Now He Is Three

For the Birthday Boy

For the Birthday Boy

My lack of writing time is starting to get to me.  Recently I had the idea that perhaps I could figure out a way to keep a weekly schedule.  We’ll see, it’s busy times around here.  This past weekend we had a birthday party for our little boy who turned three yesterday.  Three seems like a rather long time – as if certain things ought to be different by now.  When following that train of thought, I’m realizing that the size of the increments by which I measure such changes determines whether I feel that my life is a continual stream of potential being realized or an ever increasing mount of challenges.  I’m opting for the first perspective and therefore am learning to measure progress in very small steps.  As is so often the case with mental exercise, the results are proving to be compounding.  The more I focus on small improvements in my life, the more small improvements I notice and pretty soon things are looking pretty good (to borrow one of my son’s favorite phrases from a couple months back).  So I’ve got my positive frame of mind going for me.

About ten days ago, my husband got sick.  A couple days later I too became very congested.  We’re both still sick and as far as I’m concerned it was pretty much the perfect set up for a perfect birthday celebration.  It put things in perspective for me.  Since three is the first year that my boy is actually enthusiastic about celebrating his birthday, I wanted to make it special.  A little over two weeks ago I asked him how he wanted to celebrate his birthday.  He replied that he wanted cake and a party and toys that would be inside presents that he opened.  When I asked what kind of cake, he said strawberry.  I love a party.  I love to plan a party.  I love baking birthday cakes.  But I usually go overboard in some respect.  I tend to be the sort of person that over works and over does.  In this case my husband’s illness and my more mild cold demanded that I keep things simple.  Sweet and simple.  This meant that our boy enjoyed just the right amount of fun.  Just the right amount of cake.  Just the right amount of presents.  Just the right amount of everything.  And so did I.  I managed to put on two lovely parties without completely running myself into the ground.

That’s my simple story.  A sweet little reminder that sometimes what seems like a curse is really a blessing.  And once we are in that frame of mind, blessings are abound.


Cake and Crown to his liking

Cake and Crown to his liking

My Current Thoughts on Breast Health

Wild Pink Rose - One of the many Flower Essences Contained in Lady Nada's Breast Oil

Wild Pink Rose – One of the many Flower Essences Contained in Lady Nada’s Breast Oil

As my work focus has switched to tasks related to my real-life studio, my time in cyberspace has been seriously reduced.  That’s the short explanation for why I am only now getting this post up (I’d had it planned for March-ish).  These periodic write ups come after we hold a Breast Health workshop in the real world.  I just love how every workshop brings new information and new insights.  Each coming together involves different women and so there is always something unique to share.  As it happened, I caught a glimpse of an article on the cover of a free local magazine that struck a chord especially given what was the predominant area of discussion in our last workshop:  “Breast Health, Mammography vs. Thermography.”  In spite of it’s title, the article isn’t about health as I define it; rather it is the about monitoring the breast tissue mechanically.  Clearly when it comes to breast cancer, western medicine has its necessary methods of detection, and thermography is slowly gaining deserved respect as an integral part of a complete cancer screening program.  But what about simply having healthy breasts?

This reminds me about what I think Joe Pilates was getting at in his book, Your Health, back in the 1930’s.  Sadly, his writings did little to alter our course and here we are still conflating caring for our health with receiving medical treatments.  Joe pointed out that health is not only a normal condition but also one to be deliberately maintained.  When Rupam, Ollie, and I offer our Breast Health workshops we give women a variety of things to do every day to promote and sustain normal healthy breasts.  This puts health in the realm of personal practice – a set of actions that give us a framework for tending to our healthy bodies.  It is not something that we get from a Medical doctor, unless that practitioner has gone beyond the typical boundaries of their practice for these current times.  Rather, the wide variety of practitioners who give us the tools for actual health care are most often to be found outside the medical community since Western Medicine is most wholly occupied with tending to disease.

Only upon writing that, it dawned on me that what we are calling “health care” is actually more aptly called “disease treatment”.  To my way of thinking, thanks to Joe Pilates and others, real health care is something different.  Real health care is personal and completely holistic.  It is a learned practice that most of us are learning as adults but that is most ideally learned from birth onward.  It is passed from person to person and while folks often have a lot of training in order to share knowledge; it can and is intended to be practiced by anyone and everyone.  We are the only rightful experts of our own bodies.  Real health care is the people doing t’ai chi in the park, it’s taking a walk in the woods, it’s making proper use of nature’s bountiful herbal and comestible provisions, it’s holistic exercise, it’s being grateful, it’s jumping on a trampoline, it’s swimming, it’s Ho’oponopono, and so many varied practices that are too diverse to list here.  All of those practices have something in common, they have the potential to shift our nervous system over to its parasympathetic mode of operation.  As I’m learning in Holistic Biomechanics, that’s a pretty important switch to have at our command.  It’s one of the keys to maintaining normal health.

Rupam has discussed the topic of thermography in our workshops before and this time I heard the full story.  She knows a person who administers thermography tests in the SF Bay Area (get in touch with Rupam to find those local resources).  Through asking her patients, this practitioner had discovered a relationship between an absence of “hot spots” in the breast tissue and use of Rupam’s Lady Nada’s Breast Oilall the women with tissues clear of “active zones” were using Rupam’s oil.  Given that the oil is applied through a specific massage that Rupam recommends, we don’t know whether the oil or the daily massage has more effect on keeping the breast tissue healthy.  But it seems apparent that there is a correlation between regular care of the breasts with Rupam’s breast oil and breast tissue that is healthy (read, at low risk for becoming cancerous) by the standards of western medicine.

Given who was in our spring workshop, the conversation revolved around the topic of cancer.  For those who have had some degree of relationship with breast cancer, there can be a lot of fear around the topic.  Rupam pointed out that the antidote to fear is love, that the two cannot coexist.  Taking the time to direct our energy toward caring for our breasts on a daily basis shifts us to a place of love.  For those of us who have associated fear with our breast tissue, this is an important and radical shift to make.  But I’d venture to guess that most of us women could stand to benefit from expressing love toward our bodies, our breasts in particular.  Rupam’s experiences in India taught her how important our breasts are to us women, and how tender loving care of our breasts enhances all aspects of our lives because our breasts are our natural source of nurturing and creativity.  Indeed, breast health is about much much more than avoiding cancer.  I am grateful to Rupam each and every day for teaching me that valuable lesson.  (When I get a little time, I’m going to catch up with everybody else and watch this movie that Rupam mentioned.  Apparently it gives us some insight into the power of love.)

When it comes to our health, in many ways we are called to slow down.  When we are touching our body, especially the breast tissue since it is so delicate, it is important to go very slowly.  V-e-r-y  s-l-o-w-l-y.  I added the emphasis because so many of us are already going at a remarkably fast pace – even our slow is fast by the standard of slow.  It takes 5 seconds for our body to sense and integrate touch in the Limbic System.  Honestly, I don’t know what the limbic system is, but Rupam made the statement with the sort of emphasis that compelled me to take note.  Generally when systems of the body are mentioned that I know nothing about, I tend to rely on a notion that I learned from reading Joe Pilates’ writings, that our bodies have layers and layers of function that all coordinate with one another.  We are consciously tuned into the most superficial of those layers if even those – how our skin looks, if our muscles are tone, if we are experiencing pain.  Focusing our attention on other layers of our physical function can serve to enhance that miraculous and incredibly complicated internal coordination that is the healthy functioning of our bodies.  When our health is at risk and we are dealing with the possibility of disease, slowing down can serve us in another way.  Taking the time to fully understand what is happening and what the practitioners who are helping us understand to be happening is very important to arriving at a plan of action that serves our best interests.  Taking the time to get multiple opinions can help us complete our understanding and ensure that we avoid treatments that we may eventually regret.

From where I started, growing up in Michigan completely embedded in the standard of our mass culture when it comes to every aspect of health and self-care, it has taken me a long time and all my resources to arrive at my current perspective on health.  The change that I’ve undergone was so monumental that I’ve made a career out of it.  While I still learn every day, I can see how my mindset is now firmly set in a mode that I would call proactive prevention.  I share little bits of what I know here so that others who are interested in returning to their own state of normal health may have support in doing so.  Please, with love, share this post with others who you feel would be grateful for the information.

My first post on the topic of Breast Health.  And some others, here and here, that touch on the topic, if indirectly.

“Oh! Is today Mother’s Day?!”

A perfect treat for Mama!

A perfect treat for Mama!

That’s what my husband exclaimed after hearing our childcare provider and I chat about the special days in May between Mexico and the US – his Spanish isn’t complete so it takes him a while to grasp the content of conversations when we’re not talking in English.

He thought that Mother’s Day was next weekend.  He’s not good with dates.  And all he does is work and hang out with us so he’s pretty removed from the rest of the world.  Luckily for all involved, I’d resolved to handle my own Mother’s Day celebration.  Since one of my clients had brunch instead of Pilates, I’d already been to the Farmer’s Market for some fresh produce and a plan for homemade frozen yogurt with fruit and carob syrup was in development (I’d been reminiscing about the frozen yogurt bar at the Hudson’s Marketplace last week and had a hankering).

I’ve had some “big thoughts” on being a mom lately.  But today it seems that the lesson is a simple reminder that came by way of the morning’s events.  It’s something along the lines of fulfilling the role of mother completely involves knowing how to mother ourselves.

At the grocery store I asked the cashier if he’d called his mother yet.  He had some face piercings and perhaps judging from his appearance he might not be the sort of guy who was too eager to call his mom so I was careful to pose the question with a curious rather than nagging tone – indeed I was simply interested in sharing in my sense of celebration for moms everywhere.  His response was so sweet:  that he’d called her first thing, that he’d called her yesterday too, just in case he forgot today.  And furthermore that he had the feeling that she might be of the opinion that he called her a bit too much given his age.  Just goes to show, even the folks that may look a little rough have a mom who loves them and they love her right back.

Blessings to each and every mother out there and every child who loves her!

Stay Whole

Watch where you're pointing that arrow!

Watch where you’re pointing that arrow!

I’ve got a bunch of posts in my mental line up.  Unfortunately, I’ve got a lot of other stuff in there too.  Tomorrow is Mother’s Day and I’m hoping to cash in a little writing time, but that’s a whole day away and I think that using our special days for following whims of the moment is the best possible way to go about celebrating ourselves.  So who knows when those posts will all get written?  No guarantees from me.  And yet, here I am writing.  Turns out that I’m following a whim today – and enjoying it.

I wrote all that for a reason.  Because what I have to share today is really a little sidebar note from a much more important, and terribly late, post on breast health.  Have I mentioned that I team up with Rupam Henry and Ollie Lobeck periodically to share strategies for supporting healthy breasts?  I might not have on account of my attempts to keep this space a little separate from the rest of my life.  But if there was anything worthy of breaking my self-imposed rules, it’s breast health.  The more workshops we hold, the more I realize how important breast health is to all of us – even the men and children if you can believe it.  So, stay tuned for more tidbits on that topic.  In the meanwhile, one of our participants reminded me of something that I’ve been meaning to add to The Grace Plan:  no elective surgery.  Ever.

Here’s what I already knew.  Surgery is risky, traumatic, costly, not-guaranteed to be successful hence requiring follow up procedures, and taxing on the body.  To me, this means that unless it is absolutely necessary to sustain my life, surgery is too expensive to undergo.  Here’s what one of our lovely participants pointed out:  surgery cuts stuff to get to other stuff.  Like your lymph system, your nerves, your fascia, and whatever else seems to be in the way.  I give too much credence to the integral importance of anything and everything in my body to be willing to cut any of it.

Depending on what they need to do, surgeons may also go digging around in your body for other materials, say a little bone or muscle.  They may very well do this without even telling you so that after the fog has cleared and you have some area other than the principle site of the surgery that is causing you discomfort that could be the reason.  All you can do is schedule a follow up appointment and ask.

In spite of all this, we seem to be getting more comfortable with surgery on a collective level.  While I can’t do much about that, apart from writing posts such as this, I can keep myself away from the operating room and that is precisely what I plan to do.  For as long as I’ve got a body, I intend to do my best to keep it in one perfectly complete piece.

The Tenacity of Pilates in the Face of Injury

tenacious by nature II

tenacious by nature II

Recently a client of mine showed up five minutes early to class, to show me her freshly broken wrist and explain her upcoming absence.  I assured her that she’d be able to return to her Pilates practice just as soon as she recovered from the initial shock and swelling.

As we parted ways, I marveled yet again at how cool Pilates is.  It truly is a complete system of exercise.  I’m pretty sure that there’s no other sort of exercise out there that can get a person out of pain, into their once-too-tight clothes, performing better at just about everything else in their life, and not miss a beat when injuries or other situations occur.

Even more than that (and all the rest that doesn’t come to mind as I type quickly during my son’s shower), Pilates puts the practitioner in the power seat.  Injuries do happen along with everything else that comes up in the course of a lifetime.  How we respond it all is up to us.  Injuries in particular can be an impetus either to diminish or enhance our body awareness.  They can be a call to action or a reason to shut down.  But that’s not Pilates, that’s us.

Pilates is always available.  Pilates is tenacious by nature.  That’s just one of the many reasons that I love it so and feel so grateful to have had Pilates as my primary form of fitness for the past decade or so.

In celebration of Pilates Day 2014…

Does the internet need another springtime bouquet?  I do believe so!

Does the internet need another springtime bouquet? I do believe so!

I’m going to share my insights thus far into the second phase of My Pilates Body Boost.  Here’s what’s happened in a nutshell so far:

1)  Off and Running…I started doing my prescribed workouts with the Cadillac as my focal point.

2)  Space takes time…I quickly realized that with my particular goal of creating more space in my body, the workouts were getting longer and longer, just as my available time was getting less and less.

3)  To find the perfect balance…Unfortunately, I did not get the balance of stretch and strength right in my workout plans and so I ended up with overly sore muscles that were sort of uninspiring and longstanding because the nature of my workouts didn’t have as much flow as regular mat and reformer workouts (in my experience, sore muscles dissipate with a light flowing workout).

4)  MELT…I got really hooked on MELTing and started putting more time into that because I was sore and without my usual degree of physical support I needed to be careful about pushing myself too hard.  And the MELT method is totally awesome.

5)  Hooray for cyber Pilates friends…Thankfully March MATness came along and gave me an inspirational boost.  I started doing a daily mat before my cadillac exercises, always hanging at the end, and MELTing.

6)  Groove or rut?…After about a 6 weeks of that I realized that my body was getting pretty large – pants not fitting again.  I’m currently operating under the assumption that my body is so accustomed to regular and rigorous exercise that it goes haywire without it.  If I dial back my routine I don’t just plateau, I start expanding.  For sure, something else may be at play but for now I can attend to myself by keeping my workouts regular and invigorating.

7)  Ready for action…With my daily pain much lower than it’s been in over two decades, I revamped my workout to a daily 30 minutes that involves sweat, heavy breathing, and each piece of apparatus.

8)  Definitely groove…I’m happy with my new regimen, inspired and feeling sore in places that give me a sense of having done something productive.  I’m still MELTing daily and loving it.

9)  Uh oh, forgot to hang…Today is day seven of a muscle ache in my upper back that returned after a couple month’s hiatus.  I’d attributed the relief from MELTing, but given what I’ve been doing the past week, it dawned on me that perhaps the thing that was actually keeping my upper back loose enough to be pain free was hanging.  Pretty much every time I hang I get a pop or two in my middle and upper back.  So hanging is now back in the daily mix.  (By the way, my interest in hanging took a rather sharp dip when one of my feet slipped out of the fuzzy while I was head to the floor – yikes!  That was really scary.  Those feet must be in just the right place!)

10)  Business as usual…I’ll putter along for a while, until I feel that I’ve actually got something to show for my efforts at which point I’ll call phase two done and take a set of photos that I hope will show a longer and leaner me.

* On the topic of MELTing, I’ve got a fix-my-feet project going (“before” photos have been snapped, daily exercises are in progress).  I’m figuring this project is going to be at least six months in duration.  In the meanwhile, I’m so enamored with MELTing that I’ve joined their affiliate program.  If you look to the upper right of this webpage, you’ll find a MELT button.  Click there to learn more and if you decide to begin your own MELT practice with a purchase in their online store, I’ll get a little piece of the pie.  The way I see it, it’s a triple win, with anybody who takes up MELTing as scoring a big-time-life-changing set of balls.

Everything is All Right

reminds me of the right and wrong stalement:  nobody gets anywhere but everybody works really hard.

Reminds me of the right and wrong stalement: nobody gets anywhere but everybody works really hard.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there.
-Jalal al-Din Muhammad Rumi

My mind has been swimming lately as it is prone to do.  And I haven’t had time to write in weeks which always exacerbates the problem.  But today a few things clicked into place during my workout and I felt some sense of relief.  So here I am sharing.

In Pilates as in life, so often I come face to face with the notion of right and wrong.  And it always exhausts me.  I’ve been turning the two ideas around in my head for years and I feel that I might be coming close to arriving at a place of comfort for myself, a place that is very much like the field I imagine in the quote above.  Here’s how I get there, I think to myself that everybody and everything is right (or to borrow from Byron Katie, everybody and everything is real).  Real is right, right is real.  There.

In a society full of lawyers and their suits, this may be a hard idea to digest.  Perhaps with a suspension of disbelief I can get you, gentle reader, to understand what I mean…

In order to be okay with the idea that I’m suggesting, one has to be comfortable with the relativity of all things, with the weight that context, perception, and value put on our experiences.  From that point, it’s not such a far leap to see the rightness in each and every thing.

In the world of Pilates, as I can only assume with other enclaves of human culture, we have serious struggles going on in the name of right and wrong.  (And boy is it taxing.  Honestly, for that reason alone I wish that the players engaging in the debates would dial it back a bit.)  But then I must remind myself that they are right, we are all right.

I have completed two certifications and in so doing have been involved in various Pilates communities over the years.  I started with what I call a derivative program because the main content was far beyond the original work – so far that when I compared what I understood, and was doing in practice with what I read in Joe Pilates books I didn’t really see much in common.  That left me with a sense of incompleteness so I pressed on and I worked with Romana and completed the Romana’s Pilates program.  The cool thing is that now that I finally feel I have a thorough and clear understanding of Pilates, it’s much easier for me to understand what I learned first because I know where it came from.

I’ve come to see Pilates as a gateway to our bodies.  It serves as a gateway because of its completeness and because it is a system based in movement – Pilates creates room for us to explore our physicality.  There are so many opportunities to go off the beaten path with Pilates, to explore the many many layers of intricacy and complexity that make us up.  Many have taken those opportunities and developed new methodologies.  Some end up more interested in hands on bodywork, some end up interested in one aspect of the Pilates system, or how it applies to another activity.  A purist may indeed scoff at the idea such derivations and yet, it’s happened, and it continues to happen.  As far as I’m concerned, if it happens, it must be right.  I’m not interested in calling other people and their work wrong or monitoring it so closely as to grant myself some degree of authority to judge it.  But even more importantly, I’m interested in respecting my fellow humans.

Right and wrong create a rigidity of self that penetrates every layer.  A rigid body houses a rigid mind and inhibits expansion of knowledge and understanding.  So does focusing on one aspect of Pilates for an extended period of time.  Romana was often encouraging us to keep change constant in our personal and teaching practices.

Beyond a varied and dynamic Pilates practice, we have a wealth of other methodologies to explore.  Pilates is amazing in and of itself and I love my personal and professional practices.  But they are greatly enhanced by my explorations beyond the Pilates system.  It’s easy for me to suspend disbelief when learning something that doesn’t initially seem to sync up with what I know from Pilates because I know it will get me to some new level of understanding and experience.  Usually, once I figure out the new material, I can see it shining through in Pilates because Pilates is that complete of a method.  Perhaps for that reason, I’ve made a habit of being receptive and not calling other kinds of work wrong.  So far it’s working for me, I promise to report back here if I turn out to be wrong.  But I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen….

Tenacious By Nature

tenacious by nature

During our visit to Esalen, our son discovered what my husband declared to be the most beautiful trail he’d ever hiked (and he’s quite particular about these things).  My husband pointed out the tree in the photo above and speculated that though the tree had fallen many years back, it wasn’t quite dead and so new shoots took up the organism’s perpetual quest for sunlight (and endured a fire too).  I admired that tree’s tenacity, so I took a picture.  A while back, somebody called me tenacious and I took comfort in knowing that somebody recognized my enduring efforts.  I’ve had to be these past few years, holding on to the career that I built with a decade’s worth of all my available resources (and then some) has taken all my resolve.  And I’m not in the clear yet, not by a long shot.  In summary, being a business-owning-hands-on-mama is no joke.  No joke.

Saturday 3/29 was slated to be the end of the second phase of My Pilates Body Boost.  But as I’ve mentioned, I got a little off course this time around and I don’t feel that I’m ready to be done.  Last weekend, I had a treat in the form of a lesson with Siri Dharma Galliano.  She gave me some great things to think about with respect to my current goal of creating more space within my body.  It was a pleasure to have somebody with such knowledge and heart so close to my home.  Part of me misses my days of frequent travel for Pilates training, but the other part knows that this is my time to deepen into my home and my own life.  Pilates is ever-present in those endeavors and having a lesson with such a great teacher feels like a celebration and affirmation of that.  And honestly, it keeps me going.  True to her style, Siri gave me some much appreciated tips about how to transform my little studio into a thriving small business so I’ve got lots to work on in the coming months.

I’m gearing up for some new projects and in the meantime tying up unfinished ones so my mind is mostly swimming these days.  I remain grateful for this space and eager to share more once I get my bearings.  For now, I’m deeply engaged with the many tasks of transitioning and so very grateful to have the feeling that I’m right where I need to be, and that my tenacity may indeed pay off.  For so long that hasn’t been the case and so my sense of gratitude is even stronger than usual.

Since my mind is rather scattered but very full at present, I thought that I’d share a couple fun things that have been keeping me entertained and engaged:

A really cool tour of the female pelvic floor in two parts.  This is the sort of thing that every woman should know (IMHO):

And a bumper sticker that made me laugh today:
Back off!  I’m not that kind of car.

As far as the day to day goes, I’m going to keep that tree in mind and keep looking for the light.

Hitting the Road

We're headed to the coast!

We’re headed to the coast!

Today our family heads to Esalen.  It’s our first visit and I’m quite excited.  But I’m not one to get out of the house easily.  I’m having trouble tearing myself away from my desk, truth be told.  But I saw a little item in my “to be published” list that I thought might make it a little easier for me to say goodbye to cyberspace and all my unfinished tasks.  One little thing to post, one more little thing done before I unplug.

It’s something that I read on a bumper sticker.  I do appreciate a good bumper sticker:

And with that, we head off on a little family adventure to discover together what will emerge once we are free of our daily constraints.

Sensing Hope

stages of opening wide

stages of opening wide

A few days ago I had an interesting experience after my workout.  It was my first after a couple days off that I take in accordance with my hormonal cycle that just so happened to coincide with my boy needing extra tender loving care due to the presence of two staples in the back of his head.

I wasn’t expecting much because I didn’t have a lot of time and it hadn’t been the easiest couple of days off.  So I was surprised to feel such an immediate and full-body sense of lightness as I walked back from the studio.  I felt as if a heavy fog had lifted from my body and I daresay that this sort of experience is what prompts my clients to exclaim how wonderful they feel at the conclusion of a lesson.  I’ve always privately marveled at the complete conviction with which folks say that they are improved after a Pilates workout, because the effects have rarely been so dramatic for me.

I’m wondering if this is a result of MELTing.  My bodyworker has noted that my body seems to have less noise and perhaps I’ve just experienced what she means.  If indeed my body’s internal static is fading, then every input I receive will be more easily processed and likewise I will be able to sense the positive effects of all my self care projects.  I do believe that this is what getting out of chronic pain feels like.  If nothing else, it’s what hope feels like.