Stop Trying to Fit In

A long time learner told me she wants to enroll in a Junior TOEFL program. Given its difficulty, she’s struggling to grasp understanding and proficiency. I told her the test is meant to be difficult. If it’s easy, then everybody would get good scores. When that happens, everyone would be playing a different game with different set of rules.

“What do you want to do for the rest of your life?” I asked.

“I have no idea,” she replied.

“Do you know what you’re good at?” I continued.

“No,” she shrugged.

“So find that before you do anything else,” I exclaimed.

You know, I was under the same impression as this kid when I was being sold the so-called “American Dream.”

When I was in school, I also took tests. Standardized tests. Graduate tests. Licensure tests. I’ve done them all, and I did well; really well.

Unfortunately, when you keep doing what the world wants you to become, you don’t know yourself. In the end, I’ve merely learned how to master test taking skills, which have no real practical value in life.

I think the first lesson to understand for this young girl is to be aware that what you’re doing is trying to fit in. My advice: stop fitting-in and try to get to know yourself a little better before you do anything else.

But how many learners are willing to do that? True seekers are indeed rare.

In ancient times, when the Emperor had visited the monastery of a great Zen Master, he was astonished to witness there had been more than ten thousand monks living with the Master.

Out of curiosity, the Emperor asked, “How many disciples do you have?”

“Two or three at the very most,” the Master replied.

Serious and sincere learners are difficult to come by these days. Many of them are five minute enthusiasts. Alas, most of them are second-hand pupils; basically conformers.

The Quiet Child

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” — Blaise Pascal


There was once a very quiet boy. Because of his quietness, people thought he lacked confidence. And that made his parents feel uncomfortable.

One day, his teacher asked, “Why are you so shy my child?”

“Shy?” he replied. “I’m not shy at all.”

“But you hardly say anything,” said the teacher. “Why don’t you come out of your shell, we won’t bite you.”

“I’m not quiet because of fear,” said the boy. “I’m quiet because this is my natural state. It is those who insist on a lot of chatter who are truly afraid. They’re afraid of silence. They’re afraid of being their true self. They’re afraid of rejection. I fear those things as well, but I choose to conquer them through silence.”

I, too, was that child.

Many parents feel afraid when their child is silent. Because parents equate silence with insignificance. Parents want their offspring to be heard and seen by others. To be relevant and somebody important, perhaps.

But in that quest to be noticed and thought well of by others, the child often gets withdrawn from his or her inner voice.

I, too, had that same experience.

I was unconsciously being led outwardly. All the way through adulthood.

Until one day, I made a startling realization.

The peace I sought after was not out there somewhere. Everything that I truly needed was already within me. There is no purpose searching for something I already had.

In fact, this is true for everybody else, too.

The real voyage is done inwardly. It is a journey into self-actualization. It is in the here and now, in this moment, within. What you need is a pillow and floor to sit on and the courage to confront yourself. Then you can be the inner light to guide yourself out of the darkness.

What seems prevalent through the ages is to seek outwardly for a successful personality and duplicate it. By doing so, you have made the head a marketplace - so much clamoring, so much unnecessary chatter.

While all that is needed is the art of making the mind a little silent, a little less noisy, a little more peaceful, relaxed.

And listen to your voice of contentment and realize that you are already everything you need to be.

By seeing what is taking place in your life, by observing very closely, then you will discover for who you truly are, the very root of your being, which is “to be your true self.”

No one else can become aware of this except you. Your parents, your teachers, and others can’t show you, because this treasure only belongs to you. Your path is only yours to walk.

Go on, seek it, and you shall find. Life is significant only then, never before. Life is life only then, never before.

The treasure you seek lies within.

The Treasure You Seek Lies Within

“In teaching you cannot see the fruit of a day’s work. It is invisible, and remains so, maybe for twenty years.” — Jacques Barzun


I don’t know why I keep writing about this subject. Nobody is going to read it anyway. But my heart told me that I should. Given the circumstance, it is a very meritorious thing to do. I also believe understanding and improving the world are both inherently worthwhile even if nobody will listen.

An 11-year-old learner and I were reading Paulo Coelho’s amazing book “The Alchemist” together. The message: follow your heart. That expression may sound like a cliché to some, but, if you’ve found whatever it is you’ve been looking for, you should know that this expression is genuinely true.

Talking about trusting in one’s heart, this 11-year-old asked, “How am I suppose to listen to what my heart says?”

“It’s not that simple,” I said. “You have to teach yourself to listen to your inner voice. Children are highly conditioned these days to capture their external surroundings. You listen to what your parents say. You believe in what your teachers teach. You follow what your friends do. These different conditionings all contribute to the evaporation of your inner voice whispering to you.”

“So if my heart says I don’t want to do my homework, then what?” she asked curiously.

“Okay, this is where your school teachers would say ‘you are not here to think, you are here to get good grades and finish your homework,’ but I’m not your school teacher, so I’m not going to say that. I will say though, that as long as you are still under this roof, you need to do what your parents say,” I responded.

She frowned a little and said, “But once I’m an adult I could do whatever I want.”

“Cool!” I said. “It won’t be easy because you need to be out of your parents’ payroll. That means you need to make a living on your own.”

“You should teach my parents about this topic,” she countered.

“You know, there is no point,” I answered, feeling a bit irritated. “Do parents want their children to be taught about the understanding of life and its immense problems, how to navigate them, and out of that comes vast possibilities?”

“I don’t know,” she shrugged.

“Generally, parents want their children to have some kind of degree so that they can get a good job, settle down, and start a family. Children also feel a certain responsibility toward their parents, so they more or less - especially in China - conform. Students also want to get a good job, they don’t want to become cashiers or food deliverers. Thus, their main objective in school is to get a good degree. Then there is the pressure of society - which everybody has created,” I continued.

“When people have been accustomed to a particular culture or tradition, it becomes naturally difficult for them to change. Sometimes the life that we’re born in is not the life that we want. Perhaps, in twenty years or so, you’ll remember what I’ve said and an unknown force begins to guide you to listen to your inner voice. This is where choice comes into play. If you decide to follow your fate, then your life will never be fulfilled. On the other hand, if you decide to follow your heart, then you might discover something extraordinary.” That was my conclusion to an 11-year-old friend.

 

To survive and flourish in a world full of uncertainty such as today, you will need a lot of mental flexibility and great reserves of emotional balance. You will have to countlessly let go of your best experiences, and be able to dance with the unknown. Unfortunately, parents and teachers themselves usually lack the mental flexibility, for they themselves are the product of the old tradition and educational system. So if parents and teachers can’t do it, what’s left to teach?

Teaching kids to embrace the unknown and to keep their mental balance is far more difficult than teaching them a math equation or the causes of a tsunami. You cannot learn resilience by reading a book or listening to a lecture. You have to, as the Nike slogan insists, “Just DO it.” It is the only way to learn.

100 Life Hacks: a Comprehensive Guide to Living the Good Life

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I wrote this guide for myself.

Why? Because I was curious about myself.

Because I knew I would need guidelines to look at when I was most fearful.

Because I know this idea of life hacking has worked for me over and over.

Because for the next 50 years I would need it to easily navigate my life.

Since I first worked on these ideas, I’ve seen many things happen.

I’ve learned a lot more about myself. I’ve developed better relationships. I’ve discovered what lies beyond the scope of my imagination.

I’ve also seen these nuggets work for others. More importantly, I’ve seen them working for me again and again.

Some of them I learned through delightful experiences. And some from the bitter trials and tribulations.

I make no claim that the list is exhaustive. There are other ways to simplify life. Take what I’m about to say with a grain of salt. The list is what worked for me.

Here we go:

  1. Listening - Our cups are full. To taste my cup of tea, you must empty your cup from prejudices, preconceptions, and conclusions. If you’re willing to listen, you may find something precious, especially from the obscure.
  2. Giving - Give as much as you take, if not more.
  3. Sharing - I am always ready to share. The problem is people fail to appreciate the nuggets of wisdom unless they are shared by those who already mint success. Until then, nobody will care to listen.
  4. Expectations - Whatever you're asking for, it's probably too much. Scale down. Have realistic expectations. Don't be greedy. There is a reason why you don't have it.
  5. Knowledge vs Wisdom - Knowledge is discovered by all of us, each adding to the whole. Wisdom is rediscovered by each of us, one at a time. Wisdom that gets shared becomes acquired as knowledge; personal experience then converts it into wisdom.
  6. Being somebody - Being a nobody is more delightful than being a somebody. You want to be rich and anonymous, not poor and famous.
  7. Livelihood - Work is the set of things that you don’t want to do, but you have to. And if you love what you do, then it’s not work. When you do something that is entertaining, no one can possibly compete with you. It doesn’t matter how much work you put in, because for you that is not work.
  8. Career - Be patient. It takes at least 10 years to build anything significant.
  9. Jobs - People who take jobs are not innovators or artists. People who take jobs are puppets of the machine rather than the future creators of the machines to come.
  10. Having a boss - Every time you have a boss, he’s taking some of your money. And his boss is taking some of your money.
  11. Retirement - Occurs when you stop sacrificing today for an imagined tomorrow. You can retire when your passive income exceeds your burn rate, or when you can make a living doing what you love.
  12. Time - The ultimate currency of life, so be tightly fisted about it.
  13. Friendship - Your closest friends are the ones you can have a relationship with about nothing.
  14. Relationships - Exist either for transformation or transaction. The former is built upon trust. The latter revolves around money.
  15. Partnerships - Don’t partner with cynics and pessimists. Instead, pick partners with high intelligence, energy, and, above all, integrity.
  16. Alone vs Loneliness - Alone is a fact, lonely is a choice. We are so afraid to be alone that we end up lonely. The ability to be alone without being lonely is the greatest art in life.
  17. Boredom - Boredom is necessary for creativity to flourish, but only when you’re of a creative mind. The mind is addicted to never being bored, that as soon as it sees nothing is to be consumed, it struggles.
  18. Solitary retreat - Take a month off from social media. Wait for a day before you reply a message. Say “no” to your friends. Travel alone. Do things by yourself. Go live in the mountain, cook, sleep, and be with no one but your self and mind.
  19. Meditation - Meditation and transcendence are the birthright of every human being. The only common ability that we all have at all times is the ability to sit quietly and do nothing.
  20. Dharma practice - Meditation, reading philosophy, non-judgmental awareness, and educating others.
  21. Time-consuming tasks - Socializing, playing video games, watching TV, scrolling the news, staying in relationships that I knew weren’t forever.
  22. How to focus - Cancel the noise. Follow your interest and never stop learning.
  23. Purpose of life - Life is about searching for who or what needs you the most and who or what you need the most. Everyone has their own uniqueness. Life is about finding what you are meant to do uniquely. What you are going to be amazingly good at is the thing that you are passionate about. Sometimes you won’t find what you are looking for unless you seek it. And sometimes it finds you when you aren’t looking.
  24. The best thing in life - To be in the present moment, in the here and now.
  25. Satisfaction - To be satisfied in that moment and not thinking about how you’ll feel about it in the future.
  26. Happiness - A choice. An internal trait that comes out of being peaceful and acceptance of what is going on around us. And the sense that nothing is missing in this moment.
  27. Making decisions - If you can’t decide, the answer is no. If two equally difficult paths, choose the one more painful in the short term (pain avoidance is creating an illusion of equality). Choose the path that leaves you more equanimous in the long term.
  28. Desire - Equals suffering. The more omnivorous desires you have, the more you suffer.
  29. Personality - DNA and environment.
  30. Simplicity - The straightest and most logical way to convey the language of “common sense.” Life is actually simple. We make it complicated.
  31. Mastery - The ability to teach what you know to someone else.
  32. Self-knowledge - Know your own worth and stop imitating other people’s identity.
  33. Comparison - The beginning of sorrow. Focus on inner achievements instead.
  34. Achievements - School, games, sports, and politics train us to compete against others. True rewards - health, knowledge, love, wealth, and equanimity - come from ignoring others and improving ourselves.
  35. Envy - There is no need to be envious of someone else if you're not willing to 100 percent swap with who that person is.
  36. Self-sufficiency - To be independent from esteem and condemnation of other people. You become their slave when you constantly await their approval and validation.
  37. Anxiety - Don’t FOMO and don’t panic. Relax and you’ll live longer.
  38. How to relax - Meditate. Do yoga. Take deep and slow breaths.
  39. Competition - You can avoid competition through authenticity. If you compete, that means you’re not helping anyone in a new way. You need to define your own category.
  40. Success - Swim your own race. Give society what it wants, but doesn’t know how to get on its own.
  41. Business - Learn to sell a product or service. Learn to build something out of nothing. If you can do both, you will be unstoppable.
  42. Money - Invest it, not spend it. Don’t trade time for money. Trade money for time.
  43. Building followers - Seek the smallest viable audience (i.e. the top 500 people around your circle). Serve them and convert them into your true fans.
  44. Reputation - The series of cumulative track record that establishes a personal brand. Reputation must be earned. To the contrary, most credentials can be bought.
  45. Getting rich quick - There are no get rich schemes. If you see a get rich scheme, then it's somebody else trying to get rich off of you. Instead, apply specific skill, with leverage, and eventually you will get what you deserve.
  46. Skill vs Luck - Skill is a factor that must be acquired. Luck is a variable that gets added to you once you’ve possessed a “good enough” skill set.
  47. Growth - Become better at what you do by improving and making discoveries every day. Keep redefining what you do and eventually you’ll be at the top 5 percent of the world.
  48. Unique - Better to be unique than the best. Being the best makes you number one, but unique makes you the only one.
  49. Investing - Start small. The earlier you start in life, the better. Long term investment depends heavily on compound interest.
  50. Stock market - Stop chasing returns. Markets efficiently separate emotional investors from their money. Invest for the long-term.
  51. Health - A state of balance between orientation (sensory system) and action (motor system). If there is an imbalance between the two, then you are out of whack.
  52. Exercise - Do the exercise that you enjoy doing every day.
  53. Shortcut - There is none. Start now!
  54. Nutrition - The best nutrition is personalized nutrition. Eat according to what your body requires, and don’t become carried away with non-beneficial foods.
  55. Yoga and Meditation - Yoga cultivates peace of body. Meditation cultivates peace of mind.
  56. Recovery - The act of returning the body to its original state of fitness.
  57. Detoxification - The way of releasing accumulated toxins and excess “trash” out of the body.
  58. Falling asleep - Meditate in bed. Either you will fall asleep or have a deep meditation. Victory either way.
  59. Drugs - If you use drugs to escape, make sure you can still escape from using drugs. The same applies to smoking, drinking, and gambling.
  60. Journaling - Do it in early in the morning. Do it in the evening. It pumps your creative energy and it allows you to convey your thoughts.
  61. Philosophy - Philosophy is the love of truth, not the love of theories, not the love of speculations, not the love of beliefs, but the love of truth. Truth isn’t yours or mine. Therefore, you have to be self-reliant. You can develop your own personal philosophy born out of self-education and personal development. You can make dramatic changes, and these changes can impact the world around you and, of course, your own life as well.
  62. Religion - There’s religion and there’s Religion. The former is daily life, while the latter is a cult. It always starts as religion but gets the bad rap when it becomes Religion.
  63. God - God has nothing to do with churches, temples, and mosques. Don’t waste your time in these places because they are nothing but rituals, rites, and sanctions. God has nothing to do with the Bible, the Koran, and the Vedas. They are merely collections of stories made up by people. If there is a God, it is in you.
  64. Prayer - The echo of self-pity; in other words, a cry for help. The problem lies in asking someone else to solve your problem instead of asking yourself. The medicine for your suffering rests within you from the very beginning.
  65. Past and Future - To know your past, look into your present condition. To know your future, look into your present action.
  66. Present - The past is bound to time from the recollection of memory. The future is bound to the anticipation of time. To live in the present, is to be bound by reality, not time.
  67. On beauty - The detection of "useful" beyond explicit imagination.
  68. Awareness - Awareness can only be of the reality of the present moment. You cannot be aware of the past, you can only remember it. You cannot be aware of the future, you can only have aspirations for or fears of the future. You must develop the ability to be aware of the reality that manifests within yourself at the present moment.
  69. Transience - Nothing lasts forever, so enjoy the present moment. Savor and relish it. But be like the man who, while enjoying excellent health, immunizes himself against the chance of a future disease. Be like the man who, though the days are now sunny, builds his house to weather the storms. You are happy. That is wonderful. But don’t drift in your happiness. There is work to be done. It is easy enough to be pleasant when life ows along like a song. But the man worthwhile is the man who can smile when life goes dead wrong.
  70. Change - Happens instantly, without the bondage of time. The greatest ability is to change yourself. The best way, perhaps the only way, to change others is to become an example.
  71. Curiosity - Keeping your intellectual curiosity alive is really important, and the only way that happens is if you learn what you love, you read what you love, and you do what you love.
  72. Hobbies - Find three: one to make a living, one to keep you healthy, and one to exercise your creative muscle.
  73. Language - Definitely master English.
  74. Mandarin - Learn it because you are living in China. You don’t need Mandarin to communicate elsewhere.
  75. Schooling - Traditional school focuses on credentialing. If the primary purpose of school was education, the internet would completely obsolete it. The ideal school would teach health, creativity, problem solving, communication, emotional connection, wealth, and so on. It would be free, self-paced, and available to all. It would show opposing ideas and students would self-verify truth. No grades, no tests, no diplomas - just pure learning.
  76. Knowledge - Acquire them from books, teachers, mentors, experiences. Still, the best teacher is yourself.
  77. Books - Pick the ones you can’t put down and want to read over and over. If the author(s) wrote it to make money, don't read it.
  78. Teachers - The majority of teachers are products of the old education system. Some never left school and they’re still teaching outdated materials. Be mindful of who you follow. Ultimately, nothing worth knowing can be taught.
  79. Mentors - The best mentors will probably be too busy catering to a nobody. Mentors won’t make you rich. Mentors will eventually dislike you once you become better than them.
  80. Self-reliance - Nobody can help you. Ultimately, you have to make yourself accountable. Save yourself.
  81. Thinking vs Learning - Thinking is the recollection of accumulated material. This additive process is merely a cultivation of memory, which becomes perpetually mechanical. Learning is a movement which has no beginning and no end like a continuous unbroken stream. To effectively maximize learning without the interference of thought, approach things anew.
  82. The Internet - A network of information. A career space broadening and leverage for people, yet, very few have figured this out.
  83. Technology - A paradox: convenient and yet, addictive. Give yourself a routine detachment from technology.
  84. Social media - It will either teach you how to cultivate peace of mind, or destroy it.
  85. Multi-tasking - Multi-tasking is overrated and not an effective way to be productive, especially mental taxing work. Focus on single-task work. The more you do it, the better you get at it to direct your attention to where it matters.
  86. Building habit - Consistency over content.
  87. Goals vs Systems - Goals are specific objectives that you either achieve or do sometime in the future. Systems are the set of routines you do on a regular basis. You need both to achieve a higher completion rate.
  88. Mistakes - Every time you make a mistake, you learn a little more about yourself, about building relationship with people, about improving self-awareness, about pushing your personal boundaries. Mistakes are always forgivable, if you have the courage to admit them. The key is to quickly learn from your mistakes and improve quickly. If you’re constantly learning and improving, your evolutionary process will be ascending.
  89. Specificity - People with a unique mix of knowledge, skill, and experience separate themselves from the majority. Your talent. Your special craft. Your unique niche. These elements make you the remarkable individual. Whatever makes you remarkable, is what makes you marketable. You make yourself rare by combining two or more above average elements until no one else has your mix.
  90. Risk - There is none if you do things when you’re young. The only thing you really have in life is time, and if you invest that time in yourself to have great experiences that will enrich you, then you can't possibly lose. So don't wait! Do something when you're young because it's a lot easier when you have no responsibility to other people.
  91. Love - Love of oneself and love of others. You must first love yourself before others. The moment you love thyself, you feel worthy of life’s fortunes and the influential support of the Universe. When you love yourself, you have fulfilled the basic condition of love. And the person who can love himself can love all.
  92. Marriage - An intersection between two souls, with spaces between the togetherness. Two can love one another, but make not a bond of love. Fill each other’s cup, but not drink from one cup. Walk, sing, and dance together, but let each be alone. Even though companionship is always separate, the intertwined pathways to growth is always one.
  93. Children - The product of fertilization. They come through you, and are with you, but they belong not to you. You may give them your love and discipline, but not your thoughts. They are the judges of your acts. When you screw up, they’ll show you the fool’s idea of glory.
  94. Parenting - Give unconditional love. Try not to say “no.” Reward when it’s due.
  95. Humility - Always remember the mantra: “Thank you. You are my teacher.” You can never go wrong with it.
  96. Simple life - Life is cheap. Lifestyle is expensive. People who live far below their means enjoy a freedom that people busy upgrading their lifestyles can’t fathom.
  97. House vs Home - House is a facade. Home is where your heart truly belongs.
  98. Automobiles - Electric over gasoline. Car is merely a tool to get you from point A to B. Car is the fastest depreciating asset. I prefer a bicycle anyway.
  99. Air travel - Economy for short-haul flights. Business for long-haul flights. Above that, unless someone else is paying for your seat, it is a waste of money.
  100. Life and Death - Life is uncertain. Death is certain. So cherish every moment by doing what you love and being with the people you love.

Being Healthy is a Full-Time Job

“I don't drink nor smoke and those events are many times senseless. I'm not a smoker because I don't think putting smoke into your body is quite the thing to do. As for alcohol, I think it tastes awful. Don't know why anyone should want to drink the stuff.” — Bruce Lee


Bruce Lee is one of my favorite idols of all time. He’s known to everyone as a martial artist and his huge role as a Hollywood movie star. But not many would recognize him as a philosopher and also as a health conscious person. Indeed, we can avoid putting junks into our mouths like smoking and alcohol. But even if we avoid them, and on top of that, watch what we eat, we are not completely out of the woods, because we are surrounded by toxins and pollutants everyday. From the pesticides we eat that are being put on our food to the latest gadgets and gears, it seems obvious that toxins and pollutants are everywhere.

Pollution has entered our food chain because our waste is accumulating in the ocean where it is eaten by the sea creatures we eat. These contaminants include plastic materials and dangerous heavy metals. Our soil is more toxic than ever due to industrial wastes pouring into rivers and streams. Soil pollution leads to mineral deficiency absorbed by the plants we eat, which leaves us with deficiency in essential minerals. Cellular phone radiation damages and breaks living DNA and causes leakage of the blood-brain barrier allowing toxic to damage brain tissue.

Could you imagine that the life we are living in is actually constantly bombarded by pollutants? And it seems that these consumer products, such as packaged food, and modern technology are being promoted as safe and convenient.

Convenient it may be, but safe it is not.


Watch Out for BPA!

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Our food is contaminated with toxic chemical from plastics and other chemicals. Unfortunately, chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA), formaldehyde, phthalates, and toxic flame retardants are changing our chromosomes at the cellular level causing infertility, asthma, obesity, heart disease, and even cancer. Estrogen mimicking chemical such as BPA can cause breast cancer for women. Of course, the link between excess estrogen and cancer has long been established in medical research. That is, a woman’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is directly linked to her lifetime exposure to estrogen - both natural and synthetic estrogen. For men, these chemicals can cause prostate cancer, reduced penis size and testicle.

BPA is found in the interior coating of aluminum soda cans, metal food packaging, and other products, including the large polycarbonate water bottles delivered to your homes. A recent study by the University of Washington showed that humans are currently exposed to BPA through food and drink and many other consumer products including receipts. Yes, you read that correctly.

The study reveals that BPA damages at the cellular level three generations at once; a pregnant mother, her unborn fetus, and if that fetus is female, that fetus’s future offspring. A visit to your local fertility or IVF clinic would prove how many women have suffered difficulties getting pregnant.

 A report released in 2017 stated that as of 2015, more than one million babies in the US alone had been born through the use of in vitro fertilization (IVF). The number would obviously be higher in a densely populated country such as China.

A report released in 2017 stated that as of 2015, more than one million babies in the US alone had been born through the use of in vitro fertilization (IVF). The number would obviously be higher in a densely populated country such as China.

Not only fetuses, but infants and children are vulnerable to BPA as well because their reproductive organs are still developing. This means pregnant women and children should reduce their exposure to BPA. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently banned BPA in baby bottles and drinking cups. Alas, this is clearly not protective enough as the most damage can occur in utero though the mother's exposure.

Besides BPA, other plastic component materials such as phthalates - often found in PVC pipes and medical devices including plastic IV bags and tubing - and styrene, which is a chemical found in polystyrene foam, synthetic rubber, cooking utensils, plastic food wrap, insulated cups, and plastic bottles, are both known animal carcinogen, and also, possible human carcinogen - a hormone disrupting reproductive intoxicant, and it migrates easily into food and drinks when containers are heated or come into contact with hot food, acid (lemon or tomato), and fats or oil.

A study by the United States Environmental Protection Agency conducted in 1982 found that 100% of Americans tested had styrene in their fat tissue. It is alarming this could happen in a regulated country such as the United States. Can you imagine how much worse it would be in a developing nation such as China, where regulation is still at its infancy?

BPA and other plastic ingredients can be found almost everywhere. However, we are not entirely powerless in dealing with this complex issue. When we’re educated about the consequences and dangers of these chemicals, we can make better choices to protect our family from the dangers of consumer-based toxins. The immediate solution we can do today is to limit our exposure to any kind of plastic materials, non-stick pans, canned food and beverages. Instead, use glass jars to store food, and replace cutleries with metal fork, spoon, and chopsticks. We may also naturally reverse the effects of BPA by consuming superfoods such as probiotics, fermented foods, and black tea, as outlined in the upcoming section on detoxification.


A Little Note on Deficiency

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Do you know that no matter how many calories people eat all over the world, they are in fact, chronically under-nourished? Around the world, soils are mineral deficient. In turn, they produce mineral deficient plants and livestocks. Even a healthy diet is lacking in important minerals the body needs. These important minerals are magnesium, selenium, and zinc. They are important because the body can’t produce them.

Magnesium has a major role in reducing inflammation and regulating the energy production cycle. A deficiency in magnesium can lead to insomnia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and auto-immune disorders.

A powerful antioxidant and essential for healthy immune function, selenium is one of the most important minerals for detoxification, particularly of heavy metals. Unfortunately, modern farming methods and depleted soils mean that selenium is at very low levels in our food chain and deficiency seems to be the norm.

Zinc is an important mineral for regulating immune function and deficiency is particularly common in men. Zinc is also essential for skin health, appetite regulation, and hormonal balance. However, there is a catch 22. In order to absorb zinc properly, your body must already have sufficient levels to properly produce and release hydrochloric acid in your stomach. Zinc absorption is further hindered by the high levels of copper in our water and food. Both copper and zinc compete for absorption. Alas, copper is more readily absorbed.

Unfortunately, because of the body’s inability to produce these essential minerals and the deficiency amongst common foods, the best way to avoid insufficiency is through mineral supplementation atop consuming mineral-rich foods such as leafy green vegetables, various nuts, and natural meats.


Excessive Metal Leads to Toxicity

On the flip side of deficiency is excess, particularly, excess of toxic minerals and heavy metals. Several studies have linked heavy metal toxicity - including cadmium, mercury, and lead - to be incredibly common. Heavy metals are cumulative toxins present in our food chain, homes, and environment. Heavy metal exposure are usually incrementally small, but it happens day by day, leading eventually to high toxic level. It is worth noting that heavy metals are naturally occurring elements, and sometimes needed by the body. However, it is the accumulation within the body that is causing concern.

The most common heavy metal found in the human body is mercury. Mercury toxicity can affect the entire system in the body. Cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, nervous system, digestive system, and respiratory system are all negatively affected by high levels of mercury. Mercury is found in fish - such as mackerel, swordfish, and tuna - as well as pharmaceutical and industrial byproducts. You should also be in the lookout  for mercury exposure if you’ve had your tooth filled with dental amalgams since there is no significant difference between biting on your amalgam and mercury snacking.

Do you remember the last time you breathe in fresh air that is totally pure and clean? Certainly, I can’t even remember. Almost every block you walk through, you’re bound to inhale cigarette smokes, dusts, or other pollutants. Whether you’re a current, active, or passive smoker, you’re at significant of cadmium toxicity. Even if you’ve never been around smoker, you’d also be inhaling cadmium since it is also found in car exhaust fumes, burning plastics, and coal-fired industry. What's worse, cadmium is also present in the food chain through soil contamination in potatoes and leafy greens.

Lead is a natural metal found in the air, soil, water, homes, and even in cosmetics. Lead is dangerous because it spreads in your body and causes damage to fetuses and children. It can also affect every organ and system, especially the brain. When the body is exposed to lead, it enters the bloodstream. From there, it is stored in your organs, tissues, bones, and teeth.

Due to their natural toxicity, your body will rapidly remove heavy metals and other toxins from the blood and store them in fat and other tissues. This makes detecting contaminants quite difficult through blood testing, as high levels will only show for a short time after exposure.

Thus, we need to be proactive in removing them through several detoxification protocols.

Here are some ideas:

1. Eat natural foods - Consuming natural products can significantly cut down your exposure to toxic substances. Natural produce, dairy and meat are grown or produced without the aid of pesticides, hormones, or antibiotics. Be sure to read the label next time you shop at the supermarket.

2. Superfoods - There are hundreds of superfoods out there. The point is not to be a collector, rather to keep a supply of what is readily available at your convenience. Personally, I always keep a various mix supply of superfoods I can get my hands on. They do change from time to time. Here’s what I have on my pantry at the moment:

  • Beet root: Besides good for the digestive and cardiovascular system, beet root is also highly nutritious, rich in antioxidants and photochemical compounds, and a potent anti-inflammatory.
  • Chlorella: Excellent supplement to flush out heavy metal. Best taken right before you do your coffee enema to aid the detoxification process (more on coffee enema below).
  • Black Garlic: Contains a high amount of amino aids as well as antioxidants to boost the immune system. I like to take them when I see some symptoms of flu or fever.
  • Chia seed: This seed is great for toppings and also rich in omega-3, protein, and antioxidants.
  • Coconut oil: Besides its health benefits, coconut oil is great for oil pulling to get healthier teeth.
  • Probiotics: Fermented foods like kimchi, kombucha, and kefir break down toxic substances such as BPA and pesticides in the gut so they can be cleared out through the bowels.
  • Red Korean Ginseng: This is great as an energy booster and overall hormone regulation.
  • Black tea: Found to reduce BPA toxicity. Drink loose leaf - black tea has many other health benefits besides reducing BPA.
  • Chinese herbal mix: I keep different kinds of Chinese herbs prescribed by my TCM practitioner.

3. Yin-Yang method - According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), each food has an energetic property of yin or yang. These are thought of as complimentary pairs that are constantly shifting in relationship to one another. When eating, we absorb yin (cold) or yang (hot) energy from the foods we eat - and that medical conditions are manifestations of these yin-yang imbalances. Thus, we can heal ourselves by correcting our imbalances with the appropriate yin-yang foods. For example, someone who has high blood pressure or skin rash is a signal that his or her condition is affected by too much heat (yang) in the body. According to TCM practitioners, the best solution would be to consume cool or cold foods that promote yin energy. Similarly, if one suffers from fatigue, depression, or muscle ache, these conditions arise from too much cold (yin) in the body. The solution: eat warm or hot foods that promote yang energy. If you are interested in learning more about how yin-yang foods can help you, speak to a TCM or holistic practitioner who can take you even further in identifying the foods that are healthful for you.

4. Alkalizing foods - The body must balance the blood's pH levels at a slightly alkaline level of 7.365 in order to function properly. When a person ingests food to break down for fuel, the digestive and metabolic process transforms it into a substance which is either acidic or alkaline. Unfortunately, the typical diet is a deadly one, consisting primarily of toxic and acid-forming foods like processed sugars, artificial sweeteners, refined grains, conventionally produced meats and dairy, and hidden genetically modified organisms. This puts the body into a highly acidic state. Hence, the need to consume more alkalizing foods in order to balance. Garlic, peppers, wheat grass, apple cider vinegar, green leafy vegetables, and lemons - just to name a few. My daily approach: I consume a shot of apple cider vinegar alongside with wheat grass juice upon waking up every day.

5. FAR-Infrared sauna - An infrared sauna is different from the steam saunas at your local gym or spa. The temperature range for an infrared sauna is typically between 110-130 degrees Celsius, which is significantly less than a steam sauna. Infrared sauna heats the body from the inside out, allowing the heat to penetrate more deeply. This kind of sauna therapy has been used by many doctors, including chiropractor doctor, Dr. David Jernigan. He said, “In the realm of assisting chronic and frequently occurring infectious illnesses, infrared sauna therapy is a vital part of any good treatment program. This is because of its ability to detoxify the body of heavy metals and toxins that are locked up in the fat cells.” Researchers also found that the “induced sweating” effect of sauna is one potential method for elimination of BPA. A 30-minute infrared sauna session improves circulation, reduces pain, calms you down, and assists your body with detoxification.

6. Coffee enema - Coffee taken orally goes through the stomach, raises blood pressure, and effects the liver by shutting down bile ducts. It also causes digestive problems on some people. However, when you inject coffee into the rectum, it serves a very specific purpose. That is, lowering serum toxin by stimulating the liver to release toxins. Coffee enema also has a definite effect in removing free radicals in the colon. Many enzymes in the small intestine and liver are responsible for neutralizing various tissue toxins, ammonia, excess nitrogen, and free radicals.

7. Epsom salt baths - Epsom salts contain magnesium sulfate. It has a relaxing effect on the nervous system and muscles. Not only does this mineral-rich salt reduces pain and inflammation, but it also boosts detoxification capabilities of both the skin and the liver thanks to the compound sulfate. Sulfate draws out toxins through the skin and cleanses the liver by enhancing the production of bile. This simple and relaxing bath also aids a better sleep at night.

8. Lymphatic drainage massage - The lymphatic system helps eliminate our body’s waste and toxins. A healthy, active lymphatic system uses the natural movements of smooth muscle tissue to do this. However, damage can cause fluids to build up in your lymph system and lymph nodes. A lymphatic massage is a gentle pressure technique used to move the waste fluids from the damaged area. You need to be trained in performing lymphatic drainage, so please consult with your medical professional if a lymphatic drainage massage is something you’d like to incorporate into your detoxification plan.

9. Dry skin brushing - Dry brushing your skin improves blood circulation, stimulates hormones release, and firms the skin. By increasing the circulation to the skin, you’re helping your body to discharge metabolic waste, removing dead skin, and allowing your skin to breathe. Dry skin brushing also stimulates lymph drainage, similar to lymphatic drainage massage. Stimulating the lymphatic system aids the body’s detoxification process. Thus, doing both can provide greater benefits, including improved appearance.

10. Light exercise - Vigorous exercise induces sweating. However, sweating with exercise is not so much detoxifying because the sympathetic nervous system is activated during exercise, so the amount of toxin removal is minimal. Extreme endurance sport should also be avoided because it not only suppresses your immune system, but also increases lipid peroxidation; a free-radical mediated chain induced by oxidative stress, causing cell damage (You can ask Google for more research on lipid peroxidation). If your looking to exercise for health, stick to light activities such as jogging, cycling, and swimming. Here’s what Bruce Lee’s had to say on the therapeutic benefits of jogging: “Jogging is not only a form of exercise to me, it is also a form of relaxation. It is my own hour every morning when I can be alone with my thoughts.”

Bonus: water fasting - Fasting has been used from ancient text such as the Bible to Seneca to modern day cancer treatment. Fasting is a form of cellular cleansing. When we fast, the body begins to effectively removes waste products. How does fasting remove toxins? When you forgo food for anywhere from 16 to 36 hours at a time, the body activates a cellular process called autophagy. When autophagy is turned on, the body is clearing out all old, junky proteins and cellular parts where the body stores many of the toxins it absorbs from the environment. It allows the body to most effectively remove waste products. Remember, the body is designed to fast; we do it every night. Aside from detoxification, fasting also stimulates growth hormone. In my experience, fasting has vastly improved my blood work, especially glucose homeostasis, insulin sensitivity, and HGH level. I also fast when I'm about to get sick, so that my body uses all of its energy to repair itself, instead of digestion. It is a great result from just “doing nothing”. I will have a seperate write-up on fasting because this topic is too extensive to cover over a short summary.


Detox Protocols

Disclaimer: I must emphasize this is MY detoxification plan. Please consult your health practitioner before beginning any detoxification protocol.

The purpose of this outline is to improve my overall health and well-being. I have no intention of becoming  a superhero or a mutant whatsoever. I do them because “when our detoxification system is overwhelmed, is overloaded,” said Dr. Mark Hyman MD, “that’s when we start getting symptoms and get sick, but it may take years of accumulated stress and toxins to get to that point.” And neither do I wish to get to that point.

  • Start the day with a shot of apple cider vinegar and wheat grass juice to help alkalize the body.
  • Drink at least 8-10 glasses of clean filtered water with lemon each day.
  • Consume natural produce, animal products, and grass fed meats to eliminate food toxins. I’ve also eliminated gluten, white sugar, and dairy.
  • Implement dry skin brushing as well as lymphatic drainage massage to assist with the elimination of toxins through the lymphatic system.
  • FAR-Infrared sauna 1-2 times a week.
  • Coffee enema 4 times a week.
  • Detox bath once a week.
  • Stop eating after 12 noon. I start eating around six in the morning. This gives me an 18-hour fasting window. I usually would do this type of fast for a few months before proceeding to a longer duration water fast.
  • Juice concoction mix as needed. Juice fast is not only a viable option before attempting longer duration fast to slowly slow down the digestive system, but also to open and restart the digestive tract after the fast.
  • Light to moderate intensity exercise. I watch my breathing and heart rate to monitor the intensity.
  • Massage, acupuncture, Chinese herbal brew, tai-chi, and meditation to help my body relax, reduce soreness and inflammation. I don’t like boring routines, so I mix these procedures day in and day out. Different schedule every day.
  • Daily magnesium and zinc supplementation.


At the End of the Day...

We live in an ever changing world. Tools and knowledges that are old testament must be renewed to combat more sophisticated “mouse traps.” If we adhere to outdated methods, we will only be fooled. Certainly, some will think luck is a factor that exists in life to combat uncertainties. I think that luck diminishes once we add “lifestyle.” That said, we should tailor our detoxification program according to each individual needs. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.

At the end of the day, you could have unlimited resources, implemented numerous tools and protocols, and would still have a great chance of getting sick. For the sake of living the good life, don't do these protocols because you have to. Implement them because you enjoy inserting them as part of your daily living.

Of course, you might be perfectly happy sipping beer, smoking cigarettes, and stuffing your gut with Big Macs and Doritos chips, benevolently trusting them to give you good health and allowing yourself to live life to the fullest. In that case, just relax and enjoy the ride. You don’t need to do anything about it.

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