Well Well Well: Health and Fitness for our New Age
When was it that you became less of a priority in your life?
Maybe it was when you started college or trade school, and studying, perhaps necessarily, took precedence over most everything else. Perhaps it was when you got married and began a new life with your mate. Or when that promotion came and you had to move and adjust to a new and unfamiliar place. Then, the children started coming and as much as you couldn’t imagine living life without them now, well, you’re certainly not living your life with them, either. Of course everything went on the back burner when their college tuitions mounted—you had to work extra hours on top of your already over-taxed schedule.
You’ve heard it before, and maybe even have it memorized. You know: the speech the flight attendant gives just before takeoff… It goes something like this: “In the event of a sudden drop in cabin pressure, an oxygen mask will drop from your overhead compartment. Passengers traveling with small children are requested to put the mask on yourself first.”
Do you know why you’re
supposed to put the mask on yourself first?
There are two reasons, really.
First, what I call the psychological reason: If your children are
starting to have difficulty breathing and you attempt to cover their tiny pie
hole with that big yellow mask, they’re going to be certain that you have
either completely flipped (they always knew you were a little crazy) or
that you’re trying to kill them to make up for all those trips to the soccer
field. By placing the mask on yourself first,
you model that this is actually appropriate behavior. Mommy wouldn’t put something over her nose
and mouth snuffing out her own life just before the trip to
And, there’s a second, really practical reason: If you’re flailing around like a captured catfish because you can’t breathe, chances are you will not be able to coordinate the movements necessary to get the mask anywhere near your kids’ faces. But, with oxygen smoothly, if artificially, inflating your lungs, your mental synapses fire like pyrotechnics on the Fourth of July and soon you’re not only breathing easily, but now your children have stopped having the events of their short little lives flash before their eyes. It’s back to trips to the soccer field for you!
But in life, we don’t put the mask on ourselves first. Most of us think that taking a little time off once a week for a massage is far too hedonistic. We wouldn’t consider asking Little Jaynie or Johnnie, Jr. to ride their bikes to soccer so that we could take a yoga class for an hour. And yet, we’ll spend all weekend going to nine different stores in three tangent counties to buy them “what-the-other-kids-are-wearing.”
When does it stop? When will you stop living for others and start living for you? When are you going to start fitting yourself in to your own schedule? What’s it going to take for you to “go where you want to go, do what you want to do” as the old 60s song intoned (as if you could even remember what you want to do and where you want to go anyway)? It’s time, passenger.
Maybe your friends and family will respect you more. Maybe they won’t. But perhaps you will respect yourself more and model self respect and honoring your body as a temple, to them. My granddaddy used to say, “You’re a long time dead,” and I don’t think most of us will look back from our death bed and say, “Gee, I wish I’d spent more time at the office….” If you’re waiting for the kids to grow up, the mate to retire, or anything else in life to make the space for you to have and be everything you want, life is passing you by. Abraham Maslow said, “…people must be what they can be…” What can you be? There’s only one way to find out: Put the mask on yourself first!
How can you put the mask on yourself first? Here are a few “everyday” ways:
· Start the day off right: Listen to relaxing music in the morning instead of drive-time talk radio.
· Take a yoga class. Don’t have time? Stretch for 10 minutes during your carpal tunnel break at work instead of having coffee and a muffin.
· Go for a walk during the first half of your lunch break.
· Take a few minutes before you go to sleep to reflect on your day—what worked and what didn’t—and adjust your expectations and plans for tomorrow based on your reflection.
· Get a massage once a month. Better yet, learn to give gentle, relaxing touch therapies like Reiki or Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy and trade sessions with friends or your partner.
· Though it’s been said before, it never hurts to hear it again: things as simple as taking a luxurious bath, buying yourself fresh flowers, and remembering to drink plenty of water, get needed rest and take your vitamins are great ways to manifest your importance to yourself. These are the very least, and yet in a profound way, the very most you can do to establish or prove your self love.
· Study or do something that doesn’t contribute a thing to anybody else; do it simply because you enjoy it!
The last one is my personal favorite. Ask me how I deepened my spiritual connection learning to drive golf balls….
Allow me to expound for a moment on the word "choice." For me, choice is the richest, most potent word in the universe. Exercising choice is what gives you power. It is the ability to choose one path, one direction, one road, one habit one food, that begins a journey of empowerment that doesn't stop at the single action taken, but overshadows everything you do (or don't do....) When you make even the most mundane choice, you show yourself that you can, in fact, make a choice.
For the most part, I avoid naming choices good or bad, but instead identify them as useful or un-useful, productive or unproductive, helpful or not so helpful. Perhaps you see this as simple semantics, but I believe that "our word is law in the universe" as Werner Erhart used to say, or the folk saying, "my mouth to God's ear." I believe that what you tell yourself actually creates your reality. It's that mind-body connection you've heard me talk about. On a cellular level, whatever talk you give yourself can support your hopes, dreams and wishes, or instead vanquish them as easily as a wrecking ball dismantling a Lego structure.
So, you make a choice: "I'll have the broiled salmon instead of the beef with béarnaise, and the baked potato instead of the au gratin." On the mundane level, you save yourself a bunch of fat, calories and cholesterol. That knowledge alone would be enough to fuel my decision-making process. But wait, as the infomercials say, there's more! Making the healthier choice not only gives you the momentary health and fitness advantage, it also adds a notch to your empowerment belt: You've shown yourself that your powerlessness is a lie. And if your powerlessness is a lie, then the power of choice must apply to other arenas of your life as well. You begin to realize you have more power than you ever dreamed.
For most people, the news that you are inherenty powerful is good. Strangely, for some, this news not only comes as a shock, but it is also unwelcome, even if on an unconscious level, for with power comes responsibility. You become responsible for your every outcome-creating action--not the outcome itself, understand, but the chosen action taken toward the outcome. No longer can you blame outside influences, situations or people for the results of your life.
Now the good news is, you get to accept all the accolades for your wondrous achievements. The bad news is, you also get credit for your flops. You can't have one without the other. So when people tell me they can't do something that they say the want to do, I have to ask: First, what new choices could you activate to unwind the seemingly impossible situation? And second, do you really want it enough to make the choice with whatever additional intended and unintended consequences it may invoke? Some of the choices we make stem from beliefs about who we are and how we should be. Sometimes those beliefs have a lot less to do with reality and more to do with habit, outdated teachings or resitance--resistance to rocking the boat or upsetting the apple car. But again, the chosen path is just that--chosen.
By now, you might be wondering, what has all this to do with health and fitness? Actually, it has everything to do with it! No matter how much information I give you about exercise, nutrition, substance abuse and so on, it won't profit you a thing in the long run unless you fuel it with the internal drive to actualize it by committing to a plan and making it happen. In fact, exercise, diet, and recovery strategies don't work.... You do! You do the diet and exercise, the high-risk situation avoidance, the meditation, yoga, or whatever; they don't do you. You can blame a plan for not working but that's about as useful as blaming a toothbrush for your cavities--you must employ the tool on a consistent bases for results. It simply fascinates me the number of people who say this or that program doesn't work--it does if you work it!
The success of plans comes down to one thing: choice--your absolute commitment to standing behind your choice. You have to want and be committed to the action at least as much as you want and are committed to your next breath. It aslo helps to have an internally motivating, self-actualizing reason for wanting health, fitness, or substance recovery so that when the going gets rough, you have your own strong, reliable self-encouragement instead of the old self-sabotaging pattern of defeat. Going to your reunion, looking better than the groom's mother at your daughter's weeding, and making your beloved happy are not internally motivating, self-actualizing incentives to keep you on target for life. These kinds of temporary incentives may fuel you for a little while, but at the end of the day, it's the choices you make for your whole life that will bring you a lifetime of success.
I usually read the following poem at the end of my classes and motivational workshops. It's simple but profound and I believe you could benefit from reading it often:
Until one is committed there is hesitancy,
The chance to draw back;
Concerning all acts of initiative and creation,
There is one elementary truth,
The ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans;
The moment one definitely commits onelself,
Then Providence moves too.
All sorts of things occur to help one that would never othersie have occurred.
A whole stream of events issue from the decision,
Raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and assistance,
Which no man or woman could have dreamt would have come her way.
"Whatever you can do,
Or dream you can,
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it."
adapted from The Scottish Himalayan Expedition, by W. H. Murray
Until next month, I wish you tremendous abundance and heavenly blessings, that you might share those gifts generously with others.
I hope you are as excited as I am about this new blog dedicated to total well being. With this monthly column, I will address aspects of the mind-body connection as they relate to total well being—health and fitness of your body and your soul. From time to time, I’ll fill you in on the current thinking of allopathic models, traditional methods or trends that are turning tried and true, but often I will use this blog as an opportunity to explore some complementary or alternative modalities and lifestyle tools to help you with prevention of conditions which interfere with having a full, healthy and satisfying life. I will explore mental health and addiction themes as well.
Often when we think of health and fitness, we focus on fixing parts that are broken, like we would a machine or a car. And while that is probably an appropriate immediate approach to broken legs and clogged heart valves, there can be additional aspects to consider when creating total well being. It’s some of these additional aspects that I’ll write about in future articles.
Henceforth, our column will appear monthly. I say “our” column because I hope that you will contribute to it by joining the feedback loop: you can ask questions via the Comments button and I will do my best to answer as many as I can or point you in a helpful direction. You can also suggest a topic for a future article. Remember, however, I’m not a doctor, and I don’t play one on TV, so nothing I suggest or opine should ever be taken as medical advise; always consult your primary care physician with concerns about your specific health situation.
With all that being said and easily one third of my word count being used up, I’d like to initiate our column with a quick pitch for prevention: prevention of disease. Dr. Susan Love, author of Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book and Dr. Susan Love’s Hormone Book, suggests that while several preventive treatments do exist, the single best thing anyone can do to thwart many different types of cancer, for example, is to make some important lifestyle changes. Yes, you can go the medical model, but Dr. Love, leading gynecological cancer expert and spokesperson, suggests that the first line of prevention is practical prevention: taking steps to change your own personal habits to make yourself health prone instead of disease prone.
So what is practical prevention? Mostly, it’s simple, everyday things you can do and you probably know about many of them already: Stop smoking. Cut down on fatty foods. Get more exercise. Is there anyone left out there who doesn’t know these things? Yet in our speed-dial world, we look for anything that promises results without taking time from our day, and, let’s face it, swallowing a pill takes a few pain-free seconds versus 60 sweaty minutes of aerobics. Unfortunately, many pharmaceutical solutions come with side effects—not all of them pleasant or positive. The side effects of exercise, on the other hand, are an enhanced sense of well being, a lowered incidence of depression, decreased stress, and increased mental clarity (that, in addition to the direct effects of reduction in cardiovascular disease and its symptoms, improved strength, and enhanced appearance, to name just a few.) I will be writing much more about practical prevention in the future, you can be sure, so watch for my articles on nutrition, exercise, yoga and other mind-body modalities, and more.
Until next month, I wish you abundance and blessings, that you might share those gifts generously with others.