May 21, 2024

Our exercise routines change depending on the time of day. If you exercise when you get up, you are trying to wash the melatonin out of your system and get as much energy into your body as possible. In the middle of the day can be a good time to do heavy, muscle building exercise. This can be a good time for that because in the afternoons our energy can drop a bit, especially if we’ve had a good lunch! Just before bed is a totally different thing.

At bedtime you try to wind down. You are wooing sleep by letting the melatonin into your system and relaxing your attention. This is why working on stressful problems just before sleep is so disruptive to good sleep. Or working on a screen or watching a lot of television before sleep. They all stimulate the brain rather than soothe it. Heavy duty exercise does the same thing. It wakes you up and can keep you stimulated for hours. If you want to exercise before bed, what should you do?

Here are the kinds of exercises I do before bed. I don’t do all of these every night but they give you a flavor of what I think works. As I am an internal martial artist, I tend to think of Qi Gong before bed. Slow movements with lots of controlled breathing, trying to feel the energy moving through the body. I might start with a 10 to 15 minute of Standing Practice, then do a few swings. Then I might do a few spinal stretches. I might do one of my favorite sets called Spinal Qi Gong which takes about 10 minutes and gently moves and expands the vertebrae in the spine. Sometimes I pick out a section of Tai Ji and practice it very slowly, paying attention to my breath and opening my joints. Often, I do a sitting exercise called Longevity Exercises which concentrate on various parts of the body and the breath.

I could go on for a long time, but I’ll stop because most likely you don’t know any of these exercises. What is clear though is what I concentrate on is slow expansion of the joints, deep slow breathing through the nose and a meditative concentration on what I am doing. You can do this with any exercise set you practice. Focus on slowing your movement without explosive, exhausting motion such as we see in aerobics. If you are used to doing kata (karate) you can do a form but do it very slowly with no power or snap in your motions. Concentrate on doing the motions slowly and with attention. If you do yoga do slow stretching with focus on your breath and muscles. Use your breath to lead your activity. Feel your body relaxing into yourself as you are ready for sleep.

You can do this, and you will have better sleep and dreams. If you need help you know where I am.

To a peaceful life,

Cliff


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May 7, 2024

When I was three years old, I got a lesson from my Dad that lasted my whole life. I remember sitting on the porch with my Dad as he quizzed me (my memory remembers it as a long interrogation, but it couldn’t have lasted more than 5 minutes). I had lied to him about something-I can’t remember what it was. I remember crying probably thinking it would get me off the hook. It didn’t work. He talked about how lying was something that would damage me. That people couldn’t rely on someone who lied easily. If I wanted to be known as someone who could be trusted I needed to create myself as a person who didn’t lie. This memory lives inside of me to this day. When you’re a kid everyone lies to escape the consequences of bad actions. From this experience I didn’t do it. And when I trained my children, they went through the same thing as me. But they don’t lie either.

This was good in my career until I ended up working for a guy who lied as a matter of course. I was a researcher under him, and he wanted me to do some research on a plasma system that he had developed for X-ray masks. I read his papers then talked with him about the research. One question I asked was, “If this system was so good how come IBM and Bell Labs didn’t use it?” He had come from IBM, and I knew some of the guys at Bell. He answered that no one else had done this research and that was the reason why we had to do this work. So, I agreed and spent the next 18 months designing and building a system to do the testing. I am a careful experimenter and took great pains to replicate his work. My results were mixed. I could get great deposition rates of gold, but the uniformity was terrible, at least terrible for making X-ray masks. My boss was a semi-theorist but a poor experimenter. Finally, I went to him with all my data and asked what he thought I might be doing wrong. I was quite surprised when he exploded. I won’t repeat all the crappy things he said but one thing stood out. “You’re just like those guys from Bell and IBM Watson who claimed they couldn’t replicate my results.” All of a sudden, I realized that he’d lied to me. I’d spent 18 months of my life on a lie. I would never have agreed to do this job if I’d known that two groups of good researchers had failed at replicating his results. What was worse, he went to our bosses and lied about me again. And our bosses wouldn’t even discuss the real issue with me. Needless to say, I left that organization. I wasn’t fired but I immediately found three offers outside of that corrupt organization. I started a company that was quite successful with 3 other guys. Later on, I went back into the semiconductor business and did quite well. The one thing that marked me for people like Intel, Motorola and IBM was that I was honest. If a machine was bad, I said it was. Even as a VP I never lied.

Now this story is bad enough. I’m sure that all of you can tell me stories of people lying to damage you or blame you. But there is something worse. Lying to yourself. When you blow off a training session because you are “too tired” or “it won’t matter, just one day”, you are lying to yourself. You made a promise to yourself to do something to reach your goal. But you didn’t do it. Whether you realize it or not you have damaged your own integrity by these actions. These actions (or in actions) are just as damaging as lying to a spouse or friend.

Who are you? What kind of standard do you hold yourself to? I invite you to look at your actions and decide what your standards are. What things will you do today? What won’t you do, no matter what?

These thoughts matter.

To a great day,

Cliff


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April 30, 2024

One of the things that cause teachers of all kinds to pull out their hair is the reluctance of students to ask questions. There are all kinds of reasons given for why they don’t ask questions. The real issue though is that this sets a pattern for the rest of their lives. A doctor says something, and you don’t ask questions. Later you get a result you don’t like that could have been prevented if you had asked a simple question. This happens in all parts of our lives.

Last week I needed a crown for a tooth. The diagnosis was based on some simple tests. The conclusion was that I had a crack that was causing my pain, and I needed a crown. They couldn’t see the crack but needed to go ahead. I knew they couldn’t see it because I asked. As the procedure went forward, I listened to the dentist and her assistant discuss what was on going. I heard them say, “There’s the crack.” When I could talk, I asked, “You found the crack?” She answered, “Yes, it was localized, and we were able to eliminate it. Good news.” When we were done, I asked about care and treatment of the temporary crown. Specifically, I asked about flossing. The dentist demonstrated on my tooth how to do the flossing with the temporary crown which was much different than my usual technique.  I asked as many questions as I could think of, and she answered them all.

Why am I relating this story? Because when you are practicing or learning how to use your body you must ask as many questions as possible that will affect your health and technique. You may think the question is stupid, but I assure you your trainer or teacher doesn’t. It shows that you want to learn. It shows you value his/her expertise and advice. More importantly you receive insight into how to do the technique that is experiential. The teacher will expand the message further with details that make things clearer to you. It gets to the core which is your ability to master that method or exercise. If your teacher hates your questions, find another teacher.

You have heard this message all through your life. It applies as much now as an adult as it did when you were a young child in school. There are no stupid questions! Believe it and make your life better with questions.

To a life full of questions,

Cliff


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April 23, 2024

As you know I am a believer in movement for health and well-being. A lot of people believe that the best way to start your day is with a good breakfast. This is not a bad idea, depending on what you are eating. I think, though, that the best way to start the day is to move. You want to move to loosen the joints and gradually warm the muscles so that you can move through your day with ease. There are lots of exercise types that you can use. This includes yoga, Qi Gong, Tai Ji and other soft beginning exercises. I have a morning set up set on my website that is easy to follow and sets you up for the day. It is a mixture of yoga and Qi Gong and some more conventional exercises.

Everyone is different, though. What should you concentrate on to give yourself the best start possible? Because I believe in exercising with good posture, here is what I think is a good approach if you want to use your own exercises. Concentrate on your joints. Start at the top with your shoulders. There are many exercises in Qi Gong that are part of Tai Ji and Ba Qua that open the shoulders in a gentle way. A lot of modalities start with the neck, but I think that if you are making sure you are in a good posture your neck will be ok. Next, move to your hips. The hips to my mind are the most important part of the body. Learning to move correctly and open them up daily is very important. This is especially important true if you are over 50. Older people lose their balance when their hips become less flexible. The single most important exercise for this is deep squats. Try to work up to hold them for at least 2 to 3 minutes. Wall Sits are another great exercise as they help take the rotation out of your hips. This is especially important if you are a runner because hip rotation means your foot is striking the ground each time you stride with a built-in stress. If you don’t correct this, you will develop knee pain. There are other exercises you can do to open and keep your hips flexible but whatever you choose make sure you do them every day.

Next are the knees. The biggest issue here is your hip flexors. Thay are the strongest muscles in the body. If you let them, you will run and walk with your hip flexors and that will end in tears. To fix this you must get your thigh muscles strong and active. Lunges, both front and back are good, or exercises like them. Wall sits fix thigh muscles in a very short time. If you do something to activate the thigh muscles, they will be sore at first because you’ve not been using them. Learn to do any exercise with or for the knees posturally correct. This means do not treat the knee joint as a weight bearing joint. Design your exercise so you don’t put weight on the knee joint.

Next are the ankles. Learn to do foot circles and point and flexes. These keep the ankle flexible. Pay attention to your weight distribution before you start exercising. Is your weight even on both feet? Are you shifted forward or backward from your center line. You tell this by where your weight is centered-on your heels or balls of the feet. Learn to sit in your inguinal crease if you are standing. It is like sitting on shock absorbers.

‘What about the back’, you ask. If you are doing the exercise I have prescribed, or ones designed to cover the joints I’ve discussed, you shouldn’t have back pain. If you do have back pain, then every day you need to do the simple exercise of lying on the ground with both legs up on the chair as discussed in my book.

These are very simple prescriptions for starting your day. These minimal movements should take no more than 12 to 15 minutes every morning. They will start your day with the right energy and help keep you there.

If you have a lot of pain or someone you know does, get in touch with me and I will help you.

To a pain free life,

Cliff


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April 16, 2024

Do you know what homeostasis is? This is the tendency or impetus for the organism to stay the same. For example, if you try to lose weight or gain weight your body says, “Whoa, that’s not normal. Let’s put the breaks on that!” This, in the beginning, is one of the issues with weight loss or gain. The body sees this as a threat to its established pattern and attempts to stop it. This is the comfort zone.

Here is the rub. Everything you do that is perceived as new is perceived as a threat by the body/mind. It manifests in the mind as reasons to quit or not attempt something new. Or, when some action needs to be taken to create the new thing procrastination sets in. These can be quite subtle messages such as, “I’m tired. I can do it later or better yet tomorrow.” Or “I don’t quite understand this. Maybe I should ask Jack, who knows all about this stuff before I start.” Even more subtle is the message, “I’m really not enough of an expert. I can’t really be successful.”

These kinds of messages are pure sabotage. They stop you dead. Here’s the kicker, at the same time that you are stopped you feel better. Why? Because you didn’t challenge your comfort zone. You stayed in it. And although there might be a bit of guilt there is an overwhelming feeling of relief. The struggle is over.

“Okay, Cliff. I get it. How do I deal with this sabotage?” There are many ways but the way I think is best is to get a very strong why behind your venture into something new. If you lost your job and have a family to support, starting a new company will seem necessary. You can attack the subtle messages by saying that what you are doing is a matter of survival. Finding the why behind your doing something new can be difficult. The reasons you give can’t be silly or grandiose. For example, saying I want to be rich isn’t a good why. It is too unclear and certainly doesn’t stir the blood. And the reasons behind the why are more emotional than rational. Your why must stir your blood. When you wake up in the morning your why needs to shoot you out of bed with the excitement to come to grips with your tasks. Your big why isn’t a goal. It is the picture of who you desire to be in the future. This can be intimidating. You want to become someone else. And that threatens your body and mind. After all, a new you is eliminating the old you. And that is terrifying to your subconscious and your conscious mind. That is the source of the sabotaging messages. If you create a why that you love, then the obstacles to your success are greatly diminished. That doesn’t mean that you won’t have issues on your path. But the internal messages that stop you before you start are now controllable and the motivation to attack your new dream is high.

Spend the time and effort to create a why that makes you smile every time you think about it. If you need help with this write to me.


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April 9, 2024

Have you ever tried to cut something with a dull knife? If you have, then you know how difficult it is and how tough it is to keep going. Sharpen the knife and everything is easy. Focus is the sharpening of your attention to what you are doing-now. Not in the future, not in the past but all your attention is only about what you are doing now.

Last week I had two things I had to do. I needed to do them because they are important to my well-being. They needed a phone call. But I put it off because…I thought it would be hard…I could do it later…I didn’t feel like it…I thought it would take a long painful set of conversations.

Until this morning when I metaphorically sharpened the knife. I decided that right this minute I would do the two essential calls. I practiced what I would say and did it. The most important call was the first, and it took 2 minutes. The result I got was to my benefit and made my day. The second call took 3 minutes and set up the rest of my week. Total time; 5 minutes; results; excellent.

Use the image of sharpening the knife to face the tasks and challenges that exist in your life. See the knife (your attention) being sharpened and as it gets sharper your attention to the task at hand gets tighter and tighter. This is what focus is; the obliteration of anything except your task in your mind. Practice this metaphorical sharpening every time you must do something. Watch your life change.

To a life of focus.

Cliff


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April 2, 2024

We talked last week about criteria for trusting a practitioner. Then I was mostly talking about medical people, doctors, and other health professionals. The number of people pushing exercise advice swamps the numbers pushing medical advice. You can have three people discuss the same exercise and get wildly different advice. How do you determine who to believe?

As with the medical people you start by looking at their background and education. Education doesn’t mean just degrees but who they studied with and how they were trained. Secondly, you look at the reasons they are pushing a particular exercise method or technique. Is there some logic behind it or is it just how they feel or how someone else taught them i.e. do what I say. Thirdly, there is a feel to a person and their message. I dislike excessively negative presentations that don’t have good reasons behind them. The exercise world is full of these kinds of presentations. I’m also skeptical of people who are practically naked in their talks. I feel there is something more going on than just good information. Lastly, I look for results from what they teach. On YouTube reading the comments can be valuable. Look for ones where the people have followed the teacher for a while and give a kind of testimonial. There are many people who give really good advice and even training. Some names include Mark Wildman, Mike Chang, Kelly Starrett, Pete Egoscue and Adelle Bridges. They all teach simply and directly without bombast and without negative comments about others. The comments they have on YouTube alone show how they change people’s lives with their methods.

Just briefly I will talk about my work. As you know the central theme of what I teach is good posture. This core tenet lets me get people out of pain. It also is a guiding light for how to move and how to judge your movement. From this core you can analyze your own pain and movement and figure out for yourself why you are in pain. Or why a particular movement isn’t getting you the results you want. I learned this from Pete Egoscue and martial arts. All of the martial arts I teach (Tai Ji, BaQua, and Hapkido) teach good posture and rely on it to become proficient. There is a logic behind this that governs motion. If you study good posture and work on making yours as perfect as it can be not only will you live a pain-free life, but you will see examples every day of people moving with poor posture. I don’t condemn other methods; rather I embrace them with the addition of good postural methods.

Start your day by looking in your mirror and seeing your posture. If it isn’t perfect, work on it. Or call me.

To a great life.

Cliff


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