Discovering Your Dawn: Only when you find your dawn can you unlock your true potential

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The developed world no longer suffers from diseases of deficiency.


Instead we get the diseases of excess. This century has seen an explosion of obesity, diabetes, chronic pain, hypertension, and even a resurgence of gout. It is almost as if there are so few external threats to contend with that all our stored energy instead wreaks havoc on our insides. There is a growing consensus among many scientists and athletes that humans were not built for eternal and effortless homeostasis. Evolution made us seek comfort because comfort was never the norm.

Human biology needs stress—not the sort of stress that damages muscle, gets us eaten by a bear, or degrades our physiques, but the sort of environmental and physical oscillations that invigorate our nervous systems.

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Muscles, organs, nerves, fat tissue, and hormones all respond and change because of input they get from the outside world. Critically, some external signals set off a cascade of physiological responses that skip the conscious parts of our brains and connect to a place that controls a well-spring of hidden physical reactions called collectively fight-or-flight responses.

For example, a plunge into ice-cold water not only triggers a number of processes to warm the body, but also tweaks insulin production, tightens the circulatory system, and heightens mental awareness. A person actually has to get uncomfortable and experience that frigid cold if they want to initiate those systems. But who wants to do that?

In recent years a counterculture has tried to push back against technological overzealousness to reclaim some of our animal nature. At least eight million people have bought a product called the Squatty Potty, a device for the toilet to help a person poop in a squatting stance like our pre-toileted forebears did. Millions more sign up for obstacle course races that feature electrified grids, pools of freezing water, and grueling climbs over wooden barriers.

They compete until they are so bone tired that their muscles shake. They puke in the mud with tears in their eyes. How did pain become a luxury good? Could it be that there is a specific sort of pain that might serve a hidden evolutionary function? Advanced technology permeates everything we do, but the people who decide to abandon some of that comfort for the rawness of nature represent an indigenous ethos that has almost been wiped out by a societal desire for comfort.

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For most of our evolutionary past, comfort was a rare treat and stress was a constant. The lower parts of our brain formed in environments where there were always physical challenges to overcome, and those challenges were part of what made us human in the first place. Despite all of our technology, our bodies are just not ready for a world so completely tamed by our desire for comfort.

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Sometimes they turn inward and wreak havoc on our insides. This book is largely about what happens when we reexamine our relationship with the environment and see ourselves as a part of something bigger than the comfortable spaces we mostly choose to live in. It explores how changing the environment around the body also fundamentally changes the body itself. By contrast, much if not all of Brak sits above the floodplain. That makes its earlier levels more accessible, theoretically. In the course of his dig here, Mallowan had uncovered a mysterious building he called the Eye Temple, for its thousands of unique votive objects with flat, trapezoidal bodies and thick necks topped with pairs of huge eyes.

He also found evidence of richly decorated copper and gold work as well as small clay cones painted on their ends to adorn walls. This was a style popular in distant Uruk in the centuries after B. He did not suspect that under his feet was evidence of an urban society independent of ancient Sumer, and at least as old.

Arriving at Brak in , Joan Oates wanted to explore the period before B. But her husband vetoed the plan as too risky. A huge mound like Brak is no simple wedding cake, with early layers below and later layers above; rather, it is a mind-bogglingly complicated mass of jumbled history. Wind and rain have had their way with the site in the 3, years since it was completely abandoned.

Broken pottery bits have drifted down slopes, mixing with earlier potsherds. Foundations have vanished in sudden flash floods. A stone throne sits overturned in a deep gully, far from where its royal occupant once sat. Try to reach an early layer, David Oates knew, and you might find yourself exhausting both your time and money before you hit pay dirt. And money has been a perpetual source of anxiety at Brak. Team members live in canvas tents during the spring and fall seasons—stifling on the frequent hot days, and uncomfortable at night when temperatures can plunge to near freezing.

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Only this year did electricity arrive. So Joan patiently bided her time as she and her husband excavated the rich upper layers of the high mound. Then one day in , her son spotted signs of a thick-walled building just below the surface on the northeast end of Brak, and her husband began to dig along what proved to be a fortification from the second millennium B. But in one corner of the excavation, Joan discovered bits of pottery dating back a thousand years farther. This time her husband agreed. It took a decade of arduous work on a steep section of the hillside to carve back through the centuries.

One morning, as if we are setting out for a stroll through the English countryside, she takes me on a walk across the mound to the massive wedge-shaped hole she and a generation of archaeologists and local workers have carefully made, its back wall soaring more than 30 feet. A slight woman in an off-white windbreaker, Oates pauses in the trench and peers around. She looks annoyed. One of the most dramatic discoveries at Tell Brak is a large building with massive redbrick walls and ovens nearly 10 feet across.

The types of pottery found, along with radiocarbon analysis of ash deposits, date the building to about B.

By contrast, few large structures have been found from a time before B. All about lay an array of beautiful stones collected and stored for making beads: jasper, marble, serpentine, diorite. The site also contained a large chunk of bitumen, a valuable tarlike substance used to bind stone or wood, which had to have been imported from eastern Iraq or Turkey. Mother-of-pearl inlays lay cut and ready to be placed in jewelry. The remains of sheep and goats abounded, as did spindle whorls, probably used to make yarn, and simple looms—all clear signs of weaving activity. Among the most notable artifacts unearthed was a lavish, black-and-white chalice, its cup made of obsidian and its base of white marble, the two held together with bitumen.

The rim of the cup showed evidence that it had been overlaid with a valuable metal such as gold, long since removed. Whoever owned the chalice clearly held great power.

A new theory promises to unlock your body’s full potential—and is actually scientifically sound

Nearby was a piece of clay bearing a large impression of a beautifully carved striding lion, a symbol of royalty even today. Amid a pile of mass-produced bowls were potsherds with marks similar to the pictographs that show up more than half a millennium later in the first writing system, cuneiform. Those marks may be the earliest evidence of writing anywhere in the world. Beneath the redbrick building, Oates and her team found a more modest one dating to about B. This earlier structure was a center of craft production on a large scale and was also a busy site of communal cooking, judging from its huge ovens set next to plastered basins and bins.

Just outside ran a street paved with pottery shards, headed for what Oates believes was a north gate facing the resource-rich mountains of Turkey. Next door, Oates uncovered a large edifice with a massive basalt threshold and thick walls, entered by passing through two small rooms, perhaps guardhouses. She believes this is the oldest administrative center yet known. Nearby, the excavators found bits of clay stamped with lion and snake motifs, seals that signified ownership of property, and a statuette with large eyes.

At the Eye Temple, the site of an earlier dig on the southern side of the mound, Oates found signs that the earliest structure here dates back to about B. And nearby, in another trench, her team found traces of a brick platform and a wall built 1, years before that.