Sunday, November 1, 2009

Living "Intention" vs. Living "In Tension"

Living “Intention” vs. Living “In Tension”

The increased challenges that we are facing in the world can erode our sense of security. In the past we could chart our personal and financial lives with a reasonable amount of confidence. It is an understatement that things in the world are not as predictable as they once were.

Back in 1998, President Clinton said the following in an address to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, “Today the store of human knowledge doubles every five years. Soon, every child will be able to stretch a hand across a computer keyboard and reach every book ever written, every painting ever painted, every symphony ever composed.” That sounds like a good thing and it is but at the same time we must adjust to what comes with knowledge doubling every five years.

In a previous post I wrote about the Biology of Stress. In addition to the challenges of the Information Age, we also face uncertainty economically. My wife has her grandfather’s gold watch as a family heirloom. It was given to him after 50 year’s of employment in the same company. What’s the chance of any of us getting a gold watch for that today? I don’t need to list the categories that contribute to us living “In Tension”. Most of us know them all too well.

What can be done to find stability and security in this changing landscape? I have found that as my internal climate changes, my outer landscape reflects the change. I can’t control all of the externals in my life but I can control my internal reality. A cornerstone for me is something Einstein once said. He was asked what he felt the most important question was that you could ask another person. His response was, “Do we live in a friendly universe?” In other words is it a dog eat dog world with survival of the fittest or is the universe conspiring to support me? When I get out of reaction to external pressures and take stock, I have overwhelming data, that is way beyond coincidence, to demonstrate that there is a friendly universe. I have found that it is to my advantage to partner with that.

The following quote by W. H. Murray in the book, The Scottish Himalaya Expedition, written in 1951, speaks to the way partnering with the friendly universe transpires.

“But when I said that nothing had been done I erred in one important matter. We had definitely committed ourselves and were halfway out of our ruts. We had put down our passage money--booked a sailing to Bombay. This may sound too simple, but is great in consequence. Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets: Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”

Before Murray committed, he had an Intention. Architects and engineers say that “form follows function.” If I want to walk through a wall (function) I create a door or an archway (form). In much the same way I feel that Creation follows Intention. First we need to perceive what we choose to bring into our lives before we can bring the elements together to bring it into form.

When I used to live near the coast, I took up sailing and those experiences taught me a lot about Life. The wind and tides are outside of our control. Once we have an Intention, we can metaphorically trim the sails and use the tiller to reach our destination. Being pro active with our “Intention” and being good partners with the friendly universe can help shift us out of a life “In Tension”.

Copyright © David Pasikov 2009 Posted 11/1/09 on

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tools for Turbulent Times

Over a year ago when General Motors was still a stock that was coveted for generations and virtually no one outside of the investment world knew who Bernie Madoff was, I created a seminar which I called “Tools for Turbulent Times.” I just had a sense that we were headed into uncertain times and a time of significant challenge.

As I continue to work with this theme of Tools for Turbulent Times in my own thought processes, I thought I’d write and share some of the guideposts that I am applying to my own life.

1) My wife told me yesterday that she went to the bank and the teller was doing a poor job of holding back tears. Everyone is stressed. I am being more conscious of being kinder to those around me.

2) Speaking of my wife, I am being more aware to not take my stress and inadvertently dump it on her. We are a team and need each other more than ever in these challenging times. Rather than pushing away those who are close to me, I am reaching out to them.

3) Keep the big things big and the little things little. In facing my current challenges, I ask myself these questions: “Is this stressor worth my health?” and “Three years from now is this going to matter?” If the answer is "no" to either one of the questions, then I re-frame my response to the challenge to, in a sense, let it be three years from now, now.

4) I know from looking back at other “tsunamis” that have swept through my life in the past that there always is a silver lining to the challenge. I have enough trust in Life to know that the same is true with my current challenges. At some point I will look back at these turbulent times and see that there is a silver lining to this as well.

5) I have always been fascinated by the physics of the bicycle wheel. The three core parts are the hub, the spokes and the rim. The spokes are virtually little strands of metal. It is puzzling to me that this little strand of metal can support my weight. The secret lies in the physics and how the spoke that is taking the weight transfers the force to the hub and the hub distributes the stress to the other spokes. Each spoke takes a turn as the wheel spins. As the wheel of Life is spinning now, for a lot of us, the load on our individual spokes has significantly increased. For me the hub represents my spiritual core and the spokes are my close friends and the professional consultants whom I consider to be my support team. Some of you who follow this blog are on my support team so, thank you.

6) If you go back to my last post on the "Biology of Stress," I wrote about the genetically encoded response to stress of “fight, flight or freeze.” In these challenging times, I am being conscious of not staying stuck there. For me the antidote is: to replace "Fight" with facing the challenge creatively instead of wasting energy in opposition, to replace "Flight" with facing the facts no matter how humbling they may be and finally, to replace "Freeze" with: exploring options, forming an action plan, and doing the work that is necessary to meet the challenge.

7) I also make space for the "State of Grace." If you scroll back through my posts, I wrote about it that in my first posting.

I wish you well in these Turbulent Times. I am finding that the challenges are creating changes in my life. Where I have attachment, the changes are uncomfortable. Interestingly enough, in the midst of the discomfort, I am finding that some of these changes are welcome.

Copyright © David Pasikov 2009

Monday, February 9, 2009

Biology of Stress

The Biology of Stress

In these turbulent times, anything any of us can do to stay in our balance point is essential. In the last blog, I mentioned "fear management" as something that I have been giving thought to lately. The following article is something I wrote last year as a means of helping to understand what happens to us physically when we our fear mechanism is triggered.

Go back in time to when we as a species were hunter gatherers. Let's say your ancestor was out picking berries when she hears the roar of a saber-toothed tiger and realizes that she is being hunted. Her survival mechanism, which has evolved over thousands of years, automatically takes over. Her hypothalamus sends a message to her adrenal glands and almost instantly she can run faster and jump higher. Her strength has increased to attack if necessary. Her hearing and sight are improved, and her brain is processing data faster. Evolution has also taught her that her best escape may be to "freeze." Instinctively she knows that prey which remain frozen during a threat are more likely to avoid detection because predators primarily perceive moving objects rather than color.

Freeze appears not to be an option for your ancestor. Her respiratory system joins in to her defense and her nostrils, throat and lungs open up. Breathing speeds up for her to get more oxygen. Deeper breathing also helps her scream more loudly. The adrenaline doubles or triples her heart rate. This sends nutrient rich blood to the large muscles needed to run or fight. To reduce the threat of bleeding to death if she is wounded, the capillaries or tiny blood vessels under the surface of her skin constrict which causes her blood pressure to spike. To free up energy to meet the threat, secondary body functions such as her immune system, digestion and sexual function temporarily shut down.

The Autonomic Nervous System has two branches and, in order to save her, the threat has activated her Sympathetic Nervous System branch (Fight, Flight or Freeze). Once she is safe and the danger is over, she rests and trembles to re-boot her nervous system into Parasympathetic Nervous System (Rest and Digest) dominance. She has she shifted from "Fight, Flight or Freeze" to "Rest and Digest." We know she survived because you are here.

Now imagine yourself speeding to work on a busy highway. Suddenly a reckless driver cuts in front of you, almost causing a collision and gives you a rude gesture out his window. Even though we are sophisticated members of the 21st century, the same mechanism that kept your distant ancestor alive kicks in for you. You have the same biological response to the threat except you are stuck in a "tin can" hurtling down the highway and you can't safely freeze. You can go into road rage and try and fight or get back at the person but you are stuck back in traffic, stewing in your own chemicals.

Any perceived threat can trigger this mechanism. We can be at home and receive a call from the bank and suddenly we are in fight flight or freeze waiting for the bad news. The person from the bank is calling to say there is a bank error and $200 has been added to your account. Now you have to re-calibrate your Autonomic Nervous System from this false alarm. If we have a sustained time of real threats or false alarms, our Sympathetic Nervous System can keep firing and we can be what is called Sympathetic Nervous System dominant. In other words, our survival mechanism and its bio-chemicals can stay stuck in the "on" position keeping us poised to spring into action. This can lead to adrenal gland exhaustion and stress related disorders such as hypertension (high blood pressure) heart disease, insomnia, immune system ailments, migraines and sexual dysfunction.

A rule of thumb to help you shift from having stress stuck in the "on" position is to notice when you feel triggered and to ask yourself, "Is this perceived threat real or imaginary?" and "Is my response to this situation out of proportion?" If the threat is not immediate and if your response is out of proportion then apply stress management tools such as: breathing, speaking with a friend, exercise, journaling, taking a bath, re-focusing your attention onto something creative, reading a book etc. There are lots of stress management tools on the web and stress management will be a topic for a future article.

Copyright © David Pasikov 2008

Friday, January 23, 2009

State of Grace

For years I have been helping people with stress management. A lot of the tools that I use have been ways that I have helped myself through life’s challenges. I began my career as a science teacher in the inner city of Detroit and the first tool I added to my stress management toolbox was a sketch of a tornado that I kept in my desk drawer. It symbolized to me that if I stayed in the center, I had sanctuary in the midst of the turbulence around me and from that place I could center the chaos.

About four months ago, I began to develop thoughts around “Fear Management” as I feel fear management is at the root of stress management. Giving thought to this I began to see that a significant antidote to fear is what I would call a “state of grace”. Einstein was once asked what he thought the most important question was that you could ask another person and his response was, “Do we live in a friendly universe?” In other words is the universe or Life conspiring to support you.

I just spent a month in Jerusalem along with my sister supporting our 85 year old mother as she was combating a dreadful, rare auto immune disease. My sister had a month in the hospital with our mother before I arrived and when the doctor described the treatment which was massive doses of steroids, she asked if our mother could survive the cure. As it turns out she was unable to and recently passed away. I flew back to Jerusalem for the traditional week long period of mourning called “Shiva” in the Jewish religion and just got back home.

Throughout this whole ordeal (as it was very challenging on every level) I was able to see the “state of grace” playing out against the backdrop of the medical challenges. I would define the "state of grace" as a synchronous event or circumstance that is very comforting and can support you in a breakthrough.

Sometimes you have to dig below the surface to see it. As an example, on the way home from the airport, my wife was driving through a construction zone and, in the dark of night, did not notice the reduced speed signs. This resulted in a speeding ticket and a 15 minute delay. This certainly did not look like the state of grace. Our next stop however was the grocery store. The parking spot was congested and the spot she found was right next to very kind friends of ours who were just about to pull out. If we had not been delayed we would have missed them and their compassion was very useful for me to transition back to my life here at home.

Perhaps as you face your current challenges, looking for the state of grace may be helpful to you. I am finding that it can help me be empowered instead of victimized and can help me replace resentment with gratitude. All the best, David

Copyright © David Pasikov 2009