Isn’t it mind-boggling that 2019 is already coming to an end? It feels like time is speeding up so much that we can barely catch our breath to keep up. One of the ways we can slow down time is to look back at all that this year brought us. We can think about all the good things that happened that we are grateful for. We can contemplate the goals we have reached and the obstacles we have overcome. But, my favorite way to savor an ending year is to reflect on all that we have learned during the past 300 plus days. As one of my teachers once told me: “In nature we either grow or we wilt.” Learning about life and ourselves ensures that we continue to grow.
Some of the lessons I have learned this year are not entirely new. Maybe I am just little slow, because sometimes I need to hear or experience something multiple times to finally let the message sink in. Here are a few of the lessons, my clients, my guests on Empowerment Radio and life in general taught me this year.
The key to health is listening to the wisdom of our cells:
The mind-body connection is a concept I have been working for more than 15 years. Yet, while I focused primarily on how our thoughts, emotions and beliefs effect our physical health, this year I practiced more on listening to my body.
I don’t know if you remember the TV commercial for an antacid, where a guy suffers from terrible heart-burn after eating an enormous plate of spicy fast-food. Rather than accepting that his body may just fiercely revolt against getting stuffed with industrial amounts of grease and sugar, the man turns to Tums for the rescue. I don’t blame him, since I’ve had my fair share of ignorantly overriding my body’s memos, while pushing myself too hard, drinking too much coffee or eating some kind of comfort food.
This year I have made an effort to tune in to what my cells are trying to communicate with me, which led to some surprising changes. For example, I follow mainly a vegetarian diet, drink more tea than coffee, cut out most sweets, stay hydrated and stretch on a regular basis. As a result, I have more energy, sleep better and I also feel more connected to my body, which I consider now more like a faithful friend who has been always supporting me and finally gets some well-deserved attention and appreciation back.
Avoidance – the silent killer:
“The silent killer” is at least how a client of mine called her avoidance patterns. When she came to me, her life had shrunk to a tiny comfort zone; going to restaurants, malls or even small grocery stores became almost impossible. And each month, her mind declared another area of her already small world a ‘no go zone’. It wasn’t until we addressed and resolved the root causes of why her inner avoider was on constant alert, that she was able overcome this pattern.
Even though I had my challenges with anxiety until my early thirties, avoidance wasn’t really a pattern I had struggled with. Yet, this year, during a caving tour, I had a very visceral experience of what it means to get stuck in avoidance. When our spelunking guide showed us the entrance to the cave, I thought at first he was making a joke. But all of the sudden he pushed himself like a snake through the tiny opening in the rock wall and disappeared. Obviously, he wanted us to follow him, so I did my best to crawl and wriggle my 6’4 body through the barely more than 3 feet wide opening. My hope that once I was in, I would enter into a cathedral like cave, turned out to be wishful thinking. Instead I found myself in a 30 foot long tunnel, which was about the size of the entrance. The guide was nowhere to be seen. “I am sure this is safe; after all, the tour operator has been around for a while,” I tried to tell myself.
However, half way into the narrow passage, I realized that a part of me no longer found this to be fun and flatly refused to move on. For a few minutes I was literally stuck on my belly, hundreds of feet of rock above and below me, neither able to move forward nor to retreat backwards. The longer I waited the more tempting the idea of backing out became. Just the thought of no longer having to squeeze myself through this claustrophobic passage elicited a sense of relief. Thankfully, my inner coach took over and made realize that while abandoning the tour would be a relief for a moment, I also would quickly feel disappointed about letting myself and the rest of the group down. With a ‘you can do it, nothing to it’ mantra in my head, I slowly wiggled myself forward.
Once I was through the tunnel, I felt blissfully proud for having overcome this huge obstacle. And while the adventure continued with roping down a 120 foot wall into complete darkness and swimming through a freezing cold subterranean lake, the desire to avoid any of these challenges had completely disappeared.
What I have learned through this experience is the toxic effect of avoidance. As I have seen many times with my clients, once we start avoiding something, our mind is getting used to the instant gratification of not having to deal with whatever could make us feel uncomfortable. It is this temptation to choose the path of least discomfort, which can make our lives and our self-esteem shrink dramatically.
Now, as you probably know, I am not a proponent to just push through our fears. However, rather than giving into the part of our subconscious that wants to avoid any form of discomfort, we need to guide and reassure this part while having clear boundaries with it – just like a parent to a child. Here is an article on how to become the trusted guide of your inner avoider.
Letting go opens you up for something new to come into your life:
After 2 years of trying my best to help my horse Rymaelle heal from her accident, I had to finally surrender to the fact that I probably wouldn’t be able to ride her again. Although this was a very difficult decision, it also felt like a relief once I have made it. And a few months later, Gold, a young gelding, came into our family. He isn’t only a beautiful horse, but his sweet and calm nature makes him a joy to spend time with. Best of all, he and Rymaelle ‘fell madly in love,’ which of course also improved her life significantly.
Join me this Thursday on Empowerment Radio, December 5th at 9AM PST / 12PM EST as I will share more lessons 2019 taught me. I also would love to hear from you about what you have learned this year. So call into the show, leave a comment on my Facebook page or email me.