Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I Am A Shopping Cart Voyeur

Here I am pushing my shopping cart and out of the corner of my eye I see a few double rolls cascading down from a chin and lapping over his collar. The 'he' in question is just another chance encounter at the supermarket, and I find myself struggling with my eyes to keep them from overtly scanning up and down his body and then inspecting the contents of his grocery cart. I just can't help myself, so I must admit my character flaw; I just have to see what's in that cart those huge flabby arms are pushing. I reposition myself at an angle behind him pretending to peruse the shelves while my eyes dart back and forth noting the beer, fat laden bacon and white bread, TV. Dinners, potato chips, cookies and not a single lonely veggie in the lot.

I next spot a woman who's bottom half is so disproportional to her top half that an uninvited flash of amusement whips through my head followed by the squelching power of stabs of shame as for a moment I imagine myself in her shoes. I wonder how one deals with accepting their state; not thinking about it and moving on with life as if everything's just dandy. There's not much in her cart; little bottles of fruit punch bound in shrink wrap, canned soup and a packaged salad consisting of iceberg lettuce and a few smatterings of orange and purple from the carrots and cabbage. Maybe she's misguidedly trying to eat healthy, their not enough evidence to tell.

I walk past acne from ear to ear on the face of a skinny teen in the candy isle, and watch a bunch of kids, I'd say between four and eleven, excitedly pointing and reaching for dry cereal boxes with colorful labels with endearing characters clearly designed to grab a child's imagination. Their mom still has a middle smaller than her hips and shoulders, but she's well padded in excess body fat. She gives in to the pressure, tossing in boxes past the babies head who is twisting around in her seat to coo at the pictures of leprechauns, smiling tigers and a huge floppy eared bunny rabbit.

I decide to find a few people who appear to be in good shape. There are a few, but none in my age bracket. The past fifty group seems entirely overcome by flab; but on the positive side, since virtually everyone is out of shape, no one stands out.

I find a feeling of sad resignation gripping me as I consider this little sampling of the American population; but then a stunning women walks by. I'm sure she has had more than her share of unwanted attention, so I've got to be careful to save myself from an embarrassing moment. Yes, she's got my attention. I've got to see what's in her grocery cart. I think that this might take a while, but I manage to pass her several times, well spaced out out so as not to appear to be following. She has cucumbers, peppers, leaf lettuce, lean meat and yogurt; oranges, apples,bananas and other items largely from the produce section.

These kind of observations repeat often and the unscientific survey yields the same results: what people look like corresponds directly to what they have in their grocery basket, rather a person is pear shaped, basketball shaped or Greek statue shape.

OK., so I'm making most of this up. No, I'm really not doing something as creepy as stalking a woman at the supermarket, but the peeking at what's in peoples shopping carts and noting how that relates to their overall shape, yeah, I do that. I guess that makes me a shopping cart peeping tom. In the grocery store I see shopping carts full of unprocessed food is usually being pushed by someone in noticeably better shape than the average. What I'm saying might be considered one of those: “duh, no kidding Sherlock” issues; but if it's such common knowledge, why are so few shopping carts full of produce, and so many stuffed with boxes and cellophane packages of factory spewed poisonous discharges advertisers like to call food.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

An Act of Faithfulness

As Featured On EzineArticles(“He who is faithful in little will be faithful in much.”) Paraphrase of Luke 19:17

If you are someone who believes that your body is the product of design rather than then the product of pointless accidental mutation, then the above statement needs to be expanded from its historical application to the first and most significant gift from the incomprehensible genius, creator of all things that made the human body a work of animated art. The body, which includes ones brain which is our interface with reality, the means to acquire experience knowledge understanding and wisdom. 

The Apostle Paul referred to the body as a tent, as something in which our spiritual self is clothed. Because of this, I perceive that many people feel that it's such a temporary manifestation of ourselves that it would be wiser to focus on the eternal things that last; and I wouldn't argue this point except to add that if God evaluates one's sense of responsibility by the little things we have now, how is it that the physical body is exempt as being one of those responsibilities.

I think that Christian people are frequently dissuaded from making their bodies all they can be for the above reason and perhaps, more because of a stigmatization of fitness training etc. as being narcissistic, egotistical and vain. It can be all these things, but it doesn't have to be. Like so many other things in life, the right or wrong of it lies in the attitude. The Christian should be oriented towards bringing glory to the creator and not one's self.

Jesus, who as the personification of God, got down on his knees and washed the feet of his creation demonstrating the serving and generous nature of God. What I'm saying is that God shares his Glory, which does not contradict God saying he will not give his glory to another. He shares some of it, and when we are cognizant of this fact, and when we use this fact to shape our attitude, it changes our perspective on our talents, skills and physical beauty if that is one of our gifts.

Yes, people with physical beauty often have an attitude of self importance and a predisposition for self glorification; but that doesn't make the gift evil or less valuable. One who possesses a gift and is thankful and has the humble serving attitude of Christ can display their gift proudly. Proud of the father that could conceive of fabulous things like subtle dexterous fingers, eyes, ears and the brains faculties of perception. A beautiful women can be a neon sign pointing to the wonderful nature of the giver or a decadent self indulgent usurper of the glory that isn't actually hers, and the same goes for men.

A degenerated human body certainly is no neon sign pointing to the glory of God. A well maintained and developed body most certainly is. It is a lesson all in itself. The reality that God has created for us speaks to us in everything. Male and female, families and the roles of parent, child, husband and wife communicate to us things that couldn't be learned in any book. Various roles, mother, father child and the love and sense of responsibility one feels for another. Because of this reality we have a reference point from which to understand the infinite person that is God. We can envision God as love, as good, as a father, and be able to accept his gifts that we had no part in producing or could have conceived of in the first place.

How is the human body a lesson? The body is like other gifts from God, he does most of the work, but because he has a role as a father, he teaches by leaving a portion for us to do. The portion that is our responsibility is the care maintenance and work that is needed to make the body a sign that points to God's glory. We must learn to suffer a little and to be diligent to accomplish this; and when we are successful, God shares some of his glory with us.

The physical body may be temporary, but the character we learn by caring for a gift of God is not. Our body is one little thing we have to be faithful in, something which is our responsibility; which in actuality is being responsible to God if our attitudes are correctly oriented towards exposing his glory. If we can't be responsible for this temporary gift, which is our bodies, how can we show God that we value what he provides and that we will be faithful in possessing his greater gifts?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dealing with Stress? Choose Peace of Mind

It is considered as fact that a large percentage of disease is the direct result of stress. Add to stress, nutritional deficiency and lack of exercise, and disease is pretty much a certainty. Health starts in the mind, but the condition of our minds are so often out of our control. Before, or at least concurrently with changing to a healthy diet and starting an exercise program, ways, means and techniques for relief of stress, need to be taken into serious consideration.

While listening to a session of people talk about their past weeks emotional difficulties, I observed that most of it had to do with conflicting with other people. It seemed to me that most of the conflicts were entirely unnecessary expressions of pridefulness; people taking offense at real or presumed derogation of self and their response after shifting into “I take no crap from anyone” mode, or “you hurt me and you had no right to do that” mode. Standing up for one's rights so as not to be a doormat is not necessarily unhealthy, but how many conflicts are such that turning the other cheek would result in any real loss. The conflict unsuccessfully avoided will certainly result in a tangible loss when the accumulated affect results in disease, or loss of interest in doing anything worthwhile.

Because of the time lag, cognizance of the direct relationship between cause and effect is frequently muddled and perhaps simply unrecognized. The old saying that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me” is most certainly untrue. The question is, can we learn to not allow words to hurt us.

We can't control the words others may hurl at us, but when we allow the negativity of other peoples language to make us upset and angry, we have been controlled. How does that defend out rights or dignity? This can only be considered a successful theft of our peace of mind. In these cases, putting more value on someone's negative opinion than our own internal peace allows the thief entry into our inner mental sanctuary.

Is it possible to smile and simply refuse to participate in a conflict? Not always, but learning to stay in charge of our emotions by staying focused on the greater value of our internal peace will always be the better alternative. When the angry and upset emotions get the upper hand, it's time to clear the mind, break the narrow focus on the cause of the disturbance as you would move a magnifying glass in the sun away from that that smoking point of intense heat to where the light is diffused allowing cooling to take place. Like the magnifying glass, move your awareness out to diffuse into the world and the universe so as to regain perspective. One persons opinion at some given moment fades into insignificance when we have achieved that broader awareness.

What else can we do? How about making use of forgiveness for others so that they loose power over you. People who want to see themselves as tough and as persons who refuse to be walked over frequently see being forgiving as a weakness. The truth is that the very opposite is true. This may not be so easy, meaning that strength is required to go against one's emotions, how can this be considered weakness?

This one may be even harder. How about forgiving your self so you neutralize your own emotional autoimmune activity? That is to say that you quit killing yourself for something that you can't do anything about. You can't change the past, so maintaining self condemnation is self destruction, and just a slow form of suicide.

All the forms and sources of stress are so varied and often complex that it's a given that there is no magic bullet; but keeping a cool head and finding others with cool heads for support and aid in thinking through problems is always a good plan.

If all preventative measures fail and you're left with a high dose of adrenalin and cortisol, it would be a good time to consume it with a good physical workout, perhaps to some high energy music. It would be a shame to waste all that energy on some pathogenic, neuron corroding stewing. It sounds like I'm stating the obvious, but I'm thinking of a person in the aforementioned discussion who said that he'd go to bed after getting riled up by a conflict.

It's certain that demanding respect, and living all the drama that this entails, is profitless. Perhaps it is possible to stay in charge and let everyone who wants their drama take it elsewhere so we can concentrate on doing worthwhile things; like changing that diet, getting a good exercise program going, finding people to share in this endeavor to form a mutual support and encouragement group, and getting a body that feels good to live in.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Mind Comes First

Fitness is usually equated with having muscle tone and having little excess body fat, but everything starts in the mind. When exercise is a mundane drudgery that we must struggle with ourselves to do, we eventually end up simply not doing it. Truly we must find something active where our mind is not our stumbling block.

We are social creatures, and exercise in a social setting meets with far less mental objections. As the responsibilities of life edge out our past involvement in team sports, when school doesn't create an impetus to be involved in physical activity, it becomes our responsibility to create a replacement where activity and fun can coexist. Solitary exercise programs can be boring and lacking feedback from peers have nothing external to our own willpower to drive us to continue, or even to get started.  When there is no competitive goal to kick our minds out of a complacent zone where our priorities are dictated by our immediate needs and the demands of our economic endeavors, we end up where most Americans end up, and our physical health takes a back seat. This is my struggle, and I think it is the usual story.

I'm impressed by some of the solutions that have recently emerged. Some of my friends have become involved in the Team Beachbody network where the members encourage each other to follow through. This added social element feeds the mind and adds a club like aspect that changes the entire dynamic of motivating ourselves to do what needs to be done to regain our physical vitality. The bottom line is that the mind must be properly primed before the body will cooperate.

In my aria we are fortunate enough to have places to hike, swim, go horseback riding and nearby skiing arias. Even getting out on a motorcycle or a snowmobile can shake us out of that sedentary rut and get the blood pumping faster. Personally, I'd like to see more team sports being organized, even if it's just a informal Saturday afternoon volleyball game. Getting the fun back in being active should be a goal. It's a matter of priorities, and society implicitly places recreation at the bottom of the list. Physical activity should be at the top of the list since our bodies are our interface with the world, and their reduced vitality carries a corresponding loss of living itself.

Poor Physical Fitness Equals a Poor Life

It's a common saying "if you don't have your health you don't have anything." We in the USA have less physical activity, more stress and less time for food preparation resulting in we grabbing packaged, processed, and nutritionally depleted foods. Our recreational activities are virtually oxymoronic to the term activity as they frequently aren't active at all. We interact with people less and interact with machines more. Video games and TV take the place of truly active participation in sports, and the hours we work leave us with little enthusiasm for such things.

I recall my grandmother, who was born in 1897, saying that "when I was young we all stood around the piano together and sang, you people just watch other people sing, we played ball and you watch people play ball on TV."  She said "we all knew our neighbors because we did things together, and now people don't live life they are spectators of life." Rather what she said was entirely true I have no frame of reference to judge, but physical activity as a social interface mechanism does seem like it's the exception rather than the rule.

If we are to change this, we must buck the prevailing trend and conscientiously make a change. Research confirms obesity is now leading cause of preventable death in U.S. I would like to hear from people who have made their health and fitness a priority about what you do, and what you would like to do to buck  the prevailing trend, and take charge of your own physical health and life.