False Narratives

What are some of the lies that you tell yourself? Maybe they don’t even seem like lies to you. We all have a personal narrative. It is probably unknown by those around us and maybe we ourselves have a hard time recognizing what that narrative is. After all it never feels like a story we are creating. Most of the time that inner voice talking to us seems like an honest assessment and observation of reality, no matter how cruel or warped it may actually be. But this story only has as much power as we give to it. All stories have the potential to be interpreted in a completely different way if we only allow our minds to open to the possibilities.

One of the lies my inner voice loves to use is: I can’t be nice to myself, not while I’m such a train wreck at least. I have to be mean and critical of myself in order to motivate myself to do better. Otherwise I would never do anything or make any progress in my life. Up until yesterday, I never even questioned that narrative. Even when I tried to rationalize or reason with it, it was more about how to prioritize self love and self compassion over personal progress towards my other goals. I was still working within the lines of the false narrative I’d been feeding myself.

Then I heard someone talking about that very narrative from a different perspective. I was initially just relieved to realize that other people told themselves similar stories. The best part was that moment of clarity when this person explained why this story is laughable on its face. So if you are someone who tells yourself the same type of story, take a moment to really think about it with me. Remember when you were a child? If not, do you see how children in your adult life behave? Do those children seem unmotivated? Were you unmotivated? Of course not! Children are full of energy and curiosity and motivation and enthusiasm. Do you think they need a harsh, demanding inner voice to be that way? Did your harsh inner voice even exist within you when you were a child? I know mine didn’t and I was much happier and quite frankly, more productive, back then.

All along I was buying into the false dichotomy my inner voice was offering me. Be mean to yourself or surrender your goals and aspirations for yourself. Even in that scenario, it wouldn’t be worth continuing to not love myself in exchange for being successful. I was having a hard time convincing myself of that though. It is such a relief to know that I don’t even have to choose one over the other. Being kind to myself isn’t going to turn me into a lazy blob with no aspirations or motivation. It will probably even do the exact opposite. Just imagine how much more energy I’d have to work toward what I want to be working toward if I wasn’t using it all up being anxious and/or angry with myself all the time.

I feel so much freer after realizing the absurdity of just that one lie my inner voice was preaching. I’m sure there are many more false narratives in my head to unravel. The next time my inner voice is telling me something that makes me feel badly about myself, instead of just accepting it as fact, I want to challenge it. If it’s too hard to disengage from in the moment, it might also be a good idea to simply write down what your inner voice is telling you in that moment. Then once you’ve gotten some space from the situation, you can come back and take a look at what you wrote down. I hope we can all learn to listen to our own inner voice in a neutral, passive way so that we may learn something new about ourselves and hopefully discover new ways to improve our lives and our relationship with ourself.

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Limiting Beliefs to Let Go of in Therapy

Today I want to write about some of the limiting beliefs that prevent me from being happy in my life. I think these beliefs will be what I’d like to tackle first once I find a therapist. I’m hoping that by writing it all down, I’ll be able to get a clearer picture of why therapy is important to me and my personal growth. Even though I majored in psychology and have a great respect for therapy and the field in general, part of me still feels hesitant about whether or not talking to a therapist would benefit me personally. I’m not sure why I have this reluctance. I think part of me believes that, while therapy works, not many practitioners in my area are very good at it. What I mean by this is they don’t seem to employ any evidence based therapies whatsoever. I’ve met quite a few therapists through my work and sadly only two have ever seemed legitimate to me. Even more sadly, one is a child therapist and both are off the table for me because we work together.

That brings me to my first limiting belief though. When I decide something is going to be difficult and take a lot of time and effort, I am quick to give up. I’ve always been someone that would rather not try at all than try and fail. This is no way to live your life though. Failure isn’t something to fear and avoid. It is a healthy part of the process of growth. I even try to avoid putting time and effort into personal relationships. Rather than have a painful conversation, I prefer to simply disappear. I almost ghosted my boyfriend the first time he asked to hangout because I was so afraid of setting time aside from my busy schedule to meet him. Part of me still wants to run away from him rather than make the five hour drive to his new apartment and stay there for three days at the end of the month. I have to keep reminding myself how grateful I am that I didn’t run away from that first meeting. I faced my fears and met an amazing boy that I’m growing to love. These are the types of experiences that I stand to lose if I continue to run from the hard things in life.

Ironically, while I am afraid that I won’t be able to find a good therapist, I’m also afraid that I will find one. What I mean by that is I’m afraid that eventually my therapist will make me face my self-destructive habits, particularly when it comes to food and exercise. I’m petrified that my therapist will challenge me to stop my insane daily cardio sessions. I know that she won’t be able to make me do anything. What scares me is I already know how much these obsessive compulsive habits hold me back. I’m afraid I won’t be able to make personal progress without facing them. I’ve always been afraid of giving up my exercise routine. I’ve been working out for at least an hour every single day for nearly a decade at this point. You might wonder what I’m afraid of. Most people would love an excuse not to exercise. That’s where my next limiting belief comes into play. A big part of me believes that my appearance directly reflects my worth as a human being, as a woman. Strangely enough this doesn’t apply to anyone else in my life, just me. I would never look down on someone because of their physical appearance. But when it comes to myself, it already feels like I hardly deserve to take up space in this world. I feel like I have to make myself into something pretty to look at in order to earn the right to exist at all. I have directly linked personal happiness and the right to be loved with how I look. Not only is this highly detrimental to my mental health, it is also completely unsustainable. Even though I’m not even 30 years old yet, I’ve already begun to fear aging. What will I do when my skin begins to crease and sag? When my hair turns grey and brittle? If it falls out completely? When my body can no longer keep up with the strenuous routines I impose upon it? No matter how afraid I am to face this, I know I’ll have to eventually.

Another limiting belief that I’d like to address in therapy is my dependence on the approval of others. This is somewhat part of my issue with looks, but this applies more to my personality. I have always been afraid of confrontation. I’d rather say yes to something and burden myself than say no and risk upsetting the other person. In order to avoid criticism or tough conversations, I’m quick to put other’s needs ahead of my own. I’d like to learn how to say no with confidence. I want to learn how to navigate more complex social interactions. More importantly I’d like to have a stronger connection with myself and learn to trust my intuition and see my own personal needs more clearly. I want to stand firm in the belief that I don’t need the approval and acceptance of others to be happy.

Finally I’d like to learn how to be more gentle and forgiving with myself. No matter how much I do or how far I’ve come, it’s never enough. I am quite good at criticizing myself for my mistakes, but utterly inept at congratulating myself when I succeed. After years of only focusing on my flaws, it’s often hard to even identify the things I’m doing well. I want to build a healthier relationship with myself through therapy. I’d like to be given some tools to help me practice loving kindness with myself. Even why I try to be kind to myself, it often feels hollow or uncomfortable. I have a hard time really believing anything positive I direct at myself. That cruel little voice in the back of my head is quick to counter anything nice I have to say. And after years and years of feeding that awful voice, it has become much stronger than my attempts to love myself.

Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve had strong ideas about what I need to do to find happiness and fulfillment in my life. However even after years of effort, I can’t seem to overcome these limiting beliefs I have. The real reason I want to start therapy is so that I can have someone on my team. I want there to be someone else to help me and hold me accountable. It would also be nice to have an outside voice of advice and reassurance, someone to help me get perspective. Maybe then that mean little voice inside will finally be overpowered by positivity. Even though I’m afraid, even though it may be hard and take a long time, all I’ve got to do is focus on the step right in front of me. I don’t need to worry and wonder how many different therapists I’ll have to meet before I find the right one. Right now all I need to do is make one phone call and schedule that first appointment. Future me is capable of handling the rest as it comes.

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Toxic Monogamy in Media

I truly wish that as a culture we would change the way that monogamy and cheating are portrayed in the media. I’ve written a lot about Polyamory on this blog. While I am currently in a monogamous relationship, I still think as human beings we are naturally polyamorous. There is a lot of social and biological evidence to support this theory, but I won’t get into that now. Today I just wanted to discuss the harmful effects of the way monogamy is represented in TV shows and movies.

The other day I was watching Doctor Foster on Netflix. It was a very good series, but I couldn’t seem to get past one huge problem in the plot. Ultimately the show revolved around a doctor whose husband had been cheating on her. It seems to be a reoccurring theme that if someone is cheating they are inherently a monster, a liar, and incapable of true love. Viewing things in such black and white terms is unhealthy for everyone involved, in my opinion.

Now I’m not saying that cheating on a partner that you’ve agreed to be monogamous with is okay, but demonizing someone for cheating doesn’t make the situation any better for anyone. All this does is make the person who has cheated think they are a hopelessly flawed person, selfish, heartless even, when in reality it may be that they are just unable to conform and live up to society’s unrealistic relationship standards. In the end, monogamy is going against our nature and some people, despite having the best intentions, simply aren’t able to do it. After all cheating would not be so insanely common if humans were truly monogamous biologically. But does this mean people who cheat are awful and unable to love? Of course not!

I understand that a lot of you out there may not be too eager to have sympathy for cheaters. Especially if you have been cheated on in the past. However, take a moment to consider the way this perception of cheating and monogamy also harm the person who gets cheated on. I doubt being cheated on would be so devastating and painful were it not framed in such a light. Just because your partner has cheated, it is assumed that they never cared about you at all. Your whole relationship must have been a lie. They must not have ever really loved you, otherwise they wouldn’t have cheated, right? Wrong. I can say from personal experience as someone who has made the mistake of cheating in the past, that I never for one moment stopped loving my partner. It wasn’t that he wasn’t good enough or that he couldn’t make me happy. The fact is I just fell in love with someone else at the same time. It didn’t have anything to do with the way I felt about my partner. There is no need for people that have been cheated on to doubt themselves, their love, or their worth as a partner.

The idea that we are only able to love one person at a time is ridiculous to me. There are all different types of love. We are able to experience many different forms of them at the same time. If we can love multiple children, multiple friends, multiple family members, why would we be incapable of loving multiple people romantically at the same time? Once again, this still isn’t a defense of cheating. It is completely unacceptable to break a partners trust in such a way. My problem is more with the culture surrounding romantic relationships in general. It is unnecessarily toxic and harmful, causing immense amounts of heartbreak for no reason.

I am hopeful though. A few years ago when I first heard the term polyamory, I had no idea what it was. Now it seems to be a widely understood concept. It is becoming more and more accepted among the younger generations. I am quite excited to see how this shift effects society as a whole. I believe a shift toward polyamory can only benefit humanity as well as individual mental health.

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I Choose

The longer I live, the more I realize just how much about our lives and the way we experience reality is a personal choice. Our upbringing, our genetics, and our environment definitely contribute to how easily we are able to choose one thing over another, but we all have a choice. Some people may be naturally inclined to view things more negatively than others. For these people, it will always take more effort and practice to see the good in other people and situations. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the effort.

I think I was born a with a friendly, happy, and positive disposition. Even so, as I grew older I began to lose touch with that lighthearted, open nature. Encounters with heartache, pain, and rejection caused me to close my heart little by little in an attempt to protect myself, to shield myself from the world. I started to view myself as a pessimist. I was the stereotypical “emo” kid throughout high school. The longer I stayed in that “woe-is-me” mindset, the more I started to identify with it. Suffering became an essential part of me. For years now I have been working to redirect myself back down a more positive path, a path that feels more true to who I was meant to be, and who I want to be. (I plan to keep that emo aesthetic though. I love me some black clothing.)

Currently, I am at a stage where I am able to clearly see both sides of that coin. I can see the negatives, the pessimistic viewpoint I would have once had, but I can also see the positives, the option I have to view things in a different way. I used to think one way was more true or honest than the other, but now I see that reality is all about perception. There is no right or wrong way to experience the world. It is always a choice. At times this can lead me to feel frustrated as I struggle against that doom and gloom voice I spent so many years feeding and building up inside my own head. It can be easy to get stuck feeling hopeless, feeling unable to change, a lost cause.

When these doubts begin to bubble up I try to remind myself just how far I have come. I never could have imagined that I would be able to become the person I am today. All I can do is keep moving forward and trust in myself. It may be a slow and arduous process, but it’s worthwhile. Truly, it is the only kind of self-improvement that matters. You can tell yourself you will be happy once you get a promotion, make more money, lose more weight, build more muscle, move somewhere else, but even after reaching all of your goals, you are still the one you have to face at the end of the day. It is easy to think that changing external circumstances will change the way we think and feel inside. That inner voice loves to complain and blame this or that for all of our problems. However, those upsetting and limiting thoughts are the real problem. This is always where we must start our journey, inside ourselves.

Even after seeing so many people achieve the things I want to achieve in life and continuing to be miserable, I find myself thinking those same accomplishments will bring me happiness even if it didn’t for them. We always think we are the exception. But those things we desire are ultimately just distractions. They are excuses for why we aren’t able to be happy right now. It can be difficult to admit that we are the only reason we aren’t happy. Happiness comes from within. It has been ours since the day we gained consciousness and it will be available to us in each and every moment until the day we die. Even when it feels impossible for you to allow yourself to be happy, just know that it’s because you haven’t spent enough time practicing. Sometimes I even think of this practice like a game. When I find myself facing something exceptionally upsetting or challenging, I ask myself: are there any positives I can find in this situation? Just like the hag stones I scan the riverbank for, the more time you spend searching for certain things, the easier it becomes to spot them. When I first tried to find those special stones, I felt like I would never find one. I wasn’t even sure if there were any to find. Yet now I am easily able to pick up two or three as I walk along the shore without even trying. At first it might feel like there is really nothing good about different parts of your life, but the more you practice looking for the good in things, the easier it will become and the more abundant those good things will seem.

It can be hard work, training ourselves to be happy, but it is possible. Don’t lose hope. Don’t give up. Keep trying. I say these words for myself as much as for anyone who happens to be reading this. We are capable. We are powerful. We have everything we need inside of us. Don’t be afraid. You are safe. You are loved. You are enough. Even if at first you don’t believe it, keep repeating these uplifting, empowering words to yourself. Eventually they will become as true and real to you as that negative inner dialogue that many of us have become accustomed to. It may not be easy, it may take a very long time, but I promise you, it will work. And it will be worth it.

The Focused Mind

It is interesting to me that when I sit down to write, the ideas that usually come to mind are so negative. I think about problems I see in my own life or in the world around me. I can think of some pretty interesting topics, but that isn’t the issue. I didn’t start writing everyday to be interesting. I am doing this because I like to write and it makes me happy. Depending on what I’m writing about. It always comes down to focus.

I genuinely fear for these younger generations. Even my own has suffered and continues to suffer from the influence of technology. The internet and social media have drastically damaged our mental abilities. The saddest thing is that there isn’t really anyone to blame or a clear solution other than purging our lives of these technologies entirely. We have reached the point in history where “robots are taking over.” It just doesn’t look like what we thought it would look like. It is much subtler. Robot humans aren’t so much moving into our neighborhoods and taking out jobs, as they are tinkering behind the scenes shaping our own personalized virtual worlds for us. There is no evil intention behind this threat to humanity. The algorithms we’ve created are only doing their best, trying to help us as they’ve been designed to do. We just couldn’t have imagined the implications of this progress.

Among the myriad reasons that this new reality we’ve unleashed upon the world is harmful, the most significant to me is its effect on attention span. This has definitely made an impact on all of us who use the internet and specifically social media, but it is particularly easy to see in children. It really breaks my heart to imagine what childhood must look like now-a-days compared to what I was lucky enough to have. Just the other day a coworker and I were reminiscing in front of a 10 or 11 year old girl about before we had internet or even a computer. She seemed stunned and horrified as she listened. I felt like my grandmother when she would tell me about before they had cars and electricity.

It is interesting to me that alongside this rise in social media, there has also been an increase in interest in spiritual practices such as yoga. It is almost as if we are naturally seeking out a balance to the damaging effects we’ve been exposed to. Something inside of us is looking for help. While it can’t solve the problems we face, I do feel that yoga and meditation are instrumental in combating the negative effects of technology in my own life. No matter how long I practice yoga, it continues to blossom and evolve. As I peel back layer after layer, I find new pearls of truth, new perspectives. I’ll think I know what yoga is all about, then have that idea utterly overthrown by a new one.

Once I thought yoga was just about exercise and flexibility. I thought meditation was an effort to keep the mind still. Now I’ve learned that both of these practices are complementary to one another and that ultimately they are both about focus. It doesn’t matter if you can do the splits and hold a handstand if your mind is somewhere else the whole time. You can sit in meditation for hours, but if your mind is running laps it won’t do you much good. The point of both of these practices is to train and harness our ability to focus.

We often hear that we are in control of our own happiness. We can choose the way we want to feel and respond to the world around us. And while this is true, it doesn’t exactly explain how we are able to do this. The answer to that is (yep, you guessed it) focus. Concentration, attention, focus, whatever you want to call it, it is a muscle that we must exercise and train to serve us. Sadly, the internet and social media are actively working against this training, teaching our minds to do just the opposite of focus.

That is why having a regular yoga and meditation practice is more important than ever before. Yoga and meditation are sneaky. They give us things to focus on, and we assign different meaning to why we are focusing on them. We want to be healthy, we want to be flexible, we want to have more peace and calm in our lives. It is only later that many of us realize what we are focusing on has little to do with it. The mere act of mindful awareness and concentration are what produce the positive mental health effects. That’s why eventually we can learn to take our practice with us off the mat. We don’t have to be in impressive postures to be practicing yoga. Don’t forget tadasana (mountain pose) is just as valuable as bakasana (crow pose). Pranayama isn’t necessarily beneficial simply because of the techniques we are using for the breath, but because of the intense focus we put on the breath.

As you go about the rest of your day, try to notice how you feel when the mind is focused, when it’s scattered. It seems silly or even simply, but when you notice yourself becoming agitated or anxious, find something to focus on. It’s harder than it sounds. Watch your mind as it squirms and tries to escape this stillness, the mindful attention. What you decide to focus your attention on doesn’t really matter. The breath is always a good choice because it is always there with us. But you could also focus on a blade of grass, the veins in your hands, the backs of your eyelids, the way your clothes feel against your skin. As long as you’re concentrating, it will help. This is why the flow state is so intoxicating. It isn’t even necessarily because we are often engaged in an activity we love doing, it is because we are intensely focused. So I hope that you are able to practice focus as you move through your day today. Just take it one step at a time. Allow yourself be enjoy each moment as it comes, giving it your full attention.

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Use It

I heard this phrase used in a yoga class the other day. Essentially the point is, whatever happens in life, whatever strange turn your day may take, use it to your advantage. This is a great way to reframe difficult situations. Instead of allowing things to bring you down or stress you out, try thinking of a way in which you might benefit.

I am really trying my best to embody this mantra in my own life. We have a lot scheduled at work this week, so I am going to have to come into the office practically every day. Normally this would either infuriate me or suffocate me with stress. But I’m not going to let either one of those happen today. I am going to use this sudden busy schedule to my advantage.

Even though it might seem unpleasant, it is important that I be confronted with situations that stray from my rigid daily outline. How can I use this hectic week to help me grow? Is there a lesson I could learn by persevering? Instead of looking at this as a burden or an inconvenience. I am going to choose to look at it like a blessing. This is a perfect chance for me to practice my yoga off the mat. Can I learn to be centered in my breath even when the world is spinning so quickly around me? Can I find reasons to be grateful no matter what life places before me?

This is the universe giving me the chance to discover for myself that, yes, yes I can do these things. I can do anything. The outside world is not what dictates my inner atmosphere. There is nothing for me to fear. I am going to use this week to show myself that this peace, this love, this stillness is always within me. Nothing has the ability to lessen it or lock it away besides me. It is always my choice how I want to respond to the world around me.

Taking life too seriously seems to be a common problem. Yet life can be anything we want it to be. Why not make it a fun game? Or a story that we are writing about ourselves? Challenges are part of any game. They are part of any story that’s worth reading. Can we use them to become stronger? Can they help us become better versions of ourselves? Things aren’t always going to be easy, but we can learn to find enjoyment and pleasure even in the difficult times. Growth is often painful, but it’s always worth it. We can all learn to find a blissful ease within the effort though. We can all learn to use it.

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Social Awareness about Mental Illness

As you grow older it is interesting to watch the world change around you. The social climate is so vastly different than it was when I was a little girl. It is refreshing to see that a lot of the things that used to be controversial or taboo are now commonplace and widely accepted in the majority of society. Even though I have always been a liberal and progressive person, even I have come a long way in my ideas and beliefs.

One of the areas where progress has been made in regards to visibility and social acceptance/understanding is in the field of psychology, particularly when it comes to mental illness. When I was an anxious, socially awkward, probably autistic little girl, there wasn’t much support out there for me or my family. No one seemed to understand what was wrong with me or my sister. My mother, who is also likely on the spectrum and who has been shy and anxious all her life, was forced to accept these issues with no explanation or even understanding from her peers or colleagues. She has lived the majority of her life simply believing she was strange and that was that.

Thankfully, as I’ve grown up, there has been a major shift in social awareness and understanding of mental illness. From a very early age, I came to understand that I had an anxiety disorder. Even though knowing that didn’t fix the problems I faced because of it, there is something very comforting in at least having an explanation. It has also been a great help knowing that other people around me understand anxiety disorders and what it means to have one. In the past, I’m sure you were just considered rude for not always making eye contact or smiling and greeting others on the street. I doubt it was given much more thought than that. This perception, I’m sure, caused a lot of people that were already struggling socially to be even further ostracized by their communities. Now I am easily able to explain my odd behaviors to others and, more often than not, receive compassion and understanding in return. Strange habits and behaviors can now be discussed openly, with far less fear of judgement.

As with most things though, there is a potential negative to this social progress. The other day, a thought occurred to me after explaining to a new friend why I am so inconsistent with my texts (sometimes I’ll reply right away, other times I’ll be MIA for hours or even days.) In some ways, knowing that other people will understand and be accepting of these social issues enables me to continue engaging in otherwise frowned upon behavior. I started to wonder if being enabled to continue these behaviors in this way actually serves to exacerbate the problem.

In the past, a lot of people like me just had to “suck it up” and make phone calls, keep appointments, and participate in other common social interactions. There was no excusing yourself from normal expectations by saying, “I’m sorry, I’m just too anxious.” And while I’m sure it was often unpleasant, it may have actually been therapeutic in some ways to be forced to face your anxiety regularly in these ways, instead of being able to so easily avoid any situation that makes you uncomfortable. With so much social and technological progress, isolating oneself has never been more simple. Perhaps this is partially why despite significantly improved living conditions in a lot of the world, rates of mental illness continue to rise.

I am very grateful that more and more people are becoming educated in regards to mental illness and psychology in general. I’m sure overall it is extremely positive. With more knowledge and less stigma, people will more easily be able to reach out for treatment and support. The more we learn about these disorders will also lead to more effective forms of treatment as well. Yet it is still important to consider the possible drawbacks of this crucial shift in global consciousness. I would be very interested to see what solutions we will come up with to address this issue and when we will somehow draw a line between acceptance/understanding and enabling.

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The Difference Between Yoga and Other Exercise

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Some of the first things anyone I meet learns about me are that I am a vegan, I workout a lot, and I am a yoga instructor. It seems like everyone always wants to combine the latter two into one. I get asked all the time, “Oh, so you do yoga for your workouts?” No matter how many times I get asked this question, it always surprises me. I forget that for a lot of the western world, yoga is just another workout routine like aerobics or Pilates. But it is so much more than that.

When people hear the word “yoga” all they think about are the asana, the physical poses. In reality that is only one small limb of the yoga practice. It is merely a nice bonus that the physical practice can double as a form of exercise. However, yoga isn’t about the physical body at all. When someone begins a workout routine, there is usually a goal in mind. “I want to lose weight,” or “I want to build muscle.” And while a lot of people may get into yoga with a similar mindset, I’d say most stay for the mental and spiritual benefits instead.

I started yoga primarily to become more flexible, but also hoped it would help my anxiety. Now, even though I am more flexible than I ever dreamed I would be, I couldn’t care less about that part! Yoga has given me so much more than the ability to do the splits. Yoga allows us to use the body as a gateway to our souls, our higher selves.

At the gym, you push yourself so that you can achieve results, run faster, look slimmer, lift heavier weight, etc. But when we push past our comfort zone in yoga it isn’t about that at all. At first we may be fixated on the idea of molding our bodies into perfect poses. Eventually we begin to see our practice through new eyes. In the end it doesn’t matter how close we can get our head towards our toes. It is about seeing how the mind reacts to not being able to do a pose perfectly, or in fact even how it reacts to doing the pose perfectly. What does the ego whisper to us in these moments? Can we learn to accept where we are in our practice, in our lives? Can we breathe through discomfort? Can we honor our limits?

It is these questions and many more than we explore and grapple with on our mats, with the hope we will be able to take what we learn with us into our daily lives. While the asana practice may result in some incredible physical feats, it was never about that. It is about the journey there and what we are able to learn about ourselves along the way. So no, my yoga practice is not my workout. I usually don’t think of it as exercise at all. It is a spiritual practice, a moving meditation, a beautiful celebration of life.

How Understanding Neuroplasticity Changes Everything

There are few things that I’ve learned about that have completely changed my life, but neuroplasticity is one of them. I’m just as excited about it now as I was when I first heard the term in my psychology classes at university. Up until that point, I was mostly resigned to the fact that, being in my twenties, my brain had already passed through the formative years in which it had any real potential to change. I felt that even though I was young, my brain was already set to mostly continue on the path it was placed on by my genetics and my experiences in my childhood/teen years.

I can still feel how thrilled I was to learn that wasn’t the case. As someone who is very data driven and fact focused, I would have never implemented yoga or meditation into my life if I hadn’t learned about neuroplasticity. Before that I wanted to believe in the healing potential of these practices, but as far as I could see, there was no hard evidence to show it did anything at all. (Granted I must not have been looking very hard.) But I learned that by mindfully practicing stillness, compassion, love, peace, focus, anything really, you are strengthening those neural pathways in the brain just like a muscle. What could be more incredible?

For the first time in my life, I saw, and truly believed, that I could be anything I wanted to be. It wouldn’t necessarily be easy or fast, but I was guaranteed to change if I put effort into it. I didn’t have to be that sad, angry, troubled, teenager anymore. I could be anyone. I could be cheerful, optimistic, friendly, loving, calm, kind. I didn’t have to feel like I was “lying to myself” by trying to change, like I used to. I knew it would work. I had the science to support me.

Even though it’s been years since I started intentionally redirecting my brain, I’m not quite where I want to be yet. As we all know, progress is not linear. I’ve encountered many setbacks along the way, especially this past year. But still, I have made some incredible progress. I never would have imagined at 18 that I would be the person I am today at 27. I still have a long way to go, but I am so much closer. A lot of the negative neural pathways that I maintained as a teenager, have all but withered away. And realizing all of this, remembering all of this, has reminded me that I can change. I’ve done it before. And it’s that belief in myself that ultimately makes it possible. I have neuroscience to thank for that belief.

I have been strengthening some pretty unhealthy pathways in my brain in 2020. It won’t be easy to redirect myself from those powerful urges and habits. But I’ll do it. I’ve already had a huge success yesterday. It may not have been perfect, but every little bit of progress counts. I feel so much better this morning. More awake, more energetic, more positive, more loved. That’s how I think of this effort, as an act of self-love. It keeps me motivated, happy, excited about the process. It feels so good to step away from this strange auto-pilot I’ve defaulted to and really be present with myself again. I have a long road ahead of me. But for the first time in a long time, I am eager to continue on this journey.

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Vegan 2020

Check out this documentary and find out how the vegan movement has advanced in 2020. Fascinating information about the role animal agriculture has on pandemics. An educational film for nonvegans and an inspiring look at how far we’ve come for those who are already vegan.