Category Archives: Self-Acceptance

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!

Unconditional Positive Regard

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Last week, I blogged about a really special kind of love and appreciation that isn’t tied to things that I do or say. It isn’t given on the condition that I’m in a good mood or recently showered or productive. It just is. I’ve been thinking a lot about this – how sweet unconditional love and acceptance is and how important it is for healing and change. I’ve also been wondering how to get there. How do I offer this love to myself and to others even when someone is being shitty and difficult? How do I do this for myself when I have a really strong samskara or habit of seeing myself through a different lens? How do I hold onto this kind of unconditional acceptance when a situation feels incredibly dark? All this has been swimming inside of me and then I came across something so relevant in the book I’m reading! The Humanistic American psychologist, Carl Rogers (1902-1987), believed that when we are accepted and appreciated for what we are rather than what we do or say, then we are more able to take risks, accept occasional failure, and be open with people. He calls this Unconditional positive regard. That’s it! That’s another, less sappy way, of talking about accepting ourself and others!!! Rogers says our sense of self-worth is related to receiving this kind of acceptance. Self-worth is key to facing challenges and achieving goals and it’s this special combo that allows us to become who we are meant to be. Unconditional positive regard is a key component of self-actualization. Yoga agrees.

Yoga says the ability to hold unconditional positive regard for others is a question of identity. If we identify ourselves and others as a beings that are, in essence, full of light, then all the other stuff that we do, think, feel, and say is something else. It is behavior, but not who we are. It’s thinking, but we aren’t our thoughts. It’s a feeling, and feelings change. When we have the perspective that each person is good, wise, and light-filled, even when their behavior sucks, we can connect to that.  From this place, the efforts we make to improve ourselves become a way of removing the obstacles to clear perception. It isn’t about how horrible we are as a person, but about letting go or changing the things that are keeping us from perceiving or knowing the light within. Cultivating a perspective that lets us get to know this light inside, puruṣa, can make it easier to hold this unconditional positive regard for our self and each other.

Graceful parenting

 

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Yesterday, I was in the car with Dave and the girls, nervously giggling as I remembered an awkward and funny moment that went down last year. We had a friend over for dinner during Black history month (she happens to be black) and Nora was learning about black history in her first grade classroom. As soon as we sat down at the table Nora turned to our guest and with sincerity and interest said, “Did you know that Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves?” Our guest responded graciously while Dave and I simultaneously froze in our seats, turned red, and cringed. Only later were able to let out some of our uncomfortable, nervous laughter, talk to our kids about what went down, and explore some of our own feelings of shame and unease around the situation.

But in the car yesterday, something else happened. Conversation reminded me of this moment and I started laughing and quietly recounting the story to Dave. The girls were in the back seat staring out the window, but as soon as we started talking about this they knew it was something juicy—something that was emotionally charged. Kids have amazing radar. They asked what we were talking about.

As soon as they asked, I realized that I was being insensitive. That Nora might feel embarrassed about having said something to our friend that could have made her uncomfortable (it was probably my own discomfort that I was feeling) and that in my laughing with her dad, there was a hint of making fun at her expense. I felt ashamed which meant I would avoid talking about any of it with the girls and push it all aside, but Dave stepped up.

He took time to recount the situation – describing the event at the dinner table without much emotion. Nora didn’t remember any of it and Hazel didn’t either, but I could tell that they were nervous and afraid of being called out for doing something that caused such a reaction in us. But Dave was so respectful and considerate, the way he addressed all of this. With his careful words, he spoke in a way that made it okay for the girls’ to have these feelings, to be curious, and in having the conversation, he acknowledged that he can see their desire to be sensitive and kind to others. He put us all at ease.

He went on to talk about why Nora’s comment was uncomfortable for us. Nora asked if it was funny. Dave said that it was sort of funny, but only because she was little and sincere and didn’t know better, but not funny like a joke that you’d repeat again. He saw the question behind Nora’s inquiry and was so clear in his reply. She took it in. He said something simple about talking about race with someone. The girls listened. It went on like this—parenting win after parenting win. He addressed so many of the important aspects of the situation with clarity, respect, and sensitivity. The girls listened carefully and so did I. I was honored to bear witness to such thoughtfulness. I was grateful to see that parenting with true grace is possible. It was special and reminded me of one of the beauties of relationship…

Sometimes, we get to witness our partner truly shine.

 

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Practical Transformation: Healing Your Life From the Inside ~ Out

If you’ve been thinking about joining me for this wonderful women’s retreat, Sieze the day!!! Sign up this week to reserve your spot at early bird pricing. (Discount expires on July 11th )

Ojai, CA
Aug 30- Sept 5th
Yoga — Ayurveda — Alexander Technique

Transformation occurs when we peel away the heaviness we have accumulated in our life and allow for our True Nature to shine through. It is always there waiting, we just have to let go of the unnecessary. These three disciplines provide the structure and process for transformation and healing to occur throughout our whole system.

www.handson-retreats.com

 

That thing we hate about our personality might actually save us one day

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I have two kids. When our whole family is out and people see how much Nora looks like Dave and Hazel like me, we often get the comment. “looks like you got one of each.” We laugh a little because if that observant, friendly stranger hung out at our house, there would be no doubt. Hazel is her own person, but she and I have a lot of the same tendencies and personality traits. You could say the same about Nora and Dave.

One of the things that Hazel and I share is sensitivity. If we get hurt, it hurts a lot. If we are sad, we feel it so deeply that it can be overwhelming. If someone in our presence is having a great/bad/emotional moment, we feel great, bad, or emotional right along with her or him. When I was a kid, I was labeled as moody.  I knew that my sensitivity could be hard on my relationships with other people, and it was also hard for me. At the time, I managed this sensitivity by ignoring it and by pretending to be different than I was. That didn’t work out very well for me so I’m trying my best to help Hazel develop a healthy relationship with this aspect of her personality – something I am still in the process of doing for myself.

I had an appointment with my yoga mentor this week and he asked about Hazel. He knows that Hazel is a special kid with a lot of sensitivity to what is happening around her. The question helped me to reflect on how this process is going for her, and to appreciate how good she is, even at her young age, at self-regulating. When she starts to feel overwhelmed, she usually knows what to do to get grounded again. She’ll take some space from a person or situation. She spends a lot of time alone, reading, listening to music, and especially drawing. If she needs it, she’ll come over to me for a hug and then stay there a while and I can feel her settling. Because she has ways of managing her emotional world and taking care of herself, she doesn’t struggle in the same way I did.  I really think she sees her sensitivity as a special part of who she is. I think she even appreciates it.

Just writing this makes me choke up because this is amazing to me. We all have things inside of us that are the difficult and wondrous gifts. The yoga sutras talk about the functions of the mind, the vṛttis, as kliśta akliśta (I.5). The same mental function can be helpful or not, just like the very same aspect of our personality can be great help in some situations or the very thing that gets us into trouble in others. When we know ourselves well and have a perspective that lets us accept and work with our personality traits instead of wishing we didn’t have them, it gives so much meaning to why we are who we are. Maybe this kind of acceptance and self-awareness even brings us closer to understanding what we are here to do, our dharma. Those are really lofty ideas, but for me, today, it boils down to this… I’m so grateful that Hazel can be herself and like her self.  I deeply admire the emotional intelligence she’s cultivating. And if I have some small part in helping her be able to do this, then I’m here to tell you, this motherhood thing I’m involved in is worthwhile and meaningful.  I’m grateful to be able to watch this magic happen.

Registration Opens soon! 


Ojai Valley Women’s Retreat:

Practical Transformation from the Inside Out

August 31st to Sept 5th, 2016

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 with Amanda Green and Carol Prentice


 

Spend five days in the beautiful Ojai Valley immersed in good company, gourmet Ayurvedic cuisine and the transformational teachings of Yoga, Ayurveda, Alexander technique.

*Private and double occupancy rooms available.

Peppertree Retreat Center, Ojai, California

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Wholeness

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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