Some of you know I began my foray into behavior change via dog training and weight loss. I was a client and then a coach of using habit change for weight loss, and in dog training school I learned basic mammalian neurology (remember, we are animals). Both of those experiences left me with a ton of curiosity about how our brains work, how our thoughts shape our behavior and therefore lives, and how to best teach that to others in a way that was simple and practical.
All of that was ten years ago (time does go faster as you get older). As I kept exploring, and I do think of this all as an exploration, sometimes it feels like spelunking into a giant network of caves, and other times it feels like climbing a mountain where I couldn’t really see all the terrain I had to go over from the bottom. Either way, this human brain of ours, while having some distinguishing recognizable features, has pockets and side trips and hidden canyons that take more time to traverse than one thinks, and sometimes we come across glorious wildflower meadows or hidden caves that are stunning in their beauty and experience. And then there are the unexpected swamps, cliffs narrowly missed, or blocked passages that necessitate rerouting.
An upside is that for most of us, often the terrain is less treacherous than we predict. Time and time again, my clients find out that their poor self-concept is like the monster under the bed- imaginary. That doesn't mean that it doesn't take courage to face your fears. Far from it. Dismantling and letting go of ideas we have about ourselves is some of the most difficult inner work a person can do.
What I want to talk about are these places of great beauty and deep experience we stumble upon as we go along our journey.
Sometimes it is a complete surprise, like when people talk about the deeply meaningful moments they have with loved ones who are in the death process. Or when a person overcomes a great hardship and is changed for the better forever by a horrendous experience. Or the everyday glimpses we get- maybe you have a headache, a long list of things to do, and a sick child and yet, you look up when you get out of your car and see a beautiful sunset that touches your soul.
As one of my teachers says, there is always going to be challenge, and there is always going to be support, no matter what. Whatever actions you take, whatever choices you make, both will be there. What you do have control over is where you choose to focus. When we focus on our present experience and consciously look for the good, we have a more pleasant experience of life.
And here is one of my most favorite things about being alive- there is a gentle, grounded, peaceful sensation just waiting for you. Waiting for you to stop thinking, comparing, and judging, and just stop and rest in your own body. To exhale and rest back into the support of your own heart, your own back, and gravity. It's there, you’ve just been too busy to notice.
Two of the fastest ways I have found to get there are:
Lay on your back on the floor with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Let your arms and hands be where ever they want to. Let your low back relax and your head rest fully on the floor. Each exhale, let your weight drop more into gravity. I usually set a timer for 10-15 minutes.
Hands-on-heart breathing- download here.
Another doorway there is when you see beauty and when you feel love or affection. Let it land in your heart.
When you find that sense of calm inside, really feel into it. Notice what it feels like in your limbs, in your breath, in your bones. That way you can access it again, and you can start to build it into your day.
Places I feel it in my days are when I hug my dog or husband first thing in the morning, when I have my first few sips of tea, when I feel the warm water in the shower, when I sit down to get ready to write and I make sure that I’m comfortable, warm enough, and have a big glass of water. When I lay down in my bed to rest at night. Those are the tried and true times. I also look for it actively. When I see things that I find beautiful, do creative projects, write, or get extra hugs from my husband and dog, or interact with other people in a meaningful way, it's there. Love is in my heart and I am at rest in me.
Said in another way – let things reach your heart. Feel things. Inside of yourself you’re safe. No one else will notice. And you can be vulnerable where no one else can see it. Practice being vulnerable to the sensation of love. Of connection. Of appreciation. Of grace. Just let some of that in when it’s around. Soften your edges a little bit. Look at your life with soft eyes. Look at yourself with soft eyes.