psychology

It's not like in the movies

lanterns

These were the words of my 23 year old stepdaughter at lunch last week:

"It's not like it is in the movies!"

She was talking about love.

She continued, "I thought...you meet someone, you move in together and get a dog and everything would be great. But I did all those things and it's hard."

I've known Allie since she was two and a half. She's seen her parents' challenges. She saw the relationship between her dad and me, which ended 14 years later in divorce. She's had the teenage version of boyfriends and the typical escapades of a young adult, all including the standard heartbreak.

So of course she has disillusionment about what a realistic (and successful) long-term relationship looks like!

Oh, sweet pea. I wrapped her up in my arms, equally celebrating this developmental milestone and sad for the angst it was causing her.


The purpose in sharing this isn't to make a point about love.

It's about the ways we all have disillusion and disappointment, the ways we feel wronged and misled.

The conversation with Allie has stuck with me and made me more aware of my own disillusionment. Specifically, the things I know to be true (or untrue) that I hold onto anyway.

Life is so hard. That isn't fair. This shouldn't have happened.

Statements like these are an indicator light that I'm stuck. I'm in a story. I'm resisting the fact of reality, what's actually happening. (Which is a second indicator light that I probably haven't been taking great care of myself.)

As you know, this spiritual path (or whatever you want to call your philosophy/approach/practice) IS hard!

It's often against the current, sometimes rebellious and always courageous.


So if hard things are just a part of life and we're inevitably going to face disappointments, how do we stay free and at peace? Or as the new agers might say, in flow?

The answer under the answer that keeps coming to me is:
Don't be in resistance.

What does resistance look like?
We resist what's happening: I wish this was {some other way}.
We resist life: Why is this happening? It's not right!
We resist our feelings: I'm fine.
We resist our needs, wants and dreams: More I'm fine. I don't need anything.

Sound familiar? (It does to me!)

Some questions I've found helpful in working with this aspect of myself:
Can I be with this?
Can I let this be?


Can I be with this without contracting, without making it more than it actually is?
Can I let this be what it is without making it wrong, without making it about me?

These are not easy questions -- especially when you're 23.

Thankfully, just by being witnessed, getting to tell her story and hearing herself say things she didn't know she knew, Allie came to the best insight I could have hoped for her.

"I just need to let him be who he is and be who I am. And I'm figuring out how to be in a relationship and still take care of myself."

I told her that might be a long lesson ;)


Many of you are parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles -- if you have a story or a comment, please share.

With love,
Michelle

When you need a bigger container

yoga anytime yoga for grief

Well, last week we wrapped up the filming of Yoga for Grief, which will air in November on Yoga Anytime. (If you want to check out their top-notch content then or before then, use the code MICHELLE for a 30-day free trial.) I will, of course, let you know when it comes out. I am beyond excited to share it.

Being immersed in this topic for the past couple of weeks make me think of the adage: A spoon of salt in a glass of water makes the water undrinkable. A spoon of salt in a lake is almost unnoticed.

Like in grief, any intense emotion or challenging situation can make our world really small. Everything contracts, shrinks.

It feels like the container gets smaller, which makes the emotion or hardship more potent.

That very thing happened to me last weekend...

Some friends came over for dinner and toward the end of the evening shared the news that they are pregnant. They were excitedly giving details, talking about the timeline and morning sickness and ultrasounds. Having lost a child, situations like this have the potential to shrink my world, which is what happened that night.

I'd been immersed in the topic of grief -- as well as my personal story -- for the video shoot, and I've started working on my book again. So the topic and my emotions were right at the surface. This is a deep wound -- sometimes I'm fine and can talk about pregnancy and babies...and sometimes my world closes in around me.

What helps me in these moments is a bigger container. More space for the emotion, for my experience to be fluid.

How to expand the container? No one thing works all the time. Considering that, here are some ideas.

Move and/or get outside.
That night, I used the dog as a scapegoat and took her outside to potty. Moving around helped expand my sense of space and being outside gave the feelings lots of breathing room.

Give it voice.
Maybe in the moment: "I find myself feeling...." Or later to a friend or therapist or to the trees or in a journal. I can't overemphasize the power of feeling held and validated: "Yes, that hurt; yes, your experience is real; yes, there's space for that here." Just that helps us step back just a tiny bit and see a little more of the landscape.

Sitting practice.
Not much helps us be available to our feelings like sitting with them, quietly and gently. In a world of distraction, the practice of letting things be -- without reaction or even response -- is totally radical. As a visual person, I often use the image of "mind like sky." This gives me the sense that there is unlimited space for my experience/thoughts/feelings to move through like clouds.

Basic self care.
As you can see, some of these are ways we can fortify ourselves in advance, knowing that we will be ambushed from time to time. Getting rest, good food, moving every day -- just taking basic care makes it easier to handle whatever comes your way. In my example, I was tired -- I'd been traveling, so my sleep and eating were out of the ordinary. This made me feel less steady in the moment.

Compassion, forgiveness and love.
For yourself! Because it won't always go well. Maybe you break down (which is ok!). Maybe you lash out. Hurt people hurt people. Having our wounds poked can make us do weird things. Or you might even have judgment about having a reaction at all. "This STILL? I thought I'd moved on!" And Goddess forbid someone else has those judgments of you (give them my number). Compassion, forgiveness and love, gentle reader. Shame has no place in grief.


If this is of interest to you, there are a few different ways we can be together and explore ALL of these things. Check out the workshops page.

If you think this information might be helpful for someone you know, please pass it along.

And tell me what's happening in your world!
How do you expand your container or perspective?

Wishing you more space for all that comes and goes,
Michelle

It’s always something

Do you every feel like it's just "one thing after another?" Or have you heard yourself say, with some amount of sourness, "it's always something!"

Of course you have. You're human and all kinds of things happen in life.

(I hope you haven't felt like that recently.)

I found out last week that I have a fractured rib. I've been having significant pain on and off for a couple of weeks, and after a trip to the chiropractor (Dr. Al is the best), now I know why stretching and foam rolling have only made things worse.

And all of this from coughing! 

In January I had a brutal cold/flu, which obviously came with a violent cough that, amazingly, cracked a rib.

I mean, really. I'm just feeling more myself after the wrist break, getting back into consistent movement and feeling stronger, and....now this. 

And it's sooooo easy to go into this story of whine whine, why me, poor me, pouty face. And, believe me, I went there for a minute.

Thank goodness for friends who listen to whining and also trust that "this too shall pass."

And thank goodness for you!  A story from one of you came to mind: a student who was just back to class after throwing her back out shared about her recovery with me.

In desperation, she got online to see if she could find advice on how to deal with the level of pain.

She found an article that talked specifically about back pain. In it, she read what turned out to be her healing mantra:

It will get better.

The article acknowledged that when we have back pain, it takes over and we imagine being in pain for the rest of our lives. It's hard to remember what it was like before the pain, or imagine a future time when we are pain free. 

We are afraid it will always be this way.

She said that one line -- it will get better -- was like a light in the tunnel. She used it as a mantra to help get through the days, and eventually it did get better.

Pain is like this. Grief is like this. Loneliness is like this. Illness is like this.

The beautiful thing is, we have stories - our own and others' - that help remind and soothe; we have each other to lean on; we can remember that there's a bigger picture.

I share my story in case the reminder is helpful for you; much like that student's story is my teacher now.

My mantra in this moment is:

It won't always be this way.
This is how things are...right now.
All things change and pass.


Tell me -- how's your year going? Do you have a mantra for tough times? 

With the coming spring as our inspiration, I hope things are well for you.

Love,
Michelle

PS - All workshops and events are still ON!

The Nuances of Twists

Let's talk twists. Should all parts of the spine rotate the same? How can I loosen the upper back? What about passive vs active movement?

We will play with all kinds of twists -- on the floor, in a chair, from our feet.

You'll leave with a greater understanding of the suppleness of these perspective-changing poses.

More about this workshop.

 

The Labyrinth of the Heart

A special creative workshop series exploring the labyrinth, literally and symbolically.

Make your own finger labyrinth and use the metaphor of this inward spiral for meditation and reflection.

Read all about it here.

Spring Ayurveda Refresh

A three-part series including a guided food refresh.

A gentle and nourishing reset for all your systems after the hardiness and hibernation of winter.

Refresh includes two in-person workshops and a virtual check in.

Find out about this special offering.

 

Work with me

If you are seeking to shift some patterns this season and would like support, I'd love to work with you.

Recently a client said, "I know I can't do this by myself." Let's do it together.

Read more.

 

300 hr Yoga School

New start date!
New hours!

Begins July 2019. Weekend hours with modified Friday schedule.

Check it out.

The energetic snow globe

snow globe

The holidays can be particularly challenging for introverts and empaths.

If you are exhausted by large groups or tend to pick up other people’s energy easily, parties can be a real drag.

Especially in the winter, most gatherings take place inside and it’s harder to justify stepping out for a few minutes if it’s 55 degrees.

As both an introvert and an empath, I am careful with my energy this time of year.

In case it’s helpful to you, here are my three best practices.

No more than two
Rule number one, I schedule no more than two high-social situations in a week. This doesn’t include one-on-ones (though I do limit those per week as well) or other general outings like the grocery store or eating out. This refers to parties and gatherings. Preferably the two are spread out over the week and I have downtime/recovery planned for afterward.

This also supports my practice of “increasing my tolerance for other people’s disappointment” when I have to decline social offers.

The bathroom is your friend
If you get overwhelmed in a party situation (or preferably before you get there), a 2 minute trip to the bathroom can be a life-saver. It might sound silly, but a quick break from the chatter, crowd, questions, awkward silence, etc. can make a huge difference. It moves your energy, and can be a great way to excuse yourself from, say, a political conversation (unless that’s your thing).

This goes nicely with the last tip…

Snow globe happy place
If you sense, intuit, take on or get wrapped up in other people’s energy easily, it’s really important to create an energetic boundary.

The fun thing about this time of year is you can throw a little holiday spirit into it! When I’m feeling a little leaky or I need to check in with myself, I’ll imagine that I’m in my own extra-special snow globe. Yes, it’s often in Central Park. And it’s snowing glitter. And it’s cozy and contained. Nothing unwanted is getting in!

Try it! The next time you need a stronger boundary in a situation, imagine yourself in your own personal snow globe. You get to decide who and what is in there with you :)

Wishing you all the things that make you happy this season.

Artwork by Cara Gregor, @caraemiliadesigns on IG

Compassion Fatigue

compassion fatigue

You may have heard of compassion fatigue as a condition used to describe the stress associated with working with people who are in crisis, trauma or suffering. Think of people in caregiving or helping professions like nurses, doctors, therapists, veterinarians and animal welfare, child protection workers, journalists, EMTs, police officers and anyone who works with people in trauma or crisis, like natural disasters or crisis workers.

Compassion fatigue can also be called secondary traumatic stress, secondary victimization, vicarious traumatization and "the cost of caring." 

The symptoms of compassion fatigue are similar to that of chronic stress -- sleeplessness or nightmares, lower immunity or other physical issues like GI or heart problems, isolation, lack of focus and concentration, negativity and pessimism, unhealthy outlets for emotions, like addictions. The overall effect of compassion fatigue is a lessening of compassion.

The interesting thing is, because of news and social media and the barrage of stories and images of intense pain and suffering, “compassion fatigue” is now being expanded to include the general public.

We are bombarded with graphic images, videos and interviews of trauma and tragedy every day -- and when they are replayed over and over, we can experience a helplessness...or hopelessness.

We talked about this in class on Sunday, and many people were eager to share their experience.

Some were most concerned about numbness and what happens when we protectively become apathetic. When we try to care about all it and we hit overload, a natural protective response is to shut down.

Others talked about the helplessness that comes with overwhelm of feeling the pain of so many. Highly sensitive and empathetic people are most susceptible to compassion fatigue as they truly take on the suffering of other people, animals and the planet.

One woman shared her concern for the teen and early 20s population as they are often engrossed in social media and don't have the same mental capacities for discernment that adults have.

So what to do?

The first step is realizing you feel overwhelmed, whether your response is helplessness or hopelessness. If you have compassion fatigue, you know you're a caring, compassionate person!

The second step is taking better care of yourself. It doesn't mean shutting out the world and all current events. It does mean setting boundaries.

  • Are you watching video interviews of a crisis on a loop? Stop.

  • Do you check your phone, computer or the newspaper first thing in the morning? Stop.

  • Do you take your phone to bed? Even if you're watching cat videos, Stop.

  • Do you ruminate and worry about things out of your control? Stop.


DO:

  • Take good, basic care of yourself. Eat good food, get enough sleep, move every day.

  • Have times when you check the news — set a time limit.

  • Help in the ways you can. Maybe volunteering isn't right for you, but you can send a small donation of items or money. (See below for fire relief organizations.)


One student in class said he'd been listening to music CDs in the car rather than NPR. It is a way to take a break from the news he's already heard and recharge.

Mother Theresa knew the importance of caring for ourselves so we can care for others: she required her nuns to take a full year off every 3-4 years. 

We can’t give from an empty well — we know this. Each of us have a unique capacity for holding suffering, as well as ways to be of service. Care for and appreciate yourself and

California Fire Relief Donation Ideas
Caring Choices
Butte Humane Society (they also have an Amazon wish list)
Humane Society of Ventura County
California Community Foundation
California Fire Foundation

The importance of feeling safe

Feeling safe isn't just an emotional nicety. 

When we feel threatened, our biology steps in. Hormones are released that increase the heart rate, blood pressure and blood flow, small airways in the lungs expand, our vision narrows as our other senses sharpen. We can't control any of this. This response is millions of years old and happens without thought.

Now, why we don't feel safe is another story. The threat might be real (being stalked by a cougar) or imagined (worrying about being stalked by a cougar while camping).

The thing is, to a certain degree, the effect in the body is the same whether the threat is real or not. This response is also activated when the threat is not life-threatening, which is why the medical world has labeled "chronic stress" as a major factor in illness and dis-ease.

We're designed to move fluidly in and out of the stress response -- there's a threat, the nervous system activates the appropriate response to flee or fight, we escape, we recover and the nervous system resets back to a regulated state.

The "threats" of our times are more constant, as well as intangible -- deadlines, mortgages, traffic jams, societal pressure. We don't get the chance to cycle completely through the response and reset, re-regulate. The overabundance of stress hormones in the body causes a big mess.

 

It's easy to understand that not feeling safe makes it really hard to sleep.

And you know how I feel about sleep.

Recently I was in Berkeley for another training. I stayed at a hotel this time. It was an intense training and I was feeling out of sorts, out of myself. What I really needed was good sleep and I didn't want to mess around with the possibility of not getting it.

When I'm disregulated like this, otherwise known as vata-deranged, one of the things that plagues me is fear. Just a general umbrella of anxiety. I manage well through the daytime hours, but it shows up with a siren and spotlight at night. Sometimes I experience it as a non-specific worry about life; other times it can be a specific obsession, for example, a fear of someone breaking in and attacking me.

This seems crazy in the light of day, but at night, my heart races, I hear every single sound and I can't sleep.

You can't talk or rationalize yourself back into regulation.
That's not the way the nervous system works.

Knowing that I needed good sleep to help keep me grounded, I did what would make me feel safe: I leaned the ironing board against the bathroom door, which opened to the entrance door. My rationale being, if the door moved, I'd have a lot of warning!

 

safety barricade

Did I feel a little crazy setting this up every night? A LOT crazy! Did it help me sleep? YES.

I'm not saying we should always indulge our neuroses. Gradually increasing my window of tolerance for fear and anxiety is a good practice. And using all my tools and resources for regulation is hugely important.

And... there are times to self soothe in the way that works (as long as it is safe for everyone), even if it doesn't make sense in a "rational" mindset.

What my fear told me is not that I'm unstable and need help being more reasonable and sane.

It showed me just how stressed my system was, how I hadn't been caring for my basic needs.

Once I recognized that, I could address the core issue.

 

"Safety precedes curiosity."

This is one of my favorite teachings: safety precedes curiosity.

And to be curious is to engage with the wonder and awe and beauty of life.

And isn't that what we all want?

It starts with feeling safe.

 

What does it take for you to feel safe?
How easy is it for you to give that to yourself?
What does feeling unsafe teach you?

 

Unsupportive Resources

If you recognize that your main resources are unhealthy or harmful, like social media, video games, alcohol or other substances, here are a few things to consider.

First, know that it's totally normal to self-regulate! You aren't bad because you utilize a way of regulating that also isn't good for you. It's working in some way or you wouldn't do it. 

windows

The good news is there's something to be learned from the activity or substance. There's an effect of self regulation that is important and useful.

What are the qualities of that?
How do you feel when engaging with that "resource"?
Do you feel relaxed?
Present?
Engaged?

Start to notice, even look for, times and activities where you feel that quality outside of that activity/substance. You can even practice feeling that quality without the "thing."

Take the effect of the self regulation attempt and practice it separate from the unhealthy or harmful activity or substance. 

It's quite simplistic to talk about replacing an unhealthy resource just by noticing what it gives you or inserting a more helpful resource. However, when we do this with complete awareness of the body and what's happening in the physiology, the effects can be profound. 

Of course, substitutions probably won't feel exactly the same and making any kind of habit change takes work. But bringing in the body aspect and tracking the felt-sense experience will help make that shift with more honestly, awareness and nervous system support.

If you haven't already, check the post on ideas on identifying more positive resources.

 

*If you have an addiction or need clinical support, please seek out a therapist or treatment program for support and loving care.

 

Self-Regulating :: Resources

We all have ways that we self-regulate when we're stressed. Some might be less than ideal -- Facebook scrolling, online shopping or mindless eating -- and we might not even be aware of some of the ways we self-soothe, for example if you unconsciously stroke your thumb on your leg.

These are all attempts at finding a resource -- something we use to help stabilize our nervous system in times of distress.

Because resourcing is something we do naturally and can probably do with more consciousness (thus increasing its effectiveness) it can be helpful to identify what we currently use to soothe and give ourselves more options, if necessary.

flower arrangement

Types of Resources

Internal

  • Places in the body that are relaxed, pleasant, reliable, connected, non-reactive, can move and respond
  • Moving the body in ways that feel relaxing, discharging, enlivening, pain-free
  • Breath that is free and unrestricted
  • Prayer, affirmations, connection to the divine, spirit or universe
  • Acts of self care
  • Presence, consciousness, awareness, meditation

External 

  • Places, people or activities, real or imagined, that are comforting and stabilizing
    • nature, rooms or places in your home, trusted people, pets, music, exercise or activities, travel, religious or spiritual places
  • A therapist or support group
  • Safe and appropriate touch
fresh flowers

 

Again, we all self-regulate throughout the day. If I'm feeling stressed, I might shake off my shoulders and/or take a walk. On another day I might have a chai and check email.

It's the effect I'm looking for -- to diffuse my stress or anxiety, to take a break from the thing that is stressful, hopefully broadening my perspective around it.

The first option - a shake of the shoulders and a walk - is probably the more healthful option. So I can really be aware of how that shake and walk make me feel:

What are the sensations in my body?
Where are they?
What effects do they have?

Simply noticing these things can help me the next time I need to pick which self regulation to go with.  It can also help imprint the "non-stressed" state as I go back to what I was doing.

 

Curious about what your go-to resources are? Make a list!!

Here's part of mine:

Internal -- noticing or moving my hands, a head bobble, moving my jaw/face, recalling a line from a poem or a song, making little sounds, joint movements like shoulder rolls.

External -- nature and being outside, journalling, podcasts and music, walk/stretch/yoga, essential oils and good smells, fresh flowers, my faminals, friends and Greg, my therapist.

Since identifying this list a few months ago, I've spent less time online and on my phone, I've been reading more and seeing friends more regularly. Knowing that I have simple accessible resources in every moment helps ease my anxiety.

As you identify your resources, notice what happens in your body as you think about them and write them down. Sometimes just thinking about a resource is supportive.

What if you realize that your main resources are unhealthy? We all have mildly unhealthy outlets, but if your main support is also harming you in some way, here are some ideas.

 

Social Contagion and a Values-Aligned Life

Social contagion is the well-researched idea that we "catch" emotions and behaviors from other people. Susan David, the author of Emotional Agility, gives a couple of examples:

You step into an elevator and the person in the elevator is on their phone. You are likely to get out your phone as well.

If you are on an airplane and your seatmate buys candy, even if you do not know that person, the research shows that you are 70% more likely to buy candy.

Even more shocking, if people we know by acquaintance, or even by 2-3 degrees of separation, get divorced or put on weight, it significantly increases our chances of getting divorced or putting on weight.

We unconsciously start wanting things other people want or normalizing behaviors we previously would not have engaged in.

That's some powerful suggestive influence.

So what can we do to stay aligned with our own deeply held values and not be unconsciously swayed by the actions of other people?

David's advice is something she calls Values Affirmation - spending even 10 minutes every day thinking about your values, what type of person you want to be in relationship, as a parent, at work and so on.

Just 10 minutes a day of focusing on your core values will help protect you from social contagion. 

Obviously this requires clarity around what your values are. David urges us first to come from a place of compassion and care for ourselves and our emotional bodies. She also has a free test on her website that can help you determine how well you are living a values-aligned life and ways to be more emotionally agile. 

If you're interested in more on this topic, I recommend the author's interview with Rich Roll. She covers a lot of ground:

  • practical examples of what it means to live a values-aligned life
  • the difference between values and goals
  • why will power doesn't work
  • the danger of bottling or brooding on your emotions
  • the myth of "negative" or "bad" emotions

I enjoyed this podcast so much, I've listened to it twice! Let me know what you take from it.

 

The practice of perplexity

"Part of the spiritual tradition is to unsettle us."

That's a line from a recent On Being podcast with secular Buddhist teacher and writer, Stephen Batchelor.

The discussion is about what Batchelor calls the immediacy of the mystery.  Many traditions have practices of perplexity, wonderment, astonishment, curiosity and even doubt at their core, connecting us to possibility and surprise rather than certainty and answers.

Yesterday I taught my last class at the studio as It's All Yoga. This week the name will change to Ritual. This is a change I knew was possible when I sold the studio last year, and still, there was sadness as I watched the new coats of paint being put on the building as I left class. Never a moment of regret...but, surprise...some sadness.

rose quartz

Batchelor spent months in deep meditation with the question, "What is this?" His experience of stillness and quiet with that question eventually led to a place where the words fell away and the question became a physical sensation, infusing the consciousness with a deep sense of curiosity.

What is this? is not a question in search of an answer. It is intended to help us penetrate the mystery more deeply so that it becomes more mysterious. Where every situation and experience becomes truly surprising. A place outside of our habitual views and conditioned responses.

A non-reactive stillness.

Softening the grip around what happens next.
Putting down the article on The 5 Steps to....  
Actively engaging in the art of not taking things for granted.

mark nepo

There is no certainty, there is just the Immediacy of the Mystery.
The possibility of continual surprise and wonder.
A way of life guided by engagement and openness.

The practice is here for us. All the time.

 

Under the sadness I find relief. Curiosity. Aliveness.

I'm excited to see how Ritual unfolds and what beautiful new offerings it brings to this community. And I'm delightfully unsettled and unanswered with how It's All Yoga will evolve in its next iteration.

So brilliantly described in the Long Way Home by Mark Nepo -- this is our practice.

long way home
 

My sleep test

Tired of being tired

For years I have dealt with insomnia. Some of it seemed "normal" -- anxiety over buying my first house, restlessness before an early flight, worried about a meeting the next day.

Those temporary and situational bouts of sleeplessness were manageable and passed.

But over the years, the occasional night of sleeplessness worsened to long stretches of insomnia. Months on end of sleeping for what seemed like only a few hours a night, feeling exhausted and physically stressed.

I've tried everything under the sun. Tinctures, herbs, OTC sleeping aids, pharmaceutical drugs, natural remedies, eating certain things, not eating other things, all kinds of body practices...and some of it worked for a while, but not consistently.

I felt totally helpless and hopeless upon going to bed -- will this be a good night's sleep or not? The question itself creates an anxiety loop that makes sleep less and less likely.

Going to the science

I started hearing about other ways to work with insomnia -- ways that could be as effective as prescription drugs. By addressing the mental aspect, one could repattern the brain to avoid those potholes of sleeplessness. I began working with some of these techniques, as well as being more accountable for my "sleep hygiene." And miraculously, I started sleeping.

This did not happen overnight (no pun intended) -- it took patience, discipline and effort. 

But OH was it worth it. There is NOTHING like getting a good night's sleep, especially consistently!

Putting my new techniques to the test

sleep products

Travel is another time when sleep can be disrupted. This past weekend I had a training in Berkeley. I was about to put my newfound sleep to the test.

I packed my normal nighttime routine essentials... AND an ambien just in case.

I had three nights to experiment with sleeping well away from home.

 

IT WORKED

I slept!! If you've suffered from insomnia, you know that this is a big deal!

Especially because I was at a training and I wanted to be fresh and alert for learning.

Part of the success is that I've made new patterns around sleep and my brain is more accustomed to nighttime + bed = sleep. The other success was that the techniques were powerful enough to work outside of the comforts of home. 

All the effort and inconvenience of these past months paid off. 

 

Are you tired of insomnia?

If you've suffered from sleeplessness and want some support, tools and resources, join me this coming Sunday for: 

Tired of Insomnia?
Sunday, March 11, 1-3:30 pm

We will cover:

  • sleep preparation
  • physical practices that can calm the nervous system
  • mental/cognitive tools to get and stay asleep
  • natural aids that help support a sleepy state
  • and more


If you plan to sign up, please do so early -- I have homework for you this week that will be part of the workshop.  


Register HERE. I'll get back to you within 24 hours with your homework and additional information.

Part of changing the patterns of insomnia is not making a big deal about going to bed. This is hard to do when it's been a stressful thing for a long time.

Getting restful, restoring sleep changes EVERYTHING. Your body, your nervous system, your work, your relationships will all thank you!

Let me know if you have questions. And if you have friends who could benefit from this workshop, please pass this along.

Michelle


yoga props

200 Hr Yoga Teacher Training


If you are looking for a space to question and move and grow, this is a beautiful way to do it. 

Read about this opportunity. 
Or contact me to chat. That's what I'm here for.

 

the magic pill

If you've been in class lately, or seen me in the grocery store for that matter, you know that I can't stop talking about the book How Emotions Are Made by neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett.

This book is causing a bit of a ruckus in the psychology world, even though many of the ideas Dr. Barrett is talking about have been proven (or disproven as it were) for around 100 years.

The main premise, as I understand it is:

Our brains are constantly making predictions based on our concepts and past experience to interpret the pleasant and unpleasant sensations in our bodies. The feedback from the body (in the form of sensation) about how the physical systems are working is called interoception -- being aware of the internal world.

Those concepts and guesses are how we make sense of sensation so we know what caused the sensation and what to do about it. More intense sensations are used to make emotions; less intense sensations are used to make thoughts and beliefs.

Emotions don't happen to you. Emotions aren't reactions to the world. 

Emotions are your brain's effort to make sense of your body in the world. 

An example: a dull ache in your stomach could mean... you're hungry, you're anxious, you're tired, you're disgusted by someone, you're nervous to give a talk, you have a longing, you're getting the flu... the possibilities of what a dull ache means go on and on and on.

All of the previous times you've had an ache in your stomach help your brain solve this current ache so it can get your body systems back into balance.

Mind-Body

Every waking moment of your life is simultaneously physical and mental. Every experience has both.

The connection between mind and body is biological, not just metaphysical. The brain is trying to keep all the systems in the body in balance, like a financial office of a company will shift resources around to make sure all departments have what they need. Dr. Barrett calls this your Body Budget.

If your Body Budget is out of balance in any way, you'll feel distress, and your brain needs to make sense of why, what it means and what to do about it.

It's more helpful if your brain is able to distinguish -- through practice, past experiences and available concepts -- the difference between the feeling of disappointment and the feeling of anxiety. Instead of just feeling "bad" which would require the brain to make many more guesses about a useful solution, if the brain can be very specific about its interpretation of a body sensation, it will have more precise concepts for feelings and it will be more successful in finding a remedy quickly.

Like that dull ache -- it wouldn't be very helpful to eat a sandwich to satisfy hunger if the sensation really meant you were nervous about a presentation. 

In the most simple terms, emotions are the brain's interpretation of basic body sensations.

How Emotions Are Made

 

Emotional Health

Your brain uses a lot of energy to manage your body's budget and if your budget becomes unbalanced, it's exponentially harder for your brain to manage your emotional states.

The great news is that Dr. Barrett gives us the magic pill to feel more balanced and emotionally stable. Here are her exact instructions:

The neuroscience is very clear - if you want to control your emotions better, if you want to be more of an architect of your own experience, then the first thing you must do is get enough sleep. You must get enough exercise, and you must eat properly in a nutritious way.  

Keep your body budget in balance.

Isn't this great news!? Our physical health, mental and emotional well-being are dependent on the simplest things that we have access to every day.

The secret is always that there is no magic pill -- for anything worthwhile. 

If you're reading this, you are probably already doing a great job at taking care of yourself.

It still may be worthwhile to ask --

  • Is there any area where I'm still believing in a magic pill?
  • Do I get a full 8 hours of sleep every night? If not, why?
  • Can I do better at choosing nourishing food and making sure to eat greens every day? 
  • Can I get another 10 minutes of increased heart rate activity in a few times a week? Even if it's just doing jumping jacks and push ups in the living room?

We can drop the search for the magical fix (whew), and invest a little more time and consistent effort into ourselves, and we'll be able to do everything with more energy, attention and joy.

(Stay tuned for my nighttime concoction for good sleep!)

Have you read the book? Any thoughts about this article? Would love to hear.