Shift Happens

It’s escaping me now exactly how I came across Bouncing Back – somewhere on the intarwebs – and then it turns out the author, Linda Graham, has an office close to where I work, which gave me that ooo small world + prickle on the back of the neck feeling that this was some sort of Specific Message. Which I realize is more just the human desire to make links and see patterns in the randomness of the universe, but whatever. PLATE O’ SHRIMP. I got a copy of the book, and have actually made it about a third of the way through.

The extended title adds Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-Being. How could one not be intrigued by that? The jacket blurb goes on with Resilience is the ability to face and handle life’s challenges, whether everyday disappointments or extraordinary disasters. While resilience is innate in the brain, over time we learn unhelpful patterns, which then become fixed in our neural circuitry. But science is now revealing that what previously seemed hardwired can be rewired, and Bouncing Back shows us how. With powerful, time-tested exercises, Linda Graham guides us in rebuilding out core well-being and disaster-proofing our brains.

Then it turned out Linda was teaching a workshop locally, at the Spirit Rock Meditation Center, which I’ve been by about a billion times, but never been to. Turns out they have quite a compound back there. The Community Hall is quite cozy feeling, but even with over a hundred attendees the class didn’t feel crowded. I’m always interested in demographics, there were more men than I expected, although not 50%, and overall a bit younger than I would have predicted. At least I did not feel like the youngest person there, which some events I do. Not that any of that is really here nor there, just noticing.

Linda integrates Western neuroscience and relational psychotherapy with Eastern meditation and compassionate mindfulness traditions in her work. She is a very skilled instructor, and has distilled the main points from her book and practice to a useful and manageable presentation for a day long session. She was great at conveying the information in a clear, engaging way, with a good mix of lecture and participation, including exercises and discussion. Many of the exercises were guided meditations, which was a new experience for me.

One was particularly striking for me – rewiring through movement. Most of my life I’ve been (am) pretty much in my head, so becoming aware of body wisdom and being able to listen to and make use of that is a different experience for me. In the exercise we first assumed a position expressing a difficult emotion and held that. Next we were prompted to assume the opposite posture. There was a second sequence of difficult, opposite, then finishing with a neutral posture and reflection on the experience. I was surprised at how easy it was to assume a posture of difficult emotion and how consuming it felt the first time, but after just the one time of assuming the opposite, I almost had to force myself back. Somehow after realizing there were options my body did not want to resume a posture of negative emotion.

That was the big take away from the day for me – that we have options, that we can make choices. For efficiency’s sake we learn patterns, and have auto-pilot strategies of how to deal with things. But we can become aware of these things, and we can change unhealthy ones. During the discussion times I was also reminded of how – not sure of the exact wording, but something along the lines of – if everyone in the room put all their troubles in a pile, and we looked at them, most of us would take back our own, as well as the reminder to be kind – you never know what people are dealing with, what burdens they are carrying.

If you get the chance, taking a class from Linda is a wonderful experience that I would highly recommend. The book is a worthwhile read, and there is a wealth of additional information and resources on Linda’s website, including a variety of e-mail newsletters you can sign up for.

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