“Character — the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life — is the source from which self-respect springs.” Joan Didion
It was 4:30 in the morning. rise early for work and I get ready upstairs before coming down. We have a routine, the dogs and I. A ministry of love. Lillie sleeps with me and is almost always lying next to me with her head on my right shin as I wake. We cuddle in bed a bit and then I get up. When I come downstairs I always sing to Roadie and rub his head and ears and give him hugs and kisses for the morning. But this particular morning he made a beeline to the back door and I followed. I put the collars on the dogs and got a few makeshift pats and hugs in on Roadie and then opened the back door and the storm door leading to the screened-in porch. In atypical fashion, I let the storm door close. I opened the outside door for the dogs and propped it open, as always. I turned to go back in the house and the door had locked itself behind me. Now, this door has a history. This door has locked me out before. But, you see, I keep a set of keys to the house in a lock box on the porch. Alas, I did not have my glasses and no amount of light or squinting could bring the tiny numbers on that box into focus.
What to do, there on the porch? Kept from my home by a tiny piece of metal, entirely unable to see what was literally right in front of me.
I had no keys, no phone, no glasses.
I sat there on the floor of the porch and thought isn’t this hilarious?
Luckily, I had gotten dressed before coming downstairs, so I had that going. I have new neighbors to the south of me. We have been friendly and they are early risers like me. I hopped my fence because I was also unable to see the code to unlock the fence. I rang their doorbell and they answered. (Cue the angels singing and the sun rising) The grandparents do not speak English but they understand “help” and went to get their son. He came over—with his glasses on-and helped me get the keys.
In the moments on the back porch when I sat on the floor staring at the lockbox bewildered, I had some time to reflect. I do think Spirit has quite a sense of humor. What are we to do when certainty evades us? When are we ever even certain of anything?
I notice the ways I have tried to create certainty in my own life and in the moment on the porch spirit said look up, look around, see all the Grace that is available to you.
What else is right in front of me that I am not seeing? What could be the miracle that is awaiting me in this moment? How can I arrive in my body accepting this?
I recounted my story to a person I love and the response was “I bet that was infuriating.”
I actually did not feel any anger rise.
I felt complete surrender which was refreshing and a little terrifying.
I knew that even if I missed my work that day I would be safe. The dogs would be safe. If my one neighbor had not answered the door I have many others who might have—and eventually someone would have. We live in community for many reasons, mostly because we need each other.
When the pandemic hit and people were hoarding toilet paper it was such a bold example of the me first culture we have built.
Divisions of the haves and have nots.
Age old and tedious AF.
But also a revelation about how shitty some people actually behave.
I seriously want to know how any person is finding their salvation in hoarding toilet paper?
Anna Lembke, Stanford University researcher and author of the book Dopamine Nation writes: “Human beings, the ultimate seekers, have responded too well to the challenge of pursuing pleasure and avoiding pain. We have transformed the world from a place of scarcity to a place of overwhelming abundance. “
Tom Finucaine who studies diabetes in the setting of chronic sedentary feeding said “We are cacti in the rain forest. And like cacti adapted to an arid climate we are drowning in the dopamine. The net effect is that we need more reward to feel pleasure and less injury to feel pain.“
I am immediately struck by imagery related to the phrase “chronic feeding in a sedentary setting.” Really, isn’t this what the pandemic produced for many people? Children reported to me that they didnt even get out of bed to start school—sleeping with their phone or computer they simply rolled over and signed in to classes while still in bed, and typically fell back to sleep or dozed on and off through the day.
“The smartphone is the modern-day hypodermic needle delivering dopamine 24/7 for a wired generation”, writes Lembke. Dopamine is the molecule monitored for measuring the addictive potential of anything. The more dopamine, the more addictive. How much do we need to feel reward?
Craving is the moment of the brains pleasure balance tipped to the side of pain. We are all seeking relief from the pain in which we are drowning ourselves. The book is about how to overcome compulsive consumption.
Do people actually want to learn how?
This book discusses the science of addiction and recovery. And it points out that each of us is an addict of sorts—we live in a culture primed for addictions and the consequences of the pandemic seem to have turned the volume way up on addictive behaviors not even remotely limited to hoarding toilet paper.
When I consider the concept of what and how we feed ourselves the word fitness comes to mind. Fitness is such a fat word, overripe and oozing with judgments. What we feed ourselves might be a story about why we are not fit or a story about how our body is different or how we have some limitation. But, it seems to me that fitness, like addiction, is self defined and truly every single body is different.
As a coach, what I teach is that awareness is the only point of change. If you plug coordinates in your phone to get to a specific location you also need to know where you currently are located in order to draw the map. This is true for any change.
Where am I?
Where would I like to be?
How can I get there?
What am I feeding myself and how?
What do I want to eat, to consume, to digest?
Its not just the food we are eating. It is how we get our food, where we get it, how we eat it, and how it makes us feel.
Its not just what we are eating, its what we are doing while eating; reading, watching, listening etc…..
Its not just what we are doing while eating its what we are doing and thinking and consuming all the time.
The only thing not fixed is the path from A to B but A and B are fixed points.
I ask everyone the simplest question: What do you really really want?
And, unfortunately, mostly people answer with “well, I will tell you what I don’t want!”
But that is seriously missing the point.
You are focused on what you don’t want. And that is the surest way to get more.
All of the places a person can be marketed to reflect a place within them where exchange is off.
What am I willing to give and to receive?
What is the payoff for consuming toxins—anything from alcohol and drugs to sugar, fast food and fox news (or any news)?
What stirs within—what amount of dopamine hits your reward center? What follows?
The point is, when we can get curious instead of certain we can make some progress.
How do you get in touch with what you are feeling?
Why are you doing what you are doing?
What are some things that you are doing more that you would like to do less?
What are some things you are doing less that you would like to do more?
One of the ways to gain some clarity is through the breath. If you are willing id like to do a type of breath with you today.
Together we can breathe some life into our hopes and dreams today. Collectively we can call on our higher selves and our spirit guides to walk us closer to our higher selves. For me this means opening the channel to allow more flow.
I’d like to share one simple practice I use called alternate nostril breathing.
In Ayurveda is called
Nadi Shodhana: Alternate Nostril Breathing
The word nadi means “river” or “flow.” Shodhana means “purification.” This practice cleanses and purifies the nadis or channels of the body, and balances the flow of breath through both nostrils, which balances our solar and lunar energies. In western terms, it increases the flow between the right and left hemispheres of the brain through the corpus collosum.
It calms, purifies, and strengthens the nervous system. And is best practiced on an empty stomach.
- Begin sitting in a comfortable seated position, aligning the spine over the pelvis.
- Using the right hand, fold down the “peace sign” fingers toward the palm.
- From this position, you will use the right thumb to open and close the right nostril, and the right ring finger to open and close the left nostril.
- With both nostrils open, inhale and exhale completely.
- Begin the first round by closing the right nostril and gently inhaling through the left. Close the left nostril with the ring finger, open the right, and gently exhale through the right nostril. NOTE: Always switch before the exhale!
- Inhale through the right nostril, and switch nostrils to exhale through the left.
- This is one round, the pattern being: IN left—OUT right—IN right—OUT left
- Begin with 10 rounds, adding one round per week up to 30 rounds.
Benefits: relieves insomnia, stress, and anxiety, purifies the channels of the body, calms the nervous system, regulates body temperature.
Precautions: headaches, fever, restlessness, agitation, seizures, blocked nasal passages, cold.
One thing I practice through the breathwork is a way to DO something without doing something. The breathwork I practice and teach is a meditation. The pranayama breath is way of breathing through the mouth only and is a way to bypass the mind and move directly into the body. There are infinite paths inward and I choose several to deepen my connection to self. Even in the way I teach movement there is not one way. There is your way. Right now.
And Way will shift. Way opens and closes not unlike our heart center. It seems to me that part of my work on this 3 dimensional plane is to continually seek and find way knowing that like every aspect of self it too will shapeshift and disappear and reappear in new ways, as I do.
“how often I have found where I should be going by setting out for somewhere else” by Buckminster Fuller rests on the wall in my studio. I know this intimately.
I moved to Chicago in 2006 for a postdoctoral position in Biochemistry and molecular genetics at UIC. I worked in a prestigious laboratory with the worlds expert in Anti-coagulation. My doctoral research was examining the interactions of enzymes involved in the coagulation cascade: Blood clotting. The human body has fascinated me since I can remember. I knew when I was 16 that I would study biochemistry. It took me longer than some people to finally gather the courage to pursue my dreams. I’m still pursuing them and they shift perpetually. I found it difficult to emerge amongst the overwhelming noise that bombarded my own inner signal. I quit things most people wouldn’t. I went to college on a scholarship to play the violin—I was recruited in 1984. Who the hell even knew I was down in Louisville, Ky making music? I wanted to play field hockey in college but apparently I was meant to play music. I left college after 2 years—even though I loved my school—I did not understand that I could get a degree in music and not have to be a musician for the rest of my life. I knew what I wanted AND I knew I didn’t want that. I left college. I had been cooking in a retreat center in the mountains all summer and rafting and watching luna moths as big as my head and making new friends and so I stayed a while until my parents convinced me that I should be productive—so I was shepherded back to Louisville to live with my parents and get a job. I started cooking in restaurants and then went off to Italy to study cooking in a 5 star hotel in Salsomaggiore Terme near where my father had grown up. I began to gain weight through college and after. While I lived in Italy I rode my bike everywhere and ate clean food. I worked a lot and spent time with family and lost a lot of weight.
This would be a theme in my life: on purpose, lean—off purpose, fat.
Until I stopped the cycle.
When I was 24 I lost over 100 pounds and have kept it off for the last 32 years.
Weight loss is a practice—not a diet. I lost weight by getting clear on exchange. By resuming physical activity that I loved, eating whole foods that I cooked, and quitting toxins.
There have been periods of my life traceable to relationship woes, job changes, and general angst where it was harder—but its always a practice.
Everything we choose is a practice. What doe it feel like to eat things you know don’t make you feel good?
For me change came from the constant awareness that I wanted to feel better.
The book Dopamine nation will give you all the science—and the truth is we are getting a fix, like a drug. There is real hormonal chemistry happening…….every pursuit of pleasure (from a physiological perspective) is rewarded with a pain response—Dr Lembke calls them gremlins who hop on the other end of the see saw to re-equilibrate it.
My personal philosophy assumes that everything is emerging as a consequence of both the tension and unity between interacting systems. I believe that mental phenomena are neither separate nor distinct from physical events. (Thinking and feeling are deeply connected) What is happening IS felt in the body because thought produces form. And the Body keeps the Score, for sure, as Basel Van Der kolk has written so eloquently.
And sages describe a state without suffering and a way to get there. That way is not to by searching for a remedy, a panacea, a magic bullet, or a pill, but to engage in the ongoing process of learning to become more animated and more connected. To become, in essence, more charged with life force. My intention is to be progressing toward greater integration through the cultivation of my own energy. My practices allow me to NOTICE when I am not in alignment and to come back faster and with greater ease and with some grace for myself for reacting in an old pattern. I feel better when I choose grace. This is the guiding Principle of my life and work. It feels good to be kind. It feels good to laugh. It feels good to move.
Movement as Meditation is not to create states of ecstasy or absorption but to experience being.
In meditation, as in movement, there is a quality of both being and of rest. An arousal of your feelings of trust. Trust in what?
Finding your home ground.
Paying attention to what is happening in your body.
You are not meditating on anything else.
Whatever we do in life we are affected by our mind.
Movement can be a meditation that allows us to
s l o w the speed of thinking. Let go.
If you’re not sure what that is and want to make a commitment to yourself I invite you to watch the video below
From my heart to yours,