License to Shine

I adore fall, and public speaking makes me very uncomfortable. And I realize that these two statements seem completely unrelated.

I love everything about fall— the crunch of an apple fresh from the tree, the crispness of a cool October morning, the smell of fire in a fire place— but anyone who has spent any amount of time with me between late September and early November knows that I have one favorite: the buttery yellow, pumpkin orange, and cranberry red of autumn leaves. The sight makes my soul vibrate.20161007_105126

I know that for some, the coming of autumn signals an end— of summer, of shorts, of vacations— but for me fall has always signaled something fresh and new: school years, teachers, projects, and moves to new cities. Nothing epitomizes revelation and creation, both metaphorically and biologically, like the changing fall leaves.
20161006_115235All summer long, the tree basically punches the clock doing its workaday routine. It soaks up rays and pumps sunshine through chlorophyll to produce carbs and plump its trunk. Around the time the fall television season premieres, the nighttime gains a few minutes of darkness and sparks an entire metamorphosis. That’s when the colorful magic happens. The green face the tree had presented to the world fades, revealing yellow and orange personalities that were hiding incognito the whole time. Some, but not all trees have a talent that’s only brought to light, if you will, by the stress of trying to stock up on goodies before winter hits. If it’s one of the lucky ones that can, it concocts then displays spanking new red and purple pigments to protect it while it works overtime at the harvest.

cropped-yellow-orangeThis fall, as you gaze at the swashes of color painting the hillsides and lining the streets, I challenge you to look beyond the hues.

What skills, talents, and dreams are lying dormant but just below the surface in you?

Is there something that you’ve secretly wanted to share or become, but the day-to-day grind or personal insecurities have kept you from allowing its expression?

Is there anything that you hold onto out of habit- an old commitment, a toxic relationship, a belief or behavior that no longer serves you- that if you let go of it, would make room for something different and beautiful to surface?

How can you turn a stressor into an impetus for change?

What could you do to nourish and sustain yourself through the new adventure ahead?

As I mentioned before, public speaking makes me very uncomfortable. I still tend to wake with a slightly sick feeling on random days weeks before I have to present, despite attending over a year of Toastmasters, having spoken in front of a number of groups, and having been interviewed on both local and national television. I’ve always been more comfortable one on one, socially and professionally, but there are things I want to do that require standing up and opening my mouth in front of more than one person or my pets. I know that some of my discomfort stems from lingering tendrils of perfectionism. I keep thinking I’ve successfully weeded it out only to rediscover shoots pushing up through my subconscious and winding around my psychic trunk like kudzu. I’m ready to prune this time. Embracing the wisdom of the changing leaves, I’m willing to let go of the need to be perfect, and I’m committed to doing a number of speaking engagements and workshops this fall. The truth is, I’m really excited about the topics and the activities, and I’m eager to get out of my own way.

In the big cycle of life, the season of change will approach again and again, by choice or by chance. In the middle of that sometimes uncomfortable juncture between what is and what will be, I invite you to go within and find what you need to reach outwards and upwards. Then embrace transformation. Go for the gold, and what the heck, maybe toss in a few bold splashes of red, while you’re at it. cropped-hillsideBe well.

To learn more about me or what I do, please visit http://www.lisenaugle.com.

 

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For anyone who has lost someone they love

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I need to confess that this particular blog entry is a shameless promotion, but it’s for a very good cause: a documentary film called Voices of Grief, Honoring the Sacred Journey. The film weaves personal stories from those who have lost loved ones with a variety of insights from respected grief educators, authors, doctors, and spiritual leaders to explore the experience of grief in the 21st century. As many of you know, I have historically worked one on one with patients and clients to optimize whole health and wellness but am now expanding what I do in order to help more people through various forms of media, online webinars (coming soon), educational events and public speaking in addition to my individual consults. When a grief educator and one of the executive producers, Kathy Sparnins, invited me, in November of 2013, to join her and co-producer, Deborah Collins, in the making of this documentary, I jumped at the opportunity. I believe that this film is vitally important, and I welcomed the opportunity to help bring the concept to fruition in a format that can potentially reach millions of people.filming marianne cropped

Grief is stressful. In fact, in the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory, a tool used to measure stress associated with common life events, the death of a spouse is number one; the death of a close family member is among the top five. In the film, we acknowledge such issues as difficulty communicating about grief and cultural expectations to “get over it” quickly, touch upon the physical effects that grief and suppression of grief can have on the body, and explore the value of such things as ritual, art, and telling one’s story in coping with loss. However, although the film offers ideas and suggestions for both the bereaved and their supporters, it is not a paint by number guide to grieving. Rather, it is a recognition of and tribute to each individual’s unique navigation through the intersection of love and loss.

Grief is generally thought of as negative, but the experience of grief is complex. Living through it, we are changed. New perspectives on life are forged from the fire of loss. As we work to come to terms with a death, honor the love that remains, and integrate the experience, our view of self, of life, and connection to others is transformed. Allowing expression of that transformation through action can give rise to gifts of altruism, acts of compassion, creation of art, and opportunities to change- not only who we are, but the world in which we live. Hopefully, with gentleness, mindfulness, and acceptance of the grief experience— including all its heartbreak and challenges— we can ultimately open the path to a healthier, more compassionate and loving society.

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The VOG team and an interviewee, Marianne Williamson

Thank you to everyone joining us for the world premiere on March 6. We are overcome by the response. Our venue of 750 seats is filled to capacity.

For those of you who won’t be there, we’ll soon offer complimentary streaming access of the film to all US hospice organizations.

To learn about upcoming film screenings, please visit http://voicesofgrief.org/events/.  To learn more about what I do, please visit http://www.lisenaugle.com. Thank you for reading.

 

The snowfolk effect

11081412_10155331771640704_294796416675817332_nLast winter some friends and I attended a skijoring tournament in a quaint Colorado mountain town. Skijoring is a crazy event in which a horse and rider run at full gallop pulling a snow skier at the end of a rope much like a water skier. The horse pounds down the center of the road while the skier careens from one side to the other to jump a series of ramps and finally joust a set of rings. As we watched the competitors, a young girl and her family stood beside us at the edge of the sidewalk. After a while, the girl squatted down and patted together a tiny snowman and placed him in the middle of the sidewalk. A few pedestrians milling about passed and smiled, a little unsure of what to think, before moving on. Then a boy about twelve years old walked by and kicked it down. A hearty round of “boos” rose from everyone who saw what had happened.

When I looked over at the girl, she was blushing, too shy to make another, though I could tell she wanted to. After a moment, I turned around and scooped up some snow. Before I could finish forming it into a snowball, another woman bent down to help me.  We carried our new snowperson onto the sidewalk and made another. Then another appeared. Pretty soon our patch of sidewalk was populated by a family of miniature snowfolk. patting snowballsAs pedestrians approached, they slowed. They smiled. They changed course so as not to disturb the little guys. They laughed. They took pictures. Couples holding hands lifted their clasped hands up and over the frozen family as they passed, and everyone along the sidewalk acted as guardians of the little individuals.

Watching people’s lips spread into smiles as they approached became more captivating than the event we had originally come to see. I marveled at how something so simple as a few stacked snowballs had the power to create such a sense of community and inspire such joy. Witnessing the transformation of a wet sidewalk bordered by strangers into a gauntlet of delight among friends literally moved me to tears. It was absolutely magical.cropped snowperson smiles

I think that we humans have a knack for making certain things incredibly complicated when they are really quite simple. Joy doesn’t come from expensive presents. It doesn’t require extravagant overtures. Joy is right here, right now waiting to enchant us as soon as we’re willing to open our hearts to it. All it needs is an invitation, even if it’s just from a young girl and a few frozen snowballs.

Wishing you and yours a joyous holiday season.

(For more information about what I do, please visit http://www.lisenaugle.com)

Stress and Sweets, a Dangerous Duo

scream 2 morgueYou’ve experienced the stress hungries. You’re twenty minutes into rush hour traffic that’s not rushing anywhere while flashbacks from your boss’s daily tantrum loop in your head like an ice cream truck’s tune. Your heart pounds and your hands squeeze the life from the steering wheel. The next exit promises a donut shop and suddenly all you want is warm, round, sugar glazed yumminess.
donut morguefile

The perfect hormonal storm

When you’re first under stress, your body immediately shifts into emergency mode due to signals from the sympathetic branch of the nervous system, priming your body to either fight or flee from the stressor. Under the sympathetic nervous system’s influence, your body releases hormones that alter heart rate, breathing, and blood flow, and some of these suppress appetite— for a brief period. Soon after, though, your body secretes another stress hormone, cortisol, which increases appetite, weakening your defenses to the call of the donut.

Another hormone, ghrelin, is also released during stress. Associated with feelings of anxiety, it’s a potent appetite stimulant, particularly for foods high in calories, sugar, and fat. Eating these foods suppress ghrelin’s secretion and consequently —you guessed it— relieves some of the associated feelings of anxiety. Thanks to these stress hormones, some people develop “food addictions” to these comfort foods and habitually turn to junk foods under the influence of stress.

So what?

Unfortunately, the calming action of eating these foods is short term. If stress isn’t managed another way, the negative effects of these hormones and a stress-eat-stress cycle can have long term consequences such as

  • Robbing the body of B vitamins, the family of vitamins required for energy production and stress resilience
  • Increasing cravings, blood pressure, and heart rate
  • Promoting insulin resistance, one of the first steps in the development of diabetes
  • Stimulating abdominal fat storage, which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes
  • Worsening reactive hypoglycemia, blood sugar drops after eating that cause hunger, shakiness, sleepiness, sweating, anxiety, lightheadedness, and confusion

Strategies when the stress-hungries hit

When you notice yourself becoming stressed and your anxiety level ratcheting up, there are measures you can take to defend yourself against a stress binge.

Breathebreath morgue

As simple as it sounds, breathing (properly) can actually change your physiology and reduce stress. Remember the sympathetic nervous system and the so called “fight or flight reaction” that kicks in under stress? Under sympathetic influence, respiration becomes faster and shallower. A different branch of the nervous system, the parasympathetic branch, supports relaxation. By simply slowing your inhalations and exhalations and breathing more deeply— into your belly rather than your upper chest— for several minutes, you can switch control of your nervous system from team sympathetic to team parasympathetic and turn off secretion of the hormones that are triggering your cravings.

Exercise

DANCERS FIVE-SILHOUETTE-FEMALEmorgueExercise is one of the best natural stress-busters around. Although high intensity exercise can temporarily raise cortisol levels, lower intensity exercise seems to reduce them, and both high and low intensity exercise can blunt some of the negative effects of stress through the tremendous cascade of biochemicals they release. Exercise also increases insulin sensitivity (the opposite of insulin resistance) and improves appetite regulation. Even a ten minute walk, a quick burst of jumping jacks, or an impromptu dance jam at your desk can begin to reduce stress hormones and the cravings they cause.

Drink and eat wisely

If you can’t resist those appetite-boosting hormones altogether, you can put things in your mouth that will help to dampen cravings rather than increase them. First of all, drink. (No, I’m not talking about rum and Coke.) Drinking plain water can help you feel more satiated. Drinking warm (non-caffeinated) teas that include calming herbs such as lavender, eleuthero, or chamomile can help you feel more relaxed as well. If you must eat, avoid the simple sugars and high fat foods that your stress hormones are encouraging. Instead, choose high fiber foods with complex carbs and some protein to help stabilize your blood sugar, cortisol, and insulin levels. A lettuce wrap with chicken and veggies, an apple with nut butter, or carrot sticks with hummus are some good options.

Everybody gets stressed, but you don’t have to let stress hormones control your food choices, your waistline, and your wellbeing. Exercise your right to exercise, breathe with awareness, treat your body to foods and drinks that support a balanced biochemistry, and let your stress hormones and the cravings they instigate wither away.

(for more information about what I do, please visit http://www.lisenaugle.com)

Paleo, Vegetarian, and Mediterranean- can we all get along?

smiling pears

Although nutrition is only one of many areas I work with, as soon as someone learns that I help people improve their health and wellness, the immediate response, almost invariably, is to tell me about a diet or ask me what to eat. The truth is, a one size fits all diet doesn’t exist. When I help someone with their eating, we talk about much more than food choices. We examine their ability to digest and absorb nutrients, explore their goals and motivation to eat better, discover their attitudes and emotions around eating, and we evaluate the possibility of food sensitivities. (Here I offer more information about detecting these: http://adrenalfatigue.org/eliminating-food-allergies-sensitivities-and-intolerances/)

Nevertheless, after we address all these elements, the question of what to eat remains. Since I can’t walk through this whole process with each of you personally, instead of debating which diet is best, I’m going to share five points on which the experts supporting of three of the most popular diets— vegetarianism, The Paleolithic Diet (aka “Paleo”) and the Mediterranean Diet— all seem to agree. These commonalities can be used as guiding principles to evaluate your choices within any diet.

1. Limit refined carbohydrates and avoid gluten if sensitive

First of all, proponents of all of three diets agree on the importance of eating foods with a low glycemic load, that is, foods that don’t cause blood sugar to rise dramatically. Anything made with flour, sugar, or other refined carbohydrates can spike blood sugar, which in turn can contribute to a host of problems including insulin resistance, diabetes, obesity, inflammation, and heart disease. In addition, people with gluten sensitivity should definitely avoid gluten containing grains and flours. (The evidence accumulating about gluten’s effects on the body in sensitive individuals is so vast, I’ll revisit the topic in a future blog.)

2. Load up on veggies, fruits, and more veggiesraspberries

Veggies and fruits (especially low glycemic fruits, particularly for Paleo proponents) are like superfoods. Each of the diets I mentioned recommends that we eat at least 30% of our calories come from them . Since fruits and vegetables tend to be low in calories, 30% of calories can translate to 50% of the food we eat! Eating a variety of colors provides a range of phytonutrients— natural chemicals that offer protection against a number of diseases, including cancer. Fiber-rich fruits and vegetables also support colon health and slow the absorption of carbohydrates, helping to prevent spikes in blood sugar.

3. Get sufficient Protein

There is no argument that protein and its building blocks, called amino acids, play vital roles in almost every biological process in our bodies. Proteins and amino acids give structure to cells, transport nutrients, repair tissue, protect against infection, and act as messengers to transmit information from one cell to another. Adequate protein also helps to control appetite.

There is, however, some disagreement between dietary advocates about what the source of our protein should be. Obviously, vegetarians believe plant based protein is the best choice, such as from beans, nuts, and high protein grains such as quinoa; Paleo proponents are fine with animal protein but choose to limit grains and legumes; and Mediterranean diet supporters advocate choosing lean animal protein as well as plant based protein. Still, everyone agrees that if you do choose to eat animal protein, it should be cleanly raised— that is wild caught, grass fed, or sustainably raised and free of antibiotics and hormones. If you choose to eat fish, focus on the ones lowest in mercury. (A list of high and low mercury fish can be found here: http://www.nrdc.org/health/effects/mercury/guide.asp)

4. Eat quality fats

seeds

Low fat diets, once believed to be a panacea for weight loss and health, are now as passé as Beanie Babies, Pokémon and other 90’s fads. As research has accumulated, we have discovered that a high carb, low fat diet is actually counter-productive to vibrant health. One of the main reasons (in addition to those in #1) is that a low fat diet shuns all fats with no distinction among types. In fact, trans fatty acids and partially hydrogenated oils should definitely be avoided, but quality fats, such as coconut oil and omega-3 fatty acids, should not. Two omega-3s, EPA and DHA, are primarily found in wild caught fish, while a different omega-3, ALA, is found in nuts and seeds. These healthy fats support healthy mood, brain structure and function, and reduce inflammation, Coconut oil also supports healthy brains, provides a ready source of energy, may help with weight loss, and has even been shown to help animals handle stress. Nuts, seeds, avocados, virgin coconut oil, and wild caught salmon are great sources of healthy fats.

5. Choose real, whole foods and avoid chemicals

Nobody should be eating a chemistry experiment. Experts agree that natural, whole, organic, and local foods when possible are the best default dietary position. Pesticides, artificial sweeteners, chemicals, preservatives, hormones, and probably GMO foods should be avoided whenever possible.

So there you go, five simple principles to keep in mind as you make choices about what to put in your mouth, regardless of which diet you’re following. I’ve known vegetarians who practically live on macaroni and cheese; I’ve seen people eat a plateful of nitrate-laden bacon in the name of Paleo; and I’ve seen others engulf loaves of whole grain bread believing that’s okay on a Mediterranean diet. Amid all the confusion and disagreement about what and how to eat, when the smoke clears a few fundamental principles remain. Bon appétit, and nourish yourself well.

(For more information about what I do, please visit my website at http://www.lisenaugle.com)

Playing away Stress on the Kokopelli Trail

IMG_6641I recently returned from a wonderful four day getaway to Fruita, a little place on the Western Slope of Colorado where the Colorado River chisels deep canyons into surrounding sandstone. I camped out, ate good food, and spent a lot of time mountain biking, hiking, and laughing with a great group of friends. Usually when I go on a trip, the anticipation is as much a part of the experience as is actually placing my foot (or knobby tires) on new territory. This time, though, I was so busy juggling multiple projects before I left that I barely had time to think about the trip, much less look forward to it. When it did cross my mind, it popped up as just another “to do” on my calendar. On the day of departure, packing, prepping, and loading took longer than anticipated and we pulled out of town later than we’d hoped and more stressed than we’d have liked. Somewhere along the stretches of highway between here and there, though, my mind let go of upcoming meetings, unfinished projects, unseen clients, and unwritten pages. Little by little, the vibrant, distilled sky that covers the Rocky Mountain State like a blue aerial blanket drew my attention, as did the tufts of pink blossoms erupting from the crabapples and the snowcapped shoulders of the mountain peaks. I relaxed into the easy banter and reflective musings that tend to pepper any long distance trip, and by the time I set up my tent, I was laughing aloud as the wind and I played tug of war with my half dome.

Although the hike we did was technically a walk in the park, a beautiful 5 1/2 mile walk through Colorado National Monument Park, our mountain bike rides were anything but. IMG_6647Exploring the Kokopelli trail system and the Book Cliffs, our longest ride covered 18 miles of tire-puncturing scrabbly canyon riding complete with technical features, hike-a-bikes, thigh popping ascents, and shock rocking descents. In contrast, our evenings were mellow, filled with the warm aromas of dinner cooked over tiny backpacking stoves, animated accounts and opinions of the day’s ride, impromptu tandem yoga, and rounds of word-linking Bananagrams. Four days later I drove home with the the dusty desert in my rearview mirror, the mountains towering ahead of me, and the realization that in those four days, my stress had melted away into the canyons as the snow on the peaks would soon do.

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Play is an amazing stress-buster. Since 75-90% of all doctor visits are for stress-related issues, it’s a shame that almost no one gets invited to “come out and play” after the age of eight. Stress and the physiological changes it creates in the body contribute to the development of heart disease, cancer, stroke, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease and more. Play reduces stress hormones. When we’re under high stress, our sympathetic nervous system (the part of our nervous system that takes control when it perceives an emergency) becomes aroused and increases our heart rate, changes the way we metabolize fat and carbohydrates, increases inflammation in our bodies, makes us feel anxious, and focuses our attention very narrowly. A playful and relaxed mood stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (the part of the nervous system that supports regrowth and regeneration and turns down those damaging stress hormones). Activation of the parasympathetic nervous system enhances immune function, lowers blood pressure, supports digestion and utilization of our food, and promotes imagination, creative thinking and the ability to problem solve. A playful attitude and laughing with others can help our relationships, fostering intimacy, compassion, and trust. Play also boosts endorphins, those neurotransmitters that promote a sense of well-being and decrease pain. Finally, inducing positive emotions, as through play, can even stimulate the growth of new neurons in adults! Perhaps if we played more, we’d develop fewer stress related disorders and remain healthier as we age. George Bernard Shaw  said, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” And he didn’t even own a mountain bike.

 

(For more information about what I do, please visit my website: http://www.lisenaugle.com)

Seeing the Invisible

music score

I learned to play the saxophone as an adult, so my memories of the experience are recent. After about two months of intense focus on note reading and beat counting, my instructor introduced me to musicality, or “reading between the notes.”

Using the piece that I had been playing for the past three weeks, my teacher started showing me all kinds of symbols on the page: dots and lines above notes, < or > above measures, and words printed on the score, such as pianissimo, forte, and andante. As he pointed to each one, the symbols literally appeared before my eyes. I don’t mean that I finally took the time to study them, I mean I had never even noticed their existence on the page. I had been so focused on whether a particular note was an A or a B or an E or an F that none of those marks had even penetrated my consciousness. To my conscious brain, the symbols didn’t exist until that moment.

Almost all the information that reaches our brain has to go past a sort of gatekeeper in the brainstem called the reticular activating system, or RAS. The RAS has a wide variety of functions, but arguably, one of its most fascinating jobs involves controlling our attention and awareness and determining whether we should pay attention to something or ignore it. This ability to discriminate is a live saver in terms of survival. If you’re a pigeon munching out in the park, a well-functioning RAS will let you basically ignore the other chowing pigeons so that you can scarf your bread crumbs in your happy zone, but the RAS will immediately activate your arousal mechanism and tell you to beat it as soon as you spot a hungry hawk. The RAS also filters out unimportant stimuli and makes it possible to do things like read a novel in a coffee shop. It tunes out the jazz music, the baristas’ banter, and the clumsy customer spilling his cappuccino two tables away to let you focus on your newest page-turner. The RAS also gives you a figurative nudge to the ribs when something comes up that interests you. Ever notice how you can be in the living room, busily balancing your checkbook, and not hear a conversation in the kitchen at all until someone mentions your name? Then your ears perk up like Yoda’s.

As helpful as the RAS is, if we’re not careful, we can walk around in automatic pilot, tuning into only a tiny fraction of life because our RASs think they know what’s important. Right now, before you read any further, I’d like you to stop for a moment and try a little exercise here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJG698U2Mvo (I promise, it’ll be fun.)

How did you do? In the original study, 46% of people failed to notice the gorilla.* I don’t know about you, but sometimes in life, I can get so focused on my tasks or problems that I ignore really important information without even realizing it. Personally, I think music is a lot better when you pay attention to all those funny little symbols and words on the score; I also think it’s a good idea to notice when a gorilla comes into your midst. If we can be oblivious to words on a page and great apes in our ballgames, what else do we miss?  Who don’t we see? What solutions seem invisible? What new ideas or opinions don’t we hear? On the other hand, what new friends, answers, or perspectives are right under our noses waiting for the RAS to give them a break? Is it possible that the “reality” we take for granted is really a just dependent variable?

Today I challenge you to open your awareness and see the invisible.

(For more information on what I do, please visit http://www.lisenaugle.com)

*Simons, D.J. Chabris, C. F. Gorillas in our midst: sustained inattentional blindness
for dynamic events. Perception, 1999, vol 28, pages 1059- 1074.

Spinning into Balance

Last night at dance class, we were exploring spins, rotational movements in which the pivot point is contained within the dancer’s body (as opposed to turns, in which the pivot point is outside the dancer). After reviewing the fundamentals of spinning, our instructor asked us to stand on one foot, not spinning, not moving, just standing. For most of us— but not all— that was relatively easy. Then she increased the challenge. While still standing on that one foot, she had us close our eyes. Immediately, a number of people toppled. (I know this even though my eyes were shut because I could hear the thumps as feet hit the floor.)

In the physical body, balance is maintained by three main things:
1.    The inner ear. It is made of three fluid-filled semi-circular canals that sit at different angles. As your body rotates, the fluid in the canals moves. This movement triggers sensors in the canals that detect and interpret the direction of your head. If you’ve ever had an infection in the inner ear, you know the horrible vertigo that messed up inner ear signals can cause.
2.    Proprioception. This is a ten dollar word for the awareness of where your body is in space using messages from receptors in your skin, muscles, and joints. Imagine you’re in a dark theater and you get a tickly sensation that feels like a spider is crawling up your left calf. Fast as a fly swatter, you can reach down in and slap the spot. Although you do it without thinking, it’s proprioception that lets you know how to make your hand hit that tickly spot is even when you can’t see your hand, your leg, or the imaginary spider.
3.    The eyes. Your eyes send sensory information to your brain about your position and orientation in space. To get a sense of how important vision is to balance, try the exercise I described at the beginning.

So why am I talking about the fundamentals of spinning and encouraging you to stand on one foot with your eyes closed? Because taking away external visual cues while standing on one foot brings the internal cues required for balance into sharper focus and forces you to rely on those cues alone. In dance, closing your eyes is the best way to tune into your true center and evaluate your internal alignment, and the lessons we learn in the creative arts are often the lessons of life contained in a more manageable package. It’s easy to feel like you’re maintaining your balance when you’re relying someone or something else for support: a dance partner, a barre, a life partner, a status-filled job, or the promise of a matching 401K. It’s helpful to focus on an external focal point or target while executing a spin or aiming for a goal. It’s also common to be distracted by the movements of other dancers or your peers when you’re looking outwards. All of these external stimuli provide useful information and assistance, but they don’t provide everything. Only you can know what you need to do be in alignment with yourself and your purpose. Only by momentarily ignoring all the external attention grabbers and support structures, shutting your eyes, and focusing within (particularly while standing on one foot!) can you get in touch with your very own personal sense of balance. Once you do that, you can trust that next step forward, knowing that you are in complete alignment with your center.spin(For more information about what I do, please visit http://www.lisenaugle.com)