Everything we do—every act, process or journey we commit to, we must approach with #Intentionality. Without Intentionality, it becomes difficult to assemble into coherent growth the odds and ends that make up our often messy journeys.
What do I mean by Intentionality? I mean knowing where you’d like to be heading. Not in the sense of exact, inflexible goals. More in the sense of knowing the Intention, or, #Sankalpa, behind each act.
In Sanskrit, means vow, or “the rule to be followed above all other rules.” refers to a connection with the highest truth. , then, is a vow and commitment we make to support our highest #truth and honor the deeper meaning of our life. A sankalpa speaks to the larger arc of our lives, our #dharma—our overriding #purpose for being here.
“I know the #relationship I want to have with myself. I know how I want to feel about my job. I know the relationship I want to have with my finances. I know the impact I would like to have on my community.”
Approaching your life with Intentionality means that all the small things you do – the healthy #choices, managing your spending, the daily grind – take on extra power and meaning. You KNOW why you’re doing them. You KNOW where they can take you.
There are some small but impactful #rituals you can adopt, to imbue your actions with meaning and bring yourself back to Intentionality.
Choose five #values you want to be the defining features of the life you lead (for example compassion, growth, creativity, generosity, honesty, discovery, justice, accountability, independence… ). Once a day, once a week, or each time you practice, run through how you’ve aligned with these values.
When you’re faced with a choice or decision, refer to these values to act as your #guides. Create a #mantra from them that you can use whenever you need. Get creative! Make little cards that you can place around the house, so you’re always reminded of who you want to be.
Start every day with a #pranayama exercise or breathing session, as short as five minutes if you’re rushed, during which you focus on your #Intention.
Your sankalpa could be an Intention for this month, this day, this year – whatever you feel comfortable with! Before you start any project or perform any action, take a #breath and speak your Intention to yourself. Remind yourself of the relationship between your #actions and your Intention.
(If you’re not familiar with forms of pranayama, check out Exhale by Richie Bostock or schedule a Pranayama Zoom session with me.)
This year is challenging us in so many ways, but the thing that can make these challenges so difficult to surmount is our #isolation. So many people are finding themselves still isolated from family, friends, community and any #socialization that could otherwise offer a reprieve from our inner worlds.
Uncertainty, anxiety, worry for ourselves and others, existential pain for the world – these are truly emotions that are halved when shared. But beyond the simple act of having people there to share in our emotional burdens, there is the plain truth that humans are sociable creatures.
Physical and social #connection are essential elements of our wellbeing. They boost our endorphins, our oxytocin levels, and reduce cortisol, helping to regulate our moods and feelings for the best. So when we take these away, it’s like we’re facing the challenges of 2020 with half our armor, or half our arsenal of coping mechanisms.
The first and most crucial step is #self-compassion.
We’re living in strange, unfamiliar times. It’s okay not to feel great, especially if we’ve found ourselves isolated from our social worlds. We are not weak, and we are not dependent. We are not somehow incompetent, ‘less-than’ or unworthy because we are struggling. We are simply #human.
Knowing and understanding why we are struggling helps when identifying coping mechanisms. We need to give ourselves the #space to feel that worry for our loved ones, to miss the presence of our family and friends.
But we must also give ourselves the tools to recognize the uncontrolled thought-spirals and the ruminating. Externalizing these thoughts and feelings, even just to ourselves in a journal, video or audio recording, can help develop our awareness of the triggers and break the cycles.
We also need to #adapt. Don’t be afraid to email, text, call or video-call your people to get that social #uplift, even if it’s not necessarily the ideal way to engage with your loved ones.
Been thinking about someone or worried about their well being? Reach out. Check in. Connect and support. We are not alone.
* ᴅᴇᴅɪᴄᴀᴛᴇᴅ ᴛᴏ ᴀ ᴅᴇᴀʀ ꜰʀɪᴇɴᴅ *
‘Schadenfreude,’ the pleasure derived from another person’s misfortune, is an entirely human, natural #emotion. Especially if it concerns a person by whom we have felt victimized, betrayed and misrepresented. It should also be an emotion that shakes us up a little bit, though.
It alerts us to the power we’ve given this person over our spiritual landscape. It’s a signal that we’ve allowed something to pull us away from #Compassion. We’ve let the Shadow out to play.
Everyone has a #Shadow. There’s no shame in the Shadow. It’s simply important to recognize the feelings that come from the Shadow-place and to understand what their purpose is.
Schadenfreude is a Shadow-emotion. It’s petty, vindictive and self-gratifying. It’s there to boost our #Ego and make us feel good in a cheap, easy way. It exists in the Shadows of our #subconscious and pokes its head out when our defenses are down.
As I said, this is natural and very human. We are messy, imperfect, raw and beautiful creatures. The idea of the Shadow is not to shame ourselves, repress our feelings, and judge ourselves harshly. It’s just about #awareness.
Schadenfreude, like most Shadow feelings, is about our Shadows trying to protect us and make us feel good. It means something, or someone, has shaken up our #spiritual landscape and poked at our vulnerabilities. It’s a knee-jerk reaction to a situation we’ve felt attacked by.
When we feel a Shadow-emotion rise to the surface, the first thing to do is thank our Shadows. They are just trying to protect us, and in so doing, they have alerted us that we’re a little off-balance; that we’ve lost our #grounding.
Thank your Shadow, accept the emotion, and accept that warning. Take the steps that are necessary for you to #re-center yourself, find your grounding, and return to Compassion.
No one has the power to pull you entirely away from #Compassion, except for you.
People often mistake the absence of fear for #bravery. And people often limit their definition of bravery to intense, one-off, self-sacrificing or just insane experiences.
But bravery is a #mindset and a #habit. It’s a muscle that you can train, just like #hope. It’s a practice that you can get intentional about, so that it’s a constant in your life, not a one-off. And most importantly, bravery is showing up even when you’re scared. It’s not the absence of fear. It’s being willing to stay true to your authentic self in the face of your #fear.
Bravery can be speaking your #truth, when you’re uncomfortable with it and its consequences. Bravery can be staying true to your feelings and instincts, when your ego or peers are trying to sway you. It can be asking the questions you don’t want the answer to, or asking the uncomfortable questions that you need the answer to.
Bravery is #listening compassionately to criticism and being open to new perspectives, even on ourselves. It’s being willing to see what is familiar, in a new light.
It’s facing reality without being dominated by it, and honoring our aspirations without being controlled by them. It’s being ready to try to new things and withhold #judgement on them.
In many senses, bravery is #honesty, openness, realism and idealism all wrapped into one. And like most things, it’s not an easy habit to develop. The warm cocoon of comfort zones, the safety of being perceived as likeable and successful, the comfort of blaming others for our shortcomings and theirs, the easy company of bitterness and resentment – all of these influences make bravery a scary, difficult choice. In fact, they make bravery a very #brave choice.
But it’s a #choice we can all make.
It’s so difficult to genuinely press #pause. When life is going full swing, there’s never an easy way to prioritize stillness, and when stillness is forced upon us, taking a genuine break is still somehow tricky.
Even in the name of #stillness and spiritual #growth, we tend to overload our minds with ‘Things To Do.’ Wake up, meditate, journal, do yoga, take care of the kids, get e-learning and working from home underway, hang out with your Soul Tribe, laundry, dinner, errands, blah, blah blah…and somehow manage to read a new book or learn something new.
Where is the genuine pause here? Where is our time to safely, peacefully and compassionately let our brains assimilate and process? We need a #space for our mind to #breathe while doing something that brings us #joy, simply for the sake of it.
Occasionally, pressing pause on our drive to #grow, #achieve, and #self-improve is the most valuable step we can take in that direction. We need to give ourselves room just to BE; a safe space where it’s okay not to fly forward at the speed of light in pursuit of our goals.
It’s these moments that allow us to #reconnect to our core grounding #values and #joys. In the midst of all the busy-ness, or amid all the spiritual journeying, bring yourself back to the basics.
What did you love doing as a kid? What brought the biggest smile to your face? Did you love rolling down hills? Jumping on a trampoline? Fingerpainting? Climbing trees? Reading fiction, fantasy or fairy tales? Playing with dolls? Exploring your street on your bike?
Whatever it was, and even if you’ve not experienced it in years, give yourself that space. #Reconnect with your inner child and feel unadulterated joy, simply for the sake of it. You don’t necessarily have to sit and meditate every time to experience a pause. Try letting go a little bit in your “pause”—be playful, laugh, dance, sing, jump around, be joyFULL.
Alone, our voices and actions can sometimes feel small and inconsequential. Whether we’re trying to #communicate to ourselves or others, to make a change in our own lives or to bring new #perspectives to our communities, #growth and #improvement are difficult. Especially if we’re trying to grow ourselves out of a tough spot.
It’s a #journey that shouldn’t be taken alone.
If we keep using our voices and actions to express our authentic #truths compassionately, despite feeling small, despite feeling powerless, we make way for something truly magical. We create something powerful. We become ᴍᴀɢɴᴇᴛɪᴄ.
By quietly, persistently and bravely taking even the smallest steps along the journey you know you need to take, you #attract into your life those who have walked, are walking or will walk a similar #path. People who will help lift you and people whom you will help. People who understand, on a level you couldn’t even imagine.
When you own your #truth, you become magnetic to your Soul Tribe. And their voices and actions will be joined with yours until that quiet voice you thought was powerless to make change has become the mightiest roar.
The #foundations you build with your Soul Tribe are a lifelong building block. They strengthen you and those around you to create the life that meets your deepest needs and #values. They empower you to #adapt and #thrive, to rise above challenges and spread your wings.
Only by being true to yourself can you attract your Soul Tribe. Most importantly, by staying true to yourself despite the doubts and fears, you #empower yourself to draw up healthy boundaries in your life. This will protect you from those who would detract from your journey, and ensure that the people who are in your life are truly part of your #Tribe. Together, you can fly.🕊
Life is about our ability to #grow, to #evolve, and to transform into our best Selves. Life is about the journey. But it’s not a smooth, flawless, continuous journey. It’s a journey of phases, stop-starts, U-turns and lane changes. It’s a #journey of transitions between what we used to be, where we used to be at, and the people we are becoming.
#Transitions can be exciting, jarring, terrifying, challenging and stimulating, or all of these at once! They impact our relationship with ourselves, with our family and our friends, and they can impact our jobs, our sense of self-worth and #purpose, and our #perspectives on the world.
Sometimes transitions happen almost naturally, and we find ourselves drifting into a new lane until we have no choice but to embrace the #change. Sometimes they hit us in the face out of the blue, and we are presented with a sudden choice. Sometimes they announce themselves with symptoms such as restlessness, discomfort, disconnect and dissatisfaction, which don’t go away until we turn around to face them, and ask them what they’re trying to tell us.
Sometimes, it’s about giving the people around us the space to #transform and grow, no matter how much it scares us. It can be tempting to try and keep those we love in a phase that we’re comfortable with, but this inhibits their #potential. When we love someone, we honor their transitions.
But transitions aren’t just about moving from one to another. There’s so much to learn from the #spaces in between; from that strange, limbo-like place where one chapter is closing and another opening. We learn about ourselves, our feelings around transformation, and our #relationships. We learn more about our values and priorities. We learn about the importance of our #foundations in empowering us to take leaps of #faith.
I write this for and dedicate it to my son Casey, who went back to ASU to pursue his Masters Degree. As much as I want to keep you close to me, I honor your choice to transition into a phase of more growth and potential. I love you to the moon and back. And I am incredibly proud of you.
As the Uncertainty of 2020 looks set to carry us into the final quarter of the year, let’s dive into the most significant reason people struggle to find balance amidst ambiguity: our own #expectations.
#Uncertainty comes from being unsure whether our expectations will be met, and then finding, more often than not, that they won’t be. Our feelings of bewilderment, panic and lack of #control, on the other hand, come from how attached we become to those expectations. When we grow attached to a specific outcome, it’s no wonder we’re thrown off #balance if things turn out differently!
That’s not to say that you mustn’t feel positive about something, or look forward to an event, or hope that something happens a certain way. It just means that the heart of your #positivity, #optimism and hope must be rooted within you. While external events can enhance these #mindsets, they cannot take them from you.
Hoping that your actions yield certain results is very different than expecting them to.
#Hope is an innate spiritual muscle; it’s within us. No one can take it from us. Expectation, on the contrary, demands that external factors meet us halfway. When Hope isn’t met, we recenter
and grow. When Expectation isn’t met, we’re stumped, and angry.
Releasing our attachment to expectations helps us stay afloat when things go a little crazy; it helps us coast along the currents of life, rather than struggle against them.
This isn’t an easy thing to do. We’re wired to work in a ‘give and take,’ ‘action-reaction,’ ’cause-and-consequence’ kind of world, where our every action is measured according to the expected result. What are we going to get from this? But the key to maintaining #balance through what feels like utter chaos is actually quite simple.
Act without expectation.
When we release our #attachment to expectations, we become much more adaptable, much more #centered, and, most importantly, we leave plenty of room for #growth.
Life can feel like a tornado we’re trying to tame. Especially this year: the children are at home, either being homeschooled or e-learning; we’re anxious about our jobs and trying to balance working with parenting; if our kids are back at school we’re worried about them; we don’t have the support of family or friends to give us a hand. Something’s got to give, and it’s usually our own #wellbeing.
Self-study is all well and good, but how do you #balance that with everything else that’s going? “If I can hardly find time for myself, where can I find the time to discover myself?”
But self-study (#svadhaya) is like water: it can flow into any space you have for it. You don’t need to set aside hours of your day to ponder deep questions, nor do you have to have it all figured out as soon as possible. This is a lifelong #journey that can be taken in small increments.
Without realizing it, you have little moments all to yourself that are perfect for dipping your toes in. Don’t forget that self-study is first and foremost a receptive, aware and compassionate frame of mind, so your first steps can simply be to develop this mindset.
When you first wake up, before you even think of getting out of bed, take 5-10 minutes just to #breathe, deeply and slowly. Focus on the way your stomach expands and contracts. If you want to get fancy, pause your breathing for three counts at the top of your breath, when your lungs are full, and at the bottom when your lungs are empty. You can gradually increase the length of the pause.
Cleansing the body with #water can be a very #spiritual experience. Make your showers a little #ritual all for you. You could imagine that you are #cleansing yourself of biases and impurities of the mind, leaving only compassionate true insight. You could imagine that the water flowing down your skin is clearing away the layers of the #Ego to help you find your true nature. Practice a ‘spiritual’ shower that empowers you to settle into #compassionate awareness.
#Affirmations are powerful tools, too. Develop the habit whenever you’re facing a mirror, any mirror, anywhere, to look at yourself and speak your affirmation. A good affirmation for self-study might be: “I discover more about myself each day, and I love myself more each day.”
Small #shifts such as these can grow into impactful habits and actions. As you develop your #mindset, you become more receptive to true insights and compassion, opening the door to greater self-knowledge.
One of the many challenges within a deep self-study practice is the trap of #viparyaya or the state of #misperception. Sanskrit for ‘reversed’ or ‘loss of consciousness,’ viparyaya refers to wrong knowledge stemming from incorrect thoughts, assumptions or perceptions, often based in cultural or personal biases and misunderstandings. It can lead to ‘impurities’ of the mind such as fear, hate, attachment or ignorance, and it clouds our #perception when we’re simply trying to observe our own truths.
The goal of self-study is to perceive through #pramana, or a ‘source of right knowledge,’ so that we can see ourselves accurately and honestly, without judgement or fear, and ‘become established in our own True Nature’ (Sutra 1.3).
But how can we become more aware of the source of our self-knowledge? How can we distinguish between false assumptions or distorted perception, and true insight?
The arduous, but rewarding journey of #self-discovery requires that we cultivate a willingness to become curious, to question our assumptions, to seek the aperture of perception and see clearly. We will need to observe and watch our minds, to understand how our thoughts flow and form, and then develop the #discipline to still them.
Patanjali speaks of five vrittis or fluctuations of the mind. Pramana is the first, the source of right knowledge, but viparyaya is the second, followed by #vikalpa (verbal delusion, imagination), #nidrā (sleep, dullness of mind) and #smṛiti (memory, unquestioning acceptance) (Sutra 1.6).
Our mental activities can be categorized within these five fluctuations. By observing and challenging our thoughts, we can identify which #vritti our self-knowledge is based in, and, therefore, whether it is a true insight or a false perception.
When you become intimate with the #patterns of your mind, you can begin a practice that embodies the true essence of yoga. Sutra 1.2 states: yoga is the restriction of the fluctuations of the mind. It’s the art of finding #stillness in true knowledge. It’s the essential step towards Sutra 1.3: to become established in your own True Nature.