Sunday, May 16, 2010

Bending spoons with my mind

I attended an event Friday called Go Red for Women luncheon. More than 600 women and a handful of men attended what I thought would be another boring fundraiser, but it turned out to be a life-changing experience.
Go Red is a movement from the American Heart Association that raises awareness of heart disease among women. I wrote about it on April 5 ( Ta tas are way sexier than tickers).
Preceding the luncheon was an expo packed with health care information. If anything has signaled to me that the economy is turning around, it's that companies have upped their tchotchkes. I got a full bottle of shampoo and conditioner, nail polish, pens, water bottles, reusable bags, nail files, pocket mirrors, lip balm and more! Stuff that I'll actually use.
The Greater Phoenix chapter of the American Heart Association packed the agenda with some excellent speakers. Two women cardiologists gave educational, passionate and entertaining speeches about heart disease. Three families shared their stories of heart diseases - a mother of her daughter's birth defect, a woman who lost her mother to heart disease and an elementary-age girl who spoke eloquently on behalf of her mother who couldn't be there because she'd just had open-heart surgery. (Her mother, by the way, is a very fit 30-something marathon runner.)
The highlight of the luncheon was the keynote speaker, Martha Beck, who I'd never heard of but is one of the many personalities that Oprah has thrust into the spotlight.
This is where the life-changing experience happens.
Beck is a PhD, life coach and columnist. She spoke about the evils of stress and how we allow it to dominate our lives. She had each of us pair up and choose one person to be the aggressor and one to be the resistor. I paired up with my former boss. She was the resistor and I the aggressor. Cami held her hands in front of her, palms facing each other, and it was my job to try to push them together to force them into a clap. Couldn't do it.
Next, each of the aggressors were instructed to close their eyes and take a deep breath. Exhale and breathe out thoughts of stress. Think only of pushing her hands together and nothing else. Quiet your mind and don't let thoughts pollute it. Listen to your heartbeat at the end of your exhale. Be calm.
We opened our eyes, resumed the position and, as if Cami offered no resistance whatsoever, I pushed her hands together.
"You let me do that," I said.
"No!" she said, and we both laughed.
Same thing worked when she did it to me.
Beck had demonstrated the same concept by bending a spoon, which I tried when I got home.
I thought of all the things that are sources of stress in my life: my recently vanished ex-boyfriend, attending this luncheon and missing work, my finances, my extended family, etc., etc. The spoon would not bend. It left imprints on my palms.
I sat on my couch and closed my eyes. I took one deep breath and exhaled until I had no air left. I listened to my heart beat. I did it again, once more just for good measure.
I picked up the spoon and bent it with ease. It bent like it was made of cheap metal alloy.
With those breaths, in mere seconds, I was able to quiet my mind and do something that was not doable moments before.
Where else can I apply this in my life...
Where else CAN'T I apply it in my life!?
In the pool, before I set out to do a 300 and push myself to do a 400 without stopping.
In the kitchen, when I need to resist the urge to pick up a handful of semi-dark chocolate chips and shove them in my mouth.
At work, when I need to focus to accomplish a task in a short amount of time.
When the phone rings and I know it's going to be a difficult conversation.
On the track, when I push myself to go faster.
When I need to resist the urge to text, e-mail or phone him.
Returning videos on time.
I have thought about his breakthrough a lot over the past 48 hours. In only a few seconds - LESS THAN A MINUTE! - we can take ourselves to places where the impossible is now possible. It's the same idea that is behind prayer, meditation and martial arts.
Of course, this revelation doesn't mean that if I want to fly, all I have to do is close my eyes, envision it and I'm airborne... but I think I might try it anyway ...

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