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Archive for December, 2016

The Gifts of Rewinding

I think I am not alone in my love/hate relationship with social media.  I hate it when I sit on my couch scrolling and scrolling thinking that everyone has it sooooo much better than me.  And they definitely have their lives more put together.  And lord, let’s not start with the political climate that exists on there these days.  So I won’t start.  What I will say that sometimes I do love it.  Especially when it delivers these little nuggets of reflection that I’ve found in a couple of things circulating these days.

I’ll start with this whole ‘your year in review!’ that has been floating around on Facebook the past week or so.  In case you haven’t reached this blog through Facebook or you’ve skipped over this little video, I’ll explain.  It says “Hey so-and-so, take a look at your 2016!”.  And then it shows pictures of you smiling  with your smiling friends.  It’s comprised of pictures throughout the year—maybe weddings, maybe nights out, maybe vacations.

More than a couple of people that shared their video commented something along the lines of “hey, here I thought all of 2016 was just a big ol’ suck fest but I forgot that all these good things happened!”  I was telling a friend about my observation and he told me about this bit of science called ‘the negativity bias.’  It’s the notion that, even when of equal intensity, things of a more negative nature have a greater effect of one’s psychological state and processes than do positive things.  I suppose that this little working of the brain did us well when we were cavemen and we had to remember that we should be scared of vicious wild creatures for survival.   But we’ve evolved.  Right?

Right….so why is it so easy to want to throw away an entire year and all that it contained?  I’m guilty.  I’ve had more than my share fair of blows during this year 2016 so believe me, I’m more than ready to hibernate these next couple of weeks and come out again when the ball drops, hoping for new and different and good.  But here Facebook shows me this little video and I see these moments that I wouldn’t want to erase from my memory simply in the name of pretending a whole year didn’t exist.   What if we slowly tricked our brain into evolving to this place where we know that bad and good are simply just words?  Pain and joy and heartbreak and ecstasy are all just emotions on a continuum…..and for any of them to exist, all of them must exist.

And then there’s Instagram.  Yesterday I just started seeing a bunch of friends post these side by side pictures….2006 vs 2016.  I decided to play along and since my Facebook account nor smartphone existed ten years ago, I dove into the storage closet to find my photo album from that time.  I had to think really hard about what was happening during that time.  I was living in Aspen, I was getting married, I was traveling back to West Virginia to attend my ten year reunion, I was managing a shop that sold ski apparel and I hated to ski.

When I moved the little pictures side by side in a photo app, the physical differences jumped out immediately.  I’m in much better shape now thanks to yoga (and, as I like to joke to others who comment on my weight, a steady diet of heartbreak…but alas, I digress) and it appears that maybe, just maybe, I’ve finally figured out how to do my hair and makeup like a real girl.  But there’s something else.  I look at a smile, forced, on the old picture I pulled out from the album.  The picture I used from 2016 was from when I attended an adult prom fundraiser with friends.  It was a pretty spectacular night and there’s a brightness to my eyes and an authenticity to my smile.

And it’s then that I know…..I think maybe I have figured a few things out over the years.  Sometimes it’s hard to get wrapped up in this idea that I’m wading through life and kind of just swimming in place.  I wonder in fact if the path I’m on is undulating or just circular.  And then I see that smile.  And I know that I have arrived at that smile because I have worked really hard to get it there.  I have made difficult decisions and taken a path that perhaps seems a little strange to others.  If that smile disappears for a while, it’s only because I made this commitment to live my life heart wide open and all in. But I refuse to wear a forced smile simply because I want to straddle the in between.

So this is where social media becomes this beautiful gift at the perfect time right now. Here comes Facebook saying ‘hey look, don’t forget about the absolute sweetness of life in the midst of a little mess’ and here comes Instagram saying ‘you think you can’t survive 2016?  Look how much you’ve survived since 2006.’  And while living in the past is something to truly be avoided, sometimes returning to it for a little bit of perspective is  good medicine.

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Sacrifices, Monkey Bars

I haven’t written much lately.  The world feels too big and too small all at the same time and I find that I have nothing to contribute when it feels like that.  I’ve missed a couple of prompts from the writing forum that I’ve been involved in.  They’ve been about Going Forward, Using Power for Good.  And I suppose I’ve felt a little stuck and a little without power.  So I let them pass, wondering if I would ever come back to this idea of questing into a new year.

And then the prompt fell into my inbox this morning and it spoke of Sacrifice.  Scott Barry Kaufman, who is the scientific director at a positive psychology center (man, that sounds like a cool job),  poses this question: “What is one major personal sacrifice that you are willing to make this year in service of the greater good?”

Immediately my mind jumps to this place where I will have to give up something really cool in the name of growth and greater good.  But sacrifice is defined only as ‘the destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else’.  It doesn’t necessarily say that the surrender has to be of something wonderful and good.  It merely implies that by sacrificing, we are ridding ourselves of something that we don’t really want to.  And I have a few things that I could stand to rid myself of.  In a way, that doesn’t feel like sacrifice…..but all of these things that hold me back, all of these things that keep me spinning my wheels, well, I’ve had them for so long.  Do I want to get rid of them?   Sure.  Are they comfortable ways of being though? Yes.  Have they maybe served me a purpose at some other point in my life?  Yup.  Is it easy to just drop a way of being in the world after being that way for all of your life.  Heck no.

So perhaps sacrifice to me, at this point in time, speaks to the frightening notion of finally getting out of my own way.  Getting rid of these things that, even though they’ve kept me comfortable in my little space, they’ve kept me from serving myself and therefore the greater good.  At this point in my life, I imagine myself on the monkey bars.  There I am, just hanging out on one bar, trying to get the momentum to swing to the next.

I want to sacrifice this feeling of comfort.  Yes, I know this particular metal bar but my arms are getting tired.  I want to sacrifice the fear of not particularly knowing what lies between this bar and the next because exhilaration lives in this big empty space.  I want to sacrifice this indecision of which bar I will swing to next.  Because maybe it doesn’t matter so much.  Perhaps what does matter is that I just keep moving.

 

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Tricky Questions

I awoke this morning with vague ideas of where the day would take me.  I had hazy expectations in a warm bed and a dog beside me both urging me back to sleep.  I rose with a bit of a groan, back to back morning yoga classes in front of me.  In my first moments of awake, I began to wonder what I was going to bring to my classes today, wondering what wisdom lay dormant in these weary bones, on this morning, in this cold.

The first thought that came to my head was that of a theme of compassion.  Not so much towards others (though that’s all good and well in this holiday season of peace on earth and goodwill to man), but more towards compassion towards myself.  I opened my email to find the second prompt of a writing forum in which I am participating in (http://quest2017.com).  You can read more about how  I discovered this wonderful project in my previous blog post.

But lo and behold, the prompt for today is from Susan Piver, author and mediation teacher.  She asks “Do you love yourself enough to stop working on yourself yet?  Who would you be in that case?”  The related hashtag to share posts was #loveyourself.

My first thought was “oh hey there universe.”  My second thought was “that question is super confusing.”

So I did what I do when I’m a little confused about something.  I take it to the mat.  I fully admit to my class that I don’t know what I’m talking about yet, but then I talk about it anyway.  I leave the question open to interpretation and then I guide the class to this place where the body is still and supported and the breath is rhythmic, opening and releasing.  And I encourage them to find this place where this breath, this body is enough.

And then it hits me.  Who would I be if I could love myself enough to stop working on myself?  Well, I would be…..enough.

That’s where the question had thrown me off.  I had assumed that by ‘working on myself’ I would slowly urge my way into finding this place of ‘loving myself’.  And that sounds a lot like conditional love.  Think about it—if you love another person only if you think they can change into a different person, then do you truly love them?  If you are constantly giving yourself these things to grow into, then when do you ever get to this place of just being ok, just being enough and loving the heck out of yourself?   No conditions.

Perhaps, most likely, let me not kid myself here….but yes, I still have work to do.  It’s work I want to do.  But what happens when I do that?  Will I find something else to work on to keep putting the finish line further and further in front of myself?  What if I accept this radical notion that I can love myself, this imperfect being, just as is?

So it turns out that I’ve answered a tricky question with an even trickier word.  I’ve always felt like the idea of “enough” was sort of like giving up, sort of like settling.  But then I thought about the opposites of enough—-too much or too little.  And well, those things in my life and in my self which have been too much or too little have never quite served me well either.  So maybe enough is not a shortcoming, maybe it’s everything. Perhaps it’s the key to love this breath, this body, this being in every little slice of time that presents itself.

 

 

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Questing

A few weeks ago I was sitting on a beach in the Bahamas, a sticky layer of salt and sand on my body and in my hair.  I was fresh out of a workshop on creativity followed by a swim in the ocean.  I had the distinct feeling of fortune, of the fact that life had led me squarely to where I needed to be.  That the sometimes painful shaping and shifting had placed me comfortably in the arms of this moment and this moment was good.

I was talking to Jeffrey Davis, the man who led the workshop on creativity and he was telling me about Quest 2017, a writing community and project that would begin on December 1st.  The goal is to use a series of prompts so that, through writing, one could figure out their way into where they want to be in 2017.  At that moment, on that beach, I even wondered if that was the very reason that I landed in the Bahamas, so that I could find out about this project.

So fast forward to December 1st, live and in the flesh.  I awoke to a cold bitter air so far from those tropical breezes.  I awoke to a little bit of stress and confusion.  And I thought “I don’t got this in me.”  And then I began to get a little disappointed in myself for giving up so soon.

The prompt for today was #yourtruecalling.  “Practice internalizing a more spacious, generous sense of what animates you and why you are here.  Honor the creative value of “how” you are present as much as in “what” you are doing in the everyday at work and in the world.”

I’ve searched for years for the title that would allow me to find my true calling.  I’ve tried out grad student and wife and banker and researcher and store manager.  They all felt adequate but they didn’t quite feel enough.  So now I’m at this point.  I have these things that I call myself in a whisper so that no one will hear too much.  I am a writer.  I am a yoga teacher.  And I truly believe that I have found the ‘what’ of the “what” I am doing on this big blue marble of a planet.

It’s no question to me that 2017 will be a focus on the ‘how’ part.  How am I going to show up for myself so that I can make the most of my ‘what’?  How am I going to focus on raising my voice when I speak of these things that I’m willing to finally claim?

 

***to learn more about quest check out http://quest2017.com and follow #quest2017 on social media.

 

 

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