Provision #134: Connect with God

LifeTrek Provision

There is an energy, hidden from view, which is above all things, in allthings, and among all things. I call that energy God. You may call it Love,Life, Wisdom, or Truth. Whatever you call it, and it has many names, the factremains that it is there: creating, restoring, and sustaining all things in itseternal womb.

When we connect with that energy, when we open ourselves to itseffervescent presence, life comes alive with infinite possibilities, incrediblewonder, and amazing grace. This is what I want for you today: that you connectwith God and experience the ineffable joy that comes from making thatconnection.

How do we do this? How do we embark upon this never-ending spiritualjourney? It depends somewhat upon your personality and situation in life. Whatmay work for one person at one point in time may not work for another person oreven for the same person at a different point in time. Spirituality is not onesize fits all. It’s as rich and diverse as creation itself. Nevertheless, thereare some tried and true methods that many people find useful.

Contemplative Connections. This is where you focus your attention on listeningto God. It can take place in any position. We can be still or moving around. Itcan be an individual or corporate experience. Thich Nhat Hanh practices”walking meditation.” What’s the difference between regular walking andmeditative walking? Between regular sitting and meditative sitting? The focusof your attention. When you intentionally listen for God, bracketing the noiseand distractions of life, you’re making a contemplative connection with God.

Conversational Connections. This is where you focus your attention on talkingto God. Many people connect with God by pouring out their hearts in praise,thanksgiving, petition, and confession. This can take place mentally, out loud,or in journal writing. Once again it’s a matter of attention. What are youthinking about? What are you saying? What are you writing? If it’s coming fromthe depths of your being, and if you’re offering it up to the Great One, thenyou’re making a conversational connection with God.

Callisthenic Connections. This is where you focus your attention on moving toGod. Virtually every serious runner has the experience of losing himself orherself in the run. It doesn’t happen every time. But there are moments,particularly during long runs, when the rhythms of running transcend theboundaries of space and time. Other athletes in other sports have similarexperiences. Even spectators can catch the experience. Do you remember theheroic performance of gymnast Kerri Strug at the 1996 Summer Olympics?Sometimes the body resonates like a tuning fork, making a callisthenicconnection with God.

Character Connections. This is where you focus your attention onconforming to God. God is more than spiritual energy. God is also moral andpersonal energy. When we hold ourselves to high moral standards, acting withstrong personal integrity, we make a character connection with God. We bear thefruit of the Spirit. The same applies when we discover and develop our truegift. We exercise authority and stewardship because we know who we are, why welive, and how we serve. Our witness comes through as dynamic gifts of theSpirit, making a character connection with God.

Community Connections. This is where you focus your attention oncelebrating and serving with others. There are things that we can’t do byourselves. Building cities, for example, playing symphonies, or making love.Our bodies create a sense of separation from others. But the truth is we’re allconnected in God’s eternal womb. When we gather for worship rather than war,when we hold hands rather than make fists, when we build up rather than teardown, then we’re making a community connection with God.

Neglect these five connections at great expense.Life can easily shrivel and die. Practice these connections on a regular basisand life can end up bigger and better than you ever thought possible.
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

Provision #133: Imagine That

LifeTrek Provision

With this LifeTrek Provision I’m back to the mind • building those dendrites,the connections between nerve cells that help the mind to stay eternally young.While the number of brain cells decrease with age, the number of connectionsincrease as we exercise our mental faculties. The more we use our brains, themore connections are made. It’s that simple.

Five weeks ago I encouraged you to use your mind, mentioning bothcritical thinking and creative imagination. They’re both important. Criticalthinking such as problem-solving and mathematical calculating sets off anexplosion of neural activity. The harder we think the more dendrites we build.

The same goes for creative imagination. Visualize an object, a place,an odor, a condition, a sound, or an activity • capture it vividly in your mind– and the brain becomes a neural firestorm of wonder and amazement. When mychildren were younger we read to them a book about colors. After all the colorshad been introduced, it included the line, “Imagine that, a rainbow cat.”

Humans have the ability to imagine things that have never been or nevercould be as well as the ordinary and the commonplace. Albert Einstein calledthis our true genius. “Imagination,” he said, “is more important than knowledge.”The ancient Hebrew prophets would have agreed wholeheartedly.

Unfortunately most of us stop using our imaginations after childhood.Ask a young child to play a pretend game, and they’re likely to plunge in withgusto. Ask an adult and you may get a groan. We would do well to heed the wordsof Dr. Seuss. “I like nonsense,” he said, “it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasyis a necessary ingredient in living; it’s a way of looking at life through thewrong end of a telescope. (It’s what) enables (us) to laugh at life’srealities.”

When was the last time that you woke up your brain cells with nonsense?When was the last time that you imagined, in vivid detail, the perfect day, theperfect vacation, the perfect life, the perfect world, or the perfectly impossible?It’s really not hard to do, if you give yourself permission and take the time.

Go ahead and do itnow. Here are a few suggestions to help get the juices flowing:

  • Writeout your creative visualization. Make it plain. Be specific. Describe your visionof any or all of the above.
  • Drawyour vision. Use pencils, chalks, crayons or paints. Don’t worry about notbeing an artist or it not being any good. The fun is in creating the picture.
  • Doodle.Allow your mind to wander. As pictures come to mind, observe them with interestbut don’t force them to stay or to leave. They’re gifts to be appreciated andenjoyed.
  • Recordyour dreams. A pad and pencil by the side of the bed is a necessaryprerequisite. Don’t worry if you “never remember your dreams.” The pad andpencil will change that.
  • Entertainthe impossible. Paradoxes, or two seemingly contradictory ideas or visions, canunclog the neural networks of habit and launch new pathways of mind.

Creative imagination is one of the most powerful tools we have to notonly build dendrites and keep the mind young, but to change our individual andcollective lives. Whether in sport or life, business or pleasure, we cannotmake rapid progress unless we use our mind to calculate and create a vision ofwhere we’re going. That is where it starts: in the mind. Get the vision, thetarget that beckons, and everything else will follow.

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

Provision #132: Eat Right

LifeTrek Provision

I’m in the middle of a series on how to care for body,mind, and spirit in order to optimize health and well-being. There is more tolife, and I’ll come to such things as time, money, and relationships in futureseries, but caring for body, mind, and spirit is a prerequisite for everythingelse.

This week’s tip focuses on eating right. Eating right is ascritical as exercise for optimum health. It’s really not hard to do, once youbecome aware of the principles. Eating right is a matter of eating the rightquantity and quality of food in the right way. Do that and you will greatlyimprove your chances of living a rich and full life. Fail to do that and youare likely die prematurely from disease or deterioration. What will it be foryou?

The right quantity has to do with calories. The ratio ofcalories in to calories out determines whether you are maintaining, losing, orgaining weight. Forget metabolism, although it plays a role. Most men shouldeat no more than 3,000 calories per day while most women should eat no morethan 2,000 calories per day. It could be significantly less if you have asedentary lifestyle; it’s seldom significantly more unless you’re extremelytall or a professional athlete.

The right quality has to do with food type and preparation.Most of us fail to recognize that modern life expectancy has increased in spiteof rather than because of our diet and exercise. Heart disease and cancer, forexample, are most often triggered by these two factors. Here are some tips forhealthy eating:

  • Avoid fried foods, fast foods, and refined sugar.
  • Minimize intake of saturated fat (fatty meat, dairy products, eggs) and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (margarine, shortening, commercial chips, cookies, pastries, and snacks). Read labels.
  • Consume healthy fat from olive and canola oil, flaxseed, fatty fish (salmon, tuna, trout, herring, mackerel), raw walnuts and Brazil nuts. Avoid corn, safflower, sunflower, soybean, and cottonseed oils.
  • Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. If you must snack, snack on fruit, not chips and crackers. Eat at least one green salad every day. Avoid overcooking vegetables.
  • Eat as many vegetarian meals as possible. Get protein from fatty fish and soybean products.
  • Eat as much fiber as possible, ideally 36–56 grams per day. Psyllium husk is a great, non-caloric source of fiber. Other good sources: oatmeal, broccoli, beans, potatoes, prunes, and whole grains.
  • Avoid coffee and alcohol. Make filtered water, and lots of it, your beverage of choice.

The right way to eat is slowly. The slower you eat the lesslikely you are to overeat and the more likely you are to enjoy your meal. Don’teat in the car as you race from point A to point B. Snack on a piece of fruit,if necessary, until you can sit and savor your next meal. Eating 5 smallermini-meals per day is better than 3 larger meals. Be sure to not skipbreakfast. Chew your food thoroughly to keep the upper digestive tract workingwell.

These simple tips are guaranteed to improve health andwell-being. It’s not that we don’t know how to eat right, but modern life worksagainst our consistently doing so. Hurry, hurry is no blessing. And many nastythings come disguised in attractive packages. Coaches assist people to slowdown, discern the truth, and take these tips seriously. Do these things, livelong, and prosper.

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

Provision #131: Get your Rest

LifeTrek Provision

It will probably come as no surprise, but most of us reading this coachingtip live in a near constant state of sleep deprivation. Consider these soberingfacts:

  • According to a Gallup Poll conducted for the NationalSleep Foundation, one out of every two people suffers from sleeplessness atsome point in their lives, many of them chronically.
  • It’s estimated that 30-40 million Americans suffer fromserious sleep disorders that undermine their sleep quality and their health.
  • In the past century, we have reduced our average timeasleep by 20 percent and, in the past 25 years, added a month to our averageannual work/commute time. Most adults sleep less than 7 hours per night duringthe workweek.
  • According to a 1999 National Sleep Foundation poll, 40%of adults say that they are so sleepy during the day that it interferes withtheir daily activities.
  • The NSF poll also found that daytime sleepiness is atan unexpectedly high rate among children at school. According to parent reports,60% of children under the age of 18 complained of feeling tired during the day,and 15% admitted to falling asleep at school.
  • Drowsy driving causes at least 100,000 crashes in theUnited States each year, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administrationreports.
  • 62% of adults in the U.S. experienced a sleep problem afew nights a week or more during the past year. While the proportion of adultswho experienced this frequency of sleep problems did not differ by sex or age,73% of shift workers report such problems, compared to 59% of regular dayworkers.
  • <spanstyle=’font:7.0pt “times=”” new=”” roman”‘=””>Smokers and people who use alcohol as a sleep aid aremore likely to have problems sleeping.

Even though the statistics make a clear and convincing case to the contrary,most of us think we’re getting adequate sleep when we’re really not. Do youhave a hard time getting out of bed in the morning? Do you try to catch up onyour sleep over the weekends? Do long meetings, overheated rooms, or heavymeals put you to sleep? Do you often sleep less than 7• hours per night? If theanswer is yes to any of these questions, then you’re not getting adequatesleep.

So what’s adequate sleep? It varies from individual to individual, but it’scertainly no less than 7• hours per night. That’s just how we’re made. Why 7•rather than the proverbial 8? Because sleep tends to run in approximately90-minute cycles. Wake up in the middle of a cycle, when you’re in deep sleepor dreaming, and you can fill the whole day with grogginess, moodiness, andirritability as well as poor concentration and judgment. Wake up at the end ofa cycle, when you’re in light sleep and your body is going through aself-diagnostic check, and you’ll end up more alert, attentive, personable, andrefreshed not to mention healthy and creative.

The best sleep pattern is to wake up at more or less the same time everymorning, regardless of when you go to sleep (even on the weekends). To get moresleep on the weekends, go to bed earlier rather than get up later. Calculatewhen to go to sleep by using the 90-minute cycle rule: the time you sleep inminutes should be divisible by 90 (3, 4•, 6, 7•, and 9 hours for themathematically challenged).

You may want to use your next vacation to get rid of the sleep debt you’vebeen accumulating: sleep until you’re all slept out, day after day, with noalarm clock. When you get back home, rearrange your schedule to get at least 7•hours on most nights. That way you’ll be sure to get your rest.

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

Provision #130: Control your Breath

LifeTrek Provision

Four weeks ago I encouraged deep, diaphragmaticbreathing: in through the nose, out through the mouth. Diaphragmatic means thatyou’re breathing deeply enough to move your diaphragm, the muscle thatseparates your lungs from your guts. If you lie down on the floor and put abook on your stomach, it should rise and fall as you breathe. If it doesn’t,you’re not breathing deeply enough to produce the relaxation response.

Three weeks ago I talked about smiling and laughing.I made specific mention of what happens when you smile and breathe in throughyour nose. The movement of the muscles and of the air cools the blood going tothe hypothalmus region of the brain, releasing feel-good endorphins. Theseendorphins have many energy building, pain relieving, stress reducing, andhealth enhancing benefits.

Before I leave the subject of breathing altogether,at least for a time, I want to offer one more tip: control your breath.Although it’s easy to breathe mindlessly, we’re born with that ability, it’spossible to become aware of and to control the process. The benefits of doingso to your mind-body-spirit being cannot be overstated. They are trulyunfathomable.

Last year I lost 65 pounds and became a marathonrunner. My first 30 pounds were lost exercising at a health facility. I wantedto run but I knew the impact of my weight would be too much for my knees andhips. So I opted for low-impact machines. When I got down to around 200 poundsI started running, without much coaching, wisdom, or knowledge. I just did it,as they say, but in the process I developed some bad habits that I’ve beentrying to change.

The worst habit was to not be aware and in controlof my breathing. Within seconds of starting my run, I would be huffing andpuffing along. Over time I became aware of what I was doing: I was breathing intime with my pace. With every step I would exhale or inhale. Having reachedthis level of awareness, I got to the point where I could control my pace bychanging my respiration rate.

This worked well enough when I was dropping from 12to 11 to 10 to 9-minute miles. But as I went to 8 and then almost 7-minutemiles my breathing pattern, learned from my initial mindless huffing andpuffing, became a real problem. I could no longer breathe as fast as I couldrun without hyperventilating and expending an enormous amount of energy in theprocess. As a result I’ve been relearning how to breathe and run, stretching itout from every step to every other to every third to every fourth step until Ireach my limit.

All this has produced an amazing paradox: breathingslower helps me to run faster and longer. Shallow, rapid, jerky breathingexhausts me and gives me the feeling of extreme exertion. Deep, regular, smoothbreathing energizes me and gives me the feeling of effortlessness. This is whatI want for you.

Enter a piece of ancient yogic wisdom: “Breathing isthe string that controls the kite.” This has become a mantra for me in theearly stages of my runs. I want to control the kite, my mind-body-spirit being,and that happens when I control my breath. If I forget to do this when I firstget started, I’m thrown out of whack for the rest of the run. When I rememberto do this, my performance and perspective are both enhanced.

This truth has wide application, far beyond thefield of running and athletics. Aladar Kogler writes, “The way that you breathedirectly affects your mental and physical state. If you breathe deeply andcount silently as you slowly exhale, you can feel yourself relaxing. Try now tobreathe irregularly and quickly, and you will feel some anxiety. A surprise orsome type of shocking news creates jerks in your breathing, increasing thefeelings of anxiety or tension.” (Yoga for Athletes, LlewellynPublications • St. Paul, MN, 1999).

In other words, control your breath and you willfeel peaceful. Allow your breath to control you and you will feel stressful.This can be done at any time. Do it now. Finish reading this paragraph thenclose your eyes and become aware of your breathing. Slow it down. Control it.Do this for several minutes and wonderful things will begin to happen. Do thisevery day for several minutes, or multiple times day, and you will become morehealthy and whole.

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

Provision #129: Stay in Integrity

LifeTrek Provision

Jesus said, “If you stick with this, living out whatI tell you, you are my disciples for sure. Then you will experience the truthfor yourselves, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32).

Jesus forgot to mention that before the truth setsyou free it may first make you miserable. He nevertheless understood thedynamic of staying with integrity. “If you stick with this, living out what Itell you….” That is the challenge for us all: honoring, speaking, and stickingwith the truth that we know rather than violating, hedging, and compromisingthat truth in order to please others, make money, escape pain, avoidcontroversy, stay comfortable, dodge responsibility, delay decisions, feelsafe, be nice, or execute countless other excuses.

What’s your excuse? Are you staying in a job or arelationship that you know you should leave, that isn’t good for you or thatdoesn’t embody your true values, because you’re too afraid to make a break? Areyou caught in a net of deception and deceit, such that you’re no longer surewhat is really the truth? Are you so tired and depressed that staying withintegrity feels like too much effort with too little return?

Whatever they may be, executing excuses rather thanintegrity exacts an enormous price. To be out of integrity, to be out of syncand out of step with what is right and healthy for you, is mentally,physically, and spiritually exhausting. Deep down you know the truth, even ifyou’ve been repressing or avoiding it for years. Why not speak the truth andlive accordingly?

Speaking the truth is literally the first step tostaying in integrity. That’s why many people find coaches to be of greatassistance. Coaches ask clients, over and over again, to speak the truth abouttheir lives. Are you happy with what you’re doing and how you’re living? Whatfills you with passion and joy? What people, things, and situations are youtolerating? What fills you with regret or disturbs you about the past? What areyou putting off or procrastinating about?

Answering truthfully these and others questions,speaking the answers out loud to another person, can be enough to push peopleover the edge of taking action. Many coaches have stories to tell of peopletaking dramatic action in the first week of coaching. All they needed was tospeak the truth in order to make it so. Other people find that it takes moretime to build up the confidence, knowledge, and reserves they need to make achange. With the right coaching, however, it should never take more than amatter of months.

You’ll be surprised how effortless and wonderfullife becomes when you’re operating fully out of integrity. Coach U points outthat “fewer problems are experienced, consistent feelings of peace andwell-being are present, plus one reacts to others very little.” Living out ofintegrity is a matter of wholeness, of talking the talk and walking the walk,of being who you really are rather than the twisted self who you may havebecome.

Does that sound like the kind of life you want tolive? Then perhaps you need to implement the second step to staying inintegrity. After you speak the truth, make a commitment to embody the truth.Straighten out what you can straighten out. Reconcile what you can reconcile.Resolve what you can resolve. Restore what you can restore. If you can’t do itall, then start with the big ones. Eventually you’ll become the person you wantto be: complete, balanced, and responsible.

Living with integrity is always a choice. No one canmake you do it. And it’s not exactly something you should do, as though God orthe realities of life were chasing people around with a big stick. The sunshines on us all, whether we’re in or out of integrity. Integrity is more likesomething we’re free to do. We’re free to choose to be our best, to be whole,to practice what we preach, to embody our true values, to honor our truewisdom, and to follow our true path. When that happens, when we take off downintegrity lane, life becomes a perfect blessing.

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

Provision #128: Use Your Mind

LifeTrek Provision

Remember your grandmother, or that next door neighbor,who started every day with the crossword puzzle in the newspaper? They may havebeen on to more than they knew.

Many older people suffer from memory-loss problems.You’ve probably heard the joke about CRS disease: “Can’t Remember Shit.” There’sa biological basis for that joke. We grow brain cells up through puberty. Afterthat we start losing brain cells until we die. It’s a slow process that’sestimated to deplete us of more than a million brain cells over time.

Stress can make matters worse.Researchers have shown that an area of the brain called the hippocampus wasreduced by as much as 25 percent as a result of long-term stress, especially inPTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) patients. Since the hippocampus isinvolved in long-term and conscious memory processes, stress can greatlyaggravate the memory problems associated with aging and the loss of braincells.

Fortunately, there is a process that counteracts theloss of brain cells. Brain cells are connected by neural dendrites: branchedprotoplasmic extensions of nerve cells that conduct impulses from adjacentcells inward toward the cell body. Nerves cells are connected by manydendrites, perhaps an unlimited number, and researchers have shown that usingour minds actually increases the number of dendrites. While the number of cellsmay decline with age, the connections between the cells can increase.

This was once only a hypothesis,but recent advances in electrophysiological measurements usingvoltage-sensitive dyes have allowed researchers to observe the spread ofelectrical signals in a dendritic tree at all points simultaneously. They’vefound that the mental processes of thinking and imaging, of solving problemsand dreaming dreams, look like lightning storms in our brain. Lights areliterally flashing on and off in an electrochemical display no less amazing andbeautiful than the aurora borealis.

All this leads to a simpleconclusion: use your mind or lose your mind. There’s no apparent way to stopthe loss of brain cells, but you can slow the process down by minimizingstress. And you can offset the process altogether by increasing the connectionsbetween the cells, the number of dendrites, through mental activity. Thosecrossword puzzles served at least two functions: stress relief and mentalexercise. No electronic decoders or calculators allowed! Just pure, mentalenergy.

This has become a real problem inthe evolution of high-tech, consumer societies. People use their minds less andless all the time. Television, movies, and video games tend to lull the mindinto a stupor rather than to wake it up and stretch it to grow more dendrites.Education has become a process of learning how to use the technology ratherthan of learning how to use our minds. Creative, freestanding thought andimagination are rare commodities that we would do well to recover and practiceon a regular basis.

Try this simple exercise: closeyour eyes, practice deep breathing (in through the nose, out through themouth), and bring different vivid images to mind. A red rose. An alpine meadow.A burning house. A birthday cake with 45 candles. The aroma of fresh bakedbread. There’s no end to the sights, sounds, and smells you can conjure up. Andevery time you do, you’re building those age-fighting dendrites.

Or again, the next time you haveto add some numbers don’t automatically reach for the calculator. Use yourmind. Eventually, as your memory and mental flexibility improve, you’ll be gladyou did.

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

Provision #127: Smile & Laugh

LifeTrek Provision

I know a person who, when he sees me, will oftensay, “Smile, Bob.” I know another person who, in the ordinary course of a day, willaudibly laugh and groan about even the smallest ups and downs. Both personshave hit upon a wonderful tonic for body, mind, and spirit. Smiling andlaughing are proven to enhance health, reduce stress, relieve pain, and buildenergy. They’re good things to do for yourself and for those around you.

Smiling is a great place to start, because smilingdoes not tend to make one feel self-conscious. You don’t feel like smiling? Doit anyway. Smiling when you’re blue can get you back to a rosy mood. After threeto four minutes of smiling, your brain begins to get the message: “I’m smiling– I must be happy.” And so you are.

Dr. Robert Zajong at the University of Michigan,director of the Institute for Social Research, believes that he knows why thishappens. When you smile you change the direction of the blood flow inside yourface in such a way that it causes the temperature of the blood to drop. Coolerblood entering the region of the brain known as the hypothalmus results in arelease of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals.

I talked about this last week in relation tobreathing deep. I mentioned that it was important to breathe in through thenose and out through the mouth. Now we know why. Breathing in through the mouthdoes not lower the temperature of the blood supply to the hypothalmus, so itdoesn’t have the same energy building, pain relieving, stress reducing, andhealth enhancing benefits.

Smiling has the same impact as deep breathing.Laughing takes it one step further. Laughing circulates the blood even morevigorously. Do it for very long or very often and it actually becomes a form ofaerobic exercise. You don’t feel like laughing? There’s nothing funny? You’reworried about what will people think? Do it anyway. “Laugh and the world laughswith you,” is more than just a trite old saying. It reflects theinterconnectedness of life, which is never more visible than when laughterstarts spreading from one person to another.

My father-in-law had an exuberant laugh. Whensomething tickled his fancy, he laughed out loud with a belly laugh that wouldsoon infect everyone in his presence. One quickly stopped laughing at theoriginal comic situation and started laughing at my father-in-law’s enjoymentof that situation. At times, it was hard to stop.

There are churches that have replaced music or evensermons with laughter sessions. No jokes are told. One or more people juststart laughing. Slowly it spreads around the room until everyone has caught theSpirit. These churches see laughter as a gift of the Spirit to be celebrated,incorporated, and encouraged. They call it holy laughter.

India has seen an explosion of laughter clubs. Likerunners getting up for their morning run, these clubs get together between 6and 7 in the morning to have 15–20 minutes of laughter. Once again, no jokesare told. After stretching and limbering up, they simply egg each other intoextended bouts of hilarity. They laugh until they can’t stand it any more.Based upon a mirth-inducing posture technique derived from yoga, theypractice different types of laughing including Hearty Laughter, SilentLaughter, Medium Laughter, Dancing Laughter, Cocktail Laughter, Arm-SwingingLaughter, One Meter Laughter and many others.

Smiling and laughing are lostarts. Young children do them hundreds of time per day. Adults are lucky if theymanage 15. Anything we can do to smile and laugh like little children willrestore our health and wonder. No other living beings can smile and laugh. Theyare special gifts of God. Don’t wait for something funny. Fake it, if you haveto, until your mind and spirit catch up with your body. They will, and you’llbe glad you did.
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

Provision #126: Breathe Deep

LifeTrek Provision

For the past week I’ve been dealing with a series ofcomputer problems. One computer was completely fried, requiring themotherboard, CPU, and video card to be replaced. Other computers hadperipherals that needed to be replaced while they all had one snafu or anotherin the process of upgrading software. Finally, I had to figure out mydaughter’s computer needs, as she gets ready to go to college.

As the resident computer tech for our home and homebased office, all these problems are mine to resolve or refer. This time theyweren’t simple to diagnose and repair. It took many hours over many days to put Humpty-Dumpty back together again. I should have referred!

It feels great to have the problems behind me, andit’s getting easier to relax with every passing day. How did I maintain myequilibrium through a stressful week? I wasn’t always successful. But when Iwas, deep breathing was part of the secret. Nothing is as distracting to me asa problem I can’t solve, especially a computer problem, before I have to go tosleep or another appointment. Unfinished business makes it difficult for me tostay in the present moment: it’s easy to rehash the past and to figure out thefuture. But this is not the way to peace.

Deep breathing can clear the body, mind, and spiritof toxins, worries, and fears. It is the secret to regaining a sense of balanceand control when everything seems to be spinning around wildly. Do you everhave days or weeks like that? Try slow deep breathing, in through the nose andout through mouth.

Deep breathing is a great way to start the day.Carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs at night through the shallow breathing wedo during sleep. Carbon dioxide is heavier than oxygen, so it sinks to thebottom of our lungs (near the diaphragm) and will not come out apart from deepbreathing.

In the absence of deep breathing, the body convertsthe carbon dioxide into carbonic acid that is then processed by the kidneys andexcreted in urine. But why make our bodies work that hard? Five deep breaths inthe morning will clear the lungs and put a good cast on the entire day. Combinedeep breathing with gentle, easy stretching and you’ve got a great formula forrecovery and renewal. This combination lies behind the ancient practice ofyoga.

Deep breathing is also a great way to cope withstressful situations, problems, and challenges. Stress takes a tremendous tollon our bodies, minds, and spirits. It lies behind many illnesses, even majorones like heart disease and cancer, since stress undermines the ability of ourimmune system to maintain optimum health. Research at Yale University indicatesthat stress stimulates the overproduction of cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine. It makes the heart race.

Deep breathing tends to counteract the chemistry ofstress. It can block the release of these hormones into the blood stream andincrease the production of serotonin, the feel-good chemical.

Deep breathing is not hard to do. I like to lie onmy back, with my eyes shut and my legs bent underneath me (a great quadricepsstretch). But it works just as well with your legs and arms stretched out asfar as you can reach. Hold that pose for about five minutes, while you feelyour abdomen rising and falling with each slow, deep breath. No chest breathingfor this exercise. Get the air all the way down to the bottom of your lungs, inthrough the nose and out through the mouth. You’ll be surprised how good itwill make you feel.

Deep breathing can even be done in bed, before yourise. But it works better on a firmer surface, where you can really feel thestretch. If you can’t or won’t lie down on the floor, do your deep breathingwhile seated on a pillow or a chair. Do it throughout the day, whenever youfeel stressed, distracted, and troubled. Deep breathing will work its magic onthe whole of your personality and bring you back to a good place to be.

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

Provision #125: Practice Makes Perfect

LifeTrek Provision

How many times did you hear that as a child? If you were an athlete or a musician, probably more times than you want to remember. Practice makes perfect. It seems at once obvious and suspect. Without practice there’s no way to progress; but progress to perfection? Perhaps the old adage promises more than it can deliver.

Deepak Chopra begs to differ. We had the opportunity to hear and be with him while we were on vacation at the Chautauqua Institution. His presence was attractive and amazing, filled with wisdom and grace. Chopra, a respected endocrinologist, has become a leader in the integration of Eastern and Western medical traditions. He sees and articulates the convergence of spirituality and science with great clarity, authority, and hope.

Practice makes perfect, Chopra believes, not because of what we can accomplish through our own heroic efforts but because of what we can receive as we draw close to the perfection that lies under the surface of our everyday lives. The universe is already perfect, “and God saw that it was good,” we just need to drink deeply from the well of this perfection. Practice enables us to stay hydrated with love.

That really is a wonderful concept: staying hydrated with love. Athletes know that to get through a long test of endurance, such as a marathon, they have to be well hydrated. The body can lose a lot of fluid in 3 to 4 hours of vigorous exercise. Drinking more than a gallon of water a day can assist runners to finish the race in style.

So too when it comes to the race of life. To go from a single cell in your mother’s womb to a complex organism of body, mind, and spirit and then to sustain that organism to a ripe old age is no less of a marathon. Most of us do not manage to finish the race in style. Instead, we end up shriveling our body, mind, and spirit until we eventually squeeze them out of existence.

It does not have to be this way, however. Chopra goes so far as to suggest that with practice human beings can learn to substantially lengthen and strengthen their lives. We can come close to the intelligent perfection, what Chopra calls the “ever-present witnessing awareness,” out of which we were created and for which God created life in the first place.

How do we practice for perfection? How do we stay hydrated with love? By exercising the body, mind, and spirit in the time-tested disciplines of love. They aren’t that hard to understand, or even to imagine. They have about them the air of common sense. But too often we allow the stress and strains of life to block them from view and to keep us from practicing them on a regular basis. In the hands of a master artist like Chopra, such common sense exercises become magical and attractive to even the busiest and most distracted among us.

For the next two to three months I am going use my weekly LifeTrek Provision to lift up different exercises for the body, mind, and spirit. These concentric circles of being build upon and connect with each other, so my discussion of the exercises may not be linear. When I get all through, however, they will form a beautiful picture of life, a vision of perfection, an optimum quality of being that is not beyond the reach of anyone. I hope you’ll want to join me for the journey.

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC