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Schema Markup

622 3 15 Nov 2018

If you are a local business owner looking to attract more online traffic to your website, ignore schema markup at your peril.

The purpose of this post is to enable you to understand the value of schema markup SEO [search engine optimization] so that you can attract more online prospects and convert them into customers, clients, or patients.

SEO

What we want for your website is for people who use search engines like Google, Bing, and others to find it quickly and easily when they search for relevant phrases.  If you are an attorney in Buffalo, for example, we want prospective clients to find your website when they type in phrases such as “family attorney” or “criminal lawyer” for the geographical area around Buffalo.

Google uses a frequently-changing algorithm to list the results of such searches on a search engine results page [SERP]. We’d like you to be found on page 1 and not lower than page 2 of the free (“organic”) results for relevant search phrases.

Actually, it’s best to be listed in the 3-pack, which people often use as a shortcut to find relevant solutions to their problems. However, not all SERP’s have 3-packs and, when they do appear, they may have more than 3 listings. At least the 3-packs are always on page 1.

The exact nature of the search engine algorithms is not public information. Google and others don’t want people to be able to game their systems. That’s why it’s impossible for anyone outside Google to guarantee either a listing in a 3-pack or on page 1 of a SERP. Depending upon how competitive the search phrase used is, it can be very expensive to be listed highly on a SERP – or free!

There are many factors relevant to how Google ranks listings for a given search term.

Wondering what to do.

Backlinks

For example, a very important ranking factor is “backlinks,” which are easily measured.  What are they?

A backlink for your website is simply a hyperlink somewhere else on the world wide web that points to your website; when someone clicks that link, that person is taken to your website. Both the quantity and number of backlinks are search engine ranking factors. Google considers backlinks as like votes or recommendations.

This is why, for example, press releases work to boost SERP rankings. If it is well-written and well-distributed to lots of high-ranking new directories, a single press release can provide hundreds of backlinks. It’s a good idea to do 1 per month. Since the news directories often purge them after 90 days, their backlinks will cease to work, which is why it’s a good idea to keep doing press releases regularly.

(Incidentally, at Ironox Works we offer an affordable press release service. It’s included in a normal client’s monthly fee. However,  we can do an individual press release for you at a modest fee.  If you prefer to do any for yourself, it’s possible to purchase single press releases. If you are interested, one of the best sites for that is prweb.com; they have various packages, but a single press release costs between $99 and $389 depending upon distribution – and more if they write it for you.)

This also explains why social media works well for local businesses.  For example, suppose that you have business pages on some major search engine platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Assuming that those social media pages are properly set up, there will be links going from them to your website and from your website to those pages.

(If you have not set up any or as many social media business pages for your local business as you want, just let me know. I’ll email you written instructions on how to do it. Except for the time spent doing it, there’s no cost to doing it.)

It helps to post regularly to those social media platforms.  Post at least 1 to 3 times daily.  Of course, that’s a lot of work.  If you try to produce fresh content daily, you’ll likely burn out quickly.  A very good solution is to find relevant content that is already popular online and repost it.  That can be done manually yourself or you can use curation software or you can hire someone else to do it.

(We at Ironox Works offer a $199 per month service, which is about one-half the frequently=charged rate, to post twice daily on up to 10 social media platforms for you.  So that’s something like 400 to 600 high-quality backlinks for your business monthly, which will really help boost and maintain your SERP rankings.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention in this context that we at Ironox Works happen to have a backlink special going on for the first 10 who sign up.  It’s a 70% discount on getting at least 240,000 high-quality backlinks to your blog over the next twelve months!  Just contact me for the almost unbelievability low investment required.)

Similarly, suppose that we were to publish 30 video commercials for your company each month on YouTube. Guess what? There will be 30 more high-quality backlinks from those ads to your website. (Since Google owns YouTube, Google really likes those backlinks, too.)

You get the idea about backlinks. Of course, an active local business should also have a well-designed website, one that is mobile-optimized, one with proper legal pages (including those related to the new GDPR regulations), etc.

The point is that, since yours is a business website, it’s important to have it as highly ranked as possible on relevant SERP’s so that prospects can find it quickly.

Websites can be set up poorly or well. A well set up website is one that is optimized to make it as easy as possible for the search engine algorithms to find it. The process of doing that is called “search engine optimization” [SEO].

Since minor changes to the search engine algorithms occur frequently (even daily) and major changes occur not infrequently, the best tactics for SEO are constantly changing. Since they are working hard running their businesses, it’s almost impossible for local business owners and managers to keep up with SEO changes. It’s not even easy for professionals to keep up.

Boosting Rankings

Still, there are some one-time standard improvements that are free to make as well as important.

For example, again, it’s important to set up related pages on at least the major social media platforms.As you understand, regular posting to those related social media pages can be very helpful in boosting and retaining high SERP rankings, but even just having them helps because it shows legitimacy.

For example, it’s important to set up properly the related Google My Business [formerly, “Google Maps”] page for your business.

That’s the big picture.

Schema Markup

Schema markup [schema.org] is a structural data vocabulary that defines online entities, actions, and relationships for pages on websites, emails, and so on. Its purpose is to make it easier for the search engines to provide a better user experience by clarifying the content of online properties.

Google’s main business is search. The Google search engine is the best in the world, and it’s in Google’s interest to keep it that way. Google wants searchers to find what they are looking for quickly and easily. They don’t want, for example, someone who searches for “Buffalo attorney” to find a listing for an Albany lawyer. Contrary to what some people think, the search engine companies want to make online search work well.

Schema markup is simply an HTML code that is put on, say, the homepage of the website of your local business that aids search engines in returning more relevant results to their users. In other words, schema markup helps to structure the information on your website to get more attention from Google and the other search engines.

In return for making it easier for Google, Google makes it easier for local businesses. Google has said that properly structured data can enhance how a website’s listing appears on a SERP.

Google already has the data that is provided by your website. What schema markup does is to ensure that that data is correctly interpreted.

(In case you understand what they are, this is why HTML tags are insufficient. They don’t provide the search engines with any information about what a tag really means. For example, if “AVATAR” were a tag, does it denote a movie or a profile type? Without schema markup, in other words, without more information, there’s no way to tell.)

Schema markup is a powerful way to optimize website pages, but it’s also infrequently utilized.

Once schema data is added to your website, it will give you a ranking advantage compared to the websites of your competitors that lack it. One study showed that websites with schema markup rank on average 4 positions higher in SERP listings. That’s just one improvement. Imagine how much higher rankings can be boosted by using multiple improvements such as press releases and video ads!

Schema markup also has other advantages as well as higher SERP rankings. For example, because users will understand better in advance what they’ll find when they click through to your website, schema markup can increase the rate at which they click through.

Another important advantage is that schema markup also makes a local business’s physical location easy for the search engines to read.

Furthermore, schema data can also add a more professional look to a business’s SERP listings, which can instantly improve credibility.

According to Google itself, only 40% of all searches include schema data. Worse, 95% of local businesses fail either to have schema data or have incorrect or missing data!

There’s no downside to using schema markup. It really just includes all the relevant information about a business such as its name, address, phone number, email, business hours, social media links, geographical location (latitude & longitude), founders’ information, and so on. It’s all potentially useful information. None of it is controversial.

75% of local business websites are HTML websites.  Many of the others are WordPress sites. Once you have the html code for schema data, adding it to either kind of side is quick and easy; it just involves copying-and-pasting the code into the right place.

Understanding.
Aha!

It’s setting up the HTML code properly that can take time. Of course, one has to understand in advance how to set it up; there are hundreds of markup types.  It can be set up manually or using a software program.

(Yes, we at Ironox Works offer that service for a modest fee.  Contact me for more information.)

Bottom lineif you own or manage a local business and want more online traffic to provide you with an increased number of prospective customers, clients, or patients, you should be using schema markup.

Traffic Generation 70% Discount for Local Business Owners

2k 0 12 Oct 2018

Attention: Local Business Owners Who Want More Prospects Contacting Them

Do you want a huge search engine ranking boost for your blog?

For the first 10 clients only, there is a whopping 70% discount on a great new service that didn’t exist a month ago.

Your blog will receive over 244,000 quality backlinks over the next 12 months!

Imagine how you’ll benefit from all that new traffic.

It’s fully guaranteed, too.

Stop wasting time and energy trying to do it yourself.

Forget about hassles with outsourcers.

No recurring fees.  Just a one-time, heavily discounted investment.

This is a temporary offer. Don’t wait to learn more!

Contact Dennis E. Bradford, Ph.D., of IronoxWorks right now.

(716) 408 – 0343

Dennis@IronoxWorks.com

This is the solution to your traffic problem you’ve been waiting for!

How to Start a Blog

451 2 25 Sep 2018

Are you interested in blogging?  Would you like to understand the right procedure for how to start a blog?

Are you interested in using it as a way of earning income online?  If so, the following may interest you.

(If not, you are already on my blog on well-being, which has hundreds of posts on how to live better and is not monetized.  So you already have an example of a personal blog that is not used as a way of earning income online.)

One Way of Earning Online Income Part-time

A standard method to make money online (or to try to make money online!) is to select an affiliate offer (or create your own product) for which there is demand in a market niche, put up a landing page with an opt-in form, drive traffic to it, send people who opt in to a sales page, and profit from any resulting sales. Even if a prospect fails to purchase, at least with the opt-in form information you are able to generate an email list of people interested in that topic and use it to market to that list repeatedly.

TIP: Never send traffic directly to a sales page; instead, always send traffic to an opt-in or squeeze page to capture email addresses first and then send those who opt-in on to a sales page.

Blogging

Think of a WordPress blog or website as similar to that standard method except that its posts are all landing pages in a single market niche. Instead of being isolated landing pages, they are congregated landing pages. So, instead of driving traffic to an isolated landing page, drive traffic to one website that is a set of landing pages that are related to the topic of the blog.

Understanding.
Aha!

Furthermore, blogging is a way of content marketing. Content marketing educates prospects before pitching anything.  It’s a way of leading with the giving hand. Especially when the content is “edutainment” (i.e., entertaining as well as educating), it is a most effective way of stealthy marketing.

It’s the best way of getting strangers to know, like, and trust you.  After you do that, they are much more likely to take your advice.

Each blog post is specifically designed in advance to have an in-demand topic. Demand is the sine qua non of any business.  Help people solve their problems, which is exactly what I’m doing in this post for those who are considering blogging.

A website is a long-term asset that is built over time. It’s more like running a marathon than sprinting. It can keep gaining traction in the marketplace, i.e., ranking in the search engines for relevant keywords.

There’s no need for any particular blog post to stimulate a lot of sales; instead, only a few or even occasional sales from each post over time can generate significant income if there are plenty of posts, which is why blogging can be very lucrative.

A blog can be built part-time. The key is consistently posting on topics that are in demand, whether that be once a week or five times a week.

Writing the posts can be done oneself or outsourced.

Traffic can be driven not only to the blog itself but to its posts. Using social media like Pinterest skillfully can be an effective way to drive traffic.

It’s false that perfection is required. Imperfect action beats no action.

ACTION STEPS

First, select a niche.

Second, set up a WordPress site focused on that niche.

Third, post consistently, but only after researching possible topics for each post.

Fourth, monetize every post. You can sell your own products or services. You can place ads on a post from ad networks such as Google’s AdSense, Exoic, or Mediavine or simply use Amazon affiliate display ads. You can do affiliate marketing for related products from Amazon, Clickbank, Max Bounty, JVZoo, and lots of others. TIP: reverse engineer what blogs in your niche with lots of traffic are doing to monetize their posts and emulate them.

Fifth, drive traffic to the website as well as to the posts.

REPEAT

Once you have a successful blog that is monetized, set it up so that others such as outsourcers are doing its posting and maintenance for you. Obviously, ensure that your blogs are not alligators that will eat you; in other words, ensure that they are making you more money than they are costing you.  Cash flow is critical.

After you have one blog that’s making money, you’ll have learned a lot about how to do it. So, use that understanding and set up a second blog.

Is it better to have one fruit tree or a whole orchard? Why not have a whole orchard of blogs?

DEMAND

What you think is important is not necessarily what the marketplace thinks is important. Put your values into the background and focus on where in the marketplace demand already exists.

The biggest mistake in business is trying to build a business in situations in which there’s no demand for its products or services.

If you fail to research demand properly, the website will fail to interest and help people with their problems and, so, will fail to make money. So researching is critical, which is why it’s the only one of the six steps discussed here.

How should demand be researched?

Initially, using a Google search, find 5 or 10 blogs in the prospective market niche. Make a written list of them, perhaps on a spreadsheet. It’s not necessary to be an expert in a niche, but it is important at least to have an interest in a niche.

Then check their traffic. One software to use for that is similarweb, which is a free Chrome extension.

Focusing on some of the blogs with the highest traffic, visit some of their posts. What are their topics? How do they monetize them? Are those topics and monetization methods something that interests you? Might you be able to emulate them?

Another way to check for relevant traffic is to use buzzsumo. This free Chrome extension is especially helpful for finding blog topics that go viral.

Another way to check for relevant traffic is to look on Pinterest and Facebook.

Another way to check for relevant traffic is to use keyword software (e.g., Google Adwords Keyword Planner). Install the (free) Chrome extension Keywords Everywhere on your computer and use it in conjunction with the (free) Keyword Shitter software. Used in combination, they can be very helpful in determining demand and a good list of initial keywords for posts.

However, there’s no magic bullet. Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned in the last 20 years about internet marketing is this:

Spend some time and energy doing research and finding a market niche that has demand and interests you before seriously beginning any business.

Once you have that, set up a WordPress blog properly, start posting consistently, and regularly drive traffic to it. There are multiple books and online courses that teach how to do that (including Bloggii).

Remember:  no demand, no business.

I wish you well.

Dr. Dennis E. Bradford
Dennis E. Bradford, Ph.D.

Traffic Online

1k 3 23 Sep 2018

Would you like more traffic online? Could your business use more?

Whether you are trying to influence people by attracting them to your views or trying to sell a product or service, it’s important to understand how to get online traffic.

Understanding the big picture is easy, too.

The way to proceed is to consider the different online traffic sources and decide which might work best for you. This post offers an overview of the 13 sources of online traffic.

Once you have selected one, test it for yourself and determine if your investment in time or money is worth the results you receive.

Each can work. Each has advantages and disadvantages. Each can also fail.

Pondering options.

TWO CAVEATS

First, none is really free. Each requires an investment in time, money, or both.

Second, education is expensive. You might think that trial-and-error is free, but it’s not. It requires an investment of time and energy. If you use it, proceed in small steps (so that mistakes are not too costly) and constantly monitor feedback and make appropriate adjustments.

Usually, it’s much less costly to learn from the successes and failures of others than from your own. I recommend reading articles and books about your topic or market niche as the best initial way to procced.

Since it’s much slower, the second-best way to learn is to watch free training videos about your niche. (We often read 5 or 10 times faster than we speak.)

I also suggest either paying the price to master a traffic source yourself or hiring an expert who has already mastered it.

Situation: Let’s suppose that you have a website that you’d like to receive more traffic. How can you promote its URL (web address)?

WEB ACTIVITY

There are ordinary activities that can help. For example, when you send an email, have a signature block that includes that URL. If you post a comment to a blog or in a forum, include that URL.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter are very popular; they have billions of regular users. If you are one of them, instead of not engaging, leave comments or post photos, images, or videos and ensure that they all link back to your URL.

SEO

‘SEO’ abbreviates ‘search engine optimization.’ SEO requires doing things that attract extraordinary attention from search engines like Google or Bing. Search engines try to deliver to users the results they want. They work using algorithms. At least for a while, it’s sometimes possible to trick those algorithms into ranking your content higher than they’d ordinarily be ranked.

Wondering what to do.

CONTENT MARKETING OR SYNDICATION

Seth Godin: “Content marketing is the only marketing left.”

The idea here is to attract people indirectly. Give them content such as words, images, or videos that people value and in return they will give you their attention. (In effect, it’s what I’m doing on this website.)

To be effective, this requires posting at a minimum at least three times daily to your website and to syndicated social media sites. There is software available that can help with this, often by “curating” or replicating the content of others.

OFFLINE ACTIVITY

Especially if you are promoting a product or service, this can be an effective way to get the word out about it.  Begin locally at, say, meetings of local business owners, meet people, and give them your 30-second elevator pitch.

I suggest handing out your business card to ordinary prospects and handing out a copy of your paperback book to hot prospects, which positions you as a generous authority in your field. [The latter tactic is not as expensive or difficult as you might imagine. Cf. HOW TO BECOME HAPPILY PUBLISHED.]

ONLINE-ADS SUCH AS GOOGLE PAY PER CLICK, FACEBOOK, OR YOUTUBE and PRESS RELEASES

Paid advertising and press releases obviously require an advertising budget. If you try this yourself, and it can be very effective, it’s important to get good training on how to do it or hire an expert. Otherwise, it’s very easy to lose money doing it.

BANNER ADS

Even though many people have developed “banner blindness,” these can still be effective when they are done creatively. They require creativity as well as some technical understanding. Either get good, up-to-date training on how to do it yourself or hire an expert.

SOLO ADS

Solo ads can work very well. What are they?

They require you to find someone who already has a following or tribe in your area and then paying that person to promote your URL by, for example, sending an email to the members of that following.

They can work quickly and be very effective in terms of their ROI [return on investment] if you understand what you are doing, or they can be costly and not work at all. Again, get good training or hire an expert.

WEBINARS

If you publicize it properly, offering a free webinar can attract people to your URL. What’s important is leading with the giving hand. Give some training at no cost that will be free for your audience. Allow them to begin to know, like, and trust you.

Then, perhaps, offer them something for free that will help them in exchange for some of their contact information such as their email addresses. Follow up with additional emails (and an autoresponder can be very helpful) and then promote your URL.

BONUS CREATION

Whether or not you do webinars yourself, you may be able to create bonuses for others who do webinars to give away. You’d be helping those others attract visitors to their webinars and in return they’d be helping you publicize your URL.

For example, if you are a golf pro and your passion is training people how to swing golf clubs correctly, you could offer a free introductory sequence of training videos on how to putt, chip, and drive a golf ball.

INTERVIEWS

win/win

If you are not an expert about a subject matter and don’t want to offer webinars yourself, why not contact experts and interview them on a webinar? Experts are generally very enthusiastic about their topics.

You ask them during the webinar questions that beginners ask or should ask. That will benefit the expert because he or she becomes better known. It will benefit anyone engaging in the webinar to understand more about the topic. Furthermore, it will benefit you because some of the expert’s authority will naturally rub off on you – and you’ll be able to pitch your URL.

VIDEO MARKETING

People crave entertainment. People have short attention spans.

So, it’s not surprising that they typically don’t really want to read books or articles on some subject even if they are somewhat interested in it. They want easy-to-absorb images and short videos that entertain as well as instruct (“edutainment”).

There’s lots of low-cost video production software available. If you don’t want to be on camera doing “talking head” videos yourself, you can do explainer videos or slide-show videos.

You can post videos on your website or to video-sharing sites like YouTube or Vimeo at no cost. If you produce them consistently, you may be able to attract a following of interested viewers.

JOINT VENTURES

These are similar to solo ads. Start by seeking out the stars or celebrities in your field. They already have a following. How can you piggy-back on that?

Offer the star something of value in exchange for access to his or her following. Simple. There are multiple ways to give value. If one isn’t successful, try another.

So, there are 13 ways to generate traffic online for your offering.

They all can work. They can all fail. Everything depends upon execution.

Good luck!

[I myself sell content marketing and video marketing services. The price is irrelevant if your ROI is positive. Suppose, for example, that you are very busy running a local business. You pay me $1 to do some marketing for you and your bottom line increases by $1.50 each time you do that. How many dollars would you give me? Simply contact me at dennis@ironoxworks.com if you’d like more information.]

Dennis E. Bradford. Ph.D.

Right and Wrong

313 3 28 Jul 2018

ITS IMPORTANCE

Thinking clearly about right and wrong is important.

The reason is that, at least sometimes, we all find ourselves making decisions that will have at least relatively important consequences.

As is obvious and philosophers like Camus have pointed out, the most important question is the question of suicide. If we opt for it, everything else becomes valueless.

Would it be right to kill myself?

THE BAD NEWS

My thesis here is simple; it’s that the author of the oldest extant zen document is correct when he states “If there’s a trace of right and wrong, / True-mind is lost, confused, distraught.”

What?

When we think about what action or inaction would be right or wrong to do or not to do, we inevitably find ourselves imagining the possible future consequences of doing it or not doing it. That’s thinking about the future.

thinking

To think is to conceptualize (categorize, sort, classify, discriminate, evaluate). All judgments are conceptualizations.

For example, if I think “that is a tree,” I’ve conceptualized that object as being an object of a certain kind. I’ve used a principle of classification, namely, my idea of the nature of a tree, to sort that object into one category rather than another.

To think about actions or non-actions as being either right or wrong is to conceptualize them in a certain way.

Are the consequences of an action relevant to its moral evaluation as right or wrong?

Of course they are relevant. It may also be that someone’s intentions in acting a certain way are also relevant, but it would be folly to ignore the consequences of an action in evaluating it morally.

The alternative is absurd. To take an extreme example, if someone whose intentions were wholly loving accidentally did something to initiate World War III, would any sane person claim that that act was right? Certainly not. We’d think that, although it was done with good intentions, the act itself was wrong became of its enormously harmful consequences.

If so, given that an act’s consequences are relevant to its moral evaluation, how can we know (in the present moment) whether or not an act is right or wrong?

We can’t.

The reason is that, used correctly, “knowledge” is the impossibility of mistake. There’s no such thing as false knowledge. Every adult capable of minimal thought already understands that it’s impossible to know the future. There is no foreknowledge.

So, we are left with our opinions (beliefs) about what the future consequences of an act may or may not be. There is such a thing as a false opinion – and there’s no infallible criterion for distinguishing false opinions from true ones. (This is what all fanatics get wrong.)

So, we can, and often do, have opinions about whether or not such-and-such an act is right, but knowing that such-and-such an act is right is impossible.

THE GOOD NEWS

I learned this morning that a close friend of mine is seriously contemplating suicide. If the argument I’ve just given is sound, it’s impossible for my friend to know whether or not that would be the right thing to do.

troubled

What can be done? We want to do what is right, but how? Given that knowledge of right and wrong is impossible, how shall we live?

A “philosopher” is someone who seriously seeks to live well. Successful philosophers succeed in that quest.

Is wisdom possible?

The answer [as I have argued more thoroughly elsewhere in print] is that the moral (ethical) imperative and the spiritual imperative need to coalesce.

The spiritual imperative is “Wake up.” That is opening to what is sometimes called “superconsciousness,” which is beyond all thought. Waking up is opening to Being.

Those who have attained a significant degree of awakening are sages (successful philosophers, saints). They are not only the most peaceful and joyful human beings, but they are also the most loving, which is why they are nearly universally admired.

The moral imperative is “Do right and don’t do wrong.” As we’ve seen, it’s impossible to know how to do that.

However, sages who act from Being (rather than from Becoming) nearly always manage it. I don’t claim that they never make mistakes; they are, after all, human beings.

I do, though, claim that they are the morally best human beings. Anyone who acts from Being is doing the best that is possible for us to do.

The practical consequence of this is that we need to focus more on waking up than on acting rightly. Why?

The more deeply we awaken, the more right our actions are likely to be.

Thinking occurs only in Becoming. Apprehension of Being is beyond thinking; it’s nonconceptual.

Actions done from Becoming are nothing but shots in the dark. On the other hand, actions done from Being are nearly always right. They are the best we’re able to do.

Ego attrition is the way to awakening. It’s difficult, but it’s the requirement for living wisely or well. Wisdom is egoic detachment. It’s that simple.

That’s my message to my friend – and to everyone else.

SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER READING

I discuss these topics more thoroughly in some of my books such as ARE YOU LIVING WITHOUT PURPOSE?, LOVE AND RESPECT, and MASTERY IN 7 STEPS and each of them contains my best suggestions with respect to reading the works of others. I also discuss it more in multiple posts in this blog.

Hakuin’s Chant

375 1 21 Apr 2018

Hakuin’s chant distills zen to its essence.

Light over Conesus Lake.

Hakuin Ekaku (1686 – 1768) was one of the most influential masters in the history of zen.

I thank the Rochester Zen Center for permission to use their English translation.  My oral presentation, however, has no official sanction whatsoever.

Zazen Wasan

From the very beginning all beings are Buddha.

Like water and ice,

without water no ice,

outside us no Buddhas.

 

How near the truth

yet how far we seek,

like one in water crying ‘I thirst!’

Like a child of rich birth wandering poor on this earth,

we endlessly circle the six worlds.

 

The cause of our sorrow is ego delusion.

From dark path to dark path we’ve wandered in darkness.

How can we be free from birth and death?

The gateway to freedom is zazen samadhi —

beyond exaltation, beyond all our praises,

the pure Mahayana.

 

Upholding the precepts,

repentance and giving,

the countless good deeds,

and the way of right living

all come from zazen.

 

Thus one true samadhi extinguishes evils;

it purifies karma, dissolving obstructions.

Then were are the dark paths to lead us astray?

The pure lotus land is not far away.

 

Hearing this truth, heart humble and grateful,

to praise and embrace it,

to practice its wisdom,

brings unending blessings,

brings mountains of merit.

 

And when we turn inward and prove our True-nature —

that True-self is no-self,

our own Self is no-self —

we go beyond ego and past clever words.

 

Then the gate to the oneness of cause and effect is thrown open.

Not two and not three,

straight-ahead runs the Way.

 

Our form now being no-form,

in going and returning we never leave home.

Our thought now being no-thought,

our dancing and songs are the voice of the Dharma.

 

How vast is the heaven of boundless samadhi!

How bright and transparent the moonlight of wisdom!

 

What is there outside us,

what is there we lack?

Nirvana is openly shown to our eyes.

This earth where we stand is the pure lotus land,

and this very body — the body of Buddha.

 

How to Lose Weight

339 3 22 Mar 2018

There’s no single, one-size-fits-all answer to the question about how to lose weight. Individual differences do matter.

Furthermore, our bodies change over time. What worked yesterday may not work today, and what works today may not work tomorrow.

The goal is not actually to lose weight. The goal is to improve body composition by losing fat. Body weight doesn’t matter; our percentage of body fat does matter.

As we age, we tend to move less. We tend to get less and less exercise. This by itself results in a lower metabolic rate, which makes it more difficult to improve our percentage of body fat.

Furthermore, we tend to become attached to certain ways of eating that we have picked, often haphazardly, from our families and culture. Improving deeply engrained habits is never easy.

Loss of Health

We’re all aging. Sooner or later we’ll all become ill and die. So, the goal is not to avoid the inevitable. The goal is to flourish physically for as long as possible.

Eating well is a chief component of flourishing physically.

strength training
Strength training benefits all adults.

What motivates eating well?

Excellent question! There’s precious little knowledge about human motivation. What can motivate us to break any long-standing pattern of conditioned behavior?

An important loss or other serious dissatisfaction is a great motivator. When we detect a loss of health, that can provide sufficient motivation. If you survive your first heart attack, you may decide to begin eating well and stick to that decision.

Ask yourself: “Have I become overweight or obese? Have I become diabetic? Do I suffer from heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, or other popular epidemic diseases? Have I become unfit or physically weak?” And so on.

A “yes” answer to these or similar questions can be an opportunity to reduce your percentage of body fat.

This of it this way: Life is inviting you to improve.

You may not get another invitation. So, let’s take this as an opportunity to improve.

Macronutrients

The three macronutrients are fats, proteins, and carbohydrates [carbs].

Here’s a critically important point about eating well: when we ingest all three in sufficient quantities, our bodies will burn carbohydrates first, fats second, and proteins last.

When our bodies burn carbohydrates, it breaks them down into sugars. Always. (It’s helpful to visualize a potato or a loaf of bread as blocks of sugar.)

Therefore, when we ingest all three in sufficient quantities, our bodies will run on sugars rather than fats. Any excess energy (calories) ingested will get stored as fat. That goes a long way towards explaining why we tend to get fatter as we age.

What can be done about it?

The basic ideas is this: switch from sugar burning to fat burning.

How?

Reduce carbohydrate intake sufficiently. On most days, keep carb intake to 25 grams or less.

Is this unhealthy? Not at all. The truth is that we need to ingest 0 grams of carbs daily to be in excellent health. There’s no minimum daily requirement for carb intake.

How to lose weight transition

If you have permitted yourself to become overweight or obese, it’s rational to switch deliberately from burning sugars to burning fats.

If you do that abruptly, you’ll likely to experience some unpleasant side effects that are often called the “keto flu.” (When we switch to burning fats, ketones appear in urine, which is a perfectly normal, natural process – hence ‘keto.’)

Even if you’re willing to switch abruptly, it’ll likely take your body 2 or 3 months fully to adjust from sugar burning to fat burning. Meanwhile, unless you simply overeat, it’s quite likely that you’ll lose weight as your body begins to utilize your fat reserves.

There are plenty of low carb and keto diet plans available. They have become popular for good reason.

One way to begin the transition to a diet that is relatively high in fats, moderate in proteins, and low in carbs is with breakfast.

Fat Bomb Breakfast

Instead of skipping breakfast or overloading with proteins, here’s one way to fuel yourself for your first 5 or so waking hours that I’ve been using recently with good results.

2 cups (16 ounces) or so of your favorite freshly brewed coffee
1 tablespoon unsalted butter from grass-fed cows
1 tablespoon organic, extra virgin, unrefined coconut oil
¼ teaspoon or so of powdered cinnamon

[optional but recommended:  2 teaspoons fiber supplement]

Put all ingredients in a blender. Blend thoroughly including for 10 seconds on high speed. Pour into a large mug and drink immediately. Enjoy!

It’s frothy and delicious.  It has no carbs, no protein, and about 26 grams of fat — hence the name “fat bomb.”  Since you are not ingesting carbs or proteins, it forces your body to burn fat. [Thanks to the Fit2Fat2Fit Keto program for the basic recipe.]

Will it work to reduce your percentage of body fat? We’re all different, but there’s obviously a simple way to find out.

It won’t work if your other daily meals are way out of whack. Keep them relatively high in fats, moderate in proteins, and low in carbs, too.

It’ll work better if you also exercise. Strength training is important for more than just developing stronger bones, connective tissues, and muscles. The greater your lean muscle mass, the more calories you’ll burn even at rest.

I happen to believe that it’s possible to get all the strength training needed in less than 10 minutes weekly. How? Click here to discover more.

For a broader perspective on eating well, click here for a relevant blog post.

Results

If you’ve never eaten in a low carb way before and try it seriously for even just a week or two, you may be amazed at how quickly your percentage of body fat will begin to improve.

In fact, I caution you not to lose more than 3 pounds of weight weekly. Be kind to yourself by giving your body the time it needs to adjust. Work with it rather than against it.

3 pounds of body weight loss weekly is equivalent to about 1 or 1 1/2 pounds of fat loss weekly. Do that for  just a month or two and your body composition will significantly improve.  You’ll actually be eating your way to better health.

Whenever you’re contemplating serious changes to your dietary or exercise habits, please consult your personal physician or another certified healthcare provider in advance. If you ask, “May I lose a pound or 1 1/2 pounds of fat weekly?” any answer you receive other than ‘yes’ would be astounding.

Good luck!

Do squats and deadlifts regularly to complement your improved diet.

Man and 2 Tigers story

297 2 15 Feb 2018

This version of the Buddha’s well-known story, which has been retold by Tolstoy among others, comes from Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki, ed., Zen Flesh, Zen Bones (Boston:  Shambhala, 1994).  Presumably, the circling mice represent alternating day and night.

Are you enjoying your strawberries today?

Ikkyu and the True Path

280 2 11 Feb 2018

This brief story about Ikkyu and the true path is from Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki, eds., Zen Flesh, Zen Bones (Boston:  Shambhala, 1994).

Abandoning Words

277 0 10 Feb 2018

Zhangjing Huaiyun (756-815) gave this brief talk on the essence of Zen.  It’s from Andrew Ferguson’s Zen’s Chinese Heritage (Boston:  Wisdom, 2000).    He was a disciple and later Dharma heir of Mazu.  At the emperor’s request, he eventually resided in the capital city of Changan at Zhangjing Temple.

Being is unconditioned existence.  Opening to it is the portal to living wisely or well.