Food Science

One of the things that I love about the world we live in is how quickly we are discovering new things about the world. Amidst all the shitty politics and bullshit, there are scientific discoveries and technological innovations happening all around us. One area, in particular, has been really exciting to me… we are learning so much about how the human body works and figuring out ways to “upgrade” it. Due to my love for science and fitness I have been sharing a lot of articles about human health, both the good and the bad.

Unfortunately, as more research is done we are discovering that some things aren’t very healthy for us. I think there must be a miscommunication when I share these articles, though, because people seem to feel attacked. Take, for example, a recent article I shared that linked alcohol to all sorts of cancers. (My dietitian partner informed me that this isn’t really new news, but I had never heard it before).

When I share these articles I am not trying to tell people that they shouldn’t drink alcohol. I share them because I care about the people in my network and want them to be informed about the risks they take. They are certainly free to take those risks, but I would feel bad if I withheld information from a friend about the danger they are putting themselves in. I would like the people I love to live long, healthy lives and I want them to see their kids and grandkids grow up (or nieces and nephews for us childless people). I want them to be able to travel where they desire, have adventures, and create art, and for all those things you need to be alive.

Clearly, that desire of mine is being lost somewhere (probably because I never say it), and the response to articles about nutrition generally fall in two categories. The first response is usually something along the lines of “Oh, well, whatever, everything causes cancer”. While that might be true… everything (or mostly everything) can break down our body and bring us closer to death, I see no reason to unnecessarily speed up that process. Everything we do is a cost/benefit analysis and we make better decisions when we know the full cost. I will continue to drink beer, because the relatively small increase in cancer risk for a the pleasure of a beer is probably worth it… beer tastes good and the risk increase is small. Using that same calculus I won’t smoke cigarettes, I don’t get pleasure from it and the chance that it will cut my life short is incredibly high. Having a couple beers a week probably won’t prevent me from being at the birth of my niece’s baby, but smoking might.

The second response goes something like “I’m sure tomorrow they will say that drinking cures cancer”. Basically, scientific research is often coming up with conflicting information, therefore we should dismiss it all. Yes, research sometimes conflicts other research, that is what makes science a better institution for finding information about the physical world than religion. If research into complicated things always agreed there would probably be a problem. This argument also seems to ignore bodies of research where there is a lot of consensus. You don’t just throw out data because new information in the future might tweak it, there is a such thing as truth in the world and the scientific method is a tool to find truth. It saddens me the most when people use this argument who, otherwise, are very excited about scientific discoveries and technological advancement. We shouldn’t be hostile to new information just because it tells us the life we are living isn’t as healthy as we’d like to believe.

I think what it really comes down to is food is very personal for some people. I really have a hard time understanding this, but I am trying. Food was never important in my family, we have no shared culture around it or any sort of traditions. Food is primarily fuel for my body to function. I certainly enjoy good food over bad food, and I like it when I find tasty recipes that fulfill my nutrient needs, but if someone showed me research that lentils caused cancer I would likely reduce my consumption significantly. This may just be an area where I have a hard time understanding other people. It was very easy for me to cut out meat from my diet when I found that it was unhealthy and violated my ethics, but others have an attachment to food that goes beyond nutrition, an attachment that confuses me a bit.

Need

I love my partner, but I don’t need her. I want to be with her, I want our lives to be intertwined, I want to grow and explore and experiment with her. But there isn’t a need there, and because of that I think our relationship is healthy.

Our relationship is built on a desire to be together and we both know that we would be fine if the relationship broke up. It would suck. There would be great sadness and mourning over what we thought our lives would be, but we would be fine. We would both thrive as we ventured out into the world. We would find new loves, or maybe live our lives perfectly content alone. We would grow and explore and experiment, with or without each other. The direction and speed of those things would differ, but they would still happen because we are not “two that have become one”, we are two who make each other stronger as individuals.

To need someone (or something) is to enter into an unbalanced relationship. It is giving too much power to the other person, it is to lose your identity and take on theirs. It is to pursue an addiction that is unhealthy. It is juvenile to need a person and it is unhealthy.

By needing another person you give them control of your life. When things end (whether through breaking up or a tragic death or being fired or being injured) you are unable to strive again until you break that need… and the need for a person can go on long after they are gone.

It is not only romantic relationships that can involve such imbalance. It can be an adult child who isn’t stable without their parents supporting them (emotionally, financially, etc). It can be a friendship where one person needs the other person to face the world. It can be a professional relationship where one person needs the job in order to survive and doesn’t have the skills to find a new one. It can be a hobby that requires your mind or body, things that will eventually fail.

When these relationships break down it destroys a keep part of our being. We have defined ourselves based on our relationship instead of as an individual. We become a boyfriend, instead of a person who has a partner. We become a father, instead of a person who has a child. We become a writer, instead of a person who writes. By defining ourselves in relation to other people we destroy ourselves, we become dependent on someone else’s acceptance, love, and stability. Then, when we find ourselves alone we can’t cope.

And that is suicide.

I love my partner. Each year with her has been better than the last. We continue to grow and challenge each other. With every day I spend with her I find new depths and strengths and passions. With her I feel strong.

But I don’t need her, and she doesn’t need me… and that is one of the best things about our relationship. Need takes away the voluntary nature of our relationship. Need means dependence. We don’t have that, and I hope we never will.

Headspace

One of the things I really wanted to work on this year was my meditation practice. Meditation is one of those things that I think could really improve my life, but the practice is very difficult for me. I seem to go for a day or two and then stop for a month. But, today, for the first time, I finished the 10-Day program with the Headspace app. Granted, it took me 15 days… but this is the best I’ve done so far.

I think I’m going to subscribe to the app to get more content. Hopefully, paying for it will encourage me to use it (am I using the sunk cost fallacy to incentivize myself?).

I’m in a good place now to get into this practice. Not only am I in a stable home for a couple of years, I’m also doing a lot of reading about meditation for the grad program I’m interested in. Reading about the scientific results and study of Tibetan Buddhists really keep me motivated. Also, meditating seems a lot like touching the One Source in The Wheel of Time series… so that’s pretty badass.

Anyway, I needed a little brag about completing the program. It was really difficult for me and I have a loooooooooonnnnnng way to go, but I do feel calm and happy and more productive after my 10 minutes a day and I’d like that to continue. I think it could be great for my health, mental and physical.

Week 2 Update

Alright, another week has gone by and I’m still pretty happy with the results. The week started off pretty rough and I had a hard time getting into my daily routine. There was a lot more going on around the house, which made it more difficult for me to get the day started off on the right foot. That is mostly just an excuse though, I need to be able to operate in non-ideal circumstances and blaming a bad start to the day to justify not accomplishing things is shitty. The truth is, I was just lazy and didn’t meditate or write as much as I wanted to. I was able to keep my run schedule and such, which is good.

I haven’t been getting as much sleep as I’d like because my dog is an asshole. I’m not sure what is really going on with him, he is waking us up for breakfast really early. I think the new food we started him on isn’t keeping him as full as the old stuff. Oh well, I’m sure we will figure something out. Despite the lack of sleep I have been feeling pretty good on only 7ish hours.

I also haven’t had any heartburn in two weeks. I’d guess either alcohol or the processed foods I used to eat were the culprit. It has been rather nice to be free of that inconvenience. Speaking of alcohol, there were not really any cravings for beer this week, which was also nice. This next week will be challenging as well, we are going to go to St. Louis for about a week starting on Thursday (probably). That mans I won’t have the kitchen I’m used to, we will be driving two days (which is always tough to eat healthy and get exercise) and there will be lots of food and drink to tempt. I’m not going to abstain from new experiences, but hopefully Anna and I can keep each other accountable and enjoy in moderation.

Overall, I’m happy with the direction my fitness is going. I’m burning off excess fat and getting stronger. I feel healthier, more energetic and productive, and more mentally strong. I know that many of the measurements are going to stop having such drastic changes, such as weight loss. I will eventually plateau my weight loss (which is good) but that means I need to find something else to measure as a motivating factor. Hopefully by then I will have access to a gym and can keep track of weights or something. I also realize a lot of these measurements are fickle… I’m trying to measure myself with a tape measure, which means human error, and weighing myself on the scale is not really an accurate representation of my weight because water in my system and a full bowels can effect the outcome. I’m keeping track more to look for trends instead of absolute measurements. New photos are available in here, as always they contain terrible tan lines, a sloppy man bun, and full-frontal nudity. I decided to use a real camera and a couple of poses so that it is easier to visually track my progress. It is hard to compare photos but I feel like I have more definition in my back and shoulders (though, that might be the tan) and my waist is slimming down a little.

Oh well, here are the measurements. It is set up like this Measurement: Current (change from last week, overall change). For example, my weight is 173 right now so it will look like this “Weight: 173 lbs (-2, -2.5)”. I lost two pounds this week, and two and a half overall.

  • Weight: 173 lbs (-2, -2.5)
  • Waist: 35 inches (-.5, -1.5)
  • Neck: 15. inches (-.25, 0)
  • Chest: 39.7 inches (+.25, -.25)
  • Left Bicep: 13.75 inches (+.25, -.25)
  • Right Bicep: 13.5 inches (+.5, -.5)
  • Left Thigh: 23 inches (-1, -1.25)
  • Right Thigh: 23.5 inches (-.5, -1.75)
  • Left Calf: 15 inches (+.25, +.5)
  • Right Calf: 15 inches (+.25, +.5)
  • BMI: 26.3 (-.46, -.76)
  • Body Fat %: 21.18 (-1.86, -3.84)
  • Average Daily Calories: 1696.86 (-66.57)
  • Average Waking Mood: 5.43 out of 10 (+2.19)
  • Average Midday Mood: 7.43 out of 10 (+0)
  • Average Evening Mood: 7.14 out of 10 (-.15)
  • Average Morning Sex Drive: 5.43 out of 10 (+0)
  • Average Midday Sex Drive: 6.71 out of 10 (-.15)
  • Average Evening Sex Drive:6.14 out of 10 (+.43)
  • Walked: 18.5 Miles (-.25, 37.25)
  • Ran: 11 Miles (+6.5, 16.5)
  • Biked: 9.25 Miles (4.25, 14.25) – My bike is at the shop getting repaired and probably won’t be back this week
  • Pull Ups: 66 (+15, 117)
  • Push Ups: 390 (+50, 730)
  • Plank: 9.25 minutes (+.75, 17.75)
  • Meditated: 30 minutes (-40, 100)
  • Average Nightly Sleep: 7.61 hours (-.25)
  • Daily Orgasm: 3 out of 7 (-2)
  • Blog Posts: 7 out of 7 (+1)
  • Daily German: 6 out of 7 (+1)
  • Daily Write Book: 0 out of 7
  • Resting Heart Rate: 54bpm (-4, -5)

 

Currently Reading:

  • “Destructive Emotions: A Scientific Dialogue with the Dalai Lama” by Daniel Goleman
  • “The Great Hunt” by Robert Jordan

Thank You, Friends

This post is a thank you to my friends who are always honest with me, to my friends that don’t sugar coat things or ask me to “have faith” or say things like “things will work out”. These friends encourage me to take action and give me actionable steps to get me towards the life I want, even if it means that I will have a painful period ahead.

When I am going through a rough time, these are the friends I turn to. They will tell me the truth, which is the most valuable things. There have been times in my life when I was unhappy with my life and they provided wisdom and guidance. If I was unhappy with my finances they pointed out that I didn’t really need a Playstation, a smartphone, or a car. If I embraced minimalism, even for just a little while, I could sell the things I don’t need and lower my bills to the point where I am stable. Then, if I desired, I could reacquire things (hopefully used to be fiscally responsible) that I wanted. For me, that desire never came though.

These are the friends that I could talk to about my relationship and they would be frank and honest. They tell me when the person I’m engaged to isn’t treating me right, they point out the things that I was blind to because I was too close to the situation. They also pointed out when the person I was dating wasn’t long term compatible, no matter how much we loved each other that love wasn’t enough. If we wanted different things out of life we needed to separate and be true to ourselves, and sooner rather than later.

These friends will hear me when I say what I want to experience and point out flaws in my plans or places to improve. When I wanted to get more involved in kink and open relationships, when I wanted casual sex, they pointed out that I needed to be more social and that I needed to take my health seriously. I was very unhealthy at the time and as I took care of myself I found like-minded people to engage in bedroom activities with.

It is even better when they approach me without prompt. When they see something in my life that I could improve… my finances, my relationships, my mind, my body… and say something before I come to them. They help head problems off at the pass and keep me on the right track.

Inevitably, because of this honesty, they are the ones I trust when they give me encouragement. I’ve heard “you should write a book” dozens of times while on the bike ride, but that means nothing… those people rarely know me or what I want. But when one of these friends tell me that they love my writing and wish I blogged more or wrote a book, I listen. They have earned relationship capital and I know they wouldn’t say that without believing it.

We all need these people in our lives, the ones that will give it to us straight. The ones that realize a friendship without the ability to be completely honest with someone isn’t really a friendship, it is an acquaintance. If a friendship dies because one person is honest, then that friendship wasn’t authentic.

These people are our ka-tet, siblings, soulmates, true friends. I hope that there are others who I can give in this way that I have received. I want to be someone who people know will speak the truth without fluff. We have so much power in this world and we minimize our own strength if we wait for a white knight to save us or expect the universe to just fall into place. Action is what improves our lives, stagnation is death. We must work with what we have to make our lives better and forget the past that got us where we are… and hopefully we have a few true friends by our side to steer us straight.

The Dispowerment of Luck

When people find out about my current work and living situation they often say that I’m lucky. Or, if they have a religious bent they will say I’m blessed. I understand what they are trying to say, they are trying to point out that my life is pretty good. I agree with the sentiment, but I disagree with placing luck or blessing as the source. In fact, I think it is really dispowering to view the world through that lens.

Yes, there is a certain level of luck or privilege that has been a factor in my life. There is nothing magic about that, I have been the beneficiary of decisions made by people other than me. I was born into a relatively stable family with two loving parents, that was beyond my control. I didn’t make them bang at the time they did, nor did I make my grandparents, great grandparents, great great grandparents…. or human ancestors 100,000 million years ago bang. I just kind of popped out into a situation beyond my control. But, I don’t think being the beneficiary of decisions that weren’t my own removes any sort of personal responsibility from my life.

My job, working part-time remotely, is often what people are talking about when they say I am lucky. This fails to acknowledge that I made many, many decisions in my life that got me to where I am today. I joined the Army and fought in two wars. I went to college and took on tens of thousands of dollars in debt. I worked in DC for three years and networked with hundreds of people. I rode my bike across the country from DC to LA without any job prospects waiting for me, then I quit my job in LA to travel the country without any job prospects. I chose not to have kids, not to buy a house, not to buy a car, and to live very minimally. I chose to be open about who I am and what I love, even if it meant I would lose my family or friends. These decisions all lead to the job and life I have. To say that it was mostly luck is to ignore the decisions I made but, more importantly, it is to disempower the person who says it. If someone views my life as luck then they likely view their own life as luck, and that means they are powerless to change it.

We can’t change the decisions we made in the past, but we can always work towards improving our lives. The future isn’t here yet, and any commitment to it is tentative. It is never too late for me to change my mind about something and prevent disaster.  If I want to have fewer expenses I can sell the junk I don’t need and cut unnecessary bills out of my life (this may be surprising, but you can actually thrive without Netflix, a cell phone, a car, and many other things… what you actually need in life is so very little). For better or worse, our tax dollars provide a lot of “free” resources like parks and libraries, you might as well take advantage of them if you are paying for them. There are adventures to be had and a way to truly live this life.

All I’m really saying is that we can’t change the past and there are powers outside of our control, but that doesn’t mean we are powerless. When we chalk up someone’s life (even our own) to luck or fortune we remove power, we give those circumstances and drift along the river of life refusing to use the paddles, even when there is a waterfall on the horizon. Nobody is purely a subject of their circumstances, we all have some control… probably more than any of us realize.

The Heart of Learning

I just finished “The Heart of Learning: Spirituality in Education”. It is the first book I’ve read since stopping the bike ride and man, it feels good to be back into a reading routine. Audiobooks did a decent job when I wanted to listen to fiction, but I found them lacking with non-fiction. I just couldn’t concentrate or retain information as easily with Audiobooks.

So, “The Heart of Learning” is a collection of essays based on speeches from conference at Naropa University, and it is one of the recommended readings for the grad program at Naropa that I’m considering. It is hard to summarize a book of collected essays because the authors all have different, and sometimes opposing, viewpoints. Overall, the book is calling for reform in the education system away from testing, structure, and stuffy classrooms where children are molded into obedient cogs to fit into corporate wheels. They call for an educational environment that works to build up the entire student and help shape them into a person instead of just throwing facts at them to be memorized on one day and forgotten on the next. I don’t think I could be much of a teacher but my father and one of my brothers are both teachers, and what they talk about this book sounds a lot like the Canadian schools my brother teaches in… and very different from the schools here in the States that my father teaches in.

Due to the nature of this book there were things I agreed with and some things I disagreed with. It certainly had an economically “left” tilt and the aversion to the free market seemed to be based on a different definition than the one used by true free market advocates (this does not include shitty crony capitalists who make up much of the political power in the US). There almost seemed to be a distrust of science in some places, which bothered me a little bit. I don’t have a problem with my spiritual beliefs intermingling with science or free markets. I think a lot of people end up unnecessarily tangling together their political, economic, social, and spiritual viewpoints. Sure, I think people should have a basic foundational belief system that all of these can spring from, but that shouldn’t be along the shitty “left v right” paradigm that dominates American culture.

But, to be honest, I am guilty of putting people in these boxes too. I hear that someone is conservative or traditional or whatever and then I am shocked when they are an atheist, like recreational drugs, or go to strip clubs without any guilt or shame. I gotta work on that and start treating people as individuals instead of categorizing them based on a few bits of knowledge that I gathered from third party sources and made assumptions about.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, even if I did not agree with many of the authors. This book, like pretty much all I have ever read, can influence the way I view the world and I find it to be one more tool in my tool chest to better the world and give myself a better life. Education and spirituality are linked to philosophy, politics, religion, and my views on sex, relationships, recreational drug use, and everything else. It has encouraged me to think deeply, argue my views, and see the world from a different perspective. So, instead of doing a real review of this book I think I’ll share sections that I highlighted (unfortunately, I didn’t start highlighting stuff until partway through the book because I am a ding dong).

The best thing for being sad is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies. You may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins. You may miss your love. you may see the world around you devastated by evil lunatics or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it, then: to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the thing for you. – Merlin, “The Once and Future King”

Appreciate time, the sacredness of time, moments in time. Appreciate place, or space – place is the reality of space. Appreciate passion – whatever your passion, whatever you love. First find what you love; and then do it, whatever it is. You won’t harm anyone or anything if you actually love. Find your passion, express it, and that way you will attract the muses, the gods and goddesses of creativity. – Jeremy Hayward.

When we encounter the “other” – that which we have ignored, excluded, or just not known – we have the opportunity to question our conventional minds, expand our horizons, and go deep. The “other” is our greatest teacher. – Judith Simmer-Brown

There is an example that has been used a great deal: if we want to go deep spiritually, we can’t go around and dig lots of little holes. We need to find one place and dig a deep hole. – Judith Simmer-Brown

Conventionally, when we study for achievement, we penetrate only the words, the literal or explicit meaning of that which we examine. We learn theories, memorize facts, regurgitate bodies of knowledge without reflection on the deeper meaning toward which this knowledge points. – Judith Simmer-Brown

One of the things a culture of domination does to all of us – irrespective of our class, race or gender – is make us ashamed of our pain. In claiming our pain as a space where we can work alchemically against the forces of domination. We move against the forces of fear and shame. In fact, we discover that it is precisely our pain that intimately connects us with others. – bell hooks

Of course learning happens within schools too; learning, however, does not require – in any way, shape or form – the institutions of learning – Steven Glazer

Nothing of value comes from compulsion. – Plato

Going to college can help you be knowledgeable, but it cannot make you wise. – John Taylor Gatto

Children resist teaching, as they should, but nobody resists learning. – John Taylor Gatto

Schooling is about creating loyalty to an abstract central authority, and no serious rival can be welcome in a school – that includes mother and father, tradition, local custom, self-management, or God. – John Taylor Gatto

When you can’t fully trust yourself or even like yourself very much, you’re in a much worse predicament than you may realize because those things are a preamble to sustaining loving relationship with other people and with the world outside yourself. Think of it this way: You must be convinced of your own worth before you ask for the love of another or else the bargain will be unsound. You’ll be trading discounted merchandise unless both of you are similarly disadvantaged, and perhaps even then your relationship will disintegrate, usually painfully. – John Taylor Gatto

The best lives are full of contemplation, full of solitude, full of self-examination, full of private, personal attempts to engage the metaphysical mystery of existence. – John Taylor Gatto

The need to die and be reborn, the need to be renewed, the need to encounter profoundly life’s mystery, the need to engage the imagination – these arise for every living person. But where are the rituals in our culture that donate and valorize change? Where are the rituals that open us to not-knowing? The rituals that grant us the space, freedom, and encouragement to grow or change? Almost absent. – Joan Halifax

So there it is in a nutshell, the disarming, defeating voices that we all carry around in our heads at least some of the time. Are you really what you profess to be or are you a fraud? Have you earned the right to exist? And who cares anyway? These are the voices that push us into defensiveness, disclaimers, and apologies. – Diana Chapman Walsh

Where does my deep gladness meet the world’s deep needs? – Diana Chapman Walsh

Without the space to grow, it will shrivel and die.
When is it that I know I have to go someplace?
When I have to grow or die. – “Potbound” by Diana Chapman Walsh

Now, as I look at you, and as you look at me, it’s clear that a significant part of where we go from here must be toward a disciplined and intentional search to understand why we are so overwhelmingly white here. We cannot simply accept this: we cannot simply be content with platitudinous statements like “Why, of course, we’re in Boulder,” or “We’re Buddhists.” No, this is not sufficient – not if we are serious about our spirituality and our teaching.
Where we go from here is to be deeply, painfully, embarrassingly honest with ourselves, and ask, “How could we have this conference on spirituality in education, when a whole sector of our nation – who have created great traditions of spirituality, and have believed in the power of education more than anybody else in the country – are not centrally present? – Vincent Harding
 (This section immediately made me think of libertarianism and how we libertarians should ask ourselves some hard questions about our demographics. It also made me think of W.E.B. DuBois and his love of education)

What are the actions I will concretely do today to manifest the community that I seek? I have come here in search of community. What am I going to do to build it? – bell hooks

We need to remember that this is why we take refuge in the Buddha, or in Christ. Not to make the path easier but to make us stronger. – Vincent Harding

If you’re not going anyplace new, strange, odd, or uninhabited, you don’t need anybody to take your hand! You just skip along. But to where we never dared to go before, on the rough, rough road, then, precious Lord, take my hand. – Vincent Harding (I don’t think that hand needs to be the Lord or something supernatural, it can simply be community or some sort of philosophical foundation)

Things I had to wiki or Google:

  • dakini
  • Padmasambhava
  • The Raft is Not the Shore by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • The Salem Procedure
  • Anabaptists
  • sui generis

Here is a full list of the authors. I only recognize two names (bell hooks and The Dalai Lama), but maybe educational experts will be familiar with them.

  • Steven Glazer (editor)
  • Parker J. Palmer (note: this was probably my favorite author in the book)
  • Rachel Naomi Remen
  • The Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche
  • Jeremy Hayward
  • His Holiness the Dalai Lama
  • Judith Simmer-Brown
  • bell hooks
  • David W. Orr
  • John Taylor Gatto (note: this was probably the author that I disagreed with most)
  • Joan Halifax
  • Ron Miller
  • Diana Chapman Walsh
  • Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi
  • Huston Smith
  • Vincent Harding