Monthly Archives: March 2016

Letting it Be

It seems we often try to fix or change what we’re experiencing when it’s not comfortable for us. If you’re angry, let it go (read: don’t feel it). If you’re anxious, take a Xanax (read: don’t feel it). If you’re sad, put a smile on (read: don’t feel it). Whatever it is, if it’s not a positive emotion, we are conditioned to resist, ignore, or try to eradicate it. But, when we do this, we are denying our reality. We aren’t letting it be.

Is it wrong to feel angry or anxious or sad or bored or wounded? Of course not. It is what it is. You can’t help the feelings that arise in you. We’re human after all, and that means we are hard wired to have “negative” emotions. They exist, because in our evolutionary past they signaled that we needed to protect ourselves from a perceived threat.

It’s okay to feel angry or anxious or sad or bored or wounded. The problem is how we respond to the feeling. One common response is self-judgment. We think it’s wrong to feel what we’re feeling. “If I were a better person, I wouldn’t be frustrated. If I were a better person, I wouldn’t be sad.” We blame ourselves for having the feeling. As if we could actually control it. Another response, which tends to stem directly from self-judgment, is to correct the feeling. “It’s not okay to be angry, so how can I fix it? It’s not okay to be impatient, so how can I change it?” Truth: Allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling. You don’t have to act on it. There’s no need to correct your feelings.

Instead of letting go of an uncomfortable feeling as soon as we start to feel it, why not try letting it be?

Letting it be means staying with the experience even when we don’t like it.
Letting it be means not judging ourselves for having a “negative” emotion.
Letting it be means not micromanaging our experience.

Give it a try this week. Try letting it be.

Letting It Be

Implement Your Intention

There is an African proverb, “When you pray, move your feet,” which is to say, if you want something to happen, then do something to bring it about.

Having a wish (or prayer or hope or dream) is a start, but it doesn’t necessarily get you any closer to realizing the wish. NYU Psychology Professor Gabrielle Oettingen has spent her career examining effective goal setting, and Oettingen outlines a 4-step process for attaining goals based on something called mental contrasting. This is a visualization technique she developed and gave the catchy acronym WOOP.

To implement your intention, you WOOP – identify the WISH, OUTCOME, and OBSTACLES, and make a PLAN to prevent failure. First, identify a meaningful and feasible goal you want to achieve. Next, imagine what it would be like if you realized that goal. Then, identify obstacles that might prevent you from achieving your goal. Finally, make an action plan for what you’ll do when obstacles arise. This process will help minimize failure and help you realize the dream.

I have the perfect example from my own life. I have always wanted to be a writer. When I first graduated from college, I told everyone, “I’m going to take a year and write a book.” In the 25 years since, I have continued to put this desire out there and have not written a book. I told people what I wanted to do. I thought about what I would write about. I took courses in fiction writing, memoir writing, and science writing. I read books about writing. But, I never actually wrote anything. I was waiting for a brilliant idea to come to me, for some magic to happen. When really what I needed to do was move my feet (or in this case my hands), to implement my intention.

When I created this blog, it was for my own therapeutic process, to make myself vulnerable (and therefore more accountable) and to share my experience (and therefore not feel so alone). I saw the writing I do here as therapy rather than the realization of a dream. But, the only reason this blog happened is because I finally acted. I stopped thinking about writing and wishing I was a writer, and I actually started writing.

In 2015, I wrote 73 posts, over 35,000 words. I look back over what I wrote and am confident that I can take a selection of posts, expand them, compile them topically, and publish a book. And, that’s what I’m going to do. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a few months, but it’s time to act. Which means I need to WOOP.

WISH – I want to self publish a book of essays on personal growth and development, and I will spend at least 4 hours a week working on the book over the next 9 months.

OUTCOME – When I publish this book, I will feel more confident as a writer. I will have an enormous sense of accomplishment. I will build a bigger audience (even if it’s 10 more people) for my work and, in doing so, help more people learn to live more meaningfully.

OBSTACLES – I don’t have a lot of free time. I don’t know anything about how to self-publish. I worry that I will invest a lot of time and energy (and myself) and if no one reads it, I will have wasted a year of my life.

PLAN– If I get stuck on one essay, I will put it down and work on another for a while. If I have a busy week, because I do have a day job after all, I will spread out the time into smaller chunks (even 20-30 minutes a day is do-able when I’m busy). If I have questions about self-publishing, I’ll ask my cousin Mike who has published thousands of books and knows the process inside and out. If no one reads the finished product, then I will be content with the fact that I published a book. I achieved a life long goal. After all, I said I wanted to be a writer; I didn’t qualify that with being a New York Times Best Selling author.

I am committing to this plan starting in April 2016. As Tim Gunn would say, it’s time to “make it work!”

This is how you implement your intention. You start acting on it rather than thinking about it.

This is how you implement your intention. You start acting on it rather than thinking about it.

Reference: http://www.woopmylife.org,

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Musings

Weekly Musings – A summary of the week’s highs, lows, and in betweens…

I think there’s a theme this week, and it’s self-care. What I’ve been reading and what I’ve been doing seem to be focused on just that. I’ve been nourishing my mind and my body, and it feels great. It’s not totally habit yet, and it doesn’t permeate all aspects of my life, but I’m working on it.

 

What I’m Reading Right Now:

The Art of Flourishing– A New East-West Approach to Staying Sane and Finding Love in an Insane World by Jeffrey Rubin, PhD (2011)

I first heard Rubin, a clinical psychologist, speak as a guest on The One You Feed podcast. I like that he utilizes both Eastern and Western philosophies in his own life and in his psychotherapy practice and that he subscribes to the advice to use what works for you, ignore what doesn’t, and do your best. That’s a good rule of thumb.

Rubin’s book is divided into 2 sections, Planting the Seeds of Self-Care and Cultivating the Garden of Love. The chapters are practical world scenarios for how we sabotage ourselves and how we can realistically increase our ability to flourish, which Rubin defines as focusing “on internal emotional awareness, insight, and transformation” and “just doing the best we can given imperfect and even undesirable circumstances.”

Living with Intent– My Somewhat Messy Journey to Purpose, Peace, and Joy by Mallika Chopra (2015). I mean the title says it all, doesn’t it? Chopra is the daughter of, yes, that other Chopra. She created intent.com as a way for people to share their aspirations and support one another in manifesting them (love this!) and despite being heir to the Enlightenment Throne, she comes across in the book like a regular person – a professional, a mom, a wife, and someone eats too many cupcakes and doesn’t exercise enough. Even though she knows intellectually what she needs to do to “feed herself,” she’s struggling to find time to do it. Just like me and you.

Both books offer practical strategies and exercises to try to achieve emotional awareness, purpose, and joy. For example, in the chapter titled Nurture in the Chopra book, Chopra suggests trying these things: reconnect with an old friend or family member, think of a task you’ve been avoiding and enlist someone’s help to get it done, make a list of what you would do if you could focus totally on your physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing. These are activities that will help you nurture yourself. Self-Care is important!

 

What I Just Finished Doing:

Another detox. This was a 10 day detox outlined by Dr. Mark Hyman in The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet. I first heard Hyman, Director of Functional Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, speak on On Being about the transformation in medicine from treating disease to promoting health and what he said really resonated with me. As someone who works in the scientific metabolism research field, a lot of what he writes about makes sense (on a general level) in terms of our Western diet of processed food with high sugar content and the role it plays in inflammation and diseases so rampant in our culture (obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer).

What I like most about this detox (like the last one I did) is that it addresses the whole person – mind and body – and focuses on promoting health above all. In addition to changing diet (no dairy, no grains, no legumes, no processed food, no added sugars, no alcohol, no caffeine), you focus on mental and physical health. For 10 days, you eat really clean foods that don’t spike blood sugar or trigger inflammation (which is the basis for so many diseases we suffer from). For 10 days, you exercise every day for at least 30 minutes. For 10 days, you practice relaxation. For 10 days, you meditate and journal. I absolutely believe diet and health and spirit and health are inextricably linked, and this detox is a great starting point to get yourself on track (or reset yourself if you’ve fallen off the wagon).

Even though I didn’t follow everything to the letter of the law (I introduced caffeine back after Day 3 and I didn’t take nightly baths with essential oils because I am not a bath person), I felt 100% better by Day 4 (I’m not going to lie, the first few days were rough). I lost weight. My tummy pooch went away. I slept great. I woke up feeling refreshed. I felt so good by the end of the 10 days that I’ve decided to eat according to the guidelines in general.

Prioritize self-care

 

What’s Not Working:

(Honestly, I’ve deleted this section already in writing this post, because it’s so hard for me to talk about, but I’m taking Brené Brown’s words to heart about shame resistance. I will stay ashamed of my drinking until I name it, talk about it, own my story, and tell my story. So here it goes…again.)

While this week has been all about self-care, I continue to struggle in one area…my relationship with alcohol. So far this year, the frequency has improved but the volume has not. What I mean is, I am drinking pretty infrequently these days (maybe once or twice a week max, and some weeks not at all), but when I do drink, I still drink a lot. A LOT. So, I’m putting this out into the Universe and hope you all will help keep me accountable. I know it’s not healthy. It’s not physically healthy for me and it’s not healthy for my personal relationships. So, here’s my self-care intention with respect to drinking. May I be aware that drinking is an area for self-sabotage, so that I do what’s best for me, that which does not cause me to suffer.

Thanks for listening.

 

Those are my musings. What about you?

  • What did you listen to or experience this week that inspired you, motivated you, or helped you on your path?
  • What brings you happiness and purpose?
  • What isn’t working? What made you mad or sad or say, “Life sucks!!”?

 

 

 

 

 

March is Learning to Be Patient Month!

Learning to be patient is the perfect follow up to practicing acceptance, because if you can’t accept your reality as it is, you will never have patience.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, patience is the ability to accept delay, suffering, or annoyance without complaining or becoming angry. In other words, if you’re patient, you tolerate things that bother you. If you’re impatient, you get all worked up and bent out of shape, because you’re not getting what you want, right this second. Watch out, World! Meltdown imminent!

Learning to be Patient: St. Monica of Hippo, the Roman Catholic patron saint of mothers. And patience. Go figure! (image courtesy of wikimedia)

Learning to be Patient: St. Monica of Hippo, the Roman Catholic patron saint of mothers.
And patience. Go figure! (image courtesy of wikimedia)

Impatience Example #1: Every December, I order a bunch of Christmas presents on Amazon US and use my German credit card to pay for them. When the German credit card company notes suspicious activity (ordering things in the US when I live in Germany, for example), they don’t call or text or email me. They just deactivate my card. So the 30 minutes I just spent on Amazon is now all for naught. I can’t buy Christmas gifts for my US friends and family, which is ALL my friends and family, until I get on the phone, navigate the German language, non-human customer service menu, and, eventually, get someone who speaks English and can reactivate my card. By the time I hang up the phone, my heart has shrunk two sizes, and I’m spewing profanity. Let the holiday season begin!

Impatience Example #2: I ask Emmy to put on her pajamas and brush her teeth a full 30 minutes before her bedtime. “Brush your teeth, please.” And then 20 minutes before. “Em, go brush your teeth.” And, 15 minutes before. “Have you brushed your teeth yet?!” Finally, 7 minutes before bedtime, I start to get all mean mommy and yell, “Why haven’t you brushed your teeth?! Go do it. NOW!” She starts to cry and hands me the card she’s been working on for the last 23 minutes. The card with hearts and flowers that says, “Mommy, I love you.” Way to go, Mom.

Impatient Silke is not exactly (or even remotely close to) My Best Self. For one, she’s not very nice, and she’s not very calm. In fact, she’s loud, rude, and highly stressed. Also, I’m pretty sure no one likes her. So, why do I allow her to come out and interact with others when clearly she needs a muzzle and possibly a restraining order?

As I already mentioned, impatience emerges when you don’t get your wants met immediately. Your self-importance inflates automatically, and you react out of the emotion you’re feeling – frustration, annoyance, or anger, because you’re not getting what you want. The injustice! Behavior born from frustration, annoyance, or anger typically isn’t mindful, thoughtful or considerate. It is usually regrettable, however.

Given that both of my examples are just 2 from a long, long list, this month, I’m learning to be patient.

To work on developing patience, I will continue to work on acceptance. Specifically, I will be more aware of the physical manifestation of my impatience. When I start to feel frustration surface, I will focus on what is happening in my body. I will name it. ‘Feeling tension in my shoulders, breathing more rapidly.’ I will respond to the impatience with compassion. ‘Breathe deeply. Put yourself in a time-out for 5 minutes and chill.’ I’m hoping that these techniques will help me to stay slightly more balanced and peaceful.

Patience is a virtue after all. And if Monica of Hippo could endure with dignity for her entire life, well, I can at least try to do it for one month.