Category Archives: Inspiration

Memento Mori

Memento_Mori_by_GodfridHere’s what happened on the day of June’s full moon—a day my yoga studio closes to allow practitioners to rest the body, and reflect.  At 5:30 I began my usual morning routine, which is hugely important to me, and also responsible for the sense of joy and purpose I get to experience every day.

Here’s the routine:

1) Upon rising, I meditate for 15 minutes.

2) I make a cup of Bulletproof coffee. (I live for this coffee. It’s life-changing.)

3) Then I do my TIA journal. TIA stands for “thank,” “intend,” “ask.” It’s an expanded form of gratitude journal, and it’s pretty simple.

– I make a list of experiences from the previous day for which I am grateful.

– I make a list of all the things I am intending to be, do, or offer throughout the day ahead of me.

– And finally, I ask my higher power (what do we say? the universe? God? Source? Unity Consciousness? –whatever!) to guide me in any issue or problem I’m  grappling with.

I have filled dozens and dozens of  spiral-bound sketchbooks with this morning routine over the years, and I credit this practice with giving me a sense of clarity and purpose and joy in my life. Research has shown that the practice of gratitude really is the portal to cultivating these three qualities, just as all great wisdom traditions have told us for centuries.

4) And then, after my journal writing comes 30-60 minutes of spiritual study and reading in the wisdom traditions.

5) From there, I walk Dash, which has become our private walking meditation and sun salutation.

And then the last part of the morning routine. . .

6) I head out to The Yoga Shala for 80 minutes of astanga yoga.

Ahhhhhh. What a way to start the morning. I call it six steps to bliss.

What’s Next?

This way of starting the day sets me up to experience life in its fullness, to perform at my best, and to enjoy everything that comes my way. It is all good after this kind morning practice.

My practice today, though, was altered because, as I said,  it’s a “moon day,”— no yoga when the moon is full or new. Instead of practicing, I did a little bit of email communicating with clients, but nothing really hard or serious. Just reminders for up-coming groups.

And then I thought, what’s next?

It appeared I had nothing to do.  My  calendar revealed I had NO APPOINTMENTS OR EVENTS for the day. Yes, for the first time in a long, long time, a whole day of white space. So there was no ready answer to the question, “what’s next?”  I could not depend on my calendar to guide me.  I could choose exactly what I wanted to do: I could rest. I could paint. I could read. I could work in the garden. I could go see a sick friend. I could walk the dog. I could kill myself.

None of it would make any difference, would it? Who would care? That’s kind of where my mind went, though it might sound dramatic. But really, I thought, what difference do your days make? This is the very question that started me on a life-long quest for meaning when I was twelve years old and got kicked out of Sunday school.

The point is, in spite of all the fullness, all the joy, all the goodness, all the pleasure that makes up my life, there are also these moments of stark despair. Nothing makes any difference. There is no “next.” I can look at art, or I can walk into the lake. Don’t worry; I’m not gonna do that. But here’s my point. Even when we think we’ve created meaning and purpose in our lives, there still comes this wave of uncertainty. This silence that reveals a chasm of nothingness. This moment when we fear everything can go away at any moment, and nothing will remain.

If this sounds morbid, please know I didn’t  feel morbid. Believe me, a few minutes later, I opened a bottle of sauvignon blanc and enjoyed the vibrant colors of my little garden.  Dash curled up next to me and smacked her lips in the precious way dogs do when they are completely relaxed and completely content and just about ready to fall into a deep and happy sleep. And for a few minutes, maybe an hour, I was relaxed and content too. (Dash, my great teacher.)

But it’s days like this one that make me realize that these moments are precious and fleeting, and in the end lost. Meaningless.

I am in the end portion of my life. It doesn’t really make any difference if I get up or not. On any day, I can eat bonbons, or practice yoga, or serve the poor, or paint, or work with clients. I have the ability to choose. And this last moon day just happened to be a wide open, spacious, unscheduled day which allowed me to come face to face with this very idea. This day could mean nothing, or it could mean everything. It’s my choice. And the calendar conspired to nudge me to reflect on this fact. My heart took the opportunity to feel what it feels like to be alone, alive, aware, and totally responsible for my choices.

Totally responsible. I can choose. And in the end, that is a most, most precious gift. I bow down to the universe in gratitude.

Namasté dear friends, and memento mori,

Lezlie

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything—all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

            – Steve Jobs, Stanford University commencement speech

 

There’s Never a Right Time

images-1If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that one of my favorite podcasts comes from Tim Ferriss, curator of all things high performance. He interviews “high performing” people from a huge range of disciplines: sports, the arts, business, the sciences, health and wellness, athletics. His interviews are in depth—sometimes running 2 hours, and sometimes suffering because of his insatiable desire to apply his guests’ knowledge to his own life. But he is charming, curious, and very intelligent.

There is a gap in his interests, though; he seems to have virtually no interest in literature or metaphysics (two of my favorite topics), and he very rarely ventures into areas of psychology, and then very cautiously. Still. . . I’m a huge fan.

This week Ferriss posted a really wonderful Q&A with graphic designer and artist Debbie Millman, who he interviewed several months ago. That interview turns out to be one of his most popular podcasts ever, so he brought her back to answer listeners’ questions. If you are at all interested in the creative process, this 45 minute Q&A is worth your time.

Here is one of the highlights for me:

“No amount of money, no amount of security is ever going to give you the sense that this is the right time.”

I so want to encourage myself and my clients to hold on to this idea.  If we keep waiting for “the right time” to do something, we might be waiting our whole lives. Is it ever the perfect time to have a baby? go back to school? buy that house you love? take that risk you’re considering? ask that fascinating person you met last week to dinner?

We can come up with a million GOOD reasons to postpone action, can’t we?

But here’s what I’ve learned.  It’s important to know that feeling nervous or uncomfortable about a bold move we’re about to make is entirely natural.  Our job as creatives is to learn to allow our prefrontal cortex to over-ride this message that comes from the fear center of our brain (the amygdala), whose only task is to keep us right where we are, for our own safety.

But there comes a time when we must move out of what is familiar and into bold, new territory. And feeling a little uneasy about doing this is ENTIRELY NATURAL. (first italics, and now all CAPS—must be important) In fact, such discomfort might better be taken as good evidence that you’re moving forward in your life.

This applies to having that uncomfortable talk you need to have with someone, to speaking your truth, to starting a new business, to quitting a debilitating job, to moving to a new house or town.  All change will engender some degree of unease.  Sometimes, we can use this unease as a guide to a new place of flourishing.

How long are you willing to keep waiting to have the life you keep pretending you want to have?

 

 

 

Breaking the Grip of Self-Sabotage

images-1In last week’s post, I was ruminating on JB Spears’ advice to scare ourselves in order to really live. (See his interview with Dave Aspry.) I want to continue this week by sharing his thoughts on self-sabotage. This is a topic I think about a lot, largely because I’m pretty much a master of self-sabotage.

Let’s just take today, a day supposedly devoted to putting a post on my blog. I got up early to begin the task. It is now 1:00 p.m. and I’m just now sitting down to write. In the last 5 hours, I’ve cooked a delicious, large breakfast; run two errands (neither of which was critical); organized stuff for a garage sale this Saturday (it’s 5 days away!); washed two loads of laundry; emptied the dishwasher (the glasses were still warm); paid some bills and even decorated the envelope of a check I am sending to my assistant. I’ve planned smoothie flavors for the week; reorganized my linen closet; and called Caladium World and placed an ordered 40 Miss Muffitt caladium bulbs.

Ya think I’m avoiding something??

In the work I’ve been doing with accountability groups over the past year, I’ve seen a lot of creatives using masterful avoidance tactics that come dangerously close to being a form of self-sabotage. So what is this all about?? Why do we do this??

According to Sears, “self-sabotage is typically a symptom of unresolved emotional pain and/or disempowering beliefs of ourselves.” Just what I was afraid of. In some cases, though, I think he’s right: when we find reasoning, excuses, or drama that take us away from the deep work we want to do, or the creative project we want to bring into the world, we may actually be avoiding  patterns of depression, sadness, anger, disconnection, or behaviors of unworthiness.   Spears suggests that self-sabotage is an “expression that validates a disempowering belief of self or a pain of self.”

And in fact, this is consistent with a lot of situations I’ve seen with clients who suffer from two conflicting beliefs. On the one hand, they desire to express themselves in some creative form; on the other hand, they hold a belief that they are not capable of doing it. And there they remain until clarity arrives about the nature of the hidden and self-sabotaging belief.

Are we doomed to stay locked in the grip of these two opposing beliefs? No, says Spears. And he offers a helpful line of questioning that can disarm self-sabotaging beliefs.

The first is simply, “Okay, what do you do?” In other words, recognize and then catch yourself in the very acts that allow you to avoid doing the thing you seemingly want to do but don’t do. When I start re-arranging the paint cans out in the garage, I’m pretty sure I’m avoiding doing something that scares the heck out of me. I am actually making fun of myself here, calling myself out, and labeling the exact actions (avoidance tactics) that I was pretending were so important to do.

Question two, Spears says, is “Why do you do what you do?” This can be tricky to figure out—and for some of us takes decades of therapy— but most of the time, if we get really still and really open, we can find the honesty to see our behavior as actually serving us in some way, and that’s why we do it! The behavior actually serves us by keeping at bay a fear we will have to face if we are successful in our intention.   In Field Training, this is called counter-intending. We say we want to write a book, but in actually we are afraid of all of the attention we’ll get if the book is a raging success, and so we self-sabotage the completing of the manuscript. Philosopher Philip Golabuck, founder and former director of the Field Project, offers a helpful question at this point in the process: “What bad thing happens if I actually achieve the goal I’m after?” There’s almost always an answer to this paradoxical question. And the answer to that question is the reason we are self-sabotaging.

So then, question three is “How does part of me benefit by doing this?” Spears says it is very important to get to the “story under the story of our self-sabotage, get beyond the symptoms to the root of why we do what we do.”   Early on in our lives, we might have constructed a story about who we are and we continue to carry it around, even after we’ve outgrown the story. These stories can keep us locked in unconscious reactions that are ultimately destructive to us, and that keep us in patterns of self-sabotage.

Hmmm. This might be too much psychology for you. I get it. But still, whether you analyze it or not, we’re left with the need to drop self-sabotaging behavior. Stay tuned for Part 3 of this series on fear & sabotage to learn some helpful ways to release the grip of a counter-intention.

In the meantime, I hope you find Spears’ three questions helpful as you address any version of self-sabotage you may be experiencing.

Until next week. . . I’ll be out in the garage, organizing the paint cans by color and size.