Monday, May 23, 2016

Bloated, blah Mondays and practicing non-judgment

It was a rainy day in my neck of the woods...the kind that makes you want to curl up and take a nap after work. I felt like moving a little might be good though. Maybe I should go lift, I thought. Um, no. High intensity interval training? Uh, hard no. I didn't even feel like going to the gym. So instead, I opted to do a yoga-style flow at home.

Before I started, I set an intention of just moving mindfully and non-judgmentally. I didn't have a pre-choreographed routine and I wasn't following anyone's instruction. I was just going to go with the flow and see where my body took me in 45-50 minutes. Here's what I discovered...or perhaps, rediscovered. 

Non-judgment is not about being nice to yourself and it's more than about not being mean. It's about removing any labels or evaluations at all. It's about simply noticing what's there. Instead of labeling it or expressing opinion about it, you train yourself to witness it, observe it, and describe it. It's learning to be neutral and tabling bias. [I say tabling because it's very difficult to be totally bias free]. I'll give you examples of how to neutralize a statement by using a few judgments I noticed throughout today's practice.

I'm lazy. I should go to the gym.
It's important to listen to my body and give it what it needs, even if that means a lighter workout at home.

I really don't like my stomach. I wish I had a six pack.
I notice I am bloated in my midsection today. The skin around my core feels soft to touch.

I'm hairy and gross and need to get rid of it.
I notice the stubble on my legs (and chin for that matter).

My balance sucks today.
The balancing poses feel challenging today.

I wish I could do hardcore inversions.
I am where I am today. 

Get the point? I don't overcompensate and say an affirmation. That's more like self-love. I don't accept a false reality. There's nothing mindful about denial. I just remove the sting of judgment by staying neutral and being present with what is right now.

Give it a try. First, it'll take becoming aware of your judgments. Then once you are, practice removing the opinions and assumptions from them. Take away all evaluations and shoulds. Just notice, observe, and describe. See if practicing this stance as a way of life doesn't transform you and everyone else around you. At the very least, you might find relief in this gentler way of relating.






Monday, May 16, 2016

Negative nelly or positive polly: the choice is yours

Have you ever been outside enjoying the beautiful weather? You take in the sights and sounds of nature. You start to relax. Your lips curl up into a soft smile of contentment. Then, all of a sudden your nostrils are assaulted by the odor of cigarette smoke. Your lips turn down into a frown as you angrily look around for who would dare mess up your positive vibe by smoking. Isn't that the worst? Don't you just want to shake the person for marring a lovely scene with such a nasty habit? This is how I'm starting to feel about negativity. Seriously. I'm starting to have a visceral reaction to it. Sadly, you don't have to look very far to find it.

It's found in the Crass Chris's of the world whose speech is peppered with profanities. I'm not talking occasional curses here and there, or the slightly off color jokes. I'm talking about entire diatribes of needless F-bombs. I imagine at one point it didn't bother me as much. Now, it really does. You also find it Negative Nellys and Debbie Downers. You know the ones. In their world the sky is always falling. Don't dare try to acc-en-tuate the positive to these folks. They almost delight in their pity party and don't want you coming to rain on their parade...or perhaps shine on their parade. And what about the Petty Pamela types that can't hold a conversation for more than 5 minutes before talking badly about someone else. These might be the worst because they generally lack insight. To them, everyone else is petty and awful for not being a good friend or partner to them. All the while, you want to say, "You might be the problem boo!"

Please don't misunderstand. It's not that I think I'm perfect. I can be negative at times too. We all can. There is a clear difference though between a bad day or week...I'll even give you a rough patch of a few months. Life can be tough sometimes and the -ish can really hit the fan all at once. There's that. Then there's a consistent pattern of negative thinking, harsh words, and just a general attitude of bitterness. I can assure you don't nobody want to be around all that!



The sad thing is that most negative people don't even realize how bad off they are. It's a lot like living in a smoky environment. Think about when you go to a bar or bowling alley and everyone is smoking around you. At first, it hits you immediately. Then after a while, you just adapt. The smell doesn't seem as strong. You hardly notice it anymore until you leave and someone else tells you how bad you smell. So it is with bad attitudes.

I get it. I really do. I'm not a Positive Polly by nature and I certainly don't come from a family of them. I can understand and empathize with the perpetual disappointment and deferred hope that cause one to harden their heart in the first place. For some reason though, I'm vigilant about not letting life challenges poison me internally. Joy is a fight sometimes, but one I'll take on any day of the week. The way I see it, my very life depends on it...a happy life at least.

I pose this question to you. Do you have an inkling that you might reek of negativity? Maybe you didn't realize how bad it was until people started covering their noses and avoiding you. You can rid your life of it. It takes time. It takes softening your heart and allowing it to be healed. It takes owning your role in your choices and their consequences. It takes submitting your life and your very soul to the only One who can right all wrongs. When that happens, when you yield yourself to that healing process, something beautiful takes place. The nasty, toxic aroma of death is replaced with a pleasant, alluring fragrance of life. You naturally affect others around you, but this time, for the good. Ultimately, the choice is yours.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Many ways of mothering

It's Mother's Day. I just got off the phone with my mom. She lives out of state, so unfortunately, no brunch plans for us. As far as I can tell, it'll be a routine Sunday for me, except it'll include seeing a steady stream of Mother's Day pictures and posts in my timeline. Truth be told, holidays on social media tend to aggravate me because I'm generally not included. I started to anticipate feeling left out again until I realized something very important. I'm a mother too. No, I haven't had children yet. But I am a mother because I nurture. That looks a lot of different ways.

I taught at a Zumbathon event and a few students from my regular Zumba class came out to support. They loved it. And I'm not entirely sure why, but one of my students is truly my biggest fan. Even on my worst day, she sings my praises and feels inspired by me. That's teaching and that's mothering.

I met a group of women as we were all leaving a wine festival. They were clearly lit. After an amusing exchange, I urged these strangers whom I had never met to please drive safely. Then, I said a prayer for them on my way home. That's protecting and that's mothering.

I counsel lots of clients in my practice who have strained relationships with their moms. Many struggle because of their mom's inability to love in a healthy way. While I can't actually be their mom and heal every wound, I can provide a consistent, safe base. I can be an example of a secure attachment. That's role modeling and that's mothering.

I have prayed for one of my friends for nearly four years. For some reason, I've been deeply moved in my spirit to do so ever since I met her. At times, I've wept in earnest petition to God that she would fully realize who she is and reach her potential. That's interceding and that's mothering.

The list goes on. My point is this. There are many ways of mothering. If you've shouted for joy when someone you love succeeds, if you've shed tears of sorrow over someone's poor decisions, if you've poured out your life to others without knowing if anyone notices or cares, if you've loved fiercely and deeply, wishing nothing but the absolute best for another, then you are a mother and this is your day. Happy Mother's Day to all the natural and spiritual mothers of the world.




Monday, May 2, 2016

Social dance for the socially awkward

 Dance is the hidden language of the soul of the body.
- Martha Graham
 
Recently, I've had a few opportunities to go dancing. There was the salsa and bachata night hosted by a local Latin studio and then, over the weekend, contradancing at a local beach. Believe it or not, this isn't something I do often. I mean, yes, I dance all the time with dance fitness, but social dancing with a partner is an entirely different thing. It seems much more...well...intimate.

Even as I write, I'm smiling at the irony of it. I'm a counselor. I'm all up and through people's personal lives. I'm entrusted with secrets that partners, relatives, and sometimes not another living soul knows. And I too am intentional about transparency in my closest relationships. Emotional intimacy is all day every day for me. It's the up close and personal physical part that makes me nervous. Charge it to being a busy single girl who doesn't get out much. I plan to work on that.

At any rate, I decided that these sorts of outings are good to do for a number of reasons. When you're out of practice relating to the opposite sex, it can be a little anxiety provoking. If you're anything like me, this meme totally resonates with you. 
 
 
Now, to give myself some credit, I'm generally not this obviously awkward...not anymore, at least. But internally, I still fumble, feel nervous, and wonder if I'm coming across like a normal person. So again, social dancing gave me the chance to shake off my nerves and just relate. It did so in the following ways.

1) Eye contact
This is something I generally avoid. Again, it feels intensely intimate. But, when you're dancing with a partner it's nice to acknowledge their existence. Once I got past how weird it felt at first, I noticed how nice it was. People don't really look at each other anymore. It was nice to break from the phone and smart device and connect to another person.

2) Physical touch
It might be a little uncomfortable to admit this, but let's face it...when you live alone, work a lot, and rarely date, you don't get a lot of this. Sometimes it's nice to move with another person without it being sexual. Partner dance allows for that. You can be close, you can touch hands, you can lean in to one another, and that's all it is. It's another safe and non-threatening way to connect.

3) Multiple partners
I know how it sounds, but again, I don't mean this in a sexual way. When you go to dance socials everyone dances with everyone else. It's kind of a relief because it keeps it casual. There's no assumption that if you partner off you'll stay with that one person to entire night. You mix it up and meet a lot of cool people before the evening is over.

Perhaps all of this is obvious and old hat to the gregarious types of the world...the ones who never knew a stranger...the ones who date frequently and relate effortlessly. But to the introverts and reformed awkward types of the world, social dancing is a big step. It's a good reminder that there are real gentlemen still out there. It's a reminder that men are people too. It's easy to forget that. And in my opinion, it's a reminder of the importance of just getting out of your head and into your body. When asked to dance, don't overthink it. Just dance.