A core practice for working with your Disquiet
Have you ever been thrown off balance by something coming
out of left field? Do you remember that sick feeling in
your gut when you got blind-sided by some news or event
that paralyzed you? I sure do. It’s easy for me to
remember those times.
In particular, there was this one time: I was humming
through my morning. One of those great-to-be-alive, sun
filled, all is good in the world mornings. Even the
traffic gave me a break. Whistling as I walked into my
office building, I knew I was going to get a lot done that
Then BAM. The first message in my voice mail froze me.
The boss wanted to see me ASAP in his office. My throat
went dry, my skin felt prickly and I could feel my
intestines knot. As I sped-walked to the front office, my
mind was on fast- rewind searching all the possible things that
could have gone wrong. “What was it?”
Now, right here, today, I don’t even remember what it was.
What I do remember was that feeling and how badly I
handled whatever the problem was with him. That original
panic continued into the meeting with my boss and I was
barely coherent. It was terrible. I can actually feel the
anxiety right now, years after it occurred.
What on earth does this have to do with the Disquiet? And
why am I sharing my flashback with you?
When I am working with clients and their Disquiet, one of
the first core capabilities they learn about is how to
minimize getting thrown off balance. They learn how to
become more “awake” and grounded.
I’d like to pass on some tips for how you can do this in
your own life, because it’s a key skill that can help you
in several ways:
– minimize the feeling of being out of control in your life
– start building and sharpening your gut-awareness, an important early warning system that’s needed to be able to navigate your Disquiet.
– help you perform more effectively in the things that are important to you
– begin to build an ability for you to feel grounded and centered – no matter what
When we are threatened – either physically or emotionally,
our “fight or flight” system is activated. Remember that
concept from high school biology? It is very real. Having
a gun pointed at your head or your mortgage check bounce
causes the same amount of adrenaline to be dumped into your
system as your blood is diverted to your extremities to
help you either run or duke it out.
Then, the brain activity diverts energy from the logical
part of our brain to the most primitive reptilian part
that’s in charge of our most basic survival.
In other worlds, just when we need to be at our best in a crisis,
we “go lizard”. We go brain dead. We get stupid. We panic
and say and do pretty dumb things. You can read more about
this in “Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High”
by Kerry Patterson.
So the thing to do is minimize this chemical reaction as much as
possible, and to buy some time to let whatever adrenaline that is
released dissipate a bit and get our brains back online.
Enter the wisdom from meditation used in martial arts and
spiritual traditions. There is something you can learn to
do in real-time that will help. It’s easy and it works!
The following is a practice adapted from an exercise in a
great book called
“Retooling on the Run: Real Change for Leaders With No Time“,
by Stuart Heller and David Surrender.
Below you will see the instructions that I use with my
clients. To learn this, I first recommend you actually listen
to the instructions told to you while you are sitting quietly
with your eyes closed. To hear these instructions, you can
listen or download it by clicking to the link at the top of
Once you have practiced it a couple of times in a slow
relaxed way with your eyes closed, begin trying it
real-time in your day-to-day activities. While you are
talking to someone, try it – right then. The next time you
are in a hectic staff meeting, try it. Eyes open and while
you are talking (yes, you can do this while you are doing
other things). The next time you’re in a conversation that
goes ballistic with your spouse or kid, try it.
The more you practice, the more accessible it gets. It can
become second nature. When I am in a coaching session with
someone, I use this practice myself probably a dozen
times inside a 90 minute conversation. It keeps me present
and focused. It also comes in handy at home – in those
touchy situations with my significant other and my teenage
Give it a try and let me know how it goes!
The Practice: “Centered Presence”
Find your Feet
Feel your feet touching the floor.
Notice the pressure and the contact between your feet and
the floor. Become aware of how warm or cold your feet may
be. Whatever you can sense there, let that awareness increase
and spread throughout your body. And take a nice deep breath.
Find your Hands
Bring your awareness to your hands. What can you feel?
Sense the air moving around them. What is their
temperature? Whatever sensation you can detect, let it
increase and spread throughout your body.
And take a deep breath.
Find your Head
Look and listen to what is going on around you and within
you. Tune in to your senses of taste and smell.
Notice how your head balances on top of your spine.
Let the sensations grow in strength and spread throughout
your body. While maintaining this quality of sensation,
let a new breath emerge.
Find your Breath
Inhale and exhale on purpose
Focus your attention on the middle of your torso
Relax and let your breath move to its own rhythm
Let the sensations grow in strength and spread throughout
Let me know how it goes! Or contact me with any questions
either using the Comments Section below or email me .
I hope you find this helpful in your life.
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Tags: Life, Newsletter Archive, Podcasts, Resources, The Disquiet, centering, core practice, grounded, off balance, working with disquiet