Yoga, Writing, and Seamanship

I used to work with a guy who would say that the holidays are a time for catching up on work projects that you couldn’t get to do during your regularly salaried hours. Yes, I know, salaried employee means you don’t have limitations on your hours. But in truth, when you are working for a decent company, you do. No good boss expects arbitrary amounts of work from you at vaguely defined times scattered throughout your life.

If at all possible, you should only work for good bosses.

This is always possible.

As much as I sometimes claim I don’t like it, my life is a big routine – one after the other. I have a long urban commute daily, and this is probably the toughest part of my routine, the part I am continually working on finding ways to tweak. I sometimes claim I don’t like routine but if that were true I would toss it all out. Overnight, I could make my life more vague.

But I don’t do that. I believe we all end up doing what we most want, on the whole, most of the time. Whatever it is, in general it’s at least kind of sort of in line with our core values and needs, or else we would toss it out. Sometimes that’s confusing because the thing we are doing seems to be something totally counter-productive to what we tell the world we are working toward.

I’m saying this because I do it all the time. I point fingers at bits and pieces of my life and call them out as nags or short-term glitches. But then years later many of those same nags are still there. There’s something else going on, there’s some core value or need that causes me to hold onto the nag or glitch, for years, even when I claim it’s something I don’t want to be doing or having.

Not to say my life is all stuck. Not at all. After all, just recently I conquered my fear of deploying a “Hello World” application to my Android phone. Just never got around to working through the details before but then I did. It wasn’t hard. Just something that I never got around to devoting the hour of focused time to that was needed to get it done.

That’s a stupid example, because nobody cares about a “Hello World” application on their phone. But you should have seen the smile once I got that nag off my mind!

So that’s not a stupid example.

For me, the holidays are a chance to take a step back and do something outside of the routine. Even though I like the routine in my life (you can quote me on that), when it never gets broken, I stop growing. I need the routine to break, pretty frequently, and not in predictable ways. So the holidays, being days where you tend to do something a bit different from the other days, are at least a tiny little basis for finding that tiny little chance of experiencing a broken routine. If any of this sounds like a recipe for disaster at the holiday dinner table, then… maybe I’m not making myself clear. Then again, that’s why I’m blogging about it instead of publishing this stuff in a hardcover book and going on a lecture tour. 🙂

It always takes me at least a day or two of routine derailment before I really start to enjoy the benefits of the routine being broken. And this time around, the long Thanksgiving weekend, I’m in a mood to do two things: To look back over past and current notes to myself, and to share what I find out more publicly than is usual for me.

Looking back, I find…

Physical fitness is important to me, but it’s something I never do a good job with.

So is home time.

And exploring creative projects.

I’ve also always got some nags going on, as I mentioned briefly above.

I’m constantly on the lookout for doing new things, seeing new ideas.

I like to get better at stuff.

I like using cool technology, and finding ways to let the best tech support non-tech goals.

I like to have fewer goals than ideas.

My work is important to me. And if something is important to you, then it is probably important to me too.

And I like to write.

But I haven’t really figured out, among the so many interests and goals and priorities I have, which of these are the ones most important to me. I have to think that the ones with me the longest – writing and fitness – are likely the most important. Maybe that’s true.

The best I can come up with this morning is that everything I do, I do it in the name of:

Yoga, Writing, and Seamanship

If you are reading this and you feel alienated by that, then that just means I need to do a better job at the Writing of it next time. Which is why this is a blog.

A Whole Lot o’ Pilates

Image via Wikipedia

Ever since my wife got on this Pilates kick, I’ve been slowly getting sucked into the “fad”.

Turns out it’s really not so much of a fad. I’m always suspicious of anything that gets “popular”. I know that’s unfair, but that’s the way it is. But as I learn more, I’m getting the feeling that there really is nothing new in this Pilates stuff. I guess that kinda makes sense, since after all, it was invented sometime around the 1930’s or 1940’s, by a guy who was born in 1880! I’ll try to explore some of my own examples of “why this is nothing new” in a future post. (But I’ll probably forget to do that. :-()

Today I had a private session with a “Master Instructor”, over at a great Pilates studio in Madison, NJ called Mind Over Movement. If you’ve ever done such a thing, you can probably understand why I count today a good day as a result. But… if you’ve never had a private session with a fabulously talented Pilates instructor – well, I can only say that you are missing out on an important part of life.

Or so I now believe. Since I am being bitten by the Pilates bug. Big time.

You see, I am one of the most conservative people you are ever going to meet, and that makes me a stubborn mule about certain things. It means I sometimes act like a know-it-all, and sometimes shrug off new ideas. I tell myself that I have good reasons – after all, the ideas I currently hold dear had to fight their way in past that same wall of conservatism, so they tend to be pretty robust and worth-holding ideas.

But here’s the thing. I spend an hour with someone who barely knows me and that person tells me things about my posture, strength, and flexibility that are so spot-on they immediately strike a chord. I can’t say that I always understand them or the implications of the advice or instruction on the first try – many of these pearls of wisdom I have had to hear a half dozen times before they have finally started to really settle into my mis-aligned head. But it’s almost embarrassingly obvious in retrospect.

Here are some of my quirks, which I’ve lived with for over 40 years and never before thought of as a quirk or a problem:

  • My shoulders turn inward, far more than they should.
  • My knees turn outward, far more than they should.
  • I am bow-legged.
  • I can easily touch my toes, but I cheat in ways that “normal” people wouldn’t ever notice.
  • I’m really not particularly flexible in any of the good ways, even though I always seemed to be the only guy I knew who could easily touch his toes and get into a Lotus posture. Again, it turns out that I sort of  “cheat”.
  • I grew up thinking that these were the only muscles in the body: biceps, triceps, shoulders, lats, traps, glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, pecs, and abs. And that terrible misconception shows, in that nearly all of my movements are completed using just these “larger” and more “prominent” muscles and groups, to the terrible expense of my smaller and now quite undeveloped millions of other muscles scattered around my body. The result of this is that I am generally not very “grounded”.

This is all my layman’s analysis of the situation, of course. The actual “Master Instructor” lingo and analysis is far more interesting and helpful!



I Must Have Been Raised By Whales

Typically, I breathe about once per hour. I’m only partly kidding. I breathe the way a whale does, except whales are supposed to breathe that infrequently.

Since childhood, I’ve known that I’m a “bad” breather. I was diagnosed with asthma at an early age, given an inhaler, and told that I had a problem.

Within a few years, still at an early age, I had self-diagnosed myself with “hysterical asthma”. It was clear to me that my problem was controllable, without medicine or kid-gloves.

How did I know? Well, for me it was clear because:

  • The benefits of my inhaler only lasted about five minutes.
  • A one-hour yoga session yielded benefits that lasted many hours.
  • I typically “clench” a lot and then gasp for air.
  • When I think about it, I breathe much better.
  • And, my Pilates instructor is always telling me, “There needs to be more breathing.” Her mentor is always telling me similar things.

And when she says that, I rise, whale-like, and take a massive gulp of air, then go back to ignoring my lungs.

Also, I am not breathing right now. I am writing, which takes precedence.