Staying at our retreat home in the mountains of Colorado has me thinking about water. I constantly see large vehicles with oversized plastic containers strapped into their truck beds, full of water. Water is hauled all over the place. It’s dry out here.
I’ve actually become a bit paranoid about water. What is the healthiest way to drink it? Should I gulp tap water and risk consuming substances like chlorine and fluoride, not to mention whatever else the water might be picking up as it flows through the pipes? Or should I buy water in a bottle and risk consuming leeched chemicals from the plastic, not to mention hurting the environment (plastic water bottles take 1000 years to biodegrade)? And if I do opt for store bought water, what should I purchase? Spring? Distilled? Glacial?
The more I read about water, the more confusing the facts. I find this to be the case with fish too (Eat it – it’s good for you! Don’t eat it – tuna contains mercury, fish handlers get infections when capturing rockfish, etc.!)
Here’s my current theory: instead of devoting myself to one type of water (tap, spring, well) I mix it up. That way, I figure I’ll get a variety of chemicals but (hopefully) in miniscule amounts. I take the same approach with fish. I’ll eat tuna on occasion, but not too often. Same with salmon and shrimp and sole. So that’s my theory and I’m stickin’ to it.
In the most recent issue of Newsweek magazine, Robert J. Samuelson wrote a column titled The Sad Fate of the Comma.
I have always liked commas, but I seem to be in a shrinking minority. The comma is in retreat, though it is not yet extinct. In text messages and e-mails, commas appear infrequently, and then often by accident (someone hits the wrong key). Even on the printed page, commas are dwindling. Many standard uses from my childhood (after, for example, an introductory prepositional phrase) have become optional or, worse, have been ditched. If all this involved only grammar, I might let it lie. But the comma’s sad fate is, I think, a metaphor for something larger: how we deal with the frantic, can’t-wait-a-minute nature of modern life. The comma is, after all, a small sign that flashes PAUSE. It tells the reader to slow down, think a bit, and then move on. We don’t have time for that. No pauses allowed.
My husband came home from work a few hours after I read the article and mentioned that a yoga instructor had visited his office as part of their Wellness Program.
“Did you learn anything?” I asked.
He said he learned that if people took ten minutes out of their day to sit quietly and relax, scientific studies show stress levels reduce drastically. In other words, he learned it’s important to pause.
He had a worksheet from the Mind/Body Medical Institute. Click here for the full set of instructions, but in a nutshell it simply says to sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and breathe (the easy part), as you clear your mind of active thoughts (the hard part).
Summers seems like an especially good time to incorporate the practice of pause because schedules can get so busy. You might be thinking: “That’s precisely the problem. I’m so busy I don’t have time to relax for 10 minutes.” But as the yoga instructor who visited my husband’s office mentions on her website, pausing will calm you down and clear your mind for better decision-making, ultimately giving you much more time.
Lately, I’ve been giving them a lot of thought.
First, my yoga teacher is always including toes in her instructions. Lift them off the ground (one at a time). Spread them. Plant them back on your mat (one at a time). It takes awhile to learn to control them – they’re so often ignored. Second, I was reading a book about a woman who had a stroke and was paralyzed on her left side, including all her toes. She was explaining the rehabilitation process and talking about the fact that she realized – once she could no longer use them – how important toes are for balance and for pushing off of when walking. Third, I just so happened to be reading the book passage while I was getting a pedicure (a gift from my husband).
So toes were on my mind.
For most of my life I didn’t pay attention to them. And when I got older I would shove them into cold, hard pointy shoes. In turn, that led to foot cramps. The cramps would attack in the middle of the night and hurt so bad I’d cry. But when I started practicing yoga, I noticed my foot cramps disappeared. I decided to give my feet the love they deserved. In addition to yoga, I began wearing comfortable shoes. And from time to time, I’d get a pedicure. I stopped painting my nails awhile ago (to avoid the harsh chemicals), but today I made a special exception.
I picked a color – Dutch Tulips – in honor of spring.
When they were red and shiny, I wiggled them and smiled. Thankful for my toes.
Here’s a little secret: I practiced yoga for 12 months before I finally washed my mat . . . okay, 18 months . . . um, maybe more like 24. Yep, I’m pretty sure it was over two years before I grabbed a washcloth and filled a bucket with warm soapy water. For the record, my mat wasn’t too dirty. I tend to prefer the Iyengar approach to yoga over styles that involve a heated rooms or a lot of fast movement, so I’m usually not dripping sweat during classes. But despite that, and regardless of how often I’d wash my feet before sessions, I began to notice soiled circles where my heels pressed into the mat. I should wash this, I would think to myself during Downward Facing Dog. Yep that’s definitely dirt, I’d say to myself as I gazed at grime during Plank. After class I would roll up my mat, take it home, and promptly forget my pledge. Finally one day I plunged my hand into a bucket and went to work. It’s very easy. Following these directions, I unrolled my mat on a clean tile surface, washed it with a cloth (two cups of water to four drops of dish soap), and then rinsed it by wiping it down with a damp cloth followed by a dry one. Much better. Next class, I practically felt like I was using a brand new mat. It’s funny – sometimes when I take the time to care for something external, it feels like an internal cleansing.