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Dr. Rachel White Galvin: “Why we should start the #42daysofawareness movement” with Dr. William Seeds

I have in mind a movement where people examine their habits in a non-judgmental way. Maybe something like 42 Days of Awareness. 42 seems like a nice number, right? Every day for 42 days, write down something that you observe about yourself. It can be anything. How you move, emotions you feel, thought patterns, how you […]

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I have in mind a movement where people examine their habits in a non-judgmental way. Maybe something like 42 Days of Awareness. 42 seems like a nice number, right?

Every day for 42 days, write down something that you observe about yourself. It can be anything. How you move, emotions you feel, thought patterns, how you engage in relationships, how you participate in society, anything. They don’t have to be life-changing revelations, though you’d be amazed at how noticing little things can set you up to make big changes.

We are conditioned to make instant judgments about things we do and see, and we are particularly critical of ourselves. This can be a tricky habit to break at first. The important thing here is that you make observations. Here’s an example of the difference between observing and judging:

Observation: My knees hurt when I wear these shoes.

Judgment: These shoes make my knees hurt.

The difference here is that the observation only notices the association of the knee pain to the shoes. The judgment blames the shoes for the pain. The judgment limits your ability to discover what’s really behind the pain. Maybe it’s the shoes, OR maybe it’s the activity you do in the shoes, the place you go in the shoes, the situation that requires those shoes. Or it could be a combination of all those things. Jumping to blame effectively shuts down exploring any other potential causes or triggers.

Being able to observe something in a neutral way, without judgement, is the first step to changing your habits.

Who’s on board? #42daysofawareness


I had the pleasure to interview Dr. Rachel White Galvin. Dr. Galvin is a movement specialist, dedicated educator, and accomplished musician. She holds a Doctorate of Musical Arts in Viola Performance, is a Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner, and is certified in numerous other movement methods. Dr. Galvin is an Oklahoma native living in Santa Barbara with her husband and son.


Thank you so much for joining us Dr. Galvin.Can you share with us the story about how you first got involved in fitness and wellness?

Myfitness journey is closely tied to my musical journey. I struggled for a long time with chronic repetitive stress pain related to playing the viola and violin. I saw countless practitioners (medical and holistic) claiming they could help my pain go away. The main answer I got from them all was “if you want the pain to go away, you need to stop playing.” As you can imagine, I was unsatisfied with that answer. It was then that I realized I had spent way too long depending on others to solve my problems and needed to take my healing into my own hands.

In an effort to continue my music career, I started working out. First by doing circuits at the YMCA, and then later CrossFit classes. Getting stronger helped relieve my pain somewhat and it kept me playing through grad school. But when I finished my doctorate, I was burned out, still in pain, and on the verge of giving up performing altogether. That’s when I decided to make a shift to coaching. I began by coaching CrossFit classes and a class especially for musicians. Coaching gave me direction and ignited my passion for serving others.

I dove into the movement world learning from different teachers, methodologies, trainings, and certification programs. I got certified in CrossFit (level 1 and 2), Foundation Training, USA Weightlifting, Functional Movement Screen, Brand X Method for training children, and the Feldenkrais Method®. I studied with Ido Portal’s team, Aikido masters, a former coach for the Romanian national gymnastics team, SFG kettlebell master trainers, Olympic medal winning rowers, high-level Olympic weightlifting and power lifting coaches. Slowly I was unwinding myself from years of mental stress and physical injury. I took everything I learned back to my musician friends and found that they benefited from it all too.

I’ve taken everything I’ve learned (and am continuing to learn) and condensed it down to its most beneficial parts with focus on musician’s mindset and movement.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Having a baby! Experiencing the development of a human being from an embryo to a child is an astoundingly educational process on so many levels. Firstly, I’ve learned about myself, my relationship with my body, the power of hormones, core strength, and resilience to name a few. Then through my child, I’ve learned about the nervous system, developmental movement patterns, communication (verbal and non-verbal), negotiation, patience, and so much more. Children (even while still in the womb) are scientists. Every action they make is an experiment. It’s been amazing watching my son learn about the world. Through him, I’ve learned this duality of letting go so he’s free to explore while still being there to support him when he needs it.

Having a baby has completely shifted for the better how I work with my clients. Before, I was much more explanatory, where I felt like I had to give them every piece of information in order for them to succeed. But from interacting with my son, I’ve learned to guide my clients through their own experience and foster their problem solving skills.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

The very first CrossFit class I ever coached on my own was a 6am class. Now, I’m NOT a morning person, so me coaching at 6am is already pretty hilarious. But this particular class included a Tabata workout. For those who don’t know, Tabata Protocol is an interval workout where you perform an exercise for 20 seconds then rest for 10 seconds, and repeat that cycle 8 times. In this workout, we did 4 times through the entire 8 cycles rotating through different exercises.

I hadn’t been instructed by the head coach on how to actually keep track of the time and there was no setting programmed into our timer. Feeling that I was smarter than the average bear, I figured I would just wing it and count the time on a regular running timer. Easy peasy! But, counting 16 seconds and saying “3…2…1… REST!”, then counting 6 seconds and saying “3…2…1… GO!” for 32 total cycles all while trying to keep an eye on 15 athletes, provide them with useful cues, make sure they knew what exercise to start next, AND cheer encouragement all proved WAY harder than I expected. Especially at 6am. So my very first class, I completely messed up the counting. I ended up just yelling “REST” and “GO” at random intervals until all the cycles were complete. My poor athletes were totally confused, and I can still picture their puzzled faces. Fortunately, no one and nothing got injured except my ego. Many of the athletes in the class were friends who knew this was my first go. They were really supportive and laughed it off with me. But I totally botched it!

It was a humbling lesson that things don’t always turn out to be as easy as you might think, but everything does have an end. Right after the class finished, I googled the instruction manual for the clock and figured out how to program a Tabata timer, which was another good lesson. You might feel helpless in a moment, but you have the power to change and create a better outcome for the next time.

Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?

My area of expertise is in the realm of musician’s fitness and wellness. The injury rate among musicians is anywhere from 60–93% (not a typo!) depending on the study you reference. Regardless of whether you’re looking at the low end or the high end of that range, the number is staggering.

If you’re not a musician and wondering why you should care, imagine going to see your favorite band, listening to music on the radio, seeing a musician on the street, attending a symphony concert, or any music that you hear during your day. Then imagine that upwards of 93% of those people creating the music that you enjoy are doing so in pain.

And those numbers don’t just reflect professionals either. Many students experience injury as well and not all of them go on to be pros. Many go on to work in business, finance, non-profit, government, you name a profession and you’ll find former musicians working in it. The thing is, these injuries often don’t go away when you stop playing. So a person might give up music for good and still experience pain from it for the rest of their life.

Furthermore, music is a huge part of our society and contributes much to our cultural mindset, especially around pain. Think of Kurt Cobain, Ludwig van Beethoven, Amy Winehouse and the like. These people were in pain both mentally and physically, and we glorify that. As a society, we are taught that pain is necessary for greatness, and this is seen in more places than just music, but also in art, dance, sports, politics, and so on. My contribution to the world is showing musicians that pain is not required to create worthwhile performances.

In the fitness and wellness world, there are two distinct mindsets, what I call the “Not Enough” mindset and the “Too Much” mindset. The “Not Enough” prefer extreme sports, CrossFit, distance running, powerlifting, etc. They want to lift more, push harder, go faster, or workout longer. They never feel like they’ve done enough. The “Too Much” prefer meditation, Feldenkrais Method, the more inward yoga practices, etc. They want to avoid overtaxing themselves. Many people like to view these mindsets as opposing ends of a spectrum. But what makes me unique is that I see them as two sides of the same coin. I think that both these mindsets are not only useful, but necessary for a balanced life. We should be able to snap to attention to run from a tiger, but then also relax and feel safe.

It’s popular for some gurus and coaches to want to help you “connect” your mind and body. The dirty little secret is that your mind and body are connected whether you know it or not. There’s no connection to create because at no point have your mind and body ever been apart. This is another area where I differ from the norm. I don’t help my clients to forge a connection. I help them become conscious of the connection that already exists.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

So many people have helped me get to where I am today. First and foremost, my parents and brother who have supported not only my dreams and loved me unconditionally, but passed down to me some amazing patterning and logic skills. They are all mathematicians, and so much of how I think has roots in mathematics.

Traver Boehm who was the co-owner of the first gym where I coached. He saw potential in me and gave me my first opportunity to coach CrossFit.

Naomi Recania who was the co-owner of the second gym where I worked. She helped me return to coaching after my son was born. She allowed me to keep him with me while I coached. I spent about 6 months coaching with him in a carrier or next to me in a playpen.

Helen Callus who was my advisor in grad school. She’s a world class performer and teacher, and I’m so grateful to her for giving me a space in her viola studio at UC Santa Barbara.

And of course, my husband and son who help me grow constantly and support my dreams.

We all know that it’s important to eat more veggies, eat less sugar, exercise more, and get better sleep etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice, and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?

1. Lack of Clarity

Many of us push consciously for external goals at the expense of our unconscious internal safety. And it creates this disconnect where we think we should do something, but we just can’t and we don’t know why. In those moments, it takes awareness to really sense for that unconscious disconnect because it’s often hidden by fear. That level of awareness is developed through time, patience, and careful observation.

2. Too Much Information

We live in the era of information. You’d think this would make us smarter, and in many respects it has. Wanna know who starred in that one movie? Just look it up on your phone. But so much information can also be overwhelming because very often we don’t know what’s important and what’s not.

I’ve never much liked the phrase: Knowledge is Power. Don’t get me wrong, knowledge is powerFUL, but what matters more is how you implement that knowledge. So we know that it’s good to do all of these things: eat veggies, eat less sugar, exercise more, get better sleep… but we don’t know how to do these things. And there are so many options. Which diet plan is best? Which exercise program is best? Whose system do I use to improve my sleep? We look to other people too much and we lose sight of ourselves. It doesn’t help that science seems to be contradicting itself almost daily. The answer is… any of those systems can work well, but only you will know when you give them a shot and observe how they make you feel.

3. Thinking Failure Is Bad

Our society attaches so much shame and fear to failure. Failure happens, but it is simply information. It teaches us how we can improve. If you spend your life only concerned with wanting to succeed, then you are spending your life afraid to fail. This can make doing just about anything hard. Why try eating veggies, if they may not be the right veggies? Why try working out if I may not get the results I want? Why get blackout curtains if they may not help my sleep? Embracing your fear of failure breeds resilience and creativity.

Can you please share your “5 Non-Intuitive Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”?

1. Walk Mindfully

Many of us today rely on some kind of tech to tell us when we’ve taken enough steps in our day. While I don’t think this is inherently bad, I do feel that “outsourcing” step-counting to a gadget really hinders your connection to yourself. Overly focusing on the quantity of your steps, does nothing for those aches and pains you feel, not to mention your mood. I like to enhance the quality of my walks by using mindfulness. To walk mindfully is to put down your stuff, swing your arms freely, hold your head up to look around you, and enjoy your walk. You can still use your pedometer as information, but don’t let it interfere with sensing yourself.

2. Savor Your Meals

Many of the gut problems people have today are not from what they eat, but how they eat. If you find yourself suffering after a meal from bloating, gas, stomach upset, or the like, then before you pop that antacid, you really need to evaluate HOW you eat your food. Meal times are a great opportunity to slow down a bit. I encourage all of my clients to sit down, slow down, and enjoy every bite of their meals. This not only helps your mood, but helps digestion and prevents overeating. This also applies to drinking alcohol.

3. Go Barefoot

Your feet are much more mobile and malleable than you know. Over a quarter of all the bones in your body are in your feet, and each foot has 33 joints. You limit your foot mobility when you cram your feet into shoes for long hours. That lack of mobility can create a whole host of problems that you might not realize are related to your feet, like balance issues, back pain, knee pain, and headaches.

4. Reframe The Negative

It’s a vicious cycle: stress makes us assume the worst and assuming the worst increases our stress. Seeing the positive aspects of your experiences can help to reduce your stress. For example: one of the biggest reframes I help my clients create is how they view pain. Pain is not your enemy. While it doesn’t always feel this way, pain is actually a friend trying to give you information. Reframing pain from something shameful to helpful can create a huge shift for people.

5. Make Your ‘Priorities’ Singular

This is an idea I got from Greg McKeown in his book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. The word ‘Priority’ originated in the singular. If you have a list of ‘Priorities,’ then you have no clarity. In other words, if everything is important, then nothing is important.

Aside from weight loss, what are 3 benefits of daily exercise? Can you explain?

I’m a firm believer that mindful exercise is the best kind and that you don’t have to do a lot to get positive benefits from exercise. That means you can do whatever type of exercise you like as long as you do it by remaining present.

1. Nourishes Your Brain

All the movement that you are capable of creating is stored in your brain as movement maps. When you experience pain, tightness, or even stutters in your movement, this can be a sign that your maps need some attention. Mindful exercising helps create and maintain healthy movement maps in your brain.

2. Helps Manage Stress

Mindful exercise helps to manage stress in a lot of different ways. It regulates your hormones, helps you sleep, and builds confidence to name just a few.

3. It’s a Keystone Habit

In his book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg talks about Keystone Habits. These are habits that help establish other healthy habits. Turns out that exercise is one of those amazing keystone habits. By setting your intention towards the habit of daily exercise, you create for yourself a ripple effect of adding other healthy habits to your routine.

For someone who is looking to add exercise to their daily routine, which 3 exercises would you recommend that are absolutely critical?

1. Crawling

There are many different crawling patterns: bear, monkey, elephant, alligator, horse, ostrich (seriously), name an animal you’ll find someone trying to mimic it. But crawling is a really important developmental step when we’re children. For adults, it’s a great core and cardio workout that helps strengthen cross-body patterns used in walking and running. It’s also incredibly simple, portable, and effective. Not to mention, a whole lot of fun. You don’t need any equipment. Just crawl around for a few minutes and you’ll feel like you’ve gotten a good workout.

2. Straight Arm Hanging

If you spend a lot of time at a computer, driving, or on your phone, then chances are you have stuck shoulder blades. This stuckness causes a host of shoulder and neck issues. One simple way to help you get your shoulder blades moving is to hang from a bar with your arms straight for time. Some people find this too intense at first. If that’s you, you can instead start by supporting your weight with your feet on the ground or a chair. Start with a short hold, like 10–30 seconds, and then increase slowly that amount overtime. Don’t try to progress too fast. Bonus points if you go outside and find a nice tree to hang from.

3. Turkish Get-Up

This is a much more detailed exercise than the previous two, but it’s well worth learning. In a nutshell, it starts lying on your back holding a kettlebell with a straight arm up towards the ceiling. While keeping your arm straight and that kettlebell up, you come to standing and then lie back down. It’s good to find a coach who can break it down and help you understand all the parts. I love TGUs because they force you to slow down and really pay attention to what you’re doing.

In my experience, many people begin an exercise regimen but stop because they get too sore afterwards. What ideas would you recommend to someone who plays sports or does heavy exercise to shorten the recovery time and to prevent short term or long term injury?

I encourage everyone to practice the Feldenkrais Method® because there’s no better way to improve your movement and your mindset in the same practice. No matter what your physical interests, Feldenkrais will help you do it better and avoid injury. The Method teaches the student to customize their experience and explore their comfort zone with small, comfortable movement. So many of the exercise methodologies today encourage pushing past comfort. But if you don’t know the limits of your comfort, then you will leave workouts feeling disconnected and injured. Feldenkrais provides a wonderful opportunity to explore movement and define your comfort zone so that you have a deeper understanding of your capabilities. I know many people feel that if they’re not pushing themselves, they will never improve. But the Feldenkrais Method shows you how you can be comfortable AND make improvements. The Method includes over a thousand different kinds of lessons, from crawling patterns, to different ways of rolling, to breathing, vision, headstands, and much more.

There are so many different diets today. Can you share what kind of diet you follow? Which diet do you recommend to most of your clients?

I’m not a certified nutritionist, so I don’t give specific advice to my clients. I always refer them to someone better qualified. That being said, here are the general suggestions that I make to my clients:

1. Limit highly processed foods

If you’re like me, then you’re a busy parent who might not have enough time to make your own pasta, keep your own chickens, or grind your own flour. I think it’s unreasonable to expect to eat 100% natural organic, unprocessed all the time. I like the 80/20 rule. For me, that is 80% natural or low processed foods, and 20% processed. You’re eating a majority of the time in a way that you feel is healthiest while leaving space to not be totally perfect.

2. Eat local and in season

This is better for you, the environment, and your local economy. In our town, we have a co-op where we get a box of fresh fruits and veggies every week. This is great because you get your produce local and in season, and you also get introduced to produce that you may never have tried before. For me, it’s been a learning experience trying to figure out what to do with all the things that come in the box. If you give it a try and find it frustrating, don’t give up. It may take a few weeks (or months in my case) to get into a groove.

3. Learn to plan your meals and cook

For most of my life, I hated cooking. But a few years ago I realized that my hatred of cooking was actually fear. I didn’t know how to plan meals or cook, so every attempt I made that went wrong just made me feel bad and even more hungry. After making an effort to learn more about cooking, I am much more confident in the kitchen. I can view my culinary mistakes as learning opportunities. On top of that, the experience of cooking helps prepare you for eating, and I’m not talking about just nuking your food. Prepping and cooking your food helps you get out of ‘fight or flight’ mode into ‘rest and digest’ mode where you start to salivate and your stomach prepares for digestion. This helps your body utilize nutrients better and helps prevent overeating. If you can get to a head space where you enjoy cooking, then this is a great way to relax. It’s also fun to prep meals with friends and family.

4. Eat with people you enjoy

Gluing yourself to a screen during a meal puts you into mindless eating mode. I suggest putting down your phone and consuming your meal with people you like. Having fun and interesting people to eat with turns what might be a sprint of a meal into a leisurely stroll. You can sit down, enjoy sharing a meal, and engage in conversation. This helps not only your digestion, but studies show that positive conversation increases your oxytocin levels. This leaves you feeling nurtured and full.

5. Don’t worry if you’re not perfect

What’s worse: 1) eating a piece of cake OR 2) eating a piece of cake and then beating yourself up over it? Personally, I think the second option is way worse. Those negative thoughts don’t help your metabolism, they certainly don’t change your decision, and they quite possibly won’t change any future decisions to eat cake. It’s okay to indulge in things every once in a while. Go back to that 80/20 rule. Observe how you eat. If you notice that those indulgences are creeping way past 20% of your intake, then it’s time to reevaluate your lifestyle. But if you’re closer in the 20% range, you’re doing okay.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

It’s so hard to pick just one book because I’ve been influenced by many. Here are my top three:

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle

At the recommendation of my advisor, I read this one right after starting grad school and it helped me realize how much I was living outside of the present moment. This created a huge shift for me and started me down the path of mindfulness.

Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Arthur Morey

I read this just after finishing my Doctorate when I was completely burned out on performing and really didn’t know what to do next. It was another big mindset transformation for me and opened my eyes as to just how stuck I was because of fearing failure.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick.

Sorry. I just had to throw this one in! For one, it’s where my parents got my name, but it also really ignited my passion for reading when I was a kid. I think its themes about empathy, humanity, environmentalism, and consumerism still ring true today. PKD was such an insightful sci-fi writer. It never ceases to amaze me how many of his predictions have become reality.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I have in mind a movement where people examine their habits in a non-judgmental way. Maybe something like 42 Days of Awareness. 42 seems like a nice number, right?

Every day for 42 days, write down something that you observe about yourself. It can be anything. How you move, emotions you feel, thought patterns, how you engage in relationships, how you participate in society, anything. They don’t have to be life-changing revelations, though you’d be amazed at how noticing little things can set you up to make big changes.

We are conditioned to make instant judgments about things we do and see, and we are particularly critical of ourselves. This can be a tricky habit to break at first. The important thing here is that you make observations. Here’s an example of the difference between observing and judging:

Observation: My knees hurt when I wear these shoes.

Judgment: These shoes make my knees hurt.

The difference here is that the observation only notices the association of the knee pain to the shoes. The judgment blames the shoes for the pain. The judgment limits your ability to discover what’s really behind the pain. Maybe it’s the shoes, OR maybe it’s the activity you do in the shoes, the place you go in the shoes, the situation that requires those shoes. Or it could be a combination of all those things. Jumping to blame effectively shuts down exploring any other potential causes or triggers.

Being able to observe something in a neutral way, without judgement, is the first step to changing your habits.

Who’s on board? #42daysofawareness

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“We act in accordance with our self-image.” — Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais

This is the first line from Dr. Feldenkrais’ book Awareness Through Movement, and I truly believe it is one of the most profound statements of all time. It reframes the actions of those around us as well as ourselves. Dr. Feldenkrais was a master at revealing things that are hidden in plain sight and in this case, every choice we make — from the smallest, most inconsequential to the biggest, most life-changing — is based on our perception of ourselves.

Your posture, your job, the wealth you accumulate, your connections with people, how you experience pain, the way you walk, how you sleep, the way you communicate, everything you do is based on how you see yourself.

I think this is a key to changing habits. If you know that your actions are based on how you perceive yourself, then it becomes possible to objectively observe your actions. And when you can observe it, it becomes possible to change it.

Is there a person in the world or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

I’d love to share a meal with Chris Voss. I recently finished reading his book Never Split The Difference. Before reading his book, I felt that negotiation was this icky, nerve-racking thing that was built entirely on dominance and power, but he completely changed my mind. His book taught me how important it is to connect with people and give them space to be heard. He transformed how I connect with everyone in my life: strangers, clients, and friends, family, even my 3-year-old son. The techniques described in his book have helped us navigate some pretty hairy toddler tantrum situations!

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

Facebook: @Dr. Rachel White Galvin

Instagram: @mindfelt_methods

LinkedIn: Rachel Galvin

Website: http://mindfeltmethods.com/

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