What better for inspiring reflection than the TV series Two and a Half Men?
Yeah, very deep…but laughter is good medicine.
What popped up on my screen was this: Jake (the half man) asks Charlie (the questionable adult man) if he should ask a girl out.
Charlie: Yeah, what's the worst that can happen?
Jake: She'll laugh at me.
Charlie: No, the worst that can happen is she says yes. You go out together, end up married. She leaves you and takes everything. Every penny. Including your car.
Exactly three seconds off topic and what? Predicting. From a very young age we are challenged to predict what will happen. We learn to become excited by fairy tales and stories as parents and babysitters create drama with the turn of each page. The excitement we feel from a story happens during those ‘dangerous’ moments -- fear imprints a much stronger response. We learn to predict that the witch is around the corner and squeal and squirm at the thought; our mind fills in every detail and outcome possible so as to be 'right' about what will happen. Eventually the story comes to a climax, then to an unceremonious end, and everyone’s relieved. We’re told to shut it all down and ‘go to sleep.’
This ‘predicting danger’ patterning continues throughout our adulthood, usually unnoticed consciously - but your body is always chemically preparing you for this imagined dilemma. So, when your adult mind takes you for a negative ‘danger’ story spin, observe the process. Start noticing when your chemicals are firing repeatedly by the innocent, yet traumatizing, production studio in your head. This 3D horror movie sets off adrenaline, cortisol and epinephrine and they in turn set off a rapid heart rate, clenched muscles and constricted breath. Feel this body wide response. You don't need to bungee to get your juice. You don't need to force your brain and it's reward (pleasure) response by jolting it this way.
Whatever you give your attention and belief to will create your experience. Focus, or resist what you perceive as negative and that’s just what you’ll get. We often believe that by predicting every possible bad or ‘dangerous’ outcome we will avoid surprise - viewing surprise as embarrassing or shameful – two emotions we just can't bear. In a way its like a premature ejaculation of the much more pleasant elixir your body would stir up if you allow the moment to unfold naturally.
Counter the need to predict with some trust in mother nature. We all know that it's the night you're wearing period underwear (big, cotton and fugly), not expecting, not predicting, just comfy in your own skin...that 'it' happens. And while we're on chemicals, you might remind yourself that most interludes are laced with the fantastic effects of hormones and pheromones, both intensifying attraction and softening rejection.
If you can afford to be sluiced in fight or flight chemicals repeatedly just to prepare yourself for a remotely possible moment of chagrin, then have at it... but I'd rather see you take hold of those thoughts, cancel them or reverse them and allow your mind and body a little rest. And some more pleasure...
Are you telling fairy tales without the happy endings? Or do you have musicals showing 3 times a day?
Please tell me, I'd love to know.
How many times have you watched a small child doing most anything and said, “If only I had that much energy!”
We admire their freedom of movement – how they “embody” their energy - how freely they move is just what's required for them to navigate our “big” world. The couch is up to their chin, reaching the door handle takes tippy toes, and looking at mommy is like looking up to a giant.
We call them toddlers because they're always at the edge of balance and range and comfort – they're always about to toddle over. We, on the other hand, are always trying to stay upright, within range and in control, mentally, physically and emotionally.
When did you last climb up over someone’s head to have a seat?
As adults we've taken on decades of social reserve and have restricted our natural range of motion for convention’s sake and to fit in. It's far less healthy and way less fun. Because our nervous system is so sensitive, this restricted, ‘toned down’ movement overrides our natural, open ways of interacting with who and what surrounds us.
Imagine your inner dialogue during times of stress: “I'm fuming,” “I feel miserable,” “I’ve got to get out of here,” “I wish I could just disappear,” or “I feel like my head’s exploding.” The body acts out the emotions both as literal actions – shoulders up and tight, arms and diaphragm closed around your chest, fists and sphincter clenched, head to toe muscles tensed and ready to run – and as an overall bio-emotional state of feeling locked up or locked in.
All roads lead to Rome so use the mind to affect the body and the body to affect the mind. Yes, you could go out and specifically stretch and train, but the emotional inhibitors would still be active with such conscious effort. We want to relax the command center and let the 'troops' have some fun.
Can you dance? I mean really shake your butt? Why? Because as we do natural 'easy' movements like dancing, this residual holding and tightening from our emotions really show. Dance right now, wherever you are, seriously - whether you’re sitting in your office (Natalie calls it the “Hiney Hustle”) or the train; your kitchen or your living room.
How’s your range of motion? Did your hips sway wider, was there more bounce in your step in the past? Go ahead, swing wider - feel that smile in your lips and your eyes?
Here’s a fun trick -- choose your favorite movie star or character from a film or television show and spend two minutes moving and dancing like them. Walk, talk, swagger and stride like they would. You’ll be surprised how effective this is for releasing the unconscious clenching of our stance and gait, and untangling the knots in your body. A client of mine in his 60’s once used this technique for talking to women. When I tried to guess who he’d choose, I picked John Wayne or Charlton Heston. He laughed and said, “No, if I’m going to talk to women I’m going to be Elvis!” So, Elvis Schwartz left the building, headed out to some senior events and a week later he had three dates.
Q: This morning I woke to a totally quiet house and the thought of 30 precious, nag free, scream free minutes, excited me. I trotted outside to throw hay at our horses, dragged a tricycle and GI Joe to the porch while visions of a hot shower all to myself danced in my head. In the middle of my big fat quietude, I suddenly had to pee - really bad – but before I reached the toilet, a voice yelled 'Mommy!' which somehow erased all logic from my brain. With my bladder bursting at its seams, I swung into our morning routine: bacon, eggs, oatmeal, tea, juice, run my little boy’s bath… without realizing it, I’d put my electric Cuisinart kettle on my stove coil – on high - instead of plugging it in, and set it on fire! With raw bacon, no tea, my plastic safety kettle in flames and our house suffocating in toxic smoke I wondered where in the hell my mind went. Any clues? Before I pull my hair out, please?
A: “Motherhood changes you because it literally alters a woman's brain-structurally, functionally, and in many ways, irreversibly,” says Louann Brizendine, a neuropsychiatrist at UCSF and author of The Female Brain.
WTF?! I used to drive an automatic with overdrive and now I've got a no frills manual transmission and roll up windows? Okay, let’s suss this out. Motherhood does alter your brain, (take heart ladies, no - you’re not nuts) but how you use your mind is up to you, and this matters - as I read Cassandra Vieten’s insightful book, Mindful Motherhood, I gain a more helpful perspective on how to fine-tune the 'Mommy Mind.’
Cassi lets us know that this stuff is going to happen, the world will tilt now and again and encourages us by saying, “Rather than being a big project or a strenuous endeavor, mindful motherhood is about giving yourself permission to rest in this moment… and in this one… and in this one.”
Here's a little history: The female brain is a machine built for connection. Being a woman, according to Brizendine, is like having giant, invisible antennae that reach out into the world, constantly aware of the emotions and needs of those around you. It's a result of eons of evolution that allowed women to tell what their pre-verbal infants needed and predict what bigger, more aggressive males were going to do. Acknowledging that women are to some extent hard-wired to nurture is a positive, not a negative, both for the next generation and for the general well-being of society.
Now the incredible circuitry of your brain is geared to the urgency in little voices and so yes, the things that used to be on autopilot are now manual – you have to think about making coffee and think about getting dressed – you need to be mindful.Take a breath, a beat in time, realize the input is coming in at tweaked levels and give your brain and body the time to act instead of react.
Cassi advises we cultivate a practice of radical mindfulness—one that is deeply embodied, and infuses itself throughout your everyday life. She says, “Rest into whatever it is that is happening, and explore the adventure of motherhood with open eyes, an open mind, and an open heart... The bottom line is to be gentle with yourself.”
It’s now a matter of fine-tuning your upgraded system.
Cute, like I need those 'Oh sh*t, I can't find my phone!' chemicals shooting through my body one more time today.
Then I thought, how often do we do that to ourselves? How often are we playing some nerve-racking sound effect in the background track of our mind and yet expecting to feel calm and collected?
Sound is a powerful subliminal influence.
Our survival instincts are well honed; we are built to understand what a sound represents and act on it immediately. How many notes from a movie does it take to give you a chill? Jaws, maybe two: dun, dun; or the shriek from the Psycho shower scene? Blood curdling! Sound and music lay down very deep tracks in our mind.
A song is a symbol. What it defines is unique to each of us. I love the song 'I'm Yours' by Jason Mraz. My response is guaranteed - first I cry, (while smiling) and then I want to call up my friend, Joe, or text 'I'm yours' to him.
What's interesting here is, though this has consistently under whelmed him, I am provoked the same way each and every time.
We run our own soundtracks, and negative or positive, it is our own being that is most profoundly affected. Everything from our heart rate to the subtlest of brain chemicals are affected by the emotion we attach to sound.
Take advantage of that 'song stuck in my head' dilemma; choose to set one for a positive spin.
Try This: Our mind is linked directly to sound, rhythm and vibration starting in the womb, and in most other cultures the word for music encompasses the idea of dancing or moving. Remember John Travolta’s fine swagger in Saturday Night Fever? You could hear and feel the song ‘Stayin’ Alive’ playing in his mind with every look, every step.
Create your own 'theme' music to trigger confident movement and positive mental action throughout your day.
So, when you do find your thoughts and body responses headed south of the can-do border, insert a little Bon Jovi (I am from New Jersey ;-) or the boldest rendition of Pavarotti ever heard. Find your soundtrack for generating the good stuff, and play it whenever you need a boost, or better yet, all daylong.