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 In January, he is presenting a new recovery retreat at the Dan Anderson Renewal Center called "The Promises of Recovery."

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Day 253 The holiday landmines approacheth

My first sober Thanksgiving was difficult. I was one month out of treatment, desperate to stay sober, miserable alone, and comfortable pretty much only in a meeting. I went to two meetings before Thanksgiving dinner, stayed at my host's only an hour (there was a lot of drinking going on although no one offered me a drink as I had explained my circumstances) and then I went to two more meetings, hanging on to the thought that a holiday is just another 24 hours.

But Kathy Herriage, one of the readers of this blog, reminded me of the food landmines that pop for us at this time of year and particularly where food is involved. Because we have become a culture that indulges and overindulges all the time, you'd think that holiday groaning boards would be no big deal. But because we often bring our old emotional baggage around the holidays down from the attic or up from the basement to drag around at gatherings, we are more susceptible.

Yesterday I was challenged by the first landmine. I taught an all-day workshop at a nearby university and the students had filled a table with cookies and cake. I'd brought my own salad and green smoothie so I wasn't tempted until the hot pizza arrived. I didn't eat any although I was invited to by many of the students, but the smell of it filled the room for the last three hours and that was tough.

I'm a firm believer in announcing my commitments so I've asked my good friend Melanie, who hosts a wonderful Thanksgiving potluck, to set aside some potatoes before she mashes them with butter and cream for those of us who don't do dairy. Three of us at the table are on the Plan so Lily is going to make the quinoa, butternut squash dish that I posted a couple of days ago. Shannon will bring a big green salad. And I'm going to make some kind of a baked fruit dish for dessert. No matter what else is at the table we'll have plenty to eat.

How are you going to handle holiday landmines?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Day 252 Eight things I learned on the 420/7 exercise plan

Saturday I finished week 4 of my plan to exercise 420 minutes a week (or 60 minutes a day) for a month. The last week I was an hour short but I let the week I did 510 minutes fill that in (I am always in danger of becoming fanatical about things). Here's what I learned.

1. I can enjoy and look forward to moving every day.
2. Walking outside is my favorite activity so far.
3. I enrolled my gym buddy Melanie into doing an hour three times a week instead of 45 minutes each time.
4. Instead of begging off that I don't have the time, I can go along when Melanie does a 90-minute session on Thursdays.
5. I can spend 90 minutes in the gym without whining or being bored.
6. Merely walking longer times increased my speed (no special effort made).
7. If I'm going to do weights or floor exercises as part of a day's workout, I need to do it right after I walk. If I don't, it doesn't happen.
8. Mornings are best for me.

If you participated in the challenge, let me know how you did (

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Day 251 Thanksgiving suggestions from Reboot with Joe


Cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year? I have good news! It’s much easier than you think to prepare a healthy, flavorful, crowd-pleasing meal that won’t have you running away from your health goals. All it takes is some creative ingredient swaps to omit those foods that are loaded with unhealthy fats and sugars, and add in the ones that make you feel fantastic.

Follow these 7 tips to lighten up your feast. Don’t celebrate Thanksgiving? You can use these tips for any holiday meal:

1.) Cook with Coconut Oil

Tip: If a recipe calls for vegetable or canola oil, use equal parts of melted coconut oil instead. Unlike commercially made oils, coconut oil does not go rancid easily, its molecular properties do not change when heated, and it’s minimally processed, if at all. It gives you instant energy as your body will burn the calories versus storing fat if you eat a healthy diet.

2.) Give up the Gluten

Tip: Make this Butternut Squash, Pomegranate & Pistachios Quinoa Salad and you won’t be missing the stuffing! Let’s face it, you’ll be eating plenty on Thanksgiving so don’t add to your bloat by eating too much gluten. Instead, enjoy a gluten-free, protein-packed, fiber-rich dish loaded with nutrients.

3.) Sweeten Sweet Potatoes

Tip: Your family might typically top a sweet potato dish with marshmallows, but this year try topping it with a vegan, dairy-free Sweet Cashew Cream. It will be just as decadent, sweet, and gooey, without the corn syrup, artificial flavors, and added sugar.

4.) Pass on the (white) Potatoes

Tip: If you haven’t tried Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes yet, you’re missing out! They are absolutely delicious with the same consistency as regular mashed white potatoes but with heaps of nutrients and no heavy cream or cheese to weigh you down.

5.) Can the Canned Cranberry Sauce

Tip: Even though it’s been a part of your Thanksgiving dinner for years, I promise you’ll be okay without the jelly-like, sugar-laden dish. You can either make your own or fulfill your cranberry fix with a Citrus Cranberry Juice or Chopped Cranberry & Collard Salad.

6.) Dates for Dessert

Tip: Keep dessert easy, stress-free and healthy. There’s no need to make pumpkin or pecan pie loaded with sugar when you can have this amazing No-bake Date Square Crumble with only 4 ingredients! Dates contain natural sugars and are filled with fiber to keep you satisfied.

7.) Lighten the Leftovers

Tip: If you like making leftover turkey dinner sandwiches, try using avocado or hummus instead of mayonnaise as your spread. You’ll be adding nutrients and flavor and natural ingredients.

Juice on and Happy Healthy Thanksgiving!

Joe and the Reboot Team

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Day 250 The value of working with a coach

When I started thinking about changing my food (in early February last year after watching the two pivotal movies I've talked about earlier in this blog), I had no intention of finding a coach to help me. I bought a juicer and started thinking about ways I could eat more vegetables and less meat. But then I ran across an old friend, Elisabeth Dunham, who'd become a health coach and I decided to have an initial free session with her and consider the assistance.

Between our reconnection and that free session, I began drinking green juice and smoothies each morning and moving towards animal protein once a day, but I had no specific plan beyond that. I just knew I needed to make a change and I wanted the happiness Joe Cross was finding from juicing.

Many years with the 12 Steps had helped me see the value of a structured plan of suggestions and of working with a coach (sponsor) and although I hadn't planned to invest the money, after my consultation with Elisabeth, I realized I could use her support. So I signed up for 3 months and then another 3. Now we talk once a month and I feel fine on my own, but having her help those first months was great. She answered questions via email, made many suggestions about alternatives when I'd run into a snag, and was so willing to help me design my own program, one that worked for me. I found it made a huge difference to have her guidance and support.

I have 3 gift certificates for conversations with Elisabeth. If you'd like one, send me your address (my email is and I'll put it in the mail to you. Maybe you're ready to let go of how it has been and to take on what could be. It's well worth it!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Day 249 Wisdom

Abandoning Distraction

Even on a small scale in daily life situations, such as when we feel bored or ill at ease, instead of trying to avoid these feelings by staying busy or buying another fancy gadget, we learn to look more clearly at our impulses, attitudes, and defenses. In this way dukkha guides and deepens our motivation to the point where we’ll say, 'Enough running, enough walls, I’ll grow through handling my blocks and lost places.'

- Ajahn Sucitto, "Commentary on the Buddha's First Teaching"

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Day 248 Trying to make an old anesthetic work

This last week, I slipped and fell into a bit of a dark space. First came the post-retreat letdown that I often forget about. Writing retreats are both really relaxing and really productive, and the high level of satisfaction I get from them makes coming back to ordinary life sometimes difficult, especially when I have a lot of paid work waiting for me, as I did this past week. So about Saturday (I got home Wednesday), I started to feel a bit blue. The weather too has turned cold and damp and it's dark late in the afternoon.

Then on Monday morning, I had an intense and deep and difficult conversation with my spiritual director about intimacy and getting my needs met from family and friends, and my old tapes of invisibility and inadequacy started playing really loudly and I became very sad. So I turned to one of my oldest and most cherished friends: Sugar! I bought myself a handful of chocolate caramel bars and ate 2 or 3 a day for four days.

I was profoundly disappointed to discover that I did not get numb, just full and a little nauseated. And while I enjoyed the flavors, they were no more delicious than other foods I eat. So I just had to sit with my feelings until they subsided. I survived and still have tender feelings, but I can see that food just isn't my savior anymore.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Day 247 Something that is resonating with me

"To make life meaningful, you must decide that life matters, that your efforts matter, and that you matter, regardless of any apparent evidence to the contrary." --Dr. Eric Maisel, Why Smart People Hurt

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Day 246 This week's creations

Jill's Borscht:

My good friend Melanie gifted me with a quart of her "tomato water" (what's left over from making tomato sauce) and I used it for this soup. A good can of organic peeled tomatoes should do the trick if you pulverize it first.

Roughly chop organic carrots, peeled beets, celery, red cabbage, a peeled pear, a peeled apple, and a zucchini. Add to tomato water with seasonings of choice (I used garlic, lemon salt, and Tuscan combo). Cook f r 2.5 hours on high in the crock pot. Add 3/4 cup red quinoa for the last half hour. Triple yum.

Veggie roast:

Baby yellow potatoes, carrots, zucchini, apple, cauliflower--in chunks. I made a marinade of a little olive oil, a little Stonewall Vidalia Onion sauce, a little balsamic, lemon salt, garlic. Baked at 400 for about 40 minutes (while I juiced). Delicious.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Day 245 An interesting way to look at my discomfort around food and soothing

Going Against the Stream

The Buddha described the dharma as 'going against the stream.' As long as one swims with the current of a river, one remains unaware of it. But if one chooses to turn against it, suddenly it is revealed as a powerful, discomforting force. The 'stream' refers to the accumulated habits of conditioning. The practice of dharma means to turn around midstream, to observe mindfully and intelligently the forces of conditioning instead of impulsively reacting to their promptings.

- Stephen Batchelor, "Dharma in the War Zone"

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Day 244 A helpful book and a great exercise

Several years ago, I bought a copy of Rochelle Rice's Real Fitness for Real Women. Like some of you, I've owned a lot of these books, read some, perused others, and found lots of claims and not much of value. But this book I've hung on to. Here's why:

1. The photos of the exercises feature two fat women who look like me. I don't mean that literally or maybe I do. They're regular women. Nice-looking in t-shirts and leggings. They don't look like models or actresses. They look like the women who work out at my gym. Ordinary and fat. In the Jane Fonda videos I used to work out to, she always had one heavy woman in the back, a kind of token fat person, while the rest of the class were sleek, made up, costumed. In Rice's book, we are the class.

2. This book promises little and delivers a great deal. There are no outrageous claims, just kind, gentle advice about how to get moving and feel better. She offers suggestions for taking care of your skin (chaffing) and your feet. She talks about the many reasons that lie behind weight gain. It's a sensible book, a reasonable book, and a really helpful book.

Here's her Breathing for Me exercise, which I use both during exercise and at my desk when I'm working.

1. While seated, begin to notice your breath. Keep this simple. Note that as you inhale, your abdominal wall expands, and when you exhale, the abdominal wall falls or softens.
2. Place both hands on your abdomen below your navel. Your fingertips should be pointing toward your pubic bone. Inhale, allowing your abdomen to expand forward into your hands.
3. As you exhale, gently use your hands to pull your abdominal muscles UP and IN, as if you were zipping up a pair of pants.
4. Repeat 4 times, then rest by relaxing the abdominal muscles and maintaining the length of your spine.
5. Begin again, performing the exercise for another set of 4, and rest.
6. Repeat this exercise twice a day at your office desk or any other time or place that is convenient. Repeat at least twice a day.

For more information about Rochelle's programs, visit

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Day 243 Updating my personality Part II

One of the things I've wanted to change about myself for a long time is my attitude about exercise. Even as a kid with a lot of energy, I preferred quiet activities. I was a big reader, I liked card games and board games, I enjoyed writing and drawing. I'd play kick the can and tetherball with other kids but I wasn't really athletic. I did like to run but I didn't want to do sports. They just didn't interest me.

Other than required phys ed classes, I had no interest in anything active (besides sex and dancing) until into my 30s when I began jogging for weight control. I didn't like doing it although eventually I felt better after I did it and I took some pride in the consistency with which I kept it up. But I didn't enjoy it.

That's something I'd like to figure out. I'm not lazy by nature. I'm a hard-worker in many arenas of my life, but as I said in an earlier post, I don't like to sweat or be out of breath. That kind of physical discomfort is hard for me to tolerate. And as I write this, I get a flash that this is the same kind of intolerance for discomfort that I get with restlessness, boredom, discontent that leads to eating.

I want to update/upgrade my personality so that I'm someone who looks forward to exercise, to using my body and keeping it fit and strong, rather than someone who puts up with it because it's good for me. I'm not sure how to go about that, but yesterday I did my first 90-minute gym session and instead of feeling the time stretch out endlessly, boringly, I looked for ways to stay engaged. It's a step.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Day 242 Resting and Belonging in the Sacred

In a Life Purpose group I'm leading, we did an exercise identifying values that were important to us. The first group were values that we know we live from. The second group, however, were values that we would like to live from. This was where it got interesting for me, because no matter how many of the values (there must have been 100 or more) I kept looking at, three clearly shouted out to be addressed: Rest, Belonging, Sacredness.

After doing a lot of this transformational work, I know to listen to those shouts, those nudges, those inclinations. So I chose as my project for this group an inquiry, an exploration into Resting and Belonging in the Sacred. While I was on retreat this past week, I asked the other four women to offer me suggestions and ideas for this project. I received a lot of great possibilities. Here are some I am considering:

1. Do less. Start with 5% less activity each day for a couple of months.
2. Hum or chant regularly
3. Write a definition of Deep Rest and post it where I can see it each day.
4. Dance to sacred music (try Gabrielle Roth CDs)
5. Take a siesta every day in the afternoon.
6. Enter my house with a pause, a breath, and a bow.
7. Look for the sacred and the symbolic everywhere.
8. Make a list of where I feel I belong and where I don't and inquire into the difference.
9. Write letters to the Mystery.
10. Do a few minutes of reading in spiritual texts each morning while journaling.

Any suggestions you'd like to share?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Day 241 Nice mindfulness reminders

Thoughtful ideas from Leo Babauta

The Toolset

This list, of course, is not complete. It’s a collection of things I’ve been learning about, and am still practicing, things I’ve found useful enough to share.
  1. Meditation. Meditation is where mindful living starts. And it’s not complicated: you can sit still for even just 1 minute a day to start with (work up to 3-5 minutes after a week), and turn your attention to your body and then your breath. Notice when your thoughts wander from your breath, and gently return to the breath. Repeat until the minute is up.
  2. Be Awake. Meditation is practice for being awake, which is not being in the dream state (mind wandering into a train of thought, getting lost in the online world, thinking about past offenses, stressing about the future, etc.) but being awake to the present, to what is. Being awake is something you can do throughout the day, all the time, if you remember. Remembering is the trick.
  3. Watch Urges. When I quit smoking in 2005, the most useful tool I learned was watching my urges to smoke. I would sit there and watch the urge rise and fall, until it was gone, without acting on it. It taught me that I am not my urges, that I don’t have to act on my urges, and this helped me change all my other habits. Watch your urge to check email or social media, to eat something sweet or fried, to drink alcohol, to watch TV, to be distracted, to procrastinate. These urges will come and go, and you don’t have to act on them.
  4. Watch Ideals. We all have ideals, all the time. We have an ideal that our day will go perfectly, that people will be kind and respectful to us, that we will be perfect, that we’ll ace an exam or important meeting, that we’ll never fail. Of course, we know from experience that those ideals are not real, that they don’t come true, that they aren’t realistic. But we still have them, and they cause our stress and fears and grief over something/someone we’ve lost. By letting go of ideals, we can let go of our suffering.
  5. Accept People & Life As They Are. When I stopped trying to change a loved one, and accepted him for who he was, I was able to just be with him and enjoy my time with him. This acceptance has the same effect for anything you do — accept a co-worker, a child, a spouse, but also accept a “bad” situation, an unpleasant feeling, an annoying sound. When we stop trying to fight the way things are, when we accept what is, we are much more at peace.
  6. Let Go of Expectations. This is really the same thing as the previous two items, but I’ve found it useful nonetheless. It’s useful to watch your expectations with an upcoming situation, with a new project or business, and see that it’s not real and that it’s causing you stress and disappointment. We cause our own pain, and we can relieve it by letting go of the expectations that are causing it. Toss your expectations into the ocean.
  7. Become OK with Discomfort. The fear of discomfort is huge — it causes people to be stuck in their old bad habits, to not start the business they want to start, to be stuck in a job they don’t really like, because we tend to stick to the known and comfortable rather than try something unknown and uncomfortable. It’s why many people don’t eat vegetables or exercise, why they eat junk, why they don’t start something new. But we can be OK with discomfort, with practice. Start with things that are a little uncomfortable, and keep expanding your comfort zone.
  8. Watch Your Resistance. When you try to do something uncomfortable, or try to give up something you like or are used to, you’ll find resistance. But you can just watch the resistance, and be curious about it. Watch your resistance to things that annoy you — a loud sound that interrupts your concentration, for example. It’s not the sound that’s the problem, it’s your resistance to the sound. The same is true of resistance to food we don’t like, to being too cold or hot, to being hungry. The problem isn’t the sensation of the food, cold, heat or hunger — it’s our resistance to them. Watch the resistance, and feel it melt. This resistance, by the way, is why I’m doing my Year of Living Without.
  9. Be Curious. Too often we are stuck in our ways, and think we know how things should be, how people are. Instead, be curious. Find out. Experiment. Let go of what you think you know. When you start a new project or venture, if you feel the fear of failure, instead of thinking, “Oh no, I’m going to fail” or “Oh no, I don’t know how this will turn out”, try thinking, “Let’s see. Let’s find out.” And then there isn’t the fear of failure, but the joy of being curious and finding out. Learn to be OK with not knowing.
  10. Be Grateful. We complain about everything. But life is a miracle. Find something to be grateful about in everything you do. Be grateful when you’re doing a new habit, and you’ll stick to it longer. Be grateful when you’re with someone, and you’ll be happier with them. Life is amazing, if you learn to appreciate it.
  11. Let Go of Control. We often think we control things, but that’s only an illusion. Our obsession with organization and goals and productivity, for example, are rooted in the illusion that we can control life. But life is uncontrollable, and just when we think we have things under control, something unexpected comes up to disrupt everything. And then we’re frustrated because things didn’t go the way we wanted. Instead, practice letting go of control, and learn to flow.
  12. Be Compassionate. This sounds trite, but compassion for others can change the way you feel about the world, on a day-to-day basis. And compassion for yourself is life-changing. These two things need remembering, though, so mindful living is about remembering to be compassionate after you forget.

The Practice

OK, that seems like a lot to digest and remember, right?
Well, there’s hope. I often forget all of this stuff, but then I remember, and say, “Ah, I was doing it again!” And then I practice again.
And then I forget, but I reflect, and I learn, and I practice again.
This is the process of learning mindfulness. It’s forgetting, and then remembering, again and again.
And it’s worth remembering, again and again.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Day 240 Two weeks on the new exercise plan

I'm now in week 3 of the 420/7 exercise plan for this month. I'm finding out several things about my preferences and abilities. First, I don't seem to like to walk more than about 45 minutes at a time. My low back and hips are done. This has been especially true on the beach where the sand isn't always very firm and it can be trudging rather than walking. Wind and rain have been factors as well.

Second, I find it hard to make myself stop what I'm doing during the day to stretch or do floor work. I keep putting it off and then it just doesn't get done, so that most of my exercise is walking. That's not bad, but it's not working my whole body in the way I want. Each day that I've walked 45 minutes, I've promised myself to do 15 minutes on the mat. And I just don't. So either I need to do it immediately after walking (like no choice and no kidding) or think of something else to do.

Last week I exercised 410 minutes and added a 20-minute jacuzzi bubble bath and a 90-minute massage to my time (total of 520 minutes) because both the bath and massage were efforts at physical well-being. I'm interested in seeing what else might make that list.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Day 239 Food for this retreat

On this retreat at the coast, we've ended up with 5 participants rather than the usual 6 so we've had to make more meals than usual. Much to my surprise, I've volunteered for that and it's been fun to make and make do with what we have. And of course, I had brought things for my two meals as well.

For my first meal, I did a pork tenderloin (gift from Lily) with artichoke hearts, apple slices and pear slices. I didn't brown the meat, which would have been a good idea, so it didn't look so great but it was delicious. We ate it with a pinot noir grape jelly (gift from my sister Shannon) with potatoes and white cabbage that had been roasted with curry, and a salad of mango, beets, and avocado.

For tonight, I got out the crock pot and put in red onion, red pepper, green pepper, cauliflower, green beans, navy beans, carrots, and potatoes. A jar of Trader Joe's red curry sauce, some cumin, and some chicken broth. We'll see if it's good. I'm serving it with salad and guacamole and chips.

For the last two lunches, I've made what we've called Netartian Goulash. Yesterday's had the rest of the curry potatoes and cabbage, stuffed peppers with elk meat and quinoa, leftover butternut squash/pinto bean soup, leftover lentil and spinach soup, all in a big pot with some broth added and a big salad. Today we we had the last of yesterday's goulash to which I added leftover cut-up chicken and a tomato soup base that Susan B. had brought and some broth. Adding the tomato soup base made yesterday's goulash taste quite different and equally delicious.

I used to be someone who preferred the clean up rather than the cooking. That's really changing.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Day 238 So true

Giving Rise to Forgiveness

Our suffering was not caused by our parents or grandparents. It was merely passed down. We are social animals. We grow through modeling. We teach what we have learned. We act as we have been acted upon. A person who is not loving has not experienced love. It is not his fault. Realizing this gives rise to forgiveness. And in Chan (Zen) we vow that suffering will stop with us. We will not pass it down.
- Guo Jun, "A Special Transmission"

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Day 237 Upgrading my personality Part I

One of the ideas I like best in Eric Maisel's Natural Psychology is the idea of the three parts of our personality. He believes we have an original personality, which may or may not be inherited, but it's the traits and preferences and tendencies we come into life with. There isn't any real way to define this or pin it down, but we mostly know what it is because of how we respond to life. We also have a formed personality, who we are because of the experiences and circumstances that we've known. The culture also has a say in our formed personality. Many of us live primarily out of this formed personality, especially if we have been traumatized in some way. We can get stuck there.

Fortunately, we also have available personality. In essence, this is our ability to change, whether consciously or unconsciously. We can decide to become somebody who is punctual instead of always late, or somebody who eats vegan, or somebody who has a well-developed musical sense. I know that this is true because I got sober and have stayed sober. My formed personality was as someone who would do almost anything to escape my feelings through alcohol. I drank a lot and steadily for nearly 20 years. And then I stopped. I had a lot of help, a lot of support, but I also had available personality that I could call on to change. And by using my available personality to do things differently, I now have a formed personality that knows that sobriety and recovery are possible. This, I suspect, gives me more available personality to make more changes, to upgrade my personality, as it were, so that I am more of the kind of person I want to be.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Day 236 Moving out of denial about the end of the free ride

In Younger Next Year, an idea caught me. That up to about age 40, most of us get a free ride where our bodies are concerned. We just don't have to think about them very much. They move freely, they heal quickly, we can eat pretty much whatever we want and not gain too much weight, we can punish them with grueling days at work and bounce back, we can drink and drug and have only fleeting consequences, we can drive all night or fly all night or party all night and still go to work and be effective the next day. (Of course, this isn't true for everybody; some people are born with physical disabilities or develop chronic illnesses early or are involved in accidents.)

Then, if we live into middle age and beyond, the free ride is over. The body begins to lose its abilities and requires maintenance. It needs better fuel, it needs heart-pounding exercise, it needs weight-bearing exercise, it needs stretching and conscious relaxing. But most of us don't move into that maintenance. Instead we keep thinking that the difficulties are temporary, that the free ride will return.

The longer we wait to attend to our bodies, the harder it becomes to get moving. As I've noted before, I believe that inertia has its own momentum. And if we've been inert a long time, that momentum can seem overwhelming. My goal for exercise over the last 33 years has not been superlative fitness but to keep moving so that I can keep moving as long as I'm alive. I'm upping my movement now so I can up my movement later. I'm ready to accept that the free ride was over for me quite some time ago and I need to make an effort so I can do what I want.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Day 235 This resonated with me.

Selfless Action

It is not an untrammeled market economy that is going to redeem our world. It is not strategies of aggression, domination, and repression that are going to make us safe. The secret to transforming the world, the key to security and safety, lies in cooperation and collaboration. It lies in compassion for all beings in the wider web of life, and in generosity and love channeled into selfless action on behalf of people we will never know or see.
- Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, "An Act of Conscience"

Staying at the Oregon Coast this week. A lovely big house with a view of Netarts Bay to the Northwest and clearcut hills to the Southeast. One of my friends doesn't like being here because of the clearcut and of course, it's not as pretty as trees. But it isn't the land's fault and I think our being here, our creative and spiritual presence, is a gift to it just as it is a gift to us.