The things we hide (get ready for the raw)

We all have a self that we portray to others that is different from who we are when we’re alone.  Some people are closer to portraying their true selves than others, but we all do it. Our desire to be accepted runs very deep, particularly in Western cultures.  The irony is that we all want to be accepted exactly as we are, and yet we modify our true nature to comply with what we think are adequate social norms.

As someone with an ‘invisible illness’ — that is I’m not missing any limbs so it’s hard for people to understand the challenges I face each day — I certainly have my skeletons, but my motivation isn’t quite about acceptance. It’s more about avoiding non-acceptance.  There’s nothing worse than being on the receiving end a look of pity or hearing a tone of burden or irritation in someone’s voice.

Many people with CF will joke about how much we try to ‘slide’ into our daily lives with the hopes of going unnoticed.

Here are 10 things I hide:

1. I can take 10 pills before eating a meal in public quicker than Flash Gordon.

2. I’ll ride the elevator or go to my car during the day for no reason just so I can have a coughing fit in peace.

3. There are literally only 7 people in my life whom I feel comfortable with doing my daily breathing treatments and physiotherapy in front of

4. I can rock a wicked ace bandage to hide a PICC line

5. I avoid romantic relationships because I don’t want to bother someone with my coughing at night and in the morning, or see me with IVs to the hilt, or ever be considered a burden.

6. My close friends are the only ones who I allow to see me be vulnerable and scared about my disease — and even that is only parsed.

7. I can stuff my anxiety down with humor, but when I’m alone it can be quite electric

8. I’ve only recently begun to seek the advice and support of others with CF because until recently, I didn’t allow it to be real (Shout out to Ronnie Sharpe and Brooke Sterling).

9. I lay on my side during Savasana in yoga class or leave early, so that I don’t cough and disturb others

10. I put on a brave face as much as I can even when I feel like I’m falling apart

I know a lot of my desire to avoid pity or stigma is my own to deal with, but there have been situations in my past that have shaped me.  So, I work each day to accept of who I am and ignore the rest.

Having this illness has made me who I am.  In many ways, I’m actually grateful for what I’ve learned.  The funny thing that I’ve noticed is that what we hide is often the things that make us who we are — unique, special, human.

What do you hide?

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

Related Posts on Charmed Yogi: A letter to yogis with chronic illness

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Are we afraid to just be happy?

relaxed frog

There are so many ‘happiness solutions’ out there today – from books to seminars to pills – promising that joy is just a spend away. We all want happiness as if it’s something that we have to save up to buy or earn.

In fact, I had a conversation with a mentor recently about finding peace through sacrifice. She looked at me as if I’d lost my mind, “What?”

“I mean, there are so many people that need so much and I can help. I feel selfish if I’ve got some downtime and I’m not using it to help someone in need or contribute in some way,” I said, “I mean if I want to be a truly spiritual person, shouldn’t I always be looking at how I can be of service? Look at Buddha, Jesus, the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa, and everyone else who sacrifices themselves for others.”

She looked at me, and said, “We can’t all be Jesus.  And, I think that you doing things that bring you joy (whatever that is) brings joy to everyone around you.  And that joy ripples through everything you’re connected to.”

And there it was in my face. I realized that I was afraid to just do things that made me happy for fear that I was being less of a spiritual being.

We work so hard to achieve happiness, and yet, it’s always with us. Peace isn’t something that we have to earn by suffering, it’s there in spite of suffering.  We’re living longer and yet, don’t live much at all.

To quote George Carlin, “We’ve added years to life not life to years.”

Do you have to stop ‘giving back’? No.  But you can be of service in so many ways without sacrificing your own health and happiness.

No matter how someone approaches me or what they ask, I try to think to myself, “How can I be helpful?”

Sometimes that means I stop what I’m doing, and help carry something heavy for my neighbor, help a friend, or donate money or time.

And sometimes being helpful to others starts with being helpful to yourself first.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Wikimusiquita)

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Go ahead and ‘What if?’

What i

Most of us spend the majority of our time living in either the past or the future.  Neither of these states actually exist, nor can we control them.  This lack of control of something we CAN’T leads to a cycle of suffering marked by anxiety, guilt, fear, or self-judgement.

Phrases like ‘I should have’ or ‘I shouldn’t have’ indicate we’re reliving something that has passed and yet, we can’t let go. If you let the mind keep up this pace, you’ll end up shoulding all over yourself.

And, the ‘What ifs?’ can quite literally paralyze us from moving forward in life for fear that something bad will happen.

So, what happens when we answer ourselves with the opposite or confirm that the decision we have made is already done?  We find a little peace.

The next time you find yourself feeling guilty about something, find the ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ statement at the heart of the suffering, and simply answer ‘Oh well, I didn’t’ or ‘Oh well, I did,’ and sit with it.  No need for self-flagellation, just acknowledgement and taking responsibility.  Then let it go.

If you find yourself feeling worry or fear, find the ‘what if’ and throw in the opposite just for kicks.  ‘What if I ask her and she rejects me?’

‘What if she doesn’t?’

‘What if I fail?’

‘What if you succeed?’

‘What if I die alone?’

‘What if you don’t?’

I’m not suggesting that you get caught up in another future state wormhole in which you pontificate scenarios that don’t yet exist, but rather, offer up your ego both sides of the argument it’s making when it tries to take you down.

Living in the present takes effort and discipline.  Don’t let your mind run over you like a spoiled child.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: MrWallpaper)

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Emotions are like blood sugar

emotional sugar cubes

Since I was a kid, I’ve had to ‘watch’ my blood sugar. If I don’t eat regularly or try to maintain a healthy level, I can get quite cranky. In fact, an ex of mine used to joke that if I didn’t get fed when I was hungry, our whole relationship was on the rocks.

It’s well known that the key to maintaining a healthy weight and eating regimen is keeping blood sugar even.  If you don’t, it can drop.  If you eat the wrong foods, it can peak and send you crashing later. It’s the same thing with our emotions.

Emotions can peak and valley superficially depending on the story we attach to our feelings, and our ability to recognize when they’re ruling us.

The old adage ‘this too shall pass’ is something we often bring to mind when something terrible has happened. But, an astute teacher once told me that we should exercise the same recognition of fleeting feelings of happiness.  Not in a doom in gloom kind of way, but rather noticing that feelings are transient.  It’s when we attach our story to those feelings that the out of control ’emotional blood sugar’ takes over.

Our minds have a fascinating way of taking us on a roller coaster ride, if we let them. The key is training your mind not to indulge in every pleasingly sugary experience or ride the hill of fear at the detriment of your peace.

Know what you feel, and that you feel, and that feelings are finite.  Know that you are bigger than your emotions and there is peace in riding them to the shore.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Pinterest)

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You have an infinite capacity for gratitude

gratitude tattoo

gratitude by Fancy Hunt on Flickr

When I was little, I’d say my prayers before bed.  “Now I lay me down to sleep….” I’d ask God to bless and watch over my mom, dad, gradmas and grandpas, aunt and uncle, brother, dog, cat, friends, anyone I didn’t know and everyone I forgot to mention.

I believed that I had to squeeze it all in during that prayer or someone might be left unprotected. As  a child, I had no parameters for what I asked of God.  As I got older, ‘the list’ became more condensed as if there were only so much room to ask God for a favor.

I used to think about Gratitude kinda the same way, like I had to find only the most prolific or beautiful things to be grateful for.  As if there were somehow a limit on gratitude or that unpleasant experiences weren’t worth considering.

But, I’ve come to realize that just like our hearts have an infinite capacity for love, there’s no limit to how much you can express gratitude for, and nothing is too trivial.

You can be grateful for the big ones, the obvious ones like, “I’m grateful for my health, and the health of my family, and my job, and my home, etc.” and those are great.  But it’s also OK to express gratitude for the little things or oft forgotten things like toilet paper, clean water, green lights, toast, toothpaste, not stubbing your toe on the table again…

And, it’s particularly liberating to be grateful for the not-so-awesome things that happen in our lives like people who drive us crazy, traffic or pain.  

When you begin to find ways to be grateful for everything, you can begin to let go of assigning value judgements like good or bad and take the ‘me’ out of what happens.  It just happens.

How many things can you be grateful for today?

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Fancy Hunt / Flickr)

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Follow those thoughts, and step on it!

In yoga, we often talk about non-attachment, particularly when it comes to our thoughts. But, sometimes it’s great to do some investigative reporting.

As is customary, I am reading several books at once.  One of them is Buddhist Bootcamp, by Timber Hawkeye.  As is also customary, I often highlight or capture in a journal those statements or quotes that I find compelling and transformative.

I find it refreshing that he suggests we f0llow our thoughts out of curiosity.

“Habitually contemplate whether your thoughts stem from love or from fear. If your thoughts originate in love, then follow them. If they originate from a place of fear, then dig deep to find the root of your fear.  Only then will you be able to finally let go, so fear no longer limits your possibilities.”

It’s quite fascinating when you follow your thoughts, judgements and emotional responses like a curious cat.  You may find that what you think may be a root cause for a preconception or fear, isn’t at all.

I’ve been trying to take Timber’s challenge a step further, and I pass that onto you.  Rather than stopping at finding out the source of your fear, continue your journey and see if you can find the source below the source.  See if you can illuminate the darkness with compassion.

For example, if you find yourself glowering at someone who’s annoying you, dig deep to find out what that feeling is really about.  Have the courage to look into how you may possess those qualities, accept them and find a wellspring of compassion.

It’s there.  I promise.

(Photo: Flickr / Dominique LaTour)

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

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You are bigger than your wheel of emotions

wheel of emotion

Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions

Lately, I’ve incorporated a new ritual into my morning practice.  As soon as I wake up, even before I’m out of bed, I recite a set of affirmations from A Journey into Wholeness given to me by Benita Esposito.  One of those affirmations is, “I find myself big enough to contain my emotions, and know that I am larger than they are.”  It’s an interesting approach to bringing awareness to emotions as part of our being.  Similar to Rumi’s guest house.

Understanding our emotions helps us process them on a conscious level, so our bodies don’t have to experience them on a physical level.

Robert Plutchik, a psychologist and professor at the University of Florida developed an evolutionary theory of emotion supposing that emotions have an evolutionary history. He believed there to be eight primary emotions – anger, fear, sadness, disgust, surprise,anticipation, trust, and joy. Like natural selection, he believed that our emotional responses adapted overtime, and were passed on as part of the psychoevolutionary process.  Think the psychological version of Darwin. He even developed a ‘Wheel of Emotions” graphic to illustrate how nuanced our emotions can be.

He suggested 8 primary bipolar emotions: joy versus sadness; anger versus fear; trust versus disgust; and surprise versus anticipation. Additionally, his circumplex model makes connections between the idea of an emotion circle and a color wheel. Like colors, primary emotions can be expressed at different intensities and can mix with one another to form different emotions.

The theory was extended to provide the basis for an explanation for psychological defence mechanisms; Plutchik proposed that eight defense mechanisms were manifestations of the eight core emotions.

I find the theory fascinating, particularly how he incorporates the light and the dark aspects of emotions like surrender.  Even though it’s quite colorful, it’s still a little two ‘defined’ for my taste.  It would have been great (if he were alive) to see a collaboration between he and Eckhart Tolle.

The point is, no matter what emotions you experience, you can ride them out by being bigger than they are.

“Rather than being your thoughts and emotions, be the awareness behind them.”

– Eckhart Tolle

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo/Quote: Wikipedia)

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When you’re lost, find home in your own heart

heart

At some point in our lives we’ve all felt that sense of  ‘Where do I belong?’  There may be a catalyst like the loss of a parent, a move, a divorce or no catalyst at all.  Chances are, you’ve had that feeling of being lost or untethered and wondered where you’re supposed to be. And the answer is, you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.

Sometimes we feel lost because of decisions we’ve made, and other times we feel lost because life has made decisions for us.  There’s a quote by Henry David Thoreau that helps me when I’m feeling out of place, “Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.”

Feeling lost can manifest itself in a number of ways from skipping time on your mat to feeling anxious, sad or alone.  But, if you can see the positives during this time, you will see that it’s during these times that we learn the most about ourselves.

Think about a time that you got lost in your car only to discover a fascinating new place that you didn’t even know existed.  We can find the same gems within ourselves; places in our hearts that we didn’t know were there all along.

Are you feeling lost?  The only GPS you need is your own heart.

Try writing a letter or a journal entry about the sensations and emotions you’re feeling, and examine what part of you may be looking for your attention or acceptance.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

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Photo: Etsy/IScreenYouScreen 

Take each day wag by wag

hattie dog in a cone

It’s all fun and games until someone ends up in a cone

Over the past few months, I’ve had a handful of ‘crises’ to handle that seemed to pile one on top of another. But that’s how it goes right?  When we feel we can’t handle any more, we are faced with another situation to do just that — handle it. And we get through it.  Breath by breath, I realized that as each moment passed, I was one more moment through the chaos.

Most recently, my 9 year old dog, Hattie, tore her ACL. This is the second in two years that required invasive surgery with a long rehabilitation.  I’d heard that there’s a very good chance that a dog who tears one ACL will tear the other within a year or so.  Ironically, I did everything I could to protect her from exactly the situation we’re in now.  What I’ve learned, though, is that Hattie doesn’t think about the previous surgery or what the future holds.  She just knows what’s happening now; she adjusts her gait; she rests; and she faces the moment with whatever adjustments need to be made — without thought.

Dogs are our ultimate yoga teachers. If only we could all learn to take each moment wag by wag.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

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When you can’t make everyone happy

I often joke about being like a Golden Retriever.  I’ve always been the person that tries to make others happy, and if I make someone unhappy, it makes my heart hurt.  And of course there’s the flood of obsessive thoughts on how I can rectify the situation.

At work, if you pat me on my head, I run off with my tail wagging looking to produce more biscuit-worthy results. When I’m teaching, I get immense satisfaction when I send students home feeling relaxed and accomplished. Even at the holidays, I’m happier giving gifts.  I love to watch people light up.

But we all know the age old saying, “You can’t make everyone happy all of the time.”

In fact, chances are if you made an enemy or pissed someone off it means that you stood up for something you believe in, or for yourself.

So how do us ‘people pleasers’ cope? First, recognize that it is exhausting to live for someone else’s happiness and begin to witness when you’re putting someone else first unnecessarily. Sure, you may have to put your child’s need for dinner above your own need for downtime, but I’m talking about the constant ‘back seat taking’ we do with our own energy.

We must bear witness when we find ourselves constantly deeming others’ happiness as more important than our own.  We have to do some soul-searching to understand why we feel the need to find ‘validation’ outside of our own being. And, we have to give ourselves the same amount of energy we give others, or we find ourselves depleted.

Does this mean that we should no longer try to help people or have compassion? No it doesn’t. It simply means, that we should stop trying to make others happy as a means to find satisfaction. It’s a short-lived attachment. Rather, allow your authentic self to shine through.  If people like it, great.  If some don’t, who cares.   You WILL rub some people the wrong way, and quite frankly, that’s their issue.

But, you will have unearthed a truer you, and there’s no greater peace than sitting in the seat of your authentic ‘self.’

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Pinterest)

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