What I learned in yoga this week:
Ahimsa – the act of non-violence. Our instructor discussed it in the sense of our personal lives. Don’t harm your spirit, yourself. Don’t push your body into pain. In our poses, we are supposed to think positively about what we are doing to our body, not the pain that comes with it. Remove yourself from the pain. Don’t make a face when you go down into chaturanga dandasana, don’t bite your nails; that type of concentration on breathing and internal feelings, not external feelings. But its hard not to see the indirect connection in this weeks lesson with the various newmaking attacks in the last week.
The cavemen. Or, if you spend your days where I do, “Those *&%)!@ cavemen”. I need to overcome the fact that those full sized hobbits are putting me out of a job, because they are so fascinating that my group just spent half our team meeting talking about them.
This is advertising spiraling out of control. Yes, they are sassy and oddly attractive in a 4000 BC kind of way, but fictitious corporate mascots should NOT be let out of their 30 second commercial cages! They run wild among the young and beautiful starlets of Hollywood while drilling into our subconscious something as unexciting and standard as car insurance. These menaces to our society have wandering into our watercooler conversations, our award show red carpets, our worktime-wasting internet surfing, even our precious primetime TV!
They have upped the anty in insurance advertising. Remember the good ol’ days when you just asked your agent for the cheapest rate and companies just bribed agents to sell their stuff? But now, I’m furiously downloading bands from the Caveman’s iPod, making ironic comparisons of the classy Australian gecko to Mr Big, and watching as already infamous Hollywood personalities get their long awaited 15 min of fame.
If you were to theoretically look at these probably genius marketeers from a theoretical competitor’s view point, the seemingly awesome 3 ad campaigns that they have going on simultaneously is pretty radical when you take into consideration the fact that this is for INSURANCE. The other competitors are floored that no longer can they get away with the sappy or informative commercials on your rate coverage. They need D list celebs, saucy talking lizards, and primetime heroes of the stone age. Its so beyond anything inusurance has seen that they can’t even bother to say” Why didn’t we think of that?” And do you what they have to say about that? Its so easy a caveman and a lizard can do it! Smartasses.
Always a day late and a dollar short, here are my belated Earth Day thoughts:
Woke up Sunday morning to Doc’s phone call –
Him: “Happy Earth Day! Go plant a tree!”
Me: “Go plant one for me.”
Him: “I have an enviromental science degree……I’m planting trees of knowledge.”
When I was little, I used to wear a shirt on Earth Day every year that said “Earth Day Everyday”
Again, so wise.
I have to take a moment to step away from my culture-obsessions and lead into a huge topic for me right now. One that I have been intimidated to attack but really must, for my benefit and for the benefit of everyone my age. I spend countless hours talking to my friends with looming graduation ceremonies about the up and down thought process in the months leading up to the big kick in the behind as schools boot you out into the “real world”. I stepped up for my swift kick in the rear last December, a semester before my counter-parts. And let me tell you – it hurts like nothing else. The last 3 months have been a blur as I stand up, rub my behind, get my bearings, reorient myself, and look around to where I ended up. Turns out, I landed in Cleveland. I think this period where you just have to close your eyes and let that painful uncertainty take over for you is completely necessary. I have said this once and I will say a hundred times more. The best advice I have ever gotten about taking these leaps and bounds in my life is “Don’t think – Do.” As soon as you find yourself trying to answer questions like ‘What do I want to do with my life?’ you try to place everything on hold until you can answer it. And show me ONE 20 year old that can honestly answer that question! You’d be standing around thinking forever, and all that thinking and no action is bad for your inner balance.
I have discovered that the best way to know what you want is to try (obviously). But I say this because, only after you are in an environment can you really know what you love and hate about it. I had the same epiphany 4 years ago when I was deciding on a college. Everyone pretends, as the wander around campus tours and sit through advisor meetings, that they know what they are looking for. But how can you know what you love about something you have never lived through? The best decision I have ever made was transferring schools. Not until I had been at Univ of Dayton, did I know in general what college was like. Only then could I figure out what parts I like and don’t like. Then as I went through the college search round 2, the decision of Michigan State was so much easier and I felt so much more confident in it. If I ruled the world, everyone would have to look at college again after a year.
Now, I have to apply the same thinking as I go through the job search. I took the leap, ended up somewhere without much thought (they told me they would give me money to crunch their numbers; those were the only requirements I needed) Now that I’ve got those basic facts down, the hard part begins. What am I doing here? Do I even want to be here? Do I want to settle down here? Do I want to work at this job for the next 50 years? Do I even want to BE an accountant? No.
Whenever that answer would pop into my head over the past few weeks, I broke down in tears. I made the wrong decision. Regret has weighed heavy on me. But then again, its not that I went into this KNOWING it was wrong. I took the unknowing leap. Now that I’m here, I can look around and see what I like and don’t like. There are millions of places you can land after the kick, the odds of landing in the place you love forever and always is one in a million. Not such hot odds are they now?
So I’m not scared or embarrassed to say now that I don’t want to be where I am today for much longer. But I’m out here. And that part, that vast air of choices that I have now, that fact that I am young with nothing to tie me down except my apartment lease, is an amazing feeling.
When I came across a Times article about a NY graffiti artist’s troubles with the law, the inevitable question arose in my mind that the judge is brooding over as well. Where is the line between art and vandalism?
The culture of graffiti art was nothing more than the backdrop to early ’90s rap videos to me until I endured my 20 hour cross country road trip to Colorado with Doc and two of his friends. One of the boys had mentioned some random fact about how the rapper Common used to be part of the Chicago graffiti scene while we listened to “Be”. You learn something new everyday. This was followed with some minor run-ins with the Crested Butte ski patrol and a tag on a chairlift by the fact-full dude. I was intrigued by this sub culture as I got a sample of it during my trip.
To further probe this underground culture I know nothing about, i looked to two trusted sources: Facebook and Wikipedia (“Wikipedia is the best thing ever. Anyone in the world can write anything they want about any subject. So you know you are getting the best possible information.” – Michael, The Office). I did some minor stalking of Doc’s friend and found a link in his profile to Banksy, a London graffiti artist that I seen in books in Urban Outfitters. Looking more closely at this guy’s work, I was repeatedly jutted into shock and awe over the genius of his statements and simple finger pointing at the law of his art. Beyond his middle finger to the law, his art is thought-provoking, peace-desiring, and of course controversial (wouldn’t ask for anything less). Even as I look for images to share of this guys awesome graffiti, I am hit with that which the graffiti artist fights – legality. On his site, I try to click the link to his gallery and get that siren on my screen “access denied” as the web at work is restricted. The cause of the sudden message was “Criminal Activity”. There you go. I was trying to find a simple way to describe the frustration (or adrenalin rush) those artists get from the fact that what they do is overall considered criminal. But I don’t think I need to elaborate.
The line is smudged when it comes to cases such as the Times article up there – when the graffiti artist’s underground fame leads him into the bright light of mainstream capitalism. They become artists in the eyes of those that used to believe they should be behind bars as soon as they are sponsored by Vans or paint on a canvas instead of a subway. A graffiti artists turned-entrepreneur, Marc Ecko, recently came out with a PlayStation game that is based around: “an amateur graffiti artist going by the name of ‘Trane’ who uses graffiti and tagging as a way to protest against the corrupt city of New Radius, in a future world where freedom of expression is suppressed by a tyrannical city government.” The Brooklyn Museum has even turned the city graffiti into an exhibit. Where is the line? Should the Brooklyn Museum be under siege for promoting the illegal? Or applauded for thinking outside the box, an idea that in embraced in contemporary art. It calls into question who decides what art is and the ideals behind freedom of speech. These are issues that have the same weight as asking what the meaning of life is. Unanswerable.
In an attempt to outsmart my body from falling into the no-energy-or-motivation-to-do-anything-that-involves-strenuous-activities-or-spandex-give-me-my-sex-and-the-city-reruns-and-frumpy-sweaters winter work out slump, I started doing yoga instead of attempting to pull on my Underarmor and run outside. I’ve always been one drawn to the trendy spiritual world of incenses and kabala. Who wouldn’t want to close their eyes and picture themselves next to a babbling brook or spending their days raking lines through sand, sipping herbal teas next to a waterfall? It all seems so fantastic and calm and deep. So unlike the everyday life of an American Dreamer. But I had never been able to become an active participant; afraid of being dismissed as a bandwagon spiritual explorer. For some reason though, as has happened multiple times since I moved (exactly 3 months ago!), one day I woke up and said “Today is the day, yoga. You and me, we’re going to see what we’ve got goin on together. I won’t be scared of your judgment and dedicated gurus if you don’t make fun of my stretch pants and the fact that I can’t touch my toes.”
So I started going to the beginner’s yoga class offered after work at the fitness center (With the fabulously-cheese name ‘Yoga Flow’). I really do enjoy it. I am surprisingly more flexible than I previously believed (My flexibility ended when I tossed my leotard and quit the YMCA gymnastics classes in 1st grade.) The first couple classes were dedicated to me trying not to giggle every time my instructor said to go into ‘downward-facing dog’ position or rolling my eyes at the gibberish Hindu names of other position that I was convinced she was making up as she went. Officially, the first few weeks were supposed to be for me to understand the general positions and find my body’s limits, which I did in between glances over at Elaine as she tried to fold herself into a pretzel.
But after those first few weeks trying to grasp the edge of this complex and exhausting Indian ritual (and after Elaine had given up on spiritual growth altogther), it started to flow (rightfully named for the class) a little better. I was already inches away from touching my toes again for the first time since before puberty, was learning position names, and could make the transitions without distracting the whole class as I waved my arms around or wiggle my butt trying to move my legs into a knot. My instructor is fabulous. She said I’m doing very well for a beginner and gently helps me correct my moves and gives me advice on breathing and hand placement. I understand now the need to focus on your breathing, how much easier each move comes if you are more aware internally of what you are doing, than what shadow puppet you seem to be making in the mirrored walls of the exercise room.
This is my intro into this little adventure that is yoga to me. There is lots more material where this came from. Until next time.
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It would be ignorant of me not to comment on the traumatic shooting at Virginia Tech yesterday. It sends chills through me as I read article after article about the timeline of events. I think it hits close to home because it was on a college campus. I picture it played out at MSU, in the dorm I lived in, in any number of buildings I went to class in every day. To imagine that scene isn’t something that is settling to me.
The fact that news like that springs up in the middle of a quiet Monday reminds me of how surprising and unpreprared events like this are, making it all the more frightening and making me all the more aware of what is around me, how easily it can change.
From the sounds of a majority of the articles and news reports on the event, the university has a long road ahead of them as they defend their reactive actions and safety on campus. But, before politicans take this opportunity to blow up the gun control issues and before parents can criticize the influence of video games and being bullied at school, all questions and issues asside, we just need time to take it all in, notice the loss.