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Archery Meditation + Zen Focus

How good is your concentration when you are trying to shoot? Do you get distracted easily? Can you shoot properly even while distracted?

There are many books on the topic of Zen Archery (a few of them are good, a lot of them are actually horrible). One of the books I recommend the most on this topic are "Zen Bow, Zen Arrow", which includes a biography and the poems of Awa Kenzo - it is the poetry that is most useful and profound if you want to get into zen archery and want to understand the essence of Zen Archery.

Another book I recommend is "The Unfettered Mind", which is actually not an archery book. It is a series of letters written by Takuan Soho and sent to famous samurai approx. 500 years ago, during which he advises them on matters of concentration, swordplay and politics. But the advice he gives in the letters doesn't just apply to swordsmanship, it also applies to archery and many other tasks.

The last book I recommend is "Kyudo - The Essence and Practice of Japanese Archery" by Hideharu Onuma. This book is for people who want to get into the ceremonial practice of Kyudo and aren't really into Zen Archery. But if your focus is on doing both Kyudo and Zen Archery, then I do recommend that particular book for your collection.

Now you might think "Hey, what about 'Zen in the Art of Archery' by Eugen Herrigel. Honestly. I read it. I was not impressed with his writing and I find he presents a stereotype of the practice of Zen within archery. You can still read the book if you wish, but I recommend you not put too much stock in his writing.

There is a video below about 'archery meditation' made by an instructor at a tropical resort, and the video gives you an idea of the concentration required to do archery - but it really is only the tip of the iceberg. I have created a list of fifteen tips further below for people who want to improve their concentration skills for the purposes of archery.

15 Concentration Tips for Archery

#1. Do things slowly and methodically. Not just archery, but everything you do. eg. Wash the dishes slowly and methodically and concentrate on what you are doing as you do it slowly.

#2. Eat foods that take a long time to eat. Fruits like apples and bananas for example can be eaten slowly (don't cut them into smaller pieces, that is just speeding up the process).

#3. Do one thing at a time. Avoid multitasking.

#4. Focus your eyes on what you are doing. Don't look at the archery target until you have completed each step.

#5. When do focus on your target, focus your eye at a single point in space.

#6. Take your time aiming.

#7. Avoid speed shooting. This is not a speed competition. You should not be looking at the clock, counting the seconds or even worried about how much time you are spending on the shot.

#8. Do math in your head. The more complicated math you can do in your head, the more you have to concentrate and remember what you are doing. Focus on the math. Visualize it.

#9. Ignore emails, texts and don't listen to music unless you have set aside a specific time of day just for listening to music, answering emails or texts. Focus on only one of these things at once.

#10. Motivate yourself on what you are doing. Whatever you are doing is important, otherwise you would not be doing it. Focus on the task, stay motivated as to why you are doing, why you want it to be perfect. It doesn't matter what you are doing, regardless of whether you are grilling bacon (so fatty, but it serves my example because if you lose concentration and burn the bacon you will realize you were distracted) or composing an email (and then have typos or poor grammar in sentences).

#11. Plan what you are doing before you do it. Have everything ready and set in place, ready to be put in motion.

#12. Shut the door, turn off the radio, close the window (to avoid noise from the street) - shut out all distractions from what you are focused on. So if you are listening to an audiobook, that should be the only thing you are listening to - and focusing on listening should be the only thing you are doing.

#13. Don't forget to take breaks. Eventually your mind gets exhausted and you just to relax and unwind. Time to watch or listen something entertaining, spend time with family or even just take a nap. People can't concentrate if they are tired or mentally exhausted.

#14. Eat, but don't overeat. Being hungry is a distraction, but so is gastric distress and heartburn.

#15. Slow down when making important decisions. Sometimes this is necessary. A hasty decision made when you haven't concentrated on the consequences isn't going to help you. With archery this means you need to think about your next shot before you even do it. Know where you want to be aiming, use your best judgement based on the distance and all your knowledge. Your first instinct is rarely correct, but you don't want to over-think it either.

Yoga and Zen Vacations

Yoga retreats are a booming global industry, primarily for women and women's retreats, but there is a small but growing percentage of men who are visiting yoga retreats too.

The principle is simple - you go on vacation to some exotic locale, stay there and do yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, and other activities (eg. some of these retreats even offer archery lessons).

Many of these retreats work on a 3-day or 7-day programme and offer a series of workshops on yoga, meditation - as well as services like massage, therapeutic discussions, etc.

The idea essentially is for people to go there, relax, do yoga, and then come back from their vacation feeling refreshed and re-energized.

There is only one problem.

These retreats are often ridiculously over priced and geared towards getting people to come back again and again because it is addictive. So be forewarned, if you get into visiting yoga retreats regularly you will discover they are very expensive and you will find yourself going back again and again. I have a friend who goes to a yoga retreat in Romania every year, spending $5,000 to $6,000 every year on the 2-week trip (she even borrows money from people just so she can go, even though she knows she should be spending her money more wisely). For just a portion of that she could get a membership at a local yoga studio in Toronto and go there all year long instead of 2 weeks per year.

From my perspective yoga is something that shouldn't even cost money. People do yoga in the park. Toronto has a Free Yoga Meetup group that organizes free events at Toronto parks for people who are into yoga. So it doesn't have to cost a cent, and you get to meet new people, make friends, and explore Toronto. Win-Win-Win.

There is actually multiple meetup groups for Yoga in Toronto/GTA.

North York Free Yoga

Plus Size Yoga Toronto

Etobicoke Yoga Grove

Markham Yoga

Beach Yoga Toronto

So there really is no shortage of Yoga Clubs in Toronto that people can join. No reason to go overseas or spend $1000s just to have a good time and feel good about yourself.

Waist Training, Skinny Waists and Training Corsets

Myth Busting on Training Corsets

Guest Post

For women (and historically, some men did this too) one of the techniques people used to lose weight / prevent over-eating was 'training corsets' designed to cinch the waist together so that they could achieve an hourglass shape of their chest to waist to hips ratio.

1950s Pinup Model Betty Brosmer
The purpose of training corsets was not for it to be worn as a fashion piece, but to train the waist so it was a specific shape whenever the corset was NOT on.

You can see the results in the photo on the right from the 1950s.

Or at the photo of Kim Kardashian further below. In the case of Kim Kardashian there has been a lot of social buzz about whether various photos of her were photoshopped to make her waist looking small and her hips look bigger. But if you are familiar with the history of corsets you will know that Kim's waist and hips don't need photoshop. There were plenty of women (and men too) from history who had highly cinched waists who had curvier / more hourglass shaped figures.

Doing this is basically just another form of body modification similar to piercings, tattoos, breast implants / pectoral implants, botox, liposuction, synthol injections, steroid addiction, cosmetic surgery, rhinoplasty, circumcision, eyeball tattooing (I bet you didn't even know that one existed), microdermal / transdermal / subdermal implants, silicone injections, tongue splitting, cranial binding, foot binding, branding, ear shaping, scarification, tooth filing, etc. Many of these activities are the result of body dysmorphic disorders / mental illnesses in which the person feels inadequate unless they can change their body in a specific way.

Kim Kardashian taking a Selfie

In the case of waist training, it is true that many practitioners do lose weight because it is a bit like Gastric Bypass Surgery in that it restricts how much a person can eat. (Gastric bypass surgery is a surgical procedure in which the stomach is divided into a small upper pouch and a much larger lower "remnant" pouch and then the small intestine is rearranged to connect to both. The small stomach can then consume less food, resulting in the person having smaller meals and they lose weight over the long term.)

However the health effects of tightlacing / corset training causes havoc with the individual's internal organs. Below is a list of health defects that can result from an addiction to tightlacing.

Short term effects of tightlacing
  • Extreme discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Faintness
  • Indigestion
  • Chafing of the skin
Long term effects of tightlacing
  • Weak abdominal muscles
  • Spinal problems / back pain
  • Problems urinating / leaky bladder (a practitioner might end up having to wear diapers)
  • Broken ribs / osteoporosis in the ribs
  • Compression of internal organs (similar to when organs are compressed during pregnancy)
  • Decreased lung volume / shallow breathing (intercostal breathing)
  • Mucosal build up in the lungs causes frequent bouts of pneumonia / coughing, which caused a Victorian myth that corset wearing caused tuberculosis
  • Liver is pushed upwards towards the ribs, forming ridges in between the ribs and accessory lobes - the connection of which can be quite thin, which resulted in the Victorian myth that corset wearing can 'cut a liver in half'.
  • Stomach volume compressed resulting in long term problems with indigestion, heartburn, gastric reflux. Practitioners avoid carbonated drinks, beans or any gassy foods.
  • Intestine compression causes constipation / anal leakage / rectal discharge (again, necessitating the use of diapers)
Dietary problems
  • The reduced stomach volume means many practitioners need to eat 6 smaller meals because eating 3 larger meals is no longer possible due to insufficient volume. Failing to eat sufficient nutrients can result in severe weight loss and accompanying health problems.

If people really want to try waist training that is really their personal choice. But they should at least get into it knowing the health dangers/embarrassment they face (back pain, diapers, heartburn, etc). The prospect of diapers alone is enough of a reason in my opinion.

We should also note that sometimes training corsets are sometimes used to deliberately correct the curvature of the spine, in the case of people who have suffered traumatic injuries to the spine. However, just because corsets do have some medical applications, doesn't automatically mean they're safe when used for aesthetic waist training purposes.

3 Ways to Track Calories More Easily

One of the best ways to lose weight is to count calories so you can have a specific number of calories every day (and if you overeat, schedule more time to exercise to burn off any excess calories).

But to do this means a lot of math and some people don't like math. So how can you make it easier for you to do?

#1. Get your kids to do the math

Think of it like extra homework or chores. If you already reward your kids doing their chores / doing homework with an allowance then this will just be another way for your kids to earn $$$. So this is a win for your kids and a win for you.

#2. Calorie Counting App

Get a calorie counting app for your smartphone and start keeping track of everything using the app. Pretty easy, but you have to remember to do it every time you eat so much as an apple or a yogurt.

#3. Meal Plans

Plan your meals and snacks so you know exactly how many calories you are consuming each day based on the menu for the day.

This way you know you are getting 300 calories for breakfast and lunch, 200 calories during snack breaks at 10 AM, 3 PM + 8 PM, and 400 calories for supper. So [300 x 2] + [200 x 3] + 400 = 1600 calories daily.

As long as you just stick to your daily pre-planned meals and snacks, you don't even have to do any math beyond the initial calculations of how much to eat of each thing to make the total amount of calories for each meal. Once you've gone through all that, you've done the math, you just have to follow the plan.

Note - #3 is basically how Weight Watchers Meal Plans, Jenny Craig Meal Plans, and similar brand name meal plans work. They're designed so you just follow the plan and don't have to do any math.

You can find a variety of different types of pre-made meal plans online. Everything from vegan meal plans, paleo diet meal plans, weight gain / muscle gain meal plans (for weightlifters who want to bulk up), etc. Below are some sample meal plans, but basically you can just Google "vegan meal plan" or whatever topic you are looking for and find plenty of examples of meal plans that might suit your needs and then pick one you like.

Weightlifting Accessories - Useful or Useless?

There are lots of accessories out there for weight lifters, but do you actually need them or are they useless?

Here is my List of Weightlifting Accessories, separated into four categories: Useful, Sometimes Useful, Mostly Useless and Utterly Useless.

#1. Weight Lifting Gloves = Useful

Very useful at protecting your hands from blisters. Some people might consider them unnecessary, but if you've ever had blisters on your hands from weight lifting you will agree they are a must have. They are also useful for gripping barbells easier.

The company I use is Atlas, but I also found a pair of bicycle gloves "Copper Canyon" that are practically identical to the Atlas weight lifting gloves.

#2. Dumbbells = Useful

You are weight lifting. You are going to need lots of different dumbbells in different weight sizes. This is an useful must have - unless you are trying to take the frugal exercising approach, in which case you will need to build your own dumbbells out of scrap.

#3. Wrist Wraps = Sometimes Useful

Wrist wraps provide extra support for your wrists, but not everyone needs them.

#4. Lifting Wraps = Mostly Useless

These are designed so you don't have to worry about your grip so much. You attach them to your wrists and then wrap them around the barbell you are lifting, making it easier to maintain your grip. However if you already use weight lifting gloves, then these things are pointless. I toss these in the Mostly Useless pile.

#5. Deadlift Bar Jack = Utterly Useless

Are you deadlifting and feeling pain as you are lifting the weight off the ground? Then you probably should not be lifting that much weight in the first place. A deadlift bar jack holds the barbell slightly off the ground so you don't have to bend over as much (and strain your back). But if you look at the photo on the right you see it only raises it off the ground by 1 or 2 inches, so does it really make difference? No. Not by much. If your back is hurting you that much, then stop lifting so much at once.

#6. Dip Belt = Mostly Useless

Are you planning on holding weights between your legs while doing pull ups or similar exercises like the guy in the photo? Probably not. So this would only be useful if you actually plan on doing this. I was very tempted to put this in the Utterly Useless pile, but it does have 1 use.

#7. Gym Chalk = Useful

Lets pretend for a moment you don't like using gloves and you want more grip. Well gym chalk is the old fashioned solution. Gives you plenty of grip. Also available as 'chalk balls'.

#8. Lifting Belt = Sometimes Useful

Similar to the wrist wraps, lifting belts are designed so you don't throw your back out lifting something you should probably not be lifting in the first place. But sometimes people don't know their limits so it is wise to be wearing one of these if you are going to be lifting anything which will be using your back muscles a lot.

#9. Knee Supports = Sometimes Useful

Same deal as the wrist wraps and the lifting belt. If you are lifting heavy weights with your knees you may want to be wearing knee supports.

#10. Lifting Hooks = Sometimes Useful

If your grip is really that bad, then you should get a set of lifting hooks. They work waaaaaaaaaaaay better than lifting wraps and you are guaranteed not to be dropping whatever you are lifting.

#11. Liquid Grip = Sometimes Useful

Conceptually, these work the same as gym chalk, but honestly I don't see this being a necessity for anyone who is not a full time bodybuilder. If you're just doing weightlifting for exercise, use gym chalk. If you are doing it 4 hours almost every day then okay, get the liquid grip.

#12. Head/Neck Harness = Utterly Useless

Seriously??? Are you going to be lifting things with your head/neck like the guy in the photo below? Unless you are then this is going in the Utterly Useless pile.

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