Loyalty — to principles or personalities?

I just had this thought today. It came from a story on NPR about how some politicians were loyal to a cause/party/representative/etc… I’ve had various levels of loyalty in my life, but I’ve never been rock solid to a single person or cause to the point of giving complete trust to another party.

Per Wikipedia: Loyalty is faithfulness or a devotion to a person or cause.

For me, I find it easier to assume and align my loyalties to principles or ideals more than people. That being said, I think I could align myself with people if we shared the same ideals, though I think I’d need to see demonstrative examples from those I tried to align myself with. I guess that falls into the “trust, but verify” paradigm.

A note on depression medication

Someone asked me to share some of my experience with being treated for Major Clinical Depression. Here’s what I wrote:

Dear friend, Thanks for your response. Your note brought up lots of ideas for us to share! Dealing with MCP was incredibly helpful for me to grow in many ways, often dealing with the primary focus of this class in fact — that being to get to know myself better. The fact that you are as in tune with yourself as to notice “that feeling” creeping in is fantastic. There was too much time in my life where I blew off those recognitions and/or they were too faint for me to acknowledge as important. One simple, but powerful, tool that was given to me was rating my feelings on a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is “overwhelmed by” that feeling. A crucial part of that tool, though, is the fact that if I’m rating something over a 5, that I’m probably being controlled by that feeling rather than the other way around. For example, when I was active in my med therapy, especially when I went through med changes (before the changes stabilized), I would have swings in my numbers. There were times when, even though the meds stabilized, my numbers were still consistently above a 5. When those were the case, I knew that there wasn’t much I could do through self will, but that I needed to get more care and maybe have my meds adjusted by my doctor. I would record these trends and show them to my doctor. He’d almost always be able to make an adjustment that, 10-14 days later, would stabilize my moods. The fact that my numbers were consistently below 5s (often 0-1!) meant that I could wean myself off the meds (under the care of my doctor, of course!) until my brain chem was operating on its own steam. My point is that if you’re having trouble with your moods/feelings being stable, then maybe you need to discuss this in more detail with your doctor. You should _not_ have to struggle so much with moods that swing wildly due to mild experiences. People with healthy brain chemistry don’t. The reason I think this is so important is that, until I was able to get my brain chemistry moderated, I couldn’t successfully make lasting changes in other aspects of life. It was like trying to improve the performance of my entire car with my engine running on only a few of its cylinders. Bolting on a turbo would not make a big difference as the non-working cylinders would be working _against_ the engine itself. In fact, the turbo would most likely make my engine damage itself further. Getting racing spark plugs wouldn’t help nearly as much since they simply wouldn’t be addressing the primary problem with my engine. Getting all cylinders to work properly was fundamental to all my other changes being able to integrate properly. This is all my experience and not doctrine. I’m not a professional, so please take this note as such. If you have any other questions, please ask. I’m happy to share my experience or just be available to hear what your experience has been like. Many others made themselves available to me as such. Maybe I’ll have a chance to “pass it on”. Talk to you soon, Burt

Do you meditate?

According to Wikipedia (emphasis mine):

Meditation is a mental discipline by which one attempts to get beyond the conditioned, “thinking” mind into a deeper state of relaxation or awareness. Meditation often involves turning attention to a single point of reference. It is recognized as a component of almost all religions, and has been practiced for over 5,000 years.

So, for me, I’ve learned to use meditation as a chance to find what’s true within myself. I used to worry that what I’d come up with would be unworthy, so I’d just glom onto whatever truths were handed to me that sounded good, that resonated with me. That turned out to be pretty limiting, though, as I was heavily dependent on others to articulate my truths. As that became a habit, I ended up being completely dependent on others to provide my sense of self worth.

Thankfully, all of that time wasn’t lost, but rather inefficient towards my inevitable goal of self realization.

The reason I felt compelled to post about this is that there seem to be far too many issues or events where we, as humans, often react without attempting to “get beyond the conditioned, ‘thinking'” and we often dismiss or ignore the more thoughtful alternatives. I’ve have often found myself saying “I wish I had handled that differently” in the past. I’ve felt that with impulse buys, flashes of anger, and instances of following a crowd.

While there have been many cases where my gut reaction was appropriate and desirable, I’ve seen that I almost always could have afforded a few moments, or “sleeping on it”, before making the same decision. A friend responded to me, “well, what’s the point, then? Why spend the time to meditate?” My thinking is that I’ve hardly ever been in a life or death situation that demanded instant response, so what’s the harm in being even just a little more deliberate?

And then, what about those more difficult choices? Take Proposition 8 for example. In the past, I could have taken the thoughts of others (leaders, ministers, friends, etc…) and acted on those. In the past, I’ve often felt afraid of bucking the status quo, of disappointing friends and family, of standing out in a crowd. I’ve found that those fears have often cost me my sense of self and of my living an authentic life, one true to the depths of my soul. I find that meditation helps in this regard and, in turn, makes my life a whole lot easier to live.

Lessons from a “broken” back

Last week, I strained a muscle during a training session. I felt it happen and, while I slowed down and finished the session, I didn’t really address the problem for another two days.

If you know me, you know how much I love my car, yet I had reached the point of lusting for an SUV. At that point, I decided to get help and saw my standby body helper, Dr. Chad Wells at The League Chiropractic. He helped me during my marathon run in 2006 and he totally pulled through again.

Why am I telling you this? Because this taught me a lot and if I can pass something on to someone, I’m gonna do it.

Lesson #1: Trunk Strength — it’s important, and I hadn’t been paying any attention to it. So, my back gave out. With a broken back, a person once told me (when I broke my pelvis) that you’re basically broken in half. Well, I was close to 50% anyway. Bad news.

Lesson #2: Muscles “strain” and ligaments “sprain” — I’m grateful as heck that I didn’t get a sprain. AFAIK, soft, connective tissue takes way longer to heal than muscles do.

Lesson #3: Cold for two days, then heat and motion — Temperature therapy can help. Applying cold ≈controls inflammation and was recommended to me for the first two days after injury. Applying heat increases circulation which, while exercising gently, can help the muscles to repair quickly.

Lesson #4: Homeopathy works for me — I was given the suggestion to try Arnica 30c for pain and discomfort. This was my first time trying homeopathic remedies, but it worked for me! My skepticism of homeopathy has been present for some time but, after this experience, I can buy into it even based on the placebo effect. If that is truly the mechanism for these remedies to work, then it simply affirms the power of the mind. I’m cool with that.

Lesson #5: Isometrics can be done anytime — With as uncomfortable as it was moving around, I had to find some way to deal without injuring myself further. I found that simply tensing my abdominals took away most, if not all, the pressure and pain on my strained muscle. I started sitting straighter and I was more conscientious of how I maneuvered my body, all while tensing my stomach. I ended up tensing my abs more and more throughout the day and, in a couple days, I felt surprisingly tighter. This has also helped to ease into crunches. Cool.

That’s about it. More later, I’m sure. Time to put Sarah to bed.

Choice: The Heart of the Matter (or Issue)?

There are some issues in dispute that seem bound by a simple premise — whether the issue is a matter of choice.

This came up for me recently with the California Supreme Court’s ruling on the ban of gay marriage being unconstitutional. I was wondering why this was such a polarized debate for people when I remembered how some people that I’ve spoken with simply believe that sexual orientation is a conscious choice rather than an natural attribute, like hair color or gender.

I think that when people accept that an issue is beyond a person’s ability to choose, that there is less dispute. This doesn’t always work, but I think it’s crucial for people to understand each other.

Sometimes I try to exemplify the issue by proposing that a person imagine they have cancer. There’s no absolute cure as of yet and the best a person can do is assume a positive attitude and pursue available treatments. While some achieve success, there’s no guarantee that a person can “choose” to get over cancer.

I’ve spoken to people before about gay rights and many times people have simply assumed that being gay was a choice. I don’t fully agree. I imagine that some people choose it, but I also believe that for many (most?) it is simply the way they are built, in the same way I’m male and Asian.

I try to apply this same thinking in matters of status, race, gender, etc… There are some things that can be affected by choice, but there are no guarantees. While many people have achieved amazing successes through hard work, discipline, and positive thinking (amongst other attributes), there are simply forces beyond human choice that affect outcomes.

My point is that I often feel sad at the lack of tolerance or compassion for people that get the short end of the stick in society. Prejudice sucks and I think it can be avoided.

Last thought: consider the people you know that have changed from being more accepting of people to less accepting, then compare that number with people changing from less to more. I think the second number would be larger and I imagine that comes from experience of the world trumping preconceptions from youth. I could be wrong.

What I learned at Novice School

Man, just sitting down for some pho for dinner after an amazing day of learning how to race. Ahhh. My legs are tired from walking so much, but aside from that, I had such a great day!

So, what’d I learn today? I learned a bunch of things including:

– autocross is NOT about pressing the throttle as hard as I physically can
– fast autocross times are typically contrary to getting my ya-ya’s out
– steady is good
– smooth is good
– slowing down for slow corners is better than powering through them
– all things being equal, the shorter line is better
– my car is amazing!

I netted the second best time, beat only by Dave in his BSP RX-8. Before he did his time, I had first and second place. Not to toot my own horn, but I was smoking!

I have so much to be thankful to this new guy I met named Raijo. He was an incredible instructor and he gave me so much to work with and practice. I’m indebted to his patience, skill, and generosity of spirit.

Lastly, I swear, the community of autocrossers really kicks butt. All the instructors were volunteers and they were good spirited throughout and endlessly helpful. Thanks to all the volunteers.