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Deep Work, By Cal Newport: A Book Review

“Instead of scheduling the occasional break from distraction so you can focus, you should instead schedule the occasional break from focus to give in to distraction.”

What is deep work? Cal Newport, in his book, Deep Work, provides the example of a blacksmith who hammers away at a metal ingot for endless hours until it eventually takes the shape of a beautiful sword. This man takes immense satisfaction in his work, using old fashioned techniques and, as he toils, he enters a hypnotic state of concentration. He does not mindlessly hammer on the metal but picks out the exact spot he must modify, working his mind as much as his arms.

This is deep work and this is what Newport talks about. He offers advice on how to get to such a state telling us that it is harder and harder to get there in today’s world with so many distractions.

Newport discusses the importance of working without interruption. We are now reachable at almost any time. Many authors and productivity gurus have spoken about distractions and the impossibility of multi-tasking. I have written a previous blog about it myself. We do not multi task, we simply switch from one task to another and when we do this, we lose concentration and efficiency. We lose the depth which Newport is talking about. He references Sophie Leroy, a business professor at the University of Minnesota, who demonstrates that when switching from task A to task B, our attention stays attached to the first activity, which means we can only half-focus on the second.

“Maybe social media tools are at the core of your existence. You won’t know either way until you sample life without them.”

He encourages breaks from social media for up to a month or so to see if you really need it as part of your life. From my own point of view, I use social media to promote the blog you are reading and I really feel the distracting pull of it. If I am working on something and my phone is nearby, I feel the need to jump on the social and check the stats, which in turn leads to a loss in concentration and a waste of time.

To combat this, I like to use screen time on the I phone, you can set time limits on the applications you use and set downtime periods for your phone. Generally, most apps are locked out of my phone from 8:30pm to 7am the next day. I can make calls, listen to audiobooks but I cannot read text messages, check emails or use social media outside of these hours. I set a password and save it elsewhere and the password is forgotten. This may not work for everybody but I find it useful. Refer to the below video.

Newport recommends to turn off all notifications, with a constant stream of information, it is impossible to get into a state of deep, productive work. I like to put my outlook into offline mode when I am working one something that needs concentration as the constant incoming emails grab me like a moth to a flame and I can’t help but check them.

“If you want to eliminate the addictive pull of entertainment sites on your time and attention, give your brain a quality alternative.”

He recommends planning your evenings and weekends by blocking out time for everything, including downtime. I don’t like the idea of living a scheduled life but in the work environment I have to block out time for what I am working on, otherwise it either won’t get done or I will spend too much time on it and ignore my other requirements.

Watch your internet usage. Plan your evenings and downtime around activities which don’t involve the internet. From a blogger’s perspective, this is difficult but that’s where the screen time feature and being deliberate about when I work online comes in. It is very easy to get sucked into the screen and stay there. I make time to go and read a book, get to yoga or get out for a run and I take these activities as seriously as I take my professional life or our blogging work.

To wrap up, this is a short, easy read. I listened to the audiobook in about a week. It has useful advice for professionals, students or anybody who’s work revolves around sitting at a desk or computer. If I was to sum up Newports advice in one sentence I would say cut the screen distractions from your life as much as is practical and remember that you don’t need to be accessible or responsive to people at all times.

I hope you enjoyed the blog.

Peace,

George

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Podcasting: It’s Free And Easy

I have been addicted to podcasts since I discovered them about 6 years ago. They are free and a wealth of information on almost any topic.

I listen to many subjects ranging from yoga (Kevin Boyle), reading (The Guardian Books Podcast), self improvement (Rich Roll), there is so much out there. Fiction, true crime, even podcasts on podcasting.

Some, you will love and some, you will hate, but I guarantee that you will find something that’s for you.

I think that they are so successful because we can take them with us anywhere. The first time I camped by myself I had my phone filled with podcasts because I was afraid I would hear a bear in the forest. In hindsight it may have been better to have been able to hear the bear but I slept well in my ignorant bliss.

For some reason I cant stand almost any radio DJ I have ever heard and I’m not big on music so I listen to podcasts when I’m, cycling to work or out on the road for the day. And they all fit on that tiny device I complain about so often.

Some of you may know that I am in the process of publishing my first novel (The Pagans Revenge).

I have written fiction for a few years now but struggled to find a publisher. I also have an inbox folder full of rejection emails for my short stories that would make anyone wonder why I keep trying.

That got me thinking, if I can’t get published, why don’t I just broadcast them online myself? Its free, and one youtube video later, I was ready to go. I probably shouldn’t have included a link to the video – now you don’t have to continue reading.

My first step was some free sound editing software, Audacity is great and easy to use. It can get rid of background noise easily and if you have a decent mic you will have great sound quality. I currently don’t use a mic and the sound quality isn’t bad but I plan to buy one before starting my Back2BasicsLiving Podcast (coming soon) where I will be interviewing local people (to Vancouver) who inspire me.

Youtube has a great selection of non copywrited music and sound effects you can include also.

The next step was to get the Podcast online, I used Spreaker as mentioned in the video I shared. It can connect to ITunes, Stitcher and Spotify and it is free for a certain amount of hours storage.

I am so grateful for my listeners (all three of them – including me). It has allowed me to share some of my short stories which were not accepted by publishers. You can find it here if you are interested.

If you have any questions or if you have any fictional short stories you would like read on my Podcast you can email me at getyourstoryoutthere@gmail.com.

Also watch out for our upcoming podcast from back2basicsliving.com where we will be interviewing world champion kick boxers, yogis, health experts and many more.

And remember, podcasting is a free and easy way to get your material out there.

Thanks for reading,

Peace,

George

Ignite Mentorship Teacher Training Part 2: Making Postures more accessible to Students

 

“If you are feeling something you are doing it” Bernie Clarke, Semperviva

 

For this next section of the training it will be a recap of what I learned regarding postures. How we feel in postures, how to demonstrate, options we can give, how ego can take over a shape, how doing less can be more & finally why breath is so important.

 

Listening to our bodies can be really difficult as most of us live in our heads. Yoga is about bringing our awareness from our thinking mind to areas in bodies we want to work on. For example, if the teacher demonstrates plank pose and you are in it shaking, stressed and the mind is creating numerous ways of how to harm your teacher…. ease off a little. Place your knees on the floor, start taking deep breaths into your lungs so the body can relax. The body will still be working but now you feel the challenge & can truly benefit from your work because you can breathe. Yoga is all about “No pain, no pain” We do not need to be in pain to think a posture is working, if we feel a challenge and we can remain in a shape with integrity & breath then we are in the right place.

 

As a teacher it is our responsibility to guide our students into the best shape possible for their bodies. Reminding them of all the different options we can take in a pose and to choose the option which works for them the best. Providing 3 options of the same pose can make a shape more accessible to a wider rage of students. For example, if you would like your students to try tree pose demonstrate 3 different options in tree pose.

 

  1. Option one: Hands in prayer & left ball of the foot placed on ground and the heel resting against the right ankle
  2. Option two: Hands in prayer & left Foot placed on shin above ankle
  3. Option three: Hands in prayer & Left foot placed inside right thigh

 

For extra challenge in all the above students could raise their arms in a V-shape over their heads and maybe try closing their eyes if it feels good……its ok to fall out of the shape.

 

Julia mentioned as a teacher we should remain in option one to show our students that they don’t always have to go to options two & three and for new people in your class option one will be more accessible. I believe this is key to making your classes more accessible to a wider range of students. Offer options but let your students know that they are only options and not requirements. You as a teacher need to demonstrate that by taking your own ego out of the equation and support the majority of your students while still offering challenge.

 

Julia reminded us that we need to encourage our students to be kind to themselves, ensuring they can breathe and constantly asking how they feel in a shape. Notice if people are pushing too hard, muscles are shaking and the breath is lost. Ask your students how would this shape look if you did not feel pain or stress, encourage students to ease off a little and find their breath, bring their awareness to how they feel after that adjustment. We need to constantly remind our students to bring their awareness to a shape and to notice if they are pushing too hard or not enough. The breath will be the guide. If the breath is lost the student has gone too far, if the student cannot feel challenge ask them to go a little deeper but still breathing deeply. People need to feel & be aware of their bodies more.

 

If we need to verbally assist a student in a shape Julia advised to ensure we compliment them first, like great breath work or this looks great before offering an altered shape. This will encourage the student and it wont feel like they are being corrected as they are doing something wrong. You are only offering another option that may feel better. After assisting ask how it feels, if its good let them stay there, if not let them decide where they would like to be or offer another option.

 

If you have very flexible students in your class and you notice they may be hanging out deep in a pose ask them to ease out of the pose so they avoid hyper extension and to create more strength and stability in the shape.

 

Julia mentioned that we as teachers should always verbally assist first before attempting to physically assist. Be mindful of how you physically assist as everyone’s bodies are different and you do not want to injure anyone. Ideally if you want to physically assist you should take more training in this area.

 

Before physically assisting any student, you should ask for consent. This can be done before class by asking your students while their eyes are closed if they want to be physically assisted or get them to place a token in the front of their mat to indicate they are good with physical assists. Really helpful & safe physical assists can look like:

  1. Placing your palm gently on the top of a student’s head and asking them to push up into your palm so they sit up taller
  2. Placing your palm between their shoulder blades in plank and asking them to push your upper back into your palms to avoid slumping into the shape
  3. Placing your palm in front of their bent knee in lounge and ask them to push their knee into your palm
  4. To encourage deeper breathing place your palms on the students back & ribs and ask the student to breath into your hands

 

These are all simple adjustments that give the student the control of the movement. After your assist always ask the student if that feels better or worse? Ensure to ask closed ended questions so a conversation doesn’t start in the middle of your class;-)

 

The postures we focused on day 3 of our training were:

 

  1. Childs pose
  2. Saddle
  3. Tabletop
  4. Downward dog

 

 

We focused on each posture and went through many different options of how we could alter a posture to make it more accessible.

 

Childs Pose

Childs pose is often considered a resting pose, Julia reminded us that for many people it does not feel like a resting pose. This is where we can offer options to students to help them relax into the pose more.

 

Knee Issues:

 

If your students have knee problems suggest placing a bolster between their knees and calves. Let them rest their bum on the bolster.

 

In addition to the above a bolster could be placed under the student’s chest and a blanket placed on top of the bolster behind to add more height.

 

Variation:

Another option for child’s pose could be wide knee child’s pose.

Spreading your knees wide and sitting back on your heels or bolster with your arms placed down the centre of your body turning your face in one direction and after a few minutes switching to the other side

 

Tip:

Always have the student rest their head on something, do not let the student hang their heads. Students can rest their heads on a block, bolster or stacked fists

 

Arm Variations:

 

The student’s arms can be placed:

  1. Alongside the body, palms facing up or down
  2. Stretched out in front actively pressing palms into floor

 

Point to note:

The above will depend why you are teaching the posture; do you want the posture to be more restful or more active?

 

Julia advised to encourage your students to make space and to take up space ensure to remind them to take a workable shape where they can breathe deeply and mindfully.

 

Saddle

 

Saddle pose can be difficult if you have knee problems. The below is an option the students can try but if it is painful in the knees ask your students to take a different pose.

 

Knee Issues:

 

Place 2 foam blocks end to end on the middle of your mat with a bolster placing lengthways on top.

Saddle the bolster by placing both knees and shines alongside the bolster and lowering your bum on the bolster. Encourage the student to stay here if that feels good.

 

If the student would like to take it a step further reach back with your arms and place hands on two blocks behind you while reaching your chest to the sky. If the student does not need blocks, they could place their hands on the floor

 

Tip:

  • A tip Julia gave us to cue to help with the back bend it to ask the students to lift their hips and tuck their tail bone under and lower their hips to the bolster.

 

  • Also, if you see your students’ knees begin to lift, they have gone too far and should ease out of the pose.

 

Table top

 

This is a great posture for opening the chest but it may not be accessible to everyone.

 

An alternative shape which provides the same chest opening is:

Sit crossed legged with 2 blocks placed behind you shoulder distance apart.

Reach back to your blocks placing your palms on each block and shinning your chest forward, if the student would like to take it a step further, they could lift their hips and draw them forward also.

 

In the traditional form of table top where the student can hold the shape offer different hand variations:

 

  1. Fingers can face towards the feet or
  2. Fingers can face away from the feet

 

Tip:

For students whose knees are splaying out too far or to add more heat to the posture place a block between their thighs and get them to squeeze the block.

 

 Downward Dog

 

Downward dog can be considered a restful pose in yoga however people who have wrist issues do not find this shape very restful!

 

Wrist Issues:

 

Other options that can be offered to students with wrist issues are:

  1. Puppy dog
  2. Dolphin

 

 

If students’ wrists need more support in downward dog offer them to use a wedge.

Place the wedge about foot down from the top of the mat. Fold the top of the mat over the wedge to prevent the wedge from slipping.

The students can then place their palms on the wedge.

Tight upper back

 

If you notice students whose upper back is humped in this posture ask the students to place blocks underneath their hands which will move the pressure of the pose to the back body and give more space for their shoulders and back to straighten.

 

 

Tight calves & Achilles tendons

 

Ask the students to slightly turn their toes inwards to create more space in their lower back while lifting their abdomen. Pressing heels downs and lifting up toes.

 

Another option would be to place heels on a wedge or bricks underneath heels

 

Point to note:

Ensure your students are feeling the stretch in the belly of their hamstrings in downward dog and not in the area at the base of the bum…. if this occurs get your students to bend their knees to avoid injury to the hamstring.

 

High blood pressure/vertigo/dizziness:

 

Get the students to use the wall for downward dog.

Placing their palms of the hands on the wall and walking their legs away from the wall until their back and arms are in line and they feel a stretch in their hamstrings. The head should be kept above the heart. Encourage your student to push into the wall with hands

 

The above concludes with Part 2 of this 3-part series of blogs on our Ignite Mentorship training with Julia Dotty.

 

Please feel free to offer any other insights you have or if you have any questions & feedback please feel free to leave a comment.

 

Chat soon,

 

Theresa xxx

 

Death: See The Positive Side

What is death?

I am not experienced enough to write on this subject so forgive me if I come across as being naive, but I would like to express my thoughts.

To me death is nothing more than change.

Some people believe that death is the end. That there is nothing after, no after life, no nothing. One just ceases to exist. This is comforting to some I think. If there is nothing after death, it doesn’t matter either way.

I agree with this in the respect that if there is nothing after death, then nothing matters. But then, if that is the case what is the point in anything? I think that it is a rather bleak outlook, to think that life, consciousness and thought disappear, like a light being switched off once the body dies. I also think that this is impossible.

In my opinion, life is energy, the same as thought, consciousness, time, matter, music, love….these are all different forms of energy.

Energy cannot be created or destroyed, just changed from one form to another. We die, we change. We do not cease to exist. We just change. It is a comforting thought for me. I do not fear death.

Do not get me wrong, I am not expecting death to come calling for me anytime soon (I hope) but I will not fear it when it comes.

I will, however, fear the unknown – I think. The next moment after death. What is that? What will it bring? I had a dream once. In the dream, I was about to die, and I knew it. It was all about what the next moment would bring, to be so close to death, that just on the other side were the answers to questions that humans have asked since they could think about the future.

I was also sad in the dream, for the people that I would leave behind. For the people that I would miss.

That is the difficult thing about death. Being left behind. It is funny that the person who goes through the process directly is the one who is least affected by it.

Those of us who are left behind in my opinion never get over it. We just get used to it. It becomes part of us and part of our personalities and our being adjusts to cope. We change and become different people, sculpted by the event like any other process in life. We are ever changing. I heard someone say once that it becomes the new normal.

Will we see these people again? I would like to think so, but I’m not so sure of that. We go to a different place, maybe even to a different life. I think those people we love who have gone before us are part of us in mind and memory and always will be, so in that respect we will never be apart, but to see them again and hold their hands, look on their face? I don’t think so. It makes me sad but I think I’m ok with that.

To be by the bedside of a dying person is a powerful experience, one that I am eternally grateful to have had. It changed me, in ways I’m not entirely sure of. I know it thought me that even in the saddest, most difficult situations there can be light, happiness and fun. Fun at somebody’s death bed? Yes. Why not?

As I write this, I have no idea what point I am trying to make or even if I have a point but it is a subject that I enjoy discussing sometimes. The Irish poet John O’Donohue has very interesting things to say on the power and beauty of death. I think what I am getting at is that death is not a negative thing. At least not always or not for the person who has passed on. Again, I hope I do not seem insensitive or naive; I am just trying to put my experience and interpretations out there. The pain and loneliness of those who are left behind can be crippling, but it can also form a powerful connection, an unbreakable bond with those who have shared the experience.

I am especially interested in your thoughts on this one.

Thanks,

George