How I Made Smoking Butt Out of My Life

As I have mentioned before I haven’t always been the kind of person that I am now. You know the kind of type A who does push-ups, while solving math equations, and simultaneously eating vegetables. Okay maybe I’m still not that person, but I do run a lot, I definitely eat a lot of vegetables and I even do a fair bit of push-ups. The thing is I didn’t always have the passion and drive for healthy living and well being. It was something I had to choose and cultivate. The truth is a few years ago I did everything wrong. Bad diet, no exercise, to much drinking, you name it. I was even a cigarette smoker. Yes it’s true, our hero was once addicted to the awful, horrible, death trap known as smoking. In fact there have been very few things I have ever encountered that have made me feel so consistently awful, not to mention being a constant financial drain, and a constant inconvenience. In spite of all this however, I’ve also never encountered anything so hard to give up either. In spite of the lethal possibilities that come with smoking, quitting is notoriously difficult. But I did it. It’s been about 2 years and I can confidently say I am free of the curse. How did I finally manage to slay that dragon you might ask, or maybe you don’t care I don’t know. Anyway I was able to find the answer to that riddle the same way I found so many of my answers, and it’s one of the best things that ever happened to me!!!

Of course it wasn’t just simple and easy. The truth is that the smoking addiction is complex and deep. It’s a complete mind game, and it’s actually spiritual in a sense also. The smoker needs to kind of brainwash themselves to get addicted in the first place, and then has to constantly fool themselves to keep smoking. The reason for this, is that in truth smoking makes you feel awful. Obviously. So you kind of have to push yourself to keep doing it in the beginning, as it’s a fairly unnatural thing to do in the first place. Everybody has different reasons for this. For me it was a simple matter of thinking it made me seem tough and cool, and for a 12 or 13 year old kid that’s a good enough reason for anything. After a little while though you get hooked. Especially if you’re young and have yet to develop the full range of adult psychological tools. Once you get hooked that’s when the real self deception begins, and this is why a very necessary part of stopping is learning how to get really honest with yourself about what you’re doing.

If somebody is going to stop smoking, or get free any addiction for that matter, they have to understand that there is a physical and psychological component to be dealt with. It’s actually the mental, emotional even spiritual aspect that is the more problematic, and the one that needs to be mastered if any type of lasting abstinence is to be achieved. I don’t think this is any big secret. We all know people who have given up a destructive habit, for a substantial length of time, only to pick it back up again later. I mean if addiction were a simple matter of overcoming withdraw and physical symptoms, we could end all addiction in a few months just by keeping people away from whatever they are having a problem with for a little while. Withdrawal is not the real problem though, its really just the beginning.

Once I had been smoking for a bit I very naturally began to experience withdrawal. At this point the deception of addiction has to kick into high gear. This is where the smoker needs to start to convince themselves that they have good reasons for smoking, rather than just trying to get over the withdrawal brought on by their last smoke. An individual will start to tell themselves things like smoking is a pleasure, it feels good, or things like it is a good stress relief, or a nice break form the day. The narrative and belief systems for a lifetime of addiction are being constructed. I was to tell myself various versions of the I love smoking, I need to smoke and the I can’t quit smoking story for 20 or more years, until I stopped.

The truth is that once I started to look at how I thought about smoking, and started to change the the way I thought about it, I began to realize I needed and wanted to quit. Through taking an honest look at what it was, and what it was doing to me, I found the tools to stop. As always the more I was willing to open my mind spiritually I was able to find a source of power that I hadn’t always suspected. Spiritual practice and spiritual thinking can always aid us in getting into positive and healthy frames of mind, and can even bring about real shifts in consciousness. I have no idea what that means for anybody else but we should never be afraid to tap into our own sense of spirituality for internal wellness. The more honest and clear I got about the fact that smoking wasn’t some wonderful pleasure, but was just being a slave to the withdrawal from my last cig, the less of a hold it started to have on me.

I started to pay very close attention to how I felt when I was smoking, and just after I had a cigarette. What I started to realize was that, rather than being one of life’s satisfactions, it really just made me feel sick and toxic. I tried to stay honest about this, and stopped trying to justify it. I realized that smoking, and being a smoker, had become an important part of my self-identity. I started to let go of these ideas, and replace them with new, healthier, saner ones. Ideas like I was somebody who respected themselves and wanted good things for themselves. I also had some sense of spirituality to help me change how I thought of myself, as I feel life’s tendency in the universe is to grow and thrive, not to handicap itself. Once I started to see smoking for what it really was, the toxic, sickening, tumor causing, money draining menace, rather than some little pleasure that I was convincing myself it was. And once I started to see myself as someone who wanted, deserved, was meant for and able to give myself better, I started to form the narrative and belief systems that were going to help me stop and stay stopped. Once I got clear about the fact that what I was doing was standing out in the cold every hour doing something that made me feel ill, and that I was somebody capable and desiring of better, it made it harder and harder to keep telling myself all my little lies about why I really smoked.

However even though I was developing some better tools for quitting it still wasn’t easy. There is still the withdrawal to deal with, and you really have to put all ideas into practice over and over in order to get good at them. This is why I had to try, try, try. It’s not very romantic or insightful, but I had to put in some good old fashioned hard work. I had to have unsuccessful attempt after unsuccessful attempt. Keeping in mind that these attempts are not failures but rather a necessary part of the process. I had to keep in mind that my drive to smoke was really just withdrawal from my last cigarette, and would dissipate fairly quickly. It gets much easier after a few days, and even more so after a few weeks. It just gets easier with time, especially if we use that time to work on the mental and spiritual aspects of the problem. Even when I wasn’t actively trying to quit I still held on to the idea, and tried to stay honest about the horrors of smoking, and who I wanted to be. Eventually truth, goodness and effort win out. Even if it takes time. Eventually the contradiction would be to much and to foolish to live with. When I would only have one smoke in the day, or even get a few days in without puffing, and my body and mind would start to feel better and proud, in spite of the experience of wanting to smoke, it was wonderful. On the other had when I would break after a couple of days and smoke to satisfy my carving, the sickness and guilt would set in and I would just feel awful. I would build it up in my mind that a smoke would be wonderful and head out to have one. But when I stayed present and honest about the reality of it, I found myself wanting more and more the feeling of smoke free health over smoking’s low energy, dizziness and lethargy. I leaned how to let the impulse for well being take over the impulse to smoke.

Through this ongoing process, and persistent effort, the cycle of addiction started to grind to a halt, and eventually lost all power. By consistently trying to apply these ideas, and ones like it, I was able to make the change from smoker to non-smoker. I was able to get healthy in the body and mind, and truly break the thinking patterns that breed stuff like smoking and other various foolishness. I was able to let the constant craving for cigarettes fade and die. I did it by not just changing my identity as a smoker, but changing my identity as a person, by respecting myself and my life, not to mention those who care about me. I learned something about making the changeover from a unhealthy person to a healthy, happy one. I learned it’s all in how you see and talk to yourself. Its all in how you love yourself. Not in an ego, look at how great I am way, but in an I’m alive and want to be okay in the present moment way. It’s all about remembering that your a good person, who is meant to do good things like run distance running races and write blog posts about quitting smoking.

Ultimately quitting smoking was one of the best things I’ve ever done, and a gigantic step forward on the path to wellness. I don’t know if this is interesting to anybody, or if anybody even made it to the end of this long post, or article, or whatcha call it. If you did hi and by the way thanks! But my hope is that it can help somebody. I didn’t invent any of this stuff, I just encountered it myself, and picked it up and ran with it. It worked for me because it works for people generally. So if you’re struggling with smoking, or anything really, maybe some of this can help some. Stick with it, keep applying and working with healthy sane ideas. Keep putting in the actions, you will love the results. Remember you have vast resources at your disposal so keep an open mind and stay at it, you deserve it!!!

Another Half Marathon Done

So yesterday I went and ran a half marathon. It was a beautiful Sunday morning along a course that was mostly trail running along a wonderful river. I love these organized running events for a large number of reasons, not the least of which is getting together with hundreds, if not thousands of people who love to run and celebrate our shared passion. Running can be so trans-formative and spiritual for me at times, it gives me real hope and gratitude to see so many others engaged in this wonderful and painful experience. Running can be a quiet, solitary experience, but when you get a few hundred of us together early in the morning to pit ourselves against the course, the clock and one another, it is like my friend who came to see the finish said “very spirited and positive”.

Like I had mentioned in a previous article, I had taken more of a relaxed approach to training. That’s not necessarily relaxed in terms of effort, but more focused on overall fitness and lifestyle rather than obsessed with trimming seconds per Kilometer off my pace. The last time I trained for a half marathon specifically I made some common over training, under knowing mistakes. I hit my goal time, but I was pretty beat up after some of my runs and especially the race itself.

This time around I didn’t spend so much time just running long distances, but rather shorter more intensive runs. With more of a focus on gradually building up my body, rather than trying to live some training montage from some entertaining yet unrealistic sports movie. Putting in more effort over the shorter distance gives you much of the benefits without beating up the joints and body generally. I didn’t just spend all my fitness time on running, but kept to some of my other health tasks like weights, meditation, flexibility and so on.  I’ve found this better because after all the whole body and mind is involved in everything we do, so we have to be fit all around to do well and be well. Diet of course had to be a major focus all along, especially in the week leading up to the the big day. Large amounts of raw fruits and veg with legumes and whole grains really aid in post workout recovery. This is important if you want to exercise effectively more than once a week, not to mention if you want to train and have any kind of a life. A proper diet is an essential component to healthy living generally, and absolutely essential for any kind of fitness regime. For more on that you can see my post “Fuel for the Fire”.

So what were the results of this more holistic, lifestyle based approach. Where I work hard to be as healthy a person as I can and let my results be what they are. Well they were fantastic. I was shocked at how well I did. My last half marathon was in May, and I finished that in just about 1 minute under 2 hours. I figured this run would be about the same, but I beat that time by about 13 minutes. This was a huge leap for me, considering how much trouble I had getting my time down at all last time. Moreover the run was a lot more comfortable and technically sound than a few months ago. Not that It didn’t kind of hurt, but with the more focus on better technique I was able to run quicker and put out less effort to do so. And with better overall fitness I didn’t have to ransack my body along the way. Ultimately I had the run of my life so far and the time of my life doing it, and reminded myself of the benefits of treating the whole person, and taking the integrative, inter-connected approach to things. It was good to remember that we are not just hamsters on a wheel chasing a treat, but we are whole living, changing beings, and need to treat ourselves as such. And that when we take care of ourselves spirit, mind and body we get the best results no mater what we are doing.

Less than One Week to the Half Marathon

It’s less than one week to my next organized half marathon, and i’m getting very excited. My last experience was so much fun it’s hard not to. I know that you shouldn’t compare experiences because every one is different, but I’m just pumped to head out with a few hundred kindred spirits and terrorize our city early in the morning. Running can be a very solitary experience, and most of the time very unglorious. That’s why it can be important from time to time to get together with other runners and celebrate it. After all for me running is an expression of human power and vitality. The main reason that I do it is because, it is part of a larger lifestyle to improve and prolong my life. It’s really the natural expression of a certain love of life. So I think it is important to make a public spectacle of it from time to time, just to remind the larger community that this running way of life exists. Not that you ever want to be obnoxious or in people’s face, but these fun, open to the public events are just what makes an area vibrant and lively, and it is great to be able to contribute something to that myself.

As for the nuts and bolts training it has gone fairly well so far. I haven’t been able to train as much as I would have liked because it is my busy season at work, but it has gone well none the less. A half marathon is 21.1 kilometers and has an average finishing time of 2 hours. One of the best ways I’ve heard marathon and half marathon training summed up was simply three short runs and one long run a week. Long and short being relative to the distance you’re training for. In this case I was doing 5-7 kilometers for my short runs and 10-12 kilometers for my long runs. Other coaches and experts recommend in the ball park of 75-80 percent of your goal distance for training runs.

As I said because of scheduling I just wasn’t able to do 4 or 5 runs a week but that was okay. I really took more of a relaxed approach to training this time. That’s not to say I didn’t train hard because I did. Setting fitness goals like a goal time in a run and pushing for it can be an important motivator for progress, but can also become an obsession and an unhealthy thing in itself. So I have been trying to balance the goal orientated push, push, push approach with the idea that outcomes should be the results of your lifestyle not the cause of it. Keeping in mind that things like social and financial health are as important as a good run time. Not to mention still making time of other fitness aspects like weights and yoga.

In the end the desire to run a good race and finish with a time I am happy with still motivated me to train hard and go for some extra runs over the past couple of months, and I made some real noticeable progress in my fitness and conditioning. But at the same time taking a relaxed, balanced approach insured I was not at risk of over training and pushing myself to hard to fast. I feel good about the work I have done and the shape I am in, I’m injury free and ready to roll, so stay tuned and I’ll let you know how things turn out.

Fuel for the Fire

I have hesitated to write any type of a post so far about food. This is because it can be strangely controversial, and for some emotional. This is not necessarily surprising considering the importance of food. Food is literally the source of life, along with being a central element in all cultures. Not to mention the source of numerous multi billion dollar world wide industries. Special food and meals are used to mark landmark events like weddings and birthdays, and when entering a stage of sadness or grief friends and family will literally show up at our doors with food that can comfort us. Many consider the dinner table and the meals and conversation shared there an essential part of a healthy family, and the lack of family meal time is considered by some to be a component in the downfall of a healthy society. Religions have rules and restrictions regarding food, and incorporate it into some of their rites and rituals. In fact food is part of many ideologies, political systems and intellectual world views. Not to mention that a certain amount of food is necessary every day for basic survival and activity.

When you consider all this, it is no wonder that food can be such a controversial topic. I’m not really planning to delve into all these aspects of food and eating right now. In fact just trying just to figure out how to eat a basically healthy diet can be overwhelming enough as it is. When you just try to find out what is good for you and your family to eat, you run into plenty of beliefs and dogmas along with mountains of information just around that. With vegetarian, vegan, paleo, raw, organic, low carb, high carb, eating only worms on Sundays diets all being pushed by their advocates, and all trying to get a slice of the pie, with all with their studies and experts to back them up, it can get a little confusing.

This is the mine field that most of us find ourselves in. So I’m just going to try to share a little of what works for me, and where I’m currently at. I don’t find all of this passion and hype around healthy eating a bad thing. It means that people are interested, open minded and trying hard to do well for themselves. For me it means I have lots of ideas and schools of thought to draw from. For me I am a vegetarian. I would love to make the leap to vegan someday but that has proved pretty tough. Being a distance runner and regular attendee at the gym, the convention was always high protein meats and high carbs from any source. However vegan ultra athletes like Scott Jurek and Rich Roll have proved that belief unnecessary, and most importantly for me my own experience shows it works for me. In fact for me I find that the closer I can stick to a raw, whole, plant based diet the better. I would think that it would be common sense for most people that processed and fast food have no place in a truly healthy diet, and these things are out the window when when your trying to incorporate more fresh, raw, whole food into your lifestyle. (lapses and relapses aside)  This adjustment alone would be a marked improvement for many. In fact I find when I’m able to eat a large amounts of raw fruits, veg and whole grains my whole life improves. (no joke) My energy levels go up, my thinking becomes clear and my whole sense of balance and well being improve. This in turn makes me a better all around human. I’m happier, I treat people better, I get more done in spite of having to spend a little more time on food prep. Not that raw food has to be a long drawn out process, salads and smoothies are much faster than fast food. I’m by no means a raw food vegan though. I just find it tremendously beneficial to integrate a lot of produce, seeds and nuts into my day. The thing is, I do find I need the high calorie, carb, and protein foods to give me the needed gumption for my high energy activities like my job, workouts, fishing with my nephew and whatnot. I think it’s safe to say that we don’t need to turn to pizza and cheese burgers for this, but I don’t turn to meat at all. Which is traditionally the go to for this kind of food. See the reason I don’t eat meat is because of all the research I have been able to find urging us not to. After listening to and reading, many of the worlds leading experts on the relationship between health and nutrition, say that animal product foods are an important contributor to many cancers and heart diseases not to mention a major contributor to the diabetes and obesity crises, I decided to stop eating it. So now I get my high calorie, carb and protein foods from plant based sources. It’s actually much easier than I thought once I got evolved, did some leaning and put some work in. I had to start to change the way I thought of eating, cooking and shopping, but this was actually a fun and creative way for me to change and grow as a person. In fact I found that investing some time and effort into researching new foods and recipes and spending money and time in the store and kitchen was a great way to invest in myself and what was really important. I found that this benefited my emotional and intellectual health as well. Not to mention spiritual health. And once I put together a sweet cooking repertoire, with things like vegan whole wheat pasta with fresh tomato sauce full of veggies and beans, and a sweet lime, black bean and corn salad, I felt a real sense of pride and accomplishment. And we do like that don’t we. This experience really opened me up to new foods and flavors that I never would have experienced, and getting my high calorie high protein foods from plant based sources left me feeling healthier and stronger with more energy to burn.

In the end I found through learning and experience that the plant based diet works much better for every aspect of my life. In spite of the fact that I can still go one a cheese bender or eat some real processed stuff that may or may not be edible, those moments only serve to show me how rotten that stuff makes me feel, and helps to motivate me not to do that next time. Making whole plants a large part of my day, if done properly, gives me all the nutrients and energy I need to live, work, run, lift weights and generally love life. When eating with intelligence and some discipline I feel healthy, strong and smart, but when I lapse into eating a bunch of sugar and animal fat I feel groggy, lazy and scatted. This is a no brainer for me really. This takes some open mindedness, education, courage and effort though. I would say don’t be afraid to learn about new foods and diets. Keep and open mind and be creative. I found that I had to be willing to do some experimentation and give things some time to work and take hold, and to give myself enough time to learn and get good at new diets and lifestyles. Education and effort where needed for me to find a better diet that worked for me, but after some time it was well worth it. My health and energy improved, my sense of well being and balance grew and I even became a better cook and blogger. So if you’re on the path of health and wellness keep an open mind and keep your nose to ground and ear to the grind stone and your will find your way, and some great eats while you do it. As always questions and comments always welcome, lets keep the discussion going, love to hear from you.

Looks like it’s time for a half marathon

Wow It feels like forever since I have been able to post anything. Sometimes life gets in the way of life I guess. I can tell you I’m super glad to be back though. I consider it a real privilege to get to do a blog like this, and I’m really happy to be back after a short break. As always I have a lot to share, and don’t know where to begin, or how to narrow it down. But I think I’ll ease back in by talking a little about my next upcoming half marathon.

This is going to be my second running event. That’s a run with an official starting line, at an official starting time, and somebody keeps track of the finishing times and everything. This is a big difference from my usual runs, which is usually just me out in the hot sun, or cold snow depending on the time of year. You can see why I’m so excited. My first organized half marathon was some of the most fun I’ve ever had in my life. It was so great to participate in a community of like minded people, that share some interest in something I consider important. That’s fitness by the way, not just waking up the locals at 6 A.M. It was also great to participate in a large scale event that promotes health and wellness in the community. One of the main sponsors is the local medical society, and a group of physicians were running in various events. Not to mention the police stop traffic and people make signs and line the streets to cheer on the runners. With all the fun and hype I got a pretty good portion of the way through my 21 kilometers before I even remembered how painful it is to run a half marathon, and by then I was nearly done and hardly had to use my master your suffering, zen and the art of the foot strike mumbo jumbo. Which is a shame because I’ve gotten quite good at it.

Considering how much fun I had at my last running event, and considering that I think it’s good for me and even a little good for the world at large to participate in these kind of things, it’s no surprise how excited I am to do another one. It is always good to bring a little goal orientated focus to your fitness regime. And I don’t mean a goal like I wan’t to look like the girls in the magazines or guys in the movies. I am interested in all aspects of fitness, so sometimes I can run short on time for all the stuff I would like to do. Story of my life really. So it can be really good for me at times to put some real time and effort into training for something specific. This allows me to see some real progress and improvement, and we all like that don’t we. Not to mention that, with a goal time in mind and a previous 21 k time to beat, it can be very motivating. Even though I’m taking a little more relaxed approach to training this time (I can be a little obsessive) the training has been going very well. In fact I am becoming noticeably fitter by the day as a result. It’s amazing what some learning and structured application of that learning can do.

So with about one month left and the anticipation mounting, there isn’t much else to do but train hard and go out and do it. Regardless of the outcome or the weather or whatever, I can’t wait to take my place among the mad, crazy, out of their minds to be up so early and running so far people, and reach down and see what I can do. I can’t wait to feel that sense of pride and accomplishment for being willing to be forged by a challenge, and not just always do what I easy. I can’t wait to feel a part of a community of people that get together by the hundreds and the thousands to be challenged as individuals in a solitary manner. Not to mention that great feeling that comes from just doing something good for yourself. But most importantly I can’t wait to get on here and tell you wonderful people all about it. So until next time remember some inspiring words of wisdom and try to put them into action or something.

Fake It ‘Till You Make It

Finally, to Live, Dream Aloud

“So we shall let the reader answer this question for himself: who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived or he who has stayed on shore and merely existed.”

We all have the opportunity to be something great, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be as epic as Ghandi.  We always hear stories of these incredible people who choose to rock the boat and create great change in the world – but how did they do it? Are they simply “lucky” or “destined to rise above”? Believe it or not, inside you there is this enormous and fantastic light that can propel you into greatness.

So where do you start? Something tells me that jumping on a soap box with a megaphone isn’t exactly the best idea – especially with all of the recent protests-gone-wrong and elevated police presence…but what about starting with what…

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It’s not just about results

It’s no secret that we live in a results oriented culture, in a results driven world. The modern world is completely driven by bottom lines, deadlines and the constant need to produce. We are bombarded by the idea that the person with the most zeros at the end of their paycheck, the most letters after their name and the shortest time on the sprint is the winner. So it is no surprise that the world of fitness and exercise is no exception, and maybe one of the biggest perpetrators. Obviously the sports world is ultra competitive. In this arena split seconds and inches can mean the difference between being a world record holder, a champion and millionaire, or being somebody most people have never heard of. So it is no surprise that there is this constant drive for results. A drive that pushes people to insane extremes like drugs that wreck the body and who knows what else.

This push for results can exist everywhere, not just the highest levels of competition. We have all experienced that need to look a little better, or hit an bit better time on that run. These goals can even be fun and important, but when we become obsessed with them they can be dangerous or at least a drag. In fact the constant need for some arbitrary result can keep us from experiencing a  lot of the benefits of a fit and healthy lifestyle.

As cliche as this may sound (or look I guess since you are reading it) most of the benefits come form the journey and not just arriving at your destination. All of the mental and emotional growth that comes from getting fit and strong comes from the struggle. Learning to embrace and master your suffering and realizing that you can push past many of your self imposed limits, are experiences that come directly from getting your butt kicked a bunch along the way. These are life skills you master with daily training, regardless of bicep size or run time. Without the process of going step by step and making steady improvements you don’t get that sense of accomplishment and pride that comes form really applying yourself. That feeling doesn’t just come form hitting the goal results, but is the end result of the whole deal. In fact in my experience the vast majority of the benefits of pushing yourself in sport and fitness come form the process not just the end result, and very often it is things that are very unexpected.

Ultimately we need to prove ourselves worthy by going through the stages of initiation. This is how we show the universe that we can be trusted with the power and skill that comes from mastering ourselves. The only way to become the hero of our own story is to go into the cave and slay the dragon, by which I mean go out and run a bunch, but I think you can follow a metaphor. I think we have to remember that we are training for life not just for bragging rights with our friends, and if we are willing to show some discipline and passion every day the results will speak for themselves, and we will find more than we imagined.