Renunciation remains sorrow, though a sorrow borne willingly.
Renunciation remains sorrow, though a sorrow borne willingly.
Making long-term lifestyle changes that gradually but continually result in a significant altering of the physical form has been accompanied by, for me, a sort of existential soundtrack that I hadn't really considered at the outset of my process. As above so below, they say, or perhaps as below so above. So it goes. I relish the swirl of all things, as much as I'm horrified by it, so I welcome the mental bewilderment associated with the physical disorientation. I'm prone to believing that the only version of you that really matters--if any version of you really matters in truth--is the one happening right now, because any past iteration only exists as a memory, yours or someone else's, and any future version of you is as yet a projection of the mind. Frankly I could, but I won't delve into existence as a projection just now. But, there does appear to prevail a cumulative element to life--a spiral, not a circle, I would posit (although it has been said that time is a flat circle)--albeit I think some of us find it easy to get used to being inside of the "same" fleshy body day after day, while I find it hard to forget that I'm temporarily inhabiting this space, spinning this blood. Recently, many people have commented on the significant change in my appearance, often saying, "I hardly recognize you," and the truth is I hardly recognize myself, but that is nothing new. Yet hearing it never gets any less strange. Oh friends, paradox abounds!
In any case, I've been asked over and over what the big secret is, so now that the conjectural musing portion of my post is a distant memory, diary, I'll provide some practical insights I've accumulated along the way while achieving and continuing to achieve significant weight loss and increased physical health, along with maximum grrrrrr, baby (to boot!). This is what works for me.
Godspeed and all that.
- Eat good food, hard. I'm talking lean meats, non-starchy veggies, and healthy fats, and a lot of it. Eat food that is high in water, fiber, and protein. Cut sugar, starch, and grains. Ain't no body got time for that. Learn the difference between food and edible products. Shop around the edges of the grocery store. Learn how to cook things. Don't you dare whine about how much it costs.
- Move your body. It doesn't have to be hard. You don't need to spend hours in the gym. You don't have to hate it. Just do something. Literally anything.
- Make it personal. What works for everyone else may not work for you, so experiment a lot in order to understand how you tick. Try out mantras, seek out partners in crime, write about your experience, whatever. Don't be afraid to dig around in your brains to figure out what you need.
- Don't bother counting calories or weighing yourself. Those numbers are bullshit. Cutting calories, in spite of what we are told, isn't the best method of burning excess fat and staying healthy. The quality of the food you are eating is the absolute end all be all of what matters in regard to your health. Thus spake Zarathustra.
- Sleep. If you don't have time to sleep, you're doing it wrong.
- Listen to your body. This is a lot easier to do when you're not distracted by the numbers. Your body is like a machine with specs, and it requires the best input in order to get the best output. You'll know when you're eating too much or too little, moving too much or too little, sleeping too much or too little. Just feel it out. It is as organic as that.
- Don't feel guilty at all about having tasty treats now and then. It doesn't mean you've failed. Unless you're trying to be a fitness model, there's no call for total deprivation.
- Don't pay attention to hype. Crazes are just that. There's no mysterious formula. Resolving to take care of yourself, forever until you die, is the hard part. The functions required to take care of yourself are truly simple.
- Practice self-compassion. This makes everything (EVERYTHING) in life easier, and the more you can employ it, the more you will learn.
- If you need a break, take it. Grit and persistence is important, but even better is being able to be honest with yourself about what you need, even if what you need is a bit slovenly. There's a place for that if what you wish is to walk the middle way.
- Find resources that inform and inspire you. I recommend sticking with those that reference actual scientific studies on how the body is impacted by food and exercise, not just relying on anecdotal evidence or marketing. I like The Calorie Myth (formerly known as The Smarter Science of Slim).
- Taking a general interest in gradual self-improvement, overall, will aid in your success.
- Do. Or do not. There is no try.
While still a child, I had two contrasting feelings in my heart, life’s horror and life’s ecstasy.
Light shines in darkness because what else could it shine in?
I was raised as an atheist. No church. No indoctrination of beliefs. No fellowship or spiritual guide. I embraced the concept that life is a meaningless and momentary accident for most of my life, and I was comfortable with that. For this reason I sought answers about reality in science. Ultimately it was science that taught me the true nature of faith. I learned to question everything, even my faith in science. I don't reject atheism now, but I can no longer call myself an atheist simply because I also do not reject the notion of a higher power. That's a tricky perspective to achieve. It requires a re-interpretation of faith, much different from that taught by religious organizations and even more disparate from the definition adopted by atheists.
I've often asked myself if I'd rather be smart or happy. Knowledge is power, but ignorance is bliss. I almost always decide on smart, which may or may not speak to my ego. What speaks to my perception of reality is that, until recently, I never considered that you could be both simultaneously. What's the difference between a miracle and a coincidence? Etymologically speaking, the difference is vantage point. Are you seeing the forest or are you seeing the trees? With concepts like Quantum Entanglement and Wave-Particle Duality, it becomes very difficult, even as a logic-minded person, to deny that there are holes in our story of reality.
One study done at Cornell University was successful in demonstrating that the mind is not only capable of precognitive awareness, but that it is so integrated into our consciousness that we are unaware that we use it at all. It's important here to note that neuroscientist David Eagleman has made great strides in illuminating our misunderstandings of time perception. His studies have gone a long way in revealing evidence that suggests that time is a construct of the mind and not the other way around.
On that same token many legitimate scientists have tackled the taboo concepts that the word faith induces. Dean Radin, PhD, author of The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena and Entangled Minds: Extrasensory Experience in a Quantum Reality, has spent his career experimentally qualifying the fact that it is possible to perceive distant information and to influence distant events across time and space, however limited that may be. Scientist Robert Lanza's theory of Bio-centrism states that "life is not an accidental byproduct of physics, but rather a key part of our understanding of the universe." Bio-centrism offers a new perspective on how science may one day unify psychology, quantum physics, and mysticism, by asserting that "there is no independent external universe outside of biological existence." Lanza, a world renowned scientist, goes so far as to maintain that Bio-centrism may be able to prove, scientifically, that there is an afterlife.
The human mind is only cognitively aware of a limited amount of information at any given time. Think of it like this: reality is all around you, but your perception is not a 360 degree vantage point. You see through the pin holes that are your eyes and things go on all around you that you have no awareness of. So what makes you think you know so much? Inference, allusion, speculation? These are all examples of faith. How confident are you that information is not being missed?
It always remains a scandal of philosophy and universal human reason that the existence of things outside us ... should have to be assumed merely on faith, and that if it occurs to anyone to doubt it, we should be unable to answer him with a satisfactory proof. - Immanuel Kant
The story Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott conveys relatable imagery on the perspective of entities living in a 2-dimensional reality. Scientists don't consider it a leap of faith to infer from this thought experiment what higher dimensions might be like. Higher Dimensional Geometry has proven to be a boon for modern scientists looking for alternative ways to connect General Relativity to Quantum Mechanics.
In One Dimension, did not a moving Point produce a Line with TWO terminal points?
In Two Dimensions, did not a moving Line produce a Square with FOUR terminal points?
In Three Dimensions, did not a moving Square produce — did not this eye of mine behold it — that blessed Being, a Cube, with EIGHT terminal points?
And in Four Dimensions shall not a moving Cube — alas, for Analogy, and alas for the Progress of Truth, if it be not so — shall not, I say, the motion of a divine Cube result in a still more divine Organization with SIXTEEN terminal points?
Behold the infallible confirmation of the Series, 2, 4, 8, 16: is not this a Geometrical Progression? Is not this — if I might quote my Lord’s own words — “strictly according to Analogy”?
It's not religious or superstitious to be aware of the fact that there are facets of reality that we as human beings have no conceivable way of perceiving. That being said, it's an interesting exercise to try. Try to think of what reality would look like from a different vantage point. What if you had more than just 5 senses? What would those senses be?
Up to now it has been assumed that all our cognition must conform to the objects; but ... let us once try whether we do not get farther with the problems of metaphysics by assuming that the objects must conform to our cognition. -Immanuel Kant
Perhaps words are the issue. When you hear a word like "faith" you have an immediate connotative response to it. You know what it means in the context of your life. If you're Christian, maybe you think of church or prayer. If you're an atheist maybe you think of being tricked or duped. Psychoanalyst Jacque Lacan proposed that "the real" is outside of "the symbolic," which is to say that "the real" is that which is outside language and that resists symbolization absolutely. This can become very convoluted when you're applying words and definitions to abstract concepts as intangible as faith and as discarnate as God.
We employ faith every day through object permanence and memory recall. Our species cannot function without faith. We hold beliefs that are not based on our current viewable surroundings and make decisions based on those beliefs. All faith really is, is trust. I trust that the world will be here still when I wake up. And I trust that even when my life is chaotic and stressful, it won't always be. I trust that pi*radius^2 measures the area of a circle. And I trust that my loved ones still exist in my absence. Why? Is it because there is plenty of evidence to suggest it? Is it because I was told to believe these things? Is it because when I am looking forward in time to the questioning abyss of unmade plasmic possibility, the unknown future seems to ask me what I'd like to see and my answer is often "more of the same?"
Faith is looking down a corridor and seeing a wall at the end. At first glance you assume this is a dead end. But as you walk you begin to notice the lights and shadow that come from passages on either side of the "end." You can't see down them, you don't know what's there; it could be dead end corridors. You know there is something beyond what you can see, and you look forward to finding out either way. Faith is a muscle we exercise, a behavior that when refined allows us to make broader connections and compute uncanny topics more quickly, allowing for a more efficient computation of otherwise perplexing elements of reality.
Although I have not persisted in any religious belief or practice, I remain thoughtfully devout to ritualistic behaviors in one form or another as I sojourn through this strange life. Throughout the transition into 2014, I observed as many creatures around me made resolutions for the coming year. I abandoned the concept of New Year's Resolutions years ago, simply for the fact that they rarely stick. However, I am of the mind that humans--whether it be the result a biological craving formed to benefit the species in some way, or due to the nature of habitual, prevalent cultural tradition, but most likely a co-mingling of both nature and nurture--can use personal rites and rituals in order to flourish on both conscious and subconscious levels. For that reason I have no real disdain for the idea of resolutions, but personally I feel compelled to make deeper roots when it comes to the process of self-transformation. The transition from one year to another makes a good marker for assessment, but without a true underlying desire for transformative internal development, I'm not convinced that resolutions as a means to an end in themselves are actually very beneficial. Pray without ceasing, it has been said. This is a worthwhile philosophy in my eyes.
For those who are less than inclined to desire transformation in the form of self-actualization, I would say that although it is my nature to be in a consistent state of reflective flux, I can empathize with the notion of resigned acceptance of the impending oblivion of it all. Why should we bother with anything when we're all hurtling toward nothing, as far as we can see? But I would be inclined to suspect that even in you there is a very basic, albeit delitescent wish to be worthy (forgive me as I proceed to carve all of human desire into a more palatable portion), and I would argue that this method of thinking is a practical way to approach desire and subsequent action. Worthy of what, you might ask? Of the fulfillment of needs, of redemption, of satisfaction, of enlightenment, of love, of acceptance, of happiness, of whatever The Source has to offer. I don't actually claim to know the answer to this question, but I recognize the presence of such desire in humanity, for good or ill, though some of us would seek while others rebel against the paradigm. We have our reasons.
Regarding desire and action, some might say a wise man accepts that there is a hole in us all that cannot be filled, and I agree with that, but I would add that such lack is what makes the antithesis of lack possible, and thus wholeness is dependent on that very hole that would and cannot be filled. This is tensegrity. It is need that makes having possible. It is a hard-wrought harvest that profoundly increases appreciation of the crop. Effort is a refining process. Trying is beautiful.
I view rituals as repetitive methods of creating and perpetuating meaning which is beneficial to living, and rites as interruptive ceremonies serving to mark a passage from one form of self to another. Taken together, rituals and rites are actions with personal or cultural significance but no real intrinsic meaning. Why do these serve to function as transformative tools? Because form follows function. When a methodical or ceremonial endeavor is mindfully initiated and practiced, it is a sort of vessel that carries conscious and unconscious information. Perhaps there is no actual meaning in the act itself, but there is the expression of purpose which creates the necessary conditions for change, eases life transitions, dispels inertia, generates momentum, interrupts old patterns, moves you. Whatever you decide to do, let it make you worthy.
Sometimes you know a thing long before you know that you know. Sometimes a thing knows you.
Welcome to my Songbird series. These are original songs.
Twisted, turned in the places you've grown
Bring the rest to this vigilant girl
Devil-angel, pulling you close to me
Fires burn where you recently tread
Your scent is all over my bed
My words cradle your destiny
Don't hold me too much
But don't run
Puzzle pieces we make of our hearts
Indestructible circles He spins
With seams much tighter than we can see
Sleepy eyes, I witness your stir
Speaking secrets between us once more
You know we will always be
Our heart glows, and secret unrest gnaws at the root of our being. Dealing with the unconscious has become a question of life for us.
I'm not here to debate the concept or existence of free will, but have you thought about just how much control machines have over your individual life? And about who is in control of those machines?
Our doubts are traitors,
and make us lose the good we oft might win,
by fearing to attempt.
Measure for Measure