Accept and Connect

I confess, regardless of the surge of local hubs that roast and brew some off-the-hook decaf espresso, I continue to frequent Starbucks and have a special appreciation for the Seattle based coffee behemoth. Countless hours I have spent studying and working over my computer at the Bux, or sinking into one of their over-sized chairs with a massive ginger cookie and my books. Part of its early appeal was the free Wifi, a huge draw. I have a warm place in my heart for my virtual Starbucks’ access. Signing onto their network I have come to anticipate the warm welcome on their browser page by what I like to call my Starbucks’ mantra:

 acceptconnect

Accept and Connect. 

Being a student of the Chopra Center I have immersed myself in the teachings of the Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. One that has always deeply resonated with me is the Law of Least Effort. There are three components to this principle of “do less and accomplish more.” The first is Acceptance.

Maybe it is the looming federal election, or the past weeks I have been solo with my kids, or it could be the newest evidence of aging I’ve noticed on my face… Each has triggered me in some way. My instinct now when I feel inner conflict brewing is to look to the Seven Spiritual Laws for insight. So here I am with Acceptance, letting it percolate.

The premise of Acceptance is to make a commitment each day, to decide: “today I will accept people, situations, circumstances, and events as they occur.” In short, Acceptance is a commitment to say “yes.” The Law of Least Effort teaches us that committing to Acceptance means we release resistance to whatever is showing up for us at the moment believing that this moment is precisely as it should be because the entire Universe is as it should be.

Yes

photo credit: federicofoto 123rf.com

Stop right now and take stock: this very moment is the culmination of every moment, every choice, leading up to it. To struggle against it, as so many of us do, is pointless and yet can consume an inordinate amount of our energy. So, what happens when we let go of the struggle and instead commit to Acceptance? We release our inner resistance and without resistance we can access the creative genius otherwise available to us in every moment. Sip on that one. This tastes inspired, doesn’t it?

But, there is more.

Acceptance, as I understand it, asks us to show up. There is nothing passive about it. Acceptance is an active choice to take responsibility for what is going down in our lives. First, we make a decision to look at what is in front of us. This means that we do not shy away from or deny what is staring us in the face – whether we are acknowledging what is before us on the political stage of our country, or whether we are looking at what is taking place inside our own homes and hearts. Sometimes it’s rosy and sometimes it’s grey.

Acceptance begins by seeing it all. Seeing it all and acknowledging – owning – that the reaction rising within us is not a response to the person or circumstance we are facing, but to our feelings and conceptions about the person or situation. Through first Accepting we can then begin to take responsibility for what we are seeing and experiencing. Taking responsibility implies our ability to have an appropriate response. We can accept the present as it is and still choose for things to be different in the future.

photo credit:  Dmitro Berezovskyi 123rf.com

photo credit: Dmitro Berezovskyi 123rf.com

Every challenge in our lives urges us to revisit our vision for our future. Every stumbling block and every unforeseen turn in the road has inherent within it an opportunity to exercise our ability to respond in new and inspired ways. Life calls us to get tuned in, tapped in, and turned on to every holy moment – and they’re all holy – presented to us. All that is required is the tiniest shift in perception – one that through Acceptance opens us up to fresh interpretations of reality and ways of Connecting.

In my own life this means that I accept the Canadian political system as it is today and I am taking responsibility, choosing to respond, by voting on Monday. It means that I stop judging myself and my kids and my spouse and instead accept our differences, honing my ability to respond by finding the value in our distinct personalities. It means that when my body starts sending me cues I welcome these with an attitude of gratitude and respond by honouring it – fewer hours in the sun and more hours of sun salutations.

This is the practice. In each moment life invites us to wake up and smell the coffee.

#AcceptAndConnect.

© Miriam Desjardins, 2015

clear eyes… full hearts… can’t lose.

Image

“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

If there is one thing about social media that can both warm my heart and make me cringe it is the plethora of kitschy, optimistic quotes it produces, tweeted and re-tweeted, posted and shared amongst the masses. True – I love a good, heart-opening, tingle-inducing bit of wisdom. But the flood of optimism sometimes drowns the inspiration before it reaches my shores. And yet…

I continue to subscribe. Because when it comes down to it it’s who I am: a big ol’ optimist. I just can’t resist. Even when my Pages feed is in optimism overload, I can retreat, unplug, tune out, feeling grateful (even while mildly annoyed) that a community of optimism thrives just a click away and is ready to deliver as soon as I am open and ready to receive.

What is it to be an optimist? What do I take this to mean? It does not mean that harsh realities pass us by as we strut the cakewalk of life. It does not mean that every moment we feel ourselves brimming over with beauty and joy. It does not even mean hoping and expecting our challenging and distasteful circumstances to change.

“What if life was not happening to you, it was happening for you?” Anthony Robbins

To be an optimist means to accept circumstances and choose to see them as opportunities for change: opportunities to grow, to expand, to transform, and to shift. To optimize is “to make as effective, perfect, or useful as possible; to make the best of.” Being an optimist requires taking responsibility for our choices. Responsibility. We can think of this as our ability to have a response, to be accountable for and in charge of how we respond, of what we choose.

To optimize is a choice.

What happens when we choose to greet every person, situation, and circumstance in our life as an opportunity – an opportunity to refine ourselves, an opportunity to practice being conscious of the choices we are making?

We transform our reality.

Challenges, when we optimize them, become opportunities to learn, to grow, to evolve – opportunities to walk our talk, and to connect with who we really are, and what we choose to be. This is the yoga of optimism. To optimize, to make the best of, requires acceptance; it calls upon us to release our resistance to the present moment and be open to the infinity of possibilities offered to us that can inspire creative responses to challenging situations.

 “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Winston S. Churchill

Let’s be really clear: there is nothing FLAKEY about being an optimist (although I am learning to embrace my inner flake… she’s got it goin’ on). Sometimes optimists get this questionable rap, as though to be an optimist is uninformed and naive. But we are talking about brain science here – about as UN-flakey as one can get.

As it turns out, Optimism, along with its cousin Happiness, is a learned trait. With practice, our brains can be trained to adopt an optimistic state of mind*. And research is all over this. People who are generally optimistic have better physical health, perform better at tasks, are better able to manage their stress, and have healthier relationships. Regardless of how gooood it feels to choose optimism, it is easy to continue to get hung up on “facts”. So, check it out – now we skeptics have some science to soothe our rational minds.

How is your brain wired? How would you like it to be? Look, it’s okay to want to feel good, and it’s okay to see the glass as half full. And, at the end of the day, we all can only speak with any real authority from our own experience. So try it on. Play the optimist for a week and see how that works for you.

Here are some exercises to get you started.

  • Practice becoming mindful of your thoughts. Pay attention to what you are thinking about. In practice, this can feel like one of the furthest things from easy. Our minds are bombarded with up to 60-80,000 thoughts a day. One thought leads to another and away we go, not even aware of much of the chatter in our brains, but physiologically responding to it nonetheless. Can you relate? Most of us at some point have found ourselves stressed out, our heart rate beating a little faster, our chest feeling tight, our throat constricted, our temples throbbing, our gut turning over. Many of us have just gotten used to a little bit of baseline stress like this in our bodies. Pay attention to these signals. Notice them and then bring your attention to your train of thought for some indication of where this stress is coming from. Where has your head been? Begin to notice what your mind is feeding your body.
  • Tell yourself some new stories. Once we learn to become more attentive to our thoughts we can practice reframing our thinking about the circumstances and situations in which we find ourselves. This is a conscious choice: to look at a situation with fresh eyes, to find the opportunity – the silver lining – in the difficulty. This is what distinguishes an optimist from a pessimist, this capacity to change perspective.
  • Get over yourself. It is hard not to love our own drama. But, desirable as it is to bask in the glory of our creations, we can practice shifting the focus outside of ourselves, away from our drama. And one brilliant way to do this is through gratitude and service. Go out of your way to do something for someone else. Google random-acts-of-kindness to get inspired if you find yourself coming up empty.

Feeling a bit self-conscious? Start by introducing the idea of optimism to the kids in your life. They’ll be all over it. Kids have this way of giving us the permission we do not give ourselves to wear rose-coloured glasses, reach for the stars, and drink from glasses half-full.

Bottoms up!

*Interested in how your brain rewires itself? Google neuroplasticity. It’s all the rage.

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” Dr. Seuss

Resources for your browsing pleasure:

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S027273581000019X

http://mariashriver.com/blog/2013/02/eight-ways-cultivate-optimism-and-confidence-dr-jason-selk/

http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_72.htm

http://life.gaiam.com/article/how-cultivate-optimism

http://thehawnfoundation.org/mindup/

https://www.chopra.com/community/online-library/the-seven-spiritual-laws-of-success/the-law-of-least-effort

And, must give credit where credit is due: thank-you, Coach Taylor. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0758745/quotes

 

 

 

When stepping up means stepping back.

Last weekend being a conscious parent meant practicing defenselessness, stepping back and allowing another to love and nurture and hear my child in a way that just wasn’t happening for me in that moment. It just wasn’t. I thought I had given it my best go, really. But, my daughter was having none of what I was putting out.

It’s the familiar adage: it takes a village to raise a child. Parenting does not have to be my solo act. But there is that inclination in me to want, or think that I need, to do it all, to be the ultimate source of growth and enlightenment and education and nurturing and love for my kids. I’m their mom! I’m the primary caregiver of mom-type-stuff. And, I’ve got this. I’m all over it. Or at least I thought I was. I was neglecting the Superbowl last Sunday to properly ruminate over this, when my co-parent who had been patiently listening finally put it to me simply. “As a mom you are like the quarter-back for this team. You touch the ball in every play. But, you don’t always have to be the one to make the touch down.” Bam. There it was. And dang – if it wasn’t all neatly packaged in a football metaphor… This idea, this self-applied pressure not to drop the ball, thinking this could really screw up the whole endgame, what is this? My need to be the one to do it all, it serves no one. It dawned on me that clearly there had been some important pages that had been overlooked in my parenting playbook.

It’s been my experience that we always get from life what we ask for, and in this case for me this was another opportunity to open my heart – lean in a bit more towards that lovin’ feelin’ that sometimes I work really, really hard to resist; and expand my consciousness maybe an inch or two. The practice of doing this, of shifting our internal dialogue, of dropping our defenses long enough to open our hearts and minds a crack, is always a bit tougher when it hits, literally and figuratively, close to home. Our kids, how we parent them, what they need and how we believe we can best meet these needs – we parents can become acutely sensitive and resistant to anything that diverges from our course, of anyone who suggests a diversion from our course. And yet our fiercest challenges and challengers can present our greatest opportunities for growth. Look – I like to control stuff. I like being in control. I’ve had to learn to chill out and go with the flow. I’m learning to become comfortable with, and even excited by, uncertainty. I’ve made a practice of detaching from the outcome – about many things in my life. But, my kids and my role as a parent, this is one area where the reins have been the hardest for me to loosen. My children, they are like these incredible little vessels of pure potential and I don’t want anyone or anything to mess that up. But I risk doing just that by restricting too severely who has access to their malleable little minds, by limiting the diversity of their upbringing to primarily my influence.

And so I came to this conclusion, during my own little super-soul Sunday, that sometimes taking a step back is the best way to step up as a parent. This doesn’t mean doing ****-all. It’s an emotionally intelligent appraisal of what is best for your kid in that moment. And sometimes what is best for them is to acknowledge that someone else can serve them in a way that you just cannot. It’s not always easy to decipher. Back in the ‘olden days’, as my daughter refers to them, the days before I was a parent, my thoughts about raising children were definitely colored in some stark black and whites. Now, for the most part, I am parenting in a penumbra. And by embracing all these hues of grey, by getting a bit more comfortable with some uncertainty, the ups and the downs, a bit more creativity and a lot more love have had some room to show up.

I’m realizing now that it takes a team. And that it is important to remind myself of this by occasionally giving a shout out to my team: to my co-parent, to the mothers and mothers-in-law, the grandparents, the teachers, the babysitters, the friends, the aunts and uncles, the neighbors, the customers behind us in the grocery store line, the baristas, the flight attendants, the other passengers… To the endless number of people who are part of my children’s extended community and who, whether consciously or not, are helping to mold who these little people are today and who they will become tomorrow. Thank you for being a part of my team. I trust you are doing the best you all can from the level of awareness you each have, and I am fortunate for the diversity that you bring to my family.

Thank you for covering me. And, the thing is, I’m in position. I’m ready, when anyone of you fumbles the ball, to pick it up and run. Game on.