Friday, December 30, 2016

Spotify and Instagram

I have recently joined both Spotify and Instagram.

I'm not what you'd call an early adopter. In fact, I'm quite the opposite. Instead of suffering from FOMO, I relish being on the fringe of society. I resist joining things and adopting trends; not exclusively having to do with electronics, either.  I am an introvert; I march to my own beat and gravitate toward a 'granola' mentality.

Back in the 90s, I procrastinated getting a computer for as long as possible. Even though I owned my own business and had heard about computers and knew that people were transitioning into 'email' and 'websites', but to me it seemed like a superfluous fad. It took me several years to join the crowd. It was 1998, before I finally got a computer; mainly so that I could see what all the fuss was about this "Internet" I kept hearing about. Once I took the leap, I was hooked. I became addicted to AOL chat rooms for a while and now I like the interaction of Facebook. I've probably been online daily since I started unless I make an effort to take a break from it.

And it was a similar story with the iPhone. I heard about it and I thought it was a pretty neat idea, but I didn't see the point in actually getting one for myself. I'm pretty simple and don't like to unnecessarily complicate my life. It wasn't until I was caught, with some fellow actors, in a blizzard in Provincetown, MA. It was white out conditions as we were driving three hours back to New York. If it weren't for the GPS feature of my friend's iPhone, we would have been hopelessly lost all night, since the snow was obscuring the roads and the signs. I got my own iPhone soon after and I love it, for the most part. I haven't had a land line since 2008.

I had long been pining for a way to discover new music and I had heard about Spotify and Apple Music and Amazon Play, etc. True to form, I resisted exploring them. Or when I did explore them, I ended up with more questions than answers, didn't know how they worked, and wasn't sure if I was going to go over my data limits every month if I was constantly streaming music. And I know that my music tastes don't tend to be normal, so I wasn't sure if 'my kind' of music would even show up. Feeling overwhelmed, I walked away.

It wasn't until two months ago, when I got trained as a Nia FreeDance DJ that I took the dive into Spotify.  Part of the training was a mini tutorial about navigating around and using Spotify for teaching my classes. Adelle and Joanie completely demystified it for me, so I jumped in.

My first jump was a misstep, though. I noticed that all of my iTunes playlists were visible to everyone. There were a lot of them and I didn't want them shared. One option was to go through and individually mark each playlist as Private, but I wasn't eager to take the time to hide each one. (It took mouse navigation and several clicks to hide each playlist.) I couldn't figure out how to remove or hide my Local Files in any other way except for option two, which was to close that account and open a new one, being careful NOT to click the button that connects iTunes to Spotify. The first time I joined, I used Facebook to open my account, but since I closed that account, they wouldn't let me use Facebook to open another one. I had to open my second account manually. I had to come up with a user name rather than use my name as I do on Facebook.  Sadly, I think this makes it hard for my friends to find me.  Since I joined Spotify originally to DJ Nia FreeDance classes, and I'm a First Degree Black Belt Nia Teacher, I chose a username based on being JAG, the First Degree DJ.

My username: jagfirstdegreedj

I don't know if caps matter in the world of Spotify, but I used all lowercase and it's all one word.

Whenever I'm on Spotify, I see a feed that shows what my friends are listening to, but I don't know who, if anyone, sees an update on what I'm listening to. And so far I don't see any way to interact with each other, so it feels a bit isolated and voyeuristic.

I have been finding some pretty cool new-to-me music, though, and I'm building some playlists for Nia FreeDance and Nia choreography as well as some just for my listening pleasure and for working out to. One of the projects I'm developing is inspired by classic Nia routines from the 90s. I'm going for the world-music-pop-music blend they used to embrace before they began leaning more towards dance music. I'm entering a list of the classic Nia songs and Spotify makes recommendations for other songs... I could do it all day.

And now, just yesterday, I don't know why Instagram sought me out or how they found me. But I got an email to join Instagram. I suspect it has something to do with either my active Facebook account, or my YouTube channel or maybe my activity here on Blogger.

I have mainly used my YouTube channel to post videos of my workouts, and I post most of my pictures on my Facebook page, where I also give voice to some of my thoughts. And I've been posting my photos and sometimes short videos on Blogger when I log road trips or have random thoughts to share. So I don't really see the need for Instagram. I do know my history, though, so I wonder what I'm not getting yet. I suppose I could join now and eventually I'll fall in love with it. I did click on the invitation and I confirmed my email so I have an open account. And I've been told I already have 15 followers but have yet to post a photo or even write my bio. At this point I don't have plans to do either. I'm not convinced it's something I would use.

All I really like to do is chat and connect with people to exchange ideas.  And I also like to post videos of myself working out. I do work out in my underwear so that I don't have as much laundry to do each week. This has been largely misinterpreted as some sort of sexualizing of my fitness regimen, but to me it is not sexual; it's just what I wear. I'm completely comfortable with casual nudity, however, I don't consider being in underpants as nudity. I get comments along those lines and let them roll off my back.

Maybe I'll think of a purpose for Instagram, or maybe it'll end up like Pinterest and Wordpress and LinkedIn, where I open accounts and maybe upload a few things but then lose interest. Or it could end up being like my own website, which I hired someone to build for me and then basically ignored it.  Now it's terribly out of date and I don't know how to make changes on it. People seem to think I'm technologically literate, but that's just simply not the case.

If I were, I would have put together a whole online fitness program by now. I would love to make videos and live streams of workouts for people to purchase and enjoy, but I don't have the capacity.

By the way, I've also never Tweeted nor Vined.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Nia with JAG Returns to Seattle

Starting January 8, 2017, JAG will be teaching Nia classes in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle. Classes will be held at

Velocity Dance Center
1621 12th Ave  (between Pine and Olive)
8:45 am - 9:45 am

Classes at Velocity Dance Center cost $15 each for drop ins, or you could purchase a VIP card and get classes for only $12.

This series of classic Nia classes will include some routines from the vault, like Miracle, Yulunga, Fantasia and Moodfood as well as the latest routines like Sacred, Dragon, Deep Dive and Bring It! JAG will also be presenting his original work; old routines like Goldfinger, Orchestra, Amazing and Frankie Say Nia and routines yet to be created but sure to be lots of fun. There is an all disco routine in the works and a new routine using world and pop music inspired by the old routines of Nia co-creator Carlos Rosas.

In early 1996, there was no Nia going on in Seattle until Jason Alan Griffin (a practicing massage therapist / aerobics/step instructor / personal trainer) went to Portland and got his Nia White Belt. The training ended on a Friday, and on Saturday morning, the next day, JAG asked his aerobics class students to trust him and remove their shoes for the last half of class. This was Seattle's first taste of Nia and as JAG likes to say, "We never put our shoes back on."

In 2000, JAG left Seattle to pursue an acting and modeling career in NYC, leaving behind some his passionate Nia students. Some of them became teachers themselves and carried the Nia torch in JAG's absence.  Upon his return to Seattle in 2011, JAG was delighted to find a flourishing Nia community with several teachers, a couple of trainers and classes offered on every day in every neighborhood.

Rather than actually settling down in Seattle, at this time, JAG took to the road and spend the next five years as a vagabond Nia teacher. He created his own original routines and took them around to share with all of the USA.

And now, in 2017, JAG made the choice to stay home and to get a Nia class going in Seattle. It took a while to find the right venue, but through patience and persistence, found a great room in a great time slot.

This series of classes is scheduled for the spring semester at Velocity Dance Center. Classes begin Jan 8 and continue until June. At that time, we will assess the popularity of the class and from there we will either keep it going, add more classes or end the class.

Here are some peeks at some of the routines that JAG has taken on tour in the past.







So we hope you can join Seattle's first Nia teacher and only male Nia teacher, First Degree Black Belt, JAG, in this exciting new offering.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Chaotic Covert Creations

I have temporarily abandoned working on re-creating my version of David Merritt's awesome "Celebrate" routine. Not being a disco fan, I couldn't really take all the time it was requiring me to spend with those songs. Yeah, it's great to hear them in a class once in awhile, and they're fun to dance to, but not to hear over and over again as I'm figuring out the right moves. I had to put the project on hold for my own sanity, but I'm sure I'll be back at it.

In the meantime, Spotify was getting the wrong impression about my musical tastes. I was starting to get nothing but disco songs as suggestions, and I wanted to nip that in the bud right away, so I started listening to music just for fun!  This is something I stopped doing in the early 90's when I became a dance fitness teacher and used music as a tool in my profession. So my musical maturity was stunted in the late eighties. I'm really enjoying exploring everything I've missed in the past twenty plus years.

I've also found inspiration for working on another new project. I have lamented the retirement of my mentor, Carlos Rosas from the world of Nia. His unique shamanic ways and the style of music and movement he brought to the table are no longer to be found in modern day Nia. I had long had the desire to create a playlist that sounded like a Carlos Nia routine, but I didn't have access to the mountains of music I'd have to dig through to find songs that would fit the myriad criteria for making a great Nia song.

Now that I'm using Spotify, and have access to such a vast music library, I have begun the project. It took me a while to figure out the lay of the land, but I think I have learned how to get good, inspirational suggestions from Spotify's algorithms and I've put together several rough drafts of what I'm calling the Perfect Carlos Routine. It's very exciting.

I am playing with them in the studio and mostly free dancing and doing my highly developed style of calisthenics and a strange thing is happening; randomly, a new song starts up and my body starts moving in a way that perfectly fits. It mysteriously feels as if I had heard the song a hundred times before and know exactly what the movements are, and they feel perfect.

Fortunately, it has been a long time practice of mine to video all of my workouts, so I have a record of some of those inspired movement clicks.  So far, I'm not setting an agenda to create anything, I'm just creating from a place of passion and beginner's mind and keeping track of what develops.

I am aware of a long-running mindset that I am preparing this routine for presentation in a Nia class or even to take it on the road and present it across the USA. It runs by habit in the background of my psyche and motivates me to continue exploring and creating. But at this time, I am not planning to start up any classes or make any plans to travel, and I may not do so this year. At this point, I'm totally digging the agenda-less creative process. I'm enjoying my strong propensity to explore more athleticism and especially more FloorPlay.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Dark December

As we roll into December, I'm still decompressing from my highly eventful year.

It started with a triumphant return to the boards after a five-year hiatus, I found an audition listing just by chance, for a role that sounded perfect for me. Soon afterward, I found myself playing in a slapstick farce and losing about fifteen pounds in the process. I took daily baths to combat the aches and pains inherent in doing pratfalls and stunts every night. To exacerbate the issue, my character was a nervous mess. The stress that the character goes through is something I literally feel and my body really reacts to. My body doesn't know it isn't real, so I actually got sick from the pretend stress.

The play was a riot, and I had a great time. I'd do it again in a heartbeat, but I was glad when it was over so I could recover. It didn't take me long to return to my normal weight, but it took a little bit longer to heal some of the more serious injuries. My ribs, my shoulders and my fingers were all injured at one point, but I was fully recovered before it was time for my next big thing.

That next big thing for me was to take a little five month drive. It was super exciting and indescribable. I blogged about it, so you may have read all about it. If not, you can search through my blog and read my almost daily entries between April 30 and October 6.

And then I began another recovery. But this time, instead of being sick and underweight from stress, I was overweight by about 15 pounds from eating junk food and doing no exercise but Nia.

So, I've been diligent about returning to my healthy eating habits and exercise formats. It took me about six weeks to get it back, but now I'm just a few pounds off from being at my desired weight.

As I do each year when the clocks change back and the days get increasingly shorter, I hibernate and reflect on my past, present and future. I allow myself to let go of things I no longer need and enjoy and I ask myself to either become remotivated by the things I love or to change my focus and direction if my passion has shifted.

This year, I am still not yet sure of what I'm called to do. I am still in the quiet, inquisitive phase.

So I'm still toying with the idea of road tripping some more in 2017, but certainly, I'd need to revisit the idea with a beginner's mind. A lot needs tweaking. I have to figure out what I want to do about the food situation. River is a constant concern. And I still fantasize about doing it in an RV instead of the car/motel thing.

In the meantime, I do find that I'm called to create more. I'm scouring music and building playlists. I was inspired by David Merritt, a Nia teacher I met at the last Men of Nia in Santa Fe. He did an all disco Nia routine and I had so much fun in his class, that I made a commitment to go home and try to recreate it as best I could. David helped by sending me his playlist and some choreography notes, so I've been playing with that. In a delightful melange of his choreography and mine where I'm not able to figure out his notes, I feel like I'm sort of collaborating with David on the routine that he named "Celebrate".

I'm also in the very beginning stages of putting together a continuation of the Rock & Roll Nia series of routines that I've been putting out there, from Woodstock to 70's rock to 80's New Wave. I recently joined Spotify and am starting to accumulate songs from the 90's for one playlist and from the "aughts" (00's). That work is slow going, and I don't find myself too pumped up by what I'm finding.

I have become a certified Nia Free Dance DJ, and am considering starting up a Nia FreeDance class locally. I've been having a blast collecting music for those classes. Finding an appropriate available venue, though is proving difficult and a major deterrent. So I find myself easily deterred from the task. I'm also juggling around the idea of starting up a regular Classic Nia class. And then I get excited and I also want to include classes in JAG Energy Flow, which is my own workout program. I'm not sure at this time where my loyalties or where my priorities lie. In the meantime, I'm in the midst of this weird period of doing nothing. Dark December.

I've never believed that Nia was enough for me as a fitness program. So, as usual, I'm spending a lot of my time in my studio doing my own workouts for myself. Today I sort of found myself creating as I was working on a movement sequence while music was playing. This is the result:

I have been looking at the local audition call boards to see if anything interesting is coming up in Seattle that I can audition for over the winter. I haven't been auditioning in general, but I did go on two auditions recently. I was offered positions from both auditions, but only accepted the one to join an improv and sketch comedy group in Seattle called Turbo Turkey.  We've been having rehearsals to practice our improv technique and get comfortable with each other and we're planning their next (my first) show in a couple of weeks. I'm excited about that.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Long Live Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a holiday created by Abraham Lincoln in 1863. He created it as a way to give thanks for what we have and to honor "our beneficent father who dwelleth in the heavens."  So, yeah, it was a religious holiday to start out and I'm glad that that aspect of it seems to have fallen by the wayside. It has become a mostly secular holiday devoted partially to taking a day to give thanks for all we have, and largely to gathering with friends and family and feasting on turkey.

What's sad is that the sentiment lasts only one day and the very next day is a relatively new but just as revered national holiday. It is the shameful mess known as Black Friday. This day of excessive materialism is a truer indication of what I see as the American sentiment than Thanksgiving, which is soon forgotten in the near full month of rampant materialism that follows.

I find it odd that just one day after giving thanks for all that we are blessed with, it then becomes important to go buy more stuff.  And the buying frenzy has recently been extended even further with the advent of Cyber Monday to continue the madness.

I feel like Thanksgiving is one of the last unspoiled original holidays. Its message and the rites surrounding it have remained largely unchanged, except maybe for new recipes that emerge each year, like that strange new practice of seeing how many different animals you can stuff into each other before dropping the whole thing into a deep fat frier.

I would like to see the original feelings and intentions of Thanksgiving last as long as the greed and materialism of the upcoming holiday. Here is to Thanksgiving and all it does for us.  Three cheers! Giving thanks and feeling gratitude are well-known ways to improve mental and physical health and increase happiness, whereas rushing around shopping malls, finding parking and fighting to get the lowest prices on the newest gizmos is a destructive path to misery.

Getting together with family is good for us as a society. Celebrating our current position, whatever it is, builds a solid foundation of prosperity and health.

Tomorrow, I'm committed to keeping Thanksgiving going. And I challenge anyone reading this to boycott buying things this weekend. The original Thanksgiving meal in 1621 lasted for three days. But in modern times we're conditioned, even pressured by media to shop and spend our hearts out the very next day. They've got the gaul to claim the future of our economy in dependent on the amount we spend this weekend. Don't fall for it. It's a ploy to get us to spend our money on stuff. Join me in reclaiming gratitude and eschewing the materialism.

In invite you to stay with me in Thanksgiving until Tuesday. Ignore the trappings of "Black Friday" and "Cyber Monday" which are insulting to the ideals of this great, unspoiled holiday celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. Gratitude is healing and greed is corrosive.

The world needs to heal much more than you need those new boots. Who's with me?

If you're trying out a new recipe for your Thanksgiving feast this year, please share it with me. That's the real spirit of the holiday. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Burger Repurcussions

From late April through early October, I ate almost exclusively hamburgers and pizza and big sugary desserts. I also regularly stayed up until 2 or 3 in the morning, watching TV or videos on YouTube. The bulk of my days were spent sitting in the car. Sure, I'd get out and run a bit with River, and often got out to go on small hikes or climb on rocks or jump in waves. And I'd occasionally stop to teach a Nia class. But it was mostly a sedentary, unhealthful lifestyle--something new to me. I noticed, during this time, I was more susceptible to getting sick and being cranky. I also gained significant weight. My usual weight range hovers around 155, and whenever I get above 160 I know I've gotten off track and seek to right myself. But during those past five months, my belly started growing enough to bulge out over my waistband. I was embarrassed to remove my shirt, which is unlike me. I could even see myself bulging when I wore form fitting clothes.

An interesting aspect of this scenario is the fact that I was teaching these Nia classes, but they didn't seem to be keeping me in shape. My theory is since I was teaching the same routine to a new group each time, that my body quickly adapted to the demands of that routine. And since I wasn't increasing my challenge, the fitness it brought me was stagnating. It is important to keep challenging our bodies and changing our programs to keep ourselves in top shape.

I had a great time on my five month road trip. The decision to eat burgers and pizza all along the way. sure made things easy. This was partially a response to how much difficulty I'd encountered while attempting to eat healthy food on the road on past trips. I would lug around an ice chest and keep it stocked with fresh food, and stop at a healthy grocery store every few days.

It wouldn't be nearly as difficult as it was if I weren't traveling with a dog. But something as simple as stopping at the grocery store became an ordeal, especially on a hot day.  And since I was traveling across the country mostly through the summer, it was usually too hot to leave the dog in the car.

And then, it was another challenge to keep things fresh.  Even though I was using an ice chest, sometimes, when I was teaching class or enjoying a park, I'd have to park the car in the hot sun. In the summer heat, the inside of the car would get to near oven-like temperatures, making it likely that the fresh food in my cooler wasn't kept in safe food-storage conditions. I ended up throwing away a lot of food that I wasn't sure about.

My solution was to live, as I called it, "like normal people". I didn't concern myself with eating healthy. I just enjoyed burgers and pizza and brownies and candy with impunity. Part of the fun of it, in my twisted mind, was actually seeing myself gain fat weight around my waist. I fought it at first, but soon realized I couldn't have it both ways. I either had to eat healthy or accept that I was going to gain weight. So I devised a plan that helped me tolerate and actually enjoy the resulting weight gain. All along, I was motivated by how much fun it would be to lose the weight once I got back home and could be in better control of my eating and lifestyle again.  I rationalized that the more weight I gained during this period, the more impressive it would be when I got home and lost it all.

So, now I've been home for three weeks and I've lost a total of 8 pounds. I didn't go on a diet, but I did create some rules for myself to create a healthy lifestyle environment.

One: I committed to going to bed every night before midnight
Two: I committed to doing all of my eating before 8PM
Three: I committed to having three meals a day, each one including at least one fruit or vegetable.
Four: I committed to doing at least 15 minutes of daily exercise.

Those were the basics. I didn't want to create a situation that I couldn't wait to be free from. My goal was to create a lifestyle that I could live with long term.  I don't consider myself "on a diet". I still basically eat whatever I want, just not WHENEVER I want.  I needed to address the biggest things that I was doing wrong.

For example, drinking water is one of the first issues I address with clients who seek weight adjustment. But I never slacked off on my water drinking, so I didn't need to fix that in this program.  But I know that staying up late puts the body into a hormonal state that makes it retain body fat instead of losing it, so getting to bed at a decent hour had to be part of my new lifestyle.

And to be fair, I'm very conditioned to eating healthy foods. I enjoy it and have done it for several years. So it's not difficult for me to choose wholesome meats and fruits and vegetables and to avoid lots of bread and simple starches. It's much different than for someone who has never made a healthy choice and might find themselves at a loss for what to choose, or feeling a severe sense of missing out on potato chips or ice cream habits.

It's three weeks into the recovery project as I write this and I'm still comfortable with all of the rules I've set. On occasion I slip up, but that's not a big problem as long as I get right  back on track as soon as possible.  One day, I had a sweet tooth and let myself stay up til 12:30am and have a half pint of root beer ice cream. And on a couple of days, I skipped my workouts. But I find it easy to get right back on the program. As I said, it's not very disruptive, nor does it leave me feeling deprived. It may not be the quickest way to drop weight, but it's comfortable and sustainable.

At my highest weight, I measured myself at over 168 pounds. Almost 169.  This is the most I've weighed in my life. And I don't recognize my body as my own.  But I did get a sense of how someone could easily slip out of shape. Most of my professional life, I've worked with people who wanted to lose weight. I have been able to help them because of what I'd studied, but never because of what I'd experienced. I'd always just been keeping myself from gaining weight, but rarely trying to lose more than a couple of pounds.

Now I have the experience that I'd heard so many of my clients tell me about. "I don't know how this happened.  It snuck up on me. Etc."  I realized that I could get used to my new shape because it changed so gradually. And if I didn't stop my burger and pizza ways, I would have just continued to slowly balloon up and up.

So three weeks later and I weigh in at 162 pounds. I still consider that in the overweight range for myself, but it's much better than 168. I had made an unofficial goal to be under 160 pounds within 30 days. That gives me nine more days to lose two more pounds. It's very doable.

But the funny thing is that I lost four pounds within the first week, and then two pounds in the second week and I lost nothing during the third week. I'm worried that I may have stagnated. But before I decide to ramp up the intensity, I'm just going to see what happens if I stick with it for another five days. If I'm not continuing to lose, I may ramp it up for the last five days and still be able to make my goal of being under 160 pounds by Nov 6.

If you have any questions about what I'm doing, please feel free to ask them.  And if you have any ideas or suggestions, I'm open to hearing those too. But I'll tell you right now I don't take any sort of aids or supplements of any sort. I never have been a fan of them. I believe that living a healthy lifestyle involves eating sufficient real food and not taking pills.

I hope to be able to report that I weigh under 160 by Nov. 6.

More to come (or should I say less to come) :)

Monday, October 17, 2016

What is a Friend?

This political environment has given rise to the question of who is my friend.

I have reached a boiling point and no longer want to tolerate support for the neo-fascist running for president on an elitist ticket. So I have made the decision to remove those people who support him from my Facebook friends list.

There have been some interesting reactions to this decision. I didn't expect much support for this choice in general, so I was surprised at how much I actually did get. But not surprisingly, I also saw a fair amount of resistance. I'm not the type of person who does things based on what most people think. I've marched to the sound of a different drummer my whole life, and if people get me, that's fine; but it's not a huge concern for me if they don't.  I'm not writing this to convince anyone else that I'm right or to persuade anyone to think or do like me, I'm only going to make an attempt to be understood, for what it's worth.

Some people have told me they are also disturbed by some of their friends showing support for Trump or his ilk through Facebook posts, but are proud of the fact that they continue to have friends from all walks of life. It creates in internal conflict for some of them, and for others it seems that they feel it is all part of the suffering of life to have people that are close to you cause you grief. I respect that that works for them, but it doesn't for me.

I don't put any importance in the virtues of collecting random acquaintances. I don't think that more is better or that it is my duty to have a representative of every different type of thinking in my circle of friends. I consider a friendship with me a sacred thing and I don't let just anyone stay in this group. I suspect that this thinking that it is virtuous to accumulate as much and as many as possible is a symptom of our culture of greed and materialism. And I also think some sort of spiritualism plays into it. Perhaps some people believe that it is their cosmic duty to see and embrace the good in everyone. While, I don't disagree with that, I don't think it's the same thing as allowing them in. I don't believe that we need to give people of all walks of life access to our heart and soul to show us how many different facets the world has. I can see many different types of people without bringing them close to my bosom. I believe that my most important resource is my own spirit and my own happiness. If anyone in my life regularly makes me distressed, the thing to do is to remove myself from that situation.

Some have gone as far as to insult me and call me names, saying that I'm weak or stupid because I can't be friends with people who think differently than I do. To that I answer that everyone in the world thinks differently than I do.  It's a silly thing to even suggest that I'm only looking to be friends with people who think like I do.  That's an impossibility. What I'm doing is removing people from my life who I no longer respect or like because of the parts of themselves I had not seen until now.

I got a kick out of it when a stranger to me inserted himself by commenting on a post of mine. He derided me for not being friends with people who thought differently than me, and concluded his post by labeling me a 'moron.'  It struck me as terribly hypocritical. If he really believed what he was chastising me for, he wouldn't have dismissed me for the way I thought. But his actions spoke louder than his words and perfectly illustrated that it is something we all do. It is an act of self-love and self-respect to keep offenders at bay.

I think, too, that people tend to take the 'friend/unfriend' thing a little too seriously. I don't think that including someone on a friend list on Facebook is the be-all and end-all. I could conceivably remove someone from my friends list and remain connected to them in real life. If, for example, someone in my family ended up on the chopping block, I could still see them at family functions and be civilized, but I don't need to continue with the intimacy that Facebook provides. I don't want to see every thought they share if I have lost that edge of respect and admiration for them. Nor do I want them to see and potentially comment on the things that I post.

I also am unconventional in my ability to let go and move on. I have done a lot of work on myself to remain free of the burden of being attached to earthly material things. The more I let go of, the freer I am. I can literally sense my spirit by being in touch with how much or how little I am attached to things. It is an inversely proportional relationship, meaning the more I let go, the more I am in my spirit. So it is not a difficult decision for me to remove material things, especially those things that bring me distress.

Others have followed my lead and given me credit for the nudge that they needed to remove offenders from their lists as well. They report feeling lighter and freer after doing so.  Yes.  That is the feeling of their spirit being set free. And that is exactly how I see it is my place to influence people: By living my truth and allowing others to see it, they are free to choose for themselves what they believe to be right for them.

I have had well-meaning friends suggest that instead of walking away, I discuss things with the offender in question.  I spent a month doing that in this election, and basically most of my life doing that in general, and it didn't ever feel spiritually awakened to me. In fact, it usually felt quite tight and restricted. I have learned by experience that it is not my place to convince other people. It becomes a conflict and increases my level of distress and unease, and I suspect, does the same for the other person. I don't want to be a spreader of pain and tightness. I feel that it is more keeping with my beliefs to let other people have their beliefs. If someone is swayed by seeing my actions in the world, then that's ideal, but I'm not looking to influence anyone directly. I will continue to live my loving, spiritually based life, unattached to material and reactions. I live in peace.

At the end of my life, I don't imagine many of my friends being there, but my spirit and my mind will be all I have left. I must make sure that throughout my whole life, I've been aware of the needs and desires of these things and put them as my first and last priority.  I need to proactively ensure the safety of the rare things that really will be there my whole life.

I'm not living in denial. I know that all types of people are out there and I know that many people have entirely different views and agendas. I appreciate that the world is a vastly varied place. But living in peace means that I draw a line around myself and I am allowed to choose who comes on my side of that line and gets close to me. We are all allowed to draw our boundaries and uphold them.

My line has a lot to do with treating everyone with equal deserved respect. When I see someone not doing that, I feel it is important that they remain on the outside of my line.  I don't do it in a disrespectful way, but I simply no longer invite them in. I invite them to live their lives outside of my line.

Several years ago I was given a beautiful metaphor by one of my Nia students when I unwittingly overstepped my boundaries and offended her. It was a great learning experience for me as she described the feeling that I had 'rearranged her gem garden' and I knew exactly what she meant as soon as she said it. Ever since then I've been aware of everyone's gem garden as well as my own. I kept in mind that the only garden that I'm allowed to rearrange is my own. And that only I was allowed to do it. Other gem gardens are under the exclusive control of their owners. So while I might ask questions, seeking to understand other people, I don't think it is my place to change anyone else's world view.  I also don't feel it is very enlightened to hurl insults at people for having different beliefs. I do catch myself sometimes thinking those things and even sometimes actually saying them, but that's my flaw and I'm working on it.

A friend is a temporal thing. It is a privilege, not a right. I know that some people believe that friendship is forever, but I don't. I think it is earned, constantly. If it were just a life-long given that someone who was once your friend is always your friend, then it seems to me to lose a great deal of potency. What makes friendship so incredibly important is that it is extremely precious and is easily broken; so that if it does last for years and years it is because it has remained a positive nurturing relationship all that time. Friendship is not something I set and forget. One of the undeniable truths about life is that it is always changing. I don't accept that because something was true last year that it's true today. Every day I wake up to a new world. My life is lived in immediate awareness. Each day is a new discovery. Which means that I can and do re-evaluate friendships at any time.

A friend is someone who inspires me. Someone who I feel good being with. Someone who brings out the best in me. Someone who teaches me things without insulting me.  A friend shares things with me that lift me up. It brings me pleasure when I can do the same for them. A friend shares a similar moral compass as me. We don't have to agree on every little thing, but we should agree on the big things.

Some people will ask, "What about unconditional love? Don't you believe in that?" My answer is yes, I do. But I don't think love and friendship are the same thing. I think it's in our best interest to give out as much love as we can possibly manage. And I do have love for people that do bad things. I recognize my impulse to retract love as my own weakness. I believe that there is good in everyone, that we're all doing our best and we're all confused and scared. And I can believe that while being someone's friend, or while not being their friend. A friend to me is different in that a friend has access to my heart and soul. It is a relationship of mutual trust and vulnerability. I promise that my best intention is to love you. I intend to love everyone, unconditionally. But I come first to me, and if someone has the potential to rearrange my gem garden, I have no problems with lovingly securing them on the other side of the gate.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Road Trip 2016: Fun Facts

I was on the road for 23 weeks. Not only is it the longest road trip I've ever taken but it's the longest I've ever been away from home.  During that time I made stops in the following 85 different cities. I stayed in each city for only one night unless indicated otherwise in parenthesis.

Seaside, OR
Coos Bay, OR
Arcata, CA
Santa Rosa, CA (2)
Santa Barbara, CA (2)
Carlsbad, CA (2)
Marana, AZ
El Paso, TX
Del Rio, TX
Rockport, TX
Corpus Christi, TX (2)
San Marcos, TX (2)
Dallas, TX (2)
Houston, TX (3)
Slidell, LA
Destin, FL
Bessemer, AL
Tucker, GA (2)
Venice, FL (4)
Pompano Beach, FL
Gainesville, FL
Florence, SC
Charlotte, NC (3)
Harrisonburg, VA
Sandston, VA (2)
Edgewood, MD
New York, NY (6)
Altoona, PA
Columbus, OH (2)
Aurora, IL
Woodson, MI
Springfield, MO
Oklahoma City, OK
Amarillo, TX
Albuquerque, NM
Holbrook, AZ
Flagstaff, AZ (3)
Kingman, AZ
St. George, UT
Glendale, UT (3)
Las Vegas, NV
Barstow, CA
Gardena, CA
Santa Barbara, CA
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Auburn, CA
Klamath Falls, OR
Bend, OR
Springfield, OR
Portland, OR (5)
Seattle, WA (9)
Richland, WA
Boise, ID
Pocatello, ID
Salt Lake City, UT
Midvale, UT
Grand Junction, CO
Thornton, CO (3)
Omaha, NE (2)
Kansas City, MO
Cedar Rapids, IA (3)
Indianapolis, IN (2)
Pittsburgh, PA
New York, NY (4)
Nashua, NH (4)
Brattleboro, VT
Albany, NY (2)
New York, NY (6)
Buffalo, NY
Macedonia, OH (2)
Kalamazoo, MI
Mackinaw City, MI
Green Bay, WI (2)
Brookfield, WI
Roseville, MN (2)
Sioux Falls, SD
Rapid City, SD
Billings, MT (3)
Jackson, CO
Helena, MT
Kalispell, MT (2)
Coeur d' Alene, ID (2)
Baker City, OR
Twin Falls, ID
Nephi, UT
Farmington, NM (3)
Santa Fe, NM (4)
Grand Junction, CO
Chubbock, ID
Pendleton, OR

In the majority of these cities, I stayed in Motel 6 and blogged about my experiences here. 

The places I didn't use Motel 6 are:

Santa Barbara, where I stayed with my Aunt Dorothy
NYC, where I stayed with my friend, Michael
Seattle, where I stayed at home
Mackinaw City, where I stayed at Super 8 Motel
Boise, where I stayed with my friend, Cheryl.

I taught Nia classes in the following 64 cities. Usually I taught one class in each city unless more is indicated by the number in the parenthesis.

Walnut Creek, CA
Calistoga, CA
Campbell, CA
North Hollywood, CA
Carlsbad, CA
San Diego, CA
Rockport, TX
Austin, TX
San Antonio, TX
Dallas, TX (3)
Houston, TX (2)
Cullman, AL
Decatur, GA
Sarasota, FL (3)
Venice, FL
Pompano Beach, FL
Gainesville, FL
Myrtle Beach, SC
Charlotte, NC (2)
Durham, NC
Richmond, VA (2)
Baltimore, MD
Highland Park, NJ
Woodbridge, CT
Manhattan, NY (2)
Columbus, OH
Naperville, IL
Edwardsville, IL
Albuquerque, NM
Flagstaff, AZ
Sedona, AZ (2)
Santa Monica, CA
Nevada City, CA
Bend, OR
Springfield, OR
Portland, OR (5)
Centralia, WA
Leavenworth, WA
Walla Walla, WA
Boise, ID
Evanston, WY
Salt Lake City, UT
Evergreen, CO
Lyons, CO
Boulder, CO
Lincoln, NE
Kansas City, MO
Coralville, IA
Greenwood, IN
W. Concord, MA
Portland, ME (2)
Albany, NY (2)
Cornwall-on-Husdon, NY
Avon Lake, OH
Hubertus, WI
Minneapolis, MN
Minnetonka, MN
Billings, MT
Red Lodge, MT
Helena, MT
Hayden, ID
Durango, CO
Santa Fe, NM (5)
Pendleton, OR

We visited 42 states. The only states in the contiguous 48 that we didn't visit this year are:

North Dakota
West Virginia

We visited 37 different National Parks, Monuments and/or Recreation Areas, including:

Redwood National Park, CA
Painted Rock Petroglyph Site, AZ
Big Bend, TX
Aransas Wildlife Refuge, TX
Padre Island National Park, TX
Shenandoah National Park, VA
Petrified Forest National Park, AZ
Walnut Canyon National Monument, AZ
Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
Wupatki National Monument, AZ
Sunset Crater Volcano National Park, AZ
Zion National Park, UT
Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
Canyonlands National Park, UT
Grand Staircase - Escalante National Park, UT
Cedar Breaks National Monument, UT
Yosemite National Park, CA
Crater Lake National Park, OR
Mount Rainier National Park, WA
Craters of the Moon National Park, ID
Rocky Mountain National Park, CO
Green Mountain National Forest, VT
Allegheny National Forest, PA
Manistee National Forest, MI
Pictures Rocks National Lakeshore, MI
Mount Rushmore National Monument, SD
Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, SD
Yellowstone National Park, WY
Grand Teton National Park, CO
Glacier National Park, MT
City of Rocks National Reserve, ID
Capitol Reef National Park, UT
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, UT
Natural Bridges National Monument, UT
Mesa Verde National Park, CO
Colorado National Monument, CO
Arches National Park, UT

We also visited several local and state parks, but I didn't keep track of those.

Along the way, I ate burgers (or BBQ) at 98 different places and blogged about all of them on this page. 

I gained about 10 pounds during the five months I was on the road. I attribute that mostly to the fact that I spent most of my days sitting in the car and that I dined almost exclusively on burgers and pizza. I didn't eat many vegetables at all and had dessert almost every night from the vending machines at Motel 6.  My eating habits were atrocious, so I'm not surprised I did gain weight and that I even got sick a few times because my usually-robust immune system relies on my healthy diet to be so strong.

I lost track of the exact mileage because when I had the car serviced in Manhattan in August, they reset my trip odometer to zero, but the nearest I can figure is that I put about 32,000 miles on the car between April 30 and October 6.

I learned a lot on this trip about myself and about teaching Nia and making the most of being efficient while on the road. I will be re-assessing the approach I take and when I hit the road again, I'll have a totally different plan.

Returning to Seattle

Last night was kind of weird. After I was done teaching my last class of the tour in Pendleton, I stood in the motel room with the feeling that it was all over. There was a bit of sadness mixed with a bit of elation. And the feeling of being in the motel room was different. It almost felt unnecessary and strange to know that I was in a motel room and had no plans coming up except for driving home in the morning.

There wasn't much going on on the ride home, but I did enjoy driving through the middle of Washington. The rolling hills were all different shades of brown as autumn was obviously in full swing.

I stopped in Stanfield, OR for lunch. The choices were pitifully slim, so I opted for Jack In the Box. I hadn't eaten at one since I was a kid, and I used to really dislike it because they would include a balloon in with the order and the balloon tasted like chemical. It ruined the taste of the food to have that toxic powder on my lips from the balloon.

Today I didn't get a balloon.  I opted for the most interesting-looking thing on the menu, a Sourdough Jack. It didn't quite look in real life like it did in the picture on the menu.

I literally could not taste the sourdough.  Nor the meat, for that matter. The sandwich had some sort of thousand island dressing on it, and that was all I could taste. It wasn't necessarily an enjoyable experience, but at least I wasn't hungry anymore and could focus on driving.

And I think I may have discovered a new favorite highway. First of all, I drove for a ways on one of my old favorite highways, US-395.  But then I found a great scenic drive in WA-821. It wound its way alongside the Yamika River and offered lots of spots to camp with access to the river. It was quite beautiful and I would have stopped to enjoy it if I wasn't so eager to get home. But I did make a mental note to take this route out of Seattle on one of my future trips, and to allow myself time to stop and play in the river.

As usual, I was blown away by the sight of Snoqualmie Pass. The steep, evergreen-covered mountains are like nowhere else in the country.

And some Seahawks fan(s) inscribed a 12 in the mountainside for everyone to see as they enter King County.

As was to be expected, as soon as I got to Lake Washington, the gateway to Seattle, I hit some very slow traffic. It took me half an hour to cross the lake, which is a three minute drive in good conditions.

Once I got over the lake and was driving in Seattle toward my house, River started to get very excited. It was obvious that he recognized the scent of Seattle and was happy to be home. I reserved my excitement for when we were actually in the garage and I got to lock the car and walk upstairs into my home.

I didn't bother to unpack. I'll do that in the morning. It's great to be home and finished with the trip.  Now I can begin whatever is next in my life.

First on my agenda is to undo all of the damage I've done to my health and physique by choosing to eat burgers and pizzas almost exclusively for the past five months. I gained a significant amount of weight. I have a bathroom scale and when I got on it today, it said I weight 169 pounds! That is officially the heaviest I've ever been.

I'll be focused on returning to healthy lifestyle habits over the next month and will be documenting my progress on this blog page.  I hope to get down to below 160 pounds, where I feel my best.

Stay tuned....

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Ultimate Amazing

Today was a situation that I don't care for. I had a six and a half hour drive before teaching a class. I tend to prefer to be in the town well in advance, just to avoid the myriad things that can go wrong to delay my timely arrival.

Lucky there were no interesting sites along the way.  Well, actually there were, but I'd seen them all already so I had no problem. The ride was pretty uneventful; especially compared to the calibre of beauteous drives I'd been taking of late.

I got an early start and I gained an hour as I passed into the Pacific Time Zone.  This is the kind of scenery I mostly saw:
I got to Pendleton in plenty of time, even with stopping several times, for gas, pet food and rest breaks. I was able to check into the motel first and even had time to give River his dinner before I had to be in the studio.

Pendleton is a tiny little town, so it only took me four minutes to get there from the motel.

The studio was beautiful but they kept it dark. They used just a few soft lights. I'm not a fan of doing Nia in the dark, but I know it's a popular thing. I didn't ask them to make the change for me, but I did have a hard time seeing them and I think they also had a hard time seeing me. I use visual cues as much or more than verbal cues, so it was hard to follow me since they couldn't really see my cues that well.

But no one got hurt and we were all smiles by the end.

I was in a crabby mood before I got to the studio because I made the mistake of looking at facebook and was confronted with the reality that I have some friends that are stupid enough to support Trump for president. Well, maybe they're not stupid, maybe they're just racist assholes, but in any case, I let myself get worked up by trying to get into their minds.  Fortunately, doing Nia broke me out of that funk.

After class, i stopped at Dickey's to get some BBQ and took it back to the room.

As River was jumping out of the car to go to the room, he tripped over himself and landed face first on the asphalt with a loud clunk. After that he seemed to be in a bit of a daze and wouldn't let me comfort him.  He's not limping, but he is in his crate licking his legs. I'm sure he'll be fine, but I felt bad that he hurt himself.

I'm so excited that this was my last day of the trip unless you count tomorrow, when I'll be driving about four hours to Seattle and THEN I'll officially be done.

I'm planning to write a wrap up of the trip, but it might not happen tomorrow or right away. I'll be doing some decompression and may even lay low for a while. Thanks for joining me on this epic amazing odyssey.

Peace out.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Colorado National Monument and Arches National Park

My original plan was to visit Arches on my way out of Grand Junction and then drive the rest of the day all the way up to Pocatello. But last night, on my way into Grand Junction, I saw a sign saying I was close to Colorado National Monument, so I thought I'd pay a quick visit there, too.

 OMFG. I cannot describe this place without cursing. The shapes of the rocks and the color of the ground and the flora growing. It's all just so incredible. I actually literally understood what 'breaktaking' means. I was gasping so repeatedly that I lost my breath at one point. I also think I broke my awesome meter. It's going to have to be recalibrated at least. I cannot believe that places like this quietly exist in the middle of our country. Why aren't people talking about this place every day?

 I was really hoping to see some big horn elk when we were in the Big Horn National Forest, but we didnt' see any that day. Today, though, I spotted a whole herd of them walking down the face of this mountain to graze on whatever's at the bottom.

At one point, my camera was too full to take any more pictures. This was a relief, as it freed me to just drive through the park without being tempted to take a picture of everything. I will definitely come back here, and I'm so glad I took the extra time.

Although it did add over an hour to my total itinerary, it was worth every second.

The next awesome adventure was taking UT-128 into Arches. This has earned a place on my list of favorite drives.

detail of just the interesting stuff

overview of the whole day

 The ride into Arches was spectacular for about an hour before even getting to the park. There were also plenty of outside-the-park camping and hiking. I kept thinking, as I passed by the rock formations, that it was like walking through a fine museum and passing one great work of art after another. Eventually, I found that we were driving along the Colorado River. I had to get some pictures of the river so I pulled over and started deleting things from my phone.

It was brown from all of the rock sediment. I imagined it slowly taking millions of years to carve out the impressive designs in the canyons for miles through ancient rock. As I drove along the river I felt as if I were meeting the artist. And rather than him being full of vibrancy and excitement like his artwork, he's actually old, slow and frail. And he's stained with paint.

River and I got out of the car in a beautiful spot, hoping to get our feet wet in the old man artist, but the river was protected by thick grass.
And then we got to Arches, which was another mind-blowing place.  Both of these parks should be given at least a full day to really enjoy, and I tried to stick both of them into a full day of driving. That's so me. Well, I ended up reaching a full-point only about one quarter of the way into Arches. I knew I still had a hefty drive ahead and I also knew I was going to be coming back to give this place the attention it deserves.  Before turning around, I did take a few photos.

It was mid afternoon before I was on the interstate driving quickly through Utah. And I did just that for the next several hours. I stopped to get gas in Lehi and to get a burger in Green River. The sun was setting just as I drove through Salt Lake City and a nice, long dusk dimly lit almost the rest of the way out of the state.

But it was dark before I saw the Welcome to Idaho sign, and not much further before I was checking into Motel 6 in Pocatello/Chubbuck. The clerk wondered why I had such a low rate.  He said the manager entered the rate and it was the lowest he's ever seen. I didn't know why. But I did show him my AARP card, which he didn't need to see as I had been at this location before. I told him the rate I had in my book was $38 and that's the rate he saw in the computer, so he honored it.