A Hierarchy of Balls

Circa 2009, I was at a small party, wandering around, when I stumbled on the most curious room. There were balls…everywhere. Soft suede beanbags were strewn across the room, leading to an athletic looking guy at the other end of the room. He casually asked if anyone wanted to learn to juggle. My love of off beat things convinced me to take the offer, and I never looked back.

Years later, and here I am looking at puzzled faces as I describe juggling as “extremely profound”. I’m here now to tell you one reason why I describe it that way.

Learning to Learn

One of the most significant things I have taken from juggling is learning the techniques of how to learn, and learn efficiently. In juggling every pattern or trick can be broken down into simpler and simpler patterns. If there is a pattern you wish to learn, no matter how complex, you can. By breaking it down to a form simple enough to grasp, it is easy to find a starting point. As I learned more patterns, I found this way I was learning juggling, was a skill that could be applied to anything.

No matter the subject, and no matter how complex, it was only a matter of breaking things down into simpler, more manageable parts. My long hours juggling drilled this technique into my mind, to the point I could intuitively apply it to any subject. I applied it to previously existing skills, such as guitar and writing, as well as new skills and studies.

After some time I had a new realization about this hierarchical process to learning. It could be applied beyond just learning information and skill sets.

Learning the Process of Life

I adapted this way of learning into goal setting. This hierarchy/priority based goal setting method wasn’t anything new, it was the intuitive understanding of the method through juggling that made it different.

All goals can be broken down into multiple, more simple goals, often referred to as action steps. Sometimes, though, that is not enough, and the action steps you face could still be too daunting. So break it down further, until you feel the steps ahead of you are easily manageable.

As I followed this method, I found confidence in it. Every new goal needed to be deconstructed less and less to feel doable. My brain adapted to this hierarchy way of thinking, and much of life became easy to handle.

I found software that visualized this method through Mind Mapping programs, further optimizing the process. Mind maps can be made anywhere you have access to a computer, or a pen and paper. If I were stuck with one method of goal setting/achieving, it would be this one. Though combined with other programs, like setting priorities and creating routines, it can be optimized further.

No matter what it is you wish to achieve, I encourage trying this for yourself, and seeing how it works. I also encourage juggling. Besides it possibly providing a deep understanding of learning, it has also shown many other benefits in relation to mental health, memory, physical health, and intelligence. All of which I will go into further in later posts.

I hope this method can help those stuck, and further motivate those already on a goal oriented path. Now go play with balls.


The Hammock Life

When most people find out that I sleep in a hammock in lieu of a bed, they always cringe in sympathy for my back. I’m hear to tell you, my back needs no sympathy. I did an AMA on the social news site Reddit recently. (An AMA is short for Ask Me Anything. It is public group interview). It had profound success in grabbing many people’s curiosity. Since the post, I have received dozens of excited messages about the hammocking experience of others, as well as had an article in the Huffington Post about my AMA. The interest has been humbling, and a bit overwhelming. I do not claim to be an expert, but an enthusiast. If you asked those that know me well, they would tell you enthusiasm is an understatement of how I feel about the hammock life. I am here to spread my enthusiasm, and just maybe convert some more people over to the greatest slumber of their life. Yes, this article will be biased as hell.

How I Came to be a Hammock Sleeper

Let’s face it, most of us aren’t waist deep in money. I was moving into a new place, and there was much of my furniture that needed replacing. Upon looking into beds, my budget allowed only two options for mattresses: Crappy, and even crappier.

This lead to an internet search of “cheap beds”. Nestled inconspicuously in the search results was an article on using a hammock as a bed. Three hours later, I was convinced. The information was scattered and fragmented all over web, but all the information shared one trait; everything said was positive.

After an embarrassing amount of hours researching what hammock to get, I bought an ENO DoubleNest. Though mostly praised for it’s use in camping and backpacking, I felt it was a solid choice, and had a good balance of durability, size, comfort, portability, and aesthetic appeal. And with a price tag of only $65, I couldn’t resist.

Why should you ditch the mattress and join the hang?

Sleeping problems are wide spread, and becoming increasingly more common. Poor quality of sleep has been shown to cause a whole variety of problems, like; deteriorated thinking, memory, and learning abilities, depression, stimulation of aging, and has been shown to increase the risk of a whole host of cardiovascular problems. Here are some of the changes in sleep I have experienced, and has been noted by others.

  • Insomnia: Prior to my conversion to the sling, I suffered from frequent acute insomnia. Falling asleep could take hours, and even when I did manage to doze off, I was often stuck in that horrible half-awake restless sleep. Then I started hanging. I now fall asleep within minutes, and stay deeply asleep the entire night. Many others have also noted a large positive impact on their insomnia. One thing I have never heard mentioned,  is a hammock worsened someone’s insomnia.
  • Comfort: Restlessness is part of insomnia, but I felt it deserved it’s own place on this list, because let me tell you, there is a huge contrast in the comfort of a hammock vs. a bed. Many people suffer from restless leg syndrome, as well as restlessness in general. That frustration of never being able to get comfortable is a major trait of mattress sleepers. Beds are flat, our bodies are not. Even with the newest technologies like memory foam, mattresses create pressure points on the body, especially around the knees, hips, and shoulders. Even if the pressure is slight, it can still cause you to toss and turn throughout the night. Bring in the hammock: A hammock conforms to the natural shape of your body when slept on properly (More on proper sleeping later). As you lie in  a hammock pressure points dissolve, and with it, so does dicomfort. A hammock conforms so  naturally to your body, that it is very common to wake up in the exact position you fell asleep in. I have not had a toss and turn night once in my hammock.
  • Sleep Quality: In a bed it is not uncommon to wake from an 8 hour slumber only to be groggy and unrefreshed. During sleep on a bed your body is constantly making minor adjustments, deteriorating your quality of sleep. Because of the hammocks quickness in relaxing the body, you fall into REM sleep faster and smoother, and you stay in deep sleep much more undisturbed than on a mattress. Not only does this leave you feeling more rested and alert when you wake up, but also seems to negate the need for as much sleep. On my hammock I wake up naturally after about 5 hours, fully recuperated. On a bed I have slept up to 10 hours and still did not feel as rested as 5 hours in a hammock.
  • Pain: Back and joint pain is one of the most common sleep related problems. Though I am young I did wake up aching on occasion, mostly my lower back. The hammock completely rid me of any aches, and even more, I feel my posture and flexibility have both been positively effected. Hammock sleeping has been know to alleviate, and completely cure back discomfort in many people. The rare complaint of aches from hammock sleeping is usually due to improper sleep position, and not the hammock.

The Drawbacks of the Hang

  • Partner Sleeping: The hammock life does not fit well with partners who sleep together, though I’m not saying it still can’t be good. Even with much larger hammocks claiming to support multiple bodies, there are still many issues. You better really like cuddling while you sleep, because you and your partner will be intimately squished together as your weight pulls you to lowest point. This is not to say it doesn’t work. A lot seems dependent on who your partner is, the shape of their body, their aptitude for cuddles, and their experience with hammocks. I have heard good and bad things about partnered hammock sleepers, so go experiment, and tell me what you find!
  • Sleeping on a mattress: You don’t realize how horrible beds are until you’ve slept in a hammock for a while. I’d like to sling my hammock everywhere I go, but sometimes it’s not feasible, and I end up on a mattress for the night. When I sleep on a bed now, I have much trouble falling asleep, getting comfortable, and staying asleep. I also wake up achy from being in such a flat position for 8 hours. Pretty well all the poor sleep symptoms I had before hammocking are now even worse when I am on a bed. It does however make me appreciate and love my hammock even more when I return to it.

So whether you are looking at for a more lightweight and comfortable way to sleep when camping and backpacking, or you’re looking for an answer to sleeping problems, or you just enjoy novelty, I cannot suggest a hammock enough. It has gotten rid of daytime tiredness, insomnia, and trouble getting up in the morning. It has, quite frankly, had a profound change on my quality of life. More profound than I ever expected. I hope to all those who decide to join the hang, that they find the same wonderful benefits I, and many others, have experienced.