Snippets of November


Engaging, at long last unfettered and unafraid, at the Thanksgiving family gathering, engaging in more and better conversation than I remember having with my relatives in that one day than in the majority of family gatherings combined over the last few years. Par for the course, I like to think; this has been, after all, a year like no other.

Starting another project: interesting as it is, idly wondering if I’m continuing to spreading my focus too thin.

Enjoying a long hike with good company, leisurely scrambling across boulders, up and down steep hills, surrounded by beautiful, natural danger, helping to keep us alert, present, alive.

Participating in a different way to celebrate, reminding myself not to fear that which I don’t understand and that which I haven’t experienced.

Absorbing foreign ideas from fascinating books written by fascinating people who have had fascinating experiences, all the better to expand my worldview.

Questioning, observing: the nature of friendship, motivation, purpose, discomfort, desire, the rightness of action.

Pondering the responsibility of those who lead and the responsibility of those who allow themselves to be led. “Who must do the hard things?”

Appreciating the simple significance of care, the capacities to care and be cared about. Appreciating all those things that make life difficult, for revealing to us our weaknesses and giving us reason to change for the better. How I appreciate the changes that suffering has prompted; how I anticipate growing as I learn to lean further into that which unsettles me.

Continuing the meditation habit, measuring breaths, scanning internally, practicing focus.

Thinking more about dealing with discomfort and mastering the universe.

Seeing a small pug-like dog tugging its owner up to the Starbucks window by me, rearing up to peek inside; taking pictures for strangers, reinforcing those invisible threads that link us all; giving and receiving earnest compliments; loving the small—or are they big?—moments of connection.

Smiling. Ah December, whatever shall you have in store? Let’s be amazing.

wrap the feet, not the world

I’ve recently been learning from a friends that the manner in which I ask questions has made people uncomfortable. It seems that I’ve not been mindful of the way in which I express those questions, because several close friends have admitted that they’ve felt almost like they’re “being interrogated” when I inquire about a line of thought. Hearing this, it’s occurred to me that this may be one of the factors contributing to why some people get a sense of seriousness from me haha. I’m also somewhat concerned because I wonder how many friends of mine don’t really feel at ease with me around because they don’t want to deal with my line of scrutiny.

The way I’m aiming to address this is by becoming more aware of the manner in which I ask questions. I actually don’t doubt that I’ve seemed laser-focused at times and that this scrutiny and resulting discomfort happens despite my lack of ill intent. Experiment time: if I adjust the manner in which I satisfy my curiosity in a way that does not cause others to feel the “interrogation effect”, will this have any positive or negative effect on how comfortable others feel around me?

It’s also interesting to observe how people interpret my curiosity, whether by dismissing the questions, getting uncomfortable, or lighting up and engaging with me. I interpret this as a natural example of how we see things as we are.

everything but the personal

I hadn’t thought about this until recently, but I wonder what it means to write in such a way that your writing conveys who you are as a person.

What prompted this is a friend having written a personal statement as part of the admissions process to a graduate program. How should she use writing to convey the cheerfulness, friendliness, and empathy that are part of her personality?

If conveying your identity or personality in writing is not something that comes naturally, and involves some amount of conscious work in order to have your writing, is it still your “natural” voice?

If a reader were to read five random posts in this blog, would they have five different views on who I am as a person?

I wonder.

Learning Tai Chi

Trying a Tai Chi class for the first time was interesting.

The instructor’s first direction to the class was for everyone to begin practice, which led to everyone launching into what they knew of the 60 movement basic form that is taught to beginners. As it was my first class, I waited for further instruction, which came in the form of a different instructor leading me through the first few movements of the form. Eventually the main instructor stopped by and taught me a different section of the form that I could focus on, and incrementally worked on this through the remainder of the class.

Various thoughts & observations from the 1-hour class:

  • The first instructor who taught me spoke about various things, most of which I don’t think I quite understood. I’m not yet sure if my lack of understanding was due to my lack of experience or due to the teacher’s explanation.
  • The class was made up of varying ages, genders and ethnicity, which was cool to see.
  • No context was set before we dived into the form immediately. This was interesting, as I’m wondering if this is like learning to see the trees before the forest.
  • Imitating body movements did not seem overly difficult; the challenge seemed to be understanding the underlying weight distribution, posture, and transitions from movement to movement.
  • One of my goals going into this intro session was to be as fully and completely present as possible so that I could absorb as much as possible. I’ve been keeping the ideas from Art of Learning loosely in mind throughout all learning endeavors since I finished the book.
  • I don’t know what the correct sequence of movements in the form is supposed to look like; I’ll ask about this next time.
  • I’m wondering what future classes will be like. I suspect that I’ll have to continue being as present as possible, and supplement my learnings in class with not just additional practice—which I would expect—but also by asking questions and structuring my own learning.
  • I admit looking forward to learning and improving the rest of the form, which may take quite a while depending on when I can decide to commit to a series of classes.

Interested in learning Tai Chi over the weekend in NYC? Let me know!

Dale Carnegie

I was pretty impressed by Dale Carnegie’s service: earlier today I had been browsing their website earlier today to see if I could find more information about one of their courses (How to Be A Confident Public Speaker). In order to download a free PDF with public speaking tips, I had to enter some personal information. Less than an hour later, I’d received a phone call from a representative from Dale Carnegie training, calling to thank me for visiting their site and checking to make sure that I had found everything I needed. He ended up helping me to register for the class.


Connection, keys, and Krav Maga

It’s not every night that I hitch rides around Hoboken with a complete stranger.

Thursday nights are usually Krav Maga class in Hoboken. Regular classes ends at 8:00 and the recently-started sparring sessions take place over the following half hour. The plan for this Thursday after class was to get quick dinner in the area with a friend (in this story, let’s call him “Eric”.) What actually happened was much more interesting for everyone involved.

Picture yourself after an intense workout: you’re sweaty, physically and/or mentally tired, ready to change, ready to eat, and certainly ready to not stay in the building for another hour. You go to the changing area, change, and you’re ready for the next event! Good visualization; now onto reality.

The stage was set when I leave my jacket hanging on the hooks in the Krav Maga studio while I went to change. This wouldn’t have been much of a problem, except that there were no more classes this night—meaning that the studio gets locked up—and that my car keys and cellphone were both in that jacket. I realized my mistake as I left the bathroom, but by then the woman who locks up was already gone. Me: 0; Padlock: 1.

Luckily, Eric had been waiting around and he had a cellphone we could use. So we initiated a multi-pronged attack: I asked him to call Krav Maga Academy to get hold of the phone number of the people with the keys while I went searching for Building Management. I quickly discovered that Building Management had, much earlier, left the building. KMA was more helpful, with the receptionist going to find contact information for the people we needed. While we waited, we walked through the building to see if anyone else might help. That was when we saw a few painters taking night classes.

To make a long story shorter (and because I don’t remember how exactly this played out), we explained the situation to the painting teacher in charge, exchanged friendly banter, and while she called her own boss to see if we can find an after-hours phone number for Management, Eric and I made more calls to different people with varying degrees of success. At one point we get the number for the original woman who has the key; she doesn’t pick up the phone or respond to texts. In her defense, she’d had to rush off in the first place to make some dinner engagement. While we wait in-between calls and texts, Eric and I stay productive and do punching evasion drills.

Finally, we get the phone number for another KMA employee who’s in the area, and after a bit of back-and-forth we arrange to meet her at the Newport Path Station in Jersey City to get a key to the lock. As Eric and I are preparing to walk to the nearby Path station, the painting teacher has locked up and is about to leave. Once she hears our plan, she offers* to drive us over; we gladly accept and cheerfully entertained her** on the drive to Jersey City.

I obtain the one key to open them all***, and the helpful lady drives us back since “she had to head in that direction anyway”. We arrive back at the Monroe Center. I jog up the fire escape to the second floor, stopping at the padlocked door.

BOOM!**** The key works, the lock opens, and a heavenly chorus sings (in my head) as I retrieve my jacket. Eric and I wave out the window to the helpful painter teacher lady, who honks before she drives off away from the building and into legend.

This night exemplified the idea of embracing turbulence—a lifelong pursuit where opportunities to practice appear every day. When one doesn’t take himself too seriously, one may end up with a great story. And it feels so much better to be amused than annoyed!

* This definitely would not have happened without prior demonstration of our non-threatening-ness earlier; the lady told us as much on the elevator down and while driving. Our senses of humor probably helped. And maybe the fact that I look more like an endearingly cheerful high school student than maniacal potential kidnapper.
** There was plenty of joking about giving car rides to strangers; she told us her students would be shocked that she’d taken such a risk, what with the obvious threat that ET and I clearly posed. We assured her that she should consider herself the first in a pilot program for our new bodyguard services (if interested, consider signing up for classes at Krav Maga Academy.) I also made sure to apologize for how I was making the rest of her weekend look dull by comparison, for which she graciously forgave me.
*** Forged by the Dark Lord in the fires of Mount Dontleaveyourjacket. Preciousss.
**** When the situation warrants, I like to imagine sound effects that enhance dramatic tension.

I haven’t had quite so much fun writing in a while haha. FWASHHH! The end; thank you.