Lessons on discomfort

 

DSC06921We woke up at sunrise to walk through the city before everyone else did and we ended up on an isolated road, wandering through the sage brush and breathing in that clear and quiet air. There was an actual instance where I could feel myself opening up to this new season.

I felt an internal sigh of relief in knowing that that everything is impermanent.  Standing in my own personal resiliency, I recognized the slow comfort I’ve developed with discomfort.

And what that means for me is that I’ve had the courage to learn how to be brave.  In some ways, it doesn’t come natural for me; I like the security of mastering a skill, of growing confidence in a particular area and then planting roots there to stay.  In other ways, I’m comfortable with risk, but I forgot about the courage these challenges required.  The courage that landed me in a big ten school without knowing a single soul- the first time to leave my small Wyoming town.  The courage to share my heart with others without knowing how it would be received and the courage to be authentic, to be unwavering in who I feel to be as a person.  The courage to be unshakable in my commitment to expanding my highest potential, of searching for inspiration, and then trying to live it.

For the first time in a long while, I really paused to see where I’ve landed.  I stopped long enough to question whether this is where I’m meant to stay.  The lesson is that if we don’t stop to take a look at where we are, we might find ourselves in a job, relationship, city,  situation, or lifestyle that we didn’t intentionally end up in and definitely didn’t mean to stay with.  Without exploring our internal landscape, life will pass us by.  What I know is that in pursuit of comfort we might forget the other possibilities that exist within us and end up complacent.

This isn’t a quit your day job and follow your passion post.  This isn’t a travel around the world and live out of your backpack post.  Of course you can do either of those things, and it would be beautiful.  But equally as beautiful is living a creative life, a slow and steady existence characterized by the intentionality of each of your actions. This a post inviting you to pause; to look at where you’ve landed as a result of your most challenging days and your greatest successes.  This is a post asking you to stand strong in your grief and heartache after losing the person you love the most,  after wandering in this world trying to figure out why you’re here, and especially after deciding that it’s time to let go. This is a post reminding you to remain curious about who you are, because it’s changing in every moment.  This is a post reminding you that our time here is finite, that we won’t get the chance to try all of these things ever again.  That at the end of our days we all want to look back and know that we did every single thing that was planted in our heart.

 

Is this who you are supposed to be?

 

What about that book you wanted to write?  That idea you wanted to invent?  That country you wanted to explore?  That job you wanted to get?  The children you wanted to raise? That dream only you were meant to chase? Those mountains you wanted to climb?

 

Living up to our greatest possibilities requires constant evaluation of where we are.  It requires a dedication to learning how to be uncomfortable and making brave choices- even when you’re scared.  Fear has a very definitive power of keeping us from doing the things we were meant to do- of taking those risks and opening up to the possibility of failure.  Fear of course, is just doing it’s job- but if we only listen to this side of who we are, we will never live out our purpose or grow into our ultimate completeness.

 

 

What I want more than outward success is that freedom to try things I may not be good at.  The personal strength to take a risk without being attached to the outcome, the ability  to move through fear with strength and ease.  And for me, this means living fiercely.  This means taking a leap before I am ready and showing up every single day- with persistence and devotion- to doing the work. And not only the work, but my work. This means living authentically, without the need for validation or external approval  This means giving myself permission to be different tomorrow than I was today.

 

 

Don’t get stuck where you are out of comfort.  Stay ever-changing.  The only way we can affect change- within ourselves and the world-  is to be committed to failure.  Let it happen.  Breathe when it does.  And know that you will thrive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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incomplete thoughts on action

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Sometimes the only thing I know to do is write; even when the thoughts aren’t fully formed and even I don’t know what to say.  I went to Las Vegas a few weeks ago and one of my most favorite things about the city is how friendly and welcoming the people that live there are.  Our Uber driver said it best, “most people that live here are nice, and most people that come here are too.  They are here to have a good time.”

 

My heart-  just like your heart-  aches for the beautifully limitless lives that were lost, the people that were hurt, and for the grief that so many more people will now have to endure.  Like you, I am overwhelmed with sadness for the fear these acts of violence continue to create,  for our nation that feels increasingly divided.  I share your anger, confusion, and desire to make a change.

 

While I recognize that I am on the periphery- that I cannot fully understand the depths of the people’s pain whose lives have been tragically affected- devastations like today remind me of how fragile our lives are and how precious our time here together is. What I know is that one person’s actions impact us all.

 

I don’t have any simple solutions or answers, I don’t even have words. I have tears, sadness, pain and confusion.  But what I know is that:

 

It’s not enough to post prayers on social media.

It’s not enough to gossip about these horrific atrocities or share a news story.

It’s not enough to be outraged while sitting in the comfort of your home.

 

 

The only thing I know to do in my tiny corner of the world is to be good to people.  To hold the door open for strangers, to ask someone how their day is, to give someone the benefit of the doubt.  To not allow small frustrations or misunderstandings to take over the limited time I have with the people I dearly love.  The only thing I know is to ask questions, to engage with my community through advocacy, service, and voting.

 

I don’t want to say it simply, nor do I intend to offer a simplistic perspective on a very complex and multilayered issue, but I always mean it when I say ‘be kind.  offer love.’

And what I mean is do it when it’s hard.  When it’s uncomfortable, when you’re challenged and have to rise to the occasion.  We can do more than offer kindness out of a place of convenience, self-service, or to post about on social media.  Perhaps when you see a person without a home on the street and your first instinct is to look away, maybe you make eye contact and nod or smile instead.  Maybe you interject when you hear someone ‘jokingly’ make an offensive and racist remark, or you might gently challenge your family member’s outdated understanding on issues taking place today. Maybe you attempt to learn and understand why people are kneeling and commit to standing beside them. Kindness means acknowledging another person’s humanity, respectfully addressing other people’s behaviors, and empathically trying to understand the other side of every story.

 

 

What I know is that we don’t need to further separate from one another, we need bridges and common ground.  We need united conversations so that even when we have differing perspectives, we can still stand next to one another, holding each other’s hand. We must learn to express our emotions and disagreements in a healthy way, to dialogue about challenging topics while maintaining respect for the person that stands in front of us.  We need to have solution-focused conversations about healthcare, politics, gun control, social inequalities, and racism but we must first learn to do so without becoming hurtful or more divided.

 

 

 

 

 

We all want to be safe.  We all want to live full lives.

 We all want to be able to go to a concert with the ones we love and dance the night away.

 

 

 

And when things like today happen, don’t run away from the world, engage with it.  Change it.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

lessons on kindness

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I’m always looking to people to learn about myself and the way I want to show up in this world. I constantly question “is who I am being in this moment reflective of the greatest person that lies inside?”  A lot of times I’m off base and some shifts in attitude or perception are called for; and sometimes I’m spot on and am respond with so much loving kindness that I can’t help but feel internal love radiating inside.

Lately, I’ve been trying to allow the hurtful and challenging people I encounter to teach me about kindness, to show me what it means it means to be compassionate, and to notice all the ways in which I begin to contract and feel when I experience difficult interactions. I look to strangers as models of gentleness, steadiness, and strength.  I look to friends and acquaintances to teach me about bravery and the willingness to take risks.  I look to ordinary people to teach me about success and making decisions based on purpose, rather than fear.

My greatest teacher most recently has been the barista at my favorite local coffee shop.  After a particularly defeating day last week, I drove tiredly and with a sense of frustration to meet my husband to do more work.  When it was my turn next in line, the barista, in a typical customer service fashion, asked me how my day was. “Rough,” I said. And because we are conditioned by so many of these interactions, I wasn’t expecting anything more than a simple, fairly generic response.  I was taken aback when the barista stopped what he was doing, looked me in the eyes, and offered the most sincere sense of compassion.  He asked me about my day and listened with attentiveness; he not only made it a point to personally deliver my meal and make an extra beautiful design from the froth of my coffee, but checked in with me later that night before he left his shift.  The gestures were simple, but intentionally kind.  What I know for sure is that the sincerity of his actions changed the outcome of my day.  The barista’s presence and willingness to port forth extra effort gently switched my perspective; his actions a reminder that the way we show up in our lives matters to the people we encounter.  He reminded me how much I value support, community, and gentle compassion and so I was able to move through the rest of the day more softly, more full.

 

I’m still thinking about his kindness and all of the things he didn’t have to do but chose to anyways.  Here’s what I know:

  • You have the power to change someone’s behaviors, feelings, and day, simply by the way you show up.  We can move through our days in automated ways- prioritizing our needs and wants over those we are surrounded by- or we can choose to be present in the experiences and potential suffering that other people encounter and make an offering of our hearts.

 

  • We can notice but it’s most powerful to act.  We are in an age of sharing posts, images, and well wishes on social media versus taking intentional action to contribute to the alleviation of a problem.  While education and acknowledgement of and about local, national, and international issues are crucial, we must be intentional about being the drivers of change.

 

  • There are so many possible beautiful interactions that could take place in this world.  The person standing in front of you could turn out to be one of your greatest friends or deepest supporters-  if only we would pause and allow ourselves the opportunity to connect to one another’s hearts.

 

  • Paying attention to the way people are feeling around you can make all the difference.  And if their cup is empty, perhaps offer some of your love to fill it up.

 

  • Be kind.  Talk to someone you don’t know.  Offer love.

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.