The Art of Winning Blog

Monday, April 28, 2014

Saying Yes!

It seems everywhere I look there's another article about making sure you say no, setting boundaries, and not being a people-pleaser. But rarely to I see the counter-point. What happened to saying Yes? Dive into your life with a sense of freedom, of love, of passion. Let your Yes shine through and light up the world. And while you're at it, let your funk and your inspiration come out too. 

But with all this external imbalance, how can we determine if we are really embracing all our facets? Are we clear on what we want to say yes and no to? How about our groove vs our vision? I came up with a simple muscle test for myself. Try it and see what happens for you. 

First, a caveat: I made this up. The inspiration came to me in dance class, then I meditated on it, and now I'm sharing it. I hope it brings you insight. 

I've identified four basic head movements: the nod, the shake, the funk, and the flight. 

The Nod: face stays forward while chin and eyes move up and down. The classic Yes movement. 

The Shake: chin stays level while turning side to side. The classic No movement. 

The Funk: the ear comes towards the shoulder and the chin makes a smile movement while switching side to side. For me, it's a classic Song with a Funky Beat movement. 

The Flight: the ear comes to the shoulder and there's a nod at the shoulder (typically 2-3 beats), then on an up beat, the chin lifts to the opposite side moving in a rainbow arc. When I do this movement, I feel like I'm listening to the song of the universe. 

Exercise 1: Perform each of the head movements described above. Notice which feel natural and which feel stuck or unoiled. Note where else you feel the movement in your body and whether it activates a particular emotion. 

Exercise 2: Ask yourself a question and answer it with these head movements. Start with Yes/No questions to get a strong baseline. I started with inane questions, like "Do I want pizza for breakfast?"

Exercise 3: Choose one movement to practice today. Set a reminder on your phone for a regular interval that will remind you of your intention. 

Exercise 4: Share your experiences with me and other friends. If there's interest, I'll post more exercises and evolutions in the practice. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Elements

I was reflecting today on how lucky I am to be studying a martial art based on the elements. When I was a white belt, the idea of the elements intrigued me. At the time, I was simply grateful for the implication of choice when responding to conflict. Today it is just as simple, but not any easier than that first day. I choose to live and interact with the whole of my being, whether it's my daily practice or resolving a conflict. The elements aren't just inside me and they aren't just a part of the world. They a more than building blocks, psychological constructs, or kamae.  They are reflections of my connections with everything.

The Elements: A Poem
In the moments of realization and recognition
That everything is just as perfect as can be,
the world gets brighter.
Perhaps this is what they mean
When they say en-lighten-ment.
The sun is my fire. 
It's rays heat my darkening skin, 
casting lights and shadows across the hills.
The wind, my messenger of peace, 
and change. 
The birds' song sounds of longing
and searching
then quiets in discovery.
The legs of the cricket
buzz in the sparse grasses
And the dog's low-throated growl sends the deer prancing
into the trees.
Slipping deeper into the water,
I breathe in the freshness,
Aware that this moment is everything. 
The computer buzzes with alerts of emails and comments 
And things to do.
My mind dreams of what I will do today,
Next year. 
My heart cherishes the precious,
the breaths that bring awareness
Of the gift of
and every 
The earth is my champion. 
My spirit lifts in gratitude
To this moment,
To this opportunity,
To this reality.

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