Back in September of 2010, I hit a milestone of some importance. I lost 40 pounds. It was an amazing time and I was full of hope and joy at getting my weight under control and getting healthy. I’d been working very hard at it and things were new and promising. A few months after that, I was down 60 pounds and felt great. Twice, I had bought new clothes because I was too skinny for my old ones. For the first time in a long time, I felt like things were under control and I was making progress on having the life I wanted. As often happens in life, it was at this point things got turned upside down when my marriage began to fall apart. It’s been a long and painful two years, but I’ve moved on. However, I have to undo a lot of damage those hard times inflicted on my weight and my health. As my life spiraled out of control, old habits came back and my weight returned to where it was when I started my journey. Actually, I hit 333 pounds (3 over where I was the first time) before I realized I couldn’t live with myself that way any more. So, in July of last year, I began to focus on my health again. I’ve progressed more slowly this time but in eleven months, I’ve gotten back to 290 pounds and once again feel the joy of having lost 40 pounds. Unlike last time, I’m not elated or dizzy from the accomplishment. Perhaps it’s because I’ve done it before, maybe it’s because I’ve been through the worst suffering of my life and am wary of happiness, perhaps it’s because I know I could gain it back if I let my guard down. Whatever the reason, I’m happy for myself but it’s not the same as last time. I’m more aware than ever how impermanent things really are and that’s probably a factor too. While I’m happy I’ve reached this milestone, I’m just not attached to the happiness like I once was. Eventually, the happiness will fade and I’ll be left with a choice about what to do. I can either continue losing weight and being healthy or I can chase after a faded happiness and suffer. This doesn’t mean I’m unhappy—nor does it diminish the importance of my accomplishment—however, my relationship to these feelings of accomplishment has changed.
Whenever we set out to do something hard, there are moments of fear and discouragement. Last November, I wrote 60,000 words of what eventually became a 92,000 word novel. At the beginning of the month, I had no idea if I could do it, and I was scared of failing in the attempt. However, each day I sat down and I wrote. I made the time and did what needed to be done. Now, I’m repeating that task by carefully reading through the novel, changing the things that need to be changed and fixing typos and gramatical problems. Even on days I don’t feel like doing it, I sit down and I edit and I rewrite and I add clarifications or cut extraneous words. I take it one day at a time and slowly and reliably make progress even though I still feel fear or discouragement. The same is true with my weight and my health. I’d been discouraged lately because the first thirty pounds came off quickly but it took me almost six months to lose the next ten. However, instead of attaching to the fear or discouragement, I’ve taken it one day at a time, one step at a time. Each day I choose to do what I need to do that day: I exercise, I eat well, I meditate, I write, I work. All of those days add up and I’m seeing results again.
I have lost 40 pounds and I fully expect to see the scale in the 280′s tomorrow or early next week. This is good. I am happy about this. However, the day will come when I am no longer happy and my only option will be to do what needs to be done that day.
Posted in Impermanence, Weight Loss | Tagged exercise, impermanence, meditation, suffering, weight loss | Leave a Comment »
I went back to the gym today for the first time in much longer than I’d like to admit. I’ve been walking around the city a lot since I moved here a month ago but I felt I needed to set aside some time specifically for exercise on top of the normal walking and climbing of stairs that I’ve been doing. Needless to say (though I will anyway), my legs are so sore I can’t even sit here at my desk comfortably. I just have to keep reminding myself that nothing is permanent even though it may feel like it. The pain, like my extra weight, will eventually go away.
On the up side, according to the scale at the gym, I’m down to 291 so I’ve got that going for me.
Posted in Impermanence, Weight Loss | Tagged exercise, impermanence, suffering, weight loss | Leave a Comment »
There is a lot that I could write about right now in regards to my life, weight loss and how my Buddhist practice is getting me through some very stressful times but I can’t bring myself to write about that in much detail right now. Instead, I can assure you that I’m exercising, eating healthy and maintaining a vibrant practice that is making some very tough times bearable. Instead, I thought I’d share a few quick thoughts about some of the things I’ve been using lately to help me keep my life on track and my health improving.
As I’ve been actively trying to eat healthy and exercise more in order to lose weight, I’m constantly on the lookout for great vegetarian recipes. For some time, I’ve been aware of a site called Yummly however, I’ve not used it as much as I should. That’s changed recently. Yummly is like a google for recipes and they bill themselves as having the ability to search every recipe in the world. They have a great section of vegetarian recipes available here. I’ve been able to find a lot of different recipes here that have inspired me to create some really tasty meals. The ability to search by ingredient or taste profiles or by category make finding things quick and easy. Regardless of what you like to eat, you’ll be able to find something here to inspire you to make something delicious.
Another new favorite is a blog called The First Mess. Laura, the author of the blog, not only creates amazing recipes but the photographs that accompany the recipes are works of art in their own right. Her commitment to creating fresh and healthy food comes through in each of her posts and the recipes there are all wonderful to read through and look at.
As I’ve said many times here, I’m a person who relies on their smart phone for almost everything. If there’s an app for it, I’ve probably seen it or tried it. One of my new favorite apps is called OurGroceries. It is designed for quick and easy sharing of list data between multiple users and works on the computer, Android, iPhone and Blackberry phones. It makes keeping track of groceries easy and as soon as an item is added to a list, that item shows up across any device that is authorized to see it. Another great feature is the Recipe section. It allows you to specify the ingredients needed for a recipe and quickly add them to a list if you need to get something at the store for something you plan on making soon. When coupled with the recipes I’m finding from Yummly and The First Mess, this app keeps me from missing important items that I’ll need and saves me from making multiple trips to the store.
Speaking of apps, I also recently downloaded an app called allthecooks. It’s for Android and iPhone and also available as a web site. It’s got a lot of nice social features and, while it’s not as nice of an interface as Yummly, it’s a great way to find recipes on the go when all I have is my phone. I’ve found a few really great vegetarian recipes there and a few meals I’ve found on this app have made it to my meal plan for the upcoming week.
I have also been getting a lot of use out of an app called Insight Timer. It’s a meditation timer and on-line community for people who practice meditation of any type. The features and functionality of the app blend seamlessly with the act of meditation and the timers are easy to set and start/stop/pause. You can save multiple timers, quickly switch between them, integrate with Twitter and Facebook and connect with others all over the world. Creating a meditation timer that works for whatever practice you have is quick and easy with this tool and I have found it to be a great way to track my meditation practice and see how I have been progressing.
The last app that I’ve been getting a lot of use out of is called PocketCasts. It’s an Android app for podcasts. Since Google killed the products I used to follow podcasts (google reader and google listen), I had to find something new and I’m glad I did. Finding and listening to podcasts with this app is extremely easy and navigating the user interface is dead simple. It’s intuitive and powerful. I am always up to date getting episodes of Buddhist Geeks, Zencast, as well as my other favorite audio programs like This American Life, The Moth Radio Hour, Science Friday, Snap Judgement and various tech news shows. If you have an Android device, I highly recommend this app for all of your podcasting needs.
Posted in Weight Loss | Tagged diet, dinner, health, healthy cooking, recipes, technology, vegetarianism | 1 Comment »
Someone I know posted the following quote on Facebook today along with the comment “I couldn’t agree more”
“If God doesn’t punish America, he’s going to have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.” Ruth Bell Graham, wife of Evangelist Billy Graham.
For those who are not familiar with my history, I have a background in religion and philosophy (I trained to be a pastor) and, even though I am no longer a Christian, I know enough about it to write knowledgeably about this.
I have a few thoughts about the above quote about and why I couldn’t agree less with it. The most obvious problem with the quote is its foundation on a belief in an invisible and all-powerful being who controls the universe and has a beef to pick with humanity when they don’t follow his capricious whims. Let’s go ahead and assume that this assumption is correct and that there really is a God who controls the universe. If God does exist, why would anyone in their right mind ever want to treat him with anything other than disdain? If he really is in control then he is the cause of all suffering and pain and sorrow that surround us every day. A lot of people who believe in him try to get around this fact and use a lot of sophisticated arguments about why people suffer and why there is so much sickness and poverty and pain in the world but none of these arguments hold up when pressed. If God exists and he is in any way involved in the course of human existence, he is ultimately responsible for whatever happens and humanity, his creation, should hold him accountable for all of the pain and misery that surround us. Humanity should not have to cower in fear, waiting for God to get angry and smite something in his wrath. If the above statement were true, then God really is like a drunken parent who forces their child to live in constant fear and uncertainty about what might set off a severe punishment. If God is real, he should already be apologizing to Sodom and Gomorrah.
Secondly, this attitude assumes that certain people know what God thinks about something and that they can speak for him. People who hold themselves up as qualified to speak for the almighty have, time and again, proven themselves to be dangerous and delusional. Believing that God is angry and that he should destroy every living creature in a country is dangerous thinking. It puts the person making the claim on an equal footing with God and declares them worthy of passing judgement on the rest of humanity for whatever perceived grievance that person has against whatever group deemed worthy of punishment. When a person makes a statement like this, they are claiming to be as smart and as justified as God himself in passing judgement on something. From a Christian perspective, this is a huge mistake. Jesus himself said, “Do not judge or you, too, will be judged” (Matthew 7:1) and went on to make it very obvious that those who follow him were to not stand in judgement of others (by the way, judging others was what the religious leaders of his day did and Jesus was calling them out on their bad behavior). It seems unwise to me that someone who claims to follow Jesus would choose to act in such an un-Christlike way.
Third, this attitude entirely dismisses the Christian belief in grace and forgiveness. The entire message of Christianity is that Jesus, who was fully God and fully human, came to earth and was crucified, died and resurrected on the third day as an atoning sacrifice for humanity. God’s grace and forgiveness is central to the faith of someone who claims to be a Christian and statements like the one above fly in the face of that central tenet. Attitudes like the one above are prevalent among most people I know who call themselves Christians and it was my desire to not be associated with that kind of attitude that contributed to me to examining my beliefs in God and Christianity in the first place. Eventually, I realized that God is not real and that those who claimed to follow him were, in reality, following superstitions and myths designed to control the behavior of people through fear and hope in some sort of afterlife or paradise.
There are many people out there who sincerely believe that God is angry and that he wants to punish those he is angry with. They look at events that happen around them and read their belief of a coming judgement into those events. It’s sloppy thinking and even worse theology. I would encourage them to rethink their understanding of God. If he is real, would you really want to affiliate yourself with someone like that?
Posted in Thoughts | Tagged Christianity, forgiveness, suffering | 1 Comment »
Edit: I wrote this a few weeks ago and I’m not sure why it didn’t publish. Oh well, better late than never.
I just saw a very sad, yet funny, news story about a new product about to hit store shelves here in the U.S. It’s called FruitWater and is a product of the Coca-Cola corporation. These are the same people who gave us Vitaminwater, a product that is closer to soda than water. I thought the story was funny because of the following piece of information.
Unlike the zero-calorie version of Vitaminwater, which is made with the natural sweetener stevia, Fruitwater will be sweetened with the artificial sweetener sucralose, best known as Splenda. It will not contain any fruit juice but the bottle notes that the drink is “enhanced with nutrients,” a reference to its B vitamins, magnesium and zinc.
Did you catch that? “It will not contain any fruit juice…“. That’s where my brain started to turn itself inside out. They are calling it Fruit Water but not bothering to put fruit in it. Why not call it ToiletWater but not put water from real toilets in it? After all, the logic should work both ways, right? Or, they could call it HeroinWater but not put actual drugs in it. I’m sure that would make it appealing to a certain demographic of young people with disposable incomes. Since being truthful about what you are selling is obviously not important, they should really do whatever they can to sell as many bottles as possible.
The Coca-Cola company creates many products that are among the main causes of obesity in America and across the globe, and now they’re trying to find a way to get people to keep buying their products. Even as those consumers learn the truth about the harmful effects drinking too much soda can really have on their bodies and their quality of life.
I know the answer already, but I have to ask, why is this legal? It’s certainly unethical and unmoral but it is not illegal here in America. The most we can hope for is that people spread the word and let others know that this is a bottle of artificially sweetened swill that contains little to no beneficial ingredients. If you see it in the store, just pass over it and find something that really is a good choice.
Notice something about the bottle? It looks very much like a vitaminwater package, just a different shape to the container. I guess the psychologists that Coca-Cola employs to make sure that you want to buy their products really like this design. The heavy emphasis on the word “fruit” and a design meant to highlight an appealing color while attempting to look almost like a medical product are all carefully crafted components in what, I’m sure, will be a resounding success. I think I’m just going to stick to regular water. It doesn’t contain fruit either but at least I know what’s in it.
Posted in Weight Loss | Tagged diet, health, weight loss | 3 Comments »
Back in November I started writing a novel. It was based off a story that I’d been thinking about since 2009. I decided to participate in National Novel Writer’s Month with the goal of writing 50,000 words in a month. I surpassed that goal and ended up at 60,083 words and had the majority of the story written. It wasn’t finished, though, so I kept going. I took a lot of December off but got back into the swing of things and finished it the other night with a word count of 91,911 words. The story is 253 pages long and I’m actually happy with the way it turned out.
Throughout the process of writing, it always amazed me how if often felt like meditation. There were occasions where my mind was completely focused on writing and the words flowed out of my mind and onto the screen while I got to read them for the first time as the story wrote itself in front of me. The experience of maintaining a singular focus and putting aside distracting thoughts—and consequently losing ones sense of self-as-separate being from the universe—that I experienced while writing is only comparable to what I have found in meditation.
Writing, like meditation, is most rewarding when done daily. Both are practices that take few resources to do and both require a concerted effort and commitment to do them. While I go into the task of writing with a goal in mind, I find that I make the best progress on it when I don’t grasp at the goal or focus on it to the exclusion of the actual job of writing. When one sits down to write, the mind is distracted and wanders and must be brought gently back to the task at hand. Consistently returning to the same place, the same task, the same focus, strengthens the mind over time and one begins to have less distractions and fewer interruptions and the act of writing becomes more organic and enjoyable. Just like with meditation.
I find that writing also inspires a desire to do more writing, just as meditation inspires me to meditate further. Completing a novel has been such a rewarding experience that I’m already planning the next one and will start it as part of Camp NaNoWriMo next month. I’m only planning 30,000 words this time though because I foresee this as being a very busy month but I think it’s an attainable goal.
If you’re interested, more information can be found about Camp NaNoWriMo and my next book by clicking the image below. Full disclosure, this will take you to a sponsorship page.
Posted in Mindless Ramblings | Tagged writing | 1 Comment »
You know that feeling you get when you’re thinking about characters for your next novel and you suddenly get a flash of inspiration for how two characters are connected that you would never have thought of on your own (though you obviously just did)? I love that feeling.
Posted in Mindless Ramblings | Tagged writing | Leave a Comment »