So here is a great exercise I learned at a Tara Brach conference. Tara Brach She is truly an amazing teacher and human being. This exercise is a great way to feel Enjoyment and Pleasure. It is also a great exercise to deepen loving bonds with partners, children, friends, family, etc. And, of course that will also increase your Pleasure.
EXERCISE: TELL ME WHAT YOU LOVE!
Try this experiential exercise 1-on-1 with someone you love or desire to grow closer to, a partner, child, or friend.
1-Sit facing each other at a comfortable distance and set a timer on your phone for 2 minutes.
2-Decide which person is going to begin as (A), the Questioner and who is going to be (B), the Answerer.
3- (A) makes comfortable eye contact with (B) and using their name, asks this question. “ ______please tell me what you love?”
4-(B) provides a one word, or a one sentence answer of something they love or really enjoy. I.e. “Nature”, or “Being with you”, etc.
5-(A) registers that they heard this answer with a nod or a thank you, and then pauses for a few seconds and then asks the same question again…___ please tell me what you love?
6- (A) asks the same question, and (B) answers over and over for entire 2 minutes.
7- PAUSE and both A & B check inward with bodies and hearts and notice how the process has shifted any feelings, emotions and sensations so far.
8-Then you switch roles, set the timer for 2 more minutes and (B) begins asking (A) the same question. “_______ please tell me what you love?”
9- Again, PAUSE at the end and notice the pleasure, feelings and emotions this connection has generated in both of you.
10-There is no cross talk or commenting on the other person’s answers, you are just witnessing each other sharing what they love and increasing your emotional resonance. Which is very Pleasurable.
Please give this and try and let me know how it goes. Couples who do this on a regular basis have a deepened connection and build up their Couple resiliency. This resiliency which helps balance out the effects of the normal relational conflict we all experience. And, kids love this one.
What was that exercise like for you? Was there any discomfort in the process? Sometimes intimacy is difficult even though it is what most of us long for in a relationship.
Which role did you enjoy most? What was the difference inside your body and heart when you were the questioner? When you were the answerer?
The focus of the past few blogs was on how to flip our bodies out of threat physiology back into an embodied sense of safety and joy. One of the benefits my clients receive after engaging in somatic therapy is the experience of returning to feeling fully Alive in body and soul; rather than just existing, feeling persistent anxiety and worry.
Today’s blog focuses on another way to shift out of stress or threat physiology, but it’s more of a way of living than a tool. So, what does Nike and the Serenity Prayer have to do with stress physiology? Quite a bit it turns out. Today let’s start with Nike, more specifically, their famous marketing slogan — “JUST DO IT,” (JDI moving forward). What a great concept! We admire and respect athletes. Those who get up off the couch and just run that race, or just swim that heat, etc. It is not a coincidence, people who exercise strenuously on a regular basis are healthier and have better mood stability, than those who do not. There are many reasons for this including, improved heart-rate variability, rushing endorphins, and limbic system resonance, just to name a few.
But today’s blog is about the main reason why JDI matters in relation to our physiology. When it comes to attempting to recover from a trauma(s), stressful situations, or persistent daily anxiety, most of us don’t JDI. In threat and overwhelm mode, we are usually doing nothing about the issues that scare us, or even life in general. Some of us may worry, but that does not help! From an Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) perspective, just doing something can mean the difference between life or death, safety or danger. If a tiger is chasing you, JDI means, run like hell to save yourself because if you don’t JDI, you will be food for the tiger. While we don’t have literal tigers chasing us in North America, we fear plenty of “paper” tigers such as; illness, job loss, financial woes, divorce, relational betrayals, struggling children, etc.
JDI positively and directly impacts the ANS. Imagine with me a large invisible light switch planted right in the middle of your body. It is either ON or OFF, there is no other setting. This switch is a metaphor for action and self-efficacy. When it comes to stress, or life and death situations, in order to survive and thrive, we need that switch to stay in the ON position. ON in the ANS represents I CAN! I can run, I can fight, I can get away, I can JDI, in order to begin to resolve this situation.
Of course then, the OFF position epitomizes I CAN’T! I am helpless in the face of this situation and I don’t know what to do. People who live with their switch mostly in the OFF position tend to freeze and numb out when it comes to stress and problems, they are not living JDI. People who live mostly in ON position still experience anxiety, as well as stress and danger. However, they have an embodied knowledge of self empowerment, so they know that they will do what it takes to get back to safety. Therefore, they experience less trauma and anxiety. They know they can do whatever is needed to survive.
The good news is that JDI physiology, keeps that switch in the ON position. Doing something, rather than collapsing in fear and worry, allows your body to move toward the experience of empowerment and a sense of safety. This could include going for a walk, making that difficult phone call, asking for support, confronting someone, etc. If your switch is mostly OFF, start doing something, anything, on a regular basis and see how differently you feel. Self-efficacy has been shown in studies to be one the best antidotes to recovery from trauma, illness, anxiety, and consistent stressors. Self-efficacy is defined as the ability to effect whatever is your desired outcome. Another dictionary defined self-efficacy as potency and power! Other words for JDI!
In a few days, I will post part two, but meanwhile this week, check in with your body when in situations that are uncomfortable to you. Try to notice the position of your metaphorical switch. If it is OFF, practice trying self-efficacy instead of helpless, angry worry. I will leave you with a statement I came up with years ago while doing my own somatic healing work for my body. “You are only helpless until you realize that you are NOT!”
1.) What is your reaction to this blog? Does it resonate or is there inner resistance? What is your reaction to JDI? Sometimes it is easier to stay in a stance of helplessness and blaming others for our misery. But what happens when you focus upon trying to find even the smallest step you could take moving forward?
2.) What is your internal response to my final statement! It sounds simple but it is a profound truth. I encourage you to meditate on this phrase this week and see what comes up for you, mentally and somatically.
I am still providing 3 week anxiety reduction workshops here in San Diego. If you are interested in 90 minutes of training, 3 weeks in a row, I am starting another round at the end of April. Life is too short to be afraid!
To pick up where we left off in the last blog, I suggested we figure out, ‘what must I do to get out of threat/stress physiology?’ Here are some tools that tune our bodies back into the other side of the “coin,” out of threat physiology, back to calm sense of safety. I will share four tools today. Just for fun and for ease of memorizing, they will all begin with an S.
1.SLOW DOWN: When you find yourself walking too fast, talking too fast, eating too fast, etc., stop for a minute and then begin again slowly. Let your life’s pace be a saunter not a sprint. It makes a big difference in your physiology and to your tensed and braced muscles.
2. SILENCE: If you find yourself talking a blue streak to mask or release your anxiety, stop talking and practice silence. Females tend to try to use a flow of words to reduce anxiety a bit more often than males, but whichever sex you are, if you catch yourself talking non-stop, ask yourself W. A. I. T.? That stands for ‘Why Am I Talking? One of my friends calls this “fire-hosing”, a great description. Silence is calming for most people and allows our nervous systems to settle back down. Extraverts will have a harder time with this tool than Introverts.
3. SHIFT FOCUS: What we focus upon determines how we feel. If you don’t believe me, think back to the last time you worried and remember how bad your body felt. In almost every situation there is some positive element. But because our brains are biased to the negative, we get stuck in the negative and fearful aspects of a situation. When you are stuck in threat mode, deliberately look for the positive aspects of the situation. If that fails, focus on the positive aspects of your life. For example, the ability most of us have to walk, talk, take hot showers, and eat 3 meals per day. There are a myriad of wonderful factors in our everyday lives if we will but look for them, and then allow ourselves to feel gratitude for them. People who have a consistent practice of gratitude are happier and healthier than the general population for this very reason.
4. SELF-AWARENESS (especially of your body’s sensations): This is a simple but effective tool that can help keep your body out of stress physiology, or shift it to safety more quickly. Clients who are able to stay present to their lives and become aware of their body’s sensations as soon as the sensations arise, spend much less time in stress physiology. As I have mentioned in prior blogs, the body speaks in sensations, not words. So when you become aware of that heavy feeling of dread in your belly, or the tightness in your chest, as soon as it occurs, you have a much better chance of quickly shifting those sensations. If you don’t notice them until the sensations of fear and anxiety have been roaming your body for minutes or hours, and have hunkered down inside like soldiers in a foxhole, you can be stuck in them for a long time. The longer a sensation stays in your body underneath your awareness, the stronger it gets. So if you are able to focus on the positive aspects of the situation, or focus on positive hopes for future outcome, you will have more peace within your body.
Using these and many other tools, millions of people have learned how to move from threat physiology back into a sense of grounded safety, our Autonomic Nervous System at rest. Rest and Digest is actually the term used of this state, to denote that the major systems of our body are at rest and we are able to digest our food, liquids and solids. This of course is the opposite of the Fight or Flight system, another term for stress physiology, which stops digestion and puts stress on most of the major systems of the body and impacts, metabolism, respiration, blood flow, heart rate variability, stress hormones, and our muscle/skeletal system as we brace and tense our muscles in preparation for danger.
This week, I encourage you to pick one or two of the tools and try them consistently when you begin to feel stressed. Notice what happens and pay attention to the ones that work best for you. Please let me know how it works out.
Do you ever practice gratitude? Why or Why not? If you do not, is there anything blocking you from trying this wonderful practice that has so many health benefits?
Which of the tools sound hard or impossible to you and why do you think this is the case? For many people self-awareness can be a challenge. If it is for you, what might you do that could help make this a bit easier for you?
I am still providing 3 week anxiety reduction workshops here in San Diego. If you are interested in 90 minutes of training, 3 weeks in a row. Let me know. I will provide a 10% discount to anyone mentioning this blog! Life is too short to be afraid!
I am curious about what you have have noticed or experienced after reading the contents of last week’s blog? We talked about about Emotion, Sensation, and Living Embodied. I concluded by suggesting that living Embodied helps us better handle our emotional storms. If you did not read (part one) last week’s blog, it will help you understand this one better if you go back and read it first.
Living Embodied is our birthright as a Human Being and something little children do extremely well. If you want to learn more about it, with openness and curiosity, watch a child for long periods of time. You will learn more from watching a child live in her body than from my few words.
When you do learn how to live Embodied -that is being aware of the sensations and messages from your body, listening to them and responding appropriately- you begin to notice the emotions you are experiencing when they are small and more manageable. When you first begin listening to your sensations, you might not know how to respond appropriately right away, but if you keep listening, your body will teach you all you need to know. (Every human body has an amazing Organic Intelligence within. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself why wounds always heal themselves, as long as the area is kept clean). When we allow our sensation and feelings into our awareness immediately, we can ‘metabolize’ them so much quicker and they do not build up in our bodies. Just like our digestive system metabolizes a big meal, by breaking it down in usable portions.
In order to ‘metabolize’ emotions and allow them to pass through us without causing great havoc, use the two E’s, or E2. We first need to Experience our emotion as it surfaces out of our physiology/body. We do this by awareness and attention, we notice and are honest about what we are feeling internally. To further metabolize this emotion, next, we then figure out how we want to Express that emotion. Do we want to write a letter, cry, yell at someone, or talk to a husband, friend, or therapist? When we utilize the two E’s, most emotions will pass right on through our mind and body fairly quickly, like a wave moves through the ocean and then returns to the body of the sea. This may be a challenge when you first begin to try, but like anything else, it gets easier with time and practice.
So this week spend some time re-learning, if you have forgotten, your body’s language of sensation. Notice how your throat/chest/belly reacts to uncomfortable experiences. Or, how that same region reacts when things go really well and you feel deeply loved and cared for by your loved ones.
One big additional benefit of living Embodied, your emotional range will begin to expand. Instead of just the primary emotions of mad, sad, glad, and afraid, you will begin to experience/feel many nuanced and other subtle emotional experiences. Having a larger emotional range brings more exquisite experiences to your life. As when a painter with access to a greater range of colors, rather than painting with only the primary few, makes his painting much more vibrant and expressive.
Babies are the best example of Embodied living-Africa trip 2011
1.) Do you remember how your parents dealt with their emotions when you were a child? This week try to notice, do you handle your emotions in similar ways, or did you take a different path?
2.) What emotions were you allowed to express in your home growing up? Which one(s) were outlawed? Do you still live by those “old” somatic rules?
3.) Are you able to utilize the two E’s when it comes to emotion? If not, which one causes the most difficulty, Experiencing or Expressing? This week just practice listening to mind and body and see what is different.
To learn how to evict the anxiety in your life, join one of my 3-week anxiety reduction workshops. Go to http://www.sdtraumatherapy.com for more information. Mention this blog when you sign up and receive a 10% discount! Happy Loving.