Reading The Brothers Karamazov (and other grinds)

I have been struggling with The Bros K. but today, today I may have broken through.

Things started to shift in Part 1, Book 3 for me.

I couldn’t get past the whining and the histrionics of the beginning chapters, not to mention all the impossible-to-keep-track-of Russian names. When I can’t hear a name in my mind, but have to rely on just the graphical pattern of letters, I get lost.

I went to book group having slogged through just about 100 pages, and hoped the others who had read farther could assure me that there was light and ease and joy coming in the future.

That didn’t really happen, but I was inspired to keep slogging, just because.

Because it was Dostoevsky.

Because it was a classic.

Because I’ve read longer and more turgid books and god dammit I would read the Bros K. Even if it killed me. And if Linda R could do it, so could I.

It seems like so many things I’m doing these days are like this: grinds.

The Yoga Challenge, The Ultimate Yogi, the Bros K.

But when I got home from book group, bound and determined, I experimented with reading some of it out loud, hoping I could tune my ear to it, hoping I could find a way in.

And it worked! And I did! I started laughing because the way his characters narrate their lives sounds so much like modern conversations. These language patterns sounded so natural, I could hear myself talking exactly this way.

Is this the wonder of this particular translation?

I don’t know, but I am happily reading the Bros K. now, and really digging it.

Today was Day 27 of the Ultimate Yogi. Only 81 more days to go. I decided to just do the damn thing. No expectations. I don’t have to like it, I just have to do it.

But the last few days, I’ve been getting into it.

The Strength sequence is still a problem. Even when I think I’m doing okay and hanging in there, there it comes: that long hold in plank with alternate knees at the biceps. When that part comes, it’s nothing but oh fuck, oh god.

So hard.

All the other sequences I pretty much cruise through without a lot of suffering.

I’m starting to tire of his stories, though: the elephant sculpture one, and Hollow Bone.

 Enough.

Note to Self: Kath, if you ever put a program or video online and you want it to stay evergreen?

Don’t talk too much. 

Don’t tell stories. 

Just instruct the yoga and the breathing with as few words as possible, no jokes. 

Never make a joke. Because in all the world there is nothing staler than a joke on video. Especially on a video you want people to watch every day, or at least somewhat frequently.

The Yoga Challenge is 17 days in as of today, and though it’s going okay, there’s not the commitment that there was in the past. No, I shouldn’t say that. There’s the commitment, but things keep happening. Like Jury Duty happened to one person, and a medical problem flared for another one.

I don’t think there are too many people who can do something like this without a miss. Some things like jury duty can’t be helped. Some things like heart issues flaring, can’t be predicted, some things like college graduations can’t be missed. I get it, I do, but still.

So this will be it. I will really work hard to put it online next year. That way more people can do it. It’s not the daily yoga that’s the problem or the challenge, it’s the coming to class. So online might be the answer, I think.

The season is unlocking. Grass is greening, daffodil foliage is breaking through. I’m enjoying my long walks at the Hike and Bike with Stella everyday. That time spent with her is becoming an important and wonderful part of my day. She’s really a great little dog.

It’s feels good not to grind so much and just enjoy: the yoga, the reading, the season. Hallelujah.

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 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.

My First Book Group

IMG_2199

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

 

The Bed Is Bigger Than The Kitchen

 The first day in a new place. 

Where to get food? 

How to organize time? 

What to do first? 

Who are these others? 

How to fit in?

Mostly, how to fit into this kitchen. Holy closet! (I am writing in the WordPress app for Ipad and I am having a little fit with inserting pics, so if they are huge or microscopic –sorry.)

This is G’s elbow to elbow wingspan in the kitchen.

  
Fun, right?

The bed is huge, though. What doees this say about where to spend time?

  
The day is hot and soft and quiet. The water is bathtub temperature, shallow and clear. Shells everywhere.

We went for groceries, and for breakfast.

Florida is weird.  By weird I don’t mean “bad” just not my tribe. But I wasn’t expecting that. It’s not a hip, vibrant, exciting place. It has a decidedly “Grandma” vibe. We didn’t come here for the vibe, though, we came here to be soft and quiet and warm and contemplative. And to drink gin and tonics (me) and beer (her).

We came here to rest and re-set, to get back to some deep, warm, elemental place. We came here to talk and read and nap and sup and walk and ride bikes everywhere. 

We came here to notice things, both exotic, and ordinary. 

At the entrance to the grocery store there were these huge cages scattered under towering palms,  each one housed an exotic colorful bird. The bird at the entrance said “Hello!” to everyone who passed his cage. Another one wolf-whistled when you walked by. 

We brought lots of books, and very little work. I kept my FaceTime appointment with Jennifer, and then I started a new book and then we went for lunch, and then we took naps, and now it’s time for dinner, and then a drive out to Bowman Beach to watch the sunset.

  
  

Sanibel Bound

Tomorrow we go to Sanibel Island, Florida.  Never been there. It’s supposed to have good shells.

I am looking forward to sitting under an umbrella, my toes in the sand, the sound of the surf in my ears, and reading voraciously, and then staring out at the horizon with equal absorption.

I am looking forward to being warm, and floating in blue water.

I am looking forward to walking on the beach.

I am looking forward to getting out of my routine.

I am looking forward to diving into books, and writing with a pen, and thinking onto paper.

I am looking forward to being quiet, and talking to G, and riding bikes, and sleeping, and eating seafood.

I am looking forward to exploring a new place.

I am bringing Resilience (which I am almost finished), Start With Why, The Power of Small, and Euphoria.

We shall see what gets read.

Yesterday  my daughter and son-in-law put a bid on a house, and today that bid was accepted. It is a sweet house bordering green-space with extensive bike trails. I am so happy for them. Tomorrow is Em’s birthday and this could not be a better present.

Tonight in Gentle Yoga I confessed what happened with my Apple Watch last night. I took the watch off and marched it over to the other room to the cheers of my class.

It had to be done.

Technology is wonderful, and magical, and helpful, and fun, but it is also intrusive and disruptive and a distraction in a yoga space.

There is a time and a place for everything, right?

(Right.)

Blessing the Space

There has been a frost warning the last 2 nights. I wore a jacket into the studio this morning and felt happy that I didn’t have any plans to go fishing today with G and her father. (Brrrrr….)

(As it turned out it was a beautiful day for fishing and they caught 5 trout.)

The studio was so warm and cozy this morning. And filled with sun. I took my spot under the skylight and did lots and lots of backbends. Not because I like backbends, or need backbends, but because I was entranced with the light raining on me from above.

Filtered light. Blue sky light. Early May light. The skylight is framed in white painted wood. The windows framed a perfect blue sky. It always reminds me of a lifeguard chair.

My mind suddenly flashed on a line from a John O’Donohue poem about “postponing dreams no longer” so when I’d had quite enough of backbending, I went and found it and copied it onto my mat:

IMG_1693

 

I haven’t made my Divine Contract yet, but each day as I sit in meditation, I get closer to envisioning who might be waiting for my offering.

Back at home, alone, I set to cleaning and organizing my bedroom, with a heavy emphasis on culling my clothing. My guiding thoughts were: Am I going to look forward to seeing this thing when I pull it out next fall?  And, Kath, You wear 20 percent of your clothes 80 percent of the time. Just keep the 20 percent you wear.

I culled ruthlessly. So proud of myself.

I also changed my bedding from the heavy velvet quilt, to the light, fluffy Zen-inspired duvet. I feel ready now. Ready for lilacs and viburnums and reading on the sunny deck.

Yeah, and I’ll bet money those trout will taste great done in foil on the grill.