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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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.

 

 

 

 

 

like someone you love.

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I’ve been doing this thing lately where I ask “how can I best take care of myself in this moment?” and then I pause long enough to hear the answer. The thing about our hearts, is that they know. This year I’ve placed a high priority on taking care of myself and am constantly reorganizing my commitments and schedule to find balance.  It’s not a fixed point you know, taking care of yourself and juggling all of the commitments that life requires of us.  My philosophy about self-care and self-love is that you can’t show up fully to the present moment and to the people that you love when you don’t feel whole.

On the surface, self-care can include practices like receiving adequate sleep, spending time in nature, practicing yoga, getting a massage, taking a long bath, or engaging in supportive eating habits.  These kinds of activities nourish ourselves and help to restore our hearts and minds; they take care of our most basic needs.  And we can practice all of these things and still find ourselves feeling internally restless, uneasy, uninspired, harsh, inadequate, anxious, sad, or unkind.  Beyond all of the self-care rituals we can tend to is perhaps a greater, more gentle, and necessary way of being with ourselves.

This year, I started with the practices. I went to yoga almost every day and spent a lot of time outside with my feet in a stream.  I collected rocks, slept under the stars, and journaled regularly.  I said ‘no’ to things when I was tired and gave myself plenty of permission to rest. But the real work and internal shifts came by getting to know myself deeply enough to identify underlying core beliefs about my worth and how achievements and accomplishments fueled the reaching for feelings of ‘enough.’  The self-love came when I allowed myself to be imperfect after making a mistake, or when I showered myself in kindness after making the wrong choice.  The deep self-love came when I interrupted a habitual thought patterning of shame and negative self-talk and stopped myself from continually replaying out situations in my mind, of living in the past.

Our society talks a lot about self-love and self-care, especially these days.  But there are still so many people feeling lonely, disappointed, and not okay.  I think it’s partly because we have mixed up the intention of doing self-care practices with the intention of being someone who cares about themself. Self-love and self-care are not about excusing your behaviors or giving yourself permission to over-indulge or over-consume, they are about moments when you choose to hold space for the human being that you are.  Self-love is about becoming familiar with the thoughts that pass through our minds everyday and learning that we are not our thoughts and we are not our feelings.    The practice is in acknowledging the way you are unfolding and blooming to the present moment, no matter how messy or scary that might be. Its requires active and continual effort to honor your existence, tune in, listen, and then make a choice based on what it is you need.

 

I invite you to begin treating yourself the same way you would treat someone you dearly love.  It can get messy because it might ask us to uncover some truths about our self-worth, feelings of value, and ability to set boundaries with time, people, and our resources.  It might stir up feelings of regret, anger, shame, or dissatisfaction.  And all of that is okay; we can allow ourselves to feel the way we feel without having to act or changing anything.  That is self-love.

 

 

I offer you ultimate permission to unequivocally be yourself.  To feel bad and still be okay, to be imperfect and still enough.  To be a work in progress and still a brilliant masterpiece.  I encourage you to take as much time as you need, to move slowly,  and to work on only one thing at a time.  I invite you to learn about where you hurt and why, and to set an intention to send the love there.  Connect to what inspires you and chase those little sparks of magic.  Be gentle with your current self, the person you once were, and the person that you are becoming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

be brave enough to love yourself more than you think you deserve.

and then a little more.

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.

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.