Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Rest and Tune In

stop and smell the roses, look at the clouds, take a breath
This weekend at the rehab hospital, I worked with a man who had had a stroke about two weeks prior. He was a high energy entrepreneur, very active. He was in his 50's (unfortunately I have been seeing many people under 60 having strokes these days) and raring to go. I watched in shock as he answered work calls from his hospital bed during our treatment session. I listened as he expressed his concern about missing work meetings that day. He was clearly frustrated about how this medical event was slowing him down and it seemed that he hoped the whole thing would just be over soon so he could get back to business. I gave him the usual talk, his job right now is focus on getting stronger, and that will give him the best shot at a full recovery.

Later that day I taught part of a yoga class with some other graduates from my yoga teacher training. After leading the class through a series of powerful standing poses I instructed them to rest on their bellies. I watched as they huffed to catch their breaths and I told them the story of the workaholic stroke survivor I met that day. I gave them permission to rest and listen to my words and to their own bodies. I encouraged them (and myself), when given the rare opportunity to rest: Take it! And maybe even give ourselves permission to take rests when it's not encouraged and provided, just because we need it.

We all might benefit from slowing down and taking time to rest. We might hear a lot if we quiet down and listen to ourselves and the messages our body and spirit are sending us. We often don't take time to rest and rejuvenate until it's too late, until we are sick or can't muster the energy for anything at all. I've heard it said like this: When you are supposed to hear a message, first the universe sends you a letter, then it sends you a package, then you get hit by a bus.

Oprah has a similar more eloquent way of putting it:

"I say the universe speaks to us, always, first in whispers. And a whisper in your life usually feels like 'hmm, that's odd.' Or, 'hmm, that doesn't make any sense.' Or, 'hmm, is that right?' It's that subtle. And if you don't pay attention to the whisper, it gets louder and louder and louder. I say it's like getting thumped upside the head. If you don't pay attention to that, it's like getting a brick upside your head. You don't pay attention to that—the brick wall falls down. That is the pattern that I see in my life and so many other people's lives. And so, I ask people, 'What are the whispers? What's whispering to you now?'" — Oprah

Where can you listen to the whispers? What do you know you need to do "before it's too late" that you are not doing? When can you give yourself the permission to rest and tune in? Can you find a way to build this in to your everyday life?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

How I Found My Voice

This blog post came to me as I was listening to the drone of voice menus, staticky hold music, and voice ad banners as I waited (not so patiently) for a bank representative from the 800 number. A relatively mundane task for most, but a task that is not to be taken for granted by many, including many young people and people with aphasia. Although I have never had aphasia myself, I have worked with dozens who have, and language heavy activities like this can be challenging! On the other hand I have been a young person and I remember many tense moments in my adolescence, coached by my encouraging (and sometimes tough) father as I gained my confidence with making "adult" phone calls. Something about this task always vexed me. I was fiercely independent but I had such anxiety around making these calls, getting on the line and using my voice. Something about the pressure of "doing it right" or "being taken seriously" or "being effective." This was pressure I put on myself, and I can see this clearly now in hindsight all these years later. This memory flashed over me as I listened to the voice actor inviting me to "clearly state the reason for my call" and "type in my 16 digit card number." (Grr, can't I just talk to a person?!)

Back then it took practice, encouragement, and time to get over the hump and "Find My Voice" in order to make those calls. Now I have no trouble speaking to reps and even firmly demanding refund of misassigned service charges etc when the occasions arise. But I am still working on Finding My Voice in other areas of my life. In many other areas. One of these areas recently surfaced as I completed this chapter of my Yoga Journey and earned my RYT (Registered Yoga Teacher) Training.

Yoga can happen anywhere! Even in the middle of a babbling brook.
There are many places in my life where I have no trouble at all speaking up, using my voice, expressing myself, and feeling like an expert of my experience. I mean, I'm a SPEECH Pathologist after all! But the public speaking aspect of teaching a yoga class, especially to my RYT classmates, was a huge block for me. This environment was both particularly challenging and also the perfect place to begin working through this phase of my life long journey of Finding My Voice. Teaching yoga to a group is not only ‘public speaking’ but it requires the utmost in authenticity, connection, and alignment throughout the self. It requires absolute presence in the moment, and a real commitment to setting the ego aside.

Each time I tried to speak to my class and to share my gift and my passion for the practice, I choked. I was nervous and shaky and I despised the sound of my uncertain voice. All the while I had a raging inner monologue of "you'll never be able to do this" and "you should quit" type language. I had more than a handful of frustrating and emotionally leveling experiences as I clumsily worked through this block. There was a lot of noticing my ego, a lot of intentional self forgiveness, and a whole lot of tears!

Just like my young self's journey with speaking on the phone, it took time and support for me to navigate through that tangle. I spent hours processing with my partner, my health coach, and my peers. I began leading small groups of friends through free classes in my home. I meditated, journaled, and tried my hardest to be patient with myself. Although it was not pretty much of the time, I do feel that the process and the result was absolutely worth it. According to Andrew Carnegie, "Anything worth having in life is worth working for."

I am still a beginner teacher right now, and I have a lot to learn before my identity as a yoga instructor is fully manifested, but my process has much less fear, doubt, and judgmental energy around it. Now, I really enjoy leading a class and hearing my imperfect but authentic voice ring out. When my ego and self worth became too wrapped up in my performance I thought I had to “prove” to myself I could “do it.” Now I feel more able to relax into my role as both a student and a teacher in all areas of my life. 

To me, a successful class is one where my students and I can share a sacred time and space, and be present with ourselves and one another. I'm still working on not confusing my rights and lefts, but maybe that will come!