Gentle Fitness Progression
In the course of my studies as a martial artist when I was younger, some time at a community center in Portland, school at a hippie performing arts college, and a certification in Pilates I’m working on now, I think I figured out a wonderful progression into physical exercise from any point. My mother says Pilates is too difficult, and she won’t work out with me anyway, but maybe one could start in the pool? Ai Chi bases part of its unique benefit from the breath support and the use of water’s buoyancy to support a person with weak bone health, as could happen from osteoporosis or an injury. Ai Chi also bases a lot of the practice on the breath control that goes along with other practices like yoga, qi gong, or Pilates.
Over my time as a personal trainer, I have found that the way clients see success is when they are able to take control of their own lives. Meeting once or twice a week with someone who gives you a hard day is great, but if a client doesn't make improving their life a priority outside of that time, they will not reach their goals as quickly. Meditation is a fantastic tool to help people become the best version of themself that they can. The meditations that I combined due to the evidence I could find for their efficacy are mindfulness, gratitude, loving-kindness, refuge, and a kriya yoga meditation practice. The purpose is to inspire compassion towards ones fellow man, an awareness of ones thoughts and an ability to surf cravings, and to increase the appreciation for ones life.
First, I invite your eyes to close. Bring your gaze behind your eyelids gently upward, and try to focus on your breath. How does the oxygen feel as you inhale and your lungs expand? How does it feel to expel that breath of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, continuing one of many cycles of life? Note how your breath can expand into your back, and sides. Begin to count your breaths at one, and continue up to ten before counting back down. If your attention wanders, gently bring that attention back to your breath, or to the count. There is no judgement, no failure. There is just the constant cycle of breath, and the recognition of thoughts as they present themself. They can be there when you are done, and do not control you.
I invite you to find the core of yourself, wherever it may be in your body. It may be in your skull or your heart. It may be lower, closer to the center of your body. Think to this part of yourself love, care, and compassion. Imagine as if you found yourself in a place of refuge, of sanctuary. One can find refuge in a wide variety of places. It could be with people you love, your room at home, a quiet library, or an inspiring peak. Try to make that image as clear as possible. What does this place of refuge sound like? Are there smells?
As you breathe, tie a mantra to your inhalation, "I am not my body." As you exhale, repeat to yourself, "I am not even my mind." You are more than these things, not just inhabiting a body of flesh and bone. You are not just thoughts and feelings. Those are transitory, ephemeral. You are life itself. "I am not my body, I am not even my mind."
Wish toward yourself love, safety, and joy with this mantra. You are deserving of that.
May I be well
May I be safe
May I be free from pain and suffering
May I know happiness
May I know peace
After some time with that, redirect the target of your benevolence from yourself toward someone you feel unconditional love for, then toward an acquaintance, then toward someone who has frustrated you recently. After having moved through the mantra for all of these people in your life, try and widen your focus to include as much of your community as you can. This could just be your apartment complex, the city, the nation, or as wide as the world.
To close out our time, picture something you are grateful exists in your life. It should be something you haven't thought of for some time. What does it look like? What does it sound like? How does it feel, or taste? It could be something as small as an apple, or the home you have, or the company of those you love in your life.
Art for Life
Humanity lives in a polis, making human beings political animals. Is all literature political, simply because it has an interpersonal theme? It paints a fictional narrative with which we can hold a mirror up to our life. I find myself empathizing with some characters, hating others, and rooting for victory for a few. If done well, I invest myself fully in the fiction I read, watch, or play. These are not real people, but the impact they have on my inner being is real enough for me.
I have a book I'm using to try and reframe the old play into better structure for a book. This book breaks down all the plots ever written into seven basic ones. They are Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, the Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. These can be internal or external, in some cases. Scrooge could be considered a rebirth story, for example. The Monster to be overcome could be a dragon or a person or ones vile impulses. However, in each case the author is making a statement about what is to be aspired to or rejected as an individual engaging in the society.
If I consider performance styles I have studied, they seem to spring out from societal themes at the time. The characters in Commedia Dell’Arte are representations of doctors who scam, miserly businessmen, and craven soldiers. These stock characters are all heightened to clownish extremes to allow one to laugh at their absurdity, but there is no escape from a social theme there. In Butoh, the dance itself came about as a result of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Romeo and Juliet is about the enmity that two families held which kept two lovers apart. The only styles I would dare hazard to say had no political impact could be physical performance techniques like Le Coq or Meyerhold’s Biomechanics, and perhaps if we look at Cirque Du Soleil, a magic show, or some other physical performance such as The Cabiri in Seattle, we can avoid a political message that may have driven some people I know from the theater to avoid what they feel are pontifications.
“When several villages are united in a single complete community, large enough to be nearly or quite self-sufficing, the state comes into existence, originating in the bare needs of life, and continuing in existence for the sake of a good life. And therefore, if the earlier forms of society are natural, so is the state, for it is the end of them, and the nature of a thing is its end. For what each thing is when fully developed, we call its nature, whether we are speaking of a man, a horse, or a family. Besides the final cause and end of a thing is the best, and to be self-sufficing is the end and the best.
“Hence it is evident that the state is a creation of nature, and that man is by nature a political animal. And he who by nature and not by mere accident is without a state, is either a bad man or above humanity; he is like the ‘Tribeless, lawless, heartless one,’ whom Homer denounces - the natural outcast is forthwith a lover of war; he may be compared to an isolated piece at draughts.
“Now, that man is more of a political animal than bees or any other gregarious animals is evident. Nature, as we often say, makes nothing in vain, and man is the only animal whom she has endowed with the gift of speech. And whereas mere voice is but an indication of pleasure of pain, and is therefore found in other animals (for their nature attains to the perception of pleasure and pain and the imitation of them to one another, and no further), the power of speech is intended to set for the expedient and inexpedient, and therefore likewise the just and the unjust. And it is a characteristic of man that he alone has any sense of good and evil, of just and unjust, and the like, and the association of living beings who have this sense makes a family and a state.” (Aristotle, Politics, Bk1, Chp 2)
Aristotle is rife with error and controversy, but here I think there is some accuracy. Human beings are social creatures, and naturally hunger for friendship and community with people they care for just the same as for food and water. Naturally, people coalesce into a society which is shaped into their image of good and evil. Unfortunately, that itself is often based on ones perspective. That is all we share with our words and actions in conversation with each other anyway. Theater, and all literature, is a way of sharing a perspective to a larger group that they may not experience otherwise. This sharing is a way to reach out to more members of one’s society, and to provide an opportunity to look at themselves and their life as it compares to the fictional, and occasionally slightly warped, mirror held up to their life.
I was told once that the purpose of art is to provide a greater abundance of life. I have since interpreted this to mean that one gains an appreciation for life beyond ones own limited experience. I will personally never know what it is to be in a woman’s body. It is impossible for me. I will never know what it is to be an Indian or an Egyptian for the same reason. But I can watch or read Guards at the Taj by Rajiv Joseph, or The Tree Climber by Tawfiq al-Hakim. This does not give me the same full experience as a true life would, but I can experience more life than I would otherwise.
Politics is downstream of culture, as an idiom goes. This is true in a democratic state where the will of the people is honored. Art is a manifestation of culture, and influence culture and society more than speaking to friends does. Writing a blog may not have as much impact, but does help me make writing a habit and frame my thoughts (and I have learned to try not to push too hard until I know what the end consequences will be for my polis). Human beings are social animals, and naturally want the world to be good. One can expect actions and words toward ones own family to have an impact on culture of the family society, even if it doesn't go further.
Tap into a Screen
Isn't this funny how little we think it means?
Went to school for theater, learned to make a living in food, fitness, sales, and public education.