Those of us who have followed Mike Cernovich’s blog Danger and Play have been aware for some time that he was planning on publishing a digest of his key “mindset” principles. I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy, and am excited to have the opportunity now to write about it.
His book, Gorilla Mindset, is the result of many hundreds of hours of hard work focusing on a question that lies at the core of Mike’s odysseys of self-discovery: how can I control my thoughts and emotions?
We often forget how critical this question is. Cernovich has “broken the code” right from the beginning, in a way, just by understanding the right question to ask. So many men’s health writers flounder around with the branches of the tree, without paying attention to the tree’s roots.
Notice how carefully he has chosen his title. This is significant, I think. Notice that Cernovich doesn’t title his book Gorilla Bodyset. Or Gorilla Healthset. Or Gorilla Moneyset.
No. He doesn’t do this.
And he doesn’t do it for this very good reason: because he wants us to focus our attention on the mind right from the start. The control of the mind is they key that unlocks the doors into everything else.
Life, Cernovich knows from hard experience, is really a matter of perception. And when we say this, we are not just making a metaphor. It really is true, in a literal sense. It really is true that our minds control our perceptions, and our perceptions control our worldview. What Mike wants us to do is dive right into this feedback loop, and begin to take control over it.
But how? How do we start? This is where most people stumble.
You need a plan, and you need to be organized.
Well, Mike shows us just how, in a sequenced series of eleven chapters. If we want to control our emotions, we must first try to keep track of them. Each chapter focuses on the following topics (these are my summaries of the titles, not Mike’s actual titles):
1. The power of self-talk.
2. Changing the way you perceive life’s challenges.
3. How to check in to your life.
4. Controlling your state.
5. Controlling your attention
6. Your way of living.
7. Health and fitness
10. What you visualize is what you get
11. Your daily routine.
“Reality” really is what we make of it. Like many writers who have made journeys of self-discovery, Cernovich knows that our views of the world are profoundly shaped by our sensory inputs and mental states.
The Jain sect of old India, for example, was fond of telling a story that illustrated the point of how perceptions matter. Six blind men, we are told, put their hands on different parts of an elephant. The man who touched the ear thought the elephant was a great fan; the one who held the leg thought it was a hairy pillar. The other men drew different conclusions from parts of the animal they encountered. Each man was limited in his own way.
But if these men could see the “big picture” in front of them, then their mindsets would be entirely different.
The book provides specific tasks for the reader to perform in order to bring about this critical mindset shift. The need to take active, positive steps is constantly emphasized. Like language learning, “mindset shifting” is a cumulative process.
Cernovich reminds us that our destiny is in our hands, and we have to participate in our own rescue. To those who suffer from anxiety, Mike counsels:
Anxiety is caused by focusing on an uncertain event in the future. We humans tend to have the same anxieties, as they largely involve money, friends, family, and health. We agonize over money, wondering how we will pay our bills. When you are worried about some uncertain future event, you’re not living in the present moment. Active meditation and living mindfully doesn’t mean that you ignore your problems. If you have money problems then we should want to solve them.
He then goes on to provide specific worksheets and exercises to assist us in developing our mindfulness states. To someone like me with little or no background in meditation, these exercises were a great help. I found that they dovetailed very accurately with what I know of the practices of the Sufi mystics and the Neoplatonists of late antiquity.
For me, the most important chapters where the ones on “focus” and on “posture.” I’ll explain why.
Those of us who lead high-stress lives (and these days, who doesn’t?) need specific, actionable advice on how to reduce our stress levels and maintain our focus. Mike provides us with precisely this in his chapter on focus. Here are the general guidelines: (1) your focus is finite; (2) focus on good health; (3) set your priorities; (4) engage in self-talk; (5) turn off your cell phone more often; (6) no eating in front of the television; (7) focus on one thing at a time.
Posture is given its own chapter, and this is something I thought was a big strength of the book. How often do we hear about maintaining good posture? Not enough. For those of us hunched over our keyboards all day, this is the kind of advice that we really need to hear.
You can, however, improve your posture. As with improving your mindset, correcting bad posture is not something to achieve overnight. These exercises require vigilance. Expect to see gradual improvement rather than overnight results. We have trained our bodies to have poor posture. It can take months to unlearn the bad posture, and it requires vigilance throughout the days. As physical therapists often say, “You can’t undo 23 hours of bad posture with one hour a day in the gym.” Perform these posture exercises as often as you can. I do one to two sets of 10 reps throughout the day, as posture is something we are constantly training.
Cernovich has embedded photographs in the book that show proper posture, so that there is no confusion about what exactly he is speaking about. The chapters on nutrition and diet are also packed with actionable advice, as well as interviews with health professionals to support his guidance.
I want to be clear that Cernovich is not promising you a rose-garden, unless you are willing to tend the rose-bed scrupulously. In other words, this is a program, not a one-shot exercise. To see results, you will need to put in sustained effort. Like anything in life that is worthwhile, it won’t be handed to you on a silver platter. But Mike makes the journey enjoyable, and you can almost hear his distinctive voice in the cadence of the sentences.
Gorilla Mindset combines health, meditation, posture, and all-around self-improvement in a wonderful package that every man will benefit from.
I give it the highest recommendation, and plan on putting it to good use this year.
When we begin to become aware of ourselves through self-dialogue and focus, we begin to see the solutions appear where there was only the fog of uncertainty before. So much of our lives is spent in fretting over this and that, or over one thing or another. We often feel like flecks of foliage floating down the river of fate, tossed and turned in the churning currents.
The expanses of infinity stretch out before us, and we face them with a noble heart. We have begun to direct our mindset not just on ourselves, but on the great and grand amplitude of the Whole; and when this transformation has taken place, then we can truly be said to have found peace.
And this is the lesson I was reminded of by Cernovich’s book.
We can cope, because our one Mind is now congruent with the Universal Mind.
Read More: Celsus’s General Directives For Good Health