Friday, January 25, 2008

Power-Napping is an Oxymoron

A few days ago, a dear friend sent me a video clip showing Bill Clinton nodding off during a Martin Luther King Day awards ceremony in New York. The accompanying article mentioned that Bill liked to grab a nap in the middle of the day because it invigorated him.

I couldn't watch the video. It seemed mean-spirited to eavesdrop as the poor, exhausted guy struggled against sleep, especially knowing that I've dozed off myself at some inauspicious times and places. But I did get to thinking about the whole concept of the "power nap," an idea so popular that it has its own entry in Wikipedia and over 179,000 Google references.

It struck me that there's something screwy in the idea that we can't let a nap be about sleeping--plain and simple--without the word "power" being attached to it. It seems emblematic of our Type A culture that even catching up on zzz's needs to be rationalized as a way to forge ahead. We can't just let ourselves rest, no matter how tired we feel. Instead, we find a way to turn rest into a tool for working even harder later on.

And so I'd like to propose that we embrace "unpower" napping--or napping that has no purpose whatsoever other than to let us snooze when tired so that we can live in harmony with our natural rhythms. In those countries that still have mid-day siestas, nobody bothers to worry about how much power the nap generates. Rather, the nap becomes part of a life lived with grace, balance, and self-love, a life where there's time for both work and true rest. That's what I wish for all of you.

Best Wishes,

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Treating Yourself With Love When You're Sick

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When your beloved car goes into the shop, you probably don't blame it for being a defective piece of machinery. You figure even good cars break down after a while--it's inevitable--and so you do the necessary repairs and still love the vehicle. Likewise, when your friend's car breaks down, you feel sympathy for her, but you don't immediately blame her for automobile negligence.

And yet, when that same friend gets sick, some of us immediately get to thinking about what she did wrong to invite the illness. Did she have a "negative attitude"that allowed disease to attack? Did she eat with abandon? Did she forget to do cleanses, or to take immune boosters, or to do tai chi?

When you think this way, your message to your friend becomes one of blame. Your intention might be good--to help your friend figure out the underlying causes so she can figure out an action plan to get well, but the message is more like, "You did something wrong (you poor thing), therefore you're sick." No matter your intent, the impact is not one of healing.
Even worse, we tend to run ourselves through the same type of interrogation, looking for the ways in which we slipped that led to our illness. It's bad enough that we're sick, but then on top of that, we beat on ourselves for being vulnerable. We feel a kind of shame in being ill, as if the illness itself indicates that we've done something wrong. And because we feel that shame, we try to hurry up and get well, pushing the pace beyond our body's natural healing rhythm.

Here's an alternative message to give to yourself when ill: "All bodies break down. All bodies need rest. This body needs rest right now. This is a wonderful body. I love this body and will take care of it, give it rest right now, and never blame it for needing maintenance. Instead, I will love and love it and thank it for telling me when it needs rest and care."

Now, the next time a friend gets sick, try giving this same message to your friend, and really try to see your friend's body as a wonderful machine, instead of a repository for wrong thinking and wrong eating. I suspect you'll help your friend to heal a lot faster.

Best Wishes, Hiyaguha, The Life Change Coach

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Lessons Learned from the Flu

Here it is flu season, and for the first time in years, I've caught the darned thing. Like most people, I hate to be sick, and so my first impulse at any sign of disease is to ignore it, which of course, doesn't work. This time, I'm choosing to pay attention. Here's what I'm learning from the flu:

1. Ignoring illness is like ignoring a child: the more you try to pretend it doesn't exist, the more aggressive it will become. Keep working right through your fever, and the fever will go sky high. Stick to your routine, and you soon won't be able to. Instead, whenever you get sick, treat your illness as you would a needy child, giving it love, attention, and pampering--or else!

2. If you can't take time out in your life to heal, then your life probably needs some healing. If you really have that much pressure, if taking days off creates problems--it's time to rethink your life.

3. When you have only the tiniest bit of energy because of high fever and malaise, notice what things you feel relieved to bypass. Those are the things you probably need to drop or change in your life. Are you relieved that you're too sick to call a certain person? Relieved that you don't have to do certain chores, or go to work? Pay attention!

4. Listen to the rhythm of the disease. Don't tell your illness how long it can last so that it conforms to your schedule. Illness is here to tell you that your schedule needs changing, so that you can rest. Let the illness play out in it's own time--although you can certainly introduce healthful routines to cut short it's visit.

5. Befriend the illness--don't fight against it like it's the enemy. Make sure to ask it what it wants to tell you. Your illness really does have a message for you. It might be: eat better, or rest more, or give up your friendship with Alvin, or find a new job. If like me, you get the flu, ask yourself--what is really congesting me, inside?

Hopefully, you'll stay healthy all season, but if you don't, I hope this helps you find the blessings hidden even in the flu.

Best wishes, Hiyaguha, The Life Change Coach