Consider the Sacred

How often do I consider my life and all its proclivities in regards to the sacred? I’m not even sure why I have an attachment to write about this topic today. All I know is that I have found a strand of thought that has captured my attention for the moment, and it seems fitting to follow the strand where ever it wants to lead me for now.

It should not surprise me that one thought leads to another; whether a thought originates in my own thinking or whether it has been introduced by some one else, it does not matter. That the thought sparkled and dazzled and asked to be admired by me is reason enough to give it consideration for this moment.

Why do I bother attending to a fleeting thought? Because I trust that some thoughts are worthy of introspection. And in this space of now, I trust that this thought, with its attending question and percolating intrigue, has captured my attention because I am ready to receive a lesson. I have lived long enough to realize that a piqued interest is usually indication of openness to instruction.

So perhaps my intrigue has whet your curiosity too, and if that is the case, then I invite you to join me for awhile in this quest to apprehend reason on this little bypass, as I consider: What does it mean when we say some ‘thing’ is sacred to us?

Now remember, how I mentioned earlier how one thought often leads to another, then another. Well this thought about sacred things, I believe, was brought to my consciousness because of something I read a few days ago. (Note to self & note to reader: Be careful what you read!)

Anyway, I believe the question which took form before my mind this morning was smoldering as a result of this statement in the “Love Your Body” chapter of A Course in Weight Loss by Marianne Williamson: The purpose you ascribe to something determines its effect on your life. I am not sure why these two ideas feel connected to me, but they do. And I am not sure why I feel like these ideas are important to share within the space of a health and well-being blog, but I do. So be patient with me, as I attempt to connect some dots and unravel this ball of twine of mine.

When I think quickly about this idea of the sacred, all of a sudden the “S” word lifts ‘things’ up to a level above my eyes. It, the object, whatever is beheld as sacred, becomes instantly special, reserved, set aside, honored, revered. Do we use this word so frequently and loosely today, that its meaning and power is lost on our modern sensibilities? Perhaps. But what do I hold as sacred? What or where is the repository for the sacred in my life? What then does it mean when I attribute sacredness to something or someone?

I think the connection is this: What I believe and hold as sacred in my life, I will treat with special honor and reverence. The sacred will receive my best attention, care and protection. In other words, if I purpose some ‘thing’ as sacred, then my actions will support and be a natural outcome of my intentions and my beliefs. The purpose you ascribe to something determines its effect on your life”.

As a married person (34+ years), I consider my relationship with my spouse as sacred. I am intimately bound up in his life and he in mine; we two have become and live as one. Our relationship is set-aside and unique from all our other relationships. I honor this sacred relationship and protect it by keeping my heart’s affections solely upon and for my husband.

As a spiritual being, I consider my relationship with the Divine One as sacred. Similar to my marriage, the Holy One and I co-exist in intimate, loving relationship. There is no way to separate Spirit from spirit. I honor my Spirit-life my spending time in worship and meditation. This relationship centers me and brings light and love to every area of my life.

As one who inhabits a physical body, I consider my relationship with my body as sacred. I am profoundly thankful for everything it does for me, this container which holds my soul. I honor my physical-life by making the time and taking efforts to exercise, nourish and rest my body in accordance to its needs.

As a personality who engages others within myriad roles and relationships (daughter, mother, wife, friend, etc.), I notice that my sacred intent takes less form here. I do not hold my relationships in such sacred esteem. And yet, I can see the merit in assigning them to a higher purpose in my life.  We all have been created and set in this world to live in relationship to one another. Perhaps the disconnect I feel in many of my relationships is a result of my not assigning a higher purpose and value to them? Yes, this is surely a strand of thought which I must further consider and evaluate!

Finally, I have come to the end of the trail. I have made a connection, faint though it be, it is thus: That which I hold as sacred, I protect and honor. If I feel or experience disconnect in my body, spirit or in my relationships, then I have likely ascribed to it a lessor purpose or value in my life. The purpose you ascribe to something determines its effect on your life.”

If I regard something as sacred or worthy, then I will act in ways which demonstrate my belief. That which I believe guides my intentions. My belief becomes my action. Those things which I focus my most care-full attentions and energies upon, also sheds light upon those things which I hold as sacred. What about you? What is sacred to you?

Fit for Life…Everyday Exercise 6 of 10

SINGLE LEG DEAD LIFTS! This is the sixth exercise of ten in the functional fitness series, and it is the first exercise of the series which provides balance, strength, mobility and stability training all at once for the lower body. Specifically, dead lifts will target the hamstrings, glutes and lower back muscles, while engaging joints at the ankle, knee and hip.

HOW TO PERFORM:

  • Assume a single-leg stance
  • Keep the back straight and the torso tight. Look straight ahead, retract shoulder blades.
  • Prepare for movement by balancing 100% on supporting leg then,
  • Lower the upper body by bending at the hip. Keep the back straight and supporting knee soft (with a slight bend).
  • Swing the free leg back so it stays in line with the torso.
  • Simultaneously move your arms forward (away from your body) to counter balance.
  • Lower the upper body until a mild stretch is felt in the hamstrings.
  • Return to the starting position.
  • Perform as many repetitions as you can (5 – 12) while maintaining good form (see picture 2 below).
  • Repeat on other leg.
single leg dead lift

Single leg dead lift

 

In the beginning, you may need to modify (reduce) your range of movement for this exercise. If you cannot balance with your swing leg fully extended behind you, then hinge only to the point where you can maintain your balance before returning to the starting position. If you’ll practice a few repetitions every day, your balance and stability will improve in short order.

TO PROGRESS: Once you are able to perform a full set of 10 – 12 repetitions in good form, you may increase your posterior strength chain by holding dumbbells (3 to 8 pounds) or a weighted bar in your hands while performing this exercise. Start with lighter weights and maintain proper form while  performing 8 to 12 repetitions on each leg.

Single-Leg-Deadlift-Kettlebell

Single leg deadlift with dumbbells

Functional exercise number 7 of 10 will be posted by December 4th.

Fit for Life…Everyday Exercise 5 of 10

JUMPING JACKS! This is the fifth exercise of ten in the functional fitness series, and it is the first exercise in the group so far which provides an opportunity to train the cardio-respiratory system while also challenging your functional balance and coordination. The shoulders, core, hips, legs and ankles are all activated during a jumping jack maneuver.

This old-fashioned, body weight exercise is considered a high impact maneuver when executed in its traditional form. The hops made out to the side may create too much impact stress for individuals with joint pain or instability in their knees, hips, or ankles. Shoulder joints will also be used to a full range of motion (overhead), so again, moderate your moves if you have known weakness or pain in these areas. A modified jumping jack (described below) may be performed and will give you similar fitness benefits while keeping your joints happy.

HOW TO PERFORM:

  • Stand with your feet together and your hands down by your side.
  • Engage your stomach muscles, then
  • In one motion jump your feet out to the side and raise your arms above your head.
  • Immediately reverse that motion by jumping back to the starting position.
  • Perform as many repetitions as you can (10-100) while maintaining good form.
Jumping-Jacks

Jumping Jack


MODIFIED SIDE JACKS: 

  • Stand with your feet together and your hands down by your side.
  • Engage your stomach muscles, then
  • In one motion move one foot out to the side and raise your arms above your head.
  • Immediately reverse that motion by returning your arms and leg to the starting position.
  • In the next motion, move the other foot out to the side and raise your arms above your head.
  • Perform as many repetitions as you can (10-100) while maintaining good form.

jumping jack modified

TO PROGRESS: Once you are able to perform 2 to 5 sets of  10 repetitions of jumping jacks, you may want to add small jump rope type hops and / or skipping moves to the jumping portion of your functional fitness routine. All of these exercises will help increase your leg strength, stamina, balance and coordination. Functional fitness exercise 6 of 10 will be posted before the Thanksgiving holiday. Cheers!

Your Attention Please!

PAY ATTENTION to your DREAMS for they are your LETTERS FROM GOD
~ Jewish Proverb

When you ‘pay’ attention to something, you ‘buy’ that experience. Be selective in your focus because your attention feeds the energy of it and keeps it alive. ~ Emily Maroutian

All you have to do is pay attention; lessons always arrive when you are ready.
~ Paul Coelho

What we pay attention to expands. What we pay attention to we become.
~ Brenda Shoshanna

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Matthew 7:3 NIV

Watch your thoughts, they become words; watch your words, they become actions; watch your actions, they become habits; watch your habits, they become character; watch your character, for it becomes your destiny. ~ Frank Outlaw

Fit for Life…Everyday Exercise 4 of 10

WALKOUTS! This is the fourth exercise of ten in the functional fitness series and as such it is a true body weight exercise. The walkout will use every major joint in the body when executed to completion. It is for this reason that it has a prominent place in the top ten daily exercises.

The Walkout

How To Perform: Before engaging in the actual walkout exercise you may want to perform some lower body exercises to warm up your legs and back before beginning the walkout. Once you are warmed up, perform a few toe touch repetitions (step B) to realize a nice stretch in your legs and back.

If you are still working on upper body strength and not sure whether you can perform the entire exercise with good form, then only perform steps A through C of the walkout for the first week or two before walking yourself out (and back) to the high plank position. You may bend your knees during the beginning of the walkout phase to assist your hands reaching the floor without over-stretching your hamstrings.

Perform three to ten walkouts each day, paying special attention to your form throughout the exercise. When you reach the end of the walkout (step D), make sure your shoulder and wrists are aligned (one above the other), and engage your core (no sagging or hiking at the hips) so your body forms a straight line from shoulders to toes. Hold this position for a count of three to five seconds, then walk yourself back to a standing position. Perform up to 10 repetitions.

Little by little one walks far. ~ Peruvian Proverb

How To Progress: As you gain upper body strength and core stamina, you can progress this exercise by adding some pushups at step D,  before walking yourself back to the standing position. Additionally, you may challenge your core strength by walking your hands out a couple inches past your shoulders and a little wider than shoulder width apart (pictured below). Hold this new position for three to five seconds in good form, then walk your hands back toward your feet to the standing position.

The Walkout Progressed

The Walkout Progressed

Perform these purposeful exercises faithfully everyday, and your strength and flexibility will improve before your very eyes. Functional fitness exercise 5 of 10 will be posted within the next few days. Keep moving!

 

Fit for Life…Everyday Exercise 3 of 10

PLANKS! This is the third exercise of ten in the functional fitness series and is probably one of the best exercises for building core strength. The purpose of my writing about these ten exercises is to post in a permanent place those movements which adults of most any fitness level can perform every single day so as to achieve or maintain their fitness which will support their activities of daily living.

Initially, the plank exercise may create a bit of a challenge for adults who find it difficult to get down onto the floor. If you cannot get down to the floor and safely back up again, it is wise to perform the first two functional exercises from this series, squats and pushups (wall and counter versions) until sufficient body strength is developed to get up and down from ground level.

The plank is an isometric (static, non-moving core exercisewhich also strengthens the shoulders, glutes and hamstrings. This exercise also has an important role in improving one’s posture and balance. The ‘low’ plank (pictured below) is performed by hovering one’s body above the floor, balanced only on forearms and toes, forming a straight line from shoulders to heels. In this position, the abdominals will be engaged (braced) together with the gluteal and thigh muscles while simultaneously continuing to breathe normally. Work up your first hold time to 30 seconds. Add another 1 or 2 sets of 30-second holds as you build up your strength.

plank1 (2)

How To Progress: As you improve your strength, you’ll want to progress and vary your planking routine. Progress from a forearm plank to a straight arm (high) plank. Once you can hold a high plank for 2 or 3 sets of 30-second holds, you can add side planks (pictured below) to your repertoire. Performing variations to the basic plank (front, side) will quickly enhance your core strength and stability and it will also improve and challenge the surrounding (secondary or synergistic and stabilizing) muscles throughout your back and shoulders.

side plank on knees

Functional fitness exercise number 4 of 10 will be posted mid-week.

Of Sheets and Socks

I was putting away a basket of clean laundry this morning and I noticed how my little running socks and dryer sheets could hide out unnoticed in the deep pockets of the king size fitted bed sheet. It made me chuckle because I have often re-discovered a lost sock or small clothing item many weeks or months later when putting a clean fitted sheet on the bed for the first time after its laundering. Upon such a discovery, I’ll usually scold myself for not checking the deep pockets before putting the clean sheets away, and then think nothing more about the lost and found item while I return it to its rightful place in my drawer.

But this morning after putting the clean socks and sheets away, I considered how often these lost items go unnoticed, until I need them most. Then I made this funny little connection about lost little things…like the little things in my life that get folded up into the deep pockets of my busy schedule…the seemingly unimportant little socks of life, so basic and trivial in their use, but how important they become when one goes missing and its mate is nowhere to be found; while more sturdy soles than mine might not care, I would not go happily to work, or for a walk or run in my shoes wearing only one sock. No, I would rather wear unmatched socks than one sock or no socks at all.

And that’s when I had a funny thought, about how this little problem of missing socks often mimics my life; how the little things, the niceties of life which at first glance don’t seem all that necessary, only become missed and appreciated when I recognize how out of balance or out of sorts I’ve become because I’ve misplaced or lost my one little sock of…grace, or appreciation, or gratitude, or humility, or forgiveness or ???

It’s the little things in life, I reminded my self this morning, the niceties of common courtesies and gentleness which, when they go missing, can make me (and those around me) quite uncomfortable! I must remember to leave no sheet pocket unturned! Turn every corner out, shake the sheets good and stout; let every good thing in me, the garments of my inner life: peace and love, be carefully folded and placed into the fabric of my day. Little things, they become large when they go missing…both within and without. Today’s note to self: Give the sheets a good shake and turn every corner out!