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family, Finding Strength, Fitness, Happiness, Health, Inspiration, Meditation, Mindset, Podcast, Relationships, Spiritual, Wisdom

Mother’s Day Lessons


There are many lessons to learn from our own mothers and from other mothers, too. Most importantly, we discover the kind of mother we’d like to be if we were blessed to have children of our own. In my 54 years on this planet, I’ve seen a variety of parenting styles, and even, sadly, lack of parenting. It only makes me appreciate the incredible sacrifices made by my mother, and the lessons I learned from being a mother.

I’m blown away by working women who raise two, three, even more children without a staff and without losing their patience. Certainly, there are times that we all lose our composure. When my son was just a baby and we were on a plane trip, he was cranky and it’s no wonder. It’s not natural for babies to be in confined areas, have their ears pop from the air pressure change and want to be in their comfy cribs rather than surrounded by strangers. My child had to be changed so I created a make-shift diaper station on the floor in the aisle of the 757 jet. During that, um, procedure, my infant decided that was the time to urinate. Let’s just say the people nearby weren’t all that elated. We all try to do the best we can. There’s no foolproof handbook for mothers. Ask four moms how to potty train and you’ll most likely get four different answers.

Many mothers desperately try to shield their children from disappointments and injustices, from hurt feelings and scraped knees. When Rocco was seven years old, I enrolled him in the YMCA swimming program. In my youth, I had been a state champion swimmer and wanted to make sure I passed down that trait. I gave my son a few extra tips and put him in the hands of a competent and successful coach. After a few months of practice, we entered Rocco in a Novice swim meet. It was an opportunity for children who had never swam competitively to learn about the rules and procedures of a swim meet. It was exciting for me as a mother, to watch my son go through the anticipation and excitement leading up to the race. When the kids were called to get on their starting blocks, my stomach did a flip-turn and my heart thumped thunderously in my chest, as if I was the one to swim for the first time. An official called the children to attention with a loud and deafening command that I had heard many times before, “Swimmers, take your mark…” and then came the powerful sound of the starter gun blasting.

The stands were filled with anxious parents and grandparents hoping their kids would be the one to come home with a first place trophy, but there could only be one. Rocco’s reflexes were quick and he attacked the water with the skill and command of an older, more experienced athlete. The joy and elation I felt watching my son follow in my footsteps – or strokes – was both exhilarating and tense.

Was he swimming too fast to keep that pace for two laps?

So many things raced through my mind…

Maybe he should have had eggs instead of cereal for breakfast.

Wow! He could actually win!

Rocco’s drive and determination during his months of practice paid off, big time! Before a couple of kids even made it to the end of the first lap, Rocco finished the second lap and won! To see the smile and joy on his face was priceless. It was an achievement that could give him the confidence to continue swimming, and set him up to succeed in other areas of his life.

The elation, however, was short-lived.

After the race was over, Rocco’s coach and other swimmers congratulated him on his first place win, but when we went to pick up his trophy, we were severely disappointed. Although there was no denying that Rocco finished first, he was not given the first place trophy or any trophy. The reason we were given was quite unfair and unjust.

“Rocco swam too fast and it wasn’t fair to the other children,” said the official in charge.

Instead of coming home with a trophy and the confidence that his hard work paid off, Rocco was given a stack of comic books. Seriously.

Part of me wanted to scream and yell about the injustice of it all (ok, truthfully, I did a little). Here was a child who followed the rules, he had never swam competitively, but just happened to be better than the others. Apparently being too good was unfair to the kid who came in last.

Life isn’t fair…

…is one of the many things I learned from my mother. She taught me how to be kind and compassionate, to give to others when they are in need. I remember visiting my grandfather who had Parkinson’s disease. My mother would take off his shoes and rub his feet. She was and is always available to help a friend move or to plant flowers for someone or to be a cheerleader in the stands at my swim meets. She taught me how to be a mother, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Happy Mother’s Day to my mother and all the moms who give so freely of their time to their children and who constantly remind us of what it means to love unconditionally.

Check out Shemane’s podcast “This Rockin’ Life” available on iTunes http://shemanenugent.rocks/podcast/

Emotional Wellbeing, Finding Strength, Fitness, Happiness, Health, Inspiration, Meditation, Mindset, Nature, Spirituality, Uncategorized, Wellness, Wisdom

Tearful Yoga

The room was completely dark except for the illuminated “Exit” sign.  As I lay on the floor in a supine position, sweat streamed down the side of my face, arms and legs. Toxins and stress drained from every pore.  It had been fifty-eight minutes of the most strenuous stretching, balancing, and hard-core strength exercises a body can tolerate, but as I lay in my own pool of sweat, I felt elated.  Yep.  Elated.

The instructor, Michael, taught an intense power yoga class which included traditional yoga postures combined with a series of faster paced moves which called for a bit of mental gymnastics.  When a difficult pose ended, another began. There was very little rest. When we were instructed to hold a challenging balance that required muscular strength and stretching limbs and torsos beyond what was once imaginable, my mind played its usual tricks:  leave now and go get a cappuccino…why are you working so hard on a Sunday when you could have slept in and read the paper….there’s a woman at least ten years older than you bending like a pretzel…..c’mon…you can do this, etc…

At times, there was no music, just the sound of the instructor’s voice encouraging us to go deeper into the pose, or take just another “sip” of breath. Serious and seasoned yogis use a diaphragmatic breathing technique that’s supposed to bring attention back to one’s breath, maintaining calm and focus amidst chaos. The mind continually races, however, with thoughts of “I should have worn the black tank top….what am I having for lunch….to…I bet I’ll lose three pounds of sweat from this class…”

While there are many different kinds of yoga, including Hatha, Vinyasa, power, gentle, and everything in between, yoga has evolved from thousands of years ago. Today, yoga is a culture of its own. There are people who do (it) and people who don’t.  You either fall into one category or the other.  There’s little flexibility because many gurus are so serious about their craft. Although I’ve been in the fitness industry for more than thirty-five years as a choreographer, program developer and instructor, I often feel as though I’m out of my league when I attend a yoga class.  It’s a feeling akin to sports fanatics.  You either like to watch games or you don’t.

The yoga culture extends to manners and clothing, as well.  Be prepared to speak in a whispered voice and be cognizant of your space when entering a yoga studio. Smiles are given freely and often, except when walking on someone else’s mat or (gasp!) when a cell phone buzzes. Anger is simply not welcome.

Stretch pants previously reserved for the gym and only the gym are now seen on both hockey moms and dads in and out of yoga studios and worn as a statement; “I can do the splits and I eat kale.”

The lights dimmed with just a hint of radiance from the gorgeous chandelier above me and the music became so loud I couldn’t hear myself or the person inches away from me breathe, or fart, although I’m quite certain that happened to at least one of us during the hour.  It felt like a nightclub scene, but without any alcohol or pick-up lines.

The instructor never demonstrated any moves, and as an intermediate yogi, I was unfamiliar with the sanskrit terminology, so I cheated by looking at those nearby including my son, Rocco, who is currently attending yoga teacher training.  Not realizing we would have to remember sequences, I simply played “follow-the-leader” as I mimicked those around me in the shadows of the dimly-lit room.

At the end of the class, when it was so dark I could only see the ‘Exit’ sign, we laid on our sweaty yoga mats, exhausted and exhilarated at the same time. It was quiet, with only a faint sound of deep, relaxing sighs.

Then, with the first sound of the piano notes, it started.  I felt a tightening in my throat, and heavier, more intense breathing.The music blasted, but this time with a more peaceful, poetic combination of Gaelic, New Age and classical sounds that both calmed and comforted me.  The volume of the music grew along with its intensity to levels that I felt in my bones. Suddenly, a persuasive, emotional wave took over me and within seconds, tears filled my eyes and streamed down my cheeks.

I began to weep.

Salty tears of elation mixed with my hard-earned sweat.

And it felt so good.

Feeling blessed to be healthy! #4minutes2happy #yoga #healthyliving #fitness #exercise

Feeling blessed to be healthy! #4minutes2happy #yoga #healthyliving #fitness #exercise

Health, Meditation, Spirituality

Spiritual Adventures, To Be Continued….

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Ok, are you ready for some deep conversation? Recently, my husband and I had those difficult discussions about funeral arrangements and what kind of burial we’d like. Sounds gruesome, I know, but these are real, straightforward talks that need to happen. We’ve all had those thoughts about our own mortality: What if I died tomorrow… Have I done all that I wanted to do? What would I have done differently?

It caused me to reflect on my life and the changes that I have made in the past decades and the legacy I’d like to leave behind. I am definitely not the same person I was twenty or thirty years ago. The struggles and triumphs I’ve endured got me to the place where I am now. By no means, am I perfect. Rather, I am a student of life – constantly learning and soaking up information like a sponge. The older I get, the more time I want to spend grabbing onto knowledge as if it were an outstretched arm from a firefighter as my house was burning. I want to learn all that is humanly possible, while trying to get through an ordinary day of work, paying bills, household chores, taking care of pets and my family.

When I was a teenager, I went to a church with my mother and grandmother that was a nondenominational Christian church. While there were biblical quotes given in every Sunday talk, there was also discussion about a book called “A Course in Miracles”, which is a philosophical interpretation of the Bible.

Hang with me, this is deep talk.  Continue Reading

Health, Meditation, Mindset, Wellness

Be Still

meditation

I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing.T. S. Eliot

Close your eyes, put your hand on your chest, and feel your heartbeat. Focus on slowing down your breath and relaxing every part of your body, beginning at your head, down through your jaw, shoulders, chest, arms, legs, and toes. Imagine that every cell in your body is operating at its utmost potential. Envision every muscle and bone healthy and strong. Bring your awareness to your breath. Pretend you’re breathing through a straw slowly. Inhale to the count of ten and exhale even more slowly. Try to slow your heartbeat.

Studies show that we can reduce stress, lower blood pressure and the risk of heart attacks and strokes, and diminish anxiety just by being still and calming our bodies and minds. Meditation helps the mind find a happy ground where it’s not working so hard and spinning out of control. It helps control anxious and negative thoughts.

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Meditation

The Mind-Body Connection

meditation

“Before aligning the mind, body and soul … first one has to straighten their mind out.”
― Stephen Richards

Part of being healthy and happy is not only based upon what we eat and how we exercise, but how we think and feel. Scientists are discovering and admitting to the links between how our emotions affect our health. We’ve all heard stories about couples that have been together for a long time and when one of them dies the other soon follows although they had no terminal health problems. Grief can have an astonishing effect on the human body and can cause heart attacks and even stroke.

Meditation, relaxation and finding things to distract you from overwhelmingly negative thoughts have been proven to relieve stress and even pain during difficult times. When my husband, Ted, had both of his knees replaced he was in an incredible amount of agony, even with anesthesia. I tried something with him that I knew that has helped me with debilitating migraines. Don’t expect it to completely take away the pain of a critical injury, like a broken arm, but try this when you’re feeling stressed. It worked for Ted.

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