Kale Phone

Kale Phone

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Angry Monkey MMA or The Exuberant Bodhisattva Goes to the Gym

“Going to the gym tomorrow,” I told my friend. “Gonna get trained.”

“Trained for what?” asked my friend’s ten-year-old roommate. I didn’t have an excellent answer for her. I hadn’t been to the gym in over twelve years. Back then I was a seventeen-year-old stair master junkie. These days, if I were forced to have fitness goals, they would include vaguely figuring out a pull-up, reducing the crackling in various body parts, and perhaps a burpee or two.
“Let me try something,” said the ten year old. Before I knew it, she had wrapped her arm around my waist and had hoisted me a foot above the ground. I remained up in the air for a solid five seconds. The ten-year-old repeated this feat three more times. She did wonders for my Mammoth Complex.

“I think I can do a push-up,” she announced. Within seconds she was down on the ground. Her push-ups were spectacular.

“When I was on the swim team, we used to do clapping push-ups,” I recalled. Back then, despite having biceps and shoulders the size of my face, I typically maxed out after two and a half to four pull-ups. Same thing for chin-ups. My clapping push-up record was not remarkably impressive either. On the floor of my friend’s living room, I decided to give them a go. Long before my hands could come together, I landed on my face. Before falling on her face, my friend’s ten-year-old roommate was able to clap her hands together.

Bakasana, Somehow Easier than Clapping Push-Ups.
Yoga selfies seem to be good for my stats. And so, I am recycling my 2 and a half
to 4 yoga selfies with little to no restraint.
My personal trainer was a friend from high school named Nick Tritton. As fate would have it, my graduating class of Perth and District Collegiate Institute had three Olympians. Nick was one of them. A three time Canadian champion, Nick competed in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics for Judo. Over the years, Nick has represented Canada at 5 world championships. In addition, he has won five medals at the Pan American Games, including gold in 2010. As if that weren’t enough, his exciting career boasts 12 World Cup medals and 8 top-5 World Cup finishes. Always somewhat of a Renaissance man, Nick is also a talented wrestler, with national champion titles in both Greco and Freestyle Wrestling.  Although he retired after the 2012 Olympics, he made a bit of a comeback in 2014, competing in the sport of Sambo.  In case you don’t know what Sambo is, I didn’t either and so I did a rather moderate amount of research for you. I learned that Sambo is a relatively modern Russian martial art. In fact, SAMBO is an acronym for SAMozashchita Bez Oruzhiya, which is Russian for “self-defense without weapons.” Nick turned out to be quite good at this, winning the Commonwealth games and placing 7th at the world championships. In conclusion, Nick is a veritable tank. He even has the cauliflower ears to prove it. 
Nick at the Olympics, dressed in blue on your left. Note the convincing cauliflower ears.
Currently, Nick generously channels his vast talents towards Angry Monkey MMA, a gym that opened its doors in June of 2014. (By the way, MMA stands for Mixed Martial Arts.) All the trainers at MMA are elite athletes with diverse backgrounds in judo, wrestling, muay thai styles, MMA, grappling, wrestling, boxing, kickboxing and more. But you don’t need to be into boxing or throwing people across the room to train at Angry Monkey. Everyone is welcome, even the side plank virgins. Angry Monkey’s claim to fame is that they’ll meet you wherever you are, regardless of the size of your biceps, or the hideous crackling noise that comes from your hip joint. They offer classes and fitness regimens for kids, office workers, hardcore fighters, busy parents and retired yoga teachers.

Angry Monkey MMA

By some great miracle, this retired yoga teacher (me), was able to bike her crackling hip joint across the city to meet Nick for a training session. Located close to St. Henri, at 3700 St. Patrick Street, Angry Monkey is a few steps South of the Lachine Canal, and just a little west of the Atwater Market. There is tons of parking for folks with cars. Some gym members like to roll enormous tires across the parking lot. Others do not.
Parking Lot with Enormous Tire

Spacious and phenomenally clean, Angry Monkey is fully equipped with a room for judo and group fitness classes. They also have a boxing ring and a more traditional work-out space consisting of weights, a pull-up bar, exercise balls and any other equipment you might need.
The Judo/Fitness Class Room. 
Next to the boxing ring, there is a sign that prohibits all whining and drama. By the time I read it, I had already made a few groaning speeches about my clicking hip and crooked spine and insistence on always breathing through my nose. Fortunately, Nick forgave me and then promised we would take it easy. He proceeded to wrap my hands in belts and give me some boxing gloves. Never in my life had I ever worn boxing gloves, let alone punched anybody. It was quite a thrill.  Nick did an excellent job blocking my punches and correcting my stance. He said that he could tell I was quite violent. Between jabs, upper cuts and right hooks, we caught up on the last decade or so. I must say, this year has been wonderful for reconnecting with folks from high school. Though there are many parts of high school you might prefer to forget, it can be healing and comforting to spend time with people who knew you back when you wore braces and overalls. So if ever you have the chance to hang out with someone from your youth, I highly recommend it.

After our chatty stint in the boxing ring, Nick led me to the pull-up bar. Attaching an extremely thick elastic band around one of my ankles, he coached me through three sets of ten, hauling me upwards when necessary.  Thus, it only took a mega elastic and a former Olympic athlete to help me complete more pull-ups than my body has endured in the last fifteen years. After that, we did some abs and called it a day. In the days that followed, absolutely no obscene pain ensued, although on Saturday, my lats and inner elbows enjoyed a rather rewarding feeling of being inflated. There is much more where that came from, and I urge you to check it out for yourself. From now until October 2, Angry Monkey is hosting free trial lunch-hour fitness classes. Designed to increase energy and mid-day muscular response, these multi-level “Power Up” classes are held every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 12:15 to 12:45. As the experts say, everyone has thirty minutes! Give yourself a well-deserved fitness break. The whole world is welcome. You can sign up for packages beginning on October 5. Unleash your inner angry monkey from deep inside your pelvis. And/or your armpits.
30 Minute Power Up Classes
I promise you, it will be a blast. Big thank you to Nick for the thoroughly fun and satisfying session. Hope to see you again soon. Maybe next time, I can try rolling one of those enormous tires across the parking lot. Maybe not. Regardless, I feel quite grateful that my childhood was so high in Olympic athletes.
The End.
Angry Monkey MMA Website
Angry Monkey MMA on Facebook
Follow Angry Monkey on Twitter: @AngryMonkeyMMA (Justin Etheridge)
In case you were wondering, in French, they call Angry Monkey “Singe Bagarreur.” And I forgot to mention that Nick is also an excellent father of two young girls. On that note, I cannot think of a better place to sign your kids up for Judo. If you have some kids, be sure to look into the Little Monkeys Program.
Little Monkeys
Go, Nick, go!

Exuberant Bodhisattva on Facebook
Twitter: @mypelvicfloor

Move Your DNA, by Katy Bowman
Yoga For Core Strength
Why I am like Jane Fonda
Ecstatic Dance


Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Lessons of the Week

On Friday evening, I was lucky to be invited to my first Shabbath dinner. This was the second Jewish ceremony I have attended in the last month or so. In August, I got to go to a Circumcision Party. People more Jewish than I tend to refer to this as a Bris. Even so, I have really been getting in touch with my Jewish side these days. At both functions, the snacks and conversations have been wonderful. But in comparison to the circumcision, I think I could relate a little better to the Shabbath dinner rituals.

One of these lovely rituals was called, “Lesson of the Week.” Over dinner, with the help of the blessed wine, people were welcome to reflect upon the last six days and spontaneously share what they’d learned. It is nice to think of every week as a journey containing some sort of learning experience. Whatever you learned can help you through the days to come and if you share the lesson with your friends, it can help them too. At the end of the night, the host of the Shabbath dinner asked if I could try me to try and compile the eleven lessons of those present. I’ll give it my best shot. Here we go.

I will keep everyone’s name a secret. To help remember people’s names, we played a name game in which everyone picked an alliterative adjective (and/or Aardvark) to go with their name. In fact, I can’t really remember everyone’s alliterative adjective. I will go with the ones I remember and make up the rest.

Lesson 1, by Aardvark. Aardvark’s lesson was something he learned while thinking about improvisation. In improvisation there’s this big emphasis on living in the present moment. But that’s an illusion because the present moment can’t really exist without the past. So although you may feel like the ideal is to let go of the past and “just be here now,” this probably entails putting too much pressure on yourself.
Aardvark with Long Nose, Source
Lesson 2, by Soap. This week, Soap learned that you can derive intense satisfaction by imposing just a bit of discipline on yourself. Following through with what you set out to accomplish can be highly rewarding. She recommends it.
Lesson 3, by Exuberant. (Well, that’s me. No big secret.) I experienced some Distress this week and I learned that in Montreal, and hopefully in other places in the world, there are many different outlets for Distress. On my way to the Shabbath Dinner, I listened to a podcast that summarized a strategy for meeting your distress. It is this sentence slash recommendation: “Please, don’t believe your thoughts.” The podcast was by a Buddhist lady named Tara Brach. She had three sentences that were supposed to help you avoid being too reactive in distressing situations. I forget the middle one, but the third one had something to do with remembering the love in the universe, and imagining that you are being held by this love.

Tara Brach says, "Please, don't believe your thoughts."
Please visit Tarabrach.com
Lesson 4, by Talented. Talented recently began a yoga teacher training. Previously she had done a great deal of fast-paced dynamic yoga classes. Having practiced yoga for quite a long time, she felt pretty confident going into her training. However, when the training started, she realized her instructors had a very technical and anatomical approach. It made her feel out of her element and slightly incompetent. She wondered if maybe she had made the wrong choice and she began to beat herself up for not researching the program beforehand. And for not already knowing all the things her instructors had to share. Then she realized, and this is her Lesson of the Week, that actually, of course she didn’t know everything, and this was okay and exciting. It was all a brand new learning experience, an opportunity. She learned that if you can let your ego relax and not be the expert on everything, you will feel immensely liberated. And learn a whole bunch.

Yoga Dork with Fanny Pack (Me).
Everyone has to start somewhere.
Lesson 5, by Inspiring. Inspiring’s Lesson also had something to do with his Ego. It was about accepting your ego and your thoughts whatever they are. Sometimes when you are going through unpleasant mind states such as nervousness and envy and resentment, there is the tendency to judge and yell at yourself to “snap out of it.” Probably this is not the most helpful approach. This week, Inspiring learned that sometimes you can sit with your ego during its difficult times. In this way, the challenging mind states sometimes become easier to endure.

Lesson 6, by Asking. Asking wanted to keep her lesson private. We’ll definitely accept her wishes. I will just say that her lesson was very heartfelt and eloquent. Also, I think that the core teaching in Asking’s lesson was about loving and accepting yourself where you are. For two years, I attended Catholic mass twice a week. I can’t remember any part of any homily, except for a handful of words from one priest, who preached out of a simple little parish in Little Burgundy. I think his name was Father Paul. One Sunday morning, Father Paul said, “I am always amazed at what low opinions people have of themselves. Many people regard themselves so very poorly.” It seems that we are all quite excellent at treating ourselves terribly. How did we get so good at this? We are experts at beating ourselves up. Perhaps acknowledging the struggles that may exist inside other people’s heads can help us to be more kind and compassionate.
Lesson Seven, by Cuddly was that if you tell yourself everything is going to be okay, usually everything turns out okay. (Well, obviously some things turn out terribly, but perhaps if you wait long enough, even the terrible things change.) Cuddly’s lesson came during a camping excursion. Some of his plans were pretty open ended and he wasn’t always sure what would happen next. He decided that panicking and fretting about the unknown wouldn’t help. Instead he told himself, “everything will turn out okay.” Lucky for him, it worked. 

Lesson Eight, by Dashing or it might have been Delightful. Or Dancing. Anyways, Dashing/Delightful/Dancing’s lesson or the week was about not holding onto things so hard. It had recently become clear that keeping a certain job was becoming logistically unfeasible. Still, for whatever reason, Dashing/Delightful/Dancing remained extremely attached to the idea of making it work. Eventually, she lost her job. But very soon afterwards she ended up with two new part-time jobs with better pay and less hours. Now she has the opportunity to take on new creative projects for herself. Her other job didn’t leave any energy for such things. And so the lesson is that sometimes when you allow yourself to let go of something, even something you are very attached to, this letting go will often provide you with space you didn’t realize you were missing. Hence, try not to cling to things too tightly.
I hope it’s okay if I insert this little Lao Tzu quote right here. It’s about letting go:

“By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try. The world is beyond the winning.” -Lao Tzu
Once I wrote a book called, "I Let Go."
It might be time for a sequel
Lesson Nine, by Intelligent. Intelligent shared her experience during meditation class. Her meditation instructor had encouraged her to observe her experience through her five senses. During meditation, it’s rather common to get all in your head and miss out on a great deal of what’s going on.  Tapping into your senses as objectively as possible can help with this, whether you’re dealing with anxiety, boredom or excessive analysis. True to her name, Intelligent is highly Intelligent. I was touched when she shared that she felt shy speaking in front of the group. Many people encounter this same challenge. As a relatively chatty and extroverted person, I sometimes forget that freely expressing what’s inside is not as easy for everyone. I feel like knowing this could help me to be more understanding and appreciative of where people are coming from.

Lesson Ten, by Exquisite. Exquisite’s lesson was to trust the path as it appears in front of her. Introspective people who seek meaning in their lives frequently become obsessed with which journey to take, and “what they’re meant to do with their lives.” Ultimately, you can’t always choose the path you’re on. You can’t force yourself onto a path or contort yourself until you comply perfectly with a certain practice. Your path is just your life, and your life is not as easily manipulated as you might have once believed. Better to accept your life and path as it unfolds, rather than thwarting and torqueing it until it meets some unattainable ideal in your head. In conclusion, if you can, try and let your path unfold as naturally as possible. Often this turns out rather exquisitely.
Lesson Eleven, by Aureole Borealis. Aureole Borealis was the host. Instead of an alliterative adjective, he gets to be an Ocean Invertebrate. In fact, I just realized that I got Aureole Borealis mixed up with a Sea Anemone. When I say "Aureole Borealis," a sea anemone appears in my head. I cannot tell you why. Oops. Like many of the other lessons, Aureole Borealis's lesson had to do with meeting life, people and situations as they are. Sometimes when things are not exactly as would you would like, your first instinct is to quickly try and change them so that your desires match reality. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always work. But this week Aureole Borealis learned that if you gently accept circumstances with patience, very often something very beautiful arises. Patience requires discipline, and – patience. Although certainly this is not always the easiest choice, it might be worth a try.
Sea Anemone and Aureole Borealis. Quite Different.
Ocean Invertebrate Personality Quiz, for 84 000th time
This concludes the eleven lessons. It was a joy and an honour to be present for the Shabbath dinner and to hear the gifts of everyone’s week. Thank you to Aureole Borealis and all his guests. I wish you many more Happy Sabbaths, and the deepest peace I can think of. With Love, Erica.
The End.
Now Chad Angers doesn't get the last word.
Twitter: @mypelvicfloor
Recycling Day                   Asking People About Their Lives, Guillaume, Part Two                      Pen Pal

Monday, 7 September 2015


On August 4, 2010, Chad Angers sent me a message on Facebook.

2010-08-04 there are two types of men in the world
reasonable men and unreasonable men
the reasonable man adapts himself to the world and the unreasonable man adapts the world to himself
hence change is only driven by the unreasonable man

I met Chad Angers on a park bench, in a park on Rachel street, off St. Laurent. My arm was broken and I was about to go meditate at the Zen centre. A few minutes earlier, I had sat on another park bench in Parc Jeanne Mance. In four months, I would be turning twenty-five years old. I decided that it would be an excellent idea to stop getting drunk and sleeping with Simon. It was time to make a list of what I wanted in an ideal partner. I wrote down a bunch of qualities. I don’t remember any of the qualities, except perhaps that this ideal partner should be much taller than me. Simon was only five ten or eleven, and I am a tall five eight.

Chad Angers came right over and sat beside me.
“How did you break your arm?” He asked. He was at least 6 ft 5., with dark curly hair. As soon as he came near me, my vagina got all wet. This doesn’t tend to happen so spontaneously. Without considering any of the other on the list besides height, I decided that this was my man.

Chad Angers never capitalized nor punctuated. He had a very long, hard dick. I remember feeling it through his grey sweatpants, the kind Simon would have had to wear at his morphine studies. And once I saw his dick in his loft apartment in a secret neighbourhood. I’m not sure why I was there but Chad Angers took his pants off and his dick was hard and in my face. We were up in his bed. To get there, you had to climb up a ladder. Rapunzel Penis. That was the closest we ever got to having sex. I am pretty sure I never put his dick in my mouth.  I feel like this would have left a bigger impression.
That time in the loft was the last time I saw Chad Angers. A few months later, he called me and invited me to a movie. I said no. He hung up, then called me back yelling.

“You’re the worst shit stroke of bad luck that ever happened to me.” Some people might say that up until then, Chad Angers had had a lucky life. Others wouldn’t. I wouldn’t. Years before I met him, Chad Angers drove his bike down a hill and ran into a tree. He hit his head and spent a whole month in a coma. Meeting me is either better than spending a month in a coma, or worse.
When I first met Chad Angers, for some reason I thought his name was Chad Angell. I always believed that this would have made all the difference.

The End.

Follow me on Twitter: @mypelvicfloor
Ecstatic Facebook Adventures
Chuckie the Horse and His Penis
Chuckie the Horse and the Day Jack Layton Died

I wish I were disciplined enough to make things instead of just rambling incoherently and never polishing or finishing anything.

The children at the Montessori School polish glass, wood, brass and silver.  The silver is not really silver. Silver and aluminum and stainless steel all go into the same category. Same with brass, copper and any other brown metal. In French all the brown metals are called cuivre. In the dictionary cuivre’s first translation is copper. It used to be that the Montessori children would polish all the brown metal objects with licorice flavoured toothpaste, the natural kind without fluoride. There was a brass and/or copper boot, a brass and/or copper dog and a brass and/or copper mouse. For whatever reason, when the children covered the objects with the licorice toothpaste, the toothpaste would turn green. Most of the time, they would use so much toothpaste that you wouldn’t be able to tell what kind of surface they were polishing. I can’t remember if they were supposed to remove the toothpaste with a q-tip or a toothbrush. A toothbrush makes sense. Either way, they did a relatively terrible job. Now the Montessori directress has switched them over to some official metal polish. She gives the children individual servings of metal polish since they can’t be trusted to take a reasonable amount. Typically, children are not all that reasonable. Does that mean they are unreasonable? 
The Montessori directress let me keep the extra licorice flavoured toothpaste. I forgot it in Halifax when I moved away. The Boatman told me that he uses it, even though it tastes a bit disgusting and doesn’t really clean your teeth.
Hair Elastics, Deodorant, and Dental Floss. In my life, I have found that these items exist in either great abundance or complete scarcity. Right now I am experiencing a period of relative abundance. Though maybe I could do with a little more floss.
This came up when I googled "Vintage Dental Floss" and I thought it was quite fabulous.

Simon Says
Locks and Keys
Why I am Like Jane Fonda

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Pen Pal

Hop scotch is making a comeback, and I have a new pen pal.

Writing to pen pals is better than writing in my journal. I am not so self-centred or whiney.

My new pen pal just started practicing Ashtanga Yoga. Before that, she was practicing a style of yoga that didn’t make her body sexy enough. Although she has only been doing Ashtanga for two weeks, she says that her butt has already began to disappear. She worries that soon her rear end will be completely flat. And her arms are so “stupidly weak” that chaturanga is impossible. Well, she is quite a hoot.

Me in Chaturanga, some time ago...
I miss Ashtanga. On Monday night, I skyped with Nobel, the Ashtanga blogger at Yoga in the Dragon’sDen. He wanted to hear about going to Mysore. We gabbed and gabbed about all the latest Ashtanga gossip, and I told him all about my trip. The exciting anticipation at the gate, Sharath’s gaze, the focus, the breathing, the sweat, the friends. It was such a wonderful and delightful time. And the Ashtanga sequence is so organized and beautiful. Nobel talked a bit about his practice and it made me miss jumpbacks and backbends. What a joy. I wished I could wake up the next day and just bust out the primary series. If only I could figure out my spine, my pelvis.

The next morning, instead of my usual geriatric routine, I did an incredibly slow version of serene and receptive Sun Salutations. Just the first kind, Surya Namaskar A. No pain. Perhaps that is my limit because yesterday, I tried Surya Namaskar B. Even with modifications, my hip got all clicky, as though it was jammed in the wrong place. As I have done so many times over the last few years, I pressed my hand against the outer edge of my left knee. The horrendous and upsetting noise erupted. Gross.
Kino in Surya Namaskar A
I just don’t think this will go so well when I’m eighty. Or thirty-two. Oh well. Surely the path doesn’t stop here. People go on and on about the importance of committing to one system, one form. Keep dabbling and you’ll dig a lot of holes, but you’ll never hit water. Maybe we just need to make our holes a little wider.

My pen pal wanted to hear all about my spiritual achievements from last week’s three-day stint at vipassana. Something relatively sincere came out of me:

“Well, I don't know about spiritual achievements. It sounds trite and cheesy, but I think that the best thing we can hope for is radical self-love and acceptance, flat ass, stupid chaturanga and all. These practices are hard. The perfect form is deep inside you. If this perfection remains forever deep, so be it. Lift the corners of your mouth, and try to have a nice time.”

My ex-ex boyfriend Simon who jumped off a building used to say: “Deep down we’re all good people. But very very deep. On the surface, Assholes.”

These days, I am not so filled with jokes. My heart feels heavy. But love is somewhere. One of my dearest friends has a very new baby. Earlier this week I figured out how to bounce and squat him to sleep. Then I lay on my friend’s bed and he slept on my chest for twenty minutes. When I got up, my face glowed and my heart felt warm. My friend said the baby can do this because his heart has never been broken.
There are a lot of broken hearts out there. Broken hearts, missing limbs, and airplanes.

There are also a lot of babies.

The End.

Baby Naptime Dream Adventures

Exuberant Bodhisattva on Facebook
Twitter: @mypelvicfloor

The Benefits of an Ashtanga Yoga Practice, Part Two
You Cling To Things Until They Die
My Last Practice Before Vipassana
Lying Down Club
Yours Til Ekam Inhales

Monday, 31 August 2015


On cumulus clouds:
They sometimes resemble a series of cotton balls, or a cauliflower.
Cumulus Clouds

On anti-depressants:
At the eating disorder program at the children’s hospital in Ottawa, the team wanted me to go back on Prozaac. I was strongly opposed to the idea. I felt it was unnatural, and cheating. But I was super down and although I had resumed healthy nutrition, my progress had sort of stagnated. I told the doctor that I didn’t want to go on anti-depressants unless the psychological surveys confirmed that indeed I was depressed.

“We don’t need the measures to prove you’re depressed,” said Dr. Feder. “I can see you are profoundly depressed. You’re only happy when you’re so busy you can barely tell where you are.”

I was seventeen years old and life seemed so long. Time is precious. Time flies. Everyone says this. Tempus fugit. Before you know it, you’ll be a grandmother dying of morphine. Imagine. I cannot. Me, the dying grandmother, counting all my limbs, wiggling my fingers and toes and laughing at how the massive and tedious hours were now over. And I’d survived all the hours, with no amputation or spinal cord injury.
On Counting Down:

Don’t tell the vipassana people, but I went to the Zen centre a couple times in June. One Saturday morning, a woman who had been to the intro session with me brought her seventeen year old daughter. For your first month at the Zen centre, you don’t have to sit for the whole hour and a half. You can leave after half an hour, or one hour. The woman and her daughter left after one hour.

On Sunday, June 28th, Simon’s 36th birthday, I brought daisies to the rooftop of Simon’s apartment building, where Simon had jumped off and killed himself. I walked home in the pouring rain. Just a few blocks away from Simon’s apartment, I ran into the woman from the zen centre. I had already walked all the way down the city and all the way up the 23 floors of Simon’s building in silence. Now I was in front of this woman's apartment on De Bullion Street. The silence and the ritual were over. Or at least changing. The woman told me that after their hour at the zen centre, she and her daughter had gone to a café, where they’d laughed with immense relief.

“We were both so happy when we heard the airplane fly over the zen centre. Finally, something else to think about,” she said. “We were so relieved to get out of there. I wonder, is that what death will be like? Deep relief that it’s all over. Like finally, we made it through?”
I wonder.

In the meantime, we get so busy we can’t even tell where we are.
I’ve counted down so many days of my life.

The summers when I was eighteen and nineteen, I worked at a camp for kids disabilities. The sessions were ten days. Just like at vipassana, you arrived on day zero, and left on day eleven. Just like at vipassana, I would count, Day One, Day Two, Day Three. Seven days left to go, six, five, four. If there were six days left, I would count how many days ago this was, and decide whether or not this seemed like a long time ago. Almost always, it seemed like a long time ago.
When I worked at the house for adults with disabilities, during my second year, I counted down from March to the end of July. How many days is that? A depressing number.

At vipassana, I would count down the hours. Twelve hours left in the day. Twelve hours ago, we were going to bed. It felt like forever ago. Oh God. But the Vipassana People don’t think there is a God. Oh shit.

Sixteen years old, with my friends Tamar and Caleb,
reading Amelia Bedelia, at another summer camp where the sessions were only 5 days.
Well, I don't look like I'm counting down. Must be the excellent book.
On Breaking Up:
When I was with the Boatman, every trip, I would count down the days until I got to see him again. No matter how wonderful the experience, I couldn’t wait. Last year at vipassana I remember crying in the woods and thinking nothing would be more beautiful than seeing him again.
I just got back from a short three-day stint at vipassana. Only three days, and of course I counted them down. It was Day Two that I realized how many of my days I’d counted down to seeing the Boatman. My body was filled with memories of Halifax and our relationship. By Day Three I felt panicked at the idea of going back to Montreal. I was counting down to nowhere, nothing, no one. Up until then, I hadn’t cried all that much or intensely. I had made immense progress on my delicate weeping skills, just letting the tears slide naturally down my face, not succumbing to hysteria.  I did not feel that this could last. I wished all the pain and loneliness would dissolve in one enormous emotional blow-out.

“It’s a long path,” the teacher told me in our interview. “There’s no quick fix.” Alas. She suggested to continue with the vipassana technique, scanning my body, observing the sensations and not engaging with my internal conversations and emotions. It worked okay. No quick fix. No ultimate cure. It’s a long path.
When it was all over, I turned on my I-phone. God bless I-phones. My friend Emily had sent a message that she needed me to feed her cat. I was happy about this because it made me feel like I was part of someone’s life.

Through much of the vipassana course, the song in my head was, “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” by Neutral Milk Hotel.

I think it will remain one of my favourites.
“When we meet on a cloud, I’ll be laughing out loud, I’ll be laughing with everyone I see. Can’t believe. How strange it is to be anyone at all.”

The End.

On Coherence: maybe next time. It’s nice to be blogging again.
The Spiritual Pants made an appearance at vipassana.
Exuberant Bodhisattva on Facebook
Twitter: @mypelvicfloor

What a Beautiful Face
Cardboard Box
The Part That Searches
In The Aeroplane Over the Sea:

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

The Closer I Am To Fine

While I was in Ontario helping her with her bunion, my mother gave me a small notebook I’d kept in 1999. I’d decorated the front cover with a yellow sun, outlined in red, blue and then a final line of yellow. On the back, I’d drawn a child-sized hand, red with disproportionate fingers, outlined in flowy lines of yellow, blue and red. It seems I was into primary colours. Inside the notebook were pages of graph paper.

 “June, 1999,” I’d written on the first page. I’d drawn five-pointed starts in each corner. All the words and the stars were in pencil.
“Erica Schmidt, I wrote in perfect cursive writing, with unenclosed smiley faces on either side. Then I quoted Jewel, from the song, Hands, still in perfect penmanship:

“If I could tell the world just one thing, it would be, that we’re all OK.”

The whole thing is amazingly embarrassing, but what the hell.
“I’m okay too,” wrote Erica in 1999. I was at the end of ninth grade, and thirteen years old.  Maybe I was on the verge of hating myself, as some thirteen year olds are.

“This is my feel better book.” More unenclosed smiley faces on either side. “My Sunshine Book.”
Squint and you might see.
In the Sunshine Book, in my perfect penmanship, I’d penciled stories and quotes from lofty and inspirational sources such as, “Chicken Soup from the Teenage Soul,” “Anne of Green Gables,” Dr. Seuss and “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café.” Back then there was no such thing as LOL, so whenever I found something amusing, I would write, “teeheehee” or “heeheehee” surrounded by countourless happy faces.  The teeheehess and heeheehees are everywhere.

In addition to a list called, "On Guys," there is a section of hilarious jokes, pick-up lines, and the playlist from a carefully selected mixed tape. “My Tape,” it was called, “Songs that were written for and about me” “My Tape” included hits from 1999 and before. The Googoo Dolls, Frosh, Sarah MacLachlan, The Dawson’s Creek soundtrack, Grease, and my Women and Songs CD. Next to each song I articulated some astute memories and/or insight.

Closer to Fine, by the Indigo Girls – "I love it. After all, the best thing anyone could do for me is to help me take my life less seriously. It’s only life after all. Contourless happy face."

Foolish Games-by Jewel- "happy face – I can’t say I’ve ever really had anyone who could have played these sorts of foolish games with me… oh well. Heeheehee."
I Don’t Want to Wait, by Paula Cole – (from the Dawson’s Creek soundtrack. Choosing between Dawson and Pacey paralleled my real-life crush choices. It was between the swim team hotties Alex Crampton and Michael Brown. I switched back and forth every year. In grade nine, I think I was back onto Alex. He looked more like Dawson. So maybe I was more a Dawson Girl.) – "reminds me of Dawson's Creek. (drawn heart.) Silly show but I love it, it’s great. Teeheehee. Plus, I guess maybe it should make me happier before my “life’s over” (hehe) and live in the present moment because it’s called a present for a reason (teehee)."
Dawson and Pacey, Such lookers
Angel, by Sarah MacLachlan-"this is the best song in the world and it’s gonna be played at my funeral or maybe at my wedding or maybe both – or maybe I’ll become an immortal old maid."

Whatever happens, please don’t play, “Angel” at my funeral. I’m not sure how I pictured it at my wedding. Well, becoming an immortal old maid is not a bad option. I was surprised that Alanis Morrisette didn’t make it on the list, but I suppose she was more grade six.

In grade eight, for public speaking, I wrote a speech called, “An Ode to Appearances.” The ode made it into the Sunshine Book. Probably I didn’t really know what an ode was. Seemingly cutting edge, the speech was about beautifying methods such as wrinkle cream, liposuction and plastic surgery.

“All around the world, women aren’t satisfied with their appearances. They feel that their noses are too big, their bottoms jiggle when they walk and their ears stick out too much.”
I wonder what my delivery was like. I remember people laughing quite a lot, and my grade eight teacher Mr. Dutton peering at me in shocked confusion. The speech is not all that well researched, but perhaps I talked so fast that nobody noticed. And I banked on shock value by using words such as “breast implant” “bottom lifters,” “jiggle,” “cellulite” and “padded brassieres.” For undereye puffiness, instead of some expensive procedure, I recommended hemorrhoid cream. I describe liposuction as “when they open your face, stick the tweezers in and pull out all the fat.” According to the ode, during a facelift they “stick the knife in and kind of rearrange things under there.” Pretty much the premise of the whole thing is that all the beautifying methods are too expensive. The speech came in second, behind Clare Banerd, who performed a charismatic and highly detailed discourse on jelly bellies.

My childhood heroine, Anne of Green Gables used to speak of something called “High Ideals of Earthly Bliss.” Likely the most simultaneously adorable and embarrassing section of the Sunshine Book is a list named after Anne’s ideals.
Some High Ideals of Earthly Bliss (heeheehee)

1.        Get flowers from a boy. (illustrated by stick figures of a boy and a gift, and a tulip.

2.       Get a teddy bear or stuffed animal from a boy. (teehee again) Countourless happy face, more stick figures, a teddy bear.

3.       To go on a picnic with a boy. (teeheehee) More stick figures! A picnic basket.

4.       To have (a) best friend(s) someone who I can have fun with and giggle with who knows me really really well and still loves me even if they don’t have to. Illustrated by two happy faces. These ones are outlined.

5.       To have a normal degree of photogenicness. (teehee)

Illustration: contourless happy face not Ugly happy face. (2015: I used to feel so self-conscious in photos and ended up look rather awkward if not terrible. I had almost forgotten about this ordeal. And now my phone is filled with a shameful amount of selfies. Teeheehee)
Very photogenic
6.       This one is surrounded by hearts: To know all the time that I am loved and to let others know all the time in little ways that they are loved by me.

7.       To love myself and not worry about what other people think.

For all the boys who were thinking of sending me flowers, or teddy bears, I'll leave you with these clever pick-up lines which conclude the Sunshine Book:
“Are you wearing Windex? I swear I can see you in my pants.”

“If I said you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?”

“They call me Milk because I do your body good.”

Teeheehee, teeheehee, teeheehee.
The End.
Hoping to conclude the blog's Semi-hiatus in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, feel free to send me your Internet Diagnosis of the Week.
Exuberant Bodhisattva on Facebook
Twitter: @mypelvicfloor

Yours Til Ekam Inhales
Life and Death are of Supreme Importance
Slow Dance (featuring some memories of 1999)

Saturday, 1 August 2015

The Lying Down Club

As I compose compelling skin care copy, the blog is supposed to be on hiatus. Despite this, I am inspired to write a response to Angela Jamison’s lovely and recent post called “Rest.” Among writers and bloggers, Angela is one of my favourites. Her masterfully selected words stick with you for a long time.

“Rest.” by Angela Jamison is the perfect complement to “How to Wake Up to Yoga,” and “How to Get Up for Yoga Again.”  (Forgive me if I sound like a bottle of re-hydrating anti-age serum. The syntax has permeated my cells.)
Angela Jamison
Ashtanga Yoga, Ann Arbor
Says Angela,

“Waking up, check. Around here, we like intensity, sharp focus, and fire. Life on the razor’s edge is sweet and clear. But if you only practice getting up strong, and do not practice going to bed soft, then imbalances can form in the nervous system over the long term. Some of the first indicators of lack of deep rest may be: fuzzy mind, emotional unavailability or reactivity, and susceptibility to illness. In this light, deep rest enables creativity, meaningful relationships, and vibrancy.

Conscious relaxation shows in a person’s bodily tissues, in the personality, and in how she relates with time and with the earth. It is the foundation of Jedi mind training.”

I’ve never had too much trouble waking up early. From the age of seven, the hands of my Mickey Mouse watch directed an extensive routine that involved walking the dog, practicing the violin and writing eloquent letters to my grandparents in Manitoba. These letters came out every single day. With my smelly Mr. Sketch markers, I lovingly decorated the envelopes. Over the years, the morning routine evolved and devolved to encompass grueling swim team workouts, and icy runs with ankle and wrist weights.  

As for sleeping, typically I am not terrible. Early into my Ashtanga days, I stopped consuming caffeine around noon, if not much earlier. Like clockwork, a chai at 12:30 results in mild reverberations extending past midnight. If someone needed a sleep coach, stopping caffeine at lunchtime would be my first piece of advice. Alcohol at any time, and Netflix past 8 p.m., these are also risky gambles. Maybe it is worth it sometimes, especially during family visits. You’ll have to figure this out for yourself.

Many Ashtangis go through a stage of being obsessed with food. Little to no dinner seems to be a trend, the ostensible key to a light and energized practice. I’ve tried this a few times, in Mysore and at Vipassana. Most often it ends with me sitting in the dark, quite hungry.  My body has pretty clear needs, and pretty clear signals. This, I have come to appreciate. Keeps the Divorce Diet in check. The Vipassana People eventually took pity on me. By Day 3, they permitted evening peanut butter sandwiches. By Day 7, they granted me a dinner tray with my name on it, plus after hours fridge access. Everyone is different.

Let’s talk about imbalances in the nervous system. During my seven and a half years of unfailingly waking up for yoga, utter exhaustion definitely came up. In January of 2013, I started a job speaking French to (mostly) three, four and five year olds at a Montessori School. It entailed that I rush out of the house to catch the bus at 7:30 a.m. One hour commute, followed by 8 to 9 hours uttering futile sentences to erratic tiny humans. Before embarking on this high-intensity process, I considered it essential that I crank myself through second series, which meant waking up at 4 or 4:30 a.m. It never occurred to me that maybe I could take it down a notch, in the service of early childhood education. Oh no. Didn’t want to “lose” my practice. Within three months, my coping skills had deteriorated to verge on clinical insanity. My body developed an awkward series of involuntary twitches, replicating a bus driver in anticipation of a head-on collision. My mind became flooded with traumatic memories from the eighth grade. Each night I would wail to the Boatman about some traumatic 12-year-old injustice. Particularly raw was the time everyone on the swim team was invited to Kayla Clark’s fourteenth birthday party. Everyone except for me. After five months at the Montessori School, the left bottom half of my body went out of commission. I cut my practice down to fifteen minutes. The twitches and traumatic memories dwindled almost immediately.

Rest is important. I often wonder to what extent hauling dogged ass at non-negotiable hours in the morning has impeded my long-term healing. So many of my Ashtanga years were spent in a state of mild to severe emotional catastrophe, not to mention unambiguous joint pain. To the emotional catastrophe, my fellow practitioners and various teachers would reply, “Oh, the practice is bringing stuff up. You’re getting into the good stuff. It’s working.” They made it sound as though clarity and peace were just around the corner. Although it was pleasant to believe that my suffering stemmed from an important and profound spiritual cause, I now believe that a component of my spiritually “good stuff” was nothing but simple, inconsolable fatigue.

An essential, and often neglected ingredient: Take Rest Posture. Lying Down Club. Sharath insists that it isn’t savasana. Call it what you like, it has never been my specialty. Too hungry, too horny, too caffeinated, whatever the reason, my lying down efforts joined the miserably pathetic four years ago when I moved to Halifax. Ten seconds, ten breaths. I became terrified of lying down. Sometimes a song would help, as long as pressing play didn’t coincide with examining the interwebs and all that Wifi and cellular data had to offer.

Mr. Iyengar recommended that for every 30 minutes of asana, the yoga practitioner should take five minutes of rest. In Mysore, after approximately thirty seconds, Sharath would send us on our way. “Thank you very much. Take rest at home.”  The committed amongst us wouldn’t stop for a coconut. The rest of us would, and maybe that was that.  

Lie down, take rest. Practice dying. Such a difficult posture. Most of the other asanas, I’ve traded in for this. Give the earth your cells. I got this phrase from a contact improv teacher in Halifax. I went to her class the day I decided to leave. In the end, you can’t keep anything.

I lie down to practice dying, and give my cells to the earth. It feels like everything’s unravelling.

Here are some things I think about when I’m trying to relax:

-Metta: "May all be safe, may all be happy, may all be healthy, may all live with ease."

Funnily enough, I learned this from an elephant journal article. While you’re thinking it, you can pay attention to how your heart feels. I used to do this in front of the yoga shala in Mysore, as I waited for the gates to open.

-Another phrase:

"I’m sorry, I forgive you, I love you, I thank you."

I learned this from Simon, my ex-ex-boyfriend who jumped off a building in January. Simon said that you’re supposed to repeat this phrase, both to your ego, and to the world.  The practice cured Simon in three and a half days. It will take me longer than this.

-The Buddha’s last words to Ananda, who served by the Buddha’s side for fifty years or more. As the Buddha lay dying, he said this to Ananda. It makes me wish my name was Ananda:

“Ananda,” said the Buddha,
“Everything breaks down.
Tread the path with care.
Nothing is certain.
Trust yourself.”

Big love to Angela Jamison. Deep rest for all.

The End.

By Angela at AY:A2

How to Wake Up for Yoga
How to Get Up for Yoga Again

Baby Jedi

Exuberant Bodhisattva on Facebook
Twitter: @mypelvicfloor

Not Enough Time
The Benefits of an Ashtanga Yoga Practice, Part Two
Brand New Mysore Clubs
I read "Choose Yourself" by James Altucher and my oxytocin levels increased immediately.
Yours Til Ekam Inhales