Monthly Archives: June 2012

Becoming the River

Alright, in case you didn’t see the “placeholder” post I put up last night, I am actually posting this in the morning, the day after I wrote it. I’m using the neighbors internet. They live a few hundred yards away and they have a nice porch where I am sitting and typing. But I wrote the post below last night. So enjoy! 

Just a little while ago, I was sitting on the lowest landing of a set of wooden stairs perched precariously on the edge of a tall embankment amid the pines, firs, beech, and oaks. Below where I sat was the rocky, mossy edge of the west fork of the Washougal River. I was seated on my yoga mat on the flat landing just above the rushing water. I was meditating. When I closed my eyes the sound of the river seemed to flow over me. For a time, I felt simultaneously engulfed and filled up by the water. It was as if the river and I had momentarily attempted to share the same space. With my eyes closed, sitting just a yard or two away, there was no separation: I was the river, the river was me.

Just another example of how intimately we are connected with the things around us. Not just other human beings, but the air, the rocks, the trees, and the water.

My hope is that the more I practice my mindful meditations the easier it will become for me to enter the somewhat trance-like state in which I truly feel the connection between myself and my surroundings. And with time, I believe I will be able to interact with things that are not in my immediate vicinity but perhaps miles away.

But….I’ve already posted a ton of stuff about meditation. I had to tell you about my experience this evening, but the rest of this post is going to be brief and to the point. You see, at the River House (where I currently sit) there is no internet. So after writing this offline, I must walk down a hundred yards or so and sit outside in order to borrow the internet connection from one of the neighbors. And that isn’t easy. And it must be done before it starts getting dark. In other words, soon.

But I do have one thing to tell you about. Last night in my post Travel Anxiety, I explained to you the reasoning behind the nervousness and worry I was feeling. Well, some of my fears were confirmed today when I found out that I had misunderstood how long we would be staying here, and only prepared and packed for the weekend when we might indeed be staying as late as Wednesday. I found that out this afternoon just before we were going to leave, and I had not really packed properly, moreover, some of my respiratory meds will need refilling before Wednesday. In other words, it suddenly seemed like the anxiety I had been feeling was justified.

But, here’s where my current practices step in: because of my anxiety I had spent this morning’s meditation focusing on slowing down. I focused on slowing my thoughts, my actions, and, especially, the time between a stimulus and my reaction. Somehow, I knew that would be important. So when I found out that I had no idea how long we would be out of town, instead of freaking out and running around unpacking and repacking and getting angry because I, “should have been told….blah blah blah”, instead of all that, I just took a few deep breaths, and said, “Oh well. We’ll figure it out”.

I would not have been able to do that if I had not been for my meditation today and last night. Of course, the other new routines I have been practicing probably didn’t hurt either (e.g. Tai Chi, healthy eating, other exercise, drinking enough water, and taking all my medications) because they all affect my base level of stress and help keep me in a calmer state so that when change occurs I can flow with the change but not lose myself in it.

That is what I was able to do today, thanks to all the support from my family, friends, and of course, you!

Thank you all, and expect the next few posts to be somewhat brief. If, for some reason, the internet does not work and I cannot post, I will have a backlog of posts which I will publish on my return.

-Nathan

Travel Anxiety

A family friend, Cory, was in town the last couple days to visit my dad among other things. I had hoped to get to spend more time with he and my dad while he was in town, but he had a lot of stuff to do so I only got to talk to him for 15 minutes or so. But he was kind enough to remove the hard drive from my dad’s old laptop, put in a fresh one, install the operating system and software, and transfer my files. All in about 3-4 hours. So now, I am typing this on what is essentially a brand new laptop. It may not be as fast as the ones made in the last few months, but then again, computers are outdated the instant you purchase them. This one is good enough to do anything I want it to do without any hassle. I’d have to say I’m not only very grateful to my dad and Cory (my dad for donating it to me and Cory for setting it up) but I’m also very excited to have this “like new” computer ready for me to use.

I have to mention, too, that my dad takes really good care of his things. The keyboard shows zero wear, there are only very very minor scratches on the outer casing, and everything works perfectly with the exception of the two USB ports on the left hand side. Fortunately, there are two on the right hand side that work just fine. It’s pretty impressive to me that he has had this computer for several years and it looks and feels this new.

So, this is a virtual shout out to my father, Rob and our friend Cory. Thanks for doing all this for me and making it much easier for me to work on my blog!

 

Speaking of my blog. I am a little nervous today. I don’t know why. Well, okay, I know why. It is because Kate and I will be driving up to the River House tomorrow afternoon. We are going up there (the house is on the Washougal River in SW Washington, secluded and lovely) to celebrate Richard’s birthday. He is travelling right now, but he will be meeting us there. Kate has already started packing and getting ready so that we will have all the food and other supplies we’ll need.

Now, something about travelling is making me anxious. I find that happening a lot when a trip is coming up or even if someone else is taking a trip and I know about it. For instance a few friends of mine will be travelling overseas a week from now and there is a part of me that feels some anxiety in response to that.

It isn’t that I am afraid of travelling. I actually really enjoy car trips, train rides, and airplane flights. So what is it?

I’ve been working that out all day long since I saw Kate start piling things she is planing on taking with us on the dining room table. And you know what I realized? I think that my anxiety about leaving the city is that in the past, if I was leaving the city, I had to prepare.

You see, it is hard for drug addicts to travel. It isn’t easy to both: A. Obtain a large enough supply of drugs to last you the entire trip B. Exert enough discipline on yourself to not use up that entire supply by the first night you’re gone. Every trip I took while I was using drugs was a gamble. I was always rolling the dice, wondering if I would have enough, if I would run out, and if I ran out, if I would be able to get more.

Many times, I did run out, and I couldn’t get more. A few times come to mind instantly.

Boston, MA – Thanksgiving 2007. That was before I had admitted to myself I had a problem. But I scared my poor sister half to death, and she sure as hell figured out there was something wrong.

Sunriver, OR – Christmas 2007/8 (not sure what year). I was going through the agony of withdrawl on Christmas day and had to hide it from everyone because they had no idea I was taking drugs. I didn’t go skiing (even though it is one of my favorite things in the world to do), I hardly spent time with my family. I essentially locked myself in my room and laid in bed trying to sleep or watch TV, just wishing it could all end and I could go back home.

Pullman, WA – Halloween 2009. I went to visit the girl I was dating at the time and I took what I thought would be enough drugs to last me for at least 5 days. It was gone in 2. I toughed it out for another day. But then my parents had gotten wind of where I’d gone (I’d left town without telling them, you see, and took their car) and called me to tell me if I didn’t come back right away they’d call the police. And, I went back. Not because of their threat, but because I needed drugs. Through all of that, I managed to ruin this girl’s (who’d had the kindness to stick with me even though it was clear I was having some major problems) birthday and Halloween and, probably, the next 6 months, because after that I never saw her again.

Yeah, not great moments in my life.

So in light of those examples (of which they are but a few drops in a sea of awful experiences) I have learned to be fearful and anxious about travelling because when you are tied to a pill or a drink or a needle, it holds you paralyzed. I was unable to travel, unable to be spontaneous whatsoever, unable to even stay a single night away from home unless I had planned and brought whatever I needed along with me.

You can see why there’s some anxiety in my mind surrounding this trip to the River House.

But you know what feels absolutely amazing? That I am sitting here, the night before I leave, writing about this, instead of  desperately trying to scrape together enough money to get enough drugs to not get sick during the trip. I have to say, this level of fear is much more manageable than the other.

I am immensely grateful for the support I am receiving from my aunt Kate and uncle Richard, my parents and sister Rachael, and my friends, both here in Portland and all around the world.

I just want to extend a special note of thanks to everyone reading this and everyone not reading this: if you are a part of my life, I thank you. You have undoubtedly gone out of your way to help me, even after many occasions when I have caused you harm. Because we are intimately connected through this web of divine energy that runs through us all, I consider you all my brothers and my sisters, and I send you my gratitude, my love, and my compassion.

Thank you all for making it possible for me to be alive today. For me to feel strength today. For me to feel healthy today. And for allowing me the opportunity to travel to a beautiful natural retreat without having to worry about how long my addiction will allow me to stay.

Thanks for reading. And if any of you knows any natural remedies for itchy, swollen eyes due to seasonal allergies, please let me know. My eyes are so puffy and read I’ve had a hard time focusing on this dang screen!

Goodnight,

-Nathan

When Life Gives You Lemons…

This image shows a whole and a cut lemon. It i...

….thank life kindly for the lovely citrus fruit and ask if life has any limes to go with.

But seriously, you know when you have been waiting all day…scratch that, several days….for something to happen, and then, right before you are supposed to do whatever it is you’re waiting for… something happens and all of a sudden you’re not able to do what you expected? You know that feeling right?

So that general description might not do it for some of you. How about a real life example from my real life: I was using my mom’s old Blackberry a couple years back. My phone was dead, and my mom had it laying around (and it was a smartphone, albeit an old one) so I began using it. Just after Christmas, I was up on Mt. Hood with some friends, snowshoeing. I carried a small pack with a few energy bars, my phone, wallet, and a blue gatorade. Well, I didn’t screw the lid on my gatorade bottle tight enough and during the course of the hike it began to leak into my pack, saturating everything. I only noticed when I began to see blue-tinted snow around me which seemed to be following me. I stared at it for a few moments before I realized that it was coming from my pack.

Well of course my phone was soaked in it, and it had begun to freeze. So my old blackberry was…as they say, “kaput!”.

Well, I had been wanting an iPhone for ages. And everyone in my family had one. My mom, dad, sister, sister’s fiance, aunt, uncle, other aunt, other uncle, cousin….etc. So I wasn’t too upset when my Blackberry became a blue gatorade popsicle.  I had enough money from Christmas to be able to purchase one. So as soon as I got home from the mountain I wanted to run to the AT&T store a couple miles from my home and get my new phone. Buuut, my mom and dad killed that idea. They were concerned about me trying to get my phone on their plan and they believed that if I put a new phone on their plan it would screw everything up and they would get charged more than they should. So I was told I had to wait till my dad was available to go with me. And at first it was: “ok, we’ll go as soon as I’m off work tomorrow”. But he had to work late and the store closed. Then it was “come meet me for lunch and we’ll drive over and take care of it”, but then his boss wanted to have lunch with him and so it was postponed again. Then, finally we got to the store on the third day, and the lady at the counter said that if we waited another couple days the iPhone 3 would go on sale. Sooo, it was another two days and then finally we were able to get my new iPhone!

So you can see how that example works. I was really excited about it, and I had been looking forward to it, and it kept being postponed and deferred. At one point I was frustrated enough to want to just say, “screw it” and get a different phone or just use another old one. But I stayed with it and I eventually got what I wanted. Not that it always ends that way.

So why am I talking about this? Because it illustrates clearly what I want to talk about tonight: expectations and disappointment.

Growing up, I was disappointed quite often. But at some point around 13-14 years old, I realized that if I had no expectations, I couldn’t be disappointed. I figured, “hey! if I expect nothing from others and from life, and I get nothing, then no big deal, but if something good happens, it is a pleasant surprise!” So for a while I attempted to expect nothing. I stopped asking for things. I wouldn’t tell my parents what I wanted for my birthday or Christmas. I wouldn’t plan parties for my birthday. I assumed I would fail at everything but academics. And in school, I just expected B’s, because I didn’t want to get my hopes up.

Of course, I realize now that this attitude doesn’t work. In fact, I began to realize it back when I was 15. I had turned my expectations down so low that when I finally met a few guys in High School who wanted to be friends with me, I couldn’t believe it, and blew them off for some time until they convinced me they really wanted to hang out with me.

My lack of expectations became pessimism and that pessimism became depression. Not a happy time.

But my junior year of high school it seemed like life just started throwing things at me. I found a solid group of friends. I met my first girlfriend. I began to move up in the ranks on the alpine ski team, the only sport I was ever truly good at. I got second on at the Solo Ensemble contest on Tenor Sax. I had teachers compliment my writing in class. In short, it seemed like all of a sudden the universe was trying to make up for all the previous years when things never seemed to go my way.

So, of course, I began to have expectations again.

And they persisted for four years till the end of my junior year of college. Then I got sicker than I had ever been. I was in so much pain I had to walk with a cane. I barely was able to make it to class and I had to quit my job. Finally it got to the point where I was hardly managing to pass my classes and even dropped two of them. My life spun out of control and that is when my addiction to opiates began. I lowered my expectations for the world again. Dropped them through the floor. All I wanted from life was to be able to have a place to sleep, food to eat, and my pills. And the pills came before the food and shelter. In fact the came before everything. Which is why in February of my senior year of college I ended up in the Denver City Jail.

That’s when I started trying to rebuild what I expected out of life. I couldn’t get off the pills for good, but I began to try, at least. I started going to class and doing my work again. I began working even though it was less hours than ever. And eventually I managed to graduate.

I moved back to Portland, and my expectations of life have been a roller coaster since that point. Less than 3 months ago, I had no place to live, and no food to eat and no money to buy food with. I had just enough heroin to get me till the next afternoon. I stole and panhandled in order to scrape together enough money for a dingy motel room an hour bus ride from the city center. I was at the point where ending it all was starting to seem attractive (rock bottom as far as expectations, you’d think).

My parents stepped in and rescued me, although they might not see it that way. I deceived them and lied and for several days I used drugs in their house until they caught me and dropped me off at Hooper Detox. For once, I believed life had given me exactly what I had asked for. I felt I deserved to be there, or, worse, that I didn’t deserve it. I almost didn’t believe I deserved a second chance. But my parents and the amazing staff at Hooper gave me that chance anyway.

But I had no idea what would happen when I left Hooper. I knew my parents wouldn’t let me near their house again. But I had nowhere else to go. Before I had to face that, I got sick enough that Hooper (after 7 days) had to transfer me to Legacy Emmanuel Hospital to treat my CF exacerbation coupled with pneumonia. And then, you know the rest of the story.

But let me tell it again: I sat there in the hospital, just barely hanging on. My aunt and uncle came to visit and asked me what I saw in my future. I told them, “nothing”. They wrote up a contract, and said that if I signed it and agreed to its stipulations that they would give me a place to stay and support me while I recovered.

At first I could barely believe what they were saying, and then my skeptical brain with low expectations tried to get me to believe that it wouldn’t work, there was something wrong, I couldn’t do it, I would fail and they would kick me out and I’d be worse off than before.

But I took a chance and ignored that voice.

And I reminded myself what I’m sure you already know but I had forgotten: there is no way to NOT have expectations. You either expect something good or you expect nothing or you expect something bad. But expecting nothing is still an expectation. And we all have heard of “self-fulfilling prophecies”. If you believe your experience will be bad, good ,or even neutral, you will often be right.

Your view will color your experience and your mind will interpret events to fit the way you already view them.

So, lets talk practical application….

Based on my examples above, it would seem that having positive expectations is the best choice. Since there is no way, really, to not expect anything, and negative expectations breed negative experiences, it makes sense that expecting the best but preparing for the worst – as the old saying goes – is the best decision.

But when you expect things to go well and expect people to be kind and friendly and expect to get the job you want and expect to be with your girlfriend forever and expect to be healthy…….you expose yourself to disappointment. And, as we all know, disappointment sucks. 

Tonight, I had something to which I had been looking forward for a couple days. And at the last second, it was postponed, for the second time in two days. And I was more than just disappointed. At first, I was angry. And after talking with my aunt Kate, I realized that the anger I felt was based on hurt. I felt hurt. It seemed to me like I wasn’t important. I interpreted what had happened as meaning that I wasn’t valued.

Wow. It’s amazing how much our interpretation dictates our experience. And of course, then after I got the news that disappointed me, I tasted the Thai Curry I had made and realized it was too spicy and hadn’t cooked long enough (because I had rushed the cooking to make sure I was ready to do what I thought I was going to be doing).

But, again, after talking with my aunt and getting it all out on the table, I realized that I was making interpretations about events and that my interpretation might be incorrect. Moreover, even if my interpretation was correct, I didn’t have to let that damage my self-esteem. I know that I have value, and I don’t need anyone to tell me that. In fact, once I had eaten, while Kate and I watched Jeopardy! (kind of a weekday tradition for us), I had taken my unmet expectations and chosen to feel the disappointment without judging it. The only thing that tells me that being disappointed is “bad” is me. And if I just choose to experience that feeling and say, “yeah, I feel disappointed. That’s what I’m experiencing. But it is okay”, then the hurt and anger just sort of fades away.

I’m sure you can all think of a thousand examples of when you were disappointed and also examples of when you were pleasantly surprised. But can you think of a time where your expectations weren’t met and you were able to truly feel that feeling and allow it to be present and told yourself it was okay to feel that way? I know, it’s a tough order huh?

But it is doable. If you want to learn more about this idea of “feeling your feelings and having your thoughts without judging them” look up Non-Violent Communication. I’ve found it one of the most helpful ways to improve my interaction with myself and with others.

To sum up: we all have expectations, and we all have times where life doesn’t measure up to what we would like. The only healthy way I know to deal with this is to just re-format our experience and to allow ourselves to be disappointed without judging that disappointment as “bad” or “wrong”. Because that judgment fosters negativity in our perspective and our perspective creates our experiences.

I choose to expect good things. I choose to handle disappointment in a healthy way. And most of all I choose to continue to expect good things even if I am sometimes disappointed.

Thanks for reading. Sending you virtual gratitude and compassion,

-Nathan

Honesty

The last few nights I have written posts that I honestly consider to be almost prohibitively long. In other words, they are so long that some of you might have taken one look at them and said….wow, I don’t have time for that. I’ll read it later. Or maybe some of you looked at it and said, “wow, what does this guy have to say that takes him over a thousand words?”. I’ve been told before that traditional blog posts ought to be 1000 words or less, and that 500 words is preferable.

Too bad I don’t have that kind of self-control. I was the kid in college that when I required page length for a paper was listed I asked the teacher if it was okay if I exceeded it. (ok, well….I only did that in some classes i.e. the ones that I liked) (for a description of how to use “i.e.” click here)

Anyway, I am going to make a sincere attempt to make this post a more manageable length.

So I have two things to talk about tonight. First, as I was about to go to bed last night (which, in reality was actually this morning because it was past midnight) my phone started to ring. Now, last night was only the second night during which I have had my phone with me. Before that I was giving it to my aunt and uncle to place in a locked drawer at night. But in our conversation a couple days ago we all agreed that I deserved/was now able to handle keeping my phone on me.

So, right. Moving on. My phone rang. I looked at it and it was some strange Massachusetts number. I was considering not answering. But I had this sense that I needed to pick it up, so I did. And it turned out to be my friend Abbas. We met my first year at college in Denver, but we didn’t really become friends until my sophomore year. And we had a lot of things in common. We were both high energy and easily distracted (read: ADHD). We both liked similar music. We liked to read, liked to learn, and, at the time, liked to drink. There was one point where I actually set up a fully stocked bar in my dorm room and one night when we had people over, Abbas helped me mix drinks. I remember getting in our friend Adam’s jeep and driving to Kona Grill while bumping Panic! At the Disco. Both of us were singing along at the top of our lungs. I also remember sitting with him late into the night, talking about everything from how to combat depression and anxiety to peace in the Middle East. One night, he, our German friend Artin and I went out to the campus fountain/garden area at 1am to smoke massive cigars and talk.

In short, Abbas was a friend with whom I shared some very formative experiences. I had not talked to him in several years. I actually am not sure how long it had been. But he called me from Pakistan!!! He is there studying youth culture/music etc. as I understand it.

We had a conversation that lasted a little less than an hour, and I could have gone on with him for half the night. I had almost forgotten how much I enjoyed our interactions. Most of our conversation was actually spent discussing mindfulness and the practice of meditation in our lives.

I believe that our conversation last night was no coincidence. I think it means something. I think it was a reminder to me, that there are people out there that I share a connection with, and that I would benefit from reengaging with them. Or maybe it was just the universe reminding me how great Abbas is. (Sorry Api, if this is embarrassing to you. But I had to write about it, it was just too serendipitous)

So that was part one.

Second part is that today was the first day I spent time in the house by myself. My uncle is on a business trip. And my aunt had her painting class from 10am-1pm. I was alone from 10 to about 11:30 or 12pm when my cousin Lindsay came over. Even though that time alone was completely uneventful, I felt it was important to mention it. Because in truth, I didn’t do anything differently that I would have had both my aunt and uncle been here.

My aunt, uncle and I have talked a lot about how things are working with this journey we are all on together. One of the things that I have realized is that part of what’s most important is for me to develop the confidence in myself that will allow me to eventually break away and continue this quest on my own. And little, incremental steps like this – being able to spend short amounts of time on my own – are the building blocks of the wall of confidence that I am only starting to build.

Honestly, I’m not incredibly pleased with this post. But I promised myself that once I decided what I was writing and once I had written it and laid it out on the page, I would only change it if there was some glaring error or if I realized what I had written was patently untrue. Unfortunately, tonight, this isn’t the case. There aren’t any major errors in this post. I just feel like it isn’t living up to the standard I have set with my other posts. Also, it is way longer than I had intended it to be.

Why am I telling you this? Because I promised myself that what I write for this blog will always be honest and authentic. If it isn’t, then that entirely defeats the purpose for which I am writing. Wow, I was wondering what the heck to title this post. Then I looked over it and realized how many times I had used the word “honest” or “honestly” or some other synonym. I went through and made them all bold. So I guess the theme of this post is honesty. Being truthful in my communication with those around me, being honest in what I write on my blog, and being honest with myself about why I do or don’t do certain things. So maybe this post isn’t so bad after all.

Thank you all for reading.

-Nathan

The Small Things

See: www.falundafa.org/eng/exercises.html

Young Woman Meditating in Lotus Position

You know, the last few days I’ve had some big, pressing topic or experience to share with you. Today, I don’t really have any earth-shattering revelations, mind-blowing new information, or spiritual insights to write about. I’m sitting here with my computer, thinking about my day, unsure what I want to say.

I guess I could start by going through the day with you:

Today was Monday. So we had our meditation group over at 7:30, although they were all a few minutes late so we started a bit after that. It’s a pretty amazing group, everyone is loving, kind, and also very accepting. They have let me join in with them as if I’d always been there and treat me no different than they treat each other. Since I am the youngest person in the group by probably 20 years, I sort of expected to be treated almost like a mascot…you know, the “token young person”? But instead they seem to respect me, and to listen to my ideas and opinions.

I really appreciate that. It makes me want to keep coming back and interacting with them. I also really appreciate how amazingly loving they all are. All of us, men and women (its about equal, half and half) give each other hugs and speak words of affection to one another. That makes it easy for me to just embrace what we do without feeling self-conscious or embarrassed if I don’t know what to do. (I am finally getting the hang of it after about a month!)

Today we did the Gayatri mantra. Its transliteration looks like this:

Oṃ bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥ

tát savitúr váreṇ(i)yaṃ

bhárgo devásya dhīmahi

dhíyo yó naḥ pracodáyāt

I don’t know what it means, but I’ve included a link above if you are curious. It is pretty amazing to be in a group of people all chanting an ancient mantra like the Gayatri. I can’t really describe the experience very well. I that that is because it is such a complete experience.

What I mean by “complete” is that it involves mind, body and spirit. As we were chanting this morning I lost myself completely in this incredible floating blue energy. I had my eyes closed, but I was seeing an outline of myself and the room we were in. I saw the room being flooded – literally flooded – by this effervescent blue energy that sparked and popped as it touched the humans in the room.

Interestingly enough, when one of our cats meowed from another room, the energy distorted slightly from that direction.

Anyway, I hardly ever see things like this in my private meditation sessions. Something about the group and the chanting makes it easier for me to connect with the energy around me and to briefly touch that web of universal consciousness that allows me to experience elements of the spiritual realm without truly leaving my body. I still haven’t experienced that. I know that many people who are trained in meditation are able to detach from their physical selves and step out of their bodies for a period of time. I am interested to understand that and might even like to experience it one day. But for now, I am satisfied with what I am getting from my own daily meditation and from our weekly group sessions.

So I guess I figured out what  I was going to write about 🙂 Meditation!

After the morning group meditation, we all ate breakfast together, and talked about all sorts of interesting things. Then, we went our separate ways. I went to do my nebulizers, because I hadn’t had time to do them before the group. Today was the first day after moving my meds down to the basement where I live. I’ve had it up in the living room on the main floor but we all agreed for me to move them and I got them all set up and I enjoyed having a bit of solitude while I did my meds this morning.

After that, I rested for a bit and then got ready to exercise. I did my cardio (power walking then running on the treadmill) and then did my Tai Chi, but today since I had a computer all to myself, I opened Pandora and brought up a station called “Heart Meditations” which was compiled by Deepak Chopra. It had all kinds of really cool “new-agey” type music with lots of electronica, soothing natural sounds, native drums, wind pipes, etc. It was a perfect background for my Tai Chi.

And afterwards, although I usually meditate later in the day, the timing and setup was just right, so I laid out my yoga mat on the deck and opened the door behind me so I could still hear the music from inside. And I sat lotus-style and meditated for about 15 minutes then did my lying down meditation for another 15 minutes. The reason I use a prone position (lying flat) is this: when I sit up, I have to exert some of my attention to maintain my posture and my body often starts to ache in some place(s). That draws my attention away from whatever I am trying to focus on, and breaks my concentration. In short, sitting makes it more difficult for me to slip into the state of total connection when I am able to communicate with the network of energy that is in us, around us and between us. But I want to learn to do it sitting up and I figure if I do meditate sitting lotus-style and if I do it repeatedly, I will eventually be able to do it without having my posture distract me.

Because, of course, lying down has an obvious downside: it makes it easier to fall asleep. Also, it is less comfortable than you might think. Lying on a yoga mat provides some padding, but the deck is still a pretty hard surface!

So the results of those meditations were a really overarching sense of peace and a mellow, subtle energy throughout my body that just seemed to hover, making it easy for me to think clearly and made the minor body aches and pains I usually have recede into the background. I really focused (during the lying-down portion) on feeling compassion for my body and gratitude for all aspects of my being.

I think I actually was able to get there this morning.

It wasn’t some big revelation, it wasn’t some crazy paradigm shift. It didn’t cause me to go running to tell someone about it. In fact, I didn’t really notice the effects much until a little later in the day. But something shifted slightly in the world and in my perception of it.

I think the reason why I had no idea what to write when I sat down tonight was because my day was incredibly smooth and relaxed. Nothing stuck out. It was like a pond with no ripples, or rather, a pond with ripples that were all the same height. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I felt balanced today.

And wow, that is something I have longed for since I realized how out of balance my life was back in 2007. I thought I had figured out how to balance my life. At first, drugs seemed to do it for me. They made me mellow and easygoing. They made me feel physically balanced. They helped me sleep. They made me less worried about things I had once obsessed over (things, for example, like food, sex, relationships, spirituality, and what others thought of me). It seemed like they were a dream come true.

But very quickly they owned me. Then, there was no balance. My whole life was about the pills I took and how many I took and where I was going to get enough to keep taking as many as I wanted. And this is probably the only time since that cycle began that I have truly felt some balance in my life.

So I guess although there was no massive new insight or highly-potent experience today, there was actually something deeper: a slow buildup of what I consider to be an integral part of my goal for this quest I am on: Optimal Wellness. I think I could actually define that as “balance in all aspects of my life”.

I look forward to growing more in my meditative practices, and becoming and more balanced until I truly achieve optimum wellness. It is truly the small things, the little changes, that make us who we are. They build and build, almost imperceptibly, until the are the core of our being. And if those little changes promote harmony, well…lets just say I’ll bet we’ll like the results.

Thanks for reading,

See you tomorrow.

-Nathan

Where the Wild Wheat Went

A variety of foods made from wheat.

A variety of foods made from wheat. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ok, so I was just shocked so hard I feel as if I grabbed a high voltage wire in the middle of a thunderstorm while being struck by lightning and putting my hand into a tank of water with an electric eel.

 

Yeah, fine, that might be a bit of an exaggeration. But seriously, my jaw was on the floor.

 

Here’s what happened:

 

Today, during a discussion with my aunt and uncle about what the next month is going to look like for us, my aunt Kate told my uncle Richard and I that she wanted us all to listen to an interview with a doctor that she had heard of who talks about the reasons why wheat is bad for you. It came up because we have all been eating a gluten-free diet since I moved in 28 days ago. At this point, we were all considering adding just a little bit of gluten back into our diets to see how it would affect us. But Kate said she wanted us to listen to this thing before we changed. My uncle said, “why don’t we listen to it this evening after dinner?” So we all agreed to do so.

 

And we did. The interview is with Dr. William Davis, a cardiologist who has worked for years to help his patients who suffer from heart disease, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and many other conditions. He has recently written a book called Wheat Belly. It is about the enormous health benefits of removing wheat from your diet. According to Dr. Davis, his patients routinely lose significant amounts of weight, reduce blood sugar levels to the point of actually “curing” their diabetes and significantly lower their blood pressure and are able to stop taking prescription drugs to manage it, among many other things.

 

Now, all that makes sense to me. Wheat, because of its carbohydrate structure and some of its other chemical compounds, pumps up your blood sugar more than pretty much any other grain or carbohydrate source. Dr. Davis explained that this is partly due to the genetic modification wheat has undergone since the 1970’s when a high-yeild, dwarf strain of wheat was produced that was supposed to be hardier, yielded ten times the amount of its earlier siblings per acre, and had a shorter stalk which shorted growth time, reduced need for nutrients, and allowed the wheat to withstand heavy winds and rains. BUT….What the scientists who produced it were unaware of was that it also contained a special compound called amylopectin A– which is more efficiently converted to blood sugar than nearly any other carbohydrate including straight table sugar! It also contained an altered form of gliadin – a protein that was accidentally modified in geneticists quest for higher yield.

 

Dr. Davis explains that the further back you go in history, the better the wheat is for humans. Anything pre-1970 is better. But going back to Emmer and Einkorn (two of the earliest forms of wheat every discovered) is the best. Hence my title.

 

Now, here’s the shocker. This altered form of gliadin contains a compound called gliadorphin. It comes from gluten. It is called alternately both gliadorphin and gluteomorphin. Recognize those suffixes? Yeah, they mean that those compounds are Opiates! If you want to know more about what an opiate is, take a look at my Info page under the section “What is an Opiate?”.   

 

Short form: opiates are any substance that stimulates the opiate receptors in your brain. The most commonly known opiates are morphine, heroin, oxycodone (aka Oxycontin/Percocet), and hydrocodone (aka Vicodin). These substances relieve pain, slow digestion, suppress the cough, cause intense drowsiness, and can also cause feelings of euphoria (a feeling of well-being unrelated to actual circumstances). They are also some of the most addictive substances known to man.

 

The belief is that the opiates in wheat, lets choose the name gluteomorphin (cause it is easiest to spell, being a combination of gluten and morphine), act as a very potent appetite stimulator. They can also cause some of the effects of other opiates, usually drowsiness, poor intestinal motility, and even some mild euphoria.

 

They can also be blocked by opiate blocking drugs like Naltrexone and Naloxone.

 

You may not be able to appreciate how incredibly shocking this was to me. But suffice it to say that I forgot to breathe for about 15 seconds after I heard that, and it took all my self-control to not shout, “WHAT THE F@%&!” at the top of my voice.

 

My aunt, uncle and I discussed this for a bit, stopping the audio track for a minute. I realized while we were talking that I have always craved heavy carbohydrate foods and often foods with gluten when I was going through withdrawl from the drugs I had been taking (which are of course, also opiates). Now, oddly enough, I also craved dairy products. I thought about that while we listened to the rest of the interview. And I looked it up on google. Sure enough, there is a protein in dairy products called casein which also acts as an opiate!

 

Holy SH%$! That was the first thing that came to my mind.

 

Second, was why on earth do I not already know this?

 

Anyone who knows me knows that I am essentially an amateur pharmacist. I know quite a lot about drugs and about pharmacology and how certain foods affect certain drugs, etc. But I had never, and I mean never heard about this. Not in any of my research had I found a single inkling suggesting that there were opiate compounds in the food I ate every day.

 

Dr. Davis’s belief is that this information is suppressed by the giant agribusiness interests that spend billions of dollars a year just lobbying congress to support their ability to keep the public misinformed. Now, I’m no conspiracy nut, but I know that a lot of large corporations spend billions on advertising and PR to keep their message in the limelight and to keep other information out of the public’s eye. It would be verrry bad press for all the food producers that are growing tons of this heavily modified “new” wheat and processing it into all kinds of things we eat every day if all of a sudden it became known that wheat not only is tied to diabetes, heart disease, inflammatory conditions, and obesity, but that it also contained an addictive drug !

 

So yeah, I have to say I buy the story. It explains a lot, frankly. It explains the amazing rise of obesity and heart disease and diabetes since the 1970’s when this “new” genetically modified wheat first appeared on the scene. It explains the difficulty people have giving up wheat products. It explains why I used to have to bring an average of 3 pieces of bread per person to every table when I worked in a restaurant. And that was before their meal!

 

And it also explains why every time I was going through opiate withdrawl, wheat and dairy based foods made me feel a little bit better.

 

And now, thanks to my aunt Kate who has a lot of passion for this way of eating (she has a blog called The Joyful Eater which is all about plant-based eating and why it can truly make food a joyful experience)…I am off of wheat and dairy. And after learning about gluten and casein and the opiates they contain, I don’t ever want to go back on them. I am literally cringing just thinking about it.

 

I mean seriously, maybe these substances are part of the reason why there is such a high rate of relapse among opiate addicts. Perhaps gluteomorphin and casomorphin (as the substance in casein is called) stimulate the receptors in an addicts mind just enough to potentially trigger cravings and eventually relapse. That seems plausible as a scenario. And if it is, then people should know about it. Yet, not a single one of any of the treatment facilities, rehabs, or hospitals I have been to have ever mentioned anything along these lines.

 

And that, reader, pisses me off!

 

I hope this post made you want to learn more. I sure do. Check out Dr. William Davis’s website, the Wheat Belly Blog. Maybe even buy his book. I sure am planning on it. I want to finish with this question to you:

 

Suppose someone gave you…say…a milkshake. They told you it was delicious and, also, healthier than a normal milkshake. So you drank it. In fact, it was so good, you drank one every day, sometimes twice a day for the next year. Then, at the end of that year, the person who gave it to you told you, “oops, yeah, I forgot to tell you…those milkshakes contain a drug that is addicting and is associated with obesity, heart disease, diabetes, as well as inflammatory conditions like arthritis and cataracts! Sorry! No harm done. I just didn’t want to tell you because I was afraid you would stop drinking the milkshakes and I get paid a hundred dollars for every one you drink!”

 

Suppose that happened. Would you say, “oh, no worries. no big deal. also, can I have another milkshake?”

 

Or would you pummel that guy until he screamed for his mommy?

 

Yeah. Me too.

 

 

 

Do your own research. Decide what is true. And act on it.

 

Goodnight,

 

-Nathan

 

 

 

Erasing the Clock

So my alarm didn’t go off this morning. Turns out my clock was two hours slow. My digital clock, mind you. How exactly does a digital clock, plugged in with a battery backup, end up two hours slow? My only thought is that I must have been attempting to set the alarm or something and accidentally changed the time instead. But The two are completely separate functions on this clock. So perhaps, it was actually the universe telling me that I wasn’t meant to wake up at 6am when I had meant to.

Why did I want to get up at 6 when I had gone to bed at 1am? Tai Chi of course! I have my weekly class at 9am on Saturdays. And my morning routine takes at least an hour and a half if I do it the way I like, so I wanted to have as much time as I needed.

But because of my clock, I “overslept”. So instead of being able to leisurely go through my routine, I woke up at 8am (thanks to my uncle who came down and woke me) and threw on some clothes and raced upstairs. I started preparing to do my nebulizer treatments, and realized I probably wouldn’t have time.

I started to get anxious and was trying to figure out what I did and didn’t have time for.

I was honestly beginning to get quite flustered. I would have like to have just skipped the treatment this morning, but I couldn’t. Not just because of the commitment that I have made, but also because I wake up with my lungs full of gunk and my airways closed up. I need these meds to counteract that. I need them to open my airways, help me cough out all that junk and kill the bacteria that’s hanging out down there in my lungs. But I really didn’t have time.

And because of that I was actually beginning to freak out.

Here is the second part of the picture: I hate being late. I dislike it so much that I almost always arrive early, especially to something like a class. So there was no way I was going to settle for leaving at 10 till and arriving five minutes late. No, I was going to be there five minutes early or right at 9, or not at all.

This neurosis has caused me problems in the past because I used it as a justification for just not showing up somewhere at all. If I had a class that started at 1pm and went till 2pm and it was already 1:05, I would tell myself, “by the time you get there it will be almost 1:30 and half the class will be gone plus your instructor will be angry with you and you might as well just not go and then you can say you were sick and you won’t get into trouble”.

You can see how that could become a problem…

So this morning. So I was sitting in my chair in the living room and trying to decide how to budget the 40 minutes I had before I needed to leave. Usually my first part of the treatment takes about 40 minutes itself and comprises two different inhaled medications. So I decided I would just do one of them, the most important and quickest acting one that immediately opens up my airways and helps me breathe. But I decided NOT to skip the others. Instead, I decided I could do them when I got back from Tai Chi.

Then I drank a protein shake made with fresh fruit and veggies with some all natural, raw, vegan protein powder. (I’ll bet that sounds tasty, huh? Haha)

Then I got myself dressed and ready to go.

And instead of being an anxious wreck right before Tai Chi, I was able to be settled and unhurried as I got into the car with my uncle and we drove to downtown Lake Oswego.

I have, in the past, always been an impatient, anxious, and easily disturbed person. I have so often gotten frantic when something happened to throw me off my game. But this morning, when I consciously chose to utilize my time appropriately and prioritize what needed to be done right that moment and what could be done a little later in the day, I ended up feeling so much calmer and the energy flowing through my body was able to circulate smoothly without running into the blockages of anxiety that I was beginning to set up.

Now, I had to use this again later today. Or rather, this evening. It was my aunt Laura’s 70th birthday. She doesn’t seem a day over 45 to me. But the older I get the worse I seem to get at judging the ages of others. I think I just don’t really pay much attention to that anymore.

Anyway, we had a whole family gathering for everyone who could make it at a restaurant in the Pearl District called Seres  which served wonderful organic Chinese cuisine. And of course the preparations here at home took a major portion of the afternoon. And at the restaurant at first it was a bit noisy and we were disorganized and people weren’t hearing each other and I started to get anxious again. There had been so much activity and noise and motion since the moment that I had woken up that by the time I was seated in the restaurant I was experiencing some sensory overload.

Here’s where the things I have been working on come into play. In this situation I couldn’t just choose to prioritize or change my environment in order to alleviate the anxiety. I needed to stay where I was and participate in my family gathering. But the anxiety was on the verge of preventing me from doing so the way I wanted to.

So I closed my eyes. I took a few deep breaths. I pictured a deep, cool lake in the center of my being. I watched as its glass-smooth surface reflected the mountains and tall pines around it and as a few small birds flitted by overhead. I pictured the lake filling my body. I felt the cool and the stillness begin to move up through my feet, engulfing first my legs, then my belly, then my chest, and finally overflowing until it became a radiant white light that spilled out and spread to touch the people around me.

I stopped, because I felt calm again.

I felt like I could stand in front of an oncoming train and not get worried. Wow. Even as I write this I have to say I am so incredibly amazed at the power of my being to connect with the energy of the universe.

Visualizing a new reality and allowing myself to truly FEEL what it is like to embody this new reality – well, lets just say I am only just beginning to discover how this can work and exposing this untapped reservoir of energy….Who knows where this will take me and how.

But I know that no matter what, if I am mindful of myself and the state of my spirit, mind, and body….If I continue to practice making use of the energy that connects me to all things…and if I keep developing my love, compassion, and gratitude for the other living beings around me: I know that my life will continue to become more and more like that glass-smooth lake in a peaceful valley on a pristine mountain.

Thanks for reading tonight. I am exhausted from my late night last night, my early morning, and long day. I wish you all a restful sleep and a peaceful awakening tomorrow morning.

Goodnight,

-Nathan