Tag Archives: physical health

simplify… step by step


“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

The writer for chapter nine Seth Fertenbaugh, ended March’s chapter with this quote of Lao Tzu’s.   I kept it with me throughout the month of March and am bringing it back for April as I am in need of a motivational mantra.

Getting active and staying that way has definitely been a serious challenge for me. To be honest, I have not used my running shoes for anything other than hiking and hoola hooping since my last attempt at a “get in shape routine” back in June of last year (check out Chapter One).   Unlike this month, Chapter One writer Joe barraged me with a plethora of things to think about, do and not do concerning my body. It was a great way to try physical activities out and explore the world of healthy living. I jumped into a jump rope journal, went jogging, and started a new diet while at the same time, practiced my muscle memory and sensory awareness. Phew! Just reading all those requests in chapter one raised my heart rate!

Unfortunately, very few of the activities from that month became a part of my daily life. The running obviously did not stick (I still hate running to this day), the 15 minutes of planned exercise a day did not stick either. Even my beloved jump rope journal breaks did not stick. So did anything from my first chapter stay a part of my daily life? Yes! I am still mindful in thinking about and keeping to my diet on a daily basis.

How did I do it? Well, I took small steps and merely simplified the diet rather than doing a complete overhaul. I chose a few good meals (that I liked) and repeated them over and over throughout the weeks. The repetition of the choices may have made have led some people to have tired taste buds but I knew that after developing a habit of only eating these good things in a moderate way, that I could eventually expand to new things in healthier ways.

The diet really started to take hold when I also became more aware of how my dietary choices not only affected my own health but also affected my environment (check out Chapter 3). Realizing that my choices of what I put into my body affected the local economy, my local water quality, and climate made me check in with my decision process once again. And finally, when I realized that my new diet had started to make me feel better physically and emotionally, it was a done deal – a life change made.

In Chapter four I was led to check in with myself in another way. Chapter Writer Amy Rothstein asked me to begin mediating twice daily, once in the morning and at once at night. I actually had to time my meditation sessions! And write down my experiences with the process. Doing this ritual for 30 days straight really helped it sink into my every day routine. Meditation has now become a simple and repetitive ritual that I don’t even think about doing. Another life change that is working for me. I have stayed true to this practice and have felt better and better each day, with this new addition in my life. Meditation has become my best way of dealing with internal stress and outside drama that in the past has led to negative heart-racing episodes.

In this particular time of transition and change in my life again, I find myself in South-Central Pennsylvania wondering what is next? How do I navigate? How will I handle the next steps? Could creating a simple daily habit of raising my heart beat in positive ways affect my life as much as the other simple life changes that I have made in the past year?  Well if I have learned anything this year, it is that letting go of trying to have control over external situations outside my immediate self is not helpful or useful.  The process of “letting go” is rewarding and controlling the few things in my life that relate to myself and my body is helping and is useful!

This month’s chapter writer Dawn provided me with the most simple and direct chapter yet during in this entire Living Chapter’s process. I believe that it may be exactly what I need at this precise moment to make the changes I need to. She said,

“Make the exercise something simple that you enjoy. – Something that is repetitive might work best for this.”

I have taken her words to heart and have enacted my promise daily. Each morning I wake up before doing anything for anyone (or even anything else for myself). I give this 15 minutes of my morning, before the rush of the day starts, to my running shoes. No – I have not by a miracle started running! I am doing what I love… walking! Each morning, (early) my shoes are taking me walking very briskly to a lovely spot that I have chosen near my mother’s house about 15 minutes away. During the walk I use the time to (not make a plan for my day as Dawn suggested) but allow my walk to plan my day…the forward motion of the walk has become my morning meditation. I just changed the form of my still meditation and pushed it forward into motion.  It’s not, hard-core athletic regiment but so far… it feels pretty good.

I am convinced that mediation is playing a great role in balancing my emotional, and mental states. I also believe strongly that a strong body and heart can only help the mind and spirit as well. Let’s see how it helps balance me out…. and let’s see if I can stick with this physical routine and slow the pace of my stressed racing heart by picking up the pace of my meditative heart. Step by step.


Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about. Check out the Chapter Summaries Page to get caught up to date.

april fools me

IMG_8639IMG_8637Drawing by Solstice Bawol

It seems so easy. Was it an April fools chapter? Chapter ten writer Dawn Bennett asks me to raise my heart rate for at least 15 minutes every other day for the month of April. But why do this? And in what way? How will I do it? For what particular purpose?

My chapter training these past 9 months has led me to consider these questions closely before taking any action on making changes. I thank Dawn for leaving the questions and decisions open for me to consider on my own. I am not fooled into believing this to be a simple challenge. Doing the physical task daily along side exploring the questions that follow could turn this month into a deeper endeavor. Sure we can all raise our heart rates but what really happens when we do? And how are we affected when we do? Does it always help? Is it always in a healthy way?

After a few months of questioning, probing and meandering through so many esoteric existential questions in my surreal island setting you would think that I would be aching for some kind of down to earth physical interaction. Well, guess what? I am! I have been yearning for it!

During my time on the island I was in constant motion naturally – hiking, walking, swimming, and snorkeling. While there, I developed a rhythmic flow and a beginning balance between mind-body and spirit. Being back stateside, I have already noticed an immediate decrease in my physical activity – driving more, walking less. Swimming and snorkeling has been replaced by grocery shopping and commuting. Not only has this change in activity lowered my energy level but I am also feeling it emotionally.  Let’s just say I’m a bit crankier?

Granted a lot has changed besides my decrease in physical activity. The weather, my physical surroundings, the color palette out my window, my living conditions, my immediate community and the amount of people who I am now dealing with on a day-to-day basis, to name a few. Leaving the island at this point was not something I wanted to do, but something I needed to do. I had to return to the east coast to take care of some very real and physical life situations including my current job, my remaining bits of belongings, my car here, and primarily my mother’s transition to a new home. (the latter being what has landed me in my now current home base of Central Pennsylvania.)

In the first 6 months of the Living Chapters project, I looked closely at what effected my mind-body, and spirit based on the different themes selected. (Body/Kinesthetic, Logic and Order, The Environment, Existential/Spirituality, Purpose, and Interpersonal Relationships) Looking at each of these themes individually, I was able to see how shifting my habits in mindful ways could greatly effect my emotional, physical or spiritual health. With health and growth as my focus, I decided to dig further repeating the themes during this second six months. The question now is not, how can I develop a mindful habit to affect these areas in my life but how can I develop mindful practices and learn how to balance the different areas in my life. Can I now learn how my environment affects my mind? Or how the mind and emotions affect the body? And doesn’t the body affect the spirit?

Thus far in 2014, I have been teetering on the see-saw, trying to balance my emotional (chapter eight) and spiritual worlds (chapter nine) while becoming a pro at adapting to ever-changing new environments (chapter seven). I think it’s about time to jump back into the physical world by adding the body back into the equation. The physical needs to addressed in conjunction with the mental and spiritual aspects of my life, rather than being separated from the two.

Amy Rothstein, the existential chapter writer from September got me started on this track. She reminded me that “One of the core agreements of existentialism is that being human means we will experience anxiety.” Which to me is the way that most of us raise our heart rate on a daily basis in an unhealthy way without even noticing.  Amy also asked me to be mindful of my breath, body/extremities, movements and actions while looking at how I access and experience comfort as well as discomfort in my body. She asked me to identify how my body reacts to stress or anxiety and to observe my body in different situations and emotional states.

I feel that re-visiting some of her more complicated requests along with my direct and simple current challenge this month may help me stay on the path for a fuller mind, body and soul connection. So yeah, its time to get my jump rope and running shoes out again but this time with greater goals in mind. Let’s get physical shall we? Not only seeking a better body and energy level but in a quest for a healthier balance and a different mindset.

Will you take notes with me this month? Follow the pitter-patter of your own heart in the next 30 days. Is it fluttering in happiness, anxiety, adrenaline, dance or drama? How does the state of your physical body and rate of your heart affect your mind and spirit?


Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about. Check out the Chapter Summaries Page to get caught up to date.