The hesitation over meditation

The next book in my stack is Jack Kornfield's "A Path with heart", an important reference for anyone considering a meditation practice.

(doesn't he look like a nice man?)

Up until now, I'm been a recreational meditator. That is, 10 minutes here, five minutes there. I never really allowed myself to be fully immersed in the experience. Why? Because meditation scares me.

Most people think that meditation helps you to relax. That it helps you *stop* thinking. But it doesn't. Not in those terms, anyway.

From what I've been able to glean thus far, meditation proceeds something like this:

a) You discipline your body into accepting stillness.
b) You start training your mind to skim over your thoughts like a stone skipped on the waves.
c) At some point, you arrive in the present moment.
d) All of your demons start to present themselves, their throats exposed, ready to be slain.
e) You start slaying, crying frequently as you deal with the grief, etc. that's been accumulating over the years.
f) Eventually you stop fighting your body and your mind.
g) You truly arrive in the present moment.
h) You are gradually able to look over the story of your life - and that of those around you - with equanimity and peace and kindness, etc.

Please excuse the rough generalizations, but you can recognize that this is going to be hard, hard work. The tranquility only arrives after much discipline. I'm going to get frustrated, I'm going to cry my eyes out, I'm going to want to quit. Kornfield describes the experience thusly:
A memory of old loss sings to us; our body shakes and relives the moment of loss; then the armoring around that loss gradually softens; and in the midst of the song of tremendous grieving, the pain of that loss finally finds release.
But it must be done. And I have a goal. Like many of you, I am caught between the need for speed and the desire for a quiet life of steady, satisfying labour. So I embark on this new adventure with the hopes of finally finding my way to that place where I can finally do the work that is most important to me.

And I know that I can make the necessary effort. I just have to summon up enough courage to keep going when it gets tough. Wish me luck.

Garfunkel and Oates

I just can't get enough of these ladies lately. And I totally have a girl crush on Kate Micucci (the little brown one).

Visit the Garfunkel &and Oates website for more, more, more!


Realistic package labeling

I think it's time for food companies to give consumers more realistic package labelling, don't you?

For example, the package of Crispy Minis (salt'n'vinegar) I purchased for lunch gives the following breakdown:

Now here's an example of what I would like to see on packaging of certain food from now on:

Who eats just 14 chips?


My first practica

Today was a very good day in my new tango career.

Henri and I tried the practica at Studio Tango this afternoon and it was mostly scary, hugely challenging and finally, very thrilling.

We inched through the door and were shocked to see the dance floor alive with swirling couples. Having only taken lessons in small groups, we've never had to navigate around other couples before. CafĂ© tables, yes. But swiftly-moving couples who obviously have great skill and confidence. NO.

I was quivering in my brand-new, butter-soft tango shoes.

'If we can get through this,' we decided, 'we can take on anything.'

It was brutal. As beginners, we have undeveloped flow and a bad habit of hesitating. And because we were nervous, we kept forgetting what we were supposed to be doing. We tried to keep to the periphery and not get in anyone's way, but progress  was slow and after 30 minutes, we took a breather to regroup. The frustration was ripe.

That's when the most amazing thing happened. An older gentlemen - perhaps in his 50s or 60s - asked me to dance. I warned him (twice) that I was very beginner and only had 3 months practice.

"Then it's the perfect time to learn," he replied serenely.

This angel - whose name I forgot to ask - patiently led me around the floor for three tangos. He slowed down the steps to show me the technique. He praised me when I successfully learned the step. He even showed me the gancho when I started to move more confidently.

My heart was fluttering like a young girl's. It was one of the most wonderful tango experiences I've had. But it is exactly this openness and sharing that makes it easy for me to love tango.

Merci Monsieur!

Short story snippet III

I am developing a character who suffers from intense loneliness, who casts a perfectly pathetic image wherever she goes. I'm basing it on the person I think I am when in the fog of a pity party. So this character is not me, but it could be me. Or you. Or that person next to you staring disconsolately into a cup of coffee.


I had that dream I hate. I have it once or twice a year, always waking with a sob and always feeling the same. Cold, alone, vulnerable. I’m almost ashamed to talk about it, because my sister don’t understand why this dream should devastate me so.

The actual circumstances are ordinary – at the office, in an airport waiting area, in a grocery store. It’s usually just me with a man – a man that I love and who obviously loves me. The conversation is not memorable. The events even less so.

What shakes me is the touch.

In my dream, he may extend a hand to caress one cheek and kiss my neck. Or I may rest my head on his shoulder, letting my hand drop against his warm chest. When I wake up, I can still feel the weight of his palm against my face, or remember exactly how solid his belly was under my fingers.

It reminds me of everything that I don’t have. The grief washes over me and I am unable to prepare my breakfast.

The worst part is, the dream lover is usually someone I know and wish I could love. Or someone I once knew and loved. The pain is more acute once I remember who he was. At least if it were a stranger or a minor character from my life, I could swiftly sweep the dream from my mind. But the fact that it's someone known – cherished – just makes it harder.

And so I cry a little, angry at my dreams for sabotaging my sleep.


Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Look here.

Thanks to aldaily.com for leading me to this treasure.


My first tango shoes!

I know, I know... nothing fancy, but I wanted a strong shoe that could help me really learn the skills. I'll eventually work my way up to Comme il faut, but for now, these Blochs will do.

Also, I never wear high heels, so I need to train my feet with a little height at a time.

Lastly, I have found a solution! There's a very reputable tango studio in Old Montreal that has a practica on Sunday afternoons between 4-6pm. Apparently one of the best teachers there is also a yogi at AYM, so I feel even better about the decision.

I can't wait to take these shoes dancing.



Hyacinths growing in the backyard.

Lilac tree sprouting in the front.


Tango lesson 12

If you haven't already heard, I've been having a trying week.

As a result, tango class on Wednesday was possibly the longest 90 minutes of my life. I was wobbly, dizzy and distracted, making for much apologizing and little grace. I experienced the same frustrations in yoga the evening before, and so I tried to breathe and do my best, but it was a hot mess out there.

But the worst part was, the knowledge that I am not prepared for the next level. Extra practice would have helped, but since the only sessions are Friday nights from 9-10pm, it's been far easier to crumble into my bed and sleep off the week's stresses instead.

So now that the Beginner II level is complete, I have to decide how to juggle the following:
  • Re-enrolling for Beginner II, with or without my partner
  • Making the practica on Friday night
  • Checking out other tango studios
  • Finding a more convenient practice session in another studio
  • Whether or not to enroll at all since it will overlap with yoga teacher training
I don't want to stop dancing (like Mari says about the tango, if not now, when?) I just don't know how to make it work. Any advice?



I've been having a fabbo pity party for the last week. Balloons, hats, punch, cheese fountain for the nachos, etc.

You know how it is. Nothing dramatic needs to happen to make you start hanging the streamers. After a few days, the accumulation of usual stresses, frustrations and annoyances will make you feel as if you're a hundred years old, everyone hates you and the entire universe is plotting against you.

"Is there a target painted on my back?" Or so I've repeated a million times today.

My "invitation" list is nothing extraordinary when looked at individually, but clump them together into a three-week period and you may understand my zip-less-ness lately.

House broken into. Disturbed sleep patterns due to said break-in. Relentless project at work. Yoga practice faltering. Tango techniques falling apart. Access card number abused. Endless calls to the insurance companies, banks, credit agencies. Faxing. Faxing. Faxing. No reliable Internet at home. Painting, sanding, handiwork yet undone. Blogging back-log, both reading and writing of. Hot water tank still wonky. Appetite faltering. Friends similarly falling apart. Stupid ingrown hairs ("Am I going to turn into that tree man?"). Writing stalled. Again. Culinary talents left unexpectedly with no note to let me know of their return. Still no spring tires, brakes are not behaving properly. And I desperately need a haircut.

"Where is the joy, please?" Or so I've asked a million times today.

But it's really not a big deal. It's just life stuff. It comes it waves, and apparently I had my back turned when a medium-sized one came rolling in. I had a good cry to release the tension, Powell politely (and effectively) reminded me that I'm not in the burn unit or suffering from a disease, and like a good bestie, she helped me come up with an action plan.

The nice thing about weathering a period like this one is the realisation (a) that I am well equipped to deal with such matters head-on, (b) that it's not personal, and (c) that I now have the willingness to finally ask for help (notice I said 'willingness', I'm still working on the 'how-to' part of that equation).

So I think I'll be shutting down this party pretty soon. The music sucked and no one was having a good time anyway.

NB. I might be planning a Help Adriana Fix Stuff at Her House party. Get your tools ready!


Carpe diem

The discussion about carpe diem started with Alston's blog post and upon further consideration, I want to continue the conversation with you.

So if you want, first glance at the post (and comments) and then come back.

You back? You made yourself coffee too in the meanwhile? Clever thing...

So as you may know, this ubiquitous Latin phrase, which roughly translated means seize the day, is often quoted to express a notion of "don't let life pass you by" and "live life to its fullest". What happens in the West however, is that we assume  it gives us free licence. In that, if we follow "carpe diem", we can eat what we want, drink what we want, have sex with... anything, and that we don't have to care about the consequences.

But that's not it. Horace, in the ode from which this phrase is taken, rather urges us to not waste our time on earth. Scale back your long hopes to a short period. A reminder to do today what we would put off until tomorrow because we cannot know if tomorrow will come.

No where does it say, "have a great time and screw everyone else".

In the book I'm reading for yoga teacher training, Georg Feuerstein writes the following in relation to the Bhagavad Gita
This view has not always been emphasized sufficiently in Western interpretations... If action depended solely on one's frame of mind, it would be the best excuse for immoral behaviour. ... For action to be "whole" (kritsna), or wholesome, it must have two essential ingredients: subjective purity (ie. non-attachment) and objective rationality (ie. moral rightness).
Without getting into the whole issue of non-attachment, this passage does make the point that we must still be moral, compassionate and respectful in every thing we do. It is entirely possible to "live life to the fullest" and still be responsible to those around us, but somehow the true meaning of the phrase has been twisted around in the West.

Perhaps it says something about our lifestyle. Perhaps Westerners feel so bound by the pressures and stress of life in North America (earn more! be skinnier! get rid of that hook nose!) that we instinctively look for "outs" that will free us from our obligations. And perhaps it also says something about our inherent puritanism in that when we want to break free from our lives, it's interpreted as happening through extreme behaviour.

Anyone want to add to the discussion? My mind has been rather wrapped up in these concepts for the last few days and I'm eager to understand it even better.


Predictive text

The predictive text on my cell phone gives me no end of giggles. The suggested words never make any sense, but I love the thought of being revisited by the ghosts of texts past.

Some recent favourites include (predictive text in bold):
  • How are you conquered
  • It's a ticket
  • So why did Vancouver
Have I sent anyone a text about conquering Vancouver with a ticket, lately?


Tango lesson 11

My tango partner wasn't looking so great this week. That is, he had really injured his thigh during a capoeira class a few hours before. So for the first few dances, his movements were stiff, his face was tense and his frustration was running high.

He kept repeating, "I don't know if I can stick it out tonight."

But he took a couple deep breaths, put himself back into the moment and was soon leading me across the floor with his usual smile. By the end of class, his leg was feeling better.

This week's lesson has nothing to do with the health benefits of tango - although I'm sure there are many. It has everything to do with that one attitude that most people refuse to adopt:

Breathe. Relax. You'll accomplish more than you can imagine.

I don't know about you, but that's something that I definitely needed to be reminded of this week.


Mixed tapes

In my universe, mixed tapes - or mixed CDs - are considered a token of great affection. I've received them as birthday presents, as thank yous for staying at my house*, and sometimes for no reason at all.

That someone would pour time and effort putting together a collection of songs they hope I'll/want me to like is a grand gesture that leaves me speechless every time.

I always joke that my love of a mix is so great, I'd accept a mixed tape instead of an engagement ring.

So what kind of lovely, I-made-it-myself gifts make your heart race with happiness?

*Rachel K, you still rock the mixed tape universe!

(Create your own mixed tape image here)


Benefits of yoga

Before moving to AYM, the first seven years of my yoga practice were spent at the NDG YMCA. Yoga classes were in a small room off the gymnasium. There were toys from the daycare piled in one corner and the air wasn't always "fresh", but the teachers were very good.

The only real disturbance in the class came from a regular - a woman. She remains the most unpleasant person I have ever met, with a face perpetually twisted into a grimace and a growl of a voice. Myself and the other regulars attempted to be friendly if she settled next to us, but she never returned the smile or said hello back. After a while, we just stopped trying.

Some people would even move their mats when she put her mat down next to them. Her presence was that toxic.
  • Laying out her mat was usually done with an angry snap. If she thought that your mat was too close, she gruffly told you to move it.
  • She rarely listened to the teacher's instructions, usually doing whatever position she wished and in whatever form she wished. She did not take kindly to adjustments.
  • Also, she was not very adept at balancing poses and usually fell out of them with heavy feet and indiscreet flailing, which inevitably caused her closest neighbours to lose their balance too.
  • She would sometimes get up early from savasana, making plenty of noise as she left.
The joke I kept to myself was, "Don't make eye contact with her in the mirror Palanca, you'll turn to stone!"

And yet, she kept coming back, week after week.

What (still) troubles me about this woman is how immune she was to yoga and it's beneficial effects. She did not go into the practice with good intentions,  she showed no respect for her fellow yogis or for the practice, she was unpleasant and distracting throughout the practice, and if you met her on the street afterwards, that twisted grimace was still firmly in place.

One of my current teachers would say that you have to welcome these people into your class because it allows you to sharpen your focus. But I can't help wondering why she kept coming back when she gained no benefits from the practice, and she seemed to regard her peers (and the teacher) with disdain?


Tango lesson 10

And so the love affair with tango continues.

As the feelings of bliss increase with every lesson, so do tiny revelations like you can tango to Tom Waits and Damien Rice. One of the bigger concepts that I'm presently working on is the Collect.

The "Collect" is the act of stretching one foot out, and then transferring your weight onto that foot before bringing the other foot forward.

Simply put, it's taking a step and then bringing your feet together. Remembering to place your feet in the coquettish "v" and to lift the heel, of course.

As I'm discovering, the Collect is one of the most basic and important steps in tango. It's a transition step that allows you to shift your weight and keep your balance between step. It's also a preparation between systems of movement. Without the Collect, the tango dancer cannot gain the flexibility needed for the next step.

Tango babies often pause too long in the Collect because our brains have something to say or we're unsure of what to do next. This interrupts the flow of the tango not because it breaks the momentum. Tango doesn't work on momentum - all movement comes from the core and the balls of the feet - so it's definitely not the momentum. What it does is break the sensual line of the leg, because a long pause generally causes the leg to lose the tone, poise and flexibility required for the next move.

As you improve, it becomes easier to move more fluidly through the Collect. However, you must also be careful not to push through the Collect too quickly. When you do, you lose control of the leg and your feet start to fly out as if you were in a salsa class.

It's all about finding the mid-point.

I'm learning the mid-point right now and the challenge suits me fine.

  1. It's important to give yourself into transition points, as they give you the flexibility and preparedness for all future movement.
  2. If you hesitate too long, you will lose focus and strength.
  3. If you move too quickly, you will behave in ways that are unbecoming.
  4. Equilibrium is key in every thing.