You Must Be Present to Win

heyward-mlb

photo by ASSOCIATED PRESS

I must admit.
I’m overly identifying with the Chicago Cubs this year so the spectacular four-run ninth inning rally that secured their win over the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday night was more meaningful to me than most playoff games.
You see, early on I adopted these boys of summer as mascots for my How to Get Your Groove Back class. Jake Arrieta in particular seemed like the perfect poster guy for getting one’s groove back. He almost gave up the sport altogether when his pitching coaches couldn’t quite find his groove and released him from Baltimore.
Fortunately Chicago was able to help him find it. And then Jake was able to show the rest of the team how to find theirs. (It might have something to do with that Pilates reformer.)
After a lifetime of summers spent listening to the “lovable losers” on the radio, this summer I watched and learned from the victories and defeats of the Cubs like a vigilant den mother. And one of the things I learned is you must be present to win.
You don’t win by checking out, dwelling in the past, or projecting into the future.  If the Cubs had gone into the ninth inning on Tuesday night plagued by what had transpired in the previous eight, they wouldn’t have been open to the opportunities the ninth inning presented. They clinched the series by seizing every one of them.
That takes an unflinching commitment to being in the moment. That is deceptively difficult.
Last week I spoke to a student services group about resolving to evolve. The first of four actions I asked them to take was to embody. 
What does she mean by that?” you might ask.
I mean to be fully present in the skin you are in and to be open and aware of what you are feeling and to allow your body to provide you with all kinds of information.
Do I have a choice?” you might ask.
Yes and no.  If you’re reading this, you are in a physical form that you move around to do your brain’s beckoning. You feed it, clothe it, take it to work, and allow it to rest. So in one respect, you have no choice but to embody.
But anyone who suffers from aches and pains and a general distrust or disgust of their body will tell you how preferable it is to live life from the neck up. Their choice is to check out of their bodies as often and in as many ways as possible. They might choose to medicate or obliterate with food, alcohol, drugs, or their vice of choice in order to spend as little time as possible feeling what it’s like to be in their body.
As a certified eating psychology coach and fitness instructor, I see this a lot. Most of the people I work with have a very complicated relationship with their bodies. My desire to understand this relationship is what led me to become a writer and coach.

Here’s my take-away. The present moment is all we’ve got. It’s the only time and place where we can make things happen and move forward in our lives.

This means we need to be open to receiving feedback and support from all our faculties, not just our brain. Because I don’t know about you, but my brain can be a bully.
It can have me believing all kinds of things that are just not true because it’s feeling threatened or scared. That’s why I need an entire team of truth tellers located in my heart, my belly, my back, my legs, or anywhere that might get my attention.
I do not want to be stuck in the eighth inning where I might be down 2-5 with just my brain calling the shots. I need my body on board to rally and earn a shot at the World Series.
Bob likes to remind me it’s just a game and whether my team wins or loses, my life will be the same. He may have a point. Every team and every sport have come-back stories and heroes’ journeys stories and a hundred reasons why their epic victory is destined.
But I know on the days the Cubs win my world seems a little bit brighter or more hopeful. Not just because they’ve broken a curse or done the impossible or because my Grandma would be grinning from heaven to see her Cubbies win it all, but because of how they played the game. They model for me how to be all in and present to win. That’s something I can rally around.
Who does that for you? Share if you dare in the comments below.

It's All Fun & Games

huskerdu
It’s Day 28 of the Get Stuff Done 1 x 31 Challenge.  Today’s challenge is to boost your brain power with some memory games.
Every Sunday morning when I was a kid we’d go to my grandmother’s house after church.  Once there we’d watch cartoons, All Star Wrestling, and movies that none of us kids understood but introduced us to the likes of Mae West, Laurel & Hardy, Abbott & Costello, Mickey Rooney, The Three Stooges, and others.
I was too young to know the the cartoons were sexist and violent, the wrestling was staged, and the movies were classics, but I did remember the commercials. Especially the ones selling games, cereal, cigarettes, shampoo , showing us the consequences of littering, and asking us to take personal responsibility for preventing forest fires. 
What I remember most was a game called Husker Du.  The advertiser would always announce in a booming voice, “Husker Du! Do you remember?” I had no idea what the game was about. I just loved repeatedly asking with my brother and sister in my own impressively loud voice, Husker Du?
Clearly, the advertising worked. It was “sticky” as Dan & Chip Heath would say. Forty years later I still remember it. Slick trick for a memory game.
concentration
I also used to love playing Concentration at home to mimic the game show I’d faithfully watch on TV. I knew early on it was important to focus, remember, connect the dots, and make connections that might otherwise be overlooked.
These days, of course, there’s an app for that.  Games like Lumosity, NeuroNation, Brain Metrix, and FitBrains are just a few examples of websites and apps to train your brain.
While you can easily get through one of these challenges in 5-15 minutes, the real challenge is to not spend an hour or two once you get started.
But even if you did, it’d be good for you. It’s too easy to let our brains be lulled into a trance by all kinds of incoming and unquestioned media.
Take time out today to think for yourself, test your memory, and give your brain a run for the money.  As another ad I remember warned, “A brain is a terrible thing to waste.”
I’d love to hear how you train your brain and keep your wits about you.  Share, if you dare, in the comments below.
 
 
 

Sonic Sanctuary

We live in amazing times.  Just when I thought Amazon Prime couldn’t get any better, bring on the free music.

It seems like just yesterday I was buying albums so I could carefully blend the most magical tunes together in order to have a mixed tape for every mood.  I’d spend hours as PJ the DJ carefully curating the most energizing tunes for my aerobics classes, the subtlest of sexy songs for the dating ritual, the rowdiest road songs for adventurous outings, along with the occasional classical cut to cultivate my creativity or monastic chant to elevate my spirit.

These days all I have to do is search the playlists that are already assembled by other music lovers, hit the download button, and in the same time it took me to make one side of a mixed tape, I’ve downloaded twenty playlists.

I once listened to an audio program called This IsYour Brain On Music by Daniel Levitin.  I remember the author stating that we vividly remember the music of our younger days because of all the emotions associated with our developing brain and bodies.

Although that may be true, I’m finding it works miracles at midlife as well since this seems to be the second coming of hormone-induced hysteria.

Music is a universal language and when words fail us, we can fall back on our favorite playlist to do the talking for us.  There is something supremely satisfying to me to know I can search and rescue my favorite song from oblivion at a moment’s notice and share it with an unsuspecting niece, nephew, sibling, parent, partner, or passerby.

Before Sirius XM, I had been stuck musically somewhere in the last century.  Now I am  thrilled to discover new music every time I step foot inside the virtual Coffee House in my car.  When I’m not in my car, websites like Amazon Prime, Spotifiy, and Songza catapult me right out of the past and directly into the present where I can surround myself with all kinds of music from an incredible array of genres.

Who knew I’d once again be spending oodles of hours listening to music from the past and present like a lovestruck teenager?

As soon as I figure out how to add playlists to my posts I’ll add them to this blog.  (Feel free to fill me in if you already know how.)  That way if you don’t have time to read the post, you can just listen to the playlist.  I’ll think you’ll be able to adequately determine how things are going in my world just by listening. 

Plus, you can send me yours and it we’ll create a virtual record store… or better yet, a sonic sanctuary.  Oh yes, that sounds so soothing.  A Zen and Pen moment if ever there was one.

Give me a few days to figure it out and I’ll be back to rock your world!