Thursday, May 17, 2018

Going from Good to GREAT!

How do we go from good to great? Of late, I have been hearing a lot about how (past and current) great creative masters (whether musicians, chefs, programmers, artists, designers, etc.) were able to stand out amongst others in their field. What I am finding is that the first step towards mastery is to learn and replicate how the best have done it before you. However, after that you must go one step further and take all that you know (in your heart and mind) and all the experiences you've had in your life and channel it into your work, so you can recreate it as your own. This idea implies that contrary to what some people might believe, it isn't shameful to copy what others are doing or have done -- matter-of-fact it's encouraged -- but the world still needs your special stamp on it.  How can you present your skill in a way that reflects your unique perspectives and experiences? 

To illustrate this point, think about what it takes to learn a new language. You need to first learn the main structures of the new language and vocabulary, so that you can build up to some phrases before you can then start freely expressing yourself.  The same can be applied to learning how to play an instrument. You have to learn notes, strung together to play chords, and some basic songs before you can then start to improvise and create your own music and signature style.

Achieving mastery takes confidence, courage and the ability to trust one's self above and beyond the doubts/condemnation/criticism of others, as well as from your own inner critic. Are you able to recognize when internal or external voices are telling you to stop and still make the conscious choice to move forward anyway?  Are you willing to work through obstacles and use disappointments as opportunities to learn how to continue forward? If so, mastery is well within your reach.

I encourage you to think about how you can take what you have learned and experienced in life; and package it up together in your own unique way to present to the world.  What would that look and feel like? Trust that you are enough, you already have everything you need within you, and what you have to offer is special (even if others are doing similar work) because it is part of you and there is no one else in this world like you.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Living Simply to Live More Richly

Part of what I'm noticing and love about Medellin is its tendency toward simplicity. From deciding how long to work (versus play); choosing d├ęcor for their homes and businesses; and/or deciding on what foods to prepare, the people here air on the side of minimalism. For example, many people don't work on Sundays (and some don't work on Monday either) and return home to eat a freshly prepared meal with their families; walls are painted white and decorated with plants; and restaurants promote the "meal of the day" as opposed to giving lots of choices.  The Paisas seemingly have enough to make them feel comfortable and satisfied, but not too much to make their lives feel overly cluttered or complicated. In my own life, I realize that the less material things I need to buy and take care of, the more freedom and finances I have to focus on the things/experiences that bring me the most inspiration and joy, such as traveling.

What and how much one "needs" to feel happy and fulfilled is very different for every person and we must determine honestly for ourselves what is enough and what is too much. I recommend that we all take regular breaks from our daily routines/rituals to ask ourselves the following questions:

  • What are the things (in terms of material possessions, commitments, harbored emotions, etc.) in my life that most inspire me and contribute to my joy and freedom?
  • Are there other things I can let go of that are getting in the way? 
  • Am I willing to take action and clean out what is no longer serving me to make more room for what is?

For this trip, David and I did not buy fancy things to travel with, we don't have any desire to stay at fancy places or splurge on fancy meals; nor do we have fancy lives waiting for us back at home; yet we still feel so rich inside being able to share this crazy, amazing experience with each other, learning new things and meeting new people in new places all over the world. #grateful

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Slow Down to Experience More

David and I recently saw a documentary called Given about the Goodwin family, who went on an epic surfing adventure across 15 countries to give their 6-year old son the opportunity to expand his horizons and gain a deeper understanding of life. The cinematography of this movie was spectacular and delivered a sensory experience like no other movie I have ever seen. I immediately became infatuated with this adventurous, down-to-earth family and naturally wanted to see more of their photography on Instagram (@thegoodwinway) and their social media account does not disappoint. Beyond the photography, I was drawn to the advice they leave in their profile, which says, "Slow Yourself Down, you will see so much more."  I love this suggestion! If we can slow down our pace just a bit more during our days, we will see, hear and feel so much more; not only in our physical environment, but also in our internal landscapes. With our minds uncluttered and present, we can more fully sense all the nuances of the people and things we encounter. We notice their beauty and we understand more about the world around us. And with our minds uncluttered and present, we can more fully sense all the nuances of our own mind, body and spirit (emotions). We notice our own beauty and understand more about ourselves and what we need in order to be happy and thriving. What a richer experience our life would become!

Monday, May 7, 2018

Stop and Reflect, Part 2

I am currently reading Cal Newport's book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, in which he explains how we can get more done in less time on projects that are important to us, by focusing our full attention and eliminating distractions. He cites convincing research about the negative effects of multi-tasking on our overall productivity to support his argument. Since starting the book, I've been increasingly noticing how addicted I am to distraction and how I tend to ease my boredom or procrastinate via social media (specifically, Instagram), mind-wandering, opting for a snack or beverage break, engaging in superficial conversation, fidgeting, running non-essential errands, and etcetera. The questions I am now asking myself are (1) why do I distract myself; and (2) how do I stop? For the second question, Cal offers practical tips which include having a meditation practice (I'll say more after), setting aside specific times during the day for deep work done in a private space where you won't be distracted (consider your local Starbucks out). While you are working, put a "do not disturb" sign on your door, shut off email notifications, turn your phone off or put it out of sight, and commit to not doing anything else until the allotted time has finished. Similarly, he recommends an "Internet Sabbath," where we designate specific times during the day to use our technology (web surfing, phone, email, video games, etc.) and then avoid it for the rest of the day, so we can focus on work that is more meaningful.

As a meditation teacher, it would be remiss of me if I didn't say a little more about the benefits of meditation for deep work.  Meditation can help settle the fear-based thoughts in our minds that keep us stuck in toxic emotions (anxiety, guilt, regret, etc.). Settling our thoughts also clears our head to make more room for the deep work. It also gives us the opportunity to reconnect with our heart/intuition to access its wisdom. Meditation can additionally help us become more aware of when we feel triggered, so we can choose to respond to our environment in a loving way. Lastly, it trains us to become more comfortable with discomfort, so we can acknowledge and accept when negative emotions/experiences arise, to work through them and then let them go. (Please send me a message if you want to learn more.)
In regard to why I turn toward distractions, I've been doing some reflecting and trace it back to a fear of "not being enough." Why do I distract myself with Instagram? Consciously, I want to see what other people are doing, so I can be inspired. However, unconsciously I believe I want to measure myself up against others and confirm that I have valuable things to share. Perhaps I am also looking for something outside of myself (an external distraction) to make me feel happy and whole, which again implies that I think I need to be and do more; and that my life needs to be more. Or perhaps the present moment is uncomfortable and feels out of my control and I don't have confidence/trust in my ability to handle it, so instead of dealing with the moment, I opt instead to distract myself or procrastinate. These beliefs are toxic and not only do they distract me from my deep work, but they are also destructive to my overall confidence, courage, and growth.

Potential remedies for this fear of "not enough-ness" have been showing up in my environment of late (synchronicity?). Author Mel Robbins (The 5-Second Rule) suggests "to stop giving a shit" and just take authentic action.  Who cares what your friends think?! If they aren't supportive or at least understanding then they don't belong in your tribe. Maya Angelou also laments on the sadness of "a story untold." When we escape this moment or when we hide ourselves from the world, we not only deprive ourselves of self-love and the gift of being able to live authentically, but we also deprive the world of our bird song.

"I'm not enough" is a battle I started to fight some time during my teenage years. I'm learning every day how to win this war and am becoming more and more aware of when it rears its ugly head in my life. The more I become aware, the easier it is for me to choose new thoughts and behaviors that reflect the love I want to express in the world, for both myself and for others. My first step towards change will be to continue cultivating this moment-to-moment awareness of my behaviors (we can't change what we are not aware of); and then putting Cal's tips to work will be the second. As such, I commit to (1) increasing the length of my morning (meditation) sit, (2) setting 2 times during the day (after breakfast and lunch) for my social media and internet usage, and (3) listening to a guided meditation my partner (David) created for me to directly penetrate my subconscious with suggestions of peace, calm, confidence, and courage, every night before going to bed. 

Stop and Reflect

Life is full of rich experiences which trigger us to feel so many different things. Our emotions are the surface level manifestations of deeply-held beliefs and judgments we have about ourselves and the world. How often do you stop and reflect on why you feel a certain way? Why did what your friend said make you feel angry? Why did what you saw on Facebook make you feel anxious? There is so much to discover about ourselves from our emotions. Whether in the moment or at the end of the day, take a moment to stop and reflect, so you can learn more about yourself and grow into the person you want to become. (In my next post, I'll share an example from my own life.)

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Give your Exhale the Attention it Deserves

When breathing during yoga and meditation, many of us (including myself) have the tendency to pay more attention to our in-breaths and less to our out-breaths, almost as if we are rushing to get to our next inhale and the exhale is merely a roadblock.  But what would it be like to give equal attention to our exhales? In life we are not always fully present/aware, oftentimes running toward the next moment.  Some of us tend to only focus on what is wrong with ourselves and in the world and gloss over the good (negativity bias); others have the tendency to distract themselves from what they don't want to acknowledge. What if we could develop our awareness, so that we can embrace all of life, the good and the not-so-good, to fully experience the joys and be able to feel and release our sorrows? I believe that we can increase our happiness through this process of cultivating awareness and acceptance. Life will continue to show up in ways we can't control or predict. Rather than ignoring or fighting against it, we can acknowledge whatever arises, and then we can choose how we respond (with our thoughts, words and actions) to create a more joyful life for ourselves and for all those we interact with.

Meditation Tip: Embrace Distractions

During meditation, distractions (thoughts, sounds, sensations will come up. Often we try to fight against them and feel annoyed by their arrival. Thoughts and other distractions will always come up (just as your lungs were meant to help you breathe, your mind is meant to help you think). Notice how you feel in your mind, body and spirit (emotionally) when you try to wish away distractions. Then I challenge you to let go of your judgments and your expectation to have silence in your mind during your practice. Let your thoughts/distractions come and go like clouds passing in the sky. Once you get distracted again, bring your attention back to your breath and continue on. If you can practice in this way, you'll notice how much more peaceful and calm you feel afterwards.