Tag Archives: Self-improvement

How I Eat Delicious Organic Produce for Next to Nothing: Introducing Misfits Market

Last Saturday, my wife went to a farmer’s market with her friend. As her friend loaded up on yummy veggies, my wife noticed something: she was paying $40 for a small bag of vegetables while we pay $26 for twice as much. And ours is 100% organic, whereas the farmer’s market haul was only about half.

Do we have special connections down on the farm? Sort of…

For over a year, my wife and I have gotten almost all our produce from Misfits Market, a subscription service that sends a big box of delicious, all-organic fruits and vegetables to your door every week. The quality is absolutely exceptional. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless chunks under harsh lights on salad bars until I tried theirs! Colorful, peppery, crispy, delicious!

Misfits is a great way to introduce yourself to new kinds of produce. I’ve tried golden beets, turnips, rutabagas, chard, collard greens, and countless other delicious things I never would’ve thought to buy otherwise. Getting the surprise veg each week is like Christmas! But if you prefer to choose your produce, they offer that as well.

We pay $26.25 a week for more than enough veggies for both of us. In fact, we often have to delay our next shipment (easy to do), so our real cost is probably barely over $20/week.

Before we got Misfits, I would buy a smaller assortment of veggies at Aldi for about $20. To get as much produce as Misfits, Aldi would run at least $30, even for non-organic! And Aldi is about the cheapest grocery store there is.

So let’s review:

1) Cheaper than any grocery store
2) Incredible taste
3) All-organic
4) Shipped to your door

What’s not to like? Well, nothing, which is why my wife and I have been loyal Misfits customers for so long! If you want to join us, use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. I’ll also get $10.

They have plans for households of 2-3 and a larger box for bigger households. FYI: Single-person households won’t be able to eat all this.

Enjoy in good health!

For more posts about health and nutrition, check out some of these:

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Check out the Stuff I Use page for some great deals on products and services I use to improve my health and productivity. They just might help you too! 


The Mindset That Could Sink Wallstreetbets (And Others)

As someone who makes a living from investing, I have watched the Gamestop/Wallstreetbets events with interest. Today, I decided to venture into the belly of the beast and try to find out what these traders are all about.

I noticed two common patterns:

1) Us-vs-them thinking. The individual trader versus the evil hedge fund industry.

2) Determination to hold a position out of machismo

Take a look at some examples below (usernames redacted). These are all from today alone:

The backdrop to these conversations is the cratering of their most widely held stock, Gamestop:

The initial buying of Gamestop and other heavily shorted stocks had some logic: Wallstreetbets wanted to engineer a short squeeze. A rapidly escalating price would force hedge funds that had shorted the stock to buy it to close out their positions. Otherwise, the hedge funds would face even worse losses. But, since all those hedge funds have to buy at once, the price can spiral higher and higher.

Despite the logic of that move, I find many people’s judgment clouded by us-vs-them thinking and machismo. Whether hedge funds are morally good or bad has no bearing on whether a position is worth holding. And one should never identify with an investment emotionally. If one’s identity and manhood (something tells me these posters are probably mostly men) are wrapped up in holding Gamestop stock, how can you make a rational decision based on the facts?

Will you choose to invest or not invest based on data, or will you just hold your position all the way down to 0 to show everyone how tough you are?

Perhaps a lack of machismo is one reason why female investors tend to have a better track record:

According to the Warwick University research, women’s outperformance can be attributed to the type of investment they tend to favour.

The study revealed that men are more likely to take a risk on more speculative, “lottery style” stocks where they believe [they] have the potential to make a lot of money very quickly. Men also tend to hold on to lossmaking investments in the hope that they will come good.

Financial Times

Instead, I suggest adopting a philosophy of non-attachment. This is a concept often attributed to Buddhism. It has parallels in many other religions, including Christianity. If we detach from our opinions and possessions (including stocks), we can view things more dispassionately. That investment isn’t you. You are you. The investment is just an investment. And it either makes sense or it doesn’t on its own merits. What’s more, whether you made millions or lost everything, it doesn’t change who you are.

I find meditation helps me in this process. It gives me a chance to get outside of the normal rushing freight train of thoughts and examine my opinions and beliefs from the outside. Or just simply take a break from them!

Time will tell whether the likes of Gamestop make good investments, and whether Wallstreetbets remains a phenomenon or fades. But detaching from our emotions and opinions and viewing them from the outside is a useful strategy we can employ forever.

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Photo: “Ship sinking in the Strait of Gibraltar” by ^ Johnny is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

The Sleep Hack I’m Loving

Yesterday, my wife gave me a gift that will keep on giving: a sleep mask. She recently started using one and noticed the quality of her sleep improved enormously. I observed her, intrigued.

Just before dinner, she presented me with a sleep mask of my very own! I took it for a, err, test drive, last night. I slept more deeply than I have in a long time, with less tossing and turning. I woke up an hour earlier than usual, dramatically more refreshed and energetic. My wife said she could easily tell I had much more energy than usual.

Sleep has an enormous impact on health. Lack of sleep demolishes the immune system, doubles cancer risk, and can cause Alzheimer’s, coronary artery disease, obesity and diabetes. The list of conditions lack of sleep can cause is enough to keep you up all night!

But for just a few dollars, you have a shot at really feeling rested in the morning. I don’t find the mask uncomfortable, and it’s very easy to put on. Anything that covers the eyes and is comfortable should work. The one I have is here.

Sweet dreams!

How I Improved My Sleep and Protected Myself from COVID for $34

Tell me why can’t this be love?

This fall, I bought what might be the strangest anti-COVID device yet…a humidifier.

Two, actually. I set them up in the living room and bed room and then went to work turning my dry apartment in the chilly New York area into a tropical paradise.

Indoor humidity tends to fall in winter. Air is drier to begin with, and then it’s brought indoors and heated, drying it further. This has a significant impact on how long viruses live and how your body responds to them. Our cilia, whose job it is to keep invaders out of our respiratory tract, don’t work as well in dry conditions.

Estimated virus half-life was more than 24 hours at 10 degrees C (50 degrees F) and 40 percent relative humidity, but only 90 minutes at 27 degrees C (80 degrees F) and 65 percent relative humidity.

Prof. Akiko Iwasaki, PhD, Yale School of Medicine

I got these to keep my wife and I safe from COVID, but I noticed a very pleasant side effect immediately: I was sleeping much better! My nasal passages would dry out overnight and my breathing would get more labored, causing me to wake. I mentioned the improved sleep to my wife, and she immediately agreed that my breathing sounded much nicer and I seemed to be waking less overnight.

My friend Jim* came over for New Year’s and happened to take the seat right next to the humidifier. He liked it so much, he immediately ordered the exact same one for himself, right there on his phone! I hope he’s enjoying it.

If you want to do the same, you can find it here. It was very easy to set up. I suggest one that warms the water, because it’s very pleasant. You want to avoid no-name manufacturers, because those humidifiers tend to leak. This one fits both criteria.

You can even put some essential oils or Vicks into the included medicine cup. I haven’t done it yet, but it’s on my list. Sounds like heaven!

You’ll also want hygrometers such as these to measure the humidity in your home. 40-60% is a good target. This way, you’ll know when you need to run the humidifiers and when you shouldn’t, to avoid mold growth.

Enjoy in good health!

*Not his real name

Intuition, Boxing and Freedom

I recently received an intriguing short essay from a friend of mine. It gave me a different perspective on what we consider freedom. I’ve published it in full below. Enjoy!

It’s when thought and action form a single whole that you’re free to be something


I know a boxing instructor who used to tell his pupils to evade incoming blows intuitively, to block intuitively, to throw punches intuitively.

This, I think, was an elegant shorthand for saying: Think carefully about what’s really intuitive, and do that. To this boxing instructor, intuition was not just whatever first comes to mind, but above all whatever makes the most sense.

No one is born a boxer. There may be those who pick it up with remarkable speed, but they, too, must first be shown what to do, and will only progress, maybe to greatness, with years of teaching and practice. For the rest of us, our first reactions to an incoming punch are often wrong: His fist is moving to my right, so I should duck my head to my left. This is fine—if you mean to use your head to block the punch. Otherwise, do what’s truly intuitive: move your head ahead of the punch, in the same direction. Evade the punch intuitively. Then bob back up and give him a left hook to the jaw.

Intuition must be learned, paradoxical as it sounds. The elegance of a good boxer is nothing other than mastery of a boxer’s intuition. It is not just a mechanical matter of moving quickly and economically; the boxer learns a way of looking, which is as much a way of tuning out what he doesn’t need to know as it is a way of zeroing in on what he needs to react to, or exploit.

Probably the hardest thing for the intermediate boxer to learn is to look his opponent hard in the eye. If you can deliver your punches without even glancing at where you want them to land, all the better: This is the poker face of boxing. Where poker is all about detachment and nonchalance, in boxing, you avoid betraying your intentions best by locking your gaze on his. The intuitive way to look at someone, in boxing, is the most aggressive, but also the most intimate. It’s a weird invitation: Let’s box.

Until the pupil achieves a certain dexterity and a certain ease with these psychological demands of the game, he will not be able to integrate what he already knows into an adequate response to his opponent. Maybe he can punch a bag well. The bag swings in predictable ways, never making a fuss. Maybe his footwork looks good in a mirror. You don’t have time to look at your own technique when your opponent is about to punch your liver in.

To be able to surprise your opponent, you mustn’t give any indication where you’re going to punch. At the same time, you must be alert to whatever your opponent may be planning, which he’s likeliest to betray with his eyes, a split second before he makes his move. And so, there’s only one thing to look at directly: The eyes of your opponent. This, in turn, means you need to split your perception of visual stimuli: You must get used to seeing the motions of his body out of the corners of your eyes. You can’t try to focus on whatever you have to react to or whatever you’re about to do, as you might in everyday life. That’s everyday intuition; what you need is a boxer’s intuition.

There is, in other words, no way to box but to box intuitively. In the absence of this intuition, you have no way of assessing dangers or opportunities, and your approach to your opponent becomes nothing but an overwhelming sequence of options, which you need to think about consciously, one at a time. In the time it takes you to do that, you’re already on the canvas.

I think skilled practices like boxing—I could, instead, have written about playing an instrument—give important lessons about the nature of human freedom generally. Because I never feel as free as when the need to make conscious, considered choices drops away, when I no longer need to maintain any kind of split between thought and action. It’s when thought and action form a single whole that you’re free to be something, fully, and being fully human, acquiring a full and human intuition of what you’re on earth to do, is, for me, the only way to be truly free.

Contrast this with the freedom so often held as an ideal today: The freedom to choose. The more choices you have, the freer you are—so it’s insinuated. But the kinds of choices whose number can be arbitrarily increased—How many vacuum cleaners are on the market? What’s the best ham at the deli? How many men are on the ballot?—are the kinds of choices whose proliferation will crowd your thinking and add noise to your life. And soon you will find yourself accommodating your life to your acquired need to make these choices, over and over again, to feel in control of things, rather than living in order to become who you truly are.

I think it’s people who view freedom this way who fear death the most. – Think of what I’ll be missing! – Whereas if you’re sure of who you are, of what you’re on earth to do, you can’t help but do it, intuitively, and the time when it must end will always be far off.

The Boy Who Was Me

I recently received a wonderful letter from a young man named Corey, who is at Rawhide boys ranch. Rawhide is a place that takes in boys who have gotten in trouble with the law and helps them change their lives. Corey was behind in school before he arrived at Rawhide, but he’s done a complete 180 and will graduate high school early at 16!

This is a rare outcome even for children from the best of circumstances. For Corey to be able to pull that off despite the disadvantages I imagine he’s faced in life is nothing short of astounding.

I can relate to Corey because Corey was me. 22 years ago, I was in Rawhide too. I had gotten in a lot of trouble as a kid but Rawhide completely changed my life.

What Rawhide does is take kids from situations where they’re not doing well, puts them somewhere different, and gives them a chance to change. Instead of being around friends that are also going down the wrong path, you’re around more positive people. Instead of having to fight to avoid victimization in difficult circumstances, Rawhide provides a tranquil place to live.

Corey grew up in Milwaukee, where many people, especially black folks, face few opportunities and a violent environment. I imagine if he had grown up somewhere like where I live now, he probably would’ve never gotten in trouble in the first place. But Rawhide gave him that better environment.

The letter included an envelope so I could reply to Corey, and I plan to write him later today. It’s wonderful to see a young person doing so well.

If you want to support Corey and others like him at Rawhide, you can donate here. Your investment will pay the best sort of dividends.

How I Quit Smoking

Six years ago, I did something people say is almost impossible. I quit smoking, and I haven’t touched tobacco since.

Here’s a secret: it’s very, very possible.

I smoked about a pack a day of cigarettes for over 7 years, and as I was about to get married, I thought about how I had to prioritize my health now that someone else would be depending on me. What’s more, I knew all the disastrous health impacts, and wanted to quit eventually anyhow. But I had always pushed that date conveniently into the future.

Until January 20, 2015. That was the quit date I set for myself. In the two weeks prior to quitting, I reduced my consumption from about a pack a day (20 cigarettes) to 10. I maintained that for a week, and found it fairly easy. This was based on the concept of drug tapering, which I learned about working in medical organizations as a software consultant. I had tried Chantix in the past, a prescription drug designed to help you quit smoking, but I found the taper more effective.

A week later (January 13), I reduced that to five cigarettes a day. That’s when things got interesting. I experienced a degree of nicotine withdrawal and cravings, but I could still have a few cigarettes per day, which helped salve the wound.

When January 20 came along, I was actually looking forward to quitting. I had already gone through a lot of the withdrawal. And I was looking forward to the benefits of not having to go outside in the cold to smoke and not incinerating money, among others.

I remember tossing away that final cigarette, a Camel Turkish Gold, on a cold day and heading back upstairs. I was done. And although I expected to feel dread, I actually felt glad, if a little whistful.

Within 3 days, I felt my brain and body functioning better. It felt like oxygen was actually hitting my system for the first time in years! I felt exhilaration and energy, which is something not many people mention when quitting smoking. If you can make it through those first 3 days, there’s likely a big payoff waiting.

Nearly 6 years later, I’m able to do things I could never have done before. When I sprint up stairs or hike up a mountain or do a hardcore strength training session, I think to myself that my lungs could’ve never withstood this before. I’m also not a slave to a habit that has me going outside every few minutes in any weather, desperately counting the hours until I can get off an airplane, and scurrying to convenience stores for the next fix.

The reality is, if you are ready to quit, and you make a plan and stick to it, it’s really not that hard. Imagine yourself sitting on the couch all day watching TV, gut sticking out, eating Doritos and cake. If you’re quitting smoking, and you didn’t smoke that day, that day was a 100%, unqualified success! How often can you say that about such an unproductive day? You see, the bar is set very low: just don’t do this one thing.

On the 20th, I plan to take myself out for a nice dinner. Whatever it costs will be a fraction of what cigarettes would have. And more importantly, I have a longer and healthier life to look forward to.

How I Learned to Cook

For 11 years through college and most of my 20’s, I cooked little more than toast. Every meal I ate, I ate at the cafeteria and later, once I had a real job, an actual restaurant.

I had many a scrumptious dinner, but I also had an anemic bank account and expanding belly. I realized something had to change.

How do you learn something with zero background? Find the best teacher you can and do exactly what they say. My first was Budget Bytes, an excellent blog that posts simple recipes with very detailed instructions. Every step comes with a photo. If mine looked like hers, it gave me confidence.

Try her Split Pea, Bacon and Potato soup. I fed some to a friend recently and she couldn’t stop raving about it!

Eventually, I was ready for a bigger challenge. Around that time, I discovered Joshua Weissman, whose creative and technically sound recipes inspired me to make things like sourdough bread that I never thought I could do.

His latest video on breakfast burritos just made me glad I wasn’t fasting that day!

The startup costs in cooking for myself were substantial (pots and pans, spices, etc). At first I didn’t think I was saving a dime. But over time, my food spending plummeted.

There was another side effect I never expected. As soon as I quit eating out daily, I immediately lost 30 pounds with no effort at all.

You can make more money, but you can’t easily make more health. I hope these links will help you guys eat well, be healthy, save money, and have fun!

What I’ll Be Doing The Next Time I Fail

Sometimes, we all miss the mark. When I do, I have the tendency to yell at myself in the most hectoring tones imaginable. Maybe you do too. Most of us would never talk to a friend that way. If we did, we wouldn’t have many friends for long.

Enter Kristen Neff, Ph.D., a professor at UT-Austin who researches self-compassion. In an interview with Dr. Peter Attia, she explains how to take the compassion we routinely extend to others and extend some to ourselves.

One practical technique I will be trying the next time I fail is to put my hand over my heart and say something supportive to myself. Who wants to try it with me?

My natural inclination is to think this is the road to laziness and failure. However, Dr. Neff cites research showing that performance actually improves as people learn to both give themselves a break and give themselves constructive, rather than bullying, criticism. And our lives get a lot more pleasant too!

Some interesting moments:

This podcast is also available via Apple Podcasts.

The Swami Who Taught Me About Politics

If I want to bring about positive change during these turbulent and polarized times, then first I’m going to have to deal with the turbulence and polarity within me.

Swami Asokananda

I have a lot of friends and family whose political views are quite different from mine. In normal times, that might be barely noticeable. But during a contentious election and several highly politicized national crises, these differences in views can come to the forefront and even overshadow the wonderful relationships I have with them. If I’m not careful.

Enter Swami Asokananda, the Spiritual Director of the Integral Yoga Institute in New York City. I recently received an outstanding message from him via the Institute’s newsletter.

His message made me consider to what extent I’m really listening to those whose views are different from mine. Where might they be right? And aside from correct or incorrect, how can I listen to them in a way that conveys respect and care? I cannot change the overall situation, but I can work for unity rather than division in my own personal relationships. Maybe if I can do that, it can start a chain reaction of respect rather than divisiveness.

Some key points:

  • “Though it seems obvious to me that my point of view is accurate and true, it’s vital for me to keep in mind that in all likelihood I’m often overlaying the facts with assumptions, judgements, and opinions that have been fed into me from who knows where and when.”
  • “How am I reacting to points of view different from my own?”
  • Am I creating further division, or am I fostering more unity?
  • “To see our conditioning is not easy. To shift it is even harder.”
  • “We have an opportunity to play a role in the evolutionary shift in the consciousness of the planet.”

I have included his entire message below. You can get more messages like this by signing up for the Integral Yoga Institute’s newsletter here.

Message from Swami Asokananda
The election is over, but we are still undergoing
turbulent times in a divided nation. And it won’t
take much to polarize us even further. When Sri Swami
Satchidananda (Sri Gurudev) arrived on the shores of
New York City in 1966, our country was also going
through seismic cultural shifts. I know that, for me, the
teachings and practices of Integral Yoga arrived at just
the right time to guide me in a positive direction and a
life purpose.

One of my main sadhanas (spiritual practices) at this time is to be more
aware of what energy, what intention, what motive I am bringing into each interaction. Why am I speaking with this person? What outcome am I looking for? Have I thought about it? As I watch more closely, I’m
discovering that there are different forces at work within me that are going on in pretty much all my conversations.

Even in our own sangha (spiritual community) there are people with very diverse points of view—as is often the case in any family. How am I reacting to points of view different from my own? How well can I listen and take in what the person is saying? What can I learn about myself from this interaction and my own behavior? Am I creating further division, or am I fostering more unity? If I want to bring about positive change during these turbulent and polarized times, then first I’m going to have to deal with the turbulence and polarity within me.

It is important to remember that we are all products of our experiences.
Though it seems obvious to me that my point of view is accurate and true, it’s vital for me to keep in mind that in all likelihood I’m often overlaying the facts with assumptions, judgements, and opinions that have been fed into me from who knows where and when.

To see our conditioning is not easy. To shift it is even harder. One of the
reasons that Sri Gurudev founded the Integral Yoga Institute was this
recognition that spiritual growth is difficult without a supportive
community. As we watch our own thoughts and try to live with integrity, sangha means that we are also looking for ways to support and lift up one another. Also, our being a part of the IYI gives us the field where we are able to move from a small self-interest to a larger, shared interest. We come together so that we can connect to something bigger than ourselves. We have an opportunity to play a role in the evolutionary shift in the consciousness of the planet.

COVID-19 safety precautions have changed how we connect with each
other and share the teachings. There are still plenty of ways you can be of service to IYI and deepen the benefits you can receive from coming
together as a sangha. Think: What can I offer? What skills or experience
can I bring to the table? If you can’t think of what would be useful, reach out to me or our interim executive director, Hamsa, or any board member. We will find just the right Karma Yoga for you, according to the time you have available.

Through this mutual caring for this beloved organization, we will bring out our own potential and keep IYI shining bright for our city long after this pandemic ends.

Spiritual Director