Neurodiversity as biodiversity

Hello Friends,

I had a startling experience at work recently, one that shook me a bit. I’m still processing that event, which had to do with being unfairly accused of something I could not have done. But I’m not ready to tell that story. It’s still too raw.

Instead, I want to reflect on what I see as an issue that is becoming more important to me as I see people with hidden “disabilities” in the workplace. In fact, these qualities are not always “disabling.” In some cases, these issues, which I will group into the term “neurodiversity” for the sake of this reflection, can often be used as assets.

biodiversity wikipedia
From Wikipedia’s biodiversity entry

In my case, I have come to see my variable focus as an asset that has served me well in many situations. I hyper-focus on projects I find to be fascinating. I’m like a dog with a bone when I’m on the trail of something where I might find a solution. I don’t give up on it. I may even lose sleep thinking about it, though I’m trying to train my brain to wind down earlier in the evenings.

On the other hand, routine and monotonous tasks are kind of like my Kryptonite. If I cannot automate those tasks, I end up getting in trouble sometimes. Ordinary tasks like making my bed or cleaning my room were never easy for me.

Ask my poor mother, who would come to check my work, only to realize I had my nose stuck in a book, cheerfully oblivious to what she had asked me to do. I was not deliberately disobeying her. I simply uncovered a missing book during my cleaning session and had difficulty not picking it up…

When it comes down to it, those of us with hidden disabilities are so often defined by what we cannot do. What if we were defined by all of our other qualities? What if our kindness and concern for others were recognized as strengths? What if our ability to ask for help were rewarded?

If you have staff, how do you acknowledge people’s strengths? Do you help them select projects that can showcase their talents? Do you allow them room for growth instead of shutting them down when they make unconventional suggestions?

Neuro-diversity is just another form of biodiversity. And our earth thrives when both are honored and preserved.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

Next August – one hundred years

Next year on August 18th the U.S. will celebrate 100 years since the ratification of the 19th Amendment of the Constitution, granting women the right to vote. A couple of Western states had given women the right to vote already in 1910. Idaho and Utah had given women the right to vote at the turn of the 19th century.

Lucretia Mott socks
I have socks with Lucretia Mott‘s likeness, which I wore with pride on election day this year. 

It is hard for me to imagine the changes in democratic consciousness that have taken place in the last 100 years. Generations of women and men began to understand that true democracy could not exist until more people could exercise their right to representation.

Granted, some people probably wish we had gone back to a world where men were in charge and women were property. I don’t tend to hang out with people like that for obvious reasons.

I am looking forward to seeing what happens in the next year with various candidates. I’m hoping we winnow down to less than 5 options by February caucus season. I would like to follow election politics but right now it’s hard to take any candidate too seriously. Unfortunately we do not regulate campaign spending very well in this country. So the people who raise the most money tend to dominate the airwaves.

Given the shock and trauma of the election 3 years ago, and the disastrous result of electing someone who has openly bragging about assaulting women, I am ready to help with GOTV efforts. Let’s make it a celebration! 100 years – can we imagine some new leadership? I say YES WE CAN!

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

 

 

 

Time as a construct

I danced on Sunday at a place that’s become a favorite gathering at least once a month for me, and for a fellow yoga teacher who first invited me there.

It’s called “Dance Church” and it takes place at the Tapestry Folk Dance Center in Minneapolis from 11am to 1pm most Sundays (check their facebook page first in case there are other events).

She looked at the clock which read 12:45 and said: I didn’t realize the time had gone so quickly! Me, thinking that people had forgotten to turn the clock back thought: 11:45! I thought I had been dancing for longer than 10 minutes! In fact, the time was ~12:05…

dance church graphic
Graphic from the Dance Church facebook page.

I hadn’t looked at my phone and wasn’t wearing a watch. Eventually someone got up to change the clock to the “correct” time.

But the point had already been made for mewhen you are lost in a moment of flow, or the pure enjoyment of a moment, you lose all sense of time.

Also, the idea of “correct” time had me thinking of the fact that time is designated purely for arbitrary and convenience reasons. Daylight savings time changes are archaic back and forth switches that mess with our natural circadian rhythms.

It has been difficult for me to explain to people that when I am completely in “writing world” or perhaps doing something I enjoy, like dance, yoga, or sometimes even working at my new job, time can feel suspended. I have no sense of the “feeling” of time passing.

In contrast, when I am doing something I do not enjoy, or immersed in chores that aren’t my favorite, I am keenly aware of the time passing.

When I first started to meditate, I could sit for maybe 3 minutes before I would want to bolt. All of that silence got my mind stories to play far too loudly and it was hard for me to relax. I’ve since learned that anchoring with the breath, with sensations in the body or the sounds around me has helped reduce the “noise” of my mind.

People who study quantum physics, as well as many mystics, often say that time is an illusion. When the leap was made from linear, 3-dimensional thinking to quantum, infinitely dimensional thinking, suddenly the space opened up for new relationships with time.

What is your relationship with time? Do you think there is never enough? Do you feel an abundance of time when you can be fully present? 

May you, my dear readers, be curious and open to the experiences that captivate your time.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Yoga for over-thinkers Week 2 – Satya

Hello Friends,

I really enjoyed teaching week 1 of my class last Thursday. Five wonderful students joined me and were able to help me practice my cue-ing and my teaching. I’m so grateful for that.

This week we will focus on satya or truthfulness, the second of the yamas of yoga. I have in mind some physical practices to allow students to experience their true range of motion. In soma yoga, we are taught to start with the center. So this means we start with a stable pelvis and build the poses from the central axis or spine, and then radiate outward.

soma-yoga-movement-yoga-north.jpg
From my Yoga North SomaYoga Guidebook 

Too many students (myself included) have had the unfortunate experience of getting “pushed” by a yoga class to go too far. We go beyond our true range of motion (ROM), and may find ourselves injured. Our body instinctively protects itself. Our range of motion may even decrease over time because our body knows the truth (even if our mind wants to make the image of the yoga teacher standing in front).

Life is like this too. Our bodies sense and know truth often before our minds’ start to manufacture stories and explanations. When we get quiet, and listen internally, we can detect truths emerging from within.

However, truths are not always comfortable or convenient. Sometimes a deep yearning for growth can mean that we must leave certain people behind in our lives. As humans we are biologically wired to seeking belonging, as it was part of our early survival. At the same time, our brains are wired for growth and change as adaptation is necessary.

Thus there can be some tension here, in terms of the actions we must take in our lives. We want the comfort of belonging. We also know that by not risking some discomfort, we are in danger of stagnating.

There was a time when I identified strongly as being a runner. It served me well. I got to “run out” the craziness of my mind when I felt stressed by work or life. I met my husband (9 years ago) and a wonderful community of running friends, many who are still close. I still run and enjoy the occasional race, but do not feel compelled to build up my mileage each week.

Yoga beckoned much more strongly as I sought to integrate my body and mind, rather than simply escape the busyness of my mind. Running can still feel like a cleansing process for me. And at the same time, yoga helps me direct and focus that energy in a mindful way.

So the truth is not an either/or proposition, but in this case a both/and situation. Getting current with ourselves and knowing what we need in our lives is part of satya. Tuning in regularly to ask ourselves what we most need is a practice which serves us in the long run. At times our bodies crave motion, dance, action. Other times they crave rest, pausing and turning inward.

Being able to embrace satya in each moment leads to freedom.  If you feel internal resistance you might ask:

What truths am I avoiding? Is there anything I may not want to see about my situation?

And of course, applying ahimsasome self-compassion will go a long way here in allowing those truths to emerge.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Workplace wellness: say thank you

A few weeks ago I was at a gathering of colleagues who had lunch with one of the leaders of our growing department. One of the laboratory managers explained that many of the principal investigators at the University do not ever tell them the final results of their studies. Nor do they routinely thank the staff their for their contributions to their research projects. And yet, many of these projects could not be completed with the hard work of these staff.

image of thank you post-it
Image credit link

I found this appalling, as someone who has engaged a variety of multi-functional teams over the years for a global company. Thank you is a minimum. Thank you for me is just the floor for what you must do when you collaborate. Thanking people and also letting their managers know what a good job they did is next level.

Making sure you credit people in a published paper, a poster and/or a talk is another way to give credit. Though if the staff are not in the audience of that talk (because it may be directed at another audience), please find a way to thank them personally in another way.

Sometimes a hand written card can be appropriate. Other times a short email with a “I appreciate your work on …” is enough. We all depend on others to get our work done in this day and age. It’s true, sometimes people just do the minimum at their job. Maybe they didn’t put in any “special” effort, but they showed up and they delivered.

Consider how good it feels when someone takes the time to thank you, and to acknowledge how your work makes an impact. All of us enjoy being recognized for our efforts. Some of us don’t love the spotlight, so please don’t make us accept awards in front of big crowds… a simple and sincere thank you will do.

WORKPLace wellness on wednesdays

On the other side, consider how much you enjoy doing for those who express gratitude rather than those who are always griping. It’s worth considering this before you spending time critiquing what may not have been done perfectly.

Take the time to notice those efforts and your workplace engagement will improve. And yes, even bosses like to be thanked! If they give some helpful advice or feedback, or maybe help you see things in a new way, it does not hurt to tell them what you appreciate.

***

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

As the equinox approaches

—does it seem there is extra craziness in the air? 

Here in North America in the central time zone, the autumnal equinox occurs at 4:50 a.m. on Monday the 23rd. I have also noticed there is a weird “craziness” that seems to occur as the seasons change.

We had our last official YTT-200 call on Thursday night. A number of things made it difficult for me to get there on time: there was an unknown game at the University of Minnesota. It was not on the schedule I had printed out, in order to advise myself of times not to get “caught” in my parking lot. So there’s that.

View from Cramer Road looking up
Schroeder, MN. Copyright meximinnesotana.com. Use with attribution only. Taken September 14, 2019. 

I saw the marching band walk by, and the frat houses were tailgating around 6pm when I was leaving the office. It occurred to me as I watched the line of dozens of cars trying to exit the parking lot where I typically park, that I would not make it home by 7pm for the call.

So I locked my bag in my car, thinking I would grab something to eat for dinner in the meantime, and then call in via voice, perhaps not video call. I opted to go back to my office so I could grab my headset and perhaps listen in on the call on the way home. I had my badge with me, so I was able to get into the office. But because I brought my purse and not my bag, I didn’t have the keys to my desk. 😦

So I took the call from my cube, in an empty office. Oh the joys of “variable attention”… my gift is my curse sometimes.

Other yoga sisters had some similar stories. One was fighting a migraine, and others were able to log on a little late. Our teacher mentioned that it is autumn, which is a season of change. Indeed.

Be gentle with yourself in this season of change. It will all get done. Technically all you have to do today to survive is breathe. So keep breathing! Big, diaphragmatic breaths…

Happy weekend,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

P.S. If you are in the Saint Paul, MN area, consider helping me finish my certification by signing up for “yoga for over-thinkers” starting October 3rd at Tula. Only a few seats left!