Habits

Run Free: The Paradox of Cultivating True Freedom

Run free.

I've been thinking about freedom & liberation a lot lately.

It's a dense & complex subject. In yogic philosophy it is referred to as Moksha, or freedom from ignorance.

Freedom is one of my highest personal values. In all its infinite forms. Freedom to choose the people we spend our time & energy with. Freedom to choose our work -- what we put our physical, mental, emotional & spiritual energy into. Freedom to express ourselves with power & authenticity.

Ultimately, what I want & choose daily is freedom to live a life that has heart & meaning.

But how can we have this freedom & liberation if we do not know ourselves?

Self-knowledge is the key to liberation. Without it we are lost to ourselves and lost to the world.

And in both cases we are left useless. Useless to ourselves because we are chained to a life that doesn't reflect our true inner desires & values. And in turn we are useless to others because if we cannot serve & lead our Self then how can we ever do that with lasting impact for others?

The answer is we cannot.

Nonetheless, self-knowledge is an ever unfolding lifelong process. It is not something you achieve and then you never have to work on it again. It is an integral part of our daily quest.

And here is the kicker:

If we truly want to cultivate self-knowledge & self-actualization. If we truly want to be free. Then we must create & hold ourselves to empowering boundaries & restraints. This is the paradox of true freedom.

 

It seems so paradoxical that we must have boundaries & restraints to achieve true freedom & liberation. But that is the lay of life. It is constantly brimming with paradox.

We must choose physical activity & emotional development over sloth & hatred. Laziness & unchecked darker emotions are easy. Choosing & cultivating physical & emotional fitness requires restraint from the easy path & boundaries that call forth our highest selves.

How easy is it to lash back in anger when someone says or does something that doesn't sit well with us?

How much easier is it so sit on the couch and watch some TV versus getting out of the house to take a hike, hit the gym or even take a walk around the neighborhood?

Furthermore, it takes powerful boundaries to choose health-affirming substances to put into our bodies & minds in a world that is constantly programming & encouraging us through all media channels to poison ourselves with information, food, alcohol & drugs.

Over-consuming is not freedom when you are left with a body that is too heavy & lacking energy, a mind that is screaming in anxiety, a fearful heart & a dwindling spirit.

We must actively pursue self-study, meditation & prayer. For these to occur we must create containers in which they can flourish. This takes vigilant effort in a world addicted to information & convenience.

It requires a powerful stand to turn within when we live in a world that is constantly pulling for our outward focus. Yet we must do it if we are to grow our mental & spiritual capacity.

Powerful boundaries & restraints that are consciously & proactively built into our life to foster ever deepening self-knowledge will set us free.

Self-dominion is the true path to freedom, liberation & self-actualization.

As we find our Self. We find our place in the world. As we serve our Self. We serve the world & its people.

And that is freedom running at full speed.


Some of my current constraints, restraints & boundaries that empower my true freedom:

  • Food Journaling: I log my food every day for everything I consume and have been doing so since September of 2013. How it empowers my freedom:

    • It encourages me to be mindful of what and how much I am eating while still allowing me to enjoy all foods (including ice cream, cookies, pizza, etc.)

    • This practice has lead me to be in the best shape of my life year-round. Being able to take my shirt off and feel good in body is one of the most liberating feelings.

    • This constraint frees me from using food like a drug (which I did for most of my life) and it keeps me from abusing my body with over-consumption.

    • Feel free to add me as a friend on MyFitnessPal if you want to see what I eat (my food diary is public).

  • Meditation: I have been meditating every day and have been since April of 2015 without missing single a day. How it empowers my freedom:

    • Meditation has been used throughout all time and all civilizations to cultivate self-knowledge. It is one of the tried & true paths to Self liberation. More on meditation here.

    • My meditation practice is the foundation & platform upon which I build my entire life. Each day of meditation makes the foundation a little wider and a little deeper.  You can't build a skyscraper that reaches the stars without an incredibly strong foundation. In truth, you can't even build a solid & reliable 1-story house without a foundation.

  • Sobriety: I have been sober from marijuana & other harder drugs since February of 2013 and sober from alcohol since September of 2014. How it empowers my freedom:

    • For over a decade I was a slave to alcohol. My entire life revolved around the consumption of it. This led to even deeper enslavement to marijuana, adderrall & worse for over 5-years. During my addiction I thought I was free, but in truth I was chained to a life that required substances for me to be even be remotely happy or excited about life.

    • It took me a few years to remember how to have fun without drugs & alcohol but I finally woke up! And I feel like a kid again! As a child everything was magical and I had so much fun living life with a sense of wonder and I didn't need any drugs to get into that blissful state. I've rediscovered that super-power and I'm literally constantly high on life! This is ultimate freedom to me!

    • Vibing with my sobriety & high on life existence...? Here's a live video I filmed recently about it!

  • Physical Training: I am predominantly a bodybuilder & yogi but I also walk, hike, bike, rollerblade & trampoline weekly along with other forms of movement (swimming, frisbee, fitness classes, massage, etc.). How this empowers my freedom:

    • This is self-knowledge at the primal level. Knowing your body is knowing your Self. This daily practice removes ignorance & encourages connection to Self.

    • Training my body trains my mind, emotions and even my spirit. Being fit in all major life areas is a high form of liberation.

  • Reading/Listening: Every day I read & listen to empowering knowledge. How this empowers my freedom:

    • You are what you consume. If you consume empowering material you become empowered. If you consume garbage your life becomes garbage.

    • This practice is one of my major keys that keeps me constantly healing, growing & transforming.

  • Creating/Sharing In Service: Everyday I try to create something that will empower another life. Whether it's a blog post, a video, Facebook update, Instagram or creating an experience in-person with someone I always try to live from the guiding question: "Is what I am doing empowering & of service to others?" How this empowers my freedom:

    • Being of service in a way that I am authentically & personally passionate about is easily one of the best ways to get high on life for me. Each time I do it I am filled with an incredible energy & sense of satisfaction that I cannot seem to get any other way.

Alchemical Opportunity For The Reader:

What are the constraints, restraints & boundaries that you can proactively create & cultivate in your life now to truly give you the life of freedom you desire & deserve?

Leave me a comment below, send me an email or tweet me with your answer!

In alchemy & service,

Justin David Carl 🌒


END NOTES:

  1. Originally this was an Instagram post that ended up being too long so I only posted part of it. It was inspired by one of my amazing yoga teachers, Hana Raftery, after receiving her class/teaching focused on Moksha on Independence Day (July 4th).
  2. Photos by Noelle Johnson.

 

    Habit-Stacking: How To Get More Life Out Of Good & Bad Habits

    I'm obsessed with habits.

    Ever since I read the book Willpower almost 4 years ago I have been studying them diligently.

    I've been studying them in my own life, both the good ones & the bad ones.  I've also been studying the habits of people I admire & aspire to be like - both living & dead.

    We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
    — Will Durant

    This quote (often mistakenly attributed to Aristotle) sums up the "why" behind my obsession with habits.

    Habits can be a vast subject when you get into all the nitty-gritty, but in this article I want to cover just one strategy. Something I like to call Habit-Stacking.

    Habit-Stacking: Combining two or more habits together to build, support & reinforce each other and/or to negate the effects of potentially negative or undesirable habits.

    In its simplest form habit-stacking is combining two or more habits together.  This empowers you to do more in the same amount of time.  It also empowers you to reinforce good habits as well as use a bad habit to encourage good behavior.

    There are two major themes of habit-stacking in my mind:

    Plus/Plus (+/+) Habit-Stacking

    This is using two or more positive habits to build, support, & reinforce each other.  Some personal examples in my life are:

    • Listening to audio books & educational programs while commuting (driving, flying, train, subway, biking, walking, etc). This one habit-stack radically increased the rate at which I get through books & high-quality personal development programs
    • Flossing with a floss-pick while driving, biking, walking, etc. Basically, anytime I am commuting where I don't feel too self-conscious flossing. Combine this with the habit-stack above & you have a ménage à trois habit-stack!
    • Reading on a cardio machine. This includes paper & electronic books as well as online articles. I save as much of my online reading (with the Pocket app) for the cardio machines.
    • Work email on a cardio machine--elliptical, stationary biking, treadmill on incline, etc. I've trained myself to get through massive amounts of email on my iPhone while moving. I even do it while walking outdoors in low-traffic, safe areas where I don't need to worry about walking into dangerous things like cars. Work email will be there every week guaranteed. Make it work for your fitness.
    • Anytime I can take a phone call while walking outdoors I seize the opportunity. This simple habit-stack adds up huge over time (5-10+ hours of walking per week). I use a headset and take notes on my iPhone when needed.
    • Exercising outdoors while getting sunlight (see title picture). There is a ton of published research that supports the mental/emotional/physical benefits of exercise (movement) & spending time in nature. Why not combine the two together and maximize your life?! I also claim there is a huge spiritual benefit as many of my most divine moments happen while moving in nature. 🌲😇⛰

    Plus/Minus (+/-) Habit-Stacking

    This is taking a potentially negative, mindless, or undesirable habit and using it to reinforce positive life-enhancing habits. Here are some of mine:

    • Combining social media with some form of cardio (stationary cardio machine or walking). I have a personal rule that I spend at least 80% of my social media time moving in some form. Like many people I can freely admit social media is addicting and I easily lose track of time. It's pretty awesome to come up for air from the black-hole of social media and realize you just did over 30 minutes of cardio.
    • Audio books, podcasts & other personal development auditory material while cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, yardwork, & other weekly chores. For some, these habits/tasks, such as cooking, are pleasurable. For me they are undesirable, but necessary in life. When I throw on a positive & transformative audio program suddenly these mundane tasks become awesome to me.

    My current favorite habit-stack:

    Doing everything I can think of on my FitDesk - brushing my teeth, flossing, email, writing/blogging, social media, talking on the phone, reading books & online articles, watching videos, etc. Over a week this adds up. I easily get in 5-10+ hours of additional low impact exercise each week because of this. This leads to greater weekly calorie burn & supports optimal year-round fitness (more strategies like this in my free Fitness Guide: How To Be An Ultra Fit Entrepreneur).

    Here I am on my  FitDesk  doing the final edits of this article.   🤓🚴🏼💻  #habitstacking    Shoes by  Android Homme  | Painting by  Carly Lyn Wise

    Here I am on my FitDesk doing the final edits of this article. 🤓🚴🏼💻 #habitstacking

    Shoes by Android Homme | Painting by Carly Lyn Wise

    Habit-Stack Every Area Of Your Life

    The beautiful thing about habits is that once you have them built you do not have to burn precious willpower trying to do them. They become second-nature.  And then you can apply that freed up resource of willpower to tackle more difficult projects (or build new awesome habits).

    There are an infinite number of habit-stacks you can create. Chances are that you already have some awesome ones in place.  As part of my never-ending quest to optimize my life I am always looking for new habit-stacks so if you have any that you would like to share please email me, tweet me with #habitstacking, or leave a comment below.

    In alchemy & service,

    Justin David Carl 🌒

    P.S. The 3 best books I've read on habits so far are: Willpower by Roy F. Baumeister & John Tierny, Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin & The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Got any other good books/resources on habits? Please share! 🙏🏼😄💓