Trusting Your Inner Compass

Remember the times before GPS?  Yeah, me neither.  I do remember typing my destination address into Mapquest’s magical navigator, and scribbling down the directions on a scrap of paper, dashing in my car, and whizzing on my way.

Many times, I still got lost.  But that was half the fun of it, wasn’t it?  It was part of the adventure and emblazoned anxiety.

Now, we set out on a journey and it’s no longer really a journey.  We’ve become so reliant on information systems outside ourselves, and lost touch with our own inner compass.

Do you see where I’m going with this?  We try to control the events of our lives, set reminders on our phones, tweet and post and scroll, clutching fervently to whatever seems to be working for us.  Distractions from ourselves.  Whatever it takes to get us to our pre-determined destination crafted by the thinking (vs. intuitive) mind, that’s what we’re going to do.  Steps A-Z.  In sequential order.

Well what happens when our plan runs off the tracks?  When T comes before B?  When someone throws a wrench in our perfectly prescribed timeline to “Z” destination?  I can tell you what happens for me.  I become disappointed, confused, angry, bitter, sad, and usually, defeated.  I forget the entire journey, throw away the destination, and move on to devise another plan.

Maybe I don’t need to do all that planning.  Hmm, there’s an idea.  Maybe it makes more sense to follow signs, landmarks, breadcrumbs, garden gnomes.  (Ok, probably not the last one).  At least I won’t be so attached to a rigid outcome.

I think by allowing myself to stray, to wander, to try different hats and shoes and scarves on, I can free myself from the anxiety of reaching that pre-set destination.  Maybe I’m already where I’m supposed to be, in every moment.  And the more I’m fully here and awake in each moment, the easier it will become to follow the flags, lights, and arrows pointing me to my next excursion.

This of course, requires trust in some force greater than myself, and also great trust in myself.  I used to ignore, shove aside, and snuff out my intuitive sense.  I’d shush that hushed voice that was actually guiding me.  I did things that didn’t align with what felt right to me, or true to my essential nature.

The more I denied my inner compass, the more lost I became.  But now, I feel like I’m starting to rest in the knowledge that I will listen to ME, and also take some hints and nudges from God/Universe/Spiritual Law/whatever IT is…because that resides in me.

The answers reveal themselves like dominoes clicking gently against each other, spiraling and weaving and knowing exactly where they are headed.

Steph xo

Okay, Universe. I Get It.

courage

I see this magnet every morning when I make my coffee.

Don’t be too timid or squeamish about your actions.  All life is an experiment.  The more experiments you make the better.

But sometimes, I actually pay attention.  I read this brilliance of Ralph Waldo Emerson and think to myself, “when am I going to take a courageous step, and stop being so timid and scared?”

Have you had a dream that you’ve pushed so far away in the back of your mind, that you hardly remember it’s there?  Maybe as a kid, you had a particularly keen eye for beauty and expression of life, and you took pictures with your polaroid camera, wanting to spend all of your days capturing special moments.  Maybe you’ve always wanted to be that photographer, and throw all of your energy, inspiration, and time into honing your craft.  But this subtle voice of doubt always said: “That isn’t practical.  You’ll have to claw your way through the competition.  How will you find clients?  Better stick to your “safe” job, and “steady” paycheck.  You have to eat, remember?”  Well I think that voice of doubt is full of crap.  And even though I think it’s rubbish, know it’s not really true, and know there are ways to succeed and make your passion work for you in a financially sustainable way, doubt continues to checkmate me.  I get so close to winning the game, and then doubt taunts me, making the final move that I wasn’t confident enough to see.  Freezing me into inaction and disappointment.

 

I think that’s part of the problem.  Not seeing past the doubt to the truth.  Not taking small, courageous steps toward your dreams each day.  Allowing society’s measure of “success” to dictate what you do with your life.  If you know what you’re capable of, and know that you have to take a stab at achieving you dreams, because anything else just feels like a distraction, the first thing to do is to determine your own definition of success.

 

I’ve thought about what success means to me quite a bit lately.  There have been times in my life where I subscribed to the traditional, Americanized version of success: becoming a doctor, lawyer, or fabulously wealthy entrepreneur; owning a house so large that the smallest sounds echo; driving fancy, gas-guzzling “look at me – I have money!” SUVs.  There have been times where I felt unfulfilled, and I tried to fill that void by shopping, buying clothes and shoes and purses I didn’t need.  None of those material things made me fulfilled or happy.  In fact, they made me feel bloated with the hangover of excess.  Somehow, this didn’t seem like right living.  Not when there are children in parts of the world that don’t own a single pair of shoes, and eat dirt cookies dried in the sun to fill their bellies.

 

Success to me, is about real, heartfelt connections.  It’s about giving the best parts of me to the world.  A sense of community and unity.  It’s about people helping people.  It’s about doing my very small part to heal and create change.  Success to me, is having the freedom to curl up under the cozy covers with a book, with my dogs snoring softly on the floor nearby.  Success to me, is staying continually in awe of nature.  Success to me, is having a beginner’s mind.

 

It is only a matter of time before the urge to become who I’m meant to be becomes so strong, that I will have to forego what I’ve been doing and change my life completely.  In the meantime, I’ve begun to change right where I am.  I’ve done this by making a conscious effort  to connect with people at work, even if it’s just with eye contact and a genuine smile, or asking about their children and really taking the time to listen.  Offering someone undivided attention and presence is powerful.  With our electronically-dominated world, this is becoming a rare and needed gift.  More often, I step outside of my bubble and make small talk with the person bagging my groceries.  Giving and connecting, and being radically grateful for all I have, has made all the difference.  I’ve ditched my victim mentality, I’ve stopped belly-aching about the trivial, and I’ve started getting REAL.

 

And guess what?  I will silence that voice of doubt.  I will go for it, fully, and with abandon.  The only question that remains, is…when?  And when will you go for your dream?  Let me know, I’d love to hear your story, your dream.

Steph xo

The Pursuit of Perfect

We all have that fleeting time in our lives where we were (or we now perceive that we were) living optimally. I’ll give you an example. That “perfect” time in my life has a name: my “2007 prime”. In 2007, I was 20 years old. I was training for a half marathon, and was basically unstoppable. Running and constant exercise were my lifeblood. I had energy that rivaled a 5 year-old. When I wasn’t running, I was practicing yoga. When I wasn’t running or practicing yoga, I was hiking. When I wasn’t running, practicing yoga, or hiking, I was meditating…finding myself. I ate mostly vegetarian, had no boys in my life, stayed away from alcohol, and listened to a ton of Jeff Buckley. Whatever that means.

When I think back to that time now, and how I was in the best shape of my life, with hardly an ounce of fat to hinder me…I realize how unfair it is to expect myself to be that way. I was practically a kid then. I’m a woman now, and my body is preparing to have children one day. Not to mention that I wasn’t working at the time, meaning I had all day to focus on myself and exercise. Perfection is a figment of the imagination, and pursuing it relentlessly is exhausting and unhealthy. It sets us up for failure and self-deprecation.

I think the more important thing to remember is to be kind to myself. To celebrate in the small accomplishments, and hunt the good stuff. I could put myself down and dismiss my achievements, letting the critic take over and say, “well, you ran today, but you stopped. You did yoga, but you didn’t balance for very long in pendulum pose, and your chaturanga could really use some work.” OR – (thank goodness there’s an “OR”, right?) I could praise myself, and say: “you know what Steph? You did a great thing for yourself today. Not only did you walk 2 miles on the bike path during your lunch break, but you came home after a long day, practiced yoga diligently, and went for a jog outside, enjoyed nature, and benefited both yourself and your beautiful puppy.”

Which of those statements sounds better? Kind of a silly question when I put it that way…But it’s amazing what we tell ourselves sometimes. I wouldn’t criticize someone else that way, so why should I do it to myself?

The lesson to take away, (and I hope I get better at this) is:

Be where you are right now, and have that be enough.

Namaste.
xo Steph

Finding Your Voice

Sometimes we are drowned in a dizzying ocean of noise. We become distracted by the endless tasks and demands that are placed on us daily. It becomes familiar to fall in line, to follow orders, to be a “yes” man (or woman), and to forget about our own needs.

I find myself struggling to find my voice, and I know I’m not alone – it’s true for many people, and women in particular. Our throat chakra is closed, and this block causes disturbances in the flow of our vital energy, the prana or life force. Not only is this emotionally and mentally unsettling, but it causes undue stress and subsequent health issues.

How do we find that transition from a whisper to a roar? I’m still learning this myself, and as I continue on my journey through yoga practice and come back from Kripalu, I’ll have more answers.

But I have found that one small way we can honor ourselves and our voice is by listening to our intuition. Listening to our bodies, that always guide us if we just pay attention. You know when you have that gut feeling about something? The feeling in the pit of your stomach saying, “this is a really awful idea, don’t do it!” We need to trust that more. Learn to say no. Take care of ourselves first.

When we go through life, something we naturally do is find qualities in others that we wish to have in ourselves. It’s important to know what these things are, to consciously say, “I can be that way too, and use it as a tool in life”. We take pieces of people who inspire us, with us. For example, I’ve always admired candor in others. The ability to be an open book, and turn the page or shrug it off when someone judges. This is a quality I’m working on adopting for myself. And it’s going to stick. It has to. Because I can’t just exist. I want to LIVE like every second on this earth matters, and makes a difference. To me, life needs to have meaning.

Finding your voice circles back to the idea of being your authentic self. The authentic self is the witness. It’s the self that sits behind the screen of our thoughts and simply observes, without judging or trying to change anything. This is the self that will take us through life peacefully, if we give it a chance.

Namaste.

xo Steph

Cleansing the Soul

cleansethesoul

It occurred to me on Day 2 of my cleanse that this isn’t just a cleansing in the physical sense. This process is not just about the food, or my body. It’s about awakening spirit, inviting new opportunity, and letting go of what doesn’t serve me. When we nurture our body by feeding it as many whole, natural, organic foods as possible, we also begin to see how we’ve been mistreating ourselves from a mental/emotional standpoint.

The beautiful thing about a cleanse is that you start to experience food in a different way. Since you’re truly physically hungry, you become more appreciative of the subtle and wonderful flavors of foods in their natural form. Suddenly, kale becomes a salty treat, brown rice is nutty and satisfying, and apples taste like candy. It forces us to slow down and appreciate nature’s bounty.
The challenge for me in going through a cleanse like this is dealing with the emotional stuff that comes up. It’s common for anybody (including me) to reach for a crunchy bag of chips when they’re stressed. When that crutch is gone, we are forced to stop stuffing down our emotions with food and actually feel them. This is what we do in yoga. Sit with our emotions. It can be uncomfortable, but I believe it’s necessary if we want any sort of growth and change to occur.

I’m learning a lot about myself. I’m learning how to let go, and appreciate. I’m learning and remembering how important gratitude is, and how essential it is to extend that gratitude to ourselves and our bodies. It’s important work. And it’s ongoing. So with this cleanse, I’m renewing myself. The journey begins here.

xo Steph

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