Digital De-clutter Week 3: The Big Takeaway

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Yesterday I broke down and bought a paper paper. (Real newspapers are allowed on this Digital Declutter.) I got The Sunday New York Times. It was an irritating and filthy experience.

And I’m not even referring to the content.

I forgot how newspapers make your hands black, and how you can’t adjust the font or the brightness.

And then there’s that whole origami business of folding the damn thing just so you can read it without a full-arm wingspan.

And most stories get continued on later pages, which by the time you finally get to them, you’ve forgotten the whole gist of the thing.

As I finished each section, I dropped it on the floor beside the couch, and then had to to step over the whole mess, gather it all up, and bring it to the recycling pile after the reading experience.

And don’t even get me started on the issue of the dead trees.

I’m really looking forward to getting back to the attractive user interface of online news reading again. I miss the ability to swipe and click.

The other thing I’m missing is the snark of my Twitter feed. I follow some very smart and witty people on Twitter. They make me laugh and they make me cringe. But I find them very comforting.

I’ve also figured out that once this fast is over, I’m going to do all my news reading and Twitter checking between 2 and 3 PM.

This is my My Big Takeaway from all this. I discovered that it’s not the THAT, it’s the WHEN.

After a day of reading, writing, thinking, planning and being a creative ninja, only then will I allow myself to check the media. And I’ll keep to an hour or less. After that I’ll walk the dog, take a shower, and go and teach my yoga class.

The activity of teaching yoga puts a strong arm-bar on any thoughts about political nonsense. There’s no place for that stuff in the practice room. The yoga, both the doing and the teaching of it, is a powerful palate cleansing activity for the mind, the body, and the spirit.

After class, I’ll go home, eat a little dinner, and relax with my honey before bed.

This is the perfect solution. I can max out my creativity between 10 and 2, catch up on the bizzaro world between 2 and 3, and then reestablish my equanimity early enough so that it doesn’t disrupt my sleep.

Bam.

Trouble is, there’s 2 more weeks to this project and I’m extremely itchy to try out my new “Strategy Of Sanity.”   I really don’t think there will be any more major epiphanies coming down the pike, I really don’t.

But since I’ve committed to a month, I’ll stick with it. A big part of me thinks once you get the message, though, it’s okay to hang up the phone.

Digital Declutter Week 2: News Creep

Charming female texting on her tablet after waking up

I’m succumbing to a little bit more  “news feed creep” than is probably “legal.”

It’s hard to escape.

Even when I think I’ve barred all the entrances, I’ll find myself innocently opening a Google Search, and bam, right there below the search bar, sits a tantalizing bit of “Trending News.”

And what do I do?  I hit it. Especially if it’s from The Times or The Post.

I never actually took those newspaper apps off my iPad, just my phone, and now I just don’t open my Ipad at all anymore for fear I won’t be able to resist.

It’s funny, because I’m now reading The Odyssey instead of The Times and The Post and  I just read the part where Odysseus puts wax in the ears of his oarsmen and has them tie him to the mast so he can hear the Siren’s song, but they can’t, thereby saving them all from certain death.

Those icons for The Times and The Post are my Siren songs. I have voluntarily tied myself to the mast, so this means I can just as easily untie myself, so it’s best if I just don’t open the iPad at all this month and risk seeing them. I know I wouldn’t resist.

The latest missive from Cal was about leisure. He’s assuming that we all have more of it now that we’re not dinking around in social media all the time.

He had this great line about, “rediscovering the types of old school, dirt-under-the-fingernails, defiantly analog activities that used to fill our most satisfying leisure hours.”

Among the list of those kinds of things he mentioned as “defiantly analog” was starting a book club.

This is something I have been thinking about for well over a year now, but have never acted on. I was talking  to Nicole Parsons after yoga the other day about this new Odyssey translation and she said, “You should really start a book group, Kath. If you did, I’d join.”

So yesterday I spent a good amount of time moodling and scribbling  about this: how it might work, what the rules should be, etc. and  I got it pretty much nailed down to the point where I think it would be an unquestionable new source of joy for me. I now have a rough draft of an email I’m going to send out to my peeps soon, and start to make it happen.

I think without this media break, I might have thought: I don’t have time for this. And I would have been right.

For me, this whole experiment has been all about reclaiming my time.

I still have worries about where news reading is going to fit back into my life after this, though.  I need a slot for it. A place. I need guide rails, or bright lines, or constraints, or whatever you want to call them, where I can just relax about the news knowing that it all can wait. I’ll get to it, but it will be have to be on my terms.

This is still to be worked out.

  

Digital De-Clutter Update: Week 1

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The good news: Instead of trolling Facebook, I’m reading Homer.

The bad news: I’m still sneaking into news feeds.

But here’s the thing: Instead of wallowing and rolling in that dirt for hours, I’m now getting in and out as fast as possible so I don’t get “caught” hanging out in there.

And as nuts as that sounds, and as nuts as it is, it’s working.

I’m getting back at least 2 or 3 hours a day to do stuff I can really control. And that feels incredible. Two to three hours a day. Think about it.

Plus, my mind doesn’t feel all polluted with garbage I can’t control. It feels clearer to work on things I can control.

(See above reference to Homer.)

My Findings So Far

1. Facebook and Instagram are not addicting for me. I can check in once a day for 10 minutes or so, and get off. No problem. I could go a few weeks without missing either.

2. My addiction is news. First, online news in the form of the Times and the Post. Then, Twitter. I am really jonesin’ for both.

At the end of this experiment I am going to fall back into the arms of both of these bad-boys, for sure. I know it.

But I think what I’m learning now, is that my problem isn’t news, it’s when I consume the news.

My peak hours of cognitive productivity are from 10 to 2, so if I give any of those hours to news reading, I’m giving my best hours away.

If that’s prime time, I definitely shouldn’t let news in there anymore. So now I know: News and coffee first thing are a no-no.

Somebody in yoga told me she reads all her news feeds at night before bed. That would be okay, except for the small matter of sleep. I would never get any if I did that.

I remember my father read the newspaper, in his chair, before dinner. But I don’t have that kind of a life. It can’t be during primetime, and it can’t be too late at night.

Something I have to work out.

In the 2 to 3 hours a day I was able to save by not reading news, I read The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. A-mazing.

I also read another novel, not as good, but decent, called The Yoga of Max’s Discontent by Karan Bajaj.

Now I’m sailing into The Odyssey, a new translation, and the first translation by a woman.

This feels good and right. The struggle is still real, though, I cannot lie. Proof? I bought the Wolff book. It’s a book, right??

Digital De-Clutter Day 1

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I’m sitting here suffocating in calendars and planners. It’s not a bad way to die, actually.

Today is New Years Day and I’m a little hung over from too much champagne last night, but before I went to bed I remembered to delete from my phone: Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

I also deleted The New York Times and The Washington Post apps, and stopped all notifications to my watch. I will not get a haptick everytime Trump tweets something dangerous or insane.  Probably for the best.

The last email from Cal came on Thursday. Here’s the gist of it:

  • Don’t log on to any social media accounts during the experiment.
  • Don’t read news online.
  • Don’t use the internet for entertainment. (no web surfing, YouTube videos, etc.)
  • Restrict Text messaging if you’re a heavy user.
  • No blogs, but you can live-stream movies and listen to podcasts.

Here are my adaptations. Social Media is gone, except for a daily Facebook check-in (notifications only) so see if anyone has inquired about yoga classes.

Today, Day One, I already had to jump on FB briefly to promote today’s Power Yoga class, and upload my monthly newsletter, but I got off quickly without checking anything else.

(So proud.)

Online news reading is gone, and I have to confess I missed it with my coffee this morning, but I’m into a good novel, The History of Love, so the pain of not having an Opinion piece to seethe over was assuaged. Somewhat.

I have decided to allow myself the Morning Joe podcast. It’s only 40 minutes and it will meet my need to know what’s going on in the world a little.

I’m really happy this cleanse allows podcasts because they’re the source of so much intellectual stim for me.

I’m not a big TV watcher anyway, nor do I use the internet for entertainment, (if you don’t count FB and Twitter and Insta) so that’s no hardship.

I also don’t read blogs, but I have committed to posting to this one every Monday for the year, so I’ll allow myself this indulgence.

When I got up, I checked my weather app. I looked at my Gmail inbox. And that was it.  It took me like, 5 minutes.

I can do this. I can.

 

Do You Need A Digital Declutter?

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The other day I got an email from Cal Newport. He’s proposing to his email list the idea of doing a “digital declutter” in the month of January. It’s part of a study for his next book.

Here’s how he defines a digital declutter:

…you take a 30-day break from optional technologies in your personal life (social media, web browsing, etc). During this period, you clarify what you really value and experiment with how best to serve these values. At the end of the 30 days, you then add back technologies to your life in an intentional way with the goal of supporting these values.”

I signed up for it.

I don’t know all the fine print yet, but there goes Facebook, Twitter, and  Instagram for sure.

I don’t know about online newspapers, or podcasts yet either, but for sure he’ll paint bright lines around “constant email-checking”.

I am a little terrified of this.

That’s because I am currently under the zombie spell of media. Particularly political stuff.

I read my Twitter feed first thing.

I scroll Instagram.

I’m on Facebook.

I read the online versions of both the New York Times and the The Washington Post daily. I don’t watch Morning Joe, but I listen to the show’s 30-40 minute podcast every day.

 

And what do I get out of this?

Thousands and thousands of micro-hits of dopamine. All. Day. Long.

And I’m totally addicted. Rage and indignation are powerful and exciting drugs. A dark force inside me eats this stuff. And this force is hungry.

So I’m going cold-turkey for a month. The month of January.

It’s gonna be hard.  That kind of “giving up sugar” hard.

But the hope is by month’s end I’ll  have learned how to align my values to my social media habits, and not just use them to distract or enrage me. I want to learn how to be conscious in my use of it, not just get dopamine hits all day long.

I don’t want to get riled up, either good or bad, by media. I want to use it to support, collaborate, or connect with other people– not do whatever it is I’m doing with it now.

It’s very clear I need to take charge of my own eyeballs again. And also full responsibility for how I spend my time. I can’t let Twitter and Facebook, and Morning Joe hijack my attention, which is to say, my life, anymore.

I think this will be a good way to start the new year.

G says she want to do this, too. I’ll  be nice having a fellow sufferer. But even if she doesn’t do it, she understands why I need to, and will be there to root me on.

And this is not just me. From what I’m picking up from the people I talk to in real life, and follow on Facebook (hah), I’m not the only one feeling the need for this.

A lot of people struggle with social media..  If this “digital declutter” in January sounds interesting to you, here’s what you do: just follow this blog, and I’ll pass along any instructions and tips Cal passes on to me. We can do  this together if you want.

We can share stories and struggles in the comments.

(Now I just hope writing and reading blogs is allowed.)

Hm.

Stay tuned.

How To Iron A Shirt

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How To Iron A Shirt

Where to Start and Why

I always iron the collar first.

It’s not that the collar should be ironed first, I just start here because I want to see what I’m up against.

When I open up the shirt on the board to iron the collar, I can see how the shirt is made.  I now know what I’m up against in terms of seams and structure.  That’s the only reason I  start with the collar first.

You can just as happily do it last. Everybody’s different. Don’t get too neurotic about this. It’s just a shirt.

Where to Go Next

Then I move on to the button side of the shirt.

Buttons are a Bitch.

I could just as easily start on the hole side, but I usually want to get the buttons out of the way first. While I still have the patience for them.

Buttons can be trying.  Especially tiny buttons. But the regular-sized ones are a pain, too. It’s essential that your iron have a notch in its tip. This notch will allow you to slide around buttons. If your iron doesn’t have this feature, you need an upgrade.

Placket Perfection is an Illusion

Some, but not all shirts have buttons sewn onto a separate piece of material called a placket.

Some plackets have seams, others don’t. Some fancy-schmancy shirts have plackets that conceal the buttons. I don’t know who they’re trying to kid here, though. Everybody knows the buttons are under there.

If your buttons are visible, make an effort to get the puckers out of your plackets, but don’t worry too much about them.  If your placket conceals the buttons, though, even though it’s a shame,  you need to take time and get the placket right.

But with all plackets just know: concealed or visible, you’ll never get them perfectly pressed. But you will get time off in purgatory for any effort.

The Yoke is A Joke

After the button side, I move to the yoke. The yoke just joins the collar to the back.

I give the yoke a cursory steam and press, knowing I’ll have to come back to it at the end for a little touch up.

The Box Pleat Blues

The box pleat is the hemorrhoid of the shirt.

The box pleat is that double-fold pleat in the middle of the back, below the yoke. The function of the box pleat is to give you a little more shoulder space and comfort. (Shirts that are labeled “slim fit” don’t have a box pleat.)

Perfecting the box pleat takes a whole nother skill level that I’m just not willing to take the time to master. Life is short. I can’t be good at everything.

After the box pleat, reward yourself with a relaxing cruise across the calm sea of the back.

The arms are fairly straightforward, but then there’s the cuffs.

Enough with the Cuffs

Cuffs are also a pain, but unlike the box pleat, you kinda have to master the cuff. That’s because cuffs show. A lot. Unless of course you roll them, in which case, why bother with ironing. Just spray some wrinkle releaser on that sucker, smooth it out and call it good.

Sometimes I’ll unbutton the cuffs and try to fit them around the narrow neck of the board, but most of the time I press them on one side, flip them, and press the other. French cuffs are a job for professionals.

Final Thoughts

The thing to remember about ironing a shirt is that any attempt at all is considered above and beyond. It’s more than most people could, or would do. Know that.

Know also that most people don’t even own an iron, and if they do, they certainly don’t own an ironing board.

If they do have a board it’s some remnant from their dorm room days, one of those little table top numbers. Frankly, I have never tried to iron on one of those, so who am I to judge?  But I prefer standing at a full size board.

I use a Rowenta iron. Swear by it.

My mother used to sprinkle her shirts-to-be-ironed with water, then roll them up and store them in the fridge for a while.  The press of a hot iron against a cold damp shirt resulted in a heck of a nicely ironed shirt, I must say.

Starch is an issue.

I don’t use starch but I have been known to go a little crazy with Magic Sizing which is a softer kind of starch. It kind of simulates the effect of a cold damp shirt meeting a hot heavy iron.

So there you have it.

If you’ve ever wondered while ironing a shirt,  “Am I doing this right?” This is a strategy you might want to try.

5 Ways To Be A Better Yoga Teacher

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I’m a sucker for  Advice-driven posts like this. I cannot resist, “3 Ways to Achieve Enlightenment in Your Lifetime,” or “10 ways to Stop Cravings.”. I bite every time. So here’s my own “list post”  giving myself the Yoga Teaching advice I need.

Number 1. Don’t close your eyes when you teach.

This is really hard for me. I see so much clearer when I my eyes are closed.  But when I am a student and I am looking at the teacher and the teacher has her eyes closed I feel disconnected from her. I think (and rightly so) that she is in her own world, and what she’s saying has nothing to do with me. Selfishly, I want the teacher to be there for me. I want the teacher to be present.

When I am teaching and tell the students to close their eyes, that doesn’t give me permission to close MY eyes. I need to remember that. Teachers close their eyes because students are really distracting. Their behavior  can really throw you off.

But I must train myself to keep my eyes open at all times. And look at them. As individuals. Not as a “class.”

This is really hard.. I am still, after all these years, terrible at it. I need to force myself to do it, especially when I am centering them. I think the reason I close my eyes is that I am trying to center myself at the same time I am centering them. And that’s a mistake.  I need to remember to keep my eyes opened. All the time. Never close your eyes if you are a yoga teacher.

Number 2. Don’t be afraid to touch your students.

I am really bad at this, too. Every yoga teacher is taught how to assist. Some are way better at it than others. The ones who are good usually have had teachers who have assisted them really well.

I am afraid to touch my students because I am afraid that the touch will be wrong. The way to get over this is to just touch lightly at first. Just give a fingertip touch. The very lightest of encouragement or tweak.

This is hard to get over if you don’t know how. And sometimes students will take the touch as a correction rather than a cue. So you think maybe not to touch is just better. That is a mistake.  People are starved for touch. Even the lightest touch is a moment of being seen. That’s why everyone in a class should be touched at least once.

Number 3. Don’t talk too much.

Oh boy. This is what I really need to learn. It is okay to have a lot of silence in a yoga class. You don’t have to fill up all the space with chatter. I have to remember this because I am a very chatty teacher.

A few  well-chosen cues, widely spaced, can go a long way. I need to think of words as spices. You don’t want to over salt the dish, you want to go easy on the cayenne, the cumin, the curry.

Let there be space for emptiness and breathing and contemplation. Don’t talk too much. Err on the side of silence.

Number 4. Don’t forget to smile.

You don’t have to crack jokes or smile the whole time like a ninny, but learn to put a smile in your voice. If your students are deep in their practice, breathing and listening for the next direction, if your voice has a smile in it, it is really wonderful.

In oder to put a smile in your voice you have to have a smile on your face. You need to practice this. You know how nice it is when you’re on the phone with someone in customer service, and they seem to have a smiley voice? When you can hear something friendly in their voice, it makes the whole interaction go much better.

That’s what you should aim for in the yoga room. Not jokes, not inauthenticity, just warm friendliness. This takes some mirror practice. Work on it.

Number 5. Don’t pretend to know what you don’t know.

If you don’t live the yamas and niyamas, if you don’t struggle to live them in your own life, don’t bring them up. If, however, you do try to adhere to them in your non-yoga-class life, then by all means bring them up.  It’s like talking about weight-loss when you’ve never had a weight problem. Just don’t.

If you don’t practice handstands, don’t teach handstands. If you don’t have a daily practice, don’t preach daily practice.  Don’t preach about virtues you don’t aspire to, or struggle with, or have. If you’ve never had a chakra awakening, don’t talk about chakra awakenings. Stay honest. Stay in your lane.