Kratom Propaganda

I’ve written one post on here about the new “drug” being talked about and sold everywhere from headshops to gas stations, kratom. My last post was about how wonderful this drug has been in helping me cope with my, at times, crippling anxiety. I 100% stand by everything I’ve written about kratom. However, today I wanted to dispel some of the horrific rumors, propaganda, and straight up, bold faced lies I’ve seen about it. It’s Refer Madness all over again.

Just to be fair, I do probably lean on kratom a bit more than I should. Although after years of taking it daily, I will just note that I haven’t needed to increase my dosage at all. I still get the same effects from a rather small amount which lasts for a consistent amount of time. All that being said, for the first half of the day at work today, I have been feeling extremely tired. Not super out of the ordinary for me, I often suspect I may have chronic fatigue syndrome. But just because I am a curious, inquisitive person, I decided to see if it might have anything to do with the fact that I skipped my morning kratom. I know that kratom is related to the coffee plant so I thought it might have similar withdrawal symptoms to caffeine. Not thinking much of it, I decided to google: kratom withdrawal.

I was not anywhere near prepared for the kinds of results that popped up. The first thing on the page was a huge 1-800 number for a drug abuse hotline. “That’s kind of funny,” I thought, but continued skimming the rest of the page. As I read the titles of each website and article that came up, I became less and less amused. After clicking on one from a “reputable” health source, I became downright infuriated.

I wasn’t even sure this mild tiredness I’ve experienced after around 24 hours without any kratom was linked to that at all. Yet these websites and articles were fearmongering in some of the most disgusting ways. Highlighted in bold, snippets of text proclaimed that kratom withdrawal is practically the same as opioid withdrawal! Absolutely outrageous and utterly untrue. Symptoms that were listed included: flu-like symptoms, body aches, hallucinations, even seizures! Of course not even a mention of the slight tiredness I was experiencing.

I am aware that there is a big movement to make kratom illegal. My sister even donates to an organization that is fighting that legislation. However, I had no idea how bad this misinformation campaign had actually gotten in the last few years. It makes me sick. I am especially bothered by how easily the general public is eating it up. Even some of my family members have repeating back outlandish propaganda to me about kratom. They hesitate when I explain to them that it’s just like refer madness, but still don’t seem to stop believing the lies they’ve heard. I can’t believe that the same bullshit is working all over again.

Just like with marijuana, the government and pharmaceutical industries don’t want this drug to become popular because it will cut into their profits and prevent people from needing other expensive medications and medical care. Even though kratom has the potential to help the opioid crisis in this country (as it can help users with detox and withdrawal) the media would rather liken it to the opioids themselves and scare people away from it. I guess the opioid crisis isn’t worth solving unless someone can make money off of it.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. Despite my already disillusioned, cynical state, I continued to be shocked by the backward depravity of society. Even though weed is legal now in many states and has been proven to help with many mental and physical issues, the scaremongering about this medicinal plant is still going strong as well. It may sound like just another conspiracy theory, but I don’t believe all of the news stories about weed being laced with fentanyl either. Unless you are actually trying to kill someone, it makes absolutely no sense why anyone would put that in the weed they are selling. Why would you risk killing your customers? Why risk drawing the police’s attention for nothing? Why would you add a more expensive drug to another drug for free? It’s nonsense. I know a lot of people that smoke and sell weed. I even know quite a few people that have done fentanyl and heroin. I know it’s just anecdotal evidence, but none of them have ever even heard of such a case happening in real life. Even a recent case of a local high schooler “overdosing” on fentanyl that was in a weed gummy, turned out to be total bullshit. She just got way too high and freaked out. I’m willing to bet all of these stories are just rumors, if not purposeful propaganda to scare people away from using cannabis.

I am so tired of the masses being mind controlled and manipulated by false information. I used to think in this miraculous age of technology that could only continue for so much longer. But after the Trump presidency and all of the lingering, idiotic lies from that fiasco, I’ve utterly lost that hopeful outlook. It almost seems like the internet has made everything worse in some ways.

Even though I am just one random person, I just had to speak out about this. Kratom is a miracle drug that has helped me so much in the last few years. It breaks my heart to think that people will be prevented from receiving this same help due to lies and misinformation spreading like wildfire. I won’t be surprised when kratom is eventually made illegal just like cannabis was. I’m definitely going to keep stockpiling it for myself for when that time comes.

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No Connection

The night before last, my internet connection suddenly stopped working at my house. Unfortunately my service is through Comcast, so it still hasn’t been fixed despite my attempts over the phone to receive assistance. At first, I felt utterly lost and helpless without YouTube and Netflix. While I do have data on my phone, I live in the middle of the woods so, as you might imagine, I don’t have great signal.

While this all is very inconvenient and frustrating, it has also been a blessing of sorts. Being forced off of the internet for over a day has been therapeutic. Initially, my stress level went through the roof, but after a while, I adapted. I dug out my old laptop with all of my saved music and video files to supplement my normal background noise. (Some habits are hard to let go of.) However, despite using my computer for ambient noise, without the internet offering up unlimited possibilities, I didn’t feel as tethered to my screens as I normally do.

In fact, it actually allowed me to spend a lot more time outside, where I want to be spending my time. Normally there is an internal struggle as I try to decide whether or not I want to pause my internet browsing to go do my yoga and meditation practice outside, or go for a run, or do yardwork. Even though I know how much I always end up enjoying myself when I am in the fresh air and sunshine, there is still a lot of anxiety around the act of putting down my technology to do so. Yesterday that struggles was gone. Why shouldn’t I go outside? Finally, there was nothing holding me back from the reawakening world outside my door.

It felt so good to feel the warm sun on my skin and smell the wind. I pulled up all the weeds from my flowerbeds, which I was surprised to find brought me great enjoyment. It was so delightful to feel the cool, damp earth and the soft, green leaves between my fingers. It’s easy to forget just how immersive the outside world can be. There is so much to explore and examine even in the relatively bland nature surrounding a house. No matter how much time you spend in the garden or the woods, there is always something new to discover. Yesterday I was overjoyed to come across a strange long blade of what appeared to be grass with a small plump green bulb dangling off its tip, as if barely connected at all. I have no idea what it is, but I’ll definitely be checking back in on that plant to try to find out.

For days now I have been anxiously dreading the chores I had to do in my yard, but somehow without the internet to beckon to me from inside, I had one of the best days I’ve had in awhile doing so. I was even enjoying myself so much that I ended up doing more than I planned on. I got out my weed whacker. I started some seeds for my garden. I set up some simple d├ęcor on my back porch. I cleaned off my trampoline and swept the sidewalk. I even strolled through my yard and collected patches of moss to put in my potted plants. Something I have been wanting to do for awhile in the hopes it will help the soil stay moist and suitable for my succulents.

All of this time spent outside, especially gathering the moss, left me feeling so happy. It reminded me of being a child again. I don’t know where I got the idea, but I used to imagine one day I’d be a flower arranger or design landscapes for gardens. In preparation for this, I would gather moss, wildflowers, pretty stones, and any other attractive, interesting things I could find around my yard and create small little arrangements with them. I like to think they were the original fairy gardens that have become so popular now. Finding myself outside gathering moss again allowed me to reconnect with that childlike wonder and joy that has remained dormant in me for so long.

Thanks to my yoga and meditation practice, what once would have been an absolute nightmare of an experience, leading me to a total meltdown with lots of hysterical crying and complaining, actually turned out to be something to be grateful for. It has even been empowering in a way. It feels good to know that I don’t have to rely on the internet for enjoyment and entertainment. I have more than enough within me to make my own contentment. It also reminded me of the peace that this lack of technology allowed. Things seemed quieter before the internet. My mind seemed less busy, less distracted. And with that focus, with that stillness, came a simple serenity that now seems lost to us.

While the internet and our other advancements in technology have made the world a better place in a lot of important ways, it has also robbed us of a lot of what we once had in life. Somehow by providing unlimited possibilities we have surrendered our freedom. I can’t help but wonder what the world might be like if it had stayed the way it was when I was a child. I have to imagine that my, if not everyone’s, mental health would be much better off. Perhaps humanity would have been able to remain at least a little closer to nature and one another than we are now.

I’d like to say that this experience will cause me to take regular breaks from my devices in order to remember this newfound freedom, but I don’t know that willpower alone will be enough to break those chains that tether me to technology. As for now, all I can say is I am in no hurry to fix my faulty internet connection. I am more than happy to spend a few more days disconnected.

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Overriding the Algorithm

Everything that we consume becomes integrated, it all becomes a part of us. Whether its the food we eat, the things we drink, the substances we use, the physical atmosphere of the space around us, or even just the things we watch and listen to, all of these things effect us. Often in ways we don’t intend for them to. I’ve been contemplating this idea a lot lately. I’ve always been hyper aware of the things I put into my body. Although that doesn’t necessarily mean I make the right choices in that area often enough. My primary concern was always with the effects these things have on my weight and physical appearance. The subtler aspects of how what I consume effects my mental and emotional wellbeing always seem to remain largely overlooked.

Without looking at the scientific data showing correlation, it can be very difficult to even connect the way we feel with what we are consuming day to day. It is probably effecting us more than we realize, especially when it comes to anxiety disorders. In addition to cutting back on processed foods, artificial sweeteners, sugar, caffeine, and nicotine, I also want to start changing the content that I consume online. It would be interesting to make these changes just to see if I notice a difference. To log my mood and anxiety level throughout this process to try to gauge just how different I might feel without all of these harmful influences being so enmeshed in my life.

Knowing what I do now about the way our internet experience is basically tailor made for us by algorithms, I would like to try my hand at making that algorithm serve me instead of steer me. I’ve always been someone who enjoys the grittier side of movies and series. So the videos that are offered to me for easy access are primarily about murder mysteries, drug addiction, mental illness, homelessness, social injustice, civil unrest, etc. And while these topics are very interesting, they can also be very upsetting and depressing. When this is the only content that is readily available to you, it can start to feel like all that there is. I wonder how much of what I think and feel every day is directly impacted by this endless background noise of destruction, violence, and despair. Would I be a different person, would I think differently if I actively sought out different content?

One of the reasons the idea of the algorithm guiding our hand has been on my mind so much lately, is because of what’s currently happening on my Netflix account. Somehow I fell down a rabbit whole of watching English dubbed, foreign TV series. Don’t get me wrong, quite well-produced and intriguing stuff, but after awhile I get tired of the voiceover and the dialogue not lining up with the actors’ lip movements. Much to my dismay I seem unable to extricate myself from this issue. Netflix continues to suggest only these shows, and due to my general laziness I put up with watching another one rather than put any effort into finding a good American made show instead. Thus furthering Netflix’s propensity toward offering me foreign series and films. The algorithms that were created to assist us, eventually start to direct and limit our ability to make our own decisions. Only with great, intentional effort can we overcome this endless loop.

Another reason I am interested in the idea of changing the content I consume is to discover just how difficult it would actually be to do. How quickly would the algorithm adjust to a drastic change in interest? The only reason I haven’t done this sooner is because I enjoy the content I consume as I’m sure we all do. I don’t feel confident that I will be able to find more positive content that will interest me as much. I worry that I won’t be satisfied if I limit myself to only watching lighthearted, fluffy shows. I suppose if that ends up being the case, I can always transition away from it again. Perhaps I’d even be able to establish a nice balance between these opposing genres.

I’m going to do some investigating and see if there are any useful resources already out there online for ways to go about shifting your internet experience so that you are exposed to more uplifting content. It seems that someone must have already had the idea to consciously manipulate the algorithm for the benefit of their mental health already. It will be interesting to expose myself to a whole new side of the internet that has remained hidden from me until now. Who knows what I may uncover? I’ll be sure to make an update to this post once I implement this new plan and discover how this seemingly innocuous change effects me.

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The Focused Mind

It is interesting to me that when I sit down to write, the ideas that usually come to mind are so negative. I think about problems I see in my own life or in the world around me. I can think of some pretty interesting topics, but that isn’t the issue. I didn’t start writing everyday to be interesting. I am doing this because I like to write and it makes me happy. Depending on what I’m writing about. It always comes down to focus.

I genuinely fear for these younger generations. Even my own has suffered and continues to suffer from the influence of technology. The internet and social media have drastically damaged our mental abilities. The saddest thing is that there isn’t really anyone to blame or a clear solution other than purging our lives of these technologies entirely. We have reached the point in history where “robots are taking over.” It just doesn’t look like what we thought it would look like. It is much subtler. Robot humans aren’t so much moving into our neighborhoods and taking out jobs, as they are tinkering behind the scenes shaping our own personalized virtual worlds for us. There is no evil intention behind this threat to humanity. The algorithms we’ve created are only doing their best, trying to help us as they’ve been designed to do. We just couldn’t have imagined the implications of this progress.

Among the myriad reasons that this new reality we’ve unleashed upon the world is harmful, the most significant to me is its effect on attention span. This has definitely made an impact on all of us who use the internet and specifically social media, but it is particularly easy to see in children. It really breaks my heart to imagine what childhood must look like now-a-days compared to what I was lucky enough to have. Just the other day a coworker and I were reminiscing in front of a 10 or 11 year old girl about before we had internet or even a computer. She seemed stunned and horrified as she listened. I felt like my grandmother when she would tell me about before they had cars and electricity.

It is interesting to me that alongside this rise in social media, there has also been an increase in interest in spiritual practices such as yoga. It is almost as if we are naturally seeking out a balance to the damaging effects we’ve been exposed to. Something inside of us is looking for help. While it can’t solve the problems we face, I do feel that yoga and meditation are instrumental in combating the negative effects of technology in my own life. No matter how long I practice yoga, it continues to blossom and evolve. As I peel back layer after layer, I find new pearls of truth, new perspectives. I’ll think I know what yoga is all about, then have that idea utterly overthrown by a new one.

Once I thought yoga was just about exercise and flexibility. I thought meditation was an effort to keep the mind still. Now I’ve learned that both of these practices are complementary to one another and that ultimately they are both about focus. It doesn’t matter if you can do the splits and hold a handstand if your mind is somewhere else the whole time. You can sit in meditation for hours, but if your mind is running laps it won’t do you much good. The point of both of these practices is to train and harness our ability to focus.

We often hear that we are in control of our own happiness. We can choose the way we want to feel and respond to the world around us. And while this is true, it doesn’t exactly explain how we are able to do this. The answer to that is (yep, you guessed it) focus. Concentration, attention, focus, whatever you want to call it, it is a muscle that we must exercise and train to serve us. Sadly, the internet and social media are actively working against this training, teaching our minds to do just the opposite of focus.

That is why having a regular yoga and meditation practice is more important than ever before. Yoga and meditation are sneaky. They give us things to focus on, and we assign different meaning to why we are focusing on them. We want to be healthy, we want to be flexible, we want to have more peace and calm in our lives. It is only later that many of us realize what we are focusing on has little to do with it. The mere act of mindful awareness and concentration are what produce the positive mental health effects. That’s why eventually we can learn to take our practice with us off the mat. We don’t have to be in impressive postures to be practicing yoga. Don’t forget tadasana (mountain pose) is just as valuable as bakasana (crow pose). Pranayama isn’t necessarily beneficial simply because of the techniques we are using for the breath, but because of the intense focus we put on the breath.

As you go about the rest of your day, try to notice how you feel when the mind is focused, when it’s scattered. It seems silly or even simply, but when you notice yourself becoming agitated or anxious, find something to focus on. It’s harder than it sounds. Watch your mind as it squirms and tries to escape this stillness, the mindful attention. What you decide to focus your attention on doesn’t really matter. The breath is always a good choice because it is always there with us. But you could also focus on a blade of grass, the veins in your hands, the backs of your eyelids, the way your clothes feel against your skin. As long as you’re concentrating, it will help. This is why the flow state is so intoxicating. It isn’t even necessarily because we are often engaged in an activity we love doing, it is because we are intensely focused. So I hope that you are able to practice focus as you move through your day today. Just take it one step at a time. Allow yourself be enjoy each moment as it comes, giving it your full attention.

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The Value of Virtual Yoga

If you’ve ever done a yoga video on YouTube then you probably know about Yoga with Adriene. She is one of the most famous yoga YouTubers with over 9 million subscribers! I have been doing yoga with this amazing woman since the very beginning of my yoga journey. Even though we have never met or even spoken to one another, I genuinely feel as though she is my guru, my teacher, my yoga guide. It is a strange and beautiful, one-sided bond.

After my class today, another teacher at my studio asked me who my primary teacher was since I don’t live close enough to regularly take classes where I teach. I hesitated, embarrassed, because I don’t ever attend classes in person. I offered Adriene’s name with a nervous laugh. This obviously didn’t really count in the eyes of the person who was asking. None of the other teachers at my studio think very highly of online yoga classes.

I can understand their hesitancy to embrace the idea. They are yogi’s that are much older than myself. Not only that but free YouTube yoga could potentially wipe out the yoga industry all together. Why pay for a class when you can do one for free from the comfort of your own home? So I get their insistence that you are missing out by not attending class in person. There are certainly benefits that you get from a studio that you can’t get at home. At a yoga studio you get to be part of a community. You can speak with your teacher one on one and receive real-time feedback on your practice. Not to mention, you don’t get all those wonderful adjustments from a virtual teacher! There is also a delicious energy that is created in a room full of yogis practicing together that is impossible to experience with a home practice.

So I certainly would still encourage people to join a studio and find a local yoga community. However, I personally prefer my at home practice. I it just a better fit for me and probably a lot of other people around the world as well. Today I wanted to take the time to explain why that is.

Benefits of Yoga Online:

Affordability:

Even though I, myself, am a yoga teacher, to be honest, I don’t think yoga classes are worth what they typically cost. I’ve only paid for a few classes in my entire life, most of them special donation based outdoor ones at that. I deeply respect my fellow teachers and value what they do. However, in my opinion, yoga should never be about money. I never expected to make money from becoming a yoga teacher. I just wanted to deepen my practice and be able to share yoga with others. With YouTubers like Adriene, you don’t have to pay a dime. Yoga studios are great if you can afford it, but online classes allow daily yoga to be accessible to everyone.

Privacy:

When I began my yoga journey, I was even more socially anxious than I am today. The only reason I was even brave enough to take a yoga class in college was because I had to take some time of PE credit to graduate, plus I had a scholarship so it was free. There are many people that may never be brave enough to walk into a yoga studio. It can be very daunting for even an extroverted person to be a beginner surrounded by people with experience. Online classes allow you to experiment with yoga from the comfort and privacy of your own home. Not only is it less intimidating, but it allows you to focus on what really matters. Often in classes with other people I find myself comparing and competing. I feel envious of other people as they easily go into asanas that I struggle with. I push my body farther than I would when no one is watching. An at-home yoga practice eliminates all of that. When I’m at home it is much easier to focus on my breath and on how the pose feels rather than what it looks like. I am able to really let go, let my guard down, and be silly.

Time:

Things are just easier when you don’t have to worry about time. With yoga videos you never have to worry about fitting a 90 minute class into your schedule. You don’t even have to put clothes on! You can do yoga in bed if you want to. This removes yet another obstacle that could potentially keep someone from yoga. A coworker asked my the other day, “Do you have to do yoga for an hour every time to receive the benefits?” I had to restrain myself from bursting out into laughter. “Hell no!” I told her. I hardly ever do a full hour unless I’m teaching. Doing 5 minutes of yoga is always better than not doing any. There are yoga videos on YouTube that are 1 minute, 5 minutes, 15 minutes, any length of time you want. You can find flows to do while you are in bed, driving in your car, or sitting in your office at work. With the internet, there is always time for yoga.

These are just a few of the many reasons that Adriene’s channel means so much to me. She has brought yoga into countless homes and lives that might have never experienced it otherwise. I am so grateful that she and other YouTubers continue to make yoga affordable, accessible, and convenient for everyone. Even if you are a teacher yourself, please still consider recommending online yoga as a supplement to in-person classes. Even if you attend a studio, it is always important to have a personal, at-home practice as well. Besides, yoga is a gift and gifts shouldn’t have to cost you anything.