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.
Don’t answer that—if the answer is yes, I don’t want to know!
One thing I do know for sure is this:
No matter what happens on Tuesday, we have to keep talking to each other. Here are 5 simple ways to do just that. (Click to Tweet!)
- Ask questions
Keep the phrase “Curious, not furious” top of mind, and if you find yourself yearning to make declarative statements—“She’s a crook!” “He’s mentally ill!” “You’re crazy if you’re voting for him!” “You’re evil if you’re voting for her!”—think question mark, not exclamation point. When you can stay curious, you’re suspending judgment—at least for the moment. Ask, “How long have you been feeling this way?” “What makes you say that?” “Can you tell me a little more about that?” Questions change the conversation.
- Look for similarities, not differences
No matter how different your politics may be from someone else’s, there are millions more ways the two of you are alike than you are different. The human mind is just wired to look for the differences, and make them mean something important, but we’ve got the em-PHA-sis on the wrong sy-LLAB-le. When we remember the ways we’re similar, we can find common ground.It’s like the old saying your grandpa probably told you when you confessed to being intimidated by someone—“They put their pants on one leg at a time, just like you do.” Look for your commonalities, whether it’s physiological (you’re both human), emotional (you both want what’s best for your children), cultural (you both love Friday Night Lights), or literal (you’re both wearing a blue shirt).
- Imagine the folks on the other side of the ballot as being happy, free, and at peace
Short-circuit judgment against the folks who are voting differently than you (or not voting at all) by sending them good wishes. It can be as simple as saying “Bless your heart” at the start of your comment on their Facebook rant, or as profound as sitting quietly and sending them a little loving-kindness by imagining their face and silently saying May you be happy, may you be free from suffering, may you be at peace. Compassion is true force that helps reduce suffering, including your own. Use these stressful times to get better at invoking it at will.
I’ve talked to multiple clients in the past week who are reporting that they are feeling abnormally irritable. Seems like there’s something in the air (like the election?!) so I wanted to get some thoughts down about what to do with yourself when you’re feeling cranky, intolerant, and/or impatient (or all three).
Here are some questions to ask yourself to start working with it. Write your answers down! It’s the best way to give your conscious mind a chance to objectively see what’s going on subconsciously, and awareness is always the first step in change.
What’s going on when it happens?
Is if a particular time of day, week, month (I know I am way less patient with my kids in the 2-3 days before my period—I can practically set my watch by it!). It could be hormonal, or related to blood sugar or fatigue. Not all of it, probably, but a good portion of it may have more to do with your physiological state than anything deeper than that.
What kinds of people are doing the irritating?
Complete strangers, kids, partners, authority figures, pedestrians? What do you think is it about this group (or groups, if there’s more than one) of people that triggers you?
What are the thoughts that come up for you?
What are you thinking? How could you do this to me? Why are you torturing me? The world is conspiring against me. <– those kinds of things. Be honest. Write ‘em down.
Are those thoughts true? Read more…
Last week I talked about doubting a choice that you’ve made—specifically, how I doubted our decision to adopt a dog. (She’s passed out cuddled up next to me as I write this—she and I have both definitely relaxed in the two weeks since I wrote that!)
This week I want to talk about when the doubts you’re having are about you.
The last big attack of self-doubt I had came after I went out and bought myself some fancy new bras. For my male brethren reading this, bras are a crucial piece of your wardrobe—with a good one, you look great in everything else. I had gone out a couple years earlier and gotten fitted at Nordstrom for Wacoal bras. These are adult bras, $60+ each, not something you randomly grab off the rack at TJ Maxx, if you know what I’m sayin’. Oprah swears by them, if that gives you any indication of how legit they are!
After a year and a half of wearing these fancy bras, they were spent. So I took myself down to the mall to get a few new ones. Oh, I was so proud of myself! I was being so proactive. So grown up. I was going to feel so sexy in these new bras!
Except, I didn’t. I bought a different style, one that had a totally different shape. Once I got them home and tried them on with my actual clothes, they peeked out of all the many deep V-necks and scoop necks I own.
My daughter had been asking for a dog since kindergarten (she’s in third grade now). My husband and I would always say, when you’re 8 and your brother is 6, we’ll get a dog. So this has been a long time coming.
Once they both had their birthdays this past spring, we said we would wait until after we got back from our annual trip to Block Island. Once that was behind us, we started looking for real.
I’m not sure if you’ve adopted a pet lately, but the Internet has made it a lot like online dating. There’s lots of hours spent perusing search results, emailing with foster moms, setting up dates to meet. It’s no small investment of time.
She had been home sick from school that day, and her brother had been home sick from school the previous three days. As someone who relies on regular periods of solitude as a sanity preservation strategy (i.e., total introvert), I was running a serious alone-time deficit.
It was a nice night. The kids were feeling better and were punchy and wrestling on the couch. So I shooed them outside. Or, I tried to shoo them outside. Probably because I was feeling like a really needed 10 minutes of separation from them, and because I wasn’t willing to be the one who removed myself, they were like, “Mommy! We don’t want to go outside! It’s dark! There’s nothing to do!”
I was having none of it. So I brought out the big guns. “Go outside for 10 minutes and then you can eat one of the cookies Lillian made today.”
Teddy grudgingly went outside, but Lillian refused. She crossed her arms over her chest and gave me the stink eye. I asked/told her a couple more times to outside. She stood her ground. So I lowered the boom: I said no cookie for you.