Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Make 'Em Laugh

That's what the old song says.  It has always seemed like sound advice to me.  So, with that in mind, I decided to try something new.  Laughter Yoga.

I do "regular" yoga--Hatha yoga, really--on a sporadic basis, and I have been exploring Yin Yoga, which I really like, so Laughter Yoga was not such a far stretch.  My yoga guru and good friend Heather, who operates the Ananda Center for Balance here in Fort McMurray, was offering a Laughter Yoga Leader training workshop.  It just all came together.

Seven other intrepid souls and I joined Heather for two days of breathing, laughing and stretching, and it was AMAZING.  And the best part is that I am now certified to lead others in the practice, so I don't have to stand around laughing by myself.  (I figure if I am in a group, it is less likely that I will be carted away by the men in little white coats...)

Laughter Yoga is not like your standard yoga, where you twist yourself into a lot of shapes that not even pretzel dough could achieve.  You simply stand, or sit, and do a series of exercises designed to enhance your breathing and lift your spirits.  The technique was developed by an Indian medical doctor, Dr.  Madan Kataria, after he noticed that patients with a positive attitude recovered faster.  He started out using jokes to get people laughing, but the jokes wore thin pretty quickly.  He then developed methods of getting people to laugh for no reason at all, starting with making laughing sounds like ho, ho and ha, ha, ha.  It seems that the body does not differentiate between laughter that is real and laughter that is pretend.  So we pretend to laugh, and soon, for most of us, we are laughing for real.

And we laugh.  And laugh.  The literature for the program tells us that 10 minutes of healthy laughter is the equivalent of 30 minutes on a treadmill.  I believe that--after the multiple sessions over the course of the workshop, I was exhausted.  And exhilarated!

We also addressed letting go and playing.  Many of the exercises in Laughter Yoga are designed to release a childlike sense of wonder and play.  We wore silly hats and played make-believe games.  And laughed.  Looking into the eyes of someone who is laughing will set off another spate of laughing, too.  So we laughed some more.  It was a marvelous release, and I really do feel better for having laughed so hard for so long.

I am now working to laugh alone, though I still feel a little self-conscious laughing at myself in the mirror.  It came much more easily today, and I suspect tomorrow will be even easier.  I'm a laughing fool.

There are 8 of us who are certified to lead LY now, along with Heather, and we have founded a LY Club here in town.  It is free for anyone who wishes to attend and the details are on Ananda's website.  Our inaugural session will be on Sunday, April 17, 3-4 pm.  And for those of you who are planning to come to Fibre Week, there will be laughter there, too.  The where and when TBA.

So, if you see me dancing around, clapping my hands and laughing like a loon, do not assume that my cheese has finally slid off my cracker.  I'm just doing yoga.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

...And On A Brighter Note

Whew!  I'm glad I got that off my chest yesterday.  We now return you to our regularly scheduled fibre blog:

Hey!  Wanna try something new?  If you happen to be free on Friday afternoon, come play with silk and shibori.

I will be leading a workshop called Get the Fibre Bug at the Haxton Centre here in Fort McMurray as part of their Art in Nature program.  The program runs weekly on Friday afternoons from 1:30 to 3:30, and this Friday, March 18, it will be all about the insects we love to spin, weave, and dye with.  We will work together to tie our own one-of-a-kind shibori scarf while I natter on about silk worms and sericulture, how we process and spin silk, and the different types of silk available to us.  Then our scarves will go into the dyepot and we will explore the wonders of cochineal, that wonder bug that gives us the most glorious reds.

And the best part?  It's absolutely FREE!  You heard me, free.  And you get a spanky scarf to take home at the end.  How can you beat that? 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Winning! Or What is Wrong With the Internet

WARNING: Today's post has very little to do with knitting, spinning or string in general.  It is a rant, based upon personal responses to recent events and too much cold medication.  You may take or leave the opinions expressed below, according to your own personal editing mechanisms.  Just because it is on the internet does not mean the following has any value to anyone besides the author.

Well, all that found time I wrote about in my last post got eaten up pretty darned quick!  Here I am, ten days later, playing catch-up again.

Since we last visited, I have been to Edmonton, where Miss Julia had surgery on her knee, and back.  I spent most of last week sitting and waiting, knitting mindless wristwarmers, and pondering the Mysteries of the Universe.  And now I am down with another head cold that is making me too groggy and grumpy to do much except ponder some more.

I have pondered the events of my past month, and the factors that led up to my misadventures with US Customs.  I have pondered the Great Question of art versus craft. I have pondered the bizarre weather of this past winter, its causes and its impact on my life.  I have pondered survival tactics for the upcoming zombie apocalypse.  But mostly, I have pondered technology, the internet, and social media.

You see, I have been engaged in a triangular love-hate relationship with my computer and cell-phone for the past seven or eight years, as they have subtly inserted their tentacles deeply into every aspect of my life.  I resent the intrusion of the constant ringing of the phone in my pocket, yet I cannot leave the house without it for fear I miss something important.  I dread opening my emails each day, not knowing if good or bad news lurks there, but I am addicted to that beep that lets me know there is a new incoming message.  I remember the halcyon days when multi-tasking meant listening to music when I knit, yet I thrive on juggling emails, phone calls, a person in the room, and plying a complex boucle yarn.  All at the same time.  While supper is cooking.

As the years have passed, I have come to rely more and more on my computer.  I use it to write and print letters and information. I use it to make art.  I use it to organize and store my pictures.  I use it to organize Fibre Week from 700 km away.  I use it to organize workshops. I use it to teach.  I use it to stay in touch with family and friends.  I use it to find out what is happening in the world around me.

I am more connected than ever, too.  I carry a laptop when I travel to stay in touch.  I have emails and Facebook on my phone.  I tweet from all over, thanks to SMS.  I am wired into the world.

But lately, all of the nonsense and bullsh*it coming across the wireless waves is really annoying me.  From bad spinning and knitting tips being foisted onto unsuspecting beginners on forums and newlists to the whole Charlie Sheen debacle, I feel like the internet is drowning in a sea of swill.  All garbage, all day.  We are so "in touch" that we are losing touch with reality.  What is real is the horror of the earthquake in Japan.  What is unreal is the deluge of hateful Facebook updates suggesting that the earthquake was payback for Pearl Harbor or Japan's whaling activities.  What is real is that Charlie Sheen in a cocaine-addled celebrity in dire need of help.  What is not real is that he is WINNING!  Or funny.

Yet, every time I fire up the old computer, there it is, in all it's glory.  Unlimited information.  Such that it is in the 21st Century.  Communicated to us instantly.  We are in touch with the world around us, all day, every day.  We know EVERYTHING!!  All at once!

 I like the Information Age. I love that I can keep track of people's lives via Facebook, and that I can type my rambling philosophical thoughts into this blog.  The internet is a good thing.  Most of the time.

In 1964, a rather clever fellow by the name of Marshall McLuhan wrote a book about television and its influence on society.  He coined the  phrase "The medium is the message", which, essentially, means that the way information is delivered influences how that message is received.  Little did Mr. McLuhan know how true that would become in the internet age.  Everything on teh interwebz is True!  Everything on the world wide web is Important!  Every email is Urgent!  Every tweet, status update, and blog post is Vital Information, without which, the WORLD WILL END!!!!

McLuhan's opinion was that as news and information invaded the home, it became more intimate, more a part of our day-to-day lives.  We could not separate the information on television from our daily lives anymore.  I wonder if he ever imagined a day when we carried our media in our pockets and had 24-hour access to that information.  Or that information having 24-hour access to us.

We have lost the ability to turn the message off.  The medium is so ingrained in our lives that we cannot escape the message.  McLuhan suggested that the content of that message itself was more or less irrelevant, which leads me to my point.  We are losing our sense of perspective.  We are unable to discern good information from bad.  We are losing our ability to think critically.  We are becoming media-driven zombies, unable to escape the constant barrage of information, good and bad, and increasingly unable to differentiate which is which.  We are becoming more isolated, and more cruel to each other.

Now, I am not saying that there were no sources of bad information before the internet conquered the world.  I am not saying that there was not specious gossip, or pointless distractions thrown at us.  Nonsense and bullsh*t were invented 15 minutes before civilization was.  But, with electronic media in our faces 24/7, beeping urgently at us, we do not have the time to sift through every message we receive for the facts. And the facts are getting few and far between.  With more and more social media sites and blogs, we are getting fewer facts and a lot more opinions.  Not that opinions are bad--this whole post is nothing more than an opinion--but they are often used in place of facts.  Because we are so constantly bombarded, we are not sorting our information and opinion and fact are becoming one.

The key to survival is to learn how to look past the medium to the message.  The internet has become so much a part of our lives that we cannot live without it, or see past it.  But it is only a tool, just like a hammer.  We can choose to use a hammer to build, or to destroy.  But that is up to each of us as individuals.  We can do the same with our blogs, our tweets, our status updates.  We each of us control the medium.  We ARE the internet and social media.  We can be a positive force, building a better world, by choosing not to spread bad information or mean comments.  We can make sure of our facts before we share information on forums or blogs.  We can stop retweeting gossip and speculation. 

Information is currency.  And the more stable the currency, the greater its value.  We cannot censor the thoughts and opinions of others, but we can question their value.  We do not have to blindly believe it because it is streaming into our computers and phones.  We can get second opinions and form opinions of our own.  We can question "facts" that seem odd.  We can check with a second source before we drink the Kool-aid. (Seriously, a recent study found that most students rely on the first information they find and do not seek a second source.  And several bloggers argued that the study was unfair, because the researchers doing the study made their website "too believable" or that the children were too young to know better.  Kids question Santa Claus, but not the tree octopus.  They can find porn, but not information on where Egypt is actually located.  What is that about, then?)

We are thinking creatures.  So let's think when we use the internet.  Let's not turn off our brains because of a few flashy graphics or a viral link.  If we let the medium dictate our lives, that zombie apocalypse I am preparing for will happen a lot sooner than we expect!

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Found Time

I am home, safe, warm, and sick.  Well, okay, I'm recovering from being sick.

And I was suddenly faced with 2 weeks of time that I had not previously had at my disposal.  Found time, as it were.

After my little adventure in Vancouver, I flew home to -35 degree temperatures and a fabulous head cold that laid me flat out for three or four days.  Then, just as I was feeling better, that nasty little virus came back for another swing at me.  I did little to nothing for my first week of found time, except for sleep.

I have, however, been checking my emails and Facebook, and I do have to send warm thanks to everyone who wrote or checked-in.  Your support and understanding has been amazing, and I know that things will work out in the end.

Having said that, this has become my new theme song:

I am up and about again, and as my sinuses dry up, I have been spinning.

I finished up the stunning sock yarn that I started from fibre dyed by the incomparable Sarah Wilson (theytoldmesew on Etsy), in colors specially chosen for me...

...3-ply BFL/silk blend, 6 tpi, and 18 wpi.  It is being knit into a lacy sock that plays with the almost luminescent quality of the yarn. 

Then I finished up the second bobbin of bison/Merino/silk/qiviut blend from Ancient Arts Fibre Crafts and plied it up...

...2-ply, 5 tpi, 20 wpi, and as cushy and as soft as you would expect from the blend of lovely soft things that went into it.

Then, for no apparent reason, I decided I needed some woollen Cormo...

...2-ply,  5 tpi, 12 wpi, cushy and soft, too.

There is now some baby alpaca/silk/cashmere on the wheel, because once I started spinning I didn't want to stop!

Except, of course, to cast on a second lace shawl.  Because one set of insane little charts is not quite enough to drive me mad.  Actually, the aforementioned Sarah Wilson asked me a simple question about Swallowtail, and I had to cast it on to work the answer through...and I just kept going. 

I haven't just sat and spun for ages, let alone knit not one, but two shawls.

It's a good thing I found all this time laying around.  Better use it up quick before someone else comes along and claims it.