One Day It Stopped

Love in the time of the coronavirus

A Facebook friend posted this poem three days ago. Asenath Avinash is also a bodyworker. Her place of employment is currently closed, but if you love this as much as I do, you could ask for her when they reopen. http://www.workwellaustin.com/

It’s a good reflection of the shift in the narrative many of us are experiencing now.

And we looked around,
and we saw ourselves,
and it was so funny, so strange
to recognize, not the selves we had
built, but the ones that were buried
out in the long backyard of our lives,
forgotten, rusted, decomposing,
presumed lost, presumed even
never to have existed,
but there they were, just like the
canal-bottoms in Venice,
waiting for us, never having gone,
never having left,
and the miracle
was being able to see clearly
what was already there.

The miracle was how quickly
the pollution vanished,
and our eyes healed,
and we looked out on a world
that was fresh and different
and we saw that businesswomen
were really poets,
and that scientists were really prophets,
and that we were all vulnerable
and worth protecting,
and that toilet paper
was a kind of false security,
and that all our systems
needed a pause and
a fresh start
and that most of us
were really, very tired.

And we rested,
and our children wondered
what is happening right now?
and we couldn’t answer.
We weren’t supposed to
touch anything
or do any work
or go anywhere,
and it felt that we were
being shown something.

So we stayed at home, and
we mowed the tall grass
and listened to birds
and gave thanks
for the garbage collectors
and the grocery clerks,
and we organized our closets
and made pots of nutritious soup,
and the introverts
turned their cameras on
and taught us
how to make crafts,
and the musicians
picked up their instruments
and walked out
their front doors
and sang in the streets,
and nothing stopped them,
not cars, not fear, and no one
thought they were lunatics,
in fact, we thanked them,
we came outside to listen
standing far apart,
and feeling our interconnection.

We understood
that something so profound
was taking place,
and that if it went on
long enough, the fireflies
would come back
into our yards
and the ladybugs
and the milky way.
The earth herself
was waking up quietly,
or rather, we were,
and we saw that maybe
we didn’t need so much
after all, maybe
in this new world, we’d find
new careers
or they would find us
if we let them,
and we wanted to
stay put and be still and
feel it out
moment by moment.
We didn’t want to touch it
with our clumsy hands
or make plans or
disturb anything,
and so we just watched it
breathing softly
and steadily
like a precious newborn.

And we knew that,
at some point,
it would probably start up again,
which was confusing,
because, yes,
we did need money,
or so we had always believed.

-AAvinash, 3/24/20

Checking in

Love in the time of coronavirus

Today is Day 2 of sheltering in place in Austin, Texas. We had 119 known cases as of last night (but no deaths so far), and we know the virus is being transmitted in the community. No one I know has it so far, that I’ve heard, but friends and relatives of friends do. The number of cases will almost certainly go up over the next two or three weeks. The hope is that then the number of cases will start declining because of first, social distancing, and now, sheltering in place.

For me, this means staying home, which I have been since Saturday, and for the week before, my outings were rare. I’ve ordered groceries online and picked them up. I have a wonderful daughter who can pick items up and bring them to me. I have groceries enough to last for at least a week, and I’m keeping a list on the fridge door of the items I run out of that I can get next time I shop (which will probably be online to be delivered or picked up curbside, but I do have a mask and gloves in case I need to venture inside a store). My fridge, freezer, and nonperishable shelves are full.

I feel pretty good about my chances of getting through this without getting sick, or of being mildly ill if I do get it. I had a cold in October that was mild and lasted two days, and I couldn’t remember how long it had been since I’d previously had a cold. My immune system is robust.

However, it’s unpredictable. I’m in the 60+ population and therefore considered at risk. I do yoga and dance regularly (now doing these online), I eat healthy (organic unprocessed food mostly), and I meditate, which helps keep my nervous system more balanced rather than going into stress, which is hard on the immune system. I’m working on improving my sleep, getting more deep and REM sleep according to my Fitbit.

I take really high quality supplements from Premier Research Labs and Wellevate. (I have practitioner accounts with both that you can order through if you wish.) I have homeopathic remedies on hand too. I have health insurance should I need it, and I hope that if I do, the health care system isn’t overwhelmed and can tend to me. I’m very very fortunate and grateful.

Y’all, no one is immune. This virus targets humankind. It’s a great equalizer. It doesn’t respect fame, power, talent, or riches. Movie stars, professional athletes, famous artists, royalty, and politicians have come down with it. Because it’s novel, no one has immunity, except those who have completely recovered from it.

I’m hearing people say things like “What a year this past week has been” and “there are many days in a day.” We’re in a time of rapid change.

I believe when this pandemic is over, some aspects of our lives will not go back to the way they were. This will influence people living through it for the rest of our lives. We will not take our health for granted. We will better understand the relationship between lifestyle and health. We will require that our governments take actions that support our health over corporate profits.

Dead people don’t buy stuff.

I hope the biggest takeaway is that we humans are ALL connected through our humanity. We are all dependent on this planet for our lives. Maybe we will treat each other, and our home planet, much better.

Blessings for health, immunity, resiliency, resourcefulness, and connection. 💚🙏🏽

How to stop touching your face

It’s harder than you think, isn’t it? You’re still going to do it because it’s mostly an unconscious gesture. But there are things you can do to change this habit and protect yourself, and it’s important to stay healthy and keep others healthy.

Carry tissues or a handkerchief (remember those?) with you always, or wear a scarf or Buff around your neck. (I love Buffs. You can pull them up over your nose and mouth, keep your hair out of your face, keep your neck warm, protect your thyroid from WiFi/5G, etc.)

Buff

As soon as you become aware of touching your face, immediately repeat the same gesture but with a tissue, handkerchief, scarf, or Buff over your fingers.

This will work much better than “don’t touch your face” to train you to become more aware of touching your face! When we hear “don’t x” we hear the action “x” more clearly than we hear “don’t”. An action is something to do, even when we desire not to do it!

So you’ll touch your face unprotected, and then touch your face protected. And…what’s been unconscious becomes conscious.

Keep doing this, and with repetition, you will remember that you want to just touch your face with protection, and you will begin to omit touching your face unprotected.

The more you do it, the more the habit becomes ingrained.

Wishing you all the best in these trying times.

Free habit tracker for 2019

If you’re anything like me, you like to start off a new year by focusing on what you want to change in your life. January seems like a great month for doing that, after the excesses of the holidays. It’s time to get grounded again, look within, think about what you want for yourself in the coming year, and begin to manifest it.

You probably have some bigger goals (travel, education, remodeling) and smaller ones (eat healthier, drink more water, exercise, study, read, meditate, etc.).

For tracking my daily activities, I really like this free downloadable monthly habit tracker from Clementine Creative, which I’ve used for several years. You can print it in different sizes (A4, A5, US Letter, etc.). Then circle the month, add the days of the week (S M T W TH F S) across the top, and list the habits you want to track down the side. Print 12 copies, put them in a binder or on a clipboard, and use the fun office supplies of your choice to track the habits you want to cultivate.

This page has it all.

free printable habit tracker from Clementine Creative
Blank.
example of filled out Habit Tracker from Clementine Creative
Personalized.

Now you can get an editable version where you fill in the days of the week and the habits you want to track before printing, instead of printing first and writing them in by hand. That version is $3.50 USD.

Also, here’s something I’ve learned from experience. If you are the kind of person (as I am) who does not enjoy strict routines, who starts chafing at the bit after a while and wants to rebel against sameness or rigidity, but you still like to see results from your efforts, you get to decide what’s a win for you. If you make your bed 3 days out of 7, you get to decide if that’s a win. What was that month like? How often did you do it before tracking? Maybe next month, 4 days out of 7.

Your habit tracker should serve you and not make you its slave — unless, say, taking life-saving meds is something you track. It’s about clarity, motivation, and information. Have compassion and allow yourself to be imperfect.

I’ve also found that once a habit becomes ingrained, you can stop tracking it — only add it back to your list if you notice you’ve slacked way off, and you still want to do it.

With enough persistence and learning, anything can become habitual. The four stages of behavior change are:

  • unconscious incompetence — you are unaware that you don’t know how to do something
  • conscious incompetence — you are aware that you don’t know how to do something, and you want to do it
  • conscious competence — you consciously work at doing it, learning, failing, figuring it out
  • unconscious incompetence — you do it automatically and don’t have to think about it any more

Best wishes for 2019!

A tale of recovery: my path from traumatized to healer

I had lunch a few weeks ago with John, someone I’ve known for about 12 years but haven’t seen much in recent years. He commented that I am a very different person now from when he met me, and that would not be apparent to people who hadn’t known me that long.

When we met in 2004 (I think), I seemed troubled to him, and I was. John said that now, I appear to be happy and “like a fountain” (which I love), and he was curious about that.

Other people have said I’ve changed more than anyone they know. Well, that’s probably because I was starting from a more troubled place than most.

So I’m reviewing my path in search of insights to share. This is for you, John, and I know that some of you are interested in recovery from trauma, and some of you are interested in personal growth, so this is for you too.

Continue reading

First day it feels like fall

Right now in Austin, Texas, it’s 61 degrees F. The expected high today is 75. This after weeks and weeks of highs in the upper 90s.

Sometimes we don’t get our first cool front until after the middle of October, so this respite is very welcome.

And this early cool front has brought RAIN. Although this past summer was thankfully not nearly as hot as the one 3 years ago that brought devastating fires, still, this August was so hot and dry, big cracks appeared in the ground around my trailer. It was a task to keep the trees planted last year watered.

gingko leaf

Gingko leaf

I’ve got a massage client at my downtown Austin studio this morning, and then I’m heading back home to honor the change in seasons by planting things: a Canby oak, a gingko tree (so excited to have this prehistoric the that turns yellow in fall!), a mountain laurel shrub, a loquat tree, and several yellow bells and Pride of Barbados flowering shrubs for lasting color and hummingbirds.

Then, I’ll be making my first bone broth of the season, from bones saved over the summer when it was just too hot to simmer anything on the stove for hours.

The change in seasons always brings a change in my energy. I need more sleep. My eating habits change. I feel so energized.

So grateful for change after so much sameness!

 

Resolutions, schmresolutions

It feels natural, at the turning of the year, to review the old year and anticipate the new one. We see what we’d like to do better and how to have more of the life we want.

However, I’ve come to the conclusion that New Year’s resolutions are well-meaning but ineffective, for several reasons:

  • How many people do you actually know who not only remember at year’s end what their resolutions for that year were but can actually say they kept them? (Actually, I am one. See my recent post on meditation.)
  • Resolutions are vague and grandiose without planning, commitment, and follow-through. They don’t take into account bad days, bad memories, changing your mind, new information, major life changes, or the lack of motivation that drudgery brings.
  • They presume your idea won’t change all year long. As if we were static beings from one year to the next except for this one thing we want to change!

If you’ve set resolutions before and failed to keep them, why not try something else?

  • Make sure your resolution is something in your control. Unfortunately, world peace takes a lot of cooperation! But you could resolve to take a class on conflict resolution, or practice a peaceful meditation technique, or volunteer with a peace organization.
  • Chunk it down. Fifteen minutes a day of practice on a musical instrument will make a huge difference at the end of a year. Or make it for a shorter period of time. And…just because it is a new year doesn’t mean resolutions have to be for the whole year! Some things just don’t take that long. You could learn to salsa and be ready to go clubbing in way less than a year, I imagine.
  • Make it fun. If you don’t look forward to it, what’s going to keep you motivated?

That said, my mind has been full of things I’d like to do in 2013:

  • get good enough on the pennywhistle to join a jam session without embarrassing myself
  • learn to balance for 10 seconds in handstand away from the wall
  • get massage or acupuncture frequently
  • build a steady clientele for my massage practice and earn a certain amount
  • solve car problem (repair old car or get a newer one)
  • read more
  • write down creative ideas
  • take tango lessons
  • join a regular group meditation
  • listen to Brane Power CDs every day for a month
  • do the candida diet for the month of January
  • be awake and present as much as possible

It’s nice to have these noted and public. At the end of 2013, we’ll see which I actually did! I am curious too!

Boundaries checklist for healthy relationships

Relationships : A Checklist on Boundaries in a Relationship.

I believe I have posted this before, but if I haven’t, here it is now. It contrasts relationships where you give up your boundaries and when your boundaries are intact. I’ve found it helpful and bookmarked it.

It includes skills like being clear about your preferences and acting on them (I heard Byron Katie say she’s constantly asking herself what she wants), doing more when it gets results, trusting your own intuition, and only being satisfied when you are thriving (rather than coping and surviving).

Some items that I’m resonating with now:

  • Having a personal standard, albeit flexible, that applies to everyone and asks for accountability.
  • Are strongly affected by your partner’s behavior and take it as information.
  • Let yourself feel anger, say “ouch” and embark upon a program of change.
  • Honor intuitions and distinguish them from wishes.
  • Mostly feel secure and clear.
  • Are living a life that mostly approximates what you always wanted for yourself.
  • Decide how, to what extent, and how long you will be committed.

About the last one, I’m liking the new law in Mexico City that allows time-limited marriages. The couple agrees how long they want to be married. The minimum is two years. When the time is up, they either go their separate ways without divorcing or remarry for another period of time.

Love that idea. Wouldn’t it be great to have no more expensive, difficult, embittered divorces? To have a built-in time to reassess how well a relationship is going and together decide whether and for how long to continue it without getting involved with lawyers and courts?

That’s civilized, in my opinion.

~~~

Aug. 20, 2013

I’m adding another resource to this post, which continues to get views long after its original posting. It’s an article about toxic relationship habits that most people think are normal.

The article points out:

…part of the problem is that many unhealthy relationship habits are baked into our culture. We worship romantic love — you know, that dizzying and irrational romantic love that somehow finds breaking china plates on the wall in a fit of tears somewhat endearing — and scoff at practicality or unconventional sexualities. Men and women are raised to objectify each other and to objectify the relationships they’re in. Thus our partners are often seen as assets rather than someone to share mutual emotional support.

A lot of the self help literature out there isn’t helpful either (no, men and women are notfrom different planets, you over-generalizing prick.) And for most of us, mom and dad surely weren’t the best examples either.

Fortunately, there’s been a lot of psychological research into healthy and happy relationships the past few decades and there are some general principles that keep popping up consistently that most people are unaware of or don’t follow.

Here’s the link: 6 Toxic Relationship Habits that Most People Think Are Normal. 

 

Knowing and Mystery walked into a bar…

The Curse Of Certainty In Science And Religion : 13.7: Cosmos And Culture : NPR.

Thought-provoking essay on an NPR blog (Cosmos and Culture) by Adam Frank about the only constant in life being change, and how we hunger for certainty, solidity, knowing.

Religions try to provide certainty:

Scriptures are transformed into unwavering blueprints for an unchanging order.

Science might seem the antidote to the constrictions of religion:

Science, in the purest forms of its expression as a practice, holds to no doctrine other than that the world might be known.

But:

When science as an idea is used to push away the tremulous reality of our lived existential uncertainty then it … becomes just another imaginary fixed point in a life without fixed points.

So how about “spiritual but not necessarily religious”?

The world’s history of spiritual endeavor contains many beautiful descriptions of authentic encounters with uncertainty. Ironically these often serve as gateways to the most compassionate experience of what can be called sacred in human life… Dig around in most of the world’s great religious traditions and you find people finding their sense of grace by embracing uncertainty rather than trying to bury it in codified dogmas.

For science, embracing uncertainty means…

… embracing the fuzzy boundaries of the very process of asking questions. It means embracing the frontiers of what explanations, for all their power, can do. It means understanding that a life of deepest inquiry requires all kinds of vehicles: from poetry to particle accelerators; from quiet reveries to abstract analysis.

So how can we live with so much uncertainty? We become patient, forgiving, generous, and inclusive. We find humor, good will, and compassion.

We embrace the mystery of ourselves and these lives we live. A little humility goes far.

I like knowing, or rather, believing I know. I’ve spent much of my life wanting to know, trying to know, believing if I just knew, then … I’d be protected from misfortune, or something like that.

Misfortune happened anyway.

Yet can I really know? Can I really know you? Can I really know truth? Can I even really know myself? No, I cannot.

I operate on assumptions that involve temporary (fictional) certainties. I cling to certainty from moment to moment as I go about my life, taking this-that-the other for granted, and it could all change in any given moment. Yes, tomorrow will come. Yes, I’m going to take that trip, do that thing in the future. I’m going to arrive safely on the other side of the street. I’m going to get home again. I’m going to be emotionally intact at the end of the day. I will see the people who have been important to me again.

And I don’t really know.

Knowing is a convenient truth that works better for me when I understand that it is always accompanied by something much bigger and more powerful, The Mystery. This is the sea of the Nagual.

How to make real, lasting, and meaningful changes

I’ve recommended a very good book to several people recently and thought I’d blog about it as well. My peeps were either frustrated with their own failure to make a desired change in their lives, or they were helping professionals frustrated that their patients/clients were not making the changes they recommended.

The book is called Changing for Good: A Revolutionary Six-Stage Program for Overcoming Bad Habits and Moving Your Life Positively Forward. It has three authors — James Prochaska, John Norcross, and Carlo DiClemente, all Ph.D. psychology professors who did extensive research on the process of change. They modeled people who had successfully quit addictive and other problem behaviors (drinking, smoking, overeating, procrastinating, and many more).

Through this research, they discovered that successful change has six stages:

  1. Pre-contemplation (denial, ignorance, excuses, distancing, projection, blaming others)
  2. Contemplation (taking the problem behavior seriously, understanding consequences)
  3. Preparation (committing, setting a time frame, making a plan, telling people)
  4. Action (making the change, finding healthy ways to cope)
  5. Maintenance (staying motivated, encountering and weathering crises)
  6. Termination (no temptation, new identity)

The book goes into each stage in detail with tips on what you can do when you encounter problems or get stuck.

Since we all generalize, delete, and distort in our maps of reality, I can pretty much guarantee that this book will contain something you didn’t know enough about, never thought of before, or misunderstood about making a desired change.

The beauty is that you can take any change that you’ve tried to make but did not succeed at, identify the step where you fell down, get a better understanding of what it takes to succeed at that step, and come up with some better strategies and behaviors.

For instance, if you or a client has quit smoking numerous times but failed to “stay quit,” you know you or they need help with preparation and maintenance. Some years ago, this book helped me finally “stay quit” after quitting many times, and I’m no longer tempted at all. I prepared differently and put more emphasis on the importance of maintenance rather than action.

The National Cancer Institute found this program more than twice as effective as standard quit-smoking programs for 18 months. The National Association for Drug Abuse and Weight Watchers (or so I’ve heard) now also use this process.

Here’s my favorite customer review from Amazon.com:

It worked, I think. 
I still haven’t finished the book, but I decided to quit drinking and that was four months ago. Did it work? I dunno, but it sure is worth what I paid for the book.

It’s important to note that although the process has six stages, it is seldom linear. People recycle stages and may spiral through all the stages several times before being successful.

It’s also important to point out that you can use this to improve your game, be it golf, tennis, or surfing.

This book can really be helpful to frustrated change agents — therapists, coaches, health care providers. If you can identify where a client or patient is in their change process, you can actually address their needs much more effectively than just by recommending a change to them. They probably already know they “need to” change. Is it information they lack? Motivation? Support? Do they have problems with self-talk? Avoiding temptation?

Ask them about past changes they’ve made, and assess where they are on making this change. You can intervene more effectively if you know where they are stuck.

As my friend Glenda said recently,

I’ve worked hard at attracting and hanging onto heavy energy.

Now that’s someone in the contemplation stage. She’s getting motivated to experience something else.