Emotional triggers are a physiological response to your personal interpretation of a comment, event, or situation. I underline the words: “your personal interpretation” because what you’re reacting to is a story of what that comment (etc.) says about you, not the comment itself. If you seek my help to resolve a communication breakdown you are having with someone, I am less interested to hear what went down than I am in the stories you are telling yourself, about yourself. When you are aware of your mind’s go-to stories, you liberate yourself from being emotionally hijacked by words or events.
When I first started my business as a mindset coach and yoga teacher I supported myself managing a wine bar in the evenings. One night a man came in and we chatted about our work. When I told him about my business he said, “Wow, you don’t look like a yoga teacher!” To which I responded, “Oh yeah, what does a yoga teacher look like?” He made a gesture indicating tall and said, “bendy”. He then proceeded to put his foot further down his throat by saying, “You look like you belong here, behind the bar.” To which I responded, “Oh yeah, what does someone who ‘belongs behind the bar’ look like?” He gestured (what I am going to call) full-figured. Read more
Perhaps you’ve heard of “Pavlov’s Dogs”, which was named after the Russian scientist, Ivan Pavlov, who won the Nobel Prize for his theory of “Classical Conditioning”. Twenty years after winning his Nobel Prize he stumbled across another discovery that didn’t get as much publicity, but I find equally fascinating called “Inescapable Shock*”. Inescapable shock is “a physical condition in which the organism cannot do anything to affect the inevitable.” Meaning, the body desires to react in a certain way, but the circumstances prevent that from happening.
Pavlov kept all of his test dogs in a kennel in his laboratory that was located right next to a river. After a bad storm one night, the river overflowed causing a huge flood in the laboratory threatening the lives of the dogs who were locked in their kennels. (Luckily, none were killed.) The next morning when Pavlov and his associates checked on the dogs, they noticed a distinct difference in the dog’s behaviors. The once friendly and playful dogs were now either aggressive or despondent. His discovery was: when the water came rushing in, the dog’s fight or flight response kicked in (the fight or flight hormones send signals to the muscles commanding them into action); however, since the dogs were in cages and had nowhere to go, their systems went into overload. Pavlov wrote*, “a collision between two contrary processes: one of excitation (action) and the other of inhibition (caged), which were difficult to accommodate simultaneously…causing a breakdown of equilibrium.”
Taking it a step further, in a study done with rats, they found that those who previously experienced inescapable shock are less likely to react (or are rendered powerless) when faced with a repeat of trauma-stimulation.
It’s as if their fight or flight button broke. Read more
In 2016, I was blindsided by the results of our presidential election, but my black friends weren’t. As I watched the SNL skit where Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle made fun of their white friends for being shocked by the results, I felt a little defensive and ashamed knowing it was me they were mocking. Having studied the Inner Shadow for the last 11 years I know that when defensiveness and shame appear, it’s an indicator that a Shadow is lurking close by. So, I decided to do some digging.
I sat down with a couple of my black friends and talked to them about their experiences. I heard stories that made me furious. They were very generous with their time and insight, but I quickly realized how tired they were of having to explain their experience one more time, to one more white person. So, I turned to authors like James Baldwin and Audre Lorde. I watched civil rights documentaries and listened to the civil discourse on TV and talk shows hosted by black people. I read, consumed, and listened as actively as I could. I stopped sharing my opinion and opened my ears to their voices. I was humbled by my ignorance.
The week California’s shelter-in-place order went into effect I watched a business I spent the last four years of my life building evaporate right before my eyes (I have since recovered it, thank you!). One week I was contemplating expansion and the next I had no business to speak of. Stories of scarcity ran rampant in my mind. I went to the farthest place of ruin in my imagination, “If we have to, Luna and I can live out of my car at the beach until I can figure out my next move.” Picturing Luna and I crammed into my car with my massive collection of books and her over-sized, over-priced dog-pillow made me laugh out loud. Never did it cross my mind that there were other options between where I am now and becoming a vagabond on the street. My story has always been: I go-it-alone.
“Study thy self to discover thy Self.” ~Yoga Sutras
In ancient yogic text when the word “self” is written with a lowercase “s” it is referring to what the Buddhists call our “small mind”, most commonly known as our ego level. The small mind makes up false stories and is the place where judgment and criticism reside.
When the word “Self” is written with a capital “S” it implies our true nature, or divine self—what the Buddhists call the “Big Mind”. Our mental stories of self (small mind) get in the way of connection to Self (Big Mind).
In order to unblock our connection to the Big Mind we must first realize the stories the small mind is telling. In doing so, we expand our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.
Essentially, we get out of our own way. Read more
I absolutely love this photo. A few months ago I posted it in the entranceway to one of the yoga studios where I teach. It sits at eye level directly across from the bench where people sit down to take off their shoes. I love the chuckle of familiarity that flashes across people’s face when they see it. There is a certain point in our lives when we realize that the only thing getting in our way is us. Even though we understand that theoretically, it can still be hard to see exactly how we are blocking ourselves from the things we desire.
We all have stories we tell about ourselves. Often times, these stories represent a limited view of who we really are. They get in the way of us having true intimacy, our dream job, the ability to speak our heart’s truth, or to know what step to take next in our life’s journey.
I have been road-blocked by “the story of me” many times. My story never gave me credit for how truly powerful I am. It held me back from entering relationships with people that really wanted to show up for me, but I wasn’t able to show up for them because my story told me I wasn’t worthy. That same story kept me in relationships with people who didn’t deserve a morsel of my time. Read more
Have you ever worked with a yoga teacher one-on-one? I was about fifteen years into my yoga practice the first time I did. I loved my group classes, but felt ready to take my practice to the next level. I wasn’t entirely sure what that meant for me, but I wanted to know more than what the teacher could offer me with 30 other people in the room.
I have one leg that is significantly shorter than the other. What that means for me in poses like bridge is that the foot of my shorter leg stands closer to my body than the one of my longer leg. If I bring my feet together–as exampled in this link–the hip of my shorter leg droops down, because I have to reach to get my short leg to align with the foot of my long one. It was during a private session with my teacher that we discovered this imbalance. Read more
When I tell people what I do for a living, these are the two phrases I hear most:
1. “I can’t do yoga because I am not flexible enough.”
2. “I can’t meditate, because I can’t shut my mind off.”
It always makes me laugh. I usually respond with, “Well, that’s why we call it ‘a practice’: so we can learn those things.” But that isn’t the whole truth—there is something much deeper going on.
Yes, yoga will absolutely improve your strength and flexibility, but I actually consider those byproducts of yoga. As one of my teachers, Judith Lasater, put it, “The goal of yoga is to manipulate the nervous system. When you relax the body, you relax the mind. Yoga is about becoming present and adaptable.”
When I first adopted my puppy she was 30 pounds. I thought she was full grown, but apparently she was nowhere near full grown. People who met her when I first adopted her would see her months later and comment on how big she was getting. I see her every day and I rarely weigh her, so to me she doesn’t look like she has grown at all. The last time we went to the vet she weighed in at 70 pounds. About a month ago I came across a photo of her the first day she came home with me and I couldn’t believe how little she looked. I can’t remember her that size at all. Just like I was unable to see how much Luna had grown, this is how we are when it comes to the growing strength in our bodies. Read more