In It.

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I spoke a few weeks ago about progressing in my yoga practice. Really slowing it down, and feeling each movement. I've loved it because since then, my practice has felt like more of a dance. It's been this very focused, energized flow of movement where I am really IN each moment of it. I've never felt that way when doing yoga in a classroom at a teacher's lead. Obviously there are benefits to taking classes, learning new alignments, and the like. However- there is something to be said about teaching YOURSELF something. The slowing movement, the way I can sway my hands out with each breath... it's been fulfilling in a way I'd always heard yoga was but never quite felt for myself.
They tell you that yoga teaches you something about yourself. It hasn't been until now- this past few weeks or months- that I've understood what those people meant.
Life is rushed. I know I've touched on this before too. But I can't help but notice that life hasn't gotten any easier, the more I force it. There is always something, some teacher, pushing me through the motions more quickly than I'd prefer. It's always noisy and crazy and busy. And it takes a conscious effort to actually stop, take a deep breath, and slow it down. Control the movement. Dance with your life, however hokey that might sound. It's this "conscious living" that heals you and allows you to feel each moment.
I've noticed, ironically enough, that I push myself harder when I'm moving slowly. When I'm really IN that moment. I feel the energy from my fingers and the strength of my legs and shoulders in each position as I breathe into it. I feel more calm, and less frantic. And such is this slowing down of life... peacefully progressing toward where I ought to be. Isn't it funny how much faster you get where you need to be when you're not in a hurry? It's a spiral of the fingertips, an adjustment of the hips... it's remaining calm during a tough time and quieting your inner maniac who wants to scream out. It's allowing the pieces to fall where they lay and taking a relaxed approach to the parts you have no control over. It's breathing. Always breathing. And knowing that the more you allow yourself to sit with each part of it all, the easier it will be.



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One of the most important skills anybody can learn in their lives, in my opinion, is when to speak up- and when you shut up.
I had a roommate years ago who had a problem with over-speaking. Technically it was more like over-texting, but the effect is the same. She and I got along amazingly, BUT whenever an issue came up, she would text me these rapid-fire text messages about how upset she was and what she planned to do about it. 
Let me interrupt myself by stating that I firmly believe that no two people are going to get along all of the time. ESPECIALLY no two people who haven't known one another very long. I still have episodes where I am not sure how to speak to my own family members in a way that will best compromise solutions with empathy toward their feelings. In order to work with someone, you need to get to know how to best work with them in a way that is both productive and firm, but honest and kind. There is no point in even bothering if all you want to do is start a yelling match. Power struggles have never brought a true solution to issues between loved ones.
...I found this roommate/friend's text messages to be offensive and threatening, and I think she found mine to be nonchalant and uncaring. However, as soon as we'd get home and talk about things in person, it was a different story. We worked together, and things were resolved in a matter of minutes with NO hard feelings. It wasn't until we'd been through this a few times that I finally realized that each time we argued through text messages and then sat down face-to-face, solutions were much easier to come about in person. There was no mis-interpretation. Neither of us were hiding behind the passive-aggressive tendency that text messages enable. Problems were resolved faster and more amicably when we took this approach. So from then on out, we agreed to never text about real issues, lest we waste one another's time and feelings. And to this day, she is one of my best friends. 
I also have a friend who runs away from things. I actually know a LOT of people who do this. These are people who perhaps have had one (or many) incidents in their lives which led them to feel like tackling problems head on involves too much pain, and isn't worth it. One of my friends like this has a tendency to ignore problems. If he has an issue with one of his roommates/friends/girlfriends- he simply takes on the solution himself. If someone makes a mess (literally or figuratively), he cleans it up- time after time after time. He internalizes it to the point where there is so much pent up aggression toward these people that he is causing himself damage as a means of emotional release. This is also my friend who, I'd say, 60% of the people in his life take advantage of him on a regular basis. He has no self-esteem because he hasn't built any up. He feels alone most days and doesn't understand why he can't gain control of his life. 
There is a time to be quiet. 
That time is when you may be upset and slightly irrational. That time is when you aren't sure just HOW you feel about something, and you need to take a lap to calm down. For my old roommate and myself, not speaking immediately, while we were perhaps still emotional, proved to be our greatest problem-solving tool.  
There is a time to speak up. 
That time is when you have a recurring issue. That time is when you care about the people you have a problem with, and want to better the relationship rather than just allow it to remain stagnant. That time is when you are unhappy, and have a CHOICE to be happier. Happiness is a choice. It's always a choice.
Growing up, my family was one of TALKERS. I know, I know, you'd never have guessed. But we were. And I hated it. I hated that when I got in trouble, it meant two hours on the couch with my parents talking at me about what happened. I hated that they couldn't just yell and get over it. It drove me bonkers. Looking back, I know that these talks with my parents is why I am who I am today. I don't yell, I put in the work. And I think that my problem-solving skill set is one of more rationality than rage. I learned that running away from my problems, or ignoring them, wasn't going to prevent them from happening again. The only way to learn from your mistakes or hardships is to face them head on, as uncomfortable as that may be. There is a  time to talk.
When emotions run high and you're not quite at a solution yet- there is no point in confronting a problem until your mind is in the right place. When I have a problem, I try to sit with it for a beat before trying to solve it. I want to know WHY I have that problem. I want to know what my real intention is with the person or people involved. Sometimes I need to remind myself that the world does not revolve around me and the things that I want, and that the other person/people are entitled to their feelings too. It's easy to get so wrapped up in your feelings that you become sort of egotistical about them, and it's important to bear in mind that other people deserve things too. Everyone, no matter what, deserves respect. That means that if you are too upset to talk rationally, wait until you can speak to them in a way that wont be hurtful. Every conversation needs to be filled with optimism, respect, and a genuine desire NOT TO WIN- but to succeed. And "success" doesn't mean one person dominates the conversation. It means that no matter the outcome of the discussion, both people feel heard. Listening is much, MUCH harder than speaking. Being quiet is much, MUCH harder than saying whatever is on your mind as it comes to you. There is a time to be quiet.


Remember to:

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...When it's one of those days.


Who You Are.

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"You're not learning anything unless you're having the difficult conversations (...)Sometimes when you get clear about who you are, others get less comfortable because they liked who you were..." -Gwyneth Paltrow.

I read this quote this morning and found that it really resonated with me. I spent a good portion of my youth playing the overly-passive friend/girlfriend/etc., and found that when I started to really stand up for myself- my relationships changed completely. Some changes felt right, and I was happy with them. There have been other changes that I've had a much harder time sifting through my emotions on. 

In my romantic relationships, becoming my own person has been one of the greatest accomplishments (and continual battles, still) that I have undertaken. It's so much easier to run and hide when the going gets tough, or to mold myself into who someone else wants me to be because it dodges an argument at the moment. Far too often, in my dating life, I've had a policy of the other person saying "Jump," and my response being "How high?" It's easy, it's peace-keeping, and it makes the person I care about happy, at least for the time being. Don't get me wrong: I am a firm believer in compromise, and making the person you're with as happy as possible. But if it's at the cost of your personal values and interest... I just can't push myself to be that person anymore. I can't emotionally afford it. For one thing- I would't be happy not being true to myself. For another thing- neither is the other person. Have you ever met "that couple?" The one where one person sets the bar and the other person does whatever it takes (on a consistent basis) to please The Boss? Sometimes, you should sacrifice. I believe that 100%. But if you are making ALL the sacrifices and the other person is just pushing and pushing, no one is happy. You're unhappy because you're devaluing yourself and denying your rights as a human being. And the other person isn't happy because you've made yourself an object to them, a possession. And it is my firm belief that nobody can respect a partner who places little to no value on themselves. Sometimes, saying No is really tough. I'm not advocating that you go around saying "No," just for the sake of being assertive. If it's not that big of a deal, don't make it one. I DO believe, however, that saying "No," when you really mean it can be empowering not only for yourself but for your relationship. Setting boundaries allows for two people to remain TWO people, and not lose themselves in each other. It's all very romantic to say you've "lost yourself" in a relationship, but seriously- if I wanted to spend all my time with an exact replica of myself, I'd look into cloning.

As far as my friendships- in some cases this has been easier and in others it's been much MUCH harder. For as long as I can remember, I've been a peace-keeping kid. Also, for as long as I can remember ALL I wanted in the whole wide world was to be accepted by my peers. I blame it on being the youngest of 5 kids where everyone was, in my eyes, SO cool. I wanted to be quirky like my oldest brother, assertive like my oldest sister, athletic like my other brother, and uber popular like my other sister. Anyone who knows anything about being "cool" as a kid knows that the harder you try, the less "cool" you are. Lets just say I tried REAL hard. Lets also say that I performed "skipping" as my talent in my third-grade talent show. And yes, that's exactly as cool as it sounds like it was. 

Fast forward to high school: Ooooo, I wanted to be popular SO bad. I can remember seeing a "trendy" girl in my school wear the same shoes I had bought (before her!) and my inner Me was pretty much like, "Yep. Totally nailed it!" For the record, I didn't. I wasn't cool at all. SO- this was a lot of my life. Trying really hard, and falling totally short. And I had friends who accepted me, but I often wondered if that was because if they said something was cool I was pretty much doing it. A lot of my teenage years were spent in a hodgepodge of feelings between "I'm doing awesome stuff," and "But this stuff isn't really making me very happy." Well into my 20's, I was passive (or passive-aggressive), gullible, and timid. Friends would flake on me, not call me on my birthday, leave me out, and worse- and I would buy into their promises that it was no big deal and I should forgive them. After years of this, I'd finally had enough. I was unhappy. I felt unimportant and unloved by the people I trusted the most. I wont drone on about it- but it was really pretty sad and pathetic. I finally started standing up for myself. If people flaked out on me, I stopped making plans with them. When my friends continually disregarded my feelings, I stopped believing their claims that they loved me and cared about my well-being. And I'll be honest: that was a really hard pill to swallow. Looking to someone I'd known for most of my life and realizing that I hadn't REALLY been a priority to them for that entire time made my heart sad. But walking away from people who had hurt me also opened my time up to people who DID care about me. I found that I wasn't spending my time waiting for people who would never call. I wasn't compromising or holding my tongue about things when I felt like I wanted to speak up. I was around people who showed me, every day, that I was worth being a good friend to. And it felt really, really good. 

As this transformation happened, I think that some people were uncomfortable with the updated "me." And a few friendships that I had began to fizzle out. Friendships that, after all that, were never really equal in the first place. And now that I've gained some momentum on the ol' Self-Esteem Express; I see these types of  friendships a lot sooner. People who want me to go places or do things that really aren't in my best interest. Friends who invite me to do things that THEY want to do, with no reciprocation of coming to things that are important to ME. People who push others to do things that are demeaning, just to get a kick out of it. Those scenarios make me uncomfortable- and for that reason, I no longer join in. I can see how some people might feel like I'm being 'judgy,' or boring. And maybe I am. But to me, it just doesn't make sense to try to prove myself to other people anymore. At the end of the day- my opinion of me is the only one I'm left with. And these days, that's enough.



Whatever comes, let it come.
Whatever stays, let it stay.
Whatever goes, let it go.

photo and quote courtesy of A Well Traveled Woman.


The Oneders.

I've been slightly lost in the Pocast-o-sphere as of late. I started out listening to Joy The Baker's Podcast (LOVE her!) and recently stumbled on one called Buddhist Geek. It's pretty interesting, although I can't say if it's "for me" just yet. A lot of Podcasts start out great and then begin to wane as they run out of steam. Not that I think I would do much better!
So far, though, I like this one. It makes me think, which has been a great way to endure my commute start my day on a thoughtful note. And a concept that keeps surfacing got me thinking it might be a good topic to touch on today. I don't want to get "religious" or "spiritual" on here because I'd prefer to keep it as subjective as possible, so hopefully I can make that happen. But my question is, in so many words: Is life supposed to be hard and challenging, or organic and easy?
photo credit: unknown

From the standpoint of the Podcast, they discuss people who "cherry-pick" religion. There are 2 ways to be a believer (I said Believer,  NOT Belieber! By the way, has anyone noticed that The Beebs is kind of acting like a tool lately? Ahh... IT'S NOT ALL ABOUT YOU JUSTIN BIEBER ...Oooo, something shiny!) 
One way is to accept a belief system or practice is to do so whole-heartedly, and accept it's rules even if one doesn't understand them. The other is to practice something when it feels right. To say, "I like the ideals of THIS, but not this part and this part- so I'll just throw those out and adopt only what I want to follow." It kind of makes sense to follow what, you know, your heart tells you. But the Podcast points out that following those lines also sets you up to disregard important truths and challenges that may well be the whole point of the subject matter. Does that make any sense?
And this rule applies to a number of facets in life. Say you're training to run a marathon. How much closer to your goal distance and speed are you going to become if you stop the moment you feel tired? But at the same time... running a marathon is not practicing a religion. So I guess it's different. 
Can I take a second to address Analogies? Juuuust a second. I am absolutely calling the kettle black here, because I do this A LOT, but analogies are stupid. I love it when someone says something like, "A raven is like a writing desk because...," mainly because no matter how you want to compare something to another thing- it ISN'T that thing. It's like saying holding an ice cube makes your hand cold so it's ALMOST like you've been to The Alps. Nope. You know what's a lot like going to The Alps? GOING TO THE ALPS.
Anyway. I don't know where exactly to head with this topic, I just find it interesting to mull over. When is it okay to settle for what feels like natural progression, and when should you power through challenges because you have faith that whoever orchestrated them knew what they were doing? Where is the line, emotionally, that teeters between "this seems right," and "this seems easy?" I'm all up for challenging myself to become better- but it's a curious thought to consider how often I may just cop out of a behavior/rule/belief because it's inconvenient. 
I wonder.



photo via Pinterest.

"The less I needed, the better I felt." 
-Charles Bukowski

I have long identified myself as "a marketing major's dream come true." I am SO that girl who sees a celebrity wearing something and immediately goes to find a version of it online. If something is shiny- I look. I fall for EVERYTHING. I actually stopped buying flashier magazines because I finally realized how badly I was being duped into buying things that didn't really work. It hasn't only been the fashion aspect; when it comes to beauty products I'm a super sucker. There is a simple recipe for great skin, hair, and nails, and it does NOT stem from using the latest berry extract from some new desert flower. My sister went to a dermatologist who told her something that made more sense than anything I've ever heard, which I'll paraphrase as, "I'll lose a lot of my business by admitting this- but drinking water is the greatest beauty trick on Earth. I can tell if a woman is drinking enough water as soon as she walks in the door." Considering that our bodies are made up of nearly 90% water- it seems so obvious. But the consumer-driven marketplace pushes us to believe that we need a medicine cabinet full of ingredients that we can't pronounce in order to preserve ourselves. It's crazy, manipulative, and sort of sad. But you know what? I fall for it, 9 out of 10 times. I'm ashamed to admit that I've spent so much money on stuff that was such a waste. Worst of all, in the end it's been my tried-and-true stuff that I return to. I've purchased a $50 face wash, only to discover that my $7 Neutrogena stuff makes my skin look ten times better. And no ocean-moisturizer has compared to some of the Garnier products that I've used.

It's really tough for me to keep my inner-consumer at bay. I always feel like I have this weird need to buy the next big thing. Most recently- I had to get rid of one of my store credit cards to avoid using it to online shop when I'm bored. It was that compulsive. I would see a jacket somewhere, and go to this website to find a similar one (because they have EVERYTHING). And I'll admit it: it makes me sad that I don't have product A, B, or C. But I also should admit that buying that stuff in the first place was an unhealthy addiction. I would literally get this whole, "This is so wrong!" high from spending money that I knew I ought to be saving, and I'd hit that "Submit" button with a strange combination of self-loathing and excitement. It IS sad, and embarrassing ... but true. It's taking practice to see something I like and not seek it out for purchase right away. Part of me gets really sad to not be getting shiny packages in the mail. But an even bigger part of me feels SO good when I see my statements with a consistently low-to-zero balance on them.

There's a quote from Fight Club that says, "the things you own end up owning you," and that couldn't be more true. We don't need all of these THINGS. We need to have less- to 'need' less- in order to be more happy. When we can lose that dependency on ownership in order to make us feel complete, we can finally be satisfied with what we already have. It's not about getting things to make us happy, it's about being happy with what we already have. Anything past what comes easy is a gift, a bonus. I am not advocating that we stop pushing ourselves to achieve or advance, only that we first accept a fulfillment with our lives as they exist and not assume that more=better. There is a peace in simplicity that dwarfs the joy you feel by owning a bunch of "things."

Don't seek out completion from the future...live for today, for this moment is The Complete.