Fifty people, one question... and the present moment

Fifty People, One Question: London from Fifty People, One Question on Vimeo.

I feel as if I should watch this video every day.

When I started watching, I thought, "Oh, everyone is going to say Hawaii or the like." As the first Brit hemmed and hawed, I nearly stopped watching - "Okay guy, you need to wake up in a place with better hairstylists."

But then he said the loveliest thing and my heart melted.

And kept melting with each new face. I just never expected the variety of answers this question would provoke.

In my sometimes-cynical way, I reckoned that this question was really about how happy you are in your life. I knew that unhappy people would certainly want to escape their life, but I hadn't thought about what the happy people would say. So when I heard, "In my own bed", I was left speechless. And not just from one person either - numerous people answered the exact same thing.

Because it's not only about happiness - it's also about being in the present moment. That video caught me while I was floating - ungrounded - and then it brought me back to the beauty of now. I am grateful to have found it.

On a final note, I too would like to live on a planet of cheese.


My life in 12 photos, One

I observe a lot. I take in everything - like someone who's afraid that she won't remember anything if she goes blind tomorrow. I can sometimes render what I see in words, but some moments - or feelings - cannot be encapsulated in a few short sentences.

So I've given myself a new challenge - to describe my life in 12 photos. To better capture the visual moments that fill me with happiness, but also to make me ever more present in the moments that happen each day.

I only have one photo at the moment - but I will attempt to publish one photo every week for the next 11 weeks. Here goes:

Feet. Yoga mat.

The most persistent image my eyes see

See Two!


Sign of life

Yes, yes, I am alive and well - simply busy beyond all expectation. Setting up a new business involves a lot of legwork at the beginning - plus yoga, plus tango, plus seeing friends.

But I'm here now - and I have a list of topics as long as my arm to write about. Stay tuned - some delicious new content coming shortly.



Meeting your fictional characters

Remember that yoga workshop I told you about?

Something else remarkable happened that day but I only realized it yesterday. There was someone in the room whose face and way of speaking kept drawing my attention. I can't even say that it was sexual - there was just something very familiar about this man's face.

I was riding the metro yesterday when I realized.

This man is close to what I imagine Cedric to be, both physically and emotionally. Who's Cedric? A character in the novel I'm working on, of course.

The relationship between writer and fictional character is very intimate. You have created this person with feelings, motives and ambitions, someone with a history and a future. Although you understand that this character is fictional, you know this person in a profound way that cannot often be replicated in real human relationships.

I often have to remind myself that Reggie did not exist, that Cedric is not real. If I am walking in the old financial district, I have to curb my brain from blurting out, "Mr. Campbell probably worked in this building."

So, understandably, meeting an actual person who fully embodies your image of a fictional character causes a very real ripple in your emotional day. On the one hand, it's exhilarating to "meet" your fictional character. On the other hand, it could interfere with your ability to go back and write him with authenticity. I don't want to have this person in my head when I'm writing Cedric, because I don't want to inadvertently start writing this other person. I want to keep Cedric true to Cedric.

Let me end with this, some words from a letter written by Jane Austen to her sister Cassandra in 1813:

"Henry and I went to the exhibition in Spring Gardens. It is not thought a good collection, but I was very well pleased, particularly (pray tell Fanny) with a small portrait of Mrs. Bingley, excessively like her.I went in hopes of seeing one of her sister, but there was no Mrs. Darcy. Perhaps, however, I may find her in the great exhibition, which we shall go to if we have time . . . Mrs. Bingley's is exactly herself -- size, shaped face, features, and sweetness; there never was a greater likeness. She is dressed in a white gown, with green ornaments, which convinces me of what I had always supposed, that green was a favourite colour with her. I dare say Mrs. D. will be in yellow."

The portrait Austen refers to (left) is actually of a Mrs. Quentin, painted by Huet Villiers, but any Austenian will tell you - she's the spitting image of Jane Bingley.


Why do you practice yoga

I went to a yoga-meditation-study workshop at naada today with Michael Stone. It was refreshing to hear words that reflected my own perspective on yoga, and even more encouraging to meet other people who share my opinions.

Whenever I attend any kind of class or workshop, I like to come away with one stand-out moment or one new idea that inspired me.

Today's idea arrived rather late in the afternoon - with barely 30 minutes left in the workshop. A yogini asked Michael how we can possibly practice yoga in a culture ruled by materialism, greed and egotism? She talked about how North American culture doesn't offer the ideal conditions for the practice of yoga.

I couldn't disagree with that sentiment more.

First, that question would imply that somewhere, the perfect conditions for the practice of yoga exists. There is no such place. There are no such "perfect conditions". Yoga, as Michael Stone puts it, is not an other-worldly experience, rather it's a this-worldly experience. Yoga is now, here. Yoga was designed for an imperfect world.

For me, yoga has always provided two things - (1) better coping mechanisms for dealing with the vagaries of the world, and (2) more space in my head for productive, creative thinking (which, ultimately, helps to combat the vagaries of the world, yes?).

I know that people have different reasons for practicing yoga, but I never directly questioned what those motives could be - because I was too busy exploring my own. It was a surprise to hear some participants reveal that they practice yoga to escape the world.

This view could not be more antithetical to my own, but it's still equally valid. If anything, it's the perception of this gap that's allowed me to better understand that every reason is valid because it's part of the path. Even if your motives are divorced from the principles that yoga is based on, the motives are still valid because they have brought you to the mat. What you do with what you learn is up to you.

This workshop also made me realize that I'm on the cusp of taking what I've learned on the mat... off the mat.

So why do you practice yoga? What was your reason for beginning a practice? How has it changed?