Monday, August 28, 2006

Penny for Your Thoughts…

”Mind-Stuff Experiments.” That’s the title of Chapter Two of Claude Bristol’s “The Magic of Believing.” Mind-stuff, indeed! Couldn’t he have come up with a more technical term? I wondered with a smile.

Well, that really doesn’t matter. What does matter is the importance of thought. Centuries ago, Buddha said: “All that we are is the result of what we have thought.” Ponder that for a minute. What a responsibility it lays on us! Continues Bristol: “Your dominant thoughts determine your character, your career, your everyday life.” I ask you – and pardon the convoluted sound of this question – how many of us really think about what we THINK?

It’s not just our own thoughts that need to be guarded, but those of others, with respect to how they influence us. Bristol points out that “men of powerful dynamic thought have always swayed people by appealing to their minds – whether sometimes to lead them into freedom or into slavery.” (Adolf Hitler came immediately to my mind – how about yours?) Bristol continues by noting that we are bombarded daily by what we hear in conversation, on TV, on the radio and in movies, as well as what we read in books, newspapers and magazines, and, of course, on the Internet, which had not been invented in his day, but through the miracle of which you’re reading this blog. Some of these influences, he says, can lead us to better things, but too many are “upsetting or weakening.”

I have to agree, and I’m sure you can think of an example in your own life as well. Perhaps it’s watching too much hurricane coverage on TV, or reading about one too many murder cases in the newspaper. In particular, I recalled the words of Bethany Torode, a young and highly articulate Christian author, on the Boundless web site several years ago, when she was addressing responses to her recent article about why she and her husband had chosen not to own a TV:

"One of my friends who doesn’t own a TV commented that everyone she talked to on Sept. 11 who had watched the events on television was frightened, depressed, shaken and irrational. Those who hadn’t — who had simply heard about it from others — were much more calm, thoughtful, and sober."

Neither Bethany nor I advocate hiding our heads in the sand when it comes to being aware of current events, but her point, especially when taken in the larger context of the complete article (see, should be clear. Sometimes we could use a fast from the media, or at least a diet!

Bristol then makes another provocative statement: that hard work alone will not bring success. Most Americans are familiar with the term “Puritan work ethic” (also known as the “Protestant work ethic”) that supposedly defines our cultural heritage. How many times have we said of someone, “He worked hard for what he got”? And certainly, in most cases “he” or “she” did. But, says Bristol, something else was required: “[C]reative thinking and firm belief in your ability to execute your ideas.” Successful people in history, he says, “have succeeded through their thinking. Their hands were merely helpers to their brains.” (I love that image!)

As I read on, I began to hear echoes of previous blog entries on that precious commodity I continue to struggle with – desire. Bristol states, as have others, that our desire must be “all-obsessing,” that our energy must be concentrated and applied without letup, to achieve success – in whatever way we define that term. To achieve our objective, we must be willing to make it “the burning desire of [our] life.”

By this time I found myself mentally saying to the long-deceased author, “Amen! Preach it, brother!” But I wasn’t saying it with the enthusiasm of a congregation answering back to the minister. Rather, it was with a sense of chagrin as I recognized myself in these words:

“Most people have a general desire to succeed, but beyond that, everything is indefinite. They merely go along from day to day, figuring that if they have a job today, they will have it tomorrow – and that somehow, they will be looked after in their old age. They are like corks floating aimlessly on the water, drawn this way and that by various currents, either washing up on shore or becoming water-logged and eventually sinking.”

Ee-yowww. Amen, brother, indeed! That one hit a little too close to home.

But let’s get back to the power of thought. For centuries, some have claimed that humans can actually shape events and control matter through their minds alone. Many flatly deny such a possibility; others, me included, are skeptical but still open-minded. After all, as Bristol points out, if radio waves can pass through such solid objects as wood and steel, why can’t thought waves, “if tuned to even higher oscillations,” affect the molecules of solid objects?

Okay, Claude, I thought, you’ve got my attention. I won’t deny the possibility – especially when he goes on to cite various experiments that bear him out, which I won’t go into here in the interest of space. What really struck me was his personal theory – “that [thoughts] create only according to their pitch, intensity, emotional quality, depth of feeling, or vibratory plane. In other words, thoughts have a creative or controlling force in the exact ratio of their constancy, intensity, and power – comparable to the wavelength and wattage of a broadcasting station.”

Wow! If true, doesn’t that give you a sense of power? As well as responsibility?

I again had a recollection, as I read those words. I can’t recall the source now, but the speaker or author claimed to have had a vision of prayer requests on their ascent to heaven. Intriguingly, those petitions accompanied by a strong faith “shot straight up” to the throne of God, while those sent with less belief were weak and wobbly and took longer to reach their destination. Bristol, who does not appear to have been a religious man, seems to echo this when he says, “After studying the so-called mystic teachings, the various mental sciences, and the regular church teachings, I am convinced that they all work in varying degrees, but only to the extent that their followers believe. So it is with prayer, whether it be part of a church service or the purely spontaneous and personal supplication of the individual.”

* * * * *

Where does that leave us? We now have some sense of the sheer power of thoughts – not just our own, but those of others. We’ve been told how important an asset belief is to those thoughts. So now it’s time…to believe.

What do you need to believe for? More money, a better body, better health? As I mentioned briefly last week, my most immediate need is for a new job. And I know now that I have to guard my negative thoughts regarding past “failures” more closely than ever – as the old Johnny Mercer tune says, I have to “Accentuate the positive.” That means focusing on my strengths rather than my weaknesses (although those must never be ignored), and taking time to visualize – with faith! – positive outcomes to my search, rather than letting myself get bogged down by financial fears or wondering if I’ll experience another layoff. So that’s what I’ll be focusing on this week. And I’ll keep you posted as to the results!

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Readers Write! I’ve had two interesting responses to last week's post from Anonymous treaders this week. Anonymous #1 writes:

“…[R]eceiving will be undermined by self-destructive sabotaging somewhere soon after if we don't really deep down believe with all our being that we deserve to receive--to be loved--to be healthy and thin--to be all we were born to be.”

Can’t argue with that, A. Believe and receive! He or she goes on to ask:

“How much have you lost so far? How are you really feeling since you started this journey? Healthier? Has your pant size gone down? Are you feeling firmer? How about your energy level? You've passed along lots of wise information but left out how Lucie is really doing. What's working for you and how? Tell us about your results."

You asked for it, you got it, A. The truth is that while Big Bertha (see post of May 29, 2006) seems slightly less poofy since I left my job and consequently (if surprisingly) am eating a little less, especially of fast food, and while my jeans were a little less hard to fasten this week, I haven’t started a new exercise program since I finished The Shaolin Workout described in three recent posts. Sometimes I walk in the evening, sometimes I don’t. Some days I’m good about drinking a lot of water, sometimes I prefer tea or diet Coke. My energy level still varies from day to day, largely depending on my mood, which, of course, largely depends on my thoughts! But this week I’m going back to basics with one of my previously listed “Tools of the Trade” – Alan Gordon’s “Get Fit: Flexibility.” While I have great respect for the routines put out by such fitness gurus as Matt Furey and Ed Baran, both of whose products I own, the fact is that at the moment much of the exercises are too advanced for me, which leads naturally to frustration and discouragement. I’m hoping that Gordon’s book will help me develop some much-needed flexibility with its positions that look to be more my speed. I’ll let you know next week. I’m also studying Maxwell Maltz’s “Psycho-Cybernetics: Zero Resistance Living,” as well as, obviously, Claude Bristol’s “The Magic of Believing,” so while I may be hardly any less overweight, I am feeling mentally stronger! And increased mental strength will hopefully lead to increased physical strength down the road. Thanks for asking, A. – it helps me remember to stay accountable – and please keep reading and responding!

Anonymous #2 had this to say:

“I've been so on the edge of committing to really doing it [shedding weight] myself. I'm a well read person – lots of expert info stored in this noggin. Waiting for what? The right day? The right magic formula? I really think I just need to do it – not in my head but in a way that holds me accountable. I've always been very competitive, so is anyone out there up for the challenge? I weigh in at an all time high of 212 and a half pounds – there, I said it! Today is the day. I will check in regularly with my progress!”

A2, thank you for your thoughts and also for your courage in sharing something so personal…something I haven’t been able to bring myself to do yet after about three months of blogging! Please do keep us apprised of your progress so we can cheer you on. And it sounds like you’re throwing down a gauntlet. Does anyone out there want to pick it up?

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I don’t have a decadent recipe to share with you this week, but a movie plug. Yesterday I went to see Oliver Stone’s new film, “World Trade Center,” and highly recommend it. While a couple of friends have told me they’re not sure they’re ready to relive that terrible event, and I’ll admit that there were a few moments at the beginning that had me cringing as well, I appreciated Stone’s subtlety in handling such a tender subject, and his lack of political axe-grinding in favor of focusing on individual stories. The acting is excellent and the overall effect deeply moving. Check it out – you won’t be sorry.

I’ll be back next week – hope you will too! In the meantime…Keep on Treading!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Professor Harold Hill Was on to Something

Last week I talked about how Professor Harold Hill, the fast-talking salesman of Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man,” relied on something called “The Think System” to get the boys of River City, Iowa to produce the Minuet in G on their brand-new instruments…without the benefit of any prior musical training. But the Think System was only a Hollywood invention, of course. Or was it? For the sake of the movie, it was. Yet I think the River City Boys Band had a little extra magic going for them – something that Claude M. Bristol called “The Magic of Believing.”

You may recall how in a previous entry on the importance of desire in effecting change, I described that commodity as being the fuel that drives the car, so to speak. Well, if desire is the gas, then belief is the vehicle. One without the other doesn’t accomplish much. The importance of belief was something that kept cropping up in various motivational materials I acquired, so it was with interest and anticipation that I picked up “The Magic of Believing,” a bestselling classic originally published in 1948 that has never gone out of print, and which is subtitled “The Science of Setting Your Goal and Then Reaching It.”

Claude Myron Bristol (1891-1951) was a journalist and businessman who got his start as a police reporter. As he says in Chapter One, “police reporters are trained to get facts and take nothing for granted.” He was also born with a perhaps above-average capacity for curiosity, an “insatiable yearning to seek answers and explanations” that led him to read thousands of books on such subjects as modern psychology, metaphysics, ancient magic, voodoo, yoga, theosophy, Christian Science, and many others that dealt with what he calls “Mind Stuff” (yes, you read that correctly!). Some of these books were nonsense. Some were strange. Still others were profound. All had one common thread through their teachings, a thread that made them work for those who accepted and applied them. That thread was belief.

Bristol’s own experience with “the magic of believing” began in 1918, when he was a soldier in France. While the exact details of his experience are a bit sketchy, the outline goes like this: Frustrated by his lack of spending money, Bristol made up his mind that when he returned to civilian life, he would have a lot of it. His Army classification card listed him as a newspaper man, yet he found himself “pushing wheelbarrows and lugging heavy shells and other ammunition” until he was suddenly transferred to the First Army Headquarters and placed in charge of a daily progress bulletin. During the next months he “frequently thought about the commission to which I was entitled.” Then, again quite suddenly, he received orders transferring him to the Army newspaper, the staff of which he had long wished to join, although he had done nothing about that ambition. In August of 1919 he returned home, eager to begin building the fortune he’d envisioned. The morning after his arrival, he received a phone call from the president of a club in which he’d been active. This man instructed him to call another, “a prominent man in the investment banking business who had read about my return and had expressed a wish to see me before I returned to newspaper work.” Bristol made the call, and two days later began a lengthy career as an investment banker, which later led to the vice-presidency of a well-known Pacific Coast firm.

Now here, readers, I had to stop for a second. What’s going on, I thought? A man with no prior experience whatsoever gets called out of the blue to join an investment banking firm? Up till now, Bristol has never mentioned an interest in that field. Sounds like sheer beginner’s luck to me. I read on.

Bristol’s salary was apparently satisfactory at the start, but he realized that there were many opportunities to make money in his new field. Exactly how he was to make it was not then clear, but, he says, “During those years I had constantly before me a mental picture of wealth.”

Constantly. Mental picture. Those words stood out to me as if highlighted. They sounded familiar. I read on.

Bristol describes how many people doodle while they’re distracted or talking on the telephone. I certainly do – primarily faces, though I have no idea why. Bristol’s doodling took the form of dollar signs, on every piece of paper that crossed his desk. “I want my readers to remember this detail,” he says, “because it suggests the mechanics to be used in applying this magic which I’ll explain in detail later.” (Hint: it’s not in Chapter One.)

Bristol next describes his unusual-sounding luck while en route to Asia on the Empress of Japan. In his previous travels he’d developed a fondness for Trappist cheese, made by the Trappist monks of Quebec. Failing to find it on the ship’s menu, he made a laughing complaint to the chief steward, who told him that there was none aboard. That didn’t stop Bristol from thinking about it, and increasingly wanting it. One night, after a ship’s party, he returned to his cabin after midnight and found a table with the largest cheese he’d ever seen on it. You guessed it – Trappist cheese! When Bristol again questioned the chief steward, he was told that since he’d seemed so set on having some, the steward had searched all the ship’s stores until a cheese turned up in the emergency storeroom in the bottom of the hold.

But the author’s seagoing luck wasn’t confined to a certain brand of cheese. On a second, homeward-bound voyage, he often thought about how nice it would be to receive the “VIP” attention he’d experienced on the Empress. As he started up the gangplank of the second ship, he said to himself, “They treated you as a king on the Empress of Japan. The least you can do here is to sit at the captain’s table. Sure, you’ll sit at the captain’s table.” You can guess what happened next! Later, Bristol got a letter from the captain to substantiate his story, which he included in his lectures. The captain said that as Bristol came aboard, “something” told him to seat Bristol at his table. He could not give any further explanation.

Not surprisingly, Bristol notes that many who heard this story declared it to be coincidence. He is positive that it was not. “It’s the belief or the basic confidence within you that brings outward material results,” he says.

Chapter One cites other instances of belief bringing results, ranging from the curing of warts to the doubling, trebling and even quadrupling of personal income. In one particularly notable instance, Bristol describes how his firm was “going on the rocks” during the Depression, “not because of the threatening outside happenings and events, but because of the mental attitude of our employees. We were all succumbing to mass-fear thoughts….With our own thoughts of ruin, we were attracting the disaster to ourselves.”

What did Bristol do? As he says, to save his firm and begin fighting the Depression itself, “all I needed to do was reverse the thinking of every person connected with our organization.” ALL, indeed! Yet apparently he was successful, because, according to the man who wrote the introduction for Bristol’s first book, this insight was followed by “the most remarkable transformation of individuals and organization as well.”

No doubt you’re wondering, “Well, what’s the secret? How did he do it?” Patience, readers! I’ve only just finished Chapter One!

Actually, that’s not quite true. I had made it about halfway through the book on my first reading a few months ago, but the going isn’t light, and the material should definitely be studied more than once for full absorption. However, in my own case, I had a particular motivation for restarting the book: a couple of weeks ago, I once again (involuntarily) joined the ranks of the unemployed. In the weeks ahead, as I consider studying a new career path, and in the meantime finding a new job that will pay for my training in that path, should I choose to pursue it, I’m going to have a far greater need for the power that comes with believing than I did before.

How about you, readers? Is there a need or lack in your own life for which you need the power of belief? Have you ever read, or are you currently reading, “The Magic of Believing”? If so, how have you applied it and what have you learned? I would love to hear about your experiences.

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There’s no “magic” involved in the recipe I’m featuring this week as a thank you to my readers for hanging out with me these past few months…just a whole lot of good taste and decadent calories. (Disclaimer: I refuse to be held responsible for any extra exercise that may be necessitated by your indulgence in it.) This simple peanut butter pie – and I can personally testify as to its deliciousness – came to me courtesy of a former coworker. You can, of course, make it a little less decadent by using low-fat versions of the ingredients.

Treader Lucie’s “Thanks for Reading!” Peanut Butter Pie Recipe

Mix together one cup of Cool Whip, one cup of peanut butter, one cup of powdered sugar, and one block of softened cream cheese. Place in eight-inch graham cracker piecrust shell and chill for several hours. Eat and enjoy!

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I’ll be continuing with Claude Bristol’s “The Magic of Believing” next week. Hope to see you then! In the meantime, as always…Keep on Treading!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Training the Way of the Warrior, Part III: Does It Really Work?

In the interest of not boring my readers, I’m condensing the last two parts of Sifu Shi Yan Ming’s “The Shaolin Workout” into this final part III of my analysis. As you’ll recall, Sifu’s routine encompasses only 28 days, but it's not as simple as it at first appears. In parts three and four, the kicks and crouches and one-legged stands increase. He even adds a few hops. I followed along as best I could, but didn’t really meet my Waterloo until I came to the Crossed Seated Stance. One look at the illustration was as much as I needed, but my conscience wouldn’t let me describe it here without at least trying it. If you’d like to give it a shot yourself, here are the slightly paraphrased instructions:

“Stand straight and relaxed, feet planted firmly, slightly farther apart than shoulder width. Turn your body to the left, pivoting on both feet, without lifting your feet or taking a step. When you’ve turned 180°, so that you’re now facing the opposite direction of where you started, go down slowly into a cross-legged crouch. Go down gently until you’re sitting on the ground, with your legs crossed, the left leg over the right thigh. Be mindful of keeping your body fully extended, back straight, head and chin up.”

I can crouch, but I can’t get myself down to the floor in this position without landing on Big Beatrice in a most un-Shaolin-like heap. (Stop laughing out there! I see you!) But wait – it gets worse! Sifu actually expects me to rise back to my original position!

“To return to your original standing position, simply ‘unwind’ yourself. As you begin to rise from the ground, turn your body to the right, pivoting on both feet. Keep turning and pivoting until you’re standing in your original position. Remember not to lift your feet or take a step. Just pivot in one spot.”

Don’t lift your feet? Don’t take a step? I have four words for you, Sifu: Bring on the crane.

"The Shaolin Workout" comes to a close soon after, with a photo of Sifu blowing a kiss to his readers. It’s a sweet gesture, but I’m feeling less than appreciative at the moment. However, that’s not his fault.

* * * * *

You’ve heard my thoughts on Sifu’s routine – what do others have to say? reviewers gave it an average of four out of five stars. Here’s a pro and con sampling of their comments.

“As a how-to, it’s limited because all martial arts and especially the more subtle ones have to be shown and taught in person….Some of the daily meditations are a little over the top, but the enthusiasm is catchy….Why does a stay-at-home mom need to learn Kung-Fu? Why not? Part of transforming your body and soul is just being open-minded. We all need to do things for ourselves occasionally, even if it is a simple stretch….It’s the only workout I’ve ever really enjoyed that didn’t involve a competitive sport….After just a few days I could feel myself standing taller and walking with better posture….No normal person would actually do this workout on their own for very long; it is just too strenuous to endure without encouragement from an instructor….To perform the techniques as he [Sifu] does takes relentless hours of practice, so the 28-days mantra is deceptive at best….There is ample reason to read this book even if you do not train physically because the life philosophy applies to all.”

And that brings me to the next part of "The Shaolin Workout" that I wanted to spotlight – the daily meditations. These bear repeated study even if you've ceased to do the workout. One of my favorites was “Dripping water bores a hole in the rock.” The persistence of dripping water is indeed what many of us need to achieve mastery over Sifu’s routine or whatever workout we choose, especially when we start from Ground Zero, as I did (see blog entry of May 22, 2006). As Sifu says (and how contrary this is to the typical American way of life!): “Your improvement may be so gradual that you don’t even notice, but don’t give up. Be as patient as the rain and the ice.”

Another one I particularly liked was “Beautiful birds always land on the top of the tree. Brilliant people always express their ideas up higher.” Sifu asks if we’ve ever seen a lazy bird. The answer is no, because there is no such thing. Birds are constantly active, constantly expressing their lives in their songs, their bright feathers (think of the peacock), and their soaring flight overhead. Sifu advises his readers to watch the birds arching and zipping across the sky – and then observe where they land – at the top of the tree. “In your life, you should be reaching for the top as well,” he says. “Don’t be like water running downhill.”

Is "The Shaolin Workout" a worthy purchase? I would say that really depends on the individual’s goals and interest in the martial arts. While I didn’t personally find the movements enjoyable, I rarely rank any exercise in that category, so don’t give that too much importance. On a scale of one to ten I would rate the overall sweat factor as about a seven, if you do the entire routine at once. The real benefit that I took away from the book is, as I have previously mentioned, an increased appreciation of the beauty and grace that comes from a fit and flexible body, as well as a renewed appreciation of the body itself. In attempting even the “for me impossible” moves, I learned to really listen to my muscles (and not just their shrieks of protest!). The photography is excellent and the layout well-executed. So if I’ve piqued your interest, crouch, leap and kick your way over to or your local bookstore, and check it out for yourself. And if you decide to embark on your own course of warrior training, write me and let me know how it works for you!

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Reader Joyce – who, by the way, has a wonderfully informative and beautifully photographed blog of her and her husband’s new “work camping” life in Rockport, Maine over at – alerted me to another interesting blog titled “The Fanatic Cook,” written by a female nutritionist. FC (I don’t know her real name) features detailed research, excellent illustrations, and recipes. For her analysis of the alleged benefits of bottled water, book and article recommendations, or just a mouth-watering recipe for lemon chiffon pie, “get thee on over” (as the inimitable Matt Furey would say) to This is one website definitely worth checking out. Thanks for the tip, Joyce! And speaking of tips…if you find a blog of note related in some way to the theme of this one, please write and let me know. I’ll be pleased to feature it in an upcoming entry.

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Have you ever seen Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man”? If so, you’ll likely remember that Professor Harold Hill, the suave, fast-talking traveling salesman of the production’s title, relied on something called “The Think System” to get his ragtag boys’ band to produce the “Minuet in G.” No practice was involved – in fact, the boys weren’t even allowed to attempt a note on their shiny new instruments! No, Professor Hill insisted they do nothing more than think the piece. Of course, Harold Hill was a charlatan who planned on being well out of town before his “Think System” could be exposed for the fraud it was…but this was Hollywood, not reality, and at the show’s finale, the River City Boys Band, with no prior musical ability or rehearsal, managed to stammer out a highly unprofessional, yet recognizable, “Minuet in G.” Was it just the magic of Hollywood at work? Or was there another type of magic involved – the magic of belief? Didn’t the boys have to believe they could play the minuet in the first place? I think they did. And not long ago I found myself wondering if Meredith Willson hadn’t read an intriguing book by Claude M. Bristol titled “The Magic of Believing” when he dreamed up that fictional boy’s band. For a look at that magic, stop by here again next week for “Professor Harold Hill Was On to Something.”

Until then...Keep on Treading!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Training the Way of the Warrior, Part II: "How the Heck Does He Do That?"

Last week I described how I was attracted to a new book called "The Shaolin Workout: 28 Days to Transforming Your Body and Soul the Warrior's Way." You may recall how I didn't find most of the first part too challenging. Well, I can safely say that those days were over when it came to Part Two!

Sifu ("Master" or "Teacher") and I began with a hip stretch that, in its complete phase, made me feel something like a human pretzel. Suffice it to say that I felt "stretched" indeed. Then it was on to the Pu Bu Stretch, a continuation of the former excercise. A continuation, that is, if you can even remotely get into the position that Sifu's illustrations demonstrate! I made it, oh, roughly a third of the way. How long did it take this man to achieve such flexibility?

Next was the Hip Rotation. This one made me giggle just looking at the illlustrations. Attempting it, I felt like a hula dancer! But where things really got interesting was when I moved to the Knee Rotation. Frankly, I'm darned if I can figure out the purpose of this one. Nor was I too good at performing it. You try it: Stand straight and relaxed, legs closed, feet together and pointed forward. Then reach down, grab your knees, which you should relax and bend, and, keeping your legs together and feet on the ground, rotate your knees in a circle. It's not as simple as it may sound. With all due respect to Sifu, I feel pretty silly!

I'll pass over the next two stretches, as they are impossible for me to fully achieve at this point, except to say that by the time Sifu instructed me to (from a lotus position, no less) lean my upper body in one direction and "Kiss your knee and toes while you're there, to show them your appreciation," I was not only thinking, "Appreciation for WHAT?" but was strongly tempted to retort, "Kiss THIS, Sifu!" I resisted the temptation, as that really would have been rude and unappreciative.

Next we came to the Pushing Palm Strike and Fist Punch. Now those feel like kung fu moves! I can do these. Only problem is, I have a bit of a problem getting the right-left rhythm down. Oh, I know the difference between the two. It's just that, as I've said before, I'm not the most coordinated person in the world. Definitely need some practice there.

The Bow Stance was another balance challenge for balance-challenged me. I'm okay with the Gong Bu strike pose, but getting one leg up and bent makes me wobble. Sorry, Sifu!

Of course, this is nothing compared to the Front Slap Kick. After kicking your right leg "straight up in front of you," you are to "reach for enlightenment with the top of your head." Loosely translated, that means "attempt to touch the top of your head with your foot." Sifu, needless to say, has this mastered. I, on the other hand, can't even get one leg out in a straight line with my hip. I'm not sure that any amount of practice is going to make that perfect, either!

The Horse Stance involves "two side fist punches executed simulataneously." As I punch my fists out, I am to move my head so that my arms and head finish the move at the same time. After all, I need to see whom I'm punching. That makes sense, but I'm not sure I could knock out Ronald McDonald. The Horse Stance (and what in the world, by the way, does this move have to do with a horse?) is continued in a squatting position. Okay, Sifu, I have to ask: are you trying to hit your opponent in the chest instead of the jaw with this one, or deck a very short person?

I know it sounds like I'm being sarcastic, but I'm really not. It's just that when I attempt these moves for the first time, it's hard not to laugh at the picture I must be creating. The truth is that the further I go with Sifu's workout, the more respect I have for his strength and flexibility. And needless to say, the man doesn't appear to have an ounce of superfluous fat on his body. I wonder if that's a prerequisite to mastering this routine.

* * * * *

Two parts to go! Are you still with me? If so, stick around for next week's look at "Warrior Transformation," in which I'll describe my efforts to perform such moves as a "front slap kick with arm rotation" and "front flex kick." I'll also take a closer look at the daily meditations that accompany the physical routines, as these are full of wisdom and I will probably be coming back to some of them in future entries.

But right now...I'm stretched and kicked out. Time to do a routine I can perform with relative ease and confidence - my evening walk!

Till we meet again, Keep on Treading!