Letter to 40 Day-ers

November 14th, 2011

Hi all you shiny, flexible, strong people!

Many of you found me at our “Triumph” party to express your gratitude.  I’m writing in a “look-what-they-did,” very public manner, to thank each of you right back in a big, heartfelt, expansive, smiling, joyful way. Thank-you — with all of those qualities infused!

It’s been about week since you completed “40 days to Personal Revolution” and from what I’ve witnessed, you’re quaking with new found insights, connections, and deep truths.

I  have a hunch, too, (gleaned from the number of sparkling-sheeny eyes), that you’ve kneaded your hearts — through consistent daily practice — into ever softer, wiser, more receptive ones.

Epiphany-rejoicing of the best kind!

Your softness and sparkliness have inspired me to spend more time in stillness – on the yoga mat, sitting in meditation, reading good-heart-expanding-stuff, writing, and opening up to the present. I am equally roused to love more fully, hence my gratitude letter to you.

I’ve heard the third time is a charm, yet this was the second time  I co-guided this program with Scott, and it was revelatory!

Let me explain.

During my maiden voyage co-steering 40-days, I had this crazy confused idea that it was, at least, in part up to me, to ask a life-altering question, or say something, one thing, that would be, you know, the epic thing, to send you sailing toward your right life. (No pressure or anything.)

So, before each meeting, I dutifully scribbled sage teachings and brilliant guidance into the margins of my class outline, just in case the opportunity arose to blow open a soul or two, catalyzing a transformation toward a deeply fulfilling life.

Ok, everyone together now: Big guffaw! Still guffawing? Yeah, I am too.

Looking back, I can see that this came from a place of fear, rather than a place of faith. My attempt to over-control was a kind of forgetting. I had forgotten to trust the process, and have confidence in the practices.

This time around, I let go. I trusted the practices to do their thing.

My revelation: Have faith in the methods!

Over the past few years, a deep sense of confidence has arisen in me, from the recognition that if we slow down, look within, become more familiar with our minds, and care lovingly for our bodies, we are more able to face all of what life delivers with an inner well of strength and freedom. It can be a freaking crazy-storm of crappy circumstances in our outer life, yet with a healthy interior state, we always have a reservoir of peace.

Now, I am certain, as in no doubt about it, that no matter what might be swirling around in our outer life, there is always, at our core, a potential for flourishing.

I know, too, as in no doubt about it, that we’ll never find a fast-food outlet dishing up inner freedom. We have to practice our way toward a life full of meaning.

And oh, how all of you dedicated 40 day-ers practiced!

  • You chose to arrive on your yoga mats, six days out of seven, inhabiting your bodies, attending to your breath, and tuning inward.

On the mat, in flow, you were invited to be still in motion. And yoga did its thing, as it tends to do: sensations rise and dissolve, emotions rise and dissolve, and thoughts are dropped, as the postures and the breath call for your focus. Again and again, you are invited to unhook from rambling thoughts, and allow and make space for visiting sensations and emotions.

  • You chose to sit in meditation — twice a day for 40 days. This is a commitment in the world we live in, twittering with easy distractions and ways to escape.

I could write a Whitman-esque “Song of Meditation,” but you know the song already, because you practiced. You nod knowingly when reading the research about how meditating 20 minutes a day for 6 – 8 weeks strengthens the power of attention, reduces anxiety, and increases one’s general state of well-being. If you’ve meditated longer, perhaps you’ve found you can get disentangled from the mental static that perpetuates suffering, and find clarity and peace. This makes you happy and you can share that lovey-happy-goodness with others.

  • You chose to give up food insta-stimulants and food insta-chill-axers, plus every possible food attachment you might have had!

Breaking your food routines helped you establish more mindfulness around eating. You were invited to notice areas in your diet where the force of habit had become strong. And you practiced eating and living in ways that were conscious and creative rather than habitual.

  • You chose to engage in weekly meetings, at the end of a work-day, and brought your authenticity to your fellow 40 day-ers.

In showing up fully each week, you created a community where there is kindheartedness, support, openness, creativity, vulnerability (and shelter), play, strength, levity, and love.

I am tremendously grateful to all of you for reminding me to continue cultivating a way of being that is not so subject to patterns of habitual thinking. A way of being that is about growing in love, inner freedom and lightheartedness.

I appreciate you, and I celebrate you, your dedication to practice, and your personal revolution!

xoxoxoxo Love, Lauren

Lizard-Pacifying Ninja Mind-moves #1 and #2

February 15th, 2010

Pema told me I should expect some tough stuff in the middle. But I didn’t think her little bit of wisdom applied to me. Not me, I said, I like middles. And I thought I could get all that rich, succulent, in-the-middle-stuff without any of the pain.

Pema Chodron says that the middle of a retreat—whether it’s a 7-day retreat or a 3-year retreat — when it seems like it’s going on forever and it will never, ever, EVER, be over, and you’re in the sticky muck of it — that’s where the treasures lie.

Hmmm, maybe when I was feeling all fond about middles, I was thinking about the middle of a slightly underbaked brownie. Or the middle of a beach vacation, mid-day, in the middle of a page-turning novel. Or someone else’s middle. Because Pema is a bonafide smarty-pants. And as she predicted, smack in the middle of this 40 day endeavor, things got sticky.

For three days, (day 23, 24 and 25 to be exact), in all the in-between spaces — when I wasn’t directly “getting stuff done,” — I was seized by a vague and looming sense of dread. And since there was no hatchet hanging over my head, this dread felt all wrong.

It was time to do some inner research. I started my investigation by tuning into the goings-on of my mind. And what I heard wasn’t the regular old mind-chatter. Instead, my brain was sending out dire warnings, as if my life depended on obeying them. “THERE’S NOT ENOUGH TIME!” It implored. “The sand is slipping through!” “Time is running out!” “You’ll never finish!” “And you’ll disappoint EVERYONE!” “You’ll be ALL ALONE!”

Ah. Gotcha. My reptilian bodyguard had slithered in and hijacked my mind.

Luckily, I know this guy well. And I know he’s just a big scaredy-lizard who gets all skittery and insistent when he senses my life might be in danger. (And he’s way-way-overprotective by design, so really, he can’t help it.)

We’ve all got our own version of the scaredy-lizard. It’s located in the deepest layer of our brain, wrapped around the base of our brainstem. Our lizard is our primitive reptilian brain — named so, because this neural structure first evolved in in early vertebrates. And it exists solely to govern our survival behaviors. As humans evolved, other parts of the brain were formed, such as the limbic system which deals with emotions, and the cerebral part which controls logical thinking and reasoning.During a state of fear or stress, our reptilian brain overrides our more evolved thinking mind, and broadcasts a barrage of fear signals. Our brain activity is diverted away from the conscious thinking and feeling brain toward our subconscious lizard brain.

What this means is when we are experiencing fear, our ability for creative or logical thought declines. Our brain messages are now all about survival: fight or flight, right or wrong, good or bad. There’s not enough time.

The signs that scaly guy had taken up his protective stance were right there, in front of my nose! Because when he’s busy puffing up his chest, I start misplacing things. This time, It started when I misplaced my black Manduka yoga mat, which is pretty hard to do. (Have you ever seen one of those? They are thick, and bulky, and weigh a whopping 6.5 pounds.)

Oh, and the list grew. Water bottle, check! New water bottle that replaced lost one, check! Cell-phone, check! iPod shuffle, check! It was as if I was following some kind of  reverse-productivity un-do list.

Huh? Isn’t all this mindfulness stuff supposed to help me be more mindful in the spaces in-between?  Not if puffed-up scaredy-lizard has anything to say about it. Fortunately, I’ve learned how to pacify him with a couple of ninja-like mind-moves.

Ninja mind-move #1: Just the facts, ma’am.

I’ve learned to give the lizard the observable facts. Most of our lizards are tamed by veritable facts — sans the jump to assumptions, stories, or conclusions about what those facts mean. Just. The. Facts.

My time commitments and to-do’s were growing, and going with the flow apparently wasn’t cool by the little lizard in charge of keeping me alive. He wanted to see the week’s schedule — every to-do item — laid out. So, I added up the hours I’d spend this week on my 40 day endeavor. There would be time spent in yoga, meditation, reading the weekly assignment, journaling, attending the group meeting, traveling to and fro, and taking the mandatory post-sweat-fest shower. All tallied up, 21 hours. Then I showed him where the hours would fit on the schedule.

21 hours! You’d think that would freak him out. But his eyes were getting glaze-y.

On top of that, I had 10 client appointments for the week. And my Thursday class to teach. And my sweet boys to pick up from school every day at 3 PM. And the Valentines project. So I showed him where all those things would fit too. And as I was droning on, it got awfully quiet.

Turns out facts are like I.V. valium for my lizard, because he was, for the time being, sedated. And I had my mind back. I was feeling mighty triumphant. Free. Motivated. It was 9:33 a.m., and I had a full morning planned, starting with “write blog post.”

And then, the phone rang. And ninja mind-move #2 was soon to be revealed.

“Hello, this is Anna. Owen is here, and he says he’s not feeling well. And honestly, he doesn’t look well…Could you come pick him up?”

My work day had just started. I had a lot of “getting stuff done” on the schedule.

But in that moment, I wasn’t thinking about that. I was imagining my Owen, on the couch in the school office, pale and icky-feeling, waiting for ME.

And all-at-once, I was deluged with love. The love was so big, so immediate, so whole. When I looked around for the lizard, he was gone. GONE. Vanished.

Lizard-pacifying ninja mind-move #2: Love.

Turns out my lizard can’t hijack my mind when it’s flooded with love. Because at that moment, time was not lacking. Nothing was lacking. I was tugged into the here and now by the clear, sweet love I have for my son.

And, wow, who knew? Cool-lizard vanishing trick!  Just immerse the scaly guy in love. POOF!

Yes! I unearthed some treasures in the muck of the middle…

For one, when my to-do’s and commitments grow, and my overprotective friend gets worried, I can help him (and free up my mind) by mapping out the course. You know, just a bit. It doesn’t  have to be all hairpin-uncertainty when facts are there for the taking. And when the course suddenly changes, I can grab the eraser, and map it out again.

And perhaps the loveliest treasure: in a great, powerful lizard-vanishing hi-ya to fear,  I can draw my mind’s attention to love, anytime. It’s right here.

Oh, sure, I know the lizard will wriggle his way in and hijack my thinking mind again and again, because he takes his job seriously. Ensuring my survival is no small thing. But maybe, the next time, I can greet him a day or two sooner, with a few less items on my un-do list. And maybe, through experimentation, I could learn a couple more lizard-pacifying techniques.

Please, tell me, what are your lizard-pacifying moves? I want to try them out!

And please share, what treasures have you unearthed in the muck of the middle? I love hearing about found treasure!

Why Basic Goodness Matters

December 20th, 2009

Welcome to the Basic Goodness blog. I am so glad you are here.

Oh boy. My first blog post. I’ve written this post, oh, at least 30 times already in my head. (Each version wildly different from the next.) In the end, I decided to answer a question I’ve been asked at least a dozen times. A question I tend to avoid answering, by cheerily changing the subject (great haircut!), or by mumbling something rushed and incomprehensible (with Shambhala Buddhism and “maybe you’d like to look it up” somewhere in the mix). It’s not that I am not passionate about the answer. Because I am, over the top, brimming with passion. It’s just that the answer is kind of a long story, and afterwards I know people still might want to look it up. There, you’ve been warned.

The question is “How come your health coaching business is called Basic Goodness?” And below is the answer I would love to give.

Aaaah, because so much depends upon it. (Like William Carlos Williams‘ red wheel barrow, glazed with rain water, beside the white chickens.)

And here’s another related question: Why not something more like extraordinary goodness or breathtaking goodness or knock-your-socks-off goodness?

Ohhhh, because human goodness is intrinsic, indispensible, and perfectly ordinary.

Ok, so that’s it. Wouldn’t that be fun? To just answer like that, all zen-like with soft Buddha smile?

But since this is my first post, and I’m kind of excited, and I could never pull off the say-only-what-is-essential maxim, I’ll say a bit more.

I love, love, this view of basic goodness. Crazy-love. Probably because when I first got an experiential glimpse of basic goodness, it rocked my world, changing forever how I looked at myself and others. Really getting deep-down in my bones that I possessed a kind of inherent alright-ness broadened everything. It awakened a kind of magical self-trust. And from that place, I had the courage to look inside for answers. Instead of having to be good and half-heartedly doing what I thought might gain me a coveted spot in the Hall of Fame for Good Girls (which weirdly not-so-surprisingly, resulted in an inclination to act out in sneaky, not-so-good-girl sorts of ways), I realized I didn’t have to do anything. (Which naturally resulted in an indefatigable, whole-hearted ardor to find my talents and gifts and use them to do good in the world.)

Oh yeah, but there’s a rub. Uncovering your basic goodness, and finding that quality of self-trust, and looking inside for answers, also means you come face to face with all your stuff — the shiny and the not-so-shiny. The stuff you’ve stuck in corners which has a patina of UGH. The good news is that as you cultivate and grow your connection with basic goodness, you find every scruffy scrap can be used on behalf of who you want to be and what you really want to do. It’s worth the whole awkward process of excavation.

More of this basic goodness thread will show up in future blog posts “Aaaah, because so much depends upon it.”

I’ll be writing about health and wellness, reaching your ideal weight, replacing stuck habits with healthy ones, and cultivating well-being. And along the way, I hope to help you uncover and celebrate your basic goodness. So you can rock your authentic self and find some lightness as you move toward greater health and happiness.

If you feel so inclined, leave a comment or two if you want to celebrate with me. Or if you want to shout out how you think basic goodness matters too.

And, if you still want to look it up, try here and here.