Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Mindful Movements

So you’ve taken a yoga class... that doesn’t mean you know how to teach yoga.

I’m taking Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. In the first few weeks we were taught how to do a body scan and how to do breath-based meditation.  I’ve meditated for over 20 years.  These instructions were valid and valuable.

This week, a student-teacher lead our class in about 25 minutes of what she said was yoga. Her first instruction was “Get into Rest Pose.”

Yipes!  “Rest Pose!”

First of all she presumed that everybody in the room knew what she meant.  She never described the pose, or how to get into it. And second she thought that baby-talk was appropriate.  There is no such thing as “Rest Pose.”  If you want to be delicate, you could call it “Final Rest Pose.”  The real name is “Corpse Pose.”  Or if you want to be formal “Shivasana.”

The session got worse from there.  Her descriptions, when she bothered to give them, weren’t clear, so I had to keep sitting up to watch her.  She never described where to relax, where to focus the mind.  This is supposed to be “mindful movement.”  Yoga is indeed mindful movement.  All she had was a series of positions with minimal explanation. 

I get it that a beginning yoga student may perceive a class like that.  

This woman is studying to become a Mindfulness teacher.  She knows she must study in order to teach Mindfulness.   Why does she think she can teach yoga, without learning how?

I tried to talk about this with the main teacher.  She was, understandably, protective of her student.  She suggested I try the recordings available on the class website.  

I already do yoga every day.  I don’t feel the need for a recording.  But any program that would allow an unqualified teacher in a live situation needs to rethink yoga as part of their curriculum.

I went to youtube and found a video by Thich Nhat Hanh showing mindful movements that do not involve yoga:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCUyf-IPP0Q

And here’s a reminder sheet, for printing:  http://www.parallax.org/pdf/10MindfulMovements.pdf

I get it that folks who want to teach Mindfulness may not also wish to become certified yoga teachers.   They should either hire certified yoga teachers for that portion of the class, or teach different movements.  Yoga has no monopoly on mindful movements. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Doing Battle with Comcast

My neighbor has Comcast for internet, TV and telephone.  I always advise my clients to have telephone separate from their internet, so that when one is down, they can use the other to get help. Most of my clients don’t listen to my advice. They just call me when things go wrong.

It was a dark and stormy night (I kid you not) when my neighbor with the Comcast Trifecta called from another neighbor’s.  He lives about 5 blocks from me.  His phone was out. I suggested he call Comcast.  But Comcast was having troubles with their hotline, so they weren’t taking calls.

I knew there was no way I could talk my neighbor through getting on webchat unless he was at his keyboard, so I went on webchat on his behalf from my home on my computer, with my login.

The Comcast rep said she couldn’t send someone to my neighbor’s house unless he got on the chat to ask in person and verified his identity. I couldn’t call him to tell him this. I wasn’t going to walk 5 blocks in the dark and rain to tell him. I asked if I could talk to a supervisor.  The rep insisted this was a Comcast rule for my neighbor’s security.  I tried telling her that my neighbor is an elderly gentleman who lives alone and it was far greater risk to his security that he spend the night without a phone than that somebody from the Comcast repair department knock on his door and ask if it’s okay to come in and fix the problem.

Finally, the Comcast rep agreed to send an email with a webchat link to my neighbor.

He couldn’t log in because he didn’t know his password.  And he couldn’t get a password because he couldn’t call while he was at his computer. And they weren't answering calls anyway.

I had a job the next morning, but that afternoon I went over.  His phone still didn’t work. He had called Comcast from the neighbor’s.  They said they were sending somebody.

Meanwhile, as long as I was there, he wanted me to disconnect his fax machine and his upstairs answering machine that he never uses.  After I had them out, and removed the daisy chain of cables and used a coat hanger to get the true phone line behind the desk so it could reach the wall jack, his phone started working.

My guess is that something in one of them was keeping his phone in a state of off-the-hook. It was now long past time when Comcast’s representative should have arrived.  They hadn’t sent anybody after all.  My client received a phone call asking how he liked Comcast’s service.  5 for very satisfied and 1 for dissatisfied.  He pressed 1.  The Comcast call hung up.
 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Hanging Up Socks by the Toes



My houseguest and I were hanging up our laundry on the line. I hung up my socks by one side of the cuff.  She hung hers up by the toe.

I remembered that my mother used to hang her socks up by the toe.  It never made sense to me. The point of hanging up laundry is so it will dry.  The toe is the thickest part of the sock, and when you put a clothes pin over a bent toe, you are just bunching the thickest part of the sock together – that can only slow down the drying process.

So, I asked my houseguest – “Why do you hang your socks that way?”

She answered, “That’s how my mother taught me.”

We’re both teachers.  So, I suggested, “Look at it from first principles.” 

She continued to hang up her socks by the toe.  Yes, it takes longer. Yes, it is illogical.  But it the long run, who cares? Both our socks did dry in the sunshine. 


Friday, October 3, 2014

The Lying Day

I'm working on a completely different story and can't get my head out of it to write a blog, so here's a story I wrote a few years ago:

The Lying Day

1) Today is a school holiday. A whole day for playing. Except you never can tell with my mother. Usually she asks me what I want to do, and we do it. But sometimes, she decides to do chores, which I hate.

2) "Chester," my mother calls. "Have you cleaned your room?"
"Yes," I say. But, I'm lying. I really pushed everything under the bed. I don't want today to be a chores day.

3) "Knock. Knock." My mother knocks at the door. "May I come in?"
"Yes," I say. I just know she'll say something nice about my neat-looking room.
She opens the door. "How neat your room looks!" she says. I smile, but I don't feel proud.

4) Then she walks over to my bed, lifts up the bedspread, and looks underneath.
I get a tight feeling in my stomach. I just know she's going to yell at me. And I hate it when she does that.

5) But she doesn't yell. She puts the cover down again, looks at me, and says calmly, "Your room isn't neat at all. Your toys are all under your bed. How did that happen?"
"Aliens put them there," I say. I know this is another lie, but I hope she'll believe it and feel sorry for me. If she's feeling sorry for me, I never have a chores day.

6) My mother's expression doesn't change. She doesn't look sorry for me. But she doesn't look angry, either, like she does when I've been bad.
"Oh," she says, still calmly. "The aliens put them there."
"Yes," I say, hoping that repeating my lie will convince her it's true.

7) "In that case," says my mother, "I think I'll take you to Cinderella this afternoon, instead of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
"But I want to see Indiana Jones!" I yell.
"You couldn't possibly want to see Indiana Jones," says my mother. "You tell lies."
"I'm not lying," I shout. "I want to see Indiana Jones."

8) But my mother acts as if she didn't hear me.
We get in the car, and we drive right by the movie theater with Indiana Jones. And she takes me to Cinderella. I have to sit through all that gushy stuff with the singing mice, which I hate.

9) Afterwards, my mother takes me to the ice cream parlor, like she always does after a movie.
"I want pecan fudge!" I say.
"Then I'll order strawberry for you," says my mother.
"But I want pecan fudge!" I yell. 
"You couldn't possibly want pecan fudge," says my mother. "You tell lies."

10) I eat the strawberry ice cream, but I don't like it. Strawberry ice cream is boring. It doesn't crunch like pecan fudge.

11) I look at the clock. It isn't even 4 in the afternoon yet. I don't want my mother to get any more weird ideas for how to ruin my day, so I say, "I want to go to the park." There isn't anything I don't like to do at the park. If I say I want to swing and she takes me to the slide, I'll still have fun.

12) My mother says, "I'm taking you to the department store, where you can try on new shirts."
"I want to go to the park!" I yell. "I don't like to try on shirts."
"You couldn't possibly want to go to the park," says my mother. "You tell lies."

13) We drive right past the park on the way to the department store.
"Let's stop and swing on the swings!" I yell. Usually my mother likes to swing on the swings.
My mother acts as if she doesn't hear me.

14) I think about telling her I want to go to the barber shop, which I hate even worse than trying on shirts. But she might take me to the barber shop. And then I'd have to get my hair cut. Today is even worse than a chores day.

15) When we get to the department store, my mother makes me try on white shirts. That's the color I hate the worst.
"I want a red shirt," I say.
"You couldn't possibly want a red shirt," says my mother. "You tell lies."

16) I am getting angrier and angrier. This is no way to spend a school holiday. There has to be a way to get her to listen to me and do what I want.
"When can we go home?" I ask.
"Do you want to go home?" asks my mother.

17) I am so angry I can barely talk. I say, "If I say 'Yes, I want to go home,' you'll say I couldn't possibly want to go home.
You'll say I tell lies. But if I say 'No, I don't want to go home,' then I'm lying. How can I tell you what I really want?"

18) "You'll have to tell the truth," says my mother.
"How will you know it's the truth?" I ask.
"Let's practice," says my mother.
"Okay," I say.
"Is your room clean?" asks my mother.
"No," I say. "I put everything under the bed."

19) "Why did you do that?" asks my mother.
"Because I didn't want today to be a chores day," I say.
"That sounds like the truth," says my mother. "Now, do you want to go home?"
"Yes," I say. "I want to go home."

20) When we get home, my mother asks, "What do you want to do tomorrow?"
I say, "I want to see Indiana Jones and I want pecan fudge ice cream, and I want to go to the park."
My mother says, "Now I know you're not lying. If you clean your room, we'll do that."

21) "What if the aliens come and put everything under my bed?" I ask.
"If they do, I'll believe you," says my mother. "I know you won't tell lies again."
#

Friday, September 26, 2014

They Didn't Kill the Cat


One of my clients emailed me – she was upset – her cat is dying and she can’t stand to see him suffer – she’s taking him to the vet to have him put to sleep.

I know she has no family members who could go with her, so I volunteered.  She accepted.

I met her at the vet’s office.

Her cat hadn’t eaten in 3 days.  He was weak.  He’d had many medical tests and tried many medicines.  She’d spent over $6000 trying to save him.  He’s only 9, which is young for a cat. He was obviously in pain.

The vet was just back from an all cat vet meeting.  She had ideas for more tests (that could be run on existing tissue samples, so no more pain for the cat). Depending on the results, she had ideas for more medicines to try.

The vet wanted to try these options before putting my client’s cat to sleep.

My client had planned to board her cat at the vet while she went out of the country. She will be out of contact with everybody while she is gone. 

The vet agreed that this isn’t good. If her cat doesn’t get well, there will be no way to contact my client if the new drugs don’t work and the decision must be made.

Then the vet made an offer I’ve never seen before. She offered to take ownership of my client’s cat, pay for the tests, pay for the medicine, and make any necessary decisions.  She would take care of the cat as her own.

Such kindness is remarkable.  I support my client in accepting it.

The vet promised to keep my client posted with results of the tests and the medicines and any necessary decisions.

From what I saw, this cat doesn’t have much of a chance, but it is wonderful that the vet is willing to try. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Are Algebra Woes Hereditary?

When my younger daughter had trouble with algebra in junior high, I told her, I’d had trouble with algebra in junior high, too.  But I took it again when I was older and the 2nd time it was easy.  I didn’t know if it was easy because I was older or because I had a better book.

When I decided to try algebra again in my late 20's.  I went to the local book store (yes, a regular bookstore, not the college text book shop) and spent the afternoon looking at all the algebra books in the book store. I finally selected one. It cost $6, which was more than 4 hours wages.  But I had decided to learn algebra. I had enrolled in college algebra and I wanted to pass it this time.

Whatever the cause, my maturity, my new textbook, suddenly algebra made sense.  I was even able to show my teacher new ways to solve problems. 

A few days ago, someone emailed me – about trouble with algebra.  What did I suggest?  Clearly, telling her to wait until her late 20's wasn’t an option.

I’d long since sold my old copy – in well-used condition.  But a few minutes of searching the web, and  I found plenty of people selling old copies, some for a penny plus shipping.  And despite its age, some sellers claim to have copies in very good condition.  I have to wonder if these copies were used.

Yes, this is an advertisement. Yes, I get a commission if you buy from this link.  I’m not sure what the commission on a penny is.  So, I’m not doing this just for the money. If you know somebody who is having trouble with algebra, the book I recommend is Modern Elementary Algebra by B. R. Rich
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Modern Elementary Algebra

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Getting a Parakeet to Sit on my Finger




I’m frequently amazed by the skills my muscles remember.

Of course I can ride my bike and swim. And do some magic tricks with rubber bands.

But get a parakeet to sit on my finger? Is that even a muscle skill?

I hadn’t done that in over 50 years.

My grandtwins were given parakeets for Bat Mitzvah presents. They asked if I, the oldest person in the room, knew how to get a parakeet to sit on a finger.  I had a parakeet when I was about their age.  Actually, I had several parakeets.  And, they sat on my finger.  I remember tapping the wall and having the birds fly to sit on my finger.  But that’s not how it starts.

I couldn’t find the words to explain how to get a parakeet to step off its perch and climb onto my finger.  So, I put my hand in the cage, put my finger in position, touched the bird’s toes in the way that my muscles remembered, and it stepped onto my finger.  My grandtwins were thrilled.

They had me repeat the action. They copied it.  The bird put a foot onto their fingers.  Muscles can teach muscles what words cannot say.

Muscles remember what words have forgotten.

Muscles are amazing.