Zero looks the same upside down. Inversions & adapting to a new center of gravity. Reframe.

Greetings, shalom & namaste from the anti-blogospher(e)!

And before I proceed to a much overdue post, the biggest and grandest of non-secular Happy Holidays to all of you!

Apologies as well in advance, for the dearth of holiday and year-end gifts.

I am ending 2017 with a continuation of minimized consumerism. This shopping ban, that I am down one year now, has evoked the Scroogish.

It will not get in the way of the flow of gratitude, however.

Upside Down

Zero looks the same upside down

Credit: Nirupa FatFinger drawings on her trusty iphone. Zero looks the same upside down.

This year, I have shamelessly been the recipient of extraordinary acts of kindness from friends, family and strangers.

And for this, I will be grateful beyond 2017.

Please accept this electronically signed token of gratitude. I hope to be returning such favors of hospitality in the near future :)

Back to gifts….

Biggie my alter-ego, aka Grumps, got a lifetime membership to the Club of New Perspective for Kwanukkah this year

(Yes, we celebrate Kwanza and Hannukah as one mish-mashed occasion in this household)…  

I thought a new “perspect” and “aspect” should do Biggs some good.

Etymologically, I am also loving how aspect and perspect-ive are close cousins. Please allow me the word-goofery here)

To start 2018 on the right note, we are going to need a major shift in perspect and aspect, after all.

Perspective

Middle English, attested since 1381, from Old - or Middle French, from the first word of the Medieval Latin perspectiva ars (“science of optics”), the feminine of perspectivus (“of sight, optical”), from perspectus, the past participle of perspicere (“to inspect, look through”), itself from per- (“through”) + specere (“to look at”); the noun sense was influenced or mediated by Italian prospettiva, from prospetto (“prospect”).

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/perspective

Aspect

Late Middle English (denoting the action or a way of looking): from Latin aspectus, from aspicere ‘look at’, from ad- ‘to, at’ + specere ‘to look’

Source: Google Dictionary

And further, an apology, not an excuse upfront.

I have been deliciously delinquent in my blogging. And delightfully remorseless about this.

All the unwritten blogs shall wait for their asthmatic, wheezing turns. This is in the spirit of a non-striving, non-bullet-pointed, no to do list kind of year isn’t it?

First a year in recap

The journey of demotion to a zero in 2017, meant going into dramatic reverse gear of all kinds, inverting patterns, subverting habits that did not serve, and dealing with the gnarly curiosities of closet and life.   

And I continue forth on this journey, bumpily and blissfully like a fish on a unicycle!

Credit: Nirupa FatFinger drawings on trusty iphone. Fish on a Unicycle

Credit: Nirupa FatFinger drawings on trusty iphone. Fish on a Unicycle

My progressive shift in lifestyle is slowly and steadily moving me toward a new center of distribution, with new perspective in tow, on all the glorious things that matter, and all the beautiful things that don’t.

This particular movement through time, space and the multiple coordinates of life with a new perspective, I now call adapting to a new center of gravity.

The center at points seems askew. It is all still new, in motion and in process. And the balance therein, tenuous and shifty (not being punny).

Which brings me to the subject of this B-log.

Shifts in normals, shifts in the center of distribution, shifts in a center of gravity.

Allow me to explain please.

And think normal distribution- but for human behaviors, with their erratic curves, with lots and lots of tails.  

So to close this half year’s worth of writing, I am looping back to tie this new aspect of “perspecting” to blog number 1- of inversions and becoming a zero.

For purposes of this post, let’s merely keep this in the space of going upside down, physically I mean, like below, in Shalambha Shirasana, in yoga.

 

Photo Credit: Dad. Umapathy. Multiple takes while Nirupa is doing her darned best to keep staying up.

Photo Credit: Dad. Umapathy. Multiple takes while Nirupa is doing her darned best to keep staying up.

And what this does to shifting the center of distribution of weight and hence, balance.

And further, perhaps I can extend the analogy to how going upside down can relate to shifts in perspective and aspecting.

For the more enlightened read on what inversions do to perspective, please go to the fierce post from Jules Febre from Jivamukti Yoga- “A Version of Inversion”

https://jivamuktiyoga.com/fotm/a-version-of-inversion/

The world looks like a different place upside down.

When upside down, floors become ceilings and ceilings-floors, fans spin on floors, hands do the walking, your vision orients to legs and feet of furniture.

You are viewing the world at a certain base, ground level, bottom up.

Radical right?

Adapting to a new center of gravity involves building all kinds of new muscle memory

The body-mind does not have muscle memory of being upside down. Combined with an altered point of view, it can be disorienting.

Upside down, my body’s orientation to the tenuous space of emptiness into seeming infinity, becomes an extraordinary act of balancing and recalibrating an internal point of view.

Adjusting to gravity upside down becomes a delicate lever between thrusting up while being pushed down and sideways.

It involves dropping and tuning in intensely into different body signals, its creaks, complaints and the way it reflects comfort and ease in breath.

And the stories!

Oh there are many stories floating inside, especially in inversions.

And discerning the ones that serve versus the ones that don’t serve is practice unto itself.

“This headstand might launch me into life long paralysis.”

“Oh shucks, what if I roll backwards, hit my neighbor in the nose, and then they sue me for all my money. Do I have to declare bankruptcy immediately!”

“Does my butt look tight, as I am falling in slo-mo?”

So I have built muscle memory in small increments.

And in different approaches.

And Like with all good things, there was a catalyst.

It came in the form of chronic pain, a neck injury and the premature onset of arthritis.

Thanks to this glorious, middling list, I have had to slow down, both in my asana practice and outside.

And stop striving.

When headstands were not to be had for over 10 years of a steady and building asana practice, I had to let headstands be. I dropped the muscling and determining my way to inversions. Because it was just not happening.

Here is a fun fact- dropping the zealousness and determination to be a headstander has helped me move closer to headstands.

The entry point to gnarly things might not be head-on, literally….

The approach was not to practice headstands everyday. It was to familiarize the body-mind in other asanas, and inversions in supported ways.

I built shoulder strength and openness through less intimidating poses. I got my body used to suspending upside down through aerial yoga, within the safety and support of a hammock. I then moved to handstands against the wall.

Over time, I built muscle memory across numerous bodily data points, finetuning my internal body awareness all the while.

This included calibrating more acutely to the center of gravity of the body, the integrated region of the core and the pelvis.

A new respect for the body developed, as an integrated supported whole, whose fulcrum rests in the core.

Muscle memory built gradually and gently over time, in small increments, critically tipped into trust and confidence.

And all of this asked for practice, a constant and steady practice.

One that involved just showing up to the mat, tuning into the body and allowing it go where it wanted to go.

working with limitations in this way, switching to the mode of non-striving and introducing play and patience, has led to a dramatic shift in center of gravity, of movement, balance and attitude.

The reframed perspective looks like this.

Injury and chronic pain are now windows of opportunity to develop presence. Body presence and deep internal body wisdom.

I follow presence through my body. The body is always present. The mind will learn to follow. 

On any given day, I do not know what awaits me on the mat. But I show up and allow for the practice to unfold.

Additional bonus, through this exercise, I stumbled upon a new technique of problem solving.

The practice of doing other things, perhaps gets you to approach a particularly gnarly problem in a new way, by shifting the vantage point of practice.

And lastly, the wondrous thing about zeros is that they look the same upside down, inside out… they present themselves as zeros all around, even when inverted.

2017 introduced me to the beautiful symmetry of being a zero and the additivity that comes with it. So why not make another year of it.

So 2018, here I come, fiercely emboldened by the spirit, symmetry, boundless additivity and the wholesome continuity of zero.

A bowl cut. No mirror. The liberation of blindspots. TOTS

“Almost cut my hair

Happened just the other day

It's gettin' kind of long

I could've said it was in my way

But I didn't and I wonder why

I feel like letting my freak flag fly

And I feel like I owe it, to someone, yeah”

“Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Almost Cut my Hair, Deja Vu”

Well, I didn’t almost cut my hair.

I let most of it go. In a mild restructuring of sorts. A partial work-over. It has since grown back into the wild burning nest that it is.

Seflie. No haircut.. Just a wild burning nest atop a head full of vanity

Seflie. No haircut.. Just a wild burning nest atop a head full of vanity

And Biggie, my alter ego in the anti-blogosphere, is on strike. So let’s leave him be.

Back to hairy matters…

I have Indian hair. It gets wavy and mullet-y in the back with a top that stands up like it has been electrocuted, when too long.

When my hair is longish, I look and feel like a wannabe extra from the 80s in a bad MTV video.

When my hair gets long-ish, I start feeling itchy in an ants in my pants kind of way.

When I start getting antsy, I do silly things.

And thus, in such a moment of hair-rage antsiness, I decided to cut my hair.

Not a big deal by itself.

BUT, I decided that I should try cutting it myself, and flex my gut and do it without a mirror.

Cutting hair without a mirror is an exercise in foolery. Because you can't “foresee” what the end outcome is.

No. I am not being punny.  

My hair has always been my crown jewel, not in terms of quality or lock lustre.

Merely in terms of how much it crowns (and crowds my vanity).

Add further, I have experienced trauma through a few minor hair cutting incidents early on in life.

As a child, my uncle accidentally cut my ear when cutting my hair. Live on sweet little indentation, legacy in my left ear.

And then there was the time, I had to go to work for an entire month looking like Jim Carey in Dumb and Dumber because of presumptuous hairstyling.

No, women can’t sport microscopic bangs.

I looked like a bowl. It was ridiculous and unbearable.

A bad haircut, when you don’t have much hair, can be catastrophic. Disruptive to a point where it can cut into your psyche.

So why do it?

As a test. To set an experimental bonfire to vanity.

This is rightfully a fool's errand.

But this year, I am running a number of fool’s errands.

To try and break the mould of TOTS (taking oneself too seriously).

I have been plagued with TOTS here and there. Nothing good really comes off TOTS.

Invert subvert controvert revert damn it.

So what did I learn?

Cutting hair without a mirror is a little of flexing gut, instinct and imagination. It is all touch and feel. You really get to know the intimate spaces of your head.

And visualizing what my awesome hairstylist Rita would do if I were sitting on her chair. It actually kind of works.

Go visualization!

The method. Small increments in experiment

I started with a test on sideburns, hair over the ears, and the annoying mullet portion at the back of the head in front of a mirror.

The result. No material harm. Phew.

Relief. A minor muscle in accomplishment twitches. Capped by a moment of peace.

Confidence builds.

The next day, I went further and snipped away at portions of my head I could not see.

I did this for 5 consecutive days. All without a mirror, in the shower.

I of course, overshot.  

For a week my hair texture was clumpy in parts, the sideburns askew. The back asymmetrical and uneven.

I chafed a little. And then the hair kinda grew over. And it was as if nothing really ever happened.

And amidst all of this, no one really noticed a shoddy head of hair. Even when I asked my friends pointedly.

Friends I have realized are better at giving unsolicited feedback.

Good stroke to the ego. If you think anyone is paying attention to you, check the box NOT.

Why the incremental cutting?

The incremental cutting was designed to dull the blow. To mute external attention by introducing change in small doses.

And to test my own incremental build up of self-consciousness.

How vain was I really?

Conclusions and findings:

I have one valid data point on my vanity.

I care a great deal about my head of hair.

What else?

Sometimes there is comfort in not knowing what is happening in the back of your head, literally. These I call literal blindspots.

The wonder of something that is happening outside of the realm of your perception is that you are not self-conscious about it.

It is a rare moment of freedom. I want more of that!

Joy be sung to the liberation of blindspots.

Hypothesis:

A blindspot can actually be enabling and not just disabling as I have long assumed.

Where you can intentionally play and experiment with literal blindspots, you can also play with self-consciousness, in harmless, small increments. To gauge what kind of discomfort that triggers.

Biggest takeaway..

Dulling self-consciousness, even momentarily, is incredibly freeing. To the point that, it empowers you to further make a fool of yourself.

And go about it to proudly, to the wide wide world, boldly in your awesome stripes, looking like a badly plucked chick or chicken, or rip-tat-wrinkle.

If done enough times, I wager it can get you into the realm of “I am awesome because I can’t stop laughing at myself and my 100% ridiculousness”.

The Anti-TOTS.

An antidote to the whinging of the ego.

And this is my wish back at you.. Try your hand at anti-TOTS. Go on fiercely forward and flex one little muscle of anti-self consciousness at a time.

Laughing at thyself to start.

Laughing incidentally is good for the core.

Coming from a half-baked pilates instructor, you should take this with no more than a grain of salt. But laughing at yourself, is a double core workout.

Give it a jig.. a little belly chortling ain’t hurting anybody.

Hand scrawled. Nirupa's fat finger drawings. All possible if you have a finger and an iPhone

Hand scrawled. Nirupa's fat finger drawings. All possible if you have a finger and an iPhone

 

CEO of Small Things Unlimited.

& Sole Proprietor, Bowl Cuts without a Bowl Inc.

Caterpillar. Experiments. Shopping & The Cascading Effect of Small Moves

Dear imaginary reader.

Welcome back to another episode of setting the bar really low, blog post 2 on small moves.

Continuity…..My inaugural post started at zero. No: 2 will start between 0 and 1/8.

The milestone will be a fraction.

It will represent a crawl. Sometimes forward, sometimes backward. Hanging onto dear life in a circular fashion at times.

Yeah slow, tedious stuff eh.

Credit: Original image. Eric Carle. The Hungry Caterpillar. Appropriated into many variations of kid toys sold. For details, check sources at the end.

Credit: Original image. Eric Carle. The Hungry Caterpillar. Appropriated into many variations of kid toys sold. For details, check sources at the end.

(This toy is inverted, well, to serve this post appropriately)

Blog post 2 is also an experiment. Of capturing things as they arise, in a year, even if the pattern of events or behaviors is not sequential or linear, or easily explained. Because the picture is yet forming.

And as the pixels emerge, I am kinda letting it roll. Making this perhaps more a journal than a blog.

I have not journaled to date. I decided that in this year of inversions, I will begin here. And to start somewhere, I decided to pick a random point in time, November of 2016.

I also picked an occurrence to talk about. An intentional departure of sorts, a break from a behavior, just as it was becoming habitual.

Which brings me to experiment no: 1, at a time starting in November 2016, in a year of experiments where I am the lab rat.

Experiment no: 1 has to do with shopping. 

Shopping had some meaning back then for me. And it still does, the absence of it does.

Blog:

"Shopping and experiments eh. Ballsy. And perhaps despy housewives like.. NICE."

Me:

"Shhh. I am writing. Quiet please."

Blog:

"This reader of one business. Really taking you places.  

Me

"Biggy the blog-- (LISTEN)

If I listened to you, I will never get out of bed. Forget write!

Now do you want me to write. Your very existence depends on it. "

Silence.

 

Back to you reader…

In my last post, I talked about inversions. By inversions, I loosely mean inverting or reversing a pattern, a habit, behavior or a way of thinking.

For more on this...

In this post, I would like to talk about one such inversion. How I inverted myself to an anti-shopper, to not being a shopper of certain somethings. “Discretionary” items, the nice to have’s.

I am on a self-designed shopping ban for 2 years.

I started this in November 2016. I am 7 months into it.

The ban only applies to, nice-to-haves, such as clothes, handbags and shoes.

I am allowed replacements for things from wear and tear and items that cannot be substituted or re-purposed. Accessories are allowed objects.

Small moves for this caterpillar.

And yes dear reader, this shopping ban is not as radical as it sounds. So please yawn, stretch your legs, perhaps get a quick caffeine fix.

Only the closest of my friends know that this was a habit of certain significance for me.

I am competitive and I like to do most things well. And I did shopping well. And like any good Indian, I wore my bargains like a badge of honor.

I was the Queen Supreme of Value Hunting.  

Photo Credit: http://www.youthconnect.in

Photo Credit: http://www.youthconnect.in

Progress report to date

I have had one infraction to date.

I am yet to make a replacement purchase.

(Truth be told, I can do a round in my closet comfortably for 2 years and not feel the pinch. Plenty of buffer here.)

I have spent under $150 in my last 6 months of travel on accessories. I spent this money on keep-sakes and gifts, and they fit in my carry-on.

Why discretionary shopping?

Discretionary shopping was the largest variable item on my ballooning budget. In places, it surpassed my fixed costs, like for housing, food. medical and transportation.

Yikes. How is that for a habit of excessive proportions!!

And like any excessive behavior, this kind of shopping was creating acute discomfort.  

As an aside, I have guilt that is Catholic sized. The Pope would be proud of the sack of guilt I typically lug any given day.

So I decided to make guilt work for me.

Lean into it- you got that guilt?!!! The discomfort. All of it.

It was powerful stuff. Because, it created momentum.

For a working experiment.

Fast forward to now, the largest (variable) item in my income statement, under Expenses and Costs, wiped, down to an almost zero.

My credit cards are in anaphylactic shock.

I have survived, even thrived. No midnight cravings, no withdrawal symptoms, ungainly twitches.

And as for my closet, my closet’s anxiety is slowly subsiding.

I am a healthy cat but my closet is obese. It is of ungainly proportions. I have given it some time to breathe and adjust to its new living.

Photo Credit: Image from Scoop Charlotte. If you would like to go anti- this post, and shop, link in Sources!

Photo Credit: Image from Scoop Charlotte. If you would like to go anti- this post, and shop, link in Sources!

Takeaway

Acting on a behavior that was making me uncomfortable, ultimately yielded close to immediate comfort and relief, encouraging me to keep it going, making it sustainable.

And because this kind of shopping behavior was inconsistent, it was a weak muscle or a habit that could be interrupted more easily.

A hallmark of a good experiment, this, if I may say so myself, hehe.

Which brings me to my next point.

I will try not to sound like a self-help book here. On how I designed (for myself and myself only), a sustainable experiment that works.

(Thank you dear Astrid for putting the fear of God in me on about not sounding like a self-help book!)

Designing a sustainable experiment (including how you talk about it to yourself)*

* Design and much on narrative and story-telling is used intentionally to incorporate techniques from design and design thinking. Please refer to Sources at the very end for more clarification.

My shopping ban is an experiment, not a challenge..why was this important?

Because challenges make me chicken.

 

Credit: Bill Watterson. Calvin. My anti-hero of choice always.

Credit: Bill Watterson. Calvin. My anti-hero of choice always.

Challenges make me not want to show up. So I called it an experiment from the get go.

The vocabulary of my experiment was a harmless and unassuming, “Let’s see what happens”, “Could I”, “How might I”. And I used this vocabulary extensively until it became reflex, a pin in muscle memory.

It was important for me to loosen up first, so I could play, take a swing, show up.

I did not belabor this experiment with permanence either. That is a sure-fire solution for paralysis and non-starting, at least for me it is. Instead I framed it as, “Hmm.. let’s see how far I can take this thing.”  

And it started. The yarn rolled. A curious cat played with it.

Effortless experimentation. Warming up with low-hanging fruit

(Effortless does not mean without effort. It is a particular semantic used in mind-body practices such as yoga to capture the mode of flow, and anti-striving)

In designing the ban, I went after low-hanging fruit first, the easy fat that could be shed. I also went after a variable and inconsistent impulse, a certain kind of shopping pattern. One that had still created a substantial amount of bloat and was worthwhile eliminating, with immediate impact.

I set up an experiment that felt more effortless so I might stay comfortably anti-striving. I had the buffer of an overflowing closet to support a workable experiment.

And to avoid putting my system into shock, I did not embark on a Marie Kondo type closet cleanse immediately. I did not feel mentally ready for a cleanse. Because, I was not yet sure what I was purging.

I needed some data points first. Yes, I did say data points. Nerd.

(I will disclaim that I have only read Chapter 1 of the incredible book by Marie Kondo- “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing”. I took a lot away from the first chapter, so much so that I will be reserving time in the future to going back and re-reading the book in its entirety.) 

I decided to address the pattern or the behavior underlying the closet-formation instead.

As of the time of writing this post, I have 10 pairs of identical looking black pants hanging in my closet, 5 of them unworn. And no, I am not feeling guilty about them (not yet at least).

Setting sustainable bounds

Experiments are best conducted within bounds. I introduced bounds on what the shopping ban covered. The ban addressed a dominant spending pattern within my life, but it did not put large chunks of my life and behaviors on hold. I allowed some room for play and ambiguity in case there was a change in circumstances.  

I built-in slack so I did not feel shackled- I could buy accessories and gifts for instance. And since accessories were not a dominant buying pattern in the first place, I was tricking myself a bit here.

An infraction. Not a failure

Early on into all of this, I bought an awesome cotton sweatshirt for $25 at an equally awesome Thievery Corporation concert in NYC.

My sweatshirt says- Welcome to my spaceship.

What is there to not like about this!

Since purchase, the shirt has been worn at least 25 times over 2 months. At $1 per wear, it was worth every bit of coin spent, both in memories and value.

(Did you see how I talked myself into value- I do this stuff well!)

Here is a picture of me wearing this offending piece of clothing.

This is also an inversion. A supported inversion in aerial yoga.   Photo Credit: The friendly folks, aka Kennedy, at my local yoga studio, go Jivamukti JC!

This is also an inversion. A supported inversion in aerial yoga.

Photo Credit: The friendly folks, aka Kennedy, at my local yoga studio, go Jivamukti JC!

Why did I not beat myself up about it?

And how was it an infraction and not a failure, one that did not cascade into more infractions?

An experiment has in-built slack, for failure. Experiments can and do fail, all the time. I had thus, deliberately created context where failure was not only acceptable but a natural offshoot.

And because failure was acceptable, success became more probable, another inversion perhaps.

Although I had not intentioned thus when I started. And, this lab rat was not looking for success. This lab rat was looking for something that worked, that was sustainable and a process that did not kill the lab rat.

Shopping was a key link in my daisy chain. More on daisy chains and how this rippled into other things.

For this, I need to show up and write another post. How about that!

Thank you for reading.

Nirupa

Queen Supreme of Value Hunting &

Acting CEO of Small Things Incorporated

 

Thought Fuel: Sources and Acknowledgements

Reading

Original inspiration on habits, behaviors and patterns. The Power of Habit: Why we do What we do in Life and Business. Charles Duhigg (As of this time of writing, I am completing part 3 of this book)

Design thinking references. d.school bootcamp bootleg. Stanford Design School.

All through this post, design is used intentionally. Where ever I use design, I am riffing off techniques used commonly in design thinking. Designers set up experiments or prototypes to problem solve. And the language used by designers, “How might we” questions is intentionally used to seed ideation and facilitate brainstorming.

Soundtrack for this writing

Name of track. Album. Artist.

(If certain tracks put me in a flow of writing, I tend to repeat them over and over again- that is the reference to On a Loop. Check out Spotify link on the social media icons, if you want to see some of these playlists.) 

Edison. SooL. Ellen Allien, Apparat (On a Loop)

Zauber. SooL. Ellen Allien, Apparat

Nices Wolkchen (feat Apparat). Amygdala. DJ Koze.

Xtal. Selected Ambient Works 85-92. Aphex Twin. (On a Loop)

Motherless Child. Projections. Romare

Abandon Window. Immunity. Jon Hopkins

Aquarium. Views/Octopus EP. Nosaj Thing

Shell of Light. Untrue. Burial

Ego. Balance 020. Burial. Four Tet. Thom Yorke (On a Loop)

To Do. Single. Mohna (Lorin Sylvester Strohm Remix). (On a Loop)

Further information & sourcing for Images:

(Yes, ironic that some of these images are from shopping related links. I am not making a sneaky move and advertising on you here. This in no way represents an endorsement of any kind.)  

  1. Very Hungry Caterpillar Ring Rattle. Sold at numerous retailers.

  2. http://www.youthconnect.in/2014/10/04/20-signs-you-are-obsessed-with-brands/

  3. http://www.scoopcharlotte.com/2014/07/29/best-charlotte-consignment-sales/

  4. Bill Watterson and his magical illustrations of Calvin and Hobbes

INTRODUCTION. INVERSIONS. DEMOTIONS. ZERO & CEO

Welcome to blog post 1. Wanting to set standards really low, I am going to start at zero. What it feels like to be a zero, more precisely. I am on a journey this year. It is the journey of inverting the 100%. 

So this is what zero looks like. To be the anti of everything up until 2017.

That means, inverting all past designations, labels. Let’s call it a quick series of demotions.