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The Upright Zone

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The Upright Zone

The Upright Zone

When I first conceived of this article, I thought it was going to be primarily about what I had noticed about how my body behaves while walking. Now I see the observations I want to share go much deeper. So let’s begin with the simple version of this article and go from there.

In early 2018 while in Costa Rica, where Shya and I were facilitating our immersion courses in leadership, communication and well-being, I experienced something I now call the “Upright Zone.” Here’s what happened:

One morning, as we took a walk before breakfast, I was a bit stiff – my stride shorter than usual, one of my hamstrings achy. Shya wasn’t feeling particularly spry either, but as usual, we set off on our morning jaunt as though it were our idea (which it was) and made a point to walk with alacrity – an excellent way to bypass those “I don’t wanna” thoughts. Shya and I were patient with ourselves about our pace but at the same time we engaged in the moment, moving as if we were fully alive, not as if we were hardly awake. As we did so, our legs began to swing freer, our stride became longer and naturally, without effort, we began to walk at a lively pace.

On this particular morning, we headed down past the resort office into the gravel parking area, past the geese in the pond and over the suspension bridge. Continuing down the drive about a half-mile to the entrance of the property, we lightly tapped the bars of the gate and reversed course. As we walked, I enjoyed the sky lightening, with wisps of peach clouds turning golden as the sun rose off the horizon. We delighted in the flowers, the play of light on large green leaves and the flash of brilliant red set in midnight black on a scarlet-rumped tanager.

After we reached the end of the drive and had started back toward the resort, I noticed a phenomenon I had felt before but this time it was quite perceptible. As I walked, my belly spontaneously pulled in of its own accord and I found myself taller, in a surprisingly upright posture. I don’t tend to walk with my stomach distended so it was notable to me that my core muscles fully engaged themselves, much like I have purposefully drawn them in while doing Pilates or other exercise discipline. From this state I found myself feeling well and empowered, not only in my body but also in spirit. After describing the sensation to Shya that morning, I started to think of this state as my own personal “Upright Zone.”

I like that tall feeling. I enjoy moving through time and space as if I am not going anywhere yet I am fully engaged, alive and present. I take pleasure in striding forward while moving with ease. And it’s delightful to get a core muscle workout without trying.

On our Costa Rica morning walks Shya and I step out of our door and trick our bodies into action whether they felt like it or not. Tired, awake, it doesn’t matter, we play the fake-it-till-you-make-it school of full engagement until our bodies took over and it required no further effort on our part to keep in motion.

So, originally that was my point and the end of the story. Yet, I was surprised to find the Upright Zone late one night while on a subsequent trip to Oregon to visit my aging parents.

It was now late 2018 and just before Shya and I flew to Oregon, my then 92 year-old father had an emergency operation to remove a large kidney stone. Luckily my two sisters were able to be there to support him and my 93 year-old mom. My dad has such severe dementia, he didn’t grasp he was in the hospital, much less that he’d had an operation.

When we arrived in Oregon, Dad had just come home and everyone was exhausted. But then there were complications. He got nighttime diarrhea, which required helping him make multiple changes of clothes at night. On the second night of his illness, it was my turn to sleep nearby and be on call for the evening challenges. First at 11pm, and then again at 2:30, I was awakened to help him in the bathroom. Each time I needed to clean him up, change his clothes, then mop and sterilize the area. Then at 4:15am when he was sick once again, an amazing thing happened – I suddenly entered the Upright Zone.

As I was walking down the hall in those wee hours of the morning, in an instant, I found myself fully engaged – body, mind and spirit. The Upright Zone took over and between one step and the next I was tall and powerful, meeting this situation as if it were my idea, my preference – striding as if I was looking forward to what lay ahead.

As I rounded the corner into the bathroom, I recalled a saying I’ve heard from people in times of hardship or stress, “Just suck it up!” But that adage has always implied pain and suffering and working to overcome being a victim. I realized that I was experiencing a transformational version of sucking it up – no pain, no being a victim, just strength. The Upright Zone occurred naturally rather than following a self-imposed dictate to get over the moment and get on with it – whatever that odious “it” may be.

I’m grateful that I am a player of the game of full engagement, even in the times when life seems simple and undemanding. It has made things so much easier during life’s challenges and when circumstances become potentially stressful.

Since 1987, internationally acclaimed authors, seminar leaders, podcast/radio show hosts and business consultants Ariel and Shya Kane have acted as guides, leading people through the swamp of the mind into the clarity and brilliance of the moment. Find out more about the Kanes, their seminars in NYC, Germany and Costa Rica, the Say YES to Your Life! Meetups their work has inspired, their Being Here podcast or join their email newsletter. Also get information about their award-winning books. Their newest book, Being Here…Too, is available on Amazon.comBarnesandNoble.com and everywhere books are sold.

Books by Ariel & Shya Kane

Seize the Moment, Life Is Full of Surprises

Posted by presspass on
Seize the Moment, Life Is Full of Surprises

Seize the Moment, Life Is Full of Surprises

An excerpt from Being Here…Too, Short Stories of Modern Day Enlightenment

Being Here...TooAs I raced to the hospital to see my wife Holly, all I could think was, Please don’t die. When Holly and I started dating, neither of us thought we would ever get married. We were both in our 50s and had no idea that we would end up in a passionate and enlivening love affair. Now happily married for more than five years, we are on a great adventure together.

This past January, Holly went to California to handle some family business. I was very surprised when she called me from the hospital.

“Hi Honey, I’m in the emergency room. You know those headaches I’ve been getting? Well, I have a really bad one and now I can’t see out of my left eye.”

I’ve heard the expression, “It was like a bucket of ice water poured over my head.” But in that moment I actually experienced the sensation. It’s an understatement to say I was terrified by the news.

“The doctors say that I have a brain bleed.”

A brain bleed – Oh my God!

My mind went into hyper-drive, filling in with largely inaccurate details from television shows and movies.

I immediately thought, A brain bleed must mean a stroke! Will she be paralyzed? Will she die?

Reflexively, I panicked. But, even in the midst of receiving this horrifying news, I knew that panicking wasn’t going to help Holly. So I listened. I told her I loved her and I would get there as soon as I could.

What happened next was a whirlwind of all the things that needed to be handled to get me from one coast to the other so I could be with her; schedules, airline tickets, calling friends for support, a hastily packed bag.

Later that day, in the car to the airport, when I was no longer distracted by things that needed to be done, my mind automatically started to run its list of worst-case scenarios of what was going to happen. But fortunately for me (and for Holly) I’ve been practicing being here. It has been such a simple practice that I had no idea how well the “muscle” of being present would withstand the stress of potentially losing my beloved wife.

I took a breath and looked out the window. I noticed a light green Prius, a dark grey Mercedes and the clouds in the sky. I watched a motorist’s face as he drove past and noticed the street signs.

From time-to-time my eyes would lose focus and I would be seeing the beginnings of a horror movie in my mind, one where I had lost Holly, one where she died before I got there. But whenever that happened, I simply drew my attention outward to see the world outside my window.

It’s a six-hour flight from New York to San Francisco. The airline offered “private viewing” services where I could use my iPad to stream a movie they provided. I soon realized that the alternative was torturing myself with a different kind of private viewing – watching my mind’s repetitive, increasingly disturbing films about what might happen to Holly and what would happen to me if I lost her. So I put on my headset, fired up my iPad and chose an action film. A comedy was next and I welcomed the distraction.

When I arrived in San Francisco, I was met by Holly’s cousins and immediately rushed to the hospital. As I entered her room in the Neuro Intensive Care Unit, I was shocked to see Holly looking so gravely ill. It seemed to me that she was hooked up to every conceivable medical machine and device possible and I started to cry. We locked eyes and I went to her and hugged her as tightly as I dared. She looked happy to see me and surprisingly calm. Standing by the bed I held her hand. I was so grateful she was still alive, her hand warm in mine.

“Honey, I’ve gotten back more results.” She said. “The bleeding in my brain has been caused by something else. I have a brain tumor.”

I did my best to keep the room from spinning and to keep myself there with her. Her hand in mine anchored me as I digested the news that no one wants to hear. I pulled up a chair and sat. We had a brief discussion and decided that, whatever happened, we were going to live as fully as possible in this moment and, despite all temptations, would not travel down a black hole to a tragic future that hadn’t happened yet.

It’s one thing to make that decision. It’s quite another to live it. Luckily, Holly and I had tools. We’d learned skills for being present and honed them over the many years of attending seminars on Instantaneous Transformation. In fact, throughout her month-long stay in the hospital, I was repeatedly surprised that “scary” things were actually delightful moments when seen through a different lens.

For example, after Holly’s first brain surgery (she’s had three) they brought her back into the Intensive Care Unit where I was with her as the anesthesia wore off. As she awoke, her eyes fluttered open and she looked at me. Then Holly mumbled, “kiss me” in French. Oh how sweet she was. I kissed her face and then she spoke even more French to me.

While Holly is American and English is her first language, she lived in France for a time, and speaks French fluently. But the nurse nearby didn’t realize that Holly was talking to me in a foreign language and thought her speech was badly garbled. I could tell the nurse was alarmed, afraid that this new disability was an unwanted result of the surgery.

“Oh, no, it’s not garbled.” I said. “It’s French!”

I turned back to my wife and did my best to reply in my terrible, broken version of that language.

Suddenly, I was afraid. I thought that the surgery had somehow broken her ability to speak English. As I was smiling at her and kissing her face, I was also frantically trying to figure out how quickly I could learn French so we could communicate.

Then the nurse did something brilliant. She said, “Holly, I don’t speak French. Speak English.” Holly said, “Okay.” And to my great relief, my French studies were put off indefinitely.

During Holly’s recovery from each brain surgery, it was crucial that she have as little sensory input as possible. This meant the room she was in needed to be dark and quiet.

As I was determined to spend every waking moment with her, that meant I was not provided with any of the usual distractions from my mind’s machinations. Television and conversation were not options. Fortunately, I had my laptop computer with me and, as an attorney with my own law firm, I could work remotely.

As Holly slept, I dove into my work. Emails were read and responded to. Legal research was done and briefs were drafted and filed. I was able to serve my clients and give my mind constructive work to do to keep it from going down painful fantasy paths. I was able to respond via text and email in a timely way to all of the wonderful caring friends and family who were, figuratively speaking, there at our side. Of course I’m human and occasionally I would get side tracked and start to despair, but when this happened, I realized that being upset wasn’t helpful – not to me and certainly not to Holly. So it wasn’t too difficult to come back to the moment and get back to work.

Our mutual decision to get interested in what was happening around us, especially the people we were meeting, was incredibly valuable. We engaged with everyone we met: doctors, nurses, and cleaning staff. Because it was the Neuro Intensive Care Unit, Holly was frequently examined, questioned, medicated, and having blood drawn. Each interaction was an opportunity to not just exchange meaningless pleasantries but a chance to be with someone and really listen to him or her. Each moment was a chance to operate as if we were exactly where we wanted to be rather than dream of the day when we could get out of there.

As a result, Holly and I could hear the experts tell us how things were without editing in our heads to make it better or worse than it was. This allowed us to make fully informed choices based on facts, not decisions driven by our fears. This was crucial when Holly’s surgeon told us that the first surgery, while helpful in removing fluid that was causing pressure on her brain, was not completely successful.

“I was not able to get enough material in the biopsy for the pathology lab. I need to go back in. Without the material, we won’t know the genetic makeup of the tumor and won’t be able to properly treat it. I understand if you want to go back to New York to have this done.”

Holly didn’t want to wait. She also intuitively trusted this man.

“You’re part of my team. I trust you to go back in and get it done,” she said with a smile. And within a week the second surgery resulted in a successful biopsy, and the material was sent to the lab.

As a result of our training in being here, Holly and I actually enjoyed engaging with people. Whether they were changing a bedpan or part of the surgical team, they were all highly qualified professionals and fascinating beings. We got interested in their lives and included them in ours. We didn’t let the circumstances of Holly’s illness narrowly define us as only a patient and the patient’s husband. We were still whole beings with many interests and unlimited possibilities.

After Holly underwent numerous tests, scans and two brain surgeries, she was cleared for travel, and we returned to New York where we met with a new team of doctors. They hoped Holly could start treatment for her tumor right away. Unfortunately, due to complications, she required yet another surgery. They told us we could do it soon or wait a short time. Holly turned to me and said, “Carpe diem, baby.” (That’s Latin for “seize the day”.)

Holly is currently recovering and doing very well. The experts now believe that Holly’s tumor is something she can live with over time, a chronic condition rather than a life threatening one. Our relationship remains strong and we remain committed to seizing the day. For fun, we even got matching “carpe diem” tattoos, and have planned several trips together. I’m not certain what will come next but then, none of us are. In this moment, there is love, happiness, and the adventure continues as we seize the moment and encounter our next series of life’s surprises.

Since 1987, internationally acclaimed authors, seminar leaders, podcast/radio show hosts and business consultants Ariel and Shya Kane have acted as guides, leading people through the swamp of the mind into the clarity and brilliance of the moment. Find out more about the Kanes, their seminars in NYC, Germany and Costa Rica, the Say YES to Your Life! Meetups their work has inspired, their Being Here podcast or join their email newsletter. Also get information about their award-winning books. Their newest book, Being Here…Too, is available on Amazon.comBarnesandNoble.com and everywhere books are sold.

Books by Ariel & Shya Kane

Is This My Shirt…Really? By Ariel & Shya Kane

Posted by Editor on
7th Wave


Is This My Shirt…Really?
By Ariel Kane

In the summer of 2013, we were in Cambridge, England, leading a series of seminars when Shya unexpectedly had a dramatic episode that we later discovered was an extremely rare condition. Other people who went through this type of episode have generally viewed it as a deeply upsetting, fearful event. But fortunately for the two of us, being present and taking things moment-by moment had prepared us to deal with this circumstance with humor and ease. This is what happened from Ariel’s point of view:

Many of us dream about having the ability to live in the moment, to drop our story and discover the world anew. Shya and I had that experience. Well, Shya did, but that doesn’t mean he remembers it.

It started on a Wednesday in Cambridge, England. Shya and I were scheduled to lead a seminar about Instantaneous Transformation for a local group that evening and we had some “afternoon delight” followed by a nap. We thought we would feel refreshed, but it didn’t work out the way we had planned.

We were lounging in bed, enjoying a bit of post-coital languor, drowsy and sated and drifting toward sleep.

Lying on our left sides, I had placed Shya’s hand on my shoulder. Several weeks prior I’d had shoulder surgery and I was still feeling its effects. His hand was warm and soothing on the ache and our conversation would have been largely forgotten had things not taken a sharp turn.

“Ariel,” Shya said, “when you had your shoulder surgery, I know we spent the night in an apartment but I can’t remember where it was.”

“Neither can I,” I replied.

“How did we get that apartment?” he asked.

“Through the hospital.”

“What was your doctor’s name again?”

“Dr. Glashow,” I said. I was warm and cozy and the conversation was slow and easy.

“I don’t really know where I am right now,” Shya said.

This was not a particularly unusual statement. We travel so much we may go to sleep in three different locations or countries on three subsequent days. When we wake up, we have to remember the room, the surroundings and the city we’re in. It isn’t disconcerting. It’s more like emerging from a fog into the clarity of who we are in a particular time and space.

“Where are we?” Shya asked.

“In Cambridge,” I replied drowsily.


“Yes, Cambridge, England.”

“What are we doing here?”

“We’re doing a group here tonight.”

“We are? How did we get here?”

By now I was beginning to perk up a bit as I realized that Shya’s questions were somewhat odd yet sincere. “You know,” I said. “We flew in from Helsinki. You just spent a week in Russia.”

“Russia! Me? No. What was I doing in Russia?”

My eyes flew open and I quickly sat up. For an entire year Shya and I had planned a salmon fishing adventure in Russia, but in the months preceding the trip, our plans had radically changed. I had developed a condition called “frozen shoulder,” an extremely painful affliction, and I was advised by Dr. Glashow that I would still be in no shape to go, so our friend, Peter, took my place. Shya and Peter had gone together and Shya had tied fishing flies for months prior to the trip. From the questions Shya was asking, I knew something was seriously amiss.

“You went to Russia to go salmon fishing,” I said staring at him.

“No. Really?”

“Yes, you went with Peter, remember?”

Shya’s mouth dropped open and the look on his face was incredulous. “Peter?!” he blurted out. “Peter? We went to Russia with Peter?”

“No, I couldn’t go because I had shoulder surgery,” I reminded him.

It was clear that something was desperately wrong. “Hang on, Shya,” I said. “You might be having a stroke. I’m going to get you a baby aspirin.”

I jumped up and began rooting around on the desk until I found the little snack bag filled with Shya’s vitamins that contained a baby aspirin. I’d heard that if someone was having an episode, taking a baby aspirin would act as a blood thinner and could make the difference between life and death. In the moment, I couldn’t remember if this applied only to heart attacks or also to strokes but I figured it couldn’t hurt. I handed him a glass of water and put the aspirin on his tongue. “Here, drink this,” I said as I picked up the phone and dialed “0.”

“Front Desk, this is Vanessa.”

“Do you have a doctor here?”

“No but we can get one. Do you need an ambulance?”

That question caught me off guard. “I don’t know,” I said. “My husband is extremely disoriented.”

“I can get you an ambulance if you need one,” she exclaimed. I heard a resounding click and looked at the phone in my hand. “She hung up on me!” I said.

Assuming she was calling the doctor or ordering an ambulance, I started getting us ready.

“I’m confused,” Shya said. “Now, where am I?”

“You’re in Cambridge, honey.”

He paused and said, “I’m confused. What just happened?”

“We’re in Cambridge to lead a group…”


“Yes. We had sex.”

“We did?”

“Yes, and suddenly you got disoriented.”

The phone rang. The ambulance was on its way.

“Let’s get you dressed,” I said, pulling on my own clothes. “I’m getting your underwear.”

“I have underwear?”

“Yes, how about jeans?” I asked as I pulled a pair off a hanger.

“Jeans would be fine.”

Shya had slipped into his underwear and I pointed to the shirt he’d been wearing earlier. “Put on your shirt, sweetheart.”

Shya lifted the slate-grey long-sleeved t-shirt. It was a brand he had researched prior to the Russian trip, made of lightweight wool that would keep a person warm in winter and cool in summer. He’d been wearing it almost like a uniform, but now, he held the t-shirt in two hands as if he’d never seen it before. His face took on a look of wonder.

“Is this my shirt…Really?”

“Yes, Shya. Put it on,” I said evenly.

Shya pulled on his shirt and I got him his socks and shoes and I got my own.

“I’m confused. Now where are we?” he asked.

“We’re in Cambridge,” I said.

“We are?”

“Yes. We had sex and then you became confused. The ambulance is on its way. You just came back from Russia where you were fishing for salmon.”

I kept up a steady stream of conversation as I grabbed my phone to call our friend Menna to alert her that we would not be able to make the event we were scheduled to lead in just a few hours. Suddenly I felt as if I were operating like Menna and her husband Artur. Earlier in the day, they were being loving and respectful to their toddler Oscar, even though he wasn’t talking a lot just yet. I couldn’t imagine them getting irritated with him when he grew into the repetitive-question phase so I patiently answered each of Shya’s questions as if they were new and had never been asked before.

Menna assured me she would take care of things, not to worry (bless her), and she promised to bicycle over to the hospital to meet us.

“I’m confused,” Shya said, standing in the middle of the room. “I see fly rods in the corner. That must mean something.”

“Yes, you went fly fishing in Russia.”

“Russia? Really? We did?”

“Yes. You and Peter went fishing in Russia.”

“Peter? We went fishing with Peter!?”

We went through the series of questions and answers once again and for a moment I got tight. My tone of voice changed and it immediately translated itself to Shya who suddenly became slightly agitated. I became aware of my change in attitude and let it go without being hard on myself for having gotten disturbed in the first place. Oh, well, I thought with a slight smile, he won’t remember it in a moment anyway.

Shya paused and then he said again, “I’m confused. Now what happened?”

“It’s alright honey. We had sex and…”

“Was it good sex?” He asked innocently.

Innocently is the only way to describe it. It wasn’t an embarrassing subject. Of course it shouldn’t be after more than three decades together. It was a simple question, sincerely posed by a sweet, sweet man who was my husband and yet…

“Yes, it was very good sex,” I said, laying my hand on his cheek. It was odd that Shya was so himself and yet not. It was as if his life had been distilled to this moment. While he clearly had no history, not even immediate history, he still retained his fundamental self, his innocence, his wonder, his love, his heart…
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It’s Up to You By Ariel & Shya Kane

Posted by Editor on
7th Wave
It’s Up to You By Ariel & Shya Kane

“I’m an optimist because I’ve found you have more opportunities that way.” – Matt Vetri

Would you like to have a consistent “hum” of well-being running through your life rather than having circumstances determine how you feel? Join Ariel and Shya and special guest Menna van Praag as they bring to light how Being Here during life’s challenges can do just that. Callers welcome at Tel# 1-866-472-5795!

Listen Live this Wednesday, August 3rd at 9am PST / 12pm EST on the VoiceAmerica 7th Wave Channel.

After this Wednesday, you can stream or download this episode and over 400 episodes on a wide variety of topics from our archives here.
You can also subscribe to BEING HERE on iTunes!

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