Focus vs exploring options

I am preparing for a session with my coach this morning and slept in an hour more than usual. Sometimes when my body needs it, I just allow it to rest. After last week’s travel, and disrupted sleep schedule, it has been lovely to have 4 nights in a row of 8-10 hours of sleep.

But of course, my writing time is a little cut short for the morning, so I sit, brainstorming what I most care to say. I went back and read a bunch of previous posts, scanning the “data” for trends, themes. Then I considered my worries about the upcoming coaching session. I turned in my homework only 5 minutes before the deadline this time, not a half day in advance like last time.

farmer
Photo credit link

I wondered about all the resistance, and the fact that committing dreams or goals to paper makes me feel some pressure about it. I asked my husband last night about what he wanted to be when he grew up (at age 5-6) and he wanted to be a farmer like his grandfather. But then his family moved, and the farming industry changed. I reflected on my own memories of being asked that question.

I typically had a long list of all the things I wanted to do someday. But I remember being disappointed with someone who laughed at me kindly and told me I could not do ALL of those things. I would have to pick one, maybe two. What?!? I was sad that I would have to choose and I wanted to keep all doors open.

Back in the day, in our parents era, that was the norm: to choose one main career goal and to stick to that choice for 30+ years. Pension plans were built on that principle. To move around too much was flaky, seen as irresponsible and perhaps self-indulgent.

I had an active imagination and knew that everyone in my family were teachers, and that I also considered that a possibility, but did not want to limit myself. Fortunately the world has changed, and people seldom have just one career. The possibilities now seem limitless, but that does not mean we can have all our choices all at once.

Now that I am getting older, I recognize the value of making a career choice for one particular period of time (say, a decade) and fully embracing that choice, allowing ourselves to go deep into that field of endeavor, really to learn it well. Any area where we practice extensively and develop a body of knowledge is a place we can make a contribution.

But then there comes a time when some of us (and maybe this is my a.d.d. talking, or just my curiosity about other fields and the roads not taken) long for a transition to something new. I had hoped to get into the “Entrepreneurs in Residence” program at my company but found out yesterday that I will not advance to the interview round. I was a bit disappointed, but strangely felt relieved as well.

choices
Photo credit link

Working for a very large corporation for nearly 11 years, this era is coming to a close for me. I long for more freedom and less bureaucracy than this setting can deliver. I long for more innovation and less forms to fill out in order to get work accomplished. But that specific direction has yet to solidify for me.

Perhaps it has been a long time since I worked toward a particular dream or goal. I did dream of becoming a manager, and I achieved that dream. I dreamed of travel and work where I would get to do that much more often, and I achieved that dream as well. So in a sense, I have accomplished some of the goals that I had for myself, definitely not along the path I had expected.

I believe in staying open to opportunities, and saying yes to experiences where I might grow and learn. But now that I have achieved a certain level of success, I return to the question of where I want to focus. I long to figure out what contributions I most want to make, where I can provide the most value in the world.

This is a road we all travel, I realize. Perhaps making those choices and sticking to those decisions has been more challenging for me, or maybe I am operating on an old belief system that needs upgrading. In any case, I would love to hear from others that have made big career changes in their lives. What were your fears? How did you discover what you truly wanted? Were there ever times when you doubted your new direction?

Embodying a new self

I have written before about the idea that there is no “better” you – that self-acceptance and self compassion are the key to any big changes we want to make in our lives.

Paradoxically, I think we all grow, develop and change over time, and we do become “better” at certain things. It is not that we become better people. I hold the belief that all of us, just by virtue of being born, are worthy of love, compassion and self-regard. However, we strive to become more of who we are at the core, at a soul and spirit level, that identity is typically muted or hidden in an effort to be more acceptable to others.

Right now I am reading “Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself” by Dr. Joe Dispenza and it is blowing my mind. The title is provocative to me because it goes against the advice we are typically given: just be yourself. While I agree this usually means we should not try to be “someone else,” most of us still yearn to grow and change and evolve to a “next version” of ourselves.

breaking the habit

We yearn for enlightenment, for peace, for a sense of ease in our being. But Dispenza explains how our habitual thoughts become encoded by our neuro-chemical and physical body over time. Our mind and body work together to create our reality, and re-create what we have known and experienced usually in the past. It is only when we become aware of our thoughts, and how they create emotions, which are “coding” for what they become in the body, that we can actively change the reality we are creating.

Dispenza uses the field of quantum physics to challenge our previous assumptions about a Newtonian universe in which there are physical causes and effects, and thus explores the notion of potentials. I really enjoy his explanations of how we can create changes in our lives to move from thinking to doing to being. Though I am only half way through the book, the insight has already exploded my mind in terms of the possibilities.

I have had great skepticism for the self-help idea of manifesting, though I have encountered it plenty of times in the literature I read. I must admit – I am a questioner and anything that is too “woo woo” for my researcher brain is typically dismissed as fluff. But as I consider the neuroscience behind the principles that Dispenza explains, now I understand the theoretical basis for how this may work.

My experiences with meditation, and understanding experientially how my thoughts create my feelings, and how feelings lead to action (or non-action) these concepts are leading me to wild new ideas about how we can create the lives we want. I still have not yet moved to the stage of practice and implementing these ideas fully, but I am sure to experiment with these as I embrace changes in my life going forward.

Hasta luego, amigos!

Eating as entertainment

I was reflecting last Friday while having a late lunch with my colleagues in Guadalajara that eating has become entertainment in our culture. I considered the effects of viewing food as entertainment rather than fuel for our body, and the changes I have undergone in the past couple years regarding my own eating.

There is a social component to food in most cultures. We eat together as a sign of belonging, and invite others to eat with us or “go for a coffee” (especially in Latino culture) as a chance to connect. When I visited Jordan many years ago, I was told that to refuse food offered in someone’s home was to insult them, and so I felt an obligation to eat something each time we visited.

It reminded me of the pressure I felt to clean my plate as I was growing up. I now can leave food on my plate when I am no longer hungry, and I have let go of the guilt of “wasting” that food. I think it was Martha Beck that pointed out that food is wasted whether we “throw it on” the body or throw it away when we are not hungry. But the former will lead to further suffering by causing unnecessary and unhealthy weight gain.

Barton G
Photo of a dish from Barton G

When we go to fancy restaurants, we go not only for the quality of the food, we go for the theater, for the presentation. I recalled a restaurant in Miami where I went with colleagues called Barton G, where the food was presented in a fun, artful and surprising ways. There were Sumurai swords sticking out of the dishes, or there was a “treasure chest” filled with gold doubloons, ice cream, chocolates, etc.

We went to that place twice, in fact. The first time, I was amazed and delighted by all of the food creations, and I really did not think too much about the taste of the food. The second time, when I was looking to do something food & engaging with the team, I also enjoyed the presentation. But I noticed the food was not actually that good. The fish was a little dry, and the vegetables were overcooked. The team enjoyed the theater of it, but I had seen through the veneer.

I realize when I am on vacation part of the delight is trying out new restaurants, and maybe trying food I have never eaten. Or the joy the Mexicanos had in talking about what is truly “picante” or spicy and the different regions of the country where people tolerate the heat more than others. There was pride in being able to eat spicy food, in expressing enjoyment of their favorite cuisines in dishes.

While I partake in that joy at times, I also recognize that we create situations where there is over-desire for food. Any time we eat more than our bodies need for fuel, or we feel pressured to try a dessert just because everyone else is eating it, we dishonor our own bodies to make others happy. It is interesting to note that we never seem pick on people who are shoveling down every bit of food they can. We instead pressure others to just have a bite, or not to spoil the fun by abstaining.

Just writing about this reminds me of all the times I have been uncomfortably persuaded to do this, and how hard it was to resist their persuasion. Whether it was for wine or a piece of dessert, at the time when I was refraining from these items, I later realized it was not about me. In my own mind, I had a story that I was insulting them by turning it down. But they could choose to interpret my behavior in whatever way they wanted, and that was not my responsibility to manage.

wine toast.JPG
Photo credit link

But the powerful realization that wine and sugary desserts were actually hurting my well-being, robbing me of sleep and causing me to gain weight stood in contrast to their persuasion.  In honoring myself and my body’s own needs, I could still enjoy the meal with them, and focus on the interactions with people, and letting the food be fuel, not the entertainment. I still struggle to let go of the feeling of wanting to fit in, and not wanting to be “too different” from these colleagues.

It gets easier though, this act of honoring our own needs and realizing in the long run that if I do not care for myself, these relationships will not have integrity anyway. By doing things that I do not want to do in an effort to “make others comfortable” I deny what I know to be true. Also, getting in touch and accepting my own discomfort at not always fitting in, and being okay with that feeling, has been incredibly freeing as well. It goes totally against our culture of eating as entertainment. And I am all right with that.

What are your experiences with food and eating as entertainment? What strategies have you used to honor your own needs and desires, while in the face of pressure? I am curious to know.

 

Sunday haiku on home (3 verses)

 

I missed you, my dear.

Traveling is fun for me.

But You are My Home.

***

At times I see it:

My World is re-born Anew.

Much beauty and grace.

***

Other times I pause.

I miss your smell, and your touch.

Thank you, Love. Always.

cat at home.JPG
Photo credit link – You Tube on how to help a cat adjust to a new home

(dedicated to my husband)

The joy of returning home

It is early and I am gathering up my things into my suitcase and backpack to begin the journey home from Guadalajara through Atlanta today.

I have a familiar mix of joy and trepidation as I double check the drawers and closet, make sure I have not left behind any possessions. It will be a long travel day, as Delta does not do direct flights back to MSP. But I am left with a sense of completion and relief as well: I accomplished my missions for the week, and now I can return to the comfort of home, with my husband and kitties.

guadalajara
Photo  credit link – Top Things to do in Guadalajara, Mexico

Home is such a joy after being on the road. By yesterday my brain was feeling “cooked” and I am eager to get some good sleep at home. I will be grateful for access to my kitchen, and all of those small but significant comforts of home. I will be most grateful to have conversations with my husband – I really missed him this week. I am grateful for the opportunities I have to travel, and they make returing home even more precious.

Here’s wishing you a happy weekend. Take care and enjoy noticing and observing as you travel your journey in life. Do not forget that other people are fighting their own battles and that kindness, love and compassion are good travel companions, more necessary than anything else you carry. 

Hasta luego!

Getting unstuck

Do you ever have times when some idea or dream emerges into your consciousness out from where it was hiding? You are surprised to find it there, buried in the soil of unconscious distractions and everyday life, and you gasp. Wow, have you been there all along? Why did I lose sight of you?

I have been working on my coaching homework while working here in Mexico this week. Yesterday I traveled to Guadalajara with some colleagues and I spent a good part of the day interacting in Spanish, my second language. I had good conversations, and made a few decisions that were important to advance the work in my department, and to bring some relief to an over-worked colleague.

At 8 p.m. I gracefully exited the people-interactions in the evening to get some time to myself. Then I wrote a big long email to my hubby with some thoughts on what had kept my brain churning on Tuesday night. Well, it’s always a confluence of factors, not usually one issue that does this to me. Somehow I tend to do this more when I travel than when I am at home.

Perhaps that is because in our regular and routine lives, we don’t necessarily give ourselves the space to “upset the apple cart” and think about bigger things. At home, there are always the domestic chores to complete, the bills to pay, the usual day-to-day concerns that seem to get in the way of really allowing ourselves to dream big.

imagination
Photo credit link

Getting away can dislodge some of that detritus in the mind, clear away or at least temporarily suspend some of our resistance. It is our brain’s resistance to change that keeps us stuck sometimes, not any actual real danger or threat.

Yesterday I spent a good portion of the day with one of my direct reports, a colleague who reminds me a little of my younger self. She is a hard-worker, very conscientious and a bit anxious too. Over coffee and quesadillas we told stories and got to know one another better, and I coached her on a couple of points I thought may help her confidence.

It occurred to me later that I was preaching what I try to practice: an awareness that our thoughts and beliefs are not real. They are just sentences in the mind, and sometimes we have “loops” that we play on auto-pilot, old ideas that actually no longer serve us.

When we step outside those thoughts, and realize we have the power to change them, and therefore create a new reality, it can feel threatening. Letting go of these worn-out ways of thinking requires us to step into the unfamiliar. Eventually, we may surprise and delight ourselves with our accomplishments. But for now, our primitive brain urges us to crawl back into the cave, stay safely ensconced in our old beliefs. They are what kept us safe in the past, and so that is evidence enough to keep re-running them.

So in getting unstuck, we must get comfortable with some discomfort. This reminds me of the experience I had years ago when training for a marathon (2011). That’s what the training plan is about – you must get used to those feelings of fatigue and those thoughts of wanting to quit in the last few miles.

You can become comfortable with discomfort. And then in a couple more miles you notice: the feeling has passed and you are fine again. This is how yin yoga is for me as well – stay in a slightly edgy position for several minutes, and you notice how every feeling is just a vibration in the body. Rather than fixed and stationary, these vibrations are dynamic and ever-changing.

That is how I would describe my personal explorations now. As I begin to dream again, I begin to see my life differently. As I get unstuck, the discomfort of change comes up and admonishes me to go back into the cave. But this time, I will venture out. My soul beckons for something more, some evolution to the next version of myself. While my ego may beg for protection, and whine about the unfamiliar, my soul knows better.

I am ready to dream again.

Travel haiku – 2 verses

I travel to Guadalajara today, so time is short before I will complete my packing here in Mexico City and leave for the airport. But because I have an unbroken streak of posting every day since October, I really cannot resist at least a haiku, even if it is not Sunday.

***

Packing for a trip.

Why did I bring all this stuff?

Lightening the load.

**

Each time I travel

I learn, grow and change myself.

Good experience.

cats in suitcase
Photo credit link

 

 

Travel for introverts

I write this entry after venturing down to the lobby to get coffee to bring back to my room. I really love travel, and I always enjoy visiting Mexico, but my introvert self can get a little over-stimulated with all the meetings, people, traffic, noise, etc. Part of my survival strategy involves using the hotel room as a personal sanctuary some of the time.

It was a long day, yesterday but a productive one. We held four interviews for the position we have open in the Mexico office, and all candidates had their merits. Each was quite different from the others, so my colleague and I will have to think on it, and consider which qualities are the most important for this particular role.

tacos de pollo - fiesta inn

After returning to the hotel around 7:30 I ordered room service and did a little writing and reflecting in my journal while listening to some podcasts. For those of you who are “foodies” I give you a photo of my tacos de pollo con tocino. I have never had chicken and BACON in tacos before, and I will definitely do that again someday.

I had intended to wind down early after dinner, but for some reason while writing, something “broke open” in my brain, or perhaps my soul had some insight that had been buried under the surface. It was about a dream I am writing up for my coaching assignment, and I realized it had gotten buried under the weight of expectations for my life.

My colleague had asked me a question earlier in the day that reminded me how I’d shared that dream with others on my team, that I want to go on a honeymoon in Europe with my husband. Originally we had planned to take a month off work for our 1-year anniversary to spend at least 3 weeks traveling in the U.K. and Spain specifically, with a little connecting trip through France along the way. I have been to the Netherlands and to Switzerland on work trips, and thoroughly enjoyed each trip. But that is not the same as traveling with a loved one and having shared adventures.

I had really gotten excited about that possibility, and was dreaming up the details, and somehow that dream got sidetracked. After the wedding, when we talked about it, I felt some pressure to instead work on saving for a house. (Not really from my husband, but more from family, who want us to be responsible and not frivolous.) I realize buying a house is a dream for a lot of people but last night as I was writing, something dislodged in my brain and I realized that on a one-year time horizon, that is not my dream.

I still want to travel with my husband in Europe, and I want to have this experience together earlier rather than later in our lives. For me, since I have bought and sold homes twice, to me that is not a dream, it feels more like a societal obligation. While parts of me know that eventually it is something I may enjoy, right now it does not feel like a priority.

london kingmaker.JPG
Photo credit link

So while I had intended to wind down last night, my brain actually cranked up to examine: why did I let go of that dream so easily? What is stopping us from returning to it? Is it too late to re-engage in that planning? I realized the thought of it excites me and gets my pulse racing a bit.

In contrast, when I consider buying a home, my feeling is kind of a “trapped” one, which may be telling me something. While I tried to calm my thought, meditating, playing soothing music, and the like, I ended up not dropping off until 3 a.m. so I am running on less than 4 hours sleep today. Oy. Well, I have done this in plenty of times in my life. Though it is not ideal, I will be very gentle with myself and it will be okay.

Travel is a joy to me despite knowing that my introvert self needs to take restorative breaks and to have “sanctuary” in a part of each day. There is a sense of creativity, of possibility, of observation and reflection about the world that gets activated by my travels.

This morning, thankfully, I do not have meetings so I am going to the office around 11:30, after some time to gather my thoughts and plan for the rest of the week. I have appointments with colleagues over lunch and in the afternoon. Self-care in advance will ensure I can be fully present with them.

I am struck with this incredible sense of privilege and gratitude for the life I live and the opportunities I have. While my choices in life may be unconventional, I know that denying or ignoring my dreams does not serve me or anyone else. We cannot always articulate the reasons for our deep desires because they come from somewhere within our souls. When we do not honor them, or work toward them, something within us dies.