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Healing

For the last couple of weeks, maybe months I have been waking up between 3:30-5am staying in bed tossing and turning (thank you hormones) eventually giving up, going downstairs and sitting down to meditate. There is something very special about meditating at that time. It’s as if only me and nature are awake (maybe a couple other people with insomnia). I have witnessed shooting stars, a raccoon that could eat my cat for breakfast and a skunk whose smell has penetrated my brain.

Recently my meditations had been what you could consider “uneventful” thinking, coming back to my breath, thinking, coming back to my breath, a glimpse of insight, coming back to my breath….. But the other day a memory kept showing up as an image in my mind- I was 17 hanging out at a friend’s house when I decided to place a Christmas Sphere on my mouth thinking it would be hilarious. Instead, it completely shattered inside my mouth (on my defense I didn’t grow up with a Christmas tree and had no idea how sensitive those spheres were)

As this random image showed up I asked myself “What needs my attention?” “What needs healing?” I placed my hand in my heart and asked “What can I do for you?” and I sensed myself at 17. This girl who was the life of the party, who acted so strong and confident but deep in her eyes was a shame a sense of loneliness, of not belonging anywhere. She was her own mother and father.

I sat with her. I felt what she felt at the time. As I write this I can still feel her. I hugged her and started to rock her “I’m here for you,” I said. “I’ve always been here for you” “you will make it through” I started to sob because cry would be an understatement. Until we stopped. As if the pain was being washed away. As if space was being created inside me for her to live.

Healing takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight but it starts with our attention. When we are ready to stop looking for the answers, apologizes and forgiveness from others and we are ready to start having the conversations with the parts of ourselves that have been hurt and shamed. When we can be vulnerable and compassionate at the same time for the people that hurt us and the versions of ourselves that came before us and for the “us” that carries them with us all along.

It’s not the first time I experience talking to parts of myself that seem to live in the shadows and I’m sure it’s not the last time. Trauma gets trapped in our bodies even if our minds are not aware. I wrote about the lenses we use not long ago and I believe this is how we peel some of the layers. Talking to a therapist or booking a session with me might also help :)

So we stop experiencing the world from our distorted (hurt) perspective.

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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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