Thursday, September 13, 2012

I've Got Your Back

I'm not going to pretend 
that I'm an athlete or some fitness expert.  I'm an acupuncturist. I pay attention to my body and I help my patients pay attention to theirs.

However, I learned something helpful the other day while exercising and thought I'd share.

There I was, chugging up a hill, huffing and puffing, and feeling my slow body lumber along.  I wondered if it really had to be so hard.

A few days before while sitting in Chinese herb class, I learned about a technique that healers can use to open themselves up to a force that is greater than themselves in order to give more effective treatments.

It involves simply focusing your attention on the center of your back at the level of your heart, imagining it is a wide satellite dish, opening up to receive everything that is necessary for healing to occur.
What does this have to do with exercise?

One of the key points made by the teacher, Thea Elijah, was that we must own up to the notion that

humans are not meant to do anything alone.  

We are put on this planet to rely on each other and to receive support.  By opening up our bodies, specifically opening the physical space around our heart, we are opening ourselves to support and fuel that we are surrounded with in every moment.

In this moment, look around you. Where did everything come from? Who made the chair on which you sit? Whose hands crafted the painting on the wall and how does your home get heated? In reality, we do nothing on our own.  Many hands and hearts are involved in almost everything you can conceive of.

So, back to the satellite dish on your back....

Maybe it's just me, but when I notice my breathing while exercising, I find myself working hard and only paying attention to my chest.  Instead,  I found that when I pay equal attention to my back and opening the space that is at the level of my heart, my breathing is freer and deepens.  The most
a m a z i n g thing is that I feel myself being carried.  No longer gasping for air, I feel my body move though space more easily.

Even my rock star, race winning, all-star athlete of a husband has experienced the benefits of back breathing.

He says,
"It's like pushing a reset button.  My shoulders drop along with my heart rate and I'm able to take myself out of my immediate suffering and gain a some much needed perspective."

Next time you are working out, follow these steps and observe what changes for you:

1. Bring your attention to the center of your back, at the level of your heart.
2. Imagine it is wide and open.
3. Breathe deeply into that space and allow yourself to receive.

It's free and easy!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Human Doing

 Most of the time I have a memorized *to do* list running through my mind all day long.

 Don't forget to do this, don't forget to do that.

What ever happened to being?

We are human beings.  

We are not human doings.

We often walk around exhausted because we are constantly doing.  And if we aren't doing, we are thinking about what we should be doing, or what to do next...only wishing that we could

 stop. doing.  

If we were meant to go-go-go, we would have been put on this Earth in a body that didn't require rest.

What if we started the day with a to be list? (I know, sounds like yet one more thing to do... and I promise it's not.)

We could still go about our day of doing, but we choose HOW to be while we are doing.
  • Today, I am going to be joyful while I take my child to school.
  • Today, I am going to be forgiving when I meet with my co-worker.
  • Today, I am going to be loving when I sit at the dinner table with my family.
  • In THIS moment I am going to be calm no matter what. 

Let's face it...we are most often remembered by others for our state of being.  It isn't what we do, rather it's who we are and what others know in our presence that matters most.  

If only for 5 minutes today, give a gift to yourself and whomever is in your presence, by choosing a state of being that allows for less suffering.  Choose to be light-hearted with the person the pushes your buttons the most.  If it feels uncomfortable, you know you have hit a juicy spot.  Embrace it and allow yourself the opportunity to grow.

In this moment, may you and I be aware of our power to choose our mood.  Our mood is like medicine.  Will yours foster healing or create suffering?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Push and Shove

There are people in our lives that push us to the edge from time to time.  Before we know it, when we are in their presence, or thinking about something they have said or done, our buttons are pushed.

More like shoved.

We can't think clearly.  We are consumed with rage.  Our egos want us to prove how right we are.  Hurtful words pour from our mouth.

We choose to take a turn being the button pusher.  At this point, after all, we think we have earned the right.

A small conversation, indeed...

When someone pushes your buttons, maybe the lesson is this:

No one is doing anything TO you, rather they are just being who they are. 

Maybe you are meant to learn to give up making them wrong.

In Peace,

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Quit Yer Bitchin

We all have complaints.  

We all want to be heard when we have complaints.  Often when we complain, it's because we have a need that is not being met.  We want things to be other than what they are.  We may simply want our husband to pick up his socks. Yet, somehow most of us go through life never learning how to ask for what we need in a way that doesn't create frustration for ourselves and others.  Think back to the last time you bitched at someone and ask yourself if your words and actions created the effect you were hoping for.  Did you get what you wanted or needed, or did you end up with yet a longer list of complaints?

Here's what I wish I had learned when I was in Kindergarten:

Every complaint is a request in disguise.
Sit with this for a moment and see if it rings true for you.  If it does, then when you next hear yourself complaining (even better if the complaint has not yet left your lips), ask yourself how it can be transformed into a request.  Here are the important ground rules:
  1. Before you make a request, you must be calm.  If you are upset and your request is tinged with frustration, you have already lost the person on the other end of the conversation. They are already in defensive mode and less willing to be accepting of your request.  Remember your mood is contagious. You may need to do some deep breathing, go for a walk, or have a moment to yourself before you are ready to make your request calmly.  
  2. Ask for their listening.  Don't assume someone will give it to you just because you start talking.  Their listening is a gift.  By asking for it, you are reminding them of such. 
  3. Know what it is that you want and speak it clearly.  This may seem like a given, but you must be ruthlessly clear about conditions of satisfaction when making a request or you will most likely end up being disappointed and frustrated.  For example, your request should address who, what, where, and in, "Would you be willing to bring a me a cold glass of water right now?"
  4. Be sure your request is not a command or a demand.  This is a big one.  A request begins with, "I have a request, would you be willing to....?"
  5. Be prepared for the other person to accept or decline your request, or make a counter offer.  Again, remaining calm no matter what the outcome will help you to move forward with greater ease.  See last month's post, "Internal Fix" for a great exercise to help you stay calm.
Taking on this practice has profoundly changed the way I communicate with family, friends, and complete strangers.  I complain less often, more of my needs are met, and my husband doesn't think he is married to the nag of the century.  Usually.  Seriously, this way of communicating sidesteps frustration and allows for communication that promotes partnership and peace rather than opposition, resentment, and frustration.

Imagine that every time you complain, or nag, or bitch at your loved one, it's like pooping in the fish bowl of your life together.  Before you know it, your loved one feels he has the need to do the same.  The poop piles up and the water becomes toxic.  Then, you are both suffocating and feeling desperate to leave the bowl.   

Making requests is like having someone place a spacious bowl of clean, clear water in front of you.  By practicing, you will be giving yourself and your loved ones an effective way to step out of old patterns and stagnant conversations that breed negativity.

As the old saying goes... what you put out into the world is what will come back to you.  If you don't like being slapped with a list of complaints then begin turning yours into loving requests.  As always, I say this as a reminder for myself as much as I say it as a reminder for you, my dear readers.  We have so much more to gain in making a request than allowing ourselves to be stuck in the suffering that is created when we complain. 

Now, upon further examination, I would change the title of this post to "Would You Please Be Willing to Quit Yer Bitchin?" :)

With Encouragement,

Dedicated with enormous gratitude to Bob Duggan and Dianne Connelly.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Do You Hear What I Hear?

As the old saying goes, sometimes it is best to ride the horse in the direction it is going. 

This morning, my body was wanting to move slowly.  My "horse" was leading me to sit myself down on the couch and be still.  I didn't listen...

I got 30 seconds into my morning jog and doubled over in pain.

Lesson learned. Again.

Let the body lead. 

So simple. Yet, most of us push through the warning signs our bodies offer us all day...everyday.  From the tension in our chest that we experience when we are upset, to the headaches that we get when we work too many hours, we are ignoring the wisdom of our bodies.  Every symptom (and if you think you don't have any, then you aren't paying attention) gives us the opportunity to learn how to live well.  Maybe your back pain is asking you to slow down, or maybe it's asking you to move your body in a certain way.  The body is asking for our attention.  If we ignore it long enough, it will stop us in our longer asking for our attention, rather screaming for it.

If you are at beginner at paying attention to your symptoms and understanding them, begin by asking yourself these questions:

-When did it start? What was going on in my life at that time?
-Where do I feel this in my body? What is the sensation like?
-What makes it better or worse?
-What is this symptom teaching me about how I am living?

Getting to know the ins and outs of your symptoms empowers you.  It allows you to understand which direction the horse is riding and whether you are fighting it.  As I was reminded on my morning jog, the body always wins. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Internal Fix

Racing heart, shaking knees, trembling hands, shortness of breath, swirling thoughts....these are some of the symptoms that I used to experience on a regular basis.  Like many performers, I experienced so much fear and anxiety as a musician that I almost didn't know what to do with myself.  Wishing for a way out of the discomfort, I found myself reaching for prescription drugs before a concert to take the edge off.  Along the way, I somehow figured out that if I held my breath for several seconds and exhaled slowly several times before I walked on stage, I could actually reduce and sometimes reverse my symptoms.

Although I'm no longer faced with the same anxiety I experienced as a performer, let's just say that I am never short on reasons or opportunities (such as my children fighting over a toy for 3rd time in the last hour) to foster inner calm.  I imagine that you might be in a similar boat because we all have button pushers in our lives to some degree.

Similar to how I used my breath to ease my fears, the following breathing technique called 4-7-8, by Dr. Andrew Weil, involves holding and releasing the breath to settle the nervous system.  It's incredibly powerful, and unlike anti-anxiety medications that can lose their effectiveness over time, this technique actually becomes more effective the more you do it.  I have even taught a modified version of this to my children hoping that someday they might remember that breathing and being calm is an option even while in the middle of a heated debate over who gets tucked in first.

Here is the link for 4-7-8 (listed under breathing exercise #2).  It is my version of a glass of wine, minus the calories and price tag.  I challenge you to give take this on the next time you find yourself reaching for your favorite external fix.  How is the comfort that you find in a cigarette, drink, or cookie different from what you are able to create internally with 4-7-8?


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Trust Your Chair

Funny how life throws me opportunities to practice what I preach...

Yesterday, while in the ER and holding my little boy "E" who had taken a nasty spill from a bike, I was reminded of a practice called "Trust Your Chair" taught by healer Thea Elijah.  So, there I sat doing my best to comfort E and realized my whole body was stiff.  Seriously, what child is going to feel comforted in the arms of a parent that is tense and stressed?  Certainly not mine.  Here's what I noticed: Only the tips of my toes were touching ground.  My leg muscles were wound up,  shoulders contorted, and my breathing was shallow.  I was in a total panic that my baby was in pain.  He was bleeding.  He was crying.  I was crying.  My heart was breaking that I couldn't seem to help him feel better.

And then I took a breath.

Somehow in becoming aware of the tension in my body, I also became aware that if I wasn't able to find comfort in my own body, I couldn't help E find comfort in his.  I softened.  I breathed again.  I placed my feet flat on the floor, shifted my tone of voice from "worried" to "you are going to be ok".  My shoulders dropped and I allowed my body to surrender to the chair.  Completely.  E snuggled into my arms, stopped crying, and settled.  We both stopped crying.  We found a way to reverse the upward spiral of anxiety that we had found ourselves in just moments earlier.

Whatever your body position right now, pause for a moment and observe how you are using your body while looking at this screen.  In this moment, are your shoulders up by your ears? Are your feet tightly tucked under your chair, with your upper body craned toward the screen as if you are about to spring into action? Are you slumped over, chest caved? Which of your muscles are tight and which are loose?  The way in which we hold our physical body has everything to do with how we hold our emotions and thoughts.  Create ease in your body and observe what happens to the rest of you.

Experiment now with softening your belly, your shoulders, your lower back, your jaw.  Give yourself permission to trust the furniture that you are sitting on.  Give it the weight of your entire body and allow yourself to be supported.  From this place of physical softness and surrender, you may find your thoughts flowing more easily, or your breath deepen.  In letting go of muscle tension, you can find yourself deeply grounded and rooted. 

The more you practice this relaxed body, the easier it will be to find it when you are tightly wound in the opposite direction.  You can practice "trusting your chair" while holding your child, listening to a friend, sitting in traffic, or if you are having difficulty falling asleep.  Here's the guarantee: when you soften and create ease in your physical body, the rest of the world will go easier with you.

Ease is contagious.  Spread it generously.