Z is for Zafu

As far as I can tell from my Journals, I started meditation back in early 2011. I was intrigued with all the benefits that could be derived from regular practice, not the least of which at the time was staving off alzheimer’s disease.

I read several books on meditation but more helpful than the ones on “how to” (Mindfulness in Plain English, by Henepola Gunaratana; Books by Deepak Chopka) were the ones by ordinary people who went into it as skeptics and came out believers. I especially liked 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story by Dan Harris. 

So I began meditating. I wanted to do it “right” of course, with the right mantra, breathing technique, body position, etc., and slowly worked up to 30-minute meditation sessions. The major problem I found was my very inflexible legs and the stiffness-to-the-point-of-pain trying to get out of position when I was done!

Then I discovered the Zafu! This wonderful, sturdy little pillow in just the right contour, size and firmness allowed me to meditate in the “right” position without agony. Now I can focus on my breathing, let my thoughts float away like little puffy clouds in the sky and come away refreshed and peaceful instead of in pain.

Total investment: $30.00

Totally worth it!

 

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Y is for Yoga

Yoga is one of those things that is good for whatever ails you:

  • Improves sex life
  • improves flexibility
  • Is a great cardio workout (especially if you are doing Yoga X with Tony!)
  • Helps with Mindfulness
  • Is great strength-training
  • Can be done in a social setting/class or on one’s own.

I’ve run the gamut with yoga, but two of my more unusual encounters were the two times I ventured to try Hot Yoga (too hot! I don’t really like to sweat when I work out…), and the three times (so far) that I’ve done 108 Sun Salutations in alignment with the Equinoxes and Solstices. This last I must say was very satisfying. Somewhere about halfway through the 108, I get into a rhythmic, meditative mode and it is not difficult at all. I usually end up doing 109 or 110 just in case I missed a couple!

Yoga doesn’t require much in the way of equipment, none is fine, but I did invest in a Yoga Ball ($20) (which I used as my office chair for the 10 years I was a library manager) and a couple yoga mats ($10) over the years.

Yoga continues to be a large part of my fitness routine. At the very least, even on those days when I can’t manage to do anything else in the way of exercise, I will do three Sun Salutations.

Namaste!

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X is for (P90)X

My son started the P90X phase in our family, and he shared it with his sister. Once they both of them began talking about it, I got interested, figuring it was something I could do be a part of their worlds.

P90X is not for wimps; but encouraged by my kids’ enthusiasm, I pushed through the three-month program. This is probably the most intense exercise program I have ever undertaken, right up there with training for my marathon. I faithfully followed the daily routines, experiencing only a minor difficulty when, in the last month we took a trip to London for 3 weeks. Our lodging was a second floor flat that was crowded with fussy furniture, allowing me only a small space for my hour-long routine. Not sure what the landlord, in the downstairs flat was thinking during all that jumping around on his ceiling…

Total investment: Time only. I already had some free-weights I could use; the kids let me use their videos.

I felt like I got quite a bit stronger as a result of that intense of workouts for a prolonged period, but I can’t see doing the full program again. I will do individual videos in the series as a part of my ongoing exercise, some of my favorites being the Ab-Ripper X, Kenpo, Yoga X and Plyometrics.

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W is for (chi) Walking

Towards the end of 2013 I picked up a book at the library called Chi Walking by Danny Dreyer. I tried it out and was amazed at how much faster and easier I was able to walk! It took some time to consciously align my body to the posture of chi walking but after awhile it seems to come more naturally.

I tend to chi walk more when I am alone, as I do walk faster that way, and my companion tends to walk slower than my “regular” gait as it is.

Chi Walking is mindful walking. I like it because it is low-impact, yet highly aerobic. It engages the core so I feel like I am getting a much more complete workout from my walk.

Total investment: $0 (It was a library book!)

Still doing it? Check!

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I advocate any kind of walking, chi or otherwise!

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V is for Vegetarian

In June 0f 2013 I wrote this in my journal:

June 12th:

Definitely leaning towards vegetarianism. “The average age (longevity) of a meat eater is 63. I am on the verge of 85 and still work as hard as ever. I have lived quite long enough and am trying to die; but I simply cannot do it. A single beef-steak would finish me; but I cannot bring myself to swallow it. I am oppressed with the dread of living forever. That is the only disadvantage of vegetarianism. ” George Bernard Shaw

Told [one daughter] and she said to wait until after we visit her because she’s planned meals that have meat. Sent [husband] a link about the bad stuff in meat and he is onboard with it as well. [Other daughter’s family] stopped by with Father’s Day cards and gifts. I made oatmeal coconut cookies. Gave [daughter] our ham and bacon. She said she’ll save it for next week when we go back to eating meat. haha.

June 13th:

Today was a total vegetarian day. I don’t know how long I can last with meat and fish still in the freezer and our beach trip coming up, but I want to do as much as often as I can.

My experiment with being a vegetarian lasted about 3 months. Once again I immersed myself in the literature, watching a video called “Planeat,” read Forks Over Knives by Caldwell Esselstyn, My Beef with Meat, by Rip Esselstyn, The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability, by Lierre Keith, In Defense of Food, An Eater’s Manifesto, by Michael Pollan,  had in-depth discussions with avowed vegetarians I knew, but by July 15th I recorded this:


I went to Costco and bought  2 chickens for Rachel. They were roasted and looked and smelled good and I thought, “I should get one for our dinner tonight,” then I remembered that I don’t eat chicken anymore. haha. I guess I’m taking the slow route to vegetarianism!

I decided I wanted to live more in moderation. Today we rarely eat red meat, getting our protein from fish, beans and eggs (I could never be vegan because of eggs but buy them from my friend who has chickens and whom I know raises them humanely) and try to have a more plant-focused diet. I take my cue from Doctrine & Covenants 89, which Mormons refer to as the Word of Wisdom, which reads in part:

10 And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man—11. Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving. 12.Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;  13. And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.

14. All grain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life, not only for man but for the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and all wild animals that run or creep on the earth;  15. And these hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger. 16. All grain is good for the food of man; as also the fruit of the vine; that which yieldeth fruit, whether in the ground or above the ground—

18. And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; 19. And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures; 20. And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.

A careful study of these verses lend weight to vegetarianism (for how often now are we in times of famine?), but as it is also given for the “weakest of the saints,” they too, can find justification in eating meat “sparingly.” After all, one can be 100% vegetarian and have an unhealthy diet consisting of Twinkies…

What we eat is a personal decision. As I pay attention to my body and how it reacts/deals with what I put into it, I fine-tune the optimal diet for me. fruits-vegetables

 

 

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U is for Unshod

Have you ever experienced or heard about something and immediately it felt right and true to you? That’s how I felt when I first heard about Earthing.

Basically, Earthing is deriving benefit of physical contact with the earth: barefeet on dirt, grass, or water.

In today’s world of concrete and isolation, we are far removed from the generative energy that comes from Mother Earth. When we are able to make direct contact with the surface of the Earth our bodies receive a charge of energy that restores balance and infuses us with positive feelings and renewed energy.

Living in a climate that doesn’t allow for much barefoot walking for several months of the year, I look forward to being able to get back to Mother Nature once again.

Total Investment: If you don’t go in for the sleep mats, this is a totally free “thing.”

Related articles:

“5 Reason to walk barefoot”

“Earthing”

 

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T is for TSFL

TSFL is the acronym for Take Shape For Life® , a food management program. I met up with a TSFL health coach while we were in England. I am not usually one to buy into regulated programs of prepared foods (ie. Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, etc) but I bought into this one. It was the old problem of trying to get rid of the “last 10 pounds” over and over again with little to no success, only this time compounded by the added 10 pounds of culture shock of life in England (think of scones, clotted cream, fudge, Cadbury chocolate and a slew of other British specialties that I was wrestling with to no avail.)

Once again, if I am going to do something (and invest money in doing it) I’m going to do it 100%, so I gave it my all and in 6 weeks I had lost close to 15 pounds. The food was (for the most part) tasty, and the ability to snack every 2 hours was a plus. I also believed in the principles of cutting out added sugars, dairy and simple carbs, and having a healthy meal of lots of green vegetables and protein once a day.

Nearing my goal, I tapered off on the program, but invested in a 2-month supply for a couple family members I wanted to encourage to eat healthy, and they fared well on the program as well.

This is not a long-term solution for me, but it was a good way to kickstart my healthy habits once again and provided much-needed encouragement.

Total investment: a One-month supply of food runs around $380.00.

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S is for Say NO!

“Say NO to HFCS” was my very first principle in my quest for greater nutrition and wellness. It was my oldest daughter who brought it to my attention more than 10 years ago. I was mostly enraged by the overtones of conspiracy to infiltrate and contaminate our food system.

Being made aware of the issue of high fructose corn syrup got me to read labels and read the literature. It started me on a path of being more mindful of what I eat, and what is being produced and put into our foods that could actually be harmful.

Eliminating HFCS was just the first step, which has since blossomed into many other “Say NO” items:

“Say No to Soy”–for two reasons, the first one was that soy was mostly produced by Monsanto and was therefore genetically modified. The second  was evidence of soy’s harmful effects on the body. Much of my information comes from Dr. Joseph Mercola at the Weston A. Price Foundation:

Common health problems linked to a high-soy diet include:

Most soy, perhaps about 80 percent or more, is also genetically modified, which adds its own batch of health concerns.

Which led to learning about Genetically Modified Food and,

“Say NO to GMO”

My biggest and most frequently recurring “thing” is to

“Say No to Sugar.” I tried to eliminate it completely, but that is nigh impossible (although I did it successfully for a full six months in 2012 and again 2014). I try to substitute dates, figs, and stevia for sweetness.

I read The Year of No Sugar by Eve O. Schaub, which convinced me it was doable, so I may try again to go 100%. With me and sugar it seems it has to be all or nothing as I recognize it as an addiction to which I am especially weak.

 

All the sugar products in my house right now

 

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R is for Running

I never liked sports in high school. I wasn’t on any teams, and tried at least once a month to get out of gym class…

I married a guy who likes sports–all kinds of sports: football, soccer, tennis, running…

He tried to get me to run with him a few times, but I always felt awkward and knew I was holding him back, so couldn’t get that excited about it.

Then I turned 50. That day I went for a walk by myself, and I said, “I can run a mile. I am going to mark this milestone by running a mile…” And I did. Something clicked that day; not a runner’s high by any means (I’ve never been able to get there) but something that made me not hate running anymore.

I didn’t have a great plan to run a marathon right away, but wanted to do this running thing the right way, so did a lot of reading and research. Thus my running went through various iterations, or what I’ll call, mini-“things”:

  • Apps. I’ve used Runkeeper, and when I got a Nike Fuel Band, their website to track my miles.
  • Sprints. As a tool for losing weights, I played with the idea of sprints as a way to burn more calories in a more efficient workout.
  • Barefoot running. This is my ideal, but given the dangers of foot injuries unless one is on a beach, I turned to using the Vibram 5-fingers shoes. These were great to use on trails, but not so good on road running.
  • Triathlons. I did two of these, women only triathlon sprints. They were a lot of fun and great things came from it: 1) I taught myself how to swim the crawl 2) I learned to love bicycling (and got a new bike!)
  • Marathon. On January 1, 2013 I ran a marathon. I committed to the idea and began training in September of 2012. Training was extremely difficult, once I got up into the 13-20 mile runs. I was still working full time and had to do these at 5 a.m. to allow enough time (no way I could do them AFTER working all day!) to get through them. Due to the season, these were often in cold, wet and always dark conditions. I had two goals for my marathon: 1) to run the whole distance, and 2) to finish under 5 hours. Came in at 4:53 having run the whole way, to the cheering of my 8 grandchildren. An experience to remember!
  • Fuel. I learned about this optimal fueling drink for long distances about the time I began contemplating a marathon. Here’s my chia seed drink recipe that I swear is what got me through my first (and probably only) marathon:
    • Chia Fresca

      • 2 cups water
      • 1.5 tbsp chia seeds
      • 1.5 tbsp fresh lemon or lime juice
      • Sweetener, to taste (I like 1.5 tbsp honey. that way it’s easy to remember all the portions are equal)

       

      1. Add chia and water into a jar or glass and stir very well to combine. Let sit for 10 minutes to allow the chia seeds to swell up. I like to use a jar with a lid so I can shake it up really well and break up the clumps of chia.

      2. Add lime or lemon juice (I prefer the lime) and sweetener. Stir (or shake) well to combine and enjoy!

 

Total investment: hard to say. Running doesn’t require a huge amount of equipment, but I’ve purchased at least 6 pairs of running shoes, two pairs of Vibram 5-fingers, various running outfits, a Nike Fuel band, and a bicycle since taking up this sport.

I don’t consider myself “a runner” but I do still run, maybe 4-6 miles a week as part of my regular exercise repertoire.

Natural Woman

Last leg of the 2012 Triathlon Sprint

 

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Q is for Quebec

Okay so this is a bit of a cheat: the post is more about Family History than it is about Quebec, but so much of my family history IS in Quebec that I felt totally justified.

It all started back in the early 80s, when I was living as a military spouse in Belgium. I had been doing my family history research for about 10 years by then, but it was slow going (without the Internet to assist…can you imagine??) and I only knew that my grandmother came from Canada. In Belgium I met a couple who were from Canada and they had friends–two sisters–back home that were also avid genealogists whom they assured me would be willing to assist me in my search for Canadians. I wrote to them with my meager information, and they got right on it, ordering microfilms to their local Family History Center.

[now this part gets a bit supernatural…]

The sisters reported back to me that as soon as they put the films on the reader and began scrolling to the right point where they hoped to find my relatives, they both turned to look towards the door, feeling at that moment that a large group of people had just entered the small research room. No one was there. They were alone. They turned back to their work and were quickly bombarded with information on my family that pushed my Canadian line back several generation, all in Quebec.

It was their feeling that there were folks who entered the room that day, unseen, who were there to be a part of their own research process. I believe that the veil between us and our departed family members is actually quite thin and they can be and are an influence in our lives. I believe I have received help with my work in finding my ancestors from those very ancestors who now are on the other side, pointing me in the right direction, motivating people to assist me, and helping me to find information crucial to their identities.

Why would they do that? Ah, now that is a post for another day, but to get an answer quickly, you could read more about Why Mormons Do Family Historyhere.

Or watch this video on Why Mormons Build Temples, here.

Over the years since that first introduction to my Quebecois family, I’ve continued to research the records concerning them, and continue to discover more of who they were, where they lived, and the major events they experienced. I actually feel like I know them and feel a bond between us. I look forward to actually meeting them in person one day!

Total Investment:

  • Hours and hours of time;
  • used to be a much higher financial investment as well, sending away for certified copies of Birth, Marriage, and Death records, postage costs of writing letters to potential relatives, government agencies, church records custodian.
  • It costs $7.50 to order a microfilm from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City to be delivered to a local Family History Center where it will remain for 3 months.
  • Optional cost could mean membership in genealogical societies or subscriptions to paid websites like Fold3.com, or GenealogyBank.com (the two I have paid to search).

 

Update: In a recent Face-to-Face interview with two apostles from the LDS Church to the youth of the church, I heard Elder Holland say this: (listen to his exact words here at about 1:13 in the broadcast):

Don’t beat yourself up for not being perfect; only the Savior is perfect. However, not to let you off the hook and say it doesn’t matter–it does matter. But that is the point of the things we’ve been talking about–the gifts of the Spirit, the power of prayer and the Atonement. There are all these ways..the Savior lived his life for us; the Father never sleeps nor slumbers…I love the idea that he never sleeps nor slumbers. He’s on the job 24/7 in an effort to bless us. We’ve got help; there are ways to do this; of course we fall short! But we’ve got help; a plan has been established for us to pursue, and steps to take and people around us, people on this side of the veil and people on the other side of the veil–don’t underestimate all of your family on the other side of the veil. All of those grandparents and great-grandparents on the other side that you don’t even know and have never even met–they are over there working for you and cheering for you and helping you. We’ve got help!”

It’s a beautiful thing.

Further reading:  “When I Heard My Deceased Daughter’s Voice

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Montreal, Quebec Temple

Posted in Family, Genealogy & Family History, memories, Spirituality, Synchronicity | Tagged , , , , , , | 13 Comments