• Who am I?

    I am Qrystal; or at least, that's my dot-name! Har har. (My name is really Crystal, but that's not as internet-searchable; hence, switching the C for the little-used letter Q.)

    I am here because I enjoy writing. I do this mostly for myself, but I also have a passion for helping others learn things from the things I write. Now that I am done my Ph.D. in Physics, I am stepping away from academic research so that I can indulge in some creative ways to share my knowledge and inspire the appreciation of scientific thinking in others. I am also working as a tutor, which is one of the jobs I've most enjoyed doing in my life so far.

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  • Level Zero Shivanaut

    Posted by Qrystal on October 12, 2010 at 10:23.
    Category: Tools. Tags: diary, exercise, shiva nata, thesis.

    As described in my last post, I am starting to learn Shiva Nata, a mental exercise performed with physical motion.  Since the introductory material suggested that journalling my progress might help me better appreciate it, I figure I may as well share my thoughts on it publically in case there are others who are interested in what happens when just starting the very beginning of learning Shiva Nata.

    I am starting this log by documenting the very first day of ordering Havi Brooks’ Shiva Nata Starter Kit, which came with downloadable reading materials which allowed me to actively learn about Shiva Nata before getting to do the real thing. When the DVD comes, it will show me what Level 1 means, and once I try it, I will no longer be at Level Zero– and so, that is when I will publish this post.

    My first day – Fri Oct 01, ’10

    Hey, how convenient: my first day of Shiva Nata was also the first of the month! That will make it easy to keep track of things! :)

    On the first day, I read through the Getting Started report that came with the Starter Kit, and it suggested learning the hand positions in advance of receiving the DVD which will show how to use these positions.  I started with just learning the horizontal ones, running through them a few times to practice feeling what it’s like to make the transitions from each to the next in sequence.  And then I stopped, because I didn’t want to hurt myself:  my wrists tend to hurt on a regular basis, so I wanted to be careful about straining them.  I felt pretty good after this though, and the tingling in my wrists seemed to be mild enough that it was like an affirmation that I was doing something good (both in the doing, and the stopping).

    Later, when I was biking down an empty street, I took my hands off the handlebars to stretch like I often do, and I found myself going through the motions of the horizontal positions!  I laughed to myself about how I thought my memory would be burdened by having to remember how they go.  As I thought about this more, it occurred to me that maybe I just don’t trust myself enough to remember things, but that if I gave myself the benefit of the doubt, I would probably remember more things, more often.  I am going to count this as my first mini-epiphany!

    My second day – Sat Oct 02, ’10

    I went through the horizontal positions again, still delighting in the fact that I remember them.  Also, I was thinking about how pretty the motion is of cycling between the positions.  I started watching my shadow, to see if my arms were approaching the angles I was hoping they were, because I want my muscles to remember as correctly as possible. Always improving is an excellent target too though, I think!

    Then I learned the vertical positions, which are mostly easier, except one of them which feels like a crazy contortion that is beyond what I am capable of doing.  Luckily, I happened upon a very recent article about arm positions on the Shiva Nata blog, and discovered that the positions themselves are approximations, and that everyone finds their own right way to do them.  What is important (or what will be, once I get into the pattern part of Shiva Nata) is the mental exercise involved in learning and trying and practicing.  So, so what if my hands aren’t quite vertical in position three… they aren’t in position four either, and that one I’m doing “by the book”!  In fact, I am doing V3 and V4 with very similar hand angles, which seems like a beautiful thing that I am going to appreciate just the way it is.

    And then, with a bit of a giggle, I decided to challenge myself to go one baby step further:  I went through the horizontal positions in reverse order.  It felt intriguingly different, and yet my mind lapped up the challenge as if it was delicious.  I’m pretty sure I giggled a little bit when I got through the reverse motions the first time (okay, maybe the second and third time too).

    So, this baby-stepping shivanaut-in-training is going to be so ready for the DVD when it comes! :) (I’ll let myself claim to be a shivanaut once I do my first pattern-y thing of Level 1. For now, “in training” works for me!)

    My third day – Sun Oct 03, ’10

    Today I reviewed the horizontal and vertical hand positions, cycling through in order and in reverse order. I tried going fairly quickly, feeling myself flow between positions, sometimes not thinking about it and sometimes finding myself messing up. Was I challenging my mind, or letting it wander? It was hard to say, but since I’m just practicing remembering the positions, I figure I need this part to become instinctive, so my mind is allowed to wander (for now).

    Then I tried quizzing myself on the hand positions, saying a number and direction (horizontal and vertical) without thinking of the position as something in a numerical sequence (so, to think of the fourth horizontal position, I was trying not to think about how the first three lead up to it).  This was tougher than going through the positions in order, and so I could tell that it was a good idea.  I definitely need to do this again!  (If I had a familiar programming environment handy, I bet I could easily come up with something that will randomly pop up a letter H or V and number from 1 through 4, thus making it impossible to predict the next move!)

    I read a bit more of the documentation too, and it occurred to me that I haven’t quite given myself the opportunity to sit quietly afterwards and let my mind absorb what it has done.  I must remind myself to do that next time, because I can see how it will be useful, and I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of incorporating some meditation into my daily routine.  Maybe the mental and physical flailing will, as some of the other shivanauts have reported, help my mind resist flitting around between thoughts like it tends to do.

    My fourth day – Mon Oct 04, ’10

    This was a pretty full day, and had some pretty wretched happenings in the afternoon, which got soothed (along with the usual mid-afternoon peckishness) by a beautiful and delicious, sweet and fruity snack.  But even the snack didn’t have me convinced I was feeling ready to practice Shiva Nata positions, even though I had been excited about it earlier, when I got the email saying the DVD was in the mail.  So instead, I read at the Shiva Nata blog, looking for something to consider while  doing today’s practice (thus sparking the practice to happen).

    What I discovered was a cautionary tale that rang so true with me, I could almost hear a gong sound reverberating inside my head.  Apparently, a type of epiphany common to shivanauts is one that seems to make so much sense, it makes people feel “like an idiot for not coming up with it sooner”, as Havi writes in a blog post about a mini-epiphany she had. Which makes me wonder, why do we minimize our epiphanies by appending ‘mini’ to them?  I did it too!  Is it because I felt like an idiot for not realizing my epiphany sooner, and I’m minimizing to turn it into not such a big deal?  Hmm! Someone in the comments of the article admitted that he found himself avoiding Shiva Nata because the epiphanies were making him feel dumb, and here is where I realized something about myself:  I really don’t like feeling dumb, and so there’s a good chance I would be susceptible to this.  In fact, I think there’s a very good chance that I already ignore some of my better inspirations and judgements because to acknowledge them involves admitting great stupidity.

    This pattern of mine is a big part of my anxiety, I think.  I know better, but am not yet doing better, and it seems stupid and so I am ready to depart from this pattern but it’s really hard to just shake out of it.  I’m hoping that Shiva Nata can act as a keystone to help all the other plans fit into place, or maybe a lens to focus attention or energy, or even just an air intake valve to permit the sparks to ignite, or any combination of these or anything else that helps me figure out a way out of this pattern.  Heck, maybe I’ll have an inspiration that helps me finally accept that it doesn’t help to think about things much beyond the point where it’s best to just do something instead.

    Hmm. I should try that. Just DO the Shiva Nata. Then sit. Then DO some thesis. Trust that it will all work out, somehow, especially if the thesis (and the thesis-writer) is getting regular attention.

    [Later:] I ended up not getting around to doing the Shiva Nata until almost dinnertime, when I was hovering in the kitchen, watching and stirring things occasionally.  It does make for a nice activity to pass the time while it’s not a good idea to leave the kitchen, and while there isn’t really much to do while in there.  I just went through sequences of hand positions, all still symmetric with both hands doing the same thing, in patterns to practice transitions from each position to each of the others (so, 1 to 2, 1 to 3, 1 to 4, 2 to 1, 2 to 3, 2 to 4, 3 to 1, 3 to 2, 3 to 4, 4 to 1, 4 to 2, 4 to 3), for the horizontal ones and then the verticals.

    Again, though, I didn’t sit down to let the results sink in, but I didn’t really felt like I did anything hard today so maybe there were no results to absorb. Or maybe I was just hungry and wanted to eat my dinner when it was ready. :)

    My fifth day – Tue Oct 05, ’10

    Today I started my practice early, because I want it to become a habit for me to reach for it eagerly, instead of letting it go undone for most of the day, allowing feelings of guilt to fester.  I took a break from practice to write down yesterday’s ‘Later’ efforts, and to jot down what I have done (and am about to continue doing) today.

    I’ve been thinking over the past day or so that maybe I am more creative than I give myself credit for.  I mean, I keep thinking I’m not sure what I’ll do next with these Shiva Nata hand positions, and I keep coming up with new patterns to try out.  There is a point I won’t cross, though:  I like thinking that if I keep my hands doing the same things all the time, I’m saving my ultimate confusion for when the DVD instructs me to do differently. :)

    So far this morning, I found myself forming groups of four positions, and then repeating each group a few times until it flows nicely, so usually at least three or four repetitions.  In a group, I always include one of each number, but not necessarily in sequence, and not necessarily all horizontal or all vertical.  My plan for immediately after I’m done writing is to continue doing this, but make each repetition of a group a bit faster.  And then I will sit, and see how that goes, and then I will do my work for the day, and see how that goes.

    My sixth day – Wed Oct 06, ’10

    I did a minimal practice today, just going through the positions in order a few times forwards and backwards. Not feeling all that well, but at least the practice didn’t make things worse. The only help I could sense was the relief that I didn’t have to worry about the fact that I hadn’t practiced today yet.  I’m not sure why I wasn’t in the mood to mix things up with varying patterns, but if that’s where I am today, so be it.

    My seventh day – Thu Oct 07, ’10

    I skipped practice altogether, and I’m trying not to feel bad about it because the reason I skipped it was because I’ve been feeling physically unwell (worse than yesterday).  I did dream about doing Shiva Nata positions, though, and there were some interesting thoughts that came out of it anyways, so… maybe I didn’t really skip it after all.

    In the dream, the DVD had arrived (yay!) and so I put it on and started to learn about what the  next steps were. What I found was that the actual steps were the same simple things I’ve already been doing, and so I was annoyed that I wasn’t learning anything new, or that my initial guesses of neat warm-up ideas were not different from the real thing after all.  I was annoyed at the fact that my dream practice was still stuck in symmetric-hands mode, even after getting the DVD.  I wanted a challenge!

    I don’t usually yearn for challenge, so waking up to this feeling was strange to me.   I wondered if the dream meant I was afraid I would get bored of Shiva Nata, or if it the dream was an expression of fear about something completely different: my thesis, and the fear was that my calculations wouldn’t help discover anything new at all after all.  Or maybe it was an expression of my stuckness, repeating the same stuck patterns over and over and over.  Hmmm!

    My eighth day – Fri Oct 08, ’10

    Still feeling physically troubled, I seriously contemplated skipping the exercise again, but then decided to go ahead and try it anyways. After all, I’ve been starting to see that one of my patterns is how I put things off, everything from starting work for the day, to answering an email or making a phone call, to getting ready to leave the house, to doing Shiva Nata– yes, yesterday’s omission was not fully intentional; I just never got around to it and then it was too late and I was sad about that. (Oh! Maybe this is like a lesson about what happens if I don’t do the things I want to do: I may run out of time and become sad I missed the chance!)

    Also, I’ve been having so many “moments of bing” (as they’re called on the Shiva Nata blog) and I want to make sure they continue!  Especially since I encountered another article there about how epiphanies can really seem like obvious, “stoopid” things sometimes, but it explains how the experience of Shiva Nata epiphanies is so visceral, it’s like understanding at a whole new level.  This gave me hope that maybe my epiphanies (even the pre-Shiva Nata ones, since I definitely wasn’t lacking in those, just lack of making them click, or something) really will be useful to me, because instead of just knowing something, I’ll know it in my bones, and thus maybe I’ll be better able to apply it.

    So, not putting it off any more, I’m going to do my shivanuttery practice RIGHT NOW~! …Ahhhh, now I feel better, at least a little bit.  I noticed myself still not feeling inclined to go in mixed-up numerical order, and I’m not sure why. (Pattern? Wanting to stick to what is comfortable?)  I also found myself doing the in-order stuff really, really quickly, even if I changed which number I started on or the direction I was going.  So, hmm, the challenge is definitely diminishing.  I guess I’ll go back to mixing up the order of positions if/when I practice this weekend, because since it’s Friday today, I guess I won’t get the DVD until Tuesday at the earliest (thanks to the Thanksgiving long weekend).

    For something new today, I tried bending at the waist so my horizontals were now vertical and my verticals were something else entirely.  I wasn’t sure if this would seem all that different, but I was surprised that it did trip me up a little bit: I mixed up my horizontals and verticals!  Am I associating these notions with the direction of gravity, then, instead of the line of my body?  If so, YAY for my physical understanding of those terms as we use them in physics!  :) I couldn’t stay in that bent-over pose for long (funny bloodrush, oo!) but the stretch in reaching down with the vertical hand positions felt good physically.

    My ninth and tenth days – Sat & Sun Oct 09 & 10, ’10

    A busy weekend with family and friends left me without much time to myself, so I opted not to do Shiva Nata.  I did, however, have a fantastic idea for a novel, one that connects together a lot of different ideas that I’ve had in the past. If the documentation about Shiva Nata is right about how mental connections are easier to form after physically playing with patterns of arm positions, perhaps this novel idea counts as a shivanautical epiphany!

    Alas, I won’t feel right taking the time to write this novel until after I’m done my thesis, because there will be a lot of research involved for it.  It might be important enough, though, to do before all the other ideas I have for books.  It is THAT big.

    My eleventh day – Mon Oct 11, ’10

    I just did a little bit of practicing Shiva Nata positions (in order, nothing complicated, but I did it slower and more deliberate, while looking in reflective glass cupboard doors to ensure my arms had good form) as a break from work, but before that, I did some serious inward contemplation that helped me understand a bit more about why working on my thesis intimidates me so much.  It was definitely a good, solid step towards finding out more about the pattern I want to unravel with my Shiva Nata practice.

    My twelfth day – Tue Oct 12, ’10

    Today, I was all gung ho about reading stuff while I continue to eagerly await the DVD. (It’s international shipping, over a long weekend, so it taking a long time is expected.)  For some reason, I haven’t been wanting to explore too much unknown territory on my own, maybe still out of the fear that I’ll figure out so much on my own that I won’t like the DVD or something. No, that doesn’t feel quite right, but there is something like that holding me back.

    In my reading at the Shiva Nata blog, though, I found a pattern to try out!  Most steps in the pattern have both hands in the same place, so it isn’t a huge step from where I was with my own patterns; the main difference though is how the whole pattern itself is bigger:  it’s got groups of four, and always one of each number in a set, but it has four groups of four to make sixteen steps.  Just four of the sixteen steps have each hand doing a different thing, but these poses fit so nicely into the spiralling pattern of sequential numbers, and there is a lovely symmetry in how they are implemented.

    And OH BOY was I giggling as I started to get it!  It DOES feel like a dance when it gets flowing!  And it IS delightfully fun to fumble around with patterns that slowly become the ones intended!  AND I even remembered to sit afterwards and let myself absorb what I had done!  Yay, me!

    I guess by my own criteria set forth in the intro to this post, I am now officially a Shivanaut because I have now done an actual patterny sequencey thing, and so I can’t say I’m at Level Zero anymore.  I’m not sure if I’m at Level One or not though, but I won’t find out until– Oh!  YAY!  THERE’S THE MAIL DELIVERY LADY, AND SHE HAS A DVD-SIZED PADDED-LOOKING ENVELOPE IN HER HANDS AS SHE WALKS UP TO MY PORCH!

    I wait for her to move on to the next house, and take a few breaths to calm myself before opening the door, hoping not to squee! too loudly if it is, indeed, the Shiva Nata DVD.  I slowly, calmly open the door and reach towards the mailbox, calmly, slowly extracting the package.  I can’t see the label on it because there is other mail held against it with a rubber band.  As I step back inside and start closing the door behind me, I slowly, calmly peek underneath the other mail that is in the way, and “EEEEEE, HEEHEEHEE!” I erupt in squee, not quite managing to get the door closed before I let loose with that (oops? ahhh who cares, IT’S HERE IT’S HERE!).

    Somehow, I manage to finish writing this before tearing open the envelope.  But now, I’m going to post this post, and start a new post for my impressions of the DVD. SQUEEEE! :)

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