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I do indeed have a long history with depression. In my mid-twenties I recognized the problem as a mental health issue and not simply a result of the world being depressing (it's not, it just seems that way when we're depressed). Below I share the techniques and approaches that have helped me, along with tidbits of wisdom from people I admire.
To Begin: The Definition of Depression and the Limitations of Turning to Doctors for Help
Depression takes place when the body's mood-stabilizing systems get out of whack. Depression is not just sadness. It's a loss of the ability to experience the full range of human emotions. A healthy person is like a musical instrument, capable of a wide range of emotions and resonance. A depressed person is like a musical instrument that has lost the ability to produce more than a handful of notes. Sadness is a normal part of the ups and downs of life. If there was never sadness, then how would we understand happiness?
Depression is very real, yet thinking of depression as a disease or disorder can be limiting and sometimes harmful. If you need a label, try "mental health issue," which gives you a bit more space to breathe. Many of the world's most awesome people suffered from depression, so depression is clearly just the negative expression of something we don't entirely understand yet.
Public discussion and understanding of depression has been affected by the medical and pharmaceutical industries in both helpful and harmful ways. Modern medicine has yet to provide effective treatments for depression. Doctors knowledge of treatments is biasted towards drugs. In some situations the pharmaceuitcal companies have actually withheld results from their own studies when the results were not favorable toward antidepressant efficacy. If you want to see a doctor about depression, make sure they are up to date and have investigated treatments beyond the common drugs.
If you've been through several depressions, don't despair. You can be a mentally healthy person if you learn certain skills, take certain actions, and establish appropriate support. Just consider yourself a high-maintenance instrument that requires regular tuning, and then do the tuning! Here are a few things that have worked for me:
1) Cardiovascular and Anabolic Exercise
If I start running at least 40 minutes, five times per week, I always see improvement within two or three weeks. I'm sure that any exercise which raises your heart rate enough will have the same effect. Anabolic exercise (lifting weights so that your muscles are getting stronger) also seems to help.
Both forms of exercise release hormones and endorphins into the body, which have a regulating effect on mood. But for either type of exercise you must a) get your heart rate up for at least 30 minutes (running at a good pace) or b) create a true anabolic response (i.e. strength training).
I have tried asana practice (yoga) while coping with depression, but I don't think it's anabolic enough to have the same effect. Yoga is great for mind and body, but when I'm really depressed running works better. I recommend slowly scanning the body from head to toe as you run. Doing so brings an element of mindfulness into the practice which adds greatly to its therapeutic effects.
This kind of exercise is not always easy to begin when we're depressed! That's where friends, family, professional help, or any other system of support comes in. If you can't get yourself out exercising, call somebody and ask them to be your running buddy. Do anything you need to do to get yourself exercising, and keep it up for at least a few weeks.
2) Mindfulness Meditation and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)
Mindfulness meditation (also known as "vipassana" or "insight" meditation) has been studied as a treatment for depression by several of the world's most respected universities, particularly by Oxford University in England. Oxford basically concluded that Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (which is a form of bare-bones, secular, Buddhist insight meditation) is the most effective way to treat depression ever studied, better than all other medications and therapies.
Mindfulness meditation often works something like this: Sit with a straight spine, focus on your breath for a bit, and then spend a few minutes reflecting on how you want to be happy, healthy, and at peace. Then reflect on how you want your friends and family to be happy, healthy, and at peace. Then reflect on how you want all the people in the whole world to be happy, healthy, and at peace. Then you spend the rest of the time resting your attention on your breath. Each time you realize you've drifted off into thought, you can take a quick note of where you went and then come back to the breath. The goal is to gently observe body, breath, feelings, and mind in the context of caring about the world and wanting to be happy. You are not supposed to go into a trance. You are not supposed to stop thinking. That's a different kind of meditation.
Mindfulness meditation is a specific approach to meditation. MBCT is a specific approach to mindfulness meditation. There are many approaches to MBCT. To start learning more I recommend the following resources:
A Path With Heart, by Jack Kornfield. It's a very good book on mindfulness meditation. All his books seem good.
The Mindful Way Through Depression, Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness, by Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal, and Jon Kabat-Zinn.
Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha, by Daniel Ingram. This is a free e-book. It inspired me to start meditating again. I've basically maintained my practice since I read it in June, 2010. It's a bit "far out" compared to the others, and I loved it. :)
The free resources on Dharma.org, the website of the Insight Meditation Society.
Warning: There are many religious groups who offer meditation. If you are depressed, then you may be vulnerable to manipulation, so be careful. Explore all meditation classes with your bullshit detector gently and compassionately switched to "on." The safest way to learn meditation as a treatment for depression is probably MBCT. For a broader approach to mindfulness meditation, the network of teachers and retreat centers associated with the Insight Meditation Society seem very safe and open minded. I don't particularly recommend vipassana retreats as taught by S. N. Goenka and I'll write about that another time.
3) Skillful Affirmations or Thinking Skills Practice, but ONLY if Done Certain Ways
I've benefitted from cultivating an affirmations practice, but be warned: it's possible to practice affirmations in a manner that will make you feel worse. Studies show that asking people to repeat blanket positive statements such as, "I'm a happy and vibrant person" will make happy people happier and depressed people more depressed! The reason is simple: You're not stupid enough. Telling yourself that you're happy when you're depressed will set off your aforementioned bullshit detector, which will counter the affirmation with all the contrary evidence at its disposal. Thus for every minute you spend telling yourself that you're happy, you are likely to spend five minutes refuting the claim with evidence of your depression.
My advice for practicing affirmations: Review and repeat things you know to be true and which seem to have a mood-lifting effect. That is, cultivate a list of things that will be true even when you're depressed. These can be things like this:
• I have friends who love me
• I am free and safe
• People say my dimples are cute
• I am talented with such-and-such
• I believe in the power of friendship
• I have often done the right thing, even when it was difficult
• I am an expression of the energy of the universe
• I make great popcorn
• I am willing to be witness to the truth of all things
• I carry within me a longing to be happy and to feel love, even in the darkest of times
Again, the important thing is that they are true to you. A great way to find effective affirmations is to observe your own mind when you're depressed. Notice the negative thoughts that arise, and counter them with truth. This approach is different than countering them with the opposite thought. If the thought is, "I'm the world's biggest idiot," it won't do any good to think, "I'm the world's biggest genius." You need to find something irrefutable. That thought might be, "I have enough intelligence to be a contributing member of a loving community." That's not a sensational thought, but if it resonates as deeply true then it will work. It takes practice to find the affirmations that work well.
A basic affirmation practice could look like this: Each morning you take time to cultivate your list of affirmations. Say each affirmation to yourself and then feel how it resonates. If it doesn't resonate as truth, take it off the list or play with it until it does resonate as truth. The affirmations list will evolve as you gain experience and inspiration.
Affirmations will only work if you understand the difference between things that are true and things you would like to be true. The process of affirmations should look a bit like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which is the most effective form of talk therapy, and is basically a process of acknowledging and correcting negative thought habits. Working with an experienced Cognitive Behavioural Therapist would be a great way to cultivate an affirmations practice.
Conclusion: Going Beyond "Managing Depression"
One reason that people relapse into depression is that they stop doing their practices the moment they feel better! If you want to stay happy, keep practicing when you're happy. When you're depressed you might call it MBCT (Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy) and when you're not depressed you might call it SPoAP (Super Powers of Awesomeness Practice).
I am no expert on any of this. Everything I've written here is from my own experience. I have come a long way and I still have a long way to go. Ultimately it all boils down to love, respect, and a willingness to open your heart to the present moment.
Please contact me if you have any questions,
There are lots of different kinds of yoga, and you will see huge variations between different studios, styles, and teachers. Some variations are just differences in styles. There are also variations in quality. In our opinion, "bad yoga" is yoga that leads to physical injuries or mental attitudes that conflict with personal growth, such as cult-following or spiritual egoism.
Most of us at Playpoi have cultivated some healthy scepticism towards the big yoga chains, like Bikram's. We believe each individual has their own specific needs, and should therefore find the yoga that is best suited for themselves. "One size fits all" schools that require all students to practice yoga one specific way seem strange to us.
The word "yoga" means to "unite" or "to yolk," as in "uniting oneself to the truth of the universe." Many people think yoga is just the asana practice, which is stretching, strengthening, and aligning the body and breath. Asana practice is only one of the eight limbs of traditional yoga. The others include breath work, meditation, compassionate action in the world, and other practices that have nothing to do with stretching and strengthening the body. We recommend the book "Light on Yoga" by B. K. S. Iyengar. It gives a good introduction to the complete philosophy of yoga. A wikipedia search can lead you to many more resources about yoga.
To get started, see what's being offered in your community. Many studios offer the first class for free, so you can try lots of different studios and classes to find what you like. Asana classes can range from being very peaceful with lots of stillness and meditation, to intense vinyasa flow which feels more like a kung fu workout! Both styles can be benefitial for both body and mind. The goal is to find a teacher who has sufficient education and benign motivation.
We happen to think that yoga should be sincere but not too "serious." Be suspicious of schools where people have big spiritual egos. Yoga is about dissolving ego, so an attitude of spiritual superiority over others is counterproductive. Look for happy people who care about the world and other people, this is the sign of yoga in practice!
We hope that helps at least a little. Enjoy practicing!read more
Playpoi is a very small company which includes me, the people I contract to help me with specific projects (usually technical stuff like video editing, graphic design, and website development), and the "friends of Playpoi" who contribute lessons and video content to the site.
There is no permanent Playpoi office or space. Everybody involved lives in different places around the world, but we see each other at events around the world. Sometimes we'll spend a few months training together in places like Costa Rica, Thailand, or Bali.
We are not currently hiring in a traditional sense. If you'd like Playpoi to grow successful enough that we could hire people, you can help by visiting the poiticipate page. You can also come meet some of us at a poi retreat or an international spinning or juggling event.
Happy spinning!read more
To take Beyond the Basics courses you need to be able to do all the basics, even if you can do other advanced moves.
Here's the reason: We might start a lesson by saying, "Let's start with a clockwise windmill..." and if some people can't do the clockwise windmill, the lesson falls apart. That situation is hard for everybody. We can only lead a Beyond the Basics class if everybody can do all the prerequisites. Being able to do a few very advanced moves does not help the fact that you can't do some of the prerequisites.
But fear not! You can use the free beginner videos to learn any basic moves you still need to learn.
Please note: We're not trying to be strict! It's just more fun for everybody when we can all start on the same moves together!
See you in a class!read more
Yes! My tips are this:
1) Know what you want to do! Do you want to teach? Make gear? Perform? You probably can't do them all at once. My advice is to follow your dreams. There is magic in that.
2) Once you've figured out your dreams, figure out how manifesting your dreams can benefit other people. I.e. if your dream is just to play poi for yourself then it might be tough to make money from that, so figure out how your dreams can involve helping other people, or to solving their problems, or making them happy, or helping people by solving their problems while making them happy. Nobody ever paid me for playing poi! I've made a living partly because I've figured out ways to help other people, such as helping the shops design and promote toys. This was a lot of work and I had to think of things from the point of view of the shops. If you want to be self-employed, then you have to figure out what you're providing and for whom!
3) If you're under 30, learn to write for people over 30. Some young people's writing these days involves a lot of acronyms or other so-called text-speak and does not strictly follow the rules of grammar. This writing style has some benefits and is not inherently bad. However, people over 30 won't understand you or take you seriously unless you speak their language, which involves punctuation when written.
4) Know that being money is related to your state of mind and attitude. Five years ago I decided to start living as if I had all the money I needed. Adopting this mindset wasn't easy, but in the long run it helped. I call this approach cultivating an "abundance mentality." If you want abundance to flow to you, then try letting it flow through you, to others. That doesn't mean you should be reckless! Simply experiment with seeing yourself as a generous provider, somebody who can support other artists and businesses and see how that changes your approach to people and opportunities. Also, the best kind of financial freedom is generous freedom, otherwise you might get rich but you'll be like Scrooge!
5) Take baby steps! I got myself into trouble by jumping into things too quickly when I created the Vancouver Poi Studio. I could have rented space until things were rolling and that would have been much less stressful.
6) If you succeed, be grateful to those who helped! Expressing your gratitude won't help you make money, but it will definitely help you be happy. (I certainly have a lot of people to thank!). So take take note of your good fortunes right from the beginning. Sometimes even the things that seem like bad luck will turn out to be good fortunes later.
7) Have fun! You might as well!read more
Firstly, most audiences won't care if you can do a five-beat weave. The best way to create a show the public can appreciate is by performing simple moves with good choreography and showmanship.
Creating a good show is still only the beginning. To make a living you need to promote yourself. We know performers who perform only the basic poi moves, but since they can entertain, market themselves, and talk to potential clients, they get lots of work (way more than we ever get).
If you want to improve your performance skills, explore the worlds of dance, circus, theatre, and busking. And don't settle for anything but the best. Track down quality! Expose yourself to world-class performances and ask questions.
Ultimately there is no clear path to follow. Poi dancing and fire spinning are niche genres that are too small to appeal to most entertainment agencies. Start brainstorming the places in your community that might want performances and contact them directly.
Also, think carefully before you quit your day job! There are very few full-time fire performers in the world, and some of them have stopped loving poi because it's become their job. You can definitely perform full time while still loving poi, but be patient!
As for pay: the average remuneration for a cabaret-style performance varies between countries and even cities within the same country. In some places it's typical to get $500USD for a gig, in others only $200USD or less. Find out what is typical and create performances that are worth every penny! Busking also varies hugely depending on the location, circumstances, and local culture. At the world's best busking festivals performers sometimes make $2,000USD a night. Other performers might only make $100.
Location, location, location: It does make a difference where you are. Some cities and countries support the arts, or any particular kind of art, more than others. Sometimes they do it so well that there is too much competition! There is no perfect place to be, but there is such a thing as a place with limited opportunities. The cities most popular with artists are sadly often not the places where you can get lots of paying work.
And lastly, don't feel like you need to fit into the normal way of doing things. The most successful people are those who create opportunities in addition to looking for them.
Enjoy and see you on stage!read more
The first tip is this: If you're performing for the non-poi-spinning public, then you only need to be fluid with the basics. Your stage presence and showmanship are more important than demonstrating advanced moves. You yourself need to be worth watching. You need to be able to employ storytelling skills and theatrical techniques. You need to set a context and mood. Some of the most successful fire performers only know the basic moves, but they can do them in time with the music and while interacting with the audience! Imagine having to entertain the audience without any fire at all. How would you do that? This mental exercise will take you in the right direction.
You can also check out the Playpoi Five Coconut Rating System for Video and Performance Awesomeness!
There are no age limits for playing poi. The majority of poi enthusiasts are in their twenties and thirties, but plenty are both younger and older, from pre-teens to senior citizens. The only way to know if you'll like poi is to pick up a pair and try! :)
That depends on three things: Your definition of "good," the way you are measuring time, and your rate of progress.
It ultimately makes the most sense to think of length of time in terms of hours of regular practice. Learning to play freely with the basics usually takes about sixty hours of practice. That's ten weeks if you practice six hours per week. Learning to perform the basics with good rhythm and expression usually takes another 150 hours, that's another six months at the same rate of practice. To play poi at a high level like any of the playpoi teachers takes at least 2,000 hours of regular and dedicated practice. That's two to four years!
Of course, those are very rough estimates. Your rate of progress with poi ability depends on the following factors:
Natural ability. Some people seem to learn quicker than others. We don't think you should worry about this. Poi is fun whether you learn quickly or slowly!
Previous movement experience. It can help to have previous experience with skilled movement arts. Relevant experience could be a history in dance or martial arts, or even something as simple as whether you liked skipping rope when you were a kid.
How effectively you're practicing. Are you practicing useful things? Are you challenging yourself enough just the right amount? You'll only get better if you keep challenging yourself, but if you try to learn too much too fast, you'll only get frustrated. Constant baby steps is the secret!
- Whether or not you're being patient and having fun! The most effective learners are those who enjoy simple things and the process of learning.
It all boils down to this: You can do it, and it will definitely take some time! So grab your poi and start playing!read more
Great question! All of our gear recommendations are in the gear section. This includes gear reviews, tutorials on how to make your own poi, and videos of people sharing their own poi designs.
The quick answer: We recommend starting with poi that are long enough to hang a few inches off the ground when your arms are hanging at your sides. Start with the weight of a tennis ball, and go lighter or heavier if you need to. Both the tether and the weight should be soft, to avoid bruises and unnecessarily difficult tangles. We think sock-poi are a great way to start. See the gear section to buy a pair or to learn how to make your own!read more
Trust us, any cool bit of gear you see in the videos will be in the gear section if it's available for purchase. If you see us using something that’s not in the gear section, then it's probably not available for purchase. For example: those sock poi with the swivels Nick uses in some videos? You simply can't order them!read more
We, in our community section, we have three resources to help you with this!
- A list of poi schools around the world,
- Our new playpoi discussion forums
- The playpoi Facebook page.
We recommend using these resources to find other spinners. If these resources don't help you, then you can also try the community forums and community directory on Home of Poi.read more
The best choice of fuels depends greatly on what country you are in. Common names are sometimes used for different fuels in different countries, which can be confusing. We at Playpoi are simply not in a position to offer advice on fuels. Here is the best resource we've found for helping you find the right kind of fuel in your country:read more
We get lots of requests to watch people's videos. We just don't have the time to watch them all.
If you are very excited and proud of your video and are absolutely convinced that we will be glad we saw it, go ahead and email us. Just understand that we've seen thousands of poi videos so the bar is set pretty high. If you send a video with the introduction, "oh yeah, and it's from two years ago and kinda sucks and I'm way better now" then we definitely will NOT watch it.
Meanwhile, we have created the official Playpoi Five Cocunut Rating System for Video and Performance Awesomeness to help you understand what makes for a great poi video!read more
We can't really give you the details of how we took our photos without basically telling you how to copy them. We'd rather you didn't copy us completely, and that's probably not what you want to do either.
We can tell you this: you probably need to use a long shutter speed and tripod to get clear trails, and how the performer poses for the shot is as important as the camera work. That should get you started. Happy shooting! :Pread more
Ha ha! It's a trick! You envy what you THINK my life is like. I make things look fun in the videos, but it hasn't been the around-the-world poi vacation you might imagine. You don't know about the years of debt, the homelessness, the 60-hour work weeks, the failed self-employment attempts, the knee and back and shoulder problems, the troubles with family, the huge jumping poisonous spiders (ok, I made that one up) etc.
But I don't regret any of the difficult stuff. Hardship and failure can build inner strength better than success. If your self-confidence comes from success it's shallow, because that confidence can be toppled any moment by failure. Confidence is much deeper hwen it comes from hardship and learning to keep your heart open through difficult times.
I keep abundance flowing the following ways:
- Teaching workshops
- Producing and selling poi DVDs
- Producing the Playpoi pendants, hipsacks, and t-shirts.
- Working with shops to design and promote poi-related products
- Promoting the toys I like (and earning money from the referral programs)
- Spending huge amounts of time working on the website and content for the website
- Credit cards!
Note the last one! I've gone through periods of deep, frightening debt whilst engaging in poi-related projects (peaking at a full $25,000 in debt which is a lot when you don't have a job). Currently I've paid it all back, which is a big relief! Deep down I know that I'm following my heart and there is a profound satisfaction in that. It's worth it to follow your dreams! The best thing about my life is that I have great friends, which is way more important than other people thinking I'm good at poi!read more
Check the credits and the text that is posted with the video. We try very hard to always give credit for the music!read more
We're really glad you want Nick to come to the USA. Unfortunately he probably can't for a couple more years.
Years ago Nick taught a few poi workshops in the USA without a non-immigrant work visa (it's not feasible for a Canadian to get a work-visa just to teach a few workshops, so he told the border guards he was visiting friends). This resulted in an unfortunate border-crossing where Nick was banned from entering the USA for 5 years.
That ban officially expired in spring of 2010, but it is still not easy for Nick to enter the USA. Entering for work would require more money and paperwork than is currently viable (application fees, lawyer fees, etc.). Entering for tourism is more realistic, but will require Nick proving that he has a permanent home, permanent place of work, enough money in the bank, etc. Until he has all these things it is unlikely he can visit the USA. But don't worry; he's looking for a place to settle down so it's just a matter of time!
We hope that makes everything clear. We hope to see some of you lovely Americans up here in beautiful Canada!read more