Living in New York City is like Golf

I have come to the conclusion that living in NYC is like golf. 

Admittedly, I am not an avid golfer, yet this analogy has been spinning around in my head for the past few weeks so I decided to entertain it. 

I say that I am not an avid golfer, and this is true, but I have played the game. And that's exactly what I see NYC as - a game. 

Bear with me here. 

My Dad (an actual avid golfer) once told me a long time ago that playing golf is one of the most unnatural sports in terms of the physical positioning of your body and particularly, the swing itself. 

When the analogy of 'NYC is like golf' kept playing in my head, I Google'd to see if there were any facts or quotes about golf being unnatural.

I found a couple, which was enough for me to know my Dad is not the only one who has had this sentiment about the golf swing being an unnatural motion.   

Brad Faxon, an American professional golfer, and an eight-time PGA Tour winner, said "The golf swing is among the most stressful and unnatural acts in sports, (short of cheering for the Yankees)."

And Cindy Reid, author of, Get Yourself in Golf Shape: Exercise Drills to Build a Strong Swing...stated: "A good golf swing is not a 'natural' athletic move, like throwing a ball, or stroking a tennis forehand. In fact, a golf swing is one of the most unnatural motions in sports."

Like golf, NYC is one of the most unnatural ways to live that I have ever experienced. Actually, it is the most unnatural way that I have ever lived. And like golf, NYC is a complex beast, though may look simple - or even effortless to an onlooker.

Photo Credit:  Edewaa Foster , Unsplash

Photo Credit: Edewaa Foster, Unsplash

Below I will make an effort to articulate the ways in which I believe golf is unnatural. 

  1. You're in an outdoor setting (that is usually quite beautiful), yet you are getting from point A to point B via a golf cart rather than walking
  2. You have everything you need in a large bag, and proper shoes are essential 
  3. In a straightforward definition of golf on Wikipedia, "In golf, players use clubs to hit balls into a series of holes on a course in as few strokes as possible" 
  4. Players are attempting to have the lowest score - that is get the ball in the hole in the lowest amount of strokes possible 
  5. Most golf courses have 18 holes, yet some have 9 and can be played twice-through in order to have a full round of golf 
  6. The stance. You're bowed at the waist, yet your back is straight and your shoulders are tall. Your feet are shoulder width apart yet your knees are slightly bent and the majority of your weight is on the balls of your feet and your left hip is slightly higher than your right. In what other life circumstance are you standing this way? 
  7. The swing. You have to train your body to be able to properly set up for the swing. Which is actually a simple motion. However, that is not to say that it's easy. For anyone who has played the game, this unnatural way of standing and swinging, is quite challenging. And the stance is, of course, much more complex than I described - now add in positioning of your chin, feet, and gripping your hands around a titanium/steel/graphite club (aka iron or wood). 
  8.  While there is a long list of mechanics to the game golf, one is taking this club/rod and attempting to hit a small spherical (usually white) aerodynamic ball into a small hole off a tee (a tiny stationary support for the first stroke from each hole)

The Physics of the Golf Swing: The figure above shows a strobe picture taken of Bobby Jones golf swing, in the 1940s (source: http://www.clubmaker-online.com/bj003.gif)

Cindy Reid goes on to say about setting up for the swing: 

"Does anything about that sound 'easy?' Of course not. Everything about the golf swing fights your natural instincts. You hit down on the ball in order for it to go up. You swing the club right of the target in order for the ball to curve left. You must remove tension from your hands and arms in order to strike the ball harder and hit it farther. Pros stand tall while hitting a stationary object sitting on the ground, and they rotate their shoulders around a reasonably straight spine...But accomplished golfers have trained their bodies to create these unnatural motions...The golf swing is simple, but golf is the hardest game in the world at which to excel - much less, dare I say, master." 

This quote beautifully sums up how I feel about living in New York City.   

Photo Credit: Brook Cagle, Unsplash

Let's break it down. 

Nothing about living in New York City is easy. Everything about NYC fights your natural instincts. You ride the subway down in order to go up. You walk to the right of the person in order for the other person to move left in an ongoing game of move-out-of-the-fucking-way. You must remove tension from your hands and arms in order to work harder and go farther. Pros stand tall while hitting their keyboards riding on the subway, and they rotate their eyes around to watch for shady activity...But accomplished New Yorkers have trained their bodies  (and minds) to create these unnatural acts...Living in NYC is simple, but NYC is the hardest city in the world at which to excel - much less, dare I say, master.

So to parallel the points I made about golf, below I will make an effort to articulate the ways in which I believe living in NYC is unnatural. 

  1. You are in a city setting, yet you are getting from point A to point B via a subway, taxi, or bus rather than walking or driving your own car. Yes, New Yorkers do walk a lot but the 'daily commute' is typically via public transportation. To go 6 miles takes around 45 minutes - and that's if the trains are running on time. 
  2. You carry everything you need in one or two large bags, and proper shoes for walking and getting disgusting are essential (and your other shoes are packed in one of your bags)
  3.  New Yorkers take the least amount of trains with the least amount of stops possible. It's never a mere 'let's go get some groceries.' No, it's an entire event. Getting groceries depends upon the weather, which train station you'll hop on, if there are any transfers, and how many bags you can possibly carry on your person. 
  4. New Yorkers attempt to live in the most idyllic numbers and boroughs as quickly and seamlessly as possible - that is get into the best borough in the least amount of moves possible 
  5. Most boroughs have your own neighborhood cafe, market, and park, yet some have 2 or 3 and can be frequented all in the same day in order to have a full day of quintessential NY
  6. You walk half of a block to pick up your coffee, then go down some stairs to wait for a subway that will take you to another part of the city. If your in rush hour, then you are standing there with your life on your shoulder (or back), coffee in hand, headphones plugged in blasting your most zen music, and trying to read your book, twitter feed, or local paper. On the pole that is keeping you upright, your hand is crammed up against another person's that you don't know and let's face it - probably don't want to know. And your trying to not think about how your leg is crammed up against someone's knee. In what other life circumstance are you standing this way? 
  7. You have to train your body and your mind to be able to properly set up for the swing of the NYC lifestyle. Which is actually simple. However, that is not to say that it's easy. For anyone who has played the game of NY, this unnatural way of living and not breathing, is quite challenging. And the life is, of course, much more complex than I described - now add in trying to breath in fresh air, make friends, and get to any sort of nature that is not contaminated by destruction or pollution.
  8.  While there is a long list of the ins-and-outs to New York life,  one is taking their body and mind and attempting to 'make it' amongst all of the others that have the same goal with a slightly different purpose. Trying to get their very own and uniquely shaped ball off a tee and into a corner office - in the least amount of years - with their favorite market down below and park in view so that they can get a glimpse of the natural world while they work incessantly in the unnatural.

Photo Credit: Björn Simon, Unsplash

Perhaps there is a reason why I am not an avid golfer or a 'true' New Yorker. But, I am grateful to have tried them both so that I can feel that much more belonging in my natural state - and in the natural world. 

-AeBailey
Not a New Yorker, tee'ing off for the next fairway

Humans are Naturally Insane

Insanity. 

Below is what the definition is not: 

"Doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results," loosely quoted by the great theoretical physicist, Albert Einstein. 

Although, I do believe that the notion of doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results is also a quality that is intrinsic to humans. Just think of children getting into shenanigans, or your habits that you incessantly try to break. Or the goals you continuously attempt to achieve and come to similar roadblocks every single time. 

But what I am referring to is the 'true' definition of insanity. 

Important note: I am not referring to the criminally insane, so for the sake of the sanity of this post let's leave the criminals locked up. 

So let's take a look at some of the definitions of insanity - or rather the root word insane

  • Immoderate; wild
  • Very foolish; absurd
  • Mentally deranged; crazy; of unsound mind
  • Utterly senseless; irrational
  • In a state of mind that prevents normal perception, behavior, or social interaction
  • (Of an action or policy) extremely foolish; irrational or illogical

(From The Free Dictionary and Oxford Dictionaries )

Some synonymous of insane: 

Mad, bananas, bonkers, crazy, ridiculous, irrational, nuts, off your rocker, bizarre, wild, nonsensical, lunatic, unbalanced, loco, silly, batshit crazy (probably my favorite)

What then is is the opposite? Or, the antonyms? 

Sane, rational, logical, normal, sensible

Are we all born rational, sane, and logical? Are we all born... normal? Is this what we are striving for? Is this what we wish to teach our children? To not be but to conform? 

Normal is a learned state of being. Normal is learned way or living. Normal is not... natural

How often are we not afraid to get to know another human, but rather to let them get to know us? Let them in to see the dusty nooks and crannies of our own minds. Revealing to them all of the things about us that make us ... us. And yet, they would not be drawn to us in the first place if we weren't who we are as an individual. If we did not embody our quirkiness. I have seen this time and time again in romantic relationships. People start losing themselves and begin to let go of who they are to blend more into the other person's life and then they begin to bump heads - they begin to question what they ever saw in the person. They have both changed so much and let go of who they really are that they fall out of love or lose attraction for one another. 

The most uneasy I have felt around another person is when I can't pick up on who they are - as if they are not comfortable with who they are - they can't be alone with themselves and they haven't yet relaxed into their-self enough to be content with everything that makes them ... them. 

I can't help but think about some of the most influential people in history - and of course this is just a tiny fraction but I think of people like Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Martin Luther King Jr., Elvis, Madonna, Oprah Winfrey, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Anne Frank, Rosa Parks, Lao Tsu, Steve Jobs, Michael Jackson, Babe Ruth, Sigmund Freud,  Leonardo da Vinci, Amadeus Mozart, Aristotle, Shakespeare, Albert Einstein, and Gandhi.

No, I did not personally know any of these people (although I do think I knew Janis Joplin in another life but that is another post entirely), but I don't think normal or even sane are words that we would use to describe any of them. 

Brilliant, eccentric, bold, unconventional, extraordinary, profound, provocative. 

 These are some of the words I would use to describe many of our great influencers. 

Jim Morrison, The Lizard King

So perhaps some of us more than others - or more accurately, some of us show it more than others, but I believe that we all have a little madness. That we are all a bit insane. That we are all just a little... batshit crazy. 

Here's to insanity,

Relish in yours, and allow me to relish in mine.  

-AeBailey 

 

Kids on the Yoga Mat

Kids are funny in the way that they become intrigued by just about everything that you do. While natural, it’s really very powerful. As adults and influencers in children’s lives, I believe that it’s crucial that we are careful about our actions, reactions, and daily activities that they see us take part in as it is inevitable that they are going to replicate the language and behaviors around them or at the very least - take note in what is acceptable and appropriate.

Being sans children myself, I was constantly reminded of this dynamic when I was visiting my brother, his wife and three children for a month this past April. Their ages are 6-months, 4-years and 6 -years-old. Obviously the 6-month-old wasn’t doing too much when it came to activities but he was watching – I assure you.

I love to do my yoga outside when the weather permits. There is something about being under the sun and practicing that makes me feel a bit more connected and free.

One afternoon while I was out practicing, the 4-year-old, Grant, came to see what I was doing out in the back yard.

“Aunt Ashley, what are you doing?”

“I am doing yoga.”

“Oh.”

He stood there looking down at his feet and then my mat and then back at his feet.

“Would you like to join me?”

“Yes.”

“Ok, there are some rules that I will explain but the first rule is that there is no shoes on the yoga mat. Or socks. Bare-feet only the yoga mat.”

He looked up at me and giggled and then proceeded to take his shoes and socks off and hopped on the mat.

“Great job Grant! Now you are ready for yoga!”

He seemed a bit surprised at how excited I was.

We started off with some breathing exercises. I talked a bit about some of the guiding principles that come into my yoga practice such as breath, calm, inner peace, manifestation, affirmations and reflection.

We went on to Half Moon and he seemed to really enjoy this pose. I talked to him about the importance of being able to find calm anywhere and to use yoga as a technique to releasing anything that causes anger or other feelings that are upsetting. This seemed to resonate with Grant. Grant is one of the sweetest boys I have ever known – but let’s just say, that he has inherited my brother’s temper.

To take the breathing to another level I introduced a ‘full body exhale.’ This was new to me and was a perfect way to add a light-hearted element into the practice. On the exhale we let out a shake through our whole body from head to our arms to our feet – accompanied by a loud release in our breath. He really liked this and while he giggled and I did to – he was right back to wanting to learn more. I explained that this breath can be used “when you REALLY need to just let something go that is bothering you.” He loved this. 

We went through a few more poses and then his older brother, Carter, became interested. Grant let him know what rule number one was (no shoes or socks) and he looked at me to confirm. Once Carter was on the mat, it was a full house. To let them feel the space of mat, I moved to the grass.

We discussed the importance of “centering thoughts” and affirmations such as “I am kind.” For this practice, I helped them choose their centering thought and it was “I am kind.”

I was impressed by Carter’s naturally ability to move into Warrior II with ease. And I was also impressed by the amount of time that they stayed on the mat with me. Some other 'rules' I put into place was no shouting at one another or pushing and respect everyone else's space. This worked out very well - as if the yoga mat was a special bubble. 

Virabhadrasana II | Warrior II 

Eventually, they decided that they wanted to put their shoes on and go play.

Throughout my stay, Grant really took hold of Half Moon and the concept of breath. When he would get upset and was given options on how to handle his emotions, a few of his first choices would be “breathe” or “do yoga” or “go outside.”

This made me a proud Aunt and Yogi <3

In another yoga session of just Grant and I, we talked about the concept of Zen. Zen is not an easy concept to articulate to anyone – but it was especially challenging for me to describe the concept to a 4-year-old. But, let me tell you, Grant is a special boy and he seems to really be able to understand the concept of peace (my inner hippie is very happy at this ;)). “Zen, is a state of being where you feel at peace and calm no matter what is going on around you. So, Carter could be doing something that would normally really upset you but because you are ‘zen,’ whatever he is doing isn’t disrupting you or making you angry. It’s kind of like you are in an imaginary bubble.”

“Like a Zen bubble?”

“Yes, exactly. A Zen bubble where you simply feel at peace and breathe easy.”

He smiled and seemed to really like that. 

We also discussed 'Namaste' at the end of our practice. I explained this to him as "the spirit in me honors the spirit in you. Meaning that we are all one. I respect and honor you." And to practice love and compassion to all things living. 

In this practice, I had Grant come up with his own centering thought. I shared mine with him which was "I am graceful as I transition in life." After a moment of pondering, he said "I help others." 

My heart melted. 

Later, when his Dad came home, he couldn’t wait to tell him about the new words. (He needed a bit of help recalling what them and their meanings but once he did – he was all excited about Zen and Namaste all over again!)

To keep things interesting and fun, I came up with a new pose for just Grant and I. It kind of happened on accident. As I was in Ardha Sarvangasana (Half-Shoulder Stand), he thought it would be fun to climb on and let me be his lever so I asked him to be careful of my knees and hold on. He did. I slowly lifted him up until he was vertical, holding gently on his shoulders so that he didn’t fall incase he let go – he laughed and so did I – a big belly laugh. He loved that! “I like when I make you laugh Aunt Ashley!” Haha… “So do I Grant!”

So this was pose was named, “The Laughing Grant.”

My brother and sister-in-law have done an amazing job at giving their children tools to handle their emotions and feelings. We talked in great detail about this and I am so very grateful that I had the opportunity to bring more tools and concepts like breathe, centering thoughts and yoga to the table.

I have found that yoga isn’t just for the 20's, 30's, 40s or 50 something’s. It’s not just for retired folks kicking around in the sand. Yoga is for all ages. Yoga is a grounding practice for all. Yoga is not just for the lean and thin or fit and muscular – yoga is for all shapes and sizes. Yoga, is for all. 

With Love,

-AEB