Watching

watch your thoughts for they become your actions, watch your actions for they become your habits, watch your habits for they become your character, watch your character for it becomes your destiny

– paraphrased from Ghandi

Habit

We are our habits, whether we like it or not.  Many neuroscience studies indicate that our brains are made up of about 40% (the low estimate) habit.  Meaning that as we do an activity over and over again, the decision making part of our brain starts to shut down and the routine is automated.  The good news is that this frees up our brain to do other things – the brain takes up more than 20% of oxygen, blood and energy to function, so in order to allow up to do higher functioning tasks it needs to automate as much as possible.  The bad news is that it doesn’t differentiate between good and bad habits.  That is where awareness comes in.  In order to change or shift any habit we first have to be aware we have it – the excuse that I just am the way I am doesn’t fly.  We are changeable adaptable, malleable beings.

I will be talking about this subject a lot in the coming weeks as I am working on a project that i think will eventually change the way people look at their behavior and provide the necessary tools to make sustainable change.

As I was doing my research I started to think about all the ways in which habit effects our lives and I immediately thought of my three year old son.  I realized that all the conscious and unconscious decisions my wife and I make in his life are forming habits that he will keep for a lifetime.  Whether we are talking about the basics such as eating and sleeping, or we are talking about how he interacts and thinks of himself, how he interacts and thinks of and treats other people.  Many of you have children, think of how quickly something can become part of their routine, how quickly they come to expect something to happen the same way everyday…

For example, Henry has a bedtime routine, as I am sure your child does.  He takes a bath, brushes his teeth, we read three books and sing three songs, he sleeps with his favorite love thing (he calls him baby E) turns on his lantern and goes to sleep.  We have been following this routine most of his short life.  He expects it and can rattle it off, he will even correct a babysitter if they miss a step.  This isn’t a rant about what routine any child should have, it is about being deliberate and fully aware that whatever you are doing, you are creating a routine and creating a habit – good or bad.  And if you aren’t following a routine than the non routine becomes the habit.  It is about realizing that every choice we make, in our lives as well as the lives of our kids could result in a habit.

So, as you ponder this I highly recommend taking an inventory, maybe just starting with yourself or if it is easier, think of your kid(s) or your pets.  What habits have you cultivated without realizing it?  Write them down, the good and the bad.  Now what habits would you like to cultivate?  Write those down too.  It is the start of creating awareness around how we behave.  Pick one habit from you list – good or bad.  And think back to when the first time was that you did that thing…

It helps me if I do a short meditation before I do the reflection.  Set a timer for 5 minutes –

Arrive – get comfortable and be where you are

Awake – start to hone in our your breath – breathing in on the count of 4 and out on the count of 6

Just breathe – when you mind wanders to the next thought as it will, come back to breath and start counting again

Aware – continue breathing – allowing your self to only have to do this one thing – let go, let be

Back to the breath, counting in and out

When the 5 minutes are up, take out a piece of paper and try the exercise above, you may have opened up some more space to remember more details.

We are all imperfect beings, with good and bad habits.  For change to happen we first have to come to know ourselves.

stay tuned.

 

with love,

kelley

Opening

One of the things that happens when you open yourself to life just as it is…you may have a constant urge to run the other way, or at least that is what happens to me.  Let me be clear here, I don’t have this all figured out, it is a journey, I try to do it more often rather than less.  In the same way I have a dailish meditation practice.  I attempt to have more moments in the day where I am aware that I am making a choice, whether it is a thought or action and from there try to make the choice that is the most open and real, ishishish…see what I mean?  I ask myself why I am doing what I am doing – what is the feeling behind it? Why I am resisting my boss or colleague or train seat mate or partner?  I may go right on resisting, but I try to do it consciously.  

Case in point.  In my job, the job that in which one of the the things I am tasked with is determining how we can best lead, coach and shape our people to be the best most authentic leaders possible, I also have to role model the behaviors.  Which is damn hard sometimes.  We recently had a very senior role open, one which I declined to interview for (which is a whole other story for a later date).  The final internal candidate is a person I worked with for 12 months during my stint in Amsterdam.  The “person” triggers me to no end.  Very political, extremely hierarchical, not very nice to their team…you get the picture.  The person was given the job, and in an indirect way it is part of my job to help set them up for success.  I found myself so annoyed that they got the job that I spent a good hour with a colleague complaining about all that ails our company and why they would make such a poor choice and how people are going to hate this person, blah blah, complain complain.  I found myself somewhere in my rant realizing I WANTED this to happen!  That I need to be right and I was deep down wanting him to fail.  Pause here.  Yes, this was one of those oh shit moments where I realized that I had a choice to make.  I could acknowledge the feeling, which was embarrassing to begin with, I mean what Director of Leadership secretly hopes for a new leader to fail??  I am gonna go with the “human one” as my answer, that is who.  So in the moment I acknowledged my feeling (to my wife which was way safer) and then made the choice to do what I could do to be wrong.  I decided that as much as the person triggers me, it doesn’t do me, the person, the people around the person, or the Company any good for me to be right.  

So, I am on the journey of trying to set the person up for success.  Even if it is painful.  I look at the him and see him as a person who wants to be happy, healthy, and free just like me.  Ugh.  

My dailish meditation practice and study of mindfulness is what helps me here.  I owe it to that practice that I am cultivating my own self awareness in order to be a more authentic and better person in this world.  If it weren’t for that ability to pause, I would have gone right on waiting for an wanting the person to fail.  

Don’t be afraid to be human but do try to be as honest with yourself as you can.  You may surprise yourself.

On now to your week…be healthy, happy and free my friends.Image

  The pic is just meant to make you smile 🙂

Seeking

It is only through enduring and going through, not around, the inevitable pain and suffering we encounter that we truly get to know ourselves. Through pain we can cultivate compassion for ourselves and others. Find your bodhisattva and spread compassion for we are all damaged and flawed, it is our human condition.

20130426-103917.jpg

Pursuit of Happiness

I was just perusing facebook when I can across a friend’s post, “Life can be amazing and miraculous one minute and horrible the next, here’ to waiting for the next amazing moment”. And it got me to thinking – We hear a lot about the pursuit of happiness and our right to it. What we fail to see is that it is precisely our pursuit of happiness that causes our suffering – and thus keeps us from that “happiness” we are looking for. I have spent much of my life in that same pursuit – barely tolerating the less than pleasurable experiences in desperate search of the next happy moment. When that moment comes I cling, and maybe you do too, not wanting the feeling or experience to change or dissipate.

I remember the day I gave birth to my son Henry. It was the mist intense experience I had ever had – anticipation, joy, pain, absence of pain and pure joy. I felt each emotion as if I imagine it would feel like if I were born blind and one day was able to see. The visceral feeling of each moment of that day will never leave me. And while I was very focused on the moment and appreciating each second (with the exception of the excruciating pain of the last stages of labor of course) I was terrified for the experience to pass. I instantly started worrying that my 12 weeks of maternity leave would not be enough – and I mean immediately, as in hours after giving birth I was crying and anxious. So I clung to each day as if it were my last – and I cried each day anticipating the day that I would have to leave my perfect little boy at home while I went to work. That extreme clinging to the moment and anticipation of the future took away from my ability to just enjoy and cherish where I was.

And then one day, a month into my maternity leave as I was rediscovering my meditation practice and study I read a paragraph from Mark Epstein’s “Thoughts Without a Thinker” that jolted me into a brief glimpse of awareness. Awareness that I was causing my own suffering. It was around the idea that the pursuit of pleasure leads to dissatisfaction as pleasure itself is not sustainable, primarily because we become content with what felt “pleasurable” initially, so we seek more.

“When any situation that is desired by the pleasure principle is prolonged it only produces a feeling of mild contentment. We are made so that we can derive intense enjoyment only from a contrast and very little from a state of things. Thus our possibilities of happiness are already restricted by our constitution” – Epstein

It was an awareness that the contrast of my pain from labor allowed me to appreciate the absence of pain once he was delivered. And that if I continue to seek that moment, even if I have the moment again, it won’t be the same, it is not sustainable in a constant way. By yearning for my environment to not change I was not appreciating what I had in the now. So I slowly let go of clinging to the idea that this utopia we had created in Henry’s first few months would change, and pursuit of a constant state of anything only leads to discontent. We are not wired for contentment.

So if you are like me in any way, and are clinging to a moment, a feeling, a touch, anything – let it go and know that the next painful, frustrating, or even mildly annoying experience you have will only help you enjoy the next “good” moment that much more.

Roman Ruins

I fell in love with the burden of my pain and rather than wallowing in my self pity I used it as a pulpit to preach and defend upon. In the end, I was not better off than having wallowed in self pity because I hadn’t leaned in and looked it in the eye. I told the story as a detached third person and masked it in self acceptance but it was fear and martyrdom.

I can hear the defenses before the alarm has been sounded – no one could call my shit because I had a story for everything – I better defended than the Roman Empire.

And the reward was great, my sad story guilted people into submission – I was left alone and revered for making it- for not becoming just like them. No drugs, no alcohol addiction, graduated high school and college, successful and in a big job, married with a child in a beautiful home.

And it worked until one day it didn’t. As I told the story and deceived myself into believing I had done the work – after all I meditated and had a therapist – my world began to breakdown – slowly at first. Like a small crack in a pipe, water slowly leaking, and suddenly it is hit, ever so slightly in a way it has been hit and cracked before, but this time in just the right way that it fully bursts. And I moved directly to blame and escape. I blamed my wife for all the things she wasn’t doing and took the high road – I latched onto someone who found me smart and interesting who liked the stories I spun and thought I was funny and wise – and I escaped to the false comfort of a fleeting intellectual crush. I was a distraction from the sad story – and she was a piece of the “make me feel special plan”. Along the way I crushed my wife and almost ruined my family – the solid city – the Roman Empire of the story I had created had crumbled.

How honest could I be with myself, could I look the raw truth in the eye and resurrect my life?

Looking outside of myself

I turned 35 yesterday.  Funny how some ages hit you and others don’t.  35 hit me.  I have always been an overachiever, trying to prove to everyone that I am different than my parents, that I won’t be a victim and that I can succeed regardless of my circumstances.  In most things I never had innate talent, just a will to be better than people thought I could be.  I measured myself on whether I was working harder than everyone else, because I assumed that was the only way to set myself apart.  For many years I was right.  I ended up playing Division 3 basketball, but not because I was talented, because I worked my ass off.  Unfortunately, once you hit college trying harder can only get you so far – talent in addition to effort will surpass you (and size).  So I was 6th or 7th off the bench when I was used to being the star of the team.  This was my first lesson what worked for me in the past may not work for me now.  Life changes, perspective changes and what you put in will not always get you the same results.

I am having a similar experience in my life now, turning 35.  I have always been the young one in my peer group at work, always.  It felt good, to exceed people’s expectations, to surprise them.  My gift has been my intuition for people, how to connect with them, how to motivate them, how to help them uncover their best self, and my insights. I live for the moment that I would be sitting in a room full of executives in some seemingly important meeting.   I would revel in the moment that I would wow someone with an observation or insight.  I especially loved the moment when someone was there that didn’t know me, and would make small talk after and ask me my age and the look on their face would make my whole day.  I felt special.  Wow, they would say, you are wise for your age, or you are an old soul, or, where did you learn how to do that at your age.  The point is, I felt like an overachiever, I felt different.  I stood out.

Now, I am 35, and for some time now the things I have accomplished are no longer special.  The job(s) or roles I have held are now what could/should be expected at 35.  So yesterday, more than any other time, it really hit me, I look to others to validate my success, my worth, my being.  Does being the age that others are make me any less.  No.

So it got me to thinking.  In what ways am I looking outside myself for validation?  So I did a sort of meditation on my life.  And thought through everyday experiences (big and small) such as my bike ride to work and whether or not I looked like a tourist or a local (I live in Amsterdam) compared to the person next to me, or to being at the park with my son and comparing myself to the other parents or comparing him to other kids, and to having friends over for dinner, what would they think of the wine, the food, was my cooking better or worse than theirs, was I serving better or worse wine, and when I am at work, do I find value in my work if others don’t praise it, or what if they are the same age or younger than me and doing a similar level job, do I feel less special or like I am less valuable?

You get the idea.  Once I catalogued all these situations in my mind, I stripped the outside people the “others” away.  I started to imagine each scenario without someone else to compare to or someone else to praise or criticize me.  And I found that in most of my life I am looking outside as opposed to inside.  The funny realization for me is that I felt like i have been doing this work for years, uncovering neurosis, building self awareness, following my intuition, having a strong sense of self etc…and have been coaching others to do it themselves.  I laughed.  Sometimes you can convince yourself you are living the work you do, but really you aren’t.  Awareness is everything, almost.

Clearly the journey is never ending, what we think we know we can know again, in a different way.  The uncovering of self and who we are with others never ends.  So my new practice these days is to visualize a situation in which no one else had an opinion or judgement, and it was just me.  What would I do then?  What would I think of myself if there was no one to compare myself to.  Who am I, really?  I pick one a day and journal about it or just meditate on it, or sit with my coffee and think alone.

I encourage you to try the same.  In what ways are you defining yourself compared to others?  Who are you when there is no one?

Now, I realize that this is the other extreme, it is just an exercise, to create more awareness, to create more space for other possibilities.

“The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.”   Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart

Promiscuous Intelligence

Andrew Fitzgerald's blog

Blog - Capes Coaching

Uncovering the idiocyncracies of life and living each moment, one at a time

The Daily Post

The Art and Craft of Blogging

allaboutmanners

Just another WordPress.com site

Bucket List Publications

Indulge- Travel, Adventure, & New Experiences

James J Need

Spreading love and positivity

MindfulVision

My tribute to life with all its curiosities and miracles

Playing Your Hand Right

Showing America how to Live

Gotta Find a Home

Conversations with Street People

floreakeats

Food Writing. Nonsense. Home of The Food A--hole's Dilemma and other delicacies

cancer killing recipe

Just another WordPress.com site

A Window Of Wisdom

Whispers from spirit heard with your heart

Eleventh Stack

A books, movies, and more blog from the staff at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh - Main.

smilecalm

Life through mindful media