Mindset, Skillset and the Body

As a foundation of our work together Neil and I focus on two principles, mindset and skillset.

Mindset is our belief systems, mental models, world view, personal narratives and stories.  Many times mindsets can be hidden or unconscious; ‘it is just my way of doing things,’ ‘that’s just how I am’. What has been known for a long time and is recently being confirmed by science is that ‘just the way’ you are can be shifted through practice.

In comes skillset. Many of us have attended numerous training’s to help us get better at management, parenting, relationships, etc. These training’s offer us different ways of interacting to build upon the skills we already have and help us ‘do’ relationships better.

Often times new ways of doing relationships can bring welcome relief to both ourselves and our partners. Yet the challenge lies in situations, or a series of situations, that bring us to our boiling point when we revert back to our baseline skillset which was learned through our early experiences in life and is based on our perception of ourselves or our mindset. Everybody with me?

We have all heard the expression “poker face.” This is an interesting phrase in language because the description combines both a mindset and a skillset in the context of the physical body. For someone to have a poker face they have to possess a practiced resolve about not revealing their inner world. This resolve comes about through experiences within our lifetime that has shaped this mindset. If it were simply a skill a poker face would be hard to uphold moment to moment. I can have a poker face for about 30 seconds, clearly I need to practice; whereas a friend of mine can keep a poker face indefinitely. Early shaping of our experience and practice has honed these skills.

Mindset and skillset also lie within the body. Using the poker face metaphor, most of us can come up with what that face and body may look like: expressionless, unchanging, rigid, or if they are really good can be full of expression yet hiding their inner motives. As someone experiencing this person we feel a sense of wonder, many things are left up to interpretation and depending on our mindset, quite extravagant stories can be built that take up our time and energy. We can also feel a sense of incongruence with what the person says, ‘I like that …’ and how we perceive them, ‘they don’t look like they like that …’

This is where practice comes in, say we want to shift our ability to remain calm in the face of pressure which can be stress from work, demands from our partner and children, or for example, the Holiday season. In a sense we want to develop a skillful poker face, external presentation, that matches a sense of inner calm, resulting in an external perception of congruence. In order to achieve this we decide to meditate every day for 15 minutes for one month and see if there is a shift: we begin developing a skill set to overcome our challenge. As we progress in our practice we notice a subtle shift in our ability to remain calm, situations that would have angered us before we calmly navigate. We begin to sense that we have overcome our challenge. Then a particularly tough day occurs and we find ourselves, despite our practice, right back where we were before.  What happened?

Our brain basically has three layers, Paul MacLean calls it the Triune Brain. The first layer to develop was our reptilian brain, our ability to move instantly into fight or flight, regulate breathing and body temperature and digest our food; thankfully this part of our brain operates below our level of consciousness. The second layer to develop was our limbic brain, our ability to sense connection, build a mother child bond, community, choose a mate, this part of our brain also operates under our level of consciousness but can be influenced by complex thought. The final layer to develop was our neocortex, or ability for complex thought and language.

When we are learning a new skill set we are using our neocortex. We read or attend a coaching session or training and learn new skills. We then begin to apply what we learned and sense that people around us like or dislike the change in us, our limbic brain. Say we sense they like it and we keep practicing. We get pretty used to our new behavior but something happens and we react, the trigger can vary depending on our past historical experiences. At this point, we have been hijacked and no amount of thinking from our neocortex or connection from our limbic brain is going to stop this train. We are off for about 19 minutes, so science says, and depending on our learned patterns, we could stay triggered a lot longer.

Neil and I believe that the value behind the work we do in our workshops, one-on-one coaching and consulting is that we tap into all levels of the brain and begin to work with the deepest level of mindset and our primary learned skillset. When we can identify these unconscious ways of being in the world, value and utilize their benefit and allow ourselves to actually speak what we truly desire, with help we can alight a path toward our goals that though practice overtime will become a new mindset and skillset. Come invite perspective, discover your underlying motivations, and take a firm step on the path to a calm and fulfilling future.

Cabbage: An overlooked delight

Over the years of my life, cabbage has gotten bad rap. Mostly because it has probably been poorly cooked, and at one time necessarily over used.

In the past few years’ cabbage has been a staple of mine; raw, fermented and cooked. I love the flavor and versatility as well as its hardiness. It is a vegetable that grows, well survives, all winter long in temperatures that hover around 40 degrees only to continue its life cycle producing amazing heads first thing in the spring. It also lasts further into the year than other more delicate vegetables, allowing me to harvest it in November and even later in some years. It has amazing healthful properties foremost providing our bodies with roughage which cleanses our intestines preventing colon cancers. As well as being full of vitamins and mineral such as vitamin C, A and B1 and the minerals calcium, potassium and phosphorus as well as helpful amino acids. Cabbage helps in detoxifying the body and has anti-inflammatory properties which are helpful for those with arthritis!
Here is a recipe that takes few tools and makes for an easy breakfast.

Steamed and Sautéed Cabbage
Half a head of green cabbage (I like savoyed or curly leaf varieties)
Half a head of red cabbage

  • Slice heads of cabbage in to thin ¼ to ½ inch wide shears.
  • Place as much as will fit into a steamer basket, cover and steam for 5 minutes give or take depending on your desire for the cabbage to be soft or crunchy!
  • Let cool. Then place steamed cabbage in a sealed container in the fridge. Cabbage will keep for about 4 days.
  • In the morning, pull out your already steamed cabbage,
  • Set a sauté pan on the stove over medium high heat.
  • Add olive oil and then toss in a handful or two of red and green cabbage along with a pinch or two of sea salt. Sauté until cabbage is seared in spots.
  • Serve with an egg over easy on top of the cabbage and voila! a healthy, easy morning treat!

For more information on cabbage, try this link: http://www.herbs2000.com/herbs/herbs_cabbage.htm

Cycles: Strengthen your internal wisdom

We all know that being a bold risk taker whether in the mountains or the meeting room is not simply a function of the mind. The body and mind work together, one encouraging the other. I know when I go out to climb a hard route, I encourage myself to go for it my body seems prepared but my mind doubts me. In the workplace it can be quite the opposite for me; my body is all in knots yet if I just settle myself my mind takes me where I/we need to go.

When I discovered Somatics and the idea that the mind and body work in tandem at all times, I knew I had found something truly remarkable, a theory I had been searching for to blend my understanding of physical adventures with my mental pursuits. The combination felt right.

Our scientific knowledge of the body and mind connection is in its infancy yet the consciousness of this connection has been around since man began to have language and most likely before. Originally we learned through our senses, we smelled the air, we used our eyesight to notice discrepancies in the landscape, we used our hearing to decipher sounds, our sense of touch and our feeling sense to tell us when things were in or out of balance. If we had not relied on our senses we may not have survived as a species; we would be extinct.

Culturally, we now mostly use our mind. We have up to date information available 24/7 at our fingertips to tell us the climate of our world: weather, economic, political, financial, etc. We can take a survey that tells us whether we are an optimist or a pessimist, a good lover or not, if we are mentally and physically in or out of balance and even our weight to fat ratio! We have learned to rely externally on information that can be ascertained internally, if we could only remember how. We have gotten away from knowing what feels right to us, from knowing what we want, as the world out there is always trying to tell us and we are listening. It is safe to say, though we know we have gut feelings, we have gotten away from being able to use them in anything but the most desperate circumstances.

My quest has been to rediscover and make more solid my internal voice through the study of how my body and mind work in conjunction, how they collude to keep me safe and moving forward and to bring consciousness to the efficiency and effectiveness of that process. Through unpacking my patterns of behavior, and connecting those to sensations and postures in my body, as well as updating my practices, things most of us do already, I have come to understand, what early man understood unconsciously, that our moods, the world, our mind, anything living and of nature, move in oscillating patterns. There are times when I am up and full and there are times that I am down and feel empty.

Currently I am in a down pattern. I have had the flu, first clue that a down cycle is inevitable. I am not able to perform at my usual fast and valued pace, mostly valued by me but others benefit as well. Second, Neil and I have been evaluating our choices on school for the kids, where we have spent, currently spend and will spend our precious earnings: investments in future school or current school, investments in general for our future. We are aging and there will come a time where our health costs will become much more burdensome. Do we prepare for this now or wait a little, how much time do we have?

All of these questions are not foreign to many of you. They are not to us either, yet as we age they become more poignant, more real. If I can know intellectually that I am in a cycle and allow myself to feel all of the emotions of the down cycle and be patient with the return of the counter balancing phase, then I can strengthen this inner voice and physiological knowledge that we live in a world of cycles. We live with the need to tend to both the intellect and the body, both the up and the down; we have to hold both in order to be in balance. To hold both for as long as it takes to cycle through and not let anxiety get the better of us, we build our capacity for adversity and become wise of body and mind.

I encourage you to take time to see the cycles in nature, your lives, the moods of your children, the cycles of relationship, discussion, business, sleep, hunger and many more. Our culture requires us to live in our mind and intellect yet we are run internally by cycles. To be able to understand this, see the cycles and weather the down times is learning how to be in our body and mind wisdom, or our Somatic intelligence. Come and invite perspective, delve into the wisdom available to you, inside you, 24/7.

Citrus Maple Granola from Everyday Raw by Matthew Kenney

This recipe is delicious. It is also a wonderful, protien filled way for kids and parents to eat breakfast. Serve with some fresh nut milk. Recipe to follow in a few days…

After all of you effort of making and dehydrating and storing, try not to be frustrated when you blink and the granola is gone! At least this is what happened in my house! Just begin again. Consider it a meditation!

Citrus Maple Granola
¾ c maple syrup
1 apple, peeled, cored and chopped
2 ¼ tsp vanilla extract
2 ¼ tsp cinnamon
¾ tsp sea salt
2 tbs fresh orange juice
1 tbs orange zest
1 tbs lemon zest
1 ½ cup almonds, soaked 6 – 8 hours
1 ½ c walnuts, soaked 6 – 8 ours
1 ½ c pecans, soaked 6 – 8 hours
1 cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup raisins, soaked for a little while
1 cup dried cranberries, soaked for a little while

Mix maple syrup, apple, vanilla, cinnamon, sea salt, orange juice, and orange and lemon zests in a food processor until chunky. The mixture should be in very small pieces but not pureed. Pour into a large bowl. Set aside. Grind nuts in food processor until chunky. Add to bowl. Stir in pumpkin seeds, raisins, and cranberries. Mix all ingredients until very well combined. Crumble into larger pieces on a dehydrator screen or onto parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Dehydrate at 115 degrees for 36 to 48 hours, or until crunchy. Dehydrate in the oven on the lowest temperature you oven will stay at. My oven goes as low as 170 degrees. You will have to check the granola more frequently if you use the oven, to make sure you do not overcook!

Arthritis! The body can change the practices

As many of you know, since the beginning of this summer, I have been trying to figure out the cause of some acute arthritic pain in my hips, back, upper chest, wrist and left shoulder. My father has progressed Ankolosing Spondylitis, or AS, an inflammatory auto immune disease where your body attacks the soft tissue of your joints, which is painful due to the inflammation, and then the joints, burdened by being constantly attacked, eventually harden into bone. This is the simplified version. It is also known as bamboo spine disease, as your spine in x-rays resembles a shaft of bamboo. I have tested positive for the gene HLA-B27, which predisposes me to this auto immune disease. As the pain worsened and moving became more challenging, I was frightened, decided I needed help and went to see a rheumatologist, an arthritis doctor. I felt so old. Not only was I moving like and old person and had aches and pains like one, I could also no longer manage my own health, a point of pride for me.

I left Steve Overman at the Seattle Arthritis Clinic with lots of great information and support, a suggestion to contact a nutritionist for advice, a gold star for staying active and a prescription for prednisone and Meloxicam! I respect the power of modern medicine and the last thing I wanted to do was take it, especially for potentially the rest of my life! It was suggested that I try meloxicam to see if it had an impact on the inflammation. It did. I took the meds and I felt great, but I also felt sick to my stomach frequently and stopped taking the medication. One of the downfalls of NSAIDS is they irritate the lining of the esophagus and stomach. Once I stopped taking the meds my stomach upset went away. It was clear to me that this was not a long term solution!

My father, being well versed in the medication used to treat AS warned me about the dangers of steroids as well as how great one feels when they work. I was determined to use this only as a last ditch effort. I had heard about the benefit of cutting out starches, specifically grains and grasses, but was very resistant to shifting my diet. Did I say very resistant, well I mean it! We have been gluten free for three years now and Neil has many other food sensitivities. What we eat was already severely limited, no wheat pasta or bread for dinner among other things, I hesitated to cut out rice, quinoa, beans and lentils, which were staples of our diet. I felt righteous indignation that I was already doing so much I did not want to cut starches.

In late September, the straw finally broke the stubborn camel’s back. I could handle the back pain, the shoulder and chest pain, the wrist pain and the hip pain, but I could not handle plantar fasciitis! I knew people who have had this but could not really understand their plight until I was in pain with every step! I could not run because of my back, and now I could not even go for a short walk without the pain getting worse. Climbing at the gym was becoming difficult with the shoulder, chest and back pain. Swimming was even becoming challenging. If staying active is the key to living with arthritis and I did not want to take meds, how was I going to survive?

One day, I woke up and decided that it was time. Not sure what prompted the shift, probably time passed and softened the blow or I got a boost of accountability, but I stopped eating grains, grasses and legumes. Pretty much overnight my pain subsided to merely achy in some spots. My chronic wrist pain went away, as did my weird pain on a point on my shoulder and chest. My back felt less stiff and my hips moved more easily. I had no idea not eating starches could be so profoundly impactful on the way I felt. The added benefit to not eating starches is I stay thin, not that I was large before but think about it, starch is in all the treat foods. As well as giving up starch, I also gave up other inflammatory substances such as dairy and sugar. That pretty much cuts out all the treats except for Molly Moon’s Vegan Coconut Chunk ice cream, yum!!!

I have turned from a person who very rarely at meat, to eating carnivorously at least once per day. Eggs comprise much of my protein sources these days as does fish and chicken. Boy do I miss lentils and beans, but I sure don’t miss the pain! Turns out many people follow this diet. It is called eating Paleo, meats and vegetables with no grain, sugar of dairy. I had heard about the Paleo diet from a friend years ago but gave it no heed since I did not eat that much meat, at the time eating that way seemed inaccessible. Now I am all about figuring out how to get my hands on some Paleo scones and learn new ways to make foods that remind me of my old diet but do not impact my body negatively!

Here is a list of my main foods these days. Check my blog for some recipes in the coming days!

WATER!!!!! – this is the key ingredient to all inflammatory issues, whether you simply have an achy knee or hip, to acute, chronic arthritis, drink at minimum 5 pints (32 oz times 5 equals 8 – 8 oz glasses) of water per day and you will feel limber, awake and fluid!

Cabbage – I eat it every day. I steam it ahead of time, store it in the fridge and then sauté it until parts are a little crispy. Serve with an egg! Yum!

Eggs – hard boiled, fried, scrambled, you name it!

Corn tortillas – for me corn is OK. But my usage is infrequent, maybe once or twice per week.

Kale – lots of it. Very filling and nutritious.

Nut cereals – I have been making raw nut cereal that is really good and quick when I am hungry in a pinch.

Hazelnut milk – homemade at least once per week. I can still have coffee. Now I have hazelnut milk lattes, yum!

Coconut nectar bars – processed food but great again in a pinch or on the ski slope. Grain free bar sweetened with coconut sugar and covered in chocolate.

That’s all for now. Keep an eye out for recipes. If you have questions, invite perspective. I am happy to share what I know!

Either way its about control

Lately, I have been pondering the idea of control. It seems to me that we can either be controlled by our world, in that we feel we have no choice over our physical reactions, emotions and thoughts. Or control what we practice, in order to understand how our thoughts, emotions and actions shape how we engage in opportunity, partnership, conflict, and risk and possibly make different choices or a least have the power to choose.

We live in a world that is highly structured. We live on this planet, a boundary of space, within a country, a state, a city, a neighborhood, in a shelter and we have a schedule that we live within. Even if we have a day free or a week or feel as though our life is free, we still live within these boundaries. We have also been shaped over our lifetime through our experiences which affords us with different outlooks, some of which may be expansive and some limiting.

At various points in our development as humans we see that this boundary of thought, emotion and physical action constructed from our experiences is finite and that many other ways of interacting with the world are possible. When we have one of these periods, we tend to examine how we are in the world. Depending on our shaping we react in different ways: we can get down on ourselves for not being different or having seen this perspective sooner, reify our way of being in the world as right or get curious.

In order to get curious and assure that we are in control of our experiences instead of being controlled try the following suggestions. Begin by waking up the internal observer. Most of the time the observer is active and usually is telling us all the things we are doing wrong!  This clearly does not support our future of control for the sake of choice! Therefore we need to retrain the observer.  A proven method for retraining is to meditate to know our pattern of thoughts. Another assured practice is to get feedback to understand how we impact others. For the self, become extra observant of the subtleties of experience in various situations, ones considered easy and others considered more challenging: note feelings, thoughts, sensations (hot, cold, stomach churning, butterflies, headache, etc.). Over a period of time we will begin to notice similarities between situations and reactions. Then the time comes to decide if this is the way we want to be and if change in eminent, put together a plan for a shift.

What could be possible if you were the one calling the shots in your life? What adventures would you engage in? Unknown possibilities exist in your future, invite perspective, and take control.