“… a warrior knows that he cannot change, and yet he makes it his business to try to change, even though he knows that he won’t be able to. That’s the only advantage a warrior has over the average man. The warrior is never disappointed when he fails to change.”
Carlos Castaneda

The Second Ring of Power

Attention to Reality

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And it is in the end only when our feelings are perfectly in touch with the reality of forces, that we begin to see the patterns which are capable of generating life.

That is what is hard – because so often people choose to put their own opinions forward, in place of reality.

… Yet it is hard to give up preconceptions of what things “ought to be,” and recognize things as they really are.

… Any preconception about the way things “ought to be” always interferes with your sense of reality, it prevents you from seeing what is actually going on – and this will always prevent you from making the environment alive. It will prevent you from inventing or discovering new patterns when you see them – and most of all – it will prevent you from using such patterns properly, to create a whole environment.

In this respect attention to reality gpes far beyond the realm of values.

Usually peoplep say that the choice of patterns depends on your opinions about what is important.

… When we try to resolve disagreements like this, we are led back to people’s fundamental goals, or values. But people do not agree about their values … the best you can say, according to this view, is that a certain pattern does or doesn’t help to satisfy a certain goal or value. Or that some “forces” are “good” and others “bad.”

But a pattern which is real makes no judgements about the legitimacy of the forces in the situation.

By seeming to be unethical, by making no judgement about individual opinions, or goals or values, the pattern rises to another level of morality.

Its result is to allow things to be alive – and this is a higher good than the victory of any one artificial system of values. The attempt to have a victory for a one-sided view of the world cannot work anyway, even for the people who seem to win their point of view. The forces which are ignored do not go away just because they are ignored. They lurk, frustrated, underground. Sooner or later they erupt in violence: and the system which seems to win is then exposed to far more catastrophic dangers.

The only way that a pattern can actually help to make s situation genuinely more alive is by recognizing all the forces which actually exist, and then finding a world in which these forces can slide past each other.

Then it becomes a piece of nature.

When we see the pattern of the ripples in a pond, we know that this pattern is simply in equilibrium with the forces which exist: without any mental interference which is clouding them.

And, when we succeed, finally in seeing so deep into a man-made pattern, that it is no longer clouded by opinion or by images, then we have discovered a piece of nature as valid, as eternal, as the ripples in the surface of a pond.

Christopher Alexander – A Timeless Way of Building
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… not quite adding!?

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Ryan Singer posted this on twitter:

“Adding” and “integration” are different operations: Adding: Bolt working wholes together w/ no problem solving. Integration: Solve lots of problems to connect parts together into a working whole. Complex problem? Orthogonalize into integration problems that can then be added.

source

I had to read it a couple of times to get it … and I did. But when I did I also realized that it left a tension in me (that in retrospect was related to why I had to read it more than once). The tension originated from a dissonance between:

  1. The “adding” being the healthier operation.
  2. The description of adding as “bolting holes together” which feels to me oddly mechanistic and ill-suited and that
  3. The description of “Integration” does speak to a “working whole”

**points 2 & 3 originate from what I understand to be Ryan’s relationship to the work of Christopher Alexander … a relationship that evokes in me a sense of kinship.

Alexander speaks of growth inspired by the way nature does it – from the inside it. An embryo is a common example: there are never parts that are added or integrated. The single cell is whole and by splitting becomes more whole (larger with a more refined internal structure) … over and over again. With that in mind I reflected on Ryan’s discernment between “adding” and “integrating”.

I imagined the software as a kind of living blob:

… and as it lives and interacts with the world it inhabits, ultimately seeds appear – a seed represents a potential need (eg: JTBD) … at first they may go unnoticed … a slight itch or hiccup in the flow of operation:

When it is noticed … what gradually becomes noticed is that something is missing … a void:

When that void becomes valuable enough and it is shaped … it expands … and even though not a single line of code has been written, the software as a being has “grown” to become a space.

When work is invested into it, it starts to become inhabited … not a void since there is a kind of ideological integration already in place … but not yet functioning as a part of the whole:

As the development cycle nears completion and most tasks are over the hump of the hill-chart … the new part starts to blend in:

Until finally (especially as time passes) you can hardly separate it from the whole:

The adding is from the inside-out and integration is ALWAYS present:

  1. The initial itch / hiccup seed is naturally integrated (it is born from the existing living software).
  2. The void is integrated in the sense that someone has recognized it WITHIN the whole software.
  3. The space that it becomes means that someone has seen how it can be made to be a living part (=integrated) of the whole software.
  4. If it is inhabited well it means that more people (now creating design/code…) are seeing how it can be made to be a living part of the whole (=integrated).
  5. As the new piece of software is completed the integration matures from the domain of idea to the domain of matter (as much as software can be matter).
  6. And when it fits into the whole, the new software as a separate thing is practically forgotten = deep integration.

I imagine that this pattern repeats itself in different scales. On a larger (zoomed out) scale the software itself was born this way when it started as a specific need within a living domain in the world … and can be viewed as inhabiting the world in this way:

And on a smaller scale (zooming it) the making of the new part of software is itself a living process of smaller parts going through similar pathways of maturity from ideological integration to manifested integration.

In this way integration is a systemic attribute … a quality … not an activity that you do explicitly.

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Consequences

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There is a special time, a special transition … when I complete the asana part of practice and transition to pranayama and sitting. Today, just as that time arrived the world outside exploded with the noise of barking dogs … many dogs … our dogs and others.

A neighbor came driving down the road from their house, past ours. The road is very muddy and slippery. A few days ago an excavator finished working here, burying a main water line. The work left the road and the area around it extra-muddy.

It is NOT a good time of the year to do this kind of excavation work. The transitions from fall-to-winter and winter-to-spring are notoriously muddy.

Then some rain arrived and made everything even muddier. The neighbor came down the road and to avoid the mud he veered to the right of the road, onto the edge where our property meets the road, where it is slightly less muddy. There he got entangled in some barbed wire that was lying on the ground.

Our dogs started barking at the “event” and their barking summoned the pack of dogs that escort the herd of sheep that graze next to our land.

The sheep should have been gone by now, but since it hasn’t snowed and the ground hasn’t frozen over, the owner of the herd prefers to keep them on the land (though the grazing area is almost completely shaved to the ground) which is apparently easier than keeping them enclosed and having to feed them.

It also happens that the dogs are going into heat. And a couple of the sheep-herd dogs are at it right across the street. Other sheep-herd dogs are gathered around the mating couple barking hysterically. Our dogs are barking hysterically at the other barking dogs (long after the entangled neighbor has disentangled and departed).

In Romanian villages most people don’t believe in or bother to castrate male dogs or to sterilize females. When approached with this idea they either laugh it off or are abhorred by it. They are not abhorred at drowning puppies or dumping them in a remote field.

A stray male dog we nicknamed Romeo is also hanging around. He got Tana pregnant last year and is a major contributing factor to us having four barking dogs (instead of two … that is a whole other separate “consequences” post). He is around because the females are in heat. But he is a single male facing a pack of dogs … and he is getting the shit kicked out of him … and he can’t help but coming back for more. All this raises the barking level even more.

Why is there barbed wire lying on the ground? Because I haven’t collected it! I haven’t collected it because it is a shit task low on my list of priorities and difficult to do on my own. But why is it there in the first place?

The sheep constantly move up and down the road, because they graze higher up in the valley but need to be moved down the valley to where there is water they can drink. When the herd was smaller the owner brought large water containers by tractor. I am guessing that was tedious work and that when his herd grew tedious became impractical.

Gotta grow! Why would someone bring sheep to a grazing area that doesn’t have water? Because all the other grazing areas are occupied with other herds and herd owners. Because sheep are a big business (made up of a many small businesses) in Romania and the growth imperative translates directly into systemic and destructive over-grazing.

Most of the time the herd owner hired shepherds of the “I don’t give a fuck” mindset. As the herd was passing up and down the road sheep would constantly “leak” all over our land. After YEARS of talking and trying to find understanding the herd owner, we agreed to put in a “fence” together. Basically he cut down some trees into posts and pounded them into the ground and I strung up two lines of … you guessed it … barbed wire to keep the sheep out.

The “fence” kind of worked … it helped the “I don’t give a fuck” shepherds to slightly better guide the herd along the road. Of course, shortly after we had the fence in place that they added goats to the herd. The goats easily and merrily jumped over the “fence”.

The improvised “fence” deteriorated over the few years it has been up until most of the barbed wire has fallen to the ground and got covered by grasses. Fortunately, this year the herd owner hired a much better shepherd … an older man with a family who whistles a lot more and drinks a lot less … who is able to herd the sheep with more precision and efficiency and respect for our wish to stay off our land. So the “fence” is currently redundant … and I (who didn’t want a fence in the first place) am left with the task of collecting a few hundred meters of barbed wire.

… unless of course next year a different shepherd will arrive … another member of the “I don’t give a fuck” clan … in which case I may want the barbed wire in place.

… and all I really want is a quiet practice space!

… from that quiet space I see choices and actions rippling out over time … realizing that such dynamics and forces are constantly at play (whether or not we are aware of them) and that there is no stopping this rippling and resonating … we can either align ourselves with such dynamics into relationships of growth and improvement … or we can get entangled with them in disruption and confusion …

The sheep and the disruptive patterns deeply embedded in their presence will leave soon and the valley will settle into a few months of peaceful quiet winter.

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EXTRA Ordinary (Deepest Insights)

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We have a habit of thinking that the deepest insights, the most mystical, and spiritual insights, are somehow less ordinary than most things – that they are extraordinary.

This is only the shallow refuge of the person who does not yet know what he is doing.

In fact, the opposite is true: the most mystical, most religious, most wonderful – these are not less ordinary than most things – they are more ordinary than most things.

It is because they are so ordinary, indeed, that they strike to the core.

… What makes them hard to find is … that they are so ordinary, so utterly basic in the ordinary breat and butter sense – that we never think of looking for them.

… You may wonder – if the rules are so simple to express – what is there that makes a builder great?

And indeed, there is an answer … it takes almost inhuman singleness of purpose to insist on them – not to let go of them.

Christopher Alexander – The Timeless Way of Building
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Palpable Organic Tension

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When I witnessed patterns that I felt “could be improved” I used to go right at the pattern and try “to make it better”. That approach didn’t seem to work very well for me. I now try to look beyond the surface pattern that caught my attention.

I have come to prefer a different approach. I try to identify underlying patterns that create the conditions for the larger pattern. I find that working at more basic patterns is more practical and more likely to have an effect on higher-order patterns.

Instead of struggling to pull weeds can I do something about the soil conditions that invite those weeds to grow? Instead of struggling to contort my body to a yoga posture can I do something about the breath that will invite change in my experience of and relationship with my body?

I find myself wondering what this would mean for groups of people trying to collaborate. How to strike a balance between giving energy to the “what” a group is trying to do and giving energy to “how” a group is – to fundamental patterns of communication and co-existence that give the group its underlying forms and processes? In most of my past experiences, the latter was neglected.

This excerpt from Christopher highlights how subtle underlying forces and patterns can shape our experience and how important it is to properly tend to them:

Part1: Forces Acting

“When you are in a living room for any length of time, two of the many forces acting on you are the following:

1. You have a tendency to go towards the light …

2. If you are in the room for any length of time, you probably want to sit down …

In a room which has at least one window taht is a “place” a window seat, a bay window, a window with a wide low windowsill … in this room you can give in to both forces: you can resolve the conflict for yourself.

In short, you can be comfortable.

If the windows are just holes in the wall … one force pulls me towards the window; but another force pulls me towards the natural “places” in the room … I am pushed and pulled by these two forces; there is nothing I can do to prevent the inner conflict they create in me.

The instinctive knowledge that a room is beautiful when it has a window place in it is thus not an aesthetic whim. It is an instinctive expression of the fact that a room without a window place is filled with actual, palpable organic tension; and that a room which has one lacks this tension and is, from a simple organic point of view, a better place to live.”

Christopher Alexander – The Timeless Way of Building

Part 2: Stress

“We constantly meet conflicts or problems, during the course of a day: and each time, the body goes into a state of “stress” to mobilize itself, to deal with the conflict, to resolve the conflict.

This effect is physiological … Under normal conditions, when we solve the difficulty, cope with the threat, resolve the conflict, the stress then disappears.

… But a pattern which prevents us from resolving our conflicting forces, leaves us almost perpetually in a state of tension.

… The build-up of stress, however minor, stays with is. We live in a state of heightened alertness, higher stress, more adrenalin, all the time.

This stress is no longer functional. It becomes a huge drain on the system … undermines us … cuts us down, reduces our ability to meet new challenges, reduces our capacity to live, and helps to make us dead … [the corresponding “good” patterns … help us to be alive, because they allow us to resolve our conflicts for ourselves]”

Christopher Alexander – The Timeless Way of Building

Part3: System

“… Consider the “architecture” of a system in which patterns co-exist. … each of them is relatively more alive, or more dead … relatively stable, and self-sustaining – or it is relatively stable and self-destroying.

Each of these “dead” patterns is incapable of containing its own forces and keeping them in balance. What happens then, is that these forces leak out, beyond the confines of the pattern where they occur, and start to infect other patterns.

… once the configuration is put out of balance, these forces remain in the system, unresolved, wild, out of balance, until in the end, the whole system must collapse.

… The individual configurations of ay one pattern requires other patterns to keep itself alive.

For instance, a Window Place, is stable, and alive, only of many other pattern which go with it, and are needed to support it, are alive themselves: for instance: Low Windowsill, to solve the problem of the view and the relation to the ground; Casement Window to … allow people to lean out and breathe the outside air; Small Panes to let the window generate a strong connection between the inside and the outside.

If these smaller patterns, which resolve smaller systems of forces in the window place, are missing from the window place itself, then the pattern doesn’t work.

… Now we begin to see what happens when the patterns in the world collaborate.”

Christopher Alexander – The Timeless Way of Building

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Yoga Practice – Prayer Withing Closing Ritual November 2019

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After translating the closing ritual to Hebrew I started using the Hebrew notation in practice (spoken silently in my heart). Doing so changed my sense of it. It transformed beyond a list and took on a narrative quality. The narrative quality invited a series of new transformations.

Before the Hebrew translation came into being, the transformations of the ritual were expanding it from the inside out. The Hebrew translation changed the nature of the transformations. Now they became more about changing the internal order into a sequence (and narrative) that felt more continuous and whole.

The structure of the ritual has remained unchanged. The “prayer” part of it is what has been unfolding. What follows is the updated “prayer” part. First the modified Hebrew version and then an accordingly modified English version.

אני מברך על החומר הגלום בעולם
אני מברך על הייקום העצום המתפרש לכל עבר
אני מברך על השמש, על חומה ועל אורה
אני מברך על האדמה שנושאת אותי ואשר ממנה אני עשוי
אני מברך על השמיים שנוצרו בין השמש לאדמה שעוטפים אותי ומעניקים נשימה
אני מברך על מרחב החיים שנוצר בין השמיים לאדמה בהם אני שותף

אני מברך על אמי נורית ועל אבי יעקב
אני מברך על אחותי רויטל ועל אחותי אורית
אני מברך על קודמינו, על קודמיהם ועל קודמי קודמיהם
אני מברך על קרובי דמינו, שהיו ושהינם
אני מברך על מקורבי לבי ועל שומרי נפשי
אני מברך על הנפש, מקור ההתבוננות הנצחית

אני מברך על התלמיד שבקרבי
אני מברך על המורה שבקרבתי, שהלך כברת דרך לפני
אני מברך על מורתי זיוה ועל מורי פול
אני מברך על דסיקצ’ר ואביו קרישנמצ’ריה
אני מברך על מוריהם ומורי מוריהם
אני מברך על התובנות שצלחו את הדורות

אני מברך על היוגה, על המחוברות השלמות והשייכות
אני מקדיש את שהתגלה לי למסעינו המשותף

Purusa & Prakrti

  • I dedicate a breath to prakrti – that which is eternally changing.
  • I dedicate a breath to the enormous cosmos reaching out in all directions.
  • I dedicate a breath to the sun and the light and warmth that it radiates
  • I dedicate a breath to the earth which carries me and of which I am made.
  • I dedicate a breath to the sky that form between earth and sun and that bring forth breath
  • I dedicate a breath to the space that forms between the sky and the earth which brings forth a life in which I partake.
  • I dedicate a breath to my mother.
  • I dedicate a breath to my father.
  • I dedicate a breath to the older of my two sisters.
  • I dedicate a breath to the younger of my two sisters.
  • I dedicate a breath to our ancestors.
  • I deiecate a breath to our ancestor’s ancestors.
  • I dedicare a breath to our past and present blood relatives
  • I dedicate a breath to kindred spirirts with whom I’ve shared a heart connection
  • I dedicate a breath to guardian angels who guide my spirit.
  • I dedicate a breath to purusa – that which eternally sees.

Student, Teacher, Teaching

  • I dedicate a breath to the student in me.
  • I dedicate a breath to the teacher near me who walks ahead of me on the path.
  • I dedicate a breath to my teacher Ziva.
  • I dedicate a breath to my teacher Paul.
  • I dedicate a breath to Paul’s teacher Desikachar.
  • I dedicate a breath to Desikachar’s teacher (and father) Krishnamacharya.
  • I dedicate a breath to all of their teachers.
  • I dedicate a breath to all their teacher’s teachers.
  • I dedicate a breath to the teachings that have traveled down through time
  • I dedicate a breath to Yoga – to connectedness, wholeness and belonging.
  • I dedicate that which has been revealed to me to our shared exploration.
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Wholehearted

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A man is alive when he is wholehearted, true to himself, true to his own inner forces, and able to act freely according to the nature of the situations he is in …

… it is a state of being in which all forces which arise in a man can find expression; he lives in balance among the forces which arise in him; he is unique as the patters of forces which arises is unique; he it at peace, since there are no disturbances created by underground forces which have no outlet, at one with himself and his surroundings.

This state cannot be reached merely by inner work.

There is a myth, sometimes widespread that a person need do only inner work, in order to be alive like this, that man is entirely responsible for his own problems; and that to cure himself, he need only change himself. This teachins has some value, since it is so easy for a man to imagine that his problems are caused by “others.” But it is a one-sided and mistaken view which also maintains the arrogance of the belief that the individual is self sufficient, and not dependent in any essential way on his surroundings.

The fact is, a person is so far formed by his surroundings, that his state of harmony depends entirely on his harmony with his surroundings.

Christopher Alexander – A Timeless Way of Building
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Space is Not Mute

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… Here right now was the space of my building, as plain and fresh as it would ever be.

And what it helped me to understand is that space is not mute, that it does speak to us, and hat we respond to it more directly, more viscerally, than all the cerebral, left brained talk about sgns and conventions would have us think … This is not to say that the experience wasn’t rich with meanings and layered with symbols; it was, but the meanings and dymbols were of a different order than the ones the architectural theorists talk about: no key was required to unlock their meaning.

Well, actually there is one key needed to unlock the experience of this room … I mean, of course, the human body, without which the experience of the room as I have described it would be meaningless …

… Contrary to the teachings of Euclidean geometry, we don’t really exist on an indifferent Cartesian grid, one where all spaces are alike and interchangeable, their coordinates given in the neutral terms of x, y, and z. Our bodies invest space with a very different set of coordinates, and these are no less real for being subjective. As Aristotle noted, up carries a vert different connotation than down, front than back, inside than outside, vertical than horizontal … something like verticality … is something given to us, not made. And it came into the world at the moment when our species first stood erect. Our bodies were making meaning out of the world long before our language had a chance to.

… To manhandle a post into place, to join it to a beam that holds up a roof, is just the kind of work to remind you that, no matter how much cultural baggage can be piled onto something like a column … it is at bottom different from a word in a language. Though perhaps a bit muffled by current architectural discourse, the architectural column still speaks to us of things as elemental as standing up, of withstanding gravity, and of the trees that supported the roots of our first homes on earth.

… Certain architectural configurations (or patterns, to use Christopher Alexander‘s term) survive simply because they have proven over time to be a good way to reconcile human needs, the laws of nature, the facts of the human body, and the materials at hand.

Michael Pollan – A Place of My Own
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Happens to the Heart

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What is it that dies and what lives on?

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Learning a Mantra

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A few weeks ago I decided to change the mantra I chant at the opening of my practice from its short-form version to its full version. Each verse in the full version is collapsed to a single line in the short version.

Because I was already established in the short version I had a familiarity with the underlying structure of the mantra and its narrative. When I looked at the full version I instantly noticed that there is a recurring pattern in it. I was tempted to approach it analytically: to intellectually figure out the structure and then efficiently commit the more concise pattern to memory instead of having to “memorize” the whole thing.

However something about this approach was turning me off. I did not want to make the experience of learning a mantra into an intellectual problem solving excercise. I also recognized two problems:

  1. Though I could see the structure clearly, I had difficulty describing the pattern intellectually.
  2. The last verse did not fit the pattern and looking at it with a pattern in mind creating a subtle friction … it, in relation to the pattern, was broken. I would have to remember how it is broken to memorize it as an exception from the pattern.

So I dropped this line of inquiry and decided to learn the mantra by chanting it … through repetition. For two weeks I chanted it with a paper in hand. All the time I could feel an internal dialogue:

  1. One voice pressing to figure it out sooner … so that I could commit it to memory and immerse myself in chanting with my eyes closed and hands on my heart space (instead of holding a paper with open eyes).
  2. Another voice offering softness and understanding to the intellectual voice and inviting me to “just keep chanting the mantra … trusting it will set roots”.

After two weeks I felt it held me and that I could set the paper down and chant from memory. I kept the paper next to me so I could turn to it if necessary … and I did, a couple of times, when I felt doubt and wanted to confirm my progress. After that it had me. I did not try to memorize it but it was there, available to me.

In retrospect, I believe the choice to take an experiential path instead of an intellectual path was valuable. I feel that it activated in me a different kind of learning. Though the intellectual craving has also been fulfilled, it happened indirectly. It left me wondering: Where did the resonance of sound go into my body? Where did learning and pattern recognition take place inside me? What did learning through reverberation do to me as a whole being?

I feel that learning this way allowed me to spend more time in an unknown dimension. I feel that an intellectual pursuit would have circumvented this immersion in the unknown. It was interesting to meet this potential in the context of chanting. A feeling of having traveled through unknown is familiar to me from asana practice. I can clearly observe changes in my physicality and breath, but I rarely (if ever) have an intellectual understanding of what has changed.

I find that these possibilities to practice being in unknown are a valuable opportunities on the mat that serve me well off the mat. It is like a muscle that develops allowing me to recognize and more gracefully inhabit not knowing in life.

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Richard Feynman on How Computers Work

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A beautiful explanation of how computers work for non-technical people that can be as useful today as it was almost 35 years ago. As the talk unfolded and approached the subject of intelligence in computers I began to wonder how his ideas have held up in light of AI … and (spoiler alert) damn did he hit the nail on the head:

“I think we are getting close to intelligent machines but they are showing the necessary weaknesses of intelligence.”

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Daniel Schmachtenberger on Sensemaking

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How do you make sense in a messy, noisy and misleading information ecology?

Watching this made me feel both:

  1. A sense of belonging that comes from experiencing a deep and thoughtful shared interest.
  2. A sense of lostness … this feels like (yet another) deep insight that doesn’t really matter … because … who is going to take this to heart and change something about their sensemaking and information ecology?

I also felt disappointment with the title. I do not feel that there is a war on sensemaking. I feel that framing is tainted and narrow. I think we may be getting a taste of deeper forms of sensemaking that we’ve never really had and that they are emerging because of the unprecedented challenges of sense-making that we are facing.

I appreciated Daniel’s attempt to provide a constructive “to do” at the end of the conversation. I also appreciated the idea of investing in synthesis … but that is where some of the lostness came in:

  1. I think there are very few people who have the awareness, skill, and conditions to be able to hold the kind of conversation Daniel is describing.
  2. I think that there are many (if not most situations) in which there isn’t a real possibility for synthesis. What kind of synthesis is there to create with a flat-earther (assuming there is a flat-earther with the ability and earnestness to have such a conversation in the first place)? There is a part of me that wants to embrace the idea that every person carries some valuable signal … but I have doubts about the truth or merit of that assumption. I feel there are fields in which synthesis can be a valuable strategy and fields where it is an incorrect and unsuitable strategy. I feel that there are ideas that are obsolete and irrelevant; that there are ideas that need to be rejected and cannot (and should not) be synthesized; that the people that hold them are not available to synthesis … and that a best-case scenario is that these ideas will die together with the people who give them life.

BECAUSE I resonated so deeply with the presentation I also wondered if it has a dominant masculine flavor? I am not sure that the underlying assumption that things need to make sense (which appeals to me personally!) is complete or workable in the real world.

Ironically, shortly after watching this I also watched these three videos which together form a kind of debate. The first video making a claim. The second video attacking that claim, then reframing it by going deeper. The third video attempting to build a bridge. These are all mathematicians who are supposedly exemplars of rigorous thought and a healthy information ecology … and if they find sensemaking to be so challenging … what does that mean for the rest of us?

If like me, Daniel’s presentation left you wanting more you may want to listen to this follow-up conversation in which Daniel participates. The conversation feels to me dominated by Jordan Hall who strikes me as a good example of excessive-intellectualizing that seems to dominate the “meta-modern” conversation space … but that made Daniel’s rare contributions even sweeter:

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Leonard Cohen – The Goal

n

This morning as I stood at the end of my Yoga mat, hands on my heart, heading into practice … letting my mind roam where it will and eventually (hopefully) settle … it came to me again that I live in a world where there isn’t going to be another new Leonard Cohen album … a few hours later I found out that is not the case:

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Kumiko Unfolding – Part8: Jigs for Lamp Frames

n

I was content with the overall design of the small lamp. However, I felt that making the frame took way too much time and delicate manual work. The lamp frames were supposed to be a canvas for Kumiko patterns. I didn’t want to spend 80% of my time producing them. I wondered if, given the tools I have, there was a way to more efficiently make the lamp frame.

Having built two lamps (one large and one small) I had a clearer understanding of the tasks I needed to be done with the help of jigs. I also had specific dimensions that I wanted to work with. Having specific dimensions meant I could think about specific jig dimensions (jigs that are adjustable are much more complicated to create). I imagined a set of three jigs that I felt I could produce that together would make it easier for me to produce better lamp frames … and set out on a journey that took over a week to complete.

Jig1: Mortises

This entire jig is basically a substitute for a drill-press or Mortiser (tools I don’t have). It is intended to create a hole which will become the mortise (hole part of the joint) in a mortise and tenon joint:

By GreyCat – self-made SVG, loosely based on idea of work Image:Mortise_and_Tenon.png by Luigi Zanasi, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

The base of the jig is intended to hold a piece of the frame using a twisted clamping mechanism:

The top part is indexed using the pins in the base and is sized to hold a router (which I do have):

Then the piece to receive the mortise is inserted (and clamped) from one side and a second piece, inserted from the other side, acts as a stop – making it possible to easily repeat the mortise in multiple pieces:

The router is placed on and used as a drill:

A depth stop on the router allows me to go to the same depth repeatedly … and it produce decent results (clamping is not as tight as I would like it to be):

During this exploration Litsa selected her favorite place in the workshop – right under the end of the vise … apparently fresh shavings are the best:

Jig2: Tenons

The second jig is designed to make precise and repeatable tenons in batches (aiming for 8 pieces at a time). It too is made of a base with a stop and indexing pins:

… and a top which also holds the router but allows it to slide along the guides:

You can see the cut it makes after the first test rung:

Now when I add in the frame pieces, run the router, rotate … repeat 4 times:

I get this:

I can finely adjust the size of the tenon by adjusting the depth of cut on the router.

At this point you may be thinking “square peg – round hole” … and you would be right. My intention was to use a chisel to square the round holes. After trying that I created this small guide which I can clamp onto the piece and quickly make straight repeatable cuts:

… and to my surprise it worked well … however having put it to use I intend to try rounding the pegs instead of straightening the hole!

Jig 3: Rabbeting

The 3rd jig is for creating a rabbet (into which I will be able to set the kumiko panels more esthetically and reliably) – this replaces a router-table (which I don’t have) but utilizes the router (which I do have).

The base is again a surface with a stop (along which the router can run) and indexing pins (for aligning the top part):

The top part overlaps the stop by a few millimeters:

… and in between them sits the work-piece:

The part of the work-piece that extend beyond the top-plate will be routed off; the part underneath the top-plate will remain in-tact. I use another clamped sacrificial piece to keep the work-piece in place:

The router bit that runs along the edge of the top plate and routes off material to whatever depth the router is set to:

And in the case of the lamp frame I end with pieces that have this profile:

… with the ability to produce quick, fairly precise and repeatable results:

I also added stop-blocks to assist me in creating partial rabbets:

like these:

Kiwi, at the time a new arrival at Bhudeva, also found a comfortable niche in the workshop:

… and then it was time to see how it all comes together:

With great(er) ease and precision I was able to create two small lamp frames.

I was not so fortunate in making Kumiko strips to populate the lamps. I thought I had this part down but the bandsaw performance changed drastically … namely, it started drifting … unpredictably. Drifting is when pressures released from the wood during the cutting force the blade to one side and away from a straight line cut. This video explains drift and sheds some interesting light on using a bandsaw for resawing:

I’ve since learned that using the bandsaw is not as obvious as it seems and that the form and quality of the blade itself is very important. I’ve discovered a couple of technique-tips that partially mitigate some of the problems. It is likely that an average-at-best blade came with the saw and that it performed much better when it was new, but may have quickly lost some of its literal edge. After quite some hunting and waiting for a replacement, a new blade has arrived but I’ve been to busy with other construction works at Bhudeva to try it out.

I was able to extract (from my failed cutting attempts) just enough Kumiko strips to populate one of the lamps with a new pattern and so another small lamp is completed:

During this round I also placed more attention on the light-bulb holder. A simple thing that had required more refinement that I expected. It needed to:

  • Hold the E14 lamp holder I was able to find.
  • Be low enough in the lamp to fill it with light and avoid a dark spot at the bottom.
  • Be high enough so as not to stick out the bottom.
  • Be removable (in case the bulb needs to be changed).
  • Have a place for a wire to enter and connect to the holder leads.
  • Be closed off at the bottom to protect from any exposed wiring.

These were a lot of demands for something that seemed simple. I ended up with this shape:

It is hollowed out using a succession of drill sizes. Wire can enter the closed chamber from the bottom and the bulb holder sits snugly on top:

The small clipped corners make it possible to twist it in and out of two “rails” which are permanently attached to the base of the frame:

… and that’s as far as I have gotten!

When I have some time I will try the new bandsaw blade and see how it performs. Aside from that, I am left with the challenge of milling wood – converting the raw lumber into straight and dimensioned workpieces. This is a general need in the wood workshop (that I’ve avoided so far by only doing rough work) … but now it specifically pertains to both for the frame pieces and Kumiko strips … and there is no way around it.

It seems that milling will require move investment in machinery. There are numerous options – from cheap, to mid-priced but incomplete and through to expensive and complicated to execute (remember I still don’t have a flat floor in the workshop!). I’ve done most of the research and I am at another investment junction that I do not have the capacity to resolve for now.

So feeling both content that I got this far … and stuck!

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Kumiko Unfolding – Part 7: Small Lamp

n

After stumbling my way through a first lamp I realized that I wanted to continue exploring new patterns and that lamps can be a good canvas to hold the patterns as I make them while creating something beautiful and useful (I am not drawn to Kumiko patterns hanging on a wall as a decoration).

I had some leftover strips that were just enough to explore another pattern and so I started with that. The Kumiko strips were not uniformed enough (which is why they were leftovers) so the result was mediocre but it did allow me to experience the pattern (including planning marking/cutting sequences to bring ease and quality into making increasingly smaller pieces):

Creating Kumiko strips was becoming a pain-point. Cutting strips by hand is laborious and not particularly pleasant. As a result I started treating treating Kumiko strips as a precious and scrace resource. I would hesitate to cut into them and get nervous when one broke. This is not the experience I wanted to create for myself when I started this Kumiko journey.

So I paused. I deliberated for quite some time how to move past this point. I knew that machines could help, but this presented two challenges. An intellectual challenge: which machine(s) would best help with this task. An emotional challenge: am I prepared/willing to invest even more money in this venture (even basic machines are expensive by my standards of living). I took time to inquire into the intellectual question and used that time to allow for some emotional simmering and resolution.

I ended up getting a bandsaw. In a place like Romania even this can be an adventure. Just thinking back on it makes me feel exhausted and I am not inclined to write about it because I would probably just rant. Suffice to say that a bandsaw did eventually arrive:

Right around the same time we experimented with a new source of firewood. We ordered leftover strips of oak from a fabrication plant. This is what we got:

In the pile were pieces with enough material to create useful work pieces for the scale of work I am currently doing:

So a new workflow was born. Sticks with usable material were set aside next to the workshop:

There they are cut to length:

AND … thanks to the bandsaw … easily cut into roughly squared pieces:

… which are then stored for later use:

Now I had some oak (hard wood) to work with and I wanted to see if I can create a smaller lamp with it. I wanted to find a design/method for producing lamp frames that would create good results with correct effort. I had a specific design pattern in mind and it presented some challenges. So I set out to build one model lamp.

I also decided to rebuild the thicknessing jig with an aim for tighter tolerances. I decided to go for a version that is shorter (50cm instead of 80cm) and has no moving parts. It includes a base in which I can run the plane and spacers that can be stacked in the base to achieve different thicknesses. The result is better but I want to be able to get to even better precision:

Then I needed to decide on the size of the lamp. To do that I created two paper mockups to choose from:

I then set out to build the lamp frame using the recycled oak and revised thicknessing jig. In the picture is the first attempt at creating the (first step of) joinery the design called for … and the first time I ever attempted such joinery:

I got so involved in this phase of work that I forgot to take more pictures along the way.

I then revisited the pain point – making Kumiko strips. Again, using the bandsaw I was able to convert some rough-cut Linden and got a decent enough handful of Kumiko strips:

… I arrived at a frame (with a removable base for a lamp) finished with shellac (another first experiment) and Kumiko strips ready to become a lamp:

Then it was (finally!) time for some Kumiko work:

… and … it became a lamp:

… and lessons learned … and ideas about next steps.

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ברכה

n

אני מברך על התלמיד שבקרבי
אני מברך על המורה שהופיע בקרבתי, שהלך כבר דרך לפני
אני מברך על מורתי זיוה ועל מורי פול
אני מברך על דסיקצ’ר ואביו קרישנמצ’ריה
אני מברך על מוריהם ומורי מוריהם
אני מברך על התובנות שצלחו את הדורות

אני מברך על עולם החומר
אני מברך על אמי נורית ועל אבי יעקב
אני מברך על אחותי רויטל ועל אחותי אורית
אני מברך על קודמינו ועל קודמיהם
אני מברך על קרובי דמינו, שהיו ושהינם
אני מברך על מקורבי לבי ועל שומרי נפשי

אני מברך על הייקום העצום המתפרש לכל עבר
אני מברך על השמש, על חומה ועל אורה
אני מברך על האדמה שנושאת אותי
אני מברך על מרחב השמיים שנוצרו בין השמש לאדמה ושעוטפים אותי
אני מברך על מרחב החיים שבין השמיים לאדמה שבו גם אני שותף קיים

אני מברך על הנפש, מקור ההתבוננות הנצחית
אני מברך על היוגה, על המחוברות השלמות והשייכות
אני מקדיש את שהתגלה לי למסעינו המשותף

כש-” טקס” הסיום של תרגול היוגה התגלגל לעברית

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Sensitive & Rigorous

n

During my recent month of back pain a massage therapist came over to help / torture me. I decided to give him a chance, to accept the pain and to express it … I was vocal. At one point he suggested (though I don’t remember his exact words) that I am very sensitive, that I have low pain tolerance. It did not feel like a particularly useful observation at the time.

After a bit more time and reflection it still didn’t feel very useful. It reminded me of one of the recurring criticisms I used to hear during my career. It was suggested to me that I took things too personally. For a while, I accepted this criticism as wise, though I wasn’t able to act on it and to somehow take things “less personally”.

Over time I came to reject this criticism. I came to view “taking this personally” as a quality. To me, this feels like aother way of saying that I care. If I get involved and open myself up to something or someone, I do care, often deeply, sometimes more deeply than I myself am comfortable with. Sometimes I wish I could “care less”. Caring, in me, seems to be bundled with sensitivity. But alas, I seem to gravitate towards caring. It was true at work, and it seems to be true within my own body.

Being sensitive and caring seems to translate in me into rigorous action. Because I seem to care deeply about what I engaged with, I also tend to be serious and rigorous. I think deeply, deliberate spaciously and try to act correctly. In the past, this used to bring me face to face with another criticism: that I am stubborn and arrogant. When I reflected on this criticism, I usually rejected it (see!). I thought (and still think) that I was very rigorous and serious and as a result I may have come across as stubborn and arrogant. But I felt that being blamed as stubborn and arrogant was usually employed as a strategy to escape a demanding conversation. It felt to me like a poor strategy.

I have come to embrace both my sensitivity and rigor as valuable gifts.

In this interview with Leonard Cohen he makes an additional discerning association that resonated deeply with me:

“It just got to feel better after a while. I think what we call seriousness is sometimes confused with depression. So much of this popular cultural is devoted to pretending that nobody has any deep feelings, that nobody sweats, that nobody is in trouble, and the truth is that we are all in trouble, every single person is in trouble, with themselves, with their loved ones, with their troubles, with their work. I think it is a great privilege to be serious. I think it is a great gift to be serious sometimes. To be deeply serious about ourselves, our lives, our friends. That seriousness is often confused as depression. But to tell you the truth: I’ve often felt bad. I was depressed. I wasn’t just serious.”

Leonard Cohen

Inspiring to watch Leonard Cohen gracefully and graciously handle a bad interviewer over a long interview:

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It’s best not to name a relationship

n
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Straining my back

n

We had just completed the first two days of work of renovation of the summer kitchen. It was the morning after and the excavator arrived for a few tasks we bundled together. I had already done a few tasks to clear the way for the excavator and felt a bit of discomfort in my lower back. I then bent down to move a couple of roof tiles, a sudden pain gripped my back and I collapsed to the ground … squirming in pain, trying to catch my breath and find a physical position in which the pain would stop. That was 3.5 weeks ago.

I have experienced this kind of pain twice before. Since my spine and back are in great shape (thanks to Yoga practice) I was confident it wasn’t a structural problem. The pain seemed to originate in muscles and not in the spine itself. Iulia was not so convinced and immediately suggested we call an ambulance, I declined.

We sent the excavator away. Alin, Iulia’s friend, stuck around a bit longer to see if he could be of assistance. I felt that given enough time I’d be able to into the house on my own (walking or crawling …). So we sent Alin home too.

I found a “comfortable” position, but I was face down. Very gradually I explored movement and eventually found a way to lie down on my back. But not more then that. I found a bit more comfort by rolling into a slight indentation in the soil … only to find that I was trapped in it. On the other side, Litza and Una, the puppies, started digging a hole together … I refused to take the hint.

Iulia pointed out, rightfully, that this was the longest time I spent lying down on the ground. There were some clouds in the sky and a delicate potential of rain that made me a bit anxious. I wanted to get inside the house. After 4 hours, and twice peeing in a bottle (a first for me!) I came to realize that I wasn’t going to make it in the house on my own (Iulia tried dragging me, and that got me out of the ditch, but not much further).

That was when Iulia brought up the ambulance again. I still rejected it … but then realized (I had nothing but time to reflect as I was lying on my back staring at the cloudy sky) that two guys and a stretcher may be helpful in getting me inside. So I approved the ambulance call. Iulia called, after some time we saw the ambulance trying to navigate down to us through the fields … and failing. They turned around, I think they were able to connect with Iulia and then arrived using the road.

The paramedics were patient. They offered to take me to the hospital. One of them explained that I am entitled to 3 free days of hospitalization if I am brought in by an ambulance. I’m guessing this is because it is common that people do not have medical insurance. I do not have any medical insurance. But regardless, I did not want to go anywhere near a hospital.

We asked for help carrying me in and I braced myself for that transition. It was painful rolling on to the stretcher and being moved around. They were able to get me onto the bed … and I was delighted to discover that the stretcher could be pulled apart into two long halves and pulled out effortlessly and painlessly from under me. They took my blood pressure, offered to test my blood sugar level (I refused), and had me sign a paper that they were on the scene and that I declined to be taken to hospital. We were not charged anything for this assistance (for which I was very grateful).

Healing

I was stuck in bed for two days. I got used to peeing in a bottle. Fortunately by the time I needed to poop I was able to sit-up. One of the benefits of simple composting toilet is that it isn’t anchored to the ground. Iulia was able to move it to the bedroom and I was able to get myself on it. That was quite a relief.

Initially inhaling triggered pains so I wasn’t able to do much with breath. I was able to move gently, mostly on my back. When I regained access to breathing I found my full breathing capacity available to me. That caused a deep refinement in the physical movements I was able to do.

A week before this happened, Iulia had a session with a sacral-cranial therapist. Iulia inquired about her coming out to a treatment session at home but she was not available. She did refer us to another therapist who was available to come out.

By this time I was able to get up, move around, lie down (though going all the way down to the floor was a challenge). He spread out a large mat and had me lie down on it. He was able to precisely locate a specific strained muscle (I could tell by the pain). I was glad (mostly for Iulia) that he could confirm this was a muscle and not a structural issue. Though as the minutes passed I realized that this is not a sacral-cranial session. This is some kind of massage therapy … and it was torture.

After 20+ years of Yoga, I have come to deeply know and trust my breathing. If during practice, I THINK I can go no further but my BREATH is steady and collected, I KNOW I can go on. If I THINK I can do more, but there is effort in my BREATH, I KNOW I can not go further. I trust my breath more than I trust my own thinking. This massage so painful that it was taking my breath away … and that is not a strategy I can embrace. I did hold out for this one session, but refused (the therapist offered 2 or 3 more sessions) further “assistance”.

There was a slight improvement from this. Though I believe it was equal to one or two days of natural healing. I believe this intervention had a sudden effect on my apana and for the next couple of days my stomach felt like a mess and my appetite was disrupted.

At around 10 days into this adventure, I was feeling better. I was walking more and more, I was even able to slowly and caringly do light work (I am not used not comfortable staying in bed for so long). However I was not sleeping well due to an overall sense of agitation coupled with the need to physically shift my body (and the challenge of doing so).

We then planned a city day that included a session with the sacra-cranial therapist. I agreed to this, and was a bit curious about it, because I understand it to be an approach that, through gentle touch that signals the body, invites the body to discover its own path of healing. I trust this approach much more than interventions that heal or fix. The session was delicate and embracing. I felt that the therapist made a space to hold and care for me – numerous times during the session I felt cradled.

The rest of the day in the city was longer than planned and very tiring for me. By the time we made it home, I was tired and agitated. I was surprised, under these circumstances, to find good sleep (which I felt was related to the therapy). During the next few days, I also felt my apana settle (a typical pattern in my healing is that illness passes through my digestion and is finally eliminated from the body).

In the following days I was able to start building up an intentional morning practice that gradually developed every day. I found increased mobility, full breathing, regained confidence and got acquainted with rigidity that was left behind from the strain. I was even able to immerse myself in a couple of kumiko workshop sessions where I lost track of time.

Then things turned again … and things got worst. I found myself back in bed most of the time. I was still able to get up and walk around, but with more effort and attention. The nature of the pain changed in this iteration. Initially it was a very specific pain that was on the left side of my lower back. Now it is a wider symmetrical area (with more “glow” on the left side) that is slightly higher. I feel that it may be an area that tightened up during the initial weeks to compensate for the pain I was experiencing. Now that area is loosening up again … I believe that is the pain I was (still am) feeling (I cannot move in cakravakasana).

I am now recovering from that second dip. I still spend most of my day lying down. I continue to be guided by my breath.

Source

I believe that this injury is speaking from (and to) a core tension that exists in me (and has been building up over recent years). It is a tension between a vital life-force I feel is present in me alongside a diminishing desire to live.

I realize that in a western mindset it may not make sense that I say that my back is in great shape and that my life has been on pause for almost 4 weeks because of back pain. But that duality echoes what is inside me. I feel deeply established in well-being (spiritual and physical) and I also feel that it does not matter because I have not been able to find a place in this world. I feel like I am merely passing time, I am trying to pass my time well … but I also feel saturated … I’ve had enough.

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Yoga & Allergy 2019: Recovery … and crash

n

From the time I published my previous update I was pleased to find stability. Though the symptoms of allergy persisted, I found myself feeling stable. I was held softly in practice every day and I was grateful for that.

I used antihistamines over a period of only 2 or 3weeks. I had two types of medication to try (generic medication since I did not want to go through the medical processes of identifying my specific allergy). Both seemed to offer some ease and support (I took them first thing in the morning).

One of the medications came with side-effects of general heaviness (a lethargic feeling) and some head-aches. It provided me with a spacious opening in the first few hours of the day, but consumed the rest of it. It took me a few days to realize that the down-feelings may be related to the medication. I haven’t consumed medicine for at least 15 years so I am not used to it being present in my life, in my body or in my attention.

Once I realized that there were undesirable side-effects I transition to using the medication that had less side-effects. I also started to pay attention to see when I could withdraw the medication completely. I was surprised to find that I didn’t need the medication anymore.

I was also surprised when on June20th I experienced a sudden turning point. I felt an internal shift in energy. I felt invited to “rebuild”, to take small steps towards deeper breath and vitality in practice. I kept this log of changes that took place in the practice and its transition back to a more whole and intense state:

DateAsanaPranayama
June 20thTurning point
+ utkatasana x 4
+ 2 more breaths in mahamudra:
2x 12.2.12.2
2x 12.4.12.4
+ 1x 12.4.12.6
+ 1x 12.4.12.8
+ trying to add bhastrika at beginning of pactice … not steady yet
8.0.12.0 x 6 anuloma
8.0.12.4 x 6 anuloma
8.4.12.4 x 6 anuloma
8.4.12.8 x 6 anuloma
8.0.8.0 x 6 anuloma
4.0.4.0 x4 ujjayi
June 27th+ sound in parsva uttanasana
+ trikonasana sequence
+ increase step size + peak BK in pranayama
8.0.12.0 x 6 anulom
8.4.12.4 x 6 anuloma
8.4.12.8 x 6 anulom
8.0.8.0 x 6 anuloma
4.0.4.0 x4 ujjayi
July 1st+ utkatasana R4
July 4th+ separate sitting sequence (convert static stay into later separate mahamudra)
+ add seated twist (start with S4)
July 7th+ kapalabhati 2×30 at beginning of practice
July 9th+ extend mahamudra to 8 breaths
July 10th+ introduce backbends (basic symmetrical variations only)
July 13th – drop back-bends (added too early)
July 16th+ re-intoduce backbends
+ transition from anuloma to pratiloma
8.0.12.0 x 8 pratiloma
8.0.12.4 x 8 pratiloma
8.4.12.4 x 8 pratiloma
8.0.8.0 x 8 pratiloma
4.0.4.0 x4 ujjayi
July 19th+ exploration of longer BK in mahamudra: 8 seconds & 12 seconds8.0.12.0 x 8 pratiloma
8.4.12.4 x 8 pratiloma
8.4.12.8 x 8 pratiloma
8.0.8.0 x 8 pratiloma
4.0.4.0 x4 ujjayi
July 22nd– strained back … immobilized
August 1st+ on the mat with limited healing practice, full ujjayi breath capacity available (breath no longer cut of by pain).

As this log shows, a month after the “positive” turning point I strained my back. It seemed very severe when it happened (a lot more to say about this incident … maybe in another post). I was outside, I bent down to pick something up, a sharp pain hit me and took my breath away and I collapsed to the ground. I lay on the ground for 4 hours believing I would be able to get up and walk inside (my primary goal at the time) on my own. Eventually I succumbed to Iulia’s suggestion that we can an ambulance … and the paramedics came up and loaded me onto a stretcher and carried me inside to the bed.

I am now tending to my health within the context of this event. The healing seems to be well and rapid. My practice has shifted into a therapeutic context. I have most of my mobility back and am gradually testing for strength.

I have extended my graphing experiment to describe this period. What I thought was going to be a one-dip illustration has taken an unexpected and sudden second-dip.

The view over the years shows a positive change. As I was looking forward from mid-July it seemed I was on track to a full recovery (back to full practice) by the end of July. In past years the end of July would be the (earliest) time I would typically start a journey of recovery (from a lesser state of well-being) that would take at least a month.

The high resolution view of 2019 continues to show that breath was a steady and reliable quality throughout this period. Body and vitality took the deepest hit when I strained my back … more so than during the allergy period. Again, the come-back from the back strain seems (for now) to be quicker.

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