Micro Moments of Mindfulness

The “meat and potatoes” of the Headspace meditation app is the multi-day series programs that it offers (I’m in the middle of a 30-day focus on creativity right now and I’m really enjoying it), but there is more to mindfullness than that. The app also offers one-off topics on a variety of subjects and I noticed one on eating. The idea of mindful eating has crossed my path from time to time, I even think I saw a weight loss program based on it advertised on tv at 3am once. After listening to it, I am becoming convinced that the real meat of meditation isn’t when you are sitting on the mat for 20 minutes each day, it is in your moment to moment living.

Take eating, for example. I am so often on autopilot when it comes to my meals. I have Netflix on or I am working while I shovel food into my mouth. I’m not really paying any attention to what I’m doing and I’m just trying to satiate my hunger. Eating takes on a whole different dimension when you shut off distractions and start to pay attention to the sensations. One bite at a time you can focus on the flavors and textures in your mouth and the feeling of the food going down your throat. Instead of pushing more food into your mouth before swollowing you focus on living in the moment. For me, it is a realy pleasant experience.

Eating is just one example of how I can take a few seconds out of a normal experience and try to be mindful of what is happening. Instead of my mind wandering while riding my bike I can scan down my body and check in with each joint and muscle or I can look around me and really try to take in the beautify of the world. When I’m peeing I can leave my phone in the living room and while sitting on the toilet I can focus on the change in pressure and how little muscles in my body tighten and release as the fluid leaves my urethra. Instead of chugging my morning coffee I can savor the flavors, drink slowly, and appreciate the magic of such a wonderful drug.

Our minds wander all too often from the here and now. Whether we are eating, exercising, cleaning the house, or having sex, our minds are not fully with our bodies. I’m not saying that every moment must be focused on the immediate sensation (that would be an impossible task), but I think it is beneficial for me to bring my mind back to the moment when I realize it has drifted. Instead of worrying about what may happen when a shitty president is elected or what I did in 7th grade (something out of my control) or what I plan to do when I start work (something I can control later), my mind could be in the moment and feeling the sensations. You can’t let life pass you by while thinking about a life that might never be.

It isn’t the time spent at meditation retreats and during morning rituals that bring about mindfulness in today’s world, it is shifting into the here and now during your normal life. It is paying explicit attention to all the sensations that our brain does such a good job filtering. It is really savoring the taste, smell, and feeling of the world around you and appreciating the life you have. I guess the old cliche is right, you gotta stop and smell the roses once in a while.

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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.

Next Chapter

I’ve been having a lot of trouble focusing on my writing lately. To be honest, the only thing on my mind is the next chapter of my life that is about to begin. I made the announcement on Facebook last week, but I have not written anything about it here yet. Long story short, Anna and I have decided to pause the bike ride for a few years and move to Wilmington, NC. I don’t want to rehash all the reasons here (though, I will copy/paste my Facebook status at the bottom of the post for those interested), but it is something we are both incredibly excited about.

Why Wilmington? Well, it has so much that we look for in a town plus a ton of bonuses. The city is dog-friendly, bike-friendly, cheap, near a beach, has a college, and an active community. It is also near bigger cities that can provide opportunities for new sexual experiences, concerts, and an airport for travel. It is also near the mountains and the city of Asheville, which is an area we’ve always wanted to visit and hope to spend a fair amount of time in. It is also a reasonable drive to other places we love like Charleston, Savannah, Richmond, and DC (well, we don’t love DC, but we love some of our friends who live there). The cheap housing will also allow us to get a multi-bedroom house with a yard on our budget, which means lots of Couchsurfing/Warmshowers hosting, friends can visit, and we can start gardening and home brewing.

So, what will this new chapter mean for my life?

Work will be the same, though I may look for some part time work depending on how expensive life gets. It has been a while since I was in a stable location for several years. I am pretty minimalist but there might be some unexpected needs or wants that pop up. Life on a bike is really cheap (you basically have only a cell phone and health insurance bill), living in a house is very different. The things I’m really excited about is focusing on rounding out my mental, spiritual, and physical fitness.

Health has a lot to do with diet and having a kitchen will put me in greater control of what goes into my tummy. Ideally I will be able to take my veganism closer to “raw” and cut out some of the processed foods that have been a part of my bike riding diet. I did a quick meal plan (below) and I should be able to spend less than $100 a week on food and easily meet my dietary needs. Also, and this is a big one, I’m basically cutting out alcohol for the next few months. The only time I will drink is special occasions, like an upcoming bachelorette party in Canada and my birthday in October. Other than that, I will try not to drink any alcohol and will not keep any in the house. Luckily, Anna supports this and has the same goals. Having a partner that shares your goals and methods is super important to success.

In addition to my food, exercise is going to be important for me to feel healthy. It would be really easy for me to get out of shape when we stop. A major benefit of the bike ride was activity was a necessary part of life, now I will need to make an effort. Anna and I signed up for a half-marathon to help with motivation and I will be joining the local YMCA to use their weight room, pool, and yoga classes. We are also joining a local cycling and running club to get some community support and to make friends. I’m also interested in barre and martial arts, but I’m not sure if I will jump into that right away.

I’ve never run a half-marathon before. In fact, I really haven’t run at all since my time in Army, so I have no idea what I’m doing. But, then again, I had never really biked before my first cross-country ride and that seemed to turn out okay. I am taking precautions with the running and will be consulting with professionals to make sure I have the right shoes and get a training plan that works for me. I know that running uses different muscles than cycling and is harder on the knees. As much as I want robot knees someday I don’t think the technology is advanced enough in 2016, so I should probably take care of my body.

I will be very likely be recording this time in detail and blogging about it. I want to keep track of my weight, measurements, and such during the few months leading up to the half-marathon. During this time I will take lots of nude pictures to have a visual record of this time, and they will probably be shared on this site. Don’t worry, I will provide ample warnings to prevent anyone from accidentally seeing my booty or flaccid penis in these non-sexual (kind of medical) pics.

This break will also give me an opportunity to focus more on my writing. I am dedicated to finishing the book about my solo cross-country bike ride, as well as submitting some of my sci-fi story ideas to be published. Anna and I are also working on a series of children’s books about our adventures around the US and a “Couple’s Guide to Adventuring” that will share what we’ve learned by spending two years together cycling nearly 10,000 miles.

Another thing we are looking forward to is accomplishing things that are impossible on the road. We want to expand our sex life to be more than just “maintenance sex”, we want to start gardening, and I want to become fluent in a foreign language. I’ll also be doing a lot of reading about transpersonal psychology to decide if that is a future career path.

To be honest, the thing I’m looking forward to most is building a community. Some of the clubs we will join will help with that, but I also want to start volunteering. I’m sure I can find local animal shelters, LGBT community centers, women’s shelters, and Planned Parenthood facilities that can use support and volunteers. The kindness of strangers has been such a part of my life and I want to make sure I’m returning the karma.

Anyway, I’m fucking excited and I can’t stop making lists and schedules and researching all the things I want to do. My little heart is all a flutter with the possibilities.

 

*Facebook Announcement*
“After a short conversation, Anna and I have decided to stop the bike ride for a few years after this next week. There were several factors that influenced this decision. None of them alone would be enough for us to alter our plans, but all of them together made us realize that we needed to change.

First, we just weren’t having that much fun anymore. Our frustration and stress runs deeper than the shitty roads of the south. We both started dreading the days when we had to ride. We love cycling, but that doesn’t mean we want to be forced to do it. It is better to stop now than to keep going until we hate it.

Second, we have been presented with an opportunity to live with our friendIvy for a few months and then move to Wilmington for a few years. As wonderful as it is to travel, we haven’t really had solid home since 2014 and we miss it a bit. We want to do home brewing, yoga, gardening, go on our honeymoon, get tattoos, learn to dance, begin fire staff again, take up rock climbing or surfing, foster animals, go to Burning Man, host Couchsurfers, take classes, etc, and that is more plausible with a home.

Third, the current logistics would make much of our journey a terrible rush… and we don’t want that. It is hot as balls and we would be on time crunch to get north.

So, what does that mean for you?
Probably nothing, unless you want to come visit us in Wilmington and hang out on the beach in the next few years. You have a place with us.

Post-Script: There was a surprising surge of anxiety about this while we discussed it. We felt like we were quitters or something… Luckily, we realized that bullshit. It is our life to do what we wish, and that includes changing your mind. You shouldn’t let past decision prevent future pleasure.”

*Starting Meal Plan*
Total Calories: ~2,000
Protein: ~77g
Fat: ~65g
Carbs: ~227g

Breakfast – Oatmeal with fruit, black bean and veggie scramble, avocado toast (~820 calories)
Snack 1 – Almonds (~100 calories)
Lunch – Veggie wraps (~450 calories)
Snack 2 – Grilled tofu salad (~150 calories)
Dinner – Veggie soup or bowl or chili (~300 calories)
Snack 3 – Fruit and nuts (150 calories)

Starting Meal

Towards Physical Potential

During the last couple of days I’ve been giving a lot of thought towards my post from Saturday. One thing I’ve been thinking about is how I was slightly dishonest in my original post. I talked a lot about wanting to be healthy and seeing what my body’s potential is at this time in life. Those things are true, as someone who thinks science will allow us to conquer death I need to be healthy enough to get to that point, and someday I won’t have an unaltered body and I think it’d be cool to see what she can do before robotics and computers start fusing with my biological shell.

Those two reasons aren’t the full truth, part of it is my desire to be considered more conventionally attractive and sexy. It is superficial, but it is true. I also realize my own discomfort with my body plays a part in that. I think that is partly why I will be taking and sharing nude photos during this experiment, hopefully seeing some photographic changes will encourage me to keep going and continue down my path to accept and love my body. And maybe it will also help someone else. When I share these photos on my blog I will put a content warning at the top and they will be at the very bottom of the post, just in case someone wants to read my updates but do not want to see me naked.

Another thing I’ve been thinking about is how this would work and when I will start. It is tempting to wait until after the bike ride to start. To have a fresh point in which it begins without other things going on in my life. That is really a pipe dream, there will always be a reason to push it off another day, week, month, or year. The time will never be perfect to get things moving. So, I’m leaning towards starting this sooner rather than later, now I just got to figure out how I’m going to go about this experiment.

Measuring inputs and outputs to gather data (because gathering data makes me happy) is gong to be one of the major challenges when I do this from the road. Taking photos and doing measurements at least once a week is easy enough. Weighing myself on a scale is pretty difficult, but weight isn’t a measurement anyway. Internal vitals (blood pressure, cholesterol levels, etc) are nearly impossible to do right now. I hate to start off without a baseline or any system in place to measure these things along the way, but maybe that type of in depth analysis will need to wait. It is also easy enough to get some measurements for how my physical strength has improved by taking an Army APFT every month or two to see how my push-ups, sit-ups, and 2-mile run has improved. I’ll probably throw pull-up in there for good measure.

The inputs are easier to track. It just takes some discipline to record what I do each hour, how much time I spend sitting, biking, meditating, exercising, what foods I eat, how much water I drink, etc. Ideally I’d record it all on my computer as I do it, but that could get cumbersome so I’ll probably use a notepad and enter it later into Cronometer.com and a shared excel document.

My food plan is pretty basic. I’m going to use the information from The Blue Zones solution to plot my meals. I am also limited to being vegan because of my ethics and being on the bike ride means I don’t have access to cooking or refrigeration. I’m basically stuck with produce, bread products, and canned goods. Luckily, that is all fairly healthy as long as I avoid junk food. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth so that won’t be a huge problem. I’m not going to stick to a strict calorie limit, instead I will eat when I’m hungry and try to be aware of portions. Portioning is difficult for me, particularly on the bike ride. I end up being ravenous after biking and devour more food than my body needs. I like the idea of meditative eating where you focus on the act of eating and eat slowly, in my experience I enjoy food more when I do it this way and I don’t mindlessly snack or eat.

Here is a rough idea what my ideal daily schedule will look like, based on how I generally live on the bike ride:

  • 0700 hours: Wake, eat first meal (Bowl of oatmeal, piece of fruit, handful of almonds, coffee), 10 minutes of Sun Salutations, 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation, write blog post, pack up camp
  • 0900 hours: Bike one hour
  • 1000 hours: Hummus wrap with lots of veggies, piece of fruit
  • 1045 hours: Bike one hour
  • 1145 hours: Peanut butter and jelly sandwich, 30 minutes exercise
  • 1245 hours: Bike one hour
  • 1345 hours:  Handful of almonds or energy bar, work for a couple hours, coffee
  • 1600 hours: Hummus wrap with lots of veggies
  • 1615 hours: Bike one hour
  • 1715 hours: Handful of almonds, 30 minutes of exercise
  • 1800 hours: Bike one hour
  • 1900 hours: Half a can of beans, lentils, or soup, hummus wrap with lots of veggies, set up camp, 10 minutes of yoga, push ups, plank

Now, I have the challenge of setting up an excel document to track everything. The big worry here is becoming a slave to the system and feeling like a failure if I miss a day or make a mistake or whatever. We will see how it goes, but I’m excited. I figure even if I only reach 50% of my input goals I will be moving in the right direction and that the project will be a success.

My photos will be shared here: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B-wiz3LAg756THI2dEs5S1BQQW8&usp=sharing

The excel document tracking everything is here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-wiz3LAg756RnBCN1RrRUpERU0/view?usp=sharing

Out of the Bay and Into the Wine

Pre-PostWell, despite my half-ass efforts I have not really maintained this blog in addition to the other two I’m running. I think I will just start posting the same thing here that I post on the blog for our 2-year bike ride, Barely Functional Adults. This was originally posted on May 5. As a reminder,this is pretty much an uncensored version of the events of our bike ride. If you are uncomfortable hearing about sex, drugs, profanity, etc you should check follow our PG-version at www.10LegsWillTravel.wordpress.com . This is a warning. If you don’t want to hear about these adult actions please leave now.

So, I feel like the last post was kind of shitty. I wasn’t really in the mood to write but felt the need for force myself to. I should have known this is a mistake. I love writing, but if I’m not in the mood it is obvious. Sorry for the shitty writing last time… onward to better things.

Leaving San Francisco was bitter-sweet. We were all eager to get on the road again but that city had a great feeling to it. It takes something special to make us feel vanilla but the kinky sexy vibe that seemed to ooze from the city was enough to make us feel “normal”. Basically, we loved it. There is something about the titillation that comes from being in a place that doesn’t hide, fear, or shame sex that makes the spirit feel truly alive. I am sure we will all be back, in fact, it is likely we will all live there at some point, but probably not after our bike ride. It was just too expensive and crowded for our current tastes, after Los Angeles we need something a little smaller to call home.

Anyway, we headed out from San Francisco towards the East Bay (probably not the right phrase, I have no idea what the fuck I’m talking about most of the time). We took a ferry into Oakland, rode through Oakland and Berkeley, and into the hills to the north. Our plan for Friday was to crash with Anna’s cousin and her husband, Katie and Neal. The ride itself had a few hills but the real thing that stuck in our minds was the difference between Oakland and Berkeley. The ride through Oakland felt a little dangerous… the roads poorly maintained, zero bike lanes, and traffic that seemed mostly unregulated. We saw cop cars all over the place and the police presence was strong. Berkeley was only a few blocks away but felt incredibly different with freshly paved roads, dedicated bike routes, slow traffic, and the only people we saw were college students and random touristy pedestrians. It is kind of crazy how the environment in the US can change block to block.

Katie and Neal put us up at their gorgeous house in Orlinda. Even though they were in the process of repainting the house they opened their doors to us. They had some amazing decks… I love a good deck, they are great for BBQing, banging in an exhibitionist way, enjoying a fine cigar, and just relaxing after a long day of work/play. We didn’t bang, BBQ, or have a cigar on their deck but we did get a chance to relax a bit, share a beer, and then go out for some Thai food. I had only met Katie and Neal once before this and it was awesome to spend some more time with them. I really hope we get a chance to hang out more in the future.

We left Orlinda late in the morning to go to my cousin’s house. I had not seen Emily, my cousin, in a long time… with the exception of my grandmother’s funeral it has been almost a decade. Emily and I always had a bit of a rivalry going, we are the two oldest of our clans and I think that lead to some unnecessary, but probably predictable, hostility between us. Luckily, this trip really showed how that negativity towards us was no longer the case. I had a fucking awesome time hanging out with Emily, her husband Joe, and their four kids. I am often pretty negative towards the idea of having kids, and many times it seems people have kids for all the wrong reasons. That isn’t the case with Emily and Joe, they are doing parenting right (in my unhumble opinion). Their kids are all individuals and are encouraged to pursue their own passions. They are taught not to judge and embrace individuality. If I had kids I hope I would be able to raise them as well as Emily and Joe do. It was fucking awesome to share beer, Jager bombs, and some great conversations that hit every subject with them.

Our time with Emily in Hercules eventually ended and we hit the road with a lot of hope for the future and a wicked hangover. Apparently when you try to bike up a hill with 100 lbs in tow after a night of Jager you kind of just want to die, especially when you find yourself being passed by a couple hundred friendly people in bright jerseys who want to greet you with a smile and a conversation. I never knew smiling people in bright yellow could inspire rage and vomit.

The next cities on our list were Sonoma and Santa Rosa. According to Wikipedia there are not any people in Sonoma, just a bunch of grapes and rich people on vacation. Wikipedia is wrong. I was able to find a couchsurfer in Sonoma and she agreed to let us fall asleep in her living room. It turned out to be an amazing city, probably because of the people we met. We got into town around 4pm and met up with our host (Suzanne… or Sue as everyone else called her, I never know what to call people…) at a local Irish bar. In case you are wondering, this is a good sign. Our brief meeting with Sue turned into several hours of drinking beer with a variety of people she knew. There was Sue, Kenneth, Kyle, and the hot vegan couple whose names I can’t remember (I’d tap that). To be honest, I felt really welcome with the group. It was like a bunch of old friends in a sitcom rotating around for comic relief and just enjoying life. We talked about Burning Man, were open about MDMA use, discussed brewing beer, and a whole lot of other things. The conversations just seemed so natural, which is good for three introverts like us.

Sue’s roommates ended up being just as cool. Even though Sue wasn’t around when we arrived but Natalie and Brian (or Bryan??) made us feel right at home. I really wasn’t expecting that from Sonoma, it seemed like a hole-in-the-wall town but it had a lot of love in it. It felt like a potential home but, sadly, we only got one night there. Oh well, now we head out to Santa Rosa for some beers and a couple days of rest.

Post-Post 1: Also, we have set up a GoFundMe account for our ride. If you enjoy the adventure or just want to receive a post card, booty pic, or vegan meal check us out here

Post-Post 2: If you would like to see all our pictures you can check out our Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/10legswilltravel.

Next Step

Today was my first real “work day” off since I quit my job. It is time to really buckle down and focus on things for the next couple of months as I prepare for my bike ride. It is an interesting feeling being unemployed, but it feels good and this is why I live very minimalistically and save money. I have known for about a year that the office life is not for me, there is something soul-sucking for me to commute and sit in a cube each day in front of a screen, particularly when I feel most jobs can be done from home, a beach, or some place less creatively stifling. The people I worked with for the last year and a half were absolutely fantastic and I plan on staying in touch with them for a long time, but the office life isn’t for me and I felt myself in danger of being numbed down and sucked into it long term. So, I quit and now I have 157 days until the next adventure starts.

I’m going to be spending a lot of time focusing on my writing, fitness, and other interests over the next few months. This blog will likely reflect that journey, as well as dig deeper into my views on politics, religion, relationships, and current events. I am really hoping to increase the quality and the quantity of the posts on my blog, as well as become more interactive with the blogs I follow regularly. A major focus will be finishing the book of my cross-country ride last year. I don’t necessarily think I will make a lot of money off it but if I can create something that draws a few dollars in over time it could really be beneficial to Anna and I. Part of good writing to me is reading, so bookshelf (Kindle and real world) will likely get much larger and greater use, and expect more book reviews.

I will also be implementing serious daily exercise which will primarily be bike rides and yoga, but if I can find a inexpensive way to add weights or other exercises to the routine I will do that as well. Some extra skills that I’m going to be working on is cooking (the ladies love a good cook… right?), an undetermined musical instrument, and a foreign language. I just can’t imagine living my life without learning how to communicate in another tongue or with language of music. Of course, this time will also be used to further my formal education as much as I can and chart out what steps I need to take to get into providing psychological support for those that need it.

All in all, I’m excited. My first day was not as productive as I would have liked but I have a nice dinner started for the lovely ladies I live with (sweet potato gnocchi with seared brussels sprouts and tarragon cream) and am starting a schedule for tomorrow. Hopefully with some experimentation I will get into a routine of happiness.