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.”


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?

Diving is Fearless!

My new fascination that has developed here in Oslo is watching people dive into the water. Generally this is not completed off a proper diving board, but makeshift ones. What I love about this city, is that the majority of people choose to dive into the water versus take the ladder. They want the shock and feeling of going for it versus the timid inching in the steps offer.

I heard one American say to another “you are now part Viking!” after he dived into the water. He shivered saying, “right now I’m Floridian, because this water is cold.” He joked about this but seemed happy to have taken the leap to the unknown cold Nordic waters.

The act of diving into the water is so bold. There seems to be an inverse relationship with bravery and age.  It seems to come easier with decreased age.  Teenagers are at the peak of it, as they show off their skills jumping in. We’re compelled to watch them.  There’s no fear when a child is about to dive into the water, there’s just joy.

I don’t know when I became fearful of diving. Perhaps it’s because I don’t actually know how to dive, just like I don’t know how to do a real push up. There’s a mental blockage that if I go head first into the water, I will hurt myself. And so I don’t do it.

This reminds me of a podcast I heard with Elizabeth Gilbert from On Being. She discussed how we are all born creative beings , but we forget this. We stop cultivating it, and make excuses as to why art should not be our way of life. Kids instinctively know they are creative , she says with Legos they know what to do with them. They don’t make excuses that they won’t make a masterpiece or shy away because their piece was fabulous last week and won’t be amazing again. They just do it. Why do we build up barriers of lack in life? With age comes fear of failure, and therefore fear of risk .

Before I jumped into the water today, I felt all eyes were on me.  In reality, nobody was watching.  I don’t think I actually know how to dive. It seems as if I missed the diving day lesson during my swimming classes. I know I couldn’t do it properly with my hands to form a dolphin like shape and fall into the water gracefully. But it was hot and I knew I just had to do it, so I jumped in twice ! The water was quite cold and I only stayed in for a minute . After I got out , my body felt like it was in shock. It was tingling with coolness, but also exhilaration in going for it.

I don’t know if diving will become my new thing, but I definitely will continue to awe in wonder . I could probably watch people dive all day…the joy, the fear, the pride, the dare, and the unique nature in the universality of this movement. It’s such a beautiful act to witness. I want to cheer these strangers on, especially those who spend extended minutes of apprehension staring at the drop. I want to scream “f*ck yes!” to the celebration of this moment, to life, and to conquering this dive.

I feel grateful to be a witness, and a participant. Sometimes I will join in, whether it’s proper or not. Who is to say what is the correct way to do it? If you are diving for the pleasure, relief of sweat , and to celebrate in the community of playfulness who cares ? Be a child again and jump!

The Beauty in Norwegian Simplicity

In less than 24 hours, Oslo has captivated my heart. I somehow land on a surreal weekend, where the weather is 80 degrees, the sun is out, and people are joyous. I am travelling and oddly have no plans, except what I observed from watching a Travel With Rick Steves Norway episode online. As soon as I arrived at my hotel, I dropped my bags and tried to head straight to a Fjord cruise. Although it was sold out, I decide to meander towards this modern art museum: Astrup Fearnley Museet. Each corner I turned, I observed locals and tourists embracing the sun. They were eating in cafes outside, or sitting on built in benches looking out onto the water, grabbing ice cream cones, or bicycling around the city.

I made it to the museum shortly before it closed, but as I peered behind the building I was mesmerized. I saw a makeshift beach, it was exactly what I was looking for. Sun bathers stretched on towels after a careful dip into the pebbled cool waters that lined the city. Doggies shook themselves to dry off, after their child owners dragged them on leashes to be splashed. Selfies were taken by tourists who proved they got in the water (although they only dipped their toes). Stand up paddleboarders carefully passed by.

Even further behind the museum was an impromptu diving board. Teenagers showed off their cliff diving skills with somersaults into the sea. Crowds gathered and watched as they overcame their fears and exuded their bravery. As I observed all this, tears spontaneously came to my eyes. This is beauty. What we were all participating in did not cost any money. For a brief moment, everyone’s cares and stresses were diminished. We were embracing the sun, gathering by the water, surrounded by exterior art exhibits, and observing people show off their talents. I forgot how much I missed this, how much I missed summer. It was nostalgia, in a land I have never been to. It was this universal nostalgia that we all have, almost as Jung would say this universal unconscious we all briefly tapped into remembering.

There were other brief observations I made in these 24 hours while in Oslo that highlighted the beauty. Norway is more diverse than I had imagined it to be. I thought it would be full of tall blonde Caucasian Thor like Vikings. What I found is that the culture is highly ethnically varied. I spoke to a salesperson who physically shared the same Asian like features as me and seemed to have an American accent. When I asked her where she was from, she said Norway. I was shocked, she could have been me. I shouldn’t be surprised that numerous people have been attempting to speak Norwegian to me. I could be a local.

Another beautiful aspect is that art is everywhere. I haven’t had a chance to dip into the museums, but the city boasts an excessive amount of them. Yet, the art just doesn’t sit in four walled spaces. It is everywhere in the city. It’s also not just boring run of the mill art, it exudes sensuality, joy, suffering, and all the vicissitudes of life. Catch out this provocative piece that lined that the exterior of city hall:

These pieces all tell a story, you can’t help but be curious about. The city boasts the popular Scream painting by Edward Munch, but he wasn’t the only artist from here. Gustav Vigeland spent his life’s work beautifying the city. And it shows. A park shares over 200 of his sculptures, which is free for the public to enjoy. How can you not love a city that embraces art throughout everywhere you turn?

Art doesn’t just exist in the city, it exists on the people. So many people have tattoos here, which I find quite beautiful. Many of the tattoos aren’t tiny either, but massive on people’s backs, forearms, or legs. They wear their artist armor with pride. It shouldn’t be a surprise then since I have six myself, that people began to question my Norwegian residency.

All of the restaurants and cafes seemed to be lined with people reconnecting with their loved ones: close friends, family members, partners, and co-workers. The extended daylight and gorgeous weather lifted everyone’s spirits. Or maybe they were already lifted. In 2018, Norway was crowned the second happiest country in the world. Nordic countries to vacillate between the top spots. It must be in the genes or water.

These are my observations with only venturing into a tiny slice of Oslo. I have yet to take the fjord cruise, see the beautiful landscapes of land and sea the country has to offer, or to step foot into other aspects of the city. But I am already in love with the beauty, and the juxtaposition of city, nature, art, pedestrian and bicycle friendly, ethnically diverse tattoo driven people. I believe we all have the capacity to live this way, we simply just need to remember.

Congruency with Authentic Self

“Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.”
― Elizabeth GilbertBig Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

Yesterday I had the honor of attending a workshop conducted by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love, Big Magic, and various other books.  Her workshop focused on reconnecting with your creativity, authentic nature, and allowing oneself to permission to live the life you want. The workshop was amazing, including loads of reflective exercises, sharing, and laughter.  One point that was definitely highlighted though is to listen to one’s own curious heart.

Think about what attracts you and what repels you.  When we were young, this seemed to be instinctual.  Over the years, we lose touch with this gut instinct.  Elizabeth Gilbert discussed how her French bulldog Chewy automatically knows what dogs he likes and will express his interest with a wagging tail and playful behavior.  Chewy also knows from two blocks away who he despises.  She discussed looking at her dog with wonder, “How do you know you don’t like that Dalmatian you never met?”  He just does.  She encouraged us to start to retrain this muscle within ourselves.  Listen to what attracts us and what pushes us away.  Both pieces of information are vital clues of leading us to our authentic selves.

When we follow our intuitive scent it not only leads us to what we are passionate about, but also helps extract the unnecessary components from our lives.  A recent incident of when I took Barre Teacher Training arose in my mind.  I had such a strong negative reaction to the training. It wasn’t because it was a poorly designed, had rude people, or was a far distance away.  It was because it wasn’t me.  It didn’t fit who I am today, despite the expectations I had set in my head.  Spending my time and money, and being told I had to take a videotaped exam to get a certificate for the course caused more stress than necessary.  I let that go.

I am doing this with people now as well.

The older I get the more this becomes apparent when I interact with previous friends from ancient parts of my life.  I saw an old friend recently, who introduced me to her mate with an embarrassing story of mine and how she became the “hero” to this story.  Her introduction of me to others, starts with putting me down.  Her life fifteen years after our friendship began is still filled with chaos, dissatisfaction, and drugs. Although in some ways she is like family in that I don’t totally want to cut her out, being with her for one evening was plentiful.  I set an expiration date of hour time together in my head of three hours max.  I couldn’t handle anymore, and the reason it upset me was she is not aligned with who I am.  I don’t know if she ever really was.  Our friendship had fun and celebratory moments in the past, but if we met today, I’m not sure there would be any connection.

Also, I have a new-ish friend who I realize is only interested in me when my life is full of drama.  She oddly is not there for me when I am well, centered, and excited about life.  I shared with her my recent pleasant experiences, she glossed over this topic.  In the same conversation, she chose to gossip with wide eyes about her friend’s pending divorce from an abusive husband.   When our conversation drifted to include chatter of past traumatic boyfriend experiences, her interest was heightened.  Mine, on the other hand diminished. I am past that part of my life, I don’t want to live in that.  I want to live in the now.

With both of these friendship experiences, I realize they currently repel me.  Being around them creates this uncomfortable internal itch that I want to relieve.  It’s a strong immediate visceral reaction for not choosing to act in ways that are caring towards this authentic self.  As EIizabeth would say if I stayed friends with them I would not be “trustworthy when it comes to stewardship of my own life.”  I want to extract these women from my life, as they are not representative with who I am. I want to be true to myself.   Comparatively, it further exacerbates the desire for me to be with my closest friends who I rarely get to see anymore.  I am vowing they will be more present in my life.

As we were engaging in a writing exercise yesterday, Elizabeth said to the audience of 1,000 “I’m more interested in who you are becoming, than what was done to you.” This is who I want to surround my life around.  People who are caring for this current part of their lives, who we are creating and becoming versus the struggles that led us here.

I notice that friends and people may have been attracted to me because I am a psychololgist.  They want to share their pain, sorrows, drama, and trauma.  But I am more interested in who they are creating now versus their path of woes.

Like Elizabeth’s dog, can I know my gut instinct with who and what I like and who I despise?  Can I take action and follow this scent? Extract the extraneous variables, leaving only what brings joy to my life.

This lesson continues to arise in a variety of ways in my life lately.  Marie Kondo in the book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up encourages us to only keep items in our closet that bring us current joy.  She touches each piece of clothing or tangible thing, and if it doesn’t spark joy, she says “thank you” for how it served her and puts it to the side to be disposed of.

Similarly, Derek Sivers has a philosophy of “Heck yes, or no!” when considering what activities he wants to be part of his life. If he is not 100% excited about something, he will negate the invitation.  He noticed so much of his life was filled with “meh” decisions, that when an amazing opportunity arose, there was no space.

And now Elizabeth Gilbert’s dog philosophy of following one’s instinctual scent is taking precedent.  There is a lesson the universe is encouraging me to learn.

We’ve added all this crap into our lives, and the older we get, it’s time to extract, extract, extract.  Leave only the components that bring you joy.  If you don’t know what this is, perhaps try to remember what brought joy in your youth or last week.  Much of the time, it’s the most simplistic activities…listening to music, dancing, nature, loved ones, and creating.

Maybe it’s time for all of us to engage in a spring cleaning.  Take stock in our lives of who and what is in them, and are they representative of our authentic nature?  If not, purge! Leave the empty space for what brings you joy.  Dance and celebrate in this.  You are uncovering the real you!  Let your authentic self be revealed.

“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.”
― Elizabeth GilbertBig Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

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