Pregnancy’s Butterfly Effect

butterfly_release

“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?  

colorful-salad

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breaking  Cycles

man-walking-circlesby-HikingArtist

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).  

break the cycle

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?

 

 

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.  

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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.  

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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

Manifesting Your Magnificence

Brightly shining rays  

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

What will you peel off?

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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?

Plethora of Perspectives

Do you ever find yourself analyzing a situation, resolving it in your mind, and growing emotional about how someone’s choice that impacts you in the situation is clearly “wrong”?  Whether it’s with politics, work, your friends or family, we all run into moments of disliking the choices another makes that impact us in some way.

Why are we so convinced that our own perspective is right?

I recently read an adaptation of Rumi’s poem “Elephant in the Dark” and found it eye opening on this matter.  A group of people, curious about what creature has be placed in a dark room, decide they cannot wait, but must reveal the room’s contents.  One by one they enter, each eager to uncover the mystery, each sure of what she has found.  One feels the ear- like a large fan.  Another feels its long, curving trunk-it must be like a snake.  Someone else encounters one of its thick, strong legs-it is solid and wide like a tree trunk.  Each person  is sure he leaves the darkness with a firm understanding of what the creature is.  Yet with their limited perspectives, none grasp the full measure of the elephant.

This past weekend, I found myself in several situations in which the involved parties grew emotionally charged and all had their own perspectives: with colleagues reflecting on a workshop, my partner as we discussed communication styles, even my dog as we walked. 

A small illustration: Last night, Naya, my dear canine companion, was absolutely convinced that she needed to lick whatever was stuck to the street.  I had no idea what the substance was, but a) I was sure I didn’t want her tongue running along the foreign substance and we had somewhere else to go –right then– as I saw it.  I called.  She tried to hold her stance.  I started to walk away, she continued anxiously licking.  What was more important in that moment: moving on or embracing what I perceived as appalling and perhaps sickness inducing, or what Naya thought was an absolutely delectable road treat?  She licked and scraped.  I walked forward.  Eventually she followed and fortunately no sign of sickness has appeared- at least yet.  We certainly saw things differently.

I often present my  challenges to one or two people to hear their opinions when I’m upset about something, just to get some alternate views.  Like looking through a fly’s eye.  Consider how many different angles and slightly different views a fly perceives when looking at a given image. If we’re being “open minded,” we may consider more than one side of any situation, but how many opinions and perspectives are we actually willing to consider?

How often do we remember to consider and look through others’ lenses?

While perusing some of photographer Jon Sanwell’s recent work from Myanmar, I encountered a series of photographs of betel leaves in baskets, including the one below.  Just from my own lens, I initially thought about the beautiful shades of jade green, the eye-catching angle of the shot, the juxtaposed glossy leaves and natural matte finish of the wicker baskets.  I wondered why someone would so carefully stack all the leaves in spirals around the containers.  But perhaps some people look at these leaves as the means to fitting in (chewing betel is a popular social practice in the region), the destroyer of their loved one’s health (betel is carcinogenic), or maybe just a really unique way to capture a part of Southeast Asia.  That’s just some of what I considered.  What are your thoughts looking at this photograph?

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So the next time you find yourself frustrated, hurt, confused, or even elated, consider how others are impacted by the situation and your actions.  Perhaps you will listen and learn a thing or two from someone with a different take.  Remember, everyone’s lens is unique.

 

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?