Hope for the Future

Many of us are happy and joyful as we celebrate this Christmas Day. And many of us also have some sadness, some worry and some concern about the future. Years ago, I stopped watching the news and it released me from depression and hopelessness. Lately I have noticed that after two minutes on Facebook my warm fuzzies of happiness change to devastation and political divide. For my sanity, I may need to begin limiting my social media consumption soon too. The truth is, even if we remove the news from coming to us, essentially hiding our heads in the sand, the world will still continue to get worse, right?

Or are things really getting worse?

I found two great TED talks you should check out. The first talk I found by Hans Rosling was in 2006. In this first talk, he begins to question what we really know about what is happening in the world.  I encourage you to watch the video and see how what you think is actually based on your perception of the world and, if you are like me, you don’t know much more than the literal monkeys surveyed. The point of this talk was that if we don’t look at the real hard data, we don’t see the positive changes in and the real progress of the world. The negativity we see and experience every day is based on our perception. Our perception is based on what we learned in the past. Therefore we are living in the non-progressing negativity of the past instead of the hopeful reality of today.

Photo by Ron Smith on Unsplash

The second talk by Hans Rosling and his son doesn’t just show how our thinking is skewed. Instead, they also provide us with tangible ways we can look for and truly see the real data. It is when we can see the real data that we can create ways to make real change, or at least sleep at night knowing life is progressing in a positive fashion.  These gentlemen postulate that we all have embraced preconceived ideas as reality. Our beliefs are based on our personal bias due to growing up in homogenized neighborhoods, to the unfortunate fact that we are taught outdated world views in schools, and due to biased news which focuses on rare events and sensationalized fear.

Here is what they suggest to help us start creating a realistic worldview:

  • Instead of focusing on and believing that everything is getting worse, focus on the fact that most things do improve (and they have the data to prove it).
  • Although there is a real gap between the rich and the poor, remember that most people are in the middle of the curve. And that the middle of the bell curve is growing, meaning more of us are living better.
  • Money is not needed to make social improvements. The inverse is true. Social improvements actually lead to increase in personal and national wealth.
  • We may have news, and now even fake news, but we control our consumption. We are often drawn to sensational and unusual events therefore we are fed more and more of these. Stop consuming the sensational, stop feeding your fears, and focus on the true daily facts of our world.

As we move into 2019, don’t focus on the past. Don’t expect things to get worse. Don’t let the past hold you back. Don’t bring the heartbreaks of the last year into the new year. Look at things with open eyes. Look to the new year with hopeful eyes. And usher in the positivity and hope the world needs today.

scary clown

Boo! Scared you!!!

I read online the other day that we are only born with two fears, and no, fear of clowns is not one of them. What I read stated that babies are born only with the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. This implies that all other fears are learned.  As I researched this premise, I found new studies that show the fear of falling is also learned. I feel it is pretty safe to say we are born with two or less fears hard-wired in us. Which means every other fear we have is learned.

scary clown
Photo by Robert Zunikoff on Unsplash

Our experiences, our parents, our friends, and society as a whole teaches us what to fear. I am sure if I gave you five minutes you could come up with a host of fears that you have. The truth is though that each of these fears are things we have chosen to believe. We have either accepted the fears from those around us or have taken an isolated incident in our experiences and chosen to fear that it will happen again. Fear is good in that it can keep us from doing things that will harm us. When fears are unfounded, they can hold us back.

Feeling Fear

A lot is happening in the world right now of which we could be afraid. Yet when we really look at it, as Trevor Noah said recently, “Feeling is often times more powerful than what is actually happening.” Yes, there are shootings. Yes, there are incidents of violence. Yes, there are bad people out there. But what we really fear is what we have created in our minds. It is fear of what could happen. It is important to do a little reality check on what is really something to fear because it is imminent versus the fears we have created which only occur in our minds. I wrote about sorting through our mental fears a few years ago.

Moving Past Fear

Fear is good when it is something that can keep us safe. Fear becomes detrimental when it is something that holds us back or keeps us stuck. Seth Godin shares how fear has been used to keep us complacent and how overcoming our fear can empower us. Instead of avoiding your fears, pushing through them can help you succeed. We can train our minds to choose to be brave and to be the best version of ourselves.

Most of my life I was shy. I was afraid to be seen or heard. I thought I would be told I was stupid, unimportant, incorrect, and would be shunned and unloved if I spoke up. This fear kept me stuck. I didn’t speak up when I should have to protect myself. I didn’t share when I had something of value to provide. I muted my voice from fear of being attacked and ostracized. I became a follower instead of a leader because it seemed safer. As I am learning to use my voice, yes, I have found some people who have taken offense and attacked me. But the percentage is so small that it is not worth discussing. What is more important are the individuals I have helped when I share my truth without fear.

Take a look at your fears. Are they keeping you safe or holding you back? Are they based in reality or are they unfounded? What would it take to empower you to move past your fears? What would you achieve or experience if you allowed yourself to release your fears?

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?

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?

queer eye

Lies and Truth

Have you caught the reboot of Queer Eye? Netflix has picked up the series with a new Fabulous Five and a mission this time to teach and learn acceptance. Both of the new Fab Five seasons are must see, but the Big Little Lies episode in the second season caught my eye. If you don’t have Netflix, you can learn a bit about the episode here.

It is easy to get upset with Ari, the young man the Fab Five are helping. He is a liar. It is easy to see from the first words that leave his mouth that he shirks responsibility and tells tales. It is also clear that he thinks he is charming people into believing him, but he isn’t. Like most liars, the only one who believes the lie is the liar.

queer eyeWhen we run into liars we want to call them on it. We want to yell at them to cut the bull and tell the truth. Unfortunately, if we do this, the only result is the person becomes defensive or combative and digs deeper into the untruths. In the episode with Ari, I thought they were going to call him to the carpet when they hooked him up to a lie detector, but then the show takes an amazing twist **spoiler alert** they don’t give him the results. In fact, no one looks to see if or what he lied about. Instead of the Fab Five being the condescending parent or authority figure calling Ari on his BS, they turn responsibility for Ari’s lies over to him. Ari is the only one who knows if he lied in the test and now he has to live with it.

When I first saw the episode, the lesson I took away was regarding my own lies and half truths about my time in the UCLA theatrical directing graduate school. I had been embarrassed that the school kicked me out, so instead of boldly telling the truth, I said “I left.” It was true. I did leave. What I did not express was the fact I was asked to leave. When Queer Eye did not force Ari to fess up to his lie, what I heard was that the only person who knows, needs to know, and needs to live with the truth is me. I did not tell the whole truth because I was afraid of being judged. It became easier to share my truth when I realized that I was already being judged – each and every day by myself. Being completely honest also helped me let go of the incident. I could let go of my fear of being imperfect and move on with my life.

Lying is a defense mechanism used to protect ourselves from how we think others see us. Lying on the deepest level is a way for us to hide from ourselves. It is hard to be 100% open, honest, and truthful with others and even more so with ourselves. It is scary to see ourselves naked and vulnerable; to be an open book. It takes courage to be completely open with everyone, including ourselves, in every moment. But when we do, we are empowered like never before.

Without the lies hiding our fears, we are free. We can tackle anything because we are free of the bondage of our lives. To move forward in life, we need to release our fears, let go of the lies, and share our truth. Fear and lying only hold us back.

Fears

What are you afraid of sharing? What is keeping you from being 100% honest? Many times it is our fear of being less than. We are afraid of others being upset or leaving us due to our actions, thought, or beliefs. Yet these fears may be unfounded. We can never know 100% how people will react until we share our truth.

Acceptance

We may think we are getting away with a lie, but usually we are not. A lawyer friend of mine used to joke, “Nothing is illegal, unless you get caught.” Many of us live our lives lying under the radar. And many times we can get away with our lies. Either no one knows or no one calls us on it. We think we have gotten away with something and in one way we have. But in a much bigger way we have not. We have to live with our lie. We are the ones up sleepless nights worrying about being caught. Our lies and fears eat away at us day and night.

Courage

Being 100% honest in everything, takes a lot of courage. Many of us have told little white lies to protect someone’s feelings or not ruffle feathers, but is it truly the best choice? Every time we run from our whole-hearted truth, we are making a small tear in our relationships. We should never share a truth that would intentionally hurt another, but everything else is fair game.

Watch yourself this week. What lies are you telling? What are you trying to cover up with the lie? What are you afraid of? What do you need to accept about yourself? Do you have the courage to tell the truth?