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.


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Tron - A legacy of Buddhism?!

I had the childhood-fantasy-fulfilling, special-effects-sploding, Daft-Punk-rocking, Geek-tacular pleasure on Friday of seeing the (nearly thirty years in the making) Tron: Legacy movie, and surprisingly the first thing I wanted to do was write this post!

Why, you might - rightly - ask yourself, would I want to write about a Disney special effects computer geek movie on my weight loss and mindfulness blog? Well let me tell you....

First off, I held off writing this until a fellow meditating-mindful-blogging-geek-buddy of mine had a chance to see it simply because I know he reads this and I didn't want to spoil it for him or anyone else.

That said, I have read TONS of reviews all over the web, and all my geekiest friends have seen it now, so I feel free to write briefly about it here. Don't worry, I will not be telling anything at all about the movie EXCEPT for one thing....


For all you normal folks out there to whom "Tron" doesn't stir childhood memories and excitement, you can stop reading after the next line and you'll be just fine. If you are about to stop reading at this point, I have only one thing to say - GO SEE TRON LEGACY, because it's just a great, fun, excellent movie!

Now...for the rest of us...

I don't have a ton to say, again because I don't want to ruin anything for anyone, but I want to tell anyone who has an interest in both Tron AND Buddhism to be prepared to LOVE the sequel far more than you might have realized you would. Personally, I was not terribly excited about the Tron movie other than at the prospect of a new Daft Punk Tron Soundtrack! I felt that Hollywood was going to royally screw this one up. I had a bad feeling it was going to be Highlander all over again, where they take an iconic movie, years later, and bastardize it in to something you're embarrassed to say you watched.

Boy was I wrong. First of all, as you would expect, the technology for making a movie like this is PERFECT right now. The computer generated images that were a DREAM in those days, are a common reality today, so the look - we all knew - was going to be great. What scared me was the story. I was worried it would be horrible.

Suffice it to say that they came up with some really good, plausible stuff (stop laughing - I mean plausible with regard to the implausible movie idea). I won't get in to any details, but I sat in a full theater watching this movie and laughing at all the spots they expected us to, along with everyone else. I dropped my jaw in amazement at all the same things everyone else did, and uttered all the same "YEAH!"'s as everyone else when one of the bad guys got turned in to so many tiny blocks of bad data.

What was strange though was how often I laughed out loud at something in the movie when NO ONE else did. I kept seeing things pointing to a very Zen story line and it just made me chuckle at the irony, the well thought out story, and the GREAT delivery mechanism for the Buddhist plot. I kept laughing - incredulously and happily - because I saw so much of myself and my friends in this movie, and because Flynn is such a Badass Buddhist!

Jeff Bridges, who plays both Kevin Flynn and CLU, actually worked with Zen Master, Bernie Glassman to bring Flynn's Buddhism to life in the movie in the most realistic applicable way possible. You can find tons of interviews with Bridges discussing this, as well as Glassmans' site ZenPeaceMakers.org.

I'll leave it at that, but please - do yourself a favor - go see it. It's chock full of the Buddhist way! You will appreciate it for that regardless of your geekdom!

It's all summed up for me by old man Flynn when he says "It's BioDigital Jazz, Man!"


PS - One more thing....if you are a man of an age to have been mad about Tron when it came out, but you're still a kid enough to enjoy toys that you're probably too old to be enjoying....then you really need to check out the Tron Merchandise! There's some serious toys for big boys and there's kids toys that will have you pretending to shop for your nephew at Toys'R'Us!  Dig it:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"I'm JUST a Bill"

I write, and talk, a lot about mindfulness. Mindfulness, essentially, is just being in the moment and not being distracted by other things. When you read books like "Savor" about mindfulness they often talk about things like when you eat, you should eat mindfully and enjoy the food, without watching television or listening to music and such. Another example is when you walk mindfully, it's a good idea to not listen to an iPod the whole time, but to enjoy the sites and sounds around you and live in that moment as well.

These things are all certainly true and helpful. I've done them. I used to use an iPod in the airport, when walking, while waiting in lines. I have stopped that, and thus have stopped a lot of music listening as well. This has been a bitter-sweet thing for me. While the quality of my mindfulness has exponentially improved, my time spent listening to music - a thing that I derive tremendous joy from - has greatly been reduced.

At least, that's how it seems at first.

However, when you really get in to mindfulness and improve your practice of it, you may find that when you take time to listen to music mindfully then that is greatly enhanced as well. See, I guess the point the teachers are making is that when you are walking AND listening to music, you are not necessarily doing either one fully or fully enjoying either one.

So, since I started my mindful walking and other mindful activities, I had been missing music a lot. I'm a life-long music lover, and I get tremendous enjoyment from almost all forms of music. So the purpose of this post is to talk about the moment I had recently (and the many times since then) when I realized what they mean by that whole thing about not doing either thing fully when you do both.

I was really wanting to listen to some jazz recently (again, I like all music for the most part, but I was raised on jazz and it's the first music I ever knew). I fired up the 'ol iPhone 4 and Pandora to get my Jack Sheldon Station going.

Jack Sheldon is a living legend. The guy's is a true genius when it comes to music and entertainment. Whether you like Jazz music or not, you are probably already a Jack Sheldon fan, even if you've never heard of him. He's been making incredible music for several decades and is still going strong. Most of us, especially those who were kids in the 70's, will remember Mr. Sheldon as the voice of "Bill" in the Schoolhouse Rock song "I'm just a Bill". Also, he was the voice in Conjunction Junction". He was frequently playing and performing on Merv Griffin, was a semi-regular actor on Dragnet, parodied himself as "Bill" on an episode of the Simpsons. He's played on Tom Waits albums, performed with countless others, and has run several of his own bands as well. Jack has also been an actor, made soundtracks, performed with many other famous artists, and more. The guy is simply incredible. To this day, he still plays live a few days a week in Los Angeles.

Anyhow, I had the Pandora Station playing and was simply sitting and listening to music, while doing nothing else. My only purpose was to enjoy the music. This Pandora Station I created played 1997's "Jack's Blues" from the "Live at Don Mupo's Gold Nugget" record and then some of his trumpet virtuoso work on other songs, and then moved on to other artists such as "Stan Getz meets Chet Baker" and more.

Listening MINDFULLY to this music, I not only liked it, not only enjoyed it, but I lived it! It was FANTASTIC! When you listen that intently to these songs (or any) you hear things you don't normally notice, you get the feelings the music is trying to put across and you are transported - as if by magic - to the place the artist wanted you to go. Ultimately, this is what most musicians want more than anything. They want their music to be heard and felt and understood in this magical way that expresses what they felt when they created it for us. It's something that you can't get when you're doing other things and listening to music as background filler.

This is nothing new, and I am not claiming to have uncovered a great mystery. I just realized that this is something that I haven't done in years...probably since when I first became a hard core fan of music in the first place! For me - a married man, with a kid and a full time job and all the life responsibilities that come along with that - it's easy to forget. It's so easy to listen to music while driving, to listen when working, but to never REALLY listen.

So whether it's Reggie Watts special brand of comedy/music, or Jack Sheldon's virtuoso jazz Trumpet, or Johnny Cash, or Nirvana, or Ben Harper, or Eminem or WHATEVER type of music you love...take some time in your busy day to listen to it only for the sake of enjoying strictly that music.

Then, furthermore, apply that same complete mindful attention to the other things in your life that you like to do but don't ever do without multi-tasking. When you read a book, don't have the TV going in the background. Breathe in, and out, clearing your mind before you settle in to read and marvel at how deeply immersed you get in the world of your book. If you ride a bike for enjoyment, put all your concerns out of your mind before your next ride, and revel in the feel of the wind on your face, and the ground flying beneath your feet.

You get the idea, and it sounds like such an obvious and simple idea. But you'll probably notice when you perform these favorite things of yours, that you will realize how long it's been since you've done these things to the exclusion of all else. I hope it will be as refreshing and enjoyable for you as it was for me.

When poor old "Bill" was lamenting that he was "Just a Bill, sittin on Capitol Hill" he was sad because he was focused on becoming a law. There's a powerful lesson there, one that perhaps wasn't even intended. But I would suggest that you learn that lesson from Bill as well. The lesson that you should enjoy being "just" a Bill. Enjoy every moment IN the moment.

Who knew Schoolhouse Rock was teaching us Buddhist lessons!?

Enjoy Mindfully!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

APP REVIEW (UPDATE): Meditate - Meditation Timer by SimpleTouch Software

A while back I wrote a review on Meditate - Meditation Timer by SimpleTouch. You can find that review here, but just recently they released an update for the app.

Since my initial review was so glowing, I was very concerned when I saw the added functionality of the app. The App Store page showed that it had new timers, new bell tones, in-app purchases, and more. I immediately feared that they had tried to reach beyond the simplicity of the single purpose app and in so doing feared that they had destroyed it's perfection.

I couldn't have been more wrong!

If there was anything at all wrong with the original, MondoSamu readers seemed to think it was the lack of bell sound variations. For me this wasn't an issue as I very much enjoyed the high, clear Tingshas tone that the app used. A few people said they preferred lower, richer tones. I can certainly understand, but felt it was a minor flaw, if one at all.

However, that is precisely one of the things that SimpleTouch has overcome with the release of the update. Basically, the app still works flawlessly and amazingly as it did before, but they found a nice, subtle way to include the new functionality.

As before, when you tap on the app, you get the main interface (used to be the only interface) for executing your meditation. You have the "Meditation" duration at the top with that button highlighted, the "Preperation", Interval, Cool Down and plus/minus buttons as well as the "Meditate" button that starts the timer. What's different is that you now have a tiny grid, remarkable only for it's subtlety, in the bottom left corner. Thoughtfully, this grid represents which of the four presets you are using. If you tap that grid, the screen recedes to the back, while four buttons merge to the front. This new screen is called "Meditation Presets".

Beneath the "Meditation Presets" header, are four buttons. Meditation 1-4. At the bottom of each button is a duration for that meditation. You can tap on any one of these to get the main interface again, but if you tap and hold on one of the buttons you get a screen that slides up to reveal the settings for that preset timer. It saves them on the fly.

What this does for you is allow you to have different meditations that you use for different times throughout your day. Perhaps, like me, you only have time for a 15 minute meditation in the morning (you can rename this to "Mornings"). If so, then just tap that button and the timer for that meditation comes up. Or maybe at lunch you grab a quick 30 minute meditation…there's a button for that as well. The very meaningful and thoughtful way that SimpleTouch achieved this fairly complex amount of control is by having you tap and hold on whichever of the preset buttons you want to tweak. Once you do this, a screen slides up to reveal the controls for that meditation.

From here you can change the name of the meditation, turn on-off the vibrate, set the sounds on or off, configure your various bells AND this is where you get to set the bell tones. You tap on those and another sliding screen appears with options for how many chimes, which tone (where you can also download tones in-app to suit all your tonal needs) and - and this is another minor thing they have addressed from the original version - you can set the bell to SILENCE!

I had received a couple of comments that people found the bell DURING meditation to be distracting and didn't really see the point. For me, it's great because I have one sound at 5 minutes and use that first five minutes to still my mind, then when it sounds I slide deeper in to my meditation. But, some wanted silence, and now that is a choice!

Anyhow, this is an astonishing amount of control that - while I didn't think it was necessary - SimpleTouch found a way to incorporate all of this intricate detail while still keeping "Meditate" VERY simple, elegant and agile!

I would like to see it go "Universal" so it works full screen on the iPad, but hopefully that's in our future! It does have some great new backgrounds as well, by the way.

So, I say "Whew! Good job, SimpleTouch!"

If you have a need for a meditation timer, I can't recommend any app as being remotely as good as this one for the job, and that's saying a lot because there are plenty of good ones out there!

Now I need to meditate!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Unexpected Joy!

I feel GREAT!

Lately I've been struggling to get my normal exercise in. For the last two weeks I have had a lot of travel for work and the weather has been horrible. It's rained most days and has been cold as well. Between a crazy schedule and the weather, my normal 3 mile a day walking habit has been sporadic to say the least. I've been getting my Tai Chi in every day, and some days twice to make up a little for not walking regularly, but the rain has made walking a challenge.

So after being out of town last week, and returning to a jam-packed-bad-weather-weekend-o-shopping, I decided that I would return to my routine today NO MATTER WHAT! My morning Tai Chi and meditation went great and it was wonderful to be back in my comfortable home for my morning routine. I'm very grateful that I am able to do my Tai Chi from my hotel rooms, but I'm most comfortable in my home. Then after work, I came home and got dressed for a walk, only to find that by the time I picked my wife up from work the weather had turned extremely windy and cold!

I was pretty darned down about the prospect of not walking tonight, and kept changing my mind as to whether I was going to do it or not. Finally, upon arriving at home, I decided that I simply HAD to do it. I MUST walk. Interestingly it's not even about the calories I burn, but rather it was a burning desire to just walk, and to do some walking meditation.

I went in the house, added some layers to my walking clothes, a hat, mits, and scarf and headed out. The wind was raging at about 20mph, and blowing little mini-tornadoes of leaves all around. The trees were literally roaring! The cold was bitterly below freezing, and the wind made it painful. Luckily, as I was fully bundled up, the weather didn't bother me at all! In fact, quite the contrary! I had a GREAT walk!

I was warm, I felt energized by my decision to walk in spite of the conditions, I felt great to be exercising again the way I like to, I felt proud of myself for overcoming the weather and the desire to stay indoors. But most of all, walking amongst the howling wind, bitter cold, dark night and leaves swirling all around...I felt wonderful! I felt very much alive, centered, grounded - whatever you want to call it. I felt, you could say, MINDFUL!

The point, you ask? The point is that sometimes when everything about a situation is telling you NOT to do a thing, it's just your ego. The ego does everything in it's power to get what it wants. It tells you "the weather is too bad", "the cold is too cold", "the house is so warm, you will be fine with one more day of no walking, what's one more day??"

Next thing you know you are sitting in a comfy chair in a warm house watching TV. What's wrong with that? Nothing except you didn't do what you know you needed to, and you made it that much easier to cave in the next time. It's a common refrain you'll see amongst people trying to lose weight...they make one mistake and then another, and pretty soon they've fallen off the wagon. It's insidious the way it happens!

So don't fall for it. There are legitimately times when you CAN'T go for a walk or eat healthy. When you can, though...don't let a little discomfort like cold weather or more meal prep time keep you from making the better decision. At the end of that day, if you're being mindful, it's those decisions - one by one, each in it's moment - that determine your happiness.

And you never know when the decision might turn out to be a shining bright spot of happiness in your day that you never expected, or would have had if you let the ego have it's way.

Have a great day!

Monday, November 29, 2010

APP REVIEW: Haiku Wind Pro HD

I recently found an app for the iPhone and iPad that is a true joy!  I don't even know how I happened upon it, but I discovered Haiku Wind for the iPhone and Haiku Wind Pro HD for the iPad, and I have been using it frequently since.

Billed as "A poetry game for the Twitter generation", it's a really well done app.

Now I do NOT fancy myself a poet, but this app lends itself to use by anyone, of any poetic skill level and any level of interest.  With it, you can view the Public Timeline, see the Top 100, check out the Hall of Fame, review your own Haiku or just look over some of your favorites.  It's a brand new app, and the community is small for it right now (looks like about 300 users from their statistics page...and I became one of the first ten Haiku Gods!), but it's taking off fast.  There's a lot of great enjoyment to be had just by reading the Haiku on their web site, which is considered to be an important aspect of the app.

The app allows you to earn your way, via public voting on your anonymous Haiku, to a "Haiku God".  The final of many levels based on the number of votes you get.  The higher level you are, the more votes you can cast for a single Haiku.  I'm not certain, but it sounds like once you make the "Haiku God" level, you can't lose that status, although you definitely can on the way up!  I lost my status at one point after taking a severe hit on one of my Haiku that must have not been popular.  It had a mis-spelled word (darn iPhone correction!!) and I think I got voted off the island because of that.

Anyhow, why am I writing about this Haiku app on my Weight Loss and Self-Improvement blog?  Well, because I found that it has some real serious benefit in terms of mindfulness efforts!

As we all shoot for Mindful Eating, Mindful Living (as we learned from "Savor"), and general Mindful Practice it can sometimes be difficult to focus.  It's easier during meditation, but with all the distractions of a day pressing on us, it's not always easy to be mindful.

That's where Haiku Wind Pro HD (or the iPhone version) seems to aid us.  I have found that if you pick a topic you want to be mindful of, and compose a Haiku about it, you are rather forced to think only about that thing and how to best describe it in ample detail, with few words.  This is exceedingly more difficult to do than you might think and - at least for me - helps you clarify your own feelings on the thing in question.  Not to mention it is relaxing and beautiful at times.

A variety of beautiful backgrounds are available in-app.  A look to please most anyone!

For you Buddhists out there (I did haiku on the Four Noble Truths!), this app does not require an account, and while you do retain a list of your own Haiku, the app is anonymous.  You get no recognition for them, so no one knows which ones belong to whom.  This means you aren't attached to them, and therefor they offer a nice lesson in impermanence as well.  If you're not Buddhist, this could be a put-off for you, but I think it's a lesson well needed for most folks in this day and age.

So check out Haiku Wind Pro HD for your iPad or Haiku Wind for iPhone.  It's a really nicely designed app, with a tiny bit of room for enhancement, but it's nearly perfect!  As with all my favorite apps, it is a single function app that does one thing very well and looks great doing it.  It's a pleasure to view as well!

Here's a few anonymous ones that, as you can tell by their excellent quality, were clearly done by a handsome fellow with a knack for this sort of thing ;-)

My beautiful child,
I want to give you the world!
For you gave me mine.


Full moon in the sky,
as daylight fades to darkness.
Mindful Walking now!


Strangers until now,
A common thread discovered.

Go forth and write! ;-)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks

Today was Thanksgiving Day, and I had a great day! I have more to be thankful for this year than ever before. My health is almost better than ever, as I have now lost 60 pounds. My family is great, my job is wonderful and much, much more.

The interesting thing is that once you begin living a mindful life, every day is thanksgiving day! The only difference, in terms if giving thanks, is that I get to say it out loud to the people I love, rather than giving thanks internally as I walk mindfully or meditate.

Above all, this year, I am grateful for mindfulness itself. The mindfulness i discovered in "Savor" by Thich Nhat Hanh and Dr. Lilian Cheung has helped me in every way imaginable, but none more so than that of mindful eating. Today is, quite literally, the first time I can recall in my life that I indulged in tremendously good Thanksgiving fare and walked away from the table not in pain. And, if that's not enough, I then walked three miles! All of this would have been impossible for me to fathom a few months ago.

I definitely gave thanks to the authors of "Savor" today, for they have both - in different ways - helped me to change my life!

I don't fancy myself to be a poet, but I enjoy playing with Haiku. I find it helps focus your thoughts and aid mindfulness. Anyhow, I jotted down this one today, and thought I would share:

Recipes passed on from past.
Mindful Indulgence."

And this one:

"Plentiful bounty,
Family and friends surround.
I want for nothing!"

And lastly I share with you what I commented to my friends and family today:

"I am thankful for my body, for taking care of me until I finally started taking care of it. Thankful for my beautiful wife and daughter! I'm thankful for my family and friends, one and all, past and present, here and gone. This beautiful world and the good people in it. And my life! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!"

I hope you, too - whether you celebrate this holiday or not,  gave and received gratitude in your life today! I leave you with a picture of the town Christmas tree as it was lit for the first time this evening.

Happy Holidays!


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: Unbearable Lightness by Portia DeRossi

I recently heard about the new book by Portia DeRossi "Unbearable Lightness".  I used to watch Ally McBeal with my sister long ago.  It was the only thing she and I really did together, and I loved Portia DeRossi!  I'm also a big fan of Ellen Degeneres.  Not so much her comedy, though she's certainly funny, but mostly I find Ellen to be a very sincere and wonderful person, from what I have seen of her.  There's a sincerity that can't be faked, and she's got it.

Anyhow, with all of that in mind, I was astonished to hear that Portia DeRossi had once been anorexic, and suffered from eating disorders.  I don't recall her being so small as the pictures in the book show, I just remember her from the show.  I never followed the tabloids and such, so never was aware of the rest.

So when I heard of this, and of her book "Unbearable Lightness" I snagged it on my iPad and read it almost straight through!  First off, I love the title.  It says a lot of different things to me, and is a clever one.

Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain

One reason I was interested in reading it is because I already knew it had a happy ending as anyone who has ever watched the Ellen show is aware that they are happily married.  And again, you can't hide or fake that kind of happiness I don't think.  Also, I felt that a lot of the things she went through were just the opposite side of the same weight loss coin we "fat" folks are on.

Whether you are too skinny, unhappy with yourself and trying to diet to get smaller or too heavy, unhappy with yourself and trying to get smaller, I think a lot of the feelings and challenges are the same.  Ultimately it's the exact same thing, and has little to do with the body, and lots to do with the brain.

I don't know squat about anorexia, nor do I know anything about depression as I was very fortunate to be blessed with a strong self esteem all my life.  I do know countless others who have struggled with depression that led to their eating issues.  I do know countless others, including myself, who got on the yo-yo diet train and descended further and further down it's track without success, which leads to more and more troubles with your health.

There isn't much I can tell you, after having read the book, that you either haven't heard already elsewhere or that will be any more insightful than any other review has been.  What I feel I can tell you is how this book might be useful to you if you are overweight or obese as opposed to anorexic or bulimic.

The first, and most striking, thing about the book to me was the overwhelming sadness and isolation that Portia DeRossi must have felt and gone through.  She strikes me as a very loving person from what little I know of her, and the sense of her self-imposed loneliness in this book was palpable.  When one binges and purges as she was, there is an automatic requirement for a lot of privacy.  And it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.  The more you do it, the more you recede from life.  The more you withdraw, the more you feel bad about yourself.  The worse you feel about yourself, the more you you binge and purge.  And the wheel keeps on turning.

Overweight people have the same cycle sometimes, just without the purging.  I know a lot of overweight people who hide in their cars or elsewhere to eat large quantities of food like she says she did in the book.  I know many who keep food stashed in hiding places so that others don't know they are eating so much.  They lie about the amount they eat, and feel compelled to tell you how little they are eating even though it's not true.  And it goes on and on.

The point being that I feel this book is a valuable look in to the life of someone who had as much problem keeping themselves tiny as many of us do in getting ourselves slimmed down from obesity.  If I were to boil the books message down to one short simple sentence, it would simply be to live mindfully and connected to the world and the rest will be ok.  At least that's what I took away from "Unbearable Lightness".

The book is sad, wry, scary and eye-opening.  I get the sense that Portia DeRossi has gained a lot of knowledge in her quest for health that would be useful and enjoyable to hear, but the book focuses primarily on the things she went through and only briefly talks, toward the end, about the positive things she did and does to stay in power over it.

Toward the end she discusses, a bit, the influence of Dr. Wayne Dyer (Whose movie, "The Shift", Portia starred in)  in her life, she gives a good bit about the influence of her horses, nature, Ellen and about Love and "Connectedness" more than anything.  This part of the book will ring a bell for any Buddhists out there, as what she is discussing is essentially mindful living and interbeing.

I particularly enjoyed this part most of all.  I feel that if she and Ellen ever released a book about their lives - such as their food, spirituality, beliefs, etc - it would be a great read.  I know them both to be animal lovers, non-meat eaters, spiritual and caring people who have access to people like Deepak Chopra and Dr. Wayne Dyer just to name a couple.  Anyone who has Wayne Dyer officiate their wedding has something going right in their life!

When you see Ellen's sparkling eyes and Portia's heart warming smile, there's no doubt these two have certainly found happiness despite anything else.

I'd like to share a quote Portia says in the book, toward the beginning.  She talks about some words her mother gave her as a girl.  Some of this may have not been good, but a line that she shared stuck out to me as being very true and spot on.

"After all, it's in the way an insult is received that makes it an insult.  You can't really give offense unless someone takes it."

I like that.  It's really a statement of mindfulness.  If you are mindful, and in the moment, then no off-hand comment can really hurt you because you are not a part of the reality that person is trying to place you in, you are firmly rooted in your own present moment where nothing anyone else says about you has any actual bearing on you yourself.  The insult is aimed for your ego, but living mindfully eliminates the ego.

Later in the book, toward the end, she shares this:

"Being sick allows you to check out of life.  Getting well again means you have to check back in.  It is absolutely crucial that you are ready to check back into life because you feel as though something has changed from the time before you were sick.  Whatever it was that made you feel insecure, less than, or pressured to live in a way that was uncomfortable to you has to change before you want to go back there and start life over."

That's very powerful, especially that last bit.

Lastly, I liked this part as well:

"It's important to find something other than your body image to be passionate about."

I firmly agree with this statement regardless of WHAT your predicament is.  I've mentioned that I never have really struggled with depression about my weight, and that I have always been lucky to have good self esteem.  I don't know if this is because of my parents, or myself, or because I'm lucky.  All I know is that I've always been able to recognize when I am starting to feel bad or depressed and I've been able to manually alter my mood direction.  So for me, depression has never hit full force, especially due to size.  I was always comfortable with my size, but it was when I recognized that I was getting TOO unhealthy and that the depression and problems were heading my way in a much more severe way, that I was able to do something about it, and do it quickly.  "Savor", for me, was the solution.  It allowed me to apply mindfulness to my life immediately and move on in the correct path.  For someone reading this, perhaps "Unbearable Lightness" will offer you the strength to do the same.

Whatever the case, I strongly recommend "Unbearable Lightness" by Portia DeRossi if you have ANY sort of weight or esteem issues.

Is there a book or person who has helped you solve the health issues you face?


Friday, November 19, 2010

Wonderful week of mindful fun!

Hello all! Sorry this week has been light on posts, but I was in Trinidad for a week. I worked hard, played hard, ate like a king - yet mindfully, lost two pounds in spite of it, enjoyed the local music, saw live bands, hung out with many locals and made great new friends, shared mindfulness with them, discussed their current events such as the 14 school girls who were demonically possessed (top news story on all channels that week), went boating around the island and much more.

It was a great week of fun and work, and now I'm back! I'll post some of the poignant mindful moments as I can, but wanted to quickly let everyone share some of the enjoyable sights I caught on film. More soon!


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Don't leave home without it!

If you travel, particularly by airplane, then you know that it can be a very stressful event.  Getting ready, packing, planning and all the other things that go in to just getting out the door offer a variety of stressful scenarios.  Then there's the drive to the airport.  Depending on where you live, and what airport you use, the trip TO the airport can be very grueling.

And then there's the airport itself.   That bastion of befuddlement.  The continent of confusion.  The sea of stress. The isle of irritation.  The....well...you get the idea.   And that's to say nothing of the compounding of these issues if you are also overweight!

Thich Nhat Hanh touches on dealing with this kind of stress in "Savor" very briefly when he talks about "Standing-In-Line Meditation".  He offers a nice meditation for the security check line or baggage check line.

Mindfulness will serve you very well in the entire adventure though.  You can practice mindful mediations like the one above in any of the stressful portions of your travel I mentioned.

Another thing that I like to do, and which helps me immensely, is making sure I get to the airport extremely early.  I always allow myself three hours at the airport before my flight.  This allows me to walk calmly amid the sea of people running wildly to catch their flight.  I can't "stress" (sorry for the pun) enough what a difference this will make in your entire trip.  You'll not only find you are much calmer, and more able to deal with unexpected challenges that inevitably arise, but I believe that you will actually derive great pleasure from the fact that you are so calm when everyone else is stressed.

You'll find that when you are so calm, you'll be ready with a friendly smile for the stressed airport workers who are berated all day, and they will be very grateful for your kindness.  You'll spread your calm and joy to the people you encounter, thereby spreading your mindfulness to others who sorely need it.

In "Peace Is Every Step" Thich Nhat Hanh also talks about this.  He says he does the same thing with arriving at the airport early.  He also suggests using walking meditation to help with airport stress as well.  Most airports are large, offering ample opportunity for walking.  In the Atlanta airport, which is gigantic, I no longer ride the tram to my terminal.  I started taking Thays' advice and walking to my gate.  In ATL this can easily add up to a few miles!

As I write this, I am sitting in the airport waiting for an international flight. I did a little quick research and found an interesting item that I wasn't aware of.  Apparently a lot of airports now offer meditation rooms, or they may refer to them as quiet rooms, which people can use for meditation or prayer.  It seems they are offered to people of any, or no, religion for their spiritual or relaxing needs. VERY cool.  Check out the story on meditationgeek.org.  I was not familiar with this blog, but it looks like the author is also a "Savor" fan himself.  Skimming through while looking for this link, it looked like there were a lot of useful articles on meditation during stressful times there.

Another item I discovered while I was writing this post is minutesuites.com.  They apparently operate rooms by the hour, and not the bad kind that springs to mind when you hear that!  Meditation Geek mentioned it in the same article I believe.  Check this out, it might be a very big benefit for your state of mind during travel!

If you're traveling today, give some of these things a try.  I think you'll find it's worth it.  Just be sure that when you leave home, you bring mindfulness with you!

Travel safe!


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Buddha was a Technician!

One of the things I really like about Buddhism is the really simple, straight-forward logic it uses. I'm not a Buddhist (yet). I guess I'm more Buddhish, as they say. But, what I have learned of it, I really like.

I've been in the Technical Support/Software/I.T. business for most of my life. I'm a logic kind of guy. I'm a problem solver. I'm so much a problem solver, that it sometimes drives people (my wife) crazy. As soon as I hear a problem, I start separating negative and positive areas of the issue, and providing solutions and workarounds. It's what I do. It's what I've ALWAYS done. My whole life, not just in my work. I guess it's what makes me good at the work I have chosen to do.

Anyhow, while reading "Savor", I was noticing how the Four Noble Truths are exactly what a good technician uses to solve a computer problem!  Check out the following applications of the Four Noble Truths:

The Four Noble Truths:
  1. Dukkha - Life is Suffering
  2. Samudaya - Identify the cause of suffering.
  3. Nirodha - Believe that you can end the suffering.
  4. Magga - There is a path to ending the suffering.
The Four Noble Truths of Savor:
  1. Being overweight is suffering.
  2. You can identify the roots of your weight problem.
  3. Reaching a healthy weight is possible.
  4. You can follow a mindful path to a healthy weight.
The Four Noble Truths of Tech Support:
  1. Identify the problem.
  2. Identify the root of the problem.
  3. Believe that you can solve the problem.
  4. Follow the path to the solution.
Whether you are a coder like my buddy over at DharmaLoss or you are a tech support guy, or just a problem solver in general - the Four Noble Truths is really the way to solve any problem! I've done this my whole life, without ever knowing that it was part of the Buddhist way.

When I have hired technicians in the past, I always looked for guys who were good at problem solving. I didn't care what certifications they had, or what school they went to. I cared how many different solutions they could give me to a problem I would pose, and how they got to the root of the issue.

One of my favorites was always "If I ask you to get me an item out of the stock room, which is locked, how would you retrieve the item?"

Then I would see what their answer was, and how many answers they would give me. The best ones always asked a couple of questions. My favorite question being "May I have the key?" A few more would give me really creative answers (such as climb through the drop ceiling or tunnel under it), and lots of them. These are the guys I usually hired. Then there were the ones who stared at me numbly. We won't get in to them.

While all Four Noble Truths are equally important, I've always found that the Third Noble Truth step is perhaps the hardest, yet most critical, to cultivate.  I have always felt that belief and confidence that you CAN solve a problem is the biggest part of doing so.

Anyhow, the point of all of this is simply that I think one of the reasons that buddhism appeals to me so much is that I have always unknowingly followed the Four Noble Truths without even realizing it. So when I was introduced to them officially by Thich Nhat Hanh and Dr. Lilian Cheung in "Savor", it just seemed very natural to me.

It's possible that THAT is the reason that "Savor" has clicked so well with me. I've often said here in the past that I wasn't sure why "Savor" made so much sense to me, or why it has worked so effortlessly for me…perhaps it's because (I believe) for a person with a problem solving personality, it's probably something they are very comfortable with already.

Buddhism is really a very logical path to follow, and it follows that a "technician" would find this a natural fit.