Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Designing Health the Permaculture Way

Part 1 - Movement

Over the last year I have yet again, through lack of time and losing my favourite exercise activity of Ceroc, gone beyond my comfortable size.  I have an uncomfortable "my belly looks like I am pregnant" phase I hit which always results in my taking stock of where I am health-wise and what I am going to do to tone up a bit.  I then found that I was officially obese with a BMI of 30.5, which is probably the heaviest I have ever been in my lifetime,.  I am sure this is a result of many factors such as:
  1. my relatively recent foray into the "diet" industry AGAIN
  2. the aforementioned lack of Ceroc classes in York
  3. my recurring back problem which occasionally stops me exercising
  4. my weekly kick-boxing classes being cancelled
  5. my liking of chocolate
to mention but a few.  With regards to point 1, like many others, I always end up feeling lousy about my lack of willpower to stick to a restrictive diet and I end up heavier/fatter than when I started. It always seems such an ingrained, natural thing to do though - to diet. I always vowed after having children that I wouldn't diet because I don't want my children growing up with the idea that diets are a good thing. Anyway I am resolute that I not going to restrict my eating like that again and I will be looking at my eating habits as a separate issue to this one.  So having vowed that I would never again restrict my diet or try to be unrealistic about what exercise I am going to do, I was left with a bit of hole as to what to do next.  This void, together with no sign of Ceroc classes returning to York, left me in a bit of a quandary.

So I started thinking about designing my health and I thought that using Lobby's Design Web mentioned in her book Permaculture and People would be a great place to start.  What I liked about this Permaculture Design Process was that it is more geared towards acknowledging me as a person and I felt it would help me overcome the obstacles which have hindered my health in the past. There were also many aspects of the ideas within this web which resonated with processes which I have put in place in my life since attending the Hoffman Process and training as a Shamanic Practitioner (more of these realisations may appear in other blog posts and Permaculture design write-ups.)  Here is the write up of that design so far using Looby's Design Web:


Growth Phase
Vision To be healthier.
To continue to enjoy life and find more ways to integrate body movement (I hate the word exercise) into my way of life.
To find a balance between time away at classes and time with my family.
To protect my back (which has been problematic since I was 16) by increasing my core stability.
To have fun.
Incorporate more movement into my everyday life to counteract the amount of time spent at a computer.
To be realistic.
Learn more useful skills.
Build on what I already know.
Helps My geeky nature - I could potentially incorporate some apps and goals so I can see my progress.
The resources of the internet.
My stubbornness and willingness to try anything once.
Finding activities which are fun and/or useful in my life in other ways.  
Limits Cost (financial, equipment, time.)
I get bored easily.
The need to feel that the time/cost is worth it.
My tendency to be unrealistic.

Exploratory Phase
Patterns 1. I get bored easily.
2. I don't like spending money.
3. I don't like going out in the evening as that is when I see my husband.
4. I fear I won't stick to any program if I have to do it alone.
5. If it's not fun I will not want to continue.
6. Worrying about my appearance.
7. I find it difficult to do exercise at home because I forget as there are always other things to do and distractions.
8. Overdoing it and not realising when I need a break
Ideas 1. Find an activity which progresses in some way or where improvements are easily noticed.
2. Use my time-bank hours to pay for classes or find something where the benefit of the class outweighs the cost. Realise any investment will be of benefit to me.
3. Include the family in my workouts or find during the day classes which don't get in the way of evening family time which is what we did with kick-boxing.
4. Find classes where there is extra motivation to participate or find some goal-orientated way to give me staying power to keep going.
5. Find classes I really, really enjoy like Ceroc.
6. Continue to work on the reasons that I don't like my appearance and realise that these are not size-related because they have always been there.
7. Find activities I can do at home and find a way to remind myself.
8. Make sure I evaluate regularly and re-design when needed 
Principles 1. Observe and Interact - taking ideas from nature - I have always liked the idea of natural movement (see blog posts here and here) but I find it really difficult incorporating these ideas into my life (point 7 in patterns.) I need to find ways to have the space, time and inclination to does these things and I need to integrate them into my way of life so that I think about it, they are just things I do as naturally as breathing, eating, etc. I also need to be aware of when I am resisting any changes and analyse what this resistance means.

2. Catch & Store Energy - maybe my geeky nature would be a good way to capture the energy of my finding new ways to move and get healthier e.g.
revisit websites I have used before to track my activities e.g. endomondo, mapmyfitness, myfitnesspal and investigate other activity apps/websites which incorporate goal setting; connecting to others and forums for advice; in the past I have taken photos along the way which I might do again to keep me motivated; getting my kids involved could also help.

3. Obtain a Yield - feeling healthier, losing the "pregnant" belly feeling, incorporating natural movement into my life so it is seamless, learn what feels good to me, increase my range of body movements and become more somatically aware.

4. Apply Self-regulation & Accept Feedback - if I don't enjoy the activity I need to find something else as I refuse to do exercise for the sake of exercise as it makes me feels bad and my emotional well-being is as important as my physical well-being. Maybe finding classes which are flexible would benefit my life-style in that I very often cannot stick to a set time and day. Pay-as-you-go is therefore better than any pre-paid classes. Revisit how I feel about what I am doing every month or so to check that I am happy; my kids are happy with any time away as is my dh. My feedback needs to be about how I feel physically but also emotionally, spiritually and mentally about my health. Although I am talking about activities and classes if I am not feeling better in all aspects of my life then my plan is not working so I need to find a way to monitor these 4 areas each month.

5. Use & Value Renewable Resources and Services - I will be using my own power to improve my health and one of the reasons I am planning this design is so that I remain a viable renewable resource for as long as possible.

6. Produce no Waste - over time I have accrued all the workout equipment, DVDs, clothing and shoes that I need to try any type of activity necessary. I will endeavour where possible to find local activities and will evaluate why (if ever) I need to go further afield. Again I will balance using my car to get to classes over time away from family and other considerations.

7. Design from Patterns to Details - being clear about why I want to be healthier and how to balance my health with family/time/finances.  Combat any negative patterns about my health and create healthy patterns. Evaluate my monthly feedback from (4) and redesign if necessary. Celebrate any break in negative patterns as well as any new healthier ones.

8. Integrate rather than Segregate - having made a space in my bedroom (see here) for exercise which already includes a climbing wall, punch-bag, various exercising paraphernalia and a playstation 2/TV combo and now enough floor space for most types of activity this gives the kids and I the chance to engage in whatever movement activity takes our fancy. This area is nearly perfect from a theoretical point of view but we need to start using it so that it becomes an integral part of our lives for fun movement activities including keeping up with our kick-boxing skills in case we ever get to go back to our classes.

9. Use Small Slow Solutions - I am being realistic here that anything I do is not going to make my "pregnant"-like belly disappear overnight or my BMI suddenly be reasonable. I haven't had a BMI within normal range for over 12 years and I am not even sure I agree with it as a measurement anyway. This design is focussing on how I feel about myself from all four aspects of my "quadrinity" (as the Hoffman Process calls the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of ourselves) and so my reflective writings about how I feel will be my overall guide as to how the design is going. Integrating different ways of being in my body will be slow because anything that doesn't work will be dis-guarded and new things tried and evaluated.

10. Use & Value Diversity - I need to look at this "integrating movement into my life" design holistically and as mentioned earlier need to include different types of movement in different places e.g. outdoors, indoors, natural movement, cardio, strength work, martial arts, etc.

11. Use Edges  & Value the Marginal - over the last year there have been changes in my life which are worth considering with regard to edges. For example, my parents moving to York and my getting a Saturday job. Both these things can integrate using my body more into my life if I chose them to. Sharing some activities with my children and husband can acknowledge the edges between us and help me in my endevaour to improve my health.

12. Creatively Use  & Respond to Change - I am going to be 42 in January so I need to incorporate strength work as well as cardio as my muscle mass is in decline. I have an opportunity to include natural movement now we have a woodland where we get the fuel for our wood-burning stove so I can carry logs from garden to house regularly over winter and pile logs all year round at the woodland. I recently started working so relying on walking and cycling wherever possible saves money (+ve.) I also have an opportunity to include my children in anything I do as I home educate and want them to have a positive view on how moving their bodies makes them feel good. Most of all though I need to find activities that take over from Ceroc and kick-boxing.

Productive Phase
Thoughts via hackpad
Action Measure various parts of my body and take a photo on 1st January 2015
Use misfit acticity tracker everyday and sync with app so it gets picked up by mapmywalk
Trial Monday swimming with the kids at least once a month
Keep going to MFT classes on Tuesday (or Thursday if I cannot do Tuesday)
Trial Tai Chi classes on Wednesday morning with the kids, once a month maybe twice - review in 2 months
Friday - attend Jitsu class (move to Monday if I cannot do Friday)
Friday or Saturday once a month to every 6 weeks go climbing with at least Dave
Try out various activities with the kids eg. 7 minute workout on my phone; DVDs; trampolining; kettlebells; natural movement; etc. - start small
Incorporate more things as I get more time
Momentum Review on the 1st of every month. Add this date to my calender as well as a weekly check in when I have time.

Reflective Phase
Appreciation Take photos and measurements at my monthly review and celebrate my achievements regardless
Reflection Monthly review. 
Pause If I need time off, take time off.

That's it for now. Watch this space!!

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Finding a rhythm and the minimalist game

Looking back at my post from August and especially the one from the start of 2014 here it is fascinating to see what things have changed since then. I am now employed at the Northern College of Acupuncture (NCA).  It is a blessing to work at such a worthwhile place even if it is only very part-time. I hoping that my computer programming skills might help here as well because the NCA are considering changing their client database structure.

I never got round to adding alarms to my phone for reading books and doing crafts because I wasn't organised enough at the time. I also realised I was too busy finishing my Shamanic Practitioner training, my Permaculture Association Trustee duties (where I was made official administrator back in July) as well as the needs to my immediate and wider family. However I have now started using google calender, google tasks, google keep and their associated apps on my phone so I am wondering whether, once my OU course is finished in July, I will add these things to my to-do-list if that is what I think is the best use of my time.

Anyway over the last year I have started finding a much-needed rhythm to my life. I feel this has been partially due to my Shamanic studies as well as my continued learning about Permaculture design methodology and how it can help design all areas of a person's life. I have started surveying and assessing the way my house works for us as a family. As a home educating family and my occasional need to work from home we have a myriad needs of our house from accommodating large numbers of children and parents to my needing a place to tutor students or work as a shamanic practitioner. This has led to my contemplating designing a number of rooms in the house and de-cluttering as a by-product of the design implementation. I am going to continue this de-cluttering and am thinking of doing the Minimalist game with my dd in the New Year as a way to maintain and tweak the design. Starting from the 1st January we are going to throw things out or ebay them every day. The challenging bit is that on the 2nd we have to throw 2 things out, 3 on the 3rd, 4 on the 4th, etc.

As part of evaluating my bedroom design over the last few weeks I have already made some changes which have resulted in at least the 6th January being sorted as I found 6 bags I don't need. Whether I will manage all the way through January will be interesting but I like the SMARTness (see below) of this game and if it works I will be implementing it more than once as a fun SADIMET tweak to my de-cluttering designs.  My bedroom was my first design within my house but I have my dining/kitchen area that also needs designing as well as potentially my loft, garage, Shamanic room and porch.  Let's see if this game works or not!!

Specific - follow the instructions
Measurable - I follow the instructions or not
Achievable - 496 items = a lot but I have many things I don't use so hopefully it is do-able
Realistic - see above
Time-bound - this is the best thing about this game.  It is very specifically time-bound.  By the end of January 2015 I will have 496 less things cluttering my house. 

The other great thing about this game is the fact that I am limited on time at present but I want to keep my momentum from the Permaculture Association National Diploma Gathering going.  I have put on hold starting any further designs (I have an "exercise" design that I need to write up) whilst I concentrate on finishing my OU course and settling into working at the NCA.  I am however wanting to continue de-cluttering and finding more rhythm in my life.  If anyone wants to join me in the game let me know!

Monday, 1 December 2014

PA NDG - Sensational, Awe-inspiring, Design-filled, Interlacing, Moments, Everyone, Together

Together sums up my first National Diploma Gathering organised by the Permaculture Association (see what I did there - using a Permaculture design framework acronym to explain how the weekend went!!!).

I am just back from an awesome weekend at Casleton YHA attending the Permaculture Association's annual National Diploma Gathering 2014. It was my first time at this event and although I have always had in the back of my mind that I might try to achieve my Permaculture Diploma I haven't really properly considered it. Also as part of my role as a Trustee for the Association I have been exploring (with other Trustees) how best to explain what Permaculture is to the masses. As part of my thought processes over the last few months I revisited what permaculture means to me including re-reading my Transition Town competition winning entry about my PDC (Permaculture Design Course). I wanted to galvanise those thoughts with real connections to other people who are implementing permaculture in their lives whilst also attending workshops and generally being nosey about what happens at these weekends. As a Trustee I get to be nosey with impunity and I am so glad I did!!!

All the workshops were interesting, helpful, thought-provoking, inspiring and a great reminder that Permaculture Design principles can be applied to ALL areas of everyone's lives. The three accreditations which happened during the weekend were awe-inspiring, motivating and fantastic examples of permaculture design having fundamental effects on people's lives. Visit the individual sites here for more information -> Nicole VosperNiamhue Robin and I will add Cathrine Dolleris' site when it becomes available.

In true Permaculture style there were also magical moments at the edges of the event. For example,
  1. I had fortunately flung a few extra crochet hooks into my crochet bag with my latest crochet project and I offered to teach others if they wanted. I got two takers who valiantly battled the crochet handhold and both took home their first pieces of crochet.  
  2. I (and others) were given instruction into how to barefoot run safely and it was such fun to have our running recorded and analysed; be shown exercises to stretch and strengthen calf muscles and various other tips. 
  3. A fab guy called Kev was recording during the weekend to capture the essence of "what is permaculture" from as many people that he could and I did my part by sharing my thoughts (see below *)  
  4. All the conversations with fellow attendees on a whole range of topics from home educating to the benefits of linux over Windows as an operating systems.  
  5. Being visible as a Trustee to the members and touching base with 3 fellow trustees who were also attending. I had wondered whether being a Trustee would mean people would take an opportunity to talk to me in that role and it was a wonderful example of stacking that I could be there as a Trustee and as a potential diploma student.
As someone who has struggled with insecurities in the past it was fab that these types of interactions occurred and that I was also approached for my expertise in shamanism, home education and crochet. I even had someone commenting that they had found my blog posts about home educating useful. I know I write this blog for my own benefit but it always satisfying to know that it is being found, read and been useful to someone.

With regards to my short time with Kev (mentioned above*) it was great for me to realise how much "permaculturing my life" is what I want to do because it is a versatile system which can be used in all areas of life. This has really helped me re-evaluate my ideas around my permaculture projects and some changes will be happening to my website sevenstrands.co.uk over the next 6 months because of the weekend. I will also be adding content to this blog and getting back to documenting "permaculturing my life!" in an attempt to streamline and effective-y (I so wish that were a real word) my life by using permaculture design.

So here's to a great weekend jam-packed with inspiring workshops and accreditations; useful discussions about all areas of life; crocheting, making new friends, joining networks; being an effective trustee; re-engaging with permaculture design, doing yoga at 7am in the morning (if you know me you will realise what an achievement that is); re-classifying permaculture as a verb and generally having a fun time. Roll on next year as I will definitely be attending another Permaculture Association National Diploma Gathering and I now have a vested interest because I am new member on the Diploma Working Group!!!!