Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The (in)finite foot

My Goodness. I emerge from the wilderness (canoeing in the Boundary Waters in northern Minnesota), and the yoga b-sphere is alight with discussion. But, since I have little to say on John Friend, even less on Tantra, I'll leave that to those more knowledgeable (altho YogaDawg's comment on it's all about yoga has the wheels turning).

I was very taken with Brooks Hall and Bob Weisenberg's exchange on elephant journal. In fact, I've been thinking along those lines all week...lakes, loons, and pine trees will do that to a body. The infinite, the finite, what brings us back to center the most?

One discovery, this camping trip, is that I am no longer able to blissfully spend the night on the hard ground with just a thin thermarest under my body and a lumpy backpack under my head. Such stiffness in the morning! So everyday, I hobbled down to a gently sloping chunk of granite by the water and moved through a series of chest and shoulder openers and twists just to get the synovial fluids moving.

Bare feet on a warm rock, man, speaking of infinite joy. I just love doing yoga without a mat, in bare feet, in the great outdoors. I like to honor the sole of the foot as a sense organ, not just a mode of transportation. The sensations of temperature, texture, moisture, and shape under my feet contribute to the practice as much as quieting thoughts or stretching muscles. The uneven ground challenges the sense of balance (no headstands), as does the flowing water (Vrksasana was wobbly), but coming back to the base stilled each pose. And when that base is having its own heightened experience, the whole thing gets bumped to a new level.

Throw in a loon's
echoing call, campfire coffee (you could skip the mosquitoes), and there's my recent adventure...

[On another note--I was honored to be featured on The Magazine of Yoga's weekly Blog Fan Page, while I was off the grid. Such a thoughtful (and accurate) description of this blog...please take a look at other recommendations and enjoy Susan M.'s careful, researched descriptions.]

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sisters are doin' it...

Well, this sister did it. I finished my first outdoor triathlon this Sunday. It was an all-women's sprint (1/2 mile swim, 12 mile bike, 3 mile run), sponsored by TREK bikes, and it was phenomenal. Not so much my performance (I finished, so I was quite pleased with that), but this mass of super-strong, super-focused female energy. It was so inspiring to be a part of the whole thing.

You know where I'm going with this, don't you?

And, repeatedly, I thought to myself, why can't this be what the face (body) of womanhood looks like? Muscles,
hips, curves, tanned skin from spending time outside (not a machine), unfussy hairdos, smile lines, crinkly eyes, sandals you could run in. Guilt-free chocolate. All of us assembled in one place to challenge ourselves and our bodies...but happy about it, not hyper-competitive. You got the sense that people were proud of themselves, not feeling inadequate or ugly (well, except maybe for inner monologues during the run). A beautiful thing, to be sure.

Now, I usually prefer a mixed-gender group, but, for a first-timer, I appreciated the supportive environment...newbies, cancer survivors, sinewy veterans, but all chicks. While looking over the transition area, where 1683 bikes were parked with Elmo balloons and chalk greetings ("We're so proud of you, Mom!") marking peoples' spots, my friend observed, "I'll bet Ironman doesn't look like this." Sweet, a little silly.

For three or four hours, no one was worrying if they looked fat or old or boring. It was all about inner (and outer) strength; about being able to go deep inside and pull out the energy needed to finish. How refreshing. I wish it could be like that all the time, for everyone. All "you go, girl" messages, instead of "imagine what you would look like 20 lb.s lighter."

Wouldn't that be nice. I wish, I wish, I wish.

(P.S. If you're toying with the idea of a triathlon, can't recommend enough the site, Tri-Newbies Online for training suggestions, info, workouts, etc. It is a very sane, careful approach to training, with a lot of advice for first-timers. Yoga, of course, is a wonderful complement to it all, both physically and mentally.)

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Yo, Calliope!

Perhaps my most favorite thing to muse over is creativity. Just how do humans come up with their ideas? How do we keep generating new things to amuse, challenge, upset, inspire? The ancient Greeks (and, even more, Renaissance Italians) liked to personify the urge to create with a variety of female demi-goddesses. I guess it's easier to blame some willful divinity for your writer's block, than waiting around for your synapses to start firing.

My professional trajectory has been one that often intersects with one or another of the classical muses (altho these girl
s weren't really standardized and assigned specializations until Cesare Ripa's Iconologia in 1593); journalism (Calliope)-art history (Clio)-costume design (Melpolmene/Thalia)-and, in a way, back to journalism. It's been a mix of being creative and studying creativity and justifying creativity (to an actress whose ability to create is dependent on whether she thinks she looks fat or not).

The act of creation; some
times the urge and the ideas overwhelm in their volume, other times it's impossible to even get started. They say, it's a matter of the brain's ability to operate outside of usual patterns, often facilitated by letting the mind wander or doing something relaxing (like knitting or, ahem, doing yoga) to shift the task into an auxiliary system. Putting it on the back burner, if you will. But, it's funny how a deadline--decidedly not relaxing--can help accelerate the process. Sometimes the most brilliant work comes at the last moment (altho that's usually not the best strategy for something that requires careful proofreading). Adrenaline? Activated sympathetic nervous system?

However, like the ancient Greeks, to me it feels like some external presence/inspiration arrives after the usual pre-work puttering (facebook, putting away dishes, a round of shanghai). I get about an hour to an-hour-an-a-half of productivity and then, like a sputtering match, the words stop coming and my creativity flickers out. It's the same with writing or with drawing, whether being eloquent with words or proportional with a drawing of the human figure. Bye, bye, muse, and it gets all redundant and ugly. The steel doors come slamming shut. (I wonder what that sez about my brain's circuitry...limited and prone to blowing a fuse?)

Anyway, interesting to ponder. Any metaphors you'd like to add? How does the muse visit you?