Clean and Elegant

Clean and Elegant

Sunday, 27 March 2011

SPRINGTIME GRANOLA: The Cereal Personality Quiz

Springtime often comes with the urge to do a complete overhaul of your life.  Perhaps you feel compelled to sell all your clothes, fly across the world and live in a muddy pond.  As the snow melts and warm breezes flood you, seemingly excellent ideas arise.  Although there is a seed of wisdom within every impulse, no enormous decision should be made without a minimal level of self-awareness.  Friends who were able to attend my Granola Party last year are good to go.  Read no further.  Fly away to a muddy pond.  But if you were so unfortunate as to miss out, this revealing quiz is for you!  A reminder that this is not a contest and God loves all cereal personality types equally.   Thus, there is no need for cheating!!!  Good luck!



1.     On a camping trip, limited to one staple delicacy, you are most likely to choose:

A)      Hot Dogs.
B)       SMORES-Ask PETE LAVOIE if you don’t know what those are.
C)       French Toast.
D)      Bagels and Cream Cheese.
E)       Spirulina Hemp Energy Bars.
F)       Whatever is locally available.

2.       The worst place to get a zit is:

A)  The unspeakable location.
B)  Between your armpit and your nipple.
C)  On your ass.
D)  On your hairline.
E)  In your ear.
F)  On your forehead.

3.       The most awesome Sesame Street character is:

A)      The puppet with the pink face who played the piano.  Betty Lou or Mary Sue or something along those lines.
B)       Cookie Monster.
C)       Oscar the Grouch.
D)      Susan the deaf lady.
E)       Elmo.
F)       The Count.

4.       For you, the optimal offspring would be

A)      A tambourine and a triangle.
B)       A budgie and a jar of ants.
C)       A girl and a boy.
D)      Two girls and one boy.
E)       One girl and two boys.
F)       Six rabbits.

5.       When you were a kid, your favourite fairy tale was

A)      Beauty and the Beast.
B)       Jack and the Beanstalk.
C)       The Little Mermaid.
D)      Snow White.
E)       Hansel and Gretel.
F)       Peter Pan.

6.       The body part which causes you the most grief is

A)Testicles or Ovaries.
B) Hair.
C) Nose.
D) Intestines large or small.
E) I am unconditionally hot, like Peter Lavoie.
F) A proportional issue such as bum-to-breast ratio.

NE TRICHEZ PAS!!!  DON'T CHEAT!  For best results, scroll down...


MOSTLY A’s:  CONGRATULATIONS, you are CORN POPS.  Deeply connected to your core values, you radiate lighthearted yet very profound wisdom. Though sometimes taken for granted, you are truly a treasure in any workplace or social setting.

MOSTLY B’S:  CONGRATULATIONS, you are REESE COCOA PUFFS.  Aesthetics and sensory experiences are  important to you.  Some may resent your poise, beauty and style, but focus on those who appreciate your talents.  You are delicious and lots of fun.

MOSTLY C’s:  CONGRATULATIONS, you are BRANFLAKES.  Your priorities lie in making sure that life runs smoothly and efficiently.  You avoid confrontations, but secretly long for something that appears beyond your reach.  Take heart though friend, you may be mistaken.

MOSTLY D’s:  CONGRATULATIONS, you are FRENCH TOAST CRUNCH.  You prefer things to be contained in crisp, compact squares.  But don’t be mislead or misleading by this simplicity.  Often your alleged “low-maintenance persona disguises an agonizing perfectionism.  Just ask Snow White.

MOSTLY E’s SLASH A LITTLE BIT OF EVERYTHING:  CONGRATULATIONS’ you are GRANOLA.  You grace the planet with your confident and sexy presence.  However, beware of your tendency to become narcissistic and selfish.  Strive for humility.  People like that.

MOSTLY F’s:  CONGRATULATIONS, you are OATMEAL.  Warm and practical, you don’t want things to be more complicated than they have to be.  That said, you possess idealistic spiritual aspirations and long to transcend superficial trivialities.  Don’t waste your time on internet dating sites. 

FINAL NOTE:  Celebrate your brand new, crucial insight by creating a poem, story, song, painting and/or papier maché construction about how it feels to be your respective cereal personality.  Then take a bath.  Then send me what you made so I can decorate my new pond. XOM.

Exuberant Bodhisattva on Facebook
Twitter: @mypelvicfloor
I Let Go, by Erica J. Schmidt

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Sunday, 20 March 2011

Karma is Simple: Haikus for People Who Like Counting syllables

Now it is 2016. I am giving the blog a mini makeover.
Although the simplicity of Karma is up for debate, I still love haikus, so this one made the cut.
Karma is Simple, Haikus by Erica J. Schmidt
Karma is simple.
Scratch your head and dandruff falls.
Flakes on your shoulders.

 Karma is simple. 
Drink, pee.  Eat, pooh.  Sex, herpes.
Fall, break.  Onion Breath.

Karma is simple.
Call yourself a piece of shit,
You won't feel awesome.

Jesus brought great news,
But he's not the Karmic boss.
Karma hates bosses.

Karma's on Facebook.
You can give it a thumbs up.
Become Karma's fan.

Crucify, redeem.
Karma does both these things.
Between flakes and gold.
The End.
Karma is simple.
Feet in Ganga, feet get cold.
Smile anyway.
-Rishakesh, 2015
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I Let Go, by Erica J. Schmidt

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Friday, 11 March 2011

How Do You Get Through Your Day-To-Day Life

These days, whenever something horrendous and traumatic happens in the world, I wonder what it must be like to be old.  To have seen so many catastrophes-wars, tsunamis, terrorist attacks, cancer, spinal cord injuries, mudslides-and still remain adequately composed to make the bed every morning and buy groceries.  I remind myself a little bit of Mike Kyle, a middle-aged man with an intellectual disability.  I met Mike at a relatively Christian summer camp.  He always volunteered to say grace.  Without fail, his grace was full of deep and impossible existential questions for God.

"God, how did you make the world?  You're so big and so nice and I just don't understand.  And Todd drives me nuts.  I wish he didn't, but he does.  And God, I don't know what to do...."

On a couple of occasions, at the breakfast table, or on the dock, where I served as a lifeguard, Mike would peer at me with scrunched up eyes and utter bewilderment.  Earnestly he'd ask, "Erica.  How do you get through your day-to-day life?"  At the time, I was only seventeen.  I probably smiled and thought, what a sweet man. Perhaps I offered an answer, but certainly it wouldn't have satisfied Mike's concern and curiosity.  "I don't know, Mike.  I just do.  It's just one of those things."

Mike Kyle died four or five years ago.  He was brushing his teeth.  Either he choked on his toothbrush or part of his toast from breakfast. Another tragedy to add to the tsunamis and the spinal cord injuries. I'm certain he would have been devastated to hear about the earthquake in Japan.  "But why, God?  Why?"

I don't know, Mike. It's just one of those things. But it's hard to get through our day-to-day lives, isn't it?

Peace to the world on this difficult day.

The End.

Ajanta Caves, India, December 2015

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I Let Go, by Erica J. Schmidt

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Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Castles in the Basement

Those of you who know me may be aware that I am a recovering self-help book junkie.  Before admitting that I was powerless over my affliction and surrendering my suffering to high power, I came across Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way:  A Spiritual Path Towards Higher Creativity.    The Artist's Way is geared towards “blocked creatives” whose inner artist children have been deeply wounded, preventing them from producing the very excellent novels, sculptures, haikus and pottery that lie deep within.  I had never heard of Julia Cameron’s excellent novels, sculptures, haikus and pottery, but my own writing career had barely blossomed beyond dabbling in adolescent notebooks and journals.  Hence, I diagnosed my artist child as “VERY WOUNDED” and embarked on Julia Cameron’s prescribed spiritual journey. 

Along the lines of many other 12-step programs, The Artist’s Way is divided into twelve chapters. Each one is focussed on different recovery themes.  In Chapter one, we “recover a sense of safety,” reclaiming our right to live happy, creative and free existences, free of dysfunction and vice.  We compose affirmations:

“I, Erica Schmidt, can write a marvellous novel with joy, ease and without taking up narcotics.”  We address our creative injuries and forgive our grade two teacher Mrs. Douglas for not casting us as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.

In Chapter 6, we recover a sense of abundance and allow ourselves to throw out ugly clothes and buy our favourite fruits and vegetables even if they’re not on sale.  We can affirm this:

I, Erica Schmidt, buy and eat blueberries. 

Julia Cameron is adamant that it’s never too late to recover and discover a dormant and repressed artistic adventure.  She was also adamant that we should each commit ourselves, every day for the rest of our lives, to a daily practice called, “Morning Pages.”

In order to become a writer of morning pages, set your alarm 30 minutes early and use this time to write uninhibitedly for 3 pages. 

“But Julia Cameron,” you might protest. (I like to call her J.C.)  “I’m not a writer.  I want to carve ducks.”

“Phooey!” J.C. proclaims.  “Morning pages are not supposed to be REAL WRITING.”  Instead they are designed as a potent preparatory tool to serve you for the rest of your inspired, basket-weaving, duck-carving , narcotic-free, blueberry-filled existence.  JC considers morning pages to be a sort of Active Meditation during which all the greatest irritations and desires of your unconscious emerge to the surface.  By confronting various existential voids and hang-ups, we may magically devise more effective methods of doing our laundry, quitting our jobs and leaving the country.  In addition, you may also become aware of your deep longing to wax your pubic hair or have your toenails removed.  Finally, behind the details of laundry, hygienic ambitions and bad sex, artists may also uncover insight on their own art; lines from a poem, an image, an interesting character called Annabelle Gordon who could potentially make her way into your next short story.  Fabulous.  But again, “Morning pages are not REAL WRITING.” 

For four or five years, more or less every morning, I have diligently woken up, grabbed a pen and strived to reveal my higher creative self.  I don’t regret one page.  There is something redeeming and enlightening about forcing yourself to transcribe the details of your existence.  I have made interesting discoveries. 

“Too much coffee.  Out of toilet paper.”

“Bellydancing is a bit of a misnomer.”

“The dishes are full of sink.”

“I hate hamsters”

And poetic declarations: 

“I cannot throw knives at the walls of bathroom stalls.” 

“So much depends upon ovulation”

“A is for Alveolar Palate”

As well as extremely useful imperatives:

Get over Mike Snow. 

Act like a child of God.

Call your dentist.   Book a pap smear.

So as I said, no regrets.  However, I think it’s time to re-examine my tactics.  I now have piles of notebooks, filled with industriously scrawled  bits of self-awareness.  I’m all for self-awareness, and I like that my morning page have helped me keep track of the last couple of years.  I just don’t think that this ritual needs to take such a large place in my “Artist Routine.” 

I, Erica Schmidt, have maxed out on self-awareness. 

During my spiritual path towards higher creativity and beyond, there were many days when the only REAL writing I ever did was morning pages.  Alas, as JC maintains, is not actually REAL writing.  She’s right:  it’s brain puke.  Vomit is deceptively tasty when it hasn’t yet acquired too much acidity.  But most often, vomit is a personal thing that you don’t show other people. 

My friend Simon likens my morning page routine to “building castles in the basement.”  Your construction skills may improve and the process may be valuable, but your castles will never grow very high.  Plus, you’ll probably never finish one.  For me, the chronically unfinished novel (or any other writing project) is one of the most painful diseases you can endure.  Perhaps some people do just write, simply for the sake of writing.  The final product isn’t important and they don’t desire any sort of praise or recognition for their work.  They truly love writing and that is enough.  But I think that deep down, many of us basement writers have something we really want to share.  We want to connect with other people and we want to be understood. 

I would keep writing even if nobody read another word I ever wrote.  These days, this desire has become increasingly clear to me as I write my morning pages.  And it has become increasingly clear to me that whining about pap smears and laundry in a cute little pink notebook is not helping me connect with other readers.  Hence, I woke up this morning with the clear conviction that I would forego the thirty minutes of private agonizing over my existence. 

I, Erica Schmidt, hereby cease to build castles in the basement.

Get to your novel!  Your blog!  Flesh out those characters from your play! Anything besides whining about your life for three pages and thirty minutes.

I tried.  But the heaping basket of dirty clothes smells like mildew.  The only "clean" shirt I have smells like mildew.  Yesterday, two and a half new job prospects were probably extinguished.  It’s been a year since my last pap smear.  And I still can’t do karandavasana.  What to do with this agony?

I made coffee, opened my notebook and began my daily purge of written angst.  As Margaret Atwood says, “Old neurological pathways die hard.”  

The End.

I Let Go, by Erica J. Schmidt
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Simon Girard 1979-2015

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

The Benefits of an Ashtanga Yoga Practice

According to the Ashtanga yoga tradition of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, practitioners are “supposed” to practice asana six days a week. Jois, also known as “Guruji” designated Saturday as the day of rest, since Saturday corresponds with bath day in India. There are also a few “get-out-of-jail-free” days, including Full and New Moon and, if you are lucky enough to be a fertile woman, the first three days of your menstrual cycle. So this Ashtanga yoga thing requires a relatively high level of commitment. Along the way, you may endure a great deal of discomfort on both the physical and emotional level. It’s easy to doubt your efforts when onlookers may see your practice as a self-indulgent, masochistic, tripped out version of aerobics. In order to relieve your doubts, I believe that it is extremely important to regularly evaluate the intention behind your hard work.

Your reasons for practising yoga will evolve over time. Everyone comes to yoga for different reasons and during different circumstances. The first time I did yoga was from a video by Ali MacGraw that my mother had given me. At the time, I was a chronic exercise addict and I couldn’t get through the day without physically torturing myself as much as possible. My mother really wanted me to relax, but she knew that I wouldn’t be able to stop moving. The yoga movie was set in a bright white desert, where clouds hung low to the ground. Ali McGraw demonstrated sun salutations and some basic sequences of yoga postures as a man with a soothing voice talked me through it. When I got to the end, the man told me to lie down and let go of everything I didn’t need until all that was left was love. This seemed like a pleasant concept, but a little hokey and not very realistic. I quickly returned to my extensive and neurotic cardiovascular routine.

Ali MacGraw, Yoga Mind and Body
My second yoga video was by Rodney Yee. Strength for beginners. Besides having a compellingly chiselled body, Rodney could go upside down. I found this fascinating and exciting, but I was so terrified of falling or dying or worse, that it was nearly five years before I would even attempt inversions. Still, that interest and excitement stayed with me. Even though I only practiced a few times a year, I was beginning to believe that yoga might in fact be a worthwhile endeavour.
Rodney Yee
When I was seventeen, I was fortunate to attend my very first Ashtanga yoga class. There’s really only one way for me to summarize this experience: I really just couldn’t believe it. Although it would be another few years before I would incorporate a daily practice into my schedule, I absolutely knew that Ashtanga was my yoga of choice.

Finally, at age 21, I found myself at Sattva Yoga Shala in Montréal, where Pattabhi Jois’ students Darby and Joanne run their studio. The shala was just down the street from my university. It became possible for me to go to yoga every morning before class. My previous tendency to obsessively overtrain no longer seemed to make any sense. Ashtanga yoga is definitely vigorous, and it provides undeniable physical benefits including strength, flexibility and the release of toxins. However, Pattabhi Jois was as correct as he was adamant when he said, “This yoga is not for exercise. Yoga is showing where to look for the soul - that is all” (Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, Puck Building, NYC 2001).

Yoga is showing where to look for the soul
I am 25 now. For the last three and a half years, yoga has followed me though academic struggles, broken hearts, financial insecurity, the illness and death of loved ones, as well as days when I possess the mobility and grace of a wobbly brick. Certainly, yoga has not provided me with an unfailing cure for shit times, but Guruji was right when he told us that “yoga is showing where to look.” For the soul, for God, for whatever is that is left “when you let go of everything you don’t need.” Whereas my former fitness endeavours served as an attempt to escape from my problems, yoga has given me the opportunity to meet with every single aspect of myself every single morning. Every day when I unroll my mat, whether or not I feel like merging with God, I face myself, breath after breath, posture after posture. I wrap both legs behind my head-I hate my job. I lift up-But I’m so broke. I jump back-I have no core strength.

Erica, 26, Chaturanga. Halifax.
I believe that in simply showing up no matter what, I begin to rise above these insecurities. I stand on my head. My life is a mess. I breathe anyways. A really huge mess. Too bad, life. I’m still here. Maybe tomorrow, the mess will be a little less huge and when more mess comes, I will remember that no mess is forever. Guruji once said that, “taking a human body - this is a very rare opportunity. Don't waste it. We are given 100 years to live, one day you have the possibility to see god. If you think in this way it is giving you good body, good nature and health." From my experience, it seems like many of us view life as something to be managed and endured, rather than as a gift or opportunity. Yoga provides us with an alternative to the suffering that emerges when we consider life to be a torture chamber. Maybe it isn’t necessary to tap into this alternative every single day. But if your ultimate goal is unshakeable peace and the cessation of suffering, I fail to see the harm.

The End.
Now Erica is 30.
Here I am in Hampi, India, February 2016, close to a year after I retired from Ashtanga Yoga.

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I Let Go, by Erica J. Schmidt ($2.99)

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