For those who feel like they can never stop pushing, a reminder that you already have the knowledge to take you where you need to go. Give yourself space to listen.
I started reading I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb for my digital bookclub and wow, healthy dose of perspective there. And yet, her tale, her plight, is so easy to follow, so easy for me to call forth the feelings I expect she felt. While I can never know exactly what it was like, her words help me relate. And, I think, that's a gift of humanity, to be able to relate in many different walks of life, if we make the time.
I love being groomed. I know that sounds weird but really, having my hair shampooed or brushed, getting a massage, or even the ten minute foot rub during a pedicure - all glorious moments of relaxation and luxury. The funny thing is that as a primate communal grooming is very common and I'm certain it releases all the happy endorphins that makes you want to come back for more. From an evolutionary stand point that makes sense - most often when grooming was happening across our evolutionary history, it was probably to remove harbingers of illness - parasites. Additionally, grooming can make you look nicer which could increase the odds of attracting a mate and passing along your genes. Nowadays we don't need to sit in a line and search each other for ticks and fleas (mostly) and yet we still drop hundreds of dollars on grooming services from others. I believe it's those evolutionary responses that keep us coming back for the amazing power of touch. I really haven't researched this much and was just spit-balling so if you have any evidence-based articles you know of, feel free to send them my way.
I taught my first yin yoga session open to the public last night. It was magical. I really enjoyed it and I hope my students did too! My poem today is another yoga philosophy poem about santosha, a niyama, a "positive duty" as outlined by Patanjali for recommended activities for healthy living. Santosha ultimately boils down to cultivating contentment. I believe contentment is fundamental for healthy living and I also believe that it is something you can practice and build over time. In my poem I tried to capture exactly how I construct my own contentment.
Bonus poem alert!! Evidently I have plenty to say about toenails, or really, the idea that we all have physical bodies that are going to do their own thing, which was today's theme. I was going to settle with just one but decided that each has it's own charm. Without further ado.
A nod to Brene Brown for the title to my poem. I think her interpretation of the term "wholehearted" is exactly how I felt when reflecting for today's poem. I have found that when I am living authentically, when I am saying yes only to those things that ring true for who I am and want to be, then I have a life of joy and ease.
One of my favorite mantras in yoga is Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu which means "may all beings everywhere be happy and free." My yoga instructor actually said this mantra in tonight's class - after I had written my poem - and it echoes my day's theme. I wish joy and ease for all beings everywhere and so, I'd like to share my poem, my "recipe," for wholehearted living.
My RYT200 training is soon coming to an end and I can't believe how these five months have flown. The experience has confirmed my belief that the world would be a kinder, more compassionate, and beautiful sanctuary if the 7.6 billion of us practiced yoga regularly. And, one of the most amazing things that has been emphatically enforced in my didactic studies is that yoga is a solo journey that ultimately amplifies an individual's connection to everything. As a teacher, I won't be doing the practice for my students, I can't do the work for them- but I can hold the space and the give the tools for their own self-study. So today's poem is about my own experience and understanding of yoga.
Climate change is a buzzword in current topics and has been for a while and I guess I'm ready to say my piece. I firmly believe that individual households, especially in the U.S., can have a dramatic impact on whether we avert crisis. I'm the person at work who will turn off the sink you left running behind you when you walked over to the other cupboard to get a glass. I will shut the fridge door on you if you walked away to deal with your food "real quick" before putting the container back. I wonder about people who continue to buy bottled water after so many science-backed resources have campaigned to get the word out that plastic bottled water has so many ills. Have they just missed all the announcements somehow? Or are they willfully destroying the future of their children, nephews, or nieces? I know I can do my part better too, which is why today's poem is a reminder that what we do now, the imprint we make in this minute, is crafting the tomorrow of the little ones we love.
For Earth -
Nine days into my year of writing a poem daily and I'm sensing a pattern about my writing. I pen my poems an awful lot like Randy Newton crafts his songs. There is a hilarious Family Guy skit about Randy Newton "singing about what he sees," that I only know because my husband has pointed quoted it to me numerous times. And yes, I do seem to write most often about things in front of my eyes. In the future, I will try to make sure I'm cognizant of this tendency and seek to expand my topics, but really, we live in such a magical world and people are so amazing, inspiring, and sometimes bewildering, that I can't help but want to capture that awesome in my writing. Or, I guess I could help it and I don't really want to stop.
I'm sure it comes without surprise that today's poem is about a person I saw on the bus ride home. This person was happily engrossed in a often-teased form of entertainment and not giving one fig about it. It really brought to mind one of my favorite phrases to use lately, "you do you." Be loud and proud for what you like even if it's not popular*. And now, I'll share my poem, about something I see because you be you and I gotta be me (whew, this poetry thing doesn't turn off).
*Note: statement does not apply to intolerance, hatred, or discrimination.
I love volunteering. I'm passionate about volunteering. You can tell from the photo above that I'm really, really happy when I volunteer. I think volunteering in our communities is one of the best things we can do for ourselves and for others.
I don't want to get all sanctimonious because why I volunteer is definitely not all altruism. First of all, I'm far, far on the extroverted spectrum, secondly, I truly believe in the ripple effect of helping within your community, and third, there is so much fun to be had when you are performing a meaningful task.
So really, my public service announcement is "volunteer to help others in your community and get payback in the form of endorphins, a stronger community, and satisfaction from a job well done." Also, here's my poem.
Today's poem is about one of my most favorite places in the universe. Thanks, Lucia, for making a sanctuary.
I'm not sick of the challenge yet. I wrote today's poem in a cozy seat on a warm city bus on my commute out of the city. I reached that place of writer's zen and lost awareness of the world around me as I took my mind back to the experience I was trying to capture, teaching my first vinyasa yoga class to people who aren't family. Now, I'm not prone to nervousness and I love public speaking, however, in this instance, I so desired giving the group an incredible yoga practice that my "stress" response kicked in as my prehistoric brain prepared me for fight or flight. Conveniently, studying yoga philosophy prepared me for this moment and I knew that breathing, taking those full, deep, breaths would bring me back to where I needed to be to hold space for the yogis on their mats- the moment I wanted to share. When I finished the poem I looked up around me, astonished I was nearly home. All in all, a pleasant way to travel and a good way to reflect.
Life-paralysis, what is that? Well, it's a phrase to describe a state of being in which you cannot move forward in the direction of your goals. This momentary seizure can be caused by many factors such as indecision, lack of confidence, or fear. I have, unfortunately, found myself becalmed in the waters of my ambition more times than I care to admit. Thankfully, with all the times I've found myself adrift, I'm also improving in identifying those moments and reanimating myself towards a purpose.
I think I've mentioned before that my Myers-Briggs personality is ENFP and, though my therapist brother-in-law tells me personality quizzes, in general, are simply a way for humans to create patterns out of chaos, the write up for ENFP does coincide with many "patterns" that I see in my character. According to a free Myers-Briggs quiz, 16pesonalities.com, the ENFP nickname is "The Campaigner." What that nickname fails to reveal is that as energetic and enthusiastic I can be for my creative projects, I can often get trapped in the pitfall of indecision or lack of focus. There are so many wonderful things to campaign and feel passion for - how do I choose just one!?
Fear has also reared its ugly head to freeze me in neither fight nor flight; perhaps it's my subconscious "playing dead" when the bear of the future lumbers through my forest of dreams. When the weight of my goals sits heavily upon my chest, it seems easier to ignore the asphyxiation by distracting myself with countless cat videos, Instagram food, or my Facebook page, ultimately feeding the beast rather than taming it.
Lack of confidence has also proved a shackle a time or two. My reoccurring thought, which I had even before writing this post, is "who am I to offer advice?". Some people refer to this as "impostor syndrome" although I don't feel as though I'm an impostor; rather my concern is that I will bore someone to death or contribute ideas that don't help anyone.
Whew, I know its sounds rough, but all is not lost! As mentioned above, the common occurrence of my temporary life paralysis has resulted in a silver lining. I am now increasingly adept in overcoming these pitfalls and did convince myself that I had something useful to offer you, fair reader. So, without further ado, these are the methods I've found helpful in overcoming life-paralysis.
1. Be honest with yourself. This solution is probably the toughest because you have to come clean with why you are stuck. For example, I'd been allowing myself to "check out" by reading books for pleasure rather than spending time working towards my goals. Partly the reading had become a habit, but the other part was indecision. I couldn't decide where to direct my efforts, so I directed them nowhere. I had to fess up to myself when I realized the books I was reading were drek. Talking about life-paralysis to my sister and husband also helped, so I recommend finding a sounding board for your honest revelations. They can ground you while you face the fear.
2. Do something for five minutes that you can take pride in - even if it's just a "jobs done" satisfaction. This tactic is especially effective if you are struggling with the self-confidence. It's amazing how ticking off a few "to-dos" can make you feel accomplished. The other day I spent an afternoon taking donations to Goodwill, weeding my front garden, and getting my spare tire re-inflated for an upcoming road trip. Each task had been on my to-do list for a while, and they all took less than an hour each. It was so satisfying by the end of the day to have so many long-standing items ticked off. I'm sure I had a grin the rest of the evening.
3. Step away from the phone/laptop/kindle. I know, I know. We hear this one so often it's annoying. I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with being dialed in 24/7, but when you are trying to reanimate your purpose, the best thing to do is disconnect. How can you know your mind if you are continuously consuming other people's thoughts and ideas? We have so much more to offer than the consumption of goods and services, but you need to give your brain some time to form your own thoughts.
I'm happy to report that these methods have revived me from my latest bout and I hope they serve you well too!
Let me know, was this post helpful? Am I the only one who suffers from life-paralysis? Feel free to comment or let me know on twitter!
"Keep it simple, stupid!"
I still remember the encouraging voice of my elementary school teacher who repeated that phrase if ever we lost sight of our project goals or tried to beleaguer a topic in an essay. Elementary school teachers sometimes send us on with the most remarkable nuggets of wisdom that come resounding in our minds at the most opportune moments.
This certainly was the case for me recently when I eagerly sat down at my kitchen table with my 2016 goal board ready to complete my much-anticipated "introspection and reflection" prior to goal setting for the new year. My grin slowly drooped into a frown as I surveyed my annual progress. I had set 19 goals. I had set 19 goals? Why had I set 19 goals? I began to tally my achievement and realized I had created a goal board that would have made me feel unsuccessful no matter the outcome. I had set 19 goals. 19. for one year. I'm only one person.
After I tallied the results, I found that I had achieved 40% of my original 19 and it didn't feel good. In an attempt to cheer myself, I then reviewed how I did "categorically", meaning, if I had set three measurable goals that all related to health and I achieved one - then I "sort of" met my health goal. When I broke it down into categories I had met a goal in each category, but it felt empty, and I knew why. I had failed to KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID.
But all is not lost!
I resolutely turned to my 2017 goal board, and, brow furrowed with determination, I began creating a more manageable vision of what success would look like in the year to come. As I sat, I glanced absentmindedly at my Instagram feed and saw that, thehappyacademy, an instagram account I follow, had posted an incredible quote that echoed the lesson learned from 2016's goal setting gaffe. It read, "the key to fulfillment isn't doing more, it's doing what matters." I excitedly penned it to the top of my page as inspiration for my task. I then resolved to only select 4 goals, just 4, for my 2017. I put them into categories again (I can't help it, I like categories), and selected my measurable goals for Professional Development, Creating, Financial, and Health. I also paid particular attention to ensuring my goals were "SMART", if you've heard the term. The acronym stands for smart, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely (with attainable being the element I believe I missed the previous year).
I'm smiling as I write this because I think I'm on the right track. I've now discussed my goals with three people and feel good about accountability. I've taken my performance from last year, analyzed my trends, found an area of improvement and am working towards that continual progress. I'm now looking forward to December 2017 (wow, doesn't that seem a long way off) to share with you the outcome of my annual goals "introspection and reflection".
Feel free to check in on my progress! And, happy goal setting!
Get two wheels beneath you and get your feet a' pedalin'. For reals.
My eldest sister once reflected to me that everyone smiles when they get on a bike, and, having immersed myself in mountain bike culture for the past year, I have to say that anecdotal wisdom seems true. Eight hours of blearily squinting into harsh white screen glare with hunched shoulders and a numb posterior does not benefit my health. The hours in meetings, writing, reviewing data, and discussing projects are well spent but can leave my brain swirling with the very long list of growing to-do's that hurtles at my psyche like a train bearing down on a cow on the tracks. Moo.
In my past life, my farming life, I recognized the catharsis of retreating to the outdoors and losing myself in manual labor, milking cows, tossing bales, or cleaning mangers, to refresh my body and mind - but hay bales are harder to find in a concrete jungle. To what should I turn when weighted down by stress and exhausted by inactivity? The answer, I've found, is going for a bike ride.
You could argue that the same could be said for any type of activity, going for a walk, going to the gym, dancing, etc. and I think you'd be partially right. Everyone is different and everyone has their own motivations but I wanted to share a little of my own mad-thinking that brought me to my conclusion that biking is best. I have found that gyms make me grumble from the cost, going for a walk sometimes feels "too easy" (read: not enough sweatin' time), and I struggle getting motivated to work out at home because I don't actually have to go anywhere and the couch becomes a vortex when I step within five feet (seriously, beware my comfortable couch).
Biking, however, rolls a lot of what we know about reducing stress into one fun-filled activity. First, if you go fast enough, you'll sweat - and sweating from physical exertion is good for your stress levels. Second, it's an activity done out-of-doors, and scientists have indicated there are benefits to our brains by just being outside. Finally, it can be done by many folks at all skill-levels. In fact, there are so many "types" of bike riding it's boggling. Mountain biking, cyclocross, road biking, touring, cruising, BMX, trials, recumbent, tandem, you-name-it, there is probably a biking-style out there that's sure to plaster a grin on your face and motivate you to get outside and move after a long day of sitting.
So my message is this, if it's been a minute since you last balanced yourself on two wheels and pumped those pedals, I encourage you to head out to the garage, clip on your helmet, dust off the ol' schwinn (don't forget to oil the chain!), and go for a bike ride. Oh, and, feel free to let me know if you crack a smile. ;)
I love my morning commute. And, I’m not making a play on words and describing loving to work from home (which I do, too). No, I’ve recently discovered a way to enjoy the traffic trek. The secret is so simple. Don’t make the journey alone. Many benefits ensue once you commit to sharing your 5-20 cubic meters of vehicle space with another.
The first perk is obvious and has huge impact: THE CARPOOL LANE goes faster. I’d love to give a great big bear hug to the person who invented the carpool lane. That jolly invention makes me feel as though we are not just cruising in our lane to our destination but rather passing all the other single passenger vehicles in a RACE TO THE FUTURE!
I also love my morning commute in the carpool lane because I’m not a fan of battling traffic and since my office is the first destination on our route– I don’t have to drive. Ever. I’m fortunate because my husband is the other occupant of our commuter car and he likes to drive – especially in his nimble Mini Cooper S - maneuvering lanes, dodging mergers, and avoiding general mayhem. After “Han Solo-ing” us through the single passenger SUVs, lumbering work trucks, and SS’s (standard sedans), he drops me off and continues on his way.
I’m pleased with our carpool because I feel that, in a small way, it’s helping reduce carbon emissions (one less vehicle on the road and fewer minutes that the engine is running). And, even though it is nominal, I take a small satisfaction in the fuel savings we reap by not firing up the less economical vehicle that waits for us in the garage at home.
The excellent conversation and getting to spend more time with my favorite person in the world is also a benefit. That element, however, completely depends on who is in the car with you. If my commute sounds appealing, my advice is to check first whether commuting with your favorite person saves carbon, fuel, or time. Commuting with a coworker from the same neighborhood to your office building is likely the easiest carpool to arrange but that last perk might be missing. You may have to settle for a ride with a less-than-favorite individual – it would probably still be worth it- probably.
Precious minutes, hard-earned money, carbon emissions; if reducing those valued resources lost to your daily commute sounds good, hop on board the carpool lane…erm..train.
The corporate world is not all ergonomic chair reclining, patting backs, and smiling brightly as solutions miraculous develop on our desktops. We've all had days when that straw sifted lazily down the breeze onto the camels back -when our eyes wanted to roll so far back into our heads we'd need an OR team to go find them -when one more request to re-send one more email chain we KNOW the requesting person was on has us gulping deep breaths and counting to ten. I recently had one of those days shoulder to shoulder with another member of my team and her response to the pressure left me contemplating my own reactions and thinking of how I can emulate her more.
I consider myself very solutions oriented. I don't consider excuses a valuable use of time and instead try to gear my discussions and meetings towards action items that solve whatever problem we've stumbled upon. After spending the day with my calm and pleasant coworker, I noticed my reaction to hearing excuses or complaints was increasingly to shut down the conversation abruptly, typically with a frustrated tone whereas she continuously focused on closing down the negativity in a positive way - not an easy thing to do. She did this in a really simple way, by being kind.
In my previous roles where I was front-facing with clients, I was in a daily practice of listening patiently and responding with a positive regardless of the situation. If a client called and needed access to a resource, I would let them know I heard their frustration and was there to help. Somewhere in my transition to internal service, I had forgotten the value of a friendly word and positive redirection. After spending the day with observing the patience and courtesy from my days of yore, I had an interaction with a different co-worker where miscommunication caused some friction. It was understandable that both of us would feel out of the loop and somewhat frustrated. I immediately noted her tone was irritated and resolved to not let any of my frustration color the tone in my voice. In that moment I remembered my co-workers kindness and dusted off my customer service skills to turn the conversation positive and end our interaction on a happy note.
I took away a few lessons in this reflection.
1. Kindness is customer service and everyone deserves it -both co-workers and clients.
2. If you can hear frustration in their tone, they can hear the tone you give back.
3. Patience and courtesy must be practiced daily.
If you've had a similar experience or anything to add - feel free to comment!
**I first wrote this post in March 2015 and am re-posting here for reader enjoyment
My childhood was blissful. Warm sunny afternoons building fence in the back pasture, chilly winter nights feeding (and cuddling with) soft fuzzy calves, crisp fall mornings waking up to bring in the herd for milking - I wouldn't replace it for the world. In fact, I have discovered that the same skills and values that go into a job well done on a farm yield fruitful returns in the business world as well.
Lesson number 1: Pump yourself up before working hard
My Dad and I had a little mantra that we would chant together before heading down to the barn or out to fix a tractor, or the manure spreader. We'd make fists and tap them together and sing "we're rough and tough and hard to bluff - yeah!" and one of us would usually follow with a sobering "It's a tough job but someone's got to do it." This is true in any worthy task and it pays to reflect on the value and effort that you bring to the table - whether balancing spreadsheets or cleaning gutters.
Lesson 2: If you won't do it, don't expect it to get done
This one is definitely apparent for any small business owner. I saw this lesson reinforced time and again as my Dad would wake himself up at 3 a.m. to run down and check on a cow in labor. Often times his efforts would result in one or two lives saved, or at the least, an easier delivery for a new mom and baby. I think of those late nights when deadlines feel as though they are looming over head waiting to flatten me or when my brain is so taxed and slow I can't fix another comma. I stand up, stretch my legs, and remind myself of my end goal- not a new baby calf but definitely something new, something with potential, something worth getting up at 3 am for.
Lesson 3: Every industry changes and you can get left behind.
Even in an industry as age old as dairy, new technology can leave old timers in the dust. Adapt or fail is the key and this is true whether you are coaxing milk from Holsteins or marketing a product to the masses. Changes can be mapped through the agricultural methods of dairy farming; from the manure spreader versus the pit, the stone silo versus harvester, conventional farming versus organic, a farmer who fails to maneuver the trends may find himself at the end of his row. In the same way, the corporate environment is constantly adopting new practices to reach it's aims. A wise dairy technician (that was my official title) and a wise professional gets on board the change wagon.
Lesson 4: Work efficiently but risky.
This can also be phrased as the old adage "a stitch in time saves nine". Both farmers and professionals are racing the clock. Often times while milking I was racing the early arrival time of the milkman making his rounds in his bulk milk truck to pick up our gracious bovines' yields. My tactic was to save steps between cows, make sure I milked the slow milkers first, and plan the clean up at the end to ensure I was out of the milkman's way. Efficiency was tantamount but not to the detriment of the cows or myself - that was a hard one to learn as sometimes in my hurry I would slip on the slick walk and end up upside down in the gutter - losing both time and dignity. Efficiency is still in demand in my workday and I do heed the cautionary tale of the slick walk and a fast pace. Proof read quickly, but proof read well...or you might end up in the gutter. (feeding calves (one pail or two?)
Lesson 5: Happy cows give more milk. Erm... keep your producers happy and healthy.
Whether it was my Dad's calming tones while approaching a skittish heifer or my Mom's heavy hand when doling out extra servings of sweet smelling corn silage, keeping your star producers healthy and happy was a clear goal. Now I find myself on the other end, as the figurative cow, and I see the wisdom of this treatment. When my company promotes wellness, offers benefits and options to keep me engaged and excited in our work, and encourages my growth, I am a happy cow.
Lesson 6: A little marketing never hurt anyone.
When I was eighteen, my parents decided to sell the farm that I grew up on and "retire" to the "city" (move from 15 miles away from the 1,400 populace town center to only 3 miles away from the town center), and while this was crushing to hear, I also understood that it was very important to their futures that the sale go well. It was at this time that I saw my typically humble parents be their own marketers. They found experts to give them advice on an auction and herd sale and shouted it to the world. There was a lot to brag about on that farm, the herd was impeccable, and anyone who came away from the sale with a cow had an excellent addition to their stock. The neighbors knew it, my parents knew it, the buyers knew it. What I realized is that whether you are promoting your brand, your industry, or your self, keep promoting!
Lesson 7: Your industry peers are your best "frenemies"
Wisconsin is America's Dairyland. In the county where I grew up there were (maybe still are) more cows than there are people. When everyone is producing milk, it pays to pay attention to the competition. Both my Mom and Dad are huge proponents of continuing education and even if we had two fresh cows, a broken silo un-loader, and fifteen calves to feed - Dad would do what it took to drive up to his class to hear presentations by agriculture industry experts and talk with neighboring farmers about their strategies. This sharing mentality helped the farming community overall and also allowed Dad to bring home innovative ideas. I see the wisdom of collaborating with industry peers everyday in the corporate world - even when competition is fierce - those who share knowledge end up on top.
Lesson 8: Have a plan.
No business would be successful without a plan, nor is it wise to go through your career without direction. I learned long ago that even small tasks go smoother with a plan. It was a hard lesson to learn from a particularly energetic cow named "Crooked Ear". Yes, I named her. And, yes, she had a crooked ear. She often did not want to come into the barn for milking on warm summer evenings when the pasture was lush and green with food. Instead, she wanted to run around and set a bad example for the other cows. It took me a while to puzzle out her methods of outwitting me (she would hide just beyond a berm in the back of the field) and only a few times did I get to the barn door only to have Dad ask "where's Crooked Ear?" Argh! Back I'd go to the back of the pasture. Finally, I figured out the best way to actually get her to the barn was to bring her in last. That way she got to munch grass longer and I made it to the barn with the whole herd. Happy cows, remember?
9. Being in charge of your schedule can be incredible - but keep a routine
Dairy farming really is a never ending cycle of chores but the silver lining is you can plan WHEN you do those chores. I've been told my grandpa liked a 4 a.m. alarm (or was it 4:30?) to start his milking, whereas my dad preferred a 5:45-6:00 a.m. start. I too appreciate the art of scheduling your own day and have found my "productivity zones". I have also found that I like routine. So do cows. Cows appreciate a set schedule and things run more smoothly when you stick to it - that definitely applies to me and my workday (my similarities to the bovine species seem to be growing.)
Lesson 10: Appreciate the fruits of your labor
We work hard and we play hard. Yes, we would spend sweltering 95+ degree days in the humid haymow, tossing 40 pound bales over our shoulders and shoving them with our knees into the pocket next to the other 1,000 bales we'd shoved that day - but in the night, when the air cooled, we'd light a bonfire and gather around for s'mores and hot dogs, sip cool lemonade and congratulate ourselves on getting the hay in before the big rainstorm expected tomorrow. We need those celebratory bonfires off the farm too. It feels good to pat yourself on the back and recognize the hard work you did. It feels right to acknowledge the time, creativity, and knowledge it took to complete your day's work. Appreciation and celebration, like fresh green hay, makes happy cows.
I miss milking cows nearly every day and am always grateful for the skills and values my parents instilled in me as they serve me well in the business world time and again.
Creative enthusiast, gregarious naturalist, opinionated activist, RYT 200. Amy Kay Czechowicz is completing a poetry challenge for 2018 by posting an original poem daily to this blog!