Nov 17, 2011

When the mind creates so much noise that it makes us go deaf to our own needs; time for some introspection..

"To be idle is a short road to death and to be diligent is a way of life; foolish people are idle, wise people are diligent."  

   This quote from the Hindu Prince Guatama Siddharta, the founder of Buddhism, is interesting to me.  I believe that being idle, my definition being the act of not challenging ourselves to learn or participate in life,  will eventually dull the mind and our experiences in life.  I also believe that there is a big difference in mindless idle time and purposeful idle time.  I think that this is why I have a hard time doing nothing for long periods of time.  I get the 4 A's: agitated, antsy, annoyed, aggravated.  I cannot sit still for too long without feeling like I am being wasteful of the precious moments given to us to spend each day.  Occasional gluttony is fine with me - enjoying a lazy morning in bed without care for when I get up is fine with me.  However I cannot live my life every single day squandering the moments away.  I just cannot do it. While I love laying out on the beach listening to the waves break, I will read, collect shells, go for a swim and walk the shoreline during my time there.  I cannot just lie there all afternoon.  I want to experience relaxation and rest, and I do, but to me that does not mean that I have to be unconscious for it.

Dull minds limp bodies make, for nations filled with uncertainty and unfocused energy.

     I consider the importance of both the physical and the mental  in what I call health inertia. My thoughts being that if you start activity it leads to further activity.  However, once we stop being active it  becomes harder to become active.  Putting the ball in motion:  the first push is always the hardest however to keep it rolling you need to gently push it along gently.

I speak a lot about the physical portion of health on this blog, however I do not spend enough time on the more mental aspects of health.  Healthy activity does not always have to be hard on the body or even involve the body moving. 

In the past few years I have come to realize that running has been as much as a mental activity as a physical one for me.  I notice this immediately when I stop running.  When I run consistently I allow my mind a break from school, from work, from home.  It is "me" time.  It is time to catch up with friends.  It is time that my mind has to run more freely than most hours of the day.  I find that I sleep better, that I have more energy mentally as well as physically, and I am overall happier.  While this can easily be attributed to the physical action of running, I think that it is in part due to the mental release.

     On my solo runs I start to examine the red light of whatever fires my mind is mulling over, working on the ways to put them out.  One by one *poof* gone.  By the end of my runs I am left with no burning lights, only a calm mind.  I joke that I found "zen" at my half Ironman last year, but I was only half joking.  It was during that race that I experienced a truly uplifting day - no matter what was going on my mind was not on the outcome, only the journey.  It became so clear to me why I do this, and it was all internal.  I felt so full of light and happiness that the day unfolded in front of me. I just embraced the day from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed. 

Since I have taken a month of from any real running my mind has not had a clear signal to switch from fire mode to relaxation mode.  I often will go to bed with a racing mind and wake up exhausted.  My dreams are a confusing mash-up of the days events, anticipatory visions of tomorrow's events, and problems at work and school.  I had to find a way to stop this but one which would not be another time sucker for me.  Balancing home, school, work, and training for a marathon and half Ironman takes up just about all of the time one could possibly have in a day excluding sleep.  Thank goodness we are a child-free home.  I am  not a fan of burning the candle at both ends as that is the quickest route to burn out.  I have found the answer for me in meditation.  Short sessions of guided meditation.

     Over the past year I have collected many podcasts on meditation.  I started to listen to one meditation podcast in particular, the meditation podcast,  and have found that the short sessions work well for me and my needs. Since I get too agitated if I am to sit still for more than 20 minutes, these shorter guided sessions have been just long enough to be effective and just short enough that I can fully give myself to the practice. The simple act of mediation, while not simple at all, has opened up a new door for me and my health.  Just like the resultant from running, I have found more energy, am honestly happier, and have a better sense of connectivity to my body's needs.

     Part of my challenge is to re-learn the cues my body is sending me but that I cannot hear or that I am ignoring.  This introspection has allowed me the opportunity to get back into harmony with my body.  I know that it is a process, and meditation in only a part of the equation.  We need to listen to our bodies.  Hunger cues, sleep cues, happiness cues.  The mind is sneaky and can be our worst enemy when we need to dig deep.  It has the power to trick us into being idle and complacent if we allow it to, by lending our focus to how hard something will be or how much it will hurt - good or bad.

Our bodies,on the other hand, will tell us exactly what they need. Our bodies do not lie.  Exercise, micro-nutrients, sleep.  We drown out these signals by everyday activities.  Eating when the clock or social paradigms dictate.  Sleeping when we can fit it in.  Working out only if we have the time.  Allowing our minds to talk us out of what we know we should do.  Sneak sneaky sneaky.  The mind can create so much noise that it makes us go deaf to our own needs.

In the attempt to relearn my internal cues I now eat until I am almost full and have been trying to slow down my eating process so it can register when I am nearing the full point so I can stop ahead of it and not be stuffed.  I am also trying to learn how much sleep my body needs by allowing it to tell me. I have turned off my daily alarm clock and now allow my body to go to sleep and wake up when it needs to.  I am fortunate that I have been able to wake up with plenty of time to get to work in the mornings and have found that I am getting a consistent amount of sleep each night, between 7 and 9 hours.

This is a work in progress, but I am happy to see that this meditation is adding to my experience along the journey.  This will be one practice that I continue on with long after my days of triathlons are over.

Week 3 Challenge: If you have set a challenge for yourself, try stepping outside of the physical aspects this week and try tuning into your body.  How does it feel after you put it to work?  Does it tell you that it needs more or does it say it needs rest?  If your mind drowning out your bodies cues of sleep and hunger?  Or are you listening to what your body has to say to you?  

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