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Maybe I should re-introduce myself …

Much has changed in my life since I first introduced myself and this project. I am updating the site so it is more current to who I am today. It seems appropriate to modify my self-introduction as well. So here is the new and improved “Who the hell am I?”:

If you are here on this site, something caught your attention. But, unless you already know me, you might at this point be wondering: “Who IS this guy, and why would I want anything from him? I mean, what is so special about him anyway?” I guess a good place to start would be for me to tell y’all a little bit about me, so you know what you might be getting into here.

So what IS so special about me? The truth be told, absolutely nothing. I am no more special than anyone else. I am just a guy trying his best to live a good and productive life. I have followed a different path than many, not settling for the typical 9 to 5, married with 2.5 children and a pet lifestyle, but I am still just a guy. I have spent my life looking for my purpose in the world, trying many things and not really finding a good fit. In the process I have managed to see a fair bit of the world, and maybe even lived what to others may seem like an adventurous lifestyle. I have made many mistakes, and (hopefully) learned from most of them. Like I said, just another guy.

This is (a more recent) me!!
This is (a more recent) me!!

I have always been a fairly active person … some would say a bit foolhardy even. When I was younger, like so many, I pushed the limits of my body frequently without taking into account possible future consequences. My youthful exuberance stayed with me, even as my body started that inevitable thing called aging, which meant it often could not keep up with my intent. Then that thing called life started getting in the way, and the next thing I knew I was a middle-aged couch potato with way to many extra pounds, a serious lack of motivation, and worse yet very little energy to pursue any goals whatsoever (even if I could figure out what my goals were).

In recent years, due to both choices I have made, and circumstances not completely in my control, I have found myself basically income-less and effectively living in a cave. Far from homeless, but not exactly an active member of society either. After some deep self-exploration, I decided it was time to start actually LIVING again. I reconnected with the world through the unlikely avenue of blogging (I now have ten plus this one … and I am involved with a couple of others). Things I (re?)learned about myself:

  1. What I value most is helping people.
  2. I need to start pursuing this again.
  3. Ultimately, this means taking care of myself first.

Being the nomadic type person I am, I do not do well with gyms and too regular exercise. I have rarely found anything I could stick with for any length of time. I have explored many avenues for increasing my health and well-being, some more successful than others. They have brought me in a circle, back to a new beginning, and that is where I am now. I am reinventing myself every day, and hope the process may have some meaning for others as well. So I share my journey to health in life and we can see where it takes me together.

That is me in a nutshell. If you would like to learn more, feel free to check out one of my other blogs, or simple send me a note directly. I promise I won’t try to sell you anything unless you want me to haha. But I am always willing to make new friends!

For more information on my many other projects, feel free to visit Learning The Way(kind of my organize myself website).

Change and choice … Awareness 101

The passage of time is literally defined by change. Everything is affected by time’s relentless march. Seeming permanence is really a matter of perspective … to one whose passage through time last only 90 years, something that takes a 100 years to change will seem unchanging.

EVERYTHING changes.

The hows and what’s of the change will be determined by the rules of nature. Sometimes the change may seem chaotic, but it always has definable patterns. When the patterns are cyclical and contain a regenerative aspect, then we might call the thing that is changing alive. As these cyclical patterns become more and more complicated, the inherent “life” becomes more evident, until what seems alive becomes actual life. Living things are constantly changing. Some of that change removes what is not longer productive to the life form, some of it replaces, and even improves upon, those aspects that give the organism life. Cells die, cells are replaced, cells grow. Waste is removed, useful resources are replenished, the cycle continues and life goes on. When these patterns work in an ideal fashion, we consider the life healthy. The further from the ideal, the further from health.

Not only is change  INEVITABLE, it is NECESSARY.

Enter consciousness. Awareness. This phenomenon is what truly makes life unique. The processes of life do their best to find balance, as energy does, and will slowly adjust as needed. But add awareness to the mix and suddenly the rules themselves start changing. With awareness comes the ability to choose. Choice can both enhance and interfere with the processes that define life. The higher the level of awareness, the greater the possibility to enhance … and interfere … with the effectiveness of these processes. In other words, the ability to choose can directly influence health.

The human species is currently the dominant species on our planet, and (questionably) the most aware. Our level of awareness and ability to make choices not only has a direct impact on our own health, but that of ALL the life we interact with. Humans can influence the health of the cultural groups we are part of; we can impact the ecosystems we inhabit; we can truly affect the planet we live on. This ultimately means we need to be very careful about the choices we make, even if seemingly only for ourselves.

Expanding awareness …

Awareness is a powerful ally for positive change, but as with any useful tool, it can also be detrimental to healthy choices. We will often choose that which gives us comfort over that which is actually beneficial to us. We will often choose pleasure over discomfort. We will choose ease over effort. Our awareness is itself malleable, meaning we can even choose to shape our own awareness. So how do we ensure we work in our own best interest?

This is the ultimate challenge we all face, even if our own awareness is not enough to even recognize the challenge. We make choices constantly, sometimes without even realizing we are doing it. Each of these choices has an effect on our well-being, our overall health, again even if we are not fully aware of it. My personal journey has been about not only learning to make the right choices, but to shape my level of awareness in such a way that the choices come readily. Sometimes, this journey has not been so easy (recent months have been very difficult). This blog has always been about sharing my journey, and maybe help others in their own. I have been quiet of late because my personal rough spot. I intended today to end my silence on another topic altogether, but it seems I have stepped onto the path of a new level of awareness, and my sharing will be a multi-step process as well. This was a necessary step, both for my own journey and the sharing of it.

Change is inevitable. Even when we don’t choose it to happen (or even expect it). The first step to working with change is to accept this simple fact. That is today’s’ lesson for myself. Next lesson … letting go.

Beware excuses!

Wellness is something we work on for our whole life. If we have developed good habits, it does not SEEM like work, but it is an ongoing process. Physical, emotional, and spiritual fitness require continuous effort, though if we are doing it right we will not even notice the effort involved. Sometimes it is focused effort … we might call this exercise,  or meditation, or relaxation, depending on what aspect of wellness we are choosing to work on. Sometimes it is simply background effort, doing things in such a way that continue maintaining our health while we pursue other goals. Again, if we practice good habits, we will not see the effort as challenging (unless we CHOSE to push ourselves).

However, good habits need to be established first. Beyond that, sometimes life has other plans, and no matter how good our intentions we cannot manage to so easily do what is needed to keep our ideal level of wellness. When this is the case, it is up to us to do what we need to get back on track. This is when effort becomes more of a challenge. This is when we are tempted to fall back into bad habits, or worse, find excuses to NOT push on, because it seems so much easier. In the short run it may even BE easier. But ultimately we will see that we benefit more from continued effort.

DSC_0062
No peak is unattainable if we continue to climb …

So how do we avoid excuses? The simple answer is: Don’t make them. Unfortunately, we may be making excuses without even realizing it. Avoiding excuses first requires RECOGNIZING them.  And there lies the true challenge for some. This particular challenge is one I personally face all too often. These are some of the tricks I have learned that keep excuses at bay:

  • KNOW LIMITS – If we push past our limits, we will find our effort to be beyond us. This can easily become a reason not to continue. Instead of giving up, just lower our effort to what we can do.  If we do not overshoot, our limits will grow.
  • LEARN PATIENCE – This goes hand in hand with understanding limits. Like it or not, sometimes achieving our goals will not happen as fast as we would like. Without patience we might constantly push too far beyond those limits, ultimately giving ourselves the excuse of constant failure. Allowing ourselves to succeed in smaller doses may take longer … but we WILL continue.
  • UNDERSTAND THAT LIFE HAPPENS – No matter how much we think we have control over our lives, some things are beyond our control. This is a simple fact of life. Whether it be due to some ailment that befalls us, or because circumstances interfere with our efforts, sometimes we simply cannot proceed as planned. This can easily become an excuse to not try again. Don’t give up. Adapt.
  • BE FLEXIBLE – This is really a summation of the previous three points. When we find things don’t quite work in one way, try another. It could mean no trying as hard, or maybe changing our schedule. I could mean finding alternative methods. If we lock ourselves to a certain path, a blockage on the path becomes an easy excuse not to continue. Just find a detour, or a new path altogether.
  • FOCUS ON WHAT WE CAN DO – This may be the most important point. If we keep encountering reasons that we CANNOT do something, we stand in our own way. Focus on what we CAN do, and we will continually make forward progress. We will also find that the CANNOTS become a smaller and smaller list.

Whatever paths we find ourselves on as we journey through life, how (or even IF) we proceed along them is determined by our own choices. We will encounter obstacles, but how we respond to those obstacles is also our choice.  We can let the obstacles become an excuse to give up, or we can find a way to continue DESPITE such excuses. Only by continuing will we find our destinations. Beware excuses!

Challenging myself … challenging YOU!

My last post was about how changing the little things in the daily routine may be significant in producing a healthy lifestyle. Healthy habits are the key to positive growth. This applies to improving ourselves, physically, emotionally AND spiritually. However, as important as creating these small habitual changes may be, we still have to take an active role in our own self-improvement. Not taking the easy way and improving our self watching skills are important, but without further effort they will only take us so far. I am still not one for regular exercise routines (and probably never will be), but that does not mean I can’t still find ways to strengthen my body. Not doing so is no help to ourselves, and plainly just giving into excuses.

I am taking up two personal challenges, one focused on the physical body, one on the emotional and spiritual bodies, thus holistically exercising as is the ideal. I am sharing them here because that is the whole point of this site 😉 , and to encourage others to take up the challenges as well. Heal ourselves, heal the world.

Physical challenge:

THE 28 DAY PLANK CHALLENGE

This is simple to do (the form is anyway), and takes very little time, but it can have a tremendous effect. A strong core is essential to good health. It is not about having six-pack abs. That is essentially a sales gimmick. The core also includes the lower back and the glutes, and is fundamental part of balance, posture, flexibility, and internal functions such as digestion. In short a strong core will lead to a strong EVERYTHING. It is a good place to start for those who do NOT exercise enough, for by strengthening the core we make other exercise that much easier. I started today. I challenge you to do the same! Click the above link for details!

Not the most flattering pic, but: Plank away!!
Not the most flattering pic, but: Plank away!!

Non-physical challenge:

30 DAY  COMPASSION IT CHALLENGE

This may be the more difficult challenge for some. It is also, in some ways, a more important challenge, for it is focused on not just our personal growth, but that of our communities as well. It is “a step-by-step approach to cultivating compassion over the span of one month”. Its purpose is to expand our own capacity for compassion, as well as sharing the concept with others. In a world where compassion often seems wanting, this type of challenge is not only ideal, but necessary. If you believe we need more compassion in lives, TAKE UP THE CHALLENGE! And encourage your friends to as well. Once again, click on the link above for details!

Let’s see how well we can improve our own health and that of the global community together!!

Focusing on the small things

In a holistic view of health, self-improvement is not just about what we do for ourselves, but what we do in general. Our activity plays a role in all levels of our health. Physical activities obviously will have a direct effect on our physical fitness, but they will also influence our general emotional and even spiritual well-being.  Not  necessarily as obviously, non-physical activities will similarly influence everything, even our physical health … even if only indirectly.

In terms of my personal growth, my activity has been much less physical than may be ideal, but I still have been very active, and I am seeing improvement. I have been focused on forwarding some of dreams, which often (at the moment at least) has me sitting long hours in front of a computer screen. Not the most healthy of activities in some ways, but we adapt.

I don’t get a lot of formal exercise, for several reasons. The primary one is I really don’t LIKE routine exercise. But still my fitness improves. How do I manage it? This is what works for me …

DIET

  • Chew slower and longer.
  • Don’t have seconds.
  • Make sure I eat because I am truly hungry, not just bored (or emotionally disturbed).
  • Mostly eat what I NEED, not what I WANT.
  • That said, feed any cravings so they get satisfied quickly, instead of growing.

EXERCISE

  • Stretch frequently, even if only small stretches.
  • Walk and play with the dog frequently (I have to admit having a needy dog has some benefits).
  • Don’t use “crutches”. In other words, make EVERY movement work for me. For instance, don’t use a railing to walk up and down stairs if I don’t need it.
  • Focus on form and correctness of action. Am I sitting with a healthy posture? Walking? Are my movements conducive to a healthy body or potentially destructive in the long run?
no crutch
It may seem trivial …
crutch
… but it makes a difference.

SPIRITUAL / EMOTIONAL HEALTH

  • Focus fully on what I am doing NOW (all of the above helps this focus).
  • Remember that we define our own meaning in life.
  • Don’t take things so seriously. Find the bright side. If I can’t find it, I create it.
  • Negativity happens. Don’t focus on it. Let it pass through.

Improving our health does not require grand gestures. I just requires living consciously and well. Exercise programs and diets may speed up the process, but they will basically have only temporary results unless our habits change as we do them. It is often the small changes that are the most telling, for if we can consitently shift these … the whole pattern will change as well. Essentially, self-awareness is as important as hard work. Both are required for true healthy living.

The importance of attitude

How are you today? ⇐ a friendly neighbor

Not bad. Not bad at all! ⇐ me

The above exchange is a very common one for me. While the words may not be exactly the same, many other people will greet each other similarly, probably several times throughout the day. It’s a pleasant enough bit of wordplay, one that we all will face in many different forms countless times as we interact socially with our fellow human beings. Yet such seemingly benign exchanges have a subtle danger to us all, chipping away at our well being a tiny bit each time they happen. The danger is not in the intent, or even the interaction itself, but something more insidious …

The choice of words.

Think about it. “Not bad” is NOT the same as “Good” (or “well” for those who prefer to be grammatically correct). The first means just what it says … I am not doing badly. But it does not actually mean I think of myself as doing well. A subtle difference, yes, but still a difference. And from a subconscious standpoint, possibly the difference between me being at my best vs. simply being ok.

img_0219.jpgOur attitude is really the determining factor on how we approach just about everything in life. If we see things as less positive, then they ultimately WILL be. This is especially true when we do it to ourselves without even noticing it, such as in the above exchange. By answering as I did above, I was essentially shorting myself … limiting myself from truly being well.

So how do we avoid this subtle trap? It really comes down to learning to be the observer. In conversation, truly listen to our own words. Are we being truly positive? Or just not very negative? But we also need to monitor our thoughts as we approach possibly difficult tasks. If we think of something as a chore … then it becomes a chore. But if we think of it as a challenge, and opportunity to grow, then that is what it becomes.

This does not mean that we will never have negative moments in our lives. It just means that we control how those negative moments effect us. A positive attitude does NOT make difficult times go away, but it DOES make our passage through them much more bearable. The challenge is recognizing what our attitude actually is.

Some tricks that work for me:

  • Paying attention to my choice of words – whether verbal or just in my own thoughts, am I phrasing something in a positive manner? If not, how can I rephrase it so it is more positive?
  • Avoiding expectations – expectations lead to disappointment. If I have no valid reason to think something will turn out a certain way, I don’t expect it to. That way I will not have a negative reaction. This does not mean avoid hope. Hoping means desiring a certain outcome. Expectation means assuming it WILL happen.
  • Evaluating negativity – when I do have a negative reaction, I look deeply inside to see what the actual cause is. By dealing with the source, I can prevent it from spreading.
  • Being honest with myself – this includes recognizing my own limits, and understanding that sometimes I AM having a negative experience. In such cases, the key is to remember that ALL such experiences are ultimately temporary (even if it does not seem so while it is happening). The positive thought in these instances is that it WILL improve.

Embracing the most positive aspect of any situation ensures that we will ultimately come out on top. Conversely, if we focus on the negative aspects,we may never overcome the challenges that we face.

Patience is a … necessity

Knowing our weaknesses is as important as knowing our strengths. It is as easy to be blind to those things that hold us back as it is to create unnecessary limits on our own progress. We DO have limits. The trick is to recognize the real ones while not imposing false ones on ourselves. Learning to be both participant and observer is the key. That is why exercising ALL aspects of our well-being is so important.

No limit is written in stone. Growth is partially successfully expanding limits. That said, though, limits need to be respected … they can only be pushed so far and/or so fast. One of my personal weaknesses, one that I think I share with many, is impatience. While I am not afraid to put work into positive change, I all too often expect it to happen much faster than reasonable, and when it doesn’t I lose motivation and focus. This can cause difficulties in all aspects of life, especially if I let it continue unchecked. Practicing patience is perhaps one of my greatest challenges.

patienceChange takes time. The very definition of time reflects this … time is essentially a series of events in which change occurs. The passage of time requires change, and change requires the passage of time. How much time depends on what we are changing, and the mechanics involved. When it comes to health and well-being, no positive change happens instantaneously. Physical fitness takes time and effort. It simply cannot happen overnight. The same is true for changing habits. This also applies to spiritual growth. The challenge for the impatient is when the change happens so slowly that it is practically imperceptible. This happens to all of us. Sometimes we reach plateaus, or maybe we are simply not pushing ourselves hard enough, but there will be periods when we put a lot of effort in with no apparent results. Those who thrive on routine might not be as bothered by this, but those of us who want things “now!” will find this irritating at best, and an actual effort stopper at worst.

So how do we deal with this, especially if we are impatient? Remember the simple fact that nothing worth achieving happens without effort … which includes the passage of time. If the seeming lack of progress causes us to want to stop, then maybe we need to shift gears for a bit (or possibly try a different approach altogether). But don’t give up! While putting the effort in may SEEM futile, NO effort is guaranteed failure. This is something I need to constantly remember myself. Keep on plugging, and when the change we seek actually occurs we might be pleasantly surprised. Even if not, it WILL come, unless we give up.

A challenge #22KILL

Everyone faces challenges as we move forward in life. These challenges will take many forms, sometimes physical, sometimes mental, maybe even spiritual …  whatever form they take, we need to face them if we wish to continue to grow. We cannot compare our challenges to that of others, for we do not walk the same path. That said, some challenges can truly be formidable, and we may not envy those who need to face them.

But we can support them.

One of my personal challenges, and one that I find many share, is that I find it very difficult to maintain any kind of regular exercise program. I truly do not like regimented exercise and routine, even if I DO like being physically active. Since my current life is more stagnant than active, I am hard pressed to maintain optimum physical health, mostly from a severe lack of motivation. As anyone who has ever formally exercised can well attest, it takes no time at all to fall OUT of our personal ideal(annoying considering how long it takes to get INTO it) … making it even harder to start up again. Yet while I find it difficult to motivate myself just for me, I seem to have no problem getting motivated for a cause, or when specifically challenged. And lucky me, both have appeared before me.

Push ups are a very good all-purpose exercise. Regular push ups can do wonders for building energy and strength, and are generally a good exercise to include in any exercise routine. They can even have more power when doing them also brings awareness to a challenge that many of our fellow humans face … one that sadly has been forced upon them by the machinations of others. In this instance I speak of Veterans who suffer from PTSD … those whom the past won’t let go.  All too many of them find the only answer to their particular challenge is suicide, and this can not be tolerated. No one should be used by others to the point that they no longer feel their life has value. 22KILL is an organization devoted to bringing veterans the support of the community that uses them so hard, One of the methods they use to gather awareness is the 22 push up challenge that many may have encountered on social media. I was challenged to do 22 push ups for 22 days, with the caveat that I capture it on video and post it each day, and push the challenge on. So I am partaking. My first attempt is below. I realize how out of “shape” I have become as I start this, and thus will benefit myself as well.

Part of the process asks that we challenge others each day as well. Since I am trying to remove social networking from my diet, I am instead going to issue a blanket challenge to any who are willing to take it. Can you honor yourself AND our veterans?

I DARE YOU!!

Returning to self

A healthy life is ultimately about finding balance. No matter what aspect of life we are discussing, we will find that the too much of something can be as harmful to our well-being as too little. In both cases we will find that something necessary to our holistic health is neglected, often without ourselves even being aware of it. That is why this site is called “START with the body” … because that is only ONE aspect of the process of living healthy.

Being a healer at heart, I created this site. However, in my own search for balance I have managed to neglect many of my own needs. How can I hope to be helpful to others if I cannot even help myself with full effectiveness. So once again I re-image my intent, and see where it takes me … and if others can also learn from my mistakes, all the better. I have not been all that helpful in the lifetime of this site, but this does not mean it is of no benefit, or that it will never be. So I will continue to share about my own journey to well-being, and who knows where it might lead.

Allowing the negativity that is rampant in the world to invade my defenses has resulted in a listlessness and lack of focus in my life. I keep finding myself railing at my perceived failings in others, forgetting that not only is it not my place to judge them, but also not my journey to travel. I am responsible for me and me alone. I cannot tell others how to live, nor can I tell them what is right and what is wrong. All I can do, and all I have the RIGHT to do, is live my own life to the best of my abilities, and share the lessons I learn along the way for any who wish to learn the same lessons.

Balance
It’s all about balance …

I have realized that my current focus needs to be to let the anger and negativity drain out of my system.  Hopefully, I will share the steps I take here, and maybe others can find inspiration for their own paths in my choices … even if by doing the opposite of what I do. How do I plan to remove the negativity? By remembering balance.

It all needs to start with the body again. It is a demonstrable fact that one of the best antidepressants is physical exercise. It is not really about what exercise … just the fact of regular exercise. So my first step is to do physical activities on a more regular basis. The second step is to become re-acquainted with myself. I need to enhance my own awareness, not only of my body, but  my own motivations and thinking. The reality is one cannot achieve balance without self-awareness. This is true both in the kinesthetic view of balance as well as the metaphysical version. Awareness is really the key. I need to restore my awareness of ME.

This is all rather enigmatic, and really does not say much. I don’t have a specific schedule of activities, because that is not how I operate. I will take each day as it comes, and practice embracing the day to the best of my abilities. In the process, I expect to regain comfort in my own body, as well as the ability to smile by choice again. To some, this is all philosophical psycho-babble. Others might see the sense in what I am saying, and still others may just be curious about what will happen. I won’t personally know until I have taken the journey. I will still share information that I find of use along the way, though it may just as well be what I have failed at. If my journey aids another in any way, then I have added to my own sense of balance. Nothing attempted is ever truly a waste … even if the attempt seemingly failed.