Clean and Elegant

Clean and Elegant

Thursday, 17 September 2015

The Exuberant Bodhisattva Goes to the Gym

“Going to the gym tomorrow,” I told my friend. “Gonna get trained.”

“Trained for what?” asked my friend’s ten-year-old roommate. I didn’t have an excellent answer for her. I hadn’t been to the gym in over twelve years. Back then I was a seventeen-year-old stair master junkie. These days, if I were forced to have fitness goals, they would include vaguely figuring out a pull-up, reducing the crackling in various body parts, and perhaps a burpee or two.
“Let me try something,” said the ten year old. Before I knew it, she had wrapped her arm around my waist and had hoisted me a foot above the ground. I remained up in the air for a solid five seconds. The ten-year-old repeated this feat three more times. She did wonders for my Mammoth Complex.

“I think I can do a push-up,” she announced. Within seconds she was down on the ground. Her push-ups were spectacular.

“When I was on the swim team, we used to do clapping push-ups,” I recalled. Back then, despite having biceps and shoulders the size of my face, I typically maxed out after two and a half to four pull-ups. Same thing for chin-ups. My clapping push-up record was not remarkably impressive either. On the floor of my friend’s living room, I decided to give them a go. Long before my hands could come together, I landed on my face. Before falling on her face, my friend’s ten-year-old roommate was able to clap her hands together.

Bakasana, Somehow Easier than Clapping Push-Ups.
Yoga selfies seem to be good for my stats. And so, I am recycling my 2 and a half
to 4 yoga selfies with little to no restraint.
My personal trainer was a friend from high school named Nick Tritton. As fate would have it, my graduating class of Perth and District Collegiate Institute had three Olympians. Nick was one of them. A three time Canadian champion, Nick competed in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics for Judo. Over the years, Nick has represented Canada at 5 world championships. In addition, he has won five medals at the Pan American Games, including gold in 2010. As if that weren’t enough, his exciting career boasts 12 World Cup medals and 8 top-5 World Cup finishes. Always somewhat of a Renaissance man, Nick is also a talented wrestler, with national champion titles in both Greco and Freestyle Wrestling.  Although he retired after the 2012 Olympics, he made a bit of a comeback in 2014, competing in the sport of Sambo.  In case you don’t know what Sambo is, I didn’t either and so I did a rather moderate amount of research for you. I learned that Sambo is a relatively modern Russian martial art. In fact, SAMBO is an acronym for SAMozashchita Bez Oruzhiya, which is Russian for “self-defense without weapons.” Nick turned out to be quite good at this, winning the Commonwealth games and placing 7th at the world championships. In conclusion, Nick is a veritable tank. He even has the cauliflower ears to prove it. 
Nick at the Olympics, dressed in blue on your left. Note the convincing cauliflower ears.
Currently, Nick generously channels his vast talents towards Angry Monkey MMA, a gym that opened its doors in June of 2014. (By the way, MMA stands for Mixed Martial Arts.) All the trainers at MMA are elite athletes with diverse backgrounds in judo, wrestling, muay thai styles, MMA, grappling, wrestling, boxing, kickboxing and more. But you don’t need to be into boxing or throwing people across the room to train at Angry Monkey. Everyone is welcome, even the side plank virgins. Angry Monkey’s claim to fame is that they’ll meet you wherever you are, regardless of the size of your biceps, or the hideous crackling noise that comes from your hip joint. They offer classes and fitness regimens for kids, office workers, hardcore fighters, busy parents and retired yoga teachers.

Angry Monkey MMA

By some great miracle, this retired yoga teacher (me), was able to bike her crackling hip joint across the city to meet Nick for a training session. Located close to St. Henri, at 3700 St. Patrick Street, Angry Monkey is a few steps South of the Lachine Canal, and just a little west of the Atwater Market. There is tons of parking for folks with cars. Some gym members like to roll enormous tires across the parking lot. Others do not.
Parking Lot with Enormous Tire

Spacious and phenomenally clean, Angry Monkey is fully equipped with a room for judo and group fitness classes. They also have a boxing ring and a more traditional work-out space consisting of weights, a pull-up bar, exercise balls and any other equipment you might need.
The Judo/Fitness Class Room. 
Next to the boxing ring, there is a sign that prohibits all whining and drama. By the time I read it, I had already made a few groaning speeches about my clicking hip and crooked spine and insistence on always breathing through my nose. Fortunately, Nick forgave me and then promised we would take it easy. He proceeded to wrap my hands in belts and give me some boxing gloves. Never in my life had I ever worn boxing gloves, let alone punched anybody. It was quite a thrill.  Nick did an excellent job blocking my punches and correcting my stance. He said that he could tell I was quite violent. Between jabs, upper cuts and right hooks, we caught up on the last decade or so. I must say, this year has been wonderful for reconnecting with folks from high school. Though there are many parts of high school you might prefer to forget, it can be healing and comforting to spend time with people who knew you back when you wore braces and overalls. So if ever you have the chance to hang out with someone from your youth, I highly recommend it.

After our chatty stint in the boxing ring, Nick led me to the pull-up bar. Attaching an extremely thick elastic band around one of my ankles, he coached me through three sets of ten, hauling me upwards when necessary.  Thus, it only took a mega elastic and a former Olympic athlete to help me complete more pull-ups than my body has endured in the last fifteen years. After that, we did some abs and called it a day. In the days that followed, absolutely no obscene pain ensued, although on Saturday, my lats and inner elbows enjoyed a rather rewarding feeling of being inflated. There is much more where that came from, and I urge you to check it out for yourself. From now until October 2, Angry Monkey is hosting free trial lunch-hour fitness classes. Designed to increase energy and mid-day muscular response, these multi-level “Power Up” classes are held every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 12:15 to 12:45. As the experts say, everyone has thirty minutes! Give yourself a well-deserved fitness break. The whole world is welcome. You can sign up for packages beginning on October 5. Unleash your inner angry monkey from deep inside your pelvis. And/or your armpits.
30 Minute Power Up Classes
I promise you, it will be a blast. Big thank you to Nick for the thoroughly fun and satisfying session. Hope to see you again soon. Maybe next time, I can try rolling one of those enormous tires across the parking lot. Maybe not. Regardless, I feel quite grateful that my childhood was so high in Olympic athletes.
The End.
Angry Monkey MMA Website
Angry Monkey MMA on Facebook
Follow Angry Monkey on Twitter: @AngryMonkeyMMA (Justin Etheridge)

News from 2016: Nick has now branched out to build a new company, Tritton Performance/Harley Muay Thay. Here it is on Facebook!


In case you were wondering, in French, they call Angry Monkey “Singe Bagarreur.” And I forgot to mention that Nick is also an excellent father of two young girls. On that note, I cannot think of a better Judo coach for your kids. If you have some kids, be sure to check out Nick's classes.
Go, Nick, go!

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

Move Your DNA, by Katy Bowman
Yoga For Core Strength
Why I am like Jane Fonda
Ecstatic Dance


Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Lessons of the Week

On Friday evening, I was lucky to be invited to my first Shabbath dinner. This was the second Jewish ceremony I have attended in the last month or so. In August, I got to go to a Circumcision Party. People more Jewish than I tend to refer to this as a Bris. Even so, I have really been getting in touch with my Jewish side these days. At both functions, the snacks and conversations have been wonderful. But in comparison to the circumcision, I think I could relate a little better to the Shabbath dinner rituals.

One of these lovely rituals was called, “Lesson of the Week.” Over dinner, with the help of the blessed wine, people were welcome to reflect upon the last six days and spontaneously share what they’d learned. It is nice to think of every week as a journey containing some sort of learning experience. Whatever you learned can help you through the days to come and if you share the lesson with your friends, it can help them too. At the end of the night, the host of the Shabbath dinner asked if I could try me to try and compile the eleven lessons of those present. I’ll give it my best shot. Here we go.

I will keep everyone’s name a secret. To help remember people’s names, we played a name game in which everyone picked an alliterative adjective (and/or Aardvark) to go with their name. In fact, I can’t really remember everyone’s alliterative adjective. I will go with the ones I remember and make up the rest.

Lesson 1, by Aardvark. Aardvark’s lesson was something he learned while thinking about improvisation. In improvisation there’s this big emphasis on living in the present moment. But that’s an illusion because the present moment can’t really exist without the past. So although you may feel like the ideal is to let go of the past and “just be here now,” this probably entails putting too much pressure on yourself.
Aardvark with Long Nose, Source
Lesson 2, by Soap. This week, Soap learned that you can derive intense satisfaction by imposing just a bit of discipline on yourself. Following through with what you set out to accomplish can be highly rewarding. She recommends it.
Lesson 3, by Exuberant. (Well, that’s me. No big secret.) I experienced some Distress this week and I learned that in Montreal, and hopefully in other places in the world, there are many different outlets for Distress. On my way to the Shabbath Dinner, I listened to a podcast that summarized a strategy for meeting your distress. It is this sentence slash recommendation: “Please, don’t believe your thoughts.” The podcast was by a Buddhist lady named Tara Brach. She had three sentences that were supposed to help you avoid being too reactive in distressing situations. I forget the middle one, but the third one had something to do with remembering the love in the universe, and imagining that you are being held by this love.

Tara Brach says, "Please, don't believe your thoughts."
Please visit
Lesson 4, by Talented. Talented recently began a yoga teacher training. Previously she had done a great deal of fast-paced dynamic yoga classes. Having practiced yoga for quite a long time, she felt pretty confident going into her training. However, when the training started, she realized her instructors had a very technical and anatomical approach. It made her feel out of her element and slightly incompetent. She wondered if maybe she had made the wrong choice and she began to beat herself up for not researching the program beforehand. And for not already knowing all the things her instructors had to share. Then she realized, and this is her Lesson of the Week, that actually, of course she didn’t know everything, and this was okay and exciting. It was all a brand new learning experience, an opportunity. She learned that if you can let your ego relax and not be the expert on everything, you will feel immensely liberated. And learn a whole bunch.

Yoga Dork with Fanny Pack (Me).
Everyone has to start somewhere.
Lesson 5, by Inspiring. Inspiring’s Lesson also had something to do with his Ego. It was about accepting your ego and your thoughts whatever they are. Sometimes when you are going through unpleasant mind states such as nervousness and envy and resentment, there is the tendency to judge and yell at yourself to “snap out of it.” Probably this is not the most helpful approach. This week, Inspiring learned that sometimes you can sit with your ego during its difficult times. In this way, the challenging mind states sometimes become easier to endure.

Lesson 6, by Asking. Asking wanted to keep her lesson private. We’ll definitely accept her wishes. I will just say that her lesson was very heartfelt and eloquent. Also, I think that the core teaching in Asking’s lesson was about loving and accepting yourself where you are. For two years, I attended Catholic mass twice a week. I can’t remember any part of any homily, except for a handful of words from one priest, who preached out of a simple little parish in Little Burgundy. I think his name was Father Paul. One Sunday morning, Father Paul said, “I am always amazed at what low opinions people have of themselves. Many people regard themselves so very poorly.” It seems that we are all quite excellent at treating ourselves terribly. How did we get so good at this? We are experts at beating ourselves up. Perhaps acknowledging the struggles that may exist inside other people’s heads can help us to be more kind and compassionate.
Lesson Seven, by Cuddly was that if you tell yourself everything is going to be okay, usually everything turns out okay. (Well, obviously some things turn out terribly, but perhaps if you wait long enough, even the terrible things change.) Cuddly’s lesson came during a camping excursion. Some of his plans were pretty open ended and he wasn’t always sure what would happen next. He decided that panicking and fretting about the unknown wouldn’t help. Instead he told himself, “everything will turn out okay.” Lucky for him, it worked. 

Lesson Eight, by Dashing or it might have been Delightful. Or Dancing. Anyways, Dashing/Delightful/Dancing’s lesson or the week was about not holding onto things so hard. It had recently become clear that keeping a certain job was becoming logistically unfeasible. Still, for whatever reason, Dashing/Delightful/Dancing remained extremely attached to the idea of making it work. Eventually, she lost her job. But very soon afterwards she ended up with two new part-time jobs with better pay and less hours. Now she has the opportunity to take on new creative projects for herself. Her other job didn’t leave any energy for such things. And so the lesson is that sometimes when you allow yourself to let go of something, even something you are very attached to, this letting go will often provide you with space you didn’t realize you were missing. Hence, try not to cling to things too tightly.
I hope it’s okay if I insert this little Lao Tzu quote right here. It’s about letting go:

“By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try. The world is beyond the winning.” -Lao Tzu
Once I wrote a book called, "I Let Go."
It might be time for a sequel
Lesson Nine, by Intelligent. Intelligent shared her experience during meditation class. Her meditation instructor had encouraged her to observe her experience through her five senses. During meditation, it’s rather common to get all in your head and miss out on a great deal of what’s going on.  Tapping into your senses as objectively as possible can help with this, whether you’re dealing with anxiety, boredom or excessive analysis. True to her name, Intelligent is highly Intelligent. I was touched when she shared that she felt shy speaking in front of the group. Many people encounter this same challenge. As a relatively chatty and extroverted person, I sometimes forget that freely expressing what’s inside is not as easy for everyone. I feel like knowing this could help me to be more understanding and appreciative of where people are coming from.

Lesson Ten, by Exquisite. Exquisite’s lesson was to trust the path as it appears in front of her. Introspective people who seek meaning in their lives frequently become obsessed with which journey to take, and “what they’re meant to do with their lives.” Ultimately, you can’t always choose the path you’re on. You can’t force yourself onto a path or contort yourself until you comply perfectly with a certain practice. Your path is just your life, and your life is not as easily manipulated as you might have once believed. Better to accept your life and path as it unfolds, rather than thwarting and torqueing it until it meets some unattainable ideal in your head. In conclusion, if you can, try and let your path unfold as naturally as possible. Often this turns out rather exquisitely.
Lesson Eleven, by Aureole Borealis. Aureole Borealis was the host. Instead of an alliterative adjective, he gets to be an Ocean Invertebrate. In fact, I just realized that I got Aureole Borealis mixed up with a Sea Anemone. When I say "Aureole Borealis," a sea anemone appears in my head. I cannot tell you why. Oops. Like many of the other lessons, Aureole Borealis's lesson had to do with meeting life, people and situations as they are. Sometimes when things are not exactly as would you would like, your first instinct is to quickly try and change them so that your desires match reality. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always work. But this week Aureole Borealis learned that if you gently accept circumstances with patience, very often something very beautiful arises. Patience requires discipline, and – patience. Although certainly this is not always the easiest choice, it might be worth a try.
Sea Anemone and Aureole Borealis. Quite Different.
Ocean Invertebrate Personality Quiz, for the 84 000th time
This concludes the eleven lessons. It was a joy and an honour to be present for the Shabbath dinner and to hear the gifts of everyone’s week. Thank you to Aureole Borealis and all his guests. I wish you many more Happy Sabbaths, and the deepest peace I can think of. With Love, Erica.
The End.
Now Chad Angers doesn't get the last word.
Recycling Day                  
Asking People About Their Lives, Guillaume, Part Two                     
Pen Pal

Monday, 7 September 2015


On August 4, 2010, Chad Angers sent me a message on Facebook.

2010-08-04 there are two types of men in the world
reasonable men and unreasonable men
the reasonable man adapts himself to the world and the unreasonable man adapts the world to himself
hence change is only driven by the unreasonable man

I met Chad Angers on a park bench, in a park on Rachel street, off St. Laurent. My arm was broken and I was about to go meditate at the Zen centre. A few minutes earlier, I had sat on another park bench in Parc Jeanne Mance. In four months, I would be turning twenty-five years old. I decided that it would be an excellent idea to stop getting drunk and sleeping with Simon. It was time to make a list of what I wanted in an ideal partner. I wrote down a bunch of qualities. I don’t remember any of the qualities, except perhaps that this ideal partner should be much taller than me. Simon was only five ten or eleven, and I am a tall five eight.

Chad Angers came right over and sat beside me.
“How did you break your arm?” He asked. He was at least 6 ft 5., with dark curly hair. As soon as he came near me, my vagina got all wet. This doesn’t tend to happen so spontaneously. Without considering any of the other on the list besides height, I decided that this was my man.

Chad Angers never capitalized nor punctuated. He had a very long, hard dick. I remember feeling it through his grey sweatpants, the kind Simon would have had to wear at his morphine studies. And once I saw his dick in his loft apartment in a secret neighbourhood. I’m not sure why I was there but Chad Angers took his pants off and his dick was hard and in my face. We were up in his bed. To get there, you had to climb up a ladder. Rapunzel Penis. That was the closest we ever got to having sex. I am pretty sure I never put his dick in my mouth.  I feel like this would have left a bigger impression.
That time in the loft was the last time I saw Chad Angers. A few months later, he called me and invited me to a movie. I said no. He hung up, then called me back yelling.

“You’re the worst shit stroke of bad luck that ever happened to me.” Some people might say that up until then, Chad Angers had had a lucky life. Others wouldn’t. I wouldn’t. Years before I met him, Chad Angers drove his bike down a hill and ran into a tree. He hit his head and spent a whole month in a coma. Meeting me is either better than spending a month in a coma, or worse.
When I first met Chad Angers, for some reason I thought his name was Chad Angell. I always believed that this would have made all the difference.

The End.

Chuckie the Horse and His Penis
Chuckie the Horse and the Day Jack Layton Died

I wish I were disciplined enough to make things instead of just rambling incoherently and never polishing or finishing anything.

The children at the Montessori School polish glass, wood, brass and silver.  The silver is not really silver. Silver and aluminum and stainless steel all go into the same category. Same with brass, copper and any other brown metal. In French all the brown metals are called cuivre. In the dictionary cuivre’s first translation is copper. It used to be that the Montessori children would polish all the brown metal objects with licorice flavoured toothpaste, the natural kind without fluoride. There was a brass and/or copper boot, a brass and/or copper dog and a brass and/or copper mouse. For whatever reason, when the children covered the objects with the licorice toothpaste, the toothpaste would turn green. Most of the time, they would use so much toothpaste that you wouldn’t be able to tell what kind of surface they were polishing. I can’t remember if they were supposed to remove the toothpaste with a q-tip or a toothbrush. A toothbrush makes sense. Either way, they did a relatively terrible job. Now the Montessori directress has switched them over to some official metal polish. She gives the children individual servings of metal polish since they can’t be trusted to take a reasonable amount. Typically, children are not all that reasonable. Does that mean they are unreasonable? 
The Montessori directress let me keep the extra licorice flavoured toothpaste. I forgot it in Halifax when I moved away. The Boatman told me that he uses it, even though it tastes a bit disgusting and doesn’t really clean your teeth.
Hair Elastics, Deodorant, and Dental Floss. In my life, I have found that these items exist in either great abundance or complete scarcity. Right now I am experiencing a period of relative abundance. Though maybe I could do with a little more floss.
This came up when I googled "Vintage Dental Floss" and I thought it was quite fabulous.

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Ecstatic Facebook Adventures

Simon Says
Locks and Keys
Why I am Like Jane Fonda

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Pen Pal

Hop scotch is making a comeback, and I have a new pen pal.
Writing to pen pals is better than writing in my journal. I am not so self-centred or whiney.
My new pen pal just started practicing Ashtanga Yoga. Before that, she was practicing a style of yoga that didn’t make her body sexy enough. Although she has only been doing Ashtanga for two weeks, she says that her butt has already began to disappear. She worries that soon her rear end will be completely flat. And her arms are so “stupidly weak” that chaturanga is impossible. Well, she is quite a hoot. 
Me in Chaturanga, some time ago...

I miss Ashtanga. On Monday night, I skyped with Nobel, the Ashtanga blogger at Yoga in the Dragon’s Den. He wanted to hear about going to Mysore. We gabbed and gabbed about all the latest Ashtanga gossip, and I told him all about my trip. The exciting anticipation at the gate, Sharath’s gaze, the focus, the breathing, the sweat, the friends. It was such a wonderful and delightful time. And the Ashtanga sequence is so organized and beautiful. Nobel talked a bit about his practice and it made me miss jumpbacks and backbends. What a joy. I wished I could wake up the next day and just bust out the primary series. If only I could figure out my spine, my pelvis.

The next morning, instead of my usual geriatric routine, I did an incredibly slow version of serene and receptive Sun Salutations. Just the first kind, Surya Namaskar A. No pain. Perhaps that is my limit because yesterday, I tried Surya Namaskar B. Even with modifications, my hip got all clicky, as though it was jammed in the wrong place. As I have done so many times over the last few years, I pressed my hand against the outer edge of my left knee. The horrendous and upsetting noise erupted. Gross.
  Kino in Surya Namaskar A
I just don’t think this will go so well when I’m eighty. Or thirty-two. Oh well. Surely the path doesn’t stop here. People go on and on about the importance of committing to one system, one form. Keep dabbling and you’ll dig a lot of holes, but you’ll never hit water. Maybe we just need to make our holes a little wider.
My pen pal wanted to hear all about my spiritual achievements from last week’s three-day stint at vipassana. Something relatively sincere came out of me:
“Well, I don't know about spiritual achievements. It sounds trite and cheesy, but I think that the best thing we can hope for is radical self-love and acceptance, flat ass, stupid chaturanga and all. These practices are hard. The perfect form is deep inside you. If this perfection remains forever deep, so be it. Lift the corners of your mouth, and try to have a nice time.”
My ex-ex boyfriend Simon who jumped off a building used to say: “Deep down we’re all good people. But very very deep. On the surface, Assholes.”
These days, I am not so filled with jokes. My heart feels heavy. But love is somewhere. One of my dearest friends has a very new baby. Earlier this week I figured out how to bounce and squat him to sleep. Then I lay on my friend’s bed and he slept on my chest for twenty minutes. When I got up, my face glowed and my heart felt warm. My friend said the baby can do this because his heart has never been broken.
There are a lot of broken hearts out there. Broken hearts, missing limbs, and airplanes.
There are also a lot of babies.
The End. 
Baby Naptime Dream Adventures

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

The Benefits of an Ashtanga Yoga Practice, Part Two
You Cling To Things Until They Die
Lying Down Club
Yours Til Ekam Inhales