Tag Archives: Life

Everyone Has a Story. What’s Yours?

garycoleman

I could tell you about the time Gary Coleman saved me from a night of tears, or how at age 6 I used to hang out with an elderly woman named Francis who (I think) ran a flower shop out of her garage, or how I managed to sell a comedy show ticket to Dr. Stephen Hawkins….but it’s more fun sometimes to listen. So, what’s your story? I know you have one….

Truth is stranger than fiction.

Nothing is truer. Life is fascinating, if not plain weird sometimes. We can learn so much from each other and unlock many a creative mind, if we just stop and listen to those around us.

Bur where to begin? A good start is looking to someone who keeps company with the strangest of truths…in various realms of reality…

Say, David Lynch, perhaps…

Lynch has sent a team out across the hidden cobwebbed corners of America in search of “true” American stories…underwhelming tales of hard work and struggles, dirty finger nails and well earned sighs as the screen door to the local bar slams behind…these stories are nostalgic before their time…these times have yet to be awarded a place, which Lynch is now beginning to clear.

I recommend meeting Barry in Fort Davis, TX to understand a good story from the wunderkammen of David Lynch.

A more national and interactive interview program is presented by Story Corps and sponsored by NPR and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  A brilliant interview project with a mission to honor and celebrate lives through listening. You can tell your own story, or interview someone else for the Story Corp Project. Truly every story is unique.  Here are 2 of my favorites, although there are so many great stories, just click on the pictures to hear their stories:

Ronald Ruiz at Story Corp

Ronald Ruiz at Story Corp

Don "Moses" Lerman

Don "Moses" Lerman

You don’t need a public project to start your storytelling adventures.Write your story down. Tell it to someone else. Or better yet, interview someone near you. Learn more about them just because you want to know. Listen. It is surprising what you can learn about others, and simultaneously, discover about yourself.

SunsetStoryteller12

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

The Easy TV Workout

lect11_5

Missed your workout today, but not your favorite tv show?

So you’re at home watching The Housewives of New Jersey, or Mad Men, or Thirty Rock, or whatevers, and commercial break hits. Instead of hitting fast forward on your DVR, challenge yourself to my commercial break workout. Quick, easy, nothing is missed but some couch potato intermission drool.

The average commercial is approximately 30seconds. Most of these challenges require about 2 -4 commercials, although you could go the entire commercial break if you choose at some point. At this rate you could be getting in 5 minutes of exercise a day. Enough to make a difference in a week. You’d be surprised! Take the challenge!

BREAK #1. EXTENSION with Arm Push (Adapted from Somatic Patterning by Mary Ann Foster)

The arm push will strengthen rounded shoulders. Lying on your belly. Put both arms to the sides and bend your elbows. Palms are flat and all 5 fingers are touch floor! Widen and sink across the front of your chest. Reach your elbows out to the sides to widen across your shoulders. Keep your neck long by reaching out the top of your head. Slowly press your entire hands and forearms into the floor. Sense the force of the push traveling up your arms, into your back and down your spine Continue to push your arms down and out into the floor and raise your head and chest off the floor. Keep the back of your neck long. Let your chest feel broad, your neck free, and your spine feel long. The shoulder blades should be drawn together behind you. The arms stay straight. Hold for at least two commercials. If you feel pain in your back, walk your hands out in front of you further, or prop your belly with a pillow.  If you feel pain in your gluts or legs. Stop.

Extension with arm push

Extension with arm push

don't do this

don't do this

BREAK #2. FOREARM PLANK CHALLENGE

Nothing fancy about this one. Tried and true. Do not do it on your hands, thinking you are making it harder. On the hands is actually easier for your to avoid your core and to tense your shoulders. The forearm plank is good core stability work. Lengthen in the position. Keep stretching your chin and neck past your fists. Keep your armpits reaching for your hips. Hold at least 2 commercials.

Plank

Forearm Plank

BREAK #3. JUMPING JACK CHALLENGE

You know how to do them. So go for it. How many can you do in a commercial break?

Little tips: Try to keep your neck tension free by reaching through the crown of your head towards the ceiling. Pull your belly button to the spine to help from placing too much tension on the knees.

JUMPING JACKS

JUMPING JACKS

BREAK #4 BALANCE CHALLENGE: Balancing on one leg and toes

Practice you balance by standing on one foot for one commercial break. Shift to the other foot for the next commercial. And then balance on your toes for the third  commercial. You can always extend the time. Keep the thought of lift the spine and your posture in mind as you practice your balance. Let your eyes look up to where the wall and ceiling meet to help keep your neck long.

balance on one leg

balance on one leg

Balance on your toes

Balance on your toes

There you are. Not only did you get your tv time in, but your work out as well. Who knows? Maybe it will catch on and become the party game of every tv show watching party across America. Okay. So I’m dreaming big. You could also challenge your kids or grandchildren as well. No matter what, just have fun with it, perhaps making up your own commercial break workouts. Good Luck!

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)

An Afternoon with Bunny

Bunny Herring making her trapeze debut at 80

Bunny Herring making her trapeze debut at 80

I first heard the name Elizabeth Herring from my trapeze instructor when I asked about her oldest client. She talked about an energetic woman in her 80’s taking trapeze lessons. A few days later while determining whether or not to go back to school, the academic adviser I spoke with mentioned the same name. She knew Elizabeth Herring from back in the 1980’s when, in her 60’s, she had decided to go back to school. Intrigued, it became imperative I meet her. My initial intent was to interview Elizabeth “Bunny” Herring for my blog, to find out about her fitness routine, how she has maintained her youth and vitality and stayed in shape for so long. Her story, like the best movies, is filled with layers of intrigue and plotlines. Here is a condensed, skim…

Bunny was born into a life of privilege, in one of the bluest blood neighborhoods by the Mississippi and St. Louis. After boarding school, Bunny was studying at The American Ballet in New York when she was approached to audition for Ringling Brothers’ Circus. She and a friend did just that and of all the hundreds of showgirls trying out, they were chosen. Bunny signed a contract, and only after did she call her parents in St. Louis to tell them the “good news”. Eventually, after certain trials and tribulations, her parents conceded and Bunny traveled by steam engine with the circus for several years. One thing she did promise her parents was that she would never do the aerial acrobats and arts. Bunny ended up doing tricks and performing as a horse rider, with the elephants, and as one of the “dancing broads”, as she says they were called.

She recently broke the promise to her parents, performing in her trapeze debut for her 80th birthday in 2006, in order to raise money for her favorite charities, the prison arts and the circus day foundation. Bunny on the Lyra

In her early years, Bunny mentions on her blog a few dates with Marlon Brando, though after the circus, she ran off and married a cowboy, Skylar Herring, in Wyoming, where they had four amazing children. None of her children joined the circus, though farm life and horses seem to be prevalent. Eventually, Bunny and her family moved back to the Saint Louis area, where Bunny was a nurse. She went back to school at Washington University and got her degree in English. Bunny now teaches theater to prisoners ( see my post: sinners and saints). And although she lives in a condo in the city, the family still has a big farm and horses, just outside Saint Louis. She and Skylar were married for over 50 years before he past away in 2005.

Bunny’s condo is an array of all things artistic and fun. Her dining room has a circus theme, with a big-top like tent of material draped from the center of the room where the chandelier falls. The dining walls are lined with the various pictures and paintings of a younger bunny performing in the circus. There’s an opera bedroom, and a ballerina bedroom, but not to be out done by the burlesque bathroom, with pink feather boas bordering the ceiling.

Bunny has about four tattoos, with three of them only haven been acquired in the past few years. Apparently, she says with a unapologetic shrug, they get addictive. Her oldest tattoo circles her right ankle with her boarding school motto: Esse Quam Videre – translated means “to be rather than to seem”. Bunny likens this to the classic Shakespearean line “To thine own self be true”.

As I walked away from my afternoon talking with Bunny, my head was dancing with so many colorful stories and impressions, I didn’t know where to start. What I did know was being in Bunny’s presence and hearing her adventures filled me with a sense of wonder at life and all it has to offer us. The feeling of wonder, especially as an adult, is one of the best and rarest feelings I know. The answer to my initial question was simple, all her life, to keep in shape Bunny does about five minutes of ballet in the morning and at night. She goes to the gym now as well. But, there’s more to it than that. Youth is definitely more than a gym and a few movements. It’s the indomitable spirit of embracing life and not allowing the thirst for knowledge and living to be quenched. In this quest, Bunny has joined the ranks of my heroes, and I feel lucky to have spent an afternoon with her.

Elizabeth "Bunny" HerringTo learn more about Elizabeth Herring, please check out her own blog.

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.

knerr_hula_hoop