Sunday, January 31, 2016

The New Year's Resolution Solution

With the New Year come those Resolutions that many of us earnestly make. And break. January is over and it's likely that some readers have already seen a well-intended "commitment" fall by the wayside. Then there are those folks who say, "Oh, I don't make New Year's Resolutions." Translation: "I've failed so many times that I don't even bother anymore."

I've been going to gyms for most of my adult life and I see the pattern repeat itself year after year. January brings a flood of new members fired up about getting in shape and losing weight. We regulars know that come February things will be pretty much back to normal as the newbies find any number of excuses to return to their old behavior.

What's going on here? People are taking a look at their lives, focusing on an area that needs improvement, promising themselves that they're going to do something about it, then-----not. Are folks really that lame? Do they lack sufficient willpower? Why do they give up so quickly?

The late great Dr. Wayne Dyer wrote a book called, "Change Your Thoughts--Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao" that eloquently addresses these questions far beyond the level of broken New Year's Resolutions. In summary, he shares that before lasting change can manifest on the outside we must first improve our internal dialogue.

For example, it's all well and good to declare, "I want to lose 20 pounds," and with sufficient diligence that goal is certainly achievable. But without examining and changing the thoughts that have led to the actions resulting in being overweight, what chance is there for the loss to be permanent?

Make no mistake, thought precedes every action we take. Or don't take, whether we are consciously aware of the thoughts or not. Staying with our overweight example, let's face it, accumulating that much extra body weight takes a sustained effort over a long period of time. Nobody wakes up one morning and says, "Holy ____!! What happened?? I was twenty pounds lighter when I went to bed last night!!"

Many people attempt to analyze through therapy or deep introspection the consciousness that results in undesirable behaviors. This journey into the “Land of Why” can be productive in uncovering hidden origins of dysfunction but runs the risk of wandering aimlessly in one’s mental wilderness. Exploring the ramifications of "I have an unhealthy relationship with food" or "My self esteem is so low" or "I had such a horrible childhood" is ultimately wasted effort unless you finally reach the point of asking, “Okay, now what?”

A more direct route to behavior modification is to simply overlay your existing counterproductive thought patterns with new ones that support the actions, behavior, and results that you desire. I say "simply" for a very simple reason--we are the sole owners of our thoughts, every single one of them, so thinking different ones is as easy (or difficult) as we believe.

A lot of what goes on between our ears isn't really "thinking" at all. It's more like cruise control/auto pilot murmuring that keeps us from having to actively engage in every moment of our lives. To a degree that's fine because those moments sure come and go quickly, and all of them may not be particularly significant. What gets us into trouble is when we allow such habitual thinking to keep us from engaging with any moments.

Then we don't notice that we're constantly overeating and under-exercising. As bellies protrude women fasten their pants below their breasts and guys above their manhood while proclaiming, “Hey, I still wear the same size!”. Looking in the mirror after a shower somehow all that is seen is a head and a neck, perhaps because it’s just too painful to notice the parts we don’t like.

The key to permanent weight loss, better eating habits, and getting proper exercise is making this declaration: I AM HEALTH.

That's it? Yes, because when you embrace and become these words then consistently act upon them, your choices automatically align with your beliefs. When you are health, would you consume a poor diet? Never exercise? Weigh too much? Of course not, because such behavior does not support who and what you are.

"Come on, nothing's that easy," you may be saying. You know what--if that's what you believe, then you're right. But the truth of the matter is, nothing permanently changes until there is a fundamental shift in thought. Consider the plight of a hopeless alcoholic or drug addict. Friends and family try to help--counseling, intervention, rehab. But all outside attempts of assistance are in vain until that person declares once and for all, "I cannot do this anymore." In that moment everything changes.

If someone that far gone can turn his life around by an unwavering shift in consciousness, so can we all. Being healthy and physically fit at any age is no accident. Manifesting the "I am Health" mantra influences consistent behavior that supports a vibrant lifestyle. “Consistent” doesn’t have to mean “fanatical.” Enjoying occasional indulgences creates no sense of guilt and can contribute to an overall sense of well being when doing so is the exception rather than the rule.

These comments and suggestions have been related specifically to health but can be applied to any area of life. Examine your own life and circumstances and have fun creating solutions to challenges that have in the past been burdensome.

New Year's Resolutions don't have to be a guilt trip. Wouldn’t you love instead to celebrate a personal victory? Try a new approach this time. Focus on "being" instead of "getting" and watch what happens!

Friday, January 22, 2016

If I Could Turn Back Time

I turned 67 today and it's kind of a weird feeling. No, not that I'm getting older. Actually just the opposite. Since we moved to Ecuador over 5 1/2 years ago I believe I look and know I feel younger than when we arrived (the same is true for Cynthia, but it's not her birthday).

Since this development was totally unexpected I've been thinking about how it's been possible to defy the aging process, and three things come to mind. First is our food supply and diet. Due to the temperate equatorial climate Ecuador is blessed with an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables year round. Not only that, our constitution forbids GMO's, so we don't have apples the size of softballs like in the States.

Processed foods are almost nonexistent here. We prepare all of our meals at home from scratch, and restaurants make everything fresh each day as well. Combine these factors with cows, chickens, and pigs not jacked up with hormones and God knows what else and it's clear our overall diet is vastly superior to what we used to consume.

Second, our fitness has improved drastically. Not owning a car and walking almost everywhere makes exercise a necessary part of daily life. We also make weight training, yoga, and cardio an important part of our schedule. In fact, these activities are the only things that we set aside time for every week in our otherwise spontaneous expat world.

Last but absolutely not least, stress has vanished from our consciousness. Our previous lives had more stress than we realized until we removed ourselves from it, and the period leading up to our arrival here was extremely trying. Our life here is relaxed and carefree, and we've developed extraordinary levels of patience from immersing ourselves in a culture that's just not in much of a hurry to do anything.

So it's amazing to find myself growing older and younger at the same time. Happy Birthday to me!!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Good to Be Back!

Hi, everyone. After spending a long holiday with our family in the States and getting our life in Cuenca rolling again I'm back to blogging. I've got a lot of topics I want to share with you, so I'll start with a little vignette from this afternoon that's on my mind and work backwards in time over the coming days.

One of the things we like to do upon returning home is buy fresh flowers for the apartment. You would never do that right before leaving, right? So we view this as a small gesture demonstrating that we are here for awhile.

Our local florist is Betty, a lovely woman who speaks not a syllable of English. Her assistant, Patchi, knows about as much English as I do Spanish, so every transaction is a bit of an adventure. When I came into the store Patchi was with a woman I assumed was a customer, leaving Betty and I on our own.

I quickly found one type of flower I had in mind but the calla lilies I wanted weren't in stock. So here we go, trying to talk, gesturing, and generally having a good time figuring out what else I should buy. Inevitably Patchi got involved, we all picked out some gorgeous roses and greenery, and I went to the counter to pay ($8 for 24 roses and an armload of other flowers, by the way).

I apologized in Spanish to the woman still sitting there and she said, in English, "Oh, that's OK. Patchi and I have been friends since kindergarten and we were just visiting. I enjoyed listening to you all trying to communicate. It's fun, isn't it?"

Fun. I'd never really thought of it that way but, yes, it is fun (most of the time) navigating your way through a foreign culture. Of course this wasn't always the case. In those early days when everything was so new, so confusing, so exasperating, so damned hard, "fun" wasn't a word that at all described the experience.

Now we don't let our lack of fluency bother us. We don't really let anything bother us, to tell you the truth. In our five and a half years of living abroad we've encountered and overcome so many obstacles that when something goes sideways we simply get through it.

Take this morning. Cynthia went to take her shower and discovered both of our gas tanks are empty. Translation: no hot water. I throw on some jeans, go around the corner to the tienda where I paid for a tank a week ago that hadn't been delivered, bought a second tank while telling the proprietor that my wife wanted to kill him, and we had new gas an hour later. No big deal--we take showers in the afternoon.

It's the day for our maid to show up and she does. To tell us she can't work today and will be here Saturday afternoon. We've got guests coming for dinner tomorrow night, but again, no big deal. We'll do a little spot cleaning and things will be fine.

I can imagine either of these incidents causing us (well, me at least) to go ballistic in the "old days" back in the U.S. and even in our early days here. No more. What's the point? Getting all jacked up only makes you feel lousy and does absolutely nothing to change the situation.

So it's great to be back, having fun and not stressing over minor inconveniences. How was your day?