“You seem like you’re miles away.” It happens to all of us, doesn’t it? Your body is there but you’re mind is somewhere else. Conversely, it’s also easy to be engaged mentally, but not physically. You know (the brain function) how to do something (lose weight, quit smoking, run a business, be a parent) but you don’t do (the body function) what is required to follow through.
If this only happens occasionally, that’s not a problem. However, if that’s your continual state of being, it’s a sign that you’re not fully connected with yourself or others. Not being fully present causes great strain on your relationships. And even more damaging, it makes it impossible for you to listen to what your own body is saying. It prevents your parts from being fully integrated.
There is great value in paying attention to your whole body as a source of wisdom and learning. You can learn to minimize distraction and become more fully present by incorporating somatic practices in you day-to-day activities.
What are somatic practices?
Somatic practices create an elevated level of self-awareness. Rather than focusing solely on thoughts and emotions, somatic coaching incorporates your entire body. The word somatic comes from the Greek root word “soma”, which means “the living body in its wholeness.” The body, mind, emotions and spirit influence each other constantly, even when you’re not aware of it.
Our society teaches us to concentrate on doing brain work. In school we memorize facts and pass tests, but we’re not taught how to live as a wholly integrated person. In business we sit at computers and strain our brains to the limits. But by the end of the day we’re exhausted mentally and just want to “veg out”. However, the body hasn’t been stretched or worked, so it’s too keyed up to settle down, therefore sleepless nights ensue.
By integrating simple somatic practices, you will get your work done, plus feel more centered and less tired. By bringing your whole integrated self to the table, your head is not doing all the work, and you’re not fighting with the parts of you that are distracted.
What are some basic somatic practices you can do to create deeper mind/body awareness?
- Mindfulness. Daily make a practice of noticing your body sensations and emotional responses.
- Monitor and become more aware of your breathing patterns. Here are some resources for you:
Tap into the Powerful Anatomy of Breathing to Promote Better Health
Five Breathing Exercises for Balancing Your Life, Your Mood and Your Relationships
Breathe Your Way to Wellness With the Yoga Alternate Nostril Breathing Technique
- Suspend judgment as you scan your body. Self-acceptance, self-awareness and self-motivation empower you to let go of self-judgments.
- Centering. Find that space within you that keeps you calm and at peace. Here are some resources to discover the best centering practice for you:
How to Center Yourself to Achieve Greatness.
10 Centering Techniques to Live an Embodied Life.
Discover Centering Practices That Promote Excellence.
- Grounding. After you’ve centered yourself, connect yourself to the ground. Move your attention from your head down the length of your body – your heart center, belly, legs, and feet. Feel yourself connected to the ground. Think about the time someone pushed you before you were aware that they would. You almost toppled over, didn’t you? Then think about how being aware ahead of time makes you able to hold your ground. You instinctively use your awareness to drop your energy and settle more into your body to ground yourself.
- The Feldenkrais Method®. Create a daily practice of body awareness through movement. I continually use this method to resource my back and make my body more resilient to stress.
- Visualization. Mindfully use the power of your thoughts to your advantage and engage your body in the new awareness.
- Reframing exercises. Rewire your brain to handle any negative event in a positive way and anchor the new action into your body.
- Anchoring techniques. Preset your response to specific situations by choosing positive somatic states.
These are just some of the somatic practices I use to help my clients feel more resourceful and excel in life. It’s empowering to know that you can mindfully choose to respond in a way that leaves you feeling whole and at peace. It just takes practice. With practice, your body will become more flexible and resourceful and you will become the person you want to be.
I’d love to explain further how you can use these and other powerful somatic practices. Please feel free to contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype).
”Be in a state of gratitude for everything that shows up in your life. Be thankful for the storms as well as the smooth sailing. What is the lesson or gift in what you are experiencing right now? Find your joy not in what’s missing in your life but in how you can serve.” ~ Wayne Dyer
What do you do when life gets messy? Your schedule is blown out of the water…people don’t respond as you expected…LIFE happens.
Do you crawl back into bed? Retreat into a movie marathon? Become paralyzed in inactivity and depression?
OR…do you know how to let go and see the beauty in the experience? If you’d like to handle change in this more positive way, then you are going to be blown away with the exercise I’m going to share with you…
Our brains crave order and simplicity; so change throws us off-balance. You want a “perfect” or ideal world. You want everything to be smooth sailing. So when you run into choppy water and the ride starts getting bumpy, it catches you by surprise every time.
How do you adjust your grip on life so you can hang on and still enjoy the ride? It’s a matter of learning how to let go and re-center on the positive. Counterintuitive isn’t it? Learning how to let go in order to hang on!
No, it’s not simple. But it’s a system for life that you master if you practice long and hard enough. Here’s how you do it…
How to Let Go and See the Beauty in Everything
- Notice when you’re getting anxious or frustrated. Are you tired, hungry, cranky, or have unexplained pains as your body is trying to communicate with you?
- Recognize that the problem isn’t the external situation. (Don’t play the blame game.) The cause of your anxiety is coming from your internal ideals. For example, you want order, but your high ideal for orderliness (that isn’t being met) is causing frustration and anxiety.
- Breathe, re-center and calm yourself. This helps you become mindful in the moment, with no ideals, seeing the situation with new eyes and an open heart.
- Let go of the ideal that is causing you pain or discomfort. Visualize it floating out of the room or away on the breeze.
- Own the fact that you have the power to create a new ideal for the situation at hand. Instead of looking outward, take some quiet time to look inward.
- Start seeing your current experience as perfect. That’s right! No matter how messy or uncomfortable it may seem at first, look for and see the beauty in it.
These steps are easy to say, but not easy to do. Why? Because we fight change. We hate to relinquish control. It takes real effort to see beauty in chaos. That’s why it’s so important to learn how to open up and soften yourself. How do you do that?
- Feel the hardness in your heart when someone disappoints you. Feel the frustration in your neck and shoulders when someone interrupts you or makes a mess of things.
- Notice your resistance. You either don’t want to let go or you can’t yet see the beauty in the moment.
- Consciously and deliberately open your heart and mind. Even if it’s just a little bit. Work at being more accepting of what’s happening. Maintain your attitude of gratitude. Look at it from the other person’s point of view. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Look for new opportunities that have suddenly opened up for you. Look for ways to express kindness, love and joy.
Change is hard for so many people. Sometimes you just have to get tough with yourself and make yourself do it. Would you like some help in mastering the messiness of life? I’d love to help you learn to let go of your ideals and focus on the beauty. Please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype). Let’s work through the rough patches so you can more fully feel the exhilaration of life.
“Be strong then, and enter into your own body;
there you have a solid place for your feet.
Think about it carefully!
Don’t go off somewhere else!
…just throw away all thoughts of
and stand firm in that which you are.” ~ Kabir
Can anyone achieve excellence? How do high achievers attain their success? Is it because they’re born with some special power? Not at all! They achieve excellence because they are able to channel their energy effectively under extreme conditions.
Many would say that they consistently tap into their inner strength, their self-control, or self-discipline. I like to think of them being very intentional and deliberate. Rather than getting caught up in checking emails or social media, watching TV, surfing the web, they choose to use their time for developing what really matters to them, enhancing their skills, improving their health and inner being.
Being centered undoubtedly helps you become more intentional. However, don’t be surprised at the beginning if learning to center yourself is challenging. It will involve some effort as you develop new muscle memory. You might be used to being slightly off-balanced!
Also, once you are centered you can’t expect to stay centered for very long! You deplete your energy resources throughout the day, especially during stressful situations. This is why you need a committed practice that keeps you refueled and replenished. Over time you’ll even expand your reserves so you can live life more richly. Consistency is essential to your centering practice.
To illustrate: What happens if you center yourself at the beginning of the day and then stress arises? Will your early morning centering carry you through? It will help, but consistently centering yourself throughout the day is essential to maintaining your balance. Even when you are not feeling particularly emotional or in need of centering, you’ll find that it deepens your practice.
What can you do to begin a steady centering practice?
Anything that helps you feel still and aware can become your centering practice. It’s a way to connect with that space within you that is always calm and at peace. This space is often referred to as your “calm center”. Decisions made from this calm center will be more in alignment with your values; actions taken from this place will be more deliberate and purposeful.
I personally have several practices that help me with centering. A few times a week I practice Aikido at a local dojo. The name Aikido is composed of three Japanese words: ai, meaning harmony; ki, spirit or energy; and do, the path or the way. Aikido is the way of the spirit of harmony. Through this weekly practice, I continue to explore ways to stay centered in my body, to use my center to interact with others and to harmonize with the world in ways that are both self-promoting and life enhancing.
I also practice archery. I’ve done so for the past four years and just recently I’ve started training as a horseback archer. To me horseback archery is not just a cool and fun sport. It’s the harmony of four elements – horse, rider, bow, and arrow – into a powerful center. It’s about moving forward with purpose. It’s a centering practice and a metaphor for life.
My daily Feldenkrais practice also aids centering time to my life. When I lay on my mat or table and I sense into my self through slow, mindful movements. I cultivate that center that’s so useful when I need to be calm, resourceful and perform.
What these three practices have in common is that, in order to perform them, you have to find, develop and express your center. It’s not necessary to spend hours cultivating a centering practice. You can start small, exploring what you enjoy and can practice consistently with ease and pleasure.
Would you like to develop your own customized centering practice to help you cope with stress and live more fully? If you live near Ashland, Oregon, please contact my office and learn how somatic coaching helps you engage your whole mind and body in achieving excellence.
“If you are centered, you can move freely.” ~ Morihei Ueshiba
Have you ever experienced a tense or stressful moment when your heart starts pounding, you’re short of breath, you start sweating and feel light-headed? I think we all have. Maybe you took a deep breath to calm yourself down. You probably didn’t realize that this is a natural way of “centering” your body!
There’s more to centering then an occasional deep breath but the good news is it’s one of the simplest and most helpful forms of calming practice. The “center” refers to a relaxed yet focused state of mind. Being centered means remaining in your calm center amidst the busyness of everyday life. Being centered means not allowing your inner being to be overshadowed by stressful circumstances or negative thoughts and emotions.
When you are centered,
you are in a state of clarity, focus, peace, flow and balance.
When you are not centered,
you are unclear, unfocussed, stressed, and off balance.
Centering is especially helpful in the midst of strong emotional states like excitement or anxiety. It’s often used by athletes, public speakers, actors, or anyone who wants to feel stable and prepared before a potentially stressful event. When life becomes chaotic and demanding, the ability to maintain a relaxed body and focused state of mind can be VERY valuable.
The reasons for cultivating this ability are immense, so start where you are and increase your skills over time. You don’t need to begin with daunting, time and energy consuming activities at first. As I often say, “Start Small!”
You don’t want to wait until you’re confronted with a stressful situation to get started. When practiced often, good centering techniques will require only minimal attention, allowing you to keep some of your attention on the activity at hand.
I personally find that the quickest way to center my mind is through my body. When my spine is alert and soft, my heart is relaxed and open and I stand midway between my back and my front leg, I feel more centered.
I invite you to use centering as your practice for the next three weeks, every day. You’ll need daily intent, discipline, and a curiosity for deepening and learning from the practice to follow through. I suggest a minimum of 5 minutes each day, working up to 15 minutes a day toward the end of the three weeks.
Here are the centering basics to get you started:
- Focus your attention on your sensations and aliveness.Feel what is present in this moment.
- Purposefully bring your attention to your center (2 inches below your navel). What changes in your body as you do this?
- Center in Length. Drop into gravity and your lower body and lengthen up the spine. This promotes dignity, self-worth and your highest vision.
- Center in Width. Balance left to right. Widen from your centerline. Fill out and beyond your edges. This promotes connection, community and interdependence.
- Center in Depth. Fill in, feel the space behind you, inside of you, in front of you. Don’t pull back, nor push forward. This connects you to your past, present, future.
- Center in Purpose. Speak your commitment to yourself. Or center into your calling or longing. Say out loud, “I am a commitment to…”
Are you interested in learning how to center yourself to improve your quality of life? If you live near Ashland, Oregon, please contact my office and learn how somatic coaching can help you engage your whole mind and body in achieving greatness.
In my current series of blog posts I’ve been examining mindfulness as a way to access powerful inner resources so we can change the way we see – and ultimately experience – difficult situations. You can read the last couple posts to get an overview of mindfulness and better understand the benefits.
Here are two important things to know about when to practice mindfulness:
* Mindfulness needs to be practiced daily in order to have access to the skill when needed. This is true with all new skills. In fact, Malcolm Gladwell in his new book “Outliers” says that we need to practice a skill 10,000 times in order to develop excellence. He refers to Tiger Woods as an example of constant practice leading to excellence.
* Mindfulness needs to be practiced when you are not in crisis. It is difficult to learn or refine a new skill while in crisis.
Here are some suggestions on how to practice mindfulness:
* Start where you are, not where you think you should be. This is the act of developing patience and staying power.
* Maintain a positive attitude. This is not a “Pollyanna” attitude of everything is okay but a willingness to remaining open, attentive and curious. It includes cultivating loving-kindness and sometimes even a radical acceptance of what is instead of what you’d like it to be.
Here are some brief exercises you can use to increase your mindfulness:
* Mindful breathing. Conscious breathing is the key to connecting together body and mind and bringing the energy of mindfulness into each moment of your life. The simple act of focusing the attention on the breath for a short time every day calms the body and the mind.
When practicing simple breath meditations, you enter the mind body interaction without judgments or opinions. Instead, you just observe the natural rhythm of the breath. You can do so without forcing it to be longer, deeper, or slower. With attention and a little time, your breath will deepen naturally on its own. Occasionally, your mind will wander off. When your mind wanders, name what it wanders to and come back to the breathing. Your practice is simply to take note of this distraction and to bring your attention gently back to your breath.
* Mindful eating. Eating mindfully means eating with awareness, exquisite awareness of the experience of eating through our five senses. Mindful eating is being present, moment by moment, for each sensation that happens during eating, such as reaching for the food, holding it, chewing it, tasting it and swallowing it.
If you’ve ever practiced mindfulness, you’re familiar with how easily our minds wander. The same happens when we eat. When you begin to practice mindful eating, one important thing to remember is not to judge yourself when you notice your mind drifting off the experience of eating. Instead, just keep returning to the awareness of that taste, chew, bite or swallow. Bringing mindfulness to our eating practice results in a healthier relationship to all foods by becoming more deliberate in our choices and ultimately brings more happiness to all aspects of life.
Simple first steps towards introducing mindfulness while eating:
o Eat with your non-dominant hand.
o Eat without TV, newspaper or computer.
o Eat sitting down.
o Slow down your usual pace by 20%.
* Mindfulness with our thoughts and emotions. Probably the most powerful mindfulness practice is the observation of thoughts and emotions as they arise, coupled with an attitude of acceptance. For example, when we deliberately focus our attention on an emotion such as anger, without trying to change it with our mind, the transitory, insubstantial nature of the emotion becomes evident. We release the tension that prolongs the emotion so that it cannot persist. However if attention slips to the reason for the anger, then the emotion is sustained. Following the ebb and flow of that emotion on purpose, noticing the intensity, frequency and quality, allows you to participate in the experience as if you were just a bystander without getting attached to it or trying to push it away.
You can do the same in relationship with your thoughts, by noting that you are having a thought without identifying with it. This simple practice will undoubtedly increase your sense of awareness, clarity, and insight. As you continue to foster and reinforce these new and healthier mental patterns your sense of mental stability, balance, peace, and happiness will continue to grow ever stronger.
* Bring mindfulness to every activity. Drinking tea, coffee, doing the dishes, walking, and sitting, etc. You can use the same principle of gentle awareness to explore the activity through your senses and introduce more purposefulness in every moment.
If this is a skill you’re interested in really refining please contact me for a private session or to join my mindfulness group. I’ll be sharing additional resources on mindfulness in my upcoming post.