This is our bird feeder that I attached to the window above our kitchen sink in an effort to stay connected to nature even in the midst of winter. We get cardinals and all kinds of other little birds I don’t know the names of and it’s a great way to add something special to the daily practice of loading and unloading the dishwasher.
Getting a dog who needs walking multiple times a day has also really helped keep that connection to the outside world going—so much so that for a few months there I never found the time to refill the birdfeeder.
I finally re-stocked the birdseed a few weeks ago and something I didn’t expect happened: the birds didn’t come back.
While I appreciated its aesthetics, for nine of those years I felt disappointed in this olive green topper. Why? Because I had it in my head that this was my raincoat. And as a raincoat, it kinda stinks.
For one thing, it doesn’t have a hood, so your head gets wet. It’s also short, so your thighs quickly get soaked. Most egregiously, it’s mildly water-resistant at best. Anything above a sprinkle and your upper body is wet.
Honestly, a garbage bag would have done a better job of keeping me dry!
You would think I would have figured out that this was really not an acceptable raincoat earlier. But I had it in my head that it was, in fact, a raincoat, and a cute one to boot. Plus, it rained so sporadically that I always forgot how annoyed I got while wearing it in the actual rain.
I honestly am not sure what triggered my epiphany, but sometime in my 45th year I developed the wisdom to be able to recognize that I was trying to force my jacket into playing the role of raincoat, and this wasn’t serving anyone—least of all me.
Let’s say there’s a habit you want to change. Maybe it’s bickering with your partner, yelling at the kids, eating a bag of chips for dinner, or watching too much TV. The way most people thinking about changing something that’s become a habit is to try harder.
But tightening up and striving more is actually not the first step. Nor is it necessarily necessary.
The first step is actually more about softening. It’s about being willing.
The opposite of willingness is resistance. And THAT subject could fill a whole book (in fact, it has, three of my favorites are I Don’t Want To, I Don’t Feel Like It by Cheri Huber, and The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, and The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks—if you have a favorite book about it, tell me! I’d love to read it). While it’s so helpful to educate yourself about resistance so you can get hip to it and become less susceptible to it, that’s not the purpose of this post. This post is about focusing on what do to when you find yourself resisting something that you have a pretty good feeling would be good for you. And that is to embrace willingness.
Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum (or if you’ve fallen off it completely and wish everyone’s Facebook feeds would go back to funny memes and kid pictures), it’s time to admit something. Something that’s vital to your future happiness and freedom.
You have an a**hole in chief that is attempting to rule your life.
I’m not talking about Donald Trump, I swear! I’m talking about your ego.
This ineradicable part of your mind is the tiny tyrant yelling in your ear. It wraps itself around the jewel that is your inner wisdom until it gets crusty and brittle, like the rock that forms around a geode. (I got this analogy from the awesome book on ego and resistance by Cheri Huber called I Don’t Want To, I Don’t Feel Like It.)
The ego believes that it is the only reason that you are alive and well today. It considers itself to be your survival system. So anytime anything calls to that gorgeous, loving, trusting, and knowing jewel of your inner voice, the ego perks up like a dog that’s just seen a squirrel. Alert! Alert!
New Year’s Day is one of my favorite holidays—I love that turn-the-page, clean-slate feeling. And doing 108 sun salutations is considered to be a powerful practice to clean out old energy and welcome in the new. So the first thing I did when I rolled out of bed on New Year’s Day was hit the bathroom. The second thing I did was 108 sun salutes. I didn’t even change out of my jammies, because I had a feeling that if started puttering around, I might not get started.
During the 90 minutes I was reaching up and swan diving and stepping back into downward dog, I realized that doing 108 sun salutations is a lot like going after any big goal, whether it’s paying off debt or finding a new job or starting a business. The practice gave me a lot of insights—17 of them, in fact. I’m sharing them here with the hope that they’ll be useful to you as you’re thinking about what you want to go after this year. Read more…
It’s easy for these last 10 days of the year to feel like just a swirl of stuff you get through until normal life resumes in early January. But these long nights are such a great chance to be still, think deep thoughts and take steps to make important and exciting new things happen. If you just keep moving from one event or errand to the next, you miss a big opportunity to course correct.
Here are my favorite ways to close out a year and start a new one:
Spend a day reflecting, planning and thinking big.
It’s one thing to want to do some year-end review and goal-setting for the new year, but if you don’t carve out a chunk of time for it, it’s not going to happen. I’ve signed up for one-day goal-setting workshops before to make sure I showed up and did the thinking (I’m not a natural planner and can get really resistant to the whole idea). This year I got inspired by this post by my colleague Rosie Molinary, A Summit of One and have marked in my calendar for Friday, January 13th. I’m going to go somewhere beautiful, perhaps the Athenaeum here in Providence, with my planner, notebooks, and a huge mug of tea, then take myself out to lunch later. I’m an introvert, so the thought of doing this alone makes me incredibly exciting, but you may want to get together with a couple of friends who are supportive of you and your dreams (no bad juju allowed).
As a mindset coach, a-ha moments are what I live for, like when a client sees how the thing that comes so naturally to her is actually a highly valuable and desirable asset; or how she is unconsciously perpetuating the thing that’s driving her crazy. And then she (or he, I do work with men and love it) says, “Oh! I never thought about it that way before.”
It’s music to my ears, I’ve got to say.
That’s why I have absolutely loved reading the newest book by Katy Bowman, a biomechamist and movement educator whom I interviewed so many times when I was writing about health and fitness for women’s magazines that we became friends. She’s written a slew of bestsellers, all of them the perfect combination of inspiring and informative, and all about how to treat your body better by moving more and more mindfully.
But Katy’s latest book, Movement Matters, is different. It’s a collection of essays that draws the connection between the way that we move our bodies—or don’t—each day and the health of our community, our species, and our planet.
It’s deep, y’all. In the very best, mind-tickling, way.
I’m talking about when you see that you want more of something. And to get it, you’re going to have to do some more things.
My personal example is activism. I have never been politically motivated before much beyond voting. I blithely tossed political mailers in the recycling. Hid when local candidates went door to door. Attended exactly one fundraiser and one rally in my nearly three decades as a voter.
Since the election, although I’m still focused on finding common ground and remembering everyone’s innate humanness, I’m also suddenly activated. There are many policies I hold dear, for myself and for my fellow Americans, that are in need of protection and I know that I personally can’t just ‘wait and see’ what happens. Honestly, it feels like a switch has been flicked on deep inside my being, or like I just took the red pill in The Matrix.
As I’m writing this, the election was 10 days ago and there has been a lot of resistance to the results. Including in my own mind. It feels like many things I hold dear are under attack—reproductive rights, equal rights for all people, the environment, our standing in the world.
To me, it feels like our plane has been hijacked, and my reaction has been to storm the cockpit. Let’s roll! Because I don’t want to end up a smudge in a field. (Hey listen, I realize this is dramatic, but this is how it has felt in my mind.)
Basically, every cell in my body has been saying NO to the suggestions, commands and shouts that have been flying around Facebook to “get over it.”
What I’ve been feeling, in very stark relief, is resistance.
In the mindfulness tradition, resistance is not liking things as they are. It’s bemoaning the rain, hating your hair, judging the driver ahead of you, feeling sorry for yourself, getting irritated at the sight of a long line at the grocery store.
The hitch is—things will always be exactly as they are. You not liking the things won’t change them. Meaning, it’s not the thing itself that causes your suffering, it’s your reaction to the thing that causes you pain.
This is a post for the folks who are feeling emotional after the election. Whatever the emotion may be—I myself have been numb, devastated, angry, irate, despairing, and sad within the last three days. it’s all welcome here so long as we are kind to one another.
This election is a little bit like the time I did yoga in my underwear in front of a full-length mirror when I finally was ready to see how much post-partum weight I had gained. In other words, it’s been a real eye opener that isn’t particularly fun or enjoyable, but also imperative for moving toward something better.
It’s been tough for me to reconcile the America I thought I lived in and the one that showed up to the polls. I’ve had the privilege of living in a bubble—recognizing that people felt threatened but convinced that things were getting better, had already gotten better, and we needed to focus on the good. I had the luxury of discounting the signs that all was not well. I am so, so sorry about that. There’s a difference between choosing your focus and deluding yourself.
Don’t get me wrong, I know that it’s a fantasy to think that if you just work on yourself, do your practice and stay open that you’ll never have any problems again. I know the world will trigger us as well as support us. I know that there can’t be light without darkness, rebirth without a death, summer without winter, blah blah blah.