“Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon! Live in fragments no longer.” E. M. Forster
Next week, I am going to do something seriously difficult.
I am going to take a vacation.
For some of you, this is one of your strengths. You know how to rest. You know how to play.
But for me… let's just say I'm on the launch point of the S Curve of rest and recreation. And anytime we start something new, including learning to rest—to not always be ‘on’—takes practice.
In fact, stress can become addictive. Stress raises cortisol levels and high cortisol can become a new set point in our bodies to which we organize our lives. We may come to require it to push us to perform.
So, from December 25th through January 3rd, I'm doing a social media fast. I am doing so because social media, as MUCH AS I LOVE IT, does contribute to an ‘always on' mentality. Instead of tuning in to social media, I’ll be tuning in to my family and getting better connected. There won’t be a newsletter next week, though there will be a reprise of one of our Disrupt Yourself podcast episodes to help prep you for next year.
Connection is the subject of this week's podcast with Ted Brodkin and Ashley Pallathra.
He is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania; she's a PhD candidate in clinical psychology at The Catholic University of America. Their collaboration commenced with studying human connection for people with autism, but they quickly discovered this is something we all struggle with.
“Attunement”, they shared, “is the ability to be aware of your own state of mind and body while also tuning in and connecting to another person. This is not just a touchy feeling emotion but a power.”
Maybe you’ve felt attuned to others as a musician or an athlete. I feel it when I’m accompanying a vocalist on the piano. “When you are attuned to someone you are in sync with someone's expression of their experience.”
I want to be attuned to my family––to my children––during the holidays. To do this, I'll need to follow their advice and put aside distractions when my children talk. I will need to concentrate on what they are saying, pay attention to their speech, the tone of voice–and observe if I'm mirroring them (e.g. when you are speaking to someone and they lean on their elbow, do you lean on yours? Mirroring signals that we are really listening.
Which is especially important when in conflict. Being attuned to another is a basic principle of the martial art, Tai Chi. The Chinese character for martial means “stop the fight”. True martial artists are skillful at managing and minimizing conflict. I like thinking about attunement—finding ways to be in tune when you are out of tune—as the art of minimizing conflict.
Circling back to my launch point challenge—doing the hard thing of taking a rest. I have people around me who are more relaxed, who do know how to rest. If I can attune myself to them, and I'm really listening to them, I believe there will be a contagious effect. As they are relaxed, I will relax too. And this thing that is difficult, will become just a little bit easier.
P.S. If you want a wonderful 20-minute Christmas video watch The Christ Child with your family and loved ones!