Let it go!

Recently, a friend of mine wrote that “desire and attachment are the causes of suffering”. I wanted to pick a nit with that statement, but he’s disabled comments on his blog, so I guess I just need to write about it on my own. 😉

Desire alone doesn’t cause any suffering. I, for example, desire a beer. This causes no suffering at all. I decide to go to the fridge and get a beer. Now I open the refrigerator and find… no beer! Here is where the attachment comes in to play. If I was attached to the idea that going to the fridge would fulfill my desire, then I am now suffering, because my desire remains unfulfilled. How dare the refrigerator be devoid of beer! Such injustice! Who drank the last beer?!?

But if we don’t get attached to the preconceived idea of having our desire fulfilled, if we simply let the desire exist, then the suffering is avoided. So here I am, desiring beer and having none in the refrigerator. I can check to see if there’s some warm beer lying about that I could put in the refrigerator. I can, if the desire is strong enough, get dressed and go to the bar or the party store and purchase beer. I can open a bottle of wine. I can brew a mug of tea and leave my desire for beer behind me. Suffering is, really, a choice that we make.

So why would anybody ever choose to suffer? Good question! I wish I knew, but we certainly do. Even with a firmly stated goal in my head these past several months of accepting what is and making the best of it, I still sometimes fall into the trap of becoming attached to a particular outcome, and the suffering can be mighty.

Observe what is.
Contemplate what you want.
Take reasonable action to achieve your desires.
But accept whatever the result is, and make the best of it.
Choose acceptance, not suffering.
Wash, rinse, repeat.

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Interconnectedness, and trying new things

Thinking a bit lately about the past year or so, and how I’ve pushed myself to do things that I previously would not have done. Case in point, tonight I’m going to meet up with some yoga “friends” whom I’ve never met before, for dinner at a place (a zen monastery) I’ve never been before, to eat food I’ve most likely never eaten before (vegetarian). Ignoring for a moment that 2-3 months ago I’d also never done yoga before, I’m going quite a bit outside of my comfort zone tonight. I’m also going solo (my wife, eat a vegetarian meal? in a monastery? with strangers? Ha!), for extra difficulty.

I was firmly on the fence about it, both wanting the new experience, but also not wanting to go so far out of my comfort zone. It wasn’t so long ago that I nearly backed out of going to a housewarming party for a very good friend of mine, on the basis that *most* of the people would be strangers, even though I knew quite well that most if not all of those strangers would have a love of craft beer and brewing in common with me. This is a much thinner thread tonight.

Ah, beer…. Some day soon I will be brewing a new recipe of my own creation at a professional brewery. What does that have to do with this? Let’s follow the path:

Last year, I finally took “Battlefield Brewery” out to the Traverse City area for a SCA event known as Vikings Come Home. I’d been once before, many years ago, with my wife. It’s a bit far of a drive, though, and the people I knew out there back then are no longer out there (and/or no longer do SCA). So to make that trip again, bar in tow, all by myself was a bit of a push for me. Because I showed up there, I got to meet the owner of a brewery who was also there. We drank each other’s beers, and he said we should collaborate some time. I nodded, and wasn’t quite sure if he really meant it. His brewery was much closer to home than Traverse City, but still not quite close to home (an hour drive). That might well have been the end of it, but because I also last year started running, with the goal of doing a 5k race, I discovered I loved running. I signed up for multiple running-related groups. One of the mailing lists alerted me to a free “yoga for runners” class. Yoga had always interested me, so I signed up for it and drove…. about an hour from my house. Except I went straight from work to shorten the drive, and come to find out that the location of the running store hosting the class is a block down from a particular brewery. So I went there for dinner and a beer or two before yoga and… chickened out and didn’t say hi to the owner at all. But I fell in love with yoga, and so I did the same free class again the following month, and this time I made a point of sitting up at the bar where I might force myself into talking to the owner, who did remember me, and gave me a tour, and his e-mail address so that we can plan our joint brew. A culmination of pushing myself out of my comfort zone 4 times, for 4 completely unrelated things, resulted in this fantastic opportunity!

So yes. I’m going to dinner with strangers at a monastery, because who knows where it might lead?

side note: Once the brew session happens (we haven’t set a date yet, but do have a recipe), I’ll post details of the brewery and what I made, and when it should be available.

Continuing my journey: Yoga

The past year has been quite a ride, and I’ve no intention of stopping it. I’ve always admired yoga from a distance. Back before the weight loss I had tried to get into yoga a couple of times, with a DVD or online videos, but that’s not the best way to learn anything, and coupled with my girth and general lack of fitness, it just wasn’t happening.

Ninety pounds later, and with pretty decent fitness thanks to my running regimen, I saw a notice for a free “Yoga for Runners” class at a not-so-local (hour drive) running store. But that store is a block away from a brewery I like, so I figured “why not?” and made a night of it. I loved it. I felt great afterwards. For some reason, though, I just never managed to make it to the local yoga studio that is about 5 blocks from my house… So in February (they do these classes monthly) I did it again.

Still unsure why I seem incapable of going to the studio just down the street, I took some recommendations I’d heard for Down Dog (a phone app) and Yoga with Adriene (YWA) on YouTube. With a couple classes under my belt, my grasp of what to do was a bit better than during my failed attempts years ago. I started with the intro sessions in Down Dog, and I actually enjoy yoga at home now. There’s something to be said, though, for being in a room of like-minded people, and I might just keep treating myself once a month to a night out at Yoga for Runners.

Today was Day 1 of the 30 day “TRUE” series on YWA for me, and I think once I get through these 30 days, yoga will be a daily ritual for me. Day 1 is titled Motive, and asks what motivates me to do this. In no particular order:
To sculpt my body into something more attractive than what it is right now.
To improve my flexibility.
To become a better runner.
To simply enjoy this thing that I’ve discovered I love doing, and learn to do it better.

Namaste.

The winter of my discontent

It’s only mid-January, and I’m struggling to remember a snowier winter than this current one. A part of me feels like I should enjoy it, because younger me would have enjoyed it. The me who would go outside without a coat and not instantly freeze. The me who loved sledding and skiing and snowball fights. That me is not around this year. This me is chilled to the bones. This me wants to hibernate. This me wants winter to end already. And while I can still vaguely appreciate the beauty of falling snow, I appreciate more the beauty of melting snow when we manage to get up above freezing briefly.
This weekend, I head out for Winter Revel, with beer and bar in tow. The forecast still calls for above-freezing, although not quite as warm as the forecast was a couple days ago. It will be time for wool and sharing body heat, and two enormous fireplaces which I have always loved, but which I will love even more this time around. But when friends arrive and alcohol flows, winter will be briefly forgotten. When I fall asleep by the firelight, to the smell of burning wood, I’ll have happy dreams…. Of an early spring.

Happy Old Year!

So many people celebrating the new year… Understandable enough. It represents a good arbitrary potential turning point where you can vow to stop doing bad things and/or start doing good things. I’m having none of that this time around, though. I’ll go on record (if I haven’t already, and I think I have) as saying 2017 was definitely one of the better years of my life. Tomorrow may be a new year for everybody else, but it’s just a Monday off of work for me. Cause for celebration in and of itself, for sure, but there’s no higher significance. I intend to keep doing all the things I’ve been doing, and hopefully things continue being good… possibly even better. If you are among those seeking a fresh start, I wish you luck! Please renew your vows monthly, because it’s far too common for resolutions to be long-since-dead by the end of February.

And so it begins… again…

So much self improvement in one year… First came the weight loss. So much weight loss. Fifty pounds later (and still losing) I started working on the running, for both weight loss assistance and for endurance training (and to prove that I could actually run a decent distance). 25-30 pounds later I ran a 5k race with a pretty good time and I’m feeling very good about myself, so it’s time to think about one of my original goals, which was to get back into SCA fighting.

So today I began that in earnest, by digging out my armor and trying it all on (a piece at a time). Some things fit, others most definitely do not. My half-gauntlets are fitting very well, so I took them – along with two swords and a shield – up to the attic to whale away on my punching bag for a bit. It felt good at first, but my right arm quickly tired from swinging the sword, so I switched the shield to my right and sword to my left and continued. The weight of the long sword was too much for my left arm, so I switched again to a shorter sword, until my left was good and tired. Took a break, put the shield down, picked the long back up with my right and went at it some more. When all my swings looked downright pathetic, I put the swords away and finished with a flurry of punches to the bag. Then, exhausted from my ~15 minutes of activity and feeling properly humbled, I took a nap. My forearms are quite sore now, identifying some muscles in my arms that apparently aren’t being worked enough when I hit the dumbbells in the gym. Considering the amount of work my armor needs, though, it’s not a huge problem that my body needs work too. Let’s do this.

February will mark the one year anniversary of getting my shit together. If I can get back on the tournament list by then, and also play a game of ice hockey by then, I will have achieved or exceeded all 4 of my goals. So I guess I should get my hockey gear out and check the fit of that, too.

Addiction

The first step is admitting you have a problem. I’m ready to admit I have a problem. It all began last year after Michigan Homebrew Festival. The event was at a new site that year, with tall trees everywhere you looked. Shortly after that event, I saw a sale (on either Woot or Amazon (which owns Woot)) on hammocks. I thought to myself, “It would be awesome to have a hammock to sit in next year at MHF, so I bought one. Or course, it arrived well past hammock weather, which is why it was on sale I’m sure. I never really had a convenient time to use the hammock before MHF, because I only have a single tree at my house ever since disease caused the city to come through and remove all my other trees.

Then my birthday happened, and I had both cash and Amazon gift cards. And friends of mine had a housewarming party, at which I got to lie down in their hammock which was in a hammock stand. I went  to Amazon shortly afterwards and bought the exact same hammock and stand (again, on sale!) and instantly upon setting it up regretted not having bought one many years ago. Then MHF happened and I finally used the camping hammock. And slept in it. I fell in love. I then hammock-camped the next SCA event I went to. The SCA event after that, though, there was rain in the forecast. So I went back to Amazon for a rain fly, and found that the fly alone cost more than the hammock did. Incensed, I shopped around more and found a double hammock with mosquito netting and a rain fly for just a bit more than a fly alone, so…. I bought it!

Recently, I ran across a double hammock on Amazon Daily Deals, and bought that too, because (I reasoned) I might want a double hammock without mosquito netting, just for the sake of getting some cuddle time. So now I own 4 hammocks. But that didn’t get me to where I am now…

I just saw hammocks on sale again, and had the urge to go look at them. Enough is enough. I have a problem. Hammock addiction is a real thing. I need help.

 

Race day

Today was my first ever 5k race. It’s quite a big deal to me, because running is not anything I’ve ever done (without a damned good reason, and even then for short distances only) until about 3 months ago, when I began the C25K program. Week 1 of the program consists of walking for 60 seconds followed by running for 90 seconds, repeated for a total of 20 minutes. I did it on a treadmill, and my speed was set to 2.5 MPH for the walking and 3.5 MPH for the running. It was hard as hell, and I was very proud that I actually was able to complete the 20 minutes at all.

By the end of the (nominally 8-week) program (that took me a little over 9 weeks to finish), I was running at 5 MPH and walking (on the days that even involved walking at all) at 3.5 MPH. Today I ran 5k in 29:43 which is about 6.29 MPH. Better yet is when I looked at my stats per kilometer (courtesy of Zombies, Run!) and saw that I ran each of the 5 kilometers faster than the one before it. And instead of being dead tired at the end, I felt good!

Had you told me a year ago that I would run that far and enjoy it, I would have thought you insane. Pardon me now while I go question my own sanity.

 

Resume ALL the things!

It’s like a life reboot. I got back to my college weight, I resumed weight lifting (sort of… some is better than none?), picked blogging back up due to the inspiration and encouragement of a good friend of mine, recently blogged my intent to get back into fighting due to the inspiration of another friend… Hockey has also been on my “to-get-back-into” list for a while. Now I’ve just read an article that makes me really want to take up chess again as well. Add all that to new things that I’ve recently incorporated into my life, and you get: too many things to do, and too little time. Anybody got a winning lotto ticket I can have? :-p

At some point I’ll have to make some hard choices about what gets my time and what doesn’t, but until then life is just looking like a bunch of opportunities waiting to happen. Onward!

 

The power of suggestion

So at some point over the weekend, chatting with a friend of mine, she mentioned eating Altoids. Immediately I thought about how I used to eat Altoids quite a bit, and that I haven’t in years, and that I have no idea why I stopped. This morning when I stopped to fill up the tank on my Explorer, I went inside the station to grab some caffeine, and there was a line for the register. As I’m standing there, something catches at the corner of my eye. I bet you’ve already guessed that it was Altoids, haven’t you? It seems there’s now “Altoids Arctic”, which is “curiously cool” instead of “curiously strong”. And among the Arctic flavors was Strawberry. So yeah, I’ve been popping a steady stream of addictive strawberry mints into my mouth since then, thinking to myself “maybe this is exactly why I stopped.” The tin is staring at me now. I should put it out of sight. After I have one more.