Learning to REST
The focus of this column is to support you in RESTing. This acronym presents a growth process standing for: Recognize Embody Support Transform But first...as I write this column on a Monday morning at 7am (I'm sending this a couple days later) with two and a half feet of snow on the ground, I encountered some anxiety and resistance. The discomfort of anxiety along with the inner voice of "hurry up" emerged an hour before as I lifted my head off my pillow to look at the clock. Not fun. My first body feeling upon awakening from dreamworld to the "real world" is anxiety and a voice that says "hurry up". This unease is pointing me to the "10,000 things" I need to do today. This uncomfortable start of my week stirs up some reflection, so bare with me for just a moment... Yesterday, I was rereading a great book called The Body Remembers by Babette Rothschild and something clicked for me. She explains how our response to stress and trauma is a conditioned process like Pavlov's dogs where a bell rings just before feeding time. As many of you may remember this experiment, after a short period of repeated conditioning of ringing the bell before the food is served, the bell alone creates the conditioned response--salivation and "I'm ready for breakfast." Now extrapolate, the stimulus (the food) along with its associations (the bell) isn't always pleasurable. The stimulus and what is happening alongside it can be stressful or traumatic. So if we have a stressor or trauma that occurs, often whatever is happening alongside the stressor or trauma like the season when someone close to us died, the color or kind of the car that hit us, the phrase used by our first heartbreak who approached us with the phrase us, "Can we talk?" becomes part of our memory system. So we hear a friend saying, "Can we talk" and we feel uneasy or a red car passes us and we get frightened or autumn draws near and we feel dread. So, back to Monday morning and two feet of snow and most importantly what can you use or benefit from in this column. Well the intent of this column is to help us look at our "triggers or bells" that create stress responses and what we can do that helps us REST and not be confined to our conditioned response that may feel uncomfortable and painful.
Back to Monday morning as I felt the discomfort of anxiety and pressure, I practiced RESTing. First, I recognized that I was experiencing anxiety and resistance in my body and mind. Then instead of rejecting these feelings (actually, that was my first conditioned/habitual response). So at this point I came back to recognizing my old/conditioned response and then let myself move to the second phase of this growth process--embody the feeling or another way to say it is to "have the feeling". So, instead of rejecting the feeling, embody the feeling. Allow the feeling to exist in my body, to breathe into it--remember previous columns where I've talked about this? The next step was to actively invite support in that would warmly acceptthis feeling. So from a purely physical process of embodying to a more emotively alive support that could bring acceptance to the discomfort. In fact imagine people with you who could love or accept you as you feel what you feel. So far, we have R for recognize the feeling, E for embody the feeling, S for support the feeling. And now for the last letter of my acronym for this inner growth process, we have T for transform our process and feelings. So now you have the full REST. (I like acronyms because they help me to remember and practice the distinct phase of these new dance steps that can rewire our brain and body). How do we transform?--there are many options to transforming processes to apply at this point. Actually, the 3 previous steps all lead to transformation, which is a change in the form of the uncomfortable feeling that was in your body towards a more flowing, comfortable and maybe even pleasurable feeling. Practice the 3 steps of R E S and you will start to feel T, transformation, taking place. But here's a more active imagination process that is extremely valuable called the parallel universe exercise that my therapist has guided me in numerous times. In order to do this let me get back to the dogs for a moment, Pavlov's dogs. Monday mornings...hmmm...this Monday morning (like many Monday mornings--there's a hint) feels so different than yesterday morning where "I didn't have to work". Yesterday, Sunday, when I woke up I knew I was going to go for a fun cross-country ski . Also, the New England Patriots were playing the Jets in the playoffs later in the afternoon. Sometimes, I like football especially when the Patriots play--too bad they lost, though. But Monday, this is back to work day, just like when I was a kid it was back to school. And work is way better than my school experience ever was, but Monday is Monday! The leisure of the weekend is over! I then remembered how as a kid we would always visit my Grandparents on Sunday evenings and I would just love to be with them and also to watch Walt Disney and then Ed Sullivan show--(yes I've got that many years under my belt). Why did I love those shows? Not only because they were good (I remember watching the Beatles on Ed Sullivan), but because they were my last moments of hanging on to the weekend!! Because after Ed Sullivan it was time to go home and then sleep, and voila, dreaded school would appear. Back to transformation and how to create a parallel universe...so this morning after going through the RES part of REST and feeling a settling and softening in my body-mind experience of anxiety and resistance, I took the next step of T, and created a parallel universe. So here goes, "Imagine a world where Dan has the internal and external supports to wake up on Monday morning and instead of 'go to work', it can be go to play or bring some play and ease to work. Feel the Dan, in this universe, who has the supports to know the experience of waking up and being relaxed, focused, energized and clear. And he can direct his balanced energy towards the creative projects and practical decisions that are before him. Feel in my body right now, this Dan experience in this parallel universe" And after doing this I added a physical "anchor" to this process where I allowed myself to sit, stand and walk in this relaxed body and mind within my parallel universe. That's it! In this final transformative step, you create the body experience of a you that has a different mind-set and hence a different nervous system and hence a different body-experience that is more optimal to what gives you satisfaction and meaning in life. In my upcoming module at Kripalu, the Somatic Healing Process, I will be focusing on this RESTing process. So come if you can! Also, I am currently developing an online curriculum along with a webinar class that can help you REST! Warmly and snowily, Dan