Category Archives: judgment

When it’s unconscious, it’s easy to overlook

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The other day, my daughter walked home from school with our neighbors.   When I went by to pick her up, she was busy playing with her friends so I sat down with my neighbor and we visited. This neighbor and I have had some nice conversations since she moved in last year. We talk a lot about our kids and the neighborhood school. We might share how the most recent trip went or who’s coming in from out of town for a visit.  This time, sitting at her kitchen counter, we had a different kind of conversation.  We talked about experiences of motherhood and marriage. We shared stories about other times in our lives. I confessed that I kind of like my husband’s work-travel and that it’s been good for me and for our marriage. My neighbor talked about how she felt when she lived abroad, what her life was like when her oldest was a baby, and how she’s learned so much about herself since then. There were things I could relate to and things that surprised me about what she said. The conversation was less like neighbors chatting and more like the start of a friendship.

Later that evening, I was fondly remembering our conversation and I started to wonder… why did I find any of what my neighbor shared surprising? I didn’t know much about her and she hadn’t talked about any of those things before. Why wasn’t all of it just new information instead of surprising new information?  As I thought more about this, I realized that somewhere along the way, I created a story about her and her life. My mind filled in all the missing information about her with some made-up, inaccurate details. When my neighbor told me about her actual, interesting life, I was surprised because it didn’t match with the boring story I had written in my head.  Through that experience, my unconscious assumptions were brought to light and I sighed with relief. This is goodAs I become aware of these stories, I can do something about them. Yoga and meditation practice continue to provide me with tools for self-reflection. I’ve seen many old hurts healed and my life gradually transform by means of this ancient wisdom and personal practice.  But at almost the exact same moment I felt the relief, I had another not-so-pleasant realization: Wow. There are thousands of unconscious and inaccurate stories running in my head and influencing my interactions with people around me all of the time. A woman reminds me of an elementary school kid who snubbed me on the playground and I make snap judgement about her. Someone’s posture, expression, clothes, or tone of voice trigger feelings and reactions based on past experiences and that colors my interaction with the person in front of me. I’ve dedicated time and refection to stories of prejudice, racism, and sexism that are out there and in me causing harm, but those aren’t the only ones that are operating. I now see that all sorts of inaccurate stories and unquestioned assumptions can get in the way of connection, not just the obvious or alarming prejudices. These stories, any stories other than the one about the present moment, are obstacles to clear perception and can keep me from getting to know someone. I still have plenty of work to do.

We may not be aware that we are coming into a conversation with impressions and assumptions about a person, but I guess that’s the thing about the unconscious — It’s at work and we don’t even know it. Personalized yoga practice gives us space and time for self-reflection, and can help us uncover the unconscious stories that play a part in our relationships. Yoga is a whole-person experience. Movement, breath and meditation work on us in subtle yet profound ways providing tools to support clear perception about ourself and others. This visit with my neighbor helped me to see that any stories, even the ones that seem harmless or neutral, can cloud my ability to get to know an awesome person…. one who happens to live  right next door.

If you’d like to know more about how yoga can help you to be more present with friends, family, co-workers, and yourself, and watch these relationships improve, use the contact form to send me a note.  I’d be happy to meet with you for a complementary 15-min call.  It’s a great place to start, and there’s no obligation.  I hope to hear from you!

Am I doing the things I need to do to be a good person?


self-acceptance stud-muffin who also sings karaoke.

I was driving to work today and I was thinking about waking up with my husband, Dave, and the class I was about to teach, and my car on the road, and the big white fluffy clouds in the very blue sky, when I caught a glimpse of this unpleasant story that was running in my head. It was going on in the background, mostly undetected, until I had this small, bad feeling come up. Kind of like tuning the radio to get better reception, I tuned into to this stream of thoughts. As the static cleared, I could feel what was happening just under the surface of my conscious thought, “Sometimes I feel like I’m not doing the things I need to do to be a good person.” I was worried because I didn’t reply to a student about scheduling and I failed to complete some paperwork for my yoga therapy program that I really wanted to finish. I didn’t feel bad and think, “I’ll take care of these things this afternoon,” I felt bad about myself. I realized, When I don’t accomplish certain things, then I can start to feel low. A little less worthy.  A little less loveable. 

Then I thought about Dave. Being with him is a good way to get some self-acceptance beamed right through me. I can sit around all day and not accomplish any tasks or projects, and Dave doesn’t give off any hint that my lack of productivity makes me a less valuable part of the family. If I suggest that I’m having a hard time accepting how little I got done, he might point out a few simple things that I did or comment that resting is good and we all need it. There are days when I accomplish a ton of stuff. On those days, Dave sincerely appreciates what I do, but he doesn’t love me more because of it. I get the feeling that he just loves me. Sick or well. Happy or Sad. Productive or not. He’s glad I’m on the planet.

It’s a very special gift to be on the receiving end of this kind of love.

I turned into the parking lot and the icky feeling I had earlier was gone. In its place was relief: I don’t have to work so hard at justifying my place on the planet. Openness: Neither does anyone else. And beneath it all, I was aware of another story playing through the brain-frequency of radio waves: Nobody has to change. There isn’t anything wrong with who we are. There isn’t anything that we must do to be worthy of love. We are all good. We are all lovable. We are all worthy. 



Pants on Fire

lady gaga telephoneI caught myself fibbing the other day. Hazel wasn’t feeling well and I called her friend’s mom to cancel plans. Totally reasonable, right? Certainly every mom of a 12-year old has had to cancel plans for a sick kid. Never-the-less, in that moment ‘reasonable’ didn’t matter because while we were on the phone I detected disappointment in the mom’s voice. The disappointment triggered my old insecurities and these insecurities took control of my thoughts and my communication. Is she judging me? Oh, she’s totally mad at me. What if I’ve messed this up and our kids don’t get to hang out again for a super-long time. Five seconds in and I was spiraling. It was from this needy, nervous, and not rational place that all these could-be truths started to spew from my mouth. “I’m going to pick Hazel up from school” (though hadn’t made arrangements to actually do that) …”And we’ll go see the doctor” (possible, but not a plan). “And we’ll get a strep test and if it isn’t serious, maybe we can get the girls together tomorrow instead” (maybe, maybe not). “Yeah. She’s that sick.” (I wasn’t actually so sure how sick she was.) I was fishing for some reassurance that I was still okay in this other mom’s eyes. That this was normal. That she understood. I wanted to feel better about myself and lying was the way I attempted to get the sympathy and acknowledgment that I needed in that moment. I hated what I was doing, but it just kept playing itself out until finally, I got off the phone.

Satyam, truthfulness or right communication, is one of the yamas or ethical principles that Patañjali lays out for us in the second chapter of the yoga sūtras. (II.30) This chapter teaches about the obstacles we face and the path and practices to diminish them. The ability to communicate thoughtfully, truthfully, and with sensitivity is one of these practices. Who can argue with that? When we lie, we create problems or obstacles for ourselves down the line. We worry about getting found out. We miss out on intimacy. Dignity diminishes. This resonates with me and even seems kind of obvious. Honesty is the best policy.

There’s another aspect to this truthfulness conversation and it comes later in the chapter. Sūtra II.31 says that if the five yamas aren’t interrupted by circumstances including one’s occupation, jāti, place, deśa, or time, kāla, AND they are sustained at all levels (action, speech, and thought) then it is as if the person is upholding a great vow, mahā-vratam. Start talking about upholding a vow, and this shit gets real. Why we practice honesty isn’t just policy, it is something sacred. Efforts we make to be truthful are in line with a holy promise or a hallowed act. When I think of this sūtra, I shudder. Mahā-vratam. Truthfulness as a great vow.

YS II.36 describes what happens when a person demonstrates a very high-level of satya. ”If you only tell the truth, then what you say will come true.*” Satya pratiṣṭhātāṁ kkriyāphala āśrayatvam. I have a friend that totally follows through on what he says he’ll do. He also is very sincere and thoughtful about what he says, everything he says. He’s straightforward and honest and i admire and appreciate him so much because of it. For example, if Mark says, “let’s get together for dinner next week on Saturday,” I know that he is going to make it happen. I’ll receive a text or a call with a time, a place, and a plan and I’m happy to go. He comes through every time. I know I can count on him so when I say yes, I’m more likely to follow suit. What he says comes true.

Satya, or truthfulness, hasn’t come easily to me. For a long time, I lied for convenience, to avoid awkward moments, to avoid getting into trouble, or so that I can have the little hit of dopamine that comes when I let someone believe I’m going to give them what they want, even if I have no intention of following through. I’ve been working on these saṁskāras or patterns of mine for a while now and I’m happy to report that the self-awareness and the self-assurance that comes from my regular yoga practice is gaining ground. I’m getting better at being truthful. I still hope to be able to slow down when I’m talking and to better notice what I’m about to say and where it’s coming from. Is this insecurity talking? Is what I’m about ot say truthful? I working toward good habits around communication so that honesty is my go-to. I may not uphold a sacred vow of truthfulness when it comes to breaking plans and feeling like I’m disappointing people, but I’d like to keep working my way there.

*from Yoga Sutras lecture by Chase Bossart on 12.5.2014


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I love these two. and karaoke.

If we really believed that we are whole, if we felt it, if we had faith in our wholeness, then I think a lot would change. I think we’d still seek, but out motivations would be different. Instead of trying to fill a hole or thinking we are incomplete somehow, we’d care for the parts that feel lonely or empty in a different way. Instead of believing that something is missing, we’d look into the hurt and see that hurting as a part of a complete, whole being. We might see it as a part of life, of something we need to notice and attend, not as some mistake that needs fixing.

Our relationships would be different. Two whole people, together, feels really different than having that weird thing of “you complete me” or “better half” running through the mind. Wholeness includes a willingness to see, know, and accept all the stuff that we experience and that we are. And if we can do it for ourselves, we have some practice and an understanding that helps us do that for other people, too.

Whether we know it or not, we are whole. There’s nothing missing. All of it is important.


Best wishes for the Holidays xo