Monday, January 28, 2013

Change Your Perspective

"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change." The art of self-observation shows us that nothing outside of ourselves needs to change in order for us to feel differently.A simple shift of my perception generates a different response and my course changes.

My way of looking at things is colored by my history and my large emotional life. The very same circumstance can happen today that happened yesterday, but depending upon my mood or state of mind, it can either feel like a burden or a complete delight. This tells me that my perceptions can be distorted by my mood. With a little bit of detachment, I am able to remind myself of this, and not make decisions in the heat of the moment.

Since the way I think and feel about my circumstance has a direct influence on the outcome, then making decisions from an emotional place can set me on a path of self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead, a pause and a flip of my mind can often be a wise decision.

In the tarot card, the Hanged Man, a man hangs upside down from a tree by one foot. He is completely calm and detached, and sees things in a whole new way. In the myth, the Fool sits under a tree looking to find himself, and on the ninth day, he climbs the tree and hangs upside down for no reason, like a child. For a moment, he surrenders all that he is, wants, cares about, and  knows. Coins fall from his pocket, and he sees them not as money, but as round bits of metal. His inverted position allows him to hang between the mundane world and the spiritual, and when he comes down, he is forever changed.

This applies to so many areas of my life. The most simple has been my physical body. Having been very caught up in the game of trying to be perfect (when I was younger, this meant skinny), I was in a constant emotional cycle. Five pounds up, five pounds down. The fluctuation would get larger—ten pounds and even twenty pounds. The swings were vast. At a certain point (over twenty years ago!), I had actually gained fifty pounds, and I decided to hang out, suspended where I was, and experience it from a different perspective. I decided to be in my body, in a detached way and love myself at this new weight. That was a perspective shift.

A year later, I did the same. I looked at my body, and I saw that underneath a layer or two, my smaller frame was still there in the room; it was just beneath the surface. I kept that vision in my mind as I went through my days, making healthy choices, and soon my body was falling into place quite naturally.

I started teaching spinning about five years after that, and I shared my new perspective and positive self-talk. Before I knew it, the reverberation of this shift vibrating through my body brought me to a new level of fitness and and new career path. My body, indeed, was changing and so was my life. It wasn't because of what I was doing, but the way I was doing it. My perspective shift completely shifted my body and set me on an entirely new path of empowerment.

Today, I see my body in a new way still. I try to listen to its cues, without forcing it. When I do, that is okay too. This lesson has moved past my physical body and deeper into my work life and my relationships. What if nothing else changes and no one does anything differently? What if the circumstances appear to be the same and my emotions stay large? All I need to do is shift my attitude, and everything seemingly falls right into place.

Maybe everything is fine as it is. All that needs to change is my perspective.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Speak Your Mind

When I was about 15 years old, I befriended a couple who would screen a documentary on MLK each year around the time of his birthday. The power of one man speaking up was the tipping point for an entire people. To think that this morning the first black US president began his second term, says that collectively this change was waiting to happen. It was inevitable. I love that Martin Luther King Jr. (a Capricorn, like me) talks about getting to the mountain top. One step at a time. Doing the next designated thing. Moment by moment. Somehow, if you stay the course, you will get to the top.

Mountain Pose is the foundation of all things yoga. Yoga was the movement happening first in my household in the '70's. When my father sprung into a handstand at the gas station, it was a spectacle to behold. He just turned upside down right there in front of everyone. He literally turned his mind upside down. It takes a lot of audacity, a little bit of flash, self-confidence, and a strong sense of rebellion to let your freak flag fly. Now, there is a new inversion. Yoga has become big business, and everyone wants to try it. The Mountain itself has been turned upside down.

I vividly remember an experience I had with some friends, climbing the rock formations at Joshua Tree. When we arrived, I looked up at the 'mountain' of rock formations, and was awestruck. After the entire day of climbing and laying on the rocks, having lunch and climbing some more, we headed down and looked back up at this mountain we had just ascended for 8 hours. It was a completely different experience. When I looked this time, I felt that I WAS the mountain. It was an extension of me, and me of it.

My journey has been more than to climb the mountain or to mirror the mountain. It has been to become the mountain. What is your personal mountain top? There are so many movements to join. From Occupy Wall Street, to banning GMOs, to our rights to freedom. And, though it may be radical to say that internal change will literally cause external change, I am going to voice it: If you want change, become the change.

Experience is the teacher of all teachers, as Mountain pose is the foundation of all poses. What is that part of me that must change? These days, I am not working so much on reaching the mountain top. I am working on becoming the mountain. 

I am the dream. Open-minded. Upside down. 

Monday, January 14, 2013


What is it to have self-mastery? I find myself asking this question often. It is a theme in many aspects of my life. Ultimately, self-responsibility and having mastery over our own actions, thoughts and words may change and transform our lives and ourselves for the better. In my case, it's what I do not do that aids in this process. In the yoga of self-mastery, I restrict my negative actions, or discard what is not useful. It is a paring down and a resculpting. I eliminate what is unnecessary to reveal the truth in a purer way.

When thoughts arise that take me down a road of negativity, my emotions can become stirred and my physical body settles into a reactive state. With mastery over the mind, I reign myself in and in my self-containment, the light within gets freed and becomes revealed. This is easier said than done. I am a highly emotional woman, who is very sensitive and who gets pretty uncomfortable feeling human. When I am ignited, the concept of being still, observing, and not-doing, seems completely counter-intuitive.

My lineage has passed down this sensitivity—and a temper—from my grandfather to my father, and from my father to me. After many years of trial and error, my findings lead me to this revelation: I must take responsibility for holding this genetic anger. This anger that may rise from shame and sensitivity can feel unbearable. I want to toss it like a hot potato so that I do not have to feel this burning inside of me. Pass it along to the next person to deal with. Perhaps this anger is a gift for me. An emotional weight that makes me internally stronger just by settling in to my seat.

My greatest teacher has been yoga and intense physical activity. Making intensity and difficulty tangible through challenging exercise is just about the best metaphor for me. I commit myself whole heartedly to the task at hand, as I set out toward my goal. Whatever rises during my 90-minute practice will bring forth my resistance, my desire to quit, my self-critical nature, as well as my ability to move through and persevere. I will not know that tenacity and the power of endurance unless I stay the course, regardless of my inner demons and sloppy habits.

When in a challenging posture, I try to stay blank. I notice my gaze. It is still. If I begin to waver in my mind, my physical body will follow. I do not give in. If I wobble, I bring more dynamic energy into the pose. I become MORE involved, and begin to breathe more deeply. I set my mind to the task, and focus on the present. I find that the more I involve myself in the moment, the stronger I start to feel.

So how might this apply to my life? When I see myself sitting on the sidelines, either by staying in my comfort zone (saying no to social engagements due to insecurity or laziness, or hiding behind knowing it all), I know that it's time to become more involved. Am I being asked to show up? Might I participate more fully in this moment? Can I be present and show up anyway, even if I feel shaky? Can I risk not knowing, and face the vulnerability with stillness? Perhaps it's just for 90 minutes a day. Am I able to put myself in an uncomfortable situation and allow myself the process of strengthening the psychic and emotional tendons and ligaments, be a little shaky and engage with more energy? More breathing. More self-observation of my thoughts. Yet at the same time do less. Can I be more, and do less?

This has been the process of my yoga. Be the yoga. Not do the yoga.

Self-Mastery is a process of becoming.

Monday, January 7, 2013

2013: Receive

Happy New Year, everyone!

As we enter 2013 with all of our hopes and plans for the year ahead, it's important to take a step back to realize that Wintertime is a hibernation period, a time best used to ruminate over the past, release what is not working, and set a course of action towards a better tomorrow (best executed in Spring). During this time, we can create a deliberate terrain for ourselves that we can navigate. The key is how to maintain a sense of presence as we do this. How to simply "Be".

When creating resolutions, rather than limit myself to a specific goal, I try to create a theme. Something like "The Year of Gratitude" or "The Year of Responsibility" or "Feel Joy Wherever I Go". This way, I leave myself open and give myself a positive mindset without expectations or limitations. Please tune in to Beyond Blind Spots, where I discuss how to use exercise to help create career goals. I have several manifestations of that, that I have built up to this year, one tiny action at a time, until the momentum took over. Ironically, this year is my year to "Be Receptive."

Now I am in a moment of recognition. With this "Be Receptive" theme, I am already noticing the patterns that hold me back. My need to "do" something, or have an accomplishment to lean on and qualify me, or have a purpose are all fine qualities and have all served in some way, but they do not serve the new paradigm.

I notice that when I do not have an immediate task or purpose, and I am among others, I feel very awkward and uncomfortable. This is new behavior for me. I feel quite shy and defenseless, even insecure. When I reached further into this, I asked myself why is it that I am seeking security. Maybe I can simply just allow insecurity, because I cannot know what may happen this year as I open myself to receive. The foundation I have been standing on is, in fact, slipping away. It must.

With the daunting task of opening imminently before me, I make sure to balance myself with plenty of time for meditation, walking to slow myself down, and journaling to ease my mind. 2013 begins with a bang as of January 11th (my birthday!). I remember to take a step back and look at the big picture, and I remind myself, "Don't just do something. Sit there."

Friday's energetic doorway is 2013's first new moon on January 11th (...did I mention that's my birthday?). This is an optimal time to plant your seeds. This is a hit-the-ground-running new moon. Contemplate the desired goal. Often a declaration is all that is needed. I actually felt that nobody in my world took a work break this holiday! When this is the case, I must build respite into my daily routine.

If you have not yet chosen a theme for your year, try invoking a quality you would like to embody. And make it your mantra throughout the year.