The Final Exam

Posted Posted in Breathe Yoga Newsletter, Client/Friend Stories

A friend of mine wrote a beautiful, insightful, and very true post on Facebook not long ago, talking about how sometimes things happen that would’ve triggered her with a strong reaction in the past, and she’s noticed that they don’t anymore. And she’s thinking something like, “Wow this is awesome, but when did I graduate from this lesson?? I really am growing!” So cool… And that friend, by the way, is Tara Taylor, one of the owners and teachers at Breathe Yoga & Wellness, where I work.

The post went like this: “The ‘final exam’ for many of my life lessons seems to be given after the Graduation I never knew I had…. Sometimes I find myself in situations that in the past would have caused a whole storm of anxiety, self-doubt, or stuckness; only to realize that instead I’m completely amused, open, and accepting of exactly what is. At those moments, I think: ‘Holy Sh*t! I’m a completely different person.’ I know. We change. We grow. We evolve. But sometimes, it sneaks up on me. And it’s a really, really pleasant surprise.”

Bam! Isn’t that awesome?? So true, too. Exchanging a storm of “anxiety, self-doubt, and stuckness” for a feeling that is “completely amused, open and accepting of exactly what is” sounds like a GREAT plan to me. I’ve written before about the idea of “measuring sticks,” which are things (people, situations, etc.) that have triggered us in the past. The holidays are a great example. Or certain people in your life that you feel triggered by. Or your job, or certain aspects of your job. Or co-workers. The idea is that you are now owning your feelings and your experience, so you actually look forward to these things. You’re thinking might be sort of like this: “Okay, this has sucked in the past and has been a total buzz saw, but I’m owning it and I’m going back in! I’m in charge of how I feel and I’m determined to not be so triggered by this! It’s on me, and this is how I learn! I’m going to figure this out!” And over time, you might see that your emotional reaction is less and less.

These are more conscious, though. What Tara is talking about is not, and that’s why it’s so cool. You didn’t even know that you’ve transcended or outgrown this or that, which used to trigger you. And then it happens and it’s not even a big deal. And you might not even notice that it wasn’t a big deal until way later! And then the insight comes in, the remembrance that this same thing used to be a very different experience for you. And wow, awesome feelings arise in your body as you see it all. And you might think, “Even when things are up and down, even when I feel clueless or don’t feel so hot, even when things aren’t “perfect,” I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I’m headed in the right direction. Wow, that feels really, really good (stop and breathe in that awesome feeling). I am coming more and more to peace, I really am. It’s working.”

Let’s take a more specific look at the measuring sticks, since we’re more aware of these ahead of time. You have a desire to figure it out, overcome it, transcend, etc. And you’re really open and just really curious about what’s going on inside of YOU to be so triggered. Curiosity instead of judgment. Because remember – another person or situation doesn’t have the power to create a feeling in your body; it just doesn’t work that way. Your feeling comes from you and how you see things. Most of it is unconscious, too, so that’s why we use the ingenious guidance system of the body and then ask questions. “Why do I get triggered when this happens? Hmm, let me ponder that…” And I’m doing it with my good voice (built-in wisdom/common sense) rather than that conditioned critical voice that tends to speak first and loudest; I’m just not listening to that anymore. And this is important – I’m not in a rush; I’m letting things unfold naturally. You might sort of “breathe with” a question, repeating it like a mantra: “Why does this trigger me? Hmm… Why on earth would this trigger me? Interesting… I wonder what it specifically is about this that triggers me?” All of that was said very s-l-o-w-l-y, breathing and opening the body in between statements. The body is totally relaxed.

And here’s a big one – there’s no judgment, as if something were wrong. Because nothing is wrong. In fact, if I’m taking an honest look at what’s going on in my mind and body, then everything is right! Because I’m finally starting to look and see, whereas for the rest of my life until now it’s been unconscious. So I’m 100% curious, no different than if I’m pondering, “Why is the sky blue? Hmm, let me think about that… What could be the reason…” I know the idea of no judgment might sound impossible, by the way, but like everything else we talk about here at A Clean Mind, you gently practice it. And cut yourself some slack! Because is it easy to change a lifelong pattern of judging the living sh*t out of yourself and everything else?? Umm, nope. Big nope. So go easy on yourself. Be your own best friend and supporter. Or at the very least, give that a try. For two weeks or a month to start! After all, you just might like it…

Can you feel the higher quality of how we’re doing things? Much different than the inner critic that demands an answer yesterday. Open up and breathe with it, and the answer will come when it’s ready. That’s just how it works. You start to see what’s going on behind the scenes of your mind. Maybe a person is bossy, and it drives you crazy. And the insight might pop in that that’s something you hate about yourself. So what’s the answer? To forgive yourself, or to begin to forgive yourself, and then to gently practice not being that way so much. Try to dial it back ten or twenty percent to start. Or one percent! That’s a step in the right direction. And this is important, you’re loving yourself the whole time and not saying “I suck, I suck” all day long. Because let’s face it, that hasn’t worked. It didn’t work for me, anyway…

When you’re living this way, you’ll inevitably start to have times like Tara described when things happen that used to be a big deal and you see they’re just not anymore. It’s because you’re paying attention. You’re trying. You’re putting forth some effort. You’re not being a slave driver, though. Instead, you’re being relaxed and open and loving towards yourself. Because it works faster that way. And by the way, I was not born this way! Not even close. So if I can have some progress in this department, anyone can. You can take that to the bank. So embrace these measuring sticks, and also be on the lookout for the times that Tara is talking about when it just sort of happens and then you notice later. And when you see it, rejoice! For it is very much worth rejoicing. Because you see that the data is in, the results are in, and you know what? You’re growing. That’s a fact. And that’s a really, really pleasant surprise.

They’re Probably Not An A**hole

Posted Posted in My Stories, Other Cool Topics

I was driving around town the other day and almost witnessed a car accident. It was pretty wild, almost like slow motion in a way. I was coming to a light and there was a car to my left. There was nobody in front of us, so we were the first cars coming to the light. It was green, and then it turned yellow, so I started to brake. We were still a good ways away from the light when it turned yellow, so there was no need to slam on the brakes or anything like that. Very relaxed. Except that the other car did not brake at all… It was immediately apparent that s/he didn’t even see the light! The driver was still driving at a normal speed, as if there were no light up ahead. And this would’ve been fine except that the cars that had been waiting at the red light now had a green light and were ready to go.

I was stopped by now, watching it all. There was a line of cars to my right, and their red light had just turned green when our green light turned red. So the first car hit the gas to go through the light. And it was headed right at the car that had been driving next to me. I really need a diagram and it would be super simple, but basically I was witnessing a 90-degree collision in slow motion. I stayed present and pretty much just watched it, sending some good juju at the same time. But in a very relaxed, detached way. What else could I do? And this felt natural. Well, the first car finally realized what was happening and hit the brakes. And the other car realized they were about to hit this one that had screwed up, so they hit the brakes, too. And they came about a foot from hitting each other. And here’s where it gets interesting for us, since we like to take a closer look at the things that happen in life…

At this point, these two drivers are staring at each other, stopped in the middle of this intersection, totally shocked. I mean, ‘shocked’ is the word. There must’ve been lots of adrenalin pumping as well, because they came really close to hitting each other. And the first one was totally at fault. That driver finally hit the gas and went on through the intersection to safety, and traffic resumed as normal. I was watching the second driver, though, and he looked really angry. That’s how lots of people would have felt had that just happened. Hey, it was scary! Many people would yell at the person and call them nasty names, like “You a**hole!” Is that person really an a**hole, though? Let’s pause for a moment and think about that.

~Pausing for a moment to think about that~

When I really, really, really think about it, the answer is… I have absolutely no idea if that person is an a**hole or not! I do know, however, that if that person is an a**hole then there’s no way I can know it from this incident alone. Does that make sense? Because it’s very important, and it’s also true. And it might be the kind of thing where you see how you make assumptions about strangers in other areas of your life, too. And you are perfectly free to make any assumptions you want! I’ve noticed, though, that when I go around assuming that other people are bad people – as opposed to a driver that just screwed up really badly – then I tend to not have as good a day. I’m just not as happy. I’m not as at peace.

Let’s get back to that driver that didn’t notice the light. This person could be the worst driver ever. That could be totally true! And this person could be a really bad person as well. In fact, this person could be the worst human on earth. But what else could be true? Have you ever screwed up while driving in such a way that it could’ve been really bad, but it wasn’t? And it was more of a bad moment, a mistake that wasn’t characteristic of how you normally drive? I have. And I’ll bet you have, too. This could’ve been the only time that driver had ever not noticed a light. The driver could’ve just gotten the news of cancer in the body, or that a loved one had just died. This driver could’ve had a gun shot in the stomach and was driving to the hospital. I have no idea. If you really think about it, though, I don’t think a**hole fits.

And just to really make it clear, you are free to call them whatever you like! And you are free to think of them in any way that you choose. It is a choice, though. It’s not reality that I have to assume they’re actually a bad person and then carry that with me for the rest of the day. And I’ve noticed with myself and with clients that when we ditch that extra part, that a**hole assumption, then we tend to be more at peace. We feel better. And then we look back at our lives and see all the energy we used to put into being mad at these other people, these strangers that we probably never even saw again! Why not just stay present and deal with the situation without all the judgmental baggage? You’ll be a better driver, that’s for sure. If a car is in front of me and they’re not supposed to be, then I want to be as present as possible to hit the brakes. And then I want to leave that situation behind so I can have the most awesome day possible. Carrying around the story of, “Can you believe this a**hole on the road earlier today?” is generally not the best way to have an awesome day. Leave it behind! And if the wreck did not occur, then remember that in reality, nothing happened. And that’s very good news.

So play with this, folks, and give it some thought. Many of my readers have been there and done that as far as getting angry on the road goes. They just gave up at some point, and they’ve noticed that their lives are much more peaceful now. And many have not! And that’s 100%fine. You are the customer of your life. For those that are still playing the game, own it and have fun. You are not being judged here, not one bit. This is just a simple invitation to take a closer look, that’s all. We are getting more and more curious, folks, about ourselves. “Why do I really react so strongly when this happens? Interesting… Let take an innocent look at that.” Most of us say they react this way on the road because these idiots can’t drive very well and it’s dangerous. So again, it’s reality that when such and such happens, I have to get super angry. Well, that’s victim thinking and it’s a painful way to live. I am responsible for how I feel. I am the source of it. When we look closely, as we do here, we start to see that we actually have more choice in the matter than we thought. And that’s a very, very good thing. So happy driving, living, looking, noticing, etc. And as always, let me know if I can help.


Posted Posted in Other Cool Topics

We talk a lot here at A Clean Mind about the fact – fact?? – that we basically have two voices to listen to. And only one of them is the real you. And it is wise, compassionate, intelligent, and for the most part quiet. It tends to just stick to the facts much of the time. And it’s always there, but sometimes we have to consciously ask its opinion and then consciously listen. Because it’s usually not trying to talk first or loudest. And by the way, many people talk about lots of different voices going on in their head. To me they’re all lumped into the one that’s the real you or the one that’s not. The conditioned ego voice can sounds like different ones, though, just like a diamond (or a piece of coal) has many facets. But it’s still either the conditioned ego voice or it’s the real you that’s been there the whole time. Two choices – just makes it more simple.

Today I’d like to talk about one of the things that our good voice, our wisdom or common sense, sometimes does, and that’s normalize how we are feeling. If I’ve just received some sad or upsetting news and I feel bad, my chatterbox could have a field day with it. And of course that gets the feeling stuck and actually makes it worse. But what if I were to ask my wisdom about this feeling? It might say something like, “No kidding dude – you just received some distressing news. How could you not feel this way? But I love you, and I am here to guide you through this. Relax and do your best and the feeling will pass at the right time.”

I can’t tell you how much this alone helps people. When people realize that how they’re feeling is actually normal under the circumstances, they sort of say, “Oh. Okay. Wow. I guess it’s not a problem, then. I guess there’s not something wrong with me.” And then the feeling is able to move when it’s ready. And their mind isn’t focused on it anymore, which means they’re free to respond to the situation in the best possible manner. So cool.

This might sound overly simple, but check it out. See if sometimes you make a totally normal feeling worse by judging it. See if you can ask your wisdom about that same feeling instead. And see if your wisdom doesn’t normalize the feeling. And finally, see if you don’t feel some space, some okay-ness, after this realization. The feeling might actually move! And if not, it probably won’t be as big a deal. People find lots of relief when they see that how they are feeling is totally normal and okay (even if it’s not fun at the time). It’s just part of the deal on earth sometimes.

Also note that this is kind of like the recent blog posts about judging our judgments here and then here. That secondary judgment is the real culprit as far as our pain and discontent goes. We really are scientists studying ourselves and our tendencies and patterns, people! And with total curiosity, not judgment. Feel the power! This is exciting. I had the best session recently, too, uncovering this same sort of stuff. It’s so cool when people, myself included, start to see it for the first time. Love it…

So there you go folks, let this idea of normalization sit with you for a bit and see if it can’t bring about some more peace into your life. It’s a big part of grief counseling, as an example. We can feel so crazy after a loved one dies, with all flavors of emotions coming and going in no certain order. Yep, that’s normal for grief. A person might say they were looking for their car keys for an hour and then found them in the refrigerator, and they had never done that before. Yep, that’s normal for grief. When these people hear that what they’re experiencing is actually normal, they just sort of get okay with it. They’re not making that secondary, self-created problem. They know that they’re not doing anything wrong. In fact, they are totally normal under the circumstances. When they realize this, those feelings can flow faster and then the person will come to healing and acceptance much more quickly. So we’re just taking this idea of normalization and extending it out into the rest of our lives in case it can help us to be more at peace. So happy practicing, and as always, let me know if I can help!