be where you are

I wish I was home already”.

This was a vague, shadow of a thought I had while walking home from yoga class one day this summer. I was not having an off-day nor did I have anything pressing at home that needed my attention. In fact, I was the right in the middle of an absolutely splendid summer of rest and rejuvenation.

At that moment, I simply wanted to be further along the path than I was.

A few weeks later, the path led me down a busy city street of colourful sights and sounds in Santiago, Chile.

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This time, the thought was a little louder and much clearer than before.

I wish I had a change of clothes”.

This, after the implementation of quickly-laid travel plans, sitting and sleeping through a smooth flight and enjoying a certain underlying thrill of an unexpected, first-time trip to South America.  I was surrounded by abundance.  But clearly abundance wasn’t enough for me.  I wanted to be on this adventurous path wearing different clothes than the ones I’d had on for three days.

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In each case, I was distracted from where I was and what I was doing by the thought of where I could be and what I could be doing.

Wishful thinking.

Putting the present moment on hold.

Dissatisfaction guaranteed.

The present moment is literally as close as my next inhale and exhale.  So why would I want to be anywhere else than where I am?

Even when the path underfoot is pebbled with the grayness of boredom or obstacles to step over, why choose to wish time away?

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Right here, right now is closer than you think.

And is not found in wishes.

And it is good.

 

teacher, student, teacher

 

A four-leaf clover.  In my front yard.20150701_163357

On this day.  A day of no work.  A day of rest. The start of a sabbatical, of sorts.

A day of sitting longer at the table after lunch and talking about everything and nothing.

Laughing.

Listening to the midday downpour through the screen door.

A day made for a nap.

A day of walking.

A day of yoga. And red wine. But not at the same time!

I have no need for luck, though.

Gratitude about how much I have is as close as my next breath.

Funny thing about this ‘find’ is that even on a blissful day such as this, I didn’t even notice the clover and even resisted being ‘dragged’ outside (I may be exaggerating but it’s my post and my prerogative) to be shown it.

So, on day #1 of Danette’s Summer of Being a Student Again, I’ve already learned that everything and everyone can be a teacher for me.

It may be a yoga teacher, a four-leaf clover, rest from work or my own resistance to small miracles.

Here’s to the teacher in all of us.

Happy summer!

Be open.  Be ready.  Be a student.

re-wiring thought patterns – hidden beliefs exposed – part four

Once upon a time, it was believed that our brains were wired by our early experiences as young children and then hard-wired by the time we reached early adulthood.  We bought into this with our exclamations of

I can’t help it, that’s the way I was born.

I’ve always been this way.”

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

Neuroscience research has now discovered that our brains are much more adaptive than that.  Based on new experiences, the brain can create new neural pathways and revise current, outdated ones that are no longer useful. The discovery has come from the study of the brain’s plasticity or neuroplasticity.

 

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This not some “We can rebuild him. We have the technology” cyborg science like the Six Million Dollar Man show from the 70’s.  And it is not magic.  And it’s most certainly not the power of positive thinking that allows our brains to change and adapt.

With the discovery of the brain’s adaptability and a commitment to self-awareness, you can actually re-wire a thought pattern that is no longer useful for you into one that is more beneficial. New experiences can be elegantly integrated while old patterns are woven out of commission.

 

Re-wiring Process

1. SET THE INTENTION

Get crystal clear on your intention to re-set an unhealthy thought pattern. Clarity is key. Cloudy intentions lead to cloudy results.

2. MAKE TIME TO PAUSE

Meditation.  Take intentional tech-fasts.  Take deep breath breaks. Courageously notice unhelpful thought patterns.

3. PROCESS FOR RE-WIRING

Name the thought
Name distorted thought pattern(s) from part two of this series
Consider how and when it became anchored
Name the underlying belief
Sit with the emotions that are tied to the belief
Write out the worst-case scenario if belief didn’t change
Challenge the belief with reason, evidence and support
Consider what the new belief would need to be
Visualize new belief and write out the best-case scenario
Verbalize – repeat the new belief to rewire it into your belief system

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Does this seem like too much work?

 

 

It is work.

Unremarkable hard work.

But consider the impact of NOT doing this work.

Unexamined thoughts mean unconscious beliefs are running the show.

 

 

Sample process:

Start small.  Take a less significant pattern to put through the process.

Thought: “I must finish this book I started reading even though I’m not enjoying it.” 

Distorted Thought: Is an “all or nothing”distorted thought pattern feeding this thought? Do I have a ‘black and white’ rule about this?  Dig deeper.

Underlying Belief: Is there an underlying belief that good, strong, responsible people finish what they start?  Is there a belief that finishing something is proof of my worth?

Anchor:  Is there a childhood root in not being able to move onto something new until the first thing is finished?  Was I taught that?

Emotions:  Is there any shame attached to being “mature enough” to finish what I started?  Was there significant adult pressure in childhood to finish things?

Worst-Case Scenario: What’s the worst-case scenario if I am compelled to finish everything I start without reasonable consideration of its current benefit to me?

Challenge the Belief: Now, as an adult, is it reasonable for me to finish reading this book?  Do I have a valid reason to finish or it is simply because it is the way I was wired as a child?  It was absolutely helpful for me to learn responsibility as a child but now, as an already responsible adult, can I choose to start and finish things for a valid reason for me now?

New Belief:   As soon as I notice myself acting out of compulsion to finish something, I will re-evaluate the “why” of doing so. If it based on old, no longer useful pattern then I will begin the re-wiring by choosing a new response that I will verbalize.

Visualize:  I see myself making choices for me now, not for the much younger me who first created this thought pattern.

Verbalize:  “I am free to choose and am responsible for my choice.  There is no “must” or compulsion to do so”.

 

Making Evaluation a Habit 

1.  Start small.  Big things happen when you start with little things.

2.  Keep a record.  Recording the process creates a new anchor in the present.

3.  Start today.  It is easier to change a pattern today than it will be next year.

4.  Be reasonable.  Patterns have taken a lifetime to make and take time to re-wire.

5.  Be grateful.  Life is full of abundance and hope.  Notice the positive!

 

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what if it was already true?

What if what you envision for your life was already true?

What would that look like?  Your life’s work?  Your creative project?  Your relationships?  Your family?  Your home life?  Your health and well-being?

How would already having this life feel different in your body?

What limiting stories could be released?

What is stopping you from acting as if it was true right now?

It is your choice.  Choose to do one thing today, right now, that reflects that all that you truly want is already true.

Abundance

autumn’s solitude

Long days tented under gloomy skies, wet leaves beneath our feet and the cooler temperatures all forecasting an even darker season yet to come can weigh on even the most optimistic person. Hope can turn to apathy as quickly as a burnt red maple leaf can be tossed by the wind to reveal a paler, less vibrant underside.

(My Heart Says) Come On In

This is also the season of preparing to put gardens to sleep and to acknowledge that new emergent growth will not happen for a long, long while. And that some of the richest, most significant growth will surely follow this dusky period of restful slumber.

In harmony with this natural cycle of the earth, why not choose to occasionally hibernate? Intentionally burrow? Use this season to dig the hole of life much deeper? We could choose to prepare our own inner gardens by cultivating surroundings that are warm and nutrient-rich enough to produce fresh and verdant growth come springtime.

It’s seldom easy to abide the kind of solitary silence it takes to nurture future growth. Too much aloneness whispers twisted messages of scarcity, void and hunger. It might even suggest that we’ve somehow been left behind, abandoned to the margins of life with only self-consolation to comfort us.

But nothing could be further from the truth of intentional times of solitude.

How about going gently into your intentional ‘cave’ and radically accept the often aching discomfort of it? Greet yourself with a warm fleece blanket, a hot cup of tea or cider and even consider creating your very own ritual to celebrate, and even welcome, autumnal solitude.

 

chai love

 

Autumn Light Ritual

Create a place of comfort specifically for you. Surround yourself with your favourite music, books, soft lighting, comfort foods and drinks that warm you. Have a large package of tea lights and matches available. On a table or other flat surface, place one tea light.

Sit comfortably and breathe deeply. As you feel your body relax and your mind soften, bring to mind any person in your life, past or present, who has supported you, helped you, nurtured you, moved you, said a kind word to you or even smiled at you. Don’t rush. Pause. Breathe. Recall.

For each person who comes to mind, light one tea light.

A friend, a lover, a parent, a grandparent no longer with you, a neighbour, a pet, a cheerful cashier at the grocery store, the author of a book or article that resonated with you, the child who was on that school bus in front of your car on the way to work and who made faces at you or waved just to get a response, the artist who sang or played a song so elegantly that it moved you, the person who held the door for you when your arms were full, a teacher who guided you, or even the person who supported you a dozen or more years ago when you needed it the most.

Remember them. Name them. Thank them. And, as you do, light a candle for each one.

 

Candle on the water

Then in the darkness of your previously dimly lit, comfort-cave, notice how many ‘lights’ you have now or have had in your life. Notice how much light and warmth they have provided and will continue to provide for you.  Be mindful of the fact that new ‘lights’ can be lit daily.  All the warmth you need for the imminent season of hibernation is right in front of you.  Always with you.  Glowing.

See? You could not truly be alone, even if you tried.

 

 

my precious morning routine

“I am not a morning person. I have to ease into my day slowly. First I have my coffee. Sans eggshells or anything else one tends to pick out of the garbage. Then I have a low fat, high fibre breakfast. Finally I sit down and read a crisp, new newspaper. If I am robbed of the richness of my morning routine, I cannot function. My radio show suffers, and like ripples in a pond, so do the many listeners that rely on my advise, to help them through their troubled lives. I’m sorry if this may sound priggish, but I have grown comfortable with this part of myself. It is the magic that is me.”

The above “priggish” speech was pompously delivered by the tight-lipped yet lovable radio psychiatrist in the 80’s sitcom, Frasier.  He was defending his right to keep to his intensely, precise morning routine in order to perform his best throughout his day.  

After my last post about how often the pressure of time significantly increases my stress level, the scene from this episode came to mind along with the memory of the dismissive eye-rolling from the supporting cast and from me. .

I began to consider strategies I use to manage my weekday mornings.  Here are my three simple methods of creating space, stress-free morning moments and a way to ease into a world geared for moving constantly in fifth gear.

1.  Night Vision

My mother tells the story of a time she came into my bedroom to wake me for school to find me still asleep but already fully dressed for the school day.  Apparently, I had put on my clothes the night before. And even more apparently, I was quite an odd child with the quirks to rival those of a sitcom character!  Perhaps my motivation was to find calm in the chaos of a busy school morning filled with getting my turn in the bathroom, practicing piano, making lunches, eating breakfast, doing the dishes and packing my schoolbag, all alongside my three siblings who were also doing the same things.

Currently my mornings do not involve jockeying for position with siblings or piano practice but can still induce a level of nerve-jangling tension when the clock ticks closer to the time I need leave for work.  For this reason I decided to use the night before more wisely.  No, I don’t sleep in my work clothes (often).  But I do prepare my lunch, choose my outfit, pick up some of the excess clutter and create a to-do list all before I go to bed.   This all takes me no more than half an hour.  Not too much work for a huge benefit of a slower pace in the morning.

2.  Rush No More

Realizing that rushing is a genuine energy-sapper for me, my goal is to pace my mornings so that there is no need to hurry.  To make this happen, I choose to get up as early as possible to leave morning space to pause, to linger, to, heaven forbid, dawdle!  By getting up earlier, I have time to sit for a short time of meditation, practice some simple yoga stretches, record three ‘gratitudes” in my journal and enjoy a leisurely breakfast while considering my day ahead.  There are those days when getting up so early is not so easy as others.  My routine is too precious to be written in stone so there is always room to change it according to the situation.  But there is a noticeable difference in my energy levels on the days that begin early with this settling routine.

There was a time that I would regularly check my work email in the morning but I quickly realized that it only served to put my nervous system in work-mode high gear and encroached on the unhurried pace of my personal time.  I was no further ahead when I got to work by knowing what new things were going to be added to my ‘to-do’ list and instead, I’d arrive depleted of energy that would be necessary for later in the day.

3.  Leave Stuff Undone

A problem for many of us with Chronic Productivity Syndrome, is that we feel the need to fill in any extra space with productive activity.  This is true for me.  I look at the clock, see that I’ve got plenty of time before I need to leave so I attempt to fit something useful into that space.  Wash the dishes, pay a bill online, clean the kitty litter, email a friend or whatever.  The pausing, lingering and dawdling are tossed out in favour of “getting something done”. The conflict occurs when I realize that I am soon going to leave my home for a job where i am expected to be “getting something done” for the next 8 or more hours.  Where’s the balance?

And if you’re like me, you’ll begin a task that will keep your steady focus on it until you look at the clock and realize that now you’re running late.  Nervous system is on high alert and deep breathing becomes more shallow and less nourishing.  The trick is to consciously, purposefully leave something undone in favour of a moment of just being.  See the task, notice your desire to attend to it immediately, to fix it , finish, manage it, then just leave it!  You know it wil still be there later.

With this precious morning routine, I clearly understand that I will most likely be considered priggish, hyper-sensitive, and a quintessential introvert to the n-th degree, but I’m okay with that.  This routine provides me with the pace I like, the space I need and energy I love to be the magic that is me.  (Cue the eye-rolling!)

Make it a morning of unhurried moments.

Egypt

pattern interrupted

 

We each contain within us a multitude of patterns and unconscious reactions. They’re often thinly disguised in thoughts and phrases such as “I can’t help it, this is who I am”.  Or perhaps they come to light in a moment of “Why do I always do that?” or when we catch ourselves consistently and insistently complaining about a particularly annoying person or event.

But what if a pattern is no longer beneficial and even becomes a hindrance to our growth and prevents us living freely, then what?  What if a pattern is trapping us in our own Groundhog Day experience? Or if it becomes a pleasingly patterned yet hard-to-penetrate and limiting brick wall?

Patterns

The point is to interrupt the pattern. Whenever a pattern is interrupted, there is a moment of awareness (often accompanied by a moment of panic). That interruption gives you a moment to see or exercise another possibility.–Ken McLeod, Buddhist teacher and writer

Four Steps to Pattern Interruption

Recently, I’ve been experimenting with using these four steps in response to the regular fall-out of my own pattern of staying hyper-busy/ compulsively over-working.

1.  Notice
2.  Uncover
3.  Re-Write
4.  Repeat

Notice
This may be easier for some patterns than others.  For me, the “work” pattern has become clear to me by way of a frantic mind, an oft-weakened immune system and chronic irritation that results when I work to exhaustion.  According to Ken McLeod, interrupting the pattern requires pausing just before the pattern is repeated instead of staying in a trance.  This will be a challenge since my tendency to overwork sort of steamrolls right over pauses.  Meditation has definitely been helpful in disengaging the pause-crushing steamroller and creating more space for noticing.

Uncover
Using the 5 Why’s to uncover the underlying story that informs my pattern has been quite useful for me.  Sometimes I can even rationalize up until almost 10 why’s.

I can’t stop working right now, I’m too busy!
Why?

Because I have this job/ task that must/should be finished.
Why?

Because I’ve already started and it is easier to just push through and finish it before I take a break.
Why?

Because I’d feel better, once I was resting, to not have to see the unfinished task in front of me.  I’d be much more relaxed if it was just finished.
Why?

Because I’d feel guilty sitting down when there’s work still to be done.
Why?

Because I feel valuable when I am productive and get work finished. My value stems from how much I accomplish.

BINGO!

My hidden story is that I believe my value is based on how much I accomplish so my value, in my mind, goes up the harder I work. Clearly there’s a deeper back-story there but, in order to maintain focus, let’s just leave that for when there’s time for self-reflection later and now consider the next step.

Re-Write
The story of “work = value” is an interesting one but is far from liberating and not one that I want to have as a silent director of my actions and decisions. Time for a re-write of that old script.  New script says “Working or not, productive or not, I have value”.  


Repeat
To make even a dent in the ancient story I’ve held to as truth for so long, this new script will need to be be expressed verbally every day until it becomes the new pattern.  New decisions will be based on the freedom of choice, not within the confines of a claustrophobic story.

I’m famously stubborn so this process might take longer for me than it does you.  I already caught myself pushing stoically through to the end of writing this post without taking a break when my mind and body were asking for one.  And this is only one of my patterns!

One pattern, one step at time.

time after time

 

“Don’t wish time away”.  I heard this phrase many times growing up.

But we do that very thing every time we unconsciously use languaging like “I can’t wait!”,  “I wish it was already the weekend.”, or  “Is it 5 o’clock yet?”

More subtly, we do it whenever we rush.  We scurry from one activity to the other without lingering because we’ve got so much life to live and so little time in which to do it.  A full day of the flurry of hurry finds us slumping into our easy chair with an exhausted sigh at the end of it.   A long week of this and no wonder we’re all waiting for the weekend.

But seriously, what’s the rush?

I was recently on my way to meet a friend and I found myself rushing significantly.  It was to the point that my body began giving clear signals that this was not okay.   My mind was so distracted and scattered that I couldn’t find my keys that were right in front of me.  My heart was racing to keep up with my manic multi-tasking and my abdomen felt like it bound was in a vice-grip with no sense of softness or room for breath.  So I stopped.   I took a few deep belly breaths and asked myself why I was rushing. The following inner scripts came quickly to light:

1.  Being late is morally wrong and is a sign of disrespect
2.  The person waiting for you will think poorly of you, if you are late
3.  Time is running out

Some of these underlying beliefs may sound familiar to the perfectionists in the crowd.  Or maybe you have your own stories.

The Passage of Time

Clearly it was time for a script re-write!

!.  Being late is not a sign of immorality or disrespect. It is a sign that you planned too much and didn’t realistically balance with how long things would take you.   It is merely a sign of poor time management, not of your value as a person.

2.  The person waiting for me will think “She’s late. She’s usually on time so something unexpected must have held her up.  No big deal.”   (And why does concern about what others will think take precedent over genuinely enjoying this moment?  Another inner script begging for a re-write?)

3.  Time doesn’t run out, it simply is what it is.  It is one moment after the next.  This moment isn’t running anywhere but you are rushing to get to the next and the next and the next moment based on falsehoods and fantasies.  All the while you’re missing this amazing moment right now.

I once had a yoga teacher who implored his students to be authentically present and aware in the pose he was teaching wherever they were that day.  A simple yoga pose is multi-leveled and our openness on any given day allows us to explore the depths or stay at the surface and learn there. His experience led him to say “I’ve been to the end of this pose and there’s nothing there.” Perfecting the pose, taking it as deep as possible doesn’t get us to any promised land or to ultimate answers.  It’s the process that matters. The journey of each step is where the abundance lies.

Turkey Yoga Pose AsanaInstead of wishing time away, how about witnessing each moment as an eternity?  There is more than enough time to be present in this moment.  And this moment is the most important one you’ll ever have.

What will you do with it?