Curiosity Cap

Do you ever approach a new situation with the assumption it is going to be terrible?

Perhaps it’s the biting cold of your first winter run. Or the inaugural road trip with a young child. Or a medical procedure that carries the expectation of pain.

The potential list is endless; we greet new experiences with a suitcase full of expectation expressed as worries or complaints.

About something we’ve never done.

We anticipate the discomfort. The annoyances. The pain.

And by doing so, we prime the pump for reality to bear out our assumptions.

Helping to ensure that the anticipated awfulness comes to be.

There is a different way.

Put down that suitcase of expectations and put on that cap of curiosity.

My curiosity cap. And a reminder not to take things too seriously.
My curiosity cap. And a reminder not to take things too seriously.

After all, this is something you haven’t experienced before, right? Or, even if you’ve done it prior, there are some variables that have been manipulated so that it is no longer the same event.

So rather than lead with a conclusion of full-on suckitude, approach with a sense of curiosity.

I wonder how the cold air is going to feel on my lungs.

It will be interesting to see how the baby responds to travel.

I’m intrigued to see what it feels like to have my body repaired.

And yes, you may find that it is terrible.

But you also leave the door open for the discovery that it’s not.

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Do you have any idea what top performers in all walks of life have in common?

(Think about that for a moment!)

You might say they’re all brilliant or that they have amazing focus and determination. 

(Perhaps!)

But I’m sure you also know many high achievers who couldn’t make it through high school, let alone college.

(So you know it’s not just smarts!)

 

What is it then?

 

Believe it or not, it’s Fitness!

(And anyone can apply this to their own life for maximum benefit!)

 

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How to Surf a Tsunami

Many of us will face a personal tsunami at some point in our lives. We will be felled by a great wave bringing with it sudden change and loss. Perhaps your tsunami is in the form of the death of a loved one, maybe it is the loss of a job or a way of life or possibly you have lost the health you took for granted. My own tsunami was in the form of an unexpected divorce after being abandoned via a text message.

Regardless of the nature of your abrupt trauma, tsunamis have some common characteristics. By their nature, tsunamis are difficult to predict and even harder to prepare for. You have to face the realization that you cannot control your surroundings. The world that you knew is gone, swept away in a single move. You feel disoriented as you try to navigate this new realm.

Soon after the trauma, it feels like it will be impossible to rebuild. The odds seem insurmountable. The shock and grief permeate everything and make every move a struggle. Restoration after a sudden trauma is not easy, but it is possible. In fact, you can even learn how to surf your tsunami, moving through it with skill and grace.

The following are my healing tips for anyone who has been flattened by a tsunami.

Breathe

The blow of sudden trauma is physical. The body tenses as if anticipating another blow. The breath is the first to suffer; it becomes shallow and rapid behind a breast wrapped tight in a straightjacket of sorrow. Release it. It won’t be easy and it won’t be automatic, at least in the beginning. Set a reminder on your phone or computer to take several deep breaths at least once an hour. As long as the body is anticipating another blow, the mind will be as well. Sometimes it’s easier to train the body and allow the mind to follow.

Read the rest here.

Flight, Fight or Breathe

Our bodies lie to us.

They send out hormones announcing an imminent threat to our well being when we take the podium or when we get into an argument with a loved one. Our heart rate increases at the thought of taking a test and our immune system is compromised because of a noisy environment. We assume we are in danger because our body tells us so.

Our bodies lie to us.

They interpret so much stimuli (internal and external) as a threat and they respond with a cascade of physiological changes and adaptations that are referred to as the flight or fight response. It begins in the amygdala, a rather primal region of the brain that responds to perceived dangers. The hypothalamus taps the adrenal gland on the metaphorical shoulder to let it know to release adrenaline which leads to a release of cortisol, know familiarly as the stress hormone. Your brain doesn’t want to make you stressed; it wants to keep you alive. It has to assume that any perceived threat is valid and it responds by stimulating an increase in blood pressure, blood sugar, heart rate and respiration. The blood flow is increased to your major muscle groups and diverted away from non-essentials, like digestion and immunity (after all, it doesn’t matter is you digest that steak or ward off that cold if you fall to the saber tooth in the next few minutes).

Our bodies lie to us.

And we so often listen. We may or may not be aware of the stressor, but we are certainly aware of our body’s response. We feel the agitation, the unease in the gut. We instinctively want to lash out, to attack the threat at its source. Or, we elect the other option and bury our heads, fleeing from the danger through action or addiction. If all threats were as simple as a saber tooth, this strategy would be effective. After all, a saber tooth and a human cannot peacefully coexist. The problem comes in that our modern lives possess endless saber toothed imposters, threats from every angle. Some of these dangers can be be effectively fought (a mistaken bill) or fled from (an obnoxious landlord). But, in many cases, we have to find a way to coexist with these imposters. They do not directly threaten our lives but, if we allow them, they can wear away at our defenses by overtaxing our adrenal system.

Our bodies lie to us.

They tell us that we must fight or flee. That we have only two choices. But there is a third option available. An option that will counteract the cascade started when the brain senses a threat. An option that teaches the body that the threats are not real and that you can be peaceful alongside of them. An option that uses the mind to teach the body.

Just breathe.

That’s it. It seems so simple, doesn’t it? But it’s not, especially when your body is screaming at you to move your fists or your feet. It’s not easy to trust, to let go of the impulse and to stay with the breath. It’s not easy to encourage the breath to slow and to allow to heart to follow suit.

Mindfulness meditation changes the body. It removes cortisol from the blood, essentially turning down the dial on the body’s alert system. Even more powerfully, meditation causes changes at the cellular level, counteracting the influence of flight or fight.

Our bodies lie to us.

They tell us that we do not have a choice. That if something is stressful, we have to be stressed.

Instead of moving your body, try moving your mind.

The mind knows the truth. We are only stressed if we allow ourselves to be. So, instead of fighting or fleeing,

just breathe.

Unless the saber tooth is real. Then, please run like the wind:)

The Four Agreements in Wellness

As a homework assignment for my recent girl’s weekend, I was asked to read The Four Agreements. I was fully willing, but somewhat skeptical, since as the only child of a counselor, I was raised on a steady diet of self-help. I think I overdosed.

After the first few pages, my skepticism was replaced with excitement and understanding. This was one book that made sense to me.

The premise is simple: four agreements that, if followed, will change your life. The book is short and the agreements are extremely simple but nowhere near easy. They are applicable to every area of life and manage to be general and still useful all at once. They are interconnected; one always leads to another.

As part of my own work with The Four Agreements, I am drilling down and applying them to various areas of life. Here is my take on The Four Agreements in wellness:

Be Impeccable With Your Word

This agreement, as it relates to wellness, is perhaps more often related to our internal dialog than our external discourse. We have a tendency to belittle ourselves, subjecting our inner selves to a constant barrage of “You’re not good enoughs.” That is not being impeccable with your word; the message does not match the underlying intent (“I am afraid that I am not good enough”) and the nature of the repeating message will cause it to be internalized and believed. An example of this is the person who thinks, “I’m too weak to stick to a diet” whenever he or she is interested in making a change. The truth is not that the person is too weak but that they are afraid of trying to change and failing.

Additionally, you are not being impeccable if your interpret a behavior as a critical flaw in your character. This message takes a simple action and turns it into something inherent and insurmountable. Just because you neglected to meditate today does not mean that you can never commit to anything. It only means that you did not do it today.

Another way that we often fail to be impeccable with our word to ourselves is that we make promises that we cannot keep. Do not commit to running every day if you have only been running once a week. It is not a realistic goal and will only cause you to have to break your promise. A promise to yourself is an important bind; only make it if you can keep it.

Do you blame others for your situation? Are you overweight because of your genes or out of shape because you are too busy to work out? Do you claim that you cannot possibly eat healthy because it is too time consuming or expensive? You guessed it, that’s not being impeccable.

Finally, be impeccable with your words towards others. Do not put them down only to elevate yourself.

I have failed to be impeccable with my word towards myself when it comes to yoga I have told myself for years that I am inflexible. The message was repeated until it was believed. Once I recognized that I was reinforcing my tight hamstrings and hips with my words, I chose to alter my internal dialog from “I am not flexible” to “I am working on becoming more flexible.” Apparently, my hips believed me, because they now can do things I never thought possible.

Be careful of what you say. You are listening.

Don’t Take it Personally

I don’t know about you, but my ego likes to tag along in the gym or in every class I take. It wants to lift more, go faster or bend further than anyone else just to prove it can.

But it’s not about ego.

It’s about making me the best I can be at that moment.

It doesn’t matter what others can do. It doesn’t matter what the readout on the treadmill says. It doesn’t matter what number is engraved on the side of the dumbbell.

None of those things say anything about you.

If someone criticizes the choices on your plate or the number imprinted on the tag on your pants, that is their ego talking. They are expressing their own struggles. It’s not about you.

Don’t Make Assumptions

We are our own worst enemies and assumptions are our biggest weapons.

I was that sickly kid who never managed to run the mile. I would end up wheezing and limping to the office to retrieve my inhaler after only a few short yards. I assumed that I couldn’t run. Even as I outgrew the asthma and became more and more fitness oriented, I assumed I couldn’t run.

Until I pretended that I could. Less than five years later, I completed a marathon.

We have tendency to assume that how we are now is how we will be. We prefer to relax with these beliefs rather than challenge them, for doing so means that we have the responsibility for our own well being.

Your own assumptions are your biggest barrier.

Turn it around. Try assuming that you can. And see what happens.

Always Do Your Best

This agreement is the reminder that we are human. We will falter and we will fail. Be gentle with yourself when you make a mistake and then recommit to doing your best.

Don’t let a small mistake become a pattern of missteps. One cookie (or even a box of cookies!) does not mean that your healthy diet is out the window. Acknowledge it, forgive it and move on.

Yoga is a wonderful teacher of this premise. It calls for you to be fully aware and accepting of who you are on the mat on that day. In that moment. It doesn’t matter what you could do yesterday or what you may be able to achieve tomorrow. Just do your best today.

These four agreements can help you achieve a more balanced and healthy life, regardless of your own wellness challenges. Be honest with yourself, don’t allow your assumptions to limit your potential, let your ego take a back seat and give yourself a pat on the back for your efforts. You deserve the best that you can offer:)

The Four Agreements in Marriage