What are you reading these days?

One of the things I love most about G’s dad, Owen, is his love of reading. He always has a book going and when he is not out fishing, or fixing something in our house, or making a run to the dump with G (all things that happened this morning) he is on the couch engrossed in a book (he loves thrillers and mysteries). I think he must go through a book a week.

When I see him reading, I feel like it gives me permission to curl up with my own book for awhile. And I just love that.

As I child, I was an avid reader, but reading wasn’t encouraged. When my mother “caught” me reading, she would yell about all the stuff I should be doing instead: cleaning my room, washing the dishes, vacuuming, mowing the lawn.

Reading was goofing off, being idle, doing nothing. So I had to fit my reading in at night or when she wasn’t around.

(My mother was an idiot. Clearly.)

My daughter is a reader. So is my son-in-law. If I give them a Powell’s gift card for their birthdays, they are in heaven.

These days I see more people messing on computers or phones than reading books. When I mention the books I am reading, no one tells me about the books they are reading. I just have to assume that they don’t have a book going. It’s okay I guess, but I really miss talking about books.

I should start a book group. I have seriously thought about it. It would be have to be a group that likes to read the same kind of stuff I do, though, which is mainly non-fiction about finding your passion, peak performance, the search for self, navigating uncertainties, developing focus, and inspired leadership.

I should really do that. Put something out on Facebook. See who responds. In the fall, maybe.

When summer comes though, I like to take a break from all the non-fiction and lose myself in novels. So I am asking for some recommendations. What should I read this summer? No junky fiction, please. Last summer I read The Goldfinch, The Bees, and The Signature of All Things. I am looking for fiction of that ilk. Great fiction. The new Haruki Murakami isn’t coming out until August, so I need something NOW.

Suggestions? Please?

How To Own The World

The Healthy and the Focused are going run the world. They will be the only ones who will be able to. Who else will be able to run companies and businesses, create art, make breakthroughs in science and technology? Who else will innovate?

In addition, the Healthy and the Focused will  be the only ones able to parent healthy and focused kids, who will then become the next generation of world leaders and dominators.

Think about it: If you are always sick (and the population in general is getting sicker and sicker—hello Type 2 diabetes!) you won’t be able to work consistently, reliably, or well.

If you are unhealthy you won’t even BE at work half the time because you’ll be in bed, or running to doctor appointments all the time. And whenever you DO manage to drag your sorry butt to work, you will probably suck at it because you’ll be so depleted from being sick. You will have no energy and you won’t be able to think clearly. You will be nothing but a barnacle, a parasite, a worthless burden to your employer.

If by some miracle you are able to hold on to that job, good for you. But terrible for any enterprise that depends on your work, because your work will be miserable. Like you.

But say you are relatively healthy, but your problem is that you can’t stay focused long enough to get your work done. You have the attention span of a gnat. You spend all day putting out little brush fires, or dealing with office politics, or doing other tangential minutia–work that doesn’t ask that you sit down, focus, and try to solve a problem.

Lots of people think that focus isn’t a skill that needs to be learned and cultivated. Lots of people think that they can just make up their minds and do it: 1, 2, 3—Focus!

But this is a fairy tale. Focus is something that has to be cultivated. Like big muscles. You can’t have killer biceps if you don’t lift heavy things. You can’t focus on a job and stick to it unless you’ve trained your brain through meditation, or yoga, or even reading.

I read a great piece this morning called, “Why can’t we read anymore.” The answer?  Because we are addicted to the dopamine hit we get from social media and email. We are addicted to distraction.

The writer of this piece was bemoaning the fact that he himself only read 4 books last year, which is ironic because he curates 2 websites about public domain books, and making print and ebooks, and he even wrote a book about the future of books.

But even he has fallen under the spell of Facebook and Twitter and email because those sites give him a big dopamine hit of The new! The shiny! The exciting!  But he is also smart enough to know that this is the path to slavery and despair and he is now setting some boundaries around his media consumption to free up more time to read.

He quotes Werner Herzog as saying: “Those who read own the world, and those who watch television lose it.”

I live in a place where the diabesity epidemic is everywhere I look, and I am worried. Cops, fire-fighters, clerks in stores, cooks in restaurants, people who make the goods and services I consume and depend on, may all be sick and distracted most of the time.

Yikes. I hope I don’t have a heart attack or a fire. I cross my fingers that the chef in my favorite restaurant isn’t germing up my food. I hope the mechanic who fixes my brakes doesn’t overlook something.

If we are going to own the world, we have to stay healthy and focused.

Let’s work on that, okay?

Feeling the Tribe

I still don’t live with my tribe.

And although this is hard for me, lately I’ve heard a lot of people from many different places say the exact same thing. Even people who live in notoriously cool places.

I heard a podcast this week in which a pretty famous writer said that even thought he lives in Austin, TX, which is a pretty  artsy place, most of the people he feels closest to live elsewhere, and he connects with them online.

It seems obvious that a yoga teacher living in Mansfield, PA, population 3600, might not be living with her tribe, but a writer in Austin,?

So maybe I shouldn’t think it’s so depressing to be living in a place with no grocery store, or art, or activism, or people with any obsessive passions whatsoever.

Maybe I just need to “Suck it up, Sally” and get used to ordering my organic food online (or drive to another state to get it) and get my art fix from reading about it on the internet, and console myself with written accounts of people living with passionate intensity.

Maybe this is what most people do. Maybe this is just normal and I should quit whining, thinking I am the only one.

Today I went to Ithaca. The last time I was there was in January for my Winterlude.  Ithaca is where I feel a strong tribal affiliation. The people are engaged and bright and interesting, because most of them are invested in some kind of project. And when I have even the briefest of conversations with anyone, and they sketch out their lives for me,  it always makes me feel amped and inspired.

But my biggest inspiration in Ithaca is Zee.

Today she gave a benefit reading at the Tompkins County Public Library, and since Sandy so generously subbed for me, I was able to attend.  The reading was stellar, but what was even better was the vibe of love for Zee in that room. She has built a particular tribe around writing, and the love of books, and reading, and creativity.

About 50 of us smiled and laughed as she told stories  (half fictional/half autobiographical) of a spunky, sassy girl negotiating the confusing, and often absurd world of family and friends.

When it was finished we gave her a standing ovation. The whole day warmed my heart. And the icing on the cake was that it was even a warm day: in the 60s and sunny!

It was so sweet, and so comforting to walk the .streets of Ithaca and feel a part of Zee’s tribe.

Thinking back on Elizabeth Gilbert’s post yesterday, I want to remember that even though some tribes are toxic and you have to abandon them, the power of true and deep belonging is as rare as it is transformative. And I felt that spark of transformation today.

Thanks, Zee.

Thanks, Ithaca.

Namaste.

 

 

 

Winterlude

Winterlude

In the week between Christmas and New Years I rented a little apartment in Ithaca, NY.  I needed a getaway: from Christmas, from busyness, from tired.

I needed a retreat. But instead of booking myself into a fancy place like Kripalu, I tried a “self-guided” retreat this time, in a nearby city where I know a few, but not many people, and where I could be happily alone.

I cooked up a a batch of kitchari in my home kitchen and brought that to eat, along with a few other staples.

Every day I cooked up the kitchari for lunch with greens I bought at Oasis.

 kitchari bowl

The man at Oasis who checked me out told me this joke one really cold morning:

Q: What do you get when you cross a snowman and a vampire?

A: Frostbite!

I drank a lot of hot water which I heated up an electric kettle I found in the apartment kitchen. But the mugs there didn’t fit my hands so I wandered into Handwork and bought a beautiful handmade mug for my hot water.

The one I bought was made by hands, for hands.  It is beautiful and I treasure it. It is currently sitting on the the table beside me. It will forever remind me of this time of great regeneration.

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I sat on a small brown couch all day and edited my manuscript.

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I slept like shit. (The bed was very mushy.)

Most nights I stayed up very late. (For me.)

I sat on the windowseat and looked out.

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I finished The Distraction Addiction.

I started Daring Greatly.

I went to yoga every day.

When you teach yoga every day like I do, it is such a thrill, such an utter indulgence to be led. I got to follow someone’s else’s path every day and it was lovely.

I went to Starbucks. (Not every day, but almost.)

I cruised through the bookstore a few times. I ran into people I know, and like, from home. I ran into people I know, and like, from Ithaca.

I sat and meditated with my dear friend Zee, and her friends, on New Year’s Day, and then had Indian food with them afterwards at Diamonds.

All day I worked.

I noticed the way I worked. I noticed that I like alternating between digital and analog; between computer and fountain pen. When I started to stagnate on the computer, I’d pick up the pen and a fresh world would appear. When I felt that world begin to fade, a return to the keypad ignited me again.

And in this way, back and forth, digital to analog, hour after hour, day after day, with breaks only for fresh hot water and to pee, I spent my interlude.

I worked on my manuscript, but I wrote other things, too.

I wrote deep reflections on all the yoga classes I took, for example, pondering what it really means to be a yoga teacher, and how I might become a more effective one.

I wrote my “manifesto” which was deeply inspired by the two books I was reading. My manifesto lists the qualities that I hope to cultivate and manifest in myself and my life from this time going forward. I love this list and feel so happy to have finally articulated it.

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I wrote in OmWriter, which is a new writing platform for me. I was inspired to try it from the writer of Distraction Addiction. I really like it a lot. I found it allowed me to go deeper into reflective space than I have ever gone before, and stay in that depth longer.

I severely limited my connections to other people, and to distractions like email and internet. I only went online twice a day: morning and night, and would not have gone on at all if I didn’t have a business.

I thought about installing Freedom but my self-discipline was strong enough and I really didn’t need it. Still, I like knowing that it exists, because I can foresee a time in the future when I will need to utilize it.

I loved living in this small, walkable city. Everything I needed and wanted was less than a 5 minute walk away: yoga, health food store, bookstore, Starbucks, even an indie movie theater. I could walk to Indian food and Thai food, as well as Tapas and Mexican and vegetarian.

On my last day, G came and we went to see the movie Wild. For my final dinner, we chose the tapas restaurant right below my apartment. We drove home in two cars, following each other.

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(my apartment was on the 2nd floor, the 2 windows on the left with the white blinds.)

As I drove home I thought about the Prius, and how the battery of that car recharges every time you apply the brakes.

It recharges when it brakes.

What do you know? Me, too.

Go figure.

The Return to Interiority

The Return to Interiority

Even though I get melancholy when the season changes from summer to fall, and even more so when it changes from fall to winter, I have to admit that I really do love the return to interiority.

I just read a piece in Elephant Journal by a woman who went to a retreat at Kripalu and decided that she didn’t want to be alone with her “Self” after all.

That’s not me. Not at all. Me? I need solitude, a strong daily dose of it. When I am too much the “social butterfly” I become lost and scattered and my “self” starts pixelating beyond recognition.

In the Stephen Cope book I am reading now, I underlined this: (he is talking about Robert Frost here.)

“He intuited that he needed a life set close to nature–nature, which had always been his muse. Frost was intuitively aware of an important principle: In the cultivation of dharma, there is nothing more important than understanding what conditions are needed, and relentlessly creating them.” (p.81-2)

This has made me think about what conditions I need, and to try to actively create them. Do you know what conditions make you feel like you are living like your True Self?

As a result of reading this, I have instituted a new morning routine. I now get up a little earlier and make myself a cup of decaf . But instead of sitting down at the computer and checking email and Facebook, which was my usual habit, I now take my cup up to my Space Chair, turn on the little heater, and settle in with my book for an hour.

Winterized Space Chair

I can’t tell you how cozy and delightful this is! It seems like I’ve been whining forever about how I need  more time to read, and here it is. Now, instead of leaving my book to the end of the day, when I am toast, I am reading in the front part of the day, when I am rested, alert and receptive.

After an hour’s read, I go and make myself some amaranth cereal and bring it back up into my cozy lair and start alternately scribbling in my journal and shoveling cereal into my mouth.

When another hour has passed, I am good to go: ready to be physically active and socially engaged.

These may not be all my “conditions” but they are certainly key: solitude, reading, and writing.

Do you know what yours are? Care to share?

Media Fast

I was talking to Emily the other day, and the conversation turned to what we are reading these days. Em always has a book or two going, and she was telling me that her employees are all voracious readers, too. When they are on break at work, they all sit and read.

She loves that about them. I love that, too. (I always picture people on “break from work” either texting or taking a cigarette break.)

I am still reading my February book and here it is almost 10 days into March. I was cruising Facebook today and it suddenly occurred to me that in the time I was doing that, I could have been reading my book.

Today starts the university’s Spring Break which means that G heads down south with her team. I will be here with Boomer, holding down the fort and teaching my classes. I am thinking that a little media fast might be in order. I think I will give up Facebook this week, and instead, put my face in a book.

 

 

2012 Reading List

Today I gathered together the books I intend to read this year and amassed them next to my winterized Space Chair for this photo-op.

Winterized Space Chair

It’s a good list, I think, but a long one.

reading list (with Vishuda)

(Vishuda is my gargoyle hand puppet, in case you were wondering.)

The 2012 stack

I have had these books in my possession for a long time but have not “gotten around” to them.

One, the Tantra one, I read awhile ago but feel the  need to re-read now that I have been through so many trainings.

I have also started the Daniel Ingram book multiple times. I have gotten through one chapter doing the exercises in the Contemplative Photography book, as well.

So here’s my rather daunting  list from top to bottom:

Yoga Spandakarika

The Spiritual Teachings of Ramana Maharshi

The Great Good Place

Bringing Home the Dharma

What We Say Matters

A Path With Heart

Tantra: Path of Ecstasy

Transformational Speaking

Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha

Yoga Body

The Beauty of Different

The Practice of Contemplative Photography

The Practical Encyclopedia of Feng Shui

If you made a reading list for this year, care to share?