Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 - A Year to be Thankful.

Never have the words from Dickens' 'A Tale of Two Cities' been so true...
For me at least the phrase 'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' so aptly sums up 2010.

I know many for whom the financial calamity of the last few years was further compounded this year (and I wasn't totally exempt from that!) and yet this economic cloud provided a silver lining for so many. In the depths of financial loss, many were able to reconnect with the things that are so much more important than what money can buy: The laugh of loved ones, the quietness of a calm day in natures solitude, the timelessness of a lovers arms when nothing more is needed at that beautiful moment of embrace, and so you linger...

And perhaps we're not out of the woods yet, but if we can keep our heads - and more importantly - our hearts about us there may well be a greater good from these challenges.

2010 provided change in abundance.
A change in home and the chance to live with a group of people who will always now be in my heart (Zorba-Buddha House Alumni I'm talking about you!)
A brief and transitory change of persona (into 'Rock Cliff') and the opportunity to be on the road with my best friend working with the altogether way too talented dudes in Like A Storm - an opportunity that afforded so many new friendships, and was I hope not a once in a lifetime experience! (I'll be back!)

And finally the equally heart wrenching and heart warming decision to move back to Aotearoa to finish my next book 'Time Rich ~ Cash Optional'.

The one thing that rings loud and clear when I think of 2010 is thankfulness.
I am thankful to everyone who came into my life and helped to shine light and joy on what has been a great year of living and loving life.

From the inimitable collection of wonderful souls at Zorba-Buddha to the amazing vegan eco-activist who challenged me to be more and do more.
The one person I have met who could beat me in a fight and on the chess board (and taught me more than he'd ever realise along the way.)
My brothers in iron who let no one come between those bonds forged over steel, Guyanese rums and Timmie Ho's.
And my sisters in spirit - who became my companions as we all climbed the crazy tree to even greater heights!
My brothers in rock and the friends met at shows and festivals and seedy bars....
And most of all those certain of you who were always there when I needed you and are there still.

I love you all.
Thank you.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times....
and man what a trip it's been!

2011 - here we come!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

80-20 Nutrition

I re-posted the following on my tumblr blog ( a few days back:
“The American diet consists of 62% processed foods, 27% animal products, and 5% french fries and ketchup. That’s 94% of our diet, right there, leaving only 6% for fruits, vegetables and nuts.”
~ Dr. Fuhrman
Via one of my favourite Tumblrs veganlove

And it got me thinking about just how disgusting that is!

The reality is that we need not be perfect. 
In fact 'perfect' is the opposite of progress for the simple reason that it can't be achieved and it therefore drives dissatisfaction and unhappiness because if our sense of satisfaction is predicated in achieving 'perfection' (an impossible goal) we will never in fact be satisfied. 
However by simply doing 'most things right, most of the time' we can achieve extraordinary health results. 
The 80-20 rule could well provide at least some basis for good eating, just as it is so valuable for other things in life....and it would certainly make a vast improvement over the figures above if we were to eat well 80% of the time...

So my challenge to you: 
For the next week - in any given day - make at least 80% of what you eat  natural, whole and unprocessed food. This could be vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, berries, eggs, fish and meats when you eat, how much etc etc is up to you - simply stick to natural, whole and unprocessed food (preferably organic) 80% of the time....It's that simple...

Notice the change in how you feel and yes how you look! 
80% isn't so hard after all....


Monday, December 20, 2010

The Night Before The Day

The night before the day; when we are so brash and full of bravado.
So strong. So headstrong. I will! I can! I shall...and I will start tomorrow...

And yet with the morning's light, and it's cold reality, we forget it's warmth (or perhaps we simply choose not to feel it) and we shrink from ourselves. We shrink from our bluster and retreat to our distractions for one more day...until the solace of our day's night.

The day's night in which we again take centre stage in our own play - and become the hero for one more night.

Is this why old Paulo calls them 'The Warriors of Light'?
Because only in the light can we fight the good fight, and stand up, and do all those things we have promised to do... the things we promised ourselves in the night, before the day...


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Rushing vs Speed

The other day I was going (as we say in NZ) 'flat tack'... [Translation - doing things really fast!] - one of my good mates was around at the time, and said: "Whoa! Slow down bro!"

Whenever I get a criticism, complaint, or simply a suggestion, it is a habit of mine to ask "Is it justified?"
And in so many situations in life we can see, through this simple 'razor' some degree of truth in whatever someone is saying to us, and so take a learning from it, and thereby grow and evolve.

On this occasion I wondered - "Am I rushing?"....
And at least this time around I had to answer No.

There is a big difference between 'rushing' and moving fast. The difference between the two is mindfulness. We can be mindful of what we are doing. We can be present and complete in the moment and yet still be moving fast.
This is something I noticed particularly when competing in weightlifting. There is no way to do a clean and jerk slowly if you expect to do it well!....but the very best lifts in anyone's career are those in which you are so engaged in the process and so completely present that the lift almost seems effortless; it simply flows and there almost ceases to be 'Cliff' and a 'lift' (or any other frames that we may usually wrap around it) but instead there simply is the 'lift as process' beautiful synchronous moment.

However when we rush we are attempting to move quickly, or more precisely 'complete' things quickly, without being mindful.
In this way we are attached almost solely to the outcomes and we are not engaged in the process. We lose not only the value of the moment but we also are prone to doing a sloppy job and one that is not at all close to what we are capable of. We are sacrificing quality of time, and by extension quality of work simply in an attempt to reduce time to outcome - an outcome that without the enjoyment of the wasted moments of the process leading to it, is often unsatisfactory in it's realization.

The idea of 'rushing' vs 'speed' is analogous to the idea of really 'doing' what you are doing.
The Buddhist philosophy of eating when hungry, and sleeping when tired and simply 'doing' those things without distraction for example, can become equated with only doing those things at one time at the exclusion of all else.
Now this of course is a way that we can develop mindfulness (by for example only eating and not doing other things whilst eating - such as watching television), but it is not in and of itself 'mindfulness'.
I remember a story about a Zen master who was eating toast, drinking tea and reading the paper. His horrified students asked incredulously what he was doing - thinking that he should simply be eating or drinking tea - to which he replied "I am simply eating toast, drinking tea and reading the paper."

The tools of the practice of mindfulness must not be confused with mindfulness - just as mere velocity must not be confused with the errors inherent in the blurs of rush and haste.
There may be clarity with speed...and clarity without, just as there may be a lack of presence in even the slowest drudgery.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Choosing Performance!

Fire Fighters Challenge Competitors
Mental Conditioning and Goal Achievement Lecture
Millenium Institute of Health and Sports - 10/12/10

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Choosing You! Now available at Goodey's Bookstore - Newmarket, Auckland!

Before I was an author and coach I was a reader and seeker.
I'm still of course a reader...and we all never stop learning...

As child I used to love wandering around book stores.
I had an enquiringly mind and a fascination with philosophy, spirituality and the more esoteric tangents of science, as well as the traditional sciences.
And so it was always a wonderful adventure to go into Goodey's Bookstore, initially with my first spiritual teacher ~ My Mum ~ and later on my own, to browse for hours and dig up the words of wisdom from some of the great spiritual teachers of our time.
I think I picked up my first copies of books by luminaries such as Surya Das, Alan Watts and Osho from Goodey's back when I was beginning my own wonderful exploration of life.

I'm now honoured to have 'Choosing You!' available at Goodey's.

Goodey's are now in Newmarket, and I must say it is a cool little shop!
Housed within the same building as an eco-organic food and health store, cafe, and natural health clinic; it is a veritable gem of a place just waiting to be found.
It's the kind of place you just want to go and chill for a while....
That's the way shopping should be!

Check out 'Choosing You!' at Goodey's:

23 Crowhurst Street
Newmarket 1023
(09) 524 5000

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life...

I remember seeing a variation of this quote (incidentally - attributed to Berthold Auerbach) on the mixing desk of  producer Mike Plotnikoff.

It stuck...
and how true the saying...

Music more than anything else provides the themes and memories..the very threads that define my life. I have loved music, and more precisely songs my entire life.
I always dreamed of being a singer, but unfortunately a fear of singing in public put paid to that dream in my teens and early adult life.
Thank god I dropped that fear! (As my friends and family will attest I now sing almost constantly!)

As an author and spiritual life coach words play such a huge role in my life, and I think that my 'art'; my gift to the world has been and continues to be an ability to elucidate some concepts to those receptive to my style and thereby help people to improve their lives. A small grace for which I am proud and honoured.

But lyrics! Oh lyrics! Those words married to poignant moments, crescendos and tones of a beautiful melody are indeed something special. To hear meaningful words, sung...REALLY sung can make the heart soar, or the heart melt. Nothing can quite describe the feeling of how a beautiful song can affect us so deeply.

And so music; that brush that sweeps away the dust from the soul has been there for me, like it has for, in the times when life was great, when life was hard and when it seemed as if we couldn't go on (and yet we did for we are still here...)

I was sitting on my couch listening to one of my favourite albums: "Drunkard's Prayer" by Over The Rhine, and began reminiscing about some of the albums, artists and songs that have provided the solace of sadness and the soundtracks of joyous moments in my life...

Here are just a few of the musical bookmarks that have punctuated my life...

Blind Melon - Blind Melon
1993 - This album may have been the first that I loved. Not just liked...but absolutely, totally fell head over heels in love with...
It wasn't love at first sound though. My buddy Andrew introduced me to it and at first I thought quite frankly that it was crap. Hey REALLY dug it though...and after a few plays through I began to first appreciate, then groove to and eventually become completely addicted to. It is only due to the financial strappings of a young teenager that I don't have the opening verse of "I Wonder" tattooed down my forearm...

Fiona Apple - Tidal
1998 - We were sitting around as a family. My Mum had passed away in my arms only a day earlier. A good friend of mine came around to my family home with a tape she had recorded for me. It was Fiona Apple's 'Tidal'.
I loved Fiona Apples voice, and the mix of sadness and fight encapsulated within her songs became a blanket that I could wrap myself with in my time of loss. (Thank you Tulsi - you may not even remember that - but I'll never forget.)

Mercury Rev - Deserters Songs
1999 - I was in business at the age of 19. I was making a lot of money and spending it with abandon. Still probably not ready to deal with the death of Mum properly - and in business with a self confessed lunatic - this hazy, psychedelic album (which seemed to be on constant rotation in our shop) strangely encapsulated the weirdness that was my first few years in business and post-college 'adult-hood'.
Rest now Andy mate. I'm so glad we came to peace and now your soul has been released.

Jay-Z - The Blue Print
2004-2005 - One of my favourite albums...along with the rest of Jay-Z's back catalogue provided the soundtrack for the boldness and brashness of this period of life. The world was at my feet, my practice was thriving, I was a business man turning into a! (Thanks must go to my Samoan Lawyer Simon for encouraging my Hip-Hop addiction!)

Over the Rhine - Drunkard's Prayer
2007 - It had been a tough break up. The toughest in fact....
Again I was given a gift of music by a good friend (thank you Shelley) of a great album that became the soundtrack...and the solace through that particular time.
[Cryptic reference to 'Keep the Pain Alive' perhaps?] ;)

30 Seconds to Mars - A Beautiful Lie
2008 - Ahhhh Vancouver! One of the few albums on regular rotation after I had moved to Vancouver, BC. One of my enduring memories is of trudging through snow up West Broadway on many, many mornings listening to this phenomenal album.

Like A Storm - 'Galaxy'
2009 - This song would have held a special place in my heart in any respect. I was living with the band when they received news that their Grandmother had passed away and listened from my room whilst the musical eulogy that would become the amazing song 'Galaxy' came together in basically a single night in order to be ready for the funeral.
Skip forward a year and I am on a plane heading home to New Zealand to attend the funeral of my uncle Dexter, who was like a father to my dad, and a grandfather to me. Listening to my iPod 'Galaxy' came on and I was just floored. I had heard the song in it's inception, I had loved the song before, but now it just brought everything together in only the way great music can. To this day I still listen to 'Galaxy' when I miss my uncle Dex.
You're missed every day Dex. I still stand in the shadow of a great man...
Thanks to my brothers Kent, Chris and Matt for blessing us with this song. Aroha nui boys.

Econoline Crush - 'Razorblades and Bandaides'
2010 - I must admit I didn't know this song until I went on tour with Like A Storm and we supported Econoline on their Western Canada tour. I dug this song and it went into constant rotation post-tour. Still dig it and still listening. Reminds me of those great times with my brothers every time I hear it...

And now?...

Rihanna - 'Only Girl in the World' & Katy Perry - 'Firework'
Yep - I kid you not....What can I say...I'm in an upbeat mood!
As embarrassing as that might be these tracks can't help but remind me of some of the old days back in the late '90s when we used to get all dressed up and go out to Uplifting Trance gigs (anyone remember 'Just Another Day'?). The build ups, a beat drops and you just want to throw your arms in the air...
I'm sure I'll get over it - but for now I'm gonna dig these two as well!
[And I know that some of you Rockers out there are equally guilty of being former closet ravers!]

What are some of the tracks that helped you to sweep aside the dust of life?