Me and the Tree

This is my kindred spirit. She runs with wolves!

victorialise

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There’s this lake with a large rock formation above it and a pine growing through the cracks of the rock.

On that rock

Next to that tree

Which at that time was below knee

I decided to stay and continue being free

Now that tree is taller than me

And I can’t help but see

We did a lot of growing together

Me and the tree

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Of Wallballs and the sort…

wallballs

(pictured: me at CrossFit Champaign-Urbana. Photo cred: sweet pea photography)

Truth be told, I hate wallballs. Is hate too strong of a word? How about despise?

In CrossFit, there is this workout called Karen. It is simple. Do 150 wallballs as fast as you can for time. For Men, you toss a 20 pound medicine ball above a 10 foot line. Sounds simple eh? Not so simple.

That crazy wallball has a mind of its own. You have to position your feet perfectly to catch the bounce off the wall. And those leather concocted balls stitched in a geodescic design are not that evenly weighted. They hit funny and ricochet in weird directions. You squat down so hips are parallel to knees and, for short guys like me, you almost jump off your feet to get it high enough. It bounces off the wall and hopefully catches perfectly between your hands. The ball is pretty wide. So you end up squeezing it between your hands and against your chin. I’ve hit my chin pretty hard at times. My chest and shoulders are often sore after because of all the squeezing. But your legs and butt get the brunt of the work.

So, to recreate this misery, I went to an outdoor basketball court at the University. The backboard is perfect since the rim sits at 10 feet high. It takes some accuracy to get it to the side of the backboard every time. Yep, the pain was just as I remembered. I had a good rhythm to 20 reps and then my wheels came off. That didn’t take long at all! I was doing a 40-30-20-10, not even a full Karen. I planned to rest in between and do everything fast. Ha! Not fast at all. I rested in a lot of places besides the 1 min rests. And I really thought I was getting into good CrossFit shape.

I’ll only do 50 (25 + 25) as part of an upcoming competition. This has me thinking twice about how ready I am. I almost barfed 3 times driving to the grocery store afterward. It was 35 degrees Fahrenheit outside when I did this so I had trouble regulating my temperature in the car. Those hot flashes led to that bitter taste in the back of my throat. Ummm, not good.

If you’ve never tried these wallball things, maybe you’d like to experiment? Or maybe run the other way. I’d advise the latter.

Happy Accidents

advanced yoga

True story: Several times in the past, as recent as this week, I’ve had yogis stumble into my Rocket Yoga class. Most people don’t know that Rocket really is a “thing”. My regular Rocketeers know that it is real and have embraced what it can do for you. But for someone who is new to yoga or new to Rocket, they think it’s simply another creative name for a flow yoga class.

Bob Ross, the late painter who hosted the TV series “Joy of Painting”, used to say–

We don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents

I’m usually cognizant of who attends my classes and their ability levels. But since I had a small class the other day, I forgot to ask if anyone was new to Rocket. So I casually have my class start on their own with 5 Surya Namaskar A’s and 5 Sun B’s (sun salutations). No big deal, right? Well, someone started alright… then said “I think I’ve made a mistake.” I mean, we didn’t do anything hard yet. So I encouraged her to stay.

Larry Schultz’s favorite asana was child’s pose. While he founded a challenging variation on Ashtanga Yoga, he was also compassionate. He was SO encouraging of his students; just like my Rocket teacher, Amber Gean. He would always say–

You are Stronger than you think

I asked this yogi to just try. To do what she could. And if it ever got to be too much, just take child’s pose. Its your practice. I’m just here to help your Rocket take off.

Guess what? She stayed. And other yogis who’ve stumbled into this yoga party stayed as well. Some even came back! And some may wait a while before they try again. But at least they know what is possible. They see yogis who are further in their journey doing amazing things. We may all get there some day if we just try.

Happy Accidents? For sure..if you open the door and try. Rocket is so fast that you don’t have time to commiserate over what you can or can’t do. You just do! You try. And if you fall, you get back up again. That’s how we live life.

Where will your Rocket take you?

Devolve into Chaos

cosmos

My Mom used to always say “close the door because you’ll let the cold in!” Then I took college physics and the professor said something profound. He said “there is no such thing as cold, there is only lack of heat.”

Diffusion – (my definition) movement of molecules from a state of high concentration to low concentration.

When you have people respiring oxygen and carbon dioxide, and numerous gases emanate from furniture, carpet, foods, whatever, you get a fairly high concentration of molecules. Then, add heat (aka energy) so these molecules are continually energized and bounce all around. What happens when you open the door to the less energized and colder outdoors? These bouncing molecules find release. They bounce until reaching their own stasis. If you leave the door open, equilibrium will no longer find a concentration gradient. They will be the same in concentration of molecules and thereby similar in temperature.

Second Law of Thermodynamics – Everything tends toward entropy or disorder.

If you have water in a basin and the vapor pressure is low, eventually those molecules will move from a liquid state to a gaseous state (i.e., they evaporate). If you look at the Grand Canyon, it will never be the same as it once was. You can’t put the sediment that has eroded away back on the steep cliffs. It would never stay. All those tiny grains are somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.

Everything tends toward disorder. But does it?

Life is the oddity in this process. When I’ve debated these ideas with biochemists and physicists, they always confine the system to validate their reasoning. But when you explain life, how is life even possible? How is it possible to evolve into a higher creature when the 2nd Law says that we tend toward disorder? It seems like we should have devolved into microorganisms and not the other way around.

Neo-Darwinists began to realize that life is truly an oddity of nature. Did you know that science is never fully explained? There is always a Black Box somewhere in the process. Scientists would say that it is the Next Frontier, or some other grandiose statement. But its really something unknown that is yet to be known. Its a theory.

I would call it a Miracle.

The Neo-Darwinists acknowledge this Miracle as some kind of Life Force. Hmmm, a Life Force? That’s not very sciency!

Is the Life Force the Sun? Maybe a divine Universe? Maybe its Chi or some other meta-physical property. It makes me wonder. This is what wakes me in the middle of the night.

We are real

hannabah_blue_real_life_indian

Its so funny that its not funny.

A colleague at work was raised in Texas and claims to have a small percentage of Native American roots. He worked with Tribes in the Northwest U.S. so he thinks of himself as an expert on Native America. We were talking one day and he said “You don’t look like any Indian I’ve ever seen.” Ha!!! How am I supposed to take that? So what does an Indian look like?

When I was in grad school traveling with lab mates to work on our research plots in the corn fields, one lady said something intriguing. She knew I was Native American. And because she spent some time in New Mexico, she thought she was the world’s leading authority on Native American beliefs. When I would say something that she thought went against what real Indians think, she would say “but doesn’t that go against your beliefs?” It is almost like those who’ve interacted with us can say whatever they want. You don’t know me like you think you do.

Its one thing for a little kid who has only seen Indians on TV or in story books. It is a whole other thing to have an educated adult question your ethnicity.

I appreciate that people appreciate my culture. But have you ever heard of cultural appropriation? It is a form of racism usually based on some level of cultural ignorance. Dream catchers, feather headresses, war paint,…all these things have significance, often sacred and revered to Native American Tribes. Yet someone thinks it looks cool or they want to appear trendy, so they wear something or do something they think honors Indians. Believe me, it doesn’t. It is likely to offend instead.

We are real!

First of all, we ARE real. We have professions just like you do. We drive cars and live in houses. We see the things you promote as being US. We read and write and walk on our own two feet (if we have feet). Do we have problems? Yes! We have diabetes. Many of my relatives have gone blind or have limbs amputated because of it. We have depression and substance abuse. But I wouldn’t say it is different from what you see in the projects, the barrios, the ghettos, the hills, or wherever else you’d call the other side of the tracks. Regardless, we are real.

The biggest shock to you is that Indians aren’t monolithic in thought or culture. There are 535 Federally-recognized Tribes in the United States and many more not recognized. We all have different histories and different stories of our Creation. Our ancestors lived in different houses, had specific beliefs, wore different clothes, and had unique languages. We weren’t all warriors always looking for a fight. Many were and are farmers and fishers. And, yes, we look differently.

Many people say what they do is meant to honor us. They wear a t-shirt or feathers or something else that says “I love Indians”. But instead, they do dishonor. If they thought to pick up a book and read about our history and culture, maybe they’d have a clue. Much more could be done to support us by donating to Diabetes research or Native American Student Scholarships. It would mean SO much more than promoting false stereotypes.

We are real!

You don’t get to decide who we are or how we feel.

This Ole Friend

I walked in the room and it was like his face was in a tunnel. All I could see was his gleaming smile. He smiled and I smiled back. All the others in the room were ghosts. The yoga mats and props riddling my path were passed without a thought. Without thinking, we connected in a manly hug that meant so much. We are the kind of friends that go well beyond shaking hands. He is like a brother to me. He was sorely missed.

Truth be told. We ARE like brothers. While we are connected by yoga and many of its ideals, we are probably socially, politically, and ideologically opposites. But yoga is stronger than all of those -ologies.

We did our 200 hour yoga teacher training together. We’ve laid hands on each other and the dozen or so others in the class as well. We instructed each other and adjusted our positions. We are a band of brothers and sisters. We’ve seen tears, heartache, and deep bonding through our trials. Most of us showed hearts outside of the skin, while others were more guarded. I was probably the latter. It seems the younger you are, the more outspoken you are. Old, wise people like me often sat and pondered quietly.

The past few months, my brother in yoga took a long, many day adventure by bicycle. Having participated in backpacking adventures and ultramarathons myself, I knew of the travails of such escapades. I thought about him and even worried for him at times. It only takes one person texting while driving to end a life. But it was his journey to take and I admire him for it. While I wouldn’t have the courage to do such a thing, I’m thankful for his bravery now that he is safe.

Now that I write this, if someone saw us from afar they’d think we were strangers. But we have this magnetic resonance that can’t be severed. Everybody needs people like this in your life. It is something special.

Swimming Upstream with Diets

bears fishing

Podcasts often make me go introspective to my daily habits. The topic du jour was diets. So here goes. (quick read? — scroll down for tips)

My body type is a mesomorph. Since I was young, I could eat whatever I wanted and still have a six-pack. I was super active and weight was never a problem. However, this also means I never learned how to eat. My grandpa lived to be 89 years old, yet he smoked, drank, and ate very poorly. When we had chili at his house, it came wrapped in butcher paper like a brick of fat. It melted in the pan as you cooked it. A slab of Colby cheese and a sleeve of crackers often accompanied it. And I loved it. I thought I had genes like his, so I could get away with eating poorly.

I think for most of us, our 30’s is when your metabolism starts to go into conservation mode. I was a Senior Army Drill Sergeant at 32 years old when I started to fall back in a run. What the heck? I was a runner and a pretty good one at that. I gained 10 pounds and it wasn’t coming off. Even when I became an ultramarathoner in my 40’s, I pretty much maintained weight and didn’t lose much. But the key that was missing was diet. I still ate like a horse.

Fast forward to years later. My ultramarathon days were starting to come to an end. I began doing CrossFit and made lots of changes in my life. But I didn’t change my diet. Not long before, my wife had her gall bladder removed. So I suppose I was next. After my diagnosis, the doctors were ready to schedule an appointment with the surgeon. I’m like “wait a minute, let’s think about this first”. I mean, I’m a scientist myself. There has to be a better way. I started doing some research and found that gall bladder disease is mostly a side effect of gluttony. It can be connected with a host of other issues from diabetes to gout to liver disease. My research led to a gastroenterologist back in the 1950’s who put together a diet with many names. It was the Diabetes Diet, Alzheimer’s Diet, Parkinson’s Diet, … In effect, they were all autoimmune diseases where autoregulation is halted. Come to find out, it is also the basis for the Paleo Diet.

So despite my mantra of “exercise all you can so you can eat what you want”, I needed to change. I went cold turkey and jumped on the Paleo bandwagon. We stripped the cupboards bare of all processed food, especially flour, pasta, and other starches. The same with sugars. Within two weeks, I was free of the painful heart-attack like symptoms that I suffered from my gall bladder. My blood lipids were completely back to normal and I was losing weight and bodyfat. It was amazing what it did for my life.

Since those days, I’ve moderated my views and overlapped other concepts into my life. I am still mostly Paleo since I pay for it when I go back to the Dark Side. I used to be the bonehead at the party who was vocal about what I “wasn’t” eating and would preach all the facts about the bad foods that were there. I’m more sociable now. I’ll graze on fun foods knowing that I’ll eat clean 98% of the time. During the work week, I’m essentially a Warrior Diet advocate. Here are some ideas that I abide by:

  • Breakfast consists of coffee with a half-teaspoon of creatine and a tablespoon of coconut oil which provides energy and muscle cell hypertrophy. I’m not very hungry anyway in the morning because of what I eat before bed.
  • I skip lunch but may snack on a protein bar, a spoonful of peanut butter, or maybe a protein shake to keep my energy, prevent muscle catabolism, and maintain low insulin levels for fat burning.
  • I usually do Olympic lifting in the morning, yoga over lunch, and a CrossFit WOD with bodybuilding after work. Then I eat dinner.
  • Dinner is the largest meal of the day. Caveman drag food home to cook and eat! I get my daily dose of calories at this time. Although, I’m usually not starving because I haven’t faced insulin spikes from what the FDA and others would recommend with small meals throughout the day. It is balanced with lots of protein, fat, and veggies.
  • Currently, my pre-bedtime ritual is to take Progenex Cocoon. It has amino acids like tryptophan to help you sleep. It also has other proteins that aids muscle building and recovery. I take creatine with this too. Your highest levels of testosterone and other growth hormones occur as you sleep. Your cortisol levels drop and serotonin increases. So you do some fat burning as well as opposed to fat storage. Your fat is being used to make new cells and aid in hormone building (which are made of fats).

So far so good. I still enjoy a few cheats along the way. I’m not perfect. If I get really hungry or if I know I am teaching an intense yoga class or hot yoga, I’ll eat lunch or a snack hours before. I still stick to a mostly Warrior/Paleo styled diet and it seems to work for me. The bonus of not planning breakfast or lunch is I never worry about what I’m going to eat. And I can really enjoy a savory dinner and a nice sleep at night. I also got to keep my gall bladder.