A palms-up approach

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A palms-up approach

[Image credit: tungphoto]

It’s true what they say. Time seems to speed up as we get older. We’re already well into the holiday season and next week is December. Pretty soon the New Year will be in full swing and 2014 a distant memory. As I prepare for another Thanksgiving, I find myself pondering those things in my life—people, events, successes—for which I’m grateful, but also looking ahead to 2015. Once again, while in yoga the other day, the instructor advised we live with our palms open, releasing our expectations to avoid disappointment and to better live in the present. Yet my goals are still a work in progress. Without some kind of expectation in place, it would be harder to measure how far we’ve traveled in 365 days and where we need to make [micro]adjustments. This doesn’t mean we can’t keep our palms open—in generosity and thanksgiving—as we await the surprises the New Year has in store for us.

Are you a planner or a seat-of-the-pantser?

Checks and balances

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Checks, Balances[Image credit: Stuart Miles]


Today is the final day of my Two weeks to a new, improved you challenge and time to Be alive with step 5. I’ve revisited my LIST and re-evaluated my satisfaction in the various areas of my life and, although at a snail’s pace, I’ve made progress. A common lesson taught by yoga instructors during Bikram practice, especially during Savasana, a pose of total relaxation, is to acknowledge any unnecessary movement—to be aware and then to let it go. We can address the distraction(s) the next time it comes to our attention. This is where I find myself at the culmination of my “change my life in 14-days” assignment: I’ve recognized those areas in my life that deplete my energy reserves and, in some instances, I’ve let go of one (or more) distraction in order to address another. Eventually I’ll make my way through each item but, instead of a challenge, it’ll be a mental-health check and balance over time.

How did your two-week transformation turn out?

It’s all a process: enjoy it

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Enjoy the process

[Image credit: Stuart Miles]

With one more day to go of my “change your life in 14-days” challenge, I wish I would’ve seen more of an outward transformation. Actually, I’m kind of stressed out almost more than when I began. I’m at a point in my life—that mid-life point—where I’m questioning my destination. I have all these aspirations and dreams and feel like I’m getting no closer. Yet I also recently celebrated three years at my publishing position, the job that supports these aspirations and is in a field I’m passionate about. My boss treated me to lunch and we discussed my workload, education plans, career goals, etc. Over a balsamic spinach salad and lemon ice water, he advised me to give myself a break and, as much as I want to “get somewhere,” to remember to enjoy the process. As a yogi who knows living in the present is where peace is found (see “Practicing patience, perseverance”), it was a much-needed wake-up call.

How’s the process going for you?

From the inside out

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From the inside out

[Image credit: Christian Meyn]


The other day in yoga, the instructor asked us to begin practice with an intention for the class. It could be anything; e.g., making a [micro]adjustment to a posture or avoiding extraneous movement. After class, the instructor congratulated me on a strong practice. I thanked her, yet I responded with judgment. But then I remembered my intention and how I was able to maintain it throughout the class—to manage my wayward thoughts (my “monkey mind”) by focusing on my breath. Although I almost blew off this accomplishment because it was just on the inside, my instructor reminded me it was huge, because this is where change begins—within ourselves. She oftentimes ends class with Gandhi’s quote about how our thoughts become our words… habits become our values and values become our destiny (see “Do you play the comparison game”). Whether anyone sees my two-week transformation or not, my destiny is no one else’s but mine.

What is one thing you’d like to change from the inside out?

Good things come to those who don’t wait

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[Image credit: Stuart Miles]


Have you figured out what your obsession is? Your passion? What makes you tick? What you would choose to do if you didn’t have other responsibilities and commitments? Maybe you’re already doing what you want to do, but is there something else you’d add to the list if you had more time… or money? In my post “The excuses stop here,” I discuss my passion for writing and how I make every excuse in the book not to write. But I also put my foot down: No more excuses. So now what? I spent some time scouring through Poets & Writer’s magazine and reviewed upcoming contests and calls for submissions, as well as conferences taking place in the new year. I’ve written out a list of writing goals for 2015. I started shopping for a combo cork/magnetic board that doubles as a piece of art to hang over my desk to keep track of the “big picture.” It’s a start.

What new goals have you made for yourself?

The excuses stop here

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The excuses stop here

 [Image credit: Stuart Miles]

No sooner had I figured out it takes time to see change (just like it took time to get where I am right this minute), then I experienced self-realization once again: If you’re happy doing what you’re doing, it doesn’t feel like work, or effort. It is a passion that stokes the fire, wakes you up and ignites an excitement within. Once we pinpoint the “what,” then we must fashion our goals around it—to be single-minded on the prize. For me, that “obsession” is writing, but I also look for excuses not to write (so I’ve been told). Although I want to deny it, I can’t ignore the reality: I’m not writing… I talk about writing, I plan my writing, I dream about writing. It’s not that I can’t do it (I wrote a book in 30 days earlier this year—see Quit talking, start doing). It’s that I make everything else more important than my writing. But that stops today.

What’s your biggest excuse in life?

Cumulative [micro]adjustments are a good thing

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Cumulative micro change

[Image credit: Ambro}


So far I’ve learned a few things on my quest to change my life in 14 days: 1) my list of things that drain my energy is too long, 2) my expectations are too high and 3) I can only work on one area of my life at a time. So before I take one more step (forward or backward), I need to re-evaluate where I want to go, how I want to get there, make adjustments and get back on track. This all came to me during a couple of yoga practices this past week: It took me over four decades to get where I am, so it makes sense cumulative micro-adjustments are necessary for healing and change to take place whether it’s inside—or outside—of the hot room. Sometimes that does look like taking a step backward; however, going forward from this place of “starting over” seems to foster a greater sense of self-realization. And slow, lasting change.

How do you feel when starting over?

The show must go on

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The show must go on


[Image credit: digitalart]

Speaking of setbacks (see “keep on keeping on”), my next brick wall included three auras—those squiggly lights and shapes that 20 percent of migraine sufferers experience—in one day. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been plagued with nine of these buggers. And then, the post-aura headaches zap my energy, taking my productivity hostage and dumping me on the sofa like a sack of potatoes. I did contact my specialist and plan to get in to his office for a consultation. In the meantime, I push through the work days, albeit slower than normal. And I show up to yoga practice, sometimes unable to complete a posture because of the stabbing pain in my head. For me, returning to the hot room—whether it’s following a few days’ absence or difficult day or even on a decent day—is like pushing a reset button on my attitude so I can continue to be a contributing member of the show.

How do *you* keep on keeping on?

Keep on keeping on


Keep on keeping on


[Image credit: stockimages]

Let’s talk setbacks. I’m now a week into my 14-day plan  to change my life and I’ve committed to the whats, but every time I try to implement the whens, I run into a brick wall. The last setback was in the form of food poisoning—five hours of violent and painful, episodic and uncontrollable spasms in which my insides splayed open. All I could do in between bouts of “Oh my God I’m dying,” was curl up in a fetal position and cry for my mommy. But, (slow), lasting change is what I desire and, thankfully, all my plans are written in pencil (or at least can be modified with a click of the mouse). I also have a support system that rocks—a circle of a few close friends who are my “lifeline” when I feel like giving up. They swoop in, grab me by the proverbial boot straps and inspire [read: swift kick] me to keep on keeping on.

How is your circle of support?

Old habits die hard


Old habits die hard


[Image credit: marcolm]

It seems I’m still on the “try, try again and again” phase of this 14-day transformation. I begin each day with good intentions, but then “life happens” and I’m eating not because I’m hungry, but because I’m emotional. Or I’d rather read for a half hour before bed instead of writing <gasp> And my grad school application for January 2016? Why, that’s another year away, so why worry about it now? But if I don’t get my act together, two weeks will go by either way. I would rather see something to show for it than not. I think my problem has to do with trying to do too much too soon—or all at once. Making a plan is great and feels empowering, but it is also overwhelming. Tackling one thing—one project—at a time is likely the better MO for me. Or maybe I just need to make that date with my girlfriends to improve my satisfaction with my social life.

How’s your transformation going?

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