Monday, November 26, 2007

Mantra Monday: Floss Daily.

I dislike going to the dentist, probably about as much as any other individual. This morning, after a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend traveling with the Mathematician and the Artist for a show and before setting foot in the office, I sat down in the dentist's chair for my 6 month check-up. My cleaning was proceeding as normal and then the dreaded question cheerfully popped - the question that strikes fear into the hearts of many patients:

"Have you been flossing daily?"

I'm reminded at this point of the bright red Lululemon shopping bags with their manifestoDance, Sing, Floss, and Travel and my heart sank. "Honestly," I replied, "not recently."

As the thin bundle of nylon fibers scraped down the sides of my teeth and snapped under the gum, I realized, that flossing is comparable to tending to the Self, the Soul; things that should be done to some extent every day. Even when the day isn't quite going right or you just done feel like it or there's another voice telling you there's something else you should be doing.

I came so close to heading directly back to my apartment after work, but a couple coworkers and friends reminded me about my practice - which is sort of like metal/physical/spiritual dental floss. At 6:10 or so this morning, on the drive back into DC I decided that I needed to go to practice. In class, I set myself in the far back corner and had probably one of my best practices. The first couple down dogs were a little difficult and I certainly considered throwing the "floss" away for the evening. But I diligently worked my way though the flow, not forcing myself into a pose that I couldn't fall into. In turn other poses opened up with fuller expression than I have achieved previously. Holding two sets of Bakasana, Crow Pose (if you remember, my nemesis from earlier this summer) for a total of 16 seconds!

Floss really isn't just a piece of nylon thread that your dentist asks you about every visit. It is an action that needs to be tended to every day. For the teeth. For the Self.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Mantra Monday: Some a day, is better than none a day.

The Artist has regularly said this to me since 6th grade.

This past weekend while I was taking a break from my regular yoga practice and fighting the good fight against the kipple* in my apartment (which has accumulated over the last...well, too long), I checked my email and there was one from a member of Bauhaus, forwarding a link to Life Hacker, what I can best describe as a Getting-Things-Done-Zen-Lifestyle tip blog. One entry on cleaning specifically struck me, 15 Minutes a Day. I immediately thought, "I'm now spending each and every one of those 15 minutes I previously didn't use cleaning - on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. GRRRRrrrrrr "

This is similar to the recent dialogs by the teachers at Down Dog, emphasizing the need to start a regular practice, even if it's just 30 minutes a day in your home. The simple act of returning to your mat every day, even if for a short practice with a yoga tape or dvd becomes cathartic and something to look forward to, just like that first cup of tea in the morning. Over the past 8 months, I feel I've developed a strong meditation and yoga practice,
by just taking a little time for myself either right before or after work.

While vacuuming, my mind began to wander, it drifted to another blog started around the same time as this blog, Sixty Minute Artist. The process of a man setting out to spend a minimum of 60 minutes in his day on his painting. I've talked about this with Vespa Boy on multiple occasions and Friday night at the Dubliner, we made a pact. With the new year, each and every day we're going to spend a minimum of 60 minutes on our respective crafts.

His writing, my jewelry.

While doing battle with the forces of Kipple, I began to organize my jewelry pieces. Taking inventory of completed projects, pieces in process, thinking over my goals, and preparing for a meeting later this week. I was able to see my work in a new light. Tonight, I worked on a repair for CoffeeShop Girl and started working again on a piece I began out at Revere Academy - in January of this year. I spent well over an hour and a half working on my craft.
I feel great!

So tonight:
  • I went to yoga practice.
  • I finished cleaning my apartment
    (except for my paper files).
  • I worked on jewelry.
  • I wrote my blog entry.
Either 15, 30 or 60 minutes a day, they really do add up.

* Kipple is "useless objects, like junk mail or match folders after you use the last match or gum wrappers of yesterday's homeopape. When nobody's around, kipple reproduces itself. For instance, if you go to bed leaving any kipple around your apartment, when you wake up the next morening there's twice as much of it. It always gets more and more."
O.M.A., Rem Koolhaas, and Bruce Mau. S, M, L, XL. New York: The Monacelli Press, 1998. p.866

Monday, November 5, 2007

Mantra Monday: I will play on both sides of my edge.

Wake up. Stumble to kitchen. Fill kettle with water. Turn stove on. Pull out clothes for day. Choose shoes. Get ready for work. Pour tea. Pack bag for day. Walk to metro. Commute. Arrive work. Work. Commute home.

Generally, we're faced with the same routine every single solitary day - at some level we find comfort in these patterns that establish themselves. To make it sound more palpable, we call it a "routine." Things become predictable - in a world of quickly spinning chaos of the rest of the world it starts to feel almost "zen-like." Is that really what zen is supposed to be? Where is the exhilaration and wakefulness of life and the potential it holds?

If you're routine is numbing, it is anything but "zen-like." Then how can we actively wake up from these patterns? The easiest solution, as I started to explore in a recent post, mix it up a little. Wear flats to work one day. Try wearing a color you necessarily wouldn't try.
Let go. But it's truly something more than that. Hold back. Recognize something in your life and actively seek out change. See where that change takes you.

When we hear, "play on your edge," we immediately assume that we have to do something wildly different or something that pushes closer to being superhuman or doing some fantastic feat of cortortion. That's not true at all. Sometimes it's asking for assistance or knowing to hold back.

In practice Sunday night, the visiting instructor recommended trying various modifications - to find something new. Put another way, to not automatically go to where you "always" find yourself in your pose. Instead of entering into full expression of side plank pose (vasisthasana) with your leg fully extended, try a modification, try placing your knee on the ground. A whole different series of sensations might present themselves. In the case of vasisthasana, maybe you're able to pull your hips higher and roll your shoulders open even more.

Playing on both sides of the edge gives you a gauge of where you are. The edge is not the precipice of a cliff. Think of it as the apex of a pyramid, a point to balance on, allowing self-discovery of something new about yourself by looking at yourself a little differently.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Mantra Monday: Smile! Laugh!

Yes, it's Thursday - not Monday. My thoughts, why not mix it up a little, Mantra Monday on a Thursday? At work we celebrated Halloween a day early so why not juggle the week around a bit more?

The office was inundated by a flood of the attorneys' children for pre-Halloween festivities on Tuesday this week. All in all, approximately 30 children from ages 4 mos all the way to 6 breathing life and energy into the silent, placid, taupe hallways. Needless to say a few escaped from the regimented trick-or-treating line, racing up and down the hallways hiding from their parents.

One child looked on my desk and inquired after the three bight colored balls resting there. He asked, "Are those stress balls? My dad has those on his desk too." As I reached for the balls, "" I began to juggle. His smile began to widen and his eyes brighten.

Looking at him, I instantly remembered watching the street performers and jugglers when the Artist, the Mathematician and I would travel up to Boston. I could sit for hours watching them contorting their bodies through tennis rackets, riding their unicycles, and juggling fire. Part of me likes to think that my parents had a fear that I was going to want to grow-up to be a street performer (sort of an oxymoron if you think about it), making it one of those clandestine occupations.

Many of us pass though our days without a good hearty laugh or a smile that is easily reflected back at us. One of the ways to find that smile, to find that laugh - channel the innocence and love for Life many of us have buried
through hours of sitting in front of the computer, or paying bills, or commuting to work.

Maybe you'll even see me on a street corner in Georgetown during some lunch break.

What made you blissfully happy when you were a child?
Try to tap into that joy at least once a day.