Category Archives: Meditation & Breathing

The Circus in my Head

A few years ago, I was asking each of my yoga students how they were feeling before I started class. Most people told me something about their body: “my neck is stiff”, “my hips are tight”, “I hurt my knee but I don’t know how (or I know exactly how)”!

This is quite useful, because as a teacher it helped me decide which movements or poses to incorporate, which modifications to offer and to whom, etc.

But I’ll never forget the first time a woman decked out in colorful yoga leggings answered the question in a different way: “I have a circus in my head,” she said in her fabulous Italian accent. So true, my friend, so true.

To me, the goal of yoga isn’t really standing on your head or achieving ultimate pretzel state. Although it’s nice, it’s not even getting stronger or increasing flexibility or balance. The ultimate goal of yoga is to take all the activities my mind is capable of: perceiving, imagining, remembering, etc., directing this mind to a place of my CHOOSING, and holding my attention there as long as I want.

The circus often has other ideas about where attention should be placed.

I recently relocated back to the Boston area from Austin. Talk about chaos, and the need to multi-task. Three days prior to this writing, I was playing “mover delivery bingo”, crossing 188 numbers (in random order) off a sheet while 3 different guys brought things into my apartment, calling out numbers. All while trying to instruct them on which room to put things in, and where. Needless to say, this was all my mind was being instructed to do.

I’ve only been gone 3 years, and some things have changed. I can *sort of* drive on autopilot, but when I do, I often realize that no, this wasn’t the best way to go. I have to be a little more active in my attention when I want to get from point A to point B.

In the new Market Basket the other day, I had a pretty surreal experience. I was unfamiliar with the store — and quite frankly the layout is pretty hokey — but as I was walking through I would “tune in” to a single thing. For example, I was first captured by the woman hollering into her cell phone: “I don’t understand how they found out! They must have overheard me talking or something!!” The irony of that made me smile. An aisle later: listening to the cadence of some produce workers speaking Spanish.

It was as if I had a laser beam of attention that I focused on one particular situation, and everything else got a little hazy. I was feeling a little weird about it until a friend reminded me of what it really was: mindful attention. We’re so not used to it!

Even though I’m no longer in the corporate world, I consider myself a go-go-go kind of person. I’ll always be busy. So I know that sometimes health recommendations are just too.freaking.hard. I don’t sit in meditation — in fact health issues prevent me from being physically able to. My mindfulness, my meditation, my practices have had to be more IN the world than removed from it. And that’s taught me a lot.

In fact, all these upheavals in my life helped me rediscover a practical, easy-to-remember technique I learned years ago in a different context. When practicing it, I’ve greatly increased my ability to be present, especially when the circus wants to play. What’s even better is that each step in the 5-step technique is also independently do-able and useful in and of itself.

I want to share this with more people; while it’s not new, it’s likely a different combination and a new “take” on something that may just change your life.

So my hope is that, regardless of where you are located (and where your mind is) right now, I hope you’ll join me Wednesday evenings starting June 14. Learn more here.


Respecting Our Awesome Uniqueness

There have been several moments in my life (mostly in the past few years) where I had to ask myself, “why am I here?” The “life purpose” question is a challenging one, and for many many years I felt like I didn’t have a good answer. It seemed to me that everyone ELSE knew exactly what they should be doing and were happy doing it!

What I have discovered by turning my life upside down a few times is that what I’m really called to do is teach. Although health and wellness is my passion, I have also taught things like user experience (software) design. By the end of this year, I hope to have my TOEFL certification to teach English as a Second Language (ESL). Whether it’s one-on-one in a coaching session or a workshop, I love sharing what I know. I pride myself on explaining to people the why behind what I’m teaching, sharing my personal experience to make it more relevant to their lives, and making learning interactive, memorable and fun.

diverse_groupOne of the fabulous things about teaching health and wellness-type workshops is that I get to see how WIDELY useful and applicable the (especially) yoga-based techniques can be. But wait, isn’t this post talking about our individuality and uniqueness?

Exactly! Here’s what I mean: I recently taught the Meditation Sampler workshop (stay tuned for another offering). In this workshop we talk about what meditation is (like yoga, it can be a pretty confusing term these days), why we do it, and openly address the challenges we might face when starting or maintaining a meditation practice. And THEN…we talk about (and sample) different methods of meditating.

Here’s what typically happens that’s so awesome to witness: I lead one style of meditation for a couple minutes. When I’m finished and I ask the group how it went, Person A absolutely loved it; he sunk right into a peaceful experience and found it easy. Person B, sitting next to person A, absolutely hated it. She couldn’t sit still, she couldn’t keep her focus, etc. etc. Person C might think it was so-so. But by the time the participants have left the room, everyone has at least one style of meditation they feel is do-able, and which suits them!

34664951_sSadly this happens with yoga (asana) classes in the other direction: often I’ll hear about someone who “can’t do yoga” because they tried a hot power Vinyasa flow class their first time out, and hated it, so they never went back. That just makes me sad! But I get it: we feel like we tried and it didn’t take, and sometimes we don’t even know there are alternatives (such as Hatha, Restorative, Gentle, Yin, etc. for yoga).

What this teaches me–as a teacher–over and over again is that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to health and wellness. At the very start, we are all uniquely awesome! And even though our needs change as we change (i.e. grow older, have different physical / mental / emotional capabilities and limitations, etc.), we are still uniquely awesome. We just require something different, and we have to be willing and open to exploring that. (It can even be fun if we let it!)

I think one of the things I love so much about teaching and coaching is helping people discover what they need at any given point in time. Of course seeing them grow and change in the direction they want to go is rewarding, but it’s those moments of insight and “oh, I can do this!” that are just plain gold.

Is there something health-related (or anything really!) that you gave up on because it didn’t feel right the first time? Did you look into any alternatives? Were you open to exploring variations? Or did the baby go out with the bath water? Is there an activity or practice worth giving another look?


Outsiders & hidden connections

I’ve had a few discussions with friends recently about feeling alone, or out of place.  It seems to me this loneliness has a few different manifestations:

  • feeling outside the outgoing, materialistic, ego-driven, cultural norms of our society
  • anxiety or low self-esteem that presents itself most strongly in social situations
  • a sense that one’s geographical location doesn’t really “fit” their core personality or energy

For the record, I have experienced all these forms of isolation, and they are difficult. What seems to happen is that we end up with two choices:

  1. assimilate to the culture we’re in and “lose ourselves”. Examples might be that we consciously and carefully rephrase something we would have said openly among like-minded people, engaging in activities to be part of a group when we know it’s “not our thing”, etc., OR,
  2. stand out like a sore thumb by being distinctly ourselves, thus experiencing feelings of shame that may come with odd looks or unexpected comments from others who perceive our attitudes or behaviors as “wrong”.

Option 1 doesn’t feel very good, especially for long periods of time because while we can fake it, we also know deep down when we’re not being true to ourselves. Lack of authenticity has a way of sneaking up on us, and while it may be possible for a time to stifle who we are, in the long term it’s very difficult to maintain. Living this way can really drain us of physical, mental, and emotional energy. Option 2 has the potential to feel OK, if we can get past the wanting to please others, and wanting to feel like we belong. Maybe we can even get to a place where we feel perfectly content being different, and thus sometimes alone. But connection is important too, right?

In theory, I believe the ideal situation is authenticity, but with no attachment to how others perceive us, and therefore no attachment to outward connection. Partners and children can be great examples of the first bit, especially when they leave the house wearing something you’d prefer they not display while in public! If we aren’t attached to how others perceive us, if we don’t live to seek others’ approval, we are free to be our authentic selves. OK, but then we’re back to being alone a good portion of the time. Can that be OK too? Can we let go of the idea that everyone we encounter has to like us? That’s probably possible with some work. But what if you’re in a situation or place where you feel like NO ONE likes you or gets you. (High school anyone??)

happyworkshopgroupWhat I’ve discovered is that this sense of being a “loner” can be the impetus to reach out to people outside an immediate geographical area–e.g. to reconnect with a distant friend that would understand. Or maybe it motivates some internal exploration: an examination of the way one perceives, thinks, believes, or behaves, to see if there is any room for modification. Maybe without knowing it, us loners are causing those around us who “don’t approve” to question their own assumptions, which they may or may not be able to recognize or articulate at the time. Maybe we explore and learn which parts of ourselves are core and non-negotiable, and which others are malleable.  Maybe we find just one person in this chaos that does seem to get us, so we appreciate them like mad instead of taking them for granted. Maybe by opening up, we discover that someone we hadn’t originally thought was like us is, and we gain a new friend. Maybe we discover that connection is there, but happens behind-the-scenes in a way we don’t fully acknowledge.

But let’s get back to letting go of the desire to connect. This is what inspired this post for me. Some time ago I was meditating on the light of the moon. What came out of this was always different, depending on what was happening in my life. One morning what came to me was this:

  • The moon is alone, but it doesn’t mind.
  • The moon is different and imperfect, and we love it anyway.
  • In fact, because the moon is one-of-a-kind, we love it more. Many are inspired and encouraged by the moon’s light and energy. In all it’s phases, it watches over us, even when it’s not visible.

chauncey_moon“Shining their light” is often something I encourage my clients to do. And they have this amazing light solely because they are different and unique. If we hide because we’re different, if we don’t embrace our personalities wherever and whenever we are (and despite who approves or does not), we lose our ability and our POWER to do what we are here to do. There have been so many people throughout history who have left indelible impressions on the world, who no 9910505_sdoubt felt alone in their immediate circles–but they did their thing anyway. And we are all still connected to them because of what they’ve left to inspire us.

You never know who you or what will inspire just by BEING yourself, out there in the world, wherever in the world you happen to be. So get out there, and don’t be afraid to rub people the wrong way some of the time!


What a yoga (therapy) practice looks like

In an effort to share more of what I do with people who need it, I went to another networking meeting this afternoon. One of the things I struggle with in these situations is describing what I do, because the word “yoga” has become synonymous with chicks in colorful pants and men with rock hard abs doing handstands and all manner of gymnastics. So partially as a response to that, I recorded what MY yoga (therapy) practice currently looks like.

First, know that I’d been pretty much running around non-stop from 6 am, because I had to leave for a doctor’s appointment at 7 am. Usually I’d prefer to practice in the morning, but obviously that didn’t happen. It was about 3:45 pm before I finally got to it, and at that point my back was screaming and I realized I had hardly any water all day.

It’s sped up, but you’ll see that my practice is only 4 “poses” or movements. These are coordinated with long deep breathing and are designed to help relieve my pelvic / hip / sacral pain and to keep some external rotation in my upper back and shoulders (to prevent pain from working at the computer and driving–common “hunching” activities).

Next I do a  breathing practice with a specific ratio (a specific number of seconds for the inhale and exhale), breathing in through a curled tongue and out through my nose while moving my head up and down. We call this Sitali. It’s useful for cooling the mind-body system down (e.g. everything from anger to hot flashes).

Then I do a short meditation in which I link my mind to a large, vibrant tree, using my hands and my inhale to connect with its roots, trunk, and branches / leaves, and my exhale to bring the qualities of the tree into my system, in turn. When I feel connected to the tree, I stop the movement and stay with that feeling of being the tree.

When I feel ready, I close my practice with a few rounds of Chakravakrasana.

This is my “homework” from working with my Yoga Therapist, and my clients get similar homework when working with me. When practicing consistently (often in just 20-30 minutes a day), I notice a big difference in my pain, and/or how I handle having it, and my clients who do the work report the same. The effects are cumulative, meaning that the longer one practices, the more prominent the effects.


Is Your Attention Focused in the Right Place?

Some of you know that there was a Sunday not too long ago that I was suddenly in so much pain I couldn’t walk or move much. By Thursday things were a bit better but still frustrating. In the evening, weary physically, emotionally, and mentally from not having moved much all day, I forced myself to log into Skype for my Yoga Sutras class. We started talking about one of the definitions of yoga, which is “sustained attention in a chosen direction”. In other words, one of the definitions of yoga is the same as a definition of meditation.

As my attention focused on the class, I started to notice that the pain subsided. I have long studied (the physical practice of) yoga as “embodiment”, given that I (and so many of us) live constantly in the mind. I always thought that tuning into the body was a good thing, but as the class progressed, I started to question that. If I put my attention on my pain, sure I was feeling the pain in my body (embodiment), but was that helping to alleviate it or exacerbate it? And if the focus of my attention–in this case the pain in my body–wasn’t something I consciously chose to focus on, was I really doing yoga (or meditating)? I soon realized that my body was like any other sense (hearing, seeing, etc.) that was demanding my attention, and that I wasn’t actively choosing to put my attention there; it was being directed there almost against my will. When I put my attention elsewhere–i.e. on the class–the pain began to dissolve.

I encountered this quite a bit when I was giving my workshop on sleep and insomnia, most recently when I spoke to the North Austin Chapter 2700 AARP group on April 21 about “natural tips for refreshing sleep”. It is very common that when we can’t sleep, we rather unconsciously focus our attention on the very fact that we can’t sleep, as well as the stories and thoughts that are keeping us awake, and things go downhill from there. Like with my pain, we must choose to direct our attention to an alternative something that will help–like on a particular breathing pattern.

I think the lesson here is that sometimes we believe we are directing the mind in a way that is helpful, but it’s really still being pulled to what’s screaming the loudest, thereby sabotaging our own efforts to get what we want (freedom from pain, sleep, etc.) Something like embodiment (i.e. feeling body sensations) isn’t bad or good in and of itself, but it could be making our situation better or worse, depending on what that situation is. If the mind is racing–for example when trying to fall asleep, bringing conscious attention to the body may be a good idea. But if the body is already screaming in pain, sending the mind somewhere else for a little while may be the better answer.

Thoughts to share? Let me know!

And there’s still space in my “Meditation Sampler” workshop, coming up on May 7th.


Why is it so hard to commit?

40670511_sI’ve been thinking a lot about commitment lately. Why? Three reasons:

  1. I’m taking a class to study the Yoga Sutras in depth. As part of this study, we have started to explore the many different meanings of the first word of the first sutra: atha. I originally learned that it means “now”–many years later I’m learning that this word has many more meanings, and that the first sutra is called the “commitment” sutra. As in, NOW, I’m going to commit to this practice (of yoga). I’m going to give it my full effort, and not give up (even when life gets difficult).
  2. I recently worked with a coaching client where we discussed commitment and effort as a “chicken and egg” problem. For example, if you want to change something about yourself, you have to put in some effort–potentially for awhile–before you see the results. However, results are what often provide us with motivation. So it can be challenging to put in the effort and TRUST that the effects we want will come with time, before we get that positive reinforcement.
  3. My own journey with yoga has historically been as a “dabbler”. I have done yoga (physical postures and meditation) technically since 1998, but I can’t say I’ve had a consistent practice since doing my 500-hour therapeutic yoga training in 2015. I have known the benefits of yoga, both intellectually and experientially for a long time. So why have I had my own commitment issues? Why is it so hard?

When I look up the definition of the word commitment, I notice there are two:

  1. the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc.
    Synonyms: dedication, devotion, allegiance, loyalty, faithfulness, fidelity
  2. an engagement or obligation that restricts freedom of action.
    Synonyms: responsibility, obligation, duty, tie, liability

Wow, what a difference! To me, the first definition is positive and expansive; the second, something that feels forced, negative, contracting. Not something I would want to do! How much of my life have I thought of commitment only as definition #2, which of course I would rebel against? In addition, my thoughts about #1 is that it requires something that’s lacking in myself (and likely many of us these days): trust. Trust that the effort I put into doing something (whether it yoga, a relationship, a job, etc.) or even trust in myself (i.e. my own intuition) will be rewarded.

9910505_sAnd that’s a slippery slope too right? In other words, we might be committed to doing something only because we are trusting that we will be rewarded for our efforts, rather than trusting that our efforts might have higher rewards (i.e. those not immediately obvious or visible to us) that require something else, like surrender.

Recently a friend who has been through difficult surgery mentioned to me that healing was slow and frustrating to her, but that those around her can see her great progress. Can we always see our own successes and growth? I’m not so sure. And if we aren’t good judges of our own progress, then maybe we’re missing out on that positive reinforcement not because it’s not happening, but because we’re so close to it that it isn’t instantly apparent to us. We get into this pattern of feeling unmotivated because nothing is happening, when in fact it might just be hidden from our view until it becomes so stinking obvious that we can’t help but see it!

Case in point: my most recent flair of chronic pain over the past 2 weeks. I’m intentionally slowing down, turning to my breathing, meditative and contemplative practices, accepting (and acknowledging) support when it’s offered, and generally being kind to myself. I’m allowing my partner to help me rather than trying to do stuff I shouldn’t. I’m not modeling in my classes as much even though it’s my “habit”. I’m even giving a new Western M.D. some trust and seeing if I might have better luck with different tests and specialists. I’m not sure I’ve ever surrendered so much to something so unpleasant and limiting. So NOW–finally–I see that after a year or so of commitment to my practice, it is working.

What would things have been like had I started earlier? Had I trusted that my efforts would manifest into something I could eventually see with and acknowledge with my own mind, eyes, heart and soul? Don’t waste any more time folks. Take that first definition to heart and begin your practice NOW.


Confessions of a Multi-tasker

DLP-Various-2762“Let go of what is no longer serving you.” This is something I hear (and say) in yoga classes all the time.

Recently I’ve re-discovered that multi-tasking isn’t something that serves me anymore. Here’s what it typically looks like:

  • I make a To Do list, or put things on my calendar to do at a particular time.
  • I start thing A, which is typically the thing I am most willing to do.
  • After a few minutes, I realize thing A requires* thing 1, and start messing around in thing 1.
  • This leads to thing 2, thing 3, and maybe things 4 and 5.
  • I realize I’m off track, but now I feel burnt out, and any motivation to do thing A is now gone.
  • I start thing B, hoping that will help.
  • Rinse and repeat, potentially adding things C, D, etc.

Note:  *”Requires” is a highly subjective term.

A more concrete example:

  • I decide that I’m going to do the laundry, so I get the laundry basket from the closet.
  • While I’m in there, I notice that there are still some thing not hung from last time’s laundry, so I hang them.
  • When I turn around, I see my jewelry box and shoes on the shelf, and note their disarray. I start organizing.
  • I think about going to Prague next week, and as I’ll be needing jewelry and shoes, I decide to figure out which ones to add to the “bring” pile.
  • Which naturally leads me to picking out outfits for the trip.
  • But oops! I don’t have a printout of my typical travel checklist. Let me go to the office to print that out. (I usually do remember–for efficiency’s sake–to bring the laundry with me to the office, as it’s next to the laundry room.)

You can see my point. What’s worse is when this isn’t limited to a little room like the closet, or if it’s a virtual/online thing. I sure hope that there were times in my life where being able to handle (seemingly) a million things at once was rewarded. Else how did my brain make this such a habit?

Today I’m trying (again) to “single-task”. Wow, that was a goal many years ago, but somehow now it feels more important. I’m losing my ability to keep track of all these balls I put into the air. Maybe it’s age, maybe it’s wisdom. So I made several lists today:

  • Before first yoga class: get back to clients from yesterday with homework. Check. Eat light first breakfast. Check. I was feeling really good about this!
  • Between morning and noon classes: listen to a webinar that I missed the first time around (due to multi-tasking), make and eat oatmeal second breakfast/snack, do delicates (laundry). Check x3! Awesome. It was really hard though. I sort of multi-tasked watching the webinar with doing the other two, if I’m honest.
  • After noon class and pre-client: Make lunch, do some bookkeeping, take a (or do an online) yoga class. But then I had this idea for this blog, you see? But I wrote it down on my Post It, as a note, because 4 things aren’t allowed on the list. Just 3. So I made my lunch and sat down to eat it. Just as my phone rang. I answered, and spoke to a “patient care representative” about a long standing issue with a doctor’s office. Yay, OK done. Then the phone rang again. Ugh, no. Voicemail. Food. Eat. Ah, post it to my Facebook page, because pictures of good food are always good, right? Oh and there are some interesting things in my news feed. Share. Ah, another story. Wait, what am I doing? Stop. Finish my food. Decide to write this blog rather than do my bookkeeping, because trading things on the list is allowed, right? FAIL!

Single tasking. One-pointed focus. Like meditation, it makes so much sense, yet is so hard to do. Which is why we practice. I don’t practice single tasking enough. I’m going to try more.

Do you think you’d be better off single tasking, or multi-tasking? Which is easier for you?

Stay tuned for my next post, tentatively titled: “the struggles of the workflow efficient.”


The Scary Side of Meditation

40670511_s

Back in the 1990s I started mediating. I was hoping it would offset the stress I felt in college, where I was majoring in a field I didn’t enjoy or feel very good at. I felt a lot of pressure to get good grades to maintain my scholarship status, else my (single) mom who was paying for college would start freaking out about me losing financial aid. And I would be a disappointment.

When I first began meditating, I was instructed to focus on my breathing as a way to stop my mind from thinking about these sorts of things. Sometimes just bringing my attention to the bodily sensations caused by my inhales and exhales worked, but other times my mind continued to race, calling up a never-ending list of “to do’s”, worries about the future, and regrets about the past. But as I practiced more consistently, I had a few mediation practices where my mind actually became still.

I remember one in particular. I was living in Rocky Hill Connecticut at the time. I set my cushion on the floor, and sat down. I might have had a CD from Zazen in my boom box: a guy I’d been talking to on email (who was trained in Zen) sent it to me. Almost as soon as I sat down, everything just stopped. The next thing I knew, there was pure…nothing. When I finally realized this, I freaked. How much time had passed? Where had I gone? To this day I don’t recall whether I sat for 2 hours or 2 minutes, but there I was. Freaked out. Scared or busy, I stopped meditating very much, and “got on” with my life.

monsterFast forward many years later. It was about 2011 or 2012. I was married, and had a house with my own meditation / yoga / reading room on the third floor of a fancy house in a suburb of Boston, MA. I would sit on my cushion in front of a little altar I’d built. I would still meditate using my breathing to focus my attention.

One day, an image arose in my mind. It was silver, monstrous and pointy, like one of those magnetic desk toys you’d find at Spencer’s. I felt so small and helpless as it loomed over me, with pointy claws and an equally menacing jaw. It moved as if to attack me. I felt my body physically shudder in response. Yet, I knew on some deep level that this was a release of past demons, so I stayed. I sat. I felt my body jerk forward each time the evil metallic monster lashed out at me. I breathed. I stayed. After another unclear amount of time had passed, I recalled something a therapist had told me once: handle only what you can at once. There’s no shame in backing out, you don’t want to “overload”. Sometimes these things must be taken in small doses. And so I opened my eyes to see that I was in fact safe. I left my cushion. I drew the picture of my monster that you see here.

The next few days of meditation, I kept seeing pictures. I’m not an artist by any stretch of the imagination, but I drew what I saw anyway. And it freaked.me.out. I stopped meditating. I just couldn’t take the pictures anymore. I was scared to sit on my cushion. I stopped entirely. And then my (real) life (as I knew it) disintegrated.

It’s 2015, at the tail end anyway. I’m back to mediating almost every morning. But with my Yoga Therapy training fresh behind me, I now know it’s helpful during meditation to link to an object that has qualities we desire to cultivate in ourselves. I no longer focus on my breath when I meditate. My object (given by my mentor) is the moon. The healing, the cool, the very still…the (ever changing but usually) full moon. After inviting the light of the moon into my body, and moving it through my body, I stay with the feeling of moonlight in my body. And I find a stillness, a peace, that I’ve never known before.

Many times, as I’m sitting in this stillness, images still surface. But now the images aren’t scary. For example, the other day I saw a brown-sandaled foot about to step on a mosaic tile as if frozen in time. I wondered whether what I saw was in the past, in the future, in some other life. My life, or someone else’s? A parallel dimension? I don’t know, but the images no longer scare me. They’re just images of something else, and I’m fascinated by them. I enjoy my meditations because at the very least, time stops, and I’m still in body and mind. At best, I see things that may be useful, or are just interesting and provoke curiosity.

What has your experience with meditation been? Has it just been frustrating, or like me, did you find the stillness terrifying? Did you stay with it? Could I help?


Why do we enjoy what we enjoy?

I had an interesting experience in my teacher training this weekend. As is sometimes the case–because of a different topic that had been nagging me–I started the day in a resistant mood.

37229201_sEarly into the morning, I couldn’t contain my frustration and said to our teacher, Chase: “what is the point of all this [therapeutic yoga] if we can’t return to the things we enjoy after, if we have to keep “babying” our bodies to prevent re-injury?! If all I get to do is inhale and move my arm over my head, exhale and bring it down–when what I ENJOY and want to do is go to Barre class–what is the POINT of living for heaven’s sake!? My question was 100% serious, and also tinged with anger. What WAS the point, after all? Barre class (and many other less strenuous things) are physical activities I used to enjoy very much. I’ve always been a “mover”! Without being able to do these things, it’s not just my physical form that suffers, because everything is related. My mind gets really agitated too. I feel like I can’t easily release stress and tension (at least not in a healthy way), I feel flabby and unattractive, I don’t feel like i can eat whatever I want, etc. etc.

Chase pointed out that we enjoy what we do because of the specific FEELING that the activity creates. (This made sense to me, as it’s the same with Eating Psychology Coaching and why we turn to certain foods/drinks at certain times. Oddly I hadn’t really looked at my exercising that way.) Anyway, Chase said that if we can identify what feeling we are truly after, then we can use a meditation practice to link to that experience, instead of having to look outside ourselves. This concept naturally requires that one figure out what feeling the experience of going to Barre class, for example, evokes.

A bit later on, a fellow classmate Pam said something about power, and my light-bulb instantly went on. For me, physical activities like Barre class make me feel strong and powerful. Sure I’m little, but I could kick your butt (surprise!!). Kickboxing (when I used to do that) would definitely give me that feeling too. Even certain moves in Tai Chi, where we’re moving slow, fluidly, and with the Chi energy that I can feel will evoke this feeling of power in me. If I’m honest, Barre also sometimes make me feel “better” than the other women around me (because I can stay in an exercise longer, or do it with better form, or without my legs shaking like a leaf even though I feel that burn, etc.). But that really just boils down to power too.

I also pretty quickly recognized that most of my childhood and early adult life I felt pretty powerless. As a child I was terrorized at home and lived in utter fear of my raging father, with mom doing her best to keep me from pissing him off. As if other kids could sense my lack of power, I was mercilessly picked on at school too. I spent a lot of time alone, trying not to get noticed because getting noticed was sure to bring trouble. In private Catholic school, the teachers didn’t give students much personal power either. In college, I spent a lot of time and felt completely stressed trying to please my mom, staying with a degree and a field that never truly resonated with me. Again, powerless.

My subsequent thoughts from this realization went something like this:

  1. OK, so I can create a feeling of power and strength in my meditation practice (i.e. without NEEDING to go to Barre, which I can’t). Cool!
  2. Hmmm…do I really need to feel that way…now?

I’m still in the pondering stages, but the last question threw me a bit. Maybe I do still need a way to feel strong and powerful (at least for the time being–like I “need” to make/buy the coffee that soon after I don’t have any urge to drink anymore). But maybe my circumstances are different now. Maybe I’m SAFE, and I don’t need to feel overly strong or powerful. Vacillating between extremes is what I’ve done in many circumstances, when what I always seem to be seeking is balance. I wouldn’t want to just become a doormat–I want to live “in” my personal power, rather than feel a compulsion toward outside activities to provide that.

Getting there is the hard part!

Does your personal power come from within or without? Do you exercise too little personal power, or too much? Talk to me.