Tag Archives: Mindfulness

Blog 44: Love & Anxiety, Pleasure matters- Part 2.

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Hello all, and happy July! I received a few comments after the previous Pleasure blog expressing a desire for more content about how to get more Enjoyment from healthy Pleasure. So as requested, part 2!

My first suggestion comes personal experience. Learn how to SLLOOWWW DOWN! We race through our lives, cramming in experiences, relationships, long to-do lists, and job/career pressures. We are so busy, (I was so busy) it is hard to have any space to deeply feel anything, much less Pleasure.The pace by which we live our lives impacts our ability to feel our lives. The slower we move through life, the more time and space we have to FEEL our lives. Of course, this stance is challenging when it comes to unpleasant sensations. One reason many of us compulsively ‘water ski across the surface of our lives’. But the benefits of slowing become more evident when it comes to increasing enjoyment of our healthy Pleasure. Being Present is so much harder when we are racing about.

The best way to get more enjoyment out of Pleasure is to be “Fully Present” and solely in that period of time the Pleasure is occurring. In this way, allowing the Pleasure to deeply register in mind and body. This is important because what we FOCUS upon we potentiate, increasing its power. Rick Hanson’s research Rick Hanson suggests that we must focus upon, keep in our awareness, a positive experience for at least 30 seconds. This enables the brain to register the positive experience as stimuli that matters. Our brains are biased toward negative stimuli so it takes extra effort to register positive stimuli. In the past, by barely noticing when something pleasant occurred, I have skimmed over (missed) the Pleasure within that experience in my hurry to move onto what came next. And, consequently I missed enjoying that Pleasure.

Many of you have heard about  Mindfulness. But for those that are less familiar with the concept, here is a simple definition of mindfulness, or being “Fully Present”. Being Present occurs when you are aware and conscious of what is occurring, and keeping mind & body fully in the experience. This sounds easy but it is not. Many of us have an experience but do not register the impact or notice what is occurring within our own body. This can occur due to living in our head/thoughts, or in a different time zone. We think about the contents of our to-do lists, or worry about tomorrow, or obsess about an earlier situation, i.e. the past. Another words, we are not actually living in the Present, but in the past, or the future, or in caught in worry or compulsive mental loops.

Healthy Pleasure restores safety physiology, as I have previously stated. But did you know that experiencing the physiological impact of Pleasure (the Enjoyment) also improves heart health, deepens bonds in relationships, and balances out the pain and stress that can very easily overwhelm our everyday lives?  An additional benefit of Pleasure is that it increases gratitude, which has its own health benefits. When I feel the Pleasure of a loving encounter with friends, or the rush that comes while surfing (every day surfing is a good day even if I never catch a wave), not only does my heart rate slow and harmonize, my physiology settles and my sense of well-being and feelings of gratitude soar.

Our usual behavior creates our sense of Normal!” A very simple statement but a profound truth! What you and I do on an everyday basis, our habits, attitudes, and behaviors, create a way of life that feels normal to us. Though it may be far from normal when compared to that of  the general population. For example, when I was an inveterate workaholic, putting in 12-14 hour days and working while on vacation, to me this seemed perfectly rational and normal behavior. However, now, after years of personal work in therapy, spiritual direction, and Somatic Experiencing, I am shocked at how out of balance I was and saddened by all the life and Pleasure I missed while enslaved by my old “Normal behavior”. Life feels so much better now! I am far from achieving expert status, but I continually focus on attaining a healthy work/life balance and have made Pleasure and Enjoyment primary values and this has made all the difference.

I will close by suggesting we use the truism, “ your usual becomes your normal” for our benefit!  Experiment by changing your usual behavior gradually but consistently to include more healthy Pleasure, Mindful awareness, and Presence, in order to enjoy life’s Pleasurable experiences. Make a new habit of adding more self-care and Pleasure into your life, and/or more deeply noticing and enjoying your Pleasure until that becomes your new normal.

In the next Blog I will share a simple but profound exercise I learned at a Tara Brach conference. It is easy, enjoyable and Pleasure focused.  As always, I invite you to write in and let me know how the experiments go.

GOING DEEPER

  1. What does the term ‘Being Present’ mean to you? Does it have a positive or negative connotation? Where do you spend most of your time, in your body/being or in your head/thoughts?
  2. What keeps you from living fully Present to your life and relationships? Do you need to let go of some past pain, or surrender a future concern in order to really feel the overall goodness of your life?
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Blog 42: Anger & Anxiety # 3-Healthy Anger finally!

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Fight or flight- African Style

Today is the final blog about Anger & Anxiety, at least for now. One final way Anger and Anxiety are linked is that the strong fear of someone being Angry with us, scares the pee out of many of us humans. Unfortunately Anger can be, and often is, used unhealthily to control and manipulate others due to how uncomfortable most humans feel when someone is angry with them. Fear of loved one’s Anger causes great anxiety and often a loss of our sense of self. This is evidenced by how many people placate their angry family member(s), rather than firmly standing their ground and asking for what they really want. Some of my clients are living with an often explosive and angry family member. These clients live in chronic anxiety anticipating the upcoming explosion. The fact that anger’s eruption is somewhat unpredictable just makes the anxiety worse. Many humans would rather temporarily placate, and let go of what we desire, to avoid experiencing the blast of rage that may occur if we stand up for those desires.

I have lived with the fear of Anger a good portion of my life. In the past I lived with an angry family member (who was terribly treated and had a good reason for the anger, but not much control over it.) I have also feared friends and coworkers being angry with me. AND, what has caused even greater problems, I have feared and been blind to my own Anger. It has taken lots of work, with wise and professional support, for me to make peace with Anger and to stop fearing it. I have had to accept my own Anger, and the fact that at times, I can be an angry person. (Which wreaks havoc with my own image of my goodness). Breaking up with the need to be terminally nice, was a related issue, but one I will save for different blog. However, the journey has been well worth the struggle and living on the side of healthy Anger and the acceptance of this strong emotion has brought me great joy and much healthier relationships.

What I have found is that living in fear, and especially, ignorance of our own Anger is a harmful place to be. Unresolved and unaddressed anger leaks out and causes great harm and often, we can get caught in ruts of bitterness and resentment. Both of which cause irreparable harm to our bodies and relationships. I recently have been re-reading old journals and I came across a passage I wrote a while ago when I was really wrestling with my own unhealthy expressions of Anger. Though it is old material, I will include a small portion as it will illustrate my point about the need for healthy Anger better than just giving factual content.

Journal Entry: “Wow, what a journey this has been. Please continue to let the words and concepts of honesty and healing settle deeply into my soul, transcending and traversing any areas of blockage, confusion, or stuck buried resentment or bitterness. I want none of these now, they are not helpful to me, nor are they worthy of me.  For resentment and bitterness are at the core postures of helplessness and victimhood. They are knee-jerk responses that can come after experiencing being harmed, hurt or betrayed, but when I am not willing to deal with or confront the damaging influence. So the energy of angry pain, instead of being worked out through appropriate conflict coming from confrontation and the energetic attempts to make events feel fair and right to both of our body’s and beings, leaks out into stagnant pools of resentment and bitterness. This stuck energy swirls round and round but goes nowhere. These emotions are often a trap of self-pity, and fear of the energetic needs of real human relationships, which are messy & beautiful, harmonious & fractured, joyful & sad. There are seasons in every deep relationships. But resentment and bitterness keep the relationships stuck in dank cold water. The usual  warmth of connection, companionship & sexuality significantly decreased or absent all together.”  END OF ENTRY

Why talk about Anger anyway? Anger is a universal human emotion that often gets a bad rap, mostly because when humans are angry it is very hard to rationally make choices that improve the situation that is causing Anger in the first place. When we are very angry, our net-cortex is mostly off-line. Many times Angry energy causes people to act badly and use Anger for power and control, dominance, etc. No one likes to be scared so we give angry people a wide berth. But Anger is an important aspect of our humanity and an emotion we really need to pay attention to and learn how to properly express if we want to live a healthy and happy existence.

Anger is a good and important emotion. Humans need to be able to experience and express Anger in order to lead healthy lives. Anger is that strong message from our bodies that we feel threatened, that we have been, or are about to be, harmed or hurt. A healthy relationship to our own Anger allows us to perceive the “threat” early on. That allows the anger “energy” to help us say “NO”, or to set a boundary, or worst case, fight back to protect our lives. Allowing yourself to connect to your Anger in a potentially dangerous situation can save your life.

This actually happened to a friend of mine. In her early 20’s she was in a dangerous area late at night and 2 men tried to kidnap her. The driver stayed in the car while the other man tried to drag her into the back seat. Her Anger became her best ally. She felt a surge of adrenaline and rage, and she fought back with such powerful angry energy that she beat her assailant up and yanked out hunks of his hair. The other man drove off in terror, he was so frightened by her rage. (Imagine of the Amazon warrior woman archetype here.) So her ability to access her Anger was her best friend that night.

So in closing, don’t be afraid of your own Anger. It is an important emotion and one that allows us to be fully human. Even the Bible (written over  2000 years ago) has a saying, “Be angry but do not sin.” Practice allowing healthy Anger expression when needed vs. letting it leak out in other ways. Or keeping it inside and poisoning our own bodies.  As always, I am eager to here how it goes. Please write and share about your own journey with Anger!

Going Deeper

1.) Can you describe a time when you felt and expressed your own anger in a healthy and appropriate manner? How did it go? Who are the people who are more open to allowing your healthy expression of any emotion? If you have no one who can do this or very few, adding some new emotionally healthy friendships may be a great idea.

2.) How is your boundary system? In your daily life, how does anger and boundaries interact, if they do at all? Are you able to say NO, and hold your position even if the other person gets angry with you?

Blog 40: Anger & Anxiety- Part 1

In today’s blog we will discuss Anger and Anxiety. Anger is an important emotion experienced by humans of every world culture. However, this strong feeling/emotion is often a tricky feeling to experience and to navigate healthily. We have all seen Anger expressed in unhealthy ways (just watch most action adventure movies) and for this reason Anger has often gotten a bad rap.

We will address healthy Anger in the next blog, but today we will explore how Anger and Anxiety are connected. While it may seem they are opposite emotions — Anger is often experienced as an emotion expanding our energy into the world, and Anxiety as an emotion that contracts us away from the world—they are often linked. So, what is the relationship between Anger and Anxiety?

First off, both Anger and Anxiety are sensations/emotions many of us experience as extremely uncomfortable, and the expression of both emotions are fairly hard to disguise.  Many people experience and express consistent Anxiety as chronic irritation, and may not even understand they are anxious. If you would measure their physiology, (levels of stress hormones and the amount of activation in the Autonomic Nervous Systems—ANS) you find their ANS is agitated and dis-regulated, hence the chronic irritation. If you are feeling happy, content, and life is going well, there is little need to be irritable, is there?

Frankly, Anger is scary for most of us, it is a big, and very powerful sensation and experiencing it can feel like it could swallow us whole. It can be extra difficult for women who are often socialized from babyhood that nice girls don’t get angry. We have often heard angry women being described as that “B” word that has kept many females stuck in the prison of nice. (Yes, I mean Bitch!)  Over the years many a woman has been stopped from angrily voicing her true thoughts and feelings, fearing that label. (Though it seems the new generation of young women are less bothered by it than my generation.) However, voicing our thoughts and feelings is critically important for our emotional and physiological health, as well as for changing things that need to be changed. As the bumper sticker so aptly states, “Well behaved women seldom make history.” I would argue that holds true for men as well. It is often the humans who have behaved against culture norms that have changed our world for the better.

Men often struggle with the emotion of Anger as well. However, often the male struggle is with controlling the expression of Anger, not so much not allowing themselves to feel it. Again, socialization plays a big role in our childhood, as well as our adult, behavior. Generally if you go watch young children at recess, the girls are often giggling and playing together, and the boys are fighting with sticks, or whatever vaguely weapon-shaped objects they can find. It’s our gender differences showing up in our play. Our brain wiring, hormonal systems and socialization are vastly different from that of the opposite sex. If we can understand that and work with those differences instead of stigmatizing each other, the world would be a kinder place.

So many human beings become automatically Anxious when we experience the emotion of Anger, whether it’s our own Anger or the Anger of someone else directed at us. Anger is not often handled well in workplaces, families, etc. Sometimes people get stuck in Anger and are not be able to discharge it healthily, or may not want to let it go. Anger can be a secondary emotion, coming up repeatedly after we have been hurt by another person. Sometimes after being emotionally wounded, it is easier (and often more pleasant) to feel Anger rather than the underlying hurt or sadness, or the helplessness to do anything about the pain of betrayal. Feeling Anger is correlated emotionally with the threat of harm, being stuck in Anger often keeps our bodies stuck in threat physiology, which causes physiological anxiety just by its very nature.

We will explore more about Anger and Anxiety and talk about healthy Anger in part 2 of this blog.  In closing, I encourage my readers to be curious about your own relationship to Anger. How does Anger impact your life, your health, and your relationships? I would love to hear any thoughts people are willing to share.

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Frustrated and angry-A big emotion

Going Deeper

1.) What do you think or feel when you read about Anger? Do you have a healthy relationship to your own Anger? What about to your loved one’s Anger? Do you express anger directly, or do you let it leak out in other ways that are less frightening but still cause great damage? (I.e. the silent treatment, passive aggressive behaviors, etc.)

2.) How does your body respond to Anger in general? How does it react to other’s Anger? Do you retract, or do you desire to fight back and defend yourself?

#39: Love & Anxiety-Contentment at Christmas?

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I have read lots of blogs, books and articles raving about the importance of mindfulness in order to live in a peaceful mind and body, and I agree 100%! But what I would love to read or hear more about is another “state” or attitude, that of Contentment.  Contentment is related to mindfulness but is not exactly a buzzword in our predominately self-focused popular culture.  I was with a friend recently who will remain nameless, so as not to embarrass her and her kids. She spent a small mortgage on her day off to take her sons and their friends to one of those “fun zone” places (where junk food, quarters and over-stimulation reign supreme.) Unfortunately, even after her hours of sacrifice, the only sound heard on the way home was the song of complaint. Complaints about what they didn’t get, and frustration about having to leave “so soon”. There was not one word of gratitude and certainly not a shred of Contentment found in that car.  Not in the kids, or in my friend.  A sense of entitlement and unrealistic expectations often walk hand-in-hand and both kill our ability to feel Contentment. Gratitude and Contentment are not the same concepts but are related, supply energy to each other, and are the Yin to the Yang of entitlement and unrealistic expectations.

Why is Contentment so hard to achieve in our daily existence? There are several reasons besides those noted above. One seems to be, at times humans can mistakenly equate Contentment to stagnation or lack of ambition. The reasoning goes, “if I am content with where I am in life and what I have, how will I grow and improve and get more out of life?” But  Contentment is a great word and a great state to spend time in, dictionary.com defines Contentment as: the state of being contented; satisfaction; ease of mind.  I like that phrase, ease of mind. The last blog was about human restlessness and how it negatively impacts our joy and increases our anxiety levels. Restlessness could be called unease of mind or even dis-ease of mind. Contentment then, is one of the antidotes for getting stuck in restlessness on a regular basis.

Contentment is not stagnation.  You can have goals, dreams, and desires but still live in Contentment on a regular basis. Because Contentment is not about specific outcomes but an overall ease of mind /attitude about life. Contented people usually have fairly realistic expectations (read appropriate) about  life, limits and their place therein. Contentment allows us to experience the overwhelming good that is our daily life without being tainted by seething restlessness or the frustration that comes from comparing our lives with the lives of others we believe are more fortunate.

Here is a fairly simple example. If at age 30 I take up the sport of football, there is very little possibility that I will be drafted by the NFL. I could become a great football player, if I am willing to put in hours of daily practice. But NFL level players usually have been playing football since childhood. If my expectations, or set goals, do not match reality, Contentment will be a hard state to attain. If I expect to be drafted I will be disappointed and discontented. However, If I expect to get really good and enjoy the sport, I have a much better chance of feeling Contentment with my choices and accomplishments.

Sometimes we paint unrealistic pictures in our heads about how life should play out, or even how we should feel on a regular basis. We can get the impression via reality TV, FB posts, movies, songs, etc. that life is one big happy adrenaline rush. We think we ought to feel immense love or excitement or joy 24/7.  Contentment is hard to find when living with those kind of unrealistic expectations.

Life was never intended to provide the same experiences all day long day after day. Let’s use art as an example to stand in for life and the various situations, moods, and sensations we all experience. A beautiful piece of art or a stunning photograph most often is comprised of various “objects”, shapes and colors. A green leaf is lovely, but in the fall when the leaves turn colors and become a  gorgeous palate of oranges, reds, yellows, and browns, that’s when tourists stream into New England to take in the art these multi-hued leaves provide. Very few people come to gawk in the summer when the leaves are only the color green.

Well, real Life is multi-hued as well. If you imagine feelings, events, and sensation as colors, there will be green moments and red moments, and purple moments. There are yellow feelings and pink feelings and black feelings, etc. Life is fluid and flows, it changes and morphs. When we realistically expect and accept there are green/red/blue/purple, etc, moments, we will not be thrown or upset when we don’t feel excitement or happiness all day long. We become more tolerant of the hues that we feel less fondness for but know that we can learn to be with, and learn from them. For example, we can allow ourselves to feel sad for a time which in turn allows us the awareness of how great it feels to experience happiness.

There is another great benefit to experiencing and enjoying life as multi-hued and morphing.  We become better able to sit and allow our own shifting internal states to BE whatever color they are without criticism and judgment. In so doing, we are more able to “tolerate” the shifting states of our friends, neighbors, and loved ones.

So friends the holiday season is upon us and it is easy to get caught in the busyness and the merchandise mucking about foisted upon us hourly via ads and TV networks. But I encourage you to settle inside yourself and find your own state of inner Contentment these next few weeks. Experience how Contentment may shift the energy of the Holiday Season and the family interactions during the many holiday themed events. As always, I would love to know how it goes for you so please let me know via comments.

GOING DEEPER:

1.) What is your knee-jerk reaction to the term Contentment? Is it positive or negative? What beliefs live inside your head and body about contentment? Do these block you from, or move you toward Contentment.

2.) Is my analogy normalizing life as multi-hued art, and not a single state of being, helpful to you? If not, come up with your own analogy or metaphor of life with its various permutations. Which colors/sensations/feelings are you most comfortable living with, and which are uncomfortable to you? Share your answers with your friends and loved ones if you dare.

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Blog 38: Love & Anxiety-Inner Restlessness

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Do you ever have one of THOSE days? You know, the ones where you feel antsy and so restless? You feel like you are missing out on some goodness, like you should be somewhere else but you don’t know where. You just feel off and full of angst. I had one of those days this past month. I have noticed, these kind of days are more likely to follow a season of big events or experiences, such as after a successful Attachment training weekend, or an important presentation. Right after I have felt “up” and excited about life and my place in it, if a restless day is going to roll in like a storm front, it tends to follow on the backside of the wake caused by  big “high” feeling. And, just like the wake from a big speedboat, those days tend to throw me off balance.

This sensation of restlessness I am convinced is a part of being human, especially now, in our way too stimulating, technologically advanced culture. For me, the restlessness manifests as a gripping tension in my belly and that unsettled feeling that keeps me from resting and settling, even if I sit and try to meditate. The “message” this sensation gives my body is that I am running out of time and that life is passing me by, that others are experiencing the good I am missing. Getting on FaceBook does not help. Since people post experiences of joy and triumph and not losses or failures, it can seem that everyone else is having the time of their lives. Can anyone else relate to this restlessness?

I will out myself and share an example of how restless sensations can distort beauty and reality. I was cycling alone up the bike path on the Strand a few weeks ago. I had been feeling restless all morning but during the ride I settled and became more awake and aware. I began to really be present to the experience. Suddenly, I had such a strong sense that we are all connected, humans, nature, even the caterpillars crawling across the path I was carefully avoiding to so as not to run over them. The sensation was so sweet. I decided to stop, look at the bay, and be open to anymore insights or epiphanies. Less then two minutes later, another cyclist, stopped at the same place and came up behind me and began to engage me in conversation. Instead of connecting, my old nemesis, restlessness, kicked in and I lost presence. I quickly felt antsy and frustrated that this person was “ruining” my experience of sitting with the Oneness and the sense of Divinity in that wonderful sensation I had just lost. I felt like the interruption “cost” me the good of this experience. I know, it’s very funny if you pay attention to life’s invitations, but I was not!  I was paying attention to the restlessness and the sense that I was losing this great experience. I know, crazy town! Here I was presented with an opportunity to deepen the sense of oneness with an actual person, but I totally missed it because I was in my own little world in my head letting the restlessness dictate how I thought things should go. (In case you were wondering, it took about 10 minutes for me to wake back up and notice my ridiculousness.)

This experience highlights one reason I try to not live in the restlessness for a minute longer after I become aware of it. The “inner voice” of the restlessness is so narrowing and self-focused. It tells me I am missing out and that if things would just go differently I would feel better. This will cause me to miss the gift or joy available right in the present moment. Luckily, I have lived long enough to have lots of practice catching the sensation and I know that sometimes you just have to ride out uncomfortable feelings and false beliefs. Sometimes, you have to hold onto your true knowing and just sit until they pass, which they do. This can be especially difficult because restlessness almost always brings along its Significant Other, a big dose of Anxiety!

One of my “cures” for the restlessness is to drop into silence and Being. To slow everything down internally and ask myself some questions. “What is really going on? Is there really any tangible thing I am lacking in this moment”? Usually the answer is no. I realize that silence may be easier for us Introverts. Extraverts can find silence frightening or annoying. So if you are more extraverted maybe your silence is a concentrated short time where you focus on connecting with your own being and the goodness therein. The gift of riding out the restlessness by sitting until it leaves, is a deepening sense of peace and calmness.

Another “antidote” for restlessness is love & connection with my beloved friends. Those wonderful beings who see me clearly and adore me anyway! Thank you to all of you, you know who you are. When the restless sensation hits your body, you could use it as an impetus to reach out and connect personally with someone you love and that loves you. In-person, or at least voice-to-voice, is more physiologically helpful than an email or text. Although any kind of connection is helpful to our body and nervous systems. The process of reaching out and experiencing the synchrony between you and your beloved, opens the door internally for positivity resonance to permeate and “wash” out the unpleasantness of the restless, anxious sensations. Barbara Fredrickson in her stunning book, “Love 2.0” speaks of Love and its “positivity resonance” and how it improves our mood, outlook, physical health and our ANS/physiology.  She speaks of Love as not just what you experience with lovers, friends, and family members, but also as little tiny moments of connection and mirror neuron resonance that can occur all day long. We are not “screwed” in the love lottery if we live alone and have no family living nearby. According to her research, you can experience all the physiologically and health benefits of love all day long in your short encounters with other kind and helpful humans. This can include a stranger on the street, an uber driver, your local barista, etc. I encourage you to check out her book, it’s a revelation and based upon research and neuroscience.

So, please reply and let me know that I am not the only one who experiences restlessness. Please let me know how yours manifests and what you do about it. Have a great week.

GOING DEEPER:

1.) How many of you laughed at my ridiculousness on the bike path? But do you ever have the experience of totally missing what is in the moment in front of you? How do you come back from numbness or lack of presence, or living in dialogue with the to-do-list in you head?

2.) Do you ever experience these restless sensations? If so, how do they manifest in your body? What are the messages they whisper to your mind? How do you ride them out, or what tools do you use that help you recover your equilibrium?

#22: Love Leaves Tracks!

Early one morning I was on the beach checking out the surf. I happened to look down and actually notice my surroundings. I saw imprinted in the sand, an abstract work of art consisting of many different bird tracks. There was not a single bird on the beach, but so many bird’s footprints. Just by looking at the unique shape of each track, I could tell what species of bird left them behind. This visual stimulated some thoughts about how things other than birds can leave tracks in the “sand” of my life. Even “intangibles” like Love and Anxiety, especially these two.

When I am deeply loved by another human, it leaves a tangible imprint on my heart and in my life. I was on crutches recently and so many friends offered to help me. Even a few kind strangers opened restaurant doors and carried my coffee. Kind and loving acts change us a little bit each and every time we experience one. Love’s imprint, opens our hearts and allow us to feel the deep goodness of this wonderful life we have been granted.

Some of my readers may be having a hard time right now and do not feel love is available to them. But whether you believe the Source of Love is called God, a Higher Power, or even a benign universe, this world is bathed in love. Strangers donating a kidney to save a life, people building homes for hurricane victims they have never met, parents patiently nurturing crying infants night after night, or even parents rescuing their adult children from yet another big mess! Love leaves footprints. Some of these include; an open heart, delight, expansiveness, peace, joy, trust, safety, a sense that life is good. Love is everywhere, though sometimes we miss it because we are not looking for it.

Often we fail to see the tracks of love in our life, because the tracks fear and anxiety leave seem bigger and more relevant. Anxiety leaves tangible tracks in our life as well. These can include: fear, worry, a self protective stance, doubting our decisions, selfishness, and anger. Because anxiety/fear screams at us internally, it is so easy to only notice the anxiety tracks and move into worry or panic mode. Love and peace are much “quieter” sensations and are easy to miss in the daily stress of our lives. And, since the brain is more interested in negative information than positive information, the anxious tracks catch and hold most of our attention. (See previous blogs is this is new information to you.)

There is a simple, but not easy to practice, antidote to living constantly in stress and worry. Choosing to deliberately refocus our primary attention from the tracks and sensations of anxiety. Honing our focus and attention onto the the tracks love has made and is still making, even in stressful situations. (This is an aspect of mindfulness.) Love is more powerful than fear! This week I encourage you to try this practice, deliberately look for love and away from the anxiety. You will have to do it over and over, but the more you do this, the more you will be able to calm down and see the good, even in hard situations. Love does cast out fear, but we need lots of it!

Going deeper:

1.) When you think of the tracks in the sand of your heart, what comes first to your mind? What specific tracks do you experience with both of these “emotions”?
2.) Who are the people in your life that make the most Love tracks? Do they know how grateful you are to them? Who or what makes the strongest anxiety tracks in your life? What might you do to decrease some of these?
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Love & Anxiety #20: Gratitude for our humanness?

This week I have been reading an awesome book called “Leaving Church: A memoir of faith”, http://www.barbarabrowntaylor.com and I have so enjoyed her prose, which somehow manages to be soaring, AND yet full of  down to earth wisdom. And, what I have really resonated with is her affirming the goodness of being a human! That our humanness is not the cause of our problems, so much as refusing to acknowledge we are human. Since we are human, we are fallible, messy, confused, prone to errors and tempers, stress and struggle. While at the same time, we are beautiful, loving, capable of great generosity and deeds of kindness, and containing great reservoirs of wisdom. This is one of her many books and is a worthwhile read, even if you don’t come from a faith tradition.

But since this blog is about love & anxiety, what I want to share today is how practicing gratitude for our humanness is a massive anxiety buster! Whenever we are able to accept what actually is (reality), rather than trying to live out what we wish we were (denial and pretense), our stress levels decrease. We are human and when we allow ourselves to love our humanness, “all our curves and our edges and our perfect imperfections”, to quote John Legend, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=450p7goxZqg anxiety diminishes and in its place, we make room for pleasure, joy and peace again. 

Being human means we learn, change, and grow as the years go by. What good parent would be angry at a child who takes at least 2 or more years to gain urinary continence (a child who pees their pants, for those who like simple words)? None, because good parents understand developmental tasks, and that the growth and maturation process of a human child goes on for years and years and years! Those of you who have grown children still living with you, really know what I mean.  So, growing fully into our humanness and living well is also a developmental process. One, I will submit, we are engaged in for our entire lives. Maybe there are a few of you that are fully done and have no more growing to do, but I am speaking to the rest of us that are continuing to learn and grow daily.

If taking the risk of loving our humanness becomes a desire, and we are willing to do the hard work of changing the internal lenses through which we view ourselves and our expectations, we can learn to live in the deep gratitude that comes from loving that we are human beings. Dr. Taylor seems to have learned this lesson, and I know it is one I have been working on for quite some time. The other benefit of gratefully embracing our humanness, is that gratitude in general decreases anxiety. If you recall, some of the earlier blogs were about how the brain is biased toward negative information and how we need to take in the “good” in our life in order to overcome the negativity. Practicing gratitude for anything is a great way to take in the good and shift our brain out of the anxiety/danger mode, back into openness and relaxation. 

I encourage you to work on “loving all your curves and all your edges and all your perfect imperfections” this week. Practice gratitude for your life and your human body, even if you screw up, yell at your kids, or fail to yet again to attain your own (too high) expectations. Please let me know how it goes!

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     Cameron and his mom, embracing his humanness!

Going deeper:

1. What does this blog bring up for you? Resonance and relief, or resistance and resentment? Journal about your answer and see what comes up for you.

2. Where did you get your first messages about your humanness? Were they positive messages or negative ones?

3. If this practice seems too hard or even impossible, I invite you to pick just one aspect of your humanness and just try to feel gratitude for it. It is a powerful practice and you will be surprised at how easy it becomes when you make this a new habit.

Love & Anxiety-Blog 17: Oh that good sensation!

I received lots of comments on the last two blogs, it seems to be new information for many people. So, here is a bit more on this subject to alleviate any confusion people may be experiencing around the concept of the body’s language, sensation.

Many people are so uncomfortable experiencing their sensations, that they try to ignore them. I suggest that many of our emotional problems are rooted in ignoring the body’s messages. A simple analogy may be helpful here. If your infant begins to cry and you pick him up immediately, you can remedy the problem and most infants will calm down quickly. However, if you ignore her for 30 minutes, by the time you pick her up, she is so upset you will have a hard time calming her back down. Our body operates the same way. If you pay attention immediately to your sensations, you can learn to address the “problem” and feel better right away.
Anytime you are learning a new language, you have to start by learning important words. Thankfully, no grammar is needed for the language of sensation, you only need to learn the important words. As you get more familiar with the words of a new language, it is easier to listen and comprehend when someone is speaking them to you. Below is a table with a list of many of the body’s sensations. It is not a comprehensive list, but, if you read all of them, you will get the basic gist. (The table did not copy over to WordPress, so all I can provide is a list)

Airy-Bloated-Blocked-Breathless-Brittle-Bubbly-Buzzy-Calm-Clammy-Cool-Cold-Congested-Contricted-Contracted-Damp-Dark-Deflated-Disconnected-Dry-Dizzy-Dense-Empty-Expanded-Energized-Expansive-Flaccid-Floating-Fluid-Flushed-Fluttery-Fragile-Frantic-Frozen-Full-Fuzzy-Heavy-Hot-Hollow-Inflated-Itchy-Jagged-Jittery-Jumpy-Knotted-light-Luminous-Moist-Numb-Nervious-Paralyzed-Pounding-Pressure-Prickly-Puffy-Pulsing-Queasy-Radiating-Raw-Restricted-Shaky-Smooth-Spacey-Spacious-Spinning-Still-Suffocating-Strong-Tight-Tense-Twitchy-Warm-Wobbly-Wooden

If you read the whole list, your vocabulary of Sensation will be greatly expanded. Now try paying attention to the inside of your body. Particularly from your throat down to your hips. Do you notice any of these sensations, now that you have a better grasp of this language?

As you can see there are sensations mostly experienced as positive – warm, smooth, energized, etc. And, there are many sensations that we experience as negative- jittery, cold, queasy, etc. With each sensation produced, your body is attempting to communicate to you how it experiences the choices you are making. Many of us ignore the sensations we perceive as negative, as long as we are able. Then, we wonder why we have a huge emotional explosion. Paying attention to the beginnings of the sensation, and altering your choices accordingly, will decrease, or even end these big explosions. It is so much easier to just live in our heads, but when you embody your mind and body, your ability to live in joy, freedom, and honesty is greatly expanded.

Try it this week and see how many of these sensations you can notice. Can you even expand this list? Let me know how it goes, and please, if you have any questions, let me know, I love to share this material, it has changed my life.

Going deeper
1.) If this information is new to you, what is your primary response? What is your mind’s response? How does the body respond to the thought of paying better attention to this lovely container of minds, hearts, spirits, and souls?

2.) If it is hard for you to listen to the sensations, try to notice your areas of resistance and be kind to them. This way of living is seeking to integrate different aspects of your personhood, not to cause a civil war.

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.

Blog #16: Part Two-To Feel or Not to Feel….and how to Deal!

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.

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Babies are the best example of Embodied living-Africa trip 2011

Going Deeper;

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.

Love & Anxiety #15: “To feel or not to feel….

At the end of last week’s blog, I mentioned that emotions begin as physiological events and not as emotional contracts and I promised to share more. I am not saying that we don’t experience emotions as mental constructs, but that the physiological change in the body comes first. Our then minds realize, ‘oh I am really angry, or, I am depressed’.  

To clarify this a bit more, let’s talk about language. The mind’s language is of course, words! As noted in the above examples. However, our body has its own language and speaks to us, but we often do not hear or even try to listen. The body’s language is Sensation.  Perhaps you have heard these phrases:feeling things in our guts; that pit in the middle of my stomach; or, the tightness in my chest, etc. Less often, we may be aware of a lightness in our hearts, a warm expansiveness in our chests, etc. This is the language of the body. It buzzes, constricts, contracts, chills, warms, opens, expands, just to name a few of the body’s words.

The reasons we are often unaware of, or completely ignore our body’s messages, is we have forgotten this language. We deem those messages irrelevant to our busy grown up lives. Somewhere between elementary school and high school, most humans cease listening to their bodies and begin to live in their heads. Our culture and our role models (adults) usually reinforce the message that our mind is the master and carrier of the most important information. Often it is our poets; musicians, film directors, artists, creative types, etc., who are the holdouts staying connected to both languages, which is one reason we adore them so.

If a person lives in her mind a majority of the time, she will have trouble really experiencing her emotions because she is not truly inhabiting her body. Until the sensations get soooo big, she can’t ignore them anymore. This is one reason why people who spend lots of time in their heads obsessing and worrying, experience high levels of body anxiety. The body is a lot bigger than the mind, especially when it comes to the “negative” emotions. (Not because they are bad, but because they FEEL so bad.) Anger, fear, sadness, when you have tried to tamp them down and ignore them for too long, eventually they will surge out and blow up. When they do, it’s usually a mess. We rant at someone, or go into a deep depression, or have anxiety and panic attacks, to give a few examples. 

Next week I will publish Part two of this blog, sharing more about embodied, present, living and how to more easily deal with our emotional storms. Stay tuned!

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my lovely Aussie friends displaying two powerful emotions -joy and anger

Going Deeper;

1.) What emotions are you comfortable experiencing and which emotions are outlawed from your life? Do you resonate with the information that when we stuff and bury emotions for too long, they burst up and make a mess?

2.) Are you comfortable in your body? Can you listen to its language of sensation? What sensations are you currently most aware of?