impermanence

Adding More Water As a Metaphor For Life

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  I had an experience with my new fountain recently that made me think about adding more water as a good metaphor for life.

I got this new baby a few weeks ago to add some ambiance to my office and my life. I love the soothing sound of water running and I have to admit I fell in love with this thing the minute I saw it. I got it to the office, figured out the setup and plugged it in. I immediately noticed the submerged motor was a bit louder than I'd expected so I added water as needed but the sound was still pretty loud. I tried a few more combinations and finally decided it was good enough. Let it be.

But then I went back and looked at it more closely. And then I closed my eyes and listened carefully. Have you ever tried using all your senses, as you are able, to solve a problem? It's amazing what stands out.

When I listened carefully, I heard the motor fill up and reengage and then I heard it sputter and choke. It occurred to me that maybe there wasn't enough water. I added a bit more slowly at first and then I poured probably four times what was in lower bowl.

Guess what? No more noise from the motor. All you could hear is the trickling water. Turns out, adding more water was the solution.

I think adding more water is a good metaphor for life.

A lot of people struggle with drinking enough water. It's something I hear time and time again as a health coach.

During the winter or in cold climates, it's especially a challenge because of the weather. In hot weather, we're more present to dehydration or we associate water with refreshment and "cooling off". When we are cold and freezing, we don't necessarily associate cold glasses of water with refreshment. Ironically, it's during the winter where we may need water even more because we're eating denser, rich foods and probably more sugar, salt and fat than we consume during the summer. The air is also more dry and we are inside in environments running heat all day. Dehydration contributes to a myriad of symptoms like fatigue or chronic pain and stiffness which we then cover up with foods like coffee or sugar or lifestyle habits that don't serve us. Netflix binge, anyone?

Water represents fluidity and movement. We often attach meaning based on whatever is happening in our lives. I've been watching (and re-watching) this recorded seminar with Pema Chödrön lately where she speaks of water. She talks about the river and how some people cling to the edge and get tossed about and the people who relax and let go and float down the middle of the river. Naturally, things like currents and rocks and stuff appear in the middle so it's not like floating down a lazy river in an inner tube like I did when I was a kid. It's still scary and hard sometimes.

But it's less scary and hard to go with the flow of things as they are, she explains, than to cling to one fixed point on the river, clutching for permanence and security. While it provides some sense of comfort, the water keeps rushing past and we have to keep clinging to hold our place. Clinging takes a lot of effort.

Flowing is scary but perhaps less so than clinging, with the right mindset and with enough practice.

 

So, consider if you're listening to your body the way I listened to that fountain to troubleshoot how to fix it. Are you paying close attention to what you actually need or have you made a decision that what you're doing is good enough?

And notice if you're clinging to the riverbed in your life, attached to outcomes and certainty, or are you flowing with things as they truly are?

 

No One Can Do You Like You Do.

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  There are a lot of coaches doing the work I do.

There are a lot of people in the business of health and wellness, competing for the same time, energy, air space, resources, money, clients, etc. Sometimes it makes me a little nervous, I'll be honest. Industry experts and trade secrets tell me I am either crazy or right-on to tell you this, which is a whole other blog post for another time--that whole authenticity thing. Stay tuned for that one. For now, let's stay here--with fear, doubt and what you can do with it.

It's true. Sometimes, I get especially nervous when I see someone copying something I've just launched, taking material I put out there (maybe a recipe or a blog post or twitter bio) and passing it off as their own without a mention or reference as to the source of inspiration. Despite that old saying, "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" sometimes it doesn't feel that way, especially when you're talking about building and sustaining a business. It's easy to get small and concerned and need the validation and maybe even a little frustrated when you think someone is stealing your spotlight--or your brand or your message or __something__ faster, bigger, sooner or better. Can you relate?

Well, it isn't true, because no one can do you like you do. It's just not possible.

For instance, I saw this guy online, a big twitter personality with massive numbers of followers, suddenly start talking about health and nutrition. Since he has built his business around being a guru of marketing, it surprised me that he was now talking about health and fitness considering he didn't really have "credentials" to do it. I got all up in my head thinking about his reach and his advantage, etc. etc. And I even went to that "but he knows nothing about nutrition" place. That dark, small, lonely space. Hmm.

Then, I paid closer attention and realized he was on a path, himself, to become more healthy. He was busting his ass day in and day out trying to find the answers and solutions he needed to feel better in his skin. I instantly got flooded with compassion and, I'll admit, love. He was walking his talk, just like me, trying to get from A to B and inspire people along the way. When I read his posts and followed his pictures on instagram, I realized it was nothing like what I'd do or promote or put out there as advice or ideas but his followers were eating it up, pun intended. It was working for him and that's all that mattered.

It was him doing him. And his followers needed that from him, because only he could do it like that. 

I could go on with more stories but I think you get it. Whether it's someone changing his twitter bio to match what you say in yours (it's happened to me), sending a similar message in marketing, copying your recipes and not giving you credit (it happened to my friend) or heck, copying your interior design as they open a new business right across the street from you (also a true story), it can certainly bring up feelings of frustration, concern or worry. We can go to that place of scarcity and threat, that there isn't enough to go around and someone doing what you're doing takes away from what you're trying to accomplish. Think of the hours spent in litigation (legal or mental) over things like this and how much time it takes away from actually just DOING more of the stuff you love to do?

If you can allow those feelings to come up and get them out, it's a good thing. I can even go the Buddhist place with this stuff and tell you that it's all about impermanence, right? Wanting to hold onto something and make it be ours and ours forever--and not wanting it to end. Get present with that fear, get real with that concern and talk to someone about it or write it down. Then work on getting to the place of remembering that no one, NO ONE, can do you like you do. There's only one person who can say it like you'll say it, do it like you'll do it and sell it like only YOU can sell it.

Your sass. Your wit. Your insights. Your ideas. Your color. Your character. Your wisdom. Your experience. Your perspective.

Social media shows that everyone is doing their thing, adding their two cents to the hustle and competing against hundreds and thousands of competitors.

We can get caught up in the stress of trying to win "the game" with content, messaging and marketing all hours of the day or we can relax and stay true to us and what we love and want to create and share. Besides, we're all saying or doing the same things, in case you haven't noticed. We might as well add our voice to the mix for whomever needs to hear it as only we can, and feel damn good about when others do it themselves.

Feeling All The Things

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"That's the thing about pain. It demands to be felt." - The Fault in Our Stars

Haven't seen or read this book, but I heard this quote in a clip and I thought it was pure truth. :)

One of the greatest lessons I learned from all the stuff of my life was how to feel my feelings. The more I walk amongst others, I really get how few people actually do this or know how to do it.

And I get it. I really do. It doesn't actually feel very good, especially the hard feelings. The good ones are hard to feel, too, I think. For me, good feelings sometimes bring a bittersweet quality because I know they won't last.

This fun BBQ with friends will end and I will have to go home.

This great movie will end.

This book will be over.

This gorgeous sunset will become night.

etc., etc.

Welcome to why I became a Buddhist. I find it helpful to have a tool to manage impermanence. Impermanence is reality, it's what is real and true about life. Before I realized this, I suffered a lot.

My relationship to and with impermanence began long ago.

I struggle with "issues" around abandonment and attachment from my childhood. I put the issues in quotes because, well, I think it's bullshit to stigmatize something that almost every person experiences an "issue". How about we just call it, hmm, the human experience.

OK.

So, I struggle with the experiences of abandonment and attachment from my childhood. My parents divorced when I was year old and my father moved out, remarried and had two sons. I have one sister and two brothers. I don't call them half-brothers--there is nothing half about them. It really doesn't matter that we have different moms. They are my brothers, end of story.

Because psychology is what it is (whatever we understand it is, really) I experience the impact of this family arrangement. It trickled into my childhood, adolescence, emerging adulthood and, presently, my adulthood. It impacts how I interact with other people and how I relate to work, exercise, food and spirituality.

It's good for me to know this so I can make sense of everything I think, do and say. Some people don't think this is a good use of their time. Different strokes for different folks, I say. I find it helpful to make meaning from life because it's how my brain works. Before I had tools to help me, I really struggled. Now, I apply the many tools I've acquired over the course of 15 years and they help me adjust and recalibrate to make my life more positive and so I can experience less suffering. As long as I'm here, I might as well enjoy it, right?!

One way I do this is to feel all the things. Even the dark, nasty, horrible things. One of the worst feelings I felt was at the end of romantic relationships. There were times I felt like my body was coming apart at the seams. I felt like I was being squeezed out like a sponge or like someone was reaching down into my intestines and pulling them out through my throat.

So, trust me, I know why people do anything in their power to avoid feeling hard feelings. I know how it feels. But I have spent years practicing how to do it because each time I do, it makes it a little bit easier, ironically. It doesn't seem like it would work, but it has for me.

Sort of like waves of nausea. We all know that feeling.  You know how sometimes you wait it out, and let it pass, it goes away? Sometimes it's the flu or food poisoning and it doesn't go away. I'm not talking about that kind. haha.  I'm talking about the kind that makes you sit down and stop for a minute. And when you take deep breaths and a sip of water, it passes. And you feel really relieved because what felt so horrible a minute ago now isn't there and you feel so much better.

You realize that you didn't need to do anything other than sit and wait it out. And you are ok. And maybe next time the nausea comes, you will know what to do and it won't feel so scary.

I tried this the other day when I felt incredibly restless. OMG. I was like a Tazmanian devil, moving from thing to thing, picking things up, putting them down, literally walking in circles. This went on for about two hours until my mindfulness practice kicked in. I caught myself and I stopped. I felt the twitches and tics in my body. I felt my muscles tense and relax. It was like I took a picture of myself. I watched myself from about two feet away. And I sat down, put my palms on my thighs and I sat there. I felt like my head was in a vice.

I took a lot of deep breaths. I realized what was happening and that I'd been here many times before. I knew I was safe but I said it out loud, just to remind myself. I knew I had nowhere to go and nothing important to do and this was a perfect time to be fearless and face whatever wanted to come up.

I allowed myself to REALLY feel the depth of the loss, the pain or the grief I was experiencing. I wanted to know what it was like to really FEEL it and not run or move around anymore, because all that moving around clearly wasn't making it go away.

WOW. Tears came up from the depths of somewhere. I let them pour out and down like they did when I was kid. Did you know that tears perform the essential physiological function of cleansing stress hormones out of our bodies? I didn't know that. Since I learned, I'm always thrilled when I can manage a good cry.

When the tears were over, I felt like someone had uncorked me. The tension was gone. The grasping, restless feeling was gone. The headache was gone. My focus was back. When I released my resistance on feeling those hard feelings and just allowed them to come up and out, something horrible didn't happen. Instead, I felt much better on the other side.

Let yourself ride the tide, the highs and lows of life. Don't try to feel "good" all the time, it isn't natural or realistic. Nothing in life or nature is like that. It isn't always sunny or rainy (well, depending on where you live, of course).

Feel all the feelings and remember none of them are permanent. Not the good ones or the not-so-good ones. 

 

"Let everything happen to you

Beauty and terror

Just keep going

No feeling is final."

-Rainer Maria Rilke, poet