Category Archives: relationships

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.

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.

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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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Preach what you practice

Yesterday I was thinking of the common expression “practice what you preach” and considering why it is an admonition of sorts. Probably because it is easier to tell others what to do than to take our own advice sometimes.

So let’s turn that one on its head and instead preach what we practice. It occurred to me that I am trying to do this on my blog. There are certain things that really help me to live a better life: meditation, yoga, writing, eating real food, choosing love over fear, etc.

I love to experiment with practices to see how or whether they work for me. If they do, after some time and testing, I adopt them as part of my daily or weekly routines. Of course, you will have to practice them yourself to know if they work for you. I am not saying they will. But I really do like to “preach” some practices that work.

Blogging has led me to some really fascinating and insightful people online. The ones I enjoy most do this very thing: they preach what they practice. They share what works for them. They show some vulnerability in admitting they are not perfect, that they have made mistakes. And they invite others to learn from their experience as well.

Today I just want to thank a few of them that I read regularly and have given me feedback on my work as well. I am grateful that the internet has enabled this kind of virtual connection and that like-minded people can collaborate on this great experiment of life.

Steph at Make More Meaning is doing some fascinating things with minimalism. Jessie at Hoosier Mystic is doing some significant personal work. Julie de Rohan has given me some great shout-outs as well, and I appreciate her support. And also raynotbradbury is a source of creativity and delight, so check out her humor when you have a moment.

I know there are more of ya out there, and I thank you for your comments and contributions to the world of ideas and this ever-expanding universe that is the blogosphere. Cheers & happy Friday!

My favorite guy

My husband is an amazing man with a kind heart and a wicked sense of humor. Last year we were apart on Valentine’s Day because I was traveling to Peru for work. Actually about half the past few years we are apart, because I tend to travel in February. This year I managed to postpone my trip until Feb 19-24 so I could be home on Valentine’s Day.

While I was headed to dinner with my work associates, I happened to check the email on my phone and he had sent me a series of 7 messages called “7 reasons why I love you.” We had been together nearly 7 years, and it brought tears to my eyes to read these beautiful messages.

Hubby typically expresses his love through acts of service. If any of you know Gary Chapman’s “5 Love Languages” you know that people tend to express their love in particular ways. I tend to be in the “words of affirmation” camp, and we both express love through physical touch as well. But this surprised and pleased me so much, when he expressed his love for me in my love language.

Valentine

This is the first year we are celebrating Valentine’s Day as a married couple. He surprised me by having some luscious chocolate dipped strawberries and a dozen red roses delivered to me yesterday. He has always been so thoughtful and kind. He is terrific at picking out gifts I will enjoy, and he is generous with his time and talent to our families in so many ways.

Last February when we set our wedding date and began planning for the big event, it was a big breakthrough for me. I had been processing some of my old baggage about marriage in therapy, which is something I highly recommend when necessary.

But one day it was like a switch flipped in my brain. I realized what a great privilege and gift I had been given: this man loves me, despite my flaws and imperfections. He wants to commit to working through our struggles and being with me for the rest of my life. Sometimes I’m not even sure *I* have the patience to be with myself to work on my own neuroses. If I miss the boat on accepting his love, and giving it freely in return, I will miss the universe’ invitation to really grow in our relationship and develop spiritually.

So today I want to express gratitude for my favorite guy in the world. He is a great partner and is patient with me and with my struggles. I am so honored to call him my husband and I am so happy we get to be together.

I hope you have someone in your life that you love, and that someone that loves you. Tell them how much you love them. Being loved and accepted begins with yourself of course, but it is such a sweet bonus when you find someone who loves you for you. What an amazing and delightful miracle.

 

Responding vs reacting

One of the benefits of practicing meditation and yoga consistently is that it teaches you the difference between response versus reaction.

To me, I define the difference in these as temporal, relating to time, and emotional, relating to reactivity. When we slow things down, in our breathing, our movement and our thinking, we can often realize when our reaction to a stimulus may be out of proportion.

For example, when someone make a remark I may perceive as offensive, my first reaction may be to get angry. However, if I give the words a moment to sit there, without immediately responding, I may consider the perspective of the speaker. I may pause and realize that they words they have said are not about me (or someone I love) but they are about them.

In fact, this practice has been so powerful for me, because I know my tendency has been to react, to say something back, or to at least indulge in anger or negativity. But as I have started to consider what I can do to act with more love and less fear in every situation, I realize I have a choice about how I respond.

This is true in meditation and yoga. When we realize there is a little discomfort in the body, maybe in the lower back or neck, we have a choice about how to respond. We can observe and watch the feeling. Sometimes it intensifies momentarily, and then dissipates. We can move and adjust if needed or try to breathe into that area.

This is contrary to the speed of our culture right now. We want more, we want faster, we do not wait to wait for things. Everything is available on demand, and we get frustrated when we have to wait for more than a few moments for a download. So we become conditioned to react, not to wait a moment and respond. Hey, I get it! I am the same way.

But what if we tried to move a little counter to what the culture tells us and we move more slowly and deliberately? We say no to having too many options open, and we take more time to respond mindfully instead of reacting. We improve our relationships, because we may ask clarifying questions instead of getting upset over a remark someone made.

It is worth trying, just taking a breath or two when something seems to “trigger” a response in you. Notice where the emotion lands in your body. Decide if you want to respond or let it go. I am far from perfect at this but I am playing with it more, and forgiving myself for the times when I did not have this skill.

It may have a radical impact on how you interact with the world. Let me know how it goes!

 

Why do we crucify ourselves?

I love early mornings, when I sit with my coffee and write, sometimes with a cat on my lap, sometimes just with a few fresh ideas in my head. After a good night’s sleep, my mind is clear, and sometimes the remnants of a dream come forth. Very often I forget them right away, and that is okay. My subconscious lets me know when I need to remember them.

This morning I had fragments in my head of a song by Tori Amos that I have not hear in years, possibly decades: “Why do we crucify ourselves?” So that was fascinating. It is a good question though. Why indeed?

Isn’t it amazing how some music imprints itself upon us in a way we cannot explain. This particular album was introduced to me by my best friend in college. The Little Earthquakes album was a staple of our music mix in those days.

“I gotta have my suffering so I can have my cross…”

Yeah. I guess some of us were taught to use Jesus as an example of behavior we should follow. I am going to risk offending people in this post, and probably confess my beliefs here and how they have changed over the years.

I wholeheartedly embrace the example of Jesus as a spiritual teacher, perhaps even a savior in a way. But I always puzzled at people who are so self-sacrificing that they neglect their own self care. The Bible says that Jesus died for our sins, that his suffering was our redemption. So why do we insist on suffering more than needed?

Every human being suffers. It is part of our DNA. It is part of what helps us have empathy for others, the understanding of sadness, of grief, of anger, of any depth of emotion. And yet when we are young, some of us are told “don’t cry, it will be okay” or “honey, don’t be sad.”

It reflects possibly our parents’ inability to deal with their own emotions that they asked us not to express our own. Everyone has sadness, anger or loneliness at times in their life. It is okay. Nothing has gone wrong. These emotions help us to connect with ourselves, and with others, and to let us know when things may need to change in our lives.

Anger is how we SHOULD react to injustice. It is something that can motivate action, though not necessarily sustain it. And yet many of us were taught not to express anger, but to fear it. Or we were not shown that it was okay to be sad sometimes. But being angry or sad is part of the human condition, nothing that should shame us.

When we resist or deny our feelings, that is when they cause more suffering. Our feelings are like vibrations in the body. They come, they move through us, and they complete themselves. Probably no other practice has helped me understand this than yoga and meditation. Every emotional state is temporary. Many of these states are a result of our thoughts rather than anything external.

Simply by feeling our feelings, possibly naming and acknowledging them, we allow them to move through us. They can be a guide to let us know we should reach out to friends and connect with loved ones. They can help us know when we are moving toward danger or toward joy.

As more people develop emotional intelligence, they may learn to identify and embrace their emotions rather than “buffer” them away with alcohol, food, Netflix or other addictions. Instead of piling on the guilt and shame over feeling sad or angry, they can release this added suffering and feel more peace.

I certainly have not mastered this, and have had to deliberately practice feeling my feelings, and identifying the thoughts behind them. But it has allowed me to stop crucifying myself over mistakes, or my own shortcomings. That serves nobody. I am pretty sure Jesus would agree with me on this one, and allow me to forgive myself.