Why Would I Do Such A Thing?

The other day Linda, someone who’s been practicing at my studio for as long as I’ve been in business, announced she’s going to do the April Yoga Challenge this year. For the first time. 

(This will be the 12th year I’ve offered it.)

“Why now?” I asked her.

She didn’t give me an answer. 

I asked her again a few days later, and she said something about being “tied here anyway” because of a class she’s teaching this semester.

I’m not sure this is is a a good enough why. I’m not sure it’s going to get her through a month of everyday yoga.

A while ago a good friend turned me on to Simon Sinek and his Start With Why TED talk and his book of the same name. I’ve been a real fan ever since.

Whenever I contemplate a new project, I always ask myself Why? And until I unearth an answer that will keep me going when I lose energy, or motivation, or heart for the thing, I don’t do it. I have to know my why first.

If I don’t have a strong enough why articulated at the get-go, I know I’m doomed. 

It’s okay if my why changes during the project, as long as I continue to have one. And it’s a good one.

I’m in the process of writing my April newsletter to my mailing list now. I’m describing the Challenge and laying out the  rules.  

The game of the Challenge is that if you agree to come to class every day for 30 days, you only pay $30 for the entire month. There’s a leader board on the back wall where you sign in every day, and others can see your attendance and scribble notes of encouragement to you if they want. 

It’s really fun, but it’s also hard. But not because of the yoga. It’s hard because of the everyday. That’s why you need a strong why going in.

So I started writing this sort of rah-rah newsletter to my people, encouraging anybody thinking of doing the Challenge this year to know their why first. 

Just for fun, I tried to think of a few good whys for myself. Why would I commit to such a thing? 

I came up with 4. There could be many more, but these four would work for me.

1. For My Health

2. To Align More Closely with my Aspirational Self

3. To Set a Good Example

4. For Accountability 

Health

I want to shed some winter weight. I want to get stronger, more toned and energized. A 30 Day Yoga Challenge would be a good way to support my healthier eating resolution, or even a detox. 

Aligning with My Aspirational Self

When I invision my best self I see a person who does yoga everyday and looks like they do yoga every day. I see someone healthy, glowing, and energetic. Someone getting life done. Someone who’s not enslaved. Someone calling the shots on their own life, or at least recognizing where choices can be made, and making good ones. 

A 30 Day Yoga Challenge would give me an opportunity to live, at least for a month, in alignment with what I’m always saying I want to do, but so often don’t.

Good Example

Here is my favorite chicken-crossing-the-road joke:

  • Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?
  • A: To prove to the possum that it could be done.

I want to be the chicken. I want to prove that something hard can be done. I want to do something hard and not get hit by a truck doing it. I am aware that people are inspired by other people and that we’re all watching each other. If I can be a good example, maybe you’ll be inspired. That’s how the world works, We’re all watching each other. If I can work the logistics of fitting a yoga class into my life for 30 days in a row, maybe you can, too. I am highly incentivized by being a good example. For nobody in particular. For everyone in general.

Also: Very few people in the world actually do what they say they’re going to do. So it’s inspiring to see someone actually persist and win at something hard.

Accountability

I’m an Obliger. Most people are. Obligers depend on an accountability partner to keep them connected to their goals. A 30 Day Challenge acts as that accountability partner, because if I don’t show up, I’m out. And everybody knows it. 

Also: Very few people do this, so it makes me feel part of a little tribe that I have to show up for and root on. And I like that. 

If you’ve ever committed to doing something hard, a marathon, losing weight— anything that demanded training and a long(ish) slog, you know what I’m talking about. You have to have your why tattooed on your brain or you’ll bonk.

I’ll be really curious to see how many people sign up for this and what their whys are. I’ll be writing a lot about the Challenge next month for sure. Stay tuned.

Also: if you’ve ever done anything like this, let me know how it went, and if your why played a big part in your success.

Reading “Digital Minimalism”

Walking with Stella

Yesterday, out on the bike path, there was a new slant of light. A spring slant. It was still blowing in the 20s in my face, but there was a definite shift in the angle of the sun. Stella and I both felt it. 

This new light and the cold on my face reminded me of when I used to be a runner. I ran everyday. Rain or shine. I trained up and down the hills. 

 My walks with Stella are taking on this same kind of regularity.

I like it.

Reading Digital Minimalism

Newport On Walking:

I just got finished reading Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. He too, highly recommends taking long walks alone. He calls walking “a high-quality source of solitude.” (p.119)

He quotes Nietzsche, “Only thoughts reached by walking have value.” 

I, personally, have always liked the Latin phrase, solvitur ambulando which means: All is solved through walking.

Pretty much my experience. If I have a problem, I take it for a walk. The bigger the problem, the longer the walk.

Newport takes his problems on walks sometimes, too, he says, but he also goes on what he calls “gratitude walks” where he just appreciates the environment.

That’s what I try to do when I take Stella. I try to get out of my head and just notice nature and the sky, and do what Thoreau did: spend a lot of time staring at ice.

 One of our walks takes us across a beaver dam. There’s ice on both sides of the path. It’s getting thinner.

Beavers soon.

On a regular basis, go for long walks, preferably somewhere scenic. Take these walks alone, which means not just by yourself, but also, if possible, without your phone. If you’re wearing headphones, or monitoring a text message chain, or, God forbid narrating the stroll on Instagram—you’re not really walking, and therefore you’re not going to experience this practice’s greatest benefits.” P. 121

And what are the benefits? Clearer thinking, time to clarify values, time to connect to nature, and as a high quality source of solitude.

Newport On Leisure:

He makes a lot of distinctions in this book between high quality and low quality things.

 Things like leisure.

He says there are high quality leisure activities and low quality ones. If it’s passive, it’s low-quality: video games, watching sports, web-surfing and long evenings at the bar.

High quality leisure activities involve making things in the world, either that, or being super-social.

High quality leisure activities are often done outside and always without screens, unless it’s using a YouTube tutorial to learn how to fix something.

Ever since I read this I’ve been trying to think of something I do that results in something physical in the world.  I can’t think of a thing.

I have lots of low-quality leisure activities though, but no high-quality ones. Someone I follow on FB just posted pictures of a table she made from a slab of wood she found in the woods. It’s gorgeous. It’s amazing. That’s what Newport would call a high-quality leisure activity.

What do I do that’s comparable to that? Nothing. I need a thing like that to do. I need to make something. What, though?

This is what I’m thinking about on my walks these days, in between staring at ice, and trying not to think at all.

The Season Of Unlocking Begins

“The poetry of four seasons is all wrong for this part of the planet, and this may explain why we are so depressed so much of the time. I mean, spring doesn’t feel like spring a lot of the time, and November is all wrong for autumn, and so on. Here is the truth about the seasons: Spring is May and June. What could be springier than May and June? Summer is July and August. Really hot, right? Autumn is September and October. See the pumpkins? Smell those burning leaves? Next comes the season called Locking. That is when nature shuts everything down. November and December aren’t winter. They’re Locking. Next comes winter. January and February. Boy! Are they ever cold! What comes next? Not spring. “Unlocking” comes next. What else could cruel March and only slightly less cruel April be? March and April are not spring. They are Unlocking.”

From an essay entitled “Funnier On Paper Than Most People” in Palm Sunday by Kurt Vonnegut

Now that it’s March and the Groundhog has predicted an early spring, I could get all depressed that I just came back from walking Stella in a real-feel of zero. But ever since I found this Vonnegut reframe, I’ve become more patient. 

When I used to expect spring weather to start happening in March or April, there was daily disappointment.

Now, I reframe and think: Now is the season of Unlocking. And I look for signs of that.

 Like mud. Mud is a sign of unlocking. 

And a snowfall that doesn’t linger too long. That’s a sign of unlocking, too.

 The days getting longer? Unlocking. 

The flowering houseplants in the mudroom which haven’t flowered all winter, now showing little buds under their leaves. Unlocking.

The Athleta catalog with swimsuits on the cover: Unlocking.

Flower catalogs. Ditto.

Spring will come. But not until May. 

In the meantime, I watch for all the signs of Unlocking.

I know there will come a day, probably in early May, when a really warm day will hit. It will send me to my bin of stored summer clothes in the basement. Finally! 

But I also know my body may not be quite ready for prime time.

A winter of too many noodles, and too little kale, has consequences.

I know that as sure as crocus bulbs lie dormant under the snow crust, under my Eddie Bauer thermals lies a body pale, dry, and a little bit flabby.

So when the the season of Unlocking arrives (now) it’s time to start getting ready. 

So the other day I took the VitaMix out of the cupboard and went to Wegmans for greens to make my GGS. 

Here’s the recipe:

Into the blender put 2 cups of water, some ice, lots of romaine lettuce, spinach, and chard, 2 apples, a frozen banana, and a pear. 

I blend it all up and sip on it all morning. It’s good.

I’m also starting to jump on my rebounder everyday. I’m starting with 5 minutes and will work up to 15 or 20. After that, I dry brush, and take my shower. This, to move lymph, the body’s first drain. 

Then, I heavily moisturize.

This is my personal way of “unlocking.” It’s slow and gradual, just like the season. But when May comes, I want to be all ready to bloom.

The Stuff I Found Oddly Compelling This Week

This week, in addition to trying to nail my four foundational practices every day, and planning and teaching my classes, and training little Stella Bella in the fine art of Sit and Come, my attention has been pulled toward:

Marie Kondo

 I’ve decided to start folding my clothes Marie Kondo-Style.

I like it. Even though it takes a little more time, I can now see all my clothes all at once.

My tops

I used to just make piles in my drawers, but I could only see the top two shirts in any one stack. I had to paw through to get to what I wanted. Probably not a coincidence, but what I wanted turned out to be the top two shirts on each stack.

 

But now I can see everything, all at once. Colors, too. 

My pants drawer isn’t as colorful as the shirt drawer, of course, but I still like seeing all my bottoms at once. It makes it easier to pull myself together in the morning.

(It made me laugh to write “pull myself together.” As if selecting the right top and bottom to wear could do that.)

And, bonus, I find myself  wearing more of my clothes.

Socks are the things that have been most problematic thus far. Especially my no-show little pedi socks. No more pairing them by turning them inside out into each other. Now, they need to be rolled, and they won’t stay together. Marie says I need some small boxes for them. 

As I was hunting for such a box in my bedroom cupboards, I came across my old I-Ching cards.

Cards and Runes

 I had not looked at them in ages. I opened the box and read how to use them. (I used to know how without reading.)

But I put them away. 

Too complicated. I don’t want to build hexagrams. Takes too long.

Then I found the Runes. I like these stones. They’re hard, tactile, with a watery smoothness. 

I especially like the clicking sound they make in the velvet bag as my fingers root through them. (So does Stella. She came running.)

 The interpretive guidebook for them is also good: concise and aimed at the spiritual warrior. 

I brought them to the Space Chair shoved my hand inside the bag and picked one.

Today it was Dagaz. It’s the Rune of Transformations and Breakthroughs. “A major period of achievement and prosperity is often introduced by this Rune.”

Hot diggedty.

I used to be so entranced with this stuff.  Especially card decks. 

Part of my collection

And I still like cards. My friend Zee turned me on to Inquiry Cards recently. They’re especially handy when I need a question to riff off of for that day’s writing. I also give them out in my classes, sometimes. They make great mantras for guiding a yoga practice.  I especially love it when someone in class says: “This is totally my question today.”

Right on.

And then there’s my NVC Feelings and Needs cards. 

My emotional vocabulary was so limited before them. Being able to say, “I feel so frustrated,” instead of, “I’m so pissed,” is game changing. I only wish I had found them sooner.

But other cards like the Tarot, no longer have much appeal for me. Is it that my internal, intuitive guidance system is stronger now? And I don’t need them? 

Who knows.

But I’m playing with the Runes again, which is curious. Something to watch.

Planners. Plural.

I’m still spending a little time with my planner everyday, writing down and reviewing my goals. I got another one recently after reading and watching YouTubes extolling its virtues. It’s the Hobonichi Techo

I don’t need another planner; the Circa is working just fine, but the reviews of the Hobonichi were intriguing so I ordered it.

Comparison open

Comparison closed

At first its size surprised me. I am a cow who likes a big meadow for planning and hatching schemes, and this was a very small holding pen indeed.

But its size is growing on me. It forces me be concise. I like it much more than I thought I would. In addition to its size, I also like its pebbly black cover, the Japanese lettering in gold, the thin, lightly gridded paper, the small moon-phase icon on each page.

It feels friendly, companionable. 

Throw it in the bag friendly.

Doesn’t take up much room companionable.

So I decided to not let it go to waste and I’m now using it to track my health metrics: alcohol, drugs, water, meditation, yoga, walking, and sleep. I also want to list out, in the back, all my body products: toothpastes and rinses, cleansers and bath bubbles, moisturizers, make-up, and deodorant. I want to get all my products to be clean, green, and minimal.

So now the Circa is functioning as the catch-all, the fat compendium of addresses, passwords, birthdays, Sprocket photo reminders, as well as a daily, weekly, and monthly planner. 

The Hobonichi will be just for health. 

I think there’s room in my life for both. 

Books

There’s a teetering pile on the bookshelf, but currently I’m toggling back and forth between Circe in the mornings, and My Life with Bob at night, both of which are engaging in different ways. 

Circe is on loan from Linda Rashidi. I was happy when I saw that it was written by the same writer as The Song of Achilles, which I really enjoyed. It’s a fictional story about the life of a mythological woman (Circe) who falls in love with a mortal.  Good times.

My Life with Bob is a memoir about a woman who tracks her personal development by the books she reads. Fascinating and funny.

It feels so good to be out of World War II.

I haven’t started Digital Minimalism yet. I like to read the book group book closer to the discussion so it’s fresh in my mind. I have a little time before I need to chow down on that one. 

Dot

Emily sent me a book where you use dots to spur your creativity.  I don’t know about this yet. I like to doodle and I have a few go-to doodle patterns I learned during my short infatuation with Zentangle. 


 I still like Zentangle, and it’s something I always say I should get back to because I find it oddly compelling, but I don’t. 

This Dot book could get me back to Zentangling, either that, or launch me into a new whole new world of dots.

What do all these things have in common? 

Don’t know. 

Need to connect the dots.

Happy Noticings

I’ve started a “Happy Noticings” section to my daily planner to keep me on the alert for things that please me during this season of drek.

Shoes.

I’ve been especially appreciating my shoes lately. Especially these Gore-tex trail runners from Brooks I got in the fall. They keep my feet warm and dry out on the trails with Stella. I wear them every day unless there’s deep snow. (They’re the pair on the right in the picture above.) I’ve splashed through muck and water and slush in them and my feet stay completely dry.

Love them

https://www.brooksrunning.com/en_us/brooks-running-shoes-ghost-11-gtx-womens/120276.html

I also love the pair on the left, but sadly, I don’t think Adidas makes them anymore. They’re insulated boots that keep my feet super warm in snow. I don’t wear them in deep snow, and they don’t have terrific traction, but even still, I do love them and they look stylin’ to boot.. Bonus.

On dry days, for going out, or to-and-fro from the studio, I love my Allbirds. I have them in charcoal, black, and red. They’re made of wool and I can wear them with or without socks. They are coziest shoes I’ve ever owned. Stella chewed the laces on my new black ones the other day and I was NOT PLEASED. A few months ago a woman in the Verizon store asked me about them and I took them off in the middle of my iPhone transaction and let her try them on. I can get a little too excited about stuff I love.

https://www.allbirds.com/

Blogs

Actually, just one blog. This one:

https://fromthepencup.wordpress.com/

This is pen porn. And paper porn. And planner porn. When I first found it, I lost 2 hours in her archives on a day when I did not have 2 hours to lose.

If you love pens and stationary stores and notebooks and planners and pencils and ink, ohmygod.

I now follow her, but part of me is afraid to go into my Reader each day for fear she will have posted something new and I will be sucked down the rabbit hole again. Nobody should get this excited about pens.

Not a blog, but this article in the NYTimes made me so happy. It was so funny and so true and so wonderfully written I immediately went on Amazon to see if I could pre-order her next book, How to Raise A Reader, and did. Then while I was there, I also ordered her memoir, My Life With Bob. She’s the editor of the New York Times Book Review and this piece about boredom, and her advocacy for it, is terrific.

And it’s going to pair so well with the next book my book group is reading, At my suggestion we’re going with Cal Newport’s latest, Digital Minimalism. I haven’t started it yet, but I was a part of his Digital Declutter experiment last year. I blogged about it and gave a my weekly Recap HERE.


So those are a few things that have been making me happy this month. What has been lighting up your life? Please share! I so appreciate finding wonderful things, especially now, when winter seems like it will never end.

This Blog Is Ten Years Old

This blog is 10 years old this month. 

Who knew??

I didn’t even realize it until yesterday.

I was reading through the archives of a blog I just discovered. The author’s archives went back to 2012. 

It made me wonder how far mine went back, so I checked.  

And lo and behold, February of 2009 was my debut here. And I have amassed close to 700 posts. 

When I first started, the idea here was that I would be on the lookout for things that inspired me, and then write about them. Thus the title, Inspiration Location. 

That didn’t last long, though. After a while I just found myself writing about whatever I was obsessing about at the moment, inspiring or not. 

Now the idea is to chronicle my thoughts as I tend my streaks and develop my projects. 

Back in 2016 I self-published a little book called The Project-Driven Life. It’s basically tips and tricks for finding out who you want to be when you grow up. It involves tending streaks and completing projects. 

 My next project is a book called The Yoga of Everything and I have  started maintaining some streaks that will help get it finished: writing 1K words daily, reading, meditating, and blogging here once a week.

But, back to that new-found blog. 

Whenever I find a new blog, the first place I go is to the About page.

I want to know: Who is this person? Where do they live? How old are they? What do they do besides blog? Do I have anything in common with them?

I want to see their picture. I want to know a little of their backstory.

I don’t have an About page currently. I changed WordPress themes recently and forgot to include one. 

Maybe that’s a lie. 

Maybe I didn’t forget. 

Maybe it’s just that I hate writing About pages. They never seems to fit me and they keep going out of date as my life morphs and changes.

For example, if I say I’m a 66 year-old yoga teacher living in northern Pennsylvania, is that an accurate description? It’s true, of course, but is it my true deal? 

I don’t think so. 

What if I say: I’ve been writing every day in personal journals for over 40 years?

 Now, that might be getting closer.

I think it’s because if you’re the kind of person who writes down your thoughts every day, and keeps doing it obsessively for decades, you’re defined by that activity.

We are what we repeatedly do. ~Aristotle

 And you also find out that you’re that weirdo that needs to write down your thoughts every day. 

But seriously, a journal is a place you go to describe yourself, analyze yourself, contemplate yourself. 

In words. 

And then, if you do a strenuous amount of editing, take out all the gibberish, remove the nonsense, and give your words a beat to dance to, voila, you have yourself a post. 

Which is basically what I do here.

And have been doing for 10 years, apparently. 

If you’ve been following along here, for however long. Thank you. It makes me really happy to have readers.  So onward!

Persistently. With reverence. For a long time. ~Patanjali

The Yoga Of Dog Training

Shortly after we got Stella, I had an epiphany watching some corgis on an Instagram account I follow called Alfuku. 

The owners of these corgis are Japanese, and naturally they talk to their corgis in Japanese. 

When I heard them interact with these dogs, I had no idea what they were saying. But these corgis sure did. 

These dogs are beautiful and funny and trained. They know all kinds of tricks. They even dance in competitions with their owners, weaving in and out of them to music. It’s amazing.

But my epiphany watching them respond to commands in Japanese was— and everyone who has ever trained a dog, will go, “Duh” when I say this,— is that these dogs don’t understand the Japanese language, or any other language, for that matter.  They’ve just learned to decode sound patterns.  

They’ve translated what sounds to me like: ichi washi goobahya into: Bring the rubber chicken here, and drop it at my feet.

Once I fully grasped this, I consciously started monitoring my speech for brevity and consistency when I talked to Stella. No color commentary, no reasons, no verbal expressions of exasperation or complicated feelings and needs.  I needed to shut up, keep all that to myself, and just say,  Come! 

Same with body language. No dancing Shiva arm movements, no fancy footwork. If she was trying to decode me, I needed to send as clear a signal as possible.

One thing that makes Stella easy to train is her attentiveness. She makes eye contact. She seems to be trying to read me. 

When I ask her a question, or, more accurately, when my voice goes up at the end: “You wanna go for a walk?” She cocks her head to one side, as if to say, “What?” 

Then, if I put on my shoes and grab her leash, and always repeat those same sounds every time before a walk, “You wanna go for a walk?” is basically ichi washi goobahya except instead of fetching a rubber chicken, she gets to go outside with me.

My latest project is trying to train her to know the distinction between “Stay With” and “Stay Close.”

I want her to understand that when I say, “Stay With” she should stay within a close proximity to me, maybe 30 yards. I should always be able to see her, and she, me. 

I use Stay Close to mean what most dog trainers mean by “Heel.”  I want Stay Close to mean, “keep exact pace with me.”  

This training has been eye-opening. I have to be totally present and aware of what I’m doing in order to be effective.

 It’s a lot like practicing yoga. I can’t multi-task. I can’t make random, mindless movements or jibber-jabber to her in meaningless paragraphs of mouth noise. 

If I want the signal to be read, I have to reduce the noise. I have to breathe, slow down, make eye contact, be patient, be willing to fail, and try again. And again. I have to make it fun. I have to have treats on me at all times.

Dog training means paying attention to what I’m doing, and what she’s doing, and finding ways to connect.  I have to witness myself and I have to witness her. I have to create a relationship.

When I’m walking alone, without the dog, it’s different. I can and do carry on long conversations with myself, out loud. 

I used to get embarrassed if anyone caught me doing this, but now, in the age of wireless headsets, everyone appears to be talking to themselves as they walk along, anyway.

Yesterday Stella and I were walking on the Hike and Bike trail.  This is where I like to practice stay with, and stay close with her. She had her short, lightweight drag-along leash attached to her collar but I wasn’t holding on to it. 

 It was sunny and warm and I found myself striding along, happily talking to myself about my usual nonsense when I realized I’d lost track of her. And myself.

But thankfully she hadn’t lost track of me. There she was, up ahead, waiting for me to catch up. She was doing a great job of staying with. Whereas I had strayed. I had lost her. And myself. To thought.

Dogs teach us so more than we teach them, if only we would stop thinking and just observe them.

A long time ago I wrote this poem to another dog:

Shasta

My dog knows the universe with his nose,

sips the air for the scent of leaving

after the doorlock clicks.

I spend each day practicing to do

what he does:

Follow my senses,

observe the wind, 

respond to the sense of soil

and not to the flowering of each

fantasy, each upturned rock

of memory.

My pet, 

my guru, 

my teacher on a leash.

From the passing pick-up

it looks as if I am walking you,

but I am the student

following you each morning

from tree

to bush, 

probing the world of gravel

and weed, 

learning the proper response

to air, the infinite 

logarithms of light,

the script of sound

far beyond my range.