A Challenge

I wouldn't suffer a man
who'd expect me to submit
or settle for one who would
always leave me to lead

I need someone who knows
how to tame and tend hot flames
a soul with the stature and strength
to make mine savor a surrender

To be softly swallowed up
in faithful protection and
gently nestled in a magnetic field
of overwhelming trust and safety

My writhing agitation and anger within
must be melted with the sedative
of a light hearted nature that
soothes with abundant laughter

I cannot be held by a handsome face
beautiful bodies quickly become boring
the brilliant aura of a burning spirit
is the only sight that makes me swoon

Come collect me, if you dare
the dragon my prince must defeat
is perched upon my very essence
with ignited wings of pride and passion

I will not be insulted or made to stoop
or force my consciousness to condescend
my lover must be like the tide
that makes all boats rise
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Rise to the Challenge

I have met tons of people that identify themselves as competitive. I’ve been told that is a natural part of human nature, and I suppose all living things must have a certain competitive drive in order to survive. I, myself, however, have never considered myself competitive. I’ve never been very interested in sports or even playing cards or board games. There is nothing inside of me that drives me to win. Winning a game or a sport means little to nothing to me. Yet losing still makes me feel badly about myself. Therefore there is really no benefit to me participating in competitive activities.

I’ve wondered about this aspect of myself since I became aware of it. I do think a lot of it stems from social anxiety, but there is another aspect I think might be relevant. Growing up as the youngest sibling, you learn pretty fast that the chances of you winning anything or outperforming your older sibling are slim to none. I got used to always losing every single game we would play growing up. One particular incident stands out where I was playing “Mouse Trap” with my sister and grandmother. When I lost I was so distraught and unwilling to surrender my cheese game piece that I cried and shut myself up in my room. From all of these experiences, I think I have internalized the idea that challenge and competition inevitably means failure and disappointment. This has become so ingrained in me that I feel no more likely to win games of chance than I do ones that involve skill.

To this day, I still don’t enjoy playing games at parties (drinking games are a bit more acceptable) and even the video games I play are much more about casual, steady progress and creativity than winning and losing or being challenged. Until recently this was all the further I really thought about this mindset of mine. So I don’t like games very much, that’s no big deal. I dug no deeper into the matter.

The other day, however, I realized just how much this aversion to challenge has skewed my entire worldview. After all, competition and challenge is something that we all encounter each and every day in our careers, in our relationships, and even within ourselves. How you choose to perceive and respond to these challenges has a huge impact on your self-perception and your overall quality of life. Only very recently did it occur to me that not only do I anticipate failure in games, but in the challenges I face in life as well. I’ve come to view any type of challenging situation as inherently negative, foreshadowing only failure and embarrassment, never as an opportunity for self discovery or personal growth.

I think one of the ways I can start to change this mindset, is by allowing myself space to fail. There was a wonderful example of this practice in the yoga class I did yesterday. Vrikshasana or tree pose, as well as all the other balancing poses in yoga, are a great place to start playing with this. Once a balancing posture becomes second nature and relatively easy to hold, it’s time to start pushing the limits of our balancing ability. Often a cue is given to try closing your eyes. If you’ve never tried this, it is exceptionally difficult to maintain your balance with the eyes closed. Normally, I ignore this option. I inevitably fall out of the pose and get upset with myself.

Yesterday the cue was given in a slightly different way though. Because of this, I was able to let go of the expectation or even the goal of maintaining my balance perfectly and staying in the pose for any length of time with my eyes shut. It wasn’t about how long I could manage to stay still, but simply what it would feel like to try. Once I released the pressure of perfecting the pose, I actually was able to do better at this challenge than I ever have been in the past. Not only that, but I didn’t feel any irritation or disappointment when I did fall out of the pose.

Whether you enjoy challenges or not, the fact is that you are going to be faced with them regularly. It’s not an option to avoid all challenge for the rest of you life. Rather than trying to avoid challenges, perhaps we can try to look at them in a different, healthier way. Sometimes it even helps me to imagine what it would feel like to be someone that is competitive or excited by the idea of being challenged. Despite my initial reaction, I do admit that there is a certain pleasure and even peace in being challenged. When I’m doing something new or difficult, I am usually more focused than usual. And the only thing I really have to fear is my own self criticism.

In order to let go of the outcome and my expectations for myself, I find it helpful to start off by viewing failure as a likely and acceptable option. It’s almost more pleasurable if I assume I am going to fail from the beginning. Success or failure was never the point most of the time anyway. The point of life isn’t to do everything perfectly all of the time or even most of the time. Life is about trying new things, being curious, and growing through adversity. Failure is a natural part of these things and what’s most likely holding us back from them. Once we realize that we have the choice to live happily with our mistakes and failures we can finally be free to explore and blossom as we were meant to.

How to do Vrikshasana | The Tree Pose | Learn Yogasanas Online | Yoga and  Kerala

Veganuary Tips & Tricks

Since 2014 a UK based non-profit has been spreading the word about veganism and influencing global change by encouraging people to commit to practicing veganism for the first month of the year. Veganuary even has it’s own website with lots of helpful resources for people that aren’t sure where to start. There is a free vegan cookbook available for download. They also have 18 pages of vegan dinner recipes alone right on the site, no email required! You could try a new meal idea for each day of the month if you wanted to.

Today I wanted to do my part by contributing to this incredible movement. A lot of vegans look down on this “challenge” because it can seem like a way for people to feel good about themselves without actually changing their lifestyle, therefore acknowledging the issues, and still deciding not to make a bigger impact. I used to be one of said vegans. It really aggravated me for some reason to see people simply flirting with veganism. Cheat day vegans and meatless Mondays were also pet peeves of mine. I just felt like it was a joke to these people. I felt the ever present pressure of our ever shortening window of time to save the animals, ourselves, and our planet, and demanded more.

Now I see that any amount of change is good. The aggressive, militant attitude of vegans like my younger self are part of the reason people avoid making the change in the first place. It seems very strict and intimidating. People just aren’t sure they’ll be able to do it, and that fear of criticism and failure causes them to look away instead. It creates an atmosphere where people are afraid to make mistakes, afraid to ask questions, and that isn’t serving anyone. Now I highly encourage anyone who’s curious about veganism or even just wants to turn over a new, healthier leaf for the new year to give veganuary a try. With ten years of veganism under my belt now, I figure I’ve learned at least a few kernels of worthwhile advice I can share as well.

One: Make It Easy

Sometimes one of the hardest parts about going vegan is the planning and preparation of food. People that have been vegan for a long time or are used to cooking all the time, may not realize that a large portion of the populations eats out for a lot of their meals. This can be a huge deterrent to veganism if there aren’t vegan restaurant options near you or if you can’t afford these pricier pre-made choices. That’s why planning ahead is essential for new vegans. Take the time to find at least five easy recipes with minimal ingredients. I would recommend looking up some simple vegan versions of your favorite comfort foods. Make a grocery list of ingredients (maybe restock your spice drawer with less common spices such as garam masala) and preplan when you are going to gather these things as well as when you will prepare the meals. This way you won’t find yourself hungry and low on time which could easily lead to a meat relapse.

Two: Give Your Body Time to Adjust

I’ve had people come up to me in the past and say that they tried to be vegan, but it made them sick so they stopped. This was always so perplexing to me, because I know that a vegan diet is the best thing for your body and your health. I just couldn’t understand why it would make them sick. Part of me wondered if it was psychosomatic or if they were lying. I advised that they be sure to take a multivitamin with B-12 since there is no natural source of that in today’s foods. (Animal products are artificially infused with B-12.) However, just the other day I learned there may be another reason a vegan diet could make you feel worse in the beginning: fiber.

Even before I was vegan, I ate healthier than a lot of the population, so I never noticed this issue. But if you’re someone who is used to eating primarily meats, cheeses, and processed foods with little plant matter, a sudden increase in dietary fiber is going to be hard for your body to handle. While ultimately a diet high in fiber will improve your overall health, the gut microbiome will take time to adjust. It just doesn’t have enough microbes that are able to break fiber down when it has gone years without needing them. If you notice symptoms such as bloating, gas, or abdominal discomfort, know that this is likely the cause. Also know that these symptoms will pass with time as your gut microbe population changes to accommodate your changing diet.

Three: Protein & Cravings

Sometimes people begin to feel as though they are denying their body things it needs by cutting out animal products. We’re taught all of our lives that we need these unconscionable parts of our diet in order to be healthy. Even though countless studies have proven that isn’t the case, showing the opposite in fact, it can be hard to overcome this ever-present misinformation. Any vegan will tell you that one of the most frustrating myths we are endlessly confronted with is the idea that a vegan diet does not provide enough protein. A vegan diet has more than enough protein, and it isn’t hard to find. I’ve never made a conscious effort to seek out specific sources of plant-based protein and I’ve been incredibly healthy for the past ten years. Not only that, I’ve built tons of new muscle in that time. I’m more muscular now than I ever was as a non-vegan.

When you find yourself craving meat, or more likely cheese, don’t put too much weight behind those cravings. We are taught to “listen to our bodies” which is normally good advice, but our body’s signals go a bit haywire when we introduce chemical addictions to the mix. If you cut out added sugar from your diet, you will definitely crave it, but that doesn’t mean your body needs it to be healthy. We think we are craving some kind of necessary nutrients from our usual foods, when really we are craving casomorphin (in the case of cheese) and testosterone, estrogen, and other hormones that are pumped into these poor animals before slaughter.

Coming back to casomorphin, it is an opioid peptide that is derived from the digestion of the milk protein casein. This is the culprit when you find yourself desperate to cling to your cheesy foods. All vegans have experienced this challenging withdrawal and overwhelming craving. I promise you, it will pass. One day a block of cheese will look no more appetizing than a pile of gravel.

Four: Allow Yourself to Make Mistakes

Veganuary isn’t like other challenges. There is no rule that you are out if you slip up and eat animal products before the month is over. So give yourself the grace to try again even if you make a mistake or can’t resist your cravings. Veganism isn’t about being perfect. It’s about trying your best to do the least harm you can. Don’t be too hard on yourself or feel like you’ve got to give up if you find yourself unable to stick to the challenge every moment of the month. You can try again as many times as you need to.


I truly hope that this advice and information will help you make in through this first month of the year without contributing to the suffering of animals and the destruction of our world. Regardless of whether or not you plan on becoming fully vegan, veganuary is still an incredible act of kindness and good will. Even though it’s only one month, it makes a huge difference, not only in the economy, but in your body. I’ve mentioned before that it only took one month for me to notice a total transformation of my body and mind. Please feel free to reach out to me or leave a comment if you have any questions or concerns. I will do my best to be as helpful as possible. I am happy to provide support. Good luck! I have such high hopes for you in the new year.

Animals Show Love for Humans - Animals Hugging People - Animals Cuddling | Animal  hugs, Animals images, Animals

Uncovering Old Emotions

One of the benefits of coming off my SSRI medication is being able to reconnect with the full range of my emotions again. I’ve come to find that this is also a very challenging experience at times. While it’s much easier for me to feel joy, love, and laughter, I’m also more quick to anger and prone to tears. Although this may be unpleasant and uncomfortable at times, I still consider it a positive overall. Because this is the human experience that I had been missing out on for so many years. I may have wanted to numb my anxiety, but I hadn’t realized that in order to do that, Paxil was going to numb everything else as well. Even so, at first that was a trade I was willing to make, but after a while I began to wonder what I had given up and whether or not it was truly worth it.

The first thing I noticed was that I never cried anymore. Obviously in the beginning, I thought that was a great side-effect. Who wants to feel sad? I certainly didn’t. And without those heavy feelings weighing me down, I felt almost invincible. After a few years, though, I genuinely missed being able to cry and experience that release. It began to feel like the pressure of all the sadness I was not allowing to come up to the surface was becoming a dense ball of discomfort deep within my heart. There were many times that I desperately wished that I could cry and let it out.

What I hadn’t noticed was how I also laughed less while on Paxil. It started to seem like I hadn’t laughed genuinely for years. I still found things funny and made tons of jokes, but I never really laughed. I was beginning to forget what that even felt like. Laughter was more of a social obligation than a natural unconscious reaction. It never even occurred to me that this was related to my medication until a few days ago. I’ve realized that that involuntary laughter bubbling up inside of me had returned. I had forgotten how amazing it felt.

So the first things I picked up on were laughter and crying. Both of which I now cherish and am immensely grateful for. However, I’m also being confronted with my ol’ buddy anger. You see as a teenager, I was an extremely angry person. I can still remember the white hot rage I would experience on nearly a daily basis. Rage that seemed uncontrollable and terrifying to those around me and even to myself after the fact. I foolishly believed that had simply faded with age and was also being nullified with my yoga and meditation practice. Although I still felt anger more than other emotions, it was no where near the level of intensity that it used to be.

Over the last few days, I’ve caught myself being overwhelmed with anger more than I have been in years. I thought I had learned to let it go, but in reality that viscous current of adrenaline was just not as strong as it once was. I am feeling it again at full force, and really struggling to cope. I am fearful that I may become the aggressive, angry person that I used to be when I was younger. I forgot how compelling the feeling of anger can be. It is all consuming at times. The phrase “blinded by rage” is quite accurate. That emotion tends to hit me like a freight train. It comes on suddenly and is irresistible. I feel helpless to control my actions when I’m in such a state. Of course, I have never physically harmed anyone, but I am quite good at spitting venom. My tongue becomes the deadliest blade and once I’ve calmed down, I am always mortified and ashamed of my behavior.

If anger is the price I have to pay to keep the rest of my emotions, I will. Especially because it seems to be the only negative change I’ve noticed so far from lowering my dosage to practically zero. I had definitely expected worse. I’m surprised that this anger has merely been lying dormant inside of me all along though. To be honest, I’m a bit disappointed. I really thought I had overcome that ugly side of my personality.

Now the real work begins. I’ve been given all these years to practice and grow spiritually, and I’m being given the chance to use what I have learned. I’m trying to remain curious about those angry feelings when they arise, instead of turning that anger back on myself like I often do. It is quite fascinating, honestly. One thing I’ve noticed is the way I cling onto those violent feelings. My rational mind is useless against such a powerful rage. There is a self-righteousness mixed in that likes to feel vindicated and does all it can to justify my anger. It almost makes me more angry to imagine letting it go. As if that is letting the offending person or situation “off the hook.” It feels like my duty to make sure they don’t get away with it.

Given that I’ve already shown myself time and time again that trying to reason with myself in this state is pointless, I’m trying to employ a different strategy. Rationalizations allow me to still focus on whatever it is that has angered me. My goal from now on is going to be shifting my focus. I want to try to turn that focus inward. Usually when I’m angry, my mind is going a mile a minute listing ways that I am correct to be angry, riling myself up even more, stoking the flames. Rather than letting my mind do that, I’m going to try to focus on the feeling itself, to get out of my head entirely and move into my physical body.

What does anger feel like? For me it feels hot and stiff. My chest tightens, my breath becomes quick and short, my heart beats fast and hard against my ribcage. While these aren’t pleasant sensations to focus on, this is a way for me to work through my anger in a mindful way. Even though I’m finding this experience frustrating and challenging, at the same time I am grateful. I am grateful for the chance to get to know these long hidden parts of myself again. I am grateful for all of these newly rediscovered emotions, even the difficult ones.

Should You Accept or Regulate Your Emotions?

Challenge

work-life balance: Men struggle as much as women to maintain work-life  balance - The Economic Times

I’ve never been a very competitive person. Growing up with an older sibling, you quickly realize that you’re more than likely always going to lose anything that isn’t purely chance. My odds were only slightly better even in those scenarios as I never seemed to be lucky either. I have always blamed this dynamic in my childhood for creating the largely apathetic attitude I have regarding any type of competition. I expect to lose. I don’t care much if I win. So what’s the point? I’ve always preferred to avoid any chance of failure.

Recently I’ve realized that my lack of a competitive drive has also bled into my relationship with my own personal challenges. I’m a huge quitter. I’ve never had any problem backing out or giving up if I believe I am going to finish short of my goal. In addition to that, academics have always come easily to me. I never had to struggle to understand or accomplish anything as far as my school work went. I got pretty used to being ahead of my peers. It felt good to always be the smartest person in class, even if intellectually I knew I didn’t attend a very good school. When I got to college and found myself actually having to study for my chemistry and biology classes, I was quick to change my major rather than put in the extra effort. Psychology came much more naturally to me than science, so I finished out my formal education at the top of my class, no studying required.

I still think back on those college science classes every now and then though. I take pride in the fact I still managed to get A’s even though it was hard. Whereas I don’t really care about the grades I got in my psychology courses, because in my mind, they were easy. I was more shocked that anyone managed to do badly. I’ve started to recognize this recurring theme in my life though. I’m so afraid of failure that I only allow myself to do things I know I’ll excel in. Yet, whenever it does happen that I find myself in a challenging situation, it seems I enjoy it more in some ways. I definitely take more pride in accomplishments that were difficult for me. Sadly, despite my many accomplishments, I only have a few that fall into this category.

I think in a certain way, society encourages this type of behavior. “Do what you’re good at” seems to be the message. There is this idea that we have natural gifts. Once we find out what those are, that is where we should focus our energy rather than wasting our time improving at something we may only ever be mediocre at. Only after learning about the 10,000 hour rule, did I really begin to question that idea. While it is still widely believed some people are simply born with special talents, the 10,000 hour rule explains that if someone devotes enough time to a certain art or discipline, they will surely master it, regardless of innate ability. This idea puts the locus of control back on the individual.

After spending the last few weeks absolutely obsessed and in love with my new electronic drawing tablet, I started to view this whole issue from a different perspective. At first, I was terribly intimidated by this new software I had no idea how to use. A large part of me wanted to quit and just go back to pen and paper which I already knew I was good at. However, knowing how much money I spent on this tablet, I pushed through the discomfort of being an amateur. In doing so, I ended up having so much fun learning something brand new.

Through this experience, I’ve begun to realize that I actually enjoy being challenged. Once I get past my initial fear of failure, once I overcome my massive ego telling me it will be the end of the world if I’m not the best at something, no matter how frivolous, I inevitably start to have fun. Sure there is frustration along the way as I struggle to do something new, but that makes it all the more satisfying when progress is made. Ultimately I don’t even care if I can eventually master whatever it is I’m doing. The enjoyment itself is all I’m after.

I remember hearing about how highly intelligent students may do poorly if their lessons don’t keep up with their ability. The smart kids get bored and lose interest while waiting for the rest of the class to catch up, causing them to lose focus and motivation, or even start to act out. This never made much sense to me growing up. I liked that school was easy. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want their lessons to be harder, even if they found them laughably easy. Now I think I’m finally starting to get it.

A happy mind is a busy mind. A bored mind will tear itself apart. In my opinion this is why we often see the most intelligent people also suffering with the most extreme mental illness. Being intelligent is simultaneously a gift and a curse. High intelligence demands high levels of intellectual stimulation. The brain was made to create, to investigate, to learn, and to solve problems. Without these healthy outlets for mental energy, the brain begins to make problems for itself.

When all I do is things that only require half-assed effort, my brain has plenty of extra energy to run amuck. Boredom breeds rumination. With nothing to occupy my mind, it begins to pick apart little details of the past or fret over the future. To me, this is the opposite of the “flow state.” When we are in that coveted flow state, our brains are fully engaged in what we are doing. The rest of the world falls away, and we are able to exist in the present moment. When nothing in the present requires our full attention, the mind is free to wander. With enough wandering, it’s only a matter of time until we find ourselves in the uncharted territory of our own mental illness.

The ego looms large over the mind with mental illness. The ego tries to keep us in our comfort zone, tells us challenge is too hard, that failure is painful. But if we can push past this flawed perception, if we can overcome our ego, we actually find that it’s fun to be challenged! Challenges are what help us to learn, to grow, to stay interested in our day to day lives. It’s new. It’s novel. It’s engaging. Challenges are true workouts for the brain. And just like physical exercise, it makes us happier.

Now my problem has become coming up with ways to challenge myself. My brain is quick to catch on to anything new I try. Therefore I’m constantly required to switch it up and try new things if I want to keep my mind engaged. However, just like with my workouts, it’s always hard to motivate myself to take things to the next level. It’s called a comfort zone for a reason. It feels good to be good at something. I’m going to work harder from now on to remember that it also feels good to be challenged and practice facing difficulties with enthusiasm rather than dread.

Calm Amidst the Chaos

Even when I don’t have a lot of free time in my day, I always make time for my yoga and meditation. Some days that’s a half an hour, others it’s only 5 minutes. I try not to let myself get caught up in an all or nothing mentality. Just because I can’t find the time to do my normal routine, doesn’t mean that those five minutes I do have won’t make a difference.

Today I noticed myself getting caught up in a totally different problem, though. I was exceptionally pressed for time. I had to squeeze my meditation into the 15 minute span before a new client was coming in for an appointment. As I tried to drop into my breath and let the world around me fall away, I couldn’t help but become preoccupied with what was going on in the rest of my office. I was fixating on every little noise, anxiously anticipating the client to show up early and force me to jump up and greet them. I was worried my coworkers were irritated at me for still being closed away in my office so close to our appointment. I considered giving up on my meditation all together. I wondered if it was just a waste of time, if I was too on edge to meditate.

I’ve found myself in this situation many times before. Sometimes I can’t find a quite place or I keep being interrupted or whatever other kind of inconveniences the world likes to throw at us from time to time. Occasionally, I will actually decide to forget about meditating all together. I tell myself that it’s not the right environment or I’m just too distracted or uneasy.

For some reason, the ridiculousness of that reasoning really struck me today. How silly it sounds to say: I’m too anxious to meditate. I can’t meditate because I feel rushed or it’s too loud. These are all perfect times to meditate! Meditation and yoga aren’t things that we need ideal conditions to practice. One of the most beneficial and important parts of these practices is to learn how to use them to cope with hectic times in our lives. Through these practices we can learn how to sit with these moments of discomfort. We can use them to step back from our own drama and distress and simply observe ourselves from a calm neutral perspective.

If you are just beginning to incorporate mindfulness into your routine, it may seem impossible to meditate unless you are in the right atmosphere or headspace. Developing a designated area where you can feel calm and relaxed is an excellent way to help you stick with it in the beginning. However, if you have been practicing for a long time like I have, it may be time to challenge yourself a bit more. You’ve laid the foundation, now it’s time to test it. I promise you, you won’t regret it.

Give yourself a chance to notice what it feels like to be rushed, or irritated, or interrupted. Get curious about this experience. Ask yourself questions. What is happening in your body? In your mind? What is your internal dialogue telling you in these difficult moments? How is that self-talk exacerbating the already tense situation? What might be a kinder or more gentle form of self-talk you can implement instead? This is the perfect time to start changing patterns of thought that are not serving you.

Meditation isn’t always supposed to be easy and effortless. No matter how long you have been practicing, you are going to find yourself struggling from time to time. Going through phases of discomfort internally, externally, or both is all part of the human experience. The incredible experience that we are all here to witness. Meditation is about learning to be present through it all, not just the calm, clear moments, but the rough and tumultuous ones as well.

Making Change a Habit

After 27 years of life, a pattern that now seems so obvious has finally revealed itself to me. While I’ve always heard that change is the only constant, it seemed equally as natural that we will inevitably resist and detest this constant change. How many times have you heard someone say something like “I wish things could stay this way forever”? I’m sure we all feel that way sometimes. However, even if it were possible to avoid change in our lives, should we?

I’m reminded of when I learned that despite having clear ideas about what will make us happy, studies show that we don’t have very good judgement in that regard. We don’t know what will make us happy. It’s a hard concept to wrap my mind around. I feel so sure that this or that will make me happy. I almost don’t even realize it when I acquire said thing and am still just as unhappy as before. I thought working from home would be a dream come true, but it turned out that I’m actually much happier coming into the office every day. Despite clearly remembering this baffling realization, a few months after coming back to the office, I find myself hoping for another shut-down so I can work from home again. I can’t seem to convince myself that being at home alone every day actually makes me feel depressed and more anxious than usual.

This strange dilemma is similar to the way I view change. I assume most people would say that they don’t like change. Evolutionarily, change is an obvious threat. If we’re able to survive with the way things are, change could potentially be catastrophic. Our minds and bodies are inclined to try to hold on to what has been working for us up to this point, even if something else may work better. As long as we’re alive, change seems like a big, unnecessary risk. I think this is one of the complexities that make modern day society so difficult for us to navigate. It is not an accurate reflection of what our minds and bodies were designed for.

I mentioned in some of my recent posts the new habits I have added into my daily routine to promote mindfulness and self care. While I initially felt an immense positive impact from these changes, after a month, they have begun to feel lackluster. This is the pattern I have finally noticed within myself. I am constantly concocting new plans and habits that I believe will help me live a happier and fuller life, more in line with my values. These changes are always amazing for the first week or so. Then they start to seem ineffective. I find myself back where I started. I fall back into the mindless hum of habit.

I’ve begun to wonder if perhaps what is making me so happy at first isn’t the specific tasks I’m including in my day, rather the change itself. Although the habits I’ve cultivated are mindful, I wasn’t being more mindful simply due to the actions I was performing. It’s much easier to be mindful when you are doing something new. Perhaps I wasn’t less anxious because I wasn’t watching TV while I ate, but because I was doing things differently than I normally would.

I’ve often had the feeling that intelligent minds are more prone to anxiety and depression. I believe this is due to the effort that we have to exert to stimulate our active, easily bored brains. Not many of us are willing or able to make that effort. I’ve always detested challenges as well as change. I don’t know if that was innate or a result of my early environment, but it is a misguided opinion nonetheless. I need to be challenged, I need new, novel experiences and information to make me happy. Now the issue is how do I go about intentionally including these things in my life.

When we’re growing up, we have little choice in the matter. There are lots of consistent changes that come our way which we have no control over. Maybe our parents move or get divorced. We have to go to a new school. We suddenly have a new sibling. Whether we are resistant to change or not, we know there is going to be a lot of it we’re going to have to deal with. Once we are adults and have more control over our own lives and environment, it becomes easier for us to avoid change. Often we even avoid changes we want to make out of fear. Stagnation may be unpleasant, but it is safe and that is our prime biological imperative.

After trying for years to cultivate healthier habits, there is one I have been missing. This month, I’d like to try to make change a habit. In order to break free from what has become a quite oppressive daily schedule, I think intentionally doing at least one thing differently or trying something new each day would be an excellent way to invite more mindfulness and mental stimulation into my day.

10 Facts About Chameleons

Pushing Past Your Comfort Zone

This weekend is for teacher training at my studio. I am always excited to get to help new teachers learn more about yoga. It’s also nice to get to stay after my class for a bit and hear feedback on my own teaching. I’ve been looking forward to it all week.

The teacher trainees had only positive things to say about my class. However, my mentor from when I was a trainee myself had some constructive criticism. It was nothing I haven’t heard from her and others many times before. Because of my anxiety, I am pretty disconnected from my students when I’m teaching. I am immersed in my own practice, modeling every pose and going through the flow with everyone. This is what I always envisioned for myself when I decided I wanted to teach. This is also what I’ve learned from online yoga teachers who constitute the vast majority of my history with yoga.

But online yoga teachers do not have a classroom full of students in front of them. Students who have come to a studio to be in the presence of their teacher. I am doing my students a disservice by not engaging with them more during class. My cues are flawless, my practice is beautiful, my flows are creative, fun, and different every week. However, I do not watch my students nearly enough. I do not give adjustments. I do not compliment or comment on their expressions of the poses.

I know I could be a much better teacher and greatly benefit my students by doing these things. The only reason I don’t is because I am afraid. Even though my social anxiety has practically disappeared thanks to Paxil, it is still quite intimidating to stand in front of a group of people and meet their eyes. I’ve only learned to make eye contact in general a few years ago. To closely observe and engage with my students in that way has always been something I felt I simply cannot do.

I’ve comforted myself with the excuse: “Well this is just my unique teaching style. If the students don’t like it they can go to another class instead.” But that is absurd. I don’t want to make excuses for myself anymore. I want to be brave. I want to push myself to try new things, to face my fears. I’ve done it before. And even though it is scary, it is also so rewarding.

We can never know what we are capable of if we don’t test our limits. Yoga is about personal growth. Not just in the body but in everything. It may be safe to stick with what you know, with what you’re good at, but it is also boring. It isn’t truly living.

There are a lot of changes I have been planning on making. And they scare the hell out of me. Yet once again yoga has given me the opportunity to challenge myself within an environment, a community of curiosity and love. Maybe if I show myself that I can do something scary, try something new and still be okay, it will give me the courage I need. Maybe it will remind me how good it feels to face my fears and overcome them. It is one of the most exciting, empowering things we can do.

Even if we “fail” it will still be a success. Because we tried. And now we’ll know we can always try again. So allow your curiosity to inspire courage. Surprise yourself every day. And no matter what, love yourself. Trust in yourself. You are capable of more than you know.

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