Moving from ‘why’ to ‘what next?’

We are celebrating the July 4th Independence Day holiday this week. To our oneOeight tribe across the globe, may your summertime be unfolding with memory making adventures. New experiences offer amazing opportunities to open ourselves to move out of comfort zones into the possibilities. In the words of Mary Oliver: 

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

In scrolling through my social media feeds, the world seems so close with friends and mentors posting their “summer vacation” travels. Makes me smile and itchy to get moving; and remember some of my favorite destinations from summers past. Dreaming of the next location on the map….that bucket list refills with new dreams from near and far.

Here in Florida, our beaches beckon. It is NEVER to hot to go to the beach, put your toes in the sand and get salty from a splash in the sea! Or catch the sunset with the skies turning shades of pinks and purples. The dramatic afternoon thunderstorms leave everything wet and glistening and rainbows across the horizon. What are your favorite parts of summertime near to home?

I’ve been pondering quite often about how to shift from the “why” to the “what” in my own life and in my work. As often is the case, people ask me all the time “why” they are struggling with lifelong inner dilemmas. Most often, why they continue to relive or replay the painful past, reactivated in present time? Or why they keep finding themselves recycling the same relationship struggles, with another person, and another, and another. Most resoundingly, the struggle with oneself is the most confusing and infuriating to change. The fear of not changing is every bit as debilitating as the pain we survived already.

Take one step forward.

Yes, we must accept and understand that past experiences have shaped us. We are shaped by our earliest relational images and experiences; the imprint from our past resonates into the now. However, remember that human beings are hardwired for relationships. We are hardwired for connection with others. We change and grow and heal through our relationship experiences that truly help us learn new ways to care for self, and for others. Seek to accept we may never fully know “why” and that it really is okay! Turn to look forward, “what am I doing today that is one step in a new direction?” What, not why. 

What is one true thing that is a guiding light and force for hope?

What is one true thing that you know answers this question today: What went well?   

Just think of the first thing that comes to mind. It doesn’t have to be earth shattering. Just good enough to have gone well, good enough.   

What went well?

Ask yourself this every night as you end your day. Before you go to sleep. Receive that you are enough. Write down your: “what went well?” that day by your bedside.

Your body served your life today. Be kind to your one precious body that shows up for you. Rather than focus on what is wrong, or what isn’t what you want, thank your body, your heart, your spirit, your mind. Thank the painful places in your body. The scars, the tightness that never seems to release, the parts you cannot imagine accepting.    

Give yourself a long and gentle hug.   

This is one of my favorite simple asana poses. A very gentle twist, followed by crossing your arms across your body and hugging in close. Twist in the opposite direction, gently. Cross your arms across your body and embrace yourself in a deep, accepting hug. Hold and breathe. Hold for a minimum of 10 seconds. If you have others in your life to share the hug, even better. They get the benefits as well.

Psychotherapist Virginia Satir also famously said:2

“We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.”

A deep, relaxed hug lowers levels of stress hormones like cortisol. The vagus nerve gets activated and allows for an increase in oxytocin. Good vagal tone leads to a cascade of health benefits. When the sympathetic nervous system deactivates, our brain, body and psyche begin to move towards a more calm and restful state. This lowers heart rate, lowers stress, generally lowers blood pressure, fights fatigue, boosts the immune system, and eases symptoms of distress, anxiety and depressed mood. 

Maybe your “what” will be another loving hug for your body, heart and spirit.

Sending my dear oneOeight sangha a gentle embrace. 

Have a peace and joy filled July 4th!

Namaste,

Karen

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