Breath

I’m gobsmacked. I’ve spent a tremendous amount of time on breath work. In the last few days, something new clicked into place for me. Hopefully, this saves someone somewhere some time on the learning curve:

Ashtanga yoga is about breathing. You may also notice there is some movement involved in Ashtanga; Don’t be distracted by the movement! The movement is irrelevant if you haven’t discovered the importance of the breathing.

I’ve written a lot about my personal restorative practice. Breathing and relaxing into the things I do has been an important part of it for a loong time. I cherish my 15 years of study in a style of Aikido where breath is integral to the physicality. I spent a few years regularly practicing Tai chi, and later a few years with Yinn yoga. But Ashtanga yoga never clicked for me. Sure, it’s always a great workout. But I could never really get into it as a practice. I’d bet I’ve been in hundreds of situations where someone (random warmups, movement and martial artists of every stripe, and proper yoga instructors of countless flavors) has led what has aspired to be Ashtanga yoga. Without exception, it has always been a bashing struggle for me.

Because it’s about breathing. No two people are going to have the same breathing. Absolutely, I can imagine that at advanced physical and mental levels, people could synchronize their breathing and then they could do Ashtanga yoga in sync. But that’s not me. Not me at all.

To be really clear: I’m not bashing on Ashtanga — nonono. I’m freakin’ excited because now I feel like …scratch that! Now I can practice Ashtanga. I look forward to it! I’m looking forward to practicing it for a while, and then finding an instructor and taking a class to get help improving. Rather than my old, “please lead me through the sequence”, I’m looking forward to, “please help me improve my sequence”. Which I’m betting will be instruction on breath, and maybe some instruction on movements too.

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A quote I cannot find

I’m often pulling up quotes from my own collection. I use them for reminders and inspiration. Today, I had the thought that:

Dreams and passion get you into trouble;
Plans and hard work get you out.

I’m certain this is not a new sentiment. None the less, I couldn’t find it in my collection nor with a few minutes of searching. Does it sound familiar to you? …any idea where a more original source might be?

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It’s even better than that

I’ve a few readers who really enjoy the Marcus Aurelius quotes in my collection. A few initial Aurelius quotations I collected through my general reading online, before I eventually read Meditations (English translations thereof, to be fair) and pulled a bunch more quotes myself.

I’ve just spent a few hours cleaning up my Aurelius quotes. Mostly this was adding the section number from Meditations to my blog posts. It’s now easy to find the original material. Note that Wikisource has several versions of Meditations available online. But at the risk of sounding snobbish, I really like Gregory Hays’s translation which will go out of copyright (maybe) in 2102. I digress.

During my cleanup, I realized that one of my quotes, “Death smiles at us all. All a man can do is smile back.” is not something Aurelius wrote. It’s something the character Marcus Aurelius said in the Movie Gladiator. But it really sounds like him; It’s a great line of dialog for a movie.

It turns out that there are two spots in Meditations which echo the often misattributed quote. In the middle of section 2.17 he writes, “[…] it accepts death in a cheerful spirit, as nothing but the dissolution of the elements from which each living thing is composed.” which is the sentiment without the cinema flourish. It also doesn’t make perfect sense when you pull it out from its context.

Eventually, you reach the final line of section 12.36 and find, “So make your exit with grace — the same grace shown to you.” That’s literally the final line he wrote as a meditation to himself. Can you imagine that being the last line you wrote to yourself? And thus my title.

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Scale

Under one square metre of undisturbed ground in the Earth’s mid-latitudes there might live several hundred thousand small animals. Roughly 90% of the species to which they belong have yet to be named. One gram of this soil – less than a teaspoonful – contains around a kilometre of fungal filaments.

~ George Monbiot from, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/may/07/secret-world-beneath-our-feet-mind-blowing-key-to-planets-future

There’s mind–boggling complexity in the microscopic realm.

Here’s a quick zoom towards the macroscopic: If you imagine the Earth the size of a peppercorn, then the moon would be a pin-head about 2.5″ inches away. At this scale, the sun is an 8″ ball, sitting 14 yards from the peppercorn Earth. How far away, at this same scale, is the next closest star? It’s thousands of miles at this scale to the Centauri star system (a 4 year trip at the speed of light.) How far is it across our just-average-sized Milky Way galaxy? …and how many stars are here, with our cozy Sol? …and how far to the next galaxy? …how many galaxies? Frankly, I’m confident there’s other life—even other intelligent life—out there. But, will we ever meet each other across such vast gulfs of emptiness?

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Please be kind: Rewind

[We] didn’t discover his work in the theater, much less at Cannes. Rather, we found it at the video store, ideally one that devoted a section specifically to his work—or at least to his signature genre of “body horror,” which his films would in any case have dominated.

~ Colin Marshall from, https://www.openculture.com/2022/05/david-cronenberg-visits-a-video-store-talks-about-his-favorite-movies.html

Do you remember video stores? …I mean the individual stores, from before Blockbuster came along? Sections. You had to walk to the section in the store. New releases. Maybe there was a staple employee who knew every movie. Maybe you—like me—wondered if working there meant watching each movie before putting it out… what a job that would be!! Maybe there was a hand-written sign whose perennial message stands atop this missive. Maybe family movie nights? The lottery that was the occassional “doesn’t play” tape. “Tracking”—and then the magic of “Auto Tracking”. And all of that from two words: video store.

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You’re doing it wrong

That morning, my mind spun as I tried in vain to re-create the various perceptions and emotions that had been written into Google’s servers and were now abandoned to the ether. I felt a sudden sense of mourning that I still have not gotten over. And yet, to my surprise, I felt something else alongside it: a conflicting sense of relief and even levity. I would never have voluntarily deleted all of those emails, but I also can’t deny, not entirely, that there is something cathartic about sloughing off those thousands of accumulated disappointments and rebukes, those passionate and pathetic fights and dramas, even those insights and stirrings—all of those complicated yet ephemeral layers of former selves that no longer contain me. I began to accept that I would need to imagine my way back into those previous mental states if they were truly worth revisiting—and that if I could not, then the loss was necessarily manageable. I closed my laptop, wandered outside into the specific corner of France that my former selves’ cumulative choices had led me to inhabit, and was overtaken by a sense of hope.

~ Thomas Chatterton Williams from, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/11/deleted-emails-gmail-inbox-capacity/672244/

Disclosure: I quoted the entire last paragraph. Yes, that takes the zing out of the article—but I fear few of you, dear readers, will click through for something… this again, Craig?! …related to my opinions about email.

If you have folders (and sub-folders, and sub-sub-folders) of email, or especially if your Inbox is not empty: You are doing it wrong. Don’t save the email. Instead figure out why you feel the urge to save the email. Then fix that urge.

The real underlying problem is that systems thinking is not something everyone is accustomed to. And lest you fear that Wikipedia article, it’s really very helpful. Does this sound like something worth understanding?

Systems thinking is a way of making sense of the complexity of the world by looking at it in terms of wholes and relationships rather than by splitting it down into its parts. It has been used as a way of exploring and developing effective action in complex contexts.

~ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Systems_thinking

You’re saving that email because it has a photo attached. Saving this other email because it has the order confirmation for that thing you just ordered—should be fine, but every once in a while you need that email when the thing doesn’t show up, or you need to return it, or you can’t log into their online system. Saving this other email because it has the details for that thing we’re going to. And this email has a link to something your friend said to read. That email is a newsletter you really want to maybe read later some day maybe. And so on. I’m not saying it’s easy to imagine systems for all of that stuff— but it is possible. Pick one of those emails, and have an honest think about why you’re saving it.

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slip:4a123.

The balance

Ultimately, there was a part of me that wanted to express my physicality and I wasn’t ever going to be able to do that through the robotic, linear approach to fitness. I realized that only through circularity can one truly express themselves through movement.

~ Galo Narajo from, https://motusmade.substack.com/p/issue-48-circularity-and-interconnectivity

This is taken from Narajo’s Motus Made publication over on Substack. If you’re interested generally in movement, I recommend subscribing, and there’s also an episode of Movers Mindset, Philosophy – with Galo Alfredo Naranjo. This issue of Motus Made reminded me of a conversation I heard recently (a podcast episode, The Process with Dan Gaucher from Life’s Tee Time) where two golfers discussed the balance between mechanistic and holistic approaches to coaching and learning advanced golf. In the earliest days, sure, mechanistic is necessary, but beyond beginner levels, the holistic approach has to be addressed. The balance question (they were discussing) is whether you can go all-in on the holistic? …can you ever be advanced to a point where a mechanistic approach—as a learner, or as a coach—is definitely no longer useful. I’m not sure they reached a conclusion.

And so that discussion, and question, came to mind as I was reading Naranjo’s comments.

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Looking at new things

The third reason is that looking at new things, even if they’re just new streetcorners or deer trails, helps me recover a certain uncomplicated way of looking at things that used to be automatic when I was a kid.

~ David Cain from, https://www.raptitude.com/2022/05/how-to-get-the-magic-back/

Just as I read this, it occurred to me that a big part of the “magic” of my experience with Art du DĂ©placement (aka parkour) came from the effect that Cain is describing. I’ve always felt that when I decide to “just go out” and try to train, there was always some component of magic missing. By myself, it always felt simply as if I was slogging away at “exercise.” When I’m invited by others to join them, quite often somewhere I’ve not previously been, there’s a lot of “looking at new things” that happens automatically. Randonautica (click through to Cain’s article) is clearly one way to force that novelty upon oneself.

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125,248

With a core group of 12 researchers and 100 volunteers undertaking thousands of hours of work, the Ireichō was born: it is a massive book listing the names of the 125,284 Japanese Americans who were incarcerated during World War II. The book is currently on display at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles’s Little Tokyo.

~ Line Sidonie Talla Mafotsing from, https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/ireicho-japanese-american-internment-names

It happened, regardless where you stand on the United States’ treatment of persons of Japanese heritage. I honestly cannot recall if it was presented as part of my U.S. history in primary education. If it was, then I forgot. I would prefer that—as a nation—we understand our history and, as much as possible, learn from it.

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Sedimentation and erosion

I have this image of our home as a bunch of related-rates problems: There’s inflow and outflow. Energy: In through my electric meter, out through lighting, waste heat and heating/cooling, water heater, etc.. Climate control: Heat flow in from heating/cooling system, the wood stove, the sun, versus losses through the attic, windows, doors, etc.. Mass: The balance of the rates of the flow of all the stuff.

Ever stop to think of that? Think of your home as a sealed balloon which has two, (or more of course,) doors, (garage doors count,) through which everything passes. Everything—no exceptions—passes in first, and then out second. Everything–every single thing, including the people–is only inside temporarily. The people come and go most frequently, (some pets might exceed some people I suppose,) and some things might remain inside for decades. But still, inside only temporarily.

You know that at some point you, (and everyone else if you share your home,) will go out for the last time. You might carry some things with you on your last exit, or you might arrange for someone else to come in, (and go out and in and out and in and out one last time,) to remove things after you go out for the last time. And of course eventually the entire structure will be removed and certainly at that point, everything you brought in—everything that was temporarily still inside—will go out at that point.

Where does everything you carry in from the market and grocery store go? Where does the furniture go? The books? The nick-naks? The packages and packing material from purchases? The clothes? The postal mail? The firewood you carry in is vastly more massive than the ashes you carry out; where does all that mass go?

Based on how the things around me make me feel, I know I have too much stuff. When I think of our stuff this way—as just a mass of stuff that’s temporarily inside our home—it’s much easier to keep my life under control. Too much stuff? …all I need to do is make sure more goes out than comes in, on average, and the problem will subside.

…and I can have fun with it. If something breaks, is worn out, or I’m done with it, that’s the outbound mass for today! Can I recycle this random thing? Can I FreeCycle this random thing? I no longer feel bad about sending things out, (wether that means landfill, recycle, giveaway, whatever… as appropriate.) Instead, I now find I feel bad about bringing things in. Each time I consider buying something, I think: Do I want to bring that into my life?

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