Neural Plasticity and Flow

How many times have you said or heard someone say: “I wish I would have learned how to…” play a musical instrument, learn a second language or surf, do gymnastics, what ever. The idea being that once you are an adult it’s too late to learn new things and too hard. Children learn and retain information differently building deeply rooted neural pathways that they can pull from their whole lives but just because you’re over 18 doesn’t mean it’s game over. As adults we have more focus, patience and if you dig deep I would argue more motivation, especially as you begin to consider your own mortality. My grandmother started piano lessons at 88 so what’s your excuse?

The simple fact of science is that adults have a great capacity to learn and if you look after your well being physically, mentally and spiritually (religion, humanity, community, however you define spiritual) you might actually learn something new and teach those kids a thing or two. Diving deep into these three aspects of well being I discovered “flow state” which I mention in my first blog post:

Bubbly Toes
Find your flow state, mine is beach walks and bubbly toes

Flow state research and the science behind finding the optimal state of mind for performance in sports, music, arts, writing and more has been around since the early 1900s, this Time article breaks it down nicely for the masses:

The Science of Peak Human Performance

Time - The Science of Peak Human Performance
Time – The Science of Peak Human Performance

In the summer of 2018 I decided to dive even deeper into finding flow by learning the flow art of fire staff, here’s some excerpts of my training at LA Burn Club a private practice space for fire performers:

Searching For Patterns In Nature from Michael Angelo Media on Vimeo.

I purchased my very first staff from Fire Groove Gear (other fire flow tools include poi, fans, darts) and thanks to owner Lester Mooney I headed to the Ignight Fire Festival in Joshua Tree only 5 days later. Immersed in a world of flames and wonder I was surrounded by like-minded fire people all hungry to learn and explore this incredible primal experience. Fire staff has it’s roots in martial arts but the flow arts reaches well past martial arts especially with “contact staff” a fascinating foray into the world of balance and staff performance with it’s roots bound in Chinese Fei-Cha. When I saw staff instructor Nema Nematollahi perform contact staff at the Ignight Festival I was blown away and completely hooked:

Ignight 2018 – Nema Nematollahi AKA The Kraken

It took me a while to learn the basics of spinning the staff but learning contact staff is much harder so I recommend finding lessons, local “flow jams” through social networking, I found Venice Glow Flow in Venice and LA Burn Club in Culver City or watch YouTube videos like this one:

Contact Staff 101 – Beginner Tutorial – Pinch Points, Wraps, Conveyor Belt

I’ve been improving and thanks to Jazz at Trick Concepts as a beginner I added weights to the ends of my staff making contact staff much easier and now after getting the hang of it I’ve taken off my training wheels and the lighter staff is actually much easier after you begin to familiarize yourself with the inherent patterns in natural alla fibonacci. Trick Concepts also built me a custom breakdown staff that fits into carry on luggage for travel which I brought to Russsia to perform at a wedding, kids don’t try this at home:

From Russia with Love - FilmmakerFitness
From Russia with Love – FilmmakerFitness

I stepped up my contact staff game further by going to Fire Groove Gear and adding silicon “fire flowers” to my staffs, suddenly the darn thing was rolling all over my body like a caterpillar!. Staff flowers create drag slowing the speed of the staff but most importantly once I started to spin the staff like the axle of a car the staff sticks to your body and all of these patterns start to emerge so you can learn much faster:

Fire Groove Gear - Fire Flowers
Fire Groove Gear – Fire Flowers

The biggest break throughs come from lots of practice and simply learning to “let go and let flow”, stop over thinking things. I spend less energy breaking down the “moves” and simply feeling and visualize where the staff is on your body, where the center is, it’s weight, it’s momentum and building a relationship with the natural patterns I discover. I’ve got a long way to go but hopefully this can help any other newbies out there.

Learning fire staff has changed me and I’m finding new ways to apply flow to every day life doing my best to “Let go and let flow”. It’s hard science that there are natural patterns in physics and in nature. Flow science, flow state and flow arts are tapping into those patterns which in turn affect your brain chemistry so it’s nature’s “meds” with only positive effects on your body, mind and well being. As our species becomes more sedentary and tethered to our digital devices learning new skills involving multiple senses will keep the mind and body active, growing and flowing. Consider learning something new at any age and turn “I wish I would have” into “I’m loving doing something new”.

Ciao for now,

Filmmaker Fitness

Find Your Joy: The Traveling Rings

Heavenly lunch break at the Santa Monica traveling rings

The best way to stay motivated with your own fitness is to do something you enjoy, this is one of my favorite fitness activities the traveling rings. It’s a heavy cardio workout and really strengthens the upper body, plus it makes me feel like a monkey, that’s both fun and primal. It does put a lot of stress on your rotator cuffs so stretch and then stretch some more.  Also the rings are metal and rough on your hands so put gymnastics chalk on them or if you become addicted like me get yourself some handgrips from Frank Endo, these are the ones I order:

Reisport Men’s Elite Protec Ring Grips (#R532)

Working at my Venice office I’ll sneak out at lunchtime while rendering and skate down to the Santa Monica Rings and Aerial Park  just on the south side of the Santa Monica Pier. You’ll find a wonderful community of health nuts and athletes from gymnasts, to stunt performers to martial artists and more. People of all ages are welcome and it’s a place of learning from acro yoga to parkour to the traveling rings, so don’t be shy and ask for help. Other  adventures to be explored are slack line, both large and small traveling rings, an obstacle course, rope climbing, aerial silks, trapeze and more. Come Sundays to see the place fully come alive, especially on the Acro Lawn:

Filmmaker Fitness Acro Yoga Practice
Filmmaker Fitness Acro Yoga Practice

Our bodies were designed to hunt and gather for days on end, within our genome lies very physically active creatures, historically our survival  depended on this. As we become more sedentary and tethered to our digital devices it’s up to us to strike a balance and find ways to engage with our health and fitness, so find something fun and fold it into your weekly routine.

Till next time,

Filmmaker Fitness

Shake it up!

Filmmaker Fitness Blueberry Shake
Delicious blueberry bullet shake easy to make keeps hunger away all day

Eating healthy can be so hard when you don’t have time to cook so when you get hungry you eat what is available. When your blood sugar is low a breakfast muffin at craft services or a delicious platter of editorial suite horderves can really hit the spot. Having your own food with you let’s you choose what you eat and “The Bullet” is a great way to take your own food with you anywhere you go.

Before I go to bed I pre-fill my bullet with fresh fruits and veggies then add liquids to it in the morning. It takes only 3 seconds to blend and voila I’m set for breakfast and lunch.  When my producer offers me Chinese food I graciously decline as I’ve got my killer shake that I nurse throughout the day to manage my hunger. Lately I’ve been digging this Blueberry Almond Butter Shake, arguably high in sugar for some, but I’m exercising almost every day so I earn it:

Handful of Organic Girl Super Greens (Delicious, the secret is the baby chard!)

One banana, quarter apple, one cup or more of fresh blueberries

1 Large tablespoon of creamy Almond Butter

1/4 Cup Lifeway plain unsweetened kefir (12 active probiotic cultures)

Harmless Harvest Raw Coconut Water (Last ingredient fill below fill line)

There are tons of recipes online and bet you can find one to fit your dietary needs, just do some of your own research. Most people I know that get a bullet use it almost every day, if you buy one I hope it hits home for you too:

What are you doing right?

Bubbly Toes
Find your flow state, mine is beach walks and bubbly toes

What are you doing right that you can do more of?

We all all have positive and negative habits when it comes to taking care of our health. Once you make the decision to start living a healthier life instead of imposing restrictions and telling yourself what you need to change, first figure out what are you doing right and do more of that!

I enjoy taking walks to clear my mind and get into a flow state, it’s good for your mental chemistry, creativity, athletic performance and there are many resources and a lot of scientific research in this area (see links below). Making the decision to find my daily flow state by taking a walk, even a short 5 minute one at least once a day, has transformed my mood and hey I burn a few calories.