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?

nighttime routine

The Necessity of Daily Habits

Throughout my book, From Type A to Type Me: How to Stop “Doing” Life and Start Living It, I enforce again and again the importance of Daily Habits. “Because life changes, it is necessary to have Daily Habits to keep us centered and focused on the life we want. This is why they are Daily Habits, not one-time tools. The work in this book is not to be completed and then forgotten. It is one thing to know the road. It is something different to walk it.”

If you have read my blog for any time now, you must know that I am not perfect. Because of this, sometimes I forget to take my own advice. Recently, I fell off the Daily Habits bandwagon. “I got this,” I think. “I wrote the book, literally, on stress relief and living joyously. So now I don’t have to put any effort into it. I can just get on with living.” Wrong.

nighttime routineIt is ok to take a break from our Daily Habits. Maybe on vacation or during an emergency. A few days here or there. Or perhaps we take a bit of time off, so we can consider which Habits are helping us and which need to be revised. But taking off weeks or months at a time can be detrimental. After being away from my Daily Habits, I first notice that I reach for bandage solutions to handle difficult situations. Instead of being centered and having the ability to think clearly, I look to quick-fix pacifiers for issues. They make me feel better in the moment, but they don’t resolve the issue. Then, over time, I notice that I am not handling non-difficult situations well either. I am irritable, resentful, and triggered by the smallest things. I find myself having tantrums like a three-year-old who is not getting their way, feeling out of control and powerless. Then finally, I hit whatever bottom I need to in order to snap out of this phase and go back to my Daily Habits. Within a few days I am more centered, have clearer focus on issues, and just enjoy life better.

If you do not already have Daily Habits or if perhaps it is time to revised and reinvigorate your Daily Habits, let’s review the components of a Daily Habit routine. First, create your personal Daily Habits by what feels good to you. Absolute right and wrong don’t exist. Some things will work for you, and some won’t. Consider it okay. Create your habits from your center, your heart, and your core. Ensure your habits are in alignment with you. Here are some components you can choose from for your Daily Habits or create some of your own. Find two or three that resonate with you and that you can commit to doing daily.

  • Every morning read from the inspirational book of your choosing. What you read and even how much you read is not as important as the text being something that makes you feel calm and centered, and that it helps you see your life, your relationships, and the world more objectively.
  • Do something to feed your soul. Whether it is something creative, cooking a wonderful meal, or playing Sudoku, spend a little time doing something that stirs your soul.
  • Before getting out of bed think of five (5) things for which to be grateful. These gratitudes can be as simple as having a nice bed to wake up in and air to breathe.
  • At the beginning of the day write your intentions and goals to focus your efforts.
  • Spend at least fifteen (15) minutes in the State of Gray or meditation.
  • Move! Take a walk, practice yoga, or go for a swim. Whatever gets your blood pumping.
  • Google some different breathing techniques and find one that calms and centers you.
  • Take breaks throughout the day to check in with your mood, stress level, thoughts, and attitude. If you are headed down the wrong path, try to get back to center.
  • Take some time to write, say or listen to positive affirmations.
  • At the end of the day, journal about the good things that happened to you throughout the day. We tend to focus on the negative so purposefully calling out the good can shift our mindset.

Remember to use these Habits daily. They are not something to learn, have your life changed by, and then move on. The key to making permanent changes in your life is by using Daily Habits to help you through everyday stress. These habits also give you a solid foundation to manage when major stressful events occur.

Share with us here the Daily Habits you are going to commit to for the next thirty days.

dirk gently's holistic detective agency

Decisions in Desperation

I was saddened to hear my latest Netflix binge show is not getting a third season. Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is based on the 1987 novels by Douglas Adams.  The show was well written and acted and was loaded with the geeky humor I love. What I also loved was the deeper messages the show conveyed.

In the first episode, Dirk tells his reluctant new assistant Todd, “You’ve been making choices out of desperation for too long, that much is obvious. You’re backing yourself into a corner. Break the pattern. Take control of your life, Todd. The instant you take control, interesting things will happen. I guarantee it.”

dirk gently's holistic detective agency
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4047038/mediaviewer/rm4061739520

Many times in my life I made choices out of desperation. I was living in a reactionary state. I didn’t think I had a choice or didn’t think I had the power to act on my own choice. So instead I moved through life based on what came to me or what others wanted. I wouldn’t act until the pain was great enough to force me into action. Like the old saying, it had to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. I would accept more and more and more of what I didn’t want because I felt afraid to act. I felt powerless. I didn’t know or accept that I had power to create my life. The result is that by the time I acted, I was just protecting myself against all the crap I took on instead of consciously moving into what I wanted.

When I completed college, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I had no direction. I was accepted into graduate school for theatrical directing, so I went. It was not a choice. It was an act of desperation. I didn’t know what else to do so I went where I was accepted. It was an honor to be in the program, but it was not my passion. It was not my life purpose. After one year, the school realized this as well and kicked me out. I could have moved home afterward. I could have resigned myself and acted out of desperation yet again, but for some reason I didn’t this time.

I chose to stay in Los Angeles. I had no safety net. I had no real job. I had only a temporary residence. In college I had wanted to try skydiving and my experience in California was that same terrifying exhilaration of free-falling I assume skydiving is. Because I had nothing else, I had to begin to create for myself. I found my way. I made some bad choices and wrong turns, but for once, I was the one walking the path. I didn’t follow anyone else. I didn’t react. I chose. I acted. I created. I started accepting my power. I began to take control of my life. I began to define and move toward what I wanted. And as Dirk predicted, interesting things did begin to happen.

Do you act out of choice or desperation? Are you choosing your life or letting it be chosen for you? Are you ready to begin taking control of your experience?

my close community

Keys for Success

We currently live in a community of duplexes which are built very close together. Our balcony is attached to our neighbor’s balcony; we can literally hop the divider and be on their side. We can see our backyard neighbor’s kitchen from our bedroom. The neighbor across the street has a clear view into our house from his patio. At first, I thought this might be a bit intrusive, but everyone is respectful, and the close quarters have actually created a wonderful feeling of community.

my close communityIt can also feel a bit like Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. As I work from home, I have picked up the pattern of the local community from the first 7:00am car horn picking up kids for school, to our shirtless neighbor having his third cigarette on the patio, to the evening barbeques watching the sunset.

In the movie Rear Window, there is Miss Lonely Heart having dinners on her own, a beautiful showgirl practicing her dance moves, and a composer who creates his work all day and night. We too have a musician. Back in January I started to notice someone practicing the piano weekdays late in the afternoon and randomly on the weekends. The player is working on Mozart’s very difficult Rondo Alla Turca.

As the song is played every day, I am glad it is one of my favorites. The player here is very good but stumbles about one minute into the piece where it shifts. For about a month, I heard the player work and rework and work some more on this transition. By April, the player’s practice paid off with a smooth brilliant transition. Note too, that my local pianist plays the song much faster than the video link. Amazing!

In listening to the player’s ability grow over the months, I was struck by the dedication to this piece. It made me think of what is needed for success: Practice, Consistency, and Patience.

Practice

Especially in our current instant-gratification society, having dedication to our practice is challenging. I see this with my own desire to speak and understand the Spanish language. I speak it every time I can, but I also know if I would pick up the CD tutorial or hire a teacher that the daily practice would excel my ability. But committing to the practice is difficult. I was amazed at the player’s daily practice even when the piece was not working well (I heard more than one time all fingers – or whole head – angerly hitting the keys). But then two seconds later, practice would continue. Having the courage to practice even when things are not smooth is the path to success.

Consistency

The pianist plays daily, sometimes multiple times a day, without fail. When we are trying something new, it is easy to say we aren’t going to do it today because of [insert reason here]. Strength comes from being consistent no matter the circumstances. Have a cold? Play. Friends coming over later? Play. Spent more time than usual practicing the day before? Play. During this spring’s yoga challenge, I learned the strength that comes from consistency. Success comes from dedicating yourself to a practice and holding yourself accountable to make it happen each and every day.

Patience

I honor the pianist’s patience. I can tell the days where the piece is not as good as the player thinks it can be. Through the un-Mozart sounds that come after a passage, I can hear frustration. But then I also experience the deep cleansing breath before the player gets back at it again. I don’t know what is going on in the pianist’s head, but just the fact that the player can “get back on the horse” after a musical fall shows great love and self-acceptance. We are often very hard on ourselves. Without patience and acceptance, we often block ourselves and stifle our growth. Be patience, loving and accepting of yourself. Practice patience as you learn and grow.

Whether you are learning something new or just trying to get through your day, look to practice, consistency and patience to help support you toward your definition of success.

Jackie Kennedy

Shaping Our Lives

What if you were told growing up, “You never have to worry about keeping up with the Joneses, because we are the Joneses”? or, “Style is not a function of how rich you are, or even who you are. Style is a habit of mind that puts quality over quantity, noble struggle before mere achievement, honor before opulence. It’s what you are. It’s your essential self”? How would you grow up perceiving the world? What would be your expectations for yourself and others?

Jackie Kennedy
Image: https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/jackie-kennedy-175.php

According to the book, Jackie, Janet & Lee by J. Randy Taraborrelli, these were the words spoken to Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis by her father. It is easy to see how these words shaped who Jackie was and what she expected from life.

What were you told growing up? What did the adults around you believe? What experiences did you have which shaped your expectations?

Sometimes we are told things which are meant to protect and support us, but which actually hold us back. Sometimes those around us are unstable and cruel. Whatever the circumstance, we often find ourselves decades later continuing to create our life based on some random comment. What was spoken by another has now become a fact of life that we believe completely.

I have set a goal for my yoga class to be able to do a headstand by my 50th birthday. I started with small poses to build up my neck muscles. I have built up to picking my feet off the floor and resting my knees on my elbows. I was in that pose feeling good about myself and my growing strength when my instructor told me to lift my legs. My heartrate increased. My breathing became shallow and fast. I was terrified. My legs froze and felt five times heavier than they are. However, it was not my body that could not do the pose, but my mind.

Instead of having confidence, my mind went to the belief that I have never been athletic, I am old and overweight.  These thoughts are what weighed me down. These beliefs are what kept me from a headstand, not any physical ability. Along with continuing my practice, I am now also working diligently to remove the beliefs which are holding me back.

What beliefs are currently holding you back? What have people told you that you made your own? What incident from years ago are you holding on to and making it a current reality? What stories are you telling yourself to keep yourself small?

We all have beliefs which are not serving us. But we can choose what we continue to believe. Instead of defeating yourself by buying into a negative belief when it appears, tell yourself that even though you believe it now, it is safe to let it go. No matter what we are told – or what we tell ourselves, we can choose to believe it or not. If our current beliefs are not serving us, we can choose ones that move us forward and bring us joy.

Stay tuned for headstand pictures. I will get there. 😉

yoga as a daily practice

The Necessity of Routine

After transitioning from Type A to Type Me, I found that practicing a regular routine helped me from sliding back into my Type-A ways. Originally, the practice was reading inspirational works daily, meditating, focusing on active gratitude, and walking. I diligently engaged in these things daily to lay a strong foundation and center myself.

Two and a half years ago, I arrived in paradise. Breaking out of the rat race, I landed in a beautiful location surrounded by calming water and a culture of loving caring individuals. Things were perfect. I let my daily practices slide. Why would I need to have a daily practice now that I had the sun and the surf every day?

Wrong.

yoga as a daily practiceI did not notice the impact right away. Things were good. I didn’t have to maintain my practice to feel centered. Life was amazing. But then it started. Little issues. Little conflicts. Small and big challenges. Without the foundation of my practice, I found myself unconsciously and negatively reacting to these trials. I did not approach them with calm centeredness, but with blinding emotion. The result was the same horrible feeling I had when I was in the deep despair of my Type-A days.

Thankfully things are on the mend. I have committed to creating a new Type-Me practice. And by practicing daily, I am slowing down and being more conscious of my thoughts, actions, and beliefs. I am not allowing my emotions to take a hold of my reactions. And I am finding more peace in my daily life.

Having a regular practice is very important. Times will be good. Times will be bad. The consistency of our practice is what bridges these hills and valleys. It gives us support during tough times and creates even more ease when things are good.

Doing a daily practice is more important than what the practice is. What is important is finding what you need to help keep you centered. Look into practices like meditation or yoga that clear your mind. Find the texts that feed your soul whether they are from religious books or your favorite blog. Engage your body in the movement it desires. Add in practices of gratitude, intentions, and affirmations. Maybe you want to have a bit of a creative outlet daily. Many different tools are available to you to create your own practice. Find the ones that best serve you.

You may also find that your daily practice changes over time. As your life changes, you may find that you need different types or means of support. Just like any diet, your personal practice may change overtime, and if you don’t change your diet you may find yourself stuck in a rut or not getting all the nutrition you need. Every so often look at your practice and evaluate what is working and what is not. As we grow, it makes sense that our practice grows with us.

Do you have a daily practice? Are you faithfully executing it? How do you feel when you practice a few days in a row? How do you feel when you skip your practice a few too many times? What would it take to gift yourself with a practice?