Rise, Phoenix, Rise

Rise, Phoenix, Rise

Easter celebrates rebirth, creativity and renewal. A man dies. A religion is born. This Easter weekend is a pivot for creative change.

A virus is causing suffering and death. Yet, compared with the WHO top seven (heart disease, cancer, injury, lungs, stroke, Alzheimers and Diabetes), Covid-19 is insignificant.

Our response, driven out of fear, has put the world on hold. While there have been 18,000 deaths in the US, there have been 16 million unemployed. Many countries are already in recession. Uncertainty is rife. Jobs, businesses and lifestyles will disappear.

Nature leads the way

Skies are clear. India can see the Himalayas. Water runs clean. Swans, dolphins and fish return to recovering waterways. Birds, including Tui, below, sing prolifically in our trees. Streets are quiet and safe. Auckland harbour glistens in perfection. Yesterday, a massive stingray. Today, a couple of diving kingfishers. Tomorrow, the dolphins or Orca may return.

Tamaki Drive (above) which runs along Auckland’s waterfront, usually a snarl of cars, motorbikes and buses, has transformed into a tranquil, family exercise venue. Families, couples and individuals from ‘our bubble’ wander all day.

Imagine a future where on weekends, cars are banned. Humans, birds and sea-life get to recover and enjoy some peace. Great opportunity. Who will step up to the creative work?

Easter. Phoenix rising. Shiva gives way to Brahma. Spring comes. The cycle of life.

We are in the crucible of transformation. As the old gives way, it is time for creativity.

Start with yourself

Can you feel a sense of relaxation? Perhaps a new rhythm in your day? Important reconnections at home? Maybe you feel the need for change? Are you asking what really matters? My top five creative focus points:

  1. Breathe slowly and smoothly; 4 seconds in and 6 seconds out
  2. Sleep long, regular and deep; connect your fitbit
  3. Get out in nature every day; walk, bike or if locked down, do yoga
  4. Counter grief with appreciation, anger with kindness, and fear with courage
  5. Be brutal with your thoughts; stay firmly in the present moment

Resilience is so much more than coping and bounce. It is growth, connection and flow.

Start with your breath, attention and presence. Inside-Out is available for less than a cup of coffee. Or start your Resilience Journey with an interactive dynamic Resilience App with assessments, recommendations, online courses, meditation guides, tracking and a chatbot coach.

Recreate your career

My wife has built her own website to launch a digital platform for her finance training. After years of procrastination, it is done. Traditional, workshop training – as well as school, retail, university and services – have already gone virtual and digital. Design, plan, digitalise and communicate your new offer.

Innovation is essential. You may have lost your job or your business. What are you doing right now to recreate a meaningful work and revenue stream? You have time. Use it well. Many gaps will open up. There will be a surge in demand. There is no time to waste. Execute.

If you are looking for a different way of working, isn’t this the perfect time to let go the past and recreate your future? Complete an online course, write, paint, photograph, network and explore what others are doing in your area of passion.

Realign your team

If you are still part of a team, make sure you connect regularly. Support each other to maintain optimal wellbeing and motivation. Brainstorm opportunities. Talk to your clients and see what they need. Come up with novel, timely and effective solutions.

Many businesses – travel, hospitality, airlines – have cratered. You may have lost many people. Get those who are still engaged together to re-imagine the business. Set up those skunkworks to break things down, mix it up and formulate new business solutions.

Perhaps this is the opportunity to refresh your board, leadership or teams. Who are the young, skilled and motivated people who can help your business thrive into this new world?

Community action

If you like the clean skies, waterways and resurging nature, what might you do to highlight some of the benefits and see if we can build them into the future. We are trapping the scourge of possums wrecking our trees and birdlife. What about getting together to have a “no cars Sunday” in your local parks? How about protecting certain areas from noise, drunken revelry and light at night?

The solution to our environmental tragedy is on full display. As we have seen over the past years, most people – especially the young – deeply care about our environment. We are running a stunning experiment in restraint. Nature is already celebrating. If you are a social entrepreneur and want a better future for life on earth, now is the time to organise, devise solutions, and get ready to counter the surge in consumption.

Please don’t let this creative window pass you by. The world seldom offers up such disruptive, rich and tantalising opportunities for deep change. Grasp it with resolve.

Be a better person. Forge better family connections. Recreate your life and work. Connect with those who share your passions and commitment. Make a better world.

Happy Easter😁

10 Tips for Rest, Recovery and Rejuvenation

10 Tips for Rest, Recovery and Rejuvenation

Written by by 

The Season for Stillness

We tumble to the end of another warp-speed year. We spin through our tasks and grasp at floods of information.

We press too hard, too fast and for too long. Reservoirs are sucked dry. Self-awareness fades. Self-regulation is impaired. Your health and your relationships are at risk.

It is time to slow down, repair, rejuvenate and reconnect with what matters.

In a world of optimisation, ambition, pride and duty, we push hard on multiple fronts. The rest, recovery and rejuvenation cycle is squeezed out between ever shorter bursts of dopamine. We are child-like in our impulsive tapping, swiping, checking, buying, rushing, feeding… compelled to chase the next hit.

As I come to the end of 2019, I feel battered. My mind is a little flat. Attention is fragile. Relationships are edgy. I know I need a good break. I am struggling to disconnect, calm my hypervigilance, and allow the natural cycle of recovery. I sense it in our family, friends and colleagues.

Rest, recovery and rejuvenation (R3) is the next competitive edge. Ironic!

My end of year message it to give rest, recovery and rejuvenation your full attention.

At a cellular level, the R3 cycle is vital to repair and rejuvenation. It is the key to longevity and sits at the biochemical core of fasting, sleep quality, intense activity, meditation, and cold water baths. It is a promising solution that supports this process of slowing, cleaning and repairing hard working cells.

The R3 cycle is key to musculoskeletal strength and physical wellbeing. Intimacy, touch and dreaming (REM) sleep stimulate the R3 cycle for emotional wellbeing. The default network is the R3 cycle for cognition allowing us to focus, engage and refresh our minds.

Our end-of-year pause is an opportunity to capture the R3 cycle for life and family. Please make an effort to allow for adequate rest, recovery and rejuvenation as your year comes to an end. Engage your family in this process so that you may reconnect in more intimate ways.

Share what works well for you.

Christmas Presence

Christmas Presence

Somehow throughout December I kept myself busy, dealing with the daily. Forgetting to look around and connect, forgetting to check my course.  I only half noticed the shops starting to fill with Christmas fare, the familiar sign of nativities, trees, and decorations beckoning… tiny lights flickering and glistening everywhere I turned.

I remember the crammed supermarket. I would smile, merrily humming along to the music dreaming of a white Christmas while filling my shopping trolley with only the regular shop, pushing straight past the baubles and puddings.

christmas-tree

Then suddenly one day, I was taken aback. Unexpectedly, right there in front of me, ’twas the night before Christmas. Surprised and unprepared, I felt disorientated and wondered where December had gone. Not a creature was stirring, not a stocking in sight. I jumped up and dashed and pranced into action. I rushed through the motions, preparing the house, buying Christmas food, and finishing the gift wrapping.

In no time, it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas. My clean and tidy house ready to welcome the guests who would never know about my last minute pop up Christmas.

But a part of me felt sad, and robbed, and something was missing. My heart longed for the season I had almost missed. Distracted by life, I had missed the usual turn off, forgotten to notice. No inner preparation, no festive evenings by the tree. No community browsing, smiling and nodding merrily at those who dare to wear Santa hats in public.

No silent nights at home, holy nights of gratitude, nor evenings in, when all is calm as the tree sparkles, and my heart celebrates and awaits.

Looking back, Christmas day was lovely. Candles, holly, crackers, bubbly, turkey and money pudding. Jokes and chit chat. After lunch conversation. The clean up. The hugs and the farewells.

Was that really a year ago? I remember sitting in my lounge, in the warm glow of another Christmas passed. As the dishwasher hummed, I remember gazing out of the window cradling my warm cup of tea, reflecting on another Christmas Day. Phew. I thought, only just made it this year. In a twinkling it was over. In a few days, I will pack down the tree, hiding it away, in it’s big box in the garage for another year.

pexels-photo-225224

In that moment I made a decision. To be certain to always linger over Christmas. To savour every Christmas moment and to live slowly.

Never again, I vowed, would I miss all that December has to offer. Never again would I rush past Christmas, failing to connect, or miss the big red stop sign, or ho hum at the commercialism… yes, tempting me to spend, but also, inviting my heart to prepare.

So this time last year, I made a diary entry for a year in advance. December 1st, 2016. It read “Tree decorated, shopping finished, linger this Christmas season”. And here we are. Another year lived. It’s almost December again, and Christmas is coming!

[clickToTweet tweet=”“Tree decorated, shopping finished, linger this Christmas season”” quote=”“Tree decorated, shopping finished, linger this Christmas season””].

I look around and smile. I greet the season.  This year I will be ready. I will prepare my home and my heart. I will not procrastinate as if December goes on forever. It doesn’t. Time waits for no one. I love this life cycle of seasons. Yes. This year I will slow down, remember Christmas, and connect.  And I will give myself, and others, the precious gift of presence.

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Christmas Connection Workouts

Christmas Connection Workouts

The Point

Coming to the end of 2016, NOW is the time to work on connection. All too often we crash exhausted into Christmas holidays. Combined with unrealistic expectations we are irritable and prone to excess. Conflict erupts, anger and sadness leave us isolated and disconnected. An opportunity for rejuvenating connection and joy can be lost.

The Solution

We know that it takes time to adjust the body, emotions and brain. At this time of year many of us are at a low ebb. We are hanging on to the end. The holiday season is an event that requires training. We have concrete evidence for what we can do to get fit and celebrate meaningful connections. There is just enough time between now and 24 December to get fit.

Here is HOW

Make a PLAN

You have 30 days before the bell rings. Starting today, allocate a few minutes a day for deliberate practice. My suggestion is 15 minutes each day that you dedicate to building your connection muscles. These may be short bursts adding up to 15 minutes. Get them in your diary.

Define your PRACTICE

The smarter and more effective your practice the quicker your physiology, emotions and brain circuits will show sustained change. Each of us must find the right practice but we have good science to support five key practices to shape up and work on every day.

1. Be PRESENT

If you are caught up in the mental storm of pressure, worry and regret, you will only find suffering. The first practice is to exhale slowly, drop your mind into your body and fully sense, feel and observe the moment. Each time you do this your blood pressure and heart rate will drop, you will activate vagal tone (relaxation and connection), and allow your mind to be fully attentive. You have activated the right physiology for connection (1).

Practice Tip: take a minute to do this before every meeting over the next 30 days. When you are actually in a dialogue use the same practice.

2.  Be OPEN

Connection starts with your body. Research shows that an open body posture changes your hormone status within minutes. Your second practice is to remind yourself to sit upright, roll your shoulders back, and open your arms (palms visible). Your goal is to signal warmth (oxytocin) and strength (testosterone). During periods of connection, stay facing the person and maintain your presence (2).

Practice Tip: build a couple of oxytocin-pumping moments into each day. Give your pet a serious cuddle, hug your kids in the morning, get or give a massage, and when you can make time for touch in your partnership.

3.  FEEL emotions

Emotional empathy is the ability to feel the emotions of another in your own body. This is done by your mirror neurons (anterior insula). They are trainable. Once you are in the presence of another, work on really feeling how they are feeling. Watch body posture, note each change in facial expression and listen carefully to the tone of voice. See if you can map some of the same signals into your body. Notice carefully what you are feeling. This can be pretty intense (3). Work slowly. Breathe out some more.

Practice Tip: take care of yourself. To empathise emotionally takes calm, inner strength. You want to notice, engage but not be overwhelmed.

4.  SEE others

Cognitive empathy is being able to know how another is thinking. We can also call it perspective-taking. Prof Tania Singer has been able to show that this happens in a different part of the brain (temporoparietal junction). Other have named spindle cells (von Economo Neurons). In short it is worth trying to think the thoughts of others (4).

Practice Tip: take a moment to check with another if you have read their perspective or point of view accurately. Given them a moment to acknowledge your accuracy or help you correct your reading.

5.  Do GOOD

At the end of the day it will come down to action. This may be making a call to someone, saying thank you, sending a birthday note, or simply picking up some trash. Research clearly shows that taking positive action – even if a little random – helps us and creates a virtuous cycle of generosity and trust. Don’t wait for Christmas ‘prize-giving’.

Practice Tip: keep it authentic you will find yourself feeling so much better. It is a good addiction to develop. Be good by doing good! This is the purpose of the Christmas Season. Connect……

References:

  1. Porges, Stephen, The Polyvagal Theory, 2012
  2. Cuddy, Amy, Presence, 2015
  3. Ricard, Matthieu, Altruism, 2016
  4. De Waal, Frans, On Empathy, 2009 and Are we smart enough to know how smart animals are?, 2016.
“Take a deep breath” is bad advice !

“Take a deep breath” is bad advice !

Taking a deep breath will create arousal, anxiety, distress, and reduce CO2 even more. “Experts”, from physicians to coaches, default to this faulty recommendation.

The science of breathing demonstrates how this advice is scientifically and practically wrong. Rather, apply the correct practice to counter distress, calm, focus and connect to reality.

Basic science to understand:

1. Heart rate changes with breathing. Inhalation accelerates your heart. Exhalation – particularly when sustained longer than inhalation – slows your heart.

2. This is called sinus arrhythmia or heart rate variability. When it follows a sine curve it is a very reliable marker of good health and reduced risk (1).

3. Exaggerating inhalation engages chest muscles shortening and accelerating the breath. This causes CO2 to drop and is part of hyperventilation syndrome (2).

4. Hyperventilation happens when anxious and, if sustained, leads to low CO2 (carbon dioxide) and a range of symptoms including anxiety, pounding heart rate, chest pain, light-headedness. It is estimated to affect 10-30% of otherwise healthy people and can lead to hospitalisation.

5. Arousal, with increased heart rate is associated with the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and calm, with lower heart rate is associated with the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS, mediated by the vagus nerve) and called vagal tone or vagal brake (3).

6. Neck and upper chest (secondary) muscles ventilate the upper lung. These are only required in extreme situations of physical effort

7. Diaphragm and intercostal (primary) muscles ventilate lower lung. These muscles facilitate heart rate variability, calm and good health.

When you take a deep breath …

You will activate your chest and neck muscles, trigger the sympathetic system, strain your neck muscles, accelerate your heart, and activate a state of increased arousal. The vagal brake is switched off and you can compromise both muscle and brain function as CO2 falls.

Advice to “breathe in through the nose” further strains secondary breathing muscles. Adding “out through the mouth” causes the loss of CO2 and a shorter exhalation. If you continue to take this advice you can drive your physiology into an acute or chronic case of hyperventilation.

There is no point in voluntarily taking a deep breath. Your neurophysiology takes care of it in the background. Remember the last time you dived under a big wave!

Tactical calm is exhalation…

The first step to calm and focus is to exhale voluntarily through the nose. As you lengthen the outbreath, the diaphragm relaxes, domes upward and the vagus (PNS) nerve activates. Heart rate slows, muscles relax, and blood returns to the prefrontal cortex and empathy circuits.

Whether on stage, in battle, on the court, needing to connect or be creative, experts in all fields have to master this simple technique. Below is a short demonstration of heart rate variability showing these effects.

untitledFigure 1. Heart rate changes through three conditions:

  1. Concern about conflict in a family (heart rate accelerates from 55-60 up to 70 bpm)
  2. Advised to take three deep breaths (irregular pulse, wild acceleration 50 to 70). It counters the natural calming that was taking place prior to advice.
  3. Slow exhalations creates high amplitude heart rate variability and calm

Let’s get practical…

Whenever you notice agitation, worry, fatigue and any distress symptom, simply exhale for 5 or 6 seconds with a pause at the end. Then breathe slowly into the lower ribs and abdomen through the nose for 3 or 4 seconds.

Repeat as needed.

Tactical (square) breathing

All special forces are now taught a variation of this which involves: 4 seconds exhale, 4 seconds hold, 4 seconds inhale and 4 seconds hold. This is used to get combat ready (condition yellow) and effective by being calm, focused an connected.

Nothing new here folks! The yogis have recommended this explicitly for over 2000 years. A simple audio for guided practice can be found here: Breathe out slowly!

(1) Matthew Mackinnon, Psychology Today.

(2) Dinah Bradley, Family Doctor.

(3) Sven Hansen, Breath, Revive, Connect: Insights.

Cultivating Radiance

Cultivating Radiance

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Can a 3-minute practice change your day?

Yes, we know these practices work.  Yet, the motivation and skill to execute the practice regularly is often lacking. Examples include high intensity exercise, powernaps, tactical calming, and sleep preparation. I would like to share one that works really well for me. Simply follow the instructions below or click on the link and print a 3-minute practice to improve your day.

Purpose

Secure more calm, enthusiasm, love, gratitude, and joy in your day and your life.

Investment

Three minutes each morning for deliberate practice – in bed, sitting or walking

Instructions

Follow each instruction for 30 seconds

  1. Exhale fully, relax face and neck and breathe low and slow, feeling the breath move
  2. Follow your exhalation to the base of your spine and seek the deepest feeling of calm and steadiness you can imagine. Feel the base of a mountain, a tree trunk or deep ocean to help you strongly feel a core of calm, stability and confidence in the moment.
  3. Expand your inhalation up through the spine and feel your physical energy and strength. Seek aliveness. Treasure every living process within you seeking your life force and passion to be.
  4. Open your heart area and bring to mind those you love dearly. Send each person a pulse of loving-kindness. Expand your altruism with a sincere desire that everyone be healthy, happy and successful.2
  5. Focus attention on your forehead. Really fix your attention on a spot between your eyebrows. With gratitude for this moment of pure, clear, stable focus go deep into the experience of one pointed attention.
  6. Imagine the sun shining on your head and allow yourself to feel blessed by goodness and the blessing of life. Rest in the flow of happiness, contentment, joy, and bliss.

Start your day and enjoy the afterglow. Notice how the probability that you are calm, energised, kind, clear and happy increases.

To download and print click here