Facing Fear With Movement

So, I’ve been listening to uninhibited women leadership online conference with Ashley Burnett this week and the topic today was about fear. I found it interesting to discuss fear and struggle to know what I am truly afraid of. I spend a lot of time working with people who are afraid, I talk about it most days for multiple hours per day, and here I am not sure how to label my own. As I thought about it, I came up with a movement flow to help you get to the essence of your fear … in case you are like me and find it’s a bit of an enigma for you, slippery, and hard to fully see. You know it’s there, but you just can’t make it out clearly.

Many are afraid of living the life they could, afraid of giving up a label like being depressed, anxious, female, male, successful, a failure – you name it people are often afraid to give up an identity, even if it’s one they don’t like. That identity has protected you in groups, helped you define who you are and who you are not, and maybe guided your path for a long time. Well, what if you could step off that path and become something else. Something more in line with who you want to be today. Would you do it? Would you be able to let go? Dive into the practices that can help you become your highest self, your personal best dream – would you do them?

climbing the stairs

It’s often difficult to really know what you are afraid to give up. The bottom line is who would you be if you weren’t afraid. This question offers you the glimpse into what you might be afraid of. Here is an exercise set to help you cut through the mental chatter and just focus on what’s holding you back. Movement always helps me see more clearly and decrease the mental chatter that clouds me.

Step One:

Complete an easy warm up or use this set in the middle of your regular workout.

Step Two:

Get a Tabata Timer – this is very helpful and there are a number of free apps that will help you do this (and other interval workouts). If you don’t want to get one a simple kitchen timer can work, your watch, or phone. You need to do 20sec exercise intervals with 10sec rest intervals – 8x.

Step Three:

Start by picking your mantra. This could be a question – what am I afraid of? What’s holding me back? etc. or a statement – Fear. Let Go. – you get the picture. Find a phrase that works for you and visualize it – maybe it’s a picture, maybe a set of words, etc. You want to truly feel it deep within you.

Step Four:

Begin a jumping squat tabata. With the help of your timer, you begin your jumping squat set for 20 sec, rest 10sec, 8x. Total of 4min. Tabata’s are hard, just know that. If you have to take a break, try to keep the movement going, even if you take out the jump or begin to alternate legs, etc. You want to be completing the full movement at the end of the set.

As you complete the tabata focus on your mantra or visualization. See what arises. There is nothing to do, nothing to fix. We just want to see what remains when it gets really hard to focus. Often this is the essence of the thing we can let go of, we fear, we want to transform. Sometimes we even transform it in the tabata. I’ve seen clients start with “I am not good enough” to yelling “I’m fuckin’ rocking it” with conviction by the end of just one 4 minute round.

Step Five:

Repeat Steps 3 & 4, this time with the thing you want to gain or embrace in your life. Again, take a few moments to breathe, see your goal clearly in your head, and find the right set of word(s) to represent what it is you really want.

Then begin another tabata – any exercise will work.

I often like to superset pushups, lunges, low rows, squats, high rows, jumping lunges/split lunge, plank hold. This order will get you a full body workout in about 40 min with 2-3 min in between each tabata for meditative work and visualization preparation. Finish with whatever core/abdominal work you are focusing on and a full body stretch. If you complete all the steps you’ll have an hour worth of movement with a meditation and self-growth focus. It’s not an easy workout, but one that will help you distill your thoughts into what you want next, see where you want to go, and help you feel confident enough in your own abilities to actually complete and live the practices you’ll need to reach your goals.

Have fun finding your FEAR!

 

*Please remember that exercise is physical and in the event you have a medical condition or other reason to be concerned about completing hard/intense exercise or movement that you check with your doctor.

 

The Recovery 2.0 Conference

I have been attending these online conferences and sending clients to attend for the last few years. He’s always got a great line up of speakers that speak to all areas of healthy regulation – food, sleep, exercise, social, psychology, medical, trauma – all sorts of great info.

Even if you aren’t in recovery from drugs, alcohol, or any of the “Big 6” –  we are all in recovery from something. Here’s the link to sign up for this free conference, you attend from the comfort of your own home or office or car or trail run or where ever you happen to be.

http://recovery2point0conference.com

SURVIVE ADDICTION.
HEAL MIND, BODY AND SPIRIT.

THRIVE IN YOUR LIFE.
25 recovery experts share cutting-edge information.

Can You Accept Yourself?

Can you truly accept yourself? Fully accept yourself? Just as you, today, in this moment, whatever it brings? So many of us answer a big fat Loud NO. We have all sorts of reasons we aren’t good enough and plenty of ways we could be acceptable … If we’d just ____________ (Get it together). Today lets focus on what we are doing well. 

In what area of your life are you proud of yourself? Really proud of yourself, not in service of your children, parents, employer, or anyone else. Where are you really proud of you, your actions, behaviors, commitment, follow though, etc.
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Why do you love this part of you? What’s so good about it?
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How does it make you great?
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What is a small change you can make right now, today to be a little better at this? Keep in mind sustainable change in lifestyle habits happens in small (think 10%) increments. Must be realistic within your time frame, make it specific, and measurable. This is the SMART goal principle developed by George Doran (1981). You are better off stating “I’ll eat 2 more servings of vegetables today. One at breakfast and one at dinner” rather than “I will eat more healthy today”.
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Next what are you going to do to make this change happen? Here we are looking for a change in behavior. What will you do differently?
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How was that exercise? Easy? Difficult? Were you able to find something you love about yourself? If not, I wonder why not. I may not know you and yet, I do know if you found nothing to be proud of it’s bullshit and old learning. I have seen the under belly of human experience and still find treasures there. It doesn’t have to a huge thing. We are looking for the big AND the small things. For example I was really proud of the way I used a new skill of asking questions this morning while I was talking to my husband. This mattered to me because it helped me be more effective in my communication and if I can use this skill in one more conversation today (2) and add 10% more tomorrow (2.2 conversations) soon I will be having effective communication in more than half my conversations, and then most of them before you know it. With each interaction I will feel a little more mastery (the key to building self-esteem) and pride. As I build those I begin to approve of myself more and more, leading to more and more positive change in my life. So I’ll ask you again …
What’s one thing about you, you can be proud of?
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Follow the above prompts now that you’ve found your thing. If you are still stuck … Maybe that one thing to be proud of is that you don’t give up on this exercise. ?
Know that getting stuck isn’t the problem. We all get stuck. It’s staying stuck that is. The way out of the muck is to shift your thinking. It isn’t easy if you’ve been caught In a negative rut, to turn toward the positive, drop your judgment of yourself and others, and stop listening to the negative vibes of others. Commit to yourself and work on remaining in a positive frame of thought for 10% more of your day today.
If some of these words are too strong for you right now change them to make sense for you. I challenge you to consider why not use these words?
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Does whatever holds you back from using them need to be released?
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Is it an old belief or message you can drop?
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What would happen if you did embrace words like love, great, good enough for yourself as descriptors?
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What to do with my emotions????!!!!!

What the fuck are my emotions good for anyway?!?! If this statement resonated with you, read on … If it doesn’t read on, too.

In my line of work I meet so many people who were never taught the answer to this question. They were brought up thinking that emotions were something to be tamed, controlled, eradicated.
The idea that emotions are not intelligence is lie. Emotions are a form of intelligence. They are your first intelligence system. The one that informs the meaning making system (i.e. Thought). You can tap this larger intelligence by embracing your emotions and learning how to effectively use and express them.

The ability to effectively use and express emotions is known as self-regulation. Self-regulation is important. It helps us get through our daily routine, create intimate relationships, parent effectively, and manifest the life we want, rather than the one we were handed.

The point is not to get rid of your emotions, but to use them to your advantage. If you are asking how the heck do I do that, read on.
First you must get good at tagging your own emotional experiences. My sadness and joy will look different than yours. Know what yours feel like by following the physical sensations it brings … slow down here take time studying your own experience … many emotions have similar sensations. For example anxiety/fear have a similar somatic (body) presentation as excitement. The way to know the difference is to pay attention to what triggers it, the situation, and circumstances taking place. These become big clues to what you are really feeling (note: don’t get caught by what others tell you you are feeling. Only you will know). Begin this practice by spending time each day noticing what you are feeling, thinking, and sensing. As you take this moment internally, notice what is going on around you externally. Aim for practicing 3-5 times per day. The point of the practice is to notice, not to change anything.
Now that you have a better understanding of what you are feeling emotionally, begin to pay attention to what triggered this emotion for you. This circumstance or internal state gives you clues as to how to deal with the emotion. Did you lose something you cared about? This may mean sadness and grieving is needed. Allow yourself to feel sad for the thing you lost. Did someone cross one of your boundaries or did something unjust happen to you? This might mean you are angry and need to set a boundary, say no to something or someone, or take an action to make an injustice right. Is the physical sensation one of openness, warmth, or buoyancy? Maybe you are feeling happy, joyful, or content. Look around, notice what triggers it, and soak it up.
Paying attention to the physical sensations using mindfulness (focusing only on the sensations for a moment) allows you to neurologically wire in new neurons for experiences. In any given moment there are thousands of choices, allowing yourself a deeper understanding of the experiences you want, makes it more likely you will choose the options that support these desires – what you want rather than what you don’t.
If you spend a lot of time noticing your sadness, despair, anger, guilt, shame, etc you are telling your mind to go find more of these. This is where your attention is, therefore what you find more of. I know this isn’t easy. Everyday I work with folks who suffer from depression, anxiety, psychological trauma, physical issues that impact mental health and I know changing thoughts and behaviors is not easy. However in the witnessing of human experience I know things follow attention. When one of my clients begins placing attention on what they want rather than what they don’t, they get better. Remember sustainable change happens in small increments. Begin by placing your attention on one more positive item today then add another tomorrow.
The other thing I know is placing this positive attention on things is not meant to sugarcoat all the shit that happens in life. It doesn’t fix problems, rather it gives you more strength to deal with them as they arise. When you are dealing with things as they arise they don’t pile up and become festering wounds that get infected and impact all areas of your life.
Last thing on emotions for today. They are ALL valid and welcome. All of them. Even the uncomfortable ones. My hate informs me as much as my happy. My guilt helps me grow and my shame tells me where I need to step up, listen to myself, and how to connect to my community, should I want to. My anger sets strong boundaries so I get a stronger sense of self and more depth to the relationships I want to deepen. Can my emotions become toxic? Absolutely.
That’s why it’s so important to deal with them as they arise instead of pushing them away. If I don’t honor my anger and set a boundary my self esteem suffers, soon my shame builds, and then I might get stuck believing it will never get better … aka despair. Getting stuck in despair can lead to depression and now I’m stuck in ruminating thoughts about how horrible I am so I don’t get out of bed and my daily activities and relationships suffer. The spiral can be a slippery slope and hard to get out of.
The good news is, the same why I can go down … I can also go up. I spend a moment deepening my knowing of my joy, and because I know it better I have it more often. As a result I find more opportunities to build it, and I find myself in situations with people I enjoy who support me. My self esteem builds because I am doing things I feel confident in and the people around me are accurately reflecting me. This helps build my personal sense of self authentically and congruently (with how I too see myself). Now I’ve got a stronger sense of self, take on new challenges, and begin to engage in life more fully and more inspired.

Creating Life Balance

 ahhhh … Balance

Balance, such an elusive idea. One many crave and few say they’ve found in their lives. What would your life look like if you had life balance?

The
Can you describe it in detail?
People often describe being in balance as being able to have both the light & the dark, the joy & the sadness, the drive & the rest. Many describe how living “in balance” (think 50/50 between doing & being) would be so wonderful, yet continue to live and behave with most of their eggs on one end of the continuum. This often leads to overcompensating and losing sight of one’s healthy living goals. Now you are just swinging from one end of the pendulum to the other, and neither end, no matter how righteous, is living balanced.
dictionary.com gives two definitions of balance I think fit well into the concept of life balance. One is: mental steadiness or emotional stability; habit of calm behavior, judgment, etc. and the other: the power or ability to decide an outcome by throwing one’s strength, influence, support, or the like, to one side or the other. Let’s apply those to your life. If you looked at the last few days, would your life meet that definition? Where are you in balance? Not in balance? Where could you decrease or add items to create more balance? From here planning comes in.
Planning includes getting really focused. Ask yourself what’s one thing you could do today to increase your ability to experience life balance? Now get really focused on this item. See yourself engaged in it, completing it, how you will feel after you’ve accomplished it, how others are impacted by your behavior. Write it down, draw a picture, find a word, create a sounds or movement to represent it. Move, say, or carry your symbol of this change with you and use it often. Keep your mind singularly focused on your goal, not the problems. According to Feng, Schwemmer, Gershman, and Cohen (2014) “people are famously poor at multitasking control-demanding behaviors; they are often able to execute only a few, and sometimes no more than one at a time” (p.129) due to engaging multiple process pathways that reduce flexibility and efficiency completing tasks. Basically, where we put our focus drives what we focus on. Focusing on the problem then leads to focusing more on the problem. If you want positive change focus on the solution. Based on this model of focus you are more likely to stick to, complete your goal, and find more opportunities to support your positive change.
References
Feng, S. f., Schwemmer, M., Gershman, S. J., & Cohen, J. d. (2014). Multitasking versus multiplexing: Toward a normative account of limitations in the simultaneous execution
of control-demanding behaviors. Cognitive Affective & Behavioral Neuroscience, 14, 129-146. DOI 10.3758/s13415-013-0236-9
Photo
Mousiemasala.tumblr.com
Here’s a worksheet to get you started:
Where are you not in balance? 
Home? Work? Intimate relationships? Friendships? Role as a parent, adult child, sibling, wife, mother, father, husband, etc? Spiritual? 
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Where could decrease or add items to create more balance?
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How will you engaged in this new behavior?
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How will you know when you are doing it or have completed it?
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Imagine yourself completing your goal, how will you feel?
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How will your loved ones, friends, co-workers, dog, etc be impacted by your positive change?
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What symbol will you use to help you remember you are practicing this new behavior, thought, emotional response? Find your symbol, carry it with you, and use it often.
A picture, word, sound, movement? Describe it, paste it, or draw it here.
Close Print

The New SuperiorWorkout.com Focus

I’ve taken some time off from blogging to complete my PhD. Here’s my new vision for SW.com …

It is time. Time to put some effort and thought back into reaching out. I have missed my regular forays into the experience of touching lives through writing. There is something pretty amazing about writing a piece from personal thoughts, experiences, and then put it out there. There is no guarantee that others will read, listen, like, care, yet when they are touched by a piece of what I have written it is a gift. When I hear stories of how folks reconsidered a long held belief, changed a behavior, or tried something new, and maybe even scary, with success or failure, it is a gift. It brings ‘this being human’ back to our interconnectedness.

And isn’t that what we all crave? The acceptance and belonging that come from being connected with others. Some of us require (or want) more or less humans in our lives. Some of us require very little human interaction and really prefer the animal kind of acceptance that comes from caring for a pet or animal in need. Others want an entourage. Both are fine and good. By embracing ourselves as we are and accepting the differences we have, we learn to live in less fear and more openness. There is no need to judge ourselves when we can accept that we are ok just as we are, because the person next to us is ok, just as they are. Thus, no need to judge them either.  Ahhh, the sweet sound of acceptance, so much more open and easy. This is the place to live from.
As I have transitioned my career from the fitness center (working with the body in physical health) to somatic based psychotherapy (working with the body in mental health) it has become time to broaden my audience once again. It has been awhile since I reached out regularly in the blogosphere or newspaper columns. As I make the transition back into writing I am creating a new focus at SuperiorWorkout.com. This focus brings together why I think your workout must be more than just exercises, more than just movements, and more than just thinking about and planning your new healthy lifestyle behaviors. This new focus brings the balance back into our lives. Borrowing from the concept of SuperiorBalance, Inc (which was the brick and mortar fitness center), SuperiorWorkout.com’s Blog will bring back the BALANCE that was the foundation in developing the business model that was part of programming at Superior Balance Fitness Center. Now I have a new shiny degree (PhD in clinical psychology with a somatic psychology concentration)
to guide the new direction integrating the body and mind as one unit, not two that share a boundary. All that learning taught me how the body experiences life rather than how to push it, direct it, mold it. I have found that as I allow for an unfolding of experience there is no need for pushing and prodding and working so hard (mentally) to accomplish a physical goal. So I plan to bring that openness, ease, and flow to SuperiorWorkout.com.
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BALANCE is needed in everything we do and many of us struggle to understand what it is, how to maintain it, and when it’s off. Here’s how I am going to use Balance to guide SuperiorWorkout.com:
B = Body
A = Activities we do for health – in work, home, family, physical, social – everywhere in our lives.
L = Love … and hate, along with all the other emotions that are an intelligence system when we read them right.
A = Acceptance of ourselves, of others, of the way things are. From this place of non-judgment change isn’t so hard.
N = Nervous System – We become dysregulated due to traumas in our lives. These could be big, small, relational, events. As a result we throw off our endocrine system and wreck havoc on our life. Learning to regulate is a very important task.
C = Cultivating Calm & Creativity. From this centered place life doesn’t have to move so fast, yet much more gets done.
E = Enlightenment – We still have to do the daily chores of living however we can do them with joy, being, and peace.
D = Diet … or anything we ingest into our system – news, food, relationships. How do you fill yourself up?

Fitness on Your Vacation

How do you stay fit on vacation? Strict plans or throw it all out the window? Here’s ideas when far away or nearby spots are calling.

When most of us think of vacation we think about throwing routine out

the window. This is important work. We need to break from routine to begin the process of letting go and rejuvenating. It is also important to have some form of structure in out day, even if minimal. If you are reading this blog I assume you find physical activity to be important in your daily life, even if you don’t know how to make that a regular occurrence. So here’s a guideline to help find exercise balance on your vacation.

First, it’s important to consider your long term goals. Are you currently training to lose weight, gain muscle, compete in an event? If you are scaling back a regular workout using alternative options, such as a shorter run or different terrain may be all that’s needed. If your goals are more around lifestyle and health you may want to consider how sleep, food, and social activities will contribute to your health on vacation.
Second, do a little research. Does your location have a fitness center, classes, a pool, a safe place to run/walk in the area. Many hotels can provide you with a running/walking loop nearby, just ask. Then consider how the options available stack up to your goals. I’ve been in many a hotel fitness center that offered me two cardio options and a lot of cable channels. I have found that having a couple of good fitness apps helps. I like Nike Training Club for easy on the go workouts I don’t have to think about putting together and can use body weight and speed to complete. I also enjoy Nike’s running app to help me track distance, time, and intensity for those places that do not have a pre-outlined route for me to follow.
If you are heading somewhere outside or more primitive consider the lay of the land. Will you be able to paddle, swim, climb, run on sand, hike mountains, work harder just to live outside? These activities all count, however it may feel different to use daily activities as your workouts and you may need to do some pre-trip training to be ready for the physical challenges all day activities may require.
Third, decide on a plan AND it’s ok if you don’t follow it to a T. On a recent trip to the coast of Mexico I created this plan to balance out my all day reading in the sunshine and evenings lounging with friends and family:
Friday – day we left, ran before work since I knew I’d be in the car for a long time.
Sat – off, traveling and relaxing.
Sunday – Beach run – a great way to see the locale and get a feel for the place I was planning to spend most of my time. Ocean swimming and SUP time – leisurely. Building activities into your daily thought process, even if you don’t know when you are going to do them is a great way to stay active on vacation.
Monday – Strength training – in my condo. Using items like door-frames (pull ups/lat work) and a full gallon jug of water (approx 9lbs) I was able to mimic my regular strength set. Adding in balance (1 foot, Russian lunges, bear crawls, and super slow sets) allows for functional training that challenges the core and exhausts muscle without heavier weights/overload. Adding in plyometrics (speed) allows for explosive movement that will also exhausts a muscle under less overload, plus adds a cardio element if you are looking for a quicker way to your goal.
Tues – active rest day – day on the open water fishing excursion. Did some swimming and snorkeling. Not to mention the functional training of standing upright on a rocking boat.
Wed – Yoga – These sessions are gems. I love looking for and finding a local yoga class. It’s always fun to check out a new studio and hope I get enough of the language to figure out what poses come next. Whether I do or not, the end result is still bliss. Plus this balances out my sitting (aka as reading whole novels) and over use of movement patterns like paddling, climbing, hiking if those are a main part of my trip.
Thurs – Strength training – see above. Plus adding in the family activity of playing in the sand, paddling SUPs, and swimming in the surf.
Friday – Beach run – as the vacation comes to a close this allows me to say goodbye and observe from a new set of eyes, not beginner excited ones, but the ones who’ve been looking and are ready to see what’s below the surface. A great skill in life, too.
Sat – off / 1st travel day – if possible on the first leg of the trip, I may attempt to get a short run, yoga session, or paddle in depending on departure time. This allows balance to the sitting of a long drive.
Sun – active rest as I unpack all my memories and practical items like laundry followed by rest night and vacation integration.
Enjoy!

Body Mindfulness

I’m sure you’ve heard of mindfulness, and I would bet a number of you practice, but what about body mindfulness? Sure, in flexibility training, yoga class, or pilates you notice when you are asked to check in. What about when you run, bike, climb, shoot the ball, or skate? Do you focus your attention on where you are in space, how your body feels, and the sensations you experience? Here’s three steps to creating more body mindfulness.

Mindfulness allows us to focus our attention as a “Witness”. This allows space to observe what is going on around us and within us without attachment to the activity, thought, emotion, etc. From this point we have more access to our internal wisdom and therefore are better able to effectively meet the challenges in the given moment.

First, begin by setting an alarm on your phone, watch, oven timer, computer, or another way you can remember to do a “moment to pause”. Set it to random times throughout the day. This way you are training your mind to reflect despite your activity levels.

Next, pause when you hear your alarm. Notice how much you feel connected to your body. Stop whatever you are doing, take a deep breath and feel it all the way to your feet. Notice your feet on the support they are touching, then move to the legs – notice the front vs the back. Then your torso in space. Is is tilted to one side, twisted? Then pay attention to your arms, your hands, your shoulders. How do they feel? Finally, notice your neck, your head, your face. It may help you to close your eyes or choose a gazing point. Soften your gaze so you aren’t distracted by visual stimuli.

When you have finished the above it may be helpful to notice how in your body now. Is it different? How so?

Then return to your task and your day. Next bell check again. Notice any differences throughout the day. Over time this exercise allows you to gain more wisdom about your personal process, adds space in your day, and helps refocus your attention. See how you feel after a few weeks.

Making Sense of Physical Sensations

How much thought have you given to how much you judge physical sensations, label them, and then operate as though they are truth? How often have you used anxiety, excitement, or guilt to create a physical sensation to motivate you? Continuing from May’s concept of emotional and physical health connections, this month lets look at those most primitive and un-regulated body pieces to our intelligence – sensation.

Many of us feel a physical sensation and immediately jump to a conclusion about what it is, why it’s there, and react as though it must be true. Really, these items – like hot, cold, tight, loose, rough, soft, sharp, empty – are just information about what is going on in this moment, not the next one, not the one before it, this moment. Using mindfulness and curiosity it is possible to gather more information about what these physical sensations mean. We can then use them to inform our responses from an empowered place rather than react without considering the possibilities.

Begin to get comfortable with your body. How comfortable are you with the feelings (sensations) of your physical body? Are there areas you love? hate? ignore? that take more attention and focus than others? Are there places you feel strongly? Do these concepts even make sense?! If not you may want to slow down and consider how do you feel right now in your body? The trick to this exercise is to remember there is nothing to do, nothing to fix. It’s just about noticing what is going on in your body right now? Where is your attention drawn? Do not judge. Then use curiosity to “hang out” with this area and notice. What can you learn about this part of you? Where are it’s edges? Does it have a color? If it had one word what would it be telling you? Is it familiar? How is it different from similar past experiences?

As you begin this practice you begin to notice more and more of the body’s wisdom and you become better able to listen to it. Once you are able to hear what it has to say, listen to it. Follow it’s guidance and use this information to help you live a more embodied life. Living in your body isn’t just about shaping it. It’s also about enjoying it and living from within it. Embrace it’s wisdom and it will lead you toward a fuller and more engaged life.