How to bounce back

Sometimes in life, things are going well, and then something happens, and before you know it, you’ve gotten off track. Unpleasant surprises having to do with work, love, friendship, money, health, family, whatever we care about, can put us into an experience of suffering (aka “pain with a story”).

So what do you do to get back on track? Here’s what works for me:

  1. Realize it’s a process and there’s probably not an instant fix. Accept that you’re off track instead of pretending that everything is fine. Relax into it.
  2. Take care of your health. Go to bed and wake at the regular times. Eat healthy food, and not too much comfort food. Drink plenty of water. Exercise in whatever form you enjoy. Dance, run, do yoga, shadow-box. Move your body. A little sweat won’t hurt a bit, either. If you need inspiration, listen to this and try some of James Brown’s moves. You know he taught Michael Jackson how to dance:
  3. Let your emotions flow instead of suppressing them. Movement can help with this too. Walk around and make nonsense noises and start moving how you feel. Waaahhhhh! Grrrrrrr! Listen to music that helps you cry if tears feel blocked — this music can help:
     If you don’t feel safe expressing your feelings to another human being, write them out. Or get curious — what is the name of the emotion? Where in your body are you feeling it? How would your body like to move with this emotion? If you could dance it or see it dancing, what would that be like? What kind of music would it be dancing to? What color is it?
  4. Do something that will really make you feel better. There are tons of techniques that can be helpful. The Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) works for a lot of people. Now, this may seem crazy, but an even simpler technique for restoring emotional equilibrium is to slowly toss a small ball from hand to hand. While tossing it, slowly look toward the ceiling, close your eyes, and return your head to normal position. (It will take some practice to do this.) If you drop the ball, pick it up and start over (it’s easiest to do over a bed or sofa). It induces the feeling of being centered. Even 2 minutes of it shifts me. For theory and details on this, see Mind Juggling on Nelson Zink’s awesome website Navaching.
  5. Set boundaries that work for you. They don’t have to be permanent, but if you need a break from something that drains your energy, just take one. You being drained contributes to no one’s well-being. One of my favorite films of all time is Office Space. Make like Peter and don’t give a damn. You don’t have to drink the Kool-Aid. Savor your own mojo, and don’t give it away to the unappreciative.
  6. Think happy thoughts, imagine happy pictures, feel the good experiences you’ve had again. Do you know someone who has a radiant smile? Imagine their wonderful face. Has someone been particularly kind to you? Remember that feeling. What words do you like to hear? “Everything is going to be all right” is very soothing. Really, who the hell knows how everything is going to be, but saying that to yourself can feel comforting. Also, I have a big envelope full of cards, letters, and photos that people have given me over the past few years. When I pull that out and look through it, I feel reconnected with the good will of these people who’ve cared enough about me to make that effort. (Reminds me to make more of an effort myself toward that end.)
  7. Do something spiritual. Could be meditation, an act of kindness, reading spiritual books or listening to audiotapes, feeling gratitude, forgiving those who’ve hurt you. Even laughing, because laughter is a gift from the gods. Here’s James Altucher’s hilarious blog post on 60 second meditations. (I love washing dishes.)

This has been my favorite blog post to write, because I wrote it to help myself bounce back. So I guess 8. would be to write up your own methods of bouncing back, testing each step.

Before you know it, you’ve returned to your healthy self.

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.

Go Easy on Yourself, a New Wave of Research Urges – NYTimes.com

Go Easy on Yourself, a New Wave of Research Urges – NYTimes.com.

I love this new research about self-compassion. Our culture often gives us the message that we need to be tough and disciplined with ourselves, yet many aspects of our culture are not very healthy, from obesity, diabetes, and the standard American diet (SAD) to politics, greed, and the environment.

How can we as individuals change this? How do we get healthier? You can start with yourself.

A cutting edge of psychological research shows that giving yourself a break may move you toward better health instead of away from it.

Kristin Neff’s book, Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind, is on my to-read list.

People who score high on tests of self-compassion have less depression and anxiety, and tend to be happier and more optimistic. Preliminary data suggest that self-compassion can even influence how much we eat and may help some people lose weight.

Dr. Neff, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, distinguishes between self-compassion and self-indulgence. A key question is whether you treat yourself as well as you treat the people you care about. Would you tell your child or best friend what you tell yourself when you are struggling?

Also, having compassion for your own suffering does not mean that nothing needs to be done. You can take a moment to feel what you’re feeling, have compassion for yourself, and then consider what you can do to make it better.

This is one of the reasons I like doing and teaching the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) using the method I learned from Dene Ballantine.

  1. You accept your own not-so-great emotional experience with compassion.
  2. You bring your focus into the present and onto yourself, without judgment, by forgiving yourself and others. You let go of the story.
  3. You create a direction for movement toward a more pleasant emotional experience.