This Too Shall Pass

On a recent evening, as I was 4 minutes from finishing a choir rehearsal, I peeked down at my phone and noticed a text had come from my husband: “Please come home soon.  Thank u.”  I knew that meant something was awry with our baby girl.  So I scooped up my belongings and ran out, calling home the moment I left the building.

In a soft, near-whisper, my husband explained that our daughter had wailed at a volume, pitch and length he’d never heard.  Of course, just before I called, she finally fell asleep in his arms.  After a long day of work, he had spent his evening trying to soothe our daughter.  Dinner had been ordered, but when it arrived, he was concerned that if he moved the baby might wake and return to her previous state of distress, so he never answered the door.  I returned to my sweet, exhausted, hungry husband.

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It got me thinking of countless times in life when I felt worn to my wits end when relief finally arrived.  Sometimes I brought on the shift myself, sometimes I had no control over the situation, but the ancient Sufi wisdom seems pertinent in life so often: “this too shall pass away.” 

This weekend the 2nd Women’s March takes place all over the United States and the world.  After countless years of women being treated as second class citizens, a giant wave is rising that has united people to feel empowered to finally bring a new shift.  Voting rights were a start.  Laws about equal employment opportunities brought another new start.  #MeToo and the culture shift coming from it is not just visible, but tangible.  Even those with intellectual disabilities are getting to  tell their stories and finally be heard and believed.  All the world’s ills are not going to be fixed in one big sweep, but on a huge scale, it seems long-held cultural norms are  changing. womens-marcha-2018

With this in mind, I look down at my precious baby every day and feel optimistic about the world she will grow up in.  I remind myself to not worry about a hundred other good things I could, but choose to not do right now.  There have been and in the future will be plenty of opportunities to focus more heavily on my career and have a cleaner house.  The stage to nourish my baby from my own body, snuggle her for hours and cover her in hundreds of kisses is short lived, so I am taking full advantage.

I remind myself the time for countless hugs and kisses is limited, so too is the length of every melt down and other trying stage we encounter.  Each moment passes, the painful and the precious.  So I embrace the joy and take deep breaths with a mind focused on movement when times seem harder than I have the strength to get through.  And life goes on.

What is hard right now?  

How can you create movement through it?

What experiences do you want to truly embrace in your life right now?

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Pregnancy’s Butterfly Effect

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“Let everything go.  Allow your worries, your thoughts, your anxieties to float away and for a few moments, just be here in this moment.”  How many times do we hear this yoga jargon in classes, especially the opening and while lying in Savasana?  I remember listening to similar cues in a class about a month ago and thinking, “I have a baby growing inside of me.  I am a mother now and no longer have the luxury of completely releasing because this little person is a part of me and my actions impact another now.

Long ago my mother started to teach me about how my actions had consequences that impacted other people, but growing a human inside and realizing -this body is not just attached on the outside of me with skin around it that attaches us, but truly growing in the center of my being- did my perspective take a huge shift in what parenting will entail.

As I began to think more and more about this idea that what I do can have significant impacts on another is certainly not a new concept, but it just brought up this idea with greater magnitude.

A few examples:

The substances I put in my body (food, drinks, and if I were to choose, other substances…you know, like gum) impacts my energy level, my moods, clarity of thought, lifespan, self-image and even health.  This can impact my productivity, relationships with others, and availability to work or engage.  How often do we think about these things as the fork covered with salad or the wonderful smelling donut is going in?  

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As you get dressed and prepped for your day, how often do you look in the mirror and ask: what do I want my appearance to say about the type of person I am and does this appearance communicate who I really am: be it confident, professional, warm and gentle, a lover of the earth, etc?

Do you set plans or goals for years, months, weeks, or each day that help you spend time being and becoming ever more who you really want to be in the grand scheme: whether this includes the types of relationships you invest in, service, professional, physical or educational pursuits?  Are you living in a way that truly makes you happy?

For this little window of pregnancy, I have the opportunity to be pulled into a vacuum of reminders that if I don’t eat frequently enough (or the right foods), it makes a more significant impact than  I realized – i.e. nausea, waking up in the middle of the night, random impulses to cry, etc.  This is preparation for remembering the importance of regularly feeding the little person who is about to come out and be a very significant part of my world for the rest of my life.

We don’t always have such blunt reminders in front of us that say: “Your actions directly and indirectly impact others!” But they do.  The words we speak and how we express them can be a pivot point in another’s day- and how many others can a grumpy or very cheerful person impact: from how they drive, to glances, to words they share with the people around them? dadreadtochild

Do you sit down to watch a tv show (that will inevitably suck you into at least 2 more) after work tonight or walk your dog who is already harassing you to get outside?  Do you tell your kids to go play so you can catch up on emails after dinner or spend a few minutes reading and maybe singing with them before the bedtime routine begins?  Do you check another gossip column online or call an old friend who has been on your mind lately?

We have so many choices every day and while we can’t see most of the consequences, we can remind ourselves that each choice makes a difference.  So even if your most recent decision wasn’t one of your best, you always have the next one to make more of the impact you want to share with the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Types of Friends Do You Value?

When you look around your circle of friends, are they truly the type of people you want surrounding you?  Do they help you be ever-more the person you want to be?  Do they engage with the world in meaningful ways that you respect and admire?  Then as you look around, turn your glance inward: are you the kind of friend to yourself and others that you desire?

I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship for several months now.  Initially a couple of finger-pointing-300x185interactions with people led me to think about who my true friends are and what I really value in them.  These experiences lit up a hyper-awareness and time of reflection as I’ve engaged with friends since then and tried to remember the image of a finger pointing out mean three are pointing back at me.  So it seems reasonable that any standard held for others must be one I uphold for myself.  Here is a chance to consider some of the traits you may seek in friends…

 

A Genuine Listener

listen dogTo be honest, this was the first trait that struck me as vital to being a true friend in my book.  Someone who listens without an agenda to teach me something or prove a point.  A listener who is open enough to consider where I’m coming from out of genuine care.  Thank you Kritika for showing me this.

 

Humor

Not everyone is blessed with the gift of being funny, and some may struggle to even mildly learn the skill.  I know I’ve always wanted to be funny, but let’s face it, we can’t all be great comedians.  At our wedding, my vows brought mostly a few sentimental tears while my husband had our guests rolling with laughter.  I get to appreciate that he brings something to the table with far greater potency than his counterpart.  

Another consideration is that some of us live more serious existences than others.  Do you tend to prefer conversations with complete sobriety, a sprinkling, splash or ongoing waves of humor?  Do you have friends who bring what you’re looking for?  And even if you aren’t that funny, do you show your appreciation of those who are?

 

Motivator or Empathizer

I have found that there tend to be very different types of listeners.  Commiserators and motivators at times are found in the same person, but more I often I think they are separate individuals.  Do you know who to call when you just want someone to hear you and say: “Wow, sorry, that sounds rough!” and someone else when you know you could use a little: “Dust yourself off and I’ll help you back up on the saddle.”?  

 

Honesty, Tact, and… What You Think Someone Wants to Hear

avocado-fat-jokeDo you prefer the friend who tells you there is something in your teeth at a dinner party or the comrade who tells you look exquisite no matter what?  In the honest framework, there is also tactful and then there is knit-picky or unable to let things go.  Some of us are gifted with more gentle ways of giving feedback than others.  Like humor, this can be a skill to learn, while for others it may come more naturally.

 

Acceptance

Do you know anyone who absolutely loves you -just the way you are?  Isn’t this why we love having dogs for pets? A dog will faithfully comfort, accompany and adore you no matter how your hair looks, what right or wrong thing you say, and will endlessly forgive you for showing up later than you planned.  While I’m all for healthy personal boundaries, there are people who for one reason or another put you on edge and then there are those who put you at ease because it feels like they truly accept you as the person you are.

Kindness

Is it just me, or is this the factor we (at least under stress) tend to struggle with the most around those for whom we have the deepest regard and the closest relationships- including ourselves?  When I started at one of my previous jobs, I walked into my office the first day to find a pearl of wisdom left on the whiteboard: 

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The Dalai Lama’s simple, poignant statement remained as a wonderful reminder all three years I taught at that school.

There are countless other points you can consider, from respect, to shared interests, to people you like learning with and from.  The bottom line: friendship is a choice.  You get to decide with whom you associate in your free time (even on social media), how you treat others and how you treat yourself.  So I hope you invest your precious time with the kinds of people you truly value and who value you.

 

Breaking  Cycles

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Do you ever feel like you are walking in circles: coming back to the same scenarios, same challenges, over and over again?  I spent so many years really struggling with this.  I found myself frequently wondering why I continued to battle with self-acceptance, my weight, binge eating, and not pursuing much of what I really wanted to do with my life.

Is there something you want to change in your life and it feels like time?

I cycled for years, wondering what lessons were to be gained and why I couldn’t figure out what seemed to have such a simple solution.  Slowly, I began to build new pathways, take little steps to gradually change -one thing at a time.  I stopped losing my temper on people and started breathing slowly and holding my tongue, allowing my thoughts of frustration to come out from time to time in more tactful and calm/productive ways.  After being called out about how defensive I am (that was a painful, and important pill to swallow from one boss), I started to reflect in the moments when I wanted to jump up defensively, and began to notice how and when my ego threatened to prevent a learning opportunity.  I started to prepare healthy and small snacks when I knew I was coming up on a stressful season in which I knew I was prone to binge on unhealthy foods.  And when the moments arose that I felt the anxiety bringing on urges to return to old habits I wanted to break, I literally just sat for a minute or a few, took slow, deep breaths, at times closed my eyes, and refused to let myself run away- I told myself: “You can do this, keep going.”  

running away is in your head

What makes you want to run away?

I took more and smaller steps to accomplish daunting tasks.  I focused on congratulating myself A LOT for working through those hard moments.  I still do at times.  I found new rewards to feed my brain, my soul, and I focused on the joy of learning a new coping mechanism, becoming ever more of the person I wanted to be.  My focus shifted more from the momentary cravings to who and what I want to be is.

What is the life you WANT to live?  How does it look, feel, handle real challenges?

I recently spent time with a friend going through a hard time.  We talked about how we handle pain, family cycles or patterns and her worry about the long term effects of turning to what I would describe as escapism.  Today I was reminded of our conversation as I listened to Rachel Brathen, a.k.a. Yoga Girl’s latest podcast The Guilt of a New Mom  in which she opened up about a struggle and experiences of turning to escapism (food, shopping, alcohol, even yoga) in moments of extreme stress.  What made the podcast so valuable to me was her follow up realization that only when we allow ourselves to actually experience rather than run from our pain can we heal (it’s a beautiful confession and lesson I recommend listening to if you are a parent or have a tendency toward escapism).  

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What can your cycles teach you?

As one who tends to embrace each moment, I often feel like life is so wonderful.  At moments of intense challenge, it can seem almost overwhelming and unending- no matter the length or brevity.    I don’t know that I will ever fully understand all the pain anyone suffers, but I feel the healing and comfort we gain through sharing what we survive, overcome, and our lessons along the way.  So I just want to add my voice to that of Rachel Brathen’s: when you are hurting, especially when you are really hurting, I hope you will allow the moment to pass without running from it.  You don’t need to push it aside or take it on with an agenda.  The pain may or may not ever fully go away, but those seemingly overwhelming moments shorten and their frequency decreases as you stop running and instead listen to the lessons in them.  You begin to free yourself from cycles of pain trying to teach you the same lesson over again.  

How can you  respond to discomfort a little differently today?

 

 

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.  

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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.

 

Dare to Dream

 This week my partner and I walked our dog down the dimly lit streets of our neighborhood, bantering about what we might do had we won this week’s Powerball.  He encouraged: “Everyone has to dream.”

Sometimes it takes an opportunity to utilize one’s imagination.  There are those dreams that we can and some of which we ought to fulfill, like building a dream career, falling in love with a wonderful person who treats you the way you deserve, or developing a hobby that interests you.  Then there are those dreams, like holding a family gathering without awkward drama, living in a nation free of political corruption, or raising your child in a world in which there are no longer religious wars.  These loftier dreams may not actualize in your lifetime, but how energizing to the human spirit is it to hope, imagine and ponder?

What do you believe is possible?  

This past week I read to my students Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by Doreen Rappaport and Bryan Collier.  The book was thought provoking even for a group of 3-5 year olds who are just starting to grasp the concept of inequality.  But even with such deep-rooted societal problems that racism causes, these young children grasped the heart of Dr. King’s dream.  As one of my students shared with her family over breakfast the next day: ”Love is the key and it doesn’t matter what your skin looks like.”

What do you value?

Imagine how Dr. King would feel hearing those words today from such a young child?  Our world still has a long way to go, no doubt, before racism is completely eradicated, recent Oscar nominations attest to that.  However, a world in which a mixed-race man can be elected president of the USA, or where people from any ethnic background can legally marry, when we see people of all colors in every stratum, it shows that some people’s dreams, through working together, can and do shape the world.

What changes do you see?

It is not always easy to go after our dreams.  We only reach them if we dare to stretch beyond our comfort zone.

So whether you want to become a writer or find a cure for AIDS, I hope you will ask yourself:

What do I dare to dream?