I was reminded of this quote by a friend who was recently interviewed for the Tranquil Space blog. It is a brilliant reminder that we each embody a particular collection of gifts and talents that prepare us to pursue our own unique path.
Comparing ourselves to others is a lose-lose proposition. When I began to practice yoga, I constantly peered at the yogis around me, trying to establish a baseline against which to evaluate my practice. If I happened to be in a room full of bendy-stretchy types, I would be embarrassed by my runner's double whammy of inflexible hamstrings and tight hips. When I held a balance pose longer than the yogi next to me. I would inwardly applaud myself for my "superior" focus. Neither approach served me well. Envy and pride, which are the logical conclusion of judging ourselves against someone else, are equally ineffective in improving our yoga practice or our life off the mat.
As a teacher, I see this tendency play out often. In group classes I regularly urge my students to focus on their own experience and tune out any distractions in the room - or in their minds. When we are able to let go of the idea that we need to be as flexible/strong/smart/attractive as the person next to us, we can look within, which is a necessary first step toward growth.
Can you let go of the tendency to judge yourself by someone else's standards? Can you discover your own genius?
In the recent Trailblazers interview with Gregory Lennon, he referenced the Sufi tradition of the four gates of speech. While I have written previously about my determination to say the wrong thing more often, some things are still better left unsaid.
The four gates offer an excellent way to evaluate how - and whether - we should speak in a given situation. At the first gate, we ask ourselves, "Are these words true?" At the second gate we ask, "Are they necessary?" At the third gate we ask, "Are they beneficial?" At the fourth gate, we ask, "Are they kind?" If the answer to any question is no, we leave the words unsaid.
The next time you find yourself faced with a challenging conversation, can you apply this simple test? How might it change the way you interact?
In every fertility yoga workshop series I have led, I have opened the first session by inviting students to share their stories. While participation in the exercise is optional, inevitably each woman opens up about her struggle to start a family, the obstacles she has faced, the procedures she has endured, and the frustration she has experienced.
The benefits of this exercise are not exclusive to those facing fertility challenges. No matter the adversity you have faced or are facing, giving voice to your challenges can empower you to move forward. Recalling the details of your story can help you separate objective facts from the (often intense) feelings that accompany them. Further, capturing the details of what you have experienced helps anchor them where they belong: in the past.
A history of loss does not guarantee a future of disappointment, and to focus on either is to waste energy that could be better utilized to walk the path before you and experience each moment - good or bad - that comes your way.
Can you let go of past disappointments and attachment to future outcomes? Can you allow yourself to live in the present moment?
As we reach the end of July – more than halfway through 2014, I have been struck by how quickly this year has passed. Weren’t we just setting New Year’s resolutions?
If the newsletters and blogs I read are any indication, I am not alone in taking a mid-year assessment of my progress (or lack thereof) on goals. Just between you and me, my progress on the priorities I established and the goals I set for this year, is, in a word, dismal…
While I was sincere when I mentioned my newfound commitment to being lazy, there are some things that need to get done - and they are. But there are other things I was excited to pursue when I set my goals for the year that, sadly, keep getting pushed off the to-do list.
When I took a closer look, the only distinguishing difference between the successes and failures on my list has been the presence or absence of a deadline. The “must do” things were framed by external deadlines or the expectations of others, while the “want to do” things were completely up to my discretion.
Recognizing this pattern was revelatory. What if I gave the same respect to my own personal priorities that I afford the requests of clients, family, and friends? What if I set deadlines and honored my desire to accomplish the big and little things I dreamed for this year?
So I am pulling out my calendar, identifying work time, and setting (realistic) deadlines for completion.
Can you honor your own needs and desires? What deadlines can you set today?
I parted ways with a long time client this week. The news did not come as a surprise: changes in life and work had caused him to cancel our weekly sessions more often than not in recent months, and I had been anticipating the conversation. What I hadn’t expected was how it would feel to receive the news.
As teachers we become invested in our students, and this was no exception. Over the years, I had watched his practice grow on the mat and off - I saw him gain flexibility and strength, and more importantly, learn how to better manage the stress of a high-powered job and the many demands of a growing family. But instead of feeling disappointed when we parted ways, I found myself relieved...
A free block on my schedule EVERY WEEK?! How luxurious! But then my mind started racing... An hour every week is 52 hours of productivity a year! I can pick up a new client or class! I can finally sign up for that weekly volunteer shift I have been trying to find time for! I can finish the baby book collecting dust on the shelf! And just like that, "free time" disappeared, taking with it my relief and leaving me wondering how I ended up back where I started.
When I began this venture, I vowed to be more intentional with my time. I consolidated my teaching and writing into dedicated “work” days, outside of which I could focus on the babe - investing time and energy in tea parties and story time and playground visits. But before long, I found myself scheduling clients on my “off” days and then scrambling to find child care. Or accepting just one more writing or editing assignment and rushing to put the babe down for a nap so I could squeeze in an hour of work. Weekends and evenings slowly filled with opportunities to teach workshops or lead trainings, eclipsing family time and foiling my best laid plans.
I recognized the treadmill of my life was moving at a speed I could not sustain when I started looking for excuses to cancel plans with friends, or trying to find a sub for classes I was scheduled to teach. It wasn't that I didn't want to see friends (I did!) or didn't enjoy teaching (I do!); rather, I was desperate for an hour alone without plans or expectations, and that time didn't exist anywhere in my schedule. I knew I needed to make a change.
So I made the decision to be lazy. To sit still when I can. To say no when an opportunity – however appealing – consumes more energy than it generates. I gave myself permission to be unproductive. I started protecting my family time (and my down time) as fiercely as my work time. And that weekly free block? I am keeping it empty – to read, or rest, or bake, or have a tea party with the love(s) of my life.
Can you give yourself permission to unproductive? What would it look like to be lazy?
To meet Gregory Lennon is to have the experience of reconnecting with a dear friend. Whether in a crowded classroom debate or a one-on-one conversation, his kindness, sincerity, and intentionality shine through every interaction. In this Trailblazers feature, Gregory speaks openly about his journey to sobriety and offers guidance and encouragement for anyone seeking to make a meaningful change. Read on for the story of Gregory’s new beginning…
Each month the the yoga studio where I teach identifies a theme that our teaching team works to weave into every class - offering students an opportunity to explore a single concept both as it applies to their yoga practice and what it means when they are not on the mat. This month we are looking at patience, a challenge for many of us.
In our fast-moving, destination-oriented world, patience may seem a charming, but antiquated virtue. Patience with others - whether colleagues, fellow commuters, or family - can be utterly inconvenient; and patience with ourselves hardly feels worth the effort.
I don't recall when I first stumbled upon this quote, but it has been on my mind all month. In times of uncertainty, I find it a reassuring reminder that I don't need to have all the answers. When things are going well, it serves as an encouragement that I am on the right path.
Can you have patience with yourself today? Can you live the questions and wait patiently for the answers?
The following open letter from Elizabeth Gilbert to her readers struck a chord. As I work to establish a new normal, I have found myself striving for balance. What I am beginning to recognize, however, is that the only time this elusive state seems reachable is when I stop plotting and planning and simply travel the road ahead.
Follow the Read More link for Gilbert's excellent reflection on the myth of balance...
No matter your destination or the road you travel to get there, having the right companion by your side can offer you the encouragement to keep going during difficult times, direction when you don't know which way to turn, and the reassurance that you are not alone. My goal in cultivating the New Beginnings Book list was to identify a few select references that can serve this function for anyone who is contemplating or already moving forward on a journey of transformation.
The following list is small, but it reflects input from dozens of readers, mentors, and teachers for whom I have great respect, along with my own personal favorites. If you want to contribute another title or offer your reflections on any I have identified here, please do so in the comments section, via email, or on the New Beginnings Facebook page.
A Million Little Ways
Hand Wash Cold
Living Your Yoga
Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
The War of Art
Wherever You Go There You Are
Earlier this week I took my daughter on her first trip to the zoo. I couldn't wait to witness the moment she recognized the living, breathing versions of the animals she names enthusiastically as we turn the pages of her favorite books.
We started at the Great Ape House, only to find it hadn't opened for the day. We proceeded to the lions, who escaped out of view just as we approached. At a stop to see the Red Panda, we heard others who claimed to see him "way up in the corner," but I wasn't able to locate him, let alone explain to the babe precisely where to look. After nearly an hour in the hot morning sun, I began to question my judgment in choosing to visit the zoo on a day in which seemingly every other mammal knew enough to stay indoors. But as we turned the corner to the Grey Wolf habitat, we had success: not one, but TWO(!) wolves were prowling about. Eagerly, I pointed to the glass and asked my daughter, "What is that?" Smiling broadly and waving her arms, she exclaimed, "Puppy!"
I almost corrected her before it occurred to me that while I was focused on what was wrong - seeing only empty cages and closed buildings, she was taking in her new surroundings without judgment - and finding joy all along the way.
Can you let go of expectations and choose to see joy in your surroundings?