“Growth demands a temporary surrender of security. It may mean giving up familiar but limiting patterns, safe but unrewarding work, values no longer believed in, and relationships that have lost their meaning.” – John C. Maxwell
A few years ago, I attended a Yin yoga class for several months. Yin yoga is a form of yoga during which passive poses are held for several minutes. In this way, without the distraction of constant movement and muscle engagement, your connective tissue has the opportunity to stretch and you are able to go much deeper into a pose. In addition, as poses are held for several minutes, your body can move beyond the 30 seconds it takes for muscles to relax and stretching to occur.
During our first class our teacher asked us: “What is the difference between pain and discomfort?” I had never thought of this before. I didn’t know how to answer and I remained a little confused. Then I realized that I had developed a high tolerance to pain. I was accustomed to categorize most hurts (physical, emotional, psychological) as uncomfortable and I was used to staying in painful situations for a long time. That’s a great strategy during a crisis but not as an ongoing way to deal with life.
The degree of pain or discomfort has some universal and subjective elements. Some people endure in the face of pain out of self-reliance and a belief that we must make every effort to stay alive. Others experience everything as pain and try to move away from it by avoidance methods like watching TV or eating ice cream. Basically, I’ve learned to distinguish the difference between pain and discomfort this way…
Pain is intense. Pain changes the way you behave. Pain gets worse the more you continue to try and push through it. Adjectives you use to describe pain may include sharp, stabbing, and shooting. Pain tells us to back off and regroup.
Discomfort is there, but in the background. Discomfort can fluctuate and both increase and decrease over time. Discomfort can be described with words like annoying, lingering, irritating, and aching. Oftentimes, we need to learn to lean into discomfort to make improvements.
Physical pain is often easiest to figure out. You break a bone in your leg, and immediately your nervous system zings a message to your brain, so your brain can say, “Hey, my leg hurts!”
But when there’s a spiritual, emotional or mental pain, it’s not so easy to recognize the body connection, unless you’re deeply attuned to your body sensations. Practicing mindfulness will help you become aware of how you’re organized around pain and discomfort.
Whether it’s preventing a sport’s injury, taking a business risk, or handling a crisis in the family, it’s important to recognize the signals that pain and discomfort are sending you. If you want to achieve excellence, it’s vital to know when to push it and when to back off.
What’s the first step to releasing discomfort and pain? Breathing is the key to connecting feelings to thought, body to mind, so you can make informed choices about your body sensations.
If you want to release a tight muscle, you must go directly into a stretch and open the muscle and breathe into it, not around it. Learn to face life challenges in the same way – begin breathing exercises and mindfully face it head on. Jamie Gerdsen describes this choice so well:
“To learn, to experience something new, you have to leave your comfort zone. That transition between what was comfortable and what will be comfortable is scary. Everything you thought you knew starts to look wrong. Your head trash really starts doing a number on you. Those who are a tad weak in the knees will fold faster than a cheap card table chair. To grow, you have to embrace the discomfort and work at it until all the shades of gray change back to black and white.”
Because they are on the same continuum, it takes practice to determine the between pain and discomfort. Just as it’s crucial to get your broken leg professional help, it’s vital to get professional help for the spiritual, emotional, and psychological pain. Because when we endure that kind of pain, it may transform into physical pain, compounding the problem.
Remember that staying in control will make you less susceptible to pain and injury. If life seems out of control and you’ve been putting up with chronic pain (physical, emotional, psychological) for too long, please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype). I’d love to help you practice greater awareness and coping techniques.
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? This is an age-old riddle that seems to be without solution because it’s circular in nature. You can’t have one without the other. Similarly we often ponder: which comes first, a body you’re happy with or a life you’re happy with? What do you think?
Do you tell yourself, “I’ll be happy and more outgoing when I lose 15 pounds.” Or do you think, “I can’t even think about starting a wellness program, because I’m fighting with my ex and I just can’t face one more thing.” The trouble with this thinking is that you’re compartmentalizing yourself. One part of you is at odds with another part of you.
You can’t achieve lasting transformation unless you’re considering yourself as a whole, connected being. So what must really come first is keen self-awareness.
Building awareness for how you use (or abuse) your body at any given moment is the key to transforming your body and your life. By being mindful of your physical experience, you’ll create a vessel that can experience greater strength, balance, serenity, wellness and happiness.
How to build self-awareness that helps you to transform your body transform your life…
1. Strengthen Your Core
If your core muscles, including your abdominal muscles, back muscles and the muscles around the pelvis are weak, nothing else can be strong. Core exercises encourage the elongation and alignment of the central body. This allows proper energy flow as your body works as a connected and centered unit.
2. Practice Positive Posture
Proper body alignment helps relieve muscle tension, increase circulation, and boost self-confidence. Work to keep your ears, shoulders and hips aligned as you tighten your lower belly muscles. Be gentle and patient as you retrain your body.
3. Lengthen and Strengthen
When you start to slump or feel beaten down during the day, take a few moments to extend upward and center yourself. Try to make strengthening and lengthening a daily habit.
4. Tune in and Listen. One of the single most important habits you can implement is simply listening to your body. Pay attention to how things make you feel and where you feel them. When you’re stressed, do you feel it in your neck and shoulders? Your stomach? Your throat?
Direct your deliberate focus to these areas and connect with the physical sensations different parts are offering you. Recognize that they’re signals that unlock greater self-awareness. Begin strengthening and healing, as you discover healthy ways to process your emotions and relieve your stress.
5. Breathe Mindfully
I cannot overemphasize the importance of a regular practice of mindfully breathing deeply. It’s the one action that causes all others to fall into place. It automatically aligns and centers your body. Diaphragmatic breathing (filling your lungs so deeply you feel it extending into your belly) also cleanses the blood, massages internal organs, and gives your mood a fast pick-me-up.
Breathe in until you can’t hold any more. Exhale to a count of five. Relax and soften your body. Make your breathing as fluid as possible. Practice for 5 minutes and notice the improvements.
If you’re serious about creating a lasting transformation, please download my free 7-Point Body Wellness Assessment. It will help you identify the areas that most need your attention right now and what you can do to transform your body – transform your life.
“The pursuit of happiness” is one of our unalienable rights, according to the U. S. Declaration of Independence. Isn’t that interesting? They focused on the process of searching for happiness. Not happiness itself. They knew that the process is what contributes to our feeling of wellbeing.
Why is our feeling of wellbeing dependent on the process or life system we use?
What makes me happy isn’t what makes you happy. For example, I love my pets, cats especially. Life wouldn’t be complete without them. But you may hate cats, or you may be allergic to them, so they make your life miserable.
We’re all so different. So to define happiness is impossible. But to mindfully choose to be happy – to choose to see the beauty in every situation – is part of the process.
Yes, everybody wants happiness. Sadly many people today find it elusive. Perhaps it’s because they focus on the wrong things. As the writer Denis Waitley noted:
“It is not in the pursuit of happiness that we find fulfillment, it is in the happiness of pursuit.”
What should you focus on to increase your feeling of wellbeing?
If you had to list what makes you happy, can you easily do it? Or is it difficult to define? Is your list the same as it was 25 years ago? Most likely not!
In his book Flourish, psychologist Martin Seligman, provides some clues that will help you find your happiness. (He’s known as the face of positive psychology.) He proposes the PERMA Contrast – the need for a balance between five different components of life. When you master these, you’ll increase your happiness and feeling of wellbeing.
The PERMA Model
1) Lead a life of Positive Emotions – maximize positive emotions and accept and understand negative emotions. Your feeling of wellbeing comes from things deeper than fleeting emotions or moods.
2) Lead a life of Engagement – seek out activities that allow you to be in flow. (You’re so involved you lose track of time and self.)
3) Lead a life of Relationships. It powerfully plays a role in supporting the other four components of wellbeing.
4) Lead a life of Meaning – belong to and serve something that is bigger than self. (Family, religion, community, country, ideals or causes.)
5) Lead a life of Accomplishment – pursue excellence and mastery, both as goals and as processes.
To maintain a feeling of wellbeing all five of these needs must be met and balanced. Try applying the 20/80 rule to your life. Spend 20% of your time on small mindful practices such as exercise, centering, meditation, reading, appreciation and gratitude. When you do, you’ll find that you’re able to handle 80% of your day in a positive way. No matter what circumstances you encounter.
Remember: it doesn’t take great changes to make you happy. It’s the small acts of self-love, mindfulness and appreciation that matter.
Of course, being happy doesn’t mean you’re smiling all the time. It means you’re living the life that you’re meant to live. Then you’re able to accept whatever comes your way.
Your feeling of wellbeing increases when you understand yourself and your core strengths and use them daily. Do you see areas that could benefit from some attention? Would you like to learn how to live a balanced life? Why not download my free 7-Point Body Wellness Assessment. It’s a great way to start to reconnect with your body, mind and spirit.
And if you want to grab a copy of Dr. Seligman’s book, Flourish, you can find it on Amazon. (In full disclosure, I’ll receive a few pennies in commission. It won’t affect your price at all. Enjoy!)
“I think it is essential sometimes to go into retreat, to stop everything that you have been doing, to stop your beliefs and experiences completely and look at them anew, not keep on repeating like machines whether you believe or don’t believe. You would let fresh air into your minds.” ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti
Have you ever come home from a vacation more exhausted than when you went? Usually this happens when you try to cram in too many activities. Or to the other extreme, you laze around the pool, doing absolutely nothing except eating and drinking too much.
Either way, you may be missing the whole point of vacation – to refresh and reinvigorate yourself. As soon as you get back to “the real world”, stress piles up again. Plus you may have the added burdens of detoxing and getting rid of the extra pounds.
Instead, why not try a women’s retreat that balances your mind, body, spirit? This is something that I love to do! And here are five reasons why I think you’ll love a body wisdom women’s retreat too…
- Women’s retreats produce long-term benefits.
Retreats are designed to help you connect with your body’s wisdom so you can lead a more balanced lifestyle. You’ll experience emotional release and physical rejuvenation. And you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how these feelings stay with you and improve your health once you return home. Choose a retreat that gives you the time and space to reconnect with yourself and center by aligning your emotions, beliefs, values, goals and intentions.
- Women’s retreats are designed for introspection and reflection.
Visiting a beautiful and tranquil location puts you in a contemplative frame of mind. It’s important to quiet outside “noises” so you can “hear” what your body, mind and spirit are communicating.
- Women’s retreats help you connect with nature.
Being close to nature is very healing. It reduces the production of the stress hormone, cortisol. Filling your lungs and soul on the clean air and peaceful surroundings lets your body, mind and spirit calm, giving you a fresh start.
- Retreats surround you with like-minded people – your guide and fellow attendees.
There are so many types of retreats. You get to pick a retreat where the guide leads sessions in what you desire to improve the most – health & wellness retreats, fitness retreats, meditation retreats, and body wisdom retreats to name a few possibilities. Look for techniques that will enhance your life long-term.
Group retreats bring together women who have similar concerns or interests. Because you have similar goals and intentions, you can build a support system. The others can act as a mirror to help you identify issues that you can’t clearly see by yourself. It’s good to know that you’re not alone, that others are on the same path. Women’s retreats are also a fantastic way to find new life-long intimate friendships.
- Women’s retreats are managed for you. You don’t have to worry about planning or finding places to eat and sleep. Your retreat facilitator takes care of all those stressful things. You just have your well-being to focus on. Another perk is that you’re more likely to receive exclusive features and discounts because of being in a group.
This year I’m leading a Body’s Wisdom Women’s Retreat through Italy. We’ll discover beautiful Sicily while learning to connect with the body’s untapped wisdom and practice centering, rejuvenating and mindfulness techniques. I plan on making this an annual event. Want to join me? Contact me with any questions.
“Like a human being, a company has to have an internal communication mechanism, a ‘nervous system’, to coordinate its actions” ~ Bill Gates, co-founder Microsoft
Are systems really that different than goals? On the surface they sound similar, don’t they? Yet how many goals have you set but never achieved? How does that make you feel? Like you’ve failed and are always starting over, right? In contrast, systems for life are daily habits, routines, processes, or practices you implement to support your intentions. And day-by-day, you reach your desired result in a much softer way.
For example, perhaps you set the goal of losing weight by a certain date. You may achieve that goal, but soon the pounds creep back on. Why? Going on a diet implies that at some point the diet ends. A lifestyle change, on the other hand, is a system of healthy eating and exercise that is ongoing and has lasting results.
Over the years, I’ve focused a lot on setting and achieving goals, developing small measurable steps and developing a buddy system. All of this is important, but it’s not effective if my strategies to achieve these goals aren’t successful ones.
What does it mean to develop systems for life?
Let me give you another example: Imagine that you want to go to the gym at 6am three times a week and you commit to doing that. You prepare your gym clothes and shoes the night before so getting dressed in the morning is a breeze. Your gym bag is ready and your water bottle is full and available.
It looks like you’ve set yourself up for success, right? But what if you decide to stay up late because you want to read 10 more pages of your book, or your friend calls and wants to talk about her ex one more time? Will you be successful at getting up when the alarm goes off the next morning?
And what if deep down you hate the gym? How long will you be able to sustain your commitment? When you associate displeasure with exercise, you unintentionally train yourself to stop doing it. If you force yourself to do it you end up using your limited supply of willpower. So what happens as a result? When you’re tempted to eat junk food you give in, negating the good that you accomplished at the gym.
How much better to create a system for being active every day at a level that feels good, while experimenting with different methods of exercise until you find the one you love. Maybe it’s something as simple as using a pedometer to count your steps. Before long your body is trained to crave that psychological boost. It builds a natural inclination for challenges that gently nudges you toward becoming more active. 10,000 steps today…12,000 steps tomorrow. That’s a sustainable system!
Don’t get me wrong. Goals are fine for getting a project finished. But they have their limitations…
- Goals remind you that you’re not good enough. You’re starting from that negative state and basing your happiness, not on the present, but on a future, which you may or may not achieve.
- Goals make you feel guilty when you don’t achieve them.
- Goals foster a yo-yo of short-term results, instead of a steady flow toward long-term progress, because as soon as the goal is achieved you revert back to previous practices.
- Goals make you feel powerless when you have setbacks. When you have systems for life you know you can pick it up again tomorrow when you feel better.
- Goals make you focus on one thing while de-emphasizing others things you’re committed to. Consequently, you’re more likely to miss out on opportunities that could be far better than your goal.
The interesting thing is that if you never set another goal, but have a variety of systems for living an excellent life, you’ll still achieve what really matters to you. When you focus on the practice instead of the performance, you can mindfully enjoy the moment, while making improvements at the same time.
If you’re having trouble sorting out which system you need to implement first, feel free to contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation, in-person, by phone or via Skype.