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Mind-Body (Re)Connection

Mind Body Connection

As a coach, I “live it to give it.” That means that I use the same exercises and tools I use to help my clients. Sometimes I work with other coaches because it helps having someone else who can see through the stories I tell myself as well as keeps my “left brain” from interfering in messages from my body. The rest of the time, I self-coach so that it’s a part of my daily routine.

Frequently throughout the day, I will check in with my body to keep my mind-body connection flowing and strong. It’s like exercising muscles…”use it or lose it.” (Though, once a connection is made it’s too delicious to ever even want to lose it.) While every day brings new insights, one “Climb Into Body” session in particular was too mind-blowing not to share.

For some background, the past 20 years or so I have suffered from chronic back pain. On my 30th birthday, I threw my back out for the first time and then consistently continued to throw it out about once a quarter for the few years after. Between chiropractic visits, therapy exercises and core strengthening, I have been able to keep the daily pain to manageable and increased the time between herniated discs to once every couple of years. It also meant changing certain activities and awareness of ‘protecting’ my back, which has been a whisper in my mind even when I sleep.

When I first started setting a timer three times a day to “Climb Into My Body,”* it was hit or miss on whether I’d get any messages. As I learned to connect with the physical sensations (vs concepts), metaphors and messages started getting stronger. Some messages from my body are simple, others deep and profound.

Last week, when my afternoon timer went off, I had coincidentally just finished up a meditation. I had participated in Oprah Winfrey & Deepak Chopra’s “21 Day Meditation Challenge” – Day 21 was “Extraordinary Me” and focused on Joy being our greatest desire. As I pondered this question, I heard my phone beep and thought “Perfect timing!”

What is my mind thinking right now?
Answer: “What is my greatest joy?”

What emotions/feelings are running through me?
Answer: Curiosity, Calm, Wonder (are those emotions? if not, they should be!)

What sensations are in my body right now? Do a scan:

As I scanned my body and noticed various sensations starting from my feet, up my legs, into my torso and chest, down my arms, up my neck and into my head…I started to feel my heartbeat pumping blood in various parts of my body. This was a new sensation for me as usually I can feel it in my chest and yet this time, I could feel it in my head and my arms and my legs.

Again, I pretty much always have pain in my low back that goes from mild annoyance to straight out spasm (and the latter less so since starting Life Coach training). I noted the pain yet stayed focused on my heartbeat.

Suddenly my whole back started to tingle (almost ticklish) and then felt a rolling wave of icy coolness…almost like chills rolling across my whole spine into my neck and down my shoulders. It came in pulsing waves of cooling from the inside out. I didn’t dare disturb my back to check if it felt cool to the touch, but I did allow my left hand to move to my thigh and it was cold to the touch.  Keep in mind, the room I was in was hot and humid (no AC, and about 78 degrees outside).

As I embraced this sensation, I went through the exercise and noted three descriptors of the sensation: Permeating, Fluid, Soft

I named it Cool Tingle.  “I am Cool Tingle.”

I asked myself as Cool Tingle: “What is my purpose?”
Answer: “To sooth and calm you.”

I asked: “How am I hear to help Jennifer?”
Answer: “To take away your pain. To comfort you and to flow.”

I asked: “What is the wisdom I want to impart?”
Answer: “Chill out. Don’t worry. I got this. You are self-healing.”

I sat fascinated with this sensation for what felt like a long time. I thanked it, and it then subsided.

Folks – ALL my back pain was gone. I can’t describe how light my body felt, how much energy I had and my urge to move and dance and turn and twist in ways I haven’t dared to in over 8 years.

Reading and studying about the healing benefits of reconnecting with your body is one thing. To feel and witness the power of it is nothing short of miraculous.  God/Higher Power has given each of us an incredible gift in the form of ourselves and the unique gifts we offer to the world. Tapping into that and releasing parts of ourselves that have been stifled, stuffed down, disconnected from is a path I hope you all have the courage to journey through.

Namaste!

*The Climb-Into-Body tool is reprinted with permission from Martha Beck, Inc. Copyright, Martha Beck, www.marthabeck.com

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“Madam Secretary” characters as coaching metaphors

Madam Secretary Characters As Metaphors for Lizard Brain

If you’re familiar with the CBS hit TV show Madam Secretary, then you’ll recognize the major differences in problem solving between two of the main characters: Elizabeth McCord (Madam Secretary played by Tea Leoni) and Russell Jackson (POTUS’s Chief of Staff played by Zeljko Ivan).

In Martha Beck’s coaching style, she refers to people’s natural “Fight or Flight” instinct as their “inner lizard.”* While one’s lizard brain is immensely useful in emergency situations when there is clear and present danger (in fact, that’s its sole purpose for existing), it often oversteps its bounds into everyday situations which results in anxiety, worry and fatigue.

Our lizard brain is what screams in our ear that we “don’t have enough (blank)” and “something terrible is about to happen.” I have more than a few clients who’s lizard brains have gone wild and cause them a lot of suffering, stress and sleepless nights. Therefore, I wanted to provide an example of two different ways of living with our lizard brain to bring this concept to life.

Russell Jackson’s character essentially lets his lizard brain rule anything and everything he does and says. There is not a single episode where he isn’t ranting and raving about some impending disaster and then screaming at people to fix it now before the world comes to an end. Between his high pitched squealing voice, flailing hands, shortness of breath and either completely blood-drained stark-white face or bright red-blood-boiling rage…he is one heartbeat away from a heart attack. (And actually – SPOILER ALERT – in Season 3 he actually does have a heart attack during one of his rants.)

On the other hand, Madam Secretary always seems to maintain her calm, cool and collected composure…even, and especially, in the face of some pretty daunting situations calling for swift actions that truly do have world-changing consequences attached to them.  Don’t get me wrong, there are times when her lizard brain gets the better of her, but for the most part she approaches present problems with creative solutions. It’s why the job was given to her…and why she is one of the most trusted advisors to POTUS. She models one of our 8 core coaching values:

“Exist in perpetual creative response to whatever is present.” ~ Yogi Amrit Desai

Because of this approach, our heroine always finds a way when, to everyone else, it looks absolutely impossible.  She’s the “fixer.” She (and her amazing support tribe both at home and the office) makes the impossible possible and she does it with grace under pressure.

If you watch the show, it’s no wonder Elizabeth McCord’s character is beloved by all the fans of the show. We admire her morals, her ability to laugh and make jokes when the sky seems to be falling, and her aptitude for living “in perpetual creative response to the present.”

Whereas we’d never want to be Russell Jackson. I can practically see the scales on his skin. Every time I see him on the show I just want to pet his head and calm him down by saying, “There, there, Russell. Thanks for sharing. Take a deep breath and go back to your office now.”

If you don’t watch the show, I encourage you to give it a whirl. You might have some insight about how your own inner lizard affects your blood pressure and limits your ability to find innovative solutions to various challenging circumstances.  I’ve included a video clip example of the two characters’ approach to the same circumstance:

*Copyright, Martha Beck, www.marthabeck.com

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What you can expect from coaching

Improving Life, One Day At A Time

The most common question I get from new clients is “What can I expect? What do I need to prepare?”

To their relief, my answer is that there is nothing to prepare other than to create the mental and emotional space to have an honest conversation in a safe and confidential environment.

During our initial meeting, we will discuss the area(s) that are the least fulfilling or satisfying in their life: The reason they sought out coaching to begin with.  They’ll talk, I’ll listen and ask clarifying and probing questions to dig deeper.  In fact, I won’t have the answers they’re seeking…THEY will. I’ll merely use the tools that I know work (from personal experience using them on myself and others) to help my clients extract the answers that they hold inside.

Each and every one of us has an inner voice, also known as our gut. As adults we often ignore or push it to the side for a variety of reasons (social influence, upbringing, years and years of habit, etc.) and these become mental and emotional blocks that are so rutted into our minds that we need to re-teach it to have new and different thoughts. Coaching is one form of helping you to re-learn to hear your inner voice again.

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Suffering as a motivator?

Contact Us to Improve Your Life

July 6, 2017

I find it intriguing that our memories of suffering are much greater than the actual physical or emotional pain that was inflicted. Our thoughts and re-hashing of painful circumstances that continue on in our minds long after the actual situation has concluded builds up so much power it is often daunting for clients to even imagine their pain could be any less than what they genuinely believe it to be.

I’ll give you an example. My aunt Tina (name changed for her privacy) had spent the greater part of her adulthood with knee pain. In her 30s, she had full knee replacement surgery and her memories of the pain from recovering from that surgery weighed heavy on her mind. So much so that in her 50s, when the replacements had worn to the point of causing her such excruciating pain that she couldn’t walk more than 10-15 steps without needing to sit down, she still preferred that pain to another surgery.

Although she’d seen many specialists over a period of 10 years, who all suggested she do another knee replacement, she refused to have the surgery. Eventually one doctor told her:

“When your current pain exceeds the memory of your previous recovery pain, you’ll be back to schedule this surgery.”

This obviously wasn’t the first time he’d seen this with his patients.

Sure enough, her pain and compounded circumstances got so bad that she finally agreed to one of two knee replacements and told herself she’d see how one goes before scheduling the other.

Once she felt the post-surgery pain, she told me: “This pain is far less than the pain I’ve lived with for the past 10 years. I should have done this sooner.”  And she immediately scheduled her second knee for surgery as soon as the doctors would allow it.

Within a few months, she was happier and had more energy and vibrancy than we’d seen in over a decade.

The moral of the story is: Don’t let your past haunt your present and future. There is a famous adage (anonymous): “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” If you relive painful past experiences in your mind, let coaching help you find peace.

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My “Inner Lizard” Tucker

Putting Fight or Flight To Bed

The part of your brain (and all animals’ brains, really) that is responsible for your “Fight or Flight” instincts scientists have nicknamed the “reptilian brain.” It’s what is always on alert for an “attack” and identifies what is in “lack.” While it was useful back in humankind’s earliest history to survive, in our current culture it is the major source of stress and anxiety. It screams: “There is not enough ______” and “Something terrible is about to happen!”

And when we believe it, we suffer.

One of Martha Beck’s tools (from Steering By Starlight) is to identify and name your “inner lizard”*…and learn to observe when (s)he is telling us painful stories.

My inner lizard is named Tucker, after my dog, because he emulates it perfectly.  He is a rescue mutt, who we had DNA tested and learned that he is a mix of guard dog breeds (Shar-pei, Ridgeback, German Shepherd, Doberman Pincher, Akita, Am-Staff, and a few others).

When he was a puppy, we lived in a condo with only a few windows that were too high for him to see out of.  When Tucker turned three, we moved into a split-level townhouse with high ceilings and practically floor to ceiling sliding doors and windows on three sides.  None of which had window treatments.  It was only then that we learned how loudly and frequently he can bark.

Tucker immediately perched himself on the top of the stairs where he could maximize his view out two directions (and it was hard to coax him away from the spot where he could be on full alert). Every bird flying past, and every neighbor on a balcony or coming out to get mail was a threat that was met with hysterical barking, hackles up, and running from window to window to window like a crazed maniac.

If he could talk, I imagine it would have sounded like:
“Alert! Alert! Alert! Quick, save the women and children! We are under siege! AHHHHHHHH! Bar the doors and windows! Man the weapons! We’re under attack!”

It’s funny the first time. When it happens 50+ times a day, it’s exhaustingly frustrating.

And in fact, the first month we were in our new home, it disturbed Tucker so much and he was on such heightened alert that he had uncontrollable diarrhea, wouldn’t sleep and he refused to leave his post (even and especially at night while his family slept). Before that, he was always be by our side no matter what room we were in.

He became so panicked, that the noise of closing a drawer or setting down a glass would send him on a tailspin of maniacal barking and tearing around the house to determine where the invasion was occurring.

So we spoke with a few different dog behavioralists and their recommendations were the same. When he goes into a barking spree, catch his attention and call him over (don’t go to him or it re-enforces the behavior and even escalates it).  Ask him to “down” and lovingly give him a reward of petting and treats.  I was amazed at the results.

Now when a neighbor is out in their garage or a kid is riding her bike around the units, and he starts barking, I firmly but lovingly say, “Tucker here.” (Sometimes it takes a few tries to get his attention.)

He will then grumble bark while walking toward me, head slightly bowed like, “But, but, but…there’s people out there, Mom!”

When his nose touches my outstretched open palm, I say, “Tucker down.” And he crumbles at my feet, relaxed, and lets out a sigh.  I pet him and coo a gentle, “Shhhh…it’s ok. There, there. Shhhh…”  If I’m sitting on the couch, he will fall asleep at or on my feet.

I have acknowledged there are people outside, but I don’t believe that they’re going to attack us. He’s done his job in alerting me, and now he can rest and relax.

Within a few weeks, his irritated bowels recovered and he began sleeping upstairs in his bed in our bedroom again. Heck, he started sleeping again, which was a big win.

The reality of it is. We all have an inner Tucker. It believes its sole purpose is to protect us. And in a very rare occasion where a real emergency warrants an alert, it will be there fully rested and able to react clearly. All other times, we simply need to acknowledge him, and then lovingly and calmly pet him into rest.

*Inner Lizard is a concept developed by Martha Beck, Inc. Copyright, Martha Beck, www.marthabeck.com