3Q2016 Review

This is the third and likely last recap using the framework I started with, since what I set out to do is either mostly done or was dropped from the list. Meanwhile, new games are afoot.

Word. It started as integrate, but morphed into re-evaluate. As the year wore on I turned up some large gaps in my knowledge—not new enthusiasms, but topics that aren’t covered well by my accustomed sources of wisdom. So I’ve been dipping into different wells, mainly Buddhist philosophy, evaluating its core principles against what I know … and re-evaluating what I know in light of what it teaches, at least the parts which ring true to me.

Studies. Mindfulness continues to be my main study, but I think I am familiar enough with the basics, and have identified teachers who are not only solid but accessible to my extremely Western mind. My reference shelf is now in place, and I’m adding mostly personal histories—biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs—seeking glimpses of how it feels to move this knowledge from head to heart.

Meditation. I’ve continued this daily for 180 days now, but without heroic inclinations. I’m pleasantly surprised that sitting upright on a cushion for 25 minutes is possible and even pleasant—that’s all the encouragement I need. My top goal right now is to continue—what I accomplish during a sitting is less important.

But not unimportant. I experiment with different suggestions about how to detach sufficiently to observe thoughts, emotions, sensations, and even observation itself. Progress is slow, but the process itself holds my attention, and I’m certain enough of the path that I don’t need short-term payback to keep me going.

At some point I would like to take the plunge and attend a 10-day silent retreat. That’s an easy goal to set, though, because it will be many years before my responsibilities will let me be completely out of touch for 10 days.

Writing privately. None. But I’ve had an idea or two about how to get back to blogging regularly.

Handwriting. For copywork, I started copying a short book that I’ve read twice now and regard highly, Stephen Batchelor’s Buddhism Without Beliefs. Wow, it takes awhile to do just a couple of paragraphs, at least for me! I am nearly through the first chapter. I only do this sporadically.

My other practice is copying my Twitter archive onto index cards. About five years ago I began using Twitter to record favorite aphorisms, collecting a thousand or so before deleting my account. But I did download my tweets beforehand, and a few weeks ago I thought it would be pleasant to work through them by copying them onto cards. I also have some vague hope that a library of index cards with good thoughts will be of help in organizing my thinking overall.

Eating. The new normal continues to be highly controlled eating during the day, then a normal meal with the family at supper. I no longer skip breakfast, not due to hunger or because I missed it, but because I wanted to increase the protein in my menu, and a simple way to do that was eat a bit less in the afternoon and add a high-protein morning item.

First I tried a couple of hard boiled eggs, which are fine but not as protein-filled as I’d like. Then I learned that tofu is very high in protein, and it turns out I like it a lot, especially accompanied by just a bit of soy sauce/rice vinegar/sesame oil. I also added cottage cheese to the rotation, also high in protein. And in the afternoon I kept the apple but dropped the banana and grapefruit in favor of 1/4 cup roasted salted soybeans.

Posture. Nothing to report beyond ongoing gratitude to Kelly Cumbee for introducing me to the Gokhale Method, which eliminated my back pain.

Walking. I continued my daily morning walk until the heat became too unpleasant—and during my summer visit to El Paso, it was very unpleasant, highs over 100 for the whole three weeks. Since returning to Kentucky I’ve walked off and on, depending on the temperature, and now that it’s cooled off for good I’m walking daily for 30 minutes. Definitely a habit now.

If we define meditation broadly as practicing being in the moment, then I have begun experimenting with meditative walking. That is, I work at staying focused on the walking and the sensations it brings, rather than allowing a train of thought to carry me into the future or the past or just off into some fantasy.

Garden. The potato yield was disappointing, maybe 2:1, but the potatoes themselves are fantastic, full of flavor, dense rather than watery. Tomatoes as always were well worth growing, and not much trouble—early and diligent weeding kept the plot clear for the rest of the summer. We ate tons but had more than enough, with the first ones ready about August 15, and the last picked on September 30. I’ll be dreaming about them as I shift back to store bought in my salads.

I don’t know if we’ll plant garlic again this fall, since last year’s yield was so pitiful.

Board games. The kids are interested in other things for now, which is fine with me since I’m only mildly interested in the games, they were just an excuse for a shared activity. But we have plenty of those.