Counting Reps

Counting breaths is a classic meditation technique. I meditate at least once a day, preferably twice. If nothing else, it helps with the nausea and acid reflux during chemotherapy. However, there is so much that needs to be done during chemo to manage the side effects, it can be hard to always find the time.

One of the things both conventional and alternative medicine emphasizes is to exercise during chemo. Don\’t do stupid things, but you may have to push yourself against the fatigue.

It occurred to me recently, that instead of counting breaths as a mindfulness exercise, I could count reps (repetitions). I count them anyway, so just paying a little more deliberate attention to counting and use the usual practices when my attention wanders, pulling the attention back to the counting and the exercises themselves instead of getting lost in stories and chatter.

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Hiccups have been one of the minor but annoying side effects of my chemo treatment. I\’ve tried the usual remedies and found a few new ones of my own. For me, the ones that work require or get my undivided attention. Trying to drink out of a glass upside down is a standard one. But playing 3-4 games of Freecell usually does it. As does reading something non-trivial I\’m really interested in.

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Whatever you are doing will almost certainly become public, probably at a time and in a way that causes you maximum embarrassment.

Forbes – July 10, 2013

Elsewhere someone stated that Mr. Market will move in such a way to cause the most embarrassment to the most people. Writing headlines for requires a strong ego because they will probably be wrong by the time most people read them.

The Universe seems to be designed to keep us humble. Don\’t get too identified with your statements, your opinions, your positions, etc. Change will invalidate even the ones that were correct at the time.

In the words of John Maynard Keynes, \”When my information changes, I alter my conclusions. What do you do, sir?\” (Commonly paraphrased as, \”When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?\”)

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Show Me the Numbers

Even conventional medicine advocates improving your diet to fight cancer. There are several parts to this. Cancer treatment is rough on your body so the healthier you are the better you tolerate it. The risk factors for most forms of cancer include some form of poor nutrition. The same advice applies after treatment to reduce the chance of recurrence.

But most of it indicates a direction, e.g., eat less animal fat, more fruit and vegetables, not too much meat, less red meat, more fish, more whole grains, but not a goal. It\’s hard for a vegetarian to reduce the amount of meat in their diet. Now the fish directive usually includes an upper limit of not more than twice a week because of mercury contamination.

Twice in the last week we\’ve eaten too much salad and vegetables and it\’s messed with our digestion. It\’s possible to do too much, especially at first.

In addition to the various MDs I\’m working with, I\’m consulting with a Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (DAOM). She\’s nice and specific, 9-12 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. So many grams of high quality protein, which seems to mean low-fat, per day, dependent on body weight. Take these supplements to increase your red blood cell count (chemo and bleeding during and after surgery lowers it) and reduce inflammation (except the week before and after surgery, most anti-inflammatories are also blood thinners).

I\’m willing to change my diet, but I want to know how much is enough. It is possible to have too little cholesterol. Any doctor mindlessly shouting any cholesterol is too much gets lumped with the street corner preachers. I\’ll jump but show me the numbers for how far.

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As mentioned in a previous post (A Curious Sort of Mindfulness), I am in the midst of a struggle with cancer. In November, a small amount of blood was found in my urine. Two CT Scans, an MRI, blood work beyond count, several urinalyses, two surgeries, and a lot of pain later, I am cancer free, as far as anyone knows. Early diagnoses were pretty hopeful. The final pathology report found a Stage 3 Upper Tract Urothelial Carcinoma (UTUC) in the kidney that was removed. There is no sign the cancer has spread, but Stage 3 UTUC has a 80% recurrence rate and less than 25% 5-year survival rate. So it is way too early to declare myself a cancer survivor. I intend to be one of the survivors. This series will chronicle my work to this end.

Like Dante, I find myself at mid-life in a dark woods where there is no path. So I am going to have to find my path. And will probably go through some level of Hell on the way.  With grace, I will make it through.

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A Curious Sort of Mindfulness

I\’m in the midst of a low intensity medical emergency. In December I was diagnosed with bladder and kidney cancer. They were caught early so I enter treatment healthy. I\’ve had the first of two necessary surgeries. Within three days my energy returned, but something else hard to name hasn\’t. Maybe stamina. I have the energy to move at my normal pace, but if I do so I get a little faint or dizzy. Dragging about doesn\’t work well either. Body, mind, and spirit are moving at different speeds. I need to stand up straight and breath deep. Be mindful and move slightly slower, keeping good posture.

My habitual of being in the world isn\’t working in the hopefully temporary, changed circumstances. Curiouser and curiouser.

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Warren Buffet on Goals

Usually I\’d post a story about Warren Buffet on my financial blog, but Warren Buffett On Goals: If It’s Not The Most Important Thing, Avoid It At All Costs is not about money. It\’s about living your life, not someone else\’s or society\’s.  It\’s a good companion to the previous story on Sam and Betty.  Both are about dropping the stuff that\’s not directly relevant to living the life you are called to.

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Sam and Betty

At the University, there is a ledge
really no more than a misplaced
form when the concrete was poured.
Birds have perched and deposited.
Leaf litter has fallen, off the roof,
and now there is a tree growing
in this unlikely place, a natural bonsai,
beautiful in its tenacious hold
blown and shaped by wind, sun, exposure,
Fed only by what is left behind
or quietly taken from abundance
and now its shade throws
a sundial—it\’s quarter past
the third bolt hole. And if you
look carefully, you see the concrete
is not so weathered in its shade.

Sam Lachterman and Betty Wynn were siblings who hung around the University of Washington at St. Louis for decades. They lived out of their car, lived on the cheese and crackers at receptions, and maybe slept in a student lounge. They spent money only on bus passes to get to and from campus. A bit eccentric, but they cut out all the keeping up with the Jones and society\’s expectations to do just what they wanted: listen to and contribute to the intellectual life at the University. Not the choice I\’d make, but as someone said in our writing group where their story was recently the writing prompt, \”They lived outside the bars and loosened the bars we live behind.\” I\’m trimming my life so I can do what I want. And I remember their example as I toss activities that are interesting and beside the point.

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The Tao of Enlightened Combat

Most people don\’t understand how practicing a martial art is a spiritual practice.  A post on Deepak Chopra\’s blog, The Tao of Enlightened Combat explains based on chakras.  While I no longer am actively practicing a martial art, I continue to find the experience relevant to my meditation practice. The post resonates with my experience in both kinds of spiritual practice.

And ignore the picture at the top, the model was picked for her visual appeal, not her expertise.

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Teaching Styles

Coincidentally, I read chapters at the same time on fearlessness in Chögyam Trungpa\’s Shambhala: Sacred Path of the Warrior and Natalie Goldberg\’s Wild Mind, or perhaps Writing Down the Bones (my books are in storage). Both come to similar conclusions. Chögyam Trungpa starts with the provocative statement, \”True fearlessness is not the reduction of fear; but going beyond fear.\”  Then he explained what he meant by fearlessness. It\’s not Rambo, it\’s closer to Mother Teresa holding the head of a dying person. Natalie starts more mundanely, but ends up the same place, stating that the writer is fearless and it\’s also a good way to live a life.

Looking back over both of them\’s writing I see the same pattern. Trungpa starts with the outrageous statement and then clarifies it into not so outrageous, but not conventional or trite. Natalie starts easy and builds to the outrageous. I suppose Trungpa deliberately jars you out of your rut and then guides you down to a new understanding that\’s not what you expected. Natalie guides you from the conventional to the unconventional. Both styles work. Knowing which style works best for you can be helpful. But unless one style puts you off so much that you don\’t hear the lesson, read both. See Ganging Up on Ignorance for more on combined approach learning/teaching.

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