Monthly Archives: May 2014

not all who wander are lost- but some of us do need directions

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I used to be a somewhat serious student of yoga. I realize that some of you who know me may find this hard to believe, but it’s actually true. One of the things I most appreciated about yoga was a lesson I learned not about a particular posture, but about the philosophy of yoga. Rather, that yoga IS in and of itself a philosophy.

When you put your body into some contorted posture, you are purposefully (with intention) causing your body to have stress or tension. You hold that tension to increase your awareness of the tension and notice the nuances of your muscles under that stress. (which if you’re out of shape like I am these days, doesn’t take long for that awareness to become front and center in your brain).

Once you have established that the only thing you can now think about is that your are experiencing that tension, the next step is to round up all of your internal resources to try and calm the tension. THIS DOES NOT INCLUDE RELEASING THE POSTURE. At least not yet.

It means you use your focus and your breath in harmony to try and ease the tension. For example, you might try and inhale the image of a soothing light into the tension, and exhale away pain. Use whatever imagery or thoughts work for you keeping the goal of making your breath the power or the tool of your brain to ease your discomfort. Stay in the moment of what is happening in your body right now and deal with only that.

When either you’ve gone as far as you can, or you’ve had some success, release the posture. If you didn’t achieve your goal, try it again later, but try to go a little longer than you did before.

So that is what you do in Yoga on the mat.

But as a philosophy, you have to take the yoga off the mat and it works something like this:

I’m standing in a long line at the grocery store. Or let’s up the stakes a bit. I’m standing in a long line at Hobby Lobby. The tension is mounting. I’m thinking I need to get home, I have stuff to do. I fold my arms across my chest and jut my hip out to one side to indicate to all around me that I am not happy to be sitting in this line once again. My face shows frustration.

Time for yoga.

No it does not mean to drop my packages and go into a tree pose or a downward dog.

But what is happening in that moment is that I’ve left the line. I’m thinking about where I want to be next rather than where I am right now and what is happening as a result of where I am right now.

So to start yoga (philosophy) at this point, I first need to relax my body a little. Uncross the arms, stand up straight.

And then, just like above, I start using my breath to go in and heal any remaining tension. I focus on where I am right here right now.

The magic of focusing on your breath is this: You cannot think of two things simultaneously. When you are focused on the breath, you can’t think about tonight’s dinner or the clothes you left in the washer or how bad traffic is going to be. Those are “not here”. The breath is “here”.

Why is it important to be “here” over being “not here”. Because regardless of where your brain wanders, your body remains “here”. And if you don’t attend to it with the presence of your brain, you leave yourself at risk. It’s kind of like a headless man running around trying to find his way around a crowded room.

When you stay present with your mind, you keep your “head on” making it much easier to navigate which direction you are trying to go towards. You can address the obstacles that come into view in real time, rather than having to deal with the after effects caused by bumping into stuff you didn’t plan on. Think of it like this, You are walking in a room with awareness and you notice the rug is crumpled. Because of the awareness, you notice the crumple, and walk around it or bend down and straighten it out before passing. Without the awareness (because you are instead thinking about where you are ultimately going), you trip over the rug, fall and hit your head. Now you have to stop, prolonging your journey and attend to the bump on your head.

In the next blog I’ll extend this to meditation. And let me tease you by saying that I have always thought probably far worse and boring things about meditation than you might conjure up at its very mention. So try and keep an open mind and check back for Sunday’s post. I promise no caffeine will be necessary to keep you awake through it and you won’t be asked to sit on a small cushion for 3 hours chanting “om”

 

 

Falling Forward

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Although I identify myself as very spiritual, I am not a religious person. Nor am I even remotely biblically literate. However, over the course of my life I have attended a variety of churches and there are about 5 at best, sermons I can recall. I’d like to share a message that came from one of those. It’s not a religious message, but since I can’t give credit to the minister (since I don’t remember who it was), I at least wanted to be clear that this is not my original work. However, its something I’ve thought of many times and find useful. I hope you will too.

The story he told went something like this:

When I was studying to be a minister, I went to my mentor I asked him for advice about how to be a great minister. My mentor told me, “Remember this. When you fall on your face”….

At which point, the story teller interrupted his own story and said he was disheartened because his mentor had not said “if you fall on your face, but rather WHEN you fall on your face.”

And then he continued:

When you fall on your face, remember to fall forward. That way when you get up, you will be further ahead than when you went down.

 

I remember this story because I think its brilliant. The reality is that we all will fall on our face sooner or later. Some of us will fall down repeatedly. I am particularly prone to clumsiness. So learning to fall forward comes in pretty handy. It saves time.

Falling down, isn’t so bad. Sure, you can get a little bruised up. But it also gives you a different view point of yourself and the world. It can teach us humility, patience and even gratitude both from our ability to get back up, and for those who lend us a hand to assist. Falling down isn’t nearly as bad as being afraid to fall. – I’m going to say more about that soon.

What does falling forward look like? It means not considering yourself a complete failure when you fall. It means not telling yourself you are a jerk because you made a mistake. Falling forward means realizing that a little stumble doesn’t mean you start back over at square one. Even if you literally start back at square one, you do so with the knowledge that you were further ahead before and you can get back there again from memory. You don’t have to create the path all over again.

How do you feel about falling? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

a drum roll please

Hello Readers–

No you are not confused… this is an off schedule post because I have a little news:

If all goes well, all future blogs will contain the option to “listen” to me read the blog, as well as, the current format in which you can read it yourself.  So for those of you who feel crunched for time, you will be able to click on the screen and have it read to you.

In addition to the regular posts (and I have some fun ones waiting to be published), I am working on a series of e- mini books.  If you heard of the Australian public service commercial called Dumb Ways to Die, it inspired me to write “Dumb Ways to Live”.

The final versions may or may not end up like the one’s I’ve begun and that are in my head, but right now there are 4 books in progress.

1) Dumb Ways to live

2) Dumb ways to screw up your marriage

3) Dumb ways to raise kids

4) Dumb ways to wreck your career

so…. stay tuned!

One of these will become free to subscribers as your “bonus”.

I also want to say thank you again for everyone who reads, and also for your great comments and feedback.  The heavens have lined up and this week I have received some incredibly kind and wonderful feedback.   I want this project to grow… so I hope you will pass it on and encourage others to subscribe.

-Mary

Can you tell me how to get to sleep?

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When I was very young I shared a room and a bed with my sister, who is ten years older than I am. I would often end the night by asking her to tell me how she fell asleep. I don’t mean in general. I actually wanted her to fall asleep and then tell me how she did it each individual time. She never did, but it didn’t stop me from asking.

My thinking was that once she accomplished the task, it would be fresh in her mind and she would outline the steps for me to follow so I too could quickly get to sleep. If you read my recent blog,  you can rest assured that the phrase “dumb little kid” did not originate with my son Andrew.

How many times do you look towards experts for an answer that lies within you? How much time do you spend cultivating and protecting your own wisdom? What risks are you willing to take in order to grow your confidence in your own voice?

Nobody needs to be an expert in everything, or even many things. I certainly never want to do my own taxes or change the oil in my car. There are a number of tasks that make my life manageable which are better left to the hands and brains of someone else. But one responsibility that should always be mine- and yours for your life is what direction do you want to go in? What is best for you?

Are the bulk of your decisions made by someone else? Or For someone else? Do you decide by consensus? How present is your own voice when you are making a decision?

My sister was loving, and I believe she would have tried to answer the question as honestly as she could. But her answer would have been based on how SHE got to sleep—there were no guarantees that her method would have worked for me.

In therapy, my goal is to help people cultivate their own voice. So often people ask me for a decision when we both know, they know, the answer. The difficulty isn’t finding the answer, its finding the confidence to pursue it. Sometimes, it’s finding the strength to stick with it and/or its consequences. But when we do that, when we move forward on our own behalf, we feel truly as if we are living, rather than checking off the boxes of completing a life someone else decides for us. Decisions made from their viewpoint as the driving force, not ours.

 

The Golden Circle

The Golden Circle
– This blog is a little more for folks on the coaching side, although frankly I think its useful for anyone.
I’d like to introduce you to Simon Sinek. Simon is a human motivation author. His TED talk regarding the Golden Circle is one of the most watched TED talks to date. But before I go further, let me not assume everyone knows what a TED talk is.
TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design. It is a series of talks 15-30 minutes long that are available on the internet for anyone to watch. They come from diverse industries and disciplines. You can also access the free TED app on a smart phone and be notified when a new talk is posted.
So back to Simon and the Golden Circle. Simon takes you on a journey to understand the different motivations of individuals when they try to attain a goal. According to his theory, most people start with what they want to do and how they are going to do it, but can’t always articulate why. Sinek says that truly successful individuals/companies start with Why. He says people buy why you do something.  (Buying doesn’t simply mean a purchase, but also includes, getting on board with what you feel is important).

For me personally, I loved this concept because understanding WHY I am a therapist is pretty easy for me to think about. I’m curious about people and the processes we use. I love the stories and the meanings of the stories people use to navigate their lives. I believe my primary role as a therapist is to interpret those stories, sometimes to add in new context or change the timing. And ultimately to help my clients to feel like they are their own authors, have a sense of agency, rather than simply playing a role that someone else has written for them.

I’ll let Sinek convince you-  the link for that video is here: (Click on the words The golden circle).

The Golden Circle

Do One Thing

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Do One Thing

Today I have a challenge for you. To start with, I want you to think of an area in your life that you want to make some improvement in, or a goal you have that you hope to achieve. It can be big or small. Take a minute to think about that and write it down.

Got it?

Okay, let’s pretend that the item you chose was you want to get in better shape. Yes, I went for the easy one, but it could be get another job, be a better parent, increase your flexibility, start a foundation or a million other things.

Now I’m going to tell you a story.

When I was first learning to knit, I began by making a scarf. And I made enough scarves to warm the homeless in St. Louis. Everyone I knew got a scarf. I wanted to branch out, but I didn’t know how. Actually, I did know how, because regardless of what one is knitting, there are only 2 stitches- knit and purl. What changes the end product is the way you combine those two stiches and nothing more. But I didn’t realize that at the time.

So I went to the yarn store one day and I began conversing with the shop owner while I was completing my purchase of more yarn to make more scarves. I mentioned that I wanted to make a hat, had even purchased the supplies for a hat, but had not begun the project. She asked me why. I told her it was because I didn’t know how to read a pattern. She chuckled and gave me the following advice:

“That’s not how this works. You don’t have to know how to read a whole pattern. You just have to cast on {the first stitch} and do the first thing it tells you. After that, you do the next thing and so on. And if you get stuck, we’ll help you.”

You just never know where and when you will get the most guidance about life in general. Keeping your eyes and ears open for wisdom makes it a lot easier.

So, back to your goal.

You want to get in shape-

What is the first thing?

Is it making a plan, buying some shorts you can move in, or sneakers? Is it joining a gym? How about better defining the goal? I’d like to lose 10 lbs vs I’d like to be able to strengthen my back?

Once you have a clear idea of the goal- what is the FIRST thing you need to do? Or what is the first thing you are WILLING to do. Sometimes they aren’t the same thing.

Now that you have that first step- its time to cast on or begin.

And now for the challenge:

Commit to YOURSELF that you will do ONE THING towards that goal every day.

Knitting works like this. Rarely do you complete a project in one day. It’s a series of knitting stitches that cling together to make a row. Rows stack upon themselves to make a section. Sections add up to make a finished product.

Buying shorts, then tennis shoes, determining a route, scoping out the route, walking ¼ of the route, then ½ then ¾ and so on adds up.

You are free to do more than one thing each day. But commit to one. And when you execute that one- say it out loud. “I did _____ today. Yay me.

I’d love to know what you come up with. And I’d love to know how its going for you. You might even get a “yay you” on this blog.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Lao-tzu

The first step is you have to say that you can.

Will Smith

 

Response to a comment to an earlier post: The Places That Scare You:

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Someone posted the following comment to the posting “the places that scare you”

ok, I read this three times now & understand where u r coming from in this process, but it still keeps coming back to me, how does one know where this place is or even how to get there.? This one seemed a bit confusing to me. I sense that maybe because it is a real issue with me where food is concerned, as I do believe its a control issue of mind over body equals sabotage. Are fear & sabotage one in the same? While this article is real in facts, it is confusing in where to start, at the beginning or the end.

Let me try and tackle this:

How does one know where this place is or even how to get there?

—- since the commenter wrote that their issue is food, I would say when you find yourself thinking about or eating food and you aren’t hungry, you are probably contemplating a visit to one of the “places that scare you”. You have a built in radar system that says “uh oh— danger ahead” and it’s called food thoughts.

For someone without food issues, it might be drinking, working, working out, shutting down or a whole host of other behaviors.

Are fear and sabotage one in the same? Not exactly. Sabotage is a behavior, fear is the emotion that drives the behavior. Sabotage is the inner self (or child self) attempting to reach safety by shutting down what it fears will become overwhelming. The adult uses the word sabotage because the behavior seems irrational or unwanted. But the child self is in protection mode- it will use anything that works. It’s not as articulate as our adult self- its methods are more primitive.

Attempting to control mind over body equals sabotage. I agree—actually I would extend that to say control period- often leads to failure. This isn’t a test of will. It’s a test of willingness. Lauren Slater writes an excellent piece in her book “LYING” about the difference between will and willingness. This is one of those areas where willingness to go into those places and sit through them is required. Not willingness to avoid something or someone. It’s a paradox like many things. The more you try and control, the less you have… and once you let go (not the same as give up), the fight against you also subsides.

With regards to the order of the process. Let me try and address that by coming full circle. You start with a commitment to yourself that, you are working on willingness to not let fear stop you. Then you wait for about 3.2 seconds for the universe to hand you a situation in which your fear will be summoned forward. You’ll notice it by your desire to immediately run to familiar behaviors (in this case food)… and you do

N O T H I N G

For as long as you can. You let it ebb and flow around you and you just notice- notice what happens if you DON’T eat. Does the situation you were afraid of beat you down? Does it make you cry? Does it kill you? Probably not. Whatever happens will happen…. Whether you eat in the face of it or you don’t. Because other than hunger, food doesn’t fix a lot of other things.

I hope that clarifies it a bit…. I so appreciate this and every comment. And most of all I appreciate that you take your time to read the posts.

 

 

Hear an angel, there an angel

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We went to the airshow last weekend. It was a great day weather wise and the show was exciting.   The highlight for me, however was an exchange I had with my youngest son.

Because he anticipated the loud noise, my husband thought ahead to bring earplugs for each of us, which he distributed before we got out of the car. Once the Blue Angels were in full force Andrew and I both put ours on. These are the little foam chunk type of ear plugs. You basically squish them to stick them in your ear and they expand to block out loud noise. However, you can still hear a fair amount going on around you. Well, most people can, but my hearing is not that great to begin with.

A few minutes into the show however, Andrew began talking to me about what was going on around us. I told him I couldn’t hear him and he should wait. At that point, he pulled out one of his ear plugs and began to repeat what he said. It never occurred to him that taking out his ear plug, made neither his voice or my ears sharper. A little bit later he leaned in and said “if you want to talk to me, you don’t have to take your ear plugs out, I can still hear you.”

Have I mentioned before that Andrew is in fact gifted? He has a high IQ and is especially strong in math and science skills. Seriously he is. But he is also what I often refer to in a very loving tone as “a dumb little kid”. And as he continues to grow by leaps and bounds each day, it is that this child- like silliness that I will miss the most as he matures.

John Cabot Zinn is responsible for one of my favorite quotes which is, “Think of children as Zen masters in little bodies. They will teach you every lesson you need to learn in life”. It would be hard for me to pick out the millions of lessons my children teach me every day, which of them is the most important. (because I can certainly be a dumb adult). But the one I’m writing about today is of how it important it is to be able to laugh at myself. I’ve spent a life time trying to be smart enough, when in fact, one of the things I find so endearing about my child is the places where he is not yet “smart like the world”. It is an innocence so pure that it melts my heart. And it doesn’t feel too badly when I apply it to my own inadequacies as well.

does it always have to be about me?

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Is its always about me?

I picked up my son from school today. He got in the car, moaned a bit and turned his body completely away from me. I asked him if he was okay and he ignored me. I asked him again and he continued to ignore me.   I asked him if he was upset with me or if something happened at school. Still no answer. We sat in silence on the ride home.

He entered the house, put up his backpack and sulked into the living room. His dad greeted him, and he offered little if any response. About 10 minutes passed. I was preparing dinner in the kitchen. Andrew came into the kitchen and without saying a word, barreled into me with an 11 year version of a bear hug. I hugged back still not saying a word. He was fine the rest of the evening.

When my husband and I first married he had to travel frequently for work. I soon learned that when Ben is on a job site he is extremely focused and compartmentalized. He has to have reminders to check in, although after 15 years with me, this has become a bit more natural for him. But back then, it was like pulling teeth to get him to remember that he was now part of a team and the other half wanted to know where he was from time to time. He would give his all to the job and by the time he got back to his hotel, often late in the evening he was pretty much shot. By the end of the week I would be missing him and happily awaiting his return on Friday evening. He on the other hand, would walk in, barely grunt a greeting, and pass me by, almost as if I was a ghost. He would go bed and crash for the night. He did not seem happy to see me.

The first couple of times this happened I wondered what on earth was wrong. Was our marriage already over? What happened on the road? Was he mad at me?

But then on Saturday morning he woke up and was his usual self. There didn’t seem to be any issue.

And then it happened again. And again. But after a couple of times I began to figure out that he was neither having marriage remorse nor a split personality. It’s Ben. As I said earlier, when he works… he works hard. And so by the time Friday night came around and he returned home, he had nothing left to give to anyone… including himself. So he did the best job he could of taking care of himself, which was, to go right to bed. After a good night’s sleep replenished his emotional stock, he was himself, still in love with his wife and our relationship proceeded as normal.

Fortunately I figured out fairly early into this process that I had a couple of choices. I could be mad, hurt, retaliatory or a host of other delectable feelings that don’t resemble my adult self. I could be dramatic- and at an earlier time of my life I probably would have been. But when I thought about what was happening, it was easy to separate his need to work the way he did and our relationship. Whether or not he could/should have worked differently is a different subject. The reality is that if his work habits were encroaching on our relationship, then we might have needed to look for a different alternative. But instead, I was able to take the route of adjusting my own expectations. Instead of planning for an ultimately disappointing reunion on Friday, I told myself that my husband wasn’t coming home until Saturday morning. Because in truth, that is the soonest the guy I loved would be showing up, even though the grumpy imposter was sharing our space. The Friday night arrival was basically a zombie not capable of giving me a high five or a gee I missed you so.

I’m not suggesting my son’s behavior is a “chip off the old block” here. But the similarity is that I can now more easily see that people can have there own brand of muck going on that causes their mood to flatten and it doesn’t have to be about me, just because I am the one in the room at the time.

I used to get very frustrated at the phrase “don’t take this personally”. I couldn’t understand how when you are the only person in the room to receive the message, how do you take it any other way? But I realize now that in fact, someone can be telling you something about themselves and where they are and it doesn’t have to be about you.. or in the example above, … me.

My son obviously was having a hard day or a hard hour or minute or whatever. He needed space. More importantly, the LAST THING… and I must repeat here (for my own benefit), the LAST thing he needed was to take emotional energy away from whatever was bothering him to focus on my insecurity or guilt or whatever I could conjure up to feel responsible for his mood. That’s not to say that when we’ve truly caused a problem for another we shouldn’t try work to figure out if we need to repair something

This is a situation in which to apply Covey’s seek first to understand. We can ask the other “are you okay, is there something you need from me” rather than assuming it’s about us and we need to go into fixing mode, even if we don’t know what we are to fix. If the other person isn’t ready to talk, then we have to learn to be patient and wait to see if the problem gets resolved without our input. Sometimes, that is the hardest part of all.