Riding the energy of the New Year into life skills

Happy New Year from wellbodymindheartspirit!

It seems natural to me that after the indulgences of the holiday season — after all the parties, feasts, special foods, and alcohol consumption lasting from Thanksgiving through New Year are over — I want to simplify, clean up my habits, rebalance.

This is the energy begetting New Year’s resolutions. January is the soberest month, after all!

But how best to work with that energy? I’ve learned from personal experience that most of the time, those good intentions don’t last a whole year. (One exception: I did meditate nearly every day for a year, back in 2010, when I launched this blog. The following year, I was so sick of the daily discipline, I became quite irregular at it. Back on track now, figuring 5 out of 7 days is just fine, and 7 out of 7 is awesome!) So it’s good to think about how you know when you are done. How can you be successful actualizing your intention? Is it related to a specific time period, mindfully learning a new habit that you then do mindlessly, achieving a particular goal, or something else?

I’m riding that energy to use the first two weeks of January to clean up my diet. I’ve resolved to go dairy-free through January 15th. Then I plan to do challenge testing of dairy products, partaking of them again and noticing how they affect my body. My nutritionist, Olivia Honeycutt, will help me through this, building on the food records I’ve been keeping for the past several months.

I’ll probably start with the fermented stuff, yogurt and kefir, which may be easier to digest, and then go on to test cheeses, also fermented, and finally the hard-core dairy products I like, cream and butter. (I haven’t drunk milk in many years, so that won’t be an issue.)

After those two weeks, I’ll have a better idea of which kinds of dairy and how much (if any) my body can handle well.

It’s not that I’m sick (I was, before going gluten-free 7 years ago). Now I’m experimenting with which tweaks to my diet make me feel even better.

I’m also using this period to cut grains out of my diet. I’ll be experimenting after that with ways to prepare grains in ways that don’t rob my body of minerals from phytates and that maximize digestibility (soaking and sprouting first). I miss the texture of grains sometimes, like rice and quinoa. The cookbook Nourishing Traditions has tips on how to prepare grains (and everything else) in healthful ways.

Sugar and honey and other sweeteners are also going by the wayside during this period, except for that daily small piece of 85%-cacao dark chocolate. When it comes to chocolate, I know well how little resistance I have when there’s more sugar in the chocolate. I wanna eat the whole damn bar! 85% is barely sweet and thus non-addictive. I can eat a small piece daily and make a bar last two weeks, getting the benefits of the cacao (antioxidants, magnesium, endorphins) without overindulging in sugar.

I decided I might as well go alcohol-free too. What the heck, right? I have become fond of some red wines and could (and did) drink a glass almost daily. After that, I may cut back to drinking wine only when dining out. Alcohol can be addictive, and apparently it’s never too late to develop a drinking problem, which I definitely don’t want.

Another good resolution is to get the first hour of my day in good order. For me, it’s brushing and flossing first thing, followed by drinking a glass of water with gelatin and apple cider vinegar, doing 10-15 minutes of yoga (vinyasa, easing into each stretch for at least 15 seconds), then meditating for 15-60 minutes, and making myself a morning cup of healthful tea, mixing matcha, puerrh, yerba mate, ginger, turmeric, nettle, reishi, etc., as needed for energy and healing. (I learned the value of this from Tim Ferriss, the supreme life hacker who wrote The 4-Hour Body and The 4-Hour Chef.)

After doing those things, I go about my day. Every day can be different in my line of work (massage therapy), depending on the number of clients and their needs, working in different locations. It’s nice to have a routine (that I hope will become mindless, like autopilot when I wake up) of healthy habits to start each day.

I am also interested in lowering my stress levels. As a massage therapist, relieving others’ stress and tension is my job. What about my own? Meditation helps, but it’s time deliberately set aside from the daily grind, sitting on a cushion and meditating. What about during the day, when I’m running errands, stuck in Austin’s notorious traffic, running late for a meeting, returning stuff, standing in line, experiencing inner and outer conflicts, hearing terrible news about what’s happening in the world that I can’t do anything about?

I decided late in 2014 to investigate the HeartMath program. I bought a device that attaches to my iPhone (the Inner Balance for iOS pulse sensor) and downloaded a free app (Inner Balance). I plug the device into my phone, attach the clip to my earlobe, and watch an expanding/contracting mandala on the screen to pace my breath. Auditory cues let me know if my heart rate variability is in the low, medium, or high range. (HRV is an indicator of coherence in the autonomic nervous system that correlates with entrainment/harmony of physiological systems. Coherence correlates to feeling positive emotions, so you could call this an attitude adjustment device. Here’s more information if you want it.)

The goal is to be in the high range of coherence as much as possible. As with games, you can set the pace, move up to higher levels, change images, get scores, and more. There are also computer-based devices available.

I quickly noticed how my thoughts affect my coherence level. If my mind wanders to news of a plane crash or nasty politics or war or a crime (I’m sure you’ve experienced this too), I move into the low range. If I bring my attention back to my heart center, I move into the high range.

I plan to do at least one session every day until I can, at will, without the device, reliably switch from stress to a positive emotion and maintain it for as long as needed.

(Not that negative emotions are totally bad. Of course when someone I love is suffering or dies, I will feel grief, anger, etc., and I have memories of difficult times in my own life. That’s life. But when it’s about something distant from me that I cannot personally do anything about, who does it serve for me to feel bad? Not me, not those I most care about. One thing I can do is to support effective organizations that are making the world a better place.)

And there you have it. These are my intentions for 2015, my expression of the “new beginnings” energy that accompanies the turn of the year. First, a two week diet clean-up. Next, an intention to create a new habit for how I spend the first hour of every day — and I’ll be done once I’m doing it regularly. Thirdly, I will use a device to increase my experience of positive emotions —and stop when I can reliably do that at will, without the device.

I will check back in later this year, and again at the end of 2015, to let you know how these intentions and practices have panned out in actuality.

Hope you have a wonderful year and that 2015 showers you with love and abundance and worthy challenges!

Happy New Year! Gratitude for 2013! Have a delightful 2014!

May 2014 bring you an abundance of blessings.

Some people and events in 2013 that I’m grateful for:

  • meeting David Harel and then training in craniosacral therapy (classical and biodynamic) with Ryan Hallford — this new work direction is juicy and compelling
  • all of the people who have allowed me to practice on them — I appreciate your willingness to let a student learn on you Continue reading

New Year blessings for you from The Well

May you breathe fully and easily.

May you fully inhabit your body with your awareness.

May you discern the difference between stress and relaxation.

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May you experience more and deeper relaxation.

May you experience just enough stress to keep you aware and safe.

May you delight in exploring how good you can feel.

 

May the relation between your diet and well-being become clear.

May the relation between your conscious and unconscious minds become clear.

May you soften to yourself and others.

 

May you seek help when needed.

May you feel gratitude for all the resources you have.

May you move toward happiness.

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May you notice shine, wherever it appears.

May inspiration find you frequently.

May you have compassion for yourself and others.

 

May you set boundaries and manage conflicts with love.

May you experience breakthroughs in maturity and insight.

May you be present in every possible moment.

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!

Seeding the winter solstice

Today is the shortest day/longest night of the year. Before any organized religions existed, people celebrated this day as the returning of the light after a season of shorter days. It’s the end of harvest and the beginning of the yin-most season, winter. It’s the season of facing mortality, of gathering seeds with intention to plant new beginnings.

Ancient ruins show us that cultures around the world (from native Americans both north and south to Irish and British to Mediterranean and more, I’m sure) were savvy enough to build structures to mark and hold ceremonies for the solstices and equinoxes.

In those times, communities were more tenuous, and starvation in winter was a real possibility. Gatherings on winter solstice must have included the last feast before winter began in earnest, prayers for survival, requests for blessings from the higher powers, and of course, recognition of our complete dependence on nature, on Gaia, on the mysterious ways of the Universe that brought this astronomical event every year without fail but left so much more seemingly to chance, in somewhat random cycles of life, death, and rebirth.

When the religions came into existence, not being able to compete with astronomical, seasonal facts of solstice celebrations, they supplanted winter solstice observances by piling on their own holidays — Saturnalia, Hanukkah, Yule, Christmas, New Year’s, and more. (For a full listing of winter solstice observances, read the Wikipedia entry for winter solstice.)

In many ways, the new year actually begins today. This day may well be the most powerful day of the year for looking at your present life and allowing your intent for the coming year to make itself clear — bringing light into the darkness.

What do you intend for the coming year? What do you want to learn? What do you want to create? What direction will your life path take you?

Much of the future, of course, must remain dark. What fun would it be if we knew everything that would happen? No surprises, no trusting (or fearing) the universe will bring you just what you need. No challenges to help you rise to the occasion, to assist you to define and refine your character and expand your resourcefulness.

Recently I posted about beauty, and this is one of the 50 reasons why you are beautiful:

3. Beauty is a daring action. One that is built on your authentic intention instead of being attached to the outcome.

Being attached to the outcome leaves no room for the unknown and invites disappointment. Consider that the unknown making itself known may reveal even more beauty than you can possibly imagine.

Building on your authentic intention creates a direction that your actions can then follow, until it’s time to change direction.

Please let yourself dream today, and get in touch with the silent stillness that’s always available — just an intention away. Tapping into the silent stillness allows intentions to arise and clarify. Intentions are the seeds of action. What kind of new year can you intend for yourself?