Yes, I Do Matter
“Love yourself like your life depends on it. Because it does.” ~Danielle LaPorte
Thank you website impersonator. I appreciate you. In fact, you may be one of my best teachers.
Most people wouldn’t normally think of extending gratitude for someone who steals your words, impersonates your personal story, and uses your images online. Neither did I when I realized that an anonymous source had lifted not just my blog posts, but images of my daughter and specific characteristics of my life on their website.
Truth be told, I was outraged. This took intent. This took more than just a simple action of copying and pasting a few blog posts.
I’d only discovered this copycat website by chance. After a month of ignoring what I assumed were marketing emails from my website hosting company, I stopped long enough to pay attention.
Hadn’t I shut down this website a year ago? Indeed. I had allowed an old blog to go dark without ever realizing that the day after my site went offline, another was born—with not just the same URL, but an author who presented herself with my first name, my past career, and my medical history. The resemblance was remarkable.
Once the outrage simmered to a low boil, I went into action mode. Google and Facebook became my teachers for cease and desist language and the protocol for a digital takedown. But the more effort I put into wanting to “fight,” I also felt resistance.
Does it really matter? The pirated site was about to expire anyway—was this really what I wanted to put my energy into? Wouldn’t it take away from my real work? My soul’s purpose? I wondered if maybe this was an invitation to practice acceptance and compassion. Could I just let this go and release the grip on my story?
The more I struggled with how to feel and what to think, the more detached I became. The more others around me took up the fight, with rage-y anger and thoughts of legal action, the more I retreated into a chorus of “I don’t have the energy for this.”
It felt too overwhelming. Too daunting. Just too much.
I didn’t know much that day, but I knew I needed to get myself to a yin yoga class.
And then it hit me. Or rather, the importance of this lesson found me.
There I was, supporting myself with elbows pressing into my mat in sphinx pose. Our teacher invited us to allow our bellies to soften toward the earth. At once, it was as if all of the emotions that I’d been trying to resist were leaking out of me. I couldn’t have stopped the tears from flowing if I tried. Drip after drip, the feelings started to spill out. And as they did, I heard a voice from within.
It does matter. It is important. It is worth your energy. You do matter. You are important. You are worth your energy.
It wasn’t just about the website that used my first name and life story anymore. I started to feel the flashes of the past move through me.
The moment that I told myself that my (ex) fiancé cheating on me and leaving me right before my bone marrow transplant was okay because we’d been handed circumstances that we could never have envisioned at a young age.
The time that I divorced my first husband and made peace with mediation and his wishes because it would just be better for my young daughter if I made things easy.
Decades of never correcting people when they mispronounced my first name, because really….”I answer to anything.”
It was as if I was looking at the lifetime of “it doesn’t matter” moments in a mirror, each one, burying my own self-worth even deeper into the ground.
These two simple words, layered with so much emotion, burst out of my heart through the tears.
Of all the moments in my life, it took a website impersonator to help me decide that I matter. That I am worth it.
Perhaps I hadn’t been ready before to find this sense of devotion to my worth. Perhaps the challenges and obstacles of my past were all part of the training that I needed to tend to my wholeness.
How many times had I relied on the theory that I should pick my battles? Not standing up for what was important because, in the big scheme of things, it wasn’t that big of a deal.
I’m a mom of a teenager, so picking my battles is par for the course. And I believe that there are, indeed, something things that are better released than forced. But at what point does each decision actually chip away at our own self-worth? How can we be compassionate and empathetic beings while still honoring our worthiness and value?
At what point do we decide that our hearts are sacred altars that need tending?
The good news is that a simple and not very legal sounding email did the trick to entice the anonymous website owner to take down images and stories that were mine. And I’m thankful for that. But I’m even more grateful for this gut-punching nudge because the days of self-deprecating not-a-big-deal moments are over. They have to be.
So many of us wrangle with the beast of mattering and worthiness. I’d even believed that I’d tamed it in the past, but in fact, the thread of stories of making things easier for others or feeling like it would be better to blend into the background was sturdier than I thought.
It is in these moments of challenge or contrast that we have a choice. To stand up for our self-worth. For our voices. For our stories. To make the decision to finally stand tall in the belief that we matter.
While picking and choosing our battles might be a powerful parenting tool, we have every right to speak up when someone disrespects us, disregards our needs, or minimizes our feelings. It does matter. And it's not being oversensitive, rude, or dramatic.
Every time we speak up and recognize that we are honoring our inner value, we reinforce to ourselves that our feelings and needs are important—that we are important, just as important as anyone else.
When we believe this, we act like it. We take better care of ourselves. We set healthy boundaries. We listen to the little voice inside that tells us when something isn't right for us. And we allow ourselves the space to pursue our dreams and reach our potential, which enables us to make a positive difference in the world. The flip side is true as well. The more we act like we matter, the more we believe it.
It all starts with saying, “Yes, I do matter.” Now, I know I do. Do you?
Elena Sonnino is a life coach and speaker. She guides women who struggle with not-enoughness to see themselves with curiosity, vulnerability, and self-love. Her superpower is to be the mirror that helps you tap into your inner guidance and light up your own world. Learn more about Elena’s work and download a free guided meditation to tend to your inner garden.
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3 Things That Are Helping Me Deal with Stress, Pain, and Loss
“Being on a spiritual path does not prevent you from facing times of darkness; but it teaches you how to use the darkness as a tool to grow.” ~Unknown
Life has not been kind lately.
My aunt passed away in October. She had been suffering from cancer, but her family kept the extent of her illness to themselves, and hence I did not have a chance to see her before she passed away. I felt bad about that.
My father followed her a month later, just after Thanksgiving. He had been ailing from Parkinson’s Disease, but his death as well was not expected when it happened.
Two weeks after him, a friend of mine who lives abroad informed me of her diagnosis with a rare form of incurable cancer. She has since passed away before I had a chance to visit her. She was not yet fifty years old.
Right after that happened, the veterinarian diagnosed my dog with heart failure, and his days too are numbered.
In mid-January, my mother, who had been depressed after my father’s death, collapsed with a seizure. A tumor was discovered in her brain. Though easily removed, it was traced back to her lung. She too has a rare form of aggressive cancer and though outwardly healthy, her life will probably be limited to months or a couple of years.
The whole ordeal until diagnosis unfolded over the course of an extremely stressful month, and the future is both frightening and terribly uncertain. Because of this uncertainty, I have needed to change my life plans—I had been ready to relocate and change jobs.
In the last two weeks, I have had another friend in her forties diagnosed with advanced cancer with a poor prognosis, and my sister’s marriage has come apart.
Every week it seems brings some new tragedy. As just about everyone who knows me has said: “It’s a lot.” It certainly is.
I can’t put a happy face on this. Life has just been awful, and I wake up each day praying for no more bad news. There has been such a procession of misfortune that I feel more numb than anything else.
And yet, I haven’t been destroyed. I’m not depressed. When someone is depressed, whether it's situational or clinical, they often become self-obsessed and turn just about any event, however positive, into a negative commentary on their life. I’ve been there before, and this is not depression.
I’m scared, but I feel strong. I know I can handle this. And, I’m very thankful—thankful for what gave me the strength to endure these times: my spiritual journey.
In 2012, after a years-long series of illnesses, bad romantic relationships, frayed friendships, work drama, and general instability in my life, I had a total breakdown.
By “breakdown” I mean the whole nine yards—massive depression, professional psychological help, medication, and inability to work or even function normally. However, following this breakdown came the clichéd spiritual awakening.
This spiritual awakening taught me so many things, most of which you’ve probably already read about, for example: the ego, the importance of being present, the power of vulnerability, etc.
It was such a fragile period of intense learning and growth built atop a well of deep suffering. It felt terrible, but I learned and changed so much. Though it’s unlikely that I will experience such drastic spiritual growth in such a short period of time again, I realized that I had embarked on a life-long spiritual journey with no end.
Along the way, there have been fewer but no less rewarding “Aha moments” and new realizations made possible by the consciousness I had gained. Furthermore, there have been many spiritual tests, and each time I worry that I will fail to live the lessons I’ve already internalized, I surprise myself and come through.
And now I’ve reached an objectively extraordinarily difficult time. This is not a crisis of egoic drama or hurt feelings but real pain—physical suffering and death for so many people who I care about in a matter of months.
While the spiritual journey is a continuum with multiple themes that are difficult to unravel from each other, there are a few concepts that are sustaining me through it all:
1. Presence and the now
The weight of all of it has pushed me into a very intense NOW. I try not to hope because hope has let me down a lot recently, but perhaps more importantly, hope is focused on an unknowable and largely inalterable future. Though in the context of a lot of terrible events, rarely is there anything wrong with this very moment. Despite the pain of recent events, right now there is so much going right.
Choosing to focus on the good isn’t delusional—it’s an accurate reflection of reality.
My mother is dying. We don’t know when and there isn’t too much we can do, but thinking of that future is enough to ruin every day. And yet, with our time together now so valuable, I have no choice but to be fully present with her as much as I can.
I have experienced so much loss recently, but bitterly clinging to that loss will distract me from the precious time I have left with my mother and friends, and it will do nothing to bring back my dad, my aunt, or anyone else.
However, there isn’t much wrong with right now. My mom isn’t suffering, I’m lucky to be free from work to be with her, and my family has come together in support of each other. The birds sing each morning, the weather is fine, and the forest near our house is beautiful. That’s all real too, and there is much joy to be had in each moment.
Should something arise in the moment, that’s when I’ll deal with it. While I do occasionally find myself worrying over the future, that serves no purpose and only spoils the now.
In times of extreme stress when so many things are going wrong, it is critical to exercise self-care; you cannot be a positive force in the world if you’re falling apart inside.
Boundaries are key to protecting your time and energy, which are particularly challenged in very difficult times, from behaviors that drain them. However, most of the time life is much easier, so we allow people to skate by and “go along to get along” as not to be difficult. After all, we don’t want to seem mean or selfish or unforgiving. We aim to please.
However, while the importance of boundaries is particularly stark in times of crisis, even in normal times they play an important role in self-care and building healthy relationships. This is clear when we see what can happen when we don’t enforce boundaries.
Oftentimes, trying to be nice and agreeable, we allow someone to repeatedly cross the line with no repercussions. As our resentment builds, we may act out in retaliation, doing nothing helpful for ourselves or the world.
A relationship of true intimacy and mutual respect should be able to easily withstand one party making his or her boundaries clear. If the other can’t handle that, then how deep of relationship is it anyway? In fact, establishing a level of trust with someone to feel comfortable enough to discuss boundaries is in itself a sign of a strong relationship.
Enforcing boundaries involves a level of honesty that can deepen relationships.
During my mother’s time in the hospital, frustrated with being confined to bed, she unleashed a stream of vitriol at me that were without a doubt the most hurtful words anyone has ever said to me.
As difficult as it was to do with her health in such a fragile state, I felt I had no choice; I had to enforce my boundaries. If I am to be her primary caregiver, I couldn’t endure a situation in which she directs her frustrations at me—it wouldn’t work for me, and it wouldn’t work for her. Unfortunately, it was a repeated behavior of hers over many years.
Without getting into the details, we had a very frank discussion about this, and to be fair, it’s something I let her get away with for a long time by not enforcing my boundaries.
While initially very painful, this talk led to me sharing deep dark memories and thoughts I never would have otherwise said and clearing a lot of what stood in the way of our relationship as mother and son. That very likely would not have happened had I not stood firm, and I never would have established that open a relationship with her. However long she has left in this world, I know that this issue, my past hurt from her actions, won’t stand between us again.
3. Having an open mind
When faced with a diagnosis as dire as what my mom was given, unless you completely give up, keeping an open mind is often the only way to find good news that you would have otherwise overlooked.
For example, in beginning my research on this type of cancer, I was dismayed to learn that there has been no material change to the standard of care in about forty years. All of those recent breakthroughs in cancer treatment you’ve heard about, they don’t apply to this one!
However, rather than declaring defeat right away, I did decide to dig a little deeper. What I found was that there actually are a lot of clinical trials going on in our area for this type of cancer, many of which may provide a good second-line treatment option. Moreover, one of the trial drugs is very likely to get FDA approval in the next year, giving us some options where before there was none. Taking advantage of these would require changing hospitals, so these are developments I never would have learned about had I given up.
I’ve been reminded to keep an open mind about people too. My mother, typically pretty volatile, has faced this all with amazing strength and equanimity—certainly more than I’ve shown! For someone totally uninterested in spirituality, she shown a remarkable perspective on all of this in the context of her life, with which she is very satisfied.
My sister, also going through marital problems while taking care of her baby and usually very emotional, has coped perhaps the best of any of us and has exhibited some very healthy habits for staying even. My brother, on the other hand, himself a doctor, has probably been the most scattered and emotionally crippled by the recent events.
The point is that whatever you think you know about a person, it can change any day, any time. People can surprise you, for better or worse. While it’s totally rational to make judgment calls about peoples’ strengths and weaknesses, abilities and attributes, you must always realize that you can be wrong, or that the person might change—in fact, people are changing all of time!
Spirituality is not about finding a happy hiding place insulated from temporal concerns. It’s quite the opposite—it’s about moving through life with eyes and arms wide open to whatever happens. It’s the way we get down in the mud and go through the wringer and remain who we are.
Spirituality is a muscle. It gets stronger with exercise, and exercise causes discomfort. But once recuperated, you find you’re able to lift even more weight than before.
I’ve never had to deal with such a painful series of events, and hopefully I never will again. But however insignificant what I’ve already been through seems in comparison, that past started me on a spiritual journey that prepared me for this present time. Whatever happens, I know I’ll emerge stronger from this too.
Joshua Kauffman is a recovering over-achiever and workaholic. Leaving behind a high-powered life in business, he has become a world traveler, aspiring coach, and entrepreneur of pretty things. Amateur author of a recent memoir Footprints Through The Desert, he is trying to find ways to share his awakening experience, particularly to those lost in the rat race like he was.
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It’s Okay to Have Feelings, So Stop Saying “I’m Fine” When You’re Not
“I'd rather be honest and authentic and disappoint some people than to exhaust myself trying to keep up the façade of perfection.” ~Crystal Paine
So many people walk around each day masking their true feelings because they are considered the “strong one,” “the upbeat, bubbly one,” or, since they give so much of themselves supporting others, they’re not seen as having any emotions other than happy. If you’ve ever felt like you had to hold it together all the time to keep up a façade for others, there’s freedom in letting people know that you have feelings too.
Keeping it together has always been my thing. You know the phrase “never let 'em see you sweat”? Well, even in my worst moments, I would keep it all in place and poised for the public, but I’d be secretly dying on the inside, because of the pain or challenges I was going through.
It can catch some people off guard to see you be real, revealing that you don’t have it all together, and at times their responses can leave you wounded. I know that feeling all too well.
A few months back, I attended an event to support a colleague and I bumped into someone I knew well. He asked me how I was doing, and I responded honestly with “I'm hanging in there, but I'm fine.”
He immediately made a face and seemed disturbed by my response. He said, “Woooooah, you gotta change that. You sound too defeated and that's not what I want to hear from you.”
He went on to say, “What you said makes me want to back away from you and go the opposite direction. It’s too much for me. You must always answer with a positive response.” He then went on to provide ways for me to respond in the near future.
What this person didn’t know was, I was feeling down and discouraged because I felt I wasn’t as far as I should be in my life and business.
I had poured all of myself into doing things to get the business running consistently; however, whenever I looked at all the effort I put in and saw things not happening as quickly as I thought they should, I felt as if I’d failed. So, it was a tough time as I sorted through those different emotions.
At first, I felt lousy about my response, because with me being considered the “upbeat, strong one,” always smiling and helping others to feel better, there is an assumption of how I should be at all times. I thought I had somehow let that person down by revealing my true feelings in that moment. I also felt embarrassed, because I’d exposed a small part of myself and felt like I was rejected and told how I should sound.
But after I thought about it, I realized I was fine with my response because it was a genuine answer. I am on a path of making true connections with others, and I no longer want to “act” and pretend to be fine when I’m not.
While this person didn't have any ill intent and actually thought he was being helpful in telling me how I should respond, it clearly made it uncomfortable for me to open up to him the next time around.
It made me think about why some people try to force others to hide behind a mask. Why do people expect you to always be “on”?
This was a moment for someone to find out what was truly going on with me, to find out why I seemed so down and to make a true connection, instead of offering me another mask to wear in his presence.
This led me to wonder, when we ask people “How are you doing?” are we really open to an honest response or are we looking to hear the template response we so often hear, “I'm fine”?
I also thought about how many people wear a mask every day or keep a façade to avoid showing their humanity and potentially making others feel uncomfortable. The people we interact with every day are carrying worries, concerns, and emotional pain within, and we cannot ask them to put on a fake smiley face and tell them to be on their way. These people need someone to truly see them.
If you sometimes hide your true feeling behind a mask, here are a few ways to begin opening up.
Practice honestly connecting with people, even if you start small.
As psychotherapist Barton Goldsmith wrote, “When you open your mouth, you're also opening your heart. And knowing that someone truly hears what you are feeling and understands you is soothing to the soul.”
If you’re not accustomed to opening your heart to people, start small by sharing one thing you’re thinking or feeling but may be tempted to keep inside. Opening up to others will allow you the space to be yourself, and from there you’ll clearly see who’s willing to receive what you have to say with an open heart. You’ll also begin to forge deeper relationships through your honest connections.
Also, be the person who allows others the space to just be, and offer support and guidance as needed. Ask about their lives, and let them know you’re happy to be a nonjudgmental ear. Giving people room to share pieces of themselves lets them know you’re there for them and they can be honest with you.
Allow yourself space to feel.
Many times when we avoid sharing our feelings with others, it’s because we haven’t given ourselves space to identify and process our emotions. We try to cover them up or engage in activities to mask the pain, but they don’t go away when we do this. Left unprocessed, our feelings tend to leak out in other ways. For example, we may overreact in unrelated situations.
Give yourself permission to feel whatever you feel, without judgment, and learn to recognize when you’re lying to yourself, telling yourself you’re “fine” when you’re not. The first step to being honest with others is being honest with yourself.
Be kind to yourself.
We tend to beat ourselves up when we do not respond, act, speak, or think how others believe we should. This can put pressure on us to shift to meet everyone else's needs without truly acknowledging our own.
Get in the habit of checking in with yourself and meeting your emotional needs, whether that means processing your feelings in a journal or practicing self-care. The more you respect your truth and your needs, the better you’ll be able to communicate them to others.
It’s a heavy burden to hide behind a façade or wear a mask. Allow yourself to experience the freedom of being authentic in each moment and making genuine connections with people who can receive your feelings.
There’s power in putting down your super hero cape, being vulnerable, and sharing your truth. You don’t have to hide, pretend, or feel bad about not always being the “strong one.” You’re not weak, you’re human, and you never have to apologize for that.
Raphaela Browne is a Certified Transformation + Career Coach and Nonprofit Organizational Consultant, committed to supporting professional women and organizations with embracing change and transitioning seamlessly to their next big thing. Schedule a complimentary session by clicking the link Schedule your session here or visit her at www.raphaelabrowne.com for more information.
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How to Tune Out Your Inner Critic and Enjoy More of Your Life
“Be careful how you are talking to yourself because you are listening.” ~Lisa M. Hayes
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a laser-sharp focus on achieving “success.” From the outside, it looks like I’m pretty close to it, too. But on the inside, I wasn’t allowing myself to acknowledge any of it.
I never gave myself the chance to feel like I was doing something right. I started to think that the only way to ensure I keep growing, improving, and achieving was to stop allowing myself to experience the little victories completely. Satisfaction became a dangerous word.
My self-talk turned into “Okay, that was decent, but you can do better…” or “Alright, that's over, and you need to focus on this now…”
I was giving myself no time to congratulate myself or realize my competence, and this mindset was draining.
In his book The Charge, Brendon Burchard wrote “if we don’t recognize what we’ve accomplished in life—even the small things—then we never feel accomplished.”
I can confirm this from personal experience.
When I was sixteen, I won a national track race in the 800m. When I look back at it, I realize how incredible of an accomplishment that was, and I’m proud of myself. But, in that moment, when I crossed the finish line first, I didn’t feel that amazing feeling of success that I had dreamed of. Don’t get me wrong, I was fully aware of what I had just done and how impressive it was, but the spark wasn’t there.
And that’s because I had dulled it. I hadn’t allowed it to have a voice, so it stopped talking. Instead, the voice that I was giving all the power to was my inner critic, and she definitely was not helping.
Not only was my inner critic present when I was achieving great things, but she practically took over when life was going downhill. After my successful track season, I was determined to reach my wildest goals and dreams in the next one. However, my perfectly defined plan got destroyed when I experienced my first real injury.
One week of disappointment turned into six weeks of agony. I couldn’t run, and I felt myself getting more and more out of shape every day. I was panicking, and my happiness disintegrated.
But I don’t even think that was the hardest part. I was severely mentally tested when I finally did get to train again.
I was so behind, and I was getting my butt kicked in every workout. My previous joy of crushing workouts was now replaced with merely trying to survive. I quickly realized that I couldn’t place my happiness in reaching goal times and slaying 400 repeats—I had to find something else to fuel my fire.
And I found it in gratefulness.
Instead of worrying about embarrassing myself in the next workout, I focused on this: I’m grateful I’m healthy, I’m grateful I get to do it, and I’m grateful that I get to experience the beautiful burn of getting in better shape.
Screw the outcome; I’m grateful for the process.
I wish I could say that I had an awesome track season, but I didn’t. I felt like I was getting thrown on the ground, kicked in the head, allowed to get back up, and then thrown down again.
I went back to the national meet and didn’t place anywhere close to where I had the previous year, got beat by people I knew I should’ve beaten, and got rejected from multiple colleges I was hoping to run at.
But, throughout this dark time, I found something that I had previously covered up and thrown in a dusty corner of my brain: my inner cheerleader.
Yes, I got beat badly at the national meet, but I ran with guts. Yes, my body was not in peak fitness, but I believed I would eventually get there. My inner cheerleader started to experience greater strength as I allowed myself to remember my little victories, and as she came to power, my inner critic began to weaken.
When it came time to prepare for track again, I decided that things were going to be different. I was done being stressed, worried, nervous, unhappy… I was going to run because I loved to run.
The focus was on gratitude. Yes, I was going to go for my goal times in workouts, but if I worked hard and didn’t hit them, it was okay. I was grateful I got to run.
Yes, I was going to put lots of emphasis on getting an adequate amount of sleep, but if I had to stay up later one night to finish a paper, I wasn’t going to beat myself up. I was grateful that I had the work ethic and motivation to do my paper.
In his book How Bad Do You Want It? Mark Fitzgerald wrote “‘Gratitude’ is about letting go of desired outcomes and fully embracing the privilege and process of pursuing goals and dreams.”
This mindset has not only helped me to regain that spark I had been missing, but it’s given me better results. I record all my workouts in a training journal, and ten times out of ten, my best workouts come from the ones when I am grateful and focused on the process, and not trying to force myself to hit certain times.
Even though I’ve made leaps and bounds, it’s a battle every day. And that’s okay, because all worthwhile things require a battle. When I do crush a workout, I find myself wanting to return back to my super-intense, outcome-focused, controlling mindset.
And sometimes I slip up and get consumed by my inner critic, but I always come back to my inner cheerleader once I realize I’m sucking all the fun out of my life. It’s an ongoing process, but it is one that I’m willing and excited to go through.
Turning off your inner critic can help everyone; if you want to succeed in life, giving power to your inner cheerleader will send you in the right direction. Here are three ways to get started:
1. Take out a piece of paper and a pen. Start writing down all the awesome things you have done in the past five years.
Make sure you include even the smallest, seemingly trivial accomplishments. Give yourself at least five to ten minutes to do this (more if you want!) and once time is up, read it over. Use this to remind yourself that you are capable, competent, and amazing.
2. Know that you have power to choose your own conscious thoughts.
We all fall prey to negative thoughts, but at the same time, we all have the choice of how much strength we are going to give them. Your inner critic will continuously try to show up, but let the words pass by without giving them any weight or importance, and replace it with something from your inner cheerleader. It’s not a forced shunning of your inner critic, but instead, lack of response to it.
3. Laugh more.
I interviewed a man who ran 100-mile races, and his suggestion for dealing with negative thoughts was “laugh them off as soon as they pop into your head.” Don’t stress about everything, instead, finding it funny that you are even stressing about it.
As a final thought, life is meant to be enjoyed. It’s a gift. Stop worrying about being perfect, doing everything right, and achieving “success,” and start living. When you focus on the journey, life is so much more beautiful, and it will allow you to appreciate the victories so much more. And I promise you, you’re going to have victories. So, smile, because the future is bright.
Brynn Sauer is a high school senior who loves running, reading, yoga, and studying successful people. She is obsessed with the brain and how much power it holds, and loves to listen to podcasts and read books on the topic. You can find her at theedgepublications.com where blogs about ways to get an edge in life, and follow her on Instagram @brynn_sauer.
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The Lost Art of Silence: Get Quiet and You’ll Know What You Need to Do
“Silence isn’t empty. It’s full of answers.” ~Unknown
Last week I was visiting the Scandinave, a Scandinavian-style bath spa, with my mom, when it struck me how rare true silence has become. By true silence, I mean silence in the form of not speaking, but also silence in the form of reflection, pause, a capacity to become still, a capacity to just be and not do.
The art of silence was lost. Even at these baths, where the goal was to disconnect and enjoy the stillness of nature, there was constant chatter among groups with voices audible across the pool. It didn’t matter that signs were posted around the area, encouraging silence:
As a society, we have forgotten how to become quiet, how to become still. We are always on the move, always busy, always doing. We’ve forgotten how to just be.
This lack of silence pervades our lives. It’s in the moments filled with meaningless small talk about the weather to avoid simply sitting in silence. It’s in the moments on the subway, filling our ears with music, busying our minds with our phones, to avoid simply sitting in silence.
As a yoga teacher and practitioner, I have seen it showing up in the form of teachers filling classes with an endless stream of cueing. I have seen it showing up during savasana, the final resting pose, which gets cut short to avoid the anxiety of watching students fidget in the uncomfortable silence.
To me, this is a tragedy.
Silence creates space in our lives. It allows us to pause between moments, to process and reflect, to see beyond the surface into the depths of our lives. When we cut out silence, we cheat ourselves out of the fullness that life has to offer. Only in the silence can we truly hear the whispers coming from within us, urging us towards our highest potential.
Silence breeds deep connection, not only to ourselves, but to the world around us. The energy of a silent room filled with people is almost palpable. In silence, we are all powerfully connected to our higher selves, to the universe, and to each other.
For one moment at the spa, I felt this. Sitting in absolute silence in the sauna, silence brought a group of strangers together. We were all present, sharing the same moment, connecting with the world and not with our phones. It gave us space to turn inward, to take stock of our internal landscape, to let go of what no longer served us, and to renegotiate who and how we wanted to be in the world.
Without silence, we keep moving forward, not really knowing where we are or where we want to go.
I came away from that day of silence and quietude with a new awareness of what was happening in my life. In those moments of silence, I could hear my inner voice growing louder. Where it was once only a whisper, easy enough to ignore, it suddenly became deafening.
After a day of silence, I had no other option but to face it. I went home that day and had a hard conversation. Potentially one of the hardest I’ve ever had.
I realized that I hadn’t been honoring myself in my relationship because I had been afraid of losing something that I loved. My partner and I weren’t on the same page with what the relationship meant to us and what we wanted from it. Unintentionally, I lost pieces of myself to the relationship—by being the one to compromise, by being the one to follow, by being the one to give in. In this way, I put my relationship with myself last.
I stopped cultivating things I loved that were separate from him, in order for us to spend time together. I didn’t go out of my way to make my own plans on the weekend.
In the silence, I heard my inner voice becoming louder and clearer. I couldn’t go on feeling this way or being this way. The silence gave me the space to hear what my heart was saying and the strength to listen. Something had to change.
I had to stop sacrificing my own needs and desires just to please someone else. I had to start standing up for myself and making it clear that what I wanted mattered too. I had to start making my own plans and doing things just for myself, and not always waiting to see if he had other plans in mind. I needed to be me, wholeheartedly me, first.
It was scary to have that conversation, to feel like I might lose it all, by voicing what was in my heart. I was scared of what would happen if I stopped going along with it, if I started putting myself first. But I couldn’t avoid the conversation anymore. The silence roared.
Perhaps that is why we avoid silence—because once you hear the voice in your heart calling out, you can’t ignore it. You can’t go on denying what’s in your heart once you create the space to hear it out. And that can be scary.
Usually the voice within wants you to do the hard thing. The voice doesn’t want you to settle. It doesn’t want you to give up. It wants you to live to your highest potential. It wants you to climb mountains. It wants you to dream big and live big. And living that way isn’t always the easy thing. It’s not always the comfortable thing.
Leaning into silence might seem scary. It might even be painful at first because your mind and body will fight it. But I urge you not to run from the silence any longer. Embrace it. Allow it to create space in your life, because it will transform your life. Ultimately, the silence pushed me farther into the life I dream of, into a life of passion, of meaning, of giving myself my best shot.
Here are some ways you can rediscover the lost art of silence:
1. Start small.
The more time you spend in silence, the more powerfully it will impact your life, but diving straight into a ten-day silent retreat might not be the best approach. In fact, it might have the opposite effect.
Instead, slowly introduce small pockets of silence into your day-to-day life. If you drive on your daily commute, try turning off the radio. If you take public transit, take out the headphones and put away the phone. Feel this silence and notice what’s happening around you and within you.
2. Set aside time for meditation.
Block out a specific time in your day or week for a meditation practice. Perhaps it is first thing in the morning, or before you go to bed at night. Set a timer for five or ten minutes, sit or lie down with your eyes closed, and simply breathe. Watch your breath move in and out of your body.
3. Use mantras.
While at the baths, I used mantras to move into the silence. My mantra of the day was “Life flows through me with ease.”
In the silence, I heard myself fighting against the ebbs and flows of life—holding on to expectations, worrying about how things might turn out, resisting where things were going.
Sometimes our minds see silence as an opportunity to berate us with thoughts, thoughts about not being good enough, about missing out, about being in a hurry, about not having enough time. Our minds will be particularly active if we aren’t used to the silence. Your mind will fight the silence. A mantra can help you to quiet the mind and settle into the silence.
4. Use movement, such as yoga.
If our minds are particularly active and we have a hard time just sitting in silence, we can start with gentle, mindful movement to ease ourselves into it.
If we aren’t used to sitting in silence, our bodies can get very antsy. Silence can make us anxious. By using movement, we can soothe our nervous system and our minds, to make it easier to ease into a state of being.
When I first got to the baths, I used a few neck and shoulder stretches to relax my body for stillness. This focus on the body in turn helped ease my mind into the silence.
Embrace the lost art of silence. Your highest self will thank you.
Kiara Elliott is a Pranalife Certified Yoga Teacher and aspiring workplace wellness health promoter. Her mat is her practice ground for making changes in her life. She loves sharing her passion for yoga and wellness with others so they can reach their fullest potential. She also loves reading and having coffee with friends. Check her out on Facebook here or Instagram (elliott_kiara).
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