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Watch that monkey mind fly!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Dear Sparktacular friends,

I just wanted to catch you up, tell you all how things have been going.

I went off the rails a bit in December. It wasn't too horrific, but I stopped tracking. I did however, stay fairly moderate in my eating over my Christmas visit with family, and I got in lots of cross-country skiing -- something I can't do here on the coast.

I think I gained a couple of pounds over December. I've been using the scale at the gym, and it doesn't seem very accurate lately. I can change my weight by 5 pounds just by moving my feet to different spots on the scale!

But the scale at the doctor's office said I'm down 4 pounds, so that would be the two I gained, plus another two. That seems about right in terms of how my clothes are fitting and the food/exercise I've been tracking.

I am both happy and sad to report that the one bra I own that still fit does not fit any longer. It's a good thing I've cut back on dining out, because I will soon need the money I'm saving for a major wardrobe update -- particularly in the undergarment area.

BIG NEWS: I am addicted to working out!!!! How did this happen? Maybe you've seen my statuses about how good working out feels, breaking a sweat, etc.

Sometimes I get grumpy. I've always been a highly emotional person, though it's definitely lessened as the years passed. Working out fixes grumpiness! I also have a chronic arthritic condition that flares up sometimes, and the pain makes me sad or surly or (horrors!) both.

Working out doesn't completely fix the inflammation, but when my mood is lifted, it just hurts so much less. I love how strong I feel, how much faster I go on my bike, how stairs aren't even traumatic any more! So I'm addicted, and very pleased about it. It's not even about losing weight, because at this point, I'd keep doing it regardless of weight loss. I just love it.

Working out is also 'me' time. I'm fortunate enough to have access to a gym provided by my employer, and since I work unusual hours, I am often there when it's empty. I get on a cardio machine and let my mind drift. It's a time to watch my monkey mind swing wantonly on tangled vines of thought.

But because I am working my muscles, my body cries out for attention. So I attend to my physical self, noting that one shoulder has been tense all morning. Why didn't I notice that as I pounded away on the computer at work? Too busy, busy, busy, but once I notice, I can change the way I work in the afternoon. My attention wanders throughout my body -- how strong my legs feel, how curved my shoulders are, how rumbly my tummy.

Soon enough, the monkey mind is back on its adventure, leaping from thought to thought. I'm still working out, watching the numbers on the display screen, breathing hard, but at the same time watching myself do this marvellous, repetitive thought behaviour. I think so many thoughts over and over again without really noticing them. Those thoughts are a scaffold upon which I build my life. Those thoughts lead to actions that, when repeated, become behaviours and then habits.

When I work out, I'm examining the old thoughts, choosing new ones. Sometimes I have to tear down the old scaffolds. It all starts with thinking. Change your thoughts and you change your life.

I have been so busy living that I didn't fully give myself the time that a radical cognitive reshaping requires. Working out gives me that time. It's when I stay present in my body and mind and attend to my deepest self -- what Yeats called 'the deep heart's core.'

MORE BIG NEWS: I am now an apprentice with the local taiko troupe! The audition was fun. They are a nice group of folks. I've taken so many sets of classes now that I know them all, and we had some laughs. I was a bit concerned because I am very sensitive to group dynamics, and if there were any underlying tensions in the troupe, I would feel that hyperactive hamster doing cartwheels inside my stomach. Then I would eat too much in a futile attempt to soothe the savage rodent making claw marks inside my jittery tum. But so far anyway, the taiko troupe seems like a laid-back crew.

(This is a picture of Uzume Taiko, a Vancouver group I saw recently. They were jaw-droppingly good. That's not hyperbole. My jaw actually hung open during some of the songs!)


Near the end of that YouTube clip above, some of the women have these huge smiles on their faces. When I saw them play, one woman had that smile the entire time! And sometimes I look up from a practice drill and realize I have a massive grin on my face. That's how I knew taiko was for me.

I'll be playing twice a week, and am expected to attend all the classes too, so some Sundays will be many hours of playing! It feels so incredible to just hit something as hard as you can! (Hmmm, maybe I should look into boxing…?)

Taiko is also very challenging for the brain, as the rhythms can be complex and it requires a lot of body-mind integration. There is so much power and grace and cooperation in playing with a group. There's nothing quite like the feeling of being totally in sync with others, playing a beautiful song together. As an apprentice, I'll be expected to learn some of the troupe's performance pieces. Part of the way they fund themselves is through honorariums for performing at local events. That's a bit scary, but I love to play, so I'll just treat it as an adventure!

I have so much more to tell you! January has been a big month, with lots of ups and downs. But I have to go, so I promise to blog again soon.

Much love,

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Wonderful that you have fallen in love with exercise. I also bike in silence and watch my thoughts run randomly. Gives me a sense where I am at and what I have to clear.
    I am so happy for you that you are with a musical group--your spirit must soar
    with percussion. It must take tremendous focus as it seems you are always playing around, suspending and stretching the beat. Absolutely wonderful. Also noticed the powerful arms that everyone has.
    And the smiles. Nothing like creating music. Makes your soul dance. Enjoy every moment.
    3153 days ago
    Yay for getting to pound some drums! I also find that exercise helps be do cognitive reshaping. I can essentially medicate when I exercise, which helps smooth out the moods.
    3153 days ago
    I just love the enthusiasm and evergy of your blog. You are one very interesting lady! Isn't it great how exercise is such a wonderful thing?...so energizing and enlivening! I love the monkey mind analogy! We had monkeys kind of like the one in the picture on Nevis. Monkeys are pretty special creatures.

    Thank you for the wonderful update and have a wonderful time with your taiko troupe! Please let us know how it goes...
    3153 days ago
  • BISCO_
    3154 days ago
    That looks like fun!
    3156 days ago
    I so glad that exercise is a joy for you rather than a chore...that make's life at lot easier emoticon and well done for getting back on track so quickly after Christmas.

    The drumming sounds really exciting and hopefully we'll be watching a video of YOU playing with the troupe soon on here emoticon emoticon emoticon
    3156 days ago
    Wow, you have had an amazing month! I'm glad you are so in love with exercising. I need to fall in love with it too.
    Have fun with the drumming!



    3156 days ago
  • CANNIE50
    Great blog, as usual. "cognitive reshaping" - that phrase really intrigues me and will be on my mind as I run this afternoon. I do my best thinking while exercising, particularly while running, and on long distance drives. THis is one of the reasons I do not run with music - I need to let my thoughts sort out, and give my emotions a rest. Congrats on your taiko apprenticeship - I know this is something you truly enjoy - good for you! Joy awaits......
    3156 days ago
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