Saturday, November 28, 2015

On December 1, 2015, a new 30-day meditation challenge starts

Hey there, it's that time of year again -- you know: when otherwise rational people lose their shit over the holidays.

So I figured that maybe, just maybe, it's time to resurrect the 30-day meditation challenge.

We've done this before.

More than once, as a matter of fact.

A lot of people have really dug it -- so much that they have been moved to commit philosophy (or at least prose) about it -- like her, and her and him.

The deal is simple: starting December 1 -- sooner if you want, later if you want (this isn't a competition) -- meditate for fifteen minutes every day. Every day.

No, really... every day.

There are lots of ways to meditate. The only one of those that I know anything about is this way. It's pretty simple. I believe the Buddha himself once endorsed it as "totally fucking simple." But then again, he also said, "Don't believe every quote that's attributed to me," so you'll have to sort your way through all that. You could also choose to do it any of a myriad of other ways -- with your eyes closed, chanting, surrounded by fluffy ducklings, etc. Whatever works. The Buddha said that too.

The goal is simple: to try to empty your mind for that 15 minutes.

Note the use of the word "try." As I have attempted to convince you so many times that if you searched the word "meditation" on this blog, you'd find yourself overwhelmed by my blahblahblah about Zen, it's the "trying" that matters, not the actual emptying. Find that thing to focus on -- breathing patterns, a spot on the wall, whatever (dude) -- and focus on it to the exclusion of all else.

It won't work.

What I mean is... that first day, it won't "work." (Note the quotes). You'll get really frustrated. A couple seconds into it, you'll think: "This is the stupidest damn thing I have ever tried and if I ever meet that drummer guy I will wring his fucking neck."

But if you are smart about it, you'll keep trying. Every day. For 30 days. Somewhere around maybe the tenth day, when you've actually occasionally gotten an "empty" five seconds or so in your mind -- five seconds when the swarming nest of bees that is your typical thought process actually shuts down and gives you some space to live -- you'll realize that that little bit of emptiness didn't happen as some sort of cosmic fucking accident. Nope: you made it happen. You had a thought -- or maybe 5000 thoughts -- arise and you dismissed every single one of them, until there were none left.

For five seconds.

And then you learn how to stretch that five seconds to maybe six, or even seven.

And then, if you're one of those people that often can't shut off his or her brain at 3 a.m. when you wake up and can't get back to sleep, you'll start using that emptying technique -- that dismissiveness of sorts that you've taught yourself -- to actually get a good night's sleep.

And your whole life might change. Because now you're sleeping better.

Or maybe your stressed-out stomach will give you a break. Your acid reflux might take a hiatus.

And your whole life might change.

And then after a while, if you are a dumbass like me, you'll slack off because things are pretty cool. And then around and around we go....

Fifteen minutes a day. For 30 days. It might do so much to de-stress your holiday season that you'll want to hug me instead of wringing my neck. Or not.

It all starts Tuesday December 1. Daily annoyances/reminders/encouragements will be posted on my Facebook page.

Let's do this.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The never-ending lesson....

Sometimes it's necessary to have a good long conversation with yourself.

Mine resulted from learning that I tore my lateral meniscus in my left knee. Surgery isn't the first option being explored because, apparently, once a person is of a certain age, meniscus repairs give way to just clipping out the offending portion of the little bastard, leaving a person temporarily with less discomfort but ultimately headed for a full knee replacement sooner than later.

Actually it's necessary, or inevitable, for me to have many conversations with myself in situations like this. The first was pretty practical: a realization that, for right now, CrossFit is a bad idea. Physical therapy, including manual therapy, plus some yoga, plus walking, plus pressing and deadlifting are a good idea (although "Ix-nay on the eadlift-day until the swelling goes down," said my PT). Cool.

That first conversation was a model of adult-i-ness.

It always is.

It's the second conversation with myself that can go south quicker than a rich New Englander in December. And that one usually gets out of hand a lot quicker when I've been a little slack-o-licious in my meditation practice. Because, really, unmoored from mindfulness, I can engage in Disaster Thought quicker than you can imagine.

It went like this today (at 4:15 a.m., of course, because that's when that second conversation with myself always happens.... I guess I'm lucky that it wasn't 2:30 a.m.):

"Fuck, so I can't deep-squat ever again. Fuck, so I can't do CrossFit for now. Fuck, I'll never run again. Fuck, I'll never be healthy in time for indoor-volleyball season in January. Fuck, I can't ... <pause>... EVER DO ANYTHING FUN ANYMORE AND I'M GOING TO DIE ORTHOPEDICALLY WRECKED AND MISERABLE IN, LIKE, NO TIME AT ALL!!!"

Never mind that I am otherwise healthy, perfectly capable of doing a lot of things right now, including drumming, walking, some lifting and that my life is full of people (and dogs) that love me.

4:15 a.m. second conversations with myself are never logical.

The only way to stop them is not to have them. I know this. When I am meditating regularly, I don't allow these little self-torture sessions to happen. I shut them down cold, cutting their legs out from under them like an NFL cornerback moving in for the kill on a hapless airborne wide receiver. "Just fucking go away," I tell That Fucking Guy, and he does. Instantly. And back to sleep I go.

Seriously... I know better. Mindfulness is no joke. I'm jumping back on the daily meditation train right now. Because really... I know better.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Automatic -- a.k.a. why it's been so damn quiet around here

I feel like I have to explain myself, just a little, for all this silence.

2015 has been the year that I've written the fewest posts ever on this blog. The question of "Why?" comes down to a simple answer: I spend approximately zero minutes per day thinking about "eating paleo." And if I'm not thinking about eating paleo, I'm not thinking about writing about eating paleo.

It's not because I think "paleo" is an unfortunate name for this anti-inflammatory way of eating, although I do. It's "just a word" to me, but it's a word that, sadly, gives the naysayers a too-easy platform from which to launch this and that theory about what cavepeople really ate, or how long they lived. And I don't care about any of that because I'm not staging a reenactment -- paleolithic, mesozoic or otherwise. The list of the number of fucks that I give about what cavepeople ate would be the world's shortest book.

I'm just eating foods that my body seems to like and not eating the ones that it doesn't. I got to this point through an initial plunge into no-grain, no-dairy, etc. eating and have gotten to where I am now through some experimentation inside -- and outside -- those parameters. And now I never think about it. In fact, I'm spending way more time in this post thinking about not thinking about it then I ever spend thinking about it.

Really. (Yeah, I didn't like that sentence all that much either).

If I walk through a supermarket -- yes, even Whole Foods -- I don't see a lot of food in the interior aisles of the store. There's a lot of processed shit in boxes that is so far from what I consider food that the chances of me grabbing something to eat out of, say, the pasta aisle is about the same as me munching down on a tasty item from the auto-parts store. The notion just doesn't compute for me at this point.

Short of a quick diversion to the stinky-fish aisle for some sardines or maybe the dark-chocolate or almond-butter aisles for a little of their wonders, I'm not even in that interior section of the store. And I'm not plagued by existential crisis or otherwise conflicted with thoughts of buying packages of processed pseudo-food. I've been on this ride so long now that the line between "food" and "not actually food" seems so clear that, really: I don't even think about it

So where's this leave me in Blogland?

There's a saying that goes: "It's hard to prove a negative." I think the blogging corollary to that piece of wisdom is that it's hard to write about something that's become so automatic that I just don't give it any consideration any longer.

I'm not making any broad-based declarations that I'm done with blogging. I enjoy writing too much to walk away entirely. But in case you're one of a small group that stops by occasionally to read my latest "paleo" blahblablah, I just wanted you to know why it's been so quiet around here, which amounts to: I don't spend a lot of time thinking about food at this point.

So, who knows.... Maybe we'll do a December meditation challenge. If we're going to think about the absence of something, it might as well be the absence of thinking. And the "holiday season" (hear my brain making "aaaauugghhrrrrrffffllmmkkk" noises?) seems like the perfect unduly-stressful time of year to head for emptiness. Stay tuned.... well, sort of.