Boomer: Big Dog On Campus

 

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She made the students look up from their phones and smile at her.

I’d be walking the South Hall Mall and hear an ear-deafening screech from a student, far off in the distance, who had spied her. “Cor-geeeeee!!!!”

Students would mob her like a celebrity. And, like the complete diva she was, she’d sit for their pets dutifully, even stoically, but be relieved when it was over and she could continue her walk.

During many long slogs up Cardiac, zooming cars, with students dangling out the windows, would go by yelling, “I love your dog!!”

She was sparkly. She trotted along briskly, looking happy. People always said it: “She looks so happy!  As if happiness was something very rare to see.

Once, a student wearing pajama bottoms, flops, and a baggy hoodie crouched down and petted her for an unusually long time. When he stood up, he said, “I’ve been struggling. I needed to pet an animal today. Thank you.”

This is the power of a dog. They’re real, non-judgmental, and adoring. When we’re around them we feel more relaxed because we feel accepted unconditionally. And loved unconditionally, despite, and maybe even because of, our character flaws and neuroses.

G wants to get a rescue dog now, and I do too in a lot of ways. But I wonder if I walked a mixed breed dog around town, I’d  get the kind of attention that Boomer drew just because she was that breed, with its distinctive short legs, long body and big ears.

When you have a distinctive breed of dog, people remark on it, ask you about it if they’ve never seen one before.

People come up and talk to you who ordinarily might not. They might be secret fans of the breed. They might have had one themselves at one point, and will want you to know about it, as a point of connection with you: We, the corgi lovers.

So, I don’t know what to do about the next dog. There was something really fun about having a corgi. She elevated my social status. Somehow Boomer made me special because I walked her.

Boomer made me visible.

Now when I walk on campus for exercise, nobody looks up from their phones. Nobody makes eye contact. Nobody says hello. Or just smiles.

But when I had Boomer, they’d shoot her a little smile, or ask to pet her, and I could pretend, just for a moment that I, too, was included in that exchange. That I was seen.

RIP Boomer. You were magic.  

Favorite Things (at the moment)

 

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I thought I’d write a post about things I’m liking these days a la the Tim Ferris and Austin Kleon weekly newsletters.

So here goes:

What I’m reading:

Murakami. Can’t get enough. I’m on a jag now. Finished A Wild Sheep Chase and was told that it’s part of a “Rat series.” (Who knew?) So I picked up Dance, Dance, Dance and am enjoying that one even more.

Podcasts I am really loving at the moment:

The Living Experiment with Pilar Gerasimo and Dallas Hartwig. Today’s episode was on Reading. Really good. (Episode 76) All the episodes are good, but this one hit home because I’ve been reading more lately.

I love cocktails.

All winter it was Negronis. But on Easter I switched back to my trusty favorite: The Sidecar. I tweak the recipe, though, substituting Grand Marnier for the cognac. Here’s my recipe:

1 large jigger Grand Marnier

1 small jigger lemon juice (1 lemon, freshly squeezed)

1 small jigger Cointreau

Pour into an ice-filled shaker, shake until the shaker builds a layer of frost, strain into a martini glass. I like these stem-less ones.

Versa Chalk. I got a blackboard for the Yoga Challenge and I’m in love with Versa Chalk. It writes like a marker on a chalkboard.

Essential Oil

I’m into Geranium at the moment. Eases nervous tension, balances the emotions, lifts the spirit, fosters peace, well-being and hope.

But when I’m in deep work mode, my fave diffuser blend is currently Helichrysum and Eucalyptus Radiata

Never been a big fan of vitamin supplements. I have a fairly good diet and vitamins never seemed to make me feel any different whether I took them or not. But recently I’ve been drinking Athletic Greens and I actually do feel a lot better. I heard about them on the Tim Ferriss podcast. I get them in the individual packets and drink a glass every morning before my coffee. I actually feel better as a result.

I love comfy shoes (or no shoes). I love my Allbirds. I don’t wear them out in the wet because they’re wool, but there was a spell of dry days a few days ago and I dug them out. Ahhhhhh…. I’ve missed you, my little birds! Maybe have to get a new pair for spring?

A question I’ve been asking myself lately, especially when I’m online:

Is this activity compulsive or creative?

I really love to hear about people’s favorite things. Will you consider sharing yours?

Power Yoga

Young man hand pointing with fiber optic light trail connection.

When you take an hour out of your day to do some stretching in a structured way, guided by someone with some expertise, you are making a conscious choice to increase your power.

Power can be thought of as “energy” or “personal vitality” and that kind of power is a known virtue of a structured yoga practice.

But power is also having the ninja ability to stay conscious. To consciously  choose this, not that: to stay out of the brain’s unconscious default mode.

Power is also the ability to stay aware and awake. To notice things like another person’s body language, as well as downgrades in our own attention: tiredness, inability to focus, hunger, thirst.

Power is the ability to decide. To say no, or yes, from a place where you feel resourced,  physically and mentally.

You bring this power to every domain of your life: food, Facebook, leisure activities, projects you take on, or don’t, and the ways you prioritize how to spend a day.

Try asking yourself these questions a few times throughout your day this week:

Is this activity compulsive or creative?

Am I  unconscious or conscious?

What am I cultivating by doing this?

What am I bringing into the world?

In the yoga room, of all the above questions, the most important one to keep asking is: What am I cultivating?

Is it my physical strength, stamina and flexibility?

Is it my ability to focus and concentrate?

Is it my ability to be patient with myself and practice self-care?

Am I practicing in a compulsive, driven way, focused on outcomes (mastering a pose) or is my practice creative, and open to unexpected insights?

And finally, this: As a result of spending an hour a day practicing here, what version of myself am I bringing into the world?

This is Day 1 of the Main Street Yoga April Yoga Challenge.

 

My First Book Group

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Yesterday was the first meeting of the new book group. We discussed Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. A dozen people showed up.  The discussion was (surprisingly) fabulous. I didn’t know what to expect, having never been in a book group before, but I was pretty flabbergasted by how deeply and carefully these people read this book. I already knew most of the people from yoga, but I now feel I know them on a whole new level. It’s very cool.

One man said that he wanted to join the group primarily because he’s an avid reader, but also because he lives in a pretty isolated place and needs to “get off the mountain and be with people.”

My heart melted when he said that.

Made me think that book groups aren’t just about books.

The best part for me was being witness to, and part of, a big rollicking discussion. Haven’t had that experience since college, and even in college it didn’t happen as often as I would have liked.

This particular book wasn’t my favorite, but the majority of the group really liked it and made a great case for it, so much so, in fact, that I thought I might go back and re-read at least parts.

But …I won’t.

That’s because I’m already deeply into A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami, which is the next book. Here, for the record, is my review of Lincoln In The Bardo:

Dear Lincoln In The Bardo,

It’s not you, it’s me. I’m the one who’s messed up and blind. You didn’t do anything wrong. You were great, in fact. Everything you said, and the way you said it, was beautiful and true and I loved that about you. All my friends liked you, too. You were creative and complex. I just couldn’t up-level to your world.

You and I, it seems, have very different minds, and not only that, our minds seem to want to play in different sand boxes. I really need a lot of light and a considerable amount of humor; you were a tad bit heavy, and a little too dark for me.

Even when you yourself made fun of your dark side, and could even laugh at it, I wasn’t amused. It was too much of a stretch. I had to try too hard. (You were kinda exhausting.)

So while I learned a lot from you, and don’t regret getting to know you, we’ll never make it as a couple. We just want different things.

I’ll let you hang out in my “Finished” pile for a while, but I can foresee the day when you’ll just take up too much shelf space and I’ll have to donate you to the library.

But at least that way, if I ever change my mind, I’ll know where you live.

Fondly,

Kath

 

Happy 14th Anniversary Main Street Yoga!

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This Thursday, March 1st,  is the studio’s 14th anniversary.

I remember buying the mats and the blankets. Ordering and putting together office furniture, designing a logo and ordering a sign, setting up a bank account as a DBA (Doing Business As).

It was this new, exciting venture, full of risk, full of hope. We were giddy with fear.

In terms of the money, it was a business, but it felt more like a daring adventure. We had a, “Let’s run it up the flagpole and see who salutes” attitude about it.

We had our doubters, too. Especially among our families. There were a lot of good-natured pats on the back, a lot of “good for yous,” a lot of smiles of forced optimism.

Because we were total newbies at this. What did we know?

For my part, all I knew was that I had returned from yoga school on fire. I had found it. My it. My reason for being. My why. My thing. Finally. At 50.

Late bloomer? Yes. But not dead yet. And then this amazing space had appeared, poof! Like that, out of nowhere.

And just like that. We were in business.

I was the teacher. G did the business.

I offered early morning class, noontime yoga, after school yoga, 5 o’clock yoga and 7 o’clock yoga. Five classes a  day. Six days a week.

Nobody ever came. To any of them. Most of the time.

On the days when nobody came, yet again, I’d sit on the big windowsill and watch cars at the red light. Sometimes people would walk by on the street.

Somedays my traffic meditation would be disturbed by the photographer next door making noise with squeaky toys to get little kids to smile for their picture.

One day I watched a man eat a whole Big Mac in 5 bites in the time it took for the light to change.

One day when nobody came I considered going down, unfurling my mat on the sidewalk and doing postures there, to attract attention, and hopefully, interest.  I thought better of that, though. People around here were leery enough of yoga as it was. I didn’t need to go down and validate anything eastern and crazy and contortionist.

Once, the ladies from the public library asked me to come and give a talk about yoga. But please, they asked, could you not say the word yoga?

(I agreed. I even pulled it off. To this day, I don’t know how I did it, but it was my most masterful feat of legerdemain, ever.)

I knew the reason people weren’t coming to yoga was because they had the wrong idea about yoga. I knew their ideas about it were both wrong and nuts. It was going to be up to me to de-nuttify yoga for the people of Mansfield. It was going to be my unstated mission.

I wanted them to understand, most of all, that it wasn’t a challenge to their  religious beliefs.

That was the main sticking point for most people.  At least at the beginning.

They were Baptist or Presbyterian or Methodist. They weren’t into Hindu voodoo patchouli Hare Krishnas chanting om. No. We’ll have none of that.

But, they had also heard that doing yoga  could make them less creaky. And even less cranky. Was it true?

Two people came. Then four. Then a little group of eight started coming consistently and regularly on Wednesdays at 11. They formed themselves into a group. They came to know each other, though they would only see each other at yoga. They came to like each other, and ask about each others lives. They were all retired. That’s why they could come at 11. They’d go to yoga then to lunch.

And then other little groups began to form, and I would ask them questions about their lives and how they felt, and then I’d go and developed classes with them in mind.

And that’s how it came to be that I am still doing this 14 years later. The groups are larger now. Nobody’s worried about yoga clashing with their religion. They kinda laugh at such an idea.

We laugh a lot in yoga theses days.

Yoga has become different over the years, because they’ve become different and I’ve become different. Yoga has to keep changing and accommodating itself to the changing, morphing lives of the people who practice it.

As for me, I don’t sit alone in the window too much anymore. But sometimes before or after class, I’ll sit there and stare out for awhile. Nothing’s changed very much.  People still eat fast at the light, drink, smoke, blare their music on sunny, warm days.

I have a chalkboard on the sidewalk, now, in the spot 14 years ago I thought about spreading out my mat. It advertises Main St. Yoga. I hope people parked or walking by will be intrigued enough to walk up the stairs.

Yoga brings people together. It gets, and keeps us breathing. And laughing.

Happy Anniversary, Main Street Yoga. Long may your freak flag fly!

Giving Up Procrastination For Lent

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I was going to do something for Lent, but never got around to deciding what.

I don’t want to “give up” anything; I want to add something.

I want a new challenge, a new activity, a new project.

I did the digital declutter in January and started a book club in February, now I really need something for March.

I could (re)commit to Edna’s O (my new reference book about endorphins, dopamine, norepinephrine, anandamide, serotonin and oxytocin) and say: FIRST DRAFT: By Easter I’ll have a first draft.

I could do that, but it doesn’t meet one of my Project-Driven Life criteria for a new project. It doesn’t check the “excitement” box.  And it really needs to. Or else I’m not going to be happy.

At the same time, I also realize that happiness isn’t a requirement for a worthwhile and enriching project.

I realize too that happiness requires struggle. (I wholly subscribe to that Stoic tenant. I do.)

But, I also need stim every day, even painful stim, if necessary. I want to feel as amped doing my work, as I will for having done it.

And truthfully?  This research really does excite me —once I’m in hip deep. So why all this sissy toe-dangling at the beginning? All this reluctance to get wet?

Once I’m in I know I’ll be fine, happy as a clam in fact. But it’s the anticipation of that head-hitting-the-water dive into the deep end every day that stops me, that fuels my procrastination. That’s the real struggle, not the actual work.

So I resist. But not for the next 6 weeks. No!  For the next 6 weeks I’m going to slay the resistance monster, make it numero uno on my To-Do List every day.

Might also be a good time to re-read The War of Art, and find an accountability partner.

Any takers?

My Rules for a Book Group

Year 2018 standing on library shelf

Last night was the first meeting of the book group.

At this first meeting, I felt I needed to leverage my power as Group Instigator and Generous Benefactor Of Meeting Space, to impose a vision, my vision, of how this should roll.

Without being too overbearing, but, I hope, making it clear that my continuing membership is contingent on adherence to these principles, this is what I hoped I got across:

1. I don’t want to read anything I’ve already read. And I don’t think anybody else should either. This means we have to pick something nobody has already read.  Even if you say you could happily re-read something, I don’t think you should. Unless it’s something you read in your callow youth and didn’t really get when you first read it.

2. I will never bring cupcakes. Or wine. Or snacks. Ever. However if you want to bring snacks, knock yourself out. Surprise us.

3. I want to talk about ideas. I have heard of Book Groups who get together and never talk about the book. I don’t want that.  There’s nothing wrong with socializing. I love it. But I want a Book Group to meet another need: a need for intellectual stim and an interesting discussion of ideas.

4. I want to to talk to people who’ve recently read a book. When we’re both still reeling from a book, our convo about it is going to be fresh, and alive, and relevant, and exciting. But if you’re still reeling, and I read it two years ago, this isn’t going to be as much fun. I’ve gone stale and you’re fresh from the oven. That’s why book groups are so fun. We’re all still fresh.

Ten people showed up last night. A whole bunch more contacted me wanting to be kept in the loop.

We picked Lincoln In The Bardo by George Saunders as our first book.

Here were the other contenders:

(someday when I have more time, I’ll link to all these, but today is NOT the day.)

The Odyssey

The Name of the Wind

No is Not Enough

Sing Unburied Sing

Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics

The Great Alone

Strangers In Their Own Land

White Rose, Black Forest

The Power Within

The Woman In The Window

Guns, Germs and Steel

Stiff

Thinking Fast and Slow

Sapiens

Putting Your Passion Into Print

All The Light We Cannot See

A Wild Sheep Chase

The Witch of Portobello

The History of Love

A Discovery of Witches

Our first meeting to talk about this book is scheduled for March 11th at 4:30 in the MSY Lounge. Plan an hour and a half. If you’re interested, and local, come.