Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's Thanksgiving morning in the USA, and in Portland, Oregon, it's a cloudless, sunny (if cold) morning. A seagull just flew overhead, rosy in the rising sun. Glorious.

Michael Hall has developed a wonderful exercise he teaches in his Accessing Personal Genius seminar. I think it's appropriate for Thanksgiving, because it sets up a sliding anchor for acceptance, appreciation, and awe. Here's a summary.

(If you want to learn how to do this exercise on your own, without a partner, and to learn more about Michael's work, pick up his book, Secrets of Personal Mastery, visit his Web site at, or attend one of his excellent seminars.)

Get a partner. Extend your arm, palm up. Figure out whether you are an "innie" or an "outie" by having your partner slide their finger up the inside of your arm from wrist to elbow crease. Then have them slide their finger the opposite way, from elbow crease to wrist. Does the intensity of sensation rise as they move their finger up your arm, toward you? Then you're an innie. Out and away? You're an outie.

Next, you're going to access (recall and get into), amplify, and anchor a state.

Recall (access) a time when you simply accepted something. Maybe it was that it was a rainy day and you had to take the bus. Maybe you chose to eat breakfast because you knew it was best even if you weren't terribly hungry at the time. Maybe it was scraping ice off the car before you got in and drove away. Mere acceptance.

Now that you've accessed that state of acceptance, amplify it. Build it up so it flows through you; step into it, breathe it in, pull it in and around you so you're actually experiencing it fully.

Anchor it. When it's at its peak, have your friend touch the lower end of the intensity spectrum on your arm. Apply some pressure so you can trigger the state at will later on by applying the same pressure in the same place.

That's it: Access, Amplify, Anchor.

Following the same process for appreciation, now work with the state of appreciation, and access a time you appreciated something or someone. Amplify it. Create this anchor at the midpoint of the intensity spectrum on your arm, halfway between the wrist and the elbow crease.

Same process, this time for awe. Access, amplify, then create this anchor at the high intensity point (your elbow crease, if you're an innie, or your wrist, if you're an outie).

Now have your friend slide their finger along the spectrum to move from acceptance to awe. You've built a sliding anchor and you can use it to help you change your state. Is there something you'd like to really appreciate rather than just accept? Is there something you've felt awed by, but milder appreciation would let you behave more effectively?

There is plenty to inspire awe. Einstein said, "There are two ways to live: You can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle."

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 24, 2008

New Blogger Friend

I met a wonderful woman over the weekend and I've updated my blogroll to include her. She's a Pacific Northwesterner (Seattle), a science fiction fan, and a freelance writer. She took a look at herself awhile ago and decided she could do better, so she started remakng herself: eating right, working out, and putting self-care a little higher on her priority list.

My friend Tom -- someone I've known 25 years, whom I trust and love and laugh a lot with -- introduced us, and he's thrived by knowing her.

I mentioned a couple of resources to her and she asked me to remind her via e-mail, but I thought I'd mention those resources here, too.

I've never struggled with my weight, but I've always struggled with my body. I had childhood asthma, and I spent weeks in bed barely able to breathe. Any kind of exertion could trigger it, so I wheezed and panted my way through P.E. at school, hating anything that had to do with getting my heart rate up or breathing hard.

I discovered dancing in high school and fell passionately in love with it. I had a friend who choreographed moves for us and she was a great teacher. Later in life, I discovered Regency dancing and contra dancing, and that was my exercise of choice until I moved to Portland.

Then, I ballooned to 220 lbs. I wasn't a kid anymore, and I hadn't integrated into any of the dance communities. My habits needed to change.

There are tons of diet and exercise books. Here are a couple of my favorites.

Peggy Brill. Peggy has two fantastic books. The Core Program teaches you to build strength and flexibility in the large core muscles that support all the other muscles of your body. Brill is a physical therapist who works with people who have pain and limited range of motion, so these exercises are terrific for anyone who wants to start slow. The basic core exercises can be done in 15 minutes a day, which also makes it perfect for busy people who "don't have time to exercise." Get a mat, or a thick blanket, and you're ready to go.

Her other book is Instant Relief: Tell Me Where It Hurts and I'll Show You What to Do. Chapters are broken down by body area, and she lists simple calisthenics and stretches to build strength and flexibility, improve range of motion, and relieve pain.

The other books I love are written by Bill Phillips, Body for LIFE, Eat for LIFE, and the soon-to-be-released Transformation. Phillips is a bodybuilder and publisher, and his film Body of Work is profoundly inspirational, as is his new half-hour program at The people he's inspired are the real sources of inspiration, though -- ordinary moms, dads, bartenders, accountants.

The exercises Phillips describes are simple and can be done at home with dumbbells. If your jaw doesn't drop when you see what can be accomplished in just 12 weeks, check your pulse.

Tom and my new friend also recommended a book by Alan Deutschman called Change or Die about how to overcome old habits. Review forthcoming. The title comes from a study of heart patients who were told their unhealthy lifestyles needed to change or it would kill them. 90% couldn't break their old habits. It can be done, though. With a big enough why, you can always find a how.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Book Review: Your Brain: The Missing Manual

I just finished a great book in a great series: Your Brain: The Missing Manual, by Matthew MacDonald. The O'Reilly Missing Manual series -- like their In a Nutshell series -- is a wonderful set of books that covers topics from Office to iPhoto to Vista in a fun, often funny, succinct, and useful way. It's all the stuff you ought to know (but often don't) that makes work easier and faster.

And as a hypnotist, I love fast and easy.

In Your Brain: The Missing Manual, you'll learn about the shortcuts your brain takes to make life easier for you, and how that can end up making life harder. You'll learn tips to work around the shortcuts. Modern life, with 24-hour stimulation and a bazillion cultural differences, has created an environment far more complicated than the environment the brain originated in. Sure, we're adapting. But if you know how your brain is wired, you'll adapt a bit better.

One of my favorite chapters is about how the brain processes pleasure, because the pleasure is one of the power sources that drives behavior change.

First, pleasure is, by design, short-lived. Your brain is wired to turn it off, as well as on. Why? Well, if pleasure lasted a long time, you'd get stuck in one place, soaking up wonderfulness, a sitting duck for some predator. Also, pleasure is a motivator, and motivators are more motivating if they're in short supply. The brain gets accustomed to prolonged pleasure and starts filtering it out, so the same stimulus doesn't give you the same kick.

Research shows that the first two bites of food are the most intense. After that, pleasure decreases. Your brain starts to habituate to the flavor (i.e., ignore the sensations).

As humans, we don't seek things or experiences, not really. We seek the pleasure they provide. And pleasure is hard-wired to diminish with exposure. There's always a saturation point.

But modern culture and the messages of more, better, faster try to convince us that more, better, faster, are ends in themselves. If one cookie is good, five must be better. That's working against how our brains naturally function. In fact, more, better, faster, are just levels of pleasure that in time we'll become habituated to.

Scientific American Mind (or maybe it was Psychology Today -- I'll have to go look it up) had a nice article last year about techniques for battling boredom. They involved taking control of your expectation and your focus of attention.

So the next time I find myself reaching for that third or fourth cookie, I pause and ask: "Am I really hungry? On a scale of 1 to 10, how much pleasure am I really experiencing right now?" When I remind myself of what's really going on, and how my brain is designed to make things feel less rewarding as I get used to them, it makes it easier to put the food away and wait until another time, when my pleasure will be heightened again. I can find another source of pleasure, like a Sudoku, a warm shower, a phone call to a friend, cleaning out old e-mails, petting the kitties.