November 20, 2022
Photo Credit: Runga / Tammy Horton Photography
Welcome back to my Precepts series—inspired by meaningful thoughts, insights, and discoveries I have during each week, and intentionally designed to help make your life just a little bit better. Enjoy!
You can find the Precepts series in its entirety here.
Precept 79: Savor
After a podcast discussion with Aubrey Marcus, in which we talked about approaching life with an affluence of time and a consideration of the possibility that you are going to live forever and can thus more easily lay aside FOMO, rush, and stress, I've been thinking just a bit more about the concept of slowing down and taking the time to savor every moment with patience and presence, while pairing those moments with a deep trust in God that He will care for you even if you're not constantly lost in your daily hypnotic trance of doing or producing or fixing or solving or creating.
And as a result of my recent dwelling upon this concept, I've come up with a fun exercise for you to try that has turned out to be quite meaningful for me (trust me, you'll probably love it…because you get to eat).
Are you ready?
OK, brace yourself for a simple and relaxed dose of hedonism. Here's what you're going to do this week (notice how I'm subliminally programming you, or perhaps manifesting for you to actually do this).
First, go out for ice cream. Or sorbet. Or coconut ice cream. Or a popsicle. Whatever. Hunt down the cold, sweet, creamy stuff, preferably perched atop a lovely waffle cone, a sugar cone, or a gluten-free, unicorn-tear-infused cone.
Next, sit down with your ice cream, preferably in the sunshine, on a patch of fresh green grass. Or the edge of a concrete curb on your neighborhood sidewalk. Or lounging Epicurean-style on your bed or couch.
Finally, eat your ice cream and do nothing but eat it. No Instagramming, no phone scrolling, no television, no self-chatter, no thinking about what you need to do next, no worrying, no cares. Hakuna matata mode baby. Taste it, savor it, love it, be fully present with it, smear it all over your taste buds (and maybe a bit on your lips and chin too), explore it, immerse yourself in it, be enchanted by the color and flavor and texture and complexity of it and just be fully present with ice cream, just for the—you know—eight to ten precious minutes you have with it before it melts into oblivion.
In other words, eat that darn ice cream cone like you are going to live forever and have nothing else to do but be fully present with ice cream.
That's all I ask you to do for now. Slow down and savor an ice cream.
See, God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. So when I'm working in the early evening before dinner in my daylight basement office, and I glance outside to see my sons laughing and swinging in the hammocks as the sun gleams from their bright blonde hair, and I see my wife sitting near the herb garden with her glass of sparkling rose as she soaks up the birdsong and watches the Ponderosa pines swaying, my heart swells with pride and happiness, and I think…
…this is why I work so hard.
This is what brings deep and lasting joy to my heart.
This has got to be one of the most fulfilling views any human being could witness: the joy of other human beings experiencing something you have created.
This must be a tiny taste of what it must feel like to be glorified by watching others being satisfied.
This is why God formed us tiny humans and surrounded us with a lush, green, magically wonderful planet— complete with ice cream cones—floating in a massive, dark solar system. He did this so He could—in a way somewhat similar to me watching my own family play and find joy in savoring the space that I have created for them—be fully glorified by watching us be fully satisfied.
This is why you and I can give ourselves permission to simply stop doing everything and slow down to savor an ice cream cone just like a happy, carefree third-grader. God is watching and smiling as His human creation revels in the refreshing coconut cream, the sweet monk fruit, and the crunchy chunks of salted dark chocolate. You're actually doing what you're supposed to be doing with that ice cream cone, especially and even more so if you pay it forward and buy somebody else an ice cream cone.
This is why I declare myself a healthy Christian hedonist, and not a stoic, Gnostically-flavored, constantly self-denying masochist, and why I instead embrace the flood of dopamine surges God allows me to pour into my cells on the daily.
How glorious it is that you and I have been given the free opportunity and the generous gift to be able to live forever, experience this Creation forever, and glorify God forever. So how about you? Will you accept my challenge to savor an ice cream cone? Finally, read this, this, and this if you like these ideas.
Precept 80: Adversity
If you're an exercise enthusiast, a sporting fanatic, or anyone else who relies upon or enjoys using all of their body pain-free on a daily basis, you may find that the “loss” of a crucial joint can threaten your happiness. Struggling through an injury or illness can certainly remind you of your mortality and make you question what it is that you rely upon to feel like a complete human. It can cause you to reminisce about the good ol' days of youthfulness when you could hammer a couple of six-packs of beer and run a marathon the next morning. It can leave a nagging, throbbing ache in your body but also in your mind—an ache that creaks along with each hour grumbling at you in an annoying voice that a part of you is officially broken.
You are mortal.
You are hurtable, woundable, killable.
Your ultimate source of happiness—if that is what your body or your fitness or your health is—is suddenly dangling from a razor-thin string of spiderwebs and you're left scrambling and thinking ahead with ruminations about what you'll do with your life if you can't do a deep squat for the rest of your existence, or hammer away on your bicycle on the weekend, or jump into a game of tennis with your friends. Poetry? Stand-up comedy? Writing fiction? Learning a new musical instrument? Volunteering more in your local community?
These types of thoughts are quite natural.
As a matter of fact, while navigating through the mental barrage of inner questioning I often experienced when injured, I stumbled across a quote from the classic book Man’s Search for Meaning, written by Victor Frankl and chronicling his experience as a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. You've likely heard the saying that “a man is free to choose his attitude no matter the circumstances,” and that quote is derived directly from Frankl's writing. But here's what else Frankl notes in his book, and this is important for anyone experiencing adversity: those who see a greater meaning in their lives are able to “transform a personal tragedy into a triumph, to turn one’s predicament into a human achievement.”
This idea is also described and commented upon quite nicely in another book I've been enjoying lately entitled Transcend: The New Science of Self-Actualization. In Transcend, author Scott Barry Kaufman points out that it is precisely when the foundational structure of the self is shaken that we are in the best position to pursue new opportunities in our lives.
Kaufman goes on to describe how the following seven areas of growth have been reported to spring from adversity:
1) Greater appreciation of life;
2) Greater appreciation and strengthening of close relationships;
3) Increased compassion and altruism;
4) The identification of new possibilities or a purpose in life;
5) Greater awareness and utilization of personal strengths;
6) Enhanced spiritual development;
7) Creative growth;
He also makes the astute observation that becoming fully human is about living a full existence, which is not necessarily an existence that is continually happy. In other words, being well is not always about feeling good or never experiencing trials or tribulations, but instead about continually incorporating more meaning, engagement, and growth in your life as you navigate the messiness of being a broken human. It is only through shedding our natural defense mechanisms and approaching any injury, adversity, or discomfort head-on, and viewing everything as fodder for growth, that you can start to embrace the inevitable paradoxes of life and come to a more nuanced view of reality.
Furthermore, the book of 2 Corinthians in the Bible contains two meaningful observations on suffering and adversity. First, 2 Corinthians 4:16–18 provides the assurance that all suffering is temporary and is simply preparing for us an eternal weight of glory, “We do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” So take heart. Though your body may eventually grow weaker as you age, as you beat it up, as you wear it down, and as you slowly degrade all the cartilage, your spirit can grow stronger and stronger to the very end, and eventually you will experience the eternal forever glory I talk about here.
In 2 Corinthians 12:8–10, Paul also says regarding his own adversity—the so-called “thorn in his side” that appears to be some kind of illness or injury (though what the thorn is isn't specifically named)—”Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Paul viewed his own bodily failures as not only a lesson in contentedness, but also a sign that God's grace and His mighty power are infinitely greater than any of the power contained within our own weak bodies, and the ultimate source of our strength. In other words, experiencing the imperfect nature of the flesh can make you realize that you're but a mortal, fragile human and as a result, serve as a constant reminder to stay humble, to empathize with others, and to not consider yourself more highly than you ought as some kind of a bulletproof, unbreakable, mighty man or woman. Sure, you may have big muscles, decent fitness chops, or clean and healthy bloodwork, but that doesn't make you any better than anybody else, and may often hold you back from growing spiritually because it's so easy for you to rely upon your body instead. Problem is, that body—that shaky source of your happiness and power—will eventually break.
Finally, in addition to providing an opportunity to grow in character and appreciation of life, an opportunity to realize the superiority of the spirit over the body, an opportunity to be content and happy no matter our circumstances, an opportunity to rely upon God as the source of power, and an opportunity to be humble, injuries also place you in a position to be able to learn about your body and turn around to teach others what you have learned. This is, as I alluded to earlier, something I find myself doing quite a bit. What I mean by that is that the SIBO, parasite, bacterial, and other gut inflammatory issues I've experienced in the past have allowed me to learn a great deal about the human digestive system that I have been blessed to teach to others on my website and podcast; the MRSA, giardia, and staph infections that ravaged me for a year left me with a wonderful working knowledge of natural herbal compounds and plant medicines that can heal the body; the cuts, breaks, scrapes, and wounds I've sustained over years of triathlon and obstacle course racing has taught me tons about both allopathic and naturopathic first aid protocols; the low drive, endocrine imbalances, and thyroid issues I experienced during hardcore endurance training taught me plenty about testosterone, hormone, and adrenal optimization; and so on and so forth.
In other words, I'd probably be a bit of a dummy about the human body and brain if I hadn't been forced to navigate my own issues, find solutions, then turn around and share those solutions with others.
And that's the upside of adversity. So the next time you're going through adversity, choose to grow and not despair.
Focus on a greater appreciation of life, greater appreciation, and strengthening of close relationships, increased compassion and altruism, the identification of new possibilities or a purpose in life, greater awareness and utilization of personal strengths, enhanced spiritual development, creative growth, contentedness, and opportunities to teach others what you learn as you find solutions to deal with your adversity.
Then, while you're growing in all these other areas, address your adversity. Hunt down solutions. Talk to smart and experienced people about your problem. Throw noodles at the adversity wall and see what sticks. Be vulnerable. Pray. Maybe, by the grace of God, you'll fix it. Maybe, by the grace of God, you won't. But either way, you'll be a better person—the same way you'll be a better person every time you get out of bed in the morning, smile, and savor yet another ray of magical sunlight beaming through the window and massaging your skin.
Precept 81: Child
A few months ago, I decided to write a description of myself as a boy. This is actually quite a powerful exercise that can enable you to foster a deeper connection to your natural self that you may have erred away from over years of peer pressure or being who the world expects you to be rather than your true, authentic being, and is also a powerful exercise for helping you to form your life's purpose statement. For example, here is my own description of myself as a boy:
“He has very high interpersonal and musical intelligence and a vivid, creative imagination. Hopelessly romantic and falls in love with people and things very easily. Highly responsible. Reads people quite well and likes to study them. Loves the hell out of stories and books. Sees the world as a book that is to be read chapter by chapter, and likes to tackle tasks with that same approach. Digests and learns new information at an extremely rapid pace. Excellent storyteller, for both entertainment and education. Judgemental editor with a sharp eye for errors or imperfections. Likes clearly defined boundaries and rules but generally shuns authority. Takes great pride in personal appearance. Prefers privacy but not solitude. Cares deeply about the health of others. Disciplined and very competitive with self, and also quite self critical. A unique combination of physical culture and intellectualism. Loves God, family and all things spiritual.”
Now, when I glance at that description, which is inscribed on an inexpensive poster I had printed for my wall office, I can be reminded of those things that sparked joy or passion in me as a boy that may spark joy and passion in me now as an adult, including music, romance, creativity, storytelling, reading books, editing and refining written words, helping people with their help, and the discipline of competition without as much a focus on winning and more a focus on the process. Sure, you will certainly change as you age, as Paul says in Ephesians “putting off the old you” and in 1 Corinthians “putting off childish things,” while growing as a new creation each day – but this doesn't mean you aren't hardwired by God to be good or attracted to certain things that aren't necessarily amateurish, childish activities, but rather built-in skillsets that allow you to fully love the world with your life and vocation.
So try it. What were you like as a kid? Sit with that, think about it, then write the paragraph. If you'd like, turn it into a poster and hang it on your wall as a daily reminder.
That's it for this week! If you have questions, comments, or feedback below, please leave your thoughts. I read them all!