Pregnancy update: I am halfway through at the 20 week mark now. We found out that there is a little boy baking in there. Good news! Family complete. I won't feel any pressure from anyone to have another baby...the boy is in the family. Personally, three girls would have made me happy, but oddly or not so oddly, everyone is ecstatic that the baby is a boy. So much celebration. Anyway, I don't want to get too philosophical here. I'm mostly satisfied that I can call it quits on the pregnancy front. Pregnancy is magical and spiritual and all that...but it's also uncomfortable and painful and rough on the body. I'm ready to take back my body and train it up to be back in the best condition possible. Life is so much smoother in a fit, slim, well-trained body.
On that note, I've been doing some food experimentation. I recently listened to Rich Roll's Finding Ultra and was intrigued by his training diet choices, which are mainly vegan. He calls it the Plantpower Way. To be honest, a lot of what he includes in his diet is not available in Malawi. You can't just go to the local health food store and pick up some chia seeds and spirulina. However, you can find a large selection of raw nuts and seeds, cashew, sunflower, sesame, hazelnut, almond, etc. So, I've been playing around with home-made nut milks. I've found that dairy, especially the UHT treated varieties, do not agree with me, and though we've found a person who delivers raw milk that we pasteurize, I still want to reduce dairy in my diet. I sense that I've become slightly lactose intolerant with age.
So far, I've found hazelnut and cashew to be pleasing flavors, especially when blended with a date or two to add sweetness. My budget was a bit tight this past weekend, so I didn't buy almonds. But, I will on the next trip to the store. I'm tempted to try a mix of hazelnut, cashew and almond. I bet that would taste awesome. The only downside is that the nuts are a little more expensive, but perhaps well worth it to help with my lactose digestion issues.
Well, guys, I'm pregnant again. Just into the second trimester. I guess that means no Kenzai for me for another 9 months at least. That's cool. I got my own pre-natal workout thing going...I'm not slacking over here. If there is anything that I want to be fit for, it is birth. In fact, I've actually discovered kettlebells and love them! I'm also busy doing a lot of barre, pilates and yoga work.
I am loosey-goosey on the diet front. As far as I'm concerned, pregnancy is a time to eat what your body craves and if my body craves pizza, by god, I'm going to eat pizza. So, my pregnancy diet goal is to eat what I crave but to focus on portion control and clean eating as often as possible. So, you know, I had scrambled eggs and peas for breakfast with a bowl of corn flakes. The win here is getting my vegetables in for breakfast. The craving is the damn breakfast cereal. I still don't know what it is about breakfast cereal, but I cannot stay away from it when I'm knocked up. Anyway, up 3 kgs already...my doctor was pleased. :)
KMind Graduation GRADUATION POST
Nine years ago, I went on a 10-day Vipassana meditation retreat. It was my first formal instruction in meditation, and it was intense. Silent, 8-10 hours of meditation per day. The silence was enjoyable. I'm a fairly introverted, quiet human anyway. The meditation was excruciating! The first few days was so much pain. Who knew that sitting still could bring up so much pain? But, something happened after those first day, I settled into it. My body became accustomed to the sitting and my mind started to quiet. I found the gap for long stretches of time...for me, the gap felt like vibrations. As if I'd finally slowed down enough to notice the atoms vibrating at a microscopic level in my body...perhaps this is what people call transcendence? I just sorta thought that we are bombarded by so much input everyday and our attention is pulled in so many directions that we are never able to settle down enough to pay attention to those small things. I suspect the "vibrations" are always there. We are just to preoccupied to notice them. I didn't leave that retreat enlightened, but I did leave it understanding that this meditation thing was important for some reason.
I've spent the in between years struggling to keep a consistent practice. Reading books about different flavors of Buddhism. Trying to get to the bottom of why meditation is so beneficial. And, this is my reason for taking this course. Kenzai always has a way of breaking mysterious thing down to bite size chunks. I was certain that it could add something to my experience. It has done two things. One, introduced me to a weasel ball. I much prefer this analogy to that of the monkey mind. For me, a monkey mind brings an image of a thoughts just bouncing around randomly, uncontrolled, which is an apt analogy. But, the weasel ball takes it one step further and highlights how we are affected by these random, uncontrolled thoughts...that they are controlling us and affecting all the people around us.
Just for one second stop and think about it, really hard. The one thoughtless word snapped at a loved one today may reverberate through the rest of time. Perhaps that seems extreme? But, I believe deeply that it is true. That belief has not made me a better person, but sitting still and understanding my thoughts and where they come from and how to better control my reactions to them has helped me to take better actions towards those around me. I still screw up, say thoughtless stuff, act stupidly, but I do it less these days. That is the second thing this course has done for me. It's made me realize that I have indeed made progress. That when a person I've just met asks me, "Are you always this even keeled?" or my co-workers thank me for my calm demeanor, they may be onto something. I don't see myself as even keeled. I still think I am a hot head and that I react too quickly, too often, but others do not see me that way. Nine years of off and on practice have helped, even if just a little.
And, so that's it, meditation is beneficial. It helps. It has the potential to make the world a better place, but it is not what it is hyped up to be. It is work. Hard work. Perhaps enlightenment is something that exists. Who knows? But, the point of meditation is not to reach enlightenment, at least not in my book. The point is to be a better human being in a world that is always in desperate need of better human beings.
Interesting that we should get a sleep lesson today, since I wrote a Kenzai Note for Kenzai Life on Saturday about sleep and it's benefits. I appreciated all the tips on good sleep hygiene, but as you all know too well, those tips are not as effective for parents of small children. Some nights are good, some nights are bad with children. No matter how fantastic your sleep hygiene. I am certain for the last 4 years that I've been operating at sub-optimal levels. :) I like the fact that the lesson acknowledged that getting sleep is not always easy.
My first daughter started sleeping through the night at around 3 years old. My second daughter is 1 now and sleeps okay. She wakes a 2-3 times a night depending on if she's sick or teething. Last night, she coughed and threw up in bed some time in the wee hours of the morning. I cleaned her up. My partner cleaned the bed. She went back to sleep easily...I did not. This is life.
I do have a couple of habits that I keep as a parent that help to maximize sleep that I can add to the sleep hygiene list. First, I sleep when my baby sleeps. We go to bed on average around 8pm. I rarely get back up after going to bed with her. It helps to take advantage of this part of the night as it is the time she sleeps most soundly. Second, we all have a nightly routine that helps the kids wind down for bedtime. I rarely need to fight with them to get into the bed and most of the time, they fall asleep quickly.
I'm not clear on whether the family bed situation helps or hinders my sleep. I prefer the family bed because I don't need to get up to address night time complaints from my baby. But, maybe she'd sleep better if she slept in a separate bed? Some people say so. Anyway, for me, it feels right so I'm sticking with it. My 3 year old is experimenting with her own bed. She has one in our bedroom. Some nights she sleeps in it; some night she sleeps with me. I like the idea of naturally allowing her to choose the time that sleeping on her own is right. She's getting there.
I did the candle meditation yesterday morning. I was up early enough to catch some darkness and quiet. I loved it, mostly because I love looking at fire and candle flames are a pretty cool subset of fire. No cessation of thought chains with this mediation, but I will say that the quality of thought chains was improved. No petty to do lists or worries. I was busy contemplating the flame and its potential, and then paralleling that to a human.
I saw the flame as a calm, controlled version fire. Sorta like a person meditating. Sitting still and flowing with the breeze (thoughts for the human) but not reacting to it. Still, no matter how calm, there is the potential for creativity and destruction in that one tiny flame. I could take that flame, light a fire and cook breakfast, in which case the flame would be contributing to creative forces. I could take that flame and burn down my house (I will NOT do that), thereby contributing to destructive forces. Fire is passionate and unpredictable...sorta like most people most of the time. People have the potential to go either way with their passions....creative, destructive.
Also, I considered how the first humans to control fire must have been in complete and total awe of the power of it. Seriously? How could they not have been? Sure, I can grab a lighter or a match and have a flame going in seconds, but making fire used to be hard work. Or, the potential to start a fire had to be nurtured and carried around, no taking it for granted.
I found all those thought chains to be super fascinating so I just followed them through to see where they'd go. Fun meditation. Back to the normal today.
Hello team! Busy, eventful couple of weeks. I've been meditating daily, exercising many days and eating a pretty healthy relaxed diet. Despite no blog, I've been on the site everyday, reading blogs and following what all the Mind trainees are up to and feeling about the meditation. Mixed bag out there!
The last two weeks, I've been alone with the kids in the evenings, early mornings and Sundays, which is why exercising only happens some days. I've made sure meditation happens everyday, though. Being alone with the kids is not difficult, but it requires 100% attention. I cannot email, answer WhatsApp messages, read a book, exercise, meditate...none of it. They require full attention and after some mentally tough days at work, it is a challenge to be fully alert and kind. Plus, I still have to cook dinner and wash dishes and all the other little tasks required before bedtime. Always on. How do single parents in the US keep their sanity? At least, I've got a nanny who lives on the property, a housekeeper who comes daily...that takes care of all the other housekeeping stuff so that I'm not stressed by a messy house, laundry piling up, etc. Much to be grateful for.
Anyway, my partner should come home next week, and life will resume a normal, slightly more rested pace. Happy meditating out there team.
PS Today's lesson made me laugh. "If you can hang tough in a 15 minute meditation, you'll find a 10 minute line at the post office to be no problem at all." Lines in Africa remind me of Black Friday year round. And, the even more frustrating part about lines in Africa, people don't respect them! ARGH! So, some days I stand in line and laugh at my thought chains, other days I let loose on these jerks who step in front of me without even asking permission.
A quick story. A month or so back I stood in line for 2 hours to get my driver's license printed (after a month of other processes!)....the people printing the licenses would come and go, laugh, not pay attention to the customers. I finally got to the front of the line and get this, those people who had paid extra money (aka bribes) to not stand in line were getting their licenses printed. A stack of papers being processed, while I stood there for 20 minutes and watched with aching feet. I thought to myself, this is Africa. I could get angry and yell and pitch a fit. You know what the people around me would do? Stare at me as if I'd lost my mind and probably smile or possibly laugh. Seriously. I remained calm through it all. Thank you meditation.
Before I moved to Southern Africa, I used to be easily bothered by dogs barking at night or loud events in my neighborhood. Then, I lived in a Zambian village for 2 years. Every night, dogs barked. Try stopping them. Goats rubbed against my house, courted each other and generally made devilish sounding noises. Drunks stumbled through the village preaching at midnight (or anytime of the night). Mistresses fought wives, seriously, this happened. And, on and on. So, dogs barking at night don't bother me anymore.
Next, I moved to an African (Zambia and Malawi) neighborhood. Every Sunday (sometimes as early as 6am), my neighbors (no matter which neighborhood and I've lived in many) decided that God's day is party day. Music, as loud as possible and as long as possible. I've lived in neighborhoods with bars that were 4ish blocks way and when they had weekend night concerts, the music was so loud it sounded like I was actually attending the concert. Loud music no longer phases me.
In Africa, I've learned lots of lessons. LOTS of lessons. This is one of the many. The animals and my neighbors don't give a flying fudge if I am bothered by them. They are busy enjoying their life. Shouldn't you be doing the same?
And so, noise is not a bother when I meditate (unless it is my baby crying because that means I need to respond or ensure someone else is), and life is more peaceful, despite the noise. I think this is why the Buddha suggests that enemies make the greatest teachers.
Side note - I still have not made peace with mosquitoes while I meditate. The thought chain goes something like this, "A mosquito, Uh-oh, I wonder if it's a malaria mosquito, where is it?, did it land?, is it biting me?, kill it!, kill it"
And a PS - True to form. It is Sunday. The neighbors are partying.
This is a picture of my seat. I've toyed with the idea of getting a "proper" zafu/zabuton set, but why? As I've gotten older, I've leaned more towards a minimalist state of mind. These blankets work and they work well. They offer lots of support, are easy to put way and don't require me to spend anymore money. Plus, they add the extra benefit of doubling as blankets! Done.
I enjoy guided meditations from time to time, especially if deep in a dark mood and my mind just cannot seem to settle itself. My favorite app for guided meditations is Insight Timer. Insight Timer offers loads of different types of guided meditations...anything you can imagine. One of my favorite guided meditation series is Live Awake - Sarah Blondin. Her voice is soothing and her meditations/reflections are a good reminder that what I am feeling (no matter what it is) is part of the universal human experience.
Follow the link. Check her out. She's great.
I am reading today's lesson...not finished yet, but I was struck by this sentence, " You could honestly stop this course right now and come away a better person simply by learning breath awareness." From my experience, this is 100% true. Let me tell you why.
My very normal 3 year old pitches some horrific, dramatic fits over the smallest, most inconsequential details of life. But, that's 3...everything seems new and important to her and totally worth screaming about if it doesn't go her way. I get it. Guess what has been the MOST effective way of calming her down? BREATH. I started it with pretending to blow up balloons with her. Then, moved on to just talking her through a few deep breaths. It's like magic. "Remember what we talked about? Breathe." We take a deep breath together. "Good. Breathe." Another deep breath. "Okay. One more." Last deep breath together. Fit over. We talk about it. I feel like the best parent on the face of the Earth for the next half our until something else sets her into a panic.....
I woke up this morning with that "Holy shit! It's Christmas" feeling. Day 1 of a new Kenzai program! Whoopee! Unfortunately, it seems that I am awake before the program actually switches from Day 0 to Day 1. I know, you're like, WTF are you doing up before 4AM?! It's just my constitution. I crash between 8-9 at night, wake up with the birds...and, yes, there actually was one bird calling at 3:30 this morning. Enough excuse to get out of bed after I settled Bianca back to sleep with a warm bottle.
So, nice to be back after a long absence. I was in Kenzai hibernation. Well, actually, I've been busting my butt at my day job for the last couple of months and needed to take the time to focus on that aspect of my life. We turned in our FY2018 report on Friday, and now, I'm under a little less pressure. Perfect time to try a new Kenzai adventure. I feel grateful to be able to come back to this Kenzai Kommunity and find a program that addresses exactly my needs at this moment in time. I'm even double grateful to be extended the honor to assistant train Mind. I look forward to navigating the obstacle course of the human mind with all of you!
Kenzai Reach - Burnout GRADUATION POST
This training round was a total flop for me. In reflecting on why, I've come to this conclusion. I needed a break from a structured training cycle and didn't listen to my body/brain. From time to time, I like to step back from Kenzai and come back with a fresh enthusiasm and perspective. With that learning, I've decided to wait until October for another training cycle when I will tackle Kettlebell. I've heard such good things about the program, and its timed perfectly to give me some space to relax and regroup.
In the meantime, I'll be here doing lighter exercises that focus on rehabilitating my core. It's odd...my core feels strong and integrated, especially in the balance poses, but I still struggle with bladder control issues and a slight gap in my abs. My goal for the next 6 weeks is to do daily simple deep core exercises. Consistency over intensity.
Thanks for always being supportive, even when I am off the grid.
I picked a difficult time period to try to navigate a Kenzai program. I'm actually surprised that Ward hasn't kicked me out of the program yet! Wow.
Brief update. I am about 40% on program. After the last update, I traveled to Uganda to co-facilitate a couple of workshops. The picture is where I was staying last week. My diet became extra relaxed but not terrible. I did morning stretches nearly every day. The evening stretches are still my arch-nemesis. I don't remember the last time I did them. I even stopped doing the yoga work as prescribed by Kenzai. I did yoga but I did it my own way. I stopped jump-roping because I was fed up with peeing myself and started doing alternative cardio that is more mom-friendly. I was doing the plank challenge and 8MA challenge but decided to stop it and replace it with a daily diastasis recti friendly core routine. I felt that my separation was getting worse instead of better so thought to dial-back the core work and spend some time reconnecting to my deep core and pelvic floor.
So, basically, I've gone rogue, but not in a bad way. I regret not being more social on the blogs, but my internet in Uganda was spotty. I spent the time I was online connecting with my family instead of with Kenzai. Priorities. The good news is that I didn't just give up on my fitness. The bad news is that I haven't connected well with this program.
Oh yeah, and I won't be able to update my picture today. My phone disappeared in the Addis Ababa airport while I was taking a nap. I am still working on getting a replacement phone up and running. But, for the nutrition team, I'm about the same as I was at the end of week three. Perhaps I gained a 1/2 kg while eating a bit loosely, in Kampala, but I'm sure the diet at this moment is still relevant.
Yeah, I know, I disappeared on you guys. Like girl on fire then up in smoke! Poof! Vanished.
I traveled to Zambia for one week with the sweet little stinkers to visit their family that side. Per usual, I thought I would be able to handle the travel, the children and the Kenzai. Unfortunately, I could really only handle the travel and the children. Everything else went to the wayside. I did one Reach workout. One only. Yikes! Let's not even discuss the diet. I ate some carrots for breakfast a couple mornings. At least a few clean veggies passed my lips. I traveled via local transportation. How many of you have ever ridden local transport in a developing country? You guys know what I'm talking about...as for the rest of you, it can't be explained with words. I'm sorry. Maybe the picture below will give a better idea? Okay, it wasn't THAT bad but pretty damn close.
I'm home now and preparing to travel to Uganda on Wednesday for 10 days (via airplane). I'll be sans children, so I should be able to manage my workouts and keep up with the community, at the very least. Now, let me go check out the rest of you and see how all my teammates are getting along...
When I uploaded this week's picture, I realized that somehow I missed a weekly photo, but in my mind, I can't understand where that week went...I thought I was on time and doing just fine. This is what I know. I've Reached everyday. I've measured grams for most meals everyday. How I missed that photo? No clue, because I've been here doing it all from the beginning. After uploading this week's photo, it seems as if it shows that I've made backward progress. Interesting. May be the time of day the picture was taken. Or, may also be that I've been doing daily strength work along with Reaching? I'm working some Sculpt workouts again to keep those legs nice and strong.
Yesterday, the balance poses were surprisingly easy for me. Warrior III has always been a nemesis, but yesterday I glided in smoothly, held strong for 6 breaths and glided out just as gracefully. WTF?! Sculpt. That is the answer. Sculpt trained those small balance muscles in my legs and gave me the integrated core that is necessary for improving balance. For me, it's a staggering result that I only now see as I'm moving into a different program. Another testament for my Sculpt training - I worked through the Kenzai 8-minute abs with my man on Saturday. He's in Week 3 of Kenzai Body. He has those showy 8-pack abs that people define as the picture of true strength. I have my stretched, somewhat imperfect belly...there's abs somewhere in there. Here is what happened. He collapsed in the middle of the O-ups...not even halfway through the 8 minutes. He continued after some seconds of rest but he stopped to rest. My Kenzai integrated body pounded through the 8-minutes, with burn yes but with endurance, too. No rest for Momma. Goes to show...what glitters isn't always gold! ;-) And, even those that look like they don't need Kenzai could use a little Kenzai in their life. Anyway, I'm sure he'll catch up and surpass me soon enough as he explores Kenzai Body.