Layers of You, Part 2

We are in constant dialogue inside.  Unless you’re in pure silent meditation, that brain of yours is busy.  Thinking about your to-do list, contemplating decisions, assessing life and others.  It’s too easy to look at others and respond with some judgment, criticism, or comparison.  Worse yet, contempt.

In seeing others, do you decide you are somehow better?  Or do you then feel even more self-conscious?  Passing judgment on others who are struggling or acting a certain way creates a distance between you and them.  But you know, deep down, that they are no different than you.

As you go through life, your ego may be shouting, “Look at me!  See how great I am!  Tell me how great I am!  Love me!”  Or, on the other end of the spectrum, your ego may be mumbling, “Don’t look at me.  Please don’t notice my flaws.  Don’t say anything about how I messed up.  If only someone could love me.”  And there are all of the points in between.  Right in the middle is the place where you can align with your deeper layer, your soul.

When there is a disconnect between your human layer, your ego, and your soul, you feel it.  You can use more thoughts and criticisms to pretend, but your soul knows the truth.  Listen to your soul speak.  What does it say about that other person?  What does it say about you?  Herein lies the challenge.  Have your human layer match your soul layer.  When you catch yourself having a judgmental thought about yourself or someone else, ask your soul.  Let that loving connection shine through instead.  It truly is beautiful.

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Layers of You, Part 1

We’ve all done it.  Smiled through gritted teeth.  Said “yes” when we wanted to say “no.”  Held back our feelings around others, only to cry once alone.  We put on a mask, trying to appear to be a certain way.  When, on the inside, something different is going on.

Lucy wants to be seen as perfect, always in charge, and having it all together.  But she’s really quite sensitive.  She thinks the real her is unlovable, so she keeps her hidden.  Meanwhile, she suffers from emotional and physical pain.

Edward harbors a lot of anger and resentment.  But he wants to be a “nice guy,” so he holds it all in.  Like Lucy, he also experiences chronic pain.

Kelly has a lot of spunk and she can be quite expressive, in an intense burst.  She believes that others won’t like her if they see her act like this, so she tries to stay calm and quiet.  But biting her tongue like that makes her miserable.

Whenever your outside self and your inside self are at odds, it doesn’t feel good.  Being inauthentic may or may not fool others, but you clearly can’t fool yourself.  You know that what you are really feeling and what you are showing others is a mismatch.

Your feelings are valid.  They are real.  They are OK.  It’s OK to feel mad.  To be upset.  To hurt.  The key is how you express it.  To be mean to others isn’t constructive.  But to express it honestly and openly without placing blame, criticizing, or shaming can be.  If you don’t value your feelings, who will?  Take care of yourself by letting your outward expression match your inside experience.

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They say that how you breathe doing yoga is how you breathe in life.  For me, I often catch myself holding my breath as I move from one posture to the next.  In everyday life, I find I hold my breath.  If I feel an emotional reaction well up inside of me, my knee-jerk reaction is to clamp down on it by holding my breath.  But when I breathe, instead, it lets the emotion flow up and out.  That’s much better than trying to hold it in.

If there is hurt in my heart, I breathe in and imagine that the breath swirls around the pain.  Then I can blow it out with my exhale.

I’ve heard that yogis breathe only 4 times per minute.  That’s about 7 1/2 seconds to inhale and 7 1/2 seconds to exhale.  Slow and steady.  I can do this when I’m meditating.  It feels exhilarating.  Now, to learn how to do it all of the time, when I’m moving around, when I’m interacting with others, no matter what.

Recently, I was having a nurse take my blood pressure.  I very deliberately was breathing like a yogi, long and deep breaths.  The look on her face was funny when my blood pressure measured at 104/80.  She insisted on retaking it on my other arm.  So I let myself breathe more shallowly and she came up with 110/80, which seemed to make her happy.  I asked her what her concern was and she said, “Maybe you’re just really relaxed.” I smiled.

Here’s one more to try: Lie face down, with your head supported without having to turn it to the side, like on a massage table.  As you inhale, have your breath start at your tailbone and roll up your spine, entering into your head.  Let your exhale roll back down your spine.  When I do this, two things happen.  One, I feel energized.  Two, my spine spontaneously adjusts itself.  Amazing.

I offer these thoughts on breathing to you to encourage you to be aware of and experiment with your breath.  Breath brings life, energy, and healing.  Use it.

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What’s your “wumbo”?

There’s an episode of Spongebob Squarepants where Spongebob and Patrick have a superhero belt and they accidentally shrink everything.  Looking for a solution, Patrick suggests that they set the belt to “wumbo.”  This cracks my son up, every time.  No matter what mood he’s in, or what the topic of conversation is, if someone says the word “wumbo,” he breaks into laughter.

For me, no matter what or when, there’s a scene in the movie, A Christmas Story, that makes me laugh.  Randy won’t eat his dinner so his mom suggests he shows her “how the piggies eat.”  Between Randy eating his food sans utensils, the food smeared on his face, his pig snorts, and his giggle, I’m rolling on the floor.  The mere thought or mention of it is enough to get to me.

My mom is a die-hard I Love Lucy fan, so any episode of that will get her laughing.  But have her watch one of the classics, like when Lucy and Ethel work in a chocolate factory, and she’s laughing so hard she’s crying.

When life is wearing you down or you’ve just been taking it too seriously, what makes you laugh?  Breaking through the drudgery and doldrums and depression is paramount.  Find your “wumbo” and use it to help yourself get out of the negativity that weighs you down.  Smile.  Laugh.  It’s the best medicine.

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Is it in the realm of possibilities?

Over 14 years ago, when pregnant with my first child, I hit the realization that I was going to have to actually give birth.  Yikes.  I’d heard too many horror stories.  Knowing there was no turning back, I had to find a way to do it.  So I stepped back and looked at all of the women who had successfully given birth before me.  The number astounds me.  OK, so of those women, some were stronger than I am.  But there were many who were not as strong as I.  If billions of women, who are not as strong as I am can do it, then so can I.  I had to remind myself that, despite the terrible stories, it was totally possible to do it well.

For Kent, he desperately wants relief from chronic pain and other medical issues.  But, alas, the pain and diseases persist.  While he wants relief, he, at the same time, doesn’t see it as possible.

Susan also suffers from medical problems and feels hopeless.  She cries, as she longs for relief, feeling like it’ll never come.  This leads her into feeling worthless and undeserving of health, which drags her deeper into not knowing it’s possible.

When faced with a want, ask yourself, “Is it in the realm of possibilities?”  If one person on the planet, in the history of mankind, has ever done it or had it happen, then the answer is “YES!”  This opens you up to receive, to allow the gift to be delivered to you.

Try these, just to see how empowering it feels.  Is it in the realm of  possibilities for me to win money with a lottery ticket?  Yes!  Is it in the realm of possibilities for me to be in a loving, supportive, and happy relationship? Yes!  Is it in the realm of possibilities for my physical body to heal from disease?  Yes!  Is it in the realm of possibilities for me to have a job that I truly enjoy?  Yes!  Is it in the realm of possibilities for me to know that I am worthy, wonderful, and beautiful?  Yes!

All of these things, and so many more, are possible.  Others have done it.  And that just means that so can you.  Know it’s possible.

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Follow through

So you get this great idea or you have a plan for your life, but then you don’t actually do anything to make it happen.  There you are, in the same place you were.  You still want something better, something different, yet you stay in the same place.  You’re not alone, look at these examples.

Morgan wants a new career, so she says she plans on finishing her resume.  She even sets a deadline for herself, only to miss it and have to set a new one, again and again.

Kevin seeks a new way of approaching life, from a more spiritual perspective.  He is exposed to new concepts and ideas, agrees they would be helpful, but never applies them.

Mary wants to quit smoking.  She says she wants to quit yet keeps smoking.

Mark wants to turn his life around, get a full-time job so he can get his own place.  Yet week after week, he doesn’t make the calls he says he will to get started.

Carrie spends money on training for a new job then never does it.  She ends up with many odd jobs and her expertise is never used.

If you’re lacking on the follow through, look deeper to find your barriers.  Do you lack self-discipline?  Are you avoiding working on it because that part is not fun?  Is the pay-off too far in the future to be a strong enough motivator for you?  Do you experience procrastination as part of an attention deficit?  Are you avoiding it for fear of failure?  Or are you afraid of success?  Are you lost, without clear direction, because you don’t even know who you are or what you want?  Or do you hold some belief that gets in your way of making progress?

Dig deep to find the barrier.  Once you discover your barrier, the solution, or way around it, becomes clear.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help either.  You won’t get anywhere if you don’t follow through on your dreams.

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Sit still in the chaos

People often experience chaos around them.  It can be a life change, drama in relationships, or challenges.  It’s all too easy to react to chaos with stress, anxiety, and feeling upset.  There is also often a behavioral reaction that adds to the chaos, making everything worse, like in these examples.

Suzanne gets upset when her daughter and granddaughter fight.  Instead of being a source of support, she’s so wrought with guilt, anxiety, and fear that she isn’t able to help them at all.

Jan’s job is on the rocks.  Instead of going with the flow and letting it happen, for she is miserable at her job anyway, she is so distraught with anger, hurt, and fear that she is barely able to cope.

Samantha gets upset when her daughters fight with each other.  Instead of being a calm authority figure, she ends up yelling and screaming at them.  Then she feels such remorse afterward.

Amber has a critical mother, who belittles her at great volume.  Instead of remaining calm, knowing it’s a reflection of her mother and not her, she engages in a verbal back-and-forth, which only escalates the situation.

Ashley gets anxious when her husband yells or gets upset.  She tries to reason with him when he’s angry, adding fuel to his fire.

During these times, defend yourself in a way that is calm and then disengage.  This is easier said than done at first, but with practice you can find a way to sit still in the chaos.  Acting in response to chaos only begets more chaos, the very thing you want to make go away.  Knowing it’s not about you is the first step.  Seeing the pattern helps, so you can almost predict it instead of getting caught off guard.  Confidence in yourself and your ability to take care of your own needs makes it easier too.  Resist the knee-jerk reaction to jump into chaos.  Instead, sit still.

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Time’s makin’ changes

We’ve all heard the quote, “The only constant is change.”  It seems to have come originally from Greek philosopher, Heraclitus.  Others have used it along the way, such as François de la Rochefoucauld and Isaac Asimov.  But no matter what details they have added to the original concept, the core remains the same.  Things change.

For many, change is scary.  It’s unknown.  It’s out of our control.  Sometimes we take it personally.  Our job changes.  Our friends come and go.  Opportunities come along.  Some pan out and others don’t.  Our interests change.  Who we are changes as we grow.  These are all natural, but we often resist.

Andrea’s boyfriend is pulling away from her.  As she feels threatened by this and afraid to lose him, she has become overly needy.  This is pushing him away even more.  Instead of letting the changes happen, her resistance to the change is making it worse.

Lynn has a new potential job opportunity.  She spends a lot of time in her head, trying to figure it all out.  She’s anxious, not sleeping well, and stressed over what is going to happen next.  Instead of letting it all unfold, she’s trying to control it all.

Knowing that change is going to happen, that it’s the way of life, is the first step to being comfortable as something shifts.  Then you have to sit on faith.  This can be faith in a higher power, who is making sure your life follows the best path.  Or it can be faith in yourself, knowing you’ll be fine regardless of the change.  If you trust that each experience is an opportunity for growth, then your focus is on learning lessons and being the best you possible.  Let go of the details.  Let it unfold.  Change happens and it’s always for the best, in one form or another.  If you don’t like it, just wait.  Time will make more changes.

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We’re all in this together

I had the honor of spending the day with 14 other wonderful women.  Some of them I’d met before, but most of them were strangers.  We sang together.  We laughed together.  We cried together.  We loved together.

As we created a safe place for each other, we shared our dreams, our fears, and our caring.  Every one of us was clear that we were there to support each other, to help each other be the best we can be.  There was no competition.  There was no judging.  There was no criticism.  There was only kindness, admiration, and grace.

At the end of our time together, one woman exclaimed, “But I don’t want to ever leave this place.”  We’re already begging to do it again.

How wonderful this place was and how amazing it felt to be engulfed in love and support.  Personally, that’s where I want to live, 24/7, not just once in a while on a special occasion.  This can only be how we connect when we all know that we are in this together, this physical life.  To recognize the spirit in each other and to see the common ground at that level.  We are all the same, spiritual beings finding our way through our journey.

I ask you, is this the type of space you create for others?  Are others in your life giving you this place of peace and love?  Do you connect with others on a deep, spiritual level so that you can share this profound love and support?  If yes, good for you.  Go spread it.  If not, realign your life to fill it with unconditional love.  You will be glad you did.  Remember, we are all in this together.

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How badly do you want it?

Sometimes the things you want come so easily.  That’s always awesome.  Other times, it’s not so smooth.  There are challenges, setbacks, struggles, frustrations.  In that moment when it gets to you and you just want to quit trying, you face your moment of truth.  How badly do you want it?

Years ago I traveled to Sedona Arizona for a weekend class.  Let me tell you, if something could go wrong along the way, it did.  My final flight got cancelled.  I had to rent a car and drive for 4 hours after traveling for 24 already.  And the airline lost my luggage.  I swear I fell asleep at the wheel about half a dozen times.  I do not know how I made it to my hotel in one piece, at about 3:30 in the morning, exhausted.  I wanted it badly enough.

Craig has been trying to break through chronic tension for years.  He feels like he’s read every book and tried every technique there is.  And, yet, his stress remains.  He gets mad, frustrated, and feels hopeless at times.  Then he faces his goal and remembers his dedication to overcome his issue.  He carries on.  He wants it badly enough.

My son is currently learning how to play the french horn.  If you don’t know, it’s not an easy instrument to play.  He practices and sometimes sounds like a dying duck.  There are times when he feels broken by the challenge, like he’ll never learn.  He has to be honest with himself in those moments and decide if he wants it badly enough or not.  He keeps practicing.  He wants it badly enough.

If you honestly don’t want it badly enough, then so be it.  Move on.  But if you really want it, dig down deep and find the strength to keep trying.  Take a break if you have to, but don’t give up.  Don’t give up on yourself.  Don’t beat yourself up or put yourself down for struggling.  Take a deep breath, remind yourself that others had to push on to accomplish it too, then keep going.  Even the tiniest of baby steps will get you there eventually.

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