I am Stronger Than That Which Holds Me Back

At a luncheon for the Women’s Foundation of Colorado I had the great pleasure of listening to a presentation by Shiza Shahid, the co-founder, along with Malala Yousafzai and Ziauddin Yousafzai, of the Mala Fund. At 25 this soft-spoken young woman has already been a force for change in our world.

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Towards the end of her inspiring and humbling talk, Shiza said something that really hit a cord with me. “I am stronger than that which holds me back”. That statement zinged right through me and has lodged in my mind ever since.

The week prior I had been in New York City for an event with The Hunger Project, and had listened to other inspiring transformational leaders share their own stories, or the stories of those with whom they work, on how they transcended their original situations to achieve something that had once felt so out of reach or near impossible.

What was common amongst these people was that they had aspired to something greater, believing in a different future for themselves and for others. They had pushed the envelope, stepped intrepidly out of their comfort zones, and moved through fear, uncertainty and doubt to reach that different future. What they had done was to prove themselves stronger than that which held them back, whether that thing be a history, a culture, a community, another person or just the voices in their head.

Contemplating these various stories has given me pause to reflect on how I have owned or disowned my power to create the life I want. Without a doubt, I have let the naysayer in my head hold me back at various times in my life. I have let that voice tell me I can’t do something. That it’s too much…it’s too hard…that I don’t have what it takes. During those times I feel scared, unsure and insecure, and I forget that I am, in fact, stronger than the negative voice in my head.

And yet I know that at many other times in my life I have proven to myself that I AM stronger than that which holds me back. I have overcome those negative, limiting, unhelpful voices and have done and achieved things I never imagined possible. I look back sometimes and think “wow, I did THAT?!”

Perhaps at the core of being stronger that that which holds us back is the degree of intention and drive we put behind something along with the ability to really imagine and believe in what’s possible when all outward signs would have us believe otherwise.

4 Ways I Connect With My Power:

  • Get clarity on what it is that I want and how invested I am in bringing that about.
  • Identify and acknowledge the obstacles (internal and external) that may arise and figure out a way to maneuver around them…there is always a way.
  • When I get the naysayer stuck in my head, reflect and recognize that I have been in this place before and have overcome what I once thought I couldn’t.
  • Remember that with intention, passion, and trust in myself, what may seem impossible is actually possible.

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Finding Empowerment on the Mat

images-2I have been on and off my yoga mat for the last 20 years. I go through times when yoga calls to me, and times when it doesn’t. I used to feel conflicted about this but have found a comfortable relationship with the ebb and flow. I know that when the yearning resurfaces I answer the call.

A year or so ago I found myself drawn to my mat and started taking yoga classes from an inspiring instructor named Roger. Aside from answering yoga’s call, my main motivation for going to that 6am class was that my friends were in it, and if you’re going to get up at a god-awful time you might as well get to see your friends.

I probably dragged myself to Roger’s 6am class more than a few times before I began to look forward to starting my day on my mat in that dimmed yoga studio. I spent years doing vinyasa style yoga. Roger’s approach was totally different. We moved slowly between poses, we held poses in ways that were different from what I had done in the past, and we spent a fair amount of time testing our balance and focus by holding or transitioning through poses while balanced on our toes.

imagesFor the longest time I couldn’t figure out why I was so drawn to Roger’s class. Believe me, there were plenty of times I didn’t even like what we were doing…and yet, I still showed up week after week. One morning, in that softly lit yoga studio, I realized what kept pulling me back to the practice. I felt EMPOWERED. For me that meant I felt connected to myself and to something beyond myself, I felt strong in body and mind, I felt irrepressible.

The practice wasn’t easy but perhaps that was the point. I was tapping into my core – not just my physical core but the core of who I am. I challenged my physical body and during that challenge found myself in a deeply connected and spiritual relationship with myself.

Standing balanced on my toes, moving my body in different directions, feeling the strength in my muscles, a sense of empowerment literally coursed through my body. I felt grounded, strong, connected, energized, alive. I had no time to think about the myriad of questions, thoughts and to do’s that often run roughshod through my mind. I was there, in the moment, in my body, rooted and yet free.

Lessons Learned on the Mat:

  • When I connect with my center I am less easily thrown off balance literally and figuratively.
  • Working on my physical balance impacts the general sense of balance and connectedness I feel in my life.
  • My physical practice often gives me access to my spiritual self.
  • Exercise is a social experience for me. Even if I am standing alone on my mat I am still surrounded by the energy of the others in the room.

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