Saturday, August 3, 2013

How I Use my iTunes to Chase the Blues Away

Everyone has one ... a song or two that they cannot help but sing along to, right? I know I do. No, I don't have the greatest voice in the world. No, I don't know all the lyrics. Yes, once a friend said to me while I was driving him somewhere, "wow I'd be embarrassed to sing in front of anyone if I were you" ... I wonder how long it took him to walk the rest of the way? (just kidding)

All that aside, I feel good when I sing. I feel really good. My future as a karaoke singer is still undetermined but in the car or the shower, I'm a hit.

To intentionally cultivate that "it feels really good" feeling at will ... I created a playlist on my iTunes called SING. It is a list of songs that I cannot help singing along to when I hear them. Thankfully I know most of the words to these songs, and those I don't know I make-up enthusiastically as I go along.

Right now on my playlist are the following songs:
  1. People Are Crazy by Billy Currington 
  2. One Way or Another by Blondie 
  3. I Like the Way by Bodyrockers
  4. Kung Fu Fighting by Carl Douglas
  5. Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen
  6. You're So Vain by Carly Simon
  7. Before He Cheats by Carrie Underwood
  8. Oh, Pretty Woman by Chris Isaak
  9. Do You Love Me by The Contours
  10. I Can't Go for That (No Can Do) by Daryl Hall & John Oates
  11. Ah! Leah! by Donnie Iris
  12. One of These Nights by The Eagles
  13. Paralyzer by Finger Eleven
  14. Urgent by Foreigner
  15. Pumped Up Kicks by Foster the People
  16. Can't Take My Eyes Off You by Frankie Valli
  17. December, 1963 (Oh What a Night!) by Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons
  18. Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty
  19. See You Again by Miley Cyrus
  20. Bad Things (The Theme to "True Blood") by Jace Everett
  21. Laid by James
  22. Flood by Jars of Clay
  23. Feeling Alright by Joe Cocker
  24. I Was Made for Loving You by Kissing
  25. Trouble by Lindsey Buckingham
  26. Tornado by Little Big Town
  27. I Feel Lucky by Mary Chapin Carpenter
  28. Sin Rumbo by Otros Aires
  29. Passion by Rod Stewart
  30. Miss You by The Rolling Stones
  31. Cry to Me by Solomon Burke
  32. Follow Me by Uncle Kracker
  33. The Night Chicago Died by Paper Lace
  34. Everything (...Is Never Quite Enough) by Wasis Diop
  35. Somebody's Watching Me by Rockwell
I have some songs I want to add and will download them soon. Try it and see if it helps you chase a bad mood away.


Monday, July 1, 2013

Je t'aime

A friend posted this YouTube video on my facebook page and it is fabulous. Why is it so hard to say I love you to the face in the mirror? One of my newer goals is to do something called "Mirror Work" by Louise Hay. My friend Lisa told me about the practice and the discussion of it caused me to feel choked up. I have yet to begin the practice ... It almost feels overwhelming. Actually, it does feel overwhelming, there is no almost about it.

I watched this video and I realize that I'm not the only one that struggles with this. Why must it be a struggle? Why is it easier to find fault in ourselves? Why is it easier to accept imperfections in others than it is in ourselves? No one is perfect and I would never speak to another person the way I do myself in an internal dialogue. This is certainly one of the learned behaviors I seek to change at this time. As I catch those types of criticisms and thoughts I say to myself, "cancel that ..." and reword it in a more positive manner.

With enough frequency there I will eventually turn the tide and my confidence will grow. Baby steps, because it is a process. One day in the near future I will start on that mirror work.

In the meantime ... this wonderful little video.

Je t'aime,

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Vision Exercise

While reading one of the lessons in the Inspiring Leadership Through Emotional Intelligence class that I am taking at Coursera there was an exercise given to an executive during a coaching session that I liked and decided to do myself.

The exercise is to describe:

My passion
My purpose
My core values
Envision myself 5-7 years into the future
Consider what I really want to do with my life

What is my passion?

pas·sion [pash-uhn] noun
1. any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, as love or hate.

No quick answer here. That must be what makes this an exercise. I am going to equate passion to something that makes me feel invigorated and filled with a zest for more. That said, I feel most alive when I am learning or sharing something I am learning with enthusiastic and interested people. I certainly feel extremely motivated and very engaged when I am teaching other people about healthy ways to live their life through diet, exercise or even changing their outlook. Helping another person, making them feel good about themselves and happier than when they arrived.

What is my purpose? 

pur·pose [pur-puhs] noun, verb, pur·posed, pur·pos·ing. noun
1. the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.
2. an intended or desired result; end; aim; goal.
3. determination; resoluteness.
4. the subject in hand; the point at issue.
5. practical result, effect, or advantage: to act to good purpose.

Again, no strong clarity here but of late my purpose is to become a more authentic person, to lesson the gap between who I am really and who I show to the world. To rid myself of those fears that hold me back from experiences. Fear of being hurt. Fear of failure. Fear of "looking stupid". Is anyone really paying attention anyway? Aren't we all asking the same questions and looking for the same answers as we make this journey?

I do not want to reach the end of my time here and have a long list of regrets and realize that I allowed the opinions of others to outweigh the importance of the opinion I have of myself. As soon as I figure out how to do that without fail at all times, to help others do the same thing. This little picture I found online captures that sentiment exactly ... find my gift, share my gift. I do not feel there is any value in figuring any of this stuff out if I cannot share it and help another human free themselves.

As I see it my purpose here is to be true to myself and experience as much as I can while I am here. I am living my purpose now.  

Live. On. Purpose.

Yes, thank you.

What are my core values?

Core values are rules and set principles that a person or a group of people live by on a daily basis. They are the values they hold to be true and important.

This question is an exercise in and of it's own. I have found there are several in depth exercises you can do online to unearth your core values. Having not done these exercises ... Off the top of my head I am going to choose five things that are at the core of my life.

Love - We all want it and deserve it. You get what you give, so give love.
Kindness - Sometimes I have to reel myself back in and dial down impatience and focus on just being kind. After I do, I feel very peaceful.
Gratitude - It is quite possible this should be number one on the list, but since I did not type it in that order, it will stay where I put it. I focus on what I am grateful for every single day. When something awful happens, like the sudden death of my dog, I still find something to be grateful for. Powerful thing, that gratitude.
Growth - I am convinced my purpose here is to learn and grow and experience all that I can. And then to share it!
Persistence - There are days when it all goes to hell and I go to bed and let it go. I wake up and start over when the new day dawns. No one is perfect, every day is a clean slate ready to be written on. Even for me.

Another time I will do a core values assessment and see where that leads me. You can be sure there will be a blog for that exercise.

What do I want my life to be five to seven years from now?

This is truly the vision part of the Vision Exercise. Seeing a future, creating it in my mind, refining it. I can see that it is an integral part of living.on.purpose. If you do not have a destination, where are you driving to? Typically I do not get in a car and have no destination in mind. It has been a long time since I have looked down the road and charted all aspects of my life. I tend to focus more on finances and career than the other parts.

I do not want my life to be exactly as it is now. I would not trade my life for anyone's however, I am seeking to see some improvements.

In five years I see myself with a business as a life coach focusing on the skills I already have and also having acquired those necessary to be a FasterEFT Practitioner. I want to make a difference in helping other people improve their lives, their outlook and their happiness. I want my own home and an income that easily enables me to support that and save for retirement and vacations. I also want a relationship that strong, loving, stable, open, trusting, and filled with appreciation and respect for each other. A relationship that I am confident about, with no doubts about the future or where I stand with this person. While I want to have my own business I do not want to feel that I am working so much I cannot enjoy my life. I want time to travel and again experience and appreciate this amazing world. I want to be active, healthy, and strong. I want to have my friends and family close, and create memories with them. I want to be a very grateful person.

What do I really want to do with my life?

To live it, so that when my time here ends and I leave this body I am not wracked with "I wish I had" and instead I can sift through memories like a pirate would treasure. I also want to help people do the same.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Highs and Lows

This past week was one of really great highs and the lowest of lows. As I try to process everything and make sense of it all, I think writing about it will help. I wonder if any of it will make sense.

Tuesday June 11th my dog Sixto died very suddenly. When I woke up in the morning he didn't seem right, he was definitely off, it seemed like he had a stiff neck. Now I know he was having cardiac distress. I was scheduled to leave for vacation that evening and getting him to the vet became a priority. As my roommate and I were waiting for the vet's office to open Sixto fell over, stiff legged and vomited a world of blood. I knew it was bad, and he died in my arms as we walked into the animal hospital. They were so kind. Everyone was.

Then begins the self-torment. Why do we always torment ourselves, make judgements? How many times have you heard someone say "You are your own worst critic." I have heard that for forever it seems. I don't want to hear it ever again. For that to happen I need to stop certain habits.

Anyway, in grief my brain just went off like fireworks with a million disjointed thoughts, most of them geared towards blaming myself, feeling guilty, feeling selfish. Way to make something awful even worse.

Do I still go on vacation, I wondered? Is it selfish to go away? Yes it would be selfish to go I thought. This trip was set up 6 months ago. Do I stay home and honor Sixto? Is it bad to go away? Is it better to stay home and grieve? How would either option affect the people I was going with? Was there something else I could have done? Should I have noticed something sooner? So many questions I simply didn't have the answers to. I decided to go. That wasn't an easy decision and I definitely felt guilty. I also felt terribly sad and like my heart was just simply broken.

Over the course of the trip though, I had lots of crying jags, but the change in environment helped me to rally as well. Ups and downs.

I squeezed in a couple of guided meditations until my iPod died from lack of power. It helped. Meditation always helps.

While in Havasupai I found the gratitude that alters perspective in many situations. Sixto died while I was still home and in my arms. That is a gift. It is easy to look at the waterfalls, the canyon walls, the sky, the moon, the stars, everything and feel grateful. Finding gratitude in loss was a little more difficult however, even there I had much to be grateful for. I am thankful I was open to seeing it.

That was the low of the week, obviously. Losing Sixto, beating myself up about it, making it worse. Recognizing it, finding the silver lining, that is positive though.

New Navajo Waterfall
One of the highs though was getting beyond my fear of heights and jumping off a waterfall. I think it may be around 25 feet high, but it seems everyone has stated that waterfall to be a different height, as much as 40 feet to as low at 25 feet. Whatever! All I can say is from up "there" it was pretty darn scary and a long way down. Very pretty though from the bottom!

I did it a year before, however barely, just barely. I basically jumped when I realized my legs, that were shaking like Elvis with way too much caffeine, were going to give out at any moment. I plopped into the water, my legs gave out and I was scared to pieces. This year I figured it would be easier. This year I wanted it to count. For some reason because I barely made it off, it just was not good enough for me. That may sound silly but it is the truth.

Well! It was not easier. I bit my boyfriend's head off just before and then lost all my nerve and walked off. Stood at the top of that waterfall for what must have been 5 minutes, turned around, almost fell off, and saw a line of 20 people waiting patiently (ok maybe not so patiently). I felt so embarrassed. Then I started one heck of a nasty internal dialog. Beating myself up. Blaming it on my boyfriend first, then on me. Definitely not one of my finest moments in time ...

Just before biting his head off ...
This was not constructive and I decided to let it go and try some FasterEFT tapping. I'm not sure how long I tapped for, I found a quiet place sitting on a little mini waterfall nearby, alone and somewhat out of sight from people so I wouldn't look like I was completely stark raving mad. Then I worked on releasing that fear of heights and the anger I was directing outward.

Tap away I did. When I felt ready, I walked back to that lovely, scary, high waterfall, found a spot I liked and launched off it. By myself, without anyone holding my hand. Without telling anyone, without asking for encouragement from anyone, and without looking for approval from anyone. Except for my own.

Just before I walked off I had asked my boyfriend to hold my hand and we jump off together. I saw a couple do it moments before and thought, wow I'd love to do that. Knowing my fear of heights he  expressed concern at doing that, afraid one of us would get hurt. Mostly afraid I would get hurt if he pulled me off because I changed my mind. After I did the EFT I could see his side and his concern, I did balk and walk off the first time. He was right to worry. It was not his fault I couldn't jump, so biting his head off was a poor reaction. No reason to get mad at him. No reason to get mad at all really.

However, I am grateful that I put some of my FasterEFT skills to use, was able to let go of the fear and act. Let go of the anger too.

That's me, airborne at last ... 2nd or 3rd time!
After I jumped, when I landed my friend Paul said ... "you have to go up and do it again, I didn't get it on camera." I ran up and did it again. And again. And again. Four times. It wasn't just a fluke. I took that fear of heights and pushed it back a little bit on Saturday.

I think I made some progress this week ... There is something very rewarding in doing something that scares the pants off of you. There is also something rewarding in finding what you can be grateful for in every situation, even if it is the death of a treasured pet. And it feels good when you admit you were wrong and apologize too. I think that is called being an adult, but I'm not sure.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Flipping Resentment to Gratitude

“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” -Dr. Wayne Dyer 

 I love a good Wayne Dyer quote. Especially when it sums up a moment in time so perfectly. Yesterday I was faced with a situation that I resented strenuously. I could feel it building too, like blowing a balloon up to the point of it popping right in your face. I was one breath away from whining, ranting and possibly crying from frustration. I dislike it when I feel like I have no choice in a situation. Doesn't everyone?

It all started with trying to have a healthy protein smoothie. Sounds innocent enough. Until Costco recalled my Organic Antioxidant Berry Blend by Townsend Farms. What? Organic berries contaminated with Hepatitis? Seriously, how is that even possible? And of course I found this out a few days after having made myself a nice heaping, delicious, yummy smoothie. Spectacular.

My mind first goes to the pain in the butt thought of having to return them and get a new package. Burning up perfectly good time I could be spending on something else but I can let it go, I'm self-aware and that frustration is just a transient feeling. Really, I've got this.

A couple of days later my boyfriend says I need to get a shot. A Hepatitis A shot. Excuse me? A vaccaine? Oh no, thank you. I'm healthy and I avoid that stuff like the plague. No signs of being sick at all. However, the incubation period is 6 weeks for signs of infection and the shot must be administered within 14 days of exposure to be effective. Plus he said please. Logically, I have to get the shot, even if I wanted to stomp my feet and scream.

I'm sitting in the car as he is driving me to Costco to get the shot, and get information. A cascade of negativity building and I'm feeding it lots of kindling to get the flames high. I was barely even aware of it at the time, I was simply way too busy stoking the fire. From Costco we were on to the Health Department, because Coscto didn't get their vaccine shipment (someone there has some bad karma right now because clearly nothing is going right at Costco). As we are driving to the Health Department I'm about to open up my big mouth and let out a stream of whining "why me" complaints and that's when I witnessed the stew I had bubbling in my head. Oops!

Hmm. Let's think about this. Not only did he find out all the pertinent information, he was driving me all over the place to get this done. Was he complaining that he had to take time out of his day to do it? About how annoying it was? How unfair it was? Send me off to do it all myself? Nope, not a single word of complaint. In fact, he asked if I wanted him to go up to the window and in the back when we arrived.

It was while driving to the Health Department I realized I had a lot more to be grateful for and there was nothing really to complain about at all.

I found out in time to get the shot. I have no symptoms. It was even free. And someone important to me is concerned enough to make sure I was cared for and protected from getting sick. I'm actually very lucky and perhaps, as I said before in an earlier blog, things really do happen for us, not to us.

Half full, half empty ... It really is just a perspective and you can flip it in an instant. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Stress ... Immune System ... Meditation ... Renewal.

As I make progress with Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence, the course I am taking through Coursera, I feel a renewed drive to continue meditating and to make concrete progress with quieting the noise of my mind and the physical stress disquiet results in.

There are some interesting things that happen in the body during stress. Some I have known for a while. Some I have developed a brand new appreciation and understanding of. We all know that stress is a life saving human reaction that releases epinephrine and norephinrine neurotransmitters. This vital chain of events is called the fight or flight response.

Today most of us are experiencing this fight or flight response chronically. Negative thoughts lead to negative physical responses in the body. There is even a term for it: allostatic load strain.

Courtesy of Wikipedia:
"The allostatic load is "the wear and tear on the body" which grows over time when the individual is exposed to repeated or chronic stress.[1] It represents the physiological consequences of chronic exposure to fluctuating or heightened neural or neuroendocrine response that results from repeated or chronic stress.[2] The term was coined by McEwen and Stellar in 1993.[3]
It is used to explain how frequent activation of the body's stress response, essential for managing acute threats, can in fact damage the body in the long run. Allostatic load is generally measured through a composite index of indicators of cumulative strain on several organs and tissues, but especially on the cardiovascular system."
What's really happening in your body while your brain is running amok?

Your sympathetic nervous system becomes aroused and your body goes into a protective state. I think of Star Trek and a red alert here, flashing lights and blaring alarm sounding off. Three hormones/neurotransmitters are released from the endocrine system: epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol. Each has it's own little job to perform and unless you are trying to outrun a hippopotamus none of it will do a damn thing for you while you are sitting worrying about paying your rent or car payment, what he or she thinks of you, if you will look good enough in a bathing suit this summer, or if you are going to mess up your presentation in work.

Epinephrine pulls blood from capillaries, fingertips, nose, ears, and extremities and sends it to your larger arm muscles so you can fight. Norepinephrine does the same thing in the lower body and sends the blood to your larger leg muscles so you can take flight. Your brain now has less blood and closes all non-essential neural circuits. Cortisol suspends the immune system making us more susceptible to disease,  inhibits neurogenesis (the growth of new gray matter) and renders older neurons useless by over exciting them. These neurotransmitters are also vasoconstrictors which increase your blood pressure. Your pulse goes up too. Digestion slows down, peristalsis is decreased. Which makes sense because if all the blood is going to your arms and legs, how can you possibly digest food? No wonder so many people are chronically constipated.

Not an ideal environment for feeling healthy, experiencing rational thought or being open and receptive to other people or ideas. This is cranky city here.

I eat healthy, exercise diligently, pursue sleep with a gusto and take supplements. I have gotten sick several times this year and each time I have been completely befuddled. Stunned that it could even happen when I am so proactive about maintaining a healthy immune system. I have blamed it on my menstrual cycle which, due to an increase in cortisol production in the latter two weeks of the cycle, possibly does contribute. The real culprit though is my lack of chronic stress management. I had not associated stress with a suspended immune system until I began this course. Throw that stress switch on and turn your immune system off. That is what I am getting the picture of, finally.

While we cannot avoid stress completely and stimulating the sympathetic nervous system is a natural and protective result of it, we can learn to avoid our own participation in creating chronic stress. One big one that comes to mind for me is re-living an experience, refining it mentally, discussing it with others to gain support, worrying about the future and creating "what if's" about something that has not even happened. We have a lot of control should we choose to use it.

I now understand my thoughts result in a physical response, the body cannot separate what happens in the brain from reality. A thought is real to the body. So it isn't a situation per se that causes stress, it is my thoughts about it and my physical response to them. Since we cannot run from our thoughts or reactions, it may be a good time to consider ways to control them. Or, accepting that I cannot always control my thoughts, to cultivate ways in which to renew myself, ways to recover from the effects of stress.

One way to create a state of renewal is through meditation. During meditation the parasympathetic nervous system becomes engaged. Here we are calm, the immune system functions at peak performance. Neurotransmitters are released to lower blood pressure through vasodilation, your pulse lowers, breathing is easier, and the ideal environment for neurogenesis is created. Neurogenesis leads to learning new things. New gray matter, new connections. All it takes is 15-20 minutes three times a week. Every time we meditate we change the brain. It becomes easier with repetition, as do all things.

Driving was once a challenge, now I arrive at a destination without ever needing to consciously focus on the mechanics of driving. I want to get to that point with meditation. Practice, practice, practice.

Meditation is not the only way to renew yourself though. Yoga, tai-chi, praying to a benevolent God also have the effect of renewal. Showing compassion for others, being in a loving relationship, having a pet you can stroke, having hope for the future, experiencing joy and playfulness. Choose a method that suits you and pursue it. Your immune system will thank you for it!

-Nicola Byrne

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

To You? Or For You?

That is the question ...

Two interesting viewpoints crossed my path this week, one via a blog and the other a comment on Lift when I was logging a habit. I think it was the habit of gratitude ... but right now I am not 100% sure that is correct. It is far more important that I remembered the phrase.

Monday I read a blog that had a strategy for looking at things that go wrong in a different way. It was simple, ask the question "What good can come from this?" and that is not meant to be tongue in cheek. Seriously consider what good can come from whatever event just knocked the wind out of your sails. Chances are it will not happen easily at first, but the subconscious mind works on searching for answers to the questions we ask. Even while we are sleeping.

Over time I have cultivated the ability to replace "problem" with "challenge" or "opportunity for growth" when shit happens. This has altered my reaction to many of life's speed bumps, however this week I have not been doing very well with that. The speed bumps have been coming a little too close for comfort and now it feels like I am on a highway with a ton of potholes. I feel like I am having a bumpy ride.

The Universe to the rescue. Miraculously there are two new approaches that I can choose. They appeared at a time when I was feeling unmotivated and downright cranky. Asking myself the question "What good can come of this" adds a new direction to rerouting my train of thought.

The real gem though was seeing this post:
My problems happen for me, not to me.

Now that really is a twist. To go from victim to recipient of benefit that is most likely unknown at the time. I personally do not want to consider myself a victim, ever. I am very open to growing and seeing a challenge as an opportunity to do so. Perhaps the pot holes life puts in our way are more to direct us like a GPS would as opposed to some unseen force slinging bad luck like rabid pitcher.

It really is stuck in my mind though, "my problems happen for me, not to me." For me implies a gift, a benefit, something good. I don't necessarily feel like I want to keep the gift I'm getting at this time, I really can visualize returning it for store credit and picking out something else but hey, I'm human and I'm still learning.

I will consider that whatever I am currently creating in my life is more a sign of the work I have left in releasing my own self-doubts and limiting beliefs. It is almost as if I am getting a status report, OK you've made some progress here and some really great gains here, but look there's some icky stuff you have yet to address, time to get cracking!

Maybe they really do happen for me.

-Nicola Byrne