Tag Archives: Athletes

The Special Olympics: Joy in Celebrating Inclusion, Dignity and Respect for All

SO1At breakfast this morning, my family was reflecting on our summer.  “The highlight of summer so far,” my elder daughter, Tara (13 years old), said, “was attending the World Games for the Special Olympics.”

My family is incredibly blessed, and our summer has included concerts, Broadway shows, world travel, lots of good food, relaxation, Disneyland and many other highlights. As my younger daughter, Leela (11 years old), nodded enthusiastically, I was moved by what an extraordinary statement they were making.

We attended the Opening Ceremony of the World Games for Special Olympics last weekend. The Special Olympics is the world’s largest sports organization for children and adults with intellectual disabilities that provides year-round training and competition for 4.4 Million athletes in 170 countries.

A few weeks ago while in Washington D.C. with my father, I attended a private dinner with Tim Shriver, the chairman of the Special Olympics. Tim was passionate and articulate about the event, as well as dispelling some of the assumptions even we had about people with intellectual disabilities. Tim is truly a humble champion for people with intellectual disabilities, and the Shriver family must be applauded for taking an event that his mother, Eunice Shriver, started over 40 years ago and making it into a global social movement that it is today. As written about in this NY Times piece, Special Olympics and The Burden of Happiness, there is a long way still to go. The World Games truly felt like a Utopian world, and the stark reality for many of these people is very different and one is reminded of the need to champion human rights for all. Continue reading

Who Knew? Lucky Charms Actually Work

horseshoeAssay: I’ve been thinking a lot lately about superstition.

Superstition is the irrational belief that an object or behavior has the power to influence an outcome, when there’s no logical connection between them.

Most of us aren’t superstitious—but most of us are a littlestitious.

Relying on lucky charms is superstitious, but in fact, it actually works. Researchers have found that people who believe they have luck on their side feel greater “self-efficacy”—the belief that we’re capable of doing what we set out to do—and this belief actually boosts mental and physical performance. Many elite athletes, for instance, are deeply superstitious, and in one study, people who were told that a golf ball “has turned out to be a lucky ball” did  better putting than people who weren’t told that.

Any discussion of superstition reminds me of a perhaps-apocryphal story that I love, about physicist Niels Bohr. Bohr noticed that a friend had a horseshoe mailed above the door, and he asked why. When was told that it brought luck, he asked in astonishment, “Do you really believe in this?” His friend replied, “Oh, I don’t believe in it. But I am told it works even if you don’t believe in it.” (You can watch me tell the story in this video.)

To help herself quit drinking, a friend told me, she explicitly invoked the idea of luck. “I told myself, ‘The lucky parts of my life have been when I wasn’t drinking, so I need to stop drinking to get my luck back.’”

How about you? Do you have a lucky object, lucky ritual, or lucky item that you wear? I have a lucky perfume. I love beautiful smells, but I save one of my favorite perfumes to wear only when I feel like I need some extra luck.

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Are you interested in launching a group for people doing happiness projects together? These groups have sprung up all over the world, and one of my favorite things on my book tour was to meet some of the groups. Intrigued? Email me, and I’ll send you the “starter kit.” Read more here.

Russian Anti-Gay Laws Cause Olympic Controversy

Screen Shot 2013-08-07 at 11.51.56 AMControversy has erupted in the past week over statements made by Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko regarding the LGBT community and the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics. Recent anti-gay laws set in place within Russia this June have made life as a member or ally of the LGBT community very difficult.

Individuals are not allowed to discuss what Mutko calls “non-traditional sexual orientations” in front of children. They are also prohibited from creating and presenting “propaganda” in public (ex. a rainbow flag) on behalf of the community. The exact details of what activities violate this law appear to be kind of wishy-washy, which means it’s difficult to know what kinds of activities are actually illegal. Regardless, offenders may be placed in jail, charged fines, or even deported.

A few days ago, disagreements began to run rampant as Mutko issued a statement that the laws will continue to be upheld throughout the Winter 2014 Olympics, which contradicted the previous statements made by the International Olympic Committee. With this law in place, competing athletes and spectators would be put at risk. Mutko stated, in an interview with R-Sport:

No one is forbidding an athlete with non-traditional sexual orientation from coming to Sochi, but if he goes onto the street and starts propagandizing it, then of course he will be held accountable.

Somewhat soon after, in what seems like a response to the uproar that followed these statements, Russian officials reversed them, saying that they plan to do the “politically correct” thing.

What do you think about the situation?

Why Awareness Will Free Your Mind and Transform Your Heart

Sunset & the ThinkerAwareness is a quality of being awake and present to the moment. All great athletic performances are an example of how awareness fuels high level performance.

How does this apply to our more mundane lives? How can we tap into that quality of awareness to enhance our lives?

Once we can identify and understand what this quality of awareness is, we have the key to self-mastery in virtually every area of our lives.

According to great masters like Lao Tzu or Buddha, most of us move through our lives like sleepwalkers. Never really present in what we are doing, never fully alert to our environment, and not even aware of what motivates us to do and say the things we do. A lack of awareness can allow us to be completely taken over by negative emotions.

The Difference Awareness Makes

With awareness, when we become irritated or angry, sad or depressed, there’s an awake quality that this is happening in us. We have the observing presence in the background that’s more who we are rather than the emotion. We are still present as the emotions happen. We then have more mastery of ourselves and the situation.

Awareness is the key to being self-directed, centered, and free in every aspect of our lives. You can learn  how to live life more attentively, mindfully, and meditatively, with love, caring and consciousness. You can examine and break free of the conditioned belief systems and prejudices that limit your capacity to live life in all its richness.

Cultivate A Clear Mind

To fuel our highest level performance we need  a clear mind. If the mind is filled with fear, self-sabotaging beliefs, and self-doubt, we are impeded, a bit like driving a car with the brake on. Emotional turmoil clouds our view and we cannot perform well. A practice of becoming aware of the mind, and learning to witness the thoughts so they pass by, and don’t affect us, is key.

A man came to the Japanese Zen master Ikkyo and asked him for some words of wisdom to guide him in life. Ikkyo nodded agreeably and wrote on a piece of paper the word “attention.” The man said he could not understand and asked for something more. Ikkyo wrote, “attention, attention.”After a further request for an explanation, Ikkyo wrote his final statement for the man. “Attention, attention, attention means attention. ”

The special knack of meditation is to develop the one who pays attention, the watcher. When we do a simple sitting meditation, we sit comfortably with our eyes closed and just begin to watch the energies that move within us all the time: thoughts, sensations, emotions. We develop the knack of simply watching these distractions go by with a feeling of acceptance. How do we acquire this knack? We begin by being a witness to the mind, by becoming dis-identified from the mind.

If you watch a dog, you are clearly not the dog; if you look at a tree, you are separate from the tree. The same applies to the mind. Watching is the key. Watch the mind, without repressing, without preventing, without judging, and slowly you will begin to dis-identify, realizing that you are not your thoughts, sensations, and emotions.

Don’t Fight, Just Watch

When you try to meditate, and especially at first, thoughts will come, they will surround you from everywhere. They will be like clouds; even the little bit of blue sky will be lost. They will buzz like a swarm of bees stopping us from seeing clearly. And when there are too many thoughts, the natural instinct is to fight with them.

Try fighting with your own shadow. Thoughts are shadows. If you try to fight them you will be defeated.

You have to remain a watcher, a witness. Just watch the thoughts, absolutely calm and quiet, watch. Let them come, let them go, let them arise, let them disappear. Simply take note, the thought is arising, the thought is there, the thought is gone — and some day you start to notice the gap of silence in between the thoughts. Over time the thoughts become smaller, the gap of silence becomes bigger.

The liberation you feel once you realize that you are not the mind can be extraordinary. There is no more anxiety, you are at ease, in a deep let-go. You know you can drop down beyond the mind to your inner haven of peace, calm, and clarity. The mind becomes  clean and clear, and you are more productive, focused, and relaxed.



This technique can almost instantly bring you to awareness and help you relax. By practicing this technique regularly, by and by a subtle relaxed alertness will begin to weave itself into your day. Just knowing that you can access this state of relaxation at any time helps you feel more in control of your life, more in touch with yourself.

You can do this technique while walking along the street, folding laundry, or sorting files at the office. While you are engaged in one of these activities, stop. Freeze. For 30 seconds just be present with whatever is happening. Are you breathing? How is your body? Where is the mind? Where are you? In the present? The past? The future? Watch, observe, notice yourself, without judgment. Then start moving again.

You can do this technique by yourself or with a friend. You might ask your friend to surprise you with a 30-second stop when you’re walking down the street. Or you can try it yourself anytime — at work, on the bus, in the grocery store, in an elevator, doing the dishes. But remember it must be done suddenly.

I look forward to your comments.

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photo by: Esparta

The Kaiut Method: Yoga For People Who Hate Yoga (Part 1)


By Kiri Westby, with Ed and Deb Shapiro, who all attended the yoga class described here.

Doing yoga with Francisco Kaiut is doing yoga from the inside out. In fact, to say the word “doing” is already too active, too aggressive, as it’s more of an un-doing.

I am someone who has never felt very comfortable in a modern yoga class. Plagued by an inner clamoring about how inflexible I am, convinced I am doing it wrong and actually hurting myself in the process, I am often too intimidated to ask for support. When I do get talked into going to yoga, I put on my tough face and prepare to be sore for the following week. So that is how I came into the Kaiut yoga classes in Boulder last winter, prepared for a truly uncomfortable experience. Instead, I found something refreshingly different and even liberating…and everyone in the crowded room felt it too.

The Kaiut approach to yoga is inclusive, specifically catered to your body and very personal. Ever wonder what it would be like to have your favorite Chiropractor in yoga class with you? Well, Francisco Kaiut is a trained Chiropractor with a background in cranial sacral, polarity therapy, Tibetan Buddhism, and Hatha Yoga. He has used his in-depth understanding of the body, as well as years of research and experience within traditional schools of yoga, to develop his unique approach, which we can only call Kaiut Yoga (and why not? He invented it!).

“Each person’s body is aging differently from the moment we are born.” Francisco explained. “Even in the womb we are favoring one side or the other. So we have to pay very close attention to each individual’s body, to see where they have developed rigidity over the years and where we need to focus our efforts.” Specializing in addressing complex injuries and chronic pain, students travel to Brazil from all over the world to learn this unique method of yoga and experience real healing.

For me, the enticing thing about Kaiut yoga is that its devotees are not typical über-athletes doing extreme exposes, but rather an assortment of folks from all walks of life, young or old, skinny or fat, who are suffering from chronic pain and discomfort in their bodies. “Finally!” I admitted, “I have found my people in the yoga world.”

In class, Francisco uses his more seasoned students to demonstrate preliminary positions, asking everyone to abandon their mats and come up close to see the form he wants you to begin with. But by the time he and his partner, co-founder Luciana Ross, have finished fine-tuning each person’s positioning, looking around the room one might think 50 different classes were taking place.

“We have to make the poses fit the person, and not the other way around. There is no one place where the leg or the arm has to be in order to garner the benefits,” Luciana explained. “It’s very important to constantly move around the room and connect with each student to attend to their unique needs. Each person should feel like they are giving their body exactly what it requires.”

Eco-Activist Zoë Tryon is a Kaiut Yoga devotee. She spoke with me about what makes this style unique. “I have been a student of yoga for over 20 years, trying many different modalities. What deeply impressed me, and created significant change for me when I found Kaiut yoga, was the truly holistic nature of the approach and the depth of knowledge that Francisco and Luciana have. They have an uncanny ability to read the body quickly and adapt the yoga specifically. I was able to heal physically but also release many of the emotional issues behind my physical problems.”

Stay tuned for part 2!

Photo credit: Francisco Kaiut

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Join our Be The Change Meditate e-Conference with 30 eclectic meditation teachers, including Marianne Williamson, Congressman Tim Ryan, Sharon Salzberg, Robert Thurman, Gangaji, Joan Borysenko, Seane Corn, neuroscientist Richie Davidson, Roshi Joan Halifax, Tara Stiles, and us, Ed and Deb Shapiro, authors of the conference companion book, BE THE CHANGE. Expect your life to never be the same again!

8 Amazing Photos of Athletes Who Rose to the Top In Spite of Missing Limbs

In the spirit of today’s Google+ Hangout on The Chopra Well – a conversation about “The Science of Survival” with Deepak Chopra, Sanjiv Chopra, Amy Purdy, and Bethany Hamilton – we are celebrating the remarkable resilience of the human body and spirit.

Mastering a sport is no easy business, even with fully functioning limbs and organs. Yet some athletes reach this level of physical prowess even in spite of tremendous obstacles, such as paralysis, cancer, or losing a limb. The difficulty associated with lost limbs, especially, is on the minds of many in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, which makes it all the more inspiring to see what athletes like snowboarder Amy Purdy, surfer Bethany Hamilton, and others have been able to accomplish.

Sarah Reinersten – Ironman Triathlete and Paralympian


Zach Gowen – Professional wrestler


Kyle Maynard – Mixed martial arts athlete


Bethany Hamilton – Professional surfer

Bethany Hamilton driving through a barrel in Indonesia Fall 2009.

Amy Purdy – Snowboarder and Paralympic athlete


Melissa Stockwell – Paratriathlete and U.S. Army Officer

Melissa Stockwell

David Weir – Paralympic wheelchair athlete


Jessica Long – Paralympic Swimmer


Protein for Muscle Recovery and Growth

 Many athletes believe that they can grow larger muscles by taking protein supplements rather than by eating protein in ordinary foods.  However, protein powders come from food, and extracts cannot be more efficient than the foods from which they are extracted.

All athletes train by stressing and recovering.  They take a hard workout, damage their muscles, feel sore the next morning, and then take easy workouts until the muscles heal and the soreness goes away.  The athlete who can recover the fastest can do the most intense workouts.  Eating a high carbohydrate-high protein meal within a half hour after finishing an intense workout raises insulin levels and hastens recovery (Journal of Applied Physiology, May 2009). Another breakthrough study reported in the same issue shows that taking the high protein-carbohydrate meal before lifting weights does not hasten recovery.

Carbohydrate in the meal causes a high rise in blood sugar that causes the pancreas to release insulin. Insulin drives the protein building blocks (amino acids) in the meal into muscle cells to hasten healing from intense workouts. Muscles are extraordinarily sensitive to insulin during exercise and for up to a half hour after finishing exercise, so the fastest way to recover is to eat a protein- and carbohydrate-rich meal during the last part of your workout or within half an hour after you finish.

You can use either plant or animal sources of protein; both contain all of the essential amino acids necessary for cell growth.

There is also good data that creatine loading helps muscles recover faster. You get creatine from fish, poultry or meat, or creatine supplements. Your body can also make creatine from three amino acids
found in both plants and animals: methionine, arginine and glycine. However, you get higher blood levels from supplements or animal protein sources. We do not know if taking the larger amounts of
creatine in supplements is better than the amount found in meat, poultry or seafood.

Friday the 13th: How Do You Spook Yourself?

I’m squeamish when it comes to scary movies. For Halloween, I eschew costumes featuring fake blood in favor of those that require heavy eyeliner (a la Cleopatra). I couldn’t even get through the DaVinci Code with all its references to self-flagellation and such. In other words, I’m a bit of a chicken.

Still, I understand the value of a good dose of fear once in awhile. It helps us grow by prompting us to delve deeper into our personal well-spring of courage and possibility. What’s more invigorating than looking down into a deep, unknown abyss and diving in, only to emerge on the other side thinking, Gee, that wasn’t so bad? I choose to tempt fate (or, at least, adrenaline) through athletic activities, as outlined in my "Letter to My Friend, Fear," following a bicycle trip in France last fall. More recently, I’ve committed to taking up the sport of snowboarding, despite feelings of sheer terror and nausea on the chair lift up the mountain and a quivering lower lip while standing at the top looking down a daunting slope. OK, so maybe it was the bunny hill; look, fear is relative, people!

That much is certain. Fear is indeed relative. Millions of people loved the DaVinci Code, and yours truly couldn’t get past the first 40 pages. I have a pal who plays professional football, wherein some of the largest, fiercest, fastest athletes in the world literally attempt to flatten him into the ground (hmmm, sounds like my snowboarding wipe outs) on a weekly basis, and you know what terrifies him most? Clown makeup. Yup. He can handle the rubber nose and the floppy shoes, but my brawny friend is overcome by waves of anxiety when people paint their faces. He once had an altercation with a college teammate who went a little too far with the eye black just to yuk it up in the locker room.

So, all you scaredy cats and Buffy the Vampire Slayer buffs out there, tell us: what spooks you most, or how do you conquer your fears?

Water Heroes Rallied to Raise $20,000 for Kids in Tanzania

 The Blue Planet Run Foundation learned of a project that needed immediate attention. 1,500 students and their families were without safe drinking water in a region of Tanzania. The organization, PADI, was looking for support to provide wells for three schools. The Blue Planet Run team decided to launch a nationwide 30-Mile Challenge for the month of October to ask people to walk, run or cycle 30 Miles in 30 Days at $1/mile.

We started with 20 athletes and the team grew until there were more than 250 events going on across the country. Schools, groups and individuals went the distance to do their part to help the communities in Tanzania. We ended up extending the challenge through November due to popular demand to let athletes have more time to complete the miles.

In the end, we raised over $20,000. All three schools have already started building wells. When these kids have access to safe drinking water, they are able to stay in class and receive an education. Before, they had to leave to walk to the local hand dug water pit and carry water back to the school. With wells, their water will not make them sick. With wells, they can start irrigating and growing vegetables.

We are excited to change the lives of so many people in a matter of months! If you’d like to become part of the Blue Planet Run community, go to http://www.blueplanetrun.org.

Water is life. Pass it on.

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