Search

shining soul fitness

shine from the inside out

Month

April 2017

I can see all obstacles in my way…

In a recent discussion, a teacher of mine asked, “How simple can this be?” in response to our tendency to make things harder for ourselves than they need to be.  This question really struck me. I honestly don’t know that I have ever considered this.  I think of myself as the challenge over-comer.  The task master.  Simplify?  Make it easier for myself?  Wait, what??

While speaking with another yoga teacher recently, we discussed this in the context of teaching.  We acknowledged how overwhelming yoga can be for brand new students and how, as an instructor, we must revisit the beginner’s mind to put together a class that will reach them.  We discussed the old K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid) method and having to remember that after years of yoga study, we must start at the beginning and not where we currently are in our journey.  We also acknowledged how simple practices can be the most effective and profound for beginners and non-beginners alike.

But let’s broaden the view.  How are we making things in our lives more difficult for ourselves than they need to be?  Are we taking on too much?  Are we tolerating things that are uncomfortable or unnecessary? Are we stuck in old habits or beliefs? Are we focusing on things that are unimportant?  Are we allowing others to dictate our happiness?

First, we must get clear on what is truly important in our lives, where we want to go, and then we must release the rest.  Last weekend, I co-led a weekend workshop teaching the concepts of letting go of what may be holding us back.  A life cleanse, if you will.  This could be a few extra pounds, it could be clutter in our home, it could be people who are not adding joy to our lives, it could be too many commitments on the calendar…

Really looking at our lives and what is in the way of our mental clarity, lightness, and happiness is paramount. As I say in yoga and counseling frequently- once we are aware, we can make changes.  Recognizing what is not moving us forward toward who we want to be is the first step.

As I am teaching and practicing this concept of cleaning out and clearing space, I can see how easily we become overwhelmed and stressed out about things that are not important because they are in the way, blocking the view.  The beauty and potential that we are all hoping for is already inside, but it may be covered up by a lot of unimportant, mistakenly urgent crap.  And that crap is taking up the space that greatness could be in.

simplify

Today in leading a Yoga Teacher Training, we were discussing the misguidance of listening to the brain at times.  We get so caught up in the brain and believing everything we think instead of simply slowing down, breathing, and listening to the deeper wisdom.  The brain frequently functions from a place of fear and does its best to keep us stuck where we are because it knows what to expect here.  But that’s not where growth happens.

Open yourself to new possibilities.  I have long believed that success only comes out of extreme challenge, difficulty, and complication.  But is that really true?  I am learning that it doesn’t have to be that hard.  I have been making things way harder on myself than they needed to be.  And it’s exhausting.

So consider these questions.  How simple can this be?  How simple can you make things?  How will simplifying unweight you?  How are you making things harder than they should be?

Less truly is more.  But, this takes trust.  Trust that letting things go will make room for greatness to come in.  Trust that the brain isn’t the only one to listen to.  Trust that the wisdom is within us, albeit maybe under some crap…  Trust that once the crap is cleaned out, greatness will show up.

It will.

Uncover the potential that is hiding within you.  See if you can try on a new perspective of finding the most simple version this week.

Of course, I will be trying right beside you.

Talk again soon,

k

Signs, Signs, everywhere there’s signs…

It’s hard for me to relax.  I’m competitive, focused, and task oriented.  If I say I am going to take the day off to do “nothing”, that means I will actually be at home doing things from my To Do list.  I feel good when I mark things off of my list.  And I seem to struggle with doing things that I enjoy without feeling guilty, shameful even, and feeling that I should be doing something “more productive”.  Oh, to make matters worse, I also have a tendency to over-commit myself, causing me to feel the pressing need to be as efficient as I can with my time.  And giving me the excuse of not being ‘able’ to chill out and do nothing.

I really do recognize the importance of rest and relaxation for health and the more I study Ayurveda and feeling healthy in my own body, the more I recognize that sometimes a recommendation to relax is a very serious prescription.  And sometimes, the Universe is the treating physician.

In the Ayurvedic tradition of spring cleaning, I have recently completed a cleanse to clear out the heaviness of winter and to prepare my body for the heat that summer will bring.  (Don’t roll your eyes, it was a simple cleanse- mainly veggies, smoothies, salads, and soups.)  Anyway, during the cleanse, I was coached (urged even, and more than once) to cut back on commitments, responsibilities, activities.  Cleansing can take a lot of energy as the body is doing its spring cleaning tasks and as we are typically reducing the energy intake with the changes of the diet.  As the cleansing practice progresses, it is easy to find both the body and the mind tired as the entire system is processing out old junk that is no longer needed, such as excess weight, negative thoughts, or past issues that haven’t been dealt with.

After being strongly advised to reduce commitments, I responded in my usual way.  I thought, “yeah, yeah, I know, cut back, ok…”, and then I went right on with everything on my schedule as it would normally appear.  Because I can do everything ever all of the time, right? And if I slow down or cut back, I will be wasting time when I could be more productive…

This brings me to my point.  The Universe has a plan and it uses many different signs to let us know what direction we need to be heading on our path.  When the Universe tells me something and I don’t listen, it tends to take control and make it happen regardless of my silly little headstrong opinion.  And when the Universe steps in to make things happen, it’s typically not as smooth and painless as it might have been if the instructions were followed the first time around.

So, because I did not begin to simplify my schedule myself, the Universe decided that when I went to meet with my counseling clients in private practice, they would just not show up.  Over and over. (And you know it’s never the last client that doesn’t show.  It’s one in the middle of the schedule.)  And when I went to teach yoga in a therapeutic setting, the second of three groups would have conflicts and not be able to make it for their slot.  (These people are forcing me to be still and do nothing.  How dare they!)  And finally, when I still wasn’t really getting the picture, (the real whammy) I got sick and I was forced to stop and do a whole lot of nothing.

Ok, maybe I am a little hard-headed.  (I can hear them now- my mom and my husband just said “A LITTLE?!”)  And the learning curve is sharp when you don’t pay attention to the signs.

But, let’s take a look at why this is a pattern for me.  The guilt and shame that bubbles up when I am being ‘non-productive’.

Brene-Brown-rest-and-play

One of my favorite people and an amazing researcher on shame and its effects on us, Brene’ Brown, presents a wonderful intervention in her work as she describes the idea of using permission slips to allow ourselves to let go of our expectations and limitations in a situation. In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, she also outlines the idea of “letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth”.  (She is one of my favorites for a reason.)

For someone like me, the idea of a permission slip is brilliant idea as it would be for ‘just this once‘ and would not carry the gravity of the idea of slowing down forever.  It’s a way to ease in and train myself into allowing times of play, fun, and enjoyment.  I have to remember that “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”  It may make Jack dull, but it makes Kelly stressed out, frustrated, tired, and irritable.  And the more time I take for rest and play, the better I feel.  (What a shock, I know!!)

Brene’ talks about work by Dr. Stuart Brown on play and she reports that his work shows how play “shapes our brain, helps us foster empathy, helps us navigate complex social groups, and is at the core of creativity and innovation”.  (Brown 2010)  She also talks about how play and rest are both crucial to our happiness and ultimately our productivity levels.  She reports on how our society trains some of us into anxiety when we feel we are not being productive and how this is turning us into “a nation of exhausted and overstressed adults raising overscheduled children” and “we think accomplishments and acquisitions will bring joy and meaning”.  (Brown 2010)

The yogic teaching of Aparigraha (non-grasping), we are directed to try to let go of expecting things outside of us to bring joy.  This can be seen in the accumulation of things or the expectations we place on others and situations to fulfill us.  And the yogic teaching of Svadhyaya (self-study) reminds us that we are not our accomplishments or our past.  We are the amazing spirit that lives inside of our bodies on this journey.

I do not believe that we are here to be stressed out, tired, irritable, and to have no fun.  I just forget that sometimes.  I am learning to give myself permission to do less.  And as I do so, I am also learning to think of it as productive and healing.  Doing less isn’t always lazy.  Sometimes, it is exactly what the body needs so that internal work can be done.  I am also learning to recognize that I don’t always know best and I don’t have to always be the one in control doing the work.  I am learning that if I don’t listen to my body and see the signs of what I really need, I will be even less in control of how things go.  My permission slips are my own little signs to myself to slow down, listen, relax, and have a little down time.

Give yourself a break this week.  Take a few deep breaths, do something you enjoy, spend time with someone close to you.  You will feel better.

I am going to be practicing right along side you.

Talk again soon,

k

There is a season, turn, turn, turn…

Yoga and Ayurveda are referred to as the ‘sister sciences’ for body and mind.  Both come to us from India and have been used together for many years as they benefit each other.  Both philosophies are all-encompassing, taking the body, mind, and soul into account as they focus on finding balance and inner peace.

David Frawley’s book Yoga & Ayurveda tells us how both of these philosophies work together to enable us to be the happiest and healthiest that we can be.  Ayurveda “shows us how…we can live in harmony with the greater universe, not evolving only for ourselves but bringing benefit to all creatures”. (Frawley 1999)  This sounds exactly like what we all need right now.  Yoga is used in Ayurveda to help with the balancing process.

Ayurveda is the science of life:  Ayur=Life    Veda=knowledge or study of

Ayurveda observes the seasons in nature and recognizes that our bodies follow these same rhythms.  In response to this, Ayurveda takes into account each individual’s makeup of elements and then prescribes things such as diet (food and herbs), yoga, daily routine, and rest to help the body find balance and optimal functioning.  (One’s personal makeup or constitution is called a dosha.)  It is a science based on the belief that if we provide the body with all of the nutrients it needs, in all areas of life, then it will function at its optimal level.  In many ways, Ayurveda focuses on prevention of issues through self-care.

Ayurveda

Ayurveda teaches that if we can get into sync with the rhythm of nature, we can live more peacefully.  Recognizing the change in qualities throughout the change of the seasons, Ayurveda follows its own ‘calendar’, breaking the year into 3 distinct parts.

Spring is the season of renewal when things are wet, cool, dense, and soft- think about the ground and the plants the morning after a spring rain.  It is the season of rebirth as everything is coming back to life; the season of growth.  It is also the season of cleansing in preparation for that rebirth period.

Summer is the season of transformation when things are hot, sharp, and light- think of the afternoon of a humid summer day with the bright sun shining.  It is the season of full-on life, burning hot and moving from rebirth into death; the season of doing.

Fall into early Winter is the season of flexibility and mobility as things become even lighter, drier, rough, and begin to cool- think of the leaves on a tree turning brown and falling to the ground to crunch beneath your feet.  It is the season where the work that has been done in the summer is coming to fruition to be shown as forward movement.  It is the season of reaping the benefits of the work, but also preparing for what is to come.

The Ayurvedic calendar also shows itself throughout the lifespan.  As babies and children, we are in the Spring of our lives- growing, assimilating, learning.  We are soft, the body is more moist and smooth.  As we move into adulthood, we enter Summer.  We are working, parenting, paying bills, making a home- a lot of doing.  And as we move into the later years of our lives, we enter Fall/Winter.  We become drier, lighter, and more reflective as we have less doing to do.

Finally, the Ayurvedic calendar is even displayed throughout the hours of the day, affecting our energy levels, our digestion, our concentration, and our assimilation.

Why am I telling you all of this?  Because if you can begin to recognize these patterns in your day, your life, your environment, and your own body, you can begin to get more in sync with the natural rhythm that your body is set up to follow and feel better within yourself.

Ayurvedic practices can help us to find the diet, schedule, and exercise routine that will match our personal makeup, enabling us to thrive.  Just as many people learn that yoga can help to calm the mind and allow the body to move more freely, it is also important to learn Ayurvedic principles that can end the feeling of fighting against our own bodies.  When we begin to eat a diet that is supported by what is in season, when we create a schedule for ourselves that soothes rather than stresses, and when we learn to listen to what our wise bodies are asking for, we can flourish in our lives and feel healthier and happier.

This week, begin to notice if your appetite has receded with the arrival of spring.  Notice if there are things that you need to let go of in your schedule, your physical environment, your body.  Notice if your habits are supporting you in becoming the best version of yourself or if it’s time to make some changes.

Do not stress yourself out by trying to change everything at once; for now, just notice.  You are right where you are supposed to be in this moment on your journey.  But, with knowledge comes responsibility, so once you know better, you can do better.

For more information on your personal makeup of elements, you can take a dosha quiz here: https://www.banyanbotanicals.com/info/prakriti-quiz?avad=178942_fe416031

And for more information on Ayurvedic habits you can begin to implement in your own life, visit this site: http://yogahealer.com/habits-from-ayurveda/

Feeling better in your own body doesn’t have to be dramatic or complicated.  And it is something that you can do for yourself.  I am right here on the journey next to you.

Talk again soon,

k

 

 

UnComfortably Numb

As a Licensed Professional Counselor trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a type of talk therapy focusing on changing one’s thoughts in order to change emotions and behaviors, I am always shocked at the number of people I speak to who are under the impression that they have no control over their thoughts.

In CBT, the relationship among thoughts, feelings, and behaviors is displayed as the Cognitive Triangle to show the interconnectedness of all three:

Cognitive Triangle

If we can change one of the three factors, the others will have to change due to the nature of the relationship.  Working with the thoughts is usually the most logical place to start to affect change in the other two.

Canadian Neuropsychologist Donald Hebb coined the phrase “Neurons that fire together wire together” meaning that repeated thoughts or experiences form short cuts or well-paved highways in the brain.  This is how thoughts or behaviors become habits- the cognitive, rational part of the brain is no longer involved as the electrical impulses can just run the highway without a thinking driver.

This highway or groove for the impulses to run on can easily become a rut, however, and makes it more difficult to change the thought or behavior later on.  This is where I come in to coach a client through cognitive restructuring and behavior modification.  The most important first step, however, is awareness.  We must be aware of the thought or behavior before we can change it.

When something is a habit and it runs the route without a driver, we become oblivious to it- we don’t even think about it, it “just happens”.  The body also begins to set itself up to keep this cycle going.  When we experience different emotions, the body releases hormones related to that emotion.  Some researchers are now reporting that the body then creates more receptor sites for those hormones and we become almost addicted to the cycle with the ‘need’ to fill those receptor sites.  When this is done over and over with great frequency, the body actually responds with impulses to have those receptor sites filled in order to calm the nervous system and find what is now “normal” in the system.

Change at this point is no easy task.  So, first we must examine the thoughts and behaviors that are taking us off track or keeping us stuck.  In yoga, we refer to this as becoming “the witness”.  We are observing what is happening in our brains or bodies, without judgment, in order to become aware.  We cannot do anything to change what we are not aware of, so this step is imperative.

As an example, maybe we begin to notice that we have a habit of becoming angry and snapping at a co-worker every time he or she offers to help and later we feel bad about it and think, “Why do I do that?”.  Once we notice that this is how we are reacting in that situation, we can begin to work on understanding it and then changing it.

However, it does take the hard work of introspection and repeated practice.  Not only do people give up because of the repeated practice needed to break the habit, but many times, people give up before they even get there simply because it can be uncomfortable to look at ourselves and recognize that we don’t necessarily like what we see.

Do I expect you to read this blog post, become introspective, notice everything you want to change about yourself, and then change it all at once?  Of course not.  But, if you can practice becoming aware of your own reactions to life around you, you can work to become more of the person you want to be.  Will it be easy? NO. Will your brain fight you in the process of change? YES.  Is it worth the effort to be happier and feel better about yourself? ABSOLUTELY.

Spring is the time of cleansing as we are moving into the season of rebirth.  Perhaps looking at your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and simply taking inventory is a step toward cleaning out the old and making room for the new.

Awareness is the first step toward taking control of your own life, turning off the Autopilot, and moving toward your own version of greatness.  Remember to be kind to yourself in this process and that you are not alone.  I will be right there going through the same process in myself.

Talk again soon,

k

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑