The Gathering Room – What To Do When You Can’t Do Anything

By Adem Lewis / in , , , /

– Hello, how you doing? It’s just me today. I am here alone on the gathering room. What kind of gathering is that? Nobody here, well Rose offscreen because she is feeling pearly, not pearly like pearly gates but poorly. She is feeling poorly today and that’s why we got the topic
we’ve got to work on today but I’m not gonna talk
about that until many more people have arrived. Hello Denise and Maryann. Hello Anne Marie. You are a top fan. Hello Ann Corinne. Oh my gosh, always coming
in from Lillehammer. Alexa, good to see you honey. Cindy and everybody, Lynette. Yes, I will announce in more detail. Oh yeah, I missed you too Alexa. I’m reading the things myself. Isn’t that, I’m so brave. I don’t know what to do without Roie here but we’re getting by. We’re getting by in the neighborhood. Yes, what to do when you
can’t do anything at all. Last week I was on a plane, couldn’t do anything at all. I couldn’t connect with you guys. I miss you all so much and then this week, Ro got sick so we’ve been
on for a few minutes. I don’t, I just don’t even
know how to communicate without Ro here. I guess we could just start. Do I have to record or anything? No, I don’t have to do anything. So, you know how some days
you just wake up dead, like you wake up and you think, now I must go out and rule
the day and nothing happens. Like you hit the gas and nothing happens. I used to think, I read
one book a long time ago that said, that it called
it adrenal fatigue. Now that term is out of
date but I’ll never forget the time that this happened. I was, I was performing in Chicago and I was talking to this large group of, I don’t know, maybe four or
five hundred people outside. Big, like pep rally. Everybody was super cheery. Everybody was jumping and hopping and it was awesome and I got up and I like
managed to give this speech. I don’t remember what I said. I don’t even remember if I managed to form complete sentences but it was such a happy enthusiastic crowd that they just went
bananas when I was done. And I remember, here’s
this crowd of people who are being gracious and so vivacious and so alive and I was looking at them and I felt nothing. I was like flat beer. Nothing was happening in there and I remember going off the
stage, gonk, gonk, gonk, gonk and all the people behind
stage running up to hug me and I was like hug, hug,
gonk, gonk, gonk, gonk and I, I couldn’t feel anything. I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t muster anything and I went back to my hotel and then right before I
got to the hotel you guys, this happens, does this happen to you? Bookstores like you suck you inside and then throw you a certain book at you? I don’t even know if there
are bookstores anymore but maybe it happens online. It happens to me when I’m
shopping for books online. Certain books that I’ve never heard of are like come, read. So that’s what happened. It was like I had no energy
to do anything, nothing. I was just trying to get to my hotel room and like this tractor
beam fastened on my body and pulled me into a bookstore and then it took me to the
very back of the bookstore and I thought, why am I going. Like it was, I was being
frog marched almost. Like I almost couldn’t move
my own body it was just and yet I was going way to
the back of the bookstore. And I ended up looking down at a shelf, you usually look at eye level right. I looked right down at this shelf and it said, there was a book that said tired of being tired. And I was like, whoa, the
universe is speaking to me. ’cause this was at the end of
what I called the book tour that never ended. When I wrote “Expecting Adam”
which is my first memoir, like 20 years ago and it did really well and people read the book which was lovely. But then it got out
among any group of people ’cause the book is about
my son with Down Syndrome and any group of people
who had anything to do with any kind of disability at all sort of somehow found
out that I was available as a speaker and so I
would just traipse around. Not, I didn’t get paid but
I literally went to every state in the union for like
eight months I was traveling. And wow, I was very tired
and this Chicago trip, where I gave the speech and got a bunch of people cheering for me, was at the end of that. So I was tired beyond tired and I do not, there was a lot in this book
and I’ve read a lot since about you can rouse yourself
when something exciting happens and then you can be very,
very highly active for awhile. Here’s the thing, when you’re on Instagram
or you’re on Facebook or any of the other social media, you see a lot of people in that state. High, happy, energetic, doing things, hanging out with each
other, bright lights, fancy things, great food and everybody’s life looks fantastic. Commercials are even worse. Any ad shows you someone
in a truly manic state and I can tell you also,
from doing reality TV, like the Oprah Show, wow. I remember one time being asked to paint a wall with a woman. I was helping her redo her life by redoing a room in her house and it was on the Oprah show. And Oprah wasn’t there,
it just went to producers and directors and camera people. The two of us painted one patch of wall repeatedly for like
four hours or something. We were so tired and they
kept saying more energy, more energy until we were
like shrieking with laughter and like slapping paint all over. Oh and I’m sure it looked very fun and I literally, when the take was over, I literally just laid down on
the floor and couldn’t move. We have a tendency in our society to glamorize and I do
mean like Western culture, which I’m always ragging on, it’s weird culture. Western, educated, industrialized,
rich and developed, okay. Those are the cultures where
nobody takes a noontime nap and where even the cities never sleep. And we really emphasize continuous high level
activity and progress. So you get a lot of
that on social media now because that’s what the
culture want’s us to present. So getting high and happy is
considered to be the ideal but not just at these peak moments. So you may have heard me talk about how you don’t wanna have
extreme fear all the time. So a lot of us, you know
if a bear attacks you, you’re gonna have a spike of adrenalin you’ll get out of the, you climb a tree. The bear will climb after you and eat you because bears can climb trees but you will have a spike of adrenaline. But if you’re lying in bed
at night worrying about the stock market or something, the bear is running after you and there’s no where you can go so you get this high,
high adrenaline response and it goes on and on
and it burns your system. Same thing happens when you try to be high and happy all the time. So when you burn through
enough adrenaline, the adrenal glands can’t
keep producing enough and it’s not just adrenaline. It’s serotonin, it’s dopamine, it’s all these hormones
that make you feel good that the brain produces as a
sort of slow and steady drip. So instead of the slow and steady drip, what you do is you open the floodgates. Like when people think Ecstasy, the drug, the drug itself doesn’t make you happy. What it does is it opens the floodgates of all the serotonin and all the dopamine you’ve got going and it floods the brain and floods the whole nervous system and then you get really
super happy for a few hours. But then, what happens after any big push is that there’s nothing left. There’s just literally
nothing that the brain or the body can call on. And then it starts bringing
in other parts of the body like the thyroid gland. When adrenaline is gone, the thyroid gland will kick into gear and produce more of it’s chemicals trying to give you enough
energy to do things. Eventually your thyroid
gland will blow out as well. I have so many friends who
have had thyroid cancer after living a life in the public eye where they were trying to
be high energy all the time, and fortunately they’re all okay ’cause thyroid cancer is
not the worst of the cancers but I’ve watched it enough
to see a really correlation between people who try
to do things all the time and people who end up overtaxing their whole glandular system. So today Ro is super sick and I said, she was like, I gotta pull it together and I was like no, this is not a day when you
can really do anything. So she said well what do you do on a day when you can’t do anything? So I have my list because
I’ve been sick and tired and sick and tired of being
sick and tired a lot of my life. So here are my little points and then I’m gonna take your questions. The first thing is, never underestimate the
power of going limp. I am not kidding you. If you, like some people
lay down and they’re like I will nap, power nap, grr. If you have any tension
in your body at all, you are working a little
harder than you can work when you’ve gotten nothing left to give. So, right now, I hope you
have something left to give. I hope you’re not exhausted but right now see if you
can like, slump or lie down wherever you happen to be. If you’re watching on your phone or your computer or whatever. Like what ever position you’re in, go into the absolute most
relaxed posture you can. Generally we’ll look dejected and tired because that’s how our culture reads it. We don’t read it as relaxed. We read it as depressed. And people who are depressed get there but it’s a different variable. Just because you slump
doesn’t mean you’re depressed, sometimes you slump
because, here’s point two. Think of doing absolutely
nothing as gathering strength. So I use to have days when I could work and days when I could
only gather strength. And I would, this is
how you gather strength. You lie down, I hope you’re
all lying completely limp. Now what I want you to do is, from your head down, I want
you to send like a warm wash. Kind of like if you’re
going through a car wash. Imagine you’re going through
a carwash and it’s very gentle and there are all those
little rotating brushes and as it touches you,
every single muscle lets go. So let go of your facial muscles. Don’t try to smile. Let yourself huh. See if you can let your neck go more than you’ve ever let your keck go. See if you can like let
go of your shoulders. Now let go of your shoulders some more. Now let go of your shoulders again. Go to your hands, let go of your hands. Let go of your hands some more. Like let bluh, bluh, bluh, bluh. Let the warm relaxation brush keep going up and down your body and every time it does, imagine those muscles letting
go, Letting go, letting go. At first you might actually
have a fear response to this because part of our
psychology is to believe, especially if we’ve had trauma and I know a lot of us here have, to believe that only by staying alert can we keep ourselves safe. That’s not true. If you keep yourself alert
all the time you burn out and then you can’t function at all. So don’t think of it as going inert, think of it as gathering strength. So once you get really, really limp and you’ve redefined this position, say don’t be afraid, this is
where strength comes from. This is actually a position of strength. The ability to let go
entirely of muscle tension, of emotional tension of physical tension is a huge strength. So you’re lying there gathering strength and then what I want you to do is direct lots of love and
kindness toward the part of you that is the will to move. So it wants to move and instead you say, it’s okay, you don’t have
to do anything right now. Relax, relax, relax, relax, relax and you keep saying that and if it says but I’m bad you say no honey, you’ve gotta relax. So treat it almost like a child. So I use to have what
I called minimum days. There are my performance
days and my minimum days. My minimum days, so let’s
take the worst of times. I had three little kids, I had a lot of auto-immune diseases. I was dealing with a lot
of psychological traumas. I was alone quite often ’cause my then husband traveled a lot and I was trying to get
my doctorate and teach as an assistant professor so I was, I was jammed up. And so I would, on a minimum day, every single second I had to spare, I would go immediately into this slump. I was gathering just the
tiniest molecules of strength I could find and I knew that only by being
completely, absolutely at rest and by giving myself compassion was I gathering these
little grams of strength. Then I would do the absolute bare minimum to keep my children basically okay. I mean God love ’em, they
have been so kind to me through the years because I did not, I was not a hands on
mother during those days. Basically we would play
something I called wild kingdom where we would, I would lie
on my bed, completely inert, and they would play around me and my daughter’s teeth
marks are on the corners of all the books I used to read ’cause she would pick them up. My youngest daughter, she’d
pick up a book like this and chew on it like that
when she was teething and I would just look at her and be like go for it. I don’t have the strength
to help you or the book. And you know what? The books are great, they’re keepsakes and she worked out okay. I would crawl to the kitchen, get them like frozen waffles
I mean it’s terrible. It’s terrible, I didn’t live
a good life during those days. I did not get organic
whole foods for my kids. I did not entertain them with puppets a la the Sound of Music. It was a bare minimum day. And if the people around you understand that you have minimum days
and they know that that’s not, that that’s the best you can do, and that as soon as you can,
you will be a different person. You can actually enlist their help. So my kids, God love ’em again, they all got to know what it was for mom to have a minimum day and they knew that I loved them and they knew that I
was doing what I could and they have always held that knowledge and they’ve never held it against me. And now sometimes they have minimum days and they’re able to give
themselves that permission I hope because they saw me doing
it when I needed it. So I hope that you can
give yourself permission to do very little because it’s flu season and some of you are
feeling kind of rotten. Especially anybody who’s been
exposed to the coronavirus. I hope that’s none of us. So I thought I would
take a few questions now because Ro is lying helplessly in the bed but she is also sending me
texts with your questions. Before we start I wanted to show you this, please do not anything, stop. Please do not anything. That’s what you do on days
when you can’t do anything. So as for your questions. Let me see if I can get
the questions Ro has sent. So Maurice Golla says,
I remember you speaking, oh I can do this too, I remember you speaking
about intentional reading. Is this something you would
recommend for the whole body during times like this? Intentional resting, oh yeah. I need even better glasses. Yeah, you know what, intentional
resting may be too hard. Intentional resting is about
resting for someone else and it’s a really interesting, an interesting idea that was taught to me by a man who worked with mules and he used to do this for his mules and it consists of holding
someone in your attention and then saying I’m resting for you. I’m resting for you and
actually I’m really grateful you brought that up because
when someone you love, is having minimum day, why not try resting for them because when this man sat and said I’m gonna rest for you now, whoa, I think I felt something. And I remember the last
time I talked to him he said, I think I’m getting to the point where I could rest for an entire city. I don’t know but I have to
go like down and try it. So intentional resting is
a wonderful thing to do for others when you have the energy but I’m tell you on a day
when you can’t do anything, you can’t do anything. All right, Alexa says, Martha,
I can sometimes relax my mind but my body is the hardest to relax because of trauma. Sometimes it happens automatically where I’m contracting. I’m in the process of healing from this, is there any helpful way to remind myself that some days when I have no energy. This is a really common trauma reaction and I think it’s why I have
the three autoimmune diseases. I was so contracted I
actually felt it last week when I was in California. I was doing a three day seminar and after the second day, I lay down and I was
holding a lot of stress because I was worried about getting to enough people the next day. It was our last day and I, it was almost like I was in rigor mortis. I lay down and I was in
quite a bit of pain too, and my back was really hurting me. My hands were hurting and I could tell by the rigidity that this was part of my old pattern so trauma leaves the body rigid. What you wanna do with
that Alexa, if you can, is start with a very, very
small part of the body. Like I said, do a whole body scan. That’s kind of too much if
you’ve got trauma contracting. So what I would do if I were
you is start with your hands. I used to not be able to use my hands ’cause they hurt too much. And I found that if I could
flood them with compassion, with my own compassion and
let them do nothing, it kinda, because your hands are the
business end of your body. They’re the ones that do
the things that help you and they would kind of,
they’re doing it right now, they go into a limp position and then I can actually feel this sort of warmth coming up my arms and then I start on my toes. So I start from my
extremities and work inward instead of from the head down. And that works for me
because I can do little bits. If you come to a place that is too rigid, I wish I had you here to
coach ’cause here’s what I do, see if you can do it for yourself. If there’s a part of
you that’s very rigid, address it directly and give it a name. So say Alexa is feeling a lot of rigidity up and down her spine, so if you picture that part of yourself, any part that’s rigid, give it a name and let’s say it calls
itself, I don’t know, spider woman okay. So spider woman has a tense spine. Ask the part of you that’s holding tension if it would mind stepping to one side for a short interval okay and sometimes it’ll say
no, I will not step aside and then you say, that’s okay
you don’t have to step aside. I’m glad you’re there. I know you’re doing your best and you’re serving an
important function for my body. ‘Cause those trauma locked
places are always guarded physically and emotionally by tension. So you know that if
there’s tension in the body or in the mind, if there’s a rigidity
in the mood or the body, underneath that somewhere is
the part that was traumatized. And it’s interesting because part of getting into relationship with the tension and the rigidity is to get it to move aside so
that you can directly address the part that was actually, that actually underwent the trauma. As long as you’re just dealing with the stress and the tension you’re actually, that
tension is protecting the part of you that is most damaged. But if you try to push the protector away, the protector gets stronger
and clamps down harder. I tried to do that. Going limp this way and
then giving it compassion, compassion, compassion
sometimes you can say, I’m in a safe room. Nobody’s gonna come in. Would you mind stepping
to one side for a minute and sometimes the tension will say okay. And then as it steps aside, you breath and you say,
who am I without that? Who am I without the stress and tension? Those of you who know the Byron Katie work are familiar with the line, who am I without my story. This is who am I without my trauma. And you can’t always get right to it. Sometimes you can’t get to it for years but if it can step aside then you’ll notice that
there’s the part under you that was, that actually went
through the stress or the abuse or whatever it was and then you can offer
direct compassion to the part that was underneath. Very often we get exhausted
from holding that tension over minor traumas or
major traumas that build up and so that’s why we get
just plain exhausted. ‘Cause we’re always, I mean, I talked about the cultural norm of being high and happy but
there’s also the trauma reaction of staying tensed and protected. So getting that to relax
by hook or by crook and then giving kindness to the part that is helpless within you, that’s the scariest thing. Did you know, people who’ve
gone through horrible trauma, had vehicles firing
guns at them and things or even have been beaten, may have less trauma if
they were free to respond than someone who just had
really scary like dental work and was unable to move. Because the biggest trauma we have comes not actually from the
pain, which comes and goes, but from the feeling of helplessness. And that feeling of helplessness is extraordinarily traumatizing. So when you can go limp, there’s that, there’s the
fear that you’re helpless but if you can say, but I’m
gonna direct compassion to you and I’ve created a safe place, then as you gather strength
it goes in not just to the outskirts of the body
but into the central trauma and you can give comfort and
calm to the traumatized self. And creating a safe
space to do that is often a really good outcome of being tired. So I think I was tired and exhausted a lot because my body wanted me to
lie down, relax the trauma and address the traumatized
part at the center. So Alexa that’s a great question and I’m very glad you asked it. All right, so who says this? Diana says, how in the
world do you prevent people from being disappointed in
you when you have to cancel or can’t follow through? Ro’s going through this today she’s like, I’m so sorry I’m not there and I’m like, the peoples will understand but you can’t always do what people want and some people will not be understanding. And the answer to Diana’s question is you absolutely can not
control their reaction so speaking of Byron Katie, she says there are three kinds
of business in the world, my business, your business
and God’s business. Whether or not I have the flu today is basically God’s business. I can wash my hands all I want. Sometimes it’s airborne and
I get sick when I get sick. All right, that’s really not my business. How I care for my body when I
have the flu is my business. What you think about me caring
for my body is your business. Not my business. So what Katie says is stay
out of other people’s business because if you’re in
their mind checking to see how they feel about you, there’s no one home to take care of you. So it’s harsh when people are
upset that you have to cancel, you are not in control of their thinking and it’s not your business. So come to the gathering room and you will find it full
of friends who understand. Okay, yes, yes, yes,
no control over others. Steven says, what if we feel
we’re stuck in the inertia of these low energy days when we have obligations we’re ignoring or neglecting and we shouldn’t anymore. Oh my God, Steve I’m so, Steven, I’m really glad you asked that too because I had a string of these. I had months of these days. Months, I would be either minimum
day or just above minimum. I mean barely above minimum and the reason was I
was in the wrong life. And very often, I don’t
think it’s a coincidence that this question came from a guy because men even more than
women are like cemented in to lives that they feel
they can’t get out of. And bad men don’t care, they just run around doing what they want but really good men will
take on the role of provider and also their job title. Like the reason we have so
many names like Baker, Taylor, Fletcher, those are all job titles. Fletchers made arrows. And a lot of men take their whole identity from the job that they’re doing and if that job is not right
for your true inner self, it’s going to make you drained of energy, physically ill, physically
sick and even traumatized it can build up as a genuine trauma. So I wanted to save this
for right at the end but here’s the thing, I want to assure everyone out there that even if you’ve had
many, many, many days where you can’t do anything, if you start paying
attention to what gives you a little bit of strength, those gathering strength moments, if you notice that like
looking at one picture gives you a little bit of a
lift and looking at another one drags you down a little. You start to measure by microns the amount of strength you have left. And I just had to turn because
I had so many minimum days, I had to turn toward
whatever made me happier and one thing I learned was
that reading self-help books and reading novels and
reading memoir brightened me. Deciding to write a memoir
or a novel brightened me, gave me a little bit more strength. Every time I went to my
job at the university, I was so weak sometimes that I couldn’t and my hands didn’t work and
I couldn’t get outta the car ’cause I couldn’t open the car door and I had such bad brain fog I couldn’t even remember
how a car door gets opened. And I was 30, I was not an old woman and what I learned was
that my particular body will not allow me to live the wrong life. And I have done, literally my career, has no particular description to it, it is literally what I could do and it was the only thing I could do. I was not given any latitude, any possibility of doing
something different. I had the strength for what
took me right to my destiny. I had the strength to do things like come here and talk to you and say, if you have no energy,
if you’re depressed, if you’re traumatized, if
you’re sick today, it’s fine. When we get to the end of our lives, we’ll look back and
see how much compassion and how much experience we gained and that’s all that matters. The things that culture wants you to do, they don’t matter. What other people think of
you doing what you wanna do, they don’t matter. What you do is turn over
and over and over again to the things that give you strength and little by little those minimum days start to be less and less and the days when you have
strength become more and more and the the three diseases
I was diagnosed with that aren’t curable don’t give me symptoms on most days anymore. I have way more energy in
my late 50’s than I did in my early 30’s. Life can get better and better and better. So lie down, totally relax
and feast your mind on that. I love you, Ro loves you,
we’ll be back next week same bat time, mwah, mwah, mwah I hope you’re all feeling really, really rested by that time. Mwah, mwah, mwah, love you guys. See ya next week.

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