good omens - angel demon

Accepting Humanity

My friend and talented author, Nan, introduced me to the Good Omens series based on the book by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. The video series has been my go-to escape during The Big Time Out we have all been given. It is funny, brilliant, and very insightful.

One of the main lessons I learned through the Good Omens series is that we are neither inherently good or bad, we are just human. We have days where we can act like perfect angels. We have other days where we make choices, say things, or act in a way that is purely demonic. In truth, however, we are neither good nor bad. We are just human. This concept has helped me accept myself, and others, at a deeper level than I had been able to before.

Most of my life, I tried to be that angel. Acting perfectly. Striving for more. Looking for recognition. And I completely ignored where I was a demon. Saying the wrong things to the wrong people at the wrong time. Allowing my own fears to self-sabotage my dreams. Attacking others to keep from falling into my own insecurities. Until recently, I thought one day I could be all angel. Now I have come to accept that I will always be part angel and part demon. This acceptance helps me feel so much more comfortable in my own skin. I embrace and accept my full humanity.

Good Omens - angel and demon

This acceptance of myself, has also helped me accept others. What if I met you on one of your demon days? Is it fair to think that how you acted on your worst day, is who you are all the time? Or what about the times when all we see of someone is angel and then are devastated to see their dark side? No one is perfect all the time in all ways. Having unrealistically high expectations for another – or ourselves, only leads to disappointment.

In a snippet of talk by Ram Dass, he adds another facet to the idea of self-acceptance. Ram Dass responded to the question “how do we love ourselves more”, with an answer of “why we need to accept ourselves fully”. Ram Dass was pointing out what I do so well, judge. I judge myself. I judge others. I judge the actions of society as a whole. But judging does more harm than good. Judging separates us. It is natural to notice our differences, but to attack or demean another, or our ourselves, because of the difference leads to separation and hate.

What is interesting to explore is what we are using to judge. Who sets the rules and the measuring stick? When I was younger, I judged myself against the super-skinny models of the 1970’s, to which I would always lose. As I changed careers, I judged myself against others’ success and notoriety. I have even judged myself against others’ spiritual depth. In all these instances, I had to first decide by which scale to judge myself and other people.

Ram Dass gives a nice example of when someone is in a forest, they just enjoy the trees. Unless they are a lumberjack and have a scale to judge trees, the forest walker only sees the beauty of the forest as a whole or the uniqueness of a single tree. The person does not judge each tree as too crooked or too short. They just are. Which begs the question, why do we judge ourselves and others? Why can’t we accept ourselves and others as we are? Why do we feel we should and have the right to judge ourselves and those around us? Are we not just trees in the forest of humanity? By judging ourselves and others we are missing out on the absolute beauty and peace of acceptance and understanding.

What scale do you judge yourself and others by? Where did you learn and agree to that scale? How do you feel when you judge? Self-righteous, better-than, superior or fearful, lacking, and victimized? How would your experience and life change if you no longer judged, and just accepted people as they were?

Perfecting Imperfection

One of my biggest character defects, my biggest struggles is the dishonest belief that I am/can/should be absolutely perfect. A lot is wrong with this belief. First, it assumes there is one absolute correct way to be, i.e., perfect. Yet with the variety of people, professions, beliefs, abilities, etc. out there, how could someone presume to define a singular explanation of perfection. Second, my belief is tied to the assumption that if I am not perfect, I am not worthy of love. Anyone who has had a child who acted imperfectly (crayons on the wall or meltdown at Wal-Mart) can easily express how the child’s imperfection did not take away from how much the parent loved them (unconditional love). Third, the idea that we should be perfect is inherently wrong because we are, well, human. The Oxford Living Dictionaries defines “human” as “of or characteristic of people as opposed to God or animals or machines, especially in being susceptible to weaknesses.”

broken glass
Photo by Jachan DeVol on Unsplash

Most of my life I thought I could and should be God or at the very least, an infallible machine. But alas, I am not. I am human. The perfectionist in me longs to be perfect and always act perfectly. The realist in me knows this will never happen – for me or anyone else. I am learning to accept my imperfection and see how my struggles and challenges, how my imperfection serves me – and hopefully serves you, my reader, as well. I recently received an email from one of my subscribers, Jill May, who wrote, “By the way, I love your newsletter.  I don’t always take the time to read every one of them, but when I do read it, I always get something from it.  Sometimes it’s a small tidbit, other times it’s a ‘Wow!’ moment.  I appreciated reading about your yoga headstand challenges.  It really does help the rest of us to know you have struggles just like we do.” (my underline)

It is not my perfection which resonates with my readers. It is my struggle with life; it is my imperfection which helps others through the ups and downs of their life. In an interview last year, I was asked what my purpose was. Out of my mouth without my conscious awareness came, “My purpose is to mess up and learn from it, so you don’t have to.” Funny, for decades I had the belief that my purpose was to achieve perfection so I could show others the way. What I am coming to accept is that I’m on this planet to roll around in the muck of life. I am here to choose poorly, learn from it, and find the courage to move on. I am here to realize the obstacles I put in my way through my dishonest beliefs, to find the tools to release these beliefs, and to find a new way to live. I am here to find deep and absolute acceptance of myself – warts and all – and to help others feel and embrace their own self-acceptance. Through self-acceptance, we can all learn how to have unconditional empathy and love for those around us as well.

Do you have a life purpose or mission? What is it? Do you struggle with the desire for perfection? What would your life be like without the struggle for the unachievable?

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.