This, I Believe…

Christ-miss…

December 25th, 2013, Christmas day.  I was blessed to have been invited to spend time with my daughter, and her mother on Christmas Eve; to stay the night and to wake up with them on Christmas morning.  We shared good food, laughter, and created memories.  To me, that is what Christmas is about – regardless of faith.  I am now back home, in a house which now seems far too big.  I am alone with my dog, and my thoughts.

Like many secular Americans I still appreciate, and take time out for Christmas.  I embrace it as a holiday of both internal and, external peace.  I get to step outside the flow of the world, if only for a day.  A sort of, world peace day.  Christmas day, save the occasional school shooting day or profound natural disaster day, is the only day of the year I feel connected with my fellow man in a way which helps me feel good about my species.  The inevitability though, of religious argument this time of year, if not religious confrontation, is a given.

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North of Coos Bay, August 2010. It felt like a doorway into another dimension…

Baby overboard…

Several days ago I explained to a friend that I was excited to be celebrating Christmas with my daughter, and her mother.  My friend was quick to suggest that we would be spending “just another day” together.  Meaning that, unless we had planned to celebrate the birth of Jesus in a dogmatic way, we would not actually be celebrating Christmas. I strongly disagreed, though I did understand the foundation for his argument, probably far better than he did.

I suggested that Christmas means different things to different people, and that to me Christmas represents a time of family, of giving, and of peace – regardless of faith.  My friend accepted my reply as an insult to the birth of Jesus, and did not stop short of attempting to sell me on the ideal of a conversion in an, it’s never too late kind of way.  I was left with the feeling that an unnecessary judgment had been directed at me, and I was labeled a non-believer.

 Step back nonbeliever…

I am a believer though, and I have pity for anyone so ignorant as to doubt what I believe.  My beliefs exist to my core.  They are malleable to be certain, and as the winds and rains of a changing society reshape and redirect my life’s path, my beliefs may change as a result, but they remain imbedded, and are not for sale.  When somebody suggests to me that my beliefs require changing simply because they are not consistent with the beliefs of another, what they are telling me, in unmistakable words, is that they believe my very existence is invalid.

The only painting that has ever mattered to me...

The only painting that has ever mattered to me…

What I do believe…

I believe in absolute universal oneness – period.  That is, underlying everything that has ever happened, every person who has ever lived, all the things and people yet to happen, and in times, spaces, and dimensions which may parallel, crisscross, or piggy back on the very dimension from which I write this, that we are all interconnected.  I am you, you are me, and some day we may be that tree.  That ideal is my god, if not my God.  I believe I have a responsibility to live as such, which is why I’m usually the first to apologize, even if I’m first to pick the fight, because I believe that in fighting with you, I am fighting a part of me.

What may make this idea of oneness so challenging for others to accept, I believe, is that clearly in the here and now we are separated by tribes, borders, values, circumstances, and intentions.  In a word, individuality.  We fear losing our individuality.  It is negotiating these divisions though, in my opinion, that our individuality is cultivated – or not.  These divisions are where we are tested.  Of course all the answers to the test are located in the back of the book, and we don’t get to see what’s in the back of the book in this lifetime.  We choose our answers based on faith.  I’ll choose my answers based on my faith, and not somebody else’s.

World peace day…

I believe that a successful future for mankind is absolutely dependent on religious tolerance, and plurality.  That if we are to ever get humanity right in the head, we must to first get good with human acceptance.  That is my belief.  I would gladly accept a painful eternal death over separating myself from that belief in favor of another’s dogmatic stance.

How I feel when somebody attempts to cast their beliefs on me...

How I feel when somebody attempts to cast their beliefs on me…

There is no one day though, not yet, for people of all beliefs to put down those beliefs, put down weapons, put down agendas, and open up the boundaries and borders that we may experience this universal oneness – if only for a day.  Ah, but that is my belief, and may not be yours.  Until that day of world peace finally exists, I’ll just celebrate it on Christmas…  Be well.  rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head. Hint: It probably isn’t going to have anything to do with fitness  or exercise.  Oh, and there’s this from Tasmanian, Tane Emia-Moore. Enjoy…

Thus, I continue…

Deep thoughts in grade 3…

I can trace the start of my life-long existential meltdown to a single moment in the 3rd grade.  A friend had told me that if the radio next to my bathtub fell in while I was bathing, I would be electrocuted, and die.  That thought frightened me.  It also opened my mind up to possibilities, and options.  That is the first memory I have of contemplating death, and all that may come after.

That was also the first moment I realized that my own death could be in my charge.  That is, if I chose to push that radio into the tub, I would have control over my own existence.  That idea remains the most powerful thought I would ever have.  I have thought about my death, self-inflicted or otherwise, nearly every day of my life since that day.

To consider self-inflicted death or to actually contemplate it, are not necessarily synonymous.  I think about ending my own life intermittently throughout the course of most days.  Mostly as an instant way out of the otherwise tedious moments which comprise my days.  I imagine it, but I don’t do it.  I only contemplate taking my life when the confluence of external and internal forces narrow the stream of my thoughts into a space so tight with borders so rigid that I feel they will burst from the pressure.

In stressful situations, or when the heavy blanket of my own depression lowers itself upon me, I have craved to be excused from this world in favor of another.  Therein lies the good problem; there is no guarantee of another life.  Even if there is another life waiting, what guarantee is there that it would be better than this one…?

Why I don’t…

If you’ve read this far then you have probably determined that you’re going to contact my mother, state authorities, or avoid me altogether.  Please don’t.  Throughout this ongoing negotiation in my head, there has been a kill switch on that kill switch.  I believe to my core that suicide is just a reset button which can only return me back to Go, without collecting the $200, and forcing me to start this game all over again.  Perhaps in a another time, and in another body, but a do-over just the same.

In my life have done many wonderful things, and shared amazing times with beautiful people.  I have loved, laughed, and stood at the edge of nature with wide wonder.  I have seen beauty which has moved me to tears, and felt love even greater.  I have been thrilled to the point of ecstasy, and fulfilled to the point of absolute guilt.  I am grateful to have won the lottery of life.

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I have also cowered down though, many times beaten by fear, paralyzed by apprehension, overcome with rage, and stifled by depression.  I have cried without explanation, experienced loss, deprivation, and sorrow.  I have expressed hatred, caused hurt, and come to regret it.  I have even thwarted murderous feelings on more than one occasion, the murder of my own self included. Despite these, I have found the strength to carry on.

I have not exercised my option to take my own life, and I believe I never will, for the simple fact that as good as my life has been, I don’t wish to relive the bad stuff.

On the selfishness of suicide…

The act of suicide is often referred to as ‘selfish’.  Those who are left behind are often resentful of, and bitter toward the departed.  I don’t subscribe to that belief, and if you are one who does, I ask you to reconsider.

We who remain behind in the wake of suicide, have no idea what thoughts may have been colliding, nor how hard or how long those collisions might have been taking place inside the head of someone that desperate to end their life. We often know little of the external influences, and even less of the internal conflicts which may have led a person to that moment.  Assigning selfishness to the act is a judgment no living person is qualified to make.

There can be no way to understand that moment – that chaotic moment when a life, a future, a legacy, and the all the relationships that go with it, no longer hold any value.  It must feel, in that moment, like the universe has not yet begun, or has already ended, and therefore there is nothing to lose since there is pure solitude.

I have even come to actively question whether suicide is the ultimate act of bravery, and we who are left behind are the dumb and the weak ones.  I don’t genuinely believe this to be the case.  However, if I am capable of such a thought, then others might also have felt this.  In my quietest moments I wonder if some who have taken their own lives, have done so in the name of bravery, not looking just a little deeper into the outcome.

At the end of the day, despite all that isn’t yet known of causality, and existence, my dog still needs to be fed, my daughter requires shoes, the lettuce in the crisper still turns blue if I fail to eat it, and my mother deserves to know each week that she is loved, if only by telephone or text.  Thus, I continue…  Be well.  rc

Please take a moment to scroll back to the top and rate this essay honestly.  Thank you.

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from Dog Trumpet.  Enjoy…

Smooth Pavement…

This is Part III of my 3-part series on the limits of power.  It is also the final essay here for 2013.  I will be back in early January with a new focus, and a new direction for this platform.  Please check back…

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Mego, Ego, And Wego…

I have spent in excess of 30 years establishing a system of health and fitness values that have forged who I am.  As the system of my life has changed and expanded, these values have evolved.  The term fitness to me, means the sum of balance, flexibility, strength, stamina, aesthetics, independence, and prevention.  As these values have evolved, one other term has framed them, sustainabilityI have attempted to live a life of sustainable physicality.

However, when I wasn’t looking, my designer placed an ego deep within me even though I did not request one during the design process.  I have lived with, and despised that ego for over 50 years.  But, I have also loved, and benefitted from it.  Last year, I allowed my ego to get the better of me, and pull me ever so slightly away from sustainability.

Pendulum Swing And I Wanna Go Home…

As a recreational bodybuilder, and fitness minded individual, it has been front in my psyche for decades to pursue progress.  My ego has suggested that I always strive for more, and not settle for good enough.  Right up to the point where I realize (again and again) the pursuit of more always has associated costs elsewhere in my life; money, relationships, sleep, and relaxation to name a few. Wisdom has a way of tempering things.  By my mid 40s I had come to accept that good enough is good enough – and I was happy with that, but my ego was not…

Here I am, stuck in the middle with me...

Here I am, stuck in the middle with me…

These past two years as the pendulum of my Gemini psyche has swung back and forth between too much, and not enough, it has spent little time in the land of just right.  I hope to set that straight this year.  I seek to finally find, and remain in that sustainable path with my physicality.

Lines in the sand…

Strength:  After an 18 month onslaught of relentlessly progressive workouts, I have come to accept once again, a primary tenet of my philosophy of physicality; that the human body will, and should only get so strong.  As much as I want to believe the arc of strength I have cultivated during the past couple of years will continue, I accept that it’s not sustainable, and therefore not consistent with my value set in strength training.  Where I am today is good enough.

Going forward I will continue to train as I have trained for many years, with the primary emphasis of my strength workouts being on form, and functionality. This is not to suggest that I won’t pursue increased strength.  If my body tells me I can increase my capacity safely, then I will.  I won’t, however, force an increased capacity any longer.  I will accept what comes my way through consistency.

Nutrition:  This year has seen several changes in how I deliver nutrition to my body.  In August I made an ethical choice to remove factory meat, and factory dairy from my diet.  I was successful for nearly three months before I allowed the convenience of restaurant meals to trump my changing value set.  I felt uneasy adding my own tofu to a chickenless salad as waitresses and onlookers peered over my shoulder in disbelief.  Also, I really like chicken.  Oh, and candy.  I like bean burritos from Taco Bell too.  So I shall have, on occasion, chicken, candy, and bean burritos, though I will aim to eat within my value set most of the time.

My first definition of sin is that of a value compromised.  My second definition of sin is when adhering to a value inhibits the reasonable fulfillment of social living.  I will attempt to remain committed to those values I hold most dear, but forgive myself in advance for those days when I do not – regardless of what effect there is on my physicality.

My first definition of sin is that of a value compromised.  My second definition of sin is when adhering to a value inhibits the reasonable fulfillment of social living.

My first definition of sin is that of a value compromised. My second definition of sin is when adhering to a value inhibits the reasonable fulfillment of social living.

Endurance:  I have enjoyed cardio vascular activities for the aesthetic benefit, as well as for the mental therapy derived.  I have also unenjoyed them.  When it comes to my trail hiking, sprinting, cycling, and even my indoor cardio, my ego has often pushed me past the point of enjoyment, believing that giving any less than my all would not be acceptable. As of this day I will no longer be in pursuit of faster times in any of these endeavors.  I will seek to challenge myself in an achievable, and enjoyable fashion, with liberty, and utility for all.

Aesthetics: This is the hard one.  Despite all my crap about functionality, sustainability, and ethics in a fitness based lifestyle, I still want to look fucking great.  As I preach daily though, I accept that I will not look at 70 as I look today, as I do not look today as I looked at 41.

How I look will be how I look.  I’m down.

As a philosophy, this believe…

A rule for the modern fitness enthusiasts could be this: Those push have more fitness.  Those who push a little less, may have more everywhere else their life.

In living within the boundaries drawn above, I accept wherever it is my physicality, and my aesthetics will fall, believing full well that if I meet those boundaries consistently, I will look and function well until I die.  I know that I will compromise my values on occasion, but I will strive not to abandon them.  As always though, in the land of Jhciacb, there’s an ebb, and flow to it all.  Be well.  rc

A couple of years back my next door neighbor discarded this poinsettia after Christmas. She set it beside her trash cans on the patch of dirt which separates our houses. It never went out with the trash.  The roots soon breached the pot it was in, and it took up residence in the ground. Eventually, the plastic pot broke away, and for two years the plant has flourished, and grown.  Seeing this, this morning, was a strong reminder for me that there is value in most everything we throw away, from our relationships, to our material goods, to our animals, our babies, and even our physicality.  Something to consider this holiday season...

A couple of years back my next door neighbor discarded this poinsettia after Christmas. She set it beside her trash cans on the patch of dirt which separates our houses. It never went out with the trash.
The roots soon breached the pot it was in, and it took up residence in the ground. Eventually, the plastic pot broke away, and for two years the plant has flourished, and grown.
Seeing this, this morning, was a strong reminder for me that there is value in most everything we throw away, from our relationships, to our material goods, to our animals, our babies, and even our physicality.
Something to consider this holiday season…

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from, The Greyboy Allstars.  Enjoy…

Building A Tighter Fence…

This is Part II of my 3-part series on the limits of power.  Please click here to read Part I.

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Being Busy Is A Good Problem To Have…

I’ve been chugging along pretty good of late.  As I wrote in Part I of this series, with the exception of just a couple of movements, my gym strength is at an all-time high, and my muscle mass is better than I had hoped for being in my 50s.  My overall level of conditioning, cycling, and trail times are excellent.  It’s been a good year with my physicality.  However, there can be limits to success, even when all is going well.  In this case, these limits are self-imposed.

As a small business, I generally don’t say no to new business.  This autumn my work schedule increased. With the increased work load, my opportunity to exercise, has decreased proportionately.  I guess things got good at just the wrong time.  Since my strength, and my physique goals have been on the more aggressive side during the past 18 months, and my time to train has been minimized, I have had to reduce the boundaries of my workouts.  Hard as it is to admit, work should be my priority.

The time boundaries I have set for myself with regard to my exercise are rigid, otherwise there’s no point in establishing them.  This is a time when I have to choose quality over quantity with my all of my athletic training.  Within these limits, I am obligated to accept the results of the end product.  Even if the end product is not what I desire, it’s what I have time for.  I’m 7 weeks into this adjustment, and to this point, my strength and my physique have not suffered.

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Some days my work schedule is more packed than a train New Delhi. How ironic that there’s less time to train on this train…

Efficiency As A Foundation…

I have always trained with efficiency.  Through the years I have found a way to blend high-intensity strength training with volume work, and still come out on the near side of an hour.  My strength workouts are generally completed in less than 50 minutes.  Despite these short duration workouts, the volume of work has been relatively high since I rest little between sets.

On average for large profile muscle groups; back, quads, chest, I perform 12-15 sets, most of which are compound movements.  For the one dimensional muscles such as biceps, triceps, hamstrings, and deltoids, I have always performed 4-6 sets of an isolation movement each.

I have always fit in plyometric work when I can, often in-between sets of strength exercises.  Cardio, as a form of mental therapy, has taken place independent of my strength workouts, and is done almost daily.

Bringing In The Fence…

When being busy with work, and having a strong desire to stay fit intersect, a compromise is in order.  Since work is my livelihood, and being in shape is my hobby, the compromise lands solely on the shoulders of my hobby.

In recent weeks I have reduced the clock of my strength sessions to 40 minutes – period.  Wherever I am in the workout, the clock stops at 40 minutes.  This has had me at about 8-10 sets for the larger profile muscles, and 3-5 sets for the smaller ones.  As always, the heaviest possible weight is used, in the best possible form.  Only the volume has been reduced.

This reduction in time has a placed me into a simple mindset at the start of each workout; I have just 40 minutes to complete this workout, so I must maximize every single repetition, but that’s not really new.  Again, the heaviest possible weight, in the best possible form, with an absolute minimal rest.  Cardio, as a form of mental therapy, is now just 3-4 days per week, but has increased in intensity.

Getting more from, Les…?  No, getting more from less!!!

Getting more from, Les…? No, getting more from less!!!

Living within these boundaries has only served to raise my game.  Putting limits on the time I spend developing my power, has enabled me to reach new power.  Again, despite the reduced time, and reduced volume of training, my strength is at an overall high.  I’m even flirting with a clean 450 deadlift, and can hammer out 12 miles on my bike in 30 minutes.

The End Of The World, Not…

When you can look the devil in the eye, shake hands, and walk away without fear, you step into a new dimension.

I have never liked to admit this, but exercise has been a relentless seductress in my life.  She’s been good to me yes, but at times I’ve made her a much greater priority than she’s needed to be.  That’s on me though, not on exercise.  That’s about priorities.

For most of my life, when exercise has curled her index finger, pulled it back to draw me in with the promise of a good feeling, I have always jumped.  I’m strong enough these days, to walk away when faced with greater priorities such as making a living, or being there for my family, and my friends.

So I’m taking more days away from exercise due to my work schedule, but also due to an increased desire to stay connected with friends and family.  Take note, these are not intentional rest days.  There are just a couple of days per week when my workday extends up to 13 or 14 hours.  On those days, preparation for my next workday is the priority, not my own workout.  Or, and I may just want to watch a game with friends, or spend more time on the phone with my daughter.  Exercise can wait another day.

As I have imposed new limits on my exercise time, the world has not come to an end.  Shortening my workouts, and missing a few more of them per month has not made me obese, weak, or deconditioned.  This has simply set me up to be a better businessman, a better father, and a better friend.  And if lessening my gym time does cost me strength, add fat to my waist, or make me less conditioned, it still won’t be the end of the world.  Lessening my priorities though… Be well.  rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks for Part III of my series on The Limits Of Power; what gets left behind.  Oh, and there’s this from Gary Clark Jr.   Enjoy…