On Challenges

My sweaty triangle, as of May 12th, when the instructor asked if she could photograph me after class so I could see how my form has improved….

Folks who have been around here very long know I started practicing Bikram Yoga a couple years ago. That practice is still stuttering along, though lately it’s been going stronger than ever. I felt I was slipping earlier this spring, falling back to only a class or two a week, so I decided that, in order to kick my ass back into line, I’d try, again, to commit to a practice-every-day, 30-day challenge. I’d made the attempt in the past, but never managed to go thirty days in a row. This time I pulled it off; from April 27th to May 26th, I muscled through a class in the hot room — mostly 60-minute classes, a few 90-minuters, and even two or three hot Pilates classes — every day. It was exhausting; not so much the classes themselves, but I fell behind on getting enough sleep, so my ass was dragging by the end. It was worth every sweaty minute. It was also nice to sleep in a little that Saturday the 27th. I didn’t get up until almost 8:00 AM!

I was out of town for a few days after it wrapped up, but now I’m back at it. The new challenge on the yoga front is something that happens every summer in the studio where I practice. Everyone who wants to participate signs up and must attend at least three classes per week (we get one throwaway week). At the end — the first of October — anybody left standing gets entered into a drawing for a free year of yoga. So I signed up; in the first week I went four times. So far, so good.

I also agreed to do a food challenge with my mom. She’s doing a paleo thing, I’m doing Whole30. That started on June 3rd, so we’re a little over a week in. I’ve tried this sort of thing in the past as well, but so far it’s going better than it typically has. I’m eating quite a bit of bison, potatoes, lots of spinach, peppers, tuna, cashews, a little chicken, asparagus, broccoli, carrots, etc. Hell, I even ate eggs and avocados this morning, unprecedented in my history. And no soda so far! At least once a day I’m taking a picture of a meal — usually dinner — and sending it to my mom. I think the accountability helps. It’s even kind of fun.

Why am I doing all this? Just to clean up my act, people. Everything I love to do most requires a certain level of health and fitness. I need to regain some ground, and I’m not getting any younger.

Answering the Age-Old Travel Question

Having spent a couple nights aboard, could I live here?

“The Meadowlark”

Yes. Yes, I could.

Highlights included the outdoor shower (particularly in the rain), all the mist of the Olympic Peninsula, and the visiting barred owl.

 

She’s a 1938 ‘classic’ and curvaceous 40′ wooden cruiser. Charming bathroom, kitchen and sleeping quarters. Experience the ultimate in comfortable cruising. She sits high and dry in her own meadow surrounded by dark green forest. Bon voyage.

Rich warm solid mahogany. Relive the yachting world of the 40’s in this spacious wooden bridge deck cruiser of Lake Union heritage, designed in the spirit of famous Seattle marine architect, Ed Monk. Enjoy cocktails on the dock overlooking your own private meadow. Quiet and secluded, for a good nights sleep.

She is a classic ‘antique’ boat, not actually built for optimum overnight accommodations. She has such features as areas of low head room, several steps up and down to various levels, and an attendant salty boat ambiance. Boat people and adventurers love her, but she may not be appropriate for everyone.

For A While We Were In The World

I keep a record of the books I read on the social media site Goodreads. I don’t really interact there. I essentially do it because I like the page that shows all the covers of the books I read, slowly growing, one at a time. It pleases me. In a life of very few measurable accomplishments, it’s cool to see a visual representation of the pleasure I’ve found in books.

The other night I added a recently-read book, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, by Pema Chödrön. It’s a Buddhist work I’ve had recommended to me many times, and I finally got around to reading it. What struck me, though, was that when the page displayed it showed references to the book by members of my Goodreads friend list. At the very top of the list was a review from my good friend, Ron Scheer. It was an odd coincidence, as he posted his review within a couple exact days of my update, only five years prior. And my post was only two weeks after the two year anniversary of Ron’s death on April 11, 2015. There is a beautiful remembrance of Ron at his website by another friend of mine, David Cranmer (the first person to ever publish my fiction, in fact). You may read it here.

This is Ron’s review of the Chödrön book, and it is spot on:

I was just finishing this book in September 2001 when the events of 9-11 turned the world upside down, and things truly fell apart. There suddenly were all the vulnerable feelings that Pema Chödrön encourages us to embrace: fear, sorrow, loneliness, groundlessness. And in the days of shock and grief that followed, there was that brief and abundant display of “maitri,” or loving kindness, which emerged in waves of generosity and compassion for one another. For a while, we were in the world that she points to as an alternative to the everyday routine of getting, spending, and constant activity.

It is nearly impossible to summarize or characterize this fine book. In some 150 pages it covers more than a person could hope to absorb in many years, if not a lifetime. We may know the Buddha’s famous insight that human pain and suffering result from desire and aversion. But few writers have been able to articulate as well as Chödrön the implications of that insight in ways that make sense to the Western mind. As just one example from this book, her discussion of the “six kinds of loneliness” (chap. 9) illustrates how our desires to achieve intimacy with others are an attempt to run away from a deep experience of ourselves. Our continuing efforts to establish security for ourselves are a denial of fundamental truths, which prevents our deep experience of the joy of living. Our reluctance to love ourselves and others shrivels our hearts.

Chödrön invites us to be fascinated, as she is, by paradox. On hopelessness and death (chap. 7) she writes: “If we’re willing to give up hope that insecurity and pain can be exterminated, then we can have the courage to relax with the groundlessness of our situation. This is the first step on the path.” She gets us to acknowledge our restlessness (even our spiritual restlessness) for what it is, something we do instead of simply paying attention to ourselves in the moment and to what happens next, without judgment or preconceptions.

In addition to this book, I recommend acquiring one or more of her audio tapes and hearing her voice as she speaks before audiences. For all the high-mindedness that may come across in descriptions like the one above, or what you might take away by reading the cover of her book, Chödrön is down to earth and unpretentious, speaking in her American accent (don’t let the appearance of her name fool you) and with a self-effacing sense of humor. Her message is in her manner, as much as it is in what she says.

This is a book to buy and read, and reread at intervals, for it is always new, always speaking to you exactly where you are, right now.

Ron was a kind and gentle man who was, in many ways, something of a mentor of mine, despite the bulk of our interactions occurring online or via email. I’m reminded of him often when I am looking something up on this site and find a comment from him on a given post. I was fortunate to have met him in person when he was in Missoula in 2011 for a conference on western fiction, a topic he was a true scholar of. I miss him, and given the wide net his kindness and curiosity cast, I’m certain I’m not alone in that.

Here we are together that October Saturday in 2011. I’m shorter of hair and much less beardy than I am now, and today’s version of that vest betrays even more mileage than my face currently does. Ron, though, looks as I will always remember him, smiling under his cowboy hat.