Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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How Turning Upside Down Made Me Stand Strongly On My Feet

September 23, 2012

My world as I knew it ceased to exist last November by an event in my personal life. There are many ways I can describe my situation at that moment. It felt as if someone had suddenly removed the carpet on which I was standing and I went tumbling all over. Or, it was as if I was caught in flood waters without any branch around me to hold onto.  I will spare you the details but will just tell you that being betrayed and heartbroken by someone who has been in your life for a long time can feel like a free fall. The gravity of the situation sucks you down swiftly and strongly and there is no safety net at sight. So, how do you manage to get back on your feet, let go of your fears and maintain your sanity in these type of situations?

As B.K.S. Iyengar says in his Light on Yoga, “The best way to overcome fear is to face with equanimity the situation of which one is afraid.”  Some of you might know that I am a coach and a faithful Iyengar yoga practitioner and may guess that it was thanks to my practice that I managed to do just that, get back on my feet and maintain serenity through yoga and self-coaching. What’s ironic is that the poses that helped me most to stand on my feet and feel good again were upside down poses like the headstand pose (Sirsasana). For those of you who are not familiar with yoga, it is the wonderful pose displayed in the picture of this blog post. It has plenty of benefits such as detoxifying your body, increasing cerebral blood flow, strengthening skeletal muscles, improving balance and concentration and increasing the flow of subtle energy. What is most interesting however, are the other not so obvious benefits that this pose in particular provides. I will get to them below.

In the beginning of my advanced yoga classes, I was very wary of this pose. I can say that it was the only pose I did not want to try in my class. Although I could do almost any other pose, I showed a lot of resistance to trying this one, and when I finally tried to give it a shot a few years ago, I was afraid, impatient to go up, and when I finally went up, I couldn’t wait to get down because it felt so uncomfortable. I was afraid of going up, falling, injuring myself and just didn’t enjoy the whole experience. When I was down, I would find myself worrying about how to lift myself up, when I was up, I was afraid about how I would go down safely. I was never in the moment. Sirsasana is all about being there and keeping the serenity and I was far from achieving that state of mindfulness.

Now you might ask, why is she talking so much about yoga? Well, yoga has a lot to do with life situations and our reactions to these situations and I am a strong believer that it offers a lot of wisdom on life’s troubles.  Our body and sensations are excellent sources of wisdom and yoga gives us access to that wisdom by teaching us how to listen to our bodies. When you are in sirsasana, you get a different perspective of things. When we are faced with difficult situations, it is really like being upside down physically. In the end, you learn to construct new meanings of what you see and experience, leave your old judgements aside and you understand that things other people do are not in your control. Also, as in any other yoga pose, you learn to love and respect yourself enough and to let go when you get signals of serious pain in your body. The real challenge lies in bringing these learnings into real life and transfer the wisdom of your body to your heart, mind and soul.

Life presents us many opportunities disguised as difficulties so that we can have second chances by being courageous, letting go of fear and trying new things. But unless we start to respect and love ourselves the way we deserve to be loved and respected, and every once in a while turn our vision upside down, we may not be able to redefine life’s challenges as opportunites and make full use of our potential.

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Are you burying your head in the sand?

January 12, 2011

The other day I was sitting in my dentist’s chair waiting to hear his diagnosis on my tooth ache. I don’t know about you, but I truly dislike the whole experience about being at the dentist. Even the sounds that the dentist’s tools make are enough to get me edgy.  Anyway, he was trying to figure out the source of my ache by inducing cold sensations on my tooth. Each time his cold tool made the slightest contact with my tooth, I felt my body contract and my eyes shut firmly.  All I could feel was the excruciating pain. Now, saying that it was a spiritual experience would be a little off, but, actually it did get me thinking on a deeper level afterwards. Just like my tooth ache that caused me to shut my eyes and completely disabled me to think about anything else, other sorts of pain, those that we tend to feel in our hearts and minds, turn off our ability to see clearly, cause us to shut our eyes to the possibility of being healed and block our capacity to make conscious choices that would lead us into more satisfying lives.

Although no one likes feeling pain, it is as necessary as feeling joy in life. Without it, we wouldn’t feel the urge to bring about positive change in our lives. If my tooth did not ache, I wouldn’t have chosen to go to the dentist to get treated out of the blue, for example. You’d agree with me that the physical pain is probably easier to recognize and act upon than heart/mind sort of pain. No matter what we do to distract ourselves from the physical pain, it is there, and there is no way of not noticing it. With nonphysical pains this is different. We humans are extremely creative about finding ways to hide or distract ourselves from this sort of pain, and hence, have quite an ability to evade chances of truly healing our souls. We tend to find temporary solutions to our sufferings, but at the end, the underlying problem does not go away. We feel stressed? We cannot stand our workload, boss or colleague? We go for a walk, for a jog, for a swim, watch a movie, binge eat, drink, smoke etc. But when we’re done with doing whatever we were doing to get away from it all, although we feel more relieved, the problem lingers.

Khalil Gibran says in his poem, Pain, “Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding”. Feeling pain is essential for understanding our core selves. So, instead of hiding ourselves from our feelings of pain, what we should do is seek to understand them.  We need to reach a level of mindful awareness to recognize what’s going on inside our heads and hearts. Instead of shutting our eyes and covering our ears, we should try to see, hear and grasp what it is that we are truly feeling, what our values are and what are our must-haves to be in happier, more satisfying careers, relationships, etc. If you feel that you cannot do this alone, you’re puzzled, you’re in conflict with yourself, blocked or have a sense of constant restlessness, turning to a coach for help would be beneficial for you at least in order to raise your level of awareness and start thinking about what it would be like to live a life over which you have absolute control.

Don’t bury your head in the sand like an ostrich to avoid facing your pain and confronting life. Acknowledge your pain and try to see it with your eyes wide open and listen to it with open ears. Surely it is trying to tell you something and sending you signals to take some action.

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Time to grow a new chamber

December 31, 2010

Feelings of nostalgia for the passing years and excitement for new beginnings are like tides that sweep our souls as the end of another year approaches.  While we want to celebrate good things that came into our lives or leave behind what has challenged us during the year, we feel a great urge to make things better, become better persons and live our dreams.  The transition to a new year is a very powerful moment because it is filled with positive energy, dreams and lots of new ideas. If we could only have access to a part of that positive energy and stick to our heartfelt dreams and act on our ideas during the whole year, I’m sure we could bring out our potential and live more fulfilling lives.  My new year wish for you is one of lasting positive energy and perseverance to realize your biggest dreams. Envision your dreams and ideas and do not ever lose sight of them during the whole year as you move forward.  Let bygones be bygones and don’t let the past haunt you.  As Holmes implies in his poem, The Chambered Nautilus, our goal is to leave the past behind, concentrate on building a better, more dignified future just like the nautilus shell that grows a new chamber “nobler than the last”.  All my best for a prosperous new year!

The Chambered Nautilus by Oliver Wendell Holmes

This is the ship of pearl, which, poets feign,
Sail the unshadowed main,–
The venturous bark that flings
On the sweet summer wind its purpled wings
In gulfs enchanted, where the Siren sings,
And coral reefs lie bare,
Where the cold sea-maids rise to sun their streaming hair.

Its webs of living gauze no more unfurl;
Wrecked is the ship of pearl!
And every chambered cell,
Where its dim dreaming life was wont to dwell,
As the frail tenant shaped his growing shell,
Before thee lies revealed,–
Its irised ceiling rent, its sunless crypt unsealed!

Year after year beheld the silent toil
That spread his lustrous coil;
Still, as the spiral grew,
He left the past year’s dwelling for the new,
Stole with soft step its shining archway through,
Built up its idle door,
Stretched in his last-found home, and knew the old no more.

Thanks for the heavenly message brought by thee,
Child of the wandering sea,
Cast from her lap, forlorn!
From thy dead lips a clearer note is born
Than ever Triton blew from wreathed horn;
While on mine ear it rings,
Through the deep caves of thought I hear a voice that sings:–

Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
As the swift seasons roll!
Leave thy low-vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
Till thou at length art free,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea!


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Ripples of Hope

October 11, 2010

No one has ever expressed the power and value of idealism, high aspiration, freedom and individual effort in a more eloquent way than Robert F. Kennedy in his inspirational speech on the Day of Affirmation in Capetown 44 years ago:

“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

Although it is our most heartfelt hope to live in a better world, often times we find it difficult to imagine that our individual actions can really make a difference and we fail to take action to remedy situations. We think that we don’t have enough power or enough resources to bring about change. Our self-imposed limitations block our creativity and hence hinder our potential. Surrendering to this idea of futility, the idea that our actions are futile, we not only fail to give a chance to an improved world around us but we also even fail to improve our own lives.

Who wouldn’t like to live in a better world where fairness and freedom prevail?  But that’s not really the main question to ask here. To deepen our understanding of freedom and take responsibility for the life we create for ourselves, we have to ask what I call “The Gateway Question”:

What are you allowing and what are you blocking?

In other words, what are you saying “Yes” to and what are you saying “No” to?  When you are fully aware of your values and commit yourself to their full expression in your life, the answers to these questions are crystal clear. It becomes much easier for you to know when it’s right to surrender or push the limits.  You get to make conscious choices that lead you to live in harmony with your core self, set yourself free to experience your authenticity and to awaken to your potential.

The path to move forward and make a leap in our lives begins the moment we get clear on our values and ideals, the moment we realize that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves and that we have the power and duty to make things better not only for ourselves but for others.  By answering “The Gateway Question” and committing yourself fully to the expression of your answers, you can start making a difference.  You will be sending forth your tiny ripple of hope and seeing your dreams come alive.

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Decisions, decisions…

September 1, 2010

Recently I had to make a tough decision.  Like in any other crucial moment of decision, I found myself turning inward, analyzing my feelings, my options, weighing the importance of issues at hand, thinking about alternatives and their possible outcomes, talking with important people in my life to get their opinions,  etc.  I had to ask myself some powerful questions similar to those that I ask my coachees, be true to myself  and come up with my own answers. I must say that I felt a huge burden on my shoulders.  Each time a friend asked me whether I had made my decision or not, I felt a knot in my stomach. The pressure was on. I did not want to base my decision on my fears since I think those type of decisions tend to be pretty disastrous! So, I opted to be brave. There, one morning I made my decision. I literally heard the whooshing sound of  the arrow leaving the bow! Wow, what a load off when you feel that you’ve finally made up your mind and that you’re ready to face the consequences of your decision.

I guess the real reason why decision-making is so dreadful is the fact that you don’t want to make a decision that you would repent later on. Living with regrets would be a terrible thing! Regretting something makes you suffer, steals away all your positive energy and makes you weak.  Deep inside, you know you should avoid that suffering feeling, so, you want to make the “right” decision.  But is there really a “right” decision?  For me there are only “appropriate” decisions that one makes given the circumstances at any moment of time and given one’s attitude toward risk-taking. No one has a crystal ball to predict the future. We can only do what we believe is best, accept life as a wonderful mystery and adapt to what it presents to us as we go along.

By now, you must have noticed that I love poetry, so I thought this was the perfect opportunity to share with you one of my favorite poems by Robert Frost. It really resonates with me and conveys the way I feel about most of my decisions and the mystery of life. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

The Road Less Travelled

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

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Don’t throw in the towel! Do your best now!

June 4, 2010

Swami Budhananda has probably written the best text about the indisputable ingredient of success:- will-power.  I will share a few lines from him since I think they will make an excellent introduction for my post today:

“Without cultivating introspection it is impossible to keep track of all the forces that are operative within us. Without knowing the nature of these forces we cannot be their masters. We are then bound to be their slaves. And what chances do slaves have to develop and exercise their will-power, when that slavery is due to their own unregenerate nature? How can such persons ever build up their character?  How can a man without a character have will-power?”

We can be our worst enemy when it comes to hindering our own potential. There are many forces within us as Swami Budhananda points out and sometimes these forces may work against us if we are not mindful about their effects on our lives.  How, then, can we stop enslaving ourselves and cultivate will-power to reach our utmost potential? In order to answer that question, let’s first consider the definition, probably the best definition you’ll ever find on will-power, offered by Swami Budhananda:  “It is that positive and creative function of the mind which impels, propels and enables us to do chosen actions in a definitive way, and avoid doing unchosen actions in an equally definitive way. It is that power of the mind which enables us to do what we know to be right, and not do what we know to be wrong, under all circumstances favorable or unfavorable, known or unknown.”

It is essential that we have a good look at ourselves before working on developing or increasing our will-power. In my previous posts my intention was for you to answer the following questions and hence to help you do some introspection:

Do you do your best despite difficulties? Do you program your thoughts positively and visualize yourself at your goal? Are you authentic, true to yourself? Are you courageous enough to accept who you are and demonstrate your true self to the world? Do you feed the love and creative force within you? If you answered these questions affirmatively, then you are ready to talk about developing will-power that will lead you to your dreams. Why? Because, if the answers are positive, there won’t be any excuses that would weaken your will to develop your will-power!

In this post, I will try to point out what we should avoid in order to have strong will-power and what we can do to increase our will-power. My hope is to draw your attention to things that you might be doing and help you gain consciousness about your actions so that you can start boosting your will-power.

First, here is a list of will-power killers you should guard yourself against:

  • Having regrets about the past; wishing that you should have done things differently so that you’re not in the situation you’re in right now;
  • Living with a sense of guilt; blaming yourself, others or circumstances for your situation;
  • Having self-doubt, self-limiting thoughts;
  • Evading discomfort or actions that you do need to take if you are to reach your goal; procrastination;
  • Yielding to short-term pleasures at the expense of future gains;
  • Worrying about the future, the moments that are not yet lived; futile thoughts on what if the same mistakes get repeated and the possible negative outcomes.

Other than avoiding the above, there are a few things that you can do to increase your mindfulness and have a positive impact on your will-power. Coach Goldsmith suggests that in order to have a happier and more meaningful life, you should apply the “two question” discipline to any activity that you’re going to undertake.  You flash forward an hour into the future and ask yourself:

1) How much long-term benefit or meaning did I experience from this activity?

2) How much short-term satisfaction or happiness did I experience in this activity?

These seemingly very simple questions are quite powerful to guide us to do what is most beneficial to us. They teach us to be mindful about our actions and to take control of our lives.  They are probably the first steps to help us be committed to our resolutions.

It is of utmost importance to be in control of our lives if we are to live up to our highest convictions. Feeling out of control makes us weak and demotivates us. We not only have to have the desire to reach our goals but also be determined and committed to be the master of our own lives.  If we have self-discipline to do our best right now,  we’d have better possibilities to reach our potential and live happier and more fulfilling lives.

Here are some things that you can do to make your life more purposeful and keep resentment out of it:

  • Know your values, passions, probe into your purpose in life, align whatever you do or say with your values and purpose;
  • Set small realistic goals that can take you to your purpose eventually; small successes can motivate you;
  • Establish a routine to do your projects that will help get you to your goal; take one step at a time;
  • Reduce distractions, find suitable moments to be able to concentrate effectively;
  • Reserve your mental energy, make an effort to quiet your mind;
  • Don’t take failures too seriously; try to implement your plan A in a different way, and always have a plan B;
  • Surround yourself with positive, creative, supportive people;
  • Think and speak positively. The right thoughts and words will convert themselves into right actions.

“In the heart of this moment is eternity.” said Meister Eckhart. Nothing better can ever be done for the future than doing our best right now.

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Authenticity is not for the faint of heart

April 23, 2010

“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” ~e.e. Cummings

It certainly takes courage to let others know our true essence.  But probably it takes even more courage, effort and honesty to accept ourselves as who we really are.  From a very young age we get preconditioned to fulfill the expectations of others and we behave in ways to conform to the society we live in.  We develop a sense of insecurity fearing rejection and alienation. Although deep down we may know who we really are, we often prefer the sense of belonging and the feeling of fitting in over expressing our real thoughts or revealing our true selves. We are, after all, social animals. We need each other and we want to be accepted by others.

Authenticity, that is to say, being true to oneself, is essential for our happiness.  It is as important as our other psychological needs such as competence, autonomy and relatedness. When we act in ways that are not congruent with who we really are, we get uncomfortable.  Something just doesn’t feel right.  However, there is so much going on in our heads that sometimes we may get confused about how we should act. Instead of accepting who we are at present and act accordingly, we define ourselves in terms of who we want to be or how we would like to be seen by others. Defining and accepting our true selves are the most crucial steps we need to take if we want to express our true worth to anyone. Without knowing and accepting our authentic selves, we’d only be projecting a fake image of ourselves.

With the ever-growing competition in the marketplace and the hype about social media, it is inevitable to question the authenticity of people. Increasingly people are sounding more like superheroes in attempts to stand out, only to find themselves challenged by this never-ending urge to differentiate themselves among the other superheroes. The true self is struggling without success to assert itself because there is an obsession about creating a super image.

It is only through acceptance that we can feel comfortable under our skin and show our best. The only state of mind that permits us not to pretend and just be ourselves is that of acceptance. Each one of us has unique talents and limitations.  The key to success and happiness lie not in trying to define ourselves in terms of wishful identities, but rather, embracing the truth about what makes us unique.

My approach to personal branding has been shaped greatly by my yoga practice. I’ve been practicing yoga for a decade now and I can say without a doubt that I have benefited greatly from it, physically, mentally and spiritually. Yoga teaches you to be easy on yourself and accept to live with your limitations.  While you become aware of your potential and progress, you notice your shortcomings, learn not to get obsessed about them and start seeing other possibilities. (Cause otherwise you can hurt yourself.) Your body teaches you to listen to your inner voice, respect yourself and just simply be. When you accept and respect yourself, you don’t allow anything you do to hurt you.  Doing yoga, you see that no one’s perfect, just unique; that all you can do is just be yourself.  This is a spiritual journey that takes time and that may cause some pain along the way but the trip is absolutely worth it!