The Bit That Keeps Me Fit

It will come as no surprise to anyone who follows my ramblings that I am a tech geek (my Apple obsession I will keep for another post). Just as I rely on an app (Headspace) for my meditation practice, I use one to track calories and, hopefully, weight loss (LoseIt), and now one to pay at the store (Wallet). But my longtime favorite, which I use daily, is Fitbit.

The Fitbit app (for iPhone, iPad and computer) uses a mini-tracker that I wear on my shirt (or pants, or bra, or wrist at night). The latest version, the Fitbit One, is about an inch and a half long, by half an inch wide, and comes in a rubber waterproof casing. It even connects wirelessly with the Aria scale, so no cheating there!

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I have been “hooked in” since January 3, 2012, and so have all sorts of records of what I have been up to since then. The tiny computer tracks my steps taken, the number of floors I climb (it has an altimeter in there), and the calories burned. When I wear it on my wrist at night, it records not only how much sleep I actually get, but the periods of restlessness, and any nocturnal wanderings. Follows the food I eat (OK, I do have to manually record that), and weight loss toward a goal that I might someday reach. And all this info and more is presented on a series of graphs and charts, to the delight of my scientific mind. And I am thrilled to know that I have walked 8,172,434 steps since I began tracking!

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An added geeky bonus are the challenges that members set up. The first I attempted was “climbing” the highest peaks on each of the seven continents, starting with Mount Kosciusko in Australia (who knew?) and finally topping Everest. Each floor climbed counts for ten feet up the mountain, and there is an online social interaction with other climbers from around the world competing and encouraging one another. It took me a year and a half to do it. Now I am “walking” across Australia.

When Socrates said “The unexamined life is not worth living,” I am sure he had other aspects of life in mind, but as I walk the treadmill of life, trying hard to stay in place, Fitbit is proving invaluable.

Relax and float downstream

I love to meditate. So why do I always fight against doing it?

I started my practice back with the Beatles in the 70s. Well, not actually “with” them in the same ashram, but when I read about the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and Transcendental Meditation, I was in. Good enough for Ringo, good enough for me.

The practice then was to sit and repeat one’s mantra. I chose “One” over “Om”, not to be pretentious. Beating back unruly intrusions was always a challenge, be they my son, or random thoughts that my mind was intent on thinking. But I got pretty good at it.

I even introduced it to my seventh, eighth and ninth grade Science classes, and they took to it, to my surprise. I was mostly looking for some peace and quiet from them, but they took it seriously. I never meditated along with them, since I dared not close my eyes, lest the spitballs start flying.

So through the years, off and on, I meditated, and always felt better for it. I even discovered an iPhone app, “Simply Being” and started up again about a year ago. It was lovely and soothing, but I almost always fell asleep a few minutes into it. Then I starting using the app to fall asleep, and not even worry about meditating.

Finally, about six months ago, I discovered Headspace. The voice of Andy Puddicombe, Bristolian accent and all (think Long John Silver, the pirate), was not sleep-inducing. It focused my attention. And sitting upright, not fighting my thoughts but letting them come and go, left me energized at the end of the ten minute session. Better yet, I wasn’t sneaking peeks at the clock. The ten minutes danced by.

You can get a taste of his program here.

So I took the plunge and invested about $5 a month for a year of Headspace, my “gym membership for the mind” as they say there, and moved up to 15, then 20 minutes a day. And it is great! I am learning to detach myself from my emotions, the better to control them, and each day Andy has something new to add.

Andy (after all these months, I think we are close enough for first name use) was a Buddhist monk for 10 years, and though Buddhism is not on my menu, he surely has cred in this field.

And every day I fight the urge to mediate. I find something else compelling to do-the dishes, Facebook, read, write, take out the trash. Why?

I do finally give in and sit down and emerge refreshed in all sorts of good ways. But I realize that I used to do the same thing as a kid when I was put to bed. I fought sleep every way I could. My mind did not want to rest. And I do the same thing now with social media-one last look at Facebook, and Instagram, and Twitter before lights out. And now it doesn’t even matter if they are out. My iPad is back-lit! Hurrah, keep on churning, mind of mine!

So now I meditate in the morning, when I find it easier to turn off my mind, and then face the day clearheaded and renewed.

Macho, Macho Man!

Why is it that the men most invested in their machismo (I study Spanish on the side) are the ones with the greatest need to demean and subjugate women? Is fear the basis of their actions? Take the recent kerfuffle in Texas, with its new draconian law to control women’s reproductive lives. Of particular note during the legislative session was the search for and banning of tampons and maxi-pads from gallery spectators, while those carrying guns were ushered right in. Does the phrase “vagina dentata” have any resonance for these guys? Likely not.

Another recent manifestation of this trend occurred in my new favorite country, Australia. In June 2010, Julia Gillard became the first woman Prime Minister. Breakthrough? Yes! Time to loose the hounds? Absolutely! During her three years in the office, she was under constant attack for her hair, demeanor, and dress. Most recently, just before she was deposed, attacks on PM Gillard included an interviewer asking her if her male partner, who is a hairdresser, was gay. And at a fundraiser for a political opponent, the menu included “Julia Gillard Quail”, described as having “small breasts, huge thighs, and a big red box.”

Australia is also dealing with a military sexual assault and harassment mess, but Lieutenant General David Morrison, Chief of the Australian Army has made a much stronger response than any heard here. Our military brass seem more interested in preventing any attempts by Congress to move the prosecution of military sexual assault outside their chain of command. Pay no attention to the dismal job they have done in handling these cases until now.

For an interesting historical perspective, one need only review the film of the 1967 Boston Marathon, the first time a woman ran as a competitor. The rage on that official’s face is shocking, even these many years later.

Yet these are not women’s issues. They impact all of society. The burden of an unwanted child falls upon all the members of a family. The inability to obtain birth control makes it more likely that there will be unwanted children. When children born to unprepared parents are neglected, the burden, social and financial, falls on all of us. Still, that Aussie General gives me hope. Let him be the first of many men to speak out against sexual assault. Let more men address the issue of sexual harassment and access to birth control, and rape, and violence against women.

It is long past time to see these issues as human ones, and to recognize that as a society we all are affected by the fears of a few.

Greetings, Earthlings!

I have decided to continue blogging, but instead of life in Australia as my topic, will share some of the things that catch my attention, in politics, food, technology, culture, or life in general. Clearly I have no shortage of opinions to share.

Compelled by my sense of order to give the blog a title, I settled on “I Spy”, which has resonance for me on a number of levels-the child’s game, the TV show (Cosby as the slender, first-black-man-hero-sidekick), and the idea that the blog will be about what catches my eye (or ear, throat or heart).

So first up is a review of a new book written for the Young Adult market, which would be a shame to limit only to Young Adults. Old Adults will be charmed and shaken by it as well.

To diverge for a moment, I found that I thoroughly enjoyed the Harry Potter series and The Hunger Games trilogy, and over the years, have been discreetly dipping into the pool of fiction intended for a crowd decades younger than I am. I don’t think that it means I am the overused “young at heart”, or that I am trying to relive my youth, rather that there is some compelling writing out there targeted for that demographic that has meaning for this demographic, and possibly those in between as well. And frankly, the pickings for Young Adults when I fit the profile were pretty slim, so I am retrospectively catching up.

But “The Fault In Our Stars”, by John Green is something special. When I say it is about two teenagers with terminal cancer, I know that your interest is already evaporating. Mine almost did. But it is a love story, a real love story, told by a ruthless young girl, who sees life as it is, and revels in it. The story is simple, compelling, and contains some surprising twists. I used to cry over books on a regular basis (Oh, Beth, why did you have to die? It should have been Amy!), I haven’t for a long while-until now.

I realize that I have not made a compelling case for reading it, but the book is short (though I had to put it down and rest up for the ending), brings up fascinating questions of philosophy and mortality, and is a wonderful read. And what more can be said about two young people in love?  You have to have been there or read the book.

Let me know your responses to it.