Upfront disclaimer: stress is my big issue. I have most everything about my life pretty well dialed in, but I just don’t handle stress the way I probably should (or the way I tell other people they should).
Most people have the vague notion that meditation is good, usually in a psychological, somehow “not physical” manner. It reduces stress. It’s relaxing. Well, these emotional mindstates have physical or neurological corollaries. You aren’t “just stressed,” as if stress is some concept floating there independent of physiology. Chemicals and hormones induce these states, and meditation can affect their secretion and production.
Despite our culture’s “problematic” relationship with personal health (yes, I’m straining to be this diplomatic), we sure do like our medical T.V. There’s the news of course, the doctor talk shows, and the dramas: House, HawthoRNe, Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice… (I have no doubt I’m missing some.) It’s one of those head scratchers – kind of like our culture’s current penchant for food T.V even though the average American spends less time cooking than ever these days. When it comes to the news, they make anything and everything sound like an imminent emergency. (Swine flu, anyone?) As for the dramas, there are the good looking people, romantic plotlines, feverish action, and tear-jerking narratives. More to the point, however, you have bizarre assortments of random medical oddities, the suspense leading up to the eventual diagnoses, and the inevitable drama surrounding characters’ medical treatments and tragedies. It’s enough to pique anyone’s curiosity, but some interesting research shows that we’re getting more than we bargained for from our entertainment.
I’ve been thinking about human health for a long, long time – pretty much my entire life. When I was running marathons and battling injuries and illness, I was missing it, and so I sought it. I figured moving on to triathlons would help, maybe by “spreading the damage” across three disciplines, rather than just the one, but that didn’t do it. And so I started tweaking my eating plan by paying attention to anthropological evidence of the human ancestral diet. Obviously, this worked, and for a while, I felt I’d found the optimal path to human health. Things were good.
But my journey didn’t stop at diet. It wasn’t enough. My physical activity had to change, too: resistance training; sprints; hikes, walks, and other long, easy movements; and a marked de-emphasis on Chronic Cardio.
We all live with distraction – kids running through the house, a co-worker’s constant pop-ins to chat (and avoid work), telemarketer calls during dinner. Some days it’s a wonder we get anything done. Digital distractions, however, are another animal entirely. Whether we’re updating a financial spreadsheet or working on a document, there’s the lure of the Internet, email, social networking sites. When we’re not on the computer, there are calls and texts from the cell phone, a mind-boggling array of apps on our smart phone, and the old standby – T.V. It’s a far cry from Grok’s day when there was nothing to watch but the stars and dim silhouette of a darkened landscape, nothing to hear except the wind in the grasses, the distant calls of animals and chatter of family.
When we think of Grok, we often imagine him in full-fledged hunting action – spear in hand, muscles in action, eyes on the latest prize prey. (Hence, the logo.) But such dramatic displays of power and prowess were fairly limited engagements. Grok, of course, had no full-time job. The lives of hunter-gatherers entailed much more than our label for them suggests. Experts who have studied modern hunter-gatherer societies estimate that most members of these communities spend about 3-5 hours a day “working,” which included all the basics of their food preparation. So, what else did Grok and his contemporaries do with their time? Could it be that hunter-gatherers weren’t poor slugs incessantly roaming and writhing in near starvation? Could it be that most of the time they actually had ample leisure time – to play, create, decorate, imagine and invent? Yes. Now ain’t that a kick in the head?
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