Mirror Neurons on the Wall….Mirror Neurons make You Smile

Mirror neurons on the wall….mirror neurons make you smile. This is a twist from one of the scariest fairy tales I’ve ever heard, Sleeping Beauty. But, what are mirror neurons, and why are they important?

They’re important because we have a tendency to mirror behavior that we observe. Imagine that you are having a bad day, and you come across someone who flashes you a radiant smile. Even though you may be carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, the natural tendency is to smile back. Immediately your mood is lighter. You feel like your load has been lifted a bit, and all of a sudden your day just got better.

It’s not simply because someone smiled at you that lifted your spirits. When you see someone smile, there are neural pathways in your brain that are activated. These pathways cause you to experience the same emotion that the other person is feeling.

On the other hand, if you’re in a fabulous mood, a scowl from a perfect stranger can ruin your day before you even know what’s happening. Mirror neurons are really pretty cool, because it helps us instantaneously understand what other people are feeling. It’s a great way to communicate with perfect strangers, and it helps us be more empathetic.

However, we need to be mindful of this little magic trick that nature has provided for us. While it is important to be able to connect with people at every level, if you surround yourself with people who are negative, critical, or judgmental, it’s just a matter of time before you will feel exactly the way they do. And you’ll behave that way as well. Conversely, if you surround yourself with positive people, you will lift each other up and the positive energy is self-perpetuating. It’s a beautiful thing.

So, make a habit of surrounding yourself with positive people. And the next time you see someone who looks like they’re having a bad day, please give them a warm smile. make sure it starts with your eyes and comes from your heart. You’ll light up their mirror neurons and brighten their day. You might even change their life. All from mirror neurons that make you smile. Isn’t that amazing?

Sticks and Stones, and Broken Bos

Sticks and stones may break your bones. As a martial artist, I know this to be true, because I personally experienced it first hand. I once broke a bone in martial arts, but it wasn’t my own. It belonged to my partner. It’s a long story, and perhaps I’ll share it someday.

Although I love martial arts, I haven’t been training at all over the past twelve months. At least not in the traditional way, at the dojo and with partners. Between running a business, publishing a book, and keeping up with life, I’ve been pretty busy these days.

However, I have been able to keep up with my ballet training. I am fortunate to study ballet with a remarkable woman who has a strong Tai Chi background, as well as many other incredible accomplishments. The woman is amazing!

Jayne doesn’t teach a traditional ballet class. Instead, she brings everything she has to offer to her dancers, including Tai Chi. I don’t want to give away all of her secrets (or mine), but over the past two years of working with her, I could feel myself getting stronger, and more powerful. Not only in a dance-related way, but in a martial arts way as well.

I asked Jayne if that could even be possible. Her answer was “Of course it is!” She also advised me to be careful when or if I ever returned to the dojo, because I might surprise myself. I decided to put my theory to the test. The dojo was hosting a seminar based on the art of the Rokshoku Bo, which is a 6 foot long staff. In other words, it’s a great big stick. And it can be pretty scary, especially when someone swings it at your head.

However, I like playing with sticks, so I took my Rokshoku Bo and went to the dojo for the seminar. It was awesome twirling my stick and doing imaginary strikes, and it felt great to be on the mat again. We partnered up with other students to practice our strikes, which can be a bit formidable, as you can imagine. After all, one bad move could end up with a trip to the Emergency Room. That would ruin everyone’s day.

I partnered up with the only other female black belt in the school. We’re great friends, and it just happened to be her foot that I accidently broke a few years ago. Ooops. It had been a really long time since we were on the mat together, and we started going at it with great enthusiasm with a series of strikes that culminated in one final overhead strike to the top of the head. Did I mention it was scary?

She came at me with full speed and full intention. I deflected each strike with equal speed and intention. Our energy continued to escalate until she went for the final blow, the kill strike, aimed directly at the top of my head. I’m not exactly sure what happened, but I felt a surge of energy come shooting up from the very core of my existence, and  I blocked the strike with ear-splitting spirit yell and every cell in my body participating.

For a split second time stood still. Then I heard a deafening crack. Suddenly I was holding two sticks instead of one. I blocked her strike with such force I literally broke my Bo in half. I was grateful that her strike didn’t land on my head. And I discovered that Jayne was right about my power. I also realized that I was going to have to buy a new Bo.

The moral of the story is that sticks and stones may break your bones, but a ballet dancer will break your Bos. Or maybe other things if you provoke her enough. It’s nice to find your power, isn’t it? I don’t know about you, but it sure makes me feel like a lady!

 

 

Life is Full of Bumps in the Road

Ah, life. It’s not always easy, but it is always wonderful. Even when we hit a few bumps along the way. After all, these bumps in the road of life help us build character. I had my first series of bumps when I was just five years old.

That summer before my fifth birthday, our family attended a church picnic at the local amusement park. It was a beautiful day, we were at White Swan Park, and everyone was having a marvelous time. All of us kids were in Heaven as we ran around from ride to ride. Finally, we came to the roller coaster, “The Mad Mouse.” It was the pride of the park, and was always able to strike fear and excitement in the heart of every child.

The roller coaster had individual cars rather than a chain of them linked together like a train. It also had a series of bumps at the end of the ride, each one a little bigger than the previous one. We all lined up at the entrance of “The Mad Mouse,” ready for the thrill of a lifetime. However, some of us got a lot more than we bargained for.

Each child was placed in their very own car. Since I was the smallest child, I was put in a car with my oldest sister. I sat in front of her with her legs wrapped tightly around me, with both of us holding onto the safety bar. The Mad Mouse slowly started to come to life, taking us around the curves at breath-taking speed. It was great fun until we got to the series of bumps.

When we hit the first bump I flew up in the air between my sister and the safety bar and landed halfway out of the car. My sister grabbed me and tried to pull me back into the car just as we hit the second bump. I flew even higher into the air and landed further out of the car, bent at the waistline, with my fingers dangling just a few inches away from the track.

Even in my panic I could feel my sister frantically grabbing at the only thing she could get a hold of–the waistband of my underpants. I could see the grown ups screaming below me, including my mother, who was seven months pregnant at the time. Bless her heart, she was running beside the tracks with her arms outstretched as if to catch me. I thought to myself, “This can’t be good. I’ve never the woman run, and I’ve never seen her catch anything in my entire life, either” 

Fortunately, my sister’s strength and the elastic waistband of my underpants both held out as the  young man operating the roller coaster brought it to a rolling stop. He was pale and shaking as he plucked me out of the car and handed me over to the grown-ups who rushed in to make sure I was alright. I noticed that my mother wasn’t looking so good. It must have been the pregnancy. Or maybe the heat.

I was embarrassed by all of the attention. I broke away from the crowd and ran off to the next ride. The adults marveled at my resilience.  My Mom still didn’t look so good. As a matter of fact, neither did my sister. But I didn’t let that distract me. After all, it was a beautiful day at White Swan Park, and everyone was having a marvelous time.

Life is a lot like that day at the amusement park. Everything can be going along just fine when life throws a series of unexpected bumps that leave you flying by the seat of your pants. And sometimes you’re just hanging on by a thread. Sometimes you feel like you’re going over the edge, and hope that there is someone to catch you. Even if they don’t have the skills needed to help you, just knowing that they care makes a difference. So, the next time you see someone hitting a series of bumps in their road of life, you might want to give them a hand. It can literally save their life.