Partially inspired by Ryan Holiday’s Reading Recommendation Newsletter, I thought I would compile a list of books I have read this past year on my path of mindfulness. Ryan tends to read a lot of books- his emails list at least five books and some are not quick reads. Seeing the books he was reading encouraged me to read more this year, which is part of the reason I was absent from writing on this site. Little by little, I’ve been reading more at a volume I was more accustomed to in University.
I still read online a lot more compared to books, but a shift is slowly happening where I wean out the quick reads that won’t stick and focus on readings that will sit with me for a longer time. Less newsy items, more larger picture pieces.
My reading has focused more on mindfulness and Buddhism this year. I haven’t listed every book I read this year in regards to mindfulness, and I’m leaving out the books with other topics that are not as interesting to most people who will read this (i.e. prospecting new clients.) Without further ado, here is the path I have been taking this past year, with an unlikely first book that jumpstarted this journey.
Finding Zero: A Mathematician’s Odyssey to Uncover the Origins of Numbers by Amir Aczel
I discovered this book through Jason Kottke after it first came out. Something that isn’t as well known about me is I enjoy mathematics, and also have a fondness for stories of discovery. I like reading or watching videos about how certain inventions came to be, and Wikipedia tends to be a rabbit hole for me when I get curious about how something happened. Finding Zero is the story of Amir’s lifelong obsession with numbers and wanting to know where they’re from. His journey begins in the Mediterranean and ends in southeast Asia, and has him meeting with an array of interesting people: academics, politicians, smugglers.
The story is a short and fascinating one, with a surprising ending of where the first zero is found. The book propelled me to start thinking more about mindfulness and Buddhism, because zero is a very eastern belief. Emptiness is a deep philosophical concept that led to the creation of zero, which Amir introduces through a verse from the second century from a Buddhist philosopher named Nagarjuna:
Anything is either true,
Or not true,
Or both true and not true,
Or neither true nor not true,
This is Lord Buddha’s teaching.
That verse and book stuck with me through the summer until I decided to pursue it further after browsing a bookstore while in Vancouver.
I picked up this book with the belief that I would have more success relating mindfulness practices to a work environment. It turned out to be a great introduction to the concepts, phrases, and general ideas on how to get started. Lodro has written other books about applying mindfulness and Buddhism into other aspects of life that may be of interest (Buddha Walks Into a Bar, Walk Like a Buddha, and his latest,Love Hurts: Buddhist Advice for the Heartbroken).
This book is full of quote-worthy phrases that struck a chord with me. Every chapter started with a quote from someone in the past, not necessarily a Buddhist, but several of Lodro’s passages hit home while tying things together.
There are times, however, when your being genuine can actually intimidate others. When you are genuine, you are offering other people the opportunity to meet you in that state of mind. You are opening the door to the reality of what is going on, which is not always pretty. You are highlighting the fact that other people may not be considering the big picture or being genuine in relating to the project overall. If they are bullshitting their way through work, your genuine presence only illuminates that fact. As such, they may not always appreciate having their bullshit put on display.
What I like a lot about Lodro is his ability to pull from various sources to help describe the concepts, which gave me a survey of some of the greatest thinkers of mindfulness and Buddhism. One of the names I saw routinely through the book was Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche.
Work, Sex, Money: Real Life on the Path of Mindfulness by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche
Chögyam is a very interesting man, with a colourful story. The more I read about him, the more I liken him to a rockstar of Buddhism, living life hard and fast compared to his contemporaries from Tibet, such as the Dalai Lama. They fled Tibet at the same time, when Chögyam was only 20 years old. He went on to translate a lot of traditional texts into English, founded over 100 meditation centres around the world, and is one of the main reasons why mindfulness and Buddhism has spread into the west. He was the founder of Shambhala Sun (now Lion’s Roar), and an influence on numerous well-known people, such as, Allen Ginsburg, William Burroughs, Pema Chödrön, and Joni Mitchell. He also smoked, was an alcoholic, and was accused of coming onto his students many times. His Wikipedia page is a wonderful read of what one person can do in their lifetime while fighting some inner demons.
As for Work, Sex, Money, I decided to pick it up because a lot of the quotations in Lodro Rinzler’s book came from it. It covers the three areas, providing tactics on how mindfulness can be incorporated into each part of our lives. It’s not as easy a read as The Buddha Walks Into the Officeso it’s not something to be considered lightly. Several of the chapters I ended up re-reading to make sure I had a full grasp of the content. It’s a book I find myself picking up again now and then to go through the chapters and allowing the content to sink into my body further. I quoted several passages of it in the past on here, but here is one more:
You are good; fundamentally, you are healthy. Moreover, that particular health is capable of accommodating your badness as well as your goodness. When you’re good, you’re not particularly bashful about your goodness, and when you’re bad, you’re not particularly shocked by that either. These are simply your attributes. When you begin to accept both aspects of your being as energy, as part of the perspective of your view of yourself, then you are connecting with the fundamental goodness, which can accommodate all of these energies as part of one basic being.
After the heavier dive into mindfulness, I wanted a lighter read that still kept me in a calm and peaceful mindset. Walking the Kiso Roadwas advertised in a Buddhist magazine that looked interesting to me. The Kiso Road is a section of an old highway used by pedestrians in Japan to travel from Kyoto to the new capital Edo, now known as Tokyo. It’s only 50 miles in length, most of it preserved, through a mostly rural section of Japan. Along the road, there are a series of 11 post towns, villages used as rest stops for travellers. A lot of the post towns are still the same as they once were, being used since the seventh century.
William takes you along the road, highlighting portions of the road for their historical significance, pointing out old markers, and explaining the many haikus along the trail. It was a very satisfying read to go through, with some wonderful writing about the people he connects with at the inns, the tea houses, noodle shops, and along the trail. The book contains the new stories of the people he meets, but also passages from older journals of writers and poets of Japan who have used the Kiso Road as inspiration for centuries, for their work and also for providing advice to travellers. William integrates these passages with is own story to make a compelling read:
According to the very first article in the Angya jo, or Basho’s Rules on Pilgrimages,
You should not sleep twice in the same inn. Your thoughts should be on a mat that has not yet been warmed.
I was not particularly anxious to leave the warm, friendly, even collegial atmosphere of the Tsuchikawa-ya; but in deference to the wisdom of the great poet and traveler Basho, I set out for my new lodging at the Ice-ya, just a short walk away in the middle of Narai.
If that passage interests you, you’ll love this book, as it’s full of the ancient wisdom and Japanese terms.
The last book I will mention here is the one I am currently reading. A book that has been on my radar for a while, I picked it up in a chance encounter at a used goods store, tucked away in the mainly Christian religious section of books. Like Work, Sex, Money, it is a much more dense read, but I find it is having a calming effect on me as I progress through it. While the other books focused on mindfulness and the present, this one covers the end of life as well.
Being only a third of the way through it, I can’t write a lot about it. The one, strong message so far is death is not the end of life, but the beginning of something new. It’s a common thread for all major religions. With Buddhism, it goes in a different direction, as life doesn’t begin again in heaven or elsewhere, but on Earth once more. It is likely going to be a book I write about in the future the closer I get to the end of it. For now, it’s definitely a book to read and have on your shelf if you are interested in pursuing mindfulness.
Five books is a strong introduction to mindfulness. There are many more books, of course, more than I will likely never get around to reading.
I can point you in the direction of the two major magazines though, the previously mentioned Lion’s Roar, and Tricycle (if you’re in the US, you can subscribe through Amazon easily, Lion’s Roar and Tricycle.) Both are equally good, have a mix of modern and older writings, and have online resources available to subscribers. Subscribing to Tricycle gives you the added benefit of a free movie to stream each month, sharing inspiring stories around the world. Each offer free newsletters, but I prefer Tricycle’s newsletter of free daily readings.
Both are highly recommended to purchase and explore to see how modern practitioners are following mindfulness around the world.
Finally, as a thank you for reading this and following me, I’m offering you the opportunity of receiving a book by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Mindfulness In Action: Making Friends with Yourself through Meditation and Everyday Awareness. An easier read than the book I suggested earlier, and one to share with friends and family. Amazon only allows me to do the give-away for US residents, unfortunately. My Canadian friends can still share the link and maybe I can do something extra for them.
Putting the emphasis back on me and not putting so much energy towards negative things that have happened in my life has improved my outlook on life. It is still difficult at times, of course, and I know failure is right around the corner once again. When it does happen though, I will be better prepared to handle it.
Last year, I started my exploration of mindfulness and living life in the present moment. I started a few months prior to my birthday, but by birthday, I began to understand how important it was to life. I wondered last year, why it took me so long to discover it and put it into practice; this year has made me realize why it’s not easy. You have to continually practice mindfulness to be fully aware.
Being present and mindful is hard work; not feeding into negative energy is even more difficult.
This past year has made me acutely aware of the negative energy surrounding me, more so when it is being directed at me for whatever reason. On numerous occasions, I’ve been put into challenging situations by people where they’ve attacked me, put me down, and pressed my buttons looking for a response. The response I give them is not the one they’re looking for, which makes them amplify their efforts. In short, I respond not with anger and frustration, but neutrality.
The lesson this year has been: negative energy + negative energy ≠ positive outcome.
They’re looking for a fight, wanting to get under my skin in anyway they can so that they feel some satisfaction and justify the negative energy they’re feeling. More often than not, the negative energy is used as a bullying tactic to position themselves above me. They’re right to feel the way they are because I am inferior to them.
Becoming more aware of this negative energy has led me to keep my own emotions in check as much as possible. The negative emotions have been mostly absent this past year at the workplace and personally. They still slip out when I’m at home with my daughter though, when she’s pushing my frustration levels even more than normal. Something to work on in the coming year.
There have been some great benefits for eliminating the negative energy from work and in my personal life. The consequence has been feeling more mentally drained than in years past. It may because I am adjusting to a new work environment since I became a licensed property manager in March. When I was in the hotel environment in Whitehorse, I had many more outlets to vent about situations happening at work. Now, I’ve been much more reserved and internalizing everything, keeping myself in check. It’s been exhausting.
Only when I became more aware of the energy being expended did I realize it’s far easier to focus on the negative than on the positive.
It created an imperfect storm for me this year, especially in the summertime. Between being busy with work, mentally drained, or busy with my daughter, I have been absent from this space since March. My fitness has dropped off, as well. Both of these are important aspects to my life and I feel like a failure that I haven’t been able to balance everything out properly. They are things I am aware of and will strive to do better in the coming year.
I have written about negative energy a lot in this. It certainly has been a focus of mine, but it doesn’t mean that the positive energy is gone. I have been feeling better about the direction of my life in the latter part of this year. I’m close to reaching the tipping point where things will get much busier, much more successful in my life. It’s been a long journey to this point with some heavy dips and hills to climb up.
The next year should be much more rewarding and freeing for me in all aspects of my life- meaning more time to focus on the other areas of my life that I didn’t give enough attention to this past year.
Five years ago, I decided to try something new. After months of applying and looking for work, I received an email from a former employer asking me if I could do some work for them from a distance. That led to another hotel contacting me, and off I went on a solo career.
Four Sides Hospitality Consulting was officially registered in the fall of 2011, but the work began in March of that year. After the first few months of landing the first clients, I was feeling good about where things were heading. Upon returning from my first business trip, my relationship with my daughter’s mother soured beyond repair and was over within a month. It was a challenge trying to balance between work and life, plus adjusting to life as a single dad.
The first year was rough, and I got through it. Things improved for me after I put more emphasis on the website and developing tools for other hospitality professionals to use. I developed a Hotel Revenue Pickup Report that has helped over 500 professionals around the world. Initially it was free to help generate traffic and interest. It took a year for me to wise up and realize people would spend money on it.
Through the years, there have been plenty of interesting conversations about the challenges other revenue managers have, questions from investors about purchasing a property, and a lot of grimacing when discovering poorly designed websites, hotels, or both.
Some of the highlights have included a business trip to Las Vegas to attend a users conference for hotel software. That inspired me to write several thousand words about it. There is also a hotel in Anchorage, Alaska that had an interesting mission statement behind it and a strange combination of a hotel/hostel environment: Qupqugiaq Inn. Analysis of a new hotel proposal for Coney Island, New York was a fun summer project that had me reading lots about future developments in Brooklyn and Queens. Needless to say, it is one active city for hotel construction.
What I have enjoyed most are visiting the websites of the hotels after someone contacts me. Sometimes, I am blown away that such a property exists. Case in point, Fregate Private Island Resort. Seriously, just go look at the website. A private island resort in the middle of the Indian Ocean. You reach the island by helicopter or boat, not included in the resort costs, and have full access to the island. Here is what is included in their rates:
Rates include all meals anywhere on the island, soft beverages, house wines, local beers as well as personal laundry, island buggy, non-motorized water-sports, guided nature walks.
It also includes:
• A welcome massage (60 minutes)
• An introductory yoga session in the morning at the Rock Spa (60 mins each day)
• An introduction to scuba diving in the pool (60 minutes)
The lowest rate from January to March is $6,500. A night.
The conversation I had with the manager was eye opening. A reservations office in South Africa, she worked remotely in Germany, and their biggest market for guests were Russian oil executives and their families. The conversation with her led me to another gem, Royal Mansourin Morocco, which is equally impressive.
While there have been plenty of challenges faced and overcome, the one thing that was missing was an office environment and direct human contact. One can only have so many conversations on the phone or Skype. With the completion of my property management licensing, I hope to start a new chapter in my career. Working in an office with only a few others will be quite the change compared to working from home, but it is a change I welcome with open arms.
Onto plenty more years of success as a solo worker.
When I started reading Deep Work, I first started to read it on my iPad. The reading experience on the iPad is okay, but I was having a hard time focusing on reading the book for very long because of the screen brightness. Turning it down or turning on the new night shift mode (to be released in the next version of iOS) helped a little, but not significantly. At the same time I was starting to read, I was cleaning up my office and came across my old Kindle 2 from 2010. I decided to fire it up again and see what the reading experience was like after all these long years.
Since I first received it, I did quite a bit of reading on it in the first year. After the first year, I bought an iPad 2 and started to use that more and the Kindle was tucked away on my shelf alongside some of my other books I hadn’t cracked open. I was pleasantly surprised when I first picked it up to start reading the book. It’s about half the weight of my iPad, which is about double the size. I didn’t think that would make that much of a difference when I was holding onto it and reading, but it does. I don’t feel the same amount of soreness if I hold the Kindle in one hand and read it just like I would with a paperback.
The text on the screen is displayed by e-ink, which is far easier on the eyes than a backlit screen. The downside is I can’t read the screen without a light being on or being outside. It makes reading in the evening a little tricker, because I tend to not want a heavy light on if I am reading before bed. I still prefer it over my iPad and it is on par with reading a book for me at this moment.
Navigating is quite a bit slower than the iPad, and highlighting text is quite the nuisance. A 4 button directional pad is how you navigate the menu or when highlighting text and it pales in comparison to tapping and dragging on a touchscreen. Highlights are underlined instead of actually being highlighted, too. That makes it slightly more difficult to distinguish between something I have highlighted or a suggested highlight from the other readers of the book on Amazon.
That being said, I am there to read the book, and having to wait for things to pop up is not an issue for me. It is a much more relaxing experience than on the iPad. On the iPad, I would highlight a passage and want to do something with it- tweet it, share it on Facebook, or drop it into my writing environment to expand upon it for a post. With the Kindle, I highlight and keep reading. I have been reading my highlights at the end of each chapter to remind myself of certain topics before continuing.
The other thing I have noticed is I am reading faster. I made the text a little bigger so I’m not straining my eyes so much and I am finding that it helps me go through a chapter a lot quicker than I would a paperback. It makes me wonder if it is just because of the book I am reading, or the Kindle. I will definitely have to compare with the next book I pick up.
While the device is nearly six years old now, and newer Kindles are out there, it is still a great reading device. The battery life is still amazing as it was then, screen looks the same, and syncing between my Amazon accounts still works. Perhaps it isn’t as fast to download a book as it is on the iPad, but that doesn’t matter to me. I am quite happy with it and look forward to picking it up again tonight.
Merlin and Dan had an interesting conversation about a problem I have been struggling with: how much time do you allow children to use an iPad?1
My daughter, Kylie, makes good use of my iPad, almost more than I do. The main app she uses is Netflix, because it allows her greater freedom to pause a show or to select a show based on her mood easily without waiting for me. The other apps she uses vary in their complexity and their goals, from simple apps that allow her to mix a smoothie with ingredients she chooses, to exploring the world of Minecraft. She can easily get sucked into the iPad and focus on the activity she is doing, but she still takes breaks or stops without me asking, much to my astonishment.
Leaving aside the effects that iPad screens (and all screens, really) have on our eyes, the discussion between Dan and Merlin circled around which activities are most beneficial to our children? Merlin’s example of parents shuttling their kids to different activities immediately after school, leaves little time for kids to be kids. It is a parenting out of convenience: adults are too busy with work and feel that the activities will fill the parenting void of their absence.
I have seen that happen often at Kylie’s school, as well. It has always puzzled me why there weren’t more kids out on the playground in the spring and fall to enjoy the equipment and space as much as they possibly could. Instead, the moment kids are released from the school, they are often dragged into cars to be shuttled to the next activity on the list. Some of them do resist quite a bit, but the result is always the same: in the car they go.
The main point was that it was more important for kids to be doing activities that their friends were doing. If their friends were doing other activities than they were, they would have no shared experiences to talk about. There would be a lot of comparisons being made and likely jealousy created, especially if the activities were financially demanding for parents.
More and more kids are growing up with iPads and other tablets around them. It isn’t that these kids aren’t interested in other activities, it is that the activities on the tablets are the ones they enjoy more and the ones that all their friends are doing as well. Kylie does not need much encouragement to get out for a long walk with me, or a quick suggestion that she check on her Critters2 has the iPad be put down promptly. She has quite the active mind away from the iPad when playing with other toys or creating art. Plus she is an insatiable reader of both English and French books. I don’t see the iPad being a negative influence on her childhood.
The iPad is something she looks forward to picking up and using, like I enjoyed riding my bike or causing mischief with friends when I was around her age. I learned about life through my friends and exploring the world around us. My daughter learns that way too, but her education is being augmented by using the iPad. Much like how I don’t correct her French grammar right away, I don’t jump to help her when she encounters a problem with her games. I allow her the opportunity to try and figure it out on her own. I don’t want to deter her from her speaking French, and I want to encourage her to problem-solve on her own.
Through using the iPad, as Merlin suggests, Kylie is essentially learning a new language. How to navigate the iPad, discovering the settings for volume and screen brightness, how to organize her apps, how to edit the photos she takes, and more, are increasingly become an essential part of our lives. Allowing Kylie to be immersed in that world now, will only help her flourish in the future when other kids are just discovering those tools at a later age.
While the iPad is truly new for anyone over the age of 20, children like Kylie will treat iPads as part of their life like anything else they encounter these days. They will become normalized for them and it will likely be their generation that pushes the technology past its current limits, because they will be the ones most fluent in its language.
I upgraded to a iPad Air 2in the fall. One of my best purchases of the year. ↩
A quick note on Calico’s Critters: they can be expensive, but they’re priced around the same as a medium-sized Lego set. They’re less annoying with fewer small parts, and Kylie seems to get far more enjoyment out of them. ↩
Discipline means getting into what is happening. That is just saying that you have to involve yourself in the situations you encounter in life. We have to go through the process of being part of a situation; otherwise we will not be exposed to this richness. In order to see the delight in a situation, we have to become involved in it. We have to really feel it; we have to touch the whole texture of the complete situation. Then we will be able to relate properly with the actual work involved.
I was listening to John Roderick and Merlin Mann talk on the latest episode of their podcast, Roderick On the Line, when the discussion turned towards how we discover books. John was talking about how he doesn’t recommend many books or other media for people to consume, because he wants people to have their own path of discovery. The idea that we each have our own path of discovery has made me think more over the past week about my own path.
The more I think about it, the more it is all coming together for me.
Three concepts that are all connected, that all deeply appeal to me. The question that lingers in my mind now is why do these subjects appeal to me at this time?
The answer to that question lies in the words I wrote back in September when I was thinking about what kind of loop I want to be apart of. I have been unintentionally creating my own loop of how I want to live my life and become more aware of the present. That loop happens at a micro scale during my daily life: I am taking more time out of my day to read an actual book or a few longer pieces online, less emphasis on social media, and also working out a lot more on a daily basis. On a longer timescale, I am becoming better at building in routines for work: whether it is focused on the consulting work, writing for my business blog, or planning for the next steps in my property management career.
Without any major changes in how I manage my time, I have become more focused and productive. The longer I maintain this loop, the easier it becomes and the more it feels natural to do so.
The practice of mindfulness, developing my focus, and doing more deep work, all leads to the phrase I quoted from Chögyam:
Discipline means getting into what is happening.
I am building a discipline and getting into what is happening now for me: more focused and meaningful work.
The fifth year of a person’s life seems to be a big turning point. More independent, able to make better choices, and a young personality starts to really shine through. The base of a personality always seems to be there from a very young age when they first start to learn to laugh and discover what interests them. At five, that base becomes stronger and things start to become more clear.
Seeing that transition from a not-quite-sure kindergartener to a determined-and-confident grade 1 student has been interesting. Instead of the unraveling of an onion to discover who a person is on the inside, you see the onion start to form. How they learn to tell stories to hide truths or exaggerate truths or falsehoods, and you’re left wondering, “What is true?” Most of the time, these stories are not as nefarious as adults would spin to extract a certain emotion or favour from a person. She is telling jokes, but every now and then, you catch her trying to cover up her tracks, which is generally to my amusement.
Kylie’s playfulness and innocence is something I have thoroughly enjoyed this past year. Gone are the endless “Why” questions, which always seemed to be a way to get more information without being too specific about it, and now replaced with genuine curiousity. Asking questions about the animals that have crossed our paths on our hikes, questions about consequences for people’s actions and choices (like people smoking or breaking the rules), to slightly deeper questions that catch me off guard. An example from this past month, “Was Santa Claus ever a boy?”
I wrote about the choice to put Kylie into French immersion last year, and this year it is really paying off. Her interest in the language is much greater than it was last year, aided by her mastery of reading English. Reading French is more of a fun challenge than a chore for her. She willingly chooses to do her daily readings for school, and, more often than not, picks up a French book for us to read at night instead of an English one. She practices the language often when at home with me, asking questions or saying what something is in French. When she comes across some people speaking French in public, she will pause and smile at them, but doesn’t have the confidence yet to even say, “Bonjour.” By the time I write this next year, I am sure she will be wanting to converse with these strangers in her non-native tongue.
While French is still her second language, her mastery of English is becoming rather scary. If she sees words somewhere, she’s reading it. It doesn’t matter if is a minor sign saying the hours of a business, or a major one like the strata rules for our outdoor pool, she wants to read it all. This is only a nuisance if we happen to be in a rush for something, otherwise, I am more than content to let her read and learn more words. The problem arises when she is starting to master spelling and typing to go along with her reading skills. She has quickly learned how to type messages to family and friends on my iPhone, and has also managed to post selfies with a message to Facebook without me being aware.
The last part is a little frightening. She has learned how to hold the phone away from her, get the right angle, and get the perfect smile. Her love of the camera is quite the opposite of what I was like at her age. I bring the phone out to take a picture, and her face turns into a smile almost instantly now. It’s quite the joy to see and has some comedic effects in moments.
Needless to say, it has been a fun year of exploring the city and learning more about who this little girl is becoming. Hiking down to Paul’s Tomb, biweekly walks through downtown Kelowna, down Mission Creek or to Hardy Falls, and a short trip to Vancouver has kept us busy this year. Next year will bring as many adventures as this one, and perhaps a few more road trips with me or her mother. As always, I am greatly curious to see where 2016 takes my little girl as she gets closer to becoming a pre-teen.
It is his personal guide to walking along this ancient road in central Japan, telling stories about the people he has met, the old inns he stayed in, and the history behind the shrines and temples dispersed through the valley. Throughout his book are countless haikus and quotes from old Japanese poets inspired by the forests and river running through the valley. I found it to be a relaxing, inspiring read, going through it a chapter at a time when I needed a quiet moment to myself.
Yesterday, I took a long walk along the Mission Creek Greenway here in Kelowna. The night before, it had snowed roughly six inches, which made the trail even more snow covered than before. The walk was slower going as my feet slid off the more packed areas into the softer snow, giving me more time to think about the book. It is less a travel guide for the area, and more about showing a way to travel. How to follow your curiosity and explore the stories hidden just around the corner from you. All you need is to take those extra few steps and not be too concerned about the activities of home.
Be present in the moment.
I thought about the journey I took this past year and how his message could be applied1. Not so much the personal trials and errors I had with my failure to pass an exam2, my non-existent dating life, or discovering my inner loop, but more about the places I visited beyond the cities of Vancouver and Whitehorse.
2015 was the year I pushed my body to go up higher hills, cross streams, and walk along steep hillsides to discover what was around that next bend, over the hill, or how far my body could take me. According to RunKeeper, I logged over 200 kms on trails this year. I am guessing that amount is likely closer to 300 kms because I tended to lose GPS signal or killed my battery prematurely. Probably not an impressive amount for someone who routinely runs 5-15 km daily. It is double what I did the previous year, which makes me happy.
Looking over the photographs I have taken over the year, I came across some amazing views and discovered great stories within the area surrounding Kelowna. From the easily accessible tomb marker of Rembler Paul, to the more difficult base of Pinnacle Rock in Dan Gallagher’s old placer mining fields, to the old estate of James Cameron Dun-Waters in Fintry half an hour outside of Kelowna. I explored the many trails of Myra-Bellevue and Okanagan Mountain Provincial Parks, and went along the old wooden trestle bridges of the Kettle Valley railway. Each place has a history written over top of a previous history, and a previous one before that.
And now each place has a new history being written, a new significance for each person that crosses its paths. Paul’s Tomb witnessed people basking in the rays of the sun, picnics, and also a drowning this year. Gallagher’s Canyon has seen cars go over the cliff faces. Fintry was repurposed as an agriculture college and then to a provincial campground. Myra-Bellevue is the place where I almost was bowled over by a deer coming around a bend and another coming out of the brush- neither of us seeing the other, both jumped when confronted. Kettle Valley was home to my daughter’s first encounter with a black bear in the wild (from a safe distance.)
Some of these moments will be lost in time, others remain to be rediscovered.
The important thing is I came across these places and took in what they had to offer me at that moment. It’s part of the reason why I visited them multiple times through the summer. I wanted different experiences crossing the same path or to go down a new path and find out where it led me. When I came across the Buddhist writings and books about mindfulness, I began to understand how to wipe the slate clean when I visited these places and to not carry the daily stress of my life with me. Hiking became a moving meditation for me, a way to rediscover my breath.
Letting the stress go was and still is a challenge. As each day passes, I am learning more about the best ways for me to move on. Reading quiet books like Walking the Kiso Road is one way; walking and hiking another. For my journey through 2016, my goal has been set to log more kilometres in RunKeeper, and continue the search around Kelowna to find more places and experiences that help me let go of what is bothering me and learn to be more present than I have in the past.
Fish are made for water; men are made for the Road. Those who are made for the water immerse themselves totally in ponds and are nourished by them. Those who are made for the Road live carefree and tranquil. Thus it is said, ‘Fish do not think about the water, and men do not worry about the Road or how to walk it.
After how pleased I was with my Line of Trade canvas bag that arrived last month, I decided to continue on with Bespoke Post1 to see what the next offerings would be. I settled on ordering their Frost box and it arrived a few days ago. I was quite excited to open it up because the feature item was a pair of lambskin leather gloves from Gilded Age.
Simply put: these gloves are amazing.
I had a pair of other gloves that were okay for walking around in during the cool fall weather here in Kelowna, but I found my hands getting cold in temperatures below 0°C here. That happens to be the average temperature for a winter here, so I wanted to find something better. When the lambskin gloves showed up as an option, I leapt at the chance to try them out.
Trying on the gloves for the first time, they are a little snug, but after a few days they have stretched out enough to feel great on my hands. The leather is soft to touch on the outside, very smooth, and not bulky at all. I was able to slide them into the front pocket of my jeans easily to retrieve my keys. The inside is lined with a wool-cashmere blend that feels perfect on the hands, and a wrist snap to keep them snug to your arms. The gloves also have separate pads on the index fingers and thumbs to allow you to operate your touchscreen phones. While the pads do work on my iPhone, I didn’t play around with it too much, mainly because I’m not super comfortable texting on my phone while walking around regardless of whether I am wearing gloves or not.
The perfect test for the gloves is a long walk outside in varying temperatures. I took them out for a 3km walk to my favourite coffee place in Kelowna2 in the sunshine, and then returned on a shorter 2km path after the sun had set and the weather cooled off. My biggest concerns with any fall/winter clothing is sweating too much. I tend to get sick easily when unzipping a jacket to cool off or removing my toque when I get too sweaty. Thankfully, by the time I reached the coffee shop and pulled off my gloves, they weren’t sweaty at all. Nice and dry to handle the hot mug holding my Americano.
Heading back, they kept my hands warm when going past the strong winds coming off the lake. I did not feel much of a breeze on my wrists either. The wrist straps kept the gloves tight to my arms, which was appreciated. The clasps were a bit tricky to snap once I had a glove on, but I think after some practice that frustration will disappear.
Also included in the Frost box, was a white pine hand salve from Barnaby Black. I will admit, I was a bit skeptical of how it would smell or feel. I’m not one for lotions beyond my shaving supplies from Harry’s3 but I am open to change. The smell of the hand salve is intoxicating. It reminds me of being outdoors on my hikes so much, that I actually have the open jar sitting out beside me while I work. It smells exactly how you would imagine white pine sap to smell. Rubs easily into my hands and they don’t feel sticky afterwards. A little goes a long way and I am sure it will last me through the short winter here.
There was also a large box of Fisherman’s Friends cough lozenges which are sugar-free. They are my preferred brand for when I get sick, so this was a nice bonus.
Altogether, this box was $45.00 US, which becomes $80.00 Canadian after shipping and exchange rate. Well worth it, in my opinion. The hand salve is listed at $20.00 US on Barnaby Black’s website. Comparable gloves were priced around $35-50.00. Throw in the large box of cough drops and it’s quite the good deal.
I am sure to be warm on my winter walks this coming winter and for many years to come.
There have only been roughly 18,000 players in the history of Major League Baseball. How many out of that number have played in a playoff game? One third maybe? I’ve played over 1,400 games, and that was my first playoff series. Out of those 6,000 or so, how many players have been lucky enough to be in a position to change the outcome of a playoff series with one swing? Maybe 10 percent? And how many have succeeded?
None of this math was going through my head when I was standing at the plate. That came later on, when I had time to reflect at home. All I was thinking in the moment was, This is your chance. Just relax. Get ready early. See it and hit it.
– Jose Bautista, Are You Flipping Kidding Me?
Bautista didn’t just hit it; he crushed it.
That moment meant more for the die-hard Blue Jay fans than anything in the past 22 seasons of play. It’s difficult to place into words how meaningful it was. The raw emotions that people felt from coast to coast to coast were such a mix: tears of joy, excitement, amazement, disbelief.
Today is my 36th birthday. It’s the fifth year I have written these retrospections of the past year. Each year, I seem to learn more about myself, especially when reading through the previous years’ posts. It is an interesting journey to re-read the heartache, the stress, and the small breakthroughs I continue to make. This year has been no different. More stress and breakthrough than heartache, but that is to be expected when I have problems dating.
This year, I wanted to start with baseball. Not because it delivered one of the biggest moments of the year for me, but for how it relates to my minor breakthrough this year.
Baseball is measured by a player’s ability to fail less than the rest. Percentages, decimal points, even the game is ended with a failure- an out. Failure is inevitable in baseball, it’s just a matter of who fails less than the others in the game.
Failure is inevitable in life, as well. It is something we want to avoid as much as possible, but despite our attempts to get around it, it happens. This year has taught me more about how to deal with failure than ever before.
In previous years, I fostered this deep anger inside me when things didn’t go right. I can see it in the words I used when writing about the breakup four years ago, or the struggles I faced in building up readership for this blog. My cure for the hurt and disappointment was always to write
There have been multiple times before where I wanted to sit down and write out my thoughts, to respond to other blog posts, and to zone out while watching a movie. It is what I did in the past to conquer my failures and disappointments. Doing such is not the best way for me to feel better, however. It is a band-aid put on a gaping wound.
Writing wasn’t very effective in helping me manage disappointments then, and it wasn’t until this year when things started to change. Reading and writing more about mindfulness and Buddhist practices has helped me focus on what matters: the breath. The present moment.
The past should not be dwelled upon, nor should future achievements. Only on what is happening in the moment.
That point is constantly on my mind now. It is both wonderful and powerful with how it softens the blow of disappointments I have received in the latter half of the year. The biggest test of this happened in September.
Last August, I enrolled to be licensed in property management through the University of British Columbia. I set a deadline of completing the course work before my daughter ended the school year in June. My thinking was I could write the exam in the next month while everything was fresh in my mind. Starting in late January, I started going through the assignments and was on pace to finish on time. I completed the final assignment and then looked at the schedule for when I could write the exam: they were scheduled quarterly, with the next one happening in September.
That was a little disappointing, but no big deal. Several months to enjoy the summer weather with my daughter, manage the vacation rental, and the other work I needed to take care of. August came around and I started to delve back into the material. I was getting nervous about the exam because of the large amount of material involved. In the exam room, I took some deep breaths while they went through the instructions, then wrote the exam rather quickly. I had to wait three weeks for the results.
I failed. Barely, but barely doesn’t matter on an exam score, just like it doesn’t matter in baseball. I missed the homerun by 3 feet. The kind of hits that no one remembers.
After reading the results, I took a hike out to my favourite place, Paul’s Tomb, and sat out on the rocks overlooking the lake. All I did was sit, take it all in, and put the failure behind me. It was a minor setback, something I can overcome in three months time and put myself back on track for greater things. It didn’t matter why I failed, or what questions I missed. The important thing was I was breathing. I would do better.
That tone in thought has continued through the past few months. Not losing weight fast enough? Breathe, and do better. Someone fails to pay me back on time leaving me short? Breathe, and make do. Someone lies to me or tries to start an argument? Breathe, and put it behind me as fast as I can without letting it escalate into something worse.
A constant cycle of deep breathing, and emphasizing what matters most to me in each moment.
Putting the emphasis back on me and not putting so much energy towards negative things that have happened in my life has improved my outlook on life. It is still difficult at times, of course, and I know failure is right around the corner once again. When it does happen though, I will be better prepared to handle it.
I am sure I will read this over next year and for years after wondering, “What took you so long?”