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Your Body Is Your Brain

Your body is your brain. When it comes to feeling safe and well, it’s not all in your head. And if you don’t feel safe and well, you can’t think clearly about much of anything. So basically, your body is your brain. We could also say your body is your #1 brain, and that heavy organ in your skull is your #2 brain.

The primitive brain primarily speaks one language, reports somatic expert Peter Levine, and that is the language of sensation. This means, all those fancy thoughts and ideas do not have much effect on the primitive brain.

Why does this matter? It matters because our primitive brain is responsible for assessing our safety and wellbeing. If we don’t feel safe, our primitive brain assumes there is a threat in the vicinity, and a cascade of reactions occur in our body that keeps us from thinking about much of anything else.

First, the body organizes itself to identify the threat: our muscles stiffen (sore necks or backs anyone, this may be related to chronic ‘startling’ in the body). Then, our fight/flight system gets revved up and ready for action, shutting down non-essentials like digestion and elimination (tension in the gut, loose stool? constipation? These can relate to an overactive stress response). Next, we scan about looking for threat (In this state our mind is fully engaged in ‘identifying’ threats, whether they are actually there or not. With defensive orienting, seek and ye shall find, is an accurate description).

When this ‘all systems go’ reaction is happening, we move into a tunnel vision that seeks to find what it is looking for, damn it! and protect ourselves from it. This mentality results in many misidentifications of threat as well as misplaced self-protection reactions (angry outbursts, defensiveness, hopelessness, collapse, anxiety, depression).

In this hyper-agitated state, our primitive brain may hear the rustle of the bushes outside our house, feel the alarm, see the postman, and although Jack, the mail-carrier has only ever been kind, he suddenly becomes an enemy. We can also feel overwhelmed by our circumstances, lost in our ideas about things, and become unable to see other options or solutions. Sometimes we identify ‘an adversary’ or ‘a pursuant’ within our own elaborate imagination, the new supervisor at work, our best friend, our child’s teacher, the weather…

So what can we do about it? How can we use our body-brain to help us from falling into the rabbit hole? We cannot talk ourselves out of it, […]

Mindfulness Talk – Audio – The Garden in Our Mind

This is a talk I gave ‘for parents’, however we all parent someone, especially ourselves…and maybe some children too (or a partner, parent, friend) :-).

Listen here: Rebekkah Mindfulness Talk – The Garden in Our Mind

Pretend Perfection

I am reminded regularly that when I try to “pretend perfection” I become anxious, unhappy, and stressed. In times like these, if I search inwardly, I can feel the strain that inauthenticity causes.  However, I wonder, is being authentic just laying it all out there?

Author and researcher Brene Brown draws a distinction between being authentic and “oversharing.” She talks about how we sometimes attempt to “hot wire” a connection by over-exposing our vulnerabilities and points out that this is not real vulnerability. When I “hot wire,” it is usually an attempt to cover-up the tenderness that I feel with true vulnerability.

Why do we try to fake it?

ahhh

I think we try to fake it because false (and fast) connection feels somewhat related to the real thing. But the quick option is not the prize we actually seek. In the case of over sharing, a surge of cortisol (stress hormone) is substituted for the dopamine (happiness hormone) that can accompany a true connection. For most of us who experience stress, cortisol is easy to achieve; dopamine is harder to earn, but oh so worth it. This bait and switch reminds me of trying to satisfy a craving for good dark chocolate with Hershey’s; they might have some overlaps, but they are not the same.

 

I have certainly found myself in the painful throws of exposing too much too soon, in an attempt to “be authentic,” only to find myself in the land of self-deprecation that borders self-mockery.

It has taken me a long time even to be able to see these habits, and then begin to slowly change them. (Usually) I am not long in the stage of unconscious incompetence anymore, wherein, I hot wired and over shared, and I didn’t even know. My only evidence was the shame hangover the next day.

Mindfulness brings conscious incompetence, a painful yet essential stage. With consciousness all the moments where you say too much or exaggerate your faults to share the laugh, are now seen with the clear light of awareness. But with consciousness, the pain caused by making yourself the butt of the joke is also seen, which can support change.

Slowly developed conscious competence is a welcome guest. It takes effort and self-reminding, but with mindful awareness, authentic connections are made, and true sharing occurs that respects who you are and where you’ve been.

At last to unconscious competence, where because of previous efforts (mindfulness practice & somatic integration) you don’t have to track each part of an interaction or event […]

Body Intelligence

 

Is Loneliness Bad for your Health?

Studies show that loneliness can lead to survival reactions such as feeling we need to fight to save ourselves or need to flee from danger, often called fight/flight stress reactivity. Emotional pain triggers the same response in our brain as does physical pain. Having a major accident that results in broken bones can register as just as traumatic to the brain as a broken heart. Evolutionarily speaking, humans need other humans to be safe. The tribe kept an eye out for predators and worked together to get food and shelter. It turns out that our bodies’ chemistry changes when we experience loneliness, leading to increased stress hormones connected to anxiety, insomnia, and reduced immune system functioning. These hormonal changes can also decrease our motivation and our desire to engage with others. Whether you’re an introvert and get fueled up from a quiet conversation over tea, or an extrovert who thrives in crowded rooms, your health depends on you making contact, or getting ‘out there’ from time to time.

What can help your health today? Make a date with someone you enjoy or carve out meaningful time with your family. It never hurts to strike up a conversation with a kind stranger at the coffee shop; positive social engagement with relative strangers still has a positive effect on feelings of connection and well-being.

What if your work schedule is too full or home demands are too great? What if you don’t have friends close by? Call a good friend, the phone works for connection too, even a quick text can help our biochemistry shift toward ease. Also, studies from the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley show that online classes and sessions can boost happiness and be part of one’s social support system. Consider joining an online class with me this spring, or begin individual sessions.

Classes begin online April 21st,  in Berkeley April 1st, and Mill Valley April 19th. I’d be glad to be part of your wellness support network. In addition to the social support, the mindfulness skills you’ll develop through our time together will also boost your happiness and well-being.

Serotonin (the well-being brain chemical)

Do you or someone you know struggle with anxiety or depression?

If your brain is low on Serotonin (the well-being brain chemical), depression and anxiety can easily take hold of you.

Are there any alternatives or aids to medications? Can you enhance your bodies ability to create serotonin while on medication, or live happily without medication? Yes!

These three easy additions to your self-care can greatly increase your happiness.
1. Social support (hang out with a friend this week)
2. Moderate exercise (not too intense, or it lowers serotonin)
3. Eat ‘kosher’ style sometimes (separate meat and dairy into separate meals, and eat some whole grain and vegetable meals without any animal protein in them) **this helps your body metabolize the available serotonin

Read more to understand why:

Increase Serotonin Without Pharmaceuticals

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Find Your Sweet Spot

How we respond to life’s stress is a huge indicator of our happiness. Notice the indicator is not, having no stress, but how you deal with the stress you have (and the future stress you will have, because that’s how life goes).

Stress Ball

Some of us tend to be over responders, we can rev our internal engines too high. We might tend toward reactivity, moving to attack or defend in the face of small and large stressors alike. Sometimes, something as small as a typo in an email we just sent can set off a fairly large stress reaction. Other times, running a little late to drop off the kids, or meet a friend, can trigger a reactive chain of mental and physical events that leads to ongoing stress. Sometimes stress reactions can pile up and, as the saying goes, there might be a straw or two that breaks the camel’s back.

Others of us might tend to be under responders, we can rev our internal engines too low. We might tend toward non-responsiveness, or not really noticing much of what is going on inside of us and around us. We can loose details and find ourselves in the same jam over and over without understanding what is contributing to it. Perhaps we don’t register the stream of comments from our supervisor, and feel blind sided when we are given a critical review. Or perhaps we just feel out of it, or isolated, or checked out. This can also lead to stress, a kind of stress that is lurking below the surface and might unexpectedly explode when it is least expected (or wanted).

Mindfulness helps us find our sweet spot, our center, or balance point between over responding and under responding. In our sweet spot, we handle the stress rather than moving into combat (over responding) or collapse (under responding). Mindfulness not only helps us navigate toward our sweet spot but it also helps us understand more about our current set point. Maybe you already know where you are on the continuum of responding and could use a little help getting closer to center, or maybe you need to start with the question, “How do I respond to stress? Do I tend toward over or under responding?”

Mindfulness support helps with just these questions and challenges. Let’s get started right away, your health is worth it. In our phone or Skype sessions you’ll be able to determine your current set point and develop a plan […]

Bridge from inner landscape to outer landscape – video link

 

 

Self Care – Start Today

When thinking about self care commitments, what leads you to the well-being you are hoping for?

Before one takes up a practice of self support or self healing it is essential to investigate if we are engaging in self care with a “little s, self” or “big S, Self.”  In care that is a “big S, Self” there is an ego drive motivating the task, and a goal that leads to some kind of achievement or attainment.  In my view this only furthers the imbalance and stress.  The intention to govern the body, as a possession of “me or mine” leads to greater disconnection and is not a strong place for true healing to occur.  In the “little s” approach, one acknowledges the mysteries of the body, mind and nature as a process that is unfolding rather than a place to arrive at.  This process is then lived into as a unique dance between the elements of self-will and self-surrender.  From this “little s, self” we come to know that how we engage in self care is every bit as important at what kind of self care we are engaging in.

From a perspective of how I intend to take care of myself I see my need for the following:

  1. To value my being as much as much as my doing.  In service of this, to “allow” more time for meandering walks, sitting on the grass, going slowly.
  2. To take in what is here more often than seeing what is missing. In service of this, to appreciate the simple moments of self care that are available no matter how full the day: a deep breath before driving to work in the morning, pausing to feel a hello hug when greeting family and friends, tasting water as I quench my thirst.
  3. To allow my mind to clear as a gift to myself rather than a goal to achieve.  I do not believe in a definition of meditation that speaks of “emptying” the mind.  However, I can relish the moments when the mind empties itself, for a fleeting second, and enjoy the momentary setting aside of the effort to think.

What are you needing?  What self care practices do you desire from your “little s, self”?

Good thoughts to you!
Rebekkah

Mindfulness Plain and Simple

Driving WomanI left the big city about 20 years past and the smaller city nearly 6 years ago. Now I live in a sleepy town that affords me many luxuries, one of which is not having to lock my car. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t; I always return to it undisturbed. This was not the case in my 20’s when I repeatedly returned to my car with the car stereo gone, wires dangling where it had been only moments before, my glove box obviously riffled through and maybe my parking meter change missing. So being no stranger to car break ins, on a recent trip to a big city, I was aware of the need to be sure to lock up. My husband, knowing my current habits, even called out a reminder as I walked out the front door.

Once I found myself on the exciting and seemingly exotic streets of my urban destination I was captivated by the many sights, sounds and certainly also the who, what, when and where of my business there. The first time I got out of the car, it was only after I walked the 1/2 block to the building I was intending to visit, and into the front door of said building that realize I wasn’t sure I had locked my car. “Did I lock my car?”, I said to myself unintentionally loudly and hoped no one heard my crazy self talk utterances. I had no recollection of locking it, no memory of the comforting “beep beep” the car makes when I secure the alarm, didn’t know if I saw the little buttons sink into their holes safe and snug till my return; essentially I had no idea if my car was locked or not. Remembering my own urging and that of my husbands, to be sure of this one detail on my Big Trip, I walked back out the front door, down the 1/2 block and back to my car, which was locked. Now repeat this same scenario with only slight variances three, yes three more times at each subsequent location I visited that day. Ug, sigh, you might think this is a sign of early senility or some side effect of peri-menopause (a catch all diagnosis that some of my friends and I have been using lately), but alas it is not as glamorous as that (if you call peri-menopause glamorous). It’s just simple distraction, wandering mind, thinking of what I […]

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