Month: January 2012

Surrounded by brilliance….and neuroplasticity.

    Don’t you just love it when the gifts keep coming? Just as I am still marveling at my Sensei’s brilliance two weeks ago in martial arts,  I got another blast of brilliance from my ballet mistress.     Dancers are visual as well as kinestetic in our learning experiences. We use our eyes as well as our bodies to learn choreography in our technique classes. We look in the mirror to check our placement as well as our movement patterns. However, sometimes we depend on the use of our eyes and the mirrors too much. For example, if we know we can look in the mirror and follow the other dancers, there is less pressure to learn the combinations. We can become complacent, and fall into the habit of watching each other instead of paying attention to the choreography.     Last week our...

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Gymnastics with numbers….and thanking a teacher.

    I love math. It’s so simple and so logical. I also have passion for movement.  Math is movement. It’s gymnastics with numbers. Isn’t that a fun way to look at it?     I didn’t always feel this way. When I was young, I didn’t do very well in math. I used to feel incredibly stupid, clumsy and frustrated. Everyone else seemed to understand and catch on so easily, where I always struggled. It did not help that I was told I had no aptitude for math, or even worse, that I just didn’t apply myself or work hard enough. Ouch.     I remember being in Algebra class when I was in high school. I was trying to follow along with the new material my teacher was presenting, but I was lost. Utterly, completely and hopelessly lost. Finally, I raised my hand and said,...

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Habits, constraints, and neuroplasticity….let the learning begin!

In my martial arts class, we often practice something called “randori”. One student stands in the center of the room while the other students form a circle around them and take turns randomly attacking the person in the middle. It’s kind of like the Ninja version of monkey in the middle. And it scares me to death. It is my least favorite training activity, but my incomparable stubborness won’t let me opt out. And besides, the guys would make fun of me if I refused to play with them. Last week, after we completed our randori, just as I heaved a sigh of relief, Sensei said, “We’re going again.” He looked at me and said, “And you are not allowed to do the same techniques. I want you to find new ways to react to each attack.” My response...

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If a tree falls in the forest…..

      Several weeks ago a powerful storm swept through Rocky Mountain National Park. Two weeks later, we went hiking in the area, and we came across a devastating scene of absolute chaos and destruction. Hundreds of huge pine trees littered the ground, crisscrossing over each other, their broken limbs strewn everywhere. Most of the trees were literally ripped from the ground by their roots. Some trees that may have survived the storm that swept through the forest were split in two by the crashing force of the other trees that succumbed to the gale force wind.    What once was a beautiful forest of tall, majestic trees was now an eerie field of debris and destruction. Along with the broken branches, uprooted trees, exposed roots and huge craters in the ground, I saw several deadly nature...

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Charlie Brown’s Christmas….the sequel.

    I have a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree. So do all four of my sisters. Yes, I have four sisters, no brothers. Which always amazes me that my Dad did manage to live as long as he did. It also explains a little bit of his hearing loss. We used to think it was from the constant noise of the years spent working in the steel mills. Knowing what I know now about the nervous system and habituation, I believe it was from the constant high pitched squeals and shrieks that resulted from living with 6 women.     Anyway, last Christmas was an unhappy one for me and my sisters. Our Dad died on Thanksgiving weekend, just less than three short weeks after we lost our Mom. The five of us were together again, preparing to say another final farewell. There we were, surrounded by all of the lights, decorations,...

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