Most of my recent posts have been about tangible health related practices that are scientifically and/or evolutionary based (or both). I’ve received dozens of emails and comments from people who appreciate the contributions on such specific subjects. It is exciting to have helped, but the most important wisdom does not come from my research, but instead the practice of self-testing.
This self-testing / tracking is called biohacking, which leverages modern technology to track the best health habits for each individual. No matter how similar our DNA, there are variations for every individual that must be learned through experience. While I advocate intermittent fasting, cold showers, or caffeine use, none of these things are set in stone for everyone. Rather, I simply report scientific findings and my own experiences. It is up to you to explore your reactions.
Wisdom in Pali
Returning from a recent 10 day meditation retreat, it makes sense to use Pali teachings in order to explain my point. The Theravadin texts often cite three specific types of wisdom called “panna”. This word is broken into “na”, meaning “to know” and “pa”, which means “correctly”. To know correctly is wisdom, but there are various types.
This type of wisdom is commonly derived from listening to others. We all need this to some degree, but it should not be the most important source of wisdom as it commonly is. This is inferred knowledge (parokkha) rather than experienced knowledge, which as you will see is far more important.
The Hacked Mind provides you with suta-maya panna, but I may be insane (you never know) or more realistically, my body functions differently than yours. Blindly following my advice does nobody any good.
Wisdom from one’s own thought is cinta-maya panna. Your own logical and rational understanding of the world may lead you to develop ideas about your own health. For example, without needing any blogs or books, you can safely conclude that eating natural food sources is going to provide you with the best health. Neon green gelatinous processed foods are probably not the healthiest thing by rational analysis.
While this form of wisdom is also important and often forgotten (mass media knows how to make their suta-maya panna seem more legitimate), it is not the most important.
Finally, there is experiential wisdom. This is the wisdom derived from your own personal experiences. Considering the variations in every human, wisdom specifically for you is of the utmost importance. You may read my guide to intermittent fasting and see the scientific research for yourself. However, when you start intermittent fasting for yourself, you may have the opposite results!
This is the most oft forgotten layer of wisdom despite the importance. Some things, such as touching fire, don’t necessarily require experiential wisdom. You can safely assume that it will burn you (though you will learn a REAL lesson if you do touch it). However, with your own health the reality is far different; this experiential wisdom is most relevant.
Unfortunately, most people use very little experiential wisdom and instead rely on others to provide inferred wisdom. There is nothing wrong with learning about healthy habits through any medium (keep reading my blog!), but the real wisdom is achieved only when put into practice for yourself. We live in a world where technology makes self-tracking incredibly easy so conclusions about your own best practices are easier to derive.
As you can see, when it comes to health the experiential wisdom is most important. Maintain a balance (please don’t experiment with cyanide), but give priority to experience.
Attaining Experiential Wisdom
The process of attaining experiential wisdom about your own health is essential and my practices are evidence of that. While gaining popularity, a diet that is below 50 grams of usable carbs is not mainstream. Most government and health organizations recommend whole grains and carbohydrates in far higher quantity than I consume. Conversely, my fat and protein intake is far higher than they suggest. Even within the relatively small Paleo diet community that I often congregate with, there are significant differences; namely, I eat no dairy.
In maintaining these practices, I am not acting as a contrarian. In fact, I was raised largely vegetarian for the first 20 years of my life. The only reason for wholesale changes in my life has come from understanding of myself at the experiential level.
How to Get Started
In the information-rich modern world, an article or book might be the source of wisdom for many of your health practices. Perhaps you rationally make conclusions of your own, but both of these should be catalysts to take action with experimentation.
Starting with biohacking does not have to be complicated. Many of my experiments utilize an Excel spreadsheet. You can track your sleep with many devices, including the Zeo, Fitbit, and others. You can measure cognitive abilities with online programs like Quantified Mind, CogniFit etc. You can even experiment subjectively by using a number scale on how you feel with certain foods.
Self-tracking might seem daunting due to cost, time expenditure, or just the energy and thought required. When it comes to health, self-experimentation is the only way to achieve Bhavana-maya panna – experiential wisdom.