There is no escaping the collapse of this economy, it seems. We are either losing our job or home, or we know and love someone else who is. Educators have received their “pink slips” as budgets continue to be slashed, and foreclosures are everywhere. I have not been immune to this terrible time in our history as I face both the final stages of losing my home as well as the least busy summer season of my career. It would be easy to succumb to the grimness of it all if I wasn’t a person who practices what she preaches!
Anyone who has heard my talk knows the importance I place on taking care of myself first. This is not selfish! This is necessary work if I’m to be useful at all. Each of us has such a critical job to do on this planet as we raise, educate, and/or make our own unique and invaluable contribution to the generations to come. As a mother to my 6-year-old boy, Jules, I can’t afford to fall apart! Instead, I can choose to understand this predicament as a profound opportunity to continue to practice what I preach even when it’s hard, and to be that kind of example to Jules.
My saving grace has been all the work I’ve done up until this point to stay out of my head, so…
ONE IMPORTANT TIP: STAY OUT OF YOUR HEAD! Here are 3 ways how:
1. Do something that brings you a deeper awareness of your sensations. Anytime we are focused on our bodily sensations (i.e. how we are breathing, where we feel comfort or relief inside, what part of us feels planted on the ground or in our seat) we are free from thoughts. It is our thoughts that almost always lead us down the path of misery. Our thoughts too readily consist of judgments that lead to feelings of lack, guilt, shame, regret, or hopelessness. Our senses of smell, hearing, sight, touch, and taste are our liberation from defeatist thought. If we can enjoy the sensory moment we are in, whether sitting on the grass feeling the breeze or snuggling under soft covers with a delicious hot chocolate, we can experience the kind of relief from thought we so desperately need. It takes practice to stay focused on sensations so that we can move from one present moment to the next instead of back into regret about the past or worry about the future, but the more we practice the more automatic this becomes. Trust me, it’s the medicine we are looking for!
2. Practice replacing one negative thought or judgment with a more loving one. Turn it on its head immediately. State the opposite thought or judgment out loud, repeatedly. Be committed to replacing all the shame you have for yourself with compassion because you are human after all, imperfect, and powerless at times to do any better than what is possible at the time, just like everyone else! Those of us who have ridiculously high standards for ourselves, have them for others, keeping us burdened by bitterness and shame. Bitterness because of course others are letting us down! That’s what they do when our standards are a close approximation to perfection! And shame because we let ourselves down. We can’t keep up with our own idealized image of ourselves! Accept your humanity as the mess that it is so you can accept others. Then forgiveness and compassion are possible for you and for them so that we can all be in this together in a REAL way. And believe me, NOW is the time more than ever for us not to be isolated from one another but to truly be in it together.
3. If #2 sounds like I had you back in your head, here is how to be sure this remains a sensory process: Bring your awareness to, and focus on, how the more loving thought translates into a soothing experience in your body. It always does. You’ll sigh, breathe deeper, feel your feet on the ground, and/or suddenly notice the sun shining or the birds chirping…You’ll find your heart rate and blood pressure decrease as you commit to being conscious of the sensory moment you are in. Combined with loving thoughts and self-compassion, it is your five senses that bring the relief we look for in other not so healthy ways. And even when you’re having that chocolate cake or glass of wine, try these 3 ways to stay out of your head at the same time. Over time, with practice and commitment, you will find yourself slowing down, needing less, and freeing yourself from more than just the negative thoughts in your head, but from the whole cake or the whole bottle of wine! That feels good! And you all know if you’ve been to my talk that my favorite and most important neuroscientific fact is: “We only do well when we feel good.” So let’s get on with it then, yes?