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Posts Tagged ‘Personal Growth’

“God Smiles When You Be You!” ~ Rick Warren

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“What Do You Have that is in your Hand?”

Pastor Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven® Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?, reflects on his own crisis of purpose in the wake of his book’s wild success. He explains his belief that God’s intention is for each of us to use our talents and influence to do good.  ~ from TED.com


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Have you ever had those times when you just seem to be bombarded by the same issue over & over again? It’s the same problem, it just keeps coming at you from different angles? Such has been the case in my life recently with the whole concept of forgiveness. Despite the direction I turn, it keeps finding me in the cross-hairs pinned down by a relentless barrage of painful episodes. The faces of the messengers are different, but their message is the same … I need to “let go” of the past. Exactly what that looks like & how to do it, I don’t know but I better get it figured out.

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“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.” Paul Boese

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*Originally posted March 3, 2010

Heart of the Matter

I got the call today, I didn’t wanna hear
But I knew that it would come
An old true friend of ours was talkin’ on the phone
She said you found someone
And I thought of all the bad luck,
And the struggles we went through
And how I lost me and you lost you
What are these voices outside love’s open door
Make us throw off our contentment
And beg for something more?

I’m learning to live without you now
But I miss you sometimes
The more I know, the less I understand
All the things I thought I knew, I’m learning again
I’ve been tryin’ to get down to the Heart of the Matter
But my will gets weak
And my thoughts seem to scatter
But I think it’s about forgiveness
Forgiveness
Even if, even if you don’t love me anymore

These times are so uncertain
There’s a yearning undefined
People filled with rage
We all need a little tenderness
How can love survive in such a graceless age
The trust and self-assurance that can lead to happiness
They’re the very things we kill, I guess
Pride and competition cannot fill these empty arms
And the work I put between us,
You know it doesn’t keep me warm

I’m learning to live without you now
But I miss you, Baby
The more I know, the less I understand
All the things I thought I figured out, I have to learn again
I’ve been tryin’ to get down to the Heart of the Matter
But everything changes
And my friends seem to scatter
But I think it’s about forgiveness
Forgiveness
Even if, even if you don’t love me anymore

There are people in your life who’ve come and gone
They let you down and hurt your pride
Better put it all behind you; life goes on
You keep carryin’ that anger, it’ll eat you inside

I’ve been tryin’ to get down to the Heart of the Matter
But my will gets weak
And my thoughts seem to scatter
But I think it’s about forgiveness
Forgiveness
Even if, even if you don’t love me anymore
I’ve been tryin’ to get down to the Heart of the Matter
Because the flesh will get weak
And the ashes will scatter
So I’m thinkin’ about forgiveness
Forgiveness
Even if, even if you don’t love me anymore

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Most of us would agree that language is powerful and particularly its impact on our own ability to clearly see our own circumstances.  “Be careful what you say” is advice worth heeding, yet when we are in overwhelm, we typically describe the situation with the use of extreme words like always, never, and totally. This has a dramatic impact, and one that keeps us from clearly seeing the truth before us.

The following is an excerpt from Debbie Ford’s book Spiritual Divorce: Divorce as a Catalyst for an Extraordinary Life. Though her book was written to help people heal from divorce, her insight on getting stuck in the drama of your life is relevant to any overwhelming situation.

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Things Aren’t Always What They Seem

Divine guidance lays the foundation that gives us the support and understanding we need to begin practicing the Law of Acceptance. Acceptance is the essential ingredient that enables us to begin the healing process. We cannot accept a situation until we’re ready to look fearlessly at the facts of our circumstances. We can’t heal what we cannot see, and we can’t heal what we cannot feel. Yet too often the pain from our past and our fears of the future keep us stuck and unable to see our lives as a whole. Our blurred vision prohibits us from being in the present and opening up to higher levels of awareness. “It is only when we have the courage to face things exactly as they are, without any self-deception or illusion,” the I Ching states, “that a light will develop out of events, by which the path to success may be recognized.”

Acceptance comes when we step out of denial and judgment and are willing to see the present exactly as it exists in this moment, without any drama or story line. Drama keeps us stuck in an endless spiral of excuses that prevent us from being able to distinguish between fact and fantasy. Our drama serves as a defense mechanism designed to protect us from the pain of our past. When we’re caught up in our drama, we are no longer living in the present moment. Instead, we get hooked into every similar experience from our past that was left unhealed. We think we are responding to the challenges of our lives when in fact we are reacting to all of our unresolved pain.

We must realize that what is happening in this moment is calling us to heal what happened to us in the past. To break free from the confines of our story we must distinguish what is real from what is unreal. What is from the past and what is happening now? What is our present day pain and what is the unresolved pain of our past? (more…)

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I am your constant companion.
I am your greatest asset or heaviest burden.
I will push you up to success or down to disappointment.
I am at your command.
Half the things you do might just as well be turned over to me,
For I can do them quickly, correctly, and profitably.
I am easily managed, just be firm with me.
Those who are great, I have made great.
Those who are failures, I have made failures.
I am not a machine, though I work with the precision of a
machine and the intelligence of a person.
You can run me for profit, or you can run me for ruin.
Show me how you want it done. Educate me. Train me.
Lead me. Reward me.
And I will then…do it automatically.
I am your servant.
Who am I?
I am a habit.

Author Unknown

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When I signed up for Cyndi Lee’s session on Cultivating Lovingkindness, I figured that I was in for a nice little inspirational pep talk on being more loving and kind, and perhaps some tips on dealing with those people who get on my nerves which ~ let’s face it, I certainly could use. If all went well, maybe she’d throw in a good Dalai Lama quote for some blog material.

We started off with asana practice, a nice sequence to wind down after a full week. Then, she sprung it on us. We were gonna meditate.

Now, I have a confession to make; I am a closet non-meditater. I consider myself a serious yoga student and I’ve gone through a 200-hour Teacher Training program, so I KNOW it’s something I’m suppose to do. But I don’t, and this is somewhat of a shameful secret of mine. Trust me, it’s not from lack of supplies, that’s for sure. I’ve bought several books on “How to Start Meditating.” I have a cushion. I certainly have plenty of candles if I need a flame to stare at, and I even have a meditation shawl for those, oh, so chilly mornings in Austin, Texas.

Still, it’s not something I do. I’m not good at sitting still … ask my hairdresser. If I’m not ancy, I’m falling asleep. Prior meditation attempts have resulted in some pretty good head-nodding whiplash, not to mention that one embarrassing public snoring incident. So when she said we were going to meditate, let’s just say, I was not feeling the “loving-kindness.” But I was willing to give it go.

Cyndi offered up two meditation techniques. The first one was Mindfulness Meditation which she called Shamata Meditation. We focused on the breath, and she encouraged us to keep our eyes open in soft focus. (This is supposed to make it harder to sleep, I’m guessing.) Cyndi called this particular technique the “Tadasana of Meditation.” We practiced it for a short period, and I found it hard.

Then she introduced the group to Metta Meditation. In this practice, you begin by calling to mind someone you love unconditionally. With that person as your focal point, you recite these four lines (silently or aloud):

~ May you be safe.
~ May you be healthy.
~ May you be happy.
~ May you live with ease.

You repeat the process with yourself as the focal point, then someone who irritates you as the focal point, next someone who is simply a neutral person in your life, and lastly for all beings. As we moved through this practice, I found myself more sharply focused, more able to stay in the game. Now THIS is something I can do. Interestingly, as I googled “metta meditation,” I came across this reference: “METTA is the word in the Pali Language that means Loving-Kindness” (Is that a collective “duh” that I hear?!)

One final point: Cyndi emphasized that to cultivate loving-kindness we must first start with ourselves. We limit our capacity to love others when we do not love ourselves fully. Perhaps it’s time for me to go of my meditation shame and cultivate some real lovingkindness.

May you ALL live with ease!

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By going over your day in imagination before you begin it, you can begin acting successfully at any moment.”

~ Dorthea Brande

Dorothea Brande was a well-known writer and editor in New York in the mid 1930’s.  Her book, BECOMING A WRITER (published 1934) is a staple on the bookshelves of creative writers throughout world. Her second book, Wake Up and Live (1936) sold over 2 million copies, published in 11 languages, and was even turned into a musical the following year. A recent post by Gretchen Rubin on my favorite blog, The Happiness Project, shared one of the teachings from Brande’s book: 12 Mental Exercises to Make Your Mind Keener & More Flexible. Rubin writes, “These exercises are meant to pull you out of your usual habits and to put you in situations that will demand resourcefulness and creative problem-solving. Brande argues that only by testing and stretching yourself can you develop mental strength.”

As I read through the exercises, I found myself thinking of them as a kind of yoga for the mind, mental asana of sorts. (In Becoming a Writer, Brande actually does advise practicing a meditation before a writing session.) I find these intriguing. I’ve acted on #1 from time to time, but usually with passive-aggressive motivations so I guess I need to revisit THAT one!

Summary of Dorothea Brande’s Twelve Mental Exercises

  1. Spend an hour each day without saying anything except in answer to direct questions, in the midst of the usual group, without creating the impression that you’re sulking or ill. Be as ordinary as possible. But do not volunteer remarks or try to draw out information.
  2. Think for 30 minutes a day about one subject exclusively. Start with five minutes.
  3. Write a letter without using the words I, me, mine, my.
  4. Talk for 15 minutes a day without using I, me, my, mine.
  5. Write a letter in a “successful” or placid tone. No misstatements, no lying. Look for aspects or activities that can be honestly reported that way.
  6. Pause on the threshold of any crowded room and size it up.
  7. Keep a new acquaintance talking about himself or herself without allowing him to become conscious of it. Turn back any courteous reciprocal questions in a way that your auditor doesn’t feel rebuffed.
  8. Talk exclusively about yourself and your interests without complaining, boasting, or boring your companions.
  9. Cut “I mean” or “As a matter of fact” or any other verbal mannerism out of your conversation.
  10. Plan two hours of a day and stick to the plan.
  11. Set yourself twelve tasks at random: e.g., go twenty miles from home using ordinary conveyance; go 12 hours without food; go eat a meal in the unlikelist place you can find; say nothing all day except in answer to questions; stay up all night and work.
  12. From time to time, give yourself a day when you answer “yes” to any reasonable request.

Interesting Question: Of these twelve exercises, which ones would be the most challenging for you to undertake? Why?

More Insight: Read Gretchen Rubin’s post on The Happiness Project: “Creativity: 12 Mental Exercises, Zany but Productive”

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What is The Happiness Project?

“I’m working on a book, THE HAPPINESS PROJECT — a memoir about the year I spent test-driving every principle, tip, theory, and scientific study I could find, whether from Aristotle or St. Therese or Martin Seligman or Oprah. THE HAPPINESS PROJECT will gather these rules for living and report on what works and what doesn’t. On this daily blog, I recount some of my adventures and insights as I grapple with the challenge of being happier. THE HAPPINESS PROJECT will hit the shelves in late 2009 (HarperCollins).” ~ by Gretchen Rubin

You can find a direct link to The Happiness Project, along with the daily feed, on my sidebar.

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So this week marked the end of my third month ~ 90+ days of practice. My six word memoir project has taken on a life of its own. I created a separate blog to chronicle just that exercise WHICH also includes an occasional picture. (Check out my proverbial “microblog” HERE!) I have enjoyed the momentum the project has gained, both for me personally and with other people. I have heard from several folks who have been inspired to use this exercise in their own lives ~ a couple of friends, as well as a English teacher who is using it as a writing assignment for her class. I think that’s pretty cool.

It’s becoming easier to write these snip-its, and I actually look forward to seeing “what I’m going to say,” 😀 ~ oh, so clever girl that I am! In addition to the daily exercise, at the end of each month I take a look back at see what trends and insights might be revealed. It’s almost as much fun as writing them, and today’s the day!

This Month’s Lessons

One of the things that I’ve become aware of is how “rules” can hold me up. I worry about such things as proper punctuation and word counts. (For instance, should phrases like “Farrah-Do’s” or “San Francisco” count as one word or two?) Wanting to do things “right” often keeps me from acting at all. This is true not only in a writing exercise, but in other areas of my life as well. Interestingly, this is even reflected in one of my entries: “Failure to act makes a decision.”

There were a couple of days in November that I added addendum, a second helping of 6 words for the day. I kind of see that as cheating, but have done it anyway, albeit with guilt. (Side note: Guilt is a chronic condition for me. It is funny how a small six word practice can reveal so much about your personality.)

The most important lesson this month? Just Do It! It doesn’t have to be perfect or grand, just consistent. And THAT can make all the difference. Recently, I read something about integrating a practice or habit into your life which said it’s more important to do something small regularly than to make a big effort sporadically. Certainly everyone will agree, but many (and especially those of us with “all or nothing” personalities) still fail to act. Some examples:

  • After not running for months, I start back with a 5 mile outing, and end up so sore that I don’t go out again.
  • A friend has a baby and I want to take food over, but instead of just taking something, I want to plan a big meal and end up doing nothing.
  • My disorganized office is so overwhelming that when new things come in, I don’t even try to put them away. I just add them to the piles contributing more to the chaos.

Ironically, I was thinking about yoga when I wrote: “Key to Sanity: Regular, Consistent Practice,” but REALLY it’s true for just about everything. This simple writing exercise has taught me that if you just do SOMETHING with regularity, it will start to take hold and make a difference. (It CAN keep you sane.) Whether it’s with writing, exercising, nurturing friendships, or cleaning house, just do it. In the words of Issac Newton, “A body at rest tends to stay at rest; a body in motion tends to stay in motion.” Or something like that.

Today it’s writing 6 words … Tomorrow THE OFFICE!

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November 2008

Overview: Gratitude for Family, Thanksgiving Celebration, Frustration with Disorganization

  • SportsCenter more fun when we win. (11/1/08)
  • Self-discipline is really self-love. (11/2/08)
  • I married better than my husband. (11/3/08)
  • “Yes we can!” Hope he’s right. (11/4/08) (more…)

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Portrait of a Mad C.O.W.

How easy it is to let little things fill your day at the expense of your priorities! I can attest to this. Truly, I am not a sit-around-er. My life is filled with a lengthy “To Do” list and a frenetic “busy-ness” that has caused more than a few people to suggest that I consider ADD medication.

Actually, I’ve decided I have a case Mad COW Disease: C.O.W. as in a Chronically Overwhelmed Woman! Sadly, I know it’s an all too common affliction. (Face it, even in the yogic world there are plenty of tight-jawed Mad Gomukhas.) I want to get control, really I do. From Franklin to Stephen Covey, I’ve tried it. I am a connoisseur of time management books, calendaring software and daily planners. Yet most of the time, I feel like I’m not making much progress.

Like the hamster on the wheel, I run as fast as I can ~ often to the point of exhaustion. My “To Do” list alone overwhelms me. With countless line items and some that even merit a separate addendum ~ as in “run errands” (see other list for stops) or “Get ready for Christmas” (has its own spiral) ~ the list making itself is draining.

In a recent post, I shared an inspirational piece on priority management. (See The Mayonnaise Jar & the Golf Balls.) In that analogy, your daily time constraint is represented by a mayo jar. The jar can be easily filled with different things depending on how you do it. Golf balls represent “the big things,” your stated priorities. Sand is everything else. If you put the sand in first, you can’t get the golf balls in. But if you put the balls in first, THEN the sand simply fills in around the balls. Your stated priorities are upheld.

The story illustrates that if you aren’t conscious of your choices, your day gets quickly overrun by lots of sand. Wait, wait, I’m having a flashback! There was a soap opera that opened with sand passing through an hour glass while this authoritative voice-over said, “Like sand through the hour glasses so are the days of our lives.” Clearly, HE knew about this whole mayonnaise jar thing! (Okay, so maybe I DO need ADD medication.)

Enter the Sacred Six

A few months ago I discovered a fascinating motivational podcast. Morning Coach with JB Glossinger is a daily 15-minute pep talk and a great way to jump-start your day. (It’s available for free on iTunes.) In one broadcast, Glossinger shared Ivy Lee’s concept of the sacred 6, a method for making sure your priorities don’t get lost in the sand. The idea, as explained below by John Watson, is a well-known legend in the personal development lexicon.

“About a hundred years ago, Charles Schwab was in charge of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation in the USA. Things were not going that smoothly so he asked Ivy Lee, an efficiency expert, for advice for himself and his managers to help them be more productive.

Lee told him that he would increase his company’s sales and the efficiency of his management team if he could talk to each man for about 15 minutes.

Charles Schwab asked: “How much will it cost me?”

Ivy Lee replied: “Nothing, unless it works. After three months, you can send me a check for whatever you feel it’s worth to you.”

He spent ten minutes with each executive and told them to follow the instructions below:

  1. In the evening, write down the six most important tasks that need to be done the next day and arrange them in order of importance.
  2. The next day, start the first task and finish it before starting anything else.
  3. After finishing the first task, start the second most important task. Finish it and then start the third and so on.
  4. After the day’s work, spend five minutes making a list for the next day. Unfinished tasks can be moved to the new list.
  5. Do this for the next ninety days and check the results.

Ivy Lee’s plan worked well with the executives of Bethlehem Steel. Charles Schwab was so pleased with the results that he paid Lee $25,000 a huge sum in the early twentieth century.”

Time Management Steps that Work by John Watson

As Watson notes, effectiveness is about doing the most important tasks even if minor tasks get left undone. “A merely efficient person may get lots of tasks done, but they may well not be the tasks that move their life forward.”

And there in lies my problem. I exhaust myself with low priority busy work which results in being ineffective and overwhelmed. I get stuck on the proverbial sandbar of life. But now, I have my shovel and pale (and just 6 scoops). I am ready for a change. Such are the Days of MY Life!

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Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.  ~ William Wordsworth

My girlfriend Sally has been one of my dearest friends for over 20 years. We share a passion for self reflection and personal growth, though admittedly it has occasionally slipped into navel gazing as our husbands can attest. In the late 1980’s, we discovered Scott Peck’s The Road Less Travelled and formed a study group back in Boston. For both of us, writing is an important tool in the process. Where I ramble, Sal captures her thoughts in the succinct lines of poetry.

A few years ago, she went back to school to get her teaching certification. No surprise, she chose to specialize in English. Now a “new teacher” in her late forties, Sally works with high school honor students in Chicago. She loves the challenge, she loves getting them to write. Not long ago, we had a discussion about the importance of the writing process.

Sally said that she tells her students to write because the act of writing something down forces you to make a decision, to clarify your thoughts and beliefs, to take a stand. This really struck a chord with me. Whether you’re talking about your political beliefs, the theme of story, or the reasons you’re dissatisfied with your job, the process of writing makes you commit to an idea. And this is what writing, journaling, blogging, does for me. It gives me clarity.

Being an author is like being in charge of your own personal insane asylum.  ~ Graycie Harmon

Sometimes I end up writing, “I don’t know WHY I feel this way.” Then, I draw on my “inner-Colleen” (my other self-reflective best-est, longest term friend.)  Years ago, Colleen taught me a great trick for dealing with those waves of ambiguity. When you get stuck in the “I don’t know” cycle, FORCE yourself to choose an answer anyway. It goes like this … “I don’t know why I’m so unhappy … but if I DID know, the answer would be __________________,” and FILL IN THE BLANK ANYWAY!

Truly, you probably DO know, but fear often keeps you from answering. Fear? Yes, fear! Because when we KNOW the answer, then there is a call to action. We have to change something, and that often takes us out of our comfort zone. Failure to answer the question keeps us from developing our potential within. The process of writing gives us clarity, but only if we’re fearless.

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Other Favorite Quotes on Writing …

I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions.  ~ James Michener

A writer and nothing else: a man alone in a room with the English language, trying to get human feelings right. ~ John K. Hutchens, New York Herald Tribune, 10 September 1961

Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn’t wait to get to work in the morning:  I wanted to know what I was going to say.  ~ Sharon O’Brien

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Special Note: My girlfriend, Colleen Tanaka (mentioned above) is in the process of setting up her own website. Colleen presents workshops on journaling and is a spiritual counselor in the Las Vegas area. Check out her new site.

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What I’ve Learned Through the Years

Editor’s Note: My friend, Carol, gave this to me. It had been printed on the back of a memorial for a friend of hers who had passed away. It is a poignant tribute to the lessons we learn as we go through life. If only we could make these discoveries earlier, but then, life would not be as precious. You are invited to post your OWN at the end, and your age (but of course, you don’t have to).

  • I’ve learned that I like my teacher because she cries when we sing “Silent Night”. Age 5
  • I’ve learned that our dog doesn’t want to eat my broccoli either. Age 7
  • I’ve learned that when I wave to people in the country, they stop what they are doing and wave back. Age 9
  • I’ve learned that just when I get my room the way I like it, Mom makes me clean it up. Age 12
  • I’ve learned that if you want to cheer yourself up, you should try cheering up someone else. Age 14
  • I’ve learned that although it’s hard to admit it, I’m secretly glad my parents are strict with me. Age 15
  • I’ve learned that silent company is often more healing than words of advice. Age 24
  • I’ve learned that brushing my child’s hair is one of life’s great pleasures. Age 26
  • I’ve learned that wherever I go, the world’s worst drivers have followed me there. Age 29
  • I’ve learned that if someone says something unkind about me, I must live so that no one will believe it. Age 36
  • I’ve learned that there are people who love you dearly, but they just don’t know how to show it. Age 42 (more…)

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Christina has written a series of posts this past week on her teaching perspective. One entry includes her take on what I call, the conversion mentality ~ that is, when yoga teachers attempt to convert or “shame” students from other yoga methods to THEIR way of teaching. Her thoughts prompted me to reply with a long discourse on a related idea, my belief about the origins of defensiveness.

Whenever I find myself having a strong response to something, I (try to) stop and ask: “Why am I reacting this way? What is it that’s pushing my buttons?” Granted, sometimes it takes me awhile to calm down and actually get around to thinking about it, but it’s an interesting question and an important exercise for my own personal growth.

That said, my thoughts below evolved from one of these self-inquiries into my own defensiveness.  (And just for clarification, while this was written in reply to Christina’s post, it’s really more about defensiveness in general, not those “bossy” yoga teachers of which I am a grateful student of ONE!)

What Makes You People So Defensive … not that I am 🙂

When people are comfortable and confidant in what they believe and what they are doing, they do not feel threatened by those who are different or who question them. They are comfortable in “their own skin”. But if there is any part in them that feels uncertain or insecure, then their defensive-o-meter goes a bit crazy.  Sometimes this results in: “I MUST CONVERT YOU TO MY WAY! (Read: because if you don’t buy in, well, perhaps I might be wrong!)

Here’s my non-yoga example from the world of motherhood. When you have small children (and even during your pregnancy), you are constantly subjected to other (random) people’s (random) comments ~ from the lady behind you in the grocery store check-out, to the clerk at the post office, to other shoppers at the mall. (And let’s not even mention the relatives!) People will barrage you with unsolicited suggestions, feedback, criticism, and “helpful” advice about everything from breastfeeding to pacifiers to walkers to baby schedules to your child’s NAME!

In my own experience, I have gotten most rattled and angered when people gave feedback about stuff I wasn’t feeling completely sure about. For example, my oldest son LOVED his pacifier. We’d be out and about and someone would say, “Pacifiers are bad for his teeth, you know!” If I didn’t have any concerns about it, I would just be “whatever,” smile, and go on about my merry way. But, it would REALLY get under my skin if I was having my own stuff going on about pacifiers. “How DARE they question ME about my OWN son?! Some nerve they have!”

In general, people seem to get dogmatic and bent out of shape due to some kind of FEAR. I believe that’s pretty much where all prejudice stems from: I am being “threatened” in some way. (And the extension, what if I’m wrong? What would THAT mean about me as a mother, person, yoga teacher, whatever?!) When we are really okay with what we’re doing, we are comfortable letting other people do their own thing too, and have their own beliefs (as long as it doesn’t interfere with us and “the greater good”).

Now in the context of yoga traditions and yoga classes in particular, there IS a call to good studentship. (Adikara???) There is understandable frustration that yoga teachers of ANY tradition must experience when a student blatantly does NOT do what that teacher asks. There IS a reaction: “Hello?? Why are you even in my class?!”

But another take on why we want people to “do it our way” often stems from the conversion bliss: “I gave up smoking and my life is SO much better, and you TOO should follow suit!” Many of us get caught in that “I want to share the light” mentality. It truly comes from a sincere place, I think, it can just be SO offensive to others.

Really, the greatest sales pitch we can make for ANYTHING ~ be it parenting, diets, religion, marriage or YOGA methods ~ may simply be the old Dr. Phil litmus test: “And how’s that workin’ for ya?” When we live a life that “works,” people are naturally attracted to it. They want to know, “what’s the secret?” It becomes totally unnecessary to shove it down their throat ~ shamefully, blissfully, or otherwise!

“This is how humans are: we question all our beliefs, except for the ones we really believe, and those we never think to question.” ~ Orson Scott Card

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Pride: -noun 1. a high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc.  (from dictionary.com ~ thanks Christina!)

In a previous post, I wrote about effective marriage advice I once heard ~ the value of leaving things unsaid.  My own nature tends to lean heavily towards NEVER leaving things unsaid.  While sometimes that can be a good thing ~ say, when the comments are positive ~ when remarks fall in the “told you so” genre it cuts deeply.

I heard a marriage counselor one time say, “Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?” Being “right” rarely serves the relationship, and as my friend Anne pointed out, “If it’s REALLY about being right, you’d keep your mouth shut.”  By the time we’ve reached the “told you so” point, we’re usually talking about pride ~ that “inordinate opinion of one’s own superiority.” Ouch.

“Mr. Owens, you would be doing Lily and the rest of us a favor by leaving her here.”

I’d heard August say more than once, “If you need something from somebody, always give that person a way to hand it to you.”  T. Ray needed a face-saving way to hand me over, and August was giving it to him.

~ The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

When you want to get something accomplished, sometimes you just need to give the other person room to give it to you.  I have watched this dynamic play out in my parents’ 55-year marriage.  Like many men of his generation, my dad is accustomed to being “in charge.” He likes to steer the ship.  Through the years, I have often watched my mother make suggestions only to be met by his knee-jerk “that will never work” reaction.  But a day or two will pass and Daddy will say, “Hey Barb, I was thinking, it might be a good idea if …” and then practically repeat back her idea VERBATIM.  And Mom will respond, “Oh that’s a good thought, Bob!”

Now if that was me, I’d have to say, “HELLO???  That’s what I said like, 3 days ago!  Thank you very much!” I would simply not be content until he had admitted that yes, indeed, it was MY idea.  One day, Mother and I were talking about this particular interplay.  Didn’t she find it completely irritating that he was ‘that’ way and PLEASE, why didn’t she point this out to him?  She replied nonchalantly, “What difference does it make?”

My brain went TILT.  But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.  Mom would plant the seed and then give it room. Daddy would mull it over, perhaps even modify it slightly, and offer it up as his idea.  Ultimately, everybody got what they wanted.

When you want something from somebody, always give that person a way to hand it to you. After all, do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?

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The traffic was heavy as Brian and I headed to the recent back-to-school night at the high school.  As we pulled into the parking lot, I suggested that we park across the street at the nearby church.  It would have meant a further walk, but I had been stuck in that lot before after large events, so I knew we’d fare better if we parked elsewhere.  He ignored me, and we pulled into a convenient spot near the front doors.

When the evening concluded, we returned to our car where we sat for quite some time before we were able to exit the school property.  Exasperated, I commented, “Guess we should have parked at the church.” Brian responded with well-earned frustration, “Righteousness does NOT become you, Pam.”

Unfortunately, we were both correct.

As I silently stared out the car window, I recalled something I had recently read.  Gretchen Rubin wrote on her blog about the best marital advice she had received. Her words really struck a chord with me at the time, and I had vowed to put them into practice.

When I got engaged, a friend passed along a piece of advice that she’d heard from her boss: “In a good marriage, both spouses leave three things unsaid each day.”

I was surprised. I thought her advice would be something like, “Remember to say ‘I love you,’” or “Be sure to say ‘Thanks.’” I couldn’t imagine why I would have to leave things unsaid.

Well, now I know. And I realize that this advice was tremendously useful.

I only manage to follow the advice part of the time, but just in the last few days, I’ve left unsaid the following statements:

  • I’ve told you that three times already.
  • You said you’d try to come, but are you really going to try?
  • Can’t you do it this time?
  • Don’t stay up late tonight and then, tomorrow afternoon, tell me that you need a nap.
  • Can’t we talk about this now?

And these are just the statements I can think of off the top of my head.

Research backs up my friend’s advice to “leave things unsaid.” Studies show that one fact of human nature is that people have a “negativity bias”: we react to the bad more strongly and persistently than to the comparable good.

For example, within a marriage, it takes at least five good acts to repair the damage of one critical or destructive act.

So, by refraining from making an obnoxious comment, I’m actually doing a lot more to preserve the happiness of my marriage than by making a nice comment. The negative drags us down farther than the positive lifts us up.

by Gretchen Rubin

As we turned onto Slaughter Lane and headed towards home, I regretted my “told you so” comment.  I know this is one of my habits that is particularly unattractive and yet, I poison my conversations with these caustic remarks with disregard to their effects.  What point had it served to highlight the obvious?  What result did I achieve?  The satisfaction of  “winning” perhaps?

The quiet ride home proved that wasn’t the case.

* * * * *

The Happiness Project (link on my sidebar) is the work of writer Gretchen Rubin. Her popular site is an account of the year she spent test-driving “every conceivable principle about how to be happy, from Aristotle to Ben Franklin to Oprah to Martin Seligman.”

* * * * *

Interesting Question:  What’s the best marriage advice you have ever received or would offer?  Given my recent predilection, can you phrase it in only SIX WORDS?

  • “Leave three things unsaid each day.”
  • “Create a ‘Win-Win’ for both.”

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The frustrated woman stammered out her complaint, “After 10 years of marriage, Dr. Laura, I don’t think I love my husband anymore, I just don’t feel it. What should I do?”

The radio call-in host replied with her trademark no-nonsense approach, “You don’t feel like you love him? Well, act as if you do anyway.”

Huh?!

At first pass, this advice may seem ineffective and simplistic. What good is acting as if you love someone when you just don’t feel it? On closer examination though it makes sense. Dr. Laura Schlessinger expounds on this idea in the very first chapter of her book, The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands.

“The notion of love as a gift, as a verb, as an attitude, as a commitment, is a revelation to some. Unfortunately, love is usually looked at as a feeling that comes over you and makes you happy; and of course, if you’re happy, then you behave nicely. Somehow, the notion is out there that you’re entitled to behave badly if you don’t feel that lovin’ feeling. More than that, if you don’t feel that lovin’ feeling, you’re entitled to get it somehow, somewhere, with someone else who’s available. This sense of entitlement comes from a culture that has elevated feelings over obligation, responsibility and commitment.” (p. 4)

When faced with the “I’ve lost that lovin’ feeling” scenario, Dr. Laura advocates ACTING as if it’s so regardless. You choose a loving behavior despite your feelings. So you put on your lipstick before he comes home, you greet him with a hug and a kiss when he walks through the front door, you make eye contact and ask him about HIS day. Love is an ACTIVE verb, and you ACT as if it’s so.

And the result? Dr. Laura reports it’s not uncommon for this approach to lead to a change in your feelings too. When you act loving, your partner responds positively, and soon you may actually ignite that ‘lovin’ feeling once again.

Same Coin ~ Different Side

Years before I had ever heard of Dr. Laura, I coined my own phrase for a similar philosophy: “It’s not so much what you FEEL, it’s what you do with your feelings that’s important.” This was how I described it to a friend who told me she was upset that her new husband had commented on the attractiveness of another woman. “He’s not supposed to be attracted to anyone but ME,” she lamented. The fact that he was attracted to someone else simply didn’t matter I told her (and frankly, I thought she was nuts if she believed a wedding ring turned off that radar). What really mattered was what he did with his feelings. What were his actions?

But I’m only human!

Many times we beat up ourselves (and others) for our feelings ~ we judge them as “good” and “bad,” and then we’ll extend that same judgment to the individual. But feelings are neither; they are simply “what is.” Face it, you can’t help what you feel, but you absolutely have a choice in how you are going to act. As humans, we have free choice.

Which brings to me to another favorite Dr. Laura-ism …

Attempting to explain their own bad behavior, callers will sometimes offer up, “But I’m only human!” Dr. Laura is quick to respond. Humans, she’ll argue, are the one “animal” that has the ability to override “natural instincts” and choose a different course of action. Unlike other animals, we CAN refrain from acting on our feelings, we can choose the high road.

THIS is what it means to be “only human.” Just act as if it’s so.

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“There are two kinds of secrets: those we keep from others, and the ones we hide from ourselves.”

~ Postsecret creator, Frank Warren

There’s a link on my sidebar to Postsecret. If you’ve never heard of Postsecret, you’ve probably never visited it. Once you do, it’s difficult to stay away. Postsecret is the creation of Frank Warren. It began as a social experiment in 2004. Warren took handfuls of blank postcards (addressed to his post office box) and left them in various public areas ~ from subway stations to art galleries. The instructions ~ included with the postcard ~ were simple:

Share a Secret ~ You are invited to anonymously contribute a secret to a group art project. Your secret can be a regret, fear, betrayal, desire, confession or childhood humiliation. Reveal anything ~ as long as it is true and you have never shared it with anyone before.

Steps:

  • Take a postcard, or two.
  • Tell your secret anonymously.
  • Stamp and mail the postcard.

Tips:

  • Be brief ~ the fewer words used the better.
  • Be legible ~ use big, clear and bold lettering.
  • Be creative ~ let the postcard be your canvas.

The postcards began to trickle in. Then they poured in. They came from all over the world, they came in all languages (even Braille). They came on the preprinted cards, they came on homemade materials. The secrets were funny and light-hearted, the secrets were deep and painful. The artwork, creativity and messages are amazing.

* * * View the powerful story behind Postsecret * * *


To date, Frank Warren has received over 150,000 secrets. On average he gets about 150 a day. Since he first started receiving these cards, Warren has published four books. The postsecret website ~ showcasing 20 or so messages ~ changes every Sunday. Additionally, Warren updates a blog with more stories and cards. He invites people who have written their secrets to share a follow-up. A traveling exhibit is displayed at museums throughout the US and Canada.

Marriage Proposal: A Secret No More

Writing on his blog last week, Frank Warren reported that he and his wife were recently invited to a wedding to be held at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore. Even though they don’t know the couple, they were invited because of the groom’s creative marriage proposal at the PostSecret exhibit. Here is the story as told to Frank by the American Visionary Art Museum director, Rebecca Hoffberger:

For people who don’t know, most of the secrets are displayed along the side of a circular staircase that gradually rises to the third floor of the museum. As the couple slowly ascended the stairs she read every PostSecret postcard. He knew she would because it had been her idea to attend the exhibit.

What she did not know was that earlier he had made a special arrangement with me to replace the last post card with a special one he had created just for her see.

When they reached the top of the stairs she read the final card, “I don’t know if I believe in God, but I believe something Great brought you into my life. If you turn around I’ll ask you to marry me. . . “

Rebecca went on to say that when the young woman turned around her future husband was on bended knee with an illuminated ring box holding a 6-carat (!) diamond. She said “yes” with tears and to spontaneous applause from the other visitors who were hoping to witness a happy ending.

Other PostSecret Videos on YouTube

The following links are video compilations of postsecrets set to music. There are more available on YouTube. You’ll see some redundancy, but each one stands as a powerful tribute to the human experience.

Related Links

* * * * *

Journal Questions for Personal Insight

The Postsecret concept offers us a great journal writing prompt: What are YOUR secrets? Are your secrets those of pain or of humor? If you were to create a postsecret card, which one would you choose to share? How would you illustrate your secret? What ~ if anything ~ is harmed by you holding onto your “secret”? And more than that, what keeps you from revealing it now?

Explore these questions whether you choose to mail YOUR postsecret or not.

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“Life is like a train ride. We get on, we ride, we get off. We get back on and ride some more. There are accidents and there are delays. At certain stops there are surprises. Some of these will translate into great moments of joy, some will result in profound sorrow. …”

* * * * *

This is the beginning of an inspirational piece I saw a few years ago. (Be sure to view the link above.)  I was reminded of it earlier today by a friend whose mother recently passed away. I have searched the internet over looking for the original author but without any success. Some credit the words to a short book called “The Station,” but I can’t locate that either. I’ve seen the photos attributed to Kim Anderson. The complete text is shared on another blog, along with a YouTube version of this piece.

Good night, my friends. I’m glad we share the same train.

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Today was the first day back at school for the staff. There were warm hugs and lively conversations as we gathered in the library and recapped summer vacations and family news. There was excited talk of the Olympics and the amazing gold medal feats of swimmer Michael Phelps. Breaking Mark Spitz’ long-held single Olympic gold medal record, Phelps is no doubt an amazing athlete!

“His arm span is 6 foot 7 inches!” our Assistant Principal excitedly exclaimed, “That’s 3 inches MORE than his height!”

“Did you know he has ADD?” marveled a coworker.

“Yes, and his mother is a principal!” one teacher proudly added.

We took our seats and our morning meeting began. We reviewed the staff handbook and student expectations and then discussed the requisite policy on bullying. Conversation again turned to Phelps. In an interview with Bob Costas, Phelps’ mother shared that her son had frequently been a target of bullying and harassment during his childhood. Then she relayed a poignant story.

After Phelps made the Olympic team at 15, a fan approached him at an airport to shake his hand. His mother identified him as a former classmate of Micheal’s, but her son appeared not to recognize the eager young man. “I’m sorry,” Phelps asked, “Do we know each other?”

The teen walked away, and his mother ~ somewhat puzzled ~ inquired, “Michael, didn’t you recognize that boy?”

“Yes,” her son acknowledged, “I know exactly who he is, one of the kids who harassed me growing up. I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of thinking I ever noticed him.”

Incredible athletes are an inspiration in and of themselves, yet those who overcome odds are even more so. Whether it’s breaking a 36 year-held Olympic record or triumphing over the school bully, we rise to our feet and applaud. An amazing athlete indeed!

Golden Examples: Phelps & Spitz

There have been many comparisons between these two storied athletes in the weeks and days leading up to this Olympics. Sports pundits debate which man is the better athlete, and argue who would win if all things were equal. But how can you compare great athletes of different generations? And, more importantly, why should we? Both men have acknowledged the other with admiration, yet commentators aren’t satisfied. They want a story of jealousy and ill-will.

In 2004, Phelps was quoted as saying: “I’d rather be the first Michael Phelps than the next somebody else.” Since then, this quote has been morphed into “… than the next Mark Spitz.” Citing this line, commentators have criticized Michael Phelps as irreverent, disrespectful, immature, and self-indulgent. What an ego!

Kids these days. What kind of example is that?

Frankly, if I was his mother, I’d be proud if my son expressed that sentiment! Phelps’ words offer a mantra for every one of us: Be the FIRST you, not a COPY of anyone else. Develop YOUR full potential. Be the best one of you there is to be. THAT will be amazing. The greatness will take care of itself.

In 1999, author Anna Quindlen gave the commencement address at Mount Holyoke College, a beautiful speech on the perils of trying to be perfect. She offered that on one level it’s too hard, and at another it’s “too cheap and easy.” In our efforts to be perfect, we are no more than imitations of someone ELSE’S version of who or what we should be. Anyone can imitate,

“but nothing important, or meaningful, or beautiful, or interesting, or great, ever came out of imitations. What is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.”

Like Michael Phelps, may we all aspire to BE an original. May we all have the courage to discover our own potential within. The greatness will take care of itself.

“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” ~ George Eliot

* * * * *

Of Interest …

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Dear Diary: The Background

Journals and diaries have been a part of my life almost as long as I can remember. I have old-fashioned key & lock diaries going back to my childhood and spiral notebooks, date books, and ‘blank’ books now chalked full of my musings, reflections, inner struggles, and dream work. I have made notes on everything from what I wore to high school each day to the boyfriends that broke my heart to the yoga teachers whose classes I attended. But more than a daily chronicle of my life, the pen and page offered me an important refuge, the place I go to sort through my thoughts and develop an action plan.

In the early 1990’s, I began to study the process of reflective writing with more of an academic orientation. Specifically, I was interested in the therapeutic and creative benefits of journal writing, and how it could be used as a tool for personal growth. For a general overview, read Uses and Benefits of Journal Writing.

Through my own experience, I knew its power and I wanted to learn more. I devoured books and articles investigating the therapeutic efficacy of journal writing. I completed the Ira Progoff Intensive Journal Program. I participated in one of the first national conferences on journaling in San Diego in 1993, attended panel discussions, and engaged in in-depth writing retreats. I was a voracious consumer of any materials I could find on the subject of reflective writing.

Based on my studies, I created a journaling program to share my passion. I began to teach adult continuing education courses at our local community center, as well as at the continuing ed department for the joint campuses of Indiana University and Purdue University in Indianapolis (IUPUI). I conducted therapeutic trainings for alcohol and drug addiction counselors, gave lectures for the Jungian Society, taught reflective writing for seniors, and spoke at writers’ conferences. I had experienced the transformative effects of journaling in my own life, and I began to witness it in others. It is a magical process.

Get Started Writing

(… and yes, Lisa, I mean YOU too!)

Staring at a blank page can be daunting and just getting started can be a challenge for many people. As with many therapeutic modalities, there are definite techniques you can employ to initiate the writing process and to guide your exploration of an issue. The specific technique you choose to work with often depends on your particular goals, but first, you just have to get started.

One way to establish a regular writing practice is to simply respond to preset reflective questions. In this way, you use the questions as a prompt and you don’t have to think about “what to write.” Further, you can use the repetition of the journaling exercise to analyze patterns and trends in your life. This periodic check-in can then serve as a foundation for deeper exploration.

Your questions can come from all sorts of inspiration ~ from self-help books to scriptural texts ~ but here’s a great place to start. Last spring, I stumbled onto Alex Shalman’s blog, Practical Personal Development. (A link to his blog can be found in my “Worth Noting” sidebar.) This site contains all sorts of gems and wisdom for self-improvement, and I find wonderful inspiration on everything from relationships to time management to health and fitness. Alex Shalman is a great advocate for reflective writing, and one of his suggestions is to conduct a weekly self assessment:

“Self reflection should be more than a minor consideration if you’re serious about personal growth … How else am I supposed to make improvements, if I don’t know where I’ve gone wrong in the past? Many people try to ignore past errors, but then history repeats itself, as we all know.”

Weekly Assessment Questions

1. What will I try to improve on next week?
2. What was I most proud of this week?
3. What was my biggest accomplishment this week?
4. What have I done to get closer to my life goals this week?
5. What was hard for me this week, and why?
6. What was my biggest waste of time this week?
7. What did I do this week that made me ashamed?

To read the full text Alex Shalman’s article, go to Seven Questions That Will Change Your Life. With the regular consideration of these questions ~ Shalman suggests every Sunday night ~ he purports that we will become more conscious to move forward and create the life that we want. If a journal can help you do that, why not pull out a pen and paper and try it?!

* * * * *

Journal This: Use the seven questions above to begin a self-assessment record. Commit to revisiting the questions again next week and through the month of September. TODAY is Sunday so get going!

* * * * *

Stay Tuned … I will continue to look at journaling techniques in upcoming posts. Additionally, this fall I plan to offer a journaling workshop in the south Austin area. Please contact me for more information.

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During our Anusara Yoga Teacher Training, we were asked to bring in a poem or inspirational story for an exercise in theme development. I have folders of poems and stories that I’ve collected throughout the years, so my only problem was choosing just ONE. This is the stuff I love! Ultimately, I settled on a piece that came to me in an email about 10 years ago ~ The Butterfly and the Cocoon.

The Butterfly and the Cocoon

A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared. The man sat and watched the cocoon for several hours as the butterfly struggled to force its body through the little hole.

Then it seemed to stop making progress. It appeared as if the butterfly had gotten as far as it could, and it could go no further. The man decided to help the butterfly in its struggle. He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon.

The butterfly then emerged easily, but it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings.

He continued to watch the butterfly. He expected that, at any moment, the wings would dry out, enlarge and expand to be able to support the body. He knew that in time the body would contract, and the butterfly would be able to fly.

But neither happened. In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly.

What the man, in his kindness and haste, did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were Nature’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.

Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives. If God allowed us to go through our lives without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as what we could have been.

We could never fly.

~ original author unknown (sometimes attributed to the American writer and painter Henry Miller)

There are important lessons in this parable for both the yoga practitioner and the yoga teacher. For the practitioner, this story beautifully illustrates the importance of cultivating our own strength to overcome our obstacles. When things are difficult we may want to give up. We think our efforting is fruitless, and it is easy to get discouraged. Whether on the mat or off, we have to stay the course.

“In our human lives, we sometimes find ourselves in the chrysalis state. During those times we don’t have much to offer the outside world because, whether we realize it or not, much of our energy is consumed with an inner transition.”

Sometimes, we think we are ready to emerge when we are not quite prepared; there is still work to be done. Then, we must have patience with ourselves and faith in the process. We get tired, we rest, we try again. Like the butterfly, when we persist we can experience greater joy and freedom than if we take the path of least resistance.

Holding the Space to Emerge

As yoga teachers, it is easy to slip into the same misguided assumption as the one in the story. Like the man with the scissors, we often give up on our students too soon. We see them struggle and worry that we are being “too hard.” We are quick to offer the easy way out ~ the less challenging form of a pose, the modified version, the prop to support.

Instead of giving them the opportunity to build and drawn on their own resources, we undermine this natural and necessary process. In our efforts to make it easier on them ~ to alleviate their discomfort (or is it, our own?) ~ we often deny our students the chance to experience the fullness (purnam) and richness that their efforts would yield. Our job is to hold the space, to create the environment for our students to work and flourish, and then wait. Their beauty will most certainly emerge.

“Sometimes the greatest supports we can offer others and ourselves are patience and quiet confidence in the process unfolding, along with faith that the result will be extraordinary.”

* * * * *

* * * * *

I asked for Strength,

And God gave me Difficulties to make me strong.

I asked for Wisdom,

And God gave me Problems to solve.

I asked for Prosperity,

And God gave me Brain & Brawn to work.

I asked for Courage,

And God gave me Danger to overcome.

I asked for Love,

And God gave me Troubled people to help.

I asked for Favors,

And God gave me Opportunities.

I received nothing I wanted

I received everything I needed!

* * * * *

* This poem is a variation of the Unknown Confederate Soldier’s Prayer.

** Quotations above are taken from the Mystery Of Transformation: The Butterfly Chrysalis** as featured in the DailyOM, an email subscription service of “inspirational thoughts for a happy, healthy and fulfilling day.” It is a great source for theme ideas and uplifting material.

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The Reverend Browning Ware wrote a newspaper column for almost 50 years that was carried in various newspapers, including the Austin American-Statesman. While I never heard him preach, I looked forward to his weekly messages in our paper and gained inspiration from many of his columns. This was one of my favorites, which ran Saturday, May 21, 1994.

Wound may not be Fatal but Reaction to it can Be
Reverend Browning Ware

Scratch anyone deep enough, and you will discover great hurt. I was reminded of the walking wounded recently when a list of church members came to my desk. Essentially healthy and energetic, these persons do not advertise their problems, yet I know that each of them has walked in the valley of the shadow.

A critical issue on life is not whether we will be wounded, but how we respond to our disappointments. Some of us waste energy in attempting to fix blame for our injuries. Such score-keeping provides bitter satisfaction; it does not nurture our future.

Several years ago, Gerald Mann and I were driving to a favorite fishing lake, south of Uvalde. We saw a deer that had not leaped high enough to escape entanglement in the top strands of a barbed-wire fence. The wound on one front let was not deadly, but the doe’s thrashing desperation had been.

Silent miles later, Gerald and I reflected on the experience: Most of life’s wounds are not mortal; although some certainly seem to be. The response that we make to an injury may be more damaging than the wound itself.

What shall we do with a deep hurt that doesn’t fade away? First, acknowledge the problem. Denial of the issue embeds it more deeply and delays healing. Second, accept the problem as a painful school in which you have enrolled. Finally, use the injury, not parade it, to become compassionate. In helping others toward healing, we help ourselves.

* * * * *

Reverend Ware knew all too well of life’s wounds. In Remembering Browning Ware his cousin, Hal Haralson writes:

“Browning’s compassion for people grew out of the pain he had experienced in his own life. His mother died when he was a Baylor student. Their youngest daughter Camille suffered from cancer when she was ten. Their son Brooks died when he was in his thirties. His closest friend took his own life the day after hunting season was over. His first marriage ended in divorce. Alzheimer’s took his wife Juanell from him and robbed him of companionship in his final years. Connie, his youngest brother, died of cancer a year before Browning.”

The Reverend Ware passed away from cancer in October 2002 at the age of 73: Even in dying, Browning Ware listened and learned. A collection of his columns was published in 2003 by Augustine Press: Diary of a Modern Pilgrim: Life Notes From One Man’s Journey.

* * * * *

Reflection: Write about an example from your own experience that illustrates Reverend Ware’s message: “Wound May Not Be Fatal But Reaction to it Can Be.” Have you ever experienced “the doe thrashing” reaction? What was the outcome? What was the lesson?

You’re invited to share your response here OR simply explore this as a Journal Exercise.

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We just wrapped up the second part of the Anusara Immersion, the sixth weekend of nine in our deeper exploration into the Anusara system. The Immersion has been a great experience. We’ve received inspiring and detailed instruction from Christina which has increased my understanding of the principles that inform our method. I am excited because things are starting to click in meaningful ways.

Along with that, my friendships with those who practice with me have grown deeper — from great talks during breaks to great shopping from car trunks! Today Zoe had beautiful shawls and fun purses, Jenn had handmade jewelry (that I missed out on) and my friend, Michelle, who owns the Yoga Studio of Corpus Christi, brought up a trunk full of clothes from her studio. I got a fabulous pair of new pants and matching top. I really love these pants, and I promptly put them on.

Difficult things take a long time, impossible things a little longer.

~Author Unknown

Today we worked a lot with thigh bones back. Let me just say, mine truly like to lead the way so this has been a challenge. But today, in my NEW GREEN PANTS, I felt something different start to happen. I GLIMPSED thigh bones back in parsvakonasana. Lots of work for sure — I even had to sweat — but I experienced the freedom that comes when the thighs move into the back plane. (I suppose it is not without coincidence that the symbol on the back of my pants is FREEDOM.)

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Freedom comes with shins in, my NEW pants and a little help from Christina

I also briefly accessed tucking my tail bone withOUT tucking the whole pelvis into my typical retroversion pattern AND keeping my thighs back! Perhaps those “things that are starting to click” are REALLY my femurs moving into their hip sockets! Did I mention I love the pants?!

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I may not be there yet, but I’m closer than I was yesterday.

~Author Unknown

There’s a wonderful children’s story about a little girl preparing for a ballet recital. She lacked confidence and stumbled about until she was presented with a “magical” pair of ballet slippers. She was told that with the shoes on, she would be able to dance beautifully. And so she did. It came time for the recital and she panicked because she couldn’t find her slippers. It was then that she learned that the shoes had no magical powers; they just gave her the confidence to do what she knew how to do. And she was able to go on stage and perform flawlessly. She was exuberant!

There have many times when I have struggled to understand and implement the principles of Anusara in my practice, and I’ve doubted my ability to EVER do it. I am certainly a long way from a flawless parsvakonasana but the jubilation I experienced in those brief moments when my thighs MOVED back is right up there with that little ballerina.

“It’s gonna be brutal, but it’s worth it!”

Pamela

Zoe & Michelle

The Parking Lot “Pushers” of Clothes & Accessories: Zoe & Michelle

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Root to Rise

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Partner Work: Jeff & Anne

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Blogs are a bit addictive. Once you get it going, you like to see some action ~ interesting dialogue, comments from others, active links to other sites. But here’s the deal, you have WRITE to RECEIVE! Seriously. Face it my friends, very few people are posting, “Hey Pam, we’re waiting … Enlighten us, already!

And so … I draw from the well. I keep a file of writings that I like. Pieces that have touched me with enough umph to cause me to tear the page out of the magazine or jot down the quote from a book or, more likely these days, bookmark the webpage for later reference! I have a manila folder in my desk labeled: Humor, Inspiration and Other Writings I Like! (Okay, so I had to write VERY small to get it to fit on the tab!) And I have a similar folder on my computer labeled: Inspiration & Stuff. Now THAT’S specific, huh?!

So, I’m feeling the need to post. But here’s the deal … I’m tired. I’m tired and I don’t feel much like writing. I am in one of my weird, wired insomniac phases where sleep is illusive. These phases hit me periodically and they are a mixed bag — I get a lot done, but I get completely crazed after a few days. It goes like this … I went to bed at 11 last night and promptly fell asleep. I got a good solid 3 hours and then I woke up as refreshed as if I’d slept all night. I couldn’t have been more awake if I’d showered in Espresso.

I’ve learned that the best thing to do in those moments is to just get up & go and so I have. From 2 am – 7, I retyped my Anatomy class notes & annotated them with sources from the web. I showered and went to work from 8 – 12 and then to the high school for a meeting about our son until 3:30 when I went back to work and stayed until 7:30, setting the building alarm as I left, the last to leave the school on a Friday night. At school, I cleaned like woman possessed — pitching and throwing old files, bad ether net cords, broken printer trays and boxes of old floppy discs. So all of that is okay, but the deal is, I will do this for several days and then collapse. It is not a good thing.

Meanwhile, back at the blog with her weary fingers pecking at the keyboard, she searches for a key, I mean a clue. Hmm. Too tired to write my own material, I’ll just copy! This brings me back to … what did I call it — oh yeah, “Inspiration and Stuff” This one stood out. I don’t know where I got it or who wrote it but I like it.

So here ya go, the first edition of Ponderances of Pamela! Or more correctly, Ponderances of Someone AS RETOLD BY Pamela!

***

2/17/08 note: When I first posted this, I did not who wrote it. I have since discovered that it was written by Sonny Carroll, and the original version varies slightly from the one below. You may be interested in comparing the differences. Check it out on my other blog, a new site I’ve started that will feature writings that I’ve collected through the years ~ P
***

THE AWAKENING

A time comes in your life when you finally get it. When in the midst of all your fears and insanity you stop dead in your tracks and somewhere the voice inside your head cries out – ENOUGH! Enough fighting and crying, or struggling to hold on. And, like a child quieting down after a blind tantrum, your sobs begin to subside, you shudder once or twice, you blink back your tears and through a mantle of wet lashes you begin to look at the world through new eyes.

This is your awakening!

You realize that it’s time to stop hoping and waiting for something to change, or for happiness, safety and security to come galloping over the next horizon. You come to terms with the fact that he is not Prince Charming and you are not Cinderella, or vice-a-versa, and that in the real world there aren’t always fairy tale endings (or beginnings for that matter) and that any guarantee of “happily ever after” must begin with you. And in the process, a sense of serenity is born of acceptance.

You awaken to the fact that you are not perfect, and that not everyone will always love, appreciate or approve of who or what you are – and that’s OK. (They are entitled to their own views and opinions). And you learn the importance of loving and championing yourself, and in the process, a sense of newly found confidence is born of self-approval. You stop bitching and blaming other people for the things they did to you (or didn’t do for you) and you learn that the only thing you can really count on is the unexpected.

You learn that people don’t always say what they mean or mean what they say, and that not everyone will always be there for you, and that it’s not always about you. So, you learn to stand on your own and to take care of yourself and in the process, a sense of safety & security is born of self-reliance. You stop judging and pointing fingers, and you begin to accept people as they are, and to overlook their shortcomings and human frailties and, in the process, a sense of peace & contentment is born of forgiveness.

You realize that much of the way you view yourself and the world around you is a result of all the messages and opinions that have been ingrained into your psyche. And you begin to sift through all the crap you’ve been fed about how you should behave, how you should look, how much you should weigh, what you should wear, where you should shop, what you should drive, how and where you should live, what you should do for a living, who you should sleep with, who you should marry, what you should expect of marriage, the importance of having and raising children, or what you owe your parents.

You learn to open up to new worlds and different points of view. You begin reassessing and redefining who you are and who you’re needing, and you begin to discard the doctrines and values you’ve outgrown, or should never have bought into to begin with, and in the process, you learn to go with your instincts.

You learn that it is truly in giving that we receive. And that there is power and glory in creating and contributing, and you stop maneuvering through life merely as a “consumer” looking for your next fix. You learn that principles such as honesty and integrity are not the outdated ideals of a bygone era, but the mortar that holds together the foundation upon which you must build a life.

You learn that you don’t know everything, it’s not your job to save the world, and that you can’t teach a pig to sing. You learn to distinguish between guilt and responsibility, and the importance of setting boundaries and learning to say NO. You learn that the only cross to bear is the one you choose to carry, and that martyrs get burned at the stake.

Then you learn about love. Romantic love and familial love. How to love, how much to give in love, when to stop giving, and when to walk away. You learn not to project your needs or your feelings onto a relationship, or base your importance by the man or woman on your arm or the child that bears your name. You learn to look at relationships as they really are and not as you would have them be. You stop trying to control people, situations, and outcomes. You learn that just as people grow and change, so it is with love. And you learn that you don’t have the right to demand love on your terms just to make you happy. And, you learn that alone does not mean lonely.

And you look in the mirror and come to terms with the fact that you will never be a size 5 or a perfect 10 and you stop trying to compete with the image inside your head and agonizing over how you “stack up”. You also stop working so hard at putting your feelings aside, smoothing things over, and ignoring your needs. You learn that feelings of entitlement are perfectly OK, and that it is your right to want things and to ask for the things that you want, and that sometimes it is necessary to make demands.

You come to the realization that you deserve to be treated with love, kindness, sensitivity, and respect, and you will not settle for less. And you allow only the hands of a lover who cherishes you, to glorify you with his or her touch, and in the process you internalize the meaning of self-respect.

And you learn that your body really is your temple. You begin eating a balanced diet, drinking more water, and taking more time to exercise. You learn that fatigue diminishes the spirit and can create doubt and fear, so you take more time to rest. And, just as food fuels the body, laughter fuels our soul, so you take more time to laugh and to play.

You learn that, for the most part, in life you get what you believe you deserve, and that much of life truly is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You learn that anything worth achieving is worth working for, and that wishing for something to happen is different from working toward making it happen. More importantly, you learn that in order to achieve success, you need direction, discipline, and perseverance. You also learn that no one can do it all alone and that it’s OK to risk asking for help.

***

Still learning, still waking up,

Pamela

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Pain has been on my brain: Where did it come from? How can I make it go away? Brian & I both embrace an active lifestyle — mine primarily through yoga & (spurts of) jogging, his in triathlon training & cycling. We also love the water — wakeboarding and water skiing occasionally, countered with spring break trips to the mountains that give us an annual opportunity to take on the slopes. As we age, we are forced to confront the realities of our bodies’ less than enthusiastic response to that which we ask of it. We just don’t bounce back like we did. This is an obvious fact borne out by our respective nightstands which house a collection of ace bandages, ice packs & ibuprofen. As if adding insult to injury, my reading glasses herald in that chorus, resting on top of my new favorite reference book: Listen to Your Pain.

In the first sentence of that book, Dr. Ben Benjamin states: “Pain is a signal that something is wrong.” (I paid good money for this.) But seriously, it reminded me of a post I wrote last summer about the importance of distinguishing pain from discomfort and the different response each requires. I thought it was worth revisiting, so here ya go! (It’s my blog, I can repeat if I want to!)

STOP ~ YIELD ~ U-Turn: Reading the Signs in your Life & Practice

During this morning’s class, I talked about listening to your body, the importance of discerning discomfort from pain. When we feel something in our yoga asana practice, we need to take notice and discern if it is discomfort or pain. Pain is a STOP sign. It says, “Stop what you’re doing right now. Do not pass ‘go,’ do not collect $200!”

Discomfort, though, is like a YIELD sign — saying, “Slow down here & pay attention. Consider your next move carefully.” Some of us are too quick to move AWAY from discomfort to a more familiar, less challenging, place (which we unknowingly deem “safe”) AND thereby miss out on an opportunity for growth. Many times if we can just stay in the pose, breathe, & work through the discomfort, we become stronger, more flexible, more steady. We deepen our practice. We strengthen our resolve.

But sometimes, that “Discomfort YIELD” sign IS signaling, “Hey you’re possibly moving in the wrong direction here (read: alignment). Stop sign — PAIN — just around the corner!” When you experience discomfort, YIELD & decide the appropriate course of action. An adjustment in your alignment may be all it takes to continue. But when you experience pain, you must STOP!

The same thing is true in your life off the mat. (Isn’t it always!?) Discomfort in our life (relationships, profession, health) is a sign to YIELD and figure out our next move. If we are too quick to revert to our comfort zone, we miss out on important opportunities for growth.

Consider this idea in the context of a partner relationship. Maybe one’s tendency when things get tough is to turn to other people, popping off to friends & family complaining about your partner. There is comfort in that, perhaps, but not growth. And if that’s what you’ve always done, then it’s so just so easy to take that path every time. It is as if you’ve seen the trusty U-turn sign: “Take me back to my safety zone!”

The alternative, the yield sign approach, is to pause and consider your next course of action. Maybe we just need to endure, hold fast & steady and in that very action we find the deeper meaning. Or maybe we need to adjust our alignment, maybe WE really need to change something, like the way we communicate or address conflict in our lives. Could it be a signal to change our very ATTITUDE!?

Only you can decide what the sign suggests: sometimes the best course is endurance and sometimes — as in your asana practice — you really DO need to “adjust your alignment.”

FINAL THOUGHT … When we don’t acknowledge & address life’s discomfort in some way, it almost always moves from discomfort to PAIN.

The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.~ M. Scott Peck

May the signage in your life be clear & well placed,

Pamela

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A friend accepts us as we are yet helps us to be what we should.

~Author Unknown

A “new-ish” friend recently paid me a very high compliment that caused me to reflect on my belief about friendships. She wrote:

“I want to thank you for challenging me on my decisions over the past year. By asking me “why” so often, you really helped me be mindful about what I was doing. Most friends just kinda pat you on the head and tell you to soldier on or whatever, but you are one of a select few who made me be careful, which is actually better in the long run.”

No doubt, I AM the self-ordained Queen of Questions. Always have been. If I only had a dime for every time I have started a sentence with “Now here’s an interesting question …” ahh, well what a rich woman I’d be! I am drawn to “the deep end of the ocean” and I’m simply not content snorkeling around the surface. I want to know the why’s and the how come’s and the what about’s! Like a festering splinter, I can’t just pull it out and let go. I have to go in & dig around, bleed a little and maybe pour some Hydrogen Peroxide on the wound to see what will bubble up.

Beyond my morbid curiosity, I have a sincere belief in asking the hard questions. It is a good thing. None of us should just go forward blindly, and questions have always helped me “double check” my thoughts, clarify my beliefs, guide my path. In that line, the friends I value most have been the ones who have been patently honest with me, those who know both my strengths & (more importantly) my weaknesses and are willing to say, “Hey, I’m not sure about what you’re doing here, are you?” Sometimes their questions have caused a change of course and sometimes they haven’t, but I’ve always been grateful for that pause to reflect. No matter what, I KNEW with every part of my being that they came to me from a place of love, wanting the very best for me. These friends are a true blessing, and the kind I strive to be.

It is because of that belief that long ago I decided I did not want “yes” friends, nor did I intend to be one. You know the type, those people who will say things just because they think that’s what you want to hear? She’s the one you call when you’re irritated with your husband (not that I ever am) and she says, “Yeah, you’re right! He is a jerk!” That’s a “yes” friend. Real friends get you back on track with thoughtful questions: “Do you think maybe he felt …?” “Real” friends help you reframe — or as my Mom says, “let go and get a better hold.”

A true friend never gets in your way unless you happen to be going down.

~Arnold Glasow

I believe that our culture is filled with too much of the “You go, Girl!” mentality. We would rather agree with our friends than risk upsetting the apple cart: what if she gets mad at me, what if I hurt her feelings, what if …” blah, blah. So we opt to just stand there, clenching our fists and propping each other up with the “Yeah-Yeah” crutch, even when it’s NOT in our best interest to do so.

Of course, I do believe a lot of people just think to themselves, “It’s not my business; Who am I to say anything about that,” and so they hold their tongue. But how does that serve? Don’t we want the very best for our friends? Isn’t that the real question of friendship?

Side Note: Let me just say that I do think it is important to respect the intimate boundaries of delving deep. I am all too aware that’s a threshold I frequently breech & needs to be checked at the door. (“Ganesha, Ganesha, where for art thou?”) Perhaps the key is in the languaging – come in Judith Lasater, come in! Perhaps we could employ her strategy in these critical moments: “Are you willing to hear some feedback?”

And then — oh yeah — RESPECT whatever answer comes our way.

One final thought … Not EVERYONE is worth airtime. There are those with their own agendas so it’s always important to discern who’s who before taking in their opinions. But then that’s another post.

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I taught my first class of the new year today. This is a group of women with whom I work and they were instrumental in throwing me “into the seat of the teacher” long ago whether I was ready or not. Their willingness to be my yoga guinea pigs has touched my heart. Because I work at an elementary school, we have not practiced for the last month. As I told them, reconvening gives me great satisfaction even though we missed the energy and spirit of our fellow yoginis who had other commitments today and could not join us. Which reminds me of something that Noah Maze said at the workshop last month … “Do you know why we practice at yoga? To prepare us for the ADVANCED practice required to live our lives off the mat!” I like that.

The Judith Lasater Relax & Renew workshop was incredibly educational & motivational. For whatever reasons, her words hit me in just the right way and have resonated deeply. One of the biggest themes I took away from the workshop was the importance of LANGUAGING. What we say becomes our thoughts and our thoughts become our beliefs so we should carefully guard our words. Read that again (but slower): What we say … becomes our thoughts … and our thoughts … become our beliefs. So, my friends, we should carefully & diligently choose our words.

Now, consider the words “have to” and “need to.” (Judith reminded us that the only things we HAVE to do is die. Pretty much everything else is a choice.) With that thought, she issued the assignment to practice phrasing our “to do’s” (both verbal and non-verbal) with the words, “I choose to …” So, stop right now and think of something you currently “have to do.” Maybe it’s wash your hair, fix dinner, go on a diet, go for a mammogram, meditate, whatever. Now replace the “have to” with “choose to” and even go a bit further (if it helps) with the “BECAUSE.” Such as:

  • I choose to wash my hair now so that I have more time in the morning
  • I choose to fix dinner so that my family has a healthy meal.
  • I choose to watch what I eat so that I can lose weight that makes me uncomfortable & takes away from my quality of life.
  • I choose to have a mammogram to take care of myself and my health.

Think about how the CHOICE of language influences how you feel about any of those particular tasks.

I told a story today about my husband, Brian. He likes things to be “clutter free.” He’s not that picky about clean, but he doesn’t like to come home to dishes or the kids’ belongings scattered about or my cosmetics on the counter. Now those things don’t really bother me — huge surprise for those of you who know me, I’m sure — but I learned very early in our marriage that he ends up in a much better mood when he walks in the door of a tidy home. This has translated into a 20+ year daily 4:30 dash around the house to “pick up” before he gets home with the phrase pattern in my head: “I HAVE to pick up before he walks in the door,” which isn’t really true. I don’t HAVE to. And think of the RESENTMENT just those TWO words can lead to: “I have to stop what I’M doing (emailing, reading, Oprah 🙂 whatever) to do THIS for him. It’s not Brian imposing that thought-process. It’s me! All me.

So now, take that same scenario and put in the words, “I CHOOSE to stop what I’m doing and tidy up because I want Brian to know that I value him & I want him to feel relaxed when he walks in the door.” Feel the shift? It completely changes it from a place of resentment to a place of love, from a self-imposed demand to a free choice. There is so much power, responsibility and ultimately FREEDOM in that perspective. I have the power to create my own experience, I am responsible for my life (not a victim of someone else’s) and I am FREE to do whatever I want. Really, I am. And so are you.

So, if you choose to accept the mission, become CONSCIOUS of your CHOICES. Work to replace every HAVE TO — both verbal and thought based — with a CHOOSE TO. And PLEASE report back. I’d love to hear your experiences.

I challenge you all to CHOOSE your life. Stay strong in your ADVANCED practice until we meet again on the mat.

Love,
Pamela

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