Be Your Own Guru: What I learned from spending 3 days with Laird Hamilton, Gabby Reece, and Brian Mackenzie.

Laird Hamilton, Gabby Reece and Brian Mackenzie are legends in the extreme sport biz. They recently combined forces and created XPTlife, a complete fitness-lifestyle program that includes bodyweight, gym and water workouts, combined with breathing and active recovery methods. By the way, XPT stands for Extreme Performance Training and these three walk their talk. Laird is most known for surfing giant waves (think 50 to 100 foot monsters), but is also an innovator of many board sports – if you have ever been on a Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) you can thank Laird for that. His wife Gabby is a former professional beach volleyball player and an incredible role model for healthy living. Brian is the head program director for XPT and a world-renowned strength and conditioning coach.

Last week I had the the pleasure of helping out Laird, Gabby and Brian, and the entire XPTlife team during their inaugural XPT Experience Retreat here in Punta Mita, Mexico! Three days immersed in outdoor fitness, and body and mind wellness techniques – You can bet that I was a kid in a candy store. I soaked up every moment and have already incorporated some of their training principles into my routine.
Here are my 5 big takeaways from the experience:

1. Change is the only constant – The XPT Experience days are full. No moment is the same as the last. You begin with breathing, then pool workouts, strength class, ice plunge, hot saunas, and my beach bootcamp thrown in just for fun! When I began my fitness career, I taught 12 Taebo classes a week for 2 years straight. Every kick, every punch. I did not know how to talk and teach, I could only show (talk) and teach. My body broke and at 24 was over-trained and had constant sciatic nerve shocks running down both legs, chronic back pain, and insomnia. Not awesome. It wasn’t until I started strength training, mountain biking and trail running that I actually began to feel stronger in my body. Today, I am always throwing “out of the box” drills at my students and encouraging my clients to keep mixing up their movements and their workouts. You do not necessarily need to jump in an ice bath (although you may like it – see #2), but try using your less dominant hand to unload the groceries or brush your teeth! Just constantly mix it up!

2. Shock your system – Our society is conditioned for comfort. We get hot and we put on the AC. Two hours post-lunch and we are hangry for a snack. I joke that the reason my husband moved us down to Mexico was so he wouldn’t have to listen to me complain about how ‘cold’ I was all the time. Guest speaker, Dr. Andy Galpin explained that because we are always seeking (and finding) comfort our bodies have actually lost the ability to adapt. You know those people who obesessively shun carbs and now get sick after eating one chip? That is what he is talking about. XPT’s way of shocking the system is the infamous ice bath followed by the not-so-infamous hot sauna. There are physiological benefits to thermal contrast therapy such as blood and lymph circulation, but what we actually got to experience was overcoming something really, really, really uncomfortable. period. During my stage-racing days I had some painful and desperate moments (imagine 10+ hours on a bike saddle) but three minutes being a human slushy was infinitely harder. But I did survive.

3. Learn to breathe – You can live a month or more without food. A week without water, but only a few minutes without air. XPT’s Brian Mackenzie lead us through breath work every morning, either before or after our group workouts. Breath work is something I have toyed with since college, when my (slightly evolved) boyfriend introduced me to Qi Gong breathing techniques. Later I was inspired to start the practice of nasal breathing by performance breath coach Ed Harrold, and spent hours nasal breathing while training for MTB stage races. Brian too has taken different techniques and incorporated them into his classes. What I love is that he gives you different tools and encourages you to find your own practice. One morning, Laird said – “breathe until you see yourself.” I love that. We spend so much of our days looking outside of ourselves. Breath work, at the very least, will help you to get mentally present.       Bottom line – if you think you know how to breathe, you are wrong. Check out some of their breathing videos at: https://www.xptlife.com/performance-breathing/

4. Narrow your focus – So what do you do when you are swimming across a pool with weights while holding your breath? You find calm anywhere you can. Playing in the water holding dumbbells can be very scary for some. The uncertainty causes your breath and heart rate to speed up, and as a result you feel stressed. Gabby’s tip was to ‘narrow your focus’ – literally squint your eyes, because even the energy of looking around uses up valuable oxygen. Seriously. I like this tip and think this can be applied to our day to day life. If you have too many thoughts running around in your head and start to feel a little stressed, just narrow your focus. Pick one thing, knock it out and move on. Calm will follow.

5. Be your own guru – Gabby, Laird, and Brian are constantly researching and learning from the best in the business and openly share what they know. Each incorporates optimal wellness practices into their lives but are flexible and do not obsess about it (amen). They are continually evolving and admit that what they might be teaching in five years may be totally different than today. They also stressed that not every technique is going to work for every person. My advice? Instead of trying your BBF’s new diet or following your gym’s cookie cutter program, try waking up every day and tuning into how you FEEL. What does your body need today in terms of nutrition, movement and rest? Use your intuition. Wellness is not set in stone. Experiment with what makes you feel good, strong, energetic. Be your own guru.

The experience ultimately validated my own training/life principles and gave me more confidence in practices I always hope to inspire in others: Be open to learning new concepts, mix it up, get outdoors and play outside your comfort zone.

Laird told us a saying that they have in Hawaii, “It’s not who you are, but how are you.” I can tell you that besides being uber athletes, these three are kind, passionate and the real deal. If you get a chance to attend one of their workshops or one of their XPTlife Experiences, you will not be disappointed!

www.xptlife.com

5 Tips To Stay Healthy And Balanced As A Busy Entrepreneur

My friend, Tamara Jacobi AKA “Jungle Girl” is the founder of Tailwind Jungle Lodge, an eco-retreat center here in San Pancho, Mexico. This jungle lodge idea was sparked from a college course, which she in turn made into a reality by literally building it, rock by rock, from the ground up. She is currently writing a book about her story, “Wild Entrepreneurship: A Real Life Jungle Book” – an inspiring look at entrepreneurs who are living their life by design and a little off the beaten path. I was honored to share with her my tips for staying healthy and balanced as a busy entrepreneur:
1. You are not what you eat, you are what you absorb!

We all know to eat organic whole foods – fruits and vegetables, meats and whole grains, but if you are not absorbing all the nutrients, your health (mental, physical, sleep, etc) can suffer. I highly recommend having a food sensitivity test, or doing an elimination diet to really get clear on the proper foods that are right for you.

2. When it comes to your workouts, always have a plan B.

There are going to be times a kid is sick or your meeting runs late, and you cannot make your workout. Have an exercise video, a regular run, a 2nd exercise class time, or written workout plan that you can do at home. No excuses.

3. Plan fun into every day.

Fun isn’t just for weekends. For me, exercise IS fun so I kill two birds with one stone. My friends and I have Taco Tuesday Fight Night – We box, we eat tacos, and then watch a movie. You may not have 4 hours to commit to fun, but try to plan at least 10 minutes (out of 1,440!) of joy into your day. Because if you are not feeling joy, then what if the point?

4. Breathe in gratitude.

I take a few minutes everyday to FEEL grateful. Sometimes it is during my morning meditation, or when I walk my dogs. I take deep breathes and thank the universe for x,y,z. It always makes my not-so-good days better and my good days – AMAZING!

5. Breathe some more.

I am big on breathing. You can use your breath to calm your mind in the middle of a crazy day (or yoga class), or you can use your breath to bring power and energy to your body. 20 years ago, my boyfriend at the time was heavy into martial arts and yoga. He taught me a breathing pattern, that I believe is similar to Apnea breathing. It is something I practice almost nightly while I am in bed, before I fall asleep. It is a 1-4-2 breath count. Meaning, breathe in for 1 count, hold for 4 counts, breathe out for 2 counts. I typically breathe in for 7, hold for 28, and breathe out for 14. Long exhalations, are scientifically proven to calm your nervous system. I also breathe to power myself up. My close friends make fun of me because before I do anything “big” like point my bike down a steep trail, or speak in public, I always give it a big (loud), quick exhale before I begin.

Simple right? It really can be this easy to stay healthy during busy times. These are just 5 out of 10 tips I shared with Tamara. You’ll have to wait for her book to see the rest!

Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe – 3 ways to raise your vibration TODAY!

We have all heard the expression, “Your vibe attracts your tribe.” But did you know that is physiologically true? At a basic level we are all energy, and energy has power, positive and negative. LIKE literally attracts LIKE. Your vibration sets off a chain reaction that will attract people and situations that match your energy. If you are a genuinely positive individual, your energy or vibration will attract other genuinely positive individuals. But if you are just “trying” to be positive and not truly embodying the emotion, your energy or vibration will attract others vibrating at a similar frequency. Here are 3 ways you can go from “trying” to actually (and authentically) raising your vibe!

IMG_18781. Wake Up On Purpose:

How often do you wake up on purpose? Not just to make breakfast, dress the kids, or check your inbox – but to wake up with a purpose! How do you want to FEEL? Take a moment after waking and sit, breathe, and think of 3 things that make you happy. I bet you will actually start to smile, and that smile begins to raise your vibration – the energy you emit out to the world. Starting your day with the intent of being happy or joyful will set in motion the energy to attract joyful people and joyful experiences. I like to think about my Sadie Bug –>

Even when someone throws a wrench in your plan, or a bowl of cereal on your clothes, or doesn’t get your coffee order right – can you see the humor in the situation, or find anything positive? Or do you always go right into doom and gloom mode? When you look for the positive in everyday situations you are also raising your vibration…

2. Flex Your Optimism Muscle:

Truly. It is a practice. You may not be able to control everything in your life, but do get to CHOOSE how you react to things and in turn how you see your world.

I often hear people automatically default to negativity. Whether it be at the grocery store – “I always get the slow line!.” Driving to work – “Why doesn’t anyone know how to drive!” And even at the gym – “I can’t believe someone took ‘my’ treadmill!”

I am a genuinely positive person, but of course there have been times in my life when I wasn’t always happy on the inside and that reflected in my reactions to things. After my divorce, I made a conscious effort to look for the good in every situation. I flexed my positivity muscle. If I had a negative thought, I would immediately tell myself a different story. I had to do that for quite some time until it wasn’t a conscious decision any longer. Some mindset “gurus” tell people to say “Cancel-Cancel” after a negative word or thought – whatever works for you.

The point is to become conscious to your negativity. Become aware of that inner voice (or outer voice) that spews unhappy comments towards yourself or others.

Yes, sometimes there are crappy things that WILL happen to all of us, but you always have a choice of how you will react and for HOW LONG you are going to dwell in crap-land.

This past October, I missed my flight down to Mexico where I spend my winters. It had just started snowing in Park City that morning and I was excited to escape for the season, but I also had a ton of work to do before my first retreat guests arrived. Bummer. I believe everything happens for a reason, so I was racking my brain trying to see the good in that situation. We drove back to Park City from the airport and I immediately went to the boxing gym and had one last workout with my favorite trainer. Ok, that was pretty good… and I stayed extra long because I didn’t want to walk out in the snow 🙂 The next day I landed in Puerto Vallarta and saw my good friend, Steve, at the airport. He invited me to his house for dinner that evening. It was magical, and had I made my flight the day before I definitely would not have had that experience. I told Steve that he was the reason I missed my flight!

Was it really? I will never know, but why not? It may sound a little naive to walk around with rose-colored glasses on, but I sure prefer roses to crap.

IMG_65063) Go On A Complaining Diet:
I got this one from, Tracy Di Nunzio, the founder of Tradesy.com. She was born with spina bifida, which is a congenital birth defect where your vertebrae do not form around your spinal cord. She began to paint during her recovery from surgeries and had to crawl around the floor (to paint) because she could not stand upright. She became bitter and began complaining until she read some words by Stephen Hawking.

He said, ‘When you complain, nobody wants to help you.’ So simple and so true.

 

“If you spend your time focusing on the things that are wrong, then that is what you express and project to people you know. You don’t become a source of growth for people, you become a source of destruction for people. That draws more destructiveness.”

Tracy also put herself on a complaining diet – She would not let herself complain about any situation, and also would not let herself think anything negative about it!

Love that!

Being an optimistic person has many benefits. Not only does positive energy have a lightness to it, but you will feel physically uplifted and mentally calm. And really when was the last time you wanted to hang out with a grouch? People are naturally attracted to positive people, so begin your day with a smile, flex your optimism muscle, and start that complaining diet because…

YOUR VIBE REALLY DOES ATTRACT YOUR TRIBE!

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Scar – A Love Story

Scars usually are the result of a good story – not “good” as in smiley-face emoji’s and fairy tales, but good in the sense of having overcome a fear or a seemingly impossible challenge by facing some physical, mental or emotional demon. Good as in The Heroes Journey.

Each scar that is etched on my body is a permanent reminder of a lesson, and a moment in time. From a fearless first-grader trying to fly, to the countless crashes on my mountain bike, to the most noticeable and most life changing scar–my surgery to remove a Pancreatic tumor. This physical scar is what people notice, but it is the emotional scars that have left a larger mark on my life.

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As they rolled me into surgery the doctor said with a smile, I’ll be giving you the “Mercedes Benz Cut.” I imagined the little silver hood adornment atop those sleek cars. Cute. What I got was a giant Peace Sign. Ironic, because up until that moment, I had never felt peace when it came to my stomach–shivering at the thought of being touched, and taking every opportunity to pull a shirt down. Ironic also that my name, Shanti, is Hindi for “Peace.”

My life before surgery, what I now call my “past life,” was a dream. And I do not mean fuzzy memories. I mean, at a very young age I already felt like I was living my dream. I started teaching Taebo (kickboxing aerobics) up in the Bay Area right out of college. Soon after, I was living the fantasy-trainer life, personal training and jetting off to exotic locales with my clients all over the country and also abroad. I taught fitness classes at two major motion film studios in the Bay Area AND was a fitness model in my spare time.

While my outside looked amazing, my inside was a disgusting mess full of low self-esteem and a self-worth-ometer set at zero. I punished my body overtraining for mountain bike races, Muay Thai (kickboxing) and trail running. Even yoga was a platform for self-abuse, beating myself up if I did not perform double chaturangas throughout every vinyasa yoga class. I now realize that I pushed my body to extremes to quiet my inner torment.

And the punishment did not stop at my physical endeavors.

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This photo was taken about 5 months before my surgery. Two days before the shoot, I stopped eating anything solid. It was 48 hours of protein shakes and green juices while I logging extra miles running and cycling. I was incredibly self-conscious about every inch of my body, and mostly about my mid-section. I was the product of the “super-model era”, when waifs were the IT-girls and to look like a pre-pubescent boy was a thing of beauty. Every modeling job was a chance to say, “Hey – you ARE pretty, you ARE good enough.” But like fake friends, fake feelings never last. They were temporary band-aids to hide my wounded sense of self.

It’s clear to me now that I did not have a clue who I was, let alone love myself. At 26, clinging to the attention of a very fun and charismatic man, I got married. He would be the last in a string of long-term co-dependent relationships. The old Shanti needed to be with men that felt like they had to “save me.” The price of their love was high, and I paid with my need to please and my need to feel “not good enough.”

My surgery saved my life.

Quite literally, yes, but my emotional rescue was even more profound.

A couple days after surgery, while laying in ICU, I wrote in my journal:
Dear Diary: “I guess this is what people mean by getting a second chance. I am one of the lucky ones… to have all of my anger, frustration, fear and pain, physically removed from my body. I am an emotional clean slate. I am so grateful for this chance to truly start living my life.”

I can’t explain why I had such a clear sense of knowing, but I have never been so sure of anything in my life. Is this what all people experience when faced with their own mortality? My tumor was a self-inflicted wound created by holding in 30 years of emotional pain. Not feeling understood by my family as a child, to feeling tormented by classmates, and hating myself for never fitting in or fitting the mold of how a girl/young lady/woman was supposed to behave.

At first I was shocked by the size of my scar. I bought all the “scar creams” and cover-ups, and imagined I would continue to hide my mid-section with big shirts and tankinis.

What happened was very unexpected.

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I just didn’t care anymore.

 

 

 

 

 

I finally accepted my body, scars and all, for what it was– Mine. The months of recovery were tough and I was told that without my spleen, I would be sick all of the time. I would also never attain the same level of fitness ever again. They had stitched me up so tight that I walked like a hunch-back and just pushing myself up out of bed left me wincing and breathless. But it is true that time heals. Little by little I began to move, sitting upright on my spin bike and going for long walks. I also vowed that my new life was going to be filled with love and smiles. Doing only the things that brought me joy and spending time with people that truly loved and supported me.

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Like the tumor, I removed everything toxic from my life.

I now give my permission to just be myself. Instead of doing, pushing, and forcing – I feel. I have also learned to love my scars. They represent lessons and growth. I do not think I would be physically or emotionally where I am now if it were not for my illness and the surgery. I am grateful for every ugly and uncomfortable moment, for every mean word spoken in my direction, and every physical and emotional ache, for they encouraged me to embrace my inner strength, to rise up and own ME, my true self that loves all of me – every flaw, every scar.

The truth is, we all have scars. Your scars are badges of honor. A reminder that you faced a challenge, walked through the fire, fought your demons, was presented with lessons and survived.

You are your own hero and it is up to you to create your own happily ever after!

 

Grinta – Hanging Tough

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Grinta-  Italian – meaning to “hang tough”

Manuel, an ex pro Grand Tour racer and lead guide for our InGamba Portugal trip, points twice to his back tire and says “Just focus on the wheel.” I take a deep breathe as I slip my hands into the drops and pull up within 3 inches of his wheel… I know what this means – it is time to work. We start to accelerate and he yells “Grinta!”

I know how to suffer. I spent a good part of my adult-life competing in mountain bike races, ranging from 2 hours to 8 days. As Manuel starts to lead me into this attack on my husband, Mack, and another fellow guest, I look to the top of the hill – it is far. I am ready to mash the pedals and dig deep but remembering Miguel’s words, I instead focus on his back wheel and just settle into the rhythm. Grinta. The climb passes by almost effortlessly and I shoot a sly smile as I pass Mack at the top.

This is what has taken me 42 years to learn. Stay present and work smarter, not harder. Whether it be attacking on a climb, losing the last 5 pounds, or getting a report in by the Friday deadline – focus on the task at hand and release the attachment to the goal or outcome. Things will go a lot smoother.

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The next time you find yourself looking at the clock during a tough workout or stressing over the amount of emails in your inbox, just take a deep breath and focus on what is right in front of you. The next pedal stroke, the next rep, or that next email WILL get done. Grinta and before you know it you’ll be flashing a sly smile for a job well done.

Fighting Fear ~ Building Confidence with Passion and Action!

New Year’s 1996, I moved up to Marin to be a Taebo instructor. I was thrilled that I was to be one of only 3 Taebo instructors outside of Billy Blank’s studio in Hollywood. I was mentored by Will Yun Lee.. yeah that guy from Wolverine. I had only been doing Taebo for 3 months and I immediately knew I didn’t want to be just another aerobics instructor. I wanted to really know the punches and kicks that I would be teaching. I wanted to be like Will. He was incredibly confident, super skilled, and just looked bad ass… who wouldn’t want to be like him? I trained in a garage-turned-gym for 3 months straight. Hours and hours everyday – kicking, kicking, kicking, and punching. I had a goal and knew I was going to be introducing Taebo to the Bay Area. Oh, did I mention, I had never done martial arts, taught anything in my life, and was PAINFULLY shy. Like, barely-look-you-in-the-eye, shy?

I rehearsed that first class probably 30-40 times and was still a nervous wreck. I had to throw up twice before even entering the group exercise room. I stumble up to the front of the class and looked out at the 60+ people and could barely introduce myself. I was shaking so much that when I got in to my fighting stance to begin demonstrating the punches, my back ankle was shaking uncontrollably. I was terrified, and to make matters worse when I began to explain the stance and punching techniques, my voice would crack. Did I want to run and hide and never be seen in that gym again? – For sure I did. But instead, I raised my voice, because I noticed that when I raised my voice it would not crack. I also started demonstrating the movements with much more emphasis – crazy big and powerful, to hide the fact that I was shaking. After that, it was like an out of body experience. I shouted like a drill sergeant, ran around the room getting in people’s faces. Kicked higher than I ever thought possible and punched so hard I probably could have knocked someone out. I am sure I made mistakes, but nobody noticed and after class people just raved about my teaching and how it was the best class they had ever taken! I was on a high – I wish I could say for days, but I had to teach my second class the next morning, 14 hours later. And the throwing up/voice cracking/body shaking-to-drill sergeant routine started all over again. And that routine lasted 12 classes a week for 6 months until I finally wasn’t panic-stricken. So what kept me coming back day after day, class after class? Passion. Passion for exercise and sharing with others.
20 years later, I have taught over 10,000 classes – from cardio kickbox to pilates. I have trained clients in their homes, offices and abroad, and lead fitness retreats through my company SweatPlayLive. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had decided, way back then, that teaching that first class was just too scary. It is one of those “sliding door” moments. I chose to face my fear and it has brought me here to you, with Sweat Play Live and also Move Your Asana®. On Saturday, that decision is taking me Rancho La Puerta, the #1 Fitness Spa in the world, to guest instruct for the week; and then to Portugal to train on a road cycling trip.
You have heard it before – “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” YOUR desire HAS to be stronger than your fear. My desire to be a Taebo instructor outweighed my fear of failure, even if just barely. It was enough for me to train and endure that first class. Nobody is born with confidence. Everyone you see exuding mass confidence in every situation practiced it until it became a habit. Until that habit became part of who they are. So fake it until you become it! Even Beyonce says she has to turn into Sasha Fierce to get herself onstage. When you feel fear – TAKE ACTION! It is the first step towards building confidence – “Action kills Fear.” Maybe at first you too will need to “pretend” to be confident, strong, and sure of yourself.

By practicing confidence you make it a habit and as we all know, practice makes permanent!

The Busy Epidemic + A quick exercise to break the cycle.

I have a confession to make: I used to feel like a wasn’t good enough.

Not because I didn’t have a certain job, or owned houses and cars, etc. But because I wasn’t as busy as everyone else in my community. Oh, I started out busy. There was a time when I was personal training clients 3-4 hours a day, teaching 2-3 fitness classes, being a dedicated yogi practicing 3-5 classes a week, and also training for mountain bike stage races which entailed being on my bike 20+ hours a week. AND then I decided to start a granola company. GOGO Granola consumed every second of my “free time.” Baking from 7pm-1am and then bagging, labeling, and mailing granola during every spare second of every day of every week. The decision to support my husband during his father’s battle with the late stages of cancer took us to Australia and away from this “crazy busy” lifestyle. When we returned to the states, I did not feel drawn to continue building my granola “empire”. I resumed my personal training and teaching schedule, but a funny thing happened. I started telling myself that I was LAZY when I would sit and read a book, or watch TV at night. I had become so used to multi-tasking and filling my days with doing doing doing that any down-time left me feeling guilt and even shame.

I watched my clients and friends going non-stop, staying busy – “doing it all.” Working 8+ hour days, shuttling kids from one activity to another and volunteering in the classrooms and at church functions, cooking dinners every night, and still finding time to hit the gym – They were my heroes. So of course I was lazy in comparison… Or at least that was the the story I told myself. While it looked like my peers were thriving with their busy schedules, after closer inspection (and chats while they were driving their kids from lacrosse to gymnastics and then off to a client meeting) my heroes were actually “at the end of their ropes” and barely keeping it together. Clearly a big lesson here is: Stop comparing yourself to others.

People fall into 3 categories – Some of us really do love being busy and wear it like a badge of honor. And others need to keep busy so there is no time to deal with big-scary, often painful issues. But the majority of people I talk to are just caught up in the hustle of work-life and family-life; trying to keep their heads above water, and are purely existing instead of creating – Instead of truly LIVING.

I believe a work/life “balance” does exist, but it looks different to everyone (another reason to stop comparing.) That picture of balance is ever-evolving and changes daily with varying degrees of success. That is A-OK as long as you can clearly define what success is to you!

We can get so caught up with doing that we forget that being, feeling, and experiencing are really what life is about. Here is a super quick exercise to feel successful every day.

Get clear on your definition of success – What does your successful day look like?
Think in terms of laying a foundation for success. What are the building blocks that help you perform your best physically, mentally and emotionally during a typical day?

Example, I need to:
Get 8 hours of sleep. Yes, I can survive with 6, but if I am being completely honest, I feel like crap. I do think getting sleep can absolutely change your life, but don’t just take my word for it, read what Arianna Huffington says about it in the Sleep Revolution

Exercise 1 hour. Sometimes I get a lot more (or a little less) but if I do not move everyday, it 100% effects my mood.

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Get outside. From a very young age I knew that I could not be cramped indoors. If I am not teaching outside, I make a point of getting outdoors and breathing fresh air for at least 20-30 minutes. This is where having dogs is great! Even if I am not able to exercise outside during the day, I love taking my girls for their evening walks. I use this time as a moving meditation and try to focus on my breath – breathing slowly in and out through my nose.

 

 

Creativity breaks. I will admit that this is IMG_6289a new one for me. I recently began drawing again. It started with an adult *coloring book… Yeah, you heard me right. (Check out the beautiful books by Johanna Basford.) I found that as I colored, I focused on my breath and tuned everything else out. Sounds a little like meditating right? It was for me, and that segued into drawing.

*I can hear some of you right now saying, “Color? I barely have time to make my kid’s lunches in the morning.” This is just what works for me. You might have very different success-building blocks up your sleeve 🙂

 

*There are plenty of other things that I will do during my week but these are the foundation or building blocks for my “successful day.”

 

 

 

So what are your successful day “must do’s”?
Do you make them a priority?
If not, why and what can you give up so that you can truly be living your best life?

Is it doing 3 sun-salutations before sunrise? Drinking 3 liters of water? Gardening or meditating for 20 minutes a day? Get it out of your head – write it down!

So now that you have pinpointed exactly what you need to do to kick ass everyday, you must DO them! 

Knowing your daily priorities will set you up for success – so the next time you get asked to volunteer at another church potluck or community fundraiser, as wonderful as these events may be, you can make a conscious decision.
Ask yourself:
Will losing 2 hours of sleep, or feeling anxious and frazzled, or missing the 30 minutes reading to your kids, be adding to the quality of your life?

The Busy Epidemic does not have to be a death sentence. Remember that BUSY does not equal SUCCESSFUL. I need to remember that busy does not equate to “good enough.” Each of us is responsible for creating our own reality.

CHOOSE activities that ENERGIZE and CHARGE YOU UP, then see how your life truly begins to reflect your definition of SUCCESS!

Take Action On Your Dream Life!

Have you ever sat down and really thought about what you want your life to look like?
When you were little I bet you had some fun dreams – where you dancing in the Nut Cracker, or jumping out of airplanes putting out forest fires?

When I was 5, I had typical little-girl dreams – I wanted to be a veterinarian, marry my high school sweet heart (because 18 seemed super old already) and have boy, then a girl. A scary incident with my cat at age 7 brought my veterinary career to a screeching halt – I just couldn’t handle being around any injured animal without falling on the ground and sobbing uncontrollably.. A trait that that I will never out-grow. In high school I realized that I could not have a regular 9-5 job and also keep my sanity, and by my early 20’s I just knew deep in my heart that kids were not a part of my program. Things change. Values change. Life throws us punches. We can either bob and weave, or stay pinned up against the ropes. Our relationship, work, and life situations all lead to growth… or struggle,  if you choose to ignore the lessons.

So, I ask again, when was the last time you sat down and evaluated your life? Does it look and feel like the life of your dreams? If the answer is no, then grab your journal or a piece of paper and write this down:

~ WHAT DOES YOUR DREAM LIFE LOOK LIKE?
This is a bigger picture snapshot of your life. Don’t hold back. This is not your BFF’s dream or your partner’s dream… This is YOUR dream, so go big!

~ WHAT DOES YOUR PERFECT DAY LOOK LIKE?
From the moment you wake up till the moment you fall asleep.
This is a super fun exercise. I did this about 4 years ago and now my perfect day is everyday! Not kidding.

~ LIST 3 THINGS THAT YOU CAN DO TO GET CLOSER TO YOUR DREAM LIFE!
Did you read this and say to yourself, “I’ll do it tomorrow?”
This is where people hesitate. Taking the action. If you want to live in a cabin on a lake, start looking up locations and even real estate properties. It doesn’t mean you are going to go out buy something tomorrow, but it gets the juices flowing and creates excitement. Want to start a vegan handbag line? Start sketching designs or taking sewing classes. It can be small steps, but take the steps – TAKE ACTION!

~ WRITE DOWN 3 OBSTACLES THAT YOU WILL HAVE TO OVERCOME.
Because there WILL be obstacles and challenges. Maybe your kids are still in middle school and flying off a lake-front cabin is not realistic. Could you spend the summers there until the kids go off to college? Your community college sewing class is only offered during your night shift. Can you borrow a sewing machine from a friend and take online classes?

Have a plan of attack!

This dreaming exercise is so much fun, but LIVING YOUR DREAM –  IS   –  THE  –  BEST!

Lessons from Buddhism’s Super Bowl MVP – H.H Dalai Lama

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Last summer I had the great fortune to travel to Ladakh, India and attend the “Super Bowl” of Buddhist ceremonies, The Kalachakra Initiation, presented by H.H Dalai Lama. Just for the record, I am not Buddhist, although I do tend to gravitate towards Buddhism’s simple teaching that ALL beings deserve love and compassion.

We meditated 4-6 hours a day for 6 days straight! After each intense teaching and meditation from H.H. Dalai Lama we would then have a 2-3 hour lecture led by Robert Thurman, a professor of Buddhist studies at Columbia University, a former Buddhist monk and literally the worldwide authority on all things Tibetan Buddhism and H.H Dalai Lama.

I am often asked what I learned from this special time spent focusing inward…

Most of the people in our group were Buddhist. And many of these people had been to multiple Kalachakra Ceremonies – I fondly call them, Dalai Lama Groupies. I sat in awe as they asked profound questions and expressed their views about the teachings, most of which were way over my head. What surprised me the most, was that some of these same groupies were often short with, or downright unkind, to the staff that served our food or kept our tents clean. I wrongly presumed that people with so much spiritual wisdom would walk their talk. (You can file that one under, “Things that make you go Hmmm.”)

So what I took most from H.H. and my fellow seekers that week was very simple:

PRACTICE loving kindness to yourself and others.

And it is a PRACTICE. Like everything in life, practice make permanent. You cannot just SAY you are something or will do something. You must put in the time and practice to become that which you want. It is a perpetual journey.

Here is one way that I practice loving kindness to myself. When I sit down to meditate, the first thing I say to myself is, “I deeply and profoundly love and accept myself.” Sometimes I actually spend my whole time meditating by breathing in PEACE and breathing out LOVE.
And speaking of meditation…

Get Present. 

It sounds so simple, but the only thing you have control over is this moment right now. When you are focused on the past or thinking about the future, you cannot feel truly at peace. I find that meditation, whether it be for 5 minutes or 1 hour, is a great way to become present. Slowing your breathe, eliminating some of the “monkey mind” is also a way to become more self aware.

When I sit down to meditate and I cannot stop my own incessant thoughts, I do a counting meditation. Lately I have been: (all nasal breathing) Inhaling for 6, holding for 2, and exhaling for 7. Exhaling for longer than you inhale calms your nervous system.

Practice Gratitude.

Studies have shown that feeling gratitude boosts our wellbeing. We tend to unconsciously focus on the negative things that happen to us, but when you start to recognize all the awesome things that fill your day, you will SEE more of those awesome things.

Start a Gratitude Journal! Every evening, or even just once a week, write down 3-5 things you are grateful for. Think about what people, opportunities, experiences and things bring you joy and are enhancing your life. Easy.

My favorite quote from H.H Dalai Lama is: “My religion is very simple, my religion is kindness.” Sometime’s life’s simplest lessons are actually the most challenging. Keep practicing.

(Photo Credit: Christopher Michel)

Nothing Tastes As Good As A Healthy Gut Feels!

Have you ever wondered why we feel the need to label our eating habits? Vegan, Lacto-Ovo vegetarian, Gluten-Free, Wheat-Free, Paleo… Any of these ring a bell? Many people truly want to look and FEEL better, and jump from one restrictive-eating plan to the next seeking the magic diet.
I will admit, at some point during my life I have been all of the above. But not anymore.
After my abdominal surgery in 2003 I had symptoms associated with gastric bypass surgery – Because part of my stomach was removed (along with my spleen and most of my pancreas) I had serious issues eating solid food. When I was finally able to eat a couple tablespoons of a particular food, I knew right away if I was sensitive or not. It was an accidental elimination diet. A year later I joined a group of my clients for a “2 week body transformation” that consisted of daily 90-120 minute workouts as well as an elimination-type diet. Eating ONLY green vegetables, lean protein, and almonds. It was after these 2 weeks of not consuming fruit that I realized how sensitive my stomach was to fructose. I now know I can eat wheat and gluten in moderation and I am especially sensitive to dairy, apples, strawberries, garlic, and garbanzo beans.
ACTION:
If you are tired of bouncing around from one food label to the next, I highly recommend trying an elimination diet. For 12 weeks cut out the most common food allergens: dairy, eggs, corn, gluten, soy, and peanuts. Then introduce one food back at a time. This is a good place to start in determining what foods you really need to stay away from, instead of just playing the guessing game.
There are many causes of tummy troubles. Food allergies is #1 and bacteria overgrowth in the small intestines is #2.
The surface of the small-intestine is where your food is absorbed. Did you know that is also where about 60% of your immune system resides? Alcohol, stress, a diet high in sugar and low in fiber, and even the use of anti-inflammatory drugs and antibiotics break down this intestinal lining leading to irritable bowel symptoms such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, etc (YUCK). At a simplistic level this leads to the death of your healthy gut bacteria and means that the bad bacteria start to take over and you are unable to absorb the nutrients from your foods – even healthy foods!
After 10 years of living with constant stomach aches, gas, and “carb bonking” I can assure you that “NOTHING TASTES AS GOOD AS A HEALTHY GUT FEELS!”