Metabolism Monday – The Restart

After a much-needed break, I’m ready to get back into the swing of things. Clayton and I have started round 2 of the fast metabolism diet!

Habit: Follow the Fast Metabolism Diet for the recommended 28 days.

Start Date: Thursday, 08/02/2018

Projected End Date: Wednesday, 08/29/2018

Action Plan:

  • 2-4 workouts a week in the corresponding phase
  • Drink half my body weight in ounces of water every day
  • Finish the Headspace – Mindful Eating meditation pack

Incentive: When we lose 20 pounds we will spend a day at Universal Studios!

Lofty Goal: Be healthy enough to enjoy the fruits of my labor.

We know The Fast Metabolism Diet: Eat More Food and Lose More Weight works! We did 2 weeks last time, lost some weight, and have kept those pounds off in the last couple of months half-assing the program. We also learned some things in those 2 weeks, so we’ve tweaked the program to better suit us.

Don’t weigh-in every day. The meal plan in the book has a place to track your weight daily, but you’re not supposed to let your weight stress you out. The best way to not let my weight stress me out is not to focus on it daily. We will only weigh in and do our measurements weekly.

Don’t start on Monday. The book recommends that you start the program on a Monday because it is easy. That doesn’t really suit our lifestyle because that puts phase 3 when you are relaxing and not working out on the weekend. We decided to start on a Thursday so phase 2 falls on the weekend, and I have plenty of time to psyche myself up for weight training. Then phase 3 is Monday through Wednesday and I can relax during the hardest part of the work week.

Don’t over track. Last time I tried to manage my Habitbull tracker, Fitbit, a manual spreadsheet, Instagram, Wunderlist, and Pinterest. That is a lot of apps that don’t provide additional value. This time around I will be focusing on the manual spreadsheet for meal planning, Wunderlist for groceries, and Fitbit to track my water intake and exercise. 3 apps are entirely manageable.

Don’t beat yourself up when you slip up. 28 days doesn’t seem like a long time, but when you are changing everything about your shopping, eating, and exercise routines there are bound to be missteps. The spreadsheet will help us plan and track, but just because there is some yellow and red already doesn’t negate all the green. We want this to stick, and that means making allowances for the occasional dessert!

With these updates to the program, and Clayton home for the next 23 days I know we can make it to the end.

Please share any tips you have about overhauling your lifestyle in the comments!

Planned Preoccupation Check In

Happy New Year!

The new year is always a time for reflection, so let’s have a check in. I started this blog in the summer of 2015 and have cultivated 6 new habits and achieved 2 specific goals.


I have not been as strict about daily writing as I was with my initial habit. There was a point where the weekly posts were starting to cause me some anxiety so I took a few breaks over the course of the year. I want my energy focused on the habits themselves, not on this blog which should support the habits.


Even though I don’t sit and meditate intentionally everyday this habit has helped me to manage my stress more effectively. I often focus on my breathing and clear my mind before I go into a meeting, or respond to a contentious email.

I have also completed 2 Headspace packs since I started this habit, and have the Motivation pack teed up as we dive into 2017!


I’ve got a freezer full of smoothie packs. It’s difficult to start the morning with a frozen drink when it is below freezing outside, but it’s still our quickest breakfast option. I also learned that if I freeze my ingredients on a baking sheet before I put them in the freezer bags they don’t turn into a big hunk of ice and are much easier to blend. So I’ve got that going for me.

8WW Meals

I have not kept up with this habit very well at all. I am often reminded of the Sharma quote, “knowing what to do and not doing it is the same as not knowing what to do.” Here’s to better food choices in 2017!


This was the only habit I failed at during the initial 66 days, but it is the one I have kept up with the best since then. My mom started using Duolingo to learn Italian, and it is fun to check in with each other on our progress. I also have so many friends who try to engage my new found Spanish skills that I feel compelled to keep going!

Random Acts of Kindness

A great thing that came from this habit was learning about the generosity of my friends and family. Once I started talking more about philanthropy more people started sharing their good deeds with me. It has been a wonderful learning experience.

The structure this blog provides also helped me to organize our move to Red Wing and to get my Project Management Professional certification. Action planning focused my efforts and I was able to achieve my goals.

The support, suggestions, and encouragement you have provided in the comments have been invaluable! I am excited to continue on this journey of personal development, and know that 2017 will bring great things.

Here is a sneak peak of my next habit…


Care to hazard a guess?!

Meditation Monday Check In

It’s been a little over 6 months since I finished tracking my meditation habit. Now is a great time to take a step back and reflect on the progress I have made.

Action Plan Progress:

  • DONE – Complete 2 Headspace theme packs
  • DONE – Read 1 new book on meditation
  • Aborted – Attend a Tai Chi class
  • BONUS – Practice Tai Chi on the Xbox One



The were 30 sessions in this pack and it was broken into 3 parts. In the first part we focused visualizing a calm blue sky, in the second part we visualized a bright light filling us, and in the third part we focused on letting our mind be free. I liked the last section because I experienced such a feeling of weightlessness and calm when he would say “let your mind be free and do whatever it wants.” It was more about creating a sense of calm and contentedness rather than trying to counter negative self-talk with positive self-talk. A neutral outlook is really what you are going for. Clayton seems that way naturally and I am trying to emulate him.


Another 30 sessions broken down into 3 parts. The exercises help you to practice focused flow by honing in on different parts of your body throughout the sit. You are supposed to carry the practice throughout the day and it is easy to pick up at random intervals.

Generosity will be my next pack. That will round out the series options, with Relationships since I have done one from Health and Performance.

Book Breakdown:

This book is broken down into 3 parts. Breathe! You Are Alive focuses on mindfulness and awareness in the small acts of life. The idea of smiling through out the day hit home with me, and I have made an effort to smile more to myself.

Transformation and Healing is about the benefits of mindfulness in healing difficult states. And Peace is Every Step is about the connection between inner peace and peace on earth. This book is short and sweet and full of wisdom. I would highly recommend it to anyone.

Tai Chi:

After our move I discovered there are no Tai Chi classes in our small town. Rather than making a special trip up to the cities just to meet this goal, I decided to find something else that would allow me to practice Tai Chi on a regular basis. BodyWisdom is available thru Xbox Fitness and it tracks your movements with the Kinnect. I think this is a great alternative to an actual class, and as I learn the poses I plan to practice in a more serene area.

As I continue to practice meditation I find setting goals toward it is not in the spirit of the habit. I want to lessen my stress levels and enjoy a more peaceful state, not feel pressure to get it done. That is why I will not be setting an future action items. I plan to just enjoy the serenity that comes with a sit.

I’ll leave you with a one time use code for a free month of access to Headspace for the first person to enter it!

Gift Code: REW15-469237

Meditation Monday – The End


I am happy to report that I haven’t lost any momentum after completing the initial 66 days of cultivating this habit. Now it’s time to pause and reflect on my progress so far.

Action Plan Progress:

  • DONE – 72 consecutive days of meditating for at least 10 minutes a day.
    • 1,194.3 meditation minutes logged (~20 hours).
    • Average 17 minutes a day.
  • DONE – 66 daily photos taken of my meditation locations.
  • DONE – 2 books on meditation read.
  • DONE – 7 people connected with on meditation.
  • DONE – 3 classes on meditation attended.
  • DONE – 5 different meditation techniques attempted.
  • DONE – 10 weekly blog posts on developing my meditation habit written.

Grade: A+

Incentive: I decided against a meditation retreat, and choose to splurge on a spa retreat instead. I will meditate during my massage, manicure, and pedicure. Now that’s an incentive!

Lessons Learned:

“We are the cosmos made conscious and life is the means by which the universe understands itself.” – Dr. Brian Cox

This quote popped into my head today as I was trying to wrap up my meditation experience so far. It’s given me the opportunity to understand myself better, and by extension everything around me.

I continue to see improvements in my ability to focus and in dealing with stress. Morning meditation is especially beneficial in handling whatever comes my way throughout the day. A lot of the guided meditations I listen to also have suggestions for ways to incorporate your practice into your day, so it’s good to start early.

One surprise benefit to my meditation practice was that it made me better at quarters! I seriously wish that I would have practiced meditation when I was playing competitive sports, and would recommend it to anyone looking for a mental edge.

6 Month Goals:

  • Complete 2 Headspace theme packs
  • Read 1 new book on meditation
  • Attend a Tai Chi class

This has been a worthwhile endeavor and an excellent starting point for building future habits. I’m excited to find ways to stay on track and have already started a health theme pack with Headspace that will take me through another 30 days of meditation. Stay tuned for more on the meditation journey in the future!

Book Breakdown: Wherever You Go There You Are

This book has been on my to-read shelf for 2 years and I am glad that taking on this habit has finally motivated me to read it.

Kabat-Zinn’s best selling book is broken down into 3 parts focused on defining meditation, practical applications, and the spirit of the practice. The chapters are short and often accompanied by quotes and passages from other works on meditation.

It seemed like every time I picked up this book, I was able to apply the teachings immediately. I read the chapter Patience when I was experiencing a lot of anger and it helped me to detach from the storm of emotions.

This is also the third source that has touted the benefits of early morning meditation. I have been trying to sit first thing in the morning, but it has not been happening with any consistency. The chapter Early Morning has reaffirmed my intent and I will be waking up 15 minutes earlier everyday to listen to a Headspace guided meditation.

Not every idea or anecdote resonated with me. I am not a big fan of chapters ending with the phrase “Get the idea?” especially when my answer is no. But the topics are so varied and brief that the goal must be to get a better sense of meditation rather than to present a step by step guide.

Wherever You Go, There You Are does an excellent job of making the abstract concept of mindfulness accessible. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning the basic principles of meditation.

Would you like your own copy of Wherever You Go, There You Are? Simply leave a comment to be entered into a drawing to win a copy of the book.

Fancy Floating

A few weeks ago a friend told me about the Fadeaway Floatation Center in Des Moines, IA.  I was excited to learn about an alternative meditation technique and after reading through their website I had to find a place to float! The Wellness Center in Minneapolis offered a 90 minute float session for $70 plus tax and fees, and they had excellent online reviews.

FloatTankThe staff at The Wellness Center was very friendly and accommodating. I showed up 10 minutes early for my appointment to fill out the required paper work. There is a special release for the float tank and a lot of dos and don’ts. They walked me through the facility and float process.

I started by inserting the wax earplugs. They stick better if you put them in before you shower, and will keep the water out of your ears once you are submerged in the tank. Then I showered with fragrance free shampoo and body wash (no conditioner) before entering the tank. I entered facing out, and closed the door behind me.

I was very nervous at first. It’s an eerie feeling to not be able to see, hear, and slosh about in an enclosed space. When I felt some air bubbles by my leg I thought, “what if it’s an alligator?!” That made me laugh and relax. I experimented with different positions and felt most comfortable with my arms above my head.

Eventually, my shoulders started to feel itchy. When meditating it is normal for me to feel areas of discomfort, but once I focus on it the feeling fades. This sensation was not going away. A combination of the water temperature and salt caused a heat rash. It got to be so uncomfortable that I ended my session 30 minutes early. The staff said they could lower the temperature of the water, but only by .1 degree, which probably wouldn’t help me.

Even though I will not be floating again, I thought it was a great experience. If you don’t have any skin sensitivity issues, I would recommend giving it a try. There was a guest book outside the room, and all the messages I read were very positive. My favorite comment stated it like astral projection!

Have you ever floated? Please share your experience in the comments!

Book Breakdown: The Art of Living

Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time inspired me to start this blog. In it Ferrazzi discusses how a 10-day Vipassana course changed his life. The Art of Living: Vipassana Meditation is a synopsis of that course and I thought it would help me cultivate my meditation habit.

William Hart is an assistant teacher to Goenka and he set out to provide an outline of Vipassana as taught in Goenka’s 10-day course. Each chapter is a lesson followed by actual questions and answers from course participants and Goenka and is followed by a parable. The book/course is a progression through the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path. Each lesson builds on the last to show you that gaining wisdom, ethical conduct, and concentration will provide enlightenment.

There are some assertions in the book that seem fanciful to me. I don’t buy into the idea that the Buddha understood particle physics from meditation, but I won’t invest the time to research further since their scientific credibility isn’t a huge concern for me. I also found it took me longer than normal to absorb the meaning of certain passages. I am a quick reader, but I kept having to reread sentences and paragraphs before I understood the meaning. That might have to do with the number of Pali terms in the book that were totally foreign to me.

I did get some great insights into suffering, intention, awareness, equanimity, and compassion. Chapter 3: The Immediate Cause included my favorite story, “Seed and Fruit.” The following quote provided a flash of insight about karma and how we are make our own future.

“Our difficulty, our ignorance is that we remain unheedful while planting seeds. We keep planting seeds of neem, but when the time comes for fruit we are suddenly alert, we want sweet mangoes. And we keep crying and praying and hoping for mangoes. This doesn’t work.”

I will also give this book high marks for prompting me to entertain the idea of becoming a vegetarian. I’m not there yet, but I have never really entertained the idea until now.

I would recommend The Art of Living: Vipassana Meditation to anyone interested in learning more about Vipassana, the teaching of the Buddha, or looking for some insights into the loftier goals associated with meditation.

Do you want to win a free copy of The Art of Living: Vipassana Meditation by William Hart? Follow me on Instagram @ppreoccupation to be entered into the drawing! The winner will be announced on Monday.

Asked & Answered: A Dilettante Approach to Meditation

Gabriel Harren and I are both on the Community of Practice steering committee at sdg. At our last meeting we discussed Gabriel’s upcoming CoP presentation about demystifying meditation. The presentation is scheduled after my 66-day challenge so I invited Gabriel to a meditative breakfast. I was excited to discuss meditation with someone who had practical experience, but hadn’t made it their career or become a recluse.

 “Clarity of mind.”

Gabriel indicated that he has always been a little high strung so 4 years ago he started practicing meditation regularly. He currently meditates 20 minutes a day, 5 days a week. His routine consists of coffee, an inspirational quote, the Skimm, and making himself comfortable in a plush chair before listening to a guided meditation from Headspace.

Some of the tangible benefits of meditation he has experienced include lower anxiety, better ability to focus, and clarity of mind. Improved concentration has allowed Gabriel to be more productive and focus on his sales goals.

He has also experienced the intangible benefits of meditation that let him be more engaged with family, friends, and colleagues. His passion for meditation and self-improvement has allowed him to add value in other’s lives. He feels like he is a better listener and more patient.

“Everyone should be doing it.”

Because Gabriel is so willing to share his experience with meditation he has had the opportunity to talk with a lot of people about creating this habit. He maintains he is not a guru, but can certainly help people come up with an action plan. For most it seems like getting started is the hardest part. Change is difficult, but Gabriel recommends trying to understand the why before digging into the how. If you understand your goals and motivation it will be easier to dive into the tactics.

“…enjoying a blissfully balanced life.”

Gabriel’s overall goal is to clock 10,000 hours of meditation, which is the generally accepted benchmark for mastery in a field. By meditating for 1 hour a day in 30 years he could be enjoying a blissfully balanced life. I know that’s something I want!


  • Headspace!
  • Get a good night’s sleep and do your sit first thing in the morning,
  • Create a routine of your practice.
  • Recognize the “gremlins in your head” and get your mind out of the way.

Recommended Reading

I had a wonderful time discussing practical applications for meditation with Gabriel and discovering new ways to grow my practice.

What tips discussed here will be the most useful for your meditation practice? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Meditation Monday – The Middle

Top picture from my photo journal.
Top picture from my photo journal.

I halfway done building my meditation habit so let’s take a look at the stats!

Action Plan Progress:

  • 37 of 66 consecutive days of meditating for at least 10 minutes a day.
    • 546.97 meditation minutes logged (~9 hours).
    • Average 15 minutes a day.
  • 37 of 66 daily photos taken of my meditation locations.
  • 1 of 2 books on meditation read.
  • DONE – Connected with 7 of 2 people on meditation.
  • DONE – 3 of 2 classes on meditation attended.
  • DONE – Experimented with 5 different meditation techniques.
  •  5 of 10 weekly blog posts on developing my meditation habit written.

Grade: A+

Lessons Learned:

For the first month of building this habit the photo challenge aspect of my action plan was getting in the way of my practice. I had time to meditate, but finding a space that was visually interesting to meditate in made it harder to achieve my primary goal. I realized this was a problem once I signed up for Headspace.

Headspace has a Foundation Series with 3 levels that are 10 sessions each. They recommend making your practice part of a routine and doing it in the same place at the same time everyday. I didn’t want to abandon my photo journal so I have recently started meditating twice a day. I do my Headspace guided mediation right after I wake up and then I meditate again later in the day in a peaceful space. This way I am working my habit into an existing routine, and increasing my meditative time by practicing more throughout the day.

My meditation practice has improved my ability to focus and the way I deal with stress. When I first started meditating I had a lot of negative-self talk at that beginning of my sits, but that has quieted as I continue to practice. I am very happy with the progress I have made so far, and sincerely hope I can turn this into a lifelong habit.

Follow my Instagram meditation photo journal while it lasts @ppreoccupation!

Multiform Meditation

The idea of sitting still and trying not think originally seemed equal parts foolish and intimidating. To overcome my unease I tried a variety of meditation techniques that could help develop my habit. I have them listed below in order of personal preference.

Walking Meditation

I learned walking meditation (kinhin) at Dharma Field. Standing with your hands in the shashu position focus on your breath, and on your exhale take a half step forward. At first it seemed like too much to concentrate on: following my breath; walking at the right time; not taking a normal stride, but after a few minutes I got the hang of things. The additional focus on my posture and speed really helped me to stay in the meditative state and when my ending bell sounded I felt relaxed and refreshed.

I will be incorporating this in my regular practice by doing walking meditation at the end of my sit. This will be a great way to bring myself back to an awakened state gradually, and it will allow me to extend my sessions by incorporating different techniques rather than sitting for longer.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

11931135_1632250123704341_1948719911_nI tried two different hand poses for alternate nostril breathing, and I preferred the one with the index and middle finger folded down (bottom picture). When I had those fingers resting between my eyebrows I found it hard to relax and not to press them into my skin. Once I settled into the timing of movement the time flew by! I was focused and my mind seemed to wander less because I was aware of my breath and body.

This is an easy technique to pick up, and I would suggest that everyone give it a try! I will be starting my daily sits with 1 minute of alternate nostril breathing before a 10 minute session. This will afford me better focus as I start my sessions.

Tai Chi

Tai chi is a form of moving meditation similar to yoga. Since I suck at yoga I was glad to find an alternative. Tai chi is low impact, and much better aligned with my fitness and flexibility levels. I found an excellent tutorial video, but it has a lot of pop-up adds. I have not counted the time watching the video and practicing tai chi toward my daily habit because I don’t feel like I am in a meditative state while learning.

I am hoping that once I learn some of the basic forms I can take a class on tai chi or find a meet up group. I know I’ve seen groups of people practicing in the park, now I just need to find them. This is definitely a technique I am interested in pursuing.


I had a lot of fun ideas for my mantra, like Stuart Smalley’s positive affirmation, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggonit, people like me” or “let that shit go.” Ultimately, I decided to stick with my goals and picked “salud.” It means health in Spanish and is a toast my grandmother always makes.

I repeated my mantra silently on my exhale for the first half of my sit, and then switched to chanting it during the second half. I had a neutral experience. It wasn’t overly distracting, but it didn’t seem to help me focus any better than sitting silently. I thought that since my love language is “words of affirmation” I would really benefit from a mantra, but this not a practice I will stick with.

Candle Staring

11376399_1622897171318699_1420930732_nThe first time I tried candle staring I used a guided meditation. There was an interesting point during the session where you close your eyes and focus on the negative image of the candle, but overall this technique did not seem particularly helpful. I felt more distracted and had trouble letting my thoughts pass.

I tried this method a second time without the guided meditation. It was slightly better than my first attempt but at the end of my session I spilled hot wax on my hand and that was the end of my foray into candle staring. All the angry cursing probably negated the benefits of that session.

I’m glad I expanded my horizons and tried various techniques. I am sure walking meditation, alternate nostril breathing, and tai chi will help me grow my meditation practice.

Have you tried any of these techniques before? Please share your experience in the comments!