Tag Archives: self-reflection

Staying AWARE; the eye of the storm

I must say I was pretty surprised not to find “moving” on the list of the 10 most stressful life events. And when you factor in a cross-country move with a significant other and an animal, I’d expect it to at least be in there!

When I moved to Austin at the end of 2013, I was lucky. I was by myself, felt I had nothing to lose, and had someone there ready to accept me (and my stuff) with open arms and empty drawers. Although I loved the weather, my teaching gigs, my students and my clients, the energy and atmosphere of the South just doesn’t work for me, and it’s almost immediately noticeable when I’m back in Boston. So last week, I flew home with 2 big and 2 small suitcases, received by a gracious friend and her equally gracious beau, and hit the ground running on the apartment-hunt front. I can feel the almost 24-like timer in the corner of my screen, counting down the days I have to find something that’s do-able for my family for a year.

I’d love to say that being a Mind-body Wellness Consultant means I’ve taken GREAT care of myself. But honestly, it’s been quite hard.

I was up way too late the night of arrival, busy catching up, socializing, and then wound so tight sleep eluded me. The following 2-3 days were a frantic pile of running around–renting a car until mine arrived, looking at places I’d already lined up, texting / emailing / calling multiple people trying to show me places, etc. I ran around from mid-morning to early evening, and then last night had an agonizing decision to make over two “doable” but “not quite right” places I finally turned down, when 3 tosses of the coin came up tails and that was clearly the answer from the Universe. Talk about stress.

But I will recognize and even give myself some “kudos” (wow, that word hasn’t come up in a few years ;-)! Even as I was driving around–which BTW is SO SO much easier here than in Austin!–I became AWARE that I wasn’t hydrated; that I was hungry; that I was tired. When I NOTICED these things, I ACTED to make better choices in the next moments. I stopped at Whole Foods for a lunch break. I got a quinoa salad thing (at Starbucks of all places!) in the morning and put it in my lunch sack for later…I bought bottles of water and healthy GF nutrition bars. I even took my pile of supplements with me in a little plastic baggie–and I haven’t yet missed a dose. I also haven’t missed a day of my morning yoga practice, because I KNOW how much I need it.

This morning was more of the same, but after I turned in the rental car, I’m in, no where to go and nothing to do. In some ways, having this self-care day is exactly what I needed. I’m ensconced in tea and “Tuesdays with Morrie” (which I started on the plane and just finished). I had my first “meal” this morning around 11 o’clock: rotisserie chicken, basmati rice, and green beans, all smothered in olive oil. Ah…so soothing. When realtors text me, “I’m sorry, I can’t see anything until tomorrow.” And that’s true. For today, I’m hanging out in the eye of the storm. Trying to find some bit of stability, peace, and comfort with everything whirling around me.

What have you done to find some peace and stillness when everything around you is in upheaval? Do you NOTICE and CHANGE your behavior before it’s too late and you’re completely spent? I’d love to hear YOUR thoughts and advice!


What Getting Hit over the Head by the Universe Looks Like

Please Universe, just smack me!

I have a friend who is often frustrated by the lack of clarity and specifics she receives in messages from the Universe. She’s not joking when she says, “I can’t understand what I’m supposed to do. I wish the Universe would realize this and just smack me upside the head with its message. Clearly I’m not getting it.”

If you’ve ever asked the Universe (or God, or Higher Self, or whatever Higher Power you believe in) for guidance or direction when you feel lost, you might know how she feels.  Sometimes even when we write down questions and ask the Universe for answers, what gets written down in our journals in response might be encouraging, but it’s oftentimes so cryptic we can feel sure it didn’t come from our (ego) self. What is the real message? How can we take action? If you’re anything like my friend and I, that’s what you really want right? Tell me what to do already!

One example of a Universal smack

I have a recent example of such a smack that I’d like to share.

There is someone in my life here in Austin who I primarily consider a wise teacher and mentor, and in addition of course, he is a friend. I respect this man very much, and expect that there is so much more I could learn from him. Well, in an email exchange over the course of several days, he noted that what I said (either in email or in passing while in person) really resonated with him. I seemed to say what he needed, without knowing I was having such an impact. I think this really struck me when he invited me to meet sometime soon, to ask me for input because he respected my opinion.

Now this really threw me. So much so that I went back through some emails, and staring at the screen could still not understand what I said that was so significant or meaningful. Still I’ll admit, I always feel good when I can help people, so of course I agreed to meet with him and offered to help if I could. (My confidence level on that isn’t very high, mind you, but I do recognize that sometimes an outside perspective to helps us extract our own answers is all that’s really needed.)

Anyhow….

Off and on over those same few days, I had also been talking with someone about something I’m apparently still very passionate about: the importance of a good user experience in software design. My intent was to point out several confusing issues and things that were broken, which of course affected my interest in paying to use this system. Even though I’m very tech savvy, I struggled to use it and felt for the users who would blame themselves when they couldn’t get simple tasks done. There were also lots of little fixes I could see to make a good idea work much better for people. In addition, the difficulties I encountered caused me some concern for my friend’s business.

Unfortunately, I learned that this person was taking my comments (over the course of the few days) very personally and felt as though he was getting beaten up by them, until he outright told me so. Ouch. People may not remember what you say, but they remember how you make them feel, right?  I do tend toward speaking my mind (often too much), and I don’t often sugar coat reality. This type of communication isn’t generally well-received in a place like Texas; add some incredulousness and frustration, a lot of passion, and the fact that I felt a “kindred spiritedness” about this person, and I suppose it is no surprise that I didn’t come across as being very nice about it.

But it was a surprise.

In fact, one again I couldn’t understand how what I said about a system could be so impactful to this person. Just like the situation with my mentor, I felt very confused (in addition to many other emotions).

The insight that comes with reflection

20560266_sAs I sometimes do on Fridays, I decided to take a “tech-detox” day. This means as few screens as possible: no HGTV, no Facebook, no iPhone-based task lists, and no online games. Conveniently I also had zero classes, zero clients, and only one commitment (which was an “offline” kind of thing anyway). It was the perfect kind of day for this kind of thing.

Of course the negative story I wrote about previously swirled in my head for most of the morning. Still not getting it, somehow my mind landed on something someone had said to me years ago. I was leaving a job I’d been at for several years. At least 2 people that I can recall, in wishing me well, ended up telling me a story about how something I’d said had a great impact on them (one positive, one negative). I remember also being very surprised at this. Hmmm. So this has happened before.

Whether it’s due to my own low self-esteem, my own lack of awareness, or something else, clearly what I say (in written and verbal form) has more impact on people than I myself understand. Whether or not I believe it should, it does. And I have clearly not learned this lesson, so the Universe has thought to smack me with another (more recent) positive and negative example to get my attention.

What to do?

The action plan

Keep some attention on this fact. I’m not going to change how other people perceive my communications, but I can have some awareness that there is more power behind my messages than perhaps I intend.

So step 1: recognize that, and hold some awareness of it.

Also I know that when I’m low in energy (which I happened to be in the latter example), I might have much fewer reserves in place for step 1. I’m somewhat familiar with isolating myself when I don’t feel well—and the amount of isolating I’ve done in recent years has increased a lot as my health has declined. Many people would say isolating yourself is not a good thing to do. However, it might in fact be the kinder option.

So step 2: if feeling unwell or depleted, limit social interactions until some energy can be devoted back to step 1.

Did you see what happened here?!

If not, I’ll summarize:

  1. Two situations occurred in a short amount of time
  2. I noticed that those situations were somewhat different (i.e. positive vs. negative spins)
  3. But also similarly affected others (i.e. the power of my words to make them feel strongly)
  4. And that these two situations similarly affected me (i.e. feeling surprised and puzzled)
  5. I had some quiet time to reflect on what happened, which in turn
  6. Allowed past, similar situations to come back into my awareness
  7. I re-recognized that I can’t change others; only myself
  8. Some possible ways to change myself came into my awareness (which seemed to make sense and felt OK to try out)

Did the Universe smack me upside the head? Did it shoot a lightning bolt down in front of my feet? Did it drop down a page from the sky outlining my action plan?

Well, no and yes.


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.”


Learning life’s lessons (again and again and again and…)

rock_pathWhen my schedule unexpectedly changed at the last minute this morning, I decided to go for one of my walks (especially since it’s rare these days that the sun is shining in Texas!). Along the way, I started thinking about why I was feeling angry at myself. The very clear reason was this: I’d yet again failed to learn a lesson the Universe had “taught” to me so many times.

I have many of these types of lessons, including:

  • responding impulsively rather than considering the next best thing to say or do
  • allowing my mind to run off to worst-case-scenarios instead of listening when a partner “needs to talk” (yet all the while, stressing the importance of good communication in a relationship!)
  • failing to realize the energetic power I have to create and destroy
  • failing to value my time and effort
  • forgetting that one almost pain-free day still doesn’t mean I can do everything I used to (at least, not without next-day or even next-hour regret!)
  • expecting people to act in a way I would want them to (e.g. be more considerate, competent, etc.)
  • forgetting that slowing down, having patience and being compassionate is empowering
  • that for me, good habits work when I consistently keep them as part of my routine or lifestyle (vs. allowing for “wiggle room” that inevitably turns into a full-on habit-breaker)
  • failing to recognize that no matter how bleak or overwhelming things seem, I always have choices
  • and so on….

When I call to mind the qualities of, or events in my life that I label as “unlikeable” or when I feel “done to”, what usually follows (eventually) is a deeper inner knowing that this negative association exists simply because I have failed to learn the lessons life has been trying to teach me. And until I can learn those lessons, the Universe will continue to intentionally place those qualities or events in front of me, like a bright red Stop sign.

I’m happy to report that although this morning taught me a lot of the same lessons, I did make some progress on a different lesson last night. So, there is hope that I won’t continue rolling through all the Stop signs of my life without fully depressing the brakes!

Thoughts? Am I the only one who gets beaten over the head?? Would love to hear from you.


A Walk through My Mind

The Path Reveals Itself

The first time I sat down to breakfast in our house, I noticed that many of my new neighbors had a morning walking habit. Apart from vacations where I tend to do a lot of walking or hiking, walking has never been my “exercise” of choice. Although I knew it was good for me, on some level I didn’t really equate it with being healthy. Why? Because it was too slow.

Before my chronic pain I would alternate 45-60 minutes on an elliptical machine with an excellent 60 minute Barre class 2-3 times a week, always having an intention for a day or two of rest and recovery but never quite finding a way to make that happen. I love exercising; since I was an undergraduate in college it has been a critical part of my physical and (even more so) mental heath. So when my pain got so bad that I couldn’t take a slow walk without having to turn around and head home after 5 minutes, this affected my state of mind much more than it affected by body. I got scared. Depression found me again. I became angry, both at my body and at the world.

The day we moved my pain was at an all-time high. But when things started to settle back down a few days later, seeing these people walking intrigued me, and my pain subsided enough that I decided I’d go out for a stroll. Not a run or a power walk. A stroll. Without a book, without music. Walking only. Not even ChiWalking, which I tried a few times before.

I’ve gone out walking a lot since then. In fact, most days my morning yoga practice is followed by a walk, beginning just around the time the sun is rising. It’s a beautiful time of the day! Sometimes I can’t fit it in in the morning though, so I’ll go later and get some vitamin D from the glorious Texas sun. I also have a new mantra: “Horses run, people walk.” (thanks Chase Bossart!) What I noticed on these walks, however, is what I really want to share with you.

The Default Direction of My Mind

I discovered that when I wasn’t focusing on the walk as exercise or being distracted by music or reading, my mind appeared to run off in many different directions. After a few days of walking though, I started to notice that no, my mind wandered in the exact same direction: to criticisms and judgments of other things and other people who I knew absolutely nothing about. Some of the things I said to myself included:

  • “Look at that [pink little girl’s] bike thrown in the front yard like that. Don’t her parents teach her to take care of her things?”
  • “Apparently to live in Texas one has to have a yard full of crab grass and ostentatious lawn ornaments.”
  • “How many $&*%&^@! cars do people need?” and “What kind of crap are these people hoarding in their garages?” [noticing that 4-6 cars were parked in each driveway on a street where every house had a 2-car garage.]
  • “I hate that color [car, house, etc].”
  • “That woman [walking past me] is mean.”

I don’t remember exactly when the shift happened, but at some point the Witness part of me realized that every thought I was having about what my senses were taking in during my walks was negative. My higher Self asked: “Could you just state objectively what you see, without adding a value judgment (either good or bad)? ” Hmm…something had challenged me to reframe my thoughts. OK, so:

  • “A pink child’s bike lying in the grass.”
  • “An arrangement of lawn ornaments and grass that’s different from what I’m used to at this house.”
  • “4 cars, 6 cars, 4 cars…”
  • “A blue house. A tan house. A red car.”
  • “That woman appears to be frowning.”

It was hard to just objectively name what I saw! Every street or so I’d catch my mind slipping back into familiar patterns–my family of origin was expert at criticism and judgement so I’ve had lots of practice. Plus, I was feeling angry and upset about a lot of what had happened to me and directing that anger out into the world. But over the course of a few walks, it became easier and easier to simply observe.

Discovering Beauty in Everything, Even the Imperfect

broken purple stickSomewhere along the path of observing, I started taking photos of things I saw along my walks. It began, I believe, with the broken purple stick. I took this photo because 1) purple is my favorite color, 2) how often do you see a purple stick? 3) the stick was broken, and reminded me of a psychic reading I had a few years ago where a broken stick represented broken trust.

The next day I took some photos of the lawn ornaments I had been poo-pooing. Several days it was something in nature that I felt privileged to see at that early morning hour. Sometimes it was something funny (e.g. the pink sock that I discovered miles from the house that resembled one of mine that we keep losing in the laundry). Lately, I’ve found myself wanting to take photos of things that a few weeks ago, I would have considered ugly: a wooden fence with a few differently colored and bent boards, for example. Every time I walk, I see so many things in the world that are beautiful! Things in nature, and things we as humans have left scattered about.

Yesterday morning I went on an hour long walk, and although I’m starting to border on overdoing again (more on that soon), I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for being able to walk for an hour without a lot of discomfort, especially around that time when my body started letting me know that I was getting dangerously close to my edge.

What’s more, I’m amazed at how much walking has transformed my mind in just a few short weeks, and how much I enjoy it now (I even miss it when I don’t get to go). I still attend Barre classes two times a week, but you’re much less inclined to see me trying to be a horse or aggravating my SI joint on an elliptical at the gym!

See more photos from my walk here. And as always, please comment and let me know your thoughts. Have you had similar experiences?