Monday, November 30, 2015

Keep a room at the back of the shop

In the olden days, if you were a certain type, you could take your leave of society and retire to the country. There, you would contemplate existence, smoke your pipe and write essays on solitude - like Montaigne, who came up with the title for this post. As an aside, I wonder where these people are now - these archetypal ageing philosophers. Anyway, perhaps there's a career option for me in there somewhere...

Back to the post. Montaigne is an interesting fellow and even more interesting is his essay "on solitude". I would recommend reading it all but the gist of this post is that you need not retire wholly from society in order to be free of its vicissitudes and small mindedness - all you need do is reserve a part of your mind that is free from such things - keep a room at the back of the shop. Now, interestingly this "room at the back of the shop" corresponds with the idea that if you rest in awareness then you need not be affected by what happens in the world - a sort of equanimity. 

So, you can be happy whatever the circumstances! Which is what I've been trying to convey in this blog. 

Here's what you do:

- open a virtual shop in your life - the business end of things where you interact with people
- in your shop, keep a room free at the back
- decorate your room as you please, but keep it clear
- retire to your room regularly and enjoy the solitude therein
- smoke a virtual pipe and stroke your virtual beard


Saturday, November 28, 2015

Update to postive mind training helper app

I've updated my early stage mind training app. There are lots of apps out there that do a similar kind of thing but mine is going to be awesome - mainly because it is underpinned with 10+ years of practical mind training - no textbook regurgitation, all direct from the source. Also, it contains original art work - none of that hackneyed stuff, although you'll notice that I've used a lens flare thingy in the logo... but with a splendid blue monkey.

Visit the app on google play

Anyway, in this update I've added some meditation instructions and some explanations of the harder to understand phrases. More updates to come ...

Monday, November 23, 2015

Micro judgements

The group mind is a curious thing - it's what you might call society. I once read an interesting zen book called "from the zen kitchen to enlightenment" by Dogen and Uchiyama - there's an interesting chapter in there which touches on this concept - that is to say, the way we communicate with each through speech and how this creates the illusion of group mentality. Have I lost you already....? I haven't even started yet...

Here's a simpler attempt:

- We talk to each other
- Generally, it is easier to get along so we conform with each other rather than argue
- This creates a group mentality
- It's a helpful contrivance. We get along, we chat.
- Here's what I noticed. I mix in wildly different groups of people and the norms in each group are subtly different - they have different beliefs. These beliefs creep out in the form of micro judgements - little comments or phrases or opinions.
- These micro judgements effect the opinion I have of myself.
- This opinion ranges from awesome to the scum of the earth, quite often as I shift from one group of people to the next

Now I merely notice the shift in my internal dialogue but it's interesting to see how my mind is shaped by the people I'm with and the consensus we create.

Anyway, choose yours friends carefully ...

Monday, November 16, 2015

Chronic fatigue - my top 5 supplements

Well, I've tried a lot of things in my time. I think it's good to keep trying new things - it gives you a sense of empowerment. Here are the ones that had the most positive effect on me:

1) Fish oil - I use one with vitamin D. Not sure if it's the oil or the vitamin D, but there was a slight easing of symptoms. Nowadays I can take it or leave it, but the doctors seem to have a fixation with vitamin D and fatigue so I keep on popping them in.

2) Acidopholus - without doubt the supplement that had an instant effect. One of the things with my condition over the years has been problems with my gut - several million lactobacillus definitely help.

3) A vegetable smoothie every day. I've posted various recipes on this blog but beetroot, cucumber, celery, spinach and carrot seem to be the staple ingredients (topped up with some fruit juice and various berries (apparently blackcurrants are the best, followed by raspberries)). Many times I've woken up like a corpse and one of these seems to get me going.

4 and 5 - erm, that's it. I couldn't get anymore.

To give you an idea of the supplements I've tried but have concluded that they were not doing it for me - ginseng (various forms), rhodiola complex, holy basil, spirulina (powdered and capsule), olive leaf extract, wheat grass, multi vitamins, B12 injections (gave me weird dreams), various green powders, homeopathic sugar pills of various kinds, herbal teas (cutting out caffeine did help), l glutamine, and probably a few more I've forgotten.

The jury's out on a gluten free diet - maybe I'll talk about that separately. Processed foods give me mouth ulcers, so I avoid those. High sugar stuff is also out for similar reasons, although I crave biscuits all the time.

If you're unlucky enough to have chronic fatigue then try what you can to give you that extra 5% or 10%. When you're functioning less than 50%, it makes a big difference.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Become a super coper

We want life to be easy but it will throw up plenty of challenges. You might think there is a limit to what you can take but, in reality, you can take a hell of a lot more than you think you can. You probably don't know what I'm talking about if you've never been there but, when you do get there, you take take even more. Don't give up. We are super resilient!

Anyway, I don't want to go back there but if you are there then you are a hero - you are a super coper. It takes guts but we've got loads of those (apparently).

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Interesting article about relaxation

Here's an interesting article that sheds some light on the history of relaxation techniques:

I'm a firm believer in both camps:

- relaxing the body relaxes the mind
- training the mind (visualisation, mantra) leads to relaxation

They both lead to the same place, although you could have a hearty debate about the different mental factors present (if you knew anyone to debate such things with). Ah, it doesn't matter what you do as long as you do it. Go for the chilled out, super relaxed, happy, calm person who's hiding in your heart and enjoy it all.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Overcoming chronic fatigue

I read this article with interest:

I went down with chronic fatigue 10 years ago and I now consider myself "recovered", although I use that term optimistically - I am now able to function like a normal person if I am careful and I don't do too much. So then, how did I recover?

- doctors did not help
- CBT did not help in the form it was given
- revising my expectations about my situation did help (this required an extremely honest occupational therapist) although it did not help my condition
- exercise did not help, but it became a useful measure of my recovery over time
- supplements and diets did not really help, other than it would a healthy person
- relaxation and mind control did help with day to day symptoms
- time and the healing process was the main thing

When you go down with chronic fatigue (a bit of flu, you are unable to function like a normal human being in any sense of the word for a year or two afterwards), your body has experienced an extremely serious illness - I thought I was going to die. In times gone past, if you experienced an extremely serious illness then you would expect to spend several years in recovery and, by and by, people would understand. These days however we expect an instant fix and some pills to get us right back on track. There is a fundamental misunderstanding of how the body works - it has processes that occur over years and it remembers everything we do to it. So we should not be surprised then that it takes many years for the body to recover - this is what chronic fatigue is: managing the symptoms as the body slowly recovers from some massive autoimmune event. Exercise and the other things have their part to play in this longer picture, when you are ready for it, but, essentially, there is nothing we can do other than stay positive.

I'm not going to go into the other aspect of this illness which is the havoc it visits on your working life and your family life, and the sense of 'what the **** do I do now, now I'm at the other end. Our modern world does not really accommodate us for a massively long illness and the people in it are generally not capable of understanding of what illness means.