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Getting started

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and starting on the first one.” – Mark Twain

Catch a Healthy Habit

Do you want to give up a bad habit or addiction?

Then find an impulse to follow.  Watch your thoughts, feelings, wishes, impulses, compulsions, fantasies, and so forth, for one that’s headed in the right direction.  Then get behind it.  Listen to it.  Expand it.  Allow it.  Respond to it.  Make that one real, and let it drown out the others.

For example, a few years back I noticed that I’d given up my healthy habit of alternating coffee and green tea with breakfast every morning, and was feeling really addicted to having coffee every day.  The thought of switching to tea every other day made my inner control-freak clamp down and I found myself thinking “no way”!  “forget it!”,  “get yourself another sucker!”.  Stuff like that.

So I backed off and decided to just think about it and watch for awhile.  I got curious about why this felt so intense and what I could do.  So I guess I was kind of watching myself around coffee when, a few days later, on coming to the kitchen one morning, I found myself wishing I didn’t have to take the time to make coffee.  Part of me said – “you don’t!” and I realized it would be easier to make tea – just boil some water.  But still, I felt I couldn’t give up my coffee just yet, so I went ahead and made it.  But this experience had given me an idea, and the next time I had that lazy impulse “let’s not make coffee”, I was ready to follow it.

Doing that – following the new impulse – just slightly loosened the hold the coffee had on me.  It allowed me to remember why I like my jasmine green tea, and how tonic it feels in my system.  The next time was easier and I found that I gradually got comfortable with the alternating schedule, like working at a knot to open it up.

Since that time, I’ve found it helpful to give up caffeine altogether, and the process of quitting was similar to the one described above.  I went gradually until Christmas holidays opened up an opportunity to give up caffeine at a time when I didn’t mind if it disrupted my patterns for a few days.

I took a similar approach when I was out walking one day and contemplating what to have for dinner.  I didn’t feel like cooking a meal, but I remembered I had some chicken broth in the freezer and soup sounded easy enough.  Then I remembered that ayurvedic philosophy recommends having a light supper like soup, so I decided to follow the healthy impulse.

So what I’m doing is enlisting feelings and impulses that come up to turn them in a healthful direction.  Waiting for the bus headed where I want to go, then catching it.  Rather than trying to get there through willpower and discipline and denial.

I like my bus better!

Is exercise always good for you?

The authorities will tell you that diet and exercise are the keys to health and weight loss. But not all movement is created equally.

My background in philosophy taught me that to evaluate a practice you need to know the context in which it occurs. And you need to understand the system behind it.

In a discussion of the history of QiGong, Kenneth S. Cohen, in his book The Way of QiGong, also outlines the roots of Western exercise systems in calisthenics and the “Western preoccupation with the appearance of health: a beautiful figure and well-defined muscles. Modern Western exercise systems can be considered symptoms of disempowerment. The individual’s internal health was believed to be beyond control and, if disturbed, required the external intervention of an expert physician. The body was reduced to a machine, without intelligence of its own, as incapable of self-correcting serious malfunctions as an automobile. This assumption is incorrect.”

What if Age Is Nothing but a Mind-Set?

Interesting article in the NY Times:

“One day in the fall of 1981, eight men in their 70s stepped out of a van in front of a converted monastery in New Hampshire. They shuffled forward, a few of them arthritically stooped, a couple with canes. Then they passed through the door and entered a time warp. Perry Como crooned on a vintage radio. Ed Sullivan welcomed guests on a black-and-white TV. Everything inside — including the books on the shelves and the magazines lying around — were designed to conjure 1959. This was to be the men’s home for five days as they participated in a radical experiment, cooked up by a young psychologist named Ellen Langer.”