Thursday, July 30, 2015

Are you sure? 7 Steps to Removing Dysfunctional Filters From Your Lens.

I recently encountered a situation where someone I know believed something to be true due to information she'd been given from another person and based on a situation she had observed. However, I became privy to additional information on that same situation, about events that happened just prior to when this person came to observe. Most of us involved knew bits and pieces of the situation. We each had gained this information from different people and were not present for most of the situation or any of it. All of us had come to our own conclusions of what happened, who was at "fault," and what should be done to remedy the situation.  Needless to say, highly charged emotions ebbed and flowed. And I continue to wonder, who was actually "right" and who was at "fault?" And the truth is, unless we remove our own filters and try to see things through the filter of others, we'll always think we are "right," the others are at "fault" and we'll never see how we may have made mistakes too and how the lines are much blurrier than we originally thought.

In life, even when we are physically present and being as mindful as possible, we can and will perceive each experience and situation differently than the others present because we are viewing it through our own lens. Our lens is filtered with our life experiences, cultural background, gender, age, race, ethnicity, education, religion/spirituality, etc.  Our filters influence how and what we see and how we interpret the information we take in. And we are often not even aware of this filtering process, it becomes automatic.  In addition, we may avoid communication, won't attempt to engage in open, real communication, or we may blame all others involved. We can experience deep pain and discomfort based on how we interpret what we see and experience through our lens. We can also be treated harshly based on how others' lens' are filtered and what they see through their lens. Here are some steps to take to remove your filters and to gain deeper understanding.
  1. Ask yourself, "Are you sure?"
  2. If your answer is yes, then ask yourself again, "Are you sure?" Try to take a moment and allow yourself to be unsure, and wonder how it might look or be if you aren't sure.
  3. Ask yourself, "What might the other person think/feel/know/hear/experience?" Try to see if you can view the situation through the other's lens.
  4. Take time to speak with and ask the other person about their thoughts, feelings or understandings.
  5. Be sure to FULLY listen to them, even if you disagree or have a different perspective. Let them finish before you speak.
  6. Explain your perspective, thoughtfully, kindly and respectfully. This doesn't mean agree with everything. We can disagree respectfully. And you might find some ways you misunderstood the other person/situation.
  7. If no agreement can be made or mutual understanding, remember that everyone is on their own path and we cannot force anyone into an understanding or a change that they aren't ready for. You may have to make difficult decisions about what path to take for yourself, depending on the situation.
These steps give us mindfulness. Mindfulness gives us the ability to gently remove filters from our lens so that we can see clearly the experiences we personally encounter but it also gives us the ability to recognize when we do not have all the information so that we may take care and not paint a false picture of reality. Mindfulness can be the ability to stop and ask ourselves, "Am I sure?"  We may have developed an insecurity or a chip on our shoulder that makes us prone to certain assumptions or judgements or false realities. Our assumptions, judgements and false realities feel very real. And our feelings are important. And sometimes we are right. But sometimes we are not. If we are mindful, we have a better chance of being able to see when we are right and when we are wrong and perhaps we can even remove some of the filters from our lens and take positive action so that we can avoid being hurt while also minimizing any hurt towards the people in our lives.

Look closely. Look clearly. Look mindfully. Breathe. Smile.

The image for this post is from Black-HardArt Studio's profile on Free Digital Photos.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Letting Go, Beginning a New

With the passage of time throughout our life, we may hold on deeply to past events and memories, the good and the bad. We hold on to them because they are familiar and what we’ve always known.

There are many reasons that we hold on to our past. Perhaps we do it out of fear of what is happening in the present moment or it's because of our anxiety for what will come in the future. Maybe we are gripping on to the past because letting go of it might mean facing an old demon or facing something big, new and unknown.  Some of us hold on to the past because we believe it defines us. Letting go might open us to something new. That newness might include a change or an evolution of ourselves that we have somehow come to believe we cannot face, that we aren't worthy of or that we just can't handle. It feels safer and easier to hold on to the old. And when we hold on, we do so with a white knuckle grip, defending the past like a wolf guarding it's pack.

As we hold on to the old, we begin to clench mentally and physically. Our mind and thinking may become rigid and inflexible. Even how we hold and carry our body may tighten and we may even begin to have physical pain or reactions that come from our mental holdings.

Take a moment to consider how you may be holding onto a specific memory or event. See the memory clearly. Try to feel the grip you have on it in your mind, what are your thoughts about this memory. Notice if you feel yourself tightening anywhere physically as you think about this memory.  Breathe into the tightness and allow it to soften, exhale and envision yourself letting go. Inhale, soften. Exhale, release.

Now, think about how you might be different if you were to let go of this oldness. Allow yourself to say, "This memory happened to the 'me' of the past, it may have shaped some behaviors or thought patterns, but it is not the core of ME. It happened to me, but I am not this memory."  We can also do this with present feelings that come up. Any feeling we have is NOT us. We feel it, very strongly at times, but it passes. We are still us, with or without our feelings or attachments to past memories and events.

Letting go doesn't mean forgetting or ignoring. It means we look very deeply at the past, we acknowledge it but we don't allow the memories in our mind to dictate who we are and how we must be. We are capable of letting go while also honoring the past as one of our greatest teachers. A teacher who shows us what works and what doesn't.  When we let go, we make space. When we make space, we can begin a new. When we begin a new, we give ourselves permission to start again. With each sunrise, we can begin a new. With each moment, we can begin a new. With each breath, we can begin a new.

Breathe. Soften. Let Go. Begin a New.

The image in this post is from Evgeni Dinev's profile on Free Digital Photos.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Roots of Gratitude Part II

Having a personal practice of giving gratitude is immensely important and can benefit not only our outlook on life but can also have physical and emotional benefits that in turn improve our relationships with people and things.  Being grateful as a family can also uplift each member and bring our relationships closer together.  There is no doubt that this practice is magical and beautiful.

Today, the day in which we celebrate the American Thanksgiving Holiday, I am conflicted with deep and intense emotions.  Many of us are given time off of work and school to spend with our loved ones. I have spent most Thanksgivings with my family, laughing, playing, eating and enjoying each other's presence. Yet, as I've learned through my formal and informal education the truth behind the sugar coated Pilgrims and Indians story that was spoon fed to me as a child, I find it harder and harder to just smile and wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving. 

I believe that we must look deeply at our own personal pain and suffering so that we may release and heal in our own lives.  I also believe the same is needed for looking deeply at the pain and suffering that exists in the history of this holiday. We must acknowledge that this day, even though for many of us, in this day and age it embodies family togetherness, deep gratitude, warm connections, sharing, love and wonderful food, it is based on a dark, greed filled tragedy and massacre of the native people who were living here when the colonizers arrived.  If we do not embrace the true nature of this holiday, we cannot embrace ourselves wholly.  It is painful to admit that some of our own ancestors participated in the atrocities that history books wish to erase from our memories. It is difficult work to acknowledge that entire cultures and people were destroyed for the benefit of our own ancestors. Yet through bringing this truth to light and embracing it, we can take responsibility and there can be forgiveness, healing and peace for all.  Of course there exist current systems and social practices that perpetuate the energy embodied by the colonizers and that also must be acknowledged and addressed, but on an energetic level for the healing of those murdered and displaced, we can offer the unadulterated truth.

Related articles:

Be Thankful. Be Truthful. Be Open. Be Humble.

The photo for this post is from Free Digital Photos by Photokanok.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Roots of Gratitude Part I

The ability to draw our attention to that in our lives for which we are grateful is a skill that truly must be sharpened through practice. We must take the time to reflect and bring the energy of gratitude towards the people, places, things, events and achievements in our lives that we appreciate most dearly.  It is possible, with the myriad of daily stresses, logistics, emotions and anxieties in our lives, that we can begin to focus on the negative or feel that we are lacking. But with practice and reminders, our focus on gratitude for what we do have can bring a sense of joy and lightness into our lives. With a heart filled with gratitude, coming face to face with all of life's difficulties can become that much easier.

Often with a Gratitude Practice, we focus outside of ourselves. We may practice being grateful for family, friends, pets, material objects, etc. Or we may be grateful for experiences or major life events. This is a fundamental part of practicing gratitude and an important place to begin. Today, through a simple guided meditation, I challenged my students in yoga class to bring their practice of gratitude towards their own bodies, minds and souls. It can be very easy to neglect ourselves when offering energy of deep appreciation. We must begin to be gentler with, kinder to and more grateful for ourselves so that that way of being can extend out towards those around us.  With practice, being grateful can become our instinct and the foundation from where we function. When I find myself being critical towards my loved ones, it is precisely the same critical voice that plays ten times louder and a hundred times more frequently in my own mind towards my own self.

I offer to you a gentle practice for deepening the energy of gratitude within your own heart.  This was inspired by other sources and teachers that have guided me.

Begin either lying or sitting comfortably in a quiet space. As you breathe in and out, become aware of the breath entering and leaving your nose. Now bring your attention to your heart and imagine that your breath is now entering and leaving through your heart, energizing and opening your heart center.

With each in-breath, first think of one person, then one place, one thing and then one event for which you are grateful.  With each exhalation, say thank you.  Now, with each inhalation, think of one part of your body that you appreciate. On the exhale, say thank you. Repeat 5-10 times with different parts of your body. When you complete your body gratitude, repeat with thinking of aspects of your mind and then your spirit that you appreciate most.

We are perfect as we are and we have the source of greatness within us. Our potential is infinite.

Be Kind. Be Grateful. Be Great. In Gratitude.

The photo in this post is from Free Digital Photos by James Barker.
The meditation in this post was inspired by Amy Ippoliti's video on YogaGlo (you must be a subscriber of this site to see the actual video and it is linked here primarily for credit)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Coming Home

Where is home? What is home? How does it feel? Is there a scent connected with it? What does coming home mean? So much of our time and energy is focused outward on other people, what we "must" do, where we must go. Even if we are sitting in one place, our thoughts are focused out into the future or they can be stuck, dwelling in the past.  We may feel like we don't belong or perhaps we feel lost.

Coming home is a way to ground ourselves and become centered on our bodies, our thought patterns and our processes of life. We can come home by reconnecting to our bodies through our breath, through our mindfulness of movement, through mindful walking, dance, yoga or meditation. Our bodies are our temples, our first physical home for our spirit, the one we chose when we came in to this Earth. 

Our breath is the life force for our bodies, for our energy, for our mind and for our spirit. Our breath can bring us home whenever we feel shaken, pulled or stressed.  Focusing on our breath, we can can feel more connected and grounded.  When our home and foundation is solid and secure, we are rooted deeply within ourselves. When we accept exactly where we are in the here and the now, we relieve ourselves of so much pressure to be or do something different.  We can see clearly when we look deeply at this home. And then, when our roots deepen we are able to grow up and branch out into newness and out of our comfort. We are perfect just as we are now, yet we are also ever changing and growing as part of the movement of energy and life.  We must embrace ourselves and the path we are walking.

Coming home. This time of year, when the holidays near, we may begin to think of coming home. We may actually go to our childhood homes or travel with or go to visit our original nuclear family. Thinking of our childhood and original family can be comforting for some of us but for others, it can create stress and throw us off balance. The dynamics of our relationships can be multifaceted and complex.  We may start to feel out of balance or there may be a strong sense of anxiety or mixed feelings.  This is when we can practice coming home to ourselves as a source of strength and support. By doing so, we can then be present with the people in our lives.  

Be clear. Be gentle. Be calm. Be home.

The image for this post is from Dominic Harness's profile on Free Digital Photos

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


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!