A New Hobbyhorse: The Clarinet

Blog-ites, welcome.

Hi there.

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For many years past, I have had an attraction towards wind instruments. As if by some psychomancy and gramarye, I have felt the music sprites calling to me, beckoning me into picking one of them up and giving them a try. However, I had never gotten around to it; it is as if I needed a catalyst to spark the reaction—and luckily for me, this happened last month.

I went to a friend’s house who had started playing the clarinet a few weeks prior. I was excited to get to hear a song, up-close and personal, to really see what it sounded like. I hadn’t heard one played on it’s own since high school. When I got to her house, I was able to sit down, and listen, without any distractions: love at first sound.

After the first song, I asked to have a go at it. I couldn’t even sit back and listen to more songs at that instant: I just wanted to take the clarinet and try it. I got to play—more like producing raucous squeaks—for a few minutes, and then I handed the clarinet back to my friend. I told her ”I wouldn’t be surprised if I bought a clarinet tomorrow”.

And can you guess what I did the next day?

Well, from the title of the post and your utmost enthusiasm, the answer seems quite obvious.

I wanted to give you a chance of guessing!

Why, thank you.

And so yes, the next day I posted on Facebook, saying I was looking for a wind instrument (clarinet, saxophone, etc.). My brother’s friend messaged me the same day, telling me he had a clarinet to sell. I responded an ecstatic yes, and he brought me the clarinet two days later.

He showed me some of the basics when he swung by to drop off the clarinet. Not long after, I dedicated a few 1-2 hour sessions to my new baby, practicing note fingering and learning to blow without squeaking to the best of my capabilities.

I wonder how your neighbors feel about your new baby.

So far, no complaints. Fingers crossed.

You’d better cross them good with all those squeaks you are talking about.

Moving on.

Since then, I have been playing 2-3 times a week, which I know is a pennyworth in the grand scheme of things, but every time I get it in my hands and start playing, time perception seems to warp and shift, as if those occult spirits and kobolds—whom I mentioned in the first paragraph—were thanking me for finally taking note of their plea.

I am happy to have bought a clarinet, and I’d like to learn to play properly before reaching senectitude. I already went to take one class two weeks ago to assure my embouchure and tonguing was alright.

And so to aid in that endeavor presently, I’m off to play a little bit after this post!

What is your favorite instrument? Have you ever tried it before?

Music-note: tuh-tuh-tuhhhh—squeeeak (what I will have a tendency to do for some time to come).

LIFT: A Great Non-Profit Organization

Dear Naylor blog-ites,

Welcome back.

Who said we ever left?

Aww, so sweet.

Dont get ahead of yourself now.

Janus-faced, as always.

To the subject at hand—or, should I say keyboard—: LIFT.

 

In a nutshell, LIFT is a registered non-profit organization specialized in guiding and supporting healthy youth development, in order to prevent substance use disorders, delinquency and high-school drop outs (taken from LIFT’s website).

LIFT organizes two adult retreats a year, from which all profits go to organizing retreats for youth. The adult retreats last one weekend, normally from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon.

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LIFT participants and volunteers – November 2017

The main focus of the weekend is taking care of one’s self, by means of meditation, yoga, osteopathy, healthy eating, and relaxation.

One of my close friends Antoine—whom I met during my osteopathic studies—joined the LIFT team a few years back. When he told me about the organization’s mission and motives, I was enthralled, and I wanted to take a part in it right away; however, at the time, they were not in the need of extra hands—pun intended.

So I lifted LIFT out of my head for the time being.

Nice dad joke.

Several months later, I was asked to come to the second adult retreat organized by LIFT—which took place in early 2017 and at which I volunteered at—to offer osteopathic consultations and workshops on maintaining good bodily health.

You can imagine that my answer was an ecstatic yes!

It was a rich experience, in which I relaxed profoundly, disconnected from technology, and made a handful of deep connections with the volunteers and participants at the retreat.

This past weekend, I volunteered once again—at the third adult retreat organized by LIFT thus far—, and had another inspiring weekend.

A Little Summary Of The Weekend

The weekend begins on Friday afternoon. The participants are asked to arrive sometime in the afternoon, between 4:00 PM and 5:00 PM. The two retreats that I volunteered at took place at Au tournant du coeur, located in Sutton.

Once all the participants have arrived, supper is served. On cooking duty for the weekend is Meesh Coles, a holistic chef, from British Columbia, who is aided in the kitchen by her hard-working companion and lover, Ben Sbrollini, a co-founder of LIFT. They labor non-stop, all weekend—and I mean, all weekend—in the kitchen, preparing sumptuous dishes beyond your imagination.

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Meesh, hard at work in the kitchen at Au tournant du coeur

After supper, everyone goes up to the large meditation room to participate in the opening circle. Participants are given the choice to speak up if they’d like, with emphasis on what they think they can contribute to the weekend. The LIFT team also explains the proposed schedule for the weekend, and goes over some other important information—information not pertinent to this blog post.

A short restorative yoga class is then given by Jeanne Mudie, one of the owners of Ashtanga Yoga, located in Montreal.

On the morrow: a morning walk on the Arcadian property of Au tournant du coeur, breakfast, mindfulness meditation—given by Elvis Grahovic, a mindfulness meditation teacher based in Montreal—, yoga, lunch, a hike, supper, and some more yoga.

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Elvis and some participants, sitting the meditation room

All throughout the weekend, osteopathic consultations were offered to participants who were interested in receiving one. They were offered by yours truly, the writer of the Jonathan Naylor Blog: Jonathan Naylor, an osteopath from Montreal.

Talking about yourself in the third person? Haughty mister.

Sunday’s schedule was: morning walk, breakfast, mindfulness meditation, yoga, the closing circle, and lunch.

The closing circle is always an emotional intrapersonal and interpersonal event, in which participants are asked to share anything and everything they have in mind. Several tissues are needed to wipe the flow of tears that inevitably ensue, occurring with one participant beginning the waterfall, and several others hoping aboard and aiding the stream of blotted rivulets.

After lunch, the bags are packed, and everyone says goodbye, wishing they could spend another week at the amazing Au tournant du coeur.

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The view from the main room, Au tournant du coeur

The two days spent were rich emotionally, tiring and relaxing physically, and all around peaceful. I always have trouble leaving Au tournant du coeur‘s gorgeous landscape, but such is life.

I can’t wait to do the next retreat, which will be with the youth in January.

Excitement level: very high!

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LIFT participants and volunteers – November 2017

Have you ever volunteered at a retreat? Or have you been to a retreat as a participant before?

Side-note: you will LIFT up the youth, and the youth will LIFT up the world.

Low Back Pain Part 2: The Core

Hello blog-ites,

Hola.

This is part 2 in my Low Back Pain series. Here is the first part if you haven’t read it: Low Back Pain Part 1: How To Stretch Your Hamstrings.

What Is The Core?

The part of the core I will focus on in this post is the abdominal muscle: the transversus abdominis. I will not cover the other parts of the core, such as the back muscles and the thoracic diaphragm.

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The proper functioning of this muscle is essential in avoiding low back pain and maintaining a healthy low back. It acts as a natural belt that allows the lower back to function optimally, while diminishing the risks of having pain—something all too many people have.

The transversus abdominis is relatively easy to strengthen, and can be done from the comfort of your home—and of course, at the gym as well.

Working The Core: The Plank

One of the most effective exercises for it is the plank.

To do the plank, place your feet together, in the same position as if you were going to do push-ups. Support yourself on your forearms, at about shoulder width. While doing the plank, you want to maintain a straight line that goes from your feet to your head. You want to avoid having an arched butt—that is, a butt sticking up—or a curved lower back—pelvis tilting and shifting towards the ground.

You can start by doing the plank on you knees; again, it is important to maintain a good posture, and not arch your back or tilt forward. I often ask my patients to begin with three sets of 30 seconds on the knees, three to five times a week. I tell them to progressively build up to three sets of one minute. Once that is easy enough, I ask them to change from their knees to their feet, and to begin again with three times 30 seconds, and progress up to three times one minute as explained previously.

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Another Important Factor For Low Back Health: Contracting The Transversus Abdominis When You Lift Objects

Having a strong core is great and all, and of utmost important for taking care of your lower back, but you must also consciously contract the transversus abdominis while doing activities that could hurt your back. The most common of these activities is lifting objects—and I mean lifting of any sorts, whether it be a heavy box or a small baby toy off the ground.

When lifting an object, it is always important to bend the knees and avoid flexing forward with your back curved frontwards. Also, the entire time that the object is lifted up—AKA: you are holding it—you want to slightly contract your abdomen inwards. To do so, gently pull your belly button inwards, and maintain this slight contraction the entirety of the time the object is in your hands—a contraction of about 30% of your maximum belly-button inwards contraction is enough.

Summary

  • The core is important for low back health.
  • Strengthening the transversus abdominis is easy: the plank—on knees or feet—will allow you to strengthen it.
  • Bending your knees when lifting objects instead of bending your back forward is a must—a must!
  • Contracting your transversus abdominis when you are lifting objects is also important—to do so, gently suck your belly button inwards, as if you were trying to bring it closer to your spine.

Have you ever had low back pain? If so, what helped you get through it?

Low-back-note: 5. The magic number is 5. Unless you are a cat, in which case 7 is the magic number.

Have You Ever Recorded Sound Effects?

Greetings, Naylor blog-ites.

Greetings.

I spent the past weekend at a cottage, making the teaser trailer for Abyss Crew.

The goal for the weekend was the following:

  • Film the videos for the trailer—I was lending my awesome acting skills for this;
  • Sync up the video and audio recordings;
  • Do the montage for the trailer;
  • Record and edit the sounds for the trailer;
  • Put the created audio in sync with the different sections of the trailer.

Prior to going to the cottage—we went from Friday afternoon to Monday morning—, we planned two long hikes: one on Saturday and one on Sunday. Turns out we only hiked on Saturday. It was a 4-5 hour hike, up Mont-Orford. We decided to skip on the Sunday hike; we had much more work to do than initially planned.

Cottage_2.jpgDamien, Pol, Fanny, and myself, in our ‘office’ – The Famous Abyss Crew Team

With regards to the trailer, here is what we did:

  • Friday late afternoon and evening: discussion about the script, the plans for the weekend, and the video recordings to be done.
  • Saturday: setup of the recording area, and recording of the video and audio for the trailer.
  • Sunday: recording of all the audio in the cottage to be used as sound effects—my favorite discovery of the weekend, hence the title of this post—, montage of the video, editing of the audio recordings, and adding the initial audio effects to the trailer.
  • Monday morning: syncing up the sound effects with the trailer, tweaking of final details and bugs, and final export of the video.

It was a weekend packed with learning, physical activity, laughs, long discussions, debates, early rises and late crashes, board games, and cooking. I’d do it again anytime!

What about the recording of the sound effects? This is a long prelude to your main topic.

Impatient, as always. I’m getting there.

Good.

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We recorded sounds in several areas of the house. Damien (black shirted stud in the picture) and Fanny (in the picture above) experimented for an hour or two, with pots, woks, water, knives, glasses, and anything you can think of.

Once they had finished, we all gathered in the bathroom for the recording session. We recorded water splashing in pots and pans, water falling gently and constantly into a pan filled with water, screeching of pan covers on the bath tub surface, hits and bangs on surfaces dulled with towels, and more.

After, we recorded the fridge hum, glasses hitting glasses, knuckle-flicks on the old-school television screen, knife hits, and more and more, and some more.

I have always wanted to live the experience of recording sound effects, and this was my first experience of this. I lavished in it, and hearing the final teaser trailer was thrilling, sending goose-flesh down my arms. I also managed to learn a good deal about Adobe Premiere, seeing as I was put in charge of doing the montage.

When the trailer is ready, I will write a short post sharing it.

Have you ever done sound effect recording? If so, what was the most innovative sound you recorded? If not, what would be the most innovative sound you would want to record?

Audio-note: hummmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Meditation – Part 1

Morning, Earth beings.

Two months ago, I volunteered at Camp LIFT. Their mission statement is:

“To foster optimal development in youth, by educating them on holistic principles of healthy minds, bodies and relationships. To promote fundamental values surrounding global health in order to reduce the incidence of addiction, delinquency, and school dropouts”.

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It was a seven day sleep away camp, for youths aged 14 to 17 years old. I volunteered on the first day and the last day; I picked up some of the teenagers in Montreal on the first day, drove them to the camp, stayed there to sleep the first night, came home on the morrow, returned on the last day to hang out with them, and drove three of them home the day after that.

During the first evening, we all gathered up in a circle so that the youths could hear the schedule for the week. Amongst two hours of daily sports, morning meditation, yoga, and healthy eating, there was also a 6:00 AM wake-up scheduled for every morning, not easy tasks for teenagers who do not live this lifestyle regularly.

I used to get up around 5:30-6:30 quite often in the past, because of school; however, since school finished almost two years ago, I had not been in that groove anymore. I was getting up somewhere between 7:30-10:00, and I missed being up early—I feel my most productive time of the day is between 5:00 and 11:00.

The next morning, I woke up with them at 6:00 AM, meditated, broke my fast, and then drove home. I couldn’t stay for the week because I had work.

I thought about the teenagers a lot when I got home; I had already become attached to many of them, and so I decided I would stay with them in spirit: I recorded a short video, explaining how I would get up at 6:00 every morning of the week, and meditate on my own, to support them in this endeavor.

Every morning that week, without fail, I was up at 6:00—my alarm was actually 6:01, but no one needs to know that, except my awesome readers—to go meditate at the park next to my house.

This expedition was at the beginning of August, and I have kept up with morning meditation ever since, save three days due to feeling frail and sickly. I do not get up at 6:00 every morning though; instead, I put my alarm on seven hours and 30 minutes after I get to bed. Chiefly, it varies between 6:30 and 8:00, which I largely prefer over 9:00 or 10:00, which is the loophole I had fallen into.

Excuse me. The title of this post is ‘How To Meditate’, not ‘Here Is A Personal Anecdote Of Mine’.

Picky, as always.

I am getting to that presently.

I have three different meditation routines, of which I alternate between each morning. For example: I will do meditation 1 on Monday, meditation 2 on Tuesday, meditation 3 on Wednesday, and loop around as of Thursday.

Today I shall explain one of these meditation techniques I use.

The Bubble Meditation

I discovered the bubble meditation while reading Lawrence LeShan’s book How To Meditate.

The goal of the bubble meditation is to be fully focused on your thoughts in the present moment, taking about six to ten seconds to observe each thought.

Here are the steps, described briefly:

  1. Sit down. Imagine that you are seated at the bottom of a lake. If this thought is too difficult for you, imagine you are sitting on a mountain-side, observing the environment ahead—in this case, it will not be a bubble meditation but more of a column of smoke meditation, which I shall explain very shortly.
  2. Close your eyes. Each time a thought comes to you, imagine that a bubble has formed at the bottom of the lake, in front of you, and that the thought you had is encompassed in the bubble. Then, observe the bubble as it rises higher and higher, until it is no longer visible—this should take about six to ten seconds. Do not judge, or try to understand why you are thinking of this; simply observe it. If you are imagining yourself sitting on a mountain-side, imagine a column of smoke rising instead of a bubble, with the same parameters as described previously.
  3. Do the same thing for the next thought, and so forth, always without judgement. Start with 10 minutes for several sessions, and then you can increase if you’d like, or not, it is entirely up to you.

The goal is to observe your thoughts in the present, without judging or trying to understand them.

Sometimes, the same thought will come back several times in a row. That is fine; just observe, and keep going. You might have instances where no thoughts emerge, and if that is the case, that is fine too. There are no set rules, besides observing your thoughts and doing nothing else.

I normally do this for ten to fifteen minutes. I never put a timer on at the park when I meditate, so I am ball-parking the duration. I used to put a ten minute timer on when I mediated at home several months ago, to help me not think about how long remained, and that way I could just focus on the task at hand, and nothing else—although I never managed to have a full ten minute session when my brain didn’t divagate at least several times.

There you have it.

Thank you.

Woah. A thank you. From you?

Don’t get used to it.

Next time I write about meditation I will share another method I use.

Do you meditate presently, or have you in the past? How did or does it make you feel?

Bubble-note: I’m simply observing my thought, over and over, of how I’d love for you to subscribe to my blog. And if not, that is fine; as I mentioned, I am only observing, and not judging.

 

What Is Your Essential Kitchen Tool?

All too often have I experienced the following: renting a cottage for a weekend, arriving with all the ingredients to cook some meals, opening the drawers and cupboards, and staring in disbelief, pondering: “Is this really what they have? I should have at least brought a few things from my kitchen”.

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I am someone who cooks two to three meals a day, therefore a decent amount of time is spent in the kitchen, chopping, mincing, tasting, mixing, cooking, dancing, and, obviously, eating.

Throughout the process of preparing a dish, from start to finish, many different tools are needed: knife—sometimes knives—, cutting board, pot, pan, mortar and pestle, pepper grinder, garlic press, citrus press, measuring cups, measuring spoons, colander, strainer, and the list goes on.

Presently, the question I pose is: which of these countless tools is the most important to have in great quality?

This decision boils down to a matter of opinion, and I will offer mine, seeing as this is my blog.

That it is. Glad you remember.

Deciding on a single tool is difficult; therefore, I will list my two most important kitchen tools to have in high-quality—in order of importance nonetheless:

  1. Knife: I cannot fathom cooking without a knife that slices and chops with ease, as if I was cleaving through butter with every downward motion. I own a Kasumi knife—courtesy of my superlative mother, who gifted it to me when I moved—as well as a Global G-56 —gifted to me by my awesome brother on my name day, two years past. Anytime I have been in a situation—as mentioned in the introductory paragraph—where I must use a dull blade to chop, slight annoyance ensues, gradually and swiftly evolving to frustration.
  2. Pan: What I look for in a pan is good heat conduction, spaciousness, and non-stick features. I have a 32 cm Biotan, which is my pride and joy in the kitchen; it keeps heat, has a tremendous amount of space, and nothing sticks to it. I have grown in love, and never have I been a perfidious lover, not once, since I have become its father.

Besides these, my next most important tool is a large cutting board—that does not move and swivel as I cut on it.

How about you: what is your most important kitchen tool?

Foot-note: I do not recommend using a Global Kasumi to cut a Biotan, nor using a Biotan to cook a Global Kasumi.

Codenames – The Board Game

Hello again all.

Hey there!

Being the avid board game player that I am, I felt like writing about one this week.

Can you guess which game that is?

Well, we did read the title.

Smart (alec), as always.

The game is Codenames.

Codenames is a word deduction game, for 2 to 8 players (best with 4, 6 or 8 players in my opinion), created by Vlaada Chvatil.

The players are divided into two teams. Both teams square off against one another, trying to find their own team’s hidden words before the other team does.

In each team, one player is assigned the “Master Spy” title, and all other players in that team are assigned the “Spy” title. The master spy sits across the table from his teammates (the spies in his team); both master spies sit on the same side of the table, whereas both team’s spies sit on the opposite side of the table.

25 words are placed in the center of table, in a 5×5 grid. The master spies have a plastic stand in which they place one of the many “Word Assigning” cards, facing them. This card must only be visible to them; the spies must have the backside of the card facing them, so that they cannot see where the words have been assigning.

This card assigns the 25 words on the table as follows: 9 words are assigned to one team (let’s say blue), 8 words are assigned to the other team (let’s say red), 7 words are assigned to no team (neutral words), and 1 word is assigned as the assassin (your team loses if you pick this word at any point during the game).

Below is the grid of 25 words, the assigning card standing up (bottom left, directly in front of the hourglass), and the coloured rectangle markers (bottom right)—which I will explain shortly—:

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The team with 9 words begins the game (they have one more word than the other team to guess seeing as they have the advantage of playing first).

So, how does the master spy give hints to his spies to help them guess the words?

Great question:

On his/her turn, the master spy is allowed to say only 1 word, followed by one number. The word is meant to orient his/her teammates to some of their words on the table; the number is meant to indicate how many cards on the table relate to the previously said word.

For example, if your team has the words TENNIS, BASKETBALL, and SOCCER, your hint could be as follows:

SPORT – 3.

This tells your teammates that there are 3 words of the 25 words on the table that you must guess that are related to SPORTS.

The spies discuss openly, deducting which words they think are the 3 that the master spy is alluding to. Once they have decided, one player touches the first card they would like to guess—normally the one your team is the most certain of. The master spy then puts a corresponding coloured rectangle marker (blue if it’s a blue team’s word, red if it’s a red team’s word, white if it is a neutral word, black if it is the assassin) over the chosen word. If the team guessed correctly, they now attempt to guess the second word; however, if the team guesses incorrectly, at any point, their turn is over, and they cannot guess any more words this turn. The turn then passes to the other team’s master spy, who must give one word and one number, hinting in the same fashion as described above.

Play continues like this until one team has covered all of their team’s words on the table, in which case they win, or if one team guesses the assassin, in which case they lose.

You mentioned an hourglass?

You don’t miss anything, do you?

Explain!

The 1-minute hourglass is turned over whenever a player feels that a decision is taking too long to be made. The team/player targeted by the hourglass must make his decision before the sand runs out.

Happy?

Grand.

Codenames is one of my favourite, easy-going—yet challenging—social games, and I got to play 7 times last night during the weekly game night that I host at my house. We had a blast, laughed like crazy, and I got beat in almost every time—but it was still a highly enjoyable experience.

If you like games such as Scrabble, Bananagrams, or any other word game, I strongly suggest you get this game; it is loads of fun, for families or friends, of all ages.

Have you ever played Codenames? If so, what did you think of it? If not, what is your favourite word game?

Foot-side: Codename hint for you : SUBSCRIBE – 1.