Deep breaths AND chocolate

I used to think it was all or nothing. If I taught yoga, then I must be very yogic at all times or else I was a fraud. So I best be eating organic chia seeds marinated in bone broth with kale chips and a green smoothie to wash it all down with. I thought to myself, I can’t be a calm, loving mother if I am also feeding my kids Cheetos and yelling at them to clean up the pile of shoes on the floor or their underwear on the coffee table. (We have a history in this family of undergarments being left in odd places – just last week my mother-in-law found a strapless bra in my husband’s car – I hate strapless bras and took it off as soon as I could after a recent event, fortunately it was mine and she thought it was funny).  The list goes on, I can’t be healthy and have dessert or teach others about meditation if I need medication to help with my anxiety. I can’t be sensitive and strong. I can’t be brave and scared. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.

Oh yes I can.

I am so grateful to my new friend Charnell, who during a recent women’s circle, stressed the importance of the word, and. “You can wake up anxious and still cut up apples for your kids lunch”, she said. And while I have certainly thought of this, lived it in fact, I have never realized how glorious the word and really is.

And it is liberating. And is spaciousness. And is kind. And is acceptance. And is compassion. And is the antithesis of perfection. And is sincere. And is genuine.

This chasing happiness business is crazy making. Because it is impossible. So maybe we find meaning instead and stop worrying so much about finding this elusive perfect happiness. Like Vikor Frankl who survived the Holocaust teaches us in his beautiful book, Man’s Search for Meaning, we can survive hardship when we find meaning in our struggles.

As I prepare for facilitating a new women’s circle starting this weekend, I am swept up in gratitude for the bright and beautiful creature in my back yard. It is a cardinal and to me this sweet little bird signifies that my dad is near, telling me I’ve got this even though I am not sure I do. These days I don’t strive for perfection or even happiness, I strive for acceptance. And meaning. And unconditional love. And in addition to deep breaths, I need chocolate.

slipping into something a little less comfortable

“Whether it’s a painful task that we are called to, or an exhausting task, or an exhilarating task, or a joyous one — get your drama out of it, and do whatever you need to do with the highest dignity.” Elizabeth Gilbert

About once a week, twice if I’m feeling ambitious, I plop my bottom on a bike seat and take a spin class. While music videos are projected on the big screen in front of the studio, I do my best to continue breathing and pedaling.

As I watch the videos with scantily clad women gyrating all over the place,  I feel prudish and old. I wonder what my beloved and late grandmother would think. And she thought Elvis’s moves were disturbing.

Eventually, I avert my gaze and look at the chalkboard covered in motivational words and inspirational quotes. And inevitably my eyes land on the same quote every time.

comfort zone

Crap. I know this is true. But sitting in discomfort is…uncomfortable.

Sometimes I am uncomfortable doing unusual yoga poses and other times it is as mundane as engaging in small talk when I’d rather be home writing. Then there was last night when I walked from my house to a restaurant only to realize I was wearing neon pink underwear underneath an off-white dress.

The thunder accompanying my walk forced me to pick up my pace, and when I arrived five minutes later, I realized the reservation wasn’t for another hour. So I sat at the bar by myself waiting for my friends and watching a ball game surrounded by people who I kind of knew but didn’t seem to know me. Mildly uncomfortable.

Then there was the time I went to purchase a Burt Reynolds magnet (or something with a mustache on it) from a vintage store in town. I went to the store during their regular business hours, but no one was there, so I called and left a voice message. I thought my message was kind of funny, but it turns out I was just rambling and not making much sense. The woman at the counter did not find any of it remotely amusing. So there I was standing in line as she played my voice message out loud so everyone else in the store could hear it. Then she exclaimed robustly, “Some people, I mean is this woman for real?”  Um, very uncomfortable, and yes I am for real.

While these above moments didn’t necessarily induce magic, they were opportunities to sit in the seat of discomfort with all of its feelings of vulnerability and humility and realize that I didn’t die of embarrassment.

Recently, I took a willing leap out of my comfort zone when I agreed to do an interview about teaching mindfulness to kids on a friend’s radio show.

My first reaction after reading her request went something like this, “Hell no!” proceeded by the soft nudge of “Hmm, that could be interesting.”

I agreed to do the interview, and then quickly wondered why I said yes.

The funny thing is I had just spent the better part of the morning running around my house trying to locate my misplaced wedding ring. And I am quite certain I had also raised my voice at my kids in the past 24 hours. What the heck was I doing talking about mindfulness? I felt like a fraud.

And it didn’t matter how small or large an audience would be listening to the am radio show, I was nervous. So I prepared myself as best I could by prepping my materials before hand. I also practiced sounding professional by talking very seriously to myself in the car on the way to pick up my kids from school. I am quite certain I looked and sounded absurd.

Right before the interview began, as I anxiously awaited the call from my friend and host of the show, I sat on the bed in our guest room with the door shut trying to maintain my focus. And that is when I had an epiphany that the experience I was about to have had nothing to do with me.

It wasn’t about me sounding articulate or intelligent, or like some kind of expert on mindfulness which I, of course, am not; it was about simply showing up and sharing helpful information.

I thought back to the times when I have stepped out of my comfort zone which for me usually means talking in front of a group of people. My face gets hot and red, my throat tightens, and my heart beats faster. But when it is something I feel passionate about, I also remember that we are here to serve others and that the task at hand is bigger than us and our drama. 

We are all conduits for love, authenticity, empowerment, and transformation. 

And however we step out of our comfort zones, whether it is giving a presentation for work, taking a new exercise class, going to a party where we don’t know anyone, traveling to a place where we don’t speak the language, or showing up to volunteer in our child’s classroom, we can simply acknowledge our discomfort, knowing everything is just as it should be and get on with it. Author, Elizabeth Gilbert recently wrote an article about not getting overwhelmed. Her advice: “Get your drama out of it.”

So when those familiar feelings of awkwardness, uncertainty, and nervousness surface, it can help to differentiate what the signals are that your body is giving you. Are they warning you of impending danger, or is the supposed threat more about fear of failure and looking foolish? Because our attachment to our egos can get in the way of taking risks, thus preventing positive transformation from occurring.

And sitting in discomfort can mean a plethora of things…from staying in our seated meditation without giving into every single urge to move, to not rushing to fix our children’s problems by allowing them to discuss and feel all of their feelings no matter how helpless and sad it makes us feel.

We learn that discomfort isn’t all that awful because it comes and goes. It, too, is empowering, enabling us to no longer live our lives trying to avoid uncertainty, discomfort, and pain.

Because being uncomfortable from time to time is part of living a wholehearted and authentic life. Whether it’s on a bike, in pink underwear, on the radio, or anywhere else outside of your comfort zone.

I think the tips below are helpful during times of discomfort.

 1). If you are nervous, admit it. And if it is appropriate, share how you are feeling with others. This releases tension and helps you feel less alone. However, it is not about their reaction; it is about your expression and your deep respect for honesty.

2). Create an intention. Such as: My intention is to be informative and helpful, or my intention is to simply show up and be the best I can be.

3). Have a grounding or centering ritual such as prayer, asking for guidance, taking three deep breaths and letting out a sigh on the exhale, or writing down what is making you uncomfortable – I always bring my journal to doctor appointments because I get so nervous when there – or you can just “shake it off” (this is something Kundalini yogis and Taylor Swift both do.)

4). Remember you are helpful and are here to serve. If you are speaking about something you believe in, allow the power of this passion to move through you. If you believe in a higher power, let this subtle energy guide you.

5). You can always pause, breathe, take a moment, and ask questions to give yourself time to concentrate, get into the body and ground yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

25 things I wish I knew then

blackbird

This is the time of year for graduations. It is also a time to simultaneously look back while looking forward. I originally wrote this as a letter to my younger self, kind of an if I knew then what I know now piece. However, I am fully aware, that we are not meant to learn all of the big lessons at once. A teacher of mine once said, “the soul reveals itself slowly.” I believe this to be true.

What follows then is a partial but sincere list of what I wish everyone suffering from feelings of severe sadness, disconnection, and isolation could know and know with all of their heart. My hope is that if more young people felt these things to be true, that it would somehow prevent future violence and tragic loss of life.

1) There is more right with you than there is wrong. Just as there are more similarities between us than there are differences.

2) Your thoughts no matter how powerful, convincing, disturbing or crazy they appear to be, are not real. They are not you and they do not control you. You can learn to look at them and let the thoughts pass on by. Yes, thoughts are powerful but don’t believe them all. Consciously choose to change the negative thoughts to opposing more positive ones. Same with your emotions, while important to acknowledge, they are not you.

3) YOU CANNOT CHANGE PEOPLE! It is fruitless trying to get someone to change his or her beliefs and behavior. What you can do is acknowledge and honor the feelings someone awakens in you and work on your boundaries with that person. Realize what you are comfortable putting up with and what you won’t stand for. Communicate openly and honestly with yourself first before engaging in conversation.

4) You are not defined by your disabilities, circumstances, tragedies, illnesses, losses, popularity, intelligence and appearance. You are not your personality. The real you is much deeper. You are valued. You are enough. You are deeply loved. Even if you don’t know it yet or you forget it from time to time.

5) You co-create your life. Yes, there are situations out of your control but you choose how to respond to them. And you possess the power to make changes when necessary and bring acceptance to the circumstances you cannot change.

6) We are all in this together. You are not alone. And asking for help as well as receiving it is how we not only survive but live well. Have faith in something bigger than you when you don’t have faith in yourself.

7) You are not too sensitive, too hyper or too anything for that matter nor are you not smart enough, not good enough, or not enough of anything either.

8) Making mistakes and failing is the path to success, happiness, and fulfillment. You will fail and look stupid from time to time.

9) If you love to do something but you are not particularly good at it, it is okay, do it anyway! It is worth your heartfelt participation if it brings you joy.

10) Try not to take things personally or too seriously.

11) Find something you like and love about yourself. Everyday. It is not conceited or arrogant. It is crucial. This relationship with yourself is the most important relationship you will have in your lifetime.

12) You can be brave and scared at the same time, happy and sad at the same time, vulnerable and courageous all at the same time. And anything that makes your heart pound or butterflies flutter in your stomach is worth pursuing.

13) What you identify as your flaws and imperfections may actually be your greatest gifts. You are made just the way you are for a reason and the universe needs you to be you with all of your imperfections and unique challenges.

14) While it is hard not too worry, know that you can choose to pray or send positive energy to the situation instead. I have read before that worrying is praying for what you don’t want.

15) If someone hurts you, acknowledge and thank your feelings. Then send loving kindness and compassion to yourself first and foremost. If you can muster up this very challenging task then also send compassion to the person that hurt you. He or she is most likely suffering right alongside you. And friends are really important, if someone means a lot to you, it is worth working through the hurt.

16) Trust your intuition. If someone or something makes you feel strange or uneasy, trust this instinct. Do not question the messages your body gives you. Thank the cues and learn from them. Your body is your ally.

17) It’s okay to be shy sometimes, and it’s okay to be crazy sometimes. It’s okay to be loud one minute and quiet the next. You are entitled to feel let down, disappointed, and blue. It is okay to say no. If you feel uncomfortable in certain places and like a free spirit in another, spend more time in the places and with the people that make your spirit SOAR!

18) It’s fine to blush incessantly, cry uncontrollably, and laugh like a seal at a pool party, and not look pretty while doing it.

19) You are creative and artistic and talented.

20) Happiness is obtained through the honest pursuit of it, it is a journey not a destination.

21) If you cannot find peace and solace, get outside and put your feet on the earth or in the water. And send love right back to nature while taking care of the earth as best as you can.

22) Learn to identify your “false ego.” If something keeps you feeling separate, in competition, or jealous of another person, it is most likely not the “real you” talking. Losing ego all together may be hard and not always advisable but letting go of the false ego gets you out of your own way and makes room for beauty and transformation to take place.

23) Do something nice for someone else. Altruism is at the heart of happiness. Send thank you letters and practice being grateful for what you have.

24) If you are in a rut and are trying to make a decision, choose from the place that feels like love and joy, not fear. Time and patience are your friends.

25) Life is hard and it is not fair. Knowing that when we want things to be different than they are is when we struggle the most. Acceptance is hard work but it is worth practicing.