Monthly Archives: June 2013

June: Wild Card

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Theme: Body/Kinesthetics
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Roles and the Rules for this project, the Wild Card adds one new element to the finished written chapter by playing their one and only card for the month. This “card” is really a suggestion or a new task that will shift or re-energize the chapter.  It may add an element of risk or an element of reflection and reverence. The wild card action must be played at the mid way mark of the month and will be taken on by the protagonist.  This new element may elevate an activity already written or diversify the challenge by changing the frequency or specifying a detail.  The Wild Card cannot eliminate pieces of the written chapter or negate any part of the written chapter. The Wild Card also should also take into consideration the chapter theme and the writers’ already composed directives when making their suggestion.
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I’ve felt a big responsibility being the inaugural Wild Card for Living Chapters. What we players dream up for Beth in this first month will in many ways set the tone and even perhaps a standard for the months to come. Talk about pressure! And then to discover how wonderfully wide-ranging and comprehensive Joe’s Chapter was in provoking Beth to become more aware of her body, what she puts into it, how she employs it, and what it means to live inside it…the bar is set quite high. And I couldn’t be more pleased with how Beth has manifested the challenges presented to her by Joe. I cannot see anything that I can, in a sense, improve upon. So how to add a new action/variable that will up the ante?
 
I started to think a lot about a particular phrase Joe used that I think Beth could more fully explore: “take heed when the little voices that sing within us creep to the surface.” 

So how might Beth hear and heed the little voices singing within her body in a way that builds upon the great work she’s doing with exercise, diet, and muscle memory while still playing into this month’s theme of Body/Kinesthetics?
 
Here’s the challenge I propose for you Beth, for the rest of the month of June: in order to be more fully attuned to what your body is telling you from within, do not look at yourself in a mirror. Not once. 
 
While you won’t be able to avoid them in public spaces, your challenge will be to resist the temptation to glance at yourself, to see if you “look right.” Not that you are a particularly vain person, but this will force you to only listen to your body to know if you’re looking, and more importantly feeling, right. 
 
Now, I do know you’re recording this project with lots of photos and videos, and I think it’s fine to view them after the fact for posting/blogging purposes. The key is to resist the temptation to look at your image for affirmation in the moment. One exception: if you’re doing exercises and must use a mirror to ensure you’re doing them properly and to avoid possible injury, fine. But in those instances I’d ask that you avoid looking at your face, just observe your body.
 
Good luck, and keep up the good work!
Beth Reads June Wild Card:
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tuning in to the senses

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I knew that Living Chapters would turn my life upside down, but I had no idea that I would be swinging so soon into such new heights, new hurts, and new habits in just two weeks.

Along with the request to add activity in my life, I have also been asked to become more aware of my senses and the affects they have on my body.  Doing both of these things seems to be providing a nice balance.  With all of this running around (literally), I first found it difficult to tune into my senses.  I thought the “awareness of the senses activity” could only be accomplished outside of, or separate from the physical activity in my life. I thought, I needed to stop moving, block out external distractions and focus directly on being aware to engage with my senses.   However I realized very quickly that physicality was about to throw some not so subtle sensations at me in an obvious and brutal way.

About three days into the new running and jumping routine, I became aware of some pretty intense feelings immediately.  First there was the huffing, puffing, and gasping for air that accompanied the first minutes of running.  That was followed by the occasional side ache in the gut or the prickly pin-points up and down my shins.  And then came the thudding of my heart racing into my temples and pounding throughout my head.  The sound reminded me that, yes there is a massive muscle within me working really hard to keep me alive and moving. And let’s not leave out my favorite new sensations since starting this chapter, soreness, stiffness and shin splints…. Yes!  I must be doing something right.   …Right?

So while my body is communicating to me in all these fun new ways, I am listening as closely as possible trying to decode them in order to keep some kind of balance.  How do you not over do it while still pushing hard enough to become healthier? I think somehow tuning into these sensations may be the only way to answer that question.  That along with doing what feels right to you.

What does feel right to me? Stretching! Stretching before activity, stretching after activity, stretching while driving, while working, during conversations. I love it, can’t get enough. (I have been doing backstage ballerina-moves when no one is looking. ) Because I love this so much, I have tried to integrate this into my day as much as possible.  In addition to the in-between activity stretching, I committed to at least 15 minutes of yoga before bed each night.  I have always loved practicing yoga, but have relied in the past on attending occasional organized classes to do it.  Now I have realized I can do this independently, taking the poses that I remember from my lessons and putting them into practice before sleeping. It helps me to relax and calms my mind at the end of the day.

Now, the current challenge to my “yoga before bed” new habit, is that I literally do not have enough room on the sail boat I live on to even lay out a yoga mat. I decided that outside on the dock next to the passing water taxis and kayakers was not going to work for my personal relaxation stretch time.  I did however luckily find a near by space.  I will say, without revealing too much, that the space is not technically open to the public but is empty and not being used currently.  I decided that stretching silently there for 15 – 30 minutes an evening wouldn’t harm anyone.

Desiring discreteness, I sneak into the space at night.  I lay the yoga mat down in the dark and although I can’t see, my feet easily find the edge of the mat and make their way into a downward dog pose.  In silence and darkness, all my awareness directly goes to each and every response that my body gives me through the stretches.  “Oh that feels good, push that pose a bit longer…” or “actually that cramp in my side says that trying to turn into a pretzel tonight isn’t going to happen”.  Deprived of light and external distraction I am left to focus on my muscles, my breathing and my thoughts. After the first 5 minutes, my muscles relax and my thoughts dissipate, leaving me with only the act of motion and breathing, which is really the essence of yoga isn’t it?  I may not be practicing all poses “correctly” (or necessarily “legally” in my secret studio) but it has been the best combination of physical and sensory exercises that I have experienced yet this month. It has led me to learn and listen a bit more intently to what my body is trying to communicate.

Another sensation that has newly arrived, is restlessness.  I have started to feel antsy after sitting too long.  Only after a few hours of sedentary work, I want to get up and do something. I’ve been combatting this by breaking up the day with quick active things (jump rope journal! or short jogs). I have also been motivated and inspired to try out new things.  Heck, if I am somehow running now (which I never thought possible) I could also pick up a few new skills like being a trapeze artist? It’s not that far fetched right? Well, I compromised and found something a little less extreme and much more suited to me…

Aerial yoga! Seriously, who wouldn’t want to feel like they were flying while getting a workout at the same time? I learned, just this week, that there is nothing quite like hanging upside down suspended by your muscles and silk fabric to cure a bout of restlessness….. I dare you to try it!

Post script: I want to give a big thank you and shout out to Chapter One writer Joe Gall, who I visited in Boston this past weekend.  He is taking on this new running routine with dedication and has inspired me to work harder at it! I also got to visit Chapter Three writer Andy Cook, who gave me guitar lessons and support with my beginner musical abilities.  The city of Boston itself simply gave me a great large landscape in which to walk for miles in keeping me active the whole weekend!

Speaking of the Senses… Living Chapter’s Maestro selected the song below to accompany me throughout Chapter one. I have used it to guide me through some of my new activities:

Listen in and tune in to your senses

Want to check in to see if I am keeping up my promises? Check out the Living Chapters Facebook page for updates on the jump rope journal, exercise documentation and my food photo gallery.

Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about.

off to a running start

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Ok – so we are only about a week into chapter one and I have to say, I am a bit exhausted. It might be all the running and jumping, swimming and stretching that my body was not quite ready for OR it could be that instituting these changes all at one time could be taking a small toll on my small frame. I am not discouraged though.

A few days ago, I made time between meetings and went to the mall attempting to purchase my very first pair of running shoes.  The simple process gave me a massive migraine. I’m not sure if it was the act of being at the mall (which for me is not a pleasant experience) or the horrendous neon colors/styles of shoes available that caused this reaction.  Although I did have an intense “sensory” experience, (high volume crowds, loud colors and atmosphere). I left failing to accomplish the task at hand and couldn’t help feeling a bit defeated. I came home nursed my migraine with water and a steady yet brisk walk to alleviate the situation.  I realized, while walking, that I may have taken the wrong approach in beginning this process.  For me, this project is not about checking off things a bucket list or just getting things done.  If I want to grow in any way, I really need to think about how to add or weave these new elements into my life in a way that makes sense for me. How can I make these new changes fun but also use them to re-energize pieces of the day that I had not thought about before. Instead of trying to find more time or new times to do these things, how could I develop and create ways to multitask and try to integrate these things into the time I already have in my current existence?  This is something I am going to work on in the upcoming weeks. To understand a bit more, maybe it would help to give you some baseline information on my current existence.

Starting point:

Body:  I’m 5ft 2 inches tall. I weigh 106 lbs. I luckily have never had to worry about weight or health issues.  Born with a high metabolism, I eat like a bird most say.  This however has allowed me to be under motivated when it comes to “getting in shape”.

Exercise: I lead a relatively inactive lifestyle: I sit for at least 4-6 hours a day between my time on a computer and driving.  I would not say my body looks out of shape but both an  8-year-old and an 80-year-old could beat me on the racetrack. I have no set exercise routine (nor have I ever). I probably burn more calories stressing about the fact that I don’t exercise. The unstructured exercise I have done in the past year includes, walking, yoga, helping people move? swimming, occasional hula hooping, dancing, and one dreadful zumba class . I can jog for about a total of 10 minutes before being completely out of breath and I can do about one pull up on a good day (about a half on a bad one).

Food: My diet is mostly healthy but based on efficiency, a budget, and what I can cook in a galley without a stove.  I have been cooking significantly less since moving onto the boat.  I have never officially been on a diet, until now.

Muscle Memory: I picked up a guitar in college learned a few songs, forgot them, and didn’t pick it up again until my mid twenties when I learned a few more songs and promptly forgot them. I’ve repeated this process probably every five years and still somehow only know about 4 chords.  Lack of discipline here has weakened my muscle memory.

The Senses:  As physically inactive as I portray myself to be, my mind is the opposite.  I am constantly thinking about a million things at any one time, often working on putting them into action.  In order to concentrate on my work or thoughts, I find myself having to “tune out” external sounds, smells, external motions etc.  For these “sensory activities” I am finding that I need to physically stop my motion to become aware of my senses. This stopping and concentrating in my fast paced day is a challenge.

As promised here is my plan for moving forward:

Goals for each day:

Follow proposed diet (emphasis on have-nots)

Upper body strength exercises in the morning, on the boat, in the car, or at the office

20-30 minutes of chosen exercise

Jogging (must do at least twice a week)

Jump rope Journal (everywhere all the time!)

Yoga before bed

Guitar before bed

Goals for the month:

Learn 2 new songs – play them for an audience

Guided sensory walks

Sensory deprivation activities (More on this soon!)

Want to check in to see if I am keeping up my promises? Check out the Living Chapters Facebook page for updates on the jump rope journal, exercise documentation and my food photo gallery.

Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about.

june… is for jogging and jumping (says Joe)

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When I first glanced over this first chapter, I thought, “got this” it doesn’t seem that hard or even that far out of my comfort zone.  The diet is somewhat close to what I eat already (…. Ummm most of the time… ) I am not a lover of junk food and after hitting 35, have mostly already moved away from greasy food out of preference more than direct intention or dieting. I looked over the exercise plan and was not horrified by it (there was no mention of the word “gym” which usually makes me nauseous.  The muscle memory exercises and the sensory awareness stuff all sounded pretty interesting to me.  No prob!

But wait! It then hit me, how am I suppose to think about all of this all of the time? How am I suppose to fit everything from playing guitar to jumping rope into my schedule and be intentional about what I shove into my mouth in the 20 minutes that I usually allot myself for lunch. Up until now, I really haven’t directly thought about or carefully planned any of these things in my day.

I have to say Joe, You may have without even knowing it, zeroed in very quickly on one of my biggest weaknesses… planning!  In order to fit all of these things into my life, not only am I going to have to think about each and every task but also figure out how to “structure” my week to do it all. For those of you who know me, you realize that creating structure, means killing spontaneity,  it’s something even more difficult for me than jogging (which is probably the second most difficult thing to ask me to do – good job Joe!) So somehow I am going to take on my two biggest challenges AND try to learn how to play the guitar and become aware of my senses – this will take some serious planning.  I find it hard to blend one major change into my life let alone bring in a series of them all at once.  But here we go, y’all are gonna watch me give it a go.

Let’s get something straight though, I am the first to admit exercising has NEVER been my forte. Not something I would consider “fun”.  I actually do not hate exercise. I just hate the feeling like I have to do something outside of something that I would normally want to do.

I do truly believe though, that if my goal is to incorporate exercise into my daily existence that it must be done in some way enjoyable if I am going to stop fearing or avoiding it.

As I hatch my plan for juggling all these active tasks for the rest of the month, I will dive into what I think to be the most fun and the least fun… right away…jumping and jogging. To keep to the task, I will attempt jogging at least a few times a week, start a jump rope journal, stick to the diet, clear out my allergies to prepare the senses, and start brainstorming sea shanty guitar songs (that preferably only have 3 chords). In the past few days, I have adopted the stretching /upper body strength video into my morning and evening, started swimming when I can get to a pool, jogged twice, and picked up my walking routine – lets just say my body is already sore …. it might be a tumultuous week.

Post script: Special thanks go out to Team players this week:

Greg Lines, an architect and sailor that combined his skills to create me a fine jumping rope out of materials he had on board. And thanks to the Confidant, Elizabeth Brady, who showed me that jogging can be fun if you are accompanied by a German shepherd, a great friend, some post rain mud and the roaring sound a river!

 

chapter one

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Theme: Body/Kinesthetics

The Lazy Person’s Guide to Health and Happiness

I was slated for the Body / Health / Kinesthetic segment of Beth’s “Living Chapters” experiment. This is the subject I’m least interested in and the one in which I need the most help. I know that I should be a better caretaker of this body and have made sporadic and unsuccessful attempts to act accordingly. This is something Beth and I share. We both lack dedication, fortitude, and discipline in this area. For those who may be experts, the following prescription might seem laughable or naïve. Rather than scoff at my ineptitude, feel free to add mettle to the following outline.  

DIET: The Haves & Have Nots

The “don’ts” out weigh the “dos” in this case. I don’t know what your basic diet is like, Beth, but if you’re living on a boat I’m guessing that your culinary spectrum is limited. The following lists were compiled in honor of your lack of physical space, your tiny refrigerator, minimal storage capacity, and your lack of active passion for the culinary arts. As far as preparing anything on my list your hot plate, toaster oven, and ingenuity is all you’ll need.

The Have Nots

Because I’m a big believer in negative reinforcement I want to start with the food and drink that would be better to avoid… So for June, to the best of your ability, I ask you to forego:

  • Fast Food
  • Junk Food
  • Processed Foods
  • Sodas and other drinks high in sugar
  • Any food dripping with fat, grease, or other emulsions

The Haves

Breakfast:

  • Hard Boiled Eggs (you can keep a bowl of them around)
  • Fruit (if you have two bowls you can keep fruit in one of them)
  • Any kind of cereal (as long as it’s not laden with sugar and fake crap): loose granola, muesli, and things like that (if you don’t have a third bowl, improvise)
  • Yogurt (plain is suggested, you can add fruit or cereal to it, even put a little honey or syrup in it)
  • Granola Bars
  • Bread / Toast / Bagels: go for whole wheat (or at least strive for something darker than white bread…)
  • I’m sure there’s more to it than the above, but my imagination is lacking in this area. Whatever you eat, just consider its origins. We’re just shooting for a diet that is wholesome and simple enough to satisfy your rustic and restless palate.

Lunch / Dinner:

You can improvise off of this list, but they’re basically vegetables and grains, etc. Not much of a fuss should go into putting any dish together. Doesn’t mean it won’t taste good, but that all depends on your ability to improvise with spices, condiments, and the like:

  • Fresh vegetables
  • Make a big pot of brown rice… it can hang around for a few days without going bad…
  • Canned beans
  • Canned fish (if you can’t get the fish fresh)
  • Wraps laced with vegetables, leafy greens, nuts, raisins or cranberries of some sort (you can also use dressing, real meat or chicken
  • Miso soup (just boil water and dump Miso paste into it… add any vegetables you like… if you like tofu, by all means…
  • Salads of any kind using all or some of the ingredients above
  • Whenever you can, eat at someone else’s place and enjoy what they serve without being a food snob (in other words if you even improve your diet 75% of the time it’ll be a big improvement)

The above may seem simple, but since we eat every day, it will have to become a discipline, a regular practice that may at first be an enjoyable diversion, but may ultimately become a pain in the ass…

Exercise

You mentioned that you hate exercising, don’t exercise, and can’t motivate yourself to do so. That is why I am going to make a contract with you that we should stretch daily (for at least 15 minutes) and jog / run sprints, etc. at least 2 or 3 times a week for the month of June. Also you mentioned that you’d like to work on strength. I included a video that features upper body strength that might be a start in the right direction. To ensure success in this area you might want find someone to exercise with so you can hold each other accountable.

Stretching: Good for flexibility (into old age), builds musculature, defines and tones…

Video: This is one of the videos that I found to be less nauseating videos I found on YouTube… let this be your guiding light (or you can surf the web for something more your style) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBV4P7BogKU (15 minutes sessions)

Video for upper body strength: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MrpGbulGprA

Jogging / Sprinting is good, too (after loosening up with some stretches)… The idea is get your heart pounding enough so you break out in a sweat (or vice versa). You can indulge in some sprints of increasing speed and length. And alternately build up stamina for a 20-minute jog, which might be more enjoyable.

Power Walking: If it’s too hot or muggy outside try a 15 to 20 minute power walk.

Other things to consider:

  • Walk rather than drive, walk whenever possible. Even better, find someone to take a brisk walk with…
  • You can also get a bicycle.
  • Jump rope (for exercise, not travel)
  • Or you can learn how to play like a dog by chasing a soccer ball around an open field.
  • Or you can go swimming.

Muscle Memory

Recently I asked you whether you were still playing guitar… I now propose, Beth, that you find a way to fit the guitar on your boat. If there’s no place for it on the boat, how about keeping it in your car? The idea here is Muscle Memory. Your fingers will remember what you think you’ve forgotten as soon as you start playing with any regularity.

Although this may not fit into the scheme of my assignment, I propose you gather a bunch of people who play and sing and invite them onto your boat for a late Sunday afternoon songfest. Maybe learn some sea chanties for the occasion (optional, of course).

A Few Exercises Regarding Muscle Memory and the Senses

Basically, Beth, the idea is to become aware of the affect the senses have upon the body. It’s another way of becoming aware of what makes a difference to you and the degree to which it does. It occurred to me the other day that fewer sensations seem to cut through the morass of my daily life, however, when I started to apply some of the methods as described below, I realized that I was just not paying attention. So these exercises are just a way of reminding us to pay attention, stay awake, and take heed when the little voices that sing within us creep to the surface.

Attention Exercise: Look at the second hand of a watch and see how long you can pay attention to it before your mind starts drifting.

Hearing: I learned how to experience music after reading the book The World Is Sound: Music and the Landscape of Consciousness by Joachim-Ernst Berendt. It’s a subtle thing but if you try to listen to music with your whole body (volume is not always necessary) you should become more affected by it.

  • The more familiar we are with a piece of music the less we tend to actually listen to it. As an experiment choose a piece of music that you have never heard before and take the time to actually listen with your whole body and see what happens. Then take a piece of music that you love, try to listen to it in a new way and see what happens.
  • So much of the experience we have with art is associative… what associations come up through the act of listening, viewing photographs, etc.

Voices: note how certain voices irritate, dredge up assumptions, resentments or have the power to seduce you or induce a coma…

Speaking: Be aware of what goes in different parts of your body when you tell a lie, when you relate a rarely spoken but necessary truth to a friend, when you run into someone and exchange banalities, when you accidentally insult someone, say something that’s funny, say something else that’s not funny or in bad taste… It’s interesting to note where in your body you feel a weird twinge or an abrupt shift of consciousness.

Also be aware of what happens when you are on the listening end…

Silence: If you experience an uncomfortable silence try to milk it for all of the discomfort you can get. Also, recognize the comfortable silences, too… It’s not always obvious what the quality of any silence is, so give it an extra heartbeat, just to make sure.

  • Exercise: See what happens if you are not the one to break the silence (after you, of course, locate where the discomfort within the body resides).

And this concludes the Living Chapter for the month of June.

To learn more about the themes for the 12 months, read The Roles and Rules.