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?

water under the bridge

Stop Pushing the River

Did you know me in my 20’s or 30’s? If so, you would have known a very different person than I am now. To put it mildly, I was a crazy controlling Type A. Never accepting help from others. Taking on more than was my responsibility. Feeling like the world would stop spinning if I was not in control. Needless to say, I was not the best person to be around. I was constantly doing, constantly anxious. I thought I was the one responsible for everything that occurred, responsible for those around me, and let’s face it, I thought I was responsible for the world as a whole.

water under the bridge
photo by Benjamin Davies @bendavisual

How I acted was a torment to those around me and no picnic for me as well. The amount of responsibility I heaped on myself was Herculean; way more than anyone could stand. As you know if you have read my blog for a while, this desire for control and taking on too much led to a physiological breakdown. I was not only running myself ragged, but I was also hyper-demanding of all those around me. I expected them to take on the overwhelm that I did. I expected them to premeditate my needs or just “what had to be done.” I tried to control those around me; barking orders to anyone in earshot. I was so focused on what I thought had to get done that I wasn’t truly living.

Truth is, through all this effort, I wasn’t truly controlling anything. Some of what I wanted to control was uncontrollable (weather, traffic, others’ actions). Some of what I tried to control, would just pop back to how it was before; my effort did not create lasting effects. The only thing my desire to control did was to create stress in my life. The futility of my controlling efforts, just added to my frustration, anxiety, and worry. I was Sisyphus rolling the rock up the hill each day only having to start again the next day. Instead of getting off the hamster-wheel of pain and futility, I reached for quick fixes in the form of food, caffeine and alcohol. At times these gave me moments of peace, but they were not long-lasting and my “solutions” actually started to become a problem of their own.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again, expecting different results. Here I was trying to control things to feel safe, secure, worthwhile and loved, but each and every attempt was a failure. If I did manage to control something, it usually angered those around me distancing me from their love. Other times, being able to control the situation was just impossible. I needed to try a new way.

For decades people told me to relax, chill, or “go with the flow” in one way or another. This was terrifying to me. My stability, my security was control. Giving up control surely meant pain, uncertainty, and oblivion. It took me years to learn the power of surrender, have the courage to live in acceptance, and to have the vulnerability to allow myself to embrace letting go of control. Today I may not feel “in control,” but I do experience the support, confidence, love, acceptance, and security I had hoped to get through control, but which can actually be found in surrender.

If you would like to find the peace of surrender, the first step is for you to admit and embrace that you are ready to try a new way; that you are ready and willing as you can be to release some or all of your control. Then every time you are presented with a challenge, instead of jumping in like a bull in a china shop trying to control the uncontrollable, trust that things will work out how and when then need to. This trust does not mean you do not act; instead you are acting by intuition instead of brute force. Soon you will enter a new peaceful, flowing rhythm of life.

taking action

Power in Action

Job transition is very emotional for the job seeker. Losing their job is often unexpected and makes them feel insecure. They are heartbroken to be let go after decades of service or recent 80-hour weeks of dedication. They are concerned they are too old, too inexperienced, or don’t have enough education to land their next job. Added to all of these emotions, is the truth that they are not in charge of the outcome. They can not determine when a job is posted. They can not ensure they will receive an interview. They can not guarantee they will receive an offer. All of this lands them into a state of depression and hopelessness. The result is many job search candidates feel powerless and disheartened.

To help them feel empowered and strong enough to make the effort, I help them release and refocus.

taking action
Photo by Kid Circus on Unsplash

First, they need to release their focus on the outcome. Many candidates say they want a position by a certain date or at a certain company. It is not ideal to have these as goals because they can not affect the outcome. Focusing on things we can not affect only creates worry, stress, and tension. Together the candidate and I work to let go of what they can not affect.

Second, refocus. Instead of looking at the end result, we look at what they can affect during the process. We work on fine-tuning their resume and LinkedIn profile; both things are very much in their control. We focus on having a strategy for their search; they can control their strategy. We focus on their efforts to network; they can control their outreach and we release the outcome from that outreach. We focus on preparing for interviews; they can not control the interviewer or the results of the interview, but they can control how well they prepare before and perform during the interview.

By releasing what they can not control and by controlling what they can, the candidates find much more power and peace in their search. And they are also much more effective. Instead of spending time worrying about things out of their control, they are working on the things they can affect and therefore progress faster and better in their search.

This reminds me of the serenity prayer attributed to theologian-philosopher Reinhold Niebuhr, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” For the job seeker, they need to release into the truth that there are certain parts of the job search they can not change. Then they need the courage to take action on the things they can affect. And, during our coaching sessions, I usually help them to navigate between the two.

What in your life is currently making you impatient or upset? What parts of the situation are beyond your control? What would it take for you to release your focus on these aspects of the issue? Then investigate what you can change. What is in your ability to affect? How can you summon the strength and courage to take action? As you explore your challenge, reach out to me or another for some support in determining what you can affect and what you can release.

Whether for one specific issue or in navigating the complexity of your life, take some time every morning to categorize your worries into accept and act. Then summon the patience and trust to release what you can not affect and the courage to affect what you can.

Stuff Happens. Don’t Spaz. Make It Right.

Water supply is a major concern for the desert town of Cabo San Lucas. Because of this, we just had a larger cistern installed to help us have more supply on hand, just in case. During construction a delivery truck damaged part of my neighbor’s driveway. I panicked. I thought our neighbor would be angry. I didn’t want to start off on the wrong foot in our new community.

construction projectI expected the neighbor to rush over, irately pound on my door, and say they would sue me so I kept watch hoping to talk to them before they saw the damage and became upset.  Due to our schedules, I kept missing them. I asked the construction workers if the neighbor had come over to complain. The workers told me that the neighbor had come over and the crew explained that we had plans in place to repair the damage. The neighbor went home happy without even talking to me. Really? Phew.

I learned three things from this incident.

Stuff happens.

Life is messy. Life is far from perfect. Even with the best intentions, bad or annoying stuff can happen. Accept it. So much of our stress comes from expecting perfection when, in reality, life is unpredictable and everchanging. Stuff breaks. Stuff disappears. Stuff is not where and when we need it. Don’t focus on who to blame. Don’t think it means anything about your worth. It doesn’t mean anything about us or anyone else. It just is. As you release unrealistic expectations for unchanging perfection and the desire to find someone to blame, you can decrease the stress you experience.

Don’t spaz.

Not spazzing is first about not reacting poorly to stuff happening which does not meet our expectations, and secondly about not being upset before we know what stuff has happened.  I wasn’t quite up to spaz level, but my assumptions about my neighbor having a negative response were not pleasant. When we spaz, we are letting our fears create negative emotions. When we react from fear, we are not clear and in control. We are letting our negative emotions lead which often makes things unpleasant for ourselves and others. Take a breath. Don’t assume. Don’t fear. Uncover the truth.

Make it right.

If you are responsible for causing another pain or discomfort, own it. Apologize. Do what you can to make it right. We all make mistakes, and that’s ok. Take responsibility for your actions and do your best to make it right for all involved.

After the non-incident with my neighbor, the next challenge was overcoming my expectations for the completion of the project. Construction was not progressing as quickly as it originally had. The Type A in me started to show up. I mentally set deadlines I could not control, and I became stressed and upset when they were not met. Then I looked back at this blog post idea. Stuff happens. Materials were not available. Personal issues came up with the crew. I stopped spazzing and started joking with the crew about which mañana (tomorrow) the project would actually be finished by. It always amazes me the freedom and joy I experience when I move from the negative emotions of anger and disappointment, to embracing acceptance and playfulness. Finally, we all tried to make it right. The crew couldn’t meet the deadlines they set, but it was because they were doing quality work. By releasing my expectations, I made the project easier on them because I did not add tension to the situation.

As you move through this week, notice what you are triggered by. Can you accept that stuff happens, keep your fear-based negative reactions in check, and rationally look for ways to make it right?

time pieces

Sorry, I’m Not Available Right Now

Part of my day job is to make engagement calls to my career transition candidates. Sometimes I reach them. Sometimes I leave a voice-mail. The one situation that always intrigues me is when someone answers my call and then says in a huff tone, “I’m in a meeting.” Although I’m pretty brilliant, I am not yet psychic. I don’t have the foresight to know what people are doing when I call. The onus is not on me to not call, but on them to not answer.

The issue is not when to call or not, but one of control – or lack of control. Is it a badge of pride in our busy-ness that we have to take a call during a meeting? Is it the feeling of overwhelm that compels us to answer messages immediately to prove how much we have on our plate? Is it the lack of self-respect that we put the caller’s needs above our own? Is it feeling the victim of technology instead of using it for our benefit?

time piecesWhen we reduce ourselves to mindlessly answering calls, texts and emails when we are in the middle of something else, we are not only rude and unprofessional to those we are meeting with, but to me, more importantly, it means we are not being present. If we were 100% present in the meeting, we would not answer our phones.

A friend had the honor of meeting Sir Richard Branson on his private island. Here is a man who heads more than 400 companies. If anyone had to take a call during a meeting, we could understand why he would. But he didn’t. My friend mentioned how Sir Richard was solely focused on the individual speaking. No distractions. No impatience. Just a solid concentrated focus.

It is the same state I can get into during yoga and am trying to bring fully to the rest of my life. When I am “in the zone” during yoga, I am hyper aware of my breath, conscious of my movement, actively relaxing and deepening the pose. I am at one with the pose and there are no other thoughts or actions. Imagine what life would be like if we could approach everything that way.

Imagine being 100% present when your child tells you about their day. Imagine being fully with the one you love, without thinking of how the laundry needs to be done. Imagine focusing solely at the task at hand instead of being tormented by the other things on your to-do list.

One cool thing I have learned about being present during yoga, is that time expands. A 90-minute class feels like two hours. In fact, the first few times this happened, I got worried. I thought the instructor went over time and that I would be late for my client. But nope, same recorded amount of time, just a different experience of it. As I slowly bring this singular focus into my daily life, I find that my work day is less hectic. Time expands with my clients and between clients. What used to feel like constantly being behind the eight-ball, is now a work day of expansion and extra time. Nothing has changed except my focus, my ability to slow down and be in the moment.

Start taking control of your day by first controlling your phone. Turn it to silent and ignore it when you are working with someone else. Then, as best as you can, focus solely on the task or person at hand. Give them 100% of your attention. Then see how your efficiency, joy, and time all increase.

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?