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THE JOY OF GIVING


In giving we receive. And not just in the metaphysical sense that each individual is an aspect of the Self, and so in doing a good deed you are literally benefiting yourself because all is one. There are also hidden gifts in going out of your way to help others. I offer you two instances of this fact which have shined in my own life.

I have a new neighbor. She is a charming Russian woman with a five-year-old daughter, and I find their society delightful. Elena would like to get in better physical shape and asked that I train her. My initial impulse was to decline. I work out about an hour a day and that is more than enough physical exertion for me, even as an observer. But I thought it would be an enjoyable excuse to spend a bit more time together and so I took her to the stairs in the back of my house and walked up and down them with her several times. On the last set I instructed her to climb them as fast as she could and I timed her. It took her 84 seconds to traverse the 120 wooden stairs, which isn't too shabby, for they are quite steep. Then I improvised a series of compound movements for her to do. These included lunges with dumbbell presses, medicine ball curl/squat/presses, and burpees alternating with jumping rope. She hated me while performing these movements but thanked me afterwards over tea. Elena and I train together a couple times a week.

How has this benefited me? I have been a bit remiss about doing the stairs myself, but watching my new friend trudge up them I decided to have a go myself. So I ascended the stairs as fast as I could manage, three consecutive times. The respective attempts took me 51 seconds, 44 seconds, and 39 seconds, in that order. That last time is around my fastest ever, and I've been doing these stairs since they were first installed back in 2009. Inspired by my performance, I then did a series of burpees and jump ropes. Ten sets of 100 jump ropes with 10 to 15 burpees after each set. The burpees included a push-up and a jump at the end. In less than 20 minutes I was super winded. So by training my lovely neighbor, my own workouts have been reinvigorated. I hope to keep these disciplines up.

Also, my friend Jason complained about his seven-year-old son Cooper's recent weight gain and asked me to devise a healthy diet for Cooper to follow. After some thought I decided that a bodybuilder-type diet would serve the boy, who is used to refined starches (french fries and pizza) and high fat animal products (fried chicken and greasy steak). Veganism, which is the diet I follow, would be too extreme for the boy. So I prescribed  egg whites and oatmeal for breakfast, luncheon sandwiches consisting of tuna fish or peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat bread, with snacks of veggies and fruits and baked chips, and also raw nuts and dried fruit, and finally a dinner comprised of some combination of starch (rice, pasta, quinoa, potato), veggie (broccoli, green beans, cauliflower), and protein (chicken, turkey, bean, or fish). Healthy substitutes for this milk baby include coconut or almond milk over cow's. Not too shabby, right?

In compiling these list of foods for the young boy to eat, I was led to re-evaluate my own diet. I had just watched a video by raw foodist Doug Graham about what he eats in a day. His days usually consist of 20 bananas for lunch and a dinner of seasonal fruits (the video features grapes), along with huge quantities of lettuce and a soup made of tomato and mango. This diet does not appeal at all to me, for I enjoy about 20 percent of my calories in the form of cooked food, and I prefer variety over monomeals, and much of my raw intake includes high fat foods such as avocado, nuts, and seeds. And though I can eat about 6 bananas per day, spread out over three small meals, devouring 3.5 times that amount is something I wouldn't do if you put a gun to my head. But watching Graham chomp into a whole head of lettuce, I decided to try and eat as many of my raw foods as I can in their natural state. This means biting into whole bell peppers and celery and mushrooms and tomatoes and cucumbers, peeling oranges and eating whole nectarines and peaches and apples rather than slicing them up with a knife, and yes, devouring heads of leafy greens from the palm of my hand. By doing so I spare myself all the added salt and oils that usually find their way into salads, which is the traditional method of preparing raw vegetables. Try this yourself. It's very convenient to buy lettuce heads and just munch on them like "candy,"  which is what Graham calls them in the aforementioned video. We are conditioned from early youth to expect a big breakfast of meat and starch, with sandwiches for lunch and a big cooked dinner. But it's fun to turn this tradition on its head in a way and eat only raw fruits and vegetables for breakfast and lunch, then save the more concentrated, cooked calories for after the day is done. Perhaps one day not-so-little Cooper will follow suit and the lbs will melt away.

So you see, though they say that one good deed deserves another, quite often one good deed actually begets and even becomes another, rebounding right back onto the giver, and returning to its source. As with all of life's manifold treasures, everything comes from within.

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