The Three Aspects of the Healthy Person – Part One, The Body

According to Ayurveda, a person is truly healthy only when they are healthy in body, mind and spirit.  An unhealthy spirit within an otherwise healthy body is considered ultimately unhealthy. It is hard to keep all three aspects in balance. Most of us find one or two aspects easier to access. The ones not so easy to deal with we tend to neglect.

It is those  one or two aspects that we neglect are the ones that will eventually likely make us sick until we do pay attention.

This blog will be divided into three parts and today’s blog will center on the aspect of the body. It is probably the easiest one to start with – our culture’s obsession with the “perfect” body. We practically kill ourselves in the pursuit of a body that has low body fat, power, sculpted muscles and is essentially the ultimate physical machine.

Since I do not notice too many ultimate power machines or supermodels in my community, I assume that to beat one’s body up in pursuit of such a goal is nothing but a sad dream.

But I think it’s fair to say that  as a secondary goal, most people would like a healthy, fit body.

Are healthy and fit the same thing?  Not necessarily.  If someone is a marathoner who has low body fat but has a frozen low back, legs that can’t straighten because of excessively tight hamstrings and a significant kyphosis of the upper back, are they fit?  Is it healthy to have a body in this condition?

How about a cyclist who cannot use the full range of motion in her wrists?  Who is overly-flexed in her spine when she is off the bike? What happens when she decides to do planks to build up her core without addressing those  primary issues?  Is that a healthy choice for a healthy body?

And yet, these two individuals would probably be classified by the average person-on-the-street as fit due to their low body fat. And therefore, “healthy.”

According to the The United States Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS), physical fitness is defined as a “set of attributes that people have or achieve that relates to the ability to perform physical activity.” These attributes include cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, body composition and flexibility.

How about healthy? “ Health” as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary includes these terms: “the condition or being well or free from disease, the overall condition of someone’s body or mind; flourishing.”  (By the way, when was the last time you stood outside an exercise studio or gym and observed all the “flourishing” individuals exiting after class? Why do we tend to think that a “real” workout has to hurt, exhaust and/or require us to take painkillers for three days?)

If we are being picky about the two terms, then we see that they are not interchangeable at all.  In other words, we can even say that one can be fit but not healthy and vice versa.

And this is where we need to begin with the first part of the healthy human being according to Ayurveda. One of the best parts of the Ayurvedic model is that there are no numbers involved, no “ideals” to reach. The ideas are simple and common sense.

Referencing Ayurveda thought,  the weight you should be is the one where you feel your best, have good immunity, can sleep soundly and have good digestion. Your body fat should be a good percentage and it is better to have a little fat especially after the age of forty. This is because whether you like it or not, you’re getting older and after the age of forty, the years of depletion begin.  It is a fact of life and it happens to all of us. You can’t stop it but you can slow down the rate of depletion by examining what you may be doing to accelerate the process.

Can you see that to use the same tools you used at twenty-five to lose a few pounds may not be the smartest choices for the present?  To drastically change your workout program,  use crazy diet schemes, or add exercises to overused muscles and neglect other ones – especially postural muscles – amps up the rate of depletion.  To add more pounding, physical stress to aching legs when your legs have been standing all day because you think that low body fat is the one true indicator of health and fitness is a bad mindset that will never lead  to a good outcome. Working this way will eventually exhaust you to such an extent you will most likely give up and never again get that motivation back. If you don’t end up having a knee or hip replacement first, that is.

No matter where you are, you can begin the process of having a healthy body. By your standards, no one else’s.  When has it ever benefited you by following the crowd?  Isn’t it exhausting trying to keep up with what is being fed to you by some magazine survey or celebrity?

You have to examine where you are and then make small changes depending on the outcome you desire.  Approach this as a lifestyle change and a long-term investment.

The bottom line is knowing what fitness is, what healthy is, and where those aspects fit in with your life as it exists today. What are the realistic goals and healthiest choices you can make now so that each and every day, you jump out of bed with enough vigor and joy to embrace the day?

Teacher Training Programs – Buyer Beware?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Teacher Training Programs – Do You Know What You’re Getting?

No one doubts the popularity of yoga these days. It seems everyone is doing it in some form or another. Industries have sprouted seemingly overnight to sell us special mats, socks, tops, towels, bottles, body lotion, etc. etc. etc. to “help” us do our practices.

Makes you wonder how those yogis coped  two thousand years ago without special Prana pants.

There is also a glut of yoga instruction available, too. Every health club is competing with yoga studios and ladies’ exercise salons.  It takes almost nothing to open a yoga studio except to sign the rental agreement. So what is a yoga studio owner to do in the face of all of this competition?

Welcome to the Teacher Training Program.  For the last few years, more of these “programs” are sprouting up. They are a pretty hefty chunk of change, too (several thousand dollars usually), and in a yoga studio that charges $10-$15 dollars a class or has unlimited passes for a fixed monthly fee, these teacher training programs have become vital – if not necessary – in keeping the cash flowing for the studio.

So it is easy to see what the studio gets from offering these Teacher Training Programs. But what does the student get?  And what does the public get from these graduates?

A teacher?    Does anyone really believe that?

A person who gets a manual, follows the book and regurgitates the book protocol is not a teacher. The teacher may or may not be certified which really doesn’t matter either. Teachers don’t need to be certified to teach and the public also cannot place their faith in “certified” yoga teachers because there are no industry standards as to what makes up the certification. Yoga Alliance is merely a registry and that “RYT” is no assurance of quality, either.

There is also no consistency in the quality of these teacher training programs. There are some very good ones with very good, experienced true teachers – the ones who also recognize the value of being a student, contined study and a dedicated personal practice.

It is important that the prospective trainee do his/her homework before registering for these programs – and before plunking down thousands of dollars for something that, in the end, only benefits the studio’s bottom line.

Fear And The Older Student

January 26, 2014

As teachers, we are all familiar with that special look a student gets on their face when they are preparing to go into a handstand for perhaps their very first time. Sometimes  there is even a little “dance” to go with it  that involves leaning in toward the pose and suddenly backing away from it. It is a normal process in learning something new and especially something that turns you completely upside down!

In my work with clients fifty-plus, though I often find that fear takes another tactic. Many of those clients may not care to do a handstand but there are other poses that provide challenges of balance, core strength or patience that are just as uncomfortable to learn.

Since my clients are pretty active in their lives, it comes as a surprise to learn that maybe their knees aren’t as strong as they thought as they approach something like Utkatasana.  Being able to balance in Vrksasana is another that seems to frustrate people rather easily. Modified Bhujangasana often brings a look of dismay as they struggle in extending their spines.

When I hear a statement along the lines of “Gee, I thought I was stronger than that” or “I should be able to do that,” I know that I am looking at another version of fear especially if it is combined with a continued attempt to try the pose again with more force and aggression, which, of course leads to increased unsteadiness which leads to lack of success which leads to more frustration.

What is it that says we “should” be able to do something even though we’ve never done it before? What is it that says “well, if I go up and down stairs all day, Utkatsana should be easy!”

This is where ego-identity comes in. Our perceptions of ourselves, our world and what “is” is being tweaked by doing a pose that we’ve deemed “easy” to do.

It is fearful to have that challenged. Our ego-identities keep us safe. The problem is that they also keep us chained. We can never know if others see us the way we’d like to be seen so ego-identities really serve no useful purpose in that regard.  We are being tested to see if we are indeed free.

If we are taking our yoga seriously, then we are doing it for mental and spiritual well-being as well as physical well-being.  It should come as no surprise then that you will be tested on those aspects as well.

Bikram Yoga/Hot Yoga

January 12, 2014

“….And it made me understand: no matter what you do or make in life, it will be fogotten. And then people will just make it again and pretend that what you did never happened.” John Hodgman, “Downton Abbey With Cats”

As I read a news story today on (another) take on “hot” yoga (yawn), the above quote came to mind. I wondered if Bikram Choudhury thinks the same thing.

Bikram Choudhury is the creator of Bikram yoga, the first yoga style to incorporate 105° temperatures. Bikram yoga was left alone for a long time until other people thought they could make a lot of money with little work – just rip off Bikram’s twenty six poses, turn up the thermostat and voila!  Making big bucks off of a yoga trend with very little investment and effort – the great American  yoga dream.

Except eventually Bikram got wise and began cracking down on instructors who were ripping off his creation.  The bottom line: either get certifed by Bikram and pay his franchise fee or get sued for infringement. Aha! but the there is away around that pesky bit of agitation.

And that would be the birth of “hot” yoga. Now “hot” yoga can be anything – any pose, any sequence – done in a “hot” room.  Freedom!  No one pointing a finger at you telling you that you can’t do your thing, man!

But that is really kind of scary. Imagine, there are bunches of yoga instructors who put together a workout class (because that’s what it is) withposes that they like and are good at and put it in a hot room.  Oh, yes, and they will hide behind words like “detoxifying” and “cleansing.”

(Yes, and when you are sweating on your next job interview, tell the interviewer that you are just detoxifying. Notice reaction….).

Foundation and structure are as important in the teaching of yoga as they are in teaching ballet, Pilates, music or even medicine! If you want to go willy-nilly in your own practice that’s just fine but I would hope that you’d recognize that your responsibility increases drastically once you become an instructor and even moreso when you become a teacher!

Let’s not even get into the “detoxifying” and “cleansing” arguments. You may be able to put one over on the Goop crowd but not me. If you really want to detoxify then cleanse your liver, kidneys and lungs which have more to say about that process than your skin. And those organs don’t give a rip about how hot the room is.

Another problem is that too many people believe that to “work out” means to stop just short of brutalizing yourself. If you can’t hurt, aren’t exhausted and take two days to recover, well it really wasn’t that great of a workout. People, listen: a healthy body just isn’t supposed to feel that way. Ever. Unless you’re in training for the Iron Man. Maybe. A healthy workout leaves you energized afterward, not depleted.

I am not even going to get into “hot vinyasa flow” classes. Wonder who the first brainiac was who made that one up.  That makes as much sense as wearing winter clothes and going for a run. In mid-July. Sweaty? Yep. Killer workout?  Ah, sure, with an emphasis on “killer.”

We live in a world today full of uncertainty, anxiety, anger and the stress that results from those emotions. We are already walking around depleted and unable to eat properly or sleep fitfully. The last thing we need is to participate in a depleting activity for our exercise. Sure, you might feel exhausted and spent, drag yourself home and try to get some sleep but yoga should not be about forgetting it all for ninety minutes or so; rather it should leave you calm but also with a positive foundation for those days in between your classes as well.

I doubt if many of those “hot” yoga instructors have ever studied the poses and scrutinized why Bikram picked the poses he did for his sequences.  I imagine more effort is put into picking the “right” hip-hop tunes or Lululemon outfit for class. It must be maddening to be a Bikram teacher watching all of this craziness. As  a classically-trained Pilates instructor who has watched what has happened to the Pilates Method since the trademark implosion in 2000, I feel their pain.

I know that Bikram himself has alienated a lot of people with his somewhat abrasive personality and those alleged sex-abuse cases don’t do much to prove that his yoga practice has given him any enlightenment. If my opinion mattered to him, I would suggest some significant amounts of spent in meditation. But that doesn’t change the fact that the guy created a strong foundation and structure in his method that will last. All strong foundations do. Too bad he didn’t trademark his ideas earlier; I often wished Joseph Pilates had done the same. However, at that time there was a thing called honor which prevented most people from shamelessly ripping off the creations of others. Today, instead of honor, we turn to lawyers to tell us what we can and cannot get away with – and ethics have no bearing on the answer.

In addition, the Pilates and Bikram methods are not as old as, say, ballet which most people understand as an art with certain characteristics and a familiar form. If ballet had been created today, no doubt some self-described genius would create a “ballet” class done in tap shoes while swinging kettelbells. And he’d trademark it, of course. And maybe put it in a hot room.

So to all of those Bikram teachers out there, I say just stay true to your path.  You will be needed to carry on the tradition – and the foundation – after all of the little hybrids out there have worn out their tread.

Can You Handle The Truth?

January 2, 2014

This morning I listened as two radio hosts were discussing their theories on why Mitt Romney lost the last election. “Well, he came out and pissed a lot of people off by saying that 50% of the population didn’t pay taxes,” one said. The other replied, “But it’s true!” To which the first guy said, “Yes, but there are times when you shouldn’t tell the truth.”

Wow. Maybe Colonel “You can’t handle the truth!” Jessep was right.

Maybe most of us don’t want the truth. Even in my practice, I’ve worked with people who don’t want to hear that it is not their poor eating habits that have caused weight gain – they want me to say it’s menopause.  People who don’t want to hear they have the power to overcome their gimpy knees – they want to keep doing what they do and just hope for different results while they pop toxic levels of drugs.   Women who are wearing “props” on their daily hourly runs instead of working those deep pelvic muscles. I am  not saying that sometimes the drugs, and the “props” are not necessary – what I am saying is that try doing all that you can before you have to use the drugs and the props. Unfortunately, this falls on deaf ears because it’s easier to blame something else.

In other words, too many people have the power to make the changes they seek but who want an excuse not to do the necessary work.

I’ve heard all the arguments – “it’s too hard; therapeutic exercises make me feel like I am old person,  I don’t like it, I can’t do it…..”  I had a client once who told me she did Intermediate Pilates Mat which surprised me as she didn’t carry herself as if she had any Pilates experience at all. A review of her Pilates mat answered any questions I had – she simply did not do the ones she did not deem important and avoided those she found too difficult. Which is why her matwork lasted about five minutes.  Instead of facing the truth about her choices, she instead chose to blame Pilates for not flattening her tummy bulge.

Another woman did a non-classical form of Pilates in another state. When she worked with me, I was horrified to see no body awareness at all or core involvement. The method of Pilates she does is based on circuit training and does not work the body as one integrated unit. Yet she complained about her belly, too. When I introduced her to classical Pilates she said, “Pam, I don’t want to work that hard.”

She was thirty-three!

That is why Pilates hybrids and watered-down yoga classes are proliferate – they appeal to people who just want to do things that are not very hard but trendy and – for the moment at least – “fun.”  They will also be the first ones complaining about how often they work out and see no results.

I have clients who have been with me many years. They vary in age, economic status, profession. But they share all the same qualities of working hard, being consistent and being honest with themselves. They see both their strengths and weaknesses and are not afraid to WORK on those weaknesses.

That has always been – and will continue to be – the only way to get the results you seek.

NYE – 2013 – Time For Resolutions

December 31, 2013

About a week before Christmas, my email box was filled with “Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions” ideas. Of course, all of the resolutions have to do with losing weight – apparently everyone’s number one resolution in the New Year.  It is truly bizarre; in knowing that one will “promise” to lose weight by engaging in often strict, unmaintainable diets as of January 1, he/she often uses that as an excuse to eat more than usual pre-January 1.

Two weeks into January and half of those resolutions are in the trash.

I think we set our resolutions too high in an attempt to force ourselves to make better choices in our lifestyle behaviors. Force never works – not with kids, pets or adults – and it certainly doesn’t work with your Self. Smaller goals are more attainable, easier to keep and you can always expand upon them.  Yet we often small goals insignificant.

I dunno. If the goal takes me in the proper direction it doesn’t matter how big or how small, how fast or how slow it is. It just matters that I am heading towards achievement.

Also critical in achieving your goals is whether you blend your plan of action in achieving those goals with inner joy and satisfaction. Looking forward to getting up earlier to work out or meditate; feeling good with yourself about finally taking that class you’ve always wanted to take or getting started with strength training will keep you on the path.

Notice that I suggest “looking forward,” “feeling good,” “inner joy.” These are feelings. Making a list and crossing it off your list is not “feelings” – that is treating yourself as a machine without feelings. Crossing things off a to-do list might appease the control freak in you but it doesn’t help you to make a major change in your life. Lifestyle changes work only when they resonate with your heart.

When you connect with your heart (or Spirit), you will also know what to do when you occasionally fall off the wagon or have obstacles thrown in your path. Making to-do lists don’t quite cover those chapters.

Whatever you choose to list as your New Year’s Resolutions, my advice is to:

1. Keep your goals small. You will develop satisfaction as you achieve these small goals and you can always update them a few months down the road.

2. Begin each day with a new habit that you look forward to. Something that makes you practically jump out of bed with excitement. For example, it could be early time with a good book, sitting on your porch watching the sun rise while you wrapped in a deliciously fuzzy blanket – that quiet time allows your mind to wake gently and that gentle calm will help to carry you through the day.

3.  Be a better breather. It is amazing to me how many people don’t really breathe; rather it is some shallow facsimile and just enough to keep them alive.

Sad to say this is not even addressed in so many group yoga classes  Ahh, but that is another blog……….

The diaphragm is a muscle that is important in proper breathing.  Learning to develop diaphragmatic breathing has been attributed to a decrease in anxiety, improved digestion, and improved cardiac function to name a few of its benefits.  In Ayurveda, proper diaphgramtic breathing is often prescribed to severely obese patients who cannot exercise and who need to increase their circulation; along with proper dietary changes, these people lose weight along with improving their cardiac function.

You can improve your ability to breathe in just five minutes a day (yes, it sounds like a commercial!).  Lay on the floor, legs up on a chair or straight out on the floor – just be comfortable and take care of your back. Place a weight - maybe a 3 lb. weight to start (in my studio, we use a 10 lb. sandbag). Place the weight on your abdomen. Practice deep inhaling and full exhalation without force – let the weight work with you.  You can practice by doing equal lengths of inhales and exhales; you can add delays at the end of either or both.

The important thing is not to force – your breath or your time. Start in small steps.

And that little voice that tells you that if 3  lbs. is good maybe 20 is better?

Tell that voice to go away.  It is not there to help you.

If you have questions on this, you can always drop me an email and I’ll help you if I can.

Here’s to small steps, achieving your goals, and manifesting your dreams and hopes for a Happy Healthy New Year!

Amy Gets Hers

December 29, 2013

A few years ago, I was having dinner with some family members when one of them made a slip about my cousin Amy (names and relationships have been changed to protect anonymity).  Amy and her partner “Scott” had a custom-built home on about thirty acres of property. Scott made good money from several business ventures.  They were not married but they had a son, about age 8 at that time.  Their refusal to get married was not based on disagreement with the institution of marriage; rather it was that Amy could file tax returns as a single parent and get credits – and government-provided health insurance for her son.  Legal? Yes. Ethical? Not even close.

Yet when I expressed disgust with Amy’s choice to abuse a loophole, I was met with a surprising, shocking retort from one of the family members: “Well, Pam” she huffed, “you have get yours. I always thought that if you were nice, youd’d get things but that’s not how it works. You have to get yours because if you don’t, somebody else will take if from you. Then you won’t have nothin’!”

I wasn’t sure about the gettin’ and the nothin’ but I sure knew what I was witnessin’: a huge entitlement attitude.  I can’t tell you how shocked I was to hear this family member say this. After all, she was married to a self-made man who worked very hard and had a great education. It kind of shook me to the core because it is not the sort of comment you’d expect from someone who socio-economically is in the upper-middle class.

While I would like to think that my family member was in the minority, the adventures in our country over the last decade have suggested that it is I who is in the minority.

You see, there have always been people who don’t want to work and want others to provide for them. There have always been lazy people who have sponged from others.  However, more and more of the middle and upper classes are also of the mindset that you have to get yours and if in the process it hurts others, then so be it. If it is legal, then it’s okay to do it. Ethics and morals are for losers. LIfe is a competition, baby. He who gets the most – whatever – wins!

This is frightening to me.  I hear and see a lot of anger, fear, and violence in the media. I am of the mindset that we can change this world if we want to. We say that we want to but if at the same time we are working the system, do we really want change?

By the way, Amy and Scott broke up and the boy is now a young man all on his own, who is working several jobs while going to school.

Perhaps there is hope yet.

Giving Thanks At Christmastime – Unexpected Blessings

December 25, 2013

Regardless of how hokey it sounds, there is a special spirit that surrounds Christmastime. There seems to be more tolerance, more smiles. Certainly content of the television shows are tipped in favor of happy themes rather than the usual fare of blood and endless graphic violence. I know, I know – the reality is that people want more stuff, regardless of all that “true meaning of Christmas means we all love each other” bloviation, but the fairy tale- aspect still enchants me.

The whole atmosphere of the holiday season brings about a feeling of thankfulness within my heart.  And while I am very thankful for my Studio, its continued success, and the steadfastness of business throughout all the fitness trends over the years, there are also things I’d never thought I’d gain by having a Studio for which I am also very thankful.

The opportunity to grow spiritually by just working with the clients I have been privileged to know.

I was a loner most of my life, having shut off from people during my pre-teen years for a variety of reasons.  Introversion is just fine but the fact is that we need social interaction for survival. Even introverts need some social interaction.  I have spent most of my life fighting with myself between my love of introversion but also recognizing the need to interact, which usually results in extreme anxiety.

Working with people one-on-one has allowed me to find that wonderful middle point between total aloneness and crowds. Over the years, my clients have taught me as much or maybe even more than I have taught them. I have had the pleasure to observe open, honest, real personalities since both the client and I are in a safe environment that allows this to happen.

I have met brave people, people who embrace their eccentricities (which makes me feel braver about my own), and people who have overcome some pretty serious obstacles. I have also met cowards, bullies and people who are so stuck in their paradigms that they are offended by anyone who doesn’t agree with them.  I have met young people who are very wise and older people who refuse to grow up.

All of these people have helped me grow and decide who I want to be. They have allowed me to see myself in them.

They have given me the gift of spirit.

Holidays: A Time For Celebration – and Stress?

December 13, 2013

Ahh, here we are in the midst of preparing to celebrate the Christmas holidays. Parties are being planned and decisions are being made as to which parents we are going to have dinner with this year. Gifts are being bought not just for family but also for our extended families – by this I mean the mailman, the hair stylist, the reiki guy…….better make a list to make sure everyone is bought for.

Then there are the parties for social groups, children’s groups and the church. Don’t forget that you still have to decorate your house, your office and your spouse’s office. Oh yes, add the administrative staff onto that gift list AND plan a party for them, too!

Oh and by the way, Merry Christmas!  Don’t you just love the holiday season?

Doesn’t it strike you as a bit perverse that we are in a beautiful season historically spent visting and bringing cheer to others? Isn’t it sad to see all of that pulverized in the attempt to buy things, more things and still more things?

OK, it would be real easy to turn this blog into another berating of capitalism’s kidnapping of the holiday celebrating the birth of Baby Jesus. But I am not going to do that.

After all, this is America in the 21st century. We shop.  We buy gifts – lots of them – especially at Christmas.  Trying to go old school and calling your friends to come over one night to celebrate the lighting of the Yule Log over a pint of nog is going to …….well, it’s going to cause you to have no more friends, really.

Nope, not going to do that. Instead, this is some food for thought on how you can make some peace in your life right now while you’re going through this hectic time. I am observing the buildup of tension as these holiday demands increase. What should be a joyous season is apparently causing a lot of fatigue and stress!

When it comes to stress, the first thing to do is consider how much of that stress is coming from others and how much of it is coming from yourself. Most stress is self-imposed and fortunately, that is one of the things in life that you have full control of.

Ask yourself these questions:

1.  Who am I buying for and why?  Buying something because you “should” creates a burden and takes the joy out of gifting. Yes, there are times when you really “should” but more often than not, no.

2.  Does each holiday party need a new outfit?   Is it really so horrible to be seen in the same outfit at two or three parties?  Next year, no one will remember if you did.

3. Can I delegate some of the items on my to-do list?  Yes, I know that this question will cause control freaks to shake but if your peace-of-mind is at risk, isn’t it worth giving up some control?

4.  Can I say no to some invites or responsibilities?  While you might believe that if you’re not at someone’s gathering their world will fall apart, the fact is that the world will continue on just fine whether you’re there or not. And – again – next year, they won’t even remember.

5. Am I trying to be perfect and why?  When we meet someone who seems to want to control everything, tell us how to live our lives, or otherwise presents themselves as “perfect” we conclude that they have a big ego. But I think the opposite is closer to the truth. Perfectionism hides fear – a deep fear of vulnerability. It perfectionists cannot hold onto their perfectionism then what can they hold onto?  They don’t believe they are enough by being just who they are. But in their desire to be admired by others they actually lose admiration from others.

Does this describe you?  If so, just consider that your perfectionism is a relentless master – because you will NEVER be perfect, no matter how hard you try. It’s a stressor you don’t need; it’s the type that kills the mind, spirit and maybe the body, too.

6. Am I exercising?  Movement is a human need. Bodies are designed for movement. Many fitness “experts” tell us to either let go of our training during holiday time or scream at us that we need to stick to our regimens more than ever. I walk the middle line. Let go of stringent training regimens because you can’t possibly commit to it along with all the other  commitments to holiday preparations. Yet, do something. Walk for thirty minutes if not your usual sixty-minute run. Strength train at home twice a week if you can’t get to the gym your usual three times per week. And breathe. Breathing exercises just for five minutes a day can reap big rewards.

If you find that just these minor adjustments yield stress because you are not able to “give up” your exercise regimen, then you might want to dig a little deeper into this addictive-type thinking and consider that as long the mere suggestion to adjust your  workouts causes you to react in perfuse sweating, you will encounter the same reaction everytime you are denied your “workout” days. Unless you are training for the Olympics, there  is no need to put that kind of stress on yourself. Better to do thirty minutes of quality work than sixty minutes of half-hearted effort anyway.

Remember, the holidays are for YOU, too. So many of us put our peace, our own joy and satisfaction on the bottom of the list as we try to please others. I  understand the idea of sacrifice but I think the whole idea has been perverted to replace sacrifice with suffering. This time of year is best spent with those we love and embracing those moments. Life goes on and these times will not last; best to drink from the cup now.

Remembering Sandy Hook

December 14, 2013

Today is the one-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting. As expected, the media will provide us abundant footage of that tragic event sprinkled with their own personal opinions on American society and guns.  If the talking heads are of the leftist political bent, they will focus their judgmental observations on the religious right, the Tea Party and conservatism in general. If they lean the other way, they will target absence of the fear of God, the fading of the family unit and the rise of the welfare state.

In a day or two, it will all be forgotten. In a day or two, the media – and most of us – will be back to our violent video games and music, our talk shows filled with race-baiters and sexist bloviators, our entertainers pushing the very boundaries of decency and respect. (To call a person who lacks vocal and dance abilities an “edgy artist” just because she did a pornographic performance with a foam finger is quite sad. How much lower can it go?)  There is very little respect for ourselves in these images and therefore, very little respect for life itself, I think.

We don’t have much of a choice when we swtich on the TV or Internet. Even if we just stick to watching sports there are more than enough commercials to drag you into this mindset.

We do have the power to switch off the TV, the media will tell us  just so that they can avoid some level of accountability. But I believe that  I should be able to watch shows without be assaulted by graphic violence or sexual images designed to get my attention, thank you very much, and so I toss it right back at them.

This world scares me. I can only imagine what it does to kids. I think now more than ever, a parent’s job is very hard. A parent  – and by that I mean a parent who intentionally became a parent, who wanted to have kids, who wanted to raise little souls – must  be constantly vigilant in telling their kids that much of what they see on TV is not real.

But it goes deeper than that. How do we convince our kids that you shouldn’t steal, kill, cheat or hit when they see images that suggest otherwise?  How do we convince our kids that people who do such things end up as the losers in life when in reality we see them become rich celebrities? Do parents actually believe in truth, hard work and education or “just getting your share?” Do parents ever sit down and really talk to their kids about what is being fed to their brains?

It is hard enough to deal with kids as they go through their hormonal changes and become prone to uncontrolled, emotional outbursts. Adam Lanza’s troubles went deeper and therefore provided his parents an additional emotional challenge. But it seems to me that his parents didn’t step up to this challenge. It makes no sense to keep guns in your house when you know you have a troubled kid at home. Simple as that. It is especially troubling to me that Lanza’s parents were educated enough to have responsible jobs but apparently did not consider that they should have been more responsible in the parental job department.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal suggests that kids who kill don’t “just snap” but rather have calculated their murderous rampages. That should send a chill up your spine!  Somehow, these kids’ very souls are being lost.

That suggests to me that in spite of living in a society where everything – almost – is made available at the touch of a button, that the real juice of life remains untapped.  I believe it remains untapped because the concepts of the depth of life, the importance of connection, the relevance of each others’ contribution and responsibility toward each other is lost because these things simply cannot be marketed and sold. Yes, it is hard to be kind sometimes. It is hard to show respect for someone whose views are different than yours.

If we really want to remember Sandy Hook – or Colombine, or the Aurora shootings – let’s respect their memories by digging deep within to see if we can become better human beings. Let’s demand better of ourselves and yes, of our media, too.