Monday, November 28, 2016

promises promises

i love the results a consistent meditation practice brings. but for a while i lost my practice.  as in i think it wandered off while i was shopping, and no amount of PA system calling could place it.

ok clearly it didn't wander off.  but that's what it felt like.  it surely wasn't my fault that i lost it. i had been waking up early to meditate every morning for 6 months straight.  i made an international trip to sydney and continued the practice, despite the irregular hours and erratic schedule while there.  upon arriving back in nyc, though, my sleep was the most disrupted it had ever been, and my meditation practice got lost in the jumble.  for the following 6 months, i meditated irregularly: a couple of times a week, when it was most convenient.

mostly, i beat myself up for not meditating.  mornings that i woke up later than intended were begun with a rush to get brekky and a thought that i'd ruined my meditation plan. i would silently feel bad about this, think about the things i could be accomplishing if i had meditated and had a clear slate to work from, and then grumpily go about getting out the door.

despite knowing how the daily meditation practice helped me, i felt like there was some mental block keeping me from re-engaging with the practice. a couple of weeks ago i attended a coaching call with elena and laurie from the handel group on keeping promises. when laurie asked for examples of promises we were having trouble keeping, i mentioned this lost meditation.

elena and laurie talked about how feeling bad is a diversion.  when it comes to making and keeping promises, engaging in the promised behavior provides you with personal integrity.  if you don’t do the behavior and then feel bad about it, you obscure the fact that you didn’t do the behavior.  so what’s happening is you’re listening to the other voice that provides you with an excuse.

this means that every morning i woke up without meditating and then silently yelled at myself up for not doing so, my mind felt like i had taken care of the problem.  i was actually giving myself more of an excuse to continue NOT meditating.  

you have to quiet that excuse voice by giving yourself a consequence when you don't engage in the promised behavior.  if you don’t do the promised behavior, you have to follow through by doing the consequence. this consequence replaces the voice that gives you an excuse.

although i've worked with the handel method before, i was skeptical that simply setting a consequence would magically find my wandering meditation practice.  but, i set a consequence: if i did not wake up early and meditate for 20 minutes, i would not be allowed to watch internet tv before bed.  (what i like about that consequence is that it is also providing me with a second opportunity for meditation if i miss the morning.)

i set the consequence and instantly i was back on track: my missing practice showed up. and it has been showing up every day for the past 12 days.  i told my mom about this, and she said "you must really like to watch tv at night!" i laughed, because i suppose i do, but that's not actually what happened here.  for example, when my alarm goes off, i don't think "i better get up and meditate so i can watch tv tonight!" i don't think at all, really.  i just do it.

this is an example of personal integrity: of wanting to keep that promise to myself.  of showing myself i CAN keep the promise.  of becoming dependent on myself.

the coolest part of that is that it is SUPER EASY. showing yourself that you can keep these promises to yourself gives you faith in yourself. and that faith keeps multiplying.

go ahead, try it.  maybe you could care less about where your meditation practice is.  but maybe you beat yourself up about delaying email replies, about not flossing, or about choosing a sugary drink over water.  choose one of those little things that has been driving you nuts, make yourself some promises promises... and then keep them.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

gratitude for what we attract

monday night i went to yoga and the teacher started talking about "gratitude, since thanksgiving is next week."  WHAT?! --yeah, i audibly yelled that in yoga class.  how the hell did thanksgiving sneak up on us?   (no, no, i know how; please don't bring that up.)  after that class, i began reflecting on my gratitude practice.  i've gone through different stages of keeping gratitude diaries and finding lessons i can be grateful for in each life experience.

the gratitude experience that stuck out in my mind was probably the first time i actively used gratitude in a difficult situation: i was having a break-up conversation with someone i didn't want to break up with--he was the initiator.  instead of reacting when he accused me of things, i silently reminded myself that i was grateful he was even talking to me, and then responded from a calm place.  when he called me a liar, i reminded myself that i was grateful he had overcome his fears about coming over, and responded with grace.

the gratitude i silently washed that conversation with changed the trajectory of that morning and of my future relationship with that individual.  we moved forward as friends, for which i was grateful.

shifting to an attitude of gratitude does have the power to change our experiences.  after contemplating that for the past few days, i incorporated a gratitude shifting practice into the yoga classes i taught this morning.  leaving class, i was feeling grounded and ready to tackle the day.

as part of my grab-my-day-by-the-horns, i texted someone and told them i needed them to do some healing before i could spend more time with them. it was a very hard text to write/conclusion to come to.  mainly because i care about the person, but also because i'm not great at boundaries: i often let other people's needs outweigh my own.  i had to protect myself in this situation, even though i didn't want to.

i felt a pain at letting this person go, even if only temporarily. but i also felt grateful that i had the strength to set that boundary for myself.  coincidentally (or, perhaps, cosmically), i found something moments after sending the text that i had copied for myself months ago from a friend's friend's blog (written by Rosie Rees):
You have attracted this person, relationship and situation into your life to GROW through it. They are mirroring back shadow elements of ourselves that we have not claimed. It is NOT your responsibility or duty to change them. They need to do that themselves.
let me just point out that i think the above statement is always true, which is why i tucked it aside for myself, but you know how some days some things just ring like SUPER TRUE?  (yes, "super true" is definitely a phrase you should be using now.)

i needed to be reminded that it wasn't my responsibility to help this person through all of their difficulties, especially when they weren't asking that of me. but what was most helpful to me was being reminded that i was seeing a reflection of myself in this person: i was watching him cope with his life difficulties by sliding back into alcohol/drug use.  moreover, i observed this as i was testing out not using any type of numbing agents.

he was the first person i went on a sober first date with--just a week into my original 40 day experiment. so as i was learning that i didn't need excessive alcohol in my life, my lessons were even more crystallized by the fact that he was experiencing negative ramifications from his own use.

i hope that he continues to grow and heal, but i know it isn't my job to arrange that.  however, it is up to me to decide how i feel now, after sending that text this morning.  and instead of being sad for losing him, i choose to be grateful for his appearance in my life at this time.

so just as i challenged my yoga classes this morning, see what you can shift by cultivating an attitude of gratitude. we can be grateful for even the seemingly worst aspects of our lives.  there are several instances in my life that i could point to and say "that really sucked," but flipping that around is actually equally easy, and much more fulfilling.

i am grateful for my husband leaving our home; i was able to grow and heal in ways i would not have been able to without that impetus. i am grateful for my struggle with bulimia; it has taught me more about myself and my relationships than another avoidance mechanism that i could have more easily blended into society's allowances.

i am grateful i have learned to set boundaries for myself; i am grateful i can choose to see gratitude in each moment. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

bye bye judgement, hello love

i worked the elections all day yesterday in harlem. i watched disenfranchised voters who suspected that, when i told them that were in the wrong polling location, it was because of a conspiracy to keep them from voting. (it was actually that two polling districts used to be in one building and one of them had moved 400 feet away.) despite the challenges, harlem voters turned up and voted in droves: my precinct had about seven times the turnout as in the last election. 

it broke my heart to hear their assumptions yesterday, but it really broke my heart walking around harlem today.

this morning i had decided that i was not getting out of bed to teach my two early morning harlem yoga classes. i figured everyone would hibernate through the day, and i knew i had nothing to offer in my teaching. but my conscience got the best of me and i showed up... and students showed up. 

at the end of the first class i taught, a young black woman from north carolina started sobbing, saying that she didn't know how she could live through the next four years.  a couple other women and i encircled her, held her, talked with her, and cried with her.

i didn't know how to respond to voters yesterday who didn't believe me; i didn't know what to teach in yoga this morning; i didn't know how to comfort the crying student this morning. i did what i could in each instance, following heart and offering what internal gifts i could find: feeling our sameness.

in "the universe has your back," gabby talks about separation, and all the ways that we make ourselves separate. sometimes it is easy to feel sameness, like when people commiserate with you about a shared loss. but other times, the separation and judgement feels so great.

i woke up at 134 am this morning to a message from a friend in sydney: "lucky you are a dual citizen!" it read. i knew instantly what the results of the election were.  and in that second, i felt separate.  alone.

i instantly blamed others for the results of the election and thus they became the source of my pain. but the blaming and separation didn't comfort me, and i was left feeling that nothing could.

then i was reminded of one day last week when i was freaking out about not having enough time to run as long as i wanted to. i only had time for a shorter run and i started out feeling angry that i hadn't left enough time to run. but i decided to try to change that: i decided to wish a positive thought to each person i ran by. like "i wish you love; i wish you happiness; i wish you abundance" etc. i ended up having an amazing run and feeling great. ...i felt like each person i passed was on my team.

so today, i remembered that experiment from last week's run.  when i looked at the maps of red vs blue, i wished positive thoughts for the voters who disagree with me.  when i got angry or sad thinking about the results of the election, i thought of the humanness we all share. when i let go of blaming and separating myself from them, my heart softened and i could feel healing.

love.  the more we respond from a place of love, the more we can all heal ourselves and our country. (so i guess the short answer is, no, i'm not moving back to sydney just yet.)