Standing in the Sun: a lesson in acceptance

I went for a run the other day and was enjoying my reward of standing and gazing out on the water and feeling that familiar sense of accomplishment and peace.  As I was standing, I realized the sun was beating down on my face and hindering my view. My initial thought was “Damn, it’s too bright and hot now.”  I immediately realized the ridiculousness of this thought.  For a split second, I was totally agitated with the sun for shining on my face and disrupting my beautiful moment on the path.  For that millisecond I thought that I was in control of everything around me and somehow responsible to change everything too.  I mean, who is so ridiculous as to think they can change the sun and why would you want to even if you could?

When we adjust our perception and accept the reality of any given situation, we are able to become more free with each moment.  It’s not about being passive.  It’s about acknowledging our limitations and owning our responsibility.  Through acceptance, we are able to recognize our options and navigate the experience based on how we want to feel. It’s this idea that we may not choose what happens in each moment, but we always have a choice on how we respond and how we feel.  That is true power.  When we focus on ourselves in that way, we save a tremendous amount of energy that would have been futile to waste on changing the other person/situation.  Granted, it may be easier to conceptualize this with the idea of the sun’s beaming rays, but isn’t it just as applicable to think of the guy who cut you off in traffic, your co-worker who is incessantly negative, or the family member who seems to only call when they need something?  You can’t stop those things from happening AND you are not responsible to change the way people talk/act/think. Just like it’s not up to you to get the sun to shine today.

Acceptance is not about being weak, resigning to the other person, or ignoring a real problem…it is simply about acknowledging the sun (aka current situation) exists as it is without trying to control it and remember that the only thing you are responsible for is deciding how you want to experience it.  So go out, stand in the sun or move over to the shade. Just do what makes you happy and love doing it!

 

 

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Lose interest in negativity

I am amazed how much energy I have committed to negative people and their experiences.  I used to think that I toxic people were drawn to me for some reason. I would find myself completely worn out and thinking “Why is everyone around me so unhappy?”  And after a while, my frustration would get to the point of pure exhaustion. And I would wonder how I could stay positive with so much negativity around me and even worse, I would think things like, “Maybe I just need to be more negative too.”

Finally one day, I heard someone make the simplest of statements.  They were talking about how to navigate unhappy co-workers and all the drama that can suck the life out of your work day.  The statement was something like this, “You have to become disinterested in the negativity. Begin to consciously decide that you have no interest in it and it will cease to impact you.”

My initial reaction was to sit down.  Those words were so simple, yet profound.  It made so much sense.  The reality was that I had to acknowledge my own interest in the negativity, the drama, the tragedy of it all.  I mean, we have have an entire culture that thrives on reality television and pop culture that perpetuates heartache, grievances, and chaos.  And I DID find that interesting.  I like to think it appealed to my character that believes someone can persevere through hardships but the reality was that by paying attention to the gossip or negative stuff, I didn’t have to pay attention to myself and acknowledge painful feelings or experiences of fear or insecurity.

So I began to digest this idea of disinterest.  I sat with it for a day or so and then I became excited. I wanted to try this out the next day.  I began my day as I usually do and sure enough, within an hour I had my first opportunity to practice disinterest.  Someone was complaining about another coworker and their ‘tone’ and remarking on a recent interaction that was, according to this person, totally unbelievable.  I recognized how easy it would be to comment and not only become interested but engaged in the conversation.  But instead, I smiled and simply choose to think about a positive quality about the very same person who was being talked about and quietly walked out of the room.

The opportunities kept coming.  It happened when someone cut me off in traffic, when my bank made an error on a deposit slip, when someone criticized me for a mistake, and when I spilled coffee down my shirt.  It’s not about ignoring these things or pretending they don’t happen.  Its about recognizing what I can learn and figuring out how I want to move forward.

As I become more in tune with opportunities that present for my disinterest, this amazing thing happens…I simultaneously become more open to the possibility of hopefulness and gratitude.  My environment has not changed, the landscape is the same, yet my capacity for love, tolerance, and understanding has only increased.

It is not like I am suddenly immune to negativity but now I am better at allowing myself to truly assess my own feelings of stress, insecurity, or fear.  Accepting the reality of the situation enables a healthier and happier way to appease my heart than getting consumed by the chaos.  Some times are easier than others, but I am committed to the practice of becoming less interested in the negativity and much more interested in love, understanding, compassion, and kindness.

A little dose of self-compassion

An entire wall of mirrors, another wall of windows, and a class full of thin, trim, and apparently very flexible 20 somethings has led to a much-needed practice of self-compassion this evening.  As I stared at myself while navigating this part Pilates and part Yoga (PiYo) class, I almost laughed at how ridiculous I looked.  Of course, I quickly wavered between laughter and outright frustration as I tried to figure out how to go from a ‘low lunge’ to a ‘downward dog’ without falling over.  Oh yes, the entire hour was full of self-talk ranging from “what the hell is she doing?” to “oh no, I think I just pulled a muscle” and “holy cow, is that a trick mirror?”  Those thoughts were tough enough, but then it only got worse when I started comparing my moves to the women around me or, gulp, the pencil thin instructor.

It was apparent that my inner critic was way too loud tonight.  All of those negative thoughts and ideas kept me from focusing on the fact that I finished the class without falling and that I got a great workout.  Not to mention that I totally tried something brand new today.  On days like this when I get caught up in what my body looks like, how people may or may not perceive me, and compare my own success to what others are doing around me, I have to be very deliberate and practice self-compassion.

The first step is acknowledging that I’m being incredibly critical of myself.  Next thing is to take a moment and identify the good things about the experience.  Third step is to remember why I took the class to start with, and then re-frame everything in my head like I was talking to a close friend (because I would never be so harsh to a friend).  The final step is to take all that revised information and let it sit in my heart for a few minutes while taking in some deep breaths.

Self-compassion is not always easy, but I do believe it is always necessary.  I think the more we practice compassion for ourselves the easier it becomes to feel compassion for others.  And then, the more we experience compassion for others, the easier it becomes to experience for our own self.  And when we are more compassionate, the more likely we are to engage in meaningful and productive experiences instead of isolating ourselves and feeling disconnected.  So whenever I catch my inner critic chatting away too loudly, I will simply remind myself to take a deep breath, practice some self-compassion, and enjoy the experience for what it’s worth instead of withdrawing and robbing myself of a potentially awesome interaction.  So bring on the PiYo classes and bring on the new and exciting adventures.  With a little dose of self-compassion, I believe we can do anything we set our hearts to.