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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Her Secret is Patience

“Adopt the pace of Nature; her secret is Patience.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Patience, huh? I am sure I’m not alone here in saying that patience is something I struggle with. In our fast paced world, we tend to want everything now…or more likely, yesterday.

We want to get healthy NOW. We want to lose those extra pounds NOW. We want to find that perfect job NOW. We want to meet our soul mate NOW. We want to get to where we are going NOW.

Adopt the pace of nature draft 500Around the same time that this Ralph Waldo Emerson quote came into my life I was having a somewhat angst ridden conversation with someone about where my life was headed. He likened my life to the seasons. He said I was in my planting season – sowing the seeds for what is to come. Unfortunately, as he so aptly put it, I wanted to be in the harvest season, seeing the results of my efforts. He cautioned me that no matter how much I may want to I can’t leapfrog over this “in between” time, it is part of my evolution.

In my life there have been many instances where I have wanted to bypass the lulls, the delays, the inconveniences, the challenges, and the disappointments and instead move on to the main event. However, I am coming to recognize that it is in the “in between” times that I learn the most about myself and have the opportunity to find greater clarity about what it is that I truly want and who I truly want to be.

A wonderful acupuncturist I used to see would constantly remind me to observe nature when I was getting caught up in trying to push through and force changes in my life. In essence she was reminding me to adopt the pace of nature.

Have you ever watched those time-lapse photos of a bud flowering? Aside from the sheer beauty of observing something evolve, the time lapse shows us how many teeny, tiny, minuscule changes must occur to allow those petals to fully unfurl. For the most part we don’t witness those minuscule shifts. More often than not we see only the end result, meaning that the pace at which nature moves is often taken for granted.

Without a doubt, practicing patience, and trusting that things are unfolding as they are meant to, is challenging for me. I can allow plenty of internal and external forces to wreak havoc on my self-confidence and my trust in my intuition.

At the same time, I know very clearly that when I try to force things into being I am more often than not left empty handed, unsatisfied or frustrated. This is not to say that I should sit back and wait for something to happen. But it is a reminder that there is a natural rhythm to the evolution of my life, and I get better results when I allow that rhythm to lead me rather than fighting against it.

In moments of self-doubt I feel stuck, stagnant, limited. My opportunity in those moments is to pause, breathe and reflect. When I do those things I give myself space to recognize and acknowledge that I have indeed made progress, and that I am not the same person I was a year ago, or 6 months ago or even a few weeks ago.

It can be uncomfortable for sure but everything I am doing is helping me to learn, grown, and find greater clarity. Each moment and each choice is causing a shift and a change, no matter how small, allowing the petals of my life to continue to unfurl.  My choice is that rather than force the petals to open with brute force I can let them unfurl naturally with grace and ease. Grace and ease definitely feels better 😉

4 Reminders from Nature on Change:

  • Take a deep breath, pause and think about what I am learning about myself, and the world around me, during the “in between” times.
  • Remember that no matter how small the changes may seem I am continually growing, moving forward and evolving.
  • Embrace the discomfort, it is a sign that I am shifting and changing.
  • Trust the process and trust myself.

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Who Do I Want To Be In This World?

Greatness Does Not Come From What You Do_350Are you familiar with Marie Forleo? If not, check her out – she rocks some serious sass and energy and doles out some pretty awesome advice and insights on life, entrepreneurship, inspiration and much more.

I recently watched an episode from her MarieTV series entitled “What should I do with my life. Wait, don’t answer that.” Click here to check it out.

“What should I do with my life????” Well, if that isn’t the question that haunts my waking (and sleeping) hours!

I’m pretty familiar with this question as it has been an intermittent companion along my life’s journey. This past year, following the closing of my second business, Ambajam, this question has become my constant shadow. Letting go of the business was undoubtedly the right call for me, but letting go of that identity was tough…tough…tough. Who was I now that I was no longer an entrepreneur and a business owner? What value did I bring? Where did I fit? Knowing it was solely up to me, how did I want to write this next chapter of my life? Where did I start?

Marie suggests that rather than focusing on what we should “DO” with our lives, focus instead on who we want to “BE” in this world. The DO versus BE debate is nothing new but it struck me when I watched the episode that I have spent so much time this year trying to figure out what I want to “DO”. And, believe me that “DO” has proven to be quite elusive.

Bottom line is that I have been focusing on the form, structure, outward manifestation of the “DO”, trying to imagine an entity or a job title rather than asking myself who I want to “BE” in this world and letting that inform what I decide to “DO”.

Just shifting that one word, as Marie says, can totally change the dynamics and the energy behind the questioning. Shifting from “DO” to “BE” loosens things up, opens us up to authenticity, creativity, compassion, play and more.

So, who do I want to BE in this world?

I want to be someone who:

  • Is compassionate, loving and kind
  • Lives life with authenticity and integrity
  • Embraces her vulnerability as a strength
  • Makes a difference in this world and in the lives of those around her
  • Brings people together
  • Takes the time to really listen to and “see” others
  • Helps people open up to their true potential
  • Is curious about life
  • Embraces her creative, intuitive self and let’s her light shine
  • Experiences life from a place of engagement and inspiration
  • Radiates joy and lives a joy-filled life

Knowing who I want to “BE” is the foundation for moving forward. The opportunity now is to take what is in my heart and find ways to express that in the world.

Shift The Question Shift The Mindset:

  • If I am trying to find answers and what I’m doing isn’t working…try a different path! As Einstein said “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”
  • Changing, even slightly, the perspective from which I am looking at something can make a world of difference.
  • Who I want to “BE” in this world is the energy I will bring to what I “DO”.
  • If I know who I want to “BE” then I can work into what I want to “DO”.
  • My way of being is the foundation on which everything else is built.

 

 

 

 

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Savoring Love

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I came across this poem a couple of months ago, and the raw authenticity and gorgeous simplicity of the words really touched my heart.

I love the idea of throwing all cares away, not worrying about who may be watching, or what they may be thinking, and just savoring a moment with someone you love.

The words hold so much romance in them yet they are not flowery nor elaborate. For me this is what gives the poem such beauty and soul.

Happy Valentine’s Day All.  Enjoy a little love from Gate C22!



Gate C22 – By Ellen Bass

At gate C22 in the Portland airport
a man in a broad-band leather hat kissed
a woman arriving from Orange County.
They kissed and kissed and kissed. Long after
the other passengers clicked the handles of their carry-ons
and wheeled briskly toward short-term parking,
the couple stood there, arms wrapped around each other
like he’d just staggered off the boat at Ellis Island,
like she’d been released at last from ICU, snapped
out of a coma, survived bone cancer, made it down
from Annapurna in only the clothes she was wearing.

Neither of them was young. His beard was gray.
She carried a few extra pounds you could imagine
her saying she had to lose. But they kissed lavish
kisses like the ocean in the early morning,
the way it gathers and swells, sucking
each rock under, swallowing it
again and again. We were all watching–
passengers waiting for the delayed flight
to San Jose, the stewardesses, the pilots,
the aproned woman icing Cinnabons, the man selling
sunglasses. We couldn’t look away. We could
taste the kisses crushed in our mouths.

But the best part was his face. When he drew back
and looked at her, his smile soft with wonder, almost
as though he were a mother still open from giving birth,
as your mother must have looked at you, no matter
what happened after–if she beat you or left you or
you’re lonely now–you once lay there, the vernix
not yet wiped off, and someone gazed at you
as if you were the first sunrise seen from the Earth.
The whole wing of the airport hushed,
all of us trying to slip into that woman’s middle-aged body,
her plaid Bermuda shorts, sleeveless blouse, glasses,
little gold hoop earrings, tilting our heads up.

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