Shift Happens

The streets in Boston make about as much sense as this sign above.  This is a picture from Boston’s Storrow Drive, also known as where the locals pretend that they are in the Indy 500.

photo credit: boston.com

I used to drive this stretch of road everyday to work – sometimes the traffic moved at a snail’s pace and other times it was a snap to get to work on time.  During my first few years of living in Boston, getting on to Storrow Drive was an absolute mystery because street signs are pretty much nonexistent.  Once I learned how to navigate the city – pre GPS – I felt like I had been inducted to a secret club.

My first and only accident in Boston was on Storrow Drive, when the slick icy roads prevented me from stopping in time as a car in front of me suddenly came to a halt.  Thankfully both drivers and cars were safe, and there was a police officer close by, so he was able to assist us to the shoulder.

After this accident, I started taking the Mass Pike to work.  I decided that I had cried enough tears on Storrow Drive – from being utterly lost, to frustrated with the traffic, and startled after an accident.  Even if it cost a few extra dollars in tolls, the peace of mind from taking the turnpike far outweighed the cost for my daily commute.

Earlier this month, I returned to Boston.  As soon as we landed, my partner and I rented a car and set out in the Boston after-work traffic.  And yes, we paid a visit to Storrow Drive and drove through the city.

photo credit: greaterbostonphotography.com

I immediately started to cry.  At first I wasn’t sure why I was getting teary eyed.  Was it seeing the bright autumn colors?  Was it seeing very familiar sites such as the Citgo sign, the Charles River, or the Boston city skyline?  Nope.  I realized just how much I missed this concrete maze of roads.  These ugly, confusing, twisting, roads moved me to tears yet again.

Nothing had really changed on Storrow - the traffic was still pretty terrible, the signs were still misleading, and the drivers were still erratic at best.  The thing that had changed was my mind.

Instead of being afraid of or frustrated with Storrow Drive, I was ecstatic to be exactly where I was – right smack dab in the middle of thick Boston traffic.  And I was so happy.

What led to my experience being different?

photo credit: greaterbostonphotography.com

A shift happened.

One of the most important lessons I learned a year ago during Level I teacher training is that pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.  If happiness is a choice (which I believe it is), then suffering is an option.

For me, this means that we all experience a range of things in our lives, and yes sometimes even pain whether it be physical or emotional.  What we do with that pain is our choice.  Pain, in essence, is information.  We can choose to attach meaning to this information that can be liberating or debilitating.  An injury can be our best teacher or it can our worst enemy.  The choice is ours to make.

In that moment of congested city traffic, the information was the same as countless times before.  I was in a car in Boston traffic and I was crying.  But my experience of it was completely different this time.  These were tears of joy, not of frustration, anger, or fear. On some level, I chose to be happy.  I chose to be completely content with the what was happening in that moment.

I shifted my vision.

On the yoga mat, we experience deep sensations in our bodies.  It’s a myth that all yoga instructors are super flexible.  I am not.  I have really tight hips and hamstrings, which is exactly why I practice yoga.  When I allow myself to breathe through these deep sensations without judgment of my body or my yoga practice, I have a much better time on the mat.  This is true in every other situation in my life.  Yoga helps me to be less reactive and more creative, more powerful.

“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” – Wayne Dyer

I love this quote.  Even Boston city traffic can be transformed.  And for anyone who has been caught in Red Sox traffic, you know this is no small miracle.

photo credit: boston.com

What shift is possible for you?

Peace,

Chelsea

Feed Your Soul

When was the last time you had the best time ever?  Had way too much fun?  Laughed until your belly hurt?  Or when colors seemed brighter, food tasted better, and you felt genuinely happy and at peace?

For me, I think of falling in love,

visiting my family,

sharing moments with my best friends,

and traveling.

Traveling feeds my soul on a deep level.  In 2002, I lived in Australia for 5 months.  Each day I was over seas, I woke up wondering what sort of fun adventure would I go on today?  What wonderful food will I eat?  What memories will be made?  I experienced heightened senses – all colors seemed brighter, food tasted better, and every song at a club was absolutely dance-worthy.  I savored each moment abroad and strove to just take everything in, to really live my life.

When I travel, I feel fulfilled and genuinely happy.  But, why do I wait to travel to feed my soul?

On a recent trip to Boston, I realized that what makes my travel experiences so incredible is my commitment to living in the moment.  I take each day as it comes, I savor each conversation with friends, I chalk up everyday stresses such as traffic to being part of the overall experience and I don’t let it bother me.

On my flight home I thought, “What if I could live like this all the time?  What if that euphoric feeling of happiness and peace could be experienced each day?”

My friends, I believe we really can be just that happy and peaceful all the time.  Although it is tempting to complain, whine, and even gossip (I do like to put on my grumpy pants sometimes!), it is also tempting to say that I’ll be happier at a later date.  Like when I graduate.  When I get my dream job.  When I make more money.  When I fit into my skinny jeans.  When I have more time.  When things are perfect.

Sound familiar?

But why wait to be happy?  Why wait to be your true self?  Why put life on hold?

Practicing yoga and baking helps me be grounded, focused, and present.  It’s through these practices that I experience more peace and joy day to day because they are ways for me to feed my soul and feel like myself again – without getting on a plane and traveling to another time zone.

The best gift we can give to ourselves, to others, and even to the whole planet is to just be fully present and engaged.  By doing things that feed your soul, that help you remain engaged and present, you not only nurture yourself, but everyone else around you.  Your peace and happiness are contagious.  Feed your soul and heal the planet.

Imagine a world full of people who do something every single day to care for themselves and others, who are committed to living in the moment.  It would change the world.

I’m making a commitment to practicing this daily.  Here are some ideas I’ve come up with:

  • resume my daily morning meditation and yoga practice
  • write someone a letter (one that requires a stamp) and send it
  • acknowledge someone for how they have touched my life
  • be generous in the forgiveness of others
  • look people in the eye as I say hello
  • eat meals unplugged by turning off the TV, cell phone, and computer
  • send someone a care package just for the fun of it
  • do something just for me, just because.  Pedicure?

I’d love to know how you care for your soul and how that impacts you and others around you.  Please share!

With palms together,

Chelsea

Stick to your Gunns – Tim Gunn!

I am fascinated with good reality TV shows.  My DVR is set to record just about anything that is about people using their natural talents to produce something beautiful.  One of my favorites is Project Runway.  And, let’s just put it out there, I love Tim Gunn.

I look forward to his witty humor and sage advice each week.  I may not be a fashionista, but I believe that what Tim has to say goes beyond fashion design and points to how we can strive to be our best selves.

What I love about Tim Gunn is that he doesn’t push an agenda onto the designers; he encourages each of them to stick to their own unique point of view.  When he does give advice, the advice is usually along the lines of staying true to who they are as a designer, make the garment look effortless, and don’t over think the challenge or overwork the garment.  And then of course, there is the classic line, “Make it work.”

While this might be Tim Gunn’s catch phrase, I don’t believe he over uses it.  This line is used when a designer just has to come to terms to what is really happening – these are the resources available and this is the amount of time left, so just go with the flow and make it happen.

Sometimes we all have to come to terms with what is really real.  So often the story we make up about our circumstances is far from the reality of what really is going on.  My yoga teacher has taught me that the world we create and live in inside our heads is very different from the real world and what is actually happening.

The designers on Project Runway who are the most successful are the designers that don’t let the drama and stress of the challenge detract from their vision.  They stay true to who they are and use that as a powerful source of inspiration that translates into their work.  It’s quite beautiful to watch those “make it work” moments unfold, which is why I love the show.

This past year has been one major “make it work” moment for me.  My partner and I moved from Boston to rural Oklahoma in June 2009.  Moving to Oklahoma was not my first choice.  One of the primary reasons for our move was to help my partner’s career move forward.  I was hoping for us to stay in Boston or find something in Seattle.  When we received the call that something was opening up in rural Oklahoma, it was incredibly scary, but it felt right.

Once we moved and got settled, it really started to hit me: I was in rural Oklahoma without a job, without a yoga studio, and without friends.  I think about 2 weeks into living in here, I called my mom in Seattle, sobbing uncontrollably.  Somehow I managed to get out the words, “There’s nowhere to go here.”  I had never felt so alone.

I could have made the choice to become best friends with Ben & Jerry and sit on my couch and wallow in my sadness. It actually seemed like an attractive option at the time because it would have made things easy – I could wear elastic waisted pants and comfortable shoes and then blame everything else for my loneliness and unhappiness.  Oh, that doesn’t sound attractive to you?

Then, I had that “a-ha!” moment when I decided to get off my butt and just get moving.  I decided to get back on my yoga mat.  Sure, I didn’t have a yoga studio, but I had my backyard and 102 degree heat for weeks on end (good thing I like hot yoga!).  I didn’t have my yoga teachers, but I developed my own yoga practice.  I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t graceful, or fun, and at times it was actually pretty painful.  It was raw.  But I knew that the only way out was to move through it.  And breathe.  And keep breathing.

It was during this time that I took a good look around and got really present to what was actually happening: my move to Oklahoma was not the end, but another beginning.  I had a huge opportunity to step into to a new way of being, to do things I never would have done if I hadn’t left my comfort zone.

Over the last year I attended Level I and Level II Teacher Training bootcamps with Baron Baptiste.

I forgave my father.

I started teaching yoga in my church and town library.

I baked exquisite cupcakes for church potlucks.

I let go of the lies I used to tell myself : that I’m all alone, that I’m not good enough, and that I have to do everything by myself.

I planted a vegetable and herb garden.

I gave a presentation about vegetarianism to people at my workplace.

I started a blog.

Instead of waiving a white flag and giving up, I am making it work.  Everyday I roll up my sleeves and go to work both on and off my yoga mat. 

Baron often says during our teacher trainings that in life we are either a yes or a no.  What I’ve learned from my own yoga practice is that life is much easier when we are a yes.  So, I am saying yes to Oklahoma.  Yes to change.  Yes to life – yes to my life.

Just when you think you can’t – or that it’s too hard – remember who you are.  You are a 10.  So, why show up as a 3 or a 4?  Be a 10.  Be a YES

 

Everything you need is within you now.  Enjoy your next make it work moment.  We are all a breakthrough waiting to happen.  If not now, when?

 

Peace,

Chelsea