Accessing Body Energy

Using the Wisdom-Energy of Your Body to Create Positive Change #2

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Have you ever thought that you've been holding back your professional aspirations or your creative potential?  Have you ever wondered what it would be like to connect with the deep, untapped well of possibilities within yourself, and let it flow? This deep inner well is your life energy, and you can draw from this rich resource by learning to pay attention to what you're sensing in your body.

Sound compelling to you?  If so, I hope you'll join me for my new webinar, "Using the Wisdom-Energy of Your Body to Create Positive Change," that's happening on Wednesday, October 25th, from 12 - 1 PM PDT /3 - 4 PM EDT/ 8 - 9 PM CST/ 9 - 10 PM CEST.  This webinar is part of the series, "The Heart of Being Human," sponsored by Living Forward, LLC. Register for this webinar by clicking here.

Gregg Levoy, human potential speaker and author, describes a striking example of a woman who intuitively understood the deeper meaning and limitations of what it meant to her to live with obesity.  She came up to him after he gave a public talk and asked, out of the blue, “You know why I’m so fat?  It’s because I have so many stories inside me that I’m not writing down.”

As Levoy noted in his book, Callings— Finding and Following an Authentic Life:  “This woman knew that her condition meant something and what it meant . . . She seemed to understand that within her body all the records of her rejected desires, deflected dreams, and frustrated creativity were piled up and pushing out from inside….

Levoy also knew something about staying unconnected with his untapped well of possibilities.  Earlier in his life he was a journalist, and continued to work for a particular newspaper until way after his spirit or his life energy was ready to move on.  It was as if he'd just been waiting for something to nudge him away from his secure paycheck, and free him to do the writing and teaching about creativity and authenticity that was calling to him.  

And then he was fired. To me, it's as if a mouse had slowly been gnawing away at the rope that had Levoy bound to a way of working and expressing himself that no longer made sense to something deep in his vitals. 

But you don't need to wait.

You can learn to be more pro-active in recognizing the signals from your body's energy— and encourage that deep well of possibilities within you to flow. You can learn to slow down, breathe more fully, and pay attention to the wisdom-energy ofyour body.  You can learn to feel what engages your energy and what limits it. As you learn what lifts your energy, you'll be able to feel what choices will lead to positive outcomes in making the professional and creative changes you desire. 

If this interests you, I invite you to join me for my webinar on this topic on Wednesday, October 25th, from 12 - 1 PM Pacific Time.  I look forward to sharing this new experience with you!

Feeling Stuck? Try a Radical Shift in Perspective!

Have you ever felt completely stuck as a professional— trying to find work you love, or having to do work you do not love at all? It happens to everyone at certain times, really jarring your sense of yourself as a competent, resourceful, purposeful, even worthwhile, person in the world.

What can you do when you feel stuck like that to get your creative juice going again? One thing you can do is get into a radically different perspective from the one you

are in. If you can’t do it for yourself, get in contact with a friend or colleague who’s empathic, but not stuck, and allow something new to emerge in talking together that turns your mind in a totally different direction. Coaching, too, can offer this kind of experience, as I shared once in a rather dramatic encounter.

It was early in my coaching career, and I was invited to give a presentation at a support group for people in mid-life seeking jobs. I came early to watch how the group worked together and found myself looking several times at a participant who moved very strangely, I thought. He wasn’t disabled, but his body seemed all at odds with himself. Even standing still, one shoulder was significantly higher than the other, and his whole torso was somewhat askew. But most particularly, his face looked out vaguely, seemingly without focus.

From my training as a somatic facilitator, I had an intuitive thought that he might be inwardly distressed from the sheer drudgery of waking up daily for months, maybe more than a year, to the endless round of the job search process.

Then it was my time to talk to the group about career transitions. Throughout the room, the energy was tired, low, and discouraged, so I led some exercises designed to help people expand their vision or sense of possibilities. I felt it might be interesting to the group to offer a mini-coaching session for one person that everyone else could tune into.

There was only one concern I had— I hoped I wouldn’t have to coach this particular man, who seemed so out of touch with himself, in a limited, 15-minute session. Of course, he was the only person to raise his hand.

He literally shuffled forward to the front of the room. His energy level was almost at zero. I asked him what he’d like to be coached on. He mumbled something about finding a new job. In response to my question about what he’d really like to be doing for work, he responded with litanies of positions he’d held and positions he was applying for. There was no uplift to his voice anywhere, no opening I could elicit.

I felt myself as stuck as I’ve ever been as a coach until, out of sheer desperation, I seized upon an inspiration. “Barry,” I said, “What is it that you can tell us about yourself that none of us here knows?”

Suddenly, there was an amazing shift in Barry’s posture and stance. His body literally unwound and righted itself. He took the microphone in his hand, actually smiled, and, speaking clearly and audibly to the group, told us about his joy in volunteering as an auctioneer to raise money for a nonprofit group he supported. He had such poise and passion as he told us about what he did with this work, that the group in front of him clapped and cheered. He beamed. For the first time in a long time Barry received affirmation for what he truly loved to do and who he truly was as a whole person.

In the 2013 movie Her, Theodore, a professional writer of personal letters, is emotionally and professionally stuck. His upset over the failure of his marriage leads him to start a new, unorthodox relationship with a specialized operating system in his computer named Samantha. Having a completely open mind without conventional limitations, Samantha invites him to join her in a connection that will bend his mind open and jumpstart his whole life.

When Theodore asks her how she works, she replies, “Well, basically I have intuition . . . But what makes me me is my ability to grow through my experiences. So basically, in every moment I’m evolving, just like you.”

Falling in love with Samantha, Theodore finds that he’s opening to a more playful and expansive approach to life that unsettles him, but brings him new awareness and fulfillment with his intimate and professional relationships.

I don’t know what happened next with Barry’s job quest, but it was clear that he’d had a transformative and breakthrough moment. He finally acknowledged to his support group that he knew what it was to work in a heart-centered way— and that that was what he really wanted.

Transitions-- the Art of Spontaneous Presence

Sometimes we are presented with words or an intuitive hit or a light on the path that seems exactly the right clue you need to answer a pressing question in your life. Reading the latest blog post, "Transition," of environmentalist, poet, and Buddhist practitioner Gary Horvitz, I found another perspective on questions that come up for so many people I've coached who are in the process of making important career and other life changes— also known as a transitional time, or simply, a "transition."

"What is a transition?"

"I think I'm in one now— what do I do?"

"How does the disorientation and confusion of my transition lead to the change
I want to make?"

Notice in the part of Gary's post below what he has to say about the "being" part of a transition that comes from a deep, inner place where "poetry arises," too. I'm guessing that Gary probably wrote a lot of poetry during this period of internal not-knowing, gradually finding words to bring together tantalizing wisps of intuition, feelings, and uncertainty. As his path gradually clarified for him, he decided to live in Thailand for a time and try cultivating in himself what Buddhism calls "spontaneous presence," or appreciating life fully, in the moment.

Living in this more unsettled and unknown way, Gary found that transitions arise naturally, are as much about being as doing, and have moments of feeling timeless and boundless. Therefore, they are "generative," energizing, and the stuff from which quality changes in our lives can arise if we approach this part of our journey with curiosity and awareness.

As Gary writes—

"I'll just step right out on a limb here and say that poetry arises out of transition. Or at least that's where mine seems to come from. It is that instant, or a succession of instants, in which the mind and body become free for an instant, in which I sense being without moorings, my attention drifting into the larger picture, the larger questions and uncertainties of the moment.

There isn't merely a single one of those instants that beckons for resolution, that nags like a thorn in the side, even in sleep. It's the ongoing state. Oh, a sense of being uncoupled may be a persistent sensation of being in the world as it is unfolding today. But no, I mean there isn't a simple short term resolution that settles the question of how to be in this world.

If I looked closely, I could find a measure of transition in every day, in every encounter, in every waking moment. But that's not exactly what I am sensing now. I am referring to something inside that realizes the more essential uncertainty of life, that revels and yearns for the vitality and unceasing generative nature of it and also for a more settled sense of having made my choices, arriving at some clarity about my intentions and mission even in that context of uncertainty."

NOW . . .

Consider a major change that you've made that was really important to you. What did you experience in the way of drifting, uncertainty, feelings or not-knowing before coming to clarity and the readiness to make that change?

What new understanding do you have about transitions from Gary's experience
that you can apply to your own?

Embracing and Transforming the Fear of Change

When you think of change, what images and feelings come to mind?  Do you think of bare branches of the plum tree in winter bursting into pink blossom at the first warmth of spring? Do you remember the feeling of pure excitement running through your whole body the day you moved on campus and began a new life as a university student-- or traveled overseas for the first time-- or when you got your first acting break replacing the star performer in a major play?

Or does the word “change” bring back the sweaty palms and pounding heart of your first deep-sea dive-- or your first day at a new school in a new town as a child-- or when you knew deep inside that you were no longer satisfied with a way of working you’d done mostof your adult life?

As Mark Gerzon, author, Coming into Our Own, says, “If it feels safe, it’s probably not the right path, but if it scares you, it probably is.”  Fear that the thought of change evokes in you isn’t a reason in itself to turn back from a change that calls you.  Fear is just as often sitting right by the door you need to enter (possibly disguised as a snarling demon!) to bring new energy and satisfaction into your life at this particular time.

Are you afraid of the crack in the shell of your life?  Or are you eagerly peering through this new opening to a life with more expansive and fulfilling possibilities?

Whatever your perspective on change, one sure thing is that it will keep happening and keep knocking at your door.  The question is, will you embrace it and see what it offers?  Or will you turn away, vulnerable and fearful, from from this calling, trying to keep yourself small and untouched?

Here’s a body-mind awareness exercise that can help you ground yourself and clear your mind when you are going through or contemplating change:

  • Sit or lie comfortably, close your eyes, and take several deep, full breaths in and out.  Visualize a change that’s happening or that you’d like to have happen in your work or any other part of your life.
  • Notice what happens to your breathing, whether it gets faster or almost shuts down as you take in the implications of making a really powerful change.  
  • Notice where there’s tension or opening in your belly, your chest, your throat, your neck, or behind your eyes.   
  • What are the messages from your body that feel connected to what is changing in your life?  What is the level of energy you’re feeling now?
  • What is the first step you plan to take towards meeting or making the new change in your life?  What is the support you need?

The urge towards change, which is natural and inevitable, can be surfed like a wave in a new way, to a new destination.  Change can also be mindfully observed and simply allowed to happen, as when turning leaves feel their hold on the tree loosen before floating down to their next incarnation on the earth.

Remember that embracing the process of change, including any fears that arise, can be the key first step in creating a happier, more rewarding way of working, living, and being.

Success with Soul-- Frida’s New Year Dream Challenge!

As we step over the threshold of the year 2014, what do you want to do or become that will enrich and open the way you work and live? Challenge yourself and explore a new path that interests you? Contribute to the world in a different way? Deepen and stretch yourself as you try growing to a new level in doing the work you love? Below is a message from a friend of mine from Sweden, Frida Modén Treichl, a professional “musical theater performer” who took on a BIG career challenge this year. I found out about this as I was reading some new reviews of my book, Success with Soul-- Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance, and was struck by Frida’s.

She wrote: “This book helped me make a big life decision! It’s a must for everyone who is or has been at a crossroad in their life!” Of course, I contacted Frida immediately to find out what this big life decision was! It turns out that Frida, who’s well-known in her own country for her powerful, expressive voice and larger-than-life presence on stage, decided to go for her dream of starring as Elphaba (the green-faced witch) in the musical “Wicked” on Broadway. A very large dream in many ways! Enjoy reading below about Frida’s leap across the Atlantic into a new world and an expanded; vision for her performing life!

Hello, I'm Frida Modén Treichl. In Sweden, I’m a “musical theater performer.” Here in the USA, I’m an actress/singer/dancer. I’ve been a professional in this field for the past five years, since I was 24. But I knew when I was 18 that this is what I wanted to be.

Actually, I wanted to be a Hollywood movie star, but there’s no college education to become a Hollywood star, so I completed a higher education program in Sweden in the field of musical theater performance-- and that has determined my career direction. Right now, the big step forward in my life has been my decision to move to New York City and audition for starring roles in Broadway musicals. My big dream for a long time has been to play the part of Elphaba in “Wicked.” I know that it’s an important next step for me professionally to be here in New York now. It’s a huge challenge and a very big adventure. But it’s taken me a while to make the leap.

What’s held me back? Lots of fears! First, the fear of not succeeding, not reaching my goal. Also, English is not my first language (though I’m fluent in it), and I’ve sung most of my roles in Swedish. Plus I’m shy around new people, though that surprises people who know me. What’s helped me take a big chance to live out my dream of performing in a major Broadway musical production?

Several things, including the support of my family, of course. Financially, I had the good fortune to receive a scholarship from the Swedish foundation of Anders Sandrews for young, talented artists. This has helped me pay my living expenses in New York while auditioning. Plus I got to work with a great voice instructor from New York who was in Stockholm last spring and who bolstered my confidence by telling me I was definitely “Broadway material.”

And your book, Eve, Success with Soul-- Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance, was so helpful in making my decision. I was inspired by all of it, but particularly Chapter 6, “Living Out Your Authenticity and Aliveness”-- you know, that final exercise where you say, “Now breathe, feel your feet on the ground, and consider the professional and personal risks and paths you’ve taken towards living your life with heart and meaning.” Then you asked us readers to respond to the questions that you asked me earlier in this interview: -

How have you felt held back from expressing what really matters to you-- on the job? in other relationships? - How have you been supported in being authentic and open to your own aliveness? In your career? In your primary relationships? When I think about these questions now, I feel this vibrating energy in my belly! I am so thrilled to be here in the great city of New York at last! Just being around so many people with high professional standards lifts my spirit. It’s such a large theatrical smorgasbord-- you have it all here, and now I’m part of it!

Be Your Own Leader-- Career Fulfillment and Body-Energy Wisdom

Recently, I participated in a dynamic presentation, “Body, Brain and Behavior,” with Amanda Blake, founder, Embright (www.embright.org), author, Your Body Is Your Brain, at a meeting of the ICF San Francisco Bay Area Coaches.  Being there in the warm camaraderie of my coaching colleagues, I was also coming back to my somatic therapy roots where body sensing and knowing takes center stage as the lens from which to view our professional and personal development.

I was particularly interested in something Amanda said: “Embodied leadership requires accessing the primal power of body energy.”  With her, we practiced body posture and stances conveying the emotional state of uncertainty and low self-esteem.  We then stepped into postures reflecting a memory of a time when we felt very confident about something we had done.

As you can imagine, the way we felt and looked to each other when we felt confident was so much more open and present to the situation at hand, more comfortable in our minds and bodies, and more connected energetically to cues from others.

In my work what I’ve noticed is that if you want to be your own leader in transforming the way you work, relate, and create in the world, it’s vital to be able to check in and feel your body’s cues.  The way you’re holding yourself in your body matters, as well as what you sense about your energy level whenever you’re at critical choice points.  Which choice makes you feel alive and fulfilled?  Which choice makes you feel low energy and not interested?   As the leader of your own life, what is your intuitive sense as to which direction to step into now?

I’m wondering if the excerpt below from my new ebook, Success with Soul-- Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance, from the chapter, “Using the Wisdom-Energy of Your Body,” sounds familiar to you:

I remember distinctly a photo a colleague took of me while I was hard at work in our non-profit office many years ago.  Now, after my training in somatics (body awareness), I can clearly see my head and neck pressing forward, the tightness of the muscles around my eyes and neck, and the rigidity of my back.  I can feel the strain of working like that, my body leaning tensely forward over my desk, locked into itself. I can sense again the tightness of my shallow breathing as I strained all my awareness into the work at hand.  No wonder I used to get so many tension headaches back then!

Over many years of giving stress-management classes, I’ve seen that type of body posture often in professionals from non-profits, tech corporations, schools, and businesses.  The message so clearly embodied is:  “Work is hard and demanding.  It takes all my energy and leaves none for breathing and feeling.  I will myself to focus only on my work and not my well-being, unless maybe there’s time for that later (and there probably won’t be).”

Recognize yourself?  When did you last stop to check in with yourself at work or at other times during your day, inhale and exhale slowly and deeply, and actually feel the sensations in your body?  For it is in this way that your body speaks to you, through sensations-- warmth, cold, tension, openness, flexibility, depletion.

This is how you can learn to access the energy and aliveness you need to find fulfillment in what you do and how you are in the world.  Otherwise, though your career choices, for example, may look good on your resume, they may feel unsatisfying and disconnected from a sense of purpose and vitality in your life.

For me, it took a change of profession (into my own businesses of somatic therapy and coaching), plus yoga, Qi Gong, and meditation, to learn that I could stay present with both my work and conscious opening in my body.  In fact, when I stay pliable and open by breathing and moving with awareness during working hours, I notice that my mind focuses more easily, my interactions with people flow, and I feel better, physically and emotionally, at the end of the day.

It is my deepest wish that what I offer in these emailings to you and in my book may be of support to you in making the heart-centered personal and professional changes you most desire now.  If I can offer further assistance, please let me know.

The Art of Play As Work You Love

Recently, I had a very special time sharing my home for three wonderful weeks with my goddaughter and her life partner from Stockholm and their eleven-month-old, Edgar.  Being with Edgar was a totally absorbing experience-- watching his shining face, bright with the pleasure of going out to the garden to scatter pebbles, dig in the ground, squish fallen plums with his thumb, or examine the hose nozzle with complete attention.  

Was he playing?  Or working hard?  Or both?  He was fully absorbed in all his activities, repeating his actions over and over until he was satisfied in some way.  Only then would he pause to look up and watch a butterfly, or call out, “Ah da da,” clearly meaning “I did it!”

In my ebook, Success with Soul-- Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance, I opened my chapter, “Using the Wisdom-Energy of Your Body” in this way:
              
When you watch well-cared-for babies and toddlers at play, it’s amazing to see the spontaneity of their movements and voice.  When they feel something, they act on it.  Or yell, or gurgle, or sing.  They’re so free inside to express themselves with their whole body selves.  It’s such an enlivening experience to be around them and interact with them!

The point is, when you love what you spend a lot of time doing-- whether you’re playing or working, whether you’re 11 months or 45 or 80 years old-- you radiate a joy of engagement and accomplishment that is as contagious and inspiring to others as it is compelling to yourself.  You are in your own energy, where, as one client told me about her new, consciously chosen profession, “It doesn’t feel like working because I’m involved in learning and doing that fascinates and motivates me.”

Carol Zweck, author of the best-selling book, Mindset, refers to studies where children with an open mindset, when offered the choice of doing easy or more difficult puzzles, chose the latter because engaging in learning that was challenging was what energized them.  It was “work” that was play in its purest form-- apart from the need to look successful to teachers or peers.  As Buddhism states, attachment to outcome is one of the sources of suffering in humans, for which the antidote is to stay in the energetic interplay of oneself with the activity or situation at hand.

In the work I do as a coach-- supporting people in going through the process of making new choices that will let them move in the direction they really want to go-- I’m informed by my many years as a somatic therapist to help them slow down and pay attention.  With each step forward, they also deepen their learning about what they’re feeling in their bodies and their spirit.  The process of change is so much more than making leaps from this job now to that position there.  It’s about the way your whole being is involved in feeling, learning, expressing, and connecting with what is real and true for you.  

Concerning the work you do, it’s really quite amazing how much valuable information you can sense with your body about a career decision or change you want to make by taking time to explore and go deeper into yourself during a time of transition-- rather than just running forward to the next thing.  In fact, time expands and opens possibilities for you when you stop rushing and pay attention to the sound of a bird call resonating, the feel of sunshine on your shoulder, and what you’re really wanting to do now.  

When you really feel the depth of what you’re wanting for yourself, you will then know, with confidence and clarity, what you have to do-- and the path opens before you with surprising ease.  The actions you take will then lead you to greater career and life satisfaction and into the art of play as work you love.

Interview with Eve on SoloPro Radio, August 21st!

I’m excited to let you know that I’ll be interviewed by certified coach and entrepreneur Bonnie Marie Kuhn on her “Entrepreneurs in Focus” program on SoloPro Radio, Tuesday, August 21st!  Bonnie Marie and I will talk about how and why I use somatic (body-energy) awareness as part of my work as a career and life transitions coach to enhance people’s ability to make successful personal and professional changes in their lives.  (Note: SoloPro Radio is a live call-in internet radio show for and about self-employed professionals.)

JOIN BONNIE MARIE AND EVE FOR THIS SPECIAL INTERVIEW!
Tuesday, August 21st, 10 AM Pacific Time
LISTEN LIVE at W4WN.com
CALL IN with your questions at 561/422-4365


Bonnie Marie contacted me because she’d seen on my website that I was a career and life transitions coach with a background in somatic (body-energy) therapy.  Like me, she is fascinated by how people can learn to change their lives in a conscious way by becoming attuned to the energetic possibilities of their bodies.

As a somatic therapist of over twenty years, I’ve had a lot of experience helping people move out of states of stress, pain, and tension into more open, flexible ways of living, both physically and emotionally.  Seven years ago, when I began training to be a life coach, I realized that letting people experience different ways to expand and move their body energy was also a very effective way to promote positive change in their lives.

You can feel this yourself if you keep one hand open and clench the other into a fist.  If you keep squeezing your fingers and thumbs with more and more effort into the palm of your hand, what do you notice?  Inevitably, you'll feel lots of tension in your hands moving up through your connecting arm.  Eventually, this sensation turns into pain and numbness as the pressure on the nerves increases.

This is not the condition in which most people I’ve worked with wish to remain.  As they become conscious during our coaching sessions of how they’re limiting their vision and options, they usually choose to find new ways to live and work-- with openness, aliveness, and the freedom of choice!

     If you want to create change that matters in your life and with your career, it’s clear that it helps to do so from a body-energy state that’s open to possibilities for movement in new directions.  That is, not from a perspective of a closed fist, but from that of hands waving free-- connecting to the whole body with effortless ease.

So I welcome you to join Bonnie Marie Kuhn and me for a wide-open discussion about coaching and “body-energy experiencing” on--

Tuesday, August 21st, 10 AM Pacific Time
LISTEN LIVE at W4WN.com
CALL IN with your questions at 561/422-4365
Looking forward to connecting with you then!

Warmly,

Eve

Summer Time Out-- Re-Balancing Your Energy and Your Priorities

In last week’s blog post (8/11), I wrote about the value of breathing fully and expansively to create space in which to live fulfilled. This past weekend I felt what it was like to do this 24/7 during a stay at Tassajara-- a Zen Buddhist retreat center in a canyon in the Ventana Wilderness area near Carmel Valley, California. 

          Over the past twenty years, I’ve been here many times as a summer guest, and the arrival is always the same. As soon as I alight from the van ride of 90 minutes that carries us 14 miles down a bumpy dirt road, I step into the village where there are no cars and the predominant sound is the rush of water along the stones of the Tassajara Creek. I crane my head to watch the cliff wall at the entrance that goes up and up to the sky, and immediately feel my breathing relax and deepen, as if I’ve just released a 50-pound weight from my back.

          As Ed Brown, Zen teacher and former head cook at Tassajara, writes: “Guests traveling the long road find themselves remote and distant from the anxieties and turmoil of the daily grind. They can relax and let be, enjoy the sun and water, the swimming pool and swimming hole downstream, the hot baths upstream . . . No need here to do, to accomplish, to produce-- it is enough to walk, to read, to breathe easily and rest assured....”

          Actually, this isn’t a travel or spa guide. This is just a reflection of what it can be to rediscover your most open self in a world where, in general, the pressure is on to succeed at work, nurture your family and friendship circles, and manage all the competing demands of life on your time and energy. This time at Tassajara, I met several parents in their early 30’s there for the first time-- who for the first time in a year or two, had left their young children to have the experience of feeling again what it was to be fully in their own skins, eased of vigilance for others, nurtured by good people, good food, and the spirit of the place-- able to “breathe easily and rest assured.”

          Mmmm, I’m feeling my breathing flowing into my belly and back just writing about this time out that was really a time in-- to my true nature. Here’s the place I want to be, too, when I need to make decisions or move in a new and challenging direction-- relaxed like an open hand rather than tight and driven, like a fist. This is the image I hold within myself now when I need to re-balance my energy and my priorities.

          What is the place where your body and spirit open and allow you find the space to re-group and re-balance your energy and priorities?

Shifting Perspectives by Breathing-- Opening with Your Body to Possibilities!

Have you ever come out of an important meeting or some other challenging situation feeling mentally wound up, anxious, and tight in your chest? If you take a minute to check into your body, you will probably notice that your breathing is happening high up in your chest, forcing you to breathe in more rapidly, and giving you a sense of limitation and pressure. Physically and psychically, you’re being cut off from the energy and grounding you could otherwise have from the rest of your body.

          I’ve worked with people using somatic (body-energy awareness) healing and now coaching to help them shift from states of high anxiety and performance pressure into more relaxed and productive energy states. I’ve found that when you learn to shift the focus of your breathing from chest-bound to lungs-open, you can shift to ways of working and living that are more energized, grounded, and centered.  

          In shifting to a more open style of breathing, you also open yourself to higher levels of oxygen and energy, literally, that allow you to take action and engage with others (and your own inner consciousness). As Suzanne Zeman, Somatic Business Coach, notes in her great handbook, Listening to Bodies-- A Somatic Primer: “Keeping the bloodstream oxygenated calms the entire central nervous system, lowering production of the stress hormone cortisol by as much as 50 percent in 10 minutes.  So breathing deeply can help with . . . increasing available energy!”

          Here’s a practice for expanding the volume of oxygen and spaciousness in your body that only takes a few minutes to explore. Sit or stand comfortably and just notice the way you’re breathing. Where in your body is your breath flowing? Where is it stuck or not present? What feelings and thoughts are you experiencing? How do you feel about being with a group of people right now?

          Then let your breathing begin to fill your rib cage where your lungs are protected. Bring the fingertips of each of your hands into the softer, expandable spaces between the ribs on your right and left sides. Breathe into these spaces, filling them up like an accordion. Feel that you are expanding your breathing and energetic container in a way that may be totally unfamiliar to you. 

          You can also try bringing your hands to the ribcage in your back, and expand your lungs into your back.  Isn’t it amazing that there’s so much more room for breathing than you imagined? Now notice what you’re sensing in your whole body. What feelings and thoughts are you experiencing? How do you feel about interacting with others?

          This shift-in-breathing practice can help you become more aware of how you constrict yourself in your body by holding back your breath during uncomfortable work and other life situations, rather like continuing to wear a pair of shoes that are too tight. Then you’re able to change your breathing style to reflect a way of living that is more comfortable and expansive. With this change in breathing, you can literally think, plan, create, live in your body, and relate with others more effectively, energetically, and enjoyably!