"When you feel like you are swimming upstream, just flip over and float." -- Terri Cole
In what areas of your life are you swimming upstream? Are you aware of the emotions and thoughts that keep you in a place of feeling constricted rather than expanded in your body and mind?
In my private psychotherapy practice, I repeatedly witness clients sweating the small stuff --such as traffic or rude subway riders -- and then making the choice to let that constriction (which, by the way, is always driven by fear, even if it is wearing a different disguise) dictate the rest of their day... and in some cases, the rest of their lives. It's like watching someone struggling to swim upstream, expending a ton of effort in the wrong direction and, in the process, missing the beautiful view.
I realized a few years ago in my own life that there was an easier way to achieve my goals; that it did not have to be so darn hard. I was raised in a family with a Protestant work ethic, so I revered hard work and achievement. I was never unhappy working hard. But as my career exploded, I became more constricted and stressed about time management, and that negatively affected all aspects of my life. I was under the illusion that time was happening to me, and there never seemed to be enough of it. Since I did not realize I had a choice, I felt disempowered and stuck.
For me, the beginning of becoming unconstricted, more joyful, and more successful came with a committed meditation practice. This created space, possibility, and relief in my mind, body, and life. Along with meditation, the incorporation of present-moment consciousness accelerated my happiness and success.
What makes up the quality of your life is your daily existence, not just the peak experiences or significant epiphanies. It is my belief from observation and experience that the connection between constriction/fear and NOT having the life of your dreams float into your lap like a feather is direct and undeniable.
Let's get to how this can impact your life. Choose from the list below to get clarity on what constricts you on a daily basis.
Examples of Daily Constrictors:
2. Not enough time
3. Not enough money
4. Unsatisfying job, marriage, health, financial life, social life, family life
5. Something else?
Now, create a second list of alternate actions and feeling states from which you can choose when you begin to feel stress from each item on the list above.
Examples of Alternate Actions and Feeling States:
1. Buy a bottle of lavender oil. As soon as you start to feel stressed, put a few drops in your hands, rub together, and take three deep breaths (inhale for a count of four, then exhale for a count of four). Release. Feel the expansion.
2. If you are starting to stress about time, repeat the mantra, "I have exactly the right amount of time." Breathe and release. (Create an affirmation that works for you, based on your personal constrictors.)
3. Add a few minutes of sitting in stillness and silence to your morning ritual. Light a candle, have a cup of tea, and visualize your day falling into place with ease and grace -- effortless and expansive.
For example, if you sit in traffic daily, you have a choice as to how you will experience that time. Unchecked, your fear mind (or "Mafia Mind," as I like to call it) will start its negative script about the idiot driver in front of you or your chatty office mate who made you late, creating constriction (stress). This is your chance to do something different.
The moment the script starts to roll, you must be present enough to say OUT LOUD, "Stop and breathe." Feel where the constriction appears in your physical body. Is it tightness in your chest, do your shoulders tense, or do you furrow your brow? Next, take three long, deep breaths directly into that constricted area. On the exhalation, release the stressful thought while consciously relaxing your muscles. Just decide to let the negativity float away. This action strengthens your ability to BE HERE NOW. The more you practice, the faster and easier it gets. Time in traffic can be restorative or frustrating. You decide.
For bigger issues, becoming calm and unconstricted is where effective problem solving begins.
The above exercise is one small action that will create change, but only if you do it. This is not to say that deep breathing will fix your marriage, your job, or shut up your coworker. It is to say that being constricted makes all of those situations worse and robs you of present-moment joy. It comes as a total surprise to most people that they can choose their feeling state in most situations. Your feelings are not happening to you. If you choose to stay constricted and stressed with excuses and justifications, it is still a choice.
Changing conditioned responses can be challenging, just like anything else worthwhile. You don't get the butt of your dreams by going to the gym once, right?
I challenge you to try this exercise and see what happens in your life. Open your mind and heart to the transformative power of your intention. Take it from this former Type-A constricted control freak. If I can become unconstricted and joyfully present in my life, so can you.
So here's to flipping over and floating -- and the joyful abundance that comes with it.
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Love Love Love,
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