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Stop Levitating

In Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Nobel prize winning novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude,  he tells of a priest who levitates every time he drinks hot chocolate. The author said once that originally he had the priest levitating when he drank communion wine, but decided that would be too normal, so he changed the wine to hot chocolate.

Most of us levitate, just not so elegantly. We levitate when we pull up from the support of the earth, perhaps in search of elevated spirituality, and perhaps in search of relief from the pains of earthly existence. It might just look like tense shoulders, or a tight low back, but there is an element of levitation, of pulling away from the chance to rest solidly.

Our culture disdains the earth- we exalt heaven, we aspire to greater heights, we bury our garbage and we descend into hell. But the support of the earth is fundamental to our existence. We do call it “life on earth”.

Our comfort and function depend on the physical connection we have with the earth. Our effectiveness is largely controlled by how well we use that connection. When we lose our sense of ground, our sense of gravity holding us in contact with the earth, we suffer a dreadful anxiety. We can feel exhilaration in flight, but soon we crave the landing. Our home is on the ground, solidly touching the earth.

Try sitting with an intention to be solidly on your chair . This is easier on a hard seat. Find your sit bones and let them press down. Release any muscular tension in the area. The clearer this gets, the more likely you are to feel your spine come into alignment, and your head rise. It may help to allow your feet to rest fully on the floor.

We may tell someone to “sit up”, but that doesn’t work. Like yelling “RELAX!”- it is a useless command. Sit down, pelvis first, actively letting gravity take over, and allowing your bones to stack. Practice this and you will find you sit more easily, remaining more alert yet resting more completely than if you do the usual slouching.

Your back muscles will love the new habit, as they will no longer have to hold you up. Sitting right on your sit bones will stack your spine in a more efficient line, making it way less work for your muscles. Your face will naturally point forward, which means you will look straight ahead without having to tense your neck. You will see better, your shoulders will be happier, and you will feel better when you get up.

This picture shows that you don’t need muscle to sit well. You just need to put your sit bones on the seat, and the rest is just stacking the bones up. Once they are stacked, they can rest.

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That is just one example of the benefits of not levitating. We also levitate when we walk, particularly in shoes (which I will discuss in a separate post). Do you allow your whole foot to touch the ground? “Walk as if you are massaging the earth,” Thich Nhat Han. Try it. What does it feel like to use you foot fully and intentionally to touch the earth? H ow does that change the way you organize the rest of yourself?

Lifting constantly against gravity is hard work. Make your life easier. Notice where you are levitating. See if you can let go and let the pull of the earth support you.

One more from Thich Nhat Han, “Fear, separation, hate and anger come from the wrong view that you and the Earth are two separate entities, the Earth is only the environment.” Releasing our habits of levitation will reduce our unhappiness.

Immediately.

April 25, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Is Love Hard?

Love is scary. Love challenges our identity. These statements are true in a sense,  but not all the time in all ways. Our culture has a lot of sad, angry, and bitter stories about loving.

Try on this idea:

Loving is easy. Specifically, loving you is easy.

It’s true. Loving is simple and self sustaining. Easy. No loss, no sweat, no stress needed.

We are often told that loving means sacrifice, effort, work, heartache, and general unpleasantness.  Life does have all those hard things. They are not love, even when they happen at the same time.

Correlation is not causation. Coincidence is not causation. Random phenomena are not causation. Passive aggressive statements are not love. All the crap that gets attached to love in our heads, none of that is love.

The hard stuff has a lot to do with expectations. When we love we mix in other desires. If you love me you will___ . That is not loving, that is demanding. Unfortunately, we accept it as normal, and base our view of loving on it.

Hope has a place in life, but it is problematic if conflated with love. My hopes are wonderful only as long as I remember that hope is about the future, and I never know the future. Love is a present time thing- I can only love now, not later.  Hope and love don’t exist in the same time frame. Leave each in it’s place, and things will be easier.

Imagine going to up random strangers and saying “Loving you is easy.” Imagine the next homeless person who accosts you. Instead of shrinking back in fear, what if you looked her in the eyes and told her that loving her is easy. What do you think the odds are that anyone has ever told her that simple truth? Maybe you won’t change the course of her life, but maybe you will make that moment better.

Find a friend. Tell them “Loving you is easy” and, even better, “Loving me is easy”. Now go find a mirror. You know what to say when you see yourself.

Practice. We’ve all got a lot to unlearn about love.

love

April 20, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Standing Work Stations

 

 

We are part of a huge social experiment. Our culture sits more than any other society in history. Much of our lives is experienced less than two feet from our faces. But there is little attention on the effects of sitting and staring at a monitor for endless hours.

 

Hunter gathers didn’t have Mac books. We evolved to walk and see. That means our vision is designed to work from a moving platform, and to perceive a variety of distances, colors size and shapes- all in natural light. Holding our body still leaves our eye muscles to do all the work of creating a visual field. This is inherently alienating, exhausting and depressing.

 

A standing workstation is an improvement for most people. This also includes the use of tall stools, rather than normal chairs. Pictures of scholars from the Dark Ages show them standing and reading. Thomas Jefferson stood to read and write sometimes. He was much too tall to fit in the average chair of his time. Ernest Hemingway wrote all his novels standing at his writing table.

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David K. Reynolds, therapist and prolific author writes at his stand up desk. He writes for four hours each morning, and says the stand up desk help him stay focused.

 

Standing desks have also been used in Minnesota schools, showing benefits for adhd kids. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/25/us/25desks.html

 

To set up a standing workstation, start with a tape measure. While looking straight ahead, measure from the floor to your chin. Set your monitor so that the center of the screen is the same height. Even an inch or two difference will make your neck muscles work more.

 

From my chin to the screen is 22 inches. Go for at least 16 inches. Being too close to the screen makes your eyes work harder. If you need larger print to see better, enlarge it (hit control plus on PCs). Try it out, and check if you feel more relaxed. Longer focal length means less work for your eye muscles- less “near point strain”. Get a bigger monitor if you find you need to be closer. You will love the comfort.

 

Setting your keyboard height is pretty easy. Your keyboard should be slightly below your elbow height. Stand on a flat floor and measure up to your elbow. Set your keyboard so it’s about 1-2 inches lower. Any higher and you will lift your shoulders a bit every time you move your hands. Since the shoulder lifting muscles are connected to your neck and head, when they pull your shoulders up, they also pull your head down. Fighting to keep your head up is a major cause of headaches and back pain, so it is worth paying careful attention to the height of your keyboard.

 

Your mouse can be the same height or even a bit lower. Reaching up to use your mouse is very tiring, and can lead to “mouse arm”- tight swollen arm and shoulder muscles, as well as tension headaches.

 

If you use your mouse extensively, get one that has a track ball option. You can learn to switch back and forth from moving the mouse to rolling the track ball. Some people even switch sides at lunchtime so that they use the mouse right handed in the morning and left handed in the afternoon.

 

It’s easier to be focused and stay on task when we stand. Sitting we tend to slump out and dream away. Email and Facebook can swallow time, leaving us sick of the screen and frustrated that we didn’t get a damned thing done. It’s even worse when facing something discouraging. Having a more energized posture can make a huge difference in getting through a tough project.

 

And now for a blunt truth: Eight hours a day of anything is too much. Your body craves variety, and breaks down under monotony.

 

If you can’t stand long enough to do what you want to do, and you really can’t do less, then you need a tall stool. Your stool should let you sit up with your head at exactly the same height as when you stand. Then you won’t need to adjust your monitor, keyboard and mouse every time you take a sitting break.

 

Part 2 of this post will give you even more options.

 

April 18, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment