Wednesday, August 31, 2016

What I've been up to

I am actually still here. I am just not writing much lately.

I am teaching a lot, and surprisingly teaching a lot of stand up paddle boarding - which is only humorous because at the beginning of the season I was told to focus my energies on kayaking. I am teaching other things as well. Wilderness First Aid continues to be a big course for me, usually teaching one a month.

Much to many people chagrin, I don't have a big trip planned, though I am living vicariously through Gecko paddlers San Juan trips. I do frequently get asked where I would like to paddle that I haven't. The list for me is short, primarily because I have been good about making paddle trips a reality in the past. I would like to go to Patagonia. I would also like to paddle Iceland. Any of the Northern European countries actually, Finland, Norway, or Sweden. Nova Scotia? That is really about it.

Tomorrow I have an opportunity to paddle a newer version of my Delta Seventeen. Curious to see the changes.

But what I have really been working on is this:

the month from Brett Friedman on Vimeo.

About 6 months ago I realized it was time to jump into aerial imagery via an Unmanned Aircraft System - which is what the FAA calls a drone. Two days ago I passed my FAA Remote Pilot Airman certification test. I hope to do some commercial work, but right now I am just having fun. And shooting a lot.

I have a book I want to write, I think that will become my fall project as teaching season slows down.  That is what I have been working on. I am very active on Instagram, and that is really the best place to see what I am shooting at any given time. Check me out there, or on Facebook.

Ill keep paddling, you should do the same.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Pack and Go! or Hell NO! Sawyer Mini Gear Review

I think water treatment is one of the more important things we deal with in the back country, and it is one of the things that most people have misconceptions about. I wrote about it in great detail here.

But today, I want to talk about the Sawyer Mini. I have now been using the Sawyer mini for a couple of years, I used the sawyer squeeze before that (the squeeze is the mini's slightly larger cousin) and I used a sawyer gravity system even before that. I have a lot of experience with this filter and this review is way overdue. It may even be late, as the sawyer mini is one of the most popular filters on the market.

Weighing in at a mere 2 ounces, and with a lifespan of 100,000 gallons (that is around 275 years of use if you were wondering) The sawyer mini is a game changer. Filtering to .1 micron it gets all the nasties out of the water, and is simple to use.

Okay, you are on a hiking trip, your reservoir runs dry and up ahead there is a stream. You stop, take off your pack and retrieve your filter, and a small 16 ounce bag. Holding the bag under water, with the mouth facing up stream, it will quickly fill. Then screw the bag onto the bottom of the sawyer mini, and squeeze. Squeezing the bag forces the contents through the hollow fiber membrane and into what ever receptacle you choose. That's it. Your done.

It generally takes me about 45 seconds to squeeze out a liter. which is the traditional way to use the device. But if you don't want to stick with tradition, the sawyer mini is extremely versatile. It comes with a small straw so you could use directly in a water bottle (like a life straw with much longer lifespan) You can cut your hydration reservoir hose and put the sawyer mini inline and filter as you drink.

Don't want to use the bag that came with the mini, you can screw most non-reusable water bottles onto it, and squeeze that - I have been told that it is compatible with Pepsi brand bottles, and not coke brand. Apparently the thread pitch is different. With a little ingenuity you can even turn this into a gravity system, which is what I did with a pair of MSR dromedary's on our last Alaska trip. 

They sell a small box of adapter parts essentially turning this into the lego of filter systems, build what you want. 

But, it isn't without faults. In non moving water the bags can be hard to fill. There is no charcoal or carbon aspect which means the filter doesn't get out odors and flavors. But that is really about it. 

Pluses - Lightweight, long life span, adaptable

Minuses - Doesn't get out odors and flavors, the bags can be hard to fill. 

But at $24.95 this is a PACK AND GO! all the way. 

Friday, April 29, 2016

Pack and Go! or Hell NO! Jetboil Genesis Gear review

This past weekend I finally got my butt in a tent, and in the process I got to test out some gear that has been sitting for way too long. So here is the first gear review in a while.

I am a long time user of the Jetboil- I still have a Jetboil PCS (older than the current Flash) - and it is my go to stove when my plan involves just boiling water. I have an MSR whisperlite for longer trips or when I am cooking actual food. I have long been skeptical when jetboil tries to release a more cooking centric stove system. I think this may be the third attempt at such a project (the helios, the sumo and now the Genesis). Essentially this is jetboil trying to expand it's market base. They already have a huge presence in lightweight water boilers, time to expand into basecamp cookers as well.

The product I tested was the Genesis basecamp system and it is a beautiful package.  A large pot, a matching fry pan, and the two burner stove in a nice black carry bag.

The large pot has an associated lid with an integrated water strainer. The 10 inch fry pain is ceramic coated for non-stick performance. The massive 5 liter pot has the Jetboil flux ring to offer wind protection. The carry bag also has a spot for the fuel connection hose, making the entire kit fairly compact.

The stove set up in a breeze, and ignites quickly with the two separate igniter switches. You can run either burner separately or both together. The package I had weighed in at just under 10 pounds, but construction of the stove was meticulous and well thought out

This Jetboil is propane, unlike every other Jetboil I have used. Clearly attempting to compete with the large two burner campchef/coleman/everest/brunton two burner basecamp stoves. I set it up and got to cooking. Dinner would be Mussels in a spicy red sauce with linguini, and a crusty baguette for dipping in the tomato sauce. For starters I needed to saute a diced onion and pepper, and the stove offered great flame control. I flicked the igniter switch on one of the burners (after opening the control valve) and I had good flame control with easy to reach access. Once the peppers and onions were sauteed I added tomatoes and spices and turned my attention to boiling water for linguini. I chose to do this in my own pot - not the jetboil pot with the flux ring. I needed no adapter to do this - as you would in other Jetboil stoves. My 3 liter pot was dwarfed next to the behemoth that comes with this stove. 


With 1.5 liters of water in my pot, I cranked up burner two, to the maximum. I wanted to see how fast this would boil water, and it did not disappoint. I didn't time it, but it was pretty incredibly fast - they say a liter in 3 minutes 15 seconds but it seemed faster than that. I added my pasta and let it do it's thing. Both pots fit easily on the two burners, but the pot without the flux ring left me concerned for performance in high wind. Most two burner stoves offer some sort of wind screen and this one doesn't - though the burners are slightly recessed, which should offer some protection. Though there was no wind when I was using it, so this may be a non issue.

This stove offers a Jetlink, stove linking system, with an optional cable ($35) you can link two of these stoves together, or the genesis to certain eureka stoves giving you 4 burners. I am not sure when I would need 4 burners in the woods, but nice to have the option. There is also the option to add the Luna stove to the Jetlink port. The Luna is a $59 water boiler that looks like a jetfoil flash adapted to run propane. Initially I thought I could connect my Jetboil PCS (or if you had one, a Flash, Sol, Zip or MiniMo.) But this isn't the case, I was a little disappointed.

The remainder of my evening cooking was uneventful - though the following morning I once again had fun boiling water for coffee - with 10,000 BTU's of power it didn't take long! My overall impression with this stove was extremely favorable.

Actually, that is an understatement. I loved it. I have used a lot of two burner camp stoves. I used to do Thanksgiving every year in this same campground, and I would cook the big parts of the meal in Dutch ovens but all the sides on a two burner coleman. I wish I had this back then.

The Pluses - Beautiful design, and build quality. Fast boiler, with good flame control. Convenient carry case. Huge pot, and frypan. Great power output.

The Minuses - The potential for wind issues, as the stove doesn't offer a wind screen. Here is the big one. Price.

Lets talk about Price. This stove as tested is $350. It is available without the pots and pans and carry bag for $239. That is still $79 more than the next most expensive competitor on and that stove, while it weighs more, also puts out more power (12000 BTU's compared to the Genesis 10000)

I think this is a great stove, and may even buy one - this kit is a loaner - it is really wonderful. But also wonderfully expensive.

Based on the price alone, I am afraid I have to call this a....

Hell NO!

It is simply too much money, when you can get a $89 coleman two burner with push button start, running the same fuel and 11,000 BTU's of power. The Jetboil Genesis is without a doubt the best made two burner camp stove I have ever used. It is also the coolest looking stove I have ever used. But at $239 for the stove, and $350 for the kit I just used, for me, it is a Hell No!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Thank You Patton Oswalt

On the last Alaska expedition we were generally off the water in the late afternoon. We would settle into camp, put up a tent and a cook tarp. Filter water, make beds, cook dinner. All the things that you do on an extended trip. Generally around 4 o'clock or so, we would have a whiskey. We thought of this as the "cocktail hour". On this trip I finally got to do something I had been planning for almost a decade. I had whiskey on the rocks, with the rocks being naturally purified, hundreds of years old (or maybe thousands....probably not thousands, but it sounds good) glacier ice. It was spectacular.

At cocktail time, we would also listen to something. We would listen to comedian Patton Oswalt. I am not sure how it started, but everyday we listened to him. We had most of his albums on my iPhone, and we would listen using the tiny built in speakers.

We joked that because he had done such a good job of keeping us sane while we laughed every afternoon, that we would dedicate the film to him, and since the film is currently standing still I will publicly thank him here.

But here is the thing, this week, unexpectedly, at the age of 46, Patton Oswalts wife passed away. While I know he will never see this, I just wanted to express my sadness, and condolences to Mr. Oswalt and his daughter. Losing a spouse, particularly at such a young age is nightmarish.

Thanks Patton.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Tow Hook - Seemed Like a good idea at the time.

My trusty Toyota Yaris has been replaced, by a slightly newer  and hopefully just as trusty Yaris. It is like she never left, except of course, she has. I hope I fall as in love with this little car as my last one, but I doubt that will occur as I don't plan on driving her to Alaska Twice.

Something that a lot of people asked me about was the tow hook on the front right side of the yaris that I used to secure my bow line. I got the idea of using it from a friend who works for NOLS. It seemed brilliant, and I did for literally 100,000 miles.

Then someone ran a red light, I hit them in the middle of an intersection, and the first point of contact was that tow hook. The impact was sudden, jarring and scary, but what didn't happen was an airbag deploy. I was going somewhere between 20 and 30 miles an hour, more than fast enough to trigger a discharge.

The fire department was concerned about it, and mentioned several times that they were surprised they didn't deploy, they were disconnecting the battery (normal procedure is to cut the battery cables, as a courtesy they took the time to simply disconnect them, I think because I identified myself as a former medic) and they told me not to drive the car. Not that I could.

I commented to many people that I was surprised that the airbags didn't deploy - most resulting in funny comments like "oh on the yaris, you have too blow up the airbags yourself." I even went as far to mention it here on the blog.

Then I got this comment from a reader named Kiradale:

I recently purchased a VW Golf wagon. The owners manual warns against driving with the tow eye in place on the front bumper as it may affect deployment of the air bags in the event of a collision.

I did some research, but couldn't find anything online, linking tow hook usage to a lack of airbag deployment on the Yaris, but honestly, it makes complete sense that having that hook could alter airbag deployment. In this case anecdotal evidence is enough. 

So please, don't use the tow hook on the front of your car - any car - as a method for securing your bow lines. If there is even a chance it will keep your airbags from deploying it isn't worth the convenience. 

Instead I will be using these:

The Seattle Sports quick loops is one of those things I wish I had invented. Put the rubber tube part under your hood, and let the loop part stick out. Tie off to that, and you are good to go. At least I hope you are good to go, I haven't used them yet. Ill keep you posted. 

And do me a favor. Drive carefully!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Some cool things I have seen.

With all that is going on, I have seen  bunch of things that I thought were super cool. Check this out.

A few weeks ago I taught a class - yes I had to use a powerpoint, I hate them but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do - with an iPad mini. that is right an iPad mini can drive a projector. Who knew? All I had to do was spend $50 on an adapter. You can even charge your iPad while driving the projector. To make this even better you can then control your powerpoint (actually it was a keynote) with your phone. I think that is super cool, and it really appeals to my minimalist side. 

Check out this Casey Neistat footage from the new DJI Phantom 4 jump to 6 minutes and 14 seconds!

I really think this footage is incredible, and not just because Casey didn't crash into the ocean - which he has a habit of doing - but this just looks sensational. I have been waiting patiently for the GoPro Karma drone, particularly because I don't like the idea of buying a drone with a  camera - I already have a camera - but this really has me intrigued.

Last night I watched the big short. Which opened with a  great quote:

This quote should be burned in the brains of everyone who is active in the outdoors. the number of times that I have been told "of course it is safe, I have done it this way hundreds of times!"

Finally I am reading the new NOLS book Lightning. It is sensational, and finally brings some real science to this topic. Check it out, it is worth the read.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A new certification

I am generally not a fan of certifications for outdoor skills. I tend to feel that it creates instructors with more skills than experience. (Read about it here.) But when opportunity arises to get a certification for free, you take it. Unfortunately, this will not be a kayaking certification, that opportunity arose last year and then quickly vanished. Next month I will be taking part in a two day ACA Stand Up Paddle boarding instructor course.

Last season I taught a couple of SUP classes and enjoyed it. It will never replace kayaking for me, but it is a fun change.

This was my view a couple of times last season, and I think it will be a regular view this season. Ill let you know how the training goes, there will certainly be video and photos on instagram.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

End of an Era

If you don't already know, a week ago, on my way home from the gym I was involved in a car accident. I was traveling west, and someone on a cross street ran a red light and ended up in front of me. I couldn't stop in time to avoid the collision.

I'm not sure how fast I was going at the moment of impact, but the first thing to take the brunt of the blow was the tow hook in my front bumper which had a permanent position for securing kayaks. If you look closely you can see it folded flat against the front of my car. Everything in front of the wheels is flat, though oddly the airbags didn't deploy. I was fine, the driver of the other car was fine, but I asked EMS to check me out. My Blood pressure and pulse were both - understandably - very high, but within 15 minutes they were back where they should have been. 

Incidentally, I had interactions with 6 different EMS people, both basics and paramedics and not one of them did a physical exam. Shame on you all. Other than that they were great. My car was towed away, and I started the upsetting process of dealing with insurance. 

For the record, while I was sore immediately after, and really sore the next day, I am fine and have no significant injuries.

Unfortunately my car can't say the same thing. The damage didn't look bad to me, but alas my insurance company decided she was a total loss. I was immediately depressed at the loss of this object. She was purchased in 2011 with 9000 miles with the primary goal of driving to Alaska to do the inside passage. She did the Alaska trip twice. 

Paddle North - Episode 1 from Paddling Otaku on Vimeo.

getting there from Paddling Otaku on Vimeo.

But she also took part in literally hundreds of other trips. From the beach, to family in New York to teaching dozens of WFA's, and hundreds of other classes. I truly loved this little car, and she will be very missed.

We have a two fold plan for replacing her. First, in the next week I am going to buy another yaris, but this time the 4 door hatchback version - it turns out the sedan version (particularly in manual transmission) is hard to find. The 4 door hatchback will allow my roof rack to make a seamless move to the new car. Then in the next few months we are going to shop for a used Sprinter cargo van.

Something like this. With the goal of turning it into the ultimate road trip/adventure vehicle. They are very tall, and I am going to have to figure out the best way to get a kayak or two on the roof. That is the plan. stay tuned for updates. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Someone on Reddit requested my gear list.

A couple of days ago I posted a comment In response to a post on reddit called "Our Ultimate tour kayaking gear list", what I said was that while I wouldn't go as far as to say Ultimate, it was a good list. Someone in the comments asked me to post my list - I think his quote was something along the lines of 'for trips that are more badassery." I don't know how bad ass I am, but here is my list.  (excluding a few changes, this is my gear list from the Inside Passage and the AGAP trip in 2014, It also doesn't include solar gear/batteries, and cameras)

Paddle Clothing
Seattle Sombrero
Ball cap
Fingerless Gloves
Wool hat

Underneath my drysuit I wear a base layer (Top and bottom) which are listed down the page. I only wear fingerless paddling gloves on REALLY long day. 20 plus mile days. I hate neoprene paddling gloves. I find it really hard to get them on and off while paddling, I much prefer pogies. The seattle sombrero from OR is the best rain hat in the world.

Paddle Gear
Back up Paddle
Spray Skirt
Bilge Pump
Paddle Float
Short tow
Long tow
Deck Compass

I am a firm believer that your primary paddle should be the same as your back up paddle, but I can't afford to do two werner carbon paddles every few years. I get about 5 years out of a paddle. I use a whitewater spray skirt. I want a skirt that doesn't come off the boat. It says deck compass on my list, which I used on the IP, but for AGAP I had a mounted deck compass - which is far better!

In the front pocket of my PFD I have a bunch of things.
Signal mirror
Chemical light stick
Rescue strobe
Compass (listed above)
power food

I actually use the spot connect, which I don't like. I would do an ACR PLB in the future. On long trips I like to keep Jolly ranchers in my vest pocket as well.

Chart case
VHF Radio
Handheld compass
a 1 foot piece of climbing cord

On long trips I pack both nautical charts and topo maps. I print my own topo's using the all trails website, on National Geographic Adventure paper (which is waterproof) and then have it spiral bound. I use a Garmin Oregon handheld GPS which I like because it's small. I have used the same handheld compass for decades and love it. My VHF radio is a waterproof uniden that lives in a pelican case. I can be seen in a lot of my short films. Ive used every chart case on the market (I think) and the one I use is the only one I like.

Cooking Tarp
Sleeping bag
Sleeping pad

I actually use the REI version of that TNF tent (and the three person version) I use a four season tent in Alaska and it is a beast. It weighs 11 pounds and is bomb proof. It is important to have a tarp for both sun and rain protection. And yes, I pack a table and chair, and use them every day. There is no reason we can't be civilized.

Pot set
Fry Pan
Spice Kit
Kitchen Kit
Stove repair kit
10 liter Dromedary
4 liter dromedary
Sponge/Dr Bronners
Insulated Mug
Fairshare Mug
Cup for whiskey
Sawyer Mini
Sawyer Squeeze
Bear spray

I think it is all pretty self explanatory. I pack both Sawyers on big trips, one set up as a gravity system, and the other in the cockpit with me so we can get water on the go. I love the fairshare mug, because it can hold leftovers and won't leak (Make a big meal for dinner and eat the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.) Yes, Whiskey goes on every trip.

Shell Jacket
Shell pants
midweight base layer bottoms x 2
Midweight base layer top (crew neck)
Quick dry, light colored, long sleeve wicking layer. 
Fleece pants
Synthetic Puffy Jacket
long sleeve cotton t shirt
quick dry pants 
Wool hiking socks x 3
Camp shoes
Glove liners

That's it. I don't ever pack more clothes than that. While I am paddling I am wearing a pair of base layer bottoms and one of the tops under my drysuit, as well as one pair of socks. The fourth pair of socks never leave my sleeping bag. I don't really use those prana pants, but something similar. My camp shoes are a minimalist running shoe. I pack one cotton t shirt because it is nice to sleep in. Sometimes, if I know it is going to be really cold, I swap one pair of midnight bottoms for a pair of heavy weight bottoms. This all fits in a 20 liter dry bag.

Personal Gear
Paperback book
bug dope
lip balm

Yes, I pack deodorant. People that say not to because of bears are crazy. It's nice to have when you catch a whiff of yourself on day 12. I always pack a paperback. Something like Dogs of war, or the day of the Jackal. I use an old version of the iPod Nano which is pretty tiny and the battery lasts forever.

Headlamp with extra batteries.
Fire starting kit
First aid kit
Multi towels x 3
1 liter nalgene
repair kit

The repair kit is a small water proof case - like pelican case - that has plastic weld and other materials for fixing thermoform boats. A pole sleeve. Patches for outerwear/tent/sleeping pads. Aqua seal (which will fix anything) and screw eyes (Go ahead, figure that one out!) Currently I am using Sea to Summit dry bags, but I have used just about every type available. They all work well, but the clear vinyl ones have shorter life spans, they crack. The video below is a test pack before the inside passage.

Packing from Paddling Otaku on Vimeo.

That's really all you need to paddle for a month in Alaska. That, and a lot of food and fuel.

Monday, February 15, 2016

A day of meditation.

I think I have mentioned a few times that I would like to get certified to teach mindfulness meditation. I think its popularity is approaching critical mass, and it would be a good thing for me to add to my skill set. With that in mind, I have to do two things.

I have to decide on a program to get certified with. This is proving difficult because of where I live. I need to do something online, but I also want something of quality. Of course you also have to add to the mix that I need to be able to afford it. 

The second thing I want do is to take part in as many meditation classes as possible. I have been meditating on and off for almost ten years, but I have done almost no meditation classes - only where they are part of some other class I am already taking, like a yoga class. 

So while I try and decide on problem one, today I started working on problem two. Actually, problem is the wrong word. How about obstacle? Today I did two free meditation classes. 

The first was this morning. It was scheduled from 9 to 10, and was run by a Buddhist center at a book store. I arrived at 8:45 and was greeted at the door of the closed store. I nice older gentleman welcomed me, and started to ask why I was there, I told him I was there for the meditation class. I also said I wasn't sure what I needed to do. 

He explained that if I walked to the back of the store I would see where people were taking off their shoes, and that I could take a cushion (they were already out in a circle) or I could sit in a chair if I chose. He also said that they normally do a 20 minutes silent meditation, followed by walking mediation, then a reading, and another 20 minutes of silent meditation. I walked to the back of the store and did indeed see where my shoes and jacket should go. I then walked toward the circle and was surprised to see people already in meditation. 

I found an empty cushion in the circle, and sat down. I had never used a cushion before - I can sit in full lotus for a long time, and never thought I needed one - but it was really quite nice. It was much easier to keep a correct posture. I was just about the last one to sit, there ended up being 13 of us. I slid into a mindfulness meditation, focusing on my breathing. 

It proved a little difficult, I am thinking it was new surroundings and a new group. I also wasn't sure if this was a "warm up" or the actual first 20 minutes since it wasn't 9 yet.. After an indeterminate amount of time, the woman leading the sit clapped her hands once. Did THAT signify the start of the 20? the end? I wasn't sure. After another indeterminate amount of time she clapped again. Brought her hands together, bowed, and said good morning. Then we all rose, and formed a circle, then turned to the left. 

I had never done walking meditation before, and it took me a few minutes to get into a groove. We walked slowly clock-wise, advancing when the person in front of us advanced. Just as I was getting in the spirit of the circle, it was done. I think it lasted about 5 minutes. A shame, because I was starting to enjoy it. 

I followed everyones lead, and returned to my cushion. We sat in silence for a moment and then the woman leading the group announced that there would be a reading by the student to her right, a young man who I came to learn has been studying Buddhism for some time, he was quite knowledgable. His reading was about the whirlpools in rivers, and that they are formed by some small obstruction in the water. They form and things are drawn into them, and spin through the whirlpool and then move out of them. The whirlpools disappear as they had formed, with no discernible reason. This was used as an allegory for life, and that bad things - or good things - flow into your life like things drawn into a whirlpool. I thought it was a good lesson in both attachment, and being present. It was a really lovely reading, and as someone who would like to teach meditation, I immediately wondered where it had been found. Is there an online resource for readings? The woman leading the group then said that we would take five minutes in silence, but if anyone had any thoughts based on the reading they should feel free to share. a few moments later people started throwing out ideas in what as an outdoor educator I would call popcorn style. They were all pretty simple ideas, until the woman immediately to my right said "so if garbage flows into your whirlpool and brings sadness, that can become depression. How do you keep it from killing you?" The answer from the woman leading the sit answered "by embracing it with loving kindness"

I think this is an incredibly important question, and a dreadful answer. While I am a Buddhist and I do believe you have to embrace the world with loving kindness - and I am not nearly as learned as the woman leading the sit, not even close! - This, in my experience is a dangerous question. Perhaps it was my years on an ambulance, but when someone talks about depression killing you, it needs to be addressed. I think from the Buddhist tradition the answer should be something like, By not holding onto the sadness and depression. Just like the garbage that is drawn into the whirlpool you have to allow it to flow back out, or your whirlpool will be full of garbage. Don't hold onto the depression (or hatred, or anger, or whatever negative emotion you are feeling.) Observe it and move on. And then as a medical practitioner I have to say this requires some follow up after class. Which can be facilitated by something like "lets talk about this one on one when we are done" to insure that the student gets the help they may need.

Shortly after this exchange - which took seconds but stayed in my head for hours - the woman leading the sit said, Do we have tea? which meant we were done. I was a little upset, I really wanted the second 20 minutes of meditation. I joined a small subset of the group for tea, and then as I was leaving, I was putting on my shoes and mentioned to someone how nice it was to meditate with a  group, and a woman to my right pronounced "the best group!" - which struck me as odd. Pride is great, but in Buddhism, attachment isn't.

I enjoyed this meditation group, but I prefer a little more secular meditation, with a little more instruction or guidance. This was serious Buddhist meditation, and I prefer a more simple, mindfulness meditation.

about 4 hours later I found myself in a dimly lit yoga studio, for a second free meditation. I had taken a few yoga classes here, and I knew the woman who runs the class, if only a little. I thought this might give me a different perspective and I was right.

I was walked into the studio, and shown where all the yoga props were - I was told I could choose a mat (the floor was cold) a bolster, pillow or any combination. In the back of the studio I was told there were meditation cushions - called a zafu - I used a combination of a yoga mat, a blanket and a zafu to make myself a small spot opposite the teacher (in retrospect I inadvertently sat almost directly opposite both of the leaders of the my meditation classes) I looked at the spot the teacher, or leader of this sit had created. A yoga mat with a single yoga block. At the head of her mat she had a book, a tibetan singing bowl, a timer, and a couple of small figures and talismans, all on a metal tray. In the back of the studio was a small Buddhist shrine. The room slowly filled - 8 in total - and everyone took a space on yoga mats with a couple of props of their choice. Andrea, the woman leading the sit, clearly knew most everyone in the room.

She told us that since it was valentines day she had a reading for us on the subject of self love. She explained that we would do a 20 minute guided meditation, followed by a 20 minute silent meditation, and we began.

She interwove the the reading with guided meditation, and it was really quite lovely. She paid a lot of attention to guiding us to remove tension from our bodies. To find a natural seated position. To find spots that were tight, and relax them, all the while teaching that to love and embrace the world we needed to love and embrace ourselves.

At the end of the guided meditation she told us to move around, shake out the tightness, and in a few moments we would start the silent meditation. She said that if we chose to we could lie down, cover ourselves with a yoga blanket - which everyone in the studio did with the exception of myself. She also said to be careful not to fall asleep, I toyed with the idea of making  joke about 'snoring will not be tolerated', but decided against it. Several minutes later I am sure the woman next to me was asleep.

She brought us out of the meditation with a gentle strike of her tibetan singing bowl, and then instructed us to gently move our bodies, and bring circulation back to our hands and feet. Then to work our way to sitting - I already was. We were told to have a nice day and departed with a  Namaste.

It was a lovely day with close to two hours of meditation in two very different surroundings. I thought it was interesting that the meditation in the Yoga class had more of the trappings of Buddhism than the meditation lead by a Buddhist. A couple of times Andrea had to pause her reading because of a cell phone vibrating in the other room - which really upset me, the intrusion of the digital world into a quiet space - I think I heard one phone receive a notification in the book store. We really need to be better about making that separation. I envision teaching meditation outdoors, so the sounds we can hear are natural, not the sounds of people and machinery. I enjoyed Andreas class more, as I felt it was closer to the way I would like to teach it. But it may have also been that I knew the surroundings and to a degree the instructor. The morning session was fine, and the people very kind, but the meditation was a little stern - and the leader of that sit loses points with me for her non answer to a serious question.

It definitely helped my practice, and I will continue to go to both when possible. But of course, the next two sundays I am out of town teaching WFA's. I would have liked to have taken pictures for instagram, but didn't feel it was right. Stay tuned for more on this meditation path. A decision on a school is coming soon. and thanks to both groups for being so welcoming.