Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

There’s a Bear in my Bed!

One of the many down sides of being overweight is sleep apnea. Each night, I have to put on a face mask and have pressurized air blown into my nose to ensure that I don’t stop breathing while I sleep. Tonight, as I get ready to go to bed, I find this waiting for me. My daughter has put a bear to sleep in my bed and, since the CPAP mask is what you wear if you’re sleeping in my room, she has hooked it up to Mr. Humphrey. And, to make sure he’s comfortable, there’s a friend to keep a close eye on him while he sleeps. My kids have the weirdest sense of humor. I wonder where they get it from?


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A Good Answer

Cover of "Dropping Ashes on the Buddha: T...

Cover via Amazon

One of the four books I’m reading right now is Dropping Ashes on the Buddha: the teachings of Zen Master Seung Sahn. It is a great book full of different records of Seung Sahn’s interactions with his students. The title of the book is taken from one of the stories that Zen Master Seung Sahn would tell: one day a big man comes into the Zen Center smoking a cigarette. He blows smoke in the Buddha’s face and drops the ashes in its lap. If you try and stop him from doing this he will hit you. What do you do?

This type of story is called a koan (kong-an in the Korean tradition). Personally, I don’t know what the right answer is but my son seems to have come up with a good one. He saw me reading the book the other day as I was enjoying the cool evening air out on the porch. He asked me what the title meant so I told him the story. When I got to the end and asked him what he would do he looked at me as if it were as obvious as the fact that the book was printed on paper. His answer is one that I think any Zen Master would approve. It was short, direct, concise and absolutely right. It was one simple word: “dodge”.

Now there’s a clear mind at work!

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Saba, a set on Flickr.

Pics of the beautiful island where I was on vacation. Enjoy!

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Heading Home

I’ve been on vacation for the last week. I’ve got a lot to write about but today, I’m heading home. We’ve been enjoying the beauty of Saba, a small island in the Dutch Caribbean. It’s where my wife grew up. We’ve been able to introduce the kids to family they’d never met, seen family we haven’t seen in years and spend a lot of time hiking and swimming and snorkeling and eating well. Today, as we get our bags together and get ready for the flight back to Maine, I’m feeling sadness about leaving and hope about going home. Every day, I’ve tried to go outside and meditate. It’s been an amazing experience to do that down here and I’m really going to miss this view. I’ll just have to learn a new lesson about attachment and impermanence.

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I Love My Wife

I love my wife. I couldn’t have gotten to where I am now without her love and support. Happy Valentines Day sweetheart. I love you.

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As you may have heard, we got a bit of  snow here in the U.S. recently. It was only a foot or so here in Maine and it fit rather nicely on top of the foot we already had on the ground. Needless to say, today was spent securely indoors and out of the cold. It was the perfect day to finish up my first woodworking project: a meditation bench.

Once the polyurethane has finished drying, I’ll get some pictures and post them. For now, it’s a waiting game. I had a lot of fun putting this together and would never have been able to do it without the assistance of my brother who has been visiting with us. It was a great project to do with him and to learn from him and to just hang out in a workshop and make something together. I’m really pleased with the way that this has turned out and expect to see many hours spent on this bench.

When we weren’t working on the bench or playing with the kids, it was a lazy day. I actually took a nap and rested for a bit. There’s nothing like a foot of snow to bring out an instinct to hibernate. Especially after your belly is full of Caribbean Jerk Quinoa (one of my favorite ways to prepare quinoa). Overall, just a really nice day slowing down and spending time being a family.

One thing that meditation and living mindfully does is enhance your enjoyment of taking slowly the things that don’t need to be rushed. Obviously there are scenarios where time is of the essence and one needs to hurry but those scenarios aren’t as common as we like to think. I think this is because we, as a species, derive a lot of motivation from stress. It’s how we evolved. Since we no longer have to fear being eaten by wild animals or dying from a lack of food or shelter or from catching a cold and having it turn in to something worse, we invent artificial stress to keep us going. This is bad for a few reasons. One, we create states for our body to go into overdrive much more than it should. This causes health problems from “running too hot”. Two, in a lot of people, stress will trigger an emotional response to eat. This leads to a big source of overeating for many of us who have struggled with our relationship with food. It’s a quick way to weight gain since you end up consuming more than you need and your body stores away the calories as fat more readily than it would under normal circumstances. This is why a nice slow lazy day like today is really important every once in a while. It reminds us to slow down and take things as they really are.

It’s started snowing again while I have been writing this. At some point you have to say, “enough is enough!” and get tired of it. I’m probably at that point now but it’s taken all day to get there. The fact is that I have had a great day doing low stress and slow-paced work and play. Tomorrow, I’ll brave the elements and go back to work but that’s a post for tomorrow.

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Today I learn how to snow board. Or at least I’ll try to learn. I’m not a huge fan of winter activities and skiing/snowboarding are not my idea of fun or safe ways to spend the day. Once, when I was much younger I went skiing and it was a bit of a disaster. I did not enjoy the experience at all. That’s when I filed sliding down a mountain with boards strapped to my feet under “been there, done that, won’t do again”.

Fast forward 2 decades and here I am about to do it again. The word trepidation keeps floating through my mind when I think about it too much. I’m excited to be going but anxious about it too. It amazes me how I caved after a little prodding from my wife, kids, brother, dad and a friend who’s coming with us. Whatever happened to “Just say no”?   We’ll see how this goes and if I survive the experience.

The above two paragraphs were written before the snowboarding experience. Below is my report on how things went after the fact.

So, I went snowboarding. Or at least I tried to go snowboarding. First off, I did have fun…mostly. However, besides the fear, there is something else I have to face: gravity. Me and gravity aren’t always on the best of terms. See, it keeps trying to pull me toward the center of the Earth and when gravity is applied quickly I usually end up getting hurt. Stupid gravity. The other problem with gravity was that the skinny teenage one hundred and something pound “instructor” just didn’t have the ability to apply the appropriate leverage to my 268 pound frame to assist it in going from prone on the ground to upright. This meant that it either took two people to get my heavily padded butt up off the ground or I had to do it myself. Neither one of those options was ideal. In addition to landing on my butt a number of times, I also fell flat on my face whenever I tried to get myself up off the ground (see my previous thoughts on “stupid gravity”).

I actually did get the hang of snowboarding before the lesson time was over. I was able to stay up on the board and I was able to turn to the right by leaning forward over my toes. If those were the only skills required, I would have been set. However, you have to be able to turn left too. Turning left, for me, meant leaning back and shifting my weight over my heels. This is surprisingly like the motion one makes right before falling flat on ones ass. That’s exactly what I proceeded to do repeatedly every time I attempted a left turn. The falls on my butt began to hurt after a while. I still have a lot of padding back there but there are only so many times I can use it before the padding loses its efficacy.

In spite of this, I was determined to keep going. I wasn’t going to let a little snow stop me from having a good time. Plus I had spent way too much money on the lessons for everyone to not get my money’s worth. I also continued to improve. At least I thought I did. On my final “run” down the 15 foot slope we were learning on, I executed a left turn and it worked. I started to turn. I felt good. I felt happy. I felt gravity take over. I felt off balance. I felt scared. I felt panicked. I felt pain. I saw a bright flash of light. I heard a noise. I came to rest. I lay in the snow and began to assess my assets (hehehe, I had to say “ass” twice in that sentence). I took my body through a thorough inventory requesting status updates from all the important parts.

  • Bones intact? Check
  • Joints oriented the correct way? Check.
  • Ankles OK? Check.
  • Knees OK? The knees are in a lot of pain but that could be attributed to an earlier knee injury and strain from exercise so we’ll report a tentative check.
  • Hips OK? Yes. Though something doesn’t feel quite right. Wait, that’s just a hunk of ice that I landed on. Check.
  • Tail bone? Negative. The brain is receiving reports from the tail bone that it has taken a direct hit. The pain that is beginning to radiate through the body can be traced to the tail bone. Withhold judgement until receipt of reports from other regions of the body.
  • Spine? Spine? SPINE!! Oh, sorry, I got distracted sending pain signals from the tail bone. Check.
  • Shoulders? Cold but good. Check.
  • Neck? Shaken from the impact but OK. Check.
  • Head? After completing a self diagnosis, lights and sounds previously reported appear to have been caused by the brain not being able to process excess sensory input. I’ll be hurting in a few minutes but until then, check.
  • Muscles? We’re here, and we’re not torn let’s leave it at that OK? Check.
  • Blood? Still on the inside where it belongs. Check.
  • Tail bone? Still negative. Suggested remedy is to lay in the cold snow and hope for numbness to come quickly.

It’s amazing how fast I can perform an inventory like this when I have to. I think that took about 1 second to complete. The upswing was that I had all of the answers ready to go when everyone finally reached me. In the end, I spent some time laying in the snow waiting for the pain in my tail bone to subside. It didn’t take too long to start to feel better but even now I have some lingering pain in my tail bone. Overall, it was a fun experience but not something I’m going to be doing regularly.

At least I did it. If I’d have never tried, I would have never known. I didn’t let fear keep me off the mountain. I didn’t let gravity stop me. I probably wouldn’t have allowed the injury to stop me except our time was up and I wasn’t stupid enough to assume that I was capable of going out on my own and try to do some more. Eventually, the pain will go away (I hope) and the experience will be nothing but a memory. I kind of feel the same way about my weight loss. I don’t let me fear of the process or trying new things stop me. I don’t allow the pain to hold me back and eventually the experience of being morbidly obese will just be a memory too.

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