Fueling the Fire – Food and Flow

ketogenic diet for SUP
Zero Carb, High Intensity Training SUP Race Preparation Experiment

Food and Flow

Freemocean is about understanding and achieving flow states(1). I enjoy sharing my discoveries and deeper thoughts on this blog, my goal is to follow the trail of questions rather than get stuck on answers.

Flow states are peak experiences or altered states that humans (and many animals) can deliberately access to increase performance, happiness and creativity. Traditionally they were considered matters of spirituality and gurus usually associated attainment with abstinence of that which was deemed to be un-healthy or un ethical.

Over the last few decades we are seeing an acceleration in athletic, creative and intellectual performance being attributed to flow states. Altered consciousness, no longer solely the domain of mysticism, is rapidly flowering everywhere, where peak performance is essential.

I removed my opinionated posts about nutrition, but I continue to experiment with my own biology. Nutrition is not crucial to flow states, but I have found that higher energy levels and being able to move freely are powerful”on-ramps” into the flow state(2).

SUP Racing in Thailand
Allowing my body to maintain a posture of balance by absorbing the wave-form in the water is how I re-discovered flow states, inspiring me to write this blog. photo is from a SUP Race in Thailand, hosted by Amara Watersports Co. Ltd, where I work.

Identifying and removing the blocks to flow

First slavery, then our early technologies such as steam and oil have allowed economic forces to ignore the ecological requirements that sustain biodiversity. What this means is that we no longer needed move in synergy with nature to harvest, food, energy and raw materials.

The investments that followed have locked us into some poor harvesting strategies. Those strategies were supported by our cultures and much of that dogma became entrenched in academia. We find ourselves waking up daily to fixed overheads. They can only be met by participating in systems that keep us desensitised to the relationships present in our own biology.
With the the dawn of agriculture, how we eat and move changed radically over a 10,000 year period. Industrialisation rapidly took us even farther from direct connection with natures cycles. Fortunately the Information Age may be allowing us to re-explore and learn from our roots. To learn again that relation with biology was never a choice, but a necessity.
We can read or listen to ideas about being more in tune with our surroundings, but experience can only arise from action and feedback. When we get direct sensual feedback, then we understand, then we are in connection. Only then does action arise without the need to think, without the need to check in with memory and past perceptions. From here we can allow ‌flow.
meat and movement for flow states
Surprisingly, no plant based foods and a small amount of focused movement turned out to be great preparation for this event.

The move n’ meat Experiment

Amara Watersports hosted an SUP, (stand up paddle) race in early December 2016, I had been playing with the low glycemic diets, (low in sugar and other carbohydrates) for a few years by that time. I was using 45- 50 minute aerobic training in preparation for the 6km SUP event, where I came third. That was almost 4 months ago.
Since then I have been focusing on flexibility and intense body weight training using gymnastics rings and some animal movements (6). Beyond the odd windsurfing session, I have not done any aerobic type training. In the last 4 months, the longest I have paddled is about 1.5km, and only on two or three occasions.
I hardly move, but when I do, I ensure it demands strength and focus into my senses. ‌ High quality attention, but surprisingly little time spent in practice.
To suspended from more points, the foot bar is also free from the ground, . Now all the muscles coordinate, integrating more of the nervous system.

Not only did I stop exercising so much, In the last 4 months I started to reduce the amount of plants I was eating to simply onions, turmeric and pepper. In the last 6 weeks leading to my next race on, I began eating only raw grass fed beef once a day(5). In the week before the race I ate a few extra meals, mostly of sausages, cheese or bacon. (not an ideal Omega 3 to 6 fatty acid ratio, but affordable and accessible fat for fuel).

I joined the March 26th 2017 SUP STATION event(4) where nearly 50 boards crowding the start line. Despite eating, no fruit and no vegetables and doing no aerobic conditioning, I still managed a ‌solid third place in the 6km race.
This result ‌ surprised me. I did not think it possible to be in the lead pack without conditioning my body for long distance. The result obviously does not prove anything, but perhaps it does open the mind to what that our biology thrives on and what it does not ‌required at all. To enter flow state, we release assumptions, most especially ones that affirm self as seperate from the greater biology that envelopes this planet.

notes:

(1) I define “Flow” as direct and effortless bond with environment, though the senses. Opinions or thoughts of self as seperate create conflict and suck me out of flow instantly.

(2) “On-ramp”, a fantastic phrase borrowed from writer, Steven Kotler. Who provides a fantastic resource on the history, impact and biology of flow states in his books and on his website – The Flow Gnome Project

(3) Lowering Carbohydrate intake reduces insulin spikes and when reduced enough, leads to using dietary and or body fats instead of sugars for fuel, termed “nutritional ketosis”. My article – Oxygen and your DNA explores why that may be an interesting option

(4) SUP Station is an awesome business on the Chaophraya river near Bangkok, the owners are wonderfully intelligent and kind people. The event was so much fun and the skill of the racers is growing with each event. The trophies in the photo were made by Cobra international who also supported the event. SUP Brothers Bruno and Daniel hosted the event with the support of Starboard and NSP.

(5) I did break my own rules a few times, but all those exceptions would add up to far less plant based products than what most people eat in a single day.

(6) The Gymnastics rings I use are simple donut shapes hanging on adjustable length straps from a tree, another set up is some rope that washed in from the sea, it is has loops tied in either end and is also hanging over a tree branch. Animal movements emulate the motion of the bear, the monkey and the frog, they demand balance, build muscle and open joints. I only use them for a few minutes. I rarely practice movement for more than 20 minutes a day, though I am starting to do more intuitive stretching.

3 – Adaptation – lets get together

adaption

So the key take-away here is: Belief’s act like instincts, changing our actions and the way we communicate, we are free to the degree that we can choose. Belief robs us of choice, and keeps us in damage control within our relationships.

Where we have been and where we are going

In “aliveness” I discussed why feeling fully alive enables greater wellness and enjoyment of life. In “attunement” I covered how we learn to relate to each other and where it goes wrong. In this post I will touch on why our biology evolved in a way that made stories so powerful.

Biological Advantage

According to Historian, Yuval Noah Harari, from about 70,000 years ago, Sapiens began to gain an advantage over other species (including other species of humans) by working in larger groups. This was made possible by our ability for more nuanced communications. Yuval, suspects that the ability to gossip about each other’s behavior increased the levels of trust and predictability. In this way, “stories” enabled us to work together in groups larger than our own direct experience of each member could enable.

Stories also gave us the ability to share and remember more detailed information, beyond what was available in the present moment. We began to pass information about past events that were likely to repeat and create harvesting and survival strategies for the future. As soon as we can accurately predict what is likely to happen we can use energy more effectively, by being prepared.

Non verbal cues speak loudly

The words we choose form only a small portion of our overall communication. We only use a small portion of our brains to process words. Voice tone, pitch, and timing can change the context of words. Non verbal cues including body language, eye contact, blink rate and of course facial expressions make up a great part of the messages we send and receive.
We are also very sensitive to detecting the tension in other peoples bodies, stiffening, was always a precursor to potential danger. When all the signals a person is sending line up congruently, it is more likely they will act predictably.

Learned Behavior

The high tide will leave shells, seeds and organic matter in a nice concentrated line that attracts crabs, birds and other creatures. When we know that we can harvest very effectively by just showing up at the right time. We can save energy. It is normal for species to develop both biological systems and behaviors adapted to new possibilities in their environments.

What was unique for Homo sapiens was our ability to hold a concept in our minds that was free of any external signals, (evidence). We could create ideas or pictures in our minds that did not have to conform with the reality of that moment. We could remember what had been and guess what was going to happen. This helped us to further develop specialized skills and talents that increased our value as individual members within our tribes.

Skill or Instinct

Our survival and chance to reproduce was enhanced by the value of our specialized roles within these tribes. The concepts we held in our minds gave us a biological advantage while the repetition of skilled actions formed new procedural memories, (those actions that we can do automatically).

Procedural memories are not the only things we can do automatically, when we receive signals of a potential threat, our bodies automatically tense, produce adrenaline, divert blood flow to our skeletal muscles and prepare us for a life threatening situation. This happens in the old part of our nervous system which is hard wired to produce fast responses, it happens before we have a chance to override or cancel the reaction.

Language enabled us to pass detailed stories, which when adopted as beliefs, also cause us to react automatically. Depending on how much emotion was assigned to them, stories allowed us to update our natural instincts.

Humans became adapt at both developing refined motor skills and at formulating powerfuly motivating stories.  How those stories affect our automatic nervous system will be the topic of the next post – Information Biology.

Research notes: Much of this is my own conjecture, and as such, will change along with my experiences. The amazing work of Yuval Noah Harari, gave me the insights and the confidence to present it this way.

2 – Attunement – learning the interface

Attunement - the dance of life

The key take-away here is: We begin learning our key beliefs about how safe we are, how valuable we are, and which strategies and communication techniques alleviate and manage fear from the moment sensations begin. Feelings of pain and fear strengthen the sensation of self as seperate and in danger. Feelings of acceptance and curiosity strengthen the sensation of self as connected, safe and valuable. Which do you suppose feels more playful and creative? Events in our lives tilt us more towards fear or towards expansiveness. Healing is about learning to create a lifestyle that reinforces safe connections. Attunement is a life-long quest to communicate without fear and neediness.

 

In the first blog I talked about aliveness, connection and worthiness. In this post I briefly discuss trauma and how processing sub-optimal experiences affects the way we communicate and the choices we make.

Over time, resistance to the feelings in our own bodies alters our body language, our posture, and our faces. Apart from driving how we spend our income and much of the free time we do get, I suspect it is the most overlooked cause of inflammation and disease. Which makes it worth understanding.

When we are less “reactive” it is easier to remain focused on the things that we are good at. Those things that make us feel alive, valuable and included. Our behavior is affected by the signals we receive from each other. We begin learning how to send and interpret those signals from when we are in the womb. Without a healing practice, we tend to become less receptive yet more “touchy” as we get older. Out most creative work is often done in our younger years.
I suspect that we store resistance to life, (fear covered by opinions) as tension in our bodies, which is why a practice of conscious un-winding, like Yoga, helps us to remain kind and effective members of our families and communities.
My personal favorite is SUP and animal type movements with body weight exercises. Eat right and repetitive motion such as “cardio” is un-nessecary.

 Getting with the program

Attunement is the name that arose from the work of the psychiatrist John Bowlby and his contemporary Donald Winnicot in the 1940’s. It describes a process that happens between newborns and their primary caretaker.

Newborns begin learning about safe and appropriate action and communication by making sounds; actions and gestures, building neural connections that mirror their caretaker. It is also when the baby begins building a “felt sense” of self. Attunement begins in the womb, and when it happens “normally”, forms the foundations for an adult who will grow up to feel safe and be well integrated into their community.

Attunement is where we begin to build our sense of self as being part of a group or tribe. It is where our nervous system first starts creating the automated responses that will shape our lives.

As we grow from baby, to child through our teenage years and into adult hood, the chances of us integrating healthily decrease with each exposure to a traumatic experience.

Contrary to popular belief, (part of the John Wayne legacy) it is not something we can tough out, instead we tend to suppress or avoid the triggers. Suppressing causes us to loose the higher emotions along with the low ones. This tends to kill our feelings of aliveness and effect our on going attunement.

Being Defensive

Automatic responses can save us from injury or death. Fight and flight reactions are given priority over other bodily functions. When something happens that over-loads our ability to understand and assimilate, when we are overwhelmed by an experience, we experience trauma and it becomes wired into our future.

Trauma’s from the past, when re-triggered, create physical reactions that range from subtle uneasiness to complete shutdown.
The key thing here, is that the experience of trauma changes both our internal and external communications. Experiencing trauma is part of ordinary life, we usually only address it when the dysfunction it creates becomes unbearable for those around us.

Healing Trauma with Focused Movement

Traumas may trigger thoughts, images and even flashbacks; but they are stored in the body. They exist because they have become part of our autonomic nervous system, below and before our prefrontal cortex. It seems that focusing on movement can reset those pathways and re-map how we are wired. There are many modalities for re-attuning ourselves. If we can understand their core principles, we may be able to develop extremely powerful, yet simple routines for returning to full aliveness.

Simply exercising has benefits. What really empowers movement, is focus in a state of acceptance, especially in situations that require balance and reward optimal posture. I will be exploring this in depth, these early blogs are background information so that we understand the challenges to freedom.

 

Waxing lyrical

The ocean can never replace your mother, but she is moving to the heat of our sun, and the beat of our moon. From the gravity of heavenly bodies to a passing cloud, myriad forces form coherent lines. To be cancelled in turbulence against the constraints of distant shores. Both oxygenating the sea and allowing the possibility of stillness and serenity to return.

Research notes:
Trauma is a vast subject and a rather intimate one to discuss. I can not do it justice in a few paragraphs, nor am I qualified to. Bessel van der Kolt MD, in his book, “The body Keeps the Score” presents the most comprehensive overview that I have read so far. Peter Levine also has an understanding built on a wealth of experience. Both of these doctors continue to study, try new things and publish their findings. Freemocean is not about trauma, it is about receiving clean data from nature, so that we may use energy more effectively.

1 – Aliveness – we can’t think happy, but we can feel it.

Freemocean - focused high quality movements that challenge our balance and our opinions

Happiness, Aliveness and Connection

The key take-away here is: The main drive of a human is to feel safe, the way we feel safe is to feel valuable, attention from others alleviates the fear of not being safe by making us feel valuable, but it is short lived. When we do feel safe, then we may notice the startling beauty of the world in the unique way that only you can experience. Expressing your unique perspective fearlessly is what you are here for, doing so allows others to relax. You see where this goes?

The greater part of our happiness revolves around feeling valuable and worthy of connection to our tribes, (families, social groups, co-workers etc.)
The quest for worthiness, lead’s us to try and, do more, have more, be more, produce and sell more. This may leave us  feeling ashamed when we fail, smug when we succeed, but rarely contented.

While watching our daughter when, she was a toddler, I wondered what our natural state was, before we tried to improve it.  She could dance, skip, jump and twirl, but had way too much energy, to simply walk. She was not always happy, but she was fully alive.

As we go through life, we experience rude shocks and gather strong opinions about all sorts of things. Both of which give rise to uncomfortable emotions. In suppressing or avoiding these inner sensations, we loose our aliveness. I will explore this briefly over the next posts.

We seek connection to our families, friends and co-workers, to be appreciated for who we are and what we do. Being able to offer value helps us to find acceptance mirrored back to us, in the words, faces and body language of those we respect. We may experience this sense of worthiness; to the degree we believe we deserve it.

I have caught myself, and I have seen others seeking attention, so many times, but what is it we are looking for? Impressive deeds, tireless work, service to others or simple obedience, may win the respect of the tribe. Even then, we still may not allow ourselves to relax and feel worthy of receiving validation and the connection that seams to go with it.

Perhaps the experience of connection is the feeling of aliveness? (Notice I said feeling? “thinkings” can never be validated experientially)  Maybe it has less to do with our achievements, of what other people think, and everything to do with the way we allow ourselves to feel and accept what is happening in and around us. The way we receive, perceive and respond to the signals from our environment determines how free we are to feel alive. It is hard to feel anything when we are tense. Could it be, that we experience aliveness to the degree that we allow connection, to feel the good, the great the not so hot.

To avoid inflammation, accept information

We are organisms comprised of trillions of interacting cells, all operating in a richly bio-diverse environment. Our nervous systems require accurate and timely information from our environment to keep us functioning effectively. That information comes to us through our 5 senses; our stories about what that information may give rise to emotions. These emotions send signals outwards to those around us and inwards to the automatic parts of our nervous systems. This communication determines how both other people and our own bodies respond. Not only to what is happening, but also to the meanings we make about what is happening.

I used to think that diet and environmental toxins were the dominant factors causing inflammation. Now I am starting to wonder it if it is in fact the stories we carry, that create and maintain habitual levels of restriction in our bodies.

The internal communication, (between our cells, organs and organs systems) and our external communication, between individuals, families, cultures and economies, determines our health. When looked at through the lens of nature, processing information healthily, may bridge the gaps between ecology and economy. Exploring the way we perceive and how that makes us feel, is a journey, not so much to improve ourselves, but rather in coming to know ourselves as we are.

Freemocean is not so much about acquiring, but more about letting go of that which is stopping flow, creating inflammation and blocking our aliveness.

Focusing on movements that challenge our balance and test our posture allows us to revisit and release some of this sub-optimal base-line tension. Thankfully it is a subtractive process, it is an allowing. For in accepting what is, we begin releasing our stories and our tensions. The less there is to defend, the more aliveness returns.