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.

Elephant Adventure 41: Be on Time

This is an interesting Adventure for me: I’ve been early-to-punctual for most of my life.

The last few years, that’s turned into a 5 minute plus-minus window.

I’m not sure whether this is because most people I know operate this way, or that my crowded meeting schedule during the week has forced me to operate this way. Perhaps the accuracy of real time Google Maps traffic has factored into it as well.

Technology has also allowed for a new adaptation: Setting a ballpark time with a friend and notifying each other when we’re about ready to leave. This works really well on the weekends.

Okay, the exercise:

Consider what “being on time” means to you and to others.

Being on time means arriving 0-5 minutes before the set time. There’s one exception to this: Parties at someone’s home. On time is not an expectation (unless it’s a dinner party), and I’ll adjust my arrival time based on the group, group size, duration, and type of party.

To others: Depends on the other.

What prevents you from being on time?

Back to back meetings, because I can’t magically teleport.

What arises in your mind when you or other people are late?

When I’m late: I get really agitated, because I don’t want to be the person who is late. I consider it inconsiderate, disrespectful, and irresponsible.

When others are late: I used to get really annoyed, and sometimes I still do, but over the years I’ve come to understand that everyone views and understands time in a different way. I can’t expect everyone to see the world the way I do. I try to account for this ahead of time when I’m scheduling things with folks I know tend to run late.

I did have an instance last week when I was a couple minutes late for a presentation at work where I was the moderator. I could have arrived on time, but as presentation time approached I found myself in a conversation with a coworker about how things were going for them and for our teams. I knew I would be little late for the commitment I had made, but I decided it was more important devote those minutes to my coworker, because giving them my attention, strengthening our connection, and learning about our collective well being was more important.

When I do have the luxury of arriving before a work meeting, it gives me a chance to gather my thoughts, get into the right mindset, and begin the interaction properly composed.

One of my coworkers makes it a habit to leave meetings 10 minutes before the top of the hour. In the back of my mind I’ve been weighing the pros and cons of implementing the same thing.

The discussion section of the book stated that this was a lesson not about punctuality, but time, and how time is irrelevant relative to the present moment.

This bring me to what I do when I’m the one who has arrived and have to wait: I keep my phone in my pocket and I “sit”. I observe. It’s calming and enjoyable, and turns those “wasted” minutes into a mindful gift.

Elephant Adventure 42: Procrastination


Upon logging into one of my accounts this morning, I was prompted to set a security question.

What is your favorite sport or activity?

I paused. The word in my head was “hockey”. Of course it was.

Of course it was, except it can’t be anymore. Because part of my ability to be okay with not playing comes from not holding on to the past. I was a hockey player. I’m no longer a hockey player. Hockey was my favorite sport. Hockey is no longer my favorite sport.

And yet, I’m unwilling to nominate a new favorite sport. I’m still processing. I’m not there yet.

I’m trying out new sports, trying out new identities.

I should have answered that question with, “Watching myself try to answer this question.”

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.

Elephant Adventure 40: Signs of Aging

Oh goodness. Aging is everywhere. It’s inevitable. Unstoppable. I see it in everything around me, everyone in my life, and in myself.

But how do we know it’s happening? Because of change. We have to consciously make a comparison to notice what’s changed. Growth, decay, wrinkles, reflexes, reading glasses, injuries that take longer to heal. They are what they are, not signs of anything, unless compared to a prior state.

I’m actually not sure what the point of this exercise was. I had thought this book was trying to guide us toward being present in the moment, but if we’re truly in the moment, we’re not making comparisons.

Then there’s this line in the book:

At about age forty, people realize that their life is at least half over.

At first I found this kind of depressing, but when I really think about it, I think it just means I need to be conscious of every moment, because time is a limited resource.

Speaking of which…

Elephant Adventure 41: Be on Time


It’s been almost a year since I started taiko. I went from knowing nothing to learning about equipment, terminology, form, and technique.

I got to know the chu-daiko, and the various ways to strike it: don, do-ko, tsu-ku, ka-ra…

I got to shout, usually “So-re!”

I got to tap my sticks together, often over my head all showy and stuff.

From there we progressed to tossing, twirling, stepping, striking a pose, never missing a beat.

There were many blisters and bruises along the way. At one point, I smacked my fingernail so hard it turned purple and I thought it was going to fall off.

Later in the year, I was introduced to shime-daiko and its completely different technique. I felt a bit like a little monkey playing a drum.

Every year, our group has a recital at the end of January. I was excited when the drum assignments came out; I’d made the front row! At the same time, a little voice in my head yelled, “Holy crap!”

Still, I’d worked really hard to learn our two songs and execute with solid form. I’d cleared my schedule and attended almost every class. It felt good to see that practice and dedication pay off.

Last Sunday was our recital. I was part of the stage crew, and learned a ton about show logistics. I also got to watch our guests perform from backstage, something I’ve never done before. I loved it!

Both songs went well. I didn’t drop my bachi doing the fancy moves and no one noticed my couple little screwups. I’m pretty sure we all screwed up, so no big deal. Overall, our songs sounded like songs. :)

My friend Alissa was kind enough to take video, but for reasons I’m not entirely clear about I’m not supposed to share them with the internet. So here are a couple stills.

This first one’s from our chu-daiko piece, Bondaiko Midareuchi. We’re yelling “So-re!” whilst striking a pose at the start:

And this second one’s from a piece I played shime-daiko on, Agari Yatai, to close out the show:

February is going to be a slow month at class, when we go back to basics for the new students who join. I’m looking forward to it, because it’ll be a chance for me to refine my form.


Hips Don’t Lie

a.k.a It’s All In The Hips Part 2.

Today I found myself working on a V4 with some not super wonderful (for me) holds. On a couple occasions, I’d reach a hold but not be able to hang on.

After reaching for and sliding off the second to last hold, I took a moment to assess. Clearly I could reach the hold, and in the brief moment I touched it I assessed that it was decent. So why couldn’t I hang on?

Because I was reaching for it. I was reaching with my arm, getting my fingers on the hold, then getting pulled off by my body, which in that moment was about as useful as a sack of potatoes.

Duh! Climbed my way back up, got my body oriented properly, planted my feet, initiated movement with my hips, and drove up toward the hold. Grabbed it hold of it no problem. Super solid.

I’ve been focusing on straight arms during my warmup climbs. Looks like I should add hip drive to the list.

Kettlebell 101

Another weekend, another workshop! Today I attended a kettlebell basics workshop given by one of my old mountain biking friends who’s now a certified kettlebell instructor. I’ve been wanting to work with kettlebells more, but didn’t want to dive in too far without proper instruction on form.

This workshop was exactly what I needed.

Deadlifts: I currently do deadlifts with barbells. They’re fine, but if I only do deadlifts with barbells they start to get boring. We spent some time going over kettlebell deadlift form, foot placement, back engagement, angles, breathing. It was good to come away with a good checklist.

Goblet Squats: I liked these because they’re similar to front squats, but I don’t end up strangling myself with the bar. (That’s entirely my own deficiency, not a knock on front squats.) I pretty much have the mechanics down from years of squats in general, so this is an easy one to add to the rotation.

Kettlebell Swings: I’ve done these here and there, seen people do them well and not so well, watched countless instructional internet videos on how to do them, and read more than a few articles on proper form. All of that doesn’t even come close to having an instructor watch and critique you for several reps. I came away with a list of tips to keep in mind, as well as a much tighter feeling swing.

For posterity, my list, transferred from a sticky note:

  • Start with kettlebell in front, handles tilted toward you.
  • Don’t start in a squat, you should feel tension in your hamstrings.
  • First motion is a pull back.
  • Drive with hips, not arms. (This is the only knowledge I came in with.)
  • Exhale hard on the drive. (I intuitively knew this, but don’t always remember to do it.)
  • Stop driving when you’re in a straight up and down plank, everything tight. Don’t lean back.
  • Keep your body straight as the kettlebell comes back down. Don’t preemptively bend.
  • End with a gentle landing in front, same as the start. A lot of people get hurt because they do this part wrong.

Turkish Get-Ups: This is definitely not a kettle basic, but we were curious about it, so we went over the motion, then practiced just the first part of it without any weight. It was HARD! This will be a fun one to learn someday.

Is it kettlebell day yet?

Update 2019-01-20 @ 1:12 PM

Slow motion video analysis of your form? So valuable.

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.