Mastery of Mind requires deliberate practice like any other skill you learn.
Mastery of any field must be firmly rooted in mastery of the fundamentals – the boring, “obvious” and seemingly easy stuff. No trinkets, no shiny objects to divert the lazy and undetermined.
Understand that mind and body are one. You can’t reach the higher levels until you get the physical fundamentals right just as well as the mental ones. Diet and physical fitness are essential, but they are easier to get right if you’ve laid down the Foundations of Awareness beforehand.
The fundamentals of self-awareness are very simple, but NOT easy to master. They take determination and practice to become second nature – what some call “unconscious competence”.
Let’s jump right in, shall we?
The First Thing You Need to Know
The first priority of Mind is to keep you alive. That’s why it’s founded on primary instincts which – drumroll – keep you alive.
When your physical condition deteriorates, those instincts become activated and send warning signals in your awareness, which crowd out whatever junk you might have put there.
Your instincts draw attention to the things you need to know and take care of right away:
- Temperature sensitivity
- Light sensitivity
If you want to dull your instincts, simply disregard them and keep doing what you’re doing. That’s why the average lo-awarenes idiot is fat, slow and low-energy.
Remember “Antifragility of the Mind”? Remember instincts compete with one another for attention, for the upper hand in your cognition?
That competition is an essential problem-solving feature of the mind that can easily misfire. When one instinct cannot be satisfied, the closest approximation kicks in to look for a partial solution. So you can stay alive until you find what you really need.
It’s the proverbial blunt instrument. You need to take aim with your awareness to make it hit right.
Anything but Thirsty
Water is the most important physiological need after breathing oxygen. That’s why it occupies the top spot on that “obvious” list. And also why I harp on people about getting dehydrated.
Thirst is easily delayed and obscured. I’m guilty of this as I type the very sentence. I don’t want to interrupt my flow, so I’ve been putting off going to the kitchen to get some water.
Others mask their thirst with fizzy drinks which are both dehydrating and toxic. When you ingest toxic chemicals from your favorite soda, your body tries to expel them – through water. So you end up more dehydrated and toxified the more you drink them.
I suspect a lot of people have simply forgotten proper thirst because their hormonal pathways have been knocked off normal function.
What do you think happens when you get dehydrated by not taking care of your thirst promptly? Your antifragile mind-body tries to compensate by other means.
What’s the second-best source of water other than water itself?
You ingest water with your food, and also produce water while metabolizing it. So if you don’t take care of your hydration, hunger kicks in instead of thirst.
If you’re in the wild, away from a water source, the next best thing to keep hydrated would be to eat something juicy. Your antifragile mind is designed to handle exactly these conditions.
If you keep up your water neglect long enough, you will get fatigued, then sleepy as you climb up the ladder of self-preservation instincts. Fatigue makes you slow down to suppress water loss through your skin and breath. Sleep seeks to reduce that loss even further by slowing down your overall metabolism.
See the pattern?
As you get progressively dehydrated, your instincts are substituted for one another – shifting in perception away from the root problem. To protect you from your own neglectful idiocy.
That’s why when someone is physically or mentally distressed, the go-to solution is to drink water first. It’s a most fundamental physiological need, which gets easily displaced in a distracted, undisciplined mind.
Are You Really Hungry?
Most people on SAD (the Standard American Death-diet) probably never feel real hunger either because bad food disrupts hormonal signaling. But let’s say you eat well. What then?
Like water, hunger can get substituted, but it also substitutes for other things. You may feel hungry because
- you don’t drink enough water, or
- your mineral balance is off because you drink too much water and don’t eat right, or
- you don’t rest/sleep enough.
Paint me shocked!
When you’re overly fatigued and underslept, your mind-body signals that you should ingest more food to make up for some of the energy loss and inefficiency.
This is why napping is a powerful support technique for sustained fasting. Novice fasters complain about headaches, fatigue and sleepiness as they get off their addiction to carbohydrates.
No surprises there.
But these humps can be overcome with just 15-20 minutes of sleep. You wake up re-energized for the hunt, and it lasts you for several hours. A single nap can give you 3-5 hours of good productivity until you need a quick rest again. Of course, everyone is different, so YMMV.
You may also get hungry just because you’re in a cold environment.
The change in temperature requires more energy to maintain your body properly heated. So your instincts seek to fatten you up preventively. Be mindful of how you set your thermostat because it may have something to do with your nightly trips to the refrigerator.
No, you won’t lose fat by staying in a cold room, but it could make you hungry enough to gain even more weight. High-intensity stress like a cold shower is different from chronic stress like sitting in a cold room.
Use your brain accordingly and reduce compulsive eating. You’ll save money and unfat yourself faster just with this basic awareness.
When I’m peckish, my automatic reaction is to drink water and find a couch to nap. Because I know when I last ate – and that I don’t need any more calories.
Fatigue and Sleepiness
Understand that fatigue and sleepiness are distinct sensations. You can have all the energy in the world and still feel sleepy – and vice versa. Always be aware which is which. It makes sense to take a nap if you’re sleepy, but it can also make sense to work out if you’re fatigued.
Next to dehydration, bad food is the most likely cause of chronic fatigue and sleepiness. Processed and high-glycemic-load foods knock out your metabolism, so that absorbed energy is stored instead of serving your energy needs.
When you get chronic insulin resistance from consuming junk food, the mind-body oscillates between bursts of glucose in the bloodstream – heart palpitations, sweating, dizziness after eating – and low energy/drowsiness/sluggishness the rest of the time.
I’d never heard the expression “brain fog” before I met the hordes of the morbidly obese in Texas.
That’s what chronic inflammation gives you.
Meanwhile, lo-awarenes pseudoscience has been crusading against salt.
Understand that salts such as magnesium and sodium are absolutely essential to brain function – and to keeping focused and alert. When I was in college, I used to suck on soup bouillon bars, so I could stay awake to write and cram for exams. Because salt keeps you wide awake. (Don’t follow in my bright footsteps on that one.)
I have never ever restricted my salt intake or followed any mainstream dietary guidelines, and my vitals were near-athletic even when I was significantly overweight. Let that sink in.
If you don’t eat harmful food and you drink a lot of water, a mineral deficiency of some sort is the next possible culprit for your chronic fatigue.
Figuring out which minerals you lack requires testing, but you can get a broad mineral supplement and see if you can get an improvement over 2-3 weeks of taking it.
And don’t forget to work out regularly. That signals the mind-body to replenish and reenergize your nerves and muscles.
The bottom line is this: if you’re sleepy and tired all the time, it probably has to do with what you eat and drink, not your sleeping schedule.
Be aware – or fatten up and hibernate like a bear for the rest of your life.
Temperature and Light Sensitivity
Dehydration, poor diet, and lack of exercise, rest and sleep will increase your sensitivity to cold weather, too.
People who eat a lot of sugars and carbs are usually the most sensitive to winter conditions. This is not just genetics, although there seems to be a correlation between cognitive type (genetics), food preferences (carb- and sugar-heavy diets) and temperature sensitivity. It’s your addiction to easy glucose, which gets vaped in minutes and leaves your cells depleted of energy to keep the heat up.
If you’re cold all the time, switch to a fat-heavy diet for a couple of weeks and see what happens. The exact same applies if you live in the tropics and want to keep cooler. Fat simply allows for better homeostatic regulation of your body temperature, avoiding spikes of heat and cold, and doesn’t mess with your hormonal balance and nervous system like carbs do. It also doesn’t get you inflamed.
If you’ve been paying attention so far, you’d have noticed that lo-awarenes explains much of the migratory patterns of Americans as they age:
- eat corporate pseudofood for a lifetime,
- get fat and dysregulated,
- get hypersensitive to temperature,
- move to the Sunbelt because you can’t handle winter conditions,
- spend a lot of time in ice-cold air-conditioned rooms,
- get hungry,
- get even fatter and more inflamed, and
- medicate yourself to death.
Yes, people get more sensitive to temperature with age, but that’s probably less than half the story. The lo-awarenes lifestyle is where it’s at.
The only bright spot in this pattern of misery and death is that the elderly move to places where they can get more sunlight.
And this is the right time to make something explicit.
Sunlight is a nutrient, and a vital one.
Lack of sunlight:
- prevents synthesis of vitamin D and other compounds,
- undermines the immune system,
- messes up your digestion because your microbiome is impaired,
- knocks your hormonal balance out of wack,
- leads to low energy and sleepiness because you’re prompted to go into winter hibernation.
You might be hungry and anxious all the time simply because you’re not getting enough sunlight exposure on your skin and retina. Be acutely aware of this.
Put a Ribbon on It
By now, you should have lost any illusion that the fundamentals of awareness are easy to master.
Unless, of course, you’re braindead.
Understand this, and understand it well. Nothing of value comes easy.
Simple heuristics and a lot of practice is how you set your own Foundations of Awareness. So you can level up and harvest rich rewards.
From this missive and your own perceptual experience, you can distill a number of instinctual paths of displacement.
Here’s the most general one:
Thirst > hunger > fatigue > sleepiness > temperature > light.
But the most important point to remember is that Mind is a dynamic system and nothing is linear.
Both hunger > fatigue and fatigue > hunger are possible. You may feel fatigued because you’re malnourished, but you may also feel hungry because you’re fatigued.
You have to know yourself and your present condition to know which sensation is caused by which instinct.
Because you can neither manage your mental activation effectively, nor scale its mindboggling heights without having the fundamentals right. To go up, you need to know what’s up.
In future missives, we’ll go over three essential levels of activation (mind dynamics):
- High Activation
We’ll also dispel some myths about fasting – the fastest way to gear up your Mind – and cover best practices, tips and tricks for making fasting easy and enjoyable.
Until then, keep the fire burning.
PS: I may have missed one essential instinct.