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, October 28, 2010

Ramblings On Impermanence, Tea and Mindfulness

What a great couple of days I've had! I left yesterday morning and drove to Columbus, GA. (my hometown) where I arrived with no real purpose or plan. I had intended to visit a couple of people there, but having failed to notify them in advance I didn't feel right about it. I decided instead to visit the grave sites of my parents.

First I stopped by my Dad's site where I spent some time listening to some Thelonious Monk (Round Midnight was my Dad's favorite) while I "visited" with him. I haven't been there in over a decade, but when I visit I always play some of his favorite music and hang out and I guess...sort of, commune...with him. Afterward, I went to a place nearby...his favorite donut shop. I bought a single cake donut (his favorite) and enjoyed it immensely. He was a musician and would always stop there on his way in to town after he'd been gone for months, and pick up donuts for us.  I identify the taste of cake donuts with my Dad very closely.  So close that I can summon stunning visual imagery of him with a single bite.  Funny how "emotional eating" can be tricky that way, huh?  Something that tastes amazing, summons amazing good memories...why wouldn't you want to eat a ton?  Bah.  Glad I have gotten a grip on THAT!  And glad they don't have them in Atlanta!   The shop, Veri Best Donuts, has been in Columbus as far back as I can remember. It's a sad looking little dive, but they are true to their name.

After finishing my first donut in months, I headed for my destination of Auburn, AL. but stopped on the way by my Mom's grave site. She's at a different location across town. My Dad passed away over two decades ago, but my Mom passed away just a few years ago. I visited with her for a bit and then continued on my way.

As I drove through my old hometown, I passed by some of the places I lived around town. I also passed by a lot of the businesses that have been there for years. Nothing will drive home the idea of impermanence like visiting your parents graves, and seeing that very physical earthen reminder of just how impermanent life is.

I feel I should mention, in case you are wondering, that I visit with my parents in my walking meditations on nearly a daily basis, but I don't think of them as being "in" the cemeteries. I just think of their graves as a physical connection between the two, or a physical representation I suppose. I point this out because when I go there, I still visit with them the same way I do daily, which is via meditation (or if you prefer, prayer).

Anyhow, as I visited their graves, I kept thinking of Thich Nhat Hanh's words on impermanence: "like a father looking at his children can see himself in his children, can see his continuation in his children. So he is not attached to the idea that his body is the only thing that is him." This is certainly true, as my siblings and I are all very definitely continuations of our parents, and I can see that my daughter is a continuation of my wife and I.


Anyhow, I moved on to Auburn where I attended the Greg Mortenson (author of Three Cups of Tea and Stones in to Schools) lecture. It was really great, and I was very fortunate to sit right up front and then meet him during a book signing held immediately following the lecture. I bought a copy of the childrens story book version for my daughter to get it signed for her and told him my story of why I donate to the CAI every year on my birthday (I'll post the full story some time) and he gave me a copy of the young readers edition to give to my daughter when she is older and he gave me a copy of the Stones in to Schools book and signed it. It was all extremely cool and he is such a genuinely nice and charismatic guy, it's easy to see how his personality has helped him be so well received by the people he has helped. If you haven't read his books, I would really strongly recommend them!


Anyhow, I spent yesterday visiting with friends in the Auburn area. I have a friend who is the Network Admin for the whole place and it was fun to visit the campus and see him.

I kept getting reminders of impermanence all weekend. My parents graves, businesses from my childhood that are utterly gone (buildings and all) and change and growth in these small cities I grew up around. Yet at the same time all the new growth, new life, young people I know such as my friends daughter who attended the lecture with me (which was interesting to see her realize that her 'problems' aren't as bad as they could be as she watched the Afghanistan footage in the lecture and heard the statistics such as most girls being married at 12 years old and having 3-9 kids).

It was all just very interesting and made me really get a sense of "Interbeing" such as Thich Nhat Hanh talks about and it was interesting to view all of this from a little higher elevation, so to speak, so as to see the bigger picture of the impermanence of it all. It kept reminding me of Thich Nhat Hanh's words about the gardener not being upset by a flower that dies and rots because he knows he needs that rotting flower to make compost for the flowers to grow. (I'm grossly paraphrasing here, but you get the point).  I was seeing the loss of the past spread out behind me and the growth of the future learning and growing in front of me.

Bottom line is that the trip was wonderful in countless ways. Even parts that might seem saddening only served to make me happier because I felt like the organic gardener looking at the compost and seeing the beautiful flowers.

MondoSamu

Saturday, October 23, 2010

www.mondosamu.com

The MondoSamu domain name is now active! You can still access the site by http://mondosamu.bloodspot.com but now you can also use http://www.mondosamu.com

This should make it a little easier to remember and share with others.

Also, I swapped some accounts around on the back end. I still intend to change the template at some point too, but for now the maintenance is all done! Let me know if you encounter any issues, and THANKS for your patience!

MondoSamu

Friday, October 22, 2010

MondoSamu - Now With 15% less fat!



So, it is with a tremendously lightened heart (figuratively AND literally) and a gladdened mind, that I am writing this article.

Yesterday, after 3.5 months of mindfulness every day, I reached a MAJOR milestone in my weight loss / lifestyle change journey.

I woke up in the morning, stepped up to the scale and weighed in.

I'm officially FIFTY POUNDS lighter than I was on July 3rd, 2010!  I've lost half the weight I have set out to lose!

I can't even begin to truly express how happy this makes me feel.  Sure all the things you would expect have happened.  My size 52 pants are all literally dropping to the ground if I undo my belt.  That belt, which I bought just before my trip to Canada in July and which I started out on the LAST possible notch, is now on the smallest possible notch and loose at that.  My 4XL t-shirts are noticeably too large for me…I haven't tried, but I suspect I could wear 2XL again, certainly 3XL.  My shoes even fit better.   When I sit down in those crappy little plastic arm chairs that are the bane of existence for fat people in every restaurant and public establishment in America, I slide right in without any struggle, and they don't tremble under my weight.  Airplanes are only annoying now, not physically painful and embarrassing.  Life under 300 pounds is a WHOLE lot better, to be sure.

But here's what I DIDN'T expect.  I no longer despise heat and sweat.  I no longer HATE being outside, I crave it.  I no longer complain and gripe ever moment I'm having to walk around.  I look forward to exercise.  I'm SO happy.

But here's the biggest surprise of all.  I haven't had to struggle very hard with this whole weight loss deal.  Not at all actually.  For the first time in my life, I have lost weight, stopped eating sweets, stopped guzzling sugary drinks, stopped eating plateload after plateload of food, stopped all of that over-indulgence…and best of all…haven't craved or missed it AT ALL.  Not at ALL!

If you are a normal, healthy person then none of that may have much of an impact on you.  If you are overweight, or a food addict, or have a killer sweet tooth, or any of the stuff that probably makes you read this blog in the first place then you are probably keenly aware of how amazing that truly is.

I have given this a LOT of thought.  I don't know if Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Living is a miracle book that finally showed me the light, or if I just got the right message at the right moment, or if it's all me just finally putting all the pieces together and finding the power I had all along inside myself (This last one is probably what Thich Nhat Hanh would tell me is the case!).  All I do know is that it's WORKING.  I'm WAY more happy about the lack of cravings, and the will power aspect of all this than I am about the weight loss.  And I am DARN happy about the weight loss!

What I THINK is that we all know that we should watch our calories, we all know a food journal is supposed to help, we all know that we shouldn't drink the sodas, we all know we aren't supposed to eat all kinds of crap, plate after plate.  What we don't do, or speaking for myself - what I didn't do, is live mindfully.  We just DON'T.

Before I read Savor, I ate breakfast watching the tv, I ate lunch talking or reading, I ate dinner in the living room watching tv while surfing the web on my iPhone.  I NEVER exercised AT ALL.

With the simple suggestion by Thich Nhat Hanh to breath three times, in and out while focusing on what you are about to do, before eating or any time needed, my life was changed.  Sound ridiculous?  Yeah, it does a little to me too.  BUT, it worked.  Sure, there's more to it, but that core thing has made me come "back to myself" long enough to recognize all the terrible decision making I was doing…or more accurately, all the LACK of decision making I was doing (and as Rush taught me - "if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice"), and I was able to instantly, and easily, cut out those problems and cravings.

The result?  I'm halfway to my 100 pound initial goal.  I'm shooting for 249 pounds by July 3rd, 2011.

I'm a long way from where I want to be, and I'm not CERTAIN that I have this whole thing licked for good.  I DO know that I am confident that I'm on the right path, and I am going to follow that path all the way home to myself!

Thank you for all the support!

Enjoy your weekend!
Geo

Have a great weekend, excuse our maintenance!

I'm going to be doing a bunch of site maintenance over the weekend.  I'm adding the domain www.MondoSamu.com, switching everything around to work with that, which is going to involve a lot of links and stuff too.  I'm also going to be changing the primary account, moving it away from my personal account to a different account.  And lot's of other behind the scenes stuff to make it all work a little better.

It SHOULD not interfere with anything, the old address should continue to work, and the new stuff should be seamless but the one thing I am concerned about is that the account change may break image links.  So if all the photos disappear on the site, just be patient and I will fix it all up asap.

Thanks to EVERYONE for reading!
MondoSamu

APP REVIEW: Little Buddha by Happy Tapper

And here we are, at the last app I use in my morning routine.  Arguably, this one has little to nothing to do with a weight loss routine, but I include it because I consider it an important part of my morning.  

After my Tai Chi, Meditation, Visualization, Gratitude Journal, LoseIt! Calorie Tracking and such  in the mornings, I finish my routine by reading a few quotes from the Little Buddha app from Happy Tapper.  

Following the usual sleek, simple and positive theme that you will have come to expect from Happy Tapper, Little Buddha allows you to search, read, save, share and enter quotes.  That's it.  There's really not much to say about it except that it works really well, it's cute (like all Happy Tapper apps) and it's elegant.

With a very simple interface (see below), you can rub Little Buddha's belly and get a quote, then close it and repeat.  You can turn it landscape mode and just swipe through them.  You can mark favorites and view those, look at your own quotes, search for terms and edit the settings.  As I prefer in an app…that's it!  Very simple and straight-forward.







The reason I consider this app so important is that I like to end my morning routine with a positive thought…especially one that I might like to share on FaceBook with friends.  

So, go get the app and enjoy!  I'm not sure what apps Happy Tapper has in store for us in the future, but if they're anything like Gratitude Journal, Vision Board and Little Buddha then I know I will own them as well!

So that's it.  I've completed the reviews of the apps I use for my morning routine.  The rest of the day I repeatedly use LoseIt! to track my calorie usage, and then at night when I go walking I utilize a pedometer app that I will review later on.

I hope these reviews have helped you find some tools that will help you on your own quest to lose weight and live well.  The most important thing I can suggest to you though, is read the book Savor, and then find a way to make it work for you…the rest of this stuff is just tools in a tool box.  The ones I reviewed are the ones that I finally put together to work for me.

Be well,
MondoSamu

1 in 3 Americans could be diabetic by 2050?!

I don't even have words to say here.  This saddens, scares, terrifies, sickens and strengthens me.

I only hope I have reversed my direction headed for diabetes, and that more people discover something like Savor for themselves before then.

http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/10/22/diabetes.report/index.html?hpt=T2

Geo

Thursday, October 21, 2010

I just have to share something I find really, really cool.  First of all, I want to recognize a great guy who partially inspired me to start this blog and who is on a journey similar to my own, but equally different.  The Dharma Loser (as he sometimes refers to himself)…check out his blog at http://www.dharmaloss.com and enjoy.  He's got a really cool blog going over there, and it's worthy reading if you're looking for some inspiration in your own weight loss or life changing journey.

Anyhow, I mention him because I added links to some sites that I like a lot yesterday, and many of them are sites that I wouldn't have found if not for his blogroll.  One of the sites he links to (and now so do I if you check out the link list to the right!) is DharmaDots.  I'm not a Buddhist, and I'm not a vegetarian or vegan, but my ways have more in line with these than anything else, so who knows.  Anyhow, While surfing all the cool sites, looking for interesting stories, I was lamenting that I simply don't have time to go looking for all this information.  Then…I found DharmaDots.

The mission of DharmaDots is to be a clearinghouse of sorts…a one stop shop for all the OTHER cool sites related to Buddhism.  In itself, I found it to be pretty great.  The thing that makes it spectacular is when you combine it with another awesome app called FlipBoard for the iPad!

If you have an iPad, FlipBoard takes all your Facebook, Twitter and other misc. FlipBoard provided news and entertainment content and turns it in to an A-W-E-S-O-M-E interactive magazine (which is 1000% cooler than it sounds).

To truly appreciate it, you'd have to see it in action.  I don't have a video of it in action, handy, so here's a few screen grabs.

The cover looks like any magazine, and rotates pictures from recent posts.


The "Contents" allow you to tap on whatever media source you want to read.

From your list of "articles" you can tap on one if you want to read more.

It brings that full screen, and then from here, if you still want more, you can tap on the link to view it on the web.


From here, you can just tap to close when done and it backs up a level, and again and again.  It's VERY fluid and easy to use.  It truly makes the most of the iPads' touch screen. 


This has, in effect, given me everything I could possibly want in terms of Buddhism related (or any other) content in a magazine!  If you have an iPad, I HIGHLY recommend FlipBoard and DharmaDots!

MondoSamu

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

APP REVIEW: Gratitude Journal Your Positive Thoughts by Happy Tapper

After my morning exercise, meditation and such, I like to utilize Happy Tapper's Gratitude! app to capture my positive thoughts for the day!  It's a slick and simple app that I first found while digging for "positivity" in the app store.  Soon as I saw it, I snagged it and fell in love with the app, Happy Tapper and Carla Kay White's friendly, positive demeanor!

As I've mentioned before, Gratitude Journal is the first app I saw by Happy Tapper, and I went looking for an iPhone Gratitude Journal for the same reason I wanted a mobile Vision Board.  I had tried countless times to do journaling , whether gratitude or just in general, and ALWAYS failed miserably because I would have to carry the darned thing everywhere at all times to make it useful.  I checked out the few options that were available at the time (a lot more are now) and I've since checked out a lot of the newer ones.  Gratitude Journal by Happy Tapper continues to be the very best in my opinion.  

As the first of their apps, it pioneered their aesthetic of simple, sleek, single purpose apps.  It does one thing, does it well, and with their usual fun and happy look and feel.  Once you set it up, it's pretty self explanatory.  Here's how I use it throughout my day:

I tap on the icon, enter the pin number (because I password protect mine, which is optional), and then I'm on the list of my past days entries.  I tap the "+" sign, I get a fresh page, and I start entering my items that I am grateful for that day.  My day always starts with the same thing "My Morning Routine!".  That serves a dual purpose for me.  I can see at a glance how many days I have been successfully completing all my morning items, AND I'm EXTREMELY grateful that I am doing so, so of course it works for the idea of Gratitude as well.






Next I tap on the little photograph at the bottom, and select a photo from my library that I find inspirational.  I take a lot of pics with my phone, so this is not usually a problem.  If I don't have anything that moves me that day, I leave it as is and it just uses the little Gratitude! icon guy.    Lastly, I tap 5 stars, and I'm done!  You can rate your day 1-5 stars.  Mine are almost always 5 stars because of my outlook on life, but that's fairly recent.  I used to rate the day differently than I do now and I found the star ratings to be not so important.  Since reading Savor, I look at it as a GRATITUDE journal, and the only things in it are things I am grateful for, so the star rating has lost it's meaning for me personally.  Every day is a GREAT day!

That's it.  Gratitude! is another very simple, wonderfully designed app by Happy Tapper that should be a benchmark for app designers.  If more developers would strive for this type of slick feel and smooth operation of a simple task, the app store would be better for it!

Bottom line:  Like the Vision Board, it may be something you are really in to, or it may seem strange to you.  But having used it regularly for a very long time, I can tell you that at the very least you'll find it a great way to keep you focused on the things that matter in life, and take your attention away from the things that don't!  What I like about Gratitude Journal - as opposed to any "regular" journal - is that you are not writing anything negative.  If you do this first thing in the morning, and review it before bed, it will start and end your day with positive thoughts.  AND it's been created by Happy Tapper in such a way that makes the whole process fun, simple and effortless.  What more could you ask?

Go get it!
MondoSamu

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Three Cups of Tea




I'm so excited about this! I got tickets to see Greg Mortenson (author of Three Cups of Tea) speak in Auburn! I grew up in that area and have friends there. I'm going on a whirlwind trip to see friends and check out the Mortenson thing!

I am a big believer in the work that this guy is doing, and can't wait to see him speak.

If you haven't already, give this book a read! And if you like it, read the followup book "Stones Into Schools".

MondoSamu


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

How can anything that tastes so good, be SO bad!?

I am not a vegetarian.  Yet.  When I read Savor, I started eating mindfully and - as Thich Nhat Hanh warns - I found myself being a little bit of a reluctant vegetarian.  In the book he cautions that when you start eating mindfully you may find yourself less willing to eat meat because you are taking the time to consider where it comes from and you find it's hard to keep eating it.

So it was with me.  I haven't successfully stopped eating chicken yet, but I have not really had beef since July.  I have had a couple of cups of chili with a tiny bit of ground beef, but that's it.  Otherwise, I have been eating mostly vegetarian and veggie with a little chicken.

Last night, my wonderful mother-in-law (who always makes awesome meals when she's in town) made a pot roast with pot roast stewed veggies.  I took two small chunks of the ridiculously tender roast (small being normal mortal size chunks, instead of giant slabs like I used to eat).  I had a couple of spoonfuls of carrots and celery, etc that stewed with the roast, and the roast itself.  It tasted like…well…beef!  It was GREAT!  But, having not eaten it in months, I was doubled up with stomach pain an hour later and feeling heavy as a lead balloon.  It was murder.  I'm fine now, and it only lasted a while, but MAN if an experience like that doesn't convince you that our bodies aren't meant for meat, then what will?  I LOVE steak...but I had not problem giving it up.  Chicken?  Well...I'm still not ready to give up chicken.   But I'm getting there.

MondoSamu

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sunset

Walking in the park this evening, dusk said hello as the day was leaving.



- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

APP REVIEW: Happy Tapper Apps (Part 1 - The Vision Board)

So, I wake up at 4:45a.m., I do 30 minutes of Simply Tai Chi, I enter my exercise in to the LoseIt! app by FitNow for the iPhone, meditate for 15 minutes using Meditate - Meditation Timer by SimpleTouch Software and then I use all three of the Happy Tapper apps.  Let's look at the first one - Vision Board Deluxe - and how I use it.

After my meditation, I open the Vision Board Deluxe app from Happy Tapper.  All the Oprah fans out there probably know exactly what a vision board is, but the rest of us may never have heard of such a thing.  Personally, I read a lot of motivational and self-help books.  I don't do so because I'm looking for help with anything in particular, I just find them to be excellent ways to stay positive and motivated.  For instance, I love Dr. Wayne Dyer's books.  Especially his audio.  I find his voice, as well as his story telling, to be very good.  One of my favorites is "Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life" which examines the Tao Te Ching.  I have read and listened to the audio of that several times and just find it to be a great way to remain motivated.  I do that with most self-improvement books.  Well, if that sounds like good advice to you as well, then a Vision Board - especially one you can carry and update at all times - is a great idea!

Anyhow, somewhere along the way I learned what a vision board was and I tried it out.  I got a cork board, filled it full of pictures of the things I wanted, places I wanted to go, goals I wanted to achieve.  It was pretty cool, but I rarely looked at it, and never updated it.  Bottom line…it wasn't portable, so it wasn't for me.  I'm a high-tech guy on the go, and I found that if I couldn't carry it around, it didn't help.  At this point, I actually made a really cool bookmark version of mine, and started using it in whatever book I was reading, so at least I saw it a lot more.  It was analog-lo-fi-paper-based, so I still didn't REALLY use it, especially once I got my Sony eReader (for free from Google - but that's another story!).  So I went looking for a mobile version.  One I could pull out and view any time, anywhere.

Enter Happy Tapper!  Since Gratitude! (formally known as Gratitude Journal Your Positive Thoughts)  by Happy Tapper came out first, I actually used it first and it just so happened that around the same time I was looking for a vision board app, Happy Tapper released the ULTIMATE Vision Board Deluxe app!  I snagged it the moment it landed in the app store!

As I had, by that time, come to expect from Happy Tapper it was AMAZING!  Perfectly designed to do one simple job and do it well with a fun, happy aesthetic that I appreciated.  As a guy, I have always found Happy Tapper apps just a touch on the cutesy side and have shared this with the developer (and she has taken it to heart).  But if that's the only thing one can find to complain about in an app, then the developer is doing something right!


The apps by Happy Tapper are simply the best at what they do.  And I have always preferred function over form.  Happy Tapper has given us both, beautifully integrated...in all their apps! 

So, I spent a few minutes gathering images on the web of things I would like on my Vision Board, went through the very simple setup process and had my portable Vision Board Deluxe up and running in minutes.  It's so easy to edit and manipulate that you can just add on to it at any point.  You can also have multiple "boards".  I created several and choose to hit "Play" and watch them cycle.

Here's a screencap of what you see.  There isn't much more to it, and as you can see it's very simple and easy to jump right in to.


So...I launch the app and it shows the title of the "board" and then starts cycling through the images.  You can enter text as well, of course.  My method of using it is to read each one aloud to myself.  All of Happy Tappers apps tend to have quotes in them as well that you can use if you wish.  I have them turned on in mine, so every few frames it inserts a quote that is motivational or inspirational.  I find this keeps it fresh so that you stay focused on it instead of getting accustomed to your own entries and drifting off from the purpose which is focusing on the visualization.

All of mine take about 5 minutes to cycle through.  When I am done, I exit and move on to the next app!

That was a lot of information to say something rather simple, but to recap, the bottom line is:

Vision Board Deluxe is a very sleek, simple app to help you visualize your goals.  Whether you're a believer in Vision Boards, or you just need something to help you focus on your goals, it's a GREAT solution.  The BEST solution, in my opinion!

Next app I review will be Gratitude! by Happy Tapper...stay tuned.

MondoSamu

***UPDATE*** I mistakenly posted pics of both Vision Board AND Gratitude!  I've removed them and apologize for any confusion!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Mindful moments move me.

Stopping for coffee this morning, I was struck by the beauty and utter calm of this scene, overlooked 1000 times a day by people in too big of a hurry to see it.



- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, October 16, 2010

What a day!

Today was a truly wonderful day! I spent the morning with my little girl, as is our Saturday routine, then we went to a birthday party for her little friend. The friend is one of three young daughters of one of my best friends. At this gathering was a whole group of my best friends. Not all of them, but many. Looking around this group I saw these people whom I have been friends with for 15-plus years, their spouses, whom I've come to be close friends with as well, and a flock of children.


The children are what amazes me most. When I met this group of people we were all much younger, having parties, going to concerts. Now we all are married and have kids. The girl who had the birthday today is two and just welcomed her new baby sister in to the world. It was the strangest feeling to be there surrounded by these folks and feel like a family. It was like being with brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews. It was a great time.

After that, we came home and my little girl was awakened from a nap to find her Nana and Grampy here visiting from Canada! She was so happy!

I've lost 47 pounds so far, and is was the first time that the friends and in-laws have all seen me since I was a whopping 349 lbs. So they were all very amazed and happy for me and lavished me with kind compliments. While that was very nice, what I enjoyed was seeing one of these friends who is, herself, trying to lose a lot of weight. She is a lifelong overweight person. She said I was a true inspiration to her, and I let her know she inspires me. She doesn't see her own winnings in her struggle. She is going to school late in life to make a big change and is doing well. She's working, and losing weight. She has lost 23 pounds! It makes me sad because I see her getting in her own way by worrying about the future instead of living in the moment and being mindful. I made sure I gave her plenty of support today.

With the wonderful family and friend fun, and all the joy I could see from them it just made the whole day so easy to be mindful. I spent the entire day focused intently in the moment and it was great!

I topped the whole thing off with a few miles of mindful walking in he beautiful weather around my neighborhood and dinner with the family. I also bought my third copy of Savor...for the iPad this time. I just got it yesterday and the iBook ability to take notes and such is incredible.

I realize this post is a little rambling and might seem meaningless, but I assure you it's not. The point I'm trying to make is best summed up with a quote from the early pages of Savor:



And with that, I leave you for tonight. I'll try to get the first of my Happy Tapper reviews up tomorrow.

Mindfully,
Mondo Samu

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Going nowhere, fast.

While in Cincinnati this week, I had one night where I simply couldn't get outdoors early enough to walk in the park.  I had to use the hotel "gym", which consisted of two treadmills and a scale.  Two things were not cool about this.  The treadmill, and the scale.  I used their scale which said that I was an astonishing 25 pounds heavier than mine at home says!  Now, I didn't let this bother me at all because I have weighed myself in numerous locations, and they never match up, but they're all in the same range.  Also, I know that regardless of what I actually weigh, I have lost 45 pounds and that's for sure.   BUT, it did leave me kind of irritated.  I have since checked a couple of scales that put me back where I thought I was.  I calibrated that scale at the hotel, but it obviously was still way off.

The second thing was just having to walk on a treadmill.  I used to LOVE the treadmill, so I was fine with that.  When I got on and started going, I found that I no longer enjoy it at all.  I've become so accustomed to walking in nature, and being mindful while doing so, that I really enjoy that connection I get with nature.  So I mustered my mindfulness training and pushed forward.  I didn't want to watch TV or listen to music, which would possibly take me away from myself, so I tried extra hard to stay mindful.  Instead, I kept catching myself worrying too much about how long it was taking, how many calories I had burned, how many miles I had been.  Since the treadmill was about all there was to look at, I enjoyed it less and less as I went on.

Finally, I pulled out my iPhone4 and fired up a slideshow of all the beautiful pictures I had taken in the park the day before.  I put it on play, and sat it on the tray of the treadmill, then pretended I was walking in that park.  With the images, it made it so much easier to enjoy the time.  I found that once I focused on the pictures of nature, I was able to be mindful and focus on the things I normally give gratitude for when I walk.

Was this cheating?  Did I use a tool to help me avoid reality in order to then be mindful?  I'm not sure, but I know that it not only made the no-fun situation more bearable, but it also helped me be MORE mindful, by distracting myself!  Strange.  Not sure what to make of that, but it worked.

This also brings up another item.  I posted almost 24 hours ago for people to just ask for a free app code and haven't gotten a single response, although I have had a lot of traffic.  This makes me wonder if anyone who is currently reading this blog is an iPhone user or not?  Let me know, I'd be curious.

Have a GREAT day!
MondoSamu

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ask, and it is given....

...Well...at least five times anyhow....and only if it's a FREE PROMO CODE for an iPhone Meditate - Meditation Timer by SimpleTouch Software!

SimpleTouch Software was kind enough to give me some promo codes (see my "full disclosure" section in the lower right of the blog if you have questions or concerns as to how I handle this sort of thing).  

So, pretty simple here....No contests or crazy rules....simply be one of the first five people to post and ask nicely for a free code, and I will email it to you if you include your email address.  That simple.

I ask for nothing in return, but I would gently suggest that if you like it, be sure you let the developer know and spread the word.  It's a great app deserving of much love!

Enjoy!
MondoSamu

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

REVIEW: Meditate - Meditation Timer by SimpleTouch

After my morning Tai Chi, and using LoseIt! to enter my exercise on my iPhone, the next step of my morning routine is to use another iPhone app called Meditate - Meditation Timer by SimpleTouch Software.  As this app is about as close to perfection as I can imagine an app being, this review will be much shorter than some others might.


I settle down for a brief meditation.  Actually, a word on that…If you think that meditation is something you don't have time for, please find a way to fit it in.  It doesn't matter if it's an hour, 30 minutes, 15, 10 or even 1 or 2 minutes!  Even just a few breaths can be a meditation.  If you seriously think that's not possible, then use your Tai Chi or other exercise as moving meditation.  Use your walking as walking meditation.  Just find a way to fit it in, because the benefits are great.  Some might say that meditation has no place in a weight loss program.  I would argue strongly that it does.  It helps you calm yourself, think clearly and especially the quick, three breath re-focusing type, will help you live in the moment and focus when you are about to make a food or exercise decision.  If you do this before you order your lunch, you might find yourself eating much healthier.

Anyhow, I settle down, and relax, then hit the Meditate app icon.  Each time you enter the app, you will find a different lush and vibrant background image of a calming scene.  In the foreground you are shown a VERY slick control panel for the app.  What you see, with this app, is ALL you get.  It's designed to do one thing, VERY simply, and VERY well.  At the top is the time you have allowed for meditation.  Beneath that are six buttons:

Preparation (time)
Mediation (time)
Interval (time)
Cool Down (time)
Minus (-)
Plus (+)

The bottom has the "Meditate" button, which starts your timer.  When you tap that, the control panel flips horizontally, and states the item (preparation, meditation, etc) at the top, has a large countdown timer in the middle and a restart and pause button at the bottom.




That's all, folks!  There's no additional screens for setup, about us, website, nothing!  Meditate - Meditation Timer is perfectly stunning visually, perfectly simple in it's layout and operation, requires virtually NO setup and operates flawlessly.  One job, perfectly performed in a beautiful way.  What more could you possibly want in an app!

I've tried countless other options such as the popular Zazen Suite, and the Equanimity app.  All have their pros and cons.  What makes the Meditate app so special, at least to me, is there ARE NO CONS!  It's all PROS!  Just like the designers.  Speaking of whom, I have communicated with SimpleTouch a few times and have found them to be extremely responsive, professional and friendly.  Their professionalism as a developer seems to match their design aesthetic.  Can't say anything nicer than that about them, if you ask me!

So, bottom line - If meditation is a part of your life, and you're an iPhone user, this app is non-optional.  If there's a better mediation timer app out there, I have not seen it!

Til next time,
MondoSamu

Gratitude

Hello, welcome and thank you!  I have received a ton of new traffic since Dr. Lilian Cheung mentioned MondoSamu on the Savor Facebook page.  I thought I should take a moment to show some gratitude to her for the lovely mention and then to each of you who has taken time out of your life to spend reading my words.  I'm especially grateful to those who have commented that this blog has had some positive impact for them.  You can't know what that means to me, and I'm so happy for you all as well.

So WELCOME!  Come back to see me from time to time.  I will try to post daily, or as often as my work schedule will permit.  I look forward to sharing ideas, stories and information and learning from each of you.

MondoSamu

Monday, October 11, 2010

Staying mindful on the road

I travel for work a good bit, and today I found myself in Cincinnati. I had been planning on eating at Skyline Chili (famous local chili joint) even until I landed. But when I looked for nearby eateries, a good vegan place caught my eye. I mustered my mindfulness and chose Melt Eclectic Cafe.

I had a BBQ chicken sandwich and cup of chili. All vegan and DELICIOUS!!!




I worked the rest of the day, then headed up to Devou Park for a great mindful walk.













Lastly, I finished the day with dinner by the water with another veggie choice. Edamame hummus with wheat pita, and veggies. And then a spring mix salad with walnuts, sun dried cranberries, English cukes, Bleu cheese and a basil orange balsamic vinaigrette.








I'm always so glad when I manage to eat great food, mindfully, and get great exercise in, when I'm on the road and it's so easy to eat poorly and sit around.

What a great day!

Mondo Samu

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Simply LoseIt! with Tai Chi

So, now that we've established that Savor! is the foundation of my work to lose weight, let's move on to the details of what I am doing.

My normal wake up time was 5:30 a.m., and I am a morning person.  My wife and kid are awesome, so to keep from losing time with them, I started getting up at 4:45 a.m., and the first thing I do (after caring for the family pets) is Tai Chi.

I pop in the Simply Tai Chi DVD, and do the warm up and then the 12 forms for 30 minutes.  Some days, I switch it out for a different style like the Yang style and do something a little different to keep it fresh.

I'm not qualified, by any stretch of the imagination, to write knowledgeably on Tai Chi, so I won't spend a lot of time on that.  Just know that, for me, it has proven to be a fantastic way to do some moving meditation, and burn some calories, doing something I truly enjoy and is low impact.  Beyond that you can check out the Wikipedia page which has some great links and information for further research.

More importantly, when I am done with that morning exercise, I immediately use the first of several iPhone apps I rely on:

LoseIt! by FitNow;

I tap on LoseIt, and enter my exercise (30 minutes of Tai Chi), then it posts that automatically (because I set it up to do so) on FaceBook so that all my friends who are using their time to play FarmVille can see that I have just used mine to get in shape and lose weight!

When I weigh in on Sunday or Monday, LoseIt! posts any losses (again, because I allowed it to do so) on my FaceBook as well.

Let me explain what (in my opinion) is the magic of LoseIt! - Nothing!  There is no magic!  LoseIt! makes it easy for busy folks to lose weight by doing what doctors the world over have been telling overweight people to do FOR-E-VER!  WATCH WHAT YOU EAT!

It sounds simple, but in a SEA of diets that each take their own path to help you lose weight, and usually fail, LoseIt! relies on the age old idea that if you pay attention to what you are eating, keep a journal of it, track the calories, you will lose weight.  This app fits extremely well with the Savor book because, if used, it MAKES you mindful of what it is that you consume, and how many calories it is.  Let me give you a real life example:

Up until a few months ago, a typical morning breakfast for me was a bowl of cereal at home, either a Starbucks Venti Mocha Frap or 44 oz. Soda (sometimes both), and either a Chocolate Chunk Cookie from Starbucks or a King Sized Reese's Fast Break candy bar.  That was breakfast.  Then one day, I started using LoseIt! to track my intake.  I diligently entered all my breakfast items.  Being a 6'4" 349 pound guy (back then) I had a calorie allotment of around 2500 calories or so per day.  The breakfast above went something like this (rounded for simplicity):  Cereal (380) + Soda (500) + Candy (480) = 1440 calories for BREAKFAST!  Not to mention all the sugar!  For lunch I would typically have a 1000 - 1500 calorie meal from some fast food joint, then dinner might be another 1500-2000 calories from say, maybe, a half a pizza.  Grand total on a given day could range from 4000-5000 calories!!!  More than double my appropriate amount!!! Add to that the fact that I am a sedentary office IT guy who LOATHED heat and sweating…and you get the formula that created my 349 lb. self.

On that first time using LoseIt!, when I saw the fact that my breakfast meal was well over half my daily allowance, I realized two things immediately.

  1. I had to change something immediately
  2. SODA was my ENEMY!  
For me, I could EEEEEASSILY consume 3-6 of those 44 oz sodas per day.  I drank big gulps at the 7/11 when I was a kid, I got a job at a Soda manufacturer that plied it's people with all the free soda they could drink and worked there for FIVE YEARS, I worked in a job that allowed me access to free soda for EIGHT years following that, and just have always generally drank soda as thought it were the nectar of the gods and I had found the magic fountain!

So, I cut soda out.  I used LoseIt! and lost 28 lbs. within a couple of months and was excited.  Then several factors caused me to fall off of it for a while and one day all that and more had come back to haunt me!  (Once again, let me stress that I was missing the mindfulness I have now found in Savor)

I've now been using LoseIt! for the last 3 months DAILY.  Setting up the "Motivators" (such as allowing it to post to FaceBook) has helped keep me at it this time, but really it's the Savor book that has helped me apply mindfulness so well that has kept me at it the most.  But, the bottom line is, I use it daily, I track my calories and my exercise, and I have now lost 45 pounds!

Now, to be fair, I can not tell you that LoseIt! is the perfect app (that honor goes to Happy Tapper and SimpleTouch for their apps I will talk about later).  There have been some bumps for me using it.  The first was the total loss of all my data during an update to the IOS.  Not actually their fault, but it happened none the less and there was nothing in place to prevent it.  They have since implemented online backups!  I also had, and continue to have, trouble finding a lot of the foods I eat in their database.  It's always been strange to me that they seem to have all the worst foods of a place, rather than the good items.  Like, they'll have SOME items that Burger Queen sells, but not ALL of them.  Or whatever.  It can be frustrating and, in the beginning, I think it could cause you to stop using it because what you eat may not be in the database.  They have since done regular updates, but this continues to be an issue.  Luckily, after a few months of using it, most of your stuff will be entered so it's no problem.

Now the great stuff!  The food entry methods are great!  They give you a bunch of great ways to find foods quickly which is extremely important.  You can search the overall database, your own foods, or you can quickly select from previous meals.  This last one is a GREAT thing if you eat the same breakfast every day or similar.  Also, you can create your own recipes, which can be a little time consuming, but is GREAT!  And other ways as well.  This app, just in general, works extremely well, and it's navigation is it's strongest feature in my opinion.  I think it's the simplicity and ease of navigation that keeps me coming back.  Also, a recent update introduced the ability to use the "app" online without having a smartphone.  So if you are not an iPhone user and still want to take advantage, you can!  They also greatly improved their overal structure online and introduced social networking with other users of the app.  It's pretty darned slick.  And in a less important nod to them, I have to give them serious props for their VERY nice security setup, AND testing....some social networking sites out there who rhyme with Schmacebook could take a page out of FitNow's book and be a lot better off!

There are countless other options out there that I have tried (because I keep hoping for a more comprehensive database and BAR CODE SCANNING!), but I keep coming back.  Calorie Counter is a good one, but ultimately (like most of the available apps for calorie counting) is a little overly complex for what it does.  All-In Fitness is a really slick app, but for some reason didn't appeal to me (though I am a fan of their apps).  And the best competitor to LoseIt! in my opinion is the LiveStrong.com app.  It is also more complex than I want, and not terribly slick, but it has the very best calorie database I have found anywhere.  There are numerous options for almost anything I have tried to find, even obscure items.  I believe - though I have no factual info on this - that it uses customer sourced info to build it's database, which can be both good and bad.  I like it so much, in fact, that I use it to find calorie info I can't find in LoseIt! and then enter them in.

So, to wrap up, LoseIt! is not perfection, but it's a fantastic app with a very strong community of support.  In recent months they have been a lot more responsive with new updates and I believe they even have a book coming out about the app as well.  


If I could only choose one app to recommend for calorie tracking it would be LoseIt!

Have you got a similar app that you prefer?  Please tell me what and why?  Let's get the Mondo part of MondoSamu happening! A little two-way discussion and sharing of info!

Go get LoseIt!

Til next time (when we discuss Meditate - Meditation Timer by SimpleTouch).

MondoSamu

Thursday, October 7, 2010

"Savor" - The foundation of my process

"HOW?!"

That's the number one question people ask me when they see or hear that I have lost 45 pounds.

"Mindfulness" comes my one word answer.

Even when I tell them the more full length version as detailed in my previous post "The Plan!" it still sounds too easy.  Everyone either expects more, or thinks I'm oversimplifying it. Eat mindfully, exercise mindfully.  That's it.

Mindfulness, when you get right down to it, is all I am doing.  Sure I am initiating several other efforts using a variety of tools, but each of them is being used and performed mindfully.  The reason I stress this, is that I have done all of these things and COUNTLESS others in the past and none of those were successful individually.  I truly believe that what has happened for me with "Savor" and it's mindfulness message, is that I have found the glue that holds all those other efforts together.  The glue I was lacking in all my previous attempts.

I had a go at mindfulness once before.  It was a fad diet book, that actually had a great message (Eat what you want, when you want, when your full - stop.  And pay attention only to what you are eating.), and I still utilize it's core idea as part of my visualization process today.  But, ultimately, that other book focused on only one area of a persons life.  And that's where "Savor" excels.  It focuses on THE area of your life!

From the first days of my mindfulness efforts, I found things like the "Apple Meditation" to be amazingly effective!  Later in the book, I found the walking meditation to be a great practice as well.  But in the end, it's a very common sense, logical approach to help you focus on what matters, listen to your body and be happy all the while.  The end result?  Whatever you want it to be!

Co-Authored by Nutritionist, Dr. Lilian Cheung, and Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh, the book gives a very good balance between the Buddhist point of view on mindfulness and the medical science of nutrition.

Thich Nhat Hanh, or Thay as he is referred to by his students, is a Buddhist Monk whom most agree is second only to the Dalai Lama himself in terms of influence.  His life is a mind-boggling journey spanning decades of helping people who couldn't help themselves, yet those achievements - when reviewed on paper - seem so expansive as to have seemingly occupied three times his life span!  It's simply astonishing how involved in bringing peace to the world he has been.  From becoming a monastic at age 16, to helping to pioneer the idea of "Engaged Buddhism", to war relief, to youth services, hospitals, homeless, agricultural and many other areas Thich Nhat Hanh has tirelessly and ceaselessly helped spread love and mindfulness throughout the world, while helping people directly, and still has found time to author several dozen works as broad ranging in topic as his relief work is in scope.  Oh, and he founded the Plum Village meditation community in France.  Look up any of his talks on YouTube, and his sweet affable nature will endear you to him immediately.

Dr. Lilian W. Y. Cheung, D. Sc., R.D. is a nutritionist on the faculty of the Harvard School of Public Health's Dept. of Nutrition.  She's been a student of Thich Nhat Hanh for years and knows more than a thing or two about the obesity crisis facing our country.  She's been involved in numerous books, lectures, websites and mass media programs to help confront this problem, and hopefully - one day - put an end to it.  She's an amazing thought leader, with her finger on the pulse of one of the nations most serious concerns.  As a student (and teacher) of both nutrition AND Buddhism, she is uniquely qualified to bring this message of mindfulness to us from a perspective both spiritual and scientific.

I believe that the message of this book, and it's authors, has everything you need to help you make a change in your life that will be entirely positive and beneficial.  Ultimately, you have to be ready and willing to make that change, or it's just so much good information.  If you are, as I was, then this book could be the right message at the right time, for you to begin your own journey to a healthier, happier and more mindful life!

What I can not stress to you often enough, or clearly enough, is how utterly SIMPLE this weight loss effort has been for me.  It's taken very little of my time, I have not craved things I have cut out, I have become a virtual vegetarian (Megitarian as my friend Alicia put it), have not been hungry - NONE of the usual things that come with diets and workouts.  Utterly, amazingly, simple.  It's as though, by simply making the decision to be this person, I am.  And that's exactly what it is.

Best of luck to you, I literally wish this for you in my moving meditations!

M.S.

Monday, October 4, 2010

THE PLAN!

Weight Loss & Life Improvement Plan - Simple Version

1) Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life

That's it!  The short "one-size-fits-all" version of my plan is: read the Savor book, and apply it to your life in whatever ways work for your personal situation.

Too easy?  Not enough info?  Ok...

If you want to know specifics about MY personal plan, here's a little more detail:

Weight Loss & Life Improvement Plan - The Whole Deal (my personal plan)

1) Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life

2) MY MORNING ROUTINE:





3) MY EVENING ROUTINE:




  • Walking

Throughout my day, I utilize a lot of the Savor's Mindfulness techniques to eat right and stay in the present moment.

At night, I usually go for a walk before dinner.  I either walk in the park, or our neighborhood.  If it's in our neighborhood, I walk half the distance I intend to walk in one direction away from our house.  That way, I'm not tempted to stop when I pass by, or close to, our house.  I usually walk 2 miles, and I use my iPhone as a pedometer.  When I'm done I log my exercise in the iPhone and call it a day.

Those are the only things I am doing, and I have lost 45 pounds in less than 3 months!

That is literally all there is to it (so far)!

If it sounds simple, it's because it is!

In following posts, I will review each of the apps mentioned, as well as several others, and provide links to them, as well as a little description of how I use them or why.  But the first step - for me - begins with the book.  My next post will focus on my thoughts on the book, and why it's so great.

Savor!
MondoSamu