Tuesday, June 8, 2010

My Plan for Staying Sane(er) This Summer

School is out and summer stretches before us. I’m shooting for a calm summer this year. We don’t have any big plans for exciting vacations or expensive camps. We’re just gonna hang out this summer. So I’m trying to apply a little trick I learned from the cowboy who is helping me train my horse, True. When my True was a little excited (dragging me across the ring and dancing around on the end of the line), he talked about lowering my energy. It was a novel concept for me. I’m a high energy person. I watched him and although he didn’t do anything drastically different physically, I could truly tell when he “lowered his energy” or “got his energy up” and my horse reacted to the changes. True calmed when the energy was low and became alert and reactive when it was up.

I’ve worked on mastering this with my own training efforts to mixed success. I tend to forget to concentrate on it until I’m in some trouble, but it really works like magic. I think animals and children (and adults for that matter) have a lot in common, so I wondered how this would work on my children. Again, I tend to use the tactic in a reactive manner after my children are already threatening lives and holding prized possessions captive, but when I apply it conscientiously, it does work.

Just a few minutes ago, my daughter approached me as I finally sat down to write after a morning of taking care of life’s details and spending too much time in the car. I thought I would steal 30 minutes to myself before I put a dent in the housework that has piled up around me. So, when she bounced (literally) in to the room to explain in detail her grand plan to build a giant bubble machine using her fan and her brother’s K’Nex, I consciously thought about lowering my energy. I took slow, deep breaths and made myself be still.

When I’m working with my horse, I think about aligning my center and quieting the middle of me. I think about being still in my core. I know that sounds like psycho-gobbledy gook, but it’s the best I can do. Basically, you relax all of you and don’t make any sudden movements or unnecessary noises. I nodded and listened and forced myself to let go of my own frustration. It took her 5 or 6 minutes to lay out the plans. Then she looked at me expectantly. I said quietly, “That sounds amazing.” She agreed that it did and told me all she needed was bubble wands, so could we just pop over to the dollar store to get some, right now? I consciously thought about keeping my energy low and said, “If you can’t find any here, then later we can do that. But I need some time right now to do my writing.” She rolled her eyes and harumpphed, but left peaceably.

I think lowering your energy could be a very useful tactic in lots of situations not just with animals and children, but with life in general. I played my guitar in a recital this past weekend and I was ridiculously nervous about it. I kept wondering why I was doing this and hadn’t I left these kinds of anxious feelings behind back in middle school? So as I stood backstage, I thought about lowering my energy. It helped me stay calm even if it didn’t make me completely comfortable. I need more practice (guitar and lowering my energy).

When things don’t work out the way you plan or another person irritates you, lowering your energy is a great way to get your own emotions under control. It takes the other person off-guard. They sense something different about you, and just like my horse, they become quieter too. One of my children struggles with some anxiety and I’m hoping I can teach this child about how helpful lowering your energy can be when life swells up around you.

Lowering your energy can help you find perspective. Maybe if the people in charge of political parties, warring countries, or the local elementary school, tried lowering their energy before spouting off about issues or negotiating with the opposition, things would be different. I think many of us waste much too much precious energy on things that aren’t really all that important. We need to focus on the things that matter and let go of the stuff that doesn’t. I’m hoping this summer I can save my energy for things that matter and make summer what it’s meant to be – a time for relaxing and recharging.

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