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.

 

 

Attitude is Everything: In Fitness and In Health

Attitude is everything, in everything we do. When I was a little girl, I remember watching the incredible story of Peter Pan on TV. Parts of it was magical, and parts of it was downright terrifying. But, the one scene that really impressed me was when Peter taught John, Wendy, and Michael how to fly.

Peter certainly had a point when he was teaching the children how to fly. To reach their goal, all they had to do was to think lovely thoughts. Without the right mindset, they were grounded. But with the right mental attitude, the sky was the limit, so to speak.

Even after all these years, I can still recall that scene in my mind. The memory of that scene and Peter Pan’s advice has helped me get through a lot of challenging times and difficult situations over the years. After all, the only thing you need to achieve your goals is the right attitude, and to think lovely thoughts.

Many years ago, when my parents were visiting me and my husband, we were flipping through the television channels looking for something to watch. Something we could all agree on. Good luck with that. As my husband was channel surfing, he came across a station that had just started airing Peter Pan, the same one with Mary Martin that I had fallen in love with when I was a very small child.

My mother and I involuntarily squealed with delight. My father and husband groaned in disappointment. The negotiations began, but in the end, my mom and I won out. Peter Pan it was.

For the first time in almost 25 years, I got to watch Peter Pan teach John, Wendy, and Michael how to fly. And I was reminded to think lovely thoughts, no matter what life happens to throw at you. It’s so much better for your health, fitness, and well-being. When you think lovely thoughts, just imagine what you can accomplish in every aspect of your life–in your fitness, your health, relationships, business, etc. The sky’s the limit. You might even learn how to fly.

Solitude: Taking Time To Enjoy the Gift of Silence

Solitude. I was blessed with the gift of silence and solitude a few days ago when I happened to show up thirty minutes early for a dance class.

Fortunately, another class had just ended so the studio was open. However, when the dancers left the studio, I was alone. Really alone. There wasn’t another human being in the entire building. I began to feel a little anxious and upset.

Where was everyone? Why weren’t people arriving for the ten o’clock dance class? Did I drive the forty-five miles from my home in Denver to Boulder for nothing? My anxiety escalated as I watched the dancers from the previous class get in their cars and drive away and I realized I was alone in an empty building. That was not a comfortable feeling. It was even a little bit creepy. Maybe I should just get back in my car and drive home.

Then I realized that I had been given a rare and wonderful opportunity. The opportunity to be alone with my thoughts. There I was, in a beautiful, sun-filled space with time for quiet introspection. What a treat!

I had a full twenty minutes of sweet solitude.  I was able to relax, refresh, and enjoy the sensation of the sun on my face while I listened to the rhythm of my breathing and the sound of my heartbeat. The sound of the building answered my rhythm with its own. It was a lovely somatosensory experience. My anxiety quickly melted away.

I was enjoying myself so much that I was almost disappointed when my teacher showed up. Apparently I had the time wrong. Class didn’t start until ten thirty. Oops. However, if I hadn’t made that mistake, I would have missed out on an incredible opportunity to refresh myself. As well as a reminder that it’s good to spend time alone.

I think I’ll make a habit out of spending time alone more often. It’s amazing how even just a few minutes of solitude can clear your mind, refresh your spirit, and rejuvenate your soul. There is nothing quite like solitude, and the gift of silence. It’s so good for the health and well-being of your body, mind, and spirit!

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.