This is my personal blog. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the congregations I serve.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Losing It.

Since February I have lost 25 pounds. People have remarked about it and asked me to say how I did it, which I am taking as an opportunity to reflect on this whole experience. I am especially wondering if it has anything to teach me about any other areas of my spiritual/psychological/somatic life. There will be at least two parts to this reflection. This first part simply tells what I did.

In terms of the weight loss, I had no prescribed “plan.” Certainly nothing from a book. I started with a very simple strategy, based on rudimentary knowledge and a little past experience, which was basically to cut my consumption of carbohydrates and increase the fiber in my diet. For the first two weeks I cut the carbs way down by avoiding pasta, bread, rice, and potatoes, and reducing my sugar to the honey in my morning tea (and whatever was in the fruits and vegetables I ate). I also started eating yogurt with two tablespoons of wheat germ in the morning. My goal was to lose five pounds by my birthday, February 27. I wanted to see if I was on the right track. It worked.

After this I began to set more ambitious goals. I added back a moderate amount of carbs, but some things, like soft drinks, I eliminated for good. I reduced the size of my lunches. The weight continued to drop off, but much slower. I made my goal of losing ten more pounds by Easter, and another five by Pentecost. A final component is that I became a compulsive self-weigher, taking a reading at least once a day (in the morning). This gave me some idea of what I could or couldn’t do that day.

Then I hit a wall. The strategy was not working for the last five to ten pounds. I stayed around the same weight through the summer. Then this past month I focused in on further carb reductions and that did the trick.

Meanwhile, I continued doing yoga, attending a class once-a-week, and doing sun salutations most mornings. I also got into taking morning walks and even running for about half a mile, but this has become sporadic.

So much for the weight thing. I will also say that a bunch of other events happened to me over this seven month period. Like, I had an operation in April to clear out and drill open my sinuses.

More importantly, I regularized my daily Scripture reading and prayer/meditation routine, something I have been trying to do for years. Part of this has been consistent use of the labyrinth at my wife’s church. Along with the physical discipline I was able to add a spiritual component… but I haven’t decided how they relate to each other. Certainly it hasn’t been conscious; I never mentioned in my prayers explicitly anything about eating or not eating. There is a confluence in the walking/labyrinth/prayer piece.

At the same time, I was almost daily using these “releases and affirmations” relating to my enneagram type. Some of these speak generally to issues of the body, which is an important element for my type to integrate. It may be that on some deeper level this was helping me develop the strength to do what I was doing elsewhere in my life.

Anyway, that’s how I did it, fwiw. Now to keep it off, which I think I can do by not falling into old bad habits and continually monitoring where I am.

This whole thing has been a tremendous boost to my sense of personal power and integrity. The place where I ended up seemed impossible seven months ago. And I had frequently depressed myself by taking on huge goals and falling short. I would have been happy to have lost only ten pounds, to tell the truth. I am getting the sense that with the right attitude and methodology I can do… well, not anything, but I can certainly open up some areas of my life that had been mired in inertia and paralysis for decades.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Iftar.

Last night we attended an iftar dinner at the home of a Muslim family. We know these folks through Susan's church, which has been developing a relationship with a group of mostly Turkish Muslims in our area. One family invited us to their home for the dinner that ends the daily Ramadan fast.

During the month of Ramadan, in commemoration of the days during which the Koran was revealed to Muhammad, Muslims fast from food and water during daylight hours of the day. Each evening they break the fast with a family meal to which it is customary to invite friends and other guests.

So we drove into New Brunswick to the home of a young family where we sat down to a delightful, informal meal. There were our host and hostess and their adorable baby daughter, two international students at Rutgers, my son Daniel, my wife Susan, and me.

We learned a lot about Islamic practices and holidays. This led to interested questions about Christian holidays. Our friends apparently didn't know much about Easter, which they asked us to explain. Susan gave an excellent summary of Jesus' life, why he was killed, his resurrection, and the foundation of the church at Pentecost. (I provided the color commentary.) I should know better in this post-Christendom, global age, but it still surprises me when I come across people who have never heard this before.

We also talked about Muslim holidays, which appear to be few. The emphasis is on the 5 daily prayers and the "5 pillars:" the confession of faith in One God and the Prophet, the daily prayers, giving alms, the fast, and the Haj (pilgrimage to Mecca). The meal at the last evening of the Ramadan fast seems to be the most important holiday for Muslims.

Our conversation ranged across a lot of other topics. But the main things we experienced were a gracious hospitality, a gentleness and simplicity, and an inquisitiveness, along with a deep and comfortably held faith.

We are looking forward to returning the hospitality and inviting this family to our home.