Puppet or Pause Ability?

116663554-mannequin-style-string-puppet-or-marionette-gettyimagesLast night I was watching How to Get Away With Murder when I needed a drink. I pressed the pause button on the remote and made the trek upstairs to the kitchen. After sipping some water, I sat back down to witness Professor Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) careen between being a terrifying control freak and a horrible hot mess of a brilliant woman.

 

I felt great. I was more comfortable and noticeably more alert because I had paused. Davis’s character was still being pulled apart by her emotions. Poor Annalise …

 

We’re all familiar with pausing a show or a song to run to the bathroom or get a snack. That’s all it takes to to get what we need. It’s pretty easy, right?

 

Most pauses take a mere 3 – 5 minutes. Pauses that give us time for something other than a snack, like interrupting an emotional explosion (remember counting to 10?) or before we’re about to make a presentation or enter a social setting like a party, also take little time. But they tend to be something we only occasionally remember to do.

 

Mostly we shift quickly from one thing to the next without a moments pause. We barely register our full reaction before it’s off to the races. When we do remember to pause, we usually don’t take complete advantage of it, either.

 

Fly on the wall at Erin’s office just the other day:

Erin gets on the phone with her client, Michael, a few seconds after having an unpleasant interaction with a co-worker. Michael doesn’t t know anything about this situation but within the first few seconds he reacts to her tone of voice. She seems to be in a negative mood and distracted (which she is). He wonders if he’s done something to annoy her. Michael questions whether Erin is truly ready to give him the attention he had paid for.         Uh oh!

If you knew Erin, you’d know that she is smart, good at her job, committed to her clients, caring in her relationships, and well meaning. Erin is also a busy person. Being the mature woman that she is, Erin most likely noticed her upset. Perhaps she felt “frustration.” She probably said something to herself like “Grrr, better pull myself together, I have a call in 2 minutes, can’t deal with this now, it’s too big…” She may not have noticed her jaw clench and her breathing tighten. She certainly thought she could push the annoyance aside and get going on the next agenda item.

 

The thing is, all that pushing aside has an effect. Often it affects us in the moment, as in Erin’s first few minutes with Michael. Too frequently, the accumulation of countless unacknowledged reactions in our day leaves us drained, fatigued, short tempered and/or vaguely anxious.

 

Have you had an experience like Erin’s or have you had thoughts like these?

“But if I stop, even for just a few minutes, I might collapse and not start back up again, ever!”

 “I’ll pause after I finish this, and that, and that. Then I’ll be able to take care of me and it. ”

 “I’ll take go back and revisit it after I’ve crossed everything off my list for the day.”

 “What will a few minutes do? I have to focus on what’s important! I need to bear down.”

 

I have said these same words or a version of them. So have my clients.

 

It’s easy to get caught in believing that ignoring our selves won’t matter, or that we’ll catch up with our inner life later. It can also be a challenge to trust that pausing will make a big enough difference for us to be willing to do it.

 

It matters.

Think about how many times in your day you transition from one thing to the next. Not one, not two, could be fifty, could be hundreds. If we are carrying unacknowledged sensations from just a third of those moments with us, we are unlikely to be our best. And, that’s an understatement! By the end of the day or even earlier, we are very likely to be drained and scattered. We might observe ourselves numbing out with TV, food, or silly FB quizzes if we weren’t so busy trying to get away from ourselves.

 

Not only does our go- go life drain us of vital life energy, it robs us of knowing the best of ourselves. It impacts on work, personal relationships and our fundamental feeling of being at home within ourselves, something we rarely take the time to nourish.

 

If we begin to become aware of what’s happening inside us, we can then make choices about how to work with it. It allows us to regulate impulses, thoughts, emotions and behaviors at the micro level. With each pause we strengthen our ability to make a new choice, to allow a fresher perspective to bubble up.

 

It’s as if the pause opens the door for new possibilities to occur to us. And the ability to do that gives us the strength to pause more.

 

But, if we continue to go through life unaware, we’re more like puppets, individuals who allow life to happen to us.

 

The pause allows us to check in for a moment with who we are. The pause sets the stage for us to align who we really are with what we do. 

 9019737-hand-cutting-the-strings-of-a-puppet-giving-it-freedomThe pause cuts the puppet strings for a moment.

 

Now we have a pause, which opens up possibilities and then becomes a skill, an ability… a Pause Ability!

Thanks for coming with me this far. There’s more to come when I share one best way to pause.

If you liked this, share it!

Warmly

Judy

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Wednesday Words: Deviate Baby

crapsdiceroll It’s possible that life could get better by chance…it could happen, it sometimes does. But to paraphrase Jim Rohn, it’s more likely that life, your life, my life, will get better by change, not chance.

And, if you’re like me, the phrase “Get out of your comfort zone” feels a bit stale  (wise as this advice might be). Instead, think about the shift a small deviation can bring. Want something specific in your life to be different than it has been? Ask yourself, “What’s normal for me?” and then deviate.

Neuroscience tells us something fascinating about our brains; while one system craves routine and “normalcy,” the other thrives on variety and change. No wonder we strive to get into a groove and then before we know it that system becomes a numbing rut!

When I moved our entire household for the second time in four months, I couldn’t help but notice how essential it was to establish routines. You know, for those areas of life where going on automatic makes it possible to think about something beyond “Where’d I put the spoons?” At the same time,  it was delightful to see our stuff in new places and to register the absence of the usual. Fresh sights, sounds and smells made me more alert and I could be a smidge more present to my immediate surroundings.

You don’t have to move to experience small changes lthat remind you of your vitality.Tiny deviations, a new route to work, wearing your watch on the other wrist, saying “No” when you’d normally say “Yes,”  or, saying  “Yes,” when you’d habitually say, “No” can wake you up.  You shift perspective.  Loosened up and re-connected you just may feel emboldened to discover a different response to a persistent problem, or even go for that new form of exercise, eating habit, meditation practice, job, or who knows…

Invite some playfulness and creativity into this practice- nothing more needed than what you can already muster – and take a look at at what you can tweak this week. Post your ideas here!

Enjoy!

Judy

Sample Move Into Change Newsletter here.

Wednesday Words: Too Short For Shoulds

  • too short

Our inner score-keeper keeps track of how often and how well we live up to its demands. It’s favorite word is “should.”

  • I should exercise.
  • I should be nicer, kinder, more accepting.
  • I should eat healthier food.
  • I should read these types of books.
  • I should watch these types of movies.
  • I should be the kind of person who wants to read those books and sees those movies.
  • I should be more assertive, confident, proactive.
  • I should be grateful for what I have.
  • I should work harder, smarter, and more productively.
  • I should have better relationships with my family.
  • I should be more successful than I am.
  •  I’m not keeping score, should I?
  • I should obey the voice that tells me what I “should” do and then I’ll be…

When was the last time obeying a “should” truly gave you the sense of well-being you thought you’d get when you cajoled (coerced, convinced) yourself to do the thing you “should” do – which, let’s be honest – isn’t very often?

Never? Or, not for very long until exhaustion, apathy, resentment, rebellion, or avoidance show up. That’s because when we “should” ourselves we are aligning with only one part of ourselves. That part is prone to black and white thinking. Its solutions to our problems are usually pat prescriptions.

The “should” voice is likely an external judgment we internalized long ago and because it’s old, it lacks the nuance and flexibility of mature creative thinking (despite logical sounding adult vocabulary).

Have you noticed that when you succeed at doing  the “should,” you may experience momentary relief and then there’s a sense of hollowness. You feel empty because the “should” had no real meaning for moving your life forward now.  You may not even realize your predicament because, before you know it, more “shoulds” jump into the void.

Since it’s always asking you to keep up (because you lack whatever it’s telling you to do) keeping score can only lead to anxiety and more negative thoughts. Never enough…not good enough, if only I could get myself to do this I’d be a ___ person.

The trick is to recognize “shoulds” for what they are; only one part of many ways we talk to ourselves. No more true or right about us than any other part. We don’t have to believe it. When we are aligned with the score-keeper, when we see it as the whole truth and nothing but the truth, we do believe it and that’s where the struggle begins.

Clues that we’re aligned with the “should”:

  • Obviously, the word “should” as in, I should stop saying “should” – don’t fall for that one.
  • We get excited at the idea that finally, this time, we’ll be able to live up to the expectations.
  • We are feeling shame and this offers us the way out – but it doesn’t really protect us.
  • We don’t want to do it, whatever it is.
  • Or, we are avoiding or resisting the very thing we want to do.
  • We are worried that if we don’t listen something bad will happen, like we’ll become lazy, dishonest, a homicidal maniac, a bag lady, unlikeable, immoral, or unworthy.

We can’t banish “shoulds.”  We can learn to recognize when we’ve bought into the score-keeping attitudes. We can spend time watching our thinking so we can see that we’re more than those thoughts. We can sense in our bodies that we are more, much more than any set of rules.

We can tap into life, which is too short to waste on trying to appease the score-keeper.

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

Meditation Monday Day #93: What!

Screen Shot 2013-01-27 at 3.43.18 PM

93 days. What?!?

When I started this challenge I really had no idea how it would go. I picked 100 Breaths in 100 Days because I liked the way it sounded, truly, no other reason. Two weeks in, I was sure I’d made too big a commitment and wouldn’t able to write about meditating everyday, let alone do it. Or is that the other way around?

Anyway, there’s something here to be remembered about commitment; the power of a public commitment (hey, like marriage, you be-robed jurists in Washington) and something else about moving through a big hunky project a little bit at a time. At some point in these past 93 days I forgot about the goal, and in the forgetting I let go of ever being done. Then whoa, here I am seven days away from the “end” just noticing that I never expected it to be over. And, of course it doesn’t have to be.

More about that next time.

 How’s it going for you?

If you like what you read, please share it. Thanks.

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

Related articles & photo credit:
  • photo detail from Breathing by Anne Lindberg at the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art

You might want to check out moveintochange.com too. That’s where there’s info about coaching and coaching with me. Go… and then go forth and tell your friends. Thanks.

 How’s it going for you?

If you like what you read, please share it. Thanks.

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

Related articles & photo credit:

You might want to check out moveintochange.com too. That’s where there’s info about coaching and coaching with me. Go… and then go forth and tell your friends. Thanks.

Meditation Monday Day #86: Now

Even though it’s still cold, spring is here. I see the crocuses and the daffodil shoots aiming toward the sun, a sun that feels warmer on my cheeks than just a month ago. When I awaken early, the birds are singing their spring song, and I am reminded of the continual renewal around me; a wheel that keeps turning whether I acknowledge it or not.

Soft curving melody, bird song lifts my morning mood.

Yes, I know it’s Tuesday. It’s been a tough week for meditation practice. When the moment came each day, it seemed like everything, er, anything, was more important than doing it. What’s going on here?

I’m going to approach answering that question keeping the larger commitment I’ve made to myself – out of which Meditation Monday grew – to treat myself with as much compassion ( = love) that I can stand. Here goes:

  •  “What’s going to happen when the 100 days are over?” I’m hearing that  I’m in the car, when I wake up, before I sit to meditate… ahhh…there it is. Ahead of myself. Expectations. Thinking I have to know something I don’t know yet.
  • And, there’s a hint of sadness, too. Will something be lost when the commitment 100 Days 100 Breaths is over? I can sense the desire to rush in and protect myself from feeling it. Hello there default mode.I see you.
  • Truth is, I don’t know what this is right now, I only know what I think it is from before. I can go there and watch it with 100 breaths.

I’ll go now.

How’s it going for you?

If you like what you read, please share it. Thanks.

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

Related articles & photo credit:

You might want to check out moveintochange.com too. That’s where there’s info about coaching and coaching with me. Go… and then go forth and tell your friends. Thanks.