Workshop case study- developing practical strategies to manage the pressures of everyday life

“David and I discussed at length how best to help staff to manage physical and emotional well-being, which is a key priority for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health as without a healthy workforce we will not be able to deliver our ambitious agenda.” Louise Frayne

I was approached by The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health to do a workshop at their London offices.  The workshop was designed after detailed discussion with the Head of HR & Organisational Development, Louise Frayne, who was looking for content relating to stress- management, well- being and confidence.  We had “met” on an on- line discussion I was running about confidence.  Louise was intrigued about my use of the mind- body connection for greater confidence, managing stress and workplace wellness.  Because of my martial arts background, I designed a workshop that focused on mindset, body and posture.  It also centred around movement, connection and the relationship between mind and body.

“I contacted David to design and deliver workshops here at our London office to help staff develop practical strategies to manage the pressures of everyday life. David and I discussed at length how best to help staff to manage physical and emotional well-being, which is a key priority for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health as without a healthy workforce we will not be able to deliver our ambitious agenda.”  Louise Frayne, Head of HR & Organisational Development, RCPCH

Stress, Communication and the Body

We started by using the work of Paul Linden and gaining awareness of how the body responds to threat.  By eliciting a stress response, attendees paid attention to where they became tense in their bodies and how they moved when threatened.  Then they learned a centring technique by balancing and relaxing the body, bringing them to a calm and broadened awareness.  As a result, they responded to threat in a much more effective and confident manner.  We explored how and where we might use this in our personal and professional lives.

We extended this theme by looking further at posture and breathing.  How do they impact on our confidence and perception of the world?  Also, how that impacts the people we interact with. We practised scenarios and realised how some postures and breathing made for more receptive and open communication than others.  It was agreed that using these more open postures for meetings and general communication around the office and at home would be beneficial.

We continued the embodied theme by looking at boundaries and being able to maintain those boundaries in the face of challenge and conflict.  These challenges and conflicts can be external and internal, yet it is the person’s personal relationship with the challenge or conflict that is vital for success. Thinking about boundaries alone is not powerful enough.  Integrating the work in the body can make for much more empowered behaviours and statements.  Attendees chose challenges they wished to say “yes” to and “no” to. These were as diverse as requests from work colleagues, personal health challenges such as diet and exercise and behaviours that improve well- being such as relaxation.  Embodying and centring gave more powerful and assertive “yes” statements, giving inner confidence and resolve.  “No” statements could be said confidently and calmly so that it would not damage relationships.

Finally, we tied all these strands together with a communication exercise.  Using Aikido principles of flow, we built a metaphor for communication based on remaining engaged and curious in conversation through movement.  We explored the relationships between leading and following and coming to conversations with an agenda and being agenda free.  Also, we discovered that entering the relationship with our own personal confidence and strength gave us the ability to play our role well, contribute effectively and enjoy the process.  We used the centring, breathing and postural techniques learned earlier in the workshop to make for better communication in a range of relationships so that we experienced win- win outcomes.

Feedback and further workshop development

The feedback from this workshop was very positive:

“David’s wealth of knowledge and expertise was invaluable.  The first workshop introduced core principles of breathing and relaxation. Feedback was so positive that I commissioned two further workshops to build on the themes of the first workshop.  Take up by staff was enthusiastic. Feedback from staff who attended showed that they felt able to use the strategies David had shown them in a variety of settings and they particularly liked how David developed trust and rapport in the room, so everyone could talk openly, which is so important for this type of event to work well. I would have no hesitation in recommending David and his workshops to any organisation.”  Louise Frayne, Head of HR & Organisational Development, RCPCH

Louise and I discussed the content for two further workshops to be carried out the following year.

Presence, Values and the Body

We continued these themes in the second workshop six months later.  Our objective here was to explore values.  How do they impact on stress?  In what way do posture and energy affect our presence?  How does all that impact our relationships with others.  Finally, we looked at meditation for greater rest, resilience and relaxation.

Attendees noticed how posture improved responsiveness, agility, intention and commitment to values.  Focus led to more power, strength and resilience.  Combining these qualities, it was easier to express their individual values, stand up for them when challenged and work more effectively and productively when their values were aligned with those of the College.  We also drew on learning from the previous workshop, adding further strength and confidence to participants’ resolve, resilience and presence.

We finished this workshop with some simple relaxation exercises.  Requests for issues to be addressed included the negative impact the commute has on employees’ health and well- being.  I thought it would be useful to offer attendees relaxation exercises they could do on the train, in the car or while they walked to work.  These exercises could be used as a method to get to sleep or return to sleep so that they felt more rested.  We explored how breathing and muscular relaxation can reduce muscle tension, pain and discomfort.  They can also be used to calm the mind and bring mind and body to a centred space.  We also explored the build- up of negative energy in the body (through unexpressed emotion, lack of movement and exercise as well as compounded stress) and how that impacts health, well- being, relaxation, productivity and creativity.

Resilience, Emotions and the Body

The third and final workshop saw us look at resilience and managing emotions at work.  We used the metaphor of a bank account to explain how resilience works.

We focused the resilience exploration on three areas:

  • goal setting and the intention and focus to achieve those goals
  • effective emotional communication
  • how the body can be used to achieve these ends

We discussed goal setting and how it can positively impact resilience. We also looked at how set- backs and challenges can be dealt with more effectively and a more resilient mind set can be achieved through focus, commitment, body posture and intention.  In addition, we explored the power of surrounding yourself with people committed to and supportive of a similar goal.

The final section of the workshop looked at managing emotions, particularly anger.  The plan was to use the centring exercise from Paul Linden used in the first workshop, to show how it is possible to express and receive anger in a healthy way at work.  The attendees got a lot out of the different perspective offered.

In conclusion

The body is so often over- looked.  For many our primary concern is “the body beautiful”.  Perhaps that might extend to body health.  Yet, my hope is that these workshops presented new awareness of “the body powerful”.  That the resources of the body are so much more than how good it looks and physical health.  These are important factors in their own right.  And there are more.  The body can influence impact on:

  • stress
  • health and well- being
  • mental health and agility
  • living life on purpose and with meaning
  • presence
  • confidence
  • creativity and productivity
  • self- management and regulation
  • personal power and empowerment
  • employee engagement
  • communication
  • relationships with oneself and others

Caring for the body’s health increases its capacity to support us in all areas of our lives.  Awareness of our body’s sensations, feelings and emotions gives greater scope to explore the full human experience and perform at work and beyond in fulfilment.

If you would like bespoke workshops designed for you and your teams around stress management, resilience and well- being using the body, please get in touch and we can discuss your requirements.

Would you Know if you were experiencing Stress? Part 2- Awareness

Here are some of the signs to look out for that tell you that you might be experiencing stress

As I said in Part 1 of this blog series, stress is a natural part of life.  We all experience it.  If you think that you do not, perhaps you have a different word for it?  May be instead of stress you would say you are anxious, worried, excited, challenged, driven, focused, frustrated, upset, in anticipation, overwhelmed, exhausted, tired or withdrawn.  Whatever the word, my meaning of stress is that there is something in this lifestyle of yours that generates the Stress Response in you.

Are you experiencing stress?

The Stress Response is a term for a group of physiological symptoms generated when you are feeling threatened in some way.  You are getting ready to fight or run away.  So, you might experience quickened heart rate, dilated blood vessels and shallow breathing accompany increased levels of adrenaline and cortisol (the stress hormones).  For short periods this is beneficial for your health and well- being.  Long term however, and the negative impact on your immune system, mental health, quality of sleep, productivity, overall resilience, creativity, relationships and vitality are immense.  Here are some of the signs to look out for that tell you that you might be experiencing stress (or whatever word you might use):

  • Do you find it hard to get to sleep?  If you wake up in the night, do you struggle to go back to sleep?  Do you feel tired in the morning?  Are you getting less than 7 hours sleep a night?  If you say yes to any of these, you may well be experiencing stress.  These may happen as a consequence of your stress.  They may also be contributing factors to your stress.  Either way, good quality sleep is essential for many reasons.  If you do struggle to sleep or wake up in the night and can’t get back to sleep, this audio might be useful.
  • Do you eat a lot of sugary foods or foods high in fat?  Can you get through the day only if you have sugary and caffeinated drinks?  Sugar, fat and caffeine interfere with your body’s natural rhythms, disrupting sleep and other natural highs and lows of your day.  Many processed foods place your body under a lot of burden, damaging blood vessels, creating bloating and inflammation.  Not to mention the effect of artificial chemicals in our food that poison the body and bring it into imbalance.  All of this is stressful for your body and impacts on your overall ability to cope.
  • Muscular Tension. Light, regular exercise and movement leave the body feeling flexible, mobile and limber.  Sitting still all day, barely moving your body, makes your muscles short, tight and painful.  It puts the body under a lot of stress.  Think how lovely it feels to have a stretch at your desk after you’ve been working at your computer for a couple of hours.  Feels great right? Also, little body movement leaves people in “their heads”.  In other words, listening to the logical and rational part of the mind rather than balancing it with the instinct and intuition of which the body is a part.  Muscles also become tense due to unexpressed emotion.  Emotions are energy in motion.  If they are not expressed, they are internalised (in muscles and internal organs), another source of stress for the body.  Muscular tension from all sources pulls the body out of alignment, generating postural stress that can have long term impact such as shoulder, knee and hip replacement operations, diminished mobility, nerve damage and quality of life.
  • Suppressed Emotion. Are you the type of person who never feels or expresses emotion?  Or if you do it is usually fits of anger or rage?  Do you have a “stiff upper lip” or are you known as the “strong one” in the family/ relationship?  This can lead to a lot of stress in the body.  Gabor Mate, in his book “When the Body Says No- the cost of hidden stress”, explores the impact of suppressed emotion and how it can lead to many debilitating/ life threatening diseases such as MS, ME, numerous types of cancer, motor neuron disease, IBS and more.  In short, the stress on the body from unexpressed emotion is so great, it manifests over time as physical illness.
  • Grinding/ clenching your teeth. This is a sure sign you are experiencing stress.  If people mention that you are doing either of these, it’s a strong indicator you are stressed.
  • Holding your breath. Or breathing in a shallow manner.  This can be a response to stress.  It can also become a habit that keeps the body in a more heightened anxious state.  Learning deep breathing exercises will lower blood pressure, deactivate the stress response in the body and generally make you feel more calm, relaxed and mobile.  Belissa Vranich’s book Breathe gives detailed instructions and exercises about how to breathe more effectively for better health.
  • Lack of focus. The Stress Response makes you very insular.  Therefore, focus on other people, projects at work, problem solving and other things that require focus just doesn’t happen.  It’s your body’s way of saying “Stop paying attention to other things, I need some attention here!!!!”
  • Short temper and irritability. If your body is tired and debilitated by long term exposure to the effects of the Stress Response, you have no or very little reserves in the tank for additional stress.  My experience of this is that as a response to feeling powerless or out of control, we tend to lash out to protect ourselves.  This is a sure sign that you are reaching the end of your tether.  Consciously activating the Relaxation Response will give you more reserves to tackle any additional stress whilst keeping off “Red Alert”.
  • A little worry is healthy.  We can use it to assess situations and scan for trouble before the event.  Anxiety takes it to another level, assessing endless scenarios without resolution.  This is usually a clear sign that you are stressed.  There is a much calmer life for you to enjoy beyond anxiety if you can find the ways to manage your stress.
  • Feeling like life has no purpose or direction. Life without purpose has no direction.  Without meaningful goals, aligned to what is most important to us (whatever that may be), life can feel pointless and meaningless.  We can feel powerless and that comes with its own stress.  A lack of energy, vitality, engagement, power, strength and focus.  Purpose infuses our life with direction and meaning that gives momentum, energy, pace and vitality to life.

Natural Ways to manage stress

Please note, this is not an exact science.  There might be many reasons why you are experiencing these symptoms.  If you suspect stress at all, consult your doctor and a healthy dose of common sense and discover the ways YOU can undo the effects of stress.  Rather than pop a pill which might be the easiest way to deal with it, I invite you to explore more natural ways to manage your stress.  I am not a trained medical professional, so please do not take my word as gospel.  However, there is something empowering about listening to your body and intuition and finding the right answer for you.  Managing the stress is the key.  I discuss some of the strategies I have discovered on my travels with stress in Part 3.

Over to You

Do you notice that you often do not sleep well?  Perhaps you sleep very soundly.  Or maybe you are affected by someone who has disturbed sleep?  Are there parts of your body that get very tight?  Is that due to lack of movement, emotional stress, worry, anxiety or body misalignment?  Or is your body limber, relaxed and agile?  Would you say you were an emotional eater?  Do you find it hard to focus?  Or do you have laser- type focus and excellent concentration?  Are you more irritable than you used to be?  Perhaps you are more calm and unflappable than ever before?

Do you feel lost in your life and feel life is getting smaller?  Or is your life expanding and you are discovering new horizons?  I’d love to hear your experiences and grow this body of wisdom in the Potentiality Coaching community.  Please share in the comment box below or on social media.  Thank you.

Pass it On

If what I have been talking about sounds like someone you know, why no forward this blog to them and ask them to give it a read.  It might be the turning point for them to start listening to their body and recognise the signs that stress is present.  It’s so easy to deal with.  Awareness is the first step.  The next is action.  See you next time for Part 3.

Would you Know if you were experiencing Stress? Part 1- What’s getting in the Way

People do not seem to realise they are experiencing stress.  They just don’t see it!

Would you know if you were stressed?  Do you have a sense of what the signs might be if you were experiencing stress?  Do you notice when other people are stressed?  Are there occasions when people say you are stressed and you have no idea what they are talking about?

Having recently run a workshop on stress and talked to many people over the years about stress one thing comes through loud and clear:

Stress is rife in our lives and many of us are totally unaware that we are living with it.

People do not seem to realise they are experiencing stress.  They just don’t see it!  But that does not mean they are not affected by it.  Nor does it mean family, friends and colleagues are not impacted by it as a result.  Having been one of those people myself, it is hard to stand around the side lines and watch people struggle with its affects.  As a result, they go about their daily lives oblivious to the signs and symptoms of stress thinking that all is well.

The Impact of Stress

I’m sure you know many of the statistics about stress.  But just in case you don’t, long term stress can negatively impact your:

  • Life expectancy
  • Quality & duration of sleep (sleeplessness, disturbed sleep, nightmares, fitful sleep)
  • Behaviour (withdrawal, irritability, restlessness, depression)
  • Relationships (impacting those closest to us)
  • Health & disease (increase risk of heart attack, stroke, cardiovascular disease)
  • Interest in sex & sexual performance
  • Diet & weight (increase in fats & sugars raises weight or diminished appetite reduces weight)
  • Resilience
  • Productivity at work
  • Motivation

Stressed? Not me!

So being unaware that you are experiencing stress can come at quite a cost.  I will discuss the signs you want to be looking for, that tell you stress is present in your life and perhaps having an adverse effect on your health in Part 2 of this series.  Before I do that, I just want to explore why people don’t notice the stress in their lives:

  1. The signs creep up slowly over time. You live with yourself 24/7 and often do not notice any changes that might happen in your life, except for the dramatic ones: the surprise birthday party, the heart attack, a heat wave or cold snap, not being able to get into those trousers or tops you once used to fit into, a new addition to the family.  Look in the mirror daily and you do not see yourself getting older.  You do not notice your shoulders getting tighter or your waistline bigger.  You’ve breathed so shallow for years that you do not realise you’re barely getting any air at all.  You get used to what you know and may not question whether this is best for your health and well- being.
  2. Social and cultural norms. Countries, regions, religions, companies, cities, individuals, cultures, towns and families all have their traditions.  From what we eat and drink, to how we socialise, where and how we work, what exercise we do, where we pray and so on.  Sometimes these norms are great for our health and well- being.  Other times, these habits are not.  It’s hard to do things differently to the rest.  If other people don’t seem to experience stress as a result of these habits, then surely nor do I.  Yet, we are all individuals and what may be calming to others could be causing untold stress on someone else.  And remember, they may be suffering from the same lack of awareness about the effect stress is having on them as you are.  We just don’t want to go there in our minds, so we don’t.  Nothing changes and the effects of stress mount.
  3. Stress isn’t something that happens to me. This is the misguided vision I had for years.  Because I am a martial artist, meditator, student of philosophy, calm, confident and thinking of myself as a spiritual practitioner, how could I possibly have stress?  As a result, I’m not looking for the signs.  Struggling to sleep?  Whatever the reason, it can’t be stress!  Experiencing shortness of breath?  Whatever the reason, it can’t be stress!  Finding it hard to focus?  Whatever the reason, it can’t be stress!  You’re getting the idea.  So, maybe you think that being stressed is something that happens to other people.  Or you have a super power that means you can survive on 4 hours sleep a night.  Trust me, we all experience stress.  If it is long- term, it will have adverse effects on your health.  Pay attention to the signs before it’s too late.
  4. Stress isn’t that important to worry about. Some people just don’t think stress is anything to worry about.  Everyone struggles with it and gets on OK.  What’s all the fuss?  It’s a bit like President Trump saying there’s no climate change problem.  Everyone knows that there is, but he doesn’t think it’s worth doing anything about. The attitude that “I’ll be fine” or “I’ve got it covered” I hear a lot.  As a result, the unchanged life style leads to heart attacks, strokes, cancer and more.  These people that I care about seem surprised when it happens!!!!!
  5. I’m too busy to change anything, or change is too hard. Yes, to make changes in your life style does mean things will be different.  In people’s minds that usually means things will be worse!  Our resistance to change is often because we are invested in the old way of doing things: not rock the boat with family or friends; stay inside my comfort zone; surely this tough stage will pass even if I ignore it; I don’t have the time; what about my career, relationship, income etc.; I don’t need to change; how will I be perceived if I change things; what if I fail; how will life be different if I succeed.  Resisting change is normal- there is a degree of uncertainty and that comes with its own challenges.  If we do not make changes, nothing changes.  There are signs telling you that change is necessary, even essential, if only you would pay attention. So, please listen.

Do any of these five points sound like you?  If so, you might be experiencing stress and not realise it.  Left untreated for many years, it could have adverse effects on your health, well- being, quality of life, length of your life and the degree to which you enjoy your life.

The Body has the answer

It’s great that you are deep in the cut and thrust of life, building your business, developing your career, nurturing your family, creating your life.  To be immersed in life is wonderful.  Sometimes you get caught up in the momentum and think “What’s next……?”  As soon as the last job is done, you’re rushing off to do the next one.  If you don’t take time to check in from time to time with how your body feels, you’ll never know where you are at…….. and you may well miss the signs that stress is building up.

Your body is the answer.  It will tell you whether it is experiencing stress. Your head may tell you that there is nothing to be concerned about.  It’s too busy being busy.  Try this instead.  Take time to connect to your body.  How?  Centring, mindfulness and meditation are great ways to connect in.  Also, Mindful Movement workshops are a great fun way to connect in with your body and begin rebuilding a relationship with your body again.  As a result, your body will become a friend, a confidante, a trusted partner.  You will reap the benefits of living mindfully, managing stress effectively and enjoying life fully for mind, body and soul.

Over to You

What is your attitude to stress?  Is it something other people have but not you?  Are you too busy to deal with it or do you make time in your day for managing it effectively?  Is stress another “Climate Change” issue or are you taking it seriously?  Do you know you have to deal with the stress in your life or are you too busy to change?  So, let’s get a conversation going and bring the effects of stress to people’s attention.  Then they can take control and begin to live more fully and vibrantly.

Pass it On

If what I have been talking about sounds like someone you know, why not forward this blog to them and ask them to give it a read?  It might be the turning point for them to start listening to their body and opening to the possibility that stress is in their lives.  It’s so easy to deal with.  Awareness is the first step.  The next is seeing stress in action in our lives.  So we’ll be covering that in Part 2. See you next time.

What can icebergs tell you about your mind?

Do you find it hard to let your mind go quiet? Have you noticed that your mind jumps around a lot from subject to subject? Do you struggle to stay focussed on any given topic?

Can your mind start worrying about things and send you on a spiralling treadmill of stress or anxiety?

Are you sometimes looking for inspiration but it doesn’t come? Do you hope to have a great idea or answer to a problem and no matter how hard you try it eludes you? Would you like to be more intuitive, creative and imaginative?

Where do you place your attention?

It may seem strange but these issues and challenges are connected, in the sense that they are products of where you place your attention. By placing your attention predominantly on the conscious mind you therefore give energy to the conscious mind and the ways it works. These might include:

Logical thinking
Rational thoughts
Linear processing
Focus on detail

However, the skills of intuition, creativity and inspiration are products of the subconscious mind. By bringing your attention to the subconscious you direct energy towards these talents. As well as the above these might be:

Imagination
Big picture thinking
Seeing how things interconnect
Instinct
Gut feeling
Listening to your heart
Hunches
Sixth sense

Our society tends to favour training our conscious mind, choosing educational methods that promote conscious thinking.

This of course has great value. We need to be organised, keep to our diary, prioritise and think with our head sometimes rather than with the heart.

When the conscious mind is trained and used at the expense of using creative and intuitive subconscious skills, you are denied developing these skills. You are only able to use some of your mind’s full potential. Surely it would be useful to tap into more of your innate skills as well, many of which reside in the subconscious?

Icebergs

View of Iceberg showing 10% above the water ad 90% blow the surface of the ocean

The mind is like an iceberg

The mind is like an iceberg. About 10% resides above the surface of the ocean. This is the conscious mind. By contrast, 90% resides beneath the surface of the ocean. This is the subconscious. Notice how much larger the subconscious mind is? Perhaps tapping into the subconscious would make you even more resourceful, effective, creative and productive?

Our lives are predominantly oriented towards conscious mind activity, looking outward into the world through TV, books, magazines, internet, social media and more. These are not bad things in themselves yet our use of them is so engrained we find it hard to unplug from them. We move from conscious mind activity to conscious mind activity throughout our day. The subconscious mind barely gets a look in.

Subconscious attention

What would it look like to give our subconscious mind some attention? Activities like taking a walk or more vigorous exercise are good ways to connect. Have you noticed how you find solutions to problems during your workouts? Taking almost any break from your conscious mind thinking such as time in nature, gardening, listening to music, gaming, a relaxing bath or a good night’s sleep will do the trick.

Always make sure you’ve got pen and paper or some means if recording your insights with you though. You don’t want to miss any ideas that come bubbling up from the subconscious. Make that a habit. You’re unlikely to remember those ideas when they come, so record them in some way.

You can be more proactive about it. Free- writing is another method and you make notes as you go. The idea is not to edit what you write. It doesn’t have to be any good or even make sense or be legible. It is the process of subconscious connection that is key.

Games the Conscious mind plays

I had a client that wanted to be a photographer. He had saved up and bought the camera and believed he now needed a computer. Perhaps he did to process the photos as effectively as he might. But his conscious mind had decided he couldn’t take the photos without the computer. Therefore he was holding himself back from achieving his dream. More importantly he was delaying himself from readily connecting to his subconscious through photography. The conscious mind can play clever games.

Another message the conscious mind tells you about connecting to the subconscious is that you don’t have time, it’s not important, you won’t be able to, you’re too busy, you’re not good enough and my favourite, do it tomorrow!!!!

Benefits of Subconscious thinking

As I said earlier with our Iceberg metaphor, the subconscious is approximately 90% of the mind. As well as tapping into all these innate skills you are also connecting more deeply into yourself. Rather than being aware of more surface level qualities you possess, when you connect to your subconscious you become much more aware of what makes you content and fulfilled. With that knowledge comes a consistent peace of mind and calm the conscious mind cannot sustain. Making a habit of connecting to the subconscious has got to be worth that alone.

One final perk……. if each person is an iceberg then when people connect to their subconscious, they are in fact connecting to each other through their subconscious via the ocean. In this way, you become aware of people’s moods and emotions, can feel the atmosphere in rooms, be more empathic and have intuitive knowings and insights into people. This will improve the quality of your relationships both personally and professionally as well as your quality of life.

Over to you

How do you connect to your subconscious?  What regular things do you do to unplug from the monkey mind of conscious thinking and delve into the depths of your subconscious?  Do you find it easy to connect?  Do you find it a challenge?  Perhaps you would like to connect and aren’t really sure how?  If so, please get in touch and we can discuss how you might be able to do that.  As ever, I’d love to hear your comments, either in the comments box below or on social media.

The development of these subconscious skills is a large part of the Mindful Movement workshops content.  As well as balancing these qualities with the skills of the conscious mind so that you can access more of your potential and life with deeper purpose and greater fulfilment.  You can find out more here.

Pass it on

Why not share this post?  If you have found the ideas useful why not tell a friend?  Perhaps you came by this blog post via social media?  Then please share, like or retweet the post and spread the love.  Thank you.

The Body in Movement

We spend so much of our day keeping our bodies still, that it is fast becoming a health crisis. Sitting may be becoming the new smoking.  Yet your body is designed for movement.

How does your body feel when you move? Perhaps it feels a little sluggish when you start? May be the muscles feel tight and the body heavy to begin with? As you continue to move, do the muscles loosen up and the body feels lighter? Have you noticed that when you get up in the morning, your body feels a little tight or stiff? After a long period sat down, do you notice that your body feels stiff, tight and sluggish?

The Body in Movement

These things are definitely true for me as well as the hundreds of martial arts students I have taught over the years. What I have observed is that people’s bodies move more freely and powerfully the more they move. When muscles loosen in movement they increase the range of movement of the body. Consequently the body feels looser and lighter. This is partly through:

  • blood flow
  • the body warming up as it generates heat
  • the muscle fibres running over each other as the muscles relax and contract
  • fascia moving (for more details on fascia see here https://www.drnorthrup.com/muscle-fascia/)

Be it walking, cycling, running, swimming, martial arts, yoga, tai chi or going to the gym, the body benefits from regular movement, keeping it supple, loose and flexible. In short, with regular exercise, the body feels more expanded, open and energised.

Mindful Movement

Not all movement is mindful movement. Moving with awareness increases your sensitivity to more of your body’s sensations.

There is also the additional quality of being mindfully in your body.   Not all movement is mindful movement. Moving with awareness increases your sensitivity to more of your body’s sensations, including:

  • your position of body in space
  • posture
  • economy of movement
  • spatial awareness
  • how your body feels
  • when the body needs stillness, rest, movement and exercise
  • non- verbal communication
  • emotional state and expression

As you exercise mindfully, your attention and awareness are in your body, which means you have a relationship with your body. This awareness can go far beyond movement. You can become attuned to the sensations, tensions and feelings in the body physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally. Because these four aspects of your being are connected, mindfulness of the body in movement can increase awareness of your whole being.

When the Body is Still

The converse is also true. When the body is still for long periods of time, the muscles begin to shorten. That is why you feel stiff after a good night’s sleep or a long stint in the car, at your desk or on the sofa. Consequently, the body feels contracted, closed and sluggish. If your life style is one of moving from bed, to car, to desk, to car, to sofa and back to bed (or some variant of that), then a whole day might go by when your muscles and fascia have not warmed up or moved to the full range of movement they are capable. Perhaps this has been the case all week or all month or all year?

Over time your body progressively gets more contracted, closed and de- energised. How do you think this impacts on your body, how it feels and what it feels capable of doing?   How do you think it presents itself to the world? What affect might this have on your mood, feelings, emotions, mindset and connection to you and the world?

Being in the Head

When you do not exercise, your awareness has little need to go to the body. Instead it remains in the head. You become disconnected from your body and the language it speaks. Therefore you may be less likely to notice the subtle signs your body gives you that things are not well emotionally, mentally, physically or spiritually. It also does not tell you when things are joyful, powerful, exuberant and flowing.

This “being in the head” is a very common state of being in our modern age. People may even speak about thinking what their body feels like, as if the body is an abstract thing. Through mindful movement, exercise and living, I suggest that we live more fully and openly with a deeper sense of awareness in the body.

Body Wisdom

This makes us more present and aware of what is happening in our being moment to moment to moment. What is happening in your body IS the present. It is happening right now and so it connects you to a much larger present. I am not suggesting you live like this all the time. This would be impractical. Yet to practice the skill of mindful presence gives you the ability to move your awareness from your head to your body whenever you wish, opening you up to the wisdom and awareness in the body.

Stretching

So to start this process off I have five short videos for you. Watch all five in one go. Watch one ad come back to the rest later. Whatever works best for you. They offer some gentle stretches that can be done throughout the day. Please do not do these exercises if you are already injured. If you are in any doubt, please consult your doctor before embarking on any type of exercise, including stretching. The key is to be gentle and aware. Placing your awareness on the muscles and fascia you are stretching means you will not over- do the movement and injure yourself. It should never be painful. It should feel releasing, relaxing and rejuvenating. Give it a chance. The muscles and fascia need time to respond to your gentle attention. See how you feel after a week, a month.

  1. The Muscles to the side of the neck (see the video here)

These muscles get very tight over time when your head remains still for prolonged periods such as when working on a computer, texting or driving. By tilting your head gently to one side and then the other, you can loosen these muscles and remove the tension that builds up over time.

  1. The muscles of the chest and the front of the shoulder (see the video here)

Working at the computer and holding the steering wheel as you drive pulls the shoulders forward, contracting the muscles at the front of the body. Over time, this curves the upper back forward creating a hunched feeling. This communicates an inward feeling making it harder to embody a state of confidence, presence and power. This stretch can help with bringing the shoulders back in relation with the spine, opening up the chest and shoulders.

  1. Stretching the muscles around the upper spine and sternum (see the video here)

The top half of the torso can get very tight effecting the breathing as well as larger movements with the arms. Impaired breathing can severely affect your state of calm and confidence. Therefore, loosening the muscles involved in breathing is essential to help combat stress and anxiety. These are two of many stretches that impact the muscles involved in breathing as well as posture.

  1. Loosening the muscles in the forearms (see the video here)

Typing and driving can tighten these muscles a lot, especially if you have poor technique and do not use your body as it is designed. Regular stretching of these muscles can reduce tightness and discomfort and increase your productivity.

  1. Spinal twist (see the video here)

Your spine is made up of loads of joints between your vertebrae. Yet when we move, the tight muscles around the spine really restrict the range of movement of which we are truly capable. This stretch works the really deep muscles as well as massages the organs in the body increasing mobility as the fascia around the organs becomes more loose and flexible.

Over to You

I hope you find these exercises useful. I have done them for many years and always feel better when I do them on a regular basis. Sometimes I let it slip. I am human! How do you feel after doing the stretches? Which ones do you find easier? What ones are more challenging? Do they make your life style more comfortable? Are you generally aware of your body? If not, does the stretching help? How are things changing after doing the stretches for a week or more? Are you inspired to do more? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments box below. And if I can be of any assistance, please let me know and I’ll do my best to help.

Pass it on

A sedentary life style is incredibly common these days. The physical issues we develop as a result of these are widespread. Just because they are common does not mean they are right for your health and wellbeing. If you know people who are adversely affected by a sedentary life style and stretching might help, please forward this blog to them and help them get out of pain and discomfort. Thank you.

Archetypes- the Warrior within

How can Warrior help you in areas of your life?

There is so much more to us than we realise. How can we begin to access the strengths, wisdom and talents we do not know we possess? Archetypes are a way of connecting to qualities that are within us, even though we might not know they are there.

We tend to think of ourselves as having particular strengths and skills of which we are aware. You might notice that you have particular qualities that make you good at certain tasks or jobs that lead you towards a specific career or field. For example, I followed a career in science because of my logical and rational way of thinking, I am good at following complex instructions and I have great patience to repeat things many times.

In my experience though there are depths to us that are covered, which are yet to be explored. It can have great value to examine these areas of our being. We can surprise ourselves with qualities we never dreamed we had and get results in life’s situations that are beyond our expectations. We may even live a wonderful unexpected adventure because we have uncovered once- hidden potential. In my life I have grown to become a prolific writer and have the capacity to give people space and freedom to explore themselves, which I use with coaching clients and in my charity work.

 Archetypes introduced

There are many routes to accessing these subconscious qualities and develop them consciously so that they can be cultivated. One such idea is the archetypes, originally introduced by Carl Jung and developed in a number of ways by Joseph Campbell and Caroline Myss amongst others. Jung believed that archetypes appear across all cultures and throughout time as common features of the human psyche. They embody particular qualities in both the Light and the Shadow of the mind. Do not think of them as gender specific. Archetypes are beyond stereotypes.

I find them useful because they are instantly relatable. If you think of a warrior for example, you might visualise a man in armour, holding weapons, ready for battle. Perhaps Boudica, the Iceni warrior queen, comes to mind?  You might think him courageous, principled and ready to face death. When we find ways to relate to these archetypes, we can embody them ourselves. We can take on some of these qualities, feel them and use them to make us stronger if we need courage for example. I use the archetypes in some of my Mindful Movement courses as a means to access qualities in people that they might find useful in exploring themselves, over- coming barriers to growth and creating the life they want for themselves.

 How Archetypes are used in Mindful Movement

Being introduced to archetypes is like meeting old friends, some long lost, others very familiar. Accessing them helps us get in tune to parts of our character and personality that can be very powerful when used in the right way. There are literally hundreds of archetypes if you trawl the internet. I use six that allow people to rise to the challenge of:

  • living life on purpose
  • deeper relationships
  • personal responsibility
  • managing stress and relaxation
  • greater confidence
  • resilience
  • values- based living and more.

Let’s look at these six archetypes in turn and explore how they can make you more mindful about how you behave, the choices you make and the actions you take. We will start with Warrior.

Warrior

Think of warriors in popular culture and you might conjure up King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, a Norwegian Viking, a Japanese Samurai or a Jedi Knight. Warriors are all about facing death and living life with principle and purpose. They are values- based people, here to protect what is most important to them. Warriors are about focus, courage and standing up to the plate. They possess great confidence through their long training and expertise. They prove their worth through battle in many ways. Hardship and going without (minimalism) are a way of life.

 Light and Shadow

The wise warrior understands that fighting is the last resort and that other strategies are best employed beforehand to avoid direct conflict. These great leaders stand in the Light. Conversely, the weak, masochistic or sadistic warrior acts through fear in Shadow. He will inflict pain on others or himself because he lacks the confidence and courage to stand shoulder to shoulder with others. He fears he is weak compared to them and so will act to cover his own weakness.

Warrior Embodied

The embodied feeling of the warrior is one of physical power and strength, icy focus and deep compassion or profound emotional detachment (depending on whether in the Light or the Shadow). Standing tall, in anticipation and eager to get going, Warrior’s responsibility is to protect at all costs. He takes his role very seriously. It is about win or lose and to deal with your adversary with respect and humility. To embody this, watch how the great Warriors of our modern day behave: athletes such as Mo Farrah and Jessica Ennis, leaders like Tony Robbins and Gabrielle Bernstein, politicians such as Barak Obama and Aug Sang Suu Shi.

 How does Warrior show up?

How does this manifest in your every day life? Clarifying your values, giving you focus on what is important to you so that you can priorotise is a powerful warrior trait. Dedication to life- purpose and living life on purpose is the warrior’s way. Warrior will support you in achieving skills for goal completion and ensure you adopt habits for success. The minimalist qualities of Warrior will help you declutter, simplify your life such as getting out of debt. Warrior will help you during that important interview, presentation and talk. Warrior will also support you when you need courage in challenging situations.

Be careful of less positive traits such as emotional detachment that can lead to hurtful behaviour towards others. Also, the antithesis of warrior’s can- do attitude could be taking a passive role in areas of your life so that you allow yourself to be manipulated.

Learning to embody this archetype has been invaluable to me over the years. It has given me confidence when I’ve needed it. Confrontation has not often resulted. Usually, I can see the trouble ahead and take action well before it gets to that. When I get that wrong, I know I have Warrior’s power to carry me through with confidence.  For my clients, Warrior embodies a particular energy that carries them through to completing their goals.  Playing full out to ensure total commitment can overcome obstacles that would otherwise get in the way.

 Over to You

How could Warrior help you in areas of your life? Do you recognise any of the traits listed in the blog that you relate to? Are there any areas that you could work on to strengthen your warrior that would enhance your life? Do you use Warrior in the wrong context? Where could you use Warrior more in your life? Do you think it might be better to use Warrior less? I’d love to hear your thoughts and notices in light of this blog. Please post your comments in the box below.

 Pass it on

If you think there is material in this blog that would be useful to someone you know, why not forward them the link and get them engaged in the conversation?

Taking Action and what you can learn from it.

Taking Action creates momentum

When you do something new and step out of your comfort zone there are mind sets that are going to inspire you to take action. There are other mind sets that will do the opposite. Therefore, it is essential that you give attention and energy to those mind sets that lead to positive and empowering action. Alternatively you can focus on why you can’t do something and remain where you are. 

There are of course advantages to the latter strategy. You are not taking any risks so it feels safe. You are a large fish in a small pond and so you feel confident in a narrow range of areas. As a consequence you do not grow. You do not feel you need to invest in learning, making effort and putting your neck on the line. 

Recent months have seen me move my business forward in ways I have wanted to do for some time. 2017 has seen me launch a beginners Mindful Movement course.  Below are some notes of thoughts, ideas and learnings I have had by taking that step. I hope you will see parallels in your life if you are looking to do something new and innovative.

  1. Waiting for things to be perfect- things will never be right. Do them anyway.  Do not let this be an obstacle to doing anything new. Excellence will come the more you try, develop and innovate. Perfection is not possible. 
  2. You know more than you realise. What you don’t know you can learn. You have a phenomenal wealth of experience and expertise. These skills can be invaluable in many areas. Do not think your skill set is restricted to a narrow field. If you focus your intention and goals firmly and pursue them persistently you will find out what you need to learn. Then, you can take the time to educate yourself, confident in the knowledge it is taking you where you want to go. 
  3. Be open to feedback. One of the things we fear most is getting things wrong. I think we learn this mind set at school where making mistakes is not necessarily turned into a positive learning experience.  Mistakes are incredibly fruitful if they are framed as an opportunity to learn.  Everything is a work in progress. Therefore learning to adapt to change is essential for success. If you are providing a product or service, you want to know it is exactly what your ideal clients want and need. If you are employed, growing into a role that is great for your career and personal development it is a win- win for you and your employer.  When you learn anything, there is a learning curve that means mistakes are inevitable.  Learning is impossible without mistakes.
  4. Be clear about what you want to achieve (and be open to change). When I set out to design the course I had clear goals in mind. For example: to develop awareness of mind and body to promote relaxation and resilience and reduce tension. I designed it around that. Every session has been altered before, during and after to create a better client experience.
  5. Don’t play it safe- taking risks is highly subjective. What is risky for one person may be not appear that way to another.  Try and push into that risky zone just enough to challenge you to get the best out of you.  Just outside your comfort zone is where risk and the creative magic happen.  
  6. You are good enough to make a difference. We all have talents that can serve others positively. Realising that for myself has been a long journey. Once your talents are used more and more, your skills to use them deepen and widen. Therefore, you become more of what you are meant to be.
  7. Don’t try to do too much- be prepared to chuck stuff away. It may be a director’s best scene or your best piece of work!  If it doesn’t fit the client like a glove, enhance the movie or make a better product, ditch it!!! Or adapt. Also, if you have more material than you have time you can edit it out as required. Depth and breadth of knowledge are invaluable.  They give you firm foundations and walls with which to give you and your clients confidence.  You don’t need to share it all in one go.  Think about “What does the client need?” not necessarily what you feel you need to show the client.  Also, life is a journey.  Do we need to get as far as possible?  Does that extra thing we achieve make all that much difference?  Can we enjoy the journey, take a little longer, connect a little deeper and laugh a little louder?
  8. Start from where you are- get traction. So often I have tried to run things based on skills I’d like to have rather than the skills I do have. When I have it never works.  Work with what you have. Continue to learn, innovate and grow. With perseverance and dedication you will become better, wiser and more discerning.
  9. Let things grow organically once the course started I realised I had so much material and scope I could comfortably run Intermediate and Advanced classes as well as bespoke workshops.  I’ll be keeping the website updated with new dates and locations as they are confirmed.

Over to you

Does any of what I mentioned above resonate with you?  What have you learned by running new courses or stepping into new roles?  How do you feel about taking risks?  What are your thoughts about taking action and just doing it?  Would you rather stick with what you know or go for innovation and development?  As always, I’d love to hear from you.  Please post your comments below.

Spread the love……

Why not share this blog with a friend or colleague who might enjoy it?  If you know someone who is thinking of taking action steps to create something new, perhaps this blog might help.  Please pass the blog on to anyone you know who might benefit.  I’d really appreciate it.  They might really appreciate it too?  If this is the first Potentiality Coaching blog you have read, welcome.  If you would like to receive monthly reminders of blog posts, news and free training videos you can sign up to the Potentiality Coaching mailing list here.

The art of good relationships is connection not disconnection

Disconnection

In your relationships of all kinds, do you notice how you or others disengage from conversations or interactions? There is a disconnection that can take place by which you or they are no longer present to the conversation. Sometimes this will be because you are thinking of the next thing to say once the other person has finished. Other times you might be bored and so you drift off into some fantasy.

Further examples might include feeling uncomfortable with the topic or tone of the conversation, so people might leave the room completely or sit back and stop listening altogether. Obstinate refusal to understand what the other person is staying or see another view can lead to raised voices and frustration in which no one is listening. Over zealous chatter because someone is nervous at a party can create a powerful disconnection in other people. Conversely, having a silent respondent can also feel like you are talking to your self. Whatever the reason for the disconnection, the other person may feel hurt, offended or simply not listened to and this can affect the quality of the relationship.

Why do you disconnect from pain?

In my experience, these points of disconnection are done very unconsciously. They are not done to hurt or harm even though they can have this affect. The reason for our disconnection is because we feel pain in some way or other and we want to move away from the pain. We are biologically programmed to steer away from pain such as hot flames and ferocious animals. To our mind and body, pain is pain. We do not make a distinction about its source. We set about avoiding pain of all sources in a most unconscious way.

Not all pain needs to signal that there is something to avoid though. Some pain is telling you that something is happening that you could deal with by steering into it, not away from it. Why do you feel uncomfortable about that topic? What is it about raised voices that make you shrink away? Why do you disengage when you are bored rather than maneuver the conversation towards topics that interest you? What is it about that person that makes you feel uncomfortable?

Steering into the pain

In Mindful Movement classes we do an exercise that looks at this topic. Based on Aikido principles of light touch and flow within flow, participants are invited to lead and follow each other around the room. Inevitably, tension in the body results, as people begin to feel uncomfortable in the exercise and lose that light touch connection. Tension is a way in which the body and mind manifest pain.

Relaxation allows you to respond to situations with a light touch

I invite people to explore the nature and location in their bodies where that tension lies and ask them to relax into it. The responsibility of leading or the frustration of being led can result in a lot of tension in the body. It brings up something uncomfortable which is a mild form of pain. The body and mind respond by creating tension. This means that the body does not work as well as it might (muscle tension, shallow breathing, poor posture, lack of awareness of the surroundings).  The mind is neither focused on the task nor has clarity of purpose, emotions are in a place of fear and lack and the connection between partners is poor at best.

Relaxation dissolves resistance

Once participants are reminded to relax, suddenly the whole process changes. The tension that once blocked the pain and kept it frozen in place is removed and suddenly that energy can flow through the mind and body. Suddenly the pain gives way to dynamic flow and a relaxed creative process can begin to take place.

Though there is a leader and follower, both are co- creating the dance of movement much like people create a magical conversation together. The mind is clear and focused and better able to hear the intuitive voice. Emotionally, participants are more responsive to themselves and each other and a confidence in the process develops in which both people feel safe to explore and test ideas.

 Body tension tells you there is pain to address

This exercise is a metaphor for daily interactions in which tension can often lead us to disconnect. Simple awareness of the process can be enough to mindfully interact with people and be more conscious about how we are when we interact. When we feel the tension in the body and notice how the mind and emotions are responding as well, we can take action to relax. This will not change the situation immediately. It will, however, change how you respond to it and so the outcome of your interaction.

From personal experience I can share a couple of public speaking engagements I attended. The first was a networking event and I froze in front of all the people as I stood up to say my piece. I never allowed the tension to leave my body and so I remained short of breath, my mind remained foggy and I was unable to speak. The second was a better experience. I arrived at the venue expecting 10- 15 people to turn up. As people arrived the number grew to 25. With each new person I felt the tension rise. Once I noticed it, I could let the tension go and I was able to speak in front of all those people quite easily. Most importantly, I was relaxed and myself. That meant the audience enjoyed the experience far more than if I had been as tense as I had been before.

Relaxation releases tension and pain

By noticing tension, you are able to take steps to release that tension.  We can do that through centring, breathing or actively relaxing the body. When you are relaxed, you can choose to steer into the pain or discomfort.  This brings your awareness to it and dissolves it away. It invites you to face what is perhaps most urgent and important in this moment. Tension and pain are the ways in which the mind and body communicate the need to deal with urgent and important situations.

Rather than interpret that information as something to avoid, I invite you interpret it as something to steer into. Through the awesome power of your awareness, you can dissolve that tension. The result is deeper, more intimate and powerful relationships with others and yourself as well as better health and well- being. The body and mind are not supposed to remain tense for too long. These are short term signals to get your attention. Not long term inconveniences to get used to that ultimately tighten up and restrict mind and body. A relaxed body and mind thinks clearer, reacts more appropriately, heals better, loves deeper, works longer, focuses more sharply and gives more fully.

Relaxation frees body and mind

Mind and body are meant to be loose and free in movement. Physical and mental versatility, agility, adaptability and flexibility are the hallmarks of relaxation. Tension and rigidity give us no choice but to disconnect. Relaxation allows us to remain connected through the most troubling and difficult situations. It also allows us to remain connected when we receive praise, love and generosity. It is this acceptance of all life’s situations, the ups and the downs, that relaxation allows. If we can learn to steer into them, we can improve the quality of our relationships, with ourselves, others and the world around us.  We can explore the potential that exists on the other side of tension and disconnection.

Over to you

How do you disconnect? What things move you to disconnect? Are you able to remain connected when you are faced with difficult situations? How well do you receive praise and do you fully accept it graciously? As always I’d love to hear from you. Please post your comments in the box at the foot of the page and share your thoughts, experience and understanding.

Pass it on

If you found this blog useful, please pass it on to someone you think will benefit. If you like the sound of topics covered in the Mindful Movement classes you can find out more here. Alternatively, send me an e- mail (david@potentialitycoaching.co.uk) and I can answer your questions and give you additional information. Thank you.

When your body speaks- the power of awareness

various DIY tools in an orange tool holder secured to a bare wooden wall

Your body is a tool kit that can be used to determine your state in any given moment, feeding back to you your state of mind and being

You cannot consciously and purposefully change anything without being aware of it first.  Awareness gives you power to choose your actions. It is perhaps the single most important aspect essential for personal growth.

The Learning Cycle

You may know this cycle of learning:

  • Unconscious incompetence
  • Conscious incompetence
  • Conscious competence and
  • Unconscious competence.

We start the process unaware of what we don’t know (unconscious incompetence). Then through guidance or insight we realise that we don’t know something.  We discover we need to improve (conscious incompetence). This spurs us to learn and consciously apply our learning.  Firstly in quite a crude and clumsy manner.  Then with progressively more skill as our knowledge and experience develops (conscious competence). In time we act with great skill without paying conscious attention to our behaviour (unconscious competence). Then the process repeats, endlessly growing our skill base and competence. True growth never stops.

Judgement Free

This is as true for our feelings and emotions as it is for our practical and intellectual skill. Emotional intelligence is an important part of our behavioural and relational repertoire. Awareness of how the body feels is a route into our state of being in this moment. We recognise tension, discomfort, relaxation or pleasure in the body.  That tells us valuable information about how our body responds to this current situation. It takes practice to notice these feelings in the body rather than think about them and judge the reaction. There is great power in noticing how we feel without judgement.  Then we are free to act from where we are emotionally. 

We can then make a choice about whether this response serves us and the people around us.  Mindfully we begin to take responsibility and make changes to alter the way we affect the outcome.

Awareness Applied to Public Speaking

Recently I had a public speaking engagement.  I noticed myself getting nervous, tense and shallow breathing developing into panic behaviour. As soon as I realised it I began relaxing and deepening my breath which calms me down. I was able to deliver the talk without any difficulty. Previous experience tells me that left unchecked this panic reaction leads to ineffective communication, forgetting my lines and not interacting with the audience.  As a consequence the attendees do not get what they came for. It was better for all that I noticed.

How awareness influences conversations

When we are having a conversation with someone, very often we pay attention to what is happening between us and them. Is the atmosphere calm and relaxed, charged and edgy, aggressive and threatening? That is one level of awareness. Another is noticing what is going on for the other person and how they are contributing to the environment. A third is how you are feeling and how you affect what is going on. Only by being aware of how you are feeling can you affect the space around you consciously. The onus is on you to notice and then take responsibility for your role in co- creating the outcome.

Body as Tool Kit for Awareness

Your body then is a tool kit that can be used to determine your state in any given moment, feeding back to you your state of mind and being.  Developing methods to increase your awareness of your body and its feelings is important for greater relaxation, confidence and well- being.  I cover these and many other strategies during my Moving Meditation Courses.
You can e- mail me at david@potentialitycoaching.co.uk to learn about future events and  to discuss creating bespoke courses for your workplace.  We can also discuss how we can work together to build your confidence from the inside out. Click here to find out about and book tickets for future Moving Meditation Courses.

Over to You

How do you use your body to be aware of your state?  What do you find easy or struggle with about awareness?  Do you use your awareness of your body to adapt how you are in situations like the public speaking one I described?  Are you aware of how you use your body when you communicate with other people and yourself?  I’d love to hear from you.

Pass it On

Think this article or the Moving Meditation Course might be useful for someone you know? Why not send them a link to the blog or forward them the details of the course? I’d really appreciate you spreading the word.

Body and Mind- a two way mirror

Woman sitting on a stool reflected many times in a series of mirrors

The relationship between mind & body is like a two way mirror. They both affect each other

Your posture in stillness and motion communicates to you and others all the time. The way you hold yourself is conveying to you how you feel and what is going on inside your body mentally, emotionally and physically. Your state of mind influences how you hold and use your body. Therefore, the body is a mirror to the mind.

A Mirror to the Mind

How does your body feel when your mind is focused? Perhaps it feels energised, calm, efficient, powerful, fluid, at ease or fast. Think of a word, group of words or phrases that describe the sensation. How does your body feels when your mind is distracted or confused by comparison? May be it feels agitated, uncomfortable, irritable, tense, unsettled or sluggish? Again, please think of appropriate words or phrases. Hopefully, this makes it clear that the mood of the mind affects the way the body feels and by extension the way it holds itself and moves.

Be careful to ensure you notice how your body feels, not how your mind is thinking when doing this exercise. Thought and feeling are very different. One comes from the mind the other from the body. It is a question of where you place your attention. Most people place their attention on the mind. This has its place. It is also of benefit to pay attention to what the body expresses- it is much more receptive to what is happening in the moment.

The Hips Don’t Lie

When I teach martial arts, I can tell whether someone is focused or distracted simply by the way they move. As you get to know someone you are able to discern how that person is feeling simply by looking at their body. When someone moves slower than normal or seems to look less vital than usual, it might illicit a question from you asking if they are OK? If their lips are pinched or their brow furrowed you might ask if they are worried or agitated about something. This type of awareness is familiar to most of us. When someone does not recognise the signs that another person is upset and interacts with them without regard for their feelings, you might be surprised or incredulous at their apparent insensitivity. Perhaps instead it is simply a lack of awareness of these cues that might require some training and practice.

A Two- Way Mirror

This mirror between mind and body is actually two- way. The actions of the body can be used to affect the mind. We know how much better we feel in our mind after some light exercise. Just the way you hold yourself can affect your mood. Research with MBA students showed that interviewees performed better when they sat straight (perhaps having a conversation with another person or doing some mindfulness activity) or moved around (standing, walking or using “power poses”) before the interview compared to sitting slouched (such as looking at their mobile phone or “weak poses”).

Martial arts students always say they feel more focused, confident and positive after the session, even one that is not very physical, just for some light movement and holding themselves in a more upright and confident way. This is not unique to martial arts. This is something we feel after a walk in the country or taking the dog out, a trip to the gym or a swim in a lake. It is the feedback the body is sending the brain that makes the mind feel more calm, focused, revitalised and confident.

Ways in which the body affects the mind

It is with this knowledge that we can use the body to purposefully affect the mind so that we have a mindset of focus, confidence and relaxation. Here are some ideas:

  1. Regular exercise

    Physical activity relaxes and focuses the system of the body so that we can be more productive and creative personally and professionally.

  2. Reduce artificial stimulation

    When we feel tired and lethargic we often reach for the high caffeine drinks and the high sugar and fat foods to get us through the day. This momentarily stimulates the body and mind but quickly leads to a crash. Being more organised about food through the day means you can take snacks that better fuel the body in a healthy way. For more information go here.

  3. Rest more

    Mind and body do not want to be stimulated all day, every day. They need rest to recharge. When your body is telling you it is tired, please listen and schedule some R & R into your week. Rather than struggle on regardless, take some time as appropriate and rest up. Have you noticed how you get ill after a long bout of late nights and early mornings? Your body battles through for you but the lack of rest and continued stress lowers your immune system and you become unwell. Ignore this long term and it may become more severe.

  4. Avoid continual stress

    Short- term stress is an essential part of our lives and our bodies respond well to it. However, continued stress without much let up has all kinds of negative effects on mind and body, including inattention, health issues, lack of productivity and effectiveness etc.

  5. Being aware of how you stand and hold your posture can have a huge affect on how you feel

    Long hours spent still and slouched over a computer, TV, books and meals leave the muscles tight, the breathing shallow and the body generally operating below par. This often leads to feeling lethargic, being unmotivated and reducing productivity and engagement or unnatural stimulation. Regular movement and better posture throughout the day lead to more energy, greater motivation, productivity and engagement because the body and mind are more active as a consequence of this two- way mirror.

How the body controls the mind

It is to this final point that I would like to focus lastly. Use this two- way mirror to control your mood. A confident posture creates a confident mindset and so you are able to portray a confident demeanor. Exciting the body through fast movement excites the mind as well, conveying a vitality that is attractive and engaging. Sitting still with strong posture makes the mind calm, making you more receptive to what is going on around you.

What do you need to convey to make this meeting go well or get the results you want from an interaction? Do the people around you need you to be confident, a leader, a listener, a joker or a guide? What does a situation require of you? Once you know that, then you can use your body to help you achieve the correct mindset. Communicate this to yourself through your body and your mind will follow suit. Not only that, the people around you will also feel what you are trying to convey and that can be invaluable in the many roles you play in your life.

This is one of many tools I use with clients to help with confidence, awareness and relaxation. I also cover this and many more during my Moving Meditation Courses. Please e- mail me at david@potentialitycoaching.co.uk to learn about future courses.  We can also discuss how we can work together to build your confidence from the inside out. Click here to find out about and book tickets for future Moving Meditation Courses.

Over to You

What do you notice about your breathing when you are relaxed and stressed? Do you find you experience shortness of breath? How do you control your mind and body when you’re in a stressful situation? I’d love to hear from you and learn about how you use your breath.

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