personal

Mo’olelo

“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.”  - Mahatma Gandhi

 

Our stories certainly describe the world in which we have traveled, in which we have lived and by which we have been shaped. Our stories inform us the ways in which we have been conditioned, and perhaps describe the ways in which we have transcended those conditions. These conditions and conditionings describe the outlines, are the contours and edges of our identities, both allowing us the scaffolding on which to construct meaningful lives, and also confining us to the parameters of that scaffolding. As we find the pathways of our lives' interwoven with one another, we enrich and enliven that contextual scaffolding, and so sharing stories has always been a meaningful and significant act to me. Being intentional in this endeavor, building new structures and scaffolding that I know are destined to be transcended, I hope to add to the context of the world, some richness to its texture, and not just blindly live out the momentum of my experience, merely coming and going with the wind.

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Just Sit: Providing an introduction to meditation practice, exploring clinical and recovery applications, and examining the Buddhist roots of the modern mindfulness practice

 

Mindfulness: the new buzzward in pop psychology. You can't throw a stone these days without hearing someone mention mindfulness, see a new study on mindfulness, or run into some new guru trying to sell their particular flavor of mindfulness practice. There's so much information and chatter out there that the regular Jane or Joe might not know quite where to begin in tackling this "new fangled" thing. Where to start? Who to listen to? How to apply it? What the heck is it? What should I expect? How in the world can it actually help me?

This post is here to help, and is intended to be a nice starting off and reference point for a good meditative practice. As such, this includes a bunch of information and resources on basic mindfulness meditation, but also looks briefly at the clinically proven Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, looks into Buddhist meditation specifically, and finally explores Buddhist meditation from a substance abuse recovery perspective. While this motherload of information might be more than you are specifically looking for, this all inclusive introduction instructional of sorts is likely going to contain something that will suit you. There are three basic sections to this post, included with every section is a collection of links to some of my favorite books and resources relevant to that topic. These books are all well vetted, and selected not only for their relevence to topic, but by the legitimacy and reputation of the writers. They are, in short, relevant and reliable, and are presented here to introduce you to some well respected authors and well established teachers.

I hope that there is something here for you, as this should provide a great starting off point. There are links to some great guided meditations, some wonderful books, and some great videos from some rather brilliant folks. Please enjoy.

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A Tally of Banannas

Monkey BuddhaOn my mind as of late has been the realization that we are all merely hairless apes that found a  way off of the African savannas. Listen to the crowd roaring in an appreciative cacophony, "SCIENCE!" they cry, and, "EVOLUTION!" Huzzah, I add.

As a subtle result of this, I have been inadvertently thinking, among other things, "Mere humans, you are nothing more than arrogant apes, following hairless ape patterns, principles, perversions and instincts, and yet you do think so highly of yourself. You even think that a human-like PERSON created the entire universe, and that you are the center of it. That is very ape like, very DUMB and self centerd. Grow up, see past your nose." Not about a rejecting God here, just that particular idea. I personally think that God, or the Ultimate Transcendental Cosmic Intelligent Beingness is beyond human form, beyond binary sexual identification, beyond all that jazz. I also happen to find deep inspiration in the concept that so are we, deep in the core of our being, beyond the human form that is constantly changing, constantly withering away, constantly in need of maintenance. It's all relative, right? We just get to make awesome stuff with all of this stuff while we're here... and we're apparently here, so... So anyway, I had it wrong. It isn't just so that the mere human is in need of being humbled, and reminded of the inner ape within all of us in the light of our huge hubris, not just so. Actually, it's quite just so that we should consider considering the ape with a much higher regard.

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A great place to start

For a good long while I found myself very miserable, and very overweight. I was always eating way too large of portions of horrible foods all too often, being very sedentary in my spare time, drinking too much, smoking, never exercising, living in constant stress, etc., etc.,.. While I lived this way, I was in no way happy with how the way that I was living was making me feel, and what it kept me from being able to do. Things like riding a bike or climbing stairs without wheezing, feeling good about myself, or knowing I could accomplish for myself. I knew, for some time that I wanted, that I needed a change in my life. I knew what I wanted to be but I had zero idea how to get form where I was then, to where I am now: healthy, fit, active, glad to be alive with the knowledge that if I set my heart and mind to something that I will achieve it. I know that rather than believe it because every moment I exist, I am constantly reminded by the truly amazing way I feel, and the obvious transformation that I have put my body through.

When I landed in the hospital over and over again due to hypertension, stress, and debilitating anxiety attacks I knew I had to make a change, or continue to suffer serious consequences. It took me several months to finally discover the way to treat myself in order to achieve my personal best direction. It took a lot of shifting in focus and the relationship I had with my basic environment had to change subtly and consistently over time in order to realize what I wanted to be doing. A friend recently asked me where a good place to start getting fit is for someone a good 40 pounds overweight. I had that same problem about a hundred pounds ago, and wish someone would have been able to tell me then, what I know now, and offer me the simple tools I am now able to offer my good friends and brothers and sisters who are just starting out their fitness journey.

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Reset and restart!

It's official, the P90X doubles routine kicked my butt two times in a row. I have been out of commission for about a month due to two shoulder injuries, on top of the flu, on top of some crazy stress from my school this semester. This is a lesson learned: don't overdo it! I definitely piled on too much, and my immune system, nerves, and muscles all got angry at me for doing it.

I don't think I'll be attempting the doubles routine again for a while. Maybe next summer, or after this next round? If anybody out there has actually finished the P90X doubles routine, I would love to hear any tips! As for right now, I am moving on to P90X Plus. I have officially graduated from P90X (doubles is extra credit, not a required course!), so it's on to the next step...and I have to get training for a potential triathlon, or a different long distance cycling project this summer, and time is ticking!

I won't be uploading my progress from this last doubles routine, I was able to increase my total weight and reps, get down to the weight mark I was shooting for, and I have shrunk, yet again, out of my jeans, but I'm not putting up the spread sheets for this one. I'll post progress after this round of Plus, which starts this afternoon. I'm also going to get some photos for before and after this time, promise!

So my system has recovered, I have reset my schedule, and I am restarting the program. I've made a promise not to overdo it, or to get all worked up about the numbers. It's about feeling good, not having a big ego! Anyway, off to the races, people!

EDIT: almost forgot! There's a custom made excel spreadsheet (you are welcome) for tracking P90X Plus progress! Let me know if you love or hate it!

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One year anniversary of a very important date

NO-SMOKING

So, one day shy of exactly one year ago, I posted a quick article about making it one whole week without any tobacco intake. It was not an easy decision to make to quite smoking cigarettes...for good, and here I sit, over one whole year later, an accomplished man. In that post I pointed out how I was coping with the tension and withdraws: by working out. Weights and cardio all the way. That was my approach. It was health that I was after, so putting the focus on actively doing healthy things instead of the negation of unhealthy things just seemed to make sense to me.

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Announcing: New feature on NousEssence - poetry!

I'm pleased to announce the addition of a new section to the site's content: "Joshp's Poetry". The content of this section will NOT, by default, be promoted to the Front Page of Nous Essence, nor will it be, by default, featured on the main feed for the site. But you may see, from time to time, snippets of the work which I decide are nice enough to promote appear in your reader if you are a subscriber to the main site feed. If you are interested in subscribing to the poetry/prose feed directly, just click on this link.

I have been writing poetry, prose, lyrics, short fictions, and literary experiments for the better part of 15 years, and have now decided to filter through the entire existing body of my work, burn the terrible word-vomiting, and publish and/or rework anything that I feel deserves attention. If you subscribe, I look forward to your comments and your support!

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P90X Round three....take two!

So...My first attempt at doing the P90X Doubles routine...failed. This routine adds a CardioX workout to 3 days of the weeks in phase two, and 4 days of the weeks in phase three. This is adding in 2 hours and 15 minutes of workout a week in phase two, and three additional hours a week to phase three. I made it into phase three, second week (week 10 overall) and the holidays hit. Too much running around, really. Too many commitments with time, and a serious loss of will-power. This was the fail. I made the excuse that I have been going strong since April, so why not just take an extra week off? But I still didn't eat like a pig, or gain substantial weight or size, so this is good.

Now, if you look at the spread-sheet attached to this post, then you might see the dates don't add up. If I started in early October, then I should have been almost done by Christmas. Well, here's the other reason I had to press reset: during the middle of the second phase of this round, I had an abscess form under my right arm. Apparently the antiperspirant I was using found a way into my pores, clogged it up, and caused an infection. Sweet. I had a forced open hole in my armpit for a week or two, and then had to let it heal. So, time out for working out. Lesson learned: antiperspirant is product of the devil!

While this is no huge loss, I am a bit bummed out that this has kept me from reaching my weight/size goal for the new year. I wanted to be down to a size 32 waist for certain, and perhaps a size 30 if I could manage it. I am sitting pretty at 34, 215-220 lbs depending on the time of day I weigh myself (I was actually fluxing 10 lbs from morning to afternoon there for a while, is this normal?).

With all of that lost time, I just decided to reset the system and start over. Yes, I am going to do the doubles, again, I'm committed to getting through this. I'm still very, very pleased with the results from my 2 1/2 rounds of p90x so far, and as soon as I get through these doubles I want to try out the P90X Plus! routine, I'm looking forward to that. I also have my eye on a totally other program: Muscle & Fitnes System Home Training program. H'mmm. We'll see, I suppose. I don't think that one is as fine tuned as P90X. In the mean time, I have to get my momentum back, there's a noticeable loss of endurance and energy, so I seriously need to get that back. Yes, i can still get through the workout, but it's just that much more grueling after all of this lost time!

Well, after all of that, and a renewed commitment, looks like all I can do is to do my best, and forget the rest! (Thanks Tony!)

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Flood!

NEAR MISS!

So, here in south-eastern Michigan, on December 27th, just 2 days after Christmas, we have a flood-watch in effect. WTF? It is rainy and all of the snow is melting. All of the ice blocks are diminishing and running off in their little streams towards the rivers and drains. While some may rejoice in this odd, out of season weather by hanging out in their shorts on their new balconies, I think there is some cause for alarm. I mean, it IS Michigan, and it SHOULD be cold and snowy and unpleasant. Every venture out of the house should be a life and death adventure of man vs. wild, pitting our best wooley sweaters against all the fury of the Everlasting Winter of The Gods of The North as it descends upon us for a season testing our mettle and worth. Not this year. Not today.

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A Brief Note On Family...

My mom could not biologically have children, something wrong with her insides. My older brother and I were adopted. The family I was raised in as a boy, a chosen/created family, was so ideal, so full of love and warmth and care, so connected and dedicated that I never really questioned my belonging. But I knew friends who's families were anything but warm, anything but actively, outwardly loving. Those were biological families. I met my biological mother, it was surreal, and I would love to write a book about it, about the strange feeling of magnetic connection, a blood awareness...which was and is not love, and how that contrasts with what a family requires to BE a family.

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I DID IT!!! what? p90x BABY!!!

Two days ago I spent an hour doing a series of relaxing, rejuvenating stretches. Over the course of the last three months I have gotten to set aside on hour per week to doing that, one of the things that keep me looking forward each week. After spending an hour to an hour and a half each of the other six days of the week grinding my way through grueling and vigorous work out programs, that stretch comes with a real sigh of relief. Not only is it a great relaxation, but it is a great moment of pride and accomplishments, since it means I have put one of the 13 weeks of the work-out cycle behind me. But the stretch I did two days ago came with even a greater sense of relief and pride, since it marked the FINAL DAY, and hence completion of a full round of the P90X workout program!!!

I DID IT!!!

Yes, I know what you're thinking..."Is he, then, now ripped?" Well...I can say I lost (at last count over a week ago) 3 inches, and about 20 pounds, have gained A LOT of muscle mass, am stronger and more flexible now than I ever have been...and it feels GREAT! I am going to do another round...another 90 days, and this time I am going to post before and after pics at the end, along with detailed measurements. To be honest, I was too ashamed of myself to take the obligatory "before" pics 3 months ago, but now I really wish I had, because I know that the change is phenomenal just from the way that I feel when I wake up every day! THANK YOU Tony Horton!

One last thing that I want to say about this. I have struggled with weight since I was in the 4th grade. Going through periods of excessive gain, to periods of profound skinniness...the unhealthy toothpick variety, and back again. Like a pendulum. But I have never been strong like this. I have never before 1) been more confident in my ability to keep the inches off 2) been more confident in my ability to become stronger, leaner, and healthier, and 3) been more confident of the fact that, while I am not in absolute, optimal fitness and shape, I am EXACTLY where I aught to be, and I am pretty damn proud of myself.

See you in 90 days.

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The return and conclusion of Avatar: The Last Airbender

I just read that Nick's great cartoon 'Avatar: The Last Airbender' is coming back on Monday, July 14th for the season and series conclusion! See this awesome trailer, and be amazed...



Yes...I hope that the good folks at AvatarSpirit.net got their news right!

 

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My Entire Body Is Sore

Well, here I am, on the 16th day of training on the p90x fitness program (which I mentioned here a few weeks ago), and I still have not 1) died from exhaustion or 2) simply given up! That's right kiddies, I am working on my 3rd week of this pretty INTENSE fitness program, and even though my body is stiff and pained EVERY DAY, I am plodding along (even dieting to go with it). I am proud of my once chronically unfit self.

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The challenge undertaken

So, I thought it worthwhile to mention that I have embarked on yet another journey. In a bold maneuver designed to take my life in a totally new and fresh direction I have decided to engage myself upon the worthy path of P90X!

That's right, I have gotten myself the Beachbody P90X fitness program, and at first glance, it's no joke. There are twelve different intense workouts that get all shuffled about, keeping you working (HARD) every single day. There is an incredibly detailed nutrition plan, and it leaves NO room for mistaking. This thing looks merciless, but I feel I'm up for the challenge.

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