Celebrity fashion photographer Drew Xeron has graced the pages of international media from Vogue Italia to Yoga Journal to Origins magazine. But this humble artist wasn't too busy or proud to share his story with New Beginnings. Read on to learn how Drew rocketed to the top of his craft and hear his advice for others who are eager to follow their dreams...
Once per week my daughter spends the day with family friends in Georgetown. According to Google Maps their home is a mere 2.5 miles from ours, but in rush hour traffic, the evening trip back home frequently lasts 30 minutes. And while she has improved markedly in the past year, my daughter HATES the car. It isn't just that she becomes bored, or restless, or uncomfortable - after an indiscriminate interval only she understands, my sweet girl transforms into someone (or something!) completely unrecognizable. As a result, I dread these drives every time we set out.
Last week, when I scooped her up at the end of a long day of teaching and planning, I caught myself wishing we could fast forward and skip the agitation completely. But no sooner had I strapped her into the car that it occurred to me: I can spend this 30 minute window wishing to be somewhere else, or I can find a way to make it a memorable, enjoyable shared experience.
I wish I could tell you the commute instantaneously became a delightful bonding opportunity, but the truth is somewhat more anticlimactic. There was some singing and some storytelling, but there were also periods of mutual frustration. Improving the experience for us both remains a work in progress, but the simple act of setting a positive intention helped shift my perspective from dread to determination.
Is there a regular piece of your day/week/month that causes you anxiety? Can you find a way to change your mindset and give the time new meaning?
One of the most rewarding experiences of my teaching career has been learning that a woman who participated in one of my fertility yoga workshops has become pregnant. I received just such a note last week from someone who had been trying to start a family for several years, and I was over the moon!
As I was letting her know about the upcoming small group prenatal yoga workshop I am offering next month, I started thinking about how the different pieces of my teaching practice have come about. When I began teaching, I focused on runners and athletes. I knew all too well the challenges that come from hours of repetitive motion and the therapeutic benefits yoga could provide, and I was eager to share that knowledge with others.
When my husband and I found ourselves struggling with infertility, I dove into researching how yoga could help us, and I subsequently created an offering to share with others who were experiencing the same challenges. A few years later, at the insistence of a small, but vocal, group of my fertility yoga students who had become pregnant, I began offering a small group prenatal workshop to provide a similarly safe and intimate community with whom they could share the ups and downs of the road to motherhood.
At every twist and turn of life (on and off the mat), there has been something to learn - and someone with whom to share the lesson. The same is true for everyone - whether we are struggling to stay afloat or have reached the shore. We all have a unique perspective derived from our life experiences, and we can discover opportunities to share what we are learning if we keep our eyes open to the needs of those around us.
What challenges have you overcome? What are you going through right now? What are you learning? Look around to see who else might be in a similar position. You might be able to offer the very encouragement they need...
Last week I attended a Valentine's Day celebration at my daughter's playgroup. We donned ourselves in red, picked up a few treats, and enjoyed the morning with friends. A photographer was on hand to capture the experience, and when she posted her photos, I eagerly scrolled through looking for adorable images of the babe at play. But when I saw her work I was caught off guard. Where was my chubby cheeked cherub? Where were the curly pigtails? The shy smile? In their place was a long, lean, confident young lady. When did that happen?!
This experience isn't exclusive to parents of small children. Our appearance in the mirror seems unchanged from day to day; it is only when we compare the present to photos from years past that we begin to notice a new laugh line here, an extra furrow there... Our transformation also extends far beyond physical changes. When I reflect on my teaching, my yoga practice, my writing today compared to those things even a few years ago, the differences are stark - though the actual evolution of my work and play has come in barely perceptible adjustments.
When I compare the new and the old side by side I can see that neither is superior. We gain no more by idealizing what has been than we do in straining forward for what lies ahead. Our work is simply to experience the piece of life we are in at this very moment and stay present as it unfolds bit by bit...
Among my duties in my first job on Capitol Hill was giving tours of the U.S. Capitol for constituents visiting Washington D.C. With each new group I gained a greater appreciation for what an incredible opportunity it was to report to work in such an iconic place. Through their eyes I was able to see the hallways, staircases, and passageways with reverence rather than the indifference that may otherwise have taken over after traversing them day in and day out year after year.
Occasionally a particularly gracious tour-taker would send a note of thanks afterward. When I received my first such letter, my boss told me to keep it for my "sunshine file." At the time I didn't know what he was talking about. It was my first introduction to the concept, but it has become a regular practice in the years since.
What started as a manila file folder in my office drawer now takes the form of a small box in my closet and an electronic file on my computer. In these vaults, I have stored thank you notes, positive performance reviews, kind words from students and readers, and encouragement from mentors and friends. On days I find myself stinging from a setback or frustrated by a lack of tangible progress, I can revisit the "sunshine file" for a lift of spirit.
If we are not careful, it is easy to fixate on what is going wrong or where we are falling short. Sometimes all we need is a simple reminder of how we have helped/are helping others to turn our day around. Whether you keep small encouragements in a physical location or treasure them in your heart, revisit them in challenging moments and be encouraged. Treat yourself to a dose of sunshine - and allow yourself to beam brighter.
For those in the Christian faith, yesterday marked the beginning of Lent. This season of denying oneself and drawing near to God presents a wonderful opportunity to recalibrate and focus on what is truly important.
So much of life happens without any conscious decision on our parts. Our personalities and character develop as a result of repeated habits and reflexive behaviors. Who we are seems more circumstantial than aspirational. From time to time we may try to make changes - tweaking around the edges - but sooner or later, left to our own devices, old patterns creep back in and we end up right back where we started.
How refreshing, then, is a season that invites us to look not inward in a feeble attempt to fix our flaws but instead calls us to look upward and outward. Lent is not simply a superficial sacrifice of luxuries, but a practice of creating space to see the needs around us and become the hands and feet of God.
Whether or not you observe Lent, I encourage you to experiment with turning your focus away from yourself and opening up to a greater awareness of your surroundings. You might be surprised by what you discover - and who you become in the process...
From a very early age, when our daughter would fall down, we would tell her to "shake it off before it sticks." At nearly three years old, she now immediately pops up after (most) spills and wiggles her little bottom saying, "shake shake shake." This lighthearted approach helps prevent the escalation of small stumbles into epic episodes. It also has proved valuable in other, non physical situations. Whether the scary nighttime shadows outside her room or the unexpected loud noises of our surrounding city streets, she has learned she can acknowledge a disturbance, shake it off, and go on about her day.
The same isn't always true for the rest of us... Too often we allow events that could (and should) be small disturbances to weigh us down. When a car cuts you off on your way to work, do you arrive in a huff? When the barista gives you the wrong drink and you don't realize it until you are halfway down the street, does your annoyance linger throughout your morning? When you wobble in a balance pose does your agitation follow you all the way to savasana?
Instead of falling victim to small setbacks, can you instead move on? Next time you stumble, acknowledge your frustration, set it aside, and go about your day. Shake it off and see what happens...
We are experiencing an unseasonable warm spell in our nation's capital this week. All trace of Jonas has disappeared, the sun is shining, and we are venturing out free of the mittens, boots, and hats more typical of February in D.C. But rather than simply soak up the sun in good humor, the pessimistic weather wimp within me is scanning the forecast for the inevitable plummet back into the cold reality of this traditionally bleak month.
Too often this is the pattern of we fall into: refusing to accept fleeting moments of beauty, joy, and ease when they come our way. We revisit fond memories and eagerly anticipate plans and dreams for the future, but we are reluctant to embrace the small pleasures right in front of us.
Today I will do my part to appreciate small gifts when and where I can. This 50 degree day is not the tropical island escape of last month, nor is it the bliss of the Spring to come, but it is here for us to enjoy today. And I shall!
To be early is to be on time. To be on time is to be late. To be late is to be in trouble... This mantra has been with me since a childhood summer camp and was further ingrained during a decade spent working for a retired Marine Colonel. To this day timeliness is close to my heart. I strive to be on time - even early - for appointments, meetings, social engagements, and personal commitments. And even though I work for myself, I am a stickler for deadlines. I post to the blog every Tuesday and Thursday, and I send this newsletter the first week of each month. While these deadlines are somewhat arbitrary and entirely self-imposed, their rhythm provides an important anchor.
But as we approached the beginning of February, I found myself falling behind. December and January travels and a busy start to the year ate away at my carefully cultivated margin and left me writing just in time for publication. Then there was the disruption of Jonas... and the resulting (unplanned) extension of my visit to the Midwest... Where the wifi disappeared... taking with it my ability to work online. To quote my favorite two year old, "I was SO FWUSTWATED!" With deadlines looming and no ability to make progress, I saw no clear path to staying on schedule.
As I fretted, I stopped to consider why I was so uneasy... Lest you mistake my anxiety for self-importance, I can assure you I am well aware that not even my most faithful readers [Hi Mayjo!] would be distraught if a blog post or newsletter was delayed - or disappeared entirely. But I felt acutely distressed nonetheless.
What I began to recognize was that meeting my deadlines had become a proxy for validation. As a solopreneuer, I am without the metrics that offered consistent reassurance in my former professional life. There is no one to offer an annual evaluation. No colleagues to encourage me to keep up the good work. And while it is rewarding to see the progress clients are making in their practice (on and off the mat) from week to week, there is no "sunshine file" to pull out for reassurance in challenging moments.
But I also realized that as scary as it is to operate in this new reality, it is also liberating. I have an opportunity to find a reward in the work itself - moment by moment, but I can only do so by staying grounded in the present.
We all fall victim to unnecessary pressures and deadlines. How often do you choose the most challenging yoga class when your body really needs a restorative session? Are you the first to arrive at the office and the last to leave - even when your workload doesn't require it? Do you insist on setting personal records with every race you run rather than simply enjoying the company of friends and beautiful scenery?
If a goal you set for yourself is creating more fear and anxiety than joy, ask yourself why it is so important. Reflect on what matters most, and let go of the rest...
Tonight was supposed to be the first session of my signature "Yoga and Fertility" workshop series for 2016. I did the usual promotional outreach, mapped out my class plans for the four weeks, and began putting together a new playlist. But despite the strong attendance with which I have been blessed in recent years - and the dozens of testimonials from women who have been helped by the series, registration failed to meet the minimum threshold, and we were left with no option but to cancel the series.
I was (and am) disappointed. It has been so rewarding to bring hope and healing to women who are struggling to become - and stay - pregnant, and I wish I had been able to reach those who need such an offering at this moment. But rather than wallowing in defeat, I am choosing to see this outcome as an opportunity to revisit the formula and make changes. Perhaps an all-day format would be more feasible in this season than committing to four consecutive weekday evenings. Maybe I need to research new and emerging audiences. It could simply be that we all need to take a rest right now. The extra time I have been granted by the cancellation will afford me an opportunity to explore all these possibilities and more.
Next time you are presented with disappointment, can you welcome it as a blessing? Can you turn a failure into a growth opportunity?