dog on tightrope

Achieving Balance

Here is a dog on a tightrope. Really. It. Is. A. Dog. On. A. Tightrope. I don’t usually share cat, or in this instance, dog videos in my posts, but better way to get your attention about what balance really means. As you watch this talented guy, you will see that he doesn’t get on the rope and stand perfectly still. He is in constant motion. He is constantly readjusting. To balance on the rope, he is moving and adapting in every moment.

dog on tightropeIt is the same with our balance. To be in a state of balance takes continual readjustment.

I think the pain many of us feel is that we expect to one day reach a state of perfection; to find the perfect way to be and handle our day – and that it is repeatable in the same way every day. We believe there is one perfect state of being and once we find it life will be steady.  This steady state of perfection does not exist. As life constantly changes, so too do we need to continually shift. Balance is not a point on a graph, it is not a timetable to be adhered to, it is not the perfectly planned execution of our day. Balance is our ability to constantly shift and adapt to the ever-altering and ever-changing way of life. When things are not shifting and changing, they are dead. To be alive is to be constantly moving, shifting, changing, and growing.

Somewhere along the line, work-life balance was assumed to be a steady-state. It was assumed there was a mythic point were the needs of our personal lives meet perfectly with our work responsibilities; 8.75 hours at work, 10.2 for personal care, and 5.05 for our family each and every day, not shifting, but uniformly working like clockwork. Sorry folks, a perfect ratio of time does not exist. Work-life balance takes constant readjustment. Child gets sick – life needs a bit more time. Deadline for your work presentation is tomorrow – your career gets the focus. Unexpected guest pops by – plans are dropped and redeveloped. Throughout the week, day, and each hour we are constantly adjusting our focus and efforts to maintain balance based on the changing world around us.

To gain balance sometimes we need to add one thing, sometimes another. As I tend to lean towards being a stressed-out Type A, I often write about bringing calm and self-care to my life. But sometimes I need deadlines, focus and concentration. Perfect balance is not just adding one thing. It is the pendulum swinging from surrender/peace to concentration/effort. Back and forth, and back and forth, in a continuous state of movement.

As you head into this new year, do not set resolutions to bring you what you think is perfect balance. No one formula exists which will work every day and in every situation. Instead, set a resolution to go about your day in a state of constant readjustment. It is in the moment by moment choices we make that we find happiness, good health, and success. The plan you make now for the rest of 2019, will be foiled by the gifts, glitches and unexpected changes which will happen over the next 365 days. Focus on the next 24 hours, not the next 12 months. See how focusing on the moment will give you the power to find as much balance as you can each and every day.

Wishing you all the best in the new year!

from type a to type me: how to stop "doing" life and start living it

A Call for Type Me

We have been through a lot this year. Political issues, #MeToo, depression awareness, border issues, and aggression. Everything from the NFL to classic Christmas songs have been called into question. Many times it is a little too much. I want to, but know what I can not change all of these issues. Instead I take solace in the fact that I can fix me, or at least improvement myself and my experience of life bit by bit. And so can you.

For decades I searched for ways to improve myself. How could I reduce my stress, my passive aggressiveness, my anger and frustration? I knew I could, should live a better life but I didn’t know how. I wanted to release the physical and mental pain I was in. I searched high and low for solutions until I found what worked for me – then spent a decade sharing these tools to help others release their pain and ease into a more joyful life.

from type a to type me: how to stop "doing" life and start living itFrom Type A to Type Me: How to Stop “Doing” Life and Start Living It turned four years old this September. It is a chronicle of how I turned my life around. How I moved out of stress, overwhelm and depression to take back a joyful and positive life. And I hope that it will do the same for you and all its readers. The book provides insights, stories, and tools to help release you from overwhelm and into a better life through awareness, acceptance, alternatives, and action.

Awareness

We can not change anything until we are aware of it. The first step toward a more joyful life is to be aware of how we are currently perceiving our current life, those around us, ourselves, and the world as a whole. We need to become aware of our thoughts, beliefs, actions and reactions and how those are affecting our experience of life.

Acceptance

In acceptance there is peace, and the power to change things based on reality.  We need to accept the reality of life and others, even if we do not agree with them or like what they are doing. We need to accept the truth of the current reality. We need to accept others, circumstances, and ourselves. In seeing things as they are, we become empowered to make changes to the true issues.

Alternatives

Often, we are stifled because we only see black and white, this or that, good and bad. We feel we can not act because we only see the horrible situation we are currently in or a situation that is worse or impossible. Open your mind to all the possibilities available to you at all times so you too can start seeing how you can create your ideal life.

Action

Growing our awareness, accepting truth, and seeing alternatives only leads to a changed life if we take action. Learn how to get off the couch, out of your fears, and begin taking the baby steps toward a better life.

This book was seven years in the making and is a testament to the changes I was able to make in my life and in the lives of my clients. If you are looking for a last minute gift for your overwhelmed friend or a tool for changing your life for the better in 2019, why not download a free chapter of From Type A to Type Me and see if it is right for you.

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.

three leg stool

Three-Legged Stool

Yoga is part of my current daily practice. I have been learning many new lessons through the practice which I am bringing into my daily life. Today I would like to share with you three elements of yoga which can be the foundation of how you approach your challenges – on and off the mat.

A decade or so ago, I went briefly to a weekend workshop focused on finding your “one thing.” After the opening two-hour introduction, it felt like a cult and I high-tailed it out of there. The basics of the book and workshop were that if you found your “one thing” then you built your life around it. What I found funny was that some of the participants had been attending these workshops for years and either could not find their one thing or had changed it many times.

I think one of ththree leg stoole issues of the program was the focus on results and the physical world. The idea was to find a singular purpose, something tangible and achievable, and then create your life around that making it happen. Instead, what I have found in yoga and in my own life, is that a focus on ways of being allows a purpose to be revealed, evolve, and lead us on an amazing journey.

The three ways of being I am learning through yoga are: strength, balance, and flexibility.

Strength

For me, this one is easy. My Type-A personality is all about strength, perseverance, and making things happen. What I have had to come to accept about strength, is that I am not strong in all areas and that leading with strength is not always the best choice. I am learning my limits; where can and should I be strong, and what is not in my ability. As I flow more into Type Me, I also am releasing strength as my go-to tool and am learning to find other ways to approach life.

Balance

I write a lot about work-life balance, but balance is more than juggling the things in our lives. It is also about being centered. I am learning to be physically centered in my body on the yoga mat and out moving in the world. I am also returning to being centered in my mind and thinking. Balance is an inner strength and confidence no matter what is happening outside. It is calming the mind.  It is remaining still in the center of a storm.

Flexibility

When I think about flexibility, it is not giving in and bending over backwards for others. Flexibility is about remaining open; it is being a young branch swaying in the wind not an old brittle hardened stubborn branch susceptible to damage because of its rigidity. To be flexible is to be open to what we know and what we don’t know; being open to new opinions, personalities, and ways of living.

Strength, balance, and flexibility work together to create a powerful way of being. If we are only strong, we may become exhausted or rigid. If we only focus on balance, we may never move forward. If we only choose flexibility, we may be swayed too much by the wants and needs of others. When we use all three legs of the stool, strength, balance and flexibility, we create a strong foundation for living.

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?

yoga practice

Strength in Letting Go

Since the day after Christmas, I have been a yoga fiend. Recently I finished a 21-day challenge with 17 days of yoga. Yea me!  Not only has my practice helped with my body, but as in true yoga, it is improving my mind, actions and outlook. The concept is that the things we learn on the yoga mat are what we bring into our daily lives to make it better.

One big aha I had the other day is about strength and release. When I first returned to my yoga practice, I was out. of. shape. It had been years since I did yoga and months since I did any exercise. My body forgot what it was like to be used. At the first few classes, we would be put into one of the poses and told to hold the pose for a few breaths. As I tried to hold the pose, my legs would shake. Three breaths seemed like an eternity. I believed that I was not strong enough to do the pose. But I was wrong.

yoga practiceI wasn’t relaxed enough.

Last week I was working with my favorite instructor who likes to push me further and further into my practice. I got into a deep pose and was told to hold it. My leg began to shake like it did during the first few classes I took. I told the instructor that I was not strong enough yet to do the pose. He corrected me. It was not strength I was missing, but flexibility. My leg was shaking because my leg was too tight. What I needed to do was to release in order to find the strength to hold the pose smoothly.

This blew my mind.

Up until then my practice on the mat – and in life – was to push through the pain. I am a penguin ever marching to and from sea to survive. I have persistence and drive. I power through. In yoga, and in much of my life, trying to be too strong is actually a weakness. In my toughness, I was hardened and inflexible. I would exhaust myself, and sometimes those around me. As I released my Type A, much of this toughness dissipated.  But drive, strength, and hardened toughness are still my unconscious go-to behaviors when I am faced with a challenge.

Taking my lesson from the mat to my life, I learned that it helps to learn to let go. When things are tough, I need to release my fear, my doggedness, my rigidity. Instead of putting up a shield and preparing to fight, I am better served by relaxing into the conflict. When I notice myself toughening up, I intend to release the tension in my body and the walls in my mind. Instead of falling into my go-to drive, I will now ease into the strength that comes in stillness.

Spend this week noticing when you are tense. What triggered you? What are you trying to push yourself through? Then gently release the tension – in your body and mind. Maintain the core of your strength but let your muscles and attitude relax. See if in this state of ease that things are not resolved easily and efficiently – and more enjoyable way.