Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see ~Mark Twain
Be kind. Be compassionate. Be loving.
Most people associate these rules of engagement with how we interact with others more so than how we treat ourselves.
Often, when stress hits our lives, it’s when we need to be the most kind to ourselves, but ironically, it’s when we’re the hardest. We say things like, “you won’t rest/eat/play until you get this done;” “this is so like you to mess this up;” “why are you so awkward;” “why is this so hard for you;” “you are lazy;” “what’s wrong with you;” “you’re not good enough;” and “you are a fraud.”
And yes, these are all things I have said to myself at some point.
Recently, I had the fortune of experiencing a few disappointments that had me beating myself up unknowingly. I was being unkind to myself which intensified the disappointments (because now instead of the situation disappointed me, I WAS the disappointment, and I was not going to let myself off the hook until I made it better!).
It took some wise people, a supportive network and time to remind me that I needed to be more compassionate to myself. Once I did that, a whole other world opened up for me.
How do you know if you have been or being unkind to yourself?
Here are are some common examples of what we do when we are unkind to ourselves:
So you want to be kinder to yourself but don’t know where to start? Here are a few considerations...
Do you consider yourself a compassionate person? If so, Is there a difference in the way you exercise compassion for yourself versus others? I would love to hear your thoughts.
Most people I know, including myself, work really hard. I mean, around the clock, really. You wake up thinking about work and go to sleep to dream about more work (you have not dreamt until you dream in PowerPoint! True story).
Last summer, my husband and I hosted a “burnt out” party. It was a hit – because the theme was so relatable to so many, plus we lured folks in with temptations of icy beverages and a pool. This year, we gladly will not be hosting a “burnt-out” party and I see that as a huge win!
What is burnout? Are you wondering if you’re burning out or altogether burnt out?
While burnout is often contextualized in the work environment, you can also be burnt out from relationships, family, or any endeavor or obligation that is demanding energy from you.
Here are some common everyday symptoms (feel free to Google “burnout symptoms” or talk to your medical care provider for a comprehensive list):
The sneaky thing with burnout is that it doesn’t happen overnight. Burnout is something that you’ve worked really hard for over a period of time (although completely unrewarding), and can happen to many high achievers with a “can do” attitude. The irony is that once you have burnt out, you become a “can’t do” person, either in spirit or physical ability.
The thing is, you can be a high achiever, love your job and be successful- all without being burnt out. In fact, I’ll argue that it’s the only sustainable way to accomplish everything you want and be happy. I will also say that working long hours is not the main contributor to burnout. Have you ever lost track of time doing something you’re naturally passionate about? Instead of feeling tired, usually it will energize and satisfy you deeply.
At the core of it, burnout is not a productivity issue, it is a matter related to life purpose and wellness. When someone is burnt out, it’s heartbreaking. That person has figuratively lost his / her flames. Their desire, drive, ambition and sometimes even love, no longer burns inside their being.
So what contributes to burnout?
Key culprits for burnout are:
Here are some things you can ask yourself if you feel like you’re on the road to burnout:
If we want to avoid or recover from burnout, we need to get really honest with ourselves and ask, “Am I getting my needs met?” And if not, why?
The simple awareness to the answers of those questions will inspire you to dig deeper and reconnect with your truth. Follow and allow your truth to guide your way back to blazing.
What's your experience with burnout? Love to hear your thoughts below...
It's graduation time! So many bright and shiny faces pumped to live out dreams, build successful lives and contribute to the society. Someone asked me, "what advice would you give to new graduates?"
Where should I start, there are so many life hacks already out there:
Timeout. How did reading the above headlines make you feel?
Were you intrigued? Motivated? Inspired?
If you’re like most people, you felt anxious. Fueled by a sense of missing out. Maybe you felt it confirmed your suspicion that you're lacking something. You might have even felt anger, for being left in the dark for so long. The intriguing thing is that these headlines hook into our fears and sense of lack on a subconscious level... and many of us would click on that bait.
The notion that someone else can answer our life's deepest questions is appealing. Especially when we are recent graduates, we want to feel like we’re set up for success. For the overachievers amongst us, not only do we want to feel prepared, but often we want a leg-up in the game of life. Why be good, when you can be phenomenal? Why be successful when you can set a new record? Why be like everyone else, when you can be the unique magnificent individual that you are (cue rainbows, butterflies and unicorns)?!
Graduate, you will hear a lot of messages in the next decade that will create anxiety, allow you to believe you are not enough, distract you from what you already know to be true. Many of these messages are tied to other people’s agendas that have nothing to do with you. Often times those messages do not serve you. This is what I call noise. There is so much around us and many of us will let noise into our lives for different reasons, and likely, you will too. That’s ok, it’s a part of life and we all learn and grow from our experiences.
So, new graduate, while I have no specific advice for you because I believe everyone is on their own unique journey, I can share with you what I would have benefited knowing (about two decades) sooner for myself. You can decide how my experience applies to you.
You will have a lot of information coming at you from all directions. The sooner you realize you already have everything you need to be successful, the better off you will be. You don’t need a “hack” or a short cut. In fact, most of the time, they don’t exist or work.
What I'm about to share is the opposite of a shortcut. In fact, it can take quite a bit of time to experience and requires a lot of self-reflection. It's one thing to know them in your head and altogether something else to experience it. I call these 10 magical life experiences I learned to be true:
The sooner you realize the secret to living a "successful" life, is to find your own unique path to fulfill your unique purpose through everything you already know and have, the sooner you will be the phenomenal, magnificent guy / gal living a life you love (and who knows, it may even include setting that new record)!
"Where there is anger, there is always pain underneath." ~ Eckhart Tolle
I'm going about my normal day. Doing my typical thing at work when I receive an email…THE email that is a bomb wrapped between “Hi” and “Thanks.”
In a matter of seconds, my emotions ramp up from 0 to 120. I feel my breath shorten. My ribs tighten up. My teeth clench. My lips purse. I’m angry and my eyeballs can barely focus anymore! I recognize what’s happening. I recognize it’s irrational, but it’s too late. There’s no reversing it. On an honest day, I’d admit I’m mad, angry, pissed. On other days, I might rationalize this as having an “off” day, or “typical work” or “shit happens” kind of moment.
You know exactly what I’m talking about. Once in a while we get in a conversation or exchange that just gets under our skin (yes, this includes how others are driving on the road).
Sometimes we even recognize how disproportionate the emotional response is to the stimulus – other times, we are completely oblivious.
So, what is actually happening in that moment when someone rubs us the wrong way?
When we get angry, mad, annoyed pissed off, here’s what’s really happening:
Your value is being threatened
We all have core values that we hold close. These values can change over the course of our lives, but every given moment, you have a list of values you cherish and protect consciously or subconsciously.
If you don’t know what your values are, take a moment to reflect on what’s important to you. Anything you need or desire becomes your value: time, health, privacy, community, friendship, family, faith, aesthetics, connection with nature, space, respect, wealth, power, creativity, creation, fun, etc.
So, next time when someone changes the plan last minute and annoys you to no end, it might be interesting to dig deeper to see what’s truly annoying you (hint: it’s rarely the actual observable behavior). You might want to ask yourself, “which value of mine is being threatened in this moment?” For example, you might discover the act of rescheduling means a challenge to your value for time, or respect or fun. Once you recognize the value you are protecting, you will have some compassion for the way you are feeling. By identifying what’s at the core of what’s really bothering you, you will naturally be more effective at resolving the situation.
Something is triggering you
Triggers can be mysterious and elusive because they are so deeply rooted in past trauma that any whiff of the past, will signal our fight or flight response. This can create some melodrama in our lives and those around us (I call this the OMG moment when someone melts down or lashes out unexpectedly. This is what makes some reality TV so fascinating to their viewers). Often times bickering and fighting are really two people responding to triggers back and forth. Understanding our triggers can bring awareness to our feelings, thoughts and actions.
Someone has hurt your heart
That’s right, boys and girls - that’s what it comes down to when we are angry. At the root of anger is hurt. Most of us do not like to associate with being a victim, so what we do is turn that pain (passive) into anger (active). This is completely natural and can at times serve a purpose to propel us into action. However, we will never “get over it,” and the pattern will continue unless we dig deeper and follow that anger until we recognize, address and heal the hurt underneath.
Any other reasons why you get angry? Share your thoughts below.
“The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
Mindfulness is a buzzword with growing popularity in the mainstream media as well as in our daily lives.
What comes up for you when you are faced with the word “mindfulness”?
Do you think Yoda?
Do you think of someone sat crossed legged in meditation?
Do words such as “zen,” “calm,” “peace” float across your mind in word bubbles?
Does the image of the statue “The Thinker” appear?
Are you reminded of a teacher who once said “you need to be more mindful”?
The truth is, many of us are not clear on the term “mindfulness” so we apply what we loosely associate with the word to our understanding. For many of us, this means we do not truly understand; therefore, do not consciously practice mindfulness. While it sounds like the “right” thing to do, it remains an elusive state that is not a priority.
I’m a Virgo, so they say I can be practical and grounded. What I do know is that I have an appetite to know and understand. So, let’s explore mindfulness together…
What is the opposite of mindfulness?
It is mindlessness.
What are some descriptions of mindlessness?
Do any of these descriptions remind you of areas in your life? Think about it. What’s the commonality between these areas in your life where you feel a state of mindlessness?
When I’m in a state of mindlessness, I’m focused on either the past or the future. My attention is on the history or outcome of a situation that happened in the past rather than the now. Or I’m focused on a desired outcome in the future that makes this moment dull in comparison. Of course, this is an illusion since the past and the future are only in our minds. The only reality is the present moment.
Ultimately, when we are stuck in mindlessness, it robs us of our joy, creativity and happiness in the now.
This happens all the time and to everyone. Living in a technologically advanced world, one can expect mindfulness to be difficult at times. Don’t judge yourself when you find yourself to be in a state of mindlessness. You are human, so your mind is built for autopilot sometimes. Awareness is a powerful first step to shifting your consciousness.
In true Virgo fashion, here are some tactical ways you can begin shifting from mindlessness to mindfulness:
1. Notice new things
You might walk or drive the same path to work or school every day and it’s easy to zone out. Try noticing what’s different about today’s experience. The people you see along the way, the newly formed buds in the trees and flowers, the weather and how it interacts with people and nature… what makes today’s experience unique?
2. Notice your emotions
This is your inner compass. Do not ignore it. Check your emotions often throughout the day. How are you feeling at this present moment? Your emotions tell you how near or far away you are from your truth. Being aware allows you to make conscious decisions relative to your truth.
For example, if you are feeling unsettled. Ask yourself “why?” Was it a hurtful conversation you had with a loved one recently? Is it feeling ill-prepared for a commitment you made later in the week? Your emotions will guide you to actions that will bring you closer your truth. Do you need to ask for forgiveness or express your hurt feelings with your loved one? Are you taking on too much and need to reprioritize your commitments?
If you push through the day/week/month without pausing to reflect, you are on autopilot and probably numbing yourself. This unawareness disempowers you to be in the driver seat of your own life.
3. Do things differently
How many of us are engaged in a long-term job/relationship/hobby? It’s human nature to get bored of the same things after months/years/decades. So, make it different! Ask yourself, how might I do this differently today? Often that’s how creativity and innovation is born.
How might you experiment with your tried and true recipe? How might you solve that problem you’ve solved 100 times before in a different way? How could you express your love and affection for your partner in a way that you haven’t before?
4. Focus on the now
Very simply put, when we are focused on anything else but experiencing the now, we rob ourselves of our life. The past is gone – dwelling on it can breed comparison, lack, regret and shame. The future is an illusion – focused on outcomes of the future which are out of our control, can create unnecessary anxiety and stress. The only thing that is real is the present. It is only by focusing on what you want to do in this moment that defines who you are and can bring you fulfillment. Learn more about how to be present.
What does mindfulness mean to you? I would love to hear your comments.
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Why is knowing what makes you truly happy such an important question?
Well, let me ask you in another way…
Are you holding on to a deep secret right now, one that you haven’t told anyone, not even yourself on most days, and one that you’ll probably deny if ever asked?
You know that feeling you push back down in your gut in order to move forward in your day; the thought you bury in the back of your head. It’s that crazy notion that even though you have what you’re “supposed” to have – be it opportunity, health, a job, a family, relationships, the right wardrobe, beautiful home, a comfortable bank account - there’s still something missing? And if you were honest with yourself, you would define that as being “unfulfilled” on some days.
A lot of people feel this way. But why is that?
There are various factors at play in the modern world that shapes and influences our perception – marketing and advertising, technology, media, social and family expectations and even arguably the education system. What happens is that we are directed and convinced in wanting certain things in life starting as a small child - and the promise has been, once you get it, your life will be awesome. At the surface, our environments shape us, but deep down at the core, only we know our truth and what will fully satisfy us- and that part of us is always there and always will be. We won’t be happy, fulfilled and satisfied until we experience what resonates with our core.
Most of us don’t spend enough time with ourselves. The self at the core. The reason for our being. This includes who we are, what we desire, our definition of success and what will ultimately make us feel like we’re on top of the world. When we know this, it’s easy to feel a sense of purpose and fulfillment immediately.
So what can you do? You can ignore your feelings another day – you’re good at it. You can work harder, push through and hope something will change. But know that you can never get enough of what you never truly wanted. So, I’ll ask you the question again, do you know what will truly make you happy? If not, you can find out. You have one life experience – and this is it! What’s the cost of not knowing?
My husband and I adopted our first cat, Snorkel, two years ago. Typical story of “going into the pound looking for a dog, and coming out with a cat.” Neither of us ever had a cat before, but for whatever reason that day, we were compelled to bring Snorkel back home. Perhaps it was because she cooed like a dove or that we learned of her sad kitten-hood. At the end of the day, we wanted to provide her with a home. Snorkel is a small gray domestic short-haired (tabby cat) with the most piercing emerald-green eyes.
Fast forward a year and a half later, we adopted our second cat, Porkchop (a.k.a., Monkey, Mr. Bear, JibberJabber). Porkchop is an orange and white cat and grew double the size of Snorkel in just 2 short months of living with us. We know he was raised with his litter and as far as we know, he’s was living in a caring foster home.
These two magical kitties light up our home lives. If anyone knows about cats or pets in general, they are just bundles of love wrapped in fur and hours of 4-legged entertainment.
What I had not expect was to learn life lessons from my loving fur babies who couldn’t be more different but were perfect for each other and who we love and appreciate in different ways.
Lesson #1: Our past experiences will shape our motto, which will shape our behavior, which will shape our future experience – and repeat.
Snorkel had a troubled early life. Without going into details, Snorkel’s history contributed to her temperament. She was very skittish, slow to trust and was the classic “scaredy cat” when we adopted her. She would scurry below the sofa at any sudden movement or loud noise. She was perpetually looking for a hiding place and in fact, did not leave her “base camp” bathroom for the first week she came home with us.
Porkchop is the opposite in temperament. Where Snorkel’s motto is “I’m outta here,” Porkchop’s motto is ”Oooh! What’s that?!” There isn’t a new smell or shiny object that won’t pique his interest.
We are easily shaped by are environment – our childhood, our family, our schooling experience. In our formative years (birth through ~8 years old), we begin to develop “mottos” that are then reshaped throughout our lives. Many of us evolve our mottos as we age and experience life. But often time, we will hold on to one or two mottos developed during our formative years, originally as a means to protect our little child selves now become a detriment to our adult life. For example, if someone in the playground once made fun of your hair and really hurt your feelings, you may have created a motto “don’t embarrass yourself” and lived by that rule for a long time. Perhaps that motto is holding you back from fully expressing yourself today or going for what you really want. Many of us are still carrying mottos created by a child that no longer serves us. If you find yourself living out an unhealthy or unbreakable “pattern” or “cycle” – you might want to ask yourself, what are the mottos deep inside you that have not evolved with your development?
Lesson #2: You will get more out of life with an open and curious mindset
Porkchop is always right in the center of action ‘checking it out’ while Snorkel is leery of the unfamiliar and will stay on the sidelines. As a result, we find that Porkchop naturally gets more treats, play experiences and cuddles because he throws himself at new toys, new food, and his cat parents (yes, he runs right into our laps for attention). Because we love both of our cats, we make sure Snorkel gets her needs met as well. But life for humans doesn’t always work this way. Opportunities are all around us and it’s really up to us how we choose to show up and react to our surroundings, which creates what we experience.
Lesson #3: Sometimes it takes a friend (or a loved one) to show you a better way
We have noticed that ever since adopting a brother for Snorkel, she has shifted her behavior– such as trying new food / treats, going into a crate (for play), being more confident around new people. It’s a theory, because my cats are still learning English, but I believe Snorkel learned by observing her brother that some of her earlier assumptions really didn’t serve her. Or probably more likely that she wanted what her brother was experiencing (food, fun and attention) so she modeled his behaviors.
Do you have pets? What have your furry companions taught you? I would love to hear your thoughts!
“We are human beings, not human doings. Don't equate your self-worth with how well you do things in life. You aren't what you do. If you are what you do, then when you don't...you aren't."
- Dr. Wayne Dyer
I’m a city gal – born and raised in multiple cities around the globe. Presently, I also live in a city. So, whenever I have free time or go on vacation, I tend to get excited about going to places where there is nature to enjoy – water in particular.
I learned that being in the country side or floating on top of a natural body of water brings me closer from the “doing” mind to the “being” mind.
What do I mean?
Most of us have a list of to-dos a mile long (and keeps growing)! And if you are one of the lucky ones (insert sarcasm), you have a to-do list for every compartment of your life – work, family, friends, etc.
How do we recognize when we are “doing” too much and not “being” enough? After all, we are human beings, aren’t we?
Lists are a great tool for organization and prioritization that can help with our productivity. But that’s exactly what it is – a tool – rather than a way of life (which may hinder us to really live our lives).
Take notice of how much “doing” you do a day versus “being” and how each mindset impacts the way you feel.
What are some ways you enjoy “being” without having to take a vacation to the Mediterranean?
The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. ~Albert Einstein
The answer to life’s greater questions involves engaging our right brain.
So why don’t we access our right brain when we need it? Well, it comes down to practice. In modern day life, we tend to favor the left over the right brain (because most societies reward it).
To overly simplify the brain anatomy, our left brain is in charge of our logical, rational and analytical thinking; our right brain is where intuition and creativity lives. Naturally, in a “big data” driven world, it’s easy to see how most schools and work environments will reward left-skewed brain thinking, problem solving and behavior. Now, there is nothing wrong with our left brain – in fact it can be genius when we use it to serve a bigger purpose (for instance, I need my left brain to write this blog).
The cost of favoring analytical reasoning over intuition to solve for life’s greater questions, is that we can miss out on insights to guide our inner-self toward our truth. Our truth does not always come with a list of facts and supporting data. However, the right answer will feel right in our bodies.
Our left brain identifies who we are, our ego and separates us from another being. It separates you from me. What’s fascinating is that when we disengage our left brain, we experience the world as a connected universe. I am you, and you are me, and we are both connected to the life source of the ocean and all lifeforms. This feeling and understanding of oneness can be experienced through our right brain at any time. We just need to tap into it. It is also by tuning ourselves into the frequency of the universe (like a radio station), where we can tap into our deepest intuition of knowing. This is where purpose, insights and innovation lives.
Dr. Tayler is a Harvard neuroscientist who at the age of 37 had a full-blown stroke in her home, which disabled her left brain temporarily. What would sound to most people a painful and tragic event, actually was a peaceful, joyful and beautiful experience where Dr. Tayler felt more connected to her joy and the universe than ever before. (she ultimately fully recovered, but still exercises how frequently she engages with certain pathways in her left brain). If you want to learn more about the mechanics of the brain and how it shapes our reality, I highly recommend reading “My Stroke of Insight” by Dr. Jill Bolte Tayler. The TedTalk video below will give you a preview to the book.
Here are three techniques to help you tap into your right brain and give your left brain a break (especially in moments when it’s not serving you):
1. Get out of your head and into your body– when confronted with a difficult decision (often times with a balanced pro / con list), feel it out. How does each scenario play out in your body? Does it make you feel good, excited or expansive, or does it feel limiting, icky and restrictive? (see previous blog for techniques to get out of your head and into your body)
2. Check yourself before you wreck yourself – be aware and catch the negative narrative running through your mind (often comes in the form of “don’t do that, you’ll embarrass yourself,” “who do you think you are for wanting…,” “you’re not good enough to….” These common thoughts are constant and not constructive. We experience them every day - while driving, in meetings, during silent pauses between conversations, while getting dressed in the morning, etc. As long as you engage in the narrative, it will never stop. Thank them for their service (because they once served a purpose) and let them go, as you are running the show now.
3. Pay attention to your words – because your thoughts will affect what your body experiences. For example, think of biting into a juicy lemon. Really, imagine cutting a big wedge of lemon, then sticking the fleshy part into your mouth... then give the juicy pulp a nice squeeze with your mouth. As you’re thinking about this thought, your mouth is producing saliva and your muscles may be contracting and perhaps you may have even swallowed the imaginary juice. Our bodies are connected to our thoughts, but it does not know the difference between a thought shaped by your past experience, your parent’s and friends’ opinions, societal norms, media influences and your own personal truth. Once your thought is formed, it lives inside you and your body will react to it. How might labeling a task "painful" or "impossible" versus "a new experience" or "an opportunity" change the outcome?
What other techniques do you use to tap into your intuitive self? Share by commenting below.