About me

sr_041-crop-smallI’m Steve Roberts, a computer graphics artist and video editor in Toronto. I’m also studying Adult Education and working on a B.Sc., majoring in Psychology at the University of Toronto.

June 2012: As we go through life, some of us re-invent ourselves from time to time, and I’m no exception. The last significant reinvention occurred with the development of an interest in Tai Chi, Zen and Buddhism, which gave me a different point of view on some matters. There was no mysticism involved, though for a time, the “Eastern stuff” became a bit of a hobby. But now, about ten years later, after realizing that I look a bit silly in traditional Chinese dress, the interest has settled into a point of view that, in its better moments, approaches equanimity. In other words, once you strip away the mysticism and dogma of a spiritual practice, you often find a useful paradigm. In the case of Buddhism, the paradigm is the removal of attachments: attachment to political ideals, abstract concepts and sometimes, habits that have become cherished beliefs.

Walking hand-in-hand with a removal of attachment is the interest in critical thought, sparked by a course in Written Discourse at the University of Toronto, as taught by Dr. Vikki Visivis (yes, that’s her real name). Dr. V, along with my old high school teacher Flemming Kress, have truly set my feet (back) upon the path of critical thought. Combined with a psychologically-based interest in uncovering biases, the study of critical thought has reminded me that All Is Not As It Seems.

I’m still trying to stay healthy, of course. That hasn’t changed.

Older entries:

May 2011: As for my weight, I’ve settled in around 162, so it must be possible to create a new “set-point” by settling into new, healthier habits such as exercising more and eating less. Either that or 162, my weight in my mid-twenties, always was my set-point.

October 2010: The “middle-aged” part of the description is the most relevant to this blog, making it what it is today. A little more over a year ago, I received the right-of-passage phone call from the doctor instructing me to lower my consumption of animal fats and free sugars, since I was borderline diabetic. This was quite a surprise, given that I grew up skinny and was “only ” 187 pounds at about 5-foot 11-inches in height. Nevertheless, I trusted the doc, cut down the bad stuff and settled into a 10-pound weight loss in about a year. That wasn’t monumental news, but I’ve since kept it off and my blood sugar is normal. However, in the latest phone call last September, the doc asked me to lose 7 more pounds and continue to cut down the animal fats as my cholesterol was still high.

All this has led to a focus on diet and exercise, or as my friend Mike calls it, the ELEM diet. Eat Less, Exercise More. Duh. Most of my workouts start with a squash game or practice to warm up, then I move to strength training exercises, focusing on the compound exercises right now. The goal is to build the large muscles, since that will raise my metabolism and burn more calories. I’m not trying to be Ahnold and maximize my muscle size, but I’m trying to optimize their functioning and in the process, “bank” muscles given that we all lose muscle mass as we age. Something to think about.

My weight loss has progressed in three rough plateaus, each lasting about eight weeks. I’m bouncing between 168 and 171 right now, looking forward to the drop to the next plateau (update: now between 162 and 165). When I was 183, a personal trainer once told me that I should lose 20 pounds of fat and gain 10 pounds of muscle, settling in at 173. Currently, that’s my goal: to lose that gut (soldier!) and build some muscle. What does 10 pounds of muscle look like? I don’t know, just that I have more now than I did before.  I’ll probably check in with Caprice (check the links) for a reality check.

On the other side of the mind-body unity, I’ve been doing Tai Chi and other Chinese stuff since about 2001. I started because I wanted to prep myself for joining the nearby karate dojo, but stuck around because I had a good Tai Chi teacher, Ben Chung. Since then, I’ve read a little bit about the Chinese Internal Martial Arts (CIMA), and developed a fascination for the study of the internal landscape of the body that can arise from and interest in CIMA.

Over the course of my life, I’ve also had a great interest in communicating across divides, and trying to see the other person’s point of view. Studying the Chinese culture affords me a rich opportunity to decode the differences between Western and Eastern thought and find some common ground. I believe that Eastern instruction isn’t as mystical as Westerners believe — it’s quite practical, but language differences, historical discontinuities and good-old-fashioned storytelling have led to a misunderstanding in the West. In my opinion.

Currently, I’m studying Yiquan with Sifu William Chau, and some Tai Chi with Sifu Andy James when I get a chance. Yiquan (yee-chwan) is an early-twentieth century martial art that eschews traditional forms in favor of a focus on the basics of martial power. I find this appealing because of its interdisciplinary nature: it can be applied to any martial art. Do I want to go around and beat up people? No. But I like the idea that to be a good martial artist, you have to be very healthy and fit.

Speaking of martial arts, I believe that the highest purpose of martial arts is not to beat up people, or even to defend yourself. It is to create a mind-body unity, and test it under the most adverse threat to mind and body. If you can be in a calm, meditative state while somebody’s throwing punches at you, I’d say you’ve arrived (not at the goal, but at an important way station, or even a new beginning). I also like the attitude I’ve seen in CIMA classes: even when students engage in push hands training, the atmosphere is friendly and fun. I had the greatest time pushing hands with an advanced student once — it was like a game, as if we were two kids messing around after having too much sugar. Good fun, but I also learned a lot. So it’s not about anger and violence — it’s about testing yourself.

I haven’t been to a chiropractor in a long time, and I’m dead set against the idea of “once a patient, always a patient”. It’s up to us to heal ourselves, and to seek the best direction on how to accomplish that. Within obvious limits, our bodies can heal themselves in time, but certain elements within the medical establishment have focused on curing symptoms rather than preventing causes. I believe that Western medicine is good at acute injuries, infections and so on, but Eastern medicine has had a good track record at preventing disease. I can only hope that I can be part of a greater movement toward prevention in the Western world, whether it involves a greater focus on Eastern medicine, practices such as the Alexander Technique or simply paying closer attention to the ways we can hurt or heal ourselves at this moment.

In addition to the Chinese influences, my philosophy regarding body movement and intention has been influenced largely by Caprice Boisvert, a Mechanical Engineer and practitioner of Yoga, Pilates and Alexander Technique. I’ve enjoyed the discipline and focus of my sessions with Caprice, and am finding Alexander and related methods applicable to many disciplines, including internal martial arts.

I enjoy building bridges between polarities such as the new and the old, western and eastern, and the rational and the intuitive. I hope to share the fruits of this journey with you. Thanks for reading.

If you’d like to send me an e-mail, send it to steve@refineandrepeat.com .

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