Walking Meditations

WEBWalkingMeddreamstime_l_55506547(Story by Gail Snyder)

“The Earth is sacred and we touch her with each step.” Thich Nhat Hanh
As a new arrival to this world, just delivered from our mother’s body, each one of us knew to do the exact same thing as our first action: Draw a breath. We didn’t dither around in our heads worrying because we’d never breathed before and what if we did it wrong or forgot to keep doing it? We were entirely attentive to what needed to happen right now—inhale, exhale, repeat—and those lungfuls of air made us feel safely anchored in our new body, centered, belonging, all our senses alert and humming. Gradually, though, as we’ve grown up and experienced life with all its accumulations of traumas, sorrows, anxieties, with minds that bounce us back and forth between past guilt and new worries about the future, we’ve strayed far afield from that pure awareness. How can we get back to what we knew as babies?

It’s a matter of being aware of this life as it’s happening, Henry Shukman, Roshi at Mountain Cloud Zen Center in Santa Fe, says. And he tells this story: “One master, asked what Zen was, replied, ‘When I sit, I sit; when I stand, I stand; when I walk, I walk; and when I arrive, I arrive.’ The student said, ‘Big deal—so do I.’ The master said, ‘No! When you sit, you’re already standing; when you stand, you’re already walking; when you’re walking, you’re already arriving and when you arrive, you’re already leaving.’ To be aware of our walking—as we walk—is to learn to actually experience and appreciate our life as it’s going on. No need for thinking about whatever may be coming next. Just this step is enough. It’s a huge thing.” When we do walking meditation, Henry says, “We can pay close attention to the soles of the feet as they make contact with the ground, and the way the weight moves across the foot, and how the foot moves when we take a step. All of this helps us to settle in the present moment.”

When we’re doing a mindful walking practice, Vietnamese Zen master and poet Thich Nhat Hanh says, we’re just walking, we’re not arriving, so we can enjoy the walking. We all want to rediscover that sense of belonging. Walking meditation, he writes, “is a profound and pleasurable way to deepen our connection to our body and the Earth. We breathe, take a mindful step, and come back to our true home, and it is always there, beneath and around us.” To walk in mindfulness, we have to notice each step, because, “Each step can bring us back to the here and now. No rush.” No phone, either, no ear buds, and no multi-tasking. What we want to do as we get more practiced is to train our focus, our concentration, on this simple awareness of our breath in synch with our body.

“You can’t be grounded in your body if your mind is elsewhere,” Thich Nhat Hanh says. “We may forget the body. We can get so lost in the computer, our busyness, our worries, our fear.” Walking outside reminds us, “We are all alive on this beautiful planet. We take a breath and walk in this way, and we become as solid as a mountain.”

To begin to learn to be aware of each moment of our lives as it unfolds, Henry explains, means “expanding our awareness of sensory experience here and now,” not just through the breath and taking a step, “but also the sounds that reach us [outside], the sights and the play of light and dark.” Through our senses, Henry says, “We can come to appreciate the gift of this moment ever more fully.”WEBWalkingJE2dreamstime_xl_89266613

Mountain Cloud Administrator Johanna Sindelar loves when outdoor walking meditations are included in their daylong retreats—“It wakes us up!” Paraphrasing Henry, she says, “When your body and mind fall away, you aren’t a you, and the mountain is not a mountain, it just is.” She adds, “It’s possible to meditate while you’re walking anywhere. You can suddenly become aware of a solution to a problem you’d been thinking about earlier.” Mountain Cloud President of the Board Rachel Belash agrees. “Your gut tells you. It’s a felt sense, and then you might know exactly what to do next,” she says, regarding some conundrum you’d been wrestling with. “I walk my dog most days, and my breathing and walking become synonymous without my even trying. Sometimes, the quality of light or the sound of a bird are much more keen, almost like, this won’t die, whatever ‘this’ is.”

Erin Doerwald, licensed clinical social worker and program director for the Sky Center of the New Mexico Suicide Intervention Project, whose training gives her a clinical and neuro-scientific lens, oversees all the center’s programs, including Mindful Education Santa Fe, through which she brings mindful awareness practices to teachers and their classrooms across the city. Recently, Erin taught a roomful of ninth and tenth graders at Capital High School to do walking meditation around the classroom. Asking them to line up, she told them, “This is like Follow the Leader. I’m the Leader. As we start walking,” she told them, “just pay attention to the sensations in your feet and the person in front of you.” It’s an impressive enough coup just getting 14- and 15-year-olds to do this at all—and they do. “They use it as an on-the-go tool any time of the day,” she says. “For example, when they might want to scream at a teacher and rather than rupture that relationship, they have this reliable technique right in their back pocket.” Another useful tool of Erin’s is a self-regulating mood management exercise called STOP. “Whenever you’re experiencing some type of trauma, you Stop; Take three deep breaths; Observe your reactions to the potentially triggering event—notice if your heart rate accelerates, your breathing has become shallow, can you feel your feet on the ground; and then, when you’re calm again, Proceed.”

These provide a calm, regulated pause, “giving you the opportunity of a skillful response rather than a purely impulsive one,” Erin explains. Another, called Straw Breath, is good for kids of all ages, anyone with acutely suicidal symptoms, even those with physical challenges. “And my own kids! This is another one that can be on-the-go. You take a big breath in, hold it, and purse your lips, to slow down the exhale. This triggers a parasympathetic nervous system response, rather than one from the pre-frontal cortex, so it’s giving you a cascade of soothing.”

Johanna, who has stage four cancer, which is terminal, says she experiences much less fear and anxiety now than she had previously. “When fear comes up, I just sit with it,” she says calmly, “and it passes.” Rachel adds, “I sometimes feel waves of complete happiness, that seem to have just sprung out of the air.”

“The Earth is sacred,” writes Thich Nhat Hanh, “and we touch her with each step. Wherever we walk on Earth, we are in a holy sanctuary. When we walk mindfully, we see the beauty and the wonder of the Earth around us, and we wake up.” How will you know if walking meditation is working for you? Notice that tingling feeling on the bottoms of your feet.

The Year of the Core

WEBJG_05(Story by Cullen Curtiss / Photos by Joy Godfrey)

According to the Chinese zodiac, it’s the Year of the Dog, however, my personal zodiac informs me it’s the Year of the Core. When I shared my 2018 focus with Floery Mahoney at her Da Vinci BodyBoard flagship studio in Santa Fe, we knew our meeting was kismet. Co-owner Karen Schardt and Marketer Director and instructor Lily Michaels can attest.

“This whole system is based on your core!” Floery says. “Since we work with multiple anchor points, your body has to ground and it must ground through the core.” By system, Floery means her invention: the patented Da Vinci BodyBoard and its accompanying core-emboldening resistance-band calisthenic training regimen.

“When I turned 45, I didn’t feel like me,” she says. At that time, Floery, a single mom, owned and ran a demanding business in Vergennes, VT, called Daily Chocolate with ChocolateSmith Founder Chris Smith. “To feel better, I did more bootcamps, more spinning classes, and ran more miles, and yet, I was gaining weight and my body ached. I had to stop.” And stop she did. Floery stopped the pounding, repetitive, time-consuming exercise and started tying resistance bands to furniture. As owner of the first Pilates studio in Vermont, she knew a thing or two about core and form.

“I would have my son sit in the chair so it wouldn’t move,” Floery says. “I tied bands to the bed and my boyfriend was like, ‘What is going on?’ But I realized it was working. I lost weight right away because I was slowing down. And more important, I was getting this connection in my body that I’d never felt before, not even when I was teaching Pilates.”

Floery continued to make chocolate by day and night, but had a sense she was onto something different with the bands and the movement. “I found that if I set up a rectangular space and tied bands around me, I could work my body with resistance in contrasting directions.” She built one board, felt great, built five more, then put herself to the big test. (As a perpetual small business owner, Floery tolerates and thrives on disruptive, potentially brilliant ideas.) “I led a ‘class’ for some Lululemon trainer friends,” she says. “Afterwards, they said, ‘When can we get certified?’”

WEBJG_19Floery patented the BodyBoard, sold Daily Chocolate, launched Da Vinci BodyBoard in 2013, and opened shop in Santa Fe in the summer of 2016 at a space attached to Railyard Fitness, and these days, her studio occupies the former Dragon Rising space in Pacheco Park. To what do we owe her choice to become a local? Floery had received her Pilates certification in the City Different more than 20 years previous.  What’s more, her boyfriend had hoped to come back and she felt Santa Fe would be more hospitable to a small business than Los Angeles, Calif., or Austin, TX. “Santa Fe has a lot of cache,” she says. “We did the licensed model trainings for the Chicago and Ft. Collins studios here, and the instructors loved it. And I love being here; it’s our home. I am grounded.”

Grounded with a strong core describes Floery to a T, and is intrinsic to the promise she delivers clients who enjoy her patented system, with its similarly promising name. That part required some brainstorming. “I wanted to take all of the things in fitness that I think are out of whack. Also, I’ve always had this connection between art and my life.” (Floery’s former restaurant, Starry Night Café, continues to thrive in Ferrisburgh, Vermont.)

Da_Vinci_Vitruve_Luc_ViatourWEB“I kept seeing flashes of the Vitruvian man and read about Da Vinci’s feelings on how the body and nature have symmetry,” she explains. “He looked at every single muscle and tendon and how they fit together. I wanted the name to suggest the importance of the entire body, instead of being bulked up in one place.” (Evidently, Da Vinci is the pre-cursor inventor of nearly everything. Go and experience Da Vinci, The Genius at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science through the end of July.)

An artist in her own right, Floery designed Da Vinci BodyBoard’s logo to demonstrate the flow of movement in a gender-neutral manner and suggest the idea of reaching for a new way of moving. And new it is, though resistance bands are 100-plus-year-old physical therapy tools, cresting in popularity during the 1980s aerobics craze. But is it just a fad? Floery is emphatic when she says No.

“It’s sustainable.” The proof: affordability (classes are among the least expensive boutique studio-led options in Santa Fe, not to mention the 15-percent discounts for teachers, students, military and seniors); duration (short, productive classes for busy people); modification opportunities (multiple bands, multiple uses); and results (happy, healthy, whole people, who you’ll meet soon). Supported by research about the effectiveness of High-Intensity Interval Training, Da Vinci BodyBoard’s core class is approximately 30 minutes long with 22 one-minute moves, complemented by 22-second breaks to prepare for the next move. And then five to eight minutes to stretch, using the bands to lengthen muscles.

“Even professional athletes are starting to work in 30-minute blocks,” Floery says. Research indicates that testosterone and cortisol rise at the same rate in the first 30 minutes of exercise; past this, testosterone drops off and cortisol continues to rise, making one feel stressed. I have experienced that unpleasant cortisol creep, though I admit to being skeptical about the promise of a full-body workout in 30 minutes. Feel free to arrive as I did to use your First Class Free Pass, but trust me: you’ll leave a BELIEVER.

When you go, you’ll be stationed adjacent to the source, which for me was Floery. From this vantage, I saw all moves and heard all cues over the fun music. To the beat, the full class of 14 flowed our resistance-band-lashed arms and legs in synchronistic beauty. Think: Vitruvian man as marionette, but you are the puppeteer! Some participants used only the red band or just one overhead tube for less resistance; some sought more and drew their ankle straps closer to their cores. Anyone who has danced, done aerobics, Pilates, or yoga might say the moves are reminiscent, though it’s a whole new challenging ballgame with the band tension, and the instructors design the flows to work your muscles in contrasting directions—bicep, then tricep, smaller muscles and ligaments, then bigger muscles. Early in the class, I pushed past the tension point and lost my balance. Floery says that happens to nearly everyone early on.

“You think the bands are supporting you,” she explains, “but they’re not. Your body should be supporting you. We are programmed, when we’re holding on to something to rely on it entirely as if that’s what should hold you up, but it’s the opposite. You have to stabilize through your core.”

Floery will explain what works and what doesn’t to clients, but she really wants them to learn on their own, because then it’s intuitive and enduring. “I can see people listening to the wisdom of their bodies as they progress and work harder.” She discourages instructors from getting off their mats to correct clients. “I may deliver a general cue, but I don’t want to call out any one person, unless they are doing something that could hurt them.” Floery and staff pay close attention to all the needs of all clients, be they modifications due to chronic conditions, extreme athleticism or anything in between. They want people to feel safe, have fun, work hard and come back. And come back they do.WEBJG_23

Erin Marynak, 31, says, “I had a knee injury and was looking for a high-intensity workout without high-impact movements. You get that surrounded by kind and encouraging people. I’ve tried numerous gyms, but at Da Vinci, I noticed results the first week. I’m stronger, but leaner. I’m addicted!”

Barbara Bentree, filmmaker, says, “My involvement in Da Vinci has changed my life in some ways. The short intense workouts fit my schedule and the studio has a great aesthetic. I feel a steady change in my strength and coordination. I don’t feel pain in my joints like I sometimes do when lifting weights. The workout is ever-changing.”

Marvin Garden, 58, says: “I’ve lost inches and improved my whole body and core strength while reducing pain from previous injuries. Floery, thank you for choosing Santa Fe.”

Someone else might say, “You’re welcome, Santa Fe. Now, I can coast.” Not Floery. She and Karen want to offer a class for wheelchair-bound individuals, as well as pre- and post-natal classes. They want to partner with the YMCA and retirement communities. “We want everyone to be able to try Da Vinci,” says Karen. And with Lily helping to drive the licensed model, this is definitely happening—beyond North America, one can strengthen their core in Asia and Europe. “I hope this helps the world,” says Floery. “We are in a serious crisis, where people feel defeated by their bodies. I hope everyone can feel healthier.”

WEBJG_12When you go for your first class and eventually your 25th, you’ll become friends with everyone, including the studio mascot—no, not Vitruvian man, but Sherman, a Basenji-Chihuahua mix, with Chinese zodiac traits you can’t help but love. He’s loyal, honest, reliable and social. Find him on a BodyBoard, paying homage to Da Vinci, along with everyone else.

For information on location, classes and rates at Da Vinci Body Studio go to davincibodystudiosf.com.

Zero Proof

WEBdreamstime_l_6361495Story by Caitlin Richards

Hey, how’s that New Year’s resolution going?  You remember: go to the gym after work every day, drink less, lose weight, be healthy. This was going to be the year that you really were going to stick with it. But suddenly, it’s March and your skinny jeans may button, but that’s one heck of a muffin top, the eat-healthy magazine you’re reading as you eat a pint of Häagen-Dazs is the closest you’ve come to making healthier choices, and already your spouse/partner/best friend is talking about booking a vacation in which you’ll have to wear a swimsuit. So unless you can convince them that Australia is a great place to visit in July, you need to make some changes.

Going to the gym every day after work? That’s not going to happen. Sometimes, you just have a day, and taking out your aggression on a treadmill takes a dim second to going out with the gang after work for a drink to decompress. Although you want the company, you might not want the alcohol, but when you sit down and everyone is having fancy cocktails and you’re looking at the option of an iced tea or a club soda with lime, it’s hard to keep your resolve. Even if the iced tea is peach flavored, let’s face it, you’re still going to feel like a kid at the grown-ups’ table, and the sight of the exotic cocktails in your friends’ hands might weaken your resolve. Good news, that’s changing! With the rise of cocktail bars and mixology, and a garden-to-glass approach of mixing drinks, choices are getting more exciting at the bar, and this is spilling over into non-alcoholic cocktails, or mocktails––or as we like to call them, Zero Proof. These aren’t just non-alcoholic versions of choices from the drinks menu.

Carla Gilfillan of QBar Lounge  in Albuquerque says that Zero Proofs are something she is passionate about. “There are lots of people who don’t want to drink for lots of reasons; they may be pregnant or have religious reasons,” she says. Or perhaps they’re a designated driver or have health reasons, but they still want to come out, and Carla wants them to have “the full cocktail experience, even if they aren’t drinking.” She uses a lot of fresh fruit in her drinks and most of her Zero Proofs are based on what’s fresh at the moment. One favorite is her Blackberry Lemonade, which has the perfect blend of sweet and tart. You can top it off with sparkling water if you want it to effervesce, or still water if you WEBJERasberrydrinkdon’t care for bubbles.

James Reis of the Santa Fe Spirits Tasting Room in Santa Fe agrees that it’s important to offer interesting no-proof choices. While there aren’t any listed on his drinks menu, he says they are “easily made.”  When a customer asks what the options are, he starts by asking the customer what flavors they like, and he builds from there. When asked how he feels about the term “mocktail,” James says it used to bother him a bit, but he’s learned to live with it as, “It does infer that the non-alcoholic drink will be more than ginger ale from a gun with some nasty cherries settling at the bottom.”

But Zero Proofs are flights above cherries in a soft drink. Rather, they’re handcrafted items that will cost a bit more than ginger ale from a gun, and trust us, they’re well worth it. Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last several years, you know that garden-to-glass and farm-to-table indicate that ingredients are handpicked and fresh; those aren’t frozen blackberries in Carla’s Blackberry Lemonade, and the tonic at Santa Fe Spirits is house-made. So, laying to rest the perhaps passé and somehow unsavory term “mocktail,” the Zero Proofs offered in many cocktail bars are as carefully thought out and crafted as their alcoholic cousins, and they’re worth every penny, for like their alcoholic cousins, they are meant to be sipped and savored.

Sometimes, the menus at cocktail bars can be a bit intimidating, particularly if you’re more used to beer-and-a-bump type bars, but today’s mixologists are craftsmen, and they’re happy to tell you about their ingredients and how they build flavors in their drinks in order to best showcase the spirit used, as well as the other ingredients. This is why often the Zero Proof isn’t just a cocktail sans spirit. For instance, a cocktail made with gin uses the base flavor of gin (juniper) to build upon, so the drink wouldn’t translate without that flavor. Don’t be shy about asking what they can offer in terms of a no-proof drink, just as they’re happy to tell you their process, they are also respectful of a patron’s choice not to drink, and they still want to welcome you and give you, in Carla’s words, “the full cocktail experience.”

So, go to the gym three nights a week and allow yourself to go out with friends on the other evenings.  There are plenty of healthy choices to be found in today’s cocktail bars, and these options are tasty and beautiful and grownup. And whether they come in a Collin’s glass or a coupe, you can be sure as you sip that no one will be mocking you.

Blackberry Lemonade from Carla Gilfillan, QBar, Albuquerque

5 blackberries, muddled

1 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 ounce simple syrup

Top with sparkling or still water

WEBJEGingerGinger Delight from James Reis, Santa Fe Spirits Tasting Room, Santa Fe

1 ounce ginger syrup

½ ounce lemon juice

3 dashes barrel aged bitters

Top with club soda

Garnish with lemon peel

Bike and Brew

Outside Santa Fe's Beer and Bike 2015

Outside Santa Fe’s Beer and Bike 2015

I’ve been asked what makes mountain biking in New Mexico special to me. For a brief question, I have a long and winding answer. My “love affair” (yes, my wife knows) with cycling began when I was given a sparkling blue Schwinn Stingray that I thought was the greatest gift of my young life. After a few weeks of toodling around with training wheels, I gradually became more confident. Then one day, with a patient father in an empty parking lot, I learned to pedal, steer and brake on two wheels. That blue bike radically expanded my childhood universe. I wasn’t limited by ploddingly slow foot travel or the whims of a parent with a car. I had my first taste of speed and freedom, so I explored.

I never lost my taste for the freedom a bicycle brings. I can’t deny that I’ve fallen prey to the temptations of the automobile. I’ve had many dalliances with the quiet speed of road cycling, and my town bike sees quite a few miles every year. But, oh the places you’ll go on a mountain bike! Not limited by pavement, a mountain bike can turn a thin dashed line on a map into a daylong or longer adventure. Continue reading

Bad Ass Babes

Liv Launch in Sedona, Arizona, November 2016

Liv Launch in Sedona, Arizona, November 2016

“Do it,” I sputter. “Come on.” My eyes sting of sweat, my heart pounds in my ears and my lungs scream at me. I want to give up. I want to stop pedaling, stop climbing this steep rocky trail. I want to throw my bike aside and walk up, or better yet, forget this whole endeavor and go home. “Just 10 more seconds,” I think, bargaining with myself. The crest of the hill is in sight. I’m nearly there. Through gasps and gulps, I grit my teeth and practically growl, “DO it.”

Just when I think I can take no more, I reach the top. I’m doing it. I’ve done it. At last, sweet relief: I’m over the hill. I can let gravity do the work from here. Now, I just have to keep my balance and savor the adrenaline rush as the wind cools my face and the landscape rushes past me.

Like many women, I delight in challenging myself physically and mentally with mountain biking. It’s a thrilling way to explore nature, build confidence and be more active. But undertaking it can be intimidating at first, especially since it’s still a fairly male-dominated sport. It’s intimidating, but not impossible. Luckily, there are multitudes of women who want to help. Continue reading

Letting Go of the Wall

GMarks-IceSkating-04It’s Saturday morning, and the cheerful echo of laughter fills the air. Below the bleachers, there’s a symphony of movement; enthusiastic young children and tentative adults glide over ice, chasing bubbles, gathering stuffed animals, and chasing hula hoops as supportive coaches guide and instruct. Despite the chilly environment, the atmosphere is warm. People giggle and grin, stumble and recover, and cheer each other on.

It’s just an ordinary day at the Genoveva Chavez Community Center’s indoor ice skating rink, a year-round winter playground that puts ice sports within reach for some 50,000 visitors per year. Since its opening in 2000, the regulation NHL-sized rink has made serving the community a priority. From the graceful twirl of a figure skater to the dynamic power of a hockey player to the quiet focus of curling, there are many ways to experience ice skating. GCCC offers an impressive cross sampling of these activities. Even though it lacks competition—it’s the only indoor ice rink in the state north of Albuquerque—it’s a model of an affordable, well-maintained and friendly experience.

The thrill of ice skating may seem like a distant dream to many people—especially kids—but through programs like Skating in School, the Chavez Center rink is inclusive of our entire community. The program allows access to Santa Fe students who may not otherwise have the opportunity to go ice skating. It’s funded by the city and private donors, and provides everything: four coaches, transportation to and from the Chavez Center, plus rink time once a week for four weeks. After a month of lessons, the students show off their new skills by performing in a show. The Chavez Center has included five schools so far, and is committed to doing even more in the coming years. Continue reading