Renewing my sitting practice, massage self care, oil pulling, and a 21-day challenge: Byron Katie’s The Work

I got away from my meditation practice. For many months.

It always seemed like a good idea when I thought about it, and I still didn’t actually do it more than occasionally. Committing to 20-30 minutes of doing nothing — well, it seemed like I didn’t have time. I had other things to do.

This is after years of meditating and a full year of daily sitting.

Hmmm. The mind plays tricks, takes itself way too seriously, makes excuses, avoids.

I missed it, and when a friend told me she gets out of bed and sits first thing every day, it inspired me to start again.

I was also inspired by the film The Dhamma Brothers, about a program in an Alabama prison where inmates did vipassana meditation, 10 days of silent sitting. It was profound to see peace on the faces of men who had committed terrible crimes.

One inmate said:

I thought my biggest fear was growing old and dying in prison. In truth, my biggest fear was growing old and not knowing myself.

Meditation has always been about facing my self, from the day I started, so tentatively, having realized that nothing else I had tried was taking my suffering away, so I might at least fully face it.

It didn’t take it away, but I quickly understood that my experience was larger than my suffering.

Aren’t we all in prisons of some kind? Fears, mindless behaviors, disconnections, denial, insane beliefs…

I want to know myself. And that in itself is such a koan, I felt inspired to sit with it.

Getting on the computer first thing in the morning is my worst distraction. I seem to have developed an affinity for my laptop, for Facebook, email, checking my blog stats, reading what interests me. Time can get away from me. It’s like an addiction.

So I realized that I need to sit first thing. Actually, I do a couple of sun salutations first. Otherwise, more of my attention goes to my aches and pains when I sit.

Yoga frees my mind to pay more attention to noticing my thoughts and sensing the subtle energies.

Today I experienced this:

Indeed, the ineffability of the air seems akin to the ineffability of awareness itself, and we should not be surprised that many indigenous peoples construe awareness, or ‘mind,’ not as a power that resides inside their heads, but rather as a quality that they themselves are inside of, along with the other animals and the plants, the mountains and the clouds. ~ David Abram

Tom Best would love that quote. Living inside of awareness. Sweet. I miss him.

~~~

I’ve been giving 15-20 massages a week, and my body is feeling it. I like the honesty of physical work, and I’m learning about remedies like rosemary oil for achy thumbs, trigger points on the forearm, wrist stretches.

Immersing myself in the cold waters of Barton Springs and snorkeling a lap is very, very good for aches and pains. I sleep well.

I’ve also changed up my mouth care routine. I’m brushing with turmeric (if you try it, be careful because it stains towels and possibly porcelain, but it whitens teeth and reduces inflammation in gum pockets), tongue scraping, flossing, oil pulling with organic coconut oil (sometimes adding a drop of peppermint or clove oil).

I do the oil pulling for 20 minutes most days.

So far, my teeth are whiter, my mouth feels cleaner, and my breath smells good throughout the day.

I’ve done this about a week now. I want to do it for a couple of months and see if it makes a big difference. Some folks claim that oil pulling has huge unexpected health benefits; some say that’s because it reduces inflammation in the mouth and body.

I’ll let you know.

~~~

Finally, I am planning to start a new 21-day challenge on Sept. 1, ending on the fall equinox. I will be doing The Work of Byron Katie, starting with her Judge Your Neighbor worksheet.

I will do at least one worksheet online so people can see how The Work actually works.

I’m also re-reading her book, Loving What Is (which she autographed for me last time I saw her!), and will add insights from that and the workshops I’ve attended.

If you’d like to do it along with me, here’s a link to the worksheet online.

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Making a difference: An invitation to try Kiva and get $25 to lend

I’ve been making microfinance loans for several years now through Kiva. It gives me an amazingly good feeling to lend $25 along with a bunch of other people from around the world to help someone struggling in poverty get ahead and to receive updates on their repayment status.

I could be in their shoes. After all, isn’t every person just another version of me?

I’ve made 15 loans so far, to people in Benin, Ecuador, several in Peru, Kenya, Paraguay, Costa Rica, Pakistan, and Nigeria. The one to Pakistan took a long time to repay, and I could infer from reading the news why. That country was in quite a bit of turmoil right after I made that loan.

I’ve lent to individuals and groups, men and women of various ages. One was to a Costa Rican mother of four and grandmother, very stylish, who is a talented seamstress and dressmaker. Maria also teaches sewing classes. Her loan, now repaid, was for a better sewing machine for making alterations. Here’s her photo. Doesn’t she look competent?

I am discerning about the reason they want a loan. I’d rather lend money to someone who is creating something or offering a skilled service than if they are reselling Pepsi. Who needs Pepsi?

Several of my loan recipients have done embroidering, weaving, sewing, and tailoring — which require real skills. Others have been in food and agriculture — food stalls, dairy, livestock, fruits and vegetables.

Aside: I wish Kiva would identify the people who are raising livestock, dairy animals, and crops organically. I’d like to encourage that kind of agriculture. That food might end up on my table someday, or yours. Wouldn’t you  prefer organic? Couldn’t the whole world return to growing our food organically?

When loans are repaid, I relend the money. You can also take it out of Kiva if you want. I usually give Kiva a little extra for their operating expenses. That part is tax-deductible as a charitable donation.

Anyway, this is by way of inviting you to make a loan through Kiva. Right now, if any friend of mine joins Kiva for the first time, we both get $25 to  lend. 

All you have to do is click this link to go to my personal invitation page. Find a borrower you like, click “Lend $25,” and follow the instructions from there.

I just used my free $25 to lend Zilola in Spitamen, Tajikistan, some of the $600 needed for her to buy a computer. This mother of three, who works at  a sewing workshop, plans to offer computer services to generate more income for her family. She’s had a little training in business and computer use. Her children will benefit and will help her with this business.

Sounds like a forward-thinking, savvy mom to me.

Actually, the money has been pre-disbursed by a local microfinance operation that works with Kiva as a field partner. The nuts and bolts of microfinance are sophisticated.

IMON International has a four-star risk rating, has partnered with Kiva for over 4 years, and has made over 6,000 microloans totaling $7.5 million in Tajikistan with a default rate of 0.03%.

That seems pretty sound to me.

My loan actually goes to IMON to replace the money they’ve already lent to Zilola. I will get updates on Zilola’s repayment. (Note: The recipient I originally chose, Hout, worked with a Kiva field partner that did not meet Kiva’s standard for participating in this special offer, so if you read this post twice, I’ve replaced Hout’s info with Zilola’s.)

However the money flows, it is doing good, and I feel more connected to this amazing planet we call home.

I make microfinance loans through Kiva because it makes me feel good to help others. My heart connects to their lives and their dreams of lifting themselves and their children out of poverty, of living fuller, more satisfying lives in their families, communities, and world. I want that too.

Their stories become part of my story.

If you’d like to participate in Kiva and start with a gift of $25 to lend, just click this link.

12 ways to improve your health by sitting less (written while pedaling on a FitDesk)

If you commute (usually sitting) to a desk job (mostly sitting) and then go home and watch television (sitting) and/or spend a lot of time on your computer (sitting), even if you manage to work in an hour at the gym, your health is at risk.

You can Google to learn more about the science of this — and they’re just beginning to learn. I’m just here to give free advice on behavioral changes you can make.

To counteract all the sitting, you could consider:

  1. Cutting the car commute and work from home as much as possible. Seriously. Present this option to your manager as a way to cut their costs, improve your health, and therefore make you more productive!
  2. If you can’t avoid car commuting, every time you’re at a red light or stop sign or gridlocked in a traffic jam, stretch your legs, and tense and relax them several times. Really pull the muscles to the bone. (Okay, that’s the yoga teacher in me talking.) Point and flex your feet and rotate your ankles.
  3. Take public transportation and stand during your commute, a la New York City subway riders.
  4. Bicycle to and from work, or combine biking with riding the bus or light rail. Many now have bike racks available. You may want to request that your workplace provide showering facilities.
  5. At work, take frequent breaks (1-2 minutes every 20 minutes) to stand up and walk around. Set a timer and do it. Go get a drink of water, go to the bathroom, stretch, shake the tension out of your body, do a forward bend to stretch the backs of your legs. Walk to the best view from your building and partake of it to refresh your spirit.
  6. Sit on an exercise ball. You have to use your legs to balance. You can also bounce when no one is watching. It will strengthen your core muscles because there’s no back — you have to hold your torso up. This will burn more calories, if you’re interested in doing that.
  7. Instead of emailing, texting, or phoning, walk over to a colleague’s office to communicate with him/her. I know, I know, this is really analog, but it’s also refreshing. Think of how much more information you get from seeing their face and hearing their voice in person. You might even learn something about them from seeing their office decor.FitDesk
  8. Persuade your office to invest in a FitDesk. One FitDesk shared among eight employees sounds like a great start. I imagine 30 minutes in the morning and 30 in the afternoon would make a big difference in the health and longevity of those eight employees, especially if they’re doing some of these other things when not pedaling. Of course, if your office can afford it, get a FitDesk for every employee! If you can’t afford it, you could phase this in over time as finances allow, as employees using it report they’re feeling better, missing less work, being in better moods, and being more productive, improving the company’s bottom line. Hey, maybe this is the key to the economic recovery and the obesity epidemic! FitDesks for every employee!
  9. When you get home, turn off the TV and computer and do something that uses your legs: cook, go for a walk, clean house, garden, do yard work, do yoga, lift weights, kick box, have sex, play with the dog, take a shower, swing your kids around, give them piggy-back rides, roughhouse, dance, put on a show. Also known as “living life” and “being embodied”.
  10. If you can’t eliminate TV or video games or Facebook or whatever is so compelling on your computer (okay, blogging and Facebook for me), limit it to an hour (with a break every 20 minutes; see #5 above) and get up during commercials unless you are on your feet while watching. Or…
  11. Get a FitDesk for your home so you can move your legs while watching TV and being on the computer.
  12. Do this with other people. It will be more fun.

Making the world a healthier place, one blog post at a time…