Power In Your Hands

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Stars over time, by Zach Dischner via Flickr

I’ve talked in this space about moving from habit to choice, and how Rubenfeld Synergy and other mindfulness work helps to stop ourselves before we engage in an old habit, and have the option to do something else.

But if we are, as the man said, what we repeatedly do, then habits are what most profoundly shape us. At this time of year when there is a lot of pressure to “start fresh” with New Year’s resolutions, fraught with unrealistic fitness goals and promises we rarely manage to maintain past February, it’s important to look at how move from from habit, to choice, to better habits, in a way that is not doomed to failure.

Try this experiment this year: instead of making New Year’s resolutions like “get in shape,” “finish my novel,” and “call my mother more often,” consider making a single, specific habit-changing move each month. Establishing a new habit – or breaking an old one – takes time; the 21-day number turns out to be a myth, but doing something for many days in a row does help cement it. Starting on my birthday this year, I managed to establish a daily meditation practice after years of struggling. I even took off for the week of Christmas, and have gotten back on it again without any trouble.

How did I do it? Not by promising myself a 20 minute session every day. I got a meditation timer app for my phone, chose a pleasant sounding chime, set up a place to do it where I’d be comfortable, and pledged five minutes a day, preferably in the morning right when I wake up.

It worked, because the goal was specific, achievable, and not too time-consuming. Doing just five minutes meant that it wasn’t much time out of my day, so I didn’t have to really “set aside time” for it. (Now that I’m up to 7 minutes, I feel like a champ!) Doing it in the morning means I roll out of bed, brush my teeth, and light my candle, and though I’m barely awake I’m awake enough to sit still for five minutes, and then I feel the accomplishment of having done it. Doing it every day…makes it into a new habit, one that’s peaceful, good for me, and expandable. (I’m planning to go up to 10 minutes soon.)

You’re going to be much more successful, for example, if you decide to, say, not eat after 8pm for a month, or change out your lunchtime bag of chips for an apple, than if you decide to “change your diet.” Small, specific changes, sustained over a period, tend to accumulate.

So enjoy your New Year’s celebrations! Do whatever you do, make toasts, and make resolutions if that’s your thing. (I’ll be doing it. It’s a habit. 😉 But this year, see if lasting change is possible. Start small. Listen to your body. And hey, let me know how it goes.

Happy New Year, everyone.

From Dr. Kathleen Young's blogOne of the most potent things I have found, both in my training and with my clients, is the utmost importance of self-care. For every acute problem, every chronic stress, every relationship explosion, cancer diagnosis, loathed job or existential crisis, self-care comes up again and again as not just the most important, but the very first thing that needs doing.

This is true not just for my clients, but for me, and other practitioners.  As they say, you’ve gotta make sure your own oxygen mask is secure before helping others.  And as the Rubenfeld principle goes, self care is the first step to client care.  And, lest we forget that other principle: each client is ultimately responsible for his or her own healing.

So it’s not all that surprising that when a client tells me something difficult, and I can feel my mirror neurons firing and my shoulders tightening, my breath growing shallow…the first thing I need to do, before I can even respond, is to check my own breath, my own body, return to my center, and respond from there.  If I do anything else, I put myself in it with them.  And, as anyone who has had someone so upset over something that happened to you that you ended up taking care of them knows, nothing good can come of that.

In my own continuing therapeutic journey, I’ve recently been introduced to Oasis in the Overwhelm, a little book by ex-Catholic nun, nightclub singer, type A go-getter, and Rubenfeld Synergist Millie Grenough.  Its essential core is four 60-second strategies for re-centering and calming yourself, basically at any time and place.

I already have a number of strategies that I use for this, and I pass them on to my clients when I feel they are needed. And of course there are more involved self-care pieces: working out more, eating better, getting enough sleep – all those things that your doctor is always telling you to do.

But for people who want solutions that they can learn quickly and use anywhere…I have to say that this is pretty fabulous.  Once I internalize them myself, I will definitely be incorporating them into my practice. Hint: they involve stretching, breathing, checking in with your body, and focusing on an object of comfort.

Go check it out.

 

From Dr. Kathleen Young's blogOne of the most potent things I have found, both in my training and with my clients, is the utmost importance of self-care. For every acute problem, every chronic stress, every relationship explosion, cancer diagnosis, loathed job or existential crisis, self-care comes up again and again as not just the most important, but the very first thing that needs doing.

This is true not just for my clients, but for me, and other practitioners.  As they say, you’ve gotta make sure your own oxygen mask is secure before helping others.  And as the Rubenfeld principle goes, self care is the first step to client care.  And, lest we forget that other principle: each client is ultimately responsible for his or her own healing.

So it’s not all that surprising that when a client tells me something difficult, and I can feel my mirror neurons firing and my shoulders tightening, my breath growing shallow…the first thing I need to do, before I can even respond, is to check my own breath, my own body, return to my center, and respond from there.  If I do anything else, I put myself in it with them.  And, as anyone who has had someone so upset over something that happened to you that you ended up taking care of them knows, nothing good can come of that.

In my own continuing therapeutic journey, I’ve recently been introduced to Oasis in the Overwhelm, a little book by ex-Catholic nun, nightclub singer, type A go-getter, and Rubenfeld Synergist Millie Grenough.  Its essential core is four 60-second strategies for re-centering and calming yourself, basically at any time and place.

I already have a number of strategies that I use for this, and I pass them on to my clients when I feel they are needed. And of course there are more involved self-care pieces: working out more, eating better, getting enough sleep – all those things that your doctor is always telling you to do.

But for people who want solutions that they can learn quickly and use anywhere…I have to say that this is pretty fabulous.  Once I internalize them myself, I will definitely be incorporating them into my practice. Hint: they involve stretching, breathing, checking in with your body, and focusing on an object of comfort.

Go check it out.

 

Apologies for missing Wednesday’s post; it’s been a bit of a crazy week.  Here’s a piece I wrote for this month’s Befriend Your Body Newsletter; go to the box at the bottom of this page if you’d like to start receiving it.

It’s March, and the long, snow-filled winter seems to be promising an end here on the East Coast.  For all in the Northern Hemisphere, March is a time when winter and spring struggle for balance, when crocuses peek their heads out only to be hammered by one more blizzard, when winds and rain alternate with balmy sun.  The old saying goes that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb: it’s a time of transition, when many of our bodies struggle as we wait for the light to return.
It’s always a good time to turn to our bodies, to ask them what they need, and to listen to their messages.  This month, though, is an especially good time to take things one day at a time, and decide, each day, which qualities to cultivate.

March’s lion blows chill and snow or driving rain, whipping tree branches into frenzy.  At such times, the weather seems to dominate everything with its force of will, and our lives can become subject to it.  March’s lamb is delicate and vulnerable, new shoots pushing out of the earth, sun shining bravely through breaking clouds, the air daring to warm.  At these times, many of us feel our own strength returning.

Being the Lion: Cultivating Strength and Will

When the weather is making you feel strong, focus on your body’s ability to do.  The Lion is a coiled spring, waiting to pounce and pursue its prey.  It is patient, but when the time comes, it is all Action.

Meditate on your core: breathe and bring your attention to your belly.  What actions do you wish to take today?  What things can you not only plan, but execute?  What physical exercise do you want to engage in?  Stretch gently and listen to your muscles: what do they want to do?  Stand with your weight evenly between both feet, or sit with your feet on the floor.  Feel where your body wants to take you today.

Write down the messages you receive, then move!  Walk, run, and jump if you can; or else move in whatever ways you are able.  Feel strength and will running through you.  Like the lion in pursuit, spring and dash after your goals!

Being the Lamb: Cultivating Gentleness and Potential

When the March days make you want to hide under the covers, make use of the power of stillness and silence.  We may picture a lamb as an active force, frisking in a meadow, but in March the lamb is brand-new, wet and shaky-legged, and full of potential.

Sit still and be with where you are right now.  Are you tired, stressed and overwhelmed?  Sit with that and breathe.  Feel the place inside yourself that can be empty and quiet; locate a place in your body and breathe into it.  Allow yourself to fill with stillness and silence, and feel the places in your body that know about waiting, planning and gestating.  Let the ideas that you have for projects cook for a while, and know that you are the vessel.  Let your shakiness calm, as you recognize it as the fuel for later growth.  Like the lamb, you are new, gentle, and full of potential – to be turned into action when the time is right.

Write down the messages you receive from your body.  Then, keep breathing.  Move slowly.  Drink lots of water, eat well, and spend time with loved ones if you can.  Curl up in blankets with hot beverages and, if possible, soft pets.  Know that the time for action will come soon.  Respect your need for stillness.

Finding Balance

Knowing where we are and what we’re capable of on any given day is a powerful way to use our energies appropriately, and to be as fruitful as we want to be in this fast-paced world without burning ourselves out.  May this month, with its Spring Equinox, be a time when you cultivate balance in your life for the coming season!

I’m almost to the end of the Principles of RSM series: after this, there are only two more!  If anyone has an awesome suggestion for another series of things I could write about on a weekly basis, please contact me!

When I talk about altered states of consciousness, I imagine that many people think of something to do with drugs and mind-expanding experiments of the 1960s.  But there are many kinds of altered states, many of which we unconsciously engage in on a daily basis.  Sleep and dreaming, for example, are altered states of consciousness.  That state between sleeping and waking, just before falling asleep and just after waking up, are altered states as well.  When you’re driving to work, along a route you’ve driven countless times, you’re in a kind of altered state, unconsciously performing routine actions.  When someone on your route cuts you off in traffic and you have to slam on the brakes, that shifts you into another mind-state – full awareness, fight-or-flight.

One word for a certain kind of altered state is “trance,” and in Rubenfeld Synergy, the definition of trance is rather broad.  We can be said to be in a trance state when we daydream during a boring meeting – this is a dissociative trance.  Another kind of trance occurs for athletes at peak moments, when everything slows down and a moment of perfect action occurs.  Artists can enter these states as well at times, when everything else falls away and the painter paints, the actor acts, the singer sings in a perfect moment of presence.

Anyone who has tried meditation, ecstatic dance, or breathwork will also be familiar with altered states: we have tools to deliberately change our consciousness.  (My favorite definition of magic, actually, is “the art of changing consciousness at will.”)  Meditation can carry us away from ourselves, journeying through realms of imagination; it can also carry us into ourselves and the present moment, as with mindfulness meditation.

In the therapeutic world, we also talk about trances of habit, triggers that bring us into patterns of emotion and behavior.  The “family trance,” for example, is the oldest trance we experience: think of the way your tone of voice and speech patterns change when you talk to your parents on the phone.  I, for one, regain the markers of a Jersey Shore accent!  Now imagine visiting your family for the holidays, and the ways all of the old buttons get pushed, even when we think we’ve gotten over our childhood pains.  Of course the family trance can contain happy and comforting buttons, as well, and there is little more powerful than entering a beloved house with beloved smells, and seeing a loved one we recall many happy childhood hours with.

The therapeutic trance, though, is the trance we seek to make most use of in Rubenfeld Synergy Method.  When a client lies down on the table, there is already a shift in consciousness, and as a session progresses, a client may close her eyes, relax, listen to her body, and enter into an inner dialogue that promotes intuition and connection.  The Synergist’s touch also promotes this state of trance, and allows the client to feel a bubble of safety in which old, dysfunctional connections can begin to be dissolved, and new healthy connections can be made.

While talk therapy can be incredibly useful on its own, often it has the problem of keeping the client in his head.  Talking out problems in words, intellectualizing, and analysis all have value, but they leave out the key piece of the body, and how it experiences things.  Inducing a light meditative or trance state has a long history in therapy: Freud did it with free association, Erickson did it with hypnosis, and Synergists do it using touch.  The result is that the client can access intuitive, sometimes non-verbal, emotional and kinesthetic experiences of his own story.  And when a client can do that, he can potentially free himself from old narratives, and move forward from a new place.

Next: Integration is necessary for lasting results.