Self-Indulgence Is Not A Dirty Word

My ballet master was incredibly demanding, which is one of the things I loved about him. After all, I don’t want to become complacent. Complacency breeds mediocrity, and in my opinion, that is a waste of human potential.

He would often chastise us if we weren’t working hard enough to satisfy him and his high standards. During the middle of brutal and complicated movement patterns he would frequently scream, “Don’t be so self-indulgent!” Not only was it distracting, it was demoralizing to be called self-indulgent when you were dancing your heart out and working your butt off.

Besides, the way he said it made it sound like a dirty word. In his mind, it was a dirty word. I always wondered why, and I never understood what he meant. I would have asked him, but he terrified me. He terrified all of us, even though we loved him, and we were adults.

Here it is, many years later, and I think I finally understand what he meant. To achieve the goals we set for ourselves, we have to fully engage all of our effort and focus to that goal. We have to pour our heart, soul, body, mind, and spirit into it. That leaves no room for self-indulgence.

But I disagree. There is an incredible amount of untapped potential in each and every one of us. However, we can’t reach this potential if we don’t allow ourselves a bit of pampering. A chance to rest, relax, and hit the refresh button. Some people may call it self-indulgence. I call it common sense. And it really isn’t a dirty word. At least, not in my mind it isn’t.

So, don’t be afraid to take some time off, hang out, and get some rest. Indulge yourself. It’s so good for your health!

Spring Into Fun Fit Tips

Spring has sprung. However, with the crazy weather we have all been experiencing across the country, it sure doesn’t seem like it. The relentless wind, rain, and snow can keep us locked indoors instead of getting out and enjoying our favorite activities. But, no worries–here are a few quick tips to keep you fit, healthy, and moving so you can be at your best when the sun comes out for good.

 

Bounce around for your health.

Having an exercise ball is a great tool to have at home no matter what the weather is like. Just sitting on the ball for a few minutes every day does wonders for your posture, balance, core strength, and flexibility. Adding gentle bouncing while sitting on the ball also adds the benefit of stimulating your nervous system, cardio-pulmonary system, and lymphatic system. It’s also great for your mental and emotional health, and it makes you feel like a kid again.

Why weight to feel great? 

For strengthening, sculpting, and toning, I recommend using light weights. Even 2 pound weights will give you the results you want as long as you are moving slowly and fully engaging your attention and awareness while using them. For example, when doing bicep curls, imagine the line and the shape of the muscle fibers. Concentrate on the movement of the muscle as you slowly bend and straighten your elbows. You can do an entire series of arm exercises in just a few minutes. To get more bang for your buck, do them while sitting on the ball.

Chairs aren’t just for sitting. 

Sit on the edge of a firm chair with armrests. Slowly push against the armrests with your hands, bringing yourself toward a standing position. You do not have to go all the way up. As a matter of fact, you don’t have to go very far before you feel your arms working. Very slowly, lower yourself back down. And I do mean slowly–no plopping back down. Make sure that you pull your shoulder blades down and together  as you move. This will strengthen and tone your upper back muscles as well as your arms at the same time.

Remember, it’s not about going to the gym 3 times/week. It’s about what you do each and every day that has a cumulative effect to keep you vibrant, fit, and healthy. Keep moving–be healthy!

Should, Could, Would: Life’s Lessons From a Little Girl

Should, could, would. I was in first grade when I learned those words. My teacher was terrifying, and I believed she became a teacher to torture helpless children. She wore a perpetual scowl on her craggy face, and the only time she smiled was when she was berating one of her hapless students until they cried so hard their teeth rattled or they wet their pants. Many (like myself), were known to do both.

One cold winter afternoon, our teacher handed out sheets of paper with the words “should, could, and would” printed on them. She explained what the words meant. She also told us that they were advanced for us, but she didn’t care. She expected us to keep those papers, look at them every day, and learn how to spell them as well as how to use them in a sentence. With one final scowl, she dismissed us for the day.

Clutching my papers in my mitten-covered hand, I walked through the snow, anxious to get home. Suddenly, a gust of wind yanked the papers out of my hand. I watched in horror as my important papers danced in the wind for a moment before they were carried across a neighbor’s yard. I tried to run after them, but the snow was too deep and my legs were no match for the speed of the wind. Holy crap, my teacher was going to kill me! I began to cry as I slowly continued up the hill to my house.

A truck pulled up beside me. It was my father. He grinned at me and opened the passenger door to give me a lift the rest of the way home. “Oh my God,” I thought to myself, “Things just went from bad to worse.” When he saw my tears he asked what was wrong. I cried harder.

Choking back sobs, I told him what happened. “Well,” he said, “Let’s go look for them.” I couldn’t believe it. My father was going to save me from the wrath and imminent public humiliation of a caliber only my teacher could accomplish. For what seemed like hours my father and I trudged through the deep snow looking for the lost papers. I had stopped crying, because at least now I had help.

Finally, my dad asked me how important these papers really were. I shrugged and wiped my nose with the back of my mitten. Then I told him what Miss You-Know-Who had said. My father said nothing for a long moment as we stood on that hill with the snow and the wind whipping around us, but his face got very red. It must have been the wind. He knelt in the snow and put his face close to mine. “If Miss You-Know-Who says anything to you at all, you tell her to come talk to me.”

I smiled and nodded my head. My father was a large man, and could be quite formidable. He also knew my teacher quite well, since she went to our church. Yep–I even got to see her on the weekend. Lucky me. Then my dad carried me through the snow, put me in the truck, and drove up the hill to our home. Nothing more was ever said.

I learned a lot about those three words since that day in the snow all those years ago. I learned how to change my “shoulds” to “coulds”, my “woulds” to “will,” and my coulds to “of course I can!” I learned that we all could use a little help sometimes. I also learned that anyone can be a bully, as long as they can get away with it. And anyone can be a hero, as long as they have the courage to speak up.

 

The Power of Grace….

Grace. It’s such a beautiful word. Just the sound of it brings forth a sense of ease, elegance, and peace. Who wouldn’t want to experience grace? Maybe we felt like we had it at some point but lost it along the way. (I don’t know what happened to it….I know I left it around here somewhere). Perhaps we feel like we have been looking for it all of our lives. It’s possible that we don’t even know what we’re looking for, but intuitively know that something is missing. What is grace, anyway?

In my mind, grace is a feeling. It is a sense of confidence and well-being. It is about having a strong sense of self-awareness, and being comfortable in your own skin. You know how to set personal boundaries and how to cultivate healthy relationships. You respect yourself. You have the flexibility to move through life with an effortless flow, even when the going gets tough.

One of my favorite quotes is from a remarkable man named Moshe Feldenkrais. He said, “What I am after is not flexible bodies, but flexible brains. What I am after is to return each person to their human dignity.” Ahh, grace. It is a lovely word, and a powerful one as well. It’s also a wonderful feeling–one that returns you to your strength, power, and human dignity.

It was through life’s trial and tribulations and the most difficult chapters in my life that I discovered the power of grace. I will admit that it hadn’t always been easy. But I did find it, and I sure like the way it feels. And I hope I don’t lose it like I lose my car keys. Because, there is incredible power and grace in each and every one of us. As well as human dignity.

Age Is a Beautiful Thing

Age is a beautiful thing. Or, at least it can be, as long as you have the right attitude. I recently saw an advertisement for a clinic specializing in “Age Management Medicine.” Yikes! As if getting older is a disease state that needs to be managed. That certainly puts a negative spin on getting older. It’s also ridiculous, and it simply isn’t true.

What we believe is what we become. What we tell ourselves and what we hear from other people is what we eventually believe, even if it conflicts with our inherent belief system. I personally believe that we can all be fit, healthy, and vibrant, in every stage of life. Because what we believe is what we become.

It all begins with the right mindset. Staying positive, and blocking out some of the negative messages we hear from society, the media, even our friends and family is a great place to start. And pay attention to the people around you who are fabulous examples and role models that age isn’t something to be “managed.” It’s a beautiful process to be celebrated and enjoyed.

My favorite ballet teacher and mentor is still going strong and teaching six days a week at 71. Her energy and enthusiasm is boundless. I have a long time friend who bellies up to the barre with me at least four days a week for a professional level ballet class. She is 81, and she is amazing! My vibrant, energetic, and beautiful Aunt Stella was recently featured in her local newspaper for her remarkable accomplishments in bowling. She is 89 years young. Her youthful vitality is delightful to see, and she is an incredible role model. Not just for me, but for everyone who meets her.

Age is a number, not a disease. Getting older is inevitable. Getting old is a choice. At least, that’s what I believe. And, what we believe is what we become.

Love Yourself With All Your Heart

Love is in the air. It’s February, and Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. It’s the season of love. It’s also the time of year when it’s really difficult to keep up with our health and fitness goals.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but the short days, cold weather, and lack of serious holidays to look forward to kind of wears me down. I would rather hunker down on the couch with a box of chocolates and wait for the spring thaw. However, that will certainly put me far behind the eight ball when swim suit season kicks in.

So, instead of hiding under the covers or throwing in the towel, here are a few simple tips to keep yourself motivated, moving, and at the top of your game:

1). Love yourself with all your heart. 

Be kind to yourself. Speak softly and gently, and give yourself positive messages. Don’t beat yourself up–we are all works in progress.

2). Get on the ball.

Seriously, get on the ball. If you don’t already have a large exercise ball rolling around your house or garage, get one. Just sitting on a ball does wonders for your posture, core strength, balance, and flexibility. It also improves your circulation, lymphatic flow, and wakes up your nervous system improving your attention and concentration. Best of all, it’s a lot of fun and makes you feel like a kid again.

3). Roll around on the floor.

Most adults hate getting on the floor, which is all the more reason to do it, at least once each and every day. Roll around on the floor, crawl, creep, or simply lie on the floor and make yourself comfortable. Feel your weight relax into the floor. Getting up and down from the floor helps keep you fit, flexible, and mobile.

4). Get out of the house.

I don’t know if you’re anything like me, but some days it’s just really hard to get out of the house if I don’t have to, especially if the weather is less than perfect. Which it often is this time of year. Look in the mirror and convince yourself that getting out to your yoga, dance, or Pilates class really is a good idea. You’ll be glad you did.

5). Grab a friend.

Recruit a friend. Not only to keep you accountable, but for encouragement and companionship. Everything is sweeter with a friend or family member to enjoy it with.

Above all, love yourself with all your heart. You are a beautiful human being in every aspect– body, mind, spirit, and soul. After all, it’s the season of love.

Believe In Yourself, and All Things Are Possible….

What we believe is what we become. What we tell ourselves, and what we hear from others, is what we eventually believe. Even if it goes against our inherent belief system. Unfortunately, not everything we hear is positive. Nor is it always in the best interest of our health and well-being.

Some messages we receive are so subtle that we might not even be aware of them. Others are blatantly shoved in our face like a cheese grater peeling away at our self-confidence.  Okay, the cheese grater analogy might be a bit extreme, but I’m sure you get the point. And, quite honestly, those are easier to deal with, because we can see them coming a mile away. And we can chose to ignore them.

It’s the insidious messages that are far more dangerous to our belief system and our self-image. That’s because our nervous system is always “listening,” and always processing information that it receives. Our brain doesn’t necessarily determine if the information is correct or not. It doesn’t categorize what it takes in as good, bad, true, or false. It simply takes it in and processes it for future reference.

When we hear negative messages over, and over again, we will believe it, and we will become it. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Yikes! On the other hand, when we receive positive messages, those are the ones that become part of our belief system, and that is what we become. I sure do like the sound of that!

So, as we move into a New Year, remember to be kind to yourself. Speak softly, and gently, sending yourself positive messages that you will surely live up to. Do not belittle yourself, not even in jest. After all, your nervous system is always listening.

If you believe in yourself, all things are possible. And, I believe in you! Wishing you all the best in health and wellness!

Wishes Are Like Snowflakes

Wishes are like snowflakes. Every one is different, and every one is special. Wishes are dreams that we hope will come true, especially during this special time of year.

I love the holidays. There is a magic in the air that seems like anything is possible, and that dreams really can come true. At least, it seems that way as long as you’re not fighting traffic or the crowds at the mall. Or after you discover that some Grinch stole a package from your front porch. Grrrrrrrr.

Maybe that’s why it’s harder to believe in the magic as an adult. We didn’t have to concern ourselves with such mundane issues when we were children. Our job was simply to live in the moment, and let our imagination run wild. Especially around the holidays.

If we were lucky enough, we would even have some snow to enjoy as well. I grew up in Western Pennsylvania, where the winters were long, and cold. Sometimes, they were downright brutal. But, we loved it, especially when school was canceled and we got a snow day.

Once the snow began to fall, the flakes began to multiply at an incredible rate. Snow exponentially fell and piled up, while we kids pressed our noses to the window, hoping for more snow. For some reason, our parents weren’t nearly as enthusiastic.

There was nothing more exciting than going outside to play in the snow. The possibilities were endless. We could make snow angels, build snowmen, build snow forts, go sled riding, and even ice skating on the pond behind our house. Our imaginations knew no limits, and the only thing that made us stop playing outside were frozen feet and hands. Or the need to go to the bathroom.

Over the years, our child-like enthusiasm began to fade as we transitioned into the (ack) world of adulthood. The holidays became stressful, and the snow became a nuisance. We forgot how to dream, and we forgot how to play. That hurts my heart. So, here is my special wish this holiday season.

No matter what holiday you celebrate–be it Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanza, Solstice, or Festivus for the rest of us, I am wishing you peace, love, joy, and laughter. May you experience a bit of child-like wonder and enthusiasm. Most of all, may you enjoy some time to play in the snow. It will do wonders for your health and well-being. Wishing you all the best!

Secrets of a Middle-Aged Ninja

Secrets….we all have them. I probably have a few more than most. And many of them are secrets that I learned in my martial arts training. I’d love to share them all with you, but then you’d know too much. Besides, it might get me in deep trouble with the Secret Society of Ninjas. So, if you ever run into one of their members, please don’t let them know I have shared my secrets.

This first secret might be a little disappointing. Ninjas really aren’t fighters. We’re lovers. We love life, our families, our friends, our homes, and our communities. We want nothing more (and nothing less), than to simply live our lives in peace and harmony. Ninjas aren’t about war, or warfare. However, we are warriors. Wait a minute….doesn’t that sound contradictory?

It’s not. Because a true warrior has a heart of compassion. For life, for nature, and even for their enemies or those who wish to cause them harm. A warrior also has a playful spirit, and doesn’t take themselves too seriously, even when they are under attack, so to speak.

Patience is a virtue. Everyone knows that, and everybody gives it lip service, but a true warrior really embodies it, and incorporates it into their daily life. Considering our fast-paced modern world, as well as the “got to have it now” attitude, patience truly is a virtue as rare as hen’s teeth.

Above all, a warrior is honest. At least, they’re supposed to be. I have met a few who proclaim honesty and demand it of others, but not of themselves. Hmm, that hardly seems fair. But, that’s when you know they are not true warriors. And those who are just smile, and walk away. No sense in engaging in a confrontation over such a silly thing. A warrior knows how to avoid confrontation at all costs.

I have a lot more secrets up my sleeve. But, I think I’ll make like a ninja and disappear for now instead. I can always share them another time.

Evade, Deflect, and Redirect: Wisdom From a Warrior Queen

Evade, deflect, and re-direct. I hear those words in my head almost every day, especially if I’m faced with a conflict. In my fourteen years of martial arts training, these words were repeatedly reinforced. You might even say they were beaten into me, so to speak.

The first thing you learn as a new student is how to evade an attack. Just get out of the way. After all, you can’t get hit and you can’t get hurt if you’re not there. It sounds simple enough, but it really isn’t. Because there are several ways you can respond to an attack.

1). You can freeze like a deer in the headlights. This is a typical response, and the outcome is never good.

2). You can fight back, which is a good strategy if you have absolutely no other choice. However, the chances of you being the victor is about fifty-fifty. It’s actually even less than that because the attacker has the element of surprise to his advantage.

3). You can get out of the way. This is a handy-dandy little trick affectionately referred to as a ninja disappearing act.

I was pretty good at evading an attack when I was a white belt. Unfortunately, my strategy was to run screaming off of the mat with my gi over my head. Not exactly the nimble reaction of an accomplished martial artist. But what can I say? I was terrified.

Eventually I overcame my terror when I saw a fist coming at my face, or a kick heading toward my solar plexus. And I learned how to move out of the way and evade an attack. And I made a fascinating discovery.

This nifty little technique can be implemented anytime you are under pressure or in the line of any attack, real or perceived. Attacks and confrontations come in a variety of different ways. They are not just physical. They can be mental, emotional, psychological, verbal, etc.

Once you learn how to use this ninja secret, you won’t get hit, and you can’t get hurt. Even better, once you step out of the way, the attacker will beat himself (or herself) up with their own negative energy. How cool is that?

Think about that the next time something is coming at you. After all, life is full of hits, both literally and figuratively. Learn to get out of the way and you’ll save yourself a world of hurt. But what if you can’t get out of the way, or what do you do once you do avoid an attack? I think I’ll save those pearls of wisdom for another day.

 

 

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