Saturday, November 12, 2011

Bathing in Silence

The world is almost never truly silent, except perhaps in a vacuum chamber somewhere. And yet it is in sitting in and with silence that we begin to really hear what is most appropriate for our day as far as health behavior is concerned. A period of silence, prayer (listening to God), or meditation is necessary as our next breath if we are to live out our true potential. If in this idea you notice resistance, ask yourself simply how is it working with just you in charge?

The only "Dancing with the Stars" worthy of attention, is between your free will "star" and the supernova of gratuitous grace. Sometimes grace is clearly leading the dance. Well really always, but we are given the harmless illusion that we are leading sometime just so we come back next week. But really it is an ever present dance in which our will or choice can be engaged by listening through the silence to the next announcement of the still small voice. It may just be a whisper, but sometimes in may be a scream, especially if you have not been listening to the whispers! And the source powering the voice and composing the content of the message is being crafted just for you in a particular moment. This moment -- pregnant with your level of known willingness and your heart and head positioned just right to hear and receive--is a distilled point of the infinite possibilities just for you, NOW! Rather amazing and humbling.

So what should your eating or exercise choices consist of today? Well, take a few moments to recognize and find "the gratefuls" in what already has or is producing the fruitful results. Let this reality and the context of the success bath you with strength and positive energy. Then,refreshed and energized by your first bath, enter perhaps what is the larger bath of silence, and turn your attention to the vastness and depth. Watch for the bubbling whispers that may just pop into a scream, offering the clarity of the more integrated, customized platter of healthy choices Wow, I can't wait for my baths!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Activity as personal preference

A solo traveler on a cross country flight was settling in for some quiet work, when on came a group of high school students flying to Washington, D.C. for a school trip. The conversations began, "I really like Justin Beiber" said one. "I really like Miley Cyrus" said the other. "I don't like vampire books." "I really like the Professor Layton series." And on and on it went for most of the four hour trip - a constant cacophony of preferences or in Facebook lingo "likes."

While this behavior is not unexpected and perhaps a necessary place to start for people, especially young people getting to know one another, this refining and enthusiastically celebrating "preferences" is now a dominant social meme. This surface dominance and obsession has replaced deeper connection to visceral, wholehearted activity and true engagement in meaningful projects and a letting go into the fullness of Life! A recent quote from a fellow blogger says it simply this way, "The main form of activity in modern life is the expression of personal preference."

It seems with technology offering a richer and richer assortment of instantaneous choices and views, we fill our time operating in our comfort zone of likes and dislikes. This comfort zone anesthetizes something important and deeper inside. Life is lived more from the surface ego where, "it is mostly about me" instead of the more challenging and richer perspective of "being about life!"

Of course the likes and dislikes are important to clarify the expression of our soulful self and strip away the dead end layers of the False Self. The challenge and opportunity is to listen to the still, small voice that is woefully out gunned compared with the ease and excitement of a flick of the finger on your iPhone, a click of your computer mouse, or navigating between the hundreds of channels on the new plasma screen.

What does this have to do with wellness and healthy behavior?--plenty! Googling healthy eating plans has over 8 million results. Weight loss plans results in over 2 million results with probably a lot of overlap. You get the picture. We all knows this as it is the dominant "air we breath" that fills up our attention and captures most of our presence. How to decide? Down time, no screen time days, going off the grid for a while, a resting/retreating on the seventh day. All of these resting/pausing behaviors allowing the still small voice to muscle its way in to our consciousness. The muscled, grace filled consciousness can now engage in the heavy lifting of real critical thinking and integrated presence guiding and clearing the path and revealing the way to the freedom and joy of going where we really need to go.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Yielding to "What is"

There is this tree in my yard that keeps sprouting despite the relentless onslaught of the worst drought in thirty years. Oh and by the way, the main portion of this tree met the business end of a chainsaw a year and a half ago and the remaining stump and the annoying sprouts from last year have systematically and carefully poisoned this Spring. And yet there those sprouts of life are! Like mushrooms after much rain (I am dreaming here)they are all over the yard. A nuisance yes, and yet a clear example of the tenacity of plant life to fulfill its biological imperative.

Which brings me to this small dog I find myself living with. Her genetic, biological imperative is to be close to me, crawling in my lap attempting to lick my face. Her essence and breeding compel her. It does not matter what my will is or even if or how much she is trained (not much)not to jump into my lap. Here she is! So yielding to What is is the peaceful, life affirming choice.

Yielding to what is is not to be confused with passive, resigned acceptance of a life situation or neglect of a wellness process that needs attention. Far from it and perhaps more the opposite. Yielding to what is is more about paying attention to the transitions from one activity to the next and being open and aware to where your internal compass is pointing and what the next moment will require of you.

The tenacity of our "beingness" and the essential roots of beingness are constantly with us on our wellness journeys. Take for example the mundane, yet ever present choice of food that is so vital to wellness. Forget for a minute the reflective, critical thinking and trial and error around the solidification of "your food worldview." So lets assume you are clear about what is best for you as you prepare to dig into your meal. One still needs to make the choice and actually gather the food into your mouth. How to yield to this next moment in an integral, conscious, and yet perhaps even playful way? Notice the tenacity for wholeness and life pulsing through your body and soul. Feather out the edges of your solo intention into the dissolved edge of willingness and yield to the experience of biting into the food!

Likely you will more deeply enjoy the experience more, a great benefit in itself, and this will contribute to you body appropriately utilizing the nutrients and allow more powerfully the various hormonal systems and chemical catalyst to work their mysterious magic. All of this from yielding and being hospitable to the delicious yielding reality of the next fresh moment. Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Past Reality Integration --the power and peril of deep feeling

For many, their current life situation and level of wellness is strongly shaped by their past unconscious reality. This of course is psychodynamic psychology 101. The challenge has been, and is how to make this old, generally traumatic material, conscious,-- how to integrate it and heal.

Now, wellness behavior change is based on awareness and knowledge of the healthiest choices. Unfortunately, information is not enough and by itself almost never leads to real, lasting transformation. Enter past reality integration. You might be saying to yourself that this does not apply to me or I have done therapy and counseling. Great!, if you think you have worked through all your issues and integrated all your old stuff, or at least enough so that your life and relationships are functional and generally positive, then find a wellness coach who can help you build on what is working in your life and help you discover the ways and means to reach your wellness goals.

If on the other other hand , an honest look reveals that your wellness behavior patterns are best described by the rhetorical recovery question, "What is the definition of insanity?"--doing the same (or similar) thing over and over and expecting (or hoping) for a different result! Well, then you might be interested.

Try this. For one week, notice and write down when you experience a strong feeling or reaction to some event or person. This is usually and easily noticed in relationships with significant others or people in authority (i.e. your boss) Try/pray to be very open, humble, honest, and courageous to name your experience. Keep your descriptions simple, like scared, angry, sad, etc. Then write down what you did, either internally or externally in response to the event/person. Once you have noticed for a while, try feeling the feeling underneath the feeling-- the real old reality. Warning: this can be very difficult and seemingly scary. I say seemingly because if the level of emotion is very strong, the present moment situation is likely symbolic for you and triggering/reminding you of an old painful reality that you did not process when you were little. Remind yourself with positive self talk like: "I am an adult, and I am safe and these feelings will pass," or have a friend sit with you to ground you in your present situation.

Remember the feelings are not really about the current situation. Once you have done this for a while you will start to see the world as brighter, clearer and a place for your un-defended True Self to joyously participate! And a competent therapist can obviously be very helpful. If you are intrigued by what I have been describing, but really don't understand my meager explanations, try purusing Dr. Ingeborg Bosch's site and work Past Reality Integration. She is the expert and I have found her work to be brilliant and personally very helpful.

We are not caught in the iron grip of the past.
We are caught in the iron grip of the illusion that we need to
protect ourselves against what happened in the past.

Ingeborg Bosch
Peace, All Good and Happy Spring!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Love and Wellness

No one ever really heals or changes unless there is an encounter with love. Definitely, this has been my experience with healing and change. This is rather universal, although not often recognized as foundational to a great change of behavior. We know something has happened and we are healed, changed. The need for sugar and carbs is gone, the willingness, desire, and practical path to move and challenge our bodies is just “there.” It is as if our being, our soul received an energetic shot from somewhere and where that is we cannot say and we now see the world differently and our consciousness is more full and present. What happened?

From my point of view, the hound of heaven has caught up to you and a bit more of your false self has died and been properly buried. From this burial, the True Self comes out from the shadows with a bit more presence. This happens through other people most powerfully when the flow between is complete and the circuit is open.

Looking at the keys to success articulated by therapist, counselors, coaches, spiritual directors, and enlightened witnesses you hear that they were most effective and felt their healing gifts really flow when they were most powerfully present to love and loving the person. The words were more clear, the tone pitch perfect, and most appropriate. This appropriateness showed with just the right touch into the hurt.

One of the key concepts that forms the basis of health promotion and wellness programming is the idea of "Readiness to Change." For any behavior change, at a particular moment we are on a continuum from not ready, to contemplating change, to doing the change, to maintaining the new behavior with confidence. The space between the stages is where an encounter with some other in love happens or as Martin Buber said, "all real living (change) is meeting the other." The place where we fall into intimacy, with our fear and hurt and are transformed by love. We now move with more confidence, and are more open to life. If you listen carefully and deeply to stories of true change the encounter with the other is always there in sometimes very subtle and in surprising ways. The parent who has struggled with quitting tobacco and staying quit encounters the innocence and beauty of his or her five year old child taking the cigarettes and flushing them down the toilet. The moment is blessed and the child's pure simple stance, connection, and the words break open the heart and mind of the parent. The parent is forever changed and discovers the willingness, support, and resources-- and changes.

Look for these encounters, trust these encounters. The hound of heaven is after you seeking, nudging, and appearing in ways so that you can believe a bit more convincingly that love and change may be as close as the next breath... what a Sweet Thing!:

Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Bacon: the new health food...say what?!

There is a current T.V. commercial where the middle aged male character pines for the morning when he wakes up and discovers that bacon is "good for us!" Well, that day has arrived--with qualifications.

The lipid hypothesis as a prime dietary driver for heart disease and cancer, has been firmly in our collective consciousness for a generation. We all know the dogma---low-fat, low cholesterol and especially low saturated fat (read animal fat bad, especially red meat) high fiber, high plant based carbohydrates are what we should eat to avoid heart disease, cancer and live a long life. This thinking, which I have preached and taught for twenty five years, was and is one of the foundational ideas of the health promotion and wellness field! And IMHO is basically wrong and not helpful. Science writer Gary Taubes, 2007 book, Good Calories, Bad Calories provides the painstaking, tedious deconstruction of the original Public Health, diet, and nutrition research over the last forty years. Here he is on Larry King:

Let me say, that my overall worldview about diet and health is best characterized in the words of St. Francis, "When I am served partridge, I eat partridge and when I am served porridge, I eat porridge." But sadly, our lives our filled with too much cortisol (stress hormone) not enough muscular stress, and a high carb diet filled with substances that St. Francis would not recognize and cause systematic inflammation and compromise our leptin and insulin sensitivity, hormonal processes that regulate the use and storage of fats and carbs. So many of us should not eat whatever is put in front of us.

It is turning out that the most nasty bits to avoid are the real biochemical toxins found in wheat, industrial seed oils ( all the partially hydrogenated or plain corn, sunflower, soy, cottonseed oil, etc.) and fructose ( table sugar, excessive fruit and fruit juice) These three categories make up 70% of the standard American diet, and their consumption has increased dramatically over the last thirty years. And we see and know the results with obesity levels very high and diabetes poised to financially crush the healthcare system in the near future.

Building on the low carb fad of five years ago, and adding thinking from evolutionary anthropology and critical, objective reading of biochemical nutritional research, a new way of thinking about nutrition and health is emerging. The current popularity of gluten free eating and growth in the marketing of gluten free products is one important piece. And it really is much more about anti-inflammatory whole food eating that comes under the name paleo eating or the caveman diet. There are a number of well done sites, books and blogs, the best of which you can find under my recommendations. Here is a good starting summary. And for my Christian friends and family, here and here are good article explaining how this new thinking is congruent with scriptural references to bread and diet. So, it is about time for Sunday breakfast and ahh, bacon sounds yummy and yes --good!

Peace and All good!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The W.O.W. and R.I.P. Jack Lalanne

What is the best exercise? I have been asked that question hundreds of times. And instead of the usual quip,
Whatever you will do with consistency
I now have a better answer --more specifics in a moment. The question itself has been one of those perennial question that I have wrestled with over the years. I mean what is the point of exercise and why do we engage, what do we get out of it? And what does it have to do with our metaphysical, incarnational existence? It really has come down to what can we do to maintain our functional health, strength and energy level to carry out our soul's vocation. Keeping this functional health will allow a more serving response to the world. As Fran├žois Fenelon states in "Maxims of the Saints" perhaps we will be a bit more, "... accessible and pliable to all the impressions of grace." ‏And for those of us in the second half of life, hopefully we are discovering as Richard Rohr says, "Our life is not about us, we are about life." And to be about life means to be able to functionally act in ways that serve "what is" right in front of us in an ever deepening,surprising,wondrous way.

The paraphrased quote attributed to Einstein,
I do not know what the final truth will be, but I do know that it will be beautiful and simple
comes to mind. Obviously Einstein was pondering the question of existence, and though some have argued that he was not pondering the transcendent, IMHO he was. And truth is constantly being poured out to us in specific areas of life in ever more clear, beautiful and powerful ways.

The Body by Science high intensity strength training concept is elegant and simple, and may be a bit more of that truth for you! It boils down to this: Pick three to five resistance machines at your local gym/fitness center that work large groups of muscles, i.e. chest press, pull down, seated row, overhead press and leg press. Set the machines for a resistance that you believe you can keep moving very slowly (5-10 secs. positive, 5-10 secs negative) with, safe appropriate form for 60 to 120 secs. And keep the focus until you have reached, " momentary muscular failure" Warning! This is very high intensity exercise, but as long as you have no physician ordered limitations you will be fine. And here is the kicker, the whole workout takes 10-15 minutes and is repeated once, yes once! every 7-14 days!
This is the W.O.W. Workout of The Week!. Full disclosure: I have been doing this since early October and I am stronger, more flexible, and have minimal to zero middle aged, morning aches and pains. And for those who do not know me well, I am not one easily swayed by hype and have a pretty sharp bull**** indicator. Of all the hype and nonsense marketed as anti-aging, strength training is the only thing with any sound proof behind it.

For those of you who are not familiar with strength training and are apprehensive about physically challenging yourself, take heart. Familiarize yourself with the machines, with a competent helper/trainer getting comfortable with the movements and how your body react with some lower intensity sessions a couple a times a week for a few weeks. Then when you are starting to feel comfortable and you understand "good" muscle soreness and realize that your life will never allow you 2-3hrs a week at the gym, you can graduate to the W.O.W. and spend 30 minutes total time every 7-14 days!

Here is Dr. Doug McDuff demonstrating the W.O.W.:

Finally, I could not get through the week without a tribute to a pioneer and an American original. R.I.P. Jack Lalanne:

Peace and All Good!