Some say the internal combustion engine is the most damaging object ever created. I would almost agree. I think the most destructive human invention is the standard office chair. That’s the bastard above. I imagine that when we were all cavemen or homesteaders, we didn’t have time to sit down and stare at screens. We were too busy trying to find food, keep our families alive, and defending ourselves from wild animals. We also died around age 35. So, I guess modern life does have its perks; coffee bars, iPhones, grocery stores, and polyester underwear. But the trade-off is that most of us spend our time sitting. And sitting is killing us. Just this morning I went to the gym to kick-start my exercise regimen once again. It felt great while I was doing it, but I wonder if it will be enough to counteract the effects on my body of sitting in my office chair at work for seven-plus hours today. Probably not. I’m sure I’d be much healthier if I were to spend my day running down wildebeests or chipping rocks together, trying to loose a few sparks for my cooking fire. And it’s probably a really bad sign that there are even apps that remind you when you’re sitting too long and chirp at you to get up and stretch. Or the high-tech wristbands that monitor your daily activity and convert it into tiny little charts and graphs that you can share with your friends on Facebook. Bullshit, I say. Our ancestors didn’t need FitBits. They had the saber-toothed tigers for that. So maybe today, pretend you are being chased by some hungry, rabid, giant boar, get up out of that cushy chair, and move your ass.
Lately I seem to be more of an aggregator of information than a creator of original content. But like a good book that you thrust into a friend’s hands with a “must read this” plea, I feel like sharing these bits of wisdom that I come across in the hopes that you might glean some spark or insight from them. As for my own vows, it looks like another time for renewal. Like Soen Roshi, I too have been consuming the metaphorical demon rice cakes. Even though I have been swimming 30 lengths in the pool on my lunch hour, I still can’t seem to turn the corner on my exercise regimen. I am trying to use the Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei as my inspiration for my nascent running program (four miles every day no matter what) but that hasn’t gotten off the ground yet. I’m doing about three days a week worth of running and walking. I know my mood improves when I exercise, so I have to do it, come rain, shine, or darkness. My diet at first glance appears good, but too may late-night Red Sox games have done damage to my willpower. Today I’m buying a cookbook called Three Bowls: Vegetarian Recipes from an American Zen Buddhist Monastery by Seppo Ed Farrey and Nancy O’Hara that I hope will help my diet. In the Buddha’s time, it was common for monks to eat only one meal per day, and to eat nothing after noon. Extreme, yes. And not very conducive to a householder’s life. But I’ve got to find some way to make my vows stick.
These are probably just rainy-day thoughts, but what’s a blog for if you can’t open up to all your imaginary friends, right? It’s obvious that as you approach middle age, your metabolism slows down and it gets harder and harder to keep off extra weight. I keep waiting for the body I had as a 20-year-old to show up, and it’s just not happening. (Not that it was that great anyway, but at least I was a size 34, instead of a 38 like I am now.) As a working, married father of two, there are so many demands on my time that unless I give up sleeping, regular daily exercise is almost an impossibility. I do OK for awhile, and then my commitment wavers. I don’t see the immediate results that I used to see, and I get discouraged. I want to do better, but I also don’t want to become some kind of exercise nut at the expense of my family, whom I love more than anything. I once heard Terry Francona, manager of the Red Sox, say, “Some things never change. I woke up this morning and I still had no hair.” Well I wake up every morning and I still see a chubby guy in the mirror, no matter what I do. Women are traditionally supposed to have “body image issues”, but I can tell you from experience that men have them too. I mentioned in an earlier post that sometimes I really feel the dichotomy between the physical person I am and the person I wish I was. I want to have the vital energy that hard core yoga practitioners have. I want to eat only whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, instead of tortilla chips, pizza and beer. I want to be able to wake up at 4 AM to do an hour’s worth of yoga, but my body wants to sleep. In many of the spiritual texts I’ve read, there are strong criticisms of the lazy and indolent. These kinds of people won’t be able to seriously undertake a path of true personal growth. I know I’m supposed to go easy on myself, but at the same time I feel like I go too easy. I keep thinking that maybe when I turn forty this August, I’ll wake up and have an epiphany. I’ll finally find that inner strength, that willpower, to make the healthy changes to my lifestyle that I know I need to make. But I’m also a realist. I know that the only changes that can last are the gradual ones. Maybe by writing all this down, I can make a commitment to all of you that I’m going to try and change my ways. I’m going to try not to be lazy and indolent. I’m going to try and wake up earlier and do yoga, at least a few sun salutations, before going to work. I’m going to give up the beer. I’m going to give up caffeine. I’m going to get more aerobic exercise. I’m going to eat healthier. I’m going to look like the guys in the Kripalu catalog…someday.