Review: Rosehead by Ksenia Anske

RoseheadRosehead by Ksenia Anske

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My early-teenage self would have loved this book! The imaginative story Ksenia tells is full of imagination and quirky realness. I loved Lilith’s character, and the banter between her and Panther. While sometimes the writing seemed a bit scattered, the plot kept me interested and waiting for more. Great lines and a bit of unexpected darkness make “Rosehead” a compelling and very fun read.

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Review: Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream: A Day in the Life of Your Body by Jennifer Ackerman

Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream: A Day in the Life of Your BodySex Sleep Eat Drink Dream: A Day in the Life of Your Body by Jennifer Ackerman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Understanding the mechanics of one’s body is so necessary, I almost believe that everyone should read this book. Ackerman presents sound science in a way that is accessible to everyone, making findings of science through the years interesting as she takes us through a day in the life of our own bodies.

At times repetitively formulaic, the stories and personal anecdotes Ackerman uses to piece together the narrative throughout the book were charming if occasionally tiresome. That said, I very much enjoyed her writing, and would be interested in reading other books or articles in the same voice.

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New Year’s Post

Last year, January 2nd, 2015, I wrote a blog about the new year and new beginnings (and new blogging). Clearly, it takes me a long time to get around to writing anything but poetry. Here we are again at start of another new year, 2016, already turning down the lamp on our night stands.

Today is the first day of the accepted New Year, but darling, start where you are. Start whenever, however many times. You decide the first day of your new year, each day, with your own choices and intention. Never be afraid to start. Never wait. And never be afraid to start again.

Wishing you a wonderful beginning, wherever you are.

The Journey is the Destination

Three years ago, I started a blog. Revelation time: “Written by Ay” isn’t my first.

*gasp*

That first, well, the blog to which I’m referring, was titled “Married with a Degree” and did not last through the year it began. You can search, but that old blog lives no longer. (Great title through, right?) My sense of discipline in posting rather lacked, and I becoming increasingly irritated with the theme hole I’d dug myself. The writing embarrassed me, I lacked the confidence to make it more than it was, so I deleted it and stepped away from the blogosphere.

Lately though, a post from that blog keeps coming to mind, written by my direly introspective self about practice. At the time I’d realized the skill  I’d yet to learn, that I needed most to focus in this new stage of life, required practicing practicing. I had little practice in the art of practicing growing up. Things came easy to me (English, friendships) or they didn’t (Chemistry, running). If it wasn’t easy, I’d give up. Maybe I wouldn’t drop the class or sport, but my lack of confidence would force a mental resignation. Or, in the case of writing, I’d quite before ever getting started.

This seemed like a huge epiphany at the time, and I proudly wrote and wrote and practiced practicing, for a while. But here I am, years later, delving further into Yoga, into Buddhism, into myself, and the idea of practice stands up front and center.

Practice, and all is coming. –Rumi

The need and concept of practice is still true, and still holds weight. In fact, the idea has held weight for thousands of years in Yoga. They don’t call it a “Yoga practice” for nothing. One never does Yoga, because no one can perfectly perform each and every pose. There is always room for improvement, more to learn, physically and mentally.  And that’s what is so wonderful about the practice, that’s what pulls me into Yoga, and keeps me from giving up. Just a few days ago while beginning the Yoga Sutras translated by Sri Swami Satchidananda, “practice” featured in the very first sutra:

We cannot reach the goal by mere words alone. Without practice, nothing can be achieved.

I look back at that old blog post, and smile.

The lesson here is in the journey, in honoring our past, younger selves. So often we want to laugh or ridicule who we were, how stupid we acted, how naive believed. But we can’t deny that whatever we believed in at the time, we lived. We walked that path. Those steps, however mistaken, however clumsy, brought us to ourselves today. To now. Here. To the person regretting those detours and laughing at our own ignorance.

For me, this remembrance was a kind of validation. I didn’t lose the path, and while I may have forgotten, I was working toward these ideas I now value so highly before I really realized it. I was on my way, pulling more pieces of the puzzle from the pile, setting them out for later. Now, I can begin putting those pieces together.

Well, maybe a few,

blogpoempicturepracticing

Why I’m Okay with the #yogaselfie

This year introduced me to the #yogaselfie, as well as the controversy surrounding the latest trend in our “selfie” culture. Are the photos and videos of twisty arms, legs, and beach bodies (that seem to be flooding every social media) taking away from the purposeful image of yoga, and replacing it with more ego and narcissism, as well as an unreachable ideal for the rest of us?

I’ve wondered about this for some time, debating on posting poses during my increasing interest developed over the past year. For the first time since that first downward dog in high school on my parents’ kitchen floor, I enrolled in a yoga class. For the first time since my senior year of college, I’ve practiced daily for more than a month at a time. And, for the first time ever, I’ve connected with other fans of yoga.

Social media, especially Instagram, is what I consider the “main hub” for yogis and yoginis. I have one or two in-person friends who will occasionally discuss yoga with me, but everyday I can go on Instagram and like a photo, see #yogachallenges, and become inspired by the variety of shapes, sizes, and types of people molding into their asanas.

My perception of the community is certainly created by my own experience. The first Instagram challenge I participated in was created by @yoga_girl Rachel Brathen, who focused on all the other aspects of yoga, not just the poses. The Yoga Girl Challenge created space for self-reflection, for forgiveness, for creating good habits and good energy. Participant’s posts reflected the goal of the day, not the pose they held the longest in their daily asana practice.

Currently, I’m participating in the #beSTRONGin2015 yoga challenge. This Instagram challenge does feature some kind of giveaway at the end of the week, that I believe is nice but not necessary (or remembered). We do focus on the poses, and posting those poses every day. Of course, “we” are not all perfectly fit, extremely flexible people. The “explore option” on Instagram, or following the challenge’s hashtag shows just how many other regular people are getting into a headstand for the first time. I’d also like to point out the intention behind this challenge: growing stronger (it’s in the name), and deepening yoga practice. Leading the challenge are @kinoyoga, Kino, and @beachyogagirl, Kerri, who focus on teaching the poses correctly, on the reason behind the pose, and all the things yoga is suppose to be about.

For those not familiar, Yoga was created as a way to strengthen the body for the act of meditation, even helping the mind to connect more with the body and the Self through motion, which is my favorite aspect of the practice. On days I cannot focus my mind on only my breath, a quick practice allows a following meditation to become that much easier.

For me, posting my imperfect poses and baby triumphs is terribly liberating. The daily posts hold me accountable to get on the mat “#everydamnday” and encourage me to try poses I’ve never tried before, let alone imagined I could do. Certainly, there’s some ego behind it, but there’s more self-realization, deeper focus. I can feel my body becoming stronger already.

I guess my decision to post my own yoga selfies is very much in line with Alexandra Crow’s article on Yoga Journal: I’m contributing to the image of real yoga practice. Imperfect, flawed, real. Yoga selfies that do this, that show men and women, of all body types, of all abilities and backgrounds, open the practice of yoga to everyone.

And that’s the whole idea.

A Small Reaction to the Nabokovs’ Letters

When I read the “Letters to Vera” post on Brain Pickings, the words thoroughly picked me up and stuffed me into the stunned box before I finished the end of the post. I immediately followed the link to Amazon to view the price of the book. I’ve placed it on my wishlist.

Regardless of how long I will have to wait to read more of these amazing letters, the excerpts Popova chose for her review of the collection punched a one-two through my ever-increasing cynicism (should I blame cynicism on age or relationship status?).

Most of all I want you to be happy, and it seems to me that I could give you that happiness — a sunny, simple happiness — and not an altogether common one…

Vera and Nabokov’s letters read like a fictional romance, not an actual married couple over years of their lives. The hearts are still passionate. The words not just flowery, have depth. From previous readings on the couple, I know they had their own issues, controversies including affairs, etc. And as Popova writes:

On the one hand, the half-century span of Vladimir’s love letters to Véra do follow the neurobiological progression of love, moving from the passionate attraction that defines the beginning of a romance to the deep, calmer attachment of longtime love. On the other, however, they suggest that the very act of writing love letters can help sustain the excitement and passion of a long-term relationship, countering what Stendhal called the “crystallization” that leads to disenchantment.

But I read these letters from Nabokov to Vera, and I can’t help but get the sense of deep love in his heart. How can love like that, even if only in words to one another, last a lifetime? How can such a deep belief in one’s own emotions and desire for another last? I don’t understand it. I have never seen it.

But it’s beautiful.

New Year, New Blog Post!

The New Year rarely feels like it begins on Jan 1. Sometimes, it’s the week previous, or three or four days after the 1st. There are times the first few days do feel new and fresh, only to lapse back in time for a few weeks, slowly picking up newness later on in the month. However the “newness” of the New Year hits me, it’s seldom when I wake up Jan 1.

Despite beginnings seeming rather ambiguous, I’m going ahead and marking the  official beginning of 2015 with a first official blog post. A few weeks ago I began sharing poems collected from my endless notebook collection. I considered doing this for awhile, and finally mustered the gumption to take the leap, real name and all. No submissions, just offering my words up, sharing them, with the advice from Picasso:

Don’t price them too high. What matters is that you sell a large number of them. Your drawings must go out into the world.

For those of you who’ve already stopped by, thank you! And welcome. There are rhymes and half-rhymes aplenty, and I hope you find something you enjoy. Or maybe not. Maybe you think you could write something better. Do it! I began writing poetry in 6th grade to create something I enjoyed, and I still do (usually).

Enough introduction: Whenever your 2015 starts, resolutions or not, with excitement, or complete indifference, may it be filled with laughter, love, hugs, and adventure!