And Touched The Sound, Of Silence…

Ah, Simon & Garfunkel… Part of the endless soundtrack of my youth, the Sound of Silence is a haunting classic with rich lyrics that stir the imagination and move the spirit. And most recently in 2015, a band called Disturbed covered the song and did a fantastic job. Both versions stir a little something in my soul and the song is fantastic. If you haven’t heard either version, I highly recommend you fall down the youTube rabbit hole and watch both. Then, you can judge for yourself. But enough about my musical preferences; let’s get on with the point of today’s post.

Today, I’d like to talk about silence. A beautiful thing, silence. Not many of us get to enjoy it. In fact, modern life almost makes it impossible. Depending on where you live, even if you happen to be childless and live alone, you’ll still hear the residual background noise of the world around you. And sometimes, the static can get to be a bit much. This is one of the purposes behind meditation. Quieting your mind can often be achieved through intense and mindful meditation. But what about being quiet yourself? There are plenty of stereotypes about Buddhism; in fact, I’ve written posts on that very thing. But one of the stereotypes that happen to be true is that some of us choose to take a vow of silence.

Vows of silence are used in many different religions and even by some non-religious affiliates of those religions. The reasons behind it vary, ranging from simply a disciplinary requirement of the particular religious sect, forms of protest and all the way up to helping self-enlightenment and the belief that it potentially brings one closer to God. But for the purposes of today’s post, I’ll focus on what’s familiar, which is the Buddhist aspect.

In Buddhism, taking a vow of silence can certainly represent will-power and self-discipline. But it also serves as a means of being at one with your thoughts, developing a better ability to listen to others (something most people should develop) and making certain that one observes Right Speech, which is part of the Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism. A vow of silence helps to ensure that you have the ability to think about what you’ll say before it comes barreling out of your mouth. This prevents you from bringing harm o yourself or others by saying something foul or negative.

Definitely, one of the main reasons one should take a vow of silence is not only to stop talking, but to quiet one’s mind. I’ve spoken about how Zen involves achieving peace and enlightenment through meditation, and this is pretty difficult with a disquieted mind. During a vow of silence, one does not simply stop talking; one needs to be aware and be mindful of one’s thoughts, eliminating the negative and focusing on the positive.

That last aspect can be a challenge, and certainly one of my own, personal obstacles during meditation. Being mindful and in control of one’s thoughts is a difficult thing, requiring years of practice and self-discipline. After all, even though focusing on nothing is still focusing on something, trying to keep the mind clear becomes difficult because the human brain simply isn’t designed NOT to have thoughts coursing through it. A vow of silence can help with that.

Contrary to some sources and popular opinion, a vow of silence doesn’t have to be a life-long thing. Some monks will take a vow of silence for a specified period of time or for specific reasons and then resume speaking. Some will simply stop using verbal communication, although most are of the belief that even written communication is a form of speaking and will avoid writing as well.

Last but not least, silence can lend some physiological benefits to the body. According to an article I found on PsychCentral.com, even just short periods of silence can help lower blood pressure, boost the immune system, decrease stress, promote good hormone regulation and even prevent plaque formation in the arteries. The article goes on to suggest a variety of ways to achieve that silence, including a walk in the woods, meditating, deep breathing (which you’ll do while meditating anyway) and my favourite, which is staying in bed an extra five minutes before getting up for the day. That last one is pointless with two young boys in the house. But I digress…

Some people aren’t big fans of being in silence. Some can even say they have a phobia of silence. Be that as it may, there’s no denying that any period of glorious noiselessness can have a variety of physical and emotional benefits and isn’t simply restricted to the religious side of things. Interested in trying it out? It doesn’t have to be a vow or last for a significant period of time. Choosing one hour every day to simply enjoy some silence can allow for all those benefits as well. Of course, I know a number of people who could definitely benefit from taking a vow and keeping their mouths shut for years. But that would mostly be for the benefit of the rest of the world. ☯

Respect, A Dying Art

Respect is a bit of a strange creature. We all think we deserve it, we all think we’re entitled to it, but very few of us do anything to genuinely deserve it. You’ll notice that I include myself in there because there have been times in my life where I’ve definitely thought I deserved the respect, even when faced with scenarios where I did very little to earn it. One good example comes to mind from all the way back, twenty four years ago…

I had suffered my first failure during my time at college and decided to take a year off, get a job to raise some added capital and hit hard again the following year. Little did I know at the time, life gave less than two shits about my plan and what started out as a part-time job quickly inflated to a full-time one within a couple of weeks. Further training and effort on my part saw me become a shift supervisor within six months, overtaking several people who had been at their job for years if not decades. (Yes, I’m a bit of an overachiever!)

Despite the celebratory nature of that accomplishment, I suddenly found myself overseeing and supervising people that I had spent the previous six months becoming friends with. This is never a good situation to be in, but it’s even worse when you suddenly take stock of the fact that you think they should respect your current station. The reality is that there is a big difference between authority and respect, and the latter needs to be earned despite having the former.

The same can be said for the martial arts, where tradition and ceremony are an integral part of the learning process and where respect is a free-flowing river that goes both ways. Bowing is a good example. What is a bow? In the simplest terms, bowing signifies a number of different things including greeting, affirmative response, gratitude or reverence as well as being a show of respect. In a karate dojo, a student is always expected to bow when entering and exiting the training area and whenever addressing one’s Sensei. Although there may not be another person there to receive that bow, it’s a ceremonial gesture that shows respect.

But what about the Sensei him or herself? Do they automatically deserve your respect? They certainly have authority over matters pertaining to your martial training, but the question is whether or not they should be respected from day one. The simple answer is yes, they should. If for nothing other than their station and as the head of the school, your Sensei should be shown respect from day one. But the kind of in-depth respect or reverence one feels for their Sensei after years of tutelage falls under a slightly different category.

Honestly, students who found themselves unable to show the basic elements of respect within Sensei’s dojos never lasted very long. After all, if you aren’t interested in the traditions and ceremonies that come with karate, go join boxing or MMA. Martial arts may not be for you. But having respect for someone is something that is generally earned by the recipient through gestures, words and actions. It isn’t something that’s automatically given.

This is especially true in the example I provided at the beginning. I’ve had a significant number of supervisors, managers and bosses throughout my life. Some have been good, some have been bad, but all of them had authority over me in some way, shape or form. All of them had my obedience (within reason); only a few have received my respect. This is because only a certain handful have been able to show that their employees and staff mattered and issued directives in the interest of them, instead of in spite of them.

The last important aspect I’ll touch on, is that respect needs to be maintained. Just because someone has gained your respect, doesn’t mean that they’ll keep it indefinitely. Through their words and/or actions, there’s a great deal a person can do to lose your respect. Certainly, the first step towards gaining someone’s respect is by showing respect yourself. But then, if that person hasn’t gained your respect, this can be difficult. It’s a tumultuous back-and-forth process that isn’t easy to navigate. The important thing to remember is to always give respect where it’s due or deserved; never expect it without earning it. ☯

My Belt Is Black But My Soul Is White

It’s the time of year when it’s nice to take a break from complaining about all the side effects that come with having Diabetes and just be grateful for what you have. A home to sleep in, food on the table and clothes on one’s back are essentials that not everyone has, but most of us who do, tend to take them for granted and always yearn for something more. But there’s usually plenty to be thankful for in each person’s life, even when we don’t always see it.

One of the things I’m most thankful for in my life, is karate. It’s hard to believe that in a few short months, I will have been practicing the martial arts for almost as long as most people I know have been alive. Longer than some, in fact. And although my reasons for getting into karate may have been particular, STAYING in karate was a choice. One that I’ll never regret making. And like any journey, this one may have begun with a single step. But I’ve been walking the path long enough now that I’ve lost count of how many steps I’ve taken. And the stories that accompany those steps could fill oceans…

A younger, sleeker me as a green belt

I don’t think I’ve actually ever told the story of how my black belt test went down, so buckle up; this’ll be a bit of a long read. Although black belt should never be the end goal of a martial artist, it’s an obvious important step and should be given the weight it deserves. I’ve seen some folks go through something that’s referred to as a “test,” which involved little more than doing a couple of forms, breaking a couple of boards and answering a few questions before the pomp and ceremony of kneeling in front of the head instructor to remove their old belt and replace it with a black one. For some schools, the involved ceremony outweighs the actual need to be tested for black belt. But I digress…

Many of these people got their black belt without even breaking a sweat. And although I won’t get into the specifics of the testing, since you need to get to that point if you wanna find out, I think that sharing the experience of what I went through is important. Not only is it important because it’s a story to tell, but because it signifies the challenge that a traditional black belt test SHOULD pose to a practitioner. That may come off as a bit subjective, but my blog is my soapbox, so here we go…

In late 2001, I travelled to Okinawa with Sensei, his wife and two other students. I was a brown belt at the time, and one grade short of qualifying for Shodan (black belt). It was the trip of a lifetime, despite the fact it almost didn’t happen. The terrorist attacks on 9-11 had taken place literally one month before our scheduled departure, and many travellers were cancelling their plans for fear of being on a plane. Our group met to discuss the issue and it was decided that we had invested the money and resources, plans were in place and we would proceed unless the airlines stopped us.

My time in Okinawa was amazing. I’ll never be able to say otherwise, but there was something missing. The experience wasn’t quite what I expected it to be. We attended two karate classes a day, one in the morning and one in the evening. We’d spend our afternoons on the beach since, despite being mid-October, temperatures were in the high 40’s. My thought, and my intention, was to test for black belt in Okinawa at the parent dojo, where my name would be forever registered with the masters. This would ensure the future of Sensei’s student lineage, since the day would inevitably come when he’d step down and retire. But this was something that I would need to be invited to attempt. I couldn’t ask for it.

Performing Seisan Kata in Okinawa, 2001

Even though our dojo closed during summer break (we adhered to the public school schedule), I trained like a mad man all summer in anticipation of studying with the masters. I did karate four days a week and filled the remaining days with cycling and swimming. I worked on body conditioning and some light weights. I had no idea what to expect or what I would be subjected to once I reached Okinawa. But I vowed to be ready. With the exception of Sensei, I was the only one who trained throughout the summer. The impression we gave the Okinawans left something to be desired…

I enjoyed travelling with the team, genuinely and honestly. But when it came time for us all to demonstrate for Nakama-Sensei (my Sensei’s Sensei, try to keep up!), I performed a brown belt kata that put all my heart and energy behind my karate, which is what any true practitioner should do on every form. Sensei’s wife could barely remember the steps to the kata she was currently studying. Daniel, the other white belt who came with us, was very much in the same boat. Philipe, who was the other brown belt who came with us, was able to perform his kata without issue, but there was no energy or spark behind it.

Sensei would later tell me that my kata was done well and he couldn’t have done better himself. But we demonstrated as a team and Nakama-Sensei was left unimpressed. He asked Sensei, “Is this it?” to which Sensei merely shrugged and said yes. What else could he do? The culture prohibited Sensei from “defending” the quality of his students. In fact, the students were meant to demonstrate not only their prowess but the quality of Sensei’s teachings by showing effort, skill and energy. Apparently, I was the only one who got that memo…

Nakama-Sensei’s senior class in Okinawa, 2001

The rest of our time on Okinawa was… nice. We visited some museums, neighbouring dojos and even attended the All-Okinawan Karate Tournament, which was interesting to watch. But because of the poor, total effort put forth by the others, I was never invited to test for black belt during my time in Okinawa. The masters were unimpressed with us and we were not worth their time. I returned to Canada feeling slighted. I was hurt, angry and resentful of the others as I believed they should have trained harder and that my loss was because of them. In retrospect, that sounds profoundly selfish but I was young and committed to the next stage in my development and I wasn’t used to having others stand in my way.

I spent the next six months focusing my anger and rage into my training. It wound up being a useful tool as well as being a healthier way to focus that negative energy than placing blame. But I’d be lying if I said there are days that I think back to 20 years ago and still wish it had been different. Karate has an unfortunate way of being political, a fact that I experienced firsthand in Okinawa. After some lengthy discussions and one-on-one training with Sensei, my black belt test was scheduled in the early months of 2002. And since the content of the test is a well-kept secret by the select few who have passed it, I won’t be sharing the specifics.

The night before testing, I had grand plans to get to bed early and get some rest on the night before testing. Then I fell asleep around 3:30 in the morning and woke again at 6:30 when my alarm went off. So much for getting some rest. There was a tight knot of fear and anxiety in my stomach and I had no idea what I was in for, which is likely what had me worried the most. Green and brown belt testing had gone very well for me, but the content of the tests were known to me before taking them. I couldn’t say the same for this test, which was only described as an all-day, 8-hour test of absolutely everything I had learn in karate since day 1.

The next hour consisted of eating a very light breakfast and packing my gym bag, which included a sandwich, granola bar and some fast-acting carbohydrates in the event I suffered a low. Sensei had instructed as such, saying that we would take a break for some lunch. I drove to the dojo and was there at 7:45, thinking that as per usual I would change and stretch prior to the start of testing, which I was told would be 8:00. I sat nervously in my car for the next fifteen minutes, wondering where Sensei was and thinking I had mixed up the days, until I saw him turn the corner and walk towards me with a jovial smile on his face.

Sensei and I

We changed in silence and went upstairs to the training floor where we took several minutes and stretched properly prior to beginning. Much to my surprise, the actual test was started at about 8:30. Once it began, I was all-in. That morning felt like the longest three and half hours of my life. I was put through the ringer like I never had before. I may have thought I’d sweated through workouts, but it was nothing like this. Sensei was relaxed, pensive and observant of everything I said and did. And that was the clincher: everything involved in-depth explanations of EVERYTHING I was doing. That’s what made it so intense. Ask me to fight? No problem. Ask me to fight while simultaneously explaining what I’m doing, how I’m doing it and why I’m doing it? Not so easy!

We broke for lunch around noon. I was of the impression that we would be taking a quick half-hour, wolf down our food and carry on. It was, after all, an 8-hour test and we needed to be conservative with our down time. This is why I began to wonder what was going on when we had reached nearly forty minutes of lunch break and Sensei was calmly looking outside, commenting on the weather. I was pacing on my spot, anxious and raring to continue, and he was acting like we had all the time in the world. I thought that maybe this was part of the test; maybe it was to test my patience and ability to keep calm. If so, I was failing miserably but said nothing.

The afternoon was a blur, with everything being mostly applied techniques and the physical aspect. We were done with words and if I thought the morning was tough, the afternoon was tough and painful. I didn’t break any boards. I didn’t demonstrate for a gymnasium full of friends and family and I wasn’t testing in tandem with a handful of other students. Everything was real. If I got struck, I suffered the actual result. Our only bodily protection was a pair of thin, white sparring gloves. Every part of my body held a mixture of sheer exhaustion, pain and adrenaline. The final stages of the test involved a couple of timed endurance exercises. Yes, you read that right; I had to do this AT THE END OF THE FUCKING TEST!!! Imagine doing a plank for twenty minutes after running a full marathon. That kind of thing.

When the timer finally rang, I unceremoniously dropped to my knees. My body begged me to let go and just close my eyes. My blood sugars were all over the place with a mixture of lows from exertion and highs from the adrenaline and glycol release. To this day, it was the most intense and physically-demanding challenge I’ve ever been through. It was made all the more important by Sensei dropping my black belt in my hands and saying, “I guess this is yours to wear now…” He went on to explain that I shouldn’t become complacent and that passing Shodan was a student’s way of formally asking his Sensei to learn karate. The true learning could now begin.

The finished product, 2018

Sensei invited me to his home after the test and we cracked a cold beer (of course). His son, who has been one of my best friends for decades and also holds a black belt, came rushing into the house like a tornado and hugged me tightly in celebration. Just about every inch of me hurt worse after that. But it was all worth it. Sensei explained that we were able to take a longer lunch and the test ultimately only lasted about six and a half to seven hours because there was very little he needed to correct me on. After we reminisced about the previous years I’d spent as his student, I made my careful way home where I enjoyed an overdue long shower and took a nap. When I awoke, I was able to share my accomplishment with my parents as well as a brief visit to the cemetery to visit my brother.

Since then, I’ve had schools of my own. I’ve trained a little bit everywhere, sharing knowledge and techniques with different schools, different styles and different people. I’ve taught others and continue to be taught, myself. A true martial artist will NEVER be done learning. And I can truthfully say that not only has karate played an integral role in maintaining my health and fitness, I’ve used it in defence of myself, in defence of others and in the line of duty. For the nay-sayers or MMA freaks who like to say that traditional martial arts don’t work, I know firsthand how very wrong that belief is.

In over forty years of teaching, Sensei has only ever graduated less than a dozen students to black belt. At the time of writing this, there are only seven or eight of us. And that’s the mark of how challenging the style may be. If you walk into a dojo and there are black belts floating all over the place, including on the kids, you can expect that you may not be getting the quality of training that the rank deserves. But those of us who have achieved Shodan in Uechi Ryu Karate can say without question that only those who are truly committed and have the will to do so, will succeed.

The greatest gift that karate has given me, other than saving my life, is having the opportunity to teach and protect others. And this is also the mark of a true martial artist, when your skills are used for the betterment of the world. I still have days when I look down at my black belt, which is starting to fray and come apart at the edges, and remember all the blood, sweat and tears that I paid in order to wear that particular colour around my waist. And it’s near and dear to me but you know what? I’m still a student. I’m still learning. I’ll continue to train and learn something new until the day they nail my coffin shut. And that’s why my belt may be black, but my soul will always be white. ☯

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So This Is Christmas…🎄

Merry Christmas, everyone! Happy holidays, Seasons Greetings, Feliz Navidad and all the other appropriate greetings that come with this time of year. I know that it hasn’t been the greatest year for most people. Trust me, I totally understand. My own personal situation has made 2020 all the more difficult to navigate. But if you’re reading this right now, it means that you’re still breathing and pushing through. So there’s plenty to be thankful for.

Remember, it isn’t the gifts under the tree or the parties you throw but one’s indomitable spirit that will help get us through. Although not what we’d expect for this time of year, we still have the marvel of modern technology to help connect us with those we can’t be with. So remember your family and friends, raise a glass of egg nog and celebrate the good in life; whatever that may be for you. 🙏 ☯

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Kids Do The Darndest Things, And Adults Usually Clean It Up…

If there’s one thing that most parents of my age group can easily complain about, it’s how children now days seem to be engrossed in technology with less time for physical activity. It’s become a genuine issue, with childhood obesity hitting an all-time high in North America and kids showing no signs of slowing down, figuratively-speaking. This is where it becomes important for parents to not only encourage proper fitness but to show the right example by indulging in physical fitness themselves.

Nathan prior to his second birthday, executing a solid horse-stance

When my son Nathan was barely beyond his toddler years, my wife and I signed him up for a kids’ activity group, which included soccer balls, hoops and games in order to stimulate physical activity and learn team skills. Nathan’s inability to keep his attention on a single thing for longer than thirty seconds resulted in him running around and doing his own thing while other kids were seated in a circle, learning new things. It was embarrassing at the moment, but the reality is he still played his heart out and got some exercise.

We chose not to keep him in this group, since he had to be signed up and we would have to start paying for fees. I couldn’t justify spending money on an activities group he wouldn’t comply with, so I took his fitness into my own hands. Nathan has always been a child with excessive energy levels, but he rarely sees fit to use them appropriately for fitness. This is why it sometimes makes it difficult to get involved in something structured.

Walking his brother after school (the energy drink is mine)

Don’t get me wrong, there are days when he’s raring to go and I’m the one settled on the couch. But there are a number of important reasons WHY it is so important to get our children off the floor and doing something physical. I’ve been pretty fortunate that Nathan is often game to join me on the mats and do some exercise, even when his idea of exercising is hitting me repeatedly with a punch mitt until I stop my reps and wrestle on the floor with him.

Exercise is an important part of a child’s development. Exercise is required in order to strengthen bones, increase muscle mass and improve a child’s overall proper growth. From a non-physical standpoint, exercise is also important for a child as it promotes socialization, self-esteem and helps with concentration and schoolwork. That last sentence is an aspect that most parents tend to forget. And most reputable sources, and I’ll let y’all look into those yourself, recommend at least an hour of rigorous physical activity every day.

Although it can be hard to get kids interested in physical activity, there’s a lot you can do to encourage it:

  1. Be The Example: It stands to reason that if your kids see you sprawled on the couch with a bag of chips, binge-watching a show for four to six hours without moving, this is the standard that they’ll grow up with. They’ll assume that laziness and apathy is acceptable. After all, if it’s good enough for mom and dad, it should be good enough for them, right? Wrong. Even if it’s just to get your kids moving, you need to set the example. After all, the family that stays fit together, stays healthy together;
  2. Limit Screen Time: This is a tough one, especially for my son. And to be honest, it can often be tough on my wife and I, as well. It’s SO easy to tell Nathan “Go watch a show on your iPad,”when we’re trying to get things done or want some peace and quiet. But realistically, keeping him off a screen is important to helping him grow and develop properly;
  3. Plan Activities: Although I would like being able to tell Nathan “Go outside and play,” this doesn’t work for most kids. Some of them may be able to go outside and entertain themselves, but it doesn’t allow for much structure. Plus, let’s be honest: sitting in a sandbox rolling a small car doesn’t do much for fitness and proper health. Play some ball, run some races or go talk a walk. Aerobic and anaerobic exercise is important, even for kids;
  4. Keep Up The Encouragement: Hey, my son can’t throw a proper front kick to save his life. And his idea of blocking consists of squatting down into a ball and covering his head with his hands. The martial artist in me cries on the inside. The daddy in me is just happy that he’s training with me. But no matter what, the high-fives and pats on the back need to keep coming. It’s pretty hard to stay motivated if one isn’t encouraged. This is true of adults as well.

At the end of the day, this is one of those things where anything is better than nothing. But there are also certain restrictions you need to observe. Children really shouldn’t be doing any heavy weightlifting until they’ve finished growing. They can lift weights, but they should avoid lifting HEAVY weights for the purpose of lifting as much as they can as it can interfere with the body’s proper development.

Keeping kids physically active and engaged is about more than just getting exercise. It helps to mold the foundation they’ll need to maintain proper health, growth and development throughout their formative years and into adulthood. And maybe, just maybe, the parents will join in for the ride. ☯

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Heavy Or Fast, Exercise Has An Effect…

I’m a huge believer in the fact that a person should be training and/or working out several times a week, if not daily. I’ve had many of my counterparts (both Diabetic and martial artist) point out that it’s possible to have too much of a good thing and that daily training isn’t ideal. But when you factor in sessions of meditation, low-impact yoga and walks, it can be pretty easy to log something different seven days a week.

And before all the yoga practitioners jump on here and tear me a new one, I’m not saying that yoga isn’t a fantastic workout, because it can bring the sweat like anything else. But the point I’m trying to make today, especially for my fellow Type-1 Diabetic readers, is that different TYPES of workouts will have a different effect on your body and blood sugar. And it can be confusing and difficult to make heads or tails of it. After all, one would be inclined to think, “burn glucose to lower, eat carbs to increase,” right?

Last week, I had the privilege of enjoying two workouts. The first one was a circuit-style workout, with some speed and intervals thrown in. I performed this workout with my 6-year old son and we ended the workout with about fifteen minutes of punching the mitts. All in all, it lasted about forty minutes. During this period, my CGM was taking care of monitoring my blood sugar levels and I sat in the range of 5.3 to 5.7 throughout the entire workout and for a while afterwards. Okay, not bad.

The second workout was a period of doing karate forms, or kata. I practiced these alone for about a half hour, doing two or three of each of my forms required for my next belt certification. Doing them alone didn’t stop my son from sitting on the steps and watching quietly while occasionally mimicking some of the techniques he saw. But during that brief half hour, my blood sugar dropped from the mid 6’s to about 3.8 mmol/L.

The fact is, different workouts will have different effects on your body whether you have Diabetes or not. But it’s because of that Diabetes that you need to be wary of said effects. There’s no magic formula to figuring this out. Most of it will be trial and error and will require you to try different things to see what works for you. But I’m going to throw out some basic concepts as they relate to Diabetes. If you want some in-depth information, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation has a great article that covers what I’ll be saying in greater detail.

Let’s start with cardio. I’m not a huge fan of running but as some of you know, I LOVE cycling. Cardio (or aerobic) exercises tend to last longer than say, weightlifting or other types of exercise. Although exhausting, biking for 70 kilometres will typically be less intense than say, doing repetitive sets of heavy weights for 30 minutes. Under normal circumstances, you’ll burn glucose consistently throughout the majority of your workout, meaning you’ll experience a low at some point during your workout. Pretty straightforward, right?

Next is anaerobic exercise, or your weightlifting, karate, boxing… Most of the workouts that are higher in intensity and will build muscle as opposed to cardio. Because of the higher intensity, the release of adrenaline will trigger the breakdown of glycogen in your system which is then turned into glucose, resulting in a spike in blood sugars. This is usually a real pain in the ass for me, especially since I usually suspend my insulin pump and leave it in my gym bag to avoid damage during karate classes.

Still with me? Good. The JDRF link I provided above will also offer some insight into combination aerobic/anaerobic workouts like team sports, but that shit gives me a headache to think about. So check out the link. The bottom line is you may have to suffer through some trial and error in order to figure out what works best for you. Removing my pump is normally a good idea during karate to keep from damaging it. But if I do as my doctor suggests and bolus a unit or two to compensate for the pump’s absence, I usually suffer a low quite quickly. I’m usually better off letting the spike happen and correcting it after class is done. Although not the best choice, that works for me. It may not work for someone else.

Having Diabetes shouldn’t stop someone from enjoying the full range of health and fitness that their bodies can allow. Although it may take a bit more planning and tweaking than the average person, there isn’t anything I can’t do. The important thing is to plan ahead. Always keep some fast-acting glucose with you, in case you suffer a low. Keep a blood glucose meter close by s that you can confirm your blood sugar levels, whether you wear a CGM or not. And of course, be sure to stay hydrated. ☯

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Help Me To Keep This Permanent!

My content may be free and I absolutely love providing it, but my time is not! I’m trying to make a go of it as a full time writer but obviously, everyone needs to get paid for the time they put in. Your donation to this blog can mean the difference between seeing daily content or wondering “whatever happened to The Blogging Buddhist.” Help me keep this permanent. Any small donation helps and will not go unappreciated.

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Riding The Icy Slopes…

I’m not a big fan of the extreme cold. Being born and raised in New Brunswick means that I’ve grown up accustomed to reasonably mild winters, albeit heavy snowfalls. So the past decade and a half of -50 degrees during the winter months have managed to find the chink in my armor and the ache in my joints. If I had to choose, I’d opt for the spring or the fall, where temperatures are on the cooler side without freezing me half to death. But I digress…

Nathan and I, about to tackle the slope!

I have to admit that one of the pleasant aspects of parenthood is the opportunity o relive some of the more enjoyable aspects of childhood. Namely, sledding! There’s a small mount near our home called “Mount Pleasant,” which is identified as a “toboggan hill.” Plenty of people go there to go sledding, and I brought Nathan there for the first time last week. He has a black sled that his grandmother bought him a couple of years ago, and since the weather was mild and the skies were sunny, I thought it would be a great opportunity to do something other than have him skim the back yard with it.

I had a really wicked video of Nathan and I shredding down the hill. But for some reason, my damn iPhone won’t upload the video. So I guess we’ll have to settle for this photo:

Nathan, hefting his sled back to the top

As you can see, there were some other people using the hill that day. But everyone was pretty good about staying the hell away from one another and some people were even wearing masks outdoors. Besides the few assholes who insisted on climbing back up the hill from the spot they came to a stop, thereby causing a collision hazard with other sledders, it was a fantastic afternoon with fresh air, sunshine and one hell of a workout getting to the top of that hill every few minutes.

We brought snacks, drinks and Diabetic supplies and we took a break halfway through the afternoon to enjoy the snack before taking turns, hefting the sled up the hill. It just goes to show that fitness doesn’t have to be all weights and cardio. Sometimes, good old fashioned fun can be great exercise. As long as you watch your blood sugars and recognize the winter temperatures will affect your levels and insulin absorption, there’s plenty of joy to be had despite all the white shit on the ground. ☯

Early Bird Gets To Socially Distance

A lot of people, most people really, are pretty stoked that there are only a couple of weeks left to 2020. To be honest, I see no evidence that 2021 will be any better than this year was but it’s good to stay positive. It’s like I’ve always told my wife: enjoy and appreciate the positive aspects of where we are, because the next spot may be much, much worse… The same words can easily apply to the world’s transition from ’20 to ’21.

Before I get too morose and negative, this time of year also brings the holiday season along with it. The world has changed in the way that it does business. And before everyone jumps on the internet bandwagon to tell me that I can not only do all of my Christmas shopping online but have it delivered to my home, I’m well aware. But sometimes you can’t beat the feeling of being out and handling the items yourself before paying for them. In some instances, this is also the only way to guarantee that you’re getting what you planned on, and not some wrong-sized or incorrect item because of an error on the other end when ordering online.

I was out running errands about two weeks ago. As I had brought Nathan to his bus stop with the SUV (he’s pretty spoiled), I took off to go do some shopping and run errands right away at 8 a.m. I discovered something that really shouldn’t have surprised me. The stores I went to were basically empty. Since most people were gone to school or off to their workday, I pretty much had the aisles to myself. It was nice, because I was able to shop around and actually look at stuff, take my time and wander without worrying that I was holding up someone behind me. You know, since they’re supposed to keep six feet away.

I think we forget that frequenting retail locations (when necessary) during these “quiet” periods is an excellent way to run your errands and get the stuff you need while managing to social distance the way everyone should. Plus, the peace and quiet that accompanies said shopping is a great way to let your mind float and start your day. No long-winded post with heavy explanations today. I just thought it was neat and that I should share. Stay safe! ☯

What Would You Do With Freedom, If You Had It?

Freedom can mean different things to most people. For some, it means “financial” freedom, whereas one has enough money in the bank to be clear of debts and not require employment to survive. For others, it’s simply NOT being locked up or imprisoned. But in general, it means having the ability to act, speak or think without constraint. It’s being able to go where you want, when you want and do what you want. And I think that we can agree that the vast majority of people who live in North America have that freedom, to varying degrees.

I don’t think I really need to point out that 2020 has been an absolute shit show for the entire world. In fact, some would argue (myself included) that COVID-19 has acted as an ultimate equalizer, since the virus does not discriminate and can be contracted by anyone of any age, race or gender. But we’ve seen a wider variety of people catch the virus than we would have originally thought possible at the beginning, including politicians, celebrities and the elderly. And the effect is that many if not most people feel and are of the opinion that they are losing their freedoms.

It’s been an increasingly stressful time, especially for those who are separated from those they love. One good example is my mother, with whom I speak to on a weekly basis. Yes, yes, I’m a momma’s boy and call my mother often. I’m also an only child, and father to her only grandchildren. So keeping a positive connection is important, one way or another. My father currently resides in a nursing home, where he’s been for about ten years. He voluntarily placed himself there after it became clear that my mother didn’t have the physical capacity to take care of a 330-pound man in a wheelchair.

For the most part they’ve been able to make it work, with my mother renting a small bachelor’s apartment next door to the nursing home and being with him everyday. Then, along came COVID-19. My father’s nursing home has been locked down ever since, despite the fact that many others in the Province of New Brunswick have reopened their doors (intermittently, depending on the status of their cases). This is an affront to my mother, who compares my father’s residence at the home and her inability to see him to being locked up in a prison.

I may have a bit of a jaded and subjective point of view, but I don’t know many prisons that have hardwood floors, picture windows with a view of the bay and serve customized meals, three days a week. But that’s just me. The sick and elderly are among the most vulnerable, and the choice to keep the care home’s doors closed to the public is a clear result of not wanting to potentially spread the virus to every resident there. The irony is that my mother COULD visit my father. The care home is allowing immediate family to visit on an appointment basis, with restrictions in place allowing for no longer than thirty minutes and requiring social distancing during the visit.

One would think that this would be good news. I would consider it so, since I’m on the other side of the country and can’t see my parents regardless of conditions. But my mother refuses to visit my father in this fashion, feeling that they don’t pay the money that they do to be kept separated from one another. It doesn’t matter that no individual has the right to make the choice for other residents and potentially introduce the virus into their environment. She simply refuses to take advantage of what’s offered because it isn’t what she wants.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my parents and I’m simply using them as the most familiar example I can use. But the point is that when this whole mess started, we all foolishly thought the world was grinding to a halt for 30 to 90 days and then things would go back to normal. Oh, how wrong we were! 9 months later, we’re still dealing with restrictions, imposed mandates and the constant yo-yoing on local and Federal governing agencies opening things up then taking them away again as soon as an outbreak happens.

What’s been the most disheartening, is people’s reaction to doing what’s necessary. A blanket attitude of basically not giving a shit has gripped society by the gonads and seems to be keeping a firm hold. People still balk at the very notion of wearing a face mask. I’ve fallen down many a YouTube hole where people have claimed and tried to get out of wearing masks in public places because of medical conditions, despite health professionals publicly declaring that the only conditions that would make wearing a mask impossible would be so severe that the patient wouldn’t be out and about. Customer limits and home school requirements, social distancing and the inevitable folding of privately owned businesses… I wasn’t kidding when I said that 2020 has been a shit show.

The problem is that people hate to be told what to do. You can take a family that’s financially poor, struggles to make rent and has to swallow their pride and accept charity, access food banks and hand-me-down clothing and they’ll do what’s necessary. But tell them they must lawfully wear a face mask while during their weekly Walmart run and all hell breaks loose. Like I said, COVID-19 has been, among other things, the great equalizer.

For my family, it hasn’t changed a great deal of much. My employer has had me at home for almost two years now and my wife works from home. The only significant change was this week, when my son began remote learning due to an outbreak in our local schools. My wife and I weren’t happy about the change, but we complied and adapted as it was necessary to continue my son’s education. But otherwise, the bills get paid, there’s food on the table and we’re taking advantage of being able to spend so much time together.

For those who chose to complain about the government, mask and isolation requirements, consider the following OBVIOUS facts: If this were all a conspiracy on behalf of the government, I’m sure they would chose a much better method of control than making someone wear a paper-thin mask on their face. Things may seem bleak now, but it will only be through the passing of this virus that any of us can hope to experience a normal life again. ☯

yin-yang-4

Help Me To Keep This Permanent!

My content may be free and I absolutely love providing it, but my time is not! I’m trying to make a go of it as a full time writer but obviously, everyone needs to get paid for the time they put in. Your donation to this blog can mean the difference between seeing daily content or wondering “whatever happened to The Blogging Buddhist.” Help me keep this permanent. Any small donation helps and will not go unappreciated.

CA$5.00

Self-Care Doesn’t Mean Self-Importance

Taking proper care of yourself is one of life’s top priorities. This is true for any person, but especially true for someone suffering from Type-1 Diabetes. Although you can certainly find medical practitioners to help you navigate the complicated labyrinth of medications, treatments and methodologies required to properly balance your Diabetes, the ownership of your care ultimately falls to you. And even when people are fully aware of this, they very rarely recognize and acknowledge it.

In order to be healthy, you need to be happy. In order to be happy, you need to be healthy. As Sensei would say, these two go hand-in-hand and it’s very difficult to truly have one without the other. Over the years, I’ve found myself sacrificing my wellbeing for the betterment of others, often going as far as damaging my health, exhausting myself and/or making myself sick. Although sometimes duty, honour and obligation requires it, it’s pretty difficult helping others if you first don’t help yourself.

So what does self-care look like? I don’t necessarily mean taking your medications or frequently testing your blood, although these are every important. I mean the self-care that includes one’s mental wellbeing as well as the physical. For example, did you know that if you’re tired in the middle of the day and decide you want a nap, you really don’t need to explain yourself to anyone? (Unless you’re at work, in which case I don’t recommend trying it. And if you do, please don’t name drop me…)

In order to illustrate my point I’ll provide two examples from my personal life, which took place some years ago. The first is work. I don’t think I need to to explain that work is a necessary part of modern life. Unless you happen to have been born into a wealthy family, most of us are forced to punch a clock and usually contribute somewhere in the range of 2,100 hours a year to help line someone else’s pocket. When I used to work for a certain popular franchise, who shall remain nameless for liability reasons, I let myself fall victim to my attempts at being an all-star.

Although not always the case, most employers are not only more than happy when an employee goes above and beyond, they come to expect it without any form of additional remuneration or praise. If you happen to be a prospective go-getter, this plays havoc with your health. This was me, up until a little over a decade ago. I would never miss a shift, driving in dangerous, inclement weather, going in to work when I felt ill and even going as far as passing out twice on the job, to be brought to the hospital for diagnosis, only to return the next day.

Despite the fact I was in management (and in light of that fact), it really gave me no benefit to be sacrificing myself this way. I ignored critically low blood sugars, worked through bleeding polyps and even did the work of two people when I was short and couldn’t replace them. And it wasn’t until I finally put my foot down and tried to call in sick that I got the ever-popular retort from my boss. I’m sure you’ve all experienced it; it was a dialogue that went a little something like this:

ME: “I won’t be coming in today. I’ve been ill all morning…”
BOSS: “Well, just how sick are you? I need you for tonight’s shift.”
ME: “Sick enough that I don’t feel I should be coming in to work…” (Bearing in mind that Canadian Labour laws take a dim view of an employer asking about ANY medical condition, my answer was more accommodation than was required)
BOSS: “Alright, fine. I’ll see if I can replace your shift. I’ll call you and let you know.”
ME: “Let me know what?”
BOSS: “Whether I can replace your shift or not!”
ME: “Why do I need to know that?”
BOSS: “Because if I can’t replace your shift, I need you to come in…”
ME: “Maybe I’m not being clear. I’m calling in sick. I won’t be in tonight.”
BOSS: “Well, if you’re going to be like that, you’ll have to bring me a doctor’s note.” (Also against the Labour Code)
ME: “I’m not going to a hospital! I just need to get some rest and I’ll probably feel better tomorrow. THAT part, I will let you know…”
BOSS: “If you aren’t sick enough to go to the hospital or see a doctor, then you aren’t sick enough to miss your shift.” (Also not a permissible statement, unless you HAPPEN to have “M.D.” after your name, but what do I know)

Any of my readers or followers from back home can probably guess at what employer this was and would likely be nodding their heads furiously right now. But given my propensity for picking my battles, I would foolishly go into work despite feeling like absolute shit. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve worked through a shift with frequent trips to the washroom where I would accommodate either end of my anatomy (Enjoy getting THAT image out of your head). Was it worth it? Definitely not. It didn’t result in a pay increase or any advancement to my career. All it did was cause damage to an already damaged body. Not smart, on my part.

The next story is about relationships. For the most part, relationships on their own can be rough and challenging waters to navigate, especially when dealing with someone who has little concern or understanding for your wellbeing. This brings me back to my earlier comment about napping. You all know that I’m a big fan of napping, but for this story, I’m referring to the need for actual sleep.

You see, as an adult, there really isn’t any reason why you should have to explain yourself, should you decide you’re tired and want to go to bed. Tired means tired, and is about the farthest thing from selfish that I can think of; next to needing rest from illness. But this was something of an alien concept to the woman I will identify simply as “Ex” (my ex-wife).

Ex had a nice, cushy daytime job, 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. I worked shift work, which often included overnights. This is not to say that she didn’t work hard AT her job, the issue mostly arose from her time at home. The scenario would involve working overnight and getting off work at 6 a.m. By the time I’d get home, it would be closer to 7 a.m. and I would sneak carefully into bed as to not wake Ex. But one’s circadian rhythm can be a bitch, and she’d often wake up less than an hour later, despite being on a day off.

Now, one would be inclined to think that any reasonable person would understand that someone who’s worked throughout the night would need more than an hour or two’s sleep. Not Ex. She’d wake me shortly after she’d have breakfast in order to “get the day started.” When I’d argue that I needed a solid period of proper sleep because I had to work overnight again that night, it would be met with argument, including but not limited to the fact that I “was not to waste her entire day off sleeping.” Nice, eh? There’s a reason WHY she’s an ex.

I’ve provided both these scenarios, not because I wanted to complain about these two negative aspects of years past (despite the fact that venting about it was kind of nice), but to point out that both these scenarios wreaked havoc on my health, my blood sugar levels and even my mental wellbeing. The stress and anxiety associated with always having to explain yourself for things that should be an understandable requirement of physiological survival can have permanent repercussions on your sense of self-worth, value and confidence.

That’s why it’s important to take time for yourself and do things that are uniquely for yourself. Have that nap. Run out to grab a coffee. Take an hour a day to meditate or work out. None of that makes you selfish, it simply guarantees that you’ll be in a better state of health and a better state of mind to help take care of the daily grind, whether that includes family, work or whatever. And should you encounter an obstacle in your life that prevents your self-care, whether work or personal, that makes them a cancerous cyst that you need to down a shot of whiskey and quickly slice off in one quick swipe. You’ll be all the better for it. Surround yourself with people who will not only accept your needs, but will encourage them, as well. I know I did. ☯