Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I walked down the street

Tonight I am thinking about Portia Newlson's poem which I wrote about before.
Autobiography in Five Chapters

Chapter one
I walk down the streeet and I fall in a hole.
It takes me a long time to get out. It's not my fault.

Chapter Two
I walk down the street and I fall in a hole.
It takes me a long time to get out. I know it's my fault.

Chapter Three
I walk down the street and I fall in a hole.
It's my fault and I get right out.

Chapter Four
I walk down the street.
I see a hole and I walk around it.

Chapter Five
I walk down another street.

I love this poem. It reminds me that change takes time. Part of the process of change is really getting that something isn't working even as we do it over and over. The important step is realizing our responsibility for our choices and knowing we are capable of making different ones.
I am reminded of this poem tonight as I think about my experiences with EBay and buying apparel. I love bargains. I am also very particular about how things fit me and what I like and don't like. Buying clothes on E bay looks like a bargain because the prices are potentially much lower.

Chapter One
Buying a vest on e-bay knowing inside that the color won't work and not listening. It's not my fault I didn't listen. I thought it might work.

Chapter Two
The vest arrives. I try to convince myself it'll work. I realize in addition to the color I don't like, it is dirty. It is my fault. I ask if I can wash it and return it if it doesn't get clean. I get the OK.

Chapter Three
I wash it and it doesn't get clean.
I ask to send it back.
I mail it back vowing not to buy anymore clothes on E-bay

Chapter Four
I go back on e-bay and look at vests.
I don't buy anything.

Chapter Five
I spend the evening writing my blog

What I learned: If I want something it is OK. It is also OK to spend the time and the money on myself finding something I like. Buying clothes on e-bay only looks like a bargain for me. It has been no bargain for me nor for the merchants I have dealt with. I appreciate their patience. We have all been respectful and clear about what was needed. It is also OK to be with the compulsion to shop and be curious about what I really want and what I am feeling underneath the desire. Expressing myself creatively seems to be a way to address the need to eat or shop. Being with the experience of the emptiness and breathing into it is another way.The emptiness comes from deep fear and I can once again soothe the little girl inside me by letting her know it is Ok to be afraid and that I am here for her. Woo hoo to me for having this process. Woo hoo to you for reading this blog and seeing how this poem might apply to your process.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


What if the journey to enlightenment is about accepting more and more of what is? What if learning to hang out with the experiences we are having with less and less resistance is what growth looks like? What if recognizing our resistance and accepting ourselves with it is part of that growth? Sometimes I resist the very things that would make me feel the best and indulge in the things that are guaranteed to make me feel worse. When I am feeling ungrounded because I need to meditate I sometimes go shopping on e-bay. I convince myself that getting a real deal on a pair of shoes would be a good idea. I can spend hours looking at shoes even though I know that even in a real store it is hard for me to find shoes that fit. As I am looking at the shoes I tell myself ,"This is fun!" This is in an attempt to justify my compulsion and forget about what it will feel like the next day when I have stayed up too late looking at shoes on e-bay. Last week I bid on a pair of shoes because they were red and I convinced myself they would surely fit me. They arrived yesterday and of course they surely don't. Now I have to return them. I hate going to the post office. I guess this is a growth opportunity to get over my post office aversion. Progress is that I am accepting what is enough to write about this. What would it be like to sit with my desire to shop and be with myself? I imagine I would feel the emptiness. Since I have been living in two different houses the only store I have been in is a grocery store. No, that's not true Gary and I went to REI two weeks ago to buy a tent for his camping trip and for me to try on hiking shoes. None fit. I have been blessed with little square feet that look like big wide bars of soap. Accepting what is must include my feet and the many shoe dramas that have occured in my lifetime. I finally found running shoes that fit me several years ago and I bought three pairs. They are wearing out even though I rotate them. Now they are discontinued. Maybe what would be smart is to set aside my need for a bargain.
If I continue to hold onto getting a deal on top of my hard to fit feet I may soon be shoeless. Luckily I almost never dress up so I don't have a need for lots of shoes. How is my saga with shoes relevant to enlightenment? This is an area that I see as being definitely not spiritual. This empty woman with a compulsive need to shop doesn't fit with my image of myself or how I want to present myself to the world. And yet here I am, bunions and all. Can I accept this part of myself and be kind to her? Can I show up for her and let her feel her emptiness? Can I bring myself my own attention even if after I am compassionate with myself I still want to log on to the computeer and puruse scores of pairs of ugg boots I will never buy? Can I forgive myself for believing that buying something will make me happy? Can I be understanding that the road to enlightenment may include many trips to the postoffice? At least I get to buy stamps.
What about you? What is your challenge about what you find unacceptable in yourself? What would the road to embracing what is look like for you?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


It's late. I usually go to sleep at 10 and it is 10. Well, actually it is my intention to go to sleep at 10 and I usually get to bed before 11. I have been learning to cut myself some slack about my expectations. I have many ideas about how I'm supposed to be and what I should do. Most of them are good for me. The combination can feel tyranical. Giving myself slack means I don't do everything every day. Conscious kindness means I enter the possibility that I am OK if I don't exercise, practice yoga and meditation to my specifications every day. My intention is to do thirty minutes of yoga and thirty minutes of meditation and walk for an hour. Today I sat for 30 minutes stretched for ten and went to a yoga class. Then I walked to the bank for half an hour. It was freezing and I was proud of myself for going out at all. Walking to errands feels so good to me I get an extra woo hoo for that. Part of this is I know when I practice my disciplines I feel so much better. I am less reactive and more peaceful. I am more fun to be around both for myself and for others. The best plan is to do what I can and let go of what I can't. That means being kind to myself when my behavior doesn't measure up to my expectations. It is so easy to be focused on what's missing instead of what's there. Something is always missing and something is always there. Today at yoga there were 16 students. I made up a story that the teacher was a better teacher than I am because I have less students in my class. I caught myself in mid- "focusing on what's missing" mode and acknowledged myself for my awareness. Woo hoo for noticing focusing on what's missing. I felt jealous that the teacher was younger and more energetic than me and able to teach a more vigorous class. She also is able to tell her left hand from her right enough to mirror the poses which I do not. What do you know, here it is again. Focusing on what's missing mode. Woo hoo for noticing. So I say to myself and the little girl inside me," I am here for you with the focusing on what's missing mode. I can understand that you feel this way and I care about you. You are safe with me. It is safe to feel whatever you are feeling. I will be here. Andie, the little girl inside me, is sad. She doesn't like being criticized and compared to others. She wants to be loved for who she is. We feel the sadness together. Criticism activates a deep wound within me from my mom being so critical. This is an opportunity to release some of the layers of the pain-body. I learned if I criticize myself first, criticism from outside of me won't hurt so much. Now when I feel discomfort, I criticize myself. It was uncomfortable for me in the yoga class. There were things I wasn't flexible enough to do. I think because I am a teacher I should be able to do everything, and do it well, according to my expectations. Cutting myself some slack would be to notice the pain under the criticism and to soothe myself. I am triggered back to when I was a fat little kid who always got picked last for the kickball team. The captain would grimace and say," I guess I'll take her". I imagine holding Andie and saying, I am here for you. I know it is hard when other people can do what you can't. It's OK to be sad about that. You are a beautiful person however you play kickball. I love you and you are safe with me.
I pick you to play on my team. I can feel a smile and a releasing in my chest. My breath comes easier. I am aware that it is pretty cool that I am a student and teacher of yoga at sixty. Woo hoo! I am aware that I take really good care of myself. Woo hoo. I want to continue to take good care of myself by noticing what is and celebrating that. Writing this blog helps me to notice how well I am doing taking care of myself. Maybe this will spill over into my relationship with Gary.
If I can cut myself slack and be kinder I imagine I will be better able to do the same with him. It is quite an adjustment living with another person even if it is only four days a week. We are both challenged by how much we want to be in control. We both can be angry and critical when the other doesn't measure up to our expectations. It is my intention to be kinder to Gary and cut him more slack.
I also want to cut myself slack and soothe myself before I lash out at him. That is my intention. I want to notice when I am actually doing it and woo hoo myself and forgive myself and Gary when doing the best we can hurts each other.
How can you cut yourself some slack? What could you be easier on yourself about? What would that look like? Would you be willing to begin now?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Happy 2011. In light of all of our intentions for the new year, I thought it might be helpful to you if I shared this way of looking at the process of change I have learned.
It's called Mastery and has four steps. Since my intention is be kinder to my hands and stop picking my nails this year I will apply my intention to this process. I hope it will make it clearer with my example and I hope to learn something to support my intention.
The first step in making a change is unconsciously incompetent. That is when I am picking my nails on automatic pilot, oblivious to my behavior.
Next is consciously incompetent. That requires effort and can be very challenging. It is when I know I am picking my nails and I am still doing it. I know I have the intention of letting go of this habit and I get to watch myself still doing it. The key here is conscious kindness rather than judgement. That looks like, "Oh, Andrea you must need attention right now" when I notice myself picking my nails, rather than " Oh God you are such a loser. Can't you do anything but pick your nails?"
The third step is consciously competent. That is when I make a plan and begin to mindfully carry it out. My plan is every time I notice myself picking my nails I will stop doing it for the moment, say woo hoo to myself for noticing, take a deep breath and bring my attention to what I am feeling. What I've noticed so far is that I am usually feeling worry about something specific or the free floating generalized kind of anxiey that I often experience. When either of these feelings have arisen in the past I have knee-jerked to picking my nails. I just noticed I was rubbing my finger across my thumbnail my nails in mid sentence writing this. I stopped woo hooed myself for noticing and tok a deep breath. I was aware that I was feeling some doubt about what to say next and wondering whether what I said was good enough. I breathed into my fear and soothed myself that I couldn't do it wrong. My writing doesn't have to be the epitome of brilliance and it's Ok not to know what to say next or how to say it. I am realizing as I work on conscious competence that I pick my nails in empty spaces rather than experiencing the emptiness that comes in pauses between things to do. It is such a strong habit. It is painful to see how much it is my default activity. I know that my plan is to give myself positive attention when I am in need of attention and that feels good.
It is hard for me to accept that picking my nails as much as I do is OK. Even when I pause at the end of a sentence one finger starts to rub another. It is easier to think that an evil demon is making me do it than it is to take responsibility for showing up for myself often enough to bring consciousness to this behavior pattern. It is a challenge to sit with the fear underneath it without judging myself. Judging myself for picking my nails is two steps away from showing up for myself with whatever it is I am feeling. Compassion allows me to bring loving attention to my fear.
I am in the ninth week of my third round of the presence process. Every time I do the process it is as if I have never done it before because I learn so much. This week's presence activating statement is, I love myself unconditionally. Michael Brown's definition of unconditional love is to show up for yourself with whatever you are feeling and allow yourself to have the experience you are having no matter what it is. I am practicing loving myself unconditionaly when I notice I am picking my nails, by allowing myself to move my attention away from the behavior to the feelings I am having underneath.
The forth step in the process of mastery is called unconscious competence. That is when the new behavior no longer requires effort. It has been incorporated into the natural flow of life. I think unconscious competence is a gradual process. What I think it will look like for me is that gradually it will become easier and easier to notice when I am picking my nails and to be kind to myself about doing it. Slowly I will notice I am picking my nails less and less and being kinder to my hands more and more. I will become more comfortable with being present with my fear more often. As I experience and release the fear more and more space will be created to be present with whatever is happening in the moment. This increased present moment awareness will bring an increased richness to my life. I imagine it will be easier to be playful and to have fun and that I will have less resistence to challenging experiences. After all, pain is part of life and suffering is resisting that pain. I so appreciate my hands for being the vehicle for me to begin to look at my fear in a deeper way. Now it is time to put lotion on my hands and take them to bed. Thanks for listening. I hope it was useful to you. How might you apply this process of mastery to what you want for yourself in 2011?