Our Move Is On!

Greetings one and all –

You know, the thing about writing a regular blog, is that you don’t always want to write a regular blog. Any habit, I guess, is subject to our whims, emotions, and erstwhile distractions, and any habit worth keeping requires that we overcome those obstacles. Fun, huh?

Anyway, here we are; our move is upon us.

I can’t say that it came on us fast, but the fact that half our belongings will sit in a Texas warehouse without A/C certainly did. So, we’ve gone from planning to stash a large number of things in storage while we’re abroad, to selectively separating the safe from the spoil-able. At least, what we hope will be safe from the spoil-able: all of a sudden, my wine supply and our paintings are joining us on our Asian excursion – glad the government’s accommodating there. I’ve had skunked wine before; I don’t remotely recommend it. Melted paintings though? Might breed a modern masterpiece! We don’t want to risk that though. I guess I’m getting more conservative with age – or I’m not 23 and light of possessions anymore.

I spent Thursday working while Loc managed the move. I’ve been drafting a persuasive speech for Toastmasters, and I’m arguing for a more mobile lifestyle than the average sedentary style… on the floor. I’ve been sitting on an exercise ball or kneeling in myriad different ways at work since November; it’s finally catching on with my peers. One coworker has recently assumed a similar setup, though he has yet to buy in on the ball, and several of my coworkers are intrigued – I love watching how little cultural shifts ripple through a group. I learned about the sit-to-rise test, which asserts that one’s life expectancy is directly correlated to one’s relationship to the floor, at least the ease with which one can get down to and up from it. My coworkers spent a few minutes trying to figure it out themselves – some of us have work to do. The cool thing, though, is that any informed work you do will reap real benefits – just stick to it!

But for real, if you’re reading this standing or in a chair, do yourself a favor and sit on the floor. You can squat if you like too – your body’s best position is its next one. So, sit on the floor and move often. Look at this awesome graphic of non-chair/couch sitting options! Isn’t it amazing? 

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Are you on the floor? Try it for a bit. Build on it tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day, and so on. Build a new habit. Move more. Mix it up. For more, check out this link, then keep learning. I love Katy Bowman – she’s amazing. 

Good? Good.

Moving comes with the offloading of personal projects too. My new coworker grew up in Asia and is equally taken by the floor thing. But she’s also a fledgling container gardener, and an aspiring organic one too! She mentioned an interest in worm composting and container gardening the other day. In doing so, she solved one of my last logistical problems: she’ll take my worm bin!  It’s funny, she’s following the exact same path I set out on last January, and she’s as excited as I was. She’s also inspired me to go back to Homestead Heritage, an agrarian society with 19th century aspirations outside of Waco  – yes, that Waco. It’s a gorgeous place.

I’ve part and parceled my plants out to my peeps too – most of those are at work now, and most of them have been claimed. I imagine I won’t have any difficulty parsing out the rest of them either. Equally cool, my coworker wants to buy my car! So, we’ll sell mine and send Loc’s forward. If I can do it, I fully intend to go car-free in Korea. I trust that, with the public transportation, I can do it. Climate change is real, and if I can further reduce my footprint, I will. That, and I enjoy a good challenge – immersive language learning  is an exceptionally fun one.

It’s Saturday as I write, and my friends and I are currently cabin camping up in Oklahoma. We were going to go real camping, but the forecast this Wednesday showed a heavy wall of rain passing right over us, so we opted for plan B and divvied up responsibility. Plan B’s been good – it did indeed rain fiercely on Saturday, so much so that our power went out – that kicked my planning brain into hyperdrive. I have crème brûlées in the fridge, bread proofing on the counter, no electricity, and an increasingly warm house! I also have a grill, a few coolers and a substantial temperature differential. So, I’ve got an open door for air conditioning, my dough in a cooler with ice packs to keep it in check, and my Dutch oven heating up on that grill. Never done it before, but there’s a first time for everything.

The power has since come back on, but all systems are go – I’m running with it. Why not?

That, and life’s all about adaptation. It’s not the strongest nor the fittest, but those most adaptable to change who thrive.

Stay nimble, my friends.

Happy Sunday,

James

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Yoga, My Body, and Me

I’ve had a few exciting awakenings this past week. Seems I’ve bumbled my way into doing things I thought I’d never do again. Case and point: my left knee.

My narrative’s always been that I have a bum left knee. My right knee is as healthy as can be; it’s never given me pain (beyond that which I inflict myself), and it’s been resiliently sturdy under much physical abuse. Testament to its fitness is my ability to do an unassisted pistol squat – a controlled descent and ascent, on one leg. My right leg: it’s always just been there.

The left knee’s a different story. Maybe my posture’s been wrong for years and that’s been fueling the issue. Maybe the arthritis that runs through my family’s genes is manifesting itself early. Maybe it’s the duck step the Army instilled over years. Maybe it’s my love of running and aversion to gyms. By any rate, I’ve only ever been able to pistol squat with my left leg once in my life, and that was when I was in peak marathon form a few years ago. Otherwise, my best effort is a 30-degree bend in the knee before it lacks the stability to continue further – I need a wall to carry on, and it’s painfully unstable. But lately, I’ve focused holistically, and that knee’s part of the package.

Last fall, I undertook an education in yoga. Yoga has exploded in popularity in the past twenty years, making it ever more accessible to the average person – and ever more desirable to a Lululemon-wearing subset of American society. I’m not part of that subset – I wear rainbow Ranger panties. I also practice at home. I like the Jeffersonian notion that the body is more than just vessel for the head; I find myself in a smaller subset of the yoga community – less flashy, more hard work-y. Dorky hard work-y: I exercise my toes.

Anyway, I took a teacher course that stressed self inquiry and self exploration – try setting a timer for five minutes and moving as your body compels you. If I were to do that now… well, I did, and I ended up reclined from a kneeling position, sensation singing in my quads – supta virasana, in Sanskrit. My program introduced me to a few teachers that I’ve continued to study, and I find myself immersed in the pursuit of stability and mobility under their tutelage. If you’d like to investigate yourself, they’re Bernie Clark, Katie Bowman, Josh Kramer, and Justin Wolfer.

My mornings are yang; dynamic high-intensity repetitions followed by static long holds to muscle exhaustion – a technique I learned from Josh Kramer. This fuels muscle strength and tone, which in turn augments stability. Try standing on one leg and balancing. Raise your arms over your head. Now close your eyes. That’s a measure of stability.

Now, in order to do that successfully, you’ll probably have to do it a few times, probably near a wall, and and probably over time. But you can do it! Keep at it! Do it while watching TV! While standing around your kitchen! A slow minute at work! In line at the grocery store!

I’ve also been learning about neural pathways – the body is built for maximum efficiency, such that what we do becomes easier with practice, and what we don’t do, seems impossible. I’ve used this logic to work my way into a full Asian squat, heels down, and I’ve also used it to float up into an arm balance. One is more readily useful than the other, but I’ve mapped them in my brain such that I can do them reliably on command – it’s pretty handy.

You could also use this tool to, say, learn to brush your teeth with your opposite hand. Your dominant hand has a neural map of your mouth; your non-dominant hand does not – unless you’ve deliberately developed it. This neural mapping is how amputees have learn to write with their toes. The human body is amazing, and for most of us, underutilized. I prefer to emphasize the ‘amazing’ bit.

Mobility training just reinforces this. Per Justin Wolfer, mobility is the strength and neurological control within your full range of motion. My right knee is entirely mobile – if I want to squat at, say, a 100 degree angle, I can. My left knee, historically, is hardly independently mobile – I can do 30 degrees and 180 degrees, but naught in between those extremes, and not without discomfort. Yoga taught me how to pay attention to my body, but Katie Bowman really drove it home: her book Move Your DNAis hugely transformational – I’m passing it around my office now. Because of it, I sit on the floor, cross-legged, straight-legged, or kneeling on my heels, and I’ve addressed my duck-stepped alignment issues – try standing with the outsides of your feet parallel. Return to it every time you find yourself standing around. Try walking that way – keep at it. 

Bernie Clark’s guiding question is ‘what stops me?’ He’s a trailblazer in his own rite – he’s taught me Yin, in which one ‘marinates’ in a pose to gain neurological access, and he’s got two beautiful books on anatomy – Your Body, Your Yogaand Your Spine, Your Yoga. I don’t actively teach yoga now, but when I do, my teaching will be heavily influenced by him. I love how he applies science to a practice rife with mysticism and rather unfounded health assertions. 

Anyway, my knees. I’ve been doing workouts led by Josh Kramer on the Alo Moves app – paid subscription; I really like it –  and he deliberately addresses legs. Turns out one can do leg day, even in the context of a yoga class. The first time I tried to do skandasana –  a squat in which one leg extends to the side, toes to the sky, while the other leg squats, bearing the weight of the body – I found it inaccessible when my left leg bore the weight. But over weeks, I kept at it, two half-hour leg workouts a week, and before too long, I had it. Neural mapping and a bit of hard work – amazing.

And because I can do skandasana, I can now do a left-legged pistol squat. Because I have the strength and stability to do that pistol squat, I no longer feel weakness and instability (read: pain) in my left knee. Whoah! Having been accustomed to a low-level pain there for so long, it’s amazing to me that it’s gone, and without treatment or medication. For me, it’s not about the pose; it’s about whole-body health. And because I addressed what ails me, I’m that much healthier. I’m not letting that ailment return, not again.

What stops you? Is it muscle on muscle, muscle on bone, bone on bone, or just your mind against what you know to be necessary? Knowledge applied with discipline and persistence yields results. Some things are beyond our grasp – I’ll never be able to, say, lick my elbow. But healthy joints? That’s something almost all of us can achieve.

Healthcare starts at home. Knowledge matters, and knowledge is at your fingertips. I’m no expert, but I can likely point you the right way – and I’m here to help.

Happy Mother’s Day! I’m grateful to my mom for supporting rather than seeking to shape my interests. Confidence comes from such a foundation.

Namaste, y’all!

James

Teacher Me (About Time!)

Greetings gentle people,

All the dominos are falling into place. It’s wild, and it’s happening quickly.

I’ve had my heart set on teaching in Korea since we floated the idea of moving there last year – I feel it’s the best means of self-actualization I’ll find out there, and it gives me a chance to dip my toes in the water before I actually commit to a teaching career, which I’ve aspired to since I realized how deeply my high school teachers impacted me, way back when. (It also means I won’t have to work on post, but let’s stay positive in our reasoning, eh?)

Anyway, I was poking around on an ESL teacher blog the other week when I saw a link that caught my eye – apply today! I clicked on it, followed prompts, hastily updated my resume, uploaded said resume, and clicked ‘submit.’ The next day, I got a phone call to schedule an interview, which I had to return because I don’t answer my phone no more – darned robocallers. She was gracious in reply though, and I interviewed the following day. It was surprisingly easy – my interviewer even skipped the mini-lesson she’d had me prepare! But I learned a lot about Korean video game culture in my studies – that’ll come in handy. Google ‘PC Bang.’ Or the Korean ‘Cinderella Law.’ Crazy, huh?

Things have flown since then. This recruiter keeps me on a tight schedule, and that’s actually pretty awesome. It winnows the ill-committed, anyway – and I feel everything I’m going through is a test of commitment. I spent last weekend building an application packet to submit this past Monday – that’s that video that I posted to Facebook last Sunday. I submitted it and was told to wait 2-3 days for a response. I adjusted my expectations accordingly. The response came the next day – an offer. Under-promise, over-deliver – a sales tactic. Smart!

I signed a contract of sorts this past Wednesday, and that unleashed a quest – I’m now systematically destroying any chance I had at evading international law enforcement. Fingerprints, FBI background checks – the most entertaining thing is my diploma. A West Point diploma is huge, but they want (a copy of) that too. So, I’ll take it to a print shop, get it scanned and shrunk down, take both to a notary, then get the photocopy apostilled. I have to get a lot of things apostilled. Or should I say apo$tilled – that is not a cheap service!

Fortunately, my handler has given me adequate time to proactively pursue my quest, and I’ve got a public notary in-house at work. Two of them, actually. Just yesterday, I got fingerprinted at a drug test shop (as have 30 other aspirants, I was told). That feeds into the FBI background check; it’ll be notarized, and apostilled too. Apo$tilled, I mean – they’re chipping away at my donut fund! (N.B. I did purchase opera tickets on a whim last night – Verdi. Falstaff. I walked there. It was wonderful.)

…but I’ll gladly pay that price for a chance to immerse myself in Korean culture. I didn’t get to do that in Germany, save weekends, but I got just enough to love that country. My Deutsch ist Scheisse! My Korean is coming along quite nicely though – I can now express want, and I’m working towards conjugations. Intelligible by August!

We’re packing out of our house this month, and soon. I’ve been doing Kondo-lite, sorting through my items by type rather than room or whatever, and without the boot camp feel. I did books, papers, plants and seeds on Thursday, and Saturday was ‘scrub my flower pots’ day. We’re putting half of our stuff in a storage pod in the states while we’re abroad, going light- that means no flower pots. Or maybe just two. I have a lot of flower pots. 

Ooh – get this – the government will store our wine! We were afraid we’d have to have a really, really big block party. Now, we’ll just have a big party – we talked it up for a while, thinking we’d lose it all. We can still have fun. I hope our wine storage is temperature controlled – it would be sweet to age it without temptation. 

That about sums up major movements around here. 

Oh – I did put an armload of books in the little free library around the corner the other night. Somebody had left their entire collection of John Irving books there; I added my collection to hers and took one for my own perusal: The Cider House Rules. I grew up hearing about the movie (1999), so I figured I’ll read it. My exchange felt like a communion, though I know not with whom. How radical it’s become, to sit quietly and read. 

Speaking of radicals, I’ve been somewhat taken of late by Nathaniel Drew, and through him, by Matthew D’Avella – YouTubers, both. I’ve picked up bullet journaling, sort of, and a habit tracker for real. Matthew D’Avella did an interview with an essentialist the other day – Gregor McKeown – that was quite compelling. As one who is prone to spreading oneself too many ways, I appreciate a dedication to fewer things; it’s certainly less stress. The habit tracker is an intriguing way to look at my personal prejudices. It’s also quite the aspirational document. I’m… tempering my aspirations. 

If you’re in the market for a good memoir, I recommend The Tender Bar, by J.R. Moehringer. I picked it up on a lark; I love it. I’ve rationed myself to one chapter a day, at bedtime, to prolong my enjoyment. It’s a masterful coming-of-age tale, and its language and story arc is rich and supremely satisfying. I wish I had such characters as he depicts in my own narrative! But it’s nice to admire another. If you enjoy storytelling, you’ll love J.R. Moehringer.

What book have you loved lately?

I can’t wait to start teaching!

Anyeonhigaseyo! (Bye!)

James