Where Storm Meets Sun

This time last week I was a shattered little wreck. Emotional mayhem, essentially, and really for no good reason. Last Wednesday was the full moon. So, despite feeling I had no “good reason” to be such a melodramatic, ticking time bomb of emotion, the truth of the matter is I oughtn’t be at all surprised. As I remind everyone each month, the full moon amplifies whatever energy one is exuding and cultivating. Everything becomes magnified. We are creatures of free will, thus providing the opportunity to harness the moon energy and manifest the energy, outcomes and experiences we desire.

I was not in a positive head space last Wednesday. It felt holistically as if I’d literally woken up on the wrong side of the bed. As though I were walking around on two left feet. I cried three, possibly four, times that day. I screamed at the top of my lungs in my car twice. I turned into a blubbering  pile of self-pity when my mom snapped at me on the phone. I sulked through the first three quarters of school, tears still burning behind my eyes. My thoughts towards myself were the farthest thing from “nice.” I left yoga feeling energetically blocked and so frustrated I feared I’d explode. I’d felt compelled to practice twenty more minutes of vigorous flow when I got home from the studio just to try and release some of that pent-up, aggressive energy. I finally poured my sorry self into bed, mentally and emotionally exhausted, hoping to wake up less of a train wreck the next day.

I was met with disappointment when, upon meeting the next day’s dawn, I was still a freakfest of feelings. Sure, I felt better than on Wednesday, but I was by no means tranquil and emotionally unhindered. The good news is, as the days passed, so did my horrendous mood. The energy of the full moon waned, released me, and I was able to sink quietly back into a feeling of normalcy. The winds of my world quit thrashing. Thoughts that had been self-deprecating and irritable turned soft. My spirit gently floated back to her resting place inside my being.

This whole episode of chaos really didn’t span more than a 24-hour period of time. But, I’ll tell you, for someone who rarely has a “bad day,” those 24 hours were harrowing. I fully realize that there are loads of people in the world who face truly harrowing circumstances everyday. This little presentation of my “first-world problems,” if you will, are in part meant to be ironic and in part meant to truly respectfully honor my own human experience, regardless of its “first-worldness.” There are two edges to that coin. A coin that simultaneously proffers kind understanding and acceptance of my own emotional barometer while also firmly providing a reality check and puts life into perspective.

Well, seven days later, I am about to pour myself into bed again but this time in an exhaustive state of bliss. Today was totally ordinary. Nothing really remarkable happened, just as nothing remarkably awful happened last Wednesday. I had very nearly an identical day, save for the complete opposite emotional state. I woke up, sat for meditation, had brekkie, went to school, went to yoga, came home…but my mind was in a totally different space (as is the moon, mind you…). I realized something that, in truth, I’d already known. But in a different context.

We can’t really appreciate the sunshine unless we’ve walked beneath the rainclouds. Only after enduring the threatening fullness of dark, menacing storm clouds – and possibly even being drenched by rain or battered by hail – can we really appreciate the warm kiss of sun on our skin. The caress of positive, gentle, flowing energy is only such when we’ve withstood the suffocating, jagged nature of emotional blockage.

Today was brilliant not because anything extraordinary happened. Today was brilliant because last Wednesday sucked. Last Wednesday was emotionally traumatizing. Considering that I’d had no tangible reason to have been such an emotional terrorist was even more worrisome to my psyche that day, because I felt I had nothing on which to blame my fragile state. I tried to pin the blame to my Mumma but that didn’t last long, as she’s the only one who’d always be in my corner without ever caring to hear the evidence, and I know it. This truth, that there was nothing to blame and no real reason for my suffering, felt like the rug being pulled out from under my feet. My analytical brain (who so rarely chooses to care or participate in my daily activities, gladly letting my spirit be the interpreter and guide) decided to pipe up on this day. Needing – no, demanding – a reason for this preposterous display of dramatics. What purpose was it serving?

I hadn’t any answer last Wednesday. But today, as I pulled my car out of the parking lot leaving yoga, it hit me. I was grinning like a fool, deeply nourished from a satisfying class and pleasant day, enjoying the watercolor sunset sprayed across the horizon. In that moment, as I rang my Mumma and left a chattering voicemail, I realized what that reason was. If nothing else, last week’s 24-hour [mostly] internal fit of hysterics served the purpose of infusing today, this very moment, with a sense of pure bliss. Making an ordinary day feel infinitely more blissful just by having experienced a crapstick day the week before. Sheer normalcy, made brilliant and blissful by a previous experience of gloom. 

I’m not saying we need to suffer painfully half the time in order to feel joy. But we do need to suffer painfully some of the time in order to appreciate joy. That’s my theory, at least, and my own experience. Having this decadent slice of perspective feels like a gift and, while I don’t doubt it will occasionally elude me when those painful days do come around, I’ll be reminded of it soon after. With each fresh glimpse of the same truth, it is further embedded in my being. We can learn to look misery in the face and know, with certainty, that it will inevitably fortify a future moment of joy just for existing now. Like muscle memory, we can begin to reflexively identify a painful, uncomfortable phase as just that – a phase, and one whose dimness reflects a brighter gleam once the light returns. What goes up must come down, and what hits the floor must rebound upwards.

If nothing else, we can rely on the rule of gravity. But being more romantic than scientific, I prefer to hold onto my image of the sun dancing around storm clouds. Both exist; both will always exist. Sometimes they will even share the sky at once, bridging the space between them with color, making amends; irreconcilable forces gripping one another in a brilliant, furious display of fierce, unconditional love.

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The Power of Purpose

Today I had one of those life changing yoga experiences. The kind that, despite years of practice, exposure to handfuls of incredible teachers and participation in countless exquisite sequences, leaves you feeling breathless with rapture. Completely and utterly bit by the bug.

It’s a funny phrase to use there, to have been “bit by the bug,” considering I’ve been practicing yoga for years and am a teacher myself. In this past month’s issue of Yoga Journal, there’s a great article detailing how to maneuver the end of one’s honeymoon phase with yoga. I never experienced any such waning of my practice. Sure, I noticed a shift after a length of time that I could deem the “end of my yoga honeymoon,” but it was subtle. For me, this shift occurred when my practice became less about the neatness of hey, I practice yoga and all about the discovery that I was peeling back layers of myself that I didn’t even really know I had. I was getting a glimpse of my true nature, and it was only just a teensy weensy sneak peek.

This was all before my yoga teacher training. That’s when I really got an introduction to what the terms “true nature” even mean. All that they encompass. That’s where I, to the credit of Mynx Inatsugu’s exquisite philosophy lessons, began to understand that I would spend the entirety of this life I’ve been blessed with practicing true yoga. Peeling away the layers and observing what’s underneath. Without judgement. Without attachment. That’s enough of a practice for a lifetime.

So when I say I was “bit by the bug” today, I don’t mean the bug that is yoga. I was long, long, long ago bit by that bug. In fact, I’d go so far as to say I was bit many lifetimes ago by that bug. What I mean is the path, the very nature of the soil that lines my personal path, was mirrored back to me today through a vibrant, world renowned and compelling teacher’s words and being. Today I met Seane Corn.

Never have I encountered a teacher, or fellow being for that matter, whose message so vitally resonates with mine. And I’m almost half Seane Corn’s age. So I guess it’s far more apt for me to say it’s her life’s work with which I find such congruency. It’s not just her mystical, faerie dust, magic sparkle land charm that drew me to her (though all of those attributes sing directly to my own little sparkly magic faerie heart!). It’s the confidence and certainty with which she presented herself, her story, the practice. Again, Seane Corn has been doing this for almost longer than I’ve been alive, so I don’t mean to sound surprised or as though this is any news to anyone how incredible a human being this woman is. I just mean to say that she gives me hope. Hope for where I might be when I’m in my mid-forties, spiritually (but also mentally, professionally and physically). If you’re not familiar with Seane Corn, she’s a brilliant, world-renowned yoga teacher, healer, activist, humanitarian and founder of OTM, among many other things. Hope for all of humanity. Hope for our earth.

Seane is said to combine “the asana practice with a commitment to the inner emotional and spiritual journey” as the “foundation of her teaching.” In just a few hours with her, I can say this was exactly my experience of Seane’s teaching style and M.O. It then came to my attention that I, unsurprisingly, share many deepest beliefs and even spiritual guides and mentors with Seane Corn. I, in many ways, seem to be walking a parallel path to this woman who, as of 6 months ago, I had never even heard of. And now this parallel is infusing my very being with a potent energy. It’s further awakened in me my power of purpose. 

I realize I’m young, quite young, and perhaps it shouldn’t shock me so much to meet someone (with 23 years more life experience than I have) with whom’s teachings my soul feels so immediately at peace. At home. Being young, I often find myself in question…with myself! I get tied up in what others will think of me for not drinking alcohol, consuming caffeine, eating meat, partying, what-have-you. I am über conscious of what I put in and on my body, what products I will use in my home, I’m as conscious a consumer as I can be and am ever-increasing my global environmental awareness. This is who I am, but it doesn’t mean I don’t often feel like the odd one out. Meeting Seane and hearing her story, hearing her recite nearly exactly what I just wrote out, was nothing short of incredible. It was so eye-opening to listen to listen to a world famous yogini, a woman with whom I powerfully identify, telling me what I already knew but wasn’t able to really swallow just yet…we have to own ourselves. We must know who we are and be unabashed about it. 

Well, I’ll admit. I was given clarity today. The clarity felt so brilliant, especially having come from a place of 50/50, suspended in a bit of confusion. I’m sure of who I am, my beliefs, my morals. I’m sure of how I’m living my life. And yet (ah yes, the inevitable “and yet…”)…half the time I’d feel grounded and rooted in those morals and beliefs, hell bent on living my truth and setting my own standards, regardless of how others might misinterpret my intentions… completely able to see the beauty in it. The other half of the time I found myself feeling very judged, totally ungrounded, completely in question and feeling slightly isolated. The latter was all self-inflicted too, mind you. I haven’t been judged overtly. Yes, family members have made comments and I know there are plenty of friends and people who don’t necessarily understand my personal yogic path nor the choices and statements that come along with said personal path. But they’ve never left me feeling as judged as my very own subconscious has. The whole back and forth felt a bit whiplashy, to be frank (and to make up a word). Once the blasted moment of doubt would pass I’d feel even less grounded and a bit of a fraud for ever having doubted myself, and all that I so fervently believe in. Especially in the name of fear! How could I do such a thing to myself?

Well, in Seane’s presence today, I realized that I don’t ever have to question myself again. Sure, my lifestyle might seem extreme, boring or absurd to some. But does that matter? It matters what it seems like to me. It matters that what I’m doing, how I’m living, makes a difference to me. It matters that it makes a difference to the earth, to the vibrational frequency of the Universe, to my fellow sentient beings of all species. That’s what matters. It matters that we all live that way. By living in such a way, we will by no means all live in the same way. That can be a hard pill to swallow for some, especially those deeply dedicated to healing themselves and the planet, when so many others are completely oblivious to their own wellbeing, much less mother earth. But the ways in which Miss Corn approached this notion today in class, with such subtle and easily digestible suggestions, I felt a sense of empowerment coursing through me.

This was not just a fellow eco-conscious, vegetarian, non-makeup-wearing, Caroline Myss admiring, animal loving yogi speaking to me. This was an embodiment of the very path on which I walk. An element of my dharma personified. 

I felt all at once like the starry-eyed little sister who wanted to be just like big sister someday, and the powerfully unique force of cosmic nature existing inside flesh and bone that I really am. The experience was overwhelming and delicious, unnerving and irrevocable.

We are not alone. We are not weird. We are not misunderstood. We always have our Selves. We define weird. We are the only ones to ever truly understand any filament of our own being. To have a message to spread, and to awaken to that message, that is something truly beautiful. A gift. To encounter a teacher to has been spreading for decades the very message your soul whispers day in and day out is discombobulating and grounding all at once. Discombobulating in the best way and grounding in the deepest sense.

I came out of today not infatuated with a teacher (though Seane Corn is exquisite and I can’t wait to be front and center in her next workshop), but rather an idea. I came out with a ferocious wind billowing my sails. I emerged with a sense of certainty that the Divine is alive within me. The blood of Divinity that courses through Seane Corn and all other like-minded beings also courses through me, and so many others, and this Grace transcends generations. It is, I hope, the way of the future. It is, I pray, making sparks in the veins of others walking barefoot through this same soil. This deeply unique and yet utterly human soil.

It’s a blessing to come to the certain knowledge that one’s own being has purpose, it’s a gift to discover the courage to infuse that purpose with self-empowerment, and it’s a privilege to breathe life into the passion that has the potential to fuel radical change.

May we always breathe life into our passion, and may we fearlessly stray from the shore, sails swollen with the power of purpose.

 

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Love Your Liver

Why love your liver, you ask? Many people don’t know just how crucial a role their liver plays in the divine dance done by the body every moment of everyday.

  • Sleep
    Aim to be in bed by 10pm. The gallbladder regenerates between 11pm-1am, followed promptly by liver regeneration time from 1-3am (the gallbladder and liver work hand in hand in your digestive system, so maintaining the health of both is vital). If you’re waking up at 2am every night, it’s a sign your liver needs some lovin’! A full 8 hours of sleep is ideal; I’ve found an eye pillow that blocks out all light has done wonders in both falling and staying asleep.
  • Avoid Eating Late at Night
    In Europe, the main meal is eaten midday. My big German family always sat down to family meals between 1-2pm. In the evening, something very light and healthy as enjoyed. I’m not saying you have to go Euro on us, but consistence in your mealtimes does wonders for your digestion. Also, not going to bed on a full stomach is invaluable. Aim to be finished eating by a time that allows you to rest your digestive system for at least 10 hours each night.
  • Alkalinizing Practices
    In our last issue of H+W Mag, you read about the myriad of health benefits offered by Apple Cider Vinegar. Well, your liver loves ACV too! So, upon rising, get to sipping a warm mug of lemon water with a splash of ACV.
    Alkalize, alkalize, alkalize. If you’re wondering what the heck alkalinity even is, here’s the belly of it: an alkaline body is one with a pH of 7. Throughout the night, our acidity usually rises. Neutralizing that first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach, with warm lemon water is the perfect start to a day of alkalinizing practices (including diet, more about that in a moment).
  • Herbs
    Dandelion Root Tea is my favorite detoxifying herbal tea. Other good liver loving herbs are artichoke leaf, milk thistle (the single most rejuvenating herb for the liver), burdock root and yellow dock.
  • Diet
    According to The Clinician’s Handbook of Natural Medicine, a liver loving diet is one that is “low in saturated and trans fats; high in plant foods – vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds; low in sugar and white flour products.” Loading up on leafy greens, colorful veggies, cruciferous veggies, sulfur-containing foods (onions, garlic, leeks), beets, radishes, bitter and sour flavors make your liver so happy. Also, limonene-containing fruit (orange, lemon and tangerine) nourish your liver immensely; aim to eat three pieces of limonene-containing fruits per day, skin and all.
  • Lifestyle
    I can’t stress enough how important it is not to stress! Liver loving practices you can employ in your day-to-day life include laughter (find an excuse to yuck it up!), focused relaxation (pranayama and meditation), yoga and other general exercise, acupuncture and simply moving through life more slowly (even inside your own head).

Your liver is your powerhouse in terms of eliminating toxins from your body. It also, according to Dr. Ed Bauman, “helps the body resist infections by producing immune factors and by removing bacteria from the bloodstream.” In addition to synthesizing cholesterol and proteins in the bloodstream, your lovely liver also converts vitamins and minerals into useable forms and helps regulate your beautiful body’s hormonal balance.

The liver is a hard-working organ and an absolute expert in regeneration. In support of longevity, daily detoxification, and overall holistic wellness, start pointedly loving on your liver today.

 

As seen in Happiness+Wellbeing Magazine, January issue. 

Coulda Shoulda Woulda

Last week I ran into a woman I know, a prospective client, at the grocery store. I said hello but it took me a moment to register why I recognized her face, why she met me with such easy familiarity. It took a matter of seconds to place her significance in my memory and I reciprocated the warm greeting. Almost immediately she dropped a truth bomb on me.

Since I last saw you, she said, I almost died.

My breath caught in my chest, my heart beat in my throat. My eyes inquired where my voice could not.

They found a huge tumor inside my rib cage, cancer. They’ve been going in and taking it out, I’ve been in and out of the hospital. 

It’s only been maybe two months since I last saw her. All of this elapsed in that short span of time.

I just thought my back hurt…so I kept stretching. All the tests said everything was fine. It’d been bothering me for a year. All along it was a tumor. A huge tumor…

I leapt around my headspace, grasping for the words that floated out of my reach, the shock etched into my features. I told her I was so glad they found it and got it out. My hand, glued to my chest in a gesture of disbelief, may not have trembled but my soul sure did.

Well, they haven’t got it all, but almost. They don’t know if it’s spread yet. I’m just living day by day. 

She smiled weakly. I hugged her gingerly. The last time we’d spoken it had been about how to get more magnesium in her diet and how to combat her osteopenia. How quickly one’s life can change direction. How instantaneously one’s whole world can be tipped on its axis.

The details are so frightening I can hardly bring myself to recall them, much less share them here, but share I will. All in the name of awareness… She’d seen handfuls of doctors. No diagnoses. In fact, she was begin treated like a hypochondriac for continuing to inquire as to what might be causing her pain. She practiced more yoga, did more stretching, but to no avail. I don’t even like the doctors, she said, I’d avoid going if I could. That just proves how much my back was bothering me. She was sent to physical therapists, told to lighten her purse, simply sent away with the reassuring nod of health that doctors so often give when nothing jumps off a lab report. Finally a family friend, a specialist of some kind, ordered blood tests and a chest x-ray. After a year of back pain and a dozen doctor visits, it only took an hour to detect the massive growing tumor hunkered down beneath her right ribcage.

The misinformation via doctors didn’t stop, though, she explained. Even in her treatment under the watchful eye of specialists at Stanford she was led astray. Now she’s receiving treatment from the number one specialist in the field, but not without the wariness of distrust and exhaustion woven into her forehead. Not without the fragile creases of disbelief crouched at the corners of her eyes. She looked fairly well, which was the strangest part. If not a bit thinner, she appeared totally normal. I suppose that’s the scary part of it all.

Back pain…I mean, really? Who’d think that back pain could signal a massive tumor? A tumor that no x-ray but a chest x-ray would pick up, mind you…

I am not writing this to scare you, or myself, or to say that doctors don’t know what they’re doing. They do. They save lives. Her specialist friend did save her life. I’m writing this as a call to persistence. A call to intuition.

We know when something isn’t right.

That’s the power of intuition at the core, right? Knowing intuitively when something is off, energy is different, one’s own body is sending a signal, even reading the intentions of another human being with one’s own intuition. This is a powerful tool.

It’s been over a week since I saw this woman, this friend of mine. Today a completely unrelated, or so I thought, notion hit me like a train. It struck me as I was in full-fledged obsession mode. I was picking apart something that had happened, what I’d done, what I’d originally planned to do, what I’d have done differently…my mind was elbows deep in the butterfly effect (of this truly inconsequential situation) when it hit me. We spend so much time worrying in the past tense. Worrying about what has already happened is merely wasted energy. Simple as that. Thinking about it for six hours or six seconds won’t change anything about it. None of the facts will be altered. I can change the way I feel about it, yes, but I cannot change what physically occurred. No more than I can control the weather (dear Mother Nature, California needs rain!). It doesn’t matter if it’s an utterly insignificant event or one of grave circumstances. Having ordered a different dish at dinner last night versus having forgiven a loved one before they passed away. Sincerely varying degrees of importance, but equally unchangeable nonetheless.

Upon making this realization today, having this “aha” moment if you will, I promised myself I’m not going to mindlessly waste my sacred energy in such a way any longer. I’m going to harness my precious intuition to carve the most direct and enjoyable route forward, because that’s the power of having such a built-in tool. I will not leak my radically awesome jet fuel life force all over the place by stressing and fretting over things that have already happened. What has already happened is no longer up for discussion. It simply is. If we could just grasp that gently and accept it, our minds and lives would not be mine fields of “what if’s” but rather pristine meadows of “loving what is.”

Since we are beings that rely heavily on memories both good and bad – the good in which to luxuriously bask, the bad with which to masochistically torment ourselves – we know that there’s no way to exist without some acknowledgement of how things happened. We’ll always be cognizant when something goes the way we didn’t want it to go, just as we’ll know it when something goes satisfyingly according to expectation. There will also be times when our minds are blown by unforeseen events that just exceed any prior anticipation. Things happen as they do and that’s just the way they are. They’re suspended in the past, perfectly untouchable, nothing can change them for a million dollars.

So let’s drop the “coulda shoulda woulda” mentality. Let’s quit obsessing over how it went, should have gone, could have gone, would have gone. It went the way it went and our life’s trajectory was either minutely or immensely shifted as a result. Who are we to judge what’s happened? We’re merely observing this grand life as if we have any control over the intricate workings of what happens and doesn’t happen. In reality we have very little control. What we do have is our intuition. We have our intuition and we have our common sense. Intuition guides us, whispering softly, an inherent gravitational pull in the destined direction. Common sense pulls away the veil, lets the light pour in, rubs away the smudges of the mind and shows us how truly simple things really are by nature. Simple. So simple.

We never know what tomorrow’s going to offer us. Do we really want to waste today drowning out the soft song of our precious intuition, smothering the buoyant life raft of common sense with obsessive coulda shoulda woulda banter? I don’t. We intrinsically know what’s right for us, when something is wrong in our body, when something is wrong in our minds. We know when something isn’t right in our relationship, even with our car. We know. We just question ourselves. We also know we can’t change the past and that, even if we could, our trajectory would be different and who knows how beautiful or disastrous that could prove. We know that what’s done is done; any fantasy of how it could have been done differently is just that – a fantasy. It’s not real.

We’d best come to accept what is real. Perhaps even go so far as to embrace it, hold it lightly and come to love it for what it is, while using it to hone our attentiveness and alertness as we journey along our paths. The music is so sweet and the light so soft, if we can only let it permeate our conditioned existence. We’re conditioned to obsess and judge our own decisions. We’re conditioned to gravitate towards these fantasies of coulda shoulda woulda like a moth to a flame. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can drop this habit, we can let intuition and common sense unravel this wretched, veiling behavior until it’s nothing but innocent threads at our feet…and then we can see clearly. We can see clearly what is real, and we can love it. Oh can we love it.

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Inner Compass

First things first. Happy New Year, my lovebursts! Recapitulation practice behind us, it is only natural to feel inclined towards a “resolution” or two. At least something reminiscent of a resolution, an intention of that nature. I’m calling for a word shift, though, I much prefer intention to resolution. We mustn’t harness ourselves with the title resolution when we are perfectly capable all on our own to resolve to accomplish a dream or shift a perspective. We don’t need the weight of such a title on our shoulders. So, may we intend rather than resolve, because the truth of the matter is we aren’t problems to “fix.” We aren’t flawed. We are perfect just as we are. Perfectly imperfect.

That being said, I have many intentions for the coming year. Intentions that can sit together amiably in groups under a few common umbrellas. After a week of 2014, I’ve realized something I’m going to focus on intently is not just listening to but trusting my own inner compass. Not just that, though. I’m also going to focus intently on releasing the intense need to care what other people think. So not just hearing and trusting my intuition, my own opinions and needs, but turning off the volume afterwards. Not letting the staticky yammering of other opinions permeate my sound space.

I’ve written about this concept before, but this intention is different. Also, I don’t mean to say I intend to detach from other people’s opinions in a, Screw what everyone else thinks, I’m going to live in my little shell like a grouchy hermit crab. I don’t mean it that way at all. There are important people in our lives, particularly those who love us unconditionally, whose opinions hold much merit and ought to be considered carefully. I’m not talking about these situations, although even in those situations may we consider seriously the opinions and yet still let our own compass be the ultimate guide. What I mean to imply is more, it only matters what I think because, in the end, am all I have. 

When we think of it that way doesn’t it only make sense that we should hold our own judgments, views and feelings highest, above all others? But we’re not wired that way. Intrinsically we are, but society begins to shape and mold us from the outside in starting at a very young age. So, as adults on the long path to enlightenment, we must play a bit of “catch up,” if you will. We must relearn what should be inherently natural; to trust our own instincts and to care deeply about only our own judgements.

I was talking to my Mumma on a hike about this very concept while visiting home on holiday (this essay has been evolving for the better part of a week). We came to the conclusion that it’s less about not caring what others think and more about not worrying what others think. There’s such a difference. It’s the difference between being a caring individual and being a people pleaser.

Chronic people pleasing is laced with worry. It really doesn’t stem from a place of genuine caring so much as from a place of anxiety. Worry that one won’t be liked, understood, accepted, found appealing, fill in the blank. I suffer from this, chronic people pleasing. I always have. In fact I’ve written ad nauseam about it. But still, it persists. Like a festering wound, a dripping faucet that just continues to drip no matter how hard I crank the handle backwards. I think at some point gravity just overrode the knob, water crashing out in droves; roaring, splashing, pooling as it will.

People pleasing is poisonous. A parasite of a condition. I learned this, as I sat soaking wet in the aftermath of the faucet explosion. I do find I’m growing increasingly better at self-treating this condition of people pleasing, though, with each passing year. Mostly in thanks to my yoga practice, which helps me better navigate and understand the sacred spaces that are my mind and spirit; also to my amazing Mumma, whose gentle reminders as I ramble on about life each day help anchor me to the present, and to the truth. She’s the person I speak with most, literally several times a day, and she’s taken to considerately prompting me. Sometimes it’s with casual comments mid-coversation. Other times it’s harsher, more blatant and in my face, which I also appreciate. I’ve come to recognize the PP tendencies on my own, too, and begin to draw them to the surface.

Ah, the surface. That place where we can no longer hide. The issue is that “drawing to the surface” implies a process. The time it takes from the moment we kick off from the bottom of the pool and the moment we break through the water’s surface. That little bubble of time, that’s the culprit for me.

I could easily float in that space of time, possibly indefinitely. Who knows. It’s so convenient, this action sentence, this verb “drawing.” As though the mere act of moving towards the identification of, ergo the eradication of, my people pleasing tendencies . Subconsciously letting the initiation of this mental shift suffice, letting it serve as “enough,” rather than completing the process. Rather than saying I’ve drawn this to the surface, past tense, one might hang in the limbo of promising to complete the process. Just like one might buy storage containers with the honest intention of packing up clothes that no longer fit and getting rid of them…just buying the containers doesn’t mean the task will be accomplished. So many excuses and seemingly sensible justifications can arise in limbo. In the action sentence ending in “-ing.” Am I speaking to you?

It may seem like I’m nitpicking at a complicated concept here, and perhaps I am, but trust me. You’re talking to a full-fledged, lifelong people pleaser. Something I know for sure is people pleasers find ways, sneaky little ways. We find loopholes. See, the tricky situation gets even trickier still. People pleasers don’t just need to pleas others, we need to please ourselves too. Granted, we fall at the bottom of the food chain in terms of who to please (there’s hardly time for ourselves when there are bosses, friends, spouses, partners, parents – heck, even strangers – who have demands and opinions!), yes. But in the very nature of people pleasing is our inherent capacity to not unlearn these bad habits…to not finish drawing these tendencies of ours to the surface. See what I’m saying?

We please ourselves by finding cracks in our good intentions so we can stay weighted down, stay as people pleasers, claiming we’re going to move away from this behavior and yet remaining fully infected with the condition.

So, how do we shift out of limbo? How do we not just complete the process, letting our tendencies come full fledged to rest upon the surface of our consciousness, but also take a magnifying glass to these tendencies? How do we find the courage and capacity to sit down and inspect these tendencies without judgement or fear?

I don’t know about you, but I’m starting with a word shift. A word shift that moves towards a mental shift. A redefining, if you will. I’m going to start seeing “people pleasing” as toxic. I may have always said it was toxic, but a part of me that I’ve smushed deep down (a part that clung on hard, digging her nails into my thread of awareness as though it were a thick, ropy cord she were trying to ascend) has still managed to view the behavior as  honorable. Gross, right? So my word shift serves the purpose of understanding that people pleasing is toxic. It is not honorable. Being a kind, compassionate and caring person is honorable. Leaving no space for our one’s own opinion, thoughts and demands, crowding out this precious information one ought to hear from oneself with the (often completely inconsequential) opinions and demands of others, is toxic. Not allowed. Banned.

Caring and kindness over worry and fear. It’s a simple choice. In fact, is there even a choice at all?

So, my fellow PPs and my non-PPs, fret not. No matter how many years of PP-ing one might have under one’s belt, it’s never to late to rise fully to the surface. Awareness is the first step in changing anything, as well as in understanding anything. And, if you recall, my whole intention with avoiding “resolutions” was to avoid feeling the need that I have to change at all. That I’m imperfect or flawed in some way. In drawing my PP tendencies to the surface, I am not just allowing myself to scrutinize them up close and find understanding in their presence, but I’m inviting this shift to be one of permanence.

All of life is a process, but there’s a difference between enjoying the process and getting stuck in it. Continuing the movement, facilitating the fluidity of our growth, that’s what life is about. That’s what awareness provides for us. So may we not hinder it, this year or any year. May we invite growth and kindness into our hearts, our minds, our spirits. May it pervade the space once dominated by the need to please. In doing so we may even crowd out worry and fear altogether, leaving them no choice but to pack up and hit the trail, without so much as even the temporary use of our inner compass.

 

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