There's No Crying While Meditating…

You know, there’s a reason why monks prefer to live out their lives within the walls of a monastery. Sure, some of them do it as part of a vow of silence, some do it because they prefer to live a simplistic life of minimalism.

Living a monastic life has some measurable benefits when it comes to meditation. For the most part, monks have an easier (notice I said “easier”, not “easy”) time finding harmony and inner peace, thanks to the quiet and serenity that comes with living within the boundaries of a monastery. Although finding one’s balance and harmony is possible even when one does not live within a monastery, there’s a hiccup to modern life that the monks likely didn’t anticipate: kids!

Picture this, if you will… You settle into a comfortable position, perhaps cross-legged, perhaps sitting on your knees. You close your eyes and start taking several deep, steadying breaths. Maybe you even have a bit of relaxation music playing in the background. As you feel yourself sinking deeper and deeper into your meditation, you feel a shift in the air. A disturbance in the Force, if you will! You have your suspicions about this disturbance, but you continue to concentrate and focus on your breathing.

Then it happens: you feel a light, nasal breathing against your face, followed by a soft whisper, “Daddy?” This is accompanied by the typically expected poke of a small, bony finger; perhaps against my cheek and if I’m a real winner in tonight’s story, perhaps against the eyelid. “Daddy, you’re a statue…”

You try your best to stay focused and concentrate, hoping that your first-born will take a hint at your lack of a response and back the hell away. But of course, my offspring is stubborn and tenacious and refuses to surrender. Especially when faced with the mystery of what daddy is doing (I have no idea where he gets THAT from!) He’s fascinated at what his father is doing and wants some answers.

Just then, salvation comes in the form of my wife who steps into the basement and softly whispers that Daddy is meditating and that he should leave me alone. The boy responds, “Daddy’s not meditating, he’s a statue!” My wife agrees that it’s fine, I’m a statue but to leave me alone nonetheless.

Just then, my infant son who was until this point quietly cradled in my wife’s arms, decides to burst out with a mighty wail equivalent to someone getting their family jewels stomped during a mosh pit. This effectively dissolves my focus with the imaginary sound of a shattered pane of glass.

Meditating is already something that requires a deep level of focus and practice. It takes time to find your groove, become comfortable with what your doing and get to a point where it provides you with any sort of noticeable benefit. So learning, practicing and becoming proficient is all the more challenging when attempted in a modern family setting.

Eventually my son may come to learn and understand what I’m doing and respect the need for a few moments of silence. In the meantime, be sure to find time for yourself in order to search for harmony and inner balance. As the skills develop, it will become easier even WITH all the “little distractions” that come with life. ☯

Sprinkle A Little Of That Goodness…

When you have Type-1 Diabetes, you have the unfortunate requirement to pay attention to everything you eat, everything you do and the activities in which you participate and monitor your body closely. Most things tend to hit us harder, and we’re not only hit with a shorter life expectancy but our organs all tend to play Russian roulette with life.

Luckily, some of the things we need to watch for do apply to non-Diabetics as well. One of these things is the intake of salt. For many years, it was believed that the best course of action was to eliminate your intake of salt as much as possible. This is a flawed logic and including salt in your diet is actually important.

First of all, let’s clarify: there’s a difference between salt and sodium. Salt is the combination of sodium and chloride, as well as trace amounts of other minerals. Sodium is a stand-alone mineral, and is usually what is measured in terms of dietary and daily intake requirements.

Salt, as I’ll refer to it for the remainder of this post, is a catch-22 seasoning. Too much can cause a score of health and medical issues. But believe it or not, completely eliminating salt from your diet can cause a number of issues for you, as well.

But since people in general tend to think that salt = bad, let’s examine some of the benefits of including salt in your diet. Some of these healthy uses of salt include:

  1. Dental Hygiene: Swishing a teaspoon of salt in a half cup of water can help with good oral health by helping with infections, mouth sores, wounds and some forms of gum disease. It’s also a dentist-recommended natural treatment to help heal canker sores, which are a real sore spot for me (see what I did there?);
  2. It’s a natural disinfectant: It’s no mystery that salt has been used for centuries as a curing and/or preserving agent, as salt prevents certain bacteria from growing and spoiling food. But soaking certain wounds (especially those on your feet) in warm salt water can help with healing;
  3. It eases sore throats: Gargling with salt water can ease swelling and irritation caused by sore throats;
  4. It can ease cramps and dehydration: I know that most people tend to think that salt dehydrates you. And this may be true, if you consume heavy amounts of it. But healthy amounts of salt will actually help you to stay hydrated and by proxy, eliminate muscle cramps during physical activities. Salt is an electrolyte and is required in order to keep you hydrated;
  5. It can help clear your sinuses: Using a saline solution can help to alleviate sinus issues caused by colds or allergies. You can find over-the-counter saline bottles at any pharmacy or if you want to be totally disgusting, you can use a netti pot to pour salt water into your sinus cavities to wash them out.

There are a few good posts that cover further benefits. WebMD has a good one and can be read here: https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/ss/slideshow-salt-uses. HealthLine.com also has a good one and can be read here: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/salt-good-or-bad

As far as eating salt is concerned, the average person pretty much consumes their maximum recommended amount of salt through most of the foods they eat. But if you drink plenty of water throughout your day and are not faced with any outlying medical conditions that prohibit the use of salt, sprinkling a lit bit of goodness on your food is not a big deal. It’s one of those “happy medium” situations where too much is bad, but too little can be just as bad.

According to the HealthLine.com link I provided above, reduced sodium intake can lead to an increase in heart issues, LDL and Triglyceride counts as well as an increase in insulin resistance. So one would likely not want to cut out salt COMPLETELY.

Last but not least, when it comes to choosing your salt, natural salt wins over common table salt. Like most things you find in a consumer’s world, table salt is processed and has a negligible mineral content. Natural salt includes types such as sea salt and Himalayan pink salt.

With salt, much like everything else in life, moderation is key. Although you don’t want to be pouring that stuff freely onto everything you eat, you certainly don’t want to eliminate it completely either. Your doctor or health practitioner should be able to tell you if you need to reduce or increase your sodium intake and as with everything else, drink plenty of fluids along the way. ☯

To Be Born Twice…

When I take stock of my life, I realize that through time and circumstance I have experienced something of a rebirth on more than one occasion. In my youth, the path of my life and how I grew up was determined by a single diagnoses of Type-1 Diabetes at the age of 4. I’ve often reflected on how differently my life may have been had I not been diagnosed as such.

Later on, I would start my training in karate; a move that I would ultimately come to see as a rebirth. The person I became and the health I gained showed a marked departure from where I began. It also helped define the kind of drive and ambition I would have in almost everything I’d do in my life.

My chosen career, although started later than most, was most definitely a rebirth. It was almost like being under water for so many years, only to finally come up for air. When you finally find what you were meant to do, it seems like a perfect fit and everything else seems to melt away.

But sometimes, these rebirths don’t happen on their own. Sometimes you have to take yourself in hand in order to make them happen. I’ve often said that life doesn’t are about our plan. Things will happen in due course, but this doesn’t mean you should just sit back and wait for it happen.

Change may be organic to life, but POSITIVE change requires your active involvement. You can’t remake yourself by hiding away from the outside world. You are part of the living organism that is the world, and the only way to have a positive impact is through positive thinking and positive action. ☯

Getting Ahead Of The Curve

About three weeks ago, I wrote a post about what I intended to do for my New Year’s resolution. It’s pretty ambitious, considering most people will choose one thing or another, such as losing weight or eating healthier, joining a gym or quitting booze or smoking. I chose a rather elaborate spreadsheet that included the following steps:

  • No alcohol;
  • No tobacco;
  • Minimum of 3 workouts a week;
  • No soda;
  • No processed carbohydrates;
  • No junk food (yes, there’s a difference);
  • No added salt;
  • Minimum of 3 litres of water a day; and
  • Taking only the stairs where possible.

My intention had been to start it on December 29th as this is the Sunday that encompasses the January 1st week. However, I read someone else’s post about New Year’s resolutions and I was reminded of a couple of things.

Although it can be great to take yourself in hand and make a resolution in order to better yourself, if you wait until New Year’s in order to make that change it’s likely not important enough to you. The other aspect one needs to consider is, why wait?

I think the post I read said it best when they explained that if your resolution is to join a gym, why walk in as the new guy on January 1st when the new people will walk in and you’re already a regular? In that spirit, I started my New Year’s resolution on December 15th.

My first two weeks of the challenge

As you can see from the spreadsheet above, it’s pretty straightforward. At the end of the Saturday evening, I put green checks on the items I accomplished and a red “X” on the items I did not. The workouts have been rough, considering karate has been shut down for the holidays. Otherwise, I’d be hitting four workouts for both those weeks. Plus, it’s the holidays! I’ve been a little a little busy focusing on the actual holidays and on family.

Although there is already a touch of red on my ledger, the important aspect to remember is that a resolution is intended to help improve oneself. I’ve also been allowing myself a “cheat day” on Fridays. From what I’ve researched, folks have a better chance of sticking to any sort of regiment or major change in lifestyle and diet if they allow themselves a touch of indulgence once in a while.

I won’t bore all of you by posting updates on this every week, but I’ll provide some updates every few months to show my progress. We’ll see how long I can tough it out… ☯

Hindsight is 2020

Welcome to the New Year! It’s the beginning of a new decade, the return of the Roaring 20’s and the beginning of a fresh 365-day batch of opportunities. Hopefully everyone isn’t suffering from whatever celebratory choices you made last night and you can walk into the New Year with a skip in your step.

The past two years have been a bit of a challenge. After a lifetime of work, sacrifice and learning from mistakes, 2018 saw me get struck down in the prime of my chosen career by a selfish individual motivated by their own goals. I was taken away from my place of work and assigned elsewhere. I made the best of a bad situation and met some of the best people I’ve had the opportunity to work with.

2019 saw disappointment as I travelled the country in search of a different venue in which to continue my career (a fact I chronicled in my posts entitled “A Strange Odyssey” from last September) which yielded no results. A family member recently passed away and my wife and I have failed to sell our house. But through this disappointment, I was blessed with the birth of my second child, Alexander.

There have been ups and downs, happiness and disappointment, laughs and definitely some tears. But as hard as these difficulties have been, I have the benefit of knowing that there has always been some positive to go with the negative. And there usually always is!

And this is how you should face 2020. Take the time to focus on your health, your happiness and some goals for this year. And once you’ve established those goals, work hard until you achieve them. There’s really no other way to live.

And finally, a word on the title… I’ve always said that one can’t live life with regrets, that every choice you’ve made, good or bad, has inevitably led you to the wonderful and awesome person you are today. There genuinely is no way to regret that. But don’t forget to take the time to remember and contemplate some of the mistakes you’ve made in the past year. Not only will this prevent the possibility of repeating those mistakes, you may learn a little something about yourself to pave the way through a smoother year, this time around. ☯

What Goes In, Must Come Out

I thought I’d finish out 2019 with the grossest topic I can think of, because, why not? As I’ve often written, having Diabetes can lead to a heavy score of complications and we already know that our immune systems are total crap. And crap, as the turn of phrase would have it, is the focus of this post…

How often do you go to the bathroom and look at what comes out? Before most of you start wondering if I have a pitcher of eggnog or a spiced rum at my desk as I write, this is an important part of proper health. Because what comes out of you is important and can tell you a great deal about your health.

I’ve looked into a few different sources and referenced some medical practitioners only to find a batch of common consistencies that they all bring up, as it relates to going #2. Here’s what I found:

  1. It shouldn’t take forever: There are always jokes made about how if someone is taking too long in the bathroom, it’s because they’re going #2. As funny as that joke might be (I guess), the average bowel movement shouldn’t take you more than fifteen minutes. And that’s pushing it (pun intended). A healthy bowel movement should come easily with little pushing effort to move. And the time frame doesn’t include how long you waste getting past that tough level on Angry Birds;
  2. It shouldn’t hurt: The human body is an exceptionally well-designed machine, and your digestion and elimination systems are no exception. If a bowel movement is painful or difficult to pass, this can be a sign of further concern. It should be closer to spitting a grape out of your mouth, not giving birth to a rhino;
  3. It should look normal: What is normal? I’ll get to that in a bit, but the basic is it should be solid or semi-solid and have at least SOME shade of actual brown to it. Anything else can be a sign of dehydration, lack of fibre, diarrhea, food intolerances and even stress;
  4. You should be going once a day: An article posted by HealthLine.ca indicates that, “On average, a person with healthy digestion will poop anywhere between every other day to three times a day. Any less could suggest constipation […].” (https://www.healthline.com/health/digestive-health/types-of-poop#3);
  5. “Regular” is a real thing: Despite point #4, I feel there’s a hell of a difference between going every two days and possibly going three times a day. As long as your diet and health are consistent, you should have a regular regiment and even go around the same time every day. If you’re used to going every morning at 7 am after your first coffee and all of a sudden you’re running for the nearest washroom three or four times, there’s likely something amiss.

These are only general guidelines based on the articles and references I’ve found, of course. As is the case with almost everything related to one’s health, every person is different and proper health is based on your specific diet, exercise routine, outlying medical conditions and hydration.

But let’s talk consistency for a moment, shall we? Back in the late 90’s, Dr. Ken Heaton from the University of Bristol, developed a chart that outlines the different shapes and consistencies of bowel movements in order to provide a baseline of what your particular bowel movements may be telling you. It was named The Bristol Stool Chart, but is also known as the Meyers Scale.

An example of the Bristol Stool Chart as found on Wikipedia

The chart can be easily found by Googling it, and they all show the same thing, despite some differences in design and appearance. What you’re looking for is either Type 3 or 4, with all other types signifying some potential problem or issue with your elimination and/or health. If you have Type-1 Diabetes and can basically dehydrate at the drop of a hat, diarrhea can be a serious issue. Remember to drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.

Next is colour! The poo emoji got it right; your bowel movements should be a shade of brown. There are, however, a number of other colours that may suddenly show up in the bowl.

Black or red could be an indicator or internal bleeding, however mild or severe. Of course, red could also be an indicator that you ate something pertinent, such as beets, red berries or drinking heavy amounts of tomato juice, which can add a tinge of red to your bowel movements.

White bowel movements can indicate potential liver or gallbladder issues and shouldn’t be ignored. Green colour can be an indicator of something you ate, but is also dependent on the consistency. An article posted by MedicalNewsToday.com gets pretty descriptive and can be read here: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320938.php#colors-of-poop

At the end of the day, the best ways to ensure proper elimination is to stay hydrated, exercise regularly and try and eliminate stress from your life (that last one isn’t the easiest). And there can always be one or more of these factors that suddenly make an appearance in your porcelain opera. It becomes a problem if colour, consistency or frequency change in such a way that it is no longer a one-off and doesn’t feel normal.

If you begin to feel pain, identify blood in your stool or have a colour or consistency change that doesn’t go back to normal after two or three days, you should go see your doctor or medical practitioner. Most people consider their bathroom trips to be an opportunity to get a few minutes of quiet time, read a chapter or play on their phones. But keeping an eye on what comes out can be a good indicator of your health. ☯

The Chains On My Mood Swings Just Snapped

One of the known side effects of extreme blood sugar levels is the occasional mood swing. The problem with mood swings is that they aren’t uniquely a Diabetes related symptom. So how does one know if one’s bad mood is related or not? That’s easy: test your blood sugar.

“I’m ready to go off the deep end because what are the highs without the lows…”

S. Tellaz

Your mood is a subjective thing, which is why it’s difficult to tell whether it’s related to a condition or simply being in a bad mood. And as people have often said, never in the history of humankind has someone calmed down at being told to calm down.

Personally, when my blood sugar has the occasional spike, I turn into what could easily be described as a “cranky-ass biatch”, to use the proper vernacular. This isn’t a common change in mood associated to high blood sugar. But like everything else with Diabetes, it can be subjective to the person.

But extreme lows have shown to cause forms of aggression as well. There’s a good article in Medical News Today that outlines a good deal of this and can be read here: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/317458.php

I remember one time, in high school, I suffered an extreme low. This was well before the advent of CGM and interstitial blood glucose testing, so my meter was the only means of checking my levels. My meter was normally kept in my locker. I remember starting to feel woozy in class, right before lunch. As teenagers can sometimes be, I was foolish in thinking I could stave it off by staying still in class until the lunch bell rang. I was wrong.

Within fifteen minutes, I couldn’t concentrate, I was groggy, sweaty and all I wanted to do was go to sleep. I remember the guy seated next to me, poking me and asking if I was okay. When the bell rang, I walked my way down to the lunch line and stood to wait. As I stood there, I felt a sense of hyper-vigilance and something akin to paranoia.

Ironically, I had forgotten my money for lunch that day, and who else but my mother walks into the school and approaches the lunch line and provides me with some cash. I can’t remember if she realized that I had forgotten to bring cash or what, but I recall having a very aggressive response to her sudden appearance at my school.

Once I had some food in my system and things returned to normal, I started having some vague recollection of the harsh words I had used on my mother. I apologized when I got home, but it definitely took some explaining to make her understand that I wasn’t in control of my own faculties.

And this is a common occurrence with a number of the relationships I have had in my youth and my teens. Many friendships and relationships have been soured or ruined due to my temper, much of which could have been attributed to my blood sugar levels. And it definitely doesn’t help to have someone saying, “You’re cranky!” That usually only results in more aggression.

These days, I’ve managed to work it out in such a way that when I begin to notice my own foul mood, I test my levels and adjust accordingly. This not only helps with maintaining a better percentage of “time in range”, but it spares my family from my moods (at least most of the time).

We can’t always tell when our mood begins to foul. And we sometimes have no choice but to depend on someone else pissing us off by telling us we’re crabby in order to realize it. Test your blood sugar levels regularly and especially if you feel as though you’re in a foul mood. ☯