Archive for the ‘Yoga’ Category

I’ve gotta admit, I’ve never been one for New Year’s Resolutions. It always felt a bit false to promise to do or not do something and tie that to a specific and somewhat arbitrary date. It always struck me like starting a diet—it’s a fad or phase—and thus seems doomed to failure from the start. Rather, I usually honor the transition from one year to the next with a bit of contemplation and examination of what I’d like to cultivate and invite into my life and wrap it all up in the Yogic viewpoint that change is the only constant, therefore, we’re always starting over … regardless of the date.Listen to the compass of your heart all you need lies within you. Mary Ann Radmacher

Starting over and starting anew has been a big theme in my life this past year. I’ve had to literally start at the beginning of my asana practice three times this year after each time my back froze up. BUT, I have added some additional care, have some new and quite helpful information, and with each yoga class and walk in the woods, I can feel that my strength and endurance is returning in a slow but steady and progressive way.

In my business life, I’m constantly starting new projects and feeling and thinking my way into new viewpoints. This year, I’m taking my business into a new direction which has me excited and full of both invigorating energy as well as moments of overwhelm.

And, of course, my romantic relationship is venturing into new and exciting territory, too. Getting married again—a state I’ve not visited for over 23 years—is not a small step for me. Exciting and wonderful, but not small.

Yup, 2015 is bringing a LOT of NEW.

But that’s the point, right? Change brings new and new brings vibrancy to our lives if we can calm the primal part of our brain interpreting change as unsafe. If we can take a moment and whisper to our scared self, “Shh, it’s ok. This is going to be fun!” than we can release fear, move forward, and let our lives unfold as needed. And when I say “needed” I’m not saying that in a “should” sort of way. What you need in your life may look very different from what I need in my life. The common thread, however, is that each and every one of us needs to continually be moving toward that which lights us up.

“Don’t ask what the world needs, ask what makes you come alive and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” ~Howard Thurman

I love that quote because it resonates so deeply for me. When I’m overwhelmed and wondering how can my life possibly make a difference, this quote helps me remember. Because it’s true: when each of us lives from our hearts, drawing guidance from our deep, authentic selves, we can find the life we need and can then become a life the world needs. Our very existence with all its actions and reactions creates organic ripple effects which can be immeasurably positive. And this can’t be achieved strictly through thinking strategy, this requires feeling your way, too, trusting your heart, your gut, that little voice — especially if you are unsure about what it is in this world that does light you up.

Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you love. It will not lead you astray. ~RumiSo, I’m not going to make any dramatic resolutions for 2015. I’m simply going to continue to start over whenever I need to. I’m going to welcome all the new and unfamiliar with as much presence, breath, and heart it requires. I’m going to live as compassionately as possible. I’m going to keep trying to connect with others in kind ways. I’m going to keep increasing my tolerance for joy. And I’m going to keep seeking that which I love and which in turn lights me up because it’s good for me, it’s good for others, it’s good for the world … and beyond all that, it’s really, really fun.

Bright blessings to you all for a 2015 abundant with joy, love, laughter, health, and prosperity! How do you mark the change of the years?

Dr. Kate Siner

My coach, Kate Siner.

“How good can you stand it?” is a question my business coach, Dr. Kate Siner, talks about a lot. Her premise is that we tend to easily and frequently focus on what’s negative in our life versus letting in the happy. In a blog post, Kate says we need to, “ increase our tolerance for joy, ease, and inner peace … We are just as inclined to hold ourselves back from good stuff as we are to shy away from the bad. We are naturally inclined to keep things the same. The “same,” in our primal brain, is equated with being safe. Every change introduces a level of risk—even if the change is good.”

Let’s face it; we’re a culture rife with self-judgment and criticism. We’ll even keep toxic people in our lives just so we can commiserate over shared misery. We understand struggle, challenge, and frustration. We’re familiar with what all of those things feel like, so much so, that when things ARE going well and smelling like roses, it can actually make us edgy and uncomfortable as unfamiliar sensations often do. And our frequent response to that? We do something to sabotage the positive so we’re dropped back into the sensations with which we are more familiar. I find the prospect of this disturbing and doubly so as I realize that is exactly the pattern I’ve had in my life for a very long time … but I’m also happy to report, that with some steady practice and conscious awareness, I’m changing that pattern.

Increasing Tolerance for Joy

Life IS good! And I honor that I can now say that and mean it. This doesn’t mean the last year and a half of launching and building my business while learning all sorts of new things hasn’t been challenging and sometimes a downright struggle, but I am recognizing when my habitual pattern of negative thought or self-sabotage is trying to reassert itself. This gives me an opportunity to stop, take a deep breath, and settle into the reality of the moment, which is often quite different from the chaotic maelstrom whirling about in my brain. The fact I have to will myself to stop thinking of the struggle and instead congratulate myself on learning those new things and on the amazing progress I’ve made is OK, because that IS a different and more positive response. This tolerance for joy thing takes a LOT of practice, but it’s a really necessary practice. Just recently, I realized that I am still uncomfortable with being recognized for doing great work when both participants and my colleague congratulated me on one of my day-long workshops. I had to will myself to stay put and hear it and not negate or downplay it. Glowing praise … oh not that! *rolling my eyes and laughing at myself* How good can I stand it, indeed!

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

~Neale Donald Walsch

One of the many reasons I started my own business was so that I could do what I love—knowing there’d be a learning curve even on that. I had worked unhappily so long in a corporate job that has stopped fulfilling me, that I was no longer sure of what I’d do if given the choice to do what I love. I’ve spent this last year consciously exploring all the aspects of my business to figure out what I best love to do so that I could continue to build my business around THAT. And things are starting to shift as I integrate more of what I love into my business … it feels great and exciting, and apparently scares me to death. Be happy in my work? What? BUT, unlike in the past, I have NO intention of sabotaging myself and my business just because professional happiness feels foreign.

Even in my personal life, I realize I am quick to downplay the things that make me happy, or to isolate myself rather than risk reaching out. I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my romantic relationship—I’m engaged to the love of my life! And yet, when someone asks about wedding plans, I’m evasive and vague. Now granted, some of that is simply not wanting a whole lot of well-intentioned, yet frighteningly off-the-mark “suggestions”, but I have to admit there’s more to it. Subconsciously, vague evasion must be a better choice than just owning that I’m thrilled to be making official the already existing marriage of our hearts and accepting as truth that I am going to spend the rest of my life with this amazing and loving partner. But instead, I witness myself just waiting for the other shoe to drop because isn’t it, “always one thing or another?” There’s a piece of me looking at this big change and that piece doesn’t feel safe. But I want this big change and I know I deserve the happiness it’ll bring. And because there is so much love given and received—and it’s the safest place I can go—I find myself fiercely protective about us … even from my own self-sabotaging pattern. So, I find myself telling that piece of me, with compassion, to shut up and enjoy the happy. I no longer want the struggle to be my comfort zone.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Deep Breath by artist Melanie Weidner

Deep Breath by Melanie Weidner (website appropriately called “Listen for Joy”) captures, for me, the concept of opening up, connecting with LIFE, and joyfully being.

I am learning to just hold the space when the negative is trying to do its dance. It’s like continuing to meditate when the mind can’t seem to hold still for more than a second. Experienced meditators know that it’s constant practice and it’s never perfect. A novice meditator can easily be thrown by how difficult it can feel at the start, but one simply must keep going. Return to the anchor and start over. Increasing my tolerance for joy is the exact same thing. Every time I think something negative, I must return to my anchor—my need and want for a joyful life—and start over because I find myself unwilling at this point in my life to accept that life is always a struggle and a challenge.

After getting engaged in October, I wrote about wanting authentic joy in my life on a daily basis—and I meant it. But feeling good takes nurturance. Increasing one’s tolerance for joy doesn’t happen overnight, but rather in every single moment dedicated to cultivating joy. It takes time to explore and discover the things, people, and circumstances we need to bring joy into our lives. For me, this entire past year has been learning that self-care is an integral piece of practicing being happy—taking time for a yoga class or a walk in the woods, preparing and feeding us organic whole foods, prioritizing sleep, meditating, or chanting along with Krishna Das in the car. Feeling well cared for seems to be a key to increasing my tolerance for joy. I have to consciously choose to lift my heart up, throw my arms wide open and accept that life is a magical, mystical adventure. It’ll never be perfect, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t also full of happy surprises and rich, satisfying and soul filling experiences.

Do you have a familiar pattern that keeps you from being fully happy? How do you combat negative thoughts and patterns to bring joy more fully into your life?

“Coping” doesn’t seem like a word one would need or use when talking about positive change, right? Well, interestingly enough, it seems that many, myself included, are thrown by change and it doesn’t seem to matter if it’s positive or negative. All it takes is one internet search to find tons of psychological and professional study commentaries, not to mention, lots of trendy blogs on the subject. Change dictionary viewHumans resist change, and I’m no exception to that particular rule.

I’m experiencing—and have been experiencing over this past year and a half—an amazing amount of transition and change. I am self-aware enough to know that my back going out on me three times this past year is directly related to that: leaving my safe, well-paid 4-weeks’ vacation job and launching a business was huge. And I’m starting to work on shifting the direction of my business and feeling the pressure of a big To Do list to make it all happen. (It’s early days with lots more planning/work to do so I’ll leave what’s coming for another day.) And last, but not least, I’m now engaged to the best man I know. These are ALL positive, wonderful changes, but it doesn’t stop me from constantly catching myself doing what I do when faced with big change: I go into avoidance mode. I always know when it’s happening because I’m either obsessively reading a book and neglecting all other things around me (it’s a fine line in identifying this … I am an avid reader after all) or I become very, VERY busy. I’ll find as many projects as possible or even one biggie and tackle it like lives depend on my successfully completing it. Either way, I’m super busy but getting nothing done toward the actual thing that needs doing.

Change your thoughts, change your world. As I catch myself, once again, doing the avoidance dance, I realize that I’m just experiencing a normal, human reaction to change. And knowing that makes me think of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, specifically the concept of vairagya, or non-attachment. Practicing vairagya is to face something—even something positive—and not identify with it. The idea is to not become attached in order to avoid it coming to be part of the way you see or define yourself.  All these changes I’m facing are positive, but they don’t define who I am … and remembering that is an important key to living through the changes with a sense of balance and equanimity. If I continue to identify with the changes, then I’m always reacting, in my case, avoiding. However, if I allow myself to enjoy the realizations and moments, but remember that they are only moments and I cannot hold them without inviting suffering, then I can have a larger view and bring myself back to center. It’s no different than practicing a difficult pose. We start out on the mat and our mind tells us we can’t. A couple breaths later, we realize we ARE.

Whatever the changes we face, all we ever need to do is to lovingly bring our attention back to what needs our focus. When I do that, I remember that everything I’m doing, everything I’m working on is all to help improve my life, my fiancé’s life, and ultimately, the life of my community. It may require a lot of effort, but it’s all good. It also requires my attention and presence, which in turn calls for some will power and a whole lot of love and compassion. To this end, I’ve been increasingly committed to my mantra and compassion meditation practice. I’m finding it’s a great, simple, and loving way to bring my attention back without beating myself up for my first reaction of avoidance. I simply acknowledge where I am and what I’m doing and forgive myself. Lord Ganesha and Om Gam Ganapataye NamahaI then either recite Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha a few times in my head (or the 108 if I’ve time to sit with my mala beads) or I practice Metta or Karuna meditation for 5, 10, or 20 minutes as the day allows. This provides a way to detach from my overwhelmed sensation and reaction to the prospect of change and gives me a way to refocus my mind.

Find Transformational Energy by Chanting Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha
I find this particular mantra, Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha, a powerful one. Essentially, it’s calling to our Root Chakra (Muladhara) energy so we can move through the obstacles in life. The muladhara chakra is the principal origin from which the manifesting energy of Shakti resides within each of us. When we awaken that energy, it helps us move through the Chakras with ease to activate a strong sense of self, express Divine love, communicate clearly, and connect with our intuition. Importantly, we are also calling upon the powerful energy of Ganesh, the elephant-headed deity, who is widely revered as the Remover of Obstacles and the Lord of Beginnings. Makes sense to chant to him in the middle of large transitions, doesn’t it?

Change is guaranteed to be constant. Ignoring it or becoming attached to the sensations or drama around change doesn’t serve us in any way and can sometimes be harmful to us, either mentally, emotionally, or even physically if we’re prone to behavior or habit that is more harmful than helpful.  So, as I task myself to be loving and find compassionate ways to cope with change, I invite you to so as well. There’s no one way, but we all must find some means of coping with change that best serves our higher selves. Or else how are we to get through this change-fraught life?

How do you cope with change, either positive or negative?

It’s official: we’re engaged! At this year’s annual King Richard’s Faire visit, my partner of five years managed to surprise me, jaw drop included. And it’s not like he and I haven’t discussed getting married; we have, but I was surprised nonetheless. The thing is, I was married and divorced long ago, so I was also never in a hurry to repeat it. But what I have now is so different from my past. And the question was delivered from such a loving and authentic place, saying yes was easy.

Surprise and a joyful yes

Jaw-dropping surprise followed by JOY.

The romance of the situation was not lost on me at all.  A mutual friend introduced us at King Richard’s Faire, so it’s our annual “anniversary thang.” 🙂 We go, usually with a gang of friends, and leave reality at the gate. It’s a great day of silly fun … I LOVE that he chose to propose there. I’m girly-vain enough to enjoy that I was wearing a costume that I love and in which I feel beautiful. Not to mention, KRF for me is simply infused with wonderful memories—the romance of the gesture just lit me up. I’m also thrilled that Mike made sure that my best friend was there to share in the joy … AND to take lots of great photos. Take a look at my face, people, after the surprise, that’s JOY!

Although getting to a place of authentic joy in a personal relationship has been a journey for me, for sure, I don’t claim to be unique or alone in having needed to get past smashed dreams, heartache, feelings of betrayal, and the subsequent feeling of never wanting to open up again and trust enough to fall in love. But, the beautiful thing about being human is that once we start healing personally, the rest does sort of fall into place. Mike and I didn’t fall in love with each other until we’d both made some peace with ourselves.

Joyful celebration and laughter

The gift of joyful laughter!

Of course, an obvious key factor in what’s different is I’m older; we’re both older. At this point in our lives, we know who we are and have a better understanding of what we need to be happy and fulfilled, both individually and as a couple. (My 22-year-old bride self was more than a little clueless.) Unlike my first go round, Mike and I have taken the time to truly get to know each other and our relationship is solidly based on a foundation of love, trust, and respect … oh, and lots and LOTS of laughs! (The fact the man makes me belly laugh every single day is an amazing gift.)

Another surprising gift evolving out of this new state of being is the knowledge that I want to feel that same authentic joy I felt when he proposed in many more facets of my life—it feels damn good! Cultivation of gratitude and joy is the way home. Brene BrownFeeling that authentic joy is crystallizing my motivation to choose happiness, to make decisions that are for my best good and that bring joy. I know that I want joy on a daily basis. I don’t want to wait until I accomplish just one more thing or wait for a particular something else to happen. I am deciding that joy is a priority. I also know I’m the ONLY one who can make it happen and it’ll take some practice. Joy can be found in things large and small, I just have to consciously make the decision, and that will also require taking moments to feel gratitude for the tiny to grand blessings in my life. I know that when I cultivate gratitude, it allows me in any given situation to choose what will hold my focus—frustration or acceptance; restlessness or contentment; alienation or love. Our perceptions do create our realities.

So, I’m going to continue to revisit what authentic joy feels like and invite it in as often, and in as many ways, as possible. How do you cultivate joy in your daily life?

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.The quote, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results” is often attributed to Einstein, Franklin, or Twain, but none of them seem to be the originator of the pithy phrase. Regardless of who said it, it’s running through my head quite a bit because I once again spent a pain-filled week on the floor. Yup, my back went out AGAIN. This time in the middle of the mundane act of putting on a pair of cute lace-up boots … an act that is apparently much more dangerous than I ever thought it could be.

I’ll admit it; I didn’t handle it well. First, because it really, really hurt … A LOT. And then secondly, because I dove headlong into the pit of despair and took frustration, disbelief, and self-pity along with me. All I could think through the tears was, “Why me? Why again?! What did I do wrong?” which, of course, is never helpful AND it’s looking at the situation from a really destructive viewpoint—as if making any mistakes in life makes you deserving of pain and suffering. That’s just complete and utter bullshit, to put it bluntly. Thank the Gods that I have such a loving, caring, and supportive partner in Mike and have a few amazing friends who can help ground me when I’m spinning my way into a spectacular pity party.

Nest on the floor

Heating pad and legs up on the ottoman again provides respite for my back.

It became clear (with their help) that I need to focus on the positive and to recognize that for whatever reason, this seems to be part of my process in transforming my life and transitioning into a period of greater expansion and growth.  Would I like this process to be less physically painful? Oh YEAH. (I’ve entered into negotiations with The Universe for just that.) And this is where the quote comes in.

What do I have to do that’s different than what I’ve been doing? What isn’t working? Or what is it that’s getting in my way? Part of the problem, I think, is my tendency to only focus on my lack, or what’s wrong in my life. I’ve got a LONG habit of doing that … I am my worst critic. Much better if I look and acknowledge all the many things that I’m doing that are RIGHT for me RIGHT NOW. For instance, I’ve got my business and marketing plans and I’m doing the tasks necessary. When I’m not lying on the floor alternating between icing and heating my back, I’m steadily adding in the physical activities to help regain strength, flexibility, and endurance. I’m eating the way that seems to nurture my body best. I’m learning to ask for help—and be open to receiving it. I am dancing with patience in a way I never have—but then I really have no choice. It’s find patience or spend every minute of dealing with my back cursing and beating my head against the proverbial wall. And that doesn’t seem like a smart plan. Why add more pain?

I also have to realize that I don’t have all the answers right now and I don’t have to. All I really have to do is listen to my inner voice and pay attention—it’s never lied to me. I need to believe that I can manifest what it is I’m working toward. Decisions need to be made based on how both my mind AND my heart feel around any choice. Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you're right.I’m the one who decides how my life and world unfold. My mind set is key to how I perceive my life. I can view it from a place of darkness and suffering or I can view every moment as an opportunity to give and receive compassion, kindness, and love, as well as an opportunity for learning and growth.

As I write this blog post (on the floor with the laptop propped on a pillow on my belly), I don’t know yet exactly what I need to do differently. I clearly need some meditation/contemplation time to try and figure that out. There’s always a solution, but one must understand the problem first … I’ll figure out what’s blocking my progress in time. I’ve worked with chiropractic, massage, and physical therapy, but another type of bodywork and/or energy work will likely prove helpful, along with some serious self-contemplation time. In the meantime, it seems like I must actively work on cultivating patience, self-compassion, and self-care … all things with which I struggle. So, I guess you could say that if I manage those things, I’m doing something pretty different. But, I’m willing to give it a go as I’m not fond of the idea of fitting the aforementioned definition of insanity. *Deep breath* Let’s see how it goes.

Not all habits are bad. Happiness is a habit too. Thict Naht HanhI just received the November issue of Shambhala Sun magazine in the mail. On the cover is, “Get off the Wheel of Habit.” This issue has arrived not a moment too late. I’m at a true place of transition and growth and feeling my way into making more conscious decisions about what I want and need in my daily life, my social life, my professional life, my home, and my health. I assess and see I’ve made some incredible strides forward and can feel a sense of pleasure in the accomplishments. I also see where I am struggling. This magazine’s focus offers a lot of insight and techniques for shifting habits … and helps me recognize some spots I’ve been refusing to really address. Habits can be comfortable after all, so changing or creating them takes a bit of planning.

From Vegetarian to Paleo
Given the health issues with which I’ve struggled in the last few years, I’ve had to make some major changes to heal my digestive system, hormonal system, and the resulting low energy levels. I’m not done yet, but I’ve come a long way, baby! My current Primal/Paleo diet is completely different from the conventional ADA approved food pyramid diet of five years ago, and it’s extraordinarily different from the decade of vegetarianism I adopted when I moved back from Germany and discovered American meat made me vomit. (Seriously, that WILL put off even the most avid carnivores!) It wasn’t until my body started shutting down and demanding the nutrients only meat provided that I caved in (I literally dreamed of meat … and yes, I know, eating meat is very unusual in the yoga world!) It also helped that by that time, the option to buy local, organic, and grass-fed/free-range meat was available. But eating whole, unprocessed foods TAKES A LOT OF WORK … well, certainly more work than someone who got very used to the convenience of the microwave, Whole Foods prepared food counter, and the delicious indulgence of Chinese take-out. But, there aren’t any shortcuts for me now—there certainly can’t be any take-out!—and if I hadn’t developed a few habits to help me with it, I’m not so sure I would have made it.

Helpful Food Habit: I plan the menu and shop for the entire week and cook/prep several meals on the weekend in order to save time during the week. AND … I created a closed group on Facebook made up of friends who are also striving to find the right balance in healthy paleo/primal type diets. Having support and a way to exchange ideas and recipes makes eating this way a whole lot easier.

The Grizzly Bear is Alive and Well
The change in my diet has affected a lot of healing, but my stressed-out adrenal glands still haven’t figured out that I’m not actually being chased by a grizzly bear. They’re still pretty sure I’m in mortal danger on a regular basis. Angry grizzly bear13+ years of corporate stress took its toll and finding the patience to heal this issue has NOT been easy and it’s the last big health hurdle I need to get over. It’s impact is felt in almost all facets of my life because sleep continues to be an issue for me, and quite frankly, without adequate sleep, the rest will never be as effective as it could be.

There are foods (primarily sugar) and beverages (primarily caffeine and alcohol) which I need to eliminate in order to give my adrenals as much rest as possible. I’ve cut back on both these things, but I’m Irish and oh me oh my, how I LOVE a good strong cup or two of tea in the morning! However, even I must admit that having a racing heart and shaky hands is probably not something I want to continue to experience. So, I’m going to have to establish a new morning ritual (aka “habit”) to make my mornings feel good. And I need to consciously avoid sugar and alcohol when I’m out with friends or when I’m inclined to indulge because, ‘it’s the weekend!’ That’s a habit that I share with many of my fellow Americans and it’s been strongly established for a long time. If I want to fully heal my adrenals it’s long past time for that habit to shift into something else. I also need to add in certain foods/supplements (sodium is a big one. My levels are low … what happens when you eliminate processed foods!) I know all of this will take time, practice, and a whole lot of compassionate patience. My adrenals have been over-stressed for years. One year away from the stress-filled corporate job isn’t enough time to get them feeling like they belong to a zen monk.

Helpful morning habit: Find or make an herbal tea or chai that I find DELICIOUS to make my morning tea ritual feel good.

Helpful weekend habit: Envision a truly relaxing evening/weekend and determine what that looks like. Decide what activities will support my need to feel indulgent and relaxed while still serving my main goal of healing my adrenals.

The Need to Slow Down
One of the habits I’m trying to bring back is regular exercise, but I’m learning I need to redefine what that means for me. I spent many of my early years running and doing things like push-ups and crunches to maintain physical health, but I’m finding that my body just can’t manage running right now. Yoga is the journey of the self through the self to the self. When I discovered yoga, I *loved* it, but it always supported my other activities. Now, I’m finding that yoga needs to be my primary activity because among many of its great benefits, it doesn’t stress my adrenal glands while I do it (the grizzly is NOT welcome on my yoga mat!) My body, my mind, and my heart want a lot more regular yoga and some low-key hikes (4000 footers are on hold for now). But my need for positive habit creation is running smack into my wall of impatience; going slower feels so … odd. It’s exactly what I need, however, so now I plan my week’s exercise, too. I need to put my activity in my calendar. And just labeling a chunk of time, “exercise”, doesn’t work. I need to put down what I’m doing: yoga class, or hike in Lincoln Woods, yoga at home, or walk w/Lisa. (YES, wrangling a friend into planned physical activity is a grand way to get it to happen!)

Helpful Exercise Habit: Plan each activity for the week and put it in the calendar. Make plans with a friend and have a back-up plan if weather doesn’t cooperate.

What it all comes down to is we’ve got habits, good, bad, or otherwise. We enjoy and reap the benefits of some and struggle with others. Negative habits can continue to erode our visions for ourselves and impact our health, while positive habits can help us live healthier, more fulfilled lives or simply help our day feel less chaotic. I think shifting, eliminating, and creating habits becomes most successful when we apply a mindful quality to the endeavor. Breath by breath, step by step is really the only way to do it. And, of course, cultivating an attitude of compassionate gentleness during the entire process. Creating more stress by beating yourself up doesn’t help. I’ll make mistakes, you’ll make mistakes and it’s ok. In truth, your intention and effort is what counts. Keep starting over, keep putting forth effort and you will effect change.

“On this path no effort is wasted, no gain is ever reversed; even a little of this practice will shelter you from great sorrow.” ~Bhagavad Gita (2.40)

I’d love to hear how you support yourself when trying to change or establish a habit.
Namaste.

Deb

Perseverance. It’s a word that both inspires and terrifies me. I understand its value—one must have it in order to succeed in most things. It’s a truth that the things we truly want and need, the things that have great worth and meaning to us on all levels, usually require more than just a modicum of perseverance. It’s inspiring to contemplate that my effort and hard work can result in successfully achieving whatever it is that I’ve set out to do. Perseverance is failing nineteen times and succeeding the twentieth. Julie AndrewsIt’s terrifying to think I may be spending so much effort and time working on the wrong thing. I know I could spend an inordinate amount of time spinning around that one … so, instead, I think it’s prudent to regularly revisit what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. I take the time to look deeply at what I want in my life—and what I don’t—and ask myself if I’m on the path to achieving my goal. I then honestly assess what I’m doing to get there and determine what I still need to do to bring my goal to fruition. This process usually requires me to look at perseverance—how I define it, how I cultivate it, and how I use it.

If you’ve been following my blog or newsletter, you know I launched my business, Wellness Scribe, full-time one year ago. This first year has been fun, incredibly hard work, overwhelming, exhilarating, and one learning experience after another all requiring constant planning, reassessing, strategizing, implementing, and constantly stepping outside my comfort zone … in other words, I’m living the life of an entrepreneur. Given that my goal is to be a successful business owner (of one or more businesses when all is said and done), I can say I AM on the right path toward achieving my goal.

When Patience Wears Thin

But now I’m one year in and my natural impatience is starting to war with the small bit of perseverance I’ve managed to cultivate … and it’s creating some very uncomfortable sensations. There’s nothing quite like being the adult wanting to throw a temper tantrum. Stomping your feet doesn't help in manifesting what you want.I want success NOW. I want a steady stream of clients NOW. I want the steady stream of income that comes from having a steady stream of clients NOW. But apparently, stomping one’s feet and demanding it doesn’t actually assist in manifesting anything. *insert dramatic sigh here*

I’m WORKING HARD and some days things flow and it seems easy, but then there are other days when I think I’m in over my head. I am smart enough to have retained some of my hard-won lessons, so on those difficult days, I know to stop, acknowledge what’s happening, take a breath (or 20), and then reach out to my support system and get the needed boost. And that boost helps, make no mistake. But at the end of the day, I’m realizing that what really makes a difference comes from me and only me.

I talk a lot about self-care and compassion on this blog because it’s a recurring theme and lesson in my own life. It’s become very clear to me that when I allow myself to swim in the overwhelm, or indulge in the stressful spinning that my mind so easily does, I start to struggle mightily, and so does my business. I AM my business, but 15 years of corporate habit has me too often wearing stress like one wears a favorite pair of jeans—way too often. In these moments, I must remember that perseverance applies to all parts of being an entrepreneur … and a human. I must not only be consistent in my actions around my business, but I also must be persistent in taking care of ME. The reality is, the more I take care of myself, the easier it is to persevere in the face of the challenges I encounter in my life and in running my business. Everything of import requires some nurturance and it starts with me.

Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you love. It will not lead you astray. RumiConnect to your Higher Self and Connect to the Big Picture

I find it so interesting that the act of launching and running a business—something most of us probably never equate to a spiritual act—is the very thing that is reconnecting me to my close circle of friends and family and to my own Higher Self. It requires me to explore and define my purpose in life. And I learn daily that I’m NOT an island; I am constantly shown how connected we all are and how we really do hold our Universe and perceptions of it in our own hands. I’m finding that the more I align my actions and thoughts (business and personal) with my core values and authentic expressions of Self, everything just gets easier.

Of course, at this point you may be asking, “just what the heck does she mean and what does that look like?” Basically, finding the perseverance to work toward and achieve your goals is found in the small, daily actions and choices that exponentially add up and carry you where you want to go. In my case, it’s remembering to make yoga and meditation a priority—it gives me the mental and emotional space, as well as the physical well-being I need to keep going. It’s remembering to tuck into an hour-long bubble bath with a good book once in a while. It’s remembering to walk in the woods, connect to Mama Earth, and breathe deep with every step. It’s remembering that I have a support system to turn to when I can’t get out of my own way. And it’s remembering that I need to consistently and persistently revisit WHY I’m doing what I’m doing. I’ll be honest and say, “YES!” I want to make a great living from my business and enjoy some of the physical fruits of my labor, but I’ll also say that money isn’t my main motivator. What keeps me going, what I need to pull out, polish, and keep front and center when I feel my motivation flagging is the fact I want to cultivate a life in which compassion and helping others, while living healthy and well myself, happens every day. I want to live in a world that is healthier, kinder, and more compassionate. Surrounded by a sick system, I want to support the people who are actively advocating and empowering others to take responsibility for their health. I want to help the helpers. The knowledge that my own talents and skill can make a difference in both my life and the lives of others is the fuel of my perseverance.

What do you do to help you keep going? From what well do you draw perseverance?

Lately, the idea of community, what one needs from it, what one contributes to it, and how to create it have been on my mind a lot. There have been such huge shifts in my life in the last few years, with many things still in flux, my sense of community must also shift. More now than ever, I’m conscious of who is in my life and why and I’m purposefully asking, ‘Who are the people that make up my various communities?  Who do I want in my life? With whom do I want to work? Play? Live? Worship?’ I’ve reached the age and stage of my life where I don’t want to rely on the happy accident. Life can be serendipitous, it’s true, but I also think consciously choosing with whom I spend my time and share my experiences is worth a little extra time and effort.

Your heart must belong to your community and vice versa.

If your community doesn't nurture your heart, isn't it time to consciously look at who and what makes up your community?

Merriam-Webster defines community broadly—it’s both a group of individuals joined by common interest and the society at large … and several definitions in between. Family is often our first community, whether by birth or design and it’s there we start to understand what works or doesn’t for us. We begin to recognize need versus want and find the comfortable place in the middle. Outside our immediate family we often find those who most resonate with us, but this can change as we do. Most of us end up with a small community of intimate friends and a larger community of casual friends. Then there are the acquaintances and colleagues that might make up our professional community and many of us also have a spiritual community to which we belong. Some of these groups and individuals may overlap, but for others there won’t be any mixing at all. And some of these groups seem to naturally evolve in a way that makes it seem as if we have no control over their makeup. But, I think we have choices.

My life has gone through some radical changes in the last few years and as I look at what I’m working toward and what I want to manifest in my life professionally and personally, it has me seriously contemplating on how to consciously cultivate the communities that will support and help sustain those desires.  Motivational speaker, Jim Rohn, said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” That was an eye opener, but it makes sense to me; I realize I need to be pretty picky about with whom I’m spending my time. I think we ALL need to ask ourselves, ‘Are the people with whom I surround myself supporting me? Positively challenging me? Are they ambitious? Are they caring and generous? Will they offer me emotional/mental/physical support as I learn, grow, and develop both personally and professionally? Are they people I can support similarly?’  Asking these questions and honestly looking at the answers will bring a consciousness to how we cultivate community in our lives.

Beware the Energy Vampires

Energy vampires aren't always easy to spot. Choose your companions wisely.It’s not always easy, of course. Sometimes this consciousness means we need to sever relationships because misery loves miserable company. If there is someone in your life who is a vampire (not the sparkly or Spike-like blood-sucking variety, but rather the one who drains all your energy every time you spend time together) that person needs to go. If you turn to someone for feedback and you’re never given anything but the dark view of things, that person needs to go. Creative, positive challenge is a good thing; it keeps us sharp and learning. But if all you’re met with is competition and one-upmanship, how does that help either of you? If someone turns every discussion into an argument, determined to drill the fact there’s only one way to look at something, then that person needs to go.

All that being said, I am NOT suggesting you ditch the friend who’s going through a rough patch—we all have those times in our lives. But you need to watch for a pattern—is the negativity and energy drain a temporary rough patch or actually that person’s normal? If negativity is a person’s permanent way of being, and if you can’t have a positive effect on that person or that person is unwilling to work on him or herself, ask for help, or change things, does it make sense to allow yourself to be pulled down, too? No, it really doesn’t. So, notice who leaves you feeling drained after interacting. Who’s call are you reluctant to take? With whom do you keep delaying plans? Those are the folks you need to consciously look at; the fact that sometimes these negative folks have faces we’ve known for years and are people who’ve long held a place in one of our communities becomes irrelevant when we look at the bigger picture. Day to day life can be challenging enough without turning your quest to move forward, learn, and grow into a daily battle.

So, with as much love and compassion as I can summon, I intend to continue consciously choosing how I cultivate community. I want to interact with people with are willing to learn from each other, offer support during good and difficult times, share experiences, nurture connections, and in general help all of us keep growing and expanding in our minds and hearts.  How about you? How do you define community and where do you feel a sense of it? Do you consciously make choices about who to let into your life or who must go?

Namaste
Deb

“I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.” ~Mahatma Gandhi

Two weeks ago, my back went out and I found myself in constant pain and discomfort and on the floor alternating between laying on ice or a heating pad. AGAIN. Funny enough, one week after launching my business full time in August 2013 (yes, one year ago almost exactly), my back went out in a severely painful way. I was literally on the floor most of the month of August and struggling to manage the most basic of tasks, so my business was put on hold until Sept. It was the perfect storm made up of my fear of going out on my own meeting the Universe’s desire to see me STOP pushing so hard for a little while after 13+ years of doing nothing but pushing. It wasn’t fun; instead, it was agony, frustration, and feeling utterly betrayed by my body. But in truth, what it really was, was an amazing situation that began to teach me how to ask for help because I simply had no other choice.

Nest on the floor

Legs up an ottoman aka the respite-providing nest on the floor.

This time around, I’m grateful to say the situation isn’t quite so acute (not quite past it yet.) That being said, it’s not comfy, either. I had to slow down again, re-make friends with my nest on the floor, accept that the progress I’d made rebuilding strength was taking a hit, and acknowledge I had to start looking at what my body was trying to tell me. Instinctively, I knew I couldn’t accept that my back going out (in my sleep, mind you!) was merely a coincidence. First, it was the one year anniversary of launching my business and I had been doing a lot of contemplating about how that was going (and judging myself harshly) and second, I was beginning to reach out and re-seek a spiritual community after having an integral part of my spiritual practice ripped away … I was no longer willing to lie to myself that the disconnection I’d experienced over the last couple years was ok. So, I concluded that although there are physiological issues that need attending to (chiropractic, massage, and PT visits help with that), there’s clearly an energetic/emotional/spiritual element that was trying so very hard to tell me … something.

In the past, I’ve prided myself on the fact that I would often get “intuitive flashes” of what I needed to do, hear, or accept. This time? Yikes. I just couldn’t get it. I felt almost as if my subconscious had willfully put on blinders in order to NOT look at whatever it was that was throwing my first and second chakras into a painful tailspin (literally! My tailbone wouldn’t stay put, LOL!) And because I’d recently been in this position and I’ve learned a little bit about asking for help in this first year of business, I knew that’s exactly what I needed … what I still need.

Muladhara or root chakra

Muladhara Chakra (Root Chakra) Mantra I need to visit a LOT: I am safe. I trust more; I fear less. I am balanced, connected, and grounded.

My partner was right on the front lines, thankfully. He reminded me to stop and let him help. Seeking some clarity and understanding, I pulled out my much-neglected tarot cards. (Great tool for glimpsing and understanding our subconscious motivations.) BUT, I only understood some of it, so I went with my gut and asked a dear friend within my spiritual circle for help understanding the message. A couple days later, when I found myself losing my shit one late afternoon, unable to stop weeping because of frustration, pain, and complete overwhelm over everything on my plate, another loving friend offered an ear, a shoulder, and some insightful advice—be compassionate with myself and ask for help. On her advice, rather than “toughing it out” as I would have in the past, I let my mentor know the situation and she provided a nurturing way for me to still participate in her two-day business mastermind while providing space and the means to still care for my back. Because I allowed others to help me in large and small ways, and I let go of my self-reliant resisting, I rapidly got the message over, and over, and over again from different sources in slightly different ways.

In hindsight, it seems simplistic. But personal growth and development never feels that way. I had created a maelstrom of unrealistic expectations and married them to my fears and feelings of inadequacy, wrapped it up in a bow of low self-worth, and stuffed it all down deep so I wouldn’t have to look at any of it. The problem with that however, is that stuff never stays buried. And believe me, you launch a business and you will meet your crap … in Technicolor. I was so busy protecting that ridiculous package, I couldn’t hear or see anything good, nor could I hear praise. If I let in any of the compliments commending my work, skills, talent, or know-how—in all arenas, physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual—I shut it down and kept on going. But then I was shut down. In that moment, I knew there was nothing to be done but surrender.

What it all comes down to is that I matter and I have much to offer my business, personal, and spiritual communities. What I think, say, and do matters. WE ALL MATTER. I wrote recently about working with a self-compassion meditation and this latest drama tells me that particular meditation is something I need to hold close and work with for quite some time to come. When I let my defensive stance drop, when I let go of fear of rejection and dismissal and instead remember my own divine roots connecting myself to Spirit, it allows me to start listening to what others are saying to me … and it’s revelatory. Unless I want to start calling everyone I respect and love a liar, I’m going to have to start receiving what they’re offering: love, compassion, respect, empathy, understanding, support, and help. It’s no less than what I try to offer others (as much as this learning spirit in human form can), so why do I question when others want to offer the same? Life is challenging, exciting, and full of painful ups and downs. But it offers us gifts large and small if we are open to receiving them. And when we’re not sure we can do that, we must remember to ask for help because truly we can get by with a little help from our friends.

I had an interaction the other day on Facebook that left me feeling disturbed, a bit angry, disappointed, upset, and frustrated. I often try not to get into the political arena on social media because it’s all so polarized and it’s almost impossible to have any sort of reasoned discourse; there’s always someone who will take offense, misread or misunderstand what you said, or who’s triggered into some impassioned response whether positive or negative. But, I’m human and I react just like everybody else. And a combination of things—NPR and various other news reports on the 50K+ of children stranded at the border and several posts from other friends in reaction—served to compel me to react as well and share someone else’s post about it. I made a statement when I shared, but given the result, I realize that although my intention might have been good (expressing compassion), by sharing someone else’s interpretation of an event rather than simply voicing my own words around the situation, I wasn’t practicing Right Speech—and there were consequences.

Right Speech in Action

"Abhaya Sutta: To Prince Abhaya" (On Right Speech) (MN 58), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 30 November 2013.

Communication has evolved in ways that the Buddha could never have foreseen. Social media, blogging, texting, emailing, and phoning are all ways we talk to, with, and at each other beyond face-to-face conversation.  And my latest social media communication frustration got me thinking about how we communicate in general and online. I do think that many of us are pretty sure that we are communicating well when we do, whether we’re sharing our latest status update, the funny video with a cute baby and a dog, the picture of our gourmet dinner, our take on a particular way of eating that we’re sure will cure all your ills, our joy or sorrow over personal milestones, promoting our business products and services, commenting on books or movies, sharing an incendiary image and article because it supports our personal viewpoint, or sharing the latest inane meme.  In my opinion however, I don’t think we are communicating well at all. I think most of us—myself included—could do with a refresher on the Buddhist concept of Right Speech.

Right Speech (samma vaca in Pali) is part of the moral discipline portion of the Buddhist Eightfold Path along with Right Action and Right Livelihood. Practicing Right Speech at a time when vitriolic prose runs rampant through social media, radio talk shows, and late night comedy can be a pretty tough path to follow. It’s SO EASY to get caught up in our passions around perceived and actual wrong doings, opposing political views, and the over-arching negativity that seems to rule the media; if it’s negative, horrific, and distressing, it clearly must be news. And we must remember that a good part of Right Speech is listening well. And these days, we’re being talked AT more than ever … and we’re doing it, too.

Hateful and violent words can harm just as easily as hateful and violent action. There are children killing themselves because of cyber bullying … they’re not necessarily getting beat up physically, but mentally and emotionally, they’re bruised and bloodied. There are children who suffer with profound hunger, physical abuse, homelessness, and addictions that aren’t killing themselves. Emotional and mental pain seems to be the harder to endure. It’s always been the case that words, written or spoken, can bring peace or war, union or division, anger or joy, compassion or hatred, love or indifference. What you say matters.

So, what actually IS Right Speech? The Buddha divides right speech into four components:

  1. Abstaining from false speech (don’t tell lies or be deceitful)
  2. Abstaining from slanderous speech (don’t speak in a way that causes harm or enmity)
  3. Abstaining from harsh speech (don’t be rude or abusive in your language)
  4. Abstaining from idle chatter (don’t talk about others; don’t speak without purpose)

The idea is that by practicing Right Speech you can avoid the pitfalls of Wrong Speech which are conflict, division, confusion and suffering … all plentiful in the world.

Think Before You SpeakAt face value, it doesn’t seem like it’d be that hard to practice, right? But really, if we truly look at what the Buddha meant behind each of the characteristics of Right Speech, we see how challenging it might be in today’s world. For example, someone may post a negative comment about some entertainer’s performance/album/movie. Can you refrain from commenting? We often find sarcasm funny and witty, and it sometimes is, but it can also be hurtful and mean when directed at an individual’s opinion or personal expression (whether choice in clothing, hair style, makeup, etc.) Can you refrain from sarcastic remarks about people? Chit chat, aka meaningless chatter, is a staple of social interaction. Can you avoid saying, “How are you?” unless you really want the answer? When someone poses an opinion with which you disagree, and you feel you must respond, can you do it with kind and compassionate language rather than rude, dismissive, or argumentative language?

For myself, at this moment, I’m holding the frustrating Facebook exchange in gratitude because it helped me remember that *I* am responsible for what I say, think, and do. How I react, how I interact—verbally or via the written word—is important. It’s truly not about being a Pollyanna and pretending that there aren’t problems in the world, but rather I think we must be compelled to look deeper and figure out how to help, not hinder; figure out how to find some compassion for those embroiled in the many disastrous situations we hear about–whether we find said situations morally wrong or not. And finally, we must find some allowance for others to have different opinions and consider that they’re not necessarily wrong and we’re not necessarily right; the answer is usually somewhere in the middle. And honestly, at the end of the day, Mom had it right. If you can’t say anything nice, it’s much better not to say anything at all.

What do you think? Can you pick one characteristic of Right Speech and practice it for a day or a week? I’d love to hear your experiences with it.