Posts

Moving Van

Downsizing – To Move or not to move?

Moving

One of the realities of the afternoon of life is that we are going to move, even if it is to an urn on our grandchildren’s mantle or a hole in the ground.  It is not a question of if, it is a question of when and a question of how.  Many people, as they reach the age of traditional retirement, fight to hold on to the activity level they had.  They like the comfort and the lifestyle so they plod along shoveling snow and landscaping yards far past the point of enjoyment.  Others begin to fall victim to the clear cut effects of an aging body and they let their homes and themselves go to “seed”.  In both cases, the result is often denial of the fact that it is time to make a decision on where and how to live.  And as a result we do not realize that it is time to move on, emotionally and or physically.

Holding on to the past

What “once were vices are now habits” is the title of a song by the Eagles from back in the morning of the lives of todays boomers – or the 70’s for those of you born more recently.  Consumerism, in the form of adding more plants and shrubs to our suburban plots and maintaining properties that were great when the kids were home but are now empty most of the time, is really pointless.  Well, actually more than pointless – they are a time drain and a waste of effort unless the activities still bring enjoyment.

When Levitt built the fist sub-division on Long Island that bears his name, it is reported that he believed that if returning GI’s had to take care of property on weekends and improve their homes, they would not have time to be socialists or communists.  It seems that the fears of socialist ideas that were in vogue in the depression-era America of the thirties were still fresh in his mind and were a real fear.  It is hard to even consider that fear today as we are solidly consumer orientated.

Fast forward seventy years and today’s children of that “greatest generation” are still plodding along and spending countless hours or dollars taking care of properties that have long outlived their usefulness.  Why?

From society’s view it is because this keeps us busy and ensures we are good American consumers.  Watch the TV commercials during sporting events and see the ads for Christmas.  Nothing says “Merry Christmas, celebrate the birth of the son of God” more than a new Lexus.  Right behind that are commercials for The Home Depot and Lowe’s – fix up your house for the holidays. If that doesn’t get you, drink Miller lite and feast on chips and salsa in front of a brand new 4k TV during the playoffs.

What if we moved away from these houses, cars, and gadgets and freed up time for work to change a society gone crazy with consumerism and over extended time commitments. Could we make a difference by moving from individual homes to a community of intergenerational people that could use our wisdom?  Could we establish community with others like us in a fifty-five and over community and perhaps make a difference by working collectively to share our wisdom with others while having some fun in the process?

Why do we hold on and delay a move to a more freeing lifestyle?  We probably do not know what we would do differently.  So we keep on keeping on. I am living through this right now.  I am holding on to clients I no longer want to coach (not you if you are reading this, one of the other guys). I am holding on to possessions that I no longer need (but as I wrote last week, that is being taken care of). I am holding on to chores that I no longer need and never wanted to do in the first place (I hate landscaping).

What can life be like now?

rebirth, vision, second life, retirement, giving back, life coaching pittsburgh

Perhaps it is because we have not allowed ourselves to determine what life can be like now. For me, I have decided I want to do the following:

  • Create a new web based business to help people deal with stress, disease, and interruptions and move toward mindfulness and well being
  • Move to a community where I can be around people my own age that want to spend time with others on community related projects
  • Spend time visiting family – especially my grandchildren – and act as a positive influence in their lives
  • Spend more time being as opposed to doing – which is in harmony with my own human operating system
  • Take some college courses in areas that I never studied because “there was no money in that” – as my grandparents were known to say

So, it is easy for me to make a move – I know what I want to move to.  As I write this, Walter and his friends are blowing away the leaves form the trees around my home.  I am grateful for Walter, really grateful. I live in a forest. I will be more grateful that next year I will not have to hire Walter to do this. And I now know what I want to be doing instead.

How to get startedMove, Simplify, downsize, discovery, coaching Pittsburgh

So if you are like me and find that discovering your authentic self is long overdue for you, I have a thought for you to consider.  I remember hearing about the gravestone of a man named John – it said – “Here lies
John, born a man, died a grocer”. For all of the people nearing retirement and thinking that there must be a better way of living in the afternoon of life, we have a tele seminar  in two weeks.  Join us to find out what is stopping your move and find out what music is still left inside of you to be played. Perhaps it is time to stop working for the “man” and be the man or woman that you were born to be. Perhaps it is time to move.

 

Image credits – ShutterStock

simplify - decluttering

Simplify

How did we get all this stuff?

As we age, there seems to be less attachment to possessions, or the need for possessions.  In the first half of life, I was consumed by being a consumer.  I had to have the latest “stuff”.  Even when I turned fifty, the entry point the afternoon of life, and we moved into a smaller condo during a relocation, the deal I made with my wife is that I could buy any electronics items that I wanted.  And I did.  We had gadgets everywhere.

When we moved to Pittsburgh ten years ago, we bought a four bedroom home for the two of us mostly to hold all of the stuff that we had bought in. Our sizable condo that we were moving out of was filled with books, electronics, photography gear and the matting tables and printers to support my professional fine art photography experiment.  But then we added even more to fill the deck with outdoor furniture and build out my home office as I launched my coaching practice. I was attracted to the idea of seeing clients in my office on the lower level of the house, which I have done for the last two years.  So we had filled up our space with stuff.

Downsizing and the opportunity to declutter life

We are now downsizing.  And like many things in life it came when we hit a tipping point.  Last week in this series I wrote about the knee injury that brought my awareness to the present moment back into focus and the need for mindfulness.  That silence and reflection finally got me in touch with the absurd lifestyle that we are currently living.

So we have decided to downsize, and in order to do that we are in the process of decluttering the house as many people do prior to listing it.  But we are going further than that.

In my research on how to declutter, I found a common theme of advice.  Look at every item you own and ask yourself” is it some thing that I need?”,  If not,  “is it something that brings me pleasure?”. Be honest.   If the answer is yes to both – then – “where am I going to put it in my home”?

Horcruxes in the Muggle World

In the Harry Potter series, J.K Rowling invented the term Horcrux as an object that “he who must be not be named” placed a part of his soul in.  I the series Tom Riddle – aka – Voldermort had placed his soul in six objects and in two other persons and he would live on until all of the  objects were destroyed.

I have a similar take on the same concept.  We place our energy, our soul in objects that we buy and those objects either enhance our lives or detract from it.  If our soul is partially placed in another person as it is in most marriages – it can be a positive placement or it can be a negative one. In the case of objects, we become burdened by all of the objects that we have sacrificed our soul for over the years.  It is easy to look around and ask myself, “What was I thinking?”.  It turns out – I was not thinking.  Just consuming.

If you now look at these objects and ask yourself if it is making your life better, really better. Then keep it.  But if it is making it worse, get rid of it.  What part of your soul have you given up to buy it and will releasing it heal your soul? Can you be grateful for it and then pass it on to someone who might be able to use it?

As I sit in this office, I am looking across the room at two clocks, a fountain that does not work, a Papago Indian basket with coasters in it, a cute sign that says “It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark” three glass candle pyramids containing oil,  A Samsun flat screen TV (that already is not working well), sound bar, blue ray player, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, three candles and a “peace” plaque – and these are just the items out on the credenza across from my office – the office that will be downsized.

None of them are needed.  One of the clocks was given to me in Utah by an admin that I relied on.  The Peace plaque is a gift from my daughter, the Arc sign was bought  at an arts fair in North Carolina at the outer banks, the TV equipment is an asset owned by my company because I used it for clients and educational material.  In a simple world all of these objects could be given away.  For most people if they move they will keep them and cram them somewhere.

What do you need to do to simplify?

I think that the answer for how to deal with these objects is simple.  The clock form my admin – I can write Regina a note and thank her for her service to me twenty years ago and give the clock away.  The Peace plaque can be moved.  The TV and other electronics gear will probably fit in the office that we will share when we move as it is depreciated now anyway – or move to the office that my business will open next year.  The other stuff is of no real value and is not needed and holds no semimetal value.  We will keep the TV (if it can be fixed) because the TV in my wife’s working office is from the Clinton Administration and weighs three hundred pounds being one of the first HD TVs in 2000 – but it still works..

How do you simplify?

I do not think that we need to declutter as a political statement.  Or forced minimalism. I am a capitalist and I believe that people should be allowed to buy and consume whatever they want and I do not think we are going to save the planet by not being consumers.  We have bigger problems than “American style consumption” with the planet, and frankly I think we might be too far along the path to mass extinction for this planet in this isolated spot in one of many universes.  I am more concerned with our individual and collective spiritual journey’s of our timeless existence.

What are we supposed to be learning right now, right here?  How are we, as “conscious components of the universe” expanding our awareness? The baby boomers era of conspicuous consumption is ending just as the Millennials who supposedly shunned it are beginning to embrace it in their own unique ways.

The survival of the planet is a much bigger question. As boomers in the afternoon and early evening of life, we need to declutter so we can experience life in such a way that we are expanding our consciousness and awareness and not escaping from being in contact with the people around us.  I think that is what Thoreau meant when he penned, “simplify, simplify, simplify”.  Perhaps then we can give some of our wisdom back to the planet an help others grow and solve our many problems.

What do you do first?

So what do you need to do?  The best advice I encountered is to take all of the objects from a room and put them out so they are visible and go through them.  What can we give away? What can we sell? What do we want to keep and where are we going to put it?

Then deal with it – right here, right now. Photograph the objects you are going to sell and list them on Craig’s list, eBay or somewhere else you like.  Put the items for donation together list them out for tax purposes and take them to your favorite charity.  Put the things you are keeping away with a new found respect and gratitude for the items that made the cut. Some items that are moving to another room might need to be moved temporarily to that room until you do this  for every room in the house.

We will start the process this week for the room in our house that is going away – our utility room.  Over the next eight weeks until we list the house in January, we will do the same until we have the first pass of the entire house done.  As we pack for the move into the new home, I am sure that we will encounter additional opportunities.

Of course if you are not moving yet, you can still enter the new year clutter free in your existing home and it will refocus your whole approach to the holidays form what am I going to get to what can I give away and free myself of the responsibility of ownership.

What about you, what do you have to simplify?  I plan on coming back to this theme as we live through this “simplify” process and experience the gratitude and holiday seasons that we are entering.  Hopefully we can simplify that as well.

 

Paradox of wisdom, working and mindfulness

The afternoon of life

The paradox of the afternoon of life is that just as we may feel we are finally hitting our stride – if we do not take a siesta, we risk burning out – never making it to the evening of life. I have found myself looking at living according to the rules of the first half of life and one point, even said that it is better to burn out than rust. The reality is that mind-set almost certainly leads to death; sooner rather than later.

Mindfulness – the key

The key for living in the afternoon of life is mindfulness. The consequences of not being mindful at any point in life takes a toll, but as we age it manifests increasingly in the physical being.

A perfect example of this phenomena occurred recently, serving as a good reminder to me of lessons I thought I’d mastered. Life is nothing is not a persistent teacher! Recently I’ve been very close to burn out and decided to take a much needed vacation. Shortly into the week, I was already feeling better, but true to my somewhat controlling nature, I was frantically counting steps to get back into shape so that I could better cope with the stress that I had put myself under. Yes you read that right – I was trying to control my relaxation in order to better or more quickly bring myself back to equilibrium so that I could intentionally continue to pile on more stress. A bit of a nasty cycle now that I think about it…

In the evening, my type A personality was still in control, when I tripped over an ill designed corner fireplace corner (really not sure what the architects were thinking but perhaps I should thank them?) and landed on my knees. My already compromised left knee took the brunt of the fall and I immediately knew I had severely injured it. It would set the tone for the rest of the vacation, and in fact the rest of my life.

When I started my coaching practice three years ago, I was determined to help people lead the life they wanted to live in the afternoon of life. In launching that practice, however, I used the approach that worked for people in the second stage of life, what the Hindi’s called the “householder phase”. Both Carl Jung and Gail Sheehy, the author of the book “New Passages”, have asserted that in this phase males and females are the most drawn to overly masculine or overly feminine stereotypes of behavior. While the feminist movement allowed many women to tune out this meme, most if not all men my age clearly did tune into the provider meme. The cause of this stereotypical behavior is the biological imperative to procreate so that the species survives. Whether that works out for the species in the long run is still open to debate.

I tried falling back to householder phase. And it simply does not fit.

The Hindi culture also points to the next phase which is the forest dweller phase, a time of detachment from the world. This detachment is the foundation of effective mindfulness practices. As we age, both genders cross back to the middle of the spectrum, in fact crossing over for men to slightly more feminine energy and vice versa for women who shift towards more masculine energy. Essentially, men become more nurturing and women more independent as they hit their late fifties.

I had been trying to balance my masculine outreach energy during the day with the compulsion to fit in more nurturing activities in the evening . This resulted in something many young women experience today when attempting to “have it all”. Simply put – I burnt out by trying to do too muc. This balancing was by doing more instead of being more.  The “balancing” itself was really overusing masculine energy instead of integrating more rootedness.

As I recovered by resting, I downloaded the book – “New Passages”. I read the original book when I went through my thirties crisis shortly after it was published in 1976. It helped me perceive that my angst at the time was a normal passage. The new book was written in the nineties and I am surprised that I did not find it when researching how people shift in the second half of life because Gail identified that well before Wayne Dwyer and the authors of Quantum Change did in this century.

At this point, all I have re-identified is that I now know the questions to ask. This Monday blog series – Siesta – focuses on living in the afternoon of life by including mindfulness practices. What does it mean for men especially to embrace feminine wisdom and energy and live in harmony with it. This is not a new script for a Transparent type TV show. While gender fluidity is becoming the norm today, this particular exploration is not about clothing or dramatic behavior. It is about how does a sixty or seventy something male live a life of significance without burning out, coping out or dropping out, And how can we have fun doing it? It is the questions we need to ask ourselves.

If you are a guy who has turned sixty, how are you dealing with finding a reason to get up in the morning each day, now that we are living in a time for men where for the most part, the thrill of being a male is gone? If you’re a woman experiencing the shift of focus from nurturing to “doing” – how does that impact your sense of identity? Regardless of your gender – have you noticed these changes in your partner? How has it affected your relationship balance?

We would love to know your story.

Jawbone UP24 as a tracking tool

In preparation for a series on consciousness and awareness, I have been doing some research, which led me to a number of product offerings designed to entrain the brain into a readiness state conducive to meditation. I have found a couple that I will use and be reporting back on in the coming weeks. The first tool that I have found as a feedback to increase awareness is a new device from Jawbone.

Ever since I started using a Jawbone UP24 device in February, I have become a big fan of using technology in general to improve health. Prior to using Jawbone, my sleep was often in the five to six hour per night range. Knowing that what we track changes, I started using my device as a tracking tool to bring awareness to my bad habits and crowd them out with good habits.

Over the last ten days, I have exceeded my goal of 7.5 hours of sleep 8 times. The only discrepancies were getting up for early morning meetings. I have not yet seen a significant increase in my step count, but lumbar issues are playing a role there. Despite lower back issues, I am averaging about seven thousand steps per day, well short of my ten thousand step goal, but in the top thirty percent of UP24 users. It is now starting to trend upward, however.

So, satisfied with that progress, I am now using a new feature for food tracking. It has been an eye opener. I have seen that my daily protein intake is lower than I need it to be, but by and large everything else is in line. I did however; fine-tune my smoothie recipe by cutting the Avocado amount in half, when I saw the overall calorie count. I was pleased to see my sugar intake averaging below fifty grams per day. (Note -As a health coach, I need to point out that the sugar that is consumed really needs to be watched for what form the sugar is and how it is consumed.  Mine for the most part came from whole foods eaten in conjunction with mostly vegetables and a healthy fat source in the same meal so that the absorption is handled.  Even fifty grams of sugar consumed in two candy bars in the form of high fructose corn syrup is not in your best interest.)

There are a number of features in the app that others have commented on elsewhere. From a coaching perspective, I think that it is more interesting to comment on how I have been able to self-coach myself into new behavior by having feedback. Knowing that I will receive feedback each morning on sleep, throughout the day on activity and now on food, it brings awareness to me on my food intake, my activity and my sleep. And awareness fuels positive change.

I am now paying more attention to how these are related. Over time, I will be able to see if there is a connection between the amount I exercise and sleep, as well as the food that I consume and sleep quality/quantity. One key thing that I can now easily track is the amount of water I drink in a day. Most Americans drink far too little water. When I ask clients how much they drink, the answer is usually “not enough.” What we track – we can change – and using the app on my iPhone allows me to track this easily, because looking at it throughout the day to see how I am doing has become a habit.

I am also now seeing that I have periods in the day that do not have activity in them. My chiropractor tells me that sitting is the new smoking, and I now have a device that will tell me to move if I have been sitting for more than an hour (personal setting).. Five months into using this device, I seem to be getting into a rhythm with it. Over the last ten days, my step count has been over 10,000 steps 7 times, and my sleep is averaging above my target of 7.5 hours/night. Being active and getting sleep are the ante or “table stakes” for playing the game of the second half of life. I certainly recommend trying a device like the Jawbone UP24 to others.

How about you? What tricks/tools are in your good health toolbox?

Turning 65

I have spent the last few years trying to convince myself that turning 65 was a non event. It turns out that God has a tremendous sense of humor. A few weeks ago, I, like many other boomers turned sixty-five. They say that sixty five is the new fifty, and while I still believe that, the excesses of the past come home to roost. In my case, it was centered in the lower back, which has been an issue for years but suddenly became much worse.

My spring of heavy functional exercise caused four lumbar discs to bulge and produce something that I never heard of before – parathesia. My body felt like my cell phone was on vibrate at different points in the pelvic area and down each of my legs. Normal essential and routine bodily functions were being impaired – this was a definite wake up call. Something was very obviously amiss and so I set about identifying the cause. I had an x-ray and then an MRI and to quote my doctor, the results were “not awesome.” The good news received, oddly, from a surgeon, was that I did not require surgery.

Taking a lesson from past health issues and modern medical failures, I decided to care for myself rather than expecting a medical miracle courtesy of my primary care physician. My process included a combination of diet, exercise, acupuncture, chiropractic care, medication, essential oils, meditation, EFT, PSYCH-K and therapeutic massage. Now, six weeks from this milestone date, things seem to be getting better.

What I have learned from this experience so far is that there clearly are new rules for the second half of life. First, we must be smart about how much functional exercise we do and perhaps more importantly, how we do it. Poor posture and poor technique may be survivable in early life, but a lifetime of bad habits regarding lifting and posture will have a profound affect as the shadows lengthen. Second, there is no easy cure for chronic health conditions. I used ten techniques to begin to change my condition. I will add yoga and reflexology to the mix to bring it to an even perfect twelve (call me superstitious!). Included in this mix were twelve professional traditional and nontraditional caregivers – four doctors, a chiropractor, a massage therapist, an acupuncturist, a PSYCH-K practitioner, a personal trainer, a yoga instructor, a reflexologist and my own self coaching (my wife and I are, after all, health coaches).

An important take-away from all of this is that work life balance emerged as a particularly important aspect to be resolved. The twisting of my back quite frankly told me that I could no longer stand the approach that I was taking in a number of areas of my life. To that end, I have begun to change my approach to be more in line with my core values of loving wisdom. The x-ray showed that my spine suffers from scoiolosis, which was new news to me. Interestingly, it is bowed to the left – or to the feminine side of my body. This leads me to believe that the discs that were bulging are related to childhood trauma and the need for grounding. I was left with the realization that I was angry and needed to do something about it if I wanted to feel better.

Upon reflection, what I came to understand was that my core values of loving wisdom, which I discovered previously using the Taylor Protocols Core Value Index, were hidden throughout much of my corporate career. At that time, I relied heavily upon my (arguably inferior) values of powerful knowledge. I tended to just “show up and drive” and placed a far greater value on “facts” over “feelings.” Western society identifies these as the more “masculine” (and often more important) values, while viewing loving wisdom as more “feminine” (and so, necessarily, weaker). I realized, as I started working with people in the business world in my current role, I had inadvertently returned to drawing more on these inferior values that are not core to my essential being. This led to denigrating and limiting who I am and how I “show-up” or behave in a given situation.. I was angry that I had regressed to this older way of being, so out of keeping my essential reality, and the truth was coming out in increasingly aggravated health issues.

This reflection upon and clarification of who I am and how I need to show up is both freeing and empowering. I have begun to tweak my branding ever so slightly to reflect these changes. I’m also now using the full suite of tools and techniques at my disposal including PSYCH-K, EFT and my extensive knowledge of both Christian tradition and eastern wisdom, and its confluence with the quantum reality of our existence.

When I started this practice, I was committed to combining these modalities and teachings into my offerings. But, as I attempted to explain what I do to my referral partners and the general market, I watered down my marketing too much. The result was that I began attracting business that was outside my target market and not in line with my goals. I was attempting to fit in, when I need to fit out. I am an outlier. I do not fit in and the genius of this is that is precisely why people hire me. They want my loving wisdom and outlier perspective. I’ve recommitted to making this available. So in turning 65, it is time for my authentic self to be present in my practice with no apologies. I have come to realize that for me life begins at 65.

How about you? What music is still inside you – and are you ready to play it out loud?

Simplify – Mavericks, iOS7 and the iPhone 5s

I have not been blogging for the last couple of months, and I feel freed from it.   My coaching practice is focused on busy executives that either need to get out of their current gig and start their own venture – or look at their current gig and change their “stinking thinking” about it.  I came to realize that most of these people at not searching the Internet for advice on where to go to find that.  Very freeing – that thought. No need to write to them.  They are not there.

I have also become every busy with my own practice, and find that I find people, the old fashioned way – by meeting them.

But, on the way back from a client site on Saturday morning, I dropped my iPhone 4s which was still running iOS6.  I do not use a case, because I like the ease of using clean glass for my interaction with the phone and the cases have always hindered that. The two year old phone has been dropped so many times, I was actually surpassed when it cracked – but still worked.  It did reboot.  But I figured that eventually I would be affected again by a hanging chad or chard.

So, I had to upgrade.  Off to the ATT store and back with two new iPhones – my spouse came into 2013 with me and we retired the three year old iPhone 4 as well.  Net net, both phones were fully operational from backups in less than two hours.  Only because I had to do them sequentially.  I was, frankly amazed by the improvement. I still miss, Steve Jobs, one more thing showmanship, but I gotta admit, I am becoming a fan of the results of refining the already superior products that are in play.

I figured, since I had upgraded the phones faster then I thought I would, why not get the new MacBook Pro and try out Mavericks.  Yes I could have upgraded one of our existing machines, but I wanted to try something – a pure Mac environment – no Windows – no Microsoft Office and its constant stream of problems and slow update processes and slow performance – no Chrome and its memory hogging – no Parallels.  Just iWork, the OS and native Mac apps.

Mavericks blows me away.  The changes are small – tabbed finder windows – a form factor and resolution that forced me into full screen mode, which easily allows me to move from clean app to clean app. 16 GB of memory and a solid state drive and blazing speed. I have not used iWork extensively yet, but I use a word processor to type text into a document.  I use a spreadsheet to create simple models and I use presentation software to create simple presentations that I project from my iPad.  And for those people stuck in Windows trying to figure out how to use Windows 8 – they can open anything I share with them.

So I am going to blog going forward on one thing – a love from my past of technology and my reclamation of my photography avocation in a simplified way.  I am culling down all of my unused camera gear, and I am getting rid of extra apps on my devices that I do not need and excess computing power that sits idle. And I am going to do so whenever I feel moved to do so – blog that it is.

For the few readers that were riveted by my postings over the summer on wellness, I looked at what I was writing and realized that I was working on my own issues and not aware of it – which is why I stopped writing when I realized what I was doing and fixed the underlying inflammation issue.  I sought out three caregivers and they all told me the same thing – I was angry.  This has lead me to get rid of the things that make me angry – both in my attitude and in my life.  Ultimately that is leading to getting rid of excess stuff and relationships and ventures that do not work for me – sort of following my own branding.

There is a line from French Kiss spoken by Meg Ryans character Kate – “Happy – smile. Sad – frown. Use the corresponding face for the corresponding emotion.” Words to live by. The new MacBook Pro, Mavericks, iOS7 and the iPhone 5s, a simplified environment – Happy Face. It is not a vineyard in the south of France, but it is not South Bronx in the seventies.

I am also not paying someone to edit my posts.  So if you find a typo – enjoy the experience. What is the point of this post?  That we need to be authentic, We need to simplify and we need to say yes when we mean yes and no when we mean no.  I think that Meg was actually paraphrasing that line, which I believe is attributed to Jesus.  In fact the next part of it – anything else comes from the evil one – in my theology that means the crazy voice inside of my head my ego.

To Market

It is in our psyches – going to market in the morning to bring home the freshest whole foods. In fact, here in Pittsburgh, the largest food retailer has special stores with “Market” in its name, and in the South East, another grocer chain has opened stores with both “Fresh” and “Market” in its name.  But the real fresh markets are the farmers’ markets where local farmers – real farmers with names like Greg, or Alice – come to sell their fresh goods that were in the ground yesterday or in the case of the fresh free-range eggs, in the bodies of their mother this week.  They came to market in pickup trucks from less than 100 miles away, and there is no middle man or woman.  The fresh foods still have the energy that they were created with, and since most of these farmers are organic and/or practice sustainable practices, the soil has not been depleted by a mono-culture and chemicals.

So today, we just want to say thank you to these farmers who were at the old Firehouse in the Strip District in Pittsburgh this morning.  And as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.  Yesterday, as I was finishing the coursework for IIN, I had the pleasure of listening to one of the instructors speak to Whole Foods.  Perhaps it is because I spend so much time at the local Whole Foods in Wexford, that I tend to not think about what a “whole food” is. It is easy to confuse nutrition bars or food-based supplements with whole foods. A whole food is something where you eat the whole food – so the whole grain of rice, or the whole sugar cane, or the whole pig.  So an egg is a whole food , celery is whole food, peppers are whole foods – a chicken breast is a part of a whole food – no bone, or organ meat etc.  As they used to say – parts is parts. And a can of spray “cheese”……..

The beauty of this market is the energy of it, and the local farmers are there selling their own goods.  The Amish farmer with his chickens and eggs, the Mott family farm where the owners are there to answer you questions about the difference between sustain agriculture and organic – and exactly what they sprayed on their peaches and when.  As I was putting the food away this morning, I could not help but feel the energy coming off it it and marvel in the clean, crisp feel of the produce. I started my working career as a produce clerk for a supermarket, and I can tell you, I never saw food THAT fresh coming into the store, let alone leaving it. As far as what they do to meat in the back room…we just won’t go there.

Why is it important to know your farmer?  There are a number of reasons – first, you know what you are getting – is it really grass-fed and what does that mean?  You might be shocked that your farmer might explain as mine did today that the cost of grass-fed beef is higher because the cost of corn is higher – even though the cattle is not eating corn.  He explained that the cost of hay is higher because there is more demand to grow corn – think about that as you put ethanol in to your SUV to drive to the market and complain about the cost of grass-fed beef.  Or he might tell you that you need to come earlier to get eggs – it kind of reinforces that there are only so many eggs his chickens can produce.

We ran into one of our clients there today and we were thrilled that we were able to share her joy in her purchases as she was leaving to go home. If you want to learn more about eating whole foods, we are having a session on Thursday October 3, at the Zock Family Chiropractic Facility in Cranberry Township at 6:30 PM. Our session will deal with the reasons behind your sugar cravings when your diet is lacking whole foods. We hope to see you there, or at one of the many local farmer’s markets in Pittsburgh and its countryside.

 

 

Health and Wellness through Integrative Wellness

Two weeks ago, we began our focus on health and wellness with a listing of the various theories that we use as informational resources for our clients in our health and wellness offerings.  In my practice, I focus on a client’s inner thought process that often destroys their approach to becoming healthy, and how they can create a state of work-life balance.  My practice is not life coaching, nor is it wellness coaching in its purest sense, but more of transition coaching in which I work with a client on a vision of what path they want to take in their life, and then how to take the steps towards that route. Many Americans (60% of the population, in fact) want to follow a slimmer path – as in, they want to lose some extra weight.

The list of diet approaches being recommended by the doctors in our first entry are all variations on a theme.  Both Melinda and I have worked through programs at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and have studied these theories as well as a number of others in our training.  We start the discussion with the views of Dr. Andrew Weil, who is a founder of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. The crux of Dr. Weil’s opinion, which is being adopted by over 25% of the medical schools in the US includes:

  • Restore the focus of medicine on health and healing
  • Insist that human beings are more than just physical bodies – they are also spiritual, emotional, beings
  • Insist on the importance of lifestyle practices – how to eat, how to handle stress, how to manage relationships, how to sleep, how to balance career and so on
  • Insist on the importances of the practitioner and patient relationship – allows the patient to tell their story

According to Dr. Weil, the key element of a health-promoting lifestyle – stop eating refined, processed and manufactured food.  His premise includes that the diseases of aging, which include cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s) and cancers are not our natural fat but the outcome of the standard American diet.  His working premise is that all of these diseases are caused by a combination of factors, but all are based on chronic low levels of inflammation.  Inflammation is, of course, the corner stone of the bodies healing response – we’ve all seen redness and swelling as we bruise our bodies.  Dr. Weil asserts that we need to control this so that it ends when it has fulfilled its purpose.

So are these diseases a requirement for aging?  No – you prevent this by eating healthy foods and meeting your core needs for relationships, spiritually, physical exercise, and your career.  His teaching from a dietary perspective is to avoid processed foods, especially foods that are high in carbohydrates even if they, and perhaps especially if they claim to be whole grain or healthy.  The standard processes that food manufacturers use pulverize the grains such that they have no real whole grains left in them. The resultant product has a higher glycemic index than white bread and is seen by the body as sugar. Nutrition labels can be deceiving; fat is not necessarily the culprit of obesity; excess carbs are the silent criminal.

His anti-inflammatory diet is written in his books and on his website. It is based on a colorful diet of various fruits and vegetables, less animal products (especially meat), more fish, olive oil, green tea, red wine, tumeric, ginger, and dark chocolate made with at least 70% cocoa. Most people prefer to eat delicious, healthy food rather than simply throw back pills, and fortunately, Dr. Weil agrees that nutritional supplements should strictly be supplements and not substitutes for nutrient-dense food. However, fish oil, a multi-vitamin supplement, Vitamin D (especially north of Atlanta six months out of the year) should be taken with a fat containing meal.  On a side note, adequate levels of Vitamin D are critical in fighting off colds and flu in the winter especially. If you are bothered by these, there is a book discussing this available from Amazon and other retailers.

Keeping physically active in the second half of life is key, according to Dr. Weil and his study of centenarians who maintained physical activity, social support, and intellectual liveliness. You can see why I have chosen to start with this author’s works because it is our premise that being onCORE to your values, eating the right foods, and achieving whole life balance is essential to living a long life.  From a physical activity perspective, things like walking, gardening, hunting, fishing, nature photography, biking outdoors and other daily activity is important as we age.  It is not time to play basketball and run marathons – but a time to do things that are of a lower impact, such as swimming and walking.  He also asserts that it is important for older people to be loved and embraced by younger people and to have a respected place in society.

Stress kills – it increases cortisol levels in the brain that kills cells in the hippocampus, which processes memories in the brain – so Dr. Weil promotes breathing techniques that are effective at reducing stress – these are found on Youtube if you are interested in them.

What I have gotten from this body of work and in reading Dr. Weil’s work is that I need to be balanced in my life; I need to be active, and I need to be spiritually grounded to manage stress.  Dr. Weil believes that breathing exercises are great for reducing stress – groovy, right? No, I think that idea is about as stupid as the term “groovy.” Moving forward to the eighties, I think that meditation is actually “totally tubular.”  Onward to the twenty-first century, I’d say it’s “awesome.”  The key is managing stress, and for me, that means meditation.  Earlier this week, after three days of too much Quickbooks and not enough stretching – I needed to meditate for about thirty minutes to relieve the pain and tension in my body that I only became aware of at eleven in the evening when I woke up with numb hands and sore legs because my lower back was out.  I woke up my wife and asked her to get me a heating pad for my neck and some herbal tea and then consciously relaxed my pain points through mediation and relaxation until I was able to get to sleep.  The alternative would have been a trip to the ER and hours of tests or prodding followed by, “It’s only stress, bozo, go home.”  As I was writing this entry and listening to Dr W; they only go to the doctor as a last resort. On the other hand, in America, we go immediately and expect some pill to fix us.

Combining what I have taken away from Dr. Weil with what I am getting from Bruce Lipton, the quantum biologist, I have come away with my own theory for my approach to my health in the second half of life. Last week, I spoke of the environment in our bodies. according to Lipton, as producing things like excess fat – for me, excess stress means excess thinking about the past or worrying about the future – which means fat. And it also leads to the potential for disruption of the health of my brain, according to Weil.

This certainly explains the last couple of months for me, as personal stress has lead to a small weight gain, and I feel like I am often more foggy than I have been. What has been missing is intense exercise and regular meditation. I have not been focused on living an HD version of life. I have not been fully engaged; I’ve only gone through the motions at times. I have allowed a personal source of stress to decrease my passion, because in the past, others have been hurt by my actions.

But others have been helped by the same actions, and how others receive my energy is not mine to control or predict. I can only be authentic and speak with my authentic voice and the truth. I cannot allow fear of how others might perceive me to stop me from being me.

So, is food the reason for obesity? Technically. However, Weil and Lipton agree that the environment in our bodies is a big part of the reason that we store fat, even when we do not have to. Toxic thinking leads to stress which leads to fat. So becoming well means eating the right foods, mostly plant based and not processed, and balancing our primary needs for exercise, spirituality, relationships and career.

One piece of advice directly from Dr. Weil: surround yourself with the people that you want to be like.

Look at the Birds….

Last week, I talked about the different diet approaches that provide the basis for our own food choices in the second half of life, which is a good starting point for anyone looking to make their own choices.  My original intention was to simply summarize the points of each of the authors, but that quick “Cliff Notes” process is not our style.  We believe you need to live with each theory and see how it affects you because our purpose is only to share what we have learned from an author and how it has impacted us, not tell you which one is right for you.

This belief comes out of my religious background, which is firmly rooted in my mother’s Irish Catholic beliefs.  In my formative years, I was raised in St. Bridget’s Parish on Long Island.  My own initial training in Bible study came from the teachings of two Pittsburgh Catholic priests who taught me two considerations when reading the Bible.  The first is that you have to understand the audience and the times of the writer.  Father Eugene Bonachi of the Mon Valley, which was decimated in the eighties as the steel mills closed, also taught me that the backstory of the writer cannot be ignored.

For this reason, so much of my back-story is on this blog series.  Who I am and my beliefs are always made visible in my writings or teachings.  Father Bonachi was an activist priest who believed that Reganomics was a disaster; something on which I believe he was remarkably accurate.  His assumption was that it would lead to a larger gap between the poor and the now former middle class, and the wealthy as the industrial base of America was destroyed and moved offshore.

But he also taught the importance of context.  Father Bonachi used the example of the headline of “Buc’s Bomb Birds.” Currently, it could refer to the Pittsburgh Pirates beating the St. Louis Cardinals in baseball.  It could be anything from the victory of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC championship game a few years ago to a Disney-created story of Jack Sparrow bombing an island with flocks of birds in a future “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie.

So, the audience to whom the diet-creator is writing as well as the context of his experience and motivation needs to be understood.  Regarding diet, we are coaches, and we want our clients to be healthy and happy.  We are not selling diet books or being paid by food or drug companies for a testimonial.  We form our own beliefs, and we expect our clients to do the same.

The second thing I learned about reading and studying the Bible in the early Catholic church is that the interpretation of the Bible was not in the purview of the uneducated laity who had no knowledge of the times in which the stories were written.   For them it was to reflect upon how the story applied to their life and to share that with others.  This is something that I have continued to hold to, and the same thinking  should be applied to a lot of the teachings of both conventional and alternative healing theories, both of which seem to be religions to the people promoting them.  I believe this to be particularly true with diets that purport to understand how people lived and ate in the “cave man” era, or “diets” designed to sell supplements or manufactured foods.

The only thing that is certain right now is that regardless of what we do, we are going to die eventually.  If we fixate on the belief that we are going to be in more pain the older we get, and we are going to be less able to do the things that we used to do, we are going to amplify those effects on our bodies and psyches.  We need a fresh start in order to have healthy living in our retirement years.  Each of us has to weigh quality of live versus quantity of life and make our own decisions.  If in reading these diet books, we feel that eating kale for the next fifty years in order to have health is not worth the fact that we have to eat kale, then we won’t do it.  What we eat is important, but how we find our spiritual center is equally as important.  We can find similar answers in quantum biology and in sacred scripture.

So what was to be a six week blitz of these diets, is turning into a Thursday Wellness posting, and we will weave in these theories and others into the entries.  What we eat is only part of the story.  How we think and what we feel are a big part of what the fifty trillion cell structure that appears to the world as our body does with the food.  In his new book – “The Honeymoon Effect” about how our thinking controls our health, Bruce Lipton channels James Carvile from Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign with “it is the environment stupid.”  This is how I interpret this portion of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:26-27) “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

Here is a link to a site that Melinda found today, and my interpretation of it is that we, like this squirrel or the birds in the Sermon on the Mount, know what we should eat if we don’t let our egos and toxic thinking get in the way.  If squirrels are in-tune with what is good and what is bad, then why are we not able to do so?  Because we worry, which means we tune into the fear that we will look stupid.  So if everybody else is eating beef that was force-fed GMO corn and injected with drugs, then we should.  Really?  The last time I ate factory beef I found it to have no taste unless it was combined with sauces and salt and perhaps a bacon wrap.  We must not be dominated by our fears, but by our “gut feelings” on what is right for ourselves.

To do this we need to be in harmony with the magnificent creation that is the fifty trillions cells known as an individual human being, and to eat food and establish practices that balance our mind, body and soul.

Fresh Start

At one point, living past the age of fifty was quite the feat. Fortunately, we’ve come a long way since then thanks to brainpower and technology. Otherwise, I might not be here, writing this blog.

Now, longevity is en vogue. While living to 120 seems a long ways away, it is not an unfathomable goal. That being said, your fiftieth birthday might not just mean more candles on your cake; it may mean that it is the perfect time for a fresh start, and to start living sustainably. You may start to question whether sixty-six or seventy and one-half have any meaning other than as the current federal mileposts for social security and required minimum distributions?

When I was twenty, I did not think the world would last till the time I turned thirty. I was sure we were going to blow up the planet. This may sound morbid, but it is a timeless notion. People that are coming of age today have this same angst for reasons such as resolving depletion and overpopulation, rather than a nuclear winter.

The beautiful thing about age is that it brings wisdom and perspective. Perhaps it comes from the drop in Testosterone levels. At twenty, I thought about sex at least once a minute. Women were a distraction. Now sex is no longer top of mind, and it is possible to have tension-free discussions with anyone.

Many men in the second half of life are caught in behavior patterns from the first half. They act like dirty old men, or they try to hold on to a macho demeanor. Whether it is authentic or not is beyond me.

I no longer have the strengths of my youth, nor the desire to prove my dominance. I am aware of my own vulnerability. I care much less about what others think of me. For many, this can make a pleasing vision of the future cloud with difficulty.

My vision is no longer what it was. What looked like a sharp photo now looks like an impressionists view of the world, but I always preferred Monet to Ansel Adams anyway. And when I was younger, I needed to escape from reality more, and under-the-influence life took on a Picasso-like look anyway, and sometimes it looked more like the work of Jackson Pollack.

Today I am more content with my everyday view that is softer and more pleasing to my eyes. This doesn’t mean I have selective vision; I still see the rantings of the mostly conservative people that are my age.

One sign in a yard says, “I want the America of my Youth!” We’ve all heard it: a member of the older generation slamming a fist on the table, exclaiming the perfection of the past, and the spiraling downturn of our society today. What’s a different way of looking at that? We have more today than fifty years ago in so many areas. When I hear that, I go back to segregation, the objectification of women, homophobia, “children should be seen and not heard”; “why are you crying, I’ll give you something to cry about?” “Stop laughing, or I’ll wipe that smile off of your face”.

They see Norman Rockwell, I see Arthur Miller. As Carley Simon crooned back in the good old days, these are the good old days.

Another sign says, “A republic, if you can keep it.” Do they even know what a republic is? The founding fathers took a bold step, from the systems of government of the time. But in the eighteenth century, it was a republic instead of a democracy because they wanted to duplicate the power base of the landowners in Britain – in America – and keep the riches to themselves. There was no direct vote of the President, or of Senators. The indirect vote was restricted to a select few. They did not want the rabble to have any control.

Looking backward in the second half of life is pointless unless it is to process what we have learned and figure out how we can best contribute to the future. Putting signs up like the ones I have mentioned is not beneficial to society. I don’t like to make assumptions, but I would be willing to bet these people are constant complainers. They see that young people today do not respect them. And why should they? Looking backwards and aching for the past kills any potential for joy today. Look at what you have now. Figure out what you can do with it and stop fantasizing about a reality that never existed. Play with your grandchildren, or start a business, or take up a new career, or volunteer, or plant a garden, be a mentor to a child of a single parent, learn to dance, learn to cook and invite your neighbors who are still working crazy hours to dinner and create intimacy with your life partner. Does that sound so bad? I don’t think so.

Have a little bit of fun everyday.