Believe + commitment+ being = change= results

First I have to believe that I can do what I think of, what I want in my life, what makes me really happy. I feel that I deserve it, that I have been given the grace of God to have it, to become it, to do it. I am committed to make it happen, put my very best effort. I believe, I commit, I become. I see it as I wanted to be, as if already done. Believing in it seals my conviction that I can do it, I AM doing it. It is part of me now, it has always been. That is the way I am improving myself.

By put it in writing, I seal a commitment to change my ways to make room for the new and improved ones. Improve what works and eliminate what doesn’t. I have to lead by my own example for myself and for others that want to tag along in my journey. Believing in it brings forth what I deeply and sub-consciously want. It completes the change in my behavior, my thinking and thus my surroundings.

You must be the change you wish to see in this world. Gandhi said it right, it is so powerful to me; there is nothing else more true. Try as I might to change others around me to “see it my way”, but couldn’t. I understand that I can’t, I can see it now. Change must come from within; it must first start with me in order to change the world around me. I understand that it is not possible to change others, but I can change the way I respond to others, expecting the best from others, looking for the positive of things, seeing the solution and opportunities of a problem.  I am being conscious about my past learning experiences, aware of the present, hopeful about the future. I am not changing the world really, but I am changing the way I see the world and thus I make it better place to be for myself and be happy about. That’s what it is all about. People will eventually see this change in me coming from the inside, expressing out, feeling the good vibe pulsating from me because I know that is sincere, positive, and encouraging. In return they will become attracted and unconsciously and with time, they too will change their ways and to me my friends that completes the change I wish to see in this world.

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Parenting- 4 the love of our children

I like to share a system of principles or philosophy that has worked for us with our daughter for the past 5 years. I hope that can help you and you can share your experiences with me as well.
Encourage: When it comes to encouraging language skills, my wife and I use three questions to help our daughter learn and identify things. We use these questions when our daughter is being challenged with a thing to call out or do something with it. She may not recall what is called, doesn’t know what to do with it or she is just playing with us and wants us to say it or do it for her. These questions will help in getting the child involved:
1. Can I eat it?
2. Can I wear it?
3. Can I play with it?

The answers are either yes or no and at the end we ask her to say the name or help her to say it. Most of the time she knows the answer and either she is shy about it or just playing with us. This dialog is very common in the house and it’s done by either parent with similar effective results. It works for us. Be patient and just encourage your child to say it.
Be a trust entity; never lie to your child. Even if it is a white lie, the same will be pay back to us when our children get older. They will lie to us and not trust us. Even if I think that the child may not understand, I give her something for her to think and process. Children are ready to prove themselves and are always looking to challenge their boundaries along with ours. By telling everything as it is, I am giving them the opportunity to ask questions and develop critical thinking. Kids say the darnest things and never know what will come out of my child’s mouth but it amazes me every time I hear it. Challenge your child, let him or her show you whether they can do it or not. Encourage them rather than prohibit.
Let them experience it: When we growing up, we didn’t enjoy the information that is available now nor enjoyed the safety benefits and measures of. We were told, “Do not touch that” and that was it. No explanation, no why. If the stove was hot, we were told don’t touch it and that was it. Curious that I was, I wanted to see what the red bright circle looks like and touch it. So I did, and got burned. On top of my burn pain, I felt the swift spanking from my Dad in whatever part of the body, reprimanding me for being disobedient. That was the learning method “you don’t touch it, or it will go bad for you.
When I ride my motorcycle and go to my parent’s house, my nephew and nice come out to greet me. There are bubbly, loving pair, living in innocence. The gather around me and Mami, my Mom, yells “no toques, caliente” Don’t touch it, Hot! They stop in their tracks, obedient to their grandmother but longing to come closer. I can feel the excitement in their eyes. I reached out a hand for them to come closer and feel the bike, I get them to feel the heat of the engine, safely, of course and their curiosity has been safely satisfied. I am not implying that’s the way to go. Every child to their parents even my niece and nephew, but it is a learning experience for them, so I prefer to let them experience it. The next time they already know not to get close because they felt it before and now they know and with periodically re-enforcements will be in their minds forever.
Negotiate: Children are natural “hagglers” with the innocence of really not understanding other way than their way. They just won’t give in unless they get what they want or you “negotiate” something. When interacting with children, think and act like a child with the wisdom to choose what’s right of course. It’s all about negotiation and repetition. Give them choices: A, B, or C and the consequences if continue to misbehave. Let them think about it and choose. If after trying still don’t get the desired results, think about this: “not everything goes according to plan”. Relax, be patient and adjust you halo, but be firm; you already told him or her choices so no need to keep repeating. Remember; let them know who is in control.

A recent example that happened to me:

Papi: Kary it’s time to go to bed
Karymar: but Papi one more movie
Papi: Karymar it’s late, there is school tomorrow
Karymar : Please! Pleaseeee, plllllease!!!
Papi: no Kary, you already watched a movie, it’s time to brush your teeth, read a story, do our prayers and go to bed…..and … I’ll sing you a song ( motivation)
Karymar: but Paaapi!!
Papi: I said no Karymar, you can watch another movie tomorrow, now its’ time to rest so you can be smart in school.
Karymar : no,… I want movie. ( she goes and pick up the movie she wants)
Papi: and I said, No
Karymar: Moooovie, mooovie ( opening the case of the movie)
Papi: silent
Karymar: Mooovie (now she opens the DVD players tray…yes, she knows how)
Papi: Karymar, if you play that movie Papi is going to get upset because you’re not being obedient. I am not saying you can’t watch a movie, juts not now because you have to go to bed to go to school tomorrow and help your teacher. If you do what Papi says, tomorrow we will watch the movie together with pop corn ( insert your child’s favorite,…. “the bribing hook”) or you want grapes instead? ( a favorite back up)
Karymar: (silent but with a face)
Papi: come on, please be nice. Hop on ( as I turn), let’s go to the bathroom, I help you.
Karymar: calling… Mami ( the benefactor)
Papi: Mami is going to tell you what I just told you. So either come right now ( watching my tone) and be obedient or you go straight to bed without reading a story and no movie and no ice cream tomorrow. Is that what you want?
Karymar: pause…..I want Mami, Mami do it
Papi: Mami is busy, I AM here with you ( stressing this ). If you behave well you can have everything I just told you, we read a story, say our prayers and sing you a song but if you don’t, you get nothing. What are you going to do Karymar? ( pause)  Are you going to be a good girl?
Karymar: UhuMmMm! Si
Papi: good my love, let’s go, I’ll help you! ( smiles, hugs and kisses)
After doing everything, I tucked her into her bed and said “thank you Karymar for being such an obedient and good girl” and “tomorrow we will watch movies with pop corn”
Karymar: with grapes Papiiii
Papi: with grapes mi amor
Finally (for now), lead by example: we love our children right? There is no doubt that we would do anything possible to make them happy and in turn we expect them to behave and be good boys and girls. Therefore we must lead by example by living to the values we want them to acquire and follow. I cannot tell my daughter to put her clothes in the basket if I leave mine on the floor. First she will call me out I am sure and it may be funny at the beginning, but over time it will be a problem. It applies to habits, attitudes and pretty much everything you wouldn’t want them to do or behave. It is not “ do as I say and not as I do” rather think “would this habit I do be a bad influence to my child in the future?” if it does, change it…lead by example.
As time goes on and the children grow we adjust our system, adding, removing or modifying completely. Parenting is not a never-ending “job”, but a way of life and pretty rewarding that it is.

Believe: be like a child, carefree and innocent.

I just finished listening to the audio-book of the original version of Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie.  As always, the narration was performed by Mr. Jim Dale, famous for the Harry Potter audio-book series.  Once again, He never falls short of my expectations, transporting my imagination to other worlds where I can be part of the story and forget for a while the mundane things of grown up life. This version of Peter Pan is similar to the Disney’s adaptation most of us grew to love since childhood. There is Peter Pan,  the flying boy living in Neverland with the lost boys, an Indian tribe, and the pirates with the feared Captain Hook, always chasing Peter Pan and of course Tinkerbell.  It is a story filled with adventure and fantasy where children never grow up, living a carefree, innocent life.

But that is all there is, a story isn’t it?  We grow old and forget Neverland, forget to dream, and cease to believe.  We have forgotten to be that child we once were and now are grownups influenced by society, circumstances, experiences and responsibilities. The care- free, innocence of childhood is gone forever.  We grow old, we forget to believe. To believe that we can dream, we can imagine and believe that anything is possible, that we can be whoever we want to be, and have whatever we can imagine. But we can’t see it because we won’t allow us to see. We are grown ups and have to behave like grownups do, like our parents told us, and their parents told them and so on.

We become conscious of what other people might think or say about ourselves, we judge life with our own prejudices and insecurities and let ourselves believe that any grownup thinking or acting like a child will is “weird” not normal.  if I am seen acting like a kid, people think I am weird; when I talk about things they might think I am a dreamer living in cloud 9 and if they hear me talking to myself, some might recommend psychiatric evaluation. However, we don’t think like that when we talk about children.  We would say “It’s all child’s play” or it’s “just a kid being a kid” and let them be or even not pay attention or dismiss the child because whatever he is doing or saying is considered nonsense, children talk.  We conclude that the child is growing up and all this fantasy and dreaming will be forgotten and replaced with the responsibilities and circumstances of becoming an adult, as part of the life cycle.

When did we forget to believe? At what point we as adults forgot what it was like to be a kid again? We go to school, go to college, get a job, get married, buy a house, and have children. It’s all a cycle, but why we forget to believe? When did we leave Neverland?

Now as a parent, I see it from a different perspective.  I see my daughter, my nephew, my niece and they are so care free, so innocent like any other child. They play, they pretend they are pirates, princess, astronauts, etc… and they are so happy. How can I make sure that it stays that way?  I probably can’t as they need to grow and experience on their own too. But I can encourage and challenge them… to grow, yes, but believing that they can do anything they can imagine and be who they like to be and that no one should ever tell them to stop believing.

They in turn can show me how to be carefree, happy with joy, like a child is. To be innocent with the benefit wisdom to choose my actions, to see the good in people and to let them in my life without prejudices.  To be a grownup that enjoys being like a child, without sweating the small stuff,  with a sense a humor, indifferent of what others say about me, believing that anything is possible.

J.M. Barrie mention at the end of his book that children will always believe there is a Neverland as long as they are carefree and innocent. I chose to believe too.

ABC’s of quick decision making

When making  decisions, looking for a solution and evaluating circumstances, it  feels to me like is  ABC. That is having a plan A, B, and C and also creating my own strategy.  Simply put, I first try plan A and if A didn’t work quite right try B from a different angle and if B didn’t do it, it is then plan C. Three choices, three solutions, three scenarios, three potential outcomes. Of course if after trying Plan C I am still not happy, I don’t give up.  I try something else instead as there are as many potential plans as the number of letters in the alphabet.

I am NOT thinking of the consequences, though they do matter, but they may block my thinking if I am focusing on how bad it can get.  I am however, thinking in the desirable outcome that I want and start in that order. When presented with a problem, ask “what are my choices here?”  Do I A: ________, B_________, or C_________ in the order of preference, being C the least desirable approach.

Whenever a problem arises that need quick decision making, propose three potential solutions or choices to the problem as well rather than think of the consequences.  The solution lays right there on the problem. It is not complicated. In fact it could be just two choices instead. It is either this or it is that. To help narrow the choices and to make a solid decision, I ask myself “What is the worst case scenario?” Most of the time the worst that could have happen it is not as bad as one originally thinks.  My mind sometimes dwells too much in the uncertain paralyzing me from doing anything. Therefore I present my choices to the problem and move forward with the decision. TAKE ACTION!  I already made my decision and carry on with the plan until completion. No need to argue it, re-analyze or doubt it. The decision has been made, move forward and adjust as you go.

For example, My Dad had a bad mixer in the kitchen sink. Water was not coming out and He thought it was something caught in the pipe blocking the water from coming out of the faucet. He checked the line from the mixer and it was not blocked, so we thought it could be the water faucet mixer instead and needed to be replaced.

Here are our choices:

A-     The most preferable:  Fix the mixer in place with a repair kit.

B-      The other choice: Remove and replace the entire mixer on the spot

Now we analyze a bit:  the repair kit contains small components like springs and small rubber rings that are cumbersome to work with and it may not be the solution to the problem since we didn’t know where it was blocked. Under a closer look to the underside of the sink, we observed that the location and condition of the attachments were hard to reach and rusty. This will be difficult to work let alone to remove.  Then another choice is created:

C-      The least desirable: remove the entire kitchen sink and work from the outside. Now this solution was the least desirable because it meant to remove all the connections to the sink and the attachments to the counter top. However, this choice would allow us to see and easily remove the rusty mixer hardware from the sink. It also provides us with the right clearance to work and replace pipes and fittings that needed repair.

We opted for plan C because it was more work to remove the sink, but easier to remove the mixer once it was out and we were able to repair other items that were readily visible and otherwise hidden because of the sink’s location.

Now this was a simple matter, now that we were able to fix it right, but the ABC’s of decision making work in any situation. More importantly it allows focusing on the problem for a solution and not on the guessing of the consequences of what could have, should have or would have happened if no action was taken.

21-Day Character Anchoring Method

Character is the ability to follow through on a resolution long after the emotion with which it was made has passed. ~ Brian Tracy

Before starting this method, get your priorities straight.  Ask: What is it that  I want to get out of this? For example, if you want to change your perception of how you currently see things in life, I simple recommend you to listen to the Zig Ziglar’s  “See You at The Top” series for 21 days straight and apply what you learn. Summarizing in my own words,  Zig said that in order for a person to change, modify or learn something and to do it well, it must do it for 16 consecutive days so it will fall into the sub-conscious level and becomes part of you. Tony Robbins says very often that repetition is the mother of skills. You do something repeatedly and you become exactly that of what you wanted, it becomes part of you, anchoring into your character or skill. It took me 21 days to see the difference, so that is why I call it the 21-day character anchoring method.

After the 21 days, the material I learned got embedded into my sub-conscious and I was thinking and doing things automatically even without realizing it. If I skipped a day or stopped for a period of time I felt guilty because I thought all the effort I put through for 21 days straight was slipping away. This is powerful; you have to give it a try. The time frame depends how long is the book you’re going to read, the class to take, or the length of the audio book. Above all, the time and effort you put it. I listened to Ziglar’s “See you at the Top” series, more than 16 times within the 21 day period. I particularly liked this series because it was my first motivational material I came across almost 10 years ago. I was captivated by Zig Ziglar’s motivational speeches, His attitude and I listen to step-by-step instructions on how to change the way I think about myself and my surroundings. It changed my thinking and my life. Believe it!  You stick with the 21 days straight, non-stop and you will feel the change, I believe it is true. If you believe you can do it, that you can change and that you deserve to change for the better and give your very best effort, my friend you will change.

Let me describe this method in these simple steps:

  1. Define what I want. What is my ultimate goal?  Change my self- image, attitude? Change, learn or improve a habit or skill? Etc. be honest and determined. YOU want this change because?…
  2. Find positive, reading or audio material to educate yourself about it what you’re about to do.
  3. Do it, start reading, listening, learning. Go to a class if necessary. If reading or listening, go through the book or audio series complete without taking notes. Let it sink in.
  4. After going through the material once, summarize in your own words what you just learned and write it down. Think about how you feel, did you get the material? Did it sink in? If yes, go to the next step. If not, re-evaluate your feeling and goals. If you feel that it doesn’t move you, go back to step one and start all over. No problem, nothing is wasted; you just learned something you didn’t know about. If however, you feel something good about this or want to give it another look, go to the next step. I prefer this choice.
  5. Re-read or re-listened to your material again. This is an eye opener stage. It either makes it or breaks it. Here you will find out if you’re on the right track or need to go back to square one.  In this step you will grasp all the information again and you will note that either you’ve missed some information, you understood something you didn’t get before or that something is making sense or not at all. You may take notes or highlights at this point, but don’t analyze too much. Go to the next step.
  6. In this step you will start taking action implementing what you just re-learned. You are excited, motivated and eager to try it. Make an action step list from your notes and start doing it, start being, believing in the material. Re-read/listen to your material until the 21 days is up. After that period go over the material often, review it and look for other similar material, subjects or start another project.

Get motivated, change what you don’t like, be who you want to be and like Zig would say ” I’ll see you and yes I mean YOU at the top!”

How to change your old image to a new one

Don’t like who you are or what you have become? You feel others don’t like you, you’re not happy with how you’re life has developed and will like to change things around. I hear you and tell you that’s alright because you don’t have to be stuck with you, you can change you. Yes, you can!

Let me elaborate. What are the characteristics we think of about ourselves? Do you see yourself as a successful person with a happy family and attractive lifestyle or do you see yourself living life day by day, letting life happen to you and conforming to whatever life throws at you? Be sincere; think about this for a moment because the things you constantly think about reflects back at you in your life, your work, with your family.

  1. 1. Ask yourself, is my thinking positive or negative?   Do I think about the opportunities of a problem or its consequences? Do I praise myself or call me a loser? There is no need to be ashamed. This is a personal assessment that will help you in great ways. So be honest with yourself.
  2. 2. What do I think about myself? What other think about you does not matter. It is all about you.
  3. Do I think of prosperity and abundance or poverty and scarcity?
  4. How do you feel about money? Be truthful.
  5. What is my ideal image or characteristics that I wish I had?

These questions will help you in filtering your own judgment and prejudices. It is not how society sees me or what society thinks of me, but what and how I think of me.

When we were children, we were asked what we want to be when we grow older. Most likely the answer was a lawyer, a doctor or other prestigious profession. Perhaps a super hero, right? Is this who you are at this moment? More importantly, is this who you really wanted to be? We now know that these were probably what our parents wanted us to become, a person of status, a stable and prosperous provider for the family. We know that it was on noble intentions as every parent wants the best for their children. If you’re happy with whom you are and what you have become, perhaps the next question will be what have you done to share the goodness you have, the abundance you received?

However, for many, we live a life on different terms and sometimes someone else’s’ terms. We are not entirely happy because we have not fulfilled our destiny if there is such thing. We are doing something we don’t want to do, being someone who is not really you to your full potential or however else you want to justify it. Let’s go back to  the time when we were children and think about whom we really wanted to be. How about the super hero? Who was your favorite character? To me, I wanted to be a super action hero, a GI Joe or a hero with super powers. Always ready, courageous and clever, righteous and compassionate with others, defenders of the human race against evil.  Who did you wanted to be? The good guy or the villain, the winner or the looser? Take your pick.

Looking closely at the characteristics of a hero, I see characteristics that define one word and that word is Attitude. It is all about the way of thinking that matters and that is what I want to focus on.  To me Attitude is like the super power I need to conquer evil and to me evil is everything in my life that I am not happy about.  So how do you change your old image to a new one? The answer, change your attitude, be the hero you always wanted to be.  Visualize yourself having the characteristics of a hero, a winner.

Consider this:

  1. What are the attitudes that I admire of other people that I would like to emulate? write it down.
  2. Believe it, see it done, you are a champion, a star and your attitudes match your success.
  3. Re-program your mind: eliminate what you don’t like; what doesn’t make you and the people you love happy.
  4. Start your own movie where you are the star with the same two questions in mind: Does it make me feel happy? Does it make others I care about happy?

You might say, “but I am not good at…” and I’ll say to you to re-ask yourself “what am I good at?” instead. Remember we are what we think of so let’s keep it positive, go on, create the new version of you, the way you always wanted with the attitudes you deeply value and wish for.  I recommend checking out my post about Qualities of a Leader, a Hero’s Creed. It has a good blue print to improve your own version of you.

How to eliminate a habit

First, I must honestly acknowledge that I want to eliminate that habit. I am going to use “smoking” because I used this method to quit smoking almost 10 years ago. You can cite whatever displeases you, but for starters go with a small problem or habit maybe not too over bearing like smoking but perhaps an attitude that bothers you. I didn’t fully understand what I needed to do or feel but was very eager to experiment with it.

  1. Understand that there can be no doubt on me about quitting smoking, I weighed the consequences, what can happen if I don’t quit, how I was not happy about it and neither the people I love. Next, I forgive myself for not being able to do it before but accepted that now it is the time to do it and thank myself for doing it, in taking this important step. This mental clearing process is fundamental to me to conquer any obstacle that prevents me to be happy. You cannot go on if you half want to change something within you. It is all or nothing. You must be true to yourself because after all you will be the only one getting fooled by your own self as the mind completes the picture one thinks about.
  2. Once the first step is achieved, I go to my IMAX 3-D mind screen to start visualizing. For more information about visualization and own experiments with neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) , see my post about the visualization process . At the center of that screen is my problem or habit to break. I see myself smoking my brand of cigarettes in my favorite place as normal as any memory I can recall in color, the smell of cigarette and taste. I am just watching myself for a moment making sure I can see that.
  3. Now I see that image fading away in color, like when about to shut down your PC, the screen fades to black and white and it is not as clear and as vivid as it was. I see myself still smoking but in black and white. As I inhale, I notice that my cigarette taste like dirt and l just inhale a mouthful of dirt.  The taste gets into my mouth, my teeth, the smell is foul like sewer odor and as I try to puff I start to gag. I am aware of this awful taste, the offensive smell and I can see it, taste it and smell it very vividly, chocking me while I continue to puff. Imagine also waking up next day after heavy smoking with this aftertaste in your mouth.
  4. Now I can see this image of me smoking getting smaller and smaller, grainy, soundless, fading, while the taste and smell of dirt is still vivid in my mind. The picture of me smoking grows smaller and smaller, un-distinctive and I move it to the left of my screen. I then imagine in the center of my screen a colorful vision of me looking fit , smelling good, sounding happy, laughing. My skin and hair looks radiant, my body feels energized y lungs feel clear, I can hear better, smell better and see better, clear, vivid, real. My taste is fresh and I see myself as a healthy human being.
  5. Make these images big, larger than life. My image covered the entire screen and you know IMAX screens are huge. I can see the whiter of my teeth and the healthy texture of my skin in detail, my skin feels and smells so good like a load of fresh laundry. My voice is clear, like a singer striking a high note, strong and confident.

Changes did not happen overnight and that didn’t discourage me. I cut back on my consumption and smoking intervals. Check your feelings constantly, making sure you are committed and not given in to temptation because of problems, work, etc. Use the thought clearing process to anchor your convictions. With practice and determination I did it and now so can you.

Qualities of a Leader, a Hero’s Creed

I saw this note during one of my housing inspections, worthy of sharing and emulating. It was a senior community; the note was posted on the bathroom’s vanity mirror of this person’s apartment.

It reads like this,

For 30 days, first thing in the morning, last thing at night, by yourself, in front of the mirror, stand up straight, square your shoulders, look in the eye and quietly, firmly say in the first-person present tense,

“I ________________, am a person of integrity with a good attitude and specific goals. I have a high energy level, am enthusiastic, and take pride in my appearance and what I do. I have a sense of humor, lots of faith, wisdom, and the vision, empathy and courage to use my talents effectively; I have the character and am knowledgeable. My convictions are strong and I have a healthy self- image, passion for what is right, and a solid hope for the future.”

I am an honest, sincere, hard-working person. I am tough but fair and sensitive. I am disciplined, motivated, and focused. I am a good listener and patient, but take decisive action. I am bold and confident, yet humble. I am an encourager, a good-finder, and a forgiving person. I am caring, unselfish and committed. I am a family-oriented, open minded, and an excellent communicator. I am a student, teacher, and a team player. I am personable, optimistic and organized. I am consistent, considerate and resourceful. I am intelligent, competent, persistent and creative. I am health-conscious, “balanced” and “clean”. I am flexible, punctual and thrifty.”

“I am an honorable person who is truly grateful for the opportunity life has given to me. These are the qualities of a winner I was born to be and I fully intend to develop these marvelous qualities with which I have been entrusted. Tonight I am going to sleep wonderfully well. I will dream powerful, positive dream. I will awaken energized and refreshed, and tomorrow is going to be magnificent”.

Powerful isn’t it? To me it is this person’s own version of self identity reprogramming.  It has all the qualities and attitudes of a hero, a leader, a winner, a happy person. Clearly this person wants to improve, is determined to succeed and it is consistent with his goals.

The first and second paragraphs is a declaration of who this person is and will be, in first person, as if already happened because these qualities have been entrusted to this person ( I AM) and does not talk in past tense of who he was. The last paragraph is a call for action, a promise to him/her because he/she is grateful of the opportunities life has given and will continue to offer.

I was very impress, this is a senior after all, whom has lived life and whom generally one would think as at its end of his /her lifetime, just going with the flow. Instead this person decided that anytime is good to improve self and what better time than right now, while enjoying life. How could I not give myself the opportunity to change to who I want it to be. How could I resist not upgrading my current version of me for as new, improved version of me so when I meet my maker, He will look down at me for the things I have done in my life and will tell him and He will be impressed, I bet you!

Part 5: Nutrition- I am what I eat

The most important, most well known factor to a better lifestyle and it is also the most overlooked. I am going however to keep it as simple as I can explain it. I don’t consider myself overweight though I am concerned about the dreaded belly gut. I love to eat and eat the things I should not eat. I am sensitive to lactose which it creates a problem because I love cheese. When I say I do love cheese consider that when I traveled to Holland, I was afraid that customs was going to confiscate my cheese because of the quantity I had. During my years in service, the food available was the good ol’ M.R.E. or meal ready to eat. I was constantly deployed in the field and MRE’s was the “what’s for dinner” and lunch and breakfast. Each bag consists of an appetizer, main course, and a dessert. It was loaded with preservatives for extended shelf life, packing approximately 1,250 calories each bag.  During my deployment to Bosnia, I was eating 4 sometimes 6 of these. One time I ate an MRE dated from WWII, with a real Lucky 7 cigarette included, no kidding. I liked MRE’s, cheese and crackers my favorite appetizer, spaghetti or chicken a la king my favorite meal. Needless to say I got big. I didn’t get fat though because I was constantly exercising whether at the gym or with my duties.

However my digestive system took a huge toll. It became lazy, sluggish and I was feeling just like that tired, unable to concentrate, lacking energy.  I was feeling constipated, bloated and was having problems enjoying the food I love. I tried to cut back on dairy products and avoiding greasy foods also trying herbal supplements. Yet little relief was accomplished. 5 or 7 years passed until I met a friend through an Aikido school who is a Doctor in Natural Medicine. He suggested natural supplements and information to deal with my issue. He also prepared me an individual profile of my health to identify the offenders and areas deficient of nutrients. I too got interested in the subject and through my local library found a book called “Eat Right for Your Type: The Individualized Diet Solution to Staying Healthy, Living Longer & Achieving Your Ideal Weightby Peter J. D’Adamo, ND. He believes blood types affect the digestive system and that some foods good for people of one type are “dangerous” for another.  I am type O, the universal blood type. It is also known as the Caveman’s blood type because it is considered the oldest type of blood in humanity. In short Caveman’s didn’t eat dairy products, they eat meat. Meat is high in Protein and I was not eating much protein. Dairy products were identified as the offending food and should be avoided.

Today, I do my best to eat lean though I cannot say that I am fully diligent on it either. Yes, I fall off the wagon too! I do avoid greasy foods and abstain from buffets or taking big portions, except when I am on vacation. Diet goes out of the window when one is on vacation though there is always room for improvement. My parents are superb cooks, preparing Puerto Rican food with flavor which unfortunately includes oils, condiments, loads of carbohydrates and fat.  I make an exception here because I can’t deny a delicious dish of Puerto Rican flavor. I do compensate by staying active, burning those calories and fat with exercise. I avoid dairy products having occasionally small amounts of cheese so I don’t break cold turkey. Cheese and chocolate are my weaknesses, I admit it.

Alcohol is also a big factor in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I like to have few drinks from time to time and was not considering the amount of empty calories I was consuming, let alone the effects on my liver. Moderation is the key, maintaining alcohol consumption in control. I eliminated beer because the obvious “gut effect” and prefer a glass of Sangria Wine instead. There is more work to do in this area.

So in conclusion, eat right for your blood type, avoid greasy, fatty, fried food. Choose 5 small meals instead of 3 big ones. That is a well balanced portion for breakfast, mid-morning healthy snack, light lunch, healthy mid-day snack and a moderate portion for dinner preferably before 8:00 PM. Avoid eating after this time as most will be stored rather than utilized and you know where that storage is in your body. Use moderation on carbohydrates and proteins, exercise regularly, good cardio- muscle toning program. Drink water and plenty. I think of water as the WD-40 lubricant for the body. It loses a sluggish constipation, penetrates and hydrates my system to protect it from harm. Over all to me is about trial and error when dieting. Try different approaches until you reach your desired weight goal and diet. Identify the food offenders that rob you of energy and don’t help you like candy, over processed foods, sugar in excess, etc. Monitor your progress and adjust accordingly. You are what you eat, as the saying goes, and it shows on your skin, hair, nails, behavior, and performance. So improve it and make your nutrition shine.

Part 4: Flexibility and Mobility

Now to the ground work, the physical aspect for a better lifestyle. I combine everything that has worked for me in the past in the areas of:  Systema, Russian Martial Art, Aikido, Kundalini (the awareness yoga) and Hatha’s Yoga physical postures (asana), poses (mudra), and odd military drills I learned in the Army. I will try to convey them in a simple, non-too technical manner. These are my own work; you can adjust, modify or eliminate what doesn’t work for you and add your own.

You can do these movements while standing, sitting, while laying on the floor, with a friend, your family, a group single or collectively. There are no specifics, no “have to be this way” nonsense. You adjust and modify accordingly.

Couple of key points to make this experience practical and enjoyable:

  1. No pain. You should not feel pain, if you do tone it down. There is no need for injury so you go as far you want and can go without painful tension. Eventually you get there one step at the time and if not that’s ok too; everybody’s body is different, unique.
  2. Breathe! Can’t stress enough. Without breathing, tension builds and instead of feeling aware and relaxed, you will feel anxious and in pain. Give 3 to 5 breaths per movement. That is for each stretch or movement you breathe 3 to 5 times (cycle), releasing tension, stretching and expanding self with each breath. Breathe in and on the exhale extend, breathe in again and extend some more on the exhale. You can also start the breathing on the exhale alternatively. With practice you will be able to stretch and move further with one full, long breath and will be able to extend or squeeze your breath considerably for optimal benefits. Remember full, wave like breaths.
  3. Each stretch or movement must be fluid, non restrictive. Breathing properly will help and keeping your body loose and relaxed. A good posture is essential. Proper body alignment with aid breathing, prevent injuries and keep your joints, muscles, tendons, bones in essence your entire body alive, strong, healthy.

The key for proper alignment is keeping the levels on top of each others. These are the levels: head over shoulders, shoulders over hip, hip over knees, and knees over ankles. When you stand or sit pay attention to your posture. If you slouch, you will note that your body is creating tension and your mind is not focused. As soon as you adjust your body in alignment with the levers your posture will straighten, you will feel aware and focus. Many injuries can be prevented with proper posture and body alignment.

If you’re standing if should feel like this:

  • Your body in alignment with the levels, knees slightly bent ( do not lock your knees)
  • Your arms serve as levers, hanging by your side
  • The center of your body is right around your belly button, you move your body through your center, as a whole, do not twist your body. Think of it as having arrows in your hips and feet. They all should point out in the same direction, always.
  • Your awareness is at the top of your head, inside your mind, it’s your 3rd. eye.

If you’re sitting or lying on the floor, the concept is similar: relaxed, no tension. Ready? Then let’s go!

Step 1: awareness and energy- early morning poses and stretching

  • Breathe; release your body of tension. While standing:
  • Mountain pose- stand relaxed and strong in body alignment feeling grounded like a mountain, still and silent yet alive! 3 cycle breath
  • Tree pose:  while in mountain pose, arms overhead while breathing open handed and expand upwards, grow like a tree while feeling rooted, stable. Alternate one leg tree with one leg to knee like a number 4, take your time regaining your balance. Focus your gaze to a point forward to gain stability, extend upwards, don’t forget to breathe your cycle.
  • Warrior: stand with feet more than shoulder with apart, hands on your hips, bend forward slowly with the breath to half way, then guided with your breath go down until you reach your toes. Don’t worry if you can’t go all the way down. Go as far as you can, remember no pain.
  • Warrior poses: with your feet more than shoulder with apart, arms extended to your sides, looking like a sea star, complete your breath cycle every time extending, releasing the energy through your fingers while stretching.

Now move your left foot outwards bend your knee like doing a lunge, arms extended, head to the left, breathe, you’re a proud warrior.

If you are able, come back to the warrior position, turn left foot outwards, turn and bend your hip sideways to the left and move your left arm down towards your left foot while the right arm is up, turn your head up and look at your right hand. You should be aligned in a triangle form. It is not as complicated as it looks.

If you really want to take it up to another level, slide your left hand forward flat on the floor and raise your right leg straight to the side. Great stretch, turn your head up looking to the right hand if possible. Breathe the tension out, go slowly. Repeat again with the right side.

Come back to mountain pose. You may want to repeat these anytime you feel tired to   create energy. There are other set of Yoga poses that are performed standing, seated, lying down or on the floor with forward bends, leg curls, leg extensions, etc. Common ones are down dog, upward dog, cat stretches and sun salutations. You can add, modify, eliminate or make your own set.  This is one sure way to start the day or anytime you want to create energy. Alternatively, you can use the following energy movements anytime:

  • The Wave: in Systema, the wave is a whole body motion capable of generating powerful movement and can be used in different situations. The wave-like characteristics of the movements resembles a figure 8′, moving in a non-linear dimensional form.
  • Monkey drum- remember the Asian hand held drum with two balls attached to beat against drum when swung side to side? Mr. Miyagi’s used in the Karate Kid movie. Well imagine you body, the stick, in alignment, grounded, knees flexed, and arms, your two balls attached to a string hanging loose on your sides. Now move from the hip. It’s a swing motion that generates energy; it is not upper body movement at all. Think with your hips, the legs are nimble and I feel grounded, strong. My weight is on my lower extremities which are very strong with no tension on the knees.

Step 2: flexibility and mobility

I think of this step as a means to wake up the hundreds of muscles, tendons, ligaments, soft tissue, and bones. You’ll notice that what we are about to do is something you may have been doing already unconsciously. Don’t be shy about using your favorite chant, prayer, affirmation, whatever positive you can say. I usually let my exhale become more audible, releasing even more tension.

  • Start with your face. Using your hands and fingertips rub your face, that’s right as if you just woke up. Make silly faces if you want, have fun while at it. You can rub in rotations using your whole hand or fingertips. The idea is to awaken your nerve and circulation system and everything else that connects through your skin. You get the idea. Now rub your hair, mess it up. Continue with your neck, rubbing the tension out, then your shoulders. Squeeze your arms; rub your hands, your fingers like washing them. It gets your circulation flowing, you can feel a slight tingle.
  • Now using your all your fingers tap the head, face and neck areas. You may hear and feel a vibration on your exhale. Tap the tension out of your chest. It is a tender area that is roughly a full hand above your nipples, slightly below your collar bone. Whenever I feel tension in this area I tap with my middle finger. For your arms, abdominal area, sides, legs etc. use your fists. Make a relaxed fist and “knock” your body parts. You haven’t forgotten about breathing right? Continue to breathe normally and fully.
  • Neck rotationss: side to side, up /down, left /right. Slow rotations
  • Shoulder rotations and stretching: front and back, swing your arms in an X fashion extending and stretching.
  • Hip movement: side to side stretch, hip front and back squeeze, and rotations. Bend your legs half way and bent forwards half way. You should feel in your hamstrings and your buttocks. Expand your buttocks. Yes, that’s right! You should not bend too forward that may get your body out of alignment. Now bend backwards, slowly feeling it on your thighs. The body still in full alignment, head over shoulder, squeezes the hip forward, tuck or tilts your butt forward. This is the equivalent of a pelvis tilt. Caution: you should not bend forward beyond your toes or may get injured. Look at your butt; it should be aligned with your ankles.
  • Knee and ankle rotations: circular left and right rotations
  • Frankenstein movement: this is good movement to feel how your body shifts its weight. Do it slowly. Here it is: while standing normally, tense your legs but do not lock your knees. Slowly shift your body weight to the left. Become aware of how your weight shifts to the left and do not lift your right foot until you feel is right. The right foot should lift naturally without having to adjust or compensate shifting your weight more to the left. Feel the balance, your posture.  Now slowly shift to the right and repeat.
  • The monkey movement: my favorite in Systema. Stand straight up bend your knees slightly. Tip: you may exaggerate bending your knees further to get the feeling more quickly. No pain though. The movement is from your legs, your upper-body; your arms stay loose by your side. Start in a left-right movement shifting your weight from side to side, left to right side. This is similar to the Frankenstein movement, but at a faster pace. However do not rush on it, pay attention to the basics so you can do it right. Once you gain momentum, you’ll notice your arms start to swing naturally like the monkey drum we discussed above.
  • Core Exercises: pushups, sit-ups, leg raises, squats, lunges, sprints, etc.  Try this, instead of doing the push -ups, sit ups, leg raises, and squats mechanically, do them slowly with your breath. Slow up and down continuous movement counting from 1 to 10. The slower the better, but do not forget to breathe. These exercises will build your strength and endurance. Here we count quality versus quantity. Make it count!

All these movements take time and you  want to be patient and not rush any of this because you will lose essentials that come with practice to make it excellent. You don’t want to do something for so long and then find out you were doing wrong or didn’t work. So trial and error is the concept. Try something, give it your very best, learn as much from it, and experience it. If after a considerable time and many things take years to practice let alone master, then if you see that something is not working for you, modify it your way, make it yours, no one is quite the same. If after all did not work don’t despair, you have gained experience and it was not a failure or a waste of time. You can now move on to other methods until you have what you want.