Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Where are you going?

In the opening pages of Savor there's a section that speaks on habit energy. It starts by sharing that classic Zen story you've probably heard before:
A man on a horse can be seen approaching in the distance by some villagers. As he gets closer, since he looks to be in a great hurry, a villaber yells out "Where are you going?" to which the man replies "I don't know...Ask the horse!!"
That horse is the many ways in which we find ourselves mindlessly grabbing a soda any time we are thirsty, or eating a dozen cookies instead of one, or buying cookies instead of a healthier choice! 

When I started out with Savor 11 years ago, I could identify a great many ways in which I allowed my habit energy to carry me through life. The one that always struck me as the most outstanding was going in to a coffee shop for a coffee, but walking out with a Denti Flapuccino (I don’t want to get any Barstucks legal notices because this isn't about bashing them) and a large chocolate chip cookie. About 900 calories instead of 20. I would have the thought of a coffee and the initial intention to get only a coffee. Waiting in the line, I had ample time to mindlessly tune out and scroll my phone or whatever. All the while standing in front of the baked goods rack. 

Now...this gets complex, but the short version of what would happen inside me was kind of like this: 

"I'll have a coffee.", I would think. 
scroll, glance up, scroll, glance around, scroll 
Then I would have a thought, "Man a frap would be so good" "Nah, I need to lay off the flapuccinos." 
"Well, I do, but it's Saturday, so I could enjoy one today and then Monday I'll start my diet." 
"No, I'll just get the coffee." 
scroll, glance up, scroll, glance around, scroll 
Walk out of the store with my Flapuccino and....a cookie?! *takes bite of cookie* 
"What the...when did I order the cookie?!" 

 Now, I have a lot of friends that work for BarStucks. I asked why they have 8 people working and not one around to take an order. Initially she said that they have a mandate to stay in their workstation no matter what. It's a completely ridiculous way of operating, especially when there never seemed to be a cashier at an "order here" station. No one else could move from their two foot square except that person who keeps the customer moving. Completely ridiculous. 

Unless...

…you don't really want people to move fast. Maybe you'd like for them to spend some time in line by the baked goods rack waiting to place their order. One article I read from 2016 says that 79% of shoppers will make an impulse purchase while waiting in line at the checkout, that last six feet to freedom. So there's that. 

 But let's go back to the process going on in my head and body when I was in the line. There's a couple of very deep complex things happening there that might not be completely obvious. 

First, I wanted a coffee, I resigned myself to coffee, and I had the thought of a different drink but I decide firmly on the coffee. Then bought a different drink. Why? Well, I have learned enough about myself to know that - for me - when I walk in the store that choice has already been made. In fact, most of the time, before I park my car or even pull in the parking lot, somewhere inside I have already decided I'm having that 500 calorie drink. 

There's a seed planted right at the very first thought of going for coffee. It's SO deep, and so tiny that I can hardly tell you when it happens even after 11 years of working to see it. But I do know it happens, and I know that - and here's the first really crucual thing that's not obvious - I'm not talking myself in to getting the drink...I'm talking myself out of it. That choice was already made, and now I'm trying to change my mind. 

 This has something to do with the fact that we can't NOT think about something that someone tells us not to think about. If you say "You should definitely NOT get a frozen 500 calorie drink" my mouth says "yeah, that's true..." while somehwhere inside me I'm saying "I'm totally getting a 500 calorie drink". And from that point on I'm scrolling through my phone, waiting in line, while I pretend to talk myself out of it. I'm not sure if everyone works this way, but that's what I've learned about me. 

 Now the second things is even less obvious. Somewhere wayyyyyy down below that internal struggle that has a little bit of my attention is another struggle. This is the one that says:

"Psst! I know we are here for coffee, and we both know you're having a 500 calorie frozen sugar drink instead...but dude...next time you look up, check out that sweet looking cookie!" 
 "you mean the chocolate chipcookie? 240 calories?" 
 "No dude...that's not a chocolate chip cookie....that, sir, is a Triple. Chocolate. CHUNK. Cookie from heaven! I mean...you can't get it, we alreday know that...I'm just sayin. Look at that thing." 

 So...while I think I'm trying to get a coffee, my brain is doing whatever the hell it wants, and I'm barely aware of one thing, much less all the others. This is our habit energy. Or mine anyhow. And as the book Savor says...
“We have to learn the art of stopping—stopping our running so that we can be present for and embrace our habit energies of worry, blame, guilt, and fear, and calm the strong emotions that dictate us. We have to learn to live fully in the present moment. We need to practice breathing in and breathing out with all our awareness. We have to learn to become mindful.”
If we can take even just ONE calming in and out breath to pause and think before we go in to the proverbial coffee shop and look down deeply at what is happening in our experience, we can choose with intention and stay focused. I have verified this to be true! I lost a lot of weight with this one simple practice! 

 What's the catch? Well, there is a small catch of course. We need this to be easier, and to be easier we must focus on it often. Daily meditation is a must. But luckily it can't, and doesn't have to, happen all at once. Start with a single breath. Three breaths. A minute. Five minutes.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

What year is it?!

 Well, it's July 3rd.  If you know what Mondo Samu is, or who you think he is, then you probably already know my history and all about my old blog. If you're new here you may be wondering what/who the heck is all this about.  Either way, go back and read this post to get caught up.  Then come back here....I'll wait....


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You're back! Great...let's get started. Again.

So if you read that post, or the handful of others from 2019, you may be thinking "wow, he was back on track with his exercise and working on it...wonder what went wrong?"

Well, you see, there was this little thing called the Covid19 Pandemic. Lots of things happened.  Lots didn't. And in the blink of an eye...here we are. The year is 2021 and we are MAYBE just starting to emerge from this pandemic.  Don't get me wrong, it's still very much active. But vaccinations are slowly happening, and life is becoming again. Not returning to normal.  That's not a thing.  But it is becoming. Becoming a somewhat familiar-feeling, but entirely new, thing.

Anyhow, this isn't about the pandemic.  It's about fully embodying  my dharma practice.  If you caught up on the blog, you know that I was already living a pretty great life in 2019. Practice was strong, except I wasn't sure what - if any - direction I was headed in terms of teaching. I had somewhat accepted that I was a teacher and I was slowly accepting what that meant for me sans the "official" training I thought I needed to wear that title. Health was great, except I wasn't exercising steadily which had resulted in gaining back half of the weight I lost when I discovered the dharma 11 years ago today...ten at that time.

So I had rebooted the blog to help myself get back on track, and I had blown out the old posts to keep from limiting myself to being a "diet blog" but to instead live up to the name I had given it.  Mondo -- a sort of discussion between a teacher (all of us) and a student (also hopefully all of us) about the work or service we do. It was never meant to be my name...but it kind of became that as well.

And here we are.  Now...I'm happy to report that at that time I had gained over half the weight back, but after a year and a half of sitting on my but all day at home I have lost about half of that half! How did I lose weight while also doing nothing remotely resembling exercise??  Well, it was a breeze.  I changed my job criteria from world travel and eating out all the time to working and eating at home. Doesn't exactly seem like a recipe for weight loss, right?

I think this is a very important lesson though. What could be at the root of losing weight when you sit on your but and don't travel?! Something that is huge...no pun intended.  Restaurants everywhere, at least in America, give us SIGNIFICANTLY more food than we need to eat in a single meal.  And even when you eat healthy vegan or vegetarian foods, if you're eating way too much of it...you will gain weight, of course. Which is NOT mindful eating, by the way.

So what this shows me is that. when I was on the road, I was eating significantly more food than I needed because I was eating mindlessly and not wanting to waste food.  If my OLD blog was still around you'd see that that was a major factor in how I lived a life of largess in the first place.

So for a world crisis that changed many things and had many far more horrible outcomes, this was one thing - among many - that I actually benefited from during this last 1.5 years of weirdness. 

Now...let's try this once more.  I'll try to keep posting about both health and dharma (which are really the same, after all) and we'll see how this goes.  Today, on the 11th anniversary of me discovering the dharma and turning my life around...I'm also re-reading "Savor" By Thich Nhat Hanh and Dr. Lilian Cheung. For probably the 11th time as well.  I hope you'll find something useful for you or someone you know in these posts and I look forward to seeing what comes next!

Where are you going?

In the opening pages of Savor there's a section that speaks on habit energy. It starts by sharing that classic Zen story you've pro...