Saturday, October 17, 2009
Sri Eknath Easwaran is one of my heroes and teachers. The meditation center near Tomales Bay, California that he founded carries on his universal message and work.
I appreciate his simplicity of language in the small text below, in forcing me to question my behavior. I'm having a push-pull kind of day, and coming upon his words helps me to put my conflicting desires and resistance in perspective.
I've been struggling this morning with addictive behavior (being glued to this computer) vs. choosing how to spend the day. After reflecting on Easwaran's simple but potent-for-me reminder, here's how I intend to choreograph the rest of the day ~~
~ monitor and track all food (and exercise)
~ sitting practice
~ yoga asanas
~ work on debate material
~ complete Spanish commentary on art work currently on exhibition
~ consider doing Coach Nicole's cardio work-out DVD
Blessed be and may it be so!
"Most of us are not aware to what extent our desires are compulsive. We do not realize how often they push and shove us about without any say on our part.
"But when we think 'I would like a hot fudge sundae,' it would be more accurate to say that the desire is thinking us. Intellectually we may know that a hot fudge sundae means more calories than we need; but the desire has a hold on us, and we believe, temporarily, this is what will satisfy us. Not until we have eaten the sundae do we reflect, 'That's not what I really wanted. Why did I eat it?'
"Not that there is anything wrong in eating sundaes. The important point is having the capacity to choose. For 'hot fudge sundae' we can substitute our own favorite pleasures.
"Some may not be harmful in themselves, but when the inability to choose extends to destructive habits such as smoking, drinking, or taking drugs (or any other addictions), we begin to cause suffering to ourselves and to those around us."
-- Eknath Easwaran
Friday, October 16, 2009
Two blog entries in one day -- UNHEARD OF! But I LOVE my weekly KarmaTube subscription. And I can't wait until tomorrow to share this week's video which I just received. It's just TOO KEW-EL! I want to go to OdenPlan, Stockholm, Sweden to play!
"If stairs played musical notes when you walked on them, would you be more likely to take them? Volkswagen has launched a popular new campaign called "The Fun Theory" which is "dedicated to the thought that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people's behavior for the better." It turns out that 66% more commuters opted for stairs over the escalators! Take a look at this utterly clever (and fun!) idea."
Click on this link to check it out! --
Friday, October 16, 2009
It's exasperating to me that achieving and maintaining my optimal weight has to be such a constant challenge, the endeavor of a lifetime, requiring non-stop vigilence. As I enter the latter years of this life, it becomes clearer and clearer that the things that count, that expand my consciousness and wellness of body-mind-spirit are the true "healing that I took birth for" and that OF COURSE these all-important aspects of my life require my ongoing diligence of attention and care. They're the things that really count.
I've been "off track" for a couple months...not tracking food and not exercising. Why? Oh, I have at least a dozen excuses...but all of the great teachers I have "bumped up against" say that WHY is irrelevant, that simply to pick up and continue where I left off is the point. And so, Wednesday I found the inner resources to assist me in picking up...in weighing (1.2 pounds up from SPage weight) and beginning to MOVE, tracking both food and exercise. So baby-step by baby-step I'm moving back to balance. I'm not going to change my SP weight, because I hope to be back to that point in the foreseeable future and I don't like that going-backward-stance that the posting requires of me. It's just how I'm going to deal with it.
This write-up spoke to me in its enlightened overview of health of body-mind-spirit, with the kind of dense and scientifically validated information that works for me and was one of several things encouraging me to reset myself on the path this week. I share the core of the text. The link to the article in its entirety is at the end.
Old rule #1: A calorie is a calorie.
New rule: All calories are not created equal.
It is true that if you take in more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. But it's also true that the nutritional quality of those calories plays a big role in how many calories your body burns. So if you're simply counting calories without looking at the nutritional value of what you're eating, you're asking for trouble.
Why? Because our bodies require a consistent balance of healthy macronutrients (complex carbs, high-quality proteins and healthy fats), as well as micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals), plus adequate enzymes, fiber, water, and so on in order to function optimally. When we don't get these things, our energy levels drop, our hormones and neurotransmitters get imbalanced, and our metabolism stops working efficiently. We simply aren't as healthy as we should be, and our bodies don't regulate much of anything (including our weight and body composition) as well as they are designed to.
The health of our metabolism -- the machinery that dictates how we burn fat and produce muscle -- requires whole, "real" foods and the complex, synergistic blend of nutrients they contain in order to function properly.
A healthy whole-foods diet (one that includes a balance of unprocessed carbs, fats and proteins) will also naturally tend to offer a relatively low glycemic load (GL) and a high phytonutrient index (PI) - including vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds, olive oil, whole grains, teas, herbs and spices. Say no to diet plans that put concerns with caloric intake above concerns for whole-body health and vitality.
A low-GL meal slows the rate at which carbs turn to sugar in the bloodstream. And this "slow burn" allows your body to digest sugars, says Hyman, "without triggering the metabolic signals that promote hunger and weight gain." Phytonutrients, meanwhile, act as powerful healing agents and metabolic regulators in the body.
Old rule #2: To lose weight, go on a diet.
New rule: To lose weight, choose to eat healthy.
Many weight-loss diets call for a dramatic reduction in daily caloric intake, which tends to deprive the body of the very nutrients it needs to effectively release and process unwanted fat. But eating too little or skipping meals has another extreme downside: It puts the body in a starvation-like "fat-conservation" mode.
When you take in fewer calories than are necessary to fuel your resting metabolic rate (the base amount of caloric energy your body requires while at rest), your body simply compensates by reducing your metabolic rate. Goodbye, caloric burn.
"Your body thinks it's starving to death," explains Hyman. As a result, it not only cuts back on the energy you need to exercise and move about, it also "sets off chemical processes inside you that force you to eat more." Net result: weight gain.
You can get a very rough estimate of your resting metabolic rate, says Hyman, by multiplying your weight in pounds by 10 (if you weigh 150 pounds, for example, your resting metabolic rate would be approximately 1,500 calories per day). "If you eat less than that amount, your body will instantly perceive danger and turn on the alarm system that protects you from starvation and slows your metabolism," says Hyman.
A better approach: Decide to eat healthy for life. Enjoy delicious, high-quality foods in ways that nurture your body and your senses for the long haul.
Old rule #3: Eating fat will make you fat.
New rule: Good fats are your friend.
People have been holding forth on the evils of fat for so long now that many of us can't indulge in something other than a low-fat yogurt or a couple of Snackwell's cookies without feeling a Pavlovian sting of guilt. But avoiding fats is a mistake, according to biochemist and nutritionist Mary Enig, PhD, and nutrition researcher Sally Fallon, authors of Eat Fat, Lose Fat (Hudson Street Press, 2005). In fact, taking in an adequate supply of healthy fats is essential to proper body composition, whole-body health and long-term weight management.
One of the keys to losing weight, Enig and Fallon assert, is to understand the differences between bad fats (notably trans fats and rancid fats, found in most processed foods) and good fats (including monounsaturated fats, like those found in nuts, seeds and fish. They also advise eating small to moderate amounts of saturated fat, the kind found in real butter, cream, grass-fed meats and virgin coconut oil). Enig and Fallon recognize that it can seem counterintuitive that our bodies need fat in order to burn fat, but they say - and a great many other notable nutrition experts agree - that we must get over our fear of good fats if our bodies are to function properly.
Your body needs not only the much-touted omega-3 fats, they say, but also some plant-based omega-6s and a certain amount of the much-maligned saturated fat, in order to nourish your brain, heart, nerves, hormones and cell structures. Find out how to increase omega-3s with a plant-based diet.
Most nutrition experts suggest taking in between 15 and 25 percent of your daily calories as fat. Be vigilant about including it in the form of nutritious, whole foods (think avocados, nuts, fish), healthy oils (cold-pressed olive, seed, nut) and small-scale saturated-fat indulgences (real butter and cream, grass-fed meats, coconut, etc.), and you'll get all of fat's weight-management benefits -- without compromising your waistline. You'll also find it easier to say no to fatty processed foods and other unhealthy indulgences of all kinds.
Old rule #4: Exercise to burn calories.
New rule: Exercise to build fitness - and burn more calories with ease.
Yes, exercise burns calories, and burning calories can help you lose weight. But exercising for improved fitness has many weight-loss benefits that go beyond per-session caloric burn. Understanding this can make a huge difference in how you approach your exercise routine.
For one thing, being fit gives you a distinct metabolic advantage at a cellular level. Fit people have a greater number of mitochondria within their cells. Mitochondria are organelles (like mini-organs) that contain important enzymes associated with aerobic energy production. In fact, they are often referred to as "cellular power plants," because they are our cells' primary means for producing energy from food.
Mitochondria also handle the aerobic oxidation of fatty acids (fat burning!) that occurs even when we're at rest. Thus, increasing mitochondrial mass through exercise helps raise our metabolism so we burn more calories - not only with every exercise session, but also when we're not exercising at all.
Performed at the proper intensities and intervals, both cardio training and resistance training can help to build lean muscle mass, to increase mitochondrial function and, in turn, to increase metabolic rate.
Fitness-focused exercise also improves your strength and endurance, which makes activities of all kinds easier, and thus encourages you to be more active overall. And, since regular exercise also improves your energy level, confidence, emotional outlook and self-esteem, it can help you get through weight-loss plateaus when you're not seeing the inches melt off as quickly as you'd like.
Old rule #5: Weight loss is about changing your body.
New rule: Weight loss is about changing your life.
Maintaining a healthy weight involves both nutrition and fitness components, but very few chronic weight challenges originate exclusively in those domains, and neither do their solutions. "Weight loss starts with the brain, not the belly," says psychotherapist Doris Wild Helmering, MSW, coauthor of Think Thin, Be Thin: 101 Psychological Ways to Lose Weight (Broadway, 2005).
For many people, achieving a healthy weight is only possible once certain mental and emotional issues have been addressed. Why? Because many of us overeat or avoid exercise for reasons we don't entirely understand - or that we feel powerless to control.
Maybe we make poor choices when we're stressed out, sad, ashamed or angry. Maybe we make unconscious choices when we're tired, distracted or numbed out. Whatever the reason, says Wild Helmering, the excess weight we carry on the outside is sometimes the symptom of an unresolved problem on the inside.
In such cases, the first step is to turn inward and ask yourself some questions. "'What am I really hungry for?' Perhaps you need a hug or a word of encouragement from a friend instead of that piece of leftover chocolate pie in the refrigerator," she says. Perhaps you need to bust out of a stressful job track, a destructive relationship or a self-abusive attitude in order to make your personal health and well-being a priority.
It's worth noting that stress alone can create a biochemical profile that's antithetical to weight loss. When we experience stress, whether or not we are in immediate physical danger, our physiological "fight-or-flight" survival responses kick in -- and they set off a series of chemical reactions in our bodies that encourage weight retention.
Another important note: No single weight-loss approach is right for everyone. Every body, and every life, is different. And so, in the end, there are no hard-and-fast "rules" - only principles, evidence and guidelines that each of us must explore and refine until we find the mix that's right for us.
Perhaps that's the very best part. Eventually - once we've tried enough "miracle" diets, and once we've started and stopped enough "surefire" exercise routines -- the wisest among us settle into the kinds of stable-yet-evolving routines that bring real and lasting results.
Over time, we discover that the real rewards of healthy weight management lie in thinking and experimenting for ourselves, in doing it all for the right reasons, and in making the rules up as we go.
Virgil McDill is a Washington, D.C.-based writer.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
It doesn't have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don't try
to make them elaborate, this isn't
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.
~ Mary Oliver ~
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
You're invited to celebrate Unhappy Hour. It's a ceremony that gives you a poetic license to rant and whine and howl and bitch about everything that hurts you and makes you feel bad.
During this perverse grace period, there's no need for you to be inhibited as you unleash your tortured squalls. You don't have to tone down the extremity of your desolate clamors.
Unhappy Hour is a ritually consecrated excursion devoted to the full disclosure of your primal clash and jangle.
Here's the catch: It's brief. It's concise. It's crisp. You dive into your darkness for no more than 60 minutes, then climb back out, free and clear.
It's called Unhappy Hour, not Unhappy Day or Unhappy Week or Unhappy Year.
Do you have the cheeky temerity to drench yourself in your paroxysmal alienation from life? Unhappy Hour invites you to plunge in and surrender. It dares you to scurry and squirm all the way down to the bottom of your pain, break through the bottom of your pain, and fall down flailing in the soggy, searing abyss, yelping and cringing and wallowing.
That's where you let your pain tell you every story it has to tell you. You let your pain teach you every lesson it has to teach you.
But then it's over. The ritual ordeal is complete. And your pain has to take a vacation until the next Unhappy Hour, which isn't until next week sometime, or maybe next month.
You see the way the game works? Between this Unhappy Hour and the next one, your pain has to shut up. It's not allowed to creep and seep all over everything, staining the flow of your daily life. It doesn't have free reign to infect you whenever it's itching for more power.
Your pain gets its succinct blast of glory, its resplendent climax, but leaves you alone the rest of the time.
If performed regularly, Unhappy Hour serves as an exorcism that empties you of psychic toxins, while at the same time -- miracle of miracles -- it helps you squeeze every last drop of blessed catharsis out of those psychic toxins.
Pronoia will then be able to flourish as you luxuriate more frequently in rosy moods and broad-minded visions. You'll develop a knack for cultivating smart joy and cagey optimism as your normal states of mind.
Now let's get you warmed up for Unhappy Hour.
First, unload a groan.
Second, disgorge a howl.
Third, unfurl a sigh.
Now say or sing these declarations:
Life is a bitch and everything stinks.
My pain is so bad I can hardly think.
I'm afraid to live, I'm afraid to die.
The world's so messed up, I can't even cry.
Exhale another very long groan. Eject a further desolate howl. Spill an additional self-pitying sigh.
Now you're almost ready. When I say GO, you will have as much freedom as you want to dredge up and steep yourself in your savage sorrow, your unspeakable doubt, your shrill anguish, your secret shame, and your fearful fantasies.
Give yourself permission to make guttural moans, rueful cackles, or animalistic growls and squawks. Argue with God or your parents or the past while blurting out manic, explosive wails. Allow yourself to be crushed and dissolved, flung around and flayed, appalled and unhinged.
And while you're at it, you might want to scrawl down curses, scratch out narratives, or scribble symbolic drawings incited by your misery.
Later, make photocopies of these curses, narratives, and drawings, and conduct a ceremony of purification, burning them to ash, being careful not to set your house or the woods or yourself on fire, too.
As you burn, pray that you will extract all of the mojo you possibly can from the pain, and that the pain will make you smarter and wilder and kinder and trickier.
Pray that you will grow to feel gratitude for the pain, thereby turning the pain into a blessing and diminishing its power to hurt you.
Ready? Get set. GO. Be unhappy -- but for no longer than 60 minutes.
Now back to regular programming.
This special program was brought to you by Rob Brezsny and his book, Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia: How the Whole World Is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings.
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