What I Am Reading Now: Younger Next Year

The other day one of my yoga students handed me this book:

You should read this

He opened it to the back and had me read this: (from the Appendix)

Harry’s Rules

1.Exercise six days a week for the rest of your life.

2. Do serious aerobic exercise four days a week for the rest of your life.

3. Do serious strength training, with weights, two days a week for the rest of your life.

4. Spend less than you make.

5. Quit eating crap!

6. Care.

7. Connect and commit.

I’m not even half-way through and already I want everyone I know to read this.  It is written by a journalist and a doctor. The journalist is 70, and the doctor is in his 40s.  They alternate chapters and they are both great (and hilarious) writers, with the doctor (Harry) giving the science of why exercise is essential, and the journalist (Chris) doing the program and reporting on the results.  I want to say that they are the “Click and Clack” of Longevity, but that wouldn’t be accurate.  But they are funny and the writing is casual and irreverent and totally convincing. And motivating.

Now that the days are getting colder and darker, the temptation to hibernate and take comfort in mashed potatoes and meatloaf, and watch football and sip a little sumpin’ in the evening is getting pretty darn irresistible.  That’s why this book has fallen into my hands at THE PERFECT TIME.  This book, coupled with my amped up yoga practice. is going to make me Younger Next Year.

And not a year too soon, either.

 

You’re the One

So. I would like to start today’s post by noting that I feel awake and alert even though I am not fully rested.  Because even though I got to bed at a reasonable hour (9:15) I wound up reading until almost 10.  That meant that this morning’s 4:30 Zen Birds were not a welcome sound, and even the cat ,meowing and pawing me for breakfast did not wake me.  I just rolled over, turned off the birds (but left the light on) and let the sharp stab of, “Ohmygod, Have I overslept?? rocket me out of bed.

I was better after coffee, of course, and my class always jacks me up, and then when I got home I changed immediately into workout clothes because the other day I read in On Fitness magazine that slow endurance cardio just ain’t gonna cut it if you want to burn fat (which I do.) Turns out you MUST do intervals.

And not only intervals, Killer Intervals.

Intervals that leave you gasping.

On Fitness featured this 40-minute Treadmill Interval Workout that intrigued me.  So, before I sat down and let my tiredness overtake me, I decided to change into workout clothes, drink my juice, and head to the gym and give it a whirl.

I got 3 intervals (out of 12) into it when my engine sputtered, cut out, and died.

Really.  Not a chance.

I am still coughing because I was sucking air so deeply into my lungs so as not to blat, I think I found a new level of alveoli, and they’re still all jumpy and stimulated and going “Whoah!  What was that?  Was that oxygen?  Oxygen has never come WAY DOWN HERE before.  *cough, cough*

So even though I abandoned this killer interval workout from hell, I did persist in a more Disney version that I invented myself: going out at warp speed (8.5) to the edge of death, then ramping back to wimp speed (3.9) to rejoin the living (and some chic on Bravo with a shoe closet the size of my living room. You ever see the stuff on Bravo TV in the morning?  Wo.  Who knew? )

Did that for about 20 minutes, then hit up the rowing machine to regain feeling in my shoulders.

Left the gym soaked, and glowing, and feeling positively TRANSCENDENT.

Why don’t I do this everyday?

This is what people often say as they leave yoga class: Why the hell don’t I get myself on my mat more regularly?  What is wrong with me?

Yeah, seriously. What is wrong with us?  Why don’t we do the things we know will make us feel better/great/fantastic:  Eat right. Sleep more.  Exercise. Meditate. Stretch. Take time for lots of mini-vacations?   Why?

(ooh! ooh! I know! I know! Pick me!)

The answer?  We are obsessed with accumulating the zeros.  Yep.  The zeros.

Let me explain.  (I read this last night in Waysun Liao’s Tao: The Way of God and I’m going to paraphrase wildly here, so stay with.)

The author said to imagine you are worth $1,000,000.  Now, take away the 1.

What are you worth now?  Zip, right?  Yeah.

Here’s what happens. In our zeal to add meaning and purpose to our lives, we tend to ignore the needs of the 1, (the “I”) and focus all our time and energy on accumulating the zeros.  We feel (and are told outright by society and our parents and teachers, etc.) that the 1 is a “given.”  So we taken it for granted.  All that matters is how many zeros we can amass behind that 1: money, college degrees, promotions, cars, houses, trophies, successful business ventures, accomplishments of every stripe.

Somehow we have gotten the message that it is more important to keep busy stacking zeros than it is to nurture and protect the 1.  But if the 1 is gone, what do all the zeros add up to?

Exaaactly.

The author was talking about meditation in this context and his point was that people say they don’t have time to meditate, or take time to be idle, or go on little retreats, or to give themselves nurturing practices like yoga or a good workout, or time off for good behavior because they are so obsessed with cranking out the zeros.  And it’s totally ass-backwards.

But when you are on the brink of death (or just feel you are) like when you come down with the flu or something, and are FORCED to self-care, it’s THEN that you clearly “get it” about the unimportance of the zeros. The zeros don’t mean a thing if there’s no 1 to drag them around.

BUT, if you have a robustly centered and enlightened “ONE” in the front of your parade, you can start amassing those juicy zeros with impunity.

From now on this is how I will justify what I sometimes think of as a very self-indulgent lifestyle: meditating, writing, the doing and teaching of yoga and spending quiet time just staring at trees or sipping a smoothie on the deck.

Yeah. It’s not self-indulgent; it’s just taking care of the 1.

Strawberry Mango Smoothie with potted Lantana

 

 

How My Resolutions Advance My Pilgrimage

How is drinking more water going to advance me on my journey? The answer: My lack of sufficient hydration is starting to cause minor break-downs.  In a word, I itch.  I have to stop and itch.  My ears itch. My skin itches.  And every time I have to stop and itch, I have take my focus from the journey, to the itch.  More water = less itch.  Less itch = Westward Ho! the wagons!

Break a sweat everyday is really important for my mood, my sanity, my mental health.  It is also a great detoxifier, and it has the added benefit of making me stronger and fitter; but mostly I see a good sweat-producing workout everyday as keeping me feeling young and optimistic. It’s as simple as that. Everyday I have to pass The Wet Torso Test: when my torso feels wet to the touch, and my underwear is soaked, mission accomplished. And when I feel great, I get things done and I make things happen. And Making Things Happen is one of my key mantras for this year, too. So there’s that.

Meditate. This one is so that I don’t forget my place in the scheme of things. When I devote a few minutes (ideally 20) to being quiet and just listening to my inner talk and noticing what I think about without judging it, and then just listen to the traffic or to other sounds in the room for a while, all the snow in the snow globe settles down and I feel ready to approach the day with equanimity and balance and a sense of okay-ness.

My own sadhana. (sadhana means “spiritual practice.”) This keeps me in integrity. The fact is, I have a yoga studio. I teach people how to practice yoga. That’s a big part of who I am. So if I don’t practice, what right have I to teach other people? What right do I have to tell other people to practice every day? Plus, if I practice everyday I fill my cup. I have something to give to other people because I come to know what it means to practice. One of the things I learned about myself (here we go again with the “Know Thyself” rules) when I was sitting at Springwater is that I need a holy body practice. Running or working out doesn’t do it for me. I need yoga. I need a body practice that has no goal except self-exploration. Running and lifting weights are all burdened by goals about times and how much weight you can lift, or lose, etc, etc. Yoga CAN be about goals (how deeply can you backbend, can you get up into a headstand, etc.) but I don’t really care about that stuff. Yoga for me is about moving and watching the whole “mind” show. Listening to all the chatter about how I still can’t do this, or how my hammies are so tight, or maybe I should switch to Ashtanga or Bikram or Yin. And then just staying present to whatever I happen to be doing in the moment and just doing it. Then, when it’s over, reflecting on it. In short, using the body as an instrument of awareness, as a “biofeedback tool.” If I just sit meditation without partnering it with a body practice, I feel like I am missing an opportunity to use something I have (my body) to further my insight, my development. It’s as simple as that. And the integrity piece is huge too. If I don’t practice I don’t feel I have any right to teach. Period.

Learn Spanish. Okay, how will learning Spanish help me on the pilgrimage? Well, one of the reasons I want to learn another language is simply because it is challenging to the ol’ gray matter. But the other reason is that I want to travel more. I want to go places that are exotic and new and unfamiliar and see if I can manage there. One of the things that has always frightened me about foreign travel is going to a place where I don’t speak the language. So if I go someplace new, I want to see if I can fumble around in a language that is not native to me. Plus, I am finding the learning to be really enjoyable and I am excited about it and it is fun! I would love to teach yoga in Costa Rica someday, take a group, do a retreat, like now, in the middle of the winter! So that’s why Spanish.

Express Gratitude.  I feel so grateful for my life, my family, my friends, my yogarians, for random kindnesses shown to me by others.  But I have come to learn that feeling grateful is swell and groovey and all, but if those who you feel loved and tended by don’t know it, what good is it?  (Remember: thoughts are not REAL.  Only ACTIONS are real.) So expressed gratitude is essential.  Also, the act of expressing gratitude seems to remove obstacles along the path, and make the journey easier.  Weird, but true!

So there it is.  Onward!