maslow needs

The Quest for Improvement

Today I was going to write about the story of the two monks and the river in order to show how most of the time our mental pain hurts us more than our physical pain. Then I realized I shared the monk story back in 2010. So . . . I thought about a different angle to take so we could explore how we usually cause more pain and discomfort in our lives by how we think about others, ourselves, and situations then by anything that is actually physically happening to us. I looked up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to use that as a basis to show how for most of our current society the base human needs are taken care of, yet we are torturing ourselves so much more from our mental pain. In researching Maslow I found this great article giving the basics about Maslow’s psychology and found some solace for my own current angst.

maslow needs
From Simple Psychology

Being a perfectionist, I unfortunately tend to beat myself up for the times I do not act how I know I am capable. Instead of seeing these struggles as part of my growth, I wallow too long beating myself up for my imperfections. Yet they are not imperfections. They are the bumps and struggles we all have as we strive to become the best people we are meant to be. It is our challenges, our setbacks, the adversity we face (from others or self-created) which give us the opportunity to grow. Not that I am anywhere close to this, but I looked at the list of characteristics of self-actualizers in the article and can see that at my core this is who I want to be. Seeing the goals of life this way has always made me feel different than others and yet it is what I feel driven to become. It is my goal. It is my definition of happiness and contentment.

Lately I have been praying for help because I have been so down on and overcritical of myself. Finding this article was Spectacularly Perfect for me as it told me that although the path is currently bumpy, I am heading in the right direction because I share many of the behaviors, or strive to have the behaviors, that lead to self-actualization. I am trying to be fully and completely in each moment. I am listening to my inner guidance (even when it is not popular or when it is scary) and sharing my truth honestly. I am willing to try new things, to walk the road less taken. I am surrendering my defenses and having the courage to take responsibility for my growth.  And I promise to remember what Maslow said, “There are no perfect human beings.”  I’ll just continue to do my best every day and accept when my best is the bare minimum.

What are you currently struggling with? What are your goals? What obstacles are in your way? What Spectacularly Perfect Events help you to know you are on the right path or give you the next step on your journey? How do you accept the hiccups and imperfections of the human experience?

Have hope. Keep walking. Keep growing. Keep loving.

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?

yoga studio

Step into the Front of Life

In yoga, I usually grab the back corner. I don’t want anyone to see me doing yoga. I am recently back to the practice, round and not stick-figure-toned, and usually older than most of the other practitioners. Most of the time, I am surrounded by fit, thin 20-somethings and feel like the ugly duckling so I retreat to the back. However, from the back corner, what I see is not just the instructor but all the participants. As my focus is on them, I find I often compare myself to them. I am not judging them as much as I am judging myself, my ability, and my worth by their ability and appearance.

yoga studioOn Friday I arrived and no one else was there. I took a place upfront because I knew the instructor would make me move anyway. Well by the time the class started, there were three rows of people. I took a deep breath and prepared for being on display. What was interesting was being in front made me less conscious of others, less self-conscious, and less judging. Because I didn’t see anyone else, I could release the comparison and solely focus on myself.

What I realized was hiding in the back didn’t protect me. It actually made me more self-conscious because I saw the others in front of me. Being in the back put more focus on others and allowed me the opportunity to compare myself to them. Being in the back did not hide and protect me, but actually hurt me because I choose to compare.

By making myself first, in the front of the room, I could not see the others. The others didn’t matter when I couldn’t see and focus on them. By putting myself first, I removed “the other” and allowed me to focus on myself. That day in class was one of my best practices I experienced because it was just about me. No comparisons. No self-consciousness. Just doing my best and accepting myself as I am. Because I was not focusing on others, I was able to go within (the whole point to yoga). I was able to focus on my moves, my practice. I found strength I didn’t have when I was self-conscious. Without the yoke of comparison, I was free to explore each pose. I found this practice to be one of the best I ever had.

As you go about your day, how much time is spent comparing yourself to others? How much of your focus is on what others are doing and saying versus what you believe and think? How are you stifling yourself because you don’t think you are as [insert adjective here] as others?

This week be aware of the comparisons and judgements you are making. What do they mean about your self-opinion? How are they keeping you from moving forward? Are they creating resentment and sadness? Then try to shed the comparisons and notice how you can free yourself. When we put ourselves first, we unrestrict our purpose and heart and we are more powerful. Stop hiding behind others, and step into the front of life.

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. 😉

walking in anothers shoes

Walking in Another’s Shoes

I watched a terrific TED talk the other day by an individual who has a unique view on gender issues and authenticity. Paula Williams started life as a man and is now a woman. Due to her experiences, Paula has a very unique view of both genders and has experienced firsthand that they are equal, but there is not equity for both. She shares funny and sad examples of bias and favoritism. She said she lived life from both sides and the “differences are massive.”

I’ll let Paula’s message focus on the gender issue. What I want to focus on is our assumptions and unconscious bias, and the power we give away to others.

Releasing Assumptions

walking in anothers shoesPaula has a unique opportunity to really learn what it really means to be and experience life as a woman, and a man.  For most of us, we only know what we know as our gender. We can have an idea of the injustices and differences but can’t know firsthand how both genders experience life. This is true for almost everyone we meet. We all have unique journeys. We are born into different bodies and different environments. We learn and experience different things growing up. It becomes all too easy to dislike or attack another because of one aspect we see. Yet, we don’t know the full picture. Unless you can truly walk in another’s shoes, you will never know what they experience, think, and believe. We can assume, but our assumptions are clouded by our own experiences and beliefs.

Next time you have a disagreement or negative reaction to another, stop. Step back. Try to look at the big picture of who this individual is, where they came from, and if other issues they may be experiencing may be coloring their actions. So much of the online and offline rage and arguments we see are based on assumptions and “the other.” When we can release our own bias, it allows us the space to see the full picture of the other person – and start an intelligent dialogue.

Empowerment

For those of you who are struggling with self-esteem and your voice, Paula has some great words of encouragement. I have experienced people throughout my life, and even recently, who sought to put me down and belittle me in one form or another. If we hear – and take in – this negativity for too long, we can start to believe it and take it on as our own. No matter what others say about you, remember that you are intelligent and worthy. Stay true to yourself. Stay true to what you know. Don’t question yourself just because others do. The key to strength and power is to believe it inherently. When we look to others for approval and confirmation, we have already given away our power. Reclaim your strength by owning it.

As you go about this week, notice the assumptions you have about others. How much do you really know about them? Can you identify and, hopefully, release your bias? Who are people who make you doubt yourself? Why are you triggered by them? What do you need to own about yourself? This week, follow Paula’s lead and honor the journey and the differences of others, and yourself.