One Thing Wednesday

Dance a happy jig, today is Wednesday:)  The One Thing Wednesday treat is a website to help you do nothing.  Yes, absolutely nothing for two sweet minutes.

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Do nothing for 2 minutes

Why? You ask.  Because being able to shut down the mental motor not only increases our productivity and ability to perform it also increases life satisfaction.

If the idea of mental and physical quiet for two minutes has you protesting, then you might want to do it twice:)

Enjoy a tiny pocket of serenity…

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Strength Through Softness

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Storms brewing

Are you a “fighter”?

I have been a fighter in my life, an arms-swinging-spit-flying-noise-making fighter.  You know, when the knee jerk reaction is to hiss and scratch rather than lay down.  Not that laying down is ideal either, right?  We connect with our true strength somewhere in the middle…not too hot, not too cold…but just right.

Easier said than done.

Intense anger comes with a surge in energy making us feel powerful when we are not.  At the same time, letting go of anger can feel like losing.  When rage strikes, the urge to retaliate can grab ahold of us, blinding us and yanking us in directions we do not want to go.  Standing still in the face of these urges is like allowing another person to shoot some sort of octopus ink in our faces while we do nothing.

It’s a Catch-22.  We argue to protect ourselves and end up paying an unwanted price.  Much like a hangover leaves us asking ourselves if a bottle of Merlot is worth the pounding head. If we are honest with ourselves the cost of an unbridled fury doesn’t seem like much of a victory.

Real strength isn’t found in crushing another or running away.  Real strength is the opposite of these.  We connect with our power when we stand steady in awareness and see the situation rather than get caught up in the fray.  We stay on solid ground. We don’t get sucked into the vortex.  This allows us to make choices rather than react.


“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Martin Luther King Jr.


Our thinking brain helps pull us back from our emotional brain much like an approaching stop sign makes a driver press the brake.

See it coming and slow it down.

Notice when vexation strikes and begin strategically engaging your logical side by talking yourself out of the storm. Put into words what is happening and ask questions as if you were the lead investigator for the FBI terrorism unit.

  • “I’m feeling pissed right now.  My heart is in my throat.  I could scream.  I’m just super angry.”
  •  “I don’t need to take action right this minute. The problem will be here when I’m calm.  The situation isn’t going anywhere.”
  • “What happened?  How am I interpreting this? What am I afraid of? What can I do here?  How do I want to proceed?  What do I need?  How will I address this?”

Stay with it until you start to settle, gently ease yourself to the ground.  You continue to gain traction as long as you see what is happening without getting swallow up by it.  Focus on noticing what you are experiencing and/or talking yourself through the darkness.  Awareness has our back.  Use it on purpose.

The main thrust of this practice is skillfully directing our attention to something that supports us rather than slipping into the highly automatic emotional habits we all have.

For the times when you cannot step away from the heat and indulge in slowing everything down, create a plan. Decide exactly what you will do and say when emotions begin to swell. Perhaps have a few scripted lines memorized like the scent of a lovers cologne.

  • “I’m not comfortable with that.”
  • “Let me think about it.”
  • “I need a minute.”

Weave a verbal safety net.  It is always okay to leave the room or say we are not going to respond at that moment.

When we don’t engage in the rumble, we stay true to our values and we skip the hangover.  There is tremendous strength in this softness. We still respond, just not in a blaze of ill tempered rage.  We decide on our terms from a place of stability.  It’s not tied-up-with-a bow perfect. Nothing is.  But know for sure, that with each annoying episode we successfully navigate, we step a bit closer to being the faithful leader of our own emotional landscape.

After a while, caving to the fight starts to feel like losing and slow conscious responses start to feel like winning.

May all of your fights be productive:)

XO

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Blue skies

One Thing Wednesday

Choose Love

Today’s One Thing Wednesday is devoted to love.  Some great thinkers believe there are only two emotions; love and fear.


“Because we always have a choice, we can choose love.”

Deepak Chopra


 

Today’s problems will be waiting for you tomorrow. Let them wait.  Today, choose love.

Many blessings to you…

Engage in Self Care 2.0

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I cannot be alone with this any longer…

True confession, I bristle when people start talking about self-care.  Weird.  I believe giving energy and care to ourselves is non-negotiable.  Easily the most influential and far-reaching contract we have to fill during our time here on Earth.  So what is it about the popular idea of self care that makes be cringe?

Up pops the latest “Awesome Ideas for Self-Care” article on the computer screen and I pull back into my chair.  Ever so suspicious, I think, here it comes.

Logically, I know the intentions are a pure as a mountain hot spring (leave out the dirty bathers of course).  The concept radiates all things “good”; self-nurture, self-love, refresh, recharge, health, and wellbeing to name a few.  Yet it smacks of judgment and morality.  Sort of like, this is what you should do, or all good people do self-care.  Oh and, it’s not selfish, they add.

Honestly, it often feels like my dad reminding me to clean my room rather than the life-line I was looking for.

Underneath all of the benevolent encouragement to take a walk or a bubble bath is the fact that self care happens between me and myself.  It is the ultimate relationship.  It runs deeper than carving out time to do something I enjoy or picking an activity off of a list of self care ideas. The endless lists of what to do shoot past me at the speed of light.  I have my list: Reading, yoga and eating healthy nourish me.  I absolutely feel better when I take time to do these activities.  And, I guarantee you, I will NOT make time for them if something more important comes up.  None of us would.

The trouble starts here.

It is not a lack of ideas on self care that keeps me from taking action.  It is not the belief that self care isn’t valuable.  I know it is essential.  And it is also not a lack of time.  I am allowed the same 24 hours as everyone else.  I choose how I spend those minutes.

What keeps me from doing self care is the internal struggle between different needs and values.

On this hidden battle ground are my need to be loved and accepted by others.  Insert real life.  If I think for a millisecond that taking the time to soak my feet in an epsom salt bath threatens my approval rating with others, then forget about it.  I must wrestle with the need first.  I have to feel secure enough, safe enough, or at the point of not caring before I will give myself permission to focus on me.

This applies to higher order needs as well, such as feeling esteem and accomplished, or mastery and meaning in life. In everyday terms, this means I might go into work early, or take on another project, rather than spend an hour at the gym if I feel valued at the office for my skills and ability to produce.  I may think, they need me, they count on me, I’ve got this.  Who has time for the treadmill when the source of my confidence, meaning and perhaps even status are derived from my job performance?  I will choose the one that makes me feel like a rock star.  Exercise can wait until I’m done saving the Universe.

You get the idea.  We have needs and values that influence our choices.  Seeing the need empowers us to meet it head on.  We start by asking the question, what do I need?  Over and over, what do I need? Resist the urge to pull out the white flag if answers don’t become apparent at first try.  Stay curious.  Ask yourself follow up questions.  For example, when I’m needing help, I ask myself, what kind of help and how can I get it?  Keep on the hunt for answers until you get to details and action steps.  This is a conversation with yourself that develops with time and attention.  Give yourself this gift. You will blossom in ways well beyond what the ordinary self care protocol provides.


“Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer.”

William S. Burroughs


Don’t misunderstand me, the mission is still to be happily and wildly engaged in activities that create thriving health.  This practice uncovers a path to get us there.

When we focus on meeting our needs, self care moves from checking off a TO-DO list to an intimate dance of recognizing and filling the gaps.  We plug the leaks and seal it with a kiss.  This presence to ourselves builds trust and self-love like gangbusters.  We are available and honor what we truly need and what we feel.  The energy to take action flows like electricity from a giant reservoir of desire.

This process of seeing a need and taking steps to satisfy the need happens repeatedly and each time we show up for ourselves, we move a bit further down the continuum to the place of genuinely being the most important person in our lives.  Self care becomes life rather than a special event we “should” do.

Once our glass fills up, it begins to overflow.  Like the Grinch who stole Christmas, our hearts swell and expand so big they burst open and spill love out in all directions.

May you feel the blessings of your own sweet love.

 

Recharge Your Resolutions

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Driving around town the other day, I spotted a massive Christmas tree.  It filled every inch of a grand front window on a red brick house.  The window probably measured at least ten feet high and eight feet wide.  The home truly popped open with this enormous Fir sucking in anyone who saw it.  I marveled at the idea these people still had their tree up in late January and in the same breath I thought if I put that much work into a Christmas tree I would probably want to leave it up for a while too!

So here we are.  We have arrived at the time of year when the energy for changes starts to fizzle and we begin to welcome back the couch or the potato chips or the busyness into our lives.  We have slid squarely into the post New Year’s resolutions stage of the year.

Let’s face it, we are creatures of habit.  As if there is an invisible force repeatedly pulling us back toward what’s comfortable.  Is it homeostasis?  The Ego?  What?


Knowledge is not behavior.


I read a quick one-liner some time ago which pulls together this universal struggle quite well: Knowledge is not behavior.  No it is not.  Knowing what to do and doing it each rely on different parts of the brain.  These are separate skills sets.  Anyone who has ever been on a diet can tell you that.

Breaking this down helps us navigate change more effectively.

We could over-simplify how we operate in the world by compressing it down into two modes, thinking or sensing.  These modes correlate well to “knowledge” and “behavior”.  In psychology, they call it top-down and bottom-upBoth of these modes have value.  They each bring their own unique ingredient to the party and these ingredients are best served together like chips and salsa.  When combined, these two deliver a rich full eating adventure with warm crunch, cool sauce, all topped off with a little bit of sweet and salty goodness. Yum.

Research by Barbara Fredrickson estimated that the vast majority of people (over 70%) are most often in a “thinking” mode.  It is like a default setting for us.  Most of us primarily think and evaluate our way through life.

Thinking gives us so much in life.  There is nothing wrong with thinking but it is only half of the story.  We also have sensing.  It gives us access to a brimming treasure chest of wisdom to learn from and to help guide us.  We need a well-developed sensing mode to flourish in the direction we want to go. 

Thankfully, we get better at what we practice, even in psychology.

For most of us, it seems, our “sensing” mode could use a little boost.  Mindfulness practice promotes the growth of our sensing mode.  Through mindfulness we take in our world by perceiving it.  We watch life as it unfolds.  We are an active participant in the experience.  This requires us to shift our attention to the present and notice the feeling of our body; we hear what we hear, smell what we smell, taste what we taste.  We fully “feel” the moment rather than take it in with thoughts.

Of course we still have thoughts, but in a sensing mode, we work to observe the thoughts or any automatic judgments about good/bad, right/wrong, yes/no.  We see the impact our thinking has on us because we feel it in our body.  Like an adamant toddler, we firmly and repeatedly refuse to buy into these thoughts while we keep our focus on the sensation.

Mindfulness practice cuts out the middle-man.  We create a 1 to 1 exchange with the environment.  This takes us from the level of “knowledge” down to the level of “behavior” and behavior is where the rubber meets the road.  Behavior is what we strive to change.

Sensing supports our increased self-awareness. We will feel and urge well before we will think about it.  We catch ourselves early enough in the situation to make a new choice.  This moves us up to the front of the peloton.  We know we are thinking about eating the Oreo before we decide to eat the Oreo.  Once we make a decision to take action, no matter if it is a decision to not go to the gym or to have seconds at dinner, then it becomes a herculean task to refrain.  Being aware of the urge when it is still just a whisper promotes successful habit change.

Sensing helps us stop just long enough for our thinking brain to kick on and ask:

What is happening?

What do I need?

What’s most important to me?

We break free from the habit spider web and we proceed with power, with conscious choice.

We flip the auto-pilot switch off and submerse ourselves completely into our lives with both thinking and sensing.  It is not perfect.  It is an opening.  A portal for discovery.  We get proficient at shifting our attention so we can learn what we need to learn and eventually get better and better at jumping the hurdles of change.

Oh, and there will always be hurdles:)

Thanks for reading!  I hope this article has sparked something new for you.  If so, I’d love to connect with you in the comments section.

XO

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Thinking and sensing…two trunks of the same tree.