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Mindful Monday: What’s Your Story?

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At some point last week, the above quote popped up in my Instagram feed and stopped me in my tracks. (Don’t you just love when something great grabs hold of you and won’t let go?) That’s how I felt about this quote because, really, it’s just the truest of true. The stories that we tell ourselves…looping in our brains for years or even decades. And I’m here today to call it like it is. Many of the stories? Are outright lies.

Yet we listen to the stories. We ruminate over them…kneading them into 100 different editions in our minds. We pay such rapt attention to the thoughts that often keep us from meeting our full potential.

I can’t do that. I’m not smart enough. I don’t have enough time. I’m not doing enough for my family/clients/friends. I’ll be stuck in this crappy job forever. I’ll never find a mate. I’m never going to get well. I should have accomplished more by now. No one understands me. People don’t find me interesting. I’m not creative enough. My art is shit. I can’t lose the weight. My writing is horrible. I’ll never be as good as him/her. If I make them angry, they will leave me.

I think one or more of these thoughts have crossed most of our minds at some point. Unfortunately, these kind of thoughts can start to dictate lives. Isn’t the human experience such a blast sometimes?

I attended a meditation workshop this weekend as a part of my yoga teacher training, and while discussing working with our own thoughts, my instructor brought up the work of Byron Katie. Many of you might know of her – in a nutshell, her system (or “The Work,” as she calls it) is a way of identifying and questioning the thoughts that cause all the anger, fear, depression, addiction, and violence in the world.

What I love about Katie’s work is that it’s incredibly straight-forward. Four (seemingly) simple questions can create profound shifts in one’s thinking rapidly. So, what are the questions?

First off, think of a thought that troubles you or stresses you out or makes you feel like crap. Then apply these questions to that thought.

The Four Questions:

1) Is it true?

2) Can you absolutely know it’s true?

3) How do you react—what happens—when you believe that thought? Who you you become?

4) Who would you be without the thought?

After answering those questions, turn that thought around to make it positive. Then keep reminding yourself. Again and again.

For example, a thought I’ve had too many times to count over the past couple of years is that I will never feel completely well again. So, let’s take a look at the questions.

I will never feel completely well again.

1. Is it true? I don’t know.

2. Can I absolutely know it’s true? No. 

3. Who do I become when I have that thought? Fearful, worried, stressed, and unable to enjoy myself.

4. Who would I be without that thought? Happier, less worried, and, well, carefree.

Turnaround statement: I feel pretty good now, and will continue to improve.

The questions are where the truth really lies for me – the answers are right there, staring me in the face. The turnaround statement is the way to keep me from ruminating on the negative thought. The minute I start telling myself that familiar story, I immediately replace with the turnaround.

I watched several peers work through some of their most stress-inducing thoughts with these questions this weekend and come out feeling completely empowered. Seeing things in a different light, so to speak. I watched eyes light up when they discovered their “turnaround” statement and said it out loud.

I hope you try it out when you feel trapped by one of your “stories.” Can you imagine how different our lives would be if we didn’t possess the ability to engage these thoughts? Which would you prefer—life with or without your bullshit story? Without? Then let’s get cracking on eliminating it for good.

Mindful Monday: Following Through

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image credit: christie zimmer

I have a confession to make. I struggle with following through on my goals. (THE HORROR.)

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, and had a really interesting conversation with my therapist last week that got me wondering about qualities we possess that can be both beneficial and detrimental to our psyche. For example, my resourcefulness and Love (yes, with a capital “l”) of research. I don’t think this blog would be celebrating its 10th birthday without the large amount of research I do to keep the content fresh and (hopefully) engaging. The capsule wardrobe, cleaning up my beauty and skincare, and Mindful Monday posts are a few recent examples. A lot goes into those posts – weeks of reading, studying, crowd-sourcing, etc, and I very much enjoy the entire process. I love taking a huge bite into a subject and figuring out how to make that translate to those of you who might not have the desire (or time) to do the work yourselves. It doesn’t feel like a job to me. (Well, 80% of the time.)

So, YAY for resourcefulness! Makes for interesting blog posts! Except, that, well, NO.

You see, the desire to know everything you possibly can about everything isn’t always beneficial. In fact, it can be downright paralyzing. It’s like what I wrote about in the capsule wardrobe post – too much knowledge and too many choices can actually backfire in your face, leading you to spin around aimlessly without actually doing anything. Walking into a crammed-full closet and declaring, “I have nothing to wear” is the exact same concept at play as purchasing a supplement or researching a new diet or deciding on a school or buying a new phone/car/home/insurance policy. SO MANY CHOICES. (Damn you, interwebs!) I witnessed this firsthand when I was diagnosed with Lyme – I saw so many different specialists and read the books and visited the websites and talked to others dealing with the disease…and ended up starting (and eventually stopping) so many different courses of treatment. That time in my life was when I wrote a lot of of last year’s Mindful Monday posts – I was trying to cut through all the mental and spiritual clutter, quiet the noise, and listen to my own intuition. It’s definitely a lifelong learning curve.

Now, I am learning to walk the fine line between my desire to eat All! Of! The! Information! alive and actually implement some of it.

How do you begin? Well, the above graphic has some fantastic points. For starters, the biggest issue for me is to STOP HAVING SO MANY GOALS AT ONCE. I know, I know. But goals are good! Be proactive! Do the work! Yes, all of that, but when you are drowning in goals and ideas and information, you aren’t going to achieve any of them. Give yourself a break – pick one or two measurable goals and go from there. Be gentle with yourselves – this isn’t a race, and it’s completely normal to move slowly and experience setbacks.

This is what I’ve come up with for 2015. I am going to work on two goals/ideas.

The two things I am focusing on this year are my quarterly capsule wardrobes (which, hello, larger concept – lots of research and planning involved), and the second, which I am unnaturally excited about, is a small, ultra-measurable goal that will thrill me beyond belief to complete. Like happy dances for days.

What is it?

To absolutely NOT buy a single book on my Kindle until I have finished the ones I already own. (Or at least attempt to get through them – if one is horrible, I can’t promise anything, people.)

My name is Sarah and I am an Impulsive Kindle Book Purchaser.

I consider this goal “small” due to the fact that I don’t need to research anything. I don’t need to bury myself in resources as to how to achieve said goal. I just need to read the books. That I bought. At some point because I wanted to read them.

How novel! (No pun intended.)

A very attainable goal, yet a much larger concept is at play. It’s giving me the chance to prove to myself that I can follow through, and I’m being smart about it. I didn’t choose some super involved, pie-in-the-sky dream that could send me spinning. It’s simple and straightforward…isn’t that what we all need at times?

A damn fine goal if I do say so myself. Do feel me following through already or what?

You want to know what the books are, don’t you? Okay, let’s do this.

books

1. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
2. Lessons From Madame Chic
3. The Year of Magical Thinking
4. All The Light We Cannot See
5. The Yamas & Niyamas
6. The Conscious Parent
7. Bringing Home The Dharma
8. Breaking The Habit of Being Yourself
9. The Book of Secrets
10. The Story of a Happy Marriage
11. Divergent
12. The Goldfinch (I CAN NOT GET THROUGH THIS BOOK. Everyone seems to adore it, though. What’s the deal?)
13. The Giver
14. Man’s Search for Ultimate Meaning
15. What We Talk About When We Talk About God
16. The Last Letter From Your Lover

Okay, guys. I’m not buying any more books until these are all finished. #followingthroughlikeaboss

(But tell me what you’re reading. I swear I won’t buy it. Trust me! Consider it a challenge of my willpower!)

What are your thoughts on following through on goals? Do you get overwhelmed like yours truly? Have you considered setting a smaller goal for yourself in hopes to see it through to completion?

Mindful Monday: Trust the Path, Man. (At least that’s what I’m telling myself.)

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Have you ever embarked on a fairly major life change/event without giving it much thought? Because you just knew it was the right thing to do? Well, up until a few weeks ago, I can honestly say I had not. Nope, for I am a Planner, hear me roooaaaaaar. I think about plans and planning and how to plan for some more plans in the upcoming planning period.

So, you know I’ve been dabbling in yoga over the past year or so – I talked about it here and I STILL re-read your comments on this post, and I have to admit, it’s been a very on-and-off affair. Many of you told me that finding the right class and, most importantly, the right teacher was paramount, and (OF COURSE) you were so right. You see, up until a month or so ago, I sought out yoga classes that appealed to the Sarah of Yore – Vinyasa flow and heated classes with a relatively challenging pace filled with lovely young, fit men and women, but the problem was…well, I was dealing with new physical limitations. However, I would attempt to “power through” and end up with the same results again and again. Those results being a slew of injuries.

(When I will I ever learn? GAH.)

My ego took the reigns for a bit until I was sidelined with a hamstring insertion tear for a solid few months earlier this year. At that point I began practicing restorative yoga only, even though I couldn’t even get my legs up the wall due to my injuries and general awesomeness. I visited physical therapists and energy workers and all sorts of (I like to call them) body helpers, and the most frustrating part of the process was that they ALL recommended yoga. “Have you tried yoga?” DON’T YOU KNOW THAT’S HOW I GOT HERE, BODY HELPER PEOPLE?!

I decided to give up on yoga early this summer. I figured it just wasn’t for me and my temperamental body. I was bummed, though, because I had come to really enjoy learning about the yogic way of life. I wanted to love yoga…why didn’t it love me back?

Fast forward to our move to Oklahoma. I hadn’t even been back for a week when a friend recommended a therapeutic yoga instructor for me to check out. To be honest, on paper, the yoga studio itself wasn’t a favorite. The location was on the other side of town, and (once again) my ego reared its head. “A ‘therapeutic’ yoga class would be too simple and boring! That’s not what you need!” However, I drove to the studio and decided to keep an open mind about it all.

The minute…no, the second I walked in and met the owner/instructor I knew I had found my studio. She sat with me while I told her everything about the past year and a half, and just listened with such compassion. She confirmed what I already knew – that I had come to the right place. What’s that you say? Awwww yeahhhh, it’s healing time.

The classes have been nothing short of amazing, and completely different than any studio I’ve visited before. You know all those books I devour and regurgitate to you on Mindful Mondays? The classes are like living through those books and principles – gentle, therapeutic yoga poses with props, but mixed with a wide range of other practices – meditation, visualization, spiritual readings, and occasionally EFT (tapping) and Tibetan singing bowls. Every day brings something new, and it’s been nothing short of tremendous for me, physically and spiritually.

A few weeks ago, my instructor told me about the RYS 200-hour teacher training commencing at her studio this month, and asked if I had ever considered such a thing. And to be completely honest, embarking on a year-long yoga teacher training had never crossed my mind. Like. Ever. I politely declined, and went on my merry way.

Except that, you guys, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Could I do something like that? Surely not NOW, I thought. I mean, for starters, I just moved halfway across the country, my health situation is uncertain, we haven’t even moved into our house yet, we need to acclimate as a family, yada yada yada. Seriously, I could come up with 550 reasons why I most definitely should not apply.

So yeah. I’m doing it.

If there is one thing I’ve learned this past year, it’s to trust your gut. Although still hard for me to do, when you turn down the volume of your fear and coulda/woulda/shoulda, your instinct will make itself known, and it’s usually dead on. It’s going to be an amazing and challenging journey of learning, sharing, and self-reflection. Not gonna lie – I shed many tears at our first workshop (ALL OF THE EMOTIONS WERE FELT), and although it’s an incredibly vulnerable position to put yourself in…to literally let your heart open up and gush out in front of 27 people…it’s so necessary. For me, at least. I’m tired of pushing all the grief and fear and uncertainty down into the pit of my stomach, and ready to embrace all of the imperfection. This goes far beyond the physical practice of yoya. Like I’ve said before, and totally witnessed firsthand in the workshop, we are ALL struggling, and the best way we can to get through it is to embrace our connection to each other and the world around us.

So, yeah. Woot woot and Namaste and all that goodness.

image credit: elephant journal

 

Mindful Monday: Promise Yourself

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Promise yourself

To be so strong
that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.

(But remember that a worried mind is not necessarily a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of being HUMAN.)

To talk health, happiness, and prosperity
to every person you meet.

(But never be afraid to share your struggles with people you trust. Pushing your deepest, darkest fears and insecurities into the pit of your stomach is isolation at its worst. We are all here to love and accept each other.)

To make all your friends feel
that there is something worthwhile in them.

(Because there absolutely is.)

To look at the sunny side of everything
and make your optimism come true.

(But know that it’s human to feel scared/defeated/lonely sometimes.)

To think only the best, to work only for the best,
and to expect only the best.

(Did you try your best? Or close to your best? You deserve a round of applause. Be proud of your efforts.)

To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others
as you are about your own.

(Absolutely. Isn’t it amazing what people can do?!)

To forget the mistakes of the past
and press on to the greater achievements of the future.

(Maybe not forget, but FORGIVE. I forgive myself on a daily basis. On some days, hourly.)

To wear a cheerful countenance at all times
and give every living creature you meet a smile.

(You’re never fully dressed without a smile. But if your heart feels like it’s breaking wide open, it’s okay to be sad too. It’s also more than okay to talk to someone about it.)

To give so much time to the improvement of yourself
that you have no time to criticize others.

(I’m going to let you in on a little secret. You are perfect just the way you are, so keep your chin up.)

To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear,
and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.

(But we all have our “off” days. It’s okay. Dust yourself off. Tomorrow’s a brand new day.)

To think well of yourself and to proclaim this fact to the world,
not in loud words but great deeds.

(The world hungers for great deeds.)

To live in faith that the whole world is on your side
so long as you are true to the best that is in you.

(FIST BUMP, MR. LARSON.)

-Christian D. Larson, Your Forces and How to Use Them

(With my thoughts in parentheses…)

image credit: martina furlong

Mindful Monday: Self-Talk

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This week’s Mindful Monday post is written by Natalie Bodenhamer of HelloDayBlog. I had the pleasure of meeting Natalie earlier this year (in a Trader Joe’s parking lot, of all places), and was really drawn to her energy and spirit. I love Natalie’s take on self-talk – it’s a BIG challenge for me, and I found myself wanting to fist-bump her while reading this post. Thanks, Natalie!

We all talk to ourselves – it’s not just for the crazies. Whether it’s a pep talk before an interview or humorous chitchat while in line at the grocery store, we constantly find ourselves engaged in self-talk.

One of my favorite self-talkers of all time is Bob Wiley (Bill Murray) in the movie, What About Bob.

Baby steps, get on the elevator. Baby steps, get on the bus. I feel good, I feel great, I feel wonderful! Is this corn hand-shucked? I’m sailing!

The lovable schizophrenic talks himself all the way to the mast of a sailboat, for goodness sakes. It gets me every time.

Self-talk is powerful. Yet, our thoughts fall on a spectrum – from honoring to destructive. The voice we hear can be a source of motivation and strength or, on our worse days, drive us to hopelessness and despair. While I would love to hear, “go get ‘em, girl”, sometimes I get, “never gonna happen, sister”. It’s not always positive. At times it sounds down right hopeless and mean.

If we simply listen to ourselves, we miss an incredible opportunity to shape our internal talk. With focus and care, we have the power to influence our internal voice.

• Pay attention. In the midst of wrangling kids, juggling a career and trying to be a good friend, it’s not easy to pay attention to our thoughts. Set your focus and be mindful of your own thoughts. Is there a common tone? When you listen, do you feel optimistic and empowered? Only after listening carefully can you really engage in a meaningful internal conversation.

• Be in a community. Assessing your own thoughts can be confusing as hell. The more tricky or dark the messages, the more valuable it becomes to address them aloud with close and trusted friends/family. It’s amazing what one conversation with a loved one can do to provide prospective and help reframe your thoughts. Before jumping right into such a conversation, I say something like, “I would like your input as I work through x.” Or, “Would you mind talking a few ideas through with me?” And if a certain thought seems alarming to share, I remind the special friend/husband that it isn’t a truth I believe, but rather a feeling I want to evaluate more closely with their help.

• Don’t be afraid to call Bullshit. Some of the messages we send ourselves simply aren’t true. Some are destructive. It’s important to listen, assess and either validate or call bullshit.

• Most negative thoughts are rooted in comparison. When confronted with negative messages, start by asking – “Is this thought related to my own or someone else’s comparison of me to someone/something?” If the answer is “yes”, then, “bullshit” is your response. Capisce?

• Put it in writing. If there’s something that I need to hear regularly, I write it down and stick it in plain view. My bathroom mirror & kitchen backsplash are popular spots for me. I encourage you to be bold in this – during a particularly tough time for me I had the words, “remember, you like a challenge” on my bathroom mirror. At first I worried what our babysitter would think if she saw it, so I hesitated. But, quickly realized using the card as a bookmark on my bed stand was getting me nowhere. So, on the mirror it went.

• Get moving. Moving the body triggers movement in the mind as well. When I exercise or go for a walk or run, something special happens. I’m more aware of my thoughts, feelings and sensations. It’s a great time to make progress with troublesome thoughts. And if the vibe is right, I will even have the conversation aloud. You know, just to mix it up.

• Be kind to yourself. I’m not talking about empty, positive, kumbaya bologna. No, be honest and without spin. But, do yourself a favor and choose a glass-half-full perspective. And, every bullshit thought encountered must be met with a response rooted in reality, hope and love.

Being known in a community of friends and family is the most important component for me to maintain a positive internal conversation. Those relationships are a source of truth, love and support and remind me of my value and purpose. There’s no book I could read or podcast I could listen to that would replace the value of hearing a dear friend say how much they love me.

So, if I notice my internal conversation taking a negative turn, my first step is to spend time with a friend. Because, they remind me of the hope, joy and excitement I have for this adventure called life.

How do you proactively influence your internal conversations?

Mindful Monday: Letting Go

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“Doubt is a dream-killer and fear is an internal prison cell that bars you off from the world and all the glorious possibilities just waiting for you.” – Dr. Lissa Rankin

Why is it so hard to let go of our fearful thinking?

Why do we clutch onto the very thing that holds us back?

What would happen if we just decided one day to wash our hands of a certain fear, worry or insecurity for good?

Would NOT worrying about our health/relationships/success harm us? Would we suddenly not be vigilant enough? I mean, when we worry about something, we’re just trying to keep ourselves safe, right?

In the end, would absolving ourselves of worry, gasp, kill us?

OR

By letting go, could we free up all sorts of mental space for positive thoughts? And spend our days feeling much lighter, happier, and most of all, free?

 

I’m asking for a friend.

(21 Days of Praise has been postponed a bit, but oh yes, it’s still happening. I’ve just got to go to the Grand Canyon, Colorado, and Sedona first. ENERGY VORTEXES, PEOPLE.)