If this Christmas season has got you dizzy you are in good company. Every year during the holidays it feels like time speeds up; more activities compressed into less time. Whether it is shopping for gifts, events at school or work, social gatherings or even just the extra baking that happens this time of year, it can get very hectic. Not to mention the holiday blues which are as real as they are pervasive. Tis' the season to go crazy? Not necessarily. There are a few things I am doing differently this year, which are helping me to keep calm and Christmas on.
If you are anything like me, self care is one of the first things to get thrown out the window when things get busy. I skip my workouts. I pass out at night without praying, meditating, reflecting or setting intentions for the day ahead--a practice that I am usually quite committed to doing. My diet gets jacked up on sugar, carbs, caffeine...anything to keep the motor going. And what happens? By the time the New Year rolls around I am seven varieties of burnt out instead of feeling ready for a fresh start. The older I get though, the more responsibilities that pile up on my plate, the more I realize the value of taking care of me. Making my self care a priority is not selfish; in fact it is quite the opppsite. Much like the timeless airplane analogy "you've got to put your mask on first," I am best able to serve & love others when I am taking excellent care of myself. So while this holiday season is shaping up to be one of THE most hectic I have experienced yet, it is also one of the-most-joyful-ever.
Here's what I have been doing to keep it together this Christmas:
1. Keep your self care routine in tact
If you go to the gym regularly, wash yor face every night, give yourself a mani-pedi, a smoothy, eat healthy, shower daily, whatever-you-do-for-you...KEEP doing it! Do not let the pace of the season be an excuse to cut yourself out of your priority list. If you let these little acts of kindness toward yourself slide, you will soon find yourself resentful and unable to enjoy all of the love and beauty this season has to offer.
2. Say NO
Point #1 seques beautifully into point #2. Clearly if there is more to do in less time, something will have to give. Let me repeat...that should NOT be your self care. Is there some task you could delegate to someone else? Is there a social gathering (that you may not even really want to attend anyway) you could pass on and enjoy a warm bubble bath instead? Maybe you buy store bought cookies instead of baking this year...I promise I won't tell. The biggest thing is, honor your needs enough to realize that you cannot do and be everything for everyone AND keep your sanity. Just say no, let it go and keep it moving...without apology!
3. Get Organized
Make a to do list each night in no particular order. Then, look at the next day's schedule and make a time table for each of the items on your list. It is okay if you stray from the schedule the next day. Just having the visual list of what and when you need to accomplish certain things will free up mental space to live more in the moment...and that is the goal isn't it? This brings me to my next suggestion. Use an electronic calendar!!! I am a little late to the party on this one. I am kind of stuck in the 90s--such good times. I prefer pen and paper to computers or apps on my smart phone (so much so that I actually handwrite each of my blogs before I actually post them...). This was entirely true until a very dear friend of mine schooled me on the ways to make Google calendar work for me. Any time I have somewhere I have to be...whether I am volunteering at my son's school, taking a yoga class or teaching one it is in my Google Calendar. Life saving technique.
Admittedly this one I still need work on. Granted I have a 6 (almost 7 month old) baby who still does not sleep through the night. That said, it has been really tough for me to get back to sleep even after she does. My mind is going about a million miles a minute most of the time. What has begun to help me with this one is either journaling or making a todo list to get the thoughts out of my head and onto the paper-- so I can let them go and get some much needed zzzzzzz's. What has also begun to help is running through yoga sequences in my head--although I am pretty sure not everyone would find that tip as useful...
5. Create and have FUN!
Get lost in the moment. Being organized helps with this. It gives you the ability to compartmentalize your daily tasks and even if for just a few moments, lose yourself in an activity that is just for fun. My favorite way to do this each day is to play with my kids. Board games, holiday crafts, baking cookies (because I want to, not because I need to bring them anywhere) even a social outing of your choosing. These are all examples of what I like to call 'mini vacas.' My personal favorite this season has been a Christmas ring wreath toss my son and I created and played while drinking hot cocoa. We had a blast! I have also been creating gifts for some of the people on my list this year. This has been an incredible way to not only save money, but bring me some joy and peace into my life this holiday season.
If you are struggling to find balance in the midst of the holiday rush I encourage you to send me a message at email@example.com or comment below. There is always room to take care of your mind, body and soul. This is the art of yoga and my life's great passion. Thank you for sharing this passion with me. May the Spirit of the season find its way into your heart and bless you & those you hold dear. (Originally posted December 2016)
It was a beautiful, crisp fall day in Charlotte. As I sat with one of my girl friends (we will call her *Lindsay* for the purpose of this blog) we chatted about small things, which led to discussion of bigger things. We explored the most mundane of topics and the deeper questions of existence. And as the conversation usually does, it turned toward the ultimate question: what is my purpose? You see, both her and I taught middle school together a few years back. We were asking ourselves the same questions then. Is this the last stop on the career train? Are we teachers for the rest of our days? With all of the long hours and grading papers and behavior issues. Having to make sacrifices at home to advance in our careers, OR having to make sacrifices in our careers to take care of things within our homes. The answer for both of us was an emphatic NO, seeing as neither one of us is working in that capacity anymore. But here we are, college educated women, one of us with a masters degree, and we are doing absolutely nothing related to our studies. In fact, we do not even receive health benefits or presitigious titles and recognition. But we are making it. And both of us are engaging in work that is fulfilling, with less demands that chip away at the time we spend in our personal spheres. Ultimately what we have been searching for, what I believe many of us have been searching for is greater balance. It is often called 'work-life' balance. I don't like that name. This makes it seem like work has to be separate from life. Such that life is where all of the good heart felt stuff sits and work is where all of the dreaded, hard heavy lifting sits. As we sat on that picnic blanket in the park it dawned on me. I do not want work-life balance. I want freedom-security balance. Bare with me as I explain the concept.
I have been chasing this elusive career dream for more than a decade. The dream where I get to do what I love, set my own schedule and reap massive financial rewards in return. Sounds too good to be true, right? Maybe. What I have learned though, is that I am not actually seeking a specific type of job, or schedule. What I am really seeking is freedom. Freedom to make my own schedule so that I can decide what priorities receive my attention and when. Freedom to work in the environments I choose with the people that I am drawn to. Freedom to answer to the demands of motherhood and my career in this crazy and wonderful season I find myself in. But this freedom I am talking about involves a measure of risk, even uncertainty. Starting your own business, or taking a leap of faith where career is concerned can be very scary. Tons of self doubt rises to the surface, and the very thought of being in charge of your own financial outlook goes from liberating to daunting, if not purely terrifying. There is a trade off for freedom to pursue autonomy in your career. In many ways, you are exchanging your security for this freedom to do and be and work on your own terms.
A traditional 9-5 can be very confining and suffocating. But there is a measure of freedom that comes with this scenario. You have a predictable schedule, you know where and when you have to report to work everyday. That frees up time for you. Time that you do not have to spend planning out contacts, follow ups, business plans and schedules for your day, your week or your year. More than likely if you are working m-f/9-5 you are receiving a set amount of income every two weeks, or monthly. This ensures the freedom to make a predictable and repeatable budget which gives you the freedom to do the things you want and need to do. One of the largest trade-offs you have to make when taking the leap from employee to self-employed is the question of health benefits. The security of health benefits is one of the single greatest obstacles for many entrepreneurs or even people who want to work part time or flexible contract work. Likely, there is no single combination of freedom and security that works for every person. Even the same person may have different needs in the different seasons of their life.
I find myself in a season where the health, safety and care of my family is my utmost highest concern. Caring for my beautiful baby girl, 6 year-old boy, rock star husband and the most loving (needy) dog on planet Earth has become a tremendous portion of my life's purpose. Providing for these dependents has also grown in importance. But motherhood is such that, while the demand for income rises, so does the demand on your time. All the moms out there can I get an 'AMEN'? With the considerable financial and emotional cost of putting the baby in daycare and running the rat race to be out of the house 11 hours everyday to rush home cook and do the nighttime routine with the kids...that is just madness. For me, doesn't add up financially, doesn't add up to time-well-spent. So I am working differently. I am taking a leap of faith. I am creating the working conditions that I want to have in my life, because I have yet to find one organization that will provide them for me. When answering the question, what is my ideal freedom-security balance? Each of us will have a different answer. For me, the future is wide open and free, and I am almost 100% sure the risk will be worth the reward.
If you are interested in any of the small business ventures I am engaged in, or if you would like guidance in your career path, reach out in the comments or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. There is always an answer to whatever problem you are facing. Sometimes you just need a little perspective. (Originally posted December 2016)
People are always surprised when I share with them how shy I am. Those closest to me have laughed at the notion of my getting nervous before engaging a crowd. This is probably because I give off the impression that I thrive in social settings and inherently know how to 'work a room.' But the truth of the matter is, I have always suffered from crippling stage fright and nerves when putting myself out there in new ways. I think it is for this reason that yoga teacher training was one of the most challenging things I have ever done. I mean, when you are teaching yoga, your voice is literally the only one heard for the entire class. The night before my practical (the test to determine whether all of my theoretical knowledge would translate into actually being able to teach yoga) I was so nervous that I threw up. Twice. While performing the practical portion of my final exam some of the feedback I received was to relax, remain in the moment and not let the nerves get the best of me. Easier said than done. Staying in the moment when the inner critic is hurling insults at you is a feat to be accomplished. Even in the classroom while teaching, every time I would come back from a long break I would be numb with fear about getting up in front of a group and doing my thing--and these were just kids! One would think it gets easier with time, but truly there is always this voice in the back of my head trying to convince me that I just can't do it.
A few years back I had been trying my hand at singing with my dad's band. Mostly because he swore my voice sounded like a choir of angels (it's his job to say that, he is my dad). Everything about the experience was painful. During rehearsals in his studio I would have to face the wall so no one was looking at me while I sang. I was only able to do the few gigs that I did because of liquid confidence. For about an hour before I would perform, I would consume a considerable amount of alcohol and this would enable me to get up on the stage and do what had to be done. After a handful of times, I realized the experience of all of this stress and anxiety was not worth it. So what if singing in my car, in the shower and to my babies brings me more joy than almost anything else. Too bad that when a song I love comes on and I am in sweats in the comfort of my own home, I sing at the top of my lungs. In my imagination I am on par with Beyonce in those moments. That will just have to be good enough. The pain of putting myself out there in front of an audience is too much to bare.
So naturally, this past weekend when I taught my first power yoga class EVER, and led my first Girls' Night Om event all in the same morning, I should have been a nervous wreck. Those in my inner circle were treading lightly all week, asking if I felt nervous. They fully expected me to babble on endlessly about how terrified I was, or just flat out burst into tears. Much to their surprise I did no such thing. In fact, my response was a cool, calm and collected no, not really. When they responded in disbelief given my history with performance anxiety, I was forced to really think about the reasons behind my eery calm. Was I in denial that these two huge events were happening in the same morning? Had I just gotten to the point of being so nervous that I was numb? No. Neither of these seemed right. So naturally I did what any seasoned yogi should do when faced with a self-identity crisis--I took a yoga class. At the end of class I had an epiphany. I wasn't at ease because there was something wrong with me! I was at ease because I was ready. I was not nervous because instead of being filled with, even consumed by self doubt, I was filled by Spirit confidence. You see, in the past I would use alcohol to lower my inhibitions and feelings of inadequacy. Though I still at times feel as though I do not measure up, my perspective has shifted. I have come to a place where I realize that it isn't really about me. It is about service. It is about giving peace, joy and love to the world, and mostly enabling others to find these things within themselves. I am filled with Spirit confidence because I am finally, for once in my life, doing exactly what I believe God has called me to do. Armed with that kind of knowledge, no amount of nerves or deceitful thinking can move me from my purpose. My hope is that I can help each of you encounter your own Spirit confidence too. I am so grateful to all of the ladies who joined me Saturday morning for my first Girls' Night Om event, and I am so excited for where this new adventure will take me. (Originally posted December of 2016)
If you're anything like me, within seconds of turning on the TV you are overwhelmed by the images of violence, destruction and conflict you see. Watching the news is out of the question if I hope to maintain a sense of calm and centeredness in my brain. But even in the most benign of television shows it can feel like we are bombarded with negativity. Apart from the occasional inspiring viral video about puppies who save their owners' lives or orphans who create a charity to feed other poor malnourished orphans, social media may be the scariest place of all. We live in trying times my friends. With all the war, hunger, famine, drought, disease, terrorism, corruption, death, strife, natural disasters, refugees, politics and conflict. Sometimes all the noise can get so loud that it is easy to forget that things have always been this way. Actually, if you study up on your history it probably won't take long for you to find a time in human history admittedly more trying than the present. For as long as human beings have existed on this planet, problems such as these have existed.
I am not trying to suggest that our time isn't plagued with ills of its own. Nor do I wish to downplay the grave struggles that a great deal of people are facing. The struggle is real people, this we know. Just maybe not as cataclysmic as we may believe in our fear addicted minds. Frightening world events and local tragedies are not happening on a more frequent basis. We are just exposed to them exponentially more in this day and age. The availability and cosumption of mass media is so pervasive that many of us in the developed world are dizzied by the horrors we are met with each time we tune in, log on and connect. This constant connectivity and unceasing coverage of events near and far leaves us in a mental tailspin, susceptible to anxiety, depression and great depths of despair. At times I am left wanting to bury my head in the sand. I even feel hypocritical telling my son he has no reason to be afraid of bad guys. Heck, sometimes I'm really afraid of the bad guys. Just like anything else though, I have to choose sanity over insanity, faith over fear. Seeing as the status quo won't be changing any time soon, I've borrowed a line from the serenity prayer and learned to accept that which I cannot change. How do I do that? Well I've contemplated the process and broken it down into 3 easy and repeatable steps.
1. Maybe I'm weird...okay I am definitely weird. But I find comfort in allowing my mind to go to the worst case scenario. So I am stuck in a movie theater with a gunman on a rampage. A mass pandemic sweeps the nation and I contract the deadly disease. There's an Earthquake and my house is sucked down deep into the core of the Earth. In 2020 Miley Cyrus runs for president AND wins. What is the worst case scenario? I die. Or even worse...a loved one dies. Or worse still, Miley Cyrus becomes president. (I kid, I kid...figured the post just needed some levity after all that tragedy) The point is, all of these travesties have no power over you when you confront the real fear behind the tragedy--death and suffering.
2. So how to overcome the fear of death and suffering? Faith! Have faith that no matter what bad things may happen, as long as I keep connected to God, He will give me the peace, comfort and strength to withstand anything. I know this because He has. He has always lived up to His promise, even beyond anything I could have asked for or believed possible. The key is in having an intimate relationship with the Creator. Not sure how to do this? Talk to Him, Her, It. Whatever feels natural for you. Once you have the relationship thing down, God can then act as the Great comforter, the redeemer, the healer, provider of peace that passes all human understanding.
3. Looking for a more practical application here? Good, I've got that for you too. Come back to the present moment. Where am I right now? Am I safe? Am I hungry? In pain, or comfortable? This is most certainly easier said than done. The human condition is such that we are constantly wallowing in our past and anxiously anticipating our future. A simple tool we yogis use to come back to the present moment is focusing on the breath. Bringing awareness to the breath not only cultivates mindfulness, but it can also be used to calm your senses, or heighten them, depending on how you breathe. Even when the present moment is uncomfortable, it is the only one that truly exists. When we dive in and surrender to each present moment, that is where our true life lives.
We no doubt live in scary times, but we do not need to live in fear. Any time I feel fear and insecurity creeping in I remember these words: "So do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:10
If you are struggling with what to make of this mad world we live in, I encourage you to reach out to a counseling professional, or at least the comfort of a good friend. I am also available for yoga infused lifestyle consultations to ease your struggle. Leave a comment or fill out the contact form to schedule yours today. Blessings to you and yours. Namaste (Originally posted January of 2017)
The world has gone mad. I can feel it, the End Times are upon us. You just can't trust anyone these days. Do these sentiments sound familiar? They sure do to me. They've even echoed in my own mind from time to time. The doom and gloom of the current atmosphere is real and wide sweeping. It seems the norm to complain about how things are, while simultaneously drifting away into the past with rose colored glasses. I mean, I do it with the 90s all the time. The grunge & alternative, the plaid, the prosperity, landlines, Girl Talk. It is so easy to fall into this trap of replaying the highlight reel of the glory days while simultaneously missing out on all of the beauty the present moment is trying to offer us. In reality, right NOW is one of the best times to be alive. Ever. Period. Here's my top 5 reasons why:
Access to information
Just like anything else this can be a double edged sword. We will save the dangers of free flowing, unchecked information and the insanity of the 24 hour news cycle for another post. Today's focus is all about appreciating the positive. I mean, when is the last time you stopped to appreciate how often you visit Dr. Google? Can't remember the name of that awesome movie with the actress you really love. IMDB it. Trying to explain where Syria is in relation to your home so that your child does not have to be afraid of war happening in your backyard? Google Earth. Curious about the quantum field and astrophysics? You can just hop onto the web and search away. Way back in the day before the age of internet (can you even remember it?), all of this information would have been stashed away in a library accessible only to those initiated into the world of Card Cataloging and the Dewy Decimal system. Of course there are issues with so much information accessible to us at our fingertips. But it is an amazing phenomenon to be a part of. Witnessing the information & technology revolution has been truly mind blowing.
While we are on the topic of the internet, we may as well take a moment to ponder the awesomeness of the technological developments of our day. I mean, 100 years ago there were NO phones, NO mass produced cars, NO commercial flights, hardly even electricity. We used to joke around as kids pretending we had watches that were secret phones like Inspector Gadget or Agent 86, Maxwell Smart--always sure that a phone could never fit on our wrists. Fast forward 25 years and I am wearing a phone that fits on my wrist. Spend any amount of time with children under 18 years of age and you will realize very quickly just how fast the innovations are coming. My 8th graders last year did not know what a CD player was. A CD PLAYER. We don't even need a device to play music anymore, these mini-computers we carry around in our pockets put the whole world at our finger tips, and music is no exception. I am constantly having this conversation with my son about the developments he will more than likely see in his lifetime--probably even mine. Uber is talking seriously about driverless cars. And the crazy thing is, I don't even think it's that crazy to entertain the notion! Flying cars won't be far behind. The Hyper Loop, if constructed, would carry passengers from NY to LA in 1 hour. Imagine the implications. We could live in NY, commute to a meeting in LA at 8 am be back to NY in time for lunch. As a species we are just at the beginning of our discoveries in science, technology, biology, ecology. You name it. The sky is the limit.
Conversations about Ecology
Speaking of ecology, I am well aware that we have a long way to go in terms of taking care of our planet and her resources. BUT. It has, in most circles, become a social taboo to NOT recycle. I mean, some counties have even begun to fine citizens for neglecting to recycle. Progress! The conversation around taking care of our environment is happening and it is expanding in scale. In 2015 the United Nations called together a summit on climate change in which 196 nations agreed to take measures to reduce global greenhouse emissions. Of course there are issues regarding the implementation of this agreement, and many would argue it is too little too late, but it is still progress none-the-less. I have seen CEOs of major corporations investing in innovative technologies that could transform salt water into clean, drinkable water. New and sustainable sources of energy are being developed daily. Harnessing the power of the sun, wind and ocean are just the beginning. Check out the CEO of 5 Hour Energy for some inspiration: Billions in Change We can build sustainable cities. We can correct the imbalances on our planet. We can tap into the abundant resources of this planet in a way that is more efficient, more sustainable and more equitable for everyone. And our abilities to do this are growing at exponential rates.
Right now the political climate in the USA feels more like a 3-ring circus than a well-oiled democratic republic, but bare with me for a moment. As a classroom teacher, I spent several years teaching history. Every time I got to the unit in which I taught about the 1960s my students would release a longing sigh, as if to say they wish they could be transported back in time to the psychedelic 60s. Every. Single. Time. With all of its glamour; the bell bottoms, Woodstock, the Civil Rights Movement, Watergate, Vietnam, air raid drills. What a harmonic and blissful time. Ummm, No. The appeal of the 1960s is the sweeping transformation and struggles of the decade. Debate about involvement in foreign conflicts, loss of faith in political leaders, the struggle for civil rights, intimidating and severe threats to the existence of the world as we know it, questionable fashion ( I mean what is athleisure anyway?). It all starts to look a little familiar when we break it down like this. Perhaps all of the conflict, and change and insecurity in this decade is part of its beauty. Maybe one day our kids, and their kids and maybe even their kids will look at us as icons, having survived that totally groovy decade, the twenty-teens.
New & Emerging Fields
All of this access to information and technology, and the exponentially rapid pace of development in the information age has given birth to brand new fields of study and occupation. 100 years ago Information Technology (IT) didn't even exist. Now it is one of the most popular professions. Web development? Biochemical, biomedical, biotechnical engineers? Satellite and x-ray technicians. Astronaut. All relatively new professions in the grand scheme of things. Yet, if you had told old Jedediah Smith in 1870 that one day you would fly into outer space attached to a tremendous rocket, he first would have asked what a rocket was, then he would have handed you a stiff drink to treat your mental situation. All of this of course begs the question; what professions and areas of study are on the horizon? Deep space exploration? Anti-matter and anti-gravity studies? Teleportation specialist? Organic limb regenerating physician? Deep sea city developer? Who knows! The possibilities are limited only by our imaginations and our capacity toward cooperation. So don't believe the haters, the nay-sayers, the dooms-day-preppers when they tell you things are worse than ever. Because I have got a pretty sound argument that we are doing just fine, and the best is yet to come.
What is your favorite thing about the time we have been assigned to this place we call Earth? Drop a line in the comments below, I'd love to hear from you. Namaste (Originally posted in February of 2017)
If you have been watching the newest television sensation, This is Us, then you will remember the sour pill Jack and Rebecca are forced to swallow in the first episode. Now, I don't want to spoil it for those of you who still may want to watch the show but haven't joined the party yet (and I strongly recommend you do), but it is in that first episode that Jack receives profound wisdom from the doctor treating his laboring wife. He leaves Jack with this, "you take the sourest lemon that life has to offer, and you turn it into something resembling lemonade." This to me is the key to maintaining peace, gratitude and contentment on our journeys.
Interestingly, yesterday as I was flipping mindlessly through the TV channels, I was reminded of a movie that offers us the same insight. You may have guessed it from the title, the epic 90s fan favorite Cool Runnings. You may recall that Derice Bannock, the main character, is preparing for the race of his life. He is about to run for the Olympic trials to join Jamaica in their race for the gold. In one of the first scenes in the movie Derice calls to his wife "this is my time," as he gears up for the trials. Little does he know that this huge moment will also end up being one of his greatest disappointments. On race day, one of his competitors--we come to know lovingly as Junior--trips, falls and takes Derice and Yul Benner down with him. While Yul Brenner responds with a pungent rage, Derice shakes off his initial disappointment and turns lemons into something resembling lemonade. If you don't remember how he does that, watch the movie. It really is a classic.
Many times we get so hung up on the negative or challenging things that come our way, we forget to look for the silver linings. Biologically it isn't really our fault. We are hardwired to avoid pain and move toward pleasure. But sometimes, discomfort and even pain can benefit us tremendously. Especially when that discomfort is the result of our trying to serve one of our brothers or sisters. Allow me to give you an example. The other day I had just finished teaching a beginner yoga class. I typically stick around afterward and take the next instructor's mindfulness yoga class. The studio where I teach does not keep loaner yoga mats, and one woman walked in looking particularly upset by this reality. Noticing this, and feeling obligated to offer as a member of the staff, I gave up my mat so that she could practice on one. I fully accepted the fact that this would mean I practiced on bare hardwood floors. I was okay with that, as long as I got to stay for the class. This particular yoga mat was not that great anyway. Whenever I am traveling to studios or events to teach, I bring one of my less valuable mats in the event that my scatter-brain forgets it(I have already lost 2 mats due to this character flaw to-date). So the lavender, thin, worn out mat was loaned out and I settled in to begin practice. Before I even began to warm-up, the instructor of this class--having noticed that I lent out my mat-- gave me hers. And if there was a 5 star, luxury rating scale for yoga mats, this mat would have been a 6. It was double the thickness of my puny mat. It was spongy, but firm and the texture of the mat made it so that my hands and feet did not slide at all for the duration of the class. This scenario reminds me of a powerful verse from scripture. "Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours," Isaiah 61:5. I, like many, refer to this verse as the double for your trouble verse. Many times, when we are willing to sacrifice on behalf of others, we receive a double blessing to compensate us for our giving, if inconvenienced hearts.
Admittedly there are times, when situations are so awful, they appear irredeemable. Nothing can reverse, or substitute for the pain and emptiness experienced at the death of a loved one. But we do have the power to choose ur focus. Surely we need to feel the full range of emotions we experience during a time of tragedy. If you look closely enough however, there is always a silver lining we can focus on. Recently, after the death of my grandfather with whom I was very close, I was heartbroken. In the midst of that pain I was simultaneously blown away by the way in which our entire extended family came together to honor him and make new memories together. We had not ever before all been in one place at the same time without other people present. This was a special, intimate time for our extended family to bond over our common joy at having loved our grandfather and our common pain at having lost him.
So the question remains, how exactly do we turn lemons into lemonade. I typically move through a 4 step process every time life hands me a sour lemon. Here is my process:
1. Confront the problem head on
2. Feel ALL the feels
3. Choose your focus
4 Take action where appropriate
Life really is what you make it. We all have the choice to take the sourest lemon and turn it into something resembling lemonade. If you are going through a tough time and could use some perspective, I would love to talk with you. You can connect with me at our Contact page. Never be ashamed to reach out and talk to a professional if life is throwing you more lemons than you can handle. Sometimes the greatest sign of strength is in holding up your white flag, and seeking out the help that you need. May you find the blessing in the burden and turn your lemons into lemonade with ease. Abundant blessings to you, Namaste (This piece was originally posted in February of 2017)
"I like a good beer buzz early in the morning, and Billy likes to peel the labels off his bottles of bud." Oh Sheryl Crow how you so adequately describe the way in which so many of us rely on booze to let loose and have some fun. There was a time when there would be no place I would rather be than in a bar at noon on Tuesday. Okay. I will stop with the early 90s Tuesday Night Music Club references. But really though. Thinking back on my late teens and the first half of my twenties, there isn't much I can remember. I will say this, I did work in the service industry earning at least $100 a shift and have absolutely nothing to show for it. I would leave the restaurant emotionally, mentally and physically drained head straight to the local dive bar and leave all my tip money there. When I do the math it makes me cringe. 5 years, 52 weeks, 4 shifts/week, a hundred bucks each shift. This means I spent over ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND dollars on booze, smokes and all forms of reckless entertainment in between. Madness. Sheer madness.
The money aside, the most significant loss from that period in my life is time. Time in the form of memories lost, opportunities missed and relationships ruined. Of course it wasn't all bad. If it had been all bad I would have realized that drinking was a problem for me much sooner in the game. That's just it. I was a fun addict--addicted to good times with fantastic people. and when I was drinking, it felt like so much fun. So much connectedness. So much life. Until of course I reflect back and think about the nights that ended in screaming matches, upchucking, spins, and completely irresponsible behavior. Don't even get me started on the mornings. The shame, the headaches, nausea and flu-like symptoms. When I really pause to think about the big picture, I remember it really wasn't all fun and games. I wish I could say that I figured this all out and snapped out of it by the time I had my first child, but the truth is, the experience of being a first time parent among other life stressors actually made the problem worse.
I was never a frequency drinker. My stomach couldn't handle it. The hangovers as years went on became more and more deteriorating. My issue has always been in not knowing when to stop. It was like I had this internal motor going and going, never wanting the party to run out. Always wanting the laughs to last. Usually ending with my head in a toilet. It wasn't until I really stopped to analyze my motives. To think about why I was actually drinking, and continuing to drink well beyond the point I should stop, that I was able to see my relationship to alcohol clearly. I have come to realize that even though my actions are ultimately my responsibility, my experience with drinking isn't all my fault. The culture of drinking in our society is pretty pervasive. I always thought it was unique to high school peer pressure or college frat parties. But I have come to find that binge drinking actually continues and in some circles gets worse as we progress further into adulthood. Whether we are new parents at social gatherings, young professionals at happy hour, mid-lifers, retirees whose day-to-day responsibilities and empty nest often result in more-than-ideal partying too. Even in the Bible it seems, in the story of the wedding at Cana, Jesus is turning water into wine. So until very recently, it never occurred to me that choosing to abstain from alcohol was a 'normal' thing to do. It just never seemed like a realistic choice unless I labeled myself an alcoholic and started attending AA. Don't get me wrong, the 12-step model is amazing in terms of its spiritual practice and wisdom. It just overwhelmed me and somehow never felt like the right place for me, despite many invitations and opportunities to go with friends and acquaintances.
In my spiritual work, both with yoga and my deep love and affection for Jesus, I have learned that drinking is less than ideal. Seemingly in direct opposition to the story of Jesus turning water into wine, scripture instructs us, "Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit..." Ephesians 5:18. In our culture though, it can feel like debauchery is a goal to be attained. The greater the state of debauchery, the more street cred or bragging rights you have. I still find myself carrying on about that one crazy night when I lost my keys, or the time I couldn't stop falling over because I finished a 5th of Jack on the way into Manhattan on the LIRR. See, I just did it again. The crazy thing is, even though I know all of this, and even though my life has improved drastically in the three months since I have stopped drinking, I-STILL-LOVE-DRINKING. There is this part of me that probably always will. There is almost nothing else that can bring a group of strangers together and form them into instant friends. The way alcohol lowers inhibitions, takes the edge off, and livens up a party makes it difficult for me to kiss it goodbye forever. I don't know if I am on the path to a lifetime of sobriety. What I do know, is that I have discovered a new level of freedom within myself by abstaining and have learned how to cultivate all the benefits listed above, without the necessity of having a drink...or 20.
So what prompted me to take the leap you ask? There was this one night... a seemingly innocuous gathering among two families. Children running free, adults laughing. Pouring and drinking glass after glass of Riesling. By night's end a girl friend and I had finished 2 bottles AND a magnum of wine and I found myself rather incapacitated for a full 48 hours afterward. I knew something had to change. There is no way I could carry on like this and be the mother, wife and human being I have always envisioned. The more I reflected on my behavior and the motivation behind my drinking habits, the more I recognized that my desire to drink was often to quell this deep seated gnawing, yet subtle anxious energy I carried with me every day. At the end of each day my nerves becoming so fried, that turning to a glass or bottle of wine seemed the only fix. I also recognized that in social situations I was drinking more than I should in order to keep my energy up--artificially, to avoid boredom and seem interesting to others. I was seeking genuine connection without the heavy weight of insecurity, feelings of inadequacy and the emotional complexity I have experienced since early childhood. But since committing to go alcohol free for an entire year, I have learned that I actually don't need any of it to enjoy my life. In fact, I am enjoying it more without drinking. I actually now feel less stressed, and better equipped to deal with anxiety when it does come up. I am more focused, ambitious and energetic. I feel strong and secure in who I am.
So clearly not drinking is a good choice for me. But what is the right choice for you? I can't tell you that. But I'd venture to say that many of you probably never even considered sobriety as a lifestyle choice. I am here to tell you that it is, and a damn good one at that. Namaste friends. Keep fighting the good fight and tuning into your inner wisdom, there you will find your Truth. Honor that and live from that place of authenticity. If you do that, you cannot go wrong. Blessings to you all. (This post was originally posted in October of 2016)
I can remember being small and wanting to make sure I got to Heaven when I grew up. I was riddled with anxiety about sin. Making sure to live as perfectly as possible. To be counted among the saints; to live a stainless, sinless life. Much to the credit of my Catholic upbringing I took this sin business pretty seriously. I learned there were even two types of sin. Venial and Mortal Sins, the latter so serious that it was unforgivable and would land you in the fiery pits of Hell for all eternity. What terrible act could a child commit that would sentence them to eternal damnation? Apart from the obvious murdering, stealing and adultery, skipping Sunday mass was among the most serious offenses a Catholic might commit. I learned pretty quickly that if this was the bar for salvation, I was screwed. I mean I didn't have a prayer of making it to the pearly white gates. Thankfully by God's good grace, I have come to a new, if unconventional spin on sin.
As any good writer should, I referred to the almighty wisdom of Sir Google in preparation for this post. I found it interesting that the definition of sin according to dictionary.com varies pretty significantly from the way sin was defined by my religious education instructors. I learned that the general understanding of sin is "an immoral act considered to be a transgression against divine law." Although I don't disregard this definition, I think when it comes to sin, lots of people have a totally perverted and often self-sabotaging view of sin.
I often revert back to dogmatic thinking. Sin equals doing bad stuff. If I do 'bad stuff' then I am a sinner and if I am a sinner I go to Hell. Or at the very least I will be judged. But here's the thing. As a person who has professed faith and trust in Jesus, I am no longer a prisoner of the Law. Praise Jesus! So for me, sin takes on a new function in my life. Sin does not equal bad my friends. No no. Sin equals separate! And trust me when I tell you, I have found that there is no greater pain or suffering than the feeling of being separate in Spirit from God. So much of the anxiety, depression and despair I have experienced has not been a matter of circumstance, but a matter of sin that I have not recognized or dealt with. If being connected to Spirit is LIFE, then being separate from Spirit must be DEATH.
I love the parable about the True Vine. In the Gospel of John Jesus tells us that He is the vine and we are the branches. Branches cannot survive if they are cut off from the vine. The Spirit cannot live in the presence of Sin. When we sin, we cut ourselves off from the vine. No matter how big or small the sin. This interpretation has absolutely nothing to do with salvation or damnation. It has all to do with life and the peace, joy and contentment with which it can be experienced. It concerns itself with the condition of, or the soil of the heart. Sin doesn't make me bad. It makes me separate and it produces a subtle, unyielding feeling of unease, self-centeredness and anxiety in my life. Let me give you an example.
Nicotine is one of those substances that had a really strong hold over me for a pretty long time. Now I know that God, my Creator does not want me smoking or doing anything for that matter that jeopardizes my health and makes the temple of my body unclean. Smoking is nasty. I think we can all agree that the hard, black lungs resulting from years of tobacco use are definitely unclean and a far cry from the soft, pink tissue that our creator has placed in us to perform the sacred function of breathing. EVERY time I have fallen into tobacco use I am fooled into thinking meh, not a big deal. What's one cigarette. What's one drag even... but it is a slippery slope. Apart from the issue of desecrating the holy temple that is my body, I have also opened the flood gates of addiction. Addiction in and of itself is sin. To some extent, we are all addicted to something. But God, our creator wants us to love Him with all our heart, all our mind and all our soul. He wants us focused on HIM. So how can I be focused on HIM when I am jonesing so bad for a cigarette that it is the only thing I can focus on?
There are long and short term consequences to sin. All sin. If you smoke cigarettes, there is a good chance that you will eventually get lung cancer and die. If you cheat on your spouse, you will likely end up divorced paying dearly for your transgression. If you steal, you will face fines, jail time even death depending on who you steal from and where you live. If you gossip, there's a good chance that person will learn what you've been up to and there will be backlash. But if your heart center is in good spiritual shape, your sin will produce another effect. Keeping with my example of smoking, I very quickly will begin to feel bad. Not just sick, or short of breath or guilty. But BAD. Like I don't think I will ever feel happy again kind of bad. And that is what feeling separate from God feels like for me. Kind of like a dementor just entered my space and parked itself there for all eternity.
As I have moved through my yoga practices this week, I have done some visualization of my Heart Chakra. I imagined the swirling green wheel of energy. I could also very clearly see in my mind's eye black spots, dark places in that swirling wheel of light. This is my sin. I am not entirely aware of the sin my heart is shouldering. It could be as simple as the amount I allow worry to guide my actions rather than living from a place of trust and faith in the Almighty. One thing I have grown sure of is, that as long as I have a relationship with Jesus my sin cannot break me. Sin exists for me now as an impetus to live a cleaner more Christ centered life. And that fills my heart with gratitude.
Ultimately God wants us to enjoy our lives. He wants us to be happy, healthy and provided for. We know this because Jesus has said "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." That which God finds sinful are the things that cause harm, even death to ourselves and others. Sin is not there to make us feel guilty. God is not sitting on His perch hoping that we will screw up so that He can be angry with and punish us. God walks with us and quietly nudges us to deal with our separateness one thing at a time. Because of His perfection we do not have to be perfect. He is perfect grace and perfect mercy. He is Love. If you are overcome by grief, or even subtly anxious or irritable your problem may boil down to being separate on some level from the Source of your being. A healthy heart does not rely only on a healthy diet and exercise. A healthy and open heart requires a connection to the life force energy that flows in and through us all. The more aware of that connection we become, the deeper level of peace and purpose we will feel. The more our hearts are focused on our relationship with our Creator, the more we can be blessed and be a blessing to others.
Happy heart opening and namaste.
(this post was originally published in September of 2016)