Art in Action: 6 Ways to Expand Your View

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Art in Action is a weekly post: a short, practical guide to applying the ideas and principles in the Focus Pocus posts to your body and life. As always, I love to hear from you about how you use them and how you translate the ideas into action.

You wake up (or sit at your desk all day or trip over a root or try carrying ALL the groceries in) and something in your body doesn’t feel good. Instead of focusing and dwelling on what hurts, here are 6 ways to expand your view:

1. Notice what’s happening in detail. Is the pain throbbing, steady, hot, sharp, sporadic, steady?

2. Notice what’s happening around the part that hurts. If it’s your knee, for example, what’s happening in your hip? Your IT band? Your foot? Your ankle? If you take care of the parts around the pain (stretch, for example, or roll on a foam roller, or massage), does it affect the hurt part?

3. Notice what things soothe the pain and what things exacerbate it.

4. Notice what doesn’t hurt in your body, what actually feels good or open or free. Notice that just because one part hurts doesn’t mean that everything is a hopeless mess.

5. Notice how you talk about the pain. Do you call it your “bad knee” or your “stupid back” or your “annoying shoulder”? Do you talk about how much it stinks to get old and how that’s just what happens when you reach a certain age?

6. Notice how you feel about the pain. Do you live in what my friend calls “the wreckage of your future”? Does a pain in your knee spiral into “never hike again,” “never walk again,” “knee cancer”? Notice if your emotional story makes it more than it really is.

With an expanded view, see how it feels to reconnect with the injured part of you. Are there more possibilities? More perspective?

You can use the same approach when something in your life or in a relationship or in the world feels bad. See what happens when you expand your view:

1. Notice what’s happening in detail. Do your best to understand the full situation and then investigate what it is that you are feeling. Stay concrete rather than rushing to the philosophical. Check out the physical sensations in your body around the situation. Is your stomach tight? Does your head hurt? Your heart?

2. Notice what’s happening around what feels bad. Investigate what is happening around the situation. What might be contributing to it beyond the obvious? Is someone afraid, desperate, embarrassed or angry? Are you?

3. Notice what things soothe your suffering about the situation and what things exacerbate it.

4. Notice what is working in the situation. Notice the good. As Mr. Rogers said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

5. Notice how you talk about the situation. Do you call someone “an idiot” or a company “heartless” or a decision “crazy”? Do you lump a group of people together or make the situation black and white with the way you talk about it?

6. Notice how you feel about the situation. Do you live in “the wreckage of the future”? Does the situation spiral into “everything will be terrible,” and, “the world will end”? Notice if your emotional story makes it more than it really is.

With an expanded view, see how it feels to reconnect with the difficult situation. Are there more possibilities? More perspective?

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