Delicious Homemade Chocolate

I’m about to make my first batch of home made chocolate.

Since I changed the way I eat a few years ago, I rarely eat sweets anymore. But I still crave chocolate on a regular basis. I eat it reasonably regularly, but I have worked hard to make sure that I don’t eat it as a reward.

For me, the darker the chocolate, the better. I make delicious fatty hot chocolate for breakfast (yes breakfast…) sometimes instead of a fatty coffee (or Bulletproof coffee).

I’m real excited about making this first batch. I’m going to follow this recipe:


The ingredients

  • 1 part cocoa butter
  • 1 part virgin coconut oil
  • 1 part (raw) organic cocoa powder

You can also add other dry ingredients like nuts, dried fruit or whatever. I’m not going to for my first batch, but I’ll do some experimenting and update this recipe when I find some good additions.

Step 1.

Grate the cocoa butter. It melts more easily when it’s grated. 

Step 2.

Place the cocoa butter and coconut oil in a water in a small, heat-safe cup or bowl. Then place the cup or bowl in a shallow pan containing a small amount of warm (not boiling, but nearly) water. You can also do this using a bowl over a very slightly simmering (just starting to bubble with some steam - definitely not boiling) saucepan. The idea is to apply heat indirectly and evenly - doing it this way means you won’t burn it or cook it too much.

Stir the oil and butter occasionally until it’s smooth. 

Step 3.

Measure out the cocoa powder. If you’d like to add any other dry ingredients, measure them out now and stir them together with the cocoa powder.

Step 4.

Pour the dry ingredients in the bowl with melted oil and butter. Stir continuously until smooth. 

Step 6.

Pour the chocolate into ice cube trays to set in nice portions.

Step 7.

Eat as you like! Go easy though - it’s very dark, very strong chocolate, so you won’t need much to be satisfied! ;)

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Don't let Cool Shit Distract you from the Human Layer

I first came across Ido Portal around five years ago when I found this article on hanging. I wasn’t exercising regularly at the time but I was convinced straight away that there was something to what he was saying. I went out and bought myself a door frame pull-up bar and started my own ‘hanging month’. Within a couple of weeks I had stopped. I didn’t complete the challenge, but I did keep up regular exercise from this point onwards.

During the hanging month, I began to use the Fitstar app to guide me. I loved it so much that it distracted me from the challenge. I didn’t care - the app was so cheap compared to a gym membership ($50 a year!). Not only could I do the workouts at home, but the stuff I was learning included things like handstand pushups. It was awesome. I decided I wanted to learn how to do a handstand and some other cool shit. Since then I’ve been working towards goals like a one arm chin-up, 60 second free standing handstand, and freestanding handstand push-up. I still sometimes hung on my pull-up bar, but the other movements were much more interesting so it wasn’t a focus anymore.

Years later, in February 2018, I attended a Movement X seminar in Melbourne. I’ve been working towards my “cool shit” goals and made a fair bit of progress. Go me! And yet, one of the things that struck me about the seminar was our conversation about the purpose behind the hanging challenge.

We talked about the fact that to hang from a bar isn’t a special thing. It’s not something that should be difficult for you to do. It’s not “cool shit”. I certainly don’t mean to shame you if you aren’t able to hang from a bar. But to put it in perspective - to be able to do the hanging challenge you don’t need to be a specialist athlete or even a movement enthusiast. You only need to be human. Even though it might seem ‘normal’ that most people can’t do this, it’s definitely part of the human set of skills.

 The Human Layer forms the base of all your skills. Movement is the more complex stuff, like perhaps pull-ups or dancing. Most people can do things in this layer too, but it will require some attention. Specialist skills are things you need to devote a lot of time and become an expert in before you can learn the skill. Think things like handstands and one arm chin-ups. Or even just specialising in a specific sport - the specialist layer is a narrow set of skills built on the other foundational layers. 

The Human Layer forms the base of all your skills. Movement is the more complex stuff, like perhaps pull-ups or dancing. Most people can do things in this layer too, but it will require some attention. Specialist skills are things you need to devote a lot of time and become an expert in before you can learn the skill. Think things like handstands and one arm chin-ups. Or even just specialising in a specific sport - the specialist layer is a narrow set of skills built on the other foundational layers. 

A lot of people neglect the human layer. It’s easy to ignore because you can learn movements and even specialist skills like olympic lifts without addressing issues in your human layer of skills. If you’re like me, you might focus your training on the “cool shit”. But when you neglect the human layer, you limit the possible size of your pyramid. You can build a much more stable pyramid with a bigger base.

In my years of movement practice, I have noticed this effect even though I didn’t understand it. I have been trying to improve my pull-ups for years. I’ve seen some progress in that time, but things sped up considerably when I started working on the basic hanging and scapular strength suggested by Ido. My capacity and general shoulder stability has increased drastically.

So, don’t neglect the human layer. Practice your hanging. Practice your resting squat. Practice things like throwing and catching. Practice moving your spine. Practice walking. These skills are not “cool shit”. They’re part of the human layer that will serve you well in everything you do. Get better at these things and you’ll get better at most other skills. You’ll learn things you can bring to other skills either at the human layer, or further up the pyramid.

Since the seminar, I have decided to have another go at the hanging challenge. I’ll approach it a bit differently this time with a different perspective. Want to do it with me? Have you tried hanging before?

PS - yes, I do find it funny that I seem to keep using pyramids as models for things. What can I say, I seem to be thinking in triangles lately.

What are you Hiding from Yourself?

Very early in 2018 I had a super weird realisation: I’m a details person. I delight in details. I get sucked into and lost in details.

Time and time again in 2017 I noticed people saying things to me like “thanks for all the detail you put into this” or “you spent way too long on this, it’s only a small detail for this report!” or “you’re a great [physiotherapy] client because you’re always asking so many questions and pay attention to all the details” . I kept putting it out of my mind, but I could feel a little pull that there was something important here. It took me almost all year, but eventually the common theme got through to me: on things that matter to me, I go into lots of detail.

This was a mind blown moment for me. For some reason I’ve always thought of myself as a big picture person who stayed up in the clouds and didn’t like detail. When I heard descriptions of ‘dreamers’ and ‘details’ people, I always identified so much more with the ‘dreamers’. I think part of it is also that somewhere deep inside, I feel that it’s somehow ‘better’ to be a dreamer than a details person so I willed myself to be a ‘dreamer’ so I could be better. Pretty dumb right? Talk about a [story I’ve built my identity on].

I asked a few of my close friends about this and they were all surprised I didn’t realise I was a details person. They told me that the difference with me and a ‘classic details person’ is that I tended to start big picture, then sink right down into the detail to get something done. Apparently other ‘details people’ always start in the detail and have trouble ever coming up to big picture.

All of a sudden I’m free of this story. I’m not a dreamer. I am capable of getting into details (so capable that I do it all the time without even meaning to!) I’m not just a slow worker - I’m getting bogged down in detail. Now that I realise that’s what’s happening, I’m able to catch myself much sooner than before. I’m able to use my details-power for good! It’s very exciting and I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do with this new knowledge.

All this got me thinking. What long-held truths about you aren’t true? Is there anything pulling at your awareness right now that might change your story of who you are?

Question your Needs to Set New Direction this Year

Seth Godin’s blog grabbed my attention again:

Once our needs our met, our instinct is to invent new ones, to find a fuel to continually move things forward, to bring that propulsive energy back.

I couldn’t help myself - one mention of ‘needs’ and I went way off from what Seth’s post was about. I thought about this compulsion humans have, to continually move things forward, and how our needs affect the direction we move.

This is why it’s important to break down your needs sometimes. Do you need everything you think you need? Have you tried fasting once in a while - you’ll find it hard, but I bet you’ll also find that you don’t need all that food all the time. You’ll find that it’s alright to be a little hungry sometimes and maybe you’ll enjoy your food more.

Further to this, what if you could get that propulsive energy back in your life that easily? What if you could question and strip back some of the things you need to find fuel in the things you already have access to?

Reality isn’t What You Think and Feel

Humans are neither thinking machines or feeling machines. They’re feeling machines that think.

Antonio Damasio

I was panicking.

I had a feeling in the pit of my stomach. A tight ball of black wire wool was scratching away my insides.

My mind jumped into action.

You’re feeling this way because...

You didn’t eat much this morning, maybe you’re just hungr....

What if it’s the weather?

Maybe you miss Ollie?

When was the last time Ash hugged you?

Oh. It was yesterday. So… That must be it!

You’re feeling this way because you want Ash to hug you more.

That’s it. It’s hugs.

Phew. Thoughts to the rescue. My mind came up with the answer. Lucky I’m so smart and logical. Those fucking hugs, why won’t Ash hug me more?? I started to feel upset and a little lonely. The tight ball of black wire wool was still there, but I was distracted by how upset I felt that Ash didn’t hug me more.

Hang on.

This makes no sense. I have no idea where that answer came from. All I know is that I felt a sensation, likely attached to an emotion, and my mind sprayed a bunch of thoughts at me until I accepted one as the truth. It didn’t even address the ‘black wire wool’ sensation I was having - instead I created a distraction out of thin air… I thought it, I was able to come up with logic around the thought, so it seemed true.

If my emotions and my thoughts were people having a conversation it would be a very one sided conversation. My thoughts would be the kind of person who interrupts constantly, finishing sentences, not listening, just waiting until the next moment he can jump in and explain how it really is. My emotions would be the person being talked over, not being listened to, meekly saying “oh, no... that’s not what I was trying to say at all...” while the other person takes over the conversation.

My thoughts aren’t necessarily any truer than my emotions. And yet, something about me causes me to believe them over and above any other kind of signal I experience. Even though they’re mostly a random spray of ideas and general mind junk, my thoughts seem the most true.

Not everyone is like me. You might be convinced that your emotions are the truth. You’ll tell me that if you feel it, it must be true. You’ll accept your emotions as truth and do all sorts of mind tricks to fall in line with the truth.

You and I are not so different. I assume my thoughts are the truth and bend my emotions to fit and you assume your emotions are truth and rationalise to fit. What each of us tends to accept as reality obscures reality.

Emotions, thoughts, and sensations are just signals. The only thing that is ‘real’ is what we do. Barring a big philosophical discussion about what 'real' means. Let's do that another time.

Don’t get me wrong - I’m not asking you to ignore your signals. They’re incredibly important parts of the way you perceive the world and work out what to do. But they’re not reality - they’re trying to tell you something about reality. I want you to see them for what they are and perhaps free yourself from the belief that your negative emotions or oppressive thoughts are real. For many of you, the starting point to this is the third signal - sensation.

The Triangle

These three signals; emotion, sensation, thinking; make up a nice neat triangle. I know that this triangle is much neater than you or I will ever be but this sort of simplification is a great start to understanding what goes on inside the complexities of your brain.

Paper.Tom things.1.png

Emotions are the motivations to take actions. Essentially, an emotion is a strong cue for you to move.

Thinking is the ’rational’ part of you brain trying to process, consider, reason, judge, and provide explanation to what’s going on.

Sensations are signals coming from the systems in your body designed to notice changes in environment internally and externally. For example, a sensation might be how the skin on your hand notices a change when you move it near the stove. A more internal sensation could be the how your muscles and connective tissue feel when you stretch them.

All of these elements are linked and it can be hard to distinguish between them sometimes. Luckily, it’s not that important for you to be able to do that.

What is important is that these three elements are constantly trying to interpret each other. If you're feeling a sensation, you interpret it with your emotions or you think about it. For example, you feel the sensation of pain. Maybe your response is to spend time thinking about why it’s hurting. Or perhaps you start to feel sad (an emotion) because you feel as though the pain will never go away. Either way, you are interpreting the sensation using the other signals available to you.

Sometimes this is helpful. Your thoughts about why you’re feeling pain might lead to you think of a way to stop the pain. But it’s not always helpful. Have you ever woken up feeling angry about a dream you’ve had? Has that anger crept into your day? When you wake up from a dream like that, you’re feeling the emotion of anger. Because you’re feeling that emotion, you rationalise that there must be a reason you’re angry so it feels much more reasonable to respond with anger to things in the real world. If you’re feeling the emotion, it must be for a reason!

Of the three sides of this triangle, thoughts and emotions are most often mistaken for fact. But as you can see from the dream example, they're merely signals and interpretations of your environment. They are all important and helpful at times, but when you start to believe them to be more than they are, you stop using them to interpret the world and instead find yourself caught in a weird abstraction of reality that feels completely true.

It’s hard to see the signals for what they are when you’re in the habit of believing them to be truth. It’s even harder when you have a particularly strong signal. Nevertheless, you can change how you react to your signals. You can change which signals you pay more attention to (remember, I tend towards believing that what I think is true). You can also change the way these signals are created in the first place.

Powerful stuff huh? Guess what? It’s basically just realising that all of these are signals and listening carefully to them. It’s simple to write, easy to say. Hard to do.

Paper.Tom things.1 2.png

Meta cognitive awareness is your ability to sit above this triangle and watch what’s going on in the triangle without perceiving anything in the triangle as a fact. You become an objective observer of your signals and can make choices about how to interpret them. It’s not about questioning what’s going on in the triangle or trying to rationalise why you can see things happening in a particular way (guess what? that’s just thinking...) You simply take the time to observe all the emotions, the thoughts that pop up, and any sensations you feel without doing anything about any of them.

That’s the beauty of this - you don’t have to do anything.

Just observe.

I’m not suggesting that you live your entire life like this, but the skill is incredibly useful to have. With a life time of practice in taking action in response to your thoughts, emotions or sensations, sitting back and observing instead will be hard. It’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to do this after reading my blog post about it. It takes practice.

This model is a simplification of the complex system that is you. The whole point of observing yourself in this way is to show you that you’re operating in a system. The thoughts, emotions, and sensations you’re having are all part of a system even if one feels overwhelming right now.

it gets a whole lot more complex than this but that’s for another time.

Meditation Practice

The objective of mindfulness meditation practice is to be able to observe your experience and to be less reactive. You focus on what’s happening right now in your body and mind. A common method to get into this state is to observe the sensations in the body such as the rise and fall of your breath.

There are many resources out there now to help you practice mediation. I successfully kicked off my mediation practice using the Headspace app which I continue to use today. I also use Oak for unguided mediations because of the great implementation of interval bells.

I strongly recommend using an app to help you or even better, an in person guided mediation. If you can’t, here’s a simple written guide to help you get started now.

  1. Get comfortable. You could sit on a cushion, your favourite chair, or even lie down.
  2. Take a few deep breaths, slowly drawing air all the way in and slowly releasing the air.
  3. Close your eyes and let your breath return to normal - make no effort to breath in a particular way.
  4. Focus your attention on the rising and falling sensation of the breath in the body. It might be in your stomach, or chest. If you can’t feel it, try putting your hand on your stomach.
  5. If it helps you to focus, count in your mind each breath as it passes up to 10 then start over at 1. For example, breath in, one, breath out, two, breath in, three etc.
  6. All you have to do is pay attention to your breath. There’s nothing else to do. If your mind wanders, as soon as you realise it has happened, bring it back to focusing on your breath. Don’t worry - this will happen a lot. Coming back to the focus is the practice.

Maintain this practice for 5 minutes to begin with. You could set a timer using your phone. Try building up to longer periods of time as you get used to observing your ‘triangle’ like this.

Do you know which side of the triangle you tend to believe is true? I’d love to hear your answer in the comments!