What’s the difference between what’s in your life now, and what you want to grow? How does setting intentions factor in? As I review a blog I wrote in 2015, “Planting For Now“, my attention immediately turns to the photo of that particular fig tree, which battled ice storms and heat, was replaced by another tree which now consists of long brown twigs. There are, however, new green leaves sprouting vigorously from the bottom of the plant!
Sometimes our goals are not attained, or not attained in the way we desired. I like the word intention, because it has an action quality and yet has less pressure for some. Many people do not actually like the word goals, and definitely not the term SMART (specific, measurable, attainable/actionable, realistic, timed) goals, which we coaches, educators, and the like use often.
The bottom line for me is that when we are guided by our core values, what really matters to us in our lives, our intentions and goals will fall into line and become clearer. Even if we are super successful in what we intended, or feel like we belly-flopped completely, when we live according to what makes us live our purpose, we can say we planted what was important to us, no matter what the weather. We can also ask ourselves one of the best and most frequently used coaching questions: “What am I learning?”. Isn’t that what growth is all about?
Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up was one of my favorites a couple of years ago. A client and I read it together, as I coached him on clearing out and bringing more in of what he wanted in life. The loving attention that Ms. Kondo gives each article of clothing, or anything else, as she decides whether to keep it or give it away is a mindfulness exercise in itself. She asks herself “Does this bring me joy?” as she touches each object.
Christopher Keyes of Outside Magazine also enjoyed Kondo’s writing, taking her directives and creating his own 12 ways to simplify.
One of the ways I work with coaching clients is through movement. This sequence energizes and grounds your intention of clearing and simplifying:
Before beginning this exercise, listen to your body, know your body, love your body. Don’t do anything that causes pain.
Stand in Mountain Pose with your feet on the ground, about hip’s width distance apart. Inhale, bring your shoulders to ears. Open mouth and exhale, release shoulders. Notice how your body feels from toe to head and back down again.
Pretend you are 5 years old and start swinging your arms. Let them flop naturally in front and behind you, as you gently turn your torso and hips.
As your arms are flopping in this wind mill fashion, smile! Let your heels come off the floor and be gentle with the knees. Let them follow the movement of your hips.
Invite your 5 year old self to imagine you are clearing out all that no longer serves you, materially, emotionally, physically. Let your arms and hands pretend that they are physically sweeping those things off of a table or desk top. Let yourself get into it!
Allow your arms to come back by your sides. Take a few deep breaths. Close your eyes if you like, or gaze at the floor a few feet in front of you.
Notice now how your body feels. Imagine your breath moving from toes to head, head to toes.
Sit down for 5 minutes. Breathe in and out.
When you’re ready, write down anything that comes to mind about this movement experience. How will clearing out bring your life more in line with your purpose and values?
Invite yourself to consider the first step toward less clutter, more ease. Keep it simple, now! Perhaps fun, and easy. You may want to write this step down, and commit to when you’d like to start. Who will you tell that this is your intention?
When I noticed this seed packet in the hardware store, I was reminded of Rick Hanson’s Hardwiring Happiness in which hediscusses the “negativity bias” of the brain, meaning that we humans are built to remember difficult emotions and experiences as a safety mechanism, since we’ve needed that quite a bit to survive throughout time. He suggests, however, that we practice taking in the good, even in small doses, in order to balance this negativity bias. We can choose to savor the moments that are meaningful, pleasurable, or when we notice ease. We can practice in even 30 seconds, by visualizing, saying to ourselves what we are specifically most grateful for in this moment.
My husband and I recently traveled to Belize with a team of youth and adults from our church. Our primary mission for the week was to run the fifth season of a summer camp for approximately 125 local children, ages 5-12. Our community relationships there are established and deep. I knew we would be leading sports, music, arts and yoga. My particular “job” was teaching yoga to the children for several hours a day. I knew the yoga team members, one well, others a bit. Initially, my heart wasn’t clear on what the mission was. I went on faith, with a love of yoga, my church family, anticipation of being with the children there in Belize. I returned home with a bounty of appreciation for our Belizian community, a love of teaching yoga to children, and much more. Days later, the children’s faces, smiles, hugs, and playful yoga postures float in my consciousness. I can’t wait to go back next year.
Faith doesn’t necessarily mean religious faith. According to a preliminary Google search, the word describes trust, optimism, belief, conviction. Faith provides a compass throughout life, a thread of understanding and knowing who we are. Faith illuminates the values that guide us, the principles, passions, and interests that are often non-negotiable. Faith anchors us to hope, hope propels us to action, small steps give us more hope and faith.
Listening to our truth promotes faith in ourselves and what we offer the world, how we are of service. When you are off course in life, ask yourself, what or who am I being true to? What step will allow me to pivot towards my course?
Who might you reach out to this summer to renew faith in yourself? What are you involved in when faith is most alive in your life?
Sometimes, we can take who we are with what we know and go ahead anyway
How do your thoughts limit your life? What if you acted “as if” you really could accomplish a dream?
In A Year Of Living Your Yoga, author and teacher Judith Hanson Lasater suggests we take time to listen to ourselves in order to move closer to what matters most to us. She provides the self-reflection prompt “What would I do if I believed I could?”
Practice and Plan
One way to move closer to making dreams actionable is committment to time, even 5 minutes, and practice a form of meditation that you like. Then, write down the answer to Lasater’s question. Record your thoughts in a voice memo if this feels more like your style.
Next, write down or speak one small, measurable step that you can accomplish today that will bring you closer to what you want. This could be as simple as sharing your dream with someone who you know will be supportive. Or, it may be putting your words somewhere you can see them everyday. Be creative, make this yours.
We all experience limiting thoughts and beliefs. We can choose to pay attention to them and move closer to who we really are, which is, according to yogic philosophy, the true goal of yoga.
How many times do we enter a situation and realize we are holding onto an attitude that limits us in some way? These kind of judgements stir about when we’re looking to change a behavior that seems immovable, or are feeling stretched beyond what we feel capable of. One useful way to shift away from this line of thinking is to access body wisdom which can change perspectives and build new habits. I’ve been surprised several times recently in yoga class when a simple adjustment to a familiar pose brought a welcome change. In that moment, my body settled into the pose, experienced it more comfortably, as if I were in an entirely new stance. My negative judgement about the pose was transfomed. A simple example, perhaps, yet it is moments such as these that form our daily lives.
Science now tells us what noted physician William James posited a century ago–that body postures can inform—and yes, transform how we feel. Have you seen the video yet of Amy Cuddy, Harvard business professor? Her research suggests that when we assume power poses to experience situations differently we can achieve positive outcomes. Rather than fake it until you make it, it’s fake it until you become the change you want to be. Consider when you are lacking confidence; perhaps your shoulders are hunched, chest a bit collapsed. When you put your arms on hips and stand like a superhero, how does that feel?
When we want to summon change, we can choose surprisingly accessible tools that bring forth results. Tiny yet powerful adaptations provide doors to other ways of being. May you be open and curious!
Here are some tried and true practices to help you move forward, pause, refresh, learn. Some things are kind of old-fashioned too, just like this very old rose of my grandmother’s, dug up at least twice and moved from a beloved mountain paddock to a new Central Virginia home.
Check In. What’s your internal weather report?Notice and practice your breathing. Notice how your body feels during day, where you hold stress. Breathe into those areas. What are your heart and gut saying? We make healthier, more informed choices when we are aware of our thoughts, feelings, and body signals. Use this as a centering practice during calm. Your body will remember because you strengthen these neural pathways just like muscle.
Walk. Move the body. Get outside early in the morning. Listen to the sounds, observe the breath. Commit to giving yourself 5 minutes. Read about walking meditation.
Do a 180. Seek a compassionate view of yourself.Notice internal dialogue. What you say to yourself about what you can and cannot do, who you are or are not– matters. Challenge those beliefs. Focus on meaning, not the story. Learn a new, fun skill that has nothing directly to do with an area of challenge. Laugh. Dance in your room with your headphones on.
Write. Focus on areas of life you feel competent in. Identify your strengths, your gifts. Write them down. Be specific. Ask someone you trust and care about to name 3 strengths they see in you. Experiment with journaling in new enviroments, such as a coffee shop or outdoors. Find a journal buddy to write with, kind of like parallel play young children engage in—no need to share, just be beside someone.
Each day presents us with avenues to practice relationships.
In this video, Dr. Helen Reiss of Harvard Medical School uses both the concept and acronym of empathy to bring attention to specific behaviors we can develop. She uses compelling stories and research to illustrate why this emotion is vitally important to our species. As humans, we are lovingly dependent on one another to provide social bonds. Our lives are constructed around relationships. Our companies, businesses, schools, and houses of worship are built on relationships. We certainly know what causes our greatest stress on the planet….relationships! On the other hand, when we choose to really meet another, we may receive them as if for the first time.
Here is a breakdown of how Dr. Reiss views the behavioral and intentional practices we can foster.
E is for eye contact M is for the muscles of the face, which display our emotional state P is for posture. What’s our body saying? Are we open or closed? A is for affect, another word for the emotional “weather” we are showing T is for our tone of voice H is for hearing, really tuning into the person in front of you, without judgement Y is for your response
My addition to “E” in empathy is the word energy. When you speak with someone in person, or even over the phone, or a video conferencing platform, what energy do you convey?
What’s important to you, about empathy, this summer?
When you want to summon change, why not conceive an image that develops emotions of strength and able-bodiedness? The concept of power animals has been used throughout time to evoke characteristics that we either have an affinity for or would love to embody. I attended a drumming circle once (I do want to go back) during which, after drumming, we were guided in a meditation and invited to imagine our power animal. From what I understand about this subject, one may utilize a variety of power animal themes throughout life to notice what is most present in relationships, situations, and challenges. Animal imagery feels congruent for me, perhaps because I grew up in the country, surrounded by various four-legged varieties. I happen to really enjoy animals and their enormous capacity to just be who they are.
A modern, yet ancient visual metaphor is the avatar, an online representation of self. I was moved after watching this TED talk by gamer Jane McGonigal, during which she describes her use of imagery and solid positive psychology techniques to help heal from a debilitating brain injury. In her engaging presentation, she weaves regrets from the dying into play of the living. Ms. McGonigal’s provocative, somewhat edgy subject makes me consider what behaviors bring us closer to purpose, joy, meaning, and health. So, listen and consider adopting her 3-point plan: “Adopt a Secret Identity, Recruit Allies, and Activate Power-ups”.
Relationships are the fabric of our lives. Some would say a mirror of our lives. Today I’m inspired by my college friends. What do you see in the mirror? How would you like to be a better friend? What does this mean to you?
Who provides joy and support in your life? Who do you give joy and support to? How might you build this?
Some thoughts from others:
We take care of our health, we lay up money, we make our roof tight and our clothing sufficient, but who provides wisely that he shall not be wanting in the best property of all–friends.–Ralph Waldo Emerson
There is no physician like a true friend.–Anon
The support of one’s personality is friends. A part of one’s self and a real foundation and existence.–Katherine Butler Hathaway
My friends have made the story of my life. In a thousand ways they have turned my limitations into beautiful privleges, and enabled me to walk serene and happy in the shadow cast by my deprivation.–Helen Keller
Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.–Jane Howard