Friday’s Focus—True North

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about intention and surrendering and have been making a more concerted effort to be conscious in my intentions of what I do and say. These two words seemed to be in front of me in enough books and articles I’ve been reading that I started to wonder if it may be more than just a coincidence.

A few weeks ago, we decided to take a much-needed vacation to the Catskills for some down time and just to get away. It took me a couple of days to completely unwind from the harried pace I’ve been existing in, and so early one morning, I decided to just grab a chair and sit on the front porch of the B&B we were staying at. I was trying to release any last residual pre-vacation angst and just let go. As I watched the sunrise and marveled at the beauty of the coming day, I grabbed a journal I brought with me. I wanted to get back to journaling on a regular basis and thought what better time to start again than a vacation?

With all sorts of thoughts in my head and not sure where to begin or what I really wanted to say, I started to write about what was literally in front of me—the two squirrels running around the tree, the sunlight rising over the brook, and the different bird songs I was hearing. I let my pen take me wherever it wanted and soon enough I noticed that two words kept circling the page—“surrender” and “intention”. I felt a tickle of intuition that I was on the cusp of something, and it was but a moment later that I found myself writing the sentence—“Surrender to your intention.” Something deep within me released as I read the sentence over and over. I was stunned by the simplicity. It never occurred to me to connect the two! Once again, I was reminded of the humor and the ways messages can come to us when we need to heed something. No wonder I kept running across these words! I suspected that this was something I needed to pay attention to but it wasn’t until I really stopped and thought about it, that I finally got the message.

Setting an intention and surrendering means being conscious in your thoughts and your speech and in the way you act and react. It’s being mindful in the moment. Discovering your true intention and acting in accordance with it is only a part of it though. To really be in full alignment with yourself, I’ve learned that it needs to be inline with surrendering as well.

When you only surrender, you go with the flow of things and accept the movements and hiccoughs as life’s general “I guess that’s the way things are.” But this can only carry you so far.

By the same token, just working with intention, it, too, will only get you so far. It can certainly help set your sights on where you really want to be and do, but if you still fight those intentions especially unconsciously, and do them grudgingly, the intention is really just surface-based and won’t last long. Being on a diet is a perfect example. Which intention will last longer—dropping those 10 pounds so you’ll look better in your jeans or dropping those 10 pounds to lower your risk of Diabetes?

Each of these things are important enough in their own ways but by putting them together, they become a powerhouse. To honestly live in accordance with the right alignment of your energies and your purpose, you must discover your true intentions in everything you do and surrender to them. Surrendering here does not mean giving in or giving up. You’re surrendering to the story that you’ve been living that may not have been serving you very well or gotten you as far as you want to go. It now becomes about creating a new story—one specific to your vision and your purpose and not anyone else’s. 

When you’re in alignment with the right intention, the shift in personal energy is palpable enough that it would be hard to deny or ignore. In my personal practice, since that morning of journaling discovery,  I’ve found myself almost automatically distanced from my attachments and fears that I had before and the clarity of my perspective on what I thought was important had changed. 

If you’re not moving and living in the direction you deeply and  sincerely desire, finding true intention for your actions and thoughts and finally being able to live them by surrendering to them enables you to create a story that will no longer trap you but will empower you instead. It will help keep you from being caught in your own web.

So how do you start? It’s actually pretty simple. Begin by asking yourself some of the following questions:

What is my intention today?
What is my intention for eating this? For drinking this?
What is my intention when I pray?
What is my intention when I meditate?
What is my intention when I respond to that email?
What is my intention for buying this?

Answering these kinds of questions can be tough and you need to be really honest with yourself. Don’t be afraid to keep digging for the answers—don’t stop at the first answer that pops into your head. Question it again; take it deeper. Once you gain an understanding of what the intention is behind a motivation, surrender to the absolute truth of it and consciously apply it to your actions and thoughts.

Use meditation or simple reflection to help you answer these questions.. Experiment and find what works best for you. Keeping a journal is also a great tool. Let your thoughts come as a stream of consciousness and just write—keeping the pen moving in a doodle or in words. Most of all, don’t edit yourself. It’s there, in that hollow, that you’ll discover your deepest intentions and revelations.

In surrendering to your intentions, you’ll find that there comes a natural realignment of your energies. One that is finally working with your soul’s compass in finding your True North and where you can find your way to where you really want to be and need to be.

#takingitdeeper

Advertisements

Friday’s Focus—Keep Your Monkey to Yourself

Don’t invite other people’s monkey’s to your circus. In other words, don’t let other people’s attitudes affect your day. I woke up early this morning to get some coffee at a local popular cafe, which at 7:20 a.m. was already filling up with tourists. I exchanged a bit of chitchat with the girls behind the counter and moved on to the next table for the milk and lids.

I stayed near the edge of the wall to keep the majority of the table available to the other patrons. As I searched the canisters for the soy milk, I had no idea that this guy had come up on my right and in the 12 inches of space I left between me and the wall, had put his coffee down. It wasn’t until my elbow made contact and I heard a “grff.” that I realized someone was there.

Startled, I looked over and saw that I had knocked this guy’s hand enough to spill a little of the coffee he had, on the table. I quickly gave him a once-over to make sure nothing was spilled on his light-colored clothing (which, thankfully, was not). As I profusely apologized, I caught the micro-moment of annoyance on his face. That nailed me. He was not very friendly about the mishap but brushed it off saying it was alright and reached beyond me for some napkins. I gathered my things and ducked out of the cafe feeling bad and well, like an idiot.

It was not my fault that this guy found the smallest nook to be able to place his coffee’s down without even saying “excuse me” or anything else to alert me that he was there. What happened was exactly why I chose that end of the table and left the rest of the table open and available.

I came to realize that whatever was behind that micro-moment really had nothing to do with me. I don’t know what was going on with him or what monkey’s were in his circus but I was damned if I was going allow his attitude to ruin my day when I really did nothing wrong. It could have been so easy to let this morning’s exchange fester and turn into a full-blown, “I’m such an idiot, I should have known someone was going to try and squeeze into that space,” but I refuse to take on whatever he was dishing out.

I wanted to share this experience in today’s Focus as a reminder that not everyone’s attitude and annoyance have to do with you. Each one of us has our own story and circus, and it’s enough to deal with our own monkey’s without taking on someone else’s.

#takingitdeeper

Friday’s Focus—Just…

Breathe. You took a breath just reading the word “breathe”, didn’t you? Good.

Now do it again, but sit up a little straighter.

That’s right, lower your shoulders from your ears and let your shoulder blades come together slightly as you lift your chin.

On your next inhale, pay attention to the sound the air makes coming in through your nose. Notice the coolness of the air and observe where that air goes. Does it stop at the top of your lungs? At the middle? Bottom? Does it make your belly rise and your chest expand up and out?

Keep inhaling deep until you think you can’t take in anymore.

Then take in one more.
Yes, you can.

And now, part your lips slightly and purse them as if you were ready to whistle or blow out a candle
and exhale

S

L

O

W

L

Y.

Continue reading

Friday’s Focus—What’s Eating You? Our Habits Have Become a Bad Habit

Two and half hours of my life I’ll never get back. That’s what happened last week taking my mother to the cardiologist. The waiting room was about the size of my home (yes I live in a small house but bigger than a tiny house!). Scattered throughout the room were brown leather sofas and chairs. The leather furniture certainly raised an eyebrow and the large flat-screen TV mounted in the corner of the room raised the other one. What made my draw drop, however, was that the movie Patriot Games starring Harrison Ford was on. I knew I was in trouble if a doctor was playing full-length feature movies in his waiting room.

Disconcerting as all that was, what made it worse for me was during the entire two plus hours spent in the waiting room, the people who were there had changed but the number of available seats had not. As soon as someone got called in to see the doctor, someone new walked through the front door. I started to wonder if there was a line in the hallway and a neon sign blinking “Next” as soon as there was an empty seat in the doctor’s “theater.”

I’ve never seen so many people gathered in a waiting room before. Without much else to do, I looked around and became riveted by what I saw. Regardless of size, sex, or color, it was clear that these people were not healthy. For some, it was their pallor that gave them away; for others it was the slow shuffle as they were bent over their walker; and others it was just their body shape and overall demeanor. I felt like I was looking at a slice of America and what I saw really disturbed me. We are not a healthy nation.

There’s a constant debate over food and whether it’s organic versus local versus GMO versus cold-pressed versus hydroponic versus whatever else you want it to be. The micro-splitting of what’s coming from where and what may have been in the raindrop that fell on it as it grew is becoming exhausting, and to be honest, a little boring. Of course, I care about the food I eat and the naturalness of it but as the same arguments rage on, I think we are going too far in the wrong direction—we are overly concerned and obsessed over what’s in our foods and the type of foods we put in our bodies rather than what we do with our bodies once the food is in there.

We are a health-obsessed nation and yet our health is still declining because we are a nation not on the move. We are still a sedentary bunch in our cars, our jobs, our evening television watching. Many of us are not eating from our stomachs anymore—we’re eating from our heads and our emotions. I love food as much as the next person, but I think we’ve made food a pastime. Eating is no longer something we do because we’re hungry but it is something we do when we’re bored, upset, angry, happy, celebrating or saying good-bye. Eating has become an event.

We can eat as healthy as we want but if we don’t use our bodies for even the token minimally suggested 30 minutes a day, our sedentariness can be just as deadly as if you ate a full-on “I don’t care what’s it in, just give me more” meal. I really believe it’s this static lifestyle that has become the larger contributing factor to standing room only specialist waiting rooms. If what I saw was only in a cardiologist’s office, I can’t help but wonder how often this scene is replayed in the waiting rooms of  gastrointestinal,  pulmonary, and rheumatology doctor offices.

Our bodies seem to be morphing into softer, rounder shapes than ever before. Look around and you can see how the average person’s body shape has changed. Even people who are not overweight have a changed shape—shoulders are little rounded, neck is bent forward, posture is stooped. There’s more accumulation of softness around the belly area than ever before for both men and women.

The fact that our habits are killing us is nothing new. Being with all those people in the waiting room that day, and hearing the coughs, the wheezes, the heavy breathing I knew that the cardiologists behind those closed doors are going to take their vitals, ask them how they’re doing and refill a prescription. To have a waiting room full of people who are sick due to colds, the flu, or some other kind of virus or malady is one thing but to have a waiting room full of patients who are clearly ill and some who have trouble walking let alone breathing, be there due to preventable issues was unsettling.

Yes, I am generalizing here. I don’t know the history of each person that was sitting there and yes, there are circumstances unique to each individual but I simply do not believe that every one of those people’s issues started out as life-threatening. Cardiovascular diseases can be controlled and prevented. Not everything can be blamed on genetics. It’s the combination of what we do and what we don’t do that is so deadly—food, cigarettes, sitting. This combo is lethal but also preventable. Believe me, today’s Focus is a result of my own struggles and observations—in my life I’ve smoked, drank, eaten when I’m not hungry, and chosen parking spaces closest to the store because I didn’t feel like walking far. Been there and done all that, so believe me when I say I’m not here pointing my finger without knowing full well that there are three fingers pointing right back at me!

The preventability of illness and general malaise never seemed as apparent as it did from that afternoon in the waiting room. Yes, those were two and half hours of my life I will never get back, but I have also spent two and half hours in front of the computer; in my car; watching television that I will never get back either. What about that time? Does that loss of time make it less offensive because I was doing something I enjoyed? Was it only because I was in a place that was not the result of something from my own pleasure did I feel resentment about?

We live at the whim of our own hand and we are becoming victims of our own lifestyle. But to say we’re victims indicates that we have no choice, that our unhealthiness was put upon us by outside forces and to some that may be true—up to a point, but it’s not true for all.

We can read as many diet books and articles on health as we want and it’s terribly easy to say that we will eat better and move more but somehow we always end up starting tomorrow. It took a lot of tomorrow’s for all those people at the cardiologist’s office to get to where they were that day. Don’t wait.

Today’s Friday Focus is about letting today be your tomorrow and changing the full-length movie showings in doctor waiting rooms to 60-second sound bytes instead.

#takingitdeeper

Careers Are a Thing of the Past

I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t believe in careers anymore. I’m beginning to think that having a career is a holdover of a generation that seems to end with mine. Our workforce has become a series of jobs—short-term things we do to earn money versus the pursuit of a career which is basically a longer-term role of employment. A job is not a career. Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines a career as “a profession followed as a permanent occupation”. It doesn’t take much to notice that there aren’t many permanent or long-term positions anymore. I’ve seen too many people lose their jobs due to corporate restructuring and the reduction of staffs based on economically-driven decisions. I’m not blaming the businesses for this turn. As a matter of fact, looking at these workforce changes from a business perspective, it makes dollar sense.

The people I know who still hold a career is really a career in name only. Careers these days have been watered down, twisted, and shaped into something completely foreign to what people had originally intended to work at when they first entered the workforce. I find this sad.

Today’s college graduates are filling out applications for jobs that having nothing in common with the degree framed on their wall. There are many paths one can take to be employed, but the hiring and the duration of the job seems to be at the whim of whatever the economy dictates can be most beneficial to the advancement of the stakeholder’s pocket. Economics 101? Of course.

For those who do end up on a payroll, they are given responsibilities, which they have not been trained for, or are trained poorly, and are showing up each day on jobs because of the need for health insurance and rent and food money. In the meantime, being soul crushing in all other aspects of their personality.

I’ve even found myself in a work environment that turned out to be completely different from what I had started in. I’ve been working within the same industry for over 25 years but my roles have changed dramatically as prescribed by the changing focus of the companies within my industry. If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have set myself up in education and training to be in a role that has pigeon-holed me and made me all but obsolete. I’ve come to fully accept that I no longer have a career, but rather it’s just a job. One that pays the bills.

People tell me that I should be happy with that. “At least you have a job.” Yes, of course, I am grateful to be employed. But it’s not the same terms of employment that I grew up thinking they would be.

Careers used to be something you aspired to. You went to school to train for it. You interned at a company to get a deeper level of hands-on experience. These things have all gone the way of Mad Men, and in its stead, there are generations of people who have had to turn in their careers for whatever jobs were available, making the best of a situation nobody prepared us for and different from what our parents told us our future would be. Whether we want to or not, current economic climate has made each one of us stand on the cusp of a new way on how to make life better for ourselves.

Our self-worth and identity are very much wrapped into our employment roles as functioning adults in society, contributing our part of paving the American Way. We will always need food and shelter and to provide for ourselves and our families and losing the idea of having a career can be a big adjustment not just for our lifestyle but how we see ourselves.

All that you knew and worked for are no longer available. The rules have changed and are as fluid as they need to be to keep the corporate shareholders afloat. In a way, this can be a blessing in disguise. It’s human nature to seek ways to pursue our happiness and maybe, as our workforce culture has changed with intensified job responsibilities and increased pressure, it is forcing each one of us to reevaluate what our goals are and what we really want our personal energies to feed.

In our discomfort of the modern-day 9-5 we are recreating a culture that though we may no longer have the careers we were promised in our youth, the jobs we hold can continue to take up a corner of our existence but also allow us a way to start thinking out of the box and find talents and desires within ourselves that either weren’t available before or we were never in a position to have to think along that path.

In Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken”, he talks about finding two roads in the woods and trying to decide which road to take. Suspecting he will only have one chance at making the choice, he understands that things have a way of leading to other things and he may not find his way back, he chose the road less traveled, which had made all the difference.

How many of us have traveled the road of anticipated careers and our education? We were so sure we could always come back to walk the other road, but somehow never did because we got caught up in our career. For many of us, we may find ourselves back to that fork in the road, whether from our own hand or that of our employer’s. It can be an opportunity, a second chance to take that road less traveled, and see where it leads.

I don’t think my grandson will ever know the same definition of “career” that I knew growing up and who knows what the workforce will even look like when he’s ready? His will be a whole new generation and the rules will probably change for him, too. I think that the closing of the doors on careers as we know it is jolting but it doesn’t have to be immobilizing. Maybe the window that it opens is one that is more important—having a job but also being able to pursue a more rewarding and richer path and one that we can walk this time with a poet beside us.