don’t dull your flame

Here’s the thing: don’t dull your flame.

I would love to tell you that if you just “be yourself,” others will come around. I would love to tell you that the choices will always be easy.

They’re not, and that’s okay. Easy is often less interesting.

But along the way, I encourage you not to dull your flame, not to downplay life so that someone else won’t be threatened, won’t have to confront their feelings about your success or joy or good fortune. I encourage you to burn bright, to live your life in a completely 100% fully alive kind of way, with the courage to trust that you could help shine some light for someone else.

Truly, just by being yourself, you may be someone else’s gift.

Maybe others need to see you in all of your brilliant, lit up and glowing glory, rocking out your life, and maybe it needs to trigger the shit out of them, and maybe they then need that shift from resenting you to the process of looking at why they devalue themselves, put their projects on hold, prioritize their lives differently.

That’s their shit. I’d call it something else, something more lady-like, but I’ve been there–yup, I have!–resenting the success of someone else, and it feels like shit so that’s what I’m going to call it.

Good things do not happen because we are simply lucky, though I acknowledge the magical component. And even though I acknowledge the forces of sexism, racism, and classism that are so pervasive in our world, I refuse to take the powerless position that they cannot ever be overcome. (The day we take that hopeless position, our society is really in trouble).

The good that comes your way is meant to be celebrated, not downplayed.

The good in your life offers up an example of what’s possible for others.

The good that you cultivate is well-deserved.

I won’t dull my flame.

Please–don’t dull yours.

not taking it personally

“Don’t take it personally.”

“It’s none of my business what anyone else thinks of me.”

“Don’t give your power away to what other people think.”

I’d hear these things, and I’d think: Yeah. But HOW? I kept trying this whole ” not taking it personally ” thing.

I wrote here about how I gave power away to what people think, how this was my kryptonite, and it was an issue that I continued to turn over and play with. Turn over, turn over, turn over.

And then, the A-ha moment came. Jesus Christmas! Finally!

It started when a project that I was working on was met with feedback couched in anger directed at my pretty little head. I kept wanting to call it “being really mean.” My Coach kept encouraging me to call that feedback “that person’s experience.”  I kept arguing with him in my head after the session was over: Dude, quit playing semantics–the feedback was mean. If I told you that I had said those things to someone, you’d be all, “Kate, let’s have a talk about integrity.” But someone else does it to me? And you’re all, “that’s just their experience”? Ex-CUSE me?

Yet I knew that he was choosing the more powerful position–the feedback, even the anger, was not about me. It was about that person and the experience they were choosing to have. Why make it about me? Ah, Matthew. My coach, my guru. (He loves it when I call him that).

Then I got into a heavy-duty moving session of process work in which I went in with one goal: I knew I was holding some long-standing resentments, like years-long, towards someone, and I wanted to let them go. So I plopped myself down and prayed and cried and hit things (to a great musical soundtrack) until, as often happens after crying, a nice wave of clarity came over me and I “got it.” What came out of that session was realizing that the things that had happened in those relationships were not personal. It was never personal. It just wasn’t a match. That was okay.

And, in fact, something else took hold of me: People get to have the experience they choose to have. That includes me. That includes you. That includes your mother, the cashier at the store, the neighbor down the street and that dude who just cut you off in traffic.

I began playing with this phrase: People get to choose to have the experience they want to have.

The more I played, the more I liked: Yes! Yes! People get to choose the experience they want to have!

Getting here has been one of those experiences in life where something just got too painful to hold on to. Here was my project, my baby, this thing I was excited about, and I’d felt as if it was punched. Some synapses connected and I “got it”: It is too painful to live that way, any more.

It became clear: If someone does not like the project that I worked on, they choose that experience of not liking me or the project. They choose their level of involvement, how much they will try to effect change, or if they will choose to complain. They choose whether or not they will give me feedback at a point where I can actually respond, or if they’ll wait until things are done and then be pissed and resentful because there’s no way to go back and change it (talk about sabotage!).

People choose the experience they will have of me. I know that I walk the world human. I want connection and love, that’s my desire, and I’m going to fall short of that at times. Will someone choose to have the experience of “Kate is loving at heart and imperfect” or will someone choose to have the experience of “Kate is the sum total of her mistakes”? They get to choose. I don’t need to play any part in their choices, their orchestration of their lives.

And–to bring it back to personal responsibility–I choose the experience I have of other people! How often have I made assumptions about people because of one bad experience? I get to choose to have an experience of stepping into my vision for my life, or of just reducing myself to negative judgements. If someone cuts me off in traffic, I get to choose whether or not I’m going to invest energy into being annoyed, judging that person, getting irritated, or taking on a belief system that “people are so inconsiderate!”

All of the statements I made at first: Don’t take it personally, etc., are all statements that essentially mean the same thing as what I’m writing now. For some reason, this statement: “People get to choose the experience they want to have” rings most true.

It feels like freedom.

Where do you notice yourself taking things personally the most?

balance is breathing

From bikramyoga.com

There are a number of ridiculously hard poses in the Bikram sequence–ridiculously hard to be doing even when one is not in 105-degree heat, much less when one is.

One that I particularly love is Standing Bow Pulling Pose, which frankly always looks easier to me in pictures than it actually is. I love this pose because when I can do it, I feel like a total rockstar. Finding the balance in that posture is, to me, the closest human beings must ever get to flying. When I’m in it, I feel light and weightless, as if the one leg supporting me no longer exists and I am suspended in air.

Years ago, I was taking a YMCA yoga class and the teacher was leading us through another pose that I love, tree pose. In one class in particular, I figured something out that would be valuable to me forevermore: balance is breathing.

I was wobbling and falling out of tree pose, trying so hard, efforting to balance on that one leg. Suddenly, something in me noticed that when I would breathe in such a way that my inhale felt like one long breath that was traveling up through the center of me, as if my lungs had turned into a column of air, that core would completely stabilize me. The trick was to focus on that breath so that I could establish that core and stabilize.

An older gentleman comes to our yoga class, sometimes. He seems a little grumpy, but he must like coming because he has continued to come for awhile. He has trouble balancing, lots of it, and as he tries to go into the posture and falls out again and again, he gets more and more frustrated and I can hear it in his breathing–the exasperated puffs of air, the grunting and groaning. If I take my focus too much off of my own breathing, I start to wobble all over the place, falling out of the posture myself.

So my mantra becomes: Balance is breathing. Balance is breathing. Balance is breathing.

As in, if I want to stay balanced, I gotta breathe. (And keeping the focus on myself, rather than someone else, certainly does not hurt!).

It occurred to me that this is another one of those yoga = life moments, where some thing that is true to get you through a posture is equally as true in the daily world. I try to notice how often throughout any given day, my breathing gets more shallow and I’m not taking full inhales and exhales, even though it’s so good for my stress levels, my respiratory system, my blood, my circulation.

On the yoga mat, when I remember to breathe, the rest of the posture seems to mostly take care of itself. I’m curious to see how much this is just like life–where, if I focused on just breathing, just staying with that inhale/exhale pattern, other things might “magically” take care of itself, as well.

Where in your life would you like to have more breathing room?