Are You Fighting Your Rip Tide?

You’re out at the beach, spending the day in the sun.  Warm sand beneath your toes, the gentle keel of seagulls punctuates the rhythmic, hypnotic roll of the waves.  You slip into the cool water, swim out from shore, and float, buoyant on the water.  When it comes.  You drift into a  sharp current of water, and suddenly are being propelled out deeper and deeper.  Panicked, you start to fight the water pressure, swim back to shore.  Stroke after stroke, your arms and legs flail to get back to the sandy oasis.  You begin to make progress, when another wave of water knocks you back again, at speeds of 1-8 feet per SECOND.  On and on you fight, coughing, gagging on the salt water, and feeling fatigue leaden your arms.

Thankfully, you will eventually hit the end of the current – but it may be MILES OUT by that time, and you’ve exhausted yourself fighting this inevitable propulsion.

Instead of fighting the rushing tide, though, you can shift your direction, change your focus.  Shift 90 degrees, and swim out of the rip tide, parallel to the shore.  This will bring you back to calmer waters, and then you can return to shore.  Or just stop fighting, let the rip tide carry you to its end, and then easily make the parallel move till you can return to the beach.

This is so much like life when trying to reach a new career or life goal.  We are bombarded with things we feel we “must” do.  We must work, we must clean, we must check email, we must keep up on newsletters and current events, we must keep in touch with friends on Facebook, we must join a book club or learn an instrument… but can we stop some of those things?  Can we shift our focus away from that flood, and minimize it?

Do you want to lose weight, but want a plan, and then end up spending day after day gathering recipes, plotting your workout schedule, and making motivational signs for your room?  Or do you actually get to it and work?  I don’t mean some general planning, but I mean Over-planning to the point it is becoming procrastination and an excuse to not get to business.

I have been collecting newsletters and career tips for ages, diligently saving them in Gmail under their appropriate folders.  Sugar, Political food debates, cancer, etc.  I swear that I’ll need them again, and that they’ll be important resources when I “someday” get to having my own practice.  And one morning, after taking 4 hours to try to catch up on new listserve messages to see which would be important to save for “someday,” I realized that I was fighting my own rip tide.  If I flood myself with current news and recent research on every topic out there, I will never have more than snippets of knowledge of them all.  I need to shift my focus.  Do I want to write a thorough article on “Does Sugar Feed Cancer Cells?”? Then I need to stop reading all the other topics, delete them (I can always research sources another day when immediately useful!) and just figure out what I want to do.

Stop fighting the flow of life, and either swim away from things that tire you out, or just ride it out until you are ready to come back to sandy shores, your foundation of a happy life.

By findingsilverlinings Posted in Musings

My New Attempted Approach to Life and Health

I, like many women (and a growing number of men) have spent the better part of my life being stressed (and obsessed) about my weight.  And the whole time I struggle, I try to tell myself “the number, the scale, the pant size is not what’s important – it’s the heart of me, what I do, who I touch.”  Some days, I am able to convince myself that that is true – but so many days, that voice is drowned out by the superficial voice that condemns me to a spiral of self destruction, loathing, and hate.

I have spent the better part of the last two years trying to get myself up at 4:30am so I have time to do an intense 1-hour workout, be it power yoga, P90X, Insanity Asylum, or some other program.  In the evenings, I taught power yoga, I joined judo, and I began hiking.  And I have made countless weekly plans, reward schemes, attempts to bribe myself to stick to my healthy behaviors.

And the result is that I am still 15-20 lbs heavier (mostly from fat, maybe a few pounds of extra muscle) than where I was when I was first motivated to begin these programs.  I have dabbled with local eating, with clean eating, with vegetarian and veganism, and did a stint with Paleo.  The problem was, no matter the benefits, I was unable to stick to it.  My body clings to homeostasis like dew to the morning grass.  I may make it a week or two – sometimes even four – see the scale start to edge down a few pounds… and then it all crumbles, and I have this magical vacuum of a stomach that demands to consume every last calorie that had been withheld from it – usually in the form of pizza, ice cream, and candy bars.

I get mad at myself, make more plans, research new recipes, make new pacts, and try again.

Month after month, year after year.

And then I descend into the pit of, “am I really going to spend my whole life constantly thinking about this?  Worrying about it?”  I don’t know how to be comfortable in my own skin.  To be confident in public.  To not constantly compare my body to others’.

And those are probably deeper rooted issues, than merely weight.  Perhaps my obsession with my weight is a distraction.  An illusion.  A tangible object upon which my subconscious has displaced its issues.  There clearly is a tie between food and my emotions.  I eat when tired; I eat when depressed; I eat when stressed.  I crave food when I’m having fun at a movie theater; I want treats if I’m having a tv binge night with my husband; gaming is not the same without “fun foods” near the computer.

So instead of focusing on the surface views of calories, nutrients, an exercise, I want to include more work on my inner self.  Clearly, something hasn’t been working.  I have been “trying to lose a few pounds” since 2001.  And I have managed to do nothing but gain.  It is time to try a vastly different approach.

I need to turn inward, and find out what else could fulfill me.  What else will make me feel whole, not alone, not lacking?  Many turn to faith.  I have tried that path before, too.  Over 18 years of trying to connect with the Bible.  And that also left me more wounded and exhausted in the end.  But, as I considered in a previous entry, the Westernized version of the Bible didn’t make sense to me.  But a more abstract concept of it did.

I began to read the lessons from the Self Realization Fellowship, and while some of it made me skeptical – and it’s okay to be skeptical! – a lot of it just resonated, sounded right.  And they are all about meditation, contemplation, and trying to align yourself with a higher being – whatever you want to call him/her/it.

Perhaps it is time for me to give meditation a true chance; a genuine attempt.  To commit to SRF’s 19 week beginning series.  And while I do that, I have also started to read The Yoga Sutras on swamij.com, and considering them in more detail than the skimming I did before yoga school.  It has some interesting points as well, and incorporates meditation.

While I still want to exercise – as it’s good for my health and stress levels – I don’t want that to be the 100% focus.  I need to find a new balance.

Time to break the eating insanity, and find the deeper meaning and causes.

By findingsilverlinings Posted in Musings

Mindfulness Exercise

Buddhism and Modern Psych Week 2: Mindfulness Meditation and the Brain

In preparation for meditation, the teacher first talks about being mindful — our brains often wander off to random topics.  We all do this.  While involved in one task, you’re thinking about others.  He says that, anecdotally and scientifically, meditation helps to calm and quiet those extraneous thoughts.  The first step, as in the first step to realizing dukkha, is simply to realize this is happening.

The Challenge:

Walk down the street, and see what you normally pay attention to.  Then mindfully pull your attention from that, and see what you’ve been ignoring.  Other people, the sky, billboards, building materials of the structures?  If you usually are focused on the crowded path, the smelly odors, or the trash on the sidewalk, can you instead look at the expansive sky, notice a happy baby, feel compassion for a downtrodden pedestrian?

This is not directly quieting your mind, as you are still in fact observing life around you.  But it helps you to be aware, and helps retrain your mind to new areas.

I always saw my tile counter top as “ugly grey,” but when he said to notice more, I mindfully looked a little deeper, (since I had my computer on the tile while washing dishes as a chore of love!), and I realized they are an intricate pepper-speckling of white and black dots along with various shades of grey (not the steamy book!) There is no solid background color, it’s a detailed pointillism of color!  While I still don’t like it in my kitchen, I feel I at least have a bit more appreciation for the confetti-like speckles of the tile.  Perhaps I can train myself to think “fiesta!!  Party!” every time I see them :)

What other things could I notice in a new light?

 

Buddhist Christians?

Christianity and Buddhism — more alike that we think?

Despite the teacher’s constant downplaying of Christianity in a way that makes it clear he does not believe in the Christian beliefs (and perhaps is even trying to hide a desire to mock it), I feel that the more I learn, the more I see parallels between Buddhist teachings and Jesus’ teachings.

I do think that America (and likely Europe before) have “Westernized” the Christian faith, much in the way they have “westernized” modern medicine.  Modern medicine often starts from natural remedies — aspirin was discovered based on willow bark; red yeast rice lead to the creation of statins.  Yet, if we revert back to the origin, and start to bring more natural cures and treatments into medical practice (yoga, meditation, herbs, acupuncture, etc) this has been scoffed at as voodoo, quackery, and hippie stuff.  Yet science is, time and again, finding out that there is something to these practices that can be backed not only by increasing anecdotal evidence, but also by scientific literature.  Likewise, I believe that the Christian faith may have “quacky” or “mystic” origins that modern day teachings have lost track of, and would now scoff at, or find offensive.  Perhaps we should have a warmer embrace of some of the Buddhist views – and that perhaps Jesus himself was sharing the same teachings – but to say that aloud is to invite attacks from some church communities that I am tainting His word, that I am being blinded by “the enemy,” that I am opening myself to witchcraft by practicing yoga, etc.  But it is a statement I have made many times – that I believe we have put God in a Westernized box, so we can try to understand Him (even though the Bible tells us He is beyond understanding.)  That was have taken someone who is huge, miraculous, and abstract and tried to restrain Him to 66 books in the Bible (with some additions for Mormon and Catholic branches of Christian faith.)

When I dig deeper into the Bible, and the original meanings of Hebrew words, I learn there is so much more exciting “mystical-seeming” stuff that is right there!  Besides the oft-taught miracles of healing and turning water to wine, there’s the raising people from the dead, 40-days of fasting and meditating before Jesus sort of “came into his own”, Words as Power (God spoke things into existence; Vedic chants are words that they believe can cause things to happen; and in studying physics and anatomy/physiology, there are vibrational forces within spoken words – I wonder if there may be, of had been, some power there that has been lost.)  And perhaps I can make notes about that some time, but it is a long, long list of things to share — and I want to continue through this lecture first :)

By findingsilverlinings Posted in Musings

We All Have a little Keanu In Us

Buddhism and Modern Psych Week 2: The Eightfold Path

In the lesson today, I was caught off guard by the comment the professor made:

“Buddhist practice, in the spiritual sense, involves having a little Keanu Reeves in you, you know.”

Adorable Neo chibi by Claudiney

Adorable Neo chibi by Claudiney

And while I first laughed, I know this is a true allegory.  Referring to Neo of the movie series, The Matrix, The professor states how Buddhists felt the movie resonated with their beliefs that we all need to “wake up” and better see the truth of the world; and I know many Christian friends who said the same.  Both groups have made comments that the movie portrayed the fact that we are blinded by this current physical world, and cannot see the truth of the spiritual battles around us.  Like Neo (Keanu’s character), many of us feel sort of “stuck” in our lives, and that there’s something bigger and deeper out there, and that we want to WAKE UP! and see what the truth is — even if it’s scary, and dangerous, and takes a lot of work!

Christianity offers freedom through Christ; Buddhism offers it through the Eightfold Path  – and there are actually many overlapping guiding principles/rules here.

EIGHTFOLD PATH:

  1. Right View (understanding)
  2. Right Intention
  3. Right Speech (no gossip, insults, lies, etc)
  4. Right Action
  5. Right Livelihood
  6. Right Effort
  7. Right Mindfulness (beginning meditation)
  8. Right Concentration (deeper meditation)

I look forward to learning more about each of these parts of the path!  Let us continue down this rabbit hole…