It was a day just like any other. I lazily flipped through my Facebook newsfeed, sipping my tea and enjoying the warmth of an early June morning. Then I saw something that got my heart beating a bit faster; a post on the Exuberant Animal page inviting folks to attend a weekend training in October.
Exuberant Animal is the company founded by Frank Forencich, a health and human performance expert with a unique perspective on the human predicament who offers practical solutions for some of the most pressing problems of our age. The main thrust of his approach is addressing the mismatch between how we, as humans, have evolved to live, and how out of balance that is with modern living. I have been a huge fan of Frank after reading a few books of his, the most impactful of which is called Beautiful Practice. The vast majority of my personal “healthy/happy life” philosophy is based on what I gained from this book. I’ve also watched just about every talk Frank’s ever done on YouTube.
When I saw the invitation on Facebook, I immediately called Frank. You read that right, I called him. Frank much prefers phone calls to emails, because they are much closer to natural human communication. So after a few taps on my smartphone, I was speaking to someone who I would basically consider my guru. After introducing myself, Frank shared his intention for offering this workshop, which was to share his teachings as widely as possible and create partnerships around the world to help get his message in front of people who need it (…so basically everyone). He created this workshop to bring together some long time friends and partners, with some new folks (like me) with reach in different areas. After our conversation, Frank invited me to attend!
Last Friday, I hopped into a car with three other movement and health geeks, Pete, an avid movement and health buff, Tanner, a movement coach, and Ray, a Feldenkrais Practitioner and editor for Paleo Magazine. We drove out to Leavenworth, WA where Frank lives. Once there we were joined by some other amazing humans and practitioners. Sebastian and Dawni Rae, Corey, Sky and Meg are close friends of Frank’s and have used his concepts with their movement clients for years. My carpool buddies Pete, Tanner and Ray, along with Jill and Andrew, another Feldenkrais Practitioner and movement trainer were fans of Frank’s, but are much newer to the tribe.
The weekend was paced in a very deliberate way, perfectly inside Frank’s philosophy. We would start and end each day with a 10 minute meditation. Each period of the day contained about an hour of a slide presentation by Frank, then we would go outside and move, practicing some of Frank’s simple yet ingenious playful movements for an hour, and ending with a meal. Then we’d repeat.
Frank’s slide presentations are made up of his most recent teachings around human health and happiness. What I love most about Frank’s teachings, is that he bases everything in some form of scientific fact or study result, but balances it with practical experience and his integral wisdom of human health. The result is a set of teachings with a lot of context, making it much easier and simpler to understand and implement in life. It was also really amazing to sit in these presentations with other powerful practitioners who could all chip in on the topics with their wealth of knowledge and experience.
The movement portions were a selection of Frank’s movement’s which are unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Each movement somehow incorporates balance, strength, social awareness, commitment to others, laughter and play. For example, one of my favorites was an exercise where we partner up, and while balancing on one foot, with each of our hands on the other’s shoulders, we attempt to push our partner off balance, without losing our own balance. While the intention is not to push the person to the ground, but simply to make them hop on their foot to regain balance. A key piece to Frank’s approach in working with partners is to push their limits but never further then they are able to go. I got so much inspiration and access to new realms I can explore with clients!
The food deserves it’s own paragraph, but since you weren’t there to enjoy it, I won’t torture you. Suffice it to say that the food was amazing and what I loved most, was that we participants joined in on the food prep and clean up. I’ve been to plenty of workshops and trainings where the food is either fully provided and you just grab it and eat, or there is nothing provided and you either pack your own, or grab food at nearby restaurants. It was a really engaging experience to bond with my fellow participants in creating as well as consuming the food. It made for a much tighter knit group and really deepened the emotional connection I felt with the others.
A real highlight of the weekend was our day trip to an awesome trail near Frank’s house. As a group we hiked and climbed up the mountain for a few hours. It was a blast, and we saw some amazing views (see pics).
We completed the weekend together by discussing how we can share Exuberant Animal with the world and participate in it’s future. Frank is considering moving everything to the Cle Elum area to be closer to Seattle and a major airport. He’s interested in offering new trainings and building an amazing facility there to hold them in. We also talked about having another workshop in April, so if you are reading this and wishing you had the opportunity to attend, you’re in luck! Let me know if you’re interested and I can plug you in with Frank. Also, Frank offer’s the opportunity to host an Exuberant Animal workshop at your work place, organization or home. What an amazing way to transform your community! Let me know if you’re interested or contact Frank directly and tell him Jared sent ya!
I love this bit by George Carlin. It so eloquently describes our obsession with our stuff. If you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing it, do yourself a favor and watch it now.
Laurie and I have been dealing with a lot of our stuff for the past couple of weeks in preparation for our move to a 16 foot diameter yurt in Duvall, WA. It’s barely over 200 square feet, which is about 100 less than our Tiny House was.
We’ve been selling off things, giving others away to friends and family and dumping lots of stuff at Salvation Army. As we’ve been going through these things we’ve reflected on how attached to our stuff we get, whether through sentimentality or the illusion of usefulness. One of the interesting things we’ve been noticing is how much we buy stuff in preparation for a need, and how often that need never actually arises in reality. In our case, most of that was because we were really planning on living in the Tiny House for a long time and had purchased lots of things to make it functional and comfortable. Our lives just had other plans.
The most interesting phenomena I’ve been going through recently is the desire to buy new stuff to replace the old stuff. My ego cleverly disguises these desires as newer, better, smaller, more efficient and effective versions of what I’ve had before, but at the end of the day it’s still more stuff I don’t need. Some of the stuff we do actually need though. We recently bought a ton of outdoor gear like backpacking stuff, and warmer clothing which are necessary for our new lives in the wilderness. On the other hand, I was able to sufficiently justify to myself (and to Laurie) that I needed a new guitar (because I need a cheaper/smaller one that’s more suitable to life in the wild) and a new bike (also more suitable to the climate and conditions of Washington). See? Perfectly justified!
I think at the heart of it all, my ego does this as a sort of safety blanket. We humans have extended our sense of identity to our stuff. Be honest, if someone compliments or ridicules a piece of your stuff, you take it personally. I know for myself this is especially true when it comes to bikes and guitars. These are my favorite things, so I put a lot of thought and personality into my choices. If someone compliments my bike or guitar, I instantly like them. If they dislike either, I instantly assume they have horrible taste. Aren’t we humans funny?
So it makes sense that when we give up some of our stuff, that it feels like a piece of our self is going along with it. This perceived threat triggers the ego to obsess about new, bigger and better stuff (or in our case, new, smaller, more minimal and rugged stuff).
This is why we are happy to be moving into smaller and smaller spaces. It forces us to do a series of reality checks and ask the important questions like, “have I used this in the last 6-12 months?” or “do I really see myself using this in the future?”
So what’s the benefit of releasing all of this stuff? Peace of mind. It’s amazing how much mental clutter our stuff causes. Last weekend Laurie and I cleaned out a bunch of junk we had stored in the hull of our houseboat in Sausalito. We’ve had the place rented out for awhile now, but hadn’t gotten around to clearing all the storage stuff out. We wanted to deal with it because we could actually feel the weight it placed in our minds. This is junk we have had for years and just kept moving from place to place. A bunch of it was left over storage from my parents after they sold the family home, as well as old audio gear I stopped using a very long time ago. After spending the weekend pulling it out, going through it, and organizing into piles (keep, trash, thrift), I felt like I had actually lost weight. It was like all that stuff was an anchor, slowing me down.
So now, we are feeling trim and light, looking forward to our adventure up north. Lots still to do. We’re still selling and cleaning out the last remnants, but are very close to our optimal amount of “stuff”… for now.
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Ever wish life was easier and flowed along with fewer stumbling points. This episode is based on a blog post a wrote a few weeks ago which you can read here.