Near the end of July, I implemented a Daily Practice Challenge at the studio and included both bellydance and yoga students. I’ve been frustrated by my efforts around practice in general (both yoga and bellydance) and needed accountabilibuddies to help me figure it out. The Hive feels much like a laboratory to me and because my students work SO hard, I truly feel accountable to them. I wouldn’t ask them to do something I’m not willing to do— at the same time there’s a big difference between being willing to do something and actually doing it.
So I started the daily practice challenge as a means to kick myself into shape, get disciplined and practice more.
That worked for a total of .1 seconds.
My students were practicing and excited and I felt exactly the same and unsure of what to do. I couldn’t shake the feelings that warn me of burn out. I couldn’t motivate myself to make any real changes in my practice.
Because Laura (my awesome coach and friend and fellow detective) has helped me prioritize progress over perfection, I was able to take an accurate accounting of how I was feeling and accurately reflect on how I’ve been reacting to all the changes (and whoa, there’s been some big ones!) in my life over the past year.
Just like I encouraged my students during the practice challenge to keep trying, no matter how many times they fell off of the wagon, I jumped back on. I gave myself permission to be curious rather than judgmental and kept starting over again. Each time I fell off, I looked around and wondered what was making it so hard?
And then I considered my options. Which at first felt limited, but only because I assumed the consequences of making any change would be disastrous. Change felt so frightening, it was easier to assume there were no options rather than deal with the unknown of doing something different. I couldn’t…wouldn’t allow myself to consider any of the positive/helpful consequences.
Hmmm. No options. This definitely felt familiar and because of the familiarity, it felt comforting…except now I also felt smothered by it rather than safe.
BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. WARNING! TRIGGER ALERT!! BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.
When I feel that comforting/smothering stuff, I know it’s habitual and I need to stop drop, and get curious. I’m supposed to take a non-judgmental look around and start asking Why? The past several years (heck, the past few weeks) have shown me over and over how many options there are, how many beautiful people exist in my life, how willing the Universe is to co-create the Life I want most. Because life has been so beautiful and filled with so much creativity and imagination, I forgot about the natural rhythm of expansion and contraction. I forgot that even when things are AMAZEBALLS , in order for it to stay amazeballs, I need to be vigilant about the things most important to me. When my priorities are in order, everything else falls into place.
And the absolute top priority on my Life is Awesome list?
Pema Chodron encourages us to focus on ourselves in order to be available for our family and others in need, available to Life. When I started working with Laura I told her I wanted to be the most important person to Me.
Some of you may think that’s selfish.
And yes. I have 2 children. And a Partner. And friends.
And yes, living in this way takes a lot of courage, clear communication, and taking responsibility for what I want. It’s not easy, folks. On the other hand, that single-minded focus makes things simple.
No, this doesn’t give me license to do whatever I want whenever I want. But it does give me permission to make conscious choices based on what’s best for ME, which has always proven to be what’s best for everyone else in my immediate circle of influence. If I get to choose, so do they.
I am not a patient person by nature. My first instinct is to be self-protective, judgmental, irritable, and fearful. After reflecting on the experiences in my past, I understand that these characteristics developed out of a need to feel safe and in control. Through meditation and other personal practices, I feel like I’ve transcended these safety mechanisms. However, as soon as I stop making my needs a priority, well, let’s just say, it’s easy to fall into old habits. I don’t really like that version of my Self. I’m grateful for all she’s done to help me get here AND I don’t need her anymore.
While I started the practice challenge in order to improve my dance and nail that handstand (I’m SO close), with the support of my family and students, I learned new things about myself, I’m clearer about some of the things I thought I knew, and I’m making some pretty big changes in the schedule at The Hive and at home to make room for Me and my practice.
Ya know, I think our culture doesn’t understand that there’s a difference between being selfish and being a narcissist.
When I take care of my own needs, I have plenty of energy to care for others and be there for them. “Yes” comes easily to me and I feel less greedy with my time. If I’m the only thing I have control over, if my behavior is the only thing I can control, wouldn’t I focus as much energy as possible in that direction? If my children learn most from what I DO rather than what I say, don’t I want my life to reflect the kind of life I hope for them? If I believe that committing myself to a personal practice of meditation and healthy eating will increase my longevity and emotional stability, wouldn’t I make that the most important thing in my life?
Whew! I’m grateful to be a part of this community, this place where we get to show up exactly as we are and have permission to change and noodle around and catch ourselves. I caught myself!! That’s the practice!! I did it!! I can feel the celebration happening in me right now.
- I started feeling boxed in and tired.
- I honestly connected with feeling boxed in and tired without blaming anything or anyone.
- Rather than reacting and getting judgmental, I got curious about the feelings.
- Took some time to take an accurate look at everything I’m doing and not doing (almost 3 months, The Daily Practice Challenge HELPED SO MUCH!)
- Considered all options for change (no matter how crazy or ridiculous—even though deep down I knew what needed changing.)
- Decided on what I needed to change.
- Implemented said change. (Just this morning)
Recap of the Recap:
- Persistent feelings of discomfort, disease, unhappiness, exhaustion, feeling blue, arise. (or whatever feelings you might fill in the blank ____________)
- Connect with the feelings without judging them (or you) as something bad or wrong.
- Get curious. Pretend you’re a detective and start paying attention to the clues.
- ACCURATELY survey all the things you are doing (or not doing) in your life. (Most of us are great at creating lists of things we aren’t doing. I like to focus on everything I AM doing first.)
- Consider your options. (We always have them—we just might be a little scared of them.)
- Decide on what you’re going to change or not change. (Deciding NOT to do something is still doing something)
- Implement your decision.
I love to write. Since The Hive opened I’ve been committing and re-committing to a weekly blog and monthly newsletter. I’m making room in my life for more writing. I’m excited about the time I’m creating to meditate, dance, and yoga. I’m grateful that all of this can happen within a Life space that already includes meaningful Work and Love and connection and music and laughter.
May we enjoy happiness and the root of happiness.
May we be free from suffering and the root of suffering.
May we not be separated from the great happiness devoid of suffering.
May we dwell in the great equanimity free from
passion, aggression, and prejudice.