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Transformation

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13

Jun

Rites of Passage


ayahuasca ceremony space

What were your major rites of passage?

Are there major transitions in your life that you feel lacked, but should have been marked by such a ritual?

I have often wondered about the hell that was my teenage years. So many seem to languish there never truly sure when they have transitioned into adulthood. In other times/cultures I might have been put through a trial or ritual. I might have tasted death. Perhaps I would have returned with a new appreciation for life. As it was, I think the closest I came to a real rite of passage was my use of psychedelics. My experiences with ayahuasca in particular were revelatory (the picture above is of the ceremony space where I was
in Brazil)

Join me for a discussion about Rites of Passage this coming Monday, June 17th at 7pm at One Spirit Learning Alliance in NYC. I’m hosting as part of our monthly series of Integral explorations, but the evening will be led by the wonderful Mackenzie Amara. All are welcome. Here is the info on the integral group on Meetup.com. You can find out more details about the event and RSVP here: http://www.meetup.com/kenwilber-58/events/112904392/. The invitation that went out is below.

Traditionally, rites of passage are the ceremonial rituals surrounding the transition from one life stage into another. Birth, childhood to adolescence/adulthood, marriage, childbirth, adulthood to elderhood, secret society initiations, and death are some longstanding examples from indigenous communities. Anthropologist and historian Mircea Eliade explained that a rite of passage, no matter the life stage in question, opens the doors for the initiate to receive the spiritual teachings of his/her community. A rite of passage is an initiation into the cultural mythos, the spiritual wisdom of the collective.

The Western world is largely void of these ceremonial passages, a deficit that results in distinct pathologies. Psychologist Bill Plotkin refers to the Western psyche as “patho-adolescent,” meaning it possesses all of the psychological pathology of adolescence, without harnessing the evolutionary potential.

Mackenzie Amara is a student of psychology and passionate about the potential that the archetype of initiation holds for our collective evolution. In this evening’s discussion, we will explore the history and context of traditional rites of passage, what potential they hold for unlocking a collective awakening, and what modern developmental psychology has to offer us in paving this new road.

 

25

Feb

Habit Reversal Training – How to Change Habits

Devin_Martin-nose_pick

PART 1  : THIS IS PART 2 OF A 3 PART SERIES ON HABITS : PART 3

Last week I began talking about how habits work and how, by increasing our awareness of the simple pattern that all habits seem to follow we can choose to replace bad habits or install good ones. The ideas that I am discussing are from a new book by Charles Duhigg called “The Power of Habits.” I Introduced the cycle of cue – routine – reward that Duhigg describes and gave you a brief overview of how to identify and bring more awareness to the cues that precede the behavior or habit you wish to change.

Once you have identified and tracked the cues that send you into autopilot you can now choose to follow that cue with a healthier, more supportive behavior. Consider the woman I mentioned who bites her nails. When she gets bored and feels a tingling in her fingertips her old behavior was to start rubbing her finger tips feeling for bumps or edges. When she found one she would chew on it and then, on autopilot, proceed to chew every nail on her hand until here nails were completely smooth (or completely removed). Once she had smoothed out the skin and nails on every finger she felt a sense of completeness, her reward (more about this later).

Step two of reprogramming her habit after identifying and tracking her cues was to install a new program. Whenever she became aware of the cue, of boredom leading to a tingling sensation in her fingertips, she was to do something which physically stimulated her fingertips such as rub them on her arm or wrap them on a hard surface. She practiced this routine with her therapist for 30 minutes and was then sent home with another index card. This time she made a check when she felt the cue and a hashmark when she successfully engaged the new physical stimulation. A week later, after biting her nails only 3 times instead of the usual 18 she rewarded herself with a manicure. This felt satisfying and rewarding in much the same way that completing a round of nail biting did.

cue-routine-reward-swap

Did you catch that? The key is not avoidance. When I say “don’t think of a purple elephant” what are you doing? You are thinking of a purple elephant. When I say “don’t bite your nails” what are you thinking about? Biting your nails. This can actually increase the compulsion and anxiety. If I help you to recognize the trigger that leads to biting your nails and then offer you an alternate behavior suddenly you have options. You have a new coping mechanism and instead of simply trying to shortcircuit the cycle you are completing it in an alternate way.

A similar routine replacement is described for other patterns. A man who snacks when he is bored at work recognizes that the rewards of going to the cafeteria include a break from his desk and some social engagement. He chooses the routine of walking over to a co-workers desk and talking to them instead. New habit installed, same rewards felt. One of the reasons that AA meetings work so well is likely that the habit of drinking is replaced with a habit of meetings (90 meetings in 90 days). The cues such as anxiety remain the same, but the coping mechanism or habit is replaced and the reward can be surprisingly similar. The social engagement, sharing of stories and camaraderie of a meeting are often shockingly similar to those at a bar, party or other social drinking event.

A cue must be identified, a new routine chosen and a reward given for following it. Sound too simple? Too good to be true? This simple process is called Habit Reversal Training. Duhigg quotes one of the developers of this process, Nathan Azrin, “It seems ridiculously simple, but once you’re aware of how your habit works, once you recognize the cues and rewards, you’re halfway to changing it. It seems like it should be more complex. The truth is the brain can be reprogrammed. You just have to be deliberate about it.”

Let’s be clear. This tool is massively powerful. A simple awareness of it and dedication to following it has helped many and can be a positive tool for anyone. But it will not always be enough. Each habit is complex and unique. And there is another factor which plays a huge role in both whether or not we can succeed at changing a habit and in whether or not the habits that we do change last. This factor is belief.

Next week we take a look at the role that belief plays in changing habits. Belief is the key to understanding how to succeed in creating the habits we do want, changing the habits we do not want and why some new habits fail completely at critical moments.

PART 1  : THIS IS PART 2 OF A 3 PART SERIES ON HABITS : PART 3

This post is from a series called INSIGHTS that are inspired by the work I do with my clients as a Life & Career Coach.

If you are ready to live with more joy, more passion and more purpose than I would love to be of service. Contact me to find out how my Coaching Program can kickstart your journey.

17

Feb

What are Habits?

Devin Martin Nail Biting

THIS IS PART 1 OF A 3 PART SERIES ON HABITS  : PART 2 : PART 3

Do you have a bad habit…or 12? Maybe you have or have had an addiction? Have you ever tried to pick up a new, more healthy habit? Do you know how to change bad habits? Or how to install good habits? That’s right, I said install, like installing a program in a computer. Conventional wisdom tells us that habits are mysterious and control over habits is an elusive and mysterious process. A new book by Charles Duhigg tells us otherwise.

“The Power of Habits”, published by Random House in 2012 takes the complex issue of habit change and boils it down to a simple formula with cute little graphics and one magical element. Much like computer language, Duhigg refers to habits as routines. A routine is a patterned behavior that we perform with such frequency that it has become mostly automatic. We routinely repeat habits with little or no effort or conscious awareness of a decision to do so.

If we have good habits we pat ourselves on the back. When we have bad habits we often chastise ourselves and feel as if we are failing somehow. Either way the behavior seems to happen without much effort. Some will say that they have created a good habit implying that their will-power is strong. Most are aware of some habit that they have tried once or a thousand times to alter with little or no sustained success. Most of time you hear someone speak of the effort that habit requires they are referring to failed attempts to create or curtail a habit. What if there really were a formula for changing habits that any of us could use to choose our behaviors?

Cue – Routine – Reward

cue-routine-reward

This is the forumula that Duhigg offers to explain all of our habits, good and bad, from working out to smoking cigarettes to drinking coffee and alcohol to over eating or biting our nails. The exciting thing is that bringing awareness to this loop with a very simple plan does seem empower people to change their subconscious patterns. As I love to say, consciousness is curative. When we increase awareness enough we tap into enormous power with very little effort.

First we must understand cues. A cue is a trigger. It is the stimulus or experience that starts the cycle of a habit. Most of us focus on the habit itself and put all of our effort into preventing or creating a change in our behavior but completely overlook the very thing that put that pattern in motion. Duhigg describes a woman who can’t stop biting her nails even though it causes her much pain and embarrasment. When asked by a therapist when or why she starts biting she describes a sensation, a tingling in her finger tip. This sensation is the cue. Becoming aware of the cue is step one. Her task then was simply to carry an index card with her and make a check every time that she felt this sensation. Instantly her awareness of the cue increased. Later, when asked when she felt the tingling sensation she was able to recognize that this happened when she was bored. The habit was not fixed, but she was on the way to increasing her conscious awareness of the process simply by developing her awareness of it at an early stage she had never before attempted to objectify.

A cue can be identified and monitored for any habit. For smoking or snacking or drinking we can look for and find a feeling or experience that precedes the actual habit. An uncomfortable emotion such as boredom, anxiety, frustration or restlessness is common. The need to take a break, relax or simply switch gears while working is often cited as the reason to smoke a cigarette or take a snack break. Often times physical cues such as dread in the stomach, shortness of breath, tension in your shoulders or an elevated heart rate exist much like the tingling in her fingertips. For some a particular type or tone of thought might be a cue. Identifying and charting this cue will bring you one step closer to understanding and changing your habit. For some, this alone will radically alter your relationship to your habit or addiction. For most this the necessary groundwork to then take a look at the rest of the cycle.

What I have described are the types of cues that precede a negative habit that you wish to change (notice I am not saying get rid of, but change). This same concept will be important as we talk about installing new positive habits. First we must understand the rest of the cycle. Then we will explore the magical element.

Next week we talk about routine and reward.

THIS IS PART 1 OF A 3 PART SERIES ON HABITS  : PART 2 : PART 3

This post is from a series called INSIGHTS that are inspired by the work I do with my clients as a Life & Career Coach.

If you are ready to live with more joy, more passion and more purpose than I would love to be of service. Contact me to find out how my Coaching Program can kickstart your journey.

16

Dec

Anger is Love


I used to be sooooo angry. I was angry at the state of the world. I was angry at you. I was angry at myself.

Now anger arises so rarely I miss it. And when it comes I cherish it as a gift. What changed? I went deeper into the anger and felt its roots.

Where does your anger come from? Do you embrace it? How do you act when this emotion arises? Do you become aware of anger early enough to choose clarity over rage? Can you smile while you are angry?

Anger comes from love. You can not get angry unless you care about something. It is impossible to feel anger without love. Understanding this on a deep level and developing the ability to witness this within yourself will change your relationship to anger completely. Your anger is there to serve you. It is there to serve others. It exists because you care.

Embracing anger is healthier than suppressing it. We have all heard the suggestion to breath 10 times when you get angry, to pause and let it pass. Perhaps you have been advised to close your eyes, to meditate, to visualize, to exercise, to do anything to minimize or work past the feeling of anger. I say that if you have a problem with anger it is not because you indulge it. The problem is that you do not feel it deeply enough to understand its roots. Anger is dangerous unless you feel it deeply. Truly bringing your awareness to your anger changes everything. Feeling anger deeply brings you to love.

How we act when anger arises is determined by the degree of awareness we have of our internal landscape. The less aware we are of how anger arises the later in its gestation we feel it. When we witness anger at its roots it feels like love. When we catch it early it does not feel overwhelming and we therefore have a choice in how it is expressed in our actions.  When we choose to honor anger as a manifestation of love it can be channeled into a creative, even nurturing act. When a loved one is threatened anger compels us to protect them. This we know. But do you recognize that you are often protecting yourself when you get angry? Can you connect with the feeling of vulnerability that precedes the anger? Trace the anger and you will find yourself feeling threatened. Beneath that you will find what you love. Before all else you love yourself.

The later we become aware the more anger controls us and the more likely we are to act destructively when we get angry. Anger offers clarity, but first you must circulate the energy from your body to your mind. If you go into a blind rage when anger arises it is because you have not learned to connect your awareness with your body. Awareness is a skill that develops with use. In life threatening situations fight or flight responses serves to protect us. These adrenaline fueled reactions are rarely appropriate in the modern world. As you get more in touch with your anger you can choose to engage these impulses or not. In nonphysical confrontations, in conversation, in argument, the more evolved response is to quiet the body and engage higher cognition. You must circulate the immense energy that anger offers to your higher mind. Only then should you choose to bring that energy back into your body to act with purpose.

Embracing your anger allows you to honor it. Anger does serve a purpose. Anger is how we connect with that which we love and keep it safe. Yes, you feel anger if someone attacks you or your loved ones. You likely also feel anger when someone threatens your authority or expertise. Can you admit to yourself that you feel vulnerable whenever you are angry? Can you recognize this in others when they get angry with you? When someone is angry at you it is directly linked to their sense that something they love feels threatened. Can you honor the love in them or do you feel the need to strike back with aggression?

Anger is a tremendously powerful force. Anger connects you with your power. Emotions themselves are not necessarily good or bad. Power can be used to help or to hurt. It is rarely helpful to judge yourself for your emotions. Destructive actions triggered directly by emotions are what we must control. What happens if you simply feel your emotions deeply; including anger? Many fear that anger will lead them to do something terrible, to hurt someone, to lash out, to make a mistake. But what happens if you connect with the love that is behind the anger? How does this effect the tone of the experience? How does it effect the actions the emotions inspire? Might it allow you to wield this power differently?

Try smiling when you feel anger. Smile, breathe deep and exhale with ease. Your eyes must smile as well. This is not a maniacal grin. This is an easy smile. You should feel it in your heart. You must keep breathing. Holding your breath traps energy. Breathing deeply circulates energy. Smiling will interrupt a pattern of rage, a pattern of holding anger below your neck. Smiling can be a key, a Trim Tab to transforming anger into clarity and compassion.

Anger brings clarity by bringing us completely into focus in the moment. Many are drawn to anger because of the sense of power and clarity, righteousness and control that it brings to a situation. What happens if you choose not to shut the anger off, not to deny or suppress it as many would suggest, but to truly honor this anger? Breathe deep of the feeling and feel the energy coursing through your body. Let that energy move up into your mind. Let anger develop into clarity. Understand why you are upset. Connect with the vulnerability in you and others and honor the love that is at the root of this feeling. Use the clarity and energy that anger offers to take care of yourself and others. Let anger become a catalyst for creativity.

The tattoo on my arm is a reminder. Aggressive patterns run up and down my arm. In the center there is a dove. When I see anger in others it helps remind me that love lies beneath all things, even violence.

This post is from a series called Insights that are inspired by the work I do with my clients as a Life Coach.

If you are ready to live with more joy, more passion and more purpose then I would love to be of service. Contact me to find out how my Life Coaching Program can kickstart your journey.

09

Dec

Breathing Exercises

(This post inspired by the Art of Living)

Meditation is the deepest pool of water. It goes on beyond ideas. To overstate its reach would be hard. But simple breathing exercises have had a bigger effect on my life thus far. While meditations dive into an infinite abyss in ever subtler and less physical ways, that first dip of my head under water that I felt by doing breathing exercises was a profoundly simple awakening to the control that I can choose to have over the experience I have of my body, my emotions and the thoughts in my mind.

Much of what happens in our bodies we are either unaware of or feel as if we are powerless to control. We each have an autonomic nervous system. This is the term we use to describe the control system for our bodies functions that generally happen beneath or outside of our conscious awareness and control. Heart rate, digestion, perspiration, salivation, arousal, our immune system and our breathing are controlled by processes that we are normally not aware of. By knowingly taking over a task that is normally controlled without our awareness such as breathing we are able to exert conscious control over physiological functions that often times seem to be controlling us. Because of the way that all of the body’s functions are intertwined, by changing just our breathing we are able to have an effect on everything from our heart rate to our happiness.

Anyone who has ever felt anxious, angry, excited or sad should be familiar with a number of things that are happening in their body while feeling these emotions. One of these is the depth and rate of our breathing. For a simple example look at your breathing while you are calm. It will be deep, filling up much of your lungs and possibly causing your chest, stomach and or shoulders to expand. This breath will be slow as well as deep, potentially lasting more than a few seconds. What you are likely not directly aware of is the way that all of the bodies other autonomic functions are working in concert. When we are resting and stress free this is a synchronization that happens in the body that keeps us healthy, happy and alert.

The opposite is true when we worry or get nervous, angry or over excited. Then our breathing tends to become shallow and quick as our heart rate goes up and certain muscles in our body constrict. At these times our resources are diverted away from our digestive as well as immune systems and into our muscles in the early stages of a fight or flight adrenal response to stress. Even our higher reasoning in the foremost part our brain seems to lose resources. Studies show that students taking tests perform at a much lower level than would be expected if they experience nervousness or stress for exactly this reason. While the most evolved parts of our brain are correlated with performing the most complex reasoning tasks we are capable of, this ability to meta-analyze complex concepts from afar is understandably a far slower process than the rapid instinctive reactions that potentially dangerous situations require. Fight or flight reactions shut down complex reasoning and amplify our tendency to be reactive. When we see a rapidly approaching lion we don’t stop and ponder the existential implications of life and death, we run. Fear facilitates the functioning of large muscle groups at the expense of the bodies other systems. This is great for physically threatening situations, not so great for the simple stresses of day to day life. Put another way, when we are anxious or nervous we are prone to getting sick, having digestive issues, muscle soreness and often make mistakes on things that we should have been thinking through more thoroughly.

When introduced to formal breathing techniques I began learning how to take control of my breathing in a measured and rhythmic way. While sitting in a calm, restful state I studied the symbiotic relationship between my thoughts, my mood, the activity and sensations in my body and the length and depth of my breathing. By controlling my breath I began to see quick and meaningful changes in both my physiology and the tone and volume of my conscious inner monologue. It became clear in a very short time just how many of the formerly automatic responses that my body would have to a given situation I could actually choose to control with purpose and direction. When we take the reins of our bodies functions by controlling breathing we get a chance to guide so many of the other processes that seem to be happening beyond our control. Most of this happens without any effort or awareness other than breath control. The associations built by slowing and deepening breath while in a resting state carry forward so that in stressful situations all one must do is change the rate and depth of breathing and within seconds a calm, resting state can be accessed based primarily on the way that our body associates states with breathing, but strengthened by the associations we build between feeling calm and breathing slowly each time that we practice this.

On a more subtle level, when I began working with my breathing I also began to have a deepening trust in the intuitive understandings that so often hang out a couple of notches on the volume knob below conscious chatter. In the process of learning to have more poise and be less reactive in everyday situations I found myself having a deepening trust in my own judgment and ability to act quickly in any situation without feeling the need to stop and ponder. With increased breathing exercises my everyday sense of readiness inches ever closer to what many refer to as a ‘flow’ state. This is the state of being that artists and athletes describe where it is almost as if times slows and the most appropriate actions are automatically taken without any conscious effort or hesitation. The calm that I am describing here should not be mistaken for detachment or lethargy. It is an incredibly alert and active stance that is simply free from worry, distraction and unhelpful mental chatter.

I don’t mean to say that I quiet my mind. Many talk about meditation, used here to mean simply focused attention, as stopping the mind from thinking. As I have written before, this is not exactly how I experience it. My mind goes quiet no more than hands go numb, ears fall deaf, or my tongue fails to taste when I stop focusing on it. It has helped me to think of the brain as a sensory organ that picks up on thought. You are not your brain. You are the one who is aware of it. In a moment of slowness between breathes I have the experience of turning my attention to my right ear and hearing the room. My eyes are closed, if I ask myself what I see I will look and realize that I see only black. If I then change my attention to my mind I become attuned to the many thoughts that churn through my waking head. But to rest in between….this is where the wise man prays.

What we learn is that from this resting place of experienced stillness comes the quickest, most precise and in tune movements we can make; but also the most relaxed and effortless. And in the waiting there is no wondering or stress. This is not a place of denial of the outside world. There is a finely tuned listening, an awareness of the environment, that only such centeredness can allow. When the normal tendency to fixate upon and amplify one specific sense, including that of thought, is relaxed we are free to witness the present moment with much greater clarity and joy. The actions that we take from this expanded place of consciousness include all of the functions of our previous awareness, but add an element of choice and a sense of empowerment that is otherwise so often missing.

And all from breathing exercises he says?

I do.

The line between focusing on breathing and deep meditation is a thin one. Many meditative traditions begin with purposeful breathing as a means to learn focus and control. This skill is then utilized for prayer, koan practice, mantra, chanting, or to focus on ‘nothing’. From breathing a practice can continue for a lifetime. But I would posit that this is daunting and largely unnecessary for the lay person. What I hope all children will be taught and I offer all adults should seek is to learn to take control of their breathing. The benefits are immense, the effort minimal and really, you are doing it already, so why not do it well?

 

This post is from a series called Insights that are inspired by the work I do with my clients as a Life Coach.

If you are ready to live with more joy, more passion and more purpose than I would love to be of service. Contact me to find out how my Life Coaching Program can kickstart your journey.

02

Dec

How to Focus

Do you know how to focus? Be honest. Concentration is a skill most of us are never taught. My ability to focus on one thing has improved drastically in the past year. Allow me to explain.

The average adult can focus on an object in an unbroken fashion for far less than one minute. Some estimates put the average time at more like 8 seconds. That’s when we’re trying. 8 seconds of laser like focus and then we seek distraction; a new webpage, a different thought, shifting in our seat, looking out the window. Distractions are endless. But what does it feel like to stay focused?

Have you ever been in the ‘flow‘ or the ‘zone’? Have you ever lost yourself in sex? Sports? Reading? Work? These flow states are the product of extreme focus for an extended period of time. Take a look at a great athlete, scientist, artist, inventor or entrepreneur and you are likely to see extended periods of deep, unbroken concentration coupled with fearless action. We wield great power when we can focus. A wealth of research is starting to point to the idea that your ability to focus single pointedly on a task directly correlates with the ability to achieve one’s goals. (I’ll be writing more on this in coming weeks)

We are all familiar with the increasing number of diagnoses of Attention Deficit Disorder in the United States. There are a lot of uncertainties about the reasons for this. Some cite genetics, others the way schools are set up for a particular learning style or parenting, technology, the pharmaceutical industry, media, sedentary lifestyles, chemical imbalances, diet. The list goes on. Clearly all of these factors and many more play a role. When I talk with clients about “lifestyle integrity” we work with all of them.

What does not receive enough voice is that concentration is a skill. You can learn how to focus. Like any skill, concentration increases with practice. Yes, some seem to have an innate proclivity for extended concentration while others seem to struggle with single pointed attention. The same could be said for shooting free throws. Some people take to basketball instantly. Others are a bit clumsy. Certainly not everyone can play in the NBA. But ask any coach and I am sure they will say that everyone who puts in the work can improve from their baseline by a great deal. Practice is the key. Lucky for us, there are practice techniques that have been honed through thousands of years of testing for developing concentration. This is one of the reasons many business leaders will report having a regular meditation practice.

Spiritual practice is about a lot more than simply concentration, but there are few formal paths that do not develop this skill early on. Concentration is the foundation of prayer, mantra, koan, chanting, ecstatic dance, breathing exercises and a wide range of more subtle meditative exercises. Christianity asks us to pray with absolute focus and intention. Zen Buddhism will have you focus on a koan or ‘nothing’ at all to realize enlightenment, but first you will spend a great deal of time doing little more than counting your breath; 1-10 and repeat. When I first started attempting 1 minute of perfect focus was difficult and frustrating. Now I will do this for up to an hour at a time and enjoy it immensely. This practice is fruitful through years of effort.

Transcendental Meditation (TM) works with a mantra. A mantra, in this instance, is a sound or phrase that is repeated silently in the mind. In TM one brings awareness to the mantra and then lets the mantra go. Emptiness or transcendence is cultivated. When the mind wanders to anything at all it is brought back to the mantra with complete focus and then relaxed once again. While not as aggressive as a fixed focus, TM also cultivates an awareness of where one’s attention is as well as the ability to choose where it will rest. An increase in one’s ability to concentrate is often reported. Well over 300 articles in peer-reviewed journals cite a range of benefits in the lives of those who practice TM.

Knowing your purpose and finding your vocation will help you to be successful simply because it is easier to focus on that which you feel aligned with. None the less, enthusiasm waxes and wanes for all tasks. When we develop the skill of concentration we increase our likelihood of being productive and successful in every tasks we choose. What have you done to learn how to focus?

This post is from a series called Insights that are inspired by the work I do with my clients as a Life Coach.

If you are ready to live with more joy, more passion and more purpose than I would love to be of service. Contact me to find out how my Life Coaching Program can kickstart your journey.

25

Nov

Daily Practice

Have you ever had a daily practice? I consider a morning practice to be the ultimate Trim Tab. If you are looking to drastically shift your life towards purpose and fulfillment then it is worth developing a daily practice. I suggest a bare minimum of starting your day with 20 minutes of purposeful daily practice. Consider including the following:

Dream Journaling – I have always had a very hard time remembering my dreams. The exception to this is when I place a pen and paper next to my bed at night with the intention of writing down anything I can remember from my dreams first thing upon waking. Within a few days I get fragments, then scenes and then entire stories down on paper. A few times I have become lucid while dreaming. We spend a third of our life asleep. Remembering your dreams is the first step towards deeply rewarding practices such as lucid dreaming, dream yoga and dream analysis.

Meditation – Learning to meditate will change your life. Techniques and approaches to meditation are numerous, but the benefits that meditation can provide are even greater. Whether you begin to realize enlightenment, reduce stress, lower blood pressure, increase concentration, reduce tension or understand the nature of reality, meditation will offer you as much in return as you can invest. I could not possibly say enough about it here.

Exercise – Most of us live abnormally sedentary lives. We did not evolve sitting in office chairs using our brains far more than our bodies. Bringing all of our energy into our minds at the expense of our bodies leads to everything from hypertension to obesity to depression and erectile dysfunction. If I had to pick the two most transformational practices they would be strength training and meditation. Combined their benefits multiply.

Prayer/Incantations – There is immense power in our minds. Our lives are shaped by the thoughts that we embody. When was the last time you attempted to reprogram your thinking? Have you ever attempted to consciously choose your beliefs? Do you think it is possible to choose the mood that you wake up in? Studies show that smiling in a mirror can be as effective as prozac to cure depression. Combine those smiles with words that feel sacred, uplifting or even a bit silly and your mood will shift even more. To combat depression I started waking up every morning, forcing myself to smile and say one or two sentences about each day being better than the last and growing wiser and happier each day. At first I felt ridiculous. Before long both the smiles and the positive thoughts started happening on their own. Our thoughts are programmed by every bit of information we ingest, why not be one of the authors of your thoughts?

Breathing Exercises – I might actually recommend these over meditation. I have written about breathing exercises before. If meditation seems daunting, consider learning some simple breathing exercises. Along with all of the other benefits they also end up being a stealth concentration practice. More on this in my next Insight.

Journaling – At times I like to journal at night, almost last thing, before I go to sleep. I find that even something as brief as 5-10 minutes of putting the days thoughts and events down on paper can have an incredibly positive effect on both my sleep and the mood that I wake up in. It is far too easy to lay down and close my eyes still wrapped up in the days events not even realizing that I am still ruminating over events that ended hours ago. Journaling allows me to honor what has happened, process my feelings about it and then let go and drift off peacefully to sleep.

Sacred Reading – Whether you choose ancient texts or more modern books on faith and spirituality setting aside time daily to immerse yourself in others wisdom is an uplifting and expansive practice.

Yoga – David Deida once described yoga as ‘moving just beyond your range of comfort so that in the future you will have a greater range of comfort.’ (paraphrase). Most Americans are familiar with the physical positions or asanas that yoga includes. While this but scratches the surface of a true yoga practice, if you dedicate yourself to something as simple as 5 sun salutations daily I am certain your days will be different. Creating space in your body creates space in your mind. Yoga is designed to facilitate this process.

Singing/Chanting – More primal than talking, there is a reason that most religions include some form of singing or chanting. Whether you sing folk songs or repeat a sacred phrase the simple act of using your voice with focus and purpose can be a deeply transformative practice. This was both one of the hardest and most rewarding practices for me during my year on the mountain.

Whatever you choose, the simple act of committing to putting aside time every day to focus on taking care of yourself, being present in the moment, and connecting deeply with an experience will reward you in ways you can’t know without having a daily practice.

This post is from a series called Insights that are inspired by the work I do with my clients as a Life Coach.

If you are ready to live with more joy, more passion and more purpose than I would love to be of service. Contact me to find out how my Life Coaching Program can kickstart your journey.

11

Nov

Find Your Trim Tab

Does change feel hard? It can be easy. Find your TrimTab!

“Something hit me very hard once, thinking about what one little man can do. Think of the Queen Mary-the whole ship goes by and then comes the rudder. And there’s a tiny thing at the edge of the rudder called a trim tab. It’s a miniature rudder. Just moving the little trim tab builds a low pressure that pulls the rudder around. Takes almost no effort at all. So I said that the little individual can be a trim tab. Society thinks it’s going right by you, that it’s left you altogether. But if you’re doing dynamic things mentally, the fact is that you can just put your foot out like that and the whole big ship of state is going to go. So I said call me Trim Tab.” – Buckminster Fuller

Buckminster Fuller talked about how an individual, the smallest piece of humanity, can be like a trim tab. One person can have an immense impact on the whole of society. Bucky and his students then applied this metaphor to all types of endeavors. No matter how big the task, look for the trim tab and let both leverage and inertia be your friends.

The same is true within your own life. Quite often changing the course of your whole life has more to do with making small precise adjustments than with massive upheaval. When you find just the right area of your life to tweak you tap into enormous leverage and the whole ship swings around. If you try to steer a ship by placing a rudder in the water in front of it nothing happens. You could invest immense amounts of energy in trying to steer a ship from the front and little or nothing will happen. Adjust a tiny flap on a rudder on the back of the ship and watch as the rudder moves and then the whole ship with it. You tap into immense power with just the smallest effort. Youmay have tried to make a change in your life that felt like this. Perhaps you tried to change your diet, exercise more or change what time you wake up and no matter how hard you tried it felt like it was costing you more energy than it was worth. It likely felt like all of the inertia you had built up was pulling your life in a direction opposite the way you were trying to shift it. This is just like trying to steer a ship from the front. You don’t need to work harder, but you may need to work smarter. You need to find your Trim Tab and use inertia to your advantage.

Some people change their diet and their whole life shifts. Their body changes. Their mood shifts. Their outlook broadens. They fall in love. They start a new job. Life has a new meaning. For other people everything changes when they quit an old job. They find the time for a hobby or to work out. They start cooking more. They reconnect with loved ones. They develop a spiritual practice. Life has a new meaning. For some their trim tab is their faith. When I developed a morning ritual of self care and connection to a higher power everything revolved around this.  For some committing to getting enough sleep every night starts a personal revolution. Suddenly they have new energy. Often everything shifts when we end a limiting relationship or start a new one. Any aspect of your life can be a fulcrum, a pivot or a trim tab. One little change can play a central role in catalyzing a cascade of events that changes your life forever. Often times with surprisingly little effort.

Clients come to me looking to find their vocation, to hear their calling and live a life that is full of meaning. This will necessarily include finding work that you love. However, it is very likely that the shift will not start there. If you wait until you know the perfect work to make any change in your life than it is quite likely that nothing will ever change. You may be attempting to change the ships course by pushing on its side or sticking your foot in the water out front. Attempting to shift everything at once will seem undoable because it is.

I ask clients to be gentle with themselves and simply look a bit deeper at the patterns at work. All things are connected. All of your current lifestyle choices support one another. Completely changing one aspect of your life will, without fail, cause a chain reaction in the rest of your life. The key is to look for the lifestyle adjustments that require the least amount of effort, but will have the biggest impact on everything else. Let one small change be the first of many incremental steps along your path of growth and transformation.

Maybe you can’t change your job, your health or your relationships today. It is good to be honest about this. None the less, there is something that you can commit to changing right now. Take a look at your patterns and make a promise to yourself that you will improve one aspect of your life. Let it be as big or small as you can handle right now. Choose what feels sustainable and let momentum build from there. Let me know what you come up with.

Consider the following:

Devolop a DAILY PRACTICE (more on this in the next INSIGHT)

Eat a great breakfast

Cut out all alcohol for a month

Learn breathing exercises.

Learn to meditate

Wakeup and immediately go outside for a walk

Prioritize sleep above all else

No TV for a month

End a damaging relationship

Join a club or group

Take a class

Start your day with an incantation

Nurture a relationship that is struggling

Remove caffeine from your diet

Move to a 4 day work week

Volunteer once a week

Learn to cook something new

This post is from a series called Insights that are inspired by the work I do with my clients as a Life Coach.

If you are ready to live with more joy, more passion and more purpose than I would love to be of service. Contact me to find out how my Life Coaching Program can kickstart your journey.