I am so excited to be sharing this with you all. I’ve been sitting on this book for a while, just waiting for this post to gleefully shout from the mountain tops about how wonderful it is.
Today I’m writing about the book Thanks A Thousand: A Gratitude Journey. I took this book in through audio-book form, read by the author. It’s a short audiobook (a little over 4 hours) and A.J. Jacobs’s voice is very…distinct. Please keep in mind, I wouldn’t be writing about it if I didn’t love it.
Some background. A.J. Jacobs gets his book premises from wild ideas. He’s the guy that wrote The Year of Living Biblically (which I think had to have helped inspire A Year of Biblical Womanhood by the late Rachel Held Evans) in which he tries to follow every law in the Bible for a year in order to experience something profoundly spiritual. (He focuses deeply on Old Testament law and, spoiler alert, his profound spiritual experience ends up being a 10 second out-of-body experience during a dance with his toddler daughter. Well…what can you say? Mysticism is weird.) So, now back in his daily life, over dinner he says a form of grace and says thank you for the food they are about to consume. He thanks the farmers and all of the people who worked hard to make and provide their food. His young son points out, “Dad. They can’t hear you. Why don’t you say thank you to them so they can hear it?” Boom. Book idea.
As promised, here is the Will video. As far as sentimentality goes, this one ramps it up. To begin with, it’s a long song so there are more pictures. But overall it’s more brutal and unrelenting.
Credit to Phosphorescent’s Beautiful Boy from his C’est La Viealbum. By the way, Phosphorescent is an “Athens, GA’s-own” musician and this entire album is great; I strongly recommend it. Thank you to my church friend who introduced me to Phosphorescent while chatting over coffee sometime last year— this friend is my connection to new music and I’d be forever lost in a 90s music echo loop without him. Again, thank you to my friend who finally won the Apple versus PC debate— it only took a brain tumor for me to get over myself. Thanks also to my friend the excellent audio-visual engineer who also serves as my instant self-esteem booster whether I ask for it or not.
This was a project I had the idea for a while back, before the brain surgery, before the cancer diagnosis. I really wanted to make a music video featuring my kids. One for each kid that I really connected with and had a message I would want to say to them. The brain surgery and cancer diagnosis made the need for this project very urgent. I’ve been working on this since I got back from the hospital. There are two videos. One for Mina and one for Will. Next week will be Will’s.
Credit to Ben Fold’s Gracie from his Songs for Silverman album. Thank you to my friend who finally won the Apple versus PC debate after I realized iMovie was what stuff like this was made for. I bought a MacBook Pro and made these little videos. It was not difficult and I look forward to making more. Thanks also to my friend who is an excellent audio-visual engineer and helped me determine ideal timing and zooming and all of those things that a rookie like me has no clue about.
About a month before I was hospitalized, I was running up a mountain in 34 degree weather on a Saturday morning. 3.5 miles up and 3.5 miles down. I was not concerned about my finishing time— only finishing (Which I did. My time, if you’re curious, was 2 hours and 45 minutes.) In November of 2018, I completed my second Spartan Sprint race with my college friend Thomas. I liked challenging myself physically even though I had to work hard to be average. (I think it’s important for everyone to find something like this. It makes us grow, and humbles us at the same time.) I was mapping out the year in terms of training and when I could do Spartan Super and Beast races in order to make the list of Trifecta (completing all three Spartan races) in 2019, before I turned 40.
Then I had brain surgery. All of that disappeared in a series of 6 days. After the surgery I still wanted some activity. I could walk around the hospital floor for 1 or 2 laps, but that was all. I starting searching for “seated Tai Chi” videos on youtube. I quickly found David-Dorian Ross and starting practicing Tai Chi right there in my hospital bed. It felt liberating. There is also a certain dovetailing of Tai Chi into the deep meditation practices I was developing. Somehow this was all coming together.
Tai Chi Qigong is a slow moving art form of body movement and breathing. It focuses on the concept of “qi” (pronounced “chi”), the idea of an “animating power that permeates the universe and all living things.” (I understand this is a big buy. Either buy-in or move on.) There is emphasis on the breath (which I feel is critical) and slow movement. During my recovery I’ve been forced to do things slow. I keep finding more and more value in this. And now this form of light exercise celebrates slow movement. There is an ineffable grace to the unison of the breathing and movement through the Tai Chi forms. I have found great value in two particular seated Tai Chi videos (see Resources at the bottom). I have also started some standing Tai Chi but am going very slowly. This is a daily practice for me unless doctor appointments don’t allow me the time necessary.
I experimented with some videos outside of David-Dorian Ross but Paige will tell you how upset I was when some of these videos didn’t even mention breathing. Breathing is so important! If you have any interest in Tai Chi I heavily suggest you start by looking up some David-Dorian Ross videos on youtube and subscribe to his channel.
There is another development happening with Tai Chi that appeals to me. David-Dorian Ross was inactive for a period of months. He had a tumor in his lower jaw / neck that was removed. It sounded like this was a time of serious introspection for him. It was amazing to me hearing this after my brain tumor and surgery. But he has been working behind the scenes on a big development in Tai Chi. He has been working with the US Department of Veterans Affairs to find a way to provide free Tai Chi to veterans. Part of this is making sure that Tai Chi teachers received appropriate compensation for their teachings. The details are still developing but I think it’s all very exciting. And who knows? I could be a Tai Chi teacher in the near future.
I’ve been shocked that there is not a daily Tai Chi resource available. I am exploring the possibility of using Twitch (the video game streaming service) to live stream Tai Chi lessons or seated Tai Chi lesson daily. I’ll keep you updated on this. I want to share this with as many people as I can since it has helped me so much.
Lastly, I’d like to share this Tai Chi poem by the Chinese poet, Li Bai. I’ve tried to find the source for this but can’t. If anyone knows the title of the poem, or where it’s from please let me know (formatting is my own attempt at reproduction, apologies for any discrepancies with the original poem). David-Dorian Ross shares this poem in his introduction to the Daily Practice video series.
I take my body and breath, And I go to play beneath the trees and the mountains. We are always three, Counting the sky and my friend the nurturing Earth Happily, the sky does not judge me, And the Earth gives me lessons.
After class, students and teachers go their separate ways, But this sadness I do not know, When I go home, The Earth goes with me, And the sky follows me.
https://taijifit.net David-Dorian Ross’s Tai Chi page (includes information about the development of the Tai Chi for Veterans program)
T’ai Chi Daily Practice, 8-episode video series with David-Dorian Ross and Daisy Lee Garripoli. This took me a while to find. It’s the only “daily” Tai Chi video series I’ve been able to find and liked. So far it’s been a good foundation.
https://www.joshwaitzkin.com/josh Chess prodigy Josh Waitzkin (who the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer was based on) and his transition to mastering and competing in Tai Chi Chuan (a martial art form of Tai Chi). His book, The Art of Learning, is incredible and a great read even if you have little interest in Tai Chi. Buy it and devour it.