Reset and Reboot

So this morning is the day after Christmas of 2018 and the house is quiet. Even the new puppies are all snuggled down back to their napping after their early morning of chaos and frenzy that was sure to keep me from my coffee routine far too long for my nerves to handle very well at all. This week between Christmas and New Years is always an awkward one, isn’t it?

Many are on vacation and those who aren’t seem to find frustration at every corner because everyone else is on vacation. Work slows to a crawl – no big financial decisions are made during the last week of the year, ever. Most offices go into a sort of “minimal maintenance only” routine while everyone else just seems to huddle around. “The holidays” are truly plural, not only in the variety of religious and cultural celebrations this time of year observes but also in the multitude of days covered by this otherwise ubiquitous vacation.

One thing I love to do during this week is to take the time to think through the next year. I consider dreams and goals and take the week to create realistic timelines and strategies for making those ideas into reality over the next 12 months.

I start with the big picture. By the end of 2019, where do I want my life to be? I think through that question with regard to my work, my finances, my personal life, my family life, my health and even hobbies. Once I begin to have a firm idea on what I want out of 2019, it’s time to chart the course to get there. What steps do I need to take to fulfill each of those goals? What kind of timeline is realistic for those steps? Are there any resources I need to make those steps happen? Then, the final action for me in my planning – creating a timeline and calendar items attached to those steps, which are ultimately attached to those goals.

This is why it takes me an entire week to go through this exercise. It’s not something I can just slap together and make happen. Maybe some can…but mine has to be thought out, mulled over, and redone over and over. I typically spend an hour or two a day on this but I do spend that time every day over the course of about a week or so. I work on it. Leave it alone. Think about it. Come back to it. Over and over. However, this time is so well spent that it takes my year from being something I float through to being something I navigate with direction and purpose.

I spent far too much time in my adult life wandering without direction and simply living a life of reaction. Do you know that life? The kind where things happen every day and all our time is spent reacting to those outside influence? Sure, we may save money for a vacation. We may find time in the morning to center ourselves. We might even improve our relationships or our career. But for me at least, very little of it was done because, at the beginning of it all, I decided from the outset “This is where I want to go and how I plan to get there.”

Life can either be reaction or it can be decision.

Of course, we will always have to react to unexpected turns and events – but even those reactions should be informed and carried out according to our already predetermined decisions. Right?

So. Here I am. The morning after Christmas and thinking through 2019. I’m in the early stages so it’s still just a bunch of vague ideas, dreams, and a few legitimate goals, but it’s a start. Over the next several days those goals and dreams will start to become action items and timelines.

What do you want to achieve this coming year? What are your goals and dreams? If you need help with yours, let me know. I’m always here and I’m always excited to help people think through their goals and their dreams. In the mean time, I’ll be here working away and keeping my coffee close by.


Long ago someone asked me, “If you could only preach one sermon for the rest of your life, what would it be?” and over the course of the last 8 years that answer has been a resounding, “Embrace change.”

Don’t fight it. Don’t manage it. Don’t try to subdue or direct it. It’s a wild beast that will ruin you if you don’t learn to ride it. And this is one beast you don’t ride to transform its nature…you ride to let it transform yours.

It’s as simple as that.

Not to say that should make it easy. Not at all. It is quite possibly the most difficult thing to do. However, the truth is still embrace change or become bitter, embrace change or become stuck, embrace change or stop growing, embrace change or watch your joy, your potential and your life slowly drain away through the futility of frustration.

More on this soon…but for now…that’s a start. Welcome back.

Meditation for Everyone

Meditation. True, the word sounds lofty, enigmatic, and perhaps even esoteric. However, the ideas behind meditation don’t need to be ambiguous nor are they all that mysterious. At it’s core, meditation is a way to deepen your breathing, clear your mind and reinvigorate your mood. It is a very practical, worthwhile exercise with a variety of proven health benefits.

Think about it this way, among the fuel our bodies need to operate at their most efficient, oxygen is chief among them. You can function for days without food and water – but without breathing, not so much. Every single cell in your body takes in fresh oxygen as a way to rejuvenate itself upon each breath you take. When we’re stressed, overworked and fatigued we take shallow, quick breaths and our adrenaline rushes to supply as much oxygen as our bodies can gather. In addition to wearing us out faster, our oxygen supply runs shorter and our stress grows higher, our muscles grow tense and our minds function less and less effectively. Taking long, deliberate breaths creates better oxygenated blood and, in turn, reduces that stress and clears our minds and gives our body a great advantage over its previous state. This is simple biochemistry. At it’s simplest, this is what the practice of meditation does for us.

While there are many ways to meditate,  centering oneself can take on a variety of forms that spring from a number of different religious or philosophical systems. However, meditation can be as simple as setting aside time to measure your breathing, to pay attention to your body, to slowly inhale and focus you mind and exhale as you let go of stress and weariness.

Try this simple exercise to start your meditation experiments and see how they work for you. It takes only five minutes and it can drastically change your physical and mental well-being immediately.

  1. Sit comfortably but attentively. Find a place where you can sit comfortably, with back straight and spine aligned but where you can also be aware of yourself enough that you can stay focused. This can be in a chair, on the floor, at your desk, in your car, wherever is best at the moment.
  2. Bring attention to your body. Spend a minute noticing the tension in your neck, shoulders, arms, chest, and legs. Imagine, for a moment, each muscle loosening and letting go of all the pent up energy and worry and allow your body to relax.
  3. Count your breathing. A simple breathing exercise to begin with is known as Triangular Breathing. Inhale deeply for a count of 4 seconds, hold it for 4 seconds, then exhale for 4 seconds. When first beginning, try sustaining this practice for no more than 2 or 3 minutes. Try to focus your mind on nothing more than the literal counting of those seconds of breathing, thinking to yourself, “Inhale….2….3….4….hold….2…3…4….exhale…2..3…4”. Naming your breathing in this way helps to keep your mind focused and from wandering on the stressful things going on around you.
  4. Bring attention to your surroundings. Once your breathing exercises are complete, after 3 or so minutes, then slowly bring your breathing back to normal. You may notice that you don’t return to your previous shallow breathing but you, in fact, settle in to a new, deeper pattern that shows your body to be more relaxed and focused. Slowly bring your awareness back to your surroundings and then you’re ready to go.

This simple breathing technique is one of the most basic forms of meditation and it is a wonderful way to begin letting go of the stress and tension in your life. Experiment. See how well it works for you. The health benefits are indisputable and what better way to help your mind and your body by giving it what it needs most!

Related Reading:
Mayo Clinic article on meditation

Reboot Yourself with Triangle Breathing

5 Meditation and Pranayama Techniques to Practice at the Office

Of Life and Death Importance: The Continuing Journey (Part 3)

This year started like most years in recent memory. There was no big urge to make a new resolution to lose weight or be fit. I was happy where I was but I was slowly killing myself. In late January, I remember weighing myself because my clothes were getting a bit too snug and I wanted to pay more attention. I weighed 243lbs. That number, at the time, seemed so normal. Throughout most of my adulthood, I had weighed 230lbs or more. At one point, ten years ago, even peaking at about 265lbs. So 243 was a reasonable number to me. I was wearing XXL shirts and my pants were 40-42″ waste. Again, my whole adulthood I had vacillated between XL and XXL, between 38-42″ pants. It was just what I had accepted as normal.

I loved myself and I loved my physical container. There was no sense of “fat-shaming” or any such mentality. However when I learned, at the end of February, that my inactivity and bad decisions were putting me at severe risk of missing out on a long and happy life, it was time to love myself better than I had been. It was time to love myself to the best health possible. It was time to love myself into a very long and happy life.

When I posted about my journey in May, my doctor had recently just cleared me to get back to physical exercise. Since then, I’ve gotten back to an increasing regiment of weight training and running. I’ve trimmed down, toned up, and continued to lose weight – at a much slower rate but still losing. It’s been exciting and challenging and the time put in every day is always rewarding: physically, mentally, emotionally. This is, simply put, life from now on. This is it. But the good thing is that this is sustainable. I’m not doing anything so drastic that I’ll burn out and give up because of an unrealistic schedule. Not at all. This is easily something I can do for years to come.

My hope is that I’ve been doing this long enough that I’m now in a true habit of living. I don’t EVER want to go back to where I was before. I can’t. I spent over 20 years there. No more.

I’m still not where I want to be, but I’m so much closer. Like I said, at the beginning of the year I was at 243lbs, in XXL shirts and 42″ pants. This morning, I’m at 179lbs, I wear M sized shirts and I’m in 33″ pants. That’s almost 65lbs lost in 6 months…and I can’t even fathom the difference in body mass between XXL and M sized shirts. I literally feel like a different person. I am by no means happier, I’ve always been a pretty happy guy. However, I am so much more relaxed and comfortable. I can’t even express how much more comfortable I am.

My original goal, at the beginning of March was to get to 200lbs. I knew that was achievable, but there’s no way I would have imagined I could reach the 170s. No way. The key for me, all along, has been to set small, reachable goals. If I hadn’t have done that, I would have been so overwhelmed that it would have been easy to give up. But giving up is not an option. To give up would be a slow, languid suicide…and that’s just not going to happen.

Small, reachable goals. That’s where it’s at. That and a damn good playlist.

(Part 1) (Part 2)

Of Life and Death Importance. Part Next. (Part 2)

So yes, of course I was ready to change my life. More so than I’d ever been. The doctor put me on some various medications to curb the immediate danger the cholesterol and diabetes put me under but then advised me about my weight. He said, “If we attack the weight and your eating habits, we KNOW with absolute certainty we can make an impact on the blood pressure and the diabetes. So, you need to make some significant changes in how you eat – but this has to be a long term commitment – not simply something to lose weight and then go back to the way you were living. If you do that, all of these problems will only get bigger.” It wasn’t a hard sell at all. This was the right thing, at the exact right moment for me.

So, along with my two diabetic meds, my three blood pressure meds, my cholesterol pills and now most certainly my newest trusty friend in the midst of all of this, Lexapro, I endeavored to do everything I could to get myself OFF of all these pills. I started eating as cleanly as I could, immediately. My breakfast would contain a good clean protein and some fruit. Very modest proportions. My snacks would be composed of nuts and fruit. My lunches and dinners would be mostly vegetables (as many raw as possible) a very modest amount of a lean meat and a small serving of fruit. One of the things I immediately attacked was portion size. After a week or two feeling like I was constantly starving, those misleading thoughts fled and it became clear just how much our culture overeats on a daily basis. We can live with far less food than we shove into ourselves.

After the first couple of months, I began to flirt with the idea of committing to a Whole Food Plant Based diet. I resist the word “vegan” in the same way I would resist other culturally charged words. But essentially, a WFPB diet is vegan. I finally took the leap and it’s been quite enjoyable. Of course, there’s much more to unpack on these subjects, but you can’t say EVERYTHING in one or two posts…so…I’ll end this entry with the good news.

In LESS than 90 days…less than 3 full months…I have dropped 50lbs. I have been taken off almost every single one of my blood pressure meds. Yesterday, after rechecking my blood work, my doctor actually said the words, “You can stop taking your diabetic meds now, according to the medical definition, with your new blood work, you are no longer diabetic. With the weight you’ve lost and your dietary changes, you are officially not diabetic now. You’ve done it.”

In less than 3 months. And literally, ALL I did was change my eating habits. Because of the cholesterol, he wouldn’t let me do any kind of workout at all. All I did was change the way I ate.

50lbs in exactly 79 days. Reversed the diabetes. Almost completely off my blood pressure meds. We’ll recheck the cholesterol in another 3 months.

However, as of yesterday, my doctor told me that now was the time to get back to working out. More on that in my next entry, though.

I’ll leave you with this. Below are a few pictures. The first one is from a cat’s birthday party I attended almost two years ago. Between this picture and where I was three months ago, I MIGHT have lost 10lbs or so, but this was essentially who I was three months ago. Next to that picture, are two pictures my doctor took yesterday in his exam room. Oh, and yes. I said “a cat’s birthday party.”

I can’t tell you what a difference our eating habits make…I can’t convince you that the key to health is in what you eat. But I can show you. There’s no magic to it. No diet pills to take. No meal replacement shakes. No extra money to be spent. Just simply stop eating crap.

True. Story.

(Part 1) (Part 3)

Of Life and Death Importance. The Journey Begins. (Part 1)

Sit back, grab some coffee, and enjoy this little story. To set a little background for this journey, five years ago I was diagnosed with extremely high blood pressure. When I say high blood pressure, I mean I should be dead. The last time I was not on my medication, my blood pressure was 236/124. Like I said, I should be dead. So five years ago, I started the journey to figuring out how to control this, medically. After two years of struggling with different medication combinations, my doctor and I settled on a combination of drugs that kept things at a much safer level. Three different meds, two of them taken in the morning and the third med taken three times a day, brought my blood pressure down to something more in the 150s/90s range. Still not wonderful, but much better. Once we found that cocktail, I started seeing my doctor on a regular 3 month basis to keep tabs on everything.

So…this journey actually begins about 6 months ago. My doctor, realizing that it had been a few years since I had any blood work done, sent me home with paperwork to get labs run on my blood before I came in the next time. I didn’t go. I found all sorts of excuses on why, but basically, I just didn’t go. So three months ago, I went back in and he was really bothered by the fact that I didn’t get my blood work done. I remember his exact words, “Do you not care what’s going on with your body?” He asked if I had eaten anything that morning yet, or had anything other than water…serendipitously enough, I hadn’t. So he demanded I immediately go and have my blood work done that morning. I had no excuses, so I went.

A few days later, he called me, worried and asked me to drop whatever I was doing and come see him immediately. He didn’t want to delay starting treatment based on the results of my blood work. “Treatment?” I thought. I began to share his concern, so I dropped what I was doing and went in.

I’ll never forget these words. He said, “Well, we know you’re overweight (ouch) and have struggled with high blood pressure…but now your cholesterol is through the roof and you’re apparently diabetic. Who knows how long you’ve been an untreated diabetic, since you haven’t had blood work in a very long time…but congratulations…with the combination of these four conditions, you’ve just graduated into a special group of people who could have a massive heart attack at any given moment 24 hours a day. So, are you ready to change your life?”

I was absolutely beside myself. I had no idea, obviously. I think for the first time in a life time of trying different things to change my health, I was finally ready.

(Part 2) (Part 3)

Morning Moments

Mornings have always been important times for me. A time to collect my thoughts, celebrate accomplishments from the day before, organize my lists of things to be done today. For the last few months, however, mornings have taken on a new importance. Ever since the 2016 Health Crisis®, my mornings have also been about constant health monitoring. Every morning, before coffee, before breakfast, before I do anything else, I weigh in on a digital scale, I check my blood pressure, and I check my blood sugar. I also evaluate my heart rate data from the day before and I plan my meals out for the day.

At 43, I’m not getting any younger, but my entire goal is to be on this planet as long as possible and to do everything in my power to live the best life I can. Years ago, my doctor told me, “You think you’re invincible, and you are – but your container is not.” So, I’m trying to treat my container with as much kindness as possible. And why not? I like this place. I love my life. So why not take steps to extend?

When I have more time, I’ll get into the 2016 Health Crisis®, which wasn’t so much a health crisis as it was a moment of reality and the need for change. There’s so much to say on this topic…and so many other topics. However, one day at a time…one thought at a time.

I just got to a place where I realized that if I say my life is valuable, then I owe it to myself to examine how much value I truly place on it – and to determine if my actions are lining up with my words.

Just a thought. By the way, today’s thought is brought to you by the letter Coffee.