Urine: Elimination (Pt 4)

Pacific Palisades, California, USA.

Elimination – Urine (pt 4) 

Want more elimination?  Of course, you don’t. But here we go again.  It’s silly to be uber concerned with what goes in our bodies and entirely ignore what happens on the other end.  That would be like buying a bunch of plastic crap from China and when you’re done with it, after about 2 weeks when it breaks, it gets thrown in the trash. Where does it go then?  It’s all too easy to close our eyes to the “big” picture and only concern our self with consuming. This myopic thinking relates to EVERYthing.  So, why shouldn’t be be just as interested in the results of our “out” as with our “in”.
What about Yin/yang, plus/minus, reap what you sow, etc.   Granted, many folks do not give a hoot about what they eat or drink. I’m not judging unless I am.  If takes effort not to buy into the “consume” economy.  Just because they took the word “Sugar” off “Sugar Frosted Flakes” doesn’t mean it doesn’t have sugar.  It takes a lot of conscious effort to counteract the barrage of malicious advertising, especially to kids.  Companies spend copious amount of money on testing, reformulating, testing, tweeking, and more testing in order to come up with the advertisement that “makes us hungry/thirsty”.  The gaming industry does this too.  Using algorithms and metrics they develop their games to be addictive, in other words, eliciting the most screen time.
Yet, I digress.  Where was I?  The last 3 weeks I shared a welcomed or unwelcomed article on paying attention to what comes out far end of the alimentary canal or, in other words, poop.  Also important is urine or pee. The quantity, color, odor and ease of exiting are worth paying some attention. Urine is often used as a diagnostic tool for many diseases.
Output.  You pee out between 400 – 2,000 mL of urine with a normal fluid intake of about 2 liters per day or about 8 cups. The amount varies depending on water intake, sweating, and caffeine and alcohol intake. Most people urinate 6 to 8 times a day, but if you’re one of those with a fancy Hydroflask bottle at your desk, it’s not abnormal to go as many as 10 times per day.  Certain medications can cause more peeing, like diuretics for high blood pressure.
Observe the color. That’s right, take a look behind (or under) you. Hopefully you don’t have those inserts from the 1970s that make your toilet water blue. A dark color (apple juice shade or even darker) is an indication of dehydration. If it’s on the brown side, go directly to the closest water source and drink down some water already.  The color of light beer is good. (No, you don’t have to actually go out and drink more beer.)  Red or red-ish colored urine (unless it’s from menstruation or eating beets) is not good and you should see a doctor, fairly pronto. Same goes for urine that is orange or even green.  There’s a good chance something serious is going on.  I’m sure you’ve noticed, but vitamins give urine a bright, almost florescent color.
Give a sniff.  Urine has an odor, but should be indistinct, unless you’ve had the wonderful delicious green stalks of asparagus that are now in season.  Although urine is mainly water, it’s the concentration of waste products excreted by the kidneys that causes the odor. A high level of waste products can give urine a strong ammonia odor.  Unusual odor can indicate a medical condition like a bladder infection, cystitis, dehydration, high level of ketones and uncontrolled Type 2 diabetes (plus more).
Ease of peeing.  Although the healthy adult bladder can hold up to 2 cups of urine, you probably should go before it gets that full. The brain gets a signal to be thinking about a trip to the bathroom when your bladder is about half full. This varies, of course. The urine should exit without strain or pain and you should “void” completely.  Pain or stinging with urination can be the result a urinary tract infection (UTI), kidney stones, an obstruction or bladder infection, among many other reasons.  Any persistent pain should necessitate a phone call to your health care practitioner.
This is only a drop in the bucket of information to be had on urine.  I’m considering “one more” article on elimination, just when you thought it was over.  What about body odor?  It’s a type of bodily elimination and I think it might be fun, informative and mildly entertaining. Stay tuned.

As always, I appreciate any feedback, questions, or topic suggestions.  Really, you’re not bothering me.

How Can I Help?

It’s said if you can’t do anything to help someone, just try not to do any harm.  It sounds simplistic and a bit “duh”, but take a moment to think about it.  In what ways am I causing harm as I go throughout may day.  Of course, you would never intentionally cause physical harm to anyone, but what about emotional or spiritual harm.  As we guiltily or disgustingly avert our eyes or refuse to acknowledge the filthy, homeless teen, we are causing some harm.  What about the snide remark about someone”s friend?

We all want to be helpful, compassionate and caring human being (we’ll most of us do).   Many of us, including me, try to practice this daily (yes, it can be considered a “practice”).  Sometimes we don’t know what to do or what to say to help others. We want to serve, but how?   Four words:  “How can I help?”.  With those 4 words you are 1) putting yourself at service and 2) giving the other person the power to make their own decision on what they need.  When we see someone in distress, it’s human nature to jump in with both feet with unsolicited advice, maybe a lecture or unwarranted sympathy, etc.  What about if you just said, “How can I help?”.  Your friend now can reflect on what they need at that moment.

Note that this is not “can” I help it’s “how” can I help.  Most of us feel that asking for help shows weakness.  We do not want to burden others.  With “can” I help, the receiver will most likely default to, “Oh, no, I’m okay, thank you”.  When you change the wording to “how” can I help, you are saying, “I’m here to help, what can I do”.  It seems like semantics, but it has an entire different feel.

Try to anticipate the needs of others.  Again, because folks are reluctant to ask for and accept help, you can anticipate or intuit what they may need and jump in. For example, you’re visiting a friend in the hospital.  Instead of asking, “Can I get you anything”, try “Do you want a chocolate or vanilla shake?” or “Do you was People Magazine or Vogue?”.  Watch their eye light up. Or, to your multi-tasking, stressed out friend, “What time is your daughter’s ballet lesson over, I’d love to pick her up for you”.  She’ll be thankful.

Speaking of visiting friends in the hospital, Letty Cottin Pogrebin’s book, “How to be a Friend to a Friend Who’s Sick” advises on how to offer comfort or just simply talk to sick friends.  If you’re like me, you often don’t really know what to say. It feels like there are too many do’s and don’ts.  “Have You Thought of Going to Mexico for Coffee Enemas?”, “My Aunt Hilda Had That, and…”, “Any of Us Could Get Hit by a Bus Tomorrow”, “How Long Do You Have?” and  “You Have to Be Positive” are considered no-no’s by Didi Gluck in Real Simple. Perhaps you could just say “How can I help?”

Do You Hygge??

Apparently there is a trend sweeping Britain that I wasn’t aware of – the concept of Hygge (pronounced HOO-gah). It was one of the top 10 words of 2016, and there have been 20 books written on the topic (coming to a bookstore near you soon). And in the week since I learned the term, one of my favorite foodie blogs popped up with recipes. How could I be so behind-the-curve that I’ve never heard of the biggest thing to hit popular culture since Marie Kondo told us how to fold our undies?
Hygge is the Danish word for cozy, but seemingly doesn’t translate well to English, and is so much more than just cozy. It involves fuzzy knitted socks, candles (unscented), fires, blond wood, cake, glogg, and — other people. It appears that a raging snowstorm provides bonus points. All of this offers a great sense of comfort and contentment.
And who should know better about coziness and contentment than the Danes, who usually top the list of happiest countries. The US comes in at an unlucky 13th place. (Sigh — that topic is best saved for another posting ….)
Author Louisa Thomsen Brits calls it “a practical way of creating sanctuary in the middle of very real life.” And since timing is everything, it seems that there has never been a better time to create sanctuary in the middle of the very real life that looms ahead.
So how do YOU bring some hygge into your life? Best to stay home, gather family and friends, get everyone wrapped in blankets, serve a warm drink, light a fire and some candles. Probably no need to purchase anything new, although there seems to be an entire marketplace of textiles, knitting patterns and cookbooks to help you find your inner-hygge.
I got to practice some hygge of my own this week while visiting Cheryl during The Storm of 2017. There was hard rain for several days, with flooding, trees down and the power out. What better excuse to light lots of candles, bundle up (no heat in the house!) and talk, talk, talk. It happened that Cheryl had received mulling spices for Christmas, and there was a bottle of red open. That mixed with some home-pressed apple juice made for a delicious and warming before-bed drink.
Cheers to some hygge-ing of your own this winter.

Staying Balanced During Winter 

Ever notice that sometimes you feel happy energetic, creative and enthused?  And, other times, lethargic, unmotivated and blue.  I’ll be damned if I can figure out why?  There are just too many variable.  Is it something I ate, did I sleep more, did I have more yogurt that day, was my yoga practice active or passive, was it the phone call from a friend, hormones, time of year, age?  Who could ever figure it out.
Here’s a clue.  The medical system related to yoga is called Ayurveda.  It puts people into 3 categories based on specific characteristics.  Like the Chinese system with the 5 Elements, Ayurveda’s “doshas” are related to air and ether (Vata dosha), fire (Pitta dosha) and earth and water (Kapha dosha).  Each dosha is helped (pacified) or aggravated by certain foods, exercise regimens, work, and general lifestyle.  When the dosha is “balanced” the individual is healthy, relaxed (but not lethargic),  energized (but not wirey), engaged (but not annoying), and confident (but not an ass).  Everyone is a combination of 2 or sometimes all 3.  You can take a test here to get a clue as to your dosha.  Eventually, you’ll want to get a full analysis from an Ayurveda practitioner.

Here we are in winter. Each dosha is affected differently by the winter weather, especially Vatas and Kaphas. Those with a Vata dosha (air) tend to be cold, flighty, lightweight and active. Winter’s cold, windy and irregular schedules bother Vatas.  Kaphas (earth and water) are also aggravated by the wet, damp and cold winter. The Ayurveda system offers specific foods, herbs and spices to balance the Dosha and bring back that loving feeling.
Vatas can benefit by warming up.  Eat warm and cooked food, like soups, stews, hot cereals, hearty grains.  Avoid salads (uncooked), ice cream (cold), and crackers/popcorn (light/airy).  Favor the sweet, sour and salty tastes and avoid bitter, pungent and astringent foods.  Essential spices are cardamom, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, salt.  The daily yoga practice should include calming forward folds and restorative poses and grounding standing poses, like Warrior 2.  Don’t forget a long savasana.
Kaphas, because of the combination of water and earth can become heavy and cold.  They need to also be warmed up.  Eat foods that are warm and stimulating with ginger, cinnamon and cloves.  Avoid cold and mucous producing foods foods like ice cream and cheese.  The winter can be hard on Kaphas who are prone to lethargy and depression.  They need to get up each day and do an active yoga practice (or any type of movement) to work up a sweat.

Regardless of your dosha, like the bears, get some extra sleep.  Include warm and nourishing foods in your diet.  Enjoy more time with family and friends and enjoy some quiet time with your favorite book.  Spring is around the corner.

Do Less

Ever notice how much is expected of us?  Wonder Women and Men, all of us. The demands of daily living become more complicated each year and our grasp on how to live a meaningful life threatens to loosen. The Joneses never seem to move. The pressure continues to look younger, live longer, have more stuff, and climb and social and corporate ladder.  It’s a complicated merry-go-round of do-do-do.  Are we really getting anywhere?

What if we actually did less?  What would our stress and anxiety level look like?  I’m guessing we’d be a lot more chill.  We create most of our stress by overburdening our lives with being busy.  We’re oh so busy, busy, busy.  The Archbishop Desmond Tutu in “The Book of Joy” notes that it’s hard to be joyful when we have continual feelings of being overwhelmed and not able to handle our work and family commitments or the digital devices that constantly are reminding us of all the things we are missing.

The Dalai Lama in the same book added:

“Stress and anxiety come from too much expectation and too much ambition. Then when we don’t fulfill that expectation or achieve that ambition, we experience frustration.  . . . Often we are not being realistic about our own ability or about objective reality. . . Unrealistic effort only brings disaster. So in many cases our stress is caused by our expectation and our ambitions.”

The Dalai Lama is encouraging us to be more realistic with our priorities.  When we see how little we need, then we can quit grasping and find more love and compassion.  He says what we are looking for is a “settled, joyful state of being and we need to give this state more space”. I wonder if we could find that settled and joyful state by doing a bit less.

I’m listening to “The Art of Not Giving a F*ck, a Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life” by Mark Manson. He advances the message of the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu, except that Manson peppers every sentence with at least a couple of f*cks. In continuing with the Dalai Lama’s thoughts about priorities and where we spend our energy, he posits that we have too many expectations.  From his book:

“Our culture today is obsessively focused on unrealistically positive expectations: Be happier. Be healthier. Be the best, better than the rest. Be smarter, faster, richer, sexier, more popular, more productive, more envied, and more admired. Be perfect and amazing and crap out twelve-karat-gold nuggets before breakfast each morning while kissing your selfie-ready spouse and two and a half kids goodbye. Then fly your helicopter to your wonderfully fulfilling job, where you spend your days doing incredibly meaningful work that’s likely to save the planet one day.”

“But, what if doing less causes me more stress because I’m not getting things done?”, you smartly ask.  Stressing about what what we’re “not doing” is causing us stress.  We falsely think that being busy will make us feel like we’re actually “doing” something and “being productive”.  Hogwash. This is often misguided busyness.  Much of our “doing” is constantly checking our “likes” on Facebook, checking the latest tweets by Donald Trump and watching another 30 minutes of The Crown.  Then, we berate ourselves for not having time to go to the gym.  We are not giving the proper propriety to what we do in a day, because there is soooo much to do–it’s overwhelming. We have projects that have been put off, phone calls to return, parents to call, volunteer work to do, and 2.5 kids to schlep to soccer practice. As Mr. Manson writes, “Living a good life is not giving a f*ck about more, but giving a f*ck about less”

Time is what everyone says they just don’t have enough of.  Doing less buys us time. Doing less lowers stress, leads to greater creativity, enhances the immune system and generally makes us feel better. If, and it’s a big “if” you can feel okay with doing less.  It may not be easy at first, but give it a try.

When someone tries to add something to your plate, instead of using the excuse that you’re “too busy” start saying “Thanks for asking, but I’m doing less.”  See what response you get. How does that feel?  Now take that time of “less doing” and write or paint or sing or sit and read with a cup of lemon-ginger tea.  What about hot bath?  Do something that brings you joy.  I think you’ll be surprised how easy it is.  Doing less may actually give you more.  

Finding Joy

There is so much pressure to be happy and joyful and compassionate. It seems like it’s the cure to all ills. Yet, so many people in the world just struggle to get a meal on the table and protect their family.  I’m not talking about just third world countries; this happens right here in the US.  But, consider:  What if joy, love, compassion, and a  focus toward empathy toward ourselves and others, along with a connection with everyone (and I mean everyone) was all it took?

I’m reading The Book of Joy which recounts the recent meeting of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu as told by Douglas Abrams.  I’m only on page 68, but the pages are already peppered with page flags noting nuggets of wisdom from two of the most respected men in modern day. Both Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, the background on these two men is fascinating.

Given the current state of global events, It’s easy to view having happiness and joy as being pollyannaish. In response, the Archibishop says,

“Discovering more joy . . . does not save us from the inevitability of hardship and heartbreak.  In fact, we may cry more easily, but we will laugh more easily too. . . As we discover more joy, we can face suffering in a way that ennobles rather than embitters. We have hardship without becoming hard.  We have heartbreak without being broken.”  

One of the impediments to having joy is the attention on our suffering.  We wrongly think that:  “when I get a raise at work”, or “when my back pain finally gets better”, or “when my kid finally graduates from high school”, then I can work on joy/compassion/empathy.  Certainly, not until all the bad stuff goes away.  But you’ll notice, that we can always find bad stuff.  Once you get the raise at work, you buy a new car with a $500 payment, and now you’re got the same problem as before.  Some of our suffering is cause and effect. Some of it is just life.  We’re human, shit happens. Sometimes we naively or knowingly contribute to our pain and often not.

The Dalai Lama weights in,

“The suffering from a natural disaster we cannot control, but the suffering from our daily disasters we can.  We create most of our suffering, so it should be logical that we also have the ability to create more joy. . . when it comes to personal happiness there is a lot that we as individuals can do.  

When the Dalai Lama was asked what’s it like to wake up with joy each morning, he shared:

As soon as I wake up, I remember the Buddha’s teaching: the importance of kindness and compassion, wishing something good for others, or at least to reduce their suffering.  Then I remember that everything is interrelated, the teaching of interdependence.  So then I set my intention for the day that this day should be meaningful. Meaningful, if possible, serve and help others.  If not possible, then at lest not to harm others.  That is a meaningful day.”

As I go through the book, I’ll continue to offer some insights that I think you might find inspiring.  Or, you can out and buy the book (at your local bookstore or borrow it from the library) and find your own nuggets!   In the meantime, I hope you have  meaningful day.  I know I’m going to try.