Today!

Today

My friend Carol, who’s absence is an ache in my heart, loved the word RESPECT.  Carol played seriously and learned playfully, continually calling on me to Re-Spect or “look again” during countless staff development days when I was her teaching colleague.

What does it mean to look again? It means that there’s always an opportunity to become more there for what’s here.. for a moment, for a person, for a situation, for a problem, for a feeling.

It means that what we thought was true about that moment, that person, this problem, that situation, this feeling, might have something else that’s true about it, too. Or, our interpretation might morph into one entirely different from what we thought at first pass.

Looking again might require a quick shift, a question, a breath between thought and action – or pause. Or, it might require a longer commitment to practices that help us suspend judgment so we can listen more closely to deeper truths… whatever they might be.

Looking again might apply to worrying, or some other habitual thought process like judging others, or some other default mode we use to comfort ourselves or to numb our wounded hearts. Each time we look again we add another droplet, our droplet, to the greater lake of humanity, becoming more…

Yesterday,  I was watching an older man with a very young girl in the pool. The older man was gruffly exhorting the 5-year old to swim faster and farther. To my horror, as the girl swam closer and closer to him, the man put his hand out and pushed her tiny head underwater and then stepped backwards, waiting calmly for her to resurface and swim an even greater distance.

I blazed with indignation on the girl’s behalf. I pretty near vibrated off the chaise with self-righteous parenting and teaching knowledge. Luckily, I knew to say nothing.

Moments later Dmitri was sitting next to me telling me his story. This child is his joy,  his grasp at a life beyond grief after the loss of his first- born adult child who died in an accident one week before college graduation. This little girl loves to swim and Dmitri makes time every day to play in the pool with her, sometimes twice a day. He adopted her recently. Dmitri loves her with his whole old-school heart. Well, crack mine open.

If you struggle with not enough time, now is the perfect moment to look again. What do you think about time? Does it rule you? Do you allow the unimportant to derail you? What’s really important to you, anyhow? Do you believe you have to manage time by doing 5 things at once, or by berating yourself for not getting through #99 in your To Do list?

How willing are you to look-again at what gets in the way of being in time, in sync, with your priorities, the true ones?

We all have the same amount of time each day – everyone one of us, the Dalai Lama, Oprah, the bus driver, the hoodied guy at library searching online for jobs, the jogging mom balancing a latte while pushing a double-wide stroller, and the twenty-something on her way to work at Walmart headquarters.

So today, what will you re-pect? Will it be you?

 

 

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Wednesday Words: Worry much?

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I don’t know about you, by my internal worry machine manufactures worries like a factory on a deadline. And yet, I’m posting Wednesday words today, Thursday, and not worrying about it. This departure is an intentional deviation from the usual second guessing and “what ifs” that can make up a significant portion of my inner chatter.

Unravelling the worry habit takes some doing – or some undoing, that is. I’ve been working with it for years. My clients struggle with it too.

The creative mind can be prone to worry.

Creative thinking always involves the question “What if?” What if I combine these ingredients in the sauce? What if  we make a phone that’s small enough to carry everywhere? What if people could fly? The “what if mind” is generative. It’s usually imaginative too,it gets busy picturing possibilities and conjuring scenarios.

Consider what happens when we combine that fertile imagination with fear, “What if I try and then fail?” “What if  I can’t manage all my To Dos?” “What if the interviewer asks me something I don’t know.” “What if I  miss the train? ” “What if what I want isn’t possible?”

What if you saw your ability to worry as creativity gone off track? Is there more space for you to deal with it? Is there an opening to approach the equation, imagination + fear,  differently?

Worrying is a poor substitute for action.

A client recently said, ” I fool myself into thinking that I’m doing something when I worry.” She’s right, worry has energy, it can make our heart race, thoughts travel through our minds sometimes far into the future, and then… and then…. This can feel like doing something. You’re not. This is a mind trap.

Human brains are wired for action. If you’ve been around children you know that asking them to “stop running” is much less effective than asking them to “walk.” Why? Because we respond much better to directives that require forward movement. Positives not negatives. Do this instead of Don’t do that.

Worry = Love. Not.

At every family gathering for what seemed like years, my stepmother pulled me aside to say,”Your dad loves you, he worries about you all the time.”  Have you been told that worry is proof of love, an act of love or care or concern. Is it? Really? Are you sure?

Many of us learned to worry instead of learning to do the things that actually are loving to others and to ourselves.

Habitual worrying has effects – worrying about them won’t change anything.

One consequence of persistent worrying is that It begets more worry.  Deeply unsatisfying, worry causes constricted muscles, headaches, unease and possibly dis-ease. Even more reasons to worry! Not only are we out of the present moment when we worry, but we’ve begun to,what the Buddha calls “bend the mind,” that is, we see more of what we think about and that becomes our reality. Yikes.

Worrying may be a habit (which provides some level of comfort) but it isn’t action, it isn’t proof of care, it alters your reality and it isn’t asking for what you want.

It isn’t even fun.

 

 

 

Dissolving a Habit

If you like this kind of thing- tips and tools for self-coaching- you can sign up for the Move Into Change Newsletter here. Below is an example of one type of content you’ll get.

DISSOLVING A HABIT: 5 IDEAS FOR A PLAN

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.

Judy

Say Good Night Gracie or Who Says Simple Transitions are Easy for Adults?

Remember the book GOOD NIGHT MOON? 

Quick refresher: in it, author Margaret Wise Brown gently nudges children from waking towards sleep by simply saying “good night,” to the everyday objects and people in the child’s room.

Transitions…here and there green leaves are showing hints of yellow and orange. The school year has started. Right now the Days of Awe, which for practicing Jews, are the ten days of  passage from one year into the next.

Transitions have been so much on my mind  that when creating the new installment of Sunny Ideas for a Rainy Day for 2-6 year-olds, I found myself writing about the power of routine to support daily transition times in young children’s lives.  And clients too, have been asking for help getting to bed at a decent hour (regularly), re-entering home after work, managing interruptions to their flow, taking time for a non-work during lunch weekday, wondering how to put their work lives to bed at the end of the day –  the transitions embedded in everyday life.

Interesting, because by the middle of last week I was fairly wrung out. The Listening From Your Body of Knowledge:For Parents workshop is coming up and after practically downloading the curriculum from my brain, I  searched music for the awesome playlist; collaborated with Adman on the brochure (more writing); composed and sent a series of email announcements; rode around White Plains dropping off brochures; and created new contact lists (importing contacts into distribution lists, one by one, not my idea of bliss). This in addition to seeing clients (whom I love – hello clients), blogging, writing, finishing and then announcing the new Sunny Ideas books (see last sentence for emailing, list making tedium ) and well, I haven’t even mentioned the legions of repairmen that have been showing up here at Casa Garfinkel.

So what? Everyone is busy. So true. What I’ve noticed is that part of the exhaustion coming from all this busy-ness is a direct result of forgetting that a stopping place is needed. And, that I need transition support to get to that ending too. I need my own GOOD NIGHT MOve Into Change and my own hello day.

There’s something powerful about setting up routines that truly guide a transition. And, something necessary about consciously participating in the routine instead of going on automatic. I think mindless routine is usually a bad idea. So as an experiment, I’ve been doing this. I’m calling it the Brown Approach to Transitions of BAT ( as in go to BAT) in honor of Margaret Wise (don’t you just love her middle name?) Brown.

BAT

  •  Setting a reasonable time to end – in my case, stop working
  •  Saying (aloud, if no one’s around) “Time to put the work day to bed”
  •  Deliberately pick up each item and find the right place for it. Write down what needs to be remembered for tomorrow.
  • Saying “Good night Move Into Change”
  • Walk away

Obviously, you’ll need to tweak this for your specific transition, but you can see how it’s applicable, yes? And, in case your inner critters are sniping that this is so silly cause you should just be able to just stop working and move on – let them know that this is sophisticated self care.  And, as this is an experiment, I will report on my observations (and therefore, have proof). Wanna join me?