There’s Always Something: Practice Gratitude

Some of us are celebrating today.  Some of us are mourning.  Some of us are working.  Some of us are resting.  No matter your day, there’s always something to be thankful for.  That may sound trite, but I really do believe there is always a reason to be grateful.

It doesn’t matter the circumstance, do you have the ability to really look to find it?  We live in a society of instant gratification, Prime 2-day delivery, get-it-overnight so that the speed of life is ridiculous most of the time.  Can you stop yourself long enough to see the moments that are opportunities for gratitude?  Do you recognize the smile from a stranger as a gift?  Did you take a moment to look at the sunrise or sunset?  Did your cat curl up next to you again while you have on your black pants?  These are all easy to figure out.

What if you’re at work today?  What if you spend part of your day at the hospital? What if you lost a loved one today?  Even in these times, there are reasons to be grateful.  There’s always something.

Take a moment today.  Take several.  Think of all the reasons in your life that you can be grateful.  If you made a list, you’d run out of paper before you ran out of reasons.

It may be Thanksgiving, but we should take these moments more than just one day a year to dig deep into gratitude.  We can choose to practice gratitude every day to connect ourselves to the present moment.  We can live in a way that inspires others to join us in our efforts.  We can set in motion a wave of gratitude that can change our world.

Blessings.  Peace.  Love.

Watch Your Mouth

Have you ever listened to a friend talk about themselves?  You know that  conversation…She says,”I’m not good at _____,” and you spend the rest of your time with this friend explaining how they are in fact quite good at _____.  Isn’t it exhausting sometimes?  Don’t you want to tell her to stop belittling herself that way?  And don’t you wonder what it’s like when she looks in the mirror?

What’s it like when you look in your mirror?   What is the last kind thing you said about yourself to yourself?  You know…that little voice that handles your self-talk. Do you remember?  Why don’t you think about it?

Go ahead. Think about it.  I’ll wait….

While I wait and you think, I’ll share.  Earlier today, I was on a rare trip to the mall.  It always feels like a trip to hell, so I was on a mission. I knew exactly what I wanted, and calculated the approximate time it would take to procure the item in question.  I inherited this trait from my Dad.

Anyway, I walked in and spotted what I was there for.  On the way to the register, I spotted another item.  It was splendid, this gorgeous blousy thing the likes of which I rarely glance at, much less stop in my tracks over.  I am fortunate that my work clothes for the most part are yoga pants, so business or dress attire isn’t a necessity.  But this top…

I could feel myself light up the way I lit up as a kid when I’d saved my babysitting money to buy a pair of fancy pink ballet slipper-style heels.  (Those are another story…once a shoe girl, always a shoe girl.  Don’t let the Danskos fool you.)  I touched the fabric, and before I knew it, I had it in hand on my way to the register.  While I was standing in line, plotting my next moves, I didn’t hop into the land of shoulds (I should get something more subtle, less showy, more appropriate, black) or the  can’ts (I can’t wear that!). Instead, the chatter was fabulous.  I had a little celebration in my head.  I said to myself, “That color is going to look amazing!”  And I didn’t stop there.  I told myself how exciting it was to find something so vibrant and unusual.  I told myself how fantastic it’s going to look. And it went on from there.

I tell you all this, because it’s taken a long time to get to a place where I can listen to the voice in a way that is celebratory, instead of inflammatory.  I am happy to be in a space in my life where the self-talk is positive.  I can share this story.  There was a time when I wouldn’t have.  The things I’ve said to myself in the past are things that I’d unfriend you for saying.

Watch your mouth!  Watch what you say to yourself.  Think about it…would you say these things to your best friend?  If you wouldn’t say it to another human, why on this Earth would you say it to yourself?

Words carry so much energy and power.  They can force a smile or a frown.  They can cause tears or laughter, someone else’s or your own.

When you look in the mirror, watch your mouth.  Choose carefully and from love when you speak to yourself.

Love and turkey, y’all.  Namaste.

Are You Living in Color?

Are you living in color?  I’m curious…are you?

I spent a long time just drifting  along.  There were many years that I existed, settling for a routine existence that made a lot of people feel good about me.  I was safe.  I fit the mold.  I was grey.

After a long period of struggle, after years of allowing my decisions to be made by external forces, I remembered something.  I remembered myself, my soul…I looked in the mirror and saw the spark of the person I once was.  She looked familiar, but way down deep, I saw a glint in her eye, a flash, a little color.  It was still there, although I had long forgotten.  I started thinking about when the last time I felt colorful was.  Sadly, it took a while for me to remember.

Fast forward…or maybe slow forward.  Once I recognized how grey I’d become, I missed the color down deep in my bones.  It wasn’t a feeling I can really explain with words even now, but it’s one that you’d recognize yourself if you’d ever felt it. I knew I had to make some serious changes.  I knew I was meant to do more, give more, share more, love more.  I knew I was not being true to myself by staying grey.  I knew I was not putting into the world what I was here to share.I had to get the color back.  I had no choice.

I could fill the rest of the day writing about all the steps forward and back I took over those years trying to get back into a life that was colorful.  I wanted vibrance and love and I wanted to connect with people in ways that I knew were possible, but that I hadn’t learned.  I wanted every day to shine.  And I will not lie and tell you it was easy, or without great cost on may levels.

But I will tell you this: it was the best gift I’ve ever given myself.  I set myself free.  That’s what the color is really; it’s freedom.  It’s sleeping well after a long day of work that I love and that loves me back.  It’s connection to other humans who accept nothing less than that freedom for themselves.  It’s finding ways to inspire others to seek that color.  It’s keeping myself in motion, and sharing that motion with others so that forward is the way we go, always in color.  Always reaching for lives that are by design loving toward ourselves and toward each other.  Always moving to freedom, away from expectations that don’t match our souls.

I know firsthand what living in color is like, and how life can change when you dig in deep and refuse to settle for anything less that what drives your soul.  I know it’s hard to go against the grain of families and friends and all the shoulds and coulds.  I know it’s painful to rebuild.  And I know that I cannot fathom life any other way.

So I’m asking you again…are you living in color?  If not, how could you?  What would it take?   It can be done…I’m living (colorful) proof.

Love and color, people.  Love and color.

 

 

 

Big Magic, Indeed

Every so often, something comes along and challenges you.  Challenges how you do things, how you plot your day, how you speak and move and see.  This happened to me a couple of weeks ago, and it’s take a little while for me to bring it here.

I’ve been a list maker for a long time.  They make me happy, especially the crossing off of a task well done, or really, …sometimes just done.  I put events on the calendar, no matter how small .  Everything is an appointment.

But wait…something was missing.  A couple of weeks ago, I started looking around my calendar.  I looked at the google calendar first…not there.  I moved on to the paper planner…not there either.  It was no where.  I went back weeks, then months.

Finally, back in July, I found what I was looking for:  ART.  ART was written in turquoise ink on July 2 at 1pm.  I had scheduled ART.  I stopped looking then, realizing that I was wasting precious time.  I learned what I came for.

What happened was Big Magic. Elizabeth Gilbert wrote a fabulous book about creative living, and I read it cover to cover on a plane to Las Vegas. And the effect was immediate.  I thought as I read how awesome it was that I scheduled my time so well; I already had ART on my list.  But 1 day in the last few months doesn’t cut it.

Gilbert posits that we not only have to say we’re open, we have to do the work so the ideas come.  It’s up to us to find the way, the time to foster those creative sparks we all have.  (WE ALL HAVE THEM.) Read it.  Just do yourself the favor and read it.

After Big Magic got me all fired up, I revisited Gretchen Rubin‘s book Better than Before.  It’s about habit, and she covers how difficult they are to create or change. This is another one for you to read; I won’t get into it, except to say that I had to come here first to get clear on how to rebuild my habit of creativity.Rubin has some solid ideas about how we form and resist habits, and I was definitely resisting.

Now, you might be thinking habit and creativity…hmmmm.  “But I want to be wildly creative and just be and make art, and commune with my crayons, clay, camera, etc.”  Let me ask you this: when is the last time you were wildly creative?  When was the last time you communed  with your art project of choice?

Exactly…was it on your list? Did it have a place among the other daily tasks you check off?  Mine didn’t either. My head exploded a little when I figured out how much I had put off being creative.  I identify as a creative person.  I’ll tell you straight up that I am creative, but I wasn’t giving my Creativity a permanent home in my day.  I was treating it like dessert, you know, something you get to have occasionally when you’re good or you’re celebrating. It showed.

Once this realization hit me like a truck delivering craft supplies, I made a change.  I added ART back to my daily calendar.  It’s there first thing.  I write, I color, I make something with my hands.  I invite it in and let it have a home with me.  I’ve already noticed a change.  Not only are my days brighter, but my ideas pop.  I have them more frequently, and with greater clarity on how to bring them forward and share.  And I am a happier human.  Score all around.  (And thanks to Gilbert and Rubin for their assistance!)

So,I have to wrap this up because the next thing I get to do is color.   It’s on my calendar.  And it’s first, because it’s vital to my well being, as much, if not more, than any gym time.

Got your crayons handy? Paint? Put it on the calendar…see what happens!

 

Easy? What if it really were easy?

easyI was in the company of some pretty awesome women Friday afternoon.  We gather every month, and when I am with them I feel surrounded by members of my tribe.  I feel at home.  We were having a discussion about how we were influenced by our parents, about expectations, and about how we choose to live now.  One thing that came up, that I’ve been thinking about for a while now, but that cemented for me over the last little while is the concept of easy.

Here’s the definition of easy from Google:

eas·y
ˈēzē/
adjective
  1. 1.
    achieved without great effort; presenting few difficulties.
    “an easy way of retrieving information”
    synonyms uncomplicated, undemanding, unchallenging,effortless, painless, trouble-free, facile, simple,straightforward, elementary;

    When did I decide that it couldn’t be easy? At what point was it decided that life would be hard, and that’s all there was to it?

    I remember clearly being told that things are not easy.  “Nothing easy is worth having.” That was a favorite.  “Life is just hard.” Another favorite.  When you hear things over and over, you eventually believe them…right?

    But, should you? What if, instead, I had believed it WOULD be easy?  That life was amazing. That I could achieve great things without great effort.  What would that be like?

    Don’t get me wrong…I’m not saying that we shouldn’t work.  Work is fine.  I love my work…it’s what I do every day and I’m blessed to do it.  But what if I had made the shift years ago to decide that it was easy?

    I learned a few years ago that I could decide what kind of day I was going to have. I could get up and decide to have a good day.  I learned to practice mindfulness, to be present for each moment.  And I believe that’s when I started to learn that it could be EASY.

    I’m not saying without effort.  I’m definitely not saying without challenge.  But I am saying that we can meet these endeavors, all our endeavors, with an attitude of ease.  We can decide that we will be light, and reframe how we approach our lives.  We can connect to each moment, we can live an inspired life.  We can move with grace and fluidity instead of tension and resistance.

    Give it a try this week…set an intention to move through your day with ease.  Just give it a shot.  And see what happens…you might be surprised!

    Peace, love and ease, y’all.  Peace, love and ease.

What’s Your Next Move?

I’ve been reading a bit, studying, so I could find a way to practice while I have been away from the mat and from teaching. I discovered a book by Nicolai Bachman, The Path of the Yoga Sutras, that’s become one of my new favorites. Bachman discusses several points from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, and does so in a way that is easily understood, providing examples and applications that are within the reach of anyone, whether or not they practice yoga at all.

Santosa, the second niyama (self-care, according to Bachman), has been my greatest struggle this summer. Contentment and gratitude. To truly practice this niyama, we have to be content and grateful for what we have right now, this minute. Some days that means I have to be content and grateful with the fact that my body doesn’t move like it did only a few weeks ago. I have to be content and grateful for what it does right this minute. I can’t compare myself to others, or expect my body to be different than it is, because those acts invite duhka…suffering.

I’ve had to read and re-read that chapter several times. I have become aware of when those feelings creep up so I don’t hold onto them; let them come to a slow boil. Instead, I’ve learned to meet them with gratitude. Gratitude for time off to heal and regain my strength and stamina. Gratitude for great care from friends and family. Gratitude for books, crayons, pencils, and paper. And gratitude for what my body is capable of right this minute.

Bachman says,”…accepting the pace at which your body can change and practicing accordingly can help you avoid … suffering.” He also says, “What is important is that we are moving in a positive direction.” Powerful words for anyone. Especially powerful to me.

So, I am grateful for comfortable shoes to walk in. I’m grateful for a nice breeze to cool me. And I’m grateful to recognize how far I’ve come over the last few weeks, even though I know there is still more healing ahead. And I’m content in the knowledge that I am moving in a positive direction.

What’s your next move?

  

#Change

 Since I am just a little past three weeks post-op, I’ve had a lot of time to study. I can’t say I’ve used it all as wisely as I’d planned. But I can say that as I’m healing, it not just about my body. It’s also been a healing time for my mind. So often we push.  We go past our breaking points. It’s only after we are broken that we can see what truly needs to change so we don’t continue the cycle. 

I know what changes are coming for me. What about you?  

Namaste. 

 

7 Limbs

I have an opportunity.  I have no choice but to see it this way, so I am.  You see, I can’t teach yoga for the next several weeks.  I have to limit my activity and my practice.

I had a little surgery that keeps me grounded for a bit.  No driving for a couple of weeks.  No lifting.  No vigorous activities.

Notice I didn’t include yoga in the list of no-no’s.  That’s because it isn’t there.  (But wait, you ask, you just said you can’t teach or practice…so it must be on the list!)

Yoga is an 8-limbed path, many times depicted like a tree.  So, you see, I have 7 other limbs to practice.  Asana, postures and poses used in classes or home practice, are but one.  The other 7, not as popular in the mainstream as asana, but equally valuable are: Yama, Niyama, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi.

I’m going to use this time to dig a little deeper, seek out the dark corners and shine the light.  And you’re welcome to join me.  I hope you will.  What questions do you have?  If the yoga experience seems appealing, but the asana practice doesn’t, what would you like to know about deepening your own practice?

The beauty of yoga is that there are no rights or wrongs.  It is a practice as individual as each of us.

Love and light.

  
 

 

TAKE IT OUTSIDE

When we were kids, occasionally we rode home from school with some family friends. My brother and I always felt like this would be a great adventure because there were 5 siblings in this clan, and they had two huge dogs and a rambling house. Inevitably, we’d start to get rowdy. All this swirl of activity would lead their mom to tell us to take it outside. Usually, she hollered more than told. But we got the picture, and out we went.

 

We took to the yard and the trees. We could hear the birds, feel the dirt and grass under our feet, breathe in the fresh air. And when Mom finally arrived, we were smiling, dirty, and relaxed. Think about how you feel after you spend a day working in the yard. Or consider how many of us leave town for vacation and walk to see the sights. What happens when you get out on the beach, or camp by the river? Does the word happy come to mind?

 

If you Google “health benefits of being outdoors,” you get millions of results. Since that seemed a bit ambiguous, I also changed it to “scientific studies of health benefits of being outdoors.” Still a ridiculous number, which means that I’m sure some of it is hogwash. But still, it’s been studied. Even Harvard has weighed in.

 

The Nature Principle, by Richard Louv, is a brilliant book that explores just what nature holds for us and how we should find our way back there in order to thrive as a society. I’ll spare you a long essay, but tell you that Louv posits “the future will belong to the nature-smart…those who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real.”   Balance…hmmmmmm. Or maybe I should say ommmmmm.

 

There’s no reason your yoga practice can’t go with you into the great outdoors. You don’t even have to have a mat. You can step right into the grass, feeling the blades tickle your feet. Let the sun warm you. (Wear your sunscreen, of course.) Let the breeze caress you. Let the Earth hold you. Re-establishing that balance that Louv talks about, that we all seek. It can be elusive with these over-scheduled, highly-prioritized lives we lead. But it is necessary.

 

Do yourself a favor. Go outside. Put your feet on the Earth. Raise your face to the sun. Wear your sunscreen. And honor yourself and the world around you by getting out in it! 

 

Repeat after me: NO

One little word. You’d think by now we’d all know how to use it. But we don’t, do we? By now, in my 40’s, I should be able to say “no” and not feel any repercussions. I should be able to stand up tall, look you in the eye, and say no and mean it. And most days I can. But what happens on the days I don’t?

Those days are the ones that come back to haunt me: Yes, I’ll sub that class. Join you for a late dinner. Go to that movie. Take on that client. Overbook my schedule. And yes, while I’m at it, I’ll resent the hell out of every one of those things I did when I said yes instead of saying no. Because sometimes, saying yes to someone else means you’ve said no to yourself. And so it begins. This is how imbalance starts.

I’m not sure when no became a four letter word. I was raised to say yes ma’am, but I don’t think my Momma meant for me to agree with everything or take on the whole world, so why did I? The people-pleaser in me can answer that. I just wanted to please everyone. The introvert in me can also weigh in. It’s easier than potential conflict or explaining why. But here’s what happened: I wasn’t included in the pleased crowd, and it was harder on me to do what I said I would because I knew when I agreed that I didn’t want to. So what else happens? The scale tips to resentment, fatigue, bitterness, downright anger. We spew it out like venom and we turn it on ourselves. There’s no good side to this.

The problem starts early (I’m not even sure when) and snowballs. You see, yes becomes a habit. Like going to the gym or practicing yoga. Actually, more like smoking. Going to the gym and practicing yoga are good things; smoking-not so much. And unlike going to the gym, smoking is something you should quit. So is saying yes.

I can say this because I have done it: quitting smoking is difficult on the best days. Quitting “Yes-sing” makes quitting smoking look like a cake-walk. When I quit saying yes, it was like learning a new language. No. Nonononono. NO NO NO NO NO. OMG, what was this unfamiliar sound coming from my mouth? As it turns out, it was the sound of balance coming back into my life.

When you’ve said yes forever, people who’ve known this (you’ve trained them-sometimes over years- to expect a yes) have no idea what to do when you start to say no. They’ll ask you what’s wrong, are you alright, and whatever other questions they can come up with to see exactly what brought this on. They will look at you the first time you say no like you’ve sprouted a horn from your third eye space. “Bless her heart, something must be wrong. She said NO. I hope this passes.”  Keep going. That unfamiliar feeling…it’s fabulous. Get used to it. It’s balance. Maybe it’s been a while since you felt it, so it’s totally foreign. That’s ok. You’re on the right path.

What I’ve learned through this process is the fine art of listening to myself, my body, my gut. I can feel the physiological changes happening when a false yes comes out of my mouth. Let’s face it: it’s a big fat LIE. I’m not a liar, so I have given myself permission to just tell the truth. (It’s not ugly; it just is.) I have learned to say no.

I still waffle on occasion, but I have become a reformed Yes-woman. The road wasn’t easy. I still back pedal and fall into old behavior sometimes. But I have learned this, and it is the most important lesson: if it’s not a hell yes, it has to be a hell no. Hell no keeps me sane, keeps me rested, keeps me in a space of kindness instead of resentment. When I say no to you, I’m really saying YES to me. And at the end of the day, that is the yes that matters most.