Monthly Archives

May 2015

Awareness of Sensation, Compassion, Embodiment, grounding, Life Coaching, Mindfulness, Movement, Self-love, Spirituality, Suffering, Transformation

facing our fear of change

lately things in my life have felt uncertain, unpredictable, and downright chaotic. truth is, this is always the case. my homegirl, Pema Chodron, says it best:

“As human beings we share a tendency to scramble for certainty whenever we realize that everything around us is in flux. In difficult times the stress of trying to find solid ground-something predictable and safe to stand on-seems to intensify. But in truth, the very nature of our existence is forever in flux. Everything keeps changing, whether we’re aware of it or not.”

so while everything is changing all the time, there are moments when we are acutely aware, excruciatingly uncomfortably aware. we are thrust into the middle of the manic movement. it tosses us around. it feels dizzying and unstoppable. we often flail and thrash around to try to force something to solidify or clarify or to try to grab a hold of something fixed to keep us flying off the earth’s surface. chaoschange

how can we handle these storms without losing complete contact with ourselves, with our stillness, centeredness, and intuition that are always pulsing within? how can we move with the chaos, into the change, instead of against it?chaosflipone thing in the moment

this is deceptively simple and uber-powerful. be where you are. be totally in your experience of what you are doing. right. now.

that’s it.

say to yourself: “right now, i am driving to the store.” then “in this moment, i am waiting at the stoplight.” and “right now, i am noticing the traffic.” or “right now i am looking for parking.” and so on…

it seems basic–and that is why it works!

bringing the brain back to the basics, focusing our attention only on the task at hand, can deliver us into the safe space of the now. unless there is an immediate threat or danger around, most stress we experience during times of transition, originate in our heads.

with this practice, instead of getting pulled into rumination or worry, we only use our brain to experience what is here & now. there’s no room for that thought-spasm that is trying to control a situation over which we have no control.

only present are the thoughts about the actions and observations of this moment.

get grounded heartree

there may never be any solid ground in our experience of life, as Pema is suggesting in the excerpt above. even in periods of apparent stability, things are always shifting, moving, ebbing, flowing. just when we think we’ve “made it”–in career or relationship, etc. things can change drastically in an instant. which is why, when our feeling of this groundlessness is heightened, it can help to connect with the literal ground and feel its support.

like to garden? great! if not, just find a place to sit or lie down on a rock or in a field or even on your bedroom floor…let yourself be supported by the ground and take in the sensations of where it is touching you. notice it is there, holding you, giving you a place to Be. without conditions.

other ways to ground: walk barefoot on the earth, hold heavy a rock in your hands, meditate with a grounding stone like Tigers Eye, listen to drumming, eat root vegetables, drink holy basil tea. any other suggestions to bring the energy levels down?

move with change

those of us who are regular visitors to the ocean are probably familiar with riptide safety 101.

  • don’t panic
  • don’t try to swim against the current

swimmers who succumb to rip currents do so because they exhaust themselves with the fight and drown.

let this be motivation to connect to the calm within. take a moment now to find it.

for me, when i bring attention to my physical center…just above the naval and above the lower back and move my awareness inward to meet in the middle from front of the body and back of the body,  i can sense a steadiness there. i can also tune into my heart center and find calm there. birds-633103_1280

find your center. from that steadiness, relax. then move. don’t freeze, flail, or fight. roll and shift and sway and lightly dance into it, allow the change to guide you, and with radical trust, let go.

peptalk to yourself

this can feel like hard, scary stuff. go gentle with yourself. remind yourself when things feel particularly tough, that you are strong, brave, and fabulous for showing up to life.

this is how it is–the reality of life is all about change. moving into, with lovingkindness towards yourself is what it’s all about. suffer less…surrender more. remember that you have survived hard times before and we often emerge from strange churning and chaotic rumblings stronger, wiser, and more connected to our fellow human beings, who are on similar change-filled journeys. send yourself some love right now. you are doing awesome!

Awareness of Sensation, Compassion, Discernment, Healing, Love is Space, Mindfulness, Nonviolent Communication, Psychology, Suffering, Wisdom

When Distraction is a Good Habit

Walking through my local co-op grocery store this evening, i noticed the latest issue of Tricycle magazine.  In orange and black typeface its cover commanded: “DROP DISTRACTIONS.” Its subtitle continued: “And find time for what really matters.”

i browsed the article and it had some great advice on paying attention to what websites we’re visiting, how much time we’re spending behind a screen, noticing the feelings that are driving our habits, and taking steps to move our attention to something else–going outside, scheduling times for email and blocking our social media sites for a chunk of time.

it can be helpful to discover how it is we are using our leisure time and to reprioritize according to our values. it can be helpful to unplug and open our awareness to the magic of life beyond a screen.

but something was missing from this perspective.

buddhajam

it doesn’t surprise me to see distractions–especially of the tech variety–being cast in such an unquestionably negative light in a Buddhist magazine. then again, i think of how Buddhism is also a practice of using what is human to wake up. being distracted is just a part of reality, and we need not judge ourselves for going there, nor judge our choices, as Tricycle does (inspired by this kid’s classic) as “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad.” i mean, there are no “bad” habits–just ineffective and painful ways of trying to meet our legitimate needs. instead, we can practice compassion. and more, we can use distraction mindfully.

Accept Distraction.

Sometimes we need a break. From painful emotions, intense thinking, or physical discomfort. We can consciously choose to distract ourselves without it meaning we are being unmindful, unspiritual, or self-indulgent. Knowing our limits and being tuned into our needs means approaching the internet, technology, tv, games, or other activities generally regarded as time or mind wasters in a way that can be healthy and helpful. Really.

Distract yourself effectively, mindfully, and skillfully by finding ways to draw your attention from worries, stress, or suffering into activities that feel relaxing or amusing. Set an intention and say it aloud to yourself. For instance: “Right now, I consciously choose distraction to help me cope and relax during a difficult time. My intention is to feel some lightness and relief.” It’s okay to choose to totally forget and have fun for awhile if your nervous system is heightened and needs some TLC. Or any other quality R&B.

Notice how you are feeling as you are doing whatever you are doing…allow the distraction and bring in awareness of sensation. Do you feel any relief…where? Any lightness…where? Any emotions at all…where in the body? Breathe into it and just be with it as you continue to distract yourself with whatever diversion you’ve chosen.

Meet the Underlying Need.

The Tricycle piece takes a step toward this when asking “What’s this all about?” We can see what feelings are coming up that may be expressing themselves or repressing themselves through busyness or entertainment. That is, sometimes anxiety and fear show up as lots of grasping for information and answers, insecurity and loneliness might be behind compulsive email and social media surfing, boredom and disconnection could be under our marathon tv binge.

It’s not enough to just see this and then change our activity, as much as we believe we’ve rationalized our way out of these emotions, they are likely going to return and show up even in our more so-called wholesome activities. We can be walking in the woods or sitting on a zafu and still be ruled by distraction.

treesshadow

So go deeper…

What is this feeling really telling me? What is it needing?

My own reassurance, my own love, my own presence, my own patience, my own encouragement, my own faith, my own surrender.

Keep going…

How can I give this to myself now? What is a step I can take toward meeting my needs?

Take some full belly breaths. See yourself as already 1000% being reassurance, love, presence, patience, encouragement, faith, surrender. Make a welcoming gesture with your arms, allowing the feeling in and giving yourself fully over to it…in your attention, your understanding, your compassion.

Because you know what really matters? You do. Trust yourself to make smart choices for you!

Adventure, Awareness of Sensation, Curiosity, Experimentation, Freedom, Joy, Open, Play, travel, Visualization

finding freedom (+ fun), right here

Some clients i’ve worked with in one-on-one coaching struggle with feeling stuck where they are while living local & feeling a strong yearning for the global. Free spirits, they see themselves thriving in the new, unfamiliar, and unexpected. But whether due to finances, family, friends, or any other reason, they have a current need to stay put and aren’t able to travel.

If you are someone who doesn’t feel like yourself when you’re not traveling, if excitement, freedom, openness, and a willingness to take risks are qualities you strongly identify with and that feel most alive on your cross-country adventures and foreign escapades, read on. If you have a fear that being in one place, settled in a home, will extinguish your sense of freedom, shut down your spirits, and make life feel stagnant and sterile, this list is for you, too!

I encourage you, like i do my clients, to drop thoughts about what being in one place means. Notice what fear-based thoughts are going through your mind and imagine who you’d be without them. (Hat-tip: Byron Katie). Try out these experiments to cultivate a sense of adventure and the spirit of travel, right at home.

adventure

1. Just Imagine…

Pretend that you are a foreign visitor who has never been to your town. Go sight-seeing or stroll the streets and look at your surroundings through the eyes of curiosity and discovery. See everything as if you have never seen any of it before. Go to your nearest visitor’s center as if you’ve just landed from outer space. Do you notice or learn anything new?

2. Get excited!

Find a park, historic home, quirky space, or museum nearby to visit and treat it as you would some famous landmark. Feel *that* excited about seeing it! Talk about it to a friend (or aloud to yourself) in the tone of voice you would use to talk about a trip to some dream destination. How does it feel to be in this sense of excitement? Where does that excitement show up in your body? Allow yourself to feel & enjoy it. Does this feel too ridiculous to take seriously? Great!! Have fun with it, laugh, and enjoy!

3. Taste the flavors…

Friends of mine who went to Thailand, Vietnam, Peru, and Mexico took cooking classes in each country to experience its authentic flavors. See if a local cooking school or meetup group offers classes in international cuisine or if there is a restaurant representing a region you’d like (or already liked) to travel to, where you can enjoy an authentic exotic meal. Or try a cookbook or online recipe.

4. New? Do!

The freshness of our experiences when in a new environment is something that can make life seem more vibrant. Do something totally out of character. Always dress in neutral tones? Don yourself in bright colors. Listen to a style of music you think you don’t like and try to find something in it that you appreciate. Sign up for a class in something you know nothing about or take up a new hobby: hip hop dance, ceramics, photography, rock climbing, kayaking, fishing, aerial dance, drumming, poetry writing. Find free classes on Coursera like this or this. Sign up for a race! Volunteer at a community agency or animal sanctuary!

freedom

5. Only Connect.

Meet with fellow lovers of travel and exchange stories about your past trips and future dreams of adventure. Share photos and memories. Find someone with whom to partner for language exchange. Go to a cafe or bar and strike up a conversation with a stranger as you would when traveling in a tourist town. Read foreign literature or watch films made and produced from around the world.

6. Simplify, simplify, simplify!

One of the most freeing aspects of travel is being light…having little with us, few concerns or things for which we’re responsible for, and living well with few belongings! When i was in Central America, i went with about 5 outfits for 2 months. It was wonderfully uplifting to not worry about what to wear beyond what was clean and what the temperature was. I had only the belongings that could fit in my hiking backpack…i’d buy a used book, donate it and buy another when i wanted to read. This is an invitation to clean out your closets, let go of excess stuff, and make living as easy as possible by keeping your space and schedule clutter-free.

7. Visualize + actualize.

Recall a time in the past when you felt both stability and centered in home and, at the same time, joyful, carefree, and open. If you haven’t been able to feel these simultaneously, imagine what it would be like if you could. Connect to that memory or daydream and make it bigger in your mind and heart. Feel it in your body. Picture yourself living your day to day with that sense of freedom and joy.  Know that being settled in a home does not have to squash your spirits. Trust that it is totally possible to be grounded and supported as well as free and expansive! What are some steps you can take this week to create the conditions for this play, joy, experimentation, and freedom in your life? Soak up the sensations! Create a collage, paint, or journal to capture the kind of freedom you desire in a visual form to remind you. Now, start living it!

 

Compassion, Discernment, Healing, Love, Nonviolent Communication, Power Within, Radical Acceptance, Sacred justice, Spiritual Activism, Suffering, Tonglen, Transformation

what to do when we don’t know what to do

i want to talk about Baltimore. more.

after police have been charged in the death of Freddie Gray, many are feeling temporary relief and hope. only the first step in a long road towards justice, how do we stay sane and centered along the way? and how can we respond to the suffering that is still a reality in Baltimore and across the US, where black women and men disproportionately face poverty, imprisonment, and state violence?

when we really grasp the history of our nation and understand just how entrenched institutional racism is, it can be easy to feel discouraged and powerless. while i don’t have some magic formula for creating real change, i offer here practices, tips, and contemplation for when we don’t know what to do in the face of so much suffering.

LoveandJustice

1. turn off the the radio and tv news. limit online article intake.

wha?? why would we do this? don’t we want to stay engaged with what’s happening? well…is the news really what is happening? No. does revisiting the trauma repeatedly help to undo its horror and tragedy? No. once we learn the facts there are to know, maybe it’s time to step back and breathe.

i noticed on day 3 that letting skewed media reportage set the tone for my day with my morning alarm set to NPR was sending my nervous system into a tizzy.

signs to watch for: tension in the body and tightness in head, jaw, neck, shoulders, shallow, fast breathing, a general unsettled feeling and despair or gloom.

i decided to turn it off.

it may be a privilege of being one state + one district removed from events to choose to not take in media coverage of what’s unfolding in Baltimore. and certainly some do not have the luxury of an off switch when it comes to living in a hostile or oppressive environment. but feeling stress in our bodies will not relieve anybody else of their stress. being miserable does not free anyone else.

so shut it off, take a break. underwhelm yourself.

instead of adding more suffering to the planet, focus on peace. outer peace will require bold change and great patience. so what can we do to bring ourselves into an inner sense of calm? not to deny what is happening, but to be able to act instead of react. to know it is us, our own clear minds and wise hearts, responding, and not layers of stress and media-induced despair causing us to act out, and likely, be ineffective.

get quiet. settle into yourself. respond from who you are, not what others are doing.

which leads me into step 2…

2. know who you BE. then act.

i once went to graduation festivities for a community organizing institute a friend did with Oakland’s Applied Research Center–what’s now known as Race Forward. this was in my Bay Area living days, early aughts when i worked at a local Planned Parenthood. i believed vigorously in the power of community organizing, but after a semester internship with Chicago’s ONE, i came to terms that i didn’t have what it takes to be an effective organizer myself. i lamented to the then leader of this organizing institute that i felt i wasn’t doing enough and wish i had it in me to do this essential work. she came back at me with: “We need revolutionaries in every field. We need revolutionary teachers, doctors, lawyers, scientists…” & she listed off various careers I can’t recall 15 years later. the sentiment has stayed with me, though. we need revolutionary life coaches. and we need you to be who you are. when we see thousands in the streets, it is inspiring, it is necessary, and it is not everyone’s calling.

beyou

knowing who we are means action happens as a natural and spontaneous expression of life moving through us. when we allow ourselves to be moved, and where we go is to protest: great. if we are forcing ourselves to show up against what our bodies and intuition tell us, we suffer. not feeling the call doesn’t mean we are lazy or not willing to participate in change. change needs to happen in so many ways and in so many places. go where you are truly called. be the change.

here are some ways that may or may not resonate, to show up for others’ suffering. know who you BE. move from that awareness.

practice power with

try donating! and more donating!

try showing up! across the US or in North Carolina.

try writing a letter to the editor!

for white folks, try speaking up! to other white folks in your community.

practice power within

try tonglen! this is a Buddhist lovingkindness practice that is my go-to for when i am facing difficult emotions, and is a powerful way to both heal ourselves and tap into our compassion for others. keep the flame of compassion burning bright even when the media moves on.

try empathy! as much of a stretch as it might be, we must remember that everyone is suffering and that, oftentimes, the biggest challenge can be extending compassion to those with whom we don’t sympathize, those whose actions we abhor. why would we let them into our hearts? for me, those who commit murder, who trample on the rights of the historically disenfranchised, who unconsciously replicate the implicit biases and blindness of a system in which they were raised are suffering from ignorance–of not knowing themselves, of lacking discernment, of not being connected to their own humanity, of being filled with rage, judgement or hate. if i wish to see them free of suffering, it means i wish for them to know who they are, to claim their humanity, to be humble, open, and surrendered to a power greater than their egos. if i take on the same rage, judgement or hate, even if on the side of morality and justice, i end up suffering, and not being so unlike those whose actions i condemn.

try meditation! this is a quiet way to feel the power that can never be bound, locked up, or stripped away from us. few of us ever face conditions that really test our spirits and force us to cultivate the kind of inner fortitude and self-connection that triumphs over our own personal and external limitations. all of us can access the transpersonal, though, and can sense the space and compassion it opens up for us and for all beings.

May all sentient beings have happiness and its causes,
May all sentient beings be free of suffering and its causes,
May all sentient beings never be separated from bliss without suffering,
May all sentient beings be in equanimity, free of bias, attachment and anger.

Compassion, Life Coaching, Love, Sacred justice, Spiritual Activism, Spirituality, Transformation

what’s coaching got to do with it?

i want to talk about Baltimore.

in the past week, we’ve seen peaceful protest and understandable rage in a city whose black and poor have been long neglected and overlooked. we’ve seen what happens, when over and over, a need is unmet–a basic, a human need for respect, for the right to exist, is ignored and even grossly, egregiously, violated. it is impossible to imagine writing anything here as if this isn’t happening, because it has been on my mind and in my heart…Baltimore, Ferguson, Jon Burge in Chicago… to talk anything about coaching or personal growth or movement as if this isn’t happening would feel like denial. it would feel like stuckness and avoidance of growth.

so, what does life coaching have to do with social justice? a lot, i hope.

heartgold

i am not naive enough to think we’re going to magically coach people out of the effects of 400 years of white supremacy.

but coaching, for me, is a process of bringing more compassion and respect towards our own humanness. when we slow down and listen–not to what society, family, or religion tells us is “right”–but to our own body, hearts, and minds, we discover who we really BE. we want, more than ever, to live out that destiny. there is a new way of honoring the tenderness of our needs and admiring the wisdom within. how can we not want that for all when we give that to ourselves and find relief and peace?

when your wildest dreams come true, are the fate and lives of others bound in yours? does your wish for freedom extend to all beings? when you desire to live out your true calling and feel fulfillment do you imagine all people having this same right to creatively express who they are and follow their dreams? does your work to become more kind, gentle, and understanding towards yourself mean you treat others with more kindness and understand their need to be valued, heard, and respected? is your courage in facing what must be changed in your own life and belief system unwavering and steady enough to face what must be changed in our lives as a culture?

Not-everything-that-is-faced

if inner work is self-absorbed and disconnected from the world then it is not *working*.  self-inquiry, which is a process on which life coaching is based, may start with the question what do “i” want, but moves below that, digs underneath to discover and feel the call of something more universal than what the separate ego imagines will make it happy. it moves us into a deep longing to express our true selves. pure gold!

the more each person can relate to themselves for who they REALLY are, with lovingkindness, the more that extends outward. like much else, this is change that happens slowly, one by one. there is not a revolutionary political agenda in life coaching. and like all things commercialized, there is an industry largely modeled after the mainstream bottom line paradigm. but in my coaching, and that of my circles, there is a reLOVEutionary soul agenda. it is about service and waking up. i am not naive in believing that will create real change in our world. one by one.

next post: what can we do when we see suffering like that in Baltimore? stay tuned.