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.

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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

Friday, February 21, 2014

Need a good reason to stop eating meat?


I try not to beat the vegetarian drum too much, but jeez.  Just read this article...If you need a good jumping of point to go vegetarian this is as good a starting point as you're likely to find.  There's lots of other great reasons too.  I apologize if you just ate lunch...

CNN Eatocracy Article: "What Is 'Adulterated' Meat?"

I don't think you can push someone in to being a vegetarian.  It's a personal choice.  But I do honestly believe that if you start eating mindfully, and really work with compassion in your practice, I think eventually you will choose to cut out meat (for any one of dozens of great reasons).  And if not, I don't judge you for it, but I definitely appreciate your effort to at least explore it.  Best wishes whichever path you choose.

_/\_






photo credit: Alex E. Proimos via photopin cc

Thursday, February 20, 2014

So, Men DO Lose Weight Faster Than Women...Sorta.

This article from CNN today is VERY timely for me.  As I'm headed in to the weekend, and the first meeting with the M.E.A.L.S. group, I've had this very topic on my mind.  So far, most of the people interested are female.  I have always heard, but never verified, that women lose weight slower than men.  I've seen this *fact* dishearten a lot of ladies early on.  In fact, part of yesterdays post was me lamenting that I worry about the people in this group having the same success I had.  So, today, when I saw this CNN article, it caught my attention.




So, the article confirmed what I felt when I pondered this:  Whether they do or do not, everyone's experience is unique and should not be judged against someone else's.  So don't worry about it! Just show up for them and yourself.

Anyhow, the article is well worth the read.

_/\_







photo credit: Arya Ziai via photopin cc

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Looking back, I see you Mara!

I am definitely a story teller, as any of my friends would attest, but while I retell the past often, I don’t think I tend to live in it. At least not in a harmful manner or magnitude. Perhaps that’s a thin line. I’m not really sure. BUT, I am purposely taking a look back right now at this blog.

It’s very interesting to me, with the M.E.A.L.S. group starting up this Sunday, to look back at when I started the blog and review how I did it, why I did it, what I did, why it was easy for me, and most of all to me is how interesting it is to see how different a person I was then.

Those early posts bring up clear memories of the pain I was in, and the fear I was suffering from. I distinctly recall the embarrassment I felt on that flight to Canada I described. The utter shame at having to go in to the bathroom at the bookstore in Canada and dry off because I was quite literally soaked with sweat. (Also interesting is why that was embarrassing to me.  It was all in my mind...all had to do with how I saw myself, and fear of how others saw me.  If the same thing happened today, I wouldn't be embarrassed because I see myself differently now.  That's perhaps a whole other blog post one day!)

I marvel, still, at how easily I managed to lose weight. I had lost nearly half the weight just in the first few months, which is both testament to how large I was (I think you tend to notice faster loss when you are larger), and to how fast your body responds when you stop filling it with toxins. And make no mistake…fast food, candy, and soda are TOXIC.

But the most interesting thing to me is seeing where I was at mentally, as opposed to now. It’s hard not to chuckle at myself. I read posts where I talked about some of the self-helpy books I was reading, or a couple of the apps I was using, and I’m aware of how silly they seem to me now. This isn’t to say that self-help books and apps are silly…I think they serve a valuable purpose, and for sure were a huge part of what led me to where I am today. What I mean is….well, it’s kind of like an analogy I use quite a lot about the knowledge of a house.

When you walk up to the front gate of a house you've never visited, you can see the front yard. And that’s the only knowledge of that house that you might have. Then once you walk in the front door you become familiar with the foyer. You still know what the front yard was like, but now have knowledge of the foyer. And eventually you are familiar with the rooms of the first floor, but you still haven’t explored the second floor. If you never venture upstairs, you don't even know it's there.  Your scope of understanding is limited.

It’s like that. I look back now at what I believed in and thought I knew about life back then, and I’m amazed at how differently I view things now that I’m familiar with other parts of the house. And who knows…presumably, as times go on, I will look back and be similarly surprised at what I understand now, when I’m looking back at it from down the road. 

My deepest wish for the Mindful Eating And Living Sangha is that I will be able to help someone else explore parts of their “house” that they weren’t yet familiar with. Help them reach a vantage point that allows them to look back and see that when they thought they couldn’t do it, they just hadn’t “explored the house” enough to learn that they could!


I live and eat mindfully every day now, sometimes more so than others.  But, too, even as I undertake this re-dedication to mindful eating, I see that little shadow of fear that it won’t work for them as it did for me. To that little fear…I invite you in. I see you. I welcome you here and care about you. But please stay seated over there, out of my way, while I do this. And, whenever you're ready, I invite you to leave.  I’m watching you, Mara!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

M.E.A.L.S. - Mindful Eating And Living Sangha

In 2010 I started this blog to capture my process of learning about Mindful Eating and Mindful Living (from the book Savor - Mindful Eating, Mindful Living by Dr. Lilian Cheung and Thich Nhat Hanh).  I lost over a hundred pounds, and became a vegetarian, and a Buddhist.  All of which have dramatically enhanced my life and, hopefully, some of the lives I touch.

Once the weight came off, and stayed that way, I kind of drifted away from this blog.  That’s mainly because I had written primarily about my weight loss and not so much about Buddhism.  When my life focus turned from weight loss to maintaining weight and exploring buddhism, I didn’t feel I had as much to write about.  Or, more accurately, I didn’t feel qualified to write about the things I was deeply experiencing at the time.  I was in a deep period of learning and exploration (and I still am) but over these past few years I’ve started a couple of Buddhist Sangha’s and participated or helped run several other groups of various kinds and I’m sort of feeling like I’ve come a bit full circle in a way.  I feel like if I re-read Savor (this will be something like my 4th time) I’ll get a whole different perspective on it now that I’ve been a Buddhist practitioner for a handful of years and because I learn best when I'm explaining or teaching others.

This time, I’m not only practicing the teachings from the book, but I’m helping others do the same.  I’m starting a group, local to me, that will study the book.  Sort of like a book club, but deeper than that.

I'm calling it M.E.A.L.S. - Mindful Eating And Living Sangha.  And I’m extremely pleased to have the support of Dr. Cheung as I launch this effort.  She’s always been supportive of my efforts personally, and when she heard that I was thinking of this, she offered some guidance and some incredibly kind words of support.

The year-long group will meet every other week and will:

  • Recite the Five Contemplations
  • Share a Mindful Eating Experience
  • Read and discuss the book Savor
  • Practice Mindful Movement

My hope is that this year-long grassroots-group exploration will deepen my own practice further, help others establish mindfulness as a way of healthy living, and - hopefully - encourage them to go out and spread the practice through starting similar groups the following year, and so on.  If successful, it could see a viral growth since those who complete the year, may hopefully create groups of their own and repeat the process, again and again.

I’ll try to get back to posting here along the way to track the progress of this endeavor.  When it’s done, I hope that this blog can serve as a blueprint for those who wish to replicate this process.

Best wishes!
_/|\_

Friday, June 28, 2013

ONE

What I want to write about here is so big and so complex, yet so simple that I don't know where to begin.  I think I'll start by saying that if you close your eyes, and sit quietly, bring your attention to your internal and away from the external...it is my hope that you will see - sooner rather than later - what I have seen.  That we are all connected, that there is no us or them, and that we are all ONE!

A beautiful human being that I am blessed to know gave me a journal.  It's one of several copies of the same journal.  Each has a piece she wrote at the beginning that explains how to utilize this journal.  It's far too involved to state the whole thing here, but her eloquent and wonderful idea boils down to having people pass these journals all over the world to friends near and far.  Each person writing a few pages on their idea of our Oneness.  Her idea is far more complex and beautiful that what I've just said, but that's the part that is important here.

So, with this in mind, I'm going to make an attempt to write my draft here, and then put it in her book and get it on it's way to another person.  I've been dodging this honor for well over a year because every time I try to think of what I want to say, my mind spirals out of control.  They say the mark of a great teacher is the capacity to express a deep teaching in a simple way, so that you understand it without an excess of explanation.  Thich Nhat Hanh is a master of this.  And so I will quote him here, and then go on to discuss the idea, thereby proving - I suppose - that I am not yet a great teacher.

No Mud, No Lotus.

When I first heard this, I loved it so much I bought the T-Shirt.  Really.

I also first understood it to mean something loosely like "You can't have good without bad."  And of course, this is exactly what it means.  But it also means far more than this.  Far more.  And nothing more.  See?  It's already beginning to spiral out of control with cryptic explanations that sound contradictory, but I assure you they are not.

A couple of years ago, after I had been practicing meditation for a year or so, I had an intellectual understanding of what you hear expressed in Buddhism as "Form is Emptiness, Emptiness is Form".  I understood this teaching of how there is no this, without that. How everything is in everything else, and yet it isn't.  Or how, as Thich Nhat Hanh would put it, when you look at a flower deeply you see that the flower is made up only of non-flower elements.  The flower is not a flower.  And yet it is a flower.  If you broke it down, you couldn't find the flower in the flower.  But about this time, I was walking one day for exercise, which doubled as walking meditation for me, when out of nowhere and for no particular reason I can point to, I stopped dead in my tracks staring at the sky like a dummy.

I had been struck, quite suddenly, with a deep insight or understanding BEYOND the intellectual, of what this means.  I can't even begin to explain this.  Better writers and authors than I have tried and not done a great job either.  The best I've read so far, is Brad Warner in his new book "There Is No God, And He Is Always With You."

I'll try feebly, here, to express it...but not too hard.  I simply can't.  I was walking, and practicing a nice teaching by TNH where he says to invite your ancestors (parents) to walk with you.  My Dad was a jazz musician and when I would do this, I would listen for the jazz in nature.  Not the regular sounds, the rhythmic sounds, but the irregular improvisational sounds.  The jazz.  The random dog barks.  The wind gusting.  The little kid screaming at her sibling.  Once I picked up on the music of non-music, I would invite my dad to hold my hand and walk beside me. I was listening for this biological jazz, when it hit me!

Jazz music, or actually all music, was a great way of expressing Form Is Emptiness, Emptiness Is Form.  Without the silence, notes would be noise.  Without the notes, silence would be noise.  Music is silence, silence is music!  Form is Emptiness, Emptiness is Form.

The moment I made this connection, the rest happened.  Like some kind of Hollywood special effect, but that only my mind was aware of (not something I could actually see), it was suddenly like a ripple went out from a stone dropped in a still pool of water.  As that ring expanded away from me, so did my clarity and understanding of No Mud, No Lotus.  Of our TRUE interconnected nature.

It is my direct experience that we are all connected to each other, to everything, everywhere, all at once, infinitely.  That's the most direct way I can say it, and I couldn't  have said that without hours of discussion with my best Kalyanamitra (spiritual friend) Kayla.  Without many dharma discussions in my Sangha.  Without countless podcasts, books and study.  And most recently without Brad Warner's best book to date.

The bottom line: As I stated at the beginning, if you slow down, sit quietly, and turn your focus to your internal experience - MEDITATE - I believe you will likely arrive at this same understanding.  You will likely see sooner or later that we can not afford, as a species, to continue living our lives as if our own endeavors are the only things that matter.  As if we have unlimited resources.  As if we do not need others to help us.  As if "we" are different from "them". As if, as if, as if.

We simply must awaken to this reality of Interbeing....return to our own TRUE experience...and begin living our lives according to the most basic truth of our existence.  That we are not "WE"....we are ONE.  If we do that, there is still hope for this world, and I fully believe that we will.

I hope that at the very least, this writing - feeble as it may be - will encourage you to think about this.  Encourage you to sit, maybe meditate, and to have faith, hope and love in the true nature of life as we know it.  ONENESS.

With the deepest respect for the meaning of the word, I say to you with absolute conviction - Namaste!

I love you,
GB