Humans have long taken pride in their ability to “push forward” and “tackle the challenge ahead.” Yet even if you’re dead-set on getting somewhere in life, there’s much to be gained from spending part of your day moving in the opposite direction. Here are some simple activities that underscore the benefits of going in reverse, both mentally and physically.
Walk backward: Native American folklore suggests that 100 steps backward are as good as 1,000 steps forward. According to present-day health experts, that’s not just a spiritual maxim. Incorporating 10 minutes of backward walking or jogging a few times a week provides you with increased body coordination, improved sleep cycles, increased strength in leg muscles, sharpened thinking skills, and improved balance. Who couldn’t use more of those?
Heal backward: Modern medicine continues to turn back the clock in favor of treating the whole person and not just the outward symptoms of disease. Even general practitioners have begun prescribing the same tinctures and plants the Chinese were using 2,000 years ago. Acupuncture, fasting, reiki… and NYU School of Medicine is researching the benefits of microdosing psychedelics on PTSD, anxiety and depression. The hippies were ahead of their time.
Record backward: Backmasking is a recording technique in which a sound or message is recorded backward onto a track that is meant to be played forward. Backmasking was popularised by the Beatles, who used backward instrumentation on their 1966 album Revolver, particularly the guitar solo on “Tomorrow Never Knows.” (Note: the later chant of “Paul is dead” when playing “Revolution Number 9” backwards was a concoction of an overzealous fan in Michigan and not an example of backmasking.)
Think backward: Da Vinci often wrote backwards, his notes only decipherable when held up to a mirror. Ginger Rogers is praised for having done everything Fred Astaire did—but backwards. Philip K. Dick wrote an interesting novel about people experiencing life in reverse, starting with death.
Work backward: Rather than starting with an idea and trying to persuade customers to embrace it, here one starts with the customer and works backward to figure out what they want. At Amazon, the process begins with a manager writing an internal press release announcing the debut of a new product, with information about how current solutions are failing and why the new product will solve this problem. Only then is a decision is made whether to actually develop it.
Age backward: Is this really possible? Well, it can’t hurt to try.
Keep going backward: Obviously, this backward business is also invaluable when considering our individual response to climate change, turning back clocks for daylight savings time, and watching movies shot before you were born.
A reminder that January 31st is “National Backward Day”. Start now and by the time the day rolls around, you’ll be an expert at reverse logic.
*It’s interesting to note that the ability to recite the alphabet backwards is used both as an indicator of giftedness in children, and as a measure of sobriety in adults.
We don’t know about you, but here at SuperOptimist headquarters, the past couple of weeks have been filled with more than our share of unfortunate events: a car battery dying at an inopportune time, a dog spraining his right front paw, chaotic deadlines at the office, a pulled muscle in the lower back, and an errant glass of water spilling on a laptop to the tune of a $1500 replacement.
So when we discovered that the planet Mercury had gone into retrograde on October 13th, and will continue that way for a few more days, we weren’t in the least surprised. After all, the hallmarks of Mercury Retrograde are often negative and doom-laden. Disruptions, miscommunication, and worrying more than usual are but some of the troubles one can expect. And all this comes in the midst of voting for the U.S. president, as friends, neighbors and the country-at-large are made frantic by the possibility that we’re in for another contested election. (Guess when the last presidential face-off to happen during Mercury Retrograde was? That’s right. Yikes.)
So whether you’re a believer in astrology or you think it’s all hocum and nonsense, this latest cycle is due to end at 12:50 pm on November 3rd. Whether this is good news or not, will depend on how you play it.
SuperOptimists, believing that every negative is a positive in disguise, do not run from the trials of Mercury Retrograde. In fact, we welcome them! Consider that these are not negative events, but moments designed to wake us out of the semi-conscious state in which we often pass our time.
In our case, the unwelcome expenditure on a laptop reminds us that hey, it’s only money and now we’ll have a faster hard drive and more memory; our dog’s sore paw helps us honor the animal kingdom by loving her even more and give her an extra treat, the bad back an opportunity to slow down, take stock, and correct mistakes we made trying a power yoga move when we should start with mild stretching.
Just as spiritual practitioners welcome pain as a teaching tool, our Mercury Retrograde exposure helps us foster patience and focus the mind. As we rise above present discomforts, we’ll be better prepared for whatever comes next. (Including 6 more months of social isolation, our candidate not winning the election, and the cancellation of our favorite program on netflix.)
Best of all, without Mercury Retrograde, we wouldn’t know how good we have it when it’s not Mercury Retrograde. And for that, we’re eternally grateful.
*Mercury Retrograde doesn’t mean the planet has suddenly changed direction, but that from the perspective of the Earth, it appears to be moving backwards against the constellations of stars that form the zodiac. So it’s an illusion…but then again, isn’t everything?
Unless you are an anthropoid or alien, sometime in the last 24 hours you had a moment of doubt, worry or alarm.
It might have been fear of losing your job. Or possibly you distrusted a friend or partner’s feelings for you. Maybe you worried that fire or storms would destroy your home. Or had a nagging feeling that getting older might actually kill you. Why, with Halloween almost upon us, you might even have a fear of All Hallow’s Eve itself. (This is termed Samhainophobia, and originates from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to usher in the darker time of year — and ward off ghosts.)
Whatever your trepidation, how do you get rid of gnawing anxiety, creepy shivers, or full blown panic?
Start by thinking of one scary thing that’s on your mind right now. Something you tend to avoid, but that sparks fear in you. Whatever your boogeyman is, say the word out loud. Be it “sharks” or “elevators” or “corporate administrators” or “trapped on a Boeing 737 Max.” Giving voice to your fear can make you realize that what spooks you is mostly living in a dark corner of your mind, and is not an imminent threat. If sharks scare you and you live in Kansas, the worry is not a real threat. If you work on Wall Street and have a fear of farm threshers, you’re good for now.
Now take it a step further: Think about the worst thing that could happen if your fear actually materialized. What if that shark found its way to Kansas and bit your leg clean off? It’s true your professional tap-dancing career could be over, but you might still go on to win a gold medal in the Paralympics. If you lost your business, lost your faithful dog, lost your spouse or lost your mind, it can be the start of a bold new chapter in your life adventure.
The point is, when your worst fears happen, it is never game over. You will always have the power to change your attitude, even in the worst of situations. What about death, you ask? On the plus side, you finally get a good night’s sleep!
But this doesn’t mean you should walk around completely unprepared for the worst. Excrement does hit the fan, so what is the simplest solution to overcoming the fear you may be avoiding? After all, the only thing worse than our fear becoming manifest is being caught with our pants down, when we always knew better.
Book to read before asking for a raise.
In August 1953, an obscure country boy named Elvis Presley walked into the offices of Sun Records. He aimed to pay for a few minutes of studio time to record a two-sided acetate disc: “My Happiness” and “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin.”
He later claimed that he was merely interested in what he “sounded like”, although there was a much cheaper, amateur record-making service at a nearby general store. Biographer Peter Guralnick thinks that he chose Sun in the hope of being discovered. Asked by receptionist Marion Keisker what kind of singer he was, Presley responded, “I sing all kinds.” When she pressed him on who he sounded like, he repeatedly answered, “I don’t sound like nobody.”
Elvis couldn’t imagine what was coming next for him. How could he foresee a glorious career of legendary fame and musical adventure? The future is hidden until it happens. You never know what you might be capable of, until later. If you knew what was in store for you, life wouldn’t be nearly so interesting. So maybe it’s time for you to head down to Memphis. You never know what might come of it.