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Oct

21

Honing Resilience – The Secret Key to Living With Greatness & Joy

By Francoise Netter

The subject of Resilience, I believe is one of the most important qualities that we can develop, nurture and sustain. It is a quality that we too often ignore in this fast paced, technological whiz of a life. In this article, I will be combining several other blog posts and address various ways that you can think about resilience to improve your life both personally and professionally.

If we dive deeply into the human spirit, we converge and meet in a similar place. All of us ultimately seek joy, ease, love, safety and peace. We may seek it in diverse ways and call it by different names but those desires are universal and at the foundation of most philosophies and religions. So if we seek all that is fun, joyous and easy why do we need to foster and hone resilience?

Resilience is the key to not only achieving these goals, but also one of the key ingredients to sustaining them. Let’s take a closer look. If life is supposed to be easy, fun, joyous and all the things we want, then why does it so often feel challenging, chaotic and downright difficult? The answer is simple and yet complex.

Growing up in the West, many of us are taught to fill our baskets of desires by going after the things we want externally. We are taught by example that if we are able to accumulate, achieve and control certain outer conditions than our lives will look the way we want and we can achieve the joy that we are seeking. However, for most of us striving, grabbing and controlling outer conditions keep us jumping at best and stressed out and frustrated the rest of the time.

My brother, Patrick, sent me an article titled: “Carrots, Eggs & Coffee”. I’ll reprint excerpts of the article here and then expound on the lessons and messages it conveys:

“A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed that as one problem was solved, a new one arose. Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil; without saying a word. In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her daughter, she asked, ‘Tell me what you see.’

‘Carrots, eggs, and coffee,’ she replied. Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled, as she tasted its rich aroma. The daughter then asked, ‘What does it mean, mother?’ Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water. ‘Which are you?’ she asked her daughter. ‘When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?’–Author Unknown

The interesting dynamic in adversity is that some people are like carrots and appear strong externally, but when they experience loss or difficulty, they wilt and lose their strength and resiliency. Others, who appear fragile like an egg, become hardened and defensive and armor their vulnerability. Some rare individuals are able to create something lucid, new and extraordinary from pain and hardship. Alice Herz-Summers, the oldest living holocaust survivor at 110, was such an individual. She was a well-known musician in Czechoslovakia when World War II broke out.  The Nazis arrested her and her five-year-old son and sent them to Theresienstadt but allowed her to play piano as part of a propaganda campaign for the Red Cross. While, most of the Jews were sent to Auschwitz and other death camps, she and her son survived on the “food” of her music and resilient attitude and not only did they live through the horrific conditions, but both Alice and her son became world-class musicians after the war. Her interviews on YouTube and the 2014 academy award winning short documentary about her life, The Lady in No 6, are nothing short of inspirational. I have included this film and the details of her life and wisdom as part of the graduate level University classes I teach to Educators.

This ability to turn adversity into “coffee beans” is what the ancients have always labeled as alchemy. It is the stuff that creates resiliency and greatness on every level. Unfortunately with the apparent ease of technology, we are under the illusion that everything can be handled with the flick of a finger. Children growing up today are given a false sense of security and so many New Age philosophies propagate the illusion that life “should” be easy. It is not our desires for joy, ease, beauty and fun that we must curtail, but rather how and where we look for them.

What is so true and yet understated in the story, Carrots, Egg and Coffee, is that the ability to turn adverse conditions into coffee beans invites us to shift our attitude. We don’t coerce the beans to make it happen. The beans simply blend with the water and are transformed. So often we find ourselves struggling against outer conditions that we can’t seem to change, when the change we seek is actually right under our noses. We are so accustomed to looking externally for solutions that we seldom look at our own internal state, attitudes, thoughts and beliefs.

I remember many years ago taking a three day personal growth seminar and when we came back as a group one week later, one of the participants excitedly shared, ” When I got home from this seminar the most amazing thing happened. Everyone in my family changed for the better!” We all smiled quietly and nodded to each other. We knew because of the work he had done and the deep inner personal changes and insights he had undergone, his perception of others (including his family) had also changed.

In our western society, we often put emphasis on how things look externally. Through that approach, we have forgotten our own inner wellspring of knowledge. Yoga and many other philosophies remind us that we may have it a bit backwards. The control we are seeking is within us, not external to us. Honing resilience summons us to that place internally where we can reflect and shift our perception and beliefs. It allows us to strengthen our core so that when circumstances appear out of our control or blind side us we are not only able to survive, but in the process we transform ourselves and life itself. We learn in very personal ways that our state of joy, ease, strength and love is not dependent on things external to us. We may still seek certain external forms, but our resiliency is not grounded in them. Then, ease, joy, true change and what we desire can occur. Through the act of shifting our thoughts and beliefs we can act from a conscious place and resolve the challenges that show up whether we are prepared for them or when they blindside us.

Contemplate this analogy of “carrots, egg and coffee” and just notice without judging yourself what your level of resiliency is when things are going “wrong” in your life. For some of us it’s the little annoyances that we’re less resilient to and for some it’s the “big” ones. I teach in all of my seminars that awareness and understanding are the first two steps in taking action and making changes. For the next couple of weeks, observe your reactions to life and notice what fosters your resilience. I, like most of us, have an over developed inner critic, so I’m also going to suggest the following steps that you can apply personally or professionally and individualize:

  1. Refrain from judging the things that upset or throw you off your “center” and instead embrace a stance of loving compassion for “losing it.”
  2. Pause as soon as you become conscious to do so, breathe and become reflective. Is this new or a trigger from the past? What do I have control over? What can I do? What can I change? What do I need to let go of?
  3. This may take 5 minutes or it might go on for weeks or longer. Journal, pray, meditate or speak with a trusted friend or counselor.
  4. From this place of inner reflection, create an action step. It may be to simply breathe and move on or there may be various outer actions that need to happen.
  5. Know that life is very much like flying a plane. Pilots are rarely on course in their flight plan. They arrive at their destination by constantly correcting their course.
  6. Keep your vision clear and always make room for adjustments.

In my own personal experience, the more I identify with what’s wrong with my life, the more life seems to corroborate that belief and visa versa. For the next few weeks, take a few minutes daily to reflect on both your desires and your attitudes. Look within to see if you can shift a negative thought or belief and see where cultivating your resilience can assist you. Then watch as your life begins to transform like the coffee beans slowly but surely. Know that by honing resilience you are learning how to walk through the “fire” of life and emerge not only unscathed, but also triumphantly renewed and transformed.

Please feel free to comment on this article and email me your questions and experiences.

In the process of that spiraling dance,
Françoise

Aug

22

Reflections on Motivation, Inspiration and Balance in Education and Life

By Francoise Netter

From time to time, I like to include others insights on my blogs. In my opinion, educators are the foundation of our society. Not only do they educate the kiddos that become the future of our society and world, they also often provide the only continuity in many children’s lives.

Our twenty-first century offers us many advanced technological perks, but it also challenges our ability to balance, slow-down and enjoy our lives moment to moment. I hope you will be able to both relate and apply practical value in your own lives as you take in this educator’s reflections and insights.

“Back to Basics” was a useful graduate-level course for me as a teacher, both personally and professionally. After discussing the three keys to learning and the four elements that are essential to our lives and society, we shifted our focus to an essential question: ‘Why should motivation and inspiration be a part of education?’ The class members discussed this topic at length and concluded that motivation and inspiration helps in learning in a number of ways: it enhances learning, helps students to find out more about what they’re interested in, and makes the material meaningful so that students want to learn.

Francoise then posed a thought-provoking question to all of us: What is the catalyst that motivates you currently in your life today, not in the past? The answer cannot be based upon family or heritage, but needs to be internally derived. I really had to dig deep within myself, sit quietly, and focus on my motivator(s). My initial response was that balance was my primary motivator. But, what is balance…really? Balance isn’t a tangible ‘thing’, but more a feeling of harmony and peace within one’s current state of being. Awhile back, I would have focused on more external motivators: money, perfectionism, or praise from others (family, friends, and colleagues). Now, I look at health as a top priority, which in turn motivates me to find balance because it reduces stress. The epiphany that I arrived at from this question is that my number one focus is on health and well-being (physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually). Not only my health, but also my family’s as well. It’s the domino effect; when I feel that my life is in balance, so too are my health and well-being.

In addition to health being a top motivator, I’m also inspired by people who are passionate about what they do/know/say/love/etc. When an artist reveals a painting, when my kids can’t stop smiling about a project they completed, when a friend is describing a book that they connected with, or when someone is giving a speech about something they have a high-degree of knowledge or love for (i.e. TED Talks), I’m inspired and motivated to know or learn more. For example, I’m highly motivated to learn more about the Holocaust because of Francoise’s connection with it and would like to see the film, The Lady in #6, because she speaks of how inspirational it is.

We also discussed the idea of ‘deficits’ in our lives as being motivators.  I have been motivated by deficits – all of the parts of my life that I felt were lacking or needed more of – and still am when I feel that my well is running on empty. I tend to yearn for balance and less stress and think that having more money or more friends or more glasses of wine will be the cure! To my chagrin, I am not fulfilled by external factors such as these. I am better at realizing this when I take the time for self-reflection and meditation. It is then that I remind myself of my life’s priorities (health, family, relationships, security…in that order). These priorities motivate and inspire me to be a better mother, teacher, wife, daughter, and friend.Within the classroom, motivation and inspiration are the conduits to learning. They are the ‘spark’ that ignites learning and are essential to education. Because I teach science, I have to find creative ways to reach all of my students. “–E. Munoz

Today see how balance can be added to your life personally and professionally. Look at what motivates and inspires you and use this transition between Summer and Fall to begin new creative strategies for well-being in every area of your life. You may check out any of our products to enhance this process at www.bodyminddynamics.org/products.

–Enjoy,

Françoise

Mar

5

Cat Tales, Resiliency and Meditation

By Francoise Netter

So many of you following my blogs know that I write articles about yoga, movement, learning and resiliency. So what do cat tales have to do with any of this?

Let me explain. Yesterday, I woke up to my cat, Bhakti’s meows—“wake up time”—(with a cat who needs an alarm?) and walked into my kitchen only to find that Bhakti had opened a cupboard door and spilled Windex all over the kitchen floor. After cleaning up that ammonia blue mess, I walked into the living room to find throw up (hers of course) in three places. At that point, I realized there was a not so subtle clue to the day that had to do with cleaning—duly noted, but I hadn’t even gotten to the normal morning routines, let alone my coffee. Next stop was going downstairs to the complex’s laundry room to do a load of laundry. Bhakti meanwhile was letting me know in no uncertain, very obnoxious, loud meows that our normal routine was off.

A “normal” day begins with hugs, cleaning her litter box and some other bathroom chores. Then we head off to the kitchen for snacks, cleaning her bowls, giving her clean water, feeding her and taking care of some of my own dietary morning needs. After another short stint in the bathroom, it is usually time for meditation. Now pretty much anyone who has met me either personally or professionally knows that I’ve had a meditation practice for many decades, but most people don’t know that Bhakti has a serious meditation practice and that the day pretty much starts with her sitting on my lap while I light the incense and candle. She purrs her mantras while I recite mine in Sanskrit.  If we don’t meditate by a certain time, things get pretty chaotic in Bhakti’s world and the loud meows and disruptive behavior are irritating and annoying at best.

Now, am I bad? Yes. When I adopted her at seven years old (she is now fifteen), she had a perfectly good American name, “Bailey Marie”. But I had to go and change it to “Bhakti” which is a Yogic path and in Sanskrit means devotional love. So now I have her hooked on meditation and a timely routine. You might ask, “What is wrong with that? I wish I could teach my children to meditate, let alone my cat or dog!”

I’ll get to that point in a minute. Meanwhile my day was gloriously deteriorating. After putting a load in the laundry room downstairs instead of meditating, I thought I’d jump in the shower and wash my hair. Bhakti was loudly meowing her disapproval when I turned on the water in the shower to nothing. Well, a tiny dribble of water. I tinkered with the showerhead for about 5 minutes and finally gave up and started filling up the tub. The only problem is that I have long hair and I couldn’t negotiate my hair and shampooing it with the tub faucet. Now Bhakti was meowing and banging on the door to join me. That was the last thing I needed—a wet cat trying to meditate in a full tub of water!!! Somehow I got my hair washed and rinsed and a half hour later, we did indeed get to meditate and the rest of my day actually worked out quite well.

As I reflected on this day, I noted that so many of the classes I teach about yoga, movement, creativity and resilience are about the business of finding both internal and external ways of expressing these components in daily life for grounding and staying centered, especially in the midst of chaos. I realized that Bhakti and her devotion serve as great reminders of how a daily practice can help us stay centered when everything else may fall apart around us and that we all need practices that can take us to that quiet, peaceful place.

Honing resilience is not just about surviving, but invites us to become triumphant in areas where we might give up or become complacent and for that we need tools (practices) that keep us moving forward no matter what the setbacks are, big or small. I think cats are a great reminder of this. They are ornery, mischievous, never do what they’re told, are known for having nine lives and their greatest weapon of all is purring. Mine just happens to purr in Sanskrit.

In feline smiles,
Françoise

Jun

11

Fostering Resilience – Part One

By Francoise Netter

The subject of Resilience, I believe is one of the most relevant qualities that we can develop, nurture and sustain. It is a quality that we too often ignore in this fast paced, technological whiz of a life. In the next few blogs and articles, I will be addressing various ways that you can think about resilience and apply it to your life both personally and professionally.

Part One

Isn’t it amazing that on the day you think you have it down, meaning you are centered and acting from a place of being grounded and calm, a myriad of circumstances can enter your world to shake you from your stance? It is especially humbling when you feel you have graduated from a certain level of reactivity and think that you are no longer vulnerable to spouts of reactive anger, stress, sadness, fear or grief. So what do you do when circumstances arise that dismantle you?

I, like most of us, have an over developed inner critic, so I’m going to suggest the following steps that you can apply personally or professionally and individualize:

  1. Refrain from judging your “fall” and instead embrace a stance of loving compassion for “losing it.”
  2. Pause as soon as you become conscious to do so, breathe and become reflective. Is this new or a trigger from the past? What do I have control over? What can I do? What can I change? What do I need to let go of?
  3. This may take 5 minutes or it might go on for weeks or longer. Journal, pray, meditate or speak with a trusted friend or counselor.
  4. From this place of inner reflection, create an action step. It may be to simply breathe and move on or there may be various outer actions that need to happen.
  5. Know that life is very much like flying a plane. Pilots are rarely on course in their flight plan. They arrive at their destination by constantly correcting their course.
  6. Keep your vision clear and always make room for adjustments.

In the process of compassionately fostering resilience,
Françoise

Apr

23

Laughing Your Way To Learning

By Francoise Netter

Last week, I met with Educators to teach a class on Creative Lesson Planning. The class was a blast from beginning to end. The environment may have added to the evening’s light and humorous quality as we met in a restaurant/bar instead of a standard classroom. Yet, it was not the first time that I had taught and given credits during a Happy Hour setting, but this evening had a special quality to it. Perhaps it was the synergy of the individuals present that allowed everyone to let their guard down and have a good time while learning. Whatever it was, after the class, I found myself asking why this quality was not more present in learning and academic environments. Don’t we learn more easily when we’re having fun? Doesn’t laughter and play take the edge off of our fears and feelings of inadequacy? Then why is school and academia so often devoid of joy, laughter and playfulness?

I am all for serious moments of concentration and focus, but the lightness of this evening brought smiles to everyone present and we ended up staying past the prescribed time of the class. Just think how our classrooms might benefit with the addition of this more informal, playful inclusion. Through medical research, we know that stress is the # 1 cause of immune deficiency, disease and even premature death. Last night was a stress-busting event for everyone present and they fulfilled their professional obligations of procuring credits and applying them academically.

Students of all ages can benefit from an approach to learning that integrates laughter and playfulness. How can creativity be explored and subjects we have labeled as challenging or serious be taught so that the students embrace them with glee and attentiveness? As an experiment, see what you can do to add joy, laughter and ease to your professional and personal life especially to the parts of your life that you label as difficult or drudgery. Have fun with it and then let me know your results.

In lightness and laughter,
Françoise

Mar

12

Actualizing Your Yoga and Renew, Rejuvenate and Retreat in Spain

By Francoise Netter

After five years of contemplation, we finally have a trip to Spain planned in June.  In the last blog I spoke about slowing down and doing something different. Traveling with purpose can be the positive jolt we need. Why Spain? Why 2012?

Since I was a child, I’ve observed, sometimes much to my chagrin, that I am not only “The Princess and The Pea” in terms of sensitivity but I often act as a conduit for trends happening in my cultural environs. The Barcelona area and the coast of Spain have been calling me energetically for years. Is it the Catalonian culture or is there something powerful and transformational that this environment holds? The sea, to me is not only a place of comfort and rejuvenation; it also holds a mysterious element that speaks to our souls. Every time I’ve been to the Mediterranean, I have been awestruck by the turquoise balmy waters and by the beauty of the landscape infused with a combination of ruggedness and paradise-like charm. To be able to travel as a group to play, learn, grow and shift on foreign soil, not only seems timely, but insistent.

I’ve noticed that as much as we are extreme in this country—I’m either feasting or on a diet, I’m either spending or spend-thrift—I’m either single or passionately in love–I’m either busy and have no time or I have plenty of time and no money—we need a new model of living that it begins with balance. Traveling with purpose (fun and knowledge) affords us that possibility. When we change things up like traveling to a foreign country and combine that with a theme, Renewal Retreat, we not only shift our daily habits, but we also infuse our consciousness with new possibilities that we could never have conceived of in our ordinary lives. Sometimes we are forced to make these changes by circumstances that occur over which we seem to have no control. How much more empowering to make these small changes ourselves before our personal world imposes them by shaking things up.

This trip to Spain has the promise and intent to create the next steps in your life. It will engage you to make a difference in the most positive and life generating way. I invite you to join us on this journey. It can happen. It is happening.  For more information go to www.bodyminddynamics.org/retreat.

Feb

7

Salary Enhancement Courses For Educators and Their Students

By Francoise Netter

Education is my passion. Having taught some form of the arts since I was twenty, I have worked in every type of private and public institution. I’ve juggled a myriad of part time jobs. I have worked with pre-school to older adults and every population in between including in Universities, Colleges, Elementary, Middle Schools and High Schools. I have been a consultant and an artist-in-residence. But nowhere was I more challenged, then when I became a full time teacher in Colorado. I also never exceeded $35,000.00 in salary and that was 7 years ago. Now I work with the educators themselves with the intention of changing one classroom at a time.

I can sincerely state from personal experience that educators are some of the most under-appreciated, underpaid and over-worked professionals in this country and yet they have probably the most challenging and important roles. They wear more hats than most people could ever fathom and are responsible literally for the future of our society through the educating and often raising of our children.

In so many ways, I am blessed to be able to teach educators what I have studied and practiced for most of my adult life. And now, more than ever, it appears to be urgently relevant to integrate these principles into every aspect of learning and education. Creativity, body/mind wellness, kinesthetic learning, balance and integration need to be incorporated into the academic curriculum. I watch as my teachers are forced to comply with standards that have nothing to do with their students’ needs or learning skills. When they incorporate breathing, movement and creativity development into the academic curriculum, the students respond with enthusiasm and the results are both exceptional and multi-faceted.

For right now, it is a win-win. Educators are able to increase their earnings and satisfy continued education credits while incorporating life-changing ideas, lesson plans and practical applications that can make a difference in their students’ lives and their academic achievements. But what if we could overhaul the system with a more integrated approach that allowed both the teachers and the students to excel, be self-responsible and love learning?

Just imagine what education might be like. Imagine what contributions our future generations would make if they loved attending school and being part of an extraordinary system of learning that satisfied individual needs as well as the needs of the community. And finally imagine a world where educators were valued and paid the way we treat celebrities and top athletes.

To find out more about Educator courses, related seminars, in-service courses at your district and the retreat in Spain, please go to: www.bodyminddynamics.org or contact us at: fenetter@yahoo.com.

Oct

10

Beauty in Stillness

By Francoise Netter

As many of you know I have taught and trained others in Yoga and Movement For The Mind for over thirty years. I currently teach various graduate seminars for educators integrating body/mind wellness, creativity and inspiration in the classroom. I recently received a paper from one of my educator students and thought I would share the following excerpt with you.

Enjoy,
Françoise

Beauty in Stillness

By Vanessa

Sleep comes at a struggle for me.  It is not so much falling asleep but awakening in the middle of the night and relaxing enough to fall asleep again.  I try many techniques to reduce this nuisance, such as yoga, meditation even Benadryl.  They have all helped me a lot and I am better able to cope with these midnight wakings.  With the years of struggle I have had with sleep, it should not be a surprise to me that my daughter has trouble falling asleep at night.

My daughter is five years old.  She leads an active happy life full of play, learning and love.  At bedtime, I know that she is tired, even exhausted from her day.  We bathe in the evening, and read story.  It still takes her at least thirty minutes and, on most days, one hour to fall asleep!  I cannot believe it!

After taking the “Yoga for Educators” class with Françoise and working on my own meditation and relaxation techniques learned in class, I decided to start sharing some of these techniques with my daughter.  Over the summer, I worked with her on breathing deeply, relaxing her muscles one at a time and visualizing beautiful scenes.  Every night we tried something, rotating these relaxing activities before kissing her goodnight.  I was hoping that slowly one of these would catch on and she would be able to fall asleep more easily.  For a month, we worked on this.  She still would come out of her room 2 or 3 times asking for something else and still not able to fall asleep.  On some nights she even would stay awake, in bed, singing, or talking to herself for two hours!  WHY?!

I approached the question with her.  Really there is no explainable answer at this time.  I cannot put my finger on it.  So, I tried lying with her to relax her.  What a wiggle worm!  I would fall asleep before her but except that she moves so much that she disturbs me.  Ah ha! Maybe she needs to practice stillness.

So, again we worked on the relaxation techniques, as we had before, but this time we added stillness to it.  Each night I help her visualize just before kissing her good night and make sure that she is comfortable. I remind her to practice stillness and to find a beauty in her mind.  This conscious stillness is difficult and has taken some time.  A month later, it works!  Now, she still gets up on most nights but her wake time in bed is now from 15 to 30 minutes instead of from 30 to 60 minutes. Wow! What a relief.

Stillness is hard to come by in our busy lives.  In the waking hours of my daughter’s day, I probably don’t model any time to stay still myself.  Why would she know what it is like. Plus, this little one is definitely precocious.  It must be harder for someone that is constantly exploring and on the move.  If she can find stillness at five years old, it will be a skill that will help her throughout her life.  I hope our practice will influence her to take time to herself and absorb the day.  I have found beauty in the stillness of my life, when I present myself the gift.  I hope I can give her a sense that she too deserves it daily.