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Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

fernspiral by Robert Red2000I’ve had plantar fasciitis for almost a year now, a painful inflammation of the sole of the foot, plus a heel spur that has me limping and screws up my ankle and knee joints. I can’t walk everywhere, like I used to, can’t get any kind of exercise that involves putting weight on my feet. It’s been hard. I’ve gained weight, and lost some ground with my fitness level.

I’m starting a new program this week to try and get back in shape. I want to do yoga, pilates, or some other kind of exercise every day. I’m also doing a raw food cleanse.

I’ve done some yoga or pilates in recent weeks, but going for more than a few days without keeping it up now means that I lose almost everything I’d gained, so it feels like I’m starting over. I guess this is part of what happens when you hit 40. It’s going to take some time to get back to where I was. I don’t know that I’ll be able to improve past that, but I’m going to try.

In pain and feeling crappy, I’ve started with some easy yoga routines. I’ve never been a super-athlete, but I’ve been better than this. It kills me to struggle with a simple forward bend, when I used to be able to stand on my head.

But I remind myself: the point of yoga is to deal with my body where it is in that moment. The point is not to get somewhere; the point is to be where I am. That’s where I start. That’s where I have to start. If I try to start where I  want to end up, I will hurt myself or get frustrated, and simply fail.

The trick is, while knowing that there’s a goal I’m working towards, to forget that and focus on what I’m doing right now. Ease into that forward bend, to the place I can reach today. Feel the sensation and breathe. Come back to the mat tomorrow.

This is true for everything I’ve ever wanted to accomplish.

Meanwhile, here’s a recipe for a delicious, vegan, mostly-raw salad dressing that I think tastes better than Caesar.

Why Zen?

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

Photo by markg6Absurdbeats asked, why Zen over other forms of Buddhism?

This one’s easy. In the following, understand that I’m talking about Buddhism mainly as seen in the US.

There are two basic kinds of Buddhism: Mahayana and Theravada. Mahayana means “Greater Vehicle” and is meant for everybody, including monastic and regular people. Theravada used to be called Hinayana by the Mahayanists, only the Theravadists didn’t like that, because it means “Smaller Vehicle.” I don’t think they meant it as an insult; they only meant that Theravada Buddhism was a practice meant for monks, for people willing to shut themselves away in a monastery and not engage fully in human life, e.g.,  marriage, family, working, etc. And oh yeah, women couldn’t join.


Why I am a Buddhist, part 2

Monday, March 9th, 2009
Most cats are Buddhists.

Most cats are Buddhists.

(Part 1 here.)

I went abroad for junior year, so no more meditating with the professor and his group. I tried to do it on my own, with miserable results. I’ve dealt with major depression all of my life (my mother’s death, mostly). Sitting down alone and focusing on my breath while suffering from untreated depression was A Big Mistake. ‘Nuff said.


Why I am a Buddhist, part 1

Monday, February 23rd, 2009
Daibutsu, Great Buddha in Kamakura, Japan

Daibutsu, Great Buddha in Kamakura, Japan

Calling myself a Buddhist makes me uncomfortable. In a way, that’s why I became one.

Let’s see if I can be a little less obtuse.

My search for ultimate meaning started early. My mother was diagnosed with leukemia, and died just before my fifth birthday. The adults around me did their best to explain and to console me, but not much of what they said about death – and where exactly my mother had gone – made any sense to me. God? Heaven? Angels? You die, and somehow you end up in this really nice place where everyone you ever loved eventually shows up too, and then you spend eternity there. But, you have to earn it.