Saturday, March 28, 2009

What's in a word? Warrior.

I love words. They are so telling.

Take, for instance, the word warrior, as described in my trusty online dictionary:
  1. a person engaged or experienced in warfare; soldier.
  2. a person who shows or has shown great vigor, courage or aggression, as in politics or athletics.
from website

I believe each of us, every day, is a spiritual warrior and that we are more or less successful at it every day. Sometimes, we are called upon to be aggressive or be courageous or show "great vigor" in the subtlest of circumstances. For instance, I may be called upon to vigorously defend my decision to take care of myself. You may be required to aggressively uphold someone's dignity, or your own.

I know an amazing family who are spiritual warriors of the highest ilk. They have courageously chosen to love in the most difficult of circumstances. They have given their home, their food, their time and, honorably, their hearts to three little children they did not bear. They have had to take this stand -- the stand to courageously love -- over and over as the court decides these babies' fate. They have done so in the knowledge that heart-break is not only possible, it is likely; they have done so with amazing grace and finesse.

Do they -- or we fight these battles without fear or trepidation? I dare say that often we do not and we are indeed aflutter. The choice to pursue victory over these tribulations is not a mere velleity; these are not battles taken up in simple haste.

Hence that word, warrior. If what is required of us were simple, there would be no ascendancy. What is required to be a spiritual warrior is that we face into the fear as well as the battle; that we stand there with our quaking knees and trembling spirits. And, as well, that we use that sword to cut away the chaff; to constantly seek and find our path amid the weeds and clutter so that what is truly meaningful can emerge and shine forth in us.

Happy Sunday!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Gifts and Graces in Battle

I have been in battle this week and by "battle" I mean hand-to-hand combat with my mind. In the end most of what I struggle with in my life comes down to a spiritual battle. It all comes back to me telling the fundamental truth about who I am and which things in life are in my domain to "fix," change or even affect.

For example, I have been counting calories since January 15 and increasing my exercise to lose weight. I have been carefully tracking every bite and nibble, meditating, exercising, eating "low on the food chain" and generally paying close attention to my health. At the start, I had two really encouraging weeks in which I lost 2 pounds each. Since then, I have not lost an ounce and, in fact, when this week I stepped on the scale, I had actually gained 4/10ths of a pound.

Everything in me screamed, "It's not fair! I've been good! This is too hard! It shouldn't be this way."

Sound familiar?

I went through a process I'd learned almost 17 years ago in my More to Life weekend. It isn't magic - it's truth telling. And it is incredibly powerful to tell the truth in all it's fullness and magnificence.

Here a couple of the truths I uncovered: Weight loss is a process and there are hundreds of variables that affect weight. If I do what I know how to do--which is decrease calories and increase muscle-- it will eventually show up on the scale. I acknowledged what I had been doing for my health and the changes I've made to my lifestyle. But perhaps most importantly, I saw that I can do all that I know how to do and that's it. I could probably drop pounds by drastically reducing my caloric intake or ramping up my exercise to an untenable level but in the end, I'm "about" something else. I'm about being healthy and becoming fit while still carrying on with the other things that matter so much to me. My most important truth, however is that I am not in charge. Some things are out of my domain. The frustration factor comes in when I lose track of that. Once I can see the truth, I can go on about making a real difference in the world.

Perhaps most importantly, I remembered once again, with gratitude, what having these tools means to me. Once again, I am in creativity and able to see possibility in every area of my life. And I am once again walking tall with my warrior backbone in place. It's a joy!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Mindless Multi-tasking aka Mental Juggling

Frequently, I hear people (particularly "type A" people like me) say, "I'm a good multi-tasker." Yet, the last several years, I've noticed that I don't actually multi-task all that well. My family is very familiar with the disruption in my brain when I try to do it; they say something and I--at first -- nod, then look up - dumbfounded - and say, "huh?" In trying to keep doing what I'm doing and also hear what they're saying, I suddenly cannot do either.

For a while, this phenomenon confounded me. I thought I was aging too fast or something was wrong with my brain. I call it "mindless multitasking." I'm not actually doing anything well, and I am certainly not doing everything well! It turns out, though, that it isn't only me.

Our bodies are equipped with an amazing limbic response to threat; for example, if food is in your stomach and you get attacked, you stop digesting. Our brains work in a similar way – if you are processing something --like solving a math problem, spelling, following a complex set of directions -- your brain will literally need to stop processing that problem set if it is given a new task.

So we are actually only able to multitask if we are doing something that we have relegated to “automatic.” Examples of automatic behavior: chewing, swallowing, tying your shoes, driving (ooopsie!) If you are doing a task like that, you can multitask. No other time.

Imagine you are speaking with a colleague and
– SMACK -- a bird flies into the window. You lose your train of thought because your brain needed to process the incoming missile. It doesn’t have to be an actual threat. A perceived threat is enough: "Dreena, let's talk about your weight."

I can hear you a
bout to argue that you don't have that many threatening situations in your day. However, those dozens and dozens of little interruptions -- cell phones, children, barking dogs, coworkers -- all must be interpreted by your brain and their threat levels assessed. Fair enough, that assessment is an instantaneous process but nonetheless, you can hear the metaphorical brakes screeching as your train of thought grinds to an abrupt stop.

The trick, therefore, is minimizing the amount of threat reactions you have that interrupt your processing and thus, your creativity. There are some simple things you can do that I will tell you right now: Turn off your cell phone for several hours a day. Spend time in quiet. Unplug, unwind, take a deep breath.

I am convinced that this is why the truly creative people I've known were also the ones who took time to meditate, to take long walks, to sleep a full night's sleep. In fact, when I think of it, they are rarely the same people who claim to be multitasking.

This is my personal next frontier -- to conquer the new world of doing one thing at a time and doing that one thing well. Multi-tasking is truly mindless. I am going for mindful!