Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sparks Flying: The Gifts of a Teacher

By Susie Crossland-Dwyer

"Without inspiration the best power of the mind remain dormant. 
There is a fuel within us that needs to be ignited with sparks." 
-Johan Gottfried Van Herder

This week I was ignited with sparks from the "Spark Seeker"  himself, Matisyahu. Not only did he create my personal theme song of 2012 (Live Like a Warrior), that got me through a lot of hard days manifesting my dreams, he is also a genius of a human. After venturing to the Taft Theatre for a live performance, he captured my full attention and I intend to keep him as one of my teachers. He is a shining example of the way I want to embrace life and spirit.

Last winter, hours before dawn, I would get into my cold car each morning and let his lyrics envelope me and fill me with strength. "Today, today live like you wanna ..." (Matisyahu). Through his powerful words, he reminded me day-by-day that I COULD do it. I COULD create the life I wanted, the life I had dreamed about for so long. In my many low moments, I was determined to remember. "We all got dreams that we can't let go, we wanna be brave, don't be afraid.""It's your life to live, I can't live it for you." "Search heaven and the seven seas, the answer lies inside you. You know it won't come easy, you've got to find your own truth."

But, it wasn't until seeing him perform live and hearing his real words that I've begun to understand the power of having a teacher. For over two hours, I sat frozen in my seat, captured with absolute awe and completely in the moment. There was no time and space, there was just music--beautiful, powerful music. The lyrics were expertly performed, very real and seemingly directed at my very needs.

Three quarters of the way through the concert, the accompanying band exited the stage and left Matisyahu seated behind a single microphone. Suddenly, another mic appeared in the audience. This was our chance, an opportunity to ask him anything. I froze and stayed grounded in my red velvet theatre seat. But, as others asked away, it became clear--Matisyahu has walked his talk. His lyrics have been plucked directly from his own life experience.

For those that don't know him, part of his musical fame stemmed from the unique blend of his styles--reggae, pop, rap and beat-boxing--as well as the fact that he was an orthodox Jew. But, let the emphasis rest on was an orthodox Jew.

This from Wikipedia:
"On December 13, 2011, Matisyahu posted a beardless picture of himself on Twitter, explaining on his website:
'No more Chassidic reggae superstar. Sorry folks, all you get is me ... no alias. When I started becoming religious 10 years ago it was a very natural and organic process.  It was my choice.  My journey: to discover my roots and explore Jewish spirituality—not through books but through real life.  At a certain point I felt the need to submit to a higher level of religiosity ... to move away from my intuition and to accept an ultimate truth.  I felt that in order to become a good person I needed rules—lots of them—or else I would somehow fall apart.  I am reclaiming myself.  Trusting my goodness and my divine mission.

Get ready for an amazing year filled with music of rebirth.  And for those concerned with my naked face, don’t worry... you haven’t seen the last of my facial hair.' "
He has not let his history affect the possibility of who he wants to be now and in the future. He has refused to be boxed-in by the way people know him. He has decided, instead, to be true to himself.

For much of my adult life I've resisted the idea of having a guru, a mentor, a teacher. But, after my encounter with Matisyahu, I've begun to ask, "why?" Perhaps, it is my independent streak, my need for control. Or, maybe it's my belief in my ability to carve my own path, not to follow in someone else's. But, what I really think is that I was envisioning what I thought a teacher should look like, not what my teacher could look like. Today, I realize I have many teachers that speak to different pieces of who I am and who I want to be. I see a South African woman on a Spinning bike pumping a room with love and inspiration; a beloved parent with a veracious intellect and a heart of gold who would do anything for me; a middle aged guy with curly hair running into the mountains with a copy of Emerson on his hip; or, in this case, a man with Middle Eastern heritage beat-boxing his heart out on a stage.
I knew I couldn't pass up the opportunity to meet this amazing human. We waited for over an hour by his tour bus until he came out of the Taft. One hug, several words later, I was giddy and filled with inspiration.
So, I've decided to take Matisyahu's advice and "... let go of what [I] know ..." because "... all I've got is my life..." You see, in the pursuit of my recent goals, I've come to realize I'm not an independent entity and I can't do it alone. Dream-crafting is tough business and I need help. I need inspiration. I need to see that what I'm aiming to create is possible. I need to surround myself with people who value a similar vision of the world and who will feed me. I need to know that it's okay to be free of who I used to be so that I can be who I'm meant to be.

Thank you, Matisyahu (and all of my teachers of the present and the future). From one spark, there is now a fire burning brightly within me.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Passion > Talent

"You can never be great at anything unless you love it."
-Maya Angelou
 Snow was falling as I performed hills repeats in Alms Park today. 
The silence, breathing of cold air and rhythmic motion of running all "whispered" to me that there is no other place I'm supposed to be but here and now.

Or watch on YouTube:

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Putting the "S" in Smoothie

This video is 3:27. If you have 3:27, you have a smoothie. I challenge you...can you make this smoothie in the length of time it takes to watch the video?

Or watch on YouTube:

One Susie Smoothie Serving
3 bananas (ripe!--brown & spotted) If the bananas aren't truly ripe the recipe will be too bitter/chalky. 
1/2 cup(ish) frozen or fresh organic blueberries
3 large kale leaves (stems removed) or handful of shredded/curled kale
sprinkling of raw cashews (or any other nut)
sprinkling of raw unsweetened organic coconut
1 cup almond milk (regular or vanilla) I use the Almond Breeze brand but any almond milk works.
water for preferred texture

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Workout Inspiration: Hip Strengthening

By Susie Crossland-Dwyer

During my time as an endurance athlete--training for marathons, an ultra-marathon and Ironman--I've been completely injury-free (minus my freak cycling accident that wasn't my fault). I train six days a week for 11 months of the year and have another month that is light training/ full of rest. I credit my success not only to a smart, slowly-building training plan, but also to an ongoing strengthening routine for my core and hips.

As a Personal Trainer and Pilates instructor, I've also successfully used these hip strengthening exercises (below) or something similar with many different populations--other athletes, pre and post-natal women, individuals with limited ability to perform leg exercises that involve flexion/extension of the knees, etc. In all cases, including my own, I've witnessed great results. By performing hip strengthening exercises, my clients and I have achieved better balance, less fatigue over long distances, an easier time performing everyday activities, more stability of the pelvis (which means more balance in the body overall=less injury). Don't believe me? Try them and you be the judge.

Or watch on YouTube:

Hip Strengthening Series = 4 parts (watch video explanation first):
Part 1
-Come onto your side and stack the legs on top of one another. You should be making a straight line with your body and both hips bones should be parallel (not opened up toward the ceiling).
-Your head can rest on the bottom arm or you can be on your forearm for more work in the upper body. You can rest the hand on the floor for more balance or on your hip for less.

-Lift and hold the top leg (feet are pointed or flexed) ~30 seconds or until you feel the muscles (gluteus medius mainly) start to work.

Part 2
-Perform foot taps in front of the base leg and behind the base leg without shifting through the hips.
-To make it harder don't actually tap the foot but hover it right above the floor.
-Perform ~20 taps OR one set of 20 taps and one set of 20 hovers.
Part 3
-Keep the top leg at hip height and flex both feet. 
-Take the top leg from hip height and pulse a few inches higher then bring the leg back down to hip height. Perform ~20 reps or until you feel a little bit of a burn. 
Part 4
-Keep the top leg at hip height once more and make a bicycling-type motion with the leg. 
-Minimize any rock in the pelvis as you move the leg. The smaller the motion, the easier it is to control. 
-Perform ~10-20 reps both forward and backwards. 

Then for phase two of my workout today, I had this face (my husband and training partner--Chris Dwyer) alongside of me while I logged a vertical mile on the stair stepper. Partner workouts are always better!