Next week we’ll move on to practices you might consider during your day but today is another morning practice, a check-in. Something to consider, explore.
Before getting out of bed,… pause…
What do you notice in your body? What do you feel? How do you feel?
Based on that, what might be your intention going forward for the day?
Do you feel tired? Perhaps that means a day of more rest. Doing just a little. Taking it easy and giving yourself a break from all you had planned. Maybe, do less.
Do you feel pretty good? Well rested? Maybe this will be a day you have more energy, less pain. What might that mean for you today?
Maybe you decide to sit and meditate for a few minutes. Prayer, may be a practice that is helpful to you. Reading a poem, might make sense to you. It might be through meditation, prayer or reading you gain some insight into how you feel.
You might still be unsure.
Feelings can be difficult to figure out. What tells you, you’re feeling depleted? Or rested? Or anxious, stressed out? Energized?
What do you feel in your body and where do you feel it? For many reasons we tend to spend a lot of time in our head, mind, with our thoughts. Listening to the signals and sensations of your body, might provide some other clues. For instance, how do you know you’re thirsty? Hungry? Tired? In love?
Tomorrow we’ll add in some movement which is another way in, to this noticing.
Can you bring your attention to your breath? What do you notice?
Immediately following these two questions, your breath is likely to change somewhat. Just bringing your attention to it, is enough to alter it a little.
Walk into most yoga classes and there are often very specific instructions given as to how to breathe. I’ve done this as well when teaching. I still do from time to time, so I’m not saying to never do so. Yet, we might consider when and why it might be useful and appropriate.
Might we begin by just noticing it?
Leave it be.
Allow your breath to respond… rather than consider it is another thing to be fixed. Or regulated, standardized, conformed to. Imposed upon. Being asked to disregard your own natural need or rhythm, during a given experience or situation.
If you’d like to follow along, here’s a 4-min recording you might use to explore your breath early one morning. Or maybe another time during the day. There’s no right or wrong here. Rather, an opportunity to tune in to what might be a place of noticing what we feel, what ‘state of being’ we’re in, what we are experiencing. (Click the link below. You may be directed to another link, or not, depending on where/how you’re viewing it.)
With consistent practice of this checking in with your breath, your body, you might find a pattern. Maybe a baseline of some kind. This might be easier in the morning before you’ve moved or thought too much about the day ahead. But it may be at another time that works well for you.
What does your breath feel like? And then later in the day, notice when it changes. And it surely will from time to time.
Be curious. Check it out. See what you notice. I’d love to hear how it goes for you.
Maybe like me, you feel like the last little while has been really hard. This coming back to further restrictions, schools opening up again, the looming winter ahead (where I live) and just the overall increased stress and uncertainty about a whole lot of things, that are likely different for each of us.
I haven’t had much energy for anything other than basic day-to-day stuff and getting outside, which is now a ‘must do’ in my day. Not much else in terms of creating content, writing, connecting with many people outside my teeny tiny circle.
Perhaps this morning it is the cold air, light snow falling and heavy winds that blew in last night that are providing a push to get moving again. Rather than feeling quiet and contained, I feel a little more prepared to reach out, like these trees. Partially uncovered and extending.
Back in the spring I ran my first online program called Just Right, For You. Part of it was bringing awareness to the many things we do in a day. What nourishes us. What depletes us. What might be needed at any given time, on any particular day and responding to that in some way. Looking at the patterns and habits we have formed over a lifetime and noticing if they serve us well, or maybe changing them up a little might be useful.
What I’d like to do this month, each day, is offer some of the tools and practices explored in the program to consider. Try them out. See if they ring true for you, or not. Definitely not to do ‘all the things’ but rather just a few. Start small. Go slow.
What feels right for me, might not at all feel what’s Just Right, For You.
Which is often why providing someone ‘a simple fix‘ for overall wellbeing, pain, sleep issues, maybe just navigating this wild, world of ours doesn’t seem to work. I have found in working with people, and for myself personally, that what might be right and true is very individual. Personal. My life is probably nothing like your life. What’s that new covid-related saying? “We are in the same storm, but not in the same boat.”
So, follow along if you’re interested. I’ll be posting on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #JRFU, #JustRightForYou, #dailypractice, #startsmall, #goslow. My hope is these practices will be of benefit to you in some way and that we can remain connected. We’ll begin tomorrow.
Depending on where you are in the world and your environment, you may notice some changes taking place. A change of season. It is quite obvious where I live as the foliage, the trees and the grasses are all preparing for winter. Transitioning to a new phase. Not only the beauty you can see here but the seasons also provide a steady rhythm to life. Continuity.
When menopause struck and I was suddenly experiencing disrupted sleeps, yet another transition. A new season. I couldn’t help but recall another stage of life gone by, the early days of parenthood. Those feelings of being absolutely depleted, exhausted. I can only surmise my dreary eyes gazing upon those loving baby faces helped get me through it.
I distinctly remember every time we got in the car to go somewhere, babies safely tucked into their car seats, I immediately fell asleep. Why was that?
I was exhausted.
I knew our babies were safe. I had some time and space when I no longer had to be vigilant, listening and watching over them.
The subtle swaying motion along with the soft hum of the car as my husband drove provided some cues, a stimulus that helped me drift off to slumber.
What were some of the things you did to help get your babies to sleep? I can recall softly stroking their head, their face, “tickling” as we called it. Soothing, rhythmic music playing in the background. There were at times suggestions made to put them on top of the dryer or something similar (maybe for the same hum, swaying that the car provided me). Wrapping them tightly in my arms. Bouncing, swaying, rocking.
We used another strategy when our twins were babies. During the day, we kept them downstairs in the living room, using one of those portable beds so they could get used to sleeping amidst the goings on of our daily life. But at night we took them up to their cribs, to a quiet, darkened room. A different signal that it was now night-time, different than their brief naps during the day.
We can use strategies, we can develop habits and routines to help create conditions for sleep. These are some of the things often discussed in terms of general sleep hygiene. Learning more about our circadian system or rhythm can also be helpful.
What what else might be useful if we’re having trouble with sleep?
Well, there is evidence to show how stress can affect our physiology and our sleep. And, I can imagine many are feeling the effects of stress these days. This hyperarousal, or perhaps it is more like hypo-arousal these days.
How does stress show up in the body? What happens? What are the changes that take place? Can we change or influence our nervous system’s response to stress?
Navigating transitional moments of life is a challenge. Often, there is a letting go required and a stepping into the unknown. Uncertainty. There may be feelings of loss, grief, sadness. Maybe there is anger or resentment or … well there are likely to be many feelings. Including love, beauty and joy. Maybe freedom. All showing up, moving, shifting like a roller coaster ride. Felt and experienced in the body.
Perhaps exploring this a little, what we notice, the sensations that rise and fall throughout the day (and night) might be useful. Making sense of it. Accepting these moments with some kindness and compassion, moving through them with awareness, finding some ground when we need it most. A way to settle into slumber when night falls.
I’m planning to offer an online program where we can explore this both through some gentle movement practices, journaling or other written work, information, breath and awareness practices. If this is of interest to you please let me know, send me a message, comment below, sign up to the site or email me at email@example.com. There’s no commitment from you required, I’m only gauging if there is interest at this point.
The opportunity to be seen, heard, acknowledged. Understood.
Having some agency, a sense of control over what is happening in your life.
The ability to move around in the world. To get up and down, tend to daily tasks at hand.
Do what brings you joy, pleasure.
To experience community.
I can imagine that many of these bring up some kind of sensation in your body as you read through the list. So many we take for granted.
I have a sense you may be missing a few, maybe a lot of these. Feeling loss or grief.
I know I am.
It’s not gone unnoticed by me that many of these are already experienced by the people I see, those I help to support through my work. It is not uncommon for people who have lived with chronic pain, often for years, to feel this sense of isolation, the loss of freedoms, work, connection with others. Well, there is a lot.
This came up up front and center when the hardest hit in our communities were those living in senior or extended care centers. They were already living in such a manner. Already in it.
Many others living with health concerns, disability, low socioeconomic status, new immigrants to our country have this as a part of their ‘normal life’. Not COVID life.
I don’t have the answers but my hope is that we bring some awareness to these issues, some path forward for the long term. Not just now.
Everyone waiting for things to get back to normal. Talk today of vaccines and yes, one can hardly wait. There is so much on hold at the moment. Much fear, uncertainty. I can feel that. Sense that.
But might we also learn from and change in some way, what is often normal for many.
Think back to when this first began and the heightened state of everyone around you. I can surely remember what it felt like walking through the grocery store as everyone was scrambling for Lysol wipes and toilet tissuse. Nervous systems all on high alert, seeking some sense of security and groundedness.
Perhaps we can begin to imagine what that feels like for so many when these big life events or ‘transitions’ happen. Injury, illness, aging, loss, grief. Can we learn ways to help with that, to sit with that, bring some care and ease to the person in need.
We’re all going to be there at some point.
Something will happen. If not before, we will grow old. We will struggle. Lose independence. Freedom. Ability to do things.
Might we provide for, care for, those who are already ‘in it’.
I can recall in an instant what it felt like when I was in a car accident just about this time two years ago. As I think about it my breath becomes short, my heart rate increases a little, I get emotional, my body tenses up almost like I’m experiencing the impact all over again. In fact just seeing a ‘deer crossing’ sign still brings about this response in my body.
I can also imagine another experience. At the same time two summers ago, I was with a group of friends… enjoying days in the sunshine, swimming in the river after a most nourishing lunch. What I notice in my body when I think about this experience is the opposite to what’s described above. Ease of breath, smiling, relaxed, heart slow and feeling all warm and fuzzy.
This happens even as I IMAGINE these two contrasting events. Interesting how my body responds and my actual physiology changes. My breath, heart rate, blood pressure, emotions, etc.
Consider how your physiology might change through the day due to various experiences, thoughts, emotions, conversations, demands that make up your daily routine.
Our body, brain, nervous system is so wise. It helps us to navigate the world around us, keeps us safe and alive, regulates all the systems within our selves. Takes in information external to us through our senses, responds to all the internal information received in our body at the same time. A rather smart organism. I am most grateful that it does all of this automatically that I don’t even have to think about it. Nope. I don’t have to remember to breathe, or make my heart pump somehow, or organize the digestion of my food.
But this not thinking about it, not noticing, or paying attention might not always be helpful.
For instance, if I ignore the fact that I’m really thirsty on these hot summer days we’ve been having where I live, I might become dehydrated. Or if I don’t pay attention to the sensations that tell me it’s time to rest, I may become over tired and become careless, not able to learn, deplete my body’s innate need to rest and replenish all these wondrous systems.
I may not notice a stress response I seem to be ‘in’ all the time. I might not easily move into a different one (parasympathetic response) one where I can rest, sleep, where my heart rate and blood pressure lower, digest my food. I might have elevated stress hormones constantly floating around in my system, thinking it needs to help ‘fight and protect’ me from something. Inflammation might occur. And on, it goes.
Life is hard. Life is stressful. No doubt about it.
What might help is to learn to recognize the signals this wise body is giving us and responding some way. How we might move into action when needed, like if I am in a car accident or if I need to change my business model due to this pandemic we’re experiencing. Or how we might move into deep rest when needed. So we can sleep. Digest our food. Help influence or decrease inflammation. Navigate with some fluidity, between the two responses.
And how might a stress response, impact our experience of pain? Can we respond in some way when noticing this? Our response might be to change something. It may be to just notice. It might be to extend ourselves some compassion, knowing these are challenging times. The first step though, is the awareness that it’s happening at all. The listening in, paying attention.
Curious to explore this a little more? Might it be helpful to learn how you might have some influence over these systems?
Creating New Pathways: change your pain, change your life begins tomorrow. I would love to have you to join us.
“When we ‘find’ our bones and allow them to assume a supporting role, muscles can start to relax. It is in the ‘undoing’ of muscles that freedom in the joints is found – and with it, greater ease in movement.” Peter Blackaby, Intelligent Yoga
How might you explore this and how might it help in finding more ease in your life, less pain, or fatigue?
Try noticing if you’re holding tension or contracting a muscle that’s not required for whatever it is you’re doing. So for example, I often suggest a person balance on one leg and notice if this creates any noticeable tension in their upper body, or jaw in order to do so. Obviously you don’t need your jaw muscles to contract to stand on one leg, but might this happen without you being aware of it?
How might you learn to release this? To relax, let go of what’s unnecessary. I think it can often be more helpful to imagine softening, rather than ‘letting go or relaxing”. How often have you been told to “just relax….”. Easier said than done.
One of my teachers used words suggesting this relaxed tone in our tissues “might feel like the texture of a soft, ripe peach.” Or I can imagine how the muscle tone feels in a baby or young child compared to what I notice in myself at times.
Make the biggest smile you can. Big, huge cheeks. Feel the tissue around your cheeks, maybe your throat, neck and perhaps even your shoulders. Just notice. Or clench your mouth, teeth really hard. Now, let your jaw hang loose. Open your mouth. Feel around again. Notice the difference.
I’ll often suggest people lay down on the floor to rest. Not your bed, not the sofa, but the floor.
Why is that?
When you lay on the floor it’s usually easier to feel the support of the ground below, in contact with your bones. So you might feel your head supported, shoulders, pelvis, legs and feet. See if you can notice that and does this allow your muscles to soften a little? This can be really hard to do. Something you might try is to first tense or contract a muscle (like we did above) and then release it so you can notice the difference.
The first step however, is just in noticing. Like anything, by practicing this you’ll often be able to sense more easily when there is tension ‘held’ in your muscles that you’re not aware of. Tension that might contribute to other changes in your body and likely fatigue, over the longer term. How might that influence pain?
The second step might then be, how to find support. Curious to explore this further?
Creating New Pathways: change your pain, change your life begins this Wednesday, July 22nd. For more information or to register:
Do you know that you can experience a HUGE amount of pain, yet have no damage or injury in your body?
Have you ever heard of phantom limb pain? It’s when someone experiences pain, yet they don’t even have the body part? Think of someone who’s maybe had their arm amputated but still feels pain there. How can that be?
Or maybe you’re someone who has been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. No obvious damage or injury can be found yet absolutely, you feel pain.
Do you know the reverse is also true? You can have NO pain and yet have ‘damage or injury’ in your body?
Have you ever found a bruise on your body yet had no idea how it got there? Or maybe you broke a bone playing one of your favorite sports but didn’t really feel pain, until you got to the hospital? There was obviously tissue damage, yet no pain. At least at first, perhaps.
Maybe you’re someone who has disk degeneration, yet no pain. According to this study (brinjikji et al 2014) if you’re 60 years old, 88% of people whose back has been imaged will show disk degeneration, yet experience NO pain. If you’re up to 70 years of age, it’s up to 95% who have what looks like damage or injury and yet has NO pain.
When you have a headache, think of a really, really painful headache, … do you think you have something broken or damaged in your head? Likely not.
So why do we think that way about other parts of our body?
Pain is weird, for sure. And complex. And our understanding of it does not always match with what’s going on. Often, we are confused by it, don’t know what to do about it and just live with it.
Don’t get me wrong. You NEED pain. Otherwise you would likely not survive. You need a mechanism to tell you something is up and you need to attend to it.
It’s the persistent chronic pain that seems to be the trouble. In Canada and most places around the world, 1 in 5 people live with it. If it were an easy fix, we would have done so by now. Two areas that the evidence tells us seem to be most helpful are: understanding pain and movement. We’ll cover both.
Well, there is more to it but if you’re curious to know how you might change, how you can influence your own experience of pain, I’d love you to join a new 6-week online program starting July 22, 2020.
Advantages of this being online?
anyone can take it in the privacy of their own home,
at their own pace
all the content is yours to keep forever, and
I’ve made it affordable and accessible so anyone can enroll. $25 week, for 6 weeks (both a payment plan and options are available).
If you or someone you know might benefit, click the link below for all the details.