One of the reasons we had recommended the Waking Up meditation app last month was that it is also home to some lovely conversations hosted by Sam Harris, acclaimed neuroscientist and writer. One that comes to mind is a set of questions he posed to Leo Babauta, author and creator of the Zen Habits blog. We are placing a few snippets here because we believe it contains valuable advice.
Harris: What is it that you principally teach?
Babauta: Where I started with was habit change. I did that for a long time. But the latest bit was around fear and fearlessness. What holds us back and changes our relationship with fear.
What I started out with was habit change and obstacles. For instance, I must exercise. But I email instead or meditate. So, how do I bring mindfulness here and think about it and ask, is there some resistance here. Thinking about it. Am I resisting exercise? And being kind to myself?
Another thing is, what happens if you didn’t do it? You feel great for a while. But then, after a week or two, this is one of the most destructive patterns or two, you beat yourself or, you have a negative pattern that kicks in and get into alcohol or some such thing and beat yourself up more. This isn’t helpful again. So you need to bring mindfulness...
Harris: How do you implement attention for doing the right things?
Babauta: We never give ourselves any praise for doing the right thing. For example, we say, we sucked at doing the meditation. But what about the fact that you sat down to meditate. What about that you could hold your breath for three breaths. Maybe you meditated for five days as opposed to seven. So praise the five days as opposed to penalising the two days that were missed.
Have a peaceful Sunday.
In this issue
- FF Recommends: Fitness routines
- Movie of the week
FF Recommends: Fitness routines
Aayush Soni on rediscovering golf: Before the nationwide lockdown downed gym shutters on March 25, I was a regular at Cure.fit, a fitness centre chain that gave members access to different workout formats. Thrice a week, I’d either go for boxing class, an intense high-intensity interval training session or a strength-and-conditioning workout.
In the last six months, I’ve tried different forms of exercise to fill the void caused by gym closures in Delhi. In the initial days of the lockdown, I’d go for hour-long brisk walks and runs near my house. The absence of cars meant that, for a change, arterial roads opened up for people to explore by foot—a rarity in Delhi. I tried complementing my walks with some resistance band workouts at home but gave up because I wanted some fresh air. So as the lockdown eased and public parks reopened, I resumed my evening walks at Lodhi Gardens. Except they lacked the intensity of the cure.fit workout. That’s when I discovered (or rediscovered) golf.
A 15-minute drive from house is the Siri Fort Sports Complex, one of the city’s few public facilities where you play golf after paying a nominal amount (Rs 60 entry fee, Rs 60 for a bucket of 50 balls). I bought a second-hand set from Golf Garage, an enterprise that aims to democratise the sport. Run by professional golfer Rahul Bajaj, it allows aspirants to buy golf equipment without burning a hole in their wallet. I procured a second hand set for Rs 4,500—a steal considering that a beginners’ set costs between Rs 20,000 and 35,000.
In hindsight, I’m glad I chose to learn golf. It allows me to get some fresh air and not think about work or the drudgery of life. Plus, unlike tennis or squash, I don’t have to rely on someone else’s company to play. More importantly, because bays at the driving range are 2 metres apart, there’s adequate social distancing.
For one hour thrice a week, it was just me and my 7 iron club, hitting golf balls as far as I could from the driving range bay. No phone calls, no texts, no social media, nothing—just like pre-lockdown workouts at cure.fit.
Aayush Soni is a writer based in New Delhi.
Charles Assisi on the NukeLeeUs workout: After having gone totally out of shape, I had resolved to hit my stride (literally). The weekend before the lockdown was announced, I had managed to do a 10k run effortlessly. It felt like a dream and I enjoyed every minute of the uphill run through the gentle slopes of the Aarey Forest near where I live in Mumbai. I was prepping for a 15k in my head when the lockdown was imposed. It felt something close to heart-break.
After a few days of looking longingly out of the window, a voice in the head told me what had gotten me this far from total inactivity was the NukeLeeUs workout that my friend Dr Rajat Chauhan had prescribed. It is a routine the sports medicine doctor had spent much time thinking about and insisted is something I ought to get familiar with.
While this routine looks deceptively simple, it activates all the muscles in the body and provides strength training at the same time. While training to run, I was on variants of this routine three days a week as prescribed by my coach. With running ruled out, I decided to up this to six days a week, increase the intensity, and attempt variations of each exercise. You can follow the full routine here.
By way of example, on some days, I’d attempt 100-150 squats as fast as I could. Then on other days, I’d go very slow and hold my position on each squat until I felt a dull ache in the thighs. As the days passed, I’ve learnt to do heel raises standing on one leg. This takes effort and is time well invested for a few reasons.
- This is the only time I get when the world outside is locked out.
- While my weight hasn’t changed, I’ve dropped one size on my clothes. What it means is I’ve lost fat, but gained muscle.
- Earlier this week, I finally managed to step out for a run. I had lost my stride. The gait seemed awkward. I know it will get back.
But guess what? I was running with a facemask. I’ve never done this before. It was tough. But heck! I could do it. For 20-30-odd minutes, and over about 3-4 km I guess.
Vinay Shrivastava on adjusting to walking inside the home: As someone who is months away from hitting 60, I have over the years realised that taking conscious steps towards being physically healthy is perhaps the only way to be mentally calm. Every day when you open the newspaper, you will find how blood pressure and diabetes are wreaking havoc. Or worse, you will often get a call from a friend sharing the impact their recent diagnosis has had on their mindset. And the restrictions that follow.
So, my religious 8:00 p.m. walking routine for the past 15 years has been my way of telling myself “Shrivastava, you are safe. Till you keep walking, you will be healthy. And better yet, you will be able to continue consuming sweets and meat in moderation, without fear of severe restrictions.”
My evening walks within my building premises are not just about exercising though. They are central to my leadership and decision making, whether personal or professional. I can narrate hundreds of anecdotes when I took a successful policy decision simply because of the clarity of thought the walk brought in.
All of this was working well till the pandemic hit and stepping out was not an easy option anymore. Initially, I thought that the ordeal would end within days. But even when it became clear that we are in this for the long run, I didn’t want to risk stepping out for my evening walks. I was worried that I would run into children and friends, or may end up touching contaminated surfaces. The peace of mind that I am safe from Covid-19 came from the fact that I was completely secluded at home.
At the same time, not being able to walk daily was frustrating. I had to find a new way of not just staying fit, but also processing my thoughts—given Covid-19 brought unprecedented challenges at the workplace too.
I started with something extremely simple: taking 150 rounds of my flat, from one end of the home to the other. Everytime I would have a break, between office calls and household chores, I would get up and start walking. Religiously. And complete as many rounds as possible. Hitting 150 rounds a day was a must.
The funny part is I have always had a treadmill at home as a contingency for the rains. But I never liked using it. It felt unnatural. However, letting it rust was not an option anymore. So after some back and forth, I finally added it to my routine—15 minutes each in the morning and evening. What helped me adjust was a dynamic playlist that I carefully put together. It includes sounds of meditation, the sea, the rain and the forest.
While it’s nowhere close to the experience of walking in fresh air, it is a start.
Vinay Shrivastava is Executive Director, POSOCO, based in Mumbai
Movie of the week
Apparently, this is how people feel since they’re in WFH mode. Agree? Disagree? Let us know on our Slack channel.
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