Intelligent Lies | Emily Hightower

Issue #27

We had a girl in our class growing up who would lie all the time. Ridiculous stories that she seemed to believe. “I can’t run today, coach, my dad ran over my knee with the lawn mower”. “I didn’t finish my homework because my dog almost died this morning”. 

I ran into her in our twenties. She had a wild look with hair past her bum and said she had been living in the jungles of Mexico dealing with some kind of psychotic breakdown. While that made perfect sense I couldn’t fully believe her. The power of her word had eroded long ago for me.

The truth is, we all lie. 

We start when we are very young children. It’s an inherent protection quality that actually shows intelligence. We are also taught how to lie from parents who leave the house arguing and tell everyone at the party “We’re GREAT thank you how are YOU?”. Parents tell us they like our drawings when we know they’re crappy, and say the Easter Bunny hides eggs and poops jelly beans.

Meanwhile we are told lying is bad. Is it? In the book “the Secret Power of Yoga” Nischala Joy Devi writes about a yogic principle called “Satya” which can be interpreted two ways; “non-lying” or in her more approachable terms “benevolent truth”. She explores how truth is never black and white. In her example, if a friend is about to walk down the aisle and appears glowing before you in a wedding dress you find distasteful to ask “How do I look?”, what do you say? There are many truths in that moment you can choose to focus on. The most benevolent one is probably “You look so happy and radiant!” even though another truth is “Wow, that dress looks terrible”. Are you lying if you don’t tell her what you think of her dress? What would telling that truth do for her or for your relationships? There is no commandment or ‘right’ answer here because the truth has many facets. The power of the human being to interpret and create meaning is at the heart of the story we choose to ‘tell’. 

Everything that comes out of our mouths is a story that reveals more about ourselves than any single “truth” out there. If the story you are telling is not true for you, you know it instantly in your own nervous system. The nature of YOUR truth and how that comes out of YOUR mouth affects how you relate to yourself and how people relate to you. Can people trust you? Can you trust yourself?

According to authors of a research paper called “Developmental profiles of children’s spontaneous lie-telling behavior” from January – March 2017, “prosocial lies” protect a relationship. These start when we are young. We learn that words can hurt feelings and start choosing half truths that make others and ourselves feel better. “I like your dress.” We later develop working memory and learn deceit to protect ourselves from pain.

“Antisocial lies” emerge to protect the self in denial of something true that is scary. These truths are not as negotiable. These lies can be very harmful. Think: cheating on a test or cheating on a lover. Not telling the truth in these instances erodes relationships first to the self, then to others. These lies are designed out of fear. The truth feels terrifying. Your nervous system wants to fight or flee. Being honest would create pain but leave you with lessons and integrity. Following the fear by telling the lie saves you temporarily but costs dearly over time.

There is an underlying instinct in all of us encoded in our nervous systems. We just KNOW when someone is a cheat in these more selfish, fearful lies. We can feel that something is ‘off’. If you have tried to keep an antisocial lie you learn you have to keep on creating more lies to protect the original one. It’s a zero sum game that usually ends with crumpled relationships and a long road to regain trust in the self and with others. 

We have an innate social fear of shame that can perpetuate antisocial lies. Yet the shame of hiding the truth is like a pebble wearing down a great dam over time. When that water breaks, the shame can drown you like a flood. Facing the shame comes either way; through a quick burst of initial honesty or a long drawn out game of internal erosion. Repairing the damage can be beautiful. I know this from growing up around substance abuse recovery communities where owning past deceit becomes a potent form of self-realization and bonding. Rarely is someone protected from the urge to hide from themselves and a truth that can hurt. Most of us learn the hard way. 

Regulating the nervous system is a key skill in learning how to read beyond fearful stories to reinforce alliance with reality (truth) and personal integrity. When you practice reading and regulating fear in the nervous system to be comfortable with reality you can rest in a truth with not only courage but ease. You know the cost of hiding.

In lies there is a human quality that is a super power; the ability to choose narratives and create worlds. Like any Tony Stark technology in a Marvel Comic these powers can be used for good or evil. Only the user can choose what world they create through the power of aligning with courage and benevolence or fear and selfishness. Reality finds us either way.

The ‘truth’ lies in your own nervous system. Think about the irony of that phrase!

Seeking Benevolence,

Emily H.

Eddy Out | Emily Hightower

Issue #25

An eddy in a river is where water flows back upstream to fill in behind an obstacle like a rock or bend in the river. Eddy’s are often calm. This eddy was different. The water was calm but my nervous system was flooded with rapids of stress hormones. 

The other river guide was sitting casually on the side of his raft. Feet propped up on the cooler doling out snacks and conversations with his guests. I was about to poo my pants trying not to let the 12 year old kid, mom, and other guests on my raft sense how nervous I was. Annoyed at their casual small talk I had other things on my mind. The rapid just below our eddy was a class IV called False Flush. It contained a ‘must make move’ followed by an absolutely must make eddy for a mandatory portage around the next rapid. Royal Flush is a class VI rapid that is, by definition, ‘unrunnable’. Just move the “I” to the other side of the “V” and you have twisted guts.

How was this other guide so chill? 

This wasn’t just about not feeling the urge to shit myself. This was about making sure the paying customers, as well as myself, didn’t die. 

The problem was pretty simple. Unregulated nervous energy spoils performance. To function well through risk (running whitewater or giving a presentation in public) we need to be focused and energized but not overly anxious. Anxiety, however, usually produces more of itself.

In this situation, if I’m anxious I make people on my boat anxious. When people are nervous they don’t paddle well. Swims, flips, and a potential miss of the eddy to portage around the unrunnable Royal Flush all become more likely. A runaway train starts. Anxiety creates anxiety. Been there?

So I thought more about the ucpoming rapid. Enter left avoid the large hole then move right and avoid being pushed on the rock that flips boats on river left. Line up to hit the waves in a big drop, then immediately start heading right to catch a small eddy above Royal Flush. Flip, swim without catching people, or miss that eddy and you run the unrunnable.

I had to get it together. But the unregulated nervous energy infected my thoughts. Instead of planning I was worrying. What if someone swims? Which spot should the young girl sit in so I can keep an eye on her? What if the mom stops paddling to keep looking back at her daughter? What if we miss the eddy above Royal Flush? Why can’t I stop my hands from shaking?

How is this other guide SO CHILL? 

What is his secret?

Then I realized it. 

He’s in the eddy. 

I was downstream in my mind playing out mus- make moves and terrifying scenarios. 

And he was in the eddy. 

And so was I, if I would only notice. We were not, in fact, downstream. 

Somehow this moment grabbed me in my physiology. Literally, I realized myself in present time. My guts started to mellow out. I took a few breaths and noticed the calm water where we were parked. The buzz of negative ions from the rapids behind and below us. The perfect breeze easing the bright hot sun to an ideal temperature. The smell of sunscreen. The way my body was positioned in real time. I started engaging with ease with everyone in my boat. In fact being centered and present became the very secret power that would keep me resourced for whatever came next. There was suddenly no negative stress in that eddy.

This is not a small thing.

Once I got present, I realized I didn’t know and couldn’t plan for exactly what was going to happen in False Flush. It’s a wild river at high water with commercial guests. I knew only that I was in choice to run it. I had enough experience to guide it so if things went south that was part of running rivers. We had a system in place to help make sure everyone made the lower eddy. Throw bags, safety kayakers. This wasn’t Major John Wesley Powell’s raw expedition into the unknown. This was a well-oiled commercial operation. 

I was in choice. It was a clear choice. Decide to be present and enjoy each part of the river from eddy, to pulling into the current, to running features and beyond, or be downstream spending my energy worrying, depleting resources, and infecting the group with jitters.

We all spend way too much time thinking about what’s ‘downstream’. When you’re flipped about the future, you make it more likely to flip IN the future. It’s one thing to assess an upcoming situation; to apply logic, reasoning, and knowledge to be prepared. It’s another to do that with negative anxiety. Your state during preparation determines a lot about how you will perform. You can assess with anxiety and worry, or you can assess with presence. 

How many times have you been awake in the middle of the night worrying about the future? Meanwhile you’re just in a safe warm bed. Whatever you’re facing when you face it you’ll face it and learn. Usually anxiety goes down when we finally engage with the risk. The trick is not taking the risk a thousand times in your mind before you actually get there.

Worrying is ineffective on so many levels. In the simplest terms, it’s missing the reality of the moment to pay interest against your own nervous system and performance. 

I’m not immune to worry. But since that experience on the Kern River so many years ago when I find myself fixating on a future problem/ ‘rapid’, I often remember that eddy. This helps me practice presence, preparation, and a release from the expense of worry.

Calm waters are nice but they are much sweeter when a chosen adventure awaits downstream. Lean into the excitement of that. It shows you that you care. Use the stress to train presence. Notice the environment around you, regulate the one inside of you. We are all capable of so much more when we drop the future worry and outcome-fondling to kick our feet up in the eddy of presence.

Bottoms Down,

Emily Hightower

Talking vs. Feeling | Emily Hightower

Issue #23

We are a neck-up, verbal society. Therapy is often Talk Therapy. Talk Therapy can be brilliant to uncover past wounds and associations that have created chronic stress patterns. In my experience with trauma healing there comes a point where if chronic stress is not addressed in the tissue of the body, talk is cheap (at a very high hourly rate)

What does it look like to address trauma or deep chronic stress in the tissues? It starts with silent feeling.

The next time you are reactive and find yourself verbally processing something you have talked ad naseum about before, do your best to quiet things down and take a few slow breaths. Then: relax your tongue. Try it now. Relax the tongue away from it’s natural position resting behind the top teeth, and instead let it float in the lower jaw. Soften the bridge of the nose to help the tongue release. Relax the top, middle, sides, and root of the tongue. Close your eyes until you’re ready to read on, staying with releasing the tongue as long as you like….*

Did you have an experience of an empty mind, or an awareness of your breath and body? Now that you are reading again, you are thinking. Notice what your tongue is doing now. The moment you think a thought, the tongue becomes more ridgid, preparing for subvocalization. Verbalizing and thinking of words is a mostly left-brained event that involves beta brain waves which are faster than the alpha and theta waves associated with healing. The left hemisphere of the brain deals mostly with logic and linear processing, so now you have turned down the volume on the sensory system in favor of forming words. By reading and thinking you are no longer sensing and feeling well.

Because a relaxed tongue is connected to a relaxed mind, releasing the tongue is an efficient and effective way to slow down brain waves and become present with the sensory systems in the body. This is a doorway to somatic work, meaning, being in touch with interoception or sensing your body’s feelings and processes.* 

In practice this means we move from talking through our issues to quieting the mind and being present with how those issues arise as sensation in the body. The nervous system response is encoded in places throughout the body and the body is always present. The gut, for example, is considered a second brain tied intimately to the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the autonomic nervous system. If you have gut feelings, an anxious belly, or are eating emotionally to fill a void having the skill to slow down and listen to the gut can help you connect to the present moment to acknowledge sensation without self analysis. This changes the belly AND the brain. Now your mind is working with more present-time awareness. This allows you to go beyond mere self-analysis, thinking, and doing and into more calm presence and power. By acknowledging the body’s response you naturally regulate it. Now when you move to the mind you have more information, presence, and self-regulation to work from.

Think of it like driving along the highway with your friends and seeing smoke come from under the hood of your car. You could pull over and talk about how frustrated you are and analyse why this happened. Who drove it last? Why didn’t they maintain the car well? Why do I always end up in these situations? You could read the manual and hold your head in your hands and continue to talk through your ‘feelings’ which are actually your mind’s reactivity to the discomfort. The real feelings (physiology) are in the hood of the car (your body in this analogy). Instead of talking you could look under the hood yourself to see what the vehicle is trying to tell you. In this case you see the radiator hose loose and if you don’t know how to fix it, now when you get help you are already in active recovery. You’re not just analysing frustration, you’re building understanding and solving problems by connecting to the vehicle (the body). The feeling is a loose radiator hose that is causing dysfunction. It feels hot, tired, loose, and in need of reconnection. Reconnect to the source first, then you can think and talk about how you want to maintain things moving forward with less reactivity.

At first words can help us give voice to suppressed experiences and can offer insights through the power of acknowledgment and cognition. We love to talk things out. We want to ‘be heard’. However sometimes the act of verbalizing our past wounds can reactivate them. When people get lost in the words they run into loops of stories told many times over. The reactivation of uncomfortable feelings in the body makes the words tumble out faster sometimes causing dissociation from the body. Our instinct is to ask people to talk more about what’s coming up. To be a ‘good listener’. In a therapeutic process it can be deeply powerful to stop that runaway train once the experience has been named to allow silence to feel the bodily sensations associated with the content arising. We might feel better after rambling to a good listener, but the nervous system did not unlearn the patterns. The radiator hose is still loose. Being silent with sensation acknowledges the root of reactivity, and gives us the slower brain waves needed to regulate those sensations internally. This shifts the patterns.

Unresolved chronic stress can cause digestive issues, imbalances in the adrenals and the immune system, disordered breathing patterns, anxiety, depression, addiction, and overwhelm to name a few known manifestations.  If you take time to silently feel the feelings early and often, you can release the reaction and regulate through them gently. The words you have about the experience change as a result. The language shifts from defining the problem to claiming the solution. Language that comes from self regulation is just that way.

There are many doorways to develop somatic awareness. Somatic Experiencing (SE) is a therapeutic process developed by Peter A. Levine** which guides you to subtle awareness and gentle regulation of somatic signals related to nervous system reactivity. You can also use conscious breathwork to disrupt thinking (where the tongue will rest behind the top teeth for optimal nasal airflow along the floor of the nose above the open roof of the mouth). Gentle non verbal movement like hatha or Iyengar yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Feldenkrais Method or Alexander Technique are beneficial tools for somatic awareness. See the article at the end for more hypothesis and theory.

Sensitivity can be an early warning system that helps you read, regulate, and reinforce healthy patterns of perception and behavior. This is freedom. Freedom to be present with what is actually happening instead of what has happened, and freedom to respond instead of react to the moment’s new offering. With practice what you think and say about your past and present will reflect the physical connection and stability you’re practicing.

Get out of your head and into your body to widen your own stress tolerance by checking out our Membership with Daily Practices to tangibly improve stress tolerance through physical training, yoga, and breathwork. Our Educational offerings including the Skill of Stress contain basic techniques to regulate your own response to reactivity regardless of your stressors and life experiences.


Emily Hightower


*On brain waves and psychosomatic states; Awakening the Mind by Anna Wise

**Learn more at Health and Human Performance Foundation (HHPF) on IG @hhp-foundation where “Somatic Experiencing; using interoception and proprioception as core elements of trauma therapy” by Peter Payne, Peter A. Levine, and Mardi A Crane-Godreau was recently posted:


Follow us on IG where we regularly post reels, tips, and information on stress and self-regulation.

Brian MacKenzie: @_brianmackenzie 

SH//FT: @shiftadapt 

Emily Hightower: @intrinsic_way

This Old Dog | Emily Hightower

Issue #21


This old dog asleep by my side once warned me of a fox in the hen house in the middle of the night. Somehow I knew exactly what he was telling me. I followed him to the yard and together we ran off the fox and he gently found each hen’s hiding place as we got everyone safely home (well, almost all of them made it). If you have a bond with an animal, the nonverbal nature of it is part of what makes it so potent. It’s also what can make their end of life so confusing.

He used to be a giant 110 pounds with long skinny legs perfectly adapted to swipe steak off the butcher’s block. Now at 84 pounds with major balding you can see every rib and vertebrae. I keep a jacket on him when we go out to keep him warm but also to keep his natural dignity. A dignity that most people can see through the drool he leaves on every pant leg he crosses.

For several months we’ve been in the purgatory of wondering how much he’s suffering and if we should be thinking about ‘end of life options’. Our vet gave us a questionnaire to fill out each week to test, but it was no help. Questions like “Does your pet still engage playfully with other animals? 0-10 score”. He has never played with other animals. I know, it’s strange, but his main interests are in being at my side from the moment we met and molesting people’s pockets for treats. 

I’ve been blinded by a selfish concern that I would make the decision to end his life too soon. I was in denial that this was for him to help make sure he has the fullest life possible. If I were listening as I did the night of the fox, he’s been telling me otherwise for a while now.

Dogs have an inherent quality we can learn from; they don’t feel sorry for themselves. They are present, stoic, and spiritually strong. They don’t complain, so we can trick ourselves into keeping them with us until there is no question they are having more bad days than good. Pollo has cancer. There are no more good days.

Anyone who has gone through this will reflect on the confusion of knowing when to make this call with a silent, stoic friend. We are faced with the strange power that there is a choice here that is not available to us with humans. People,unlike dogs, can use words and will say “when I grow old don’t let me suffer and lose myself. Don’t let me become a burden to you all” but when that time comes very few places have compassionate end of life options for humans, and very few humans have the strength to honor such a request for their loved ones. Ironically with our silent friends we have more compassionate options, but the inability to ask them what they want can make the responsibility feel immense.

Now that we’ve made the decision to have our vet come to our home tomorrow to assist with the end of his life, we are faced with this sense of peace and tension. Peace that his suffering will not have to keep getting worse and will soon be done. Tension realizing the time we have together is ending. There is no activity he used to love like hiking or swimming in the river that I can give him now. There are warm fires to sit by, a big belly to rub full of steak and eggs, and soft eyes to silently thank for the years of helping us raise our boy together, join me in my work to gently help so many people in anxiety and pain, and keep me present through ‘it all’.

Pollo, a.k.a Spit Wolf, Big Big, Paulson McPhereson Revere, Fel, or Tiny Bubbles, we will miss you. 


Blessings on Your Way….


Daylight Savings | Emily Hightower

Issue #19

We are designed to work with RHYTHMS, not CLOCKS.

The bell rings and school starts, markets open, meetings begin…all an hour earlier than our biological clocks are prepared for during Daylight Savings.

This makes us feel behind the moment we wake up, or an hour late when we go to sleep if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere. This time of year there is an increase in depression, anxiety, insomnia, accidents, and even suicide. Yet we persist with this collective insanity. Why?

After WWII we became addicted to artificial light. Electricity costs money. Countries looking to save on energy costs decided to change the clock to make commercial hours match seasonal sunlight patterns. Biology be damned.

It’s a powerful moment to recognize the inherent laws of physiology. Regardless of Industrial agreements around your schedule, what can you do year-round to adjust your internal rhythms to work with society?

Pay attention. Read and regulate instead of force. Protect your dark hours with less artificial light. Get outside during the dawn and dusk light to renegotiate circadian rhythms. Spend Time (Yourself) in Deep Reset practices like Neuro Nidra, NSDR, or napping! And get moving with breath during the day to create some energy when you need it.

Fully Loaded | Emily Hightower

Issue #17


12 times, she explained, exhaling smoke into the wind away from my face. That’s how many relapses with heroine she’d been through. She snuffed out her cigarette in the dirt and put the butt it in the pocket of her jean shorts. She picked up her pink compound bow with a wink and we walked over to the shooting line. I watched her load up a few arrows and loose them right into the kill zone of the target. She learned quickly, paid attention well, and was safe with a bow. That is to say, dangerously accurate.

Next to her on the line was a woman who was in her second round of recovery. Her energy was completely different. Frail and unsure of herself she filled gaps in any conversation with nervous laughter, oversharing, and questions you had the feeling she didn’t really care to hear the answers to. This was her third archery breathwork session with me. I was bringing her some arrows without letting her shoot on her own yet. Something didn’t feel stable.

After a few guided rounds through the shot process and breathing exercises, she said she was ready to give it a ‘go’. She breathed. Took her stance. Nocked her arrow and set her release. She took three more self-conscious breaths then drew back the bow. At full draw she started looking around excitedly instead of taking clear aim. She started to turn her body with the weaponized bow around to say something to the group. I was right next to her so she only got a few degrees off target. I quickly and firmly said


She reactively pulled the trigger releasing an arrow off target that burrowed loud and deep into a board nearby. The ponies whinnied. She was stunned. Her body started shaking off the stress of the explosion, and she fell silent for the first time. I found her eyes, smiled and coregulated with a few long nasal breaths and asked her to ground with me. Then we took a slow walk to get her broken arrow.

The moment was perfect. 

There had been no moment like this yet in her recovery process. The bow gave her a chance to feel a consequence connected to her nervous system. She realized the phrase “YOU ARE FULLY LOADED” when out of control landed as an obvious connection to her experience abusing substances. She’d been fully loaded driving her kid home from school, at work, in relationships that didn’t have clear aim. She had spent her life taking risks without being fully present; caring more about the next hit (of attention, drugs, excitement) than of her own health. She hurt herself and others along the way. The power of the bow showed her how she has patterned her nervous system to dissociate during excitement. To deny responsibility. To look for a way out.

I asked her what her body felt like when she was at full draw turning away from target.

Dissociated. Nervous, Excited. Buzzed. Spaced out.

When you read that state in any situation, that’s your cue that you’re in the Fully Loaded pattern. It’s your cue to breathe and ground yourself in the moment before taking action. Let’s use the bow to practice moving through the old pattern to take calm ownership of yourself, for yourself.

But can you keep me safe? 

No. Only you can do that. I’ll be right here to help you go step by step, but it’s not safe, it’s a weapon. You just learned that. And it doesn’t care about you, so you must. 

Understandably she didn’t want to shoot again. But that’s exactly what recovery of any kind is. Stepping back up to the line to learn from your past without dragging the shame of mistakes into the next shot.

This is your chance. Do you want to recover from that last shot, from the last relapse? Take a stand. Breathe. Do the shot process at your own pace and if you lose focus, start calmly over. There is no pressure. You have complete control over this experience.

She read, regulated, and reinforced calm attention on that draw and dozens after for the next full hour. She dropped into her practice. It was beautiful. She remade herself; grounded, calm, and quietly confident. 

The 12 time recovery gal came by to walk arm in arm with her as they left the range. It’s not about how many times you go through something, or how many lost arrows of words, deeds, or weapons you flung in your past. It’s about finding your practice to claim power back in the enduring process of recovery. Stability is trainable.

This work was pre-COVID at 4 Winds Farm and informed by the process I co-created with my archery mentor through Challenge Aspen Military Opportunities to train self regulation skills in multi day archery breathwork retreats for combat veterans.


Give and Take | Emily Hightower

Issue #15

If someone says “hi” to you, you say “hi” back. To not do that would be rude. But why? We’re socially wired to reciprocate. There’s a stress response called Tend and Befriend where we curate relationships based on anything we have in common in exchange for tribal safety in numbers. If you’ve ever been in a new group environment you can witness yourself adjusting your style of speech and body language to fit in. It’s a subconscious response in our wiring. The more secure we are in ourselves, the less this nervous system response kicks in. It takes stability to be authentic. 

Our need to reciprocate works against us in the Attention Economy where this biological drive to connect makes us spend our time (ourselves) to repay attention in an unfair exchange that can cost us our stability. 

What’s unfair about it? 

When someone says “hi” to you passing by on the street it takes the same energy to say “hi” back. Compare that to how much energy it takes you to ‘like’ something on social media. You can ‘like’ something without even reading the content. Just a tiny touch of the screen and you’ve made a mark. How that mark is received is not energetically equal for most. Most of us put a higher value on ‘likes’ than they deserve. We spend our premium, sacred time and attention trying to get more of these little marks that require very little investment from the other people involved. 

This is true of comments as well. It takes very little energy for someone to spew their opinion in response to your post; much less time than it probably took you to make that post. The need to reciprocate to all comments can rob you of energy and set expectations about how you will respond in the future. A circle of call and response takes over that might not match the actual budget you have for giving attention to what you truly care about. 

This is not to say valuable exchanges cannot come from social media! I’ve met some of my favorite teachers and SH//FT members through those thoughtful exchanges.

When someone texts you, the biological desire to reciprocate clicks in immediately. If you have notifications turned on, you’ll be notified of the message no matter what you are doing. To not respond requires going against your biology. To respond immediately means switching attention from whatever you were actually doing which can include everything from cooking, being with your kids, and even driving. (I’m guilty of all) This type of switching adds up throughout the day. Scattering attention to reciprocate texts, emails, snapchats etc. weakens your presence and drains you attention reserve for real-time experiences. 

One way to work with this drive in your favor is to batch how you spend yourself. Batch windows of time when you’ll respond to your notifications and audit the amount of energy you’re willing to engage with in things like comments on social media from a more stable, aware place.

When we give from a place of stability, we get stability in exchange. When we give from a place of need, we get needy.  

In Time,

Emily Hightower

What is Attention? | Emily Hightower

Issue #13


A late middle English word worth 9 Scrabble points, “attention” is defined first and foremost as:

notice taken of someone or something; the regarding of someone or something as interesting or important”

The similes for “attention” include: 

Awareness, Notice, Observation, and CONSCIOUSNESS

Our attention is the currency of our consciousness. When we PAY attention we are in a transaction with the objects of our consciousness that reciprocate something in return.

If you pay attention to cleaning and resetting your rooms throughout the day, you get a tidy space in return. Pay attention to your finances and you can generate wealth. Pay attention to your breath, body, and what’s right for you and you create more health.

If it’s that simple, why are we experiencing declines in mental, physical, emotional, financial, and interpersonal health?*

Our economy now relies on grabbing people’s attention to get us to spend our time (ourselves) in front of platforms with ads to hopefully buy more and more things we don’t actually need or even want. The more things we buy, the more things need our attention. The more distracted we are, the less we notice what’s right for us and the more uncomfortable with our reality we become. Enter more distractions to avoid reality. If we don’t have agency over our attention, we spend it on things that are not actually ‘important’ and lose ourselves, our values, and our health along the way.

To regain agency over health in this era, we need to reclaim our attention. This requires skill. 

There are many forms of attention from the perspective of your neurophysiology. For example; you can be hyperfocused on something acute like giving a talk or driving on ice, casually attending to something like stirring noodles, dispersed and distracted switching from things every few seconds, spaced out watching TV, or globally aware in a state of deep meditation and healing. Can you ‘read’ the difference in yourself? Social media, for example, takes our attention in a dispersed and distracted way that can drain reserves of attention for important things like in-person relationships.

Are you AWARE that the average person in will spend over 5 years and 4 months of their life on social media** If you’re in that average, what are you getting in return for that time and attention spent? Is it worth it? Would you take back any of those years if you could in the end? Why? What’s MORE important that you’re missing through the disconnected drain of the attention economy’s grip?

Our attention is a finite resource that ebbs and flows based on our energy systems. If you know how to read where your attention is going and how to direct these energy systems you can generate rewarding states of health and sustainable balance despite the noise of modern life. You can reclaim yourself.

Our SH//FT HEALTH program helps you Master Time and Attention: the most valuable currencies in modern life.


With Breath,

Emily Hightower





Embrace The Dark | Emily Hightower

Issue #11

This week’s Solstice is an undeniable bookmark in the seasons. It’s a holiday that doesn’t require any stories or religions to understand. We’re in the darkest week of the year with the 21st being the longest night. Every living thing in the North knows it’s time to hunker down. Except us.

We keep the lights on and the cities humming! We fight the dark with pills to give us energy and calendars to keep us ‘on schedule’. Meanwhile we miss an opportunity to go with the dark, and in the dark there is power.

Darkness gives everything a chance to go inward; to slow down, be more silent, and tune in to our real needs. All of nature aligns with this strategy. What grows and survives in the spring belongs. If we don’t take time to tune into the darkness we risk investing in and growing things (ideas, behaviors, relationship patterns) that do not belong anymore in our lives. Rest and reflection is vital to create awareness and balance.

The work of Dr. Thomas Wehr challenged everything about our beginnings into the avoidance of the dark in the 1990’s. In his study after 3-weeks of removing all artificial light people returned to what we thought was lost or did not exist; a type of sleep that must have only existed during our paleolithic times. A deep reset into our biology, something we seek now through various interventions.

Our Hightower family marks the Winter Solstice with friends at a ranch nearby where our buddy collects enormous piles of deadfall all year just for the occasion. He’ll make a bonfire as big as a house. Dogs and kids will play in the snow around adults and elders and tables of food. No one can stop themselves from casually adding logs (and trees) to the fire. As it grows beyond reason, the contrast expands between the blaze and the dark winter night in every direction around us.

If people want they write down something on paper for the Solstice fire to take to the winds; as if burning it will digest it into form. But there’s no formal ceremony or rules to follow here. People just naturally start burning things, including ideas, emotions, habits, regrets. Some use the fire to mark what they are letting go of, some to claim what they’ll grow in the spring cycle.

We encourage you if you haven’t already to go inward this week. Start by noticing your artificial lights. If you dare, use candles and fire at night and let go of the screen time especially before bed. Be bored like the seeds hibernating in the soil right now. You might get tired sooner, wake up more rested. In the morning, let the dawn light come when it’s ready instead of rushing it in with screens and houselights. Be with the natural darkness and tune into yourself. Breathe. The morning darkness is an especially sacred time to reflect and write.

What would you like to ‘burn’ and let go of when you sit with the shadows? How would that make more space in your life?

What would you like to focus on and build with the coming lighter days?

No matter what your process is these shifts come through our nervous system. If you can pause and be with the dark long enough to listen your body will show you what it needs and wisdom percolates through. Being in deep states of meditation, sleep, or Yoga Nidra can facilitate these connections without words. Just trust your body, give it the dark inward time it craves. Allow what you choose to keep with you to grow slowly and surely with the coming light.


Emily and Brian

All of the Time | Emily Hightower

Issue #8

According to physics, time is relative. But what does that mean? Thanks to a remarkable history teacher and her Navajo friend, I started asking this question in 5th grade.

Nancy Priest had two long gray braids, stood around 5’5”, and towered over our middle school egos. We loved and respected her because she expected a lot out of us. She didn’t use textbooks and memorization tests. She asked questions, told stories, created traditions, and made us think. Her connection to indigenous cultures informed her style.

Nancy and her husband Ben had established a warm friendship with several Native American tribes including the Navajo and Hopi Nations. I was among a lucky group who took an extended class trip with them to the desert southwest. Along the journey we made traditional fry bread in a remote canyon where a Navajo Elder gathered us by a fire.

The Elder said time is hard to explain to modern people who think time is linear. The Navajo language has no verb tenses for past and future. We don’t separate time, he explained. Time is always now. We were totally confused, so he asked us to think about what one minute means. He said one minute is not linear, it’s relative. One minute with your hand on a hot stove is not the same as one minute kissing someone you have a crush on. Amidst the squirms and giggles a jolt of “a-HA” struck me. If a minute wasn’t a minute, what was it? It wasn’t 60 seconds anymore. It was now.

It’s impossible with my cultural conditioning to fully understand how the Navajo traditionally experienced time. Einstein’s Theory of Relativity was about speed creating changes to time, and I imagine if he and the Navajo had a fireside chat they would have enlightened one another. One thing is clear; our modern culture relates to time in destructive ways.

For the future, we put time into linear blocks on a digital screen. We tuck time into these blocks to scale and produce incredible things that we hardly experience as we fixate on more productivity for an imagined future. People literally eat while pooping to get more done in less time, missing out on both wonderful parts of the day! When we feel present long enough to notice, we skip around screens to distract ourselves. We have scaled time to speed it up so much that we never have enough. We’re so worried about being ON time that we’re never IN time.

When it comes to the past, Nancy Priest said history doesn’t tell us what happened, it tells us about who is telling it. History is subjective; we can only see it from the present edition of ourselves. When you think about your past you get a real-time physiological response based on how you feel about what you think happened. In this way the past isn’t fixed, it’s relative to your present. What does your story about your past say about you today? How can you use your body’s signals in real time to understand what it currently means? Can you work with that using breath, the ultimate way to be here, now?

The past and the future are not written, they are created today relative to our ability to be present with what is.

By questioning how we relate to time we can show up with awareness to behave with integrity to our values and the reality of this moment. How does that change your relationship to your history? How would it shift your relationship to your perceived future, which only emerges from how well you show up in this time, now?

It’s hard to be present ‘all of the time’ unless we realize there is no time other than now. Maybe the indigenous people of the planet can help show our ‘civilized’ culture how to be in time more fully. Maybe that could help us manage the diseases of behavior and disconnection we are suffering from with more skill.

Brian and I are cooking up some incredible resources to help. Sign up to be the first to know when we release a renewed version of Mentorship very soon….

In Time,

Emily Hightower