When Everything Goes into a Tail Spin

Photo Credit: Katie Drazdauskaite

Not long ago, I was cruising along feeling good. I enjoyed a healthy body, supportive and delightful family, interesting & reliable friends, and a successful career. Most of my juice was going towards finishing and promoting my first book, A Guide to Body Wisdom. Although driven by the deadlines and challenges of becoming a published writer, I’d reframed the stress as an exciting adventure. Then, everything went into a tail spin. 

In the midst of natural disasters, health emergencies, financial reversals, and losing dear friends, my sweet, predictable life fell apart. As one thing led to the next, my sense of being in control crumbled and the ordinary strategy of working harder & getting creative wasn’t the solution. In order to find the way through, I needed to practice what I preach and let body wisdom be my guide.

I didn’t really have a choice. Because life was in such disarray, I needed to put one step in front of the next just to find my way. With my attention necessarily focused on the immediate present, any professional, political and social interests receded into the background. During this time of healing and repair, listening to my body became a lifeline. Here are a couple of things I learned in the process:

Conserve energy. Listening to my energetic body clarified the importance of making good choices. Like a mathematical equation, it was obvious that a walk on the beach gave me energy; scanning social media did not. Listening to the news was depleting; sitting in the garden was replenishing. Binging on the 300 plus episodes of Resurrection was like eating junk food; while listening to my BodyBreath CD was nurturing. Conserving energy gave me the resources to focus on the essentials of healing.

Get current. Listening to my emotional body helped me stay current with my feelings. The relative comfort/ discomfort of flowing versus stuck was easy to discern. If I felt calm and centered, my emotional body felt at ease. If I felt tight, numb, or agitated, my emotional body felt uneasy. Creating private moments to get the stuck places moving again included rocking/ moaning to release grief and shaking/humming to release fear. Getting current helped me sideline the drama and do what needed to be done.

Stay connected. Listening to my spiritual body established a link to higher knowing and endless possibility. Visualizing an open channel through my body and the expansive space around my body created a context where I could ask for & receive help without reservation. Here, it was easy to feel the presence of love and support. Here, the steady voice of my higher self could deliver words of trust and acceptance and light at the end of the tunnel. Staying connected helped me show up with confidence and grace to see my way through. 

I know many of my readers are experiencing their own upheavals. I’ve written this for you as a reminder to let body wisdom be your guide. Of course, when you listen in, your own body’s wise council will be tailor-made just for you & your circumstances.


Addendum: I am 6 months out from hip replacement surgery, feeling renewed and inspired to continue carrying the torch for Body Wisdom. I’m seeing clients again for bodywork and somatic healing – please email me to book a session in Santa Barbara; writing articles for Somatic Psychotherapy Today ; and trying to stay current on social media (Facebook and LinkedIn)

Dry Skin Brushing

A simple way to get things moving again.

PHOTO CREDIT: NICK KARVOUNIS ON UNSPLASH.COM

Nature is doing its thing outside – budding and buzzing and flowing. But, after months of harsh weather and too much sitting around, you may be feeling sluggish and out of synch. Following the principle of inertia, you may need something to break winter’s pattern of inactivity and get things moving again. My favorite way to do this is … dry skin brushing!

Over the past few months, you’ve probably spent more time indoors ruminating and less time outdoors moving around. As a result, your natural process of sloughing off the old skin to make way for the new has slowed down and become less efficient. This can result in a pasty, patchy skin with sluggish pores. In order to refresh and reboot, you’ll need to give it a little extra rub and scrub to exfoliate the accumulated duff and get the circulation going. In the spirit of spring cleaning, why not add a few minutes of skin brushing to your bathing routine?

Did you know that your skin sloughs off a million dead cells every day? Dry skin brushing helps this natural process by both loosening the top layer of skin and brushing it away. It also helps the regeneration of new cells by stimulating your circulation. Here’s how it goes:

You’ll need a natural bristle brush. The general rule is a firmer brush & touch for your body and softer brush & touch for your face. Starting at your feet, work your way up your body, brushing in circular, up & down, and back & forth strokes. Don’t forget the back of your knees or under your chin. You can brush a little more vigorously on your arms, legs and back and a little more gently on your chest and belly. Use a softer brush or spa mask for your face. As you proceed, don’t let your mind wander. Keep your awareness on your body and center your thoughts and internal dialogue solely on loving thoughts and appreciation. If self-judgment or negative thinking happens to surface, just brush it all away with everything else. Now, take a shower or bath and wash the old stuff away.

Afterwards, notice how your skin feels. This is your circulation moving. Notice how your skin looks. The radiant, alive visage you see in the mirror reflects a healthy, functioning system. Notice how your general mood. Perhaps, that perky, alert feeling is the awakening of something new and intriguing. Radiant, resilient skin makes it feel easy to be seen and meet the future. I was reminded of this recently when a young friend commented on how good I looked and I thought to myself, “Yeah, dry skin brushing!”

But, skin brushing isn’t just skin deep. Metaphorically, this simple routine, gets it all moving- body, mind & spirit. You jettison the old thoughts and stale energy along with the old skin. You sweep aside the old emotional detritus and anchor awareness in present time. Doing this little bit of self-care with conscious intention delivers a regenerative message deep in the psyche. Along with the new skin, you’re inviting new ideas and possibilities. It turns out, this skin brushing isn’t just doing something positive for your body-self, it’s doing something for your whole self.

Of course, it would be lovely if I had year around commitment to being aware and taking care. Like many people, even though something is good for me, once I start feeling on top of it, I forget and just cruise on by even the simplest self-care practice. The lovely thing about dry skin brushing is that it’s always there in my tool box when I need it. Any time I’m feeling sluggish, stuck, or discouraged, just a little brush of the skin gets it all moving again- inspiration, enthusiasm, and the momentum to follow my bliss.

Resources:

Dry skin brushes can be found at your local health food store or on the internet.

Reveal Your Glow. This book by skin expert Donna Steinmann, creator of Sweet Bee Magic, describes a simple dry brush and skin care routine and the science behind it. Reading it will change how you think about your skin and transform the way you look and feel.

Also, my upcoming book has a whole chapter on basic body care practices that will change the way you think about, relate to and live in your body.

A Guide to Body Wisdom: What Your Mind Needs to Know About Your Body. Available in June through Llewellyn Worldwide.

Fire, Mud and Blue Skies

Why we’re still reeling and what to do about it.

PHOTO CREDIT: MATTHEW KOSLOSKI ON UNSPLASH.COM

Our community is finally settling down after being slammed by record-breaking fires, toxic smoke, devastating mudslides, and incalculable human loss. The freeway is open and people are returning to the evacuated areas. The sky is crispy blue and days are sparkly beautiful as Santa Barbara always is in the wintertime. Although there’s still a lot of clean up and healing to be done, there’s a sense that normalcy may be on the horizon. Then, why are so many people still feeling stuck, uninspired and slightly panicked?

Feeling unmoored, uncertain, dazed, fazed, and numb is to be expected after nearly two months of hyper vigilance and elevated cortisol levels. Whether directly impacted or not, we’ve all been touched by these traumatic times. Closing your eyes, it’s easy to conjure images of crowded escape routes, eyes peering over the top of N05 face masks, and charred landscapes with cars & houses rammed into trees. Tuning in to your body, there’s an imprint of anxiety in the viscera and tension in the muscles. Listening to stories of loss and heroism, evokes a sudden flood of tears. And, attempting to focus and take care of business, feels impossible with a layer of impenetrable fuzz is sitting on your creativity.

During the crisis, your sympathetic nervous system went on high alert to help you make quick decisions, get the hell out, and save lives. But, now, this geared up physiology is neither helpful nor healthy. Getting stuck in survival mode only results in hypertension, headaches, inflammation, shallow breathing, elevated blood pressure, fatigue and digestive problems. If you have any of these symptoms or feel slightly stunned, irritable, confused or depressed, now’s the time to be pro-active and do something about it.

Here are four steps to help your body-mind recalibrate and return to an everyday sense of safety and confidence.

First step…just sit quietly.

In order to shift from the habit of watching every bit of news and rehashing every trauma, you need to unhook and be present in this moment and this moment only. Turn it off the chatter and be in your body, in your breath, in the intimate space of right now. No past, no future, no agenda except sitting quietly. Feel your feet on the floor, touching base. Feel your breath move your bones, bringing healing. If you need some help with this step, check out biofeedback therapist Tina Lerner’s five-minute meditation.

Somatic message= Your body connects you to earth and spirit in present time.

Second step…find tension and relax.

Put on some soft music & soak in a candle-lit bath. Do some yoga, take a walk, get an acupuncture or chiropractic treatment, call your massage therapist. Many people have told me they feel foggy, stuck, uptight, and/ or out of their bodies altogether. Getting some good body work will help you relax, reconnect and rebalance. After a recent session, Judy wrote: “Thank you so much for regrouping me. Not only can I breathe again but I’m now out of pj’s & feel more inspired and focused.”

Somatic message= Your body is a safe and steady reference point.

Step three…rebuild your confidence.

Be patient, take it slowly, cut yourself some slack. The impact of a disaster is all-encompassing. Recovering your sense of self is physical, psychological, and deeply personal. Give yourself time to reconnect and put your life back in order again. Your body is listening to the words you use and thoughts you think so reframe the negatives into positives- even if you’re not quite there yet. FYI: coming together in a healing circle might be a good idea (facilitated by AHA, call 805-770-7200x5 for information).

Somatic message= Take all the time you need to heal and recover.

Step four…seek a larger context.

The disruption of your world may be an opportunity to re-evaluate and re-prioritize. Feel the connection to all life, loved ones, and community. As you reflect on where you’ve been and what you’ve been through, invite insight from your deepest knowing. Let your perspective get really big and look for a place of calm acceptance. Open to the support of caring words, thoughts, and gestures from the people who love you. See your path extending to the horizon where life is back in order again and go there. Find the awe. In the words of psychologist, Don McManus, “Awe is mind-bending, somehow altering our understanding or experience of the world.” Celebrating the Power of Awe.

Somatic message= You are not alone.

I hope this is helpful.

Holiday Sensibility

How to Indulge without Over-Indulging.

PHOTO CREDIT: BROOKE LARK ON UNSPLASH.COM

The holidays come around every year. And, each year, we have a chance to fine tune our participation. What if there was a way to indulge your pleasure without the distraction, weight gain and headache of over-indulgence? Here are some ways your sensible body can help you be conscious and enjoy the gustatory delights of the season:

Savor the flavors and scents. Ninety percent of the taste is sourced in the aroma. Ponder the qualities and nuances of each bite.

  • Slow down- Linger a bit. Take time to chew thoroughly to maximize your pleasure and help your digestion.

  • Less is more- It’s the first couple of bites that really taste good. Notice how palate fatigue sets in after 3 or 4 bites.

  • Listen- When your belly says it’s had enough, pay attention. Don’t override your body and over-indulge because it won’t really be fun anymore.

  • Keep an eye on sugar consumption-the AHA suggests that between 20 and 36 grams of sugar is the daily max.

  • Take time to digest. The rule of thumb is to allow two or three hours before bedtime. Maybe an evening meditation recounting the many pleasures of the meal is in order.

As you approach the holiday season, tuning in and paying attention will help you partake of the many pleasures, enjoy them thoroughly, and back away when you’re satiated. Then, the next day, you won’t have to deal with the pains of over-consumption.

And, let me know how it goes! I’d love to hear about your experiences and insights.

Get in Touch

A Good Night’s Sleep

When you sleep well, you look better, feel better, and function better the next day. Setting up your sleep situation so your body can relax completely makes a lot of sense. Check out the S. L. E. E. P. video I produced to help you get your body-mind in the zone where sleep can find you.

And look for my book, A Guide to Body Wisdom: What Your Mind Needs To Know About Your Body (Llewellyn Worldwide) forthcoming in June, 2018.

Experiment with Vitamin N

PHOTO CREDIT: BRIAN MANN

PHOTO CREDIT: BRIAN MANN

Whether it’s exercise, fresh air, negative ions, or unplugging from the grid, being in nature helps you slow down, calm down, and get grounded. Author Richard Louv coined the phrase “nature deficit disorder” to describe the negative consequences of too much virtual and too little real time. His recent book, Vitamin N, sites studies showing how spending time in nature helps ADHD, depression & anxiety, obesity & myopia, and the immune system. It’s also a good way to disconnect from the demands of a scheduled life and reconnect with your essential self.

I hope this summer gives you an opportunity to get away from your complicated indoor life and spend some time outdoors. In a spirit of playfulness, why not turn off your iPhone and discover the influence of Vitamin N on your body & mind? All you need is a place with more nature than concrete. Set up an experiment to evaluate the N experience- before and after. At the onset, how does your body feel? Is it tired, heavy, agitated, or numb? Is your mind flooded with chatter, judgment, or impatience? Then, spend ten minutes sitting on a rock or bench tuning in to your senses. What do you hear, see, smell, and feel? If your mind wanders off, bring it back to what’s real, right around you. Afterwards, check in with your body/ mind and reevaluate.

Spending unstructured, focused time near trees, rocks, water, and wildlife is a good way to get a healthy dose of Vitamin N. When you take the time to do it, you’ll definitely feel the difference. And, once you do, you’ll want to go back again and again.

NOTE: You can find three interesting and delightful exercises to enhance your N experiment in my longer post at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/ann-642.

Rabbit Saves The Day

PHOTO CREDIT: TPSDAVE

PHOTO CREDIT: TPSDAVE

As I sat at my desk, pondering the publishing industry and my stuck energy one day last week, some movement caught my attention. I looked up to see a rabbit eating geraniums in the terraced garden outside my window. A rabbit, how sweet! In that moment, my attention shifted from churning internal worries to the simple beauty of nature. I wondered if this rabbit had a helpful message for me.

Because I know that animals can be symbols of greater meaning, I went to the Internet and looked up Rabbit. Rabbit is known for luck (rabbit foot), fertility (multiply like bunnies), and fear (scared as a rabbit). It also represents family, shyness, and creativity. Seeing Rabbit changed my orientation from feeling snared and fearful to seeing writing as a creative endeavor that demands productivity, exposure, acceptance of failure and success, as well as a bit of luck here and there.

Rabbit saved the day for me. Maybe the next time you need to get out of a funk, you’ll notice what animals show up. Personalizing their symbolic message is a good way to change your perspective, tap deep inner knowing, and start things moving again.

See the complete article on HuffPost.com

Postscript: Shortly after Rabbit appeared in my window, I got a good publishing offer from Llewellyn Worldwide for my book on body wisdom. In addition to describing ways to listen to and follow your inner knowing, this book helps readers broaden their perspective and feel connected to all life. Look for Body Wisdom: How to Listen To, Care For, and Enjoy Your Most Valuable Asset in Spring of 2018!

Spring Renewal

PHOTO CREDIT: TIM GOUW

PHOTO CREDIT: TIM GOUW

It always takes some effort to reverse the inertia of winter. But, this year, the resistance may be more emotional than physical. Living with months & months of disturbing news and political uncertainty makes it challenging to get out of the funk and on with your life. This isn’t just about your attitude. When your body’s carrying a load of angst, worry, and discord, even the momentum of springtime can’t budge the logjam. Why not let your basic anatomy get it moving again? Here’s how:

Close your eyes and locate your tight, stuck places. Now, let your body reclaim its natural range of motion as you slide your shoulders up & down, back and forth, and around in circles. Let your jaw open and shut, move side-to-side, forward and back. Let your spine curl and uncurl, bend and twist from side to side. You get the drift. Slowly and respectfully, move your body parts through/under the tension. Release the old and free the way for the “joie du printemps”.

Get Centered

PHOTO CREDIT: KALEN EMSLEY

PHOTO CREDIT: KALEN EMSLEY

Like any physical mass, your body has a center of gravity. It’s slightly below your navel in the center of your pelvis. As martial arts practitioners know, being aware and moving from the center is the key to both agility and stability. Tuning in to your COG several times a day will also help you get out of your head and into the present moment. Here’s how:

To get centered: Place your hands over your center of gravity. Hum softly, directing the sound to your belly under your hands. Let the sound resonate here for three full exhales to awaken the area. Now bring direct the movement of the next three inhales into your lower belly to expand your awareness.

Remember your COG often over the next few weeks. This will establish a powerful, personal reference point whenever you need to get focused and feel centered. Speaking and acting from your center infuses everything you do with confidence and reliability. Try it out in different situations and see how it changes your sense of self and effectiveness in the world.