It’s well into May, the dogwood trees in my neighborhood are blooming and I am able to bike again after a frigid early spring. Enjoying the white blossoms, the green lawns and the chirping of birds as I wheel around the neighborhood brings me amazing joy. It also reminds me of my life-long love of bikes.
It started during my childhood in Detroit, when I was a tomboy and loved to hang out with my older brother Bill and his buddies. It meant that I was always speeding recklessly on my green girl’s bike to impress them and unfortunately that sometimes had disastrous consequences — including the time I fell off my bike in the alley as I tried to execute a fast turn, fell over and badly scraped my elbow as I hit the pavement. I am still amazed that I got through those competitive years without any scars, just exhilarating memories. It also fueled my feeling that I could compete with“the boys” – really helpful when I competed in a male-dominated field of journalism and later publishing.
When I eventually lived in Brooklyn in my late 20s, I took up biking again, racing a road bike around the borough, but especially focusing on riding in beautiful Prospect Park — where traffic was diverted on summer weekends and bikers flooded the roads instead. There was always so much going on that it felt like an amazing adventure. I even took my bike occasionally on the subway to Manhattan so I could have similar fun in Central Park or explore other areas like the Village and Soho.
I didn’t stop biking until after my marriage to a non-biker more than 10 years later. My husband Tim preferred a health club membership and playing racket ball to biking outdoors. I finally gave in, although I still took my bike to California with us a few years later, where it ended up stored away and finally sold.
After my beloved Tim’s death, one of the ways I coped with the sorrow was moving back to Brooklyn and buying a road bike from a neighbor in my condo building– a white Boardwalk Bianchi, 8 speed. This time I have never quit and consider my bike part of my wellness package, along with yoga and meditation. And every spring, I joyfully hit the roads again.
Last year I wrote a blog on “The New Reality of April Showers,” inspired after early rains, a typical sign of Spring, had started in February and never stopped in the midwest. This year, it has been the April ice storms and lingering snow flurries that triggered a new reminder for me of the unpredictability of climate change.
As I thought about my own struggles with the intrusion of continued winter weather into my yearnings for sunshine and Spring flowers, I realized that I’d like to focus this blog on a powerful remedy. The combination of yoga and meditation can ease the physical and psychic pain of such stressful surprises from mother nature.
I used daily meditations each morning at home this spring that taught me to accept dark clouds as readily as we welcome sunshine into our lives. Yes, embrace the clouds and snow. It works! This meditation came from my spiritual teacher, Pragito Dove (www.discovermeditation.com). How comforting to learn from her that with a little help from the right mental imagery, we can transform a gloomy Springtime in Macomb County, Michigan from endless depression into a hopeful “this too, will pass.”
I now also spend time each week at Map Keys Yoga in Clinton Township (www.mapkeysyoga), where founder Melissa Pini guides everyone in the class into relaxation through yoga exercises, while also using meditation to help you accept the present moment, not brood on what is missing. Melissa is a truly inspiring Master of both spiritual arts – yoga and meditation — and she helped me find my “super woman” to drive out the stress.
We took deep breaths and repeated “I am calm” and “I am powerful,” as well as other positive phrases – a meditation exercise that helped drive out the inner stress.Then she turned the focus to yoga stretches that took the tension out of my back, neck and joints. We finished by spontaneously laughing together. If you still need convincing that it can be so easy, I highly recommend that you watch Melissa’s youtube interview presented by Boomer Times – the link is below. *
And even though spring is finally coming, remember not to get complacent again — climate change promises to keep giving us more surprises during the year. Use the magic of meditation and yoga together to avoid depression and stay positive!
*On Youtube: Boomer Times Presents: Anita Finley with Melissa Pini https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=743Yevrd0Ik
I grew up in Michigan and expect severe winter weather occasionally. However this year set a record in sub-zero wind chills. It is the first time I remember spending holiday celebrations through early January in multiple layers of winter clothes. It is not only the Midwest suffering this winter. In its coverage of the January California mudslides and the destruction of homes in wealthy Santa Barbara county, The New York Times recently noted that it is only the latest in a string of natural disasters signaling evidence of climate change.
Late last year was punctuated by three devastating hurricanes, Harvey, Irma and Maria. The newspaper reported that “ extreme weather that scientists say is partly attributed to climate change” caused more than $306 billion in damage, a record that surpassed even the $215 billion cost of natural disasters in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina battered New Orleans, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The figure goes up dramatically if you include damage from fires and rains in California this year.
And that’s the mainland. Months after two category 5 hurricanes pummeled Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, both are still struggling to get all the lights on – nearly half of Puerto Rico’s more than 3 million people still do not have electricity. That’s more than 100 days after Maria cut a brutal path across the island.
There’s still a lot of resistance to the idea of climate change and its causes. My hope is that attention will shift from denial to focus on the optimism and innovation that defined America for so long – optimism that that we can lead the world in softening this disaster with sensible actions. We already have the research and expertise to prevail. Extreme temperatures, hot or cold, are here and increasingly impossible to deny.
I recently returned reluctantly to Michigan’s often cold and blustery late fall weather after a week in what felt like paradise – the foothills of the mountains near Tucson Arizona, where it was 80 and sunny every day. I was attending a six-day Meditation Training led by Pragito Dove, a master who trained at the Osho Multiversity in Pune, India. I am already certified in laughter meditation and was now adding accreditation in more Meditation techniques. My goal has been to learn more about how to help others achieve control over their happiness and health in a world dominated by a flood of stressful news and a lack of sane medical solutions to the resulting illnesses.
The fact is we are too often missing life while we create or recreate childhood drama – or suffer the emotional consequences of living in an often angry world. In a strange way, I was lucky. I grew up with parents from two different cultures and different dramas. That confused me and worried me as a child. Who was right? I loved them both. Yet it also made me a young Seeker, questioning life, not just accepting it.
I discovered Meditation in my 20s when my father’s unexpected death and other tragedies left me struggling with deep pain and guilt. Meditation gives you techniques like Witnessing the Mind to remind us that we are love, we are divine – it gets rid of all the inner noise telling us otherwise. Always our goal is to be in the present. Witnessing the Mind is sitting in silence, watching our thoughts and letting them go. Living in the present moment is meditation.
Laughter Meditation is especially simple for instantly transforming pain and fear into soothing mirth. Even faking laughter releases brain chemicals called endorphins in the brain that act as a tranquilizer to calm us down. You only need a few minutes in the morning to get powerful effects. And you can use laughter anytime during the day to change your mood. Try it. Just laugh for one minute in the morning, followed by one minute of silence. You are inoculated – and this drug is life-affirming!
For more information on Meditation, I recommend visiting Discovermeditation.com – Pragito Dove’s website.
Back last year when my niece Dr. Linda Holland first started implementing her dream of a new vision for home care that focused on chiropractic principles, I was one of her most excited team members.
I have always been an advocate of holistic health, first seeing the direct link between health and diet when I joined the Flatbush Food Coop in Brooklyn and switched my diet. I watched my health improve steadily and had the opportunity to learn more about alternative medicine as well.
Now I have the opportunity to help Dr. Holland educate the public in Michigan on how current practices in home care for the elderly can be improved if we apply the same chiropractic principles that she has seen improve the lives of her patients of all ages. I started by getting certified as a home health aide so I could write more knowledgably about the subject and therefore be more effective as an advocate.
I encourage everyone to learn more about this new approach by visiting the Bridgeview Home Care site and reading the blogs at http://www.bridgeviewhomehealthcare.com/ , especially if you are currently helping elderly parents or other relatives.
I saw a posting on linkedin recently that focused on “5 Genius Ways to Avoid the Post-vacation Blues,” (thanks for posting it, Pat Ahaesy).
The article reminded me that some of us need to recover from the stress of a lack of a summertime vacation – much more unhealthy than post-vacation blues!! I’ve always loved summer, but this is the first year I can remember that I didn’t really take off more than an occasional day designed to focus entirely on relaxation. Not nearly enough.
I only made a resolution to change my behavior when bad judgement from fatigue resulted in a leg injury – luckily minor, but painful. I realized that my body was stressed and craving a break and I had ignored it. So I am issuing a warning to others to recognize your needs for a true vacation, even a few days, to renew your energy and your spirits.
It’s not selfish — your health may depend on it! Benefits include a decreased risk of heart disease, depression, less stress and improved productivity. And If you are guilty of sometimes skipping vacations in any season, here’s more information on the health benefits you are missing – Healthnet.