November 2007


I’ve noticed more being written about gratitude lately, and the health and happiness benefits of being grateful.  One recent article talked about how it’s not enough just to mindlessly list stuff you like – you need to feel the positive emotions or the emotional connection to the things you feel gratitude towards to really get a benefit.  Here’s a visualization:

Get into Savasana after your yoga practice and take a few deep Ujjayi breaths while you relax, letting your body sink deep into the mat.

1. Place - Think of a place you feel grateful for.  It could be a place you’ve visited,  a place you go to to relax, it could be your favourite place in your home.  Someplace that allows you to be who you really are. See yourself in that place and experience it with all our sense.  See your surroundings.  Take in the colors and the feeling of the place. Feel the texture of whatever you’re resting on.  Feel the quality and temperature of the air on your skin.  Notice if there’s a smell to your special place and take that in.  Notice any sounds.  Take a couple more breaths while you enjoy being in your place.

2. Thing – Think of something you own and enjoy, that you feel grateful for.  Try to think of something that you feel emotionally connected to.  See this object in your mind’s eye.  Imagine yourself holding it, or if it’s a large object, sitting or relaxing with it.  Notice it’s color.  Notice its texture and how it feels.  Notice if there’s a smell or a sound.  Come up with a word that describes the emotional connection you have to this object.  Take a couple more breaths while you enjoy it.

3. Person.  Now choose a person you feel grateful for.  It obviously can be your partner or a family member, but doesn’t have to be.  It could be the person who serves you coffee in the a.m., someone you feel a connection with.   See that person and hold them in your heart center, in the middle of your chest.  Try to feel the connection or the feelings that they bring up for you. 

Bring a feeling of warmth to your chest, making the feeling stronger and bathing them in your gratitude.  Then taking a few more breaths, breathe that feeling of warmth throughout the rest of your body:  fill your torso, let it flow down your legs to your toes, let it flow down your arms to your fingers, feel it flow up into your neck and fill your head.  Enjoy the feeling of warmth throughout your body and let it relax any last bits of stress or tension you might be holding onto.

Then take your next breath a little deeper.  Bring slight movement back to your fingers, and then to your toes.  Rock your head slightly on the back of your mat.  Roll over onto your right side for a moment with your eyes closed, keeping as much of that relaxed feeling as you can.  And then make your way up to sitting.

So more on Sarah, the cute little naturopath.  I went to her for food intolerance testing because I know I have issues but wanted something more concrete.  So this isn’t allergy, like grab-the-needle-I’m-going-into-anaphylactic-shock.  My understanding is that it’s foods that your body just doesn’t tolerate well.  You might see side affects, you might not (now), it’s just foods that are tougher for your body to assimilate.

So I thought for me it was wheat, especially bread.  I discovered that bread throws me for a loop.  I’m OK with Ezekial, but regular bread makes me feel like it’s naptime within a few minutes of eating it.  So I avoided wheat too, eating kamut pasta and the like.  I’m also not a big beer drinker for the same reason – naptime city and no fun at parties.

So when Sarah did the test she said that not many people come back with wheat intolerances.  I was like, yeah right, we’ll see.  So the test consisted of taking a couple drops of blood from my ear and sending it off for results.

The results?  My list of foods is potato and sugar.  Interestingly, of the group of people I know who have gone for food intolerance testing sugar shows up on *everyone’s* list.  But the potato part floored me. 

It turns out that potato is in everything – enriched flour used for bread and pasta?  The added niacin and riboflavi are derivatives of potato.  Yeast?  Contains an ingredient that comes from potato.  The anti-caking agent in salt?  From potato.  One of the ingredients of baking powder?  You got it, from potato. 

So I confirmed that bread does bug me just not for the reasons I thought. I bought some special yeast from Sarah, tracked down some non-enriched wheat flour and have been happily eating normal bread again (there is a god!). 

I’ve found that whole wheat products are not generally enriched.  When I’m craving white pasta I look for the real italian brands which often are not enriched.  Real sea salt just contains salt. 

Corona and Bud don’t have yeast in them.  Of course if I drink Bud someone will take away my Canadian citizenship ;-), but I’ve discovered that Corona satiates my thirst just fine with no sleepies.

Breakfast cereals are tough because 90% of them are enriched, but often organic multi-grain cereals aren’t.  And the simple ones like puffed wheat or rice are also non-enriched.

So I’m not totally avoiding everything with potato but I’m on the right track.  Sarah suggests that as long as you’re aware of it and try to at least avoid your list 80% of the time you’re doing great.   I’m happy to have a solid medical reason to avoid potato chips and french fries.  Not that I ate them alot, but now I’m avoiding them like the plague.  And I know my body is happier for it.

I’m not rushing to any conclusions, but here’s the story.  I’ve mentioned my chronic hip issues before, it’s Piriformis Syndrome by the way.  I’ve had various treatments but have only managed to figure out how to avoid the flare-ups, never get rid of them entirely. 

So I went to Sarah the cute little Naturopath near work.  While we talked for an hour about my health history (yes an hour) the hip thing was mentioned.  I was actually there for food intolerance testing – which I should really blog about.  But when she heard about the hip thing she said, “I do Bowen therapy and I’ve had good results with musculoskeletal issues, why don’t you come in and try it.” 

At this point I’d be open to therapies involving bones and chicken blood if there’s a chance of it fixing my hip.  I had no idea what Bowen is (and still don’t really, something to do with the Automatic Nervous System) but I had money left on my medical for more naturopath visits so what the heck.

She thought I’d come for 1 or 2 sessions, but I came for 3.  It’s pretty gentle stuff, like to the point where I wondered if she was really doing something.  She did extra a week ago and the next day I felt like I’d been hit by a truck.  I wasn’t sore, just absolutely no energy, totally blah.  The next day fine. 

Last night I went to an Ashtanga class and as I tipped down into Triangle my fingertips banged into the floor.  Usually my fingers screech to a halt somewhere along my calf, thanks to my hips.  I had to check and make sure I was doing the pose right.  Yup I was, but my hips were looser.

Sarah banned me from running for a week, so this a.m., I was finally able to get outside.  My Hips. Felt. Amazing.  It was like someone had scooped sludge out them.  They felt clear and loose and free.  I was as nimble as a forest creature (there’s your Deadwood reference fellow watchers – what a great moment in Cable that was).

I know that some people have issues with “alternative” therapies.  When I told my chiroprator I was going for Bowen he had nothing but jokes.  He’s all like desperate to prove he’s really a doctor, but he does a good adjustment so I ignore him and keep going.  But all I will say to him is, I don’t need to understand it, all I know is that she has hugely improved my hips.  And you doctor, didn’t.  I can only trust my experience. 

I was at the Atlantic Yoga Conference on the weekend (fabulous, would highly recommend it) and Frank Jude Boccio talked about how we help create our own suffering by seeing the permanent as impermanent and the impermanent as permanent.  Um, yeah.  And then I experienced it for myself.

On Saturday it seemed every session was all about holding Downward Facing Dog as long as possible.  So on Sunday my shoulders were *sore*.  I went to a session with Beryl Berch Bender and holding ‘Dog’ in the first few Sun Salutations was brutal. 

So my thought process goes “oh no, this really sucks!  I can’t do a whole Primary series with shoulders this sore!  What am i doing to do!?”  And then I get into whether I should push myself or allow myself to come out of the pose.  And all the ego stuff that goes with that. (Aside: although I always encourage folks in my classes to go at their own pace, I’m still working on that advice for myself).

But as the class progressed and I stopped worrying about it, it got easier.  I slid through the Vinyasas like nobody’s business.  It felt *good*.

This makes no sense – muscle strength should be a linear thing right?  I hold Down Dog forever, I get sore.  When I’m sore I can’t do Down Dog easily until my muscles recuperate.

But it didn’t work that way.  What I perceived as Permanent was actually Impermanent.  My sore shoulders didn’t have the impact I thought they would.  I was busy planning all the outcomes and it just didn’t happen that way. 

Which means I really shouldn’t have bothered with all the thinking about it.  It means I should have just trusted and breathed.  It means I should have stripped it down to either doing the pose or not doing the pose.  Because that’s really what it’s all about.

The problem with work is that we bring our emotions to it.  Being people with emotions, I guess it’s hard not to.  But sometimes I get a glimpse of what’s possible.

While my own financial stuff is always wrought with emotion – what I spend, what I buy, whether one day I’ll be living under a bridge in a cardboard box – sometimes I work with a financial person who sees it objectively.  They see it simply – money come in, money goes out.  The revenue pay the bills and the bills need to be paid.  It’s just numbers on a spreadsheet.  No emotion required.

And a good project manager does this for me too.  I’m all freaked about the pile of work on my plate and how will I clone myself this week to get it all done and why me lord and all that.  They look at it as – there’s this pile of work, you’re the ‘resource’ who will do this particular pile, so what date do you think each task will be done?  And they’re just dates.  If someone isn’t happy with the dates they can find new resources to help, switcharoo the priorities or suck it up.

So why get all whiney and freaky?  If your pile is too big, say so.  If you need help, ask for it. If there’s information you need, get it. If you haven’t had a vacation in 8 months, take one. 

And if you need a mini-break check your Facebook page to remind yourself of the people who love you whether or not you’re a successful wage slave.   

Stella‘s comment from the last post reminds me of the great question we ask ourselves at work.  What is it with my manager?  You’d think she has her own boss, and set of issues and objectives that are totally different from mine, because she sure doesn’t seem to be focused on how I feel and what’s going on with me! 

What’s up with that?  Well, for starters, let’s all remind ourselves that since sh*t runs down hill on the job, she’s up to her ankles and we likely don’t even know about it.  And may never know about it.

The thing about managers is they don’t go looking for trouble, they have enough of their own, so if you have some you need to share and *then* it’s added to their plate.

I worked with a business analyst kinda person and our boss was a total when-I-say-jump-you-say-how-high kinda guy.   And he would pile the projects on this woman.  Please find out x asap.  Put together some proof of y by my friday meeting.  And she’d say, “what does he think I can do here?  I’m only one person and he’s sent me 12 urgent projects in the last 4 days.  I don’t even know where to start!”

So she got really good at dropping him an email that said “Here are the 12 urgents projects you’ve sent me in the last 4 days, please prioritize them so I know I’m working on the most important thing for you.” 

Well being a total control freak – he was *thrilled* to do this for her.  And then no issue, she could just focus on the first thing on her list and not the whole list and what this meant about how thoughtless her boss was. 

Hey, I know there are lots of lousy managers out there, and that’s a whole other issue.  But this guy just wanted to get the information to make a decent decision so we could be successful and all keep our jobs.  That was his job. And he was good at it.

Here’s how bad I am with this. I had this project dumped on my plate and then the dumpee was cheesed because it wasn’t done on the date he thought it should have been completed, but he hadn’t actually shared the date with me and it didn’t matter because I was too busy on other stuff anyway. 

So I mentioned it to my manager, mostly as a butt-covering, she should hear about this from me first move.  Well she actually had really good advice about how to get it done.  She suggested how to piece it up and what to delegate to the intern.  And the sad thing?  I love my manager dearly but I was surprised.  Because I believe I need to carry my burdens all on my own.  Because I believe help isn’t in the offing. Hopefully I’ll learn – just mention it.

We always seem to forget how much power we have.  My friend was telling me that she could start to feel the edges of a dark depression creep up on her so she took action. 

Things on the job front were driving her nuts and she was feeling powerless to have much impact.  But since it was deal with it or get depressed she had the come-to-jesus meeting with her managers and let them know how she was feeling and what she’d like to see changed.  Depression gone.

Now we can’t lay down the law 24/7.  But we have so much power in how we communicate.  Like in relationships.  Letting someone know what’s going on with us.  Letting someone know what we want.  Letting someone know what we need. 

I think the key is to not rope the other person in (if you weren’t so x I wouldn’t feel so y).  And not to be reliant on them fixing things for you. Ideally what you need doesn’t mean *they* and only *they* can provide it (first do this, then this and then i’ll be happy).  You gotta own it and let go of the outcomes.

How often do we believe, without even being aware of it that – oh it doesn’t matter anyways.  Life will go on as it is regardless of what little ol’ me says or does.  But you just don’t know. 

Ever told someone an opinion and then a day later heard them espouse the same opinion with all your brilliant reasoning to someone else?  Who cares where they got it.  You’ve got an ally.

There’s always an opportunity to shift things.  Reposition things. Cast things in a little different light.  You just never know the power you have.