Don’t talk about Religion

leave it to beaver

They say in polite conversation, like in social settings or at a fancy dinner, you don’t bring up religion or politics. I think this is a good general rule of thumb.

But…

I’ll say something about it because I can.

I’m not ashamed of my beliefs. I celebrate Christmas and Easter; and I celebrate for reasons other than getting presents or eating the ears off of chocolate bunnies. So maybe that narrows it down.

I see a lot of social media posts where people say their religion is the outdoors. Or its something about themselves. Or whatever is under the sun. They hold it personally and say that others shouldn’t proselytize their beliefs.

Yet, they openly talk about Karma (Hindu), Zen (Buddhist), or some kind of Universalism. You know what? You are free to do those things. Just like its OK for me to talk about my beliefs. You can talk about what the Universe is telling you. You can talk about what your Tarot card reads today. You can say what the Zodiac signs are telling you. Its what you believe, and that’s what you should do.

But for me and my house, we know what we believe. I don’t adopt other faiths because of what I believe. I don’t allow astrology or cosmology to slip into my conscious thoughts. I don’t buy a Buddha just for fun and make an altar in my living room. I don’t have a big poster of Ganesha just because I think it is cool. I don’t sprinkle Holy Water because it is not something I do. I don’t even say “God Bless You” when someone sneezes because I would be abiding by a superstitious ritual. I don’t believe in superstition or karma or any of those things. I don’t adopt something just because Jennifer Aniston or some other celebrity does it. Its not what I do.

But you can do whatever you want. You believe whatever you want. I would just ask that if you are tolerant of all of those other beliefs, you should tolerate mine as well.

 

Throw Books

books in air

This may sound flippant, but throw the book at a perceived threat.

In the Army, we trained repetitively. We use the crawl-walk-run method of training. We go through every detail working up to a full fledged assault. The same is true when I wrestled. I’ve probably done every single move you can think of hundreds if not thousands of times. You do this to create muscle memory. Instead of thinking about it, you do it instinctively.

We did Immediate Action drills when on Infantry patrols. If there was a far-ambush, where you face Indirect Fire by artillery or mortars or sniper attack, you seek cover and evade. But in a near-ambush, you have no choice but to go directly into the fight as fast and as hard as you can. I won’t give details, but when you set up a near-ambush, you don’t give options for escape. So the only option is to go to the enemy.

When I’m sitting in church, I have located 2 or 3 thick hymnals, which are big, hard song books. Someone meant to do harm will focus on the speaker up front or maybe someone in particular who they are after. They aren’t expecting me to fling heavy books at full speed at their head. If you scoff at this, have someone throw a 2 pound book at your face and see how it feels. Now, imagine the whole congregation throwing books, shoes, or whatever they could find at the offender. Believe me, that person is going down. And then people need to rush that person and neutralize the threat.

book to head

Wherever you are, think of a few heavy objects you can grab quickly should something happen. If you are a person of action, make sure you are always in a place where you can be proactive. If you need to lunge at someone, be where you can be effective.

Most importantly, we have to be aware of our surroundings. Know the exits. Know places of cover. And know what weapons you can use to protect yourself and your loved ones. If every single person thought this way, we’d be much safer. Rehearse in your mind what you might do. Rehearse how to do CPR. Rehearse rolling out of bed to the side and preparing to fight. Rehearse crawling into the shelter during a tornado.

The worst thing you can think is that it will never happen to you. Most incidents happen in seconds. And help is usually at least 5 minutes away. So YOU need to be the one who protects those you love. An attacker expects an easy target. He is expecting sheep and not lions. Be the lion! Be a whole pride of lions! Don’t cower in the corner or under the desk. That is what they are expecting. Stand up for yourself and be brave.

When Loved Ones Hurt

I have a good friend in the hospital. At least, I think I still have a friend.

A long, long time ago, when I moved out after getting married, my little brother went off the deep end. He was adopted by my parents and we loved him dearly. He was born with fetal alcohol syndrome, so he was prone to just about anything addictive. This time it was huffing paint. My parents found him in the living room with paint all over and him stoned out of his mind. He proceeded to jump out of a large plate glass window and run away. My parents had to call the police because he was so uncontrollable. It took a half a dozen grown policeman to apprehend him, and he wasn’t that big. Its amazing what drugs will do to you.

Meanwhile, I didn’t know any of this had happened. My other brother moved to Phoenix and I don’t have other family in the area. All I knew was that my parents weren’t anywhere to be found for days. I started searching and wondering. I never thought to look at the living room window. All I knew was the house was dark and nobody ever answered the door.

I don’t blame my parents one bit. They went through the worst of the worst. They were in a hospital with my brother and he was strapped to the bed. They were worried sick. I don’t blame them that they never called me. They didn’t leave a note or anything. Maybe if they knew I was worried for them, they would have called or something. It wasn’t fair to me. But my brother was the priority, and I completely understood.

Mind you, I was raised in a loving but respectful household. I knew not to talk back to my parents. We were always mindful of our position in the family. One time when I was an older teenager, I talked back to my Mom and basically stopped her from trying to give me a spanking. I was too old for that and I was a wrestler in high school. Well, that news got to my Dad and he wasn’t too happy about it. It was the one and only time he threatened to throw down with me. I sorely regretted that and I never stepped over the line again. Well, maybe until this incident with my brother.

I mean, I was somewhat hysterical. I didn’t yell, but I had some stern words for my parents. I was training to be an Army Drill Instructor at the time, so I knew how to yell. I didn’t have a clue what had happened to them. Then, my Dad being my Dad; he put me in my place. He told me I was in the wrong, which in a way I was. I was showing I cared, but what they went through was worse. My anger quickly melted into empathy and compassion. He was completely right. I had no right to be angry at them for leaving me in the dark.

My friend left me in the dark too. She is in the ICU and in a really bad state. I’ve been so worried. There isn’t anyone there to contact me since I live some distance away. And she is really not in a situation to send and receive messages. The not knowing is the worst for me, but nothing compares to what she is going through. Then I open my big mouth and lash out looking for information. I’m hopeful for her return to full health. But I’m doubtful I have a friend anymore. I think it is possible to care so much that you freak out. I freaked out. I’ve done it before with my parents and brother.

My brother died some years back. He was found at the bottom of a tall bridge in Washington State. We don’t know if it was suicide or something else. I’m hopeful for my friend. I really wish her well. But I’ll be quiet now and try not to worry anymore. She’s in God’s hands now.

Yoga Style vs. Safety

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The style of yoga that I embrace the most is Ashtanga Yoga. It can be very specific, even a bit militant, in the exact shapes you make. My friends in Iyengar probably find this even more true. Each style of yoga comes with a specific flavor unique to their practice. And it is all very well and good. Style is what makes something unique. However, a different style, doesn’t mean in a general context that a shape is right or wrong. What CAN make it wrong is if it becomes unsafe. Here are some top issues of safety that I believe connects all styles.

Inversions: Looking to the side
If there was a top safety issue that was repeated more often in yoga teacher training, it is this. The cervical spine in the neck is very prone to injury should you look to the side. This is especially true in shoulder stand (salamba sarvangasana), but also for the reverse in chin stand (uttana salabasana). The position of the head should remain neutral in all inversions.

Tree Pose: placing foot on knee
I see this all too often. Most of us will agree that the side pressure to the knee is not desirable, especially those susceptible to cruciate ligament or other knee injuries. The foot should be placed on the calf or thigh, or even resting lightly on the floor.

Shoulders caving in
Look at many planks and pushups. Most people are in a good position looking forward with elbows back. I don’t mean elbows hugging in to the sides, but just so the shoulders don’t cave forward. When I was an Army Drill Instructor, new recruits would almost always pushup with head down, elbows out, and shoulders curved in. Its not a good position. This is very common in chaturanga, almost all forward folds, upward dog or cobra; actually this can be expressed in any pose. Just don’t do it. It causes shoulder impingements leading to possible rotator cuff and other injuries.

Lunge: knees going past the toes
This is a point of contention for me. I still teach this in classes as a general rule. But I don’t think this is a real issue. Look at pictures of people squatting while making dinner or doing laundry in most new world countries, their knees are way past their toes. And, if you look at all pictures of Olympic weightlifters deep in the catch position, their knees are also in this condition. It isn’t a real issue for me.

Floppy Feet
This is one I see the most. A common cue in yoga is internal rotation of the thighs, which opens the sacrum and overall pelvis in the back. This is crucial to all forward folds, but can be found in virtually every pose. A key way to know that internal rotation occurs is when yogis engage into the ball of their foot. A flexed or flointed foot is desired. Though you’ll see many dancers point their feet. I think this is stylistic, but most in yoga will teach flexed or flointed. This is most evident in one-leg forward folds and in the Marichyasanas. As far as safety, I list this as a lesser issue since I don’t think it will necessarily lead to injury. But, it greatly reduces the effectiveness of forward folds and is an indicator of a lack of proper training and alignment.

There are so many style issues that are important to a practice, but most are largely irrelevant from a safety standpoint. Fingers spread or together, where you look, sometimes foot placement, hand placement, and the transitions are stylistic. That’s not to say they shouldn’t be emphasized if you are doing a specific style of practice. But for a general vinyasa flow class, these stylistic differences aren’t something of great concern.

Unrealism in Lives of Comfort

Coffee-Shop-9

For most of us, we don’t know what its like to live in discomfort. And for those of us who have, we easily forget.

We rise from a comfortable bed, complaining in our minds how cold the floor is when we step on it. We flick on a light switch, not thinking of what a miracle of science it is. We pull on our pants manufactured in a far off land. We wander in for our daily $5 cup of coffee. And then we have another. Our smart device reads our thumb print and we get lost in this bustling world around us. Yeah, most of us have it pretty well.

We live in this world where the most mundane and inconsequential tasks are no longer tedious. So its easy to complain and worry for things that don’t really affect our lives. They just make us feel better about the guilt we have for having all this around us. So we focus on racism, sexism, intolerance, green things, capitalism, and all the other -isms. All the while you take for granted the pretty flower made in the froth of your $5 coffee.

I hear my many friends talk about this horrendous event in Orlando, and for good reason. I ache in my heart for those lost and their families. But, instead of focusing on the source of the problem, we look at this assault on a lifestyle choice. Our focus is so much on political correctness and fear of offending that we overlook what is real. We live these cushy lives without a worry in the world and not see the real problem.

We focus on how refugees from wars end up on our shores and we hate our governments for not letting them in and sharing with them the same comforts we have. But do you ever think about what you are saying? There is a reason they are refugees. Do you think they really want to pack a few of their belongings, leave their homes, their homelands, their families, their rich cultural history, and move to an unknown foreign land where they may not speak the same language or share the same culture? No! Absolutely not! Most would rather live a comfortable existence that they have lived for generations. Yet no one was there to stop the plague. Nobody was there to protect them. Who stands up for the little guy?

What we overlook while we rest under the security blanket in which we live is that there are people who are meant for evil. Maybe most of you haven’t tried to rationalize with someone who is drunk off their skull; who is drugged beyond reproach; who are starving and would give a brick of gold for bread and water. You can’t rationalize away the core of their existence by explaining your -isms to them. You can’t say choose peace and love and think they’ll change. Their laws don’t allow that. They want you to abide by their laws and believe the way that they do. If you don’t, they want to rid you from existence on Earth. Its that plain and simple. People have bumper stickers that say “CoExist.” There is no room for that in their ideology. They want genocide.

We complain about so many silly things in this country of peace. Yet people are tortured and executed in places when you don’t believe the same way. And these ideals are being spilled onto our own lands. The SOURCE of the problem is where it starts. They first take and kill and displace and spread fear, taking up land and resources as they go along. They need to be stopped at the SOURCE. And often, the true SOURCE isn’t where you think. They are being financed. And their false ideology is being propagated. Their financing and propagation must stop.

Every wildfire has a source. It may have been a bolt of lightning; a spark from a lawn mower; a flick of a cigarette. If you let the inferno grow, it swallows forests and cities. If we could have contained the spark, it would never have grown. But now its a beast.

The Amazon.com Model

Brazil-Amazon-Rainforest

You are welcome to disagree with me, but you will not sway my opinion. Amazon.com is my favorite place to shop.

Don’t get me wrong. I love bookstores. I love to browse. And I can get lost in libraries.

But I’ve also been in an on and off romance with Kindle technology as well. I love having several books right at my fingertips on my phone at all times. So, any down-time can be productive and stimulating. But sometimes, I need a real-life paper book. If there are pictures or illustrations, I love a book. And in general, I like to have books especially if they are something I’ll reference and go back to. But then again, there is that having it at your fingertips (and searchable) any time.

You could teach an entire college course on Amazon. You could study marketing, demographics, gender & race studies, automation, and a whole host of other categories. Sometimes, the efficiency scares me. Its almost like Amazon knows what I want before I buy it and, the next thing you know, I get a text that it was delivered at my doorstep. I compare prices. Sometimes I look at a price and then go locally to see if they can beat it somewhere. I can get a used item. And the best of all: Reviews!! I know these can be falsified, but that’s another study unto itself. I write a lot of reviews myself and I am very honest about my feelings. So I assume at least a few good reviews will help me guide my purchase.

I use wish lists. I buy people stuff from their wedding & birthday lists. I prioritize what I want. And then I let it sit and may change it to a lesser priority. It makes me thrifty.

Now, to the politics of economics. I’m a firm believer in capitalism. The poor sellers, poor products, poor reviews, end up being the places and products we don’t buy. But the Best Sellers and best reviews are what wins. And in turn, volume sells and you get a better price. It is the ultimate economic model for capitalism. The market tells you what to get. Competition wins out. Often, if you find something with only one seller and the price is too high, it usually won’t sell. And I won’t buy it. Monopolies don’t work on Amazon.

The fortunate and unfortunate aspect of efficiency is in product sourcing. I’ll admit that I buy a lot of things that take 1-2 months to arrive on a slow boat from China. But when someone sells something for 99 cents or $4.99, I can’t lose. Most of the time, I don’t know its origin. I just know its probably a long way from home if it takes a long time to ship. But if it is a good product, I’ll quickly buy it again. This is the rule of global competition.

Lastly, I’ll tell you a short story. The big hardware stores near me are all the way across town. I had a hardware store closer that I would go to when I needed something fast. But my experience was always terrible. An old guy with an apron would be wandering the aisles. He was supposed to be helpful, but it seemed more like he was assuming you’d steal something. When he asked if he could help you, you would tell him. Then, he would belittle you and make you feel stupid for not knowing what he knew. A bolt that would cost 49 cents at Lowes ended up being $3.99 at the Mom & Pop. And don’t get me started with the camping store. I haven’t set foot in there for years. They would assume you were a thief before considering you as a patron. And the prices were marked up like 400%. I was at a bike shop once and had a nice conversation with the clerk. I browsed and walked out having not bought anything. The next thing you know, the clerk is knocking on the window of my truck asking me to open my jacket so she could see what I stole!! OMG! I didn’t steal anything. She didn’t even apologize. Yep, haven’t been back, and its closed anyway.

So for me, Amazon is a judgement-free zone. I get to shop on my terms. I shop in my short-shorts with a cup of coffee by my side. And with 2-day free shipping for Amazon Prime, I’m always the happiest camper around.