How To Release Negative Anticipation And Relax.

A difficult life can gradually cultivate an anxious expectation or negative anticipation in the mind and body. While resistance is the primary cause of our suffering, dread only adds to and perpetuates our stress. 

In 16 Clearing Statements To Address The Self-Sabotage of Inevitabilitywe looked at the belief systems underlying an anticipated difficulty, as also their consequences. There was a tacit acknowledgement there that our thinking was coming in our own way and the tools suggested there were a means to solve a specific, clearly identified  and problematic belief.

Here I would like to focus on a more generalised habit that we may have acquired: A readiness for suffering that is far more deeply ingrained, often unconscious and is likely fuelled by countless experiences and multiple reasons.

How to recognise whether you are affected by it:

  • Observe the body:
    Sit silently, undisturbed for a few moments.  Breathe easily.  Pay attention to your breathing and your body.  You may notice a stiffness in the spine, shoulders or at the back of the neck, a tightness in the muscles, or shallow, fast breathing.  Those who have dealt with a lot of challenging situations and traumas(big or small) may feel such symptoms more strongly. Once it is noticed, you realise that it feels as though the mind -body is bracing itself against an unfathomable, approaching storm.
    (You can test this further by allowing your thoughts to float towards a future time or upcoming event. Your mood may dampen, and overall a sense of effort or heaviness may show up for no particular reason. The stiffness, tightness or pain may aggravate. Any of this could be mild, or acute.)
  • Observe your thoughts and emotions:
    There is a fear of being disappointed, worry and a tendency to imagine all that can go wrong rather than what can go right. Despite positive thinking or manifestation exercises, you may be a persistent, nagging doubt that cautions you not to get too hopeful or invested. It may also show up as an underlying current of fatigue, helplessness or sadness. Life seems more uphill than not.

It is as though a ‘fight or flight’ response is no longer situational, but has become a default state. Our mind-body has got locked into a preparedness for battle.

How to release such dread:
Becoming aware of this anxiety and tension in the mind and body is the first step.  This, in itself, starts shifting our energies and thoughts. Along with a mindful watch on our recurring thoughts, addressing this in the body is also important.
We can further the process by pairing our conscious intent to release this negative anticipation with one or more of these simple options:

  • Heart Focus: Sit straight and take your attention to your heart and breath. Imagine as though you are breathing in and out of the heart.  As you breathe mindfully,  do any one or all of the following:
    • Inhale deeply and intend, “I release all resistance to whatever is unfolding.” as you exhale completely. Repeat until you feel relaxed.
    • Place both hands over your heart and say, “It’s okay to feel this way.” (3-5 times).  After that repeat, “It’s okay to let it go now.” (3-5 times)
    • Place both hands over your heart and repeat softly and slowly, “I am safe. I am okay. It is safe to relax now.”(3-7 times)
    • Focus your thoughts on anyone or anything that invokes love or appreciation in you.  Continue these till you feel yourself relax completely.
  • Shift Your Position: Notice which part of the body feels tight/tense and move it slightly to a position that is more comfortable.  It’s surprising how much energy goes into holding that tightness and the ease that can show up with such conscious movements. If you are the type that tends to get lost in thought or the activity on hand, make such 5-second breaks a regular habit.
  • Stretch The Body: Basic stretching exercises combined with the intention of emotional release affect not only the body but also the mind, emotions and energies.  Meridian stretches and Surya Namaskars are particularly effective.
  • Psoas Muscle Clearing:  Lie down on your back with knees bent and feet about a foot and half apart. Let the knees fall together lightly and comfortably.  Place your palms flat on the two sides of your abdomen, just off the centre of your body.  Your hands will be roughly parallel to the line joining the thighs and abdomen, as though cupping the abdomen area. Now hold the intention of releasing the pent up emotion you have identified.  You may begin to notice energy moving below your palms.  If heaviness shows up anywhere else, stay in the same position, but move your attention to the disturbed part of the body.  Now imagine a grounding cord running down from the base of your spine and another from the soles of your feet to deep down in the centre of the earth.  Imagine that everything that needs to leave you is passing out through these cords.Repeat as often as you feel the need.
    (I have combined several approaches into the above exercise and most people I have shared it with find it to be particularly powerful. I highly recommend it as a daily practice.)
  • Energy Exercise: Cross your arms into the Cooks hook-up, and follow these commands: “Feel it strongly as you can, as clearly as you can, until you just can’t feel it anymore.” Repeat 2-3 times, until you feel calm.
  • Visualisation:  Imagine golden white light flowing down through the top of your head and filling the entire body. Intend that it clear out all distressing cellular memories and replace them with a soothing calm.  Take your time as you scan through the body, ‘lighting up’ any areas of heaviness or darkness.  See this light flowing down, out from the soles of your feet, deep to the centre of the earth.

Any and all of the above can move you from an apprehensive tension to feeling easeful and refreshed instead – within minutes.

For additional help, here are some relevant posts:

PS: In the event that you are facing a full-blown panic/anxiety attack, try one of these:

  • Hold your breath: Hyperventilation implies you are taking in too much oxygen without releasing adequately. Hold your breath for a period of ten to fifteen seconds, relax and repeat this a few times. You could also cover your nose and mouth with a paper bag and breathe in and out of it for a few minutes. This restores the oxygen-carbon dioxide balance in the lungs.
  • Deep Diaphragmatic breathing: Slow, deep breathing right down to the bottom of the lungs, such that you feel your abdomen rise up noticeably. Breathe through the nose, with a longer out-breath than in-breath. (Count in your mind to 7 as you breathe in and to 11 as you breathe out). 
  • Emotional Freedom Techniques/EFT is excellent for calming the system down.  Learn more at my website or get my book: Emotional Freedom Techniques.
  • Mathematical Exercises: I have seen this work remarkably well.  It shifts attention away from the stressor and activates a different part of the brain. Try solving for the square root of a large number or multiplying large figures.

I trust that one or more of the above will help alleviate your stress and bring in more peace and clarity.

If you find any of the above useful, please do share it forward.  
We live in taxing times and most of us could benefit from a little relaxation.

Updated on December 8th, 2016:

Came across a few interesting 60-second suggestions for deep relaxation in a talk – ‘NeuroWisdom 101‘, by Mark Walden. Adding some of those below:

  • Begin yawning deliberately and slowly stretching your body.  Whatever speed you are stretching at, keep halving that until you are moving as slowly as possible.  There is a growing awareness of each muscle movement, while the ‘fake’ yawning begins to induce genuine yawns.  These give the brain opportunity to pause its thoughts and rest.  Within 60 seconds, one can feel the growing relaxation of mind and body.
  • Run your fingertips slowly down the inside of your other palm, taking 20 seconds to go from the fingertips to the wrist.  MRI scans indicated that this stimulates parts of the brain that deal with self-awareness and self-confidence. You can use this to calm yourself before meetings you are worrying about.
  • When feeling down, worried or moody, stroking the forearm slowly helps shut down negative emotional centres in the brain.
  • Concentrate as strongly as you can on the sound of a bell for 30 seconds. Listen as deeply as you can to whatever you hear.  Such intense concentrating shuts down a large part of the brain and hence, this kind of focus is an excellent strategy to manage ADD, procrastination and the wandering mind.

perfect_place_to_relax-wallpaper-800x600

Lessons From Shaping Clay

pottery

Noticing a sign announcing a pottery class, my friend and I impulsively stopped our bike and inquired if we could have a class right away.  With only a few hours left before we headed back to our city, we could not have imagined how easily this opportunity had presented itself.  She an artist and me an experimenter at heart, we were both curious to try our hand at the potter’s wheel.  Knowing fully well that this short time could only be a playful trial, we were still keen to experience a taste of this art.

The virtual experience of the best of apps cannot compare with reality. The feel of the cold, wet, tough clay was enlivening.    The teacher’s patience extraordinary and my lack of skill obvious.  It was soon evident that a great deal of strength and attention was required to knead the clay malleable.  The young man was giving me gentle, encouraging instructions.  The wet mixture felt wonderful to handle.  Like reconnecting with earth itself.  But it was challenging work.  All through the exercise, he kept repeating, “Good, good!  But slow down! Slow down! Just a nudge. Slowly”.  The clay would break and I would give a disappointed sigh and start again.  By the end of the hour, I had a few shakeable bowls ready.

Apparently, I had no difficulty in doing the hard work, being focused, keeping a steady hand, making fresh attempts or making a clean cut.  Nor with leaving behind my creations without the slightest hesitation.  (I was not even tempted to take snaps to hold on to them.)  But I was thoughtful.  With the side of my hand feeling slightly grazed, I washed up and awaited his comments.  He repeated, “Fine for a first try. But it takes time. Slower. Go slower.  It takes time. You don’t have to work it so much.  Just go slower.”  I almost laughed out loud.

The very reminder I needed to hear at this point.  Patience.  All in good time.  Keep at it.  Presented again to me through this spontaneous, unexpected hands on experience.

“You must have trained for years?” I asked. “You make it look so easy.”  He smiled and said he began as a child and for six months only made the basic bowl.  The whole day.  Every day.  The challenge was to make four  absolutely identical bowls.  Only then would he be taught the next step.  I was reminded of the martial art movies and the intense discipline they describe.  This was not very different.

We went on to hear his fascinating journey from potter to actor/director/filmmaker. Apparently, he stayed in the city and would return home to relax with his pottery.  He found it cleared his head.  (I could well understand how that could happen.)  It also explained his immense talent, humility and mature demeanour.  Here was a man who had learned from the many streams of life and could live it with simplicity.  The ease of being present that probably came largely as a consequence of hundreds of hours of being present to the task at hand – the wielding, yielding, breaking and remaking of clay forms.

Who we are  shows up in everything we do. It follows that being observant of any of our activities can inform us greatly about the inner workings of our mind and heart at that point. For example, it is easy to notice the change in pace when we walk, or the change in our pitch, tone and volume as we speak in different moods.  But these simple ways of self awareness are often forgotten in the busy rush of daily life.

Taking a break from routine activity and watching ourselves in an alien environment is an easy way of making the subtle more obvious. Perhaps that is why so many seekers are drawn to travel. Being in fresh, unfamiliar surroundings can accentuate our otherwise hidden traits and make us more aware of our strengths and challenges.

Artistic endeavours provide a light hearted way to receive the message you need to hear in the moment.  The insights that can be gleaned from a few splashes of paint, weaving of a few threads or as in this case – playing with a little clay – can be meaningful.

I came away feeling a little calmer and a little lighter.  Calmer because of the kinesthetic reminder, “It’s all okay. Slow down. Keep going. Everything in its own time.”  Lighter – because of the playfulness and joy of impulse, exploration, trial, success and failure.  And the ease of surrendering it all – letting it all go.

My invitation to you – go ahead and sing that song, or dance that dance you have been meaning to try.  

You may not get it all right in the first attempt.  But you will surely be happy to have lived the experience.

As for life, it will continue to flow.

Maati kahe kumhar se, tu kya rondhe mohe
Ek din aisa aayega, mein rondhugi tohe”~ Kabir

Image:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/kellinahandbasket/ (Creative Commons)

11 Ways to Be Present to Another’s Vulnerability

world hands

If you are the kind that needs research to validate what common sense and your heart will tell you easily enough, then you may want to listen to Brene Brown’s brilliant TED talk, ‘The Power of Vulnerability‘.  Her research from hundreds of interviews led her to a breakdown and  she went to her therapist and said, “I know that vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it appears that it’s also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love. And I think I have a problem, and I need some help.

There are two aspects to vulnerability.  The first is our own inner work; understanding that our own sense of love, worthiness, and courage is eventually only determined by our own attitudes and beliefs and cannot be gifted by another.  But undoubtedly, there are spaces that are more conducive to the flowering of our own growth and acceptance.  So  as we pursue our own development, we can concurrently be more sensitive to others. Being compassionate and non-judgmental to yourself is what makes it possible for you to be the same towards another. You cannot give what you don’t have.  But you can start where you are.  You need not wait to achieve a 100% level of self assurance, before reaching out to another.  If we were all a little more mindful towards creating a space of safe acceptance that encourages vulnerability, think of the authenticity and peace that we could bring to our interactions.

So here are 11 ways in which you can be present to another’s vulnerability:

  1. Listen Mindfully – Pay whole-hearted attention to the other person, clearing away as many distractions and interruptions that you can. Remember the times you have had to gather courage to speak from the heart – and listen the way you would have liked to have been heard.  Also, a heart focus brings about coherence in the emf field your heart is generating.  A coherent heard field can induct peace and calm in the other.
  2. Don’t say ‘I told you so’Silence Speaks better than words.  Be a receptive space for the other to listen to their own introspection.
  3. Don’t hold their past against them – Constant reminders of past events which have already been discussed are best left where they belong – in history.  By raking up old issues and shaming the other, you are depriving them of a chance to learn from their past and to move on.
  4. Don’t hold your past against them – Be mindful of projecting your own experiences, perceptions and emotions on to their sharing.
  5. Be Authentic – The last point does not imply that you may not share from your heart.  Opening yourself up is in fact most helpful to helping others relax into authenticity themselves.
  6. Do not bring up your past contributions – The common error that is made in our closest relationships is the accusatory tone that sounds like, ‘After all that I have done for you…’.  You have thereby guaranteed that any love and support that was received from you will now become a point of resentment and that results in an immediate disconnect.  When you gave, you probably gave freely.  Keep it that way.
  7. Be Kind – As the Dalai Lama says, it is always possible to be kind.  No matter what confessions you are listening to, try to be as kind as you can.  While the words ‘non-judgmental’ and ‘unconditional love’ have been trivialized by overuse, what I am suggesting is a more realistic, doable attempt at not jumping in with blame, judgement, accusations, or worse still disrespectful, insensitive, callous humour.  In a society that has come to value numbness and avoidance over vulnerability and openness, only too often we make light of a situation that is crying for a sincere, humane response.
  8. Allow the emotions to flow – If the person wishes to cry, let them.  If they rant, let them.  Often, all that is required is a vent to emotions that have been building up like steam in a pressure cooker.
  9. Do Not be Dismissive – What may seem immensely difficult for the other may not hold the same weight for you.  That does not mitigate it for them.  Don’t lose objectivity, but be sensitive to the burden of their emotions.
  10. Maintain Confidentiality – I cannot stress this one enough.  There is no way that a person is going to feel safe around you if you share their most heart wrenching moments in casual conversation or gossip.  Respect that trust is an honor that was bestowed upon you.  Keep things to yourself.
  11. Watch your judgments, cruelties and insensitivity – You are being observed all the time.  Your jokes about gays are never going to encourage your son to come out and tell you his true sexual identity.  Your dismissal of your friend’s hurt over rejections in love are not going to let your sister tell you about her suicidal thoughts over a heart break.  Your unrealistically high expectations of academics encourage your children to cheat in exams, lie to you and take up addictive substances.  As extreme as these examples are  – they demonstrate the society we are contributing towards.

When we shame others, we are essentially isolating them into painful prisons that they struggle to break out of.  In their pain, they can cause harm to themselves as well as others. This can take the form of self abuse, abusive relationships or at a larger level, violence and conflict in society.  If you don’t like the consequences, be the change you want to see.

I invite your comments and any additional suggestions to helping build kinder societies.

Image Source: http://tmblr.co/ZWlzqwF7H8jI

Why I am wary of seeking ‘instant manifestation’.

A time there is to plant,
And sow; another time to pluck and reap.
~ Ecclesiastes 3:2

In a world that desperately seeks instant gratification, patience is a difficult word to digest.  From so many directions, we are bombarded with ideas of ‘intention’ and ‘manifestation’, that few of us pause to consider the appropriateness of our wants and demands.  The immediacy and urgency that we insist upon can leave us frantic, frustrated and misguided.

For those of us who are sensitive to energies, the openness, or receptivity of the moment is more easily noticeable.  Nor are we oblivious to the indications that this is a period of waiting.

Just like the land needs its fallow time, and a fruit must ripen to its readiness, everything has a natural rhythm.

But in our haste to meet our desires, we often ignore that there is a divine timing that needs to be respected.  

I find many reminders around me on a routine basis. They are required.

A recent one involved my lessons from gardening:

With great enthusiasm and hope, I planted some coriander seeds. I watered the soil and sunned it for days, but there was no sign of life. After I recovered from this disappointment, I half-heartedly planted some dried chilly seeds. Again, my hopes of seeing some greens shoots seemed dashed. I decided I am too novice a gardener to ever grow a plant from its seed stage. So, in quiet resignation, I planted a young aloe vera plant, which I know are more resilient and strong. Even this took a while to grow and my impatience and concern was beginning to return. Finally new shoots appeared and I knew the plant had now taken root.

Some days later, as I appreciated the same plant pot, I saw a few green leaves popping out from where I thought all hope had been lost…The chilly seeds had woken up. It was their time to shine. And how. They grew out with such speed and vibrancy that the pot is now green, abundant and full.  Decided to leave the yin-yang crop together – its a good reminder of the lessons learnt from this ordinary incidence.

Lessons learnt:

  • Don’t project an old experience into the future.
  • Treat every new opportunity with respect and care.
  • Every potential takes its own time to ripen;
    do not rush it, give up on it, or kill it in your impatient despair.
Yin-Yang pot of Chilly and Aloe Vera!

Lifelines – and why we cut them off.

Three questions:

  • First Question: Are you aware of what nourishes you?

It may be soaking in warm silence with a loved one. Or laughing for no reason with a child. Perhaps honoring a calling like painting, or singing, writing or creating in some manner. Maybe its simply walking on the beach or watching a sunset. Or seeing a good movie.  Or eating at a particular restaurant. Playing with a dog.  Curling up in the hammock with a good book. Meditating. Exercising.  Playing a sport.

Any one or more of such spaces or activities may be nourishing for you.  Make your list.

  • Second Question:  How often do you allow yourself this nourishment?

Are you conscious of what nourishes you and do you invest in this regularly? Or is it an indulgence that you treat yourself to occasionally? Is it like a lifeline to be called upon only when you find yourself drowning, on your last breath? Is that when you gift yourself just enough to keep you going until the next overwhelm?

  • Third Question:  If you are one of the many people who shies away from nourishing yourself regularly, do you rationalize this to yourself?

There will be some convincing argument you will have. Either there is not enough time, not enough energy. Or there will be time – some time in the imagined future. Perhaps after some particular bank account, or salary, or designation has been achieved. Or when the house is paid for or the kids are done with college.Or you can finally afford to pay attention to yourself.

There will always be a way to explain this away.
Except perhaps that is all it is.  A way to justify it.

But consider this:

What if its not any compulsions, but the consequences that make you deny your self nourishment?

Have you ever noticed what happens when we nourish our self?
Gradually, we relax.
Our walls start coming down and our masks begin to fall away.
We start returning to our true nature.
We become loving, open, kind, considerate – even vulnerable.

And every time we glimpse who we really are, as much as it centers us, it throws us of balance.
It shakes the foundation of all that we have built thus far.
It makes clear what is of true value and importance and what is not.
What is permanent and what is not.
What is real.  And what is not.

That’s when we start seeing how little alignment there is between who we are and who we are pretending to be.

That is scary.  That raises the need for radical change.
For the willingness to lose all that we have chased so far, so that we can embrace our truth.
To step out of all the self imposed prisons that come from believing in brokenness and neediness.
To reclaim the wholeness that was and is always there in every moment.

It takes courage to do that.

Perhaps that is why we only nourish ourselves in small life giving doses – just enough to keep hope alive.  
Peering out of the prison windows, yearning for a glimpse of the free sky.
Without challenging all the illusions that keep us walled in.

I could be wrong.  But then again, I may be right.

The ‘New Beginnings’ Daily Meditation – Available for Download Now!

'New Beginnings'. Copyright Binu Fernandez

Stress, overwhelm, exhaustion, helplessness and hopelessness – all shut us down and close us off to new possibilities.  We feel stuck in this state and nothing seems to help.  This 15 minutes guided meditation has been designed to shift you out of such a state.  It helps you return to a harmonious, balanced space, where one is open and receptive to miraculous changes.   

GD and I prepared this track for a revolutionary program at Mastek   last year.  Not only were the words chosen with care, but several layers of subliminal clearings and energetic transmissions are embedded in the track.  Though the voice is GD’s alone, those familiar and sensitive to energies will notice my presence as well.

The meditation has received wonderful feedback and instead of the originally suggested 21 days, many of the employees continue to practise the meditation even now.  It’s been well over a year, but testimonials to its benefits continue to come in on a regular basis.

In these times of rapidly shifting energies and the numerous, severe challenges that many are dealing with, GD and I strongly felt that we should make the audio available freely to a wider audience.

So we invite you to download the free audio here.  You are welcome to share it with others.  In fact, we would encourage you to do so.

(Recommended listening:  At least once, every morning.  Preferably twice a day.)

Please do share your feedback with us. It would be greatly appreciated 🙂

Related Links:

21 day New Beginnings Program at Mastek – Youtube

Poems:  This Too Shall Pass

EFT Script for Overwhelm

“What’s good and new?”

Photo Courtesy: Binu Fernandez

Winning Strategies to Loss Accumulators

Right from an early age, we all find ways and means to cope with the challenges that life brings our way.  Knowingly or unknowingly, we experiment with different responses until we find what seems to work for us.  So a child seeking his parent’s attention may learn that throwing a tantrum often obtains the desired result.  Or loud, accusatory complaining may generate so much guilt that the parent  indulges every demand and the child never has to face refusal.

These learned ways need not be noticed or consciously chosen.  Quite frequently, they are conclusions drawn by the subconscious and become the fallback response during difficult times.  A good way to discover your favorite strategy  is to identify a habitual response to stress.

Do you resort to aggression?  Or do you become the ice queen who demonstrates no weakness?  Perhaps you resort to a ‘poor me’, helpless mode, that encourages or forces others to handle things for you?

While the disadvantages of such strategies may be more easily evident, there are others which are far more subtle and well disguised.  These are harder to catch and even tougher to release.  These are what I call the plum ‘Winning Strategies’.  They have served us extraordinarily well. These auto-responses form an integral part of our behavior patterns because they got us  through difficult times, or accelerated our growth.  Perhaps even enhanced our abilities in some significant way.  Not only are they deeply ingrained, we are very attached to them and will find ways and means of defending, justifying or insisting upon their usefulness.  A part of us is grateful and proud to have developed them.  They are typically hard to let go off.

So a child from a broken home may have developed great independence and confidence in his own abilities.  Which works wonders for him and helps him to get through the emotional chaos in his young life.  However, as an adult, he may now have difficulty in engaging with others, trusting them or forming intimate bonds.

Or consider the young female who loses her father at an early age and learns to become the assertive leader in the family.  She matures quickly, handles crises, goes on to become the bread winner.  But even several years later, she is unable to believe that there is any nourishment or support available to her from anyone else. She feels lonely, burdened and unsupported.  Yet, she is unable to relax, as not allowing herself rest or not looking to another for support worked well for her in the past.

At some point, the Winning Strategy starts becoming a limitation.  A reaction based on historical experience with no allowance or recognition of revised personality and circumstances.  What was once your greatest strength is now being used beyond its expiry date.

In itself, it may be a strengthening or useful habit.

But in the new context, it may be completely inappropriate and perhaps even damaging.

Instead of supporting you, it may now be misleading you.  Self sabotage at its subtlest best.

Everything comes with an expiry date.

Check to see if your Winning Strategy has outlived it’s time and purpose and you need to let it go now.