I DO Practice Yoga!

10.3.19

For decades I chastised myself that I did not practice yoga.  Everyone I knew, everyone whose life was full of Zen, everyone who lived the way I wanted to live (on the beach, in California) practiced yoga.  I spent the vast majority of my adult life in yoga-envy.

It was not that I did not try to do practice yoga; I did.  I went to classes, purchased DVDs and (in the old days) video-tapes.  I read articles, blogs and books about yoga.  I listened to lectures and even watched my friends perform their (perfected) practice – often on the beach, in California.  Alas, my yoga-envy only deepened.

Nothing about yoga felt right, familiar, do-able.  I felt like the life of enlightenment wanted nothing to do with me. I felt left out.

THEN, I attended a class – a graduate course at the Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing at the University of Minnesota. It was CSpH 5101,  Introduction to Integrative Therapies and Healing Practices (3 credits).  It took place at Woodwinds Hospital in Woodbury, MN over the course of a week. Yoga was probably only a two-hour window of learning that week but that two-hour lecture and demonstration changed my whole belief system about yoga.

In that lecture I learned what no yoga teacher had ever taught me about yoga – IT IS MORE THAN THE POSES! The poses are only one “path” or “branch” of yoga – there are eight! The poses (all of them) are collectively called Asana.  AND, I learned that I ACTUALLY PRACTICE ALL THE OTHER SEVEN PATHS – and have for many years! YIKES – I practice yoga!

Here are the eight paths of yoga. . .

  1. Yama (self-restraint)
  2. Niyama (right observance or self-discipline) 
  3. Asana (right alignment: how to sit, stand be in the body with full attention)
  4. Pranayama (regulation of breath)
  5. Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses, quieting the senses and their cravings)
  6. Dharana (concentration)
  7. Dhyana (meditation)
  8. Samadhi (freeing one’s attention)

In studying guided imagery (decades ago!) I practiced regulation of breath, learned effective meditation practices, engaged in full concentration, presence that frees one’s attention to receive new information and insight. As a nurse I’d learned self-discipline,  a calming of my cravings and self-restraint.  I had solid practices in 7 out of the 8 paths of yoga – all I lacked was the physical practice of the poses – Asana. 

I had sold myself short for years! I now know that I DO PRACTIC YOGA! And now, thanks to a wonderful yoga center, right in my neighborhood, where I’m learning to be “in my body” I am also studying the art of Asana (the poses) – in a modest, gentle way, and with beginner’s mind.

What is it you tell yourself you cannot do; you will never accomplish?

You may surprise yourself to learn that what you think of as THE WHOLE is really only A PART of the whole – perhaps your own life reflects the thing you long for even if by some other name!

Adversity – A Master-Class in Being Your Best Self

9.26.19

Most of us have been involved in doing our own work for years. We’ve been acknowledging our childhood wounds, learning self-compassion, forgiving others, practicing gratitude and a host of other methods we’ve adopted over time to become the very best version of ourselves possible.  That said, and granting that none of this work is easy, (although it may seem simple) there’s a layer of learning that comes from adversity which we commonly miss.

Adversity, in whatever form it shows up, is by definition, difficult to deal with.  It may come as any life circumstance you cannot control. Examples might include a reorganization at your workplace that alters or eliminates your job, a natural disaster the devastates your home or community, or an illness that complicates your own life or someone in your family.  Adversity can be a setback, or even a series of setbacks, OR it can be a launch-pad for an even deeper extension of your own personal work – incredible? Read on.

Imagine yourself progressing through life, with all the typical ups and downs.  Some days your happy, satisfied with your progress, learning a few new things, sometimes easily, other times learning the hard way through trial and error. You set goals, you note your gains, you hit a bump in the road and before you know it, you’re pushing the re-set button to start all over.  Yes, we’ve all done that journey!

Now, imagine all that, and envision it over a considerable period of time, likely years.  All your hard work and diligent learning has led you through solid change and even some amazing transformation. You’re a more confident person, you have a sense of achievement, you like who you’ve become and who you’re becoming.  And suddenly, adversity hits.  It creates all the havoc in your life that you let it.  You regain your balance quickly or slowly.  You gain perspective on it right away or over the course of a year or more.  We’re human; we respond to chaos at our own pace.

But now, you find yourself at a curious intersection.  Your awareness has enabled you to recognize that the adversity (or its net effects) is here to stay.  You’re learning to live with it but, you see it as a disturbance that has altered your intended life-trajectory or worse yet – knocked you completely off your path.  Ouch! 

Now, let me offer an alternative view. Imagine that your adversity is here to kick you UP a notch. Now, you’re still learning to be YOU, and of course still aiming for your BEST YOU, but now there is a lasting and, possibly visible and daily obstacle to manage around or through.  Now, you are becoming your BEST YOU in spite of adversity – and believe me, THAT is powerful. 

Believing in yourself, that you CAN be the YOU who you are intended to be, even WITH that adversity in your life, that is a choice you must make consciously.  It will not come by passive acquiescence. It comes through the realization that the adversity is not the adversary – it is the teacher.  It makes you stronger, asks you to dig deeper and enables you to be seen as someone who, just like all of humanity, suffers a flaw and still rises to their full potential.

What is the adversity plaguing you? How has it tried to stop you in your path and derail your growth and success?  Are you still fighting it, or have you begun to notice that in acknowledging its presence in your life, you are changing, growing, transforming into an even stronger version of your best self? 

I know that’s how it works for me.   

Swimming in Emotional Soup

9.18.19

For those of you who know me, and many of you do, you’ll remember that I’m an Enneagram 5 Type.  The Enneagram At Work website offers these prominent truths about this type: “Fives are mental types who focus on intellectual understanding and accumulating knowledge. They are often scholars or technical experts because of their keen perception and analytical ability. Privacy and personal autonomy are very important to them, and other people may be experienced as intrusive. The ability to detach from other people and from emotional pressure confers personal freedom but may also create loneliness.”

Being admittedly inclined to detach from emotions and live in my head, I find myself in curious space right now – I call it emotional soup.  It is a complex collage of emotions and energies that smack me up-side the head (if only to get me out of my head) when I least expect it to show up.  These emotions range from grief over on-going losses in my relationship-life (husband with Alzheimer’s) to joy, every time I see another copy of my book. They sneak up on me in unexpected places like yoga class, in the shower and after the late-night news when I’m trying to fall asleep.

I mean, what is an emotion doing sitting in my throat while I’m trying to stretch my side-body to the right while looking back over my left shoulder?  How can I concentrate on my stretching, positioning and full range of motion when I’m choking on my feelings and my eyes are beginning to leak? This is just annoying. 

And what is grief doing haunting my time in the shower?  How am I supposed to get clean when I can’t stop crying over my husband’s loss of nouns?  It isn’t fair – I only have a limited time to hang out in the water and I can’t waste it all leaning against the wall while I sob.  Messy, messy stuff!

I described this situation to a colleague this way: “I feel like I’m flailing in the water of a deep blue hole in the ocean (like those mystical structures in Mexico).  I’m in over my head, afraid of drowning and using up a lot of energy in what feels like a useless process!”  To which my friend replied, “Why don’t you roll over and just float?”

Of course, I can float in my sea of emotions, I don’t have to let them suck me down into the abyss below. I can just rest on the surface and enjoy the ride, even if it feels terribly turbulent.  I can also acknowledge the some of the turbulence is of my own making.  I can just “feel the feelings” and let the emotions, just beneath the surface, bubble to the top and ride with them, just noticing the role they play in the whole person (not merely a head) who is me.

https://theenneagramatwork.com/type-5-observer

9/11 Remembrance

9.11.19

One can hardly wake today and, noticing the calendar, fail to recall exactly where you were on this day 18 years ago.  The news stations, the History Channel and even the talk shows are full of stories rehearsing for us all to remember the terrible and agonizing details of 9.11.01.

I find myself unable to watch these stories.  It was hard enough the first time – in real-time – to imagine that this horror was happening. Now, nearly two decades later, it is an even more miserable way to spend my day.

I worked that day, 9.11.01, in a nursing home, on the transitional care unit, and I remember distinctly as I completed the evening medication pass, I was turning OFF the news channels and forcing everyone in my care to watch, “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”.  I had a wing full of people recovering from their own trauma, strokes, orthopedic surgeries, open-heart procedures, and the very last thing they needed as they attempted to fall asleep was to watch their world go up in flames again, and again, and again.

It was a traumatic time. And it lasted for weeks, and months, and even years. The FDNY lost 343 members on 9/11. But the dying didn’t stop there.  Just this summer, the 200th fire fighter succumbed to the poisonous particles and gasses that filled the lungs of first-responders on that dreadful day.  He died just as the Senate finally agreed to extend the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund.

It is a hard day for remembering. It is a hard day for moving forward. 

I cannot imagine what the day means to you or how it dredges up the past or paints the future for you. I can only speak to the cloud that hangs over the images and sounds I remember from that day and am horribly reminded of again, through television images today.

For myself, I want to remember those who willingly ran toward danger when most of us would run away. I want to honor those who sacrificed in the midst of the tragedy and for the years that followed to rebuild that sacred ground into a monument that reflects once again our freedom, and not our terror.  I want to quietly respect the mourning that continues in thousands of families across America for loved ones lost or changed forever by the chaos of that day.

I will remember. I will move on. But not before I bow my head in gratitude that on the day it seemed the world could end, it did not. On the day that war came to our shores, we emerged as a people who still search for peace.

Making Friends with my Inner Critic

9.4.19

This morning, my life was full of argument with my Inner Critic.  We all have one (at least one), that inner voice whose job it is to deflate our enthusiasm, remind us of our failures, call out each mistake we’ve ever made and track the tally of our short-comings.  My Inner Critic’s name is Cathy.  I’ve known her for a long time and we’ve had many heated arguments, just like the one we had this morning.

Her criticism this morning was about my business ventures.  It included the usual litany of reasons why I cannot accomplish what I’m intending to do.  She reminded me how old I am, how insufficiently tech-savvy I am for today’s business environment, how difficult it is to get the time and attention of those who might help my business grow.  She chided me for even thinking I could succeed.  She’s like that.

I get why she’s with me – we’re wired to have an inner voice that pulls us back from the brink of danger, who sees all that might go wrong and prevents us from taking that leap of faith.  She’s got a job to do, and over the decades, she’s done it well but this morning was different.  We came to a new understanding of each other today.

I do imagery.  What I mean by that is that I’m a certified Interactive Guided Imagery practitioner and have been for decades now.  So, when I say “I do imagery” it simply means I use imagery with clients AND I use imagery myself. As a result, many of my “images” – characters in my own story – are very familiar to me.  Cathy is one of those characters; she’s been an active voice with a name and a face for a very long time thanks to my vivid and therapeutic imagination. 

Today however, after a couple hours of being irritated at each other, Cathy followed me to yoga class.  During the ending meditation, she showed up and peeked out from the shadows of my brain. There she stood, a five-year-old with pig-tail braids, wearing a fall-plaid jumper and saggy socks.  She was crying. So, I did what any compassionate adult would do, I folded her into my arms and she sat there, cuddled in my crossed-leg pose and melted into my imagination.

As it turns out, Cathy, my Inner Critic is also terrified of life. She’s risk-averse, afraid of heights and would never be the first to raise her hand in class.  She does keep me from danger’s door but she can also get in the way when I need to move forward and say YES to what’s next in my life.  This morning, she gave in.  She let me cradle her with all her fears while we made our way through a Loving Kindness Meditation guided by the yoga teacher.  She is after all, a five-year-old.  I have nothing to fear from her. She only wants what’s best for me, but her judgment is flawed; she’s a kid and to her everything looks scary!

What’s your Inner Critic like?  Have the two of you met? Do you know why that voice in your head is always telling you, “NO, you can’t do that!” – perhaps it isn’t just to bring you down, deflate your enthusiasm and make you feel unable, unworthy, insufficient. You are enough, you know – and sometimes you need to remind your Inner Critic of that.  Today I did.  Will you?

Let Me Hear your Body Talk!

8/28/19

Our bodies have wisdom within them. They house memories and events, pleasures and traumas, hopes and hurts and only when we’re paying attention do our bodies reveal their intimate wisdom. 

It shows up in strange ways, as a pinch in the neck that we write off as too much computer time, or a strain in a joint (that we cannot recall injuring) that manifests, maybe just to get our attention. The body doesn’t often have a voice – although you can give it one – so it takes other tactics to slow us down, call us (literally) to our senses, and ask of us what it so deeply wants and needs.

My body is asking a lot of me this week.  I had a minor surgical procedure on Monday and here it is Wednesday, and my foot still wants special attention!  It wants to be elevated (or else it throbs).  It wants to be medicated (or else it stings), and it wants to be iced (or else it swells) – so, noisy little appendage that it is, it gets what it wants! 

My shoulder hasn’t been so fortunate as my foot.  It was screaming at me last week and I tried very hard to ignore it.  That is, until in preparation for Monday’s procedure, I went to a restorative yoga and Thai massage class where I became very clear that my shoulder had every right to ask for it’s due.  After all, it was complaining about all the weight I’ve been shouldering this summer!  Bodies seem to like puns.

Finally in taking the class, I gave it what it needed most, rest and passive movement and stretching.  This week, it is feeling much better.  It also talked to me (no, don’t lock me up, it is a Guided Imagery technique to talk to our bodies!) and what it had to say was noteworthy – “I can shoulder a lot, but you’ve got to stop stressing about money all the time!” Interesting conversation – especially with a body part.

So, while I haven’t given up “stressing” completely (although it would be an excellent pursuit), I have let go of a lot of money-worry that simply can’t be fixed by thinking about the problem!  And, I am pleased to report, my shoulder is doing much better!

What’s your body telling you?  Have you taken the time to listen to it? Are you thinking that all the pain and grief are just “empty complaints” or might you be willing to learn what the wisdom of your body actually has to say?

Let me know if you need a translator. I’m pretty good at helping the body have a voice. Yours might have amazing things to tell you, that you can only learn by tuning into your inner wisdom and your body’s sacred knowledge of who you are and what you need.

Disappointment, it happens.

8/21/19

Some wise person once said: “Don’t let today’s disappointments cast a shadow on tomorrow’s dreams.” That’s my new mantra for the week.  I hit a big bump in the road this week and it felt like a major disappointment for my business life. 

I had an expectation, “This is great, it will continue to flourish!” – and then it stopped.  A client I thought I’d serve for years cut the contract short and is no longer using my services.  I’m sad. I’m disappointed. But, I’m not heart-broken.  It isn’t the end of our friendship, just this business arrangement.  Perhaps we’ll have other business arrangements in the future.

For now, however I need to get back on my horse and ride into the future of whatever is next!  I’m taking a course this summer that reminds its learners we must BE, then DO, then HAVE, and in that order.  Most of us clamor to HAVE (money, success, prosperity) so we can do all we long to do and be who we hope to be. 

But the course says, our path must be exactly the opposite; First BE who we want to be (or become).  For me, the intention I’ve set for who I want to be is simply this,

I am a powerful woman whose business endeavors flourish.  I am touching the lives of people daily and serving as a teacher, guide and coach.  I am actively writing, speaking, teaching, coaching and earning more money than even my most ambitious goals.  Life is good, it is rich, it is bountiful and I am grateful for all its abundance!”

Who do you aspire to be (or become)? Are you ready to declare that intention? 

Are you prepared to DO the work that your intention inspires and demands?  Only then, can we expect that the rest of life will rally to our aid, support our dreams and help us realize our deepest ambitions!

Put it out there, do the work and watch what comes!

Thursday is National Relaxation Day!

This raises the age-old question, “How do you relax?” And, whether that’s being asked rhetorically by someone too busy to even imagine relaxing or by a client who genuinely wants to learn some skills for relaxation, it is a question worth contemplating here!

How do you relax?  Of course I can think of dozens of ways to relax but, to go to the heart of the issue in our busy Western do-driven culture, the question behind the question is really, “How do you give yourself permission to relax?”

That’s a tougher nut to crack when it comes to busy schedules, the clamoring of many stakeholders in our lives who all have expectations of us, and then, there’s that inner critic who’s fast to say, “You don’t have time for relaxing!”

So, how do you relax? I would offer a three-pronged approach:

  1. First, make it a planned activity – put relaxation on your calendar!
  2. Second, let others know you’re doing it – share the fact that you build relaxation into your life with those who matter so they feel less comfortable interrupting your “special” time!
  3. Third, audit your life – meaning, look back at what you’ve planned and what you’ve actually done with your time.  Did you take that walk around the lake on the day you planned to? Maybe it rained, did you substituted something else relaxing – or did you abandon relaxation for that day?

These aren’t tough tools to learn, we use them for everything else we want to accomplish in life. So why is it so foreign to employ them for planned relaxation?  Do we still feel guilt for imagining ourselves as people who need self-care? Okay, that a whole other blog.

For today, since tomorrow, National Relaxation Day, is coming up fast, PLEASE put something on your calendar that will feel to YOU like relaxation and do all you can to keep that promise to yourself that you deserve a break in the relentless “doing” of life to simply experience life as a human being!

ASK and you shall receive!

8/7/2019

For any of you who follow my blog every week, you’ll remember that last week I wrote about asking for what we need, with the assuring phrase that making such requests increases the probability of securing a positive response.  Well, this week, allow me to offer you a reassuring update.

Last seek I asked specifically for three things I need. . .

  1. A financially secure, spiritually balanced tenant for the apartment – don’t look now, but I have an apartment showing for someone who seems to fill that request precisely next Tuesday!
  2. Someone to help with Jack when I have a minor surgery later this summer – a girlfriend responded to that request and is taking the afternoon off to assist us!
  3. An exercise partner (here, in Eden Prairie) – okay, nothing to report here, but I have to admit, I haven’t been to the Eden Prairie Community Center in a while which might explain why I have not met this person yet!

So, what do you make of this?  Seven days, 2 out of 3 requests fulfilled.  I think it is amazing odds.  And, I also think it is proof that we often short-change our success and happiness by simply hiding out and failing to admit we have needs; We forget to ASK.

This week, I’m asking all of you – do you have what you need?  Do you have all the friends, money, relationships, tools, supports, access and feedback you need for your life and business to succeed? 

If not, have you ASKED for what you need? Or are you still hoping that the folks around you will become clairvoyant and read your mind? 

Or worse, are you reciting your list of deficits in your head so that your brain cannot imagine a life without difficulties?  When your imagery is built on negative thoughts, “I can’t…” or “I’ll never…” your brain assumes you are correct and stops seeking out answers and resources to the challenges you’re encountering.

This week, I’m asking for even more. . .Here’s my fresh list – can you be part of my universe of solutions?

  1. I need more companions to fill Jack’s days – like someone who would regularly take him to coffee at the Senior’s Center (there’s a Friday morning Men’s Coffee event there).
  2. I need paid speaking engagements – maybe about my book, Self-care Strategies for Family Caregivers, — maybe on other topics, it doesn’t matter what the topic, I need paid events!
  3. I need someone to help me organize the hall bedroom that has become an over-sized closet for clutter.  It needs to become a functional space, and I believe I need help to get that done!

Well, I’m putting these out to all of you and to the Universe at large – we’ll see what happens between this Wednesday and next Wednesday! I’m trusting the process to help me enact the change I most desire!

Ask for What you Need, it Increases the Probability you’ll Get it!

7-31-2019

I learned that saying decades ago from a friend and a nurse who also taught me, “What you Think About, you Bring About.”  A wise woman, to be sure!

Like most people, I forget (or don’t want) to ask for what I need.  Simply admitting that I have needs makes me look vulnerable, and probably I’m concerned about looking week and not having it “all together” in front of other people.  It’s a common difficulty we human’s face. 

But today I’m going to practice asking for what I need more boldly.  I’m having a marvelous summer and for a 2-month-old business, Co-Create 4 Life is doing remarkably well (although we have a lot of work to do to meet the goals I’ve set for the business!). 

Currently, my needs are more personal than work-related. So, here’s what I need right now, in the middle of summer, 2019. . .

What do you “need” in your life?  Are you willing to boldly put your requests out there so the Universe can respond to you?  Are you willing to be vulnerable enough to risk looking “needy” when you’d rather appear completely “pulled together?”

Today I’m ready. Will you join me?