How To Confront People Without Being a Jerk

Originally posted on Elephant Journal 20180217


You’re upset. Something or someone else has just upset you.

It might have been a colleague, your spouse, or a family member. It might have been an accidental transgression or possibly a major offense.

But the fact is you’re upset. It actually doesn’t matter if it’s justified.

Sure, you could always drop it.

There are at least three 3 reasons why confronting the other person is a good idea:

  1. It shifts the locus of control to you. If you don’t speak up, you are defaulting to a victim position. By calling out a supposed transgressor, you get to recognize that you do affect your circumstances. Having this internal locus of control is correlated with higher self-esteem, motivation, and long-term success.
  2. It allows a genuine connection. In my years as a relationship counselor, I found that every time a couple was facing a loss of passion or connection, the major culprit was resentment. Often the resentment was a minor offense, like forgetting a house chore, or dismissing an idea. Left unspoken for years, they became a buildup of resentment leading to some couples wanting to break up or divorce. By airing out all the past hurts in a safe way, we were able to find where the love still was. And so far, it protected couples from divorce.
  3. It helps the other person learn, and makes the group function better. This is critical in both work environments and in families. Groups function better when everyone is on the same page. That’s only possible when there’s no dirty laundry.


“A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.” ~ Tim Ferriss

The ability to confront people skillfully leads to greater well-being and success. This is true in your business and personal life.

But confront is such a harsh word. Won’t that cause damage? What if the other person doesn’t take it the right way?

Yes, when you tell the vulnerable truth, there are risks. Thankfully, there are ways to confront people without being so confrontational.

If you master the following three points, you are far more likely to maintain amicable relationships while getting your needs met.

1. Recognize the origin of their pain.

Yes, the other person may have hurt you most recently. But no one is born malicious at heart. No one.

Every time people hurt each other, it comes down to one of two things:

>> Externalizing their own pain or insecurity. They were hurt by something or someone else, so they feel okay in taking from another. Or they actually feel guilty and do it anyway. I

>> Negligence. They either are genuinely unaware, or they are low on empathy probably due to past pain or insecurity.

This is a hard one to accept because there are some people we just want to see as villains. It’s much easier to maintain a perspective such as us versus them while you complain about your wounds.

I learned this mentality back when I was an Uber driver in one of the most me versus the world environments: New York City traffic. On my first few weeks on the job, I noticed I was taking on the same cutthroat behavior I saw with fellow cabbies: super aggressive driving, shouting, and dirty looks.

But I realized something.

For the cutting off and flipping off we were doing, no one was actually getting anywhere faster. We all were trying to earn our living. We were all under stress from the fact that there are not enough roads for all the vehicles in New York, that there are not many passengers for all the drivers.

We were all in it together.

When I actually made eye contact, I saw the faces of frustrated drivers like me. Overnight, I was able to change my experience of the traffic. The traffic didn’t go away, but I no longer felt so stressed about it.

Even when someone did cut me off, I could understand. Someone certainly cut them off at some point, as is the way of the jungle. I could feel generous because

I remembered it’s not personal.

When someone hurts you more directly, it may seem super personal. That’s why you’re upset in the first place. But if you remember that everybody hurts, it’s a lot easier to see the other as a fellow human rather than an enemy.

2. Be specific with your boundaries and the consequences for crossing them.

Often, your transgressor doesn’t know what they did wrong. Sometimes when you’re upset, you don’t even know what was really wrong.

Identifying the specific boundary that was crossed lets you depersonalize the transgression. It’s not the person who is bad. It’s the behavior that crossed your lines.

Everyone has different boundaries, so you can’t assume they will see things your way. That’s why the second half is to share how crossing your boundary will affect your relationship in the future.

This is not a threat or an ultimatum. It’s sharing the truth of how you feel in clear terms.

“If you keep shitting on my goals, I won’t feel like opening up to you anymore.”
“If you miss a deadline again, I’ll have to find a different person to work with.”

This allows the other person to know what’s wrong, and know what the result is beforehand. You might think, “Obviously they must know if they do this, I’ll be upset.” Maybe. But many people, especially when under stress, will rationalize that things are fine unless explicitly told otherwise.

Drawing the line clearly takes away the ambiguity and misunderstanding. They know where you get upset and you know how to react if the line is crossed again.

The other side of this is that you can see if your boundaries are in the right places. When we’re in a reactive mode, everything can feel like a personal assault.

But maybe it was our own insecurity being revealed.

As a dating coach, I’ve seen many people with odd recurring patterns among their exes. Often, the person is creating impossible boundaries that other people can’t help but cross.

That doesn’t excuse the other person if they actually did something wrong. But if you have a recurring problem with people, maybe you’re blaming a new person for an old wound.

Either way, when you’re upset, it pays to nail down exactly where the line was crossed, and get to communicate in advance the consequences of crossing them in the future.

3. Offer them a clear way to win.

Confrontations escalate into conflict when people yell what was wrong without suggesting what could be right. There needs to be an alternative solution. Otherwise, you’re externalizing pain onto the other.

Saying, “What you did there was not okay!” doesn’t help you and the other person. At best, the person will feel bad, but will probably avoid you out of discomfort. At worst, they’ll get defensive and conflict will escalate.

You are not the karma police. It’s not your job to punish the world’s transgressors. However, you can and should give options for a better behavior, especially when it comes to dealing with you.

“Hey, next time I’d appreciate it if you do this instead of that.”
“I’d feel a lot better if you pay attention to this.”
“This could all be fixed if you look closer at this.”

If your option doesn’t work for the other person, then you can negotiate. This way, everyone knows what the other person really wants. If no agreement can be found, then maybe that’s not a person you should work, socialize, or be intimate with. It’s a better way to reach that conclusion than through fighting.

Offering a way to win means winning for them too. It means they don’t have to be humiliated or feel bad because they messed up. They can save their face and know how to be connected with you.

And this works in reverse too.

When someone is upset with me, I try to find out what winning with that person is. That usually prevents me from getting reactive. Then, I can look at the gap between what I want and what they want. Usually, there’s a way to bridge it. If there isn’t, we can at least separate our ways amicably.

Everyone’s version of what’s right is different. You can’t assume someone knows yours, and you can’t assume you know someone else’s. Sharing what you prefer saves all the guesswork and allows you both to get on the same page.

If you are a human living around other humans, you will experience conflict at times. People are different and often our desires and behaviors clash. You will get upset by others sometimes. That’s normal.

You don’t have to choose between antagonizing someone and staying silent. There is a way to confront someone without creating more conflict. It can actually serve you, the other person, and the whole group.

Mastering the art of skillful confrontation will make you a better leader, team member, relationship partner, and even family member.

Remember, we’re all in this together.

When the River Runs Red: A Man's Guide to a Woman's Menstrual Cycle

Originally posted on GoodMenProject.


The modern man has to face few hazards in life. If you live in the first world, your daily threats are probably not even 1% of what our ancestors once had to deal with.

However, if you are a man who is partnered with a woman, there is at least one territory that still offers nature’s mystery and danger: the menstrual cycle. Yes, it can be a treacherous terrain. For those of us who do not menstruate it can seem confusing, daunting, and have us question our self-worth.

It shocks me how little most men know about the menstrual cycle. I meet middle-aged men all the time who still seem clueless about a woman’s cycle. Men have been mating with women for thousands of years. You would think someone would pass on a little info.

So, to my brothers in arms, here’s a guide for the female cycle. Not only will you be better equipped to get through the month, you will also be able to be a better partner to your lady, regardless the state of her uterus.

Note that this guide does generalize some experiences. Remember that real women will have different experiences at different times. And there’s a lot more to a woman’s emotions and behavior than just her hormonal cycle. However, following are the common experiences of women in the different phases and what you should know about them.

Day 1: Bleeding Begins (Menstruation)

The menstrual calendar starts on the day of first blood. (For a long time I wrongly assumed that bleeding occurred at the end of the cycle.) It’s arbitrary of course. Does the week start on Sunday or Monday? Depends if you want to start it at work or at home. Knowing what is considered “day 1” will allow you to speak intelligently about the menstrual cycle at parties, which you’ll surely want to do after reading this.

Besides bleeding, what else is going on?

There are two cycles occurring within the menstrual cycle.

First is the uterine cycle, what’s happening in her uterus. On the first few days, the main thing happening is that her uterine lining is shedding. This stage is simply known as menses. (That’s also the name of the blood coming out of her.)

The second cycle is the ovarian cycle, what’s doing in her ovaries and the eggs. The first half of the cycle (approximately 14 days) is what is known as the follicular phase. All you need to know now is that this is fresh start for her ovaries.

Menses usually lasts 3 to 5 days but 2 to 7 is considered normal. The average blood loss is 35 mL which is a shallow pour on a shot glass. I know, I thought if she’s bleeding for 5 days she’s probably losing a gallon or two. Not the case.

It’s likely that she’ll be experiencing cramps during this stage. So, you know, don’t chest bump her or anything.

What about her emotions? She might have a few of those. Beware. But unlike the luteal phase (coming later), she’ll likely have her attention inward.

Of course, every woman’s experience is different. But in general, a woman tends to be slower than her usual pace at this time given that her body is excreting reproductive waste. This is actually not the most challenging part of the cycle for her. That is yet to come.

What should you do?

Don’t panic. She’s been doing this every month without your help and will keep doing it until menopause. But if you want to be a good partner, offer her a tummy rub. Maybe get her some chocolate. Run her a bath.

The thing to understand is that her body is physically purging. That taxes her body and therefore her mind. If you’re ever going to spoil her during her cycle this is the time to do it.

Is sex off the table?

Well, that’s up to her of course. But I hear a lot of couples say things like “I am/she is on her period so we can’t have sex.” It’s terribly common sentiment. And it’s bullshit.

First, sex is more than just penetrating the vagina. Even if she doesn’t desire vaginal penetration, physical affection and manual stimulation of her vulva can be just as pleasurable, if not more so. Soft stroking of her clitoris and labia, and massaging the area above her pubic bone can be very pleasurable. Just remember to err on the side of gentleness.

And if you’re able to go slow enough, vaginal intercourse can be great during menses.

The title of this piece comes from an adage I heard in high school: “When the river runs red, take the dirt road instead.” (I won’t explain it to you.) I heard this prior to ever having sex and just assumed that no one ever has intercourse on their period. But you can totally have intercourse on a period. In fact it can be very therapeutic for her. It’s just a different kind of sex.

Given the extra fluids, vaginal intercourse can feel particularly amazing. But she’s likely sensitive, so save your jackhammer stroke for… actually, just save it. Forever. Go slow. Her vaginal walls will be sensitive.

During menses, think sensuality instead of passion.


Technically she can’t get pregnant while she’s bleeding. Her egg is exiting the building. But… sperm can live inside a woman for up to five days. So if you come in her towards the end of her bleeding, your boys can hang out till the next ovulation, which yes, can result in conception.

Those who follow the rhythm method of contraception may report that there’s no chance of pregnancy on day 1. But know there’s always a chance of pregnancy when you have sex. It’s possible for a woman to ovulate at an unexpected time. So use contraception if you’re not looking to procreate.

Day 3~5: Bleeding ends (Proliferation)

Ah, the storm has been weathered. Well, not really…at all. But right after the river has cleared up she’s likely closest to what you perceive as her normal self**.

**The idea of ‘normal’ is a patriarchal perception. What’s normal is for women (and people) to change their moods periodically. It’s only our industrial society that promotes the idea that a person should show up the same each day.

She’ll be renewed.

Many women report feeling refreshed right after the bleeding stops. Purging has ended. Her reproductive system has “grieved” the unfertilized egg and it ready for another go.

Studies have shown that in this stage, women tend to be more empathetic and socially adept during proliferation. During menstruation, she has been fatigued and focused more inward. Now during proliferation, her uterus is rebuilding and she’ll be more likely to put her attention outwards.

Day ~14: Ovulation

For the ovarian cycle, this is the big show. Ovulation is when the egg is released. It occurs towards the end of the follicular phase and it marked by a surge of estrogen and other hormones. (The luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone work together in stimulating the release of the egg. But you don’t really need to know those words outside of impressing people at parties.)

Her cervix (should you care to inspect) will have a distinctive mucus. Most women can recognize the change in her vaginal fluid during ovulation.

But the more observable marker will be in her mood and behavior… She’ll be the most fertile, and it will likely show in her sex drive. Her body is most fertile, so it wants her to make a baby. She’ll be most desirous during this phase.

Just remember there’s more to sexual desire than her ovarian phase. So if she’s ovulating but she doesn’t want to sleep with you, then maybe she’s not that into you.

It may also show in her desire for connection. Her fertility also means she’ll be more driven to pair bond. Her body is telling her “Find a mate! Winter is coming!”

As far as her hormones go, this is the most amicable she’ll be during the month. So seriously, if you’re not getting along when she’s ovulating, then she’s really not that into you.

Day ~16: Luteal Phase

The luteal phase in the uterine cycle technically starts at the halfway point (day 14 on a 28-day cycle). But for practical man purposes, the observable phase shift is when she has stopped ovulating.

If she did not conceive during ovulation, then it’s time to shut down. For the last week of the cycle especially, her body will be preparing for the next day 1.

This is the time that sometimes can be referred to as premenstrual syndrome (PMS). She is most likely to be bloated, irritable, tender in her breasts, moody, and lethargic.

Personally, I find labeling these symptoms as PMS is disempowering to both women and the men in a relationship with them. For a man in a relationship with a woman, it’s super important to be aware of these possible symptoms. However, calling it a syndrome when it happens to half of every month pathologizes the nature of being a woman.

Both you and she will be happier if you anticipate this phase of her cycle and act accordingly. Her body is under stress, so don’t take it personally

If she is being “difficult,” remember it’s probably not about you. The hormonal shift during the luteal phase is literally like taking a light dose of a disagreeable drug. When people are under stress, they tend to be less agreeable. That’s human nature.

When my partner snaps at me during that time of the month we’ll joke that she doesn’t hate me, she’s being “luteal.” When she’s luteal she might not be what you consider rational. Honor her emotions and remember:

If she wants to claw you to death because you are breathing too loudly… it’s not about you.
If she resents you and all your life decisions… it’s not about you.
If she says “This is all because of you!”… it’s (probably) not about you.

Of course, if you continue irritating her despite all your best efforts, maybe you’re best off taking some space. That may be the kindest thing.


Other Important Notes:

When a woman is on hormonal contraception, her body is being tricked into thinking it’s pregnant every month. So her hormones will not necessarily fluctuate as described above. The best way to get to know your partner’s cycle is to track it. You can mark “Day 1” on your calendar, or get a period-tracking app. Then when you notice a shift that might be hormonal, you can refer to where she might be in her cycle.

If you’re in an intimate enough partnership that it’s useful to be aware of her cycle, then you should be able to talk about it. Most women would love to share her noticings about her cycle. (TIP: Have that conversation when she’s ovulating not when she’s luteal– you’ll get better feedback.)

Again, there’s more to a woman’s mood and behavior than her menstrual cycle. But her hormones do have an effect on her monthly.

You may never menstruate, but if you relate to women, you ought to learn about it. Not only will you become a better partner for her, you’ll be able to navigate the experience of a woman with more grace.

Don’t fear the red river. Learn how to swim.

How To Touch a Clitoris (Ask Men repost)

Originally posted on AskMen.


Imagine you wanted to learn something about female orgasm. Say you started out in this endeavor by asking women to show you how to touch them. And they did. And not surprisingly, industrious researcher that you are, you started to get good at it. And let’s say you kept at it, learning and investigating the art of handling women’s genitals.

Now let's go a step further. Say you eventually quit your day job to devote your life to this art. And continued to practice. For up to several hours a day. Every day. Alongside thousands of other people doing the same thing. What might you learn?

Well, I learned a lot. And not only about how to get her off, I learned that regular doses of orgasm tend to make women happier, friendlier, more loving, and better in bed. (Not to mention smart, confident, successful, and generally feeling good.) I learned that you can get to know a lot about a woman by getting to know how her genitals respond. I learned that female orgasm has a positive effect on men as well. I learned that it vastly improves your sex life. I learned all the places women want to be touched, and how that helps bring them to climax. And I learned something the bonobo monkeys already know: It becomes damn near impossible to fight or argue when orgasm is readily available.

Here are 10 steps along the way to learning how to handle a woman’s genitals, in order from basic to a bit more advanced.

1. Learn where the clitoris is.
Step one, right? Obvious. Because on the spectrum from “platonic touch” — a hug from granddad, not arousing at all — to “erotic touch” — like a first kiss —the clit is the erotic bullseye. It may well be the most sensitive spot on the human body. But more than that, it’s the epicenter of female orgasm. Master the clit and she’ll want you there as often as possible.

OK, so you’ve googled "clitoris" and are now in real life with a woman. Here’s what you need to know. Where her inner lips come together at the top, they form a hood, covering the firm little bead that is the head of the clitoris. If you nuzzle your finger or tongue between her inner lips and move upward, staying between them, they will guide you directly to it. You want to get up under the hood and come into direct contact with it. Be aware that you’re touching an area many women would direct you awayfrom, and for good reason. Which brings us to No. 2.

2. Learn how to touch it.
Applying a man’s preferred stroke to a woman’s body will likely be too much. Especially there, up under the hood, directly on the clit. It’s extremely sensitive. The nerves can go numb from over-stimulation. (And she may not tell you.)

So go slow. To give you a sense of how to touch the clitoris directly, try this exercise: Rub your thumb and forefinger together, and see if you can make your stroke soft, slow and short enough to feel the ridges of your thumbprint and fingerprint as they move across each other. Try it now. That’s how you want to touch it. And you’ll want to use that level of sensitivity yourself when touching her most sensitive spot.

3. Learn to recognize when the feeling changes.
We like to pretend that arousal rises smoothly like the edge of a saw tooth, ascending in a straight line to the Big Finale. But it never goes like that. The path to bedroom bliss is more like a winding road, meandering between intensity and subtlety. And your craft as a lover hinges on your ability to notice and respond to these changes.

Some guys don’t notice at all, and just keep rubbing away, doing the same thing that seemed to be working a minute ago. (And that’s precisely the point she starts pretending that it still feels good.) If he does notice, he may worry that something’s wrong and start trying to fix it. Suddenly it’s turned into work for both parties, no one’s having fun, and the mood is flattened like roadkill.

But that’s not you. Because you notice the ups and downs and have the presence of mind not to panic. You know the quieter moments are more than just inconvenient speed-bumps. You take the time to notice what it feels like, to savor it, to move appropriately. You know the next peak comes when it’s good and ready. You’re not in a rush.

4. Learn to have goalless sex.
This brings us to the next level of sophistication. There’s a kind of sex you can have where the body leads, not the head. You’re not trying to get anything specific to happen. This is a really different way to have sex than most of us have tried. If you get good at it, it beats goal-oriented sex hands-down. For two reasons.

First, our bodies are a lot smarter than our heads. Most of the strife of sex comes from us getting this part wrong: not enjoying an intrinsically enjoyable activity — I mean it’s genitals for chrissakes! — because we’re comparing it to our conception of what should be happening. To hell with what our bodies actually want right now.

But second and more importantly, our most profound experiences in bed tend to surpass anything we could have anticipated, let alone arranged. These are the moments we live for. The ones we remember weeks or even years later. What we start to notice is that the very best experiences are nothing like our best-executed plan. They weren’t even on our radar. And in fact, all of our trying has been getting in the way. The more we let sexhappen rather than getting it to happen, the more those breakthrough experiences can arise.

5. Learn where on the clit to touch.
As your touch becomes more refined, you’ll notice that this exquisitely sensitive organ is rather versatile. A light stroke across the surface feels one way; press in one or two sheets of paper deeper, and your partner may feel something entirely different.

I’ll let you in on a secret. There’s a bullseye within the bullseye. If you gently nuzzle your finger or tongue up inside the pocket formed by the hood—gently!—way in the back of the pocket is an extremely sensitive spot on the clitoris. It can be so sensitive that just touching it can produce tons of sensation. Mind you, that sensation has equal potential to be intensely pleasurable or painful as glass shards. So you’re going to have to learn to touch it just right. Surprisingly, you may be better off using your finger rather than your tongue. Yes I know, you’ve been honing your oral skills, but the index finger is designed for the kind of exquisitely fine motor control called for here.

6. Learn to recognize when she's performing and when she's really feeling.
Women know that men want to “do her right.” They don’t want you to feel like a loser so they learn to perform, exaggerate, and fake it to stroke your ego. Even worse, most men are unwilling to learn when she is faking because that means acknowledging they didn’t quite hit it. If you try to learn how to handle her just from her moans and audible feedback, you’re calibrating off the wrong thermometer.

Get your ego out of the way and learn to recognize when she’s performing. Part of you already knows, you just don’t want to have to admit it. Once you learn to to differentiate the theatrics from the real sensation, you can start consistently getting the real juice rather than the unfulfilling impostor.

7. Learn when to withdraw.
Too much of any good thing isn’t good at all. A skilled lover knows when to stop something before it gets played out. This is known as the Art of Peaking. The “peak” is the moment where sensation no longer increases. The same way forcing yourself to eat past satiation results in a flavor decrease, continuing sexual stimulation past the peak actually kills the “flavor.”

Mastery of her body means withdrawing just before that peak of satiation. This allows her to continue to feel her desire after you’re gone. Yes, you keep her wanting more. It’s more than a marketing technique. It actually is a kind thing to do. Society trains us to immediately gratify (effectively, squash) our desires so we don’t feel them anymore. But the state of wanting feels good on its own. It allows you to keep “tasting.” Give her this gift of feeling desire. Learn when it’s time to pull back. Know all the places women want to be touched.

8. Learn when to go get her.
No one wants to be a violator, yet we all know there are moments where she wants you to be physically assertive. A place of confusion for many men is reconciling giving a woman space to give you the green light versus being assertive and leading the interaction. Knowing when to be gentle and when to be aggressive is its own skill.

The way to get her the right way is with attention, NOT pressure. If you pay meticulous attention to her body and how it feels, her body will let you know the right stroke for the moment. Hint: It’s in a different location, with a different pressure and a different speed for each different moment. The moving target is her body’s way of making sure you’re paying attention.

9. Learn to listen to your own body.
Men who study with OneTaste are often asked, “Why do you spend so much time on female anatomy? When do you get to yours?” Many men come through the doors to learn the art of touching a woman’s genitals as a path towards being a better lover, or to add a skill to their repertoire, or something to that effect. The bait-and-switch is that in that process, a man learns to feel his own body more in response to hers.

Ultimately, gaining mastery over anything requires you to get past having to think about it and instead feel what the right move is. Your body will inform you what to do if you let it. Shut off your mind and start feeling around. You’ll notice that certain touches of her body get your body excited. That’s your body’s way of telling you that you “hit her spot.”

10. Learn to ask.
If you were learning to play guitar, wouldn’t it be great if the instrument could say things like, “Hey lighten up on the strum and press harder into the frets to get a better sound” from time to time? Yes, it would make learning the guitar at lot easier and faster. Sadly, guitars can’t talk… but women can!

In fact, women love talking about sex. She’ll likely be honored that you care enough about learning her body that you would ask what feels good. Most men try to act like they know everything so they mash away, she fakes it to keep his ego intact and he never learns. Don’t miss out on the the most valuable feedback you can get — ask her!

How to Get People to Join Your Cult (Tips on Spreading Your Ideology)

I was recently contacted by two people from two different cults to have me join them.

I listened to their spiels attentively — because I had been there before.

In my early twenties I was involved with a cult with a health and wellness business as it’s storefront. While I witnessed many undesirable things, there were many positives and it did in fact usher me in to a more desirable way of seeing the world — what I would call a reality upgrade.

So I listened to two cult members who approached me.

One was from the Flat Earth Society. The other was from a popular personal development organization that descended from a cult in the 70’s. I wanted to understand their reality.

And I became irritated. Not because of their worldviews, and not because they were “selling” me. But because they were doing it sloppily…

We’re constantly getting invitations for potential reality upgrades: advertising, politicians’ spiel, self help books, blog articles…

They are all mild forms of brainwashing (brainrinsing?) and many can positively impact our lives.

You may never call your movement/company/ideology a ‘cult’. (No one does.) But if you offer people a new way of perceiving reality, I’m sorry to break it you… it is.

Or at least it functions as one. And that’s not a bad thing.

Anytime people agree on a perspective they co-create a reality — hopefully a better one. If you truly does have a better way of seeing the world, I want you to enroll people in your ways.

Here are 5 principles that will help you enroll people into your way of thinking. They worked on me to join a literal cult. I hope you use them for good, not evil.

1. Validate my current observations, then offer an alternate explanation that includes it.

I did this a lot with Pickup Artists on why to they should take a workshop on empathy. Instead of shitting on their misogynistic assumptions (i.e. “all women are shallow” etc.) I told them, “yeah, you’re right, they do seem to be shallow… in situations where their emotional needs aren’t being met. Now if you just could learn how to feel what’s under that Resting Bitch Face…”

Islam did this with absorbing Jesus as a prophet. Galileo did this with his earlier discoveries under church supervision. Trump kind of did this with underemployment of white males.

It allows the enrollee to save face in adopting a new belief system.

The Flat Earther straight up told me “you’re living a lie.” Bad move. Even if she was able to convince me the Earth was flat, I’d be embarrassed to 180 my stance.

No one with an ego “changes their mind.” We make NEW decisions based on new information.

2. ‎Highlight my insecurity.

Even though I’m avoiding ethics, this is what makes me most uncomfortable about marketing. (Which is probably why I’m not great at marketing myself.) Mainly because my spiritual belief is that we’re all perfect and life is perfect and we’re incarnated to entertain our consciousness via the ups and downs of life.

But I do know I would have missed out on a lot of desired experiences if it wasn’t for my perception that I NEEDED to do them. A little fear has always helped me overcome complacency.

I WANTED to have a Marines adventure. But I would have never went to OCS (like bootcamp) if my recruiter didn’t expose my insecurity about my masculinity.

I WANTED to have an entrepreneurial adventure. But I would have never left corporate work if I wasn’t afraid of becoming Willy Loman.

I WANTED to have a cult adventure. But I wouldn’t have left my fairly comfortable life if I wasn’t having trouble expressing myself.

Few people take action for an incremental improvement. But everyone wants to fix what’s broken.

3. ‎SHOW me what I’ll become if I follow you.

This should be obvious as this is basically the purpose of Instagram.

I asked the Flat Earther “how is your life different now that you know the Earth is flat?”

At this point she got “triggered”. (Her word, not mine.) Which made me sad because I really wanted to believe that at least she was happy in her fantasy. I would hope that if you’re going to dismiss physics you at least have something to show for it…

When I joined my cult, I was mainly attracted by the fact all the teachers were super vibrant, totally self-expressed, badass, and intense AF. Even though not everything they said made sense, I was willing to suspend disbelief because they represented what I wanted to be. (Similar to Cialdini’s “Halo Effect.”)

I later found that much of it was theatrics, but one could argue the ends justifies the means… Again, this isn’t a post about ethics, it’s a post about truth. If you’re going to win me over, you better show me a greener pasture and redder roses (even if your minions had to paint them.)

4. Be willing to drop me.

We only want to follower leaders who don’t need us. We’re only sexually attracted to people who have other options. We’re only willing to carry the flag for a general who can replace us if we go down.

In my cult we were taught to “only want for people as much as they want for themselves.” That’s a brainwash-y line, I know. But the practical meaning is that if someone isn’t interested, move on.

Trump: The Art of the Deal lists this as a major rule: Be willing to walk away.

If I get a sense that you NEED me to hit your sales quota (or much worse, to get validation) you’re not getting any of my time, money, or attention.

I want to know that if I don’t take your “red pill” now, you’ll give to the next One. (That analogy has totally ruined the Matrix for me btw.)

Group attachment works on scarcity.

A couple times when I felt “done” with my cult, I stuck around for another pscycle because I got the sense I’d get replaced in my role (kind of a reverse FOMO.)

5. Really care.

If you believe the absolute that “cult” = “evil” this might be confusing. But in my experience, most effective cult enrollers genuinely care and believe they are doing the best for their marks.

The people who enrolled me showed an active interest in my life. My cult mentor (I believe) was truly interested in my enlightenment… Only her understanding of enlightenment was distorted from her own brainwashing.

I helped people totally uproot their lives because I really really believed it was the best thing for them. (Usually it was, but I’m not perfect.) I knew what it was like to be tortured by mediocrity and wanted more than anything to give them a chance out.

The people who reached out to me didn’t seem to care about where I was at in life. They couldn’t possibly know if they could actually help me, so I didn’t believe them when they told me so.


You might not have a literal cult (hopefully), but these are major principles that allow people to follow you. Cults are simply extreme examples of how people naturally organize around ideas.

Your ‘cult’, be it an explicit group or way of thinking, will attract more people if it follows this principles. Just please, don’t serve Kool Aid.


(Originally published on Better Humans)

I really liked being in a cult...

I really liked being in a cult.

I’ve been afraid to admit it, but it’s true.

I was in a prominent cult with a wellness business facade for two years in my early twenties. I’ve had no problem generally owning my cult experience since I left. It was a unique experience, the stuff of movies, and I can’t imagine any more exciting way to spend that time of my life.

I learned a lot of cool things while there: how to read people, how to alter how another perceives the world, how to get women off (it was a sex cult, after all.)

But the thing I REALLY gained from the cult, the thing that I’ve hated to admit, the thing that fills me contradicting emotions, is that in the cult I learned how to be MYSELF.

I know. You’re supposed “lose yourself” when you’re brainwashed. Well...

What the cult did, and what I imagine all successful cults do really well, is create a safe space for me to be me. They did that by making the world a little smaller, a little friendlier, a lot more vulnerable. And despite being an artificial reality, it was the reallest real I’ve ever experienced until that point.

Most of us kid ourselves that we fully operate on independent free will.

We don’t. I don’t. You don’t.

Ever since our ego developed as children, our actions have been affected by social expectation. That’s not a bad thing. It’s actually a beautiful part of being a human-- at least when the reference group supports the individual.

The sadness of our social nature is when the reference group (parents, school, friends,) don’t support the individual-- and the individual shrinks to fit in.

I did that my whole life. I tried to be a bro. I tried to be a Marine. I tried to be a businessperson with a closet full of suits despite that I despise any clothing that prevents me from rolling around in the grass.

I really can’t blame anyone for my inauthenticity, though I used to totally blame my upbringing. One benefit of being a coach is that when you hear enough sob stories that sound just like yours you realize how bullshit they all are. (Holla at me if I’ve ever coached you ;))

The cult was the first place where I didn’t (initially) feel like I had to shrink to fit in. I could actually exhale… speak my mind, ask for what I wanted, do and say unconventional shit. And unlike in the “real world,” no matter what I said or did my cult community would still love me.

I know. It probably sounds fucked up. I’ll raise it further.

I became super attached to one of my cult mentors because she validated me for just being me. Even though she was only a couple years older, I viewed her as my mother. The mother who would set me up with women and laugh when I did something bad. In that light of unconditional validation (dare I say “love”), I could see who I really was when I wasn’t trying to meet someone else’s expectations.

For the first time I could write without censoring my thoughts. I could speak the way I actually thought. Unlimited validation, in my experience, is a bigger upper than any drug.

Granted, no cult lets you STAY powerful. They show you what you’re capable of, then take it away to sell back to you piece by piece. After I had one taste of my power, I became a junkie to for it. To get more of it, to “go deeper,” I had to once again shrink to conform to a new reference group.

I wish I could say that I had big enough balls to refuse the shrink the first go round. But I didn’t. I shrunk into another inauthentic version of myself. Instead of seeking validation from my deadlift, I sought it from how emotionally vulnerable I could appear.

(FYI, I fucking hate long-hugs. But I catch myself still giving them to spiritual people who I think expect them. If I’ve ever given you a long hug, I was faking it. I’m sorry. I wanted you to like me.)

At some point the soul refuses to keep shrinking. You sober up and drive yourself home. But you have to figure out where “home” is.

The hardest part for me returning to “the real world” was the recognition that there is no such thing. At least not the static way we like to think. New York, USA was just another cult-- a really big disorganized one. So was my pre-cult social circle. So was the Marine Corps. So was every office I’ve ever worked in and every bar scene I attended. They were arbitrary realities with lingo and memes and social expectations collectively set by the reference group.

For awhile I judged these clearly inferior cults. Normal people were so fucking boring with their reality politics and short-hugs. I hated it because I felt I had to know who Khloe Kardashian or Jeff Sessions was in order to be accepted. (I still don’t know who one of those two people are and I don’t care.)

Eventually I learned to be my own reference group. That is, give myself the love. Love myself despite my shortcomings, frustrations, and how I talk too fast in FB videos.

That’s different from “not giving a fuck.” “Not giving a fuck” is good advice, but without the prereq of self-love you’ll be a sociopath. Even worse is the emotional void created when you don’t opt-in to some version of the biggest cult: humanity. I won’t go into the trippy we-all-are-one stuff (but holla at me if we’ve ever done drugs together ;))

When you love yourself you give yourself permission to be who you are. And when you are who you are it becomes easier to be found be all the truth-telling, medium-hug, non-political people who make up a reference group you actually want to be a part of.

So yeah. Cult life taught me that.

And I’m still in a cult. A few actually: I have a shared reality with my girlfriend. I have a shared reality with my business partner and our contractors. I have a shared reality with my clients and my email list. I have a shared reality with UFC fans. I even have shared reality with people who cried during the final episode of the 90’s cartoon Mighty Max. (Holla at me if… nobody’s hollering about that one 😢 )

And you’re in cults too. They are inescapable. Humans be groupthinking because that’s what we do. (It's a necessary effect of empathy.)

But as long as you remember to be your own source of love, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to belong.

Being a Badass = Loving yourself.

Sex Transmutation: Channel Sex Energy to Fascinate, Attract Abundance, and Create Your Reality

Originally posts on

When I was nineteen I read Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. This was around the time Oprah was featuring The Secret and helping spawn the “Law of Attraction” philosophy which was fed by books like Think and Grow Rich.


There’s one chapter in Think and Grow Rich that rarely is spoken about called “The Mystery of Sex Transmutation” that states:

The emotion of sex contains the secret of creative ability.

When harnessed, and redirected along other lines, this motivating force maintains all of its attributes of keenness of imagination, courage, etc., which may be used as powerful creative forces in literature, art, or in any other profession or calling, including, of course, the accumulation of riches.

~Think and Grow Rich (Napoleon Hill)


I didn’t really understand how one could transmute sex, so I tried everythingelse in the book, namely a “positive mental attitude,” and I got beginner’s luck results; An acquaintance I had a crush on became my girlfriend, I acquired a motorcycle that I previously thought I couldn’t afford, and I got the idea for my first book – a how to manual for college kids to learn public speaking.

Over the next few years I would try materializing different intentions but found mixed success. Since the results were so inconsistent, I assumed “The Law of Attraction” was a hoax. Either that or I was missing something.

Many years later I started studying mindful sexuality. I was just focused on improving my sex life but similar synchronicities were happening again.

Random strangers seemed to be attracted to me, I landed an overpaying corporate client, and I started writing poetry for the first time in a decade. I decided to revisit Think and Grow Rich, specifically “The Mystery of Sex Transmutation” and see if I could figure anything else out.


Nature rewards the “sexed”

Fortunate, indeed, is the person who has discovered how to give sex emotion an outlet through some form of creative effort, for [s]he has, by that discovery, lifted him[/her]self to the status of a genius.

~Think and Grow Rich

Sex is Nature’s creative agenda. Nature has designed sexual life forms to be rewarded for furthering Nature’s agenda of creating more life with pleasure, health, and satisfaction.

In essence, if you further Life, you get more Life.

In Sex Transmutation we’re not trying to make babies per se. We’re taking the impulse to procreate and using it to create in other ways.

Nature/Life/The Universe does not care how we create, but insists that we do. Artists and entrepreneurs poetically refer making their work as “giving birth” because it gives an intrinsic reward which we call “satisfaction” (more energy).

By transmuting sex energy you’re basically telling the Universe, “hey I’m not going to make a child this time, but trust me I’m going to spend it well.” And if you’re a good investment, Nature will give you more energy to spend.

Think and Grow Rich roughly covers why Sex Transmutation works. For the how, we need to understand what “energy” is.


Energy = Feeling

When we talk about “energy” in a subjective sense, we really mean that we feel something.

When we say “Ms. Peacock has great energy” we really mean “I feel great when I interact with Ms. Peacock”. When we say “there is bad energy in the Study” we really mean “I feel bad when I enter the Study.” (I played a lot of Clue as a child.)

Sex energy, therefore, is any feeling we associate with sex. Arousalpleasure, and anticipation are the big ones.

In Sex Transmutation we convert the feelings of sex into other usable feelings. This means being willing to feel a lot, and feel in different ways.

Feelings come in 3 different forms:

When we have a feeling our body, our reptilian brain is registering that energy as sensation.

When someone “hurts our feelings”, our paleomammalian brain (limbic system) is registering that energy as emotion.

When we have a feeling that we need to do something, our neocortex is registering that energy as intuition.

Sensation, emotion, and intuition are three forms in which we as incarnate beings perceive energy. Though the language varies, it’s a fairly universal concept found in many different models including Chinese medicine, ayurveda, western alchemy, and even Michael Chekhov’s acting technique.


Transmutation is the process of changing a “lower” form of energy into a “higher” form.

We start with sensation because it’s the most concrete and densest form of energy. As opposed to emotion or intuition, sensation is the only form of energy that can be located in your physical body.


We all know of an individual beaming with creative energy who seems unable to materialize his/her intentions. Chances are that person’s energy stays too volatile and abstract, therefore has trouble grounding in reality. (Such a person can benefit a lot from simple having sex to return to his/her body.)

Sex has a large potential for a high amount of pleasurable sensation and therefore is one of the best places to collect “raw energy.”

In practicing sex transmutation, our only “goal” in sex is to cultivate as much sensation as possible. This means not being attached to results and focusing keen attention on what allows us to feel more. We must become curious about sensation and see how we can maximize pleasure.

Of course there’s a reason most of the world avoids feeling too much…


Unpotentiated sensation will corrupt if not used for creation

[T]he major reason why the majority of men who succeed do not begin to do so before the age of forty to fifty, is their tendency to DISSIPATE their energies through over indulgence in physical expression of the emotion of sex. The majority of men never learn that the urge of sex has other possibilities, which far transcend in importance, that of mere physical expression.

~Think and Grow Rich

Our bodies are limited in space (or by space?), and like any spatial container, they have a limit. As we fill our bodies with sensation we must stay conscious of our limit one of the following will happen:

  1. We discharge (climax, cry, or create drama) – Many forms of discharge can be healthy and satisfying when intentional. But if you find yourself manifesting drama, ask yourself “Am I self-sabotaging what I really want because the sensation is too high?”
  2. We numb out (sensory/substance indulgence, lose consciousness) – Overeating, oversleeping, overdrinking, over-tv-watching, and over-anything can typically be blamed on the person feeling too much. If you get to the point of consuming something without consciously feeling pleasure, then by definition you are numbing out.
  3. We control (shame, mechanical actions) – This often manifests as going after things that we think we should do rather than want to do. Controlling actions are typically rooted in shame. We disapprove of feelings (energy) in ourselves and others in order to cut off the flow. If you ever have thoughts starting with “You’re too…” or discount your desires, then you may be numbing out.


 c. Om Rupani

c. Om Rupani


A major skill within sex transmutation is grounding, or stabilizing the energy in your body. Grounding allows one handle more sensation (i.e. feel more in your body without climaxing).

(Grounding is its own skill which perhaps needs its own article. If you have no idea “how to be stable” try this: pay attention to gravity. Keep paying attention till it’s hard to have frantic thoughts.)

So we’ve cultivated sensation and are holding in it our bodies. How do we actually transmute?


Love is the keystone of transmutation

Highly sexed people always have a plentiful supply of magnetism. Through cultivation and understanding, this vital force may be drawn upon and used to great advantage in the relationships between people.

~Think and Grow Rich

By way of physical anatomy, the heart lives right between the sex organs and the brain. (And the limbic system is conveniently in between the reptilian brain and the neocortex). For energy to flow from Body to Mind it must pass through Heart.

An “open” heart means being willing to feel the emotion of love.

Everyone knows that sex allowing love is very different than sex blocking love. I phrase it that way, because one does not need to be in love, in fact the love I refer to isn’t as much romantic as universal.

 c. Om Rupani

c. Om Rupani


For someone with a closed heart, the energy doesn’t go beyond the body and therefore will force the person to discharge, numb, or control. If you’ve ever had sex with closed heart (be honest) you may have noticed an empty or resentful feeling followed. This is because the energy couldn’t move and became rancid.

For someone with an open heart, eros (lust) will naturally flow into agape (love of all things). When sensation reaches its peak, the natural progression is to “flow up” or become less dense. If you’ve ever had sex with an “open heart” you may have noticed afterwards you saw the world more poetically, were more attentive of ideas and creative associations, and appreciative of everything the way it is – the acceptance and appreciation of all things is exactly the love I’m talking about.

Catherine MacCoun in On Becoming the Alchemist says that the Philosopher’s Stone is actually our hearts. Love is the keystone that allows energy to expand.

Transmutation cannot be forced. One cannot command their hard cock or wet pussy to give them a million dollar idea. One can only feel pleasure and be open to possibility. From there intentions materialize as effortlessly as water evaporating.


Transmuted energy can feed any pursuit

So we can feel a lot of pleasure, hold it, and love it into creativity. Now what?

Well that’s completely up to you.

Simply being charged up in this way has it’s benefits. I know when I’m well-sexed with an open heart I get a lot more attention and interest just for being.(Carolyn Elliott will actually be teaching specifically about sex energy fascinationin the free training mentioned below.) When I’m closed or blocking my energy, no one seems to notice me at all.

When transmuting sex energy in this way, ideas come in floods. I’ve had partners get annoyed that right after great sex I’ll often reach for my notebook. Sometimes the answer to a problem I’ve been working on, or my next big project will just come to me during sex. Cuddling can wait two minutes.

And sex becomes better. A lot better. We learn to connect to energy beyond just mechanical stimulation. Sex becomes a more holistic experience in the sense that it really encompasses the whole of you: body, heart, and mind.

How To Craft Powerful Internal Dialogue

Originally posted on WITCH Magazine


You encounter a very familiar person whose words you completely trust.

You know this person to possess incredible powers to affect change in the world.

And this person tells you,

“I will cast spells on you,

subtle incantations,

every minute,

of every hour,

of every one of your waking days.

You might not feel them at first because they are subtle spells,

but they will certainly affect you,

for better or for worse,

continuously influencing your behavior,

your feelings,

your perception of reality.”


You would hope this person had your interests at heart, wouldn’t you? You would hope the spells were all aligned with your desires, your intentions. You would hope this person had some sort of method to the madness, and wasn’t planting suggestions in you at random, willy nilly.

Someone does cast spells on our every moment of every day. You do! And you are continuously planting powerful suggestions in yourself that affects your behavior, mood, and reality. We call it your Internal Dialogue.

Our consciousness as humans comes with the ability to think beyond our present moment and “communicate with ourselves.” We know that language creates reality and how we think to ourselves greatly affects (and perhaps has the greatest effect) on how we act, how we feel, and how we experience the world.

To say the we should just “think positively” ignores the nuances of how internal dialogue works. Below lie three critical keys to how we can cast better spells on ourselves.

1 Drop “to be”.

When I coach clients for the first time, very often they will say some version of “Things aren’t moving for me” or “I am stuck around (insert life issue)”. I notice that as they describe their current challenge, such persons often use conjugations of the verb to be excessively.

I am emotionally hypervolatile. You are sarcastic. He is an asshole.

Whether such statements carry truth or not does not matter as much as the implication of the word choice. ‘To be’ implies a permanent state. The implication of permanence has worse effects than thinking negatively, especially when it comes to adjectives:

“I am brilliant” seems like a nice thing to say to ourselves but doesn’t mean anything real. Such a thought may correspond to true events that happened, but by itself it’s too abstract to be material.

We need to think concretely in order to create in the material word. Thinking in abstract adjectives results in 1) false confidence in inappropriate scenarios, 2) a disincentive to continuously attend to our intentions.

Instead of “I am brilliant” a more real, usable, and humble though would be, “I inspired many people with my last article. I want to reach more people with my next one.”

The latter statements describe real material things and events. The former statement describes a vague state of being out in the ethers.

Gerunds (verbs we treat as nouns) also distance us from affecting reality. They detach us from specific time and therefore material results.

“I am finding myself” can take forever. “I find myself on a Wednesday elbow-deep inside a jar of Nutella, then I go clean myself up” grounds us with real actions in real moments.

Deleting “to be” from our internal vocabulary isn’t as difficult as we may think. Whenever convenient I avoid the verb in my writing, but for this article in particular I made the hard rule against “to be” (save quotes and examples). It challenged me at first, but any static sentence can morph into an active one.

Internally the results speak for themselves.

For months last year I told people and told myself, “I am writing a book.” This meant nothing other than I had started a book and did not contribute to its completion. Now I make sure to ground my language. To truthfully think “I write” requires me to actually complete the action. I write in the morning. I wrote eight pages yesterday. I will write tomorrow.

Think in dynamic language. You will find a greater impulse to maintain your fluidity in your being as much as your doing.

2 Complete thoughts by externalizing them to real ears.

I have often thought how “internal dialogue” describes it incorrectly. If we speak to ourselves, shouldn’t we call it “internal monologue”?

But often we do mentally externalize our thoughts: replaying old conversations with new speech, projecting future conversations, creating imaginary conversations with imaginary people.

This comes from a human need to have ourselves heard. Like Peter Lynch’s metaphor of “completing a throw” to release trauma, when we have an impulse to communicate and we don’t, it gets “stuck” in our psyches.

Speaking a thought to another affects the psyche much differently that “speaking” it in our head. Saying something to ourselves never gives the sense of completion.

Without completion, the thought never leaves. Recurring thoughts are like sewage water that won’t flush through the pipe. Eventually it will become rancid and cause a backup in your mind. The psychic clogging we call resentment.

Resentment = re- sentiment, the same feeling over and over again.

Making amends, speaking with coaches or therapists, and even venting to friends can have huge healing effects because they allow resentment to be released.

When I catch myself running the same internal dialogue multiple times, even if it doesn’t carry emotional significance, I take it as a sign to go communicate to someone. Otherwise my mind pipes will be clogged and I will have trouble creating.

If you have recurring thoughts that do not serve you, go talk it out. Literally talk it out of you. You will find more room in your mindspace for what you really care about.

3 Consider style over information. Think in feelings instead of words.

We translate our thoughts into words in order to communicate them with others. But in speaking to ourselves we do not need to make that translation. Thoughts begin in our psyches as “energy” (viz: feelings) before we “materialize” them into word form.

Like freezing a fluid into a solid, thoughts can lose volatility when reduced to informative language. Similar to how explaining the humor in a joke ruins it, in describing emotion with facts often sterilizes it. For that reason poetry tends to preserve feeling better than exposition.

Creativity requires volatility, movement, changing form. This means maintaining the feeling of a thought over it’s information. Catherine MacCoun calls this feeling style.

Style is how energy takes one form or another. You could say that style is like an idea on an intention. Or you could say it’s like personality. Style is the essence of the matter.

~ On Becoming an Alchemist (MacCoun)

The statements “Mo’ money, mo’ problems” and “Increasing wealth causes greater life challenges” have very different flavors even though they mean the same thing informatively. They conjure much different feelings in us.

When it comes to behavior, mood, and perception, our style of thinking matters much more than the words we tell ourselves. For our internal “dialogue”, we actually don’t need words at all. I know, what blasphemy coming from a writer! However by saving our words for communication, we actually have access to more.

Do nothing with your whole mind and body and everything will be done by what’s around you. ~ Infinite Jest (DFW)

The “do nothing with your mind” that David Foster Wallace speaks of means surrendering to our involuntary creative process. Instead of trying to control our thinking by assigning “solid” words to it, we allows our subconscious more time to play with the volatile form of the thought.

Volatile thought moves faster. We can practice this in the way we read. If we say each word in our head as we read a sentence like this one, we can only read as fast as we can speak. Speed readers know to pick up the meaning of the words without “saying it” which allows them to read much faster. Faster thought means quicker associations, and more creative output.

Try to think without words. Or better said, think in feelings. This means not “telling” yourself what you think, but feeling what you think. I could say more on that, but more words here would… well you get the point.

You encounter a very familiar person who completely trusts your words.

You possess the ability to affect every aspect of this person’s behavior, mood, and creation.

You tell the person, “I will cast spells on you, subtle incantations, all day every day.”

Since you already cast a spell on this person every time you think,

you might as well craft your thoughts to be good ones.

So you drop static language, speak old thoughts to complete them, and cast spells in style.

And the very familiar person says, “Thanks’.

The End.


Matter Over Mind: improving mood through simple physical actions

Originally published on Better Humans on Medium

About a month ago I woke up with an uneasy feeling. My face felt droopy. My eyes felt tired. I wasn’t sure why, but I really didn’t want to get out of bed or face the day.

“I must be sad,” were the words that popped into my head.

The next morning it was the same thing. And the next. And the next.

“Uh-oh,” I thought, “am I getting depressed?”

I felt the world crashing down around me from under the covers. Yes of course I was getting depressed. I had all these business setbacks, blocks around the book I’m writing, and uncertainties about my future. Woe is me! Life is over! How could I not be depressed?

Then I drank a glass of water.

And a few minutes of metabolization later, nothing seemed that terrible. I realized there has never been a time in my life where I didn’t have any business setbacks, creative challenges, or future uncertainties. In fact, the happiest periods of my life have been full of them.

Did I create a dystopian view of the world simply because I was dehydrated?

Perhaps. And if that was true, what else might be true? I decided to explore how material actions affected my mind. Everything I found were things we all know are important. However I didn’t realize how important they were.

The mind is quick to justify feelings, sometimes incorrectly.

I spoke about my situation to Mari Miyoshi, Brain Integration Coach with a background in craniosacral therapy and applied kinesiology. She teaches Brain GymⓇ, a method of physical movement to increase mental functioning of children. She wasn’t surprised and said,

“It’s easy to think ‘I’m sad, maybe it’s because I didn’t get enough hugs as a child,’ or maybe you just need a sandwich.”

Unlike the body, the mind isn’t encumbered by the the limitations of material space or time. This is great asset for creative thinking and problem solving. but it also makes us liable to create false realities, also knowns asdelusions.

The mind likes to give a deep meaning to everything. But some things aren’t indicative of something more profound. Sometimes the emotions we feel aren’t more serious than needing to attend to basic functions.

Our most concrete interaction with the world is through our bodies.

If the mind is our immaterial self, then the body is who we are in material reality. Perhaps due to our human compulsion to apply meaning to everything, we tend to identify more with the mind than the body. As Alan Watts said,

“Why do we say ‘I think’ but not ‘I am beating my heart’?”

More specifically, our reptilian brain processes the physical world through the senses. Reptiles never get deluded, indecisive nor have existential crises because their experience of the world never gets more complex than sensation. They move towards pleasure, and away from pain. When we need to “ground ourselves”, we could learn a thing or two from our cold-blooded ancestors.

Sensation is the most concrete and basic way our nervous systems experience the world. Every experience we have has a corresponding sensation, though the more abstract the experience the “further away” the sensation is.

A close example is emotions. Emotions are sensations that are slightly abstracted by our mammalian brain to have a more nuanced meaning. Anger has a distinct sensation of tension. Happiness has a very different sensation that’s similar to pleasure.

Well Donnie, to the reptilian brain it IS that simple.

A more abstract example are intuitions or involuntary thoughts. That’s our even more complex neocortex applying language to an emotion, which turn was abstracted from a sensation. In my opening example I derived the words “I am sad” from the emotional effect of the sensational experience of dehydration.

(Sensations, emotions, and intuitions are all referred to as “feelings” because they are different ways of processing a given stimulus.)

We can affect our entire system by “top-down”, such as positive thinking. But it’s much easier to go “bottom-up.” As Mari put it:

“By conscious thought alone it’s very difficult to change behavior. You have to catch [your patterned behavior] every time and make a different choice. What do you do with all the other feedback, anger and fear? The best way is through movement.”

By tinkering with the body instead, we can give the mind a break for a change.

Listen to the full Interview with Mari Miyoshi on Questions For People

The brain physically changes based on how we operate.

“Every time you do something it is reinforced in the brain, whether you like it or not,” Mari said.

Every action corresponds to a certain pattern of electrical impulses in the nervous system. When a pattern is done over and over, such as the way we tie our shoes, it can myelinate, meaning an insulating protein sheath forms like the insulating rubber around an electrical wire. This allows the the pattern to fire more quickly. This what a “habit” is.

Mari explained me how infantile movements like crawling our critical to our development as children. because they connect the left and right sides of the brain and exercise basic parts of the nervous system such as the vestibular system, responsible for balance and spatial awareness. Kids who don’t get to roll around and crawl much often have learning challenges later because of missing out on this development.

Since we typically do less complex movement as adults, our vestibular can atrophy, causing other systems to compensate.

One example is that most people need to have their eyes open to balance. Modern adults overuse their vision with all the two-dimensional screens we look at, and don’t move enough to have a vestibular system to keep our balance by feel.

In short, if we move more, our nervous system functions a lot better.

I now crawl out of out of bed in the morning. (It’s a lot easier than walking when you’re groggy anyway.) Not only do I feel more in touch with my body afterwards, it’s influenced me to keep my floor clean.

Our entire reality is filtered through our nervous system.

The visceral activation of an emotion doesn’t last longer than eight seconds. Reptiles forgive and forget both good and bad quickly. If we experience an emotion for longer than eight seconds it means we are recycling the feeling by habit.

I’ve been pushing the idea of tinkering with the material world, our “objective” reality. But the reality that each of us experiences isn’t really objective. Every we experience gets filtered through the reinforced neural patterns.

93% of what we “see” is a result of interpretations made by our brain. TheWhat color is the dress? craze is a concrete example of that.

“The Dress” made it clear that we don’t always see reality the same way.

When I was at Officer Candidate School with the Marine Corps part of the training involved sleep deprivation. The commanding officer told us, “Fatigue increases your fear. The more tired we make you, the more we you have to confront your fear.”

Conversely, if you don’t want to experience as much fear, maybe you need a nap. Or a glass of water. Or to breath more deeply. Or to look at a pretty three-dimensional sight. Or to get up and move.

In my recent case, my stress and sadness wasn’t caused by stressful circumstances. It was an adverse reaction to normal stimuli because my body was imbalanced.

Of course some bad moods are more than just physical. “Bad” emotions are a part of life too. However, before we assume “life has taken a turn,” we ought check on our basic functions: eat good food, drink water, sleep well, and look at pretty three-dimensional objects.

And if all else fails, get on hands and knees and crawl.

Why Creative People Must Make Their Beds

Published on Better Humans on Medium

A version of this article is also on Bad

Up until about a year ago, you could not convince me to make a bed.

It was more than laziness. I actively refused to. It made no sense that one should bother “making” what one would soon be messed up again.

As a child, this argument extended with my mother to overall philosophy on room cleanliness. I liked having my toys and books scattered. I knew where everything was, and even back then I felt that disorder and chaos were representative of my personality.

Over my last decade I’ve realized how the organization of space has a huge effect on a person’s creativity, mood, and ability to affect reality. This is especially critical for those who want bring the fruits of their imagination into the world.

In other words, creators need to make their beds. Here’s why:

Arranging Materials is Another Form of Materializing Intentions

While it is certainly possible that a bunch of paper and office supplies thrown at a desk could fall in an organized manner, we all know the likelihood of that is slim to nil. When we see neatly organized paper and supplies on a desk we assume that someone intended for it to look just like that.

A creator is one who wants to see his or her intentions expressed in the world.Anytime we make a bed or organize our things, we are doing just that. Making a bed may not seem as significant as creating art or manifesting an unlikely circumstance, but the mental procedure is exactly the same.

The more precisely we organize our space, the more specific we are in realizing our desires.

Organization “Concentrates” Creative Energy

The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics states that entropy (quantified disorder) of any system continuously increases. This means that the universe naturally moves towards uniform chaos. Eggs will crack, beds will become unmade, pee on one side of the pool will inevitably evenly disperse along all parts of the pool (allowing the pee-er to go undetected.) Energy, left to its own devices, will dissipate amongst an environment.

Attention and energy are co-variant, meaning changes in one change the other and vice versa. We can only create to the degree that our attention can focus on something meaningful.

Creators seem to thrive in chaos, not because any random configuration will do, but because creators can detect meaningful patterns amongst what appears to be a meaningless jumble of matter and energy.

Michelangelo said of creating David, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved till I set him free.” We can all agree that David has a much greater energy signature (meaning its presence affects us more) than plain block of marble.

We concentrate energy (and therefore our creative attention,) anytime we arrange a physical space in a meaningful way.

Quality Arises When Preferences Are Imposed on the Environment

Why does marble in the shape of David mean more to us than a plain block? Why is a bed “made” when the sheets are set in certain ways, but not others?

For most people, those lower-entropy configurations feel better. That better feeling is what Robert Pirsig in Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance calls Quality.

“Quality is so mysterious but because Quality is so simple, immediate and direct….Quality is the continuing stimulus which our environment puts upon us to create the world in which we live. All of it. Every last bit of it….Quality is the track that directs the train.”

Quality is a subjective experience. The specifics of what is Quality in music, art, or arrangement of bedding differs from person to person. However the experience of quality is universal. Quality is a feeling. Quality is the feeling that has the most meaning to the experiencer.

Everything you experience falls somewhere on the continuum of mediocrity to quality. To arrange your physical space to feel better is to shift your being towards quality.

Attention on the Energy of Materials Increases Intuition

We know that matter and energy are different forms of the same thing. As sentient beings we perceive matter through our five senses. As sapient beings we also can perceive energy through feeling.

That sensations, emotions, and intuitions are all referred to as “feelings” isn’t a coincidence. They are simply different methods of perceiving energy.

Our reptilian brain registers energy as tactile sensation. Our limbic (mammalian) brain registers energy as emotion. Our neocortex (human brain) registers energy as intuition or involuntary thought.

An intuition is when our mind puts words to a feeling we picked up from our environment (or possibly beyond.) We increase our receptivity to feeling such energy by having our attention on said environment.

When you pay attention to something it “tells” you how to interact with it. If while looking at your desk, you get the random thought that it would feel better if you stacked your paper and threw out your old sticky notes, then you have effectively intuited. (The same applies to people and art.)

Intuition is act of finding Quality in any situation. Noticing how things around you feel is the crude gateway to subtle intuition.

External Space Reflects Internal Space

There was an MTV reality dating show called Room Raiders where participants decided whether or not to go on a date based on what the person’s bedroom looked like. The premise is a lot deeper than MTV portrayed. You really can tell a lot about a person’s inner workings by his or her physical space: standard of quality, mental organization, attention outwards, sensitivity to energy.

If you are prone to a messy room and unmade bed like me, never fear. It works both ways. By organizing your environment to your sense of Quality, you organize your mind.

After decades of solid protest, I have become one who makes his bed each morning. I can’t deny that the seemingly meaningless chore has a direct effect on my creative performance.

As you have hopefully concluded, this isn’t just about bedmaking. Making our beds just happens to be one of the first opportunities for affecting reality for most of us. The principles apply to any material activity: cooking, gardening, sex, among other things.

This article has been planting the suggestion that everything you experience is a reflection of your mind. I’ll be more explicit and go a step further:

You are what you experience.

The state of your bedsheets represents one of many locations in your psyche.As creators we aim to bring intentions of our internal world out into the external shared reality. No sheet should ever be left unturned.

The Gravity Technique [VIDEO]

The Gravity Technique: the quickest and easiest way to develop presence and be in your body.

We know the benefits of ‘being present’: A sense of peace, ability to connect with and affect others, mental clarity, access to ideas, etc.

Our attention always ‘present’ somewhere. When we’re daydreaming and someone asks “where are you?” the ‘where’ they are asking more specifically is “of the infinite things to think of, what is your attention on right now?

It’s interesting that we often use spatial terminology for our thoughts, our ‘mental space.’ Unlike our bodies, the ‘space’ that our minds exist in is an endless plane of multiple dimensions. To visualize a map of our potential thoughts could occupy us for an eternity. It’s tempting, but don’t try it!

Our ability to “leave our body” and consider scenarios and vantage points that differ from our immediate observation is the main thing that separates us from most other animals. (Supposedly dolphins and some whales can do it too.) The ability to project and reflect is both a power and a curse. We can plan various things, but we can also spin out and lose touch with immediacy.

Out of the infinite ‘places’ to have our attention on, only one place that counts as the present: the time and space that our bodies occupy in this moment.

To be present is to have our attention on the present. And our bodies are the key to that.

We can think of our body as the material aspect of our self as opposed to the immaterial aspects (mind and spirit if you think in those terms.)

There’s a distinct feeling when our minds and bodies occupy the same “space.” That feeling is not just personal to us, but extends to our interactions with others.

Presence is how much we can be felt by others.

It’s a trait highly sought after in performing arts because it feels good to pay attention to a present person. It’s highly valued in conversation because it feels good to listen to and speak to someone who is “fully there with us.”

When we are in the presence of a present person, we feel more present. So in many ways, the more aware you are of your physical body, the more good feeling you can spread in the world.

A lack of physical awareness is often the cause of many ailments. If we really attended to how our bodies were feeling, we wouldn’t let ourselves sit for the hours at a time that cause back problems later in life.

However when we’re disconnected, the command Feel your body! is about as effective as saying Just be confident! to a person who is feeling meek.

The long-term solution is to take on an embodiment practice like yoga, tai chi, or some form of dance. However even the most dedicated practitioners can fall out of the moment. I recently noted the habit of tensing my shoulders and butt when I see a lot of notifications on my phone. It’s like my attention is being pulled out of my body and out the moment in order to process the emails, texts, and reminders that don’t actually exist in space.

Here’s a short-cut I use now to bring me back into my body:

Notice gravity.

At any moment, you can put some attention on gravity. It’s a constant force on our bodies. Noticing your physical weight will put you right back in the present moment.

When I redirect my attention to gravity, not only will my mind clear, but I’ll often a way to interact with my environment (people and things) that feels better. That’s presence in a nutshell.

Here’s a 4 minute video of a quick attention exercise you can do right now to feel your body more.

Once have done it once, you can run through at any moment.

When I’m driving and I get distracted, I remember to feel gravity.

When I’m on the computer and my thoughts are spinning out of control, I remember to feel gravity.

When I’m having sex and disconnect from the sensation or my partner, I remember to feel gravity.

Feel gravity. Feel gravity. Feel gravity. I’m sorry for being redundant but it will help you remember later.

Watch Your Ass: an unusual shortcut to mind-body relaxation (Better Humans)

Originally posted in Better Humans

Over the past few years I’ve become well acquainted with my inner asshole. I don’t mean the metaphorical part of my psyche that’s a jerk, I mean my literal, physical, anatomical butt. I’ve been observing how the state of my rear affects my communication, sex, mood, and life. Let’s start with the basics:

We subconsciously clench our muscles as an attempt to gain control over our situations.

When we see someone whose shoulders are permanently hiked up, we can make the educated guess that their mind is stressed. Same goes for when we see someone repeatedly clenching their hands.

Mental stress and physical tension are co-variant. An increase in either typically increases the other.

When we feel overwhelmed, clenching muscles gives a false sense of control because of the feeling of exertion. (Even if we’re not exerting against anything but ourselves.) The hardest part about learning to ride a bike as a child isn’t balance, it’s learning to not clench our bodies against the prospect of falling.

We all know that the more we can stay relaxed physically, the more we can handle mentally. The anal sphincters get clenched most often unconsciously because they are hidden from view. They are also one of the most important muscle groups to keep relaxed.

The anal muscles are like the master valve for sensation in your body.

When I started paying attention to my rear, I realized I clenched my butt every few minutes. Just about anything uncomfortable caused it to contract:

  • Emotional dismay: irritation, annoyance, judgment, embarrassment.
  • Intellectualizing: trying to figure out problems or organize convoluted information.
  • Physically Exertion: awkward yoga poses, high rep exercise.
  • Sex: pulling for climax, whenever sensation gets really high.

When someone is a “tight ass” we already know that means they are rigid or resistant to spontaneity. This is more literal than many realize.

Sphincter muscles are like valves in a water system. They are designed to open when our body wants something to pass through, and close when our body doesn’t.

The only good times to clench our rear sphincter is 1) to hold in excrement, or 2) prevent something unwanted from entering. Any other times we clench we are reducing circulation and reducing the flow of sensation.

It’s a final attempt to resist our circumstances: if we can’t control them, we can stop ourselves from feeling them.

My clients who have had sexual problems almost always realize they have been unconsciously clenching their rear almost all day. Clenching is a way to literally reduce your feeling in your body.

Just as it’s near impossible to run slowly while pumping our arms quickly, it’s difficult to do anything gracefully with a clenched butt. An acting teacher told me: “The ability to relax the sphincter in performance leads to more freedom and availability in one’s work.”

Learning to keep that muscle group allows us to feel more and move and think with more flow. Here’s what we ought to know about the anatomy:

We have two sphincters back there

If you were a good student in 9th Grade Bio, you may remember that our anus is made of two sphincters that permit passage through the colon like the alternating locks of the Panama Canal. (Which you’d understand if you were a good student in 8th Grade History.)

The Outer Sphincter is well within our control. We contract it to hold in a fart. We relax it to take in a thermometer (hopefully.) Most don’t realize the Inner can continue clench even after the Outer has been relaxed.

For a more specific instruction on locating and relaxing the Inner Sphincter, watch this video (It’s kind of SFW, tell your boss it will make you more clear-headed at work):

A quick tutorial. (Kind of SFW. There’s nothing more explicit than the preview above.)

I remember attempting anal sex with past lovers and being confused when her ass seemed relaxed from the outside, yet I couldn’t get in. She wanted to appear trusting and open, but the truth was she didn’t feel safe enough to be that vulnerable with me in such a way.

It’s a nice little metaphor: Your visible anatomy seems open, but you’re secretly closed on the inside.

Relaxing the Inner Sphincter feels much more vulnerable. To truly relax is to truly all the world in; to surrender control. It requires a level of faith and trust in your circumstances. It’s far more psychological than physical, (and perhaps more spiritual than psychological).

Consider your anus. If there’s one thing you can focus on today that would benefit your mind-body performance, it’s relaxing your rear. Watch the video above if it seems difficult. Don’t be surprised if it becomes an emotional challenge. Who knows what you’ve been resisting?