Sunday, January 18, 2015

Paws... I mean Pause to Find Balance

The command is 'leave it'.  Hobbes knows that he can't move and he can't try to eat the biscuits as I place them on his snout when I tell him to 'leave it'. When I say 'okay', he can drop his nose and finally try and catch the falling biscuits. He is usually successful catching at least one biscuit before it hits the floor. He does not keep score.

As I placed each biscuit on his nose, I couldn't help but think about how there must be a life coaching message in this.  I am always looking for the poetry, I guess.  He stayed really still, he listened carefully to the command, he stayed focused on my voice. I feel pretty sure that Hobbes was not concerned by any thoughts of 'what if I can't do what she wants?' or 'I have to do this perfectly' or 'I have to pee'.  He balanced 3 biscuits for about 60 seconds and we called it a success. I even took his picture!

Good boy! Hobbes was able to balance the biscuits on his nose simply by concentrating on the task with laser focus on the treats .  How many of us can make this same claim to fame and balance 3 things on our nose in exchange for treats? Actually, we balance way more than 3 things, not on our nose, but on any given day in the pursuit of something we want. Some of us, though, balance things more elegantly, or more simply, then others. So lets think about this.  He was focused or at least he didn't seem to be effected by the silly antics of my other dog. His mind appeared clear of clutter (because animals don't hold on to thoughts and emotions the way we do). He wasn't concerned about a score, or reaching perfection nor did he attach to any particular result that I know of except to get to the biscuits.  He didn't appear to be struggling with any limiting beliefs about his ability and in the end he appeared happy with the outcome as I assumed he would be since he's practiced this before.

So Hobbes has reminded me of some of the steps that people take when trying to achieve success and balance. The most elegantly balanced among us, know about the pause and that pausing for balance is critical to take in order to prepare ourselves mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically for reaching success. We need to learn how to turn our attention inwards and clear our minds of distraction through breath, quiet and acceptance (as opposed to struggling against the anguish of possible defeat which hasn't even happened yet).  We need to believe that we are capable without holding ourselves to impossible standards. And sometimes it isn't always about the prize at the end of the process, although, I am pretty sure that Hobbes had his eye on those treats. For people, it might actually be more about the satisfaction gained through the process that can only be found in the present moment. From his still and quiet pose, I seriously doubt that the dog was dealing with any mind chatter or mental struggle. He was only listening to my voice, doing what I told him to do and catching the biscuit when I gave him the okay. All of this, including his doggy nature, anchored him to the present moment as we are anchored to the moment when we take that pause, that breath, that moment without thought.

Life is more complicated for us, I know and I don't mean to say that everything about our journey is as simple as a dog's. But I think Hobbes has outlined a pretty easy, albeit difficult in the western world, process that can be learned from. And as with any new behavior that you want to add to your repertoire to enhance or improve your life, consistency is key. My plan is to take a moment, every now and then to not think, I will clear my mind of all the noise, focus on my intentions and what I want. I will aim for results without holding myself to impossible standards or specific outcomes and stay anchored to the present moment by being aware that with each new in-breath, I am here.

If you are interested in learning more about 'finding the paws pause to balance', feel free to contact me.  I can be reached through my website, or my email,

Have a great weekend!

Monday, January 12, 2015

What are you afraid of?

Have you ever been afraid of doing something? Have you ever been afraid to tell someone about how you were afraid to do something? Would you tell me if I asked? If you started to tell me about something that scared you, would you tweak the details or omit the part where you screamed in terror the last time you did it?... Driving at night in bad weather does it for me. I hate it and I could just leave it at that rather than tell you the whole story, because the whole story is just too shameful!  We live in a society that values perfection, being first, being a winner.  I suppose I could tell you that on the night that it snowed and rained and temperatures plummeted (they actually rose) having a special occasion to help celebrate, I put on my black leather jacket with matching hand bag, checked my lipstick and just got into my red sports car and drove off into the slushy night, bravely going where no one else dared.  But I can't tell you that... although, I kind of like this rendition so I'll stick with it.

We change information and omit certain embarrassing details in our stories because we don't want to be seen as vulnerable, weak or imperfect in some way.   So since we live in a culture that puts a high premium on perfection, it is hard to treat ourselves with compassion when we believe we have missed the mark, whether we are actually being judged or not.  We tell children what to think instead of teaching them how to think, we tell them everyone loves a winner, but we leave out how to love ourselves when we don't quite measure up to an external standard and we rarely tell them to value themselves no matter what the circumstances.  So instead of telling our true story of imperfection, we tell the story that makes us look and feel better.

Because I wanted to stop feeling so disappointed with the choice I made, I got help, I went to Brene Brown, my most favorite researcher on the subject of vulnerability and shame, to understand why I was so hard on myself the night it snowed, and ultimately decided not to attend an event that I wanted to go to. Even though my tale of woe is light in comparison to lots of other stories of disconnection, addiction, suffering, grieving, etc (I am evaluating my own story as a good enough example), I think anything that triggers discomfort bears examination. It isn't how a story holds up against other stories, it is how we determine our own level of discomfort and what we do to remedy the subjective pain.

Brene points out in her Ted Talk that as a country, we are the most drugged, the most financially in debt, the most obese, the most numbed out people on the planet.  We numb out all the stuff we don't want to feel, especially the stuff that highlights our imperfections, our failures and our inability to cope with life's messes. We numb out the shame of being imperfect and vulnerable.  The problem with that, she says, while we are numbing out the stuff we don't want to feel, we end up numbing out the good stuff too, the joy, love, creativity and belonging because numbing numbs everything. Sorry, you can't have it both ways.

I chose to feel the discomfort of my little drama the other night and I lived to blog about it without succumbing to drugs, booze or food. Yay, me!  However, I am led to a new thought as I process this notion of shame.  If I can allow myself to be seen as I am because the world is a better place for my integrity, what is wrong with admitting to being vulnerable, to being less then perfect.

There are very serious conflicts and situations that people find themselves in. But I am just wondering if there may be more value in showing up as we are, blemishes and all, owning our mistakes, forgiving ourselves, being grateful for what we have, as opposed to disguising ourselves as something we are not.  I'm wondering if an imperfection could actually be a strength, a more accurate measure of one's value or enoughness. I may have discussed 'enoughness' in an earlier blog, but I think it bears repeating. I am proposing that how one determines their enoughness is the question upon which rests one's decision to be upfront about who they are and how they show up in the world.  My hunch is we'd all be a lot healthier, mentally, physically and financially.

What if we were comfortable with ourselves enough, that we didn't have the need to compare ourselves with others? I've done a lot of personal work in this area because my health and happiness depended on it. I am always, I hope, a work in progress. But what if our failings did not produce shame or guilt, but rather just information about which new goals we want to set? What if we showed up in the world living and acting out our truth and being okay with that? We'd be a very different country, maybe, even, a very different world.

Watch Brene Brown's Ted Talks, they are all great.  Listening to Shame, The Power of VulnerabilityWhy Your Critics Aren't the Ones Who Count.