Death: Science vs. Religion

Christopher Bullock, a British actor once said, “Tis impossible to be certain of any thing but death and taxes.” And this much is inevitably true. If there’s one thing that every person in this world has in common, it’s the fact that we’re all going to die someday. I was exposed to death at an early age, given the passing of my brother before I had reached my teen years. From that point on, my perspective and interest in the topic of death has followed me throughout my entire life.

Most people in general avoid the topic of death as they prefer not to think about the prospect of their lives coming to an end. For the most part, this is because of the fear that accompanies the unknown circumstances surrounding death. After all, no one truly knows what happens once the body dies. The thought of simply ceasing to exist is frightening, to say the least. It’s frightening, even to me. And I’ve had a LOT of experience witnessing and dealing with death.

So what’s the real deal? What happens after death? The physiological results are well-documented and well-known, so I’m just going to go ahead and ignore those since we’re focusing on what happens to the PERSON after death. Not the body. I read a great blog post over a year ago, where the author went into detail about how at this point we should be acknowledging the existence of an afterlife, based on how many accounts there have been from people who have reached the brink and peeked through. The post explained how it should be a foregone conclusion of SOMETHING that occurs after death, as opposed to wondering IF.

Some have even come back with information and details that they wouldn’t have known otherwise, unless they had spoken to passed relatives and such. Could some of it be coincidence? Maybe. It wouldn’t be the first times that a person was made privy to information that they heard on a subliminal level and only remembered when hitting a comatose stage. It’s possible that the person is remembering a detail that they didn’t know they had heard. But coincidence will only take you so far, with people admitting to hearing and knowing details discussed outside the room while they were clinically dead, etc.

So, let’s examine the difference between the scientific approach and the religious approach. Catholicism is pretty straightforward and you can learn everything you need to know about death by reading the Holy Bible. Easy-peasy. Heaven, hell and the related steps are pretty clearly outlined for someone willing to read through it. Most Buddhist sects have a pretty firm belief that the end of one life simply transitions you into the next, with the person’s spirit leaving one body and finding a new life to live.

Some sects also believe that one’s reincarnation will depend on what kind of existence you led in the previous life. Bad people will become dung beetles. Good people become something better and so on and so forth. There are deeper details than that involved, but I won’t get too far beyond the fact that we believe in past lives and reincarnation. Of course, different schools of faith will have different beliefs but Buddhism and Catholicism is what I know. So there. The bottom line is that if you’re a believer in faith, life after death is a possible belief you carry. The only way to know whether it’s true or not is to take that last Nestea plunge. And then you’d be in no position to actually share the information anyway.

From a science standpoint, I think it’s important to acknowledge that we are all energy. And that’s not just a Buddhist perspective; we literally are made of energy. We’re composed of atoms, which are made of energy. Pure and simple. Electrical and chemical reactions within the body have been said to be enough to produce approximately 100 Watts of power in the average human body. Before I go down a rabbit hole of biology, let’s take a look at physics, instead. Depending on what level of physics you may be/have studied, the First Law of Thermodynamics tells us that energy is always conserved and can be changed from one form to another; never created or destroyed.

What does this mean for the human body at death? From a scientific standpoint, one would be inclined to believe that one’s energy will need to go somewhere and become SOMETHING. We simply don’t know what. If your belief is from a more theological standpoint, then the belief in an afterlife is a given and your spirit will depart the body and go up or down, depending on your specific beliefs. So one way or another, it would be reasonable to say that you’re covered. You’ll move on to a “next stage” after death. I should probably point out that this is all speculation on my part. I’m no theologian. And I’m sure as hell not a scientist. But I think that examining a subject that most people try to avoid such as death, is a good way of dispelling some of the fear and anxiety that comes along with it.

Last but certainly not least is who a person is as an individual. Our consciousness and self-awareness is something that is very hard to believe will simply blink out of existence at the point of death. I think, therefore I am, right? Consciousness needs to count for more than just a bunch of chemical and neural components of the flesh. I would think. Ultimately, the only way to know for sure will be to take that final road trip to whatever awaits. I’m sure as hell in no hurry to take that trip. All things in time. But to quote David Bowie, “I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.” ☯

A Gentle Change Of Perspective

Sometimes it feels as though I’ve worn a uniform my entire life… From a very young age, I started wearing a karate gi. Throughout my teens and twenties I found myself falling the old school route where I wore a fast food and a pharmacy uniform as I worked jobs to get me through high school and college. I started wearing security uniforms in my 20’s during the chaotic period when I still wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with my life. The, I stepped into my chosen career and the wearing of a uniform became second nature, despite the fact I had been wearing one in some way, shape or form for almost twenty years prior to that.

Yesterday, I started a new job in which I get to enjoy the pleasure of being dressed in a very different kind of uniform. Some may look at this photo and say, “That’s not a uniform…” And you’d be right, in the traditional sense. But how one dresses for a job is a representation of the quality of work one intends to DO on the job, and I feel it’s important to dress well for one’s position. Plus, I love suits. I F&*KIN’ LOVE SUITS!!!

There’s nothing complex or complicated about this morning’s post. No deep-rooted philosophical lesson or long-winded explanation about some function of the body, a martial arts technique or what Diabetic issue is currently throwing a monkey wrench into my life. Just a quick, simple post to share a happy moment with all of you. Yesterday was amazing, albeit a very different kind of exhausting than I’m used to. I have some excellent and professional people I work with, which made the first day all the more smooth. But it didn’t help that I missed my scheduled bus to get home, meaning I had to stand in a snowstorm for about twenty five minutes until the next one came along. Live and learn.

It’s a new routine for the entire family, with everyone making adjustments as working from home is solely my wife’s arena, now. But by the time I finally DID get home last night, it’s a fair assumption to say that we were both exhausted and we crashed very shortly after the kids did. That’s usually a sure sign of a day’s work well done. Now, as I step into my second day I have a clear idea of how my day will go and what to expect. Adjustments will be made, systems will adjust and a routine will develop. All will be well. Except for the snow. The snow needs to take a snow day. Pun fully intended. ☯

Oh, There’s An App For That…

I know that I’m usually the first to rag on people’s addiction to technology and their smart devices. That being said, I also acknowledge that my health wouldn’t be what it is today, if not for advancements in the technology that make things like my insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor possible. So, I’m also the first one to swallow my words when technology works in my favour. Maybe that sounds like a double standard, but what are you gonna do? It’s my blog! Moving on… Anyone who reads my blog on a regular basis is also aware that I’m a big fan of fitness, exercise and maintaining one’s health. And these are all things that can work great in tandem with said technology.

It seems not a week goes by without hearing someone say “Oh, there’s an app for that…” And that’s usually pretty accurate. From finance to planing and organizing, dieting to social media, smart devices have pretty much opened the spigot on the market for programmers to put out an app for just about everything under the sun. This includes health & fitness. Now, I’m usually one to endorse working out and maintaining one’s health ‘au natural,” if you will. This means that I have no issues working up a solid sweat by using a small square of floor space and using nothing but my own body weight in order to work up a solid sweat.

All this being said, I’ve also gotten into the routine of enjoying a number of different apps on my phone, which I use to track fitness and health habits in my daily life. Most of you know this already, as I use one particular app to prominently track my walking, running and cycling workouts. And since I’ve always used an iPhone, these apps will be ones that are available through iTunes and the App Store. I can’t speak to what equivalents may be available for Android users. But without further ado, here are my top five apps that I use to help improve my health & fitness habits:

  • LibreLink: Of course, I have to include something directly related to Diabetes, here. This is a free app that works in conjunction with the FreeStyle Libre, which as my Endocrinologist puts it is the “poor man’s CGM.” The FreeStyle Libre works by being injected into the tricep and held in place by an adhesive and can be read by specialized software. If you’re old school and don’t have access to a smart phone, you can purchase the Librelink Reader for roughly $50 (depending on the pharmacy you shop at) but you can definitely save the cost by using the app. Simply hold the phone up to the Freestyle Libre and it will read your sensor glucose, same as a CGM would. The app is fantastic as it allows you to input your age, weight and a bunch of other stats and will show you trends, graphs and even has an A1C calculator based on the readings held in its memory;
  • Noisli: If you have a whole bunch of brain-burning acronyms attached to your name like I do, sleep can be a fleeting thing. And even more fleeting when Diabetes issues keep you up as well. It can be difficult to find something to help you sleep that doesn’t involve medication or gets drunk. That’s where Noisli comes in. This is a free “white noise” app that allows you to use and customize a wide variety of sounds to help you drift off to la-la land. Sounds include rain, thunder, wind, rustling trees, leaves, trickling and dripping water (those ones would make me need a diaper overnight), crackling fire and even some more eclectic sounds like the background of a coffee shop and a train clacking on railroad tracks. The aspect I enjoy most is having access to white, pink and brown noise, which are all varieties of a static-like sound that are designed to help calm your mind and help you drift off. I actually did a full post on white noise, which you can read here. My favourite aspect of this app is that you can combine any combination of those sounds and even save them as specific profiles so that they’re available the next time you open the app, without having to combine them all together every time;
  • My Water Balance: If you guys aren’t tired of hearing me say how important it is to stay hydrated, you haven’t been paying attention! This app is a fun little program that allows you to set goals and track your daily intake of fluids. You can input your weight and hydration goals and the tracker will keep a tally of how much you’ve drank throughout the day. You can download the free version, which tracks the basics like water, coffee, tea and a few others. I’ve paid the small amount to download the full version, which has a batch of additional options and lets you track just about every type of beverage including, ahem… wine and beer! The app suggests how much you should be drinking based on your age and weight, but you can also set your own goal. The only downside is you have to manually enter the amount of fluids you drink, which can be problematic if you’re using a glass at home and don’t know how much it holds;
  • Seconds Pro: This app is actually called “Seconds,” but I forked over the added money to get the Pro version. This app features an interval timer that you can program yourself. in other words, you can develop your own circuit timers using your own, chosen exercises. Not only does it let you customize your workout, it also connects to your device’s music library, meaning you can link your favourite workout playlist and have it play in conjunction to the circuit you’re doing. Now, paying for the Pro version does have it’s share of increased features and functions, including different TYPES of circuits and certain tracking features. I purchased a Lightning to HDMI cable and I used to run this app directly to the large, flat screen available at one of my postings. It was incredibly handy to help keep my workouts on point. But the last benefit I’ll mention, is that the app’s voice over means you don’t require a screen. The app will tell you when a timer count is ending, what exercise you’re on and when the workout is done. Think Siri, but for fitness; and
  • Runkeeper App: This one was saved for last because it’s my overlord of fitness… I use it to track everything else. This app has features that allow you to enter your age, weight, height, fitness goals and what units of measurement you want to use for everything (metric or imperial, etc…) Then, you can use the GPS function to track your distance, speed, mileage and calories burned for trackable activities such as walking, running and cycling. It also allows you to manually log other activities, such as swimming, elliptical and even yoga and meditation (yes, meditating burns calories. Read about it here). The basic app is free and you can join fitness competitions, add “friends” through your contacts or Facebook (provided they’re also using the app). I use it to log ALL my activities including weight workouts and karate sessions. There’s a paid or “Pro” version you can sign up for, but it comes in pretty costly at $13.99/month, which may be cheaper than a public gym membership but more than a person is willing to pay on an app. I’ve been using the basic version since 2017, and it’s suited my purposes quite well. In fact, if you’ve read any of my posts on my cycling goals, the images that I feature are usually screenshots from this app.

There you have it, folks! My top five apps that I use for health and fitness. This is the part where I point out that I am in no way being compensated for speaking about these apps, nor do I endorse them specifically above any others that you may have tried/like. In fact, I’ve tried a score of others. Some have been as simple as a library of different exercises. Some have been so over-the-top complicated that I removed them from my device within the first week. The important thing is to find some helpful apps that work for you and your lifestyle.

I don’t endorse technology all that often, so mark this day on your calendars! Actually, besides the technology used for my pump and Diabetic supplies, I usually don’t endorse technology at all, haha. But since society as a whole is normally tethered to their smart devices, it only makes sense to use them to benefit our health & fitness. I find that all of these apps are somewhat subjective to the user. I think the five I’ve listed are fantastic and even if I’ve removed some of them on occasion, I always seem to come back to them. There’s plenty of good, free apps out there so don’t be afraid to install a few and try them. Worse that happens is you don’t like them and remove them. ☯

Time To KID Around, Part 2 (The Diabetes Aspect)

Have you ever tried to explain to a young child what Diabetes is? Not an easy task, especially when you take all the good, the bad and the ugly into consideration. My biggest fear when Nathan was born was the possibility that in a few short years, he would be diagnosed with Type-1 Diabetes himself and would have to deal with many of the same difficulties that I had. Since Type-1 Diabetes does involve an inherently genetic component, it’s a very real fear and one that I wasn’t looking forward to having him deal with.

Those fears were somewhat put to rest a year or two ago when we had him tested and found no issues with his immune system and insulin production. We were warned that there was still a few years of risk involved, but as it stood he was free and clear. Now, if we can be so lucky with his younger brother, Alex, I’ll be a happy camper. Dealing with the disease affected and altered my childhood in ways that I can’t help but make me wonder how life might have been different for me if I HADN’T been diagnosed. But I digress…

I don’t think I need to point out how many moving parts and components there are to the effective daily control of Type-1 Diabetes. It can be overwhelmingly irresistible for a young child to see all the equipment and electronics involved and they’ll no doubt want to touch, see and play with everything there. The important part is to be honest and not try to sugar-coat any of the details (see what I did there?).

In Nathan’s case, I’ve always been very honest and explained everything in plain language. One of the unexpected benefits to that level of honesty, is that he’s been exposed to seeing blood drawn since the day he was born. I consider this a benefit because he doesn’t have the same fear of blood that most other children do, be it mine or his own. He’ll acknowledge pain, of course. But if he’s bleeding, the blood in and of itself isn’t an issue for him.

I remember dating a girl who already had a son that was about Nathan’s age now. And if he’d scrape his knee and a bit of blood would show, he’d basically blow up and have a panic attack. Although one can understand that children view things differently than adults, even I have to admit that it was a bit much. That’s why I’m happy that Nathan has grown to be desensitized to certain things as a result of having a Diabetic father.

The biggest challenge I’ve face with Nathan, and now his brother Alex, is my insulin pump. When you have a baby sitting in your lap and he’s looking around and grabbing at everything in sight, an infusion set can be a temptation for those little hands. It took a bit of time as well as trial and error, for Nathan to understand bot to touch “Daddy’s Ouchy,” and to leave the pump alone.; something that I am now working at making Alex understand, as well.

The important thing, as I mentioned earlier, is to use plain language and explain things as they actually are. Nathan has seen photos of a pancreas, he knows it helps with the regulation of glucose in the blood through the release of insulin and he’s aware that my pancreas no longer produces insulin, which is why I need to have it artificially injected through the pump. He’s also made his peace with the fact that certain fast-acting sugared goods are for Daddy only, when my blood sugar drops. He’s not a fan of that last one, but he gets it.

Nathan has held all of my Diabetic equipment and supplies in some way, shape or form and has even had the opportunity to press buttons on my pump (with my guidance) in order to see what everything does. By doing this and ensuring his understanding, there’s less risk of him sneaking into my desk and messing around with my Diabetes equipment. But the nice thing is that although he doesn’t like them, Nathan has less fear of needles than the average kid, since he’s been around them and has watched me injecting myself since he was born. Educating is always better than forbidding. ☯

Because It Can’t All Be About The Meat…

In the past year, I’ve tried a wide assortment of meat alternatives and veggie based alternatives that I never would have considered, even just a few years ago. I still favour my Mushroom Swiss Burger from FatBurger and I can’t see myself ever swaying from it. But I would be lying if I said that vegetables aren’t loaded with a wide variety of health and nutritional benefits that make adding them to your meal a good idea. I usually favour a cruciferous option, like broccoli or brussel sprouts. But I seem to be the only one in the household who likes them. I know brussel sprouts are pretty universally hated, but sprinkle a bit of cheese on some broccoli? Fuggedaboutit…

As I have a firm belief in the balance of things, I like to point out how there’s inherently a good and a bad side to all things. We already know that vegetables can provide vitamins, minerals and nutrients that some other foods may not. And there’s certainly the benefit of feeling full for longer that comes with having plenty of green on your plate, steering one away from over eating and helping with the reduction of your total daily caloric intake. But what about veggie-based meat alternatives?

A balance can be important if you’re trying to control say, oh I don’t know… your carbohydrate intake so that you can maintain better blood sugars… From a fitness standpoint, vegetables are important for a variety of reasons besides what they provide your body for building and healing muscles tissue and there are also some vegetables that will help you to sleep and digest better. If you’re looking to replace some of the meat in your diet with an alternative, it would be helpful if you gained all these benefits in the process, right?

If we get to the meat and potatoes of it (see what i did there?), some of the meat alternatives mentioned in the opening paragraph may not be all they’re cracked up to be. And this is where the BAD side of things comes in. I’ve written about this before but as I’ve tried different things, I think it’s pretty important to recognize the potential pitfalls of trying to replace everything in your diet with a vegetarian alternative. Here’s a short list of things to bear in mind when purchase veggie-based meat alternatives at the supermarket:

  1. They’re Loaded With Preservatives: This is the first and probably the top one. Anything you eat that’s been mass-produced and sold at the supermarket will go through some sort of processing that will involve preservatives in some given way, shape or form. Without getting into the specifics surrounding potential pesticides used for crops, you can be certain that real vegetables and real cuts of meat won’t have all these preservatives, making them the better option. There are a number of negative effects to the over-consumption of preservatives, including some forms of cancer. No, I’m not trying to say that eating these meat-alternatives will give you cancer! Simply that excess preservatives have been long found to be bad for the body. Moving on…;
  2. They’re Also Packed With Salt: I’ve often written about the importance of checking the nutritional label when eating something packaged. People rarely consider the amount of sodium they may be eating when consuming something “healthy,” and portion sizes are often not proportionate with how much a person would actually eat. I learned this lesson the hard when, in an effort to reduce the amount of carbs I consume in a day, I was starting my morning with a mug of chicken broth. Sounds like a warm, reasonable way to start the day. But the portion size is usually about half a cup of vegetable broth, which accounts for roughly 25% of your daily sodium intake. Once I’ve guzzled down a full mug, I’ve already packed on well more than half of my daily intake of sodium and it’s first thing in the morning. And speaking of carbs…;
  3. They’re Full Of Carbs: I was pretty excited about six months ago when I found a package of buffalo “chicken” bites that were made with cauliflower. They tasted even better, which made me believe I had found a healthy alternative to eating platefuls of buffalo bites made of chicken, which happens to be my next food addiction after burgers. Then I realized that despite being made from vegetables, the bites had almost double the amount of carbohydrates than traditional chicken bites. It probably didn’t help that they were battered. Not so great for a Type-1 Diabetic who’s trying to control blood sugars and the amount of carbs he’s taking in!
  4. They Can Cost A LOT: Processing and packaging food that’s been prepared in any particular given way gets costly, and that cost is usually reflected in the item’s price point. It’s made all the worse when you have to make something look like something else. Have you seen the chicken nuggets made from vegetables? I swear, I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference, based on appearance. The point is, a small box of cauliflower buffalo bites will usually cost about as much as a traditional box of buffalo chicken bites, making them ridiculously costly.

So the big question is, are these veggie-based alternatives better for you? From an overall and Diabetic standpoint, the answer is a resounding NO. You’ll end up taking in as many carbohydrates, if not more than your traditional versions and you’ll pay more for it, to boot. Watching your sodium intake is quite important when you have Diabetes, as proper kidney health is always a concern at the best of times. The only way to balance the scales (except for the cost aspect) would be to eat significantly less of the alternatives, which could potentially leave you feeling hungry and unsatisfied.

On the flip side, if you’re okay with eating small amounts at a time and you’re looking for a veggie-based alternative snack, they can be okay. So long as you bolus correctly for them and take the sodium into account. The long and short of it (let’s be honest, I always go for the long…) is that you’re better off having yourself a plate of carrot or celery sticks with a touch of ranch dip, a hot bowl of broccoli with cheese sprinkled on top or even a bowl of boiled Brussel sprouts with a touch of melted butter and pepper. Any of those will be far healthier, satisfy you and make you feel full for longer, whether you have it as a snack or part of your meal, and you’ll get all the included benefits without any of the preservatives. ☯

Spatial Awareness

The world is a dangerous place, and it’s made all the more dangerous by people who ignore their surroundings and have no sense of spatial awareness. This can apply to a martial arts context as well as in everyday life. In the video below, I share my thoughts on that very thing. ☯

Letting Me Off My Leash, Free-Range Diabetic

I don’t think I need to explain that people take most common, everyday things for granted. I experience this a lot because despite the advancements I’ve lived through in the past 38 years, it’s difficult to move around without a SIGNIFICANT amount of supplies. The fact that I’m fed up of it likely makes it sound way worse than it is. But eventually, a guy gets tired of carrying around a man purse just so that he can run some errands throughout the morning without concern. The “for granted” aspect comes in because most people fail to recognize how lucky they are to be able to just step out of the house with abandon.

A week ago, I decided that I would sit through a specific bus route that I would be using for work. This was so that I could time out my entry into the city in the mornings without the concern of being late. Alexander was napping, Nathan was gone to school and my wife was hard at work in front of her own computer, so I felt it was a good opportunity to go out for an hour or two. I started to pack my usual shoulder sling of supplies, when a wave of impatience struck me and I decided to go in a different direction.

I tested my blood. Perfectly normal with no insulin “on board.” Good. I took some sinus medication so that I wouldn’t suffocate through the wearing of a mask in public for a couple of hours. Excellent. That shit’s supposed to last a few hours, anyway. I had my wallet and identification, and I grabbed a face mask and stepped out the door. I waited a matter of minutes at the bus stop and after a 22-minute bus ride, I was in the downtown core and stepping into the local shopping centre.

Not my mall, by the way. I didn’t want to be the creepy dude snapping photos in the mall.

I spent about an hour and a half downtown, walking around and browsing through some of the shops before grabbing the bus for the return journey. My blood sugars didn’t bottom out, I didn’t die and I didn’t find myself needing anything that I would usually pack and drag along. It felt really nice, being able to just step out of the house and go somewhere. It felt “non-diabetic.” I’d like to say it felt normal, but I’ve had Type-1 Diabetes for so damn long that being Diabetic feels normal to me.

I’ve managed to compress what I carry throughout the course of a day into one small, single-shouldered sling and it usually contains the following:

  • Fast-Acting Carbohydrates: I favour jellybeans as they seem to work fastest for me;
  • Nasal Spray: I’ve had some mild sinus issues since childhood and occasionally need a spritz. Wearing a face mask also makes it harder to breathe;
  • Blood Glucose Meter: Besides the fact that my insulin pump seems to be a temperamental bitch who screams at me every couple of hours despite smooth blood sugars, frequent blood sugar testing is still required to ensure the proper calibration of my CGM. Plus, should there be an issue with the CGM, I need to have the ability to properly ascertain my blood sugar levels; and
  • Extra Supplies: This is a broad one, but it can involve anything, including spare pump supplies, extra insulin or added lancets and strips. There can be a lot more, depending on the situation.

Most of the time, it’s just for when I go out. But realistically, when I travel to Saskatoon overnight, I often opt for something small and portable to carry. Considering I travel up, get the injections, sleep it off then drive right back down the following day, I make a point not to pack a huge suitcase. There are no nights out on the town, requiring extra clothing or special stuff. But when I make a point to stop and take notice, I really never leave the house without bringing a whole shwack of crap! This comes from years of situations where I’ve developed a “better to have it and not need it” mentality, as it relates to Diabetes.

It felt nice to be out for a few hours without dragging a bunch of stuff. I almost felt normal, walking among people. Note that I said “almost.” Besides, as I said earlier, I’ve had Diabetes for so long that it seems normal to ME. I can hear some friends thinking, “Shawn? Normal…?” Come on, guys! Give me a break! I’m about as normal as I’m ever going to get. But seriously, if you’ve ever had a friend text you to randomly go for coffee or you’ve decided to go sit through a movie on a whim, appreciate that freedom for what it is. There are so many things that a Type-1 Diabetic needs to consider before leaving the house that it almost makes it tedious to do so. Don’t take the little freedoms for granted. Sometimes, they’re the best ones. ☯

Let’s Take A Break… Fast!

People tend to have bad habits in their daily routine. And very few people are the exception. Hell, I have many bad habits that I often TRY to avoid but I would lying if I said that my efforts are often half-hearted. But a VERY bad habit that people have is skipping breakfast. Now, I’ve written posts about the importance of breakfast before and whether or not it genuinely is the “most important meal of the day.” On the home front, the jury is still out but there certainly are important benefits to ensuring that you consume that first meal of the day upon waking up.

The whole point behind the breakfast meal is to do just that: break your fast. And as most of you already know, a “fast” is a period of time where you don’t eat. When you hear of someone “fasting,” it’s usually associated with a LONG period of time often for medical or dietary reasons. But the reality is that we fast every night, from the moment we go to bed until we wake up in the morning. Unless you compulsively snack at night. Which is another bad habit. Which I also occasionally have. My point is that breakfast is intended to be the first meal of your day that breaks your overnight fast, hence the term “breakfast.”

You may be thinking, “Why is this cheeky mother-f%&ker giving us the definition of breakfast?” Well, simply to impress upon you the importance of starting your day with a proper meal. The take-home lesson is that you should have your breakfast within an hour or two of waking up as it will be the first batch of vitamins, minerals and nutrients your body receives after a period of fasting. You should also think of it as refilling the fuel tank for your engine after it’s emptied itself out.

According to a good article on WebMD, “Skipping the morning meal can throw off your body’s rhythm of fasting and eating. […] If your body doesn’t get that fuel from food, you may fell zapped of energy — and you’ll be more likely to overeat later in the day.” The article goes on to say that your breakfast doesn’t need to be huge, but should include a variety of carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats and fibre.

However, an article posted by HealthLine.com seems to have an opposing view in that they claim that there is no evidence that breakfast eaters are healthier, that eating breakfast boosts your metabolism for the day and that in fact, skipping breakfast can have some benefits for folks who do intermittent fasting. It’s unusual for me to find a topic where those two sources oppose each other, but it’s kind of refreshing. The article caps off by explaining that breakfast is optional, won’t boost your metabolism and doesn’t automatically lead to weight gain and obesity. Basically, if you don’t find yourself hungry when you wake up in the morning, there’s no need to eat.

I’ll be the first one to agree that every person is different. Actually, I’ve written about that very thing on more occasions than I can recall. So although it may be true that skipping your first meal of the day is a matter of choice, it may not be the smart one for everyone. And this is where the Diabetic aspect of this post comes in. If you have Type-1 Diabetes, skipping a meal can be problematic. Especially if your insulin’s basal rates and your specific condition requires you to eat, first thing in the morning. You may wake up extremely high or low blood sugar.

Although I’m a big believer that a person with Diabetes can do anything that a non-Diabetic can, intermittent fasting is possible but problematic and skipping meals will skew your blood sugar control. And despite what any source material may say, I believe it’s critically important for all people to start their day with a good hit of nutritional fuel to start your day. It may not stroke your metabolism and may not affect your weight, but it helps to guarantee you won’t have that “early-morning slump” because of an empty stomach.

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, the jury is still out on whether or not breakfast is the MOST important meal of the day. But it’s safe to say that it is IMPORTANT. Most people unfortunately tend to skip breakfast because they’re rushing off to work or taking care of their children before taking care of themselves. Personally, I usually enjoy a toasted english muffin with a slice of cheese. Some carbs and protein, doesn’t fill me to bursting and gets me on my way. It can be just as simple as that. And speaking of which, look at that! It’s breakfast time… ☯

A Little Something To Inspire…

I usually write my posts ad nauseam, and often require a number of edits to eliminate them being twice as long as they are once they’re posted. Once in a while, I like to post something that simply to look at, without all the necessary background, citations and references. So, here’s what I found last week while randomly surfing the web…

I forget exactly where I found this little gem, but I’ve seen it floating around in a few places. What I love about this photo is the absolute look of intensity and determination on the kid’s face, despite the fact he’s tethered to what appears to be an oxygen tank. I’m ignoring the fact that he appears to be one belt shy of black, despite his young age. Let’s not go there.

But it goes a long way towards showing how much determination can pay off in the long run, and the fact that motivation has to come from within. This little guy reminds me of myself when I was younger. All guts and determined to live and grow stronger, despite the pitfalls and medical challenges that life threw at me. As long as you keep fighting, may lose some battles but eventually you’ll win the war. ☯

Musical Meditation

One of the beautiful things that I’ve discovered about meditation over the decades, is that there are so many ways to do it. In fact, I would challenge you to go Google “Types of meditation” and I can promise you, you’ll get some lists. Some of the best and more prominent examples I can think of include yoga, which is stretching movements that prepare the body for extended periods of sitting for meditation, and Tai Chi, which although a martial art, holds many aspects of moving meditation and almost puts you in a meditative state if you’re practiced enough to go through your movements on muscle memory alone.

But if you look into it, even on its surface, you’ve got moving meditation, sitting meditation, mindfulness meditation, focused meditation… It can become a bit convoluted, especially if you’re a beginner and are looking to TRY meditation and aren’t certain which type would be right for you. In Zen Buddhism, we practice a form of meditation referred to as “Zazen,” which is loosely translated as “seated meditation. Since some different branches of Buddhism describe and define Zazen differently, I won’t muddy the waters by going into deep detail. But there are some really great pages that provide insight on the specifics.

As for myself, meditation can be difficult even if I’ve been doing it for decades, thanks to a lovely batch of medically-defined acronyms that make the inside of my mind feel like it’s hurtling through space on hyperdrive on a constant basis. This is why, through the practice of meditation, I usually try to empty my mind and think of nothing. Depending on your philosophical background, thinking of nothing is still thinking of something so it opens up a whole can of worms. But the practice of “no mindness” is described by the term mushin.

Mushin is translated simply as “no mind” and since thinking about not thinking or “nonthinking” is a part of Zazen, they go very well, hand-in-hand. Confused yet? Got a headache? Need to go do a quick shot of whiskey to get through all my confusing etymology? Go ahead. I’ll wait… Mushin is a term used a lot in karate as well, as the development and practice of our forms, or kata, require us to know them well enough to allow the body to do them on instinct while thinking of nothing. So I’ve been familiar with the term for some time.

But when your mind is as busy as mine, you sometimes need an extra bit of something to help you focus. And this is where music comes in. Although traditional dojos won’t usually play music during training, I’ve found that music can be an excellent addition to your training regiment and adds a certain little something. IN fact, you can read my thoughts on that very topic here. I’m surprised I found that old post, since I wrote it in February of LAST year and after almost 800 posts in just over two years, I’m starting to forget what I’ve written about and what I haven’t. But I digress…

My point is, a little touch of music can go a long way towards making your meditation efforts easier and more effective. For myself, I enjoy having some classical music playing in the background. The complexity of sound and varying tones and volumes occupy my conscious mind, making it possible for my subconscious to stretch its legs and feel around a bit, unhindered. By focusing on one singular aspect of external stimuli, it allows thoughts and ideas to float on by without my getting involved with them, which is a big part of Zazen.

I also have several hundred “spa” type instrumental songs or “meditative music” on my devices, and those are extremely helpful as well. If you meditate frequently but have never tried music, I highly recommend it. Listening to music on its own has been proven to reduce stress, depression and elevate your mood. There are even studies that have shown it helps with heart-health as it improves blood flow. I have no source on that last one, but it’s pretty cool if it’s true. So add music to meditation, and I’d say that’s a pretty calming combination.

Meditation is one of those things I could write about or talk about at length. But in the interest of keeping my posts readable without having y’all fall asleep at the keyboard or on your devices, I’ll call it quits here. But should any of you have questions or curiosities about meditation, I’m always up for a good discussion. Feel free to reach out. Otherwise, settle into a nice seiza, put on some soft music and let your mind think of not thinking… ☯