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shining soul fitness

shine from the inside out

Month

August 2016

Time, time, time, see what’s become of me…

Last week, I attended a short Restorative Yoga workshop to experience something different than I usually teach or train in and to earn some CEUs.  Sadly, my initial motivation for going was not so that I could relax and restore at all.  I had bigger goals in mind.

At the beginning of the workshop, the teacher prompted us to remove our watches and set them aside.  I have to admit, I had a sudden sense of panic arise in my belly.  What?! No watch?? How ever will I know how long I have been here?  How will I know how much longer we have before we are done?  Truthfully- how will I know how much longer it will take for me to earn the CEUs that I need and move on to that next thing on my list.  But, I trusted that this lady knew what she was doing and I took off my watch, cast it aside, and dove in.

And then I had the most delicious experience of a 3-hour workshop seeming like it lasted for 1 hour.

Since then, I have been thinking about this concept of freeing myself from my watch.  Of course, there are occasions throughout the week when I need to be informed of the time so that I can promptly start a class or end a counseling session before the next one is scheduled to begin.  But, in my personal life, I have started to notice how tied I am to knowing what time it is as a way to focus forward on what is to come.

I am doer.  I always have been.  You know the type…it’s hard for me to sit still.  If I am watching something on TV, I am also folding clothes or polishing my nails.  If I am sitting outside, I am reading.  During the day, if I am doing one thing, it is very hard for me to not being something in addition to that one thing. I have a general aversion to being still and quiet and doing nothing.  Funny for a yoga teacher, huh?  I think that is why I am so drawn to yoga.  It helps to balance me out and forces me to just be here.  That is one of the reasons that it is mandatory for me to meditate as soon as I wake up every morning to just be for a little while before I start all of the doing.

In Sports and Exercise Psychology and in Positive Psychology, there is a concept called Flow.  The creator of the concept, Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, (pronounced Chick-sent-mee-high) defines flow as “the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”  In flow, there is a balance between skills and challenge and an increase in creativity and productivity is experienced.  When this balance occurs, we forget about the world around us and feel happier after being 100% absorbed in an activity.  Our sense of time disappears as it did for me in the workshop.

In Csikszentmihalyi’s book Flow, he talks about the compatibility of yoga and flow in that in both we are practicing mindfulness and allowing ourselves to accept the moment and become fully absorbed in the present.  We frequently forget that the universe was not created to make us happy and that we have to make the effort internally through our interpretations of each experience.  We often turn outward and attempt to control the world around us, when happiness is really an inside job.  Csikszentmihalyi sums it up in saying, “A person can make himself happy, or miserable, regardless of what is actually happening ‘outside,’ just by changing the contents of consciousness.” What we focus on, allow into our consciousness, and pour our attention and energy into will have a huge effect on our levels of happiness.

And the more frequently we can get into flow, the happier we will be.  So…the goal would be to be engaged so fully in the moment that we would eventually be able to experience flow every day.  Remember, for flow to occur, we must have a challenge and the skills to meet the challenge.  I find it very challenging to just be, but I have the skills to do it when I apply myself with focus.  So theoretically, I should be able to become so focused on the present moment and whatever I am doing that I could be in flow just by being mindful.

In his book about the teachings from the Bhagavad Gita titled The Great Work of Your Life, Stephen Cope talks about John Keats and his desire to become a well known and successful poet.  He finally realizes that “his own longing and craving for success may have been undermining the quality of his work.  Certainly, he saw how his craving for fame and ‘laurels’ created a kind of anxiety that infected his work.”  In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna to let go of the outcome.  That “those who are motivated only by the fruits of action are miserable! They are constantly anxious about the results of what they do.”

As I read this, I began to see the genius of the simple directive to take off my watch for the yoga workshop, as I would typically be wrapped up in the next thing on my To-Do list and I would not be fully invested in the moment.  I went in to the workshop focused on the outcome- the fruits of my being there.  Now, in Keats’ case, he was focused on being recognized and lauded for his work.  There are many ways in which we lose focus on what we are doing and project ahead only to the outcome that we want.  And in doing this, we miss out on the enjoyment of and possible growth from the actual experience.

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I enjoyed the Restorative workshop so much, that I am planning to sign up for a 4-day one in the future.  Yep, I said 4-days!  And I will be sure to ‘forget’ my watch when I attend so that I can be fully in the adventure of it, content with whatever I am experiencing while letting go of the outcome.

Before then, I will also be practicing this concept off the mat.  Another form of living my yoga.

This week, I invite you to explore how much you ‘skip ahead’, focusing on the outcome rather than surrendering to the experience and being absorbed in the moment. Who knows, you may even experience flow along the way and really enjoy yourself.

Take off your watch.  Be fully present in what you are doing and pay attention to each detail.  Relax and let go of how it will turn out.  Just be in it.

You know I will be practicing right with you.  Always.

Talk again soon.

k

 

 

 

Are you what you are or what?

You cannot be anyone you want to be.

You cannot be anyone you want to be?

Really?

-Stephen Cope

In his book The Great Work of Your Life, Stephen Cope highlights Krishna’s guidance for Arjuna from the Bhagavad Gita to discuss the yogic idea of dharma or life’s work/path. Growing up, I was told and believed that I could be anyone I wanted to be; that if I just put my mind to it, I could be anyone.  However, according to Cope’s interpretation of the Gita, this is simply not true if we want to be happy.

Yes, our ability to succeed when we apply ourselves is vast.  Yes, we can accomplish things that many may have doubted.  But, according to the Gita and Cope, “you can only expect a fulfilling life if you dedicate yourself to finding out who you are.”  You can only truly be you.

When I read this, a light bulb clicked on in my head.  Of course!  If we spend our lives trying to be what others expect or someone we look up to or our ‘competition’, we will be dangling that happiness carrot out of our reach forever.  Only when we surrender enough to our authentic selves will we succeed and feel whole.

Oscar Wilde is quoted (but not clearly proven) as saying, “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.”  However, we often model ourselves after others and try to be someone we are not.

I work with so many people who experience depression and hopelessness because they have shaped their lives around what others think, who others tell them they should be, and the roles they feel they should fulfill rather than just being themselves.

We lose our way, forget who we authentically are, and get caught up in expectations and appearances.  We are afraid to fail, but as Krishna points out to Arjuna, we are truly only failing at our life if we are trying to live it as someone we are not.

It is so common to fall into the trap of thinking that we will be happy if we just reach that next goal, lose 20 pounds, get that raise, pay off that debt.  When in reality, we will only be happy when we allow ourselves to be who we truly are.  And once we are happy, we will more easily succeed at all of those goals.

Now, don’t get me wrong- even when you know who you are and what your path is, it won’t be a carefree ride without bumps and roadblocks along the way.  There will still be challenge and difficulty simply because life is involved.  Remember, Stephen Pressfield tells us that Resistance increases when we are on the verge of moving ourselves to a “higher plane” of existence.  It’s that sign that you are getting close.

If you don’t know much about me, then you may not know that yoga is my passion.  It is my daily life.  It is my dharma.  But after 16 years, are there some days that I wake up and don’t feel like teaching? Definitely.  Are there days that it is physically and emotionally draining?  Definitely.  Do I still get nervous before teaching or creating something new?  Definitely.  But, I cannot conceive of my life without yoga.  I would not be me without it. So, I have been determined in shaping my life around my dharma.

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Successful people will tell you all about the failures they have experienced along the way and how they had to figure out who they are before they were able to become successful. Only when we are authentically ourselves, can we live a happy and fulfilling life, but this means that we must put in the effort to learn who we truly are.  We must take steps toward that path.  And when we do, we will also find that the Universe will support that decision and will help us to be our authentic selves.  Why?  Because only when we are offering the world what only we can offer can the Universe live in peace.

So, when are you going to let yourself be happy?  Your homework is to figure out who you are.  In fact, this is the greatest work of your life.  Who are you when no one else is around or watching?  Allow yourself to be that person.  What would you do if you knew that you could not fail?  Even more importantly…what would you do even if there was a chance that you could fail?  What must you do?  It’s now or never.

Only when we live authentically as who we are can we find happiness.  Even if your dharma and passion are not in your day job, find time to give yourself the gift of tapping in to what you love and what makes you you when you can.  Stephen Cope calls our dharma “The gift” and lets us know that it cannot be taken away, only dampened and forgotten about.

Go be yourself today.  No one else can be.  You are the best you there ever was.  The world needs what only you can bring.

I believe in you.

Talk again soon.

k

 

 

 

 

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