Who, me? A Snowbird?

Who, me? A Snowbird?

It began as a daydream. The idea of escaping to Florida got encouragement from my son and daughter-in-law. Then the New England winter strongly reinforced it. And suddenly it began to feel like it could become a reality. Despite all of the urging, there was a lot of resistance on my part. Could I afford it? Would my classes suffer? Would my clients feel as though I’d abandoned them? Would I be lonely or bored?

The main issue, though, was that I’d never thought of myself as a Snowbird. I had envisioned them as grey-haired, decrepit, old people escaping the harsh winter months because they couldn’t hack it. They were burned out and frail; they didn’t have the gumption or energy to make it through the colder months. That wasn’t me!

In retrospect, I have to admit that I was finding the ice, frigid temperatures, and shoveling of snow more onerous than in the past. In order to counteract the winters, I had been taking one-week vacations to beautiful scenic spots for several years – the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Belize. These vacations seemed to restore both my body and soul, and I returned to New England each time feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. 

Last February, I returned from a snorkeling trip where my hair, long-dyed, lost much of its color. Although I had contemplated letting my hair go gray for a couple of years, I always seemed to pull back from actually committing to the process. I knew it would take years for my natural gray to fully return, as my hair is long, and I balked at chopping it all off. After this particular trip, it just seemed to be the right time, and I am now a multi colored woman! Grey/silver hair for about 6 inches, then a mixture of browns with a couple of brightly colored green and blue streaks underneath.

So, I had now achieved 2 out of the 3 items in my list of what made up a snowbird: I had grey hair and admittedly I was getting older. But decrepit – never! This is when I realized that aging itself is a choice. If I didn’t limit myself in terms of physical activity and health, why did I need to limit myself in terms of how I thought about being a snowbird? In fact, there were many advantages to spending time in Florida in February!

Miami Beach – warm, humid, flowers and leafy trees, ocean, and family! My son and daughter-in-law had moved here over a year ago and my grandson was just 7 months old! One of my best friends and energy medicine colleagues lived in Miami. No snow, no cold outside temperatures or dry roasting hot rooms inside the house. No need to put on excessive layers of clothing. I could enjoy the beauty of a new place, discover new neighborhoods, meet new people, and push myself to explore what was unfamiliar. Being a snowbird no longer seemed to be about shortcomings but more about breaking limiting habits, thoughts, and boundaries.

In this first short week, I have moved into a small but perfect, for me, cottage in a neighborhood that I most likely would never have seen had I stayed in a South Beach hotel. The area is filled with extravagant new mansions that face the bay but also more modest homes that were built years ago. Walking around, I have discovered fantastic gardens, elaborate wrought-iron gates, and wildly varied styles of architecture. There are no high-rises here, and the trees are filled with birds and squirrels while little lizards scurry to get out of the way of my feet on the sidewalk.

I am walking everywhere here and sometimes think I know better than the maps I consult on my phone. That leads me to investigate places that I would never have been seen otherwise. The free trolley is a boon, though sometimes they don’t stop because they are full. This means I have to be patient and temper my expectations while I wait for the next trolley. Each day, I am reminded of how much I am driven by my schedule and routine at home.

Learning how to live in a new environment compels me to create new mental maps. How do I get the things I need when I don’t know where to get them? How do I get to those places without a car? What are the basics that I really need to survive and thrive? What can I live without that I never imagined? It begins to narrow down what is essential away from what is superfluous.

Perhaps what this experience is teaching me is to see more clearly without the filter of external expectations, imagined limitations, and unrealizable ambitions. To acknowledge all my attainable desires and wants and needs. To release what is not attainable or even realistic. As Joseph Campbell so succinctly noted, “We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”

After all, going on this journey to a new place and learning how to create a life here in Miami Beach isn’t the most difficult of challenges. I’m not completely alone and English is spoken here. But in a sense, it’s like going to a strange and unfamiliar country. I have to relearn myself and figure out where I fit into the new environment. I am evaluating who I am becoming at this stage in my life and looking at future possibilities.

My maternal grandparents visited San Miguel de Allende in Mexico when they were in their middle seventies for five months. Part of their motivation was my grandmother’s lifelong interest in painting. For me, they serve as an example of what is possible at an older age. We don’t have to stay home and wither away. We are fully capable of continuing to grow until our physical death, capable of rejuvenating who we are through new experiences and exposure to the unfamiliar, capable of finding new passions that fuel ongoing dreams.

It is important for each of us to try out new circumstances, to venture outside of our comfort zones, to reach for the unknown but often dreamt of. The novel experience doesn’t have to be extreme, and we don’t even have to travel away from home to encounter a fresh adventure. However, for me, this time my adventure was becoming a Snowbird.

Sheila Peters is a certified Eden Energy Medicine Clinical Practitioner, Reiki Practitioner, and shamanic practitioner. She also teaches classes and workshops in Stretch/Body Awareness, Energy Body Tune-up, and Jazz Dance. For more information, email Sheila at: sheilapetersdance@gmail.com, call 781-354-0725, or visit Sheila’s website at: www.energymedicineanddance.com.

© 2020 by Sheila Peters. All rights reserved.

Patience vs. Action

Move forward! On to the next thing! Onwards and upwards!

 

I just was outside walking in the wind – clouds were scudding furiously across the sky. The gusts were close to 35 miles an hour. They took me by surprise and pushed me in the opposite direction than my feet were leading.  As the air rushed past my face making my pony tail fly straight out in back of me, I felt some of the musty thought cobwebs being blown clean out of my head.

 

Could the windy day be a metaphor for my life? Was my impatience to get somewhere leading me in the wrong direction? Or was my attempt at plodding patience heading me down the wrong path? Where was the wind pushing me – towards my vision or away from it?

 

Patience or the lack thereof has played a large part in my life. Knowing its proper place has been a conundrum for me at times. When a man took me to the top of a hill overlooking the sea at sunset and asked me to marry him, I jumped right in and agreed. I had known him for only 6 months. Perhaps because my agreement had been so impulsive and quick, I mustered the necessary patience to stay in that marriage for 16 long years.

 

During my formative years of dance training, I drank in not only technique but the concept of discipline. Progress in perfecting the instrument of a dancer often goes at a slow pace. Consistent practice, hard work and patience with the process are essential.  I was and still am capable of great “staying power”.

 

However, often my first response is a desire for action. During spats with family members or friends, I usually am the first to reach out with an olive branch. Around conference tables, I quickly assume the role of peacemaker for conflicting viewpoints. Long discussions that replay the issues over and over again drive me to distraction. I want to get out into the world, move on, and take action!

 

Still, I was recently reminded again that waiting patiently has its rewards. Restraining from personally creating a solution and allowing the differing parties to find their own way produced the appropriate answer to a conflict. It was a resolution that meant more because it evolved organically. Rather than me impatiently imposing a remedy for the impasse, the disagreement’s solution was able to come from the antagonists because there was no need to rush.

 

There is, obviously, a proper time for patience and, alternatively, a suitable time for action. It sometimes is hard to know the difference.

 

 

© 2012 by Sheila Peters. All rights reserved.

 

Anticipation

As dancers, we learn the importance of anticipation. We prepare ourselves to launch into a jumping and leaping sequence so that we hit our most dramatic height at the correct time. We estimate the space and rhythm needed to arrive at the high point over and over again during rehearsals. So when we are on stage it appears effortless. More than that, it becomes engrained in our bodies.

 

Anticipating evolves into a habitual behavioral pattern for most dancers. We use it outside of the dance studio as well. On busy streets, we can sense the general configuration of pedestrian traffic and anticipate the openings and slip through them without conscious thought. Spatial awareness and timing have been practiced so much that we, as dancers, seem to flow through our travels.

 

Dancers may have different perceptions of anticipation. There are those dancers that consistently are early on the beat or just a hair late. Experienced choreographers learn to use these slight discrepancies to enhance their dance pieces. A dancer that is always early isn’t necessarily the best choice to utilize as the leader in a section that needs absolutely strict adherence to timing. However, in a composition that finds its power mostly in emotional expression, the early anticipator might be the perfect dancer to foreshadow what is to come in the composition.

 

Like musicians with perfect pitch that agonize when a fellow singer is off key, dancers that are on the mark find that moving with early or late anticipators can cause them to wince. In such cases, the dancers involved must learn to adjust their individual sense of anticipation to accommodate all of the movers in a way that makes the choreographer’s vision a success.

 

This sense of anticipation can carry over into our personal relationships as well. We discern the slight shifting of bodies that signifies it’s time to say goodbye when we meet up with our friends and family. We perceive the sleepiness of a toddler before the fists come up to rub the eyes. We are aware of the ebb and flow of those we interact with – the space and rhythm of the life around us.

 

Sometimes we know more than others want to reveal. Unconsciously observing loved ones through this habit of anticipation, we can know when a love relationship is over before the partner is even aware of his own feelings. Or we can see that a colleague is about to depart for greener grass at another job before anyone else recognizes it. Or we grasp the consequences of the vehicles at a stoplight and brace for the accident before it happens.

 

Outside of the studio, reevaluation of anticipation in personal relationships occurs as well. What seems slow to one person may feel like breakneck speed to the other. What is most important is finding the spacing and rhythm that works best for both to achieve the common vision. The relationship composition should be a fit for each person.

 

If all else fails, the choreographic alternative is to find another dancer with a more complimentary sense of anticipation.

 

 

© 2012 by Sheila Peters. All rights reserved.

Take your gloves off but stay in the arena!

Take your gloves off but stay in the arena!

When a conflict arises there are traditionally several ways to deal with it. One is all out war! That means that a person isn’t willing to compromise and that he is absolutely sure that he is right – there’s no wiggle room. It’s a “take no prisoners” thought process and often leads to total destruction – of a relationship, a company, a country, or a person. War requires a willingness to live in a black and white world. For such a person the many shades of grey don’t exist.

 

A less extreme method of dealing with conflict is to listen to an opposing argument while acknowledging that the differing opinion might hold some validity. Being open to compromise can result in a solution where both sides of the dispute can find some kind of satisfaction. However, for some, the word compromise carries a negative aura. Such people equate compromise with defeat and failure.

 

Another tactic is avoidance. If she avoids any contact with the opposition, she can pretend that the disagreement doesn’t exist. It might be simmering below the surface, but there is no need to make any declaration or defining stance which might lead to an unpleasant interaction. Damage may be going on by using the avoidance tactic; however, it’s not easily discernible to eyes that refuse to see.

 

The most effective way to deal with a skirmish is to collaborate. Collaboration goes beyond compromise. Not only are the opposing factions willing to listen to the other side, they actively seek a solution that meets the needs of each viewpoint. This is the most mature way of dealing with discord. It can help create a harmony that is sustainable over the long haul.

 

On the road to a healthy lifestyle, a person can experience each one of the above conflict management styles. Initially, an individual will declare war on themselves – he is going to bombard his previous engrained habits of eating poorly and rarely exercising. Slam, bang! Never again. Nothing less than perfection going forward is acceptable. This all or nothing attitude, too often, results in destroying the best of intentions.

 

Compromise can work. If a person eats an unhealthy meal, then additional time spent working out can alleviate the packing on of extra calories. However, it’s a tit for tat kind of solution where a person spends a lot of time judging. Sometimes the individual is “good” and sometimes she is “bad”.

 

Avoiding the need for building good eating habits along with healthy exercise by pretending it isn’t necessary is a form of blindness. Perception may be reality but illness, heart disease and obesity eventually will cause a perception shift! What is happening beneath the body’s outer layer of skin will eventually surface.

 

The most effective approach to creating better healthy eating and exercise habits is to collaborate. Finding a solution that takes into consideration special life events like birthday parties and holiday feasts with the occasional bad weather days when outdoor exercise activities are cancelled helps a person to make adjustments without making judgments about themselves. By allowing the grey shades to enter into one’s life, it is possible to achieve the goal of health without beating oneself up. Collaboration between the conflicting needs and desires of life is the way to maintain a balanced body, mind, and soul.

 

 

© 2012 by Sheila Peters. All rights reserved.

Banish the Baggage

With a new year just around the corner it’s the resolution making season. Many of us decide our biggest priority will be improving our physical health. We want to get toned up, lose weight, and become stronger and more flexible. We know that if our bodies feel better, our approach to our lives will become more positive. Being positive is one of the most important predictors of life span; it helps create greater resistance to the common cold; it helps us cope with hardship and stress in a less harmful, more productive way; and it enables us to enjoy our adventures and personal interactions more fully.

 

Unfortunately, many of us have a lot of negative baggage about our bodies that weighs us down. We carry all our past grievances as we make these new healthy resolutions.

 

My legs are too stubby.

I’ll look stupid because I don’t know the dance routine.

I can’t run very far.

Everyone else will be looking at me.

I look awful in those exercise clothes.

 

Pick one of the above and focus on it too long and we become defeated before we even begin. This is called enmeshing with the past. When we enmesh with negativity from our past, we don’t allow ourselves to move forward into the future. We lose out both physically and emotionally if we let this happen.

 

How can we stop enmeshing but still engage in activities that may hold baggage? We let go of the stories and the words. Getting physically fit isn’t about talking to ourselves; it’s about being in our bodies and feeling what’s happening inside of them on a non verbal level.

 

How deeply are we breathing? Do our legs feel like we can go that extra ¼ mile on the track? Where are our shoulders in relation to our ears? Can we feel our blood flowing through our veins and arteries? What feels different as we continue moving? We begin to listen to the changes that are occurring in our bodies and suddenly we are fully engaged with our physical selves.

 

It’s the attention on how our bodies feel right now that is going to carry us forward, not the mind’s thoughts and words of past negativity. Banish the baggage – it has no relevance in the present moment. Our bodies have an innate wisdom – tap into it by listening to how it feels.

 

How did we learn to crawl or walk when we were babies? We practiced. We toppled over and got up again.  We got right back at the task at hand. Without verbalizing, we paid attention to the movements that helped us achieve our goals. We did them repeatedly as we refined the process.  When we were tired, we rested. No stories – no words. Simply being engaged in the body ensured our success.

 

No stories. No words. No baggage. Simply engaged.

 

 

Copyright © 2011, Sheila Peters. All rights reserved.

Holiday Memories

What do we most remember about our childhood holidays? As I was out walking this morning I thought about the scenes from past holiday seasons that are most memorable to me.

 

I recall singing carols around the piano after the big holiday meal with either my mother or father playing accompaniment while the rest of my siblings and extended family gathered close. We shared the words to old treasured songs, making our voices intertwine in beautiful, and sometimes humorous, sound. We would continue until the piano player grew weary or our stomachs called for dessert.

 

I loved making holiday cookies with my siblings. The shaping of dough with the beloved old cookie cutters; the invention of and mixing of the different colored icings; and the joy of opening all the sprinkle jars and adding them to the mix. The pleasure of eating our creations was secondary to the playing and joking around with those at the big kitchen table.

 

There are also many memories of crafting items with friends where we tried out different versions of gifts before we produced the final version. Macramé, knitting, crocheting, candle-making, sewing, drawing, writing, wrapping – each year brought a new craft to learn. Laughing at the less than perfect results and feeling pride when my companions thought perfection had been reached.

 

And, of course, the many marathon card games… the family game of Demon, a version of group Solitaire where each player had to use their own deck of cards, which spawned a diverse and large collection of packs to choose from. Each of us had our favorite “lucky” pack. A wild game would ensue, enhanced by the humming of the William Tell Overture as fast as possible to create even more of a sense of speed and urgency.

 

The common thread of these memories is the sense of community and camaraderie found in the group. Personal interaction, warmth, and a feeling of belonging are the important components of these gatherings. These are moments of people meeting and participating in a fun-filled activity. This is what we all remember.

 

So as you spend time alone driving to the malls and focusing on the ritual of unwrapping presents, remind yourself about what kind of memories you’d like to be creating for your family, your friends and, ultimately, for yourself.  So what if the house isn’t perfectly clean? Who cares if there is an ideal hostess gift given? How many hours have we squandered driving, parking and negotiating crowds to find that  the gift we were intent on purchasing didn’t really measure up to expectations?

 

Remember that community and good cheer with others is what gives meaning to holidays. It is the shared experience that we adore. Perhaps it would be better to use some of your hours listening and talking to your friends, laughing with your mother, playing a silly game with your daughter and grandchild.

 

Spend time at this yearend with those with whom you share interests; with those that you love; and with those with whom you can laugh. Happy holidays!

 

 

Copyright © 2011, Sheila Peters. All rights reserved.

The Storm’s Aftermath

Like everyone else this past week that lost power, I am tired. It was an exhausting experience. Not only did we deal with no heat, no electricity, no water and no internet, we also witnessed daily the destruction of the surrounding trees. It is the sight of those destroyed trees that most affected me.

 

The trees have been reduced to broken off trunks with all of their branches completely severed, lying in concentric circles around the trunk.  Even in their death, these trees hold beauty. I will miss them next spring and summer and fall.

 

The trees’ trunks were snapped off at the point of most stress – their trunks – or what could be considered their spines. We humans also find that our “trunks” bear our stress. In stretch and dance classes this week, my students discovered that the hardships of the past week were showing up in sore lower backs and tense, inflexible necks and shoulders.

 

It’s important to relieve these points of stress in our bodies to help us recover from the recent loss of power and the comfort of our daily routines. We need to spend some time focusing on our bodies and slowly stretch the parts of ourselves that feel tight, tired or inflexible. If we do not do this consciously, then we may carry the existing physical tension into the holiday season.

 

As full of potential joy as the holiday season can be, it also has its own pressures. We don’t want to pile more strain on top of an already stressed out body. Like an old injury where our bodies have changed our postures to accommodate the pain, we may continue to hold our bodies in the protective stance. Over-compensation of an old injury can lead to chronic alignment issues.

 

What most medical personnel don’t tell their patients is that they need to unlearn the protective stance as they are healing from an injury. This is also true when we are living through angst. Our bodies instinctively move in ways to help us deal with the anxiety and stress. We must unlearn those protective patterns in order to fully recover.

 

This week, as you pass by the severed tree trunks in your neighborhood, remind yourself that you too have a breaking point. Go within and relieve the tension of the past week – stretch, get a massage, spend some time consciously relaxing, and share some laughs with friends and family. Enjoy the beauty of your life in full health.

 

I work with clients on a one to one basis to help them become more flexible, to become more aware of their physical selves, and to correct any habitual postural misalignments. Contact me if you would like to experience a rejuvenating somatic coaching session. Email: sheilapetersdance@gmail.com

 

 

Copyright © 2011, Sheila Peters. All rights reserved.