April’s trial: Releasing resistance

Well, it’s April. Which is awesome because I’m not a huge fan of Ohio winters, but which also means I’m due for a new 30-day trial.

But first, let’s examine the trials so far, shall we?

A quick wrap-up

Doing these trials has been really interesting, but not for the reason I would have expected.

I haven’t kept up any of my trials so far, but doing them has brought a profound level of awareness to the way I’ve been living. After putting a spotlight on certain ways of doing things (sleep, diet, etc.), I no longer take them for granted. I understand the moving parts of my life better, which allows me to tinker with things. Fine-tune. Make thing work better… slowly and with a new level of precision.

Here are the trials I’ve done so far:

JANUARY
For my first challenge, I tried biphasic sleep – sleeping in two shifts throughout the day, comprised of one core sleep (for me, 4.5 hours) and one nap (1.5 hours). I really liked this when I did it because I got to get up at like 3 or 4am and was amazingly productive, and I said at the end of the trial that I planned to keep doing it.

However, I’ve discovered that the nap pissed me off. I wanted to try biphasic because it annoyed me to have to go to sleep and stop what I was doing, but what I found with biphasic was that I now had TWO times that I had to go to sleep in the middle of doing something. Some days, I wanted to take a nap. Other days, I was like, “Shit, I have things I want to do… even if ‘things to do’ means watching TV or reading or something. But instead I have to sleep. Dammit.”

What I really want is biphasic without the second phase – just 3-5 hours of sleep per night. Who do I talk to about that?

However, doing the trial gave me an awareness of what was possible with sleep, and a realization that there is no one “right” way to sleep. Sometimes I wake up at 4am. Sometimes I wake up at 6. If I don’t sleep enough at night, I now know I can take a nap and recover. So that’s cool.

(I’ll just add that my client Ben Rubin, one of the creators of the Zeo sleep machine, gave me a Zeo toward the end of my sleep trial. Using the Zeo has also raised some interesting sleep realizations, but I’d like to see what it thinks of biphasic sleep. So I’d like to do a redux soon — a 2-week trial to see how it maps a 2-phase sleep schedule.)

FEBRUARY AND MARCH
I gave trial #2 — Tim Ferriss’s “Slow Carb diet” from The 4-Hour Body — two months because I felt it needed more time than just one. (And I had room to do this because I’d only planned for six trials throughout the year.)

I really liked this way of eating. It stabilized my blood sugar like nobody’s business (I’m a type-1 diabetic) and gave me steadier energy levels. As an unintended side effect, I stopped drinking coffee during the week because it didn’t feel necessary. I also find I can follow just about any restrictive diet if I know I can cheat once a week, so the cheat day has been awesome.

However — and this is a big however given the purpose of the diet — it didn’t do anything for my weight loss. I started at 200 pounds and am now 197 after nine weeks. I don’t have a ton more to lose (based on past experience, I know I’ll be pretty lean at 185), but this is still disappointing.

But I still like eating this way, so I’m going to more or less keep doing it with some modifications. It rubs me the wrong way to not eat fruit, so I’m going to add back in moderate amounts of fruit. I’d already decided that I need more carbs around endurance workouts, so I’ll keep doing that. I’m also planning to add back Greek yogurt.

But for real… 3 pounds lost? I didn’t cheat; I didn’t eat only bacon; I exercise a lot. So what’s the problem?

I actually think that with all of the endurance training I do, I might not have been eating enough. But I also think the main sticking point is me, which is one of the reasons for April’s trial.

April’s trial: Going with the flow, meditating, and releasing resistance

Every day this month, I’m going to spend 30 minutes meditating and releasing my resistance to things standing in the way of what I’m trying to do, achieve, or get.

Which is kind of overdue.

I’m beginning to notice how much time and energy I spend in fighting against things, or fighting for things. I believe that fighting for what you want is a good thing, and I also believe people are often real pussies about really going after things — but I also think that the more you push, the more the world pushes back.

I’m determined to get my six-pack back, so what do I do? I take control of how I eat. I exercise. I exercise more. I set big goals (marathon) and when something gets in my way (stress fracture), I find an alternate big goal (cycle century). And this, I think, is awesome. But what I do goes beyond goals. I sweat every detail. I obsess. I think about each meal and weigh and measure. I plot every workout. I always push for five more minutes. Ten more minutes. I always wonder if I did enough.

I start to count calories, even though the Slow Carb diet says not to. I start to do online research. I look up calorie requirments online. I read other books. I combine approaches like a mad scientist.

And it’s not just the diet. When I have an income goal, I do the same thing. It’s part dedication, and part compulsion. It’s almost angry. I’m not just going to get what I want… I’m going to hunt down this PROBLEM that is selfishly standing in my way and I’m going to TELL IT WHO’S BOSS by BEATING IT TO DEATH. I take obstacles personally.

The hardest thing in the world for me is to have an unmet goal and to relax and see what happens, because I’ve put things into motion and honestly should just wait to see how they turn out. I’m not good at that. It’s not enough to have pushed. I need to push some more, and to keep pushing until I get what I want.

I’m good at taking time off when it’s planned, but not so good when time off manifests as a “a slow period.”

I can train for six days a week and enjoy that one scheduled day off, but I get angry and just push harder when something crops up to stop me at an inopportune time (an injury, a snowstorm, a spontaneous appointment).

And because there’s a spiritual side to me (have you read this? You should), I believe that struggling against the way things are isn’t always the best way to get things to happen. Ever notice how things tend to drop into your lap the minute you decide you no longer care what happens? That’s what I’m talking about.

The basic idea is that anything you resist is something you’re saying is broken. And while there are plenty of things we’d like to be a way other than how they are, nothing can begin any way other than how it is. And that means that before you can change it, you have to first accept it for what it is.

If you want to make a change, you have to believe you can do it. And it’s hard to believe you can do it if you are so terribly, terribly broken.

How to stop being so damn resistant

I’d like to go with the flow a bit more as a general philosophy, but I’d also like to have something concrete that I’m doing for the duration of the trial. You know, something I can check off my list and say that I did each day.

So I’m going to meditate for a half hour.

I don’t know what the hell I’m doing when I meditate, so I’ve given up on the idea of sitting in the lotus position and chanting “OMMMM” while burning incense. So for the purposes of this trial, I’m not talking about meditating in any kind of a haughty and/or enlightened way. I’m talking about sitting in a chair and clearing my mind for a while, and then working on letting go of the “push” feelings I have on my hot-button topics.

A while ago, I read a book called The Sedona Method. I’ve used what it teaches before, to great emotional effect. So, that stuff is some of what I’ll be working on this month, too.

The idea: If you want X, that “want” starts with a knowledge and visceral feeling that you don’t have X right now. But the problem is that spending all of your energy thinking about your lack of something is not a great way to get it.

When we want something, most of us spend most of our time focused on “not having” and pleading a case (to ourselves, others, the universe, whatever) as to how badly we need it. We want money because it’ll get us out of X shitty situation. We want to be slim because being fat is disgusting. Every thought intended to motivate us toward achieving starts with resistance about how bad things are right now.

Look: I’m a big believer in negative motivation. I believe that if you don’t like where you are, you’re going to be motivated to do what it takes to get what you want. But I also think there comes a point where resisting does more harm than good. You spend every minute obsessing. You don’t give your actions time to mature, because you’re too busy micromanaging them. You don’t actually trust what you’re doing, and it’s obvious because you do it, but then you second guess it. You measure it twice. You try to course correct before it’s even really out of the gate.

Nothing is done with belief or faith. Every action is, “We’ll try it and see… motherfucker.”

I think this is what I did with Ferriss’s diet. I couldn’t manage my marathon training without adding carbs, so I added them… and then sweated adding them. My blood sugar went up and stayed up due to a complex biochemical event I won’t explain here, so I’d take insulin and sweat the insulin (a fat storage hormone). Or my blood sugar went low and I’d have to eat glucose tablets to raise it, and I’d sweat those pure-carb glucose tablets.

Some days I’d eat maybe 2500 calories and burn 3000 calories on a run. That’s dumb. I know that’s dumb. But it was the path of most resistance, and I like to fight. I like to take the path where I’m pushing hardest.

Well, let’s see what happens if I chill out. Stop pushing and see how things work out. Have a setback and don’t panic. Have a slow day and stop to enjoy it. Miss a workout and live with it. Allow myself to eat fruit if I want fruit and because it’s generally considered healthy rather than eschewing it because a book told me to.

This isn’t very scientific, but it feels like a smart idea.

Who knows what’ll happen? Let’s find out.


Comments

  1. Lisa Young says:

    I think i disagree. The fact that you’re saying “we’ll try it and see” indicates SOME level of faith. Maybe not in what you’re doing, but in yourself to be able to recover from how it might impact you at the very least.

    Just sayin’.

    • Johnny says:

      Oh, I have the faith. I’m a study in opposites. It’s more like I sometimes push and sometimes go with the flow, and sometimes think pushing is smarter and will get better results than backing off. So it’s all back and forth, up and down. But I do know that in these few cases, I resist too much. Always room for improvement.

  2. I am on the same journey. Sometimes I’m really, really good at the laissez-faire-release-resistance thing (and cool, amazing things do manifest). But then I forget, and I get wound up again. The forgetting part enters when I stop practicing those techniques that got me to there in the first place: meditating, having fun, and feeling good.

    I applaud you for setting a 30 day goal. I encourage you to practice, practice, practice.

    I think I’ll go meditate now. I’ve got some releasing to do too.

    Jennifer

  3. Releasing is great. I practice a form of meditation called Centering Prayer, which is all about releasing. It creates a good habit of mind where you can let go of things that you don’t need, like anger, much more easily.

    Tends to let some of the anger and other rubbish come up at first, though, because you’re releasing your defences against what you’re really thinking and feeling.

    It’s also meshing well with the improv course I’m doing, because part of improv is letting go of what you’d planned and going with what just happened.

    I look forward to hearing about your experiment.

  4. Marc says:

    You’re starting to sound like Steve Pavlina. Stop. What happened to the swearing, I don’t-give-a-shit Johnny? C’mon … use foul language and piss me off. Or make me laugh.

    • Johnny says:

      Can’t figure you out, Marc. I can’t tell if you can’t stand me or not, but you keep reading. I’m not complaining. Complexity is fun.

      Don’t worry, I’m not becoming Steve Pavlina despite the fact that my resolution to do six trials results in a few Pavlinaish posts. I’ve just done a lot of pushing forward and doing so is moving me backward, so I’m trying to reset.

      I just got an email the other day saying I swear too much, and I confused a lot of the Copyblogger audience on April Fool’s Day with what I thought was a post so over-the-top that I figured nobody would possibly believe it was real: http://www.copyblogger.com/johnny-truant-underpants/

      They won’t let me swear at Copyblogger, but I still think that post was fucking hilarious.

      • Marc says:

        I love you, man … that’s why I like to give you so much shit! I think you’re hitting so close to home, I love to hate you … if you know what I mean.

        And yes, the Copyblogger post was very good. Vintage Johnny B. Truant.

  5. I predict great things from this trial and look forward to hearing about your results. Who can’t benefit from releasing resistance? Good choice of pursuits.

  6. Sonia Simone says:

    I do this a lot as well — I overpush. I not-so-secretly think if I actually try to relax about something, my entire life will sink into a great mooshy mass of laziness and inaction.

  7. Jess C. says:

    I’ve heard it said that all thinking is meditating, so long as you don’t think about it.

    Excellent trial choice, JT. I have a feeling you’re gonna hang on to this one… 🙂

  8. Fighting and struggling has never worked for me, and it’s damned uncomfortable. So I applaud your decision to try another way.

    Have you ever checked out The Work of Byron Katie? She has a fantastic process for accepting reality and dropping your resistance.

  9. Juliette says:

    Johnny! Directed to your blog via Copyblogger today. I dig it. You’d be fun to hang out with. I swear.

  10. Erica says:

    It isn’t easy to let go of resistance, but I can definitely say that life is a lot better when you’re not beating yourself up to get somewhere all the time. (Now I just do it half of the time…) Just like there’s nothing wrong with making a profit to meet your needs, there’s nothing lazy about giving your body/mind the time and space it needs to function well. I’m working on this, too, on many fronts at the moment. Good luck, I’m right there with you!

  11. I think I know what your problem is.

    Regarding Trial #2 and lack of weight loss on the Slow Carb Diet, I think you’re doing too much cardiovascular (endurance exercise). This will be counter-productive to weight loss. 6 days a week of endurance work also sounds like you’re flirting with the boundaries of chronic fatigue syndrome.

    It could be a good idea to ease way back on the cardio, give your body a good rest and add in some resistance workouts (after a good rest) and anaerobic sessions (more productive than endurance training for aerobic conditioning anyway).

    Obviously, I don’t know you and could be way off target, but I’d be interested to know if this made a difference. Maybe, for Trial #3, you could release all other kinds of resistance but embrace this kind, which, in itself will be a form or releasing resistance…

    All the best,
    Olly

    • Johnny says:

      I’m overtrained. I realized that a few days ago and am taking a week off… and that’s hard, and I don’t like it, but I’m doing it.

      The thing is, as you say, it seems like Slow Carb doesn’t work very well with anything other than minimal exercise… and that’s fine for most people, because most people would like to get that common goal (weight loss) with less effort.

      But the question I have is, What about those of us who like to exercise? I wasn’t doing all that running and training because I wanted to look a certain way; I was doing it because I enjoy running and because I want to achieve certain physical goals, like running a marathon.

      I decided that I’ll need to adjust my diet to hit that goal, and that’s fine. But you’re right; after a bunch of afterthought, I’m sure that was a big part of the issue.

  12. Slade says:

    I love you. Thank you for confirming to my poor uncouth jittery jibbering indecisive unfaithful terrified bawling parts that they’re not alone, that they’re not the only such parts that are dealing with other parts that want them to chill out and take a rest. They feel better now. They feel warm and cozy and they love you. Thank you.

  13. Melissa says:

    Just stumbled upon your blog when I googled Type 1 and the Slo Carb diet, I am back and forth on whether it is usful or only a new way to torture myself, I like plans and I also tend to…”push till its turned from hurting to burn ….” any case thank you for the blog I enjoy reading it.

    • Johnny says:

      Thanks! I certainly got very steady blood sugars on it, but it felt wrong to not eat fruit, you know? Learned a lot from the experiment, though… moving into Paleo as a likely successor.