The Vernal Equinox

Hello fellow Earthlings! Today is the Vernal Equinox, and the official first day of spring! From now until summer the days begin to lengthen and temperatures begin to climb as our planet’s ellipsoidal orbit and off-kilter axis orient the Northern Hemisphere nearer to the sun. 

Thanks Kepler!

We’re not in full-blown summer yet. The Verbal Equinox is a transition point: summer’s sunny melody begins to build underneath the fading trill of winter’s final icy arpeggios. The equinox gets it’s name from the fact that today we enjoy equal measures of daylight and nighttime (in certain parts of the world, your mileage may vary based on latitude). Today is a day of equality in opposites: dark and light, warmth and chill, fertile and fallow. With that in mind, the theme of todays post is Balance.

We all struggle to find balance in so many aspects of our lives.  In our careers we strive for a work/life balance; in our athletic pursuits we aim to balance between under- and over-training; in our relationships we attempt to balance our own needs with the needs of others. We try to balance our checkbooks, eat balanced meals, and form balanced opinions.

I’m trying to help congress BALANCE the budget
Achieving balance is a challenge. I would be lying my face off if I pretended to have a formula that works. Instead I’m going to offer up some of the things that help ME personally feel more even-keeled physically and mentally. 

1) Yoga. 

Here’s a great yogic breathing technique that always helps me find symmetry in my mind and body. It’s called Nadi Shodan Pranayama, or alternate nostril breathing. First find a comfortable seated position. Sit up nice and tall. Now close your eyes and let your left hand rest lightly in your lap with your palm facing upward. Rest the first finger of your right hand on your forehead at the space between your eyes (this happens to be your 6th chakra– anja chakra, the third-eye point). Touch your pinky finger to your left nostril and your ring finger to you right nostril. Use your thumb to gently close your right nostril and exhale out through your left nostril. Pause for just a moment and then inhale through the same left nostril. Pause again, now close your left nostril with your pinky and release your thumb from your right nostril. Breath out through your right nostril, pause, now breath in with your right nostril. Release your left nostril, apply your thumb to your right nostril one more time and breathe out through the left. We’ve just completed one cycle and we are back where we started! Repeat this cycle nine times, each time focusing your mind on the side of the body that you are breathing on. After the ninth cycle rest both hands in your lap and take several deep breaths in and out through both nostrils and feel if anything has shifted inside of you. 

2) Exercise.

I always feel more mentally balanced after a good workout. One of the main principles of Chi Running is feeling symmetry with every stride. Correcting muscle imbalances is key to becoming a more efficient, effortless, injury-free athlete across all disciplines. Doing something that makes you sweat and makes you smile at the same time is a good reminder that life is a balance of effort and ease. Hard work is rewarding because it is challenging. 

I swam this morning, so I will share a swimming drill that I am fond of. The purpose of this drill is to balance out your stroke. The drill is called the catch up drill: I like to use a pull buoy so I can focus on my stroke, but you can kick with your legs if you would like. You start in a streamlined position with both hands ahead of you in the water. You initiate a pull-stroke with one arm (it doesn’t matter which one you start with), and rather than initiating your next pull midway through the first, you do one complete stroke with that arm so that your hand again finds the streamlined position. (It is called catch-up drill because you can’t start a new stroke until your hand has “caught up” from the previous stroke) Then you do the same thing on the other side. Breathe every three pulls….on alternate sides. This drill separates the swimming motion into individual pull-strokes rather than ripping through everything at once. By focusing on the individual halves of your body you can become a more integrated whole. 

3) Getting outdoors. 

This is pretty self explanatory. John Muir said it better than I ever could: “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”
Sometimes going on an epic hike isn’t an option, but you can always sneak outside at lunch-time to replenish your stores of vitamin-D:

One of the better decisions I made today
4) Spending time with animals. 
Obi, the cone-head

Have you ever heard a dog say the words “I’m so stressed out?” Have you ever heard a cat whine about how many emails they get every day. Don’t tell me that animals don’t speak english, some of the best conversations I have every day are with my housemate’s cat, Louis. 

Mostly we talk about food

In all seriousness, animals can serve to remind us to STOP taking ourselves so seriously. If you don’t have a pet of your own, go to the dog park, or volunteer at the Humane Society! Or just watch cute kitten videos on youtube. Remind yourself that there are beings on this planet who exist joyfully as long as their basic needs are met; we can aspire to carry that lesson with us. 
(Another reminder: there are some animals whose basic needs are NOT being met. I am still fundraising for the Seattle Humane Society. Please consider leaving a donation at my personal page. I really truly do appreciate it!)

There are TONS more ways to find a sense of symmetry and balance within yourself. I will shut my big mouth and stick with four suggestions: one for every season. I would love to hear from anybody who reads this:

1) What areas within your life are EASY for you to find balance? (I want to hear the positives first)
2) What challenges do you have? (Believe me, I have MANY)
3) What are your favorite strategies for finding a sense of balance when you are challenged? 

Alrighty Pete Seeger, sing us on out.

7 thoughts on “The Vernal Equinox

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  1. Sam, this is so inspiring!!

    Making a point to have enough “self time” can also be a really great way to maintain balance and keep an internal dialogue going about what we are feeling/experiencing each day.


  2. I miss Pete…
    Pete was such an advocate for music. Not just listening to music coming out of you radio or hifi or computer, but playing music in your living room. The fact that the music in your living room might sound like crap compared to the stuff made by the millionaires playing inside the radio was completely irrelevant to Pete. The point was to make music.
    Its transformative. And right brained for all those plucky Ph.D.'s (and others of us) stuck in their heads.


  3. I should have included making music as a strategy for finding balance! Watching you create music is so amazing. I love to see the joy in your face as you play the guitar (or ukelele :) ), and hearing the songs themselves soothes the soul. Transformative is a great word–and your transformation into a musician has been REALLY inspiring.

    I was listening to an old Studio 360 podcast from January (around when Pete passed away) and they had an archival interview with him. The video is here:

    Such a good man.


  4. I love it! I also find that making time for yourself allows you to be generous with your time for others. To crib a quote from RuPaul…yes RuPaul can be quite inspirational :)
    “If you can't love yourself, how the HELL are you gonna love anybody else?”

    Miss you, Laurel!


  5. A friend of mine from Bedford posted this on FB the other day. You'd think that Nirvana and Pete Seeger occupy different musical universes, but he's basically saying the same thing Pete said for 80 odd years.


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