Archive for the ‘Daily’ Category

How To Better Understand Self-Sabotage

Written by Kate • May 21, 2020 •
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The Ancient City in Gordes, France

In the past, I’ve been completely overwhelmed by the power of my self-sabotaging behavior. Why was I eating that food when I’m not hungry? Why am I still reading Facebook after two hours when I swore I’d only be on for 15 minutes? Why didn’t I do my yoga today? It was a total mystery to me and one that made me feel quite disempowered.

I thought that because I understand the brain’s reward system and some hacks about how to manage the system and do an end run around it, I had the keys to self sabotaging behavior. But I didn’t and still engaged in behavior that I didn’t intend to.

The Primitive Brain’s Motivational Triad

Then I read/listened to Brooke Castillo’s work about the primitive brain and how, as she puts it, it was created to pursue the live saving triad of motivating us to:

  1. seek pleasure
  2. avoid pain
  3. spend as little energy as possible

Our primitive brain is trying to keep us alive at all costs and as such, it drives us to prioritize short term pleasure, like eating sugar or other highly caloric food, in order to bolster the body’s resources. [This is a much larger discussion but I’m trying to hit the highlights. The brain drives us to seek pleasure to keep us alive, even when life is extremely hard, food is scarce, and the odds are high against our survival. We need a strong counterbalancing force to help us not give up when things get rough.]

Avoiding pain keeps us safe (but small).

And conserving energy is just smart if you never know when a bear might attack you. Rest until you need to get out there again, our brain urges.

Of course, for many of us in the developed world, this ancient way of preserving life against a nature that is red in tooth and claw is no longer necessary (except for the rare occasion) and is, in fact, keeping us living small and constrained lives.

You Can Just Say No

Here was the revelation for me.

When I’d make big plans to change or put myself out there or adopt a new expansive lifestyle change, soon enough I’d get this irresistible urge to stop changing and a lot of thoughts that would tell me in a variety of ways that it was too hard, I wasn’t good enough, I needed to have fun, I needed to rest, and on and on and on. These urges against change were so overwhelming that after using my will power to grit against them, I’d give in.

These thoughts and urges were tricky and I’d try to understand where they were coming from. I’d think they were important and something I needed to listen to because it felt so strong, so real.

Brooke Castillo says that she notices this voice rise up and start the old refrain trying to keep her small, she says something like, “Noted. But we won’t be doing that”.

And that’s all it takes. Noticing what your brain is saying and lovingly saying to the voice, “Noted. But we won’t be doing that”. You can just say No.

A Lesson from Yesterday’s Yoga Session

If you’ve been reading my blogs, you likely have gleaned that I’m a yoga addict. I really do love it although I’m not yet strong enough to do all the asanas I’d like to in a way I’d like to. Like I can’t float forward to a forward bend. I have to step forward. After some trial and error, like focusing on my upper body strength, I know I need to strengthen my core which I’m working on.

So Monday night into Tuesday, I had some GI issues that kept me up for a few hours. I assessed my physical situation early in the morning and realized I needed sleep more than I needed to make time for yoga. And that was a solid decision.

But Wednesday morning, as I started my yoga session, I noticed how tight I was, especially in my right shoulder/rotator cuff. And my brain went off on this riff that went something like “OMG, why do you even try? You didn’t do yoga yesterday and now you’re behind and you’ll never catch up. So just stop doing yoga”. And for a moment, before I shined some consciousness on these thought loops, I actually almost just quit doing yoga. Like my finger started to reach for the pause button.

I then thought to myself, how does quitting my session today help me catch up? And how can I be behind when I’m still practicing? What does being behind in yoga even mean? I don’t want to stop doing yoga. I love yoga.

But the pull to stop expending energy was briefly very strong. I realized it’s just my brain trying to get me to conserve energy even when it’s better that I do the work, to strengthen my body and my mind.

Also, my shoulder hurt so my primitive brain wanted to stop doing the thing that hurt.

The analogy to a toddler is probably way overused but it is accurate. That part of our brain really is so similar to a toddler. So I said to it, “noted, but we’re doing yoga”. And in an instant, when I put quitting off the table, affirmed it wasn’t an option, I felt a surge in energy and my yoga session deepened. Miraculously, my shoulder also felt better and by the end of the session, the pain and tightness had disappeared. And I felt deeply satisfied to have finished that session.

Later, after my yoga session, when I considered vacuuming and mopping my juice stained, food encrusted kitchen floors [do they throw food on the floor for the fun of it?] my primitive brain briefly tried to convince me that reading my book was more important (conserving energy) but I again said, ‘no, these floors are getting clean.” It took a lot longer than I intended. Dinner was late. But my floors are sparkling and I took pleasure in accomplishing what I set out to do. The primitive brain that didn’t want me to do it then took a lot of pride in getting this done. Go figure. And I still was able to read for a bit after the twins went to bed.

It Can Be That SimpleNo, we’re not doing that.

I really can be that simple, just a “no, we’re not doing that”. There are then no urges to resist or expend will power on. Focus on something different than what the toddler brain wants. No need to bargain with, try to understand, or analyze this part of your brain. It can be simply a case of saying, “no, not that. This”.

Noticing What Comes in the Stillness

Written by Kate • May 20, 2020 •
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My kids in Roussillon, France – Oct 2019

As I grapple with the effects of the lockdown during the COVID 19 pandemic, I noticed that I moved away from my practice of stillness and started to fret about the future, the future in terms of the economy and whether or not schools will start up in the fall.

My general plan has been to be a stay at home Mom with limited hours invested in this business until kindergarten. My twins would both be entering kindergarten and much of my day would then be freed up to spend how I choose. It’s like I set up school starting as some sort of finish line in terms of an end point of spending the vast majority of my time on watching and tending to my kids.

It was a goal line, I see now. The image that springs to my mind is of carrying both kids and finally reaching the start of school and placing my kids down on the other side as they start their school adventures.

And then the pandemic arrived. Schools closed. The future is now so uncertain, as it always is, but now it is transparently so.

I notice what the thought of no school in the fall means to me. At first it was honestly close to sheer panic and complete resistance. Noooooooo, screamed my mind. But after allowing myself some time to freak out and to really mourn the potential loss of my plans, I have also assessed and planned for what we’ll do if the schools do close and remain remote learning focused. I know my rising kindergarteners are in no way prepared for a year of remote learning. Not at all. So we’ll home school them. It just is what needs to be done for us as a family and we can do it, with some sacrifice and changes to our focus and schedules.

I see what rises when I try to resist what is. For me, when I’m pushing up against reality and trying to change it, I can actually sense the feeling of pushing against my forehead from the inside of my skull. It’s like I’m pushing on an accelerator and pushing pushing pushing against what is to impose my will against what reality is presenting me with.

As soon as I notice the pushing, I just drop it and drop my attention into my body. A sense of ease arises and I notice it feels better to rest in the moment rather than drop into unconsciousness and try to force reality to be different.

It is an enduring truth that we suffer when we try to make reality different what it is. We have expectations. They arise and they fall away. By hanging on to our expectations no matter the reality and changes we are presented with, we suffer. Drop your expectations. Drop your clinging to certain outcomes. You will feel lighter and the suffering stops.

Rest in the stillness. Listen to what it brings.

Stop Believing Your Thoughts. Your Brain Lies.

Written by Kate • May 14, 2020 •
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Carving in the wall at Angkor Wat- Cambodia

Although I know this, I keep having to learn it. Yesterday was an interesting day, full of lessons I’ve already learned but get to keep learning in new contexts. Yeah! (Not!)

What Are Your Old, Familiar Thought Loops?

I have young kids and they don’t seem to want to clean up after themselves. Their toys are everywhere. The spilled juice spots are multiplying every day, like rabbits. Their kitchen table chairs are stained. I’m noticing all of that and then my brain appears to be saying, oh, we’re doing that? Cataloguing all the things that need to be “fixed”? “Addressed?” “Done?” It says, great, I’m in! Let’s do this! We’re so good at it!

These thoughts started to swirl, coming up faster and faster: I have to mow. I have to do my yoga. I have to relax. The kids need attention. When will I have time to prepare dinner? You know, it’s been a long time since you changed their sheets. Their bathroom sink is a mess. When will you have time to run to Costco? Have you called (my) Dad recently? You need to tweet more! What else did we plan to do today? Will it get done today? And on and on and on.

Next thing I know, my stomach is clenching up, my shoulders are hunched, and I’m “checking” FB for an hour, and I’m resisting urges to have a glass of wine at 4pm or snack just before dinner. Now my plan for the day is definitely blown because at no point did I budget an hour for random FaceBook mindlessness.

What Have You Made These Thoughts Loops Mean and What Are Your Resulting Feelings?

As soon as I muster enough consciousness to put the phone down and become aware of my thoughts, I spiral into overwhelm and despair and old familiar thoughts like, “see, I told you you can’t get it all done.” “There’s too much to do and you’ll never get it all done.” “just stop trying”.

Become Aware of the Thoughts and Detach From Them

But with lots of practice, I know what to say. First, I feel compassion for this part of my brain and I send love and compassion to it. No more hating on any aspect of me. No more derision. Just love.

So I notice the thoughts and I notice myself starting to believe the old familiar thought loops and now I just say, “No”. “That’s not true and it’s never been true”. I treat it like a child and say, “we can think better thoughts”. “Let’s stop with old familiar thought loops WHICH HAVE NEVER HELPED EVER”.

And honestly, I feel like my brain (like toddlers) gave me a sly smile and it felt something like relief for my brain to know that I’m charge and I won’t let this thought loop continue any longer.

Find the Thoughts’ Opposite and Try Those Thoughts On

Because I know about the mind and how it is constantly seeking evidence to support our belief systems, once I’m aware of my thoughts, I like to try a version of the Turnaround, from Byron Katie’s The Work.

I take a thought and come up with its opposite. For example, “there’s so much work to be done, I’ll never get it all done”. The opposite of that for me is “I can get everything done that needs to get done so long as I keep at it, slow and steady. Not everything needs to get done right now.” And I start to think of all the things I have gotten done and I find evidence to support this opposite thought. I think how I’ve accomplished so many tasks that I’ve wanted to and itemize all that I’ve done: kept meditating for over an hour daily for the past 3+months, added in mowing to my schedule, keeping up with my yoga, listening to the podcasts that support me, and on an on with evidence to support this opposite thought.

And I find the opposite thought and evidence to support the opposite thought for several of the other thoughts, as necessary. And I remind myself that I don’t need to believe my thoughts. Or even continue to follow my thought loops and whirlwinds, while the mind just keeps chattering away at me like my 5 year old. On and on with the stories. And not much of it is true. Or important. My brain and my 5 year old just want to keep talking to me.

Detaching From Your Thoughts Shows You Their Powerlessness

As I continue to detach from my thoughts, like Eckhart Tolle exerts us to, I again become aware of just how unimportant my thoughts are. How inaccurate. How repetitive. How unnecessary so many of them are. And I just drop my need to follow them and I focus on doing what’s before me, the laundry, the mowing, cleaning up the spills, the writing.

In Comes Presence

And when I move my focus from my thoughts to the task at end, a joy steals in to my body and I no longer am thinking about a past that’s gone and a pretend future that will never make me happy in the present. I’m just here. And I drop the story and rest in the task.

So much joy here in this moment.

Nothing You Do Will Fill The Empty Hole in Your Heart

Written by Kate • May 12, 2020 •
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The River Flowing Through the Rocks- Watkins Glen

I, like most other people, search here and there, near and far for something, ANYTHING to fill that hole in my heart. You may not yet be acquainted with that hole but it’s there. It’s the one that tells you need to be richer, thinner, more successful, striving, in a relationship, married, divorced, a parent, highly educated, or anything other thing that will make you better, make you different than you are now.

But all of that is a lie. The hole in your heart will not ever be filled by anything you do to fill it. And that’s why you’re over drinking, over eating, over spending, or on social media too much, doing anything that gives you some relief from that message that you’re not enough right now, as you are.

You are all you’ll ever be and and anything you’ve ever wanted to be is already inside of you. Now is the time to stop trying to fix yourself. There is nothing you have to “DO”. Instead, it’s time to be. Be yourself. Be present.

Be aware of the hole in your heart that is yours to heal through simple awareness of it and presence.

Be. Here. Now. There is no future that will heal you and no past that wounds you. Just timeless presence to what is right now.

Practice that for long enough and all the thoughts you have about being better and the utter suffering that arises from that will simply vanish. It will be replaced by boundless joy for longer and longer moments.

Stop doing. Start being.

Quit Quitting- How to Stop Quitting

Written by Kate • May 11, 2020 •
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There’s Always a Way Through

Why have you set your sights on a goal? What is the motivation that is driving you? Do you have a big enough vision for that goal? One that will carry you through the times where you don’t get any “wins”?

These are important questions for yourself because it’s better to have the over riding vision to help boost you when times get tough. And times will get tough. The weight won’t fall off one week. Or one month. You’ll be seriously and perhaps unfairly criticized. You’ll make mistakes. You’ll miss the mark.

No One Does It Perfectly

No one does it perfectly and that’s not the point anyway. The point is to set your sights on something that will help you grow into the person we were meant to be. The goal is the journey, and to a lesser extent, the destination.

What Is Your Why To Get You Through It?

So if the scale doesn’t change? If your bank account is still too small? If your emails don’t get opened? If you don’t get the promotion? Do you quit? Do you throw in the towel?

Or do you sit down after a moment (or 10) when you acknowledge your disappointment and then remember you’ve made a commitment to the end result? Do you analyze what went sideways and create a new plan on how to handle the adversity?

Do The Model on A Thought

A great way to assess what happened is to do a model on your thought about what happened and what you’re making it mean.

So the scale didn’t change. Are you making it mean that you’ll never lose weight and so now is the time to throw the plan out the window and eat yourself sick? Or do assess what it is going on without judgement or self-pity and make the best decision you can with the current information you have.

Planning For Setbacks and Headwinds

In making your plan for a path forward, just remember that you’ll have setbacks, days where you’re sick and tired, moments when you do or say the thing you didn’t mean to do or say. Plan for it. Visualize yourself in a situation where things are falling to pieces and you still are the calm center in the eye of the storm because you know you’ve got this.

Above All, Don’t Quit

For sure the way you won’t succeed at whatever you’re trying to accomplish is if you quit and if you get a habit of quitting when things are hard.

Quitting quitting is a great first step. Make commitment you want and make quitting not an option. It simply isn’t something you do anymore.

You can do this. You got this.