Friday, July 26, 2013

The Perfect Village

So what about the slow dissolution of the ego? Is it a good thing or not? Should we let it go and seek a unity of spirit with the cosmos or nurture it and define ourselves fully as a an entity in this reality? 

That's probably the big question for anyone. And everyone may have a different answer. Did you come into this life to be something particular so you could explore a state of being? Or did you come in to learn how to let it all go and become consciously aware of this reality, one eternal moment at a time?

As usual, it could be a little of both.  You came in with a plan to explore a state of being that would lead you to a greater awareness or even a singular awareness that the mystics speak of in revered tones.

Or you could just be along for the ride, ready to help others on their paths.

"The Perfect Village" is the thought experiment I use to discuss concepts of reincarnation with someone who may have trouble with the idea but is genuinely interested in talking about it. It goes like this:

Imagine a perfect village, nestled in a forest with a picturesque town square surrounded by ancient buildings. Everyone lives and no one dies and all is well. Existence is fairly stable. One might even say eternal. But one day, a group of youngsters realizes that there are various roads that lead out of town and this causes quite a stir. Why are the roads there? Where do these roads lead? Have they always been there? What are they for?

The old-timers sitting under awnings at the edge of the square just shrug and smile and offer no information. Undeterred, the youngsters gather in the park and make a plans. Each will choose a road and they will travel down a ways and then return and report back to the others about what they find. So each ventures out and after a time they begin to return. And each has a different story.  Some marvel at the wonders they saw while others speak of horrors and pain. Some paths were very short. Other paths were long and winding, with multiple forks so that decisions had to be made. Some left things undone before they had to return. Some didn't return at all.

The stories are exchanged and new ventures are planned since one heard tales of a path that she now wants to see for herself. Another wants to go back and finish what was started. Others ask for help from friends because the path was hard and they need help to finish the experience. Some wanted to go and find those that didn't return. Each has learned and discovered and grown from the experience and there is so much to explore that the idea of not going only occurs to a scant few.

So new paths are chosen and the young ones strike out again. And again.

And the old ones sit in the shade, shake their heads and smile, remembering the days when they used to pick a path.

It's an interesting way to present a very ancient idea. (I also like The Egg by Andy Weir as an idea engine to get the mind to relax around the idea of infinity.) A lot of times it leads to a discussion about which path you would have chosen in that situation. Would you have selected a dangerous path, a safe path, a path rife with decisions points? Or would could you have possible just gone along to help?

Personally, I think that's where I noticed a crack in the hard edge of my ego. My path may not be my path. I might just be here to meet someone one at some time to say or do something that's almost scripted so that a set of experiences happen that was agreed upon. Is that possible? And then what is the ego except the part you play? 

Think about that. The ego is just the part you play.

So what happens when you toss out the script and improvise? Is that bad? Wasn't the Universe expecting you to hold up your end of the script?

Not necessarily. I think that it's possible to ditch the script, become aware and walk the path consciously. The ego is gone and the way is suddenly clear. Forks in the road become conscious choices as opposed to blind decisions spurred by a function of the ego. Bumps and potholes suddenly become opportunities to learn and grow. The path becomes golden, your experience more real. 

The ego just defines the part. And now I'm curious about the actor playing the part. Can I even say that I know him?

Which brings us back to the slow dissolution of the ego. A gentle perusal of what lies beneath the veneer of a carefully (or perhaps not so carefully) defined role.  I am not proposing radical changes. I just want to test the edges and see if I can live a bit more consciously and a little less driven. 

Although, that alone could lead to some very interesting forks in the path.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

New Yoga Mat Review: myMAT by Manduka

I went with a cheap 3mm basic mat from the local big box to get started but quickly discovered that 3mm isn't enough for my trick knee at the moment. At the same time I didn't want something so think that it took away from the balancing postures. I am quickly learning that I need to feel the floor to balance and since balance is one of my challenges, I'm not going to put a 1/2 inch of foam between me and the floor.

The next size up at the local big box was a 5mm thick mat.  The 3mm mat ran about ten dollars while the 5mm, sporting a whopping 2 more millimeters, was sixteen dollars and the same dimensions. From there, they went to 1/2 inch thick fitness mats that were actually shorter that the yoga mats for around twenty dollars.

So I was done with the big box.

I started looking online and almost immediately found  1/4 inch myMAT from Manduka and then spent some time staring at a ruler trying to decide if a 1/4 inch was too thick or too thin. But the price was right, the reviews were good and it was longer than the mat I had so I decided to take the chance.

So two days later (thank you, Amazon Prime), I had the mat and I got a first hand look at the thickness. Not too thick, not too thin. Probably just right. But it would take a couple of sessions at the studio to really test it.

A couple of the reviews on Amazon mentioned a chemical smell once you take it out of the package and I noticed it as well but after a wipe down with mild soap and water and the laying out for a day, the smell was gone. Even up close.

Now, I've had it for two classes, an energetic Beginner II class and a more rooted and pose heavy Intermediate/Advanced class. The new mat performed well in both.  It stays where you put it and is just sticky enough to give you some footing without being so sticky you have to peel it off everytime you move. The 1/4 inch padding is just right between a hard surface and a sometimes tender knee without sacrificing the grounding effect of feeling the floor. I like the extra length (74 inches) although I could probably even use and extra inch or two but then I would be sucking up real estate in class so I think I can make do.

So for the money, it's a great mat for the level I'm at. I could spend a lot more money on a fancier mat (check the link to the store at the top of the page for some pricier selections) but I think this one could take me quite a ways into this new practice.

There are other colors available as well.  Here's the link for shopping and parusal:  1/4 inch myMAT from Manduka

Friday, July 19, 2013

Yoga, Heavy Metal and World Peace

I'm trying not to drown in the near infinite sea of information that is the Internet concerning all things yoga to the point that I've declared a moratorium on surfing the subject until I'm further along. There is so much information out there and some of it doesn't match up. So I will stick to the reading list and pay attention in class for now and focus. Teacher has mentioned once or twice how it's possible to be addicted to information which can rob you of the experience of the moment and I swear she's looking at me every time she brings it up.

But, still, I have found some things and made some observations.  For instance, this site explains mudras which are various hand positions that provide a variety of effects. My understanding is that "mudra" basically means "energy seal". Very interesting stuff and it explains of a lot of the meditation poses one might see where the fingers are curled in various configurations while resting on the knees or lap.

One mudra in particular caught my eye which was the Apana Vayu Mudra which is the "Gesture of the Heart". According to this particular website, at least. And it just so happens to bear a remarkable resemblance to this pop-culture gesture.

Well, that's a bit of a coincidence. Could there possibly be a connection? Is the the ancient practice of yoga the original one way ticket to midnight? Could the most noble and righteous genre of rock music be the yang to yoga's yin, approaching the quiet mind and tranquility of the perfect moment from the direction of staccato solo and the grounding influence of a solid bass line backed up by a double drum kit? Is it possible to find the end of the ego in the cacophony of energetic sound or the symphonic chaos of a Metallica album? Could this be the end solution? The unifying theory of everything? Could an enlightened physicist look down at his hands, one folded in the Apana Vayu Mudra, the other hand slowly rising to salute those who are about to rock, and suddenly realize just how connected it all is? He could write the perfect equation that would bind the quiet to the riot and bring us limitless energy from power chord and wailing voice screaming incomprehensible lyrics.

Could the power of heavy metal yoga finally bring peace to the world?

Ok, probably not.

I consulted with Teacher and the version of the Apana Vayu Mudra she is familiar with is more like this. You touch your two middle fingertips to the tip of your thumb and then tuck the first finger to the base of the thumb. It still looks a little like the metal horns but not quite. I point again to how much information is out there and how much of it doesn't match up and I trust Teacher over the Internet.

However, I did some research and the wikipedia article on the origin of the horny gesture again is a lesson on the amazing fluidity of modern culture. For the lazy, Ronnie James Dio of Black Sabbath fame actually took the gesture from his Italian grandmother who used it as a ward against the evil eye but the subculture of metal took it and owned it as their salute. So when metal fans throw up the horns towards their favorite song or band, they are actually warding against the evil eye.

As I said, the fluidity of modern culture is amazing.

But this all did force me to reminisce and consider a few things.  Back in the nineties, I worked as a roadie and ran lights for a local band which gave me the opportunity to surf the edge of the music scene and explore a wide range of venues and environments. And I found myself making certain assumptions. In a country bar, there is going to be a fight at some point. In a bar that plays classic rock, there is going to be a fight. At some point. Even in dance clubs, I saw a brawl or two (if a bunch of loose wristed, slap fighting counts as a brawl).

But in the metal bars, which I probably frequented more often, I don't really remember that many fights.

Now some would say that the mosh pit was it's own fight. For the uninitiated, the mosh pit is the area in front of the main stage where dancers (usually men) don't really dance as much as they bounce and slam into each other to the beat of the music. To the same uninitiated, it probably looks like a brawl but it's really not. I enjoyed a pit or two. Or three. And the dynamic was energetic but strangely safe. In my experience, if someone went down, those around him pulled back and picked him up. If someone was obviously in trouble, this strange, morphing group hug would happen so that the person would be transferred to the edge and deposited into the nearest chair to catch is breath. If someone was obviously trying to get truly violent, the same group hug thing would happen until they were ejected into the waiting arms of burly bouncers. In my experience, no one wanted to get anyone hurt (too badly, anyway) because it would stop the music.

Let's not sugar coat it though. There was anger. There was rage. You could feel it blazing off the mob like the heat from a wildfire and this should be expected when a bunch of twenty-somethings sweating testosterone get amped up on fairly angry sounding music and choose to express the pent up rage of the insecure youthful mind in the form of violent dancing. But that's just it. They were expressing their rage and anger in an appropriate venue. As strange as that may seem. One could even bear witness to the relaxed faces and easy smiles at the end of the night. The rage was expressed and it was gone. At least for a little while.

(Side Rant: Before any of you take what I'm saying and run out to schedule your six-year old's next birthday at the nearest metal venue because it's full of happy, shiny people, please be reminded that I'm using one aspect of my own experience to to illustrate a point. Metal, for the most part, is pretty dark and scary. That's why it's called metal. To be fair, a lot of bands and musicians have come out against the pits due to injuries or even deaths but I can only report on my experiences and note that my experiences occurred in smaller, more intimate venues instead of stadiums were mob mentality can easily overrule common sense. Also, I think modern metal is trying too hard to push on taboos and social boundaries in an attempt to stay relevant. The music seems to be getting lost in favor of stunts and stage gags. Old metal is the best metal and if you want to explore some of the history and variations, I present to you the Map of Metal.  :End Side Rant)

So can metal, as dark and sinister as it is, teach us something about the emotional reality of the common human?

Little baby humans are trained early that some emotions are bad. The parents may not even realize that the training is happening. They just want to get control of the wailing two-year old throwing a tantrum in the middle of the grocery aisle. The child is expressing anger and the parents explain to the child that expressing that emotion in that venue is inappropriate. The child hears a bunch of big words but gets the gist that expressing anger is bad.

And so we grow into emotionally constipated adults, pushing down "inappropriate" emotions until they fester and ooze out through other avenues or, worse, we explode in a spectacular fashion and then feel guilty for the damage done.

I personally don't believe in "bad" emotions. Emotions are the security system of the spirit and the body. We make them into more than that through a bunch of intellectual voodoo but in the end it's just the way the body and spirit are kept safe.

Let's use our metal example: Anger is considered a negative emotion. Unchecked it makes people do remarkably stupid things. But what about anger expressed toward an injustice? What about the anger that often pushes people into action to make a situation better? Is that anger wrong?

What about fear? Fear makes us run away or fight. Fear is considered a negative emotion. But in a dangerous situation, fear can be your best friend as long as you don't fall into a fetal position and fail to act. Consider the fact that fear is there to give your body an adrenaline boost to help you through that dangerous situation. Fear is not negative. One's reaction to fear is what is negative. Also, admitting to one's fears and justifying them is a road to self-discovery. Honestly, the only time one should experience fear is when the physical body is in obvious trouble. If a person lives their life in fear then that person should ask some hard questions about the true sources of those fears.

What about jealousy? That's a tricky one. Jealousy usually stems from self-esteem issues or a lack of faith in a certain relationship. Of any "negative" emotion, jealousy is often the most revealing if one is honest with oneself as to why they are feeling jealous. Am I judging myself and coming up short? Am I judging the relationship and its not what I think? How honest can you be with yourself? Here, again, is another passport to self-discovery. If you can't be honest about the feelings that certain situation generates you will continue to have those feelings until they eat you alive. Process the feelings honestly and see what happens.

Let's even take on the biggie: Hate. It's wrong to hate. But once again what if the hate is justified? I can hate racism. I can hate bigotry. I can hate corporate welfare. Is that wrong? Hate is really just the child of fear and anger. What do I fear? What am I angry about?

And, for all of these, how do I express it? Or do I express it? Can I express it and then question it and try to answer to the true source of the emotion? As I see it, the problem with these "negative" emotions isn't so much their potential negativity. It's the fact that if I have to ask myself about the source of the emotion and be honest with myself, I may not like the answer. It's easy to look at ourselves in a mirror when we are all shiny and happy. Looking in that mirror when I'm seething with jealousy or boiling with anger is not pleasant but it is the fastest way to find those dark corners of the soul that may need to be cleaned out.

We can bring this back to yoga with another observation: A good practice gives you the tools to process the emotions and express them. The revelation for me is how effective breathwork is for releasing a pent up emotional experience so much so that the problem of finding a healthy avenue of expression for a "negative" emotions is solved. For example, work made me angry. A few breaths, a few asanas and I'm not angry any more and I can evaluate the situation from a neutral standpoint and decide if the emotional response was justified or was I overreacting.  Know what? Sometimes it is justified and that's when my anger can be directed to possibly change the situation. The energy is expressed and redirected to a potential positive solution. It's much better than having a screaming meltdown in the grocery aisle that your inner toddler wants you to have.

Also, the emotional landscape evens out considerably with a consistent practice. There are still highs and lows but the transition is smoother.  "Negative" emotions sneak up on you less and you can express and question without being ambushed. The "positive" emotions are a lot more focused and full. The breathing and movements ease out repressed emotions and provide a clarity that helps you answer some of those "why" questions. And answering "why" can only lead you to a centered calm in matters of spiritually and, personally, the centered calm is the place I want to be.

Even so, I do miss the mosh pit. I miss its visceral honesty of expression. We can't always let the emotion go that freely in a so-called civilized society.

But I can take the example, know the power of the expression and the freedom of letting go, express in other ways and learn. I see this, now, at this point in the journey as the path to a centered calm.

And, personally, a centered calm is the place I want to be.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Music for a Rainy Day

I have rediscovered some of my favorite music on recent rainy day.

I think I've mentioned before that my tastes are eclectic and the modern music distribution system hasn't helped me settle to a particular genre. I really don't believe in the genres anyway. I believe in the artists and the Internet has given us, the listeners, almost immediate access to their work without the filter of corporate marketing.

So I offer my rainy day rediscoveries. Perfect for lounging and reading with the white noise of a storm outside. These are primarily independent artists and I'll direct you to their websites where you can purchase the music directly from them. I believe everything is available on iTunes as well.

First up is Kalpataru Tree, a mix of ambient sounds and guitars with a bit of psy dub. It has the down-tempo pacing with an electronic base interspersed with the organic sounds of guitars. I use this alot when I'm on a full creative burn since the tempo isn't intrusive but the melody is invigorating. I have two or three albums purchased at this point and there is not a song I skip on any of them. Play it and sit by a window while the rain pelts and runs down the glass and see where it puts you. Pretty amazing stuff.

Then we have Inlakesh.  I saw this group at an art fair where they were showcasing their didgeridoos. I quickly bought their CD because I had no idea that didgeridoos could sound like that.  It's difficult to explain but their music is primitive in the most sophisticated way possible. Each song takes you on a journey and grounds you out with the bass of the didgeridoos while interweaving mixes of melody and percussion that make you want to dance. They sometimes throw on a voice over and the voice is calm and soothing but it pulls me out of the experience. That happens only rarely though.

Byron Metcalf provides us with a shamanistic based rhythmic experience if you're looking for something to bring a sharp focus to a meditative experience. A lot of his tracks are long which I like. It gives you time to really sink into the rhythm and hang there for a minute. He's been around for a while and has a substantial body of work. Lots to explore.

Which brings us to the happy discovery on the rainy day.  Byron Metcalf and Rob Thomas of Inlakesh collaborated on a new release called Medicine Work. So you have shamanistic trance drumming enhanced with didgeridoos.

Take a listen:

Musically, it's an incredibly deep experience and I think this will be my new go-to music for meditations and drumming.

So that was my Sunday. I went looking for Kalpataru and remembered Inlakesh. Went looking for Inlakesh and rediscovered Metcalf. And then learned that Metcalf and Thomas had new music out.

The Internet is the best thing that ever happened to music.

Here are all the links just for convenience:

Kalpataru Tree


Byron Metcalf

Medicine Work

Friday, July 12, 2013

Yoga and Fitness: Some Early Observations

I've always had an interest in fitness and health but I've never found a workout routine that I could commit to and stay with. I think boredom was the most common eventual excuse for no other reason than if you stick to a regular routine, your body will get used to it. And soon you have to up the intensity to keep developing or keep to the same routine just to maintain. And then you get bored. And then you quit.

The current answer to this is Crossfit and it solves the boredom issue by varying the routine daily.  This also means your body will not get used to one routine and you will advance, sometimes at phenomenal pace. It's challenging but I think it's unnecessarily hard on the body. Joints and muscles are pushed to breaking points and cardio sometimes goes to the point of puking. Better trainers will hold the initiates back from these points but how easy is it to find the better trainers?

Watching recipients of a Crossfit or a Crossfit-ish workout limp and stagger around for days after does not sell me on the craze. I get flashbacks to Basic Training where drill sergeants would find creative ways of pushing your young body to new levels of pain once you got used to pushups.  It was Crossfit: Army Style and this was back in the late Eighties. Yes, it got me in the best shape of my life but I wouldn't pay someone to do that to me now.

I'm in my mid-forties and after the Army and various jobs that involved manual labor and my own workout routines that usually involved weights, my body has taken some damage. I have a herniated disk in my lower back and the knees grind on cold days or right before a good rain storm. I think I've done all the damage I'm going to do voluntarily so Crossfit and its ilk or out.

I do enjoy running, especially in the country but think I mentioned the grinding knees. I could do bicycles which is easier on the knees and a good mid-range cardio workout but I don't really enjoy bicycles. Crazy-ass drivers always aim for bicycles anyway and I hate being outgunned on the road. Plus, biking does do the cardio and a leg workout but then I have to think about the upper body. I think bicycles are a great option for some people but they're just not for me.

I do enjoy weights but think that a lot of the Crossfit craze grew out of the fact that weights and weight machines get boring pretty quick unless you really push it but then you risk injury and it sucks being that sore all the time. I may pick up weights again though, just because.

So now we come to yoga.

To be honest, I was looking at yoga to get my stress levels down and as a preparation for meditation.  That's one of the sources of yoga, by the way. The poses stretch and train the body for extended periods of meditation. I was not expecting the physical challenge that I have discovered. The need for strength and endurance are inherent in the system. Now add balance to the equation. And even coordination. And breathing.

So you have strength training, endurance, balance and coordination integrated with breathing techniques. And I'm probably leaving something out.

Sounds like a workout to me.

I've even noticed a cardio element I didn't expect.  During a really vigorous workout, as in moving from pose to pose fairly quickly, the heart rate eases up and stays up for the duration until you start to cool down. I was worried about adding a cardio workout to my schedule but I'm not sure I need it. But I want to investigate this a bit more before I scratch a moderate cardio routine off the list.

Now here is the real magic of yoga as a fitness system: It's self-limiting. Which is what makes it available to any fitness level. You move to your limit and, if you're comfortable, you move a little more. Teacher talks about finding the edge and playing with it, listening to your body and avoiding injury. The movement is just reminding the body of what it is capable off and the body responds. You are stretched and maybe a little sore after a good workout.  But I have yet to be in pain. Even after some of the more strength based sessions that involved squats and planking.

This has lead be to wonder about the physiology and adrenal response to the various workouts. Does a heavy Crossfit style workout send the body into the flight or fight response, dumping stress hormones into the body? And is that a good thing? I mean, the body doesn't know that it's just a workout. It just knows that the body is under stress and starts pumping adrenaline and endorphins into the system to try to survive which of course gives the athlete that natural high so many strive for but it is also masking pain and possible injury.

Like I said, yoga finds the edge and, as far as I can tell, the stress response is not there. The body (mine, at least) is responding to work and movement not a dangerous situation.

But that's just a thought.  Someone should find a doctor and ask if studies have been done.

Now what about the boredom factor?

I don't think it's there. Teacher switches it up a lot. I've heard from classmates that it's not like that at other studios and that some teachers just run through the same routine every time but Teacher doesn't do that. I've been going a little over a month, I think, several times a week and not one class has been the same in terms of flow. The dynamic is the same which is comforting but she is amazing in that she always puts it together in a different way so you can't beat her to the pose. You have to be mindful and pay attention and is always challenging without being discouraging.

The other benefit of "changing it up" is that my yoga toolbox for my home practice is filling up rapidly. That's important because that means I won't get bored at home. I can switch it up every day just like in class if I want or I can stick to a standard routine that just wakes me up and gets me going.

On top of all that, there are various levels of challenge to work up to and that keeps me engaged.  I can't get into a headstand. But I will. I can't get my legs into a full lotus. And I may have to let that one go.  But I'll try and that constant challenge, I think, will help keep me in the game.

So, in terms of comparisons of fitness routines, I think yoga is coming out ahead of any routine I've tried. But different people are looking for different things from their workout. For instance, some may be using a hard, heavy work out to bleed off aggression or tension. Others may have a completely different set of motivations and everyone should find what works for them and then do it. I think any kind of movement is honestly good for any body. But I'm happy that yoga is turning out to be the right movement for me.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Yoga and the Deep End

It's odd to be so close to something and be so unaware of it's existence. It's like living next to someone you see every day but never interact with until one day you meet on the sidewalk and an introduction is forced and, low and behold, this person is a friend. Maybe more than a friend. And they've been living right next door to you the entire time.

That's me and yoga, at the moment.

In all my spiritual explorations and dalliances, I've always known that yoga was there but I never took the obvious step of finding a teacher in a studio and committing to the practice. Then again, in my part of the world, it's not like there's a yoga studio on every corner even as main stream as yoga has become over the past few years. So I've waited and watched and then the introduction was there and I was in. And it was like finding an old friend.

The very first lesson was an eye-opener. Some of the poses require way more strength that I would have thought.  And the balance required forces muscles to fine-tune in a most interesting way.  It's challenging and almost instantly rewarding.

It also makes you breath.  Really breath. Teacher focuses on breathing and breath-work and that was the other revelation after the first lesson. I could breath again. My mind was still and my lungs were empty and then full and then empty again. Stress (for the moment) was gone and my mind was still which I honestly thought was impossible.  Normally I'm working on about three different things in my head at any given time and that's not counting whatever song is stuck there looping. So there was silence. The sort of silence that a strive for when I'm working on the wheel or a drawing.  That little bit of zen when the moment, the action and the outcome are fluid and rolling. You are one with the moment, truly present and secure in the action since you, the action and the moment are one.

So I'm all in. And then I discover that Teacher offers an in-depth studies program that is designed to train teachers or give a student a completely immersive experience. It started this month and it lasts ten months.  So I had to choose to jump now or wait ten or more months for the next class.

So I jumped.

So now I attend three or more classes a week, in addition to a home practice and a extended lecture series every month or so. I'm not even sure the word "immersive" even covers it. It's jumping into the deep end and realizing the deep end is the ocean.  This is a good thing.  I'm not sure you really now how to swim unless you can swim in the ocean.

And did I mention the reading list?  A full reading list of fascinating titles. I'm currently working on  The Path of the Yoga Sutras: A Practical Guide to the Core of Yoga and it's taking me longer than it should due to the fact that I have to stop and absorb, think, dream, read some more, repeat. It's an amazing little book that opens up the philosophy in such a way that requires you to examine your reality on a most basic level and I'll be looking for more from Mr. Bachman. I'll report on the rest of the list as I get to it.

So here I am. Swimming in the ocean that I thought was the deep end. And I can't just tread water. I have to swim and dive and in doing so, a world reveals itself that I knew was there but could never appreciate from my vantage point. You can stand on the beach and see the surface of the water and intellectually understand that there is depth and dimension below the surface. But you have to swim out and dive down and then you realize the true depth and scope and then you can see how deep you want to go.

One last observation: Yoga makes you honest. I've written about my dietary lifestyle and strategic impurity and I've always stayed close to it but yoga makes you want to eat right.  And sleep right.  And breath right. And it's not effortless but I've never encountered less resistance to better living. It just happens. It makes you honest about how you are living and thinking.

You do yoga and you want to do better.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Project Update

The mead worked and worked well and I've moved into new batches with fruit additions (called melomels) including jalapenos and raspberry. Only one disaster so far which is a low count for me as far as new projects are concerned.  I backsweetened a batch of raspberry mead and bottled it without shocking the yeast so fermentation kicked in again and I came home to find the corks had popped and sprayed mead all over the closet. Lesson learned. A very, very sticky lesson learned.

The Compleat Meadmaker : Home Production of Honey Wine From Your First Batch to Award-winning Fruit and Herb Variations is the book that I've now turned to for the specifics on all things concerning meadmaking.  It's considered the definitive source and I have it nearby as a reference no matter what I do, especially since the raspberry fiasco.

I also stumbled across a Youtube video by the Backyard Bowyer that described how build a horse bow from PVC.  It sounded too good to be true but I had the tools laying around and a whole stick of 3/4" PVC was a whopping $3 so I had to try it.

I've always loved archery but it's a costly hobby especially if I'm only shooting every other weekend or even less depending on my schedule. So spending a few hundred on a good recurve bow was always out of the question. But if I can make a decent shooting bow for under ten bucks then it's a bit silly not to.

Enter Nicholas Tomihama with a whole Youtube channel of easy to follow tutorials and reasonably priced books to guide one through the process of making all sorts of bows. In the the span of an afternoon on a weekend I had a Mongolian horse bow that pulls at about 30 to 40 pounds and shoots great. Perfect for the casual, weekend archer.

And finally, bamboo meditation flutes.

I dabbled trying to make flutes for years but always struggled with the tuning and materials. Then I had one of those perfect storms of materials and information that pretty much means I had to try again. I discovered formulas (quite by accident) that described the hole placement and literally the next day I came across a pile of discarded bamboo.  I got out the guitar to map out some pentatonic scales and loaded a spreadsheet with the formulas and went to work with hot pokers and sandpaper and low and behold, I had flutes.

The pentatonic scale fascinates me.  It's fluid and flexible and open to improvisation which is why I like playing the flutes.  I sit, I breath, I make music that is spontaneous and free.

Lot's of projects. A good bit of success. Interestingly, getting the flutes and bows built and having mead aging is a weight off my shoulders. I've been worried about bows for years and for flutes even longer. They're done now and I can move on or go back and build more.  But for the moment I'm moving on.