Measuring ourselves to death….


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I awaken to my alarm, hear the rain on the roof, and slowly open my eyes. Rolling out of bed, I navigate the hallway toward the kitchen (and coffee!) and do my usual morning dance with Panni, my standard poodle–the one where we trip over each other until I surrender and give him his well-deserved morning ear scratch.

Once comforted by the sound of the coffee maker, I grab my rain jacket and take the dogs outside.

Spira Power Yoga

Panni, the king of the country!

Even though this is a wet soggy morning, I enjoy watching my dogs work their way through the property lines.  Looking at their reactions, I can easily imagine the happenings of the previous night. Over there by the east fence is where the deer enters and exits with her family. The rabbits use the south fence, and just now as Panni tilts his head up to sniff the air from the north, I’m reminded of our neighborhood bear, who’s occasionally spotted north of our property line. Quickly, I gaze back at Albert, my tiny maltipoo. I’d let the dogs run loose for their morning routine if I weren’t afraid of losing little Albert to the woods. I’ll never forget when we were looking for houses in the country, and I spotted an eagle. At first just so happy to be in his distinguished presence, I eventually realized that he was carrying an Albert-sized rabbit in his beak. Regan, my husband, did the research and proudly announced that as long as we keep Albert 10 pounds or fatter, she’s safe! Because even if the eagle could pick her up, Regan explained, he wouldn’t be able to carry her and would have to drop her. Clearly not much comforted, I rather committed myself to always escort my pets to their outside duties.

Back inside, the dogs dance around me for their morning meals, and I push them out of the way with my usual command: “Coffee first!”

These are my mornings, pretty much blissfully the same with the exception of the weather.  Me and my dogs, just living in the moment. They remind me to see the details. Look, there’s a new wildflower to sniff or the wind is coming from a new direction, bending the forest to create new light patterns on the little meadow.

Then I sit down, open my laptop, and sip my coffee. This is where my previous intimacy with the moment ends, and I’m lifted into a new world–one where nobody actually lives but where we spend most of our time.

I click on Gmail: “Look, two surveys!” I say out loud to my dogs. “No surprise there!  Does anybody ever find out anything through these things? They never ask the questions that you want to answer, only the ones that cross their narrow visions of relevance. Also the only people that are taking these darn surveys are either super pissed off or in-love with the company/product. Either way the little I remember from my statistics class these folks are in the tail ends of the bell curve and should be tossed anyway.” Albert and Panni don’t even look up through my rant–they know when not to get involved with the humans.

My drive to work takes me through the woods, those same woods that a few minutes ago seemed so integral of my every moment are now just a small detail of the scenery as my mind already wraps around the to-do list for the day.  I mindlessly reach for the radio and turn on NPR to see what is going on out there: “Hulu announces their new gif website service.” I roll my eyes and take a deep breath. “Well, it’s all about feedback and quick popularity!” I shout to my dogs in the backseat. I see Panni in the rearview mirror tilt his head, telling me to keep my eyes on the road. The news program goes on to explain that traditional television has always lacked precise measurability.

It seems lately if something cannot be measured it cannot exist. The problem with this in the media is that producers often confuse popularity with quality, especially when it comes to news. This is why I got rid of my television 15 years ago. Even stations like CNN can take an empty yet sensational topic and chew it to the bone. Let’s not even talk about Fox–its popularity is a sheer wonder for me, but I’ll keep that enigma for a future blog.

News and media has a responsibility beyond popularity and cash generation. It must inform, it must educate, and it must enrich our lives. Granted, a lot of this is a question of taste, but is there really enrichment in yet another brainless reality show? Equally, there’s no new information in showing the same violent crime scene for 12 hours live. Media generates revenue according to what the public wants. But the problem is, I’ve never met a person in my life who actually wants this! Maybe we just have nothing good to choose from anymore…

I feel my blood pressure rise slightly, knowing that I have a long day ahead of me, and I decide to switch stations to take my mind off the topic.

Spira Power Yoga

Albert: “Need help driving?” (picture taken in a parking lot under parked safe conditions :-))

Oh, guess what? Next station is discussing the need to measure our teachers in public education.  Another fantastically not well thought out idea! Of course the discussion is about testing our children (yet again) and using these test scores to reflect the quality of the teacher. Wow! There are so many things wrong with this; I don’t even know where to start. Teachers, afraid for their jobs, will teach to the test instead of teaching to the student. But teachers are meant to inspire and awaken curiosity, not teach measurable data for a measured test. Perhaps a better measurement would be to look at the lives of the graduates. But that isn’t quick feedback. I’m suspicious of the idea that standardized testing can reveal anything noteworthy. “Has everyone lost common sense, Albert?” Poor Albert manages to stand on her two feet and look over the back seat to check. Maybe this would be the time for her to quickly develop opposable thumbs so she can take over.

Albert’s little face pulls me back to reality–a beautiful, rainy spring day with my favorite puppies. I turn the radio off and continue the rest of my drive in peaceful silence, although there’s still some residual jaw clinching.

Once at work, I quickly review my tasks for the day. Being a small business owner, I’m comfortable being the teacher, the accountant, the marketing manager, and the creative director all in the same day. I learned a great technique from a little book back in my corporate days. My boss gave it to me, it was titled “Eat the frog.” Meaning, do the task you least want to do first thing in the morning and then the rest of your day will go well. This little wisdom served me well through the years. It looks like I have to post some upcoming events on Spira’s Facebook page, and for me, social media isn’t only a frog, it’s a big nasty toad. “Well let’s get this over with guys,” I declare to the dogs, knowing full well that the second I open Pandora ’s Box, a.k.a. social media, I will have another reason to get irritated.

“Yup, that was easy, Panni. One click, and I already found something to piss me off!” Panni looks up at me with a sigh and places his face back on the couch. “OK, perhaps I am a chromogen, Panni, but I feed you and poop you, so get over it.”

A “yogi” girl posted via Instagram a scorpion pose. It’s an advanced pose were the yogi balances on the forearms while allowing the legs to bend back in attempt to touch her head with her feet. The tag line to this magical moment was, “Almost there, 2 more inches to go.”

“Panni, fantastic, now we get to measure yoga poses down to the inches!” Wow, if there was ever a case for missing the point. I understand inspiration is the reasoning for such posts, but I bet “inspiration” is not driving anybody to get a certain asana. We get a sense of accomplishment when we achieve something, but why we feel we need to achieve that thing is where true yoga lies. Also this so-called inspiration too often turns into self-glorification through “likes,” and as a result something to aspire to. Though why folks want to spend their limited time on earth trying to fold their spine in a way that god did not intended it to, I will never understand.

My favorite teacher told me once: “Nothing that is important in yoga is visible to the eye. Yoga is about breath and awareness, the poses are simply tools to help the observation.”

Now tell that to our Instagram-happy yoga community. Of course “Scorpio yogi” got over a 100 likes in the first 5 minutes of her posting, which is a quick feedback that we can measure on social media. The more likes the better. Just another way we now measure relevance and news.

I admit, in the back of my mind, I sense jealousy occasionally bites me when I see this. I dream of the day when more than 10 people will actually read all the way through my rambling–I know I’m long winded, and social media’s bombardment allows only 2 second per feed. Another reason social media is harmful in my opinion. “The birth of the attention deficit culture.” Yup you guessed it, probably will keep that title for a later blog as well.

Bottom line, we are too concerned with measurements and achievements. This causes not only a loss in quality but also a loss in meaning. News stops being news, teaching get reduced from an art form to rote memorization, and yoga becomes all about what is visible to the eye…

Georg Feuerstein, PhD, starts his book The Essence of Yoga with the following words: “It is our deep conviction that the discoveries and insights of Yoga are of the highest significance for a proper understanding of the human situation in general and the present state of affairs in particular.”

I think we have more than 2 inches to go before we understand the true essence of yoga…

I take a deep sigh as I shift my gaze back to my dogs. Somehow they understand–they know the importance of smelling the wind, observing nature, and simply being there when their human needs a hug. So I walk over to Panni, and get my well-deserved morning hug to remind myself to focus back on my reality.

I have students to teach in the next hour – isn’t that wonderful!

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