Applied Meditation

Before our daughter was born I meditated for at least 30 minutes per day. My wife and I would often follow a guided meditation including a few hand motions and about 20 minutes of calm background music. The meditation would then include the following quote:

“Just for today, I am free from anger. I am free from worry.
I am humble. I am honest. I am compassionate toward myself and others.”

Now that practice has been reduced to about 30 minutes per week. I have chosen to title this post ‘applied’ meditation because I have found that I am still practicing components of meditation each day. As I am calming Madelyn before bed time, when she is fussy, or when she just seems interested in hearing me speak, I often state the quote to her. It usually helps calm her, and I feel like it also helps me remain calm. This is especially true during more challenging situations of parenting.

The meaning I feel within the quote:

  • Each day I optimize my psychological self by remaining perceptive to the destructive and counterproductive feeling of anger. Although I accept the immediate emotion of anger, I do not cognitively reproduce or reconstruct feelings of anger into my rational thoughts. I am free from anger.
  • Each day I optimize my rational self by remaining perceptive to the emotions that I feel, and I choose to accept challenges which are presented to me. I follow the drive of my spiritual self and accept the present moment. I am free from worry.
  • Each day I optimize my spiritual self by being thankful. I am not possessive of anything I have or anything I have done. I choose to live in the present, and graciously accept each present moment. I am humble.
  • Each day I optimize my spiritual self by fully exploring the innermost thoughts and feelings I am experiencing. I fully accept what they are, and I learn more about myself. I choose to share my thoughts and feelings with those who would benefit from them. I am honest.
  • Each day I optimize the person that I am so that I can share love with the people around me. I value and care for my physical, psychological, rational and spiritual foundation. I pursue the complete awareness of who I am, and this allows me to pursue a genuine awareness of the people around me. With this fully encompassing awareness I strive to share an open-minded acceptance in all situations. I am compassionate toward myself and others.

The Meditation Experience

I started meditating about 5 years ago, and from the start I felt like meditation allowed me to be a more peaceful individual. I know meditation is a journey which is never mastered, but I was starting to feel very comfortable with my habits and the corresponding peace which had entered my life. Now that Madelyn is here, my meditation habits have changed. I am surprised that the quotes I had repeated for years within my meditation practice have started to synchronize with my daily activities more clearly. This experience has truly opened my eyes to the direct application potentials of meditation.

The experience of silent meditation in a quiet place certainly has its advantages. It is easier to disconnect from the human self and find a place of peace. As the mind starts to wander back into the scene, it is possible to refocus on background rhythm, meditation posture, or a place of peace and drift back to a pure nothingness. The clear mind is certainly a valuable experience. There is a new connection between the mind and the body, and there is a disconnection between the mind and the thought within it.

Applied Meditation

Applied meditation with my daughter certainly has its differences. I am usually holding her, and I am often starting the meditation at random. Also, rather than clearing my mind at the start, I am starting with the meditation quote which I continuously repeat. If I am holding her, laying next to her, or feeding her, I remain fully aware of her physical presence as well as my own. However, the thought within my own mind does eventually disconnect. I simply become present in the room with her.

Both meditation practices allow the experience of pure nothingness, but the applied meditation practice allows me to remain connected with the people around me. Each day I am grateful for the opportunity to experience and share that peace.

I look forward to hearing your feedback, and here is the quick link to the comments!

Weight Loss Dieting

The Popular Presentation of Weight Loss

Weight Loss Dieting Magazine Cover

I saw this magazine as I was waiting in the checkout line at the local grocery store. This fitness magazine is for women, and this seems fit the content norms that I am accustomed to seeing. There is a model saturated in make-up on the cover. I can’t see the name of the magazine since the adequate amounts of hair product are maximizing hair volume to cover the letters. Weight-loss is the main theme as usual. There are processed food treats (upper left corner) to entice the reader to eat low-calorie junk food and read the magazine content. There are at least 4 miraculous well-being cures (in this case tiredness and stress are solved, and beauty and inexpensive supplements will resolve many health concerns). For me, the most ridiculous part of the magazine was the ‘Drop 19 lbs in 10 Days’ promo in the bottom right corner.

I am sure that a few of the natural remedy ideas do have some merit. Many natural foods do indeed support health. Maybe the tiredness and stress resolutions also have some credibility. Maybe they are referring to dropping 19 pounds of water into a water basin over a period of 10 days. I hope that is the case because promoting a weight loss plan where 19 lbs of fat is lost in a period of 10 days is pure and complete ignorance.

The Mathematics of Weight Loss

One pound of fat stored in the body is equivalent to approximately 3500 calories of energy. In order to actually lose 19 pounds of fat you would have to metabolize 66,500 calories of energy. The magazine said we could do it, so let’s do some math.

Approximately 100 calories are burned for each mile that is run. Over a 10 day period you would need to run 665 miles, 66.5 miles per day. If you can run 66.5 miles per day for 10 consecutive days, you probably have goals more along the lines of shattering world records or maybe marketing your superhuman qualities to save the world. I am not a huge fan of distance running, but the weightlifting, swimming, or biking equivalents would also be impossible.

The Negative Impact of Extreme Diets

In my previous breakdown I did insert the word ‘fat’ into the weightless scheme. The magazine cover didn’t say fat, so we can assume that their scheme probably has some water weight loss built-in. Losing water weight is rarely a healthy practice. The scale may read slightly lower and you may look thinner for a short period of time, but it is crucial to stay adequately hydrated. The magazine may have made an argument against adequate hydration under the junk food promo, but I can only tackle one issue at a time.

Another consideration is the likelihood of the loss of muscle mass. If enough calories are cut from the diet, the body quickly resorts to a convenient fuel source, muscle tissue. Even without adequate caloric intake, your muscles still require fuel to move your body. During times of inadequate caloric intake, this energy source often comes from your muscle tissues. On a side note, studies have shown that adequate protein intake and weight training is best method for maintaining muscle mass while burning stored fat.

In conclusion, losing 19 pounds of weight in 10 days is not a healthy goal. This would require extreme caloric deficits, lost muscle mass, lost water weight, and some burned fat. The most concerning issue is the decrease in your metabolic rates. Let’s take a moment to explore what this means.

Decreased metabolic rates mean that your body is aware that your food intake will be less than what is needed. Crucial internal functions will slow down. Your GI tract will not process food as quickly. At the same time your body will become much more aggressive when selecting food to store for later. If there is ever an abundance of carbohydrates available, as much as possible will be stored as fat. That is the great mystery of dieting. That is why the person who posts a Facebook story about losing 20 pounds on their favorite diet plan will quickly recover their losses (and that post probably won’t be created for you to see).

A Realistic Health Perspective

If you are exploring some weight loss options, initial goals should include building muscle mass in order to support your mind and body through the weight loss process. Once you have synchronized your muscles with an exercise routine, your body will begin using stored energy within your fat tissues to achieve your exercise demands. As long as you focus on optimizing your health rather than demanding lower weight scale numbers, your body will re-synchronize with a more healthy infrastructure and eventually display the physical potentials which you have built within your body.

*Check out the shortened version published by the Carmel Current!

Please let me know if you would like me to expand on any of these topics, and here is a quick link to the comments section.

Children Watching Television

Concerns and Research on Children Television Time

Infants and children seem to love watching the television, and many adults love seeing their kids watch TV as well. After my daughter was born, I searched for some articles clarifying the impact which television sights and sounds have on young children. Our families, friends, co-workers, and even the random lady at the grocery store have advice about TV time (and pretty much any topic), and advice from one person to the next is frequently contradictory. Fortunately, there is plenty of research describing the implications of increased amounts of television exposure. A great summary on national data is available here, and the specific learning implications are specified here.

There are many important details within each article, but the following quote sums it up quite well: “Audible television is associated with decreased exposure to discernible human adult speech and decreased child vocalizations. These results may explain the association between infant television exposure and delayed language development.”

Children and the Television Experience

As the child views the screen they are processing the non-stop and overstimulating content to the best of their ability. It is the item of peak interest. There is an entire world of complexity beyond reality and beyond imagination all encompassed within a viewing box in the living room. The child is completely invested in the television moment, and the adults are grateful for the short break from the trials and tribulations of parenthood.
Once the world of fascination is turned off, the mind of the child is slow to disconnect from the television. Nothing in the actual living area is able to reach that level of stimulation, but it doesn’t matter because their mind is still attempting to process and store the massive quantity of information which was recently projected onto them.

Children and the overstimulating tv

Imagine the most thrilling movie you saw when you were 10-12 years old. After you watched that thrilling movie, what was it like as you left the theater?

You were probably feeling some emotional excitement, and you may have been feeling a bit exhausted from the theatrical journey of the movie. Most importantly, you are engrossed within each moment of the movie. After the movie you enjoyed remembering the specifics of what you saw and re-experienced the excitement of your favorite scenes.

When a young child watches the television, there are some similarities. They are also completely engrossed within each moment of the show, and they are also emotionally stimulated by the screen activity.
The child is also hyper stimulated with the thrilling experience of non-stop motion, happy sounds, and bright colors. Their ability to categorize and discuss the events are lacking, so the experience is inefficiently stored within their developing mind. The TV experience takes priority over the sights, sounds, smells, touches, and tastes of their current experience, and their ability to process their surrounding environment is hindered.

Perceptions after the TV Experience

Children are still experiencing the stimulation of the television after it is turned off, just as you continued to experience the stimulation of the thrilling movie after you walked out of the theater. The journey of learning, and the sensory experiences of reality are altered by the television experience for two reasons.

  1. The lights and sounds of the living room and the family experience are not up to par with the television.
  2. The child’s experience of television excitement requires additional ‘processing’ even after the television is turned off.

Since infants and young children are incapable of adequately processing that level of stimulation, the jumbled excitement is scattered across their mind. Sensory learning experiences become secondary and different from what they were before the television stimulation. Processing the words of people is less interesting, and communicating with people becomes less relevant.

Recommendations for Families

NPR has a great article summarizing the recent recommendations changes made by American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). ‘No screen time before the age of 2’ has been replaced with allowing limited educational content after 15 months, and video chat communication (Skype or iPhone Facetime) are OK for communication with family and friends.

However, if you read beyond the quoted headlines, the AAP has three important recommendations for children under 5 years old:

  1. Only allow the children to watch the best educational content options including Sesame Workshops and PBS.
  2. Limit screen time to no more than 1 hour per day.
  3. Always co-experience the screen time with the child to support adequate information processing.

I am in full support of the AAP recommendations. Rather than exposing my daughter to overwhelming screen stimulation, I will do my best to fill her day with broad ranges of human interaction, toys for learning and imagination, and as much time outdoors as possible.

Please let me know if you would like me to expand on any of these topics, and here is a quick link to the comments section.

Prioritizing Sleep

Why Quality Sleep Is Often Overlooked

In high school and in college there were times when I overlooked sleep on the weekend. Staying up late with friends was higher on my list of priorities. Other than that, I cannot think of a time-stretch when I did not prioritize a good night of sleep. During my time with roommates I discovered that the sleep priority was abnormal. I had trouble understanding why I would walk downstairs at 8:00 a.m. to find a roommate asleep on the couch with the tv still on (the electric bill might have also been on my mind at that time).

Within the last 9 months I have also bargained with my sleep priorities. Sleeping BabyMadelyn’s well-being has taken first place. We have yet to perfect her sleep schedule, and we are not yet in the category of excited parents posting their child’s sleep miracles. Madelyn had about 2 months when she was awake every two hours. Now she is up for one reason or another at least once per night, and I am happy to take plenty of turns helping her when she needs it. Fortunately, Lorean and I have offset sleep schedules, so we both get at least 8 hours each night. I sleep from 12-8 and she is sleeping from 9-5 most nights.

Regardless of whether the sleep issue is choice, circumstance, or somewhere in between, insufficient sleep is a modern health epidemic according to me and the CDC. The world of psychology has some great ideas to help, but I think it is crucial to gain a better understanding of the impact which a lack of sleep has on the human body.

The Negative Impacts of Insufficient Sleep.

I am going to skip over the metabolic specifics and jump right to resulting items of interest. The deprioritization of a good night sleep is a major cause of the obesity and diabetes epidemics of today.

I wish that would be enough motivation for everyone to go to sleep early and that would solve the issue. Unfortunately, the debilitating health effects of processed foods, over-medication, physical under-activity, and excessive light stimulation have each been associated with the cause of the current sleep epidemic. The lack of quality sleep, which the average individual attains, inevitably enhances the degrading health effects of processed foods, over-medication, physical under-activity, and excessive light stimulation. And the cycle continues.

It is fascinating that these seemingly unrelated topics have harmoniously synchronized into the major problem it is today. I do not have a quick fix for the sleep problem. Although plenty of other sources have some great ideas, the only way to truly correct the problem is to re-prioritize your health.

Optimizing Your Potential for a Good Night Sleep

This means that a healthy diet, more physical activity, less exposure to toxicity, and minimized evening light stimulation need to be prioritized. Health practices should be the first line of defense and the major form of treatment for obesity and blood sugar challenges. Finally, positive night time habits including visual or audio books, family communication, outdoor time, indoor games or puzzles, and meditation are great options to be included within nightly routines.

Our sleep time schedule is not extremely consistent and certainly not perfect, but I am appreciative that our general health as well as our nighttime habits do allow us the restorative pleasure of a good night sleep.

Let me know if you would like me to expand on any of these topics, and here is a quick link to the comments section.

Diet Trends

There are already thousands of articles presenting a topical analysis of the popular trend, the Nordic diet. As usual, there are lists of what you can eat and what you cannot eat followed by comments regarding what should be eaten in moderation. Plenty of books have already been published on the topic, many of which follow the ‘weight loss’ sales trend in the title. Here is a screenshot of a google search:

Google Search Results for the re-emerging Nordic Diet

I don’t have a problem with the Nordic diet, but I do question the purpose of the obsession. This is remarkably similar to the Mediterranean diet, which was also covered in thousands of articles and books. One of the few differences is the choice of oil: Canola oil is preferred in the Nordic diet, and olive oil is preferred in the Mediterranean diet. Hundreds of additional articles will analyze the difference in omega 3/6 ratios between the two.

Why is healthy eating labeled as a diet?

Choosing to eat a normal range of foods which are beneficial to the body should not be considered a diet. Both the Nordic and Mediterranean plans certainly lean in that direction. Additional trends including Vegan, Vegetarian, and Paleo diets aren’t usually discussed in the same sentence, but those lean closer to an appropriate ‘diet’ label. The Vegan and Vegetarian diets avoid all meats, while the paleo diet usually results in the over consumption of meats while avoiding all grains. The Ketogenic diet is another interesting extreme.

For two years I was on a ketogenic diet which helped me optimize control of neuron firing in my brain (aka avoid experiencing complex partial seizures). My caloric intake was about 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbohydrates. It was certainly fair to call that a diet. If I was eating at a restaurant I saved up my 20% protein allocation for the fish or steak I would order. For the first time I saw food as a necessary means of energy intake to optimize my function. It was remarkably easy to buy only whole, unprocessed foods.

Food manufacturers love to follow the diet trends and produce packaged foods which fit the numerical criteria for diet trends. ‘Cut the Carbs’, although fitting for the Ketogenic diet, is one of my least favorite diet labels, especially since the carbohydrate calories are usually replaced with bulk fillers and/or artificial ingredients. A few other idiotic pet peeves include the ‘no added sugar’ label on nuts or any other whole food as well as the ‘fat free’ label on fruit drinks and pure sugar candy. The human body requires unaltered calories including carbohydrates, fat, and protein as well as nutrients for healthy function.

Processed Foods are Outpacing (over-generous word choice) Human Evolution

For thousands of years humans ate foods which had undergone minimal processing, and the biological human system adapted to the consistent habit. Within the last 70 years the human race has transitioned to processed foodstuff replacements which taste different, last longer, and fund the food manufacturer that ‘built it’. Unfortunately, our metabolic systems have not been able to adapt that quickly. As issues including obesity, diabetes, chron’s, alzheimer’s, etc. are becoming the norm, we are introducing plenty of revolutionary drugs to treat them. Yes, that was off topic: WE ARE OVERLOOKING THE CAUSE.

I started to question the purpose of foodstuff replacements such as soft drinks (LOW FAT!) and chips (LOW SALT!).

Soft Drinks: I once paid a food manufacturer $1 to add carbon dioxide gas, 10-30 grams of sugar, food coloring, and stabilizers to water. I drank the beverage which spiked my blood sugar, forced my liver to process additives, and forced my fat tissues to store additives which my GI tract absorbed but couldn’t digest.

Chips: I once paid a manufacturer $3 to overheat and chemically modify potato, corn, and wheat starches with inexpensive oils which are high in omega-6 fatty acids and trans fats. I ate the chips which spiked my blood sugar, forced my liver to process chemically modified proteins (acrylamide), high levels of omega-6 fatty acids, and trans fats. As my body was overloaded with these foreign chemicals, cholesterol was my last resort to neutralize them. Unfortunately, my oxidized cholesterol and LDL blood levels increased.

What benefit was I attaining from eating these foods? The isolated time-frame of satisfaction is a decent argument, but that was only there if I consistently ate them. Now, it is fairly repulsive to taste either option since my taste buds aren’t attuned to eating food replacements. I was paying additional money to lower my potentials.

My Personal Dietary Conclusion

Eventually, I switched from the ketogenic diet back to more regular eating habits. In my ‘regular diet’, if the food contains added sugar, heated starches, processed oils, trans fats, artificial coloring, chemically modified additives, mono and diglycerides, added emulsifiers, etc., I will not eat it. I eat food, and I will stay on this diet until I lose at least 5 more pounds of muscle mass due to inactivity and lack of required nutrient supplies since I desire to maintain optimal health. I would rather not pay a food manufacturer to reconstruct, modify, and overprice modified foodstuffs, and I don’t believe my body ever adapted to the foodstuff replacements I used to eat.

It could be argued that my diet is similar to the Nordic, Mediterranean, or Paleo diet, but it is certainly higher in fat than what is considered ideal by many (I’d love to hear your arguments!). Vegetables and healthy fats (avocados, nuts, and oils) are my main food focus for every meal. My caloric intake of protein is still about 20%, carbohydrate intake has increased to about 30%, and fat intake is at about 50%. Most of my carbohydrate intake comes from vegetables, rice, beans, and lentils as well as occasional berries and other fruit. Most of my protein intake comes from nuts, seeds, lentils, bone broth, local eggs, and occasional meat. I am also a huge fan of healthy spices including turmeric, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, cumin, ginger, and garlic to name a few.

Please let me know if you would like me to cover any of these topics in more detail! Here is a quick link to the comments.

Self Awareness

Self-awareness is a general term which fully encompasses the topics I have specified within this blog. As this content continues to grow; more importantly, as you continue to learn, do not forget to step back and re-assess how the knowledge and content relates to your sense of self. Self-awareness is a cyclic process of continuous growth. As children, we experience these cycles for the first time. I am watching my daughter, Madelyn, begin to experience more physical potentials (sitting and crawling) followed by her emotional experiences in response to them. Eventually she will be able to talk about her actions, and one day she will ask about the purpose of learning her next task. The valuable cycles will continue as she begins to apply her physical self to mastering more complex tasks. She will experience more intertwined psychological responses, and she will have a better grasp of the rational pathway of achieving her goals. Her greater purpose will hopefully become more clear as she expands her interactions with the people around her.

How can I improve my sense of self awareness?

Self awareness is a broad and potentially daunting topic, hence why it is minimized and often overlooked by many. To tackle this challenging task it may be useful to itemize the components of who you are as a person. I look forward to relating a few well known references including Maslow’s hierarchy, Erikson’s stages of development, Piaget’s model, and Kohlberg’s theory in later posts. For now it is best to start with a more simple overview.

1. What are your physical health needs?

Many people overlook the critical needs of the human body. We are all dependent on the oxygen in clean air to breath, clean water to hydrate our body, healthy foods to nourish our body, a good night sleep to repair our physical body, and maintenance of the homeostasis potentials within our body. Unfortunately, we tend to overlook these necessities as more complex social challenges inevitably become prioritized. It is always important to keep in touch with your health.

2. What are your psychological needs?

Once your health is optimized, you are able to fully and completely experience the psychology of yourself. You have a psychological need to feel secure and comfortable with yourself, and this allows you to develop healthy relationships with the people around you. This drive to improve yourself and your relationships will also motivate you to follow at least a few social trends which may or may not be optimal for your health.

3. What are your rational needs?

Learning is a lifelong process, and the amount of knowledge which can be attained does not have limits similar to physical potentials. Whether you are eating a meal, interacting with other people, studying a book, or meditating in silence, the ongoing stream rational processing will continue. Each moment you are blessed with the option of applying that stream positively and productively for yourself and for those around you.

4. What are your spiritual needs?

The robotic and repetitive nature of socially defined productivity has minimal value unless there is a greater purpose. While churches aim to assist in helping to define spirituality, it is up to you to truly connect with something more. The support of your spiritual needs helps to fulfill the sense of the human self, beyond the human body and beyond the psychological ego. Spirituality fully encompasses the physical, psychological, and rational self in order to relate with the soul which will be carried into eternity (the ‘location’/specific definitions are up for debate).

As my first blog post I left this fairly general, but please let me know if you have any topics you would like me to discuss in more detail! Here is a quick link to the comments.