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Awareness of Sensation

Awareness of Sensation, Compassion, Emotions, grounding, Love is Space, Mindfulness, Radical Acceptance, Sacred justice, Self-love, Spiritual Activism, Spirituality, Suffering

Lovingkindness in action

Yesterday, when House Republicans voted in favor of replacing the Affordable Care Act with their own version that would raise insurance costs, exclude benefits for an astonishing array of “preexisting conditions,” and cut taxes for the rich while penalizing the poor and middle class, I witnessed the tremendous wave of anger and pain that so many in our country were feeling, those who depend on the flawed yet essential coverage that ACA provides us and those with loved ones who rely on these benefits. Sure, this system is far from perfect, but it allows so many who previously were uninsured or underinsured to finally have the safety net to access care and get medications they need to live without going into debt. Feelings of despair and outrage are a natural response to such self-serving, irresponsible, and cruel legislation. I want to share, though, that as we make space for the pain we feel, we can also experiment with some alternate responses, to help us cope and build resilience in the face of a long 4 years. For my readership outside of the US, i am sure these ideas can be applied to other situations in which injustice and power-hungry demagogues prevail in your own lives.

  • Take action. Lovingkindness is the inspiration for my coaching practice, and is the deep compassion I want us to all have for ourselves and others. Lovingkindness means responding to our own needs and the needs of those around us.  Some people’s response to seeing anger in others’ is judgment, and claims that this is a “negative” or “toxic” emotion to be avoided. Some who identify with new age spirituality want to hold onto bliss experiences and therefore stay out of politics and avoid difficult subjects like poverty and racism. I’ve seen others spread the notion that love will conquer all, as if we don’t have to actually do anything but radiate some emotion and all will be well.  No spirituality is worth anything if it does not care about the suffering of others. Anger is an energy of protection, fierce compassion, and a commitment to justice. Honor its place and channel it into appropriate, loving action. While politics may be unsavory, they are a fact of how power is marshaled in our society to the benefit of some and to the detriment of a great many. We must be invested in the fate of those around us. We are responsible for standing up for what is right, making our voices heard, and holding our representatives accountable by making calls, donating to campaigns and causes for justice, and voting. Some of you might be called to run for office, and if so, that is great! But we don’t need to make this kind of commitment in order to be involved. Start here. Call your senators to oppose the AHCA. Or text “resist” to 50409 to easily contact your senators. Donate to organizations doing work for immigrants, refugees, racial equity, the environment. Find what resonates with you.
  • Focus on the facts. It is painful to realize that so many members of Congress are okay with gutting healthcare for our most vulnerable citizens. This is heartbreaking. And we also can get grounded in the moment and remind ourselves that this was only the first step to passing the AHCA. No one is yet being harmed or hurt by this bill. This is not to deny the potential threat posed, but to help propel us into moving with resolve to working to make sure it does not get through the Senate, and to help us not suffer so much with the imagined torment and dying that could happen under AHCA. We do not need to jump to the future yet and create nightmare scenes in our head that cause us more panic and pain. Stay in the present, focus on what is happening in the moment. Nobody is dying or being denied coverage due to this bill, and if we get consumed with fear over what could happen in the future, we may not be as effective in taking steps to stop it in the now.
  • Accept reality. This has 2 important pieces for me. The first, is understanding that given who these Republican leaders are and looking at the evidence of their values that came through in recent years of intransigence, racism, misogyny, and greed, it is not at all surprising that they passed this legislation yesterday. I can ease some of the suffering and preserve some of the wasted energy that comes out of saying, “I can’t believe they did this heartless thing,” and instead, with complete acceptance of reality say, “It makes a lot of sense, knowing what I know about these people, that they would behave in a manner consistent with a lack of heart and lack of mercy.” This does not change the facts or say they are okay or good, but helps me to not argue with the truth of what is happening. The second piece is similar. I ask: what part of me is refusing to accept that this is happening? In what ways am I resisting that this legislation and this awful administration is part of our reality? I am down with the #resistance, don’t get me wrong. Political action and justice organizing are essential, and, I think, more effective if they come from a place of radical acceptance. Check out this therapist’s advice on staying sane through these difficult times, using the principal of radical acceptance of reality. We aren’t saying things are acceptable as in good, but that we when we accept that things are the way they are, we can more effectively change them.

Offer yourself empathy, place your hands on the places in your body that are feeling constricted, tense, nauseous, or twisted up in pain and offer some soothing words and spacious breaths of allowance–it is understandable to feel distraught when those entrusted to protect people are intent to cause pain. But don’t get stuck there. Pick up the phone, focus on the facts, be honest about what is happening, and put that incredible compassion you have into action.

 

Awareness of Sensation, Compassion, Embodiment, Emotions, Healing, Intention, Life Coaching, Love, Love is Space, Meditation, Open, Relationship, Self-love, Whole Body

Try a Lot of Tenderness

There we were, standing in his kitchen, just 6 weeks after we ended our 2 years together, when he announced his new romance. “I wanted to let you know that I’m dating someone.” At the moment that my brain processed the words, it felt like something shot into my chest and lodged there, inside my heart. Suddenly, it felt harder to breathe. I went home as soon as I could, to cry, tears that did not come as easily when we broke up, but now flowed. What a reality check: the person who still feels the closest in my world is moving on to become someone else’s closest and is entering the intimacy of her world.

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I’ve biked to cafes, walked and talked with warm and thoughtful souls, danced my heart out, snuggled my dog, delighted at frog and bird song, laughed with my best lady friends, practiced French, planned my trip to Paris, and hiked in lush woods along waterways. I’ve watched puppets and b-boys dance, worked myself out into a dripping mess of sweat and endorphins, found a polka dot bikini that fits, and indulged in ice cream. I can forget, when totally absorbed in the present of these joyous and connected moments, the sensation throbbing in my chest. But then, eventually, I am back in my room alone, or quietly walking across town in the rain, or I catch a glimpse of a romantic card at the store, and I feel it. I feel that something wedged into my heart. When I go into arguments about how it shouldn’t be this way, or start questioning how true his love for me ever was, or picture him kissing another, or remember the sweet beginning of our relationship, the pain brightens. I try to catch my breath. I feel it as both a chasm, a bottomless cavity, and as a clamp tightening and closing around my heart.

There is no outer relief. No friend who can make it go away. Nothing out there that can fix the feeling. There is no story I can tell myself to make it better. There is no name-calling, no judgement about him, no critique of the situation, no complaints about how it is too soon, no pettiness about who she might be, that can dissolve that heart-constricting crater. It has nothing to do with him, or her, anyway. It is about the need to be loved, to feel lovable, and this is mine, a human, normal, mine. These are the fears and wounds that our relationships show us–not so that we can demand love from others to feel whole, but so that we may be that love for ourselves. Relief only comes when I move toward that which is causing pain, and then soften around it…to discover that the around it is infinite. That infinite, is who I am. That I am, is loving and open attention.

I sense shallow breathing, choppy air, tight hollowness in my chest, my throat closing, nausea, and what feels like an inner fight, a resistance, trying to push all of it away.

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I stop holding my breath, and let the air flow naturally. I soften…soften around my chest, throat, jaw, gut. I keep softening and allow what is happening to simply be. I stop pushing the sensations away and move my attention outward yet not quite outside of me–I look from just behind my eyes, and feel from behind my heart. I feel into the back of the body, breathing in my 3 dimensions. There is an energetic field extending outward from my physical body. It has eyes and ears and awareness all its own. I shift into this bigger sense of myself: the field of consciousness that surrounds me. Instead of fixating on tight heart, lumped throat, and strained breath, I move my attention up to the top of my head, to the right and left sides of me, to my front and back, then down to the earth, holding my attention on the outer edges of my body. I quietly and curiously notice the many sensations in, on, around me. Tingles atop my head, cool air passing over my face, that bird outside is a high pitched chirp in my right ear, sweat feels slick on skin, and so much space all around me. From the shrinking of fear, grief, confusion, loss and strained breathing, I move out to inhabit that space.

Inhaling deeply, I fall with a relaxed exhale into the awareness that sees and holds all of it. I invite the discomfort to come closer, to show me what it really is. At first I worry that if I give it permission to be, it will grow and consume me. But then I am surprised by the lightness and soothing comfort that arrives when I stop resisting and let it be all that it needs to be. Beyond apparent boundaries of skin, bone, and muscle, beyond my 5’8″ 160 pound frame, there is an endless and expansive me–way more infinite than that crack in my heart. Way more able to love than small, fearful me could have imagined.

You, heart-twisting, lung-pressing, breath-gasping, stomach-dropping tenderness, thank you for bringing me deeper into my life, and inviting me to love more wholeheartedly: him, her, myself, and you, this pain.

I do still feel tender and short of breath at times. The tenderness comes up, catches me and takes my breath, and for a moment I am lost in a story of suffering and loneliness. Then I remember to soften. Again and again, I move into the space around me and soften. It may take days, weeks, or months to move through this, but I am moving through with lovingkindness.

And as I continue to show tenderness towards those tender parts, I also want to encourage the fiery, fierce, and focused parts to keep alive my dreams of creating a life of inspiration, beauty, integrity, and purpose. Indeed, I am already living that life in so many ways, which is why I had to move on from a relationship that felt in conflict with these dreams. Though I may forget and get swept up in my sadness in moments, staying in a story of despair or shutting down in bitterness are not options. As I heal this sense of loss, I will keep my heart open and ready to receive wild, soulful, and romantic possibilities! What about you? Where will you offer yourself space and softness? What happens when you show up for your tender places with a lot of tenderness?

Awareness of Sensation, Balance, Compassion, Embodiment, Emotions, grounding, Healing, Life Coaching, Love is Space, Mindfulness, Self-love, Suffering, Whole Body

The 5 S’s of handling distress

Sometimes a big emotion rolls in and seems to take over without warning.  We may be flooded with sadness, possessed by anger or jealousy, or perhaps we get caught in an argument or crisis and our whole system seems to get overloaded and overwhelmed in an instant. When we get triggered, we can help to re-set our nervous systems and calm our body, heart, and mind. Move through these 5 steps when you catch yourself stressed out or upset. If you’re interacting with others or in a public situation, simply excuse yourself by saying you need to go to the restroom or outside for a moment…no need to give a “why.”

STOP

press pause on the moment. don’t react. just take a deep, spacious breath in…and out.

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SOFTEN

notice your body. is there tension? loosen, let go, and soften your whole body. your jaw–relax it. your shoulders–lower them. with your strong emotions, you may only be able to do this a teeny tiny bit. that’s great…just a notch. turn down the volume of the situation by signalling to the body that it can soften a little smidgen. feel into the softness as much as you are able.

SCAN

close your eyes (if you’re able) and go into your body with your awareness. turn within. see inside your heart, your belly, legs, feet, arms and hands, throat and neck, head. draw your attention on what is happening inside. check out the energy in your chest area, behind your eyes, in your gut, feel within your muscles and bones…tune in and scan to see what it feels like inside you. breathe here for a few minutes.

SENSE

turning from the internal to the external: are you hot? cold? how do your clothes feel on your skin? how does the air touching your skin feel? what sounds do you hear? what do you see all around you–looking up, down, and side to side? observe as if you were a scientist just exploring and doing an inventory of what the 5 senses are picking up.

SOOTHE

take 3 full belly breaths in and out. find some way to soothe yourself. a cup of tea? a walk in nature? a piece of music? a healing mantra? petting a dog? choose something that soothes and restores.

~practice, rinse, repeat.~

Awareness of Sensation, Embodiment, Emotions, grounding, Meditation, Mindfulness, Silence, Soul, Spirituality, Whole Body

In 2016? Resolve to do more of nothing + more loving.

I’ve long been suspicious of the popular tradition of setting New Year’s resolutions. I see a profit-driven mass media stoking people’s fears and insecurities and using marketing tactics that exploit our vulnerability by getting us to feel bad about ourselves and to invest in self-improvement products and memberships. It can amp up the frenzied and fast-paced tendency to seek for satisfaction from external goals or by trying to live up to unrealistic societal ideals of adventure, fitness, balance, or beauty.

On the other hand, there is something inspiring and powerful in the ritual of resolutions. That so many people are focusing energy and attention on intention at the same time, can fuel our own motivation and support us.  How do we set goals that bring us into more of a sense of our own power and wisdom within? How do we trust we are moving at our own perfect pace and keep encouraging ourselves to love ourselves when things are hard or we mess up?

I am totally thrilled to have assembled a group of awesome women to support one another in our goals through my women’s whole wellness group that starts meeting online on January 1st. And I love list-making and box-checking from my to-dos. But the 2 most important tips I want to share for the arrival of 2016 are not about what to do but more about what not to do.

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  1. Do not be hard on yourself! Please be kind, remind…yourself of how much you’ve done, how far you’ve come. Validate your feelings. Cheer yourself on and note successes. Do not use resolutions to beat yourself up, to judge or criticize yourself, compare yourself, or feel like a failure. Discouraging thoughts, harsh judgments when you fall off track do not help–they harm! They do not help motivate or change your behavior for the better. They do not come from a place of love or heart. Anytime you catch yourself in a hateful or mean thought about yourself, your emotions, energy level, progress on your goals, press PAUSE and take 3 deep belly breaths. Put your hand on your heart and offer some supportive and gentle words–to the part that let you down AND the part that is disappointed. The disappointed part has a message and a fear–acknowledge and love it. But remember you are much more likely to meet your goals and live up to your vision when you live from a place of compassion for yourself.
  2. Sit and do nothing. This is a quiet kind of courage–of going against the grain of our culture and the pressure to accomplish lofty, amazing, magical things in the new year. Believe that what needs to happen will happen–and with much more power and clarity behind it when you are moving from a centered and calm body, spirit, mind. It is brave to sit with ourselves quietly–5, 10, 20, 30 minutes a day, because when are just present to our experience without phones, friends, netflix, music we begin to FEEL the extraordinary sensations and emotions that are happening within us. Sometimes these can feel uncomfy, overwhelming, frightening, ungrounding, or giddy. Can you sit and BE and allow with the gentlness of holding a baby. Feel that icky feeling move through you as you would attend to an infant, vulnerable, innocent…maybe the infant is shitting on you and crying and screaming…how do you hold and be with an annoying baby? Curious to know their needs? Understanding their discomfort? Listening for cues of how you can help? Compassion for their suffering? Be with yourself like you would be with a baby. Set a timer. Monday 5 minutes, Tuesday 1o, Wednesday 15, Thursday 20, Friday 25. Can you go up to 30 on the weekend? Breathe, listen, feel, and be.

 

Awareness of Sensation, Balance, Freedom, Life Coaching, Life Path, Open, Personal Growth, Self-love, Silence, Soul, Transformation

My body is here…

feet on earth.

My breath is still here, however shaky or uneven.

I’ve surprised myself by not getting totally freaked out at having no steady work or predictable paycheck. I’ve stayed calm when it comes to my financial future and getting the rent and bills paid.

That doesn’t mean I’ve stayed calm and serene this past month–and it’s been exactly one month since my last day of 8-5.

At first, I had things to focus on: GRE studying, applications for grad school, a busy holiday week taking care of people’s pets, including a chihuahua who bit me and a mutt who is scared of everyone and pooped in her crate the first time I went to walk her.

But as life quieted, pups calmed down, and to do lists were checked off, emptiness entered. And so did doubt. And a billion questions I hadn’t had the time or space to sit with in the past 6 years of full-time employment and busyness.

Anxiety and panic rushed in, fluttered around my chest, tightened my body, twisted my insides. What am I doing?spinnedbloom

I am still spinning. I have to remind myself. My feet remind me; my breath reminds me: I am here. I am okay. I feel a call to grow, to move, to shake up the way I’ve been living–and more pressing–the ways I’ve avoided living. The ways I’ve stayed comfortable or asleep.

What is stirring inside and coming through me still feels far away, amorphous, unknown. I am trusting that everyday, the small choices I make from inner guidance and soul growth, will reveal to me where I am next needed, and what I will be doing.

I wrote in a letter to a friend today: “I’ve made it a problem on some days, but today I am okay not knowing what is happening or where I will land when the spinning stops.”

What grounds me: as mentioned, stopping to notice my breath lifting my chest and exhaling through pores. Pressing and feeling my feet on the earth. Also, being with my dog and getting swept up in the transcendent and sensual power of music.

It’s normal to grasp for clarity and answers, to want to tell a story about our growth or learning…but there is also room for “I don’t know” and “I have no idea!” There is a time for trusting that soul is guiding you where you need to be. When there are no words for your experience nor a tidy narrative for where you’ve been and where you are going, find what works moment to moment.

I say this prayer to myself. Let me open to life, to the mystery of it. Instead of hiding and retreating in fear, or panicking and flailing in reach of something solid, may I face the risks of being 1000% in my life. May I feel the freedom and possibility of creation that follows the emptiness and endings and may I trust that I will arrive when my soul is ready.

May you trust your soul growth, as well. May you allow it to lead you into new and sometimes uncomfortable places. Have the courage to be true to yourself.

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Autumn, Awareness of Sensation, Balance, Compassion, Dancing is Healing, Embodiment, Experimentation, Healing, Life Coaching, Love, Meditation, Mindfulness, Movement, Open, Self-love

Rainy days and Tuesdays

I’ve lost track of how many days it has been since I’ve seen the sun. Overcast and rainy here in Carrboro, North Carolina last week, then more damp grey in Charlottesville, Virginia where I spent a weekend reuniting with friends and the conscious dance community, and  back at home this week and in the 10 day forecast: showers, drizzle, thunder, clouds.

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Even before the rain came, I felt the onset of fall. The change in the air and the light…and my mood. Many people welcome weather that allows for soups, hot cocoa, long sleeves, pants, and boots. I bask in summer light and heat…I play and jump and dance in the luminous and tropical dog days.  Summer is the season that makes my spirit soar. And when autumn arrives, I always crash a bit.

The lack of sun and shorter days bring on a melancholy and a drop in my energy. I come home from work a little bummed. The sky is darkening and I haven’t gotten my daily dose of being outdoors. I feel it in my body as a slowness, a tiredness, a drop, and then my brain, whys and what fors and other existential questions pop and clutter the radio waves of my mind. I can see through their illusory nature…just thoughts, not true, and yet the pull towards going to sleep–literally and figuratively is strong on some somber September and early October days.

I co-lead a fitness group and so I have some pressure in my mind that I should be the exemplary model of staying on top of my workout (6 days a week is my ideal) and should be able to come right home from work and start exercising. I know exercise is good for the brain, so this will help, right? Well, humans are multidimensional and are bodies and brains need different kinds of attention to heal and rediscover our wholeness depending on the moment.

Here are 3 ways I approach my Autumn Inertia and Blues. May these serve you on days you’re feeling low and unmotivated.

  1. Surrender to your resistance. Instead of fighting the feelings and repressing or denying the very real and biological changes that happen when we are exposed to less light and the season’s change, allow yourself to feel what is happening and to honor the natural cycles and rhythms of your body and life. In that surrender, feel into your body and ask: what do i most need right now? What does that tenderness or tiredness want? Stop with the shoulds and instead tap into the needs of the moment–Do I need a bath? a walk? a cry? a nap? tea with a friend? journaling? knitting while watching a funny movie? Be soft and friendly with yourself. Allow yourself to be guided by what you need to do to care for yourself as you allow the feelings to be there…and normalize the feelings. It is normal to feel a change our energy and mood when fall replaces summer. It is normal to need some down time in the transition. Remind yourself of this and allow yourself the rest and comfort you need–without feeling bad about it.
  2. Opposite to emotion action. This is a skill from Marsha Linehan’s brilliant brainchild, a mindfulness and cognitive treatment program known as Dialectical Behavior Therapy. The dialectic is the embracing of the paradox: I accept myself completely, I embrace how I feel AND I can change my behavior and choose something different. So while we acknowledge that we are not feeling like working out, or going out, or socializing, we choose to do it anyway, as we can see we do not need to be controlled by the whims of ever-changing emotions. We make a choice out to act out of the wisdom that we will feel better through moving around and getting the blood flowing, or by connecting with people, or getting done what we need to do. Feel the resistance and do the thing anyway. You can break it down into smaller steps. You can visualize yourself doing the thing you know you need to do. But then just do it! This may seem contradictory to my previous tip, but it is not. It all starts with allowing what is there to Be, then connecting to your own wisdom to know what it is that feels right for you, case by case.
  3. Embody your resistance. This is an invitation to release whatever stuckness you feel through the body. I have danced and taught Nia for many years, a fitness program I love whose motto is “Through Movement We Find Health.” And if I cannot force myself to get up, lace up my sneakers, and turn on my workout dvd to do mountain climbers and burpees, there is a different way to move, organically, that will both address the need to move for physical health, yes, but also for spiritual and emotional health. Notice the pain and difficult feelings that are present and then move as if you were expressing them through your body. Right where you are, in your room (you can even start seated or lying down) get curious. This mood–sadness, frustration, exhaustion, depletion, resistance: what would it do, how does it move, what does it look like? This could be as small and subtle as slight tap of your fingers, turn of your wrist, lifting of a limb, maybe your feet or hips or head will start to get into it…get into your mood with your body and then express it outward. Move into a shape that feels like your sadness or struggle. Pause to feel it…then move with the changing emotions as you give them space to live and breathe and release through your body. Make it a dance…a creative, curious exploration of what movements your mood wants to make. Express the emotions, witness how they show up in your body, and move through them. What do you notice?

Bonus: read this poem by Rilke (translated by Robert Bly) aloud to yourself.

The leaves are falling, falling as if from far up,
as if orchards were dying high in space.
Each leaf falls as if it were motioning “no.”

And tonight the heavy earth is falling
away from all other stars in the loneliness.

We’re all falling. This hand here is falling.
And look at the other one. It’s in them all.

And yet there is Someone, whose hands
infinitely calm, holding up all this falling.

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Be the one to hold yourself up in your falling.

And for more support in the shifting season, sign up for my 7 Days of Self-Connection offering. It’s free. 

Awareness of Sensation, Compassion, Curiosity, Freedom, Healing, Life Coaching, Love, Love is Space, Mindfulness, Open, Power Within, Spirituality, Suffering, Tonglen, Transformation, Wisdom

why lovingkindness

A few days ago I came across a promotion for a self-care program that had among its marketing messages, a quotation attributed to Buddha. It urged: “You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”

This adage stood out to me because I knew this had to be a fake Buddha quote–that is, one of the many memes on the internet that go around with a message that sounds nice but that doesn’t really sound very Buddhist, and when we search his works, we find he actually never said.

Buddha never said such a thing because he didn’t have to.

lovesignIn Buddhism lovingkindness means extending the compassion we have towards ourselves out to the entire universe. It takes for granted that we accept ourselves and regard ourselves with kindness and warmth and asks us to share this with the people we know, people we don’t know, even people we feel most challenged and offended by, and then, too, to all beings.

This is not to deny the importance of the prescription to love ourselves first. When the US psychologist and meditation teacher, Sharon Salzberg asked the Dalai Lama to speak to the issue of “self-hatred” at a small gathering in 1990, he was utterly baffled and confused by her question, and repeatedly asked the translator for help, convinced he couldn’t be hearing correctly. Through their discussion in which he asked her to explain the thoughts and behavior of the self-hating, it became apparent that what is a rampant affliction in the West has little hold in the East.

So even if the Buddha never uttered these words as it wasn’t part of the culture, it seems like those of us in the modern West are desperately in need of its message. Lovingkindness, however, isn’t just love and affection. It’s not about feeling sentimental, sweet, and gooey towards ourselves and the whole of humankind. Lovingkindness is as much about absence as it is about presence. It is about the absence of suffering.

As a coach, I see it everywhere: “Self-care, self-care, self-care.” I am not convinced that this is what we most need. For in most people’s minds self-care is additive. If we continue our pace of life, continue to rush around and set goals for ourselves in work and relationship based on societal standards, continue to identify with our thoughts, continue to believe in the many lies of a culture that sells us our identities and sense of success on the backs of others, continue to get hooked by our fears, and continue to believe our stories about who we are and how we are limited in life and happiness, but then add some bubble baths, green smoothies, yoga or 10 minutes of daily meditation, then we still suffer. We might be adding some comfort but we are not taking away the root causes of suffering.

So if we start with self, and we must, in order to share with others, this needs to go beyond just feeling warmth and affection or celebrating our positive attributes. True compassion means freedom from suffering.

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This is where self-care collapses in on itself and the paradox of self/other as one is revealed. We free ourselves from suffering, in part, by wishing others free, by seeing others having what we have, by wanting for others what we want. We free ourselves when we see the fate of others bound up in our own, and contribute to the health and care of ourselves so that we may show up fully for others. We question the thoughts that cause our suffering and see how our beliefs and habitual behaviors create pain in our lives and in the lives of others. Without judging ourselves or beating ourselves up–just with the recognition, an “Oh, i see that!” and choosing something different next time.

What if we didn’t believe the voices that tell us we are not worthy or enough? What if we all were to start from the same place of knowing our true nature, and that of all beings, is what wants to be expressed through us? What if we knew that true nature is love-filled, clear, open, pure, and generous?

What if when an inner voice cuts us down or tells us we failed, it is put in its place, immediately, as an untrue thought that is trying to pull us out of our power, beauty, and sense of well-being out of fear? What if we were to feel that fear without getting trapped in its stories about what it means, and to wish for ourselves, in that moment of shakiness, freedom from suffering? What if, when we get hooked or pulled into engaging with such thoughts, we noticed the sensations in our body, nurtured the wounds that weep these old hurts and insecurities, and then moved forward from a place of profound knowledge of our passion, purpose, and goodness?

How much more effective would we be in assisting and giving to others from this place of confidence in our own loving nature?

This is the work I do with my clients. For me, coaching is less about self-care and more about self-aware. Aware of self, we are awake to life and continually learning to relate to ourselves & others in a completely new way. We channel the power of the whole universe through our body, breath, being, for our unique purpose and path, motivated by an intention to share our best and express our individual talents & gifts.

In the ultimate view, the Buddha would say that the question of self-care isn’t relevant…our true nature points to an illusion of a separate self. I care for me means I care for you because we are the same, living out soul and spirit in our amazingly singular spectacular expression.

Don’t let society dampen you down or tell you who you should be or how you should live. Don’t believe the messages about what it is to be selfless, responsible, or successful unless it truly resonates with your soul.

Start here, with lovingkindness

And end? There is no end.

Just continue to practice lovingkindness. Breath by breath.

All else is illusion.

 

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!