10 days, Technology Free in the Galapagos – What I Learned…

sea lion

So I just got back from an incredible 10 days on the Galapagos Islands. The islands themselves were absolutely incredible – the people, the biodiversity, and the unique terrain were more remarkable than I could have ever imagined. I’ll eventually post in more detail about some of the specific moments/activities from the trip but today, I want to talk about a component of my trip that is not directly related to the Islands.

 

During my trip I took a 10 day technology fast. While I still brought my phone for pictures, the fast consisted of:

  • Airplane mode at all times
  • No texts or calls
  • No social media
  • No emails
  • No computer
  • No searching the internet

 

Before talking about what I experienced and what I learned during the technology fast, I’ll start with why I committed to doing this in the first place.

 

Why the technology fast?

 

While a 10 day trip to the Galapagos is the perfect opportunity to unplug and fully immerse yourself into the island experience, that was not the main impetus for me to abstain from technology during this trip, just a nice little perk.

 

My primary interest in the technology fast can be expressed, in-part, by a real AF verse on Drake’s new album, Scorpion, in a song called Emotionless.

 

Missin’ out on my days

Scrollin’ through life and fishin’ for praise

Opinions from total strangers take me out of my ways

I try and see who’s there on the other end of the shade

….

I know a girl whose one goal was to visit Rome

Then she finally got to Rome

And all she did was post pictures for people at home

‘Cause all that mattered was impressin’ everybody she’s known

I know another girl that’s cryin’ out for help

But her latest caption is “Leave me alone”

I know a girl happily married ’til she puts down her phone

I know a girl that saves pictures from places she’s flown

To post later and make it look like she still on the go”

 

(Side note. ANOTHER Drake song says “I’m living inside the moment, not taking pictures to save it” – which also hits home for me. Go Drake)

 

When I heard those verses they struck a chord with me. While its not a direct match, the lyrics express many of the challenges I (and I’ll be so bold to say we) face with social media and staying connected.

 

Exhibit A:

 

Since I’ve been on this trip, while I certainly feel that I have deepened my mindfulness practice and have been much more present, there were a lot of things I’d catch myself doing that didn’t align with my values:

 

  • Once I got access to WiFi, I became too connected to my phone  – perhaps it was due to some of the intermittent loneliness that can  come with solo travel – but all the same, it was too much.
  • I would catch myself aimlessly scrolling through Instagram, liking every picture I saw – NOT necessarily because I liked the pictures (sorry) but because I subconsciously wanted to exchange likes for likes – thinking about it now seems so self-serving and honestly it’s tough to write about on a public platform.
  • I would post a picture and would constantly open my Instagram to see how many more likes I got and sometimes, who liked the pictures – as if I had any control over it and as if it truly mattered – and I’d use those likes to put value on my own personal experiences and the quality of what I was sharing.

 

As a result, I started to get tangled up. I’d catch myself in the middle of a conversation with an urge to check my phone, I’d find myself enjoying something beautiful but then thinking about how I could turn it into a post. This little black mirror (phone) had power over me – full stop.

 

I understand why I was doing what I was doing. When I started this blog, I put my personal story on a public platform. It’s like public speaking – you put yourself out there and open yourself up to judgement from the audience with the chance that they dislike what you have to say. I talk about things that are personal and important to me so of course I want it to be received well – and I think that’s healthy. But with this healthy desire to do well, comes the danger of the ego getting in the way. When the ego gets in the way, you lose that feeling of empowerment because you are under the control of the audience – where each like, from people you know and people you don’t, becomes a little ping of validation that you are doing the right thing and when you don’t get those likes, you start to question yourself and the value of the message you were trying to convey or the content you put out.

 

That is why, once I heard those Drake lyrics, I was like “Bruh…” and I decided to go tech free for a nice reset in the Galapagos.

 

What was it like?

 

This 10 day technology fast went pretty much like most of my previous technology-free experiences (yes I have done things like this before) and, I imagine, shares many of the same traits of stopping many habits cold turkey.

 

  • First, came the ego. It started off pretty rough. I think it’s because I posted on Instagram and then immediately shut my phone (maybe not the best idea). I wanted to check my phone so bad! Who liked it? Were people supportive of this technology fast? Did anyone care that I was going to be in the Galapagos?
    • This feeling persisted for a couple of days and then tapered off when I finally let go and said “who cares, it just is what it is.”
  • Then, the conditioning. I’d wake up in the morning and would want to go for my phone to see what messages or alerts had come through overnight. I’d go to the bathroom and felt so lost without having a phone to check. I’d lay in bed before going to sleep and would feel the urge to check my phone or do a bit of scrolling to lull myself to sleep.
  • Finally, the associative aspects. Social situations with an awkward silence would trigger my hand to reach towards my pocket to grab my phone. I’d go sit somewhere by myself and would find myself wanting to check my phone to make it seem like I was doing something important…lol.

 

Having done technology fasts before, I had a sense for what I could expect and was ready for it, but the feelings still came and initially were still hard to ignore. Over time however, the habitual urges started to dissipate and pleasant experiences took their place.

 

  • No longer was I looking at situations or experiences as a moment to capture and later post about, but instead they became moments to simply experience, nothing more.
  • Instead of reaching for my phone in the morning, I’d lay in bed thinking about the previous day and would feel intense gratitude for all I was able to experience. In the bathroom (lol but seriously, the bathroom is prime time for phone scrolling) or when sitting down in general, instead of mindlessly scrolling, I’d tune into my body and observe how it was feeling –  pleasant soreness in my muscles from the previous day’s hike or surf, warm skin from a day out in the sun, everything.
  • In social situations, I was able to fully immerse myself in the conversations. Silence was no longer awkward, but a chance to take a moment to reset, collect, and continue. Conversations became more enriched and went from brief conversations about the weather on the islands to deep meaningful connections.

 

All of these positive effects could be categorized as increased presence and an increased ability to tune into each moment I was experiencing.

 

So what?

 

While the technology fast was pleasant, it isn’t something I can do all of the time and I assume, neither can most of you. Like it or not, technology is an integral part of most of our lives and being completely “off the grid” is not a realistic solution. Technology is also a gift, it provides us with access to information and connects us to our loved ones. It’s an amazing tool and can tremendously improve the quality of our lives when used appropriately. Conversely, it can also lead to negative outcomes and pull us out of the present moment. So the question becomes – what do we do about the inherent conflict that comes in our relationship with technology?

 

In the past, I’ve done things such as delete social media (which I really enjoyed) however, I understand that in order for my blog to reach others (which is a goal) social media is a necessity and deleting it is not a feasible option. What I can do though, is incorporate a few guidelines that will keep me in check. Disclaimer – I have no guarantees on the efficacy of any of these guidelines as I am only one week into them but here is what I have decided to experiment with:

 

  • Set the right mindset:
    • It may seem like a silly guideline but I think an important component is setting the right mindset for approaching technology and social media.
    • If you don’t have a stance/mindset, its easy to get caught up without even realizing. For me, I didn’t realize how much my ego played into my relationship with social media. I’ve now set the mindset that social media is a platform for me to log my journey and share it with whoever is interested. It’s not a place for me to boast, be nosey, or to compare my situation with others. By establishing this mindset, I am giving myself a baseline to check myself.
  • Be intentional:
    • Very closely related to setting the right mindset is being intentional about maintaining your mindset. Technology and social media are never ending floods of information, there is always something new or something to check. If you fail to be intentional about why, when, and how you use your technology, it can easily lead to compulsive behavior.
    • While I continue my trip, I will be intentional in my technology use by designating specific hours where I can be connected – either to check social media, send an email, make a call, etc. By designating a specific time and place to be connected I don’t  need to be concerned with constantly checking my phone every time I hear an alert. Setting time in both the morning and the evening enable me to make sure I am not off the grid for an extended period of time.
  • Observe and respond:
    • By setting the right mindset and being intentional about how I use technology and social media, my hope is that I will be much more aware as I am using them. This will enable me to observe if my thoughts/behaviors are in line with the mindset I set for myself – if they are, great. If not, back to the drawing board to come up with some new ideas.

 

 

I am looking forward to seeing how these little tweaks will work out for me. I think it’s going to be a matter of constant reflection and adaptation that will get me to my ideal relationship with technology.  When it comes to this subject matter, I am certainly no expert and have limited experience. I’d love to hear from you if you’ve experienced any of the things I described and if/how you’ve been able to mitigate the negative impacts. Please let me know by commenting below or sending me a message directly.

 

Thanks fam! ❤

 

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“Who you are on your mat is who you are in your life” – a quote to live by…

updog

“Who you are on your [yoga] mat is who you are in your life…”

 

I remember the first time I heard that quote (in my yoga teacher training course), I didn’t really appreciate how deep it really ran. It’s only after years of hindsight that I fully recognize the implications of this quote – and the power behind it.

 

First, let’s break the quote down a bit to make sure we understand it. “Who you are on the mat is who you are in your life.” What this is saying is; how you show up and progress through a yoga class is pretty indicative of how you approach life more broadly. For those of you who may not be too familiar with yoga, the concept follows the same principle of a similar quote “How you do anything is how you do everything” and can definitely be applied beyond yoga. For me, I like using yoga because your “stuff” shows up on the yoga mat as clear as day. I think this is because yoga challenges you physically mentally, emotionally and spiritually – and quite often you don’t have earbuds in to distract your focus – so you have the presence of mind to truly feel burn and fatigue across each dimension.

 

Looking back, it’s almost funny how this has shown up for me…

  • What I’ve done: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve caught myself in the middle of a yoga class seething because my instructor won’t stop with the damn leg work when I just did squats yesterday. I’d start to rationalize in my head how wrong they are and how “they clearly have no idea what they are doing, this sequence is borderline dangerous and someone is going to get hurt.”
  • What it tells me: This indicates an “it’s my world and you all just live in it” mentality. For me to knock a teachers class because my legs are sore (for reasons that have nothing to do with the teacher) is just plain self-centered, full stop.

 

  • What I’ve done: I’ve been blessed with strength and balance which I’ve continued to cultivate over time. This enables me to pull off some difficult press-ups and hand balances. At the same time, my hip flexibility needs a ton of work which makes things like sitting comfortably in a cross-legged position feel more daunting than wrestling a bear. Because of this, I’d often dread parts of the class, such as centering, and love the parts of class where we could pop handstands. I’ve also caught myself “recovering” from a pose that is challenging for me by getting into a pose that is challenging for most others.
  • What it tells me: Ego and insecurity. There was clearly a desire to “be good at yoga” and when I was unable to do that, rather than recognize it’s a personal practice and that I have my whole life to continue to work and improve – instead I would feel uncomfortable/vulnerable because others can see my flaws – and would need to validate it by doing something that made me feel secure.

 

  • What I’ve done: Sometimes, if I was running a bit late (I’m talking a matter of minutes where I still had a chance to arrive on time), if I was stressing about something, or if my shoulders felt a bit tired when I woke up, I would skip class altogether.
  • What it tells me: I had a tendency to want things to be perfect before I began and didn’t want to give up control of the situation. My mentality was “if my shoulders are sore, I might not nail my handstand” and “I’m going to be thinking about this presentation throughout class and I’m never going to get into the right headspace today, so what’s the point?” Instead, it should have been “Man, I am stressed. I especially need yoga today” or “Since my shoulders are tired, I can focus on hip mobility today.”

 

I put these examples in past tense because after years of working on them, I’m proud to say that I have swapped out many of these shitty automatic responses for better ones. But it didn’t happen overnight and it wasn’t always easy and sometimes, when I am not being mindful, these ugly reactions will still show up every once in a while. For the most part however, it’s no longer my norm. Don’t worry though, I have plenty of other stuff I still need to work on – on and off the mat.

 

So, what is it for you?

  • Are you courageous/carefree enough to try and pop that handstand in a yoga class even though you haven’t mastered it yet? Or do you go home and practice it in secret, waiting until it’s perfect before finally unveil your masterpiece?
  • Do you start mentally cussing out your yoga teacher when they hold you in your least favorite pose for 10 seconds? Or do you step into the discomfort with a smile because you know you will be stronger for it in the end?

 

What does your practice tell you about yourself?

 

For you non-yogi’s… you’re not getting off that easy…what’s your  yoga?

  • Maybe it’s the gym, and you’re so regimented in your current program that you bash the new guy who’s taking up “your squat rack”  – when in reality, he’s just following his program and happened to beat you to the rack today.
  • Maybe it’s your club basketball team where the rest of your team “doesn’t know wtf they are doing” and they are cramping your game – when in reality, you haven’t hit a shot all day and the team you are facing is objectively better than you. It happens.
  • Think about it…is it really your team that’s messing you up? Or should you go and work on your shot? Is that guy/girl really an ass for taking your squat rack? Or should you relax and go do some damn lunges instead of criticizing their form or the amount of weight they are using?

 

As amusing (or alarming) as these discoveries may be, think of them as opportunities that can be used to diagnose your current-state tendencies and, more importantly, can be used as levers to make broader change across your life.

 

Using this as a tool to change your life

These moments are gifts –  they aren’t just moments of physical challenge, they are telling you something more and bringing up things you may need to work on in your life beyond just yoga. Whether it’s your ego, teaming skills, fear, or  insecurities, these moments of adversity can become your training ground to improve yourself.

 

How?

  • What if the next time you feel yourself getting frustrated during a difficult pose, you force yourself to dig in an smile because you acknowledge that “this too shall pass.”
  • Or the next time you go through your vinyasa flow, you silence your inner-cynic and pop up into that handstand because the worst thing that can happens is that you fall on your face – I’ve done it 1000 times and I’m still breathing 🙂 (Pro tip: set yourself up for success and grab a spot in the front or back corner of the room so when the time comes, you can’t use the “I don’t want to hit my neighbor excuse”)

 

At the end of the day, you can’t control the stimulus (aka you can’t control what happens to you), but you can control how you respond. When you notice your triggers and consciously choose to transcend them, you are literally rewiring your brain patterns – which means that overtime you can change your natural response to these triggers!

 

Viktor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor captured the essence of this so beautifully:

 

“Between stimulus and response there is space.

In that space is our power to choose our response.

In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

 

So, the next time you are faced with one of those triggers – be it in the yoga studio or workplace – remember that you have a choice for how you will respond and each time, an opportunity to take control of your life and become closer to the person you want to be.

 

Pretty dope if you ask me…

 

Stay up fam!

Matt

 

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Nature: Recharge Your Spirit

Wachuma Lake

Well – I just touched down in Nicaragua after a week of R&R in Peru and what a week it was. I spent my week at an eco-lodge in the Sacred Valley and I can honestly say the trip was a life-changing experience (in many more ways than one). I had the opportunity to look inward but was also able to connect with the local Andes culture and I learned so much from them. For now, I am going to focus on my two biggest learnings in the following posts:

  1. The importance of connecting with nature to recharge and cultivate a sense of gratitude and wonder
  2. Using symbolism/rituals as tools to renew the mind and refresh the spirit

This post will cover the nature component

 

While in Peru, one thing that immediately stood out to me about the local culture was their relationship with “Mother Earth” aka Pacha Mama. Their relationship with the Earth (both plants and animals) is sacred and they take it very seriously. This comes from the fact that for generations, they’ve relied on nature for survival (i.e., using animal behavior to predict the weather and to determine which crops should be planted that year) and for wisdom – seeing nature as an intelligent problem solver and pulling lessons from it. When speaking with some of the locals, I began to understand this symbiotic relationship and the deep gratitude (for the food, for the rain, for the sun, etc.) that comes with it – you take care of the Earth and nurture the relationship and the Earth in turn takes care of and nurtures you. There was also a sensitivity to the different stimuli within nature, with locals constantly pointing out the sound of birds chirping, the warmth of the sun and the wind cooling our skin – there is a consistent mindfulness that they carry, which most of the time we only experience while on our yoga mat or in our meditation chair (if we’re lucky).

 

As I immersed myself in the culture, I started to think about life back at home and realized how far much of our culture has gone from this place of gratitude and sensitivity toward nature. In many of our daily environments – highly populated cities, high-demand jobs – we are bombarded with intense stimuli. To deal with this, our brain, over time, learns to tune out many of these stimuli to keep us sane (if we were hyper aware of every stimulus going during our commute in NYC, it wouldn’t be long before our brain blew a few circuits.) While this desensitizing is a gift, there is also a downside…our brains also desensitize to stimuli that foster a wonder and appreciation for our world which keeps our spirits charged.

 

There is something deeply human about connecting with nature – there was once a time where all of our ancestors shared a similarly dependent relationship with the Earth but in many developed cultures, that relationship has been long forgotten. While in many cases we’ve removed ourselves from nature, I believe we are deeply wired to connect with it and by callusing ourselves over time, we inadvertently suppress our spirit. Just think about the countless studies showing the impact of windowless offices or the studies on the difference between offices with or without plants. More importantly, think back to a time where you’ve witnessed a beautiful sunset or listened to the sound of waves on the beach and felt a deep sense of gratitude and wonder – I’d bet that if you dig deep, you can all recall a memory like that. Why should we limit ourselves to that feeling only once a year on vacation? Albert Einstein said it best, “He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.”

 

For those of you thinking “easy for you to say on a 6 month sabbatical…” I get it. I understand that opportunities to go deep into nature for an extended period of time are not always within our control – but that’s not what I am suggesting. I do however, believe there is something we all can learn from this and apply in our daily life. To me, the lesson is more about cultivating a daily mindset of wonder and gratitude than heading to a specific place in nature. Think of the things that you do have control over in your day to day:

  • How you set up the space in your office
  • Where you take your lunch/coffee breaks
  • Your mindset toward nature the food it produces

Setting up a few succulents or air plants around your office is a simple and low maintenance way to bring some nature into your daily life. Taking lunch or coffee breaks outside when possible is a great way to connect with nature as well. More importantly however, is the mindset in which you approach these small treasures. Having plants at your desk or taking a walk outside is not going to do much for you if you are not approaching these things mindfully – with this sense of gratitude and wonder. When you set up your desk plants or take your lunch break outside, take a moment to appreciate these things. Be grateful for the food that you are putting into your body which nourishes you and provides you with energy for the day. Each morning when you arrive at your desk, take a minute to appreciate natures beauty and intelligence. Just watch how your mindset changes over time. And finally, when you do get the chance, take a trip deep into nature to immerse yourself and reconnect/recharge those precious batteries of yours.

 

Cheers Fam!

Matt

Peru face

My Sabbatical: 6 Months of Surf, Yoga, and Business – Adventure Awaits…

Rise Up Hammock

Well, today is my last day in the US for a while…6 months to be exact. Tonight, I’ll be embarking on a journey that has been in the works for quite some time now. From May to November, I will be working with Rise Up Surf, a surf & yoga wellness retreat in Nicaragua (picture featured above!). As you now know, exploring health and well-being practices has been a passion of mine for a while and I am extremely grateful to my company for the opportunity to get hands-on and go much deeper in this field over the next 6 months.

 

So, what is a sabbatical you ask?

Aside from the incredible people I get to work with, one of the coolest things about my company are the numerous opportunities they provide their practitioners to grow and develop – making them more well-rounded individuals and ultimately, better employees. The sabbatical program is one of those opportunities. If you meet the criteria and get accepted into the program, you can pretty much write your own ticket and craft a unique experience for yourself – as long as it facilitates personal/professional growth OR volunteering (which I still believe leads to growth so ha.) It’s a win-win-win situation – my company wins because I come back sharper and happier, Rise Up Surf wins because I’ll be consulting for them free of charge (while my company pays me), and I win because I get to enjoy an incredible experience while pushing my limits and accelerating my growth. Damn, what a cool program.

 

Why surf + yoga?  Why Rise Up?

To say I took this decision seriously would be an understatement. Think about it – if you had an opportunity to create what could be a once in a lifetime experience – wouldn’t you put some serious thought into your decision too? When I began searching for the right fit, I did a ton of research and spoke extensively with multiple organizations to start dreaming up what the experience could look like. At the core however, there were a few key things I was looking for:

o   Focus on Health and Well-Being: After my previous posts, I don’t think I need to elaborate too much here. I love it, it’s extremely important to me, and I wanted to be surrounded by like-minded individuals who are equally as passionate about this topic as I am so I can learn from and share with them.

o   Located in Latin America: For some reason I connect to Latin/South American culture more than anywhere else I’ve traveled. Maybe it’s the food, the music, the passion, or the joy that they bring to the table…or maybe it’s because my mom was born in Ecuador, lol. Whatever it is, I knew that’s where I wanted to spend my time. Also, my Spanish speaking is “asi asi” and I am determined improve so that I can come back and have deep and meaningful conversations with my grandparents without my mom filling in the blanks.

o   Mutual Value Exchange:  One thing that was extremely important to me when filtering my search was the opportunity for a mutual value exchange. I was not looking for a place to take a vacation. Instead, I wanted to find a place where I could contribute my particular skills in a meaningful way and also learn from the people around me. My main value add will be business consulting services to help Rise Up improve and grow their business. In return, I get to learn from experts in surf, yoga, and nutrition/culinary arts.

o   Connection: Finally, and most importantly, was connection. One thing I’ve learned through years of partnering with organizations is that the key to a productive and sustainable relationship is a strong connection between both parties. This is really what set Rise Up Surf apart from most of the other organizations that I interviewed. When I spoke with Phillip, the owner at Rise Up, I immediately connected to the way that he talked about his staff and his customers, with love and respect, referring to them as “La Familia.” Growing up in a Latin/Italian home, family and connection was at the foundation of everything we did. Knowing that I would be apart from my immediate family for 6 months made this criterion of connection all the more important. I am eager to meet the rest of the crew at Rise Up as well as the local community and build those family style relationships over the next few months.

 

What Else?

Aside from all that – I am especially looking forward to the stillness and presence of mind that I will be able to access in this environment. I see myself as a perpetual work in progress and these unique opportunities to go deep and peel back the layers of my onion are a gift. Throughout my life, I’ve found that when I meditate or practice stillness, true insights are revealed to me – whether it be my true heart’s desire about a specific choice or silencing my ego to realize that I was completely wrong for how I acted in a certain situation.

 

It’s also going to be nice to get out of the building for a bit. As much as I love my company, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it’s easy to get lost in the sauce every once in a while (and to be clear, I am sure this is the case at any big company.) Coming out of undergrad into Management Consulting, you quickly notice that there is a pretty standard path – work hard, go to business school, and from there you either come back and work your way up to the executive level, or move on to a different top shelf organization – and if you stray from this path, it’s not uncommon to be met with an “Aww don’t worry, I’m sure things will work out…” Being surrounded by brilliant, high performing individuals is amazing, but it’s also easy to mistake the amazing things others is doing for what you should be doing. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with that path at all – many close friends and mentors have taken this path and I know they will go on to do great things. But for me, I’ve always liked to do things a bit different and I think it’s going to be very healthy for me to take a few steps outside of all of the bustle and really listen to my heart. I’m stoked excited to see what I discover.

 

So, there you have it – that’s my general plan for the next 6 months – but as Mr. Mike Tyson would say…“Everyone has a plan until that get punched in the face (or…the fathe).” And I am sure there are a few left hooks waiting around a few corners for me – so stay tuned!

 

If you are curious to see more, be sure to follow this blog (just click the button on the right hand side of this page.) You can also follow my Instagram account @thebusinessathlete (much more content to come once I settle in!)

 

Much love,

Matt

 

P.S. I am kicking this trip off with a week of R&R in Peru – so don’t be confused if you see some pictures/posts about that 🙂