giving

Service and Surrender

At different times of my life, I seem to have themes on which I am focusing. Two current themes I keep sensing right now are Service and Surrender.

Service

I grew up the daughter of two consummate volunteers. Under their tutelage, we were always helping others in small or large ways. At times I resented the need to spend my time giving to others, but now I see service as the ultimate gift to me. When I find myself depressed and unhappy, I usually notice that I am solely focused on me and my worries. Don’t know about you, but when I think of my worries I get caught in a downward cycle. The more I think about them the lower I get and the more I worry. It is an ugly cycle.

giving
Photo by Sabrina May on Unsplash

When I instead turn to others, to their needs, to their worries, to their growth, I find release. Not only do I feel the joy that naturally comes from giving to others, but I am released from my personal torment. Giving to others is a form of gratitude. When we listen to others’ issues or can help them in some tangible fashion, it brings awareness of all the good in our lives. Visit a friend in the hospital, be grateful for your health. Give someone a ride, be grateful you have a car.  Give children a meal, be grateful for the food in your home.

Service is always a gift that is given freely, with no resentment and with no expectations for compensation. Service is the ultimate in acceptance and compassion. Giving freely and receiving so much in return.

Surrender

The song “Landslide” has been popping up in my playlist and seems to encapsulate the surrender part of my current theme. In the interpretation of the lyrics I like, Stevie Nicks is expressing looking back on her life, on the persona she created then “the landslide brought” her down. The life she created, the roles she played, even the accomplishments she had now seem meaningless or maybe not as meaningful. She is looking to make a change from what she created on the outside into what she is on a deeper level.

Surrender is the ultimate letting go. It is letting go of beliefs held. It is letting go of expectations. It is letting go of pride. It is letting go of judgment. Surrender is letting go of our ego. This term is not just the concept of ego as self-importance or self-worth. Ego is all that is “I.” Our ego is who we think we are or who we think we need to be. It is our thoughts, beliefs, memories, and physical self.

The pain one often feels in life is tied to the ego and it usually revolves around fear. We are afraid of not being good enough, afraid of not being accepted, afraid of being judged, afraid of loss. Our fears become our dictators. We act and react in life as a response to our fears. Our choices are made to keep us from the negative outcome of our fears. Love and peace come from letting go of our ego and the fears protecting that ego. Surrender is seeing that we are something other than the self. Surrender is releasing the personas we have built for ourselves. Surrender is embracing our connection to something larger than we as an individual are.

What are your current themes? What do surrender and service mean to you?

blue sky

Why is the Sky Blue?

If you have been around small children, you may have been asked a question like “why is the sky blue?” Science readily gives us answers. Like this one from NASA which talks about how blue light travels in shorter and smaller waves so it is easier for us to see. But NASA did not really answer the question. They answered how the sky appears blue, but they didn’t really answer why. The “hows” of life are very important. They help us function. They explain nature and how the world works. The hows lead us to inventions like refrigerators, cars and air conditioners. Understanding how things work helps us to relate to the world around us. What has always intrigued me are the “whys” of life. Why are blue light waves smaller? Why are there different colors in the light waves? Why do the light waves act differently? Why are their light waves at all?

blue sky
Photo by Breno Freitas on Unsplash

I don’t remember where I heard the why/how debate or if it just came to me, but the difference between why and how made me stop. In our lives there are many times we don’t have answers to why things happen like they do. Why does gravity exist? Why do opposites attract? Why does the body only have a finite number of years of use? Why is there so much pain and hate? Why can’t we all just get along? Why do we exist as we exist and why do we exist at all? The whys delve into the meaning of life.

Spending time contemplating the whys distances us from our every day life. The daily questions we ask ourselves are usually banal.  Why is the Starbucks line so long? Why can the Jones’ get a new car and why can’t I? Why does a size 8 dress no longer seem to be my size 8? Even important questions like, does this look cancerous to you or why is our relationship not like it used to be, keeps us focused on our earthly life. This day to day life can be the source of a lot of pain, anger and frustration. Taking some time to look beyond the commonplace can put things in perspective for us. Going beyond the here and now, beyond what our five senses tell us, can transport us to a thinking and a peace that can provide us with a much-needed respite. If you can’t lift yourself beyond the earthly realm, try to distance yourself using time and space. For whatever is troubling you, explore how important it will be in five years or maybe twenty.  Giving ourselves perspective by looking beyond our current viewpoint, can be a source of great serenity.

If it is hard to find perspective and peace by moving beyond, move within. Explore the whys in your own personal life. I’m not talking about intriguing but unimportant questions like, why do I like pizza more than celery? But exploring deeper whys that affect how we experience our lives. Why do I react this way to certain people? Why do I hold myself back? Why do I keep making the same mistakes again and again? Exploring these whys can help us change how we experience life. An analysis of one’s whys helps us gain understanding of our actions and with that understanding we are able to make different choices. For example, why do I react negatively to narcissists? The answer is I have been hurt by them in the past and it is safer for me to not be around them. This piece of information can help me make choices toward a better life. Knowing why you act and react a certain way can help you make better choices for a better life.

As you go about your day, notice how you are perceiving the world. Is stopping to ask why on a global or personal level a potential source of calm for you?

Helping Others to Help Myself

One of the gifts of coaching others is that it forces me to be on my best behavior. If I am spiraling around in anger or self-pity, how can I expect others to act in any better? How can I teach others how to get there if I am not walking the talk? Focusing on helping others, forces me to be my very best and not just on a surface level.

Photo by J W on UnsplashEver hear the saying, “Do as I say not as I do”? It is unfortunately easy to point to clergy, politicians, and gurus of every sort who say one thing, and do another. It is easy to tell others what to do. We all can share a plethora of platitudes and can point to all the things we should be doing. But to speak the best way to live and to actually live that way are two different things. Throughout my life I have met individuals and studied seemingly elevated public figures whose daily interactions did not live up to the words they shared. We are human so living true to our words can be hard.

Walking the talk takes courageous vulnerability. I remember a troubled friend of mine who constantly complained about the government and what it was doing wrong. He was certain he could fix the political system and would share with anyone listening his views on what should be done.  Yet, his own life was a mess. When I confronted him on this, his sheepish response was that it is easier to fix the government than his own family. The government was “easy” for him to fix because it was external to him. He didn’t have to address himself to fix the way government was run because he was not part of it. To fix his own life, however, meant that he needed to be vulnerable. He needed to take a deep and courageous look at his own self to fix his thinking and relationships. For many of us, this is too hard.

That is why I am blessed to coach. If I am to truly help others, I need to not only know the path but to walk it to the best of my ability. Being a role model gives me the strength to embrace my ideal life. I am far from perfect, but in taking on the role of mentor, I do my best every day to do my best every day. Sometimes I don’t have enough strength to make a change myself, but when I know others are watching or that my actions can influence the growth of someone else, I can find courage to move forward. One of my current challenges is to finally and completely give up caffeine as it is a destructive food for me. If left to my own devices, it is easy to give in to temptation. Besides, who cares? I am just hurting my own body, not anyone else. But when I think of my friends who are also trying to abstain, I know that if I give in, it could make them lose hope. I want to be a beacon for them. And in focusing on doing it for more than just myself, I find that I have more resolve to make things happen.

For those of you raising children, you also have the opportunity to be a role model for those you love. For the rest of you, look to all those you interact with, employees, coworkers, friends, acquaintances, can you embrace the role of mentor to help them see a new way to live? What are ways you believe we should be living, and are you walking the talk? Can you release your bad habits to be a beacon to others?

angry cat

Anger

Anger appears to be the common feeling these days. Politics, religion, gender, race, guns, even in professional sports, it is hard to find a subject today that someone isn’t angry about.

Anger is important. Anger tells us that something is wrong. This emotion alerts us to an injustice we have suffered, to an issue that needs to be resolved, or to a situation which is not emotionally or physically healthy for us.

angry cat
Photo by FuYong Hua on Unsplash

Anger acted upon is what causes issues. When we act with anger, we are only spreading more hate, pain, and confusion. Anger is not intended to be an action. Acting upon our anger creates more anger in ourselves and others. Anger is for awareness not action.

A group of us meet frequently at the same location. The carpeting at the location was washed, but due to the high humidity of the season it never dried. Three weeks later the room still smells strongly of mold and mildew. A friend had intense anger at the situation. Her feeling was very justifiable. Her anger alerted her to the potential health issue because of the wet carpet. Instead of recognizing her anger and then releasing it to be able to logically discuss solutions, she let the anger loose. Instead of fixing the problem, she caused emotional stress to those around her and distanced the individuals who could have found a solution. A better choice would have been to temper her anger, express her concern clearly, and work with those involved for a solution.

A few days later, I had my own anger. I count on my yoga classes as a point of consistency for my week. They keep me grounded. They provide me with the physical exercise and mental calm to assist me throughout my day. Since July, my classes have not been consistent. The times have changed due to other events at the studio. The content has changed without warning. My anger rose. I took some time to look into my anger. What was I really angry about? I released things that were my issue. As a recovering Type A, I am still triggered by those who don’t adhere to the clock or a schedule like I do. This is something I need to be aware of, accept, and work on. The issue outside of myself that anger alerted me to was that I had paid for a service which was no longer being delivered. We had a contract for a certain type of yoga at a certain time. This contract was broken. Once I found the actionable issue anger had alerted me to, I could have an unemotional conversation with the studio owner working toward a resolution.

When you find anger rising up, remember these three steps:

Turn Off the Anger Alarm Clock

Thank your anger for alerting you to an issue. Don’t feed the anger. Don’t immediately share your anger with friends, family, and all of Facebook. Take a breath.

Find the Cause

Look for the reasons anger has shown up. Write them all down. Separate them into what is your personal issue to work through and what are the issues you need to resolve with others.

Work for Solutions

For those things which are your normal triggers, work through them. What lesson are you being given about things you can improve about yourself? For larger issues that affect more people, approach those involved with facts and in a state of calm. The goal is not to attack or criticize, but to find solutions.

As you go about your day, embrace anger as the awareness tool it is and work on creating new healthier reactions to it.

doing a headstand

Embrace the Challenge

Before moving down to Mexico, I would occasionally go to a gentle yoga class or do a few poses suggested by the Wii video game. When I first moved to Cabo, I had a practice of my own, for about a day. Truly for the first two years in Mexico my practice was non-existent. Finally, just after Christmas 2017, I knew it was time to get back into yoga.

Let me tell you, the first month I started back up, I was surprised at how bad I had become at yoga. Ok, so there is supposedly no good or bad to yoga, so let’s say that I had very limited flexibility, balance, and strength. It was a struggle for me. And I was angry at myself for slacking and at my body for not cooperating. I was disappointed at my abilities and was really hard on myself.

The 8am classes I attended are challenging, and I often felt like a floundering walrus doing the moves instead of a graceful swan. Toward the end of this style of class, the focus is on backbends and inversions. I remember the first time I heard, “If headstand is in your practice, go into it now.” I can imagine the incredulous look that passed over my face.  Needless to say, headstands were not in my practice. When I looked around the room however, most of the class had their feet in the air before I realized what had been said.

doing a headstandAs the morning class was the one I attended, my nemesis – the headstand – was ever present. The first few classes, I didn’t even try. I hid in child’s pose or tried to blend into the corner. Eventually I realized that headstands were part of the usual routine and that I could not get away from them, so I started to do the beginner version, the rabbit. I felt stupid with my tush in the air and my head and knees on the ground looking less like a rabbit and more like a discarded wad of gum. But it was more progress than not trying at all.

And, as usual, when I am hard on myself, I push myself to get better. I continued going to classes. I participated in the 30 days of yoga challenge in March. Little by little my strength, flexibility, and balance started growing the more I practiced. I started to learn that yoga was more of a mental journey than a physical challenge. I learned that getting well sometimes means getting sicker first and that there is strength in letting go. I learned the importance of balance on and off the mat and how to let go of self-judgment.

As I started to see my physical ability improve, I gave myself a challenge. My goal was to be able to do a headstand by my 50th birthday. This gave me over a year to reach this goal. My yoga instructor laughed at me. “Headstands are easy. You won’t need that long.” I mocked her. Did she not see my age, strength, and physical inability? I thought this was a Herculean task and she saw it as easy as tying my shoes.  Little did I know at the time that the issue was more mental than physical. The instructor thought fear was holding me back, but it was actually due to disbelief in myself and a tendency to keep myself down (in this case, physically as well as mentally).

It took me from April until June to do my first, albeit assisted, headstand. It was ugly, but I did one. Afterward, I started to do them with more strength and poise. I was no longer flinging myself in the air, but I was controlling my movements as I got into and out of the pose. Yes, I had strengthened my neck and core over the months, but the real reason I was able to do the move is that I took advice from my friend Catherine Johns and spent time outside class visualizing doing it. I overcame my body by first overcoming the limiting beliefs of my mind. The achievement of doing the pose gave me a strength in my body and mind that I don’t think I have ever felt.

What do you think is impossible in your life right now? It is time to take baby-steps toward your challenge?

carry water

Walk the Talk

A friend introduced me to an author and the founder of a new system to activate the use of our whole brain. After reading weeks of his posts, I don’t think there is validity to his system which is another get-enlightenment-quick scheme. But I did find one of his initial posts poignant.

In this post, he talks about how “awakening is our beginning – not our end.” Awakening or enlightenment is the transcendence of our human minds and existence. Meditation, prayer, and numerous other tools help us transcend our physical lives and get a glimpse of the deeper meaning of life. The point he brings up is that this glimpse does not mean we are transformed forever. Enlightenment gives us the information for a better life, but then we need to choose to live that way each day.

carry waterIn my 20’s and early 30’s, I worked with a psychologist. Early on he put me on a medication. It was a very low dose, but it was enough to help me feel what life could be without stress. It didn’t, however, take my stress away. It showed me that life could be different, but it didn’t make my life different. The medication showed me that it was possible and then I had to work every day to maintain that stress-free feeling. My daily actions, the daily habits I created and utilized were the things that made a difference in how I experienced life. The medication showed me the possibility, but it did not alter my long-term experience. I had to do that.

Many experiences in Peru gifted me with amazing insight into the beyond, how we are all one, and the truest meaning of life. It was there that I also learned the old phrase, “Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” We may glimpse the amazing truth beyond our human existence, but then we still need to live on earth with traffic jams, bickering families during holidays, and irate managers. Having a moment of enlightenment does not changes us. Trying to live our lives based on what we gleam from that moment of enlightenment is what changes us.

The first book I wrote, From Type A to Type Me: How to Stop “Doing” Life and Start Living It, was designed to help you wake up. It was meant to show you that there is a different way. Hopefully in using the tools in the book you can experience a pop of transcendence here and there, or at least begin to see that there is a better, more joyful, move loving, more peaceful way to live. Currently I am working on two new books, one that is meant to help us learn to walk the talk of enlightenment. The difficulty is not finding enlightenment, but to experience a higher form of living each and every day, no matter what is going on around us. And sorry, but this takes work and effort, it is not found in some new age tool that will automatically leap you into this new way of being.

Have you had a moment of transcendence? If so, share with us here. As you go about your day, be aware of how often you are in – and out – of that loftier way of being. How often are you triggered by situations or individuals? How often do you fall into depression, anger or resentment? Can you pull yourself out of these negative experiences and back into the transcendent experience you desire?