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Notes from the Accidental Exerciser

During the Distance, I’m not living in my own house. Full of gratitude, my attitude has been not to adapt but to take inspiration from the landscape and create new routes with myself.

The most dramatic development responds to the fact that California Girl is used to sunsets, but this house looks East at the ocean. I have swapped my preferred beach ritual of wading at sunset for rising at 05:00 to witness the sunrise.


(Of course this luxury of time flexibility is brought to me by The Milonga Dividend.*)
* The term 'milonga dividend' is a riff on 'the Peace Dividend' which was supposed to appear after the Cold War in Western countries who would be able to redirect a large portion of defense funding to social programs. It never made its much heralded appearance.

Sunrises are a totally different thing than sunsets. They are unwritten. They do not unburden romantic mythos onto us. They emanate no wistfulness or lack, no regret. They are an aperture, encouraging. Obviously, a beginning rather than an end. (Although as a sick tango dancer, I do recall willing the dark.)

This house overlooks the ocean. The balcón has a glass windscreen, always clouded by the salt air’s residue. For a clear view, I must stand at the railing. At first this induced impatience with my coffee, rather than contemplation.

One of my solutions to problems is multi-tasking. So I decided to stretch my legs on the railing while drinking coffee, contemplating, and writing in my notebook.

As a 14-year yogi, stretching is nothing new, although a couple of years ago I learned to appreciate passive yoga through Lucas Rockwood’s remarkable all-levels “Gravity Yoga” series. Stretching is great but NOT in the Morning!

But the Distance is full of lessons and I found myself happily stretching for up to an hour, quite a significant addition to my exercise routine.

And of course, being me, contemplating not only the ocean, coffee, sky, and notebook, but the stretching itself.

Stretching is healthy. To do it is to send a signal to all the wayward despairing or destructive parts of myself that energy and action will be focused on taking care of myself. It’s action for which I am the only beneficiary. Unlike so much “health” oriented activity, stretching does not involve buying supplements or consuming something. It’s 100% free endogenous resources, that you never run out of.

But there’s something more. At all levels of fitness, every stretch begins at the edge of your ability. Since the body is designed with a protective stretch-reflex, the first sensation is always panic.

Rockwood insists that stretches under 5 minutes don’t accomplish much. To increase our flexibility we need to stop fighting the stretch, relax, and let gravity slowly elongate our muscles.

The decision in panic to persist is a powerful one. It contains the confidence to survive pain and fear and the faith that it will give way to something good.


It’s so obvious that willpower has limits, especially with regard to deep wounds, compelling habits, and self-destruction. Many people find meditation or spiritual rituals more effective. I like to find rituals that don’t involve hallucination. I like to rearrange material things or relate to them in differently in ways that radiate, echo, and hopefully restructure my bad habits. Rather than doing an affirmation about overcoming fear, it seems useful to me to actually induce panic and get through it, every morning. To start every day discovering that I am stronger than I knew.

Another feature of the landscape here are dog gates. I don’t want to fuss with them, especially when I’m also carrying something, so I started stepping over them. When I arrived in March, this was daunting. I realized I needed to habituate a change of leg. Left leg first when moving North. Right leg first when moving South. After three months, I realize the relevant muscles (psoas and gluts) are much stronger.

Besides training important tango muscles, this makes it easier to lift my foot up onto the balcón railing…

As an avid amateur interior designer, I’m now thinking about how to turn my next house into an obstacle course.

Rainbows everywhere, even in the morning.

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