Dignity and Mindfulness

A few weeks ago, I shared a personal vision that spoke of my intention to lead in a manner that inspires dignity.

I defined dignity as follows: an internal state of peace that comes with the recognition and acceptance of the value and vulnerability of all living things. (1)

One might also think of dignity as practicing non-judgmental awareness in a manner which leads to kindness and feelings of compassion for yourself and for others. One might also just think of this as practicing a higher level of respect for yourself and for others.

Practicing this awareness in a sustainable way is what we might call practicing loving-kindness mindfulness.

Here are some steps to help develop this practice: (2)

  1. Find yourself in a state of support and safety, perhaps somewhere where you feel connected to nature
  2. Set your intention, answering the question “What am I practicing?”
  3. Cultivate a witnessing perspective, observing your thoughts like clouds drifting by, being aware of your inner landscape and old unhealthy autopilot reactions
  4. Stabilize attention and strengthen focus, using the breathe as a tool to nurture the harmony of intention and attention
  5. Strengthen self-regulation, settling negative energies intentionally and shortening the time that it takes you to recover from emotional hijackings
  6. Practice loving-kindness meditation, calming the inner critic and practicing non-judgmental acceptance and compassion for yourself and others.

Tetons- Bob Meditating

I have led workshops or classes intended to help people heal, build self-esteem and resiliency, and find happiness. Many of these workshops have utilized outdoor education and strengths-based adventure as a means to build a sense of self and self-efficacy. To me, however, successful experiences all start with a inherent culture of dignity and mindfulness.

It is time to practice.

What’s your perspective?



(1) Donna Hicks, PhD (2011): “Dignity – The Essential Role It Plays in Resolving Conflict”

(2) Terry Fralich, LCPC, JD (2014): “The Five Core Skills of Mindfulness – A Direct Path to More Confidence, Joy and Love”

AbilityPLUS at Mount Snow

It’s official. I’ll be returning to Mount Snow! I’ll be doing some coaching, training, and special program coordination work with AbilityPLUS, a couple days per week, starting now. Anyone want to be a volunteer adaptive ski or snowboard instructor at Mount Snow?


West Dover, VT– Bob Speck, an accomplished adaptive sports coach and educator with more than 40 years experience in snow sports, adaptive sports, and outdoor education, has joined AbilityPLUS as Special Programs & Training Coordinator. Bob will be based at the adaptive sports organization’s Mount Snow location, where he will work with Program Director Linda Walsh to coordinate volunteer recruitment and training, facilitate PSIA/AASI events, assist in the development of special programs, and act as head coach of the AbilityPLUS Alpine Race team for Special Olympics and Paralympics events eligible athletes.

“AbilityPLUS at Mount Snow, our volunteers, and the individuals and families we serve are extremely fortunate to have Bob Speck join us as Special Programs & Training Coordinator. Bob is a remarkably insightful, mindful and compassionate person, with a wealth of experience in the adaptive sports world and beyond,” said Walsh. “This season, we are poised to exponentially strengthen our programs serving the Mount Snow family, and Bob is the perfect addition as AbilityPLUS continues to grow and move forward!”

Bob is a PSIA/AASI certified ski and snowboard instructor, a former member of the PSIA-E educational staff, a registered yoga teacher, NOLS outdoor educator, and certified personal trainer. He teaches yoga at Heart of the Village Yoga Studio in Manchester (www.heartofthevillageyoga.com) and is involved with non-profit organizations dedicated to working with combat veterans with disabilities, including www.warriorsliveon.org and Wounded Warrior Project. No stranger to Mount Snow, Bob was formerly a Mount Snow ski school instructor, staff trainer, program manager, and mountain bike guide more than a dozen years ago.

“The thing about Bob is he knows no limitations – as a coach, mentor or leader – and he instills that attitude naturally in the individuals and families with whom he interacts,” noted Walsh. “We’re truly blessed to have someone of his ability and dedication accept our invitation to devote his skills to the AbilityPLUS family.”

In addition to his work with people with disabilities, Bob is a registered professional engineer in the State of Vermont and currently performs consulting work with Stevens & Associates in Brattleboro. He maintains a part-time practice designing timber-framed structures and helping develop design concepts for homes and barns that integrate efficient structure, design aesthetics and sustainability. Bob bases his work on the concept that everything is connected – personal wellness, healthy homes and community, and the natural environment. Bob, his wife Jo, and their dog Emma, live in Manchester, Vermont.

AbilityPLUS is a not-for-profit charitable organization that offers life changing athletic and recreational opportunities for individuals with disabilities, to create freedom, promote independence, support inclusion and help those individuals and their families discover their full social, emotional and athletic potential. AbilityPLUS serves people with any physical or intellectual disability, from injured service men and women to people with autism across the spectrum. AbilityPLUS is a chapter of Disabled Sports USA, and is a Paralympic Sport Club. For more information about AbilityPLUS programs, volunteering and financial needs visit www.AbilityPLUS.org.

About Eating

A few years ago, I became friends with a young athlete, strength and conditioning coach, and independent-thinker who volunteered his time to travel from his home in California to participate in some physical health and wellness workshops that I was facilitating with others for disabled combat veterans. Upon graduating from college with special interests in kinesiology and nutrition, Tyler had caught my attention with some of the articles he had written (www.evolutionaryhealthsystems.com) and work he had done both locally in his home community and with other coaches with whom I was familiar (www.ericcressey.com). He also impressed me with his thorough investigation of actual science, not just believing public hype or influential spokespeople. I’ve come to realize the importance of his teachings in my life and his simple yet far-reaching approach to whole body-mind health.

More and more, public information and media are paying attention to the importance of a healthy digestive system for overall human health- physical, mental, and emotional (which to me are all inextricably connected). We are finally learning as a society that our problems begin with sugar.

I’ll list Tyler’s workshop guidelines in order (from Evolutionary Health Systems, 2011). They are a few years old, but still very relevant to me. Each of us are built differently, so the further you go down the list, the more you will probably want to see what works for you and what doesn’t.

In his presentation, he basically starts with the obvious premise: eat real foods (as our species did for many years). These include vegetables and fruits. The list below was intended to emphasis the changes most people might want to consider, assuming that eating fruits and vegetables was a given practice for most of the audience.

1. Eliminate sugar and flour. Eliminate all foods that contain sugar and/or flour. This includes soft drink and fruit juices, and anything containing high-fructose corn syrup.
2. Add healthy fats. Use healthy fats such butter, meat fat, ghee, olive oil, lard, coconut oil, whole cream, and coconut milk to replace the calories that were coming from sugars and flours.
3. Eliminate vegetable/seed oils. Use the healthy fats listed above to cook with instead.
4. Reduce grain intake. Particularly wheat, barley, and rye. Replace these foods with more nourishing and nutrient-dense safe-starches.
5. Eat plenty of animal food. Beef, lamb, deer, elk, moose, pork, chicken, fish, shellfish and eggs.
6. Vitamin D. Go get some sun on your skin or start taking a generic Vitamin D3 supplement.
7. Exercise: Focus on strength training and interval type training to get the most benefits. Find something you enjoy and do it several times a week.
8. Balance your omega 3’s. If you aren’t regularly eating fish, consider a teaspoon a day of cod liver oil or fish oil to balance out your fats.
9. Reduce legumes. Soy, peanuts, etc.
10. Intermittent fast: Consider consolidating your eating in to an 8 hour window each day. As far as meal frequency goes, 2-5 meals per days is best, depending on your goals. Don’t be a grazer.

Recently, I’ve expanded my understanding of digestive health through experimenting with eliminating foods containing fodmaps, but that will have to be the subject of another post.

Left Brain – Right Brain

Eoin Finn, founder and leader of Blissology yoga, shared the following graphic with our group last week as he prepared his teachings on the FLUID BODY:

Left Brain Right Brain


Of course, as an artist and an engineer, a feeler and a thinker, an instructor and an outdoor adventurer, I often live in both brains.

I have found professional success living in both.

But, I have floated down powdered mountain slopes, ridden through powerful ocean surf, flown with wings above majestic peaks, pedaled through landscapes near and far, and today, taught my first yoga class.

I have tasted the hands of Divine experience through fluid movement, and feelings of wonder and Oneness…  a peaceful and dignified connection to everyone and everything around me.

I can live in my left brain.

I thrive in my right brain. It’s hard to switch. With my right brain experiences, I feel a relentless and overwhelming pull towards feelings of freedom, happiness, bliss and enlightenment.

Right now, how do I move now from the joy and inspiration of teaching yoga an hour ago, to the required work of determining the structural feasibility of a complex of historic Vermont barns built a century ago?

By taking one joyful step at a time.

Live, learn, and live some more… in both brains!

My next yoga class tomorrow morning is going to be awesome!

September Fitness Goals

A few months ago I discussed having a strength and conditioning coach to help me achieve personal fitness goals. I am at the end of my summer outdoor season during which I work towards leanness. At the end of the month, I’ll switch it up and work on strength and mass gain leading into the winter sports season. In addition to previous friends and mentors, in both fitness and in yoga, I have recently been working with Dave Knight of Spectrum Fitness Consulting in Beverly, MA.

Yes, I’m trying to eat pretty clean (here in Vermont, we’re usually eating organic and local anyway) and cutting my calories down. I am also adding more HIIT cardio to the ends of my workouts… and actually trying to walk more daily. I’m 56; but I’m hoping to get down around 8% bodyfat by the end of the month (I’m currently at 10%) while maintaining strength and lean body mass.

Right now, I’m alternating full-body workouts for strength training, usually every other day. After warming up and rolling, mobilizing primarily my spine, shoulders and hips, my white-board work out is as follows:

White Board Workout

I’ll start here, then adjust weights and reps to challenge myself each week. My end of workout cardio will be a series of mountain climbers, lunge leaps and burpees.

Starting in October, I’ll work more on muscle hypertrophy, which will involve working specific muscle groups on alternate days, more specific muscle-group loading, and more calories in my diet. Being outside for many days during the winter on skis or a snowboard, I usually want to be stronger and “thicker”!


Another Path Begins: Teaching at HOTV Yoga Studio

After a dozen years of attending yoga workshops and teacher-trainings, usually in the background accompanying my wife, I am finally beginning to teach yoga myself at the Heart of the Village Yoga Studio. My inspiration to teach has been growing for years: I’ve witnessed the healing effect yoga brings to people’s lives through the seemingly simple practice of focused breathing and coordinated movement; I’ve seen how present-moment mind-body awareness can improve athleticism and reduce injury; and I have a keen awareness of how the practice of yoga can put each of us in a better place to deal with stress, aging, changing circumstances, and fast-paced lives.

Oahu 2013

Oahu 2013

For 3 years, my wife and I worked out-of-town with combat veterans through our work associated with the Wounded Warrior Project. I was engaged intimately in developing and facilitating experiences intended to help participants transition from combat to community in ways that were holistic in nature and based on our understanding of yoga and mindfulness-based practices. These experiences changed lives (including mine) and I will be forever grateful for these experiences. They form the basis for my understanding of the integrated nature of wellness… and the foundation from which I hope to develop my yoga teaching career.

As an experiential teacher and intuitive person, I am used to feeding off of the natural talents and energies of the group; I hope my teaching style will bring a sense of learning through group interaction as well as personal practice. As an athlete and trainer, I hope to include movements that I’ve learned over the years that will help athletes become both stronger and more mobile. As an outdoor educator and team-builder, I hope my classes will bring a deepened connection to our place in nature and within our community. And as a caring human being, I hope to heighten a sense of inner peace and renewed energy through a flowing and joyful asana practice.

I enter this work with both a sense of excitement and apprehension… I will do my best to live up to the heart-felt standard students have come to expect at HOTV Yoga Studio, and to “co-create” (with students) life-enhancing and educational yoga class experiences!

Another Path: Leading Upward and Onward!