May 9, 2014

6 Tools to Shift Your Day & Vitality. ~ Karen Zuckerman


‘Tis the season to strip layers, burst through cocoons and unfurl toward the sun.

Rubbing our eyes, we stretch from a long hibernation and squint at the brightness, raring to embrace new life and thrive.

But even when we’re ready we’re not always quite sure how to start. Sometimes we need a little boost, refresher or some new tools in the kit. Here are six:

1. Sleep some more.

Counter-intuitively, your bed is a great place to start feeling alive and vibrant upon waking from hibernation. Having trouble falling or staying asleep is prevalent everywhere, but in New York City where I live it’s an epidemic. Ambition, competition, pressure, overworking, over-partying and more-more-more keeps our nervous system stuck in the sympathetic state, also known as fight or flight—and wreaks havoc.

How I feel physically, emotionally and mentally is mainly dependent on how I’ve slept. Sleep is the one thing that tips the scales for me, hands down. Yes, food-as-medicine, bodywork, community and movement as well, but if I’ve been up an extra hour or two? Fuhgeddaboudit, as we say in the city that never sleeps.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, every organ is associated with an emotion, taste, season and more, including a two-hour period out of the 24-hour clock when its vital energy peaks. This can provide some clues. For example, If you consistently wake up between 3:00a.m. and 5:00a.m., this is the energetic peak for the lungs. Perhaps there’s an opportunity to examine your emotional life. The emotions connected to the lungs are grief and sadness. If you often sigh or feel sad, maybe working with full lung breaths could help in release.

2. Smile.

Recently, I expressed to a dear friend my love for meditation classes and my struggle with keeping a daily, personal practice. She lovingly pointed out the expectation I created—I had made it dependent on time I couldn’t find.

“How long is a thought?” she asked.

“A split second,” I replied.

“Exactly. So, take a deep breath before entering your daughter’s room. Or your studio. That’s where it starts.”

I was hooked.

“And in the morning, when you first wake up, smile.

Okay. That sounds nice.

That night I had trouble sleeping. My alarm blasted at six a.m. Not good. Then, in a split second (see?) I remembered: Smile. And it shifted. Instantly, the feeling of not enough crumbled away. It’s the simplest, most profound way to open the day.

3. Get soft.

I recently tried a habit-shifting postural technique. My instructor gently led me through standing and sitting, encouraging me to make changes by wishing them—really.

“I wish my neck were longer, I wish my ribs were more relaxed.”

Mindfully tune in. Something shifts. Don’t instruct, demand, manipulate or push. Soften. Your system picks up on your intention, starts to open up and blossom. Mindfulness is the key component. You must tune in to soften.

It’s similar to mindfulness meditation, sitting with eyes closed, tapping into an abundance of sensations. Like the gripping of toes you weren’t aware of. This process of softening eases tension, calms the nervous system, helps us to pick up on holding patterns and weaves throughout your life. You’ll notice the details. You’ll change how you respond to things and people and pain.

4. Get quiet.

During some of the movement explorations where I guide clients, we drop in random pauses. We get still. We listen. The tissue adapts, the nervous system responds and often something shows up. When you’re quiet, still, calm and acutely aware without noise or movement, you create space for something deep to surface.

What appears? It depends. Discomfort, release, unwinding, fear, memories, clarity, connection. Listening doesn’t work otherwise, to yourself or to others. When you stop for a moment or two or ten, answers arrive. They’re not always clear, but they’re messages. Your body, your nervous system, your heart, your instinct speaks.

5. Show up for yourself every day.

In her documentary Crazy Sexy Cancer, Kris Carr likens her illness to a full time job: “You are always at the office of healing.”

She received a diagnosis and chose life. I do not minimize her struggle—I acknowledge her choice to fight, to thrive, to experience joy and be present with herself.

Health is not the absence of illness. Even if you don’t live with illness or pain, you can show yourself love by showing up. Every single day. Make your self  your office. We can let that accountability be for our own health.

6. Put you first.

There’s a reason that “put your oxygen mask on first” is part of every flight attendant’s safety protocol. You simply can’t give or care for others or do your best if you’re depleted. You just can’t. At least not fully, with the love and energy required.

Fill your well, dear one. It is anything but selfish. The fuller, healthier, more whole and complete we are, the more we can give to others—to family, friends, work, the world. Take care of you. Then spread it.

More tools equal more opportunity for growth and wellness. But start slow. They’re simple but not easy. It’s all about giving ourselves attention, and small moments which lead to ease, stamina and vigor.

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 Apprentice Editor: Lauren Savory / Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: © Socrates | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

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