Practice

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I’ve been to less than ten yoga classes ever. I realize that might be more than most men, but even so, ten classes isn’t much for something I value so highly. Yoga is meditation through the moving and posed body, to me. As much as I love it, I have gleaned just one pose from those sessions: and I don’t even know what it’s called.

I love this pose. It connects me to the ground and the sky. I find my balance through it, and it’s gentle enough that I can do it first thing in the morning. I get a great stretch in my hips, groin, and shoulders. Also, I get some development in my foot arch by doing it.

The other reason I love this pose so much is that I get the chance, on sunny mornings, to have some sun time for my  eyes. I’m recently using the Bates method, created to improve vision. I’ve worn lenses for most of my life, and only recently have been discovering that I don’t always need them. So it’s been great time out in the sun as well.

It strikes me how little of what I learn from classes, books, and the internet actually sticks in my mind and gets put into practice. I am an avid learner. I believe that well thought programs or stories or instructions are to be carefully absorbed, digested, and correctly put into practice. There’s a big difference between your quick news article, telling you that omega 3’s are good so you should eat flax seed, and a book, which provides carefully gathered information and deep thought to tie it all together. So when I come upon good instruction, I take care to look at the details.

The latest example of this is in Kettlebell – Simple and Sinister, a book about beginner kettlebell training by Pavel Tsastouline. I love this book. It’s simple, concise, and comprehensive. The thing is, every word in this short guide matters. As I began kettlebell training, however, I couldn’t possibly incorporate everything from the book into my actual behavior. It’s always a matter of time and effort when learning something new. There’s just so much already programmed into my mind and body. It is taking lots of trying to add new movement and muscle recruitment, change old ways that don’t work, and get rid of the harmful patterns.

So as I learn to swing and get up with my precious modified cannonball, I keep going back to the text. There is literally always something that I haven’t incorporated, or something I missed, or a completely forgotten technique from the first few times I read it. And every time, it’s like an exciting new task to get it better in my next training session.

Practice makes perfect, they say. But what makes practice?

Will.

I look for information so that I can improve my self, my life, or the world. To take something from outside, however small, absorb it, and then make it a part of my daily life to my benefit, is the ultimate purpose of information. Yes, there is “entertainment value” in things. But even entertainment is a form of improving life.

The internet keeps growing. The rate of information growth increases by the second: every second, the amount of info added to the net is more than the second before it. This makes me sort of panic. How am I going to access it all for my advantage? I can speed read all the articles in the universe and end up with tired eyes and ears, if I use the audio versions too.

But none of it matters except that I can make practice of the stuff that matters.

When you took what you learned, tried it, liked it, and began doing it regularly, you made it a practice. And practice can make perfect. But through practice you also cultivate that golden fruit, experience. Pavel refers to Nassim Taleb, author of The Black Swan:

“We are built to be dupes for theories. But theories come and go; experience stays.”

Make it a practice.

Live powerfully,

Steve

Mobility At Work

Having worked in an office, I understand when most people say that sitting for hours at a time is required.

After all, what the hell else can you do? Even though there are some avant garde companies out there that have standing desks, most are not so progressive. And although more and more workplaces will get adjustable seating, it doesn’t make a difference if people have no understanding of what to do with the tools at their disposal. Simply standing is not going to solve your back pain.

Believe me, I know. I’ve dealt with low back pain for years, and standing in shoes with elevated heels and pointed toes hurt my back as much as sitting did (yes, men’s shoes also have heels). Not to say standing is bad. It’s a step in the right direction.

But what direction to go? Answering this, and visualizing how you want to be, will guide you through each day for the long term. For me, the goal was to be a standing, upright, limber human being. Not just as work but in life in general. I didn’t want tight hips. I didn’t want aching knees and back. I didn’t want knots in my shoulders. I didn’t want to be a slouching leaning tower of persona.

The workload, and the fact that most of it is at a computer, limits most people to think that they have to sit. Well, rethink it. Visualize yourself as mobile and embody it.

You don’t need a standing desk to be mobile at work. Allow me a bullet-pointed list of ways to not be sitting in a corporate office, doctor’s front desk, home office, wherever:

  • Go knock on office doors or cubicle walls instead of email or phoning. Your impact will be greater.
  • Get up and walk for phone calls. Use an earpiece. You will be more creative.
  • Meet people in the middle of halls and spaces for talks, rather than where they or you sit. This is called a standing meeting and it doesn’t have to be super deliberate. Make it subtle like, “Oh hey, I was just going to see you, so, what’s up?” Things will be easier.
  • Body language does wonders. Learn to Jedi-maneuver so you stay standing and avoid going to your or another person’s desk. This works with your bosses too. Beware, they are probably more practiced in body language than you. The first few times you may find yourself somehow sitting in their office. But it’s only a matter of time before you are both still standing at the end of your exchange.
  • Time your sitting-prone activities. Have some emails you need to respond to? Set a fifteen- to thirty-minute timer to get them done. Then get up to finish, face-to-face, the remaining interactions.
  • Schedule email responses. If you respond live, there’s high potential to get an immediate response. How do people do this? I don’t know. But it’s insane. Schedule your responses to go out in the next hour or two. Outlook does this, and so do others. You just have to find the setting (usually in the same place as “read receipt request” type stuff). You will be able to send your answers and be free of your “work box” without having to return volleys of mail in the moment.
  • Take your shoes off at your desk, and sit cross-legged or with at least one leg crossed under you. Lace-less shoes make this much easier. This will save you a world of back strain. It opens up the hips and stops the pull on your low back from your pelvic and abdominal connections. Smelly feet? With increased “air time”, this problem will diminish.
  • Elevate your screen to eye level and brighten it so that you can easily see it from a straight-postured position. Why cause yourself to lean forward because it’s too dark to see? Life hack!
  • Keep your keyboard close enough to reduce forward pull at your shoulders. It helped to have mine on my lap. With laptops, this is going to be difficult. Get a separate keyboard to plug in (I am still paranoid about wireless stuff).
  • Wear flat shoes with wide toe space. If you must wear shiny dress shoes, go as flat and wide as possible. And keep them off as much as possible at your desk. Do lunch barefoot if you can. Fancy shoes are meant to not be worn.
  • Take your breaks, take your lunch. Don’t be a ninny about break time. Get the hell out of your desk. Chances are you are not a coal miner. So why take fewer breaks than coal miners do? Effective, executive-level people take breaks. They breathe. They get out of their setting regularly. How often do you actually see your CEO, COO, or CFO in her office? Making a connection now?
  • Ditch your phone. When you step away from your desk, put it on silent and leave it at your desk. It will survive without you. That’s what VM and texts are for. Follow this rule for the next bullet too.
  • Remember that you have to pee, and sometimes poo. Do not neglect this urge. Follow it, and take forever walking back to your desk. If done correctly, you will find many chances for standing meetings, Jedi maneuvers, and creative, on-the-spot solutions.

Want happier, more mobile coworkers? Forward this to them. Oh, and don’t be a ninny. Send to your boss.

Live powerfully,

Steve