Mindset

Hearts and Handstands

I’ve gotten a few side-eye looks and questions about my activities lately.  

Such as:

    Why are you always posting hearts on Instagram, on Facebook?

    Why are there hearts all over your house, in your yard? 

    Why do hearts show up in your daily life wherever you go?

And:

    Why are you trying to learn how to do a handstand?

    Why would you want to do gymnastics at your age?
     (that’s the tender age of 48)?

    What is the point of being able to do a handstand now?

Since since both of these interests of mine have been expressed in public and in the public eye, that is, through social media, I realize people are just curious.  

Which has, in turn, spurred curiosity in me about why do I do these things?

 

Why #DailyHeart ?

On a recent vacation trip a couple of years back, I started noticing them.  As I am fond of snapping photos of nearly every little moment when traveling, the hearts seemed to be everywhere… in nature, in architecture, in store windows.  So I just started taking pictures of them. 

During this trip, I had a friend back home who liked hearts too, so I shared my experiences by texting her a different picture of a heart each day.  As I found more, I sent her more.

In a week’s time, I had amassed 66 photos of hearts.  That’s nearly 10 pictures per day, or, near-stalker level of text messages.

I was sort of amazed by this - the sheer number of hearts that kept showing up.  So I hypothesized that because I was so happy, and in a “elevated state” while on vacation, with no regular routine or typical demands on my time, my mind relaxed and saw things it usually didn’t see.

But the “heart show” continued even when I was not on vacation.  I would see hearts when I was in a semi-blissful state, like hanging out with my closest friends, in my hometown, or relaxed from spending time in nature. 

After a bit more thought, I realized this was not a new occurrence, but it had been happening all of my life.  Hearts and heart-shaped items have been dear to me since I was a kid.  When I was 8 years old, I collected little boxes.  As I dated, I would save the heart-shaped boxes given to me, long after I had devoured the Valentine’s day chocolates.  And I still do this today; I cannot seem to throw away a perfectly good heart!

In my youth, I always loved Valentine’s day, making my own creations out of paper doilies.  One year I sewed a dress for my younger sister made from red fabric with tiny hearts all over it, and dainty white heart buttons, of course.  My dad gave me a yearly box of those silly conversation hearts, the ones that say “Be Mine” or “Love U”. 

Perhaps all of this love of hearts was just meant to be as my childhood home was located on Heartwood Street.

Now, I am recognizing that they are not just fun tokens or a coincidence, nor do they only arrive during vacation.  

Finding heart-shaped objects is my way for energy to be received

And the best kind of energy:  love, joy, happiness.   They are a sign from the Great Divine that I am loved and cared for no matter where I go.  They show me that love is always possible, even if I am standing in an unfamiliar city unsure of where to go next.

And they show up now in the most peculiar places . . . in my lily pond, on my patio and in my kitchen. 

And, to my delight, I now receive them by text, email, social media feeds, and even in my mailbox in the form of sweet little trinkets and gifts. 

As I keep receiving these symbols from The Universe, I share them with others.  And in return, my friends and acquaintances send hearts of all sorts to me.  It’s like a Virtual Valentine’s Day all the time.

I have learned that this back and forth flow of hearts just part of who I am as a spiritual being, someone who receives love and gives love. 

As I embrace this true vision of myself, I find that I am surrounded by an abundance of hearts.

 

Why Handstands?

About two years ago, I asked myself “Could you do handstand?”  The question seemingly came out of nowhere.  I had just finished an online coaching program, so I was feeling rather strong and curious.  

I gave it a try and to my surprise, I could!  With a little wall assistance :)

IMG_0721.JPG

For a while, I practiced every week.  Kicking up to a wall, I would try to do an assisted handstand each day, seeing how long I could hold it until my wrists or hands or shoulders cried “Uncle!”

Next, I tried to get better at balancing unassisted by pulling my toes off the wall.  A few go’s of that, and I decided that I should up the ante and also work on a handstand push-up, which did not go that well.  Probably because I had not practiced holding a handstand, thus, had not built up enough strength to do the more challenging trick.

I read about handstands, sought out advice from handstand experts and did anything and everything that I thought might make my progression go faster. I had a lot of passion, practiced intermittently with a focus on speed not skill, so I did not see much progression.  That was Year One.

And then I gave up my handstand practice for a while.  Not so much in discouragement, but more like, because of distraction.  Just got busy with other things, focused more on other parts of my strength-building workout.  I kind of forgot about handstands.

Until one day, I started thinking about them again, wondering why they beckoned me... why I just needed to do one.  

“This is unfinished business" . . . I heard my inner voice say.

I used to do gymnastics as a kid.  And from ages 7 to ages 13, I broke my left arm a total of 5 times.  Finally, my parents said “no more gymnastics!” and switched me over to dance lessons.

IMG_1793.jpg

My parents were not mean, just smartly protective and probably weary of the emergency room visits.  

I realized that deep down, I missed gymnastics - the freedom, the fun, the challenge and the struggle for mastery over a movement.

I realize that practicing handstands are energy given.

Energy intentionally and wholeheartedly given to something that pleases me.  It is my way of reaching downward and being rooted, solid and secure.

It rekindles the feelings of that fearless 8-year old girl on the tumbling mats.  It is about trying and trying again, and noticing that little “aha” when something changes and starts to improve.  It is about play, confidence and practicing “stick-to-it-tive-ness”.

So I have come back to the practice of handstands.  This time I approached it differently.

Breaking it down to a smaller version first:  headstands.  I did handstands nearly daily for weeks in my living room, on my yoga mat, at the gym, the beach.

I tried a few variations, thinking that it would help my balance and help my core (both important to handstand-ing).  Instead of going fast, I focused on just being in the moment, noticing when something seemed a little easier, practicing more and then deciding if I should move on.

Sometimes, I did well, other times I fell out of the hold or held it in a wonky position (like ^this^).  But I kept going.

And when I felt like my headstands were pretty solid, I gave myself permission to try handstands again.  This time much more slowly and cautiously. 

Again, asking for a little advice here or there, but this time I took it in, really listened and then just focused on applying it.  

The more I focused on handstands, the more information and guidance came to me.  Like when I attended the Girls Gone Strong-sponsored Women's Fitness Summit, and one of the break-out sessions just happened to be given by an former gymnast who showed us how to build skills to do handstands.

And now, after a 2nd year of consistent practice, I invert myself with confidence, one leg tapping the wall and the other soaring to the sky, and for a breath or two, I cautiously pull both feet away from the wall,  

and I balance.  For a second.  Sometimes, even two.

IMG_1793.jpg

Will I finally master this movement and be able to balance freely without the wall?  Can I continue to improve, gain more skill, more strength?  I am curious to find out.  So that is what will I continue to give my energy towards.  

 

Where do you give your energy to something that gives you a quiet satisfaction, something that is just for you?

 Where do you receive energy from something that fills you up with comfort, love or healing?

5 Things I Learned at Summer Camp

And by Summer Camp, I mean, the Women’s Fitness Summit in Kansas City, Missouri.  As a fitness professional, I am required to complete yearly continuing education.  However, that’s not why I attended this event. 

I went to meet up with some of my fitness friends and fellow coaches who live far away.  I wanted to hang out with them, stay up late talking and have some play-time in the form of fancy restaurant meals and a downtown walking tour:  my own version of summer camp.

The event itself was two days of speakers and activities.  Being rather busy prior to the event, I barely glanced at the agenda, so I had no expectations of what this event might have to offer other than science-y stuff about fat loss and perhaps a mandatory workout.  But I was wrong. 

The Summit had a panel of exceptional speakers and useful information that I could integrate in my practice to help my clients, but more than that, I found a community of change-makers.  The organization which hosted the event, Girls Gone Strong, aims to help women getting stronger, not just in body, but in mind and spirit as well.

So here’s what I learned:

1. Overnight Mastery is a Myth

I heard from speakers who participated in the CrossFit games and Olympic trials.  There were PhDs of academia and medicine.  There were exceptionally well-educated, highly experienced women at the podium and in the audience.  And yet, in the speakers’ stories, in our break-out sessions to learn bodyweight exercises and handstands, I did not find anyone, among these fitness professionals and avid enthusiasts, who told a story of how easy it was to gain experience, to lose weight, to finally walk on their hands, or to reach some other personal fitness goal.  Instead, what I heard was that is takes time, it takes consistency, and sometimes, it takes sacrifice that perhaps was too much. 

What a relief to find out we are all human, and in spite of being adults, that change is hard but not impossible if we give ourselves some time and a bit of grace. And, that even in the “over-sacrificing,” there is a lesson, and there is recovery; we are never to old to start something new, to get better, to treat our bodies better or to rebuild.

2. Shame is Sneaky

Sometimes it masquerades as perfectionism, other times it shows itself as Imposter Syndrome, but at the root, most of us have doubt about our abilities, our value and our worth.  Something or someone has taught us to feel ashamed about our needs, our bodies, our emotions, our desires and dreams. 

Speakers Erin Brown and Kelly Coffey reminded us to ‘own our story,’ but not to let it completely define us.  Also, they suggested to consider whether the belief system we have been operating within is actually the truth.  Perhaps someone else called us a name when we were a kid or young adult, and we took that as our identity.   And that false identity kept us afraid and using our body to hide in, or kept us from speaking up for ourselves, asking for our needs and wants.  Both speakers encouraged me to ‘take up space’ and embrace who I was, who I am now, and who I want to become.  Being strong doesn’t always mean muscles.

3. Reframe for Resilience

One of the speakers at the Summit asked us to define ‘resilience.’  My first thought was: getting up one more time than you fall down.  Answers from the audience were a range of statements about mental, physical and emotional strength. 

So how do you cultivate resilience?

Resilience is not so much about pushing ourselves harder and seeing if we can take it.  But instead, it is about how we recover from when we do push ourselves.

We cannot develop resilience if our stress levels are too high.  And surprise, surprise: our body reads just about everything we do as stress.  It does not designate a gym workout as “good” stress and a fight with our boss as “bad” stress.  

For activities that create an emotional, physical or mental demand on our bodies, the effects of stress are cumulative.  Resilience is actually what takes place when we are balancing out the effects of the stress, by doing low intensity enjoyable activities like taking a nature walk, getting a massage or having a chat with a friend.  Sometimes it can mean getting to bed 30 minutes earlier, or adding specific foods to our routine to support what our body is going through.

My big “aha!” moment was that it was not the hard stuff that makes us better, but the easier stuff after the hard stuff that helps build resilience.  Resilience is built over time through a combination of challenging ourselves AND intentionally taking care of ourselves.

4. Tribe is Key for Growth

Many women attended this event with their friends, or they came because they were encouraged to attend by their coach or trainer.  Most of those who attended seemed to have a strong support network, back home in their day-to-day life, as they pursued health and personal goals.  

So I guess I should not be surprised then, that when all of these women converged, along with the event's hosts and speakers, it created a unique environment: where it felt safe to be vulnerable, to be raw, to be outspoken, to be curious, to learn and grow without comparison or judgement. 

There’s a well-known book titled Tribe that I have been meaning to read.  I was curious about what exactly it meant, and had never really experienced the concept in person until this event.  Honestly, I thought it was just a marketing ploy-type word. 

But here, I saw it in action:  this was a community that valued one another just as they are, speaker, coach, trainer, fitness enthusiast or attendee.  It offered a powerful gift: unconditional support for growth. 

If you don’t have a “tribe”, that is, a group of people who are like-minded, keep looking and find them.  They are your best chance for change, whether that means getting the encouragement you need to finally try a Zumba class, or finding someone else who understands what its like to deal with gluten sensitivity.  We are not meant to be alone; a good community strengthens us.

5. Climate Change is a-Comin’

No, no, not the tree-hugging kind.  But rather, the “I am woman, hear me roar” kind.  

I never considered myself a feminist.  In fact, I thought the phrase “female empowerment” was becoming trite and overused.  Until I saw it in a tangible way . . . not only at this Summit, but as a collective of voices that could significantly change the quality of life for today’s women and the following generations.

Girls Gone Strong is about getting stronger, but in a bigger sense.  It offers a refreshing and much-needed approach to wellness and women’s rights.  It is a movement to resist and reverse the negative messaging, perfect-body-obsessed, “you are broken and we can sell you the fix” $64 Billion-with-a-B diet industry.

Girls Gone Strong (GGS) encourages women to take charge of their own bodies and decide how they wish to care for them, strengthen them, decorate them and enjoy them.  It offers women support with science-driven research so they can make informed choices, instead of depending on the media and advertisers to suggest calorie-counts, beauty standards, or what constitutes a “good workout”. 

Most critically the community of GGS affirms that we can be whatever we wish to be.  We are allowed to define or re-define our identity as a woman: a powerlifter at 70, a yoga instructor who lifts weights, a curvy mom of twins who takes longs walks and eats vegan, a gal with mermaid hair who drops the F-bomb and has a Master's, or anything in between.

GGS reminded me that the unified WE, that is, all of us women coming together, can change the climate of conversation around women’s bodies, how female athletes are paid, and so much more, in what we buy and what we don’t buy into anymore.

If you are curious about GGS and their well-written articles about women’s health and fitness, click here to go their website and sign-up for their newsletter.

Or, leave me a comment below and tell me how you would like to take charge of your own body and wellness.