Wednesday, 30 August 2017

We all deserve boundaries

Over the past few months, I have been talking often about boundaries with people I work with, friends, and family.  The roll boundaries play in our relationships with others and ourselves is an important one, especially for our personal growth.  Many times our belief systems may keep us from setting appropriate and necessary boundaries for ourselves. A clue when we aren't setting healthy boundaries is when we are feeling overwhelmed, exhausted from being excessively busy and starting to engage in self-destructive behaviors, i.e doing things excessively (substance use, work, shopping, eating, TV watching, etc).

In my personal reflection of when I engage in excessive behaviors and my work with others, I have come to believe that a deep root of the cause of excessive behaviors and struggle to set healthy boundaries comes from negative core beliefs: "I'm not good enough," "I'm not worthy enough," "I need to prove myself," and "I don't deserve..."  This is the heart of most of our human struggles and what can keep us from growing and thriving.

The practice of "No."
This is a challenge for so many of us.  At work, saying, "no," may bring up fears of being fired, not being part of the team, and not being liked.  At home, the self-doubt may say, "If I say no, I'm a bad mother, father, sister, brother, son, daughter..."  With friends, the fear of not belonging or loosing the friendship may loom large.  The things with all of these fears and self-doubts is that generally they aren't true and if they are, usually we don't want to be a part of an organization, friendship or relationship that doesn't honor the right to say, "no."  I have found that practicing saying, "no," allows me to have less stress and more down time, leads to others respecting me more, and I feel more confident and loving towards myself.

A way to start this practice is make something about you a priority.  For example, maybe it's 15-10 minutes of meditation 5-7 times a week.  If this is the commitment, then it can guide you in when to say, "no."  If this practice is in the morning, family members have to figure things out for themselves during this time, you don't let excuses allow you to stay in bed, you don't schedule early morning appointments, and you get to bed at a reasonable time so you can get up.  If this practice is in the evening, you don't schedule things during this time, family members have to problem-solve things for themselves, and other activities are scheduled around this.  Try it with something for 2 weeks and notice how you feel and how it feels in your relationships.

The practice of saying "yes."
Two of the hardest things to say "yes" to can be to trying new things to get out of our comfort zone and habits, and asking for help.

The daily routine is important, but reflect on what is in your daily routine.  How do you relax at the end of the day?  Is it spending 2-3 hours in front of the TV or computer?  Do you down a six pack or a bottle of wine? Are there more healthy ways to relax?  What are you willing to try?  What about people you surround yourself they lift you up or bring you down?  If it's the latter are there new activities to try where you might meet people who lift you up?  Is your tendency to do the exact same things day in and day out with a part of you jealous of what others are doing?  Take action!  Try something new and see what happens!

Asking for help can be one of the hardest things.  My first question to you is,  "when someone asks you for help, how does it feel and what do you say?"  Most people enjoy helping others and connecting.  It helps to foster feeling a sense of community and gratitude.  Yet receiving help can be such a challenge.  Take to time reflect, "WHY?"  What excuses keep you from asking for help...maybe one of the core beliefs.  I can't tell you how many times I've had someone who is coming to see me struggles with scheduling regular appointments because, "someone else might need it," or "someone who needs it more so I don't want to take there time."  We all need help at some point and we will all help someone at some point.  It's all okay!  Asking and receiving help decreases stress, builds relationships, and helps us with to remember we aren't alone.  Asking for help is not being weak, it is having courage to be our best selves, to be vulnerable, and to grow.   BrenĂ© Brown likes to remind us that the root of 'courage' comes from the French word for heart, 'coeur,' so that courage means 'to speak from the heart.'  This is part of the practice of asking for help.

We all deserve to have healthy boundaries to keep our lives full of self-love, connecting with others, and taking care of ourselves so that in the end we can keep on giving.  The analogy I'll leave you with is from flying in an airplane.  Why is it that they announce if the oxygen masks come down, you are to put yours on first before helping others?

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Embracing emotions

I have been talking about emotions and embracing them often in my work, so I wanted to pass it on.

We all have emotions.  What are they?  They are part of our physiological reactions to stimuli outside and inside of us.  They are more related to sensory input and the Autonomic Nervous System.  Just like a finger is a part of the hand, emotions are part of our mind/body system.

The issue comes when we start to place judgement on them.  Anger, resentment, guilt, fear are "bad" and joy, gratitude, contentment are "good."  When we start doing this, we instill a belief system about those sensations and then our behavior acts it all out. If I'm feeling sad and I've decided this is not okay, I start to avoid sensations that are involved with being sad.  Maybe stuffing it, maybe getting upset at something else so I don't have to feel it or hurting someone else.  Maybe I start to drink or use drugs to feel something different.  It's like a self-punishment system for feeling this way despite it being a normal response to many situations.

When I feel happy and see this as "good," I will start to do anything I can to keep this state.  Eat more, buy more, be around people to help me feel good, doing more and more of whatever it was that made me feel this way.  This can also lead to substance abuse issues, unhealthy relationships, and overdoing.

In recognizing or becoming aware of these labels of "good and bad" or of avoiding or over indulging, we can start to move past the beliefs and work on sitting with the sensations of emotions.  This can allow us learning from them.  Emotions are something to embrace as they are some of our best internal teachers and highly available to us.  Try it.  Sit in a comfortable seat, feet on the floor, spine fairly straight.  Inhale and exhale for a bit, observing the breath.  Maybe notice the temperature difference between in in breath and the out breath through the nostrils.  Maybe aware of parts of the body that move with the breath.  No judgment, just noticing.

From there, think of a time that you felt angry recently.  Allow the memory to come back into detail and notice the sensations in the body and the breath.  Staying here for a few minutes.  Noticing, remembering and feeling.  Then come back to the breath.  Notice the breath for another minute.  Next, think of a time where you felt content or peaceful.  Maybe a time when you were in nature or with a person you enjoy.  Allow yourself to remember this, feeling it and notice it. Staying here for a few minutes.  Then gently coming back to the breath again.  Feeling and noticing the breath.

Some emotions feel better in the body and some feel more uncomfortable.  They are not "good or bad."  They don't have intention of causing harm, in fact their intentions are to keep us safe.  If we can keep that intention in mind and move towards them as new friends...being curious, asking questions, and giving them our attentions they can move us towards healing and a more peaceful place of being.

For a guided instruction to this practice, go to:
Samya Yoga Healing - Observing Emotions

Life and death

As I was going for a peaceful morning walk around my neighborhood this morning, I suddenly had emotions well up, tears coming forth.  This happens more and more often as I slow down and just notice the world around me.  In this moment, I was struck by the magnificence of life, the beauty and  feeling overwhelming gratitude to live where I do.  I was gone for about a week and a half on vacation and was amazed at the changes in the environment around me, how much the trees had filled out, the plants had exploded into life and all the bugs, birds and little creatures busying about.

Life is just truly amazing.  I've been taking a course with Tom Myers this past year and I love his fascination with the miracle of life for us humans.  My understanding of how profound this process of the beginning of life has grown from my archaic and basic knowledge of the fastest sperm meets the egg and 'boom' life begins to how much more involved it is.  In fact, this previous, simple explanation of conception isn't correct. The egg itself is encompassed in its own container that all the millions of sperm swim to and start to ram into as hard as they can to make a little dent. Over and over this is done until, finally, one little sperm gets that last hit that penetrates the container and conception happens.  It's not this very  American view that "the fastest and best wins" but rather a team effort occurs to make it all happen.  It's not done alone!

Then there's the flip side of life, death.  Such a word that most people spend their whole life trying to avoid and beat.  When it is as equally amazing as life.  I decided to try my hand this year at starting some flowers and herbs by seed.  I transplanted them into pots before I left on vacation and when I came back some were flourishing and others had died.  This may have been due to the health of the plant before I transplanted it, possibly too many seedlings in one spot, sunlight, water, soil.  Some of these seedlings had very short lives and others will have longer life, though all will eventually die.  I've noticed how easily it is to fall into wanting 100% guarantee.  Guarantee that if I exercise and eat right, that there won't be sickness.  Guarantee if I wear the right clothes, have the right car and house that I will be happy.  Guarantee if I take all these courses, read all these books and listen to these podcasts I will be good enough at my job.  As these seedlings show, there is no guarantee.  Just because they made it out of their seed pod and were thriving, doesn't guarantee life will continue.

When I think of self-doubt that comes up with transitions, trying new things and following passions in regards to life and death, it starts to make me laugh.  There's no real reason for self-doubt.  Since there's no guarantee, why not jump in and embrace the ups and downs because who knows how long we have to experience these explorations of life. I don't think one blade of grass is looking at another blade saying, "Wow, look how green, symmetrical and straight that one is. Look at me, I have wish I was like that," and then shrink back down, away from the sun.  Hell no!  Grass it doing what it does, growing and growing to fulfill its possible purpose of nourishment for something else, creating more soil, or even to supporting children playing.  Then seasons change and it is gone.

My practice is coming back to the pure joy and amazement of living and then letting go.  One door needs to close for another to open.  When I forget, as I often do, I just need to look outside or go for a walk to be reminded.