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.

Birdful

It’s beautiful out today, so I took my meditation bench outside for a bit. The sun, the breeze, the birds, the birds, more birds.

There are all sorts of birds all over my neighborhood. Songs fill the air.

This also explains why there’s always poop on my car.

Splat

Yesterday, I bought a Hokkaido style cheese tart, one of my most favoritest treats. I took it out of its bag, and just as I was about to eat it, it slipped from its tin and went splat, destroying itself completely on the ground in Lower Sproul Plaza.

“I am the saddest person here right now,” I said. (Melodramatic much?)

Two seconds later, I acknowledged my sadness, cleaned up, and proceeded as if nothing had happened.

It’s fun to watch myself watch myself.

Recenter

I have not had a serious sit for a while now. For weeks. Perhaps months.

My last sit was for about 10 minutes on a poolside hammock at our Koh Lanta resort. I sat upright, held aloft by two coconut trees. It was morning, and most people hadn’t ventured outside yet. The light motion of the hammock sent my mind on a fantastic journey through space.

Seriously, I felt like I was flying through space.

That was seven weeks ago.

We’ve finally hit the end of year lull. I finally have time to sit. Not that lack of time is a good excuse not to. If anything, it means I should have been sitting more.

This afternoon, I sat. Where was I supposed to put my hands? Why are they cold? When will they warm up? I watched my breath. Or so I thought.

After half an hour, I started to get the hang of sitting again. That’s when I noticed my heartbeat. Right! That’s the thing I watch, when I’m still enough.

I sat for another ten minutes after that. Those ten minutes felt calm, centered, balanced, peaceful.

Let’s not wait another seven weeks to sit again, me.

Observe

Today, while washing dishes, I had trouble keeping some just-washed items from repeatedly slipping off the drying rack. After the third slip, I felt annoyed.

“I feel annoyed,” I observed. I thought about why, then set about watching myself feel annoyed. That ended the annoyance right quick.

It reminded me of lunch earlier. My friend was telling me about a difficult situation, and it was emotionally draining enough that even I was feeling down from listening. Several times, I caught myself feeling this way, took a deep breath, focused on compassion, and sent that feeling outward. It helped me a lot, and in so doing, allowed me to help my friend.

This observing myself thing is starting to pay off all over the place.

Float 2.0

I headed back to the float tank today for some focused reflection on hockey. Because maybe there’s something I haven’t worked my way through yet.

I suppose you could call it a housekeeping visit for my mind. I like to be thorough.

I dropped myself back in 2002 and went through the moments that stand out:

Showing up at Belmont Iceland and being taught how to put my gear on.

My first ever hockey drill: Learning to fall, then learning how to get back up.

Breakaways in Green Division. Slamming into the boards because I didn’t know how to stop. The refs asking me if I was okay.

Getting chased down and knocked over by Ruth in Red Division.

Learning how to chase other people down in Red Division. If you’re fast enough, you can take the puck cleanly from them. No knocking required.

Trying out for Maroon and not making it. I worked my ass off the next season, attending every clinic I could find, in an effort to improve.

Skating circles around Red Division after a power skating camp. Scored my first hat trick. That was my last season in Red.

Hating my first season in Maroon Division because our coached cared more about winning than having fun.

My first game in Blue Division, catching my breath on the bench, in awe of how fast everyone skated.

Championship goals and assists. Overtime victories. Game winners.

Laughing with and at my teammates. Getting laughed at in return.

There are lots of good moments, and a sprinkling of challenging ones. The challenging ones made me better in the end. I learned how to chase, I worked hard and improved, and I made fun a core tenet of hockey. My hockey.

My mind jumped a bit to work. Things change quickly at work, and there’s some change I need to spend time processing. Meditation and float time are great ways to surface what’s truly on my mind.

Toward the end of the session I focused on relaxing. The water went away pretty quickly. Peace.

It’s not clear to me whether that water going away feeling comes from my body getting used to the constant even pressure, relaxation from the Epsom salt, or my mind. I suppose if I’m able to relax into this state earlier in the session that would make it a mental phenomenon.

I guess that means I’ll need to try again.

Tootsiethreepeat

Vacaville! One of my favorite tournaments of the year. Tootsiemeedgies at a semi-local gathering of mostly locals, plus a few returning former locals. Oh, and tailgates.

Game 1: Ang Sarap!

Kicked off the tournament against the tailgating pros of hockey, Ang Sarap! It was hard for everyone to make the first ice slot, but on the upside, First Game, First Tailgate!

We had 11 skaters and I rotated as one of 3 centers. This actually solved a problem I was wrestling with before the tournament: Play on a line with Jill and Elise (heretofore referred to as Jillese), or with Lu? I’ve had great success with all of them, but hockey math maxes out at two forward linemates.

Rotating 3 centers was great for my legs, and great for linemate variety. The Viv + Jillese combo fired on all cylinders. Finished with an assist. Maybe two? Final score: 3-0.

Friday Night Tailgate!

I’d been looking forward to this for weeks, and it did not disappoint. People brought the tastiest noms. We even had a halo halo station! The best part was that we were out there eating with the team we just played. Because that’s Vacaville.

Game 2: Barnaby Bears

It’s hard to draw division lines just right, and unfortunately for the Barnaby Bears, this meant some tough matchups for them. We went up 5-0 midway through the 2nd period, and stopped shooting for the rest of the game. Even that was hard, though. It sucks to have the score run up, but it also sucks to have the other team just play keepaway. There’s no good way to play a lopsided game.

Jilly finished with a hat trick. She’s unsure whether to attribute this to her pregame milkshake or Sausage McMuffin.

Jenny joined, putting us at 12 skaters for the rest of the tournament. I rotated as one of 2 centers. My legs! Thank goodness the Puckadillos introduced me to Black Beauty that morning. I lufs it more than all my foam rollers.

Finished with 3 assists. Final score: 5-0.

Game 3: Two Buck Chuck

Two Buck Chuck always brings it, and this year was no exception. They skated hard all game, and kept us on our toes all game.

We worked hard, but also kept things light, cheering for TACOS! since Andrea had hired a double wide taco tent for us. I breathlessly skated and skated and “TACOOOS”ed my way across the ice.

Finished with 1 assist. Final score: 2-0.

Taco Truck Saturday!

I changed as fast as I could and headed out for post-game tacos. Except they were all gone.

I stood there for a moment, shoulders slumped. “This is what disappointment feels like,” I thought.

It was a strange feeling for me. I don’t get disappointed much because I generally try not to hold any expectations. I do this specifically because I know people who get all worked up about how amazing something is going to be and then they’re sad when reality doesn’t play along. I realized I’d done exactly that. It’s good to have a reminder of why I approach the world the way I do. Lesson learned.

My teammates came to my rescue. “Fenton’s?” “ICE CREEEAM!!!” We got there just in time for their grill to close, but not too late for ice cream. Ice cream for dinner, twist my arm.

Championship: SLC Black Diamonds

We played an out of town team for the Championship. It was a solid matchup for most of the game. Jenny was a beast; I’d never seen her execute like this in Blue division. She played like two Jennys! Put us on the board in the 1st period with an end to end through traffic, followed by a goal off her own rebound. From D.

Jilly’s pregame hot dog and beer provided a pretty 2nd period goal.

In the 3rd period, I picked up the puck in the neutral zone, skated it in, then slowed it down by the boards just past the blue line. The soft spot, as coach John likes to say, where the other team gives you space. I waited for my teammates to catch up. I waited some more. Eventually, all 5 defenders had returned to their zone, but none of my teammates were anywhere to be seen. I got sick of waiting, so I aimed between my primary defender’s legs and shot, hard.

The puck sailed between her legs, over the goalie’s leg pad, and hit the bottom post cushion with a thud.

My teammates? They had all gone for a line change.

Later that period, we took a penalty, and the other team pulled their goalie for a 6-on-4. Unfortunately for them, they made the mistake so many of us make on power play, where all the open skaters stand there waiting for a seemingly clear pass up ice. I waited behind one of their skaters, then jumped in to intercept the pass. Picked off the puck, kicked it to my forehand from behind, got around the passer, and put it into the open net.

That pick is my favorite neutral zone defensive play. It’s also a great reminder to never stand there waiting for a pass. (Which I do more often than I’d like to admit.)

That kick is so natural to me now. Some people might think I’m being unnecessarily fancy when I do it in warmups. But it’s seriously one of the best ROI skills I practice.

Final score: 5-0. That’s a much wider goal differential than how most of the game went.

Threepeat! Viendi shut out the entire tournament. Small but mighty as always!

Banner pictures are boring. Trista group selfies rule!

Float

I’ve been wanting to try a float tank for over a year now. I’ve researched local purveyors of float tank experiences and up until recently they all seemed a little too new age hippy maybe not as hygienic as I’d like them to be.

Recently, a new wave of float centers opened, catering to people like… me! And athletes. And office workers. And would be meditation practitioners. Me.

I visited one of these new establishments today, Balance Float in Redwood City. Everything is super clean and their pods look like spaceship cryo capsules.

It’s weird that I’d want to shut myself into a dark capsule filled with water. Water and I have an uneasy relationship.

Physics and I, however, have a fantastic relationship, based on trust. And so, with my trust in Physics, I entered the super Epsom salty tank and lay on my back.

Whaddaya know, I floated! I floated so much there was no way I could have gotten my head under the water without strenuous contortion and acrobatics. Not that I tried. Success would have been mightily uncomfortable.

Even though physics had proven itself once again, it still took me a while to feel truly at ease. Closing the pod was no problem, but I allowed myself a few minutes to get comfortable with the idea that I really was going to uberfloat before turning off the light. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to find the switch in the dark. Then I realized I was being silly; I could just sit up if I needed to.

I turned off the light.

It was dark. Really dark. Completely dark. I closed my eyes.

The air was warm, humid, stuffy. What did I expect? I was sealed in a pod of body temperature water. It bothered me mostly because I like crisp cool air. But then I would have been bothered by feeling cold, since I was floating with the top of my body exposed to the air.

I opened my eyes. There was no perceived difference. I found that disturbing.

I focused on my breath. That’s how I always start my meditations. Then I focused on relaxing on every exhale. Except I couldn’t. My neck, shoulders, and upper back were tight, but not because of the float tank. They’re generally tight and in this unrestricted environment everything let go and these muscles continued to hold on.

I moved my arms from my side to over my head and then back several times over the course of the session. The over the head position seemed more comfortable given the state of my tight muscles.

I moved my legs a couple times too. It was nice to feel them slowly bend after being straight and still for an extended period.

I felt a little queasy. I recognized this as the feeling I get when I dive, swim, or spend time in a boat. Hello, water.

I wondered what time it was. Part of me wanted to be done, another part of me said, “This is the time and space you so wanted for meditation,” and yet another part of me was anxious that there might not be much time left on the clock.

I tried to focus on my heartbeat, one of my meditation go-tos. I like to follow it from my heart to each of my extremities and my head. Except I couldn’t. I could feel my heart beating if I focused really hard, but for some reason I couldn’t feel it anywhere else. Maybe because I wasn’t truly still for the first half of my session.

In the second half of my session, I tensed up my entire body in a plank, then let go and relaxed. I fully enjoyed the contrast. Then I lay there, relaxed…

The water disappeared.

I consciously knew it was still there, but I no longer felt it. Everything was still. It felt as if I were entombed in concrete. In a good way.

I’d never felt anything like that before. I’ve never been that still, never had that little feedback from my environment. At this point, my eyes were open. I’m actually more comfortable with them open, and at some point in the session had stopped being freaked out by the nothingness and just not bothered to close them again.

I stayed that way for a little while. I was curious to feel the contrast between this nothing and the water moving, but I didn’t want to disturb the stillness since I didn’t know if I’d be able to achieve it again. Besides, I felt no compulsion to move. For once, my body was content being still.

After a while, I tensed and relaxed again, and settled into another period of nothingness.

My session ended a little while after that. When I came back into the real world, it was LOUD. Everything was loud. To me. I was hypersensitive to sound for the next half hour. At the same time, I felt incredibly calm, balanced, and at peace, similar to how I feel after meditating, magnified several fold.

It definitely took me a while to get comfortable in the float tank, but once I did it got interesting. I plan to return, at least once, to see what a full hour is like without that initial adjustment.

When I do, I’ll remember to bring earplugs for after.

Slices of Reality

This evening, I sat after a workout without my usual Brain.fm accompaniment. It’s been a fantastic tool, but I’ve recently been wondering how I’d do without the crutch. It felt like the right time to try, so I did.

I thought I might get 5 minutes in. I sat and relaxed and listened and felt and straightened and floated and really really enjoyed just being in the moment.

Being in the moment. I starting to understand what that really means, just a bit. I’ve scratched the surface and it’s lovely.

Eventually, I got anxious about time. (This is why I want to find a retreat.) I wrapped things up with my usual deep yoga breaths and looked at the clock.

I had sat for 15 minutes. It felt like 5. And it was the first time I’ve enjoyed sitting in “silence”. (It’s never really silent, and usually the ambient noise bothers me, but for some reason I was able to appreciate it, then tune it out.)

15 minutes. That’s the length of a usual session, with crutch.

Without the crutch, time passed even faster.

Without the crutch, I noticed even more.

Everything was interesting. And there was more to notice than I had bandwidth to process. Much more.

I feel like we live in layers of reality, and most of us only experience thin slices of it most of the time. We miss so much of what happens. We miss so many details.

Never a boring moment.