Monday, December 30, 2013

How I Made My Outside Match My Inside

“Some art shouts at your from across the room; this whispers for you to come closer.”

An art teacher my freshman year of college said that about my drawing when the class had posted our work on the wall. At the time, I thought he was saying my drawing was insignificant, which fit my image of myself and my artwork. I figured if I could do it, anyone could. Other drawings looked so bold and alive.My teacher was telling me that my art was powerfully subtle.

Feeling a Bit Lost In the Crowd

Being a middle child in a large family also adds to feeling a bit overlooked and lost. So it seemed natural for me to think that way. I was a sensitive kid surrounded by siblings – mostly brothers – who were loud and forceful. In frustration my mother once called me the Princess and the Pea.

Different Types of People

Fast forward 40 years to when I watched a series of online videos at that described four different energy types. Now that may sound woo-woo to some people, and like pigeon-holing to others. But being a lifelong introvert, I tend to observe and notice quite a bit

I am sure that you can call to mind people you know who are bold, some people who are quiet and may seem a bit timid at first, and others who are the life of the party, while some people just make things happen everywhere they go. Well, these are the four basic energy types the author is talking about.

Accepting Who I Am

After a year of looking at myself and others with this system, I accept myself more for who I am and what I bring to the table. I dress in a way that is congruent with my inner experience and outward expression. And hopefully that congruity is helpful to others as well, knowing what to expect from me. When I was wearing solid, deep colors I knew it was because I wanted to be taken seriously. But that image would have confused people when they heard my soft-spoken manner; it was incongruent with who I was and how I expressed myself. Now I realize that it’s OK to be quiet, kind, and detail-oriented, because it’s who I am.

Different Types on the Job

Before-and-after DYT
I laugh at the job descriptions I see that say they want someone detail oriented and able to multi-task, because those are two very different types of people. As a detail-oriented person, I could be happy focusing on one project for the whole day, never speaking to another soul all day, and the result will be a detailed, accurate report, project or spreadsheet. But if I need to multitask, as I did on my last job, jumping up to answer the door at a moment’s notice in the middle of complex calculations, there are sure to be numerous mistakes in that spreadsheet.

Type 1 thrives with a random schedule; they are the idea people, and are able to switch tracks quickly and easily, but might forget to go back to the original task and complete it. Type 2 enjoys planning and details, and a linear process. They can take Type 1's idea, and plan our how to make it so. Type 3 makes it happen, and they do a fabulous job juggling all those balls at once and keeping track of them, but they don't like details. Type 4 would probably also want the undisturbed, focused time, but wouldn’t be happy with the minutia of a full day of details.They like to analyze and perfect things.

A Surprise at the Veterinarian

Dressing Your Truth for Men
I recently took my cat to the vet. We have usually had women veterinarians, but this time we saw a man. He wore a colorful jacket and matching tie covered with orange cartoon cats. His curly wild hair made me smile. I instantly thought, "He looks fun and spontaneous." But as we spoke about my cat's health, it was clear he was a Type 4: Thorough, focused and efficient. If I hadn't known about this course, I might have been taken aback, seeing him as abrupt. But I shifted gears quickly, and listened to his astute observations and took them to heart. I wonder how others see him though, when he looks light-hearted and speaks seriously and directly.

Understanding Myself and Others

I find the system useful for understanding others at work, at home, at play, everywhere. And it's easier to get dressed in the morning because everything goes together better than it did before. And now my outside matches my inside. I am honoring who I am, and letting you know when you meet me what to expect when I speak.

How About You?
Do you struggle choosing what you want to wear? Have you tried this system? What did you think?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Dancing with Chaos

There’s nothing like standing in the middle of a circle of three large men poised to attack as soon as I bow to signal that I am ready to begin. Not that I ever want to do this in real life.

Dancing with Chaos

Randori can translate as dancing with chaos; it’s a martial art practice of three against one. It was one of my favorite Aikido practices, and although most schools reserve the practice for Black Belts, my teacher let us practice this early in our practice, and it became a requirement for earning our first belt.

It may sound intimidating, but when you learn how to do it, it’s actually more dangerous for the attackers. I never got injured when in the center of the randori, but I broke a finger once as attacker when the person in the center turned the “wrong” way.

Set-Up Practice for Life Off the Mat 

It’s also a good practice off the mat, in life. Uh, no, I’m not recommending throwing people around or inviting attacks. But stuff happens, and life can sometimes be a dance of chaos.

Dancing with Chaos at the Mall 

We used to do randori in short demos at the mall as a promotion for the dojo (school), and being a small woman, I often was the one in the middle with three big burly men. I remember one time in particular when my teacher said, “Get her!” and they really went after me. I tossed them around like dolls, and when I was done my legs were shaking and mush. But it proved to some ancient survival part of my brain that I could do hold my own. And by the way, oh yeah, this stuff really works!

Chaos Off the Mat 

We’ve all had to dance with chaos at some point in our lives, even though it doesn’t usually involve three burly men and physical assault. It’s more common to find chaos in our daily lives. And I haven’t been on the mat in at least a decade, but chaos in life? That’s a much more frequent occurrence. The concepts are the same on the mat and off:
  1. Stay centered. 
  2. Stay in your own rhythm. 
  3. Don’t run away or deny what is happening. 
  4. Remember who and what you are. 
  5. Don’t over-reach. 
  6. Use your energy efficiently. 
  7. Brute force doesn’t work. 
  8. Be present and feel what is. 
  9. Learn from what works. 
  10. Learn from what doesn’t work. 
  11. Stay connected.
You may also like:
How Dancing in the Dark Taught Me Not to Be a Victim
First Do No Harm
Celebrating Freedom and Independence

How About You?

Have you ever noticed a time when being centered help resolve a conflict? Please leave a comment to share.

Monday, December 16, 2013

First Do No Harm

At my Black Belt exam with an 80s perm, photo by my dad
In my younger days, studied Aikido for a dozen years, and taught both kids and adults. Aikido translates to “Way of Harmony with the All Life” It’s a non-violent defensive martial art. In other words, first, do no harm. And through practicing Aikido I learned that it’s really the only effective way to deal with conflict.

In Aikido, there are countless metaphors about life “off the mat”. Most importantly, that Aikido is about non-violence. You can read about one such experience on the dance floor here.

No Violence, Know Peace

When I think about it, it makes perfect sense. A person who feels safe, secure, and at peace, is not going to attack anyone. And that’s most of us most of the time. So why do so many of us walk around the world with our guard up?

If You’re Off-Center, You’re Easily Thrown

If this off center person comes into my space, and I am aware, I will feel the incoming vibe or attack before I even see it. Then from my center, move with the intruder and guide us both to safety. The energy is diffused, the violence deescalated, and peace restored. But if I’m off my game at that moment, I will be thrown off by the person.

Off-Center, Off-Kilter

It’s the times we get off center that we want to yell at the driver who did a crazy thing in front of us, or the paper jam in the copier or the computer that acts up. Someone with a mind to attack another person is definitely off center. So my practice in Aikido was to stay in my center when my partner came after me, and to use their incoming energy to guide them to the floor and pin them, or to throw them. We learned to roll, so this didn’t hurt on the receiving end.

Nonverbal Communication of Non-Violence  

In Aikido we learned to pin people without hurting them, and without malice or vengeful thoughts. It

is simply a stance of “I do not allow violence in my space.” And that includes in myself. It’s a physical communication that they will not be harmed.

Same Thing Off the Mat

It’s the same with life off the mat. If I go into a tense situation at work or with family, and I stay in my center, I will not be thrown by what happens around me. If there is anger around me, I will either remove myself or be the place where Peace shows up. I can practice both on the mat and off to be a place where Peace shows up.

You may also like:
How Dancing in the Dark Taught Me Not to Be a Victim
Dancing with Chaos
Celebrating Freedom and Independence

How About You?

Do you notice that being centered makes life flow more easily?

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Emptiness of Mind-fulness

Thich Nhat Hanh wrote a book called Peace Is Every Step. We've been using it in Lauren Darges' Mindfulness Meditation class, and I love it. Mindfulness is emptiness in the mind... or at least being aware of the usual mental chatter. Through focus, the chatter lessens.

With the holidays coming, you may feel the need for a little more Peace in your life. Especially with visiting relatives, or worse, the airport during the holidays. Ah, flying from San Francisco to Chicago at Christmas. Fog in San Francisco. Snow in Chicago. Delayed flights, crying babies, cranky adults. The last time I made the flight to Chicago we circled O'Hare for 45 minutes waiting to land after a snowstorm ended, and the pilot announced that it was 10 below zero, and with a windchill factor of 45 below. After that, Christmas was in January in California. Last week reminded me of that weather. But I digress.

Thich Nhat Hanh suggests a simple mindfulness practice that can be done anywhere - on the
meditation cushion, at the airport, standing in line at the grocery store. It is this... Simply notice your breath. Feel it in your body - maybe you notice it most in your nose, or your throat, or your chest, or even your belly. On the inhale think "Peace". On the exhale, think, "Smile". I love this simple, easy-to-remember technique for returning to the moment.

Here's an track that I wrote to accompany my 20 minute mindful breathing meditation, and the chant I wrote that the meditation track grew from. You can start with 2 minutes. Or 5 minutes. Or breathing mindfully while walking the dog. Whichever way you choose, just start. You probably won't lift off your meditation cushion, but you may that things don't bother you as much when you are off the cushion.

No player showing? Click the Chants for Peace tab above, and you can hear the chant. 
Mobile version HERE

But I think I might need a turbo version when technology doesn't behave as expected. Hmm... Maybe I'll play it in the background when I'm using the programs that I know are likely to act weird.

In his book, Thich Nhat Hanh also has a lovely suggestion. A Breathing Room. If you have the ability, designate one room in your home as the Breathing Room. It's like a time-out room for anyone in the family. A place to sit and re-connect to the
inner realm. I love this idea. I know it would have helped if we'd had one of those rooms when I was a kid. But we can have them going forward. The author has a beautiful description of what can happen when one person in an argument retreats to the Peace Room and collects herself. The Peace ripples out and changes everything. As an Aikidoist, I love that. True Harmony can only happen without force, without imposing my way on you, while at the same time not letting your way bowl me over. Just be. Just breathe. It deescalates the war of the mind so beautifully.

If you find that you want more than 20 minutes per day, or you want to practice with other people, there are plenty of options.

World Peace Meditation Hour on December 31

And if you want to help make the world a more peaceful place, you can meditate simultaneously with others around the globe on December 31 every year during the World Peace Meditation. It happens for one hour starting at Noon Greenwich Mean Time. Participants around the world meditate on world peace for one hour. Scientific measurements have recorded a noticeable shift in the electromagnetic field of the Earth during times when there is a global event. On the West Coast, it's 4:00-5:00 am. On the East Coast, it's 7:00-8:00am. Do an Internet search for it and you will likely find events in your area if you want to participate.

Here's to a peaceful and sweet holiday season for you all!

How About You?

How do you create or find Peace in your life?
Please post a comment to share with us.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Wow of the Tao

I'm taking a class called Tao: The Way Within with Reverend Kim Kaiser. I'm calling it the Wow of the Tao because it is deepening the wow factor in my awareness.

Taoism says that everything, including us, is constantly coming into form and returning to the Tao. We all know that we are alive on the Earth for a limited number of years. But it's not just that.

Every moment, we are coming and going from That-which-created-us. So I guess I should say That-which-is-constantly-creating us. That is pretty darn cool. And another reason to believe in mind-blowing miracles being not just an every day occurrence, but every moment occurrences. Every moment.

As long as I am focused on my mind and the way it perceives the world, I completely miss that. I miss that I am in motion. That I am not static. I think that I am static, because i see a constant image
in the mirror and in the people and things around me. And I have long felt/known that we are mostly space in between all the matter we can see.

But as 80 students sat in that classroom, I really felt it. It sank in deeper to my awareness that this body is not solid, permanent, or even a real thing of substance. We are like a motion picture that is made of thousands of still photos that run together fast enough to look fluid. We are flickering in and out of solidity so fast that we look like a solid, real thing. Perhaps it is that the subatomic particles take turns, not all leaving at the same instant, and so we seem real. This means that physical and energetic healing really is possible, because each time those microscopic parts of us leave and return, they are refreshed, or perhaps new particles altogether.

The I Am is always moving in me. In the same way that my cells are replacing themselves frequently, Spirit flows in and through me, replacing every particle moment after moment. Spirit interacting with this body is what we call life. That is life. What a trip. Like a candle flame that cannot be held

Spirit coming into and out of form moment after moment as this body, as that body, as that table or chair. Creation didn't happen once with the Big Bang or the Word. It is still happening. It is happening now. And now. It is happening always, every moment. Wow. I am not a solid thing. Nor are you. Nor is the chair you sit on. Something is moving. Something knows, watches, sees, experiences.

Can I take a moment to really feel that? Set aside all that I think I am and feel that? If I remember that for even one moment, could I ever really be attached to an absolute idea of what is right and wrong? To politics? Traffic? Anything?

Taoism says that the practice is to stay within myself and do nothing. That doesn't mean inaction; more like not doing things with my will. Just letting it flow from within.

What was I before I was born? I put my attention on the computer screen. I put my attention on the lamp. Now I put my attention on attention itself. What is it that knows that I see, hear, feel? If you take a moment, can you name it? What is it that is aware?