Friday, 22 January 2016

I am not perfect, I am a human being too

I'm always startled when I have a client state, "You struggle?!  You just seem to have it put together and figured out.  I assumed nothing was wrong in your life."  This happened yesterday.  I smiled and replied "I'm a human being just like you, with my own struggles.  I do my own work so I can be better at helping others work with their struggles."

It's a good reminder about something we all do - comparing our lives to others and usually assuming they have it all together, while we are just floundering.  As a mental health counselor, listener and observer, human being, I can honestly say we all struggle.  No one is "perfect."  In fact, being human with all of our strengths and challenges, IS perfect (mull that one over).  When we compare, we are judging, and keeping ourselves stuck in a cycle of negativity that just keeps building.  To escape our own negativity, we start projecting on others, lashing out with anger, judgment and resentment.  Those layers of negativity push us further and further from meeting ourselves with love and compassion.

Why am I human?

- Even though I''m a mental health counselor and I deal with anxiety, seasonal depression, feel hurt, have self-doubt and fear.  I'm not immune.
- Embracing all the above, I've learned I have choices with the voice I go with, I can be kind to myself and give myself a break, I can be flexible with myself - not just for others, I can practice gratitude, I can pause and take time for myself...the list of choices and ways of coping is endless.
- I fall prey to "not good enough" and when I do, I've learned this is when my mind races, I push, I stop the coping tools that help me stay centered, I feel tired, and my schedule is jam packed.
- I'm learning!  The more I incorporate daily practices - physical, mental and spiritual, I create change, feel more content, and "not good enough" doesn't come around as much. I love the saying, "It's a practice, not a perfect."

We are all human!  The more we embrace all that comes with it, realize we aren't alone and actually quite normal in our sufferings, meet ourselves and others with kindness, and make a conscious effort to come from love and compassion rather than fear and anger - we will be able to meet life as it is, with more equanimity.

When you find yourself assuming another person has it all figured out, remind yourself they are human too and we can all learn from each other.  Commit to yourself that judgment, taking things personally and beating yourself up don't have room in your life and start the process of evicting them from your mind.  It's a process...

I'm not perfect, I'm human and I'm so grateful to have this experience each day. It's something to celebrate!!

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Powder Days

I was proud of myself today. Living in the Vail Valley, skiing is a big deal and powder days even bigger.  Saturday we awoke to a surprise that Vail ski resort received nine inches of snow.  So, the decision was to change the original plan to skin (climb up the mountain with skis on and skins that stick to the bottom of the skis that allow you to glide forward but provide friction so you don't slide back) up the other local ski resort and instead hope for a day of powder skiing.  Whew, was it wonderful. Skiing through knee high snow brings out my inner child.  Each turn, like sinking into white clouds of cotton puffs, then being pushed up and out into the next turn.  Floating...  And, also a lot of work on my thighs.  By the end of our four hours, my thighs felt like wiggly jello, ready to give out at any moment.  A tired feeling like that of a child having had so much fun fully playing and then boom, falling over.

Today, I decided to to an early morning skin, get a few runs on some mellower terrain, and then head home to rest and relax.  As I was getting ready, my partner came downstairs to tell me, "Vail got another foot of snow!"  He was excited and thinking his day of driving two and a half hours with some of his students to volunteer in Denver would probably be cancelled due to the road conditions.  Without hesitation, I told him I was good with my plan and I didn't think my legs would handle much more powder.  In the past, I would have ignored that inner voice, deciding better to "go hard" and "push myself" for that awesome powder.  Greg ended up going to Vail and having a ball.  I did my skin and ski at Beaver Creek, done by 10:00am, and had a relaxing day.

The more I allow myself to pause...listen, the more I'm able to hear a soft inner voice, guiding me.  It has my best interest in mind, moves me towards love, compassion, my best self.  My struggle now seems to be with finding balance with "the doer" and this inner self.  Not ready to give up "the doer" and "the doer," when used for its talent, helps me move towards some amazing things.  It's helped me have so many awesome life experiences.  I am grateful for it.  It's when I let it take over, frantically planning, worrying, controlling.  Too much external, not enough going inward.  That's my journey right now, the path of going inward while living in this spectacular reality, filled with so much.  Trying to be with it more as a dance rather than something that 'has to be done.' Letting go of as much expectation as possible to open up to learning and growing.  Connecting with that inner child!

Sunday, 10 January 2016

2016 - my year of consciously slowing down

Over the past few weeks, the holiday season, I was aware of how much I truly need (mind, body and spirit) to slow down.  Since my yoga teacher training in March and April of this past year, things have started to slow down naturally with a daily sadhana. My teacher, Prasad Rangnekar, was adamant if we learned nothing else, to start slowing down in our lives. My slowing down has been first about awareness.  Aware that I just spent eight hours focused on work, completely neglecting myself, only find myself dehydrated and stiff from sitting and forgetting to drink enough water.  Aware that I just booked every night in the coming week with something, with no time to just relax and let go.  Aware of thoughts going into the future, keeping me from being in the present, living fully today.  Aware that when I take time to sit and be still, I feel more peaceful, more connected to everything around me, content.  Aware when I take time to come back to my spiritual practices, other things I thought were important, suddenly aren't and I can let them go.

So, 2016 has started to become my year of slowing down in my actions, my planning, my doing.  Looking at my schedule and starting to prioritize, seeing areas I can cut back on, seeing areas that if I add will help with slowing down.  Finding moments in my doings to pause, notice, breathe, go inward to take a break from the outside.  Being keenly aware of my thoughts that get restless, that push me to do more, move more, add more. I've been doing some "harm reduction strategies" with those thoughts recently.  Like a shopaholic, going from buying, buying, to window shopping only or looking at catalogs and then throwing them out...then one day, the desire to window shop or look at catalogs slowly wanes.  Thoughts say, "You don't know what you're doing, let's sign up for another teacher training.  I'm bored, let's figure out a weekend getaway." I've allowed myself to peruse options in these areas, gotten feedback from others, then waited for 2-3 days till the urge has left and I think about money I've saved, come back to more spiritual focuses and smile at those past thoughts.  My hope is one day those urges will be less intense, come less often and even disappear.

I'm very good at scheduling and planning.  I've worked hard the past eight or so years to keep the planning in check.  I've gotten to the point where, more times than not, a weekend is open and the decision of what to do is made Thursday or Friday.  At times, I keep possible events or activities in mind, then wait to see how I'm feeling when the time comes and then decide if I can commit or not.  What I've realized is that I can use this skill to help plan slowing down.  Carve out time to write weekly, put in my calendar a day of silence, have an evening routine that includes sitting for 30 minutes before bed. Be intentional about time that is about being and enjoying.  If I type something into my Google Calendar, more likely than not, I will follow through.  It becomes a commitment.

In the moments I've slowed down and noticed, my mind is more at peace, my body is able to recover and relax, and I'm connected to my spirit - full of love and joy.