The Bubble Wrapped Life

bubble wrap baby

A friend of mine posted a picture of her stretching on an airplane while waiting to fly. She was doing the splits with one socked foot on a head rest. Most people enjoyed the post. But one guy was severely offended. He ranted about how many germs her foot carries and how disrespectful it was to have a foot on a headrest. I wanted to write “Lighten up Francis!” (from the movie “Stripes”).

I hear this kind of rhetoric a lot. Some lady at my yoga studio made some antiseptic comment as well with her cleanliness hysteria. Do you know there aren’t any laws or health code violations for being barefoot in a restaurant or grocery store? A private store owner can do what they want. But the “No Shoes, No Service” idea is without merit. I’d be barefoot everywhere if they’d let me.

Do you want to know the truth? If I step on dog poop with my shoes on, it gets into the crevices of my soles and I carry it everywhere. If I don’t smell it, then I don’t even know its there. Yet, you’d let me walk into any store with those shoes. But if I am barefoot, 95% of the time I’m going to know I stepped in dog poop. And for me, 90% of the time, I won’t do anything about it. The bare soles of my feet are much better at self-cleaning than shoes are. And the cells of my epidermis slough off routinely and I get a fresh batch of cells deposited non-stop.

Once, I was walking barefoot to the Yoga studio, which is attached to a small mall. Some girl showing off for her two BFFs yelled out that I’m going to get a tapeworm. They all had a good laugh about that. Truth be told, I’ve never gotten any infection from bacteria, fungi, or nematodes since adopting barefootedness. I used to get Athlete’s foot all the time when I wore shoes too much. Shoes are perfect humidors that stay nice and moist for bacteria and fungi to grow. Believe me, my Ph.D. is in Microbiology. I did read the other day of a guy who pulled a 5 foot tapeworm out of his body because he ate raw sushi on a daily basis.

But people always claim they need boots for hiking. They need a special shoe to workout in. I used to go the CrossFit box and did all my workouts barefoot. Two sisters hiked the entire Appalachian trail South and back North barefoot. You don’t need no stinkin’ shoes!! You also don’t need a wrist brace. Or any kind of brace unless you are completely disabled. Frozen shoulder is mostly caused by being immobilized for too long. When you get a hip replacement these days, they have you walking within 24 hours. Don’t bubble wrap your life. You have to keep moving and being exposed to life. You don’t need clothes or a mat to do yoga. You don’t need a gym to do a workout. Just do it!

In the old days, if a kid came down with Chicken Pox or other communicable disease, parents would put their other kids in the bed with the sick one so that they’d get inoculated and thereby immune. We essentially do the same thing with vaccines. But vaccines are inert and won’t hurt you. Yeah, you’ll hear celebrities yap about the dangers of vaccines (and their Ph.D.’s are in what?). Most celebrities dropped out of school. I never listen to celebrities. Or people who tell me to put my shoes on.

People nowadays carry hand sanitizer. They are hypochondriacs living a Howard Hughes existence. They should pick up a book on Immunology. The human body has an amazing system for battling things. When I was a kid, there wasn’t a single kid with a food allergy to anything. We were farm boys. We worked with cattle and ran barefoot through the woods. When we got a boo-boo, Dad said “rub some dirt on it”! When I was in the Army, we sat in foxholes for days eating and doing all of our bodily functions. I never got sick from being in a foxhole.

Yet society wants to be bubble-wrapped. They coddle their kids to the point of being completely incapable of dealing with their environments. They never know how to deal with feeling cold or hungry. Everybody needs a food FAST now and then; its good for fat burning. Everybody needs to sit in the hot or cold without reprieve so they can develop heatshock proteins in their bodies. You can’t bubble-wrap yourself all the time with all the comforts of excess.

And coddling is not just physical, its mental too. If they are never exposed to hardship, they won’t be able to handle the world. They’ll need “counseling” and “safe spaces”. They don’t know how to fight for themselves. They get “triggered” by the smallest offense. They expect someone else to change their car tire when it goes flat. They will wait many minutes for the police to save them, when most offenses happen within the first 1 or 2 minutes of an altercation. If you know how to fight for yourself in any arena, you’ll be more confident. Mental and physical confidence breeds a kind of beauty unto itself.

Don’t bubble-wrap yourself, your kids, or anything you love. Instead, a little tough love goes a long way. Let them carry a bruise as a badge of honor. My parents were actually proud when I came home with a black eye from a wrestling match. I think they wanted to parade me in front of their friends to see the fighter I am. Kids at school said “I’d hate to see the other guy”. I know this sounds like a lot of Neanderthal machismo. But I don’t apologize. I know tough women who thrive in the mountains. I know kids who don’t cry when they fall down. I have a little dog that ran face first into a concrete step and didn’t feel sorry for itself one bit. These are the tough creatures that rise above it all.

Do me a favor. Lose the bubble wrap!

bubble wrap dog cape




Thai Yoga Massage Jan2018

cheri neal yoga thai massage
{picture from Cheri Neal Yoga}

I’ve only just begun this journey, but it seems like a lifetime already. I took the level I Thai Yoga Massage course last November. I started practicing on my fellow yoga teachers and eventually students and friends. The response I’ve gotten is what pushed me to take the leap into getting certification. With my first course, I learned a basic sequence that is grounded in the original sequence that everyone learns in Thailand. I was starting to feel so good about it. I watched videos to learn the nuances of flow and intensity. It is a poetic dance that is graceful and purposeful. I started to add new poses that I saw and started integrating them into sessions. Despite being so new to this, I was feeling like a Pro.

Then, the rude awakening is when I went back for more training. The format for the school at Thai Bodyworks in Evanston, IL is going through a slight transition. And I benefited greatly from these changes. So what I learned the next weekend was additional poses for the original sequence. It helped so much to already have practiced that sequence a lot. But it was still a steep learning curve. We had two instructors as well as very experienced students who critiqued my work. I rushed my pace at times. My thumb pressure was all wrong. I use too much muscle in my technique. And I realized I have so much more to learn about trigger points, assessment, and clinical techniques. I love to be humbled that way. You train what you know, develop mastery— then you erase the whiteboard and start building all over again.

I’m working on the new techniques and poses with my student practice. And I had my first semi-clinical session. Although everyone comes to me with different needs and pains. My first goal has been to do no harm. So it is complete icing on the cake when I hear that I’ve actually made a dramatic improvement in someone’s life. And the proof in the pudding is what my instructor did to me:

When I was in training, we were doing shoulder and pectoral work. It was the last segment of the training. I tore a pectoral muscle pretty badly a few years back and it has been painful and tight ever since. But in one 5 minute demo followed by an intense session of focused work on it, my instructor opened me up like I haven’t been in years. I was able to bench press and press overhead with a barbell without any pain at all. My yoga has improved too. I am more open in upward bow and other poses. I’m hoping I can do more binds now that my chest is open. This stuff really works.

I have a clinical assessment checkout with one of the instructors this Friday. And then more training. I love when my fellow Thai students ask if I am a trained bodyworker already because it feels so natural. It is becoming more instinctive for me with every practice. But not only for my Thai Yoga practice, but in my yoga teaching as well. My adjustments are becoming much more refined. I’m not afraid to get exactly where I need to be to effect a change in a student. It feels like I’m winning at life.



Coffee and Cashews


Some of my earliest recollections as a child was remembering the smell of coffee and pipe smoke. I find that super amazing today that my Dad was a pipe smoker. I remember seeing pictures of him in the Navy with a pipe. It always had this sweet smell to it. He gave that up a long time ago. But the smell of fresh brewed coffee lingers as well. It is something that resonates with me many years later.

One thing I really loved as a child was the times when my Dad would come home from work late at night. I think my Mom was always a night owl, but maybe it was in part because my Dad worked late. Dad would come home and sometimes we’d wake up and run to hug him. He’d pick us up and throw us in the air. And then he’d rub his whiskers on our faces, which would make us squeal with laughter. I didn’t like it that much, but it was all part of the fun. My Mom would be watching Johnny Carson and sometimes we’d get to watch for a bit. She’d make all of us chicken and dumplings.

My Mom was always a big-time shopper. She loved to browse the stores at the mall. She loved thrift shopping the most; and still does. I would remember getting dragged to the mall and we’d park on the South side at the entrance to Macy’s (or was it JC Penney?). We would walk through the riding lawn mowers, pools, and kids battery operated cars, you know the ones a kid could ride. Only the rich kids ever got those things. We’d sometimes go to friends houses to play with their toys that we didn’t have. As we passed through the women’s clothing section, this one corner was strategically placed with gourmet treats like chocolates, caramel corn, and nuts. Mom would always order cashews. They were warm and placed in a paper cone. Oh my!!! They were SO heavenly.

One morning at church during Sunday school, a missionary to Brazil came to speak with us little kids. While we were talking, I smelled these wonderful aromas. I had a strong sense of smell back then and still do. I’m part bloodhound. I recognized both smells, but not both smells together. Definitely, the coffee. Surprisingly, the cashews. After the talk with lots of neat pictures, we were able to partake of the treat common in that part of Brazil where many kinds of nut-like trees are found.

I’ll say “nut-like” since cashews are “drupes” and not true nuts nor legumes. Coffee beans are actually fruits or berries in the category of stone fruits. Sorry, the botanist part of me came out there.

Regardless, there we were with coffee and cashews in front of us. The coffee was heavily laden with milk and sugar. I probably wouldn’t recognize it so much as coffee today, though I know many like it that way. I prefer black coffee because I love the taste and wouldn’t want to diminish all that goodness. But believe me, the combo of this café com leite with cashews was overwhelming. It had a profound effect on the rest of my life. I’m having this combo as we speak.

Yoga Teaches Compassion

Several friends of mine were talking about how the 8 limbs of yoga relates to all forms of beliefs. I think this is true. In the New Year, I think of giving to others. Do you give time, money, thoughts, and love to others in need? Compassion is so essential to our own well being. Because someday you may need the compassion and empathy for yourself. And sometimes, it needs to be given sacrificially. As a general rule, I give a minimum of 10% to charity and 10% to myself. If you read statistics of charitable giving, mostly midwestern and southern states give the most to charity. But many don’t give anything more than lip device. Activism doesn’t put food in people’s mouths. If you feel strongly about something, do more than talk about it. And save a minimum of 10% for yourself so you can responsibly be self-sufficient when times get tough. In the past year, I had to replace a truck, a roof, and a furnace/AC. I was able to do that with cash since I pay myself regularly. Being compassionate takes planning. But do it early, not at the end of your expenses. Then it’s you who needs to sacrifice and not the person in need.