Just when I thought I couldn’t love my sister ANY more than I already do . . . she went ahead and agreed to write a blog for me this week. Here we go!
You know how people hire life coaches? I would like to be a lazy coach. Do you know someone who can’t slow down? Can’t under-achieve? Can’t just be in their PJ’s for an entire day? I can help them find peace in just sitting in front of a TV. Because, sometimes, I truly believe it is healthy to binge watch an entire season of House of Cards on Netflix in your robe and slippers, comfortably reclined with the shades drawn. Eating and drinking whatever makes you feel good at the moment with absolutely no more thought put into the decision other than that. What makes you feel good at that exact moment. Dishes in the sink? Laundry? No biggie. R-E-L-A-X. Zone the fuck out and not think of anything but what you are watching and putting into your mouth. Total solitude. Total abandonment of all issues. Just some good old fashioned couch potato entertainment. There is plenty of joy in that.
I reckon she’s really tapped into something here. After all, we already have a robust slow food movement and even slow communities are gaining traction across the globe – why not add a slow coach to the list?! Nicky, you truly fill me with JOY!
I had a mini break through last night while continuing to learn proper freestyle swimming. During my previous five attempts or so I found myself gasping for breath during each sideways inhale. Rationally I convinced myself I needed to fill up my lungs to their fullest capacity each time in order to complete three solid strokes before turning my head to the opposite direction and once again opening my mouth as wide as possible to gulp in a full breath of air. This was fraught on many levels. First, the wide panic of my open mouth often consumed not just new air but sea water as well. Also, the undercurrent of panic is never a good energy to have while trying to learn something new. And finally, the repetitive gasping for BIG breaths of air made the entire attempt quite exhausting and I couldn’t make it one full ocean pool length before needing to stop and properly capture my breath.
Last night was different. As I entered the pool I seemed to make it one full length with relative ease. Only after I reached the wall did I think about what I had done differently. Since my chest wasn’t heaving like a fish out of water, I could see that instead of gasping for the fullest breath possible down the lane, I had simply taken a breath after every 3rd stroke. There wasn’t anything remarkable about each breath, only that they delivered the right amount of oxygen to my lungs during each cycle.
Somehow, intuitively, I gave up the struggle and found ease in its place.
Perhaps when life feels hard . . . it shouldn’t be. Maybe we’re just pushing in the wrong direction or simply applying too much force. In yoga they teach the interplay and awareness between effort and grace. Last night I had a small glimpse of that and JOY definitely followed.
Growing up within the decades of a hyper aware Oprah influenced culture, its impossible not to contemplate why we are here and what is our specific life purpose. Bookshelves are filled with experts willing to share their techniques in helping you fulfil your destiny and articulate your purpose. Its a daunting question for most and can often lead to negative thought patterns of not contributing to a noble enough cause. An unfulfilled dream or lack of purpose can be a dangerous backdrop to life. I’ve been through a few of these fleeting stages in my own life. Finding myself navel gazing and contemplating my role in the Universe – challenging myself to do something with real meaning and purpose versus pursuing the career that has brought me great levels of professional success and varying levels of fulfilment.
But recently there’s a growing sense of personal discontent and even slight annoyance with the notion of identifying my purpose in life. Instead, perhaps the WHAT we chose to pursue is infinitely less important than the HOW we conduct ourselves no matter the location, situation or audience.
Surely there are those who choose a grand and admirable WHAT such as saving the whales . . . and yet perhaps they do so with anger and negativity that becomes toxic. Just as surely there are banking clerks who serve with so much levity and kindness that it overflows onto each customer. For me, the HOW we behave and make others feel in our wake has to be more important than our identifiable “WHAT do you do?”
Maybe our real purpose on this planet is to let go of our obsession with WHAT we are doing as a career and instead be aware of HOW we effect each other. Our guiding light could be kindness, compassion or even to be a positive force. Imagine performing every task and greeting every stranger as well as friend with those intentions. For me that sounds like a solid path to JOY.
I’ve never been so bad across so many things at the same time. It all started with the best intention. I’m a self-proclaimed neophiliac and harbor a deep love for all things new. Not in the ‘gosh those new shoes are going to change my life’ sort of way, but more about embracing new experiences. These experiences tend to come along with some dimension of physical challenge. Perhaps my adoration of heroic Evel Kienvel in my childhood has never really subsided.
This drive to try new things has led me to attempt ocean kayaking, freestyle swimming, unicycling, and sailing all within the last 12 months. Its also resulted in endless unexpected mouthfuls of sea water, bruise inducing dismounts and scrapes, crashes into innocent bystanders, and a new appreciation for the speed of Sydney ferries and their right of way status.
I’m a big believer in sinking into a ‘beginner’s mind’. Especially as we get older and excel at both our career and hobbies. Perhaps unknowingly, we tend to seek out things that attract positive reinforcement from both others and ourselves. But the reverse is just as powerful. Knowing that you will fall over. Knowing that you can’t yet swim one full lap in the pool. Knowing that you still can’t remember how to fasten that knot correctly. And also, knowing that we can choose our perspective regarding these mini failures and even tinier steps forward.
Being an absolute beginner offers a certain amount of freedom and letting go of expectations. We have the chance to redefine our own personal meaning of success. Mine currently includes not crashing (as often) and being able to keep up with the very senior swimmers in the pool. It’s a true gift to recognize your own gumption and ability to continue to try, try and try again. And importantly, when we push ourselves outside of our comfort zone, we’re offered endless opportunities to laugh at ourselves!
Humility is a powerful teacher. If we can look at our miniature missteps with levity and kindness . . . well, the ego has no hope of victory. So what the heck, give something new a go. Don’t let fear of embarrassment stop you from finding a new source of JOY.
Its fair to say I’ve seldomly, if ever, been excited about rubbish bags. That’s all changed and it has nothing to do with durability or perfect fit. Instead, these little parcels of purpose have come loaded with an unexpected message of JOY. Waste is such a compelling topic. I believe our world in general has become more disposable. Our greed assumes that resources are limitless. We give things up, pass them by entirely, or convince ourselves that both things and people have expiry dates in our lives. How often do we disregard something that could be uplifting? If we look at something fresh can we find an unexpected layer of beauty? Let’s not waste these precious opportunities to increase our daily dose of JOY. Or at the very least . . . smile while taking out the rubbish!
I love yoga. There is no real surprise in that statement. But with further introspection, its interesting that I tend to narrow my yoga experiences – being drawn towards the most dynamic forms of yoga. Fluid movements that stretch the body and mind and tend to generate a fair amount of heat capture my attention and time. If its full of action and energy I seem to excel and truly thrive on the pace and physical challenges of twisting and turning my body into various asanas – typically held for a series of 5 breaths.
Lately, since I’m focused on physical healing and tuning into my body, I’m working hard to listen to what I truly need . . . and rather surprisingly, the notion of yin yoga continues to surface. After trying to disregard these internal pokes and reminders, I eventually gave in and signed up for a 2 hour yin workshop.
Turning up I had forgotten that yin yoga includes a seemingly unusable amount of props. I was given multiple bolsters, blankets, blocks and pillows. These soft support mechanisms don’t readily equate to yoga in my narrow yang driven mind. But after getting past my fear of drowning in endless props and slowness to the point of stillness, I started to sink in and fully appreciate the surrender of holding asanas in a static state for over 5 minutes each. I experienced a juicy release in several postures that left me feeling quite soft and floating up towards the ceiling. After 2 hours of ‘release’ I left my mat in a loopy euphoric state and it struck me, perhaps its only when we are fully supported can we fully let go and sink into the juiciest chapters of our lives and bodies.
Find your joy and seek out what supports you and your physical health. With it comes the best bits of life I reckon.
We seem to live during a time where achievement is celebrated above all else. I’m a big fan of being productive and certainly believe that goals play a critical role in our self-growth and happiness. But when ticking off a list of achievements starts to creep into your ‘free time’ it might be time to reassess your well being.
I remember my Dad and I talking about one of his attempts to retire from the teaching career he loved. I asked him what he was struggling with most during his self-imposed retirement. He answered,
“the hardest part is doing enough each day to answer Jan’s question at the end of her working day which is always ‘what did you do today?’”
My Dad didn’t suffer from achievement overload, but he did feel the pressure to meet some unspoken expectation of being productive.
Finding the right balance between accomplishing things and just listening to what your body needs in the moment is a big step forward. Perhaps its time to do less and be more.
What if being productive were more selfish? What if we prioritize our own energy levels and mood? Tune in, listen to what the body and soul need and then deliver. Maybe you need to dance around your living room to your favourite tune, head outside and just take pleasure in watching a bird for a very long time or even give in to that temptation to nap.
Nurture yourself. Sink in and listen. Let your measure of productivity be about producing more JOY. After all, its very contagious.