Thursday, October 28, 2010

You can only reject that which you actually desire - Guest Post by Chris Ellison

It is strange that you can know things and yet not 'get it'. 
You can only reject that which you actually desire. I've known this to be true for so long and yet I never 'got it'.

Something that keeps coming into my mind over the last 2 months is what is essential to be human. 

Stripping 'things' away until you get to the point that if you take anything else away you aren't human any more. Finding the essential human condition.

What I kept seeing was a naked man standing on the earth - literally earth...on dirt. 

Everything else is not life, it is stuff that humans make that gets in the way. In an alert awake state everything else started to fall away in front of my eyes and I became so content with just being alive in that moment. 
That was life. Being awake. Breathing in and out.

I was now seeing the other side of the coin, inasmuch as the end state (the coin) would be the same, but for the exact opposite reason. 
Where the possessions left me, rather than I rejecting possessions; the ascetic lifestyle was left not what was 'obtained'. Where the desire for enlightenment was replaced by enlightenment through removal of desire.

It was only then that I actually 'got it'. You can only reject that which you actually desire.

Since I was a child I was drawn to a spiritual life and did not want to pursue material possessions. The first irony is that I did just that. I consciously rejected the importance of money while subconsciously pursuing it with great effort.

What I have come to realise 20 years later, is that my interest in a spiritual life was rooted firmly in ego. I wanted to be 'more spiritual' and be 'more enlightened' than others so that I would be the best! 

I can see now why I subconsciously moved away from this 'pure' path and took the hedonistic path, which again ironically, led me past the 'desire of enlightenment' and brought increased self realisation.

I guess you really do have to go somewhere before you can leave. That is something that has been repeated through my life: You have to go somewhere before you can leave

The path to enlightenment (or anything) is just that, a path. You have to go to each step before you can move on. You cannot just say; "I can see what that step is trying to achieve so I will just skip it move on." 
I see strong parallels here with weightlifting. You cannot just say I understand what your training programme is trying to achieve so I will just skip it and go straight to a 500kg squat.
 Every step brings more truth, and you can't just understand it, you have to 'get it'. You have to go there.

So it was interesting timing to see you write about 'life being easy' when at the same time I was contemplating a similar thing.
Life is being awake in a physical reality, living is all the stuff that humans put in the way

You once quoted Jack LaLanne to me: "If man made it, don't eat it", but how about "If man made it, it isn't real". 

I feel you have the hardest job, trying to lead people to 'get it' for themselves. (If you will forgive the presumption that I know what you are trying to do).

Teaching people that 'the stuff', both mental and physical isn't important while avoiding driving them to an ego driven 'asceticism by desire' is a very hard road.

~ Chris

Cliff's Note:

This post came from an email that Chris sent me, that I'm sure you'll agree is quite awesome! So with his gracious permission I have posted here.
Chris is a client-turned-friend of many years. He has been a long time student of weightlifting, strength, physical culture and spiritual practice.

Thanks so much Chris!

~ Cliff

My latest book is nearly here! Sign up for your copy now:

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Make Your Thorns Known ~ Guest Post by Jenn Thiel

I came up with this thought the other night, not sure why but maybe it's because I'm learning to become more assertive; to stand up for myself.

A friend came to talk to me and was so pumped that she was able to confront her boss and discuss with him some things that had been bothering her. He had said some unprofessional things to her as well as mentioning some comments behind her back. She was buzzing with excitement and feel good emotions of standing up for herself. I can COMPLETELY relate to this! Being a sensitive, caring, happy person makes it sometimes difficult to express how I really feel. I guess it comes from that 'people pleaser' notion that I'm sure I have.
We talked about the situation, and how it was very difficult for her to approach him and have a "conversation". It doesn't have to be a "confrontation", which we often get worked up and worry over. Rather, calling it a CONVERSATION and having an honest talk with someone can take a lot of that worry away. There will always be things that bother us, always people to test our limits. I'm going to start practicing having more honest and truthful conversations with people who may push my buttons just a little too much.

I was thinking about this, and then for some reason thought of a rose. A rose is beautiful. It is an expression of love, happiness, joy, you name it.
The funny thing is, is that roses have pointy and sometimes painful thorns protecting their stems. These thorns do not make the flower any less beautiful, rather they make it more unique. Because of these thorns, we all know to handle this flower a little more delicately as we don't want to get hurt ourselves.

Think of these thorns as our own assertiveness. When we stand up for ourselves, and demand respect, we become more beautiful and unique. People respect someone who will say how they feel, rather than someone who just takes it all. Showing our thorns brings about a sense of confidence that radiates to everyone sending the message that "I am strong. I know what I want. I know who I am. I am beautiful. Treat me the way I deserve to be treated." Just some random thoughts, but I'm practicing this more and more. It's just a conversation!! And the more you practice standing up for yourself and setting personal boundaries, the easier it will become. Soon you won't have to try so hard in order to make your thorns known because they will be shining brightly, available for everyone to see... making you more unique, confident and BEAUTIFUL!!!!

~ Jenn

Jenn Thiel's Blog: Smile With Your Heart

Friday, October 22, 2010

Proportional Tax and Disproportionate Wealth (Audio Post)

Caffeine fueled Tirade on taxation and the accumulation of wealth from the standpoint of creating the greatest amount of individual and collective happiness.

Links to articles mentioned in the post:
Mercola's original post that got me hot under the collar!

The Egalitarian Myth of Capitalism (From

Search for "The Conservative Nanny State" (free audiobook at:
Some interesting wealth distribution figures:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Life is Easy...

Every day I read somewhere, or hear from someone, either in person or in the media that 'life is so hard' or that 'life is a struggle'.
But it's not...
I'll ask you a question:
"Was it difficult for you to wake up this morning?"
While you might think that it was, the reality is that if you had trouble getting up or had trouble feeling alert, that is quite different to having trouble waking in the morning. You woke up, maybe you were tired, but you still woke up.
By waking up; by being alive you have shown quite evidently that life is easy! 
LIFE is the default position. There will be a time when inevitably we will all pass away, and that flip side of the coin of life is easy too! We don't need to DO much of anything to be alive, and when the time comes to pass we too need to do very little for that to happen either!
What people mean when they say that life is hard is that the ACT of living can appear to be a struggle. It is the actions that we find hard to do. 
We are often feeling stressed out, overwhelmed and exhausted, and it is easy to feel like life is out to get us, and that life is a struggle. But it's not life that is the struggle. Life is the default, LIFE is a process, and it is how we relate to things within that process that determine how we feel. We can relate to people in a positive or negative manner. We can draw into our lives positivity, love and joy; and we can cultivate mindfulness in order to glimpse the transient nature of life...and live with the peace that 'this too shall pass'. 

LIFE is easy. We can choose to make our process more of a struggle...OR we can choose to REALLY live, to create a life of passion, playfulness and purpose. 

My next book Time Rich, Cash Optional [an unconventional guide to happiness] is available for pre-release order at

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Teachers vs. Gatekeepers

The greatest teachers I had at school were the ones that challenged me to be better, to work harder and to do things to the best of my ability.
They didn't do it by threatening punishment (because for me that never worked), by berating me or through not caring. They did it by engendering respect in their students. We respected them as individuals and we in turn took them on willingly as role models.
The respect that they engendered within us was sparked by them being caring, connected people. They wanted us to succeed, they wanted to do the best that THEY could by us and they genuinely cared about the welfare and wellbeing of others over themselves. This is not to say that they were all 'touchy, feely' hippies! - In fact few were and some were downright (as we would say in NZ) 'hard bastards' (Mr Cowie if you're reading this I'm talking about you!) But in spite of their own 'style' - be it gruff, procedural or free form they had that intangible quality of leadership that cannot be taught, because leadership has no road map...but in spite of having no map people will follow.

They were generous with their knowledge - and I think that is the mark of a true teacher, and in fact a true leader. Being generous with one's knowledge is also extremely selfless, and by it's selfless nature is one of the strongest acts.
When someone in the guise of a 'teacher' is not generous with their knowledge they instead become a 'gate-keeper'.
A gate-keeper serves as an intermediary between someone and knowledge, and therefore become essential to that person's pursuit of greater learning. In this way it is possible to drip feed information to learners and to hold an inordinate amount of power over the people learning.
This is they way that education has been structured for time immemorial and is the archetype we see in priests and clergy from various religious traditions; traditions in which it is the norm for the priest to act as the intermediary between the layperson and God.

The position of the gate-keeper is one of trying to preserve and exercise power
The position of the teacher is to empower others

The inner strength required to be a teacher springs from self awareness. Being a gatekeeper is an attempt to gain strength through the holding of knowledge which becomes a commodity and a position from which to profit (something that we see time and time again in the corporate world where people 'hold back' valuable pieces of information to encourage repeat business and dependency).
The teacher realizes that their value can be measured by how much they instead empower others.
There is an inner strength that is exemplified by a willingness to share ALL that they can. There is no fear that they will 'run out' of knowledge and lose their position and status, because position and status are not in the paradigm of pure teaching, the goal is in the giving to others - not the accumulation of power.

The greatest teachers recognize 'the flow' also. They are not worried about running out of teachings, or things that they can do for others, because they realize that these things ultimately come from the universe and we are in effect a conduit for the transmission of knowledge.

Knowledge is energy. Information is simply encoded energy and there is an abundance of it in the universe. We simply become a channel through which we can disseminate that energy to people around us for a greater good.
It is in our own unique and inimitable way of sharing the knowledge that we are able to help others. So the sharing itself is a crucial part of teaching - and so the more that is shared, the more powerful the teacher.

If we are in a position of teaching in any way at all, should we not give without reservation and with all our heart, lest we become a gatekeeper? 

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Factory Farming in NZ...The Spectre Rises Again

The proposals for large scale factory dairy farming in the Omarama and Ohau regions of the South Island that were only recently stalled due to environmental concerns may be back 'on the table'.

The companies (Southdown Holdings, Five Rivers and Williamson Holdings) have, according to a New Zealand Herald article, lodged proposals anew for the factory farms, in which 17,850 cows would be housed in cubicles.

I have written on numerous occasions about the health ramifications of factory farming, something which in this current debate seems to have been ignored to a large degree. I will not repeat all of these arguments again...but beyond our health there are so many reasons why we should not launch ourselves down the slippery slope of factory farming and that we may be on the cusp of doing so stuns and baffles me!

A few quick points ~

Our Health:
It is well known and conclusively proven that when cattle are fed grain instead of their natural feed of grass their tissue fatty acid composition changes markedly. Omega 6 fat levels rise dramatically in proportion to Omega 3 fats. Both Omega 6 and 3 fats are 'essential fatty acids' and are therefore 'healthy' however we, in the modern world have subverted the natural balance of these fats in our diets (due to highly processed and refined food and grain feeding of cattle, chickens and fish). We now consume far too many Omega 6 fats. This causes increased inflammation in the body and is a co-factor in the development of heart disease, diabetes and especially in the development of cancer. Many years ago I was hired to conduct an 'in house' research review on nutrition and breast cancer for a health organisation. The cofactor that kept popping up time and again was a preponderance of Omega 6 fats in the diet.
It is theorised that grass fed milk and dairy products contain more of the health promoting fats CLA as well as Omega 3 fats.
I noticed while living in North America that a lot of the butter was white....In NZ the butter is yellow. I have read that this difference is due to the higher amounts of beta-carotene in our (grass fed) butter milk. This is another vital nutrient we would lose if we are to go down the factory farming route.

Animal Welfare:
Grain fed cattle suffer from a host of gastrointestinal and other problems.
Acidosis is common in grain fed cattle and causes symptoms for the cow that resemble pneumonia.
Other gastrointestinal problems often result from feeding grain to cattle and are uncomfortable and painful at best, and fatal at worst (The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan has some great info on the problems resulting from grain feeding.)
That we continue to 'improve' farming methodology by harming other living beings on an increasing scale should, I believe, be anathema to more of us...

The Environment:
The reason why the proposal was initially turned down was an environmental one.
Condensing large numbers of cattle into small areas provides for increased problems with waste and run off. Should these not be dealt with, it is potentially devastating, particularly for local water quality and water based environs.

The Economy:
I actually think that this is one of the primary areas we need to look at in New Zealand, and one that is seemingly ignored.
The argument has been framed as one of 'progress and capitalism vs. environmentalism'. But in reality that picture is not so.
Commodity based industrial practices have dominated our farming for a long time. We have had considerable success in this, and factory farming would be seen by many as a way to continue and preserve this advantage. However our advantage may be running out...
Countries such as Uruguay and Argentina among others have huge amounts of land and an abundant and cheap workforce, great cattle stock and a history of farming that rivals ours.
Do we really believe that in the face of competitors like these we will be able to keep our competitive advantage?
It is possible...but not assured and I dare say highly unlikely.
By factory farming, proponents say that we can more intensely and more cheaply produce the commoditised goods that have supported our economy for so long.

This to me seems to be the beginning of a battle we are sure to lose.
We are sure to lose I believe because we would be giving away the primary economic advantage we will have in the future!
NZ is still seen as clean and green, although we are doing a stellar job of squandering that...

I have seen in my travels around the world the welcome growth of organic, sustainable products and industry and WE are in a prime position still to take advantage of that.
One way to future proof yourself is to have an economic advantage in emerging markets - to be an early up-taker...and while we are not early enough by my estimation, we can still capitalise on the great image and infrastructure we have (with a little tweaking) to shift some of our agricultural commodity production into greater value added niche and custom products. Products that are not as easily replicable (commodities have no inherent point of difference and so only have price point competition) and that help to preserve our economic future. In other words products that are organic, sustainable, grass fed...and uniquely NZ!

By not letting cattle roam free and eat grass we are stopping them from exercising their inherent 'cowness'! We have a Utopian idea of 'farming', but rest assured that modern farming  is not that of our distant forebears. The farming that exists now in many countries and threatens to appear here in the form of buildings housing thousands of unhappy, unhealthy, grain fed and completely and inhumanly incarcerated animals is an abhorrence.

Please let's get this thing going again! Sign up to the petition here:

If so inclined contact your local MP or a list MP and voice your opposition to factory farming. Feel free to use the points presented here. [Here is how to contact your MP]

Here's just a few of the other things you can do:
1. Become Vegan or Vegetarian (The North American Vegetarian Society is running a competition with a $1000 prize for people who choose to abstain from meat for the month of October - Vegetarian Awareness Month)
2. Choose ONLY organic, grass fed beef and other meats.
3. Choose ONLY organic, grass fed dairy and milk products.

I'm not saying you HAVE to do these things....I'm simply asking that you think about how your actions affect your health; the health and happiness of other living beings; our environment and; our economic future.

~ Blessings

Friday, October 01, 2010

Do You Have 'Artists Guilt?

...but before answering this question you might be asking yourself "am I an artist?"

And the answer is that if you LOVE what you do, and if you find a passion and a purpose in your work, or other things you do in your life, then of course you are!

Anyone CAN be an fact one of the areas I work on with my clients is recovering the artistry and creativity in what they do in order to live a life of greater purpose and satisfaction.

Becoming an artist (in whatever you do) is a way to not only enjoy life more, but to 'future proof' yourself as well!
If you are simply a 'piece of the machine' providing services or products that are simply procedure based, you may be replaced very easily with a machine or with a lower cost human alternative. But if you are an artist; someone who brings creativity, customization and craftsmanship to what you do, you take yourself out of the crowd and become a unique identity; and a unique identity can't be replaced.

Sometimes doing what we love, and doing things that bring joy to us and others can be seen as frivolous. There is an idea that 'real work' is doing something that is stable and secure...and that gets paid in a steady, ongoing manner. We are constantly told by people to 'get a real job', 'stop chasing dreams' and my favorite -  to 'grow up'.
This is even true when we are working REALLY hard to make a success of our artistic endeavors.

I have been lucky enough to spend a lot of time with (and for periods live and work with) several friends who are musicians, actors and designers. All of them to a person are incredibly hard working and spend their valuable time honing their craft, doing 'the work' and spreading the word about what they are doing.
It can be a long and arduous process...but one none of them would give up because they absolutely LOVE it with a passion.
I have spent countless nights with these folks working on projects; and at performances, screenings and showings, and I can tell ain't easy.
And in spite of this it is still seen as frivolous, and perhaps that is due to not just a perception that it's not 'real work' but because it is so hard to achieve fame and fortune for the vast majority of people plying their artistic craft.

However we fall into a trap when we see the options available to an artist as only, either hyper-success or failure.
You need not become a rock star. There are many and viable ways in which to ply your trade, do 'the work' and be an artist and have it pay the bills (well) without having to also have extraordinary levels of fame.

Of course those that do achieve fame are seen to be the exceptions to the rule. The people that are seen to have 'made it' have the levels success that are seen to justify their existence as artists.
In other words it is not always acceptable to 'be' an artist unless you are successful. Of course this is a ridiculous circular argument as one cannot become a successful artist without putting in the hard work of 'being' an artist first!

The modern world has many, many opportunities for artists to become 'micro-celebrities' where their art (of whatever form it takes) is uptaken and appreciated by a small sector of  committed fans, and this can be a viable way for an artist in the new world to live by their trade.
But even when an artist is doing what they love and affecting people's lives and making a good living from their art, it is almost as if they still are not 'successful' due to their lack of 'rock-star' status. It's really funny how a 'micro-celebrity' musician or author for example can be derided by saying 'I've never heard of him', but if you were to mention your lawyer, particularly to someone outside your city, it is doubtful whether anyone would have heard of him either.
Ohhh...but he has a 'real' job...
(Note: He might also be an 'artist' of law, heck he might even be a veritable 'rock star' in legal circles!)

I was recently talking to a supposed music industry aficionado about several up and coming bands. She made an offhand comment that their sales were 'nothing' in spite of the fact that several of these bands are living quite comfortably off the proceeds of their albums, along with touring and merchandise and were cultivating their most loyal followers into long term and die hard fans. In short they are working along the lines of the "1000 True Fans" model (except it's more like 10's of thousands of true fans...)
That they are making a living as artists and LOVING doing it is the most important aspect to me, and artists too need to get rid of the outdated notion that they should either be stellar, multi million selling mega rich 'rock-stars' or get out of the biz...It is not 'all or nothing' as the craft itself is the process, and the process (the work) if we love it, should be enough reward, assuming we are making enough to live.

If we aren't making enough to live, then maybe our craft is not our 'job' but it can still be our passion!
The work required to sell millions of copies of a book or sell millions of copies of an album, or become 'known' as a painter may not be any different from selling hundreds or thousands...and the talent required to be the most famous won't necessarily make one so. It is essential to success...but it does not make success a surety.

I had a brief discussion online with a great friend of mine about 'when' someone decides to call themselves a writer, author, musician etc. There seems to be a reticence to call oneself an artist until an arbitrary and unrealistic level of 'success' is achieved. I, for a long time would refer to myself as an 'aspiring' writer or author, in spite of being published in magazines on 3 continents and affecting the lives of many thousands through these and my first book 'Choosing You!'
But I got over it....

"Hi I'm Cliff, and I'm an author!"

Be proud, 
love your work, 
do it with all of your heart
...and leave the guilt behind!