Learning

The 4×4 Yoga Awards

After 4 weeks of yoga 4 times a week, I am prepared to announce the winners of the 4×4 Yoga Awards:

1) Most ubiquitous accessory: The Lulumon lunch bag, which is apparently the only acceptable way to carry your Lulumon water bottle, Lulumon hair ties, and deep sense of inner peace (purchased separately).

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2) Least tactful acknowledgement of my hyper-extended elbows: “Yikes. Oh sweetie. No, no, no.”

3) Least helpful assist: My cat interpreting lotus position as an open invitation to jump on my back.

4) Most incomprehensible instruction: “Gaze inwardly through your third eye and greet yourself.”

5) Instruction most irksomely reminiscent of street harassment: “Smile softly!”

6) Fanciest man-braid: Tamal Dodge, Elemant.

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7) Most aggressive half-moon encouragement: “Do it, mami! Do it, do it, DO IT!” – Jillian Michaels, Yoga Meltdown.

9) Low Point: Flying too close to the sun for several beats in crow position before toppling to kick the girl besides me and land directly on my head.

10) High point: Realizing that the reason I’m so often short of breath is because I’ve been breathing wrong my whole life – and it’s fixable.

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Uncategorized

One Dress, Two Dress, White Dress, Blue Dress

My best friend is red-green colorblind. Since both colors look identical to her, she can never know for sure whether the color she sees is actually red, actually green, or some amalgam of the two. She memorized the placement of stop and go traffic lights at the age of 15, and since then, her minor disability has not had much of an impact on her life. She finds it fairly mundane. I, on the other hand, find it fascinating.

Every time she holds up a fire engine red dress at the mall or selects a ruby red nail polish at a salon or points to a maroon red paint sample and casually checks in with me to confirm, “What color is this?” – my mind basically bends in half.

“Does it look more like fire or grass to you?” I asked once, determined to get to the bottom of this once and for all.

“I don’t know. Fire and grass look like basically the same color to me.”

“But, wait – does it look more like pink or blue to you?”

“I’m not sure. It’s hard to tell.” She shrugged, untroubled.

It’s not so much the fact of her color-blindness that bewilders and intrigues me. It’s the larger idea that we can be looking at the exact same color and never really be certain that we’re seeing the same color at all.

I can easily accept subjective interpretations of experiences. Sure, two people can read the same book, see the same sunset, participate in the same conversation and both leave with entirely different impressions. And I can theoretically accept that language is subjective too. If I tell you “I love you,” there is no way to confirm with any certainty that the picture of love in my head matches the picture in yours. If you tell me that you believe in God, your inexpressible image of God might not match anything that I would recognize as a god. We might only think we’re communicating when we’re actually in entirely different conversations.

But if something as deeply rooted in concrete reality as color is in the eye of the beholder, it calls into question the very possibility of shared perception.

On a day-to-day basis, I forget all of this. I go through most days choosing to believe that we are all on the same page with regard to the basics of reality, because that’s the only functional, pragmatic thing to believe.  But this paradigm becomes impossible to maintain in those moments when my best friend holds up a hunter green fabric swatch or a mint green purse or an emerald green notebook and asks me, “What color is this?”

Maybe that’s why a (spoiler alert) black-and-blue dress scorched the internet this week.

Optical illusions are fairly commonplace, but this wasn’t a typical illusion. There was no way to squint and find a path back to an objective, shared reality. There was just the realization two people could look at the exact same dress and see two entirely different dresses. There was just the implicit question of whether it’s possible to ever know how anyone else sees anything.

Maybe the intense social media reaction was not in response to the idea of this photograph as an illusion, but in response to the idea that our shared reality is an illusion. It revealed a divide rarely contemplated but always lurking.  It provoked people to defend their perception as if their very reality depended on it. Because, in a way, it did.

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Uncategorized

10 Things I Learned From the 21 Day Sugar Detox

1) – An entire freezer filled with homemade chicken stock is significantly more work and significantly less life-changing than anticipated.

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2) – Homemade beef jerky, yogurt, and apple chips, on the other hand, have all made my life at least 3% more delicious.

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3) – Cauliflower can be rice.

4) – Cauliflower can be mashed potatoes.

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5) – Cauliflower can be king of the world.

6) – Despite my formerly fervent belief to the contrary, it is possible to eat out without touching the bread basket.

7) – 4 days without sugar will turn a month-old skittle at the bottom of your purse into an almost irresistible temptation.

8) – Candy cravings will pass, but pasta cravings are forever.

9) – That mysterious headache I’ve gotten every afternoon for as long as I can remember is called a sugar crash.

10)- That borderline-euphoric energy I’ve had for the past 21 days is what happens when I actually take two seconds to think about what I’m eating.

21DSD

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Learning

The 30 Day Shred Awards

My antagonistic relationship with physical fitness began at the tender age of 5 when I attempted to play softball for the first time and was promptly knocked unconscious by a stray pitch. In 2nd grade gym, I dangled, mortified, before the the eyes of my classmates, unable to lift my chin beyond the pull-up bar and inwardly deciding that I would die as I was born: without upper body strength. In college, I was the kind of jogger who took occasional half mile runs to 7/11 then strolled back to the dorm eating a pint of double fudge ice cream. I’ve never said no to a glass of wine with dinner.  I’ve never met a carb I didn’t love. I’ve never worked out for longer than a month consecutively.

And I’ve always wondered why I’m often too exhausted at the end of the day to do anything other than crash on the couch with my DVR.

I’m tackling 20 health goals this year, not because I’m especially interested in health, but because I’m interested in so many other things – things that require me to drag myself out of my apartment after work on a regular basis, or at the very least, sit at my desk with some modicum of focus. And so, in search of the energy to finally tackle my long neglected list of more interesting endeavors, I find myself writing about a topic that has historically made my eyes roll and then glaze over: working out. Or rather, my new mission to find a sustainable form of nutrition/exercise that doesn’t feel like punishment.

But first, just to establish a baseline of what  punishment really feels like, I kicked off the year with the dreaded 30 Day Shred. This workout was once recommended to me by a co-worker, at which time I tried it for exactly 6 days before deciding that my co-worker was trying to kill me. But what better way to make the rest of this year feel like a cake-walk than launching it with infamous hard-ass Jillian Michaels? I am almost amazed to report that, as of yesterday, I have completed all 30 days. And, with this achievement,  I feel fully qualified to present the following 30 Day Shred awards for …

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Learning

Top 10 Recipes of #50NewRecipesIn2014

Much as I love to cook, I’ve always been pretty lazy about it. Since college, I’ve known how to make 10-15 meals. I’ve rarely ventured outside my recipe box.  If it’s not broken, don’t fix it, right?

But last year was about fixing things that I may not have realized were broken. It was about eliminating all excuses not to be happy. It was about taking writing workshops and meditation classes and spontaneous road-trips; joining a gym and starting a new job and volunteering to cuddle with kittens at the Anti-Cruelty Society; attending philosophy lectures and off Broadway musicals and indie film festivals and outdoor concerts. And it was about cooking.

I set a goal to finally open up all those untouched cookbooks on my bookshelf and make 50 new recipes. And, almost to my own amazement, I did it.  I remembered how happy cooking makes me. I made 50 new recipes last year. And I’ve chosen my top 10 favorites to share with you here.

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Thinking

Serial and the Myth of Objectivity

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“Do you think he did it?”

It’s a question I’ve heard more times than I can count in the weeks that Serial has dominated water-cooler chit chat in my office and dinner party debates with my friends.

The answers are fascinating, not for what they reveal about the fifteen-year-old murder trial of Adnan Syed, but for what they reveal about the speaker. They reveal that there are those who want to believe Adnan is innocent and are determined to disarm every piece of damning evidence, weaving it into a story of tragically bad luck. Likewise, there are those who want to believe that Adnan is guilty and are determined reinterpret every piece of exculpatory evidence, appropriating it into a story of a premeditated murder.

Confirmation bias. We believe what we already believe and reject what we already reject. If your temperament, life experience, and beliefs lead you to view Adnan as trustworthy or untrustworthy from Episode 1, your subconscious likely filtered the facts that followed accordingly. You already had your narrative. And new facts alone were unlikely to shift your position.

Serial is interesting precisely because it recognizes this reality.

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Thinking

Love According to Rainer Maria Rilke

Beauty is only the first touch of terror, he quoted during one of our first conversations.

I had recently finished a required course in Romanticism and was stumbling through an inarticulate explanation of my interest in the idea of the sublime. His response left me dizzy with the rare thrill of feeling implicitly understood. I knew his words were borrowed, but it was all mixed up together in the months that followed – a whirlwind of handwritten letters and a borrowed copy of the Duino Elegies and professions of love.  I had never read Rilke before and so I was in awe at the way his beautiful words seemed to expand inside me, making room for new thoughts and carving out places for new feelings.

When the dust settled, I wondered if maybe I hadn’t been so much in love with a boy from my college as with a long dead Austrian poet and his idea of what love should be.  The college romance might be a distant memory, but I still hold to Rilke’s  exquisite vision of love:

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