Monday, August 18, 2008

Think Better - Like a Pearl

The flip-side of summoning the bigness to welcome what comes our way, another powerful tool is wielding the ability to feel welcomed no matter where you go. You've probably observed it from time to time in others: that ability to feel graceful and at ease no matter where or what is happening.

The secret is that this is not a genetically coded ability only some of us are given. In general, this state of being is a disposition to cultivate actively. Sure there are moments that we all lose ourselves to fears or anxieties about judgements of others, feeling out of control, or worrying about being truly wanted along for the ride, but with practice it's possible to minimize those moments and tip your own inflow/outofflow ratio.

By cultivating an ease within ourselves, we actually become more welcomed by others. Think about it: that anxious mess of a person you know - how often do you wish you did not have to be with them or that they would just CHILL? Reinforcing our essential connection to our OKAY-ness is KEY and these below steps are a great way to practice.

  • Always Begin NOW - Imagine the chair you are sitting on welcoming your weight. The computer screen welcoming your gaze. These pixels celebrating your attention.

  • Make It Personal - Feel your clothing caressing your skin, the light in the room delighting in your form and shape, the air smoothing your face and hands.

  • Be a Moveable Feast - When you do get up to move through your day, feel the floor beneath you like an unfolding welcome mat, the walls around you like a picture frame around you as work of art, and every conversation as welcoming and responsive.

  • Wear Your Welcome - Watch how you cultivate welcoming in interactions with both inanimate and animate objects (ie. people). Watch the lost energy of unwelcoming people and let them be your teacher.

This simple Jedi mind trick puts you in the frame of mind of FLOW - being absolutely more than at ease with what is. In this frame of mind you are the compliment to every situation, every element. And in being that, you become a contributing instrument to the symphony of your own life.

Feel Better - Becoming Well

Heading to the Berkshires to assist renowned meditation teacher and YogaJournal Wisdom columnist Sally Kempton at Kripalu this weekend, among the multiple causes for excitement, not the least of which were fresh air, early to bed, healthy eating and heartfelt conversations.

Given that going on retreat for most of us is at best a yearly activity, everyone there expressed a sense of excitement and anticipation for relief.

But wait - is it impossible to achieve at home? Every desired element listed above is FREE and is a matter of active choice making. As sentient beings and responsible adults, it's ridiculous that we wait for the environment of retreat to act on our highest good!

Look at the choices you can make differently and choose at least one to act on each day. Is it eating on time or with more life-supporting food? Is it going to bed a little earlier? Is it taking a moment to breathe deeply - no matter where? Is it making sure to engage in at least one positive, meaningful conversation a day - no matter how short?

Feeling better means welcoming your essential needs, physical, mental, emotional, and making empowered choices in response to them. From that three minutes you allocate to breathing deeply and gazing softly out the window to actually cooking a healthy meal you make for yourself with love, the actions we take in support of our own lives can be as time-conserving or time intensive as our creativity allows. Make your own list, then do something/anything to support the life within you.

Lead Better - Bring It OM!

Bring It! Bring it ON! Bring it OM!

Slang debates aside, consider this expression of welcome a leadership skill. Let's face it - life is full of surprises and nowhere do we observe surprises more than in pursuit of our objectives at work. Unlike the resignation, hidden resistance or powerlessness that can be imbued in acceptance, the ability to open the figurative door to whatever is arriving or surfacing is a fantastic way for you to see, assess, empathize and interact with wahtever is coming your way. Try the following steps:

  1. As you finish reading this article, allow yourself to take a breath and feel a welcome or well-come sense in your heart. This is different from the hard lines of acceptance, it has a softness and receptivity, as if you are allowing a guest into your home to delight and play with them.

  2. Whatever does arrive or happen, stay with the sense of well-come. Especially if you find the event or person not to your liking, or the news disappointing, see if you can stop yourself from hardening to it by breathing well-come into wherever you feel the clenching start.

  3. As the event or news unfolds, observe how you stay receptive and open. Observe what the reaction is of those around you.

  4. After the situation, meeting or interaction concludes, take a look at your own energy and ability to transition to whatever is next.

  5. Rinse and repeat.

In general what you'll find is that welcome breeds welcome. Receptivity breeds creativity and participation. By allowing yourself to bring whatever happens into your reality, others around you will be less likely to manipulate or conceal reality in hopes of winning your approval. Responses will be based on actuality, and it will become possible to innovate in situations that might otherwise be staid or prescribable situations. Your ability to be bigger than what would be unwelcomed by limited minds will allow others to feel safety and trust in bringing problems to you.

Even better, that old clenched jaw, lower back, or stomach? You wont have it. Period. And that's definitely a welcomed change.

Welcome Om

Are we there yet?

Journey minded as we are, the notion of arriving often keeps us from enjoying the NOW. Whether on a literal road trip anxious to arrive or looking at our current situation as a precursor to a longed-for outcome, our preoccupation with goals, triumps and having things unfold to our liking just isn't they key to an enjoyable life. In fact, emotional intransigence with respect to our preferences often keeps us from enjoying anything at all. Can you dedicate your awareness to enjoying right now?

This issue of balancebreak debunks the often referenced notion of acceptance in favor of cultivating a sense of welcome. Observing the plethora of wisdom teachings emphasizing cultivating acceptance of what is, despite our intentions we often confuse acceptance with resignation or settling. You know: a certain whatevs attitude, like, "I'll be here and sit through this and deal, but...". Welcome offers a graceful alternative, as you'll see below, and allows us to move masterfully and powerfully through any traffic jam, literal or figurative.

We welcome your opinion! Earlier this summer, we experimented with linking short versions of articles in this newsletter to a full length blog-versions of the same. What we saw and heard is that you LIKE having the entire article on your desktop. In fact, when the articles are included in desktop version, you go back again and again for months to re-read and consider the ideas offered. In honor of you, moving forward we'll be doing the following: each article will be offered in it's entirety here, with end of article links to the balancebreak blog for anytime you feel inspired to comment, argue, contradict or offer other ideas. What's more, we're thrilled to welcome your insights on getting through the world masterfully in our new blog called Corporate Yogis. This is a real-time blog where you'll find little comments from the balance team ongoing throughout the month. The theme is Welcome OM - a suggestion that it's all welcome fodder for moving us all forward along the journey.

Moving along your own path, be welcoming and know you are welcome.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Think Better - Presence IS Personal

A note from Suann Polverari, out of our New York office:

Moved as I am by images and words from powerful leaders, when we first started discussing presence as a team I turned to the regular suspects to inspire my introspection. After all, don't we all love stumbling on a great quote at a perfectly timed moment, or even better, sharing one with a friend just when they seem to mean it?

Greats like the unidentified protester in Tiannenmen Square, Rosa Parks or Mother Theresa are so iconographic it leaves the impression they were BORN for greatness with some special genetic coding to predispose them to rise with courage in the face of need or disaster. What about regular people like you and me - just getting through the day? Remembering that we are all born with such greatness of spirit and presence can be challenging with such examples to live up to.

Turning the question of presence to a more personal perspective is where the elements of presence come home. The following example of presence has nothing to do with changing the world or delighting celebrity news junkies. Ten years ago my mother was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and on a very rapid decline. Her prognosis was to be immobilized within 6 months, a devastating change for my entire family, not to mention a catastrophy for her. No movie star, my mom is not someone you'd notice without reason, but what she did by focusing her intention is an act of being fully present to her situation.

What happened is this: as the first year went by all of us were in nervous anticipating the day when my mother would be unable to lift herself from her bed. After the second year, although slower in her movements she was still not in a wheel chair. To counter the natural depression, under her doctor's suggestion she began journaling, meditating and practicing yoga. After a couple of months, she was moving better, sleeping through the night.

The combination was miraculous: her positive thoughts resurfaced. My mother was back! A full ten years later, she has never succumbed to a wheel chair, and if you ask her how she'll tell you this, “I made a promise to myself to wake up every day and look in the mirror and say you will NOT be in a wheel chair permanently and you are a strong women who can conquer anything that comes your way.”

Many are the days when I need to remember my own strength and that I can conquer anything that comes my way. The practice below is one to remind yourself of exactly that:

1. Identify a challenge you are facing
2. Name all the reasons you MUST overcome it - these are the practical gains, the personal accomplishment, the evolution in your life, the hallmarks of success
3. List the QUALITIES you need within yourself to overcome it - courage, determination, compassion, communication, energy, etc.
4. Acknowledge you have all those qualities within yourself and remind yourself of that throughout every single day especially in moments where fear or limitation feels especially present.

Because while life has the propensity to knock us into auto-pilot, react react react, it is single-pointed attention that summons not only the greatness within us, but allows us to be present to that greatness and operate from it's ability rather than conditioned small thinking. If we're lucky, we'll never face a wheel chair at all. But because we're human, we do face self limiting possibilities every single day and need to cultivate the ability to confront them with determination and greatness.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Feel Better - Have You Hugged Lately?

The irony that this week is national hug week has an odd thematic happenstance. On a recent yoga retreat with Dana Flynn and Jasmine Tarkeshi at Kripalu in the Berkshires, the culmination of the retreat was for each person to make up a yoga posture.

Now, had we been given that mandate on the first day, everyone might have rolled eyes, crossed arms, and refused. But after a long weekend of hanging out together, eating healthy food and getting enough sleep, it's amazing how capable we feel of overcoming creative anxiety.

Aside from this creative endeavor itself being a metaphorical hug, a self hug of sorts, amazingly multiple participants in the retreat created self-affirming poses. With names like "Patience Warrior", "Peaceful Pigeon", "Infinity Eagle" and "Kindness Warrior", many of the shapes folks created were all about being gentler and kinder to ourselves. One woman even expressed that having recently moved to a city in the Northeast, she's been feeling so touch deprived that she signed up for salsa lessons just to feel human contact.

Studies of animal behavior show that primates respond directly to increases in the level of warmth and comfort they are given in their formative months with decreasing levels of anxiety and aggression. While it is true that many of us satisfy the need for warmth and kindness with our spouses or partners, just as often days and weeks pass without any loving touch whatsoever.

So take care of that hug jones, whether you are conscious of it or not. Don't have any hug-friendly friends or family in your circle? Give yourself a hug or even hand massage. Rest your face on the heels of your hands and slowly rub the muscles over your forehead, jaw and cheekbones. Pause in the tub to rub your sweet feet or give your own neck some kindness. This body of yours is indeed a chemical reaction chamber and stirring the pot has the capacity to release powerful stored up energy. Why not make the most of yours?

Lead Better: Align With The Divine

Much of generating executive presence within yourself has to do with aligning with what is great within you and the greatness around you.

Think about it: when you move through the day putting out fires, responding to issues, and migrating endlessly from meeting to meeting, there can often be a sense of "handling things" or "getting through". But presence requires a groundedness in the form of a cultivated sense of purpose and intention. What's more, it requires we cultivate an ability to return to that sense of purpose and intention in the midst of unbridled chaos.

You want people to feel your leadership and respect your words? Begin to feel your own leadership and respect your own words with reverence and attention. This doesn't just happen by reading these words - although reminders definitely can help. If you actually DO the steps below you'll find an inroad to access your own sense of presence more consistently no matter how crazy this lazy summer gets:

  1. Think about the last time you felt yourself completely powerful, at ease, or in a state you might call "flow", "the zone" or "optimal". What qualities were you experiencing? What characteristics were you feeling within yourself and that situation? Write down as many words as you can to describe the situation and how it felt.

  2. Think about the last time you felt REALLY OUT of your power, struggling, or at odds with? What quality did the situation lack?

  3. Consider what might be three or four words to describe your team/function/company/group at it's essence. At it's very best, what makes that group exciting or effective? What thrills you about it's function or it's contribution?

  4. Look at the list of words you created for all three categories - thriving moments, qualities lacking in not so great moments, and what brings alive your organization- what are recurring themes? Can you nail down the essence of all three lists in two or three words?

When you identify the essential qualities that make you thrive and those that best express the thriving of your immediate environment, you create an anchor to remember yourself at your very best and your surrounding at it's most optimal. Repeat these words to yourself throughout your day, not just for the sounds but summoning within yourself an experience of what they really mean. Being vigilant in operating from that position, you begin to raise the level of your own presence and invite the organization to function at it's very best. Summoning these divine or performance and experience enhancing qualities at will is nothing short of leadership in it's essence and this simple act of alignment will invite others around you to do the same.