All I Really Want

In working with clients in therapy and in coaching, I have found that there are themes that pop up. I will have multiple clients struggling with the same type of hurdle and needing to shift their habits simliar ways. When I recognize this pattern, I do two things: 1.) I take heed of the universe’s hint that if this is affecting a few of my clients, it most likely is affecting many others. 2.) I look at my own life and patterns to see how this is something that I need to work on myself. 

The theme that has popped up this week is one of focusing on what we do want rather than what we don’t want. 

The problem grows as we get caught up in funneling our energy and attention toward what we don’t want rather than using our efforts to grow what we do want instead. And we have been trained into this pattern based on our society’s influence. For example, the years and years of energy poured into the War on Drugs has not eradicated the availability of illegal drugs. The more recent war against guns has led to more people having more guns and more high-powered weapons than ever before. 

History has shown that when we pour time, energy, money, and effort into what we don’t want, it does not effectively work to stamp out the issue. 

As I work with others on this issue in their own lives, I see how easy it can be to get caught up in thinking about what we don’t want be it phyiscal pain, stress at work, turmoil in a relationship, the extra 20 pounds, etc. These things are uncomfortable and it’s natural to want to be free of them. However, when we are constantly thinking about and focusing on the thing we don’t want, it only gives it more power in our lives. We can become obsessed with the one thing we want to be free of. 

So, we must funnel our efforts into focusing on what we do want instead.  When we take the time and energy to work toward what we want in our thoughts, actions, and especially feelings, we can get there much more quickly and find the things we don’t want falling away. It is also very helpful to find others who are also working toward the same or similar goals like an accountability partner, support group, or a tribe of people going in the desired direction. 

As we are careening toward a new year and a time of reassessing and goal setting, I would like to encourage you to focus on what you do want in your life. How do you want to feel? How do you want to think? Who do you want to be? Determine these things and then find one way today to act as if you are that person. When we act on what we do want, we get more of it. 

Give it a try and see how it feels. Yes, you will still focus on what you don’t want at times, but when you notice yourself doing that, try to shift your attention to what you want in its place. 

Reach out and we will chat about it. We can make a plan together to help you get where you want to go. I would be happy to help.

And I will be practicing right along with you.

Chat again soon,

k

Simply the Best

As the year is rolling to an end, I have been talking with counseling clients, course members, and friends about what their vision is for the coming year. This line of questioning has caused many of them to pause, to consider, and to attempt to come up with the “right” answer. It also seemed to bring up lots of judgment and a view that they should be in a different place right now than actually they are. Many of the comments I heard were about harshly comparing where they are now to where they want to be, placing expectations on how they should be able to handle what comes up in their lives, and then excitedly pushing where they were in the moment away as if it were bad. 

And then I had one client come in and this question brought out a totally different answer. She told me that in the next year, she was planning to simply do her best and to focus more on doing things that she loves and that she wants to do. She talked about spending time with friends, scheduling trips to places she has always wanted to go, and creating time for self-care in the form of getting regular massages and working on healthier daily habits. 

In looking back over this past year, she was able to identify times when she really beat herself up because she was comparing herself to her former boss at work, because she was judging her ability to be the best parent ever, and because she was not upholding healthy boundaries around what she needs to feel her best. She could see how she lost time feeling shame and discounting the value of her contributions in her life. She stated that her goal for 2019 is to just do her best every day and to go from there. 

And a shaft of light came down from heaven… or maybe that part was just in my head, but I definitely wanted to high five her and hug her and tell her that she was going to be just fine. 

In his book The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz tells us that we should not expect our best to look the same every day- that it will depend on all of the contributing factors in that moment as to what our best will look like. He wisely points out that “It doesn’t matter if you are sick or tired, if you always do your best there is no way you can judge yourself. And if you don’t judge yourself, there is no way you are going to suffer from guilt, blame, and self-punishment.” 

 And this feeds into the work from the great Brene’ Brown on building shame resilience, connecting to our true selves, treating ourselves with compassion, and showing up to be seen as we are. Brene’ guides us to live our lives from a place of understanding that we are imperfect AND worthy of love and belonging. 

Once we can begin to live from the perspective that we can hold within us both imperfection and worthiness and we begin to build our lives, our thoughts, and our decisions from that point, we can live happier, more fulfilling lives. 

Ah, expansion and growth, here we come.

So, as we are looking back in review of 2018 and looking forward in our visions of the future, let’s try on the idea of planning to do our best. Of course we can have external goals, but what if as we are making those goals, we ask ourselves how we can do our best in working toward that goal? What if we take a new perspective on recognizing that until we take care of ourselves, we will find great difficulty in the journey toward who we really want to be. 

So, here’s to doing our best! 

You know I will be trying right along with you. 

Let’s chat soon,

k

I’ve Got No Expectations

What if you trusted where your life is going and that things really do happen for a reason? What if you let go of trying to control everything and just experienced each day as it came, doing your best for that day? What if you stopped beating yourself up for things not looking exactly like you envisioned them and instead embraced where you already are?

My guess is that for some of you, the suggestions above seem like a fantasy. But, they really are within your reach if you can open yourself to the possibility. 

As the year is marching to an end, we have the tendancy to look at where we are in our lives and to re-evaluate where we are heading. This is a good thing. In order to efficiently and effectively reach our goals, we need to check in periodically and make sure that we are still sailing in the direction that we intended. 

Problems arise when we begin to judge ourselves and criticize where we are in our lives in relation to our expectations. An expectation is a standard we set of how we envision the journey to go. Expectations get a bad rap, but this is because we use them as a reason to criticize and judge ourselves. We turn up the pressure when we have an expectation of how something should go and even if we end up where we wanted to be, we are frequently disappointed because the journey went differently than we had envisioned. 

Many of us battle with tons of expectations every day: how our body should feel, how our body should look, how we should respond in any given situation, how our day should go, how others should treat us, and so on.  We really increase our own suffering by constantly “should-ing” on ourselves. And these should statements are judgments that report to us that things are not good enough or that something is wrong. 

Evaluating where we are in order to determine how we can move forward is healthy. Criticizing where we are because it is not where we feel we “should” be and getting bogged down in feeling bad about ourselves is not healthy. This judgmental perspective narrows our view and we can miss out on opportunities in the moment to experience joy, peace, and expansion.  

As you are reviewing 2018 and beginning to set intentions for 2019, see if you can take a leap of faith that things are working out the way that they should be.  Be gentle with yourself and recognize when you are doing your best. No, things may not have gone exactly as you had planned, but I would also invite you to recognize how much of that was out of your control. Life has its own plan and we cannot expect that we know better than life does. The challenges are opportunities for growth, for expansion, and for connection. 

I can tell you with certainty that we cannot see the path. And I can tell you that when I remind myself to stop questioning and judging how things are going, I am able to enjoy the journey much more and things turn out way better than I could have ever expected. 

Give it a try and just see what happens. 

Chat again soon,

k

I Want To Thank You

The word appreciate has two meanings. The first is to recognize the value of something. We do this when we practice gratitude. The second meaning is to increase in value. Simply by recognizing the value of something, it increases in value to us. Together, these two meanings support the practice of valuing what we already have, turning our attention to the good, and funneling our energy into what we want more than what we don’t want.

Where we pour our attention in our lives will grow. When we focus our energy on what we do want rather than what we don’t, we give what we do want more power and more ability to grow. We also begin to train our brains to look for the good and to see it more easily. 

There are tons of benefits to a gratitude practice on physical, psychological, and social levels. Increases in happiness levels, optimism, life satisfaction, charitable giving, physical health and health of relationships have all been shown as helpful outcomes of practicing gratitude. A regular practice has also been shown to decrease negative emotions and actions as well as to decrease effects of PTSD. 

A “regular” practice doesn’t even have to be daily. Taking the time to pour attention into the details of the practice can be highly affective even only a few days per week. The important piece in the practice is to feel into what you are grateful for. As you are focusing your mental attention on thinking about what you appreciate, also try to feel gratitude in your body. Notice the sensations that you experience on a physical level to add more power to your practice.  

Feeling into it can be a way to savor the thing, person, experience, or place that you are focusing on. But, know that while savoring the good helps it to grow, savoring the bad- as many of us are in the habit of doing by focusing on what is wrong- helps the bad to grow as well. 

You have several options on what a gratitude practice might look like. You can start to focus on 1-3 things you are grateful for first thing in the morning when you wake up to start your day on a good note. You can begin a gratitude journal and write entries daily or a few times per week. (The fun thing about a journal is that you can go back and look at entries later.) You can discuss what you are grateful for at dinner in the evenings to wind the day down on a positive note.  

Here are a few more tips for starting a gratitude practice:

  • Be as specific as possible 
  • More details per ‘entry’ (verbal or written) is more important than more entries
  • Focus on people, beauty seen, and experiences as well as things
  • Acknowledge negative outcomes that were avoided, escaped, or prevented
  • Savor gifts and surprises
  • Revise the ‘entry’ if you repeat it on another day to focus on a different aspect
  • Commit to a regular practice

I encourage you to give it a try. Run an experiment and find the version of the practice that works for you. Talk with others about what you are grateful for to spur them on to do the same. I appreciate your joining me on this journey and am grateful to have a community to share and learn from. 

Chat again soon,

k

 

Here Comes The Rain Again

You know the feeling. You had high hopes. You had made plans and had envisioned exactly how things were going to go in your mind. And then life does what it wants without checking with you. Things end up going in a completely different direction and it’s like a shot to the gut. Disappointment. Sometimes it’s a searing heat and sometimes it just sits like a rock in your stomach.

The feelings often come in waves: you get mad, then you think it will work itself out; you get sad, then you tell yourself it’s no big deal; you may cry, scream, blame, and question why this is all happening. It can cause you to completely reassess where you are going.  Or you may try to deny all the feelings and act like we aren’t disappointed at all or like this total 180 degree turn had no effect on you whatsoever.

Even though it may not feel like it, you have a choice in how to react to this disappointment. Pausing and remembering that it’s important to feel all of the things is important, but then we want to keep on moving. Getting stuck and reliving the emotions over and over won’t help.

Sometimes our reactions come from a place of expecting that all is supposed to go our way. As if we had an agreement with life that it would all be cupcakes and happy dances and how dare it not going according to that plan. Alas, there was never such an agreement. This is how real life goes and it goes how it wants to go.

tara-brach-nothing-is-wrong

We often end up in a situation of making things harder on ourselves than they have to be. We keep ourselves in suffering when we refuse to accept the moment as it is. I have found in my own practice of handling stress and disappointment that when I can breathe, recognize that I am not in control, and notice what is happening without judging it as good or bad, I can find some relief from the suffering.

Author and teacher Tara Brach teaches a mindfulness technique in dealing with hard times using the acronym RAIN. I think it may be helpful here.

R- Recognize what is happening

A- Allow the experience to be as it is

I- Investigate with interest and care

N- Nurture with self-compassion

By first recognizing what is happening in the moment, we are becoming the witness to the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that we can habitually fall into without noticing what we are doing. We begin paying attention to our patterns and with that awareness, we can handle things differently. From here, allowing it to be as it is may bring up resistance or fear around feeling out of control or not knowing what to expect next. If we can pep talk ourselves, we can recognize that we are ok even if we are uncomfortable. Growth happens on that edginess of feeling uncomfortable. Next, we can start to dig in and ask ourselves questions about what exactly is coming up and how we can best care for ourselves in this difficult time. Again, we are growing our awareness so that we can notice what is helpful and what is not. And finally, we become our own friend by recognizing that it is hard and by nurturing ourselves with loving words and compassionate thoughts.

Following these steps, we can take the disappointment in stride without getting caught up in fear, anger, or denial. We can more clearly plan for what is next and begin to provide ourselves with the loving kindness that we so often afford only to others.

Give it a try. Hit me up and share your experience or ask for support if you need it. You know I will be practicing right along with you.

Chat again soon,

k

Check out this blog from Tara Brach for more on her RAIN method: https://www.tarabrach.com/selfcompassion1/

I’m Still Standing

Resilience is defined as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness; the ability to bounce back. This applies to both the body and the mind. I like to think of myself as a resilience coach in that I teach people ways to keep going, to try again, to take that next small step.

So, what goes through your head when you stumble? Do you give up, question your goals, or blame others for the difficulty? Do you expect that things should go smoothly or that something must be wrong with you because there are obstacles that you didn’t plan for along the way?

If we can stop asking ‘why’ and ‘what is wrong with me’ and start asking questions like ‘how can I learn from this’ or ‘what is the next small step forward I can take’, we can move through life with more ease.

In her book Grit, Angela Duckworth refers to a Japanese saying: Fall 7, Rise 8. Through her research, she discovered that success comes from passion and perseverance rather than purely through talent levels. That means that success in anything can be achieved if we want it badly enough to keep on trying even when the going gets tough.

If you google “famous failures”, you will find a LONG list of successful people who refused to give up and who overcame all kinds of obstacles on their journey toward their goals. Yes, they may have talent, but everyone does in some area. The success came from their trying again and again. When you look deeper into “overnight success” stories, you typically find that the overnight success came after years and years of hard work and effort.

Yesterday, I was having a discussion about resilience with a mental health client of mine. She was talking about how “hard” it is to keep trying. I then asked her two questions:

  1. What do you expect the journey to look like? This helped me to get a better idea of her perspective, expectations, and mindset. She was coming from a view that many people have: that we should be able to go from point A to point B and it should be one straight, smooth shot with no obstacles along the way. We discussed the reality of life doing its own thing regardless of her expectations and desires, as well as how little she really has control over. This was also where we addressed her concern that something is wrong with her simply because life is difficult. Once we started talking about it out loud, she was able to shift her perspective and see that everyone experiences challenges every day.
  2. How badly do you want it? This was so that I could gauge her committment to feeling differently and working toward that goal. We discussed her desire to change and how she would be much more uncomfortable staying where she is than putting forth the effort to reach a different outcome.

I have found that many people believe that happiness and success in life should just come automatically; that there should be no effort that has to be applied in feeling happy. They believe that some people just are happy and that they are not one of those people. But, the universe is not set up to make you happy. There are many things that happen on the journey that are very challenging, but those are the things that force us to grow and to become the next best version of ourselves. And when we are on the verge of growth, the challenges multiply and grow in force as if ask us if we are really willing to put in the effort for the payoff.

vince lombardi get up

So, where do you begin? With one small step. Keep trying. Get back up. You don’t have to change it all at once or reach your goals in one day. Plot out where you want to be and then reverse engineer the baby steps to get there back to where you are today. Celebrate the small victories and remind yourself that it has nothing to do with you personally- life is just challenging and we weren’t given a handbook. However, I am hopeful that this helps.

You are more resilient than you give yourself credit for.

Take one step today. I will be getting back up right next to you.

Chat again soon,

k

 

Stop in the Name of Love

Did you know that you train others how to treat you? I know that this may be a little harsh to hear because that puts some of the responsibility on you, but it’s true. When you accept what others say and do without standing up for yourself, you are training them that what they are doing is acceptable. And they will most likely do it again. You are also training yourself to accept this as your new standard; that this behavior from others is what you are worth.

Well, I have 2 words for you: Stop It.

As a mental health therapist, I work with people on boundaries and self-care almost daily. One of the things that I have recently heard more and more is “I don’t want to hurt their feelings”. Ok, so what I am hearing you say is that their feelings are more important than yours. This usually gets a blank stare for a moment as they take in what it sounds like to actually say this out loud.

What I want you to know is that you do not have to earn being treated with respect, kindness, and love. You deserve all of that simply because you are alive. However, if you do not remind others of this, they will take advantage. The bigger issue keeping you stuck here is that you aren’t treating yourself with respect, kindness, and love. When you can start doing that for yourself, you stop allowing others to violate that boundary with you as well.

Last week I wrote about changing your beliefs by using affirming statements over and over. If you didn’t check that blog out, go back and read it here. You can shift how you feel about yourself and the world around you. You can overcome years of negative self-talk and then begin to shift that transformation out to every relationship you have.

carolburnett Change My Life

When someone violates your standard of treatment, you have the right to say to them, “Stop It. It is not acceptable for you to treat me that way/speak to me that way/etc.” If you do not stand up for yourself, who do you think will? You can quickly fall into a downspiral of mistreatment when you allow it to happen. And that is not how you want to live your life.

Yes, it can be scary and hard. Yes, you may shake a little as you say it. But, once you do it for the first time, you can do it again and again. Stand up for yourself and begin to train others in how you will allow them to treat you. This is a form of self-love. This is something that you can do for yourself that will have a ripple effect into all areas of your life. Standing up for how should be treated increases your success and effectiveness in dealing with stress, interacting with others, and becoming the person you truly want to be.

You don’t have to be rude or mean about it. Just be clear about what you will accept and what you won’t. Yes, it may ruffle some feathers, but you are the only one who can do this. You get to determine what is ok and what is not. Start small by standing up for yourself in one situation today.

No one said it would be easy, but this is the road to happiness, peace, and ease.

That’s powerful stuff.

I know you can do it. If you feel like you need some support, reach out.

I will be practicing right along with you.

Talk again soon,

k

I shall believe

In the past two weeks, I have had many discussions with yoga instructors and with therapy clients around the power of self-talk.

When we hear something over and over and over, we begin to believe it. It takes repetition, but that repetition convinces our minds that it must be true and then we begin to shape our thoughts and behaviors to support the now-accepted belief. This works in our subconscious and we may not even realize that our belief system is being shaped.

For example, let’s say you are in middle school and a new student joins your class. This student bullies you and tells you every day that you are loser and that you aren’t good enough. At first, when you hear this, your brain says, “That’s not true!” or “I know you are, but what am I?!” But, day after day after day of this bully telling you that you are not good enough, that you are a loser, and that no one likes you starts to take it’s toll. Your brain begins to question if it really is true. Finally, your brain stops fighting and just accepts it as if it is the truth. This acceptance shapes your belief in yourself, your thoughts, your self-talk, your relationships with others, how you present yourself to the world, and how you behave. If nothing is done to intervene or to fight back against and overpower this process, it can likely result in negative and hateful self-talk for years or even a lifetime.

“Whenever we hear an opinion and we believe it, we make an agreement, and it becomes part of our belief system.” – Don Miguel Ruiz from The Four Agreements

We often accept opinion as fact and shape our lives around that opinion. The bully’s statements were his/her opinion; our negative self-bashing is an opinion; the messages that we receive constantly from marketing and social media that we aren’t enough are opinions. The power of persuation sets in when we hear the message repeatedly.

The good news is that we can make the same shifts in our beliefs with positive self-talk and affirming statements. In my work with clients attempting to shift their beliefs, I never fail to assign affirmations to repeat as homework. The most common question I get about the assignment is, “I should just repeat it even though I don’t believe it??” I say yes and then I give the example above of not believing the bully at first, but wearing down over time.

Life events have an impact on how we speak to ourselves and many times the ego in our minds works from a place of fear with the intention of keeping us within our comfort zone. The ego is afraid of change, including positive growth, because it doesn’t know what to expect, so it uses our mind to convince us that we are good right where we are, that things probably won’t work out anyway, that it could go terribly wrong, etc. However, you can’t believe everything you think. When left to its own devices, the ego will prevent you from ever stepping out of your comfort zone and into the zone of growth.

Using positive affirmations or repeating a new thought pattern in your mind over and over will work just like the negative things the bully said. Over time, you begin to believe them and then you shape your thoughts, actions, and life around supporting those beliefs.

 

 

The word is a force

Give it a try. Find a statement that will support what you want to believe and who you want to become. And then repeat it to yourself as much as you can throughout the day and the week. Post it on sticky notes and write it on your mirror in dry erase marker. Hit it hard and watch things shift.

You got this.

I will be practicing right along side you.

Talk again soon,

k

Oh, Everyday

As everyone is returning to school, I hear parents talking about ‘getting back into a routine’ for the kids. Returning to school is a big transition in a kid’s life as they are being placed in a new environment with new people, new situations, and new stressors. Parents recognize the benefits of routine for their kids as it provides stability, predictability, and comfort for the child’s nervous system. This helps the child feel more secure and at ease.

As we get older, we tend to forget that we have the same nervous system that our kids do. Routine is good for everyone and it has the same calming effect on an adult nervous system as it does on a child’s. As adults, we become more creative in how we distract, ignore, and numb the signals our brains and bodies send to us as a plea for more security and ease, but these interventions are all short-term fixes.

If it helps, think of your nervous system as a child that needs to be attended to and given a routine. This is all about getting back in to rhythm with nature and what your brain and body need to feel their best.

Over time, we burn out when we continually work against what our system naturally needs. Creating a routine in our daily living can help us to feel more calm and cope with the stressors of life with more ease. Here are a few simple ways to create routine that will lead to an increased sense of security and calm:

  1. Go to bed at the same time every night. Yes, every night. Even weekends. This can help send the signal to your body and brain that it is time to go to sleep and can improve your quality of sleep. Creating a night-time routine to help the body wind down and get tired by unplugging from electronics, connecting with those you live with, and dimming the lights in your home will make bedtime more enjoyable.
  2. Get up at the same time every morning. Yes, again, every morning. This too can help to reset your circadian rhythm and signal your brain to know when it is time to wake up and be alert. Regular rest and wake times can improve energy levels and decrease inflammation in the body. Think of your ‘ideal morning’ and create a routine to support your day starting off as well as possible. Allow yourself time to sit in silence, move your body, and move your bowels before rushing off into a stressful day.
  3. Eat your meals at the same time every day. This helps the body to know when fuel is coming and how to allocate the nutrients as you take them in. Again, predictability is helpful for the brain and the body and it frees up energy that can be used elsewhere. If you can meal plan for the week, this will free up even more energy that has been used on the decisions of what to eat at every meal.

As kids are returning to school, the seasons are beginning a transition as well. Summer is waning and the promise of Fall is on the horizon. This will also bring a change in environment and different stressors for the body to cope with. As parents we focus on what is best for our children, but good self-care should be counted as one of those things. We all know that rest is one of the healthiest things we can do for ourselves, but we believe that we do not have ‘time’ to rest. In times of transition, routine can provide the stability and sense of rest that the nervous system needs to be able to better handle the stress of the change. So, allow routine to be your way to rest from the inside out.

The more you rest, the better you will feel. And the better you feel, the easier it is to navigate times of transition or difficulty...

If you can make things easier on yourself, why wouldn’t you? Creating routine in your life is a simple way to increase ease and calm. If you feel like you want some support in the process, reach out. I would be happy to help.

I will be working on my own routine right along side you. We can do it together.

Chat again soon,

k

Loosen Your Grip

In our lives, we experience a pulsation between different poles or pairs of opposites. In Ayurveda, we call this pulsation ‘spanda’ and we experience it every day, every hour, every minute in both our inner and outer environments.

One such pulsation that has been popping up on my personal and professional radar most recently is that between contraction and expansion. All of our experiences in pulsation serve a purpose and all are needed, but sometimes, we get stuck on one end of the spectrum and that’s when problems arise.

Contraction is a tightening, a clamping down, a holding on, and this can occur for us both physically and mentally. In the extreme, contraction is the opposite of growth and it is all of the ways that we attempt to control, close ourselves off, stay stagnant, and brace ourselves for ‘what might happen’. Contraction can be a form of not trusting, not allowing, and defintely not going with the flow.

Expansion is a relaxing, an opening, a letting go. Expansion is allowing things to happen and trusting that the universe knows what it is doing. Expansion is opening our minds and our hearts to new opportunities, new ideas, and new ways of functioning. In the nervous system, expansion is experiencing rest and digest rather than fight or flight. Expansion brings ease.

Expansion is Life

There are so many ways that we contract on a daily basis and many of those contractions come out of fear. When we refuse to see a different perspective, when we get angry because things didn’t go the way we had planned, when we hold on to resentments and blame, when we choose not to ask for help when we need it… these are all examples of contraction that can keep us stuck and work against growth.

Take a moment to breathe. Notice the natural expansion of the body with the in-breath; the space that is created within and the room that the body expands into as we draw in a full, deep breath. And then, notice the gentle contraction of the body with the out-breath; fully expelling all of the air, narrowing down, emptying in order to allow for the next breath. The contraction of exhalation is necessary for the expansion of inhalation to be possible.

We pulsate between the two and after contraction comes expansion. However, we can get stuck in one or the other and more frequently, it’s contraction, which causes a multitude of problems. When trauma occurs, our normal pulsation and flow of life stops. The nervous system can get stuck in a stimulated state and we experience fear, tension in the body, abrasiveness in our relationships, inability to relax, etc. This same thing can happen from chronic stress and many people are living in a state of contraction these days and then wondering why they are frequently ill, unhappy, and feeling stuck.

Begin to observe your own tendencies and notice when you are in contraction more than expansion. Over time, contraction will physically cause wear and tear, illness, and can eventually lead to disease. Emotionally, contraction can cause issues in our relationships, limit our ability to cope, and hinder our ability to feel positive emotions, leaving us depressed, anxious, and angry.

So, where do we start? First, we must become aware of when we are stuck in contraction. Next, we must take the one small step of letting go in some way. Perhaps that means taking a few slow, deep breaths or taking a break from the stressor for a bit or just talking to someone. But, if we are not aware of it, we can’t change it, so just noticing what is happening is always a great place to start.

Take some time this week and observe where you are contracting. It can become a habit to contract reactively, so we must practice becoming aware without judging ourselves. Then, we can start to open to other possibilities. Reach out if you don’t know what to do next. We can chat about it.

I am here, trying right along next to you. I’d be happy to help.

Chat again soon,

k

 

I’ve Got The Power

Is what you are doing every day taking you closer to being the person you want to be in the life you want to live? Or are your actions keeping you stuck right where you are? What you are doing regularly could even be moving you further away from where you want to be in your life. You have the power to feel how you want to feel in your mind and body, but it will take awareness and then effort.

In yoga, one of the ethical teachings is called Brahmacharya. (Pronounced much like it looks: ‘bra- ma- char- ya’) This teaching is about the allocation of your resources. It’s about assessing how you are using your energy every day. The best use of your energy to propel you in the direction you want to go in. This means your mental energies and the thinking patterns that you repeat over and over. It means your physical energy including your exercise or lack there of, what time you go to bed and what time you rise, and the sources of energy you are feeding your body. And it means your relational energies including who you spend time with and how you are interacting with them.

All of these things that we do on a daily basis, many times without even thinking about them, or while thinking that they will not have much of an impact on our lives or our future, are the very things that are keeping us stuck or moving us away from the goals that we have for ourselves. This makes things much harder than they need to be.

Assessing the use of our energy and making small adjustments can result in big changes toward the life we want to live. Brahmacharya is often described as moderation, but the idea of moderation can be one of limiting ourselves and feeling cheated out of doing what we want. This view will then lead us to rebel against the restriction and rebound in the opposite direction even further. You may also see brahmacharya defined as celibacy, but again, this definition can narrow the view. If we can simply use our energy to our own advantage in growing toward being the best version of ourselves, then we are practicing brahmacharya.

Brahmacharya will be expressed through making the small decisions every day that may seem inconsequential, but as we do so with our goals in mind, we start to make steady progress in the direction in which we want to go.

worth your energy

Let’s say your goal is to lose 10 lbs. Start to assess eating times, eating habits, and exercise habits on a daily basis. Pause and observe how you are making things harder than they need to be. And then, break it down into small doable changes that are so simple you feel compelled to do them. Try your small changes for a week and see how it feels. Reward yourself every time you do it- maybe with a pat on the back rather than a bag of M&Ms…

Or let’s say your goal is to change your thinking patterns and to stop beating yourself up mentally. First, you have to be aware the thoughts before you can change them. We often say things to ourselves that we would never say to others and then we minimize how powerful and hurtful those thoughts really are. Maybe you start by actually writing down the critical thoughts as they pop up throughout the day to see what’s really going on in your own head. You can always tear the paper up or burn it as you begin the journey of redirecting the thoughts to something more positive. When you catch yourself falling back into the negative thinking pattern, try to talk to yourself like you would your child or your best friend.

You truly can be who you want to be and feel how you want to feel, but that means living your life on purpose and doing things to support who you want to be. You have the power. And yes, I know some of you are thinking that this sounds so controlled or boring, but when you start to feel good in your mind and body, the last thing you are thinking is that it is boring.

Think about how you want to feel in your mind and your body in the next year. Are your daily habits supporting that goal? The little things that you are doing every day are  shaping who you are becoming.

Give it a try for a week and see how it goes. Don’t worry about forever right now.

Let me know how I can help. You know I will be practicing right along with you.

Chat again soon,

k

 

Be Here Now

I introduce people to meditation and teach how to start off with a small and simple practice. Meditation is beneficial in so many ways, but it is very overwhelming for many people. I frequently get feedback like “I tried to meditate, but I can’t empty my mind and have no thoughts”. Many also believe that meditation means only to sit in quiet stillness for an extended period of time.

But, really there are lots of different types of meditation and you can customize your practice to fit your needs. The intention is to settle the thoughts and direct the mind to one thing so that there isn’t as much processing happening in the brain. We are giving the brain a break from analyzing, planning, worrying, and thinking so much.

A simple way to begin a practice of meditation is with intermittent meditation- short periods of checking in throughout the day. And an effective way to direct the mind away from all of the thinking is by using a simple mantra.

A mantra is a sound, word, or phrase that is repeated over and over in the mind or aloud to give the mind direction. It can be in any language that feels comfortable to the user. However, I would suggest that if you choose to use a mantra in Sanskrit, (the language that yoga was originally written in), you do explore the meaning of the mantra. The intention is more important than the language.

Here I will offer 2 simple mantras that you can try.

The first is a simple Sanskrit mantra that is used silently with the breath. The mantra is ‘So Hum’. Simply think So on the inhalation and Hum on the exhalation. It means “I am that” or “I am that which I am becoming”. This mantra is about acknowledging our connection to the energy of the universe and leaning in to our evolution into the next, best version of ourselves.

So Hum

If you would prefer to try a mantra in English, ‘Just This’ can be used in the same way. Inhale and think Just and exhale and think This, bringing yourself into the present moment just as it is. This enables the mind to let go of all distractions in the moment and to be fully present.

Both of these mantras can be practiced anytime, anywhere, and for any length of time. It might be that you default to one of these mantras multiple times per day for just a few repetitions to calm the mind. Or you may sit and set a timer for 5-10 minutes for a more formal practice.

I have found that mantra is helpful all throughout the day no matter what I am doing as a way to keep my mind from wandering off to unhelpful places. I repeat mantra as I walk my dogs, as I do housework, as I drive, and in a seated practice.

So, try it out. Write the two words (and you can make up your own if the suggested mantras don’t fit for you) on a notecard and stick it in your dashboard or on your mirror. Repeat it when you see the card or every time you feel your mind wandering off to worry or stress. Breathe into it and see how your body feels in the moment.

Taking this short time out from our usual stressful thoughts can have amazing mental and physical effects on the body.

And, I will definitely be using mantra right along with you.

Chat again soon,

k

 

You Can Go and Love Yourself

Have you ever felt as if you just don’t belong? I would assume that we have all felt that way at some point in our journeys. But, for some people, this is a pervading sense of always being an outsider.

I remember being at a convention several years ago and feeling super excited to be there. I loved the association and had been a part of it for years. I was excited to go be among other people who had similar passions. However, standing in a huge ballroom full of other people who also supported what I supported, I felt as if I just wasn’t one of themI remember participating, but thinking to myself that I wasn’t like everyone else there. I had an overwhelming sense of pretending to fit and feeling all alone as an outsider.

As I have studied the ancient mind-body science of Ayurveda and have begun to teach others the daily habits of self-care for truly getting in touch with the body’s natural rhythms, I have begun to see that I felt like an outsider around others because I didn’t feel at home in my own body. Feeling that you don’t belong out there is inextricably tied to feeling uncomfortable in your own skin.

I have perfectionistic tendencies and extreme standards, especially for myself. For years, starting in high school, I hated my body. I was constantly criticizing myself, comparing myself to others, and wishing that I looked a different way. I believed that because my appearance wasn’t like the models on the covers of magazines that I was ‘less than’.  I put tons of pressure on myself to prove my worth in other ways and had serious doubts that I was worth being around. I resented my body and felt as if I had no control over it at all. I judged myself as a failure for not being able to force my body into perfectionistic ideals that the media portrayed as the standard. These beliefs led to very unhealthy habits and disorders.

As I got into working out and learned more about nutrition, things got better, but I never really loved myself or accepted my body just as it was. I believed that I could beat my body into submission and I could accept it as good enough. I still didn’t feel great in my body or comfortably ‘at home’ in my own skin. I always felt as if I had something to prove to overcome this belief of lack.

Yoga made a big difference for me and for years, it was my mental and spiritual therapy. It still is. And then, I began learning about Ayurveda and this strange recommended daily habit of self-massage. At first, I read about it and cognitively learned the benefits and procedures, but still did not actually practice abhyanga or oil massage. And then I found a tribe of people who were also learning about Ayurveda and some of them expressed having the same doubts and experiences that I was having.

So, I tried it.

A post on chopra.com, tells us that “the Sanskrit word Sneha can be translated as both “oil” and “love.” It is believed that the effects of Abhyanga are similar to those received when one is saturated with love. Like the experience of being loved, Abhyanga can give a deep feeling of stability and warmth.”

The practice of self-massage can actually be done with or without oil depending on your level of comfort and it is supremely nourishing for not only the body, but also for the spirit. I have experienced the magical transformation that occurs when the hands really get in touch with the body. I have also seen clients who are suffering from a great deal of anxiety and self-doubt experience remarkable transformation through this practice of abhyanga.

This practice is recommended to enable healing from all manner of trauma as well as eating disorders, body image disorders, anxiety disorders… the list goes on and on. Tuning in to the body with gratitude and appreciation every day is a remarkable way to feel as if you belong in your own body and in the universe.

Take Care of Your Body

Sometimes we also need the reminder that we are not our bodies. We are the spirits living inside of our bodies for this journey. And we will have this body for the entire ride, so it is important to feel comfortable and at home there. Also, our appearance, experiences, and abilities do not define our worth. We have worth simply because we are here.

If you are interested in trying self-massage, but using oil seems like too much, start by massaging your skin with your hands when you first wake in the morning. Use long strokes on the long bones and circles at the joints. Start at your feet and make your way up to your head to draw energy up and get ready for the day ahead.

Or you can start with giving yourself a foot massage when you get into bed at night. I love using a little coconut oil (it soaks in quickly) and massaging my toes, feet, ankles, and calves to help settle energy get ready for sleep.

If you want to feel like you belong, you have to start within. You can use your own hands as a way to shift your beliefs about yourself and how it feels to show up in the world. Give it a try.

You know I will be right here trying along with you. Every day.

Talk again soon,

k

You can check out the article on chopra.com here for more details and directions for your own self-massage practice: https://chopra.com/articles/the-benefits-of-ayurveda-self-massage-%E2%80%9Cabhyanga%E2%80%9D

When life is hard you have to change

Why doesn’t everyone just listen to me?! Seriously. I ask this question a lot. But, I also feel good in my body and I am passionate about sharing what has worked for me. As much as I hate to admit it, maybe some people don’t listen because they don’t need to. What they are doing is working for them, so then good choice! They should stick with what is working.

However, I come across a lot of people who are not happy and don’t feel good in their minds, bodies, and lives, and they also don’t seem to listen to anyone. Fear keeps them stuck and closed down. Change is really hard and it takes the willingness to open to new possibilities as well as the effort to actually do something different and out of our comfort zone.

First, we must be brave enough to admit that what we are doing is not working for us. It is keeping us stuck and not moving us toward the life we want to live or the person we want to be. We have to get really honest with ourselves and evaluate if we are on the path we want to be on or if we are going to look back years from now and wish we had done something different. This could pertain to all areas of our lives- our health, our relationships, our livelihood, etc.

Once we see that what we are doing is no longer working- although it may have worked for us at one time- it is important to identify WHY we want to change. The why will help us to stick with it when the going gets tough. The why will remind us of our goals and who we want to be. The why will carry us through when we doubt ourselves and why we started this whole changing thing to begin with. And your why may sound something like, “I am tired of being tired” or “I deserve to do something I love” or “I want to feel better in my body” or “I miss doing the things I love to do”, etc.

Finding-Your-Why-Quote

Next, we must be open to exploring options outside of what we have been doing. Maybe this means talking to friends about what they do, talking to a professional, or reading a book. This is where we begin to open our hearts and our minds up to trying something new. And to learn about new ways of doing things, we must listen to someone who is doing the different things. Even if it’s not me you are going to listen to…(I guess).

We must also recognize that the first different thing we try may not work for us at all. Or it may work a little, but not have life changing effects immediately. We can’t give up at this point. We revisit our why and keep trying. Remember, we most likely didn’t get to where we are in one day, so it will take some time to get to a new and better place. Aaaand we don’t have to put pressure on ourselves to make all of the changes at one time. Taking small steps toward how we want to feel and remembering why as we feel overwhelmed or frustrated will get us to the next one thing to do. Also, taking time frequently to look back at how far we have come is super helpful. Even if we just started working toward the change a few days ago, we are further toward our change than we were a few days ago. It’s ok to celebrate that!

Finally, we mustn’t try to do it alone. Asking for help along the way and identifying someone who has done it before can be a key factor in success. Ask them how they did it. Join a group of people who are on the same journey, find an accountability partner, approach a mentor or coach for the journey. Working toward change in a group of people who are also on the same path increases chances of success multiple times over. Maybe joining a group is one of the new things we might be trying. Be brave because that can serve as the springboard, propelling us into the person we are working so hard to be.

Life is not meant to be lived in fear or apathy or misery. Life is to be molded into what you want it to be, but we can’t expect to know how to do that on our own. There is no guidebook on how to be a human, but we can share experiences with each other for support along the way. There is no shame in asking someone else how they got where they are. In fact, this is what many successful people will tell you they have done!

Change is scary and we don’t know what to expect when we step out of our comfort zone, but we have to start to trust enough to try something new. Maybe we try it and it doesn’t work for us…but maybe it does!

Reach out, stretch yourself, and try something new so that you can start moving closer to that next best version of yourself.

You know I am right here trying with you.

Talk again soon,

k

 

 

 

You Spin Me Right Round

Things in nature don’t happen in a straight line. They unfold, unfurl, uncurl. Growth in our lives follows this same natural principle. So, when we expect our lives to go from point A to point B in a straight line, I’m sorry to tell you but, that’s literally not natural.

In nature, we can see examples of this beautiful sacred geometry in spirals. Things may end up looking like a straight line- a tree trunk, a flower stem, a fern frond, but they began in a curled up manner.

In our lives, we also evolve in a spiral shaped pattern. The growth spiral can be enlightening or maddening depending on how you respond to it. We often experience a challenge in our lives and afterward, we think that we are done with that never to be bothered by it again. But, that’s not necessarily true. Regardless of how we handle the issue the first time around- even if we feel that we handled it “perfectly”- that may not be the end of our experience. In the spiral of growth, things tend to come around again so that we can learn more, grow more, and understand more.

Once we recognize going through things more than once as an opportunity rather than some sort of universal punishment, we can be aware of what is happening and embrace it. This doesn’t mean that we automatically know what to do about it, but we may be able to see a way to respond differently this time around or learn something more about ourselves.

The magic of the growth spiral is that when things come back around, as they many times will, we don’t have to get mired down in the thought that we are stuck, but rather, moving forward on the spiral. Yes, the same situation is arising again, but this time, we have the advantage of being further up the spiral. We have lived through other experiences, we have seen this happen before, and hopefully, we have learned something along the way that will help us to handle it differently this time.

There are different theories as to why things come back around for us. Perhaps it’s our karma, perhaps our soul is still in need of the lesson to be learned, perhaps our ego is drawing us toward the same thing over and over. Or maybe it’s a bit of all of these things. Whatever the reason, rather than looking at how far away we are from where we want to be, we must learn to look at how far we have already come. And we must also work to accept where we currently are as a step forward.

We so often fight against where we already are, wishing things were different. But, if we can learn to accept where we are, allowing ourselves to be HERE, then we can continue to move forward and better see how we can grow from our present state.

Hermann Hesse

Often in therapy working with patients who are experiencing the same or similar challenges yet again, they lament and feel that they are “right back where they were”. However, when we focus the microscope and look at all of the little steps of progress that have been made along the way, they are able to see that they are further along the spiral and more equipped to handle the stress of the situation. Going through something more than once does not mean that you are a failure. It simply means that life is happening.

The next time something pops up in your life AGAIN, try to look at it as an opportunity to grow and to take a step closer to the person you want to be. Imagine how your best self would respond to the situation and do one thing that that person would do. Recognize how far you have come and what you have learned since the last time this popped up in your life. Practice gratitude for the awareness of recognizing this opportunity. Accept what is happening and recognize that you have the choice to crumble or to rise. I know that you can do it, one little step at a time.

Believe me, I am right here next to you trying as well.

Talk again soon,

k