Category: Spring 2018

Are you listening to what your body is telling you?

Listen Up!

Last fall Jennifer Bodenham, a team development coach, and I sat down to create a 3-part podcast series about Boundaries. Throughout these podcasts, we explored why we need boundaries, what they are and we included an exercise that will help you can get started towards living a life that is more kind and joyful.

The wonder and value of self-kindness, health and maintaining connection with others, even when it starts to get difficult are mutually possible. The podcast series begins with In Conversation with Jen about Boundaries for Healthy & Joyful Living, listen to it first to catch the flow of our conversation. I hope you enjoy this series and feel free to share them with others.


Listening to our Bodies: A Path to Relating Peacefully

In a conversation with a colleague we found ourselves sharing what we had learned about listening more closely to the cues our bodies were telling us. We each had a story of a physical injury that occurred because we didn’t listen to our bodies when it essentially said ‘enough.’

It compelled me to reflect back to a workshop I had attended with Dr. Gabor Maté, author of When the Body Says No, where he identified key characteristics of the stress-prone personality including:

  1. Difficulty saying No;
  2. Automatic and compulsive regard for the needs of others without considering one’s own;
  3. Rigid and compulsive identification with duty, role, and responsibility rather than with the true self;
  4. Habitual suppression or repression of healthy anger and assertion.

As I read this list, a couple of things stand out for me. This list is about lies we tell ourselves and about compulsive behaviours to please others or to live within the status quo we assume others expect of us. –And we wondered why we got sick or injured when we ignored our bodies’ cues?

What struck me even more as I began to examine my own life is how we find it acceptable to lie with casual regularity. We lie to others when we say yes to them, but we really want to say no. We lie to ourselves saying we aren’t worthy enough and so we push onward when our bodies need to relax. We lie about our real needs and who we really are, compulsively rushing to the needs (and perhaps drama) of others (or our own). We lie about feeling angry at the boundaries that have been trespassed and then stay silent and perhaps punishing our partner or child or friend because of all the feelings we have lied about inside.

Lies create stress and conflict, both internal and external. Conflict disrupts our peace and our health. When we lie to ourselves and disregard the messages our bodies send us, we inflict a hidden emotional stress on ourselves and our bodies.

Just as good relationships with others keep us healthy and can heal us, good relationships with our bodies keep us healthy and can heal us. Good relationships require healthy boundaries that support our sense of true self and protect us against what drains our essential vitality. Healthy boundaries are like a good immune system—protects against what takes life and sustains our essence so we can participate in our purpose and what is truly life-giving.

We are hard-wired to need closeness, to need connection and belonging with others. We are equally hard-wired to need to express ourselves, to know who we are and then to be seen and respected. In other words, we are hard-wired to be authentic. When these two needs are in conflict or when they are incongruent over time, we are at war with ourselves. This war leads to illness. As Dr. Maté writes, “illness is not random”.

If you are like me, listening to your body is a daily task I have to remind myself to do. What is it my body needs to eat? What kind of exercise does my body need today? What decision do I need to make in my work that is congruent with my life purpose so I can stay healthy? What anger must I be honest about and what must I speak up about in my intimate relationships to increase my own sense of inner peace?

If you struggle with finding the joy of the body you have and so you ignore it even more. If you find yourself suppressing your own needs to look after other’s needs making you depressed, injured or always living in chaos, consider my upcoming two-day workshop on June 1-2, 2018 – The Self Kindness Response: Healthy Boundaries for Healthy & Joyful Living!

The following comment by a previous workshop participant really speaks to the substance and richness of this workshop. Please consider it for yourself too!

Just taking the boundaries workshop was an act of kindness towards myself. I learned to tune into my body to get a sense of what is a healthy boundary for me. Instead of going into my head, I feel how my body feels about something. There’s no arguing with the body! Even if there is another way to assess a situation and respond, it doesn’t matter because my body is telling me MY truth, MY healthy boundary in that situation, and that’s all that counts. I love the sense of certainty this has given me because I know my body is trustworthy. I have gained a stronger sense of myself and a feeling of being on solid ground. It was also helpful to work with a partner afterwards to keep working on what we’d learned at the workshop. Such a beautiful workshop space, too! T.H.

Peace & Namaste,
Shirley Lynn

Peace and the Crazy Drama of Relationships

Recently, a colleague shared with me how she had found herself in a situation where ‘a lot of drama’ was playing out in a business relationship. Her question was about how she can gracefully and peacefully ‘exit’ this situation. I remember what mediation instructors used to say in training … that even really good, kind and the best of people can and do get caught up in conflict or in a drama they don’t know how to get out of. They don’t know how it ‘got to this point’ and they feel embarrassed to seek help of any kind.

I frequently have people share how a particular relationship triggers them in ways that they just don’t know what is going on and soon they find themselves reacting to the other person’s comments or engage in behaviour, they themselves find ‘icky’ and intolerable.

To assume ‘that will never be me’ may be a grave mistake on our part. Getting caught in the drama of relationship dynamics happens to the best of us. Without realizing it, we have sent that email with words we can’t take back or we have said something that has landed in between ourselves and another that we simply can’t pretend weren’t said. Or we find ourselves playing out the drama because we don’t know what else to do. We simply may not have the boundaries or tools to step out of the drama and stop it. I also believe we use the word ‘drama’ because we don’t really know what is going on.

In my view, I understand this kind of ‘drama’ occurs when participants within the relationship dynamic do not take responsibility for how they feel or what they think. Participants end up ‘throwing around’ their shame, guilt and anger or lashing out in hurt or blame causing a wave of disrespect, disregard or failure to truly listen. People feel ‘hit’ by this anger and in this emotional chaos of energy, words are slung about. All communication speeds up and quickens in reactions, our shame being fueled. A true recipe for disaster and deep hurt – even with those we love the most.

So what can we do when drama shows up?
  1. Breathe. And breathe again. Breathe into your kidneys (practise doing this when you are not stressed, so it can be a reflex-like response in a necessary moment). This will begin to calm your heart rate and regulate your stress flight instinct, so you can think more resourcefully.
  2. SLOW DOWN THE CONVERSATION! As I mentioned, ‘drama’ is fast and mindless. So slow down the conversation. Put in breaks such as a 24-delay in responding to emails or simply say in a conversation, ‘I will need 24 hours to think about what you just said and get back to you.’ Or, ‘let me go outside and put my feet on the ground and get centred, so I can show up here feeling good about how I am doing that.’
  3. Answer this question: What is the boundary of respect that is needed here? When we become reactive and step into a drama dynamic, often our sense of shame (sense of inadequacy, failure or not being good enough or worthy) become fueled. When shame is present, respect is absent. Be present to your feelings, including shame. Perhaps tap on specific points if you know how to do that (ie. EFT, TFT, Midline Therapy, or some other way that you bring down the emotional arousal level). Shame feels ‘icky’ to face and we fear being ‘exposed’ when shame takes over. It’s often the best time to ask for help from a trusted other, because it’s precisely the time when our subconscious will try to convince and our ‘shame voice’ threaten us that if we ask for help we will be exposed and even less acceptable than before.
  4. Evaluate your own trigger. What does this dynamic awaken in you which feeds your shadow relationship pattern? Even if you assess you have contributed only 5% to the drama, you have contributed that much and so that is the part that remains your responsibility. Often our own core wound, such as we feel our incompetence or lack of worth has been exposed somehow. Learn to detach from this trigger and know its patterns so you can catch it early when it becomes activated. Have someone help you develop more responsive relationship patterns, especially in conflict.
  5. Identify what you really need and value. Clarify what you really want to have happen and what the relationship really means to you. Perhaps you need to exit the relationship because it is draining your energy. Perhaps you each need to clarify what values and core needs are being disrespected so it becomes clear what you need or want to have happen instead of the ‘drama’. Don’t shortchange this step. Take the time to deeply listen to what you need and then the other person. When people come back to the same issue again and again, even ‘after it’s been discussed’, it signifies that a core need or value is still not validated, and people are still not feeling listened to. David Ausberger says that deep listening is really an experience of true love. Establish boundaries that reflect your core values and true needs so that your relationships have improved patterns of connection than ‘drama’.

These are only a few ways to address ‘relationship drama’ when it shows up. I encourage you to write down what relationships are ‘drama-driven’ for you and see if you can start to identify where the lack of respect is playing out, on both sides!

Strategies to help you find new peaceful ways to stop this drama pattern in your life:

I look forward to hearing from you. Namaste,
Shirley Lynn

Wisdom’s Way to Peace: The Self Kindness Response

Recently I had a conversation with someone who felt she needed ‘boundaries’ in her relationships but struggled with creating boundaries because what she believed she really wanted was ‘connection’. She feared that boundaries would destroy the connection she was seeking. Added to this was the belief that connection and kindness to others are spiritual virtues – won’t boundaries constrain our compassion and kindness to others?

These objections (and resistances) are quite common among those who really want to be compassionate and kind to others and who are especially sensitive to the energies and emotions around them. These questions, and ones like these, get to the heart of our inner objections in creating the kinder relationships and inner states of peacefulness that we yearn for somewhere deep within.

So, let’s get curious whether boundaries actually do exclude a sense of connection by exploring four different core operating beliefs that are commonly played out in our unconscious:

1) “I’m Not OK, You’re OK “

In this core belief, we enter the land of dependency and exclude ourselves from the blessings of life, of love and life-giving relationships. Our sense of shame and unworthiness causes us to ‘do for others’ what we cannot do for ourselves. We will not be able to open to love, nor the blessing of another. If we do not perceive ourselves as being worthy of someone’s blessing, we will not be able to stand and look someone in the eye and tell them what we need. Here, there is a lack of self-respect, a lack of boundaries and whole bunch of people-pleasing. In this land of dependency, we will find ourselves envious, resentful, exhausted and covet what we perceive others have or we give to them because we cannot give it to ourselves nor receive it from another. We lack kindness towards ourselves, remain disconnected with others and often fall into a state of passivity (-aggressiveness) about our lives.

2) I’m OK, You’re Not OK

In this core belief, we find ourselves in the land of arrogance and pride. Our acts of ‘charity’ are really ‘blessings’ imposed … and for the receiver, not really a blessing at all. In this state of arrogance or superiority, our helping another is often wrought with the assumption ‘I know better.’ Cultures and peoples have been destroyed in the blind assumption that “our way is better than your way.” Culturally, reflect upon the disastrous results of the way First Nations peoples and tribes have been mistreated, abused and fundamentally disregarded. Connection, community and the life-giving spiritual knowing of our country and our Earth have been destroyed in this genocide. It’s often hard to fathom the depth of our failures toward First Nations people because of all we imposed. We failed to create boundaries of mutual respect and kindness, of common dignity for all people. The repercussions for these lack of boundaries and compassionate connection will be our burden for decades to come. What we did in this cultural example, we also do to ourselves personally and to others when we come with an attitude of I know how to ‘fix’ you.

3) I’m Not OK, You’re Not OK

In this core operating belief, we find ourselves in the land of curses. Though we may find ourselves in a state of ‘likeness’ with each other, a state of common experience about what is ‘not okay’ around us or in our environment, our ‘joining together’ in this state is destructive, cynical and riddled with mutual contempt and despair. Though we both may be ‘down in the dumps’, we injure each other to prevent ourselves from being more miserable than the other. All heart connection is lost, annihilated or in perpetual threat. Again, we have no healthy boundaries here. Rather, we put energy into creating emotional walls and barriers, leaving us locked away from connection and in the stalemate of our own ‘inner hauntings.’

4) I’m OK, You’re OK

Finally, this operating core belief sustains us in the land of blessing. This is the place of joining, of collaboration, of mutuality, equality, respect and appreciation. In this land, we can pray and chant the ‘Namaste’, the light in you is the light in me; the peace in you is the peace in me. In this land, we can care for each other in dignity and respect for each other. It is not that we are needy of each other, rather, in appreciation for what another values and for what we value, we respect and validate and support the unique worth of ourselves and the other. In the land of blessing, we seek to compassionately appreciate and ‘see’ the good in all things. Our boundaries here are flexible, clear, growing, strong, consistent and kind, sustaining the vitality of our own core essence. Because we respect and appreciate the goodness in ourselves and the other, our connections are real, open, compassionate and can be trusted.

As we simplify the equations to truly see the essence of what matters in the heart of connection, we really discover that boundaries are truly a way to sustain healthy and vital connection in “I’m okay. You are okay.” For women who have been socialized and imprinted upon to care for others first (”you’re okay. I’m not okay”, for example), self kindness boundaries offer us the potential to choose self love and joy (trumping self improvement), to fill our own cup first and offer to others from our inner fullness, and to let our body lead us (rather than denying or denigrating our bodies).

A first major step in healing of our hearts and psyche is by recognizing and developing awareness and giving ourselves full and complete permission to have boundaries that sustain kindness and connection with ourselves and others. The next step is to learn HOW to create these kinds of boundaries which support our engagement in creating and living a joyful life, happy relationships and inner vitality.

If you are ready and eager to learn the HOW of creating your personal, unique boundaries that fuel your body-mind-spirit connection, happiness and joy, don’t miss my upcoming two-day workshop on June 1–2, 2018. The Self Kindness Response: Boundaries for Healthy and Joyful Living is exactly what you are looking for. And if you already have been practising boundaries for self empowerment, join us to expand the inner waves of self kindness and joy in the boundaries you practise.

It’s time for a shift in our consciousness where self-love and strength, connection and unequivocal kindness in self-regard are the touchstones and daily practices in our relationships and in the joys of our lives. Join me in creating a cultural shift, a shift of the awakened and peaceful heart. Join me on June 1&2, 2018 for The Self Kindness Response: Boundaries for Healthy and Joyful Living.

Namaste,
Shirley Lynn
(PS. Thanks to Rob Voyle and his work with the Appreciative Way in helping me to clarify my own understanding)