Juggling Season

We had just enough of a break in the rain after dim sum today for a stroll through Central Park. Jerry the Juggler was there! I hadn’t see him in months, because winter.

He asked how my juggling was going. I haven’t been juggling much, so we reviewed my 4-ball toss and Mills Mess. I came away with a few things to practice.

For 4-ball:

(1) A “3.5” ball pattern in the middle, at the same height as 4-ball, to practice consistency. Its kind of like a centralized 423 or W.

(2) A high reverse cascade, at the same height as 4-ball, also to practice consistency.

For Mills Mess, we fixed my oddly shaped 1-2-3 throw. My homework is to do it left-to-right, then right-to-left. Back and forth, back and forth. When that feels good, add the 4th throw, then another, and another.

Spring is coming. I’m excited for juggling season to begin!

Sound Waves

Today’s group meditation finished with our usual two dings of the “bell” (from an iPhone), except for me it was anything but usual, because I somehow experienced said bell not just as a sound, but as waves passing through the core of my body.

This meditation thing is getting kinda trippy.

Master Lock Adoption Agency

I’ve rescued and cracked yet another generic Master Combination Lock. This one took me 1 hour, 2/3 as much time as the previous lock, and only because I was lazy.

Does anyone want one or several of these? They’re not great for securing your treasure, but fairly functional for keeping honest people out, and more annoying to crack than a keyed lock is to pick.

genericMasterComboLocks++

SoMuchGoingOnEverywhereAllTheTime

Competitive meditation at work has helped me remember on the weekends to sit on my own. Today, for the first time in a while, I was able to watch my breathing without modifying it. I was surprised by how short it was. Maybe because I’d just come back from the gym and my body was still recovering.

I channeled Tuesday’s concept of time slowing down for today’s sit. It was overwhelming, all the sounds, photons, and physical sensations happening in every moment. I see now why adults filter out so much of the world, and how everyday life can be difficult for those unable to do so.

It’s interesting that I’ve transitioned from needing to create something to focus on (counting breaths in 30×11) to having too many things in the moment worthy of attention. When I quiet my mind of thoughts past and future, I find that the present is bursting with activity around me and within me.

The world is very much alive, even when everything appears still.

Competitive Meditation

I’ve been attending weekly group meditation at work for the past month. I like it a lot, and I find it much easier to sit for 20 minutes surrounded by people doing the same thing.

I haven’t quite figured out whether to attribute this to peer pressure, mutual support… or my competitiveness. I have to keep sitting because I refuse to be outsat!

This sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? But it’s probably true, and Mike! saw it coming.

Group meditation may be easier, but it’s not always easy. I had a lot of trouble settling and focusing at this week’s sit. With a few minutes to go, I remembered what my coworker wrote when he convened our weekly gathering:

I like meditation because it slows down time.

That was all I needed to enjoy every moment as its own universe.

There was no competition, no support, no pressure.

Just moments.

Just now.

Aeron Spaceship

One of my coworkers recently started a Tuesday morning meditation group. Since we’re in the office, we gather in a conference room.

I’ve never meditated with anyone before, much less a group of people. Turns out it’s easier in a group. When I found myself wondering how long I’d been sitting, instead of checking the clock I thought, “The timer is set, and no one else around you is moving.” That stopped the wondering right quick.

I’ve also never meditated in a chair, and definitely not in an Aeron. (I realize how spoiled I am as I write this.) I started the session with my feet on the legs at the base of the chair. Partway through, I took my legs off, and they dangled freely.

I became unanchored from room. I felt as if my chair was slowly rotating to the left. Omigosh! What if Helen on my left opens her eyes and sees me facing her? That would be so awkward? Maybe I should open my eyes. I fought the urge to do so.

I considered that the spinning was all in my head, and I wasn’t moving at all. Then I felt myself rotating to the right. I resolved not to wonder about my chair orientation until the timer went off, and just enjoyed the ride.

Half a rotation later, the room started rotating. Holy moly, we’re in a spaceship!

Ah, the hammock effect.

The timer went off, and I opened my eyes.

I hadn’t moved an inch.

Handstands Are Here Again

My wrists have been feeling pretty good recently, so why not destroy them? I started thinking about learning to do handstands again.

Conveniently, Athletic Playground offered an Intro to Handstands workshop this weekend. In! I’m on a bit of a workshop kick this month.

I’ve tried to learn handstands twice before. I didn’t do a refresher on purpose, because I wanted to come to this workshop with a blank slate. I find it incredibly valuable to be taught a skill by different people.

Our instructor did a great job explaining basic concepts and building on them. But first, she declared that there was no right way to do a handstand. Doing a handstand is like walking or dancing, just upside down. She was going to start us on the straight handstand because it’s the easiest.

We started with some stretches for our core, back, shoulders, and wrists. As part of this, we learned about “Pac-Man”, which is essentially what you imagine doing when you tighten up your core right in the middle, near your diaphragm.

Next, we placed our hands on the floor, fingers spread, shoulder width apart. With our arms completely straight, we played around with putting our weight on our hands and feeling the pressure shift from the heel of the hand to the base knuckles and then to the fingers as we shifted our weight over them. We were tasked with finding the point at which we felt even pressure on the heel and base knuckles.

Next, we put our weight on our hands and got into something of a standing pike. We focused on keeping our weight distributed evenly on our hands, our arms straight, and everything in our shoulders and core strong.

Then, a light one foot push from the pike with a light landing. Same focus.

Then, a light one foot push from the pike with a light landing on the other foot. Same focus.

Then, a light one foot push from the pike with a flutter kick plus landing on the launch foot. Same focus.

I really liked this exercise, because I got to observe and practice the right way to land on land feel softly, by piking extra right before touching the ground.

After push practice, we worked on face-to-wall handstands. Same focus on core, shoulders, and arms. For some of us, this is where our form started to break. For me, it was the usual: my back is too arched.

We split the class in two after this: those who could kick into a back-to-wall handstand and those who couldn’t. I chose the latter group, because I really wanted to make sure I learned all the basics correctly.

We did a face-to-wall variation of the handstand using boxes: one leg straight up, the other on the box, with light hops. This was a great way to feel and adjust our hands and shoulders.

After that, a break for a stretch: hands against the wall, hips hinged 90 degrees. We worked on pulling our chest down toward the floor. Something of a shoulder stretch… into a position you need for a nice straight handstand.

Post-stretch, back-to-wall handstands. Hands planted, arms straight, shoulders strong, a little momentum, and kick up! My kicks are still straight and balanced, thanks to 30×10 and 30×25.

The instructor had a couple good rules for us all to work on in back-to-wall.

Rule 1 – Don’t kick off the wall. Get one leg perfectly straight, feel it like an extension of your arm. Then use your Pac-Man core to pull your other leg straight in a controlled fashion. No kicking off the wall!

Rule 2 – Squeeze your legs together like you’re trying to hold $1000 bills in place.

Not that it’s as simple as just two rules. I still need to work on tucking my belly in / Pac-Man / hollow body / whatever you want to call it. Really tighten that core!

I’m hesitant to officially start another 30 Days of handstands right now. I’m going to see how my hands and wrists feel in the next few days and maybe get another couple practices in before deciding.

For Decorative Purposes Only

In today’s episode of finding and cracking random lost locks, I am now in possession of a fabulously decorative but most definitely not secure Master Combo Lock, model 620DAST.

Master Luggage Lock Crack

I Googled how to crack master luggage lock, clicked on the first link, was taken to a USA Today article, and followed the instructions. Despite not setting a timer, I’m pretty sure it took under 5 minutes to open.

Locks continue to disappoint me.

Crossed Arm Reverse Windmill Mess

It was a beautiful day for a stroll in the park, so I grabbed my ball lens strolled through the nether regions of Twin Pines Park, then headed for the rose garden in San Mateo Central Park. And since I was in Central Park, I stopped to see if Jerry was around. He was!

We started with a checkin on my really messy Mills Mess. I have some work to do to clean up my tosses. We broke each toss down to basics and I practiced tossing one, two, three, four… It really helped to focus on each ball individually.

After that, he asked, “Do you know Windmill?” I didn’t, so he taught me that as well. Turns out it’s easier than Mills Mess.

After Windmill, “Have you done a crossed arm Reverse Cascade?” I hadn’t, so we did that one too. Turns out it’s easier than Windmill.

Speaking of Reverse Cascade, Jerry showed me a variation of two ball Columns that looks super cool, like a Reverse Cascade. Definitely going to work this into my two ball routine.

So many new patterns to work on! But first, getting the basics right. Nice loopy tosses. Especially the left hand. It’s a little derpy.

Settled

Some thoughts from my sit today.

One might say that I’m not “supposed” to be thinking during my sits, but sitting works way better when you don’t hold yourself to supposed tos.

It’s not about sitting really still. It was probably that belief that made 30×11 so difficult.

For me, the great challenge when I sit now is that fact that there is so much going around me, inside me, and in my mind. I only notice these things when I’m still.

It takes about 15 minutes for my mind to really settle. When it does, I’m finding I can truly observe my breath without trying to control it.

Speaking of time, my current conundrum is I want to set my timer for 30 minutes, but that seems too long, so I set it for 20 minutes, and I’m only really settled for 3-5 minutes at the end. Having said that what does “seems too long” even mean? Am I afraid I won’t be able to sit for that long? So what if I don’t? There is no supposed to, remember?

Next sit, 30 minute timer.