What is your body telling you?

In a culture where the mind rules as the leader of knowledge, and the body is seen as merely a vehicle to move us from place to place, there is a missed opportunity to use the body as a source of information. Even this statement, separating the mind from the body, is misleading because the truth is that there is no separation between the mind and body.

It comes down to the nervous system. The brain and spinal cord comprise the central nervous system, while the rest of the body houses the peripheral nervous system- but it is literally all the same thing. The mind and the body inform each other in a continuous feedback loop. There is not one without the other.

There are many reasons people disconnect from their body. Pain. Self image. Low sensory perception…

For today’s mediation we are simply checking in with our body to see what information we can gain. This process is called building somatic (of the body) awareness.

  1. Find a comfortable position sitting, lying down or standing.
  2. Take a few breaths and feel into the experience as you settle in.
  3. Bring your attention to your head (not your mind, but your physical head). Visualize your head resting on the top of the spine, balancing in space on the vertebral bones. Introduce a small amount of movement into your neck so your head gently bobbles in space. Feel you scalp and hair. Open and close your eyes. Open your mouth to stretch your jaw. Stick your tongue out. Take a deep breath.
  4. Swallow. Feel your throat. Breath into your neck creating more space within your throat. Notice if it feels restricted or open.
  5. Move your awareness down into your shoulders. Introduce small movements like shrugging or rolling the shoulders down and lower onto your back. Notice if the shoulders are rolling in, creating a roundness in your back. Take a breath and feel the shoulders rise and fall.
  6. Squeeze the hands and then stretch the fingers. Lengthen the arms and create a wave, like you’re flapping your wings. Make the movement as big or small as feels right to you. Then find a comfortable resting place for your arms and hands.
  7. Focus now on your torso- the rib cage, pelvis, and spine surrounded by soft tissue. Bring movement into your spine and feel how the ribs and pelvis respond. Do you feel hungry or full? If you’re lying down can you feel the pulse in the midline of your abdomen? Is there tension in your back?
  8. Feel a sense of connection from the lowest part of the spine, up through to the top of the head. Relax your body even more with another deep breath.
  9. Bring the focus to your legs and feet. Wiggle your toes and clench your gluts. If you can, contract the large muscles of the legs. If you can’t feel your legs very well, squeeze the muscles with your hands or adjust your position to feel a stretch throughout the lower extremities.
  10. Take inventory of your body. What do you feel? What stands out? Give yourself a few minutes of quiet focus on your body to hear what it is telling you.

Next time someone asks how you are, take a few seconds to check in with your body before responding. Its much more interesting to hear from someone what is actually happening for them in the moment than to hear that they are “good”. I what to know- how you know you’re good.

The Gratitude Game

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and many of us are planning our meals and finalizing the guest list without much thought of the many blessings of our lives. Does your holiday feel like something to do, rather than an opportunity to be present in your appreciation?

I am guilty of allowing days or weeks to pass without focusing on all the things I am thankful for. Sometimes it feels life becomes too busy or too stressful and there isn’t time for another single thing. Other times I emotionally detach, preventing the overwhelm of negative emotion while also missing the chance to  connect with what is good in my life. Practices such as the gratitude game bring me back to the present.

When I was struggling through a particularly difficult experience my sister in law offered up a chance to play the gratitude game. The rules are simple and everyone in the family can play.

  1. One person begins by stating something they are thankful for.
  2. The turn to share is passed to each player.
  3. Share multiple rounds (3-4 at minimum) until you feel a sense of completion.
  4. Be specific. In stead of saying “I am thankful for my friends” say, “I am thankful for Courtney, who is a friend I can be completely myself around.” Instead of “I am thankful for my health” make it “I am thankful my body is strong enough to exercise.”
  5. Allow yourself to visualize the point of gratitude. Take a breath and feel into your body.

You may notice that your state of mind impacts your ability to conjure up an expression of gratitude. It can be as simple as feeling thankful for a warm bed (that you’d rather be in to avoid the holiday) or a glass of wine (that is helping you get through those trying hours with the family.) Be honest with your feelings- no need to fein positivity if it’s not there. The fact is, there is always something to be grateful for, despite sadness, grumpy moods, or fatigue.

It makes no difference what you share as long as you bring an intention to feel the gratitude within yourself as you make your statement out loud. The simple act of focusing your thoughts reshapes the brain and allows gratitude to become a more deeply ingrained and automatic experience. It can also be a survival strategy if you are emotionally trigged. If you notice that a negative thought pops into your head, or your blood pressure is elevating because of something that has just occurred, simply say in your mind the thing(s) you are grateful for.

Maintain your boundary- a visualization

Today I am keenly aware that the holidays are coming!!

I am immune to most holiday stress because years ago I made a pact with myself to make my holidays my own.

No more loosing sight of what I want in order to fulfill other people’s expectations.

Of course life includes compromise and  holidays bring to light many competing priorities. Seeing family I love includes seeing family that triggers negative emotion. I want to stay committed to my healthy eating and crunch down some Chex mix and cookies. I want to celebrate my own traditions, while respecting invitations to join others.

With compromise and competing priorities comes the potential for stress.

Today’s visualization is a boundary exercise. Creating and maintaining appropriate energetic boundaries is essential for navigating ever changing emotional territory. Practice this in advance of a stressful situation so it’s easily evoked when needed.

I’d like to give credit to John Chitty of Colorado School of Energy Studies for introducing me to this exercise.

  1. Get comfy.
  2. Settle into yourself with a few breaths- close your eyes.
  3. Begin to visual a boundary surrounding you.
  4. If there is a clear vision of what this is- take note. Maybe it’s an energetic aura of color and vibration. Maybe you are surrounded by a rigid box or there is a fluid, flexible container holding you. If you are not perceiving anything at all and that’s fine too. Just notice if anything comes to mind.
  5. The purpose here is two fold. The first is to inventory the boundary around you. The second is to create or modify the boundary to best suit your needs. If you have no boundary at all- consider making one. If you feel vulnerable to stress, fortify the space around you. If you feel more openminded consider creating a boundary that allows a bit of a breeze to blow through. The boundary is there to meet your needs for energetic protection or connection.
  6. Now visualize a collection of boundary building resources and begin work on your boundary. Be systemic as you visualize the repair, modification, or creation of your own forcefield. If you need protection from stress, create something that brings a feeling of safety. If the intention is to remain open, it would probably make sense to shift the quality of your boundary to allow more exchange between yourself and the external environment. Allow all ideas to come to mind including material supplies, colors, textures, vibrations, shapes, emotions, memories and fantasies. Perhaps you need an exterior repellant to ensure pests cannot get through, or you need a magnetic surface that attracts positivity. Bring the spirit of a loved one in to keep you company, and be sure to consider the internal furnishing. It’s completely up to your imagination to create what you need. Experiment and see what sticks.
  7. Once you have a clear intention (protection or connection) and can visualize your boundary, reinforce your creation for a few minutes with the breath.

Now get out there and enjoy those holidays!

Self awareness through accupuncture

Today I had the most lovely of unexpected experiences.

I was invited by Julie Hackmann, L.Ac. founder and acupuncturist of Oceana Accupuncture to visit her newly opened Wilmington, NC practice. Julie specializes in women’s reproductive issues and is certified to provide fertility and prenatal treatments. Her boutique office near Wrightsville Beach is absolutely gorgeous, second only to her warm and inviting manner.

Julie provided a general wellness treatment which included the needle work as well as tuning forks. I am sensitive to the needles and let her know I was a bit needle phobic as she prepared to treat me. It is therapeutic for me to express my fears while with my providers, and Julie was very receptive, providing immediate education on both the needles and her approach to placement. I continued to provide feedback as she helped me settle in to rest on the table, which allows the treatment to unfold.

As I relaxed on the table I was checking in with my body. I tracked the present sensations occurring in relationship to the needles, the tuning forks, the bodywork table, and my thoughts. While I was lying there I thought what a unique gift it was to check in with myself in such a therapeutic environment. The experience left me feeling grounded, with a heightened sense of awareness.

I highly recommend checking out acupuncture whether for the first time, after a long time, or if you’re a regular, just to experience new providers . A well rounded healthcare team is essential to maintaining balance.  Taking care of your health is the gift that keeps on giving. The biggest reward for me is my personal evolution, which is deepened through complementary and alternative therapies.

Is there any gift greater than self awareness? 

Be the change- a meditation on positivity

Today is the day after a historic presidential election. Never have I witnessed greater disparity between parties. Friendships are breaking up over politics and even I (one committed to remaining neutral in an effort to best support the growth of others) am taking some time to process how I feel. Nobody knows yet what this may mean for our country. Rather than stewing over what is right or wrong I am offering a meditation for reducing negative, fear based thinking.

I can almost guarantee

that after giving yourself a few minutes of intentional positive thinking,

you will feel “better”. 

  1. Get as comfortable as possible, making adjustments for yourself as you gain awareness about ways you could feel better in your body.
  2. Allow the time to pass without adherence to a clock. Be it one minute or 30, duration is not what matters here- what is important is intention. This is a meditation you can take with you throughout the coming days as we adjust to a continued season of heightened emotionality. Once you get the gist of this meditation, practice it often, wherever you are throughout the day.
  3. Close your eyes and bring awareness to the way your breath feels in your body. Do not change your breathing, just notice it.
  4. Identify a positive feeling, emotion or quality you would like manifested.
  5. Create a self directed, active statement with this positive outcome and say it to yourself with every inhale. Create the statement as if the outcome has already occurred or is presently happening. For example, instead of “I wish for peace”, make it active “I offer myself peace” or “I am at peace.”
  6. The second part of the process is to extend this statement towards others with every exhale. This allows the statement of positivity to be felt within yourself with every inhale and is extended outward with every exhale. Inhale, “I offer myself peace”, exhale, “I offer peace to those around me.”
  7. As you settle in more deeply to the experience of intentionally bringing positivity to yourself while extending the same to others, your statements will likely shift. Change it up based on what you need most in the moment. Here are some other examples:

Inhaling patience, exhaling patience towards others.

I am choosing calm and grounding, I extend calm and grounding to others.

I am at ease, you are at ease.

I am loved, you are loved.

I find happiness within each day, you find happiness within each day.

Have fun with this experience and don’t worry if it’s “working”. With practice over time simply using positive language with intention can shift a bad mood, negative outlook, and defensive stance towards self and others. Remember the words of Mahatma Gandhi,

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”