A Time to Work…and a Time to Relax

Deric stockton’s amazing demonstration


It’s Friday, will you find some time to relax during the weekend? Check out Deric’s amazing demonstration and reflect on Andrea’s 2014 call for relaxation in her article A time to Work…and a Time to Relax.

By Andrea Chilcote

Once again, my friend and coach Dana Sterling, a therapeutic movement facilitator, offered a simple yet profound lesson that links body, mind and spirit.

Want to feel better? When at rest, rest. When you need to work, expend the energy. Contract your muscles, (mental or physical) deliberately and intentionally.

Go ahead. Because if you don’t, your mind will tell you that a state of relaxation is risky … that it leaves you unprepared, unarmed for what life may bring.

Yet in fact, our ability to relax is as essential to functioning as is our ability to engage.

When you sleep, do you really rest? Or do you wake or rise stiff and unsteady? When you deal with stress (the usual stress of life) does it linger, and extend into the next moment and then the next? Do you confuse a state of readiness, which is found in relaxation, with a state of tension?

I know I do. And Deric Stockton’s amazing demonstration has given me pause. Pause, yes. Relax.

 

 

You’re the Only Self You’ve Got

by Andrea Chilcote

You're the Only Self You've Got

“How are you?” My Pilates instructor, Dana, asked. “I’m angry with my body,” I replied.

For five years I’ve been dedicated to a somewhat unconventional practice for managing the issue of my back. I’ve been committed, using a combination of prescribed stretches, Pilates and other exercises that have quite literally changed my life. Before finding this process, I had poor posture, bad sitting, standing and walking habits, and always had at least some pain.

Lately I’ve been slipping. I’ve been busy, traveling a lot and not making the time I know I need to dedicate to this practice.

After stating that I was angry, I went on to complain about how little time I had and how frustrated I was that maintaining the healthy state I had achieved still took so much work. Why couldn’t I have just been born with an easy body that didn’t require so much maintenance?

I picked the wrong person to whine to, at least if I was looking for sympathy. Dana knows me well. She asked me to consider that perhaps not making time for the exercise that improves my quality of life might just be an indication that I wasn’t making the time to care for myself.

She was right, and I knew what I had to do. But I left there that day still angry with my body.

I went home with resolve to repair my current ache through diligently practicing my exercises. As I lay on the floor stretching my right hamstring, I suddenly thought, “This is silly. How could I be angry with my body?” It’s just a body, not a being with conscious intent. That would be like feeling anger at my car because it wouldn’t start.

I know I’m not my body. My body is a vehicle I manage, and it was me I was angry with; angry for not making the time to care for myself in a way that’s loving and forgiving of its physical flaws.

Still, I had judgment. Self-judgment that here I am, writing as I often do that a loving and kind relationship with ourselves is a prerequisite for the same with others, and not walking the talk.

That night, one of the huskies helped me see the lesson, and helped me take a gentler stance.

While making dinner, I accidentally stepped on Heather’s paw. She jumped, began to slightly bare her teeth, and then softened. I embraced her, and she cuddled into my arms. In the five months she’s been with us, she has been working to outgrow a fear response to pain from the abuse she suffered. I was struck by her progress as I recalled the first weeks with her. I saw it as just a residual shadow, but indicative of a long process of letting go of what appears like a reflex response. At once, I knew the same was true for me.

When life gets busy and demands for my time are heightened, I can forget to take care of myself. It’s a reflex response like Heather’s. And like hers, it’s dissipating over time. Like hers, it responds best to love and kindness.

I feel qualified to repeat the advice I’ve offered before. Care for yourself. You’re the only self you’ve got.

_____

This post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger. Enjoy it!

Give Your Mind a Vacation

by Andrea Chilcote

The following post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger. This summer, followers of this blog will enjoy bi-weekly archived posts that have appeared on The Spirited Woman but never before on this site. 

“Your body hears everything your mind says,” a Facebook post advised. “Stay positive.”

I would add “stay present,” because the negative messages our minds concoct usually consist of habitual thoughts rooted in the past acting as dire projections onto the future, and they simply don’t exist in the present. Presence is awareness, and awareness can literally determine life or death.

Regular readers know I work very hard at staying present. I got another up-close illustration of just how important it is.

It’s June in Arizona. It’s very hot. Rather than forego daily hikes with my beloved friends and dogs, we hit the trail at 4:45 in the morning, in order to avoid the sun and minimize the likelihood of meeting venomous snakes. The early start affords me a sort of walking meditation before beginning my day. Except yesterday.

I hike attached to my Husky, Kairos, by a skijoring line. While he’s young and still in training, he’s an amazing partner and, most of the time, I feel more steady on my feet because he’s there for balance should I trip. When I’m present (the only safe state of being attached to a powerful dog traversing treacherous desert terrain), I feel as stable as an old oak tree.

Yesterday morning, I was climbing up out of a canyon on a steep, rocky path when Kairos, walking ahead of me, did an about-face and proceeded back down the hill. I was jerked around as he passed me, and was forced into an out-of-control downhill run as his speed increased, screaming as I went.

I looked ahead and saw my friend, Beth, stopped at the bottom of the hill. She had trailed behind to reply to a text. Relieved, I reached to catch her shoulder, slowing my forward momentum just enough to gain control of my footsteps and my dog. We found our brakes and I took a breath.

“My body was stable enough, but my mind was terrified.” These were the first words out of my mouth. The minute I spoke them, I knew the truth. While dangerous, my body had managed the run but in those few seconds, my mind had imagined the worst possible accident, another dire projection into the future. My body knew the truth – one foot in front of the other will save the day. The scenario, from the moment Kairos turned until I gained control, represented the very real danger of being consumed by my thoughts, as well as the miracle of regaining awareness of my surroundings.

You might be wondering why my dog turned and ran uncharacteristically. There was a snake at the top of that hill. Kairos is trained to warn me and avoid them. I’d rather he not do so at Husky speed down a hill (and we will be working on that). While he learns to control his impulses, I’ll be working to model his keen awareness. For now I’m thankful he led me to safety, even though it was a harrowing run.

Back in the neighborhood, I remarked how important and yet how hard it is to stay aware, even in the pre-dawn hours before the stresses of the day pile on. Beth added that so many things we do, like driving cars and crossing busy streets require full awareness. Even so, we split our attention by indulging in thoughts or actions unrelated to the moment at hand. Our guardian angels must be very busy, because most of the time we get away with it.

What are you missing by indulging your mind over your senses? Consider giving your mind a vacation and letting your body guide you.

“When we are present, our bodies are the clearest indicators of our inner wisdom.”

–Sheppard Lake