Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Spirulina, turmeric, cinnamon and adventure

I'm halfway through yet another change in my exercise intensity, and despite the myriad of issues going on inside my head, I have to say that the body is doing much better. I've been feeling more energetic and sleeping better for awhile, so I thought I'd look back on my health journal to see what might have caused it. Now, this is far from scientific -- just has to do with what's happening in my own body -- but the first time I noted that I was feeling better was November 10, which was two days after I began taking what has become a daily 'green drink'. It's basis is powdered spirulina, to which I add turmeric and cinnamon  for their own health benefits. Nothing else changed, although I did up my Vitamin C allotment considerably that day, also. But two days later I had the energy and interest to begin exercising, and the body is responding with good energy every day. Take it for what you will. I don't get enough green veggies in my diet, despite having some in the garden, so I needed these carotenes. (note: Chinese or cassia cinnamon is toxic so do your research and take small amounts. Most grocery store cinnamon is cassia, because it's cheaper. True Ceylon cinnamon is harder to find, pricier, but better for your health)

Back to the exercise changes -- remember when I second-guessed that Greg would have had me focus the workout on one muscle group, if I wanted to do it 6 days per week? I didn't think I had enough equipment or knew enough exercises to do that, so for two weeks I repeated my 3x week routine to make the 6 days. But, a little Google research showed me all kinds of new exercises to add to the existing routines, so now it's 30 minutes of push/chest, then push/triceps, then pull/back, then pull/biceps, then legs, then shoulders. This is the 3rd day, and I can only repeat -- it ain't easy! Not that I want it to be or expected it to be. Oddly enough, I'm not feeling as sore as I thought I would on the muscles I've used so far -- just twinges here and there. This old body is surprisingly strong, for its age and flab.

I read an article this morning that pretty much sums up what's eating me mentally.  This guy retired, got fat and unhealthy and bored, decided to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. Seriously. Now he does extreme sports all over the world. The whole article is worth reading, but this paragraph sums up exactly how I feel:

“I lasted about a year and then got really depressed,” he told NBC News. “I was 50 pounds overweight, I smoked cigars, I probably drank too much. I needed a challenge, a whole lifestyle change.” 

I'm not 50 pounds overweight, I don't smoke anything and I don't drink much, but I need the lifestyle change. Big differences between me and this guy: he's 10 years younger and he has the money to chase dreams like this. Now, I wouldn't want to do what he's doing. I'm not quite that extreme. But I'd love to chase around the world riding a bike or hiking here and there, exploring the world. Since I don't have the money to do that, I need a lifestyle change that can be done on my meager budget -- or one that also includes an income of some kind.

So now I get to walk to the library, add to the exercise time for the day. Happy day, y'all!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Adventure calls...

I've been undergoing some kind of personal crisis of the emotional sort over the past few months, if not longer. It's hard to tell just when these kinds of things begin, because we often don't really notice them until they gain some strength. I think it's fair to say that this one began last December at Bhavana, when all kinds of stuff was coming up and I eventually reached a point where I could no longer keep the crap to myself and let it rise to the surface at the wrong moment thereby harming others, which of course goes against every precept in Buddhism, thereby adding even more crap to what was already surging up. Instead of staying to deal with it in meditation, I chose to run, and life hasn't been the same since.

I expect that in the end, this may be a good thing, depending upon how I eventually find a way to deal with it. About a month ago my monthly newsletter arrived from one of my favorite sages, Dr. Mary Ann Iyer.  The topic was change, and she has this on her blog Living in Harmony on September 5,but I somehow didn't read it as meaningful to me at the time. Shows how much difference a month or two can make! It's too long to copy and paste here but I'll synopsize and use a few quotes. 

She talks about the butterfly story: "when a caterpillar hides itself in a chrysalis to metamorph into a butterfly, it decomposes completely.  From this soup of apparently random cells come progenitor cells, called imaginal cells, which find one another in such a way that a new cohesive pattern is formed.  A butterfly.  In the cosmos is contained the plan – the blue print – for this new form to take shape." She goes on to say that "the original caterpillar cells put up a fight.  There is some initial struggle when the newly christened imaginal cells reach out to find one another in that soup.  Some are killed in this battle.  Eventually,  they do coalesce, and that which is to be does emerge...."  and then later..... "I imagine personal and societal change must surely follow this same pattern.  If you are experiencing discord and turmoil in your life; if you know change needs to happen but you feel yourself clinging to some outmoded past, give your imaginal cells a boost."  

Often, so I'm told, a Buddhist meditator experiences much the same thing before attaining some kind of seriously wonderful breakthrough. So, I've been convinced for months that this is a temporary crisis that is leading up to good things, once the change occurs. I also know from experience that I generally have to fall really low during this struggle before the pendulum will begin to swing upwards once more. I'm not there yet -- although I'm headed there, certainly.  So, that's been the state of my mind for almost a year now, and you should be very thankful you're not living inside my mind! It's not fun, and yet I can see the soup and the struggle for those new imaginal cells to win through, and I know that everything changes.  Everything. Eventually.

So, all of that is to say that part of what I'm figuring out through all this is that I'm healthy enough to live another 20 years, and that I really don't look forward to that unless some kind of major change happens in my life. I cannot think of living -- surviving, really -- for 20 more years with the life I have, where the major highlight of any given day is a book to read and a few TV shows to watch.  There has to be more, and lately I've been thinking that maybe that something more has to do with another adventure of some kind. I can't be more specific because I don't know any more than that. Last night I watched a documentary on the Appalachian Trail which, of course, brought up the desire once more to hike it. All if it. It could be done -- I have time to get in shape and I think the body would  hold up. Not so sure about holding up emotionally. Let's face it, I had a hard time with the daily ups and downs and hills and cold and such at the Hermitage for two weeks. Can I get myself psyched enough to do this? Plus, I no longer have any backpacking gear, and probably couldn't afford to buy any. I'd sure love to see some of the places on the Georgia section again -- tears popped up more than once during the film, because I love that Trail with some kind of weird emotional attachment. I spent almost 10 years of my life being a caretaker for part of it, and hiking all of the Georgia section many times over, often alone. In fact, I took two 5-day hikes alone to do both the northern and southern portions.

But is this the real adventure that is calling me? Traveling by bike is almost equally of interest. But I can't do either of these full time for the next 20 years, let's face it. Either would change my life in more ways than one (judging from the experience of my 2-month solo bike ride through the Colorado Rockies in 1983), and yet both would be temporary adventures. What then? What is the long-term change that needs to happen? Moving to Mexico? Still on the table, but seemingly out of the question financially. Asheville? Beaufort? But, I'm reminded that just moving isn't the answer -- I'd still just be reading books and watching TV, unless there's a bigger change.

I don't have any answers. Just lots of questions. And once more, be thankful that you're not inside what passes for my mind during all this questioning. It never stops.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

It's all about the food.....

Thanksgiving morning, Yosemite. Pretty cool! (From the webcam)

Actually, it's all about the wait for the moment. The chicken is in the oven roasting away, the sweet potato souffle and cornbread dressing are waiting in the wings to be cooked once the chicken comes out.  Leeks and rosemary, garlic and lemon are in and under the chicken in its roasting pot. Life is good.

I spent some time this morning wondering why I go to the effort of making even a pseudo Thanksgiving dinner every year, since I'm not much for celebrating holidays. I decided that for me, it's really all about the food, and I'm guessing I'm not alone in that.  Thanksgiving is a perfect excuse to cook things I wouldn't ordinarily cook and eat things that inspire more than a little guilt. Actually, no guilt at all at the moment, since it's only once a year. And I did my workout already this morning. So now, I can just wait, enjoy the luscious aromas, think about the things I have to be thankful for in my life, relax and read a book to the tune of some righteous jazz on the radio (from Seattle).

I don't have to be alone -- had a couple of invitations from relatives -- but in my old age I simply don't enjoy going out amongst crowds of people I don't know at all or barely know, and try to make conversation with them when we don't have much in common. I like them, the ones I know. I like them a lot and have fond childhood memories of times with them. But the ones I know make up about 1% and I just don't do well with conversational chit chat. Never have, and at this age, probably never will. Get me in a crowd of people and I shrink off into a corner somewhere and suffer through, wondering when I can graciously make my exit. Why bother? It's no fun for me, and not fair for the other people involved. I've been alone for so long I guess I've learned to like it, maybe even have become something of a hermit. I expect my early life as an only child in a nomadic family didn't do much to make me anything but a loner.

I'm reminded of something one of the women who passed through the Hermitage in California while I was there in July said. She headed off for her kuti after lunch somewhat apologetic, but commented something to the effect that 'I guess none of us are people-people, or we wouldn't  be here'. I'd never thought of it that way, but recognized that she was right. I like people just fine, but in small doses.

It doesn't help matters that I absolutely hate this time of year.  Christmas carols at Kroger a week ago. Nothing but 'buy this' ads on TV (no, I don't have a TV but the same ads run online during the shows I watch). My birthday a month from today. I won't be a happy camper anytime between now and the first of the year unless I can stay away from as much of the fuss as possible. That's one reason -- maybe the main reason -- I think about going away to a Buddhist center for the last two weeks of December. I enjoy the centers and the meditation and teachings any time of the year, but this time of year it's an escape from the constant commercialism and....... well. Enough said. No need to rant any further.

Hope y'all have a happy thanksgiving, wherever you are and whatever that means to you.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The body feels worked

I've survived my first week of intense exercise. Whew!

I think I mentioned once that I was tired of Curves, wanted more. Last week I surprised some long-unused muscles with a couple of very light workouts, just to wake things up, start off slowly. Then, I devised a particularly masochistic plan. Nine or ten years ago when I lived in Corvallis I joined a local private health club and began working out daily, following the plan offered by the trainer employed by the club. Eventually, I wanted to do more, and eventually made friends with a weightlifter who tended to follow the same schedule I did, daily. Greg was 50-something then, had been into weight lifting and body building most of his life, plus he was a fount of information on nutrition and had garnered plenty of physiology from various scientists at OSU who were clients of his. He'd also recently acquired a personal trainer license. He liked to help people who were interested, and I learned everything I know on the subject from him. At some point I asked and he wrote up a workout program for me, quite different from what you'll get from the basic gym or health club.

Weight lifters don't follow one set of exercises over and over, day after day, the way most gyms tell you to do. Instead of trying to work all muscles every day, or several times a week, they focus on one or two muscle groups during every workout. He set me up with a good schedule of that type, meant to be done 3 times per week. It's a tough schedule. In fact, when I moved to Eugene and joined Gold's Gym, the trainer there took a look at it and exclaimed "You're doing all that?". I was, and I've stayed with that same basic set over the years, even when I was a member at the fancy DAC in Eugene, with really good equipment and trainers. Machines and specifics have varied, but the concept has stayed the same. Day 1, chest and triceps; day 2, back and biceps, day 3, legs and shoulders. I do some abs every day. 

What makes it different this time is that instead of doing it on a 3-times-per-week basis, I decided to do it 6 times per week. And I had to adjust to what I have available to use: my 5# and 12# dumbbells, and an exercise band. I can do a decent job of working all muscles with that. I'm using the 5 pounders a tad more than I used to, and the 12 pounders a tad less, but that'll change with time. Greg used to tell me 'weight doesn't matter'. He just wanted me to 'finish pretty', which meant finishing the sets in good form, not struggling with too much weight. So, I do a lot more reps with the smaller weights, for now. The muscles still get three days of rest between workouts, which should be enough. Now, I know Greg would tell me to focus on only one muscle group in each of those 6 days, instead of doing it this way, but since I'm limited by equipment, this will work. And trust me, the difference in age between 61 and 70 matters!

After a week, I feel good. The body feels worked,  but not sore. Those Curves workouts did help, they were just limited and rather inconvenient. My appetite has definitely increased! I guess that's not surprising, since those stressed muscles want plenty of protein to rebuild and grow. I expect that'll taper off, as time goes by and the body adjusts. And I'm definitely looking forward to a day 'off' tomorrow.

Other than that, and trying to stay warm, not much is happening around here. And that's not all bad.