Is Kefir for You?

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Actor Kiefer Sutherland, kefir lover?

Have you heard of kefir? I don’t mean the blonde star of TV’s “24,” Kiefer Sutherland. What a great show, though! I’m talking about the fermented milk drink – kefir, sometimes called the “champagne of dairy.” I’d heard of it but being somewhat lactose sensitive, I wasn’t sure I’d want to try it. Fermented milk never sounded very appetizing, but I was intrigued when a good friend said she had started cultivating it at home and found it to be an excellent alternative to yogurt and probiotic supplementation. I’ve certainly had my fair share of gastrointestinal issues and wondered if it could help me have better digestion. My friend gave me some of her cultured kefir as a starter kit to make my own at home and for several weeks I’ve been growing and drinking my own homemade kefir.  I have to tell you – it’s a hit! I have noticed far less bloat at the end of the day, more regularity and some weight loss as a result of consuming 1 cup of kefir each morning!

kefir1Author and dietitian Joe Leech, from the online journal Authority Nutrition, describes kefir as, “a fermented drink, traditionally made using cow’s milk or goat’s milk… by adding kefir “grains” to milk. These are not grains in the conventional sense, but cultures of yeast and lactic acid bacteria that resemble a cauliflower in appearance. Over a period of 24 hours or so, the microorganisms in the kefir grains multiply and ferment the sugars in the milk, turning it into kefir. Then the grains are removed from the liquid, and can be used again.” The word is derived the Turkish word keyif, which means “feeling good” and refers to the feeling of comfortable digestion and well-being after drinking it. It has been a common food item in traditional Eastern European and Southwest Asian cuisine for perhaps thousands of years and was a method of keeping milk fresh during hot summer months before refrigeration, as it’s shelf life lasts well beyond fresh milk’s.

kefir2Kefir keeps in the ‘fridge for several weeks, but you have to keep “feeding” the kefir grains with fresh milk to re-activate the fermentation process. It’s pretty easy to concoct, you just need some glass or plastic jars (the bacteria don’t like metal), a plastic strainer or cheese cloth and a wooden or plastic spoon. Kefir’s magic happens when it’s fermenting outside the refrigerator in a cool, dry place with a breathable cover like a coffee filter. Once the kefir grains are added to the milk at room temperature, or you get an already cultivated strain from a friend, the mixture starts to separate. The kefir grains rise and look like cottage cheese and the bottom of the milk looks opaque. After 24 hours (the Kiefer Sutherland connection) at a moderate room temp, the separation and fermentation are complete and you’ll want to pour the mix through the strainer or cheese cloth into another metal-free container and spread the kefir “paste” through the strainer with your metal-free spoon to release as much liquid as possible into your container. Then you have the kefir drink, which may have to be stirred to reconstitute the mixture, and the thick kefir grains left in the strainer, which looks like a pasty cottage cheese. You’ll want to put the kefir grains in an airtight jar and feed them with more milk, then store in the ‘fridge until you’re ready for your next batch to be made. The kefir liquid can be refrigerated for a couple weeks, but you’ll want to drink it once it’s cooled, each day, and keep making more fresh kefir to replenish it’s remarkable effects on your diet and health. If it’s too sour at first taste, just add fruit!

kefir4Kefir does taste a bit sour, much like plain yogurt, but has a “champagne” aftertaste due to the fermentation. It is said to have ten times the amount of probiotic cultures as yogurt, with over thirty strains of good bacteria and yeasts, and its consistency is much more liquid than solid, making it a convenient gut mending beverage. Kefir has also been shown to have anti-bacterial, infection fighting properties and immune stimulating qualities that inhibit cancer cell development, digestive ulcers and IBS contributors. Allergy and asthma sufferers have shown improvement of their symptoms while drinking kefir regularly as it can also help reduce inflammation in sinus and respiratory tissues. Even if you’re lactose intolerant, kefir’s enzyme profile and lactic acid bacteria make it much more digestible and a possible alternative to milk for those who have trouble breaking down the sugar in milk, lactose.

thefoodyoueatThough it may seem like a trendy and unfamiliar food item, certainly the benefits of drinking kefir are significant enough to give it a try. I never thought incorporating fermented milk in my diet would be as palatable as it’s become. I drink it on an empty stomach each morning to get my digestion started right. The typical American diet is severely lacking in fermented foods, which were once traditional and provided the necessary bacteria to break down proteins and fats more efficiently. Plus, all the refined sugar and flour we eat has done a lot of damage to our guts over the last century. Having a healing diet ally like kefir on your side each day can make the battle against digestive disease, diabetes and obesity a bit easier. I love it and have found it an indispensable part of my daily well-being. Maybe kefir is for you, too.  Look into getting a starter kit or try any of the good brands of kefir on the shelf in your health food store’s refrigerator section to get started. You never know if you’ll like it or how good it can make you feel until you try it, right? I now have several of my friends and clients becoming kefir coverts and they agree, “Kefir eats the bloat!” I hope you enjoy your kefir revolution, too!

“Let medicine be thy food and food be thy medicine.” ~Hippocrates

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Denny’s Top 10 to Zen

2015It’s nearly 2015!  How does the time fly so fast?  We must have been having tons of fun!  With all the hope, possibility and potential of the new year sitting right around the corner – and our resolutions sitting on ready – I’m reminded of all the past accomplishments and progress of the last year and inspired for future successes.  Many of my year’s best moments revolved around 10 practices or habits that I’ve incorporated into my life over the past twenty years to make myself feel happy and healthy, whole and well.  These “paths to peace” help me unwind, enhance my sense of well-being and shift my energy when I need it.  In my vernacular blog lingo – they help me to be more Zen.  All have had a special place and time in improving my life since I began practicing them and all can be life changing when they become habits.  I hope you’re inspired to take action and try some of them to advance your life and increase your health, wealth, wisdom and happiness…

Denny’s Top 10 Wellness Habits:

DennyPrayer11. Yoga – any style, anywhere, as often as I can get to it!  Yoga always makes me feel centered, balanced, aligned, strong, loose, calm and clear.  Yoga means unity and brings together the best of physical, mental and spiritual exercise and connects the parts of our being together through the breath.  My favorite forms are Ashtanga (power) yoga and Restorative yoga, both of which I’m certified to teach.  The daily practice of doing my own yoga at home has freed me from neck and spinal tension, rehabilitated my once shoddy knees and given me much greater flexibility, strength, breath control and mental focus.  It is such a complete exercise form and miraculous “nerve tonic” that simply doing twenty minutes of yoga each day can drastically improve your joint and cardiovascular health, muscle tone, nerve and immune response, digestion and lower your blood pressure.  Try a simple program of repeating Child’s pose and Down-dog pose in succession every morning for a few minutes to start and build your practice slowly from there.  If it wasn’t for yoga I’m sure I’d be tied up in knots right now!

acu_meridians22. Acupressure and Energy Work – Therapeutic acupressure, acupuncture, Reflexology, Jin Shin Jyutsu, Shiatsu, Reiki, Haptonomy and other forms of mainly Eastern energetic bodywork therapies can be fantastically effective methods to help the body heal itself.  Whether it’s mind over matter or matter over mind, accessing the body’s natural energetic centers, like the chakras, tsubos and meridians, through specific therapeutic practice can unlock one’s potential for health and restore one’s sense of well-being.  The power of touch, such as the “laying on of hands,” can not be over-estimated for it’s curative effects.  I have tried several forms of energy therapy to reduce anxiety, heal old emotional wounds and improve my concentration.  I became certified in acupressure and Reflexology over ten years ago when I realized it’s unique potential for helping others.  I still use it to this day to help friends and family in need of pain-relief.  I also learned Jin Shin Jyutsu, or self-acupressure, to hone myself in times of ill health or scattered energy.  I highly recommend learning this method for yourself.

trippy_cat13. Hynotherapy and Self-hypnosis – I became certified in Hypnotherapy in 2005 because I found it fascinating as a method for reprogramming the mind for desired behavioral changes.  I learned all I could about the power of suggestion and how the subconscious mind works as an autopilot response to keep us safe and confortable, even in our bad habits.  I realized I could help others “rewire” their thoughts to let go of past hurts and self-imposed limitations so they could experience more out of their lives.  I also became adept at self-hypnosis or auto-suggestion, the process of reprogramming your own mind through self-induced relaxation, visualization and retraining of the subconscious.  It’s empowered me to achieve great feats of memorization, overcome apprehension with public speaking and develop greater confidence in business and creative endeavors.  Hypnosis can help you stop smoking, lose weight, overcome insomnia and phobias or enhance your performance in any field.  Digital audio-visual hypnosis programs that use neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) or anything by life coach Jon Mercer can also work wonders for whatever behaviors you want to change.  All things are first a matter of mind!

arts14. The Arts – Be it acting, singing, music, dance, drawing, painting, sculpting, writing or participating in any kind of performance or artistic expression, the arts have been my lifesaver for years.  Some people are naturally more creative and need to express themselves in that way to free their spirits and live their purpose.  I definitely fall into that category, but I know many people who are more “critical” than creative minded who have greatly benefitted from exposure to the arts and some form of self-expression.  Seeing a work of visual or performing art can help you relate more to the human condition and allow your spirit to feel great depths and heights of human emotion.  It can be freeing, healing, calming, exciting, thought provoking, inspiring and life-affirming to experience art in any form.  I’ve performed as an actor and singer since I was in Middle School and love to write and tell stories.  This passion led me to obtain two academic degrees, star in two Off-Broadway shows, perform in my own comedy troupe for two years in Manhattan and fill the leading role in a two-act comedy, “The Year of Independent Living,” at this year’s Tampa Bay Theatre Festival.  I know the power of the arts first-hand and can attest to it’s magical ability to transform your life and open up your heart, mind and spirit.  Those who’ve gone through traumatic experience, dealt with mental illness or have been in need of physical rehabilitation have turned to the arts to help the body and mind heal via the soul’s expression.  I say, pick up a pen, paintbrush or piccolo and have at it!  Do it for yourself… do it for the love of art!

5. Fitness and Weight Training – I started strength training when I was seventeen but never got serious about it until I was about nineteen, a sophomore in college.  I discovered yoga about that time, too.  Once I really got into it, there was no turning back.  Still, I’ve had fits and starts, dry spells with waning enthusiasm and booms where I was fully committed to regular weight training, cardiovascular exercise and regular flexibility and stretching components to my workouts.  Everybody is different and needs different types of exercise to remain engaged.  I tried running but that really killed my knees and some competitive sports but they never satisfied my personal desires when it came to feeling physically fit.  I seem to do best with a combination of yoga, swimming and weight lifting.  It really makes me feel strong, supple and energized.  Having been a certified personal trainer and fitness instructor for over fourteen years, I know there’s a lot of information out there and it can be confusing and conflicting.  If you try various workouts you’re bound to find something that will work out for you.  Experiment, go with your interests and vary your routines until you find the right fit.  A great rule of thumb is to make flexibility 20-30% of your total workout bout, strength training 40-60% and cardio another 20-30%.  Doing your workout in that order also promotes the most efficient use of the body’s energy supply systems, not wasting too much energy on cardio early on and feeling too tires for strength training which builds and maintains muscle – the key to your metabolic rate and fat burning.  That way you do 12-18 minutes of stretching, 24-36 minutes of strength and 12-18 minutes of cardio at the end to manage your workout in a 60 minute time frame.  If you subscribe to the “afterburn effect” workout, you might want to stick with only strength training for 15-20 minutes, which supercharges your metabolic rate to burn calories for much longer periods of time than traditional exercise models.  There’s always more to learn when it comes to fitness so I encourage you to keep researching and stay active!  And don’t forget to feed your muscles!!

Gorgeous Beach Landscape6. Deep Breathing Exercises – There are many ways to breathe and we’re simply not taught how magnificent breath control is in beating stress, regulating the emotions, opening blood vessels, managing the heart rate, energizing the body, stabilizing mood and deepening mental focus and relaxation.  The breath is the most essential element needed for life.  We can scarcely live more than two minutes without it.  Yet we take it so for granted.  It’s really a miracle that the exact right atmospheric and chemical conditions exist to sustain us through the magical air we breathe.  Feeling grateful and joyful for each breath we take is the essence of living in grace.  The Ujjayi pranayama, a type of yogic throat breathing practiced in Ashtanga yoga, is called the “victorious breath” and deeply connects you with the universal life force energy known as prana.  But there are many types of simple deep breathing techniques that can help you find a tranquil state of body and mind like “reverse breathing,” where you inhale through the mouth like sucking through a straw and then exhale out the nose completely, which clears the sinus cavity and calms the central nervous system.  Diaphragmatic breathing, where your belly rises and falls with each breath is also deeply calming and expands breath capacity.  Focusing on certain body parts, like the eyes, fingers and toes while breathing can deepen your sensation of relaxation, too.  Simply yawning and sighing in succession can also make you feel peaceful, light and free.  Try sitting or lying down comfortably with a hand, a book or a pillow on your abdomen and watch as it slowly lifts and lowers as you breathe deeply.  Notice each exhale taking a bit longer than the last.  Feel the natural rhythm and flow of the breath deepening as you simply observe.  The navel will drop lower into your abdomen as you exhale more deeply and feel more relaxed.  Do this each night before bed and notice how well you sleep!  My breath has always been there for me in my times of need and I keep just practicing so I never forget how to do it right.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA7. Writing and Journaling – For the better part of twenty years my journal has been my constant companion and confidant.  When I was just out of college it became vitally important to record my thoughts and feelings so I could later make sense of them when all other reason failed.  I’ve used a spiral notebook to record my ideas for books, sketch comedy and movie concepts.  I’ve written a children’s book, short stories, poetry, stage plays and screenplays and I keep aspiring to be a published author because it inspires me to challenge myself such goals.  Writing is how I make sense of the world, which can often seem nonsensical.  Whether it’s creative writing, blogging or journaling, I always seem to be putting my ideas down somewhere so I can remember them and reference them when needed or simply express how I’m feeling in the safest, clearest way I know.  It’s a form of therapy for me and I highly recommend getting into a regular writing routine for anyone who needs to structure their thoughts and understand the way they think.  Who doesn’t need that?  I wrote my “morning pages” as instructed in Julia Cameron’s book “The Artist’s Way” for years – just writing out 3 pages of stream of consciousness journaling, long-hand, each morning until I would hit creative or cathartic pay dirt.  I have resolved many personal issues this way and found spiritual enlightenment through the patient, regular task of writing.  Many times it saved me from a sticky situation and protected my relationships and goals from rash, unregulated emotion and poorly planned action.  Dumping your psychic garbage and sorting through your thoughts in a journal can help you do the same.  Whether it’s writing lists, poems, lyrics, memoires or anything at all you want to express you’ll notice the act of jotting it down can make you feel better than all right.

chakras8. Meditating and Praying – Transcendental meditation has been a stalwart companion in my search for truth and inner peace for many years now.  It easily brings calm and serenity to my life and has become easier and more fulfilling the more I practice it.  Any form of meditation doesn’t have to be done cross-legged (called zazen in Zen Buddhist practice) for hours at a time to be of benefit.  Finding one’s inner power, purpose and patience can come in just a few minutes at a time once the practice has been mastered.  Simply listening to the breath with laser-like attention can make for an effective meditation practice.  Guided visualization, brain entrainment music like binaural beats or repetitive motions can also be utilized to induce the trance-like state associated with deep meditative focus.  Yoga is said to be form of moving meditation and prepares the body for the quiet stillness where oneness of body, mind and spirit can be attained through relaxation, focus and breath.  Meditation can also be described as listening to one’s higher self, the wisest inner voice that is connected to universal knowledge, where the answers to all of one’s needs and wants can be found.  Prayer, on the other hand, is where one’s questions or requests from the universe, creator or higher power are directed.  It doesn’t really matter what you believe, who you think is in charge or who you pray to when you take up the act of prayer.  There is no true separation of energy in divine terms and your prayers are being heard by the powers that be, whomever they are.  Since we’re all connected to the universe, our creator and each other, the energy of prayer creates ripples that eventually come back to us – so it’s best to stay positive and pray only for good, for the best possible outcome for all.  But prayer, like meditation, is a private act and very personal, so I won’t espouse my beliefs as definitive or dare thrust them upon you as superior.  I have faith that all good people who pray or meditate do it for the right reasons and I respect all beliefs that cause no harm.  I believe that if you’re a good person and practice your spiritual beliefs in positive ways, it all gets heard by the same benevolent, supportive power and the answers we need are given to us in accordance with the energy we radiate and with what we can handle.  Both prayer and meditation can help heal the body, mind and spirit and should be considered when other methods of self-improvement fall short.

machu_picchu19. Traveling – I think broadening one’s horizons is essential in developing a wider perspective on life and opening up one’s sense of adventure, possibility, wonder, enrichment and enlightenment.  Making more of one’s own life is what we all want.  When we travel we add new people, cultures, customs, languages, art, food, wisdom, stories, music, spirituality and social understanding to our concept of life and how we fit into it.  I have been lucky enough in my life to travel extensively through Europe and North America to sacred sites and natural wonders and have seen and done amazing things that forever enriched my sense of self and of the world.  From the Acropolis in Athens to Stonehenge in England; from the Duomo in Florence to the Louvre in Paris; from the cliffs of Moher in Ireland to the palace of Knossos on Crete I have experienced ancient history and architecture, the greatest works of art ever produced and nature’s most awe-inspiring vistas first-hand it and it made me grow and appreciate the world I live in so acutely.  Traveling to Chichen Itza in Mexico, hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and Brice and Zion national parks, seeing the Grand Canyon up close and even viewing the New York City skyline at night have all shown me what magnificent opportunities and possibilities, both natural and man-made, that this world can offer.  My big bucket list trips still include the Big Island of Hawaii, Machu Picchu in Peru, Bali in Indonesia and an African safari in Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa.  I can only imagine how much visiting those places will reshape my worldview and remind me what a gift my life is.  I can’t wait to find out!  Even exploring local vistas that are new to me, like the Warm Mineral Springs in North Port, FL where the legend of the “fountain of youth” originated has made me a richer person for having the experience of visiting… and was fantastic for my skin tone!

volunteer110. Teaching and Volunteering – I’ll keep it simple and true: teaching and volunteering are two of the most fulfilling things I’ve done.  I’ve taught all kinds fitness classes and wellness workshops to preschoolers, seniors and everyone in between and it’s always a joy to help people learn and grow.  I’ve volunteered for various charitable fundraisers and foundations as a singer, yoga instructor, server, non-medical assistant and caregiver and it always feels great to help those less fortunate than myself.  I always walk away feeling more fortunate and grateful that I donated my time and energy and that I got to make a difference in some else’s life.  Selfless acts of kindness remind me to be thankful for my life and to be humble, to give generously of my heart and rejoice in alleviating someone’s suffering and savor the pleasure of feeling their gratitude and seeing them smile or hearing them laugh.  It’s those little things we do that mean a lot.  Volunteering and donating time, effort, energy and money, advocating for others well-being and supporting worthy causes for those in need uplifts the spirit.  Helping children, seniors, the disabled and the diseased and all of God’s creatures, big and small, makes this world a better place to live in and your life a bigger light in the world.  Teaching anyone to help him or herself is the easiest way to guarantee their betterment and the future benefit of others.  So pay-it-forward and give of yourself, make a difference and fight for what you believe in, spread your wisdom and compassion far and wide.  The boost to humankind will be worth it and the rewards for your soul will be immeasurable.

NY2015

Click on New Year’s Toast GIF

I also practice giving gratitude or counting my blessings daily, which always makes me feel more connected with the goodness and abundance in my life.  Each morning I’ll think of at least ten things I’m grateful for, like my health, friends, family, my home, my clients, my food and drink, my cat, my car, my computer, my imagination (and much more) to start my day in a healthy frame of mind.  Then at night I’ll think of the best thing that happened to me that day and recall all the many good things in that process of remembering, too.  That helps me go to sleep in a peaceful, joyful way.  Try counting your blessings instead of sheep the next time you need to rest.  This is my feel-good motto: “If you’re alive and thinking, be in love and thanking!”

I hope these 10 Zen practices help promote wellness and fulfillment in your life as you move forward and grow this coming year.  Thank you for taking this journey with me and sharing in my adventure of enlightenment.  May the promise of 2015 inspire you to be your personal best, reach for your dreams and achieve your goals… even the sky is not the limit!

~Be well, all year, all your life!

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Holistic Health Helped by Hypnotherapy

hypnosis_trippyThe use of hypnosis therapy, or hypnotherapy, has been employed for over four hundred years to overcome self-destructive habits, curb phobias, improve sleep, enhance athletic, theatrical and academic performance, instill confidence in public speaking and resolve emotional issues.  In fact, hypnotherapy’s ability to help the mind create new pathways of learning, understanding and relating to one’s self and the world are fairly limitless.  Hypnotherapy is a hypnosis-based therapy designed to resolve undesirable mental, emotional and behavioral habits and empower positive changes in one’s life.  It can also be defined as reprogramming the mind for desired results through a process of induced relaxation, subconscious mental adjustments, confidence-building post-hypnotic suggestions and self-hypnosis tutorial.  If you have a strong desire to overcome draining habits or to improve any facet of your life, hypnotherapy will help you reach your goals.

hypno1Far removed from the dramatic Dracula stare or “Svengali” effect of supposed mind control, hypnosis simply allows access to the subconscious mind (the most child-like, accepting and suggestible part of our consciousness, which may represent up to 90% of our awareness) to be reconditioned and reorganized.  The subconscious is where most of our automatic habits of thought, emotion and action originate, forming in the receptive theta-brainwave period of childhood before age six.  During hypnosis the mind is fully conscious, awake and aware, but very relaxed.  The client or self-hypnosis practitioner is always in complete control of their actions, but highly open to suggestion, much like a child at play.  Relaxing the body and mind progressively allows the subconscious to become the dominant awareness and is thus capable of being rewired so new habits can be created.

hypno_dreamThe dream-like hypnotic trance can be viewed as a state similar to meditation or an artist’s creative flow.  In the state of peaceful serenity, called a hypnotic induction or light trance, which we experience daily as “twilight” awareness when we fall asleep or begin to awaken, we are able to program the mind for any state of being desired.  This mind-over-matter practice applies to all aspects of living and is a fantastically effective way to make improvements to one’s life, including one’s sense of health and happiness and all related habits.  Hypnotherapy can pick up where other physical, mental, emotional and spiritual healing practices leave off or can be a more direct road to wellness.  The process of hypnotizing one’s self, called self-hypnosis or autosuggestion, is a reliable way to provide self-help when a quick fix is needed and other modalities fall short.

hypnosis3I have been a practicing certified hypnotherapist, schooled at the Institute of Hypnotherapy in Manalapan, NJ, since 2005.  I’ve helped hundreds of clients to lose weight, stop smoking, overcome phobias and insomnia, improve confidence and concentration in test taking and public speaking and reduce anxiety and depression with an over 95% success rate.  I always tell my clients, “If you have a strong desire to change, I can help you achieve any goal.”  Desire or motivation is the main key to unlocking your potential for change and making positive changes.  We are each truly creatures of habit, but habits can always be broken and then easily replaced by better actions.  Some habits, many of which I named above, need special guidance over several therapeutic sessions from a certified, professional hypnotherapist, licensed counselor or psychotherapist to make the necessary mental breakthroughs so they can be resolved completely.  Chronic conditions like mental illness and behavioral dysfunctions (addictions, eating disorders and other forms of self-abuse, social anxiety and misconduct and depressive disorders) need more specialized mental health counseling that integrative hypnotherapy may be helpful in resolving.  Self-hypnosis should not be considered a substitute for such mental health or medical intervention.  Please contact a medical professional or health care provider if you suffer from any long-term or trauma induced mental, emotional, physical or social disorders. (Click on Black & White Spiral GIF at upper right for hypnotic experience).

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Here is an example of a hypnotherapy script I have written to be used for self-hypnosis, which you can use to enhance your holistic health and sense of wellness…

Please DO NOT attempt the following self-hypnosis practice while driving or operating heavy machinery.

CREATING A HEALTHY BODY, MIND & EMOTIONS

(20-Minute Self-Hypnosis for Living in Radiant Good Health)

hypno_closed_eyesMake sure you’re in a relaxed, quiet position with no distractions around you for the next twenty minutes.  Close your eyes for a moment.  Take two deep breaths and think of your favorite or luckiest number.  As you breathe deeply and think of your lucky number, hold the tips of your thumb and index finger of one hand together like an “okay” sign.  This three-step process (thinking of your lucky number, holding your “okay” sign and taking two deep breaths) will be your everyday self-hypnosis practice to reinforce the following script.  Make sure you exhale completely; feeling deeper relaxed with each breath.  Then you may open your eyes to read the following script, but look at it in a vague, dreamy way, with your eyelids very relaxed, as if you’re about to fall asleep.

yoga_mudra_sunSlowly read the following words aloud to yourself, taking long blinks between each sentence, breathing deeply throughout.  Really allow yourself to feel and imagine the following suggestions, listening to your own voice lulling you, like listening to dear and trusted friend telling you a beautiful, magical story.  At the end of the script you may close your eyes for a while and relax.  You may wind up falling asleep for a short time but will awaken feeling refreshed and energized.  Please set an alarm if you need to awaken at a certain time.  Upon reading and hearing the words, “It is so,” you will have programmed a post-hypnotic suggestion for radiant good health that will sink so deep into your subconscious that nothing and no one will every erase it.  It will make so deep and long lasting an impression in your mind that it will positively change your thoughts, feelings and actions in regards to your health for good.  Also, your lucky number, whenever you think of it, hear it or see it, will reinforce and amplify the positive suggestions your about to read…  Now, take another moment to close your eyes, take two deep breaths, think of your lucky number and make the “okay” sign with your fingers.  Once this is done, open your eyes slowly, maintaining the “okay” sign with your thumb and index finger, and begin to read, relaxing as you go…

hypnosis_clock“My mind has become so sensitive, so receptive to the following suggestions that they will sink so deeply into my subconscious mind and make such a permanent impression there that nothing and no one can challenge or erase them: I am deeply relaxed, calm and serene.  I feel tranquil but empowered to make positive changes in my life, in my health.  I am certain of myself as a peaceful, powerful and prosperous person.  I attract only good, healthful experiences to myself and I feel good.  I radiate good health and positive energy.  I’m getting healthier everyday.  I’m becoming slim and trim.  My muscles are feeling toned and strong and my bones are sturdy and supportive.  My joints are feeling flexible and free.  The blood in my veins is flowing gently, nourishing every part of me.  I move through life with ease.  I am attractive.  My skin and hair are beautiful.  My eyes are bright and full of life.  I hear my breath clearly, calmly slowing down now.  I see myself as the Universe does: radiantly healthy, beautiful, perfect, whole and complete in every way.  I’m now thinking “thin” and making the right decisions to keep my body happy and healthy.  I’m willing to give up that which I no longer need to have the health I want.  I am willing to change, heal and grow.  I accept good health as my natural state of being…

breathe_tree_lungsI breathe deeply with ease.  I appreciate the many wonders of my incredible body, brilliant mind, beating heart and beautiful spirit.  I have abundant energy and wake up each morning refreshed and full of enthusiasm for the day ahead.  I take time each morning to count my blessings, set my goals and prepare my body and mind for the day.  I enjoy exercising and taking time for myself to stretch, move, breathe and play.  Challenging myself makes me feel good.  I feel more confident challenging myself to feel better each day.  Food is my fuel and I supply my body with only the best fuel so I feel the best energy and I only eat what I need, easily feeling satisfied and relaxed by the healthiest foods and most moderate portions.  I eat the best foods for my digestion and energy and never need to overeat.  I never need to indulge in foods I know will make me feel less than my best.  I eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and drink lots of water everyday.  I eliminate waste from my body regularly, easily and completely.  I let go of any foods or eating habits that are out of synch with my optimum health…

broad_selfI sleep peacefully through the night every night and wake up feeling on top of the world each day.  I know how to relax and rest my body, mind and emotions.  I have a great attitude and sense of humor about life and allow stress to bounce off and away from me.  I know how to feel happy and I feel happier all the time.  I love to feel pleasure and enjoy being playful.  I enjoy my body and the many aspects of my sexual nature.  Feeling good is a natural state for me.  I enjoy my mind and my imagination.  I take time each day to visualize my best possible future and my healthiest, happiest life.  I’m learning how to meditate on feeling good.  It’s getting easier for me to envision my body and my health as beautiful, perfect, whole and complete.  I see myself as more radiant everyday.  Everyday I do activities that make me feel stronger and more energetic.  I create my health with actions and choices that support and empower my fitness and wellness goals…

yoga_sunriseI nourish my body-mind temple and listen to its messages of moderation and temperance.  I love my body, mind and emotions and I treat them with honor and respect.  I am energy in motion!  What I believe, I will achieve.  So I believe my radiant, good health is the substance and supply of my wellness.  I am the cause and effect of my being happy, healthy, wealthy, wise and well.  I create the physical shape, fitness, soundness and well-being I desire.  I allow my body to be a full expression of love, joy, peace and prosperity.  I rejoice in my good health and feel grateful for being healthy.  I release any old, limiting beliefs about my health, diet, mobility, genetics or aging.  I let go of any thought form, image or action that doesn’t support my perfect health.  I let go of the past and I am free from any feelings that don’t fully support my complete wellness.  I feel good and my life is truly a blessing.  My energy continues to grow and I come to live the positive patterns of health I want, need and deserve.  I am one with my own power, my special gift to the world and I feel blissful and full of life!  I live a vigorous, loving life and I love my body and my life more than ever!  My self-hypnosis practice and my lucky number (_) reinforce these truths and the most positive part of me guarantees I will take action on feeling fantastically healthy and being the healthiest, most confident, radiant and vibrant me I can be.  And so it is, all is truly well in my world.  And it is so!”

~Awaken, enlighten and empower yourself… and be well!

self-hypno_zzz

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Press On!

heart+handsI want to share I poem I wrote almost ten years ago when I completed my advanced, “initiate level” certification in the Isabell Gatto Method (IGM) of therapeutic acupressure.  It illustrates how healing touch and human kindness can change a person’s life for the better, as it did mine.  If you’ve never experienced a session of acupressure before, I highly recommend it.  As a practitioner, I have learned unique lessons of empathy, compassion, patience and appreciation for the human condition, in all it’s myriad expressions, and that we are all struggling with something personal and often deeply painful that we often need help to relieve.  That’s what acupressure does – it relieves pain and suffering and helps the body to heal itself.

Holding handsWhat could be a more profound and joyful service than to provide the release of another human being’s emotional or physical pain while they rest in your caring hands?  The human hand holds incredible power, both creative and destructive.  We rarely stop to consider what our hands do all day.  They feed and bathe us.  They clean, cook, drive, dress, play, pay, type, write, work, pray and point the way.  They caress, comfort and soothe.  They wipe away tears and they pat us on the back.  They free us and bind us.  They hold the door, the elevator and the keys.  At times they hold each other and in blessed moments they hold another.  They give, receive and share.  They also heal, as if by magic, with loving warmth and generosity.

Egyptian_HealingTherapeutic acupressure is an incredible way to beat stress and find an even keel in everyday life.  But it’s application for pain relief is almost limitless.  It is the grandfather of all the energetic healing modalities, including Reflexology, Reiki and acupuncture.  A modern form of complimentary medicine, it is considered the oldest of the healing arts, having its origins in ancient China and India.  Egyptian hieroglyphics also depict priests and healers applying acupressure on injured and diseased patients, going back nearly five thousand years BCE.  Being a hands-on application, the practitioner and patient are involved in each others energy fields and a direct exchange of energetic information is shared.  It is related to the Western spiritual practice called “the laying on of hands,” which provides similar stress and pain relieving effects.  It is considered a valuable healing tool for surgical patients both pre- and post-op and works terrifically with accident victims and those suffering from sports related injuries.

acu_meridiansA typical session is performed on a massage table, fully clothed, with light to moderate fingertip pressure applied to specific pressure points (or reflex/trigger points – called “tsubos” in Japanese) throughout the body.  The ordered sequence of points accessed or “triangulated” allows the patient’s body to balance the flow of vital life force energy, called “Chi” in Chinese, “Prana” in Sanskrit or “Ki” in Japanese.  Subtle energy pathways in the body, known as “meridians” are relieved of blockages caused by stress, illness or injury that cause discomfort, dysfunction and eventually lead to disease.  When this balance is achieved and the energetic channels are reopened, the body literally begins to heal itself.  This creates a feeling of oneness, peace and harmony in the body as internal pressures and stagnant emotions are released.  The result is a relief of mental, physical and emotional pain.

hands_on1The time tested Isabell Gatto Method (IGM) of therapeutic acupressure combines the best of Eastern traditional acupressure technique, Reflexology, Jin Shin Jyutsu and Shiatsu with Western understanding of modern stress relief.  When I learned the method at William Paterson University I was looking for hands-on therapy to calm my nerves and relieve a “walking anxiety” I had been dealing with for years, that only my yoga practice had helped me to cope with, but that needed more attention.  I received a session and was immediately hooked.  As many of my clients have also attested through the years, I discovered myself to be so profoundly relaxed at the end of the session that I wondered, “Have I ever relaxed this deeply?”  Since then I went through three levels of certification to learn as much as I could about this seemingly magical and intensely effective form of stress, tension and pain relief.

light_shineWhile in practice in New Jersey I had the privilege of helping a colon cancer survivor find pain relief from her chemo and radiation therapies; helping a brain cancer survivor regain normal vision after years of living with a wandering eye; and helping to rehabilitate a diabetic patient suffering from neuropathy.  I helped a dear friend regain feeling in her extremities after a stroke.  I assisted my mother-in-law in her recovery from a difficult open-heart valve replacement surgery.  I even had the opportunity and privilege to help my father prepare for and recover from a series of complicated neck surgeries that he almost didn’t survive.  I have also been able to apply acupressure to pets, including my cats when they’ve been ill and to help them pass on when their lives came to and end.  I assure you, it was an incredible experience helping them move peacefully into the next world.  I still apply the technique to friends and family today, much to our shared joy and elation.

press_onI have witnessed and experienced this unique and thorough alternative method of therapy applied to reverse infertility, improve nerve function, reduce anxiety and depression, increase immune response, overcome emotional disorders, rehabilitate serious injuries, help addicts recover from substance abuse, relieve digestive and eating disorders and bring comfort to the terminally ill and palliative care patients, for which its application has been implemented into hospitals nationwide under the guidance and review of the NIH.  IGM Therapeutic Acupressure is truly astonishing in it’s range of applications and effectiveness.  It’s incredible work, both to give and receive!  The IGM family of practitioners is also like an extended family to me.  That is why I wrote the following poem. I hope you find it as meaningful and healing as I felt while writing it.  Becoming a practitioner and providing such care has been a big part of my spiritual growth.  I’m proud to say Isabell Gatto still reads it to her graduating practitioners to this day.  May it also inspire you to “press on” and help others fight the good fight – for life, love and peace.

be_kind2

 

IGM Poem (2004)

 

To clear the confusion, matter is but an illusion… only patterns of energy exist.

Balance its flow and let yourself go… It only hurts more to resist.

 

Within our hands we hold a key to help unlock anothers Chi…

We become a channel for their healing.

Awakening the Higher Self, restoring a sense of health…

Releasing while embracing blessed feeling.

 

These days it can be confusing, stressful to be living.

We try to be brave in a world so unforgiving…

It’s hard to keep looking for the light!

Gratitude, empathy and patience is the way,

Healing touch and human caring spreading everyday…

It’s far better to be kind than to be right!

 

Sharing this gift with you angels, ascending,

My soul struck a chord – my heart began mending…

I found great courage in your welcoming kindness.

To express the beauty and goodness that is me,

Doubtless I am rich, moreover I am free!

At last, I can trust and recover from my blindness.

 

Your hands of light that held my pain

Saved my heart, released it’s chain…

Giving back my spirit to me whole.

Oh, special kindred friends,

Your love truly has no end…

It’s the power and the glory in your soul!

 

So I’ve learned we cannot be frozen by our woes,

Karma is a teacher and so the lesson goes…

We live to learn and grow, in short, to self-discover.

Find your simple peace, mind your mind and thus be clear,

Daily miracles can happen when you cast away your fear…

And allow your soul to be your greatest lover.

 

To close, I give thanks and praise,

By all of you I am amazed…

At all you so generously give.

Never forget each life that you inspire,

From this great endeavor, never retire…

You have shown me what it really means to live.

 

~DJ

IsabellGatto *Isabell Gatto and her daughter, Maria.

For more information about IGM Therapeutic Acupressure Intentional Wellness technique and to find a practitioner in your area, go to: IGM.

hands_of_light

I also recommend Barbara Ann Brennan’s book on energetic therapy and hands-on healing, “Hands of Light” by Bantam Press and Dr. Richard Gerber’s book on subtle-energy therapies throughout history, “Vibrational Medicine” by Bear and Company.

human_energy_field

Be well… and press on!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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7 Building Blocks of Balanced Posture

Postural-Analysis1How’s your back treating you these days? How about your feet and legs? Feeling stiff and sore? Got chronic shoulder or neck tension? What about your head? Aching a lot? Pain and discomfort in your body can be due to various stress-related conditions, nutritional deficiencies, sedentary living, inadequate rest or inefficient workout routines. Tight, achy muscles and joints can also be the result of poor posture.

If the building blocks of your body’s posture are regularly misaligned, the body will tell you about it. The message you get often comes in the form of pain. The good news: your posture is something within your control. In fact, good posture is all about gaining control over your body by the power of your will and awareness. I sometimes think we should go back to the practice of sending young people to “finishing schools” where they have to walk around with books on their heads to learn sound postural habits. Our “pants-on-the-ground” pop culture is certainly no help to anyone’s spinal health, but I suppose it’s awfully good business for chiropractors and orthopedists.

Posture_Pilatesquote1Good posture is as important to your physical wellness as any other aspect of your health and fitness. Holding your body in awkward or imbalanced positions for too long puts undue stress on your frame, making your muscles compensate, twisting and warping your body over time. Aligning your body correctly and developing sound postural habits can mitigate physical discomfort but it isn’t always clear how to fix what you’ve gotten used to carrying a certain way. Laying a new foundation for how you hold your body is a powerful first step to making yourself feel better.  Attention to good posture allows for stronger, more dynamic workouts with less discomfort.  Training with posture in mind has been a lifesaver to me and my clients for years.  It can greatly enhance your fitness and wellness, too.

Posture_DevolutionThe human body moves through various planes when standing, sitting, reclining, walking or performing strenuous activity. People, unlike animal species, have the unique stress of standing upright on two limbs. This requires specialized alignment of the joints to fight the effects of gravity, stave off improper muscular tension and keep the body balanced and pain-free. The following tips are proposed for maintaining an aligned erect standing posture and suggestions for developing appropriate seated positions, especially in regards to ergonomic workstation seated posture. Following these tips will also help you with your standing balance and strength to prevent slips, falls and resulting injuries.

While standing, think of your body as a house. If your feet are misaligned it’s like having an uneven foundation or a basement that’s caving in. Following that analogy, the ground floor is like your legs and pelvis. The legs represent the walls and the pelvis is the ground floor ceiling. You want everything level or the ground floor will collapse under the weight of the second floor. The spine and abdominal muscles represent the next floor up. Again, they’re like walls supporting the second floor’s structure. The ribcage and shoulder girdle represent the second floor’s ceiling or roof with the arms like eaves, hanging off the sides of the roof. Finally, the head is like the attic or third floor, sitting high on the spine’s metaphoric supporting buttress. If any of the building blocks of your body are habitually out of line or tipped too far in any direction, your analogous house will eventually cave in and collapse.

MAJOR INDICATIONS OF POOR POSTURE:

Side sleeping can create a laterally tipped pelvis and spine. The side you sleep on becomes longer than the side facing the ceiling. Well-placed pillows can help, but if you don’t correct this upon waking with regular stretches and re-alignment, the habit leads to muscular imbalances and weakness in the lower back and hips.

Contrapposto stance, or standing while leaning into one hip, can also create muscle imbalances over time. It causes the spine to sway, tipping the shoulders sideways, stiffening half the back and weakening the other half. One hip has to brace, leading to locked and twisted knees and ankles. The pose is usually employed when the body becomes fatigued (the main challenge to good physical form and alignment). When tired, try just sitting down or leaning against a wall – butt first!

Carrying a book bag, purse or heavy shopping bag on one side of the body or over the back can lead to a tipped spine, causing the pelvic and shoulder muscles to compensate and tip the rest of body in opposition. Bags or any weighty items should be carried in the hands and never over the shoulders unless evenly set across both.

Check your footwear. If you notice obvious wearing on your shoes or sneakers in one particular area that is an indication of poor posture and overuse of certain muscles. Wearing high-heels eventually causes the body to tip forward and creates pressure on the toes and balls of the feet and leads to foot disorders like bunions, heel spurs and ankle tension. Knee, hip and lower back dysfunction soon follow.

posture-sequence1If you notice numbness or tingling in your legs, without having other known medical issues, you may be pinching nerves because of poor posture. A common related ailment is sciatic nerve pain.  Joint tension and nerve or muscle pain on one side of the legs, spine or shoulders is often a sign of misalignment, too. A swayed or flat back or combined lordosis and kyphosis of the spine also have their roots in bad postural habits. Scoliosis and compressive disc disorders will eventually lead to imbalanced posture. Habitually misaligned joints may even be the original cause of such conditions. A craned neck, rolled shoulders, bowed legs, knocked-knees and foot and ankle disorders can also be indications of needing to correct one’s carriage.

7 BUILDING BLOCKS TO FIX YOUR POSTURE:

posture_foot_tripod21. Foot tripod/ Two-thirds Rule – The balls of the feet must be properly grounded when standing. If you draw a triangle on the sole of your foot from the heel to the big toe knuckle to the little toe knuckle and back to the heel an obvious tripod of three arches is revealed. Keeping two-thirds of your weight distributed over the front of the feet is essential to foot alignment, laying the foundation for good posture. A good way to tell if your feet are properly aligned is to raise up onto the balls of the feet while standing. If your weight is correctly spread into the front of the feet you can always lift your heels and balance. Lightly set your heels back down and let no more than a third of your weight reside in them.  When standing, feet should also be set hip-flexor distance apart or separated by the width of one foot.  This allows the center of the kneecap to align with the second toe on each side for best leg posture and freedom of lower body movement.

2. Soft knees – slightly bent. The knees should never be locked or braced. Check in with them while your standing in line or waiting for a bus. If you notice they’re locked or one is braced, soften them so they are slightly bent, allowing the muscles of the legs to relax around your knees. This also prevents the hamstrings from pulling and stiffening, allowing for more supple leg muscles and freer leg joints.

3. Loose hips with a balanced pelvis. The hips should “swing” from the pelvis, like pendulums when walking or running. Hips should never be braced forward or backward. The pelvic girdle should “float” or sit like a bowl, flat on a table. The tailbone is meant to point directly downward, perpendicular to the floor. Contrapposto, the leaning into one hip while standing, should be avoided as this sways the spine and puts pressure on the muscles that connect the back, hip and pelvis.

4. Absolute support in the Abs. The lumbar spine is the only skeletal support for the body’s mid-section and not designed to bear much weight or strain. The abdominal muscles are the key support structure of the lower torso and support everything higher up, allowing the muscles of the back, shoulders and neck to settle and relax. The abdominal musculature is exceptionally resilient and can be conditioned daily unless otherwise prescribed due to injury or dysfunction. The more you work them, the more work they can take, the better they support your upper body posture and take pressure off the hips and lower back. Remember this trick: Your bellybutton is a button! You have to sew your bellybutton in, all the way up to your heart. This causes you to lift your ribs away from your hips, giving you a long, lithe, trim and convex abdominal appearance and sound spinal posture.

5. Raise the breastbone! Lifting the center of your sternum, without swaying the back or standing at stiff “military attention,” relaxes the shoulder blades in toward and down the back. The scapula should feel like two flat plates lying or hanging on your back, not wings ready to take flight. Raising the breastbone also lengthens the upper spine (thoracic vertebrae) and helps to suspend the ribcage, encouraging greater abdominal contraction and support of the torso.

6. Chin in!  Tuck your chin, inward or slightly down and backward, almost giving yourself a “double chin.” Notice the back of your neck lengthen. Then make sure to relax your jaw. This is a quick fix for most cervical spinal tension and helps to align and loosen the neck. Make adjustments to this exercise until you notice your neck feeling freer and then tilt the head from side to side, as if setting your ears toward your shoulders. This stretch should prevent the lower neck muscles from overworking, especially the large trapezius muscle between the shoulders and neck, allowing the skull to sit tall on the spine.

posture-old7. Eye alignment. Wherever you look your spine follows. Look outward widely at something eye level when upright, standing, sitting or walking. Never look down when standing up or walking; it tilts the head and spine downward, causing the shoulders and upper back to round. It also promotes shuffling and missing obstructions in your path.  Tired eyes also lead to a tired spine. Resting the eyes from strain, such as staring at a computer screen or hand-held device for long durations, can help your spine – especially your neck – from feeling stiff and sore.

SEATED POSTURE and ERGONOMICS:

posture_at_work_stationThe term “ergonomics” refers to the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment. In regards to postural alignment this has much to do with sitting at a desk and using equipment efficiently. The main postural issue we face when sitting for long hours in an office environment is “chair-to-desk-ratio.” If the chair is too low or the desk too high, or vice versa, our posture gets thrown and habitual tension or repetitive stress becomes the norm. When seated, the best posture comes from establishing right angle alignments. Sit with the hips spreading apart and backward and the tailbone pointed down at the seat so your “sitz” (ischial tuberosity) bones are planted squarely. The feet should be flat on the floor, the ankles and knees forming right angles and the thigh (femur) bones parallel to the floor, forming a right angle at the hip joint. The spine is then naturally elevated by abdominal support with shoulders relaxed and the head held high. PostureTheoryDiagramSitting at a desk, workstation or in a car seat should not require excessive leaning backwards or forwards or slumping to one side. Leaning over a desk or steering wheel causes the shoulders to roll forward and the neck to crane. Arms should also have a relaxed, draped shape – not overly extended or tense. Your mouse and keyboard should be well within reach so that the elbow can remain bent, pointing toward the floor or your thigh. If you have trouble seeing the computer screen at your desk or the road when driving, adjust your seat or have your eyes checked. Laptops can cause further slumping or rounding of the spine and should be placed at a level at approximately the height of your navel.  Please see diagrams for further information about workstation ergonomics.

MORE TIPS for BALANCE:

Floating head. Imagine a string attached to the center of your crown suspending you upward. This should make you feel like your head is floating and winds up making your ears more level, helping to stabilize your orientation and equilibrium.

balance2When balancing on one leg, the “eyes have it!” Stare at one spot, a focal point, to stay oriented and keep your balance. Try looking at a spot that’s at eye-level or slightly below where the tip of your nose points out. This keeps you from tipping forward and prevents the spine and shoulders from rounding.

Feel your toes and stay over them. We have ten toes for a reason – balance! Feeling your toes on the floor or ground helps keep your weight over the balls of the feet, recalling the Tripod/Two-thirds rule from above. Try gripping the floor or inside of your shoes with your toes when you need to feel more balanced.

Keep your abs in control of your center of gravity. Disciples of the Joseph Pilates method of core muscle conditioning have quoted him as saying that “keeping tension centered in the abdomen means the rest of the body is supported and can remain loose and balanced.” When attempting to balance or catching yourself from a trip or slip, keep your abdomen contracted to brace the spine and provide support for the limbs.

Balancing in a squat. When performing a squat or when moving the knee into a forward or bent position – especially when balancing on one foot – align your second toe, the center of your kneecap and your hip flexor (front of hip that bends to form the lap) into one straight line. The back should sway as you push backwards through your hips. Keep your sternum lifted and face forward with eyes level.

When balancing with the arms relaxed, the palms of your hands should face your thighs. This tells you that your shoulders are relaxed and aligned.

Your ears should ideally sit behind your collarbones at all times when balancing, aligned with the outside of the shoulders. This means the back of your next is long and your equilibrium is more reliable, both keys to good balance.

Make sure your tailbone points down, perpendicular to floor. The crown of your head points at the ceiling. Feel them stretching apart in opposition, downward and upward, respectively. Everything should be stretched and lengthened between them, keeping the abdomen tight and your spine tall.

FINAL RECOMMENDATIONS for GOOD POSTURE and BALANCE:

1. YOGA – Get into a regular yoga practice to balance, align and loosen your muscles and joints. There are so many kinds of yoga classes out there: gentle, restorative styles; power and fitness forms; and yoga for special populations.  Keep trying new classes until you find one that works for you.  Start off with a beginner class and work your way up. Don’t be intimidated or think it’s too difficult. It takes practice, yes, but its well worth the strength, flexibility and physical control you’ll gain. The mind-body focus and relaxation benefits are countless, as well.  Click the “Yoga” link for a chart to help you choose what yoga would suit your body best.

2. PILATES – Pilates mat exercise strengthens the body’s core musculature, frees the spine and pelvis of unnecessary tension, opens peripheral joints, lengthens the back and limbs and gives you a feeling of balance, grace and control over your body’s movements. Again, begin slowly with basic level classes and allow your practice to evolve over time.  Like yoga, Pilates exercise can be therapeutic, rehabilitative and rejuvenating.  Joseph H. Pilates once said, “you’re only as old as your spine feels.”  I concur!

posture_Alexander3. ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE – Frederick M. Alexander designed a postural alignment technique based on the body’s building blocks as indicated in my suggestions above. His method of postural alignment, reduction of harmful physical tension and “mindful movement” has been employed by many performers, athletes and orators to free their bodies of pain and strain due to poor physical habits and to open dynamic potential. See link for local classes and self-study options.

4. PERSONAL TRAINING and BODYWORK – Developing your physical fitness through strength, flexibility and endurance training or weight loss programming can certainly help you improve your posture and balance and minimize pain and discomfort in your body. Finding a qualified trainer you can work with is a great way to learn how. Physical therapists, massage therapists, chiropractors and other bodywork practitioners can also help you to unwind tight muscles, realign joints, relieve pain and learn how to balance your body.

5. DANCE – Dancing is one of the best, most fun ways enhance your posture and develop graceful movement and balance in your body.  You can find local classes in Jazz, Ballet, Modern, Salsa and Ballroom or join the Zumba Latin dance craze!  Find out which form your body likes most.  If dance sounds like it’s out of your comfort zone, you should probably try it!  Remember: having two left feet is better than having none!

I hope this primer on improving your posture proves useful to you. I’d love to hear how these tips may have helped you and appreciate your comments, questions and any information you may wish to share on this subject and other wellness topics.  pilates-quote-2“In all things worth doing, work wisely, remain calm, stay focused and stand tall.” ~DJ

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Best Friends FURever

dog-cat

If one of your best friends happens to walk on all fours, loves to be pet and licks your face to greet you or even to wake you, you are blessed to know the love of an animal pal.  I grew up with a lot of animals as a kid and I’m lucky enough to have had several amazing pets as an adult.  My mom bred, raised and showed dogs professionally and we always had a few cats and birds around the house.  Sometimes it was like living in a zoo, but I loved it.  If you’ve never lived with or loved an animal, I feel you might be missing out on a whole corner of living a fulfilling life.  I know this fact: pets have greatly contributed to my overall sense of peace and wellness.

tabby1My first pet was a female gray tabby cat named Tabatha, or “Tabby.”  I got her when I was eleven years old and had her until I was twenty-eight.  She was my best friend growing up and made me feel loved even when I didn’t love myself.  She was the runt of her litter but had a big personality. She was very smart, talkative and particular, with big, bright emerald eyes, white “mittens” and “go-go boots.” The only thing bigger than her eyes was her purr or perhaps her raspy, Siamese sounding meow!  She was also a “ham” (see picture, right).  She seemed to completely understand English but preferred to speak “Tabbese.”  She came to college with me my senior year and everybody adored her.  She leaped into my friends hearts and quickly became a fixture there.  They found, as I have known, cats pick you to be their friend – not the other way around.  Though, it can seem at times that you’re actually more a part of their staff.

My best friend and roommate Dan was exposed to the wonder of sharing his space with a “majestic creature” for the first time and he was hooked.  He’s gone on to adopt four rescue cats of his own!  Tabby was our little mascot at school and always had to be in the middle of all the action.  She would sit herself between any shoes that were left lying around and so we nicknamed her the “guardian of the stench.”  My mom joked that Tabby was the first cat in the family to earn her degree.  She had a BA in charm and a minor in cat-titude!

cat-friends2I adopted my sister’s gray and white cat, Tanita, when she moved to Indiana in 1998 and loved her like my own.  She was about twice the size of Tabatha and they never really got along.  Tanita was quite possessive and I think Tabatha became a bit jealous and perhaps had a Napoleonic complex.  But they both loved me plenty.  Tanita wanted lots of attention and loved to aggressively rub her chin on me and drool.  I’d let her sit in my lap and purr for hours, much to Tabby’s dismay.  Tanita was a mature cat when I inherited her and passed away in her sleep just before I moved out of my parents home in 2001.  But Tabz and I had still more adventures to purr-sue together.

One late summer day I realized she had slowed down a lot.  Her paws had become jaundiced.  I didn’t realize she had developed liver disease.  She nearly died at age 12.  I was devastated when the vet said she probably wouldn’t live much longer without major surgical intervention.  Mom and I bit the bullet and decided to give her another lease on life.  She had a blood transfusion, part of her liver removed and a feeding tube put into her stomach for three months.  It was a risky surgery but she pulled through.  Toughest, most resilient cat I ever met!  I would come to realize that she truly had “9 lives.”

I got married soon after moving with her to Jersey City.  My suburban kitty trooper, degree in paw, was ready for the big city!  My ex-partner had two cats and soon we had a combined household of three territorial felines to contend with, all in a railroad style apartment overlooking the Manhattan skyline.  The other two cats were an older black male, Lennox, and a small one-year old black female, Ishi.  Again, I loved them as though they were always mine.  He was quite charismatic and she was a bit skittish, but I doted on them both. The step-siblings got along for the most part.  In fact, one day we walked in on Lennox and Tabby in a “love embrace.”  Apparently they had been having a secret affair!  We realized that Ishi needed a little brother or sister (and we needed to adopt another cat or have another hole put in our heads)!

jackomo-faceIt was Christmas time in 2002.  We went to Garfield, NJ (fitting, yes?) and adopted a new kitten, Jackomo, a very handsome gray short hair tabby, like Tabatha, but without white mittens or boots.  We weren’t looking for a tomcat, but when I met him I knew he was a lover.  But when Tabatha met him she was not impressed.  In fact she thought he was quite the the scamp.  She was right!  He was “up her skirt” night and day as a little guy but he finally chilled out after a few well placed swats.  His first year was spent sleeping on my head at night and chasing Ishi down the length of the apartment.  He completed our set and became my darling boy.  Our four kids were happy and healthy together for four years, enduring another move to Hackensack, NJ.  But nothing can last forever as life is ever so precious, fragile and finite.

Both Tabby and Lennox developed diabetes in 2005.  Lennox had to have insulin shots which I administered.  Both went on a strict diet.  It was challenging but I’d do anything for my babies!  Tabby had gotten so sick by that Spring, I knew I had to consider a humane option to alleviate her suffering.  She had survived the liver disease, several moves and new family dynamics but her tiny body was finally giving up.  She became weak and gaunt.  She went to the vet and we decided she had to be put to sleep.  My little girl deserved only the best and I knew it was time for her to cross the proverbial “rainbow bridge” to peace and harmony.  I didn’t know if I could handle it.  I decided I had to give her a big girl talk. cat-road

I had made the appointment to have her euthanized at the vet’s office on the following Monday.  I sat and pet her on my bed for an hour that Saturday and told her, “Tabby, you know I don’t want to do this, but it’s for your own good.  I can’t watch you suffer for my own selfishness.  If you can find a way to pass at home, before Monday, please do us both the favor.”  She looked up at me with her wise emerald eyes and blinked, then crawled into my lap to sleep for a while.  The next day was Palm Sunday.  It was a bright Spring day in New Jersey.  Tabby kept running to the windows and swatting at them.  I thought she saw a bug or perhaps had some dementia.  Maybe she just wanted to go outside and play?

I decided to treat her to some tuna on the balcony, since she loved fish and lolling in the sun more than almost anything.  She began to lap up the tuna fish water and looked up at me with a smile in her eyes.  I turned away to do some dishes in the kitchen and looked back a moment later and she was gone.  I looked all over the apartment, calling her name.  No answer.  Where could she be?  Then it dawned on me.  I looked over the side of the balcony.  There she was, four stories down, on the pavement!  Lying motionless on the parking lot asphalt!

I flew out of the apartment and down the four flights of stairs like a whirlwind!  I ran to her side and she picked up her head an meowed at me!!  She was alive!!!  I couldn’t believe such a withered animal could endure the fall.  If I had to describe the look on her face, it was disappointment.  I don’t think she wandered and accidentally fell off the balcony.  I think he jumped.  I honestly believe she had taken my request to heart and tried to do herself in to spare us both that dreaded trip to the vet.  I scooped her up and since it was Sunday had no alternative but to rush her to my mom and dad to get checked out.  Mom said she had no broken bones and to take her home and make her comfortable.  Then, in the morning, take her to her appointment.

tabby-sleepingWhen we returned to the apartment she was dazed but still jumped onto the window sill, swatting at the windows to be let out.  She wanted to find a way out.  She fell to the floor so I held her and administered pet acupressure to help her let go.  She looked up at me one more time and meowed a soft “good-bye.”  I was fortunate; my little angel died in my arms, at home, at age 17!  She never made it to the vet’s, having honored my wishes, sparing me the pain of what I couldn’t face.  She had tried to “fly” that day but finally earned her wings in heaven.  The three other cats gathered around to bid their farewells and my ex and I sobbed like two ninnies. ‘Tis always the way when someone so beloved must leave.

jack-ishiWithin a year we moved to Tampa to start over fresh.  New Jersey had become so crowded, the winters too harsh.  I wanted to buy a bigger home for our family, hoping it might grow again.  By now you realize I’m an eccentric cat person.  So be it.  Lennox’s diabetes had become unmanageable by the summer of 2006.  We had to make another terrible veterinary appointment, in a strange new town.  It all happened so fast.  We went in and he got the shot.  He protested.  It was difficult to witness for the first time.  My ex and I were heart broken, all over again.  But after that I was glad Tabby went the way she did, in an oddly dignified manner.  We were down to two cats, Ishi and Jackomo.  The new house seemed somehow too vacant.

Ginger-Dream2Jackomo’s sweet and assertive personality and Ishi’s gentle, sensitive nature helped to fill in our hearts.  But the ex always wanted an all white cat with blue eyes, so our search for new adoptees began.  We wanted to rescue a female in need of a home and heard of a new kitten fitting our description nearby.  It was the spring of 2007 and kittens were multiplying faster than flowers.  We found what we were looking for, a lovely white female we named Dream.  But there was a bonus: in a box of rescue kittens I saw an irresistibly cute orange tabby female that I fell in love with at first sight.  She looked right up at me and ran to my hand to be pet and let out the tiniest, sweetest meow.puss-kitten  I said, “I want THAT one!”  I named her Ginger Puss.  That day we adopted fraternal twin girls.  We had four kids again, a full family, and we made a happy home again, for a time.

By 2012 my ex and I realized we had irreconcilable differences when I discovered an unforgivable infidelity.  It had been a rough few years of unemployment and financial difficulties, critically ill parents and my sister’s passing and a communication breakdown.  We had to part ways.  Sometimes, even when you love someone, you can’t fix what’s broken and you come to know you just can’t build a life together anymore.  In the divorce we decided it was only fair to split up the “kids.”  Jackomo and Ginger Puss had become lovers and practically inseparable, so I took them.  I had to let go of Dream and Ishi, much to my heart’s chagrin.  It kept the house and poured all my love into my little boy and girl.  But the transition was especially rough on Ginger.

She had always been a loveable but sickly, skinny cat with various ailments since she was six months old.  Having put her through a battery of tests that were mainly inconclusive my vet encouraged me to give her lots of love and hope for the best.  The breakup made her anxious and depressed and she lost a lot of weight and began to have fainting spells.  She was put on a new diet and medication which took the edge off, but I knew she was still not well.  I met someone new and we became fast friends and lovers.  The cats seemed relieved that I was happy again and took to my new partner with delight.  Ginger did much better for a while, putting on some weight and having more energy.  She and Jackomo’s love affair blossomed, too, constantly grooming each other and sleeping together.  It made me wish they weren’t neutered so they could have kittens.  Both were showered with love and returned it to us in full.

But Ginger’s underlying health problems came to a head recently when we noticed she was retaining fluid in her abdomen.  The vet confirmed she had a congenital heart defect and would have no more than six months to live.  I found myself devastated all over again.  She’s not even eight years old.  I find myself having to consider how to relieve her suffering again and wishing for miracles.  My “li’l punkin” may soon have to cross that rainbow bridge to meet Tabby, Tanita and Lennox so much sooner than I thought.Rainbowbridge2  I feel grateful for the wonderful years I’ve shared with her but feel cheated that I can’t have more.  It seems so many things keep being stripped away from my life as if to teach me that I’m still whole, even if it feels like my heart is disintegrating.  Perhaps that is the nature of letting people or animals into your heart, fully.  As the old song goes, “You’ve got to give a little, take a little and let your poor heart break a little.  That’s the story of, that’s the glory of love.”

I’ve had so much love in my life, much of it the four-legged, furry kind.  Cats have helped to shape my life and my happiness and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Through the ups and downs their love has been a constant and I wouldn’t trade away the pain or moments of grief I endured in their passing if I had to sacrifice the endless joys they’ve given me.  I still have hope that Ginger will somehow recover and I know one day there’ll be room for another sweet kitty cat in my heart.  Jackomo still needs big hugs and kisses and Ginger needs her daddy to stay strong.  Sharing this story of how my cats have helped form my life and spirit is of itself part of my healing process.  I hope it inspires you to pour your love into an animal that needs it.

The pets who find homes and loving parents are truly the lucky ones.  I believe those who choose to become pet owners usually realize that they’re actually the lucky party, fortunate to experience the endless love and joy a pet can bring into their hearts.  There’s nothing like a cat to make you feel there is still magic in the world.  Don’t let a vacancy sign hang on your heart too long.  Remember pets are like Jello.  There’s always room for more.  I know there’s another kitten out there who needs me.  Someday my partner and I may even get a dog.  For now, my sweet Ginger Puss and Jackomo will get all the love they can take!  As with all my past feline companions, no matter what, we are best friends fur-ever.  I hope you’re wise and blessed enough to allow a dog or cat to help you find personal happiness and wellness in your life, too.  Pets are, by nature, generous, therapeutic and full of endless patience, forgiveness and love.

cat-friend

Be well! ~Namaste

 

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The Road to Wellness (2)

children-road

Wisdom of the Inner Child

When we think of our own personal well-being we might first imagine feeling healthy or have a sense of gratitude for the beauty and strength we possess in our bodies. Feeling well can also mean being happy, contented or at peace within the mind and emotions. Perhaps your career success, financial freedom, intellectual or social stimulation, ability to travel or invest in your passion, purpose or enlightenment defines how well you feel. Our concept of wellness can also simply mean feeling connected to family, friends, community or one’s spiritual nature. It’s all how you look at it and we’re all individuals with differing values, needs and desires when it comes to feeling and being well. But, when you’re seeking out what makes you feel good, the motivations and requirements to be happy, healthy and well, do you ever ask yourself: who’s really running the show? The answer to what drives you down your road to personal wellness and fulfillment may surprise you.

child-insideAll people have within them a loving, trusting and creative part of their personality that can be termed their “inner child.” This is the part of you that seeks love, enjoyment, security, comfort, pleasure and gratification. It can manifest as very healthy and fulfilling behaviors when properly fostered or if ignored and neglected can become extremely self-destructive. The inner child can become a fun-loving, helpful friend or a bratty, selfish and toxic enemy to you and your life and wellness goals. If you notice that your habitual tendencies lead you toward discomfort, dysfunction or even dis-ease, you may have an inner child that needs special care and remedial attention in order to dig your way out of a self-destructive rut.

child-adult-sillouetteWhen examining the holistic sense of wellness and contentment in my clientele or in any individual I’m always led to wonder how healthy and happy their inner child truly is. The subconscious beliefs and needs of one’s inner child will determine the ultimate nature of the adult’s state of body, mind and emotions. If those needs go unfulfilled or the belief system of the subconscious is abusive, destructive or otherwise limiting, the inner child feels threatened and becomes defensive and self-punishing, marring the success and happiness of the adult personality. A poor sense of self or the world, learned early in childhood, will manifest as poor choices later in life and negatively affects all aspects of one’s being: body, mind, heart and spirit and all relationships.

I believe that the missing ingredient for many people looking to be healthier and happier, and more successful or satisfied in their lives is a connection with their psychological inner child, who may have been lost or hidden for protection due to excessive stress, trauma, tragedy, abuse, abandonment, neglect or other toxic relationships or mistreatment in one’s childhood. Your inner child’s sense of safety and security was formed by the age of six and developed into the key aspects of your personality, including your ego, sense of self-worth and social belonging and most of your subconscious beliefs, needs and desires. child-neglectedOnce those psychological and personality patterns of thought, emotion and behavior are established they can be very challenging habits to break. But once they are uncovered and understood they can be changed and made to work for the betterment, needs and goals of the adult self. A happy, secure inner child learns to self-sooth with positive behaviors like exercising, playing freely, eating right, socializing and expressing their emotions through creative outlets. A wary, scarred inner child tends to act out in fearful and potentially harmful ways.

child-adultSo, how happy and healthy is your inner child? For an honest answer let’s first look at what may have shaped your beliefs early on. Because your inner child really wants to feel secure, comfortable and loved it may act out in rebellious ways when it feels its needs have been denied. If before the age of six you experienced a lot of tumult at home your inner child may have trust issues and not feel very safe. As children we know on an intuitive level that we can’t survive on our own, that we are essentially helpless and powerless. Children are simply mirrors of the adults around them. They are also great at adapting to prevailing winds so they don’t get blown away. Hence the phrase, “children are so resilient.” If you get what you need most as a child (love, trust, care and comfort) you’ll feel empowered, that you matter and that you can ask for what you need and the adults responsible for your care will supply it. If not, you feel needy and neglected, unloved and even unlovable. That turns into feelings of hopelessness, despair, distrust and resentment later in life.

childinner1All children are loveable, but if you were abused or ignored in any way early on, you may not have felt loved or cared for as much as you needed. That part of you begins to feel a sense of worthlessness and a lack of fulfillment. To ensure survival the child can develop strong defense mechanisms. See, if you didn’t feel safe and protected then, you began to protect yourself with “walls” of avoidance, aloofness, aggressiveness and victimhood. The child blames him or herself for those slights to feel safe because if they blamed their parents or guardians it would mean they lived in an unsafe world, which is unbearable to the child’s tender psyche. The harmed child then punishes themselves with self-imposed limitations and he or she thinks they deserve the same treatment that put them in that position leading to self-destructive habits and a negative self-image. This is where the feelings of not being “good enough” or worthy of love and care arise, dooming the adult to repeat the pattern of abuse and neglect, whether that treatment was intentional or not.

The protective inner child needs comfort, to be appreciated, to believe he or she is powerful and worth protecting, and to belong and feel safe. If those needs are not met in childhood the psyche looks for ways to fulfill them or deny them in adulthood. This can lead to a chaotic, reckless and desperate set of adult behaviors like addiction, exhibitionism, hedonism, escapism, nihilism, self-loathing, self-isolation, self-deception and co-dependent or abusive relationships. That internal, protective survivor-self, a scared child locked inside you, unable to feel safe, will thrash and lash out until you wind up in its self-defeating thrall.  The warped inner child turns on itself and acts out, trying to silence or destroy itself, blaming itself for not getting the love, power and attention it needed but never received so early on.  The tempestuous inner child must be nurtured, held and loved until it is fully reintegrated into the adult or a lifetime of emotional difficulty and rejection is almost guaranteed.

Let’s take a deeper look at how your inner child operates and what it perceives as truth. Your inner child is under six years old. It takes every message given to it literally like a kindergartener would. Like children believe that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are real, the innocent, trusting and gullible inner child also believes any other messages, overt or subtle, that filter in must be true. Really, children under six have no filter for “BS.” The abstract non-sense detecting mind develops later. So if you tell or show a child they are unworthy of love, they believe it and those messages are carried into adulthood.child-healing-JHenson Perception is everything to the inner child. It is the basis for the subconscious mind. The subconscious never says “no.” Like an improvisational child at play it always says, “yes,” even to unintentionally negative programming. The heart’s needs for fulfillment originates in the subconscious mind. It accepts the idealistic, fantastical, mysterious, emotional and imaginative aspects of life as real. It is your “real” self in many ways. The most honest, trusting, open, vulnerable, revealing, receptive and free part of you is derived from your inner child’s beliefs and assumptions. But those beliefs can be damaged or poorly influenced at such a young age, we hardly realize where the programming comes from and that gets our adult selves in trouble when left unchecked.

child-funnyThe adult self is formed by the rational, heady, problem-solving mind, based on familial and societal expectations for acceptable behavior and the fulfillment of adult needs and obligations. It’s the part of you that wants to “fit in” and “be normal,” whereas the inner child is happy to stand out as an individual and be extraordinary, before it learns to shut down and close off if it feels harmed or threatened. Denying or disapproving of your inner child’s needs is a part of your rational, waking consciousness – the part of your psyche that decides what appropriate behaviors fit into your daily tasks and responsibilities, defined by logic and preset goals. The rational mind is critical, concealing, analytical, routine-oriented and “realistic.” It’s like an arrow pointed at a bull’s-eye. It’s not at all shaped like the inner child’s creative understanding, which is more of an amorphous bit of clay. Yet the subconscious inner child’s mind represents a vastly larger part of our entire consciousness than the single-minded rational adult mind. Your inner child is really running the show of your needs and wants, beliefs and habits, and how you reach for fulfillment and wellness.

child-outListening to and tending to your inner child’s needs and heeding his or her warnings is a great approach to solving your self-imposed subconscious limitations and moving beyond bad behaviors that stymie your success and how well you can feel. Learning to play and indulging your inner child’s needs can help you to communicate with your unconscious desires, before they spiral into destructive habits – if they haven’t already. Splurging on your child-like impulses now and again can keep him or her from becoming a rambunctious brat. Fighting those oft hidden desires will only backfire anyway. If you sense your inner kid’s needs are not being fulfilled (his or her biggest fear) and you notice immature behaviors creeping in and disrupting your adult ambitions, you may have to cut loose more often to quell those childish urges. child-paintLook at your children or the children of friends and family under six years old and notice if they seem free and playful or serious and cautious. Do they appear to feel safe expressing themselves or shy about whom to trust with their feelings? How do they move and interact? Are they open and inviting or stiff and reluctant? Observing kid’s behavior shows us a lot about how adults may act if they’re in touch with their inner child’s needs or not.

child-findingAn adult’s choice of profession or vocation, their predominant humor and attitude, and their relationships and posture are also indications of how openly childlike they feel comfortable being. The inner child will stop at nothing until their needs are expressed and fulfilled. People are just grown-up kids and their actions reflect if their inner child’s needs are satisfied or suppressed. They’ll act out, foolishly or carelessly, as children would if discontented. Dealing with your subconscious needs can help you feel whole; it’s a part of you that must be integrated or you’ll suffer the consequences of a shattered ego. Developing a child-like sense of carefree abandon when appropriate can give you a greater sense of resilience and adaptability when stress gets you down. Cherishing the wisdom and wonder of your inner child is an essential part of your overall sense of health, wholeness and wellness.

child-climbing-treeAs a child I had several self-soothing activities to help me cope with the stress that popped up around me. I still go to them when I feel stressed-out or glum these days. I think they’re healthy expressions of my inner child’s needs for creativity and enjoyment. They’re like security blankets when the world feels cold and forbidding. I’d like to share them with you as an inspiration for the recovery and nurturing of your inner child. I splurge on myself with them whenever I need to feel self-love and comfort. And no, none of them involve CAKE! Although, cake is sometimes helpful, too…

 

• I loved to read adventure novels.  Then I’d put the book I was reading down and daydream how the adventure would continue in my own fantasy.
• I always loved writing poems or short stories from my wildest imagination.
• I loved drawing: trees, animals, figures and faces were my favorite subjects.
• Listening to music (especially Broadway showtunes) always made me happy.
• I’d draw fantasy maps with cities, countries, roads, bridges, rail lines, mountains, deserts and rivers, oceans, etc. – all with crazy made-up names. +Hidden treasures!
• I’d sit and watch the weather: clouds, rain, sun and fog – daydreaming away!
• I’d talk to my cats or dogs and pretend they answered me back (didn’t they?)
• I’d explore the woods: climbing trees, picking flowers and eating wild raspberries.
• I loved making special worlds for my action figures to explore and conquer – all in my back yard wonderland.  Ah, simpler times.
• I dreamed of flying into outer space and diving into the ocean to find Atlantis.
• I’d sing and dance like no one was watching.

child-happy-facechild-happy-face2I still do many of these things today, quite proudly. I indulge my inner child’s needs without shame, for his need for expression is worth my time and energy. I’ve parlayed many of the activities listed into fruitful creative endeavors and imaginative works of art, theatre and literature, as well. But I’ve tried never to ignore that part of me that just wants to be loved and comforted as a special, worthy individual. So we all should be treasured as such! Every so often find a way to “make believe,” and pretend you’re a fairy princess or a warrior prince for a day. Ride a roller coaster or ride your bike somewhere new. Explore the woods or your own back yard. Buy some finger paint or buy a fun toy, doll or action figure to engage your inner child. Go “LARP-ing,” take an acting or improv class or initiate a game of hide-and-seek with the kids in your family. Get off the computer or X-Box. Let yourself go out and play! Follow your bliss down the road to wellness.

You and your inner child will be happy you did!

child-embrace-LHay

Be well! ~Namaste

 

 

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The Road to Wellness (1)

road1

The Four Pillars

            In a world where so many people are afflicted with illness and unhappiness a reasonable question may arise: what is wellness?  The dictionary defines wellness as either  the quality or state of being healthy in body and mind, especially as the result of deliberate effort or an approach to healthcare that emphasizes preventing illness and prolonging life, as opposed to emphasizing treating diseases.  But, what does that mean for you?  How do you approach or reach a sense of wellness in your life?  After years of coaching and counseling clients on how to be well, I have another take on what that state of health and well-being should encompass.  4PILLARS2I believe in the practice and application of holistic principles when defining and designing one’s personal wellness plan.  By that I mean looking at the whole being, each aspect of one’s life, when choosing the right road to a life full of health and wellness.  I believe the four pillars that lay a foundation for discovering and maintaining personal wellness are already widely known throughout our culture, but aren’t always clearly addressed or fully integrated into our complicated modern way of living. 

 

            These four crucial aspects have also often been dismissed as New Age jargon and glossed over by quick-fix, results-oriented fitness programs and the malaise of mass-media motivational programming.  I’ve mentioned them before (and will again) and you already know them, but they bear endless repeating: Body, Mind, Heart and Spirit.  bodymindheartspiritThere, see, I knew you were already familiar.  But how do we integrate these pillars into our lives, on our journey to wellness?  How do we best utilize these aspects as tools to find the health and wholeness we’re all looking for?

 

 4pillars1           I completely believe that every part of our lives can be improved by making better choices.  As adults we make all kinds of decisions without even thinking about their repercussions.  We eat a certain meal, watch a TV show or chat with a friend without any real intentions, other than to satisfy our current needs.  We want to fulfill our hunger, our need for entertainment or a desire for companionship.  We attend to so much each day that some things simply take priority and others get left to the wayside.  We wind up ignoring certain things like dirty laundry or dishes, full email inboxes, unopened bills or other aspects of life that may make us feel uncomfortable.  We pick and choose where we put our attention and eventually fulfill our needs and responsibilities, gleefully or begrudgingly.  We choose how we deal with stress and how we avoid it.  We decide how to feel and who to be with every little choice.

 

            When we want to feel and be well I believe we have to look closely at our choices and how they affect the four pillars that lay the basis for wellness.  That examination always leads to a deeper understanding of one’s motivations, challenges and what changes need to be made to realize the desired result.  Defining and designing your own plan for wellness is the aim.  We are all individuals so what I define as my sense of wellness may not be what you see fit for yourself.  I think customizing what works for you will have the best, most comprehensive, long lasting and holistically sound results.  So, let’s take it apart so we can put it back together…

 

 spirittreasure           What are we REALLY talking about when we say we want to be well?  Are we just referring to our health, the wellness of our physical bodies?  I think it goes A LOT deeper and it’s all connected!  I believe fulfillment is what we want, deep down.  We want to feel healthful, look beautiful and live lives that are joyful, hopeful, plentiful, meaningful and purposeful.  In order to have such fulfillment and satisfaction, I’ve come to realize a fact that should come as no surprise to you.  We must first be fully present in our lives; we must be completely mindful.  Isn’t it interesting that some of the most important words in the English language end in “-ful?”  As free thinking, free willed adults, don’t we owe it to ourselves to become fully satisfied?  Think of the benefit to the world if we each fulfilled our potential for good!  Finding your fulfillment takes action and action requires a good plan.  But there are some things we can’t plan for and that’s when we want our sense of wellness to be even more robust.  The we can adapt to change and overcome obstacles.

 

preciouslife1            When we choose to become mindful of our whole selves we come closer to our holistic truth, the sense of Zen I often refer to.  Recently I was forced to pause and take stock of my life and see how I can make my life more whole.  I was reminded to be mindful of the impact my choices make and how even this blog can make big ripples in the world.  Last weekend a hacker infiltrated my Webmaster’s server and almost caused me to lose this forum for sharing my best wellness advice.  Luckily she’s a genius and was able to save my work and move it to a secure server.  I felt grateful but at nearly the same time I lost a dear, old friend in an untimely fashion.  He was only thirty-seven and died of complications due to a suicidal prescription drug overdose.  It was a curve ball that challenged my own sense of awareness, responsibility and my concept of wellness.

 

 lifeticket           I felt guilty that I couldn’t see the warning signs and mourned over a brilliant life tragically cut short.  I know, however, that as adults we are each only responsible for our own actions and have to leave other adults to make their own choices and find their path.  Sometimes that path leads us astray and the “learning curve” isn’t always fair.  Over the past ten years I’ve seen several friends and my own sister pass away well before their time.  In each case I believe they just needed a hand to hold, a compassionate guide, someone to lean on so they could find their way again.  I have to wonder, why are people so ashamed to ask for help yet have so little shame when it comes to exposing intimate details on social media?  It’s a mixed up world, but we’re all here to support each others growth and healing.  My friend was a lot like me, passionate, caring and sensitive, but he couldn’t reach for the support or guidance he needed to come clean and ask for help when he needed it.  ask4helpIt’s strange how death, tragedy and trauma are often the wake-up calls we need to see our lives more clearly.  We realize then how precious life is and how we take each breath and each other for granted.   For better or worse, in times of trouble we come to know that our choices define our happiness, health and overall sense of wellness.

 

thoreau            So that we don’t have to hit rock bottom or witness others suffering to put our lives on track, I recommend a preventative shot in the arm.  Start on your road to wellness now or take an even higher road than the one you’ve been on.  Begin developing your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellness today.  Find the recovery, redemption or revolution you need to make your life work.  Seek out success, make a strategy to realize your dreams and find suitable ways to fulfill your four pillars of wellness before discomfort, dysfunction or disease set in. 

           

            If its purely a matter of your physical health and body wellness, why not take up a Zumba or yoga class, get help from a nutritionist or weight loss counselor, consult a personal trainer or find other ways to beat stress, eat right and exercise?  There is no shame in asking for help and its never too late unless you’re six feet under.  There are also great motivational books, MP3’s and videos available, even on Youtube, which can help you with exercise and diet tips.  Both Eastern and Western medicine can help you to feel your best.  An MD or specialist can guide you to better health or an acupuncturist may have some helpful pointers for you.  Or see a life/wellness coach, hypnotherapist, massage therapist or homeopathic practitioner to get help eating, sleeping and moving better.  Find a support group to stop the smoking, drinking or drugging that’s shortchanging your optimal health.  Research different supplements to your diet to give you the energy, focus or assistance you need to be well.  Maybe you need a good detox or healthy fast to wipe away the effects of stress.  bodycare1Check out my “ACV Detox” post for helpful hints.  Take care of your business and vocational needs, your financial well-being, too.  That’s a part of caring for your health, the security and sanctity of your body has much to do with how you handle your affairs.  Work hard, work smart and work out what you need to make your body healthy and well.  Pamper yourself, buy some new beauty products, take up a new activity or just get out and walk around your neighborhood more often.  Simply shaking up your routine can lead you down a rosier path.  Learn how to breathe deeply and relax more.  Unplug, let of distractions, turn off negative news and get the rest your body needs each day.    It’s your choice how you let your body feel, what state you keep it in and what you put it through.  Be mindful of its care and it will repay you with radiant health and wellness.  After all, what do you really have if not your health?

 

            Are your thoughts disordered or self-destructive?  Maybe your mind needs a wellness overhaul.  Your mental state, outlook and attitude are things you can control.  Without a healthy state of mind everything else goes awry.  I’m a big supporter of psychotherapy and counseling advice to set your mind at ease and work through mental issues, which often have an emotional component.  The power of your mind is virtually limitless – you can always find a way to make your life more peaceful, productive or empowered.  Being a practice of journaling, self-hypnosis or meditation to clear and reprogram your mind.   Self-reflection is key to understanding and managing how you mind works and what motivates you.  Take a wide-view of how your life has progressed to this point.  Do you see any patterns?  Are they productive or destructive?  How can you change that pattern or make it work for you?  “An unexamined life is not worth living,” said Socrates.  Dare to look inward and you’ll find solutions abound.  mindnewideasStimulate your intellect with brain games, puzzles and thought-provoking pursuits.  Find out what makes you tick and get motivated.  Sometimes it’s an underlying fear or subconscious self-defeating belief that keeps you down.  Facing those fears and rooting out those negative thoughts will eventually allow you the peace of mind your looking for.  Repeating a mantra or set of affirmations can change your focus when you feel uptight, too.  Ultimately dealing with stress, anxiety or depression in a more positive way will reset your mind’s autopilot.  I find regular exercise to be the best stress buster.  Soothing music, a good book or a creative outlet can help, too.  But you need to discover what helps you beat stress and acquire the tools to make your mind work its best.  A clear and focused mind creates a clear and focused life.

 

            An old French proverb states, “The heart has reasons of which reason knows nothing.”  Indeed the emotions can be confusing and easily misunderstood.  Feelings can be overwhelming when left unattended, but instead of allowing them to be your unchecked enemy, they can be made to work for you.  Knowing your desires and understanding your emotional needs helps the heart to feel secure and open to love and trust.   The heart can be scarred by abuse, neglect and mistreatment.  Taking time to laugh and cry as needed washes away the guilt, shame, fear and pain that the heart can inadvertently hold onto over time.  I find volunteering or helping others less fortunate is a great way to help quell negative emotions.  The nose knows: don’t discount the positive emotional effects of aromatherapy or taking Bach flower essences to feel better.heartimage1Your radiant heart has so much more to feel than angry, sad or lonely.  But we can all get stuck in those low vibrating emotional states from time to time.  If sour emotions become chronicI find a key to making your heart feel lighter is gratitude.  Feeling grateful for your blessings makes the bad feelings go bye-bye.  Socialize and seek out people you can relate to, with common interests and hobbies.  Connecting with others helps your heart to grow.  Remember that fear is the worst emotion to endure and is the root of all other destructive emotions.  Conquering fear may mean facing what scares you, finding incentives or motivations past its barriers or developing better strategies to cope with it.  A good therapist or coach can help you on your road to opening the heart, overcoming its challenges and finding the love and peace it deserves.  Oh, and keep smiling!  It’s the more sincere expression of the heart’s fulfillment. 

 

            Have you been neglecting to cherish your spiritual needs?  Perhaps some spiritual guidance is in order when trying to make your life whole.  Whether you have a religious belief that brings you solace or you lean toward a certain spirituality, investing in your connection to what lies beyond and beneath your regular senses can help you feel happy, whole and well.  Maybe you’ve never been exposed to spiritual practice.  Maybe its time to delve into what guides your soul.  I think our “politically correct” culture has made us far too secular in our belief systems.  I’m a huge supporter of scientific truths but having a faith in what is unseen can bring us comfort when we need it most.  faithStAIf your religion makes you feel more trapped than free, perhaps its time to consider renewing your faith elsewhere.  Whether you worship a deity or not, you can still feel that special connection to a power that sustains life and reality as we know it.  You don’t have to call it “God.”  You can call it your “higher self” or the “power and presence” that guides and protects you.  Some call their soul’s protector and provider simply “Creator” or “Divine Father” or “Mother Earth.”  New Age thought often refers to the spirit that sustains us as the power of “I am.”  For what you are is what exists in all things – a benevolent and pervasive truth intrinsic to all that is known.  Travel, seek out your spiritual truth, broaden your horizons.  Discover what your power is, what your spirit is guiding you to do.  Help yourself to the riches within your soul’s purpose and help others find their good, too.  Don’t minimize the power of this pillar; it can be the rock you cling to in times of need.  It can serve you according to your own needs.  I think faith should make you feel a deep sense of love and trust that all is right and all will be well.  Coming to know the “God-self” in you will help you connect to your sense of worth, wonder and wellness in life. 

 

 fulfillment1           We’ve reviewed the four pillars that can make your life whole again when properly integrated and balanced with your life goals.  I hope this overview brings you a sense of enlightenment and encouragement to begin your journey of wellness, based on your individual needs and sense of choice.  In the second half of this two-part post I’ll be introducing some concepts that relate to your subconscious self and developing the use of your “inner-child’s” wisdom to help you find your Zen – the wellness that comes from acknowledging and incorporating your deeper, more basic human needs and desires.  Now I’d like to give you a few more ideas when it comes to defining and designing your road to wellness.  It can seem a bit odd, but consider this: is it possible to be glad of all the misery and suffering you’ve endured in your life?  Really, can you feel grateful for the pain and trials you’ve gone through?  If so, I believe you’re on the right path!  Often we have to see that what we’ve dealt with is ultimately what has made us stronger, smarter and better people. 

 

loveBuddha            Suffering of any kind builds character, even if it seemed unfair or unjust.  It’s a bit of “tough love” but I think seeing your past as a series of lessons to ensure your growth, instead of punishments or misfortunes, makes you more grateful for what you have now and for whom you’ve become, despite it all.  Again, counting your blessings can make you feel enriched.  Also, please be gentle in the process of becoming fully whole and well.  It’s a journey, not a destination.  It’s a process, not really a path to perfection.  bluenewcolorThere is no such thing as perfect, so allow yourself to be imperfect as you learn and grow.  Learning to feel good, be good, give what is good and accept good is the goal here, yes?  All good things flow from a healthy state of mind and body, so work on those aspects first.  Cherish yourself in this progression; love yourself and trust you’re on the right road.  As long as you’re trying, you’re succeeding.   Fulfill yourself with the light of truth that is your Zen.  Then you may be the light in your own life and spread it and share it for the enlightenment of all.

 Be well!  ~Namaste.

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Carving Out Your Good

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            Good things can happen any day.  Or it can go the other way.  Yet we do have an active role in deciding how our days go.  Accepting a passive destiny is no way to ensure you’re leading the life you want.  Taking what you’re given and making something great out of it or learning a valuable lesson from it is the essence of creative adaptability.  It’s the idea of turning lemons into lemonade. You have to remain an active participant in your life and do more than accept what you’re given to reach your goals.  If a sculptor is given a lump of clay and wants to make a great work of art from it, he first needs a creative vision but then he needs to sculpt out what isn’t needed to find the art beneath the clay. sculpting1 Letting go of those things which stand in our way, our fears, inhibitions, self-imposed limitations or negative habits allows us to move forward with our visions, carve out our future good and attain our goals.  Nothing good comes easily or quickly in this world, but whittling away what blocks us from what we want is a way to ensure progress and success over time.

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            Carving out your good takes time and patience, planning and consistency.  But we have to be willing to let go of the scraps of material that don’t serve us.  Finding health and fitness in your body requires you to carve and sculpt out the potential masterpiece underneath what ever you wish to let go of, like excess fat or flabby skin, a bit everyday.  A fit and healthy, sexy body doesn’t come from eating potato chips.  It’s an unrealistic expectation that a diet pill or shot will make you look and feel your best either.  Breaking into a business or career takes special carving to find the niche market or appropriate audience for what you have to sell or share. Similarly, developing a good relationship of any kind takes some creative sculpting to find what works and what doesn’t, to compromise, bridge gaps and reach an accord between you and someone else. I want to share some insights that have helped my clients to release what is wasteful or restrictive in one’s life and embrace what’s good in one’s experience or to make more of it.

1) Set intentions or goals.  Have a long or short-range trajectory of what you want is the most important key to eventually reaching your dream.  It is the forerunner of all plans, strategies and tactics.  But be specific – really go for what you want with gusto.  Envision what would make you satisfied.  Rehearse it!  See and even feel yourself getting what you want more everyday.  Put actions in place that will get you closer to your goal, day by day.  Take those actions consistently as if your life depended on their importance.  Before you know it, you’ll have reached your destination and you’ll feel proud of the journey you took to find what you were looking for.  takeachanceYou’ll also quickly discover what you needed to let go of – what you didn’t need – to get there.  Shed it and be glad of its lesson.  There’s more good on the way, set by your needs, desires and intentions.  Goals are like light through darkness; intentions are steps toward the light.


2) Let intuition guide you.  Your gut instincts are usually right.  Inside each of us there is an inner voice, a guide – the most positive part of ourselves – that always knows what’s right.  It also knows what’s wrong and what we must let go of,  avoid or diminish so that we can reach our higher purpose and do more good in the world.  The voice in your head is your intuition.  Footprints in the sand on beach near San José del Cabo, Mexico at sunriseIf you believe something is coming or you feel funny about a certain person or situation, you may well be correct.  Don’t dismiss that powerful inkling, it’s your sixth sense taking to you.  The more you listen to your intuitive voice, the stronger it gets.  Practice listening to what you know is right and what doesn’t work will also become obvious.  If your gut says, “yes” – go for it!  If the answer is “no,” respect that guidance and honor it by choosing better.  Your intuition wants what’s best for you, so allow it to lead you to carving out more good.

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3) Trust the process.  Nothing worth having comes overnight or without work and commitment.  We impose a lot of limits on ourselves, restrictions to what would make our lives better, because we don’t trust that our efforts will be rewarded.  Well, the result never comes first.  It takes perseverance to reach what we want.  Accepting that everything comes with a process and has an ultimate purpose, helps us get where we want to go.  Setting up systems for success allows you to track your progress and adapt it as needed.  The process is the way goals are met and successes made.  We set up challenges and we knock ’em down in order to move ahead.  Some of the great business people, artists and leaders of the world admit that they had to fail many times in order to find success.  trailRWEIn the process of failure they learned what they needed to do to succeed.  Like Tony Robbins says, “sometimes you’re just a millimeter off from what it takes to reach your goal.”  That’s the worst time to stop going for it.  Letting go of a need for perfection or instant gratification can help also you in the process of finding success.  Also, remember to trust yourself to make the journey, to learn and grow at your own pace.  Be true to you and who knows what you can do?

4) Show fear who’s boss.  Fear can become a paralyzing restriction in attaining your goals and carving out what you want from life.  We have fears for good reasons: to protect, defend or avoid harm.  Fear is part of our evolutionary survival mechanism, but it often doesn’t serve us all that well in modern life.  Fear is the root negative emotion.  It can turn into avoidance, escapism, intimidation, shame, frustration, anxiety, depression, hatred or rage.  fearchangeFear should never be a wall between you and what you want, as long as what you want does no harm.  If you intend something negative, then you should be afraid of your intentions.  Sloughing off fear is cutting away the dross that doesn’t serve your greater goal.  A big fear a lot of folks have is that in sharing or expressing what they want or their truth that they will be judged poorly and that they will reveal what they actually are afraid of.  Or they’re afraid they’ll share what makes them vulnerable or what they least like about themselves and be rejected for it.  Such fears come with being human and wanting to belong.  fearfalseevidenceBut we are each unique individuals and must add our special color and texture to the fabric of humanity for its betterment.  Facing your fears takes away their power, too.  Letting go of fear is essential when carving out what’s good for you and the world.

5) Don’t over-think it.  Over-analyzing is the #1 killer of creativity and mastering what you need to get what you want out of life – your good.  Creativity and criticism cannot operate in the same space at the same time.  One over-rules the other every time they meet.  Thinking about something too much or dwelling and worrying is about as bad as procrastinating in keeping you from what good you deserve.  It also becomes a form of repetitive stress on the central nervous system.  Ruminating too long actually blocks the good will of the universe, which is truly here to support your good efforts.  overthink2Having faith that what’s good for you is really for the good of all is one way of beating the need to over-think.  Take action, whatever small step you can to make your dream a reality and then step away from it.  Go for a walk, eat some pie, pet your cat and then go back to problem solving.  Either you control your thoughts or they control you.  Again, it can’t be over-stated that perfectionism and procrastination are forms of wasteful, worrisome emotion and over-analysis.  If you trust yourself enough to give yourself even 75% credit that what you want or need is actually GOOD for you, just do it!  Get off it, get over it and get going already!

6) Be open to guidance.  Be it an expert or specialist in your field, a trusted friend, a teacher, spiritual leader or yoga instructor, take in whatever advice comes your way with an open mind.  You never know when inspiration will strike or what bit of advice will spur you on to greater things.  Dreams are wonderful guides to the subconscious needs we have.  Listen to what your mind and heart are telling you and you’ll realize many of the answers you need are within.  Let go of judgment and accept everything you’re told as help.  I often say. “I’ll have to consider that” or “I’ll take that under advisement” when I encounter a new idea or bit of wisdom, no matter the source.  We are truly each others reflection and all a part of the same sphere of consciousness.  teacher1So, let go of any thought that you and only you know what’s best and lovingly accept the messages that wind up on your desk.  You never know when a little bird might give you the few inspiring words you needed to find your fuller self.  Some people actually love to help you carve out your good!


7) It’s all temporary and you’re not done growing!  If life was static and we all were exactly who and what we’re meant to be, I think life would be pretty boring and perhaps the world would stop turning.  Sometimes we just have to step out of our own way and accept that we have more to learn and nothing is set in stone.  Everything is temporary.  There is no constant but change.  Being flexible and rolling with the punches is a bedrock behavior for those who wish to find fulfillment.  Ask for what you want and then find ways to get it.  If you reach a dead end, you turn around, dig under or learn to fly over your obstacle.  Be willing to learn and grow everyday.  Try new approaches and be adaptable – be willing to change – and you’ll find what you’re looking for.truetoyourselfDrS  It’s got to be worth something to you, so let go of what ever is holding you back – fear of change, old messages of lack or limitation, whatever makes you feel insecure – and lock onto what will enrich you if you dare to make the journey.  Be willing to grow past what you know, past your ego and even what you think is true and you’ll find everything is relative, temporary and contingent on your willingness to try something new.


Here are a few more inspiring thoughts that may also help you carve out your good and let go of what no longer serves you:

“Everyday, just find two things: something that inspires you to do more good and something that you feel immense gratitude for, and you’ll begin to live your own miracle.”

“If you don’t want to open the front door to see what good may come, afraid of the bad air that may accompany it, at least crack open a window and take a breath of the prevailing winds.  Some good may blow in!”

“Swim as though there are no life preservers.”

“If you never show and share your true self and never strive for what you want, how will anyone know you or learn to love you?  How will you ever help, heal, enrich or enlighten the world or yourself?”

“Everyday I am challenged and enriched as much as I allow myself to be.” trynewthings

 

 

 

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Distractica

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            This post is one of my social commentary logs.  I’m compelled to write about how advancing technology, communication and social trends of the new millennium have reshaped how we relate to each other and ourselves.  I’m calling this “Distractica” to draw attention to the distracting quality of how many of us lead our lives within the new paradigm of instantaneous gratification and expression.  It’s a brave new world of communication and connectivity we live in, which is a natural evolution of our technological advancement. But our ability to “reach out and touch someone” has become so rapidly far-reaching, it comes with certain social pitfalls, complications and repercussions.  I have to wonder, how will our advancement in technology and communication impact our sense of personal wellness?

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            In my opinion, the consequences of our lightning-speed capacity for sharing include increased distractedness, dependency on and overuse of technology, also its potential misuse, a disconnection from present time/space/people in the room and mismanaged time and energy.  With the availability of ubiquitous mobile smart phones and tablets we have access to more information and more people than ever, at any given time.  We hear more buzzes, beeps and bytes than ever before.  We’ve become subject to various electronic alerts, updates and cyber-interruptions, 24/7.  I think most people can agree this has lead to shortened attention spans, greater impatience, social ineptitude and generally more of a self-centered attitude in a world already plagued by media-ADD and an entitlement mentality.  We have so many more ways of seeing and hearing each other than ever, yet does this trend promote more understanding or more confusion?  Are our new toys making us more distanced, isolated, callused and cold – or do the old rules of how we deal with each other no longer apply?  The miraculous if harried cycle of sound bites we endure while digesting daily media has no precedence.  There are more memes and ringtones making us repost and turn our heads than ever.  Commercial advertising has gone absurd just to catch our attention.  The computer, TV or cell goes on and we tune out.  And the peace that can be found by turning them off is rarely even considered. 

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            The new tools of communication and information sharing we’ve acquired are so sparkly and fresh to the human experience; we haven’t had the chance to adopt effective rules of polite engagement and social etiquette to cope with its breakneck advancement.  Is there any turning back or must we evolve a new set of manners and behaviors when it comes to using these new tools?  Progress dictates that some older modes of operation are discarded and while new practices are implemented.  But all changes, even positive ones, come with consequences.  If our new technologies and corresponding behaviors represent the changes progress dictates, are we really improving life?  Or are we simply adjusting to the new variables of a more closely knit world? Are the social ills of becoming more connected simply our society’s growing pains?

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            What’s the worth of our new technological and social progression and do its benefits outweigh its costs? Distracted workers, drivers, teachers and students trying to “multitask” (not a likely ability considering our selective binocular vision – probably made up by corporations to increase productivity) and trying to keep up with the pressure of responding to endless social media bonds, distracting games and on-the-go entertainment are making our work places less productive, our roads less safe and our education more disjointed than ever.  We may be instant messaging someone in Rangoon but we’ve forgotten who’s in the room.  Our need to be valued, to update so many aspects of our lives in real time and respond quickly to others may be masking a more profound need to earn love and respect from those we cherish and admire.  I’m afraid our incredibly fantastic new tools are becoming fad toys, social status symbols, ego boosters and ways of avoiding direct communication, rejection and responsibility.  They’re also becoming an unprecedented din that desensitizes us to our environments and each other.

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            I want to use the example of our society’s response to the first phonograph technology to illustrate my point.  When preliminary phones went into use and people could suddenly communicate across great distances it was an amazing convenience and made possible whole new social connections and coordination.  But it was just a tool, a way of making information flow faster and easier.  Much like the incandescent bulb made life more convenient because we didn’t have to fuss with candles and kerosene anymore, telephones and later cellular phones made it easier to talk with loved ones, network and spread knowledge.  A “car phone” was just that when it came out – a phone for the car, to be used in case of emergencies – a really great tool when needed.  But it also became a toy, a distraction, and lots of people have died while using it, especially when it became a truly mobile device and keystrokes got involved.  These examples are all tools, which humanity can use or misuse to their success or folly.  But when we’re misusing technology, are we just “playing around” with it?  When does it all become too much distraction?  When do we kill the noise?

            When I was a teenager we didn’t have call waiting or voice mail yet.  If we called each other and the other phone line was busy, we had to call back later or leave an answering machine message.  This seemed inconvenient even though it was the highest tech of the time and much better than what generations past had to deal with.  I remember my friends and I would actually call the operator and ask him or her to perform an “emergency breakthrough” to communicate to our chatty pals that we were trying to reach them.  It was almost like an operator assisted call waiting with the feel of a collect call.  We did it all the time until the phone company figured out that our social calls were not real emergencies and discontinued the service.  We abused the tool and it was taken away.  I don’t see how our over-reliance on smart phones is going to get any better though or that we’ll have to give up our abused and taken-for-granted conveniences anytime soon.  I wonder, what will the consequences of inflating Facebook and Twitter egos, dizzying text message communications and mindless Youtube entertainment finally be on our psyches, cultural development and social compact be?  If we don’t take time off the veritable Merry-Go-Round of media distractions, where will we wind up going – in circles?  If our world is becoming more complicated, aren’t we the ones who can make it simpler again?  Do we need a mega EM pulse to accidentally (or purposely) shut everything off to show us we can all live without so many technological crutches and maybe make more real connections to actual live human beings?  I doubt, however, that the sacrifice would make people LOL.  BTW, isn’t there something a bit weird about saying “LOL” in spoken conversation, as opposed to actually laughing aloud?  Hmmm…

Computer Logos Reflected in Eyeball - Apr 2009

            Now, please, don’t get me wrong… I love technology.  It’s a beautiful thing!  When it’s well used with respect for others.  It’s a phenomenal tool, hopefully to be used with the best intentions.  However, I think we need some rules, some parameters for using technology with sense and dignity.  Youtubing videos of one’s drunken escapades, texting pictures of one’s nether regions – while driving, arguing about a misunderstanding with someone through instant messages, irritating the world with obnoxious ringtones, keeping your eyes on your i-phone while walking down the street oblivious to traffic, “sexting” at work, Skyping video games all day (though at least its interactive), posting status updates of your hilarious cat (mine are just as cute) and tweeting your every other move may not be the most dignified social media behavior (or regular behavior) in my book.  In fact, #RIDIC!  Its also a wonder anyone under twenty years old can even spell with our newly (sadly) accepted, abbreviated, texting lingo.  OMG!

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           Like every other tool, this new technology does need some rules to make the playing field fair and just for all and stigmas attached to breaking them.  But, who sets them and how when the paradigm shift was never given any order?  How do we leash and curb a pack of wild dogs?  How do we make up etiquette for something that has been given no such regard and allowed to ramble aimlessly with wanton disregard for any sense of decorum?  Or is this apparent misuse of technology just a sign of the times – that we’ve lost most other forms of social responsibility, too?  That we’ve become essentially socially unaccountable – anonymous and untouchable – even though we see and hear from each other more than ever?

            I don’t propose to have all the answers – I’m but a philosopher looking at the issues we all face and sharing my opinions with you.  But I think its important to at least address the new trend and see it for what it is – misuse of one’s energy and attention, sometimes to the point of abuse.  If we trend this way too long I foresee a bit of an attention deficit disaster on the horizon.  What if we continue to disrespect this tool and keep defiling each others integrity, privacy and values?  The rude person who talks loudly about the underwear they just bought on their cell during a movie or while out to dinner should understand that they are disturbing another person’s right to have a peaceful night out.  I don’t need to know the intimate details of that person’s life, but they seem to feel it should be broadcast.  It screams of self-importance and indignity.  I wish they’d hang up on their distractions and find some higher purpose or consciousness.  Not everything is meant to be entertaining or amusing, yes?  I just don’t think we’re meant to have so much information and so many diversions available to us at all times, in all places, without some common sense of how and when to use it properly. When a member of our society ignores their screaming child to text or make a comment on Facebook or Youtube, what does that say about our society’s priorities?  Its values?  Its future?Idiocracy_PosterB

            The hand-held revolution is becoming an excuse for a bad behavior free-for-all and parents, teachers, civic leaders, the media and storytellers ought to take some responsibility and help young people realize the error of making life-long “e-choices” they may one day regret.  Once you post it – its there for eternity!  If we don’t wise up and use these tools with care and constraint, we’re going to have a confused and discombobulated generation who think amusement is more important than achievement and we’ll wind up with a society and economy like the movie Idiocracy.  I make no apologies for my opinion – I think its all going way to fast, we haven’t caught up or adapted all that well and we aren’t really learning or teaching better ways to implement our technology to promote better social skills and information sharing that makes sense and isn’t just a colossal distraction from making this world a better place for all.  Kids are already distracted enough just being kids and having access to instant everything only makes them more spoiled, entitled and confounded.  The choices are only going to get tougher, too.  But, what do we decide to do about it?  Ignoring this or being distracted by its lure won’t make it go away.  Through the cacophony, can you hear me now?  LOL!

 unplug

           I have some advice for those who think technology has its place but that it shouldn’t dictate how we spend our time and energy.  How we form relationships is vital to how well we live, so we must understand that it can be challenging not to get caught up in keeping up with the maelstrom of potential connectivity when you really do want to stay in touch.  There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be friends with the world or anything wrong with wanting to limit our exposure to a sometimes inundating onslaught of modern sociability.  My best suggestion – every so often just unplug!  Take an hour or two everyday or a couple times each week to just turn your mobile devices off.  Set aside some down time to take a walk in nature, read an old fashioned book, meditate on your place in the universe or meet with friends for coffee – but without performing your habitual online check-ins.  Ignore those pushy alerts by setting your phone to “alarm only” and keep a healthy distance from the frantic pace of friendly Facebook posts.  If your kids are out of control with their online life, limit their time on their devices or at least check in with them now and then and ask how their “real” life is going.  We all need down time – true rest and relaxation – but surfing the internet and scrolling through social media sites and even watching TV don’t constitute true down time.  Such activities are actually too stimulating for the mind to rest and regenerate.  Dare to go “off the grid” and notice if you rush a bit less or have less general anxiety or if you happen to notice oncoming traffic.  And don’t feel guilty about tuning out!  Your true friends will understand and your thumbs will thank you for the rest.  And remember, a hand-held device can never replace holding someone’s hand.

“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” ~Albert Einstein

“Men have become the tools of their tools.” ~Henry David Thoreau

“Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards.” ~Aldous Huxley

“Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.” ~Gertrude Stein

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