Making a change? The mindfulness key

mindfulness meditationSTOP whatever you’re doing and SMELL where you are… take a long, slow, lazy sniff of this moment and watch its molecular landscape paint itself across your brain. Now draw a few shorter, more urgent breaths and pay close attention to new layers and nuances that add texture, peaks and valleys to this internal mapping. Play at humanizing this universe by adding the intimacy of your inner elbow. When you focus your concentration, your complete conscious awareness, on any attention it becomes your entire world for that breath – and every breath, being our most human quantization, is a life lived in full.

Click here to discover sense scrolling and continue this mindfulness meditation

So change? Change is the process of altering our attentions. And we need an access point to get in there and get nitty gritty about switching our patterns of attention from automatic to manual. There’s a reason race cars have manual transmission: delicacy of control to maximize power and performance. Mindfulness, bringing a non-judgmental awareness to the present moment, is your access key. Through practice, conscious observation of our internal and external attentions (paying attention to our attentions) has been proven to build grey matter in your brain’s prefrontal reasoning/decision making area (your reality negotiator) while reducing the size and pervasive connectivity of your fight or flight, get-it-while-it’s-hot emotional amygdala. Interestingly, this process of bringing authority back to personal consciousness within the brain eventually rewires our natural resting state so you don’t have to walk around sniffing your elbow on public transit like a crazy person to experience the benefits of mindful living.

Now let’s get back to the void, that dopamine dearth that prevents so many of us from reshuffling our habits and patterns of attention. Because it’s dark down there, lonely and brutal because suddenly everything in us is begging and scratching for the chemical reward of familiarity. Yes, dedicated mindfulness meditation quiets your screaming toddler amygdala while also having the power to directly influence our genes’ epigenetic expression to help bring our attentions to a whole new genetic honesty (bit of a gritty read) but all abstraction aside, you need an immediate handhold down in the abyss.

Mindfulness gives you two: the dopamine payoff of curiosity and a moment to moment space beyond reaction. Curiosity is one of the most primitive, potent stimulators of our dopamine reward system. Grab hold and max it out! The void can be hell, sure, but it’s full of unique and fascinating body sensations and urgencies. Explore them, escape into observation and the pure glittering want of ‘why’. The void is an investment in the future, but this moment is just as rich and ripe for discovery. There is a glamour down here; the thrashing, wailing mourner of your mind is passion itself – and if you hold her lovingly, without judgment, she will bring you through to a self with the power to celebrate and sustain its own system through anything.

Stay tuned for Wednesday’s post: Connecting with your universal self

Did you miss…
Making a change? Welcome to the void!
Making a change? Why risk the void?
Making a change? The REAL reason to risk the void!

Making a change? The REAL reason to risk the void!

shocked face
I’m so embarrassed! I’m sitting here trying to deny the complete inaccessibility of this morning’s post, not to mention its stomach churning irony. Ever push a truth so far it turned into its own satire? Just spent 3 hours picking the ‘right’ words for a painfully intellectualized argument for genetic honesty pursued through epigenetics and personal consciousness to ease universal energy flow… ya I’m WTF-ing along with you. My apologies!! Can’t believe I just wanked all over the screen and wasted both of our time. I fell into that ol’ well-worn prefrontal trap of overthinking and once again cut myself off (this time through isolating, alienating language – although I did throw in a Kardashian) from the one real reason to change – connection. There, now I’m tearing up so I know it has to be true.

So why change? Why risk the void as your brain chemistry adjusts to a new set of thoughts and behaviors? Flat out – to build the path of least resistance to deeper connection with the human experience. To share, to want, to satisfy, to explore. To love without fear because you know you are worth every effort. To love… with unrelenting compassion.

Change is just a way of reshuffling ‘want’ to get you out of your own head and into the most full and welcoming human experience possible. Because we’re only here for a geological blink – may as well bliss out as many times, and as epically as we can. There are a thousand constructs to explain the unfathomable (my last post makes it 1001 lol) but essentially, you already know the truth. In every cell of our bodies, we all do. After years of dedicated meditation I can wax on about energy and supernovas and different ways of touching the ultimate expression of universal bliss – and believe me I will – but all I’ve ever wanted is to wake up looking forward to the day. I’ve fought for that gift, with everything I have, and now all I want to do is share it. Darn it, the language is hard. And I’m going to mess up like I just did with my last post. So all I can promise you is that neither one of us will be alone for the journey. Now let’s get back to business with pre-training and the mindfulness key!

Making a change? Stay tuned for Monday’s post: The mindfulness key

Did you miss…
Making a change? Welcome to the void!
Making a change? Why risk the void?

Making a change? Why risk the void?

leap of faith
Short answer… So you can tell the truth. Not some sort of accountability to your friends and family bullshit, but permission to express and experience your genetic truth at a cellular level. This is clean energy flow. This is bliss. This is what Oprah’s driving at, what we’re all reaching for, but we’re missing the point by expanding its definition into our human social systems. Take truth back down to the surface of your skin, and deeper…to that delicate double helix that projects self to the very edges of our awareness and thus fills an entire universe.

So change? You have two tools to work with to clean up your energy game: epigenetics and personal consciousness. Epigenetics is, basically, the study of changes that alter how our genes are read. You can think of it as the Instagram filter your experience and environment applies to your DNA. Your personal consciousness (aka your awareness of you) is the Kim Kardashian of filter play. It’s always looking for its best angle, but so often operates from a distorted sense of self trained by external factors (cough cough Kanye). Personal consciousness isn’t the only factor affecting epigenetics, far from, but it is the easiest to control by bringing it back to its purest origins (stopping the laser hand treatments – don’t get me started!) and reawakening its authority within the brain through mindfulness techniques.

Personal consciousness can tweak the epigenetic filter to better align your bliss with the system beyond yourself (aka your realtime life) by altering your internal and external attentions to concurrently create and celebrate your most strategically storied cellular truth. Abstract? Only at first. The access key is mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness is attention, um… you can start to see the logic here.

This process of change, altering our attentions to bring them more in line with our genetic selves and thus facilitating the flow of universal energy through our bodies,  a leap of faith into the void. Our dopamine sparkle flickers out as we grope blindly for familiarity, for that stuffed crust pizza (oh sweet mercy!), that TMZ celebrity gossip, that glass of wine or cigarette. But there are far more primitive sources of reward… you were born knowing them. And a little pre-training will give you a foothold in the void.

Stay tuned for Monday’s post: The mindfulness key

Did you miss…
Making a change? Welcome to the void!

Making a change? Welcome to the void…

void

What if you woke up in the pure, exquisite knowledge that every decision you’d ever made had been wrong? Because they led you here, where every moment is either an agony or an escape. Would you have the courage to call out to your tribe? Would they welcome you? Would they even recognize you after you’ve been gone so long?

Within the human experience, change can be defined as the process of altering our attentions. An attention is simply information (internal or external stimuli) that your brain has learned to recognize as a component of influence in your current system state. From noticing the very literal difference in wavelength between traffic lights to feeling the change in a lover’s heartbeat, our interpretations and responses to these attentions shape and colour our worlds.

So… change?

The ridiculously limited, but delightfully human, scope of our attentions finds its closest analogy in the electromagnetic spectrum, where what we see as visible light is proportionally infinitesimal when considered against the vast universal spectrum of wavelengths. Because our current attentions create our worlds, and since we can only model our experience on a tiny selection slice of the grand universe at any given time, we have a hell of a lot of worlds to chose from. But is it choice? Can we manually change our attentions?

Yes. But it will challenge every part of your being. And like the spectrum, when you step out of the habitual, what your brain has been trained to see, we step blind into true nothingness – the end of reward. This is the vast unfathomable, and the horror is real. We all know it; we’ve all reached out and cowered at its coldness, its meanness. But this is the only way back to your tribe. Welcome to the void…

Read the next post… Why risk the void?

Beyond freedom…

ultimate beach

Freedom, pushed to its purity, becomes the opposite of its definition. I have tested freedom, bravely or foolishly – I’m still not sure. I have followed every low limbic permission to its end expression – and nearly my own. I have walked alone, naked, on the shores of a lost lake deep in the woods of Quebec – without my glasses. And in that freedom, that genetic honesty, I chilled with the recognition of our true vulnerability. Our bodies, our little eddies of friction in the flow of the universe have not evolved to support this freedom.

We court it, muse on its promises and expansiveness. But pure freedom – the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint – isolates, shrinks our viable worlds smaller and smaller as our system rejects our constructs: social rules, orders of perception, paradigm dependent value hierarchies… Want, taken down to its base, the very literal center of our brains, is so dangerous we have evolved entire neural structures to wrap it and protect us from its lethal motivations.

On the shores of that lake, I felt for the first time the need of other bodies, other brains, other eyes to guide and protect my own. What did I reach out for from freedom? With a child’s eager fingers… I reached for love.

Love is beyond freedom. This primal connection brings multiple worlds of perception into parallel, not by force, but by desire, by want. What drives us towards freedom saves us from its endgame. If you live through freedom, if you survive it, you know that even love is a choice. A choice between men, between women, becomes quite simply a choice between worlds, between selves. There is no right or wrong.

Let’s go beyond freedom, bravely and foolishly – together.

Turn story into play with a creativity consultant

diy kids gameWelcome to play! Invite a creativity consultant into your child’s life and watch the magic happen! Who needs video games, anorexic dolls, and regimented craft kits when kids have so many stories ripe for exploration and invention. mary poppins carpet bagA creativity consultant isn’t a babysitter or a simple craft coordinator; our specialized skill set opens imaginations and turns story into a personalized – ridiculously fun! – physical reality.

Why let companies and conferences have all the perks of our research, organized methodology, and highly developed sense of wonder? The creative process is universal, and let’s face it, kids are already ahead of the game. It’s a privilege and a pleasure to be entrusted with keeping their imaginations fluid and engaged throughout childhood’s natural synaptic pruning. Inspired by story (either the child’s own or other favourites), a creativity consultant can design personalized projects, interactive books, events, and custom craft kits to stretch and preserve imagination while bringing an entirely new level of engagement to play. These objects and experiences are wonderfully unique gifts with lifelong benefits.

So let’s open my Magic-Mary-Poppins-Carpet-Bag and take a trip through a multi-session example of how a creativity consultant can – how do I put this – blow your kid’s mind! And after watching how much fun she or he is having, you just might be tempted to bring your own stories into reality. From storied portraits, personalized recipes, to anniversary gifts… just imagine the possibilities…

Bug’s Booger Buddies Summer Kids Game – A dialogue in creativity

Preparation: During our preparatory interview, I discover that this lovely parent has been telling her daughter (and two little cousins) amazing bedtime stories about a wacky troop of adventuring insects for years.

kids crafting Session One: To open the creative dialogue with the three girls (ages 6, 7, and 8), I bring all supplies (pre-formed icing sheets, icing ‘glue’, and candies) needed to make edible insects. After priming their curiousity by removing each material and tools, one by one, from my Magic-Mary-Poppins-Carpet-Bag (all hail the original creativity consultant!) I announce, to rapt and astonished faces, “We’re gonna eat bugs!!” While they’re busy crafting/snacking/giggling-like-crazy, I invite them to teach me all about their imaginary bug world through ‘soft interviewing’ and gentle, non-invasive assistance with the materials.

diy kids game pieces 2Preparation: After getting to know the girls, and their ‘booger-philic’ sense of humour, I take one of the original characters (Bug) and create 3 new ‘Booger Buddies’ to extend the story based on my notes from the first session. Note: it is the creativity consultant’s responsibility to educate themselves about appropriate content for different age groups (e.g. bathroom humour can be fine, but let’s keep the adult content for the adults!). Using foam modeling clay, mini-water guns (found at the dollar-store), and pipe cleaners, I design the 4 Boogerizing game pieces.

Session Two: Along with my ubiquitous Magic-Mary-Poppins-Carpet-Bag, I bring a big green bucket filled with tissue wrapped game components (streamer, glitter stickers, dice, water filler) and the foam game piece characters. After the fun and surprise of opening their multiple presents, I outline the game’s basic premise and invite the girls to paint and decorate the 4 Bug’s Booger Buddies along with making up their names, special skills, and giving their own suggestions for the game.

creative processPreparation: I make four character pages for the girls with drawings of their Booger Buddies, names, and special skills. Also, I come up with 50 easy and 50 hard Boogerizing challenges for this DIY kids game. Why so many? Bug’s Booger Buddies can be played endless times by shaking up the challenges and changing the streamer orientation of the giant ‘gameboard’. The idea here is to take the girls’ imagination and create a new story, with a unique vocabulary (Booger Buddies + Boogerize!), and a tangible, reusable end product invention.

garden gameSession Three: For our climax session, I show up wearing a fuzzy monkey bikini top over my t-shirt and a high energy party attitude. I invite the girls to get started by colouring their characters (either how they painted them or totally different exoskeleton outfits). Then they take turns laying out the streamer all through the house and into the backyard. After the trail has been set, they place the glitter stickers at regular and not-so-regular intervals. We fill up our Boogerizers and take turns rolling the die. Each sticker is a step, and whoever lands on it takes it back to the challenge bags and reads her diy kids game piecesBoogerize (water squirting) challenge (insect stickers for hard and flower stickers for easy). Here’s the crazy fun part! We all go with her and watch the mayhem of challenges like… Boogerize up someone else’s nose! Boogerize the healthiest food in the fridge! Boogerize an adult! Boogerize 4 different types of plants! Boogerize in someone’s shoe! Boogerize something starting with R! Some challenges are designed to be educational, some more physical, some nonsense, and some mischievous. All players keep a collection of their stickers to trade after the game. This game is over when the end of the streamer and/or a time limit is reached, or all the stickers have been collected.

As I’m sure you can imagine, this DIY kids game turned out to be completely bonkers wet n’ wild summer fun! We had a blast (literally and figuratively), and the girls’ grandmother recently let me know that my new feisty little friends haven’t stopped talking about it! The rules are flexible enough to allow for continued evolution, and the story is personal and physically/mentally engaging.

A creativity consultant is so much more than a coach or a brainstorming surrogate… we hold a secret… we can make your dreams and stories real. Let’s play! For more Blank Canvas Living Creativity Consulting services, please contact Cymbria Wood at blankcanvasliving@yahoo.ca

How to take a psychologically safe selfie

perfect selfieOur lovers are beautiful, uniquely so, and in the throws of first passions their imperfections glow with that secret light of possession. He is mine. He is exquisite. He is love. But in this low age of the selfie we trap our most precious lover with reflections, refractions, into two dimensional pixel grids that tempt our brains’ unconscious mechanisms to betray us into ugliness.

The brain is a sly fellow and as the eye moves like some manic gps around these selfie maps of dead, lost light, it searches – relentlessly – for inconsistencies and asymmetries. Even now, I’m sitting here bemoaning that blotchy bit in the hair above’s pen line – and that’s just an illustration! This is the era of idealized, photoshopped, team-executed perfection, and we can’t escape our social tendency to internalize these false Plato ideals. There is only one way to take a psychologically safe selfie… put down the camera! Let’s subvert our biology and get serious about training our most flattering vision of self.

In Emily Balcetis’ brilliant Ted Talk about how vision and perception influence fitness, she reminds us that the eye can only truly focus on “what is the equivalent of the surface area of our thumb on our outstretched arm.” The following graphic (borrowed from Wikipedia) illustrates this concept – go ahead and test yourself… it’s pretty freaky. Eye focus graphicNow, let me tell you a story. When I was a teen (we’re talking full-on braces, glasses, and a series of gender bending tragedies in the hair department) I developed a strategy that I still use today. It was an intuitive reaction to a desperate situation and formed well before I had any knowledge of neuroscience.

How to take a psychologically safe selfie:

Step 1: Practice in front of the mirror to find your best angle. Study how the masters use expressions and light – I highly recommend Marilyn Monroe. If we want to be really scientific about it, the best source for learning this skill is pornography. Porn taps into our most primal signals of hotness – head back, mouth parted… need I go on?

Step 2: Select your top three features (you need backup in case your lovely nose is hosting a giant zit). I feel no shame in confessing to you, dear readers, that I’ve always had exquisite nostrils.

Step 3: Here’s the trick. Since the brain can only focus intently on a tiny fraction of the whole, flash your pose and then immediately close your eyes or look away. This is the image your mind will hold onto in connection with self until you hit refresh.

Each ‘psychologically safe selfie’ will reinforce the neural wiring that supports your private, personal story of hotness. Because don’t forget that many of the most gorgeous men/women have been trapped in private stories of unattractiveness. If you practice these positive selfies every day, I guarantee it will make a major difference! perfect selfie bwI’m especially talking to you teens! I usually take one of these selfies before heading out for the day and make sure to repeat one right before bed (to hold the image for as long as possible). It’s still an act of desperation, because (mathematically speaking) I’m no model (even though the carefully cultivated photos on this blog might fool you ~wink) and because now I’m getting a wee bit older and apparently there’s something wrong with that?! But alone, with my greatest, most loyal lover, I am the most beautiful woman in the world. And in this culture of best face forward, we may as well start with our own.