Make Contact With Nature Part of Your Wellness Plan

Photo by M. Arloski (all rights reserved)

Here in Colorado we have one of the ultimate places for outdoor activity and opportunity. Yet, it is easy for many of us to stay so busy that we rarely take advantage of the healthful benefits of contact with the natural world.

We experientially know that our stress levels go down when we spend more time in nature. We feel rejuvenated and refreshed after we take a walk through a park or out along a bike path. We feel more grounded and relaxed after a weekend camping and hiking. Now we know from scientific research that our intuition is right.

Dr. Eeva Karjalainen of the Finnish Forest Research Institute summarized such research, stating that just being out in forests and other natural, green settings “can reduce stress, improve moods, reduce anger and aggressiveness and increase overall happiness. Forest visits may also strengthen our immune system…Many studies show that after stressful or concentration-demanding situations, people recover faster and better in natural environments than in urban settings. Blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension and the level of “stress hormones” all decrease faster in natural settings. Depression, anger and aggressiveness are reduced in green environments and ADHD symptoms in children reduce when they play in green settings.” There has even been research showing that exercising outdoors results in greater physiological benefits than exercising indoors.
In one study over 600 people were asked why they visited the National Forests in the U.S. 92% said they did so to “relax and gain peace of mind”. Perhaps our best “wellness centers” are in the outdoors.

The Environmental Dimension of Wellness has many faces to it that we are much more aware of today. We realize that our behavior affects the world around us in many ways. Our choice to purchase whole and natural foods sends a message all the way to the farmers who decide what to plant and how to care for it. Our choice of vehicles either minimizes our impact on the earth or contributes to it’s ecological misery. However the effect that contact with the natural world can have upon us is huge in it’s potential to help us to heal our frazzled nerves and our troubled soul. Our connectedness to the world around us is often overlooked as a way of healing, yet, when we reach back to that older way of being it seems to always give us just what we need.

Photo by M. Arlosk (all rights reserved)

On Memorial Day I got out on a hike after far too long away from the foothills and mountains. After hiking past white violets and columbine in bloom I found the remains of an off-trail campsite and took a mid-day break for lunch and contemplation. The quiet was what I found myself cherishing. No city noise, only bird song and wind in the pines and aspen. I opened my copy of Sigurd Olson’s Reflections From The North Country and immediately found these lines. “When man feels tension as though he were being pulled out of his ancient mold, it is his divorcement from silence that is often responsible, silence built into the fabric of this mind. He may not know what is wrong, but he has only to find it again to restore his equilibrium.”

“Mountains give you strength, but water speaks to your soul.” Sigurd Olson. Photo by M. Arlosk (all rights reserved)

Being healthy and well seems always about restoring balance in our lives on all levels. Until we slow down and reconnect with nature we may not, as Olson reminds us, even realize how out of balance our lives may have become.
There are thirteen weekends in June, July and August. Getting outdoors can be as easy as a spontaneous walk in a park, but consciously setting aside time to get out hiking, camping, etc., like so many wellness activities, is about planning and putting it on the calendar. We know that Labor Day Weekend will be here before we know it.

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Top Ten Wellness Strategies for The Self-Employed

It’s lonely at the top, especially when you are the whole mountain!

Profitable corporations have embraced wellness programs as a way to effectively hold down healthcare costs, boost productivity, creativity and reduce absenteeism and turnover rates. If you are one of the more than sixteen million self-employed people out there, what’s your wellness program look like? When you are self-employed and you become really ill, it’s like Hewlett Packard locking the gate and turning off the lights…you’re out of business! Making conscious investment in your company’s biggest asset, you and your health, is critical.

About one out of every nine people in the American workforce is self-employed and 90% actually chose to become so. Corporate-culture refugees are often happier on their own, but this new territory comes with it’s own particular stresses and challenges. Nobody tells you to stop working for the day. There is no schedule other than the one you make yourself. Couples who have their own business together must become communication experts with each other. There is tremendous freedom and potentially tremendous pressure.

There is certainly an upside though…many of them in fact. When you see that the temperature at noon will be in the nineties, you can get your walk or run in at 9:00 am and work through your noon hour. You may commute just across the hallway. There is no pay-scale, and no glass ceiling.

The big challenge is work-life balance. How does the self-employed person achieve a wellness lifestyle and one that is both personally and financially rewarding? How do we really apply the old adage “work smarter, not harder”?

Let’s look at the Top Ten Wellness Strategies for The Self-Employed.

1. Identity. Realize that you are not your work. Your business is something you own, not vise-versa. The key is to “have a life” and to, in fact, nurture a well-rounded, full and meaningful life. Meaning and purpose in both work and life ensure motivation to be well and to be successful. When your work is in alignment with your values and beliefs conflict and stress are minimized and energy emerges to get the job done.
2. Boundaries and flexibility. The old joke that being self-employed is only half-time work…you can work whatever 12 hrs./day you want to work, is much too real. It’s a double-edged sword you want to take conscious command of and have it cut for you instead of against you. Track your work hours by writing them down if need be. Set alarms. Give yourself days off. When things pop into your head, jot them down for discussion later and then return to being back in the present moment. Make agreements with partners to create some hours each day and some times each week when business is not discussed.
3. Confidence. Overcome the fears that drive you to over-work by building your confidence and belief in your ability to be successful. You do not have to be available 24/7 to be productive. Know that your skills, abilities, and investments in your work can allow you to take time off and still thrive.

“I have so much to accomplish today that I just meditate for two hours instead of one.” M.K. Gandhi

4. Self-care/Self-permission.Give yourself permission to take fantastic care of yourself. Confront outdated and fearful personal beliefs about putting yourself last on your list. It may feel strange, but practice what feels like “extreme self-care” and it will probably be about right!
5. Investment. Invest in your own wellness. Get all of your medical check-ups on time. Invest in your own physical health with regular exercise and high quality fuel (food). Invest in your own mental health by expressing your creativity and having fun with others.

6. Energy. Re-charge your energy with frequent breaks. Stretch, move, breathe every hour. Studies show that your creativity and productivity will soar (http://www.ernestrossi.com/interviews/ultradia.htm) (http://www.polarunlimited.com/2010/09/the-way-were-working-isnt-working-summary/)

7. Organization. Your to-do list won’t magically go away while you’re doing all of this wellness stuff! Your work has to be efficient, not just excessive effort. Educate yourself about what organizational systems will work for you like GTD (Getting Things Done) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Getting_Things_Done) or ZTD (Zen To Done) (http://zenhabits.net/zen-to-done-ztd-the-ultimate-simple-productivity-system/) . Experiment with HOW you work, not just working harder to find out what really catalyzes your productivity. Delegate. Repeat, delegate! Hire an IT person (even just one time) to help your technology work for you instead of bogging you down. Use the famous Urgency/Importance Matrix (easily found online) to prioritize and streamline tasks while eliminating what really doesn’t matter.

8. Self-compassion. Be kind, patient and self-forgiving. “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” May sound cliché, but it’s true. Keep lifting your head from where your nose is on the grindstone and see the bigger picture of your progress and that of your business. (http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/28/go-easy-on-yourself-a-new-wave-of-research-urges/)
9. Connection. Self-employment can be very isolating and this can boost self-doubt, depression and pessimism. Get out and connect with other professionals at organization meetings. Do some work at coffee shops and go ahead and talk with people!
10. Get a Coach. It’s lonely at the top, especially when you are the whole mountain! Invest in an ally who specializes in helping entrepreneurs and folks like you. A business/life coach may give you the support and accountability you need to create a plan for success and effectively pursue it. A wellness coach may help you find the life/work balance you are looking for, help prevent burnout, and help you find a totally sustainable way of living and working that maximizes your health and well being, allowing you to actualize more of your wonderful potential.

What’s your experience either being a self-employed person seeking wellness, or a coach who has helped people in this way?  Please leave a comment here on the blog.  Thanks!

Giving Our Lifestyle Power Away To Celebrities

If you don't know what this is, that's a good thing! (Chicken-fried steak)

The rise of celebrity chefs and food programs has been phenomenal. True, there are some excellent shows that feature healthy cuisines, and more wellness-oriented content. However the alarming trend has been for more and more shows to do what television shows have learned works for ratings: to shock and to “give the public what they want.” I’m talking gluttony and foods that have been scientifically linked over and over again to the obesity and health crisis we see in America and ever-increasingly, worldwide.

Americans watch an average of Four Hours of Television Per Day. (http://www.csun.edu/science/health/docs/tv&health.html) This media-saturated culture allows television celebrities easy access to our awareness and affects our lifestyle decisions more than we think.

We see food programs, often posing as travel shows, glorify over-eating to a degree that is all about shock value. We tune in to programs that seem to inevitably feature consuming the most disgusting substances the host can find. Far too many programs show the host seeking out and gorging on huge quantities of the fattiest red-meat items available. Or, we indulge in a convenient fantasy that “good old home cooking” with all the butter and gravy possible won’t really hurt us. Cholesterol, calories, salt and fat content be damned! Full speed ahead!

We WANT to believe that we can eat like those folks on television and get away with it. The identification with some of these television chefs has been astonishing. What we forget is that they often become more of a corporate “brand” than a person. They represent the tip of a business iceberg that at times becomes a juggernaut of capitalistic power. When that happens it’s not about your health, it’s about making money.

Paula Deen, the television chef who made millions pushing traditional Southern cooking with a style of over-indulgent exaggeration, became “The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest” recently when she announced that she has come down with Type Two Diabetes. While deserving of all the compassion we would give anyone who encounters this challenge in their life, Paula lost much of such potential support by only revealing her affliction three years after her diagnosis. In the meantime she had continued to push her “brand” and all of the diabetes-engendering recipes that went with it. She also never revealed her diabetes until she had a mult-million dollar contract in place to be a spokesperson for a diabetes drug company. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/23/paula-deen-diabetes-announcement-celebrity-chefs-support_n_1224454.html)

When we give our power away to entertainers who may or may not have our health and best interests at heart, we lose. We often feel betrayed when some truth finally comes to the surface, whether it’s about them, or when we suffer consequences in our own health.

It’s really like reading labels. What is the real content of this product? I loved hearing Marion Nestle (no relation to the food company) (http://www.foodpolitics.com/) talk about nutrition and the food industry at The National Wellness Conference (http://www.nationalwellness.org/index.php?id_tier=90) one year. She made it clear that the big food companies are not evil, they’re not out to get us. They simply are out to make money and are really very neutral about our health. If we purchase junk, they will make and market more junk. If we purchase more healthy food, they will, as we have seen, make and market more healthy food. The same is true for TV.

I’m not out to change TV. I’m out to help people reclaim their own lives. Read the label, so to speak, on what you watch on television. Remember that your favorite celebrity may simply be putting on an infomercial and calling it a TV show. Watch consciously and be conscious of how much you watch. We can’t always trust the intention behind a show. It’s like finding a good looking website on nutrition and then digging deeper and finding out that it’s just a propaganda voice for a coalition of food industry vested interests. The charge of all of these shows is to entertain first and foremost. That’s why we find them fun and interesting. What’s wonderful is when they share recipes that are actually heart-healthy, cancer-preventing, and diabetes-preventing.

We would love to feel like celebrities are our “friends”. We all want to be connected to others. We enjoy their entertainment and we sometimes aspire to be more like them, for better or for worse. Celebrities are real people and the few I’ve met personally, like John Denver and Dennis Weaver, were as sincere and genuine as it gets. However, let’s not make them lifestyle beacons for us or give them authority they don’t deserve. It’s like a time way back in the late 1960’s when I noticed a friend of mine hanging on every word of a rock band for philosophical and political guidance. No wonder The Moody Blues put out a tune at that time entitled “I’m Just A Singer In A Rock n’ Roll Band.” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RqOSzkqPhbA)

Wellness Self-Quiz:
1. Have you found television food shows that emphasize wellness and healthy eating? Please share.
2. Have you found yourself recently shifting your eating habits to include more (not less) red meat dishes, more fried foods, more higher-fat content items after seeing such trends on show you watch?
3. What is one thing you can do to be a more conscious consumer of food programs on television?

Question Your To-Do List and Be Well: Coaching The Urgent/Important Matrix

Naughty, Nice, and TOO MUCH TO DO!

Despite our best efforts to avoid “holiday stress” it always seems to arrive as reliably as Santa himself. The “to do list” seems impossible and we pay the price physically and emotionally when the stress is too much.

The way to tackle a “to-do list” is not to whittle away at it, it’s more like running it through a filter or processor and determining priorities and what really needs to be done and what just doesn’t. That filter is the Urgent/Important Matrix made famous by former president Eisenhower and Dr. Stephen Covey. When we squeeze everything on our to-do list through this matrix it comes out in one of four quadrants: 1)Urgent/Not Important; 2)Urgent and Important; 3)Not Urgent/Not important; and 4)Not Urgent/Important. Sounds easy enough but this simple matrix requires a lot of clarity about our values, priorities and beliefs.

A simple tools that brings up larger questions!

Today’s information driven world can push us to believe that everything on our list is Urgent and Important. This can drive you to the edge of your “stress cliff”, feeling overwhelmed and out of control. There truly is more on your to-do list than one can possibly do.

Try running your to-do list through this filter and you suddenly realize that you are requiring yourself to get very clear about your values and priorities. You realize that some of what you thought was urgent actually isn’t, and that “importance” requires some serious self-reflection.

Coaching Questions for The Matrix


Question your to-do list. Here are some great coaching questions to have your client ask themselves that can help them prioritize each item on their to-do list. The result will be less stress and more wellness.

Important: “Does completing this lead towards the achievement of my goals?” “How does this serve me, others and the world around me?” “Is this an expression of who I am?” “Am I being true to myself?” “Does this affect my family, employment or health?” “Does this add joy to my life?” We may choose at times to put our own needs aside, but we must do so consciously not habitually.

Urgent: “Will failing to complete this task in a timely manner result in: anyone getting hurt; a loss of business/profit; a performance penalty?” “Is the urgency more about my own anxiety than reality?” “Is my anxiety exacerbated by poor wellness practices, e.g. not enough sleep, to much caffeine?” “Am I clear about what other people expect?” “Have I set myself up by “over promising” and thereby increasing my chances of “under-delivering” ?” “Am I personalizing something that is not personal?” “Am I trying to “please” others?” “Who is setting the dead line and can it wait?” ”Can someone else do the task?”

For more ideas on how to coach with this matrix take a good look at this MindTools article (http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newHTE_91.htm).

What drives urgency?

As you coach your client through this process you may find that the coaching becomes about values clarification, operating on true priorities, even meaning and purpose in life! However, what you also may encounter is more in the realm of the Urgent dimension. An exploration of this area was initiated for me by a coaching colleague who asked what an example of Not Urgent and Not Important could be. The quick answer was items on your list that are the kind of time-wasting distractions that keep us from getting the more important items done. Are we crowding our to-do list with items that have very little to do with our real goals? Are we deceiving ourselves into believing it really is important to rearrange our sock drawer?

Then the question got me thinking: In today’s world with it’s heightened expectations in workplaces, families and in society, it is important to be more conscious about what you value and to become a savvy list manager. It’s more important than ever not let your “to do list” rule your life. Does everything really have to feel urgent?

We often refer to this as “a sense of urgency”. That very phrase attributes the urgency to inside of us. Sure, we have demands from others, but what’s new about that? Whether you were a 11th Century peasant or a 1950’s steel mill worker there have always been systems and bosses making demands that were excessive. Yet today’s technology pushes the illusion that we can perform beyond human capacity and emulate machine capacity. The external pressure is, in fact, greater, but it is the internal pressure that we can readily do something about. This is what Stephen Covey referred to as “responding” instead of “reacting” to external demands.

A coach’s job is to remind people that they do have choices. All of our technological devices have a built-in stress management device. It’s called the off-on switch. How “accessible” do we really need to be? How driven by fear is that need for accessibility? As a coach you can help your client distinguish what is a realistic fear or concern, and what is an irrational, unrealistic fear.

Coaches can also help people with their stress management by helping them live according to their own values, their own vision of living the good life. This is in contrast to living a life of continual striving to meet the expectations of others. How can we help our clients find within themselves the courage to set boundaries and take charge of their own lives? What ends up on the to-do list are items that enhance one’s life instead of just stressing it out.

Please add your comments about how this topic affects your own life and/or your coaching with others.

Ten Ways To Coach Through Barriers To Change – Part Two – Inner Barriers To Lifestyle Improvement – II by Dr. Michael Arloski.

"It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves." Sir Edmund Hillary (Photo by M. Arloski - all rights reserved)

6. Practice Extreme Self-Care

Many times coaches and clients co-create a wonderful set of self-care action steps that the client knows will help them to be healthier and well. Then, on the next coaching appointment, the client confesses that they held back from doing almost all of the actions agreed upon. The coaching conversation then reveals that the client would not give themselves permission to engage in such self-oriented behaviors. Another belief system item that wellness coaches, especially, deal with all the time is a lack of self-permission and way too much self-denial. Stemming back to a lifetime of learning such beliefs create guilt and the misperception that taking time and doing anything good for oneself is “selfish” and wrong. Even though your client may say and believe (intellectually) that taking time to exercise, get more sleep, and eat well are critically important, they may find themselves reluctant to actually follow through and do these behaviors because they just don’t feel right at a deeper level. Many terrific wellness plans fail right here.

We can help our clients to increase self-permission by helping them examine these beliefs and how they adopted them. We can help them look at how realistic they really are, especially in light of the client’s whole life. Are they valuing self-denial to the point where it is harming their health? It may feel “extreme” for them to begin to do even the smallest things for themselves, but we can support and acknowledge their efforts at even small steps for self-care.

Recovery and self-care can take many forms.

7. Regenerate Through Recovery

A number one challenge wellness coaching clients continually face is having enough time for wellness. Often their attempts at “time management” go nowhere. Perhaps it’s time to think in terms of “energy management”. In books like The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working and The Power of Full Engagement (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tony-schwartz/the-way-were-working-isnt_b_574039.html) we find a reaffirmation that pushing people to work too long with not enough sleep and with insufficient resources is not sustainable or even profitable. Once again, we recognize the need for balance, for what these authors call “sufficient volume and intensity of recovery” from the stress we are under. Hopefully such books will encourage work environments to wake up and restore some sense of balance to the workplace but until then it begins within the individual. Often out of fear, our clients push continually in totally unsustainable fashion and end up being less productive, and less well. Another internal barrier here can be irrational beliefs that they are only worthwhile and Okay as a human being when they are being productive.

Working with self-permission, helping our clients to break through their fears and realize that the person who has more recovery time is, in fact, more productive, efficient and creative, we can help them create sustainable ways to attain work/life balance.

8. Progress With A Plan

When wellness coaching proceeds without a co-created wellness plan the tendency is to throw together a cluster of goals and attempt to follow through on them. The danger is that a lack of structure can lead to confusion, inconsistency, wandering off on tangents, and a loss of momentum and motivation. Internal barriers to the whole coaching process can arise out of a sense of confusion, uncertainty, lack of clarity about direction, progress and roles. Lasting lifestyle change is not just a bunch of goal setting and pumping up will-power. Proceed with a plan.

9. Acknowledge And Affirm

Client motivation often suffers from a perceived lack of progress, yet clients often do not give themselves adequate credit for what they have actually achieved. Recognize and acknowledge progress of any kind and any size. You are not so much praising your client as you are encouraging them to praise themselves and acknowledge their progress. Acknowledge the actions and the aspects of their character that “showed up” to bring that action forward. They may even benefit from an exercise of writing down three self-acknowledgments a day. Don’t downplay the level of challenge a client may be facing. Affirm their reality and their experience. Yet keep the responsibility for change on the client. When they speak of barriers (either internal or external) that came up, ask them “How did you allow that to hold you back?”

10. Make It Mindfull

Many internal barriers come from a state of internal anxiety, stress, fear, and confusion. Whatever calms the body/mind/spirit is going to help us lower those barriers. Encouraging our clients to include practices that help them become more centered, more calm, and more focused will help lead them to greater peace within. Most decisions are made on an emotional rather than strictly logical basis (some say 60%). If we are anxious, stressed, worried, and even physically tight, we can misinterpret what our body is telling us and decide not to be active, eat well or connect with others when it is exactly what we need the most. Honoring the values and culture of our clients we can help them explore ways of relaxing and centering that are congruent for them.

A 30 min. recording of a free monthly webinar on this topic can be found at http://realbalance.com/

Please share your comments, ideas, and questions. Help us explore the very best ways to coach people to be well.

The Wellness Traveler: Healthy and Well on the Move! General Well Travel Tips – Part Three

Newfound friends from Italy and the UK dance the night away being well!

Wellness is a way of living to take with you wherever you go. Living well can also help you get there and make the most of it!

It was three o’clock in the morning and I was just getting to bed at a spa in Europe with a wonderful grin on my face. I had danced with newfound friends from around the world and hadn’t quit until the band (finally) went home! I thought I had lived life to the fullest, when I heard noise outside the resort hotel. Laughing and splashing down in the pool were some of my previous partying companions, still going strong!

Well Travel Tip #6
Live a life in balance so you can get a little “out of balance” and be glad you did!

One of the greatest reasons to live a life in balance, a healthy wellness lifestyle, is so you can have the health and vitality to “go for it” when the opportunity is there.

Wellness is not a worried existence atop a balance beam! It’s not a Spartan lifestyle of self-denial and depravation all in the name of health. Most of us can say “Yes!” to an opportunity to have fun, indulge, explore or adventure and not lose any ground in our pursuit of our wellness plans. Living healthy and well the other 97% of the time allows us to do just that.

How wonderful to say “Yes!” to that Italian pastry (and not kid ourselves how often we do that!). How lovely to stay up into the wee hours of the morning studying the stars as you paddle across a quiet and calm lake. How fantastic to be able “push” when you want to, to have “something left in the tank” when an arduous travel day requires extra stamina. All that healthy living can now pay dividends.

Well Travel Tip #7
Eat like your trip depends upon it…it does!

Now that I’ve urged you to “Go for it!” (with consciousness!), I’ll advise some consistency and common sense in the world of nutrition and eating. You can find almost endless online resources with lots of good suggestions, but as usual, I want to take a different tact here. First an ethical obligation to urge health and wellness through good ol’ basics:
• Drink more water, lots more water. Airplanes suck the moisture right out of you, so do new climates and elevation changes. Dehydration can affect you negatively in so many ways it would make your head spin (and I think that’s on the list of effects too). Hold on to the water you take in better. Limit caffeine, alcohol, and other diuretics!
• Pack your own food. As much as possible. Stay in charge of your own food supply. Buy locally, eat fresh!
• Eat a good breakfast. Best nutritional punch of the day. Even the French and Italians are starting to question their traditional white flour, sugar and caffeine breakfasts.
• Have fun at restaurants, but eat with real awareness! Don’t’ kid yourself on how much, how often, how many, or what! Eat like you know something about wellness!

Here’s a couple of simple list type resources with good ideas for eating better on the road:

http://fatherhood.about.com/od/workingfathers/a/healthy_road.htm

http://businesstravel.about.com/od/healthsafety/tp/diet_tips_for_business_travel.htm

http://healthfinder.gov/news/newsstory.aspx?docID=627943

Now for some Wellness Traveler thoughts on how to eat like your trip depends up on it.

• Eat to maintain energy and vitality. You want to be able to enjoy a whole day of walking through a beautiful part of the world, or hike all the way to that secluded waterfall and make it back! Balance your food intake so you have slow-burning energy from protein and fats (good fats) as well as the quicker burning carbs. Remember it’s like a good campfire, tinder+kindling+firewood, not just burning one wad of newspapers after another. Lots of food easily available to travelers is loaded with nothing but carbs and sugars.
• Be smart about food sources, but definitely be adventurous! Avoid the risky looking street vendor food, but order that new-to-you food at the restaurant. Like me you may hate canned anchovies, but you would not believe how fantastic the fresh ones that I had in Italy were!
• Eat mindfully. As much as possible find food that is close to the source, and partake of it with gratitude and grace. Mindful eating is even better for your digestion!
Honor the culture you are in and connect with it. When in Rome…don’t order a #&*@! Hamburger!  People express themselves and their geography through food so be a part of it. Try the homemade (not instant!) grits in the Southern part of the U.S. Try the civiche in coastal Mexico. Try those crazy snails in France! Bon appetite!

I certainly don’t pretend to tell you how to eat or what to do, but if you’ll give these ideas some thoughts you may find that what you eat enhances more than just your nutrition when you’re on the move. It may feed your soul, if you let it.

Peruvian/Asian Fusion Sushi in Miami Beach