Move—Pray—Create—Sing—Love

There are essential acts and states of consciousness which we can identify and use to create a foundation to help us ground, grow, connect and thrive in both good times and times of stress (like during COVID-19). 

I’ve boiled down the essential structure of safety and aliveness into the following seven areas. 

Move. Connect with your body. 

  • What: Exercise, do yoga, stretch, walk, hike, garden, dance. 
  • Why: Movement connects you to your body, flushes out stress-hormones, and replenishes you with feel-good hormones.  

Learn. Connect with your mind. 

  • What: Read, listen to inspirational or humorous podcasts, listen to a PBS history documentary, listen to interesting audio books, ask someone to teach you how to do something, exchange recipes with friends and try them out, find out how to make something on YouTube (I learned I could make a foamy latte at home by pumping heated milk up and down inside my French Press!) 
  • Why: Learning engages and balances the brain. You can’t be scared and curious at the same time, they are two different brain functions and two different parts of the brain. Learning helps you feel alive and helps you feel safer. 

Mindfulness. Connect your mind with your heart. 

  • What: Listen to meditation apps like Calm, use your sitting practice, listen to calming music, especially music with no language, or a language other than your own and let the music take you somewhere. 
  • Why: Practicing mindfulness creates and grows new neural circuits that help you return to, and live from, your Wise Self. You learn and embody resiliency, wider perspectives, compassion including self-compassion, and curiosity.  

Gratefulness. Connect with your heart.  

  • What: Sit, stretch and yawn, bring to mind something of beauty, kindness, appreciation, “take the elevator down” from your head to your heart, feel the gratefulness as a feeling, even putting your hand on your heart to really help you move from your thoughts to present sensations. 
  • Why: There are neurons in your heart as well as your brain. A lot of them! A felt, embodied sense of gratefulness helps us move from busy left brain, to more embodied, more compassionate right brain, balances all brain functions, flushes out stress hormones, turns on feel good-hormones, and calms and grounds us. 

Play. Connect with your creativity. 

  • What: Play a board game, learn how to sing a song, bake something you’ve never baked before, play a word game with your child, paint, draw, sketch, make a collage from magazine pictures and scraps, journal, do a puzzle, make a playlist and listen to music, make a silly video for Facebook! 
  • Why: You can’t be afraid and playful at the same time. If you allow yourself to play, you bring your brain back into balance. Allowing yourself to be creative actually helps you thrive and grow! 

Connect/Love. Connect yourself with your self, family, pets, friends, and the planet. 

  • What: Talk with friends and loved ones, pet the cat, walk the dog, snuggle, make a phone call, talk with someone far away on Skype, send a heartfelt or humorous email. 
  • Why: Love is the ultimate brain-balancer. A loving act given, received, or witnessed, helps us to let go of stress and bring in goodness, brings us out of busy thoughts into a more holistic way of being, and allows us to have compassion and gratitude for self and others. 

Nature. Connect with the planet. 

  • What: Watch the clouds pass by, listen to the wind in the trees, hear the birds, bring in flowers from your garden.  
  • Why: Connecting with nature is connecting with a force that is larger than oneself, and helps stimulate wonder, awe, appreciation, and fun. It helps us feel both our uniqueness and how our uniqueness is one small and beauteous expression of the larger, mysterious expression that is life itself. Awe balances the brain and inspires hope, peace and life force. 

Play with the bolded words to come up with your own words and activities to make your unique foundation.  

For example, this particular blog arose out of the following exercise. I was feeling overwhelmed with many projects, and I wanted to end each day feeling a sense of completion and refreshment. I decided to make a foundation by boiling down into the shortest words possible those acts and attitudes essential for a day to be fully satisfying for me. I came up with: Move—Pray—Create—Sing—Love and put them up on a little strip of paper on my fridge. Even if I don’t “get it all done” I can rest in the structure. It’s not about doing it all, it’s about feeling the structure. It simplifies things, because I can invite myself into what I know is helpful. 

  • For me that means Moving my body with stretching and yoga, and walks outside in Nature to expand my consciousness. 
  • Engaging my Mindfulness and Gratefulness practices. 
  • Learning and Playing through practicing singing, writing songs, and working on my novel (I’m a singer-songwriter and writer). 
  • Opening my heart to my partner, myself and others in acts of giving and receiving Love.

Gratefulness Reset Button Exercise for Calm

You can do this anywhere, anytime. Gratefulness and appreciation of things like beauty, nature and witnessed or received acts of kindness switch our neural circuits. It’s like changing the channel on the radio from a dire news story to a meditative talk or music channel. This simple exercise flushes out the stress hormones and chemicals produced from fight-fight-freeze responses, and engages our parasympathetic nervous system to produce feel-good hormones and chemicals that help regulate us. A few moments of doing this exercise can really facilitate a shift. Making it a regular practice helps it be an important tool in your toolkit of wellbeing.

  • Stretch your hands over your head and yawn and sigh aloud—this primes the pump of the right brain. 
  • Feel the little flow-and-glow of the stretch and yawn. 
  • Sit comfortably, neither slouching nor trying to sit up straight: find your sitsbones, let your spine rise from your pelvic bowl, allow your head to float on top of your spine. It’s okay to use the back of the chair to lean on, (just don’t slouch as slouching compresses your chest cavity and breath, which makes your brain start to be fearful as it isn’t getting enough oxygen). 
  • Breathe in your nose and out your mouth three times. On the outbreath make an audible sigh (ie, make a sound)—Ahhh. Making a sound when you sigh automatically signals your parasympathetic (calm down) nervous system that you are safe and allows it to produce the feel-good chemicals. 
  • Now bring to mind any of the following: a scene of beauty; an act of kindness you witnessed or received; the face of someone who cares about you (an easy person, not one you are having any difficulty with—the easier, the better), something lovely in nature.
  • Let yourself feel appreciation for this scene or person. 
  • “Take the elevator down”—bring the beautiful sunset, the caring face, down into your chest and notice the sensations in your chest that accompany the sunset, the care, the kindness. Pay especial attention to any of the following: softening, spaciousness, slowing, flow. 
  • If you want, you can put your hand on your heart and feel what happens with that. 
  • Notice who is feeling grateful—this is your True Self. 
  • Thank whatever is beautiful and kind; thank yourself for participating. Notice what this thanking brings.

If you’d like to hear some calming and inspiring music, please check out my original trance-ambient-world music album that is up for an award. This is my Blue Lilah project and the album is Medicine Songs, find it here:

Simple Grounding Exercise

Comfortably seated, close your eyes and wiggle your sitsbones. Now imagine your feet on grassy earth. Breathe deep. Let go with a sigh. ⁣

Inwardly track your body for a pleasurable sensation—the chair supporting your back, the feel of the cloth of your pants on your hands, the warmth or coolness of your breath. Say, “Hello! There’s you!”⁣

Now track your body and find an ache and just be with it. Say to the ache in as friendly a way as you can muster, “Hello! There you are!” Remember the earth is turning, and that tomorrow will bring something different. ⁣

Lastly, track your body for an unknown place, somewhere you usually aren’t aware of, a mystery. Greet that place, “Oh hello! There’s you!”⁣

Take a deep breath, and enjoy your breath.⁣

You Matter

 

 

You matter. You have always mattered. Let the dust settle that contains all the reasons you thought you didn’t matter. Ah!–there is your gem self! Welcome home, my love, welcome home. 

Here’s a self-friendly compassionate perspective to help you shift:

  • My clients are wonderful-hearted people who can be so very tough on themselves because they still believe the “error” messages they got ten, twenty, fifty years ago. As kids, one of the most hurtful things that can happen to us is when the important adults in our lives don’t explain to us what is going on in difficult situations. As a child we get confused and start to believe things like “I don’t matter,” “There’s something wrong with me,” “If they find out who I really am they won’t like me.”  
  • Meanwhile, what’s really going on with the adults are things that are totally out of kids’ control, like parents being mean, rageful, distant, anxious, having affairs, depression, being neglectful, losing a job, reacting to a death in the family, illness, parents having unhealthy relationship patterns, and being abusive emotionally, physically, or sexually to their kids.
  • Our internal critics–the “tapes,” the peanut gallery, the mean voices–these critics all got “hired” by you as a kid when the only way to make sense of a hurtful situation was to start believing these “error” messages. Kids can’t handle not understanding a difficult situation, and in the absence of a grounded adult offering help, support and understanding about life’s difficulties and especially taking responsibility for their actions as caregivers, kids have to make some kind of meaning in order to stay sane. If an adult isn’t there to take responsibility and explain to their child what is going on, then what all kids do is to take the blame onto themselves and begin to believe that there is something wrong with them. That’s just how the psychology of children works. Kids have to make some kind of sense of things in order to stay sane, and even if it’s the wrong message that’s better than no message at all. Because to not have anything make sense on the one hand, or on the other hand to clearly realize that a parent is out of control somehow, that would be utterly terrifying. In the bind of loving the person who is causing the hurt, kids blame themselves, not their caregivers. That’s when as a kid you began to point at yourself and started to believe you were not enough, didn’t matter, were faulted. At the time, you simply couldn’t afford to believe that parents or caregivers were being hurtful, or neglectful, or out of control, because that would be too frightening.
  • Here’s the good news. You can look at it this way–when your only option was to start believing the negative messages about yourself in order to survive, you also did something else really important: You put your Wise Self, your unique Gem, away on a shelf and you did this to keep yourself safe. Now is the time to let the dust settle and come home to who you have always been. It’s time to begin to take yourself off the shelf and be you!
  • Something that might sound odd at first but that really helps is to sit quietly and actually thank the negative voices. You might say something like, “You just don’t want me to get hurt, and that’s the only way you know how to do it. Thanks for trying to protect me.” This often brings some settling and calm. Then notice who is doing the thanking. That is your Wise Self, being generous to your kid and to the security team of negative thoughts that was the only option you had to deal with the pain. And when you are seated more in your Wise Self, and in the self-compassion and generosity to yourself, you start to come home to you and that just feels so much better!
  • Then give yourself a little hug, each hand on the opposite upper arm, squeeze, and breathe, 
  • Even if you feel the release for just two or three seconds, even if you begin to believe in yourself just one-hundreth of a percent, even if the voices come back three seconds later, that is enough! Congratulations, you have started to come home to You, to make a new neural connection which you can continue to build on as you discover yourself as an Amazing being.

Take-Anywhere, Awesome Reset Practice

The Body says:
I am a fiesta.  

-Eduardo Galeano 

Here’s an easy practice to press your reset button. It quickly gets your brain and body producing harmony-hormones instead of stress-hormones. 

  • Take-Anywhere, Awesome Reset Practice:
  • Big stretch
  • Yawn
  • Sigh out loud with a sound, Ahhh
  • Follow the warmth, release, flow
  • Three breaths, in nose, out mouth with a sigh.
  • Enjoy the stillness.

Say you’ve been slumped over looking at your computer for several hours. Did you know that the brain reads posture like opening a software program! 

When you are slumped or hunched over, you literally can’t get a full breath: your lungs can’t fully expand because your ribs are contracted. The result is that blood flow—and thus the amount of oxygen delivered to your brain—is noticeably less. Here comes the software program part: 

Because there is less blood delivered to the brain, and thus less oxygen to the brain, the brain reads “less oxygen” as “threat.” The brain doesn’t know you are just sitting too long staring at a screen. Instead, it reads the less oxygen as threat and signals your organs to produce hormones that deal with threat, and you start to feel a vague background sense of unease. 

In order to wash the stress hormones out of your system and bring a brighter view of life back online try the following. You can do this seated at your desk: 

  • Stretch your arms up and arch your back 
  • Yawn—a big one—show your fillings!
  • Make an audible sigh while you sigh, a sound, ahhhhhh. Making this kind of actual sound signals to your nervous system the you are safe.
  • Follow the warmth, flow, release from the stretch and yawn. Savor these feelings, like you’d savor a bit of biscotti dipped in a latte. Sit with the pleasure a few moments.
  • Now slowly breathe in your nose and out your mouth three times with an audible sigh on the out breath.
  • Lengthen yourself by “finding your sits bones”— wiggle your sits bones a few times, then let your spine rise from your pelvis, and sense your head floating naturally on top of your spine. It’s fine to use the back of the chair for light support. Don’t “sit up straight” as that is effortful. Instead find your sits bones and your body will naturally find peace with gravity.  
  • Finally, visualize something beautiful or remember a kind act you witnessed.
  • Then “take the elevator down” into your chest and let the felt sense of this fill you for a moment.

If you’d like some relaxing music, please check out my award-nominated Blue Lilah trance-ambient-worldmusic album Medicine Songs

Send You Love In The Morning

One of the first songs I ever wrote arrived in my heart and mind when I was on a wilderness quest in Death Valley many years ago. It’s called Send You Love. You can find the words below. I send you love this morning! Please remember you are a unique and amazing being. Let’s keep supporting one another during this challenging time.

  • Watch a short snippet of me singing Send You Love in a recent live performance here: WATCH HERE
  • Listen to the complete song on my first album Finally Home on Bandcamp
  • Explore my music website at kathleendunbar.com

 

Send You Love
By Kathleen Dunbar
Copyrighted by Kathleen Dunbar

Send you love in the morning
Send you love when you open your eyes
Send you love in the morning
Send you love when you open your eyes

Send you peace in the evening, my dear
Send you peace when you’re closing your eyes
Send you peace in the evening
Send you peace when you’re closing your eyes

Send you hope in the darkness
Send you hope when you are alone
Send you hope in the darkness
Send you hope to welcome you home

Send you joy in the spirit of love
Send you joy with arms spread out wide
Send you joy for you just as you are
Send you joy from all that’s alive

Send you love in the morning
Send you love when you open your eyes
Send you love in the morning
Send you love when you open your eyes

 

“At the Beach”–A Short, Easy and Refreshing Grounding Exercise You Can Do Anywhere!

At The Beach* 

*A variation is to go into the forest where a river is flowing nearby. 

  • Sit or lie comfortably in a quiet room. 
  • Let yourself softly breathe in and out several times. On the outbreath make a sighing sound. 
  • Now imagine yourself at your favorite beach. It could be a real beach you’ve visited, or an imaginary one. 
  • For this exercise, this is a beach where only you may go, so you have a lot of privacy. 
  • Begin to fill in the details of your experience: Feel the warm sand under your feet, or the cool pebbles if it is a shingle beach. See the immense sweep of the beach. What trees are there? What birds? What color is the water? Smell the salt air. Fill in all the details. 
  • Now especially listen for the pounding as the waves fall upon the beach and feel the reverberation in your bones. Hear the ssssst as the waves withdraw. Be with that rhythm, ever constant and ever varying. 
  • Now, give one layer of anything that you’d like to let go of to the outgoing tide. It could be a tension, an ache, a worry, a tightness. Just one little layer at a time. Don’t worry about trying to give it all away. Just give a little bit to the outgoing tide, knowing that the tide will take care of it. If a thought or worry returns, just give that next layer away also to the tide. Notice your experience as the layer leaves out, out, out to sea. 
  • As you let go of little layers, allow yourself to begin to notice yourself feeling more space for yourself or perhaps it is yummy softening. You might notice you are taking a bigger breath—savor the bigger breath and the spaciousness in your chest. You might notice the pleasant weight of your bones, the warmth of your breath, your feet on the ground. As you feel yourself slowing down and your mind empties, savor the quiet and the slowing pace. Let yourself take time with any relief, peace, spaciousness, weight of your bones, calmness, slowness. 
  • Notice in a playful way who is noticing—this is your True Self, your Home Base You. 
  • Thank the world for it’s beauty, and notice what that thanking brings. 
  • Thank yourself for allowing yourself to be with the beauty, and noticing what that thanking brings.