Yesterday I posted a picture in our Facebook community of an organic restaurant menu here in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia called ‘Soma’ that contains what I call positive psychology interventions.
In the menu, customers are invited to mindfully eat their food, to be grateful for it and to savour the whole experience.
Beth and Rebecca started asking me questions about the restaurant and Stephen inquired how the owner of the restaurant ended up applying a positive psychology to his restaurant and its menu. I immediately planned to find out.
So I asked one of the waitresses to introduce me to the owner, which she immediately did. His name is John and I felt like we clicked straight away. I introduced myself and asked him about the gratitude practice in the menu to which he replied; “Do you have 2 hours?”. I said I wasn’t in a rush – which no one seems to be here in Ubud (maybe that’s why I love it so much and am considering staying here for longer later this year) – and we sat down and started talking.
That’s when I found out that John isn’t into the whole small talk thing. That’s good I thought because neither am I. The 2nd question I often ask someone at a cocktail party is how they’ve been denying their death up until this moment and whether they have had any luck with that strategy. Go figure.
John explained to me that we are born with 5 different gifts. 5 Gifts that make us self-sufficient. 5 Gifts that allow us to not have to strive for anything outside of ourselves, which most of us end up doing and thereby creating a lot of problems for ourselves. More about that later.
Gift #1: The ability to breathe
“Do you remember your first breath?”, John asked me. “No”, I replied. “Well, try to sometime. Try to remember it with your heart instead of with the mind. See what happens.”
This gift is very straight-forward. If you’re unable to breathe by yourself when you’re born, you die. In order to live, you breathe.
According to John, somewhere along the way we started breathing in a very shallow way, from the chest. If you want to do it right, you have to start breathing from your stomach, called ‘diaphragmatic breathing’.
The research is very clear that breathing exercises (e.g. pranayama breathing) can enhance parasympathetic (inhibit neural responses) tone, decrease sympathetic (excitatory) nervous activity, improve respiratory and cardiovascular function, decrease the effects of stress, and improve physical and mental health (Pal, Velkumary, and Madanmohan, 2004).
More on that here.
Gift #2: The 72.000 pores in our skin
John explained that we are born and die with 72.000 pores in our skin that regulate our temperature by releasing or conserving warmth and or by sweating. The skin is our largest organ, of vital importance, and we are hardly ever aware that its there, let alone grateful for it.
Gift #3: Our 64 DNA
Since I am the last person in a position to explain anything biological (trust me), I am borrowing the explanation for this concept from TekGnostics.
It has been argued that there seems to exist a striking correlation between the 64 kua of the ancient Asian divination system known as the I-Ching and the nucleotide sequence and amino acid bases in the RNA/DNA molecule.
Upon closer examination of the parallel between DNA and the I Ching, we find immediate similarities. The 64 kua of the I Ching are constructed by using four emblematic symbols: Old Yang, Young Yang, Old Yin, and Young Yin.
DNA is comprised of four essential nucleic acids: Adenine, Guanine, Cystosine, and Uracil. These nucleic acids are combined into sets of three, known as codons.
This means that there are 4 x 4 x 4 = 64 combinations available. The I Ching also has 64 combinations.
Gift 4: 7 Basic Chakra’s
John explained that with our 7 basic chakras, certain energy points in our body, you ask for anything you want in life and that mother nature will give you anything you ask for. It’s what he interestingly calls ‘manifestation technology’.
More about the 7 basic chakra’s here.
One thing that I realised is that I actually have been getting the things in life that I asked for, and that some of the things that I would like to have in life, I simply haven’t asked for. So what I will do is create a list of the people and things that I would like to have in my life and ask for it.
Please note that I do not subscribe to the whole ‘woo-woo self-help the secret movement’ and neither does John (he said so himself). The concept of asking for what you want I find powerful nonetheless.
“If you’re not ready for something, don’t ask for it.”
Gift 5: Our last breath
You might interpret this last gift differently depending on your religion or belief system. Some believe they are going to have an afterlife, some believe they don’t.
Personally, I really don’t care what belief system you hold on to as long as your beliefs don’t translate into actions that hurt other people. (With that, I have an active problem.)
So whatever you choose to believe, there is a reason to be grateful for your life, your last exhaling breath and to see it as a gift.
There are some other things I learned from John during our conversation.
Lesson 1: There is no such thing as bad karma
There is no one keeping score, but good deeds are contagious, spread, and return to you.
Lesson 2: Heart over mind
A lot of problems can be solved by stopping to think about them rationally, with the mind and start exploring your feelings about them. The question is whether you are rational enough to attribute sufficient value to the value of your emotions.
Lesson 3: Gratitude is self-love
Now this one I found most interesting. When I asked John to explain this one I really needed to put an effort into keeping up. To the best of my abilities, I understand his reasoning as follows:
- You can only truly love something or someone if you love yourself.
- As soon as you are grateful for something, you are essentially grateful for the self that is experiencing the gratitude, because without the self, there would be no gratitude.
- You are the only potential source of unconditional love in your live, even the love between a mother and her child is conditional.
- If you don’t love yourself unconditionally, you will never experience unconditional love in your life.
- So before anything else, love yourself.
- The gratitude you express will be worth more and be more genuine, as will the love you give to those around you.
Hence, real gratitude comes out of self-love. Sounds egotistical? Read the above again. The exact opposite is the case.
Lesson 4: Take care of and listen to your body
(Excuse me for the rant that is about to follow. Write what you’re angry about they advised me. So I will.)
Besides healthy, nutritious, organic food, your body does not need anything. You do not need one pill.
Especially for those from the US who are reading this: walk to your medicine cabinet, empty all of it in a bag, throw the bag out. Do yourself and your liver a big favour.
You think that sounds ridiculous? Well, think about how ridiculous the use of all of those pills sounds to people from the Japanese Island of Okinawa, who are going to outlive you by decades without any pills.
“As an American, more than anything or anyone else, you have been trained, no, drilled to consume pills and actively build up the trillion dollar industry that you’re now an inescapable part of.”
And not just real pills by the way, but also metaphorical pills in the terms of shortcuts in life, liposuction and get-rich-quick schemes. But that’s a whole nother story.
The pharmaceutical industry is a trillion dollar industry. Literally. Don’t you think with all that money they would be able to create the marketing power to crawl inside your head and underneath your skin? I mean, come on.
The total level of pharmaceutical revenue worldwide had reached nearly one trillion U.S. dollars. North America is responsible for the largest portion, generating more than 40 percent of these revenues. More stats here.
I challenge you to open your eyes and to become aware of it and I challenge you to throw all of your pills out. “But what about the pills for my (type 2) diabetes?” Well, how do you think you got diabetes in the first place? I’m sorry but your excuses are not worth anything here. You decide for yourself what you put into your mouth.
According to John – and I’m going to have to agree with him for the most part here – us humans have created the most common diseases that we’re suffering from and that we need treatment for ourselves, with the wrong lifestyle as the underlying cause. If you would have eaten natural, organic foods that pass the ‘would your grandmother have recognised this as food’ test for all of your life, you wouldn’t need any of the pills that cure the diseases that you now have because you didn’t.
Lesson 5: Listen to the Buddhist healing mantra and breathe
By means of an intervention, like meditation, try listening to a Buddhist Healing Mantra like this one and breathe deeply via your stomach. Try it for just the 8,5 minute duration of this matra and see what happens.
Lesson 6: Advise for the depressed or those treating the depressed
I asked John what he would advise practitioners (psychologists, therapists, coaches etc.) who are treating clients that are depressed. He immediately replied: diet. Know where the food that you put into your mouth comes from. He said that most depressed people are not taking good care of themselves physically, causing mental problems.
A lot of practitioners try to treat the mental problems and fail to see or attribute sufficient importance to the physicality of their clients. To their nutrition. After taking care of a depressed person’s diet, he recommends focussing on practicing breathing, yoga, meditation, gratitude and self-love.
Still signs of any mental problems after that? John highly doubts it and, practicing all of these things myself, so do I.
Lesson 7: Aboriginals don’t have words for saying ‘thank you’
When a couple of aboriginals came over to Bali to meet John and teach him how to play the didgeridoo, he thanked them for coming over and taking the time to teach him. When he asked them how to thank them in their native language, he found out that the aboriginals don’t have words to say it. There is literally no translation for thank you in their language.
Why, you ask? Are they all ungrateful sons-of-you-know-what or something? Nope. For them, it is not about the well-being of an individual person. Individuality hardly even exists. It is all about common wealth and common well-being. So if I help you, you do not need to thank me for it because I am helping us.
Besides, saying “thank you” implies that there is a transaction taking place. You do something for me, and I thank you for it (to feel better). Boom, transaction. Of course, things work a lot differently in our Western culture, but I like this concept of not having to say thank you.
Lesson 8: Meditation tip
Pinch yourself. Is that your arm that you feel? Okay, now let’s go ahead and answer that question with “no”. It’s not your phone, your arm or your body. Stop identifying with everything. Now continue meditating.
That’s all folks!
Want to support Johnny on his mission to heal people with food? Like Soma’s Facebook page.
Please share your number one action step that you are going to take via the comments below.
Love to hear from you.