Where’s Your Head At?

Happy Women's Day greeting card or background with a blue silhou

 

 

I used to joke sometimes with massage clients that their neck and shoulders were sore from holding up heads filled with so many thoughts. And it didn’t always feel like a joke — there’s often too much going on up there for one head to contain!

When it feels creative, fanciful and flowing like the image above, it doesn’t seem like a problem. But heads are tricky places for most of us. We get stuck in circuitous thinking that doesn’t exactly get us anywhere. Buddhists call is “monkey mind.” I liken it to a dog with a bone, working it over and over and over. Grrrr, grrrr.

Years ago I studied Gestalt therapy; the founder, Fritz Perls, was known for encouraging patients (and therapists) to “get out of your head and into your body.”

The physiological truth is that your mind is found in every cell of your body. So being present to, really attending to our body and expressing ourselves through it, creates space for softening the vise grip with which we attack ourselves in our minds.

What if you were to stop working an issue over and go for a walk instead? Or get up and dance, moving around the room in any way that feels good in the moment?

​Maybe you’d prefer to draw or doodle; cook a big pot of soup, chopping away at those veggies; or even, as I posted on Facebook recently, organize your sock drawer. (A great way to mast/er a small corner of your environment when you’re feeling particularly not in control!)

Last week’s message was about action changing things. This week, it’s more about how action loosens your mind’s grip on what it wants, what it can’t have or can’t yet achieve. It encourages movement, fluidity, flow and the grace that comes from letting your bodymind lead the way over your head/mind.

So where IS your head at? I’d truly love to hear about it!

3 Ways To Feel Better Now

Action Changes Things Acronym

 

This morning I read a great blog post about upgrading your life via something called biohacking. The lingo was a sometimes a bit scientific but the overall message was great — how to take action and make changes that make a difference in how you feel, think and respond.

It inspired me to get on the floor and stretch out some tight muscles. I even got out some of my (rarely used these days) self-care tools — footsie roller, small balls for self-massage, still point inducer. Worth Googling if you’re not familiar…

There is often a gap between what we know and what we do. It’s easier to take in information than to implement it, especially in the realm of health and wellness.

As I was rolling around on the floor, listening to gorgeous instrumental guitar music (one of their featured biohacking tools), I came up with these three things that are, in essence, simple. And yet they are awfully easy to forget to do.

1} Get Up

​Get out of your chair and move around. Take a little walk around the room or down the hall. Shake out your hands, rotate your pelvis, jump up and down. Make like a rag doll and simply hang forward, stretching out those poor hamstrings (chronically shortened from sitting) and giving your spine a rest from holding you up.

2} Get Down

Follow my lead and get down on the floor. Stretch out like a starfish. Get on your hands and knees and do Cat/Cow pose, alternatively rounding and arching your back. If there’s a firm pillow, bolster or exercise ball available, lay back onto it and open your arms, bringing a much needed extension into your upper body — we spend most of our time in forward flexion and rarely take our spine and shoulder girdle in the opposite direction.

3} Get Out

Even if all you can do is stick your head out the door for a minute, breathe some real air. Step onto a patch of earth and feel it’s energy supporting you (there is scientific research showing that we need to connect to the earth’s energy for vibrant health — some even suggest sleeping outside on the ground to align with it fully). Walk around the house or office building. Better yet, get to a nearby park or hiking trail and revitalize your relationship to trees, grass and rocks.
It’s so easy to careen through our days attached to screens and staying cozily inside when it’s cold. We reach for comforts, but they don’t always provide the truer comfort of what enlivens and brings out the best in us.

Those are my three things. I’m sure you have some of your own, and I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Are You Cultivating Kindness — For You?

Tree of knowledge growing out of book
The more I spend time teaching lovingkindness meditation, the more awed I am at human beings. How we think, how essentially good we are, how hard we can be on ourselves, how many difficulties life throws in our path.And still we show up. We persevere. We help, we heal, we nurture. We strive to be better people.

What’s really amazing to me is how kindness grows and spreads when it is cultivated. It lives within us, and yet it sometimes is hard to access — especially for ourselves.

Imagine a garden where the ground got tilled, seeds got planted, and then…nothing. No watering, no weeding, no pruning or deadheading occurred. Sure, you’d get some tomatoes and cucumbers, and the zinnias would still bloom.

But your garden would not thrive. Your harvest would not reach its full capacity. There would be a lack of fullness, lushness and thriving.

We Really Are Not So Different

There’s a lot that we can live with and endure, but that’s not the same as thriving. You can be a basically good, kind, warm person and still beat up on yourself, still take things hard and suffer “the slings and arrows” of life.

Which is why cultivating a practice of lovingkindness, self-love and self-care is so important. Not as shoulds, but as acts of deep connection, witnessing, support and love. And there’s no better place to start than with you, for as one of my favorite teachers puts it, “Life is so difficult, how can we be anything but kind?”

After all, you watch the cooking channel to pick up tips on technique and bring them into the kitchen, then share the yumminess with family and friends. You play lots of games of Words With Friends and begin to see ways to make more points using less letters. You pick up five pound weights to strengthen your biceps and feel greater ease in carrying groceries.

So too, the active practice of compassion and lovingkindness will strengthen the muscles of your heart and soul, allowing you to offer even more of your essential goodness to the world.

How will you cultivate kindness for yourself today?

A Poem For Grounding

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Short and sweet this week; I love poems for their lyrical arrow to the heart of the matter. I always offer one as part of my meditation and self-care classes, and was honored when a dear friend requested I bring one of mine she’d heard and loved to our next gathering.

As the trees shed their leaves and we careen towards the inevitable rush of the holiday season, I thought I would share it here too — may it serve you well.

Tree Tone

When I feel uprooted, unsupported,

split and splintered,

I ask the trees to meditate me.

Stark and empty, full strength visible in

dark limbs aiming up and out.

 

Do they yearn for green in winter

or simply trust

that naked is enough?

Their patience astounds me,

their tempo soothes and steadies,

less rhythm than hum,

the pitch of root, of earth.

My soul is struck by the tone

and resonates in harmony;

the thrum of the strum of the chord of the Lord.

What Cheers You On?

cheering crowd in front of bright stage lights

 

I’ve been speaking with a lot of women lately who feel overextended and disheartened. Their joy comes in small moments, like watching their daughter excel in school or enjoying a quiet dinner on their own or with a loved one.

But mostly, life feels like a marathon where five miles in they already have blisters and sore shins.

In a marathon, there are crowds of people cheering you on. Some are loved ones, most are strangers. They’re shouting encouragement, handing out water and energy bars, waiting at the end to massage your aching body. The miles add up yet the support urges you to keep going, even when every part of you is screaming “stop!”

The marathon of life doesn’t have quite so many built-in cheerleaders.

To the contrary, it has many well-meaning (and not-so-well-meaning) detractors. First you get to deal with your inner critic, who can be downright nasty or pose as “the voice of reason.”

Then you get to hear from the peanut gallery, those around you that try to get you to do more, be more, help more. Not to mention expect less, quiet down, not be so bold, or be a little bolder. Seems like everybody has an opinion…

What helps you not only stay in the game, but do so with a sense of joy, ease and empowerment? How do you cheer yourself on from the inside? What enables you to rest and renew with small sips rather than run till you drop?

I’m reading a fabulous book right now called Playing Big by Tara Mohr. In it, she talks about how, as women, we need to define playing big for ourselves. And sometimes our playing big can look, from the outside, quite small. It is, among other things, a matter of:

~learning to not be ruled by our inner critic (nor does it help to try banishing her; it’s more about shifting how we relate to and buy into her incessent chatter).
~unhooking from praise and criticism (yes, praise can be detrimental, especially if you look to it as validation of your essential value and worth).​
~tuning into your inner wisdom (easier said than done with all the competing wisdom — and wise guys — around you).

The true inner cheerleader is neither grandiose nor full of false cheer. It’s not about “faking it till you make it” or “I’m the best, I’m the best, I AM THE BEST!” Her main job is to keep you going by encouraging you to stop and rest more often.She’s an advocate of deep self-care born of self-awareness and self-love. She knows that, as much as she’s part of a community and eco-system, she also ultimately answers only to herself.

Whatever that answer may be, I pray you heed the call. There is only one you; she needs all the compassionate, juicy support — and rest — you can imagine. And then provide.

Stop Saying That!

Concept or conceptual tree word cloud tagcloud in man or woman h
Recently I read an article that really stuck with me, on women and how our word choices can unwittingly undermine our power. It stuck in part because I’ve already been working on eliminating certain words in my writing and speaking — particularly these two words I’ve used more than I care to say.
 
Two simple, seemingly innocuous words: just and actually.
  • As in “I just want to ask you something” or “Can I just show you what I wrote?” It is word of diminishment, as if what you (or I) have to say or show is barely worth the other person’s time and energy.
  • As in “Actually, I think this is a better idea” or “I don’t actually agree with that.” Why not just have a better idea or not agree, no modifier needed? How would it feel to state what you believe without trying to convince the other person that they should “actually” pay attention?
Think about a time when you felt moved to speak up about something. Whether it was a big idea at work or a small request to your spouse, how did you convey your message? It doesn’t necessarily need to be a confrontational situation; it could be as simple as needing a hug and asking someone you love directly. “May I have a hug?” versus “May I just have a hug?” Feel the difference? {Just, of course, has several meanings. I’m referring to the aspect of the definition that means almost; possibly; perhaps.}
Don’t Be Sorry, Be Certain
 
It is language like this, or automatically saying “sorry” when someone has bumped into you, that ekes away at you little by little. It’s rarely conscious and may seem too minor to bring into serious discussion, yet it works on the psyche like water on stone — slowly, incrementally, we let our power slip. We don’t take ourselves seriously and therefore others won’t take us seriously when we want them to.
Start to notice when and how you are using just, actually and sorry. Are you justifying taking up space in a meeting? Are you apologizing for something that doesn’t require it, like moving past someone blocking the aisle in the supermarket? Most of the time these words pop out automatically — this is an invitation to be more conscious and claim sovereignty over what you know, who you are and how you take your place in life.
Can you remember that you know what you know, and then express that? The language you use to frame your ideas absolutely makes a difference. Come into your knowing, claim the space you inhabit and practice not equivocating. I’d love to hear about what you experience HERE.

Can You Feel It?

Painted Colorful Hands
Layers are becoming necessary. Socks too. Foliage is beginning to brighten and transform from deep green to golds and reds and oranges.
 
Tonight begins the turning of a new year for me and my fellow Jews. {L’shanah Tovah if that includes you!} We usher in a sweet year by sharing apples dipped in honey, gather for the warmth of traditional foods and each others’ company.
 
I am hearing from so many people that there is also an internal shift, a quickening toward deeper levels of purpose and meaning. This coincides with a sense of weariness generated by the unending busy-ness of modern life.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this glorified, almost cult-like status of busy that permeates our culture.
You see, it is both true and not true. Yes, there is lots to do all the time for most of us. And no, we are not without the power to shift how we respond to it, or how much we honestly need to show up for. What pieces are truly necessary so you can end your day and put head to pillow with a feeling of satisfaction?
This is one of the things I addressed in last week’s “I’m Too Busy To Meditate!” teleclass. Time happens on two levels at once — there is the literal, 60 seconds per minute, 60 minutes per hour level, which as they say “waits for no one.”
And then there is the ephemeral, internal passing of time, which expands and contracts based on a variety of factors. How is it that the same amount of minutes can pass snail slowly one time, and whoosh by in a flash another?
We have so many ways of relating to time: we lose track of it, we kill it, we waste it, we treasure it, we measure it.
Want to expand your sense of time?
Take time to stop and feel it. Sounds simple, I know, but how long has it been since you did just that? Relate to the next moment with all of your senses open and alive — not hyper vigilant, simply alert, like an animal responding to the sound of your approach on a quiet path.
Every moment you can do that is a moment of healing. It’s a moment of being awake to reality. It’s an opportunity to begin again and disconnect from the cult of “too busy.” Practice stepping in and out of that flow to liberate yourself from getting caught in the rapids!

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