Not So Grand Illusions

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So many of us are afraid of thinking too highly of ourselves or appearing prideful, but what about always assuming the worst. When we lack self-compassion and continually judge ourselves it becomes easier to do the same to others. It is almost impossible to judge only yourself harshly. Unfortunately judgement and negativity becomes a viscous cycle that can be hard to break. So how do we let go of negative self perceptions without swinging to the other side of the spectrum? Tuning into the truth as it is right now in the present moment………..Ok, easier said than done. Personally I have found that cultivating the skill of acceptance has been extremely helpful. When I first starting learning about 3rd Wave CBT (Mindfulness and Acceptance based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) I was really turned off by the concept of acceptance. It sounded too much like resignation or just plain giving up. Luckily I investigated further and discovered something more subtle and gentle. Acceptance is about being honest with ourselves and acknowledging our truthful feelings, possible biases, and basic desires. Acceptance is the opposite of resistance. When practiced with awareness and an open mind, acceptance can teach us a lot about ourselves and the world around us.

For example, I was recently speaking with some friends about the conclusions we jump to when we don’t get an expected response from a person we know well. It is easy to assume that someone didn’t laugh at our joke because they are mad at us or we just aren’t funny. Usually the reason has less to do with us. A usually jovial friend who doesn’t laugh is probably distracted by a task, received somber news or just is not having a good day. When we engage in acceptance we keep our mind open to current information and not succumb to making assumptions. There are assumptions that seem to be common to many of us. These are often referred to as cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions are basic PSYC 101, but I never quit finding value in revisiting them.

The below list of cognitive distortions was retrieved from healthymind.com:

  1. All-or-nothing thinking: You see things in black and white categories. If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure.
  1. Overgeneralization: You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.
  1. Mental filter: You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that discolors the entire beaker of water.
  1. Disqualifying the positive: You reject positive experiences by insisting they “don’t count” for some reason or other. You maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences.
  1. Jumping to conclusions: You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusion.
    • Mind reading: You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you and don’t bother to check it out.
    • The Fortune Teller Error: You anticipate that things will turn out badly and feel convinced that your prediction is an already-established fact.
  1. Magnification (catastrophizing) or minimization: You exaggerate the importance of things (such as your goof-up or someone else’s achievement), or you inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny (your own desirable qualities or the other fellow’s imperfections). This is also called the “binocular trick.”
  1. Emotional reasoning: You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: “I feel it, therefore it must be true.”
  1. Should statements: You try to motivate yourself with shoulds and shouldn’ts, as if you had to be whipped and punished before you could be expected to do anything. “Musts” and “oughts” are also offenders. The emotional consequence is guilt. When you direct should statements toward others, you feel anger, frustration, and resentment.
  1. Labeling and mislabeling: This is an extreme form of overgeneralization. Instead of describing your error, you attach a negative label to yourself: “I’m a loser.” When someone else’s behavior rubs you the wrong way, you attach a negative label to him, “He’s a damn louse.” Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded.
  1. Personalization: You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event for which, in fact, you were not primarily responsible.

From: Burns, David D., MD. 1989. The Feeling Good Handbook. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc.

Affluenza

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affluenza, n. a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more.

Some of my favorite ways to spring clean:

  1. Attend a clothing swap party. Go with three bags and return with one.
  2. Decide the remaining leaves from last fall make the perfect mulch for spring flower beds.
  3. Pack away everything but your favorite stuff from your main living space and wait a month to see what you miss. If you can’t remember what is in the box you must not need it.
  4. Donate all cloths that don’t fit or are the wrong color. What doesn’t work for one person will be a perfect fit for someone else.
  5. Learn to fix a broken household item rather than replacing it.
  6. Re-pot and fertilize your houseplants. Tell them a good story while you are at it.
  7. Oil all the wood furniture in the house.
  8. Arrange all the books in Dewey Decimal System (only half kidding) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dewey_Decimal_Classification
  9. Give the pets a spa day.
  10. Make sure every bicycle in the garage is in riding order. Now ride them.

Suggested reading:

  1. Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic (Bk Currents) by John de Graaf, David Wann, Thomas H Naylor and David Horsey (Sep 1, 2005)
  2. Too Much Stuff: De-Cluttering Your Heart and Home by Kathryn Porter (Mar 10, 2006)

  3. Living Simple, Free & Happy: How to Simplify, Declutter Your Home, and Reduce Stress, Debt & Waste by Cristin Frank (Mar 15, 2013)

  4. Wabi Sabi: The Art of Everyday Life by Diane Durston (Aug 1, 2006)

  5. The Wabi-Sabi House: The Japanese Art of Imperfect Beauty by Robyn Griggs Lawrence and Joe Coca (Nov 23, 2004)

Everyday Beauty Everyday

Bill Cunningham

“Those who look for beauty will find it.”

~Bill Cunningham

Bill Cunningham is a street fashion photographer for the New York Times. He has such a passion for his work that he is still doing it at age 83. Even if fashion has never interested you, Bill Cunningham will interest you. He is a man who followed his heart (even when people balked him) and lived his passion. I tell you about Bill because I believe he is a shining example of the truest form of yogi, one who lets his spirit and conscience guide his life every minute of every day.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Cunningham_%28photographer%29

www.youtube.com/watch?v=mkQklk_cfVs

Published in: on February 5, 2013 at 7:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Perfectly Imperfect

How many of you were taught to strive for perfection or always to give 110%?  In theory this may encourage us to “be the best that we can be”, but does this factor in that we are human? Also what about the fact that if you give 110% on one endeavor you will be running on a deficit for awhile?  What I am getting at is that we regularly ask so much of ourselves in one part of our life that we are unable to fully be present in other areas of our life. Not surprisingly this leads us to feeling discontented and disappointed. Letting go of the illusion of perfection and understanding that it is through the imperfect aspects of life that we find true meaning is not an easy lesson.  It is something that we consistently have to revisit. I hope that the following words of wisdom will help.

“Seek always to progress rather than perfect” ~Taro Gold

“Only the idea of something is perfect. It’s expression in material, worldly terms is a mere shadow of that idea.” ~Plato

“Mistakes are the portals of discovery.” ~James Joyce

Kindness

Sometimes what is a small gesture of kindness on our part can make a world of difference to someone else.  It is my belief that within the yama of ahimsa (yogic moral guideline of non-violence) one will find compassion, kindness and generosity.  By practicing ahimsa in all it’s many depths and manifestations the world not only becomes a better place but our lives grow fuller and more joyful.

To find more heart lifting images visit

www.buzzfeed.com/expresident/pictures-that-will-restore-your-faith-in-humanity

Squirrel Wisdom

  1. Make fun a priority.
  2. Let go of fear.
  3. Interact with your world.
  4. Eat your food upside down!  Why does pizza taste so much better while hanging upside down?  Because the toppings hit your tongue first 🙂

Published in: on May 15, 2012 at 7:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Digital Detox

My last post was over a week ago, which those of you who follow my blog know is a long time.  I so enjoy researching and gathering information to share on my blog.  There have been times blogging, for me, has bordered on an obsession.  I believe this is the case for many who have a blog and therefore I try to be compassionate with myself and recognize that my involvement with the blogging process will ebb and flow.

I recently decided to take a week to digitally detox.  I still emailed daily since my work requires it, but I tried to keep my computer time at a minimum.  Well, I can say from experience that cold turkey sometimes works like yo-yo dieting.  Three days ago I cracked when I discovered Pinterest!  If you don’t know what it is I am not sure I should tell you.  Short story is that it is kind of like digital scrapbooking……..and just as addictive.  So as always, I have discovered that the middle path is the healthiest.  I will be returning to my blogging and giving myself permission to follow my inspiration….of course with mindfulness….to lead me to how often I post.  I have found that thinking about the little choices I make everyday makes the largest impact to my quality of life.

Want to know more about digital detoxing, here are some links.  No need to read any or all….your time is valuable 🙂

  1. First Steps to Digital Detoxing
  2. Digital Detox: Take Over Your Headspace
  3. Does Your Relationship Need a Digital Detox?

Final Note: I find it very interesting that Wikipedia does not have a page for digital detoxing 🙂

Published in: on March 15, 2012 at 8:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Within this restless, hurried, modern world…

Gustav Klimt

This was the first line of an Oscar Wilde poem from the 1800’s. It seems some problems are less about our time and more about being human. This gives me solace as I look back over 2011. I consumed the days of the year as if I was starving for tomorrow. I often caught myself thinking and planning for the next day while barely living the present moment. This is not the natural rhythm by which I thrive and I believe this to be true for most people. It is more nourishing and sustainable when we are able to live solidly connected to the present moment. It feeds our souls to have the time to notice the details within the everyday; to drink tea without checking our email or to watch the shadows change shape upon the foothills.

With this knowledge I have attempted to slow down, but have found it to be a challenge that continuously resurfaces. I have decided to face this challenge head on. I have made some deep cuts in my schedule. Each cut hurts like a physical laceration, but the calm that is already edging into my life is quickly healing the wounds. Many emotions have surfaced during this transition; fear, guilt, shame. Questions arise such as, am I letting people down and am I enough? With each emotion and question that arises I am given an opportunity to learn and grow. All provide lessons I have been avoiding.

As a yoga teacher I regularly ask students to witness whatever arises during the moments of silence. I have become rusty at practicing this myself. As I step back into the practice I immediately feel like I am being enveloped by a familiar old worn quilt. A sense of calm and clarity begins to creep back into my everyday.

Published in: on December 29, 2011 at 12:36 am  Comments (1)  
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So much to learn …

I recently received an eloquent email from a student and friend of mine.  We have both recently read Brene Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection.  Susie was generous enough to let me share with you…

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

http://exposingthetruth.info/top-five-regrets-of-the-dying/

“We can learn so much of life’s important lessons when we take the time to listen.  Aren’t these regrets some of the exact lessons that Brene Brown is teaching about how to live our lives now/today, before we no longer have the luxury of time to do so?

I honestly think that we can learn the most about living from those who are dying. It seems like those facing death have given up the perceived need of a false sense of themselves and the requirement that most of us give in to of being something and/or someone we’re not. And with that clarity, they see how a great life is to be lived and they are hoping that we allow them to teach us these crucial lessons. What they are telling us, really, is that it (living a great life) is in being authentic and true to who we are – having the courage to choose to play to our gifts and imperfections, to share our stories, to express our feelings, dreams and fears, to let go of shame and guilt, to cherish the relationships that mean the most to us, to spend less time working and more time playing, and to invent our lives as we go, so as to choose consciously, wisely and honestly. Now, if only we will learn and listen so we can live that kind of life now, instead of ever having to someday regret what has been and what could have been, but wasn’t. We can find tons of really good reasons to do this work, can’t we?”

 

 

Leaning Into Discomfort…

As a yoga teacher I often instruct my students to listen to their ‘inner messages’.  But what do I mean by this?  By staying vague I am hoping that each person will discover what inner messages means to them as individuals.  I can not be inside anyone’s body except my own, so assuming I could have detailed knowledge about what another person’s experience of self would like, would be a mistake.  I do my best to guide from my experience, but work hard to leave room for each person to explore within their own experience.

As yoga practitioners become curious to their inner messages they not only become more familiar with their bodies and how they react to their practice, but they also become more familiar with their cognitions and emotions.  While on the yoga mat an individual can safely explore and observe themselves.  The knowledge gathered can then be applied during their everyday life.  In this way yoga practice becomes practice in being human.  It was on a yoga mat that I discovered that by hiding from my fears I also was hiding from possible achievement.

Yes it is important to listen to messages of pain and to back out of striving, but the answer is never all or nothing.  Witnessing our discomfort, without judgement, can bring us so much wisdom.  Brene Brown states eloquently, “Joy is as thorny and sharp as any of the dark emotions. To love someone fiercely, to believe in something with your whole heart, to celebrate a fleeting moment in time, to fully engage in a life that doesn’t come with guarantees – these are risks that involve vulnerability and often pain.  When we lose our tolerance for discomfort, we lose joy.” (The Gifts of Imperfection, p.73)

(image retrieved from)