A friend just told me she had sprained her ankle-- she had been meditating so much she basically left her body and when she needed to get back in on a gravel road, she was not quite able.
This photo is of my foot a few years ago. I had a similar problem.
This launched us into a discussion of being embodied. She works with many teenagers who live their lives on video games.
The disembodiment that occurs when kids live through
computer bodies instead of their actual ones might not only lead to atrophy it may lead to more sprained ankles.
The first days are the physics days...
If you watch toddlers, you realize that the first few years of life are predominated by learning physics. You learn what you can stand on, hold on to or grab. What falls, what doesn't and how big a divide you can get across.
Toddlers need this time to figure it all out. The first years are not just about learning language, they're about learning how to move about.
But if we then just sit on our machines (or even our meditation cushions) we lose that embodiment and maybe, eventually our balance.
Firewalk- a dramatic solution
I am at an event today where 7,000 people will walk across 2000 degree coals. If they were not in their bodies before, they will be now. Ha ha.
Of course walking across fire is not required to get back in your body, but it does help. (More info)
Swimming is also good- you'll feel every part of yourself as you move through the water. Dancing, running even standing in the rain can get us back in.
If you're scared of sporty movement-- Really tasting our food or feeling the carpet beneath our feet also works. John Kabat Zinn has a great mindfulness program that helps with this.
Please watch this terrific video of what our elders used to do in their free time (pick blueberries, play with friends)...compared to what today's kids do (text, play video games, and watch TV series in large quantities)
I'm thinking we're going to have a whole lot of sprained ankles and broken bones...not from climbing trees and playing soccer..just from getting up and walking out the front door.
Tech and meditation addicts might lose touch with the physical world and soon start bumbling around like toddlers.
This June in Paris, I had the chance to spend quality time with a dear friend. In typical French fashion she somehow made us a delicious meal with almost no ingredients. She put it together while we chatted and within an hour we enjoyed her creation.
Chatting on her couch after eating she said, "I've read something this year that was more powerful than anything I have read for a very long time. You must read it."
She ran into her room, returned back and shoved this book (photographed) into my hands.
"Have you heard of him?" She asked. Disappointed that I had not.
We both have done extensive coaching training and tend to be up on "books that blow your mind." Irvin Yalom is an existential psychiatrist who worked with patients and taught for years at Stanford University
What is Existential Psychiatry? Why does it matter?
For folks who are atheist, agnostic, or just do not want to talk about spirituality, existential psychiatry offers a way to talk about the biggest conundrums of being human without involving heaven, hell, Jesus, or any other concept that requires a leap of faith.
Epicurus says, " You're Really Just Scared of Death "
Yalom worked with patients using reason--and when it came to death he talked to his patients a lot about Epicurus. Now, we tend to think of dear Epicurus as our Greek father of food, but he was far more interested in writing about death.
He did not believe the soul transcended death -- the upside is that if the soul did not go on, then one could not be punished. So no need to worry.
He thought-- as did Yalom working with his patients -- that much (maybe most) human anxiety stems from a fear of dying.
Epicurus says, "Stop Freaking Out About Death, Enjoy Yourself!"
Epicurus and Dr. Yalom think if we could relax about dying, we could live much richer and fuller lives.
Dr. Yalom turned into therapy what Epicurus touted as philosophy.
Now in terms of enjoyment Epicurus wasn't into our favorites-- he was doubtful about the benefits of sex or politics. He probably was a fan of food...hence his culinary fame.
Rationally Talk Yourself Out of Panic
Yalom's book Staring at the Sun, shares vignettes of how he talked his patients through their unconcious fears of death. It's like getting free therapy-- they'll be someone in the book that sounds sort of like you. I did not think I was scared of death -- but his rational explanation about why one should release any fear felt freeing.
Sharing Death with Strangers
I could not put the book down; I read the entire thing on my flight from Paris to Washington DC. The man next to me - Gavin - saw me so lit up he said, "I have to know what you're reading." So I told him about the book and we started talking about death, life, loss, etc.
"Are you afraid of dying" Gavin asked me.
"No," I said, "I'm afraid of everyone I love dying. I don't want to be left here without them."
He nodded in agreement.
After an hour of talking I said, "Let me go back to the book so I can give it to you when we land"
I handed it to him at baggage claim and said, "if not for you it will help you comfort someone dealing with loss."
Somehow, without God, spirit or soul, Yalom and Epicurus make death not so scary. It's so without mysticism, it's ironically like magic.
For the More Spiritual
I'm more spiritual than Yalom, though my undergraduate major is philosophy (intellectual history- to be specific) so I appreciate the beauty of the argument.
It's warm and brilliant. If you want a more spiritual approach to death, have the courage to pick up Many Lives, Many Masters by Columbia trained psychiatrist Dr. Brian Weiss. His books will blow your hair back (if you have any) too. A totally different frame; they contradict each other yet I love them both and find they both "work."
I agree with Weiss and Yalom and Epicurus that we live better lives if we are not so worried about the end or about what happens to those we love. Grab a lemonade, sit in a comfy chair, and hold on to your hat...either of these books will change your life-- for the better.
that made me think more about dressing well and the impact it has on our days. By some huge stroke of luck, the woman from whom I rented a room in Paris had a French vintage clothing store in the apartment. She was a bit of a collector and need to clean out her collection.
So I went shopping in my apartment -- and for 5-10 Euros picked up some French vintage clothes. French are subtle- classic French clothes look effortless and yet are striking. Paris was surprisingly cool that week (65 in June!!) so I needed the clothes anyway.
I put on some classic French dress and went about my day.
Shopping for Chagall on Faubourg St. Honoré
On my way to meet a friend, I found myself on Rue Faubourg St. Honoré -- the high fashion street in Paris (what Rue de Rivoli used to be). Early for my lunch date, I strolled into an art gallery. A young woman wear stunning billowy silk yellow pants and a silk white top welcomed me.
After I walked around for 5 minutes, she offered to take me upstairs. She showed me the collection and we began discussing a Chagall they had for sale.
Of course clothes aren't everything. Picking one's nose kind of negates a nice blouse and being rude always looks ugly...but it got me to thinking. If I was about to buy a Chagall today...what dress would I wear?
Violà la dissertation...I am taking a break before diving back into editing. Between moving apartments and condensing this document, I find myself spending a significant amount of time considering more generally what to let go of and what to keep.
I wonder what words, books, clothing items and people will be there for the next chapter of my life and which will land at Goodwill, ebay, or the place to which the "delete" button sends things.
Fame can also disappear. Now you're famous, now you're not. This is true for popularity as well. I had no one to eat lunch with in the 2nd grade--it was terrible. I used to walk around the playground trying to fill up the time. My junior year of high school, however, I had too many friends to have lunch with them all. One summer at camp I had no friends and a few years later I was Queen. Rags to riches...
Companionship has waxed and waned since. It's fleeting and precious. Appearance of course our bodies will change, our faces will age -- gravity and sun always win against exercise and face cream.
Specific Relationships if you have been alive more than 5 minutes, you know that people can die, friends can "unfriend you" and lovers can unapologetically walk out the door. Others may simply move away or your interests and values simply pull you apart over time.
So What Stays?
Ok, sorry for that rather dour and quite buddhist reminder that all this shall pass. On the upside, here's what tends to stay.
Education: I realized that once I receive my PhD no one can take it away. My degree in conflict resolution stays with me even if I spent my whole life creating, versus resolving conflicts. Education, more generally, stays with us. My book collection may take on different forms over time, but the knowledge gained from reading those books stays.
Ability to love: I realized I cannot hold on to specific people anymore than I can hold back a moving train. What I can keep and develop is my compassion, generosity, kindness, and patience.
I remember vividly the moment I realized that if I can be loving I can always have love in my life. This thought comforted after a breakup. I wasn't going to put love solely in someone else's hands.
Skills: Sports, arts, languages...these all stay. Swimming, rollerblading, French and swing dancing all come with me even if I lose my blades, swim bag and dance shoes. This is reassuring. Oh incidentally, people say you lose languages. I just went back to France after not speaking much this year and had friends tell my I am as fluent or more than when I lived there. So, we can discard that myth. Sometimes you can get better with a break.
What to focus on?
So it's good to know what matters. But does this insight help me condense this 600-page document or decide what dresses to give away?
No, but it creates a peaceful context while I am going through the process.
Moving my home and shifting my work isn't that unsettling when I remember that it's just the visible things.
The trick seems to be to give up holding on to the ephemeral and focus on developing new skills or personal attributes.
For starters, I'd like to learn how to do this......
Sarah Federman, PhD
Enjoy these short blogs and videos designed to bring you a little cheer.
My other blog Language of Conflict addresses the importance of word choice and narration in conflict.
Finish and Flourish supports writers struggling to complete projects.