Posted by: shatteringsamskaras | June 7, 2016

Learning Gently

Open to learningI’m a pretty stubborn girl, and boy-howdy do I love feeling like I have a plan. When I was 15, my first boyfriend told me he thought I would be a good elementary-school teacher, and I decided that was what I was going to do with my life. It seemed perfect…Ball State University was the least-expensive state school, AND it had a strong elementary education program. I could get my teaching degree, come back home, and teach.

 

Two years in, I decided teaching wasn’t really what I wanted to do, but I didn’t want to let go of the plan, so I stuck with my major. My last semester, student teaching, was full of increasingly insistent signs that I should change course. My supervising teacher and I didn’t get along at all. At first, we had little conflicts. Then it escalated to larger conflicts. Finally, she told me flat out she was going to fail me and I should withdraw to save myself the trouble. I still didn’t want to let it go, and tried to commit to making it work out. By the time I’d made the 60-minute drive home, I had come to my senses and decided, finally, to let go of the plan I’d had for five years.

Wow, was that a painful process. And yet, looking back, I wish I’d let go of the plan sooner.

In the nearly quarter-century since I let go of that disaster of a plan, I’ve often held on to things longer than they served me. Relationships. Jobs. Physical stuff. Plans. And time after time, I have found that the same pattern appears. Over and over, I am certain that my pure stubbornness will allow me to force a thing to work for me if I only stick in there. Over and over, I’m proven wrong.

That’s not to say I haven’t had any success. Not to brag, but my life is actually working out pretty darn well. I’ve been successfully self-employed for more than five years, with a comfortable income and repeat clientele. I have a rich social life and an (almost entirely) joyful family life. But what appears to work well for me is never forcing my way through a situation, but flowing with a situation.

Much of my success, personally and professionally, seems to come out of nowhere. I thought that I was setting out to work for myself because I needed to work less, and quickly found myself overwhelmed with projects that appeared almost out of nowhere. I decided to have a casual fling with a friend, and tried to resist as we discovered a profound and healing love for each other. After 25 years of the same lesson, I’ve come to the following conclusion.

I’m not really in control of my life. But whoever is (whether you call it serendipity, God, the universe, fate, or George) seems to like me, have my best interest at heart, and be pretty darn clever. They try to guide me gently. And when I resist they are completely ruthless about getting my attention.

These days, I try very hard not to make it necessary for the universe to pick up a baseball bat to steer me. I try to find the flow and notice the whispers. I’m certainly not perfect at it, but it seems like the right path to take.

Posted by: shatteringsamskaras | June 5, 2016

I Took a Leap of Faith…

 

And I came to this place that, although it is simply a nice home in suburban New York, will always live on in my heart as an enchanted fairy castle.
I took a leap of faith and I met half a dozen of the most amazing women, and sat with them feeling like a kid at the grownups table, and marveled as they showed me their hearts.
I took a leap of faith and shared my own weird little heart, and felt complete acceptance and even a hint of delight. I felt heard and accepted, and learned that maybe I actually can’t get it wrong after all.
I took a leap of faith and began not just talking about but investing in a dream I’ve had since the days when I could stand in the bookstore my grandmother had in her basement and marvel at these wondrous miracles people call books.
I took a leap of faith and discovered that this voice that lives inside my head and is, after all, just me is not something to be dismissed or denied. It is a clear strong voice with something to say, and that there are people (interesting and sophisticated and smart and clever people) who are interested in bearing witness to what it has to say. To what I have to say.
I took a leap of faith and saw the sacred mountains, and discovered that I do have the courage to go on a journey in their direction, even when the other mice in my village wonder why I’m not keeping up my end of the collecting and gathering and collecting and gathering.
I took a leap of faith and decided to begin to believe that my story is important and valuable and that it’s part of my service to bring that story to light in the world. I decided to believe that my story is part of the reason I’m here, and telling it clearly and cleanly and bravely is as important as serving in other ways (like loading the dishwasher or doing the laundry). I land solidly understanding that my investment in my story matters, and that finding the time and bandwidth to create and share the story is important to my own soul, and that my most important service includes nurturing the part of myself that can birth this story into the world.
I venture back into a familiar world with an unfamiliar opening in my heart, grateful for the delicious nurturing I have experienced here and committed to finding ways to nurture my own self along my writing journey. Mothering myself and my story will be a part of the work, and I leave with a little more understanding of how to do this important thing.
I took a leap of faith. It will not be the last one I take.

Posted by: shatteringsamskaras | February 17, 2015

Surfing the Wave

If you knew a big wave was going to hit, does it seem safer to climb into a big, concrete building? Or does it seem safer to go out to meet the wave with only a piece of fiberglass that’s just a little bigger than you are?

The traditional route is like climbing into a big concrete building. You’re relying on a structure created by someone else, possibly a long time ago, to protect you. It’s what we’re taught– listen to the rules, do what other people expect and tell you. Check out this video from a Tsunami to see how that worked out…

It seems pretty safe at first. The water comes in more slowly than I think of a wave moving…but then it keeps coming. And keeps coming. And washes away cars. And then buildings.

In contrast, check out this guy, out in the middle of the ocean with just a surfboard just a little bigger than he is, and a friend in a boat (which he used to get further out into the ocean than he could have gone alone).

What the guy in the second video is doing takes a lot of guts and a fair amount of skill. But it’s working. And damn if it doesn’t look like a lot of fun.

The waves are coming. With the emergence of new economic, cultural, technological, and even ecological patterns showing up on our planet, there’s an argument to be made that they’re pretty big waves these days. You can run back to the “safe” structures of tradition, and try and fit yourself into other people’s structures. Or you can rely on your skill and your guts and brave the ocean (with someone in that boat to help you get where you’re going…a coach, maybe?). It might be scarier, but it sure looks like a lot more fun, don’t you think?

Posted by: shatteringsamskaras | December 15, 2014

Shining Mirrors

My local yoga community is saying Aloha to one of its glowing lights, because she’s moving to Hawaii in the next few weeks. As I talked with her at a celebration of her work and her influence on the community, a yogi with a new baby came into the conversation. We remarked on the beautiful sight of the infant with her eyes fixed on her mother. The new mother observed that it was quite a compliment when people would tell her that this adorable infant looked like her.

Amy then observed that she was feeling something similar at these gatherings related to her work and to sending her off with love. “They say we attract people who mirror or own energy. Looking around, all I can think is if that’s true, I ROCK!”

Having known her the better part of a decade, having been in her classes, having collected jewelry she created, having watched as she launched a successful yoga studio, I can confirm that Any rocks in any number of ways. And, standing there among people who simply glowed with love and gratitude, I am grateful for the amazing people in my life. I am awed by the light that they exude… and by the idea that something similar comes into the world.

Posted by: shatteringsamskaras | September 18, 2014

Grateful for the Pain

I recently spent a couple days at a conference for the National Association for Women Business Owners. They are an awesome group of people…and really fabulous dressers. I have gotten a little spoiled by my work-from-home gig…but it’s also fun to dress up and go out in my big-girl, professional outfits.

I wore my favorite of those big-girl professional outfits on Monday, along with very pretty shoes that work really well for me when I’m on my feet for hours at a time. Single-digit numbers of hours at a time. As it turns out, my feet turn rather decisively into pumpkins at around 8 hours in big-girl professional shoes. That day, my schedule called for closer to 12 hours in my chosen footwear.

The blessing and the curse of going to a fabulous national conference in your very own home town is that you don’t need a hotel room. Which means you don’t have a hotel room one elevator ride away to go to and change halfway through the day. Around 5:30 that first day, about half an hour after my feet started calling me names that would make a sailor blush, the shoes came off (It didn’t hurt that in saw another woman with her heels in her hands as she stood around the fabulous reception.) My initial plan was to put the shoes back on when we left the venue to go across the street for the evening activity…but as the time to do that drew closer, the prospect of stepping back into the shoes seemed less and less appealing. When the time actually came, I decided that bare feet would have to be sufficiently fashionable.

Within 5 minutes of showing up at the next venue, I saw another woman in bare feet, who quickly told me that she’d figured it was okay once she saw mine.

After a couple of hours of bare feet on concrete, I made it home, wondering what in the world I was going to do the next day. It was clear to me that even after some quality time with an ice pack that evening, my feet weren’t going to willingly step into anything but my most comfortable walking shoes the next day. They’re very comfortable, those walking shoes. Selected for comfort over fashion, they’re electric blue. Not the sort of subtle shoes that work well with anything but jeans.

My feet were very firm with me. It had to be the walking shoes. Which meant jeans. I paired them with a blazer, and worried that I was noticeably under-dressed for the conference. All the way to the hotel, I worried. And, indeed, when I first walked into the conference space, the first woman I encountered (who was wearing fashionable heels and a beautiful red dress) immediately commented on my outfit.

“You are so smart. I wish I’d brought jeans and gym shoes. My feet are killing me!” She said. I laughed, and confessed how worried I was that I would be under-dressed for the day. As I went through the day, I didn’t see very many women in jeans – and all the ones I saw were from sponsoring organizations or staffing the conference in some capacity. But everyone who commented on my outfit for the day – and several people did – expressed their jealousy that I looked so comfortable.

I love it when the universe sends me these sorts of messages. As I go out into the world, I always want to be brave and to bring my authentic self with me. But I find that I also want to wrap that self in some socially–acceptable packaging that will ensure that people will like and approve of me. (And yes, I am aware of the problematic nature of the torturous fashion that feels socially acceptable in the western world. Heels? Ties? Really? And as much as I know and believe that these things are sub-optimal, clearly I’m still prone to cling to them because they feel “safe” in some way.)

It’s scary to go out into the world just simply being comfortable in my own skin. If people don’t like me, or if they judge me, or if they flat out reject me, it’s really me they’re rejecting and not just my ability to live up to some ridiculous artificial standard. That’s a lot scarier than just putting my feet into the heels and marching on. I don’t necessarily like it when my feet absolutely refuse to play along with this strategy.

I do, however, really like that went in to the conference comfortable, able to enjoy the interactions I had with the women there, and to learn things that will help me and my business. I like that I listened to my body and didn’t ultimately give in to my fear. And I am grateful for the pain that pushed me into doing what ended up being the right thing.

Posted by: shatteringsamskaras | August 13, 2014

Meet Sue and Claire: The Blog Tour Continues

Last week Caitlin Sanders  invited me to be a part of a blog tour. This week, I’ve invited two cool and interesting people to join the journey. Check out their writing process – and also the work they do in the world. Sue focuses on homeschooling, and Claire on decluttering, and they are both interesting and fun to read. Enjoy!

Sue Patterson lives with her husband outside of Austin, Texas. Her three children grew up and moved away, leaving behind their pets and boxes of childhood memorabilia. About that same time, Sue’s 84 year old mother moved in with them. Her Empty Nest, wasn’t empty for long! Sue is the Managing Editor of The Homeschooler magazine, is finishing a book interviewing 75 grown homeschoolers and helps people as a life coach and mentor. Find out more about her at SuePatterson.com .

Claire Noelle Frost has been a Decluttering Coach since 2006. Based out of Brooklyn but available exclusively over the phone, Claire is getting trained as a Certified Coach in Martha Beck’s program. Once you clear your clutter with her patient and focused support, she can also help you design your newly organized space with beautiful, earth-friendly storage solutions. Meet her at ClaireNoelleFrost.com 

 

 

Posted by: shatteringsamskaras | August 4, 2014

Why I Write – Blog Tour 2014

The lovely Caitlin Sanders  invited me to participate in a blog tour and, despite the fact that my blogging has been…intermittent…it seems like as good a time as any to jump back into the blogosphere, so here I am.

For this first week, I’m supposed to answer a short series of interview-style questions.  (Next week, I’ll introduce you to three wonderful bloggers.) I have always loved the idea of answering interview questions – so here goes.

What are you currently working on?

Right now, my primary focus is on learning to be a coach. The training program I’m completing, put together by Martha Beck (my favorite author for nearly 20 years now) focuses on life coaching. My experience in the business world, and the fact that organizational challenges fascinate me, means I’ll probably do some executive coaching too. The thing I really love about this approach is that it is predicated on the idea that people already have their own answers, and the work of a coach is to help the client uncover those answers for themselves.

Why do you write what you write?

I write to better understand the world I live in. I make my writing public (such as it is) because doing so inspires me to be more careful in my work – to make sense of things (hopefully) in a way that other people can understand. It’s a bigger challenge than journaling (which I also enjoy).

How does your work differ from others in the same genre?

Martha Graham said “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open.”

My work differs from anybody else’s work primarily in that it’s mine. I’m endeavoring to understand the world and how to make it a better place for everyone. My experiences are unique – though I believe (and hope) that they speak to some larger truths that other people will find helpful.

Describe your writing process.

Well, first I resist doing the work. And then I’m scared for awhile, which paralyzes me so I don’t do the work. And when I’m very lucky or a little clever and find a deadline to inspire me, then I buckle down and actually do the work.

I keep hoping it’ll get easier. That my actual writing will resemble the picture I’ve had in my head since I was a kid, where I’d get up and have some tea and sit down and the words would pour out of me not because I have an actual deadline sitting on my shoulder, but because I have inspiration coming through my soul. Some (very rare, possibly imaginary) days are actually like that…but mostly my writing process sounds a lot more like this note Brene Brown recently posted from her own typewriter.

“1. It’s supposed to be hard. 2. Yes, it always sucks. 3. Crazy is part of your creative process. 4. Self-doubt + uncertainty are OK. Write anyway.”

 

 

Posted by: shatteringsamskaras | August 1, 2014

The First Rule

I’ve been teaching yoga for 12 years, and I love it. The style I teach (my classes are called Yoga for Flexibility) focuses on poses that, to me, feel like they’re more about the stretch than about strengthening. I do this so my students can hang out in the poses awhile, almost like a yin class, and really find and embrace the stretch.

I get a lot of brand-new-to-yoga students in my classes, because I try to make sure they’re accessible to anybody, and over the  years I’ve developed something of a speech I give to new students. It goes something like this. “The first rule of yoga is that nothing we do should hurt. If it hurts, don’t do it. Don’t wait for me to give you permission to cut it out, just cut it out when your body tells you to.” I go on to explain that, unlike many other forms of exercise where you try and focus outside of your body (The tv in front of the treadmill, a book on the recumbent bike) so you can keep doing it longer, in yoga we listen to the body for signals about what the body can do.

I’ve been giving this spiel for over a decade. And yet, recently, I found myself on the receiving end of pretty much the exact same speech from a physical therapist I was seeing to work on my feet. You see, my feet have hurt – sometimes so badly that I can barely hobble around – for years. I told the doctor and the PT it has been about two years, but when I start really thinking about it, it’s been longer than that. It’s nothing exotic, just plain old plantar fasciitis. But it’s been there awhile, and it’ll probably take awhile to get it healed.

How does someone who not only hears but gives (ad believes!) advice about listening to your body at least several times every month for a decade ignore pain in her own body for years? That’s an excellent question.

A lot of the gap, I think, exists because I have a gap in my heart knowledge. I know and completely believe in my head that punishing myself isn’t a helpful or productive path to joy, but somewhere in my gut and my heart, I suspect maybe it’s the path for me. That kindness toward myself is a cop-out, that things that feel good can’t possibly be effective.

And yet, over the years in my yoga practice I’ve seen it time after time. Pushing past limits leads to injury and limitation. Relaxing into resistance leads to a way through – maybe not to the place I thought I was going, but to a place that clears my mind and takes me back to what I’m doing on the yoga mat in the first place.

I don’t know where this particular journey will lead me. I have some suspicions, though. I’ve already started researching ways to cure foot pain with yoga, and I hope to start offering those classes this fall. And I know I’ll learn a lot that will help me understand how kindness can be an effective healing agent – which will be important for the work I’m starting as a coach. More than anything, though, I’m looking forward to seeing how the new approach leaks into the rest of my life. Because as I stop holding myself back by beating myself up, there’s no telling what I can accomplish.

 

Posted by: shatteringsamskaras | June 3, 2014

Loving Ourselves and Loving Other People

This is a thought I first encountered in a Heinlein book as a teenager, and though I haven’t been able to find the exact quote I remember it being “if you don’t love yourself, you can’t love other people.” At that time, I thought it could not be true.

LoveYourself

Over the years, however, (and no, I do not care to count just how many years – but thanks for asking) I’ve come to believe this sentiment completely. Self-love isn’t narcissism or self-absorption or the illusion that you are the only person in the world that matters…Love is simply the willingness to accept yourself as you are and care for yourself as though you matter.

Accepting yourself as you are right now in this moment doesn’t remove the desire to do things better in the next moment. In fact, the more we accept and love ourselves as we are now, the more easily we can make choices to do things differently moving forward. It allows us to save all that energy that otherwise goes to fighting with reality and telling ourselves and the world around us that we shouldn’t be the way we are right now. We are who we are right now. If we love that person, maybe we’ll be able to make kind choices that can improve that person’s life. If we don’t accept ourselves, why would we bother to do that?

We do ourselves and the world around us a terrible disservice when we choose to believe that we cannot be loved because we are flawed. Everyone we ever have or will love is flawed. That makes them (and us) no less worthy of love right now, in this moment, as they (or we) are right now. We love people despite and perhaps even because of their flaws. Love doesn’t require perfection, it requires compassion and empathy and grace.

More importantly, though, loving ourselves is work that nobody else can do for us. There is no way for someone else to love us enough to fill the hole that is left in us if we do not love ourselves. I’m not saying they can’t try, mind you. It simply won’t work. At the end of the day, only one person can love me fully knowing everything that happens inmy mind and in my body and in my life, and that is me. Someone else can try and fill that hole through romantic or filial or even parental love – but it isn’t the same thing and it never will be. There is a part of our brain that knows that there will never be another person on this planet who knows us completely, and that always leaves open the possibility that we are ultimately unlovable and only our skill at hiding our flaws is providing the appearance of love and acceptance. That possibility eats away at not only our happiness, but our ability to do good things in the world around us.

Believing we are bad / unlovable is the core of shame, and shame brings with it bad behavior. Knowing ourselves as lovable people who sometimes do bad things (guilt) gives us both the ability and the motivation to do fewer of those bad things in the future.

Posted by: shatteringsamskaras | May 6, 2014

The Power of Permission

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Me, post-dip

When I was sitting on the beach the other day contemplating an underwear-clad trip into the inviting surf, the thing that kept occurring to me was how much easier it would be if I had a member of my tribe with me. Someone to sit with me and affirm my judgment that, while it wasn’t a bathing suit, my underwear covered all the parts I needed covered for me to strip off my outer layer of clothing and sample the waves.

What I realized while I sat there and stared at the waves was that what I wanted was permission from someone else to do what my heart was telling me to try. I wanted to go in the water because it was hot and the waves looked inviting (and terrifying…but as you probably know, sometimes that’s part of the appeal). I wanted to go in my underwear because I didn’t have a bathing suit, but I wanted to not be stopped by what other people might think about my fashion choices. I wanted to strip down because I’m a little uncomfortable in my skin, and I wanted to give that body-shame thing the finger by acting like the person I would be if I did not have the thought that my body was something to be ashamed of. I wanted to do this thing because I knew it would be a good story…and I do love a good story. I wanted to do it because there was no good reason for me NOT to do it. I wanted to do it because I’m realizing more and more that I want to focus my life’s work on  identifying and pointing out the cultural crap that tells us to avoid things that aren’t pretty, profitable, or commercially packaged to give permission to people who want to follow their hearts and heads in new ways. This little dip in the ocean on a beach with less than 100 people on it was a teeny, tiny step in that direction.

I sat there for a little while wanting someone to come along from the event I had just been at who would give me this permission, and nobody came. So I picked up my cell phone and texted my partner, explaining what I was thinking of doing. It took just a few minutes for the reply to come back: “Do it! Do it! =)”

Now my partner was back home in Indiana, while I was pretty much as far west of Indiana as you can get without, well, wandering into an ocean. The text that came back from 2,200 miles away did two things for me. First of all, it told me that I wasn’t really alone in my conviction that this exhilarating thing was worth doing. And second of all, it put a price on my *not* taking the plunge. After all, if I wimped out now, I was going to have some explaining to do.

That ability to get permission is really important. It made my plunge much easier, because it meant that it didn’t matter how the people in my immediate vicinity thought of my choices  – I knew that there was a place that they and I would be supported and celebrated. The sideways looks I got from a couple people became just part of the story, not something that threatened to keep me from my path. Because I know that no choice I make is ever going to please everybody in the world, and I’ve learned through experience to pick the people I turn to for feedback.

I believe that being a part of a community that supports who I am is the most important thing in my life. It doesn’t have to be just one community – I hang out with different people depending on whether I’m wearing the yoga hat or the life coach hat or the entrepreneur hat or the geek hat. In any of those contexts, I know I have people to talk to (or text with) to get the support I need.

There’s a funny little voice in the back of my head that would like me to believe that it doesn’t count if I asked for permission. But I think that voice is wrong. Having someone join (even virtually) in the crazy dance I call life isn’t cheating, it’s using the resources available to me wisely. And if I use it well, maybe I can even find the opportunity to turn my crazy into its own little movement by engaging other people.

 

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