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15 Sep

Faith

                We’re
always trying to get control of things; trying to know and master our
lives. We want to know, to plan, to have everything laid out. When we’re not
sure about something, we tend to hope, or to project our ideas of how something
should be. This often leads to anxiety.

                I’d
like to re-frame uncertainty as a friend. If you’re able to re-frame uncertainty
and not-knowing as an ally, you come to find what I define as faith.        

                To me,
faith is not believing in a thought in your mind, or a guess of what might be
and trying to believe in that guess. Being comfortable not knowing, and smiling
despite having no idea of what’s to come- that is faith. This is the type of
faith that allows the mountains to move, so to speak; it creates an openness
and a partnership with life that makes life more surprising and serendipitous.

                An
analogy that may be helpful are the two travelers. John has a packaged tour,
his reservations booked and his days planned to the hour.  Joe has a destination in mind, but isn’t
really sure what’s going to happen on the way there, or when he’s there- in
fact, Joe didn’t even buy a guide book. Imagine the difference between these
two trips. John is doing his best to make sure things go as planned, but life
happens, and nothing seems to be good enough. Everyone moves slower, and no one
is on time. He misses one of his tours, and spends the last two days of his trip on the phone trying to get a refund. The trip was a complete failure in his mind. Joe, on the other
hand, has no idea what to expect; he makes friends very quickly in order to get
his bearings. Those friends take him to the best beaches and dining spots. Joe
actually ends up in a different destination than he planned, a place that he
had never even heard of, but that happens to be even better.  

                Which
traveler would you prefer to be? Who leads a fuller and happier life? I believe
that falling in love is a snapshot of this. Before we etch our list of needs
into a stone tablet for our partner, we are taken up by the newness and
uncertainty of the situation. The romance is a fun suspension of not knowing
exactly what’s going to happen. It’s the same as looking into a starry sky, and
gazing in awe before we start naming constellations and picking out planets.

                That’s
my idea of faith- having a romance with life.

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28 Aug

Redefining Success

                There
is one assumption I can make about a person that has a 95% accuracy rate: You
are suffering from stress. The reason is because stress has become a defining
feature of adult life, at least in the US. No one really sits down and says, “Gee,
I’d love to live my life in stress and anxiety all the time.” So why do we do
it?

                It’s our
idea of success. For us, success is a carrot that dangles on a pole above our
noses throughout life, because we define it as more: More this, more that, becoming bigger and better at all
times. It’s externally-based, like an athlete only playing for the trophy or promotion. This is a lot of chasing, and our emotional life becomes glued to the ups and downs of the outside world.
For the average person, it’s a bigger salary, a new car, a trophy partner. What
we are forgetting is the love of the game.

                Imagine
if your paradigm of success was to be joyful. That’s it- as long as you feel joy,
you are a success in life. You would choose the work you love and surround
yourself with people who add to your happiness. The energy you currently use to
struggle would be allocated towards
enjoyment of the moment. There wouldn’t be a reason to step on anyone in your
climb towards success, because success would be a intrinsic and inclusive
state. You’d rub off on everybody and the little details that you used to fret
would take care of themselves. An athlete who truly loves the game and has fun
while playing it will win but it won’t even matter. And she brings the whole team up.

                Do an
inventory: Write down the 3 words that come to mind when you think of success.
Then write down 3 things that you would want for yourself over the course of
your lifetime.  Do they match up? If not, you’re actually very unsuccessful,
regardless of your income or status. What can you do to start climbing the
stairwell towards true success?

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23 Jul

Paint your life!

I’ve always been a creative type. Whether it’s drawing, theater,
or writing, people will often tell me, “Wow, you’re so creative. I wish I was
like that. I don’t have an artistic bone in my body!” I’ll usually just keep
quiet, but what I really want to do is shake them and say “Wake up!”

                The
truth is, the average person is very creative. We draft up dozens of excuses a
day- some of them short stories, others 600 page novels. When it comes to what
we can’t do, we are Da Vinci with a paint brush, going into incredible detail
to paint the picture of our life. When life presents us with a challenge,
however, usually we will step up and devise a creative solution to the issue.

                I
invite you to allocate your creative orange juice to other uses aside from
watering the weeds. As children, our life is a little art project- we make
believe, paint with our fingers, play with our food. You’re spirit never
changed; all that changed was your thinking. Instead of a blank canvas, life
became a to-do list.

                I have
a few suggestions if you are thinking, “This all sounds nice, but it’s not very
practical!”

1. Sit in front of blank piece of paper. Set a
timer for ten minutes if you need to. Put something on it.

2. Write down three adventurous or recreational
activities that you’ve always wanted to do, but never had the time. Circle the
one that sounds most exciting. Give yourself two weeks to make it happen. A few
of mine are learning salsa dance and a martial art.

3. Put on your favorite music. Lock the door. Blast the volume and dance. Actually, forget the word dance. Just
move- let every part of your body move in whatever way it wants.

After this, you’re ready for your first art gallery! Well,
perhaps not literally. However, your life is an art gallery. Fill the walls
with beauty, color, and life. Then you are an artist, a creative genius who
inspires those around her and lives with purpose.

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17 Jul

The True Leader

There are countless moments each day when we have the choice
to be a follower or a leader. We may have vague ideas on what it means to lead, and often they are confused managing. Being in
charge of other people- that’s leadership, right? Well, not exactly.          

Having researched leadership extensively, I would like to
share the most contemporary and effective framework. It’s called Transformational Leadership. Simply put,
a transformational leader inspires within another person the same desire to
fulfill a task that she possesses.  Management tells another person what to do-
leadership leaves that person telling you that they want to do it. The
difference may seem insignificant, but at the end of the day, it’s the difference
between chores and joy.

I’ll give an example from my field of sport. A typical coach
in today’s culture yells frequently and delivers commands to his players, who
show up to practices just so they don’t get cut. A transformational coach
creates an environment in which the game has become the prize, because it’s
just so fun. His players want to
play, and they arrive early to practice with smiles on their faces. What’s the
difference? In both scenarios, the athletes are attending practice. In the
second example, there are no leaders and followers- the players have become self-leaders,
motivated just as much as their coach.

You may say, I’m not a coach, and I don’t manage people.
However, every day is an opportunity to stand up and lead. Raising children, working,
personal relationships, side projects, you name it.

I will summarize four basic steps you can take to shift from
being a follower or manager into becoming a transformational leader.

1.       Go inside

Reflect on your Self, your life, and your
own journey. Who has inspired you in your life? On the other
hand, who has deflated you? Which person do you want to be for others, and how
will that choice change your behavior? In order to transform others, we must
first transform ourselves. Becoming a more conscious human being is essential.
Take a moment and make a list of true leaders in your own life. Write down the
qualities that you find important. Then write a little about a negative
experience you’ve had, and how that felt. For example, a first grade teacher
telling you that your drawing stinks.

2.       Be Transparent

When you’ve begun to reflect on your own
life experiences, it’s time to start sharing. That’s not to say you have to go
about telling everyone where your birth mark is. Really, all that is required
is realness and honesty. We have an idea in our culture that sharing our
weaknesses and trials makes us weak. In truth, it lets others know that we are human. This leads me to number three.

3.       Be Relational

What is the core of humankind? (Hint: it’s
actually not money). Relationships, my friend! Ask how you’re colleague is
doing, and listen to the answer. In sport we call it stepping into their lives. When you really care about the person
beyond what they can do for you, and
you ask what you can do for them, a shift will happen. Have you ever remembered
someone’s name, and they are shocked that you actually remembered? Even this
will work!

4.       Moral Courage

When it comes time to speak, do it. When
something is wrong and you want to stand, stand. I use the word courage because
in our culture there is a great deal of inertia, and going against the grain
can be scary. To be a leader, though, you simply must rise when others sink. Otherwise,
you are a follower. This doesn’t mean getting angry about a cause and preaching
to all your loved ones (please don’t). An example from my own life has been my adamancy
to maintain a vegetarian lifestyle. I never talked about it or preached,
however I did withstand incredible amounts of ostracism from family and friends
for the first few years. It wasn’t easy, but I persisted. Now, several of my
friends and various family members are also vegetarians. Trust me, I am not a
proselyte.  They made the decision for
themselves because it was right, and my initial act of standing up paved the
way.

Now, get out there and be the leader you are meant to be!

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18 May

Transform!

   As a yoga instructor, I’ve studied quite a bit of Eastern philosophy, meditation, and what some might call New Age philosophy. A theme that recurs with great frequency is letting go, surrendering, allowing things to take their course.

   I’ve finally arrived at a point in my life where I can admit that I’ve had a hard time with all this. Don’t get me wrong- it’s noble, and beautiful, and I’ve always wanted to be able to just let go on a dime. When some obstacle arises, it would be wonderful to shift into ‘let go’ mode. Trying to let go, however, has only been a source of frustration. I’ll think, “I should be letting go. I need to let go,” as if it were a task that I could actually accomplish. When someone tells you to let go, that is what they are asking- perform the task of letting go, which paradoxically is not letting go. Try to let go, and try hard! 

   Maybe it is my Western monkey mind- I am a doer. I like to accomplish, to move, to achieve. It’s a major part of my conditioning, and at the end of the day, I don’t see anything wrong with it. The world needs enthusiastic proactive go-getters, just as much as it needs the nurturing preservers. 

   The solution to the issue came to me in the car this morning, after teaching my morning yoga class. I won’t let go- I will transform. When an obstacle arises, I will actively change myself from caterpillar to butterfly and respond to the situation from that higher place. Yoga is all about transformation- we spend an hour or so opening the body and lengthening muscles, breathing, toning the mind. We transform ourselves, and in the remaining minutes of the class we are ripe for letting go and relaxing. 

  If you are like me and find letting go difficult, try something different- transform! This is something you can participate in, unlike the mysterious mystical state of surrendering. Notice what reactions arise in you- the caterpillars- and consciously turn them into butterflies.  Give it a try- it’s quite fulfilling and empowering. And when it happens, surrender is an afterthought.

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16 Apr

How do you define Living?

I was recently asked a simple question: “How
do you define living?” It gave me quite a pause. Take a moment and ask yourself
this.

 In yoga, we work to open the body and mind, to
become fuller, more ‘alive’ versions of ourselves. I watch the difference in
individuals from the start and finish of a single class- it’s almost as if they’ve
been reborn, or enlivened. Perhaps we have a vague idea of what ‘living’ is all
about- chilling on the beach with margarita in hand, sipping into oblivion. Or
maybe when we make it in life, then
we can start living
. Just need to get that promotion! Then we wake up sixty and
wonder what we did with our life-
surely that wasn’t living!

I’ll start with
what it means to be dead. To be dead is to be rigid, stiff, decomposing,
silent, and non-growing. But even in the realm of nature, death and life aren’t
so different. Walk through a forest untainted by man; death unfolds all around,
but is constantly giving way to new life. Really, it is simply transformation.
It turns out that life has no opposite- it’s more appropriately stated that the
opposite of death is birth.

So what does it
mean to truly live? Life is flowing, exuberant, intelligent, and peaceful. It
is a knowing force that fills our very being and universe, and ultimately a
mystery to science and religion alike. I would say that living in a true sense
is to be at one with this force- allowing it to unfold in one’s life like a
blossoming flower. Living is being the dance that the universe loves to watch.
There is a more insidious type of death that is possible while still ‘alive’-
you can observe it on a day of people watching. You will find a surprising
diversity of painful grimaces worn on the faces, as they eagerly move towards
some future fantasy or other, ignoring the waterfall of living energy in the
moment. The mind and heart ossify like fossils under these intense conditions.
My suggestions are threefold: Smile at strangers (big, toothy grins); take a
dance class; breathe. Life happens to be an expert in all three.

 Life simply sings, and to live is to be the
melody. A living person glows; they ‘go with the flow,’ and seem to find joy in
the little things. Living always draws surprise from those who are dead: “You
did that? Are you crazy?” or “That’s impossible!” Try telling those things to
someone who is living. They are too wrapped up in the song to notice.

 

Blessings, and Namaste 😀

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