I've been composing this blog in my head for a few weeks, and Jenny's recent blog in all of it's beauty and vulnerability inspired me to get this down in print.
In my introduction blog, I mentioned that a key driver for taking Mind again is that I’ve been struggling with my older son.
B is 8 years old. He’s charming, playful, empathetic, and mischievous, with a wicked sense of humor. His entrance into this world was hard. His birth mother was and is experiencing homelessness. B didn’t have prenatal care, and was born 28 or 30 weeks gestation (at least 2.5 months premature). He weighed just three pounds (1.36kg). He was born on the steps of City Hall in San Francisco. From minute one, he fought for survival. The paramedics arrived during labor and rushed birth mother and child to San Francisco General Hospital. There he was received by some of the best doctors in the world, including Dr. Susan who was the pediatrician in charge. Under her care, he survived. She is still his pediatrician today. But that survival was a battle. He was in neonatal intensive care for a full month. During that time, he had wires attached to him, lights overhead, a tube and machine to help him breath, food administered intravenously. At some point during the first week, his birth mother asked the staff to find him a good home, and made what I believe is a bold and loving decision to leave.
I met him when he was five months old. I had read his medical file and it was scary. His foster mother took him out of the stroller and placed him on my lap. He grabbed my fingers. He looked into my face and he smiled this big, toothless grin. Then he threw up on me. My husband and I fell in love with him with an urgency and protectiveness that defies genealogy. He moved in with us one month later and the adoption was finalized a year after that.
My son has developed into a wonderful boy in most ways. The human body and brain are resilient and miraculous. Here’s the complicated part – all of that craziness of his birth and first month had an impact. His brain was wired in emergency. The result of that is that his fight-flight response is overly developed, and it’s hard for him to control that with his developing rational brain. Things that are annoying or bummers for other kids can cause a full-on melt-down temper tantrum for him. For example, last week I told him to set the table for dinner, and he refused, then screamed, then threw himself onto the ground crying. Other recent triggers include saying no to buying gum, the iPad having only a 2% charge, not scheduling a play date when he told me not to schedule it (you read that right), telling him to get dressed in church clothes, saying no we can’t have mac n cheese and SPAM for dinner tonight.
We are in family therapy and it’s working. We are learning tools to manage help him manage big feelings and reactions. His outbursts have reduced in frequency, duration and intensity. The really hard part is that every tool requires me to be calm, firm, centered. When my kid screams and cries because he can’t have gum, I need to say, "I’m sorry you can’t have it. I get it. You really wanted that gum and it sucks." But there’s a part of me every time that wants to scream, “Why can’t you be normal?! Why are you doing this to me?!” And sometimes I do scream. His adrenaline triggers mine and then we can both be in a fight-flight situation. It always makes it worse. I always feel like shit afterward. I’m not a calm person, and providing the right kind of discipline for my son and his developing brain means working on my calmness.
So here I am participating in Mind for the second time. Every day, there’s a moment where I can feel the surge of anger rising. Most times, I see it, remember that I am not my thoughts. I am not my feelings. And then breathe through it and choose a response that is more beneficial to my son, to the situation, and to me. This six weeks is providing me with some powerful tools. This is going to be years and years of work for both of us.
What could've happened: Finally, I had had enough. I glared at my mother in law across the Thanksgiving table and yelled, "Have you ever considered NOT sharing one of your God damn opinions?!!" I slammed my fork down and marched out of the room.
What actually happened: I closed my eyes and took four deep breaths. Then I got up, and made myself another cocktail.
Thank you, Mind.
Meditation is all about being fully present. On Thanksgiving morning I had 27 things I needed to do. I was also trying to find time to meditate. As I was about to find 15 minutes in a less crazy corner of the house. My two year old came up to me - "I want to be a airplane" - meaning he wanted me to lift him overhead and fly him around the room. My immediate instinct was to brush him off. I had to get to my meditation and then get to my To Do list. Then I thought again. I can be fully present with him and that's a gift for both of us. I lifted him up high and flew him around the room. I tickled him. We pretended to be cats (a sock makes a great tail). We jumped on the bed that I had just made. For 15 minutes I gave him my full attention and play. I was fully present and focused and felt a sense of flow. Such cheap mental health and joy. I meditated for 5 minutes after that and moved on with my chores.
This is my cousin June.
She’s more big sister than cousin. She’s my hero, spiritual counselor, best friend, super aunty to my kids (and godmother to one), and best of all, we laugh and get into a lot of trouble together.
In January, she joined Kenzai, and then was on programs non-stop until her 60th birthday on Halloween. Don’t worry, the party was a very un-compliant affair.
The family we come from isn’t a healthy family. Our grandfather died of a heart attack in his late forties. All the siblings in our parents’ generation struggled with obesity, and many of our cousins do as well. Alcoholism is prevalent in our family. At family reunions you’ll find lots of alcohol, cigarettes and weed. I’ve indulged in all of them.
But one of the things that binds us together is that we’ve decided not to follow that script. June describes it, “We decided to rewire our DNA.” This means we exercise, eat well, prioritize sleep, and monitor and course correct our relationships with alcohol. There’s some vanity in this. We jumped into Beach Blast before her birthday to look great in swimsuits (doesn't she look amazing in a swimsuit?!). But more importantly, this is about a commitment to being healthy for ourselves and for those we love.
I got to see June this past weekend in Cape Cod. It was for her brother’s funeral. He was 57. His adult life was riddled with health complications; a car accident that left him paraplegic, obesity, use and abuse of alcohol and other substances. A fear of doctors prevented him from getting the care he needed. I remember him as a teenager. He was vital, handsome, witty, and prone to poor decisions. He left behind two young adult children and a one-year old grandson. He won’t get the joy of watching that boy grow up.
Two days after the service, Cousin June and I drove up to Provincetown and rented bikes. We rode them on miles of trail through the sand dunes. It was wicked cold, and we screamed out the song, “I can’t feel my face when I’m with you,” because, well, we couldn’t feel our faces. We made stupid videos jumping around on a jetty, and a couple walked by laughing and said, “You’re only a kid once.” We spent the day enjoying these healthy, capable bodies that through a combination of hard work and God’s will, we are blessed to have.
Funerals remind us that we aren’t promised tomorrow. But this funeral also reminded me that we have a responsibility to our health, to ourselves, to those we love, to do the best we can to take care of these bodies.
I appreciate that Kenzai provides tools and a community to care for myself. I’m blessed that Cousin June is part of that community.
I've been enjoying the sessions. I think because this is my second time through, I find the sitting sessions easier, and time goes by faster. It's not that I have fewer thought chains. It's that I don't beat myself up for them. I notice a thought. I let it go. I focus on my breathing.
Yesterday during my meditation I really had to go to the bathroom. Like now. So I tried to stay breathing and walked into the bathroom and continued there. That was the most present, intentional shit I've ever done. Like I really felt at one with my digestive cycle.
I did the walking meditation, that was really hard. So many distractions that lead to thought chains. It's definitely not my preferred way of meditating. However, I can see it's usefulness as a tool. For example, I can take a break and leave the office and go for a walk around the block for 10 minutes and center myself.
My thought chains often involve people. When I notice the chains, instead of just going back to my breathing, I've been sending love to the person I'm thinking of. This brings me many moments of joy when I'm thinking about people I care about. But I've also been sending love to people who wounded me in the past, that a-hole former boss, our president. That last one is really tough. But you know, my desire is that he would lead with more love, and so it can't hurt to model that myself.
I'm traveling all week. It will be interesting to bring this practice on the road everywhere.
This isn't a metaphor.
Today I actually got kicked in my face. By my son. We were horsing around and wrestling. He told me to get off him and I didn't. He got upset. When I eventually pulled back to give him some space, BAM, he kicked out and made contact with my nose and mouth. FUUUUUUCK. No actual damage done. I'm fine. But it hurt like hell, especially where my lower lip pushed back hard and was almost punctured by my teeth. I was pissed. My fight system went into high gear, and honestly, I could've hit him. I didn't. I couldn't even talk, I was so mad. I pointed to the door and glared at him and he left the room. I just lay on the floor of the room for awhile to calm down. I played out conversations in my head which were mostly me yelling at him. Finally I walked into my room, closed the door, and set the timer for a 10 minute meditation.
The cat was in the room and she came up and cuddled with me. I decided that this time she could be a complementary distraction. So I breathed, petted, breathed more. Somewhere through the meditation I remembered that I am not my thoughts or feelings. Then I forgot that and got angry again. Then I remembered again. I kept breathing. When 10 minutes were up I felt a lot calmer.
I walked into the living room to find a scared eight year old boy - am I in trouble, will I get yelled at, is Daddy ok? I sat on the couch and invited him to sit on my lap. He said I'm sorry. I said I know. I said I'm sorry I didn't stop wrestling early enough. I said you are getting bigger and stronger now and you have to be more careful with your body. He said he would.
He asked if I would read him Captain Underpants before bedtime. I did.
I stayed next to him as he fell asleep, our breathing slow, easy, meditative. I said my nightly prayer that we are given all we need to love and protect each other in a world so brilliant, so hard.
Hey Y'all. I made a last minute decision to join Mind. This is my second time through this program. I got a lot out of it the first time. In particular, it made me a better parent. See this picture? We look pretty perfect don't we? Like we should be on ads for queer families (actually we are). But we aren't perfect. I'm going through some hard times with my older son right now. He's doing some big acting out. It has every thing to do with some early childhood trauma (we adopted him from foster care). But even though I intellectually understand what his actions are about, they often trigger big reactions in me. Coz, you know, my childhood wasn't perfect either. But see - I'm the adult. Or so my husband reminds me. I need to be in a calmer space in order to respond well to him. So no pressure, Mind - but I need the help of this program.
Having said that, I'm absolutely planning to have fun in this program. Meditation without humor is just some silly breathing. I was definitely enticed knowing that my sassy straight girlfriend (SGF) Cecilia was training this.
Okay some basics:
Where are you: San Francisco California
Why Mind: See above
What scares you about this course: I'm not scared having been through it before. The hardest part is starting a meditation. Once I'm in it, I'm fine (even if I can't settle the brain).
What gets you excited and jazzed: Working on being a better parent. Feeling a sense of calm. Abs. Oh wrong program.
Are you facing obstacles to this training cycle: Nothing that can't be overcome.
Started marathon training yesterday (race TBD in spring - I'm taking recs if you have any). Almost 10 mile run felt like 13. While I squeeze an occasional run in, running hasn't been my focus since I ran a marathon last February. Going on a longer run felt like greeting an old friend. Sharmali, I know you feel the same way.
I'm also excited to start the new Kenzai Marathon program in November. This will be my 12th 'thon, but first time training for one with the full support of a Kenzai program, trainer and team.
I love to look for raptor birds on long runs. I got to see this beautiful red tailed hawk in the bottom pic up close. And observe her dive for some prey in the bushes. Unfortunately a failed attempt. Maybe I'll go back and bring her an apple and egg whites.
Hey y'all - I need some accountability help. Since ending Beach Blast a week ago (great, short, hard program - check it out). I committed to staying on Klean Kompliant eating until I get to Hawaii at the end of the month. Well the eating has been fine, but the drinking hasn't. I drank the last 5 nights - and not just one drink. Ugh.
I'm recommitting now to no alcohol for 9 days. My first drink will be with cousin June when I get to her house on Kaua'i on Oct 30 (please make it a good drink, Cuz!).
I'm going to post my streak in the comments to keep myself accountable. Please give me that nudge of support.
We Rocked It, Beaches GRADUATION POST
Pics: me blasted by the final workout. I always miss Asian food most on program, so we went to Korean barbecue to celebrate the end of Beach Blast.
Final workout of 20 one minute Blasts was a killer. While it was tough, I was pleased to find myself moving with grace and efficiency in each exercise. Two weeks ago that wasn't the case. I love that Kenzai teaches us over and over that consistent dedication will lead to progress - this time in my ability to do intense bursts of strenuous activity.
Unfortunately, I didn't see progress in fat loss. It's disappointing because I was 100% compliant with exercise and 95% with diet. I don't see a difference in pictures, and the tape measure says I lost just half an inch on my wast line. I think that one month is just too short a time to see progress. No worries. My actual peak days are 2.5 weeks away. I'm going to jump into two weeks of Chisel to get ready for Kauai at the end of the month.
I loved the energy of team Hanalei. My last two programs had lackluster team energy, so it was great to have the support, playfulness and banter of this team. I think I met my commitment of commenting on all blog posts. It was so fun to do a program with Cousin June - you've been powering on program since January - it's amazing to see such athletic commitment at almost 60 years old. You are a such a badass. Thanks Hanalei - I look forward to seeing your great pics on your peak days.
Holy crap. Went out for a jog this morning and the soreness in my legs was killer. Like day after soccer tournament killer. These Beach Blast workouts are no joke.
Traveling this week and diet has been mostly on point but not perfect. I have an accountabilibuddy who is also fitness focused. At every meal we approve each other's plates. We've also been allowing each other to have just one bite of desert or indulgent treats. Unfortunately, she also likes wine, so there's that.
Been having a blast on Beach Blast. Damn those workouts are intense. This is coming from a person who always adds extra sets and reps in the beginning of a program. Week 1 kicked all our asses. Bring on Week 2.
So I'm gonna let you beloved heteros in on a secret. There actually IS a secret gay agenda. But you have it all wrong. The gay agenda wants nothing to do with corrupting your children, changing the institution of marriage, or even the ubiquity of male cleavage (although I admit, I don't actually need those top two buttons on my shirt). The gay agenda is actually about one simple thing: brunch. A good weekend brunch is everything to the gays. It is the most civilized of meals. It allows people to come together after church, a leisurely read of the Sunday paper, or sleeping off a night of partying. Like a coming out celebration, it brings alcohol out of the shadows and into the clear sunshine (not on program, of course). And it's over by 3:00pm allowing people indulge in other gay debauchery, or at least giving one time to get the laundry washed and folded.
I love a good brunch. And hosting weekend brunch allows me to do two things: spend time with both my friends and my kids, without me having to ask my kids to sit still at a restaurant. It also allows me to control the menu so I can stay on track during program. I've learned that waffles and sausages or bacon take just 10 minutes to get ready and you don't have to start the cooking until guests arrive. Waffles are also a carb canvas that can be taken in many different directions. So this weekend, while I provided the classic options of maple syrup, berries, and whipped cream, all the adults chose to emulate my Kenzai waffle (upper left pic), an avocado toast waffle with a side of blueberries and yogurt. We served rosé to guests, but I opted with iced coffee and "spa water" (upper right pic). Spa water has revolutionized hydration in our house. We are drinking more water because it's tasty. Also the kids have fun picking different combinations. This one is watermelon, cucumber, and mint.
I want to make Sunday brunch a more regular thing at our house. What are your best Kenzai brunch ideas?
Bottom left pic is carne asada tacos that I made for dinner.
Pics below are brunch antics.
Grace and Flexibility GRADUATION POST
I’ve had a powerful run through Reach over the past 8 weeks. I’m proud of how I showed up and what I accomplished. This program takes me away from the areas of athleticism in which I thrive – running, strength, HIIT, rapid movement – and requires me to spend time in areas that are more challenging for me. Which is exactly why I need to spend time doing this. It’s hard for me to slow down, to hold a pose for four breaths or sometimes eight minutes. And in doing so, I feel my body opening, moving better, reaching further in a very short time.
My hamstrings, shoulder back reach, and hip mobility showed the most impressive progress. I feel powerful flowing through my sun salutation, and I’ve made a lot of progress on the World Pincer PNF, I wish I had taken a baseline photo of that.
My proudest achievement is mental/emotional. In July, I went through one of the toughest crises of my career. In part because of this program, I committed to moving through this with flexibility, mobility, and grace, rather than using my default tools of confrontation and fighting to win. I will leave this job at the end of September. While the experience was hard, I actually found a greater level of control, ease and joy swimming with the current.
Morning exercises + sun salutations every day
Daily world pincer PNF + shoulder stretches
Evening stretches whenever I watch tv, and after soccer games (doing the stretches on the field after soccer was my favorite time to do these – I got the deepest stretches)
I didn’t take the diet seriously this time around. Late summer offers too much social temptation. I’ve gained stomach fat and my loose shorts feel tight. Time to spend the next couple of months locked down before I go to Hawaii at the end of October. Fortunately, Kenzai has a new program exactly for that. September Beach Blast, here I come.
I’ll also train for a Spartan Race in November. After that I will jump into Kenzai Marathon and train for a race in Feb or Mar.
The team energy was low this time around, sometimes it felt a bit lonely out there on the blogs. Ward, you continuously brought the cheerleading and support. Also thankful to Kenzai family – June, Janet, Meghan, Watson, Kim, Naoko, Tahera for nudging me along.
I noticed something cool this morning. Since high school, I've been uncomfortable sitting in a cross-legged position on the floor. My tight hips made it an untenable position. Today, I sat in that position preparing for a seated twist, and I noticed - hey, I'm completely comfortable. Apparently my hips have opened up just enough to make this position feel ok.
I'm also excited at the progress in my shoulder stretch over the last couple of weeks. Looking at my weekly progress pic, I can see significant progress from the left side 7.5 weeks ago to the right side on Monday. With my right elbow up, I'm getting close to touching. Will definitely continue to work on this progress after the program.
We're just days away now.
12 days ago I wrote a post about recommitting to the diet. Man, that did not happen. I've been enjoying all of summer's opportunities including a visit to the Minnesota State Fair (they really love their fair) that included cheese curds, ice cream with a higher fat content (because lack of fat was always the problem with ice cream), deep fried pork chop on a stick, and a variety of craft beers.
So I've got a good muffin top going on right now. I'm not mad about it, I know what I need to do about it, and that will happen soon.
In the meantime, I've been enjoying the pnf. I LOVE the hamstring one. It's like magic to me. I get about three inches of forward progress in a single session. In my first time through Reach I didn't understand the World Pincer PNF at all, but this time I'm making progress.
Just a week left!
Shoulder flexibility is one of my goals and I've been pretty diligent with shoulder exercises, including some days, subbing a 20 min shoulder flexibility video for the skillful movement section.
In the baseline to week 5 comparison, I can see some progress, especially when my right elbow is up, but I would like to see more. I wonder if there is a way to PNF this stretch to get more progress. Ward?