Posts tagged ‘spirit’

July 24, 2018

Speed Kills

Remember the ad campaign, Speed Kills? I can’t remember if I first heard the term in an anti-drug campaign or an attempt to reduce speed limits. The phrase has been used for both. This week, I’m thinking of Speed Kills in totally different terms.

Last weekend I went to see Won’t You Be My Neighbor. This movie chronicles the career of Fred Rogers, the creator of MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD. There was nothing speedy about Mister Rogers. His slow pace stands in stark contrast to other children’s entertainers. This was deliberate. It was also significant.

Mister Rogers understood that very important things happen when we’re still and quiet. He included long pauses and silence in his television program. This is considered a no-no in the TV world, but as someone observed in the movie, there were many times when nothing much was going on, but none of the time was wasted.

On some level, parents and children must have sensed the significance of this. They certainly responded. Mister Rogers became hugely successful in spite of doing everything “wrong” for a television audience.

In my home, I observed that when my boys watched MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD their behavior was markedly different than when they watched He-Man. He-Man led to an afternoon of hitting each other, breaking toys, and generally violent behavior.

MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD, on the other hand, had a calming effect. After watching, the boys were kinder, gentler, and quieter. They played together instead of fighting. My house was infinitely more peaceful.

At the time, I didn’t take time to analyze why this was true, I just did the practical thing and banned He-Man. If I needed the kids to have screen time so that I could clean up the kitchen or do the laundry, we opted for MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD or the video disc Free to be You and Me.

Now, with much more experience under my belt including many years of working long hours, never missing an event, frequent travel, work-work-work-play-play-play and rarely saying no, I understand the importance of being still. Being present requires taking pauses to notice what has happened and how it makes us feel.

I know you may read that and say, “duh,” but look at how we live. We rarely pause between activities, much less during them. We fill our waking hours with movement, noise, and electronic distraction.

One of my grandchildren has 4 structured activity classes per week – he’s 9 months old! Will he be able to lie on his back, stare at the clouds smelling fresh-cut grass and feeling the solidness of the ground supporting him when he’s three or will he be lost without constant activity?

It seems we have some level of awareness that we need to increase our sense of well-being. Ways to increase wellness are often featured on morning TV. The number of people practicing yoga in the US has doubled since 2008. The mindfulness movement touts the health benefits of meditation.

In contrast, we see our friends, neighbors, and family members numb themselves with work, gaming, social media, TV, sex, food, alcohol, and drugs on a regular basis. Sometimes we see ourselves doing the same. If we know we need to feel better, and we know that slowing down to reflect and be present in the moment will help, why do we keep speeding forward?
What’s difficult to admit, much less discuss, is what lies underneath a need to speed through life at a level of maximum distraction. If you have lived in an environment of chaos and/or danger to your physical or emotional well-being that you could not escape, it is excruciatingly hard to sit still and be present. It is also necessary if you are to heal the wounds your spirit has suffered.

It is in this context that I now view the phrase – speed kills. Speed kills our connection to our spirit. This removes us from knowing, accepting, and loving ourselves. It removes us from the very best parts of ourselves. At its worst, this disconnect allows us to act out our anger, hurt, and frustration in vindictive, destructive ways.

In the face of a tragic, hostile act, we often wonder – what kind of person would do that? Often the answer is simple: someone who has suffered in ways you cannot see and may not be able to imagine.

Remaining present and emotionally open in the face of violence, humiliation, rejection, neglect, or shunning, is intolerable for most everyone. It is absolutely healthy in those situations to engage in fighting, fleeing, freezing or fawning in order to protect yourself.

The problem is many, not just some, MANY of us have lived in an environment in which violence, humiliation, rejection, neglect, or shunning were the norm. Living in persistent, unrelenting physical and/or emotional danger creates wounds that are both physical and emotional and result in disconnection from ourselves. Constantly being in a state of fighting, fleeing, freezing or fawning creates long-term barriers to calm, peace, connection and joy.

When we have the strength and courage to sit still and be present, it opens the door for all the emotions we have been avoiding to come rushing in. This is a great opportunity to release those emotions and the hold they have over us. That’s easy to say, but terrifying and hard for many of us to do even if it is worth it in the long run.

I’ve spent years unraveling the knots in my stomach and my spirit. I know that I did not choose the environment that created them. I was born into it. Accepting this hasn’t eliminated the seemingly bottomless well of sadness I feel in my solar plexus. It hasn’t removed every trigger that can send me into an emotional flashback that I simply can’t outthink. (I know this isn’t some particular defect in me. Signals from the amygdala can override executive function, but it still feels terrifying and out of control.)

Mindfulness has helped me rewire my brain away from anxiety toward noticing small ways in which I feel good. I feel less braced for the (as I learned to view the world) next inevitable attack. My new level of awareness lets me deliberately shift my focus in order to feel better in a given moment.

I am painfully aware how difficult it can be to find support for a healing path. Even places we expect to provide a cushion for processing trauma, grief, depression, anxiety, and somatic symptoms – the therapist’s office, doctor’s office, church, or support groups, may not provide the type of support we need. Feeling unseen, unheard, dismissed, targeted, or misunderstood can leave us feeling even more alone and, sometimes, revictimized.

Healing can bring immediate improvement, but I do not know of a straight or swift path to wholeness. That journey is a process unique to each of us. The best support along the way is to be seen and accepted just as we are at any given moment.

Perhaps this is why I so appreciate Mister Rogers simple affirmation that he likes us just as we are. But I cannot fully receive that message unless I am sitting still.…_You_and_Me

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

July 9, 2014

Cool as a Cucumber!

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression cool as a cucumber; who hasn’t? This cucumber dill salad got my mind rolling in that direction, then I read about a robbery at a local hotel. The woman who held down the victim was clad in a swimsuit. She’s a cool cucumber for sure.

A TV news story yesterday from the town where my sister lives showed a naked woman running across a gas station parking lot. She appeared more hot – I would say under the collar, but clearly there wasn’t one – and bothered unlike a deliberate streaker at a football game. It was speculated that her run, which eventually resulted in her tackle by a police safety, was prompted by a high level of drugs in her system making her behavior run more hot than cold.

These two news stories illustrate our general association of cool as a cucumber with someone who is unflappable, controlled, unemotional, brave, strong, or unaffected by circumstances we feel would be intolerable or unbearable as opposed to someone who can’t control their emotions in the heat of the moment. When a doctor calmly reviews our child’s grave injuries, determines the best course of action, and looks us in the eye as he gives us bad news, we admire this quality. When a predator faces a TV camera showing no empathy, sorrow, or remorse, we feel chilled to the bone. Our minds struggle to understand; our solar plexus tightens in fear; our spirit senses a disconnect.

Detaching from our emotions serves to put us in a state in which we can function under extreme or dangerous circumstances without falling apart. It also removes us from our humanity, our reality, our truth. Hopefully, only momentarily until we’ve pulled the victim from underneath a car, or dressed our child’s severe wounds.

If we are exposed to traumatic situations repeatedly, dissociation from our feelings may become our most comfortable state because to stay engaged would be excruciating. To the casual observer, this can make us look like a cool cucumber. It may get us promoted at work, allow us to perform our duties under pressure or make tough decisions without flinching.

With the prevalence of electronic devices that can capture our image and transmit it at any time, we’re encouraged to wear our work mask any time we’re in public so we won’t get caught acting like a hot chili pepper.

This protects our jobs. This protects our families. On the surface it seems to be good advice, but we must recognize that it has a similar requirement in that to wear the mask we must set aside or hide our real feelings.

Why do I mention any of this? I know it may seem like an odd rumination for a post. Perhaps it is on its own, but the relationship of this content to the process of healing our wounds, reconnecting our bodies with our emotions, and feeding our spirit so we can thrive makes the topic relevant.

When we are distanced from our emotions, we cannot trust our perceptions and this leaves us feeling wary, on guard, afraid. Fear weaves it’s own limiting structure that often keeps us from being able to face the truth we know about ourselves. Without our truth, we question our ability to be brave, to face difficulty, to persevere, so many of us become numb and stuck. We look like the perfectly brave cool cucumber while longing for a connection with a chili pepper so hot it makes us cry.

Reconnecting with how we really feel is a messy, ugly process. It requires honesty, bravery, self-acceptance, and looking like anything but a cool cucumber. I happen to think it’s worth it.

How about you? Would you rather be a cool cucumber or a red-hot chili pepper?

September 12, 2013

My Efficiency is Killing Me otherwise known as The Importance of Balance

My efficiency is killing me!

Huh? That’s a weird thought. Why did I have it, and what does it mean?

Doesn’t efficiency mean that I’m making the most progress in the least amount of time and with the least amount of effort? How can that be bad, much less deadly? Why do I keep feeling like it’s working against my long-term health?

Running two businesses and a household means my To Do list is long…always. I find that if I throw in a load of laundry and turn on the iron in the morning when I’m in the laundry room grabbing a towel for my shower, then I have saved myself two trips back to the laundry room. If I go to the post office before I go to my office, then I can get my bank deposit ready before a meeting that’s close to the bank. I’ve used less time, less gas, and done less driving. There’s no inherent problem with any of this. It allows me to move down the list quickly and be responsive to my customers. And, of course, the general premise is that I will be able to finish tasks quicker leaving more time for the fun, relaxation, and connection that improve my quality of life. But is that what’s really happening? Let’s take a look:

The problem comes when I finally recognize that I opted to finish 3 more emails, 4 purchase orders, and two more phone calls before I stopped for lunch, my lip is numb, my arm tingly, and I can’t think straight because my blood sugar has fallen. Other times, my bladder hurts because I’ve efficiently arranged my errands, but waited too long before trying to find a bathroom. My focus on being efficient in the moment is sometimes counterbalanced by my ineffectiveness later. It takes hours to fully recover from a severe sugar drop making everything I attempt in the meantime take longer and be more prone to error.

The focus that keeps my mind crunching on a computer problem until it’s solved or holds a task list in my head that’s more accurate than my written list also causes me to ignore my body’s signals. When I lead with my mind, my body and spirit often get out of balance. When I cannot clearly absorb the communication from my body and spirit, it becomes easier to make choices that are detrimental to my physical or emotional health. Even when I’m exhausted, I’ll may work late rather than take time to connect with a loved one. I’ll eat a carb heavy dinner like GF pizza or cereal and milk because it’s fast even though I know that I’ll have a headache and feel groggy the next morning…and all because I’m choosing to be efficient.

Family time

We face pressures in this fast-paced, accomplishment-focused culture that often pull us out of balance. We are then trained to believe that we can engage our intellect to conquer the resulting problems. Of course, these problems will not respond to intellectual cures. So we become more efficient, try harder, accomplish more and wonder why we don’t feel better.

Perhaps rather than suffer the detrimental effects of being efficient, I can focus more on just being…being present in the moment in body, mind, AND spirit. I know that it’s in this quiet balance that I find peace, strength, and healing. I know that it’s in such a state of being that thriving begins. Sounds like it should be as easy as relaxing, but it’s not easy for me. How about for you?



Image from contributor Ambro

September 27, 2012

Dessert First! Day Four.

As this week progresses, I become increasingly aware that I have surrounded myself with difficult people. Is that because I exude the same sort of energy as they?  Possibly.  It is also possible that I exude a calm acceptance that feels safe or inviting.  I’m not sure which is the most true right now.  What I know is that it takes a lot of dessert to absorb, dissipate, and cushion negativity and on Day 3 by the afternoon I had resorted to actual dessert. A gluten-free espresso brownie to be exact.

Okay, truth is I had ice cream too later in the evening after a difficult phone conversation. Lots of sweet. Too much in fact. When I eat food full of sugar or carbs without supporting it with protein, I get sick. The same is true when I choose to focus only on the positive and ignore or deny the negative around me. It is only with balance that can accept myself, others, and life’s circumstances and begin to nourish my spirit. It is through nourishing my spirit that I find compassion for others.

In some cyclic way that feels beyond my ability to describe in words right now, I believe this is the beginning of a cycle of positive energy that will feed on itself, grow, and make a contribution to good in the world.

I feel a tiny bit of progress.  What do you see?