100 Things I wish my Dad had Taught me. Episode 13. “What do you feed yourself?”

“What do you feed yourself?”

This has very little to do with food. Although food is included.

What you feed yourself includes what you wear, how tidy your life is, how organised your time is, what you do in your spare time, how you handle success and failures.

What you feed yourself includes how dependent you are on others to feed your ego and how much you speak to others in a loving tone.

What you feed yourself includes the thoughts you have as you walk along the beach alone, what podcasts you listen to and what fills your heart as you put your head on the pillow.

What you feed yourself also includes how you feel, who you work for, how much you argue with peers, friends and family and how much and what you watch on television.

What you feed yourself includes your exercise programme and what you say when you look in the mirror at your body and face.

What you feed yourself is what your decision criteria is when you buy clothes, what you spend and who you are trying to please when you do it.

What you feed yourself includes whether you wear fake jewellery or watches and who you are trying to impress when you think about a new car.

What you feed yourself includes your vision of the future. That’s a big meal isn’t it? If you draft an idea and build uncertainty into the idea for the future you feed yourself uncertainty.

What you feed yourself includes your self-talk. Ultimately, most things grow out of that 24/7 dialogue.

What you feed yourself also includes the paradigm that runs your life. For example if you want to be a good religious person then, how you see the world is through that lens and that’s what you are feeding yourself.

What you feed yourself is how you think. Most people think that they think. Human nature thinks, it never stops. We can slow that thinking down. We can speed that thinking up. It’s still thinking when we sleep and it thinks something as soon as we wake. We can condemn others, feel sorry for them, wish we were somewhere else and much much more but we are thinking all this. That’s what we feed ourselves, we feed ourselves what we think and what we think turns into what and how we do.

What we put into our mouth food wise, is also a result of how we think. How we think, determines what we think, and what we think determines what we do and how we do it. Many people try to change the outcome, the behaviour, but the horse already bolted because that’s driven by how we think.

Sometimes I get to coach people and at the end of the coaching they lost weight or got a new job, but they are still not satisfied and think they could have done more. That’s a bad result because they changed what they did, but not how they think. Definitely they’ll get fat again and just shift their stress to another aspect of life. Ultimately, if we don’t learn a way to think that builds satisfaction into what we do, we will be stuck, in a self and other criticism cycle.

What we feed ourselves is not just about food. How we think is the ultimate food. And, just like real food, how we chew it determines how much we are nourished by what we eat. If we GULP our food, eat fast, then we do not get nourishment from what we eat. If we gulp our food we do not get satisfied and overeat. If we gulp our food we do not savour the glory of smell, taste, texture and the energy of the food and just send it down the gullet to an ever expanding gut.

And in the same way, if we gulp life we are just robotic consumers. Thinking too fast, gulping the results, not savouring the process, obsessed with “getting it done” rather than how powerful the influence what we do has on the world around us. We GULP life and when that happens, life slips us by.

We GULP life sometimes. Earn more, save more, build more, consume more, go on more holidays and have a bigger tv. We own more pets and the TV dictates how we think. We forget the flower and the leaves and just rush past. We gulp life sometimes.

We are busy telling people who they should and shouldn’t be. That’s strange because if people aren’t perfect already, they never will be. The habit of seeing, feeding ourselves criticism extends to others.

Many years ago I came to realise that the treadmill was not going anywhere. I was GULPING everything, even Zen. I gulped trips to Nepal, I gulped success and I gulped heaps of pain too. I gulped what others thought and gulped money. I gulped and gulped but I didn’t chew, I didn’t digest, and I wasn’t nourished by my life.

I asked 100 gurus around the world, to teach me how to nourish my soul while living in the real world of contribution and sport and work. None, not one had the answer. They all had an answer. But I watched the Guru themselves and they were no different from me, they too, gulped their teachings and gulped the praise and gulped the power they held. Their ego was still driving them even when they were Zen masters. I even went to study in Bylakuppe in India right next to the Dalai Lama, that was a trip, but the answer wasn’t there.

But there came into my life a teacher. He was 23 if I remember correctly. He had travelled from Tibet with his two body guards. He was a Ringpoche a person reborn from a previous person and in this case born from a person who was the leader of a huge number of Tibetans. Similar to the Dalai Lama but like a different clan. Dalai Lama was his boss in Western speak.

So this young guy was the reluctant leader of thousands of people in Tibet and he was being initiated in Bylakuppe. Somehow, we invited him and his two body guards to stay with us while waiting for the initiation. And that was so cool. One of the body guards was super karate guy and also a great chef. We ate amazing Tibetan food for a whole week.

During this week some extraordinary things happened and this changed my view on coincidences. Remembering that we are talking about 100 Things I wish my Dad had Taught me. Episode 13. “What do you feed yourself?” And that has nothing much to do with only food.

So, story 1.

We had been living in New York. We both had roller blades, like nearly everyone in New York at the time and were quite good at it. Anyways, India is not your typical roller blade place and the cow shit and stones and pot holes in the road, plus busses and rickshaws dogs and people made it impossible but our little upstairs home had a driveway and we loved rolling up and down the drive doing all sorts of tricks, you know, backward, one foot, quick turns, jumps and silly games. One day, Ringpoche, the Tibetan guy, was watching us play and asked if he could try. He put on my oversized boots and immediately started roller blading. Like I mean really well.

Now, remember, he’d probably never ridden a bike, definitely never seen roller blades before. But within a minute he was doing it, then backwards, then jumps, then spins and everything he’d seen, nothing more or less, he did it. My jaw hit the floor. He was amazing. Comfortable even in his Buddhist robes. Laughing and joyful like a child.

What did I just witness? Was this Ringpoche a secret roller blade guru?

No. For him there was no fear of falling so he wasn’t painting fearful pictures of the future. For him there was no memory of a past event where he’d fallen or made a mistake or hurt himself. For him, there was no anxiety about humiliation, no appetite for competition. He just observed, repeated. His mind told his body what to do and his body was obedient. There was no body memory because he had a clear heart. No baggage.

Oh, I thought, this is what it’s like to feed your heart. Clear head, no baggage, humble body, fully obedient. I’ll explain later.

A few days later we hosted a Christmas lunch. 30 people, all studying yoga for two hours a day at the small basement of our teacher. We were an interesting bunch from all over the world mostly advanced yoga practitioners and then me. Stiff as two planks of wood, I was always sick as my body detoxed years of footy, beer, meat pies and late nights of business stress. Ouch. It hurt, every day for the six months we lived there, I suffered the fires of hell. Torn hamstrings didn’t stop my teacher from bending me into a pretzel, puking and the trots didn’t stop me going to the little basement with 11 others in shifts to be hammered by this loving teacher.

My teacher was, to say the least, interested in the soul, and never the limitations of the body or the mind. He, like many real yoga teachers, of which by the way there are very few, was not commercially driven to placate the body or listen to the blah blah of people’s bullshit stories. His motto was “do the practice and all is coming.” And he stuck to that, unbound by the perceived limitations of the ego and for most of us, body memories.

At the Christmas lunch in India, everyone bought a plate of food and some form of entertainment for the group. I told a joke. My friend sang a hilarious song imitation of Bob Dylan. I can still hear the laughter. But one guy had a guitar and did the Beatles song, “Yesterday.” He played beautifully and sang, we were all moved. When it finished, the Monk guy from Tibet, Ringpoche, reached out his hands in a gesture of can I see the guitar. He’d never seen one. He’d seen all the Tibetan instruments, but never a guitar. He examined it, inside and out, almost like a person who was working out how to make one for himself. Then, the miracle number two.

He played it. He played “the Beatles song, Yesterday.” exactly. He had watched the movements of the hands and just repeated. Yes, you are reading or listening to this, but 30 people witnessed that, including my neighbour the yogini I speak of allot. We’ve known each other for 30 years and still both speak about these amazing events, including his initiation that followed with the Dalia Lama a few meters away from us.

He played. So, “What was he feeding himself?”

Well, lets add up a few things I observed and see if any make sense to you.

  1. He had no doubt. Not a moment.
  2. He wasn’t trying to impress. No ego.
  3. His body did what his mind remembered. Great connection there.
  4. He wasn’t at all stressed and yet, he wasn’t dead calm either.
  5. He wasn’t looking with his eyes when he watched Peter play the first time. He was observing with his mind’s eye. (sorry I can’t elaborate here but this is a big differentiator)
  6. He trusted something to connect what he saw to what his hands did. No hesitation.
  7. He didn’t look at his hands while he played. He meditated.
  8. When I watched his face, he was the music.
  9. He didn’t speak much English and yet, sang the song

Is this what living from our heart is like?

By the way, his two bodyguards joined us for the lunch too. And did their thing as the entertainment. One, the shorter chubby one, did this throat sound, the Tibetan chant sound, and I’ll never forget it. Way way deeper than the last note on a piano, darker that the deepest note on a double base, rougher than the symbols on a drum kit. More guttural that rubbing two rocks together. And yet, musical. They said that his voice would be gone forever by the age of 28, three years from now. But this gift, was a heavenly gift he gave willingly and selectively to the chanting of prayers for others. By the way, he rarely spoke. But always smiled.

At Bylakuppe, the initiation was something to behold. About 12 big time Buddhist monks sat on huge chairs in a semi circle – in the middle of the semi circle sat the young Ringpoche. For three days, each monk, most of them quite old, clapped their hands in the motion we use to get chalk dust off our hands a sort of sliding motion and almost threw a question to be answered by the young Ringpoche. When the question was finished, and they sang those questions in a chant voice, the young monk, would sit bolt upright and wait, and wait, and wait. And then, suddenly, start chanting the answer, all in TIBETAN.

Out of the twenty questions he was asked while we stayed, the asking monk teared in emotion at the answer. They were hearing knowledge only the previous incarnation of the young Ringpoche could know. It sent shivers up my spine. So, in this moment, answering these deep philosophical questions what was that young monk feeding himself. Was it nothing, was he completely empty and so, nothing, in that moment came from him, only through him?

For 50 years I have studied the “what do we feed ourselves question” and whether my Dad had taught me, or not, I would have consumed the answer and simply gone searching for more. Even though I have been gifted to observe it in tennis, monks in India, Himalayan mountaineers I’ve befriended or in rock singers I’ve coached, there is a path to feeding ourselves in such a way, that super human abilities become organic.

I remember playing footy. The idea in footy is to predict where the ball is going to be, and be there. It’s a talent, a gift. And some players, usually the best of the best, have the gift. They are just one step ahead, reading the play, organically, not thinking, trusting. That’s the same food. If you ask them how, they cannot answer. But it’s there. Same in business.

THAT’S THE END FOR TODAY. 100 Things I wish my Dad had Taught me. Episode 13. “What do you feed yourself?”



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