want not, get not

Deep down to your very core, what is it that you truly desire?

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Peace and solitude?

Fame and fortune?

Love and acceptance?

Fun and distraction?

Freedom from any pain or discomfort?

Competence and efficiency?

Knowing you are warmly valued by another?

To make a difference in your world?

Appreciation for what you produce and share?

Camaraderie and affection?

Acceptance of what “is”?

All of the above?

 

Do you even know?  Are you willing to do a few experiments to find out?

Experiment #1:

Grab a friend. Sit across from each other. Breathe deeply and set the intention to not over-think. Have the friend ask “What is it that you truly desire?” You answer the question. You both take a breath. Have the friend ask “What is it that you truly desire?” You answer. You both take a breath. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Keep repeating until you have nothing left to answer. Or until you have dug deep past the unconscious shopping list of what most of us think we want down to your core values.  Those quiet, hidden values that may be huddled in a corner waiting for you to notice.

What came up? What does it say about where you are right now?
Once what you really desire comes out into the light of day, what about your life right now nourishes that desire?

If you were to write out a description of your ideal day, what would it look like? With all the photographic realism and detail of a Vermeer painting, how could you describe this ideal day so it is a superbly elegant fit for your temperament, your value, preferences and uniquely personal dreams?

If you had the words describing how you are living your ideal life and getting what you truly desire right in front of you, what is preventing you from living out this ideal life?

Experiment #2:

Take as long as you need to write, edit and re-write down your ideal day. Edit out things that do not fit your values and edit in things that do. Write it in the present tense. And don’t forget gratitude. Ie. “It is 7 am and I am grateful for getting a good night’s sleep. My morning begins with…”.  Go through an entire day.

Don’t forget the detail! The devil, god and everyone else in the world and all their dogs and cats are also in the details. Vague ideals lead to vague outcomes.

Once you have a description that excites you to read over and over again, read it over and over again daily. For a month. And notice.

What changes for you and what stays the same? What happens to your expectations? Do you notice how you are already getting some of what you want? Or do you notice that the things you do regularly are not beneficial for getting you closer to your ideal day?

If you are not getting all that you want from life, what can it hurt to try?

And if you don’t know what you desire, how do you know when you get it?

Maybe most of  your life is going just the way you want it to but there are a few pockets of discontent or a lack of satisfaction in one or two areas.  Experiment!

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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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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.

 

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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