Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Transitions

Transitions for some are scary, overwhelming and hard work. Others seem to float effortlessly from one transition to another, like a crimson leaf floating from its branch.  And then there are those that fall somewhere in between - some transitions are easy, others take a bit more effort.

Regardless of how we handle them, transitions - or change - are inevitable! This time of year, autumn, is perfect for looking within to study our inner workings, the "how" of who we are.  Everything around us is changing.  The glorious colors of the leaves, the animals scurrying around for acorns, kids back in school, holidays of all faiths and temperatures cooling off.  We can look within at our own inner workings not for judgement or making ourselves feel the need to be different, but for understanding. With this kind of deep looking we can gain an insight into how we work, our own process so that when we are confronted with a transition, big or small, we can be prepared for how we might handle it.  And often times, when we look deeply like this, changes within naturally occur. 

When looking inward, we can take note of the following:
  1. Thoughts - what thoughts are present 
  2. Feelings - what are the emotions present
  3. Body sensations - what kind of physical reaction do I get and where in the body
  4. Logic - what does the pragmatic side say
  5. Gut instinct - what is intuition saying
These five aspects are perfect for making decisions but also work wonders just as an exercise in getting to know ourselves, who we are and how we function in the day to day.

As the windy, cool weather comes we may feel pushed to move forward fast and furious with events, kids, friends, family while we may also notice a heavier, slower, snuggle-on-the-couch energy creeping in.  I've written this post about how to keep yourself balanced as this season progresses and now we can take stock of how we are transitioning by looking within. 

Breathe. Smile. Look. Transition.

The photo for this post is from James Barker on Free Digital Photos.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Restore, Renew, Repair and Try again

Ok, y'all know how I am. I disappear for a while and then boom, here I am again!  Looking back, last I wrote I still had babe number 2 on the inside.  My oh my, having two really changes things and puts a completely new meaning to "slowing down" and being "mindful."  I'm still trying to figure out how with these two munchkins who offer me multiple opportunities a day to learn.  I don't think physically slowing down is always an option with little ones running around but  mentally slowing down, being mindful, looking deeply and speaking lovingly are possible. Possible but very challenging to actually do when triggered. And small children sure know how to trigger.

Since little Miss N was born last September, I have made numerous mistakes in my interactions with Miss A, who's now almost 4.  Mistakes that leave me wondering, "Who am I?" "What is going on in me to cause this type of reaction? "How can I repair what I've said/done?"  "What do I need in order to feel taken care of?"

I try to remember how Thich Nhat Hanh puts it, every morning we have twenty-four brand new hours before us.


“Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.”

I can start over again and try to do it differently tomorrow.

Usually when Miss A is acting out, she's either hungry or tired.  Two things that have simple solutions but solutions that are impossible to force on children.  And believe me, the controlling side of me has tried to force, with very little success.   When I have succeeded in forcing her to eat or sleep, I believe that in that moment, I've sent her the wrong message about how to achieve what I want.

In the moments that I find myself feeling intolerant of her normal 3 year old behavior and behave poorly myself, I know that it's time for me to restore and renew.  In doing so, I repair my own suffering/pain and I pick myself up by the boot straps and I just try again.  Sometimes I am met with an angry little girl who wants to give me a taste of my own medicine and other times she so tenderly tells me how she felt in the situation and we hug and kiss.  What an amazing teacher she is and I'm pretty certain her ever smiling little sister has a full lesson plan for me too!

Breathe. Restore. Smile. Renew. Be Kind!


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Slowing Down

Oh Boy! 8 months down and 4 weeks to go, the countdown is ON! And it seems as if time is speeding up, but I am slowing down. Really slowing down. It's hard not to with this big ole belly of mine.  I write a lot about slowing down because it is one of the hardest things for me to do - even though I know how great I feel after I actually do the slowing down.  I just find it very difficult to actually slow and even harder to stop.

Having a now 3 year old and her wonderful high energy all around also makes slowing down a challenge, but even when she's at preschool or with her sitter, I'm still running around, checking off my ever growing to do list when I could be using that time to sit and meditate, write in my journal, read etc.

Being so pregnant has made me physically slow down as I hobble around the house, to the car, out on errands.  I've definitely got the penguin walk going on and all this extra weight is brutal to carry around on these hot summer days; and I've been lucky it hasn't been nearly as hot as last summer!  But even as I am physically forced to slow down, my mind seems to have taken things up a notch or two.  My thoughts are a blur of things to do, food to cook, places to go and people to see all before this baby comes.  Yet I know deep down the best preparation for when this newborn comes is getting more comfortable with stopping everything because that's what I'm going to have to do.

Stephen Levine is the author of the book, "Who Dies: An Investigation of Conscious Living and Conscious Dying" where he talks about his work with athletes who are injured to the point of not walking or who are debilitated because of an accident or illness and cannot perform as they once did.  He worked with them on accepting where they were and slowing their mind and meditating.  This always comes to my mind when I think about how fast and uncontrollable my mind gets, regardless of my physical state.  It is especially salient right now because I will be in a state of complete slowness postpartum and will have some very intimate time with my mind.  We can all use some mind slowing, the trick is doing it so that when we aren't able to be distracted by our physical running around and "doing" we can touch peace within.

Slow down! Appreciate. Love. Breathe.

The photo for this post is from Free Digital Photos - http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

Thursday, May 17, 2012

When The Clouds Clear

It's been a while... Most of you know that I'm almost 6 months pregnant which initially halted my writing because we weren't telling anyone during the first 12 weeks and that's all I wanted to write about.  So, I silenced myself and then just got plain ole lazy!  It happens and I try not to pressure myself to write or then I make writing a post bigger than it really is.

Well, Anjali was sick all last week and I am just now starting to feel better after catching the nasty little virus she gifted our home with!  And boy did I feel like there were endless clouds hanging over me, the house, my energy and my mood!  And I think what was just as hard as being sick was all the time spent just sitting with myself doing nothing.  Though it was less time than before I had Anjali, because she still need to be fed and watched after, I still had a lot more down time than I normally allow for myself when well.

I was ever so aggravated with the negative thoughts that I became aware of floating in my mind.  Though, in between the aggravated moments, there were a few moments where having the clouds hanging over provided much needed introspection that I otherwise probably wouldn't have had.  I often think that getting sick is more our body telling us to slow down and stop because there is something within us that needs our attention than it is about an actual virus or bacteria (though those are very real too!)

And when the clouds finally start to clear, there is such a deep sense of appreciation for being well.  Thich Nhat Hanh has a great story about how we should appreciate our "non-toothache" when our teeth feel great because once we have a terrible one, we realize how little we appreciated being pain free!

Be Well. Live. Appreciate Wellness. Look Within. Breathe!

The image for this post is from Sura Nualpradid's profile in Free Digital Photos.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Yoga Ni-Yamas: Santosa and Svadhyaya

This week for my yoga training we have been assigned to choose one of the five niyamas in yoga, or internal practices of observation/ethical practices of guidance.

I had a hard time choosing just one, so I've chosen two.  The first is Santosa, contentment.  I think it is often difficult to feel true contentment.  We are often inundated with distractions, pressures, desires, etc that push us to want more things, keep our calendars packed with activities and succumb to instant gratification.  I am definitely guilty!  Santosa reminds us that not only should we be content with the joyous and beautiful parts of our lives but also with the difficulties we face as they are an integral part.  There is constant change in our lives, even if we somehow maintain a facade of keeping everything the same, it's really constantly changing!  And often times these changes can be challenging.  These difficult things that come into our lives are lessons of some sort.  Something that we need to look at and ask, what do I need to learn from this?  It could be a lesson about ourselves, about our relationship, about our job, about our home or any number of things.  In the end, if we are clear of mind we can see from more than one perspective and can learn and evolve from our life events, remaining content. Then we are practicing Santosa.

The second one that I have chosen is Svadhyaya, study of one's self.  I saw this interpreted on a couple of sites as not only study of one's self but study of spiritual texts.  I'd like to focus on the study of one's self.  I think this goes in line with the yama I discussed last time on truth, Satya.  I think in order to be truthful, we must study ourselves or look deeply at ourselves, our thoughts, words, actions and behaviors.  If we can understand ourselves, then we can begin to see the world and reality around us clearly.  I have recently had a difficult time looking at the core of my feelings and understanding where they're coming and why.  Of course, as I have shared before, I feel meditation is as a method for looking at ourselves deeply but I think that we can also do this all day long as we apply mindfulness to our daily lives.  Taking a few seconds to check in with ourselves throughout the day or when eventful things happen and then setting aside a longer time to reflect on things we've thought, felt, done or seen.  And the key when we reflect is to set aside all judgement, it is pure observation.  We can decide that there are some things we'd like to try to understand more deeply that perhaps we would like to change, but the goal isn't change so much as it is understanding ourselves.  I think that if we can see what's going on inside, then we can understand it and through understanding, any change needed should happen freely and easily...

Be content. Be Inquisitive. See Deeply. Love. Breathe!

The photo for this post is from Michelle Meiklejohn's portfolio on Free Digital Photo's.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Universal Principles of Yoga: The Yama Satya

I recently started a yoga teacher training and we had an assignment to choose one of the Five Universal Principles of Yoga, the Yamas, to research and talk about at our next training weekend.  You can find a link to all five of them here, but I chose the second Yoga Yama, Satya - which many of you may know is also my father's first name!

I chose the Yoga Yama Satya because for many of the early years of my life I struggled with being truthful to myself and to others.  As a young child and adolescent, I found myself lying in order to avoid conflict or admitting mistakes (something I saw modeled in my early life).  I also just didn’t have any healthy tools for expressing negative emotions and thoughts or when I was angered by a friend.  My technique was to stuff it all in until I either exploded at someone or literally walked away from the friendship. This happened far more often than I would like to admit.  I was extremely unskillful in the Yama Satya, truthfulness also referred to as Loving Speech.  I saw a video on another blog that said that The Yama Satya must be paired with the first Yoga Yama, Ahimsa - Non-violence/compassion - so that our truthfulness (Satya) embodies compassion (Ahimsa) and therefore does not cause and pain or hurt in those receiving it.

I can remember friends asking me if something was the matter, if I was upset and the truthful answer was “Yes, my feeling are hurt!” But I always answered, “No, I’m fine.” To this day, my instinct is to answer with the same denial, but the strength of the Yama Satya is so much stronger in me now and I know it is my duty to be truthful to prevent future explosions of anger.

It wasn’t until my twenties that I started peeling away my lack of the Yama Satya and started to attempt to live by it.  Of course at the time I didn’t know that the truthfulness I was trying to live by was part of the Yoga Universal Principles, I just wanted to live with integrity and take responsibility for my thoughts, words and actions.  I had become aware of how I’d hurt people in the past and how I’d been hurt by non-truthfulness so I vowed to do my absolute best to be honest with myself and share my truth with those around me in the most mindful, loving, ahimsa way possible.

Below is a not-all-inclusive list/outline of the different aspect of how I see the Yama Satya being embodied and engaged by each of us. You may see future posts going into more detail of these, but here is my outline sketched for my assignment!

  • Personal Internal truth
    • Being honest with ourself in terms of boundaries, limitations, life path, life goals, energy, ability, skill, etc...
    • Acknowledge our thoughts and see where there is truth and where there isn’t and do our best to change our habitual non-truthful thoughts
  • Truth in Observation
    • Being mindful and truly present in each moment to sharpen our sense of observation so that we may see the truth of our own reality and that of those around us
    • Engaging in Mindful Interactive Truth (see below) with others when we observe a truth that may not be apparent to the other.  This involves the first Yoga Yama, ahimsa (non-violence/compassion) so that we can communicate any negative information or observation as truthfully and compassionately as possible.
  • Interactive Truth
    • Being mindful of the words we choose when speaking with others.
      • Before you speak, ask yourself these 3 questions:
        • Is what I am about to say the truth?
        • Is it necessary?
        • Will it cause harm?
    • Allowing the others involved in our Interactive Truth time to hear, process and respond to our Interactive Truth.
    • Respecting when others do not like the truth we have shared with them and honoring their feelings.
  • Multiple Truths/Accepting Other’s Truths
    • There are an infinite number of paths for each of us to follow, we each have our own karmic lessons we must learn so that we may deepen our personal truths and transform ourselves in the perfect way we are supposed to in this life.  So long as our truth/path is not hurting another person or group of people and we are aware of how we affect each other and the world and that our truth is for the ultimate highest good, then we should allow ourselves and others to follow our own truth, even if we don’t like some of them.
  • Higher Power Truth
    • This follows up with the Multiple Truths idea as it relates to God, The Divine, The Creator, The Universe, Religion, Spirituality, etc.  Everyone has a choice for which, if any, path they choose to follow!

Breathe. Smile. Be Truthful. Be Mindful. Love!


The picture for this post is from Simon Howden's portfolio on Free Digital Photos.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Unsticking When We Get Stuck

Feeling stuck can be due to stretching ourselves too thin, poor diet, lack of sleep, fear of change, difficulty transitioning from one season to another or difficulty transitioning from one life "season" to another... the list goes on and on and on.

I feel defeated when I find myself feeling stuck.  I often have this feeling when I'm craving making a big change or doing something new or different and I feel a little intimidated or unsure of which way I want to go.  At the core, my stuck feeling is created from an over attachment to a desired outcome combined with a lack of trust in the universe and my path.

I find I can often unstick myself if I just let go a little and remember to connect back to the trust I have in myself and the universe.  Letting go doesn't mean I don't move forward or make that tricky decision, it just means that I try not to have a specific, detailed expectation for how things should go every little step of the way.  When I let go of the tiny details, I unstick a little.  That heavy weight of fear or indecision lightens and I can wiggle out and see more clearly what is in front of me.  I will make the necessary plans and decisions, but perhaps they don't happen this week, but next.  Or it manifests through someone I will meet at a future event.  

Trusting the universe is a big one.  For some people this is like the faith they have in their religion and God but for me it's about energy.  I believe very deeply that our intentions, the energy we pour into our dreams, needs and pure wants, is very powerful.  I have taken the time to either write or create a vision board, putting the energy towards a certain goal and then releasing my attachment to it and letting it go to the universe.  This doesn't mean that we just sit on the couch and wait for it to happen.  Our energy must be transformed into the actions that will bring us to our dreams.  And then the magic can happen.  You might meet someone when you go to a workshop that will lead to another opportunity and then ultimately to your vision... 

Years ago I wanted to have an opportunity to create and lead a Spanish language workshop.  I asked the universe and then let it go.  A few days later, my sister was visiting and an old family friend came over to see her.   I got to talking with this family friend and as it turned out she was looking for someone to create a Spanish language workshop for the employers in her company.  Coincidence? Some might say that's all it was.  I would say intention and the universe had something to do with it... 

I will do my best to unstick my mind and body when I find myself in the stuck zone!

Breathe. Smile. Unstick. Invision. Let Go!

The image for this post is from Dan's Profile on Free Digital Photos.