weather within

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The mood of my garden has shifted. It looks like Autumn. Leaves scattered across the surface. New shoots torn from the trees by blustery winds and driving rain. Low pressure in our weather has descended. The flowers have closed. The bees buzzed off. The birds absent, sheltering, waiting for the mood to lift.

The movement of the weather systems on our planet can change the mood of our nature with ease. The elements in our earthly atmosphere; carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, mix with water vapour and dust to move and swirl at will. With that, the feeling and mood our weather generates flow across our lands with wilful abandon. Nature determines everything.

In much the same way, movement in our body systems can shift our mood. The same swirling, churning chemicals, hormones and enzymes can change the sensations we feel in our bodies. Those sensations influence and shape our feelings, our emotions and our mood. Summer can feel suddenly like winter. We can overheat. We can feel damp, drab, off colour. Twisted, shrunk, torn off… inside.

Weather within.

image from Berndnaut Smilde

 

internal finger tips

finger tips

I can feel the steering wheel in my hands. The gloves on my fingers. My skin when I scratch an itch. I can feel my hair through my fingers. My feet on the ground. Sand between my toes. Rain on my face. Sunshine. I can feel my thighs on the chair seat. My arms when they’re folded. I can feel the bag on my shoulder. My knee when it aches. I can even describe the feeling when my toes are so cold I can’t feel them. I can hold something in my hands, blindfold, and probably tell what it is. Its size, shape, texture, hardness, weight…

We are used to feeling. On the outside.

But feelings on the inside are harder. We have less language. Less awareness. Less dexterity in our explanation.

We say things like I’m nervous or I feel good, I feel sick in my stomach or I’m just not feeling too well. I’m happy or I’m anxious or upset. Describing where in our bodies we feel that, and precisely what the sensation is; how the feeling is moving, its temperature, its intensity. This seems harder.

Strange that what our own bodies tell us is more elusive to us than our contact with the external world?

image by: Andreas Roseneder

a new anxiety…

unread-mail-number-iphone

I’ve been noticing how modern technology reminds us.

Some of this is helpful, but generally technology reminds us to catch up. Reminds us of what we’ve missed or not done. In this way it unconsciously builds a sense within us of being behind. It gives us an always on reminder; a visual or auditory ‘shove’ to encourage us to catch up.

My inbox tells me how many ‘unread emails’ I have.  It doesn’t tell me how many I’ve read today or how many I’ve responded to, or the hours of effort I have invested in my endless communication with those I interact with. No. Instead it reminds me what I still have to do.

My phone alerts me to ‘missed calls’.  Raising in me a sense that I’ve let someone down or maybe missed an important person or message. It nudges me towards a message, a voicemail the person has left, and then sends me a text in case I ignore the other signals I have been sent. It is like my phone is constantly whispering ‘Come on, come on, keep up’.

Meanwhile all my technology reminds me I have ‘updates’ – even my TV.  I’m always out of date it seems. Missing some vital feature or fix to make me ever more capable, or ever more efficient. Now, my i-phone and i-pad, not only tell me I have updates, but if I say I’m not ready to install them they say ‘shall I remind you later today?’  Nooooo!

The failure. The pressure. The anxiety.

What has happened here?

 

what would your big toe say?

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A friend of mine once declared that to be a favourite coaching question of theirs. “What would your big toe say?”

I can’t vouch for its effectiveness as a question. Or its appropriateness.

I do like it though.

The notion of paying attention to a physical part of you fascinates me.

On occasion, when I have found it difficult to get to sleep, I focus my attention on my foot. It works. Maybe it is the sheer mundaneness of directing all my conscious attention to my foot that helps me nod off? Boring the conscious mind into submission perhaps? I pay total attention to my foot’s position. The toes, ankle, sole. To its boundaries; where it begins and ends. To any sensations I have in it, such as a slight tickle, or the feel of the sheet.

I guess my ear would do just as well, but I haven’t learned to build such a close relationship with my ear yet. Or my nose, which I suspect has its attention focused on breathing; and I am very grateful to it for that. Whereas my foot and I are on good terms. We have an understanding.

I think this is why I like the question “What would your big toe say?”

Not, you understand, because it’s a part of the foot. Rather, because it’s a part of you. A part of me. A body part playing an unfamiliar role.

Sometimes we over value the brain. We consult it constantly. We pay it too much respect arguably. Sure, it has its uses. A bit like my nose and breathing, I wouldn’t want to be without my brain. But sometimes I wonder what the rest of me thinks? What do other parts of me feel about this?

Sometimes I listen to my gut or to my heart, why not my big toe?

Try it. Next time you want another perspective,  or you’re stuck, or you just want a less busy response from yourself, ask…

“What would my big toe say about this?”

And if that doesn’t work… start a conversation with your elbow.

 

making sense or making meaning?

making meaning making sense
Is there a difference for you between making sense of something and making meaning?

For me, making sense is largely, though not completely, a cognitive process. It’s one that facilitates understanding. It is how I comprehend things in the world around me.

So, if I look at the picture above, I might deduce that this is a teddy bear, that this teddy bear looks soft. He is brown. I know that teddy bears are toys, that often children have them. I might make sense of this teddy bear as a child’s teddy bear. A bear that has been posed to cover his eyes. Equally I might understand that teddy bears can be adult gifts to reflect tenderness, affection, love. I might be curious about the teddy bear’s size, because I know bears come in many sizes, and without background in the picture to contextualise and offer perspective I have to surmise whether it is small or large.

Making sense in this way is how we exchange and gather knowledge about our world, how things work, how to use them, their purpose.

Meaning making and seeking meaning however are inherently human processes at the heart of our humanity. Making meaning facilitates significance. It bonds us to our purpose and sense of self and creates a richer, deeper connection than simply understanding, or making sense. It highlights patterns to aid with new learning, new connections and systemic thinking. It stirs our emotions. It connects us to our experience, our memories, our values, our personal story. In short, it makes us human.

So, for me, the bear picture might remind me of my own teddy bears from my childhood. I might connect to the memories of my own children and their lives now as young adults, way beyond the teddy bear years. I might notice the teddy bear makes me sad and I might recall other times I have been sad. It might equally remind me of happy times. It might remind me that I too sometimes hide. Or that I like a hug. It may bring back memories of parents, of childhood games, of key events in my human story.

In this way meaning making is important. It connects our world experiences, our interactions to people, to activities and to things with our own sense of self. It connects us to our memories, and to our personal story through a deeper somatic awareness. It is more impactful, but also more useful, in that it enables us to form both new and tangential connections, which offer new learning, new meaning and new possible futures.

I can be taught to understand the world around me, to make sense of it, but making meaning of it is a very personal experience.

Maybe it’s the same for you?

I don’t know, I’m in two minds…

in two minds
As human beings we live in two worlds.

Day to day we interact with the world around us. Work, colleagues, friends and family, engage with us both verbally and behaviourally. We move around in this world, sometimes using mechanical transport, sometimes walking, sometimes aided by lifts, staircases and sometimes running. We engage with inanimate objects, follow daily living routines, complete work tasks, go shopping, read, watch and play on technology…

Then there is the world of our mind and imagination. Here a parallel world exists where people, their actions and words carry an internal meaning and significance. It is a virtual reality that can appear and feel just as real. When it comes to your emotions the virtual world of your mind can often be more real. Our own behaviours and actions have thoughts and feelings attached. The objects we interact with and the movements we make around our world, draw or repel us, enthuse or frustrate us, support or hinder us, anger or please us; they too carry their own significance and meaning, inside our heads and bodies.

So, which world is real?
Which world impacts us more?
In which world does change happen?
Which world, when as we would wish it, offers happiness and fulfilment?

I’m in two minds. You?

Sculpture by Anthony Cragg