How are you mean to yourself?

In the book The Artist Way, one question you are encouraged to reflect on is “how are you mean to yourself.” In our society, we focus on the positive aspects on how we care for ourselves, but are we specific in listing 10 ways we are mean to ourselves? When we take the time to write it down, it becomes real. We begin to question, why are we harming ourselves?

Initially, I avoided this exercise. I didn’t want to admit how I treat myself poorly. I preferred to keep it unconscious. What arose for me as I was writing these down, was various ways I compare myself to an older version of me or other people. Instead of being pleased and content with right now , I long for something else. This week in Flamenco class, our dance was videotaped to dissect our moves. In replaying the video, I couldn’t help but notice how overweight I appeared . I wasn’t as skinny as some of the Spaniards or Brits next to me. Why did I wear a red loose top instead of black like everyone else? Why did I look gigantic? There were two options in this scenario : I could root for myself or against myself. I chose the former and then began rationalising reasons: shirt, the angle, the skirt. It’s not going to be self serving to allow these negative thoughts to obsessively circulate in my head.

Another way I am mean to myself is I don’t allow myself to buy luxurious things. This includes feeling guilt for buying a designer purse or an expensive dessert for no special occasion. I arrived early for a jivamukti class today and before stepping in for my regular latte, I allowed myself to check out hummingbird cafe. I have seen the cookbook based on this establishment before, but never allowed myself to venture in. Th cupcakes , cakes, whoopie pies were beautiful. Several men were in the store buying personalised birthday cakes. Many cakes cost a hefty 50£ . Should I just back out and buy a cheap dessert at the local grocery store? I don’t deserve this. My birthday was over. I wasn’t having a fancy dinner. Could I just buy an extravagant tasty treat? I thought back to the exercise of how I am mean to myself . I actually purchased two desserts, one for me and another for anthony. To my surprise the salesperson even rewarded me with a free cupcake, her favourite!

We can’t just look at how we treat ourselves without looking at the shadow side of how we hurt ourselves. Sometimes when we believe we are being kind and pushing ourselves by setting goals, we may take it to the extreme. We set such high expectations, or feel defeated when we didn’t hit the goal in our projected time . We give up on ourselves . Be kind! As they said on the television show Parks and Recreation , “treat yo self.”

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The Virtue Of Curiosity

“I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.”-Albert Einstein

One virtue I admire the older I get is the inquisitive nature that is available to us. It is expected that children ask numerous questions on how the world works and are receptive to the responses given. Yet somehow as we age, there’s an inverse correlation. As curiosity decreases, our know-it-all nature increases.

We believe we know how the world works, how we feel, others feel , and therefore don’t bother to ask. In addition, there is so much going in our own personal worlds with responsibilities and obligations that we don’t bother to wonder. Why do we want to know more if we don’t really care about the answers?

Remember when you first met a crush or a new friend you deeply connected with? You wanted to know everything about them. Questions arose with ease, and you were genuinely interested in how the other person would respond. Hopefully the process was mutual. As you inquired, they did as well. You could talk for hours, because you just wanted to be in each other’s atmospheres.

I value and admire observing people engage in conversations or interviews with curiosity. I have been listening to Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday podcast, and I hear her demonstrate this frequently. On a recent episode with Buddhist Psychologist and Teacher Jack Kornfield, she inquired what metta/loving kindness meditation was. Although I knew she knew the definition, she wanted to hear the wisdom Jack had to offer on this particular technique. She responds to his answer with appreciation, and actually at times asks him to repeat it so the words will seep into her bones. She can live into it. Even though we think we may know the answer, if we ask a question with innocence, we may be surprised at the response that is revealed by this particular person on this day. There is variance.

Another time the sense of wonder is heightened for most of us is when we travel. The language, scenery, people, currency, cuisine, and fashion may be exotic for us. We cannot help but be curious. It’s easy to be full of wonder when novelty arises. The question becomes how do you maintain that sincere mesmerized inquisitive nature when the monotony of everyday life prevails.

This virtue of having authentic curiosity in our workplace, marriages, family, and friendships seem vital to stay engaged with life. How can you try to start to see the world through the eyes of a child, lover, or tourist? What’s one thing can you do today to demonstrate being genuinely interested with one aspect of your daily life? What can you focus on with wonder?

A reminder there are so many tiny aspects we can start to shift with these new eyes: our pets, commute to work, partner, how we sit and walk, the way we eat or drink, interactions with families, or even how we choose to shower. The aspects are limitless. Change it up. Be curious and observe the benefits of being interested in your life again.

“Curiosity is the list of the mind.”-Thomas Hobbes

An Expired Cry For Help

“As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life — and travel — leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks — on your body or on your heart — are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt,” –Anthony Bourdain

Two celebrity suicides occurred in less than one week: Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. Both were beloved individuals in their worlds, but they couldn’t allow the love to land on them. The world is left stunned with one simple question. Why?

They had what appeared was everything people strive for: fame, finances, success in their strenuous career fields. But what was missing? We may speculate, but never know the true answers.

These deaths have increased the conversation about suicide among Americans, and the importance of receiving mental health care.  But what will happen to Kate and Anthony’s loved ones? How will their tragic deaths impact their young children, partners, and close friends?

I did not know either of them personally, but notice these losses (particularly Bourdain) is highly impacting numerous individuals.  Hours after his death was announced, people around the world began paying their tributes on social media.  Bourdain’s fans saw the globe through his shows on CNN and the Travel Channel.   This chef, author, travel writer, and television host widened his fans’ culinary palettes through what he featured on his travel shows.  Reading an outpouring of messages online, we realized what a vital impact he made in the culinary world and the international travel scene for Americans. He was witty, authentic, charming, and relatable.  We all felt like we knew him after watching an episode.  With his tattooed body, cavalier attitude, and fast paced life, he was known as the first rock star chef.  Men wanted to be him, and women wanted to be with him.  You knew that he would be your ideal adventure buddy.  He would push you to try exotic cuisine, hit up hole in the wall restaurants, splurge on Michelin starred meals, drink excessively local liquor at hidden bars, and somehow find street food to sober up.

My husband, who is a chef, got me hooked on Bourdain’s shows.  We have different tastes in television shows, he prefers dramas while I enjoy quirky sitcoms.  But somehow we could always agree on Bourdain.  We watched his shows as a way to escape our daily lives, connection, entertainment, or as inspiration for our future journeys.  It was total immersion.  We virtually were there on his journeys with him, noted his recommendations, and even opted to search out these hotspots ourselves.  His ventures would become our modern gastronomical pilgrimages.  I know we were not alone in our feelings for Bourdain.   This is why his death is hitting people hard. He was our travel and culinary superhero. Bourdain had no fear of what he ate, where he went, canoodled with top dog chefs around the world, and had energy to keep going.  He was living the life we all dreamed of, and chose to opt out early.  What about the rest of us mere mortals?

Life has so much suffering, which at times seems too overwhelming to bear.  But then it passes.  Things improve.  And then another difficulty arises.  This is how the fluctuations in life occur. It’s a miracle any of us have the strength to carry on. I had heard on a recent podcast, that after a certain age life becomes a choice.  Each day we wake up, it is the choice to live.  Regardless of the hardships we may knowingly face for the day, we are choosing life.

With both Kate and Anthony, I can’t help but wonder…What if?

What if a loved one noticed how down they were feeling and took more time to reach out and talk to them that day?  What if a stranger caught them on the street and shared loving words of how they impacted their lives? What if anything was different?

We cannot go back, but we can go forward with people in our everyday lives.  How can we recognize and notice those in our atmosphere that are struggling? Can we offer additional support, guidance, or comforting words? Even the simple act of looking into the eyes of a stranger and smiling can maybe change one’s day.  Take the time to notice, get your face out of your phones, observe those around you, and reach out.  Keep people connected.  Know we are not alone. It may not change everyone’s life, but it may alter the course of some.

“fear is the cheapest room in the house, I’d like to see you in better living conditions.”-hafiz

“Until we have met the monsters in ourselves, we keep trying to slay them in the outer world. And we find that we cannot. For all darkness in the world stems from darkness in the heart. And it is there that we must do our work.”
― Marianne Williamson

Suicide impacts people of all ages, we all know someone who has attempted, thought, or completed suicide.  If you need to talk to someone, there is help out there. In the USA call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1(800) 273-8255 https://suicidepreventionlifeline.orgor in the UK call the Samaritans at 116 123.

1/3 of the Artist Way

I am in the process of beginning week 4 out of the 12 week artist way program by Julia Cameron. One of the biggest homework exercises of the week is to not read. Initially I thought this could be doable, I won’t read books. But what else does this entail? I think the book was written before the advent of social media and emails. Where do I start and where do I stop? It’s not just tangible books, but books on audio, magazines, and I believe screen time. Although I cannot eliminate all of these this week, I can start to minimise them. With the extra time and side that would be spent inputting, I could begin to focus on outputs. Creative expressions or simply being present, without the go to entertainment . Maybe it would also be more rest and sleep.

What is being revealed so far on this artist way journey, almost 1/3rd of the way in is not one creative bang. It’s the daily process of trying to live more creatively through the clothes I wear, the music I listen to, how I choose to spend my weekends. There was this beautiful quote the writer Mark Nepo had said in an interview about initially wanting try to become this beautiful poet. His life was about the end result of becoming a poet. Now the older he gets its more about his life becoming a poem. For me doing the artist way,it isn’t just about becoming an artist. It’s about living a creative life everyday. Art and creativity is available to us all and can be for some a spiritual practice.

I had spoken to a colleague about creativity and spirituality recently. She said she was neither creative or spiritual. She then asked me, how are you creative? It was a basic question that I hadn’t thought about much until now.

The answers I gave her included the following forms of creative expression: journaling , writing, dancing, the clothes I wear, creating yoga routines, in the therapy room, developing playlists for my workouts and drives (and friends), choosing an intention for the day, or a particular quote. There are so many ways to be creative, people tend to forget. It’s how we choose to look at and welcome in the world. We can Pt attention in a creative manner.

Art is not reserved for the few, but us all. Why do we forget this? Being creative is play. It can exist at any age and for anybody.

How are you creative?

How can your life become a poem?