Urban Meditation

As I delve into Zen on a deeper level, pouring over texts, chants, poems, and mantras, the thing I’m most struck with is the sheer amount of time that is invested in meditation of different varieties.  Even when I followed Soka Gakkai, I never has much issue with the weekly group chants, but the daily focus was more difficult.  I envied those that had the time and dilligence to do so, and often found a number of excuses that kept me from doing the same.  Really, it was only 20 minutes.  I’ll spend more than that writing this post for you to read, providing I ensure that it’s interesting enough from start to finish.  But thats what meditation is, at least any meditation thats worthwhile.  As long as I focus on it completely, then I’ll experience some form of reward.

But what if even 20 minutes is unattainable? Can you do 10? 5? Even 1? The journey of the mind, and peace from within is not easily embraced.  But as I alluded to to before, and positive step forwards is a worthwhile investment provided to build on that motivation and keep it up.

I was in the Gatineau Hills, a Provincial park close to where I live, and, while hiking through the muddy hills and run off, I was spellbound by a rivulet that created a magical gurgle.  For around half a minute I was entranced, until my dog came a running and jostled me out of my trance.  This is when I realized that even a short 20 second “break” could be beneficial to anyone, provided they gave it their all for that tiny chunk of time.

Not only is it fairly easy for even the most A.D.D. addled brain to accomplish a mere 20 seconds, but the benefits of this peace of mind are instantly accessable.  You’ll feel focused, more alert, and more tranquil  This technique “opens the door” so to speak on the benefits of meditiation.  Keep at it and you’ll be thirsty for longer sessions, seeing your results increase exponentially, like the results gleaned from the folding of Japanese steel

So this week bookmark this post, (or download the Vimeo app for your smartphone, and bookmark my video). Then, when you have a quiet moment, watch or even better, just listen to the clip, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. Once complete, open them again, and you’ll be startled at the result!

Advertisements

Healthy Selfishness

I’ve been drafting this post in my head for a couple weeks now, as its an interesting perspective, and might be miscontrued unless explained thoroughly, but also “correctly”

Humans are raised, for the most part, believing that being selfish is something to be avoided.. An action where someone is hurt or wronged on purpose for personal gain or greed.  Sadly, this perspective, at least in my eyes, is skewed.

Selfishness is doing something with ones own goals and the only focus.  It is a marvellous tool to be leant on heavily, and without shame, especially in the early stages of changing bad habits.  When I stopped doing drugs, I made it my solemn vow to escape potential relapse-prone situations with all due speed and conviction.  I still have a zero tolerance for being around drugs or people who are under the influence, and while it hasn’t let me keep a number of old friends, I haven’t done any drugs, and thats fine by me!

Wear it proudly!

Here’s the skinny.  If you find yourself in a situation that threatens to break a good habit that you are in the middle of still cementing in your life, jut change your surroundings to somewhere that is filled with your positive elements of change.  If it means that you have to leave a social situation abruptly, make no excuses.. these only serve to undermine your strength.  You don’t have to provide reason either;just politely excuse yourself and exit, provided no one (including yourself) are not put into a dangerous or permanently harmful environment by this change.

You will even find that flexing this “muscle” will have a number of beneficial side effects. Not only will you stay strong on your new habit, but you will also find your confidence increasing.  A wonderful thing indeed.  All of us suffer with self-doubt or self-depreciation at varying points in our lives.  Unchecked, these can develop into depression, self-harm or worse! Patterns of basic behaviour, when met with devout selfishness, can fertilize one of life’s most important lessons: loving yourself.

So here we learn that by practicing “healthy selfishness”, we also learn self-love.  This is one lesson that we can never over study!

A great desktop wallpaper, and this week's mantra
(click for a larger copy)

The Finish Line

Everyone, (even me) always refer to how the journey is what actually provides the most satisfaction.  And while thats true, its also important to focus on exactly what the goal is.

This can be a complex issue, as the “forbidden fruit” that we are always striving for can be further and further away. Let me explain.  Let’s say we decide to lose ten pounds.  As that goal approaches, and we realize that it might actually be obtainable we change the number in our heads to twenty.  Part of the reason we do that is because, as humans, we are greedy.  We are also self-defeatist.  Its easy for us to sabotage our goals, because we are so used to dreaming and hoping for materialistic things that are out of our reach, that even the obtainable are transformed into the impossible.

Nope.

Its time to take a step back and breathe here. First of all, if you accomplish your original goal, reward yourself, but make sure to choose something that’s healthy, whether its a nice dinner out with friends or treating yourself to an extra glass of almond milk. Go on, enjoy it! You’ve earned it! You can then set a NEW  goal, and, using the strength from the last exercise, move forwards.

The real reason for this post is to remind you to take pride in the small, unplanned completions.  When I was a depressed drug addict, I took my health for granted and felt invincible..  I would have a random spurt of motivation, and splurge at the grocery store, often while ravenously stoned, and fill my fridge with a mixture of healthy produce, and my shelves with junk food.  Literally 80% or more would go to waste, and I would leave it to rot, because I preferred to stay in a pattern of sabotage.

Now, on paleo, I eat pounds of fresh produce, and have no problems eating my food.  Yet I am still amazed when I finish a product before it goes off.  I take great pride in throwing an empty veggie bag into the garbage, or pouring the last almond milk from the container (yes, I’m an addict of this amazing beverage!).  The idea for this post came to me when the last multivitamin rolled from the bottom of the bottle.  I think I bought it a few years ago, with the intention of making it a regular thing, then maybe took it regularly for a week; in the last 2 months, I’ve taken them every day, and now, I’m finished.  Just sitting back and looking at the bottle, I take amazing pride in where I’ve come from.

Achievement Unlocked!

“Normal” people might not understand this accomplishment, but for someone like me, this sort of thing still boggles my mind, and I feel amazing pride and happiness.  So no matter what your unplanned accomplishments are, go ahead and shake your own mental hand.  You deserve to recognize your own successes!!

Part of the Club

One of the great things that paleo affords me is the feeling that I’m part of some special club.

I can waltz into a grocery store, and I’m oblivious to the breads, processed foods, and other foods that I’ve learned that are bad for my body. It might be easier for me because I’m lactose intolerant and grain sensitive.  But I wasn’t always that way.  I broke my body more and more by not listening to what it wanted, and now I’m following it intently.

To be honest, I’m as surprised as anyone else that I’ve been sticking with this so diligently.  I feel so much better that diverting from the path just feels unnatural.  I know its only been a few weeks, but this is one trend that I’m actually looking forward to continuing with. And the paleo path is not the only track that I refer to.  Staying focused on this goal is continually bearing fruit.

Food of Thought

I guess I’m just trying to say that wisdom (to me) is only really powerful if you share it.. But you can’t force other people to absorb it.  When they are ready, suddenly what you are saying just makes sense, and they are enlightened.

Its not easy in today’s society, but the journey is what makes it that much more rewarding. Just take that first step enough times, and you’ll be amazed when its suddenly followed by a second, third, and so on.

Ownership

A number of factors in the last few weeks have led me to think a great deal about permanence, and the weight of responsibility that we have in this world.  We are alive for such a short time, yet we all live like we are immortal.  Let me expand on this for a moment.  Although, as we age, we experience this vigourous youth where we finally grow into our bodies, and feel invinceable.  Its in this stage where are physical forms are at their peak, regenerating and recuperating with very little downtime.  And this is to be expected.. however, as we start to grow older, and feel our bodies begin to slow down, even slightly, we still seem to have little trouble putting things off till tomorrow. Procrastination is such an odd technique that we seem to flex at any given opportunity, yet ideally we should be realizing that every moment is a precious one, not to be wasted.

I’ve long given up on the idea of being responsible to others, at least currently.  The only person I can rely on in the end is myself, and its imperative that I focus on being the best me that I can be.  I was recently reading Leo Balbuta’s post on pairing ones life down the 100 things.  This idea really excites me, as it forces me to be less materialistic, and to simply rely on a small number of essentials.  Naturally, things like dishes and cutlery don’t really count, and other smaller objects can be grouped, but the more “cheating” you do, the less effective this exercise really is

I think that this would be an excellent follow up to my current 30 day habit challenge.  I think that come April, I will start to liquidate a number of my posessions, starting with the collections that take up the most amount of clutter: my clothes.  Its important to me that I embrace habits that are not only healthy, but also not too ambitous.  Ergo, as a preliminary step, I will simply prune the things I have too much of, and see how I go from there.

I’m really excited to see where this leads.  Already the current strides I have taken fill me with a great deal of confidence: something you can never have too much of.. providing you still stay humble. Always humble.

 

Sticking Withit-ness

Yes, a complete breakdown in English for the title of this post, but its almost 1 am and I should have been asleep hours ago.

If I had retired, this post wouldn’t be what its about, and I love learning from every experience, so…

Today at work, a pizza was delivered.  Not even from some crummy delivery place next door, but Boston Pizza.  A cornerstone in the “Italian Family Eatery” business, they don’t mess around.  Stupidly I decided to open the box after reading its circumference.  I had to know what a sauce recipe supposedly perfected in 1964 might smell like.

Bad Idea.

This thing looked amazing.  A work of art. And everything that I have been working on for 2 weeks to avoid.  It had all the processed meats, the white dough, the CHEESE. It was everything I am not supposed to eat.  And my stomach growled at the sight, at the olfactory experience this thing was assailing my nostrils with.

But, you know what?  You might think that this story is going to end poorly, but its not.  I closed the box, and closed my mind.  I drew on all the self-control I have gleaned from previous changed habits, and I was suddenly easily able to resist.

Smiling, I walked away from this “food”, only feeling better that I had *not* eaten it.

This post is about maintenance. About sticking to something.  Because when you stick to something, it makes it easier to stick to something else. Plus, once you look back at the chain, you’ll see that the tougher something was to overcome, the worse it was for you, the easier you will stick with it.

Today marks 6 years since I quit drugs. Its an important milestone this year, because it marks the halfway point of the entire time that I was a user.  Another 6 and I will have been clean for as long as I was an addict.  It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, though when I look back at it, really the only difficult thing about it was that first step.  After that, its all perseverance and personal accountability.  But the strength I learned from it has given me the power to stop smoking, to start getting healthier.. And the more I do, the more I *can* do.

I used to do things because I enjoyed telling other people that I had done them.  Now I do things to do them for myself. I am becoming more comfortable in my own skin.. What have you done recently?

Remember that its never tomorrow, and its always today.

Solar powered..

I suffer from SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder.  It makes me cranky, depressed, and gives me a general attitude of malaise.  On really bad days it can drive me into a really self-abusive funk.  But I have ways to combat this.. I have a special LED lamp that I used to use, but I’ve lost the manual, and cannot for the life of my figure out how to change the time/alarm settings on it. And since I teach tech for a living, you’d think that I could figure it out… No.  Its really that difficult!!

Vitamin D is a good tool, and is regular doses of B12. The bottle of D that I have was a gift from my mother a few years back, and I’ve kept and refilled it, as its marked “Bottled Sunshine.. take daily!”

To be honest, I don’t care how cold or snowy it is outside.. as living in Ottawa, Canada, I’m used to those conditions! Its actually the 7th coldest city in the world.. However, if its grey and miserable, thats what slays me.. As long as I get a bit of sunshine on my face, I can wake up easily! I don’t like coffee or other stimulants.. Just standing in the sun for a few minutes, eyes closed, letting it warm my face, almost “resets” me in a way.. The world melts away and I just enjoy feeling connected to the planet

 

So next time you are feeling a bit low, get outside and absorb some rays.. in the meantime, however, implement a thorough vitamin regimen to keep you sorted!

The Joy of Personal Responsibility

I recently had a friend over to sample my bacon.  It might sound lewd, and in a gastro-sense, it sort of was.  A sinful concoction I whipped up, crispy organic smoked bacon dipped in melted fleur de sel Lindt dark chocolate.

The finished product, freshly basted. It has since been chilled and solidified in the fridge...

She arrived and after some small talk, asked for some booze.  I supplied it, being the good host, and she was perplexed as to why I didn’t join in.  I informed her that as part of my paleo experiment, I was abstaining from all alcohol for the entire 40 day experiment.

She was flabbergasted.. she didn’t understand why I would ever impose self-inflicted restrictions on myself.  Who would I do something that someone else hadn’t told me to do?

My friend is free spirited and loves to party, and I love her because she reminds me of my “youth”.  She seems to think that she will never stop.  But she is missing two things: she hasn’t hit her bottom yet, and she doesn’t see the value in life.  Hell, I didn’t either until I was over 30.  But for me, the validation of being able to stick with something I set my mind to do is in and of itself the reward. The journey is what makes the goal so satisfying.  Once the 40 days are complete, I already know that the fruits of my labour will be eclipsed by the path that I took to get there. Having kicked drugs and smoking cigarettes all within a 5 year span, I am finally understanding what it is to stop being responsible to others, and be responsible to myself.  And it feels great.

While I share my gradual successes through my near-evangelical obsession with paleo, I’m just another guy getting healthy and in shape.  Maybe I will inspire others to follow in my footsteps, maybe not.  But the person I ultimately continue to motivate is myself, and isn’t that really the whole point?

Zen and the art of Tattoos

Its been a really strong weekend. I could have used the word “productive”, but strong is much more apt.  I prefer the adjective because it lets me feel really proud of my current momentum.  I’m well into my second week with the new Paleo diet, and I got out around the city to get all my chores, groceries, and tasks done.  I even spent the last few hours cleaning like a mad man.

I even chose exactly what I want for my first tattoo… I’ve been mulling over ideas for ages, and I think that this is something I could easily live with for my whole life.  Its the symbol (or one of them) for Enso Zen

It embodies everything that I strive for.. the minimal philosophy of Buddhism, the broken circle reminding me that perfection is unattainable… I am trying to decide where to get it, but I think that my left shoulder is perfect.. It will give me strength every time I see it, remind me that I can do whatever I set my mind to. Even writing this post has cleared away a few cobwebs of doubt that have been on the verge of my mood today, and I’m glad that I took the time to write this evening (morning!)

Resurrection

Once again I drag this blog from the depths to start posting.  Since i haven’t written anything here for *AGES*, I was surprised to find that it is still active, and I still have access..

So, this year is the be my “hinge year” As I am now 35, I figure I have another 35 more of really decent years ahead.  This doesn’t mean that I plan to die at 70, but that I want to make sure that the next “half” are lived healthier than the ones past.  When I was a young buck, I could party, drink, eat whatever I wanted, function on 3 hours of sleep, and wake up fresh as a daisy to do it all again.  Now…. not so much.

No, not this sort of Young Buck..

I have always pictured myself as some modern day Samurai… I’ve studied (some) martial arts, and read Asian philosophies like Sun Tzu, Mushashi, and Yamamoto Tsunetomo. Yet, even though I have overcome some pretty decent struggles in my recent years, I awake every morning to a pasty, bald, unfit, vaguely overweight middle-aged dude staring back at me in the mirror.

I have surrounded myself with motivation to keep me focussed on the path ahead.  January started with a bang, and i figured that one new habit every 30 days would be an excellent way to build on my success.  The month ended well, and I was armed with a new habit: daily flossing.  Seems pretty weak, but Leo Balbuta was right.  Zen living is totally accomplishable with a small amount of effort.

I must add here that February was a bit of a bust.  No new habit was formed (I tried to embrace a very intense workout program called RushFit, but I quickly realized that it was way too intense for me to continue in my current state of fitness), and I started sabotaging my life.  Shrugging off healthy eating, frequent drinking, and allowing the mess and chaos to build like a maelstrom around me.  Sure, first world problems you might say, selfish wallowing.  But despair is something that is personal.  Sure, I shouldn’t complain when people in the world have no fresh water or little to eat.. That still doesn’t motivate me to get out of bed in the morning.  I’ve suffered with depression for years, and deal with it daily. I know how important it is to be selfish when I need to look after my own “recovery”

Anyways.  I could type for hours.  But I won’t.  I’ll keep it for future posts.  Just know that March has started early for me.  I’ve been eating paleo for over a week already.  I feel great, lost weight… even decided to stop drinking alcohol for 40 days as well. Watch this space, there’ll be plenty of motivational messages to follow.