Last weeks post was about the nervous system. This part of your body is so vital for health and happiness that I want to offer five lesser-known practical ways for you to harness control and build a positive relationship to this system.
Moving your body in repetitive ways, like bouncing your knee or tapping your heel on the ground seems harmless, but it excites the nervous system and wastes energy. People might be advising you to burn calories through fidgeting. I don't recommend this. It teaches your nerves to be more hyperactive. Stillness not only conserves but increases your energy. (Seems counter intuitive, but it's true.) Just like putting gas in a car, you only have so much output each day. Believing you can zoom through life is a choice that disconnects you from your body and mind and causes you to choose habits that support the speed that you have grown accustomed too. Your choice to be more still while sitting at your desk, eating a meal, or watching a movie will help you feel embodied. "Keeping calm and carrying on" is not just a nifty catchphrase on t-shirts, it can be a way you choose to live your life.
I was at the Nissan dealer the other day. As the assistant was describing the services needed on my car he was talking at motor speedway pace. I honestly was having trouble keeping up with him. As much as I am aware that this is a well-rehearsed speech for him, I was equally aware of how tense is the body was. His neck, shoulders, and jaw were rigid, and his upper chest was moving quickly up and down with each breath he needed to gulp in. I could see his nerves were edgy. To avoid this unconscious habit, get clear on how you speak. Where do you feel your physical effort when talking? Do you feel any tension in your body? It's not slower speech that is required but more supportive breaths from the diaphragm. It is key to breath deeper into the belly so to intake sufficient oxygen to support your rate of speech.
An Actors Trick
There is a reason why yoga teachers ask your eyes to focus on one point when you are in a posture. It helps steady the mind and calms the body. Perhaps the best way to do this in daily life is to be conscious of your darting eyes when speaking to someone. To avoid this, I use a movie actor trick. When the camera is in a close-up on the actor, he or she is told to keep their eyes steady, to increase the impact of the moment. So they pick one eye to focus on. I have done this for years and comes naturally to me now. I find it helps calm and ground me down when communicating. Give it a try!
A Yogis Trick
Body alignment has a lot to do with feeling present and being calmer. An unconscious tendency is to draw the chin up beyond parallel and to jut the head forward, out of alignment with the spine. This is a more active position for the mind. It encourages more thinking, specifically about the future, since the mind is reaching forward. So here is a yoga trick. Practice drawing the head back and the chin slightly down. It should feel like you are elongating the neck, but not flattening the cervical curve. Next, draw your attention to the middle of your brain for about 30-60 seconds. (The midbrain is located roughly at the center point between the temples and a little inward.) That's it! This combo pack of shifting the body position and turning the mind inward will teach your senses to stay calm and carry on. Practice will make perfect.
Neutral gazing is a way to experience the world without being in a reactive mode. It encourages the observing mind to awaken. If you see something beautiful, offer that experience first to the body so you can perceive the sensations. This way of processing allows the thinking mind to remain at bay and leaves off the constant need to label the external world as a series of "good" or "not so good" events. This approach doesn't cut you off from experiencing life's highs and lows, but rather allows an open lens of observation to prevail so you can see without your ego in the way. If you practice this, your response to the question, "how was your day?" might take on a whole new meaning then.
I'd love to hear from you and learn which tip resonates with you the most. Email and let me know which one you will try to incorporate into your daily life.
Stay calm and carry on, JOE