Making Moves

It is time for me to begin writing in a new platform. I am making moves to a new blog site: sapiens movēs

This site will highlight physical therapy related topics under the theme of wise movement (sapiens moves is latin for “you move wisely”). Thanks for a great run with the Farmer Leda blog and I hope to see you at the new site!

As Ido Portal has said, “There is no wrong movement.”

waterfall #2

Gotta keep moving, just like this waterfall 🙂

Maps

I love maps. Maybe this has something to do with the fact that I have resisted the allure of smart phone technology and so must rely on maps to navigate when I am driving to a new location. Maybe it is the somewhat childish association that I have with maps and pirates…and buried treasure! Or maybe it is just because maps are somewhat predictable in an unpredictable world.

I recently took a couple days to go camping in West Virginia in an area called the New River Gorge, which gave me a chance to drive through West Virginia (and interestingly via a highway that I could not find on any of my road atlas maps!). I was also intent on doing some hiking and so I set out with a sense of adventure and a sheaf of new trail maps in my hand. The hiking itself was bound to be beautiful, as the area is known for its amazing scenery. But, almost equally fun for me is the matching and comparing of how you expect the trail or hike to be (partly based on the map’s account and partly on word of mouth reports) and how it actually appears as you go along. Does the sharp turn to the right after the fork out to the bridge really occur at that angle? Are the mile markers accurate? Are there any mile markers at all?!

It truly is like a treasure hunt, trying to match up what you are looking at on your paper map drawn in lines and symbols to what is actually happening in the real world as you tromp along. It is kind of like translating a fairy tale into reality. Take for example a topographical map, the word topographical- from the Greek “topos” (place) and “graphia” (G. writing) literally means “writing of a place.” Cool, huh?!

You should love maps too. Maps are a part of our biology. Maps form an integral part of the way our brains are able to process and organize so much information from our internal and external environments. The famous neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran, says, “Everywhere you look in the brain, maps abound.” Maps are literally a part of who we are and the checking between representation and “reality” of our internal and external environment is an ongoing phenomenon. The analogous word to topography, in brain maps is “somatotopy” or the place in the brain representing a certain body region: “soma” (G. body), “topos” (G. place).

One interesting thing about the somatotopy in our brains (our “brain map” for “body places”) is that the brain area for a given body part is not actually proportional to the body area that is represented. For example, within the sensory somatotopy of our brain, certain areas that are more used for taking in sensory information (e.g., our hands and our tongue) have much larger areas of representation than do areas of our body that are not as “sensitive” (e.g., our back or arms). You can google “sensory homunculus” for a pictorial representation of this idea. This reminds me of becoming familiar with an area of wilderness: the more you hike or spend time in that area, the greater your depth of understanding of that place. You recognize not just the obvious changes in scenery like a stand of trees that has been cut down, but more subtle changes like the difference in native grass species or wild flowers growing in new areas.

Maps grow or shrink based on use. Just like many things, the only constant is change. As neuroplasticity has shown, our brains are malleable and adaptable. The amount that you use certain areas of your body affects the amount of area in the brain devoted to that body area or body part. Professional musicians, who practice many hours a day with intricate hand and finger movements have an increase in the amount of dedicated “hand and finger” space in the brain. Also, individuals who lose the ability of one of their senses (e.g., go blind) have increased brain representation for the other senses on which they are now more reliant. This is another one of the beauties of navigating with paper maps- the ability to revise and edit. I have to admit, one of the satisfactions of my exploration was taking a pen to my map at the end of the day and writing in little notes of what trails I traversed and identifying factors to remember for the next time that I am in this region. Paper maps let you be an actor in the story that is going on all around you, and that is part of why I love them.

You are using maps all the time, whether you know it or not. So, you might as well embrace it and fall in love with them too!

Rainy Morning Hike

tree-yellow-leaves

The white tail of the deer gives away it’s location before it even moves

It rains and the trees catch the tears from the sky and hold them without being asked

Are you watching?

The wild blackberry canes come up shiny and purple before bearing fruit

A creek is fed by the drops coming from above, and gurgles as it passes

These nascent beginnings touch softly on the landscape

There is a tree holding paper thin leaves, like Chinese lanterns

Even the faded yellow suggests a light coming from within

These inchoate moments slip me by, unless I pause

These gifts are not there long for us to realize

Like a single breath

Like a human life

Paralyzed by Movement Indecision

I was going to start doing yoga more regularly. I looked at the schedule of a studio nearby and scanned the class offerings: flow yoga, vinyassa yoga, yin yoga, flow heated yoga, mindful yoga with incorporated meditation. Then, I glanced at the list of instructors and their bios. There were women with body-work experience and men who had taken trips to India and spent years studying with world-reknowned experts. Even the timing of the classes left me with decisions to make: 45 minute power class, 60 minutes, 90 minutes with deliberately slow poses and holds. At the end of my 5 minutes of research, I felt overwhelmed by choices. I couldn’t for the life of me pick the perfect class out of this lineup: I liked the idea of yoga as exercise, so the flow yoga sounded good, but I also knew that the stretching and recovery of yin yoga would probably be good for me. But, then again, who can argue with a teacher who studied with the great yoga master who had mastered the most difficult poses by the age of 7?! I was stumped and my brain hurt and I decided to go for a bike ride instead.

Have you ever been in a place of indecision like this? Chafing under the multitude of possibilities and choices? Especially, when beginning a new activity it is often hard to not get caught up in the seeming pressure to choose the “right” class or form or timing or fit for your current habits and goals. But, I’m not so sure that’s a great approach to trying new things…

At about the same time I was having this yoga indecision, I was also having buyers’ guilt for this Groupon that I had purchased a couple months prior for a dance studio in town. See, at the risk of sounding silly, I have this idea that one day I’d really like to learn to break dance or even hip hop dance. If you have ever seen the TV show “Made” on MTV, basically my dream is to be “made” into a break-dancer. The premise of the show is that people who are not the best fit for a certain activity are coached up to be able to perform in this new role that they have chosen for themselves. Needless to say, I am a quite unlikely candidate for breakdancing competency and so I think I would be a perfect fit for the show.

I was inspired to try a new form of movement and after balking at the yoga class choices, I thought I might as well try this dance thing out (after all I had already paid for it!). So, I took that Groupon voucher that I’d been hanging onto and marched down to the dance studio….and took a beginner’s ballet class! It just happened to be the class that I could make it to without rearranging my normal activities. It was also a form of dance that was way out of my comfort zone, brand new to me, and I had a blast! I could feel the other movement knowledge that I have acquired from sports and other activities melding with this new way of moving. I could tell that it was opening up alternative positions and forms and grace through my body that I didn’t know I had. I am now convinced that with movement as with other facets of life, the key is not to find the perfect next step, the key is just to take a new next step. Try out something different. Try not to get bogged down by choice and just choose movement, whatever that may be.

How Valuable is Art?

pauper's crowns

I just bought my first painting ever. Does this mean that I am now officially an adult? Oh no! Okay, I guess that is not such a bad thing most days. This may sound weird, but as I have gotten older, I have developed a greater ability to have healthy relationships with art. This may at first seem counter intuitive because art is often defined by aesthetic descriptors, however, I think my appreciation for art has something to do with my growth into a less superficial and more intentional person. Here, let me explain…

I used to think that buying art was a waste of money. More than that, I didn’t even like spending time looking at art as a kid. Do you know a guaranteed way to make a kid bored and cranky, and on the edge of temper tantrum territory? Take him or her to a museum. Adults think that kids will love this activity (because some adults love it). But, I promise you they will not. Do you remember when you were a kid? Did you like going to museums? No, you did not. You wanted to build pillow forts and eat pizza for breakfast and watch television all day long.

So, some people grow out of this immature attraction to instant-gratification-pop-culture-consumerist-stuff much earlier than I did. I am almost 30 (I know, cool huh?!) and I honestly don’t think that I cared two licks about art until sometime within the past few years. The critical force to changing my mind about the value of art was most likely peer pressure.

I have been very lucky to have some friends who are artistic savants. One of them, I had the great fortune to live with for a few years and she would paint and create art in our living room. I became habituated to this and it seemed like the most normal thing in the world to have a huge canvas hanging out in our communal space or art supplies scattered across the available surfaces. Funny how our appreciation for the beauty of an experience often peaks at the beginning and end!

My brother bought a large painting from this roommate of mine when he had come for a visit while she was putting the finishing touches on the canvas. The price tag for that painting was not an insignificant amount of money and so it gave me pause to really examine the value that he saw in it. It also made me reflect upon the creative process that my roommate had undertaken. I had seen her change the canvas design multiple times as the inspiration struck and I realized that there was more that went into this piece than just a linear beginning, middle, and end. The relationship that we have with an object is what makes it magical and that painting and I had history! I am learning, also, that a piece of art gains meaning from two key relationships. The artist does her best to share an expression of feeling or meaning through a piece and then the viewer, as a consumer of art, imbues his own meaning as well.

Ultimately, I found myself relieved that this beautiful painting had found a home with my brother and that I would be able to see it when I visited him. I had grown fond of it sitting on the easel in our living room and without knowing it, now I found myself really sad to see it go. It represented for me more than the colors and designs, it was one of the only times that I have had such a voyeuristic look into the beauty of another person’s creative journey.

When exactly did I learn to appreciate art? The turning point for me was when I realized that the value I placed on art should be proportional not to the price tag or even the appearance, necessarily. Art is important because of the way it makes us feel. I had a relationship with that painting that my roommate had created. The painting that I have just now purchased invoked a special feeling in me as well. So, back to my newest possession…It is a creamy colored canvas, maybe 16” 16” with a flock of green and orange turban squash. Nothing else. I think I am in love. You see my interest in wholesome food and farming combined with my newfound love for personal expression and the emotional significance of positive environments has left me swooning for this piece. One more idea to leave you with:

“Our thought shapes the spaces we inhabit, and our spaces return the favor.” -Steven Johnson, from his book: “Where Good Ideas Come From”

Ah, to Lucid Dream

I had never had a lucid dream before last night. I had heard about lucid dreaming and it sounded like a similar phenomenon to a drug trip experience with the consciousness altering disruption of normal reality. Lucid dreaming is where you have a dream in which you are aware that you are dreaming. The huge mega bonus thing that is also true is that sometimes you can control what you are doing in the dream. The dream doesn’t just happen, you create it. The more I think about it, the more it sounds like the account of someone who has taken psychedelics and for me (not having had that experience) equally unrelatable…Until my dream last night.

It started off like a flash of awareness, almost like a time transport flash. Then, bang I was in it. The scenery wasn’t exactly clear, lucid, as I’d expected…I won’t bore you with the details of the dream, they are not important. Let’s just say it was pretty hedonistic and really freakin’ ecstatically incredible to behold. In that state, you are literally writing the script as you are doing it. It’s magical. And, it is crazy sounding, but you could do anything: fly, eat a pound of fudge without getting sick or full or whatever, have a day in the life of Taylor Swift, or climb the Eiffel tower like spider man. What possibilities.

The thing about lucid dreaming, the best part about it is not actually what you do it’s the fact that you could do anything. Yeah, I know it sounds crazy. It was crazy to me too, until I had the experience. Like I said, the events themselves are not really the best part. The best part is the feeling and then the experience that you can do anything you imagine; it’s very surreal and orgasmic. The experience also reminded me of how our perceptions of our usual reality may also be skewed, like I wrote about here: Virtual Reality

With lucid dreaming, it’s like you’re instantly living whatever you imagine. Although I guess that’s what we do to some extent anyway through our decision-making process (except within the laws of physics). I hope that one day you experience a lucid dream- from what I have read most people do in their lifetime- though they are still poorly understood. When it happens, be sure to take advantage of the opportunity; for once you truly will have no limits on what you can do. The saying is true: if you dream it you can do it.

Tell Me A Tale

Tell me a tale about king Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, of dragons and princesses and sword fights beneath flags flying vibrant colors; Of valor and courage and strength.

Tell me a tale of pirates sailing on the open sea; Of treasure maps and drinking grog and digging up chests full of ruby necklaces and emerald rings and golden coins.

Tell me a tale of adventure and the exploration of new lands; Of shipwrecks and survival and building shelters with tree branches and palm fronds and eating coconuts and cooking fish over open fires.

Tell me a tale of ninja warriors stealing across rooftops in the darkness; Of betrayal and killing in the name of righteousness and then disappearing into the darkness as quickly as a wisp of smoke blending into the night sky.

Tell me a tale of the quest for a worthy successor, of travels through swamps and eerie forests, of foraging for food and the kindness of strangers in a strange land; Of finding the most ordinary person and seeing the extraordinary spark of humanity within.

Tell me a tale of the search for truth and the pilgrimage to a guru residing in the most desolate of places; Of the climb up the mountain with no name and of the storm that forces the seeker to find shelter in just the spot where the secret cave in the cliff may be revealed and the answers spoken.

Tell me a tale of struggles and hardship and redemption. Tell me a tale of a wizard’s potion curing illness. Tell me a tale of human kindness and loyalty towards others.

Whisper these characters into my ear just as I am about to go to sleep. Do it now while I am young so that I may have these stories in me as I grow older. Fill me up with magical tales of what is possible.

Tell me a tale of hope and I will believe you.

When Things are Not As You Think

It was funny. My brother’s roommate was recounting the history of his infatuation with bird watching and the story line took a wicked plot twist. It started off innocently enough as a curiosity and reason for exploring the parks near Madison where he had just moved for graduate school. He enjoyed being in nature and it got him out of the house on the weekends. But, soon enough it had turned into something else. The world of bird watching, so I was learning, was not just about trying to spot some pretty flying creatures. There is this competitive, statistics keeping side to it where people log which birds they’ve seen and where and what birds they have yet to see. He described how his hobby at one point had turned into an obsession of chasing bird sightings and feeling angry and disappointed if he missed out on birds he could have seen during his working hours. It consumed him. Luckily, he realized that his hobby had turned into something unhealthy and reined himself in back to the point of enjoyment. I had no idea bird watching could be stressful.

Another funny thing is the expectation of food tasting like it smells. For example, the movie theater popcorn; the taste disappoints every time. It smells like buttery, salty heaven and then tastes like stale shoelaces. I swear it does. It is completely underwhelming. Then, there are other foods that smell amazing and taste closer to amazing. The last two nights we have had vegetables roasting in the oven. I was not sure of what type, but my nose told me that something was going on and I knew that browning and crisping were most likely happening. In case you are interested, and I am, there is a chemical change that food undergoes when it is browning called the Maillard reaction. That is the essence of what makes it so good and your nose just gives you a preview. Okay, so my point with this story is that, for the life of me I could not tell what vegetables were roasting on these two occasions. All I could smell was caramelized goodness. The vegetables were delicious by the way. So, I guess the moral of the story is that eating vegetables results in more happy endings than movie theater popcorn.

Walnut Sounds

There is this black walnut tree outside my brother’s house. The walnuts are the noisiest thing that I can think of. They fall on the sidewalk and in the street. Whenever a car parks or pulls away from a parking spot by the curb, running over walnuts, they go Pop Pop! Pop! Pop. It sounds like a baby machine gun (assuming a smaller machine gun would be proportionately less noisy). It is kind of like a calling card for the parking spots by the house. Pop, pop, pop, Pop! Oh, someone has just parked outside, might have a guest.

The other way that the walnuts are noise makers is if you are sitting in the front yard. Since I am recovering and not going many places these days, I try to at least get outside and sit in the front yard in the grass. With the walnut tree overhead, this is like walnut Russian roulette. That tree is literally raining down walnuts at all times of the day. It is pretty unpredictable, but man you can hear when one of those mini-tree bombs has landed- thwack! If it’s close it makes you flinch and throw up your arms to block your head. Then, you take a second and think to your self, “I wonder what the odds are that I’d get hit?” Then, luckily you forget about this possibility until the next attack.

I’m not sure if everybody notices the walnuts. It seems like they would, but maybe now it is just part of the scenery, the background noise. That’s too bad because I like the walnut sounds. I like the unpredictability of it and the risk of daring nature to hit me. I guess that is the benefit of sitting in the yard for a while with no particular agenda. It reminds me of a quote that I read recently:

“If you sit still you will see something, if you are very quiet you’ll hear something”

(From: When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron).

photo

Everyone has a story

Everyone has a story. Most won’t tell you theirs during your first conversation. They will tell you stories, but not their story. The thing is, we’re all afraid that our story is not all that special and you might laugh or that it might sound ridiculous or you might not understand or, worse– that you might not listen. But, we are equally sure that it is uniquely ours and as true as ever. At some point in our lives, our story needs to be told. If you are very lucky, you will get to know someone well enough so that they will tell you their story.

This is not your life story. I do not mean to infer that we all need to write autobiographies or have our biographies sitting on some dusty library shelf one day. I am not interested in biographies. I am interested in people. I want to know what makes you human. I want to know the experiences that you have had that nobody else could have had or would have had in the same situation. I want to know even if it is difficult to hear. What are the moments, days, years that have inspired you, touched you, molded you? How have you loved? Where have you laughed? Who have you cried for? Why have you suffered?

I think the best telling is in person. If you were to sit down with somebody. Sit down and look them in the eye. Commit to that act of sharing what is real for you, no matter what. There is no right way to do it, but to me that seems like a good way. I have done so much talking in my life, but I am beginning to understand that this is not always the way. I am ready to listen.

What is your story?

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