Tag Archives: Health

Just want to get away from it all

MABA in Augusta, MO

MABA in Augusta, MO

But can’t afford a spa?

Everyday we are logged on, synched up, plugged in, downloading, uploaded, online, tuned in, check out…deep inhale. News and information buzzes all around, lists of to dos pile up and become endlessly long…kids to camp, meetings to make, repair person to call,  doctor appointments to schedule…and throw in a couple loads of laundry while we’re at it.

Our lifestyles can easily become ridiculous. It’s all we can do sometimes to find those 15 minutes a day to give ourselves, let alone an hour for working out or yoga or whatever.

And let’s face it, a week away on a deserted island is a pipe dream. Even a weekend away at a spa somewhere for a little r & r is laughable.

What’s a stress case to do?

Consider the monastic getaway.

Hold up. Let’s stop and address all concerned – From those with a strong religious background, to the agnostic, and even aetheist friends – on a few important points here.

“Retreating” could offer the following:  1. Simple room and board to people of all backgrounds and denominations or lack there of. 2. complete solitude 3.peace and relaxation. 4. praying and/or meditation are optional and not required. 5. Schedules are not given. Your time is your own. 6. Usually costs are based on what you can donate or afford.

A monastic retreat offers perspective and balance…old school style.

Spirituality may or may not be something you aspire to, but there are few adverse to a little peace of mind and quiet away from the everyday rat race. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to run away for some solitude and self care. You may even learn something from those whose lives are lived simply and with such love for humanity.

There are monasteries, abbeys, and retreat houses throughout the US and the world. Here are a few samples:

Conception Abbey, Conception, MO

Mid America Buddhist Association, Augusta, MO

The Monastery of Christ in the Dessert in Abiqiu, NM

Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, Berkshire Hills of MA

Valermo Retreat, San Gabriel Mountains, Valyermo, CA

The Raj, Fairfield, IA ( This one is significantly more expensive, and yes it IS a spa, however it seemed important to showcase an ayurvedic option as well).

Christ in the Desert Monastery, Albiqu, NM

Christ in the Desert Monastery, Albiqu, NM

Weight: It’s All the Rage, All the Time

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An article about the American obsession with celebrity and weight showed up in last Sunday’s  New York Times. One phrase seemed strikingly poignant:

…Americans equate body size with Puritan values...

Let’s put it into context.

Speaking to the yo-yo weight of celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Kirstie Alley, Charlotte Biltekoff, an assistant professor and researcher of food and values at UC Davis, was quoted saying, ” Americans equate body size to Puritan values. Thin means self discipline and hard work; fat implies laziness, gluttony and lack of willpower. A dieter signals publicity that she/he is “in the process of self-denial, recovery, and reform.

Dr. Rebecca Puhl, an expert on weight stigma at Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity is quoted as saying, ” People who internalize these stereotypes are more likely to engage in binge eating and other unhealthy behaviors that lead to weight gain.”

The solution? Just be healthy. Embrace your shape. Make peace with who you are today, not dreaming of who you will be in a month. Look, I know. It’s a friggin’ tall order.

Relinquishing the cultural norms takes some strength.

Take Beth Ditto

Beth Ditto and Karl LagerfeldRock and Roll Singer and Indie Fashionista extrordinaire, Beth seems to be known more for her body size than her music, liberating masses of women through her self confidence in her shape and sexuality.

 love magazine

It is awesome Beth is out there, making creative and social waves, but, realize, she is morbidly obese. Truth.  It’s the same as recognizing many of our young celebs are anorexic.

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Our cultural expectations anticipate celebrities and public figures to be thin, and yet 1 in 50 Americans are morbidly obese. In between these two ends of the spectrum is you, me, and everyone else. Wherever you land in the spectrum, recognize the desire to be beautiful, physically and mentally, can not be fulfilled from the outside looking in, although we are programmed to believe so via media, culture, yadayada. Beauty is there in every body type, you just have to embrace it. The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) offers great information not only on eating disorders, but on ways to promote within yourself a healthy body image.  This information is useful to everyone.

This is a call to everyone; big, small, man, or woman, celebrity, or not….Own your own shape and uniqueness from every angle, inside and out. Create your own style. Make a statement. Most of us will never be Twiggy, but there is much more glamour and seduction in a well placed curve. Once you own your body, promise to take care of it. Eat healthy when you can, find movement you enjoy, and laugh. Strive to create a sound mind and body for you. The word weight will begin to lose its stigma.

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The physics of you – A postural perspective

newton3Used for various poetic and theoretical metaphors, it’s the common simplified version of Sir Issac Newton’s third law of Motion:

for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

In other words: forces come in pairs.

In some ways, not too dissimilar, metaphysically speaking, Athanasius Kircher, the Jesuit Polymath and  a 17th Century contemporary to Newton, was on the same track. Kircher argued that magnetism was the principal force organizing and controlling nature. Propelling and repelling. Pushing and pulling. Lengthening and Contracting.

The human body can fall under both Newton’s 3rd law and Kircher’s theories as well…at least in my metaphorical analogy. Our muscles stretch and contract. Whether we recognize it or not, we are constantly doing both. And as linear as these principles sound, they are constantly acting upon us in various levels and dimensions. Ohhh. deep. But true.

Look at this guy.

slouch

He’s slumping. The Back muscles are stretching. The back top of the neck is contracting. The front of the shoulders are contracting. The front of the neck is stretching.

Reverse all that. Contract the mid back. Stretch the back of the neck. Stretch the front of the shoulders. Contract the front of the neck. You might get something like this:

uprightIf upright posture were that easy, why don’t we just do that all the time? Lots of reasons. One is that our eyeballs are in the front of heads. If they were on top, it would be a different story. Not to mention most of our senses are geared forward.

Secondly, gravity gets us down. Our center of gravity gives into force exerted on our bodies and senses over time.

Collapsing into gravity from the center of the body, causes the shoulder to go up, the spine to compress, the hip flexors to contract, and the neck to strain. It’s like you have two opposing magnets, one on your head and one at your feet, smushing you in the center.

Human Corkscrew 1b

Try lengthening from the inside out. Stretching your center of gravity outward in all directions. Imagine you have 2 attracting magnets, one on your head and one at your feet, pulling you long in both directions, and stretching your vertebral discs apart. As your spine stretches long, you will find you shoulders will drop down and you hips will release.

Human Corkscrew Shoulders Downaimages-1

It’s your personal orientation to gravity. Why not use “the force” to your advantage. Playing the laws of gravity and motion to your advantage can create a more an upright posture, which is not only physically beneficial, but mentally as well. “Huh?” You say… Standing tall exudes confidence and creates an overall sense of well being. You also breathe deeper, creating a more relaxed and calm mind.  It’s very hard to slump and be in a good mood at the same time. Cheer yourself up and use the pull of the earth for good posture and new muscular strength.

Remember, it’s all in your perspective…or your relative perspective to the gravity of your situation.

The World is Bound in Secret Knots

The World is Bound in Secret Knots

(For more information on Athanasius Kircher, check out the most wonder-filled museum in the United States: The Museum of Jurassic Technology)

sinners and saints

"mary magdalen is destined to be in the cave, to repent for her sins and gain faith. but what she is doing, is actually doing time." - Donald C. Reflects on Mary Magdalen

"mary magdalen is destined to be in the cave, to repent for her sins and gain faith. but what she is doing, is actually doing time." - Donald C. Reflects on Mary Magdalen

“It’s not like dangling out of an elephant’s mouth… speaking in front of an audience is really scary.”

In front of me sits a small-framed, charming woman. Her bobbed and banged, blonde hair has a casual grace, and her bright blue eyes sparkle like a teenager in love for the first time. Bunny Herring is 82ish years old. I had hoped Bunny would reveal the secrets to the fountain of youth, but I came away with more than I had bargained for in this meeting.

Elizabeth “Bunny” Herring ran away and joined the circus at age 18, married a cowboy in Wyoming, rode horses, in the past few years took up the trapeze, and most recently, is teaching theatre to convicts in maximum security prisons.

And we start there,  in prison with Shakespeare.

It was hard to believe Bunny would have any insecurities.  She looks better than most people I know in their 30s. More athletic than most people in their 20s. Bunny can do the splits. I assumed, the mind/body connection in this woman was fully, for lack of a better word, connected. But, my approach was wrong. There is more than one way to feel connected and confident in yourself. Bunny, although a lifetime performer, had always been shy and scared of speaking in front of an audience…a whole different type of body/mind art.

Bunny’s been conquering this fear lately in prison. Several prisons, actually. She helps teach acting to inmates as a tool for them to express themselves, gain self confidence, and aid them socially in transitioning to the “outside”. The interesting thing is, Bunny will honestly tell you, there is no place she’d rather be, than in prison.

According to Pew research, 1 in 36 men in the state of Missouri are in prison, or on parole, and the recidivism rate is well over 50 percent within 3 years. Even though it was the prisoners she was there to help, nonetheless, it seems the prisoners are the ones helping Bunny get over her fear of speaking in public.

Coincidentally, Saturday evening I had planned to see a performance at the Pulitzer Museum (truly the best gift given to the city of St. Louis in recent decades). It was entitled, “Staging Old Masters”. Former prisoners spent 6 weeks exploring the current exhibit at the Pulitzer and performed self-created short plays based on these explorations. Of course, Bunny was there. If you live in the St. Louis area I highly recommend this experience. These performances are insightful in so many ways. For more information, you can go to http://stagingoldmasters.pulitzerarts.org

The point of all this? Comes back to the physics of us. It’s all relative. What comes easy to some is incredibly difficult for others. The inspiration here is in doing what you otherwise might not dare. We can keep improving on ourselves at any age. When life gets inspired and creativity starts flowing, it’s hard to say who is the sinner and who is the saint.

I’m Serious. Get out there and PLAY, damn it.

encouraging-adults-to-play-in-the-rain1When was the last time you hula hooped? juggled oranges? Played in a warm summer rain? Jumped rope or on a trampoline? Hung by your knees from the jungle gym?

Now hold up. Before the eye rolling begins, I want you to give it a serious minute. I want you to picture yourself hula hooping, in the backyard, with your children, grandchildren, or, niece and nephew. I can almost guarantee you want to smile just a little bit right now…in between the desire to eyeroll. Come on now. Embrace the cheese and let go.

Physical play is important as a child. It helps in motor skill development, exploration and curiosity inquiring into how things work. It is no different now. In a way it’s like riding a bike, you never forget, you just get rusty. You have to give yourself permission to let go, live a little, and just play.

We all know the benefits of exercise throughout our lifetimes. I’m just not convinced, however, that getting on the treadmill, or going to the gym really does it though. Let’s be honest. For most of us, it is not fun. You might feel better, or at least physically exhausted to match the mental work of sitting at a computer or in meetings all day, BUT, the thought of going to the gym does not make you smile. How can that truly be good for stress levels? Exercise soon becomes another “have to” or “should”, like bills and taxes. So now exercise get a bum rap.

Usually play and exercise are not thought of in the same category, especially for adults. The usual connection is play equals  embarrassment, or play only happens on Wii. Why should fun and “letting go” be so difficult? It is exercise too! Hula Hoops are great for coordination and the abdominals, back, and hips. The jungle gym is all about arm strength and balance, and jump roping, is pure aerobic activity. Coordination and balance tend to go as we age, but not so much if you continue to explore and challenge those skills in ways that are fun and relatively safe for the body.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to get outside on one of these fine blooming spring days, go get yourself a hula hoop (and perhaps a child relative to make you feel less self conscious) or a jump rope.  Go to the park, find the playground, and play. And if you can’t? Most of us have one of those balance balls deflated in the house somewhere. Blow it up and jump around on it for 10 minutes or so, alternating legs, shifting your hips, going in circles…play with it.  If your mission is completed, I think you might be feeling a little better, smiling a little more, and acknowledging the kid inside never has to really go away.

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