One Step Ahead

summer in january

It’s Friday man and I’m still half young. Two things worth celebrating in 2017.

This is how I look after two hours of Muay Thai training. Now matter how whiny I wake up feeling, how stuck, how full of self-loathing… I’ll always be smiling and skipping by the end of a good workout.

There’s something about movement that directly combats the feeling of stagnation. Depression is a kind of stagnation (nothing is changing, nothing is getting better, nothing seems to help). Physical movement takes that snow globe world where nothing ever changes, flips it on it’s head and sends an army of serotonin snowflakes to sparkle your city towers.

We all experience depression, minor or major, daily or weekly. But I’ve never once felt depressed during a backpacking trip.

I don’t know what the doctors say and anyway, I don’t trust them as much as I trust myself. I can distinguish some very clear patterns if I look back on my life with an objective eye.

When I was trail-running in Alaska this past summer, I quickly learned that I had to stay in a constant state of motion, otherwise I’d get blanketed by bitch-crowd of mosquitos in no time.

Depression is a buzzing black cloud of mosquitos. No amount of sitting and swatting will make them fly away. The universe is yelling over the megaphone that I need to move. I need a change and I need it fast.

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Monkey Do

upward dog

How in hell did that 24 year old teacher crawl into bed with that 19 year old student!? Well because she’s a monkey and he’s a monkey too. They might have been wearing “teacher” and “student” name tags but monkey brains don’t read too good.

Of course something needs to be done. We can’t have free-for-all hedonism in the streets. Monkey activity is bad for productivity, it took a lot of damn hard work to construct these cities and laws and social customs – all the pillars of our modern civilizations.

But we do suffer when we deprive ourselves of our monkey needs. We suffer when our eyes never get to stretch themselves on long-range views. We suffer when we don’t belong to a group, when we swallow shit that isn’t nutrition, and when we pretend like sex isn’t that big of a deal.

Too often our modern lives don’t account for these basic needs, so it’s up to me and you to design our lives in a sensical way.

For me the biggest and most overlooked building block is exercise: without movement your bowels don’t turn, your blood doesn’t flow, your brain grinds to a crawl, and little stressful minutae combust into major issues. I once heard someone say that if your life has gone to shit and you don’t know where to begin… just go to the gym. Every day just go to the gym, even if it feels pointless.

It’s hokey but it does hold wisdom, and the wisdom has to do with “basic maintenance.” Our complex brains guide us down a million paths on the search for happiness, but underneath our clothes we’re simple machines.