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.


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.



Tuesday, November 9, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

I LOVE steak.

And Chicken.

And Pork.

But I married a vegetarian which, for the first several years of marriage, made me a sort of Megetarian.  A vegetarian by proxy who ate meat when I could, but rarely.  I still ate meat, but not nearly as much because it simply wasn't made for me at home.  I only had it when eating out.

Then, around the time our daughter was born, my wife fell off the veggie wagon, and we started eating chicken.  Still to this day, that is the main - almost the only - meat eaten in our house.  I got my steak fix any time I travel for work.  While traveling for work, my company provides me with the ability to eat pretty much whatever I would like and I like STEAK!  So, while traveling, I usually would have a nice filet mignon steak every day.

Please understand that going in to this book, I was a meat eater and quite happy with it.  I had heard stories of chicken farming that was insane, but I honestly just didn't ever think much about it.  Sort of put on the ol' blinders and trudged ahead.  The same way I never liked cooking meat…because it made me think too much about the animal.  (Interesting to note that the more you practice mindfulness, the more you discover that this is how we live our lives in many areas)
Eating Animals
Well, almost a year ago, I started reading "Eating Animals".  Honestly I did this because I was desperate for a good book, and I saw this one by the guy who wrote the book "Everything Is Illuminated".  I loved the movie of that book, and was intrigued that the same guy had written this non-fiction book about vegetarianism.  That and I had seen the author, Jonathan Safran Foer on a talk show and he seemed VERY reasonable.  He didn't seem like he was trying to shove his agenda down anyones throat, but rather was saying that he just wanted people to TALK about the issue.  No matter what the reader decided, he just wanted to get a conversation happening openly.  I thought this was VERY savvy, so I got the book.  Having watched my wife struggle through her efforts to eat a plant based diet every time we had a get together at a friends house and constantly be harassed, cajoled, questioned or just plain ignored with regard to her choice (never meant to be those things, but always how it felt) I wasn't in any hurry to join the veggie team, but I think the time has come for me.

I got about halfway through the book, and was getting rather tired of the negativity and depressing nature of the book.  Don't get me wrong, I was very impressed with it, and had already heard enough that I asked my wife what she would think about getting back to a vegetarian lifestyle again.  She was very willing, and we decided we would.  But - I still stopped reading the book.

At the half-way point in the book, and having decided to go vegetarian already, I wasn't sure I wanted to finish the depressing book.  Well, during this time I read "Savor" and had become very devoted to losing weight and eating mindfully.  Mindful eating makes it very hard to put out of your mind the fact that you are eating what was once a living creature.  Furthermore, if you have any knowledge of factory farming, it makes it near impossible not to envision the horrible treatment that the animals, the land and even the workers in the industry receive.  As "Savor" says, when you eat mindfully, you may find yourself becoming an inadvertent vegetarian.  Sure enough, I did.

I started going out of my way to try and eat vegetarian at every opportunity including when traveling for work.  I also stopped eating all red meat.  I didn't (and still haven't completely) give up chicken, but I'm working on it.

Anyhow, I decided to finish reading "Eating Animals", and I'm very glad I did.  Once past all the statistical and descriptive bad stuff - a necessary evil to hear, I think - the book gets down to some of the good things happening, and also how to move ahead in the world and LOTS of talk of reason.  Reasoning on how to make a choice, why you should, etc.

In the end, while the "Eating Animals" book is not a lot of fun, it's DEFINITELY worth the read, and more than a little upsetting if you are an animal lover, but be forewarned that if you read this book you are very likely to decide that you no longer want to be a part of the way in which your meat is currently provided to you.  And make no mistake…if you eat meat, and you don't buy it from your friendly neighborhood farmer, you are very, very likely eating meat that was factory farmed.

At it's core this book is shining a light on a challenge that is facing all of mankind today, and it is asking us to simply consider it.  To be mindful of what we are doing, and then to make a knowledge-based choice using our own values.  Be mindful.  They didn't put it in those words, but that's what it is.  Know where it comes from, know how it gets to your plate, and know thy self.  If you do these things, then the decision you make will be the right one for you.

As this fit so well with the "Savor" ideal of mindfulness, I felt real need to share this review with you all.  Like the book, I do NOT judge you for your choice.  I've enjoyed an animal based diet for most of my life.  When I am mindful, however, I find I must now take a different path.

Enjoy the book, and whatever you choose, go out and have conversation about it.  In fact, let's have one here!  I'd love to hear your thoughts on factory farming, vegetarianism, your own decision to go one way or the other.  Whether here, or with your friends and family, let's remove the judgement and emotion from the issue, and just discuss it openly with care.


Monday, November 8, 2010

Be Like Water

I had a great weekend!  We did all our usual weekend stuff, but on Saturday night my wife took my daughter to a "Very Grinchy Christmas" ballet put on by her ballet school (not her class).  The extra "me-time" allowed me to set up my workout routines in iFitness which I have been meaning to do.  Not sure yet if there is any real benefit to the app, but I'll review it here in the near future.

Also it made it possible for me to get in some extremely focused Tai Chi and meditation on a Saturday evening (something not normally possible). My Tai Chi Saturday, and today, was so much more beneficial than normal.  Not sure why.  It's always calming, and frequently is noticeably beneficial physically, but for some reason the last couple of times seemed like I hit a new level physically.  It felt like I was hitting everything just right.  It's hard to describe but it's a huge difference.

Sunday was nice and lazy, as a Sunday should be.  I went for a few-mile walk (in the mall) and then we all went to the park.  The weather was great for us.

There were a lot of crazy stressful moments, and a lot of nice relaxing family  time moments throughout the weekend, and this picture I took at the pond in the park sort of summed it all up visually for me.  Reminded me to "be like water" and to be balanced and calm.

Great weekend!

Unbelievable. And unbelievably sad.

Just read this story on CNN.

As a father of a four year old girl who's sole motivation for ever asking for McDonald's is the toy she gets, this story is very, very sad to me.

This stuff keeps building up, and at some point somethings gotta give.  We can't, as a culture, continue to support fast food as it is today.  There are scores of fast food joints within a mile of me, but the nearest vegetarian restaurant is 15 miles away.

Like everything in free enterprise, it's all about supply and demand.  While the things these corporations do are not great, the bottom line is that as long as we line up and place our orders for crap food loaded with salt and sugar, and little to no nutritional value, they will keep right on selling it to us.

WE have to stop eating it, then the problem WILL go away.

Sorry...I tend to keep things positive around here, but this story really irked me, as I just finished reading a book related to this.  I'll post a review soon.

We now resume our regular positive programming!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Strength? Will-power? Choice.

I want to talk about something that has come up a lot for me lately. In fact it's the number one topic that has come up for me in my weight loss efforts. It's people thinking that I am "super-strong", or possessed of "incredible will-power" or such.

I'm not.

At work there's a woman who constantly exclaims "Gosh, you are SO strong! I could never do that!" when I refuse one of the daily pastry treats people bring in to snack on. One of my friends always says "Yeah, but you have tremendous will-power." And another friend told me, very sweetly, that I "more than anyone" she's "ever known" am able to "commit" to things once I make up my mind.

Well, while it's true that I am the type of person who once I make up my mind, I can be like a dog with a bone. It's also true that I weighed 349 pounds until a few months ago and have been overweight my entire life! While I definitely do not suffer from low self-esteem, and will be the first to say I am a strong person (see?), I have to say that I'm not as strong as everyone seems to think. I'm not super-powered. If I was so strong, then the weight would never have been a lifelong issue for me. So, I ponder - a lot - the idea of WHY has this weight loss and mindfulness change been relatively easy for me (so far)? Why AM I able to do it so easily?

There are a few reasons that this concerns me so much.
  1. I don't want others to think it will be a snap, if it's not and then feel bad that they aren't having the same results.
  2. I don't want any blog readers to "change the channel" because they think this information doesn't apply to them. ("Oh, that's just him…I can't do that")
  3. I just want to know why, after decades of not being able to resist food, I'm suddenly strong in this way. I assure you it's a mystery to me as well.
The one that really made me think I better address this whole issue was an email I was deeply honored to receive from one of the authors of "Savor", Dr. Lilian Cheung congratulating me on my success so far, and saying "The most exciting phenomena for us is to hear from you that it has not been a struggle." (an email I cherish and read now and then for a boost!). I had that on my mind when I started re-reading "Savor" for the third time. Even the book says that the change won't occur over-night.

But…for me…it did. There are changes I'm making nearly every day, but the important one - THE change - was simply a single decision. A choice I made. The choice to live mindfully. As "Savor" says:

"Attaining a healthy weight is your choice. And it is a practice, not an idea."

YOUR CHOICE! There is great power in that phrase…please read it again, and focus mindfully on that sentence before you go on.

"Attaining a healthy weight is your choice. And it is a practice, not an idea."

"Savor" starts out talking about the Four Noble Truths as they relate to weight loss. The first:

"The First Noble Truth: Being Overweight or Obese is Suffering"

Is all about identifying your suffering. Determining why you are overweight, how much, the patterns that got you here, the emotions that lead to your feelings about food, etc. It's about doing some serious soul searching. I think this part is very hard for anyone. For me, I had already been doing this for a very long time…about a year…before I finally found "Savor", so perhaps part of my seemingly overnight success is that I was very much aware of my suffering and ready to do something about it, I just didn't know what to do. So the decision I made happened instantly, but the thoughts and feelings that lead up to it had been going on for a much longer time.

The events I discussed previously that lead up to me reading "Savor", and subsequently all the weight loss, were a series of events and situations that kept adding up. Piling up is more accurate. They piled up, and piled up like the pounds did, until I knew that if I didn't make a change very soon, and VERY big, I would be in serious danger in several areas of my life.

I was very worried about my health, and my longevity. I was really afraid I might not be around for my daughter. Having lost my own father (who was obese, blind, diabetic and had cancer) when I was 18, I was keenly aware of my own chances of suffering a similar fate.

So, my friend was right about one thing…I am the type of person who sets my mind on something and doesn't give up. But weight control was the one area of my life I have never been able to manage correctly. That's why when I read "Savor" so much of it spoke deeply and directly to me with the message I needed to hear, when I needed to hear it. It's not that it told me anything new - we all know these common sense things (eat less, exercise more), I think - it's something about how the authors expressed it and combined it with the idea…the imperative…to live in the present moment! Something about my state of mind when I read it. Whatever it was, the words made more sense, and hit closer to home, than any I have read before.

So, I guess what I want to make sure people take away from this blog first and formost, is that you CAN do this. You CAN make the choice. A choice is just a choice…simple as that. I can't promise it will be easy, and I hope it won't be hard.  I deeply hope for you that it is as natural as it has been for me, but what once you decide that you want to lose weight, I would suggest reading "Savor" and pay particular attention to the breathing work, to learn how to "come back to yourself".
If you can do this, then this ONE decision will make it infinitely easier to tackle all the other challenges that you will face.

"Attaining a healthy weight is your choice."

It's not strength.
It's not Will-Power.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

You get what you get, and you don't get upset!

My daughter is a big fan of the book "Pinkalicious" in which the little girls mother tells her "You get what you get, and you don't get upset!"

Any parent out there will know the value of this lesson for the little ones, but it's a great lesson in life for all of us. Take my day today, for example.

My wife has the car today, so I had no transportation during lunch. Events of the day are aligned in such a way that I will not get the opportunity to do my usual 3 miles of walking tonight. Normally, I would just go walking at the mall during lunch, or at the park. Since I have no car today, I couldn't even do that. I also like to find a nice spot to do a short, slow, mindful walk during my lunch when I can, but my office park offers no such peaceful area of beauty.

So, taking a lesson from my daughters bedtime story, I put on my earbuds and pulled up some nice relaxing music (something I don't normally use when mindfully walking, but with the busy highway traffic I felt it warranted) and walked around our park twice. Around and back was 1 mile. I walked that, and then found an empty room and did my walking meditation in that plain little room. With my earbuds in, and a guided walking meditation, I was able to enjoy both of these walks, despite the lackluster surroundings.

I had my lunch in our office kitchen at a little bistro table with a giant bowl of communal candy leftover from Halloween sitting there. It gave me tremendous pleasure - VAST pleasure - to take my hour long lunch of carless confinement and turn it in to an hour of pleasurable walking and meditation, as well as eating a very healthy lunch in front of a giant bowl of candy that I had absolutely NO desire to touch.

I walked away from lunch today feeling tremendous gratitude for the strength I have developed over my old cravings, the mindfulness that has allowed me to make so much enjoyment from so little and a very solid sense of happiness for being firmly in the NOW!


Change the World, with Your Own Two Hands

On my way to vote this morning, I took a few minutes at the voting location to have a brief mindful walk and think about the items and positions up for a vote.  Afterward, as I waited in line to vote, I listened to some music on my iPhone to keep from overhearing people talking about politics. One of my least favorite things about voting is having to listen to people in line argue about politics.

Anyhow, I was listening to one of my favorite artists, Ben Harper, and a song came on from the Diamonds on the Inside album called With My Own Two Hands, or sometimes known as just Two Hands.

As I listened, and being in the frame of mind for voting as well as having spent some time doing my Tai Chi and meditating and all, the words of the song had a particular sense of meaning to me today.  I've always loved this song, but I really saw deeply in to the lyrics today and it occurred to me that they represent a pretty good summation of how to live life.  Here's the lyrics for you to enjoy, and I would invite you to check out the song if you really want a treat.

With My Own Two Hands by Ben Harper

i can change the world
with my own two hands
make a better place
with my own two hands
make a kinder place
with my own two hands
with my own
with my own two hands

i can make peace on earth
with my own two hands
i can clean up the earth
with my own two hands
i can reach out to you
with my own two hands
with my own
with my own two hands

i'm gonna make it a brighter place
i'm gonna make it a safer place
i'm gonna help the human race
with my own
with my own two hands

i can hold you
with my own two hands
i can comfort you
with my own two hands
but you got to use
use your own two hands
use your own
use your own two hands

with our own
with our own two hands
with my own
with my own two hands

In the lyrics of this one little song, lie great words of wisdom on how to help others, how to help yourself, help the Earth, deep reflection, great hope and an overall representation of Interbeing.

What a nice way to launch my day!