Realize that the physical world is illusory: The internal world is infinite and can be a very beneficial way to release feelings of cabin fever and confined isolation. Finding ways to tap into the benefits of visualization, imagination and meditation are valuable ways to ease the tension.
Asa part of my series about “How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ryan Daniel Beck.
Ryan is the owner & Creative Director of bodyART Training Studios. Originally from Los Angeles, Ryan had an extensive performing career dancing for Beyoncé, Black Eyed Peas, MOMIX, MTV and more. He has produced and directed content for ABC, BC/EFA, Good Morning America, Celebrity Cruises, and Hard Rock Cafe, among others. As a sought-after movement instructor, he has traveled to over 30 countries and is on faculty at the world-famous Broadway Dance Center in NYC. In 2011, Ryan was introduced to bodyART by its creator, Robert Steinbacher, and then brought the concept to many NYC studios. Seeing the market potential for bodyART to be a consumer-facing model, Ryan was granted exclusive rights to open, manage and operate all bodyART-branded studio locations in America.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Myjourney as a movement specialist started with dance and gymnastics. I enjoyed the intersection between physicality and artistic expression that those disciplines offered. As a professional dancer, I worked with Beyoncé and Black Eyed Peas, including film and TV work. As I was getting older, I started to notice many of my fellow dancers having chronic injuries that forced them to retire. I also started to develop problems due to overuse and structural imbalances that are typical in the dance industry. That led me to seek out methods and movement techniques that were holistic and sustainable, long term.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Something interesting happened recently and it began with a book. I’d been looking for books regarding the pitfalls of early stage companies, and I came across “Riding High” by Ruth Zukerman, the co-founder of SoulCycle and Flywheel. In that book, she details the evolution of both brands and I found it so insightful that I made it required reading for my entire team. A few months later, I was attending a “shark tank” VC event and I happened to see Ruth’s name on a table where the name tags were laid out. As luck would have it, she was a surprise panelist that night. I also did not know that we had a mutual friend, who was attending the same event that night and he introduced us. As a professional dancer, I’d worked with many celebrities and had never been particularly starstruck, but meeting Ruth was such a magical moment of serendipity. I genuinely expressed how much her book had meant to me and that I’d re-read it more than once. Long story short, it sparked a very lovely friendship with a valuable mentor.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
Danny Meyer, of Union Square Hospitality Group, outlined a concept called “The Virtuous Cycle Of Enlightened Hospitality.” This is the notion that the work culture must take care of their employees above all else. Staff members that feel valued, seen and heard, provided the optimal customer service and guest experience. This world class hospitality then provides a sustainable ROI for the shareholders. You MUST take care of your team because they are the lifeblood of your business.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
The book that Danny wrote, “Setting The Table” was a masterclass for me. If you see my copy of the book, it looks like it’s been through a war, due to my copious notations in the margins. The title of the book references a quote where he says, “I can teach someone to set a table perfectly, but I can’t teach them to care.” I found this to be a profound articulation of my own ethos, that in anything you do, execute the task with mindfulness, attention to detail, and high quality.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. From your experience or research, how would you define and describe the state of being mindful?
One of my favorite neuro-experts is Emily Stella Fletcher, who is the founder of Ziva Meditation and authored the book “Stress Less Accomplish More.” She taught me how to differentiate between “mindfulness” and “meditation,” which are often confused and misunderstood. When you are in a mindful state, you are not mentally “time-travelling” into the future (worrying, anxious, stressed) or the past (depression, regret, resentment). The mindful person is mentally present in the moment, the experience, the conversation, and the sensation of the now.
This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to spell this out. Can you share with our readers a few of the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of becoming mindful?
I often remind my students that stress can be defined by the distance between where you are and where you think you “should” be. The greater the distance, the more frequently you trigger the sympathetic nervous system, which “self-injects” cortisol into your system. Cortisol has the ability to traverse the blood-brain barrier and enter the brain. If you are not mindful and aware, it’s very likely that you are “self-injecting” every time the kids start arguing, there is a long line at Starbucks, you feel overwhelmed by emails and deadlines, etc. The problem with all this unmanaged fight-or-flighting, is that regular hits of cortisol actually start to accelerate the degeneration of your brain tissue. That’s why it’s not hyperbole to say that choosing stress as a reaction to high demand situations makes you slower, sadder and far less focused.
Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. The past 5 years have been filled with upheaval and political uncertainty. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, anxiety, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop mindfulness and serenity during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.
– Pay attention to all your senses: We often favor our visual channel (news, Instagram, Reddit, Netflix, YouTube) as our primary source of sensory stimulation. Find times throughout your day where you can turn down (or turn off) your visual channel and experience life through touch, taste, smell and sound. These are all just as valid as your visual input but will remind you that there are aspects of the world which remain completely unchanged regardless of the current pandemic crisis.
– Become hyper-conscious of your controls and your demons: Controls represent anything in your life that you can directly change, modify, or influence. Demons represent the innumerable aspects of life which are completely beyond our ability to change, modify or influence. Every challenging situation which life presents to us, will have a unique blend of both controls and demons. Your job is to be particularly focused on the controls and realize that doing this will help you mitigate or minimize the negative effect that demons have on your ability to function at your highest level.
– Deeply appreciate your breath. Your breath is the only friend that you will have your entire life. The very first thing that you did upon being born was inhale. The very last thing you will ever do in this life is exhale. Your breath is both voluntary and involuntary, depending on your awareness. Most people spend the majority of their lives in a state of mild, involuntary hyper-ventilation. On the other hand, voluntary breathing practices will improve your ability to breathe deeply and slowly, facilitating the down-regulation of the stress response.
– Remember that thoughts are normal: The objective for individuals wanting to be more mindful, is not the elimination of thoughts. Your brain will continue to generate ideas in the same way that your heart continues to pump blood through your body. Telling yourself to stop thinking is as useless as telling your circulatory system to stop sending blood to your brain…it is not physiologically possible. The objective then, is to decenter the consciousness to the point where we can observe the thoughts we are thinking from a neutral perspective, in the same way you would watch the waves come in, one by one, crashing onto the sand.
– Be thankful for fear: The sympathetic, fight or flight response to emergency situations (AKA fear) is an amazing, biological miracle that has kept the species alive for tens of thousands of years. Being afraid is completely normal and natural, but STAYING afraid takes a tremendous toll of the immune system. In moments of fear, it is very important that we embrace the fact that we are afraid and treat ourselves with gentle compassion. Unfortunately, if we do not address unresolved fear, it can easily transition to chronic stress, which leads to panic and irrational thinking/behavior.
From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
– Community and Connection: When you reach out and connect to people outside your closest inner circle, you reinforce the fact to them, and yourself, that our world is more interconnected than just the people in our immediate contact.
– Maintaining your own health is vital: Just like the safety cards suggest on an airplane, you cannot help others unless you have helped yourself. An empty glass has nothing to give.
– Meet people where they are: When a friend or a loved one is feeling overwhelmed, you must first validate their feelings. Whether or not you share their anxiety, they need to be sure that you have heard them before they can accept any form of comfort you might want to share.
– Remember that contact is not only physical: There are many forms of contact which are more energetic in nature, that do not carry any infection risk. A smile, a text, a song you sing on a voice mail, a surprise delivery in the mail…these are all non-physical ways to connect and show your affection.
– Realize that the physical world is illusory: The internal world is infinite and can be a very beneficial way to release feelings of cabin fever and confined isolation. Finding ways to tap into the benefits of visualization, imagination and meditation are valuable ways to ease the tension.
What are the best resources you would suggest for someone to learn how to be more mindful and serene in their everyday life?
Integrated breathing awareness is absolutely, by far, bar none, the most simple and effective way to bring yourself into the immediate present. The breath you are experiencing at this exact moment, will only occur once in your entire life, never to happen again. If you observe it, you are being mindful. If you ignore it, your focus is being drawn in another direction.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
There are two quotes which are very well known, that given my experience, I’ve modified slightly to be more relevant. The first is the motto for Nike, which is “Just Do It.” While I agree with the sentiment behind this phrase, I’ve found that the quality of execution is vital, so I like to say, “Just Do It….Well.” How you do something is as important, if not more, than the simple action of doing. Simply performing an exercise with mindless repetition is a fantastic and efficient way to injure yourself. Mindful repetition done well is a game-changer. The second quote is “99% of success is just showing up” and to that I would add “…consistently.” It is not sufficient to just show up once, twice or even a dozen times. Success will come to the person who shows up 10,000 times if needed. Difficult goals require many consistent steps. Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Through bodyART, I want to help people find a balance between their physical body, their mental psychology and their emotional center. I believe helping people find this equilibrium on a personal level, will significantly help eradicate the damage that imbalance has caused to the environment, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and economic inequality.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!