What dictates how I approach exercise, meditation, diet, and work

#1. I’ve practiced with discipline of steel. Once I’ve determined that the practice is what I need to do, there is no negotiation from day to day.

#2. I’ve practiced in “moderation.” If I’m tired or too busy with legit stuff, then I release myself from that practice for that day or week.

#3. I’ve practiced when I feel pain or discomfort, and I let that dictate the intensity and duration of practice and not beat myself up when I don’t.

Relationships are a practice too, but I’m leaving this out for now because this often relies on the other practices.

I’ve moved around on my approaches, and I don’t mean within weeks or months or over a span of a year. I mean #1 and 2 for almost a decade at a time and #3 for months at a time.

What dictates how I approach my practice is my mindset:

#1: The why I’m doing it needs to be clear and unforgettable. Something greater than me is in place, and it conquers any temptation from first thing in the morning and throughout the day until I go to bed. My trust and interest in this process is high with less consideration for the outcome. A difficult day or week does not waver my trust and interest. This approach feels good because conquering time and space strengthens my very core.

#2: I let something in that weakens my consistency muscle and softens my memory. This approach feels good, particularly in the beginning, because I feel like I’m loving myself and taking care of my needs on a daily, need-by-need basis. What happens eventually is that I feel the need to abandon something important to fit in something else that is important and depleted. This approach requires some regular negotiating with the self.

#3: This is a highly motivational place to come from because pain and discomfort is a strong motivator. It needs to be painful and uncomfortable enough for the motivation to take real substance, and it usually takes longer, and can cost more, to remedy. The focus on the outcome alone sabotages sustainability and life becomes up and down. When it leads to something greater than that, it’s a way up.

How I approached my practice often relied on how I felt: the quality of my inner dialogue.

Now, I choose to look to other feedback mechanisms: (1) my energy level determined by the level of stress, overwhelm, and how restful or conquered I am when I wake up in the morning, and (2) the quality of my relationships: Do the people around me see me? How am I to connect with? How do I feel about others? Am I easily irritable or judging?

While feelings are good indicators for how aligned we are in our truth, when we are out of balance, we are likely to use them to distort and create more commotion in our lives. If you are feeling out of balance, consider looking to the other feedback mechanisms and choose your approach accordingly.

Participating in even just a little bit of gossip is like having shit soup.

What if I told you that I made a veggie soup with all fresh, organic vegetables? What if I chanted mantra while I made it? Sounds pretty good.

What if I told you I dropped just a teeny bit of poop in there?

It’s such a small amount, especially compared to all the other good stuff that went in there, and I just got the organic veggies from the farmer’s market this morning.

Would you have it?

Why not?

Failing doesn’t mean you are a failure.

In my late teens and early twenties, I smoked cigarettes. At some point, when I decided to start running and ran out of breath after having gone just one block, I decided to quit smoking cold turkey. I threw my mostly full box of Marlboro Light 100s away thinking that’s it.

I failed a good number of times. In those days, bars and restaurants were filled with smoke because the no-smoking law hadn’t been made yet. I became a social smoker. This was not my plan, but one must eat out, and one must mingle in bars, and when it’s around you, one succumbs.

Each morning after, I felt defeated and gross. The good news was, the length of time between smokes became longer and longer, feeling more and more disgusted about it every time I failed. Then I became free of it. I didn’t even realize it until one day I didn’t remember when was the last time I had one. The hold no longer had a grip on me. At some point, I had no interest in even standing around smoke to get it second hand.

My workout was daily, and I found myself in excellent shape. I had replaced one habit with a healthier one.

The plan was not to quit smoking gradually. The gradual thing happened because I kept failing. But I never held the story that I was a failure, or that my attempts were futile.

It’s a lesson that I carry forward with me in all my attempts to shed and add habits. Same story in my attempts to quit complaining; I failed many times. In my attempts to become vegetarian/ vegan, I’d fail many times. To do the daily blog, many many many many times. To show up for my relationships. To practice my mental and spiritual hygiene the way I practice my dental hygiene. To drop my story that I’m afraid of commitment. To stop judging and see God in all….getting better but still working on it.

But it doesn’t mean I’m a failure. It means I’m moving towards something that feels better and much more supportive of life, love, and becoming whole, and I keep moving towards it. At some point, the thing I’m moving away from no longer holds even a small amount of value for me because my eyes are totally somewhere else. One day, I look back and go, “oh yeah, I used to need that. That used to be me.” I have conquered myself many times over to step into a version of me that feels better. Much better.

When do we decide to open up to working and relating differently?

Obstacles might be a message that it wasn’t meant to be. But they could also be a way of slowing you down and asking you if you really want what you are looking at. Because if you do, you’ll need to figure out how to move through them. You might need to reinvent yourself a little bit; to take a good look at your auto-responses and decide if they still really work for you.

Do you really want this? Or do you only want it if it’s fast and easy?

This could pertain to a project you are working on or to a relationship.

Must things meet your logic to make sense? Or are you open to broadening your view? You might look to the commonalities in your hardships and frustrations, past and present. The Universe might be saying, “maybe there is a different way to be.” It might be trying to expand your limitations.

The way to take care of the future

“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

When everything we do becomes this, time becomes generous, peace and gratitude becomes possible, and everything changes. There is just a getting to know, and a melting away of anxiety.

And then in each moment, we know what to do because we do each thing slowly and reverently, and as we become complete in ourselves through our pure presence, our world becomes whole.

It’s not your job to fix it for your child

Things won’t always work out for them, and when it’s painful for them, which can be quite often, it’s painful for us. We want to do anything to make the pain go away.

When you save them from their pain, if you could save them, then you let them know that they couldn’t save themselves, and that you don’t have the faith.

It’s your job to hold that space for them, let them feel what they need to feel, feel with them in a way that they know you understand their pain but also in a way that they won’t feel like they need to scoop in to save you.

In that action alone, they will be most comforted.

They will know that it’s okay to feel something other than happy because you validated them by making it okay to feel what they feel. Their chances of moving through difficult feelings and finding self-soothing mechanisms will increase. They won’t learn that distraction from pain is the way to go, and they won’t be thoroughly irritated by you because you are trying to rationalize or solve their pain away, which often gives rise to arguments between you and child, born out of your need to soothe yourself out of their pain.

This is an opportunity for you to learn to trust their individual process of growing up and dealing with adversity at a time in their lives when they still have the safety net of living in your nest. This is what home means.

Give it to them.

It’s also an opportunity for you to work through why you might be so compelled to distract, fix, or even fall apart when what they need is your presence, love and safe space to be a complete mess at times, which then provides space for authentic joy.

Then extend this out to your adult self, your adult friends and family.

I actually really listened to her, the person that historically makes me so angry.

I listened to a Russell Brand podcast with guest Candace Owens. Do you know who she is?

I stay out of the news for the most part, so I had never heard of her prior to, and to the best of my understanding, it seems she believes that black people are no longer oppressed (she is black), and that the real oppression that exists is the story of victimhood that we as a society feed them. She also doesn’t believe in the Me Too movement. She came from poverty, and she pulled herself out by overcoming this narrative, and so everyone can too. She believes vehemently that government is not the place for this sort of change, and that reparations are ridiculous; inside the families and community is where these issues ought to be worked out.

I do not stand on her side of the ledger, and in fact, I typically can’t listen to someone with her beliefs without getting utterly angry and full of judgment. I did well though, perhaps because Russell Brand was the interviewer and not someone on the “far right.” Perhaps that softened the experience for me. In fact, his efforts to find commonalities and ask open questions to better understand her was inspiring, so yes, it probably was Russell that changed my experience. That said, which side is right is not the point of this blog.

What I was able to experience for the first time was my reaction to her from a different position. I could feel myself getting righteously angry, and a small voice inside of me asked, “why do you feel so threatened by her and by what she is saying?”

Why do I feel like I must steel myself from her arguments and get defensive? Others I know would be calling her names right into their iPhones. Aren’t I already ahead that I don’t?

So I let myself go and listened to what she had to say with openness. It wasn’t easy, but I did.

Guess what didn’t happen? I didn’t explode, the world is the same as it was before I listened to it, and I didn’t join her choir. Not because I was determined not to, but because after having listened to her without the steel wall, I still disagreed.

What did happen was I left the podcast a little bit more expanded, understanding how she came to her conclusions, how she believes love and compassion plays out, and how she is just as angry as I am about the injustices perpetuated by “the other side.” At the end, do I think she is wrong? Yes. But I actually really listened to her, and I don’t hate her.

I left the podcast less angry, and instead more thoughtful on how we might bridge the gap between the two sides.