Category Archives: fitness

SAVING THE ENVIRONMENT from the inside out

It’s funny how one day, I have absolutely no idea what I could write about that would possibly interest anyone. The next, I’m flooded with the same idea over and over and over again.

The last few days, I’ve seen “environment” road signs all over the place. But not the “environment” we usually mean.

I’m talking about our own personal environment.

I saw the first sign yesterday, at an inspirational black belt ceremony in my old dojo. I remember when the candidate began his journey in martial arts. I wrote this article about him in my old blog. To me, this guy epitomizes the powerful and transformative journey to black belt. He is now officially one of my life heroes.

One of the teachers read a speech he’d written about achieving black belt level, about how important our environment is to the process. Everything in our environment–the people we interact with, the support we receive, the choices we make, the food we eat–all contribute to who we are.

If we intend to transform ourselves, we must create the environment that supports our intention.

The second sign was on my way home. I saw a bumper sticker that said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Last night I found the third sign.

It was this odd little book on my dining room table. It’s called As a Man Thinketh by James Allen. It’s been floating around my home for months. I kept picking it up and moving it here and there. I think I know who gave it to me, but I’m not sure. It seems like it just appeared on day. (You can download a copy here for free.)

The premise is, what you think is who you are. We create our own reality, and we see the world through our own filter. Believe your life sucks, and that’s what you see. Believe you can make it better–and incorporate the choices that make it happen–and you will.

I finally started to read it last night. I glanced at the back…right where it says, “Environment is but his looking-glass.”

Which stopped me dead in my tracks.

This metaphor–our environment reflecting us–was suddenly very clear.

Yeah, it took three signs, but I finally got it.

Our personal environment is powerful. The environment we create will either support us in positive ways, or in negative ways. You can turn your life around and make it all the way through to black belt. Or you sit around, confused, overwhelmed and troubled, wondering where you lost your way.

Either way, it’s our choice.

I’m sitting here realizing I’ve let my environment slip.

I got a great start creating a better workspace, as you can follow with my series of articles on Cleaning the Attic.

I’ve added yoga to my activities, which has had huge mental and spiritual benefits.

But I’ve let other things slide.

I’ve made it entirely too easy to make unhealthy food choices, and hard to make healthy ones.

I’ve been lax on creating opportunities for daily workouts.

I’m still too quick to volunteer my time and energy to things that either hugely annoy me or endlessly distract me.

I still agonize over whether I spend time with people I “ought to” vs. people who will inspire me and support my artistic vision.

Or maybe even “no people at all.” Years ago, I remember being stunned when an artist said she let days go by where she wouldn’t even answer the phone–because she needed to protect her creative time. She was an amazingly self-absorbed person, but she was also an amazingly talented and productive artist.

I want to be a good mom/daughter/friend/wife/citizen–but I also want to be an amazing artist. I need to find that good balance point again.

So I’m realizing that “protecting our environment” can mean many things for me right now.

I need to be selfish with my time, sometimes.

I need to make sure I have salad greens in the fridge, and I need to make sure there’s no more Halloween candy in my studio.

I need to make just as much time for working on a fiber piece as I do for folding the laundry.

I need to limit the time I spend with people who would be happy to suck up every spare minute of my time and emotional energy. But I’m still hopelessly addicted to “being nice”, so I gotta work on that.

I need to find something, some activity, that demands I work out hard, for at least an hour a day. My fitness has suffered greatly since I left behind my almost-daily kickboxing practice. If I can’t find the self-discipline to do it myself, I have to find a way to have someone else make me do it.

I must decide where/how I can study martial arts, where IF I ever make it to black belt, I can be an asset, and not an embarrassment, to the school.

A friend said once, “When you feel your prayers aren’t being answered, see what’s in the way that blocks them from being answered.” I’m thinking about this right now. Because that blockade is part of the environment we’ve created for ourselves.

I don’t have it all figured out yet. It’s an ongoing process, my biggest “work in progress”.

But that’s what I’m thinking about right now.

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Filed under action steps, art, change, choices, fitness, health, life, martial arts, mental attitude, time management

NIA and Me

I’ve been hearing a lot about NIA lately and this is the YouTube video that convinced me to give it a try yesterday. Hey, if anyone knows the name of the music in there, please let me know.

NIA ( “Neuromuscular Integrative Action”) fuses elements of dance, the martial arts and yoga into an invigorating cardiovascular fitness program. It’s a low-impact workout that’s accessible to all ages and abilities. You can read more about NIA here.

I hit all kinds of obstacles on my way there. I got a late start, I couldn’t find my workout clothes (or any that still fit), I got lost on my way to the place that offers the class, and I couldn’t find a parking space when I got there–their parking lot is buried under a mountain of snow and ice.

When I finally dragged myself into the dance studio, I found the instructor and one other student. Drat! No hiding in the back row…

I thought, “Well, how lame is this gonna be?” But I was pleasantly surprised.

There is very little formality or structure to the movements, which is perfect for me. I’m one of those inept people who really never got the hang of “the grapevine” in traditional aerobics class. I also haven’t moved actively except for walking for over two months. It was frightening how much muscle strength I’ve lost in that relatively short time.

But I did my best. I worked up a sweat.

And best of all, I had fun.

I’m definitely signing on for the class, at least for the next couple of months. This will be the perfect way to ease gently back into my normal regime of martial arts, climbing and yoga.

But the absolute best thing that clinched it was the boost to my ego.

No, the instructor, a dancer, didn’t ask me if I had trained as a dancer. That only happens in the movies, and if you saw my dancing, you’d probably make some snide remark about that wouldn’t even happen to me in a movie.

But she did ask if I’ve done NIA before, and was surprised when I said no. She insisted I must have had some training in it, because I looked very practiced and comfortable.

I’ve either gained more skill than I thought from those thousands of hours of martial arts training, or she is a salesperson extraordinare.

P.S. I was originally going to try Zumba first, but I just can’t shimmy like that. Maybe after NIA…?

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Filed under action steps, fitness, health, inspiration, life, martial arts, mental attitude