yoga dorc

life and times of a modern day yogini (named dorcas)

coconut trees


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if all else fails, try coconut oil.

coconut oil.jpg

I live in the land of coconut trees. which is why I didn’t bother buying extra gallons of coconut oil from Costco when I left America for the South Pacific.  The oil will be cheap and plentiful, I thought.

But no! Its super expensive and the shelves are always empty.  So, we import gallons of it every few months.  It’s my go to for just about everything.  When in doubt, its likely coconut oil will improve the situation.

IMG_6804[1]EAT IT. Its all rage right now and revered for being ‘good fat.’ Between ghee, coconut oil and olive oil, I’m all set in the kitchen. These are my top three uses, but there are 100’s more. 

  1. Saute anything in it – veggies, fish, beef, eggs, anything.  Its got a super high smoke point and tastes yummy.
  2. Make INCREDIBLE organic, sugar free, ready-in-20-min-chocolate. Since I’ve been sugar free for almost 2 years, this is my go to, always on hand treat.  Its truly super dooper easy.
  3.  You’ve heard of Bulletproof coffee by now, but using coconut oil and ghee is my pick for the rare occasion I enjoy a cup o joe.  I thought it was all about getting the good fats into your diet and creating a slow release of the caffeine, but apparently, it boosts your metabolism (aka as burning calories). Try this recipe (with ghee instead of butter if you have it).

IMG_7301

SKIN CARE. Over 10 years ago I started learning about Ayurveda and nearly promptly ditched all my skincare products that I couldn’t eat.  Ayurveda suggests that anything you put on your skin should also be edible. Duh, this made so much sense to me – our skin is obviously our largest organ and super permeable. I might as well be eating my lotion, my shampoo and my lip balm.  So, now i just have a jar of coconut oil and another of sea water in my bathroom and that’s about it.

  1. Try washing your face.  Then wash it again with coconut oil.  Yep, use a cotton ball or cotton pad, dip it in coconut oil and rub it all over your face and neck.  Then, take another cotton pad and lap up the excess and all the dirt.  Notice how NOT white your cotton pad is. Or just use your hands with this method.
  2. And while you’re at it, go ahead and do Abyhanga with it – a full body (self) massage. Depending on the season, I’m doused in coconut or sesame oil from head to toe. The benefits are much more than skin deep, but it might have contributed to my lack of stretch marks after 3 babies.  And while you are all oiled up, save the shaving cream and get your shave on.  Its a super smooth finish and there’s no need for lotion after.
  3. Sunscreen – I’ve been noticing that I never get sunburned and I live in the sun drenched, often hot-as-shit south pacific. Coconut oil provides a light sunscreen (SPF 4) while allowing the good stuff (vitamin D) to get thru.  I do wear extra sunscreen when I hit the beach mid day for hours. For 16 more uses of coconut oil for skincare, check this out.


IMG_0211HEALTH CARE.
This is where I really have had the most surprising results. Coconut has both disinfectant and antimicrobial properties making it infinitely useful.

  1. Oil pulling. Wow, 15-20 minutes a day, keeps a lot of bad things away.
  2. After 8 years of mothering 3 babies, I’ve used coconut oil to help heal just about everything – an abrasion, diaper rash, fungus, sunburn, growing pains, you name it, I hit it with coconut oil, and it almost always works.  But my two most clever discoveries involved LONG time problems.  Put these in the back of your mind.
  3. Nits. I almost embarrassed to admit, but we had lice for over 6 months. All of us.  And there is a lot of hair in this family.  We tried bunches of professional products (the organic kind and the chemical kind) in 3 countries (USA, Australia & New Cal) I’m unofficially certified in combing now too. It wasn’t until I opened up a gallon of coconut oil on those little shits that they finally laid their last eggs.  Which of course turned out to be a real treat for the hair too.  Soft and fluffy (and bug free), finally!
  4. When Ivy was a baby she had unexplained eczema, like a lot of babies do.  After nearly a year of painfully dry, cracked skin and lots of ineffective steroid creams, my Ayurvedic physician recommended a combination treatment of Need Oil, alternating with coconut oil.  Poof, eczema be gone. FOR GOOD.

Are your eyebrows raised?  While there is certainly a lot of hype about the good news, if you are on a targeted mission to reduce cholesterol, “it would probably be very difficult to get your LDL into these healthy ranges if you were eating a lot of coconut oil,” according to this article.

The article also notes that Polynesian cultures have long reported low rates of heart disease despite the high intake of coconut oil, revealing that high cholesterol may be impacted by other aspects of lifestyle as well.

So, everything in balance, right?

“To insure good health: eat lightly, breathe deeply, live moderately, cultivate cheerfulness, and maintain an interest in life.”

William Londen

 


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birth (day)

IMG_7449I’ve been renewed by mothering lately. This feeling is a shocking surprise, a gift, that arrived in the depths of summer.  The dog days of summer- when you are sticky, a touch angry and wondering how to find air con and a quiet room with no kids.

Not a feeling I’ve felt since the naive days of my first home birth with Jonah when I had a perfect sleeping baby on my breast and a triumphant story of the miraculous process of birth, this genuine re-inspiration to truly be the best mother I can be to my kids, has come with some experience.

Mothering is hard. It takes the piss out of you. It makes you tired, ugly, angry and pretty boring at least 1/2 the time and just tired the rest of the time.

Some women figure out how to balance it well, or to accept it with grace.   Or that is what I hear.  I honestly do not know any of those women. I only know women that have occasional, shining, evolved moments.  Moments we agree its an honor and we’d never wish it any other way. More often though, we are bitching. Or drinking. Or both.

But THIS shift is more than an evolved moment.  And there is a touch of grief it has taken me so long to arrive.  To realize my power, my role and my dharma.

And like most ah-ha’s, the moment of reckoning arrived in stealth.

Jonah was having a rough patch one day.  Bugging his sister and her friends, feeling jealous, being super obnoxious and doing other totally normal boy things.  It was a bit out of character for him but clearly he was screaming for attention.  After a few failed attempts to curtail his behavior, I sat frustrated and frayed by mothering. I sent him off to his room with a snappy and firm ‘go to your room right now.’  Immediately I felt empty and sad.  I stared out my kitchen window and pondered a new approach.

How can I influence him, I thought.  How can I inspire him to a different behavior? How can I educate him to be a smooth operator instead of obnoxious? How can I approach this differently?

Without much pause, I quickly went to his room and found him face down in his bed.

“Hey Jonah,” I said.IMG_2723

“What.” (said with a snarky, you-are-annoying tone.)

“Do you know you have a super power?” I said.

“No.  Does Ivy have one too? And WHAT is it.” Jonah asked. (with that same snarky tone).

“Well, yes. She does.  But its different than yours. Now do you want to know what it is?” I said.

“I don’t want Ivy to have one.”

“Do you want to talk about yours?” I persisted.

“Fine. Yes. What is it?”

“You have the super power to influence people.” I said.

Stumped, Jonah paused. His tone changed. “I don’t even know what that means.”

Having not given it any thought before I started, I realized it was difficult to explain to a 7 year old.

“Well, we all have this general super power, but we each use it differently. We all affect and effect one another.  Sometimes in good ways, and sometimes in not so good ways.  Its like… you know how much you like (your friend) Hamish?” I began my monologe.

Jonah said “uh-huh,” a few times and mostly stared at the girls running around.

I explained that as a big brother, he has a lot of influence over his little sisters. I told him stories about Uncle Rudy and Willy and how much they shaped me growing up.  I mixed in stories about teachers, parents, friends, strangers. Story after story, example after example came.

I doubt any of it landed in his little mind, but it sure did hit home for me. As I’m talking to him, I’m having a dual experience.  The words coming out of my mouth and the behind the scenes thoughts and images.

Hello influence. Not only does Jonah have a super power, but I have it too.  I suddenly felt like Elastigirl in the movie The Incredibles. Helen Parr appears like a mundane housewife, but really, she is an unstopable superhero.  What is more powerful than a mother’s influence on her child? Parents in general, but particularly the mother.  Especially in the early years.  It’s everything.

“If the child has been deep in love with the mother and the mother has showered her love, that is the beginning of all trust for the future.” Osho

We have always know this, but of course there is evidence too.  As UCLA professor and psychiatrist Allan Schore, Ph.D., wrote in his book Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self,

“The child’s first relationship, the one with the mother, acts as a template, as it permanently molds the individual’s capacities to enter into all later emotional relationships.”

And if you think about it, what kind of relationship is NOT an emotional relationship. Our emotions play a part in our every move.
chalkboardsignallyouneedisloveOther studies point to a mothers influence on physical development as well. “Brain images have now revealed that a mother’s love physically affects the volume of her child’s hippocampus. In the study, children of nurturing mothers had hippocampas volumes 10 percent larger than children whose mothers were not as nurturing. Research has suggested a link between a larger hippocampus, better memory and easier learning. (link to article).

And I don’t know how they do these studies, but thank god there are researchers that have the dilligence to follow people for a lifetime to glean data like this:

“Ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no river wide enough, ain’t no childhood poor enough that a mother’s love can’t overcome, according to a study from the University of British Columbia. Researchers examined 1,215 middle-aged Americans and found that those who had grown up in poverty were at greater risk than their wealthier, more educated peers for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke — unless they had an especially loving mother.

In fact, children who were raised in poor, low-educated families but whose mothers were nurturing fared just as well in terms of metabolic syndrome risk as kids from better socioeconomic backgrounds. The researchers speculate that this is related to stress levels, which can contribute to inflammation and insulin sensitivity.

Bottom line: Love doesn’t cost a thing — but it’s worth a whole lot.” (article here)

And more, mothers influence social mobility.

Prof Ian Walker, from Lancaster University Management School, told the Sunday Times: “It seems the mother-daughter relationship is now the transmission mechanism for social mobility. It used to be said that the father was the breadwinner and that would dictate household education decisions. If the father was richer you could afford to stay on at school rather than go out to earn a living. That is clearly no longer the case.”

I mean, jeez, my mother is a professional ‘Child Development Specialist.’ I’ve heard this stuff for decades and she sends me facts about this daily.  And if ever there was a mother who loves with her whole heart and gives herself (still) fully to mothering, its my mother.

In this ah-ha moment of superpower recognition, I had a strong image of myself giving birth.  Not the first one, or the second, but the last.  I was laying on the floor in a dark room doing my absolute best to breathe calmly and process the freight train of power that were my contractions.  It was early on and I thought for sure I could get this under control. But my legs were trembling.  Shaking out of control. I had never felt anything like it. Rumbling, INTENSE contractions ripped through my body.  One after another, no pause in between. All my best yogi breathing and jedi mind tricks were useless. Sweat beads were popping up right and left as a I was getting hotter and hotter with each surge.  My shaking legs were a massive distraction to my zen.  So I opened my eyes and talked to them.  “Stop shaking, legs.” I said to them. “Stop shaking.”

It all starts with birth.  Superpower training that is.  It can technically start in the prenatal period, as the influence of the mother on her baby in utero is complete,  but as the famous quote by Osho says.

“The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.”

For the past decade I’ve been very interested in birth and the process of birth.  The power of birth. The miracle of birth.  But now I see its impact in a whole new way.  By brilliant design, at that very infant stage of a childs life, it is also the infant stage of the mother.  She must realize her own power, but bow to the power beyond her.  She must have practice and prayer.  She must let go of control, but realize its okay to do so and fall into support.  She must muster great stamina, great courage, great surrender.  She must open to the flow of love that is god.  Of course, she doesn’t have to, she can be afraid and resist. But nonetheless, there is an awakening.
Remember Cindy Crawford?  Supermodel of the 90’s. She had a homebirth.  I learned Cindy-Crawford-W-1999.jpgabout this in a Redbook Magazine I picked up at a public laudrymat in 1999. In our weekly trip with rolls of quarters and black trashbags filled with laundry, my mom and I sat on the plastic seats waiting for the dryers to finish.  I read an interview about the birth of her son and was blown away.  She was beautiful, the birth was beautiful, the story was rife with struggle and triumph and even then, in my teens, I identified with something. Perhaps the awakening began then as I never forgot that story.
Sometime after the days of the laundrymat with my mom and homeschooling with my dad,  I ventured out into the real world and got influenced by the public education system. Much to my father’s dismay, it wasn’t long before I was falling out of love with god and in love with (a) man. For falling in love felt like bliss and who needs religion when everything is good.

When Jonah was born, I knew again that there was god. I had abandoned religion, but never faith.  That was always there.  Pregnancy, labor, delivery and the child was the physical representation of divine order and omnipresent love.  It was so clear that there was an outside force in charge of the process.  Birth was god to me.  The process was equal parts surrender and action. And he was perfect.  Even though I was beat up from the birth and Jonah had a huge hematoma on his head, all I could think in those next few weeks, was who the heck believes in original sin?  What a weird concept.

I digress intentionally.  Birth sets the stage for a deep relationship.  With god and with your baby. Its gives you the tools you need to know you have access to superpowers – some you can harness and the others that arrive when you need them. Just when you think  you can’t take it anymore, a miracle happens.

My legs never stopped shaking.  No matter what I told them.  But instead, what I thought was the beginning of labor, was really the end.  The shear force of birth had its own agenda and perfect Paloma popped out like a stealth ninja.  My jaw dropped open when I felt her head.

And here we are today.  Paloma is now 2.5, Ivy 5.5 and Jonah is 7.5.  My children influence IMG_0211me every moment.  Working their unknown superpower of influence and tugging on my heartstrings at all times, ransacking my home, robbing me of any personal space and time, reminding me to be fun and free and above all, teaching me that I am clearly the one with lessons to learn.

When my monologue to Jonah droned on and he wiggled out of my lap to go harass the passing girls, I was left in a stupefied haze – realizing I was talking to myself – both actually and in content.  It is likely I will be the single most important influence on him in his entire life.  That what I DO and who I am, not so much what I say, will impact him most. Hello responsibility. Hello tall order.  Hello challenge. Was i really just realizing this?

I returned to my post in the kitchen and reflexively checked my email.  (Isn’t that what everyone does when they are in a haze?)

And there was my mother.  Of course she was there.  I was having an epiphany. About mothering.  A subject she is most suitably qualified to pontificate about.  But today’s email was not a quote, a study or advice on child development today.  It was my birthday.  And every year I ask my mom to tell me my birth story.  This time around, she preempted my request and wrote it down.

38 yrs ago – Jan 27- 5am – Two days after I was told to come to the hospital to be induced- no reason, no way. First rumblings of labor ….. Called hospital to see which dr was on call…. Dr B- nope did not like him, so hold on baby!

Very cold, bright sunny day- about a foot of snow & ice on the ground. Living in third floor apartment of family home. Granny- your great grandmother lived on the first floor.  Usual morning routines with your siblings- who were 40 months & 23 months- except that Daddy Ty stayed home-Rudy & Willy played with Grandma Betty while I paced & breathed through the contractions.  After lunch, when your brothers were napping…

…contractions were getting closer & longer- breathing through them & walking around the small apartment… feeling heavy & yet strong.  About 2pm, Daddy Ty said he was going to go out to see a lawyer… Mama Pat said NO- you need to stay…it was time….

We walked down from the third floor-slowly and I sat on the Hall Tree that was in the first floor hallway. Ty told Granny we were going while he put on my boots.  we ventured out the front door walking carefully over the piles of very dirty & frozen snow/ice. Ty helped me into our Chevy truck. We arrived at the hospital about 3:30 or so (best I can recall) and went in the front doors…

The contractions were very close & intense by now.  I was hurriedly taken in…  I really do not recall the prep except that when I got to the delivery room, my favorite doctor, Dr Gray, who delivered your oldest brother, was there & I was at the very end of transition. I was yelling that I wanted a tubal ligation right after the birth – that afternoon! No more childbirth for me, I exclaimed.   Dr. Gray chuckled and said “Mrs Quynn, we did talk about this but we made no definite plans & because it is a Friday afternoon, this would be deemed an emergency surgery which it is not.”

On to the next contraction – when Dr G told me to push and out you came – a barely fuzzy fair haired GIRL😍, Weighing in at 8 lbs 1 oz, 20″ in length- my biggest baby, Arriving at 4:15 pm – about 45 minutes after we arrived at the hospital.  I did not want to labor in the hospital.  Looking back, after listening to your birth experiences, I think I could have birthed you & Willy at home.

Sent from my iPhone

Just to drive the point home, a personalized potent message in my inbox.  A reminder of IMG_6594the universality of love, the truth of the relationship of a mother to her child, the everlasting memory of the moment of birth, the power of influence and the inspiration to be as influential as my mother as been to me.
And just like that, the haze lifted and it was crystal clear.  THIS is my priority. What matters more than shaping human life?
Happy birthday to me.  The most powerful and lasting gift of revelation bestowed upon me by my first born and my very own mother.
The mental shift created an immediate and unprecedented harmony in the last month of our summer.  I ignored some work and opted for play.  I lavished in bedtime rituals and snuggles and we all filled our love tanks day after day.

Jonah still loses his mind and is reduced to primal level reactions when girls come around, but now I understand. This is just part of the divine order of chasing love.  I think i’ll let his dad influence him in the ways of women.

 

 

 

 

dorcas' ipad dump october 2015 161


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make it happen.

success

We’re obsessed with success.

“If you believe in yourself enough
And know what you want
You’re gonna make it happen
(Make it happen)”

Mariah Carey told us so in 1992 with her hit ‘Make it Happen.” Go ahead, take a listen🙂

The 90’s are long gone, and who knows about Mariah, but the sentiment lives on in a BIG way.

But can you really just make it happen?

Like, what if you really really really want to have a baby but you can’t.  Or what if you really want to make more money and you really believe in yourself, but the money ain’t flowing. Or what if you really want to be cancer free, but you aren’t? Or what if you really want to be the first female president but its not up to you?   Or what if you just really want to put your face on your feet like the girl next to you in baddhu konasana, but that’s a joke.

And what if you even:

“get down on your knees at night
And pray to the Lord
He’s gonna make it happen
Make it happen,”

but it’s still not happening?

I don’t know the answer, but in my obsession with getting rid of crap I don’t need, I recently came across my ‘goal sheet’ from 2004. It really got me thinking that maybe we, the people of our modern day culture, have it all wrong believing we can just willfully force things to happen and expect a happy ending.

This set of goals was far more than scribbles on a page.  They had evolved considerably since I started the contemplative and written practice in the late 1980’s when I was 9 or 10 years old.  A work of art, I had taken time to color code, print on cardstock and assemble them in a binder.  Scanning the pages, I could see that by 2004, they were finally more mine than my parents.  I had deviated from the (Glen Bland) method and gone wildly rouge by adding a few new categories like “Life Goals.”  Purple, centered, in a slightly cursive font and at the top, my own true desires were sprinkled in and rising.  Just as I was then, I am most proud of this section.  It marked a deviation.  Slight, but notable.

The “life goals’ were vague and grandiose. Have kids. Write a book. Live abroad.  They were wildly rouge because there was no date attached, no plan of action to follow and that was the death of a goal in the Glen Bland Method.  But these were things I could imagine I wanted. I didn’t want them now of course.  No way.  Too big. Too scary.  But someday, maybe.

I can rattle off this definition without even thinking, nearly 30 years later:

“Success is the progressive realization of predetermined goals, stabalized by balance and purified by belief.”

But is it really?

I’m just not sure.

glen blandThis is what Glen Bland taught me in the late 1980’s.  His book, entitled, Success, the Glen Bland Method, was required reading by Tyler Quynn, my dad.  I remember reading it in the back of the suburban on our one of our many cross country trips.  Reading, followed by questions about what I had read, followed by years of prescribed weekly goal sheets that had to be turned into Tyler Quynn.

It wasn’t just me. Big brothers Rudy and Willy turned in goal sheets too. Many a Sunday night were spent doing it at the last minute before the week came to a close.  No kid really wants to stop playing to go sit down and write out goals.  But indeed, it was very effective in guiding us toward worldly success.  We all got our black belts within the time frame we set out and Rudy and Willy went on to be distinguished Navy Seals just as they planned.  And I learned to ‘control my emotions,’ which was one of my 5 affirmations I would write weekly.

And in my 20’s, when I found myself in debt from my college education and burdened by the feeling of being financially trapped, I sat down and applied the Glen Bland Method to my life.  Earn 100K, pay off all debt.  I had a calculator and determined exactly how I would do it and sure enough. IT WORKED. I was focused, un-yeilding and fiercely driven. I made it happen and was successful.

DQ Photo LargeBut it was also horrible.  One of the worst periods of my life.  I spent most of my time in the car. I ate tons of fast food while talking on the phone and driving.  I experienced crushing stress and regular migraines.  I literally ran everywhere.  I even went running when I could.  I met a few real gems, but more often absorbed rude, demanding clients that treated me like the real estate salesperson they expected me to be. Yoga was my refuge, but I was severely unbalanced.
Not surprisingly, I applied the same willful quality and pressure to my relationship.  On that very same couch that I drafted my get-out-of-debt-goals, I insisted that Adam and I get married. Either that, or consider a breakup. I needed definition, certainly, clarity.  What were we doing after all?  So we made it happen.  We got married.  2 weeks later in fact.  The surprise event was fun and exciting and a proud moment, but my willfulness left no space for an inspired engagement or organic romance.  But success, yes.

In this very same period, an unexpected window opened.  I paused. Nowhere to be found on my goal sheet and definitely not something I had time for if I was to stick to my get-out-of-debt-plan, but overwhelmingly and serendipitously the right step – Sol Yoga opened in January 2005 after barely any preparations or planning.   It was the opposite experience of making something happen.  Instead, it felt like I was being PUSHED, even propelled to do something.  Every piece of the puzzle fell into place without effort.  The space, the help, the timing, the rent, the people, the website, the name, everything.  I never bothered with a business plan, a business loan, marketing, nothing.  People heard and people came. And as more effort was required, time expanded.   All I did was keep saying yes and teaching yoga. This felt effortless, joyful, rewarding and happy and its been that way since 2005. Success would never have been a word I would have chosen to describe it.  There was nothing pre-determined about it.

So WHAT IS SUCCESS?  Who defines it anyway?  Besides Glen Bland of course.  A little research turns up alot of viewpoints.

It’s obviously more than money and power, as Arianna Huffington discusses the ‘third metric’ which includes ‘well-being’  in her book Thrive.  Maya Angelou defines it this way:

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”

And who knew that Glen Bland and Deepak Chopra have similar versions.

“Success in life could be defined as the continued expansion of happiness and the progressive realization of worthy goals,” Chopra writes in The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success.

But the most well known American success guru, Steven Covey, author of “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” which was also required reading in the Quynn Household, believes success is defined by the individual.

Great, so according to Covey, its on me to decide.

Until recently, I’ve largely operated under the philosophy, as most of us do, measuring success externally – good job or meaningful work, good relationships and some money to spend.  And, like most, believing it is well within my control to make that happen.  Think about what you want, envision your life, set your goals, and voila, get results.  Using goal setting as a critical aspect – create specific, attainable and time bound goals with a plan of action.   Commit to the plan and be held accountable too.

And I’m not the only one out there doing this very thing, ALOT of people are.  Personally and professionally – planning, action-stepping, focusing and chasing the goal.  And this is the exact definition of the:

rat race
noun
  1. a way of life in which people are caught up in a fiercely competitive struggle for wealth or power.
    • an exhausting, usually competitive routine.

rat raceI’ve held onto this belief for so long because it does indeed, yield results. Especially if you are strong, competitive and not adverse to suffering.  I believed if things weren’t happening it was because I didn’t plan well enough, or work hard enough.

But as much as Tyler Quynn taught me to believe Glen Bland, he also taught me to never be limited by what someone tells you.  A charge I’ve practiced for many years now – yoga has little to do with the body and is actually a path of inquiry.  Complimented more recently with a study of A Course in Miracles, a system of debunking perception and revealing truth, and here we go Steven Covey.  I’m ready to re-define success (for me).

Here’s my beef.  The thing that has given me pause for the past 10 years (I’m an observer and slow thinker).

People are not happy.  Outer success and inner contentment are not lining up.   I know, so obvious, right?  But in a day and age and culture that is cranked up on caffeine and actually VERY productive and VERY successful in the eyes of the world, I don’t know too many happy people.  Scores of people flock to yoga to alleviate something. Every other person I talk to in my inner and outer circles are flagging from stress, anxiety or depression and a high percentage of them have a pretty regular relationship with anti-depressants, anxiety or similar drugs.  And because everyone is doing it, it’s the norm.

I have known people that have committed suicide because they were not successful enough. They had millions.  Just today, my french neighbor pulled in her driveway and got out of her car looking distressed.  She sat down on the concrete wall between our homes and confessed that she had a ‘resolution’ to not be stressed this year. As though she could just make it happen.  Casually, she chatted.  I doubt she even realized but her head was in her hands as she talked.

“Zee job is oh-kay.  But I have mooneey. I have my house.  I have my children and husband.  Zeese are the most important things.”

She shook her head as if to say, ‘if only I could get rid of the stress.’  There is a language barrier and a distance, but a deep understanding of the problem.  It is not rare.  It is not uncommon.  For generations, we have strived for these things – good job, money, then house, then family.  Or sometimes, money, family, house.

People may be living longer, or richer, but they are not living more content, meaningful lives.  In a Harvard study, back in 2011, National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), the rate of antidepressant use in this country  (USA) among teens and adults increased by almost 400% between 1988–1994 and 2005–2008.  In an article in 2013, citing an increased use in ‘rich’ countries  “Antidepressants are widely oversubscribed to get rid of unhappiness,” said Professor Tim Cantopher, consultant psychiatrist with the Priory Group in the UK. The rates today continue to skyrocket.

I’m not trying to pick on people that use Prozac, and obviously I’m not a researcher, but does this freak anyone out?  Either we have a pharmaceutical crisis or we have a mental health crisis, or we have a lack of happiness crisis, but there is definitely a crisis.  And one that we are band-aiding at best.

And when I get really clear, which I’ve been doing down here in New Caledonia,  I see the same for myself.  Success, yes.  Ultimate Health, no.  Deep contentment and happiness, no. It’s not lining up.

WHY?

If you assume that almost everything is a function of your unique perception of life, or your mental thoughts around a position, which I happen to believe, then this is all a problem of the mind.  

As I sat staring at my goal sheet from 2004, I wondered.

What is this obsessive, pervasive attachment to precisely planned goals and a controlled future?  My life plan before me, encased in a binder for fucks sake.  Like I might forget what I’m passionate about or how to live. It struck me as kind of weird.

Is this at all related to or effective in producing happiness, the very thing that seems to be the juice of life?  Is it possible that it (the ‘make it happen’ philosophy) even diminishes our potential for maximum ‘success?’

I was amused by my own discoveries.  That my vague ‘life goals’ from 2004 had manifested. Without even a plan of action or dates.  And not at all in any way that I could have imagined. I’ve had 3 kids. I live abroad.  I write all the time (though there is no ‘book.’).   And that the door that organically opened (Sol Yoga) has continued to propel me forward, filling me with richness and depth and inspiration.

Sometime after 2004, maybe when I packed this brilliant work away, I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants.  I rarely know what I’m doing until I’m doing it.  I sometimes pretend this is an accident, but it’s all by design. I’ve strengthen my internal guidance system and find planning & scheduling completely un-creative and flat.  Dream I can do. Imagine, got that covered.  But I need access to intuition in the moment to make my best moves. Where will the wind blow me?  Where am I needed?  What opportunity will I seize today? Seriously, how do I know what would be good for tomorrow?

I think this is called faith.  But I’m not actually sure.  Because it’s different than the faith I had growing up.  The Episcopal church kind.

It’s a faith that there is another factor at play. A factor that cannot be contained inside the tiny space of our minds. A factor we cannot rationalize without limiting it. Something beyond our control that guides the flow of life.  The recognition that OTHER people’s lives, or events intersecting with ours might magnify our potential in ways we literally never imagined in the space of our minds.

It’s like when you are driving around block looking for parking.  There are no spaces.  You make another loop and someone pulls away just in front of your stop.  Couldn’t predict it, couldn’t make it happen any sooner than it did.  But look how easy that made your life. (this is how i look for parking by the way – it drives Adam CRAZY – just driving around having faith something will shift in the perfect time).

So I set about researching this notion that goal setting can actually limit maximizing your true potential. And what I found initially was again, overwhelming support for goals, intentions, accountability, mentor-ship, vision boards, anything that helps you answer the question ‘what do I want for my life?’

But then I started to find a smaller voice and less research that taps into the reason behind this obsession with planning. And it started to get juicy and exciting!  Because of course, it supports my position.  My position that has developed from years of yoga and meditation brain re-organizing, interaction with thousands of students affected by the pressures of leading successful lives, 20 years of living with someone that is completely driven by living in the moment and happiness and can’t even imagine a ‘goal.’  And of course, my own self study.

And I found this great article filled with research. The following is an excerpt.

British journalist Oliver Burkeman argues in The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking — a fascinating look at how our conventional approaches to happiness and success tend to backfire as our very efforts to grasp after such rewards generate a kind of anti-force that pushes us further away from them. This counterintuitive, counterproductive proclivity is particularly palpable when it comes to plans and goal-setting. Burkeman writes:

“What motivates our investment in goals and planning for the future, much of the time, isn’t any sober recognition of the virtues of preparation and looking ahead. Rather, it’s something much more emotional: how deeply uncomfortable we are made by feelings of uncertainty. Faced with the anxiety of not knowing what the future holds, we invest ever more fiercely in our preferred vision of that future — not because it will help us achieve it, but because it helps rid us of feelings of uncertainty in the present.”

“The solution, however, might not be to further tighten the grip with which we cling to our plans — rather, it’s to let go of plans altogether,” he continues.

Sitting in uncertainty is a very hard practice. But as the article continues,

“Uncertainty is where things happen. It is where the opportunities — for success, for happiness, for really living — are waiting.”

Sha-bang. There it is.  When we plan away the uncertainty, we miss the magic.

Running Sol Yoga has always felt a little like magic.  Because of course,  it was given to me.  I didn’t seek it. I just said yes.  So I was interested to read this:

“In considering what it might mean to lean into uncertainty and embrace it, Burkeman cites the work of psychologist Saras Sarasvathy, who studied the essential qualities that successful entrepreneurs share. In her extensive interviews with forty-five such people, who all fulfilled the same criteria for “success” — a minimum of fifteen years’ experience in launching businesses and at least one company they had taken public — she found a profound disconnect between the cultural trope of the innovator as a goal-oriented go-getter who brings her concrete vision to market and the reality of what these successful entrepreneurs did have in common. Burkeman writes:

We tend to imagine that the special skill of an entrepreneur lies in having a powerfully original idea and then fighting to turn that vision into reality. But the outlook of Sarasvathy’s interviewees rarely bore this out. Their precise endpoint was often mysterious to them, and their means of proceeding reflected this. Overwhelmingly, they scoffed at the goals-first doctrine of [management theorists Edwin] Locke and [Gary] Latham. Almost none of them suggested creating a detailed business plan or doing comprehensive market research to hone the details of the product they were aiming to release.

Instead, at the heart of the entrepreneurial spirit lies something else entirely:

The most valuable skill of a successful entrepreneur … isn’t “vision” or “passion” or a steadfast insistence on destroying every barrier between yourself and some prize you’re obsessed with. Rather, it’s the ability to adopt an unconventional approach to learning: an improvisational flexibility not merely about which route to take towards some predetermined objective, but also a willingness to change the destination itself. This is a flexibility that might be squelched by rigid focus on any one goal.

Huh. ‘Improvisational flexibility.’ I like that. Sounds like a muscle I could stretch in yoga. And ‘unconventional approach to learning,’ – isn’t that exactly what reading Glen Bland in the back of a cross-countrying-suburban is all about?

I think I remember something else about that time in my life. Another fine soundtrack laced with overly simplified wisdom – Kenny Rodgers, The Gambler (go ahead, listen to this one to too).

“You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
Know when to run

Every gambler knows
That the secret to survivin’
Is knowin’ what to throw away
And knowin’ what to keep”

Aren’t we supposed to really learn from our parents.  Like, learn from their mistakes and stuff too? Keep the good stuff, improve the lackluster and toss out the old?

On her deathbed, my grandmother asked me what I would do with my life.  I had no idea to be honest, so I told her I was thinking about getting my MBA.  She quickly told me if I was going to do something great with my life, or have accomplishments, I should do it while my parents are still alive so they can enjoy it.

This is the philosophy that raised my father.  Accomplish something.  Be somebody. Make people proud.

And my dad made a correction, he did parent us differently. Most importantly he chose my mother who is pure unconditional love embodied. Beyond that, he very openly loved the hell out of us, spend loads of time with us and told us we could absolutely do anything we wanted.   Just be the best at it.  “If you want to be a trashman, just be the best trashman.”  He gave us confidence and conviction and clarity.  And he gave us fail safe method for achieving anything we could think of that we ‘wanted.’ He gave us Glen Bland and the courage to just make it happen. 

Perhaps this next generation, as it vigorously studies the science of happiness, instead of the science of success, will allow us to make a widespread correction.  A correction toward being happy NOW instead of after we succeed.  Because according to Shawn Achor, in this powerful talk on Oprah’s Supersoul TV about Happiness,

“If you can find a way to be happy NOW, you get an incredible advantage.

1) your creativity triples 2) productivity improves by 30% 3) your intelligence rises  4) you are 40% more likely to receive a promotion.

When you choose happiness first, you can trump your genes and your environment in just 2 minutes per day.”

So, goal sheet, Ty Quynn, Glen Bland and Kenny Rodgers, a sincere thank you.  All those interactions have lead me to this moment.  Where I redefine success and connect it directly to happiness.  Where I throw away my goal sheet, walk away from predetermining my life, run away from ‘making it happen’ and instead, hold onto faith in uncertainty.

For 2016, I will stop asking myself what I want, and try this Daily Prayer from a Course in Miracles: Where would You have me go? What would You have me do? What would you have me say, and to whom?

‘Success’ can feel amazing and it can feel shallow.  When we listen, we all know this.

“Success means we go to sleep at night knowing that our talents and abilities were used in a way that served others.” Marianne Williamson

 

 

 

 

 

 


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writing declaration.

No step is too small.  There is only now.

On my ‘life goals’ list from 2004 is to write a book.

Words stream through my head at all times. In there (my mind), they are beautiful, fluid, meaningful.  But my hands are always full, never free to pen them down.

I’m torn.  I practice letting go.  Letting go of the words, the sentences, the stories. Having faith they will come back when the time is right. Having faith that perhaps they will be even better then.  But passion is hard to put off.  It does not take kindly to being second place. It is not reasonable and logical.

So I will begin.  Again.  And again if need be.  I will let go of perfection and just write. The fragments, the incomplete stories, the random.  I will trust that, indeed, they will come together into something we call a book.  And if not, I will at least have written.

 


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the birthday series, part 2

(1/2 started, old entry – practicing leaving things incomplete is HARD)

DSC_3407Birthday season comes to a close on a sweet note.  Jonah’s birthday rounds out our burst of summer birthdays.  And of course, it all started with him.  He’s the one that made me a mother.  Seven years ago today.  So much has changed in those years.

I certainly didn’t set out to raise a family.  Just to have a baby.  Then another. Then another.  But now all of the sudden, I realize I am fully engulfed in the very full time IMG_7449experience of RAISING A FAMILY.  Once upon a time, I had a career in real estate.  And before you actually buy a house, someone sits down with you and goes over a 30 page contract of what you are getting into.  Then you do inspection after inspection.  Then you go to settlement and do more paperwork, that an attorney explains.  And even still you have a chance to get out of it for 2 or 3 days after that.  Where is the RAISING A FAMILY CONTRACT?!  The explanation that your autonomy and independence will be temporarily confiscated, given back to you only for mere moments.  That your ability to have a complete conversation with another adult without interruption will be rare, if ever.  That your dependence on yourself will not be enough.  That grocery shopping, food prep, daily logistics and laundry will now consume most of your thoughts and your life. And that you will most certainly be changed (for better or worse).

20 things that have changed since I became a mother:

  1. I cook. I actually cook. I put at least 12 nutritious meals on the table every week for 5 people.
  2. I realize I can’t do this (life) by myself. I used to be entirely self sufficent and proud of it.  Now I am proud to ask for or hire help.
  3. There is nothing you can buy me that would top a good, full nights sleep. Nothing.
  4. I used to love accumulating stuff, now I’m obsessed with getting rid of it all.
  5. A good girlfriend is gold. Especially one that loves your kids, or can even just watch them.
  6. Good paid help is worth paying for.
  7. I’m less afraid. There are moments when I feel actualized. Powerful. Empowered by my family.
  8. I’m more afraid. Nothing trumps the fear of losing your child.
  9. I appreciate my body. Wow. Function, stamina and safety, all built in.
  10. I don’t take autonomy for granted. 2 hours alone is what 2 weeks used to be. Saaaweeet.
  11. I have a real yoga practice.
  12. I drive a minivan. (it pains me greatly to even write that)
  13. I realize that I am resentful. I used to just be
  14. I tell people I love them.
  15. My cup size.
  16. I don’t control my emotions. I feel them.
  17. I let other people take responsibility for their own experience of life.
  18. I make homemade ghee every week.
  19. I don’t eat junkfood.
  20. I love myself. And now I can love my neighbor.
just pre jonah, june 2008

just pre jonah, june 2008


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i quit

i quit sugarIts been over a year since I quit sugar.  I didn’t even know it was a thing until I heard a bunch of Aussie’s talking about new cookbooks and bumped into Sara Wilson on Instagram. Apparently, its all the rage right now.   After a popular New York Times best seller, I quit sugar,  and an 8 week program that A LOT of people have tried, quitting sugar is making its way mainstream.  And of course, its surrounded by drama and controversy.  Its bad, its good. Sara Wilson doesn’t know what she’s talking about, etc. etc.

Its no secret that white, refined sugar has been classified as a poison because it has been depleted of its life forces, vitamins and minerals.  And high fructose corn syrup gets a fair bit of bad press now too.  And more than ever, obesity has been linked to the effects of refined sugar in our diets.

But I’m no expert. I can only speak for myself.

Do i feel good? Yes.

Did I lose weight? Yes. Weight I didn’t even know I had to lose.

Do I ever get bloated anymore? Nope.

Is it hard? No, its actually not.

Do I have cravings?  Sometimes.  For these moments, I learned how to make pretty awesome chocolate.

Do my kids eat sugar? Yes. 80/20 rule with them.

But lets be clear. Saying I quit sugar could be misleading. Sucrose is table sugar. Glucose is in our blood and our energy source, fructose is what you find in fruits that is metabolized differently. For about 6 months, I wiped it all out of my diet. including fructose and natural sweeteners (thecandidadiet.com).  After that, I added the good stuff back in, but never the junk.  Nowadays, I eat loads of fruit and carry a vile of maple syrup around with me for that occasional cup of coffee I have.

My dad said I should never quit, but in this case, I think its a win.

 

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