- Liz Sterling
What It Feels Like…
As I was mentally massaging this blog, I became acutely aware that I feel different here in Michigan. For example: the sounds of the birds in the morning are pronounced, especially because my open windows are an invitation to welcome the cool, crsip lingering of the night air.
The sun is much less threatening to the skin so I’m hardly SPF concerned and more wind aware. Lake Michigan, which often and unexpectedly whips up a mighty strong wind, can leave the skin as dry as a bone.
Those are some visceral experiences; everything smells, looks, sounds and feels so different than Florida in July.
Yet there are subtle feelings that run deep and aren’t so easily seen or spoken.
Truth be told, I feel safer, cared for and trust that this state has my back. This is due in part to Gretchen Whitmer. She’s the well-known, outspoken Governor of Michigan and a visionary leader who speaks her truth. She’s not caving in or letting fear run her state of mind or her choices. Gretchen is putting the people first.
Just this week she announced that every health care worker will be required to train in the Implicit Bias Program. I learned about implicit biases last year from a professor in Colorado. He linked me up with a Harvard University website where the testing has been made accessible to the public. (Link to the test at the end of this blog)
Implicit or unconscious biases operate outside of a person's awareness and can be in direct contradiction to espoused beliefs and values. What is so dangerous about implicit bias is that it automatically seeps into a person's behavior and is outside of the full awareness of that person.
I was both alarmed and grateful to learn about my own implicit biases by taking the tests. In light of the new attention to racial prejudices, I welcome getting to know both my hidden and conditioned beliefs.
Lao Tzu advises us to "Quietly go to work on your own self-awareness. If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself. If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation."
I’ve rarely identified my well-being with where I’m living. Not until now. As a teenager, who hitched up and down the east coast and traversed our great land, I’ve always identified myself as a proud American. Now I’m feeling challenged. I don’t feel proud of America or my home state of Florida. I’m happier here in Michigan where the rising COVID-19 numbers are being respected and addressed.
Let’s get to it: Our mental health is at stake right now and I've become concerned for my friends and family. I flashed back to my interview with Joan Borysenko, PhD. She's a Harvard Medical School trained cell biologist and pioneer in mind-body medicine. In 2007, on one of my radio interviews, she and I discussed the 20th Anniversary of her book, Minding the Body, Mending the Mind.
Joan reflected on all the learning and researching she’s done. "The most important elements that contribute to experiencing well-being are the emotions. The three most predominant emotions,” she explained, “which have a large impact on both our physiology and health are depression, anxiety, and chronic anger.”
In today’s environment of increasing frustration and disbelief, it behooves us to manage the mind, the body and the emotions.
Borysenko looked at our habit of awfulizing, a term coined by cognitive psychologist Dr. Albert Ellis. It connotes the tendency to escalate a situation into its worst possible conclusion. This is an unhealthy trait. So is chronic helplessness.
Getting more in touch with what it feels like to feel our feelings, then focusing on the three qualities that contribute to being a stress-hardy individual can parlay us into greater health.
1) Curiosity and involvement in present activity
2) Belief in one’s ability to influence events and a willingness to do so
3) Recognizing that perception of change, even negative change, can be an opportunity.
Those who do not come by these qualities naturally can develop them, and should, as medical evidence shows that stress and the accompanying sense of helplessness can damage the body, particularly the immune system. We need to build strong immune systems that stem from feeling empowered! “Stress,” Borysenko says, “can be seen as a spiritual teacher rather than a threat.”
Let’s take the time, to use this vital time, to care for our feelings.
There’s a saying, "You’ve got to feel it to heal it,"so I’m writing a list of
What It Feels Like to help me get in touch with my emotions.
These are some of the questions I’m willing to ask of myself.
What are your questions?
What it feels like to watch TV
What it feels like to wear a mask
What if feels like to feel my prejudices
What it feels like to eat when I’m not hungry
What if feels like to be afraid
What if feels like to miss hugging
What if feels like to be in hot humid weather
What it feels like to wake up in the middle of the night and feel alone
What it feels like to worry about my children
What it feels like to care
What it feels like to matter —
Let’s Make Life Matter Now and tap into our great inner wisdom to feel safe and cared for and happy to be alive! Blessings to you all. Stay Safe.
Take the Implicit Bias Test. It’s worth it.
They ask for your email address but you can test as a guest.