Using Your Inside Voice

This might be one of the most important Monday Morning Stretches I’ve ever written.
So, here goes…

To say that my boys were “loud, rowdy, and rambunctious” when they were young would be an understatement. “Please, please, please use your inside voice, son” was a frequently pleaded phrase inner voiceduring that stage of my life. Today, it has a double meaning for me. Using my “inside voice” means first knowing that I have one, second learning how to hear it, third trusting it, and fourth practicing the whole concept regularly enough that it becomes streamlined with how I live my life on a day-to-day basis. This week’s Stretch is about just that: A well-trained inside voice.

Many of you have asked about the results of my recent ultrasound test to determine the cause of the mysterious knot on the inside of my leg. I’m happy to report that all tests so far point to a “thrombosed aneurysm” on one of my veins which sounds a whole lot scarier than it actually is. Apparently, I somehow damaged the vein in my leg causing it to weaken and the walls of the vein to balloon outward. It will likely repair itself over time and if not, doesn’t pose any real, long-term threat. Whew. All is well. All is well.

However, when I received the ultrasound report, it also said, “An underlying mass behind the aneurysm cannot be excluded. Therefore, an MRI is recommended.” I’ve never had an MRI but was assured by lots of folks I trust that it was no big deal. Great. Check it off quickly and be done with whole she-bang.
(Uh… not so fast, Missy. You know, there is a Monday Morning Stretch yet to be written, and The Universe apparently feels some obligation to hand me an experience from which to learn, yet again, another crucial lesson… just for the sake of fresh material you understand.)

I’ve been lucky all of my life not to have any real phobias or debilitating fears such as heights, snakes, germs, clowns, or (thankfully) flying, dentists, or public speaking! That was until I turned 50 and then, out of the blue (and maybe mildly associated with the phenomenon of “hot flashing”?) I had my very first panic attack associated with being in a confined or cramped space with no way out, commonly known as claustrophobia. It was quite a shocking experience for a gal who’s spent most of her life under the illusion at least that she was in total control of her emotions, reactions, and circumstances.

You can imagine how elated I was to learn from a nurse that my legs would likely be the only body part that would have to slide into the tight, confining MRI machine. Days away from the appointment, an MRI seemed not only doable but downright easy. That was until I bopped into the treatment room and stopped dead in my tracks at the sight of the enormous, ominous machine itself. Uh oh.

Don’t be silly, I thought. It’s only your legs for goodness sakes. But really, why did they have to bind my ankles together? Why did I need these huge, tight headphones that produced no music? And why did I need a panic button to hold in my hand “just in case”? Double uh oh.

As the hard metal platform began to slowly slide me face-up into the round opening which was only big enough for a human body plus an inch or two, I felt as though I were being greedily sucked into and swallowed whole by some terrifying monster. And worse (much worse), the machine did not stop sliding at my legs, nor at MRImy hips or chest but kept going all the way up to my quickly constricting throat. I tightly squeezed my eyes closed and felt a sweat-inducing, gut-wrenching panic rising within me so quickly and powerfully that I almost punched a hole in the ceiling of the machine as well as the red panic button gripped tightly in my hand before I was even halfway inside. I knew within seconds that I had to make a decision and quick! Was I going to succumb to the debilitating panic and irrational sense of danger, or would I engage the skills I knew I had deep within me to change my state and alter my reality? Thankfully, I dug in hard and chose the latter. But let me assure you, my friends… that was one hard-won battle.

For the better part of a tortuous hour, which included three trips out and then back in again for adjustments and injections of contrasting serum, I discovered just what my long time daily meditation practice had been preparing me for, as well as the consistent exercise of getting myself emotionally back “in the flow” when I found that I had “popped out.”

At first, I felt like I had the mind of a certifiable crazy woman with seemingly wild, uncontrollable thoughts shooting off like fireworks in every direction, desperately trying to land on something that would soothe my impending hyperventilation and racing heart. But like I did most mornings, at some point I was able to will myself to take in a deep, satisfying breath, exhale fully, focus my attention on the rhythm of my breath, and relax my clenched fingers and subsequently the tension in the rest of my body. Only then was I able to gently steer my mind toward the familiar smells, sounds, tastes, and tactile feelings of the dreamy, alternative realities which I often created with my favorite guided meditation tracks or on my morning hikes powered by my “Flow” playlist; to revisit those places and scenarios with which I was already well-acquainted in my mind and within which I felt immense delight, peace, safety, and ease. I felt my power and sense of control returning as I began to transport myself to a different view and an improved state of being.

By the time I heard the joyous words, “We’re all done here, Mrs. Belt!” I felt like I had wrestled a ravenous, charging lion to the ground and tamed the agitated beast, if not for good… most definitely for the time being. But if I was physically and mentally exhausted from the enormous effort it had taken, I was also massively empowered.

Why is this potentially one of the most important MMS’s I’ve ever written? Because my experience with that dastardly MRI machine proved to me yet again that the most powerful skill we have as enlightened people and professionals is to take whatever reality we are handed and powerfully, proactively, and intentionally change our interpretation of it and choose our reaction to it. And for me that happens most easily by redefining my reality, so… having highly practiced skills that are quickly accessible makes all the difference in my ability to do so and ultimately in my results.

You and I will be presented with people, events, disasters, political election results, abuses, disappointments, and injustices throughout our entire lives, and in every single case … we have a choice – a choice to determine for ourselves how to define, speak about, and react to each one. And most importantly, I truly believe with all of my heart that while we might begin to develop these skills as a result of our personal battles, we don’t actually develop those skills in the heat of battle. Rather, if we are to succeed in this, we must already have those skills honed and at the ready. This is why the everyday practice of life-empowering tools such as quieting your mind and all the incessant racket around you, the art of gently questioning our (or anyone else’s) current interpretation of reality, considering alternative possibilities, being in gratitude, helping others, recognizing and trusting our intuition or inside voice, and bringing our breath and our attention to the “now” (vs. the past (regrets) or future (worry)) are so, so valuable.

When we intentionally practice these skills every day, just as we might commit to physical exercise or good nutrition, and we practice them in relation to small everyday issues like bad weather, burnt toast, overdue bills, or whining children (or adults), we develop that “muscle memory” for when we really need it. Then, when everything else around you says otherwise, you are able to make better decisions, have more positively influential conversations, and react from a place of calm, strength, optimism, and certainty. Nothing, absolutely nothing, could change your world, my world, or the world more powerfully than an army of intentionally focused human beings empowered with these well-practiced skills.

meditatingThis is why this might be the most important message that I’ve ever written. I hope that it landed and that this week you will make a daily practice of getting quiet enough to recognize, develop, and be guided by your “inside voice” because it is one powerful voice and one tremendously handy tool!

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“You need to put what you learn into practice and do it over and over again until it’s a habit and you can do it with ease. I always say, ‘Seeing is not believing. Doing is believing.’ There is a lot to learn about fitness, nutrition, emotions, and living a life of purpose but once you do, you can master them instead of them mastering you.”     ~~Brett Hoebel

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