More knowledge, More Simplicity, Being able to hold nothing, Definition of Presence, Connecting with your physicality, Using technology for embodiment, and more.
Guest: Johnny Blackburn
Residing in San Diego, CA, he is a highly respected authority on human embodiment, connection and professional performance. Blackburn’s original background in management consulting, Master’s degree in Psychology and more than 1500 client-coaching hours as a professionally certified coach with the International Coach Federation all combined with extensive professional development training make him a highly sought after guide to greater levels of presence, openness and thriving.
Personally, Johnny enjoys many forms of movement, martial arts, surfing, dancing Tango, being outdoors, reading, learning, laughing, preparing and eating delicious slow food, local community gatherings, traveling the world, going to festivals, having authentic conversations with friends, loved ones & “strangers”, and being still.
In this episode, Johnny gives us the best explanation of what Presence means, and explains why people want to have Presence in their life. We also cover why you need to deeply connect to your physicality, how you can use technology for embodiment, and much more.
Resources: Johnny Blackburn Website
More knowledge, more simplicity
The more knowledge we have in life, the more simplicity. But it’s not just about getting more content, it’s about synthesis. The real growth and mastery of something happens when we take the information and synthesize it into prioritization.
The people with the most well-rounded, deepest knowledge, not only understand it better than anyone, but can also explain complex concepts in a simple manner.
For example: A great coach knows how to take a complex movement and orchestrate it into an integrated movement pattern of simpler movements.
“They just move through the world like a ninja.” — Johnny Blackburn
Who is Johnny Blackburn?
Johnny Blackburn is an authority on human embodiment, connection and professional performance. He started his career in business management consulting, but had a life altering experience in his early 20s, as a result of a really bad back injury.
Johnny tried all kinds of physiotherapy and chiropractic work to fix his back pain, but nothing worked. So he did an experimental surgery, which is not available anymore, as it involved heating and melting spinal discs, which was a really bad idea. It put Johnny out for a whole year, where he couldn’t take care of himself whatsoever.
Johnny used to be an athletic, healthy guy, and the back injury experience had him reevaluate his life in a deep way. He found a new appreciation not only for his life, but especially for his body and movement.
It took him 4 years to fully recover, but today at 38 years old, he has a more functional body than he had 20 years ago, when he was a football athlete in high school.
Upon completing his recovery, Johnny got back to school and got his Master’s degree in Psychology. Although he liked psychology, he realized there is a limit to talking, so he learned about embodiment developmental coaching, and has been coaching others for the past 10 years.
The conventional young man wants to be successful, powerful, get money, cars, and girls. The desire to develop yourself usually comes from a crisis or inspiration.
A calling is the first step out of the conventional thinking, and it can take different forms, such as examining and questioning your beliefs, family origins, roots, and what’s actually true.
When you are first developing your new self, you think about how you are going to reformulate your beliefs into new more functional belief systems, and you open yourself into new possibilities.
Once the intellectual work is done, some people go onto training or an initiation, which is the next step in personal development. They get into physical healing by going to workshops, where the experience is hands on and can be felt through the body, not just the mind.
While it’s a huge step forward towards becoming your best self, listening to podcast after podcast can only get you so far. Going through live events with people in-person and making physical human interactions in workshop for example, is the next personal development level, where the biggest gains can be achieved.
“Lack of time is lack of priorities.” — Tim Ferriss
Being able to hold nothing
Johnny’s back injury prevented him doing most things, but also made time for things he wanted to do, but never got around to, such as reading books, meditating, and watching movies.
He was in his early 20’s, he couldn’t work, he moved in with his parents, and his recovery and long and slow. He was lonely most of the time while his parents and friends were working or out, so it forced him to a lot of introspective time.
He discovered a bunch of deep things during that time. Once of them was the importance of being able to hold nothing. He realized that from a presence perspective, people tend to operate just from their mind. If there’s silence, people get awkward because they then have to sense and feel other things.
“We are training our attention to be fully engaged at the activity at hand, but when there’s not any, it’s intended be wide open and spacious.” — Johnny Blackburn
Definition of Presence
Johnny Blackburn’s definition of Presence is embodiment, connection, and awareness.
You know how you experience when someone walks in the room with powerful presence. For example: A star on stage, a performer, or an athlete, their presence commands your attention, you can’t not look.
Think about the intimate connection and closeness that you have with a lover, healer, or mother.
The quality of infinite spacious openness that spiritual healers point to.
Pro tip: Johnny like the pomodoro technique for his work routine. He works fully engaged for 25 minutes, and then takes a break for 5 minutes, where he is meditating, being still, or moving.
Connecting with your physicality
The best athletes in the world are the ones with the best feel. They know how to fully contract their muscles and fully relax. For example: To be able to perform a beautiful, heavy snatch (an olympic weightlifting movement), you need to be well versed in feeling and controlling your body.
Sensory awareness is not present in every athlete. Physicality and body awareness are different things, and even if you meditate, work out, and try to connect to your body, you may not be well connected. You need to deeply connect to your emotions to feel your physicality.
To develop a better feel, Johnny commonly recommends his clients to perform both standing and lying down body scanning, do trauma release exercises (TRE), and go through a vipassana retreat.
Mike increased his connection to his physicality. Nowadays, he doesn’t wait for things to be over as much as he used to, he actually enjoyed being more engaged and feeling the burning sensation of his body during a CrossFit workout for example.
FRIEND OF THE SHOW
Using technology to increase Presence
Spire is a small wearable that tracks your health, including breathing and sleep patterns. Johnny likes the device mostly for work, as it helps him bring his awareness back by vibrating when his breath goes out of sync.
Johnny thinks our future will have wearable biofeedback devices to help train our nervous system. When he is calm and present, his breathing pattern is between 6–8 breaths per minute. When he’s working, it sometimes goes up to 18 breaths per minute! Which is burning up oxygen and drains him of energy. Today he is more trained to be aware while he’s working, which gets him less tense and exhausted. At the end of the his work day, he’s still invigorated.
A big part of why people lose Presence comes from our modern lifestyle. We’re not design to sit for 8 hours in front of the computer. It makes our hips shut down. We also don’t know how to express emotions sometimes. Lack of expressing emotions, as well as emotional and physical trauma, mean emotions get stuck in our bodies. We need to learn how to process emotions, reclaim our power and get access to more skills.
“Trauma and emotion from the past that is unmetabolized still get stored at some level in the body.” — Johnny Blackburn
Connecting with others
Often times, people avoid personal connections because they want to guard their heart. One of the best ways to open up and improve connections is by doing the circling method, which trains Presence in connection.
Circling is usually done in a group setting, where people can experience what’s inside their body and their emotions. The exercise involves being able to listen to someone for a long time, paying close attention to what they’re saying and how it makes you feel.
A lot of times, we are thinking about what we want to say during a conversation, instead of fully listening and registering what the other person has said. We need to slow things down, slow our talking, and pull the awareness in.
The beginnings of all meditations is turning attention to stay, and one of the best ways to increase awareness is to meditate. When you are a beginner at meditation, there is the concept of zero or one, where you focus on one thing or empty the mind.
Quieting of the mind happens when we focus our attention. The progression tends to be focusing attention and then opening oneself. Meditating and initiating our engagement helps with everything in life: Train focused attention, relax personal sense of self, and expand awareness of self.
Pro tip: Headspace is a highly recommended tool for an intro to meditation. There are a bunch of guided meditations, it tracks your progress, and you can choose between different session durations.
Why do people want presence?
At first, Presence helps people connect to their deep motivation and inspiration. Then it helps them prioritize and align their lives. They find out what’s limiting them, get to liberate it, and align their life in a way that supports their uncovered true path.
When it comes to Presence, there is a lot of attention that goes into the realization of feeling something new, something we never felt before. After awhile though, if we don’t integrate our new lessons, we go back to the same person we were before. The integration is where the work is at, and where the real gains are achieved.
Developing your own routine
Johnny has a deep curiosity about life and being human. He always lives with the question of ‘What’s possible?’ Johnny was an early adopter of the standing desk, breath monitor, high fast diets, and more. He has a deep curiosity on how to operate functionally and optimally.
Johnny tends to wake up between 5–6am everyday. He starts with meditation and Qi Gong breath work, then eats breakfast, and then gets into his most work, as his most productive period is between 7–10am.
Johnny only sees clients on Mondays and Saturdays and doesn’t take nootropics those days, so he doesn’t talk too much. On other days of the week, he focuses on alone time, focused work.
When it comes to applying Presence, Johnny trying to bring Presence everywhere, including the gym. He tries to feel his body to the highest extent, for example: When he performs a push press, he can feel his right foot energy going up to his leg, up to his core, and into the shoulder.
“We can’t actually feel a lot of our body.” — Johnny Blackburn