our storytelling minds.

mindfulness

 

I finally had an ‘ah-ha’ moment when it comes to the storytelling mind and the narratives we make up about ourselves or any given experience in our life.  I’ve come to understand the storytelling mind as the endless stream of thoughts, feelings, and images that play in the background of our minds on a regular basis.  What I know is that the more I practice meditation and yoga, the better I am able to recognize the habitual patterns of my inner dialogue.  I’ve talked about it before, but I’m becoming more and more familiar with the repetitious thoughts, judgements, worries, and stories that quietly create the chatter in my mind.

After paying closer attention to my internal landscape over the last few months, I’ve started to recognize all of the stories I’ve been creating about my life.  I was both surprised and not surprised to find that a lot of my thoughts center around other people’s perceptions of my actions and my own judgements about myself.  In a way, I didn’t realize how much stress, fear, and worry I had about other people’s opinions about my decisions.  This recognition was surprising because I typically pride myself on feeling confident about my decisions- independent of other people’s judgements- but recently, I’ve began to to notice that this is one of the primary ways I hold myself back.  I also noticed that despite the greater awareness I have with my beliefs about accomplishment and achievement, a lot of my thoughts and worries still center around performance.  And while I consider these thoughts to be both helpful and not helpful, they are always worth examining and looking at more closely.  In some ways, the worries about accomplishment continue to prompt me to align my decisions and actions with my values and goals, but I also recognize that this focus on achievement and performance doesn’t always translate into using my fullest potential.  I’m learning that these stories can keep me rigid in ways that limit my possibilities and prevent me from expanding and growing.

 

And as I learn more about the stories I tell, I’ve also come to learn more about the identity I’ve created about who I believe myself to be. There are stories here too.  And while the stories can be empowering and beautiful, the identities we create around ourselves can often keep us contained so that we experience fear in stepping out of the boxes we’ve placed ourselves in.

I recently journaled about the stories I’ve created and then made another list that more fully expanded on who I am and gave myself permission to release the rules and expectations I previously let go unchallenged in my mind. Here’s what I wrote:

 

  • I am a person who is successful, always has a plan, is nice to everyone, doesn’t upset people, works with people who are homeless, does the right thing, makes the right choices, and is not afraid of change.

 

  • I am also a person who gets to experience and learn from failures, make mistakes, and does not know where to go next.  I am a person who is okay with not pleasing everyone and not being liked when it means remaining true to myself.  I am a person who takes risks and doesn’t have to know everything.  I’m a person who gets to pick a different path than the one I initially set out on.  I am a person who gets to fall apart and take time to adjust.

 

These practices allow me to examine what I am identifying with.  I immediately noticed was how rigid and unrealistic the first statements were; while they are easily disputable and visibly perfectionistic, it wasn’t until I wrote them down on paper that I realized how much stress I was creating in my attempts to live by these standards and how limiting they are to experiencing the fullness of life.  Offering myself permission to be an entire person with a wide range of experiences not only feels better, it’s also more realistic, gentle, and aligned with the kind of person I actually am.  What I know is that this type of self-reflection helps me to learn more about the narratives I live by and my habitual ways of thinking.   What I know is that if we don’t check in with ourselves and our thoughts, we might believe them all to be true.  We might hold on to identities that we’ve outgrown, or make decisions based on who we are are ‘supposed to be’ versus who we are.

 

 

Getting to know ourselves fully requires that we spend more time looking within rather than comparing ourselves to the people on our phones.  It requires that we be willing to step away and let go of the identities we’ve worked so hard to create and protect. The work asks us to observe our reactions and the places where we get stuck so that we can soften and stop identifying with who we no longer are.

 

 

 

Get to know yourself.

You have permission to change.

 

 

 

 

 

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fear based living

journaling You might already know that when I was little, I used to write list after list in my journals; I would identify places I hoped to travel  (Africa, India, and Paris always made the top three) and about who I aspired to be. I wrote down traits that I wanted to work on and characteristics I was proud of.  I made lists of books to read, people I admired, and goals for the year.

 I can remember envisioning larger than life successes and thoughts about all of the possibilities that could exist within a single lifetime.  There were so many opportunities and paths to take, and I knew early on that I wanted to make a contribution to this world.   I have had this belief within me from as long as I can remember that I am here to do amazing things.  And I don’t mean that in a grandiose or egotistical sort of way; in my heart of hearts, I really believe that we are all here to do amazing things. We each have something inside of us that only we can offer, that only we can create, and that only we can see.  And sometimes we forget about that little magic spark that exists within us all.

 

As I’ve gotten older, I can more clearly see that life often gets in the way of where we thought we were going.  We get trapped into comfort zones through security, stability, and even false senses of security.  We get accustomed to our routines and the exchange of money for our time.  We start making decisions based on our fears rather than through the depths of our souls.  The reality of finances, obligations, debt, children, and unanticipated expenses start acting as road blocks and detours to our paths, and justifiably so.  We all make decisions and sacrifices based on our current situation and we are all always just trying to do the best that we can.  To be clear, there is nothing wrong with comfort, stability, or routine, it can in fact be everything we have wished for.  I’ve just been reflecting on how these perceived comforts convince me to play small.  I’m noticing the way in which fear of failure, risk, making mistakes, and the unknown keeps me in my routine, even when I feel called to take leaps and carve out new paths.  I’m noticing all of the choices I’ve been making based on fear.

 

 

Somewhere along the way, I stopped making the lists.  I started writing about challenges, relationships, and my thoughts and feelings.  It wasn’t that the dreams stopped existing, it was that other things began to take my focus– life started to happen. But over the last year, I’ve also started to truly recognize that we only grow older and time slips away, and pretty soon we have journals filled with frustrations and wonderings, and lists of unlived dreams.

 

What I’m opening up to is re-writing my vision on notebook paper, on exploring all of the possibilities, of not limiting myself based on an attachment to a plan.  I’m working on giving myself permission to change my mind, to be a beginner, and to challenge my comfort zones so that I can continue to evolve and grow.

And because I am a planner and an over-thinker, I’m slowly inching my way back to the confidence in taking risks.  What’s important in my heart today is the knowing that when I can step away from the worry, fear, and unease, I can recognize that the unknown, the risks, and the possibilities are a beautiful place to be.

 

 

 

oceans and mountains.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetOut of all the things there are to love in this world, people are my favorite.  I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about all of the hearts I am connected to and how grateful I am to have so many pieces of people’s lives intertwined with my story.  Like the man from Budapest who told me about his daughter’s dreams while in Paris or the father I hugged when he got his son back.  I think about the chance encounters that became my greatest friendships; your desk being placed next to mine because you were shy and I was not.  I think about you crossing oceans and me moving to the mountains and both of us sitting next to each other on a hardwood floor in a circle, hands on our hearts. I think about all of us applying at the same restaurant as we made our way through college and dancing the night away eight years later on my wedding day. My heart thinks about you, all of the people that have read my words and then became my real life friends.

My heart overflows with gratitude when I consider the details that occurred in order for our lives to touch, the miles and miles we each spent walking the earth that resulted in your footprints making their way to my path.  I’ll always believe that people show up right when we need them, to help us grow, to open us up to the possibilities, to carry a message, or to hold our hand in comfort after a particularly stormy chapter.  I think about the people I’ve come to know who live their lives in the boldest, most beautiful, and magnificent ways.  The people who teach you to be soft, who show you how to be honest and vulnerable, the ones who dare to change their paths to answer to their life’s calling.  And I think about all of the people I do not know and all of the hearts that are beating just like mine.  I think about entire populations of people that many of us know nothing about, who do courageous things and suffer in ways we cannot possibly understand. I think about all of the people sewing beautiful seeds into their corners of the world, who leave roots for things to grow in every place they touch.  I imagine picking a flower they once planted or sitting underneath the shade of the tree they helped to grow.

 

With my blankets astray and snowflakes falling from the sky from my third floor apartment, I think about the ways in which we enter people’s lives. The ways our own feet lead us into another person’s story and create lasting change.  We can show up in the world in big and small ways,  like the way we carry ourselves, greet a stranger, or stand in a check-out line.  We show up in the ways we use our talents to benefit another person, pursue our passions with every fiber of our being, and how we make a person feel about themselves.  We choose the way we treat the people we love and the people we do not know.  We can be soft while showing up strong, we can withdraw judgement and seek to connect, to extend a hand.  We can help people to see the magic that they are.

I think about my yoga teachers, who without words, showed me how I want to be present in other people’s lives.  In the last four months I’ve learned about the gift we offer to people we meet and the people we love when we are present and kind.  I’ve learned that the more compassionate and gentle we can be with ourselves, the more compassion we can show towards others.  I’ve learned how valuable it is to see each person as a whole, to take note of their heart, and to make room for someone to be just as they are.  I was able to transform in beautiful ways because my experiences, challenges, and strengths were not only validated and seen, but celebrated and encouraged.  I developed as a person because my heart was nurtured, my words were listened to, and my vulnerability was met with sweetness and love.

 

When it comes to loving people, here is what I know:

  • Powerful things happen when we allow people to be who they are instead of who we want them to be.
  • People transform with compassion, not shame.
  • When we nurture another human being, we create an opportunity for healing, softening, and growth.
  • We have the power to impact someone’s life in just one conversation, evening, or experience.
  • I believe when we show up authentically and vulnerably we encourage others to do the same.
  • We can stop trying to fix people and focus on loving them instead.

 

 

 

 

and so I thank you, for being who you are and showing up in the way that you did.

in big ways and small ways.

I needed you.

what we think.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetI am participating in a yoga teacher training and a few weeks ago we started to study the manomaya kosha; the mind.  The parts of ourselves that include thoughts, emotions, beliefs, and images.  We went through a practice that included observing our thoughts and we were asked to begin noticing a habitual running of sentences through our mind.  As we were guided through the practice I found myself internally saying ‘I don’t know how to do this, I’m never going to learn all of this’ asking,”am I doing this correctly?” and similar variations.

What I know is that our thoughts are often snapshots of our underlying core beliefs; beliefs that feel imbedded into who we are and often consciously or unconsciously guide our emotions or behaviors.  For most of us, these beliefs fall into a “I am not _____ enough”  statement.  Maybe you fill in the blank with words like worthy, strong, attractive, skinny, nice, competent, loving, masculine, successful, wealthy, good,  or popular.  Regardless of the adjective, the beliefs turn into feelings of lack, a general feeling of not being enough.

During this practice, I learned of a sentence that quietly runs in the back of mind, a belief that often masks itself in feelings of fear of failure, unsureness, and unease about my level of competency.    When I introspected a little bit deeper, “I am not smart enough” came to mind.  I went back to kindergarten where I saw my 6 year old self standing in front of my sweet teacher, feeling panicked and unsure about whether I would be able to successfully count to one hundred.  I went back to 3rd grade when I failed a cursive handwriting assignment after writing all of my “f’s” backwards.  Or in 4th grade when I was pulled out of math time while learning division because I wasn’t catching on as quickly as the other students.  I recall being surrounded by wonderful friends who were more intelligent, bright, and quicker learners than myself as a seventh grader in junior high.  And I can remember how embarassed I felt in high school after failing the AP calculus exam and learning that all of my friends had passed. I can hear the kind people in my life saying things that were internalized in a way that was perhaps unintended; “you have that lowest ACT score out of the group, but we are glad you are here,” and “we just wanted to spend extra time with you since it was taking you longer than everyone else.”  The statements were harmless, but over time the words somehow blended together into an internal statement of “I am not smart enough.”  This transpired into actions of excessive study, obsessive focus on success, and feelings of failure.  It resulted in an undertone of feeling inadequate and sometimes placing extreme pressure on myself with expectations of scholastic perfection.  This meant that I cried when I got less than an “A” on an assignment and felt panicked after reading the first question on a test.  I felt unsure of my innate ability to learn and of the likelihood that I would be able to succeed. I didn’t  know this about myself until recently.

 

I share these words with you because the homes that are our bodies exist on foundations of beliefs, experiences, and learnings.  I am not _______ enough exists within us all.  It is worth taking a look inside of yourself, asking where your insecurities may lay, and getting to know where those little sparks exist.  I say this because perhaps you’ll find they are not true, that they no longer serve you, or that you might come to know where they came from.  And maybe from this place of knowing, you might begin to see yourself in a more complete way.  You might find that your life experiences have other information to show you.

 

And with a little work, a more balanced thought might arise after allowing all of the other thoughts to settle.  One that says I am competent, able to learn, and intelligent.  One that says I am smart, strong, capable, and deserving. One that says I am enough.

I share all of this with you in hopes that you’ll start to notice the thoughts that cloud your mind, that you’ll start to hear the stories that you tell yourself, and that you’ll start to shake and loosen your grip on the beliefs that that feel real but are not true.  In hopes that  you’ll allow some room for love and self-compassion in.  In hopes that you’ll heal.

In hopes that you begin to deeply know that you are not broken. 

 

because we change

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Think about all of the transitions you’ve been through during this season of your life.  Maybe you’ve began to raise a beautiful human being that exists with an infinite amount of possibilities or  became a beginner again as a new college student.  Perhaps you’ve had to navigate this portion of your life without the comfort of a hand you’ve previously held, tiptoeing  atop the earth knowing that a part of your soul is in the sky.  I like to think that parts of our selves,  like leaves, fall to the ground during autumn too.  And perhaps the only thing we will ever come to know is that it all changes; the leaves, the weather, our existence.

 

I moved to a new state four months ago and said goodbye to some of my hearts greatest treasures.  I left a job I loved and became surrounded by new people, the mountains, and a different culture.  I became a stranger in a city I once somewhat knew, lost again amongst all of the streets and forever trying to find my way.  There’s nothing like change in the literal and figurative weather to stir things up inside, creating room for us to reflect, grow, and heal.

I like to think of our individual cracks-  the hurts, disappointments, setbacks, heartbreaks, failures, traumas, and losses- as the same veins that characterize our favorite marigold yellow, burnt orange, and red leaves.  For the leaf, these veins carry vital nutrients; for us, the life lessons, experiences, and unknowns meant only for our hearts. I believe that some of our most beautiful lessons can be our most painful experiences, if only we might be able to find the meaning deep within ourselves.  Within each crack is the ability to be transformed and soothed. I am not suggesting that we forget, but am gently offering that we don’t have to hold on to everything.  I believe we find the strength in our healing.   The trees teach us that we must learn to let go, that we can find sweetness in the fall.  My sweet friend, we can be shattered and still rooted to the ground.

 

During this transitional period of your life, what would you like to let fall to the earth? We can let go of people that are no longer parts of our stories, experiences that only remind of us of pain.  We can let go of the beliefs we’ve held on to about ourselves that feel real but are not true.  We can let go of expectations about we are supposed to be be, knowing that we don’t have to be everything for everyone.   We can let go of the messages we’ve created or received about our worth and allow old behaviors to fall away, making room for something new.

We can offer ourselves more time, sunlight, or compassion.  We can be good to ourselves so that one day, we will open our eyes and find that everything is covered in light again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

my dear friend, our favorite season of fall only exists because things change.

you’ve transformed in beautiful and difficult ways; this is your gentle reminder that we can do hard things.