[Podcast] RL 60: Brodie Welch — Balancing our Yin Yang and Battling “Yang Addiction”

In this episode, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brodie Welch. Brodie is a licensed acupuncturist, a board-certified herbalist, Chinese medicine expert, and offers self-care strategies.

Topics Covered

  • Restoring balance between our personal yin-yang and battling “yang addiction,”
    and concrete tools to breaking it and creating new, healthy habits.
  • Utilizing different alternative self-care methods and practices to combat prevalent issues many people face like sleep issues/insomnia.
  • Defining “time-blocking”, maximizing our potential in the moment, and how multi-tasking is a myth.
  • Her definition of meditation and mindfulness and how it can be a training ground for life.

Sources mentioned:

Asana Project Management: https://asana.com/
Basecamp Project Management: https://basecamp.com/

You can learn more about Brodie at:

Website: http://brodiewelch.com/
Podcast: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/a-healthy-curiosity/id1133292360?mt=2

Twitter: @brodiewelch

 

Questions? Comments? Email Jeena! hello@jeenacho.com. You can also connect with Jeena on Twitter: @Jeena_Cho

For more information, visit: jeenacho.com

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Check out this episode!

Transcript

Jeena: Today’s show is sponsored by Spotlight Branding. Spotlight Branding works exclusively with solo and small law firms to brand them as trusted, credible experts and help them stand out in a crowded marketplace. Their services include web design, social media, video marketing, and more.

Brodie: I’ve got all the time in the world, like you’re going to be just as productive from an attitude of relaxation. You don’t need the adrenaline to get stuff done.

Intro: Welcome to The Resilient Lawyer podcast. In this podcast we have meaningful, in-depth conversations with lawyers, entrepreneurs and change agents. We offer tools and strategies for creating a more joyful and satisfying life. And now your host, Jeena Cho.

Jeena: My friends, welcome back to The Resilient Lawyer podcast. I am so happy to have Brodie Welch on the show. And this is going to be a slightly different episode than we normally have, because usually I have lawyers on the podcast. But Brady is a licensed acupuncturist, she is a board-certified herbalist, a Chinese medicine expert, and she also offers self-care strategies. And so she’s going to share lots of different tips and tools for us to live healthier and more productive lives that are filled with self-care. So Brodie, welcome to the show.

Brodie: Thanks so much for having me, Jeena. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Jeena: So I want to just jump right in and talk about actually getting more done. So as lawyers, we of course bill our time in six minute blocks and one of the things that I hear all the time from lawyers is how do I fit more in, how do I do more, how do I bill more hours? And I know one of your specialties or one of your expertise is actually teaching people how to get more done. So tell me, what’s the secret behind getting more done?

Brodie: Well to share that secret with you I think it helps to have a little bit of a sense of where I’m coming from, in terms of Chinese medicine and it’s theory. And what we have to learn from that yin-yang symbol that I’m sure everyone is familiar with, the black and white shapes that look like porpoises chasing each other inside that little circle. That is basically a symbol about what life looks like when it’s in balance. And so, it’s this balance of yin and yang energies. And so if the yang energy is the productive, the active, doing, the busy, the external, the speedy, that’s represented by the white part of the yin-yang symbol. And the other part is the yin, it’s that symbolized by the black part. And it has to do, you can’t have black without white, you can’t have inside without outside, you can’t have up without down. In this world of duality, everything has its opposite, which is necessary for the other’s existence. So in order to have productivity and speed and getting stuff done, you need to have good yin and the yin is of course the being, the stillness, the restful, the quiet, the inner. You, I’m sure have had the experience where you stay up all night doing something or like, you’re burning the candle at both ends, and then you actually try to show up for the presentation, the meeting, the whatever it is that’s really important, the trial, the negotiation and you’re just not present because you’re so exhausted. And so like, we know intuitively that we need to get good sleep in order to have a rockingly productive day the next day. But it’s so much easier to prioritize the doing stuff and burning the candle at both ends because it’s like, because it’s hard for us to get that when we get hijacked by what I call your “yang addiction,” which is a cultural decision and I myself I’m a recovering yang addict. It’s like essentially, a paradox and that’s something that Chinese medicine is really full of, it’s a lot of paradox. That in order to have access to our sharpest minds, our most brilliant creativity, our most present selves, that’s in the realm of yang. We need to be honoring our yin, which means taking care of our bodies, which means taking care of taking care of your spirit, your heart, your inner world. But even just in terms of productivity, let’s just start with the body. Let’s just start with the fact that like, even if we’re incredibly driven, smart people, that we actually need to power that physically somehow, which means that automating the mundane, it means basically getting on autopilot, the core competencies of self-care that everybody needs in order to be not only healthy and prevent disease and to age optimally, but to really thrive in your career and your productivity.

Jeena: Yeah so if I can actually just break that down a little bit. When you talk about self-care, especially with lawyers I think there’s a lot of misconceptions about, well that means I have to go to a spa and get a massage, and I don’t have time for that. Or I have to get a manicure or pedicure; I have to go on vacation. When you talk about self-care, what does that mean, what is it and perhaps more importantly what self-care isn’t?

Brodie: Yeah, that’s a great question. There’s those kinds of things, I love a good pedicure and a good massage. And you know, but those really I consider like the empty calories of self-care, like they can make you feel good in the moment but they’re not really going to do a whole lot to change how you show up in the world. And the things that are going to change how you show up in the world are the things that you do every day, the things that you do yourself. So these kinds of things are like not sexy, they’re not rocket science. It’s like getting enough sleep, you know. You know like, or another thing is going to be having a meditation practice, making sure that you take a moment each day to fill up the well by tapping into the timeless and connecting with yourself and what matters most. So that you can streamline, so that you can be clear as to what actually doesn’t need to happen that day, so that you can be clearer on what your priorities are. But basically it comes down to the simple first step is establishing a solid morning routine before you engage with the world, connect with yourself and a lot of times that that morning routine needs to start the night before, with going to bed a little bit earlier so that you have time to do that stuff. And you don’t have to meditate for an hour; you don’t even have to meditate for 20 minutes. But spending some time connecting with, uniting your breath, your mind, and your body can go a long way towards just helping you filter out the noise in your daily life and helping you stay connected to your priorities, instead of being jerked around by e-mails and by what other people need and want and really getting clear. I mean, when you’re hijacked by other people’s emergencies, like our bodies get hijacked into fight or flight mode which is what was once adaptive when we were running from predators on the savannah but not so useful when our emergencies are these things that don’t require physical self-defense or fleeing from a predator. So it can be really rough on the body to go through life on adrenaline. And so it’s really about breaking that cycle and getting into natural energy integrity so that you can move from a place of confidence and centeredness as opposed to frantic, scattered, you know and feeling like your life is always this time crunch where there’s never enough space and there’s never enough time. Because that jacks your nervous system, that’s in Chinese medicine what we call “liver chi stagnation,” and that’s like our term for like the chi, the energy in the body, it needs to flow smoothly in order for us to feel relaxed and even-keel. And anytime we stress out, that basically our energy stagnates and that puts us into a very reactive place where (to go brain science) we’re out of the prefrontal cortex, like we’re out of our of our ability to stay calm and with equanimity and with empathy and with our full capacity as humans. Like we’re more in our limbic system of just being in fear and it’s not good for us, it’s very expensive, it taxes the body you know. Every single system of the body is affected by stress, from immunity to our reproductive hormones to our ability to sleep to you know to really everything, like physical pain, inflammation. It’s all, stress is a major driver for disease. For 80 to 90%, depending on whose statistics you’re looking at, of all reasons that people see doctors and other health care practitioners if it’s not the cause that amplifies. And so it’s really, it’s like it’s easy to say like oh yeah, manage stress better. Well what does that look like, you know? And so, that’s one of the reasons that I’m really passionate like, with acupuncture it’s an amazing stress relief but it’s kind of not enough to just get in and have somebody put you into this state of nervous system reboot and relaxation, like there really needs to be a way that you can practice that every day. Which is why I got into teaching qigong, teaching yoga and meditation. But really, much more about helping people bridge the gap between what they know they need to be doing and actually doing it.

And it’s like, I think that what the missing piece is there is having support and accountability and doing it on a long enough time scale to really make a new habit stick. A lot of people make the mistake of biting off more than they can chew and deciding like, oh well I tried to meditate you know, I tried it for three days and I tried it for an hour at a time. And I tried it alone and I didn’t have a space or a time for it. So you know it’s like, good luck right, like that’s not going to happen. So I got really interested in behavioral science and kind of like what does it take to, so in addition to studying Chinese medicine and mindfulness practices and some functional medicine and ayurvedic medicine and all the other tools that I use, being interested in like what actually helps new habits stick. And so that is something that, we can get into habitation if you feel like that would be useful or not…

Jeena: Absolutely, yeah. So I’m going to back up way back and actually talk about sleep, because sleep is one of the things that I feel like even though I’m almost 40 I still struggle with. Because I always just have really bad insomnia and then that leads to just making everything feel exponentially more difficult. I’m sure our listeners have had the experience of getting just a few hours of sleep, and then the next day everything just feels like a catastrophe. So what are some tools or practices that you can put into your life so that you can sleep better, and especially for folks that have sleep issues like I do, insomnia or not being able to stay asleep. What are some concrete practices or sleep hygiene practices that people can put into their life?

Brodie: Oh we can talk about this for hours. First of all, crazy amounts of empathy for you because I also struggle with sleep and I know how hard that is, that feeling of like knowing that the next day is going to suck. You know, because you’re not able to asleep. So there’s a few things that I can recommend, one is paying attention in the evenings. So like again with the yin and the yang, right the daytime, the light time of day, is when we’re supposed to be active. And the dark time of day, or night, is when we’re supposed to be restful. Now this doesn’t mean that we have to be asleep, but really like after dark you know if we’re stimulating, first of all telling our body that it’s still day by staring at screens and their blue lights that literally disrupts our melatonin production, decreases it like crazy. That basically I recommend going screen-free as early as possible after dinner, like no screens after eight, no screens after seven, no screens after nine, whatever line you can draw. Put that line in the sand for yourself, you might notice that it helps you wind down to eat an earlier dinner, that can be huge because really digestion is this active metabolic process. And if your body’s still doing that, you’re not going to sleep great. Like ideally there’s at least three hours between when you have dinner and when you go to bed. And so for a lot of people, it’s like you know they’re getting home you know, 9:00 at night they’re having this big heavy dinner which is maybe most of the calories that day they’re having a glass of wine, they’re having you know something to help them wind down, and they’re wondering why they’re awake at 2:00 in the morning. You know and a lot of times like that can either, that’s very much in the liver time in Chinese medicine. So like, insomnia is caused by different things and so I can’t tell you what your particular insomnia is about. Like different things are going to be helpful for different folks, but if it’s stress-related or if it’s digestion-related, it’s likely that you’re going to wake up in that 2 to 3 a.m. time period which we associate with the liver. And so having that earlier dinner at least three hours before bed, planning to have a great night’s sleep by getting up and doing your mindfulness practice, your qigong, your meditation, first thing in the morning is going to help you have a better night’s sleep. Also, aligning with natural rhythms, like making sure you’re getting outside in the morning to stimulate the pineal gland to hook you up with your natural circadian rhythms. And then if you’re just, to pay attention to winding down in the evenings. So if you’re exercising late at night you know, like you can’t just immediately shut that off and expect that your body is going to go into relaxation mode. So really paying attention to just like, the timing of day and when you are doing particular activities. And so, in the evening, this is the time to do something gentle and something more yin, like read a book or you know, connect with your loved ones or you know call a friend or take a bath, actually taking an epsom salt bath can be fabulous for relaxation, the nervous system. It’s one of my favorite hacks, if I know that like that it’s already too late to do my wind-down routine, that I will make myself an epsom salt bath, I’ll put in some essential oils like vetiver or cedar, that are very grounding and that promote relaxation just by how they smell and just, the messages that they bypass the rational mind and talk to the brain. But then the magnesium from the epsom salts just encourages this physiological letting go, and that can a lot of times be a wonderful ticket to get on the sleep train and to be able to stay asleep all night long.

And really it’s a process, it’s the kind of thing that like, that we are not machines and it can take a while to shift patterns. But really, like very few people who struggle with insomnia don’t have issues that involve their nervous system and stress. And so really looking, and that could be coming from all sorts of places right? But typically lifestyle and pace. The other thing that I would encourage everyone that’s just struggling with sleep issues to think about is that, where can you leave a little bit more space in your life? Like, because really that sense that illusion right, because time is an illusion, where are we buying into this idea that there’s not enough time? You know like, if we can do the same amount of work, and I get a crazy amount done, I have way too many irons in the fire a lot. Like I said, I’m a recovering yang addict. But it’s still a struggle for me to walk my talk around self-care. But it’s important to me because I see where it leads. I’ve been in the healing arts for almost 20 years and I just see what happens when you try to take those shortcuts, it’s like things break down and it’s so much better to stay healthy than to break and then try to fix yourself. So it’s the kind of thing where like, really paying attention to having a mantra that goes throughout your day in your head, where you’re just reminding yourself that, I’ve got all the time in the world. Like you’re going to be just as productive from an attitude of relaxation that you don’t need the adrenaline to get stuff done.

Jeena: Yeah and I think that’s such the paradox, is that we think if we just really try at it and sort of, effort our way through it that we’ll be more successful, but in fact that’s really the opposite. The more, sort of ease and common presence we can bring into each moment, the more efficiently we can actually get things done because we’re not going into that fight or flight mode that we talked about just a little while ago.

Brodie: Yeah and there’s really, that also requires a sense boundaries. Right, like that a lot of people, I do a lot of time batching like making sure that I’ve got, you know that I’m not checking e-mail every five minutes or that you know, the tasks that are all sort of similar happen at a particular time of day. But then, you know I’ve got I’ve got my Fitbit that reminds me to get up and move every few minutes or for the last 10 minutes of every hour, making sure that I’m getting enough steps. Because really, like you can’t concentrate. Twenty five minutes is that sort of magic like, window of most people attention span and so, making sure that you’re not just over-riding like again, this yang addiction, this belief that the mind has that it can do it all. And it’s like actually, the body could really help you out if you just give it permission. You know, you need to fuel yourself; you need to eat good, quality food. If you’re fueling up on sugar and caffeine, you know it’s like, you know the quality of your thoughts is not going to be nearly as pure as if you are nourishing yourself with a more stable and wholesome fuel source. And it’s like it really does, it’s a feedback loop. And so really like, honoring the body and also honoring yourself by figuring out like, what is the most important thing that I need to do today? And then being ruthless about not letting other things get in the way; saying no to things that are extraneous, not letting what other people want get in the way of what you need to do in order to get the job done, as well as to have a life. Because you have the right to take care of yourself, you have the right to being even without doing. And that’s something that in our society, it’s really easy to forget that because we are in this culture that glorifies business; it’s almost like the more exhausted we are the more bragging rights we have.

And it could be especially true for women, I see women especially running themselves into the ground because you know, because we’re still doing most of the housework and kid work if we’re partnered in a hetero relationship. And even if we’re single, it’s like just that we might be working harder in order to make the same amount of money that a man makes because we don’t have that kind of justice right now. So it’s the kind of thing where like yeah, that there is, it’s really easy to feel like work is the only value. But like you know, when the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail, like yeah. There is other tools in your toolbox that can help you do everything in life, and being able to kind of like, to mix my metaphors again, you can paint with more than just your favorite color, right. And that’s one of the beautiful things I feel like about Chinese medicine is that, we think of ourselves in the constitutional types that correspond with the five elements, wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. And that each element type like, exploring what element you are can give you a sense of what your strengths and potential downfalls are, and that can help you kind of keep yourself in balance. So it’s hard to shift to what you don’t know is a problem, right? And so it’s like, when you start to see…I would like everyone to understand yang addiction as a problem. That you know, it really is the kind of thing that like, if you’re serious about wanting to feel different in the world, it requires a lifestyle change for the long haul. But once you dial that in, once you automate the mundane, once you bring the core competencies of self-care online, it will be a whole different way of living than what you’re used to.

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Jeena: I think there’s a sense, or at least I did, that I was almost waiting for someone else to tell me its okay for me to practice self-care. Like I was waiting for my boss to, “You know what Jeena? You’ve been working way too hard and I think you should take some time off.” But I think I wanted some sort of validation or some sort of, because I felt like, well until someone tells me that it’s okay to practice self-care it just means I am not doing enough in the world. It’s almost like the self-care was this thing that I put on the very, very bottom of 186 other things that I had to do. And then it also meant that it never got done. So how do we start to like, shift that? How do we actually start to prioritize self-care? And as you said, sort of make it part of your mundane activity?

Brodie: Well you got to put it on your calendar, right. Like, you put everything else on your calendar that matters…

Jeena: So what does that look like on your calendar, like if I were to take a look at your calendar, what does it actually say?

Brodie: Well, the things that I’ve totally dialed in that I don’t need to think about, like brushing my teeth is not on my calendar, right. You know, there’s no way that’s not happening. I get up, I brush my teeth, I scrape my tongue, I rinse my nose, you know like I do all these crazy Ayurvedic practices, you know. But then it’s like, then I drink my water and I go meditate and it’s just auto-pilot. Like there’s not an option to do something else. And so, things like that that are just kind of like, what I do every day. Those are not on the calendar because I’ve already done 20 years’ worth of work to get them there, right.

Jeena: But like, in the beginning did you have meditation on your calendar?

Brodie: Absolutely, well like in the sense that I knew when it was going to happen. So I knew when and where it was going to happen and what followed and what it proceeded in my schedule. So literally wasn’t on my calendar but its like, I don’t get to have breakfast until I’ve meditated, you know. Like I don’t get to leave the house unless…and again, like my practice could be modular, it could be one conscious breaths worth if you know, if I’m really running out the door and like my kid needs something and like you know, the cat throws up and you know like just life happens. So maybe I’m not going to get the 20 minutes that I want, but I like I absolutely, we all have time to take one conscious breath. We all have, you know? So it’s just, so it’s a matter of committing to it and making it absolutely non-negotiable, at first. Like just making that commitment. And, but yeah. And things like workouts, it’s like those are absolutely on my calendar. I need to move in order to feel sane. And so, it’s the kind of thing where like today where I’m doing a bunch of interviews, I’ve got a launch coming up for some courses, I’ve got a team to manage. You know that really, I did some time-blocking. I put that on my calendar so nobody else could schedule with me so that I could make sure that I got a hike in. You know and so, it’s the kind of thing where like, that requires guarding your time and taking it as seriously as any commitment that I have to any of the other people that I’m talking to today.

Jeena: For the listeners that don’t know about time-blocking, can you talk about what that is and what that actually looks like?

Brodie: Yeah. And I’m not an expert at time-blocking, but how I practice it is deciding that like, we know that every time we shift our attention that multitasking is a myth. and this is a teaching from qigong and from yoga, that when our intention, like when we’re present in the present moment with one intention, with one focus, then we maximize our ability to be in the moment and to do whatever it is that we’re doing. We’re bringing our full presence to it. When we start splitting our attention and trying to do more than one thing, it’s confusing and less efficient. And when we add like a third ball to the mix, it becomes just chaos. And so, it’s the kind of thing where if you’re checking, if you’re constantly being interrupted, every time you lose focus and have to refocus, that takes minutes off of your ability to get things done. And so, it’s really like putting things like email in bounds so that you’re really only checking it a few times a day. Or you know, like once an hour for five minutes or like, just deciding whatever it is that you need in order to stay on top of your day. But keeping the boundaries around that or for example, like I am in clinic with patients a couple days a week and I am also developing now I do my coaching program and I do my podcast and things like that. The other days of the week, I’m not running back and forth from the office to podcast recordings. It’s like, I have days where I’m doing my coaching one-on-ones with people, and I have days when I’m in the office. And so it’s just simple, it’s like where can I cut out commuting, where can I have three hours in a row to really do some deep work with curriculum development, or with other writing projects or things that require more than just a few minutes here or there? Making sure that I’ve preserved that time on a calendar and that things that I need to do periodically are just, like having systems and things that happen automatically is something that I’m doing with my team right now, and making sure that that they are as trained and empowered as possible for the things that just happen every day. Where everybody’s clear on whose job it is and you know, that’s sort of like, if you’re running a business you totally need that. But also just in your own life, just having the systems because we’re not creatures of the willpower, we’re creatures of habit.

Jeena: So one of the things that I personally struggle with all the time and I know that this is a very common complaint for lawyers is email, and I think this is something that we all struggle with. I think there’s this sense of urgency, especially if it’s a case and the client actually needs our attention. But I also see the truth of what you’re saying, that it’s much more efficient to check your email once an hour or twice a day. I mean ideally, that would be my preferred email schedule, is I check it first thing in the morning and I check it sometime in the afternoon and then I check it like, before I wrap things up in the evening but like, it’s so hard to actually get myself into that habit of doing it. So if you’re so used to that constant you know, I’m writing a brief and then all of a sudden I jump into my inbox because maybe I need some piece of information from my inbox to be able to finish the brief, and then of course then I get sucked into the email vortex. So how do we begin to actually disassemble and sort of you know, start to work with that habitual pattern of self-interruption?

Brodie: Well, do you have anybody else that can check your e-mail for you? Do you have a team?

Jeena: I probably could, but yeah, that also feels really scary to like, relinquish control of my inbox. And also there’s just like, attorney client confidentiality issues and I don’t know, I guess it’s a possibility.

Brodie: Well we have that in medicine too you know, that we have confidentiality issues. And yet it’s very possible for my office manager to make sure that the e-mails that I actually need to respond to, if somebody is having an issue with their health, that’s very different than somebody who wants to schedule an interview with me, for example. So really, it’s I had to stop doing her job. You know, like delegate and really get clear as to like, what are your $10,000 tasks that only you can do, right? Versus like, what are the $10 an hour tasks that somebody else could probably do for you? But also things like, having project management software that you can open instead of opening your e-mail. You open that and so you can just delegate things from there, or get clear on your own tasks before you get sucked into the world’s priorities. And so just that, that’s the kind of thing that I will look at first in the day and be able to remind myself of what my priorities are on a given day, and then get working on that. And then at some point, check email as a break, make sure that nothing is burning down, that nothing needs my attention. But otherwise it’s you know, I’d say like delegate whenever possible, that kind of thing. And batched emails, like if you can take care of it in under five minutes go ahead and do it, but if it’s going to take longer than that just than just put a little star, flag it to get back to it later, Do your brief.

Jeena: Yeah. What project management software do you recommend or use?

Brodie: Oh I use Asana personally, but there’s also Basecamp, there’s plenty out there. Or even just like something like Calendly, like a free calendar schedule can be super helpful in just automating, again like not having to go back and forth like, when’s good for you to meet? Like just here, here’s a link to my online calendar. So stuff like that, that are hacks on the time management side. But really, none of that matters as much as like making sure that I am living in accordance with what’s really important to me. You know like, what do I really want to get done, what at the end of the day is going to give me a sense of satisfaction? And it’s going to be some things on that list that are personal and some things that are professional but there shouldn’t be more than three.

Jeena: I want to actually talk about meditation; it’s a topic that’s really big in my life. I feel like meditation has just been the single most profound practice that I’ve done and I can’t imagine life without meditation. So let’s begin by talking about what is meditation, when you talk about meditation, what does that look like, what does that mean?

Brodie: Well, there’s so many different ways of meditating and so many different traditions so I’m wary of trying to put out an all-encompassing definition of what it is. But I think of meditation, and I would count (and I’ve studied many different kinds of meditation) as bringing your attention from the external world to the internal world, and stepping outside of the stream of thoughts to become the observer of the thoughts. And so that could be a kind of definition of mindfulness perhaps, is that awareness that you’re not the sensations that arise in your body, that you’re not the content of what flows through your brain, and that you’re not your personality. You get, you step back and you realize that you’ve got this thing called consciousness or the witness, the wise observer, who can look at all this stuff and go wow, yeah. And so meditation basically like allows us to not react to the things in our bodies in a habitual way and to not react to the things in our minds in a habitual way. We can create space between the things that trigger us and how we choose to respond to that. And so meditation I see as a training ground for life and from a Chinese medicine tradition, so there’s like in the yoga tradition there’s all sorts of paths of meditation that involve like, sort of transcending the body. And one of the things that I really appreciate about qigong is that first of all, a lot of people feel like they can’t meditate sitting still and qigong combines breath and movement and intention with light. So it’s basically like, you can close your eyes, you can see these flowing movements that are designed to have particular medicinal purposes in the body or particular sort of mental, emotional, spiritual purposes in the body. And it’s a way of just sinking in, like just basically being able to shut off your mind and just tune in to your breath and your body. And that creates a kind of unity that, it yokes the mind like yoga where it is union or yoke, where you’re yoking the minds of the body together, you’re creating this unity so that creates and amplifies your ability to focus and concentrate and that in turn gives you a kind of power over your life, because you are able to not be jerked around by your mind, gives you a sense of mastery and equanimity. And there’s all sorts of interesting studies about how yoga, meditation, qigong, mindfulness, all of these things can increase, it can decrease pain, like there’s all sorts of interesting stuff about the body-mind connection that we wouldn’t necessarily think about. But really, a lot of people feel like meditation is like where you close your eyes and your mind goes to this peaceful, blissful place. And I can tell you like, I don’t know anybody for whom that is their experience of meditating. Like just like you don’t expect your heart to stop beating, you don’t expect your mind to stop thinking. It’s just gonna think, but it’s a practice of being able to refocus on whatever it is, whether it’s your breath or whether it’s a mantra or whether it’s a sound or a chant or an object of love or a person that you love or you know, like whatever it is that you’re choosing to bring your attention back to, it is that process of catching the wandering away and bringing it back. And that’s really where I feel like the practice begins.

Jeena: Yeah and I think that that’s so key, and I find especially for lawyers who tend to be very perfectionistic they think, oh my gosh I’m thinking therefore I’m not doing this correctly and because I’m not doing it correctly it’s not worth doing.

Brodie: Right. I suck at it, I’ll never get it. Therefore I’m not going to do it, like it’s not for me because I’m special because my mind is busy it’s like, guess what, it’s what minds do! So yeah like, I love the analogy of like training the puppy. It’s just what the puppy does, it wanders off, it smells stuff and it’s your job as walking the dog to just keep walking and gently to coerce it back to like okay no this is what we’re doing now, okay we’re not problem-solving right now. Okay we’re breathing right now; this is all we’re doing. And it takes discipline, so I feel like for someone that’s interested in starting a meditation practice, I recommend getting acquainted with the breath. On my website I have a free breathing meditation, I have a free world’s simplest qigong. If you want to do kind of a standing practice, moving your arms and breathing, that can be incredibly calming and centering. But I recommend getting a timer and just deciding that you’re going to engage in this practice until your timer goes off. And start with one minute, start with five minutes, start with something small and doable. Because when you do that, then you can build on your success. And you know that you’re not going to be there forever. And to not judge it as successful or failure, because you’re just training. You know like, you don’t go to the gym and expect yourself to pick up the 100 pound barbell your first day. You know, it’s like you start with a lighter weight and you build up until something feels doable. And really, in terms of the research that’s being done, in just 20 minutes a day for eight weeks you can increase the neurodensity in your prefrontal cortex and decrease the amygdala. Like that’s really doable, right. That’s two months.

Jeena: Yeah yeah. And I think that point you bring up about starting small and allowing those very small, intentional acts to build over time is so key. I think there’s that tendency like, oh my gosh I wanted all the benefits yesterday so I’m just going to double down and start doing four hours a day, and it doesn’t work that way.

Brodie: And it may be great to start with like a meditation retreat or something like that, that can certainly be something that’s useful in jump-starting a new habit. But yes, I definitely am a firm believer that it’s the small changes over time that are the ones that stick. And so, because it really, it’s like going from somebody who starts their day you know, flying out the door with a cup of coffee and grabbing a bagel you know, like is really different than someone that starts their day with five minutes of conscious breathing and then, you know it just sets you up to have a totally different life experience. And so it does, it does change who you are and how you show up in the world.

Jeena: So I think maybe as we get ready to wrap things up, you were talking about this yang addiction that we all tend to have, where we try to do too much and try to do it as quickly as possible and we’re not really fully present to the activities that we’re engaged in. You know, some concrete tools or suggestions or practices that our listeners can do to start to unlearn those habits and create other healthier habits for breaking the yang addiction.

Brodie: Well, I’ve talked a lot about priorities, right. And so, really consider for yourself like, what am I willing to let go of, right? Like what could I really let slide? How many things that need my attention can I really pay attention to and expect them all to thrive, right? Like there’s the analogy of the plants in your garden, right. Like sometimes you need to prune for there to be enough water to go around. And so, paying attention to like what is most important today and asking yourself like, just really getting clear in your priorities, like what might you need to stop doing.

Jeena: Yeah, right. That’s so important to actually think about what we can let go of, so we can actually do those really important things better. It’s not about trying to pile on more stuff and just try to cram more activities into our 1,440 minutes a day because that’s all we get.

Brodie: Yeah exactly. And it’s really easy to add stuff, especially for people who are super capable and get a lot done. It’s like, “Oh yeah sure, I’ll do that. I’ll do that.” Yeah, like so like I’ll give you an example. Like just last week, my husband invited me to go to a concert up in Portland with him. And it was an artist that I was, I was interested in the music, I thought it would be fun, but I also, it’s the change of the seasons, it’s a time where we can be vulnerable to getting sick. I have been really like doing a lot and the concert was on a Monday night and I had patients scheduled for Tuesday. And so I had to make the call that like you know, like I want to do this but I’m not going to; I’m going to kind of like engage my inner-parent and just decide like, “Sweetie, like that’s really too much.” Like it might be fun but it’s not as fun as how you’re going to feel the next day. And it’s probably going to set you up for getting sick because we’ve got a kid that just went back to school which is like you know, germ factory, and you know it was more important for me to conserve my energy for what was really important, which was my work you know, and my health.

And so it’s just one of those things where it’s like, I wouldn’t have been able to make that choice if I wasn’t clear on what matters most to me, in the next day, in the next few weeks, in the next few months of life. Like, what area of life needs the most attention right now for you, is it health, is it career, is it relationships, is it family? Is it spirituality? Where am I leaking energy, right? Like what am I spending too much time on, is there one friend who constantly drains you? Are you staying up or are you blowing past bedtime watching Netflix? It’s like that, and really figuring out like how can I put a boundary around that? So the example with using my a little Fitbit timer for example, like I have that to go off so that it reminds me okay, this is when you really need to start winding down. This is where you get to read fiction; this is where you get to do your two minutes of foot massage before you go to bed. Those kinds of things that I might not do if I was just kind of caught up in the moment and so I would recommend those those contemplative practices, like what matters most, either today, this week these next few months? What area of life needs the most attention? Where am I leaking vital energy, and what do I need to stop doing in order to have more time for the things that matter?

Jeena: Yeah you know, as I’m listening to you what I’m really noticing is the energy or the feeling tone behind all the things that you’re saying and how you’re saying it. And what I notice is the sense of joy and delight. And I think that’s something that we often sort of miss as we go about our day and we just do and do and do and try to do more, is that we’re not on this planet just get more shit done. And actually just to tap into that like, sense of delight is really what I’m sort of noticing from the way you’re describing all of these activities. I mean like, 15 minutes to massage your feet before you go to bed, like that sounds delightful to me!

Brodie: Well yeah, and it’s easy, and it’s free. And really, it can feel totally self-indulgent, right? And yet, it’s like yeah, we’re here to enjoy our lives. And nobody looks back at their life and goes, “I wish I’d gone to work more.”

And I freaking love what I do. You know and I do tend to do it too much and it is a creative hobby and a passion, but it’s like, wow you know, we also have bodies, we have hearts, we have souls, we have relationships, and there’s so much to experience that we’re allowed to. And so yeah, like I’m actually, I’ve got a “you have the right to take care of yourself” manifesto if that would be useful for anybody to print out and put on their fridge. You can get that and it’s, yeah I hereby give you all permission to take care of yourselves. Not that you need it, but a lot of times that’s what I’m writing on a prescription pad for my patients and saying like, find that half hour a day to yourself. And really consider it, like what’s going to make the most difference in your life right now? Is it about…oh the other thing that you can batch task is making healthy food. You know, like set aside a half an hour on Sunday or an hour on Sunday and a half hour on Wednesday to like, make a soup that’s going to sustain you for the next three days or to chop some veggies so that you can get home from work and make the healthy thing, the easy thing. You know like, for some people it’s going to be exercise, for some people it’s going to be food choices, for some people it’s going to be meditation, for some people it’s going to be getting enough sleep. But really it’s about like, identify what’s going to have the most traction in helping me like, have feel the way I want to feel. Who is the person you’re becoming next, and what how does she feel on a day to day life? And what kind of habits does she have? And it’s like, those kinds of identity evolution questions are the things that I am intensely interested in and that I help people really bridge that gap between like, the person that they know they want to be, that doesn’t really get any attention because they’re so caught up in the daily grind and it’s like, habit change is the hardest thing in the world. It is something that, willpower to change a habit like before something is automated, you have to do it with the strength of will. And the willpower wears out with stress. It’s renewed every day by sleep, which is why it’s really important to do the hard thing first. First thing in the morning and get that out of the way. But having support, like telling people in your life, who in your life can support you in making these changes? And if you don’t have anybody in your life who is willing to hold you accountable and give you that support, then consider getting some help. Because even if you just change your trajectory a few degrees and multiply that over time, the compound interest of that, the compound effect of habits, you’ll wind up in a very different place than you would be otherwise.

Jeena: I love that, yeah. That’s so meaningful, and I think if we can all just start small and just pick one little activity. I think there is this sort of like, natural magnet that gets created where you pick up one healthy activity and then that tends to attract other healthy behaviors. And the opposite is also true right, we start to develop these unhealthy behaviors and then it kind of gets us in this spiral of finding other unhealthy behaviors that’s not helpful.

Brodie: Totally, you’re speaking to this notion of a keystone habit, which is like that there tends to be one habit that’s most significant in your life that supports all the other good things. So for example, for me sleep is the keystone. And so like when I’m not getting enough sleep, like if I have a crappy night’s sleep, I’m going to be more tempted to drink coffee and eat sugar, right. And I’m going to be less tempted, I’m going to be more exhausted at the end of my day, I’m going to be more likely to blow off my workout you know. So like, one thing leads to three things going wrong, right. And similarly, I think meditation is also kind of a keystone in that it gives us the separation from our life to understand, oh right, I actually could do this differently. It creates that space to make a different choice. And it’s like building that muscle of our ability to choose differently instead of just react. So that’s another reason that I’m a huge fan of having a mindfulness practice and can’t like you, imagine life without it. Because it really is, it’s the master habit un-locker.

Jeena: Yes, absolutely. So Brodie, I know that you also host your own podcast called A Healthy Curiosity. Tell us a little bit about your podcast.

Brodie: Yeah, have the podcast is a blast. I talk to natural healing experts to basically connect people who care about their health and are curious as to what might be out there to help them with the experts who know stuff. But also I feature people who have learned something along the way in terms of how to live a joyful, conscious, healthy life and have conversations with them. And so it’s really a way where, I got into it because I wanted to democratize the information that I have. Because, the root word of doctor, docere, is “to teach.” And as a Chinese medicine practitioner, we’re doctors in some states, not others. But anyway, like I take my role as teacher, as an educator, teaching people how to take care of themselves, really seriously. Because so often like there’s like, of all the people that come in with just a whole spectrum of different complaints and diseases, a lot of times I end up saying the same self-care advice to all of them, right. You know, it really does come back to the stuff that we’ve been talking about today, because you can’t really outsource your health. And so really, it’s also a place for people to get reminded that, hey like the things that we totally discount that are free and easy, like breathing and self-massage and sleeping and like eating foods for major, like that these are the things that actually work and that you can start anywhere; you can get younger as well as older. You can reverse chronic diseases all the time. We can switch on and off our DNA all the time by the choices that we make. And so my podcast is my ability to reach more people with the stuff that I know and allow me to get my message out as a teacher.

Jeena: Great. And for folks that want to either learn more about your podcast or your work, where is the best place for them to find out that information?

Brodie: Brodiewelch.com, that’s Brodie with an “IE” and Welch with a “CH.”

Jeena: Thank you so much for joining me on The Resilient Lawyer podcast.

Brodie: It’s been a blast Jeena, thanks so much for having me.

 

Closing

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