Happy New Year: Baby Steps Toward Our Vision.

I’m sorry I haven’t posted much lately. I have been working 70 hour weeks, which are both physically and mentally exhausting. I’m working on paying off my car loan so I can experience freedom from debt. I plan to start posting more often starting in February. 

Happy New Year!

For every new year, there are millions of people looking to start the new year with healthier habits. Whether that be adding new healthy habits like exercise, more vegetables, meditation, etc into their daily activities. Some want to reduce or eliminate unhealthy habits like alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, gambling, screen use, etc. We can start right NOW instead of the arbitrary beginning of a new calendar year.

Our life is a sum of our habits. Luckily for us, our brain is highly malleable. Neuroscientists are proving that our brain is highly malleable to our environment and habits. By changing our habits, we rewire our brain and change our lives. Our life is not set, we can grow and change over a long period of time. We can replace old unskillful habits with new healthy habits starting right NOW.

I’m not perfect when it comes to changing my habits but I do have a good track record in changing my behavior. I went from a carnivore to a vegan in 2017, while working at a restaurant that is primarily meat-based. I lost 20lbs in 2017 and have kept it off. I started this blog and my Facebook/Instagram page “Zen Actions” and have consistently posted new content. Let’s get into a couple strategies for habitual changes as well as some pitfalls of the “all or nothing” mindset.

Start small, do what you can, and have fun. 

Start small.

I, like many others, thought that we had to change our behaviors drastically overnight to achieve our vision. This led to many failed attempts because our brain is so wired to do these habits every day. Most long-lasting habitual changes start by changing our habits slowly over-time. I didn’t become a vegan overnight; I first became a Lacto-Ovo-Pescetarian (Dairy-eggs-fish) in May 2017 and slowly cut down my use of dairy in a 6 month period. Then in November 2017, I took the leap into a 100% plant-based diet. In that 6 months, I learned more about the plant-based lifestyle and how to successfully transition. I now have compassion and understanding for those who struggle to get off a meat-based diet. I still have lots of room to improve my diet by eating more whole food plants and less processed plant-based foods in 2018.

Do what you can.

I’m a single guy in my 20’s with no kids, making habitual changes slightly easier than those who have a family, elderly, or disabled. A single mom/father might not have the time to meditate 30 minutes a day every day.  Someone in their 80’s might not have the energy to run a marathon. This is where most people give up on their habits. The “all or nothing” mentality prevents the single parents from starting a meditation practice even if its just mindful breathing 5 minutes a day for now. The elderly person gives up on exercise because they can’t run a marathon but they could walk for 10 minutes a day for now. You’re planting seeds that could grow with consistent and creative actions.

Have fun!

Changing your habits doesn’t have to be so serious. I joke around about being vegan all the time at work and my coworkers are intrigued by my lifestyle. I even got a local guy to eat a tofu stir fry and he really enjoyed it. The worst idea for losing weight is to choose an activity that you hate to do. If you hate running, don’t force yourself to run a mile a day. Find activities you have fun doing but burn calories like basketball, tennis, hiking, etc. If you’re not a morning person, work out at night time.

Don’t buy into societal norms that you have to be a morning person to thrive or that you have to “go big or go home”. Most people in that mindset eventually go home, lol. Many people exaggerate how much they can do in a month but underestimate what they can do in a year. By taking small steps in the right direction, we can fundamentally change our mindset, habits, and overall life. It’s not about how fast we go but in what direction we are heading. There will be times that we have to take a huge leap but for the most part, life is a continuous process of small steps.

My intention is to empower you to take conscious steps towards a more meaningful, peaceful, and joyful life.

“I have arrived. I am here. My destination in every step.”

-Thich Nhat Hanh

With Aloha,

Johnny Hoffman

 

 

Advertisements

My Mission: To Alleviate Suffering in All Living Beings.

Aloha my brothers and sisters,

My mission is to alleviate as much suffering as I can in all living beings. It’s a lofty mission, but I’m excited to take it on as my life’s purpose. But first of all, I have to alleviate the suffering in my own life. How can I  fully help others suffer less if I can’t help myself?

It has been quite a month for me. For quite some time now I have had this lingering tension on the left side of my abdominal area which reached all the way to the left side of my jaw. I couldn’t figure out why I had this tension. At first, I was numbing it with alcohol every night which was getting out of control. The alcohol worked to alleviate the tension momentarily but the following day it would reappear. I was resisting this tension, which was causing me to suffer. A couple weeks ago, I was driving to work and the tension was almost unbearable, like a thousand tightly wound knots in my abdomen. I finally surrendered to the tension and accepted it. I did more than accept it, I showed compassion and love to it. My tension went away for 15 minutes of pure bliss and joy. I felt like I was floating in the sky or on an LSD trip. I enjoyed looking at the West Maui mountains as tears of joy went down my face. Soon though, I was back to the reality of my tension in my abdomen. Something awakened in me in that moment, I had to stop resisting pain and start accepting it for me to live a more peaceful life with less suffering. I had awoken to my mission to alleviate suffering in the world.

Fast forward two weeks. My meditation practice has been stronger than ever and I’m focusing on reducing my suffering. I eliminate alcohol and porn from my life because they both contribute to my own suffering. I also switched to a plant-based diet to help reduce suffering in myself, animals, and the planet. By changing my habits and intentionally reducing suffering in the world, I invoked suffering that was deep in my subconscious.

In my deep 30 minute meditations, I suddenly find myself reliving old memories from my childhood. All of these memories are either pure rage or rumination over unskillful actions I have done in my past (stealing, cheating, lying). Instead of judging or running from these memories, I choose to accept, love, and show compassion to myself. I imagine myself as a child, filled with rage, confusion, and fear.

Pain doesn’t decompose. Pain lives in us until we confront it with love, compassion, and forgiveness. Suppressing this pain never works.

“What you resist, will persist.” -Carl Yung

What could be more logical than showing compassion, love, and forgiveness to yourself? What could be more insane than hating, judging, and running away from yourself? Clearly, we need to hold ourselves accountable for our wrongdoings but after that is done with, we must forgive and love ourselves. As a child, I would throw temper tantrums when things didn’t go my way. I would have mental breakdowns when playing golf, basketball, or even when my favorite teams lost in the playoffs. This pain still lives on within me because I suppressed and ran away from it. I judged myself and labeled my former self as a sensitive, weak, and inferior version of myself. In my teen years, I was calm and collective for the most part because I vowed to never be that inferior self again.

Yesterday afternoon I fell apart and broke down. So many emotions running through my body. So much pain, suffering, joy, and pure bliss all mixed into one moment.  The tension was truly alleviated once I showed true compassion, love, and forgiveness to my darker side. Radical acceptance was key to ending my suffering and I believe it is key to alleviating the suffering of mankind. So many of us are hurt by old wounds that never properly healed. The people who hurt the most, hurt others. Almost all horrendous acts done by humankind are rooted in hurt individuals who look to cause suffering to others because they themselves are in so much pain.

I’m excited to share my journey to a more meaningful and peaceful life. I thank you all for reading this blog post. By reading this post, you help me live out my purpose to alleviate suffering in all living beings.

“When we learn how to suffer, we suffer much less.”

-Thich Nhat Hanh

With the Aloha Spirit,

Johnny Hoffman

Resistance: The Root of Pain, Suffering, and Insanity.

We are either resisting life or accepting it.

Whether that be sitting in traffic, aging, sickness, or our own mortality. Many ignore the truth and live in an imaginary world of what life is supposed to be or should be. Anytime you say should or suppose to be, you are resisting the truth. Resistance to the truth of life causes suffering. So why do people choose resistance? Accepting the truth is scary while resisting gives us a false sense of security and control. It’s easier in the short-term to avoid or resist aging, disease, and death than accept it. In the long-term, it can cause a tremendous amount of suffering within you and the world.

Suffering = Pain x Resistance 

  • The world should be at peace, but it isn’t.
  • My parents should be supportive, but they’re not.
  • I shouldn’t be stuck in traffic, but I am.
  • Relationships aren’t supposed to be this difficult, but it is. 

Here is an example that will show you exactly what I’m talking about.

Jack and Jill are both studying for a Biology final at Harvard. Both don’t enjoy studying, it causes them both mental and physical pain to sit down for 5 hours in a room. They would rather be outside on a hike or hanging out with friends. Jill accepts that this necessary to pass the class while Jack resists and complains the whole time. Jill is at peace and actually enjoying studying, taking breaks to watch Netflix or call a friend. Jack sulks and stares at the book. They are both in the same exact situation, only Jill accepts the pain of studying and makes the best of it.

The most impressive study of acceptance vs. resistance is Victor Frankl’s story in his 1959 book Man Searching for Meaning. Victor Frankl was an Austrian Jewish neurologist, psychiatrist, and holocaust survivor. While at Auschwitz concentration camp he kept himself sane by studying fellow inmates behavior and noticed an astonishing correlation. Those prisoners who accepted their truth and found meaning were both healthier and happier than those who resisted their new life. Their suffering was caused by their resistance to life and not mere outside influences. If someone can find peace, purpose, and meaning in Auschwitz concentration camp there is hope for all of us.

But Johnny, shouldn’t we resist harmful situations?? Isn’t acceptance just giving up? I don’t want to lay down and give up!

I understand this perspective because I once believe that acceptance was giving up but nothing is further from the truth. We must accept our situation before we can make it better. The people who accepted their captivity in Auschwitz were not merely giving up but awakening to that they have no control over being prisoners in a concentration camp. What these prisoners did have control over was how they spent their time, how they perceived their circumstance, and to make the best out of it. They saw resistance as a waste of energy on what they could not control. Accepting the truth is both practical and logical for peace within.

Paradoxically, we must accept suffering before we can transcend it. We have to accept our suffering before we can be at peace with ourselves and the world. Accept that you have no control over other people’s actions and beliefs. Accept that everything is impermanent and that we can only control a small amount of our life.

Try to avoid all should or suppose to be statements. Ease your grip on life and how it’s “suppose” or “should” be. More acceptance and less resistance is key to a peaceful life with less suffering and more joy.

My mission is to alleviate suffering in all living beings.

“What we resist, will persist.” – Carl Jung

With Aloha,

Johnny Hoffman

 

Plant-Based Diet: The First Path to Alleviating Suffering.

My name is Johnny Hoffman and my mission is to alleviate suffering in all living beings. I used to be 40lbs overweight and eat fast food/bacon every day. I don’t judge those who consume meat and dairy nor do I wish to force my lifestyle on anyone. I only want to give you information that could alleviate suffering in yourself and the world.

I want to be part of the solution, not the pollution.

How did I become a vegan you might ask? It’s simple, the suffering of millions of cows, pigs, chickens etc are not inline with my values of peace, compassion, and love. The environmental damage is astonishing with the amount of greenhouse gas, animal fecal waste, and water consumed in animal agriculture. Our current agriculture system is highly unsustainable for the future. Humans survived because of our adaptability so there might be hope after all. Adopting a more whole food plant-based diet lowers your risk of cancer and heart disease.

My intention is to show compassion to all living beings.

Factory farms don’t just harm the animals though, with factory farm workers having high turnover rates (95-100%) and risk of disease/injury (50%). 38% of factory farm workers are undocumented immigrants and most work 10 hour days for very low wages. Imagine having to torture and watch thousands of animal die every day? The psychological damage seems unbearable.

( https://www.huffingtonpost.com/lucas-spangher/plight-of-factory-farm-workers_b_5662261.html) (https://www.texasobserver.org/ptsd-in-the-slaughterhouse/)

Millions of people suffer from diabetes, heart disease, and cancer due to eating a processed meat/dairy diet. Suffering doesn’t decompose with the tortured animals, it spreads to the man who ate bacon every day having a heart attack at 50, leaving his family in pain and suffering. I notice some animal rights activists forget that humans are suffering tremendously from factory farming. I want to show love and compassion to my meat eating brothers and sisters. Here are some facts.

-90% of meat consumed in America is from factory farms.

-20% of global Co2 emissions come from animal agriculture.

-440 million tons of animal feces in the United States alone. Most go into the ocean, causing “dead zones” where millions of fish die. Local towns near factory farms suffer tremendously from air and water pollution. Mostly effects poor African American communities.( https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/aug/01/meat-industry-dead-zone-gulf-of-mexico-environment-pollution)

-Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction. 91% of Amazon deforestation due to animal agriculture. (http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2015/08/meat-eaters-may-speed-worldwide-species-extinction-study-warns)

-Processed meat listened as a Carcinogen in the IARC report for the World Health Organization. The IARC is the International Agency for Research on Cancer. (https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/world-health-organization-says-processed-meat-causes-cancer.html)

-In a study of 131,342 participants, High animal protein intake was positively associated with cardiovascular mortality and high plant protein intake was inversely associated with all-cause and cardiovascular mortality, especially among individuals with at least 1 lifestyle risk factor. Substitution of plant protein for animal protein, especially that from processed red meat, was associated with lower mortality, suggesting the importance of protein source.

(https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2540540)

-Animal Products linked to higher inflammation. Inflammation is the leading cause of Cancer and premature aging.

(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5540319/)

-15,000 scientists from 184 countries sign a petition urging citizens to adopt a Plant-Based diet. UN report urges a global move to a plant-based diet.

(https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2010/jun/02/un-report-meat-free-diet)

-The former President of the American College of Cardiology Dr. Kim Williams stated that “There are only two types of Cardiologists, vegans and those who haven’t read the data”.

(http://www.richroll.com/podcast/kim-williams/)

Once we have the information, we can make an informed decision about the choices we make in our life. This blog post is my way of sharing that information that I have learned over the past 7 months. What you put in your body is your personal choice and not mine to judge or criticize. If you are interested in giving up or just consuming less meat and dairy I recommend watching Cowspiracy, Food Inc., or What the Health on Netflix. I also listen to the Rich Roll podcast, a vegan marathon runner.

With Aloha,

Johnny Hoffman

 

Mahalo: With Gratitude

Mahalo is the Hawaiian word for gratitude or a simple thank you.

Thank you all for reading my blog. Every view inspires the next post and keeps me going on my spiritual journey. You all help me grow and become a better human being. I only hope that my blog posts does the same for you.

We can be thankful for our friends, family, and life everyday. This will allow us to feel more content and less bitter about life’s inconveniences. Every breath is a gift and every moment alive is a blessing.

Gratitude is the antidote for anger and resentment. You can’t feel angry and grateful at the same time, try it out and you’ll see for yourself!

Mahalo,

Johnny Hoffman

Staying Present: Breaking Free of Stress and Rumination.

Stay present. I’m sure you have all heard this cliche phrase, but what does it mean and why is it important? Nothing could be more important to your life than staying present in the moment. Nothing more crucial to your happiness. The present moment is all that we are guaranteed. Life is short and we must make the best of what we are given. Every moment is a blessing.

Suffering occurs when we worry about the future or ruminate over the past. I have struggled with this my entire life. My mind has been trained to obsess about the past and future while I suffer in the present moment. I’m not saying that thinking about the past and future is all bad. Our past can guide us to make better decisions in the present moment. The future can excite us and motivate us to make better actions now. The key words are actions and now. The past and future mindset is much like a treadmill, lots of effort but you haven’t moved forward. Let’s start training our minds to stay in the present 90% of the time while letting our past guide us and our future excite us the other 10%!!!

Now take a breath, look around, and enjoy this moment. Start to get outside of the constant mental chatter of the mind and enjoy life. The peace and joy that comes in the moment feel amazing. Think of the joy of being in an amusement park or doing something new. It’s pure bliss.

You might be asking how I stay in the present moment? I go on long walks, meditate, and practice mindful breathing. I stop periodically and ask “what am I doing right now?”. In those moments of full presence, I feel truly alive and awake. Peace and joy are the by-products of the present moment. I want all of you to live a more meaningful life.

With Aloha,

Johnny Hoffman

Gambling: Just One More Hit.

As a child, I would bet on anything. I once bet my friend $10 that it wouldn’t rain that day. I played Poker with my friends every week and would illegally play online Poker through PokerStars when I was 13 years old. I was so happy to turn 18 years old so I could go to the Indian Casino. I went to Vegas every 6 months from age 21-23.

I want to be vulnerable with my readers. I believe vulnerability is our biggest strength. Here is my open and honest story of my addiction to gambling.

I struggled with being addicted to gambling all throughout my early adulthood. From 18-24 years old I probably lost more than 10 thousand dollars on Blackjack, Poker, and online sports gambling.  My family and friends knew I liked to gamble but didn’t realize how far gone I was. I hid my gambling addiction very well from my family because how ashamed I was of it. I knew I was out of control but didn’t know how to be open and honest about my problems. I was a man, and men don’t talk about their pain and struggles. I felt angry, alone, and depressed with no one to turn to. I couldn’t play the victim card because this was all self-induced suffering. This made me feel worthless and even more ashamed of the man I had become.

At my worst, I was gambling 7 days a week. I would do anything to get my high and to escape my life. I would max out my debit card limit and get $500 more from a high-interest cash advance. I remember leaving the casino depressed, stressed, and on the verge of a mental breakdown. I would yell “FUCK” as loud as I could in my car until my voice would crack and tears would roll down my cheek. This would be the average self-dialog after a loss while driving home.

You’re pathetic. How could you lose again? You piece of shit! What the hell are you thinking?!? Fuck life and everything. You don’t deserve Alicia (fiance). You don’t deserve anything! You’re worthless! You can’t tell anyone about this. Think of a lie…….. (one hour later)……I get paid Friday, I’ll win it back!!! Yeah, Ill win it all back and stop playing. I’ll win 1K and not play for a while. 

I would repeat this cycle of anger, shame, and denial. Gambling wasn’t the deep issue though, it was the symptom of a larger problem. I only gambled because I felt alone and depressed about my own life. Gambling was a coping mechanism for depression and anxiety. I felt so alive at the blackjack table and all my worries would momentarily go away. I was always looking forward to going to Las Vegas every 6 months. Like any addiction, I was chasing that high of dopamine. Soon I was betting $200 a hand on blackjack. There was one night that is stuck in my memory and shows how far my addiction had come.

In early 2012 I was planning on buying my girlfriend an engagement ring. This was at the peak of my addiction. I thought it would be a good idea to go gambling with the $3,000 cash I had taken out to buy the ring. I go to my usual Casino and put $500 dollars on blackjack. I figure I could win some more money and buy a bigger ring, a delusional justification. I was gambling because I love my girlfriend… Our minds can justify any bad decision. Anyways, I lose the $500 quickly and start putting more and more money on the table. Suddenly I’m down from $3000 to a total of $100. It’s 1am already and I’m in a deep fog, I say fuck it and go all in and win. I kept doubling my bet and kept winning. After 3 more hours of gambling, I get all my $3000 and leave the casino at 4am. I drive to the Bay Area immediately and buy the engagement ring. Sounds like a scene in a casino movie right?

Two years go by and I graduate from college. I was so busy with work, college, and my fiance that I didn’t have time to gamble. I thought I was cured of my addiction and that I could start playing Draft Kings and Fan Duel. Both sites are legal online sports gambling that plays well for young men who like to play fantasy football. I graduated from Cal Poly and received $500 in graduation money from friends and family. I had so much free time now that I was done with college. I spent that time gambling on Draft Kings and becoming absolutely obsessed with trying to win money on NBA games. I was checking my phone at least 100 times a day, looking for those small dopamine rushes when my teams were playing well. After two months of online sports gambling, I had lost all my graduation money. I was deeply ashamed of myself and was contemplating suicide. I had been lying to my fiance already about my infidelity and my gambling addiction. I felt so alone and depressed that I couldn’t hold onto this pain anymore. I finally open up about my secret life to my fiance, family, and friends. I finally could heal myself of the deep emotional wounds that were festering inside my soul. Honesty and vulnerability are so powerful. Being vulnerable can help us connect with each other in a deep and profound human level instead of the vapid surface.

Being vulnerable is seen as being weak, but it’s actually our greatest strength.

With Aloha,

Johnny Hoffman