Heat’s On

What compounds the sluggishness of our evolutionary crawl is that when we actually do have the time, are in a better mood, have more of a sense of control, we don’t feel enough pressure to compel us to do what we know we should be doing to prevent the nasty situations from showing up again. When the heat’s on, we tell ourselves we’ll get organized — later. We’ll be nicer to ourselves and other people — later. We’ll be more strategic and proactive — later. … Later comes, and the heat’s off. “If I had more money, then I’d really be a lot more creative.” Really? “If I just had more time, I’d really . . . (fill in the blank).” Are you sure? If we had more time and money, we’d likely feel even less like doing what we think we should feel like doing. Under stress, we’ll default to habits and not do what we need to do. When things relax, we won’t feel the need to go to work to change the habits — as sure as gravity.

“Ready for Anything” by David Allen

I hate being on a diet. But at the same time, it’s one of the things I’m most looking forward to being able to do next week after moving.

A lot of my goals and otherwise patterns have been greatly side-tracked since living at home. I’ve been very creative with all the excuses.

I can’t eat my meal prep because my mom stresses out when she sees me only eating my meal prep and not eating her food.

I can’t go to the gym because it takes me 30 minutes to get there and back, and all the other little things in preparing for that, it takes me away from work for too long of a break.

I can’t go for a run because of the snow and the gym is too busy.

I can’t get out of bed when I wake up in the middle of the night because I’d wake up other people in the house.

One of the key things in habit formation/behaviour change that I see frequently is the idea of ensuring your environment is conducive to the change you want to see.

I mean, ideally, I’d like to be able to simply not make excuses for myself. But I mean, barring that, moving and eliminating most of those excuses will be a good alternative.

Success

Success is not sustainable if it’s defined by how big you become.

“Onward” by Howard Schultz

Approximately two weeks ago, things suddenly started to look up. I found out about two changes that came into effect quite recently.

As of Saturday, I have been promoted to a Senior Software Developer position at work.

And as of today, I have a new home. I will be moving from South Delta to Coquitlam later this week.

I’m looking forward to having a shorter commute to work, the ability to workout and play sports more frequently, and being able to get back on a diet.

I’m hoping that some of these things will help with my sleep and otherwise health.

And I’m looking forward to having two of my stressors taken care of.

So here’s to the start of life’s next adventures.

Sleep Perception

Sleep perception is a weird thing.

Yesterday, I woke up just before 1am and was wide awake until just after 4am. (My eyes eventually got tired after reading which I eventually resorted to after meditating and trying to sleep proved to be futile.)

So I was super exhausted all day yesterday.

Today I woke up feeling much more rested. I was just like “Thank God I managed to sleep better last night.” So I’m laying here, waiting for my alarm to go off, thinking it’s almost 7am.

Eventually, I look at the clock.

It’s almost 3am. Not 7am.

I dunno why I feel so much more rested or like my sleep is better tonight.

Sleep perception is a weird thing.

Reason

You see, gentlemen, reason is unquestionably a fine thing, but reason is no more than reason, and it gives fulfillment only to man’s reasoning capacity, while desires are a manifestation of the whole of life — I mean the whole of human life, both with its reason and with all its itches and scratches.

“Notes From The Underground” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

I used to be all gung-ho about logic and reason. I thought that sticking purely to them was the best way to navigate any argument. I thought that bringing emotions in just made things messy.

In the past several months, I’ve really been questioning whether that was true.

I’ve been in and observed a lot of conversations where I realized that people were being logically, but the conversations weren’t really progressing. The logic wasn’t helping to navigate the conversation. In fact, at times, I thought it was just making things worse.

It seems like whatever conclusion people want to draw, if it’s about something that isn’t somewhat objectively measurable, people can use logic in some form to support their conclusion.

And it also seems like most of arguments seem to be emotional at the core–not logical.

I’m curious whether this is just my current context, or if this is true in a broader sense as well.

And if most arguments are emotional at the core, what role does logic play?

Anywho, just some random thoughts that I’m continuing to ponder, and observations that I shall continue to make.

Imbalance

Obesity is a hormonal imbalance, not a caloric one. The hormonal problem in undesired weight gain is mainly excessive insulin. Thus, type 2 diabetes, too, is a disease about insulin imbalance rather than caloric imbalance.

“The Diabetes Code” by Dr. Jason Fung

For resistance to develop, two essential factors are required: high hormonal levels and constant stimulus. Normally, insulin is released in bursts, preventing insulin resistance from developing. But when the body is constantly bombarded with insulin, resistance develops. It should be obvious by now that, since resistance develops in response to high, persistent levels of a stimulus, raising the dose only leads to more resistance. It’s a vicious, self-reinforcing cycle: exposure creates resistance. Resistance leads to higher exposure. Higher exposure increases resistance.

“The Diabetes Code” by Dr. Jason Fung

In our train analogy, one way to pack more people into the train is to hire “subway pushers.” In New York City in the 1920s, people were forcibly shoved into the packed trains. While this practice has died out in North America, it still exists in Japan. When passengers are left standing on the platform, “passenger arrangement staff” push more people onto the train. Hyperinsulinemia is the body’s subway pusher. It shoves glucose into the already stuffed cell. When glucose is left outside, the body produces extra insulin to forcibly push more glucose into the cell. This tactic works at first, but as more and more glucose is forced inside the overstuffed cell, more force is required. Insulin resistance causes compensatory hyperinsulinemia. But what was the initial cause? Hyperinsulinemia. It’s a vicious cycle.

“The Diabetes Code” by Dr. Jason Fung

I had a meeting with a counsellor today. We were talking about things that could possibly be related to some of the things I want to change (such as sleep quality), and one of the things that came up was blood glucose.

When I was studying at UBC, a blood test revealed that I was prediabetic. I exercised a lot while I was at UBC, so it was a surprise. Though, if I think more about it, it really should have been expected.

I was a vegetarian, though I ate very little fruits and vegetables. Most of my meals consisted of breads, rice, and pasta. And my snacks were often cookies, muffins, and other sweets.

I was able to get my fasting blood glucose back into normal range (albeit, still on the high side of normal) by going on an extremely low carb diet for 6 months. To make this easier on myself, I decided to lose the vegetarianism.

More recently, I find that the health of my insulin resistance appears to cycle with my diet.

For the past 4 years, I’ve been doing a 6 month bulk and a 6 month cut. During my cut, my fasting blood sugar is usually pretty good. During my bulk, I tend to find myself back in that prediabetes range.

So I’m curious once I get going on my diet again this year and my insulin regulation is back under control whether that will be one less factor having a negative impact on my sleep.

I’ve got another slough of suggested bloodwork to go through, but at least there’s another path to look towards for improvement.

I’m also curious whether if instead of a rapid bulk if I try a lean bulk, whether that would decrease the impact on my insulin resistance. May also experiment with a couple other nutrition patterns this year to see what is effective and sustainable.

Without Becoming

Perhaps it’s impossible to wear an identity without becoming what you pretend to be.

“Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card

Today I had a talk with someone. For the past many months, there has been a fair bit of conflict and tension in our relationship. For a while now, we’ve been trying to figure out how to address some of this to bring us to a better state.

Prior to today’s meeting, I was told that my feedback to them was confusing. The feedback I gave them provided some insight into my perceptions. However, it lacked anchoring to specific data points (so it was unclear what triggered my perceptions) and it didn’t provide much guidance towards how we could best move forward.

I spent a couple weeks trying to identify concrete examples of things that would lead me to think certain thoughts and feel certain emotions. I managed to identify at least 5 things before our talk took place today.

I presented these observations in the form of the experience cube because it is a tool that both of us is familiar with, and because I thought it would be a good frame work to connect the specific data points with my perceptions with guidance for moving forward. (The experience cube is a framework used to provide clarity when sharing your experience. The components of the experience cube include observations (the specific data points), thoughts (my perceptions about those data points), feelings (my emotions following those thoughts), and wants (how I would like things to change). This concept comes from Gervase Bushe’s Clear Leadership.)

On the bright side of things, it sounds like they got better insights into the specific behaviours I was reacting to and some changes I thought that would improve things.

But on the flip side of things, so far (I say so far because we’re continuing the conversation again later once they’ve processed their thoughts) it sounds like they’re attributing the conflict and tension to the fact that I these thoughts. And that the solution to these problems would be for me to stop having these perceptions.

I mean, yes, it is true that my thoughts/perceptions are leading to the conflict and tension between us. However, I don’t think that means that the next action to move forward would be to stop having these perceptions.

I think having perceptions is a core piece of the human condition. I think they are inevitable, and having them is largely out of our control.

So of course I decided to try to explain that. And I also tried to point out that the conflict and tension on their side was generated from their own perceptions, even though they didn’t seem to believe that they have many of these perceptions.

Why did I decide to try to explain that?

I didn’t realize it until writing this blog post, but I automatically jumped into explaining because I have this idea about perceptions and how they’re related to the issue we were discussing, and they didn’t have the same idea. I saw this as a problem. Problems make me feel uncomfortable, so immediately I tried to explain to remedy the problem in order to alleviate my discomfort.

Another perception.

I also realize now that focusing on the perceptions themselves sort of side-tracked our conversation. The perceptions are important to discuss because they provide clues into the needs that we have that aren’t being met.

Reflecting more on it now, I suspect that I have an unmet need to feel respected and free; I suspect that they have an unmet need to feel liked, wanted, and belonging. I think I may suggest in our next conversation that we look at these to see if these are unmet needs, and if so, what actions we can take to help each other fill those needs.

Well, it sounds like I have more direction than when I started this blog post.

Fortunately, I’m going to be running some of these thoughts by a coach soon. I’m curious if I’m tracking towards a better place, or if I’m still missing some major of my blind spots in this conversation.

Sand Castle

We are like children building a sand castle. We embellish it with beautiful shells, bits of driftwood, and pieces of colored glass. The castle is ours, off-limits to others. We’re willing to attack if others threaten to hurt it. Yet despite all our attachment, we know that the tide will inevitably come in and sweep the sand castle away. The trick is to enjoy it fully but without clinging, and when the time comes, let it dissolve back into the sea.

“When Things Fall Apart” by Pema Chödrön

I recently finished this book. It took me much longer than I anticipated because I would frequently stop to reflect on how things were showing up in my life.

I’ve reflected a lot on attachment recently [1, 2], and now this book also has me thinking about impermanence.

I remember previously working with a manager on my career progression. I was told in a 1:1 that my technical skills were up to snuff, so the thing I should be focused on to move forward was skills in the area of leadership. So for several weeks, I reflected on what I could be doing better, and practicing some of the stuff that we had talked about in that 1:1. A couple 1:1s later, though, and their position appeared to have reversed. Now I was told that leadership was my strength, and I just had a little bit to work on in the technical realm. And again, several 1:1s later and I was working on something different.

I felt completely ungrounded. I had no map to help me navigate. The beliefs I was using to evaluate reality, make decisions, and otherwise think were shown to be unreliable.

To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again. From the awakened point of view, that’s life. Death is wanting to hold on to what you have and to have every experience confirm you and congratulate you and make you feel completely together. So even though we say the yama mara is fear of death, it’s actually fear of life.

“When Things Fall Apart” by Pema Chödrön

I experienced something similar more recently while I was searching for a new home. It seemed like everyone I was looking to for advice had different opinions about what to look for. Something that was a red flag to one person was just a minor issue for someone else. Risks that were a big consideration to one person weren’t much of a concern to another. Homes that were acceptable in the past are no longer acceptable. Homes that were not acceptable in the past are now acceptable, although many things in this category are now missed opportunities.

Nevertheless, I was again feeling lost and stuck.

Each time something changed, I would hang on to that as if it were truth. When it turned out to not be a solid, consistent, reliable truth, I would feel a rush of many things: panic, confusion, frustration, annoyance, groundlessness, sadness, fear, etc.

Because I would experience something and become attached to that, I would suffer in the future when change happened. I would resist the present moment in all its impermanence and try to hold to my attachment.

Perhaps the scariest place where I struggle with this idea of impermanence is in the area of romance. [3, 4]

The idea of letting myself be truly seen by somebody who could one day be gone, or an enemy, is terrifying. To let someone see my insecurities, know my fears, understand what triggers me… it’s hard for me to allow myself to do that when I think about the impermanence of it.

But then that’s just self-sabotaging. I prevent people from connecting with me, which may prevent them from allowing me to see and connect with them. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle of death.

In his own way, Trungpa Rinpoche devised such a course for his students. He’d have us memorize certain chants, and a few months after most of us knew them, he’d change the wording. He’d teach us specific rituals and be extremely precise about how they should be done. Just about the time we began criticizing people who did them wrong, he’d teach the rituals in a completely different way. We would print up nice manuals with all the correct procedures, but usually they were outdated before they came off the press. After years of this sort of training, one begins to relax one’s grip. If today the instruction is to put everything on the right, one does that as impeccably as one can. When tomorrow the instruction is to put everything on the left, one does that with one’s whole heart. The idea of one right way sort of dissolves into the mist.

“When Things Fall Apart” by Pema Chödrön

On coming to terms with impermanence (and exploring how I relate to my attachments), I was reflecting on meditation the past couple of days.

My experience with meditation thus far has largely been guided meditations through apps such as Headspace, Calm, and Insights Timer. I’ve never found these guided meditations to be particularly transformational, although they sometimes help me to fall asleep.

Something I am interested in trying is bringing those same techniques practiced through those apps and applying it to my interactions with other people.

I’m curious how my interactions with others will change if I can recognize my reactions to what they say and do. “That is a thought that I have about that.” “That is an opinion that I have.” “I feel this sensation in my body.” “I feel unsafe, confused, and ungrounded but I can choose to sit with this. This too shall pass.”

I don’t recall deliberately trying to meditate while interacting with other people. I think it will be incredibly difficult, but I also see some great opportunities for me there.