Preparing for the best


“What is important is not what happens to us, but how we respond to what happens to us.”

— Jean-Paul Sartre, French existentialist writer (1905-1980)

We often think that it is what a person walks in with on the day that will dictate how the session goes: their mood, their behavior, their attitude and their general state of being. Have you considered though how much of what happens next is influenced by what you show up with?

We have all had a moment at some point when we look at our schedule for the day and experience a small internal groan. The groan represents a mixture of things – do I have the energy today, will I have the answers, what can I do differently to maybe achieve a different outcome and so on. This pretty much sets up the struggle – you have already run a whole lot of simulations for what is going to happen, and none of them look good.

So is it just what you do during the session that can make a difference, or what you bring to the session?

Many of us arrive to work with a head full of everything going on in our lives, things that have happened, things yet to happen, things that make us feel pressure for what we have yet to get done. We even carry things that are not our own, having listened to the news on the way to work in the car, or flicked through other people’s lives on Facebook on the train. Often we are just as stressed and distracted as our patients and clients, and no more emotionally regulated.

Dealing effectively with other human beings from this start point is exceptionally difficult, and costs you a great deal more energy than it would if you were in a calm state of presence.

So, with a nod to Jean-Paul Sartre, instead perhaps we could say “What is important is not what happens to us, but how we prepare such that we have choices about our responses, and in doing so, affect the consequences.”

How can we do this in our pressured, time poor lives?

I am not going to presume to ask you to make space in your busy life, but ask you instead to consider the slice of time between home and work as a precious resource for you to prepare yourself for the most effective day possible. Are you willing to give that to yourself?

Day 1

It begins with intention. Commence the journey with the stated intention that this part of the day is dedicated to self-preparation, and that your purpose is to make your day easier, less tiring and more effective. This is important for scene setting, so that your brain understands that it is actively engaged in a process.

Switch off the yammering radio, and stop flicking through your phone. Your need to notice yourself is the most important thing for you to do right now. The urge to return to the blessed distraction will be almost unbearable, but there are other constructive things to do to fill the space, and remember: you have set an intention, which is in effect, a commitment, even if only for one day.

Now it is time to be present.

If you are in a car, train or bus, tune into your sensation by attending to the feeling of your legs and pelvis as they contact the seat. If you are walking, note the transition of weight over your feet, or if cycling, tune into the sense of feet on the pedals, or pelvis on the seat. Take a moment and really notice this sensation of contact.

To start with, you may not be able to be self aware and still safely attend to what is around you, especially if you are driving, so let it go once you are on the move, and come back to it when you pull up at a red light. I have to say this for safety’s sake, however it is more than likely that as soon as you release your thoughts from your sensation, they will be racing away into the day ahead of you anyway!

This might be enough to focus on for today. Do I sense myself sitting on the seat? Do I sense my feet? Come back again, your thoughts are wandering. Oh yes, I just noticed. Do I sense myself sitting on the seat? Do I sense my feet?

Finish your journey once you arrive with five cycles of breathing in for a count of five, and out for a count of five (one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand etc).

Congratulate yourself, and set your intention for the day to be calm, purposeful and grounded in the face of whatever comes to you.

Well done!

Easy enough? Let’s progress.

Day 2

You will start your journey in the same way, noting the surface contact of your pelvis, legs or feet before pulling away.

Again, it might be necessary to only focus on your body awareness when a safe opportunity arises, like when you are halted at a red light.

Once you have connected with your support surfaces, move on to noting how your hands feel. Are they relaxed on the steering wheel, or tightly squeezing? If on public transport, are they tense or relaxed? What might it be like to allow them to soften?

This is a good time to notice that you are more aware of driving, or travelling your work route than you might normally be. Enjoy the sense of living these moments clearly.

This might be enough to focus on for today.

Finish your journey with five cycles of breathing in for a count of five, and out for a count of five.

Congratulate yourself, and set your intention for the day to be calm, purposeful and grounded in the face of whatever comes to you.

Great job!

The short summary:

Connecting with pelvis and feet brings you grounding.

Release of hand tightness creates a break in mental tension.

The five second breath cycle give you a break from fight or flight mode, to create a little space for yourself.

Know that no matter what happens today, you have the capacity to choose your response, and thus to shape the outcome for yourself and your patient or client. It may not be what you expected, but when you create space like this, the surprise is usually a positive one!

#regulateyourself #prepareforsuccess #bringyourbest #mindfulness

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