Live like you love yourself

If you spent all the money in your bank account, would you be then surprised that you had nothing left? Then why are people surprised when they have spent a lifetime of inactivity and eating badly and then get sick? It is exactly the same thing.

Are we so divorced from cause-and-effect?

Or perhaps we have had our power taken away from us and been told too often that others have to do things for us – by teachers and politicians and ministers.

But perhaps even that isn’t fair to say. Nothing can be taken away from us that we aren’t letting happen.

We have given our power away. We have let others take it away from us. Rather than get angry about that, realize it is time to take it back. It is time to take back your health and your life. It’s time to eat like you love yourself. It’s time to treat yourself as a valued guest in your own life.

It is time to remember that our bodies are temples of the living God. We need to treat them like that and not as garbage dumps.

Poem – your body is a sanctuary

Your body is a sanctuary,
a home to a
piece of the
light
of God.

Just like a regular home,
you have to maintain it.
Just like a mosque
or a church
or a synagogue
or a temple,
you want to make sure
it is clean
and strong.

It is an act of worship,
of respect to God
to take care of your body
– to eat healthy food,
get exercise
and enough sleep,
to not put any poisons in it.

Just as you would not
dump a bag
of trash
in a house of God,
do not do so
to your body.

You wouldn’t allow vandals in,
who leave the place a shambles,
a wreck,
so don’t allow people
into your mind
who attack you
by bringing your down.

You are the keeper
and the guardian
of your sanctuary.
It is a gift from God to you.
How you take care of it
is your gift
back to God.
A strong, healthy body
is better able
to be of service
to God
by serving
the world.

Heartburn cure

I had bad heartburn and talked to my nutritionist. He told me that the problem is that our stomachs produce LESS acid as we get older, not more. The solution is to add more acid instead of take antacids.

The dosage is determined by taking a tablespoonful of apple cider vinegar (The brand to use is Bragg’s, with “the mother”) after a meal. Simply take it straight. Wait. If you feel burning in your stomach, stop there. You don’t need more acid added to your diet.

If not, take two spoonfuls of it at the next meal. Wait and see how your stomach feels. There will be a burning sensation in your throat – that is normal. This is acetic acid, after all. You want to see if you feel burning in your stomach, and this takes a little time to reveal itself.

If there is no burning, repeat the test by taking three spoonfuls at the next meal. You can take up to four spoonfuls.

When you feel the burn, then your dosage is one less than that. So afterwards, take that number of spoonfuls in a glass of water (you can add a spoonful of honey), after each meal.

Also, while out and about, you can take a supplement called betaine hydrochloride instead. It is much easier than toting around a glass bottle of vinegar.

Now, this does not mean that you can “eat like a kid again” like the heartburn medicine ads tell you. It is like trying to keep a house intact by setting it on fire and then dousing it with water. It is better to not set it on fire in the first place. Your body is your first and best home. It is important to treat it well, because you can’t buy another house when this one falls apart.

It is insane to think of hot dogs and funnel cakes as “food”. Avoid fried and greasy foods not because they give you heartburn, but because they are unhealthy and will kill you. Eat fresh, colorful foods – more vegetables than meat.

The connection between death and depression.

I was just thinking recently about how the signs of death and the symptoms of depression are very similar. I think that they are related. Perhaps depression is a sign of the soul leaving the body. Perhaps the cure for depression is to find ways to get the soul to stay in the body – for the soul to find delight by being corporal.

I’ve heard that our souls choose to be here – that we want to be in a body. Souls are able to see and hear, but they cannot smell, taste, or touch. They cannot enjoy anything that comes with being in a body. They can’t enjoy the feeling from working in the garden or winning a race. They cannot enjoy the taste of home-made zucchini bread. They cannot make someone smile by bringing them a present “just because”.

Let us look at the signs of death that are also some of the symptoms of depression.

— Loss of appetite

— Excessive fatigue and sleep, and increased weakness.

— Mental confusion or disorientation

— Social withdrawal

Here is what you do with a dying person – perhaps it could also be connected to a depressed person…
– -Talk with the person gently and calmly. Assure her that she is loved, and that you will remember her. Let her know that her life mattered. She needs to know that you will be able to go on without her.

We all need to feel connected and that we matter. We need to feel like what we do has meaning. When someone is depressed, they feel alone. They feel like they are not part of the community. Even if they are in a group of people they feel separate.

Turning this around can be as simple as getting the person to get involved. Make an investment of time to call the person, take them out, help them to be part of the community. Volunteering helps. Doing art helps. Joining a club helps. People have to feel like they matter.

When you are depressed, everything seems grey. Food doesn’t taste good. Music sounds flat. Nothing goes in like it should. It is like being in a huge hole, and you don’t even have the energy to get out.

I’ve learned that when I feel depression creeping up, I realize that I’ve not been doing what I know feeds my soul. I think of the soul as being a flame, and it is important to keep it burning bright.

Getting regular exercise and eating healthy foods helps. Making time to be with friends helps. Making art helps.

Notice how these things are the opposite of the dying process.

Work on being more active – physically and socially. Work on the appetite. Eat healthy, tasty food. Be mindful of how much sleep you get. Create a schedule and stick to it. Keep your mind active – take up a hobby. Learn something new. You can combine some of these by teaching someone a skill you have.

Maybe I’ve got the cause and the effect backwards. Maybe the soul is trying to leave the body because it isn’t getting the nourishment it needs from that body. “Nourishment” means more than just vitamins and minerals. When we sit around all day and when we eat bad food, we are damaging our bodies and then by extension – our souls. When we keep to ourselves and don’t make time to connect with the community by having friends or feeling like we belong or matter, we don’t need to be in a body.

Perhaps the soul is trying to leave the body because it feels like this body isn’t serving it.

In whose hands?

Some of us started talking about our deceased coworker, and I mentioned that his death of a heart attack at 42 just furthers my belief that I need to take care of myself. I said this to the coworker in my department who is obese. She has a Y membership and has been maybe four times. The last time was about a year ago. She eats the same way that the dead one does. About monthly she says she “really needs to go back to the Y.” And she never does.

She said “It is all in God’s hands.”

No, it isn’t. We have free will, and sure, Jim Fixx, the guru of running, died of a heart attack. People die when God chooses. But they have a vote in it. They can take care of themselves. As my chiropractor says, we can’t add years to our life, but we can add life to our years.

We are called to be good stewards of God’s creation. This includes our bodies.

The other person in the department smokes constantly, and is out sick a lot.

I’m afraid I’ll be left by myself. I’m afraid they will both die and I’ll be stuck. It takes a long time to train a new person. We joke “It’s all about me” is our phrase in that department, and that sounds self-centered, and it is. But it is true.

But there is something deeper going on.

To not take care of yourself because you think that it is “all in God’s hands” is bizarre. Let’s compare it with the phrase “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” You shouldn’t do something you know to be stupid just to test God.

Honestly, I don’t know why I bother. They are killing themselves, and they know it. But to drag God’s will into it? That takes their own power out of it. It means they are helpless to do anything about it.

What a life of victimhood.

Now is the time.

A coworker just died. His wife died about a month ago. He was young. They were both young.

He had been not taking care of himself for the past year, ever since she got sick. His blood pressure was high. He drank a lot of sodas and ate a lot of breakfast sandwiches. He ate fast food. He never took time to exercise.

He said that he used to take care of himself, but that he just didn’t have time now.

Now it is too late.

Pointless. Pointless. Pointless.

Such a waste of a life.

Jeff Russell was a good man. He was kind, caring, and funny. He could do any impression. He brought cookies and snacks for us all the time. He was good with the patrons. He was easygoing. He didn’t gossip or badmouth anybody.

And he suffered. He was quiet about his pain and his loss. He didn’t know how to handle life after his wife died.

He laid down because he wasn’t feeling well, and he didn’t wake up. His family thinks it was a heart attack.

His heart stopped. It was broken. His sadness filled him up and drowned him, and he died.

Now is the time. There is no other time to eat well, to exercise, to take care of yourself. There is no other time to rest, relax, and process your feelings. Now. Or never.

You have to build up your flame, or it will go out. You, and nobody else, can do this. You must do this.

Tomorrow doesn’t exist. Today is all you have. Use it well.

Waiting to quit

When I quit smoking pot, that very morning a patron verbally attacked me. It was a real test of whether I had really grown up and decided to quit. It was a very vicious verbal attack and I was emotionally scarred. I went in the break room and I sat down and cried for a little bit. And I prayed as well.

I said “God, if you really want me to quit then why would you test me by giving me this evil woman who says that she “is a Christian and she treats people in a Christian way’?” Of all the ways I could have been attacked, that was the most difficult – for a “Christian” to yell at me because she broke the rules and I had to call her on it.

If I have been stoned I wouldn’t have even noticed how hateful she was. It wouldn’t have affected me at all.

I briefly considered going back to smoking and then I realized if I did then I was letting her win. At the time I was smoking not only pot but clove cigarettes to escape my feelings. I realized that I could not continue smoking pot because I wanted to buy a house. There was way too much paperwork and too much preparing to do to be stoned.

In the past, every time someone would upset me I would look forward to having a smoke. Every time I would smoke I would forget how much they upset me. But the problem was that I was polluting my lungs and fogging my mind. I wasn’t harming them at all. I wasn’t getting back at them. I was harming myself. It became important to me to stand strong.

There are many people who say “Oh, I can’t quit smoking cigarettes right now because I’ve got too much stress going on.” You will always have too much stress going on.

Here’s the crazy part. Smoking is what causes the stress. Or, better said, smoking is just putting off dealing with the stress.

We all have stress. Smoking just delays it, and then the problems multiply. Smoking doesn’t make them go away. Then, you have the worry over the fact that you are smoking to add to it. And your lungs don’t work as well, so that it stressful.

Smoking becomes the reason for your stress. It is a stupid cycle but it’s a very human one. We all do it.

If you wait until life is simple and easy, then what are you going to do when times get difficult again? You gave up your pacifier, your teddy bear, your security blanket. So what are you going to reach for when things get difficult again?

You have to learn how to take care of yourself when times are hard. You can’t wait until life gets easy.

I know a guy who is not taking care of himself after his wife died. He is doing all the wrong things and he knows it. He is eating badly and not sleeping well and he says he can’t take care of himself now. This is the time he must take care of himself. If he doesn’t do it then it’s just going to get harder.

The time to
learn how to fly
is when
you’ve been kicked
out of the nest,
not when you’re safe in it.

It is absolutely insane that our human bodies are designed to crave all the wrong things when we are under stress. The things we desire – extra salt, extra fat, extra sugar – are all things that make us feel worse in the long run. These things keep us drowning.

Rather than
dragging us
to the shore
they drag us
under.

But maybe that is our animal nature. Our human nature is to know better and to learn from our mistakes. Our human nature is to rise above and use our minds. Perhaps that’s the difference – our animal nature hurts us but our human nature helps us.

When we are under stress, we are said to have a fight or flight reflex. All our lizard brain wants to do is run away. And certainly run away is a great answer to pain. Who wants to be in the middle of pain? But running away sometimes only causes more pain. Often we run away with drugs, alcohol, smoking, and food.

Interestingly, the stuff that we humans take into ourselves that harms us was made by humans. It isn’t natural. We crave caffeine and processed sugar and excess fat. We crave things that come in packages and have labels. The more we go for healthy things the healthier we are not only physically but mentally.

Ideally people would never ever experience processed food. The moment a child eats a candy bar instead of an apple all he is going to want is the candy bar. And because it makes him happy and excited that’s going to be what he reaches for when he is under stress.

Preventive maintenance for the mind.

I envision a mental-health center, but like the Y. Not a hospital – not a place where you go when you are sick – but a place where you go to get strong. I want it to be a cultural norm that people go “work out” at a place that strengthens their spirit.

There are too many young boys who are killing people. There are too many people killing themselves, either fast or slow. There are too many people suffering in silence, “faking it” and not “making it”.

We need to take away the stigma of mental health. It is for everybody. It isn’t shameful to get help. It is bad to need help and not get it.

We all need help.

If we make it so it is a cultural norm that people seek to prevent problems, then we will save a lot of lives. And when I say “save lives” I don’t just mean from suicide and murder. I mean people will have lives worth living. There is a difference between “living” and “being alive”.

Here are some of my rough sketches.

A place where you can learn at your own pace or follow an assigned course.

Where you pay based on your ability to pay, or it is free.

People will learn that mind, body, and spirit are all connected. So, in a way, it is an extension of the Y, but has more things.

People can learn how to shop for healthy food choices and how to cook them.

People can learn how to exercise – how to find one that they like and can do – and will do.

They will get support for when (not if) they “fall off the wagon”.

Spiritual direction.

Group and one-on-one counseling offered.

Help each person find their unique gifts and talents and learn how to use them.

Job counseling – finding the right job to fit you.

Healthy approach to grief and death. Learn to understand that grief can accompany any loss – divorce, move, job loss.

How to deal with emotions, both good and bad. Healthy ways to process feelings.

Art and music as a way of life. Journaling classes.

People need to learn how to recover their spirits and build them up. Our souls, our spirits are like flames. If we let them die down, we are done for.

How to establish and maintain healthy boundaries. Classes on codependence.

It will have AA and NA meetings – but for everybody and everything. We all self-medicate with something. We are all trying to get away from our pain with something. Nobody is immune to addiction.

Faith is healing too- there will be interfaith, nondenominational gatherings to celebrate and connect with the Divine/Creator/Spirit/God.

There are some agencies in Nashville that do some of these things. I suspect there are similar places in your own town. Perhaps a stop-gap would be to create a resource directory so people can access these, or at least know that they exist.

This isn’t just my calling. This is for all of us. If you are reading this, you are being called to it as well. We have to make mental health something that everybody works on. We have to remove the stigma about getting help. The well-being of our families, our friends, our neighborhood, and our world depends on it. How many more people have to die, either at their own hands or the hands of strangers, before we act?

Account balance

The secret to saving money is to spend less or make more, or both. Likewise, the secret to losing weight is to burn more calories or take less in, or both.

Move more and eat better and you’ll lose weight. But the weight isn’t the goal. The goal is health. If you move more, you’ll have better mobility in your joints. Your heart will be stronger. If you eat better, you’ll be giving your body the fuel it needs. Both will make you feel better and live longer.

I’m not about a starvation diet. There is no reason you have to eat salads and feel miserable. But do cut out the fried foods. You think you want them. You don’t. They don’t taste of anything except salt and fat. You can’t taste the goodness in the food when it is fried.

Do eat less food in general. You don’t need to eat like a dog who just got adopted from the pound. Slow down. Chew everything at least 20 times. You’ll digest it better if you eat it more slowly. Because, you aren’t what you eat, you are what you digest. If nothing else, think of all the money you’ll save if you eat less.

Eating less meat and more vegetables is always good too. The meat portion, if you are going to have it at all, needs to be the size of a deck of cards. Really. It is often the size of half the plate. And that is just the first helping.

For vegetables, the more the merrier. The more variety you can have, the more different vitamins and minerals you are getting. Every plate of vegetables is a gift from you to your body. Aim for a lot of color and you can’t go wrong. If you think you don’t like a certain vegetable, try it another way – steamed or grilled or baked. Sometimes it isn’t the vegetable, it is the way it is cooked that is the problem. Texture is essential. Baked squash is totally different from boiled or steamed squash. Try it, you might like it.

I’m stunned at the number of people who saw my husband take his bike to work who still wondered how he lost all that weight. He lost nearly a hundred pounds in a year. Now, it wasn’t from just riding his bike. He walked at lunch. He worked out at the Y several times a week. He ate healthier. But his coworkers didn’t see all that. They did see the bike, and they still didn’t get it. They thought he had gotten stomach reduction surgery.

Perhaps that is the problem. People just don’t see the connection. Hard work equals results.

No, it isn’t easy to get healthy. No, there are no shortcuts. You just have to do it.

You’ll fail a lot at first. You’ll get started and then stall out. You’ll be doing well and hit a snag. You’ll come full stop. Just start again. It isn’t the stopping that is the point. It is the starting again. Know that failing is normal. You aren’t a failure for failing. You’re normal. You’re human. Just get going again.

Even when you finally get a good routine going and you are doing very well, you’ll start to slack off. You’ve gotten to your goal and you think you can ease up. Then your joints start hurting again, and your jeans start not fitting again, and you’ll realize there isn’t a stopping point.

This is for life. You can’t stop because if you stop you’re done. You have to see eating well and moving more as something you just do as part of being a human. It has to be part of your life, and not just a thing you do to lose a few pounds before your high school reunion.

This is for life, because otherwise, you don’t really have a life. Otherwise, you’ll end up, if you make it to old age at all, on so many pills you’ll need an assistant to sort them for you. You’ll need a cane, or a walker, or a wheelchair. You’ll spend your days sitting at home because you are too feeble to get out on your own. You’ll be dead before you are dead.

This is for life. This is so you’ll have a life.

Recommit

Sometimes my energy gets really low. It isn’t a great feeling. I don’t want to be up all the time, but I certainly don’t want to sink into the doldrums either.

I have let my flame get really low the past two weekends. I have noticed it and recommitted myself. I find it is important to commit to a practice of mindfulness, of intention, of purpose. When I stray from that practice I don’t notice it right away. I notice a week or two later when everything starts to not work correctly.

Perhaps some of this comes from being bipolar. Perhaps it is normal for humans to have mood swings that can leave them feeling so worthless they don’t want to get out of bed. I don’t know. I know I’m bipolar and I know that this is what I experience.

Sometimes getting out from under this funk feels like pushing a rock up a big hill. It feels like I never get anywhere. It feels like it is all work all the time and it never gets easier.

But I’ve been here before. I remember. It is slow going and requires patience and discipline, but it gets better. The problem comes when it gets going really well and I stop doing all the things I know I should do and I start to slide back down that hill again.

I was off last Friday, as usual. I didn’t have any solid plans. This is always a bad start. There were some things I could do, but nothing I had to do. I was tempted to skip yoga, but I knew that would mean I would stay at home and the funk would get worse. I pulled myself out of bed and went. My heart wasn’t in it but I knew that I was doing something good for myself. Just doing that gave me a little more energy.

A Hasidic Rabbi pointed out once that you can’t burn down a tree with a match, but if you chop the tree up into little pieces, you can. This is a useful thought. In part it means that it is OK to break up tasks into little pieces. Sometimes we think that if we can’t do it all, we shouldn’t even do a little bit of it. It also means that just doing a little bit of something can give you enough energy to do a little bit more of it.

When my flame is low and I’m recommitting myself, I have to be very intentional about what I do.

I avoid all fried food.
I eat no meat.
I skip spicy food.
I go back to my exercise routine – walking, yoga, water aerobics.
I craft in some way – bead, draw, paint.
I write.
I avoid processed sugar.
I avoid “retail therapy”.

I already have given up smoking and caffeine. These two are really bad for mental health.

Sometimes something as simple as washing the dishes or doing the laundry can be healing. It is something that when I notice later I’ve done it, I feel better. Vacuuming doesn’t seem to have this affect – it doesn’t produce a visible result. Sometimes just noticing that there is less clutter helps my head.

What is it about doing these things that makes me feel better? Is it eating vegetarian that makes me feel better, or the fact that I have chosen to do something that I feel is good for me? Half of this is getting past what the Buddhists call “the monkey mind.” That is the part of your mind that is all “gimme gimme gimme”. It doesn’t care about what is healthy or right or good. It is your inner toddler.

It is hard to fight the monkey mind. It makes you think it is you.

I try not to go overboard on this. I have learned to have patience with myself. It is a slow process of re-entry. It isn’t wise to swing the pendulum too far one way or another. When you are sick, you don’t want to run a marathon. It is good to do things carefully.

It is just like driving. If you notice you are getting out of the lane, you don’t want to yank the steering wheel too sharply. You are better off gently steering back into the correct lane. If you yank the wheel, you might veer off in the wrong direction.

If you are in a yoga pose and you notice you are getting wobbly, you don’t want to over correct. You are better off making micro adjustments. If you overcorrect you’ll likely fall.

This is exactly the same thing. The only problem is that when your mind gets out of the lane or wobbly you don’t have a lot of feedback. You don’t have a way of noticing it. You notice when you crash into the guardrail. You notice when you fall on the floor. Good mental health requires you notice before that happens.

Friday wasn’t a 10. It was more like a 5. But I know if I’d not paid attention and started to steer things in a better direction, it would have been a 2. I’m ok with a 5. And I know that tomorrow I’ll try again.