Chopra quote about intentionLast week, I tried something new–setting an intention for the day. I pulled out my “positivity notebook” and on a clean sheet of paper, I wrote “What is my purpose today?” I did this two days in a row.

I scribbled the first few things that came to my mind. Starting my days in this way changed something in my mindset, which changed my entire morning. I admit, I’ve been known to start my mornings in a frenzied, negative state of mind, where the littlest thing that goes wrong can set off a bomb in my brain. But not that day, and not the next day either.

What is an intention? According to this article in Yoga Journal, it is:

…not oriented toward a future outcome. Instead, it is a path or practice that is focused on how you are ‘being’ in the present moment. Your attention is on the ever-present ‘now’ in the constantly changing flow of life. You set your intentions based on understanding what matters most to you and make a commitment to align your worldly actions with your inner values.

I flipped back to my intentions once or twice to remind myself of them before setting about doing the things I had planned for my day. The short list helped me focus on the present moment. I asked myself throughout the day, am I honoring my intentions right now?

Even a single moment spent intentionally can reset a downward spiral into emotional mind. I struggle with my emotions–I let them control me–all the time. I’m working on it, believe me. Intention setting is a new tool for me. It helped me go about my day a bit more mindfully.

I googled “setting intentions” before I sat down to write this post. Huffington Post, of course, had many posts related to this topic. According to this one:

Starting your day with an intention will leave you willing and available to say ‘no’ to what is not serving you in your life.

As a people pleaser and a yes woman, this idea intrigues and calls to me. I understand that I need to say no to more in order to feel less stressed and more relaxed, and to have more time to explore the things that make me feel good (to say yes to more).

Do you set intentions each morning? If so, how does it affect your day?

 

My favorite pose so far.

My favorite pose so far.

The first time I tried yoga, I was in college, around age 19, and I had the completely wrong idea about it. My friend and I bought a 10-class pass for just under $100 (what was I thinking, and how did I afford this on a college kid’s budget?!) to a yoga studio just inconveniently located to my apartment. We bought yoga mats, and we showed up to our first class early. I remember an awful lot of chanting, which of course made us giggle nonstop. He farted a lot during class, which made us giggle more. We never ever went back.

I tried yoga DVDs at home, but I never felt like I knew what I was doing. I also thought yoga would help me get into shape and burn calories and be some super skinny bendy girl. I was looking at it all wrong.

Over the next decade and a half, I tried it at home a few more times, never liking it well enough to practice regularly or attempt another class. It felt like a waste of my precious, scarce time. I couldn’t settle my mind enough to relax during yoga. And surely, I erroneously thought, if I wasn’t breaking a sweat, it couldn’t be that good for my body! I fell in love with pilates and walking instead.

Recently, I started taking a class that focuses on balance skills (I’ve mentioned it here and here and here), which kicked off with 4 weeks on mindfulness–something I’d been dabbling in for a little while already. And then I felt opened up to trying yoga again, when a new studio sprung up a block and a half from my house.

I thought, I’m 36, stressed out, and in desperate need of something to challenge and excite me. Why not yoga? It had been at least 5 years since I last tried it, and let’s face it, it’s been a rough 5 years (parenthood, while the best gift of my entire life, has had its challenges, to put it vaguely).

After my first beginner’s class, I felt a twinge, the slightest spark, of “Hey, I actually feel kind of relaxed, and like maybe I’ll go back. Interesting….”

I did go back, but mostly because I instantly felt a connection with the owner/teacher. She made me laugh, which is something I didn’t think was “allowed” during yoga. And she reinforced some of the concepts I was learning in my balance skills class, such as breath work/breathing. (I used to also hate to focus on my breathing, about as much as I hated yoga.)

Last night, I took my seventh class, and I started to cry during Savasana while the teacher read a beautiful quote about loving the child within. I know this might sound cheesy, but I felt like I released some of the pent-up negative emotion that had been eating away at my insides for so long. Let’s not get carried away–there’s still plenty of that left, I know! But I suspect yoga is the thing I needed to help me find a release for it.

On the walk to my car, I texted a friend who has practiced yoga for years: “Serious and embarrassing question: Is it ‘normal’ to feel on the verge of crying during yoga?” Her response began with “Um, YEAH!” and then explained a little bit about the emotional and physiologic effects of yoga. Another friend shared this Yoga Journal article, Emotions in Motion, with me.

When I read that, I wished I’d seen it sooner, because it gave advice about what to do to help you cope should you experience a breakthrough on the mat. Here’s what I did: Panic! Open my eyes, scan the room to see who might have noticed the tear rolling down my cheek. Nobody? Whew! Wipe the tear away and get back to what I was doing. Thoughts racing. Make them stop! I cannot cry in front of these strangers! Stop, stop, stop or I can never come back again!

And then I remembered all the different breathing exercises I’ve learned in the balance skills class and in yoga, and I began to focus on my breath again.

The strangest thing happened on the drive home from class last night–I felt happy. Not the kind of happy I was when I began the day with a cupcake for breakfast, either. I felt happiness in my heart. I haven’t felt that light in a very long time. I cried and laughed and sang in the car.

It’s because of yoga, isn’t it? I wonder what the 19-year-old me would think of the 36-year-old me.

 

photo by: kaibara87
He looks like a fixer. Arms crossed tightly, closed off to the story and probably already planning the action!

He looks like a fixer. Arms crossed tightly, closed off to the story and probably already planning the action!

I am a fixer. Until recently, I said those words proudly when someone came to me with a problem. I saw this as a sign of strength, compassion, ambition, and love. In my mind, wanting to fix someone’s problem meant I love them and want them to be happy.

But now? Now I say it in a completely different tone of voice, apologetic even. Now I see it altogether differently.

I’m enrolled in a 12-week balance skills (focusing on mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness) group, and I’m learning a lot there. I’ve learned at least 4 breathing techniques to help me dial down my emotions (particularly anxiety), and I’ve fallen in love with 4-7-8 breathing. I’ve learned the difference between willingness and willfulness. I’ve become more mindful in my everyday life. I’ve learned so much more, but the biggest lesson so far is that sometimes the Universe actually DOES give me what I need exactly when I need it. And this week, I finally realized that trying to fix people’s situations (ok, and my own) is actually problematic for a number of reasons! It’s like the Universe taught me this lesson many times over the past few days, and now I’m writing it down to hold myself accountable.

First, fixing is willful. It’s crossing your arms tightly in front of you and not accepting reality. An important piece to acceptance is giving up the fight. Not fighting a situation helps us to tolerate it (the distress) better. According to Marsha Linehan, “Freedom from suffering requires ACCEPTANCE from deep within of what is. Let yourself go competely with what is.” Fixing is stubborn, unyielding.

Fixing is saying “You are not good enough as you currently are.” In another moment of synchronicity this week, my friend Story shared a Momastery blog post with me, Our Sacred Scared- Day One. I practiced pausing and listening, and then I clicked through to the message. I’m new to Momastery, but immediately after reading this post, I subscribed to the blog and I’m looking forward to reading more about Our Sacred Scared. Here is the piece of that post that resonated most with me on my new journey to stop fixing, but I encourage you to head over there and read the example that follows this:

When someone lets you into her Sacred Scared – she is showing you her messy insides NOT because she wants you to fix it, but because she trusts you enough to let you know the real, true her.

Sometimes, fixing is not listening with our full effort and best intention. What do people generally want? We want to be seen and heard. Sometimes all we want is a “me too.” As a fixer, it sometimes is hard for me to pause and listen because my brain is going, going, going, devising a plan to solve the problem (sometimes even while the other person is still talking!), make the unpleasant situation go away, and generate happiness for my loved one.

Fixing is also frustrating–it can be for both the fixer and the fixee. The fixer may become upset that the fixee isn’t receptive (enough) to the plan for action or seems to choose to wallow, and the fixee may be offended by the attempt at fixing when maybe all he or she really needed in this moment was to be understood.

Going forward with the things I’ve learned about acceptance, I’m going to practice not fixing but listening, understanding, and accepting. Will you join me?

photo by: Forest Runner

20140215-113420.jpgI’ve had some nasty virus since Thursday, so forgive me for being a day late on choosing the winner of the Valkee 2 light therapy headset. Because I’ve been stuck on my couch, bored out of my mind, I wanted to make the giveaway a little more fun (for me), so I opted to draw the winner by hand, rather than the usual method of using random.org.

I wrote each commenter’s name on a slip of paper so that, for example, if a person entered four times, they got four slips of paper tossed into the bowl. You can see the process in the photo above.

Then I asked Jax to help by mixing the paper slips around and then choosing one. We made a video, and if you watch it, you’ll see who our lucky winner is! The winner should expect an email over the weekend with more details.

Thank you to all who entered! And a huge thank you to Valkee for being so generous and also for being such a great company to work with! It truly has been a pleasure, and I’ll continue to recommend the Valkee 2!

Without further ado:

 

This is what’s clogging up my brainspace this week:

Take that, Valentine's Day!

Take that, Valentine’s Day!

Another snowstorm’s coming, with up to a foot of snow being discussed at the time of this writing. Must stock junk food. But why? I don’t even eat junk food usually! Something about snow just screams cookies to me. Can you relate?

I’m thinking about journaling again, and really holding myself to spending 5 minutes every single day writing down my thoughts and feelings in an effort to help me sort them out. But of course I worry about privacy issues. I’ve had my journals read by people I trusted, and it was somewhat traumatic. So today I found myself googling “privacy issues with journaling” and reading about some options for keeing my thoughts private. Something that resonated with me (because I’m guilty of this) was advice that if you’re censoring yourself in your writing because you’re afraid of who may read it, you’re just wasting your time and not getting the full effect of journaling. Do you journal? If so, is privacy a concern?

My dad is having heart surgery this week. I plan to take the day off from work and hang at the hospital with my mom, keeping her company and keeping things light as we wait for updates. But that snowstorm is supposed to happen on the same day, and since schools will likely be cancelled, I think my new plan will consist of maintaining my sanity at home with an energetic 4-year-old while waiting for updates from my mom, also while attempting to complete a full day’s work from home. Working from home is hard most times, although sometimes we nail it. I wrestle with balancing my work with my son’s constant requests to play, and there is often a lot of guilt that comes along with telling him I can’t play until I get some things done. It will be a challenging day, to say the least. If you know any snow dances–the kind that would push this storm far off the coast, perhaps–please do them now! I’m also accepting thoughts & prayers for my dad and any work-from-home advice you’ve got!

Valentine’s Day. Sigh. Someone very important to me died on the night of February 13th, ten years ago this year. I can’t help but associate the day with my grief. His death triggered my anxiety in a way I’d never experienced it before. I remember that Valentine’s Day like it happened yesterday. I sat in a Japanese steakhouse, picking at my sushi, pretending to be OK as I celebrated my first Valentine’s Day with my now-husband. I secretly didn’t want to be there, which made me feel badly. I wanted to be with my family, or alone to cry and grieve. That was the first time Valentine’s Day felt fake to me, and I can’t help but carry that with me all these years later. There’s too much pressure. I have a list of people I’d wanted to buy or make things for, but it’s already Tuesday and I’m out of time. I sure hope Valentine’s tweets instead of treats are acceptable! And I’d like to find time to grab some new Legos for Jax for his special treat, in lieu of candy, since his life revolves around Legos right now. I still have to help Jax write out one set of valentines for his pre-K class (their party is tomorrow) and one set for his daycare class (their party is Friday), and I have to provide healthy snacks for both…on top of all the other things I have to do this week! This is only my first year with a kid–one child!–in school. I don’t know how parents juggle it all!

I feel like if I make it to Saturday without losing my mind, I owe myself the biggest glass of wine, the longest bubble bath, and other mega self-care.

If you’ve made it this far into this post, you deserve a glass of wine, too! ;)

I just needed to put all that out there so maybe some of it would get out of my head for a little while. Ahhhh. Thanks for reading.

p.s. Have you entered my Valkee 2 giveaway yet? I’m choosing a winner on Valentine’s Day (well, evening). Maybe you’ll get lucky on Valentine’s Day afterall!  ;)

photo by: andertoons