Habit tracking simplified

I do much better when incorporating new behaviors into my life when I have a way to track them that’s visual and shows more than just a few days. I found an online PDF, Habit Tracker, that has space to track up to 17 behaviors for one month, so you can easily view trends, skipped days, etc.

One of the activities that is motivating when trying to develop a new habit is checking off each time you do something on a monthly calendar. When you’ve done it for a few days in a row, you see your streak of successfully incorporating the habit, and you don’t want to break the chain. This technique was attributed to Jerry Seinfeld, but he doesn’t claim credit. Whatever. It works!

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Source: https://www.clementinecreative.co.za/reach-goals-free-printable-habit-tracker/

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Incorporating NLP into bodywork sessions: two stories

I want to share a couple of stories about how I’ve used my NLP training (practitioner, master practitioner, advanced techniques) to help my bodywork clients with issues in their lives.

One client, a creative musician and jewelry maker who comes in for Ashiatsu and occasionally Swedish, mentioned that she had been plagued by an inner voice that sounded just like the voice of her father, a critical man who had belittled her up until his death. She felt depressed and stuck, unable to move forward with her creative projects. His voice still haunted her long after his death. (What a sad legacy to leave.) Continue reading

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.

How yoga changes the brain’s stress response

Ha ha! Psychology Today includes a column called PreFrontal Nudity: The Brain Exposed. Love it!

This column, Yoga: Changing the Brain’s Stressful Habits, by Alex Korb, Ph.D. in neuroscience, is about the stress of yoga.

Yoga is controlled stress, as Leslie Kaminoff says.

Yes, that’s right. Yoga is stressful. If you don’t believe me, then get down on all fours with your hands shoulder width apart and your feet hip width apart. Push your hands and toes into the floor and lift your butt high. Stick your sacrum up as high as it will go.

Let your head drop.

Oh, and be sure your fingers are spread as wide as they can spread, middle fingers pointing forward, and without moving your hands, rotate your arms so your inner elbows are pointing more forward than toward each other.

Straighten your back. Don’t let it collapse! Let your shoulder blades flatten into your back but keep your kidney area full. Imagine you’re making one long line from wrist to tailbone.

Pedal your feet up and down if you need to, but really, try to get your heels to the floor with your legs straight. Feel that hamstring stretch! Feel those calf muscles and Achilles tendons!

Now push your hands and feet into your mat and away from each other!

Are you feeling relaxed yet?

So don’t forget to breathe. Keep your breathing calm and steady. Breathe through your nose while constricting the back of your throat to make a sound like the ocean.

Now how are you doing? Congrats on your downward facing dog, by the way.

Korb accompanied his dad to a yoga class and learned first-hand how yoga retrains the brain. He thought it was going to be all pretzel twists and enlightenment, until his dad explained ujjayi breathing to him.

This next statement may sound to you either profound or extremely obvious, but it comes down to this: the things you do and the thoughts you have change the firing patterns and chemical composition of your brain. Even actions as simple as changing your posture, relaxing the muscles on your face, or slowing your breathing rate, can affect the activity in your brain…. These changes are often transient, but can be long-lasting, particularly if they entail changing a habit.

As a neuroscientist, despite my initial incredulity, I came to realize that yoga works not because the poses are relaxing, but because they are stressful. It is your attempts to remain calm during this stress that create yoga’s greatest neurobiological benefit.

 The fascinating thing about the mind-body interaction is that it works both ways. For example, if you’re stressed, your muscles will tense (preparing to run away from a lion), and this will lead to more negative thinking. Relaxing those muscles, particularly the facial muscles, will push the brain in the other direction, away from stress, and toward more relaxed thoughts. Similarly, under stress, your breathing rate increases. Slowing down your breathing pushes the brain away from the stress response, and again toward more relaxed thinking.

It [the physiological stress response] is, in fact, just a habit of the brain. One of the main purposes of yoga is to retrain this habit so that your brain stops automatically invoking the stress response.

Here’s the real kicker in my opinion, where a Ph.D. western scientist new to yoga really gets what it’s all about:

The good news is that you don’t actually have to go to a class to practice yoga. The poses most people associate with yoga are just a particular way of practicing yoga called the asana practice (“asana” translates to “pose”). The asana practice challenges you in a specific way, but life itself offers plenty of challenges on its own. Under any stressful circumstance you can attempt the same calming techniques: breathing deeply and slowly, relaxing your facial muscles, clearing your head of anxious thoughts, focusing on the present. In fact, applying these techniques to real life is what yoga is all about. Yoga is simply the process of paying attention to the present moment and calming the mind.

Yogis, does that not warm your hearts?

Nonyogis, does this not inspire you to practice yoga?

Couldn’t we all use a little more attention in the present moment and a calmer mind?

Now offering bodywork & changework

I offer bodywork and changework sessions in my Spartan Carousel trailer in the Manchaca area of Austin, Texas.

These sessions combine massage (mostly Swedish and deep massage with a few enhancements, more as I learn new skills) and changework (NLP, EFT, Byron Katie’s The Work, and more as I learn new skills).

If you are a new client, I’ll do an intake on your first visit, and we’ll talk about the changes you might wish to manifest in your life. We’ll decide up front how best to spend our two hours together each time you visit.

I offer two-hour morning, afternoon, evening, and weekend sessions.

While I complete my internship in massage school, there is no charge for massage/bodywork, and you may pay what you wish for changework. After I receive my massage license in February, sessions will be $108 for two hours.

Please email (mareynolds27 @ gmail.com), phone, or text me (512 507 4184) to set up an appointment.

You may view an FAQ on the Bodywork & Changework page of this blog.

Looking back on a year full of changes

This past year held a lot of change for me. The previous year, 2010, was a year of sitting in meditation daily, and I very nearly accomplished that. It was a year of contemplation, exploring my identity, waking up, and getting clear.

The changes in 2011 helped my external life — how I live in the world — match up better with how my energy and identity had changed after all that meditation.

Changes to the blog

This blog had gotten 5,000 views in January and is ending the year with nearly 27,000. Readership really accelerated. I felt like I hit my stride in the second year, and I want to keep getting better. I currently have 156 followers, which includes WordPress and email subscribers as well as Twitter followers.

I redesigned and renamed the blog (from The Zafu Report) at the beginning of 2011 and stuck with the same template, albeit changing the photo often, for the entire year. I broadened the topics from mostly posting about meditation and yoga to posting about wellness and aliveness. I began including posts about healthy eating and reviews of movies that I’ve found inspiring and expansive.

My intent for 2012 is to be more personal in my writing. I noticed that those are the posts that get the most views, likes, and comments, not the reposts. I will still share the juicy information I come across, but I’ll also tell you why it’s meaningful to me. I’d love to have more comments from you.

Selling my house and moving into a trailer

My house was on the market in January 2011, and I closed and moved out in late February. I immediately bought the vintage Spartan Carousel that I’d had my eye on online for months. I put household stuff in storage (what remained after paring down) and moved in with dear friends until I could get the trailer here.

I found my trailer park in March.

First, I waited to get a title from the state of Washington, and then I waited for flood waters to recede so the trailer could be loaded on a trailer and hauled here. That finally happened in June. We got it set up, repaired, installed cork flooring and an HVAC unit, and I moved in in August. A friend donated a washer and dryer, and I got them set up in my shed in October.

Trailer life is good! I am enjoying living here a lot, and it’s great to have a paid-for, portable, recycled, streamlined, vintage home. I’ve had friends do two house blessings here, and I’ve done some landscaping. I’ve seen deer and a fox in the park, as well as lots of birds. My neighbors have been very unobtrusive.

The only sad part is that my cat, Mango, did not adapt well to trailer park life, and he went back to live with my former roommates, who love him, and we all have joint custody. I see him every week, and he still loves me.

It’s also been a bit of an adjustment, moving from the center of the city to the edge. I do more driving. I listen to music and NLP CDs a lot now while I drive.

My intent for 2012 is to install more window coverings, have a deck built, and get a chimenea and some bird-feeders for viewing pleasure. I look forward to doing more landscaping and gardening. I’ll see what my budget allows in terms of further improvements.

Teaching and studying yoga

I taught restorative yoga weekly through July at an acupuncture clinic. Although the class size was small, that teaching experience was invaluable. I worked with private students and substituted at a lunchtime yoga class — the one I took when I was working — and taught a restorative class in a studio for Free Day of Yoga. Did restorative yoga by invitation on a friend’s moving day.

I did two workshops in 2011 with nationally known teachers, Shiva Rea in January and Judith Hanson Lasater in February. In the summer, I began taking classes from Anusara teachers and later picked up a sweaty vinyasa flow class for a more challenging workout. I love working with accomplished teachers — I’m there to learn more about teaching as well as about yoga.

I’m signed up to take Yoga Anatomy with Leslie Kaminoff in January 2012.  I’d love to combine my love of yoga with my love of massage to work on yogis and help prevent and heal yoga injuries.

Practicing changework

I started this year serving as an assistant for NLP master practitioner training by Tom Best of Best Resources/Texas Institute of NLP. That ended in April. I served as program director for the Austin NLP meet-up for a few months and later co-taught an NLP class to women in prison. I attended Metaphors of Money, a workshop with Charles Faulkner, in the fall.

I offered NLP changework sessions this past year, and some of my clients had some wonderful outcomes, reaching major milestones and fulfilling long-time dreams. The sessions played a role in their success, which is pleasing, of course, and my clients already had a lot of resources when I worked with them. It was fun.

I attended two weekend sessions with Byron Katie in which she demonstrated The Work. I use her method of inquiry on myself often and with clients.

I did a lot of reading and personal experimentation with two healing practices, the trauma releasing exercises of David Berceli and shaking medicine taught by Bradford Keeney. Each has tremendous value.

I practiced the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) every day in January as I waited for my house to sell and found it helped keep me calm and centered. I’ve since taught it to others.

Going to massage school

In April, I learned about hands-on healing from giving it, and that steered me toward massage school rather than acupuncture school (although never say never). I began studying at The Lauterstein-Conway Massage School in late June (the same day my trailer arrived!) and finished my academic work in early December. I’m currently working in the student clinic, gaining the required 50 hours of internship to get my license.

Meanwhile, I’ve worked on about 30 friends and family members and about 25 of my fellow students.

Besides my regular classes, I took a workshop on cranio-sacral therapy. I’ve gotten massages from my teachers as a way of learning, and I’ve been fortunate enough to trade Swedish massage for lomi lomi and reflexology sessions. The learning will always continue.

Once I’m licensed, probably in February, I’ll officially start my practice, although I’ve been doing bodywork/changework sessions for gratis for several months.

Continuing my own healing

I continued to do acupuncture with Patrice Sullivan and did my usual spring and fall cleanses, which I’ve posted about before. This year I finally cleared my liver and gallbladder of stones!

I continued receiving applied kinesiology sessions from Chandler Collins and hands-on bodywork sessions from Bo Boatwright to free up even  more health into my body and life.

I began working with Fran Bell, who gave my walk a makeover. I had been walking as if I was still injured long after my injuries had healed. Sometimes it takes help to change habitual patterns. Now when I walk, my body feels good and has energy.

Also in the past year, I resumed my practice of ecstatic dance, which I fell in love with in 1995. My ecstatic dancing was on hiatus for the past three or so years. My body craved yoga and more silence, stillness, and solitude. It’s good to be back. I feel like I’ve found a good community, Ecstatic Dance of Austin.

In May I had the initial assessment for brainwave optimization, and in June I did 10 sessions with NeuroBeginnings. The benefits continue to show up for months afterward. I feel more centered, myself, and content. I imagine 2012 will bring even more health and healing into my life.

Working 

I started the year jobless, living on my savings. When I realized I had no idea how long it might take to sell my house, I decided to do contract technical writing. The day I posted my resume, I was contacted by a recruiter. I worked at 3M for 3 months.

I’ve done some freelance work writing and editing website copy.

I’m holding a space for a part-time job in 2012 for financial security while I get my practice established.

Spiritual direction

In the spring, I joined my friend Thomas in watching a group of Tibetan monks destroy a sand painting they had constructed painstakingly and then walk in procession to release the sand into Lady Bird Lake. Very moving, a reminder of impermanence.

On the fall equinox, I realized that I felt as if I had finally fully arrived, or one might say, as if I fully occupied myself, as though I became fully present. Gratified. It’s hard to know that is even a goal until you experience it.

I joined a book group in the fall, studying the 4th way Gurdjieffian path as taught by E.J. Gold. I plan to continue with that in 2012.

I also began dating someone this fall after four years of not dating. I don’t know the future, but it totally feels very sweet and lovely to be in a relationship at this time with this man!!

My second Saturn return occurred in December. My astrologer said that for Aquarians like me, rather than age, I “youth”. So far, so good!

So that wraps up 2011, the year of big changes. I don’t do resolutions, but I check in with my intentions, many of which I’ve shared here.

Wishing you all many blessings in 2012.

10 things I love about massage

  1. Almost everyone loves massage and bodywork. It feels good and is nourishing to the body, mind, heart, and spirit.
  2. Caring touch, the basis of massage therapy, is probably the most ancient method of promoting well-being that human beings have used on each other.
  3. It’s the front line of health care. Massage therapists spend more time with their clients than most other health care providers.
  4. Your massage therapist gets to know you well. He or she may help you with alignment, posture, pain, emotional, breathing, self-worth, self-knowledge, and many more issues.
  5. If 90 percent of doctor visits are stress-related, why not just skip the doctor and get a massage? It is one of the healthiest ways to reduce stress that exists.
  6. There is no end to the methods of massage: Swedish, sports, deep, shiatsu, and more. Then there are branches: Rolfing, Trager, cranio-sacral, and more. A massage therapist can focus on mastering one method or practice several. Adventurous recipients can have a field day trying them all!
  7. Massage marries art and skill. Massage therapists have learned skills using specific methods and can also artfully mix and match techniques to meet your body’s needs.
  8. Studying massage includes studies in geeky subject matter, like anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, pathology. Massage therapists use both their right and left brains when learning and giving massage.
  9. It’s one of the top 50 careers of 2011, according to US News and World Report. It’s expected to keep growing over the next decade.
  10. Massage by itself is great, and it partners well with changework. Say you’ve been struggling with an issue and have a breakthrough of some sort. You feel it in your body, right? Massage helps you integrate it more deeply, literally embodying the change.

A changework and bodywork session

One evening this past week, I received a special honor. I got to do changework and bodywork with someone who has done changework and bodywork with me. I’m not going to provide any identifying information out of respect for her privacy. Think of this as a case study: it really happened, but you will never be able to tell whose experience it was, and in any case, it doesn’t really matter.

I’m writing this session up to illustrate what I am offering in my private practice: changework combined with bodywork.

Most everyone is at least familiar with what bodywork and massage are. Changework is less known. You can think of it as a kind of coaching, with applications for managing stress, becoming more relaxed, changing your stories, shelving beliefs that no longer apply, clarifying, removing obstacles, getting unstuck, achieving goals, knowing yourself, expanding, transforming emotions, and more.

I have some training and experience I can draw on, but mostly I listen to understand and offer support for a client to explore and find movement toward resolution. Sometimes just being really listened to makes a huge difference. Sometimes a client just needs another point of view. Sometimes a question or two can open up a whole new direction. Sometimes a technique can help.

When a positive shift has occurred, we move into the bodywork part of a session — to literally embody the change.

My client had overdone it with some physical activity and then made a ducking, twisting movement — and her back started spasming. After several days, the spasms were entirely gone and she went back to work…and they returned. She understood then that the spasms were probably tied to something else.

She had already done significant work on this before we met. She examined what had been happening emotionally before the injury occurred — especially in regard to work, because the spasms resumed when she went back to work.

She had been feeling irritated about some of her clients not taking care of themselves despite all she had put into their sessions. (This experience is pretty universal among health care providers.) She was just being with this awareness, not knowing what she was going to do about it, when she overdid it and started having back spasms. She put resolving this issue on hold.

Once she identified the unresolved issue, bringing it into the light, she made some changes in her work, and a deeper level of healing began.

She was still feeling like more exploration was needed when she came to me.

I asked how I could help, and she said maybe we could do a little tapping — EFT, the Emotional Freedom Technique. I shared with her a version I like, and she tapped away as we talked.

With EFT, you identify what you are feeling. Behind the irritability, she recognized that she felt sad about not being able to help.

I asked if she could really know that she wasn’t helping these clients, and she said no.

Sometimes people have to step in the hole again (or a thousand times; see Groundhog Day, one of my favorite movies) before they walk around it.

When someone finally makes a decision (or the decision makes itself) to walk around the hole, changing has become more attractive than not changing. Her clients’ experiences of her own healthy vibrancy, her work, and her commitment to well-being are of course part of the force-field that makes changing to healthier habits more attractive. It just might take them awhile to really be ready, though.

On her own, she came up with an inspiring course to take — if some of her clients are choosing the shadow over the light, and she’s resisting them doing that, then maybe now is a great time for her to examine her own shadow side.

Brilliant. Perfect for the season, too, as the nights get longer.

Then she got on the table, and I gave her a deep massage, which she had not previously experienced. She loved 9 points (TLC people, if you’re reading this, you’ll know what I mean). I reached some back muscle tenderness and melted into it.

She blissed out on the table, and I finished working on her, and we talked a little more, and she slipped away into the night — until we meet again.