’m planning to add to them weekly dance lessons and to resume my daily swimming once spring comes around. I love swimming 🙂
5. Eating Plant-Based Foods
Why I Eat Plant-Based Foods
Check out my article “I Eat Plants“.
Around three years ago I read the second edition of The World’s Healthiest Foods by George Mateljan, which was invaluable for its nutritional information and references.
Around a year ago I read The Starch Solution by Dr. John McDougall, discovering the improved health and ethics that a starch-focused vegan diet allows.
Within the past month, I read The Alkaline Reset Cleanse by Ross Bridgeford, which further refined my diet to focus on Alkaline-forming vegan foods.
My current eating plan is tasty, healthy, and ethical, and cooking it is a constant source of joy, inspiration, and fulfillment to me.
How I Eat Plant-Based Foods
Contrary to intuitive expectations, the vegan cooking style is not poor of choices; the normal one is. Having a restraint placed upon one’s default cultural choice of ingredients merely enables one to discover the countless other ingredients that one never considered before. Instead of a few varieties of the meat and products of a few animals, I now had dozens of vegetables, fruit, spices, nuts, and seeds to experiment with, each with its own unique texture and flavor. Like painting is composing brush-strokes and colors to a design of the mind’s eye, so is cooking the composing of foods and spices to a design of the mind’s taste and scent. I have learned to love cooking, to appreciate the creativity and excitement of cooking, by cooking plants. 🙂
For instance, no longer having the usual recipes for sweets made of artificial sweeteners and tons of sugar, I found countless ways to ingeniously use nuts, fruits, oils and natural sweeteners to create many healthy, raw desserts that taste better, and are more full of life in their richly textured flavor, than any flat and punchy artificial dessert that I had tasted before. I have tasted vegan tiramisu, chocolate cake, fruit and vanilla ice cream, blueberry muffins, sweet potato brownie, lava cake, mint cake, Swedish strawberry cake, and many other delights. I’ll post them all one day 🙂
Also, I drink.
As in, water. Lots of it. With some lemon in it. Maybe some red wine from time to time. Not so much of that, though. And not in the water. Well, you get the gist. 🙂
At first, the body was unable to process much of the water – consisting of a gallon of water a day, plus teas with every meal -, but the benefits were obvious during the second week.
Having a good filter of about eight liters, and knowing I had to empty it every day, including for cooking and my wife’s drinking, helped me keep track of my habit, since my body’s natural requests were not a good guideline this time.
I really felt energized after drinking all that water, though; it was like additional fuel for the body once it learned to make use of it.
To be clean of body is more important than is usually credited. So important, in fact, that I have chosen to include this habit here in favor of meditation.
To strive for cleanliness of mind, and cleanliness of heart, and yet to not also strive for cleanliness of body, can the cleanliness be full? It is understood that there may be circumstances where the latter is not within one’s control, but if it is, then would not a clean mind and heart also produce a clean body?
Why I Bathe
It helps me to feel clean, which is a comfy, puffy, and lovely feeling. It adds itself as a component to enhance the overall feeling of dignity.
I can hardly stand the scent of sweat and filth. I have to endure it enough in society; there is no reason I have to endure it in privacy as well.
Just as I should not have to endure the scent of others’ uncleanliness, so do I care to not force others to endure my own.
Bathing is a time of creativity, a time of play, a time of peace. I love to watch the bubbles form, to feel the water slosh, to just let go of the day’s stresses and be as a new-born once again.
If there is some nice music involved and some nice scents added, then that is a great reward for the day’s toil. It helps me end the day well with good sleep, and start the day well with good energy. Especially helpful is bathing both in the morning and in the evening.
How I Bathe
Nothing complicated, there.
If I have a bathtub, I let it fill with just enough water to cover my body, warm and fuzzy, then I slide in and enjoy. Sometimes I set a device to play some lovely music, and another to warm up some essential oils.
If I have a shower, I just let the warm water trickle over my skin for a little while.
I try not to waste water, but I do use as much as I need to be comfortable, and I am grateful for it.
After my body is soaked and the pores are open, I scrub vigorously all over with the soap. I especially like monastery and other hand-made soaps for their delicate texture and aroma, and I’m thinking of making my own brand of soap one day.
Then, I pour the right amount of shampoo into my hair. I currently use a special brand of argan oil shampoo, but I have used used shampoo made for horses quite successfully in the past.
Finally, I wash it all off, careful to not leave patches of soap or shampoo.
Then, I dry my skin with a fresh warm towel, taken from atop a heater, and my hair with a warm-air machine.
There is no need to also wash my teeth, for I wash them after every meal, yet cleaning my mouth with some water is a welcome addition.
When necessary, I pay attention to the extremities – cutting off my nails, trimming my beard etc. -.
This may all sound very boring; but the extra bit of love for myself and those around me makes it worth the while, and also, you may be surprised how many of my best stories and ideas came to me during a bath or a shower.
In these days of pseudo-scientific pseudo-skepticism, prayer is too often under-rated. For me, prayer allows a deeper control of my processing of emotions, has many benefits for my mind, body, and soul, and opens up the exploration of a dimension of life that has its own value beyond the incidental benefits to mental and physical health and vigor.
Why I Pray
To pray with sincere gratitude for a meal, I feel my body and mind filled with joy, relaxed, and ready to accept the meal. Sometimes, the joy is so intense that it seems to be a nourishment in and of itself, like an electric fluid flowing through my body from head to toes.
To pray with sincere regret for my transgressions against others, the confession helps me become aware of, understand, and learn to avoid my mistakes, and the belief of being forgiven helps me to be relieved of the burden of carrying them with me. That is, it enables my conscience to withstand the damage they cause, and to retain its ability to recognize and correct my future mistakes, thus keeping my mind healthy, and helping me become a better person.
To pray with thoughts of love for others, the positive emotions flow like a chorus of self-igniting harmony, enabling greater clarity of thought, greater detail of perception, and greater quality of memory, thereby enhancing my intelligence, and enabling me to better perceive and understand others.
To pray with focus on my goals, the intent takes on energy, repeatedly imprinting itself upon my mind, and slowly but surely changing my life to align with my goals. There is a feeling of calm, of trust in their accomplishment, of stress-free contemplation of the means of that accomplishment. By going to sleep with the positive thoughts, my mind adapts itself to sustain the ideals, the body changes itself after the image of the ideals, I wake up with the thoughts and my life gradually becomes the thoughts’ ideal.
To pray while within various emotional states, the emotions are blended with a hallowed aroma, their chords resonate deeper to the source, and greater harmony, intensity, and complexity of emotion can be achieved, which in turn enables unique experiences and feats that I feel are best left unspoken. Much is gained by experience that cannot be gained nor known of through any other means, and prayer enables experiences that are unique, rarely spoken of and very much worthwhile.
How I Pray
Observing is among the most useful, yet most rare of habits; especially self-observing.
Why I Observe
To give attention to something, to strive to recognize and relate each detail of the thing, while caring for the thing, and caring to be accurate in my perception of the thing, it creates a connexion with the thing, one that reveals much more to me than a mere visual glance would. To love the world, is it not natural that I would care to know of the world, and what better way to know first-hand than to observe?
Greater intake of sensory input allows for gathering more information to be used by the mind to arrive at more accurate conclusions than if the data was poor. Since I care about truth, I care about the accuracy of my knowledge, and I care about the accuracy of my thinking, I also care to observe accurately.
To me, not paying enough attention to make as accurate a perception of a thing as I can, is a disrespect for the wonder of the thing. Since I respect all life, I also strive to perceive all life with accuracy, and therefore to improve my skill in observation.
How I Observe
I perceive using all senses: touch, hearing, sight, smell, and taste.
I compare what I observe now with what I have observed before.
I enter an observation without an expectation.
I observe with the aim to know of the thing.
I meditate while I observe.
I love what I observe.
I think of what I observe and of what I have observed.
I experiment to render my thought more accurate.
I conclude what is true of what I thought.
I apply what is useful of what I learned.
I review my thoughts.
I observe anew.
While some form of thinking always occurs, consciously or subconsciously, in all healthy humans, the habit of thinking in a conscious, focused, and purposeful manner is rare. To strive for accurate analyses, or indeed to give effort to self-initiate any conscious analyses at all, is very rare. Yet it is very rewarding, especially if the conclusions of those analyses are then applied to one’s own life.
Why I Think
Thinking brings me pleasure.
Thinking brings me freedom.
Thinking brings me riches.
Thinking enables me to help.
Thinking enables me to grow.
Thinking enables me to understand.
Thinking guides my life to truth.
Thinking springs forth beauty.
Thinking teaches me good.
How I Think
I left the most important habit for the very end. Perhaps because it is so difficult to restrict so large a topic to so few words.