Who are you?

Not like your name or age or those other common qualifiers we use to describe ourselves (a woman, a parent, a triathlete, an explorer for National Geographic). Who are you at your core?

It’s a question you probably haven’t thought about in a while—possibly ever. Our minds are generally too consumed with the day-to-day to dive deep into the glorious wonders of our own individuality. (i.e., Work is crazy right now. Something’s rattling on the car. Sally needs new sneakers. Is this sweater clean? It smells clean. I think it’s clean.)

And when our minds do take the time, they tend to get critical. They doubt. They stress. They ramble on about all the ways things are totally definitely going to go wrong.

You’d think they’d be more supportive—they’re OUR minds, after all. They should know how wonderfully weird and creative and awesome we are. But the truth is, sometimes they act like jerks.

Nicole Dube sets up to break a board during a class at Centerpoint Martial Arts in Falmouth. Shannon Bryan photo

Redirecting our thoughts—or simply letting that negative commentary drift on by like a passing ferry in Casco Bay—is a skill. So is understanding how to upgrade our internal monologue and learning how to land a serious jab.

Mastering those skills takes practice—and often a bit of guidance. That’s exactly why Hester Mishkin created strongHER, a women’s empowerment program that builds strength and resiliency (the better to break through limitations) with a blend of martial arts training, meditation, and mindset coaching. Programs include one-day workshops, week-long retreats, and customized programs aimed at building strength and exploring what’s possible.

January 5: strongHER One-Day Camp at Centerpoint Martial Arts, Falmouth
March 21-26: Women’s Empowerment Retreat in Costa Rica

strongHER was created by Hester Mishkin, pictured on right leading group meditation. It combines martial arts, meditation, and mindset work. Photos top and right courtesy Hester Mishkin. Bottom photo by Shannon Bryan

Hester is a personal coach, meditation teacher, and 5th degree black belt martial artist. She’s also co-owner of Centerpoint Martial Arts in Falmouth. strongHER was born out of her own personal experience; she is human, after all, and has experienced her fair share of doubt, fear, and grief.

But it was last year, when her husband Andy almost died, that really knocked her back. Without warning, Andy required emergency open-heart surgery. Hester was understandably terrified. “It was a terrible, heart-breaking circumstance,” she said. The surgery was successful, but Andy faced months of slow recovery, which meant Hester was responsible for keeping their lives running while Andy worked to regain his health. That included taking care of their young daughter; running Centerpoint, the business they own together; and making sure the bills got paid and dinner got made—all on top of managing her own understandable worry.

The experience shook her. “I spent a good part of last year crying myself to sleep,” she said. And while Andy recovered and is well today, the whole experience hit Hester hard. “I had been landed this unforeseen blow, so I felt overwhelmed. My anxiety levels were high and constant. I was a bit shattered really, and I knew I needed to switch things up hard and fast—overhaul my thoughts and restore myself.”

She sought out a coach, started strength training, and drew upon the skills she gained through decades of martial arts, meditation, and coaching others. strongHER, she said, was born out of that process, as Hester rebuilt herself. “My experience can help other women do that themselves,” she said. “Whether they’ve been knocked down or they’re stuck.”

Hester Mishkin, a personal coach, meditation teacher, and 5th degree black belt martial artist, demonstrates a kick during an event at Centerpoint Martial Arts in Falmouth. Shannon Bryan photo

We often live with a perspective of “thinking things broke us,” she said. “But these things make us stronger. These things are great sources of strength and power.”

Those are the learnings she intends to imbue in every woman who participates in strongHER, whether you’re part of a one-day workshop in Falmouth, Maine, or a week-long retreat at the Jungle’s Edge Retreat Center in Costa Rica.

There will be martial arts, of course—learning proper form to land a jab, working with partners to strike pads, maybe some leaping and kicking and running through a small obstacle course. Hester will also lead some guided meditation and mindset work, and you’ll begin learning how to master your own mind “so it works for you, not against you,” Hester said. More importantly, it’s a chance to “leave behind limitations, lies, fears, and doubts and replace them with a genuine rediscovery of inner strength and personal power.”

The week-long women’s empowerment retreat in Costa Rica offers an opportunity to step away from the day to day and focus on you: who you are, what you want, and the tools to get there. Photos courtesy Hester Mishkin

And while Hester knows how to bring the mindfulness, how to lead a meditation and present you with just the right question to get your noggin thinking in totally new ways, it also bears noting that she teaches with a stupendous sense of humor and energy (and yes, maybe a few well-placed f-words).

She’s funny and welcoming and real (which means you’ll no doubt find yourself laughing throughout the program, and you’ll quickly feel at home and ready to get real with whatever you’ve got going on). Also: You’ll get to BREAK A BOARD. And that’s just downright cool.

“I want people to know, if you’re feeling knocked down, there’s a way out. If you’re ready to go for it, if you’re thinking, ‘I want to feel differently, and I want to do something about it,’ then strongHER is for you.” It’s about “bringing to life your greatest vision of what could be possible.”

Sounds pretty great, don’t you think? More info on the one-day camp and Costa Rica retreat below. And be sure to follow Centerpoint Martial Arts on Facebook to stay apprised of future events, workshops, and retreats.

strongHER One-Day Camp

9 a.m. to 3 p.m. January 5, 2020
Centerpoint Martial Arts, Falmouth
FMI and to register
More info on Facebook

An immersive one-day experience comprised of empowering activities for the mind and body. Fitness warm-up and stretching martial arts drills and pad work, self-defense applications, board breaking, meditation instruction and guided practice, relaxation breathing methods, and mindset coaching strategies. Snack provided, bring a lunch. Suitable for any fitness and experience level, ages 15 and up.

Women’s Empowerment Retreat in Costa Rica

March 21-26
Jungle’s Edge, Nosara, Costa Rica https://jungles-edge.com
$1675-$2040 ($500 deposit)
FMI and to register
More info on Facebook
Spend a week at Jungle’s Edge Retreat Center, on the outskirts of the Costa Rican jungle and a 15-minute walk to the beach. You’ll spend lots of time inside on-onsite martial arts studio, training with Hester. You’ll also work out on the beach, enjoy morning meditations, healthy, local fare, and daily journaling. Throughout the week, you’ll be challenged to answer some deep questions, all meant to get to the heart of who you are and what you want – and help show you the tools you already have to help you get there.

There will be fun adventures, too, like hikes to waterfalls, beach sunsets, surfing, and a fire ceremony, and you’ll have down time to yourself to do what you’d like. Snorkeling anyone? It’s a week perfectly curated to engage every part of you, and getting out of Dodge matters, too.

A photo from a similar retreat Hester Mishkin led in the Dominican Republic last year. Photo courtesy Hester Mishkin

“When you remove yourself from your everyday comfort zone—your house, your family, your job—and go to a setting that’s so physically different, it looks different, it feels different—that alone helps to reconnect you with who you are,” Hester said.

A retreat center in Costa Rica ain’t a bad place to be out of your comfort zone.

“If you’ve been knocked down or you’re feeling held back,” Hester said, “[strongHER] is a real shot in the arm, a catalyst to change things up with your career or your life.”