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Slowing Down

There is no Marvel Super Hero whose super power is slowing down in life. It’s not a quality that makes the front pages of any newspaper or that we necessarily admire in others. Slowing down usually comes for most of us after being physically injured or sick. We slow down as a side effect not as a step towards health and prevention.

We often hear the advice “listen to your body” but the truth is that most of the conversations with our body happen in our mind. It’s a conversation between our Ego and our body, between what we think we need to be doing and what we should actually be doing and we move from black to white from doing to not doing. Because balance is usually not our forte.  

I’m writing this post because I promised myself I would slow down for the third trimester of my pregnancy and had no idea how hard that would be. It truly feels easier for me to hold a plank for a minute then to stay in child pose for a minute. The Ego loves the feeling of being unstoppable. Overriding all seasons and cues.

When I was teaching Pilates group classes a couple years ago there was a women that I felt had been coming to my class and being pregnant for ages when I asked her due date she said “today”. She was doing the whole class with barely any modifications and was back in the Reformer a couple of weeks later. I remember thinking “how crazy” but also “how amazing”. We hear stories of men in their 80’s who still go to the office every day, women with 3 kids, a full time job who decide to add some volunteer work, people with a broken leg that finish a marathon. Behind all those stories there is a sense of awe.

We live in a culture that admires the doers, go getters and over achievers so of course slowing down is seen more as a limitation then the capacity to bring balance, space and attention into one’s life.

As the season, weather and time changes I invite you to ask yourself. What is one thing less that you can do? How can you make your life a little easier? There is a phrase in Spanish that I love “lento que tienes prisa” which roughly translates to “go slow you are in a hurry” and this is the perfect time of the year to keep that phrase in mind.

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The Lenses we use

Not sure at what age we start wearing internal glasses to view the world and ourselves under a certain light. Some may argue we are born with them carrying all the generations that came before us, others that we acquire those glasses as a survival strategy. How it happens I don’t know. I believe it’s a combination of both things. Nature and Nurture.

We act as victims and view others as aggressors and every stressful situation reinforces our view.

We become perfectionist in an attempt to control life and live in the anxiety of having no real control.

We use guilt and manipulation as if we were playing chess trying to fill the gaps inside us.

We feel like we don’t belong and everywhere we go and ever person we meet we focus on finding our differences and all the reasons why we don’t belong.

We take on the role of saviors but constantly question who will save us?

Those are just some of the lenses we might use- to name them all would be like writing every Eyeglass Brand in the market and for the most part we aren’t even aware that we are wearing these glasses.

We are constantly defending ourselves against and ourselves looking for all the evidence to back up our beliefs without noticing that the world is not purple but that’s only how we view the world.

In Hinduism these lenses might be called “Samskaras” mental impressions or psychological imprints. What is interesting to me is that they are called Samskaras when there is no true awareness of them. But how can we change what we cannot see? It’s pretty easy to spot this patterns in others. I can highlight all of my parent’s Samskaras with different colored markers but I don’t think they would necessarily appreciate it or agree with me.

So how do we work with them? You might be wondering.

By constantly questioning what we believe to be true about ourselves and others. We inquire our habits, our patterns. We pause more often, we observe and track down what beliefs are making us suffer. Does this mean once we spot the color of the glasses we can immediately throw them away? No. No. Not in my experience.

But it does help in life to navigate with the awareness of our predispositions, taking responsibility over our actions and eventually graduating from what no longer serves us.

Martha Postelwaite writes:

Do not try to save
the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
Instead, create
a clearing
in the dense forest
of your life...

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To live a good life

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To live a good life

My uncle passed away on a Wednesday afternoon after struggling with ALS a diseases that basically starts shutting down the different body parts. I wrote about him about two years ago when he was first diagnosed. He was what you call a “bon vivant” refused to wear ties under any circumstance, used his shirts inside out so that the tags wouldn’t bother his skin. Traveled the world, too some of the most remote places. Ate the most extravagant meals and drank the finest whiskey and wine. Not only that, he was a world re-known sculptor with art exhibits around the globe. He was happily married for 50 years with 3 children, 7 grandchildren and was greatly loved by those around him.

His life got me thinking about what it means to live a good life. Some of us won’t be able to travel the world, we will be tied down by work or family, and not all of us will eat the most extravagant meals or drink the finest wines because we live on a budget or just don’t enjoy drinking. Some of us won’t have kids or grandkids or become famous. So will we have lived a good life? I think our culture makes us believe that to live a good life is to cross certain things off the list.

Personally, sometimes I think I need to do more to feel I’m making a difference. I need to write a book, do a TED talk, and change thousands of people lives through my actions and words. As if those things would give my life the meaning it deserves.

But another part of me (the wiser) knows that to live a good life and the reason my uncle's life was so full was that he enjoyed everything he did, loved deeply and felt loved. My aunt was telling a story that he was nominated with an award along with 9 more people. They were CEO’S, people that ran nonprofits, Doctors and they were all talking about how hard they had worked to be where they were in life. When it was my uncle’s turn to be interviewed he said “I feel sorry that you didn’t enjoy getting to where you are in life. I haven’t felt like I had to work a day in my life” Trust me this man worked for my grandmother it’s not that he inherited money or had an “easy” life. He was just good at accepting/enjoying things as they were.

So if your bucket list is having 4 children, becoming a monk, having thousands of followers, saving trees or birds it’s beautiful but it’s also “Mindmade”. My cat is a great example of a meaningful life, she doesn’t have thousands of youtube views, planted a tree, or does some insane trick (she does play fetch which is pretty insane if you ask me) but she has taught me so much about love and relaxation. Why would that not be enough? How is that not significant? Today I contemplate how true meaning in life is found in simplicity, kindness, and love.

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The perspective we take. The choices we make.

Have you ever had that clarity between taking things the wrong way or letting things go? And you still choose the “wrong way” aka. Taking things personally, holding a grudge, getting aggressive, and simmering in anger….

In case none of this resonates let me give you a great example. My mother in law a sweet, petite, quirky, 67 year old lady with who I have a great relationship with (most of the time). Came to help us cat sit a couple weeks ago while we were traveling to Iceland (in our defense our cat is like 100 years old and needs the high maintenance treatment) she arrived a week early to be with us. My OBGYN should have warned me that hormones don’t mix well with having people stay in my house (it’s truly more death threatening then raw fish in my humble opinion)

One afternoon she started asking me about how I wanted to decorate the baby nursery. As I began to describe the colors and how I wanted to avoid everything that is extremely pink or girlish she looked at me horrified and said “Nooo, nooo. You can’t do that” it took me about a second to look at her with daggers from my eyes and say “I can do whatever I want”. You might be thinking- “wasn’t that bad” or “wish I could say something like that” the thing was not what I said but how angry I felt. That was the beginning of feeling irritated over every comment she made, the way my house smelled with her perfume, how my kitchen cabinet was disorganized, how she was using my Chef knives to cut strawberries over a napkin. I was on an edge ready to push somebody (her) off.

This is not the first time I’ve felt this edge. It’s usually the people closest to us that walk on our internal minefields. That trigger us beyond everything we could have ever imagined and when we think we are past it. When we think we have done the internal work, call it therapy, meditation, yoga… we are shown with a highlighter exactly where it is that we are stuck.

One of life mantras is Maya Angelou’s quote “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better do better” In so many ways I know better and yet I keep slipping on the same banana peel, keep getting upset at the same people for the same reason. Have you ever had this experience?

My Grandmothers Sister who I have a close relationship with once said to me “Get to know people really well and then learn” What I find the most interesting about this advice is that we don’t need to get to know the other people better. We need to get to know ourselves better. What triggers us? Why? What can we do once we are triggered? There is a Lojong slogan that says “Don’t figure others out” It stops us from trying to assess the other person, from trying to label them and point fingers and instead we get to work with ourselves.

You must be thinking “how do we work with ourselves. HOW?” at least that’s what I’ve been thinking.

Step One- Compassion the voice that says “Hey Sweetie. It’s ok. You are going to be ok. Just breathe. Feel your heart expand as you inhale and exhale. I’ve got you” It doesn’t say do better or stop feeling angry. It says “I love you. It’s ok”. 

Step Two- Perspective by looking at the same thing from another angle. Usually the most helpful angle is to look at it from as far away as you can. Like pulling away in Google Maps from the house, to the street, to the neighborhood, the city and finally the country. It doesn’t really matter the angle as long as it allows you to feel a little bit better internally. A good dose of gratitude, long walks or talking to somebody that makes you feel grounded can really help shift your perspective.

Step Three- Allowing yourself to be angry. We have this idea of how we should feel and what type of people we should be and that standard just gets in the way. Maybe we can start to label how we feel and avoid judging it and stop trying to change it. Maybe we are being triggered exactly where we need to be triggered and all we need to do is give it some space.

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The Unknown+ Tiny News

We were driving around Hollywood on our way to dinner in his black corvette (Who drives a Corvette before having a midlife crisis? We will leave that for another day) it was our third date and he was talking about his niece and nephew. I asked him “do you like kids?” “not at all” he said. My Jewish red flag went off as I continued pressing on the subject without trying to sound desperate “Like not really you never want kids?” he paused and said “More like I rather have monkeys” he laughed. I didn’t. “More like not right now” he said. I could date that. I could marry “not right now” Hell! I was a not right now kinda gal.

About 2 years ago I hit my “Right NOW moment” but my husband still preferred the idea of monkeys. The process was painful, it required deep listening, trusting and patience which I started to wear like a Superhero Cape with which somedays I just wanted to strangle him with. The environment that surrounded me wasn’t really helpful with comments from friends and family such as “you really shouldn’t wait. It might take a long time once you start trying” “the longer you wait the harder it is. Did you know that after 35 you are high risk?” “What if he is never ready? You are never really ready to have kids” or my favorite “you should just trick him. He will love it when it’s born”. I’m sure nobody meant to hurt me but each comment felt like paper cuts.

When his “ok” moment kicked in. I don’t think he ever had that “right now” feeling but it was more of a “icanlivewithit” vibe. I was so freaking ready I wanted it to happen NOW. My sister suggested I buy pregnancy tests at the dollar store, she forgot to mention that the reason they cost a dollar is because you don’t pee on a stick it’s more of a lab process. You have to collect a sample then take a little dropper and add 3 drops to test.  I took the first test the day I was supposed to get my period and felt like I had been punched on the stomach when it came out negative. It wasn’t that I expected to get pregnant on the first round it was that my deep fear of being infertile took over.

The next month I accidently traveled on my fertile days (those things are really hard to track when you have cysts) and by the third month I was ready to take things to the next level. I had waited long enough my Patience Cape was turning pink from washing it so much. I booked an appointment with a OBGYN that was also an endocrinologist aka a Fertility Specialist thinking I would kill two birds with one stone. Because of my hypothyroidism and PCOS it made complete sense.

This was by far one of the worst Doctor experiences I have ever been through. I came to my appointment scheduled at 10:30 the receptionist greeted me and a man wearing a Lab coat was sitting next to her. I waited for an hour watching the man (it was the Dr that was supposed to see me) talk on the phone, collect papers, joke with the receptionist. When he finally saw me he immediately started talking about all the tests I needed to get done and my options of doing invitro, taking pills that forced my ovulation…. my face turned the color of his coat.

The acupuncturist who I have been going for years and love said the problem was that I was exercising too much. My nightstand was full of supplements. I tried another acupuncturist who recommended a Liver Cleanse and weekly sessions. I found myself reading every fertility article and considering doing a  vaginal steam and suddenly I cracked.

I did the most courageous thing I could do for myself. I stopped. I canceled the Drs Appointments, stop taking the herbs, stopped going to acupuncturist. Stopped everything that I was doing to give it some space. In a way it felt like surrendering it wasn’t about giving up but about giving it space. It was no longer a hunt.  Some nights I prayed just connecting and asking for help for me and every woman struggling with fertility I must say my very short experience with this subject opened my heart so much for so many women struggling in silence and other nights I cried releasing unto the unknown. Realizing that motherhood was all about stepping with patience unto the unknown even before becoming a mother.

That same month I got pregnant.  We are having a Baby Girl!!!! Of course my fear of being infertile got switched for a fear of having a miscarriage. I have been one of those really really lucky women that barely have any symptoms. In my mind the sign of pregnancy was nausea. I even read that it meant a healthy pregnancy. I was ready for it. I thought to myself before being pregnant “when I feel terrible I won’t complain” except I didn’t feel terrible. I waited for it patiently scared of what it meant to feel so good. You can never win when you are playing against thoughts. The stories in my head crept in like uninvited neighbors.

As the weeks go by, listening to the babies heartbeat, seeing her tiny hands and legs,  has brought much comfort and joy into both our lifes but I’m sure the next fear will come along when I least expected.

Please know I’m not trying to give fertility advice that is not really why I wanted to share this story but I think we all have areas in our lives that require patience, space and the courage to step into the unknown. Sometimes the only way to get there is by surrendering into something bigger than ourselves.

Wherever you are in your journey if you have 5 kids, no kids, are having trouble with fertility, have struggled with miscarriages. My heart is wide wide open for you. 

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