Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Day 295 Honing my intention for 2014

Since last summer, I've been shaping and stepping into my Deep Rest and Deep Belonging project. Because this is ongoing, I've been tempted in conversations this week on retreat to choose something else for my overarching intention of 2014. But I have so much more to learn about rest and belonging that I am going to stick with it. However, in circle this morning, I came to some clarity about an aspect of this project that is really helpful and that I am going to adopt for my specific intention and mantra: Loving boundaries and welcoming doorways.

Long before I was an active alcoholic, I was an all or nothing person. I cherished clear rules and simple understandings. Ambivalence, inconsistency, on again/off again emotional relationships, like the one with my mother, were so painful, so wounding, that I would slam a door shut or jump in with both feet: no moderation, no careful approach, no compromise. Since I added conflict phobia to that mix, I was set up for a lot of difficult relationships.

Now I'm trying to do things differently, albeit slowly. I want to say how I feel even when it's tough (loving boundaries); I want to inch my way towards more vulnerability and intimacy with people instead of hiding behind smart and independent (welcoming doorways).

I think this is going to be a good metaphor for the healing I want to do in this coming year.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Day 294 Shifting from resolutions to intentions via accomplishments

Like many of us, for years each New Year's, I made resolutions. Most of them lasted a day or two, and if I was really committed, maybe two weeks. And I could never understand why until I realized that resolutions are about solving problems, not about getting what you desire. So I adopted a suggestion from author and speaker Cheryl Richardson and began making a list of accomplishments for the past year on New Year's instead. Reasons to celebrate rather than reasons to chastise.

Now each year about this time, I make a list of 25 or more things I'm proud of, both big and small. Projects completed, things I tried and decided I didn't want to complete, trips I took, kindnesses I offered, contributions I made, friends I connected with or reconnected with, good things I did for my body, mind, and soul, good things I did for others. Sometimes I make two lists: a general list and a creative list for the accomplishments of my creative life.

It's wonderful to read your list to a trusted friend or two, to celebrate each other's accomplishments. And it also gives you a place to start for shaping the coming year. The second step for me now is making a list of possibilities for the new year. What would I like to see on my accomplishment list the next December?
Caution: This isn't a to-do list or a set of commitments, rather it's a list of possibilities, things I might want to explore, people I might want to deepen connection with, places I'd like to visit, projects I'd like to begin or complete.

What might be on your two lists?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Day 293 The monkey is attempting to get back on my back

I've been pretty good on my food plan this holiday. The events that I hosted were free of the foods I don't eat. I've not eaten out very much, which both saves money and helps me avoid temptation. When I have eaten out, kind friends have asked me to pick the location (Indian food, Asian food), where I can choose pretty freely.

I fixed the Christmas Eve soup and salad. There was a delicious pear pie and I had a small piece. Some wheat but no dairy although the vanilla ice cream looked pretty fabulous. But oh what a slippery slope that is! Christmas Day I did succumb to a piece of the baked French toast and was saved by a roomful of people. If I'd been alone with that pan of bread soaked in half and half and butter and sugar, I could have done myself some real harm.

But I'm struggling with desires for candy again. Caramels, chocolate bars. And I'm reminded about how cunning, baffling, and powerful addiction is, how irrational, how illogical, how self-destructive. It's good that I'm on retreat. It's a big effort to get to a store (no Plaid Pantry in the next block like there is at home). And when pizza (wheat and cheese) showed up at lunch today, I was able to just say no and eat the chicken vegetable soup and salad and enjoy it. The pizza was beautiful and smelled heavenly but my forays into wheat over Christmas and my body's reaction reminded me that that is just not a good idea. Now if only I could get a negative reaction from sugar.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Day 292 Using the calendar to better advantage

On this retreat each year, I often reread my creative journal for the year. I keep two journals, a daily journal that I write in each morning for 3-4 pages and a creative journal. The daily journal is a form of mind-clearing, my personal ritual of stability as I unceremoniously dump any concerns from the day before onto the page. I doubt that my many years of daily journaling will prove very interesting to external readers. The few times I've gone back and read some of it, even I haven't been very interested.

But my creative journal is another story. Full of quotes, ideas, notes taken during workshops, lists made of accomplishments, intentions, solutions, plans. Today I found this quote: "You put the things you really want to do in your calendar." And that is giving me some pause. In my calendar, I list dates with my gym buddy, medical and dental appts, meetings with clients, and work project deadlines. If I've got tickets to an event, I list those and dates with friends. All well and good.

But I don't put into my calendar writing time and studio time, reflection time, reading time, resting time. Even though, at this moment, those are far more important to me than the things I do enter into the calendar. I still just fit them around the edges. I'm contemplating a change in how I do that.

What goes in your calendar?

Friday, December 27, 2013

Day 291 A Deep Rest Retreat

Yesterday I arrived at one of my favorite places in the whole world, Aldermarsh retreat center, on Whidbey Island north of Seattle. I come here with friends every New Year's to rest in the dark of the north, in the quiet of the country, in the oxygen of the forests, in the mists of the winter. We arrived in glorious sunshine and settled in. Today we had frost, clouds, wind, rain, and now a fog at sunset that glows a bit pink at the edges and makes me wish I knew how to paint that.

This is a soul place for me, an esthetic of bamboo and fir, of cedar and fern, of alder and marsh that resonates so deep within me. The first time I came here, I begged to return.

I have come here this time to be productive. I want very much to get deeply back into my current novel, which slipped out of my grasp in a December of social activity and lots of paid work. And today has been highly successful, as my characters have started talking to me again, showing up on the page.But I also want to do very little with some of my time here, to let the healing process, which has been accelerated by Evie's appearance in my life, have all the room it needs to.

Ah, the dilemma of do and don't do.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Day 289 Christmas Evie and other gratitudes

Much gratitude in my heart this Christmas of 2013 for the wonderful life I have. Here are some of the things I am most grateful for:

1. My health, mental and physical, which remains strong, albeit with some minor aging issues.
2. A close relationship with family and good friends
3. A wonderful circle of women writers
4. The joy of a new kitten with her antics, her tentativeness in the world, her loving nature, and her many teachings
5. Frannie, Nellie, and Sammy, the best felines in the world, who love me no matter what.
6. Joe Cross, for filming Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, a documentary that catapulted me towards better eating.
7. The thrill of a traditionally published book due out in March.
8. My studio, which is my happy place, and the joy of color
9. A great apartment complete with fabulous neighbor, ancient tree, and a terrace that no longer leaks.
10. Affordable quarterly writing retreats with friends
11. A reliable, high-mileage car that is all paid for
12. An abundance of interesting work
13. A wonderful counselor/therapist/spiritual director who keeps me moving towards healing and peace.
14. My food plan buddy, Lily, who helps me stay honest
15. My gym buddy, Mel, who helps me keep fit
16. And most important of all, my 24 years of sobriety, which makes all the rest possible.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Day 288 Personal ritual of stability

In the Tao of Inner Peace, Diane Dreher talks about the calming influence of a personal ritual of stability. She was talking about meditation for the most part, that most people who stick with the practice find it centering, stabilizing, calming. But she says, the important piece is not meditating, but having a personal ritual of stability, one that works for us and that we commit to practicing faithfully.

I have always struggled with meditation. Early on, I learned not to get caught in the trap of thinking that my mind should go blank or that there was somewhere to get to. But I am an anxious and restless person by physiology and sitting still for long periods is just hard for me. So while I do meditate some of the time, it is not my personal ritual of stability.

Journaling is.

Like many of my generation, I began journaling as an older teen and started a dozen fresh, clean books with a few pages of angst every time there was an emotional upset. Then when things were going well, I didn't feel any need to unburden myself so the journal would lapse and I would start a new one a year or so later. When I was deep in my addiction in my 30s, I couldn't bear to write down the depth of shame and self-loathing I felt. Who'd want to read that? I sure didn't.

But a couple of years into sobriety, perhaps just after completing my 5th step, I began to write every day, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot, and 7 years in when I encountered The Artist's Way and Julia Cameron's Morning Pages, I got more regular about time and length and for more than 15 years, I have written just about every day, every morning. I get up in time to do it, no matter what my day looks like (even when I have to be at the airport at 5:30 am). It stabilizes, grounds, calms me to do it.

Is it genius? Hardly. Is it interesting to read? Don't know, I seldom read any of it again. It's the act tthat's important, the ritual of clearing my mind, of letting go of yesterday, or sorting through problems, of feeling grateful, of finding stability.

Do you have a personal ritual of stability?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Day 287 Circle of well-being

Yesterday I heard a woman speak about a circle of well-being, all the things she found that worked best for herself. So I spent some time thinking about the things that I would put in my circle. Here they are in no particular order:

1. Being in bed by 10 pm and up by 7 am. (8-9 hours works well for me.)
2. Drinking a fresh green juice smoothie every morning.
3. Avoiding wheat and dairy.
4. Going to the gym 3-4 times a week.
5. Walking on all other days with illness or seriously inclement weather the only excuses.
6. Eating animal protein only once a day and not every day.
7. Writing in my journal every morning.
8. Doing art or creative writing nearly every day.
9. Petitation (petting meditation) every day.
10. AA once a week or more.
11. Connecting with my best friend nearly every day.
12. Turning off all screens about 90 minutes before I go to bed.
13. Taking a creative retreat with friends every season.
14. Each month, sessions with my spiritual director and massage therapist.
15. As needed, acupuncture.
16. Taking only the medications I really need and the supplements I've determined are best for me (fish oil, CoQ10, vitamin D).
17. Getting up regularly from the computer during the day to move around, stretch, and get down on the floor and get up again.
18. Abstaining from alcohol, drugs, and refined sugars.
19. Increasing the amount of quiet, do little or nothing time in each day.
20. Staying connected with family and friends.

What's inside your circle of well-being? I'd love to hear to from you. Jill

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Day 285 Further adventures of the cat whisperer

Today is Evie's 9th day with us. Each day brings a bit of change, a bit of loosening of her feral conditioning. She has moved from a barricade behind the toilet to under the bed. And the last three days I've spent 10-15 minutes several times a day on the rug next to the bed talking to her and she will now move herself towards my hand to be petted. She will stretch herself out on her back and offer me her belly for rubbing. She's quick to scurry back under the bed if there's a noise or one of the other cats comes in but she quiets quickly and will come towards my hand again.

This morning, she was under the rocker in the front room when I got up. She didn't stay there long, skittering back into the bedroom, but lo and behold, as I sat at the dining table writing in my journal, she came and sat first in the doorway, then in the room over by the rocker. She would only stay for a minute or two but she came and went probably a dozen times. And then she went to sleep under the bed.

My two females, Nellie and Frannie, don't seem much perturbed by her. Sammy, on the other hand, is both curious and annoyed. She won't play with him though this morning she didn't run from him in the living room. She just watched him. Good strategy, Evie!

Evie is a perfect part of my Deep Rest project: go slow, speak softly, do nothing but attend to the moment. She is my teacher.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Day 284 Preparing your own holiday sanity kit

In our culture where excess is highly desirable, the holidays loom as a dangerous time for those of us challenged or baffled by moderation. Normal eaters and drinkers, those who can do just one or two of something, don't understand us the rest of the year and they really don't understand us now, trotting out the sweets, the fat-laden savories, the gluten-rich everything and wondering why we aren't loading our plates.

At the same time we don't want to wear our abstinence like a neon sign. We don't want to ask the hostess to list every ingredient or explain that butter is dairy or that the sugar in her salad dressing is more than we can handle. Because I'm trying to move away from having life be about food, I don't want my holiday events to center around food either. Here are some things I've learned that make it easier for me to be a guest.

1. If the event is a meal, take a side dish or salad that you can eat. Even if it isn't a potluck, take something that you can eat. If possible, take something pretty and festive (watch for the upcoming blog post on winter salads) like a plate of sliced oranges and steamed greens sprinkled with balsamic vinegar and pomegranate seeds. I keep a set of inexpensive red plastic plates for such occasions. I never worry about getting the plate back.

2. If the event is in the afternoon (not lunch or dinner), I usually eat a snack before I go and then say I had a late lunch and just can't eat a thing and I move away from the table as far as I can get and talk to someone, especially someone who's not eating.

3. I don't go to many events that serve alcohol anymore but I learned early in sobriety to walk in with a can of soda in my hand and that precludes anyone from giving me a drink that I don't fix myself.

4. I keep my glove compartment stocked with a couple of Larabars (dates and nuts) and some little baggies of nuts to be sure I don't walk into an event, meeting, get-together without something I can safely eat. I usually have one of each in my purse as well so that I can eat along with everyone else. Some people are really uncomfortable if they're eating (or drinking) and you're not.

We don't have to go off our plan this holiday. Of course, we may choose to, but that's a different story.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Day 283 Family holiday madness

For those of us trying to stay sane and abstain over the holidays, I found Leo's thoughts below on family get-togethers very insightful.

zen habits: Family Gatherings: The Ultimate Mindfulness Training Ground

Posted: 18 Dec 2013 07:34 AM PST
By Leo Babauta
This is the time of year when many families come together, for extended gatherings or just a get-together or three.
And as wonderful as that may be, it can be a trying time for many, for lots of reasons: old conflicts coming up, painful emotional patterns, people criticizing you, lots of people coming together to make for stressful chaos, loss of control of your daily routine, party planning and preparations adding stress, and more.
How do you deal with this?
Recently a reader asked me to write about “dealing with the emotional difficulties/potential conflict of joining family at the holidays and keeping your energy sustained, positive, without ‘faking it’.”
Here’s what I suggest: use family gatherings for mindfulness training.
It might seem like the best training ground for mindfulness is a peaceful Zen temple … and in many ways, it is. But just like target practice isn’t the same as actual combat, the zazen cushion is not the same as being in the middle of crazy family gatherings. It takes practice to a whole new level.
What and how can you practice? Try one of these practices at a time, when Uncle Rob is telling one of his boring stories:
  • Check in with your body and breath: In the middle of things happening, take a few seconds to turn your attention to your posture, how your body is feeling, whether you’ve been sitting too long, etc. And follow your breath a couple of times. This is a centering practice that brings you back to the present.
  • Notice your self-centeredness. When people frustrate or irritate us, it’s often because we are focused on what we want, how we think we should be treated, how we want everyone else to act, how the world should be. It’s important to notice this, when these feelings arise. Notice that you’re focused on yourself and your wants.
  • Ask: What does this person need? Instead of thinking about what you want, practice asking what the other person needs. See how you can help. Put yourself in their shoes. Feel their pain, without judgment.
  • Just listen. Sometimes what people need is for you to just listen. This is something we don’t often do with 100% attention. Practice listening without judgment, without thinking about what you’re going to say next. Empathize with the person, imagine what it’s like to be them, feel what they’re trying to communicate.
  • Watch your thoughts arise. Be an impartial observer, watching your thoughts come up from some hidden well. Did you really expect that thought? Can you predict the next one? What thoughts are coming up? Are these thoughts you, or just things that come up, like a passing cloud?
  • Let go of control. Stress often comes because we want to control how things go. Of course, we don’t really have control — we just think we do, or want to have control. Practice letting go and letting things happen. Practice not resisting what happens. Practice being happy no matter what happens.
  • Make this task your universe. When you’re pouring your coffee, make this action and this moment everything. The entire universe. There is nothing else but this. Now do it when you are talking with someone. When you’re eating that fruit. When you’re walking up the stairs. When you’re kissing your honey.
  • Practice appreciation. Things are stressful because we wish they were different. But things are pretty amazing just as they are, without being different. We just need to turn our attention to how things are, notice what’s there, see the beauty in that, appreciate it. This takes constant practice.
You can’t do these all at once, but take one of the practices and work with it for a little bit, then try another.
One practice at a time, one moment at a time, you’ll become better at mindfulness in the midst of chaotic family gatherings. And then you’ll see the beauty that was there all the time.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Day 282 The new kitten Part II

Evie has now been here 5 days. I'm not quite sure how much progress I'm making as cat whisperer for Evie is feral. She will let me hold her, she will purr most of the time when I do, but she will not yet come to me. From the reading I've been doing, that may take a lot of time. The younger feral kittens are when you begin socializing them, the better. Once they're 4 months old, it is too late. Evie was three months old when she got caught and neutered. She's now moving onto 4 months and has had about 2-1/2 weeks of socialization. Will it take? Will she become domesticated? I won't know for some time.

My cats have always represented some part of me and had lessons to teach me. My current cats certainly do. Nellie is happiness and affection. Frannie is loyal, dependent, loving, and timid. Sammy is a goofball, who doesn't think too much about anything much, just has a good time. And Evie? On her second evening here, I realized that she represents the most fragile part of me, the part that wasn't well mothered, the part that longs to be held and touched and is so afraid.

This is the part of myself that I so often have turned away from. The wounded child, the needy, dependent self, who is at the same time reaching out to connect and running away in fear and distrust. This is the me I drank to escape, have eaten and worked too much to escape. Now I am turning to her, to be there for her in Evie and in me. It seems a bit daunting and yet so much something I need to do.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Day 281 My birthday

I turn 67 today. Yesterday I was at a noon meeting and I realized yet again that I would never have become 67 or 60 or even 50 if I hadn't found a way to get and stay sober. I was killing myself with alcohol, bit by bit, day by day, and so depressed and ashamed that I couldn't have kept it up much longer. This was the late 1980s and information about addiction and treatment and AA wasn't readily available. I had no knowledge of any of it when I finally surrendered to my doctor and told her how much I was drinking.

Nearly two and a half decades since then of an amazing life: sobriety, renewed relationships with my family, deeper relationships with friends, writing, books published, painting, a studio, cats, a great home, circles of wonderful women. I am so grateful.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Day 280 The new kitten Part I

Some of you know that I have three cats. Three's my number. Three is plenty to pet, feed, take to the vet, keep track of, clean up after. I had four cats for several years and it was fine but it was one too many. Nellie's the old lady at 10, Frannie is 3, and Sammy is 18 months. They get along fine. Nellie is very social and unflappable. Frannie is fiercely loyal and loving and a classic 'fraidy cat. Sammy is a pistol and such a boy! As I said, they get along fine and there was only the briefest period of adjustment when each joined the household.

Thursday morning Evie arrived. Evie's mom was dumped pregnant at the vineyard where my sister Shannon lives. She's not the first pregnant cat to show up there that way. And when the kittens are old enough, the owners, Brian and Theresa, trap them and get them neutered and vaccinated. If they catch the kittens young enough, the local humane society will take them for adoption. Evie was too old when they finally caught her. There was no room at the inn.

So Shannon sent me Evie's picture and hoped I'd find a home for her. I circulated the picture among some friends who had talked about maybe, sort of, thinking about a cat. But there was no taker. I get a cat-looking-for-a-home email about every two months and I forward them and I forget about them. But I didn't forget about Evie. She stayed on my mind. It wasn't the picture, though she was cute enough. I didn't know what it was but on Wednesday I called Shannon to see if Evie had a home. She didn't. She was headed outside to fend for herself against coyotes, owls, eagles, hawks. (Brian and Theresa do feed the ferals.) And so I agreed to take her. She arrived Thursday morning. By Saturday morning, I knew why.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Day 279 New food combos

Today's soup:

12 oz jar of peanut sauce
1/2 cup of mango salsa
2 cups chicken broth
chopped celery, onions, and carrots (this combo is known as mirepoix)
2 chunked zucchini
half a head of cauliflower in pieces
6 small yellow potatos
1 T. cumin
1 T. lemon salt

Crockpot all this until potatoes are tender.

This morning's smoothie

Green juice with kale, romaine, apple, carrot, celery, flat leaf parsley, and fennel stalks
Plus banana, frozen raspberries, mango chunks, half a ripe Anjou pear, some coconut milk and the water from my Yin Yang carrots (raw carrots naturally fermented with sea salt and ginger)

Double dee-licious!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Day 278 Minutes vs. moments

In Slow Time, Waverly Fitzgerald distinguishes between minutes and moments. Minutes are measures of time going by, a convenient commodity for talking about time. But moments are something else entirely. They are experiences, events, feelings, connections. Magic moments. Taking a moment together. A moment of silence. A shared moment. They are a point in time. Sometimes they are a ritual. Sometimes they are a surprise.

When I'm in hurry-up mode, like I was yesterday, I am living in the minutes, panicking about the racing time and a deadline. I'm not available to the moments, I'm not present to them. And that's the shift I want to make. To living in the moment, not in the minutes.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Day 277 My relationship to time

In the Deep Rest project, I've been reading Seattle author Waverly Fitzgerald's wonderful Slow Time, a book about slowing down in a deliberate and heartfelt way. There are lots of great stories in the book and good suggestions, but mostly I'm finding the reading provocative in that I'm reconsidering my relationship to time. I've been moving in this direction for a while. I've taken on living more spaciously, never being in a hurry again, taking on less. And bit by bit, it's working.

Sometimes I still make choices that don't align with those desires. The last few days have been like that. I've had a lovely house guest, an old friend from South Carolina. Judith is easy to be around but she understandably wants to do things in this city she doesn't know well and she wants me to do them with her. And I want to. At the same time, I've had a big work project these same days of her visit. I could have said no to this project, but it's a huge one (3 different well-paid segments with "no" to one segment meaning "no" to them all) and I didn't want to lose the income. I thought I'd be able to do both--spend time with Judith and do the work.

And then my desktop computer died. I have a laptop and can work on it, but what I hadn't counted on was over 3 hours of conversation with the repair guy and driving back and forth to drop it off and pick it up. And then my client instituted a new security Cloud set-up for moving the projects in and out, and guess what? It didn't function right on my computer and they wanted me to sort that out with their IT guy and there went a couple of hours. And did I mention that I adopted a new kitten and she arrived yesterday and turned out to be lovely and beautiful and mostly feral and needing a lot of reassurance? And of course this was the week in which I teach two nights (while Judith was here).

And today felt like major meltdown as I squeezed it all in and got the project done just under the wire and the kitten cuddled and dinner made for Judith. But the good news? I didn't eat over this. No sugar, no extra servings. And I talked about my craziness instead of keeping it bottled up inside. And I survived. Progress, not perfection!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Day 276 Trying and doing

In some of the editing I've been doing the last few weeks, I'm seeing a lot of use of the expression "tried to." He tried to hug her. She tried to phone him. And in each of these cases the character succeeded. But that's not what "tried to" means. In fact, it means just the opposite. I tried to call you but you weren't home. I tried to see you but the door was locked. Effort happens but success does not.

After I'd been bingeing on caramels for about two weeks, I started trying to stop. Mostly I thought about stopping. I thought not buying any more. I'd make a plan to not buy any more. And then I'd buy some more and eat them all. I was trying, I really was. The problem was that I was not doing, I was just trying.

Trying to be abstinent doesn't work. Being abstinent does. Trying to work less doesn't change much. Working less can change a lot. Now I've stopped trying to stop, and I've just stopped.

Where is trying not getting you what you want?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Day 275 Today's great soup

I've a house guest arriving tomorrow and I was casting about in the cupboard for something interesting to try for the week's soup. This is what I came up with. It's delicious.

One jar Trader Joe's Madras Simmer Sauce
1 cup chicken broth
2 cups cooked, mashed pumpkin
1 fennel bulb chopped
1/2 yellow onion chopped
1 bok choy chopped
6 small potatoes chopped
1 T. lemon salt
1 T. cumin
1 can Trader Joe's Cuban spice black beans

Crock pot it all for about 3 hours (until potatoes are tender). Serve over brown rice with chopped fresh pear as the garnish.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Day 274 On the bumper in front of me today

"Sometimes I wrestle with my demons. Sometimes we just snuggle."

My relationship with sugar on a bumper sticker!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Day 273 Some words about deep rest

From: www.artofliving.org

A deep rest

You cannot rest when you have to do something which you cannot. And you cannot rest when you feel you have to be someone whom you are not. You are not required to do what you cannot. You will not be asked to give what you cannot give. Nothing is expected of you that you cannot do. Doing service involves only doing what you can do. And no one wants you to be someone who you are not.

This realization brings you deep rest. You cannot rest if you have either ambition or lethargy. Both are opposed to good rest. A lazy person will toss and turn at night and be "rest-less" and an ambitious person will burn inside. This rest brings up your talents and abilities and brings you closer to your nature. Even a slight feeling that the Divine is with you brings deep rest. And prayer, love and meditation are all flavors of deep rest.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Day 272 Green smoothies in the winter

I started doing green juice and smoothies in late March when the fruit and vegetables were just starting to come in. Now we're moving full into winter and I'm having to make some adjustments. So here are some of the things I'm doing to keep it interesting.

I keep a good stock of organic frozen fruit (raspberries, blueberries, mango, pineapple). I also freeze ripe bananas (peeled) every week or two. I don't store them long but I keep them on hand.

The more exotic greens dwindle in the winter but I can always get organic celery, kale, baby spinach, flat leaf parsley, romaine lettuce, cucumber, carrots. I also add fresh apples or pears and sometimes interesting things I find in vegetable section (like sugarloaf chicory). I make a quart of juice every 3-4 days (I use about a cup of juice in my smoothie).

Frozen fruit will make the smoothie more of a slushie and I don't really like that, so I set up my smoothie the night before: cup of juice, 2 banana halves, some berries, a fresh pear or some mango or pineapple, and a big handful of baby spinach. Then I store it in the fridge and in the morning, all the frozen fruit isn't frozen. I've also tried adding some safely canned fruit (peaches in non-sugared syrup). Yum!

Other ideas: Add coconut milk, almond milk, hemp milk, or rice milk to have a creamier smoothie. Add 2 T. peanut butter or almond butter for a great boost.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Day 271 If you only change a few things you eat...consider these

Food scientists are shedding light on items loaded with toxins and chemicals–and simple swaps for a cleaner diet and supersized health. Experts from different areas of specialty explain why they won’t eat these eight foods.
Clean eating means choosing fruits, vegetables, and meats that are raised, grown, and sold with minimal processing. Often they’re organic, and rarely (if ever) should they contain additives. But in some cases, the methods of today’s food producers are neither clean nor sustainable. The result is damage to our health, the environment, or both. So we decided to take a fresh look at food through the eyes of the people who spend their lives uncovering what’s safe–or not–to eat. ” Their answers don’t necessarily make up a “banned foods” list. But reaching for the suggested alternatives might bring you better health–and peace of mind.

1. The Endocrinologist Won’t Eat: Canned Tomatoes

Fredrick Vom Saal, is an endocrinologist at the University of Missouri who studies bisphenol-A.
The problem: The resin linings of tin cans contain bisphenol-A, a synthetic estrogen that has been linked to ailments ranging from reproductive problems to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Unfortunately, acidity (a prominent characteristic of tomatoes) causes BPA to leach into your food. Studies show that the BPA in most people’s body exceeds the amount that suppresses sperm production or causes chromosomal damage to the eggs of animals. “You can get 50 mcg of BPA per liter out of a tomato can, and that’s a level that is going to impact people, particularly the young,” says vom Saal. “I won’t go near canned tomatoes.”
The solution: Choose tomatoes in glass bottles (which do not need resin linings), such as the brands Bionaturae and Coluccio. You can also get several types in Tetra Pak boxes, like Trader Joe’s and Pomi. Exposure to BPA Causes Permanent Damage In OffSpring

2. The Farmer Won’t Eat: Corn-Fed Beef

Joel Salatin is co-owner of Polyface Farms and author of half a dozen books on sustainable farming.The problem: Cattle evolved to eat grass, not grains. But farmers today feed their animals corn and soybeans, which fatten up the animals faster for slaughter. But more money for cattle farmers (and lower prices at the grocery store) means a lot less nutrition for us. A recent comprehensive study conducted by the USDA and researchers from Clemson University found that compared with corn-fed beef, grass-fed beef is higher in beta-carotene, vitamin E, omega-3s, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), calcium, magnesium, and potassium; lower in inflammatory omega-6s; and lower in saturated fats that have been linked to heart disease. “We need to respect the fact that cows are herbivores, and that does not mean feeding them corn and chicken manure,” says Salatin.
The solution: Buy grass-fed beef, which can be found at specialty grocers, farmers markets, and nationally at Whole Foods. It’s usually labeled because it demands a premium, but if you don’t see it, ask your butcher.

3. The Toxicologist Won’t Eat: Microwave Popcorn

Olga Naidenko, is a senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group.

The problem: Chemicals, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), in the lining of the bag, are part of a class of compounds that may be linked to infertility in humans, according to a recent study from UCLA. In animal testing, the chemicals cause liver, testicular, and pancreatic cancer. Studies show that microwaving causes the chemicals to vaporize–and migrate into your popcorn. “They stay in your body for years and accumulate there,” says Naidenko, which is why researchers worry that levels in humans could approach the amounts causing cancers in laboratory animals. DuPont and other manufacturers have promised to phase out PFOA by 2015 under a voluntary EPA plan, but millions of bags of popcorn will be sold between now and then.
The solution: Pop organic kernels the old-fashioned way: in a skillet. For flavorings, you can add real butter or dried seasonings, such as dillweed, vegetable flakes, or soup mix. Make it organic and use coconut oil. If You’re Still Eating Microwave Popcorn, You’re Not Fully Grasping The Health Consequences

4. The Farm Director Won’t Eat: Nonorganic Potatoes

Jeffrey Moyer is the chair of the National Organic Standards Board.

The problem: Root vegetables absorb herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides that wind up in soil. In the case of potatoes–the nation’s most popular vegetable–they’re treated with fungicides during the growing season, then sprayed with herbicides to kill off the fibrous vines before harvesting. After they’re dug up, the potatoes are treated yet again to prevent them from sprouting. “Try this experiment: Buy a conventional potato in a store, and try to get it to sprout. It won’t,” says Moyer, who is also farm director of the Rodale Institute (also owned by Rodale Inc., the publisher of Prevention). “I’ve talked with potato growers who say point-blank they would never eat the potatoes they sell. They have separate plots where they grow potatoes for themselves without all the chemicals.”

The solution: Buy organic potatoes. Washing isn’t good enough if you’re trying to remove chemicals that have been absorbed into the flesh. Budget tip: Organic potatoes are only $1 to $2 a pound, slightly more expensive than conventional spuds.

5. The Fisheries Expert Won’t Eat: Farmed Salmon

Dr. David Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany, published a major study in the journal Science on contamination in fish.
The problem: Nature didn’t intend for salmon to be crammed into pens and fed soy, poultry litter, and hydrolyzed chicken feathers. As a result, farmed salmon is lower in vitamin D and higher in contaminants, including carcinogens, PCBs, brominated flame retardants, and pesticides such as dioxin and DDT. According to Carpenter, the most contaminated fish come from Northern Europe, which can be found on American menus. “You could eat one of these salmon dinners every 5 months without increasing your risk of cancer,” says Carpenter, whose 2004 fish contamination study got broad media attention. “It’s that bad.” Preliminary science has also linked DDT to diabetes and obesity, but some nutritionists believe the benefits of omega-3s outweigh the risks. There is also concern about the high level of antibiotics and pesticides used to treat these fish. When you eat farmed salmon, you get dosed with the same drugs and chemicals.
The solution: Switch to wild-caught Alaska salmon. If the package says fresh Atlantic, it’s farmed. There are no commercial fisheries left for wild Atlantic salmon. Farmed Fish vs. Wild Fish: How Healthy
Is The Fish At Your Favorite Grocery?

6. The Cancer Researcher Won’t Drink: Milk Produced With Artificial Hormones

Rick North is project director of the Campaign for Safe Food at the Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility and former CEO of the Oregon division of the American Cancer Society.

The problem: Milk producers treat their dairy cattle with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST, as it is also known) to boost milk production. But rBGH also increases udder infections and even pus in the milk. It also leads to higher levels of a hormone called insulin-like growth factor in milk. In people, high levels of IGF-1 may contribute to breast, prostate, and colon cancers. “When the government approved rBGH, it was thought that IGF-1 from milk would be broken down in the human digestive tract,” says North. “There’s not 100 percent proof that this is increasing cancer in humans,” admits North. “However, it’s banned in most industrialized countries.”
The solution: Buy raw milk or check labels for rBGH-free, rBST-free, produced without artificial hormones, or organic milk. These phrases indicate rBGH-free products. Why Do Humans Still Drink Milk?

7. The Biotech Specialist Who Won’t Eat Conventional Soy: GMO Unfermented Soy

Michael Harris is biotech specialist who has directed several projects within the biotech sector including those for genetically engineered food. He has been a consultant, manager and director for companies such as Xenon Pharmaceuticals and Genon Corporation.

The problem: Genetically engineered food is a cause of great concern due to the manipulation of DNA and genetic code including transfers from one species to another. Fermented Soy Is The Only Soy Food Fit for Human Consumption and since almost 90% of soy in the world is genetically modified, if you are not ensuring sources are organic, long-term health problems are inevitable, especially since soy has been found to affect hormonal balance and even cause cancer.
The solution: Check labels to ensure soy is Non-GMO or organic and never consume unfermented sources. If possible contact the company to find out exactly where the Non-GMO soy was obtained.


8. The Organic-Foods Expert Won’t Eat: Conventional Apples

Mark Kastel, a former executive for agribusiness, is codirector of the Cornucopia Institute, a farm-policy research group that supports organic foods.
The problem: If fall fruits held a “most doused in pesticides contest,” apples would win. Why? They are individually grafted (descended from a single tree) so that each variety maintains its distinctive flavor. As such, apples don’t develop resistance to pests and are sprayed frequently. The industry maintains that these residues are not harmful. But Kastel counters that it’s just common sense to minimize exposure by avoiding the most doused produce, like apples. “Farm workers have higher rates of many cancers,” he says. And increasing numbers of studies are starting to link a higher body burden of pesticides (from all sources) with Parkinson’s disease.
The solution: Buy organic apples or apples from a farmer that you trust!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Day 270 Confessions of a sugar addict

For the last few weeks, I've been back on sugar, in true Candy Girl fashion. I have not been in denial but I have been in defiance, so I haven't written about it, because I knew that once I did, once I admitted it to someone other than myself, I would be on the way to abstinence again and I don't want to be abstinent from sugar.

I don't want to be abstinent from sugar even though I've regained a few pounds, even though I don't feel very good, even though none of the rest of my healthy food tastes as good, even though I have less energy, even though I am less cheerful. Cunning, baffling, and powerful, as we say in AA. The cunning, baffling, and powerful link between the need and the hell, yes, why not? and the consequences be damned.

I could blame it on Trader Joe's, I guess, and the fleur de sel caramels they're currently sellling (next to ice cream and alcohol, caramels are about my favorite addictive substance) but I can't do that as no one at TJ's forced me to buy them, to buy a lot of them, to eat them all. No one. Just me and everything that still isn't quite aligned in my sense of self and well-being.

So now you know and I know that you know. And they're all gone and tomorrow is another day. One day at a time.

PS . In true addict fashion, I had to go make sure they were all gone before I sent this post.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Day 269 Struggling to do less

I've had 5 days now of the Deep Rest project. I have done well with turning the computer off at 8 and not turning it on in the morning until 8. I am turning off the TV with whatever I'm watching, if I'm watching, at 9 and doing some reading or writing or puttering instead.

Both of these are proving good things. First, I make a clear distinction between the beginning and end of the work day. Both my evening and my morning seem more focused and more spacious at the same time without the screens calling me, luring me. There's a quietness to the house too with the machines off.

But during the day, I seem as busy as ever with a long to-do list, too many appointments, too many yeses to others, too much desire and habit to get it all done, to cram it all in. I have a rich and full life and it's a great one but I still want more space, more ease, more freedom. So that's what I'm thinking about tonight. How do you create space in your schedule?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Day 268 Fasting from the news

I've decided to fast from the news as part of my Deep Rest project. This isn't as big a deal as it might be for some folks. I stopped reading the daily newspaper years ago when I became too discouraged by the "if it bleeds, it reads" journalism that seemed rampant in big cities. There was little besides violence and scandal and politics. I switched to magazine reading, which seemed more thoughtful, careful, considerate.

Then sometime after 9-11 and the media orgy that I so willingly participated in, the antenna that offered us free local TV in our building died and the landlord had the place wired for cable. I didn't want to pay for cable as I wasn't watching TV much at all so I didn't and for the last decade I've been getting my news from the Internet. But it too is seldom informative and not very helpful so I'm going to fast from Yahoo News and Google News and just assume that if something big happens, folks will tell me.

What might you fast from to increase your rest?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Day 267 Yoga for Bigger Bodies

I asked a local yoga teacher for some thoughts on this after I signed up for her class later this month. Love to see you there!

Top 5 Reasons for Attending a Dedicated Yoga Class for Bigger Bodies

When is having a separate class for people with bigger bodies a service, and when does it cause more labeling, more separation?  This is a question we spend time with every so often at unfold studios and in the Samarya Yoga community. We believe that yoga is truly for everyone, and we believe that everyone adapts yoga to their own needs and wants.  Just because someone has a larger body, a smaller body, an older body, or an injured body, it doesn’t mean that they are doing special yoga – it’s all just yoga. 

The people that we see on the cover of a yoga magazine aren’t doing the “real” yoga, while the rest of us are doing some watered-down version.  However, this is the perception (and sometimes close to the true experience) of what is happening in many yoga studios where classes are filled with young, flexible, athletic, white women who seem to fully understand what is going on in class: the terminology, the clothes and the gear, the pace, and what is expected. This can be an intimidating environment.  So, while we who practice Samarya Yoga believe at our core that all shapes and sizes of people can practice together, regardless of perceived barriers, we also see that having a dedicated introductory class can be beneficial for several reasons.  Here are our top five:

1. Being with others with similar body type –  This can provide a sense of safety, belonging, and understanding.  We know that all bodies are different, regardless of size, but knowing that you won’t be surrounded by lithe, stereotypical yoga bodies could be just what you need to help you walk through the door.

2. Being with others who are new to yoga – The language of yoga can be intimidating.  When we know that we will be taken through the ABC’s, it can be a welcome relief.

3. Learning modifications for larger bodies – As earlier stated, all bodies are different, and knowing some standard modifications for bigger bodies will dramatically increase your ability to modify many yoga poses.

4. Learning the underlying idea or “heart” of a pose – When we can figure out the main goal, idea, or “heart” of a pose, we can choose other ways to achieve the same goal.  For instance, the instructor asks everyone to get on their knees for “camel pose,” but your knees don’t like that kind of pressure.  Although there are many things going on with that pose, the “heart” is backward-bending.  And there are many accessible ways to backward bend.  VoilĂ !  We can make our own modifications.

5. Knowing you can take your time – In a class dedicated to specific needs, we can slow down and trust that it’s okay to take the time to ask questions, to clarify, and to find what’s really best for each of us.

E.B. Ferdig is a yoga therapist and teacher in Portland, Oregon, and is a co-owner of unfold studios. For more info see: http://www.unfoldportland.com/instructors.html

E.B. is offering Intro to Yoga for Bigger Bodies, on Saturday, December 21, 10am – Noon.  Cost is $30 or $20 if you bring a friend.  Check out with discount code: FRIEND10.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Day 266 Creating a Deep Rest project

Several weeks back, I noted the occurrence of Rest as a value in an exercise I was doing and I've had a lot of thoughts about that since then. And because we are moving into the darkest time of the year here in the North and it is a traditional time of resting for the earth and all physical nature, it seems really appropriate to me to take on a Deep Rest project for the next two months.

"Project" may not be the right word. Perhaps "inquiry" is more important. Saturday, with December 1 looming, I felt frustrated that I hadn't designed the whole Rest project (i.e., worked at it--and I am certainly conscious of the irony of that). And then I came to my senses and saw how I could just try out some things and see what worked (hence, the idea of inquiry).

So this week, I'm taking on less time in front of the screen. I'm turning off the computer by 8 pm or earlier and not turning it on until 8 am or later. I'm also turning off the TV if I'm watching it by 9 pm so that there is time for reading and reflection before I go to bed.

I can feel a slight shift already, a bit more spaciousness in the morning, a bit more focus on my journal and novel writing, my first two activities. And I feel a bit more energetic in the evening around tidying up. And with the computer off, the house is quieter, I'm quieter.

What might your Deep Rest project start with?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Day 265 My annual holiday open house

Today is my annual holiday open house. When it first started in the middle 1970s, it was a celebration of the end of the term in graduate school. I made mulled wine and bourboned eggnog and invited friends and fellow students to my little apartment. I asked them to bring homemade cookies and I then took the leftovers to all my final exams.

During my 7 years in Virginia, I didn't do it. I had become a rather reclusive drunk and it was all too much trouble. Then I moved to Pennsylvania sober and I did it once but it wasn't much fun. Then I moved to Portland and right away I started it up again. No alcohol of course and after a few years, I stopped doing the cookies. People weren't making them, they were buying them, and it lost any sense of tradition or creativity. Ending up with dozens of store cookies was also tedious and I couldn't get rid of them fast enough.

So a decade or so ago, I switched to a savory open house, asking people to bring finger foods that aren't sweet. People have gotten much more inventive and the results are pretty delicious, like Molly's stuffed grape leaves. I invite about 250 people to drop by. I usually see 40-50. And I do it the same Sunday now, first Sunday of December. Later December Sundays are always booked with concerts and other get-togethers.

I didn't mention the plan in the invitation. I don't usually eat much during the open house. I'm too busy hosting and keeping the mulled cider flowing, but with savories, there are always safe possibilities anyway: nuts, guacamole, hummus. I'll put out some mixed nuts, a green olive hummus, some chips, and some goat cheese that get left here from a party.

Here's my cider recipe. It's legendary. Simmer one gallon apple cider and one quart cranberry juice (unsweetened if you can get it) with a handful of whole cloves, a handful of whole allspice, and a couple of cinnamon sticks. Strain and store until needed (about a week outside or in fridge for several weeks) and then heat and serve. I make 5 gallons at a time for the event.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Day 264 Making green juice not so, well, green

For more than 9 months I've been drinking green juice and green smoothies in the morning. It's one of the things I like best about the plan, a great way to start the day with 6-7 fruits and vegetables. The flavor varies depending on the fruits and the greens I use. I'm particularly fond of flat leaf parsley, romaine, and celery as dominant flavors. This morning I added some of juice from the chard I cooked yesterday for the Thanksgiving potluck and earlier in the week, I added the leftover water from a jar of naturally fermented ginger carrots. It gave the smoothie a lovely zip.

But I appreciate it when people say "yuck" to green juice without even trying it. We're used to red juices: orange juice, tomato juice, wine, rosy fruits. Of course, if we're smart, we're eating a lot of green food (vegetables in many shapes and shades of green), but juice isn't usually green. So for those folks you're trying to seduce into trying green smoothies, here's a way to ease them in.

Add a handful of blueberries, blackberries, or raspberries to the smoothie. Unsweetened, frozen, these add great fiber and nutrients and color. You can also add fresh tomato juice and cooked or raw beets. I find the raw beets too earthy for my taste, but cooked beets are sweet and very red. You might just convert that kid or spouse to the smoothie system.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Day 263 Little virtue in rigidity

One of my friends, who has been on the plan for a few months, is thinking about letting it go. She isn't noticing huge, positive changes (although she had some in the first several months) and she's finding it just too inconvenient. I was curious about that when I talked to her because I don't find eating this way any less convenient than the way I was eating before. In fact, in some ways, this is easier as I've developed some time-saving habits, like making a big crockpot of vegetable soup or stew each week, doing a veggie bake at the same time so I have side dishes for my dinners, and cooking steel cut oats in the rice cooker and making enough for 3-4 days at a time.

So I decided to ask her about the inconvenience and because she has a husband with serious health issues, I was sure she was going to bring him up. But she didn't. Eating at home wasn't the issue. Eating out was. When she had a meal with her kids or with friends in their home, she didn't want to draw attention to herself or have special needs. When she ate out, she wanted to order whatever seemed most appealing. From her viewpoint, that made real sense to me.

And it got me thinking about rigidity, and how being rigid on a food plan may have no virtue in it at all. Sometimes abstinence is our best choice: no alcohol at all for me. No alcohol in cookies or desserts, no fake beer or wine. But I don't worry about a naturopathic tincture as that doesn't seem to trigger me. But it might trigger some others. So we each decide what the boundaries are, what avoiding something means.

I don't mind telling people about my food plan and asking for what I need but that may not be true for everybody and I do appreciate not wanting to make it such a big deal that I inconvenience other people unnecessarily. I also have several trips planned in the new year and may need to modify my plan to fit them. So I encouraged my friend to find what works best for her, rather than just jettisoning the plan. What is working best for you?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Day 262 My contributions to Thanksgiving dinner

For the last few years, I've brought drinks to Thanksgiving dinner because I didn't cook. This year, of course, I do, and so I am making two dishes.

Chard with portabello mushrooms

Coarsely chop 2-3 bunches of rinsed chard and place in a heavy pan with about an inch of water. Cook until limp. Add a little more water if needed. Drain off water and save for juice. In a frying pan, place sliced or chunked mushrooms and add a bit of water, sea salt, and balsamic vinegar. Cook until mushrooms go soft. Add mushrooms to chard and serve warm or room temperature (do not chill).

Fruit bake

Thaw one package T Joe's frozen mango chunks. Cut up 3-4 apples in chunks. Do the same with 3-4 pears. Peel apples and pears if not organic or tough-skinned. Combine reduced balsamic vinegar (i'm using a dark cherry vinegar that I cooked on the stove until it started to get thick), vanilla, a little sea salt, maybe some honey, maybe some apple juice. (Make a sauce that tastes good to you) Pour over fruit in a deep bowl to coat. Put into a glass baking pan and bake at 350 until fruit is a little soft (pears and mango will soften before apples). Sprinkle with pecans. Serve at room temperature or a little warm.

Day 261 Wrangling the season of increased dissatisfaction

One of the more fascinating things about the TV show Mad Men is its look into the origin of our culture of dissatisfaction. Modern advertising lies at the heart of that culture, the sense of needing stuff or services or products to feel better about ourselves. The season of dissatisfaction goes all year, but it rachets up now with sales and the driving need to buy and give in order to please others, to satisfy ourselves by satisfying them, even though a part of us knows that stuff never really satisfies.

This is also the season of nostalgic dissatisfaction. Many of us fell into a yearning for former, and often mythical, holiday happiness, trying to recreate a togetherness of intimacy and happiness that may well never have happened.

Because of this increased dissatisfaction with what is, with our circumstances, financial and relational, we tend to try to soothe ourselves more than ever with alcohol, food, or shopping. It’s a big time of relapse around addiction, of letting go of healthier habits for some fleeting possibility.  We see that glass of wine, that piece of cheesecake, that shiny expensive object, and we romanticize the moment, as a woman remarked in my AA meeting today, even though our better selves know the moment won’t last and it won’t even be all that great while it does last.

Sitting with what is without wanting to fix it is one of my biggest challenges. Dissatisfaction makes me restless, irritable, discontent. The remedy for me is gratitude, extra meetings, time spent quietly with good friends and with my cats. 

How will you wrangle your dissatisfaction if it pops up this holiday?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Day 260 What if your life is a wonderful adventure, a fabulous project? Part I

I came across this suggestion from Eric Maisel towards the end of his book, Why Smart People Hurt, about two weeks ago and it has really stayed with me. I got to thinking about adventures from my past and what adventure might mean to me now.

I used to take a lot of risks. You know the ones. Driving drunk and sometimes worse, driving so hungover that I couldn't think. Going home with some guy I'd known for six minutes before last call, or worse yet, taking him home with me so he knew where I lived. Walking to the store in subzero weather on icy sidewalks to get more booze.

Back in those days, I chased drama and high-adrenaline experiences. I lived in jealousy, outrage, gossip, cynicism. I complained a lot. I chased what I didn't seem to have.

Now I'm interested in a different kind of living. So what if my life is a wonderful adventure? How do I step into that? How do you step into it for yourself?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Day 259 Planning minimal food get-togethers

I was born in this holiday season of eat, drink, and be merry. And the first two have often be a huge part of the holidays for me. This year I am much more interested in being merry. I had written earlier about holiday food landmines and I'm thinking about how I can take charge of this to protect myself. I don't worry too much about succumbing to temptation, but I'd rather avoid the stress of having to be so disciplined. So I've been thinking about some different ideas.

It's a time of eatings out: meeting seldom-seen friends for lunch or dinner. Having them to my home would help me eat more of what I need and want: food I've fixed myself.

We're in a spate of dry, sunny weather. I could suggest a walk and a cup of tea instead of a meal.

I could invite people to get together in my studio and paint or draw.

I could invite people to drop by and write together for a couple of hours.

I could invite a friend to go window shopping or gallery hopping or go to a holiday concert together.

I can take something simple and lovely for every potluck. Here's my current favorite (all available at Trader Joe's). Cube vacuum-packed cooked beets and ripe avocado and toss with a light vinaigrette. Carefully fold in cubes of thawed frozen mango. Put in a pretty bowl and watch it disappear!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Day 258 What I am wanting to subtract from my life

Less body: I want a smaller body so I can move more easily, get in and out of the car more easily, navigate stairs more easily, get off the floor more easily.I'm less interested in being thinner in some cultural ideal way and much more interested in being lighter

Less stuff: Every couple of years I do a major purge. One year, it was 20% of my stuff, including furniture.I usually include a percentage: I want to eliminate 20% of my books (1 of 5) or 20% of my clothes (1 of 5). One year I got rid of all craft supplies that were not for painting or drawing or collage. One year I got rid of 30%of the stuff in my basement storage unit. I think I'm due for a 10% in general reduction of stuff (1 of 10).

Fewer appointments: I'm wanting a more spacious calendar. Four appointments in a week seems plenty. And on no more than two days of the week.

Shorter to-do list: I used to have a system where I kept a master list and each day choose 2-3 things to be responsible for from that list. I've let that practice drop and want to reinstate it again so the days feel spacious.

What are you subtracting?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Day 257 Loved Leo Babauta's blog today

The Necessary Art of Subtraction

By Leo Babauta
The tendency of our lives, businesses, art, is to keep adding: more furniture, clothes, gadgets, tasks, appointments, features to websites and apps, words to our writing.
Continual addition isn’t sustainable or desirable:
  • Too many things to do means we’re always busy, with no time for rest, stillness, contemplation, creativity, time with loved ones.
  • Overwhelming customers with choices means they’re less likely to make an actual choice. They’d prefer that we curate the best.
  • Too many possessions is clutter, visual stress, cleaning, maintenance, debt, less happiness.
  • Too many tasks makes it harder to focus on any one thing or get anything done.
  • Too many things we want to learn means we never learn anything well.
Subtraction is beautiful: it creates space, time, clarity.
Subtraction is necessary: otherwise we are overburdened.
Subtraction can be painful: it means letting go of a child.
Subtraction is an art that improves with practice. Subtraction can be practiced on your schedule, task list, commitments list, possessions, reading list, writing, product line, distractions.
What can you subtract right now?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Day 256 Where do I go now with exercise?

This week, I've been thinking about what I want my exercise plan to look like next. Before I did my 420/7 plan, I was averaging 175 minutes (45 x 3 and 20 x 2) a week. That's probably enough for maintenance for me but not for increased fitness and stamina. 

I have already enrolled my gym buddy Melanie in doing 60 minutes at the gym 3 times a week and we either do 60 minutes or 90 minutes a fourth time. (We go Wed and Thurs, Sat and Sun as that best fits her work schedule). So that's 240 to 270 a week. I want to add to that 30 minutes a day the other three days of the week minimum. So my goal is going to be 330-360 minutes a week. That seems both a stretch and doable in this season of short, dark days and lots of rain and cold. 

In addition, I am slowly increasing intensity of both weight and cardio work at the gym. Did 15 minutes of big incline on the treadmill yesterday for the first time in a long time. It wasn't easy but I could do it. Hurray!

What kind of an exercise plan are you willing to commit to?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Day 255 A palpable experience of change

For the last seven years, I've taught an all-day writing workshop to first-year doctoral candidates at George Fox University in Newberg. The campus is 45 minutes from here on a day of good weather and easy traffic, 75 if not. I teach tor 6-7 hours with a short lunch break. The day is intense: I'm trying to teach them most of a semester's writing course in a day. And I'm an active teacher and I use the white board extensively in the old style so I'm on my feet all day. So I'm very, very tired when I get home and in the past, I've been pretty worthless, both mentally and physically, the next day.

I've learned to plan an easy Tuesday, no work promises, no gym commitment, maybe a massage, maybe just hanging out. And I planned that for this week too. But when I got home Monday night, I wasn't all that tired, just tired. I didn't crash about 8 pm as I have before. I woke up early Tuesday morning, clear-headed and energetic and that clarity and energy lasted all day.

And I realized that how the way I'm eating and exercising is giving me an awful lot more stamina than I've had the last few years. I don't think feeling so good Tuesday was a fluke. I think it was the Plan.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Day 254 Sound holiday advice

This came across my email today. Lots of good advice for us all.

Surviving the Holidays

By John MacDougall
John MacDougallI dreaded the Christmas season when I was a child, because I lived in a violent alcoholic household--and the Christmas season was the most violent time of all. I always got hurt at Christmas. My family was just an extreme example of the tensions that give many of us stress when this time of year comes around.
Some of us are stressed by memories of past holidays gone wrong. Some of us are stressed by an expectation that we will create a perfect holiday pageant this year. Some of us have a death to grieve, and the holidays bring it into sharp focus. Some of us have an active alcoholic, or addict (or two), and sense correctly that the holidays are the time of year when people drink the most. Some of us have old family dynamics that we don't like--dynamics that replay themselves every year.
While there is still time, we might want to try a management technique: shifting from managing by crisis, to managing by goals and objectives.
In managing by crisis, we try to solve each crisis, but the solution to the crisis becomes the origin of the next crisis. For example, if last year's family gathering was a disaster, we might solve it by refusing to go this year. That solution might become the origin of a new crisis, if we sit home alone feeling guilty, and are miserable.
In managing by goals and objectives, we figure out what we really want, and then set big goals and smaller objectives to reach on the way to our goals. To do this, I suggest a method I call "zero-based holiday planning." This is based on the budget method called zero-based budgeting.
In zero-based holiday planning, you don't start with last year's plan and try to fix it, especially if last year's plan led to a crisis. In zero-based holiday planning, you start with "zero." That is, nothing. Absolutely nothing at all.
Then, make two lists: a list of topics, and a list of principles.
On the topics list, you might put things like time, money, friends, religious services, your recovery program meetings, food and meals, decorations, gifts, travel, entertaining, and service work.
On the principles list, put the spiritual principles that you would like to apply to your holiday experiences, such as dignity, respect, playfulness, generosity, community, service, grace, hope, hospitality, etc. Make your own list that reflects both who you are and who you want to be.
Then, put the two lists together, and make your plans.
Leave behind the principles and addict behaviors that you don't want, such as: being mean, getting even, competing with others, settling old scores, cutting people out of the family, getting drunk or high, isolating, and taking anybody's inventory.
When we match the positive spiritual principles with the topics, things work out well. We can give gifts that we can afford, without leaving us in debt in January. We give gifts that reflect a knowledge of the people who are receiving them, and a genuine desire to please them. We can provide sober hospitality, without feeling any obligation to serve alcohol to others that we would not drink ourselves. We can remember the teaching of Step Ten: that we have entered the realm of the spirit, and now love and tolerance of others is our code.
We might take a trip to the toy store, get some toys for the child in all of us, and rediscover play at the holidays. We could make simple decorations that signal a welcome without wearing us out. We can invite friends from our Twelve Step groups who don't have a family, or a place to go on the holidays, to join our extended family in our celebrations and to recognize our new "family of choice," as well as our family of origin.
With zero-based holiday planning, we make our plans, and then we turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understand God, and offer that care to others with a sense of hospitality and hope.
John MacDougall is the Director of Spiritual Guidance at Hazelden in Center City, MN. His new book, Being Sober and Becoming Happy is available from Amazon.com. In January, he is presenting a new recovery retreat at the Dan Anderson Renewal Center called "The Promises of Recovery."