Why some books stay with me

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Reading literary fiction is one of the great joys in my life.  I’ve recently ventured outside of this genre to read a fictionalized account of someone’s experiences in a foreign country.  As I first started the book I was very aware of how the writing was “less good” then the writing I’m used to reading and I’ve been pondering that a bit.  What makes “good” writing?  For me the books that have stayed with me the most are actually the most “spare.”  The action in the books is really placed in the head of the narrator and the reader learns about the inner workings of the character in a way that almost allows you to feel that you are them.  What is remarkable about this feat – is it’s accomplished with an economy of words an impressionistic (almost) approach to describing the inner life of a character that allows the reader to fill in the blanks with their own content (without the reader being conscious of doing this).  I recently finished a book called The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald.  This book was recommended to me by my literary-minded dermatologist. This slight book comes in well under 200 pages and the scope of the book is limited to a small town and a handful of people.  I finished the book feeling like I knew Florence (the main character) and yet her biography is largely unknown to me.  While I don’t know where she grew up, what her great loves were, or her favorite food – I do know she had a renegades mindset and the courage to go her own way that few of us possess.  She inspired me as a contemporary women business owner in a way few (if any) “business” books written today can.  Why… because the characters humanity was so deftly written that it is impossible not to understand what Florence needed to be “made of” in order to “tilt at windmills” and open her bookstore.  

The human universal is what allows us to connect deeply and meaningfully with each other.  Our individualistic view of our uniqueness and specialness is ego driven at best and delusional at worst.  

So…my conclusion is – the books that stay with me reinforce the universal human experience and allow me to transcend my isolated experience by relating to the experience of another isolated human.  Ironic isn’t it?  

How to make progress…

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Working in a space of creating and bringing forth is interesting, confusing and unfamiliar.  As I’ve let go of having a job/career and grabbed onto creating a business – I’m forced to figure out new ways of being.  Previous obstacles no longer exist – new ones appear.  The fundamental insight I’ve had thus far is this – the world of work for most is largely reactive.  A form of stimulus comes in and prompts a reaction.  Reacting to whatever is put in front of you allows you to feel “achievement” (or it did me).  You got to all your emails, you attended all your meetings, you arrived in one piece and left in one piece (if you were lucky).  What often got neglected was time to reflect, explore, ponder, and create — and I felt the lack of these acutely.  Now my work is almost 100% proactive – no person or organization is “pushing” things to me to react to (or act on), instead I am responsible for my day, how I spend my time, where I spend my time.  Really my insight is this – I’m addicted to what felt like achievement before – even though what I felt achievement around was largely transaction – it was a crossing off of the “to do” list.  So here’s the thing for me now – I have ample time to reflect, explore, ponder and create and yet I realize that these actions don’t feed my achievement need as much as more transactional activities.  

I am now feeling in my bones how difficult it is to actually live in the space I’ve always chased.  This space of work being a manifestation of self and a rational/intuitive/self-making synthesis of all the inter-related topics to which I’ve always been drawn.  This ladies and gentlemen is far more difficult than it seems – and I realize that when I see those who seem as if they have done it – I just want to “arrive” there and feel like I’m “behind.”  Hum…it’s it the process that is supposed to be most important – not the outcome.  While I say this and think this on one level – I see the challenge with this when you just want to get your achievement fix.   

Resume

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Hum…
Do I speak to the obvious fact that I haven’t posted in a while (understatement) or do I just resume. I’m opting for just resuming – I know why the lull and I’m the only one reading this anyway.

Lately I resumed my interest in writing again. Has this interest ever really gone away? Not really, but the problem I have is the one we all have and that’s the actual writing.

I have set a goal for myself to read two books a month (lit fic is my preference, but once in a while a non-fiction book will capture my interest. So thus far this year (okay we are only in to the year by 28 days!) – I’ve read three books: The Lowland (Jhumpa Lahiri), The Burgess Boys (Elizabeth Strout) and I just finished Amy Falls Down (Jincy Willett). Enjoyed them all immensely. I also started a book club here in Summit (through Meetup) and I think we have about 22 members thus far – this should be interesting! Our first book to read (assigned by me) is The Good Lord Bird (James McBride). I started it, but then got distracted by Amy Falls Down (couldn’t resist the title!!!) – so I need to get going on this I think our meeting is Feb. 16th or something like that.

I also joined a writers club that meets in Summit. I’ll be going to that this Sunday – but I don’t have anything I’ve written. Have I put myself in this place in order to spur me into action? I certainly need to write some posts for my blog on Green Mesa Consulting.com – which will be getting launched shortly (fingers crossed) – but I’m not feeling inspired yet. I had jotted down some topics – but I’ve gone back to them and honestly left scratching my head at what I was really thinking.

So as the new year continues to unfold and yet still hold such possibility – I imagine the themes of the year and wonder if Amy the reader/writer and what that means for her is one of them?

Alignment – Day Six

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Thursday – 5:30pm class with Lorenza

Today’s class was better than yesterday.  Lorenza gave us air recognizing the humid conditions and that was merciful.  I did every posture and felt strength generally.  It will be interesting to pay attention to my lower back – I feel strain there somewhat that is different than muscle strain (which I feel a lot in my legs).  I have scoliosis and some of the reading I’ve done on this indicates that some of the postures in Bikram yoga are potentially not good for scoliosis.  I notice it in subtle ways throughout almost every posture and it was only after practicing for about 3 years that I really started to tune into this and see how different postures were impacted by this.  The asymmetry we all have is quite pronounced in me.  The lateral bending of half-moon pose highlights the differences in each side – it even shows up in triangle and how “up” or “down” my rib cage appears.  I often get a correction on the right side of triangle and then the left side of triangle is indicated as “better.”  It’s simply due to how my spine curves.  So…I’m paying attention to my lower back.  

Also my fall last August really impacted my practice for the last several months – and I’m still feeling the effects, but it is getting better.  For example – for a while, simply putting my ear on the towel fully while in savasana during the floor series was challenging when looking to the right.  My neck had lost that range of motion – it’s almost back to where it was.  

Alignment – that is the key in yoga and indeed it seems in life.  Living your live in alignment with your values and goals. Keeping yourself aligned with your partner and their values and goals, keeping a team aligned in order to work together.  When things are misaligned – the course is impacted and your point of arrival changes.  It’s amazing how small misalignments can lead to big “misses.”  

Routine – Day Five

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Wednesday – 4pm class with Paul

Delightful – in class at 4pm instead of 6pm – which means many fewer people, therefore an easier experience in the room and in the transition rooms (dressing rooms, waiting rooms) -this just means less stress generally.  

I also felt hydrated and well nourished – not too full, not too hungry and so I had no issues with blood pressure (which is something I struggle with sometimes in class).

The class started off so well and I got through the standing series powerfully.  I then lost focus and kept thinking Paul needed to give us some more air – I really needed that fresh blast to bring me down to normal a bit so I could power on.  Alas this didn’t happen and my floor series was lackluster.  By the end I couldn’t wait to get out of the room!  

I recognize that because I’ve been out of a routine practice for so long – my stamina isn’t there and my focus during the class is somewhat on conserving my energy to “get through” the whole thing.  I remember a time when I was practicing regularly how each class was more about “going to the edge” and really focusing on controlling small muscle groups and noticing the growth and change.  I’m confident that I’ll get back there.  At least today I kicked out – something I had been avoiding due to tightness.  Tomorrow I do day 6 – not sure if I’ve ever done six in a row before!  

 

 

Humid – Day Four

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Tuesday – 5:30pm class with Christine

Yesterday I gloated about doing all the postures – well today I was down on the floor a lot! On the very first breathing exercise – within seconds there were rivulets of sweat running down my entire body and I knew – oh no!  I found it hard to concentrate and did not have control over my thoughts.  I tried to focus on my breath and my mind kept going back to “it’s too hot in here, I am uncomfortable.”  But the class finally ended and now I’m on to the next one.  

I did notice yesterday while looking in the mirror that my abs are looking in shape again – it seems like a short time to notice a physical change, but I do and I already feel tighter and more “in shape.”  Wonder what it will feel like after 30 days!?  There is a part of me that’s worried that my upper body will start to look too lean – almost strung out.  My torso is so lean already – after 30 days it might look like I need many good meals.  Or maybe I’ll build more muscle so that will keep me from looking drawn.  

Looking forward to day five.  I don’t think I’ve ever done more than five days in a row – so after this hump it will be brand new territory!  

 

 

 

Work day – Day Three

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Monday – 6pm class with Emily

Ah, the Monday 6pm class – how I love you, how I hate you.  Why do I love you?  Well, it’s a bit like my “home town” class – it’s the class I started with and the class I’ve taken several times.  Emily rocks – she’s funny and bit quirky – she always strikes me as very smart.  She also knows how to keep the crazy 6pm class in check.  Why is the class crazy?  It’s always packed, cheek to jowl, and often with a lot of fairly “newish” and “youngish” yogis who don’t always know how to share the small space (locker room and yoga room) very well.  I’m always amazed by the clueless behavior – and makes me wonder…how is this person a yogi?  Shouldn’t they be more self-aware because of practicing?  But – as I mentioned in day 1 – this gives me ample opportunities to practice yoga in ways that extend beyond the mat!  

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I was eager to have a class where I executed every posture (both sets) and didn’t rest – well that was today!  It is remarkable how quickly things come back.  Today I felt strong and able and not bothered by muscle fatigue (much) – so that always makes class a lot more fun!  I also had a great place by a window that Emily graciously kept cracked all class – which helped me tremendously.  Some people love the heat cranked up and no air – it just takes me down and I can’t work as hard as I can’t tolerate the heat as well.  

So today’s class was probably an  8 – I still am not kicking out in standing head to knee – and I know I’m doing that to conserve energy and also the back of my leg is still tight.  I’ll try tomorrow and see what happens.