When I first began to think about stepping into the unknown, I reached out to a number of people to learn about their experiences and the path they traveled. I talked to fellow teachers who had made the transition to full time yoga-ing. I met with other fitness professionals who were carving out their own unique niche. I reached out to working mamas to ask about work/life/kiddo balance. Each person's story added another layer to my depth of understanding about the joys and challenges of going it alone.
Fast-forward to the present: While I still have much to learn, I find myself on the other side of the table - invited to share my story by new teachers, teachers-in-training, and those considering their first steps down the teaching path. Every time I am asked for guidance, I am grateful for the opportunity to return the favors so graciously granted to me.
A few weeks ago I received an unexpected call from a senior mentor teacher who has been an encouragement from the very beginning of my journey. She has a successful brand of her own but wanted to sit down to brainstorm new ideas and seek feedback. When she reached out I was excited (what a fun opportunity to return the favor!) but also humbled and a bit intimidated: what on earth could I offer to someone whose experience and wisdom so clearly surpasses my own?!
We sat down to talk over tea and soon began scribbling furious notes to capture the flurry of ideas. Our conversation was great fun and led to new ideas for collaboration and individual pursuits. But perhaps the greatest lesson for me was the reminder that everyone has a unique perspective and experience that is worth sharing. Just because you are newer to a profession, hobby, or pursuit than others doesn't mean you don't have something to offer. We too often - and too quickly - dismiss what we can contribute to a conversation or situation.
Whatever your position in life, be intentional about paying forward the guidance and assistance you have received - and have the confidence to pay it back when the opportunity arises.
How are you reaching out to help the next generation? How can you repay those who gave you a hand along the way?
On a recent Sunday, a visiting pastor observed that we will make very few big, life-altering decisions over the course of our time on this earth. Rather, the little things we do and say end up shaping our destiny. I have been thinking about this, and reflecting on how the small choices we make from moment to moment become our days, our days become our weeks, and so on until they comprise our lives.
We all want to be good people. We are proud of our volunteer service and glad to contribute to the causes near to our hearts, but how do we respond when someone on the street asks us for a dollar as we rush to our next appointment? We are happy to bring a meal to a family with a new baby or offer to help a friend who has been in the hospital, but how do we react when asked for a favor that doesn't fit our schedule? We commend ourselves for being team players and shrug off accolades, but what thoughts arise when a colleague takes credit for our hard work?
Our proactive do-gooding efforts are not to be discounted, but we shouldn't neglect the small, less lofty (and more difficult) work of responding with honesty and compassion to the unplanned scenarios we encounter each day.
How will you approach the circumstances that present themselves today? What can you do to ensure your beliefs, thoughts, words, and actions align with the destiny you desire?
It is one thing to say you are committing yourself to something, and another to step forward and actually make it happen. A few weeks ago, upon realizing the midpoint of the year was upon us, I made a deliberate decision to revisit my 2015 goals and dust off those that had been lying dormant. But here we are: the second half of the year begins next week, and no progress has been made...
The small decisions we make throughout the course of a day become our big decisions. We may say we want to spend more time reading, sign up for a language class, or prepare more interesting meals, but every time we turn on the television or let the registration deadline pass, or order sushi for dinner, we are saying "no" to one of these goals. I am certainly not passing judgment on taking the path of least resistance at the end of a long day, but if we want to achieve the goals we set, we need to be intentional about the little decisions that will help us get there.
This week I sat down with a cup of tea and made a plan. I identified mini-benchmarks to help me achieve my 2015 goals, and scheduled them on my calendar to help me stay on track. As a list girl, the reward of putting a check in the box provides an incentive, and seeing a physical representation of progress gives me motivation to press on. I am feeling good about this strategy and ready to continue down the road toward my hopes and dreams for the year.
Can you make a plan to help you move toward your dreams and goals? What small steps can you take today?
Earlier this week, I was walking with my daughter, trying unsuccessfully to hurry her along so we could reach our destination before the falling drizzle became a deluge. I was in a rush and distracted by thoughts about the work I need to do this week and the details that need addressed before we leave town next week. In the back of my mind was also a discussion I had with my husband over the weekend about whether I should make changes to my work/life balance as our daughter becomes more independent.
The weekend discussion and continued deliberation was prompted by a reflection I read from a fellow yogini-mama who spoke openly about how she grapples with anxiety about the decisions - big and small - that shape our days and our lives. When I was younger, I thought I would reach a point at which I would be certain about my path. I envisioned a day when I knew exactly how I could best contribute to the world, serve my community, and invest in the people I love. I am beginning to realize, however, this is a lifelong pursuit characterized more by questions than answers.
I was pulled out of my thoughts by the insistent chatter of my sweet babe: "Mama, it's a leaf!" "Look Mama, it's another leaf. And another little tiny leaf." "Mama, I'm going to walk on the grass." "Oh, it's wet." "Mama, I can say hello to the wet grass from here." "Hello wet grass. How are you today?"
And I realized in that moment I was exactly where I needed to be. My inner monologue was no match for the small pleasures of the morning and my enthusiastic tour guide. The world will always need saving, but the window in which my baby girl will be here to teach me profound lessons about the art of being present is ever so brief...
Can you set aside your big thoughts and relish the small pleasures around you?
From stress reduction to improved focus and concentration to enhancing our immune systems, there are myriad reasons to practice mindfulness. And there is a growing body of evidence to support the importance of introducing mindfulness techniques at an early age. That is why I am so excited about an upcoming workshop led by fellow yogini-mama Susanna Montezemolo in which she will focus on teaching mindfulness to children.
In her two hour workshop, Susanna will talk about the benefits of teaching mindfulness techniques to children as young as two years old and coach participants through techniques and games parents, caregivers, and teachers can use to share this important life skill with children of all ages. Online registration is encouraged to reserve your space.
Don't miss out on this great opportunity to help the little ones in your life begin a lifelong journey toward more mindful living!
While I have been making a concerted effort to slow down and be more mindful over the past two years, I still don't leave my house without a very specific idea of where I am going and the most efficient route to travel. I know the timing of lights at the various intersections and where to turn when I encounter an unexpected construction or traffic headache. I don't even stand up from a chair at a coffee shop without having subconsciously ensured no other customer is standing in the perfect loop I need to travel to put my used mug in the bus bin, order my next beverage, and refill my water before sitting back down.
My daughter does not suffer from this affliction... Whether or not she may have left the house with a particular destination in mind, it doesn't take her long to discover something that alters her course. Whether a rock or stick she simply must add to her collection or a furry friend she needs to greet before crossing the street or a trash truck she wants to observe, she constantly responds to what she sees and experiences in each moment.
Dance class is no exception. Chaos doesn't begin to capture the scene of the toddlers flouncing about in their tutus with little regard for where they are "supposed" to stand or what they are being asked to do. They wander off to a corner to explore a toy bin not fully hidden from view. They stop to tell you about the funny thing the cat did this morning. Order-craving parents (including me) are constantly corralling their charges back to the circle, and even in the rare moments when everyone is paying attention to the teacher's instructions, their interpretation of the movement bears little resemblance to ballet.
But my daughter's exuberance is contagious. She doesn't care that the teacher wants her to skip, she wants to gallop! And she isn't deterred when she lands on top of the stuffed turtle instead of leaping over him. She is dancing! In a tutu! With Miss Kelly! And she is enjoying every moment of it.
The class is coming to an end next week, and it has taken the full semester for me to realize that hers is the right approach. We all know we need to pay more attention to the journey than the destination, but it is so hard to let go of our long-held patterns. We all need more "dance" in our lives, but it is hard to take that first, unplanned step.
How can you allow yourself to dance today?
Last weekend, we escaped the city to visit our favorite farmer and take the babe strawberry picking. The date had been on our calendar for more than a month and looked forward to with great anticipation. As we drove, we discussed the pies, cobblers, salads, and drinks our bounty would provide, growing more enthusiastic with each new idea.
As we grabbed buckets and started down our designated row, we saw varying shades of red, a few with a hint of green, and a few that had been bruised by previous pickers. But within each plant were an abundance of perfectly shaped and colored berries. As we continued down the row, we became better able to look past the flaws to find what we sought. Before long, our buckets overflowed with perfectly ripe, sweet berries.
So often in life, our reality falls short of the ideal we establish in our mind. Your perfect job will come with at least one frustrating colleague or assignment. Your dream house will reveal at least one glitch over time. And no matter how compatible you are, you will have at least one fight with your soulmate. You can choose to focus on these imperfections, or you can instead appreciate the overwhelming good that surrounds them.
Can you accept the flaws you see as a small part of a much better whole? Can you focus on what is right instead of what is wrong?
I can still vividly recall sitting on the floor in my house with a dear friend in high school on the day we needed to decide what college to attend. We had both been accepted into a handful of schools, and we had both managed to narrow down our options to two schools each. We had weighed the pros and cons ad nauseam. We debated their merits with friends, family, and teachers. We made lists and charts. After endless analysis, we turned to the only remaining option: we flipped a coin, and only then were our decisions made.
Her coin came up heads for Trinity University, where she thrived. When my coin came down, it was tails for Tufts University, and I found myself inexplicably disappointed. Tufts is a great school in an exciting city center with all the history and charm of the East Coast education I always assumed was my destiny. But I realized the moment the coin dropped that I could not abide by its conclusion. I instead packed my bags for Vanderbilt, and that decision put me on the path to where I am today.
Years later, I still catch myself hoping someone or something will help me make decisions small and large. When I can't decide what to make for dinner, I will pose options to my husband, and it isn't until he makes his choice that I realize I wanted something else. When I debated leaving my job to strike out on my own, I consulted mentors, friends, and family. It wasn't until a respected mentor encouraged me to stay with the security of a job I knew and a life I enjoyed that I knew I needed to step into the unknown.
Sometimes we need to seek wise counsel and carefully weigh our options, but often we simply need to make a decision - even the wrong one - in order to realize our true desire. Next time you feel paralyzed by doubt or overwhelmed by options, make a choice and listen to how your heart reacts. By doing so, you will know whether your choice was the right one or whether you need to change course.
What tool can you use to tap into the answer you knew all along?
While the official beginning of Summer is weeks away, in our nation's capital we don't need to look at the calendar to know when the season has shifted. The heat, humidity, and influx of tourists in recent weeks leave us with no doubt that Summer has arrived.
Beginning with the arrival of the first Cherry Blossoms and extending until the grand old oaks shed their leaves, planes, trains, and automobiles deliver throngs of visitors eager to experience history up close and witness democracy in action (or at least the buildings in which they imagine such things happen). From the historic White House and Capitol buildings to the beautiful memorials, monuments, and museums that line the National Mall, our city overflows with eager internationals, fanny-packed families, and wide-eyed interns.
D.C. locals grumble as crowds thicken and school and tour buses clog our already crowded roads. Exasperated worker bees scoff as middle schoolers from Middle America pause for selfies, blocking access to their workplaces. Long-time residents sigh as they are forced to navigate around public transportation neophytes who inevitably walk and stand on the wrong sides of the escalator.
I am not immune to my own flashes of frustration in these scenarios, but as I walk through the streets with my daughter, I am growing to love the guests in our city and the fresh perspective they offer. The enthusiasm of the gaggles who gather in front of the White House can be infectious. Their dozens of languages and accents provide a unique soundtrack to an otherwise unremarkable day. And overhearing an awestruck recounting of one's first visit to a memorial or museum reminds me what a blessing it is to be surrounded by such an immense array of history and culture.
Being a tourist isn't about visiting popular sites, it is a state of mind. To be a tourist is to take a break from our carefully crafted air of indifference and allow ourselves to be excited - even in awe. To be a tourist is to be enthusiastic, curious, and open to new experiences.
As the spaciousness of summer descends on D.C., I am declaring my intention to be a tourist. I am vowing to pause long enough to watch the sun rise over the monuments during an early morning run, stop and snap a picture of my daughter's favorite animal while strolling through the National Zoo, and appreciate the symbols that define our city.
You don't need to live in a popular travel destination to sprinkle some tourism into your summer. Go for a walk in a different neighborhood. Pack a picnic lunch and eat outside, where you can watch the world go by instead of staring at your computer screen. Stop to enjoy your morning cup of coffee sitting down at a cafe or on a park bench rather than on the run. Find a new way to enjoy the familiar sights and sounds that surround you. Give yourself time to pause and appreciate life.
As I turned the calendar page to a new month yesterday, I was struck by the realization that in just a few weeks, we will be closer to the end of 2015 than we are to the beginning. The change also prompted me to reflect on how much progress I am making toward my 2015 goals.
I opted to set goals this year rather than make resolutions. While the difference may seem purely semantic, I wanted to focus on realizing hopes rather than "fixing" or "improving" myself or elements of my life. I wanted to be proactive about continuing to create a life I love. I am pleased to say that upon revisiting the list I wrote in January, I am doing well on a number of the goals I set: I have updated the look and feel of the New Beginnings newsletter, I have begun laying the groundwork for my first yoga retreat, my husband and I have maintained our goal of a date night at least twice per month, and we have scheduled our first summer vacation alone with the babe.
An almost equal number of goals, however, remain largely untouched... But in the spirit of just being,** I am accepting where I am and looking ahead with optimism to the time that remains. I am using this midpoint of the year as an opportunity to renew my focus on pursuing the hopes and plans that resonate and energize me for what lies ahead.
Are you making progress toward your goals or resolutions for the year? If not, what can you do to get back on track?
** For more on the topic of "Just Being," sign up for the New Beginnings newsletter here.
Thank you for visiting the Starting Over blog. Stop by anytime for a dose of inspiration, tools to help you achieve your goals, and a community of fellow travelers. I hope to see you often!