Tag Archives: Progress

The Bittersweet Taste of Disappointment

Disappointment – the feeling of sadness or displeasure caused by the nonfulfillment of one’s hopes or expectations.

We’ve all been there. And that definition just about sums it up perfectly doesn’t it? That feeling of sadness or displeasure all because a hope or expectation comes crashing to the ground.  It’s sobering, frustrating, and even maddening at times.  There’s so much raw emotion wrapped up in that one word – disappointment.

I have spent a lot of time over the past 4 years studying meditation, mindfulness, and, to some extent also, Buddhism.  Interwoven in all of these things is a message of caution about attachment, for it is through attachment that we bring great suffering and misery to ourselves. When we attach ourselves to people, things, ideas, or situations we become very invested in how things progress or turn out between us and those people, things, ideas, or situations.  Of course what we often neglect to remember in the midst of all that is that we can’t control anything or anyone other than ourselves.  And as a result things seldom work out the way we wanted or expected them to turn out.  Hence disappointment.

For me, my study of meditation, mindfulness, and Buddhism was an attempt to understand this oh so familiar cycle in my life and to learn how to release my tendency to become so easily and deeply attached in this way. I understand that if I become less attached to people, things, ideas, and situations then ultimately I will be disappointed less often, and in turn be on that emotional roller coaster less frequently. This was a very appealing concept to me.  And so I set about practicing non attachment each day – I meditate, I offer prayers and intentions, and I reflect on my choices and my feelings as they relate to other people, things, ideas, and situations, all in an attempt to attach less and be present more.

Sounds so simple, and in the midst of those daily practices I dare say it even can feel like it is relatively easy. However, life is relentless in its continuous hurling of curve balls. So just when I start to think I’ve got this non-attachment thing down, I find myself in or near a state of disappointment over something.  Grr!  Snagged again!  So, what am I to do?  Well, the healing process I have come to rely on recently is that I first feel the feelings and really look at them and where they are originating from.  Then I acknowledge the attachment I have assigned to the situation – it is important to be honest about that fact that I got attached in some way.  And finally I meditate and offer up prayers and intentions all focused on my continued work on nonattachment.  What I do not do is become angry with the other people involved in the situation – they are not to blame for my attachment.  I also do not berate myself or become angry with myself.  I know those things are not helpful and I also know I am still learning and growing – non-attachment is not easy.

I don’t know if I will ever reach a point where I no longer become attached or no longer feel disappointed about things, but I am finding that the journey to reach that point is powerful, filled with amazing growth opportunities, and completely worthwhile.

To Meditate Or Not To Meditate, That Is The Question

“The quieter you become the more you can hear.” – Ram Dass

In our normal, everyday consciousness, our mind is filled with a constant flow of thoughts. It can become quite noisy and even sometimes overwhelming. I often refer to this as the hamster wheel inside my head…that is a hamster wheel with an ADHD hamster hyped up on too many espresso drinks! These continual thoughts can be about the past or the future. We might be replaying events and conversations in your mind (dwelling on the past).  We might be thinking about what’s going to happen at our next meeting, activity, or event.  We might create fantasies about what life will be like when our dreams are fulfilled (aka future tripping).  Or we may conjure up scary scenarios about our worst fears coming true (good old-fashioned worrying).  It is very seldom that are we sitting still in the present moment.

In meditation, the goal is for your awareness to move from the noisy activity of your mind into the quiet “gap” between your thoughts. This takes practice – you don’t just sit down and clear your mind of your thoughts the first time you try it. I liken it to learning to play an instrument.  You can’t pick up an instrument for the first time and expect to play a complex piece of music like a master.  You have to start with the basics and practice (and practice and practice), slowly improving your skills and learning increasingly challenging pieces of music.  Similarly, meditation is not something most people are able to master when they sit down for the very first time.  It takes practice to reach that gap between your thoughts and stay in it for any length of time.  Some days will be better than others…some types of meditation will work better for you than others will.  But sadly many people expect that they will quiet their mind in their first or second attempt and when they don’t they declare that they can’t meditate or that meditation doesn’t work, and thus they quit.  I have seen that happen so often.  People give up due to incorrect assumptions or understandings or as a result of unrealistic expectations.

But consider this story from India in which the mind is compared to the trunk of an elephant, which is naturally restless and undisciplined (just like our minds). When an elephant walks with his trainer through a village during a special celebration or event, his restless trunk swings from side to side, knocking over things, impulsively grabbing things, and wreaking havoc wherever he goes. A wise, experienced elephant trainer will give the elephant a short bamboo stick to hold in his trunk prior to walking through the village so that the elephant’s trunk has something to hold on to and is focused and calm. He is no longer distracted by the sights and sounds in the village market because his trunk has something to hold onto…he has something to focus his attention on.

Likewise, when we meditate, we need to give our minds the equivalent of a bamboo stick – something that will anchor our attention so that our mind doesn’t trample through our consciousness, being carried away by inner and/or outer distractions. There are a variety of options to choose from (different types of meditation offer different “bamboo sticks”), including focusing on the breath, tuning into the sensations in your body, and using a mantra. The best thing you can do for yourself is to try a variety of meditation techniques until you find what works best for your monkey mind.

When you meditate, you experience the silence of the mind when it is not stuck in the past or the future. By its very nature, meditation calms the mind, and when the mind is calm, the body can relax as well. This relaxation is extremely healing for the whole mind-body system. People may come to meditation for many reasons, but it usually includes the ability to reap some of the many benefits of meditation, which include:

  • Lowered blood pressure and heart rate
  • Decreased inflammation
  • Reversal of aging at the cellular level
  • Reduced feelings of stress
  • Increased feelings of relaxation and peace
  • Expanded experience of healing emotions (i.e. love, compassion, joy, equanimity, and gratitude)
  • The ability to respond consciously rather than reacting in a conditioned way
  • Increased focus, memory, and ability to learn
  • Better sleep
  • Decreased addictive behavior

The benefits of meditation can be both immediate and long-term, but either way they are numerous and powerful. Meditation is truly one of the best things you can do for yourself both personally and professionally.

Adding meditation to my daily routine has been the single most important thing I have ever done and I cannot recommend it to others enough. Invest in yourself – take some time to explore the various types of meditation in order to find what works best for you and then make meditation a part of your daily routine. Whether you meditate for 3 minutes or 30 minutes, the benefits you will reap from implementing a consistent meditation practice are totally worth it.

Just Stop

So much to do, so little time to do it. We just never really stop. We don’t stop to see all the beauty that surrounds us in nature, in our lives, in the people we are interacting with on a daily basis.  We don’t have time.  Yet we crave it.  We crave the peace that exists inside the pause.  We crave the opportunity to appreciate and feel gratitude.  Yet so few of us experience it.  This is somethings that has fascinated me over the past few years, both for myself and in terms of watching others.

I recently started doing more work with people on meditation – teaching them how to meditate, what the benefits of meditation are, how to incorporate meditation into their lives, etc. And in my conversations with these folks I am continually amazed at the level of stress, frustration, apathy, and exhaustion that they are experiencing in their lives. When we break those feelings down for them it is abundantly clear that the constant “on the go” reality they live in is slowly sucking the life out of them.  And all they want is to find a way to make it stop.  I believe this is true for many more people as well.  In fact, I think it is somewhat of an epidemic in our society today.

We live in a society that says we can have anything we want super-fast. Yet relief from these kinds of feelings doesn’t come quickly – it requires a change in attitude and/or behavior…neither of which tend to change overnight. There is no quick fix.  It requires a change in how we view things, how we interact with things, and in how we live our lives as  a whole.  That means reprogramming how you have probably always done things.  That is not easy and it certainly is not quick.  And so we get easily discouraged and fall right back into those feelings of despair and frustration.  It is a vicious cycle.

But for those who persevere, who recognize you won’t break life-long habits in a day or even a week, the results can be life-altering. Like meditation though, it is a habit to work a little each day on adopting a new mindset and set of behaviors. You’ll have good days and bad days.  But if you just stop living as you have always lived and entertain the possibility of more and better in your life, you can begin a new journey which can result in a much happier and healthier way of living.

I teach meditation as one such tool for making that shift, though there are many other tools out there as well. I encourage you to find what works for you, embrace it, and settle in for the exciting journey ahead. You have nothing to lose – the alternative is more of what you already have and if that’s not what you crave, then why not give it a shot.  Simply put, this or something better please!

Stretching Yourself

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch

Most successful people will tell you that at some point in their journeys they stretched themselves beyond what was their “comfortable norm”. Indeed, many would likely argue that stretching yourself is the only way to achieve great things in your life – that by sticking with the norm or status quo you will become stagnant rather than grow and achieve great things. And whether you choose to stretch yourself by taking large steps or small steps along the way, the point is to make sure you do stretch yourself in some way, big or small.

We all have a different tolerance level for the amount of stretching we can/will do at one time. For me, I was comfortable taking small stretches, one right after another. Specifically, I went from barely having a voice in this world (being shy, thinking no one would care what I had to say, and that I had nothing important to share), to writing a blog (despite being nervous that people might judge me or comment harshly), to now also having a podcast, to continually looking at how to keep using my voice in new and different ways.  All in the span of less than a year and a half.  One small stretch at a time I have developed my voice and have become brave enough to share it.

Having just said all that, and while I fully believe that stretching yourself is a vital part of living your best life, it is also important to honor your needs from a self-care perspective, stepping back to take care of yourself as needed. We have to take good care of ourselves so we can do the great things we have set out to do. It is easy to push too hard for too long, neglecting important self-care – and when that happens we actually hinder our progress despite any stretching we may be doing.

The solution is to find the balance between pushing yourself to reach your life goals and making sure you are caring for yourself properly as well. I know for me it took a little trial and error to find that balance, but I believe I have gotten to a point where I do a pretty good job of caring for myself while also continuing to push myself forward toward my goals.

Here are a few simple tips that have helped me personally achieve that balance and avoid stretching yourself too thin:

  1. Have clear goals – if your goals are clear you are less likely to get pulled in various directions at once…you can stay focused on the goals you have set for yourself which means less stress and chaos in your life as well as progress toward your goals
  2. Set clear boundaries – setting clear boundaries for yourself and for other people in your life is the best way to protect yourself from over commitment, excess stress, being pulled away from the work you have set out to do on your clear goals (among other things)…in other words, it is okay to say “No”, “Not right now”, and/or “That’s just not in alignment with my goals at the moment”…most of the time the people in your life will understand and be supportive, and you should feel good for standing up for yourself and the goals you have set for yourself
  3. Enlist help – let someone you trust in on your goals so they can encourage you, help keep you focused and on track, as well as help keep you accountable to your self-care too…so even if you don’t realize you are neglecting yourself, this person may see it and be able to point it out to you thus preventing you from crashing and burning
  4. Listen to your body – the best indicator that you have been negligent in the realm of self-care is your body’s messages to you…your physical body will respond in any of a variety of ways when it is not getting what it needs (everything from headaches and loss of sleep to any of a number of illnesses)…learn to understand what your body is telling you so you can pause long enough to take care of yourself.

So by all means go ahead and stretch yourself, just be mindful of your own needs so you are able to continue on your journey long term and enjoy the results of your hard work when that time comes.

Given this topic, I can’t end without suggesting a little assignment for you – consider the following – What’s the area in your life where you need to stretch more?  What is one small way you can work toward stretching in that area of your life today?

“Success is due to our stretching to the challenges of life. Failure comes when we shrink from them.” – John C. Maxwell

Changes – A Brief Reflection

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” – Wayne Dyer

It has been a month of change. Majorly cleaning out my personal possessions (I think I have gotten rid of close to 60% of what I own). Selling my house.  Moving into a temporary situation since my new place is still under construction.  Living out of boxes – some things with me and others in a storage unit.  Developing a new routine.  Adjusting to a new commute.  Truly the only constant in my life at the moment seems to be change.

In a perfect world the construction would be done, I’d move into my new space and be able to set everything up right away and only needing to develop a new routine one time. But that’s not how real life works, is it? No, there are always bumps in the road, unforeseen twists and turns, and some challenges that make things all the more interesting.  It could be frustrating.  It could be stressful.  It could be enough to make me rethink my decision.  Except it’s not…because I have made the choice not to allow it to be any of those things.  Oh, I have had my moments when I have gotten close to feeling stressed or frustrated, but I have worked hard to catch myself before things spiraled to that point of no return.

When I work with people inevitably we spend a lot of time on the choices they make surrounding how they respond to things that happen in their lives. Simply put, it is a practice and it requires you to be present in each moment so you can notice how you are choosing to react/respond. The same event can take place in your life yet you can choose to respond to it in any of a number of ways.  The choice is yours.  I recommend to the people I work with that they choose a response that elicits the feeling(s) they desire to have in that situation.  If you don’t like feeling stressed or frustrated, then choose a response to the situation that won’t make you feel that way.  Yes, that can be easier said than done…that’s why it is a practice.  If your attempt to choose your response didn’t work out the way you planned this time, then next time you can try again.  You will notice over time, if you truly are trying to be mindful and notice your choices, that you get better with each passing choice you make.  You will never be perfect…we are human, so perfect isn’t in our DNA, but you can get better with each new opportunity.

“The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.” – Nathaniel Branden

And so I have taken my fair share of deep breaths through all these changes which allows me a chance to reflect on how I want to feel and respond accordingly as things transpire…especially the things that are not happening as I might have preferred for them to have. Ultimately I try to keep it everything in perspective. I like things neat, orderly, and in their place – which is exactly why the universe is giving me a healthy dose of the opposite.  It’s a chance to learn and grow – to practice making better choices in my responses to what life is throwing at me.

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” – Frederick Douglass

Slow Start, Strong Finish

You know, sometimes I can be a bit slow about things. It can take me awhile to finally “get it” and then do something about it. Not always, but with some things this is quite true.  Take for example, making the choice to live my life on my own terms.  After spending many, many years giving up what I wanted in life to appease others, I finally decided to live life on my own terms.  I spent most of my adult life doing “what I was supposed to do”, which was not always what I really wanted to be doing.  Between being a perfectionist and a people pleaser, it seemed like the right thing to do, except that it wasn’t.  Somewhere along the line of living my life according to the expectations of others, I lost touch with myself and what was important to me personally.  But over the course of the past two years I have been on a journey, trying to find my way back to my true self.

Writing about my journey has been an important and powerful part of that process, but sharing my experiences hasn’t always been easy. Originally I was very afraid to share, so I took baby steps and shared “safely” at first – in very broad, general ways with nothing too specific to me and not much detail. But I kept writing.  I kept plugging away at it despite my trepidation at sharing things about myself and my journey.  And I have gotten stronger and braver in my writing with each step that I take.  It is still a work in progress though – as with all things it is a practice I continue to work at, but sharing personal stories, emotions, beliefs, and opinions is slowly becoming easier to do.  I agonize over it less and less and I spend less and less time wondering what others will think.  I was always worried about what others would say or think about what I wrote…what would they think of me if I shared certain things…what would they say about me if they knew what I was really thinking and feeling about certain things.  Eventually though the desire to share for the sake of my own growth and healing as well as for the opportunity to possibly help someone else overrode that fear.  I also discovered as I continued to write in more authentic detail that there are a lot of other people out there who share similar stories and who can relate to what I am sharing – there’s a great deal of comfort knowing you aren’t alone on your journey.

And so after two years of being on this journey, I am beginning to share more authentically. It is my story, my beliefs, my experience, my opinions, my journey, and my truth that I share…for my own sake and the sake of those to whom it also resonates. We all have a story to tell – something we can share that in doing so will not only be good for us individually, but good for others as well.  It is a powerful, albeit difficult, lesson to learn…challenging, but rewarding and satisfying at the same time.  I may have been a bit slow when it came to starting this journey, but as Jane Fonda once said, “It’s never too late – never too late to start over, never too late to be happy.”

The Bittersweet Taste of Life

“I feel extremely lucky, extremely grateful, and a little bittersweet, too.” – Wentworth Miller

It is amazing to me how many different emotions we are able to experience as humans. Not to mention the fact that despite all the words we have available to us as we try to explain those different emotions, it never seems like we can find the right words to thoroughly express how we actually feel. Those emotions, numerous and varied as they are, are extremely hard to explain using our “limited” vocabulary.  Our words just never seem to fully capture the vastness of the emotions we are able to feel.

What’s even more amazing to me is that we can experience so many of those different emotions all at once. Surely we have all had the experience of feeling a flood of emotions – it’s both amazing that we can experience so many emotions at once but also very difficult to process as well. At times it can almost be too much to comprehend, and it certainly can be overwhelming when you are feeling all of that at once.  What amazing creatures we are indeed, but what torment we can cause ourselves at the same time!

At no time has all this been more evident in my own life than this past week. The final hurdle to completely closing one chapter of my life and being able to start the next one is finally about to be removed. In just a few weeks life as I know it now will cease to exist and a brand new opportunity will begin in full force.  I’ll be moving and living a much more minimalist lifestyle while focusing on my writing, coaching business, and continuing to set the stage for my ultimate dream of living and working overseas.  It is so exhilarating to finally be here – it is the culmination of several years of hard work on myself and my personal goals, not to mention the generous support of amazing friends.  At the same time though I have to own the fact that this transition is also scary, sad, stressful, and very bittersweet.

So many thoughts and feelings rushing through my body at one time. Stress about the quick timeline. Fear of actually taking this next step.  Excitement for the opportunities that lie ahead.  Sadness over leaving this chapter behind and of letting go of so much in the process of moving on.  What a strange combination of beautiful and difficult emotions all wrapped up into this one human body.

The path to get here was definitely not paved with rose petals and laughter. It was a long and hard road filled with a lot of disappointment, sadness, struggle, heartache, and frustration. But the end result, reaching the first of several really big life goals I set for myself, is totally worth it.   Bruno Mars’ quote sums it up quite nicely I think:  “There’s always a bittersweet kind of thing, but I feel like everything had to work out the way it is. Everything that had to happen, happened.”

On some level I will miss parts of the chapter of my life that I am currently in, just as I somewhat miss certain aspects of all of the previous chapters of my life. But I know the kinds of opportunities in store for me in my next chapter, and I am super excited to experience those things. Bittersweet, yes, but totally worthwhile and exhilarating just the same.