Taking time to notice nature is good for your health, and the health of the planet.
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Taking time to notice nature is good for your health, and the health of the planet.
The leap in consciousness that Einstein speaks of is about accessing the fullest sense of ourselves. In the whole person wellbeing model I use in teaching and coaching, we refer to this as the “transcending dimension of wellness.” Transcending is about going beyond ourselves, surpassing our darkest moments, and moving beyond the pre-conceived limits we have of our innate capacity to live vibrantly.
There are three accessible pathways to transcending and moving into our fullest selves: overcoming, flow, and connection.
Overcoming relates to the experiences we all have in life that challenge the very core of our being. Once we’re on the other side of these life-altering experiences (e.g., divorce, serious illness, trauma, addiction, loss of a loved one, job or home) we have the opportunity to see life from a new lens. If we’ve survived what we thought wasn’t possible, we’re left with a stronger understanding of our inner strength. This new perspective of our own resilience helps us realize that we’re stronger than we knew.
Too often, we measure success from where we are in the present moment compared with where we want to be in the future. If we instead measured from where we are in the present to where we’ve come from in the past, we’d see growth indicative of an inner strength and toolkit we could confidently apply to future challenges — big or small.
Flow describes being fully engaged with an activity to the point of losing track of time and being completely absorbed without effort. Flow is in part dependent on mastery, so each of us experiences it in different types of activities or situations. Some might experience flow when absorbed in meaningful work, others while playing music or writing, and others while cooking, knitting or running. The possibilities are endless, but the more often we’re in a flow state of being, the more likely we are to feel happy and satisfied with life.
Connection is an essential ingredient for human health and wellbeing. Researcher Dan Siegal says that human beings are neurologically hardwired to connect with other humans. His term for this is “mindsight,” and it refers to mutuality, insight, and empathy. Essentially, when we feel completely seen and understood by another person, we feel connected. Connection can also come from the expansive sense of self experienced in the splendor and awe of nature, or from spiritual practices that create connection to something much bigger than yourself.
Regardless of the pathway that most resonates with you, I hope you’re eager to take a leap into transcending and to move into your fullest self — and into happiness and satisfaction. If you need a nudge, I would love to support your efforts with coaching, yoga, and retreats. Feel free to reach out to me at any time.
Recently, a client challenged me with the question, “Is it really possible to live in joy – at least most of the time?” He happened to ask me this on the same day I was teaching about the balance between working and playing for the international health and wellness coaching certification course that I’m a trainer for, so this topic was fresh in my mind.
After reflecting on the conversations we had in class, along with what I’ve seen clients struggle with and what I’ve struggled with in my own life, I believe the answer to that question is a resounding YES! Not only is living in joy doable, but I believe it’s what we are meant to do. I am certain that when we prioritize joy (which, to me, is equatable with love), not only are we happier, but a ripple of positivity is extended to the world around us.
Prioritizing joy might feel a bit odd, even counter-cultural, because it is not something we are trained to do. For many of us, the message to “work hard” was so strong in our upbringing, that work has become the measure of our worth. To help you shift towards bringing more joy into your work and life, I’ve come up with these 5 P’s for finding joy.
· Presence – Savor the micro-moments! I can’t say enough about cultivating the habit of present-moment awareness. Too often, we let our minds pull us into ruminations of past events or worry about future ones. With our minds chattering about what’s next on the to-do list, we miss the taste of the food we eat, the sounds of the birds just outside the car window, or the twinkle in the eye of the barista serving our coffee. Savoring brings us into what’s right in front of us, and typically there’s so much more than we first notice.
· People – As human beings, we are hard wired to connect with others. In the last decade, there have been major breakthroughs in the scientific knowledge about the brain, mind, and relationships. Daniel Siegel, PhD, says that the little part of our brain called the insula helps us perceive emotional states in other people and create resonance with them. He calls this “mindsight” and describes it as the joining of minds, or mutuality, that helps people feel “felt.” This connection happens when we pause briefly enough to prioritize the people we’re with. Recognizing our shared humanness, accepting and connecting with others helps everyone feel better.
· Purpose – Ancient yoga philosophy teaches that each of us has a unique purpose in life – an idea that’s consistent with all spiritual teachings I’ve encountered. This purpose is something that we’re meant to do, in a way that no one else can. And when we don’t align our lives with whatever that is for us, we suffer. We’re meant to be happy, and to feel good about what we’re bringing into the world. If you’re not clear on what that is for you, getting clear on your values is a great place to start.
· Passion – Bringing your full self into whatever you’re doing makes it more fun. It doesn’t matter if it’s a chore or an activity you don’t like very much. Doing anything with resistance is like dragging around a ball and chain and drains your energy. Choose what you commit to mindfully. Ask yourself: “Does this bring me joy?” or “Can I bring joy into this?” Minimize your involvement in things where you can’t find a way to bring joy.
· PLAY!!! – This is a fundamental experience for health that’s often overlooked by “responsible adults.” We see the value of play in helping kids learn, create, explore, and express themselves. But somewhere along the way, we adults traded in play for work and tamped down our yearning for playful experiences. Play frees up our creativity, enhances our ability to live in flow, and naturally brings us joy. Finding small ways to bring a sense of playfulness into work and home life helps sustain us until we get time for play breaks. Scheduling play breaks on a regular basis is key to staying connected to joy in your life.
I’ve just finished teaching my class series, which centered on the first facet of the eight-faceted yoga path, the Yamas. The Yamas are reflections of our true nature as humans. Knowing that these ancient teachings are as relevant in my class today as they were when first taught 5,000 years ago emphasizes this practice’s inherent wisdom and power.
The Yamas show us that the essence of our humanity binds us together, inextricably. All of us. All 7 billion of us. The Yamas sum up the truths of who we are with five qualities:
यम Ahimsa – compassion and reverence for all
यम Asteya – generosity
यम Satya – truth and integrity
यम Brahmacharya – the desire to live in balance
यम Aparigraha – acknowledgement of abundance
In her book The Secret Power of Yoga, Nischala Joy Devi wrote,
When we revere all as ourselves through ahimsa,
the other four qualities … are naturally present.
Remembering this message – that in our truest form we’re all the same and share these qualities – leaves me filled with peace and hope. When other messages impinge, I know I’m simply identifying with mind muck…mine or someone else’s, which are neither the real me nor the real them. When we see the ‘shadow’ side of humanity, it’s evident that we’re out of alignment with our true nature. This gives me hope, because recognizing it means I have a choice to align with the truth: our essence, our common humanity.
If we all extend toward and look for compassion, pause long enough to listen to our truth, generously give someone (and ourselves) the benefit of the doubt when they, or we, are mired in mind muck that sometimes trips us up, step back when we need to rest, and express gratitude for all the blessings in our lives, we’ll align and be elevated by this truth.
This seems simple: focus on our truest essence and common qualities as humans, and life will flow effortlessly. I suspect that the ancient yogis knew that what appears simple, isn’t; that forgetfulness is also embedded into our humanness. Hence, the value of continued practice of yoga, the choice to remember.
Simple Steps to Bringing More Joy to Your Life
I love helping clients find their inner strength, especially because I know that it's something we all have even though we aren't always aware of it. Six months ago, I was in a car accident that left me with minor injuries, whiplash, and a concussion for which I am still receiving treatment. I was grateful that the damage wasn’t worse and that I have access to talented healing professionals; however, the time needed to devote to healing challenged my patience. I was scheduled to sit for the first ever National Board of Medical Examiners’ Health and Wellness Coaching exam a few months after the accident and was signed up for a business plan competition. How I was going to pull this off with my head in a fog? I had no clue.
I’m reminded of what I love about being a health coach and a yoga teacher. - Self-Responsibility & Self-Love, two pillars of wellbeing that I help clients tap into, served as guideposts and reminded me that I had what I needed to heal. I felt vulnerable not being able to work or think clearly, and being vulnerable isn’t a place I’m comfortable with. I found that some of my usual strategies for dealing with emotional discomfort didn’t work, like running or riding my bike, and that I can’t always outrun vulnerability. I learned that embracing, not turning away from, the feeling of vulnerability is key to helping me not only heal, but to succeed in living life in full authenticity.
When I feel vulnerable, healing practices like aromatherapy, gentle yoga, nourishing and mindful meals and grounding in nature nurture me back to health. Asking for and accepting help even when I can’t reciprocate is hugely vulnerable for me, and well worth doing. Dedicated daily time in meditation practice, planting seeds of intention and deeply listening to my heart helps me embrace the start of the day. Reflecting on Pema Chodron’s teachings about the fundamental uncertainty of life, I realized that the uneasiness that was floating to the surface of my being was a sign of health and wholeness. Life is unpredictable, sometimes painful and always changing. Chodron refers to the constant state of flux and feeling of uneasiness as groundlessness.
In her book, Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change, Chodron says: “By fully touching this relative moment of time . . . by being fully present to your experience, you contact the unlimited openness of your being.” She sums up her advice for embracing groundlessness as:
Be Fully Present
Feel Your Heart
And Engage the Next Moment Without an Agenda
I’m practicing this way of living. Instead of trying to push away vulnerability, I’m acknowledging it and giving it space. While there’s much I don’t know about the future, I do know that I’m okay with that. I did pass the Board Exam and submitted the business plan and won third place. But my biggest accomplishment was the realization that regardless of how vulnerable I might feel in any given moment, if there’s one thing that’s certain – it will change. And that’s OK. I’ve got my tools. I’m ready. Bring it on!