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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10 Weeks to WOW!

Winston_stareAs a trainer I’ve seen a lot of exercise trends come and go. I’ve also seen many different types of clients try many different exercise plans.  No doubt, my most successful clients have strong goals, high commitment levels and the courage to redefine themselves and try new approaches to get what they want out of their routines.  But there’s one thing that never fails and always gets real results – a plan based on daily steps with variable exercises. The body, like the mind, needs challenge to change. If you force it to adapt by varying your routine you’ll see results much faster and with much less boredom. Let’s face it, a dull, repetitive plan gets flat results. You have to ramp up the intensity, repetitions and novelty of your plan so you won’t plateau. Make your routine less routine. Try something a bit new every time you workout and you’ll see new results all the time. It’s all about taking interesting, incremental steps each day – climbing the mountain one variable foothold at a time – that gets you to your peak shape and strength. Want to lose weight, get strong and feel great? Try this simple-to-follow but variable routine over the next 10 weeks to realize what I mean and leave a comment on how it changed your body, health and energy! It may not be easy, but doing anything new takes effort and you can do anything for 10 weeks!! Your will is stronger than you think… the challenge is yours to meet!!! Aren’t you worth the effort? 10_week_workout

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3-D Miracles Made Manifest

miracle_in_youI believe Life is an incredible miracle, made manifest by a universal mystical and spiritual power many have named God. God is Life. God is Love. God is Good. The best life is full of love and goodness, full of Godliness. To me, God is the power behind, within and between all things known, unknown and unknowable. You can call God or the Universe by any name and affiliate it’s power with any spiritual system and color it with any cultural, theological or philosophical paint, but the truth of that power remains the same. It is all encompassing, all pervasive and its force is truly universal, holistic and indivisible. People like to separate things into categories, to define and control them and make use of their understanding. As I believe all things are part of the Universe and naturally inseparable (though they may appear so), defining God or the Universe as something separate from us “lowly” human beings seems illogical. We are all part of God. We have Godliness within us and the power to make manifest what could be considered miracles.

3_pyramidsWe live in a three-dimensional reality of height, width and depth. We exist in the presence of matter, energy and space-time. Each day we observe light, darkness and twilight times. We feel good, bad or indifferent. Many agree, across cultures, that we experience the passages of life, death and an afterlife. The most basic unit of our reproductive ability consists of a father, mother and child. Do you see a pattern of three emerging? That is the essential number needed to manifest the light-filled miracles of our hopes, dreams, wants, wishes and even the darkness of our fears. Since antiquity accounts of the number three appear again and again, on this third rock from the sun, as a harbinger of change, growth and rebirth. The number two represents opposition or polarity, the creative and destructive forces of the universe, which will remain in conflict until a third force is introduced to sway that entropy or provide a balancing influence. Three comes to represent creation itself and the triangulation of forces that leads to the manifestation of energy into matter

triskele1Here are just a few examples of the repeated reference to triangular relationships in nature, literature, science, spirituality and culture that underpin and lend efficacy to the notion of the number three manifesting reality and changing the form of what we perceive as truth: From our understanding of the human condition, the three aspects of human nature are body, mind and spirit; the three aspects of human culture are art, science and religion; the three parts of human will can be characterized as thought, feeling and action. From science and mathematics, there is the triangular Pythagorean theorem, Isaac Newton’s 3 Laws of Physics and the triplet codons of the DNA/genome structure that is the basis for all life as we know it. From our sacred spiritual traditions we may observe a Holy Trinity in the Christian faith of Father, Son and Holy Spirit as well as the three Wise Men or Magi and the Christ rising from the dead after three days; the three gods of the Hindu religion, Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Sustainer and Shiva the Destroyer who preside over an endless cycle of birth, growth and renewal; the three saintly entities of Amitabha Buddha in the Buddhist faith; and, the Maid, Mother and Crone trinity, as represented by the triskelion, of the ancient Celtic or Pagan religious tradition.

inner_realityWe are constantly reminded of the presence of the number three in our everyday lives, morning, noon and night. We stop at traffic lights with three colored signals that cause us to stop, go or use caution when driving. Our goals are often characterized as immediate, short-term or long-term and their results seen as a win, a loss or a draw. Each day we face the sun, each night the moon and in our dreams the sleeping earth grounds us in it’s cosmic cradle. Our psyches are run by a self-conscious ego, a subconscious intuition and a super-conscious continuum. Our will, the performing, demonstrative aspect of our being, can be characterized as active, passive or reciprocal. We must deal with needs, wants and compromises to survive and flourish in this reality. Action, reaction and synchronicity govern Newton’s 3rd law of physics – that equal and opposite forces must balance each other to have three dimensions exist harmoniously. What we do, what really matters in space and time, is ultimately effective, affective or reflective of our needs, desires and will. In all relationships we are essentially independent, dependent or inter-dependent. Energy goes outward, inward or is transformed. In all these examples of our three-fold nature, nurture and self-orchestrated renewal we are bound by the number three to manifest what we must know to become what we must be in compelling physical, intellectual and mystical form.

got3percentSo how do we make manifest such miracles as I have described? How do we find happiness, health and heaven on earth? It’s by using the power of three to your advantage! Recently some researchers in the scientific realm of quantum mechanics have come to some startling conclusions, based on years of research that I won’t bore you with, about how our minds can manipulate matter and events. Research in the fields of synchronistic events, the scientific observer effect and the quantum uncertainty principle indicate the power of our predominant thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and expectations can influence reality so as to effect change over a random or average result by about 3% above chance! Yes, we are shaping reality – or as I like to put it – we are “real-izing” reality or making it bend to our wills, about 3% of the time (which is also about how much brain activity we’re using at any given time). People can influence events by changing their attention and the world mirrors back to us our assertions and assumptions, reminding us that we have a magical part of God within us. What we focus on and feel is merely a metaphysical perception but we make it real.

reality_imagination_LennonIf you want to make manifest what you believe you want, need and dream about – too late – you’re already doing it! If it’s not what you really want or feel you deserve, just dream bigger and have more faith – focus more deeply, have a crisper vision and feel more gratitude and what you wish for and are willing to create becomes your new reality over time. But let me put it another way with three simple rules that will guide you along the way to the self-directed, consciously guided miracle of manifestation: 1) Give your best, everyday… 2) Receive what’s best in all situations… and, 3) Share the best of what you have with All. Happy manifesting and may the power of three be the key that sets you free!

miracles_Einstein

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Soul Responsibility

soul_stirred_HondaWhat is the nature of your truth, your reality? What are the duties you must embrace to live a life of meaning and purpose? What does it mean to you to live with honor, dignity and integrity? In times of great inspiration, dark fear and deep longing, these are questions that may enter your mind. The answers have a lot to do with what you believe your responsibilities are in life. What does your soul, the heart of your being, tell you is the truth of what you must do to be the person you want and need to be?

Nothing-is-impossible-HepburnBeing conscious of your life’s purpose and living your truth has a lot to do with what you believe is possible. I honestly believe we are only limited by what reality we impose upon ourselves. If you believe you can do or be something, you’ll find a way to make it happen. If you believe you cannot, you’ll find a way to make that true for yourself, too. I’ve found that faith, like fear, defines what you’re willing to do in life. Faith and trust in yourself and the universe creates possibilities. The act of doing what you believe is possible manifests the opportunities to fulfill your dreams and desires. Fear limits possibility; it crushes confidence and destroys opportunities before they can ever come to pass. We all want to feel good about ourselves, but it can be challenging to find what makes us happy, proud and fulfilled. Some approach challenge as an adventure, an exciting path through the unknown to find great treasure; others avoid challenge, fearing change, and prefer the familiar road, even if it only leads to pain. I think attitude is everything. Nothing is impossible when you remind yourself, “I’m possible.” How you choose to frame your mind defines the range of your actions and what you decide is possible. What is your soul worth? What possibilities for your development can you find the courage to fulfill? Isn’t it your soul’s duty to be aware of how your thoughts guide you and change them if they limit your growth?

living_magnetBeyond your faith, there are other aspects of your soul that determine your will to succeed or fail at your life’s purpose. What you focus on, where you put your attention, is crucial to finding out what will make you happy and provide betterment for the world. I firmly believe what we focus on grows. If you focus on what you’re lacking in life, you’ll find more to complain, worry and feel bad about. If you place your attention on your blessings, you’ll experience more pleasure, joy and goodness in your life. Focusing on your purpose, on what ambitions motivate you, will cause you to take steps toward your goals. Avoiding the fulfillment of your God-given talents, gifts, skills and abilities with a negative focus or simply feeling unworthy will only trap you in a loop of self-limitation.

purpose1Humor is another key to living your truth. When you can look lovingly at your reality and laugh at your faults, you reclaim power over what you can control and relinquish responsibility over what you cannot. Humor also denotes humility and honesty. Seeing yourself and your situation in life with clarity, a healthy ego and optimism will see you through the dark times and remind you that your conditions can always improve. We must each honor our truth, whatever story we have to share. Telling your truth helps others have the confidence to share their own, which helps us all to learn and live better. Living with honor and dignity is essential if you want to grow and discover your purpose and passion, the gifts that will lead you to happiness. We all have compromises we need to make at times as we relate to the world. But one should never compromise one’s dreams, goals, ideals or sense of self-worth. How can that ever empower you to live with purpose or contribute your unique goodness to the world? Only your truth, no matter how painful it may be to admit, can ever set you free to be your best.

upgrade_realityThis world isn’t always an easy place to find yourself or shape your dreams. I am concerned that we’re living in a time of perverse and disorderly disconnection from our spiritual origins and our endemic nature. We have more ways of communicating than ever, yet we live more separately and with less decency and consideration. Common sense and courtesy seem less common and selfishness seems more acceptable than it should be accepted. We over-analyze and over-rationalize our actions. We under-estimate and undermine our power. It’s become second nature to second-guess ourselves. Distractions and diversions have become our education and enlightenment. Excuses have become reasons and reason has become opinion. We work hard and play hard but find it difficult to feel satisfied or relaxed. Our potential becomes squandered and impotent. It’s like a wedge has come between what we want and what we are. I think we’re explorers, seekers of truth and creators of new realty. But we can’t live that purpose if we’re always concerned about fulfilling our selfish desires and competing for our slice of the proverbial pie. How can we fulfill our worth and find our worthiness if we keep wandering desperately from temporary fix to material yearning to selfish urge? How do we find our soul’s purpose without having a definite purpose for seeking it?

purpose2Only you can know what you truly need to be the person you want to feel proud of. You must look deep within yourself to identify what drives you toward your dreams. When you know what you want and have the courage to ask for it, I believe you’ll find a way to earn, gain win or otherwise receive it. I want to inspire you to gather up and pass on your truth, the beauty that is you – the information, ideas and knowledge that will foster a greater understanding and compassion within humanity.

purpose_TwainLet your purpose guide you – to help, heal, teach and promote greater good in the world – to achieve your goals and to find reason and meaning in your life. As you better yourself, so too you better the world. There is a purpose in all thing that we create and real-ize, in all we think and feel and come to know. It is what we experience, what we do, that allows for what we may know, within ourselves and of our universe, so that we can better become the guides, guardians, masters and creators of our reality. Be the change. Become your purpose. Value your gifts. Have the selfless audacity and courage to face your truth and embody the full masterpiece of what your soul has so exquisitely designed for you to paint.

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Such Is Life

Cosmic-consciousness1There are no guarantees in life. This existence we call reality is unpredictable, fraught with upheavals, reversals and all kinds of twists and turns. Just when we think we’re on a path with sure and certain footing, the ground can give way. It is our expectations that bring disappointments; our inability to accept and flow with change that makes adaptation so challenging. We all prefer what’s familiar and can forget the adventure of life demands change and flexibility. It is the flexible mind-set that fairs best in times of change and a flexible, strong body that weathers the unpredictable nature of life. We each have strong wants and needs, related to our subconscious desires and self-conscious awareness. When these two states of consciousness are married, and their differences honored, we are able to come to an understanding of “super-consciousness” where the needs of the self are recognized within the framework of the greater whole of life-awareness and cosmic consciousness is revealed. This leads to a state of creative flow, what is commonly referred to as being in “the zone.”  One’s passive and assertive sides, the analogous navigator and driver of one’s consciousness is made available so one’s purpose can be understood and reached. As state of harmonious awakening then comes into being.

Cosmic-consciousness3If the purpose of life is to grow, learn, heal and expand consciousness, it is essential to meditate on one’s place in life and to escape the confines of ego, fear and desperation. One must embrace change and uncertainty with bravery, selflessness and openness to fully understand one’s purpose and potential.  We all intrinsically want and need love, peace, purpose and freedom – the channels to true prosperity and happiness. We know these things to be our birthrights, what we each deserve as human beings. But there can be no love without bravery, no peace without sacrifice, no purpose without discipline and no freedom without justice.

Cosmic-consciousness2These are the four foundational lessons of life and karma. Aligning one’s self with such knowledge and wisdom will inevitably enlighten one’s experience of life. Ignoring these lessons and neglecting their development shortens one’s potential for conscious evolution. If there is one purpose to each day, let it be this: make your life a shining example of good in the world and leave the world better each day than how you found it. Embody the bravery, sacrifice, discipline and justice you know will make a difference and reshape the world to your highest standard of what you wish it to be. In all things, be faithful, grateful and generous and no door in this life will be closed to you.

Cosmic-consciousness4

The Warrior Self in Ascension

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3 Limits that Set You Free

peace_not_avoidanceIn life, it can be challenging to prioritize our needs and wants in order to reach our dreams and goals.  Choosing one path inevitably means giving up another.  Taking one action or making one decision always means another choice is left unexplored.  This past January, due to unforeseen changes in my domestic situation, I chose to take on new consulting work that required using my energy and attention in ways I never had before and more travel than I was accustomed to.  This lead me to certain realizations about how there were limits on what I could give of myself in other areas of my life.  My life had turned a corner and I needed to figure out how I could balance my new work with all the previous commitments I had made and with the goals I had set out for myself.  I kept wondering, “What must I change to have everything I want?” and “How can I integrate my needs with what I dream of doing?”  I began to discover that I’d have to give up some things for others and as I’ve stated before, everything is a trade-off.  I want to share how I began to overcome my challenges of having enough time, energy and attention to set myself free, even while honoring those limitations.

blueprintFirst, I want to say that restrictions don’t have to be interpreted as negative.  The words “strict” and “structure” have the same root, “strictus,” from the Latin meaning tight or narrow.  This is also where we get the word “construction,” to shape or build.  So when we feel restricted, or limited, it’s just a narrowing of possibilities or discipline in order to make something more clear or whole.  Having a structure or foundation that is set and precise is how we skillfully build the edifices of our life.  Dreams and imagination have no real limits, but taking the steps to fulfill them do.  Respecting the restrictions you have in moving toward your dreams can actually set you free to achieve your goals.  Having a plan of action, with calculated limits in mind, usually proves a winning formula in setting a blueprint for success.

What I have discovered is nothing too new or earth shattering: we all deal with limited resources when planning for our dreams fruition.  The main resources we must cultivate, preserve and spend wisely to get the results we want out of life are simple yet profound.  Just like your wishes, creativity and imagination are fairly unlimited, there are three parts of being productive that we must honor or enriching ourselves becomes fairly impossible.  This is what has come into focus for me lately and hopefully it will inspire you to make better choices, take necessary risks and make the most of the resources you have to get what you want more easily.

time_is_free1. TIME – Our most limited resource.  We’re each given a certain amount of time on this green earth to make our dreams come true.  A friend of mine would often say to me, “This is the testing ground and life is a pass-fail course.”  That may seem a bit dire, but really it puts matters into perspective.  How we spend our time is what determines our success and happiness in life.  As an American, we can expect an average of 80 years to leave our mark on the world.  That’s a limit we have to respect or we can easily forget to make our lives matter.  In minutes a day you can tend to the plans and practice that will generate your success, defining how you spend your life, or you can ignore this resource and have time define you.  If you spend most of your life in fear and worry, you’ll avoid your power to overcome challenges, learn and grow and wind up nowhere.  If you spend your time bravely, confidently climbing each mountain you find, endless vistas will be revealed to you and life becomes an exciting adventure.  Taking time to care for yourself and others, exercise, eat right, meditate, pray, travel, volunteer and enlighten yourself each day will reshape your life in myriad, positive ways.  Neglecting such practices by over-working, ignoring your needs and others or abandoning your dreams will only lead to heartache and regret.  I’ve come to understand that my time is precious and how I spend it will determine my success or failure, my ambitions being reached or short-changed and the realization of my happiness or misery.  Pass-fail, time is your most finite resource and what you do with it freely is what matters most. Check out this video on measuring your life in jellybeans… It will really give you some perspective on how finite our time is to be and do what we dream.  I hope it sets you free to make the most of your “free time.”

zen_2mistakes2. ENERGY – It can’t be created or destroyed; only transferred.  This simple law of physics applies to all facets of life.  Your cells, the building blocks of your life, only have so much mitochondrial energy to expend before they die.  Everyday you are challenged to manage your mental, emotional, physical and spiritual energy to make the most of their life force.  If you spend your energy one way, you are limited in how it can be spent another.  There’s always a proverbial fork in the road.  You can build and spend energy, but there’s not much you can keep for long.  Energy moves.  It can come in and go out, like a relay, but must continuously be transferred somewhere new.  If you spend your energy on fruitless pursuits, what fruit will hang from your tree of life?  If you plant, water, trim and feed that tree of metaphorical energy, eventually it will be ripe with fruit.  Again, taking time to exercise and play, dream and take action, feed yourself well, rest and relax, refine and shape your body, mind, heart, spirit, relationships, finances and goals will define the energy you have to give, receive and share.  Are you an electric or magnetic personality?  Do you inspire others or draw them in?  Asking such questions can help you get a better feel for how you spend your energy and how to focus it toward what you want out of life.  Start putting your energy in one direction and see where that current you initiate takes you.  If you have enough faith it will deliver results over time.  For me, activity has a lot to do with how energy works in the body and how much I have to do what I want.  I’ve found that exercise, no matter how inconvenient at times, always give me more energy to lend to my life goals.  Eating and sleeping well also give me more energy to spend.  Your health and the love you cultivate are other ways you can increase your energy.  Effort can also be seen as a measure of energy and it’s output.  We are limited in how much effort we can put into any endeavor and so we must choose wisely how our efforts are spent. The power, force and activity of your life is the measure of your energy.  But it isn’t free and how you use it creates your life.

Attention-is-the-rarest3. ATTENTION – What you focus on grows.  As the metaphysical law of increase states, your attention defines what you experience.  Attentiveness can seem like an oblique measurement of success and happiness.  But, really, it is essential when establishing goals and plans.  Attention denotes choice, which is also limited to available circumstances, possibilities and probabilities. And it’s a severely limited resource, too!  In this Age of ADD we live in, where distractions have become the norm, where we put our focus and the choices we make become even more crucial to creating successful lives of achievement.  If we put our attention on one thing, it can’t be put elsewhere – hence, the failure of the multi-tasking mentality.  Our conscious thought and awareness can only be placed one place at a time.  Yes, perhaps it can rotate tasks efficiently, moving from one focus to the next in rapid succession.  But we are limited in how much we can focus on at once.  This is where time and energy come together and help define each other.  With limits of the time and energy you have to focus your thoughts and observation, you come to realize that only so much attention can be paid to any one process, goal or intention.  Therefore, what you focus on will grow and what you cannot focus on will wither, at least in terms of the time and energy you can spend on its understanding or development.  Try focusing on two things at once and notice how your mind switches focus over and over, never truly blending foci.  So, if you focus on a goal, with undivided attention and the necessary time and energy required to fulfill it, you will have the increase in awareness and practice needed to achieve it.  It’s a great freedom to know you have such limits on your attention so you can learn to focus it toward what you desire more wisely and make the best possible choices.

imagination_worksRealizing you have these limitations can set you free.  Also knowing you can only ever control your own thoughts, feelings and actions takes the weight off your shoulders of how others behave while empowering you to use your time, energy and attention to your greatest advantage.  Besides your imagination, dreams and inspiration, here are come other unlimited resources that can motivate you to be and do your best: love, joy, peace, prosperity, goodness, beauty, truth, curiosity, healing, kindness and generosity.  Let these boundless resources be abundant in your life and honor your time, energy and attention so you can freely be an unlimited success with unlimited happiness.

life_is_short

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Exercise Essentials: The 3 P’s of Physical Fitness

3P_flex_manThere are a million different ways to approach exercise and the achievement of physical health and fitness.  That’s not a bad thing but the sheer plethora of options can make committing to a regular workout routine a bit confusing.  I want to let you in on a simple secret that can make your exercise regimen fun, simple and effective no matter what your fitness goals might be and especially if you don’t have a lot of time to get in quality workouts each week.  I call it the “3 P’s of Physical Fitness.”  The P’s stand for “push, pull and pump.”  You see, the body only moves in so many dimensions and applying specific physical motions in specialized workouts allows you to cover a lot ground in a short amount of time with awesome results.  If you exercise just three times a week for about twenty minutes apiece this plan of action will get you into peak shape and help you maintain your healthy physique without any guesswork.

Let me first give you an overview of what a multi-plane workout consists of so you have a handle on how the body moves through space and what needs to be done in any given exercise routine to get real results.  The human body is quite a magical, mechanical device for movement.  We have more dexterity, flexibility and capacity for dynamic, multi-dimensional motion than any other creature.  Even still, there are only a few ways we can move through space and these motions define how our bodies are shaped.  Let’s cover the basic four kinds of motion… Flexion, extension, rotation and lateral movements.  Then we’ll go into the 3 P’s.

3P_flex-extendFlexion is when the body bends at a joint, decreasing the angle of the bones of a limb and often describes a forward motion, shortening or tightening.  Think of a sit-up, knee lift or arm curl and you’ve got the picture.  Extension is the opposite motion, when there’s an “unbending” or straightening movement around a joint in a limb (as the knee or elbow) that increases the angle between the bones of the limb at the joint.  Extension is often a backward moving action.  A back-bend or straightening of the arms or legs would be good examples of extension.  Think long and tall.  Rotation is just what it sounds like: twisting.  A spinal twist, bicycle crunch or woodchopper cable pull would all represent rotational movement.  Lastly, lateral movements could be performed with flexion, extension and rotation or any combination of the three but the easiest way to imagine what it’s like to move laterally is to think “sideways.”  Often these are reaching, pulling, pushing or turning movements like a side bend, side squat or football passes.  I hope that clears up how he body is designed to move.  Now we can address a three day, alternating workout that incorporates all four movements in a thorough, comprehensive and empowering methodology.

3P_movement1The 3 P’s… push, pull and pump!  This type of workout is so easy to follow and so effective, you’ll wonder why you’ve never heard of it.  My answer: because it’s too simple!  All you have to do is 20 minutes, non-stop, with each of the three workouts, spaced 48 hours apart and then repeat the cycle over and over to lose weight, get fit and maintain your strength for a lifetime.  Sounds like a miracle, right?  It’s really not that earth shattering since it works the body the way it’s meant to be conditioned for optimal efficiency and power.  This technique also keeps you from overworking any one set of muscles and promotes the proper utilization of your energy storehouses for total body conditioning.  It takes about six weeks to start seeing measurable results in strength, endurance, energy output and reduced waistline.  We’ll start with day one: PUSH!

3P_leg-extendThe PUSH workout uses mainly extensive motions. You’ll be shortening your muscles briefly and then focusing on lengthening your muscles and joints as you push weight away from you or push your own weight away from the floor.  The six main pushing exercises I recommend are leg press, leg extension, bench press, shoulder press, tricep dip and pushup.  If you don’t have access to a gym or weight bearing equipment you can use your own body weight for an effective workout.  Even without weights or machines you can push yourself past your current limitations into a whole new world of strength and fitness!

3P_tricepdipsA leg press/leg extension can be performed as a body weight squat or wall squat, making sure to push your hips backward as you take a sitting motion and then pushing them forward when you stand.  Do twenty to forty in a row.  Hold hand weights for even more of a challenge.  Squats or leg presses activate your body’s metabolic engines: the quads (thighs) and glutes (buttocks), helping you to build strength and burn fat quickly.  For this reason, legwork is a great way to start any workout. The bench press and pushup can be alternated or one can replace the other.  I recommend lifting about a third of your body weight to start and increasing over time.  Try holding dumbbells while lying on a bench or the floor and lift them up toward the ceiling over the center of your chest.  This firms the pectoral muscles for a shapely chest.  Or just do pushups!  Try different angles like a military pushup with hands at shoulder width apart, then a decline pushup with your feet on a bench or chair, then an incline pushup with your hands up on the bench or chair.  Again, twenty to forty will do.  Tricep dips can be done on a bench or chair, focusing on the push upward from the floor with hands close to your body (a tight shoulder width apart) and only dropping a few inches for each repetition.  Going too low employs the shoulder muscles and can do more harm than good.  Shoulder presses should be done with lightweights to start so you can work on form and alignment.  I recommend seated shoulder presses for beginners but you can do them standing, too, for even more of a challenge.  Do somewhere south of forty reps for all these exercises, one after another in a row, and it should take you about twenty minutes.  This will translate into a thorough and powerful push-type routine that you can revisit once each week.

3P_upright_rowTake a day off between workouts to rest your muscles and then dive into day two.  The PULL workout will consist of shortening, tightening and crunching your muscles.  Your extensions will be shorter and your contractions will be longer.  You’ll be pulling weight towards your body so your joints will be bending inward.  The six main pulling exercises you’ll be performing are the pull up/chin up, lat pull down, leg curl, upright/bent-over row, bicep curl and abdominal crunch.  Again there are ways to do these moves without much weight and they can be interchanged, using your own body weight for some and external weight for others.  These moves will add meat to your muscles and quickly tone and shape your body into a fat burning machine!

3P_pullupThe pull up/chin up is a staple of shoulder and back muscle building.  Many people shy away from these exercises because they seem too difficult, but there are simple ways to modify them so anyone can do them safely.  If you don’t have access to a pull up bar consider getting one that locks into any doorframe at your local sporting goods or warehouse shopping center.  You can put a chair under your feet until you gain enough strength to bear your own body weight.  Or use the “Gravitron” assisted pull up machine at your gym.  You can calibrate a percentage of your body weight to lift and add more weight over time.  Try three sets of five reps to start and move to three sets of ten reps as you get stronger.  The lat pull down can be exchanged for your pull up or act as an introduction to building those long back muscles.  Always pull the bar to your chest, never to the back of your neck as this can cause injury.  The leg curl can be done to relieve the use of your upper body muscles and is most easily performed while seated or lying down on a bench.  Cable weight bearing machines at the gym make the process simpler but you can do in-place or walking lunges to simulate the leg curl exercise.  This helps build strength in the back of your legs, especially your hamstrings.  A dead-lift, holding a barbell at hip height and bending forward from the hips until your back is swayed and your arms parallel your legs perpendicular to the floor can also build the hamstrings and act as effective pulling exercise for the arms, legs and back.  Biceps curls can be done at different angles, like “hammer” curls with the knuckles facing in toward each other in front of your body or turning the elbows outward, away from the body’s center line until you feel different parts of your upper arm contracting.  Abdominal crunches, leg lifts, hip pumps and bridges can be combined to use the muscles of the abdomen, glutes and hips to pull your upper and lower body away from the floor for a sleek, toned, trim waist.  Do these pulling exercises for twenty to forty reps each, non-stop, back-to-back, just once a week and you’ll start pulling more strength into your life!

3P_kneeliftDay three: The PUMP part of your workout is about doing short bursts of cardiovascular training to get your heart pumping and supercharging your metabolism.  Walking, jogging, running, sprinting, biking, jumping, lunging, squatting, kicking, rock climbing, stair climbing, crawling, throwing, jumping/squatting jacks, balancing and “burpie-ing” are exercises that can be done in short intervals to cause a sudden cardiovascular adaptation in twenty minutes or less with a profound after-burn effect on your metabolism.  This can be combined with weight bearing for even more remarkable results.  Simply holding hand weights while you exercise can initiate a profound “cardio-resistance” effect, as your muscles and heart work harder to accomplish more in less time.  The key to the pumping exercise bout is intensity: you must get your heart rate up quickly and sweat rapidly.  It’s only for twenty minutes so squeeze out your best effort and put all of your energy into this heart-pumping workout just once a week!  You can increase the pump part of your weekly regimen to three or four times a week after you nail the first six weeks of the push-pull-pump alternating method.  A lot of the pump workout will revolve around using the big muscles of your legs to increase your metabolic rate so your body eats fat for energy.  Here’s an example intermediate push-pull-pump workout to get you started on your six-week training… Let go of the weights at first if their too fatiguing.  You want to keep going for twenty minutes with only brief 30-second rests between exercises in each workout so manage your energy wisely…

DAY 1: PUSH

20-40 weighted squats in a row, rest for 30 seconds… 20-40 pushups/bench press, rest for 30 seconds… 20-40 weighted shoulder presses in a row, rest… 20-40 bench/chair tricep dips, rest… 20-40 second planks, rest… 20-40 hips thrusts (seat-lifts or bridges)… Repeat! 20 minutes worth!

3P_squat

Day 2: PULL

20-40 weighted lunges, rest… 20-40 weighted dead-lifts, rest… 20-40 pull-ups/chin-ups or lat-pull down, rest… 20-40 weighted upright rows, rest… 20-40 bicep curls, rest… 20-40 decline bench sit-ups/crunches, rest… Repeat… 20 minutes! 3P_plank

Day 3: PUMP

90-second stair climber or incline lunges… 90-second weighted jogging in-place, 90-seconds of jumping rope… repeat for 90 seconds each until 20 minutes has past.  Throw in burpies, side lunges, planks, up/down-dogs, knee lifts, box step or box jump to mix it up.

3P_pump

Combo/Free Day: MORE PROGRESS… one more “P!”

When you don’t have time to finish your bout and need a make-up workout or you need another way to approach a thorough strength-cardio combo workout for quicker results, try the following 10-15 minute progressive pump workout

Quick stretch, with weights in each hand or holding a barbell do 40 squats… 40 in-place lunges… 40 deadlifts… 40 bent over rows… 40 pushups… 40 pullups/chin-ups… 40 dips… 40 second walking plank… 40 seconds Superman stretch on the belly!  No rests (or very brief rests)… this should take you about 20 minutes and you’ll be sweating bullets by the end.  Stretch again and go for a brief walk to cool down if you have time. 3P_stretch

Guaranteed post-workout effect: hours of metabolic burn and muscular adaptation and growth.  Plus it has a built in cardio-resistance element because you don’t stop, making the heart stronger while building overall strength.  Also working larger muscles first and smaller ones later helps you conserve energy for a more energy conscious and effective workout.

3P_stretch2

So keep it simple when you want a complete workout… either combine cardio and resistance or break up your muscle groups and movement dimensions by zeroing in on the push-pull-pump method.  Best of luck and please let me know how this technique worked for you!

Be the force of change… be your best… be dedicated… be well!

 

 

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The Wind in Your Sails

Public;Cruising5;BoatsNew Year’s resolutions can be, to say the least, challenging to keep.  That’s because we’re all creatures of habit.  We all prefer familiarity and regularity.  Even if spontaneity is your thing, you still like it on a regular basis!  If a new activity or behavior feels fairly uncomfortable, we’re far less likely to prioritize it or make a commitment to doing it.  But that’s the rub!  We have to get used to being uncomfortable and dealing with the unfamiliar to gradually get over that discomfort in order to form the new habit and make it feel normal, everyday, easy and routine.  It’s like starting a new job.  At first it’s all new – the people, the tasks, the expectations, the environment – it’s all strange.  But then you work there a while and make friends, get to know the place, get the job done and make peace with it.  It’s just a matter of time and commitment.  A new habit can be formed in three to four weeks.  That’s how long it takes our neurology to adjust to new behaviors becoming regular parts of our body-mind complex.

comfy_zone1Consistency is everything when it comes to reprogramming your behavior.  Whether it’s a new exercise routine, a special nutrition program, letting go of a bad habit like smoking or resetting your clock to wake up earlier it takes daily discipline to shift into the new regimen.  Without that daily reinforcement, the body-mind has no idea what you really expect from it and reverts to it’s old patterns of behavior because it knows how to manage your actions in that framework.  There really isn’t any simpler formula when it comes to changing any aspect of your life: take time daily to engage in the new activity or behavior and gradually, step by step, day by day, it will become a new habit and feel like a second skin.  The same applies to letting go of an old habit: commit to daily positive reinforcement and watch those outmoded patterns melt away.

sail3It’s also useful to replace an old habit you want to drop with a more desirable habit you wish to enact.  If you’re trying to let go of a smoking habit or over-eating, you’ll want to program daily activities like exercise, quality time with friends and family, working on a project, practicing a hobby, getting out of the house, getting involved in your community and making time to laugh, sing, dance and enjoy life.  So much of developing and maintaining healthy habits has to do with your interest level.  Find the activities you enjoy most and those will more than likely become your habits for life.  What’s your goal, honestly?  Is it something worth dealing with temporary discomfort to achieve?  Setting sail with your goals in mind is always a commendable intention but you must put the systems in place to achieve that goal or you wind up doing more wishing than willing the changes you want.  The systems are your sails.  Do what you love and do it well all the time and you’ll create a pattern of success that can direct you toward any destination.

boat_safe_HarbourSo, if the wind feels like it’s left your sails and you’re meandering in a sea of old habits with not much motivation to make the changes you know will improve your health and happiness, breathe new life into those proverbial sails by taking on an empowering daily routine for about thirty days.  Stay focused and determined for just that long and you’ll realize you’ve adopted a new, positive behavior that will change the course of your life for the better.  You can do anything (within reason) for a month!  I challenge you to try your best everyday, for just a month, and guarantee you’ll discover a more powerful, uncompromising side of yourself that you’ll love, cherish and respect for having given you the chance to keep the promises you’ve made to yourself.  By February you’ll be a new person and glad you took my challenge!  Best of luck and do report back… I’m always thrilled to hear about your progress!sail_quote2

~Be the wind, the sail, the goal and the journey… and be well!

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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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Zen for the Holidays

Living well is the greatest gift you can give yourself and blesses all those you love so immeasurably. Here are some tips to give you a healthy perspective so you can be well, stay happy and live full of cheer from now through next year…

healthyholidaytips

I hope your holidays are beautiful and blessed with the company of those you love, in good health, with a generosity of spirit that inspires you to be your best and share freely the thankfulness of your heart.

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