Welcome to Mondo Samu - Questions and Answers about my self-work.

Mondō: "questions and answers"; a recorded collection of dialogues between a pupil and teacher.
Samu: Work service; meditation in work.


Friday, April 22, 2016

Tap, Tap, Tap

I bought the FitBit Charge HR primarily to track steps and sleep.  I've previously written about how pleased I was to discover it's phone call alert capability as well.  I thought I would share a few things that are extremely helpful (and NOT always easy to figure out) about it as well.

Let's start with the phone alerts I mentioned.  I'll describe that one in detail.  I have learned that the FitBit Aria will alert you to phone AND text messages, but the Charge HR currently only does calls.  This is a little silly, and clearly just a move by FitBit to promote the sale of different models.  While I'm not a fan of that kind of tactic, it is the world we live in.  So, if you have the HR, here's how to turn on those helpful phone call alerts.
Turn On Phone Call Alerts On Your FitBit Charge HR!
Turn On Phone Call Alerts On Your FitBit Charge HR!

From the main screen of the FitBit iOS App:

  • TAP on the device (Charge HR)
  • TAP on the TOGGLE to turn on notifications
Sounds easy, but I had a hard time locating it.  Hope you find it helpful!

The other killer feature I found is the ability to map my walks, which includes the ability to control music on my phone from the FitBit! 

From the main screen of the FitBit iOS App:
Map Your Walks/Runs: First Turn On Location Tracking!
Map Your Walks/Runs: First Turn On Location Tracking!
  • First make sure you have location tracking on in settings.
    • From the home screen of your iPhone, TAP on your Apple Settings (Gear icon)
    • TAP on FitBit
    • TAP on whichever option you want (presumably ALWAYS)
      • Be aware this will use more battery power due to the GPS usage!
Map Your Walks/Runs: Now Start A Map!
Map Your Walks/Runs: Now Start A Map!
  • TAP the HOME button on your iPhone
  • TAP on the FitBit app icon
  • TAP on the STOPWATCH icon in the top right corner
  • And TAP the START button!  From that screen you can also control the ability to control your music.  This is a pretty cool feature, and allows you to delete one more app you don't need from your phone!
Another really valuable thing is to get the settings all correct.  Take some time, and review all your settings in the FitBit app.  Pay particular attention to the dominant arm or non-dominant arm.  Make sure your FitBit is set to the correct arm you are wearing it on.  This is how it knows to estimate your stride.  While this works pretty well, based on these settings and your height and age, etc, it's still very much an estimate.  A good thing to do is to take your wearable to the track.  One where you know the exact length, such as a football field track that you know has a set distance.  Literally walk the exact distance and COUNT your steps manually.  When you are done, divide the total distance by your number of steps. This gives you your stride length.  Once you have this figure, go to the FitBit Website - www.FitBit.com - and login.  Once there:
  • CLICK on the SETTINGS GEAR in the top right corner
  • Then CLICK on PERSONAL INFO from the menu on the left
  • SCROLL down to BODY INFO
  • ENTER the figure on STRIDE LENGTH
  • SCROLL down and hit SAVE
Now your steps will be more accurate.  This is more important than you might think because I've checked mine and it's off by a pretty good clip.  My wife and I have noticed that our steps vary by quad digits, even though we walk the same distance roughly.  I checked last night, twice, and the steps it's counting are less than I'm taking.  For example, I counted 500 steps, and it showed 350 or so. I'll be taking this advice on mine very soon!

Lastly, be sure you save battery wherever possible.  Some of the items above may drain power more, so a good offset - if you care - is to turn off "ALL DAY SYNC".  The FitBit Charge HR will be set to this mode by default, and really you can leave as such if you don't mind charging every couple of days.

I have found that the promised "5 Days" of battery life is not realistic regardless of how you set things up.  And definitely syncing takes a toll.  At first, I combatted this by turning off bluetooth.  This means it only syncs when I turn on bluetooth.  This was very easy since you can just swipe up on your iOS screen and toggle Bluetooth from the dashboard.

Once I learned about All Day Sync, I went ahead and turned it off.  I just did this, so I'm not yet sure how it will affect things.  I'll get back to you on that.  Meanwhile, if you'd like to turn off All Day Sync, you can do so by going to the main screen of the FitBit app on your iOS device and:
Turn On Phone Call Alerts On Your FitBit!
  • TAP on the device at the top of the screen "CHARGE HR"
  • TAP on the TOGGLE switch for ALL-DAY SYNC so that it is in the off position.

I hope these things will help you get more benefit out of your FitBit, and I hope it results in more health benefits for YOU!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

When exercise doesn't seem like exercise

This week, I went on a brief mid-week vacation with my wife.  It was a great trip for many, many reasons but one nice aspect was that I did about 27,000 steps in two days - well above the 10,000 per day I shoot for - without ever attempting to exercise!

The first, and critical, part of this was booking a hotel close to the event we were attending.  Like really close.  Just a few blocks walk.  I only did this for simplicity's sake and had no idea at the time what it would mean for my step goal.

Since our event was only a few blocks, we walked to and from it.  And since we were staying in an interesting town, which we had visited previously but never explored, we decided to go out and do so.  Once again, because we were staying right in the center of things, we didn't drive anywhere, but walked instead.  We found all sorts of interesting sites to enjoy!

We walked around the city, enjoyed the local culture, checked out a museum, walked to a restaurant, and much more.  That evening was the show we were attending, and we walked throughout that.  Because we were walking everywhere, we didn't eat meals but rather stopped here and there for healthy local snacks. Because of the geography of the city, we climbed lots of stairways, and up more than a few hills.

All of this created the perfect recipe for a healthy couple of days:

  • Eating lighter and healthier because of walking a lot
  • Walking a lot because of being centrally located 
  • Exploration as exercise (which saves time in the day as well!)
  • Lots of stairs, and hills, due to location
None of this was done on purpose, and it's not a revelation of any kind, but I loved the fact that what seemed like a decadent vacation to us actually provided us with 50% more than our goal steps, with 100% more fun getting them!  I'm definitely going to do this with more volition in the future!

Bonus - Lost a few pounds in the last few days as well!

Friday, April 15, 2016


Breathing in, I know that I am walking in the park,
Breathing out, I know that I am walking in the park.

I rounded the corner of the paved walking path of my local park, and noticed how they had recently trimmed back the undergrowth on the sides of the trail.  They cleared everything to the ground for six feet or so back from the path.  It's spring time, and this is something they do.  I immediately thought of all the rabbits, birds, and other creatures I see in this protective overgrowth while walking.  I wondered how this change would affect them.  I wondered how it would affect predators in their ecosystem.

And BAM! My brain suddenly did that thing where it connects seemingly random processes it was running in the background together and provides a solution or insight.

I realized that is just like any ecosystem, it's a balance.  One change to a factor in that system such as clearing the undergrowth, can - does - ripple across the entirety of it causing change.  Sometimes positive, other times negative, sometimes negligible.  But always change. If the change is minor, the ecosystem adjusts.  If the change is dramatic, it can cause collapse. And sometimes, even if the change is minor, collapse can happen!

The "BAM!" moment happened when my brain connected this thought stream to my health.  I had recently been pondering how - for the last several years - I had created and maintained a nicely balanced group of factors which made up my health/wellbeing.  When one of those factors was neglected (my exercise) for a year, things began getting all wibbly-wobbly in other areas. I gained some weight, started having trouble with sleep, and various other areas of my life.   

And walking in the park, on a lovely afternoon, I suddenly realized that my body is an ecosystem.  My mind is an ecosystem.  My body/mind is an ecosystem!  And when I let my exercise falter, I caused a ripple effect on my ecosystem.  It made me realize what I already knew.  Balance is a requirement for a stable ecosystem.  Balance is a requirement for my health to be good.  Balance is a requirement for my mind to be strong.  And balance is a requirement for my Body/Mind to be well. 

How many of my meditator friends out there have fallen off of a regular meditation practice, and suddenly found that things just weren't quite right? You're a little less patient, a little more edgy, or a little less mindful and you don't know why?  Then you meditate, and you think "That's what I was missing!"

And you think about that and then you think "How did I let this slip in the first place?!  I know better!"  And yet we do.  As I did with my exercise. Transforming energy, typically, is the primary function in an ecosystem.  If one aspect is out of balance, this transformation is also out of balance. Whether we are trying to break addiction, improve relationships, or improve our health the energy we are trying to transform is that of suffering.  

In a typical ecosystem, such as a lake in a park, your input is sunlight.  This grows plants, which feed animals, and so on, until we get the output which is life energy.  That's simplistic, I know, but it was a real eye opener for me related to health and practice.  If we are a practitioner of the Eightfold Path, and we let one spoke on the wheel atrophy, then the whole is weaker for it.  If we focus on one too strongly, and the others only get standard attention, the result is similar.  Only through balance, do we achieve optimal transformation of energy like a stable ecosystem!  


I realize I'm not discovering a cure for a disease here, but rather just making it easier to understand for myself and, hopefully, for you the reader.  It's these kinds of realizations that help us deepen our practices and pursuits.  This metaphor may not be the one that does so for you, but perhaps it will.  I know it widened the door of understanding for me, regarding my need to be consistent and persistent with my health efforts, as well as practice. 

So next time the path is feeling a little bumpy, stop and run a quick check.  See if there's any aspect of your ecosystem that is out of balance.  

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

One Week, Five Pounds, Sixteen Ounces

I've had my FitBit Charge HR for a little more than one week now and I have to report that I am SOLD! The web interface is just packed with information, the app is handy and easy to use, the device itself works extremely well.  It's all pretty simple and seamless. Best of all, it's working!

To my utter surprise, I'm stunned to say that the thing is actually motivating me in ways I wouldn't have believed.  First off, I've not missed wearing a watch in all the years since I started using a smartphone.  Now that I have the FitBit on, I expected to be annoyed.  Instead, I'm pleasantly surprised at how often I'm grateful to not have to fish out my phone just to see the time.  It fixed an annoyance I wasn't aware was there until it was gone! :)

Then there's the alarms and alerts.  The alarm is nice, because it's silent.  I can wake myself, without waking others which is very handy.  Moreover, I find I can use the alarms in other ways too such as reminding me to get up and move now and then when I'm working in my office, or to make sure I drink my recommended 16 ounces of water. The best alert of all has been the phone call alerts! I very often miss calls because my phone is in my pocket. It was a little difficult to find and activate, but once I did the FitBit Charge HR now buzzes and displays the CallerID info.  It doesn't sound like a big deal, but boy has it been helpful.

Most importantly of all having the ability to see my steps, and all of the other features, is keeping my goal of exercise front and center to my day.  It must be working too, because I'm eating better, drinking more water, and exercising daily again.  I've struggled to get that last one back for some time, so I'm grateful for this effect. In the last week I've started losing weight again, where I've been plateaued lately. Five pounds so far!

If there's any downside, I would say the cleaning of it is annoying but necessary.  The other is the very real dark side of seeing your steps all the time.  Before, I would always walk a distance or time.  Now I'm shooting for steps.  This sounds like no big deal, but it means that previously I wasn't worried about steps, and typically got in more than needed.  Now that I have it on my wrist and I'm seeing it real-time, I find there's a big desire to stop walking once I hit my goal, and be all "Well, I did it!" when I could easily walk a little longer or farther.  This isn't huge and is only a mind-game, and so far I've not let it happen.  I suspect the easy way around this would be to set a higher goal.

So, that's it.  A couple of weeks in and I'm already a huge FitBit fan!  I definitely recommend it if you're considering it and you're on the fence.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

::Check, Check...check 1...1,2,3....is this thing on?::

I'm baaaaaaa-ack!

So, it's been just over two years since I felt compelled to write here. Up until a year ago, I was doing excellent work to my ongoing health.  Keeping all the weight off, still effortless. I was eating healthy and exercising.

Then my truck broke down. Returning to being a one car family, my exercise immediately suffered. It became sporadic. My eating continued very well, but as anyone who ever tried to lose weight has heard, you have to "eat right, AND exercise!"

As my exercise tapered off, my weight crept on. Not a lot, but more than I wanted. Slowly it climbed and recently it started to bother me.  Not the weight, actually, but the desire to maintain my health and the seemingly endless failures at trying to do so. I kept promising myself I was back at it, then slept in instead of walking. I swore I would go after work, and even packed clothing and changed for a walk, only to find myself at home not having gone to the park.

My view of all this has really been receiving a lot of my attention this last year as I've worked and practiced in the Refuge Recovery community.  I've definitely come to understand addiction much better, and how my food habits always have been tied to this.  But that's a lengthier topic for another day.

Today, I just wanted to post that I recently bought a Fitbit Charge HR and, thinking I was going to find it useless, I have been pleasantly surprised by the enjoyment, utility, and reinvigorating energy it has summoned in me.  Tonight, for the first time in too long I went for a good long walk, MINDFULLY. I've been walking sporadically as mentioned above, but this was the first time I revisited my old practice to the letter. I "invited my ancestors" as TNH says. I used it as a meditation, and I reveled in it.  And I asked myself..."How did I ever let this slip?"

I'll ponder the answer another day. Tonight I'm enjoying the rediscovery.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Finally, some good news about nutrition labels?

Well, I'm not sure if it will actually happen, but from the looks of things, the FDA is set to approve the first overhaul of the food label system in about 20 years!  This would mean several good things such as indicating added sugars, LARGE print for the critical info such as calories, and things like soda being sold in single serving sizes.

I would maintain that the best way to avoid concerns about labeling is to eat mostly whole foods and as little pre-packaged foods as you can get away with.  Failing that, this will be a nice change.

It's not a done deal, but they expect that it will be so.  By the end of the year, then two years to implement.  Very good news though, from what I can see.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Zombie Processes And Navel Gazing

While holding and gazing at the slice of organic navel orange, yesterday, I tried to take my time and focus on how the thin skin of the slice felt.  It reminded me of when I was a kid and used to peel that skin off and eat the pulp like individual fruits, themselves.  I contemplated the smell, and the mist of juice, when I bit into it.  I chewed slowly and enjoyed the experience in a way I realized I don’t do as often as I did a few years ago.

As mindful eating went from being a new thing, to being a part of my daily routine, I realize that I started getting mindless about my mindfulness.  Being a techie, it makes me think of the unix world, where a process on your computer is satisfied but still persists on being there, it’s called a Zombie Process.  That’s kind of how we get with our eating habits sometimes.  We finish what we need to eat, but we don’t stop there.  We just keep eating.  We’re on auto-pilot.

It made me realize I was still being more mindful of my eating choices and habits than I used to be, but less present in the actual eating of the food than I was at first.  I realize I needed to get back the old “Beginners Mind” outlook.

This “Orange Meditation” was performed as part of our first M.E.A.L.S. (Mindful Eating And Living Sangha) group.  I read from “The Apple Meditation” in Savor, and then joined in the mindful eating afterward.  While the above description sounds nice, rest assured that just as often as I was enjoying the Orange mindfully, I caught myself chewing and swallowing mindlessly.  BUT, the important thing is that I kept coming back.  That’s where the magic is, after all.  In that moment we wander, we gain the opportunity to come back again as well.

I recognized, in this first M.E.A.L.S. meeting, that I consider myself to always eat mindfully, but I really haven’t been.  Or, more accurately, while I almost always choose my food mindfully, and even eat with a degree of mindfulness, there is nothing quite like truly eating with full mindfulness of the experience.  I’m really, deeply, grateful that people expressed an interest in starting a group such as this, and I look forward to seeing how it brings me back to a deeper focus on my health again.  While I haven’t drifted far, it’s great to be re-energized around health matters again!

An Apple Meditation