Move your mind, Move your body, Move your soul.
In the last two weeks, I have witnessed people at work "calling out" the facial expressions they see their colleagues wearing.
"Look at your face, Pam!" my new boss said to my colleague, "I promise, this is actually going to be fun."
I wasn't sure what she meant. Pam asks really good questions and she looked, to me, like she was thinking & processing what my new boss had just said.
It is not just her. On multiple occasions lately, I have heard:
"I can tell by Janet's face that she doesn't want to talk about it."
"What do you know? I can tell you know something."
"If you are ever feeling like you need a laugh in a meeting, pan your camera to Amanda's face."
It is not funny.
Some might say that these are harmless comments, bringing some levity to a heavy business conversation. But when I talked to those who were "called out" - for their faces, no less - what they heard was questioning their competency, their interest, their dedication, their self-awareness.
They heard: You're negative/pessimistic. You're not on board. You're not trustworthy.
What may have been presented as a joke really isn't funny at all. It also is not accurate.
It is not True.
There have been many studies and articles discounting this practice. Two were recently published this spring as some companies are attempting to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to identify emotions based on facial characteristics.
The long and short of it is: emotions (which are varied and not sufficiently understood) can be expressed in all sorts of different ways. Expressions can be informed by social and cultural norms.
The Atlantic article notes that the assumption that we can "read" others' faces for emotion is biased, often upholding the systemic oppression of BIPOC, women, and other communities. Black people are deemed angrier, for example, or certain people are happier than others.
All this to say, it feels as if it's become the new "Smile, honey" and I'm not up for it.
I realize that this is my third post about silence this month.
It has certainly been a theme in my life and something that I am working through this eclipse season to not only uncover and think about, but to ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING about. I am frustrated with myself and my silence. My hiding. Perhaps this frustration is my safe-word for "anger." And anger, as I have come to recognize, tends to highlight when a boundary has been crossed.
The boundary is about self-love.
Hiding, for me, has been a strategy to stay safe. In my relationships, in my work, in my social life. If I am silent, no one will leave me. That's the thought. I am preventing my heart from abandonment.
But the sad thing about closing off your heart is that it stays blocked both ways. When you try to protect your heart from pain, you also block the joy. Expressions of the heart are not necessarily love notes and kisses. Expressions of the heart can be any of your feelings. You can express your heart's truth with anger and sadness. When I hold back, I am holding all parts of myself back.
And this self-restraint is itself a self-abandonment. It's not my truth. How painfully ironic that I am silent because I am trying to save myself from abandonment, but that silence itself it self-abandonment.
Insert brain explosion emoji here!
In my efforts towards action and feeling rather than thinking, here we go! Here are a few of the practices I am working on this month as I heal my abandonment wound:
Have any tips to share? I'll let you know how it goes!
I got stuck in a snowbank today.
In my driveway.
I had just popped into the house for a second to grab my phone charger; I was to be off teaching a class at noon. And I was stuck. So stuck that I wasn't going to make it to class.
I texted potential substitutes.
I shoveled under my wheels.
I called my husband.
I cursed the snow, my tires, my slippery driveway, and all of the motorists who didn't stop (no one stopped).
I was so. freakin'. mad.
And then I started to cry. So I left my car in the driveway and came inside. There, on my counter, were my "Shift Anger" Cards.
The Anger Deck, as I affectionately call it, is a 15 card deck that includes movement, meditation, and mantras for working with Anger.
So I did this quick flow (about six times...)
And after, I realized what my anger was really telling me.
I was embarrassed, not being able to shovel myself out.
I felt like I can't do anything right. Like I'm worthless.
I had to move my body and drop out of my thinking to get to that realization. And then? Then I worked on self-love and worthiness (next blog post!).
I've been noticing lately a persistent thought ticker-taping across my brain, "I don't want to feel (fill in the blank)..."
As in, I don't want to be scared about the future of our country or the safety of our (and my) children.
I don't want to be mad/frustrated/pissed about the lies I hear uncovered in US politics, entertainment, ... everywhere.
"I don't want to feel." And the funny thing is - of course I want to feel it.
I want to feel all these things, because I know that it is through feeling that I get to healing. And yet, so many people, articles, books and media are telling us not to feel. Several weeks ago, a friend sent me this incredible New York Times essay written by Leslie Jamison.
Anger is a hot topic these days, and even more interesting when the emotion is extended beyond white men. We see anger coming out in domestic violence, self-harm, addiction, road rage, not to mention school shootings in the US.
So is it any surprise that I'm afraid to feel? You may have seen that viral video where Uma Thurman talks about not wanting to speak "until I feel less angry." Huh.
I get that. We don't want to say things we will regret. But is there more to it? Is there a... stifling of the emotion?
I know I do this, feel like I should stifle the anger or change it immediately into something else. I want to be jolly, I want to be sincere and honest and kind and loving.
I feel a little bit conflicted about this, about expressing anger in particular. I believe this is likely because I believe in the constructionist view of emotion. I believe that our brains are predictive based on past events, past senses and the stories we attach to those sensory responses. So we, in essence, create our emotions. More on that topic another time.
But anyhow, if we (our brains) are creating our reality at every moment.. does that mean I have control over my emotions? Can I truly stifle the anger? Can I change it immediately into something else?
What I have found is - no. I can't stifle it.
I use my emotions as information on what to do next. Anger is telling me that something is not right, that I need to alter my boundaries or speak up. Fear is protective, and in the absence of true danger, I can move through it.
And the how?
For me it is about quieting the body and quieting the mind. Dropping out of the stories and into my body as the learning tool it is designed to be.
It allows me to move, to jump, sing and to speak up.
Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend a Breath workshop with Brian MacKenzie and Rob Wilson, both of Power Speed Endurance (PSE). "Breathwork & State" was an all-day session on the benefits of breath.
The PSE crowd draws Cross-Fitters, lifters, runners, and other endurance and power sport athletes, and came from the perspective of accessing the breath to improve performance.
There were not many yogis in the audience, and I felt lucky to have had some breath work learning and practicing before entering the room. I really appreciated how Brian and Rob talked about breath in terms of "play"; I use this concept with clients, trying to take the seriousness out of the practice. It's supposed to be fun! Play around with your movement, with your breath, and see what works for you.
The wonderful thing about utilizing the breath is that it is always available; you can do it driving, in the board room, with your kids. You don't have to close your eyes. When you focus on the breath, you pause. It gives you that moment to make a choice about your next action.
So I've been practicing it all week. This very simple breath exercise:
Inhale (5 counts)
Hold breath (5 counts)
Exhale (10 counts)
Hold breath (5 counts)
I practiced this when I was feeling low self-esteem after scrolling FaceBook (this happens to me a lot. We can talk more about this another day!). I hopped in my car, phone in the backseat, and went to do an errand. During the 5 minute drive, I practiced this breathing exercise. I probably did it for 20 rounds. I arrived at the cupcake shop calmer, feeling .... better.
Later in the week, I was getting frustrated with a work situation. My brain kept coming back to "I'm so frustrated", which of course is literally telling myself (programming myself) to be frustrated. I noticed that thinking, so I turned it around.
And it worked.
I encourage you to try this one! Play with it. If 5-5-10-5 is too much, try 3-3-6-3 or 4-4-8-4.
Or lose the "holds" and focus on extending the exhale.
I have been talking with people about anger.
How do you actually release such a beast? Do we rip apart phonebooks? Yell into pillows? Journal it out.
These practices... help (?)... I'm not sure if they help. But I have come across somethign that does. Watch this business,
1. Thumb tucks under pinky, fingers fold over thumb.
2. Wind hands back behind your head like you are doing back stroke.
3. Add breath of fire.
We've just gotten through a really... emotional... election.
Name calling, lies, pitting us versus them (even more than usual).
And in the aftermath?
So. Much. Anger.
Anger is a tough one. We hear about anger management exercises, cooling the anger. In the days around the election, I tried not to be angry. I really did. I tried to stuff it, focus on love, focus on ANYTHING other than the fire I felt boiling inside. I'm a pacifist. I love love.
You know what? It didn't work.
Anger, like any emotion, needs to be expressed - released - a movement of the energy into something else. Anger is creative.
So today, let's talk about how we can use our anger as fuel. Fire it up.
So that's me. Planking it up.
Planks create some serious fire in the core. Throw in some leg lifts, cross knee towards elbow, etc and you will be sweaty in no time.
Planks are a great "go to" when you feel angry. This is because our fire center, literally, the powerhouse of our bodies reside in the core. Anything that brings your fire to your core is going to help! (Don't forget twists!)
Don't mask it. Don't push it down.
Notice it. Now use it. And create something amazing.
You gotta feel it to heal it.