Dissolving a Habit

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The sink in my new home is across from the stove to the right instead of beside me to the left, the way it was in my old place. No big deal, except each time I want the sink I turn to the left before I realize that it’s the other way.

This habit of turning to the left worked well in the old kitchen situation but doesn’t here. That’s the way it is with habits. They may have worked before but now, they don’t.

50shousewifeNo, not really me.:)

Habits exist so that we don’t have to think so much.

Imagine if we didn’t create habits. We’d be rethinking all things all the time. We’d be up in the middle of the night deciding which way to get to the bathroom, or thinking about how to form the letter “a” while trying to write our thoughts.

We’d be exhausted and still never get beyond inventing the wheel…or to the toilet in time.

Habits, a.k.a, patterns, put us on “automatic,” resulting in large parts of our lives being better. Easier.

We can thank our brains for this ability to be efficient.     Basal_Ganglia_and_Related_Structures.svg

The Basal Ganglia, is a big player in habit making.

Every habit we have serves a purpose, some way it made our life better at the time we made it, though that purpose may not be as simple, or obvious, as getting to the sink quickly with a hot pot of pasta.

So what to do when a pattern no longer helps us?

When the mindlessness of “automatic” makes it difficult to be as healthy, productive, creative, kind, or as loving as we desire it’s time for a change.

Luckily, our brilliant brains are adaptable too. Some patterns re-adjust or shift on their own, subconsciously, the same way they are made. I’m sure that I’ll soon have a new pattern in the kitchen and that cute little spin I do at the stove will disappear.

It’s trickier when a habit  doesn’t change on its own.

If it’s an old habit, chances are it’s not going to shift as easily as my kitchen example. At this point, dissolving a pattern requires coaxing its reasons for being out from the gray world of rote behavior into the brighter light of gentle inquisitiveness.

It requires mindfulness.

And a plan.

A plan unique to you.

I hope you’ll use the following 5 elements to craft such a plan. When I work with clients I use these very same elements. A recent client stopped smoking, another is exercising every day, and another is making different food choices. I quit biting my nails years ago by incorporating these elements into a plan.

  • Do things that help you learn about yourself and your body like journaling, meditation,  PauseAbilities,yoga, therapy, energy work.
  • Find ways to quiet the judging and shaming yourself for having this habit, or waiting too long or not moving fast enough or whatever way you shame or “should” yourself.
  •  Start learning about the needs you are meeting by maintaining this habit. There can be more than one current one, and older ones too.
  • A. Cut down slowly and intentionally. B. Introduce new behavior that meets the needs behind the habit.
  • Celebrate the small victories! They add up and keep momentum flowing.

All 5 elements are equally important to creating the type of plan that doesn’t emphasize outer or inner work, but integrates the two.If you like this, please share it. Responses, comments and questions are always welcome.


Meditation Monday: I need a mom…

middle pillar“I’m not tired.” Remember being five and insisting you weren’t tired even as you were crying for no apparent reason or running around like a crazed chipmunk?

I do. And, I remember being on the mommy side of this moment too; knowing that I needed to insist that it was “time for bed” because my little one just couldn’t figure it out for herself.

This week I did everything to not meditate. Well, it seemed like everything… I was cranky, uncomfortable, tired, distracted – looking everywhere for relief, except to the one thing that would bring me back to me.

It happens.

Luckily, after a few days of flailing Meditation Mommy came to visit. She’s the part of me who remembers to take care of me when the rest of me forgets. She has all the qualities I need:

  • A squishy lap: softness
  • Hugs: warmth
  • Loves me when I’m a mess (or think I am): acceptance
  • Sparkly blue eyes: aliveness
  • Unlimited ability to listen: empathy
  • Nowhere else to go: patience
  • Holds the superpower of Yes: trust
  • Knows what I need: wisdom

She took me gently by the hand and steered me to the mat. She insisted (kindly, of course) that I sit, “Just for a few minutes.” Assuring me that,       “After you’re done you can go back to any craziness you choose.” So I did. And then, of course, I didn’t.

You can sign up for occasional emails with tips and tools for self coaching and more, just click moveintochange.com  Then go forth and tell your friends. Thanks.

Want to ask a private question? email: judy@moveintochange.com

Maple syrup, Inner DJ and what I can’t show you in a blog

maple-budsI get downright giddy when I see the baby leaf buds on the maple tree outside my window.

They remind me that while I was padding around in triple layers of clothing (in April!), the forces that be were taking care of things under the surface.

I don’t know why I forget this. It’s not that I don’t remember the basics of earth science. It’s that, just like everyone else, I lose contact with the fact that I know. When it’s cold and gray, I feel like I’m never going to see green ever again.

The same thing can happen when I’m working on a project. I start to wonder if I’ll ever be able to get there.

It can happen when making a big or big-ish decision. I question how I’ll know.

Or, I’m just tired of hearing my same answers to important questions.

I can get stuck. It might feel like confusion, or look like procrastination.

This kind of thing has probably happened to you.

So what can help?

Shaking up your thinking with  questions that challenge you can be great. Questions like, who says; what rules do you have about how you should behave (or who you should be), that are keeping you from moving forward;  if you secretly knew what to do, what would it be, or who are you trying to please.

AND, that may not be enough.  Let’s go back to the trees.

All manner of interesting processes were at work inside that maple tree long before I noticed its new growth.

What that means for us and our “stuck” is that in order to get to fresh ideas and discover next steps, we need to tap into the good stuff happening deeper under the bark.  Going there yields new, surprisingly useful and tasty information – think maple syrup.

How to tap in?

Below is a simple way to use music to access your intuition/under conscious knowing. I call it Inner DJ  (novice version).

By the way, you can access your inner knowing through collage, and with me in the flesh, by signing up for the Artful Insight Collage workshop. more here. I’ve got some cool coachy tricks to show you there that I can’t show you here in Blogland. In the meantime, Inner DJ,

  1. Tune into your body sensations by staging a sit in, or lowering your landing gear.
  2. Next bring to mind some place you’re either stuck, or a situation (thing, project, relationship, issue) and gently ask for some insight into it.
  3. Now scroll through your music playlist, or scan your CDs (or vinyl) and grab whatever gets your attention. Don’t ask why you picked something.
  4. Now look at the titles, listen to your picks.Something may set off an AHA! or it may be more subtle, like an image that pops in or a lyric you can’t get our of your head. It might not happen right away – could  though.
  5. Let yourself notice how this might affect the “thing” you were working on. Try not to force it.
  6. Then, IMPORTANT, leave it alone. Let it percolate. Good stuff will happen.

Like this? Please share. Thanks.                                                                                       Go to moveintochange for info about coaching and coaching with me.

Wednesday Words

chooseauthenticitybadgeIt is a choice and the door to joy and freedom. You can download this badge here. If you don’t know know the work of Brene Brown, go now and listen to her TED talk or better yet, read her books.

If you like what you read here, please share with your friends. And, you can go to moveintochange.com to find out about coaching and coaching with me there.

Wednesday Words

DO SOMETHING TODAY THAT YOUR FUTURE SELF WILL THANK YOU FOR.                                                                                   Judy G.
One thing!! You can do that.
If that was easy then try this trio of terrific tasks.
The Threes:
  1. Make a list of 3 things you can do this week that your next Wednesday self will be so happy you did.
  2. Make a list of 3 things your one- year-from-now future self will be so proud you did.
  3. Pick one from each list that you can commit to.
  4. I know I said 3 but I’m sneaking in this extra fun one; ask your future self (who has already done you proud) what you did to get you there. And then do them!

If you like what you read here, please share with your friends. And, you can go to moveintochange.com to find out about coaching and coaching with me too!



An ongoing list of Sweet Projects About Revealing Keys

On this list are things I know sustain me that I want to make sure I keep doing. There are those items I suspect will spark new energy but haven’t tried at all, and then there are the ones that have potential if I did them more. Also on the list, those things that got me going in the past but went into hiding. Oh yeah – and some of it scares me.

Start with a spark, turn it into a flame, time for a change, there’s no one to blame…” words to a winter solstice song written by children at the Mead School years and years ago and sung to this day.

The 2013 version (so far):

  • Meditate
  • Yoga
  • Music – going to see it live
  • Dance – improv class, 5Rhythms, all around the house
  • Stay up late (see music)
  • Write
  • Make soup
  • Cook a steak
  • Swim
  • Focus with a partner
  • Send goofy emails to Adman
  • Call my sisters
  • Write all my To Dos in metallic colors
  • Create then laminate
  • This one is a stand-in*: go without my glasses
  • Make new friends
  • Say no to tabasco sauce – also a stand-in*
  • Walk in the cold
  • Steer clear of wheat without being rigid about it
  • Examine stuff, give back what’s not mine, find others who can use what’s not wanted, get rid of the rest- yes, all meanings implied
  • Read poetry
  • Move through the day, each day, filled with purpose
  • Learn Spanish
  • Do push-ups
  • Dress up

Have you noticed those glimmers- those things, people, activities, and ideas that have the potential to warm you, give you glow, energy, and hope for change? What’s on your SPARKs list?

* Stand-in: Some topics feel too personal to share.  Enter the stand-in. In the movies, the stand-in substitutes for the real actor during technical aspects of filming or as a body double.

Yes, That Was Me

Yes, that was me skipping.

If you were in Manhattan somewhere near 77th street on the east side you might have seen me (red cowboy boots, black coat and hat) step-hopping like a six year old.

Smiling too. Really, how can you skip down the street without a goofy grin?

Someday I may reach the level of freedom where I can skip for absolutely no reason at all, however today, I had reasons:

(in no specific order)

  • It’s fun to be me.
  • I spent the day working with uncommon, courageous,  and clever people – my clients.
  • The sun is shining.
  • A man sitting on the corner liked my boots.
  • A Buddhist monk, bowed to me, put a bracelet on my wrist and wished me peace.
  • I get to help people identify what is essential in themselves and give them tools they did not have before (or had but didn’t know how to use) to make that gift their compass.

And, I made my train.

If you’re the type of person who can skip in public, will you share, here, those things that inspire your skippy self?

If you aren’t into that kind of thing, what makes your heart (if not your body) leap for joy?

Ask Judy #4: The Problem With “Why” or Try a Little Tenderness

“Why” is a fantastic question. So, this post isn’t an effort to remove it from our language, or anything remotely like that. Lately though, I’ve been listening to how some of us use Why questions against ourselves, against other people or situations, mostly unknowingly, or let’s say, unintentionally.

For example, I have a client who has just begun to notice the power of her inner critters (critics). She has become aware of how difficult it is for her to accept acknowledgment from others, or celebrate her own strengths and accomplishments – big or small.

I’ll stop here and state how cruddy it is to want to feel good and to then notice the pattern of perpetuating the not feeling good. Ouch, yuck, and – what use is self awareness if I still feel cruddy anyway? Oh yeah, I know this one really well.

Back to my client, call her Teresa. Teresa wants things in her life to change. She wants out of the patterns that she sees are holding her back. And, she’s in that place where she’s sick of the old, but when she starts to get a glimpse of the new (and how to go about taking small steps to change her pattern) the Why questions start.

Why do I have this pattern?” Why don’t I just change already? Why do I always do this? And, my all time favorite, “Why, if I can see what’s wrong, don’t I just act on what I know?”

That last question can be the subject of this blog for the rest of my life, so let’s leave it alone for now and move on to, the problem with why. Don’t get me wrong, finding out  why a pattern began is valuable work. But, have you noticed that the Why questions above (or substitute your own)  really aren’t about loving inquiry into what might be under a pattern, but more of, well, blaming?

Mostly blaming ourselves.

Why, in this context, is about looking for what’s Wrong.  Under the guise of figuring it out, we look for the bad, or really, who’s been bad (and guess who that turns out to be?). And, on top of that, we’ve  convinced ourselves that answering the question will bring us the relief we seek. In my experience, this doesn’t happen. The answer isn’t in the reason, but in the relationship with the reason, but that’s also a subject for a future blog potentially titled, “Needing to Know.”

Back to Why. When working with young children, I learned pretty early that, why, as in, “Why did you hit johnny with that truck?” goes nowhere productive. When you ask why in that situation here’s what happens:

  • Jenna, who hit Johnny with the truck, may not know why.
  • Asking why makes Jenna feel stupid, confused and possibly humiliated that she doesn’t know, ’cause if you’re asking her, the expectation is that she should know.
  • AND, she probably hit Johnny because she was scared, angry, or hurt and she didn’t know how to deal with it.
  • That’s pretty overwhelming as it is, and Why from an adult just scares her more.
  • Scared = flight, fight or freeze.
  • The answers you will get at this point are; stone faced silence, running away, “I don’t know” or some version of, it was Johnny’s fault.

See how that works? This post is too long already, so I won’t go into what might be happening for Johnny.

We aren’t much different from Jenna except that now we get to be both scared child and interrogator.  Asking why, when we’re feeling terrible just adds to the confusion and/or self-loathing we already feel.  We think we “should” know, we “should” be able to do something about it and we “shouldn’t”  try anything new (or fall back while we’re learning) unless we can know why there’s a problem in the first place.  Gaaaah.

The first thing to do here is the opposite of analyzing the problem. Why can’t help us here. But tenderness can.  Finding some intentional practice of listening to ourselves with tender regard, as we would hold a tiny seedling that we need to re-pot, or watch a bird hatch from its egg, can bring relief. From here, we are free to know more about what we might really need to do to move forward.

There are lots of great practices to investigate. You might try Exploring the Perimeter, it’s a good start. When I’m really desperate, I pick a part of my body I feel pretty neutral about – like my thumbs- and I sense them (eyes closed) with as much patient gentleness as I can possibly stand for as long as I can.

Listening to Otis singing Try A Little Tenderness here couldn’t hurt either.

Stuck In A Rut

Stuck in a rut. Hmm…what does that mean?

A rut: a path, a channel,a track, a trench. When it comes to creating ease, a rut can be a good thing. Those first few runs down the snowy hill with a sled are tough going, but after multiple trips that pack down the snow – wheeeee! Getting into a groove- we want that. In the 60’s “groovy” meant filled with cool, ease and, like man, way fun.

Learning is like that. Establishing patterns is like that. So what happens to make an established pathway, a safe and well maintained superhighway, you might say, feel – er, not so super.

One thing that happens is our life situations change, and while we change and grow along with those situations,  the  pathway we established to support the “old” us, doesn’t help us anymore. In fact, since other parts have grown and this part hasn’t, it can actually hinder forward motion. This can feel like struggle, frustration, even anger, and this saps our self-esteem.

Another thing that happens is we lose sight of the meaning of the routine. We get complacent. We had set up patterns (consciously or unconsciously) to help us feel safe during change, but the routine becomes an end unto itself, instead of a series of steps to get us though something difficult or on to somewhere new.

Before we know it, we are “going through the motions.” We are no longer participating, but we’re are hoping that the motions will stand in for meaning. Nope. Boredom, apathy and lethargy can be signs that this is what’s happening.

Stuck in a rut can look like a small thing, like realizing that the, walk to kitchen -> make coffee while grumbling,  morning routine used to set you up for the day, but now, you don’t even notice the taste of the coffee. Or it could be bigger, like waking up to the fact that the work you dreamed about doing and thought you would be buried doing, no longer makes you feel anywhere near good anymore (that was me two years ago).

What to do? First, change something. Change something small. Have tea. Get a new mug. Practice paying attention. Small changes beget bigger ones. Ask the part of you that dismisses the small thing as pitiful compared to the big change that’s really needed, to please take a break while you play a bit.

This video is artist Levni Yilmaz ‘s take on getting out of rut – it’s funny- and you’ll understand how it applies to you, cause you’re smart.

How do you react to these words about life and change?

These are some words that come to me when I muse about who I am, what I do, why I do it and who might need what I’ve got. They have specific meanings for me.

What about you? What feelings come up when you look at them; excitement… judgement… curiosity… fear… apathy… anticipation… expansion… resistance… Which ones resonate? How?


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