Spring has come to New York with a beautiful snow day.
I awoke to cottonly fluffs of snow swirling outside my window, falling in that silent and steady way that makes a snow day so magical.
As I was stretching myself awake I had this feeling of, let’s play hooky today. I believe in the power of pleasure and enjoying my down time with zero guilt! But something felt off about blowing off my whole day. Kind of like eating too many doughnuts, even with zero guilt, you’re going to feel sluggish and stuffed.
What to do? Push into “productivity mode”? Call myself lazy and undisciplined. Nah. Doesn’t work for me. What this calls for is to “change state,” by bringing pleasure and the type of energy you want into the moment. If your current state is feeling blah and you want to feel energized and inspired, I highly recommend some type of movement to quickly change your state.
So that’s what I did, I put on this Bebe song and got to dancing, letting my body lead the way with shaking and stomping and singing along badly! To move, to sing, to connect to your aliveness, these are all great ways to change state.
Only trouble is, sometimes I find it hard to stop dancing and sit down to work! But that’s ok, that’s a great new “problem” to handle. Then I shift into grounding myself to feel clear and calm and focused. I do that by lighting a candle, connecting to why I am doing the tasks that I’m doing today, and taking a few slow deep breaths to get settled.
Because I talk about a pleasurable approach, people sometimes tell me if they embraced pleasure they’d never get anything done. But, this is where discernment comes in. Is it truly pleasurable for me to play hooky and watch movies all day? Some days the answer might be yes. Other days, if I slow down and get honest with myself, I know there is a deeper pleasure in showing up for my to-do list and my work because I care about it and I’m connected to a sense of purpose, which is it’s own type of pleasure.
So, what’s your preferred way to “change state” when you feel like blowing off your to-do list? How do you know when blowing it off is the right thing for that day? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
I watched the movie “Her,” where Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore, a lonely guy who falls in love with his operating system (OS), Samantha, played by Scarlett Johansson. There’s this moment where Theodore is in bed talking to Samantha. She gets quiet and then her raspy voice sounds pained when she asks him, “what does it feel like…to have a body?” Stop and think about this for a moment. What does it feel like? Because it’s so easy to forget these days! Of course, Theodore can’t give Samantha a satisfying answer. She’ll never have a body. But you and I do, every moment of every day. Forgive me for stating the obvious.
Remember those old movie images of brains in jars? These days we live more and more like disembodied brains and our bodies are suffering. But it’s not only our bodies that are suffering–we end up depressed, addicted, and feeling like we’re not really living.
Eventually, the lovers in our modern tale grow closer in their relationship and they want to have sex, or something close to it. Samantha (the OS) finds a human woman online who is willing to be a “body surrogate.” The scene that follows is heartbreaking. Theodore and Samantha are trying to connect through the body of this third character who wants to be part of their relationship. But the awkward attempt ends in horrible disappointment for everyone involved. It’s fiction but it’s not really so far-fetched; people are already finding it harder to connect with other human beings.
In another scene, Theodore walks around the city listening to Samantha through little wire-free earbuds. As he goes down the stairs to the subway, every other person coming up the stairs is talking through their little earbuds, presumably to their own operating systems. Or they are exactly like us today with all our devices? Constantly plugged in, negotiating life through these technologies; each in our private bubble of experience. The first step in alienation is losing the connection to our own bodies, our own physicality.
Artificial intelligence is here and our lives are already changing faster than we realize and that change will be exponential in our lifetimes. Instead of freaking out about some dystopian vision of the future, we need to cultivate the ancient technologies that can only be accessed through the body, the technologies of human connection to ourselves and to one another. It kills me to think that as computers and machines become smarter and beat us at our own games (and jobs), that we will allow ourselves to become dumber and duller and more reliant on them to navigate our way through the physical world.
We are suffering with widespread depression and other emotional and mental problems because we have these bodies that are part of nature, that are still connected to millions of years of being wild, and yet we live an almost machine-like existence–constantly indoors, barely moving, breathing just enough to stay alive. We have our senses, yet we barely explore what it means to have so much capacity to taste, to smell, to feel! The thing is, we can’t really separate the mind from the body. We need to learn how to have mind and body play together.
It’s no small thing to smell the aroma of baking bread, to go outside and feel the breeze on your skin. It’s no small thing to hold another person, because touch is a basic need. When we slow down enough to feel something as simple as sipping a cup of tea can be a richly layered experience. And when we are plugged in to this richness of the senses, of the body, something in us begins to open up. Our anxiety starts to release bit by bit. This is no small thing.
If you do sometimes feel like a brain that is untethered from the body (and who doesn’t, nowadays?) what can you do about it? It’s simple though not always easy. It will take changing your habits, and it will be so worth it.
Here’s the key: Learn how to feel again. Get into your senses while using your awareness to pay attention. Body and mind playing together. Yes!
4 SIMPLE WAYS TO UNPLUG FROM TECHNOLOGY AND RECONNECT WITH YOUR BODY.
Set a timer if you must (use that same technology to help you get free) and go do one of these:
1. Go for a quick walk. Leave your phone at home! If the thought of that freaks you out, that’s something to ponder while you’re outside feeling the sun on your skin and smelling the air.
2. Move that body. Get up from your desk or couch and move around. Go slowly so you can pay attention. Crawl on the floor, or dance to your favorite song. Let yourself be silly if this feels silly. How much can you tune in and feel?
3. Find a practice. Whether you take up yoga or tantra or some type of dance, all of these are great ways to develop your ability to feel more and connect to your body. One caveat, find a practice that is more about feeling and connection than it is about looking good or competing.
4. Be kind to yourself. The habits of disconnection are easy to fall into. It seems like everyone around you is on their phone 24/7. The habit of feeling and connection takes practice. It takes deciding over and over, moment by moment, to come back to your senses.
To have a fulfilling life, we need to live through our bodies again. Modern living can make us forget the joys and pleasures of living through the body, not against it. Healing and real transformation happen through deeper connection with our bodies, not by denying that connection.
As a Women’s Life and Desire Coach, I teach my clients how to connect to the body for aliveness and for intuition. We include body wisdom and pleasure, not only in their vision and their desires but in every step along the way. Learning how to return to our natural state as sensual creatures, our lives can quickly to go from black and white to color–life starts to feel worth living RIGHT NOW, not just in some imaginary future that could be dreamed up by that old brain in a jar!
If you feel trapped in a life of overwork and way too much screen time, don’t be afraid to get some support. Working with a coach who can help you design a rich and embodied life can make all the difference. You can reach your goals and savor every step of the way.
Contact me through the form below and let’s have a no pressure chat about what’s happening in your life and how we might work together.
This morning I danced to Paradise, while playing a Qoya video. In it, Rochelle Schieck (creator of Qoya) talks about paradise as the state we long for when we imagine life feeling really good. I spent an hour moving, dancing, finding the place where it felt so good and noticing where there was resistance or mind chatter distracting me from the sensation. Having access to that inner paradise, which to me is a feeling of freedom–well, it’s simple now and it was simple as a child and yet I’ve worked fucking hard to find it again. That degree of innocence and pure joy in making circles with my hips, or shaking my booty like a happy pup, it’s something I had to reclaim so that I could know it from the inside, not just intellectually.
I think much of our work as women now is about re-orienting toward what feels good, and that is a revolutionary act.
To re-orient our compass toward what feels good means that we make it just as important to feel as good now, in the process of getting to our dreams, as we’re hoping we will feel when we get there.
Sounds easy enough. “Follow your bliss” and all that, but unless you’ve deliberately chosen a practice where there is an emphasis on pleasure and enjoyment–which isn’t most people out there, then this notion might feel pollyannaish or even infuriating! I mean, you have shit to do, bills to pay, and important things to attend to. And when someone comes along and says you ought to prioritize feeling good, maybe you think “who is this hippie anyway and what does she know about my life?” There’s a part of me that still, after years learning to trust the feeling of pleasure and aliveness as a sign that I’m on the right track, recoils and gets resentful at the idea that it’s really ok to, like, feel good. Usually, the bitchier I get the more I need a dose of feeling good.
As women, we’re raised to bond around our complaints. We’re kind of suspicious of people who feel “too good”. It pisses us off, which is a clue. And when we dare admit that we want it because we’re burnt out and hungry and dying on the inside, then we wonder how! How do you make the time? How do you decide that it is ok to put yourself first? It’s a huge question to which I offer a simple medicine. Move. And find a way to do it that feels good to you.
Here’s a little story about movement and dance and how it saved my life.
When I was thirteen and beginning my teenage obsession with NOT GETTING FAT! I used to do aerobics. There was this show called the 20-minute workout. It was super eighties–leotards with panty-hose and leg-warmers. Big hair. These chicks moved like smooth barbie automatons. They didn’t seem to sweat but they all had skinny, toned bodies like I dreamt of having. Ah, the irony, because I wasn’t even chubby. But that’s not the point, since in my mind anything less than idealized perfection meant I was a disgusting pig and who needed to work harder and strive to be better at denying myself. I was starting my training in numbing out hunger and pushing my body like a machine. I would hop on my bike after school and do endless loops of the neighborhood, or get on the stationary bike at home and pedal away. The thing was to clock miles and keep the ugly fat at bay. This was not about enjoyment!
But there was a time before all this self-flagellation. As a little girl, before the self-consciousness and worry about getting fat, I remember climbing trees and tumbling on the grass with my little brother. There were afternoons doing cartwheels with friends, and days at the beach splashing around and waiting for the next wave. Moments where the joy of pure play was simple and completely mine. My family lived in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. The cliches about tropical places and paradise exist for a reason. So in my memories of playing on the beach where the world around me really did look like “paradise” are also where I experienced the inner freedom of being totally at ease in my body. But that didn’t last very long, just a few sweet years before puberty.
I’m not sure when exactly I discovered that I actually liked moving and that it felt good? There were the times in eighth grade after school, doing silly interpretive dances with my best friend in her living room. There were those times in college, dancing all night at the little club where I used to go with my friends, or going to shows in New Orleans and getting sweaty to down and dirty blues. Through all the years of body hatred, of obsessing over every calorie, of doing my best to eat the least possible amount, through all of that there was always something in me which remained intact–the part that loved moving! I’m not saying that I embraced pleasurable movement with open arms. I didn’t have such a concept. Back then I put in my time. I walked, ran, pumped iron. But the thread of pleasure through movement was never totally severed. And bit by bit I found my way back. There were those very first yoga classes where simply breathing and paying attention to breathing was a revelation. A return home. It’s not that I discovered that I liked moving but rather that I re-discovered it as I grew up.
So why do I say movement and dancing saved my life? It wasn’t one particular incident where I danced out of the way of a moving train or any such literal thing. But I cannot tell you here the countless times when I found my way home to my self and my own heart through dancing and movement. When my ex-hubby and I divorced, I found connection and passion and a healthy obsession through tango. I became a regular at Triangulo studio in New York City. When I lost a baby after a tough and complicated pregnancy, I found my strength again and let myself move through the grief dancing in the forest in Costa Rica with Parashakti and her Dance of Liberation. Those were some big transitions, but movement has also been there for me in quieter, slower ways, like learning how to do walking meditation or getting to a 5rhythms class and sweating my prayers. Whenever I feel “off” or when I feel great and want to celebrate, I move. No matter what else is going on, the body is home, and moving and dancing is a direct way to connect with self and soul.
Here’s the video, in case you feel like getting up and shakin’ it:
What’s your idea of paradise? Where does movement and dancing figure into it, if at all? I’d love to hear your comments. (Comment at the top of the page).