Happy Friday and thank you

*This is an edited post from January 2018. I spent my day being in the flow of what felt right. So this post on gratitude is appropriate.*

I often sit in the morning drinking my coffee while I watch the sunrise, along with my cat (Willy) who watches and seems to love it too. Or maybe he is just watching for the neighborhood dogs, I am not sure.

We have a really well-positioned large window in the living room. This photo does not do it justice, but the flaming orange, red, purple and pink colors make me breathless with wonder.

sunrise-jan-19-2018.jpg

It is these intense moments of gratitude when I feel myself losing the need to worry, and coming back to the present, where I have all I need in this moment. Such a simple concept, and yet we are drawn away from the present so often. It can be hard to live right here and now. So many distractions and enticements can take us away from the simplest joys.

Our habits of mind, well-practiced and reinforced, have not placed value on being, just breathing and sensing. But that is okay, it is still possible to learn and practice this new skill. The practice of mindful gratitude, focusing awareness on our breath or just watching the thoughts come and go, is a foundation for joy.

Last night during yin yoga class I noticed my tendency to escape into my mind when I was in a more challenging pose. But I kept bringing myself back, breathing into some slight discomfort but allowing myself to stay with the sensations. This is good practice for sitting with difficult emotions as well.

Life will never be 100% positive, and that is okay. To be fully human is to feel good sometimes and bad other times. The range of emotion is a gift to us as humans, and the less we fight and resist the harder emotions, the more joy we can access. It is okay to feel sad and to grieve losses. It is necessary and good, and allows empathy for others.

Joy comes at moments when we are able to notice all the good within us and around us. It can also be practiced, and cultivated with thoughts of compassion and love. Saying thank you to the universe, to the spirit, to a family member, or to whatever moves us, helps us to access that joy more readily. Thank you, friends. I hope you enjoy your weekend.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Finding your edge

As I was sitting my evening yin yoga class on Thursday, I found myself thinking about where my “edge” was. For those of you who have not practiced yin, it involves long-held poses where you relax into a pose for typically 5-8 minutes.

Typically you just soften into a pose, where eventually you find a bit of an edge, a slight discomfort when this pose is held. This allows the fascia, or connective tissue of the body, to respond to a gentle stress. It can allow for greater flexibility and release some tightness which we often develop over time, sitting for long periods, or doing repetitive actions.

I have been practicing yin yoga for 4+ years now, and I have to admit, when I first tried it, I did not like that discomfort. I was restless. I wanted to move, to come out of it. But as I practiced, I learned to sit with the discomfort, observe it, notice how it changed and shifted even when I was very still. Now I rarely miss my yin classes twice a week, I have learned to embrace that edge, and to understand the benefits of this practice.

wbl sunset edge
Sunset at the “edge” of my day today – gorgeous

When I think about life also, I believe we have a “growth edge” in our lives. We have a place where we long to lean into it, to embrace the slight discomfort that comes from trying something new or practicing a new skill. At first, our minds resist: this feels unfamiliar! Am I doing it right? What if others laugh at me? What if I make a mistake?

These are thoughts I had when I first started going to dance in 2018. I felt very self-conscious. A 40+ year old Latina that can’t dance?!? But I moved toward that growth edge. You might say I danced toward it, and decided it was quite delightful, actually.

At work, I tried new things I had never done before. Eventually I decided to strike out on my own, leave my corporate job and make my living via freelance work. *That* is definitely the biggest “growth edge” of my past year. But all the edge means is that we feel uncomfortable at first, and our brains are new to this activity. Typically the brain protests a bit, since our primitive evolution designed us to seek comfort and pleasure and to avoid pain.

As we lean into that growth edge slightly, we find that we loosen up. We may notice things we did not realize before. We may actually *enjoy* some of the new things we try, even if they are edgy at first. We definitely learn along the way, and if we persist, we may even master some new skill, discover some new capability we did not know we had. It can be very exciting, embracing that edge. Not so that we fall off, but so we can see our world in a new way.

What is your “growth edge” for 2019? 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

On the graceful “no”

I interviewed on Wednesday for another freelance project job that sounded interesting when I read it, but I have some doubts now. 

My impression is that the amount of work it would take to complete the project is far more than the client has budgeted or was clear in the posting. While I really like the concept for the book, and I thought the research could be interesting, I have some intuition that this may be more than I bargained for in my proposal.

I explained in my call that my proposal was based on the notion that there would be a draft manuscript produced by the client in a few weeks, as indicated in the description, and that I would work with that material. While he seemed excited about my background and skills, and thought I might be a good fit for the research aspect of the project, my internal doubt-meter started sending me a subtle flare of warning.

Then a little while after the call, he messaged to ask for my information outside the platform where we connected, and requested some free work (a small task but we have not yet agreed on contract terms, so it is against policy). Another warning flare. 

The people-pleasing part of me hates to say no to people, especially when they seem excited to work with me. But something about this project seems as though, while an interesting topic, could become a burden.  The client has some unrealistic ideas about what “ghost writing” entails. After I did some research on the market for this, I believe I under-valued the time this will take. 

As I always do when making important decisions, I will sleep on it and allow my subconscious to reveal any insights that will help me make a final decision. But right now I am mentally crafting a professional and respectful “no” because I truly believe we must pay attention to our intuition on these matters.

Saying “no” to some good things allows room for greater things. It may not be fun, and it is uncomfortable. But I am willing to feel the discomfort and do the right thing. Indeed, living in my integrity requires it.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Wellness Wednesday – Remember your resilience

This Wednesday as I travel home from LHT to MSP, I want to share an idea for a way to think when times get tough or you face difficulties. Of course, whenever I write about these themes, they are reminders for when my future self encounters a problem as well.

One thing I have observed in life and I recently remembered during my travels is that most mistakes are “recoverable”. One must remain flexible in many circumstances when conditions are beyond our control. International travel requires a certain level of planning and preparation, especially to do it safely and without too many hassles.

But hassles, delays, and bumps along the way are to be expected. This is really what life is too, traveling along our paths, hoping and planning for the best. But it is these bumps, these unexpected curves and bends in our paths, the tight spaces and the cramped tube rides that are reality. By avoiding these things, we avoid the fullness of life. By embracing reality, both the joys of amazing vistas and the bumps along the path, we are better served. We get less upset when things do not always work perfectly.

Humans are equipped with the ability to adapt to circumstances, to solve problems and figure out solutions. This is the key to our resilience. We do this automatically, and often choose similar solutions to “old” problems. Every now and then we may try something new, and get a new result. Some routines we develop over time (like meditation, reflection, journaling, etc) may help us learn lessons more easily or more mindfully.

Scottish Highlands photo from Clem
Photo by husband of mexi minnesotana, taken September 14, 2018

By thinking through a path we took at one point, and questioning how we might do it differently now, or maybe acknowledging an important lesson learned, we can make peace with that choice. Of course, I realize this is a very deliberate practice, to make peace with our decisions rather than beat ourselves up over a mistake. But there is no point in regret.

Every move forward (or back, truly) in our lives teaches us something. Sometimes we learn we do not want to repeat that move. Other times we meet a new person who becomes a friend. Or we find out someone we thought was our friend really did not share our values. This is all good information. We learn along the way.

It is important to remember our resilience. Sometimes we get caught in feeling sorry for ourselves about an event, or a bad experience. It is okay to experience whatever emotion comes up, maybe even write about it or talk with a friend if needed. But then we can move on, knowing that our resilient spirit will keep moving us forward, no matter the circumstances.

Cheers & happy journeys,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

 

 

 

Leaning into discomfort

For the last couple of days I had the privilege to observe a “culture transformation” facilitation 2-day session with a colleague who is a professional consultant. It was an intense but productive couple of days. In my usual fashion, I am still processing internally the lessons I observed about the group and about myself.

This was unlike other sessions I have personally conducted, but many of the issues were similar. My goal was to learn as much as possible, be of help when I could to the facilitator, and consider how I may apply these lessons to my future work.

I realized during the process that I would have to lean into my discomfort, meeting 15 leaders of R&D and business cross-functional partners gathered for this meeting. Only 1 of the leaders was a woman, along with the admin and the HR director, and the rest were men. (With the facilitator and myself, there were 5 women total, less than a third of the room).

The first day I was a bit overwhelmed by it, actually. I pick up on the emotional states of others quite easily, and it felt like my empathy channels were flooded with input. By the end of the day, though I was invited to the happy hour and dinner that followed, I was desperately in need of a break from the action to quiet my mind. Fortunately I had this, about 40 minutes between others leaving the room, and joining them for the informal portion of that day’s events.

women in boardroom
Photo credit link

It reminded me of how I typically feel after attending one of my own team meetings where I am fully engaged and “on” the whole day. But since Latin America teams rarely re-convene before 7 or 8pm to have dinner, the break in between is typically longer. Usually that has meant I sacrifice sleep, since we return to the hotel around 11 and it takes me an hour or two to calm my jangled nervous system after all the people interaction.

As a morning person, I seldom sleep past 5am, so a 3-day meeting leaves me exhausted and depleted, even if it was a productive event. So I plan for this, and I ensure that before and after these meetings, I have plenty of solitude, writing time, meditation. I go on walks, do yoga, sit with my cat on my lap when possible, and allow for the impressions to seep and filter into consciousness.

Leaning into discomfort is possible because I know myself. I realize it does not indicate anything has gone wrong. These preferences may be hard-wired or habitual, and I am aware of when I must step into it. The observations of interactions between people fascinate me, and this particular group had a few real characters. The “lab” of human interaction is at play, and while it can be challenging, my curiosity typically redeems the discomfort involved.

I typically enjoy interactions 1:1 with people and in small groups, where I feel I am able to focus my sensory “data collection” if you will. I am curious about how my comfort level may evolve over time and with practice. Right now I am allowing for the learning, as challenging as it is, and being patient with my discomfort. It is all part of the growth process, and for that I am grateful.

Happy weekend, amigos.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

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.