What Were You Thinking?

There is a beauty found in our unfiltered thoughts…

The other day I found myself craving sweet and salty—something that happens when I am feeling that all-too-common yearning for comfort food. Thanks to a regular routine of meditation, I caught myself in the moment and put the bag of chips and ice-cream away (after having a healthy serving-size of each). The practice of meditation has helped me grow still and aware when I’m not meditating, helping to prevent those eating-without-tasting moments while binging through Netflix shows.

            Later that night, I gave myself an exercise in “walking back the cat.” Knowing I crave comfort food when stressed, I let loose on the page all that had transpired that day. There was the morning traffic commute, complete with a firetruck that caused drivers (myself included) to jut into made-up lanes, the new deadlines at work, learning about a family member’s need for surgery, and the discovery of a broken toilet in our home. Those were the highlights.

            But each one of those highlights offered another opportunity to delve deeper. I could easily name each of those items and not have gotten to the root of my voracious cravings. It was the writing, the action of slowing down and putting pen to paper that helped me uncover my thinking—the very source of where the figurative cat first began its steps.

            Reflective writing gives us the opportunity to hear our thoughts. Earlier that day, I’d agreed to do something that was not only time-consuming; it was also impractical and unnecessary. 

            What was my voice whispering at the moment I said “Yes” aloud? “I want to please. This is what matters most. I don’t want to disappoint.” Yet moments after I uttered that one syllable, I walked away feeling heavy, trapped like a bird in a cage.

            Listening to my thoughts, I was able to walk back the cat and pinpoint the moment my catecholamine activity kicked up several notches: the moment I betrayed myself, agreeing to something I didn’t agree with.

            Thanks to the above exercise, I have since altered my “yes” to “no.”

            This Saturday, October 30th I am hosting a workshop through and for the iWRITE Youth Club, specifically designed to ignite your inner compass through a specific form of reflective writing. Thanks to the inspiration and teachings of Dr. Metcalf and Dr. Simon, the webinar: Reflective Writing: Finding Insight, Empowerment, and Peace will offer a simple but transformative tool to connect the outer experience of our daily lives with the often-dormant terrain of our inner world.

            Here’s a link to register: https://iwrite.org/product/reflective-writing/

            Meditation can be practiced in many forms. Meditation in writing gives us a chance to grow present, fostering awareness, creativity, compassion, and peace.

            I hope to see you soon:-)

Allowing Our Problems to Help

Seeing our problems as an outward symptom of a deeper issue offers us an opportunity to heal.

The other day, a friend asked me to pick up some books for her. Well…over 600 books. I drive a small car. An even smaller voice whispered to me: “I don’t feel comfortable putting over 600 books in my car. This will not end well.”

Alas, since the voice inside of me was much smaller than my car, I psychically “shushed” the voice and picked up the books.

The next morning my rear tire was flat, like Flat Stanley flat.

The problem might externally look like a flat tire that needs nothing more than a replacement; the problem might sound like a headache: calling AAA, waiting at a tire store for hours, and finally, getting that new tire installed.

All of the above is correct, but there’s a larger problem, one that has reared its head in many forms in these decades of my life on this floating planet: ignoring that small voice.

I’m not angry with my friend for asking me to pick up the books; I’m angry with myself for not heeding that small voice. I’m angry at myself because this is far from the first time that I’ve chosen to help another while ignoring my intuition.

Recognizing the problem, the REAL problem, is when growth can take place. The problem is the portal to changing our self-sabotaging habits or triggers. According to Counselor and Instructor, (Core Belief Engineering) Lisa Sidorowicz:

“Imagine for a minute that your “problems” are actually portals to resolution and healing…. Imagine not having to turn away from them anymore, but stepping into them…transforming your issues and getting beyond them.”

If we think of our problems as opportunities, as breadcrumbs on a trail to understand ourselves instead of something to avoid at all costs, we can actually dissolve the problems themselves.

In the case of the flat tire, the tire will get fixed, and I will drive again. But the source of the problem, the issue of ignoring my inner voice, a habit I have grooved into my subconscious when it comes to pleasing others, is no longer present. By stepping INTO the problem, I have journeyed through the core issue itself (putting others before myself) and come out the other side (honoring my inner voice).

So, the next time you are facing a problem, consider it deeper than its face value. Ask yourself:

What’s going on here that’s shown up in different forms before?

What is the core issue I am avoiding and need to face?

When we embrace discomfort, we find our pain offers a clue to our healing.

Feeling Torn?

Are you living a life to please others or yourself?

Remember Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz? That poor girl daydreamed about going on adventures “somewhere over the rainbow,” only to discover a world where scarecrows and tinmen could talk beside flying monkeys and—oh yeah, that she’d inadvertently murdered a witch!

Dorothy comes to adore her unusual friends. Their common quest to meet “The Great Oz” brings them closer, further bonding them as they sing arm in arm down that famous yellow brick road.

And yet, Dorothy is torn. She wants nothing more than to go home to her Auntie Em. Yet she doesn’t want to leave her friends. She wants to go home, but home is her friends AND Kansas. So where IS home? Where will Dorothy go??

What to do? We can feel Dorothy’s angst because we can relate. It is part of our human journey to experience confusion, a sense of longing for two things at once, a feeling of not knowing what step to take next.

Fortunately (you may recall), the ethereal Glinda the Good Witch shows up at this rife-with-tension juncture. She speaks the famous words to our young protagonist that hits me in the solar plexus each time:

“Home is a place we must all find, child. It’s not just a place where you eat or sleep. Home is knowing. Knowing your mind, knowing your heart, knowing your courage. If we know ourselves, we’re always home, anywhere.”

While our modern-day world is not filled with singing Lollipop Guilds or cackling green witches who melt from water, we are regularly bombarded by flashing social media posts depicting every opinion under the figurative rainbow. And as social creatures, we tend to shape ourselves based on our culture, not our nature. 

Author and life coach, Martha Beck highlights our proclivity for adhering to cultural desires over our natural ones:

“For women in traditional China, climbing the social ladder required having teeny-tiny feet. Generations of girls and women had their feet bound and crushed, crippling them to make them better. In Victorian England, women wore fabrics dyed with arsenic that caused skin ulcers…a small price to pay for looking better than their fashion rivals! In our society, people will virtually kills themselves trying to better by decorating the fanciest cake, or breeding the most standard of all poodles, or clubbing a tiny little ball into a tiny little hole.” (The Way of Integrity: Finding the Path to Your True Self).

There is nothing wrong with a desire to socialize or even embrace one’s culture. The caveat arrives when we tend to measure our well-being externally, relegating our inner needs and knowing to the equivalent of a second-class citizen. When we get caught up in how many Instagram followers someone has, or how much bigger or more expensive someone else’s house is, we are measuring our lives with the invisible yardstick, not tuning into how we feel. Like Dorothy, we can easily forget that we are always home, able to “close our eyes” and find the answers and guidance we need.

We may not have a manifested Glinda at our beck and call. Yet we do have an inner voice, guiding us home whenever we are willing to listen. 

So, the next time you are feeling torn, ask yourself the following: 

Is there another way to look at this?

What does my culture (i.e. friends, family, religion) want/like for me?

What do I (my nature) want/like for me?

There’s a good chance your answers to the 2nd and 3rd questions are different. Only you know which one to follow.

Proprioceptive Thinking: The Sixth Sense

Lost your way? The Proprioceptive Question will guide you to the answer.

Proprio what? And what the heck does it have to do with a 6th sense??

Last summer, a dear friend of mine (Steve Bernstein, author of Stories from the Stoop) introduced me to a gem of a book: Writing the Mind Alive: The Proprioceptive Method for Finding Your Authentic Voice. Co-authors, Dr. Metcalf and Dr. Simon offered a form of meditation through proprioceptive writing. Through a powerful yet simple ritual of writing to baroque music on unlined paper, we possess the ability to create a conduit between our inner and outer world.

But not all of us are writers. Some of us find meditation in running or baking or gardening. So, I began to wonder: Could the proprioceptive method work in other forms of life?

Proprius is Latin for “one’s own” and typically refers to our body’s proprioceptive system. We are regularly taking in life through our five senses, transmitting whatever information comes into our brain, processing “from the inner world of our bodies, the world we alone inhabit.” (Metcalf and Simon). It’s this proprioception that allows us to feel our bodies, as our own. It’s why, when we have a stroke or illness, we can sometimes lose the feeling of literal embodiment. 

The 6th sense is the invaluable gift we all have to synthesize our five senses, reacting to the world around us on a physical, mental and spiritual plane. But we often lose awareness of our 6th sense, even take it for granted while we are healthy. We run on autopilot and can lose the gift of self-reflection.

Enter proprioceptive thinking—a cognitive and spiritual launching pad for those moments when you’ve lost your way, when you’re uncertain about a relationship or a situation, when you’re anxious or depressed. While proprioceptive writing involves handwriting to slow down and answer the proprioceptive questions throughout what is known as a Write, proprioceptive thinking is an opportunity to ask a proprioceptive question—either aloud or in your mind.

So, what is “the” proprioceptive question?

What do I mean by _____________________________?

Think of the above blank as your metacognitive/spiritual Mad Libs:-)Into the blank goes whatever is going through your mind as you draw, talk, swim, cook. 

I’ll give an example from my own life now. Today was spent collecting pathetic drops of water from the spigot outside my house. I was trying to garner enough water to flush a toilet in my home.

My proprioceptive question is:  What do I mean by pathetic?

By asking the proprioceptive question, I am slowing down, using language as a tuning fork for my intuition. Slowing down literally awakens our gut (and our gut is lined with millions of nerve cells that actually “talk” to the brain).

At heart I’m a writer. I can ask the proprioceptive question in my head, but the revelations flow from my pencil.

What do I mean by pathetic? I mean it’s three days without a shower or running water. Pathetic that so many people are living without water and heat and electricity for days now. Pathetic as in sad. Houston, we have a big problem. 

I encourage you to consider the proprioceptive question when you are feeling stressed or confused. The question just might recharge your inner compass.