Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving Trip to Maryland

Three of the last four years Amanda and I have traveled to Maryland to see her family there during the Thanksgiving break.  I've always enjoyed these trips very much and this year's was the best yet.  I feel incredibly blessed to have been welcomed into her very loving family.

We traveled down on Wednesday after sleeping over at her Mom's and Step-dad's on Tuesday night.  We left at the ungodly hour of 6AM but it paid off by us beating most of the traffic and arriving in the early afternoon.

We had the traditional Thanksgiving feast on Thursday and then went to the Washington zoo on Friday.  The weather was unseasonably warm each day.  This was my third time going to this zoo and I was impressed again by the diversity and the fact that it's free to go!  Here we are about to enter:

Most of us agreed the best exhibit was of the great cats.  I've seen them before but had never hit it when the lion was really strutting his stuff!  He was very active and also very vocal.  His roars got everyone's attention!

He disappeared briefly...

but then soon reappeared...

I counted nine female lions in the den next to his.  Here are some of them:

and a tiger:

and red pandas:

After the zoo we went to this cool pizza place that featured tables resembling those for playing ping pong and there were five real ping pong tables in the back.  I got the clam pizza:

Amanda got one with spinach and other toppings:

I played some spirited games afterwards with various members of the family.  I hadn't played in a long time and it was a lot of fun!

On Saturday we went to see a movie and then took some photos at a nearby lake:

All the family gathered in the evening for another meal together and a (mostly) surprise baby shower for us!!  We were overwhelmed by the generous outpouring of love and gifts.  Thank you so much everyone!  There were several activities connected to the baby that were also fun such as bib making and trying to guess Amanda's current waist size.  Rajni won!

We also took a few more family photos there:

It was another 6AM leave time today but we beat the traffic successfully again.  We're tired but have many happy memories of Thanksgiving 2011.  We look forward to having our son join us in celebrating next year!

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Generic Hair Post

It's been a long time since I've had a purely haircentric post so we must remedy that!  I did a thorough detangling tonight then my wife brushed it through with a boar bristle brush to distribute the oil.  Must.Get.Back.To.Coconut.Oilings!!!

Started with the braided halftail:

Then it slowly unwound..

Classic length remains an ever-elusive goal but I still I have a glimmer of hope of its eventual realization.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Weight Check-in November 2011

I've made a little more progress.  I got down to a low of 155.6 but that may have been influenced by consecutive days of hard cycling.  Today I weighed in at 160.0.  I base it also on how my clothes are fitting.  Size 32s are now hanging loose.

Here are today's progress photos:

I continue on with paleo eating with some degree of cheating.  I'm consuming local raw honey for its purported benefits in helping building immunity to allergens.  I'm also eating dark chocolate.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Chant Festival

I’ve always had an interest in yoga, some for its physical benefits but even more for its calming, spiritual element.  Upon meeting Amanda, I was excited to learn of her expertise in yoga.  She taught me some basic poses and we went to some classes together.  Alas, my inflexible body never took to it that well but what has endured is our interest and participation in the chant practice attendant to yoga called kirtan.

We have attended several of these around the Boston area.  They were all enjoyable but some chant artists definitely resonated with me more than others.  These kirtans running between 1 to 2 hours in length would usually leave us feeling very relaxed and centered but imagine if we could attend a chant practice encompassing many artists over hours of time!  Such an opportunity presented itself this past Saturday. 

We traveled to Montpelier, Vermont to attend an event called the Vermantra.  It was to last from 11AM to midnight with a list of artists including Tom Lena, Nina Rao, John de Kadt, Bonnie Argo, Adam Bauer, Brenda McMorrow, Anjula Prasad, Jeremy and Lily, Devadas, Dave Russell, Sri Kirtan, Terrance Pompey, Shubalananda, Irene Solea, Terrance Pompey and Yogi Patrick. 

We got there around 1:30 and caught the ending of Dave Russell’s performance.  Before I even entered the large room where the chanting was taking place, I could hear it through the door and could feel my mental state already changing.  I was soon losing the stress from the 3+ hour drive and entering a realm of meditative calmness.

With one exception, we enjoyed all the artists as they took turns leading the day long kirtan.  I particularly was impressed with Nina Rao and the tandem of Jeremy and Lily.  Here the three of them led the chanting:

It's hard to describe the effect of these mantras vibrating through the air.  Their effect went far beyond the aural realm.  My whole body felt alive and involuntarily I moved in rhythm.  These three had the strongest effect on me and literally brought tears to my eyes.  I had never attended a kirtan that affected me this deeply.  I felt such a profound sense of joy and peace.  It felt like being transported to another realm free of the divisiveness that plagues society.  It was a glimpse into what humanity has the potential to experience if hatred and prejudice were cast aside.

As part of our package, we had arranged to be served meals there at the Vermont College of Fine Arts.  Reluctantly, we left just before Jeremy and Lily began their last chant.  The meal was pretty good and I'm proud to say that Amanda sampled the duck that was served:

It was then back to the kirtan.  An interesting looking man with long hair and a beard was leading things.

He produced the most energetic vibe of the whole event.  People spontaneously were getting up to dance and express themselves through movement.  We only caught his last performance unfortunately.

I just could not connect with the next artist.  The one after her was very good and specialized in slower chants that were particularly calming.  We saw all the artists except the last one when we finally headed for our beds on the campus.

This was the view looking to the back of the room where the chanting took place:

We drove around Montpelier a bit the next morning and enjoyed a nice breakfast at this restaurant featuring many types of crepes:

We then headed home content with amazing memories of an unforgettable event.

ETA: Check out this blog of the event complete with youtube videos of some of the chants, the best being Nina Rao's!