Surrender Into the Flow

Recently, I sat down with a friend and her new baby to catch up.  She’s in the midst of asking some of the big career questions like: “Do I want to go back to my job?”  “Is it time to pursue the career I dream of?”  and “Do I want to stay home with my new baby?

As I sat with this thoughtful woman, wondering aloud what to do and how it will all work out, I could feel her anxiety building until she said, “And I realize I just need to surrender.”  It felt as though we both took this huge breath and exhaled out all her stress.  She wasn’t saying she would relinquish her efforts, but relax into trusting she will find the niche where her energy can propel her forward instead of fretting.

Lao Tzu calls this being ‘in the flow’ in the Tao te Ching.  You can think of it like the way a screw works.  When it is placed in a hole that is too small or comes at the wrong angle, you can push and turn for a long time without getting anywhere- which is not helpful.  On the other hand, if you place that same screw in a hole that is too big, it slides right in, but offers no real support.  When a screw catches the threads just right though, all your efforts move it forward into place.  With moderate effort, maximum progress and solid support are produced.  

screw-in-a-screw

Surrender- not giving up, is being present in the here and now.  Recognize the opportunities and options right in front of you.  Acknowledge when you feel you are “in the flow” and move with the current.  

I think life is rarely easy.  However, when we stop pushing painfully hard against our natural path and allow our process to unfold, it is in that unfolding we experience the sweet surrender to being in the flow.  Like swimming with the current, we can go so much farther than attempting to compete with the riptide.  So be present, take a breath, and work with the flow of your life’s current.

 

New Resolutions or New Approach?

It’s a New Year, so…..out with the old, in with the new you!  Right?  Let’s be honest, are you just setting new goals because you feel like you’re supposed?  Do you even feel an urge to say goodbye to anything from 2016….or maybe a lot of things?

Confession: I love fresh starts.  That new energy when I feel motivated, energized, excited for change- that thrills me.  Consistency and routine are much harder.  Maybe one or two people reading this can relate (it’s okay to admit if this is you).  Let’s get real, a lot of us struggle with persistently working towards goals and building a routine that sticks.  We jpsearsclaim to do this to become more of the person we want to be, hence the countless jokes  and unused, but newly acquired gym memberships (you may want to check out JP Sears’  latest youtube episode on this trend if you haven’t watched it yet.

This year you are invited to join me in trying something a little different.  If you are tired of January/February guilt, and by March completely forgetting your unaccomplished goals, here is a little exercise to reflect and set some intentions.

First, consider: did you notice something in your life in 2016 (and maybe 2015, ‘14, etc.) that you hung on to but really isn’t serving you anymore?  Is there a habit, tv show, snack, maybe even a relationship that is draining and not really benefiting you?  I’m not talking about something you aren’t ready to let go of.  I’m referring to something you are ready to tell: “thanks for the memories and it’s time for me to move on.

What isn’t serving you anymore- or maybe never was- that you’re ready to say “ADIOS!” to?

Next, is there something or someone who came into your life in the past year that you are -excited about? -want to invest more in? -can really help you grow?

How can you spend more time kindling that new, excited energy?

tonyrobbinsTony Robbins says that “goals are like magnets.  They’ll attract that which makes them come true.”  I think that for big dreams you really desire, this is true.  Sure, plenty of resolutions get easily dropped.  When you start really forming a plan, make some investment and talk about (the research actually says regularly report on) your goal, my experience and that of many people is that dreams come to fruition- and the supporters we need arrive to help us on the way.

Right around thanksgiving a friend handed me a copy of Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist.  An interesting concept is raised in this allegory about pursuing one’s deepest desire.  Coelho writes that when we try something new, we tend to have beginners’ luck; this pulls us in.  Then, after a little more delving in, we reach the struggle and muck that inevitably is a part of any journey.  stuck-in-muckI can absolutely attest to this being my experience.  After a flow of encouragement and what looked to be an easy transition, I’m currently enjoying the resistance and challenging muck * of setting off on a new career.  Most of these elements are my own mental barriers (fear, procrastination, feeling overwhelmed with all the learning and to-do’s).  Don’t we all do this?  Hence why a little mindfulness and meditation (a.k.a being aware of my thoughts and moving to the next stage of accepting, dismissing or countering them with a new idea) are key.

So what are you ready to ditch?  What are you ready to give more umph to in your life?  Whatever these are, I hope the next time you find yourself reconsidering what doesn’t benefit you , or putting off what you do want, you remind yourself why you wanted the shift in the first place.  If you digress or meander a bit, that’s a part of your path.  It doesn’t need to be a cause of shame.  Like a cloud, see it, and let it go.  Then move forward with your day -whether it’s stormy or sunny today- one thing is sure- that will change.  But ultimately, you get to choose to let clouds move on.cloud-watching-sunbath

Happy Cloud Watching!

*stuck in the muck image from: https://www.weasyl.com/submission/987782/stuck-in-the-muck

108 Ways to Feel Grateful

 

Fat, frozen snowflakes falling on my tongue, the crisp, cold smell in the night air, snowmen and sleds, these were many of my childhood cues to know: winter is here!  While these signs of the season undoubtedly still excite me, I have come to appreciate the joy of celebrating each season with its commencement of solstice  and equinox.  This past autumn I was introduced to the idea of 108 Sun Salutations to welcome in the season.  I loved the physical challenge and mind-quieting nature of this moving meditation.  So last night, less than a week since my husband and I started moving into our new home (we’re still in the process), I began a new tradition of hosting a 108 Sun Salutation Winter Solstice Soiree.  

suryanamaskar

My hope is that we’ll honor each season’s  passing/inception with this yoga tradition of honoring the sacred count of 108, but last night I gained a whole new appreciation for how and why.

How do you count 108?

My first experience with this count was a solo project at home: breath, move and count.  I lost track of how many I had done several times and rather than potentially cut myself short, I always played it safe by doing another 1-2.  I saluted the sun for nearly 3 hours, moving slowly, growing sore, and fumbling to find modifications that didn’t hurt.

Before we began last night, some friends who had gathered to join me were discussing and reading about why we do 108 specifically.  My personal favorite reason for this is that the distance from the sun  to earth is 108 times the sun’s diameter.  Nancy, the math-savvy (an engineer) of the group, had several counting ideas.  “There are 26 letters in the english alphabet,” she pointed out, “so you can count by going through the alphabet 4 times, then just add four.”  She also suggested thinking of something you’re grateful for with each salute.  I decided to combine her two ideas for my practice.   

WOW!  What a vastly improved experience!  

A Little History on the Appeal

japamalaI have japa mala  (that rosary-like strand of beads hindus and yogis often don) hanging over my rearview mirror in my car.  A friend gifted them to me after visiting India just following his yoga teacher training a couple of summers ago.  I love the smell of the sandalwood beads, the idea of having a piece of the other side of the world (physically and culturally) in my mode of transportation, but mostly they hang in front of me as a reminder to feel gratitude.  When I’m anxious about rush hour traffic or whatever event I’m headed to, or I find a grey cloud of negative thoughts looming overhead, I grab the japa mala and think of something I’m grateful for with each bead my index finger and thumb roll over.  Sometimes I get through the whole strand, often just a portion, but regardless,

the exercise sets my intention and thoughts in a positive and calm place.

Last night I took that 108 gratitude count into my sun salutation.  It took a bit longer than just rubbing the beads (maybe 20 minutes with the beads, just over an hour for the salutations), but I found myself smiling, even laughing in my heart at times as I thought of different points that brighten my life.  The first time I ever tried this meditation was exhausting: physically and mentally.  It was really tough to stay focused and get all the way through.  This time, it flowed smoothly and sweetly.  

How I Structured My Gratitude Flow

My first two rounds I simply allowed concepts or ideas beginning with each letter of the alphabet to come: Appreciation, Balance, Compassion, etc.  

abcblocks

With each breath, I thought of ways I’m grateful for how that word has taken meaning in my life.  Thoughts like: “I’m grateful for the ability to feel appreciation.  To be appreciated and hear and learn that others appreciate me.  I’m grateful people can express appreciation to each other, and for the joy that fills our hearts when we allow the sense of appreciation to permeate through us…..”

My third round became body-focused, from feeling gratitude my dad was able to get a new hip and his surgery went well (for H), to mustaches (for M) and how I love to laugh and enjoy all the whimsical and funny ways they can be shaped.

For the fourth and final round I decided to name people who have impacted my life for good.  Old college friends I haven’t spoken to in years, teachers, family members, dear friends, the wonderful people flowing in the room with me, all were in my heart and hopefully getting little spirit hugs from me as I pondered how they have helped shape my life with their light.

gratefulpiglet Sometimes even thinking of the next idea in time was a little tricky, but something always came.   I felt such a sense of peace, joy, and calm as I honored this universe,  the guiding life force of season all around, and ideas, experiences, and people who edify the world around them.

If ever you feel so inclined for a truly cleansing and uplifting meditation, I invite you, with gratitude, to salute the sun.

Perhaps you will join me in Spring!

Namaste

Still Deciding What You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

manyideas

        Did you know what career you wanted when you were a kid?  I remember hearing friends say they wanted to be teachers and my thought was always: “Yuck, the last thing I want to do is teach when I’m a grown up!  I can’t wait to graduate!”  My favorite parts of school were P.E., music, art, and recess.  Sometimes I liked language arts.  

        At age 17, I had a big shift and decided I loved the positive energy of young children, so I did the unthinkable and decided to become a teacher.  I taught after school, kindergarten, preschool, dance, tutored kids in English and Spanish.  Meanwhile, I juggled managing an apartment complex, occasional choreographing and consulting with a local dance company, parent coaching and between jobs worked the occasional office job planning events, running background checks, and handling data entry.  I haven’t exactly done just one thing.

Can you relate? 

In the “personal” section of your resume, have you ever felt limited in keeping it to just a few hobbies or interests?  If so, hello fellow Multipotentialite.

        I’ve often struggled with this lack of expertise.  On good days I like to think of myself as a renaissance woman.  When I’m not so on top of my emotional A-game, I feel like the “mediocre at lots of things, expert at nothing” type.  

        Having graduated from yoga teacher training 3 days ago and currently having a personal monthly income of approximately $0, it seems like it’s probably time to start bringing in some revenue.  While yoga instruction is definitely something I’m excited to pursue, I have a feeling it’s not the only job I want to pursue.  So a big question: what else and how do I figure that out?

        Tonight I encountered a thoughtful Ted talk by career coach and fellow multipotentialite, Emilie Wapnick, that shed some new light on this consideration.  Emilie encourages people to be honest about who they are and follow their inclinations, whether as a multipotentialite or specialist.  She explains that both are valuable in the workplace.  She offers some much appreciated street cred to those of us who don’t want to pick one job for life.  She explains that this hopping from one place to another creates “Super Powers” of: adaptability, rapid learning, and idea synthesis.

So if you too are wondering: what do I do with my life?!?  Maybe grab a copy of the perennial favorite What Color is Your Parachute? , listen to Emilie Wapnick’s tedtalk, do a little journaling about your skills and interests and see if you find some intriguing parallels that offer a lead or two.

Best of luck to us on our journey.  Cheers!

manyinterestsequalshappy

Allowing Time to Grieve

 

griefquote

Disclaimer: today’s post is unfiltered.  I try to keep things tactful, upbeat and relatable to as many people as possible.  But today I just want to be open.  Today I’m experiencing my third miscarriage- and it sucks -to say the least.

Apparently about 50% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, which means a lot of people can relate: women who have wanted a baby, women who were terrified to learn they were pregnant (me the first time around 10 year ago), perhaps you had an abortion and felt great pain, fear or loss through that. Then there are you men who may have been in similar boats in terms of facing fatherhood.  It is definitely different -not experiencing all these changes in your body- but losing a child pre-term is something a lot of us have experienced, so today I am speaking to loss, and for me it is in this way, unapologetically indiscreet.

For those of you who know this pain, my heart is with you: broken, open, raw and wrapped around you.  In the past month I have been touched by the connection I’ve experienced and witnessed with my classmates who have shared very real heartbreak of various kinds.  In the process I realized I put a lot of pressure on myself to keep things looking pristine and perfect- exactly what I loathed as an adolescent and preteen.  I put a lot of pressure on myself to stay positive and keep things upbeat.  Generally I am really happy, but that’s not the case in this moment.

Today I’m grateful for a blue sunny sky out my window, for my cuddly dog, Naya, who patiently waited for me to finish cleaning my yoga mat with my salty tears before comforting me with her compassionate kisses and cuddles.  I’m grateful for the surprise love note my husband left for me on our laptop, for salad, dark chocolate and fruit.  For the chance to be self aware enough that I notice the subtle changes in my body.  pinkroseAnd I’m grateful to know that although today is hard and I feel pretty shitty, there are many days behind and hopefully ahead full of joy and feeling better -physically and emotionally.

So when you have a day, a week, a month or season of life that you feel shitty, I’m sorry.  It’s okay to own it.  I hope you’ll still find some things to be grateful for and remember not every day is just like today.

Today I send you my love and hope for a happier tomorrow.

Manifesting Your Magnificence

Brightly shining rays  

Masked by “should be’s” and “to-do’s”  

What will you peel off?

eclipse1

Do you realize how great you are?  How awesome your talents, passions, quirks and curiosities are that make you you?  For a long time, I didn’t.  I pined for compliments but struggled to actually let them in.  It wasn’t for a lack of love from others.  It’s just hard to feel love from outside  when you don’t accept yourself.  As I’ve worked towards appreciating and accepting who I am, it has helped to consider what traits I particularly value in myself and others, and letting those shine.

American yogi, Baron Baptiste, poses the question:

“What do you want to manifest?”

As I began to contemplate and journal about this, I pondered what manifest means.  How often is the term used as “how others perceive someone”?  Yet, consider for a moment, how manifesting something isn’t just acknowledged, but how it actually impacts people.

Looking at the sun, one might say it manifests light.  My perception is that I see light.  Yet my skin feels warmth.  Plants receive nourishment.  Your emotions can actually be lifted to a more cheerful state and alert/wakefulness is more prone to align with light than darkness.  These are just a few ways the sun’s light impacts us.  So…

 How could you make a difference in the world through what you emit?

Think of Gandhi, a human with true purpose and sense of self.  Can anyone know all the details of responsibilities he held, relationships he maintained, words he spoke?  Yet, consider how many people know what his sense of purpose was.  He was a bold human rights activist.  His life centered around bringing awareness to others that people with brown skin should be treated with the same liberties and respect as people with lighter colored pigmentation.  He manifested human dignity, progress through pacifism and equal rights.  These ideas were not just people’s perception of him.  These were the rays he spread, brightening the world so that others felt his passion and joined in the movement.  Change came to India, the British Empire and the world because one person, to start out, was willing to recognize and unabashedly share his passion.

gandhi

There was only one Gandhi.  I certainly don’t aim to replicate who he was and all he accomplished.  You and I can, however, decide what we want to manifest.  Day by day, with focus, we can hone in on how to shine with a sense of purpose.   We can peel away distractions, responsibilities we put on ourselves that aren’t really necessary, biases or prejudices, fears, habits and even addictions that prevent us from remembering, expressing and being what we truly want to be about.

So far, I’ve narrowed down that I want to manifest love.  I surmise that this yearning to share love is strong due to years of depression, self-loathing and a sense of inadequacy.  I know all too well what a lack of love feels like. I know many of us can relate by being in or having been through that lonely place.  So I want to give and facilitate for all people a sense of self-love, acceptance, and openness to feel the love of others.     That is what I wish to spread on the earth.

What do you want to share?

Taking or Giving: the earth?

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors,

We borrow it from our children.

-Native American Proverb

Image result for world in hands

Asteya is the Sanskrit term for “non-stealing”.  I was recently invited to consider this concept.  Initially my reflection was concise: I don’t steal, that’s pretty basic.  But with more consideration and reading about world events, I started to ponder the the proverb about borrowing the earth from our children.  The question arose:

Am I borrowing or stealing the earth from future generations?

How we treat the planet today impacts what is left in 5 years and 5 millennia.  This planet has an amazing way of healing itself and on top of that, ecological change is inevitable.  A volcanic eruption will cause far more harm to the air than all the driving you could possibly do in one lifetime.  And yet, does that dismiss the part you and I play, however small, in caring for the earth and its inhabitants?

We all have a different role to play in the grand scheme.  Each person makes a difference; at least to a few people, plants, perhaps even animals, you make a difference in the lives of those around you, as well as those  influenced by the people and creatures you impact.

How do you feel inclined to impact the planet?

Have you appreciated the crisp smell of the cooling air?  

Do you conserve energy by turning out lights when you leave a room?  

Will you grow herbs, flowers or a tree to clean the air and brighten the day of someone who passes your home on a grueling commute each day?

We aren’t all meant to be global activists to the extent of Vandana Shiva, but by listening to your inner truth –you may think of this as “following your gut reaction”– can bring out a little better version of yourself and help shape a world that is a bit more welcoming than you first found it.  

Will you remove a bit of its beauty or offer a brighter planet to those yet to come?

 

Learning through Loss

We all experience times of loss: when life takes an unexpected turn that throws you for a loop.  Sometimes there is no way to foresee the wrench life will throw at you, but you can decide how you handle it.  

I recently encountered some of these twists: the first one rocked my life plans and initially struck me as a very pleasant shift.  Six weeks later, another large “surprise” arrived, but one I was not so eager to welcome.  I tend to think of myself as a person who loves surprises, but Tony Robbins shed some light on this topic for me in his Ted Talk:

“You like the surprises you want. The ones you don’t want, you call problems, but you need them.”

So here I am, swimming through the “problems” Mr. Robbins says I need. I could wallow and wonder why this struggle is happening to me, but what good would that do? Following the mindful tradition, I allow myself to accept the emotions that come. There are moments of despair, times of questioning, and even occasions of recognizing the positives that exist due to recent changes as well. There are multiple ways of looking at any situation. I’m inclined to cling to ideas I like. However, to work through struggles, I have to consider multiple perspectives and try to see the big picture.

In his book, Zen Shorts, Jon J. Muth illustrates this Buddhist concept with his parable: “The Farmer’s Luck.”

There was once an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years.  One day, his horse ran away.  Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.  “Maybe,” the farmer replied.  The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it two other wild horses.  “Such good luck!” the neighbors exclaimed.  “Maybe,” replied the farmer.  The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown off, and broke his leg.  Again, the neighbors came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.  “Such bad luck,” they said.  “Maybe,” answered the farmer.  The day after that, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army to fight in a war.  Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by.  “Such good luck!” cried the neighbors.  “Maybe,” said the farmer.

I think we can all attest to similar ebbs and flows in our supposed “good luck” department.  We never can quite imagine what is around the bend, but I do find a flow of increasing positivity comes to those who focus on goodness, and downward spin for those who wallow in anger, fear, or self-care at the detriment of others.

Brazilian lyricist and novelist, Paulo  Coelho shared: “I have seen many storms in my life. Most storms have caught me by surprise, so I had to learn very quickly to look further and understand that I am not capable of controlling the weather, to exercise the art of patience and to respect the fury of nature.”

Whether stormy weather or stormy circumstances, we each get to decide how we handle the unexpected.  Will you stay weighed down in the weight of misery, or allow those painful feelings to flow through you, then allow them pass and move on?  I hope you will allow life’s clouds, at times light and in other moments dark, to cast their shadows and then blow on by.  Acknowledge the hurt, then move on and take in the moments of sunshine.  

There is always light above the clouds.

 

  1. Photo by Elijah Henderson, Clarksville, United States. https://unsplash.com/photos/DMED-sOt1Ak

 

  1.      2. The Kingdom, Sun above Clouds, 2008 © Seb Janiak

 

Who Helps You Shine

March is a month of change: winter is peeling away and starting to reveal early hints of spring.  Birds begin to sing again, the clocks change, and for teachers, conference reports are written and we reunite with families to discuss their children’s growth.  It has always been a heavy struggle.  Early mornings, late nights, long days of work with anxiety riding over my head and a lack of productivity and/or foresight to balance good self-care and the added workload.

This year, however, is proving different.  With new goals and outlook, a stronger and happier relationship than I’ve ever enjoyed, and a more holistic approach, the weight seems lighter.  Last night, after finishing a very productive, healthy, happy day, while tucking into bed at a decent hour (a new thing for me), my mind wandered around the changes in this March’s inception.  There are numerous factors, but it all seemed to boil down to the quote above.  My best friend makes a HUGE difference in my life.  He is generally very quiet, engages with relatively few people.  I am certainly the more extroverted in our pair, a bit of a social butterfly at times, and yet, he is the world to me and has helped my foundation settle.  We are moving and growing all the time, yet the partnership and joy is solid.

Is there a person in your life who stands as your rock?  Who helps you see the sun is shining when you might not otherwise?  If you haven’t today, I hope you tell that person.  If it is you, give yourself credit for the independence and self-care you provide.  We all deserve to love ourselves –as well as others.  May we express our gratitude and share our happiness and achievements with those who help us on our journey each day.

 

How Do You Embrace Today?

Image result for long lines at disney world

Carpe diem! Embrace the moment!  YOLO!

Times and phrasing may change, but the concept of being present and taking full advantage of life has long been a concept humans have pondered.  This past week was one of traveling with a group of loved ones -new and old- who had never vacationed together. It was a time of learning, exploring, and developing new perspectives.

We all have very different internal paces, curiosities and degrees of wanting to venture and learn.  Whether it is a trip, working on a team project at work , or even going out for a  a date, considering our differences can make a significant impact on the experience. Debra Paulson writes about the Zen principle of accepting rather than struggling in moments where you may find discord.  Detaching from your wants allows you to relinquish your experience of anxiety, anger, or disappointment when something feels out of sorts.

Standing in mass crowds at Disney World certainly knocked me with initial stress.  I then took a breath and started to rearrange my focus from my crowd anxiety to appreciating the hand gently holding mine, the interesting people watching opportunities, the ducks chasing each other on the grass and the immaculately tended grounds filled with luscious greenery and placid bodies of water.

We can approach each situation a little differently.  We can ask questions to help us prepare for what is to come.  We can even be honest with ourselves about our preferences in life and seek them out.  Ultimately, life will toss us armfuls of surprises and our approach, focus, and acceptance will likely have a far greater impact on our experiences than the challenges and eases that come our way.

May we appreciate the ease of the expected,

approach something new and exciting, and

find joy in the surprises we may not have wished for,

squirmy clients, crowded lines, and unforeseen smiling faces.